Flash Frenzy Round 62

Posted: April 4, 2015 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , ,

Are you ready to write?

This weekend, there will be two competitions. One is our standard (but always exhilarating) battle for FLASH MASTER with Judge Brian S. Creek. The second is a chance for those of you who don’t already possess a FLASH DOGS ANTHOLOGY 2 GOLDEN TICKET to win one. If you already have a ticket, or do not wish to participate in the GOLDEN TICKET contest, you don’t need to do anything differently than you normally would—just write your story and submit. For those of you wishing to participate in the GOLDEN TICKET give away, write your stories as you normally would and, in addition to including your word count and Twitter handles, also include the phrase “golden ticketbeneath the title of your entry.

ALL STORIES WILL BE JUDGED BY BRIAN AND ARE ELIGIBLE FOR FLASH MASTER.

ALL STORIES WITH THE “GOLDEN TICKET” TAG WILL BE JUDGED SEPARATELY BY A SECOND, SUPER SECRET SURPRISE JUDGE FOR THE GOLDEN TICKET.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here. 

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

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Comments
  1. Geoff Holme says:

    I was hoping, Rebecca, that this week you would explain (for us poor uninformed who have no idea) exactly what a Flash Dogs Golden Ticket promises for the winner. Does it mean that the story chosen here for a Golden Ticket is automatically included in the next Flash Dogs anthology? Or does the winner join the other Golden Ticket holders in a competition to write another story which may be selected for the anthology? And how were the existing golden ticket holders chosen?

    • ladyhazmat says:

      Hi Geoff – The Flash Dogs are putting together another set of anthologies, and the Golden Tickets are an invitation to submit a story based on any of their photo prompts to the corresponding anthology. They asked if I’d be interested in giving away a ticket as a prize, and I was happy to oblige. As I’m not part of Flash Dog HQ, I’ve no insight into how the existing golden ticket holders were chosen.

      • Geoff Holme says:

        Thanks for the info, Rebecca. I think that preparations and celebrations may get in the way of my finding the time to enter this weekend. Good luck to everyone who does, and Happy Easter!

  2. stevenstucko says:

    Ebbing (360 words)

    The theme of the summer party could have been “disposable income.” The compound had been a former lighthouse repurposed as a luxury home for the nouveau riche.

    They had not danced all evening. After the room became hot and too loud they both stepped out to the deck to breathe fresh air. The sun had set quickly but had not yet dragged away the day’s heat. The sky swiftly darkened as if an indigo blue sheet had been pulled over them from east to west. They smiled at each other and watched the rising gibbous moon shake diamonds over the waves. Busy gulls cackled over the thump of the music. The torches surrounding the deck barely held on to their flame being pulled by the stiff breeze. He put down his glass and touched her elbow.

    Would she like to go for a walk?

    At the bottom of the stairway leading to the sand she removed her shoes and placed them behind the last post. She giggled as she took his hand and pulled him toward the shore. The beach was lovely. The sand still warm from the scorcher of a day. The tips of the surf tickled their ankles. She grabbed his arm and they leaned hard into each other as they walked. They laughed at silliness and stepped over rocks slimed with dark green algae. He threw some stones as she looked for shells by the moonlight.

    The two planned. They would each quit their jobs and travel. Florence, St. Petersburg. They would hike the Grand Canyon. They would go bungie jumping. Correction, she would watch. Children would have to wait. Rugrats! he exclaimed.

    This is what it should always feel like they said to each other.

    They had walked as long as they cared to, turned and realized they would have to walk all the way back. Feigned moans. The house and the party were a still a quarter mile away. They could see the lights but not yet hear the music.

    When they reached the steps, the bottom two were under water and her shoes were long gone. The gulls cackled above. Respective spouses awaited.

    • stephellis2013 says:

      ‘… the rising gibbous moon shake diamonds over the waves’ – beautiful image. Like the submerged steps reflecting (perhaps) sunken dreams.

    • Geoff Holme says:

      Have to agree with Steph about the stand-out line – cracking! And a really great story with brilliant ending. That’s the way to start a contest, Steven!

    • mariemck1 says:

      Lovely writing. I was completely sold on it when I thought it was an innocent love story, and then brilliantly you made it even better with that ending. Enjoyed this very much.

    • I agree with our friends above, that is a stunning line, the kind that I’ll remember the next time I’m lucky enough to see the moon over the water. This is a beautiful tale.

    • feclark says:

      Very glam and Gatsby-esque. Love the phrase all above have talked of and that killer last line. Hope you saw the full moon last night Steve!

    • C Connolly says:

      Agree with the reference to Gatsby above. Really well told and lovely descriptions. Brilliant last line!

  3. Cycles

    The ocean rushes up on the sands, the tide rising higher and higher, pushing shells and dark green strands of seaweed, erasing the foot prints and the stick carved drawings in the sand. The ocean shrinks back, bringing the indifferent waves with it, depositing varying degrees of treasure on the shores. The next day the ocean the tides sweep in a little later, and depart a little later, taking with it a small paper boat. Tomorrow it will be hungry again.

    Hydrangeas bloom and draw bees and artists draw the scene. The hydrangeas wither in the colder months and the queen bees go to ground. The artist sells a slice of paper summer to get people through the bitter months until the flowers bloom again.

    The towns burst with voices and ice cream cones and the smell of sunscreen for months and then ebbs away into quiet winters. Permanent residents in their Brigadoon hibernate, half hoping that this year no one will come flooding back into their towns.

    The parents bring their children every year until the briny smell of ocean and the call of gulls becomes synonymous with summer. The children grow and introduce their spouses to the tradition until they absorb it as their own and their children will say, “We always summer on the cape.”

    218 words
    @CaseyCaseRose

  4. stephellis2013 says:

    Endless Night

    356 words
    @el_Stevie

    When night murdered day, nobody noticed that a crime had been committed; after all, the sun would rise again … wouldn’t it?

    And that was the first death.

    When the sea retreated from the shore, leaving wild-eyed fish thrashing helplessly among the stones, nobody paid much attention either, for the tide would turn and the waters would flood back in as they always had, wouldn’t they?

    And that was the second death.

    Step-by-step, the old certainties crumbled that night but the few who were out in the dark had their eyes fixed firmly on the ground, blind to the many tiny deaths that pricked at their heels. Scavengers all, they sought to strip the land of whatever treasures they could find, each firmly focussed on their own enrichment.

    On the edge of this group stood another figure, occupying his own world of separateness as he regarded the searchers. Nights like this belonged to him. He walked closer, his fluid shape adopting the posture and behaviour of his new companions. A few glanced his way but said nothing, thinking that one of the others had probably brought him along.

    “Thought old Brian would be joining us,” said one.

    “Nah, Davey,” said another. “Running scared since that last alert, even though the reactors are miles away.”

    “Told him it was a false alarm,” said another. “But he wasn’t having any of it.”

    The gentle lapping of the water faded even further into the growing silence and the softly breathing wind gave an unheard last gasp before it was stilled forever.

    And that was the third death.

    “Not much leavings tonight,” said Davey. “This stretch has had it. Call it quits?”

    The others murmured agreement, gathering together for the drink they normally shared before returning home. The bottle was passed around and the stranger took the first sip, dissolving the essence of himself into the alcohol, bonding with the molecules to enhance its strength a hundred-fold. The spirit burned its way into minds and flesh, slowing the pulse, stilling the heart.

    And these were the next deaths.

    But they were not to be the last on that endless night.

  5. mariemck1 says:

    Missing
    (253 words)
    Panic. My stomach. I feel it rise at the first recognition of his absence.
    My focus narrows. Charles telling me about the office accounts, the splodge of ice cream I’d been trying to wipe from my blouse are of a different existence within moments.
    I train my eyes on small, blond heads, primordial instinct making my eyes efficient. My breathing quickens, and I hear my own heartbeat once my rapid fruitless second search has ended.

    ‘I can’t see Eddie!’ I have said it so it becomes real.

    I am on my bare feet unaware of the sharp shingle digging at my soles.  I commit to shouting his name aloud.

    ‘Eddie! Eddie!’

    I look at Charles. He is where I was a minute ago, his blood rushing to his arms and legs so that his stomach feels alien.
    I am running. I hear Charles’ panic catch mine up,

    ‘Eddie!’ he shouts.

    Faces turn to look at us. None of them are framed by yellow curls. Their eyes are not the blue that search for me when they awake from afternoon sleep.

    Our instincts have taken us to the water and away from any view of the cars parked at the far side of the beach.

    It must be 5 minutes now since we’ve seen him.

    1 minute he’s befriended.
    2 he’s misdirected.
    3 he’s in the carpark.
    4 he’s in the car
    5 he’s feeling scared.

    5 days
    We make our measured appeal to the world and its bogeyman.

    5 months
    I am nomad.

    • necwrites says:

      Oh, man, this strikes right to the heart of every parent’s deepest fear. It doesn’t matter that stranger-abductions are statistically almost insignificant, that panic is real in those moments you don’t know where your child is (and naturally, she looks to the water). The countdown of minutes, ending on him feeling scared, just ripped my heart right out.

      • mariemck1 says:

        I did almost leave that line out as I did find it quite hard to write. I think it is a deep fear of every parent. That panic is what I was trying to capture. Thank you very much.

    • Cath Barton says:

      I like the counting – 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 months. Neatly done.

    • Sal Page says:

      Brilliantly captures the moment from the very start. The voicing it and making it real … and the things from just before that are ‘of a different existence’. Good stuff.

    • stephellis2013 says:

      So scary, and such a heartbreaking last line.

    • The content of the story alone would be enough to cause a deep reaction, but the style of your writing, capturing the way her body reacts, the context in which she thinks of her son even as she searches for him and then the brilliant time-break down- this was exceptional.

    • feclark says:

      Oh Marie! This is a beautifully written nightmare scenario, the counting of the minutes and that last line are so fast and blunt – huge terror and anguish in such simple words.

    • C Connolly says:

      You’ve captured this perfectly, Marie. I agree with the other comments related to the countdown versus build up minutes into days and then months – it leads to a heart rending conclusion. I could feel the anguish throughout – a nightmare for any parent.

  6. stevenstucko says:

    The Weight (295 words)

    After a long laughing zig-zagged trek, three twentysomething couples finally reached the parking lot of the Chatham Lighthouse. They shook sand from their flip flops, hugged and high fived, and headed toward their cars. Bill and David stayed behind to finish the cache of beer.

    Bill dropped another log on the bonfire causing a splash of sparks. He sat down on the chair opposite David with the fire’s smoke as a curtain between them. They had not spoken for ten minutes.

    “I can’t believe I told you that,” David said, almost to himself. Another silent minute passed. Without looking up Bill said “I would have never guessed. I just…” Silence. He peered through the smoke and caught David’s eyes.

    “It doesn’t seem like something you would do.” David felt defensive, “But what should I have done? What could I have done? I had no other choice.” He knew that wasn’t true. “What would you have done?” Bill poked at the embers in the fire, fixated on the dancing flames. “I can’t imagine, Dave. I mean, I never…” His voice trailed off.

    David cleared his throat. “If I were put in the same situation, I guess I would have to do the same thing all over again. I know I would.” He looked over the fire to Bill for support. Bill’s voice shook. “It’s ok Dave. I understand.” He really didn’t. “I still respect you.” He actually feared him now. He wished David had never told him. Now he was a part of it. He could never erase it. David felt a weight off his chest. He was no longer alone. He was glad he told Bill, even though Bill barely knew the half of it.

    • stephellis2013 says:

      And now I really want to know what David has done.

    • (On a personal note, I love the Chatham lighthouse, I love hearing the seals) I’m always tickled and frustrated by a story that doesn’t explicitly tell me what secret has passed between people, but I can’t help but feel like it’s fun to see what the brain fills in on its own.

    • feclark says:

      Och – what did he do?? I really like that you gave this piece the title The Weight – as I read I could feel it – the weight of the secret. Also, the other type – the wait…..to know what might have been told…. 🙂

    • C Connolly says:

      Yes, I want to know what David told him too. Clever to keep the secret between them. So many potential versions of the section of the conversation which remains unheard by us..

  7. Cath Barton says:

    Calm now

    “golden ticket”

    Cath Barton
    356 words
    @CathBarton1

    Everything is calm now, the sea, the sky, my heart. It’s all over. Except. I hadn’t thought people would come so quickly, there was no way they could have known. No way. And that dog, I don’t like dogs at the best of times. It’s in the water already, still near the shore, but if they throw a stick…

    Deep breaths now. I can see them but they can’t see me behind this rock. Unless they start walking this way… But they’re not, they’re all heading for the lighthouse now. I can move. No, hang on, not so fast. Crouch further down.

    I concentrate on my breath. Do that yoga exercise, alternate nostrils. Close my eyes. Yes, calm now. Open them again. The light is draining from the sky. The sound of the sea is calming, a susurration in and out, in and out across the little stones.

    I must move before it gets any darker. Wait. Lights have come on in the little church behind the lighthouse. Faint singing. What the…? Calm now, stay calm. If they are singing in there they are not going to see me or hear me. I move.

    There are shapes on this beach I hadn’t noticed before. Were they there before? They are in front of me, behind me, all around me. My heart is no longer calm. Some kind of trap. I was crazy to think it would be this easy. The people in the church, the dog, the traps…

    I edge ahead. The shapes are pulsing, there are lights, a kind of glow. What the…? They are in the water too, blue-green phosphoresence. Hell’s teeth, they are jellyfish. I almost laugh. Jellyfish coming to get me. Bob Wilson’s revenge. He would have laughed for sure, but Bob Wilson is dead, stone dead and cold under the sea. It’s all over for him.

    I pick my way through the jellyfish, guided by their lights. Now I’m on the concrete jetty. The lights of the church are distant. The glow of the jellyfish is fading. I take a deep breath of the sea air and turn. It’s all over.

  8. zevonesque says:

    Under the Lowering Sun
    A.J. Walker

    Philip walked across the beach below the flotsam and jetsam line feeling each footfall sink into the wet sand, like though fresh snow without the crunch. He mused that – but for the large bag he was carrying – anyone seeing him in his suit and Dr Marten’s would have wondered whether he was to re-enact Reggie Perrin.

    The old lighthouse at the end of the spit as always evoked memories of his childhood trips. It had been popular with families back then, but since the lighthouse became unmanned the undulating road through the dunes had became more holes than tarmac and now only the coastguard came out here for their periodic maintenance.

    It had been five years since Philip had used this beach; time enough. He felt the dead weight of the bag and shifted it releasing the burn across his palm as he continued towards the lighthouse.

    The tide was turning and the ocean had come to an eerie stop as if someone had pressed pause. He felt time was reflecting whether to restart the seas.

    Eventually ripples then small waves began lapping up the beach. He watched them to be sure the tide had turned, like he had as a child, seeing them get ever further; he wasn’t sure why he found it uplifting. He realised he’d stopped walking, mesmorised by the planet’s twice daily battle with the moon. Whilst there wasn’t going to be anyone around there was no sense in this nostalgic dawdling.

    The gulls, which had been on mute, restarted their garish calls as they turned in towards the land – seemingly led by the water’s edge. They wheeled around, pink under the lowering sun, sometimes appearing as if they were hovering as they faced into the wind.

    Philip judged he’d walked far enough, gratefully placing the bag down which spread like a dropped ice cream across the sand. He wasted no time opening it then began the task of disposing the remaining body parts, throwing them along the beach as if sowing a field. Within a few days the meaty morsels would be spread miles along the coast; degrading, unrecognisable.

    The gulls proved hungry too.

    (360 words)
    @zevonesque

    #FlashDogs

    • stephellis2013 says:

      Grim ending. Nicely dark with the nostalgic reflection on an innocent childhood whilst carrying a bag of body parts.

    • mariemck1 says:

      I love the ending. Nicely done.

    • I love that you’ve created something so beautiful even if there was that gnawing dread about the bag all along. I’ve seen seagulls rip a squid to pieces and that haunts me, now I can add them eating limbs!

    • stevenstucko says:

      Ocean on pause, time reflecting whether to restart the seas, gulls on mute. Love it. How fascinating to combine tech terms to nature. Very cool.

    • voimaoy says:

      Great story! Love the description–Ocean on pause, time reflecting whether to restart the seas, gulls on mute. Awesome last line.

    • Sal Page says:

      Excellent. The alluding to the bag of body parts is subtly done, I Iike the ‘dropped ice cream’ simile and love the way you’ve used that tide turning moment …

    • feclark says:

      Liked this – almost a double bluff – as soon as I read ‘large bag’ I thought body…but then though no, no…..hah 🙂 Like the last line too 🙂

    • C Connolly says:

      Great set up for the ending here in the various details throughout. The initial reference to childhood memories is undercut by the sense of disuse and disrepair and there is an early hint in the reference to five years since Philip’s use of the beach as time enough. Wonder how many others those ruthless gulls may have helped disposed of so readily? 😉

  9. Sal Page says:

    Living in the Moment

    First brilliant light. A scattering of early beach walkers. Contrails confidently bridge a creamy sky. Soft streaks of cloud observe the even sweep of the bay. The worn teeth of the abandoned hotel grimace with glee, hugging all the secrets of its past guests within its still, dusty interior. I wonder when and why it closed.
    After eight days walking and fresh from my inland B&B, this last day suddenly feels effortless, blisters and aching legs forgotten. The previous week’s work has faded, as if from a previous life. Everything that seemed so important has floated away from me. Someone else’s life. Someone else’s stressful job. Someone else’s irritating boss. Now, fatigue has lifted and my mind feels incredibly clear at last. A perfect breeze touches my face and arms. Ninety miles covered. Balloons and streamers. Cheering. A brass band playing in my head.
    Now, even the sun is watching with me. Waiting.
    At the sea’s edge, there’s a slight salty trace, a hasty sketch-map of an alien world, tide-marked onto the smooth shore, littered with pebble planets and strewn with seaweed. The sapphire ocean swells. Dusted with silver, its sighs creep up the beach, draw back to sigh and creep again. Hypnosis for this enchanted realm.
    Footfall after footfall, I turn to watch my prints appear on the damp sand. I follow random impressions. Tired tyre-track boots, beach between the toes, galloping horseshoes, dainty bird feet, paw and claw print signatures. And someone with flippers recently headed into the soft subsiding dunes, between spearmint spikes and stiff gnarled branches.
    Then.
    Quite literally out of the blue, an unbelievable sight. A sight to make you think you’re still asleep and dreaming. They leap, sleekly hurdling the waves in curved splendour. Clean out of the water, while I stand rooted to the sand, watching the rhythmic revealing of a split-second schema of a dolphin seen before only on greetings cards.
    This is the moment I know I’m not going back. Somehow, I’m going to reopen that hotel. I watch the dolphins travel across the bay. Springing beyond the surface and into the light, for the pure joy of that golden morning.

    @SalnPage
    360 words
    #FlashDog

    • stephellis2013 says:

      Lovely poetic imagery (my favourite is your ‘pebble planets’).

    • mariemck1 says:

      Such poetic descriptions of the surroundings! Beautiful.

    • This is so beautiful and so wonderfully hopeful. I love how you’ve captured the person one is able to become (with any luck) when they are fully away from the life they normally lead. I especially loved the dolphin sighting, I’ll never forget the first time I saw them in their natural habitat.

      • Sal Page says:

        Thanks Casey. Happened to me Sept 1st 2001, Embleton Bay, Northumberland. Total surprise. Beach and weather already perfect & beautiful then they appeared. B&B lady had told me to go another way ‘nice country lanes’ but I was there to walk by the sea. Didn’t make me reopen an abandoned hotel though …

    • feclark says:

      Beautiful shiny clear words 🙂 I love the decision this character makes – inspiring 🙂

    • voimaoy says:

      Lovely descriptions and a wonderful moment! Inspiring and hopeful, too. Beautiful story!

    • C Connolly says:

      Wonderfully descriptive story. Love all the well observed details. Captures completely the wonder of an unexpected moment.

  10. davejamesashton says:

    Sandcastles

    Phil usually loved the beach. It was better than Lego. More fun than even Susan’s iPad. Full of potential, just waiting to be filled by his imagination. But this beach was a disappointment. Too many rocks. Not enough shells. Unbelievably, there was no-one selling ice-creams. Something about the off season, his mother had said. Whatever that meant.

    He decided to make a sandcastle to break out of his funk. Choosing a site largely bereft of rocks he began to dig, his movements in time with the quiet susurration of the waves. The excavated sand piled up, and he smoothed and shaped it with his sandal. Not even Susan’s taunts could reach him as she stepped from the water, one moment gangly the next self-confident in her new figure and swimsuit.

    He worked on, getting redder in the sun. Construction complete, Phil roamed the beach looking for suitable shells to decorate the battlements. He was beginning to get agitated again, every promising shape turned out to be a rock which he flung into the waves with distaste. His bucket nearly empty, he turned back and then saw the perfect addition: a long, opalescent streamer. Excitedly, he picked it up and poked a stick into its open end. Skipping back to his castle, he added the flag to his highest tower. Proud of his fortress, he went to the tideline, to search for seaweed. He forgot to check where his sister was and she used his distraction to strike. She pulled back her leg, ready to attack his creation, but her kick never landed. Instead, she went running across the sand yelling to their parents.
    “Oh, gross! Muuuum, Phil’s playing with a washed-up franger!”

    285
    @davejamesashton

  11. voimaoy says:

    A Night to Remember
    @voimaoy
    358 words

    Hello, Pierre, are you comfortable? That’s good because I want you to relax. I’m going to be taking a little walk in your head, don’t worry, it won’t hurt. It will feel like a tickle, a summer breeze. Can you smell the salt air? Good, we’re almost there. Yes, I can see it now, the Belle-Mar Hotel, with a view of the sea. Can you see it?

    We’re walking on the beach now, the pebbles are round and glistening in the sun. The sound of waves and cries of gulls. It’s a beautiful afternoon for the beach, and there are many people on the sand. Yes, I can see them, quite clearly.

    There’s the world-famous conductor, you know his name, distinguished older man. He’s here with his new wife, she’s a fashion model, young enough to be his daughter. In fact, his daughter introduced them, isn’t that right? Yes, it was in all the papers. The ex-wife is a cellist, she’s staying here, too, with a new lover, he plays the violin, doesn’t he. Good one Pierre, a string quartet. But it seems the new wife doesn’t play, does she?

    Now, we’re walking down the hallway of the hotel, to the honeymoon suite. You’re delivering the order of champagne. You can hear laughter all the way down the hall. My, they’re having a party in there. You hesitate to knock, but they are expecting you. The conductor answers the door.

    All four of them are there. The ex-wife and the violinist are together on the love seat. They invite you to join them, but you decline.

    You can see the young bride by the balcony, her black hair in disarray. What a lovely nightgown, billowing in the breeze like the curtains, her skin white as moonlight. Yes, it was a full moon that night, remember?

    Do you remember the beach that night, the moon on the waves? Everything looked so vivid. You’re taking a break, smoking a cigarette, when you see the white nightgown and the streaks of blood. Try and remember, Pierre, who did you see?

    How many footprints did you see, washed away by the waves?

    • feclark says:

      Chilling Voima! Love it 🙂

    • zevonesque says:

      Wasn’t sure if they were questions or implantations of memories. Very evocative. So much so I think I was there and I know who did it, it was ….

    • C Connolly says:

      Lovely piece, Voima! Great to end it on a question too, leaving matters open ended – adds to the suggestion of Pierre struggling for the lost memories which are the key to the mystery running throughout the story.

    • Sal Page says:

      Clever use of second person & the way it gradually becomes clear what’s going on. And the ambiguity … is Pierre’s memory being nudged along or changed by the narrator?

    • stephellis2013 says:

      I read it slightly differently at first, as if ideas were being implanted in Pierre’s mind so that he would kill one or other of the party – considering the tangled nature of the relationships; then I went slightly vampire/werewolf! But I did like the ambiguity of the ending as it made it seem that much more sinister.

  12. feclark says:

    Commune

    Down the shingle, clattering and falling over our own feet; night had come right down by then, ultramarine, Prussian blue, then black.

    ‘A quick recce’ he’d said in the pub. Our way was lit by the intermittent light of the lighthouse lamp, then by the full moon.

    Echoing and crunching down the spit of sand, the hush and shush of the sea reached us long after the salt breeze off the water.

    We came on them at the shore, just standing, looking out to sea. They never even turned on our approach, still as steel in the night. Eerie it was, gave me the chills.

    Between lights from across the water, and the road traffic on our other side, we’d come along the path and through the gorse at the bottom of the golf course, a light strobed and furtive passage.

    Once, a night bird had cried, stopping us dead.

    Jed had gone for a slash in the dark of the bushes, and I stood and breathed the sea air, savouring the buzz of the malt from the village pub earlier.

    Imagining we’d be alone at this hour, we spoke in whispers, moved as quietly as we could.

    Still, there they were, this small group of people. Perhaps a family, six or seven of them; standing in commune with the night.

    Water black as molasses, lapped the land. For a start we held back, but then began edging closer. We were standing out on a point, water on both sides, the lighthouse far behind us, alive. Across the bay we could see lights on the far headland, planes coming in to the army base.

    We edged closer still, the full moon a benediction on our heads.

    “Oh!” I could not help gasping out loud, “Look!” I pointed, grasping Jed’s arm.

    The assembled people did not move, did not react. How long had they been there? What had they seen?

    Whistles and squeaks echoed in my ears.

    There, oh, and there – suddenly the water was boiling, a curved nose and back surfaced, arching beautifully, then, gone.

    Nothing else has come close.

    Our first, and best, mystical night of dolphins.

    358 words
    F. E. Clark – @feclarkart
    #Flashdog

  13. C Connolly says:

    HUME2084

    “That HUME2084?” Oakes said, dark head fixed on the screen in front of him.

    “Yes,” Stafford replied, proffering the allfiles.exe compatible archive gingerly.

    “Give it here!” Oakes said, swivelling quickly, shaking his head, fingers waggling. “It’s time specific – we’ll lose data from the extraction if it isn’t input straight off!”

    Stafford placed the drive containing the compressed files into Oakes’ palm. A silence. “Doesn’t it bother you?” he asked the older man.

    “Should it?” Oakes asked, without inflection. With a glance at his colleague, he said, “You’ll be all right. They all are, one way or another. Besides – what did you think the S.E.A. was about? Spells itself out in the letters, doesn’t it?”

    “I…”

    “Thought the archive populated itself? Well, now you know better. Hop to it.” He inserted the small oblong into one of the corresponding ports towards his knees. Another silence lengthened between them. “Means your contract’s been extended, doesn’t it? That was what you wanted?” Oakes sighed. “’Course it was. You all do, don’t you?” He sighed. “You’ll get on all right, so long as you don’t get verbal about self-extractions outside the Archive and harden your stomach. You with me?” Oakes fixed the younger man with a hard look.

    Stafford nodded slowly.

    “First off, you’ll need to move that body. No use for it now,” Oakes said. “Programme transfer’s completed.” The man gestured towards the machine he was sitting in front of.

    Stafford glanced towards the pale figure, slumped face down across the desk to his right, shuddering. There were four long marks across the otherwise smooth surface.

    “Better get cracking,” Oakes advised. “HUME2085 will be here within the hour. Plus HUME2086. Installations are backed up for today already. Extractions team pulled off a load yesterday. Got a bit ahead of themselves. Means we’re behind before we’ve even started.”

    Stafford glanced again at the prostrate body, without stepping towards it.

    “Extra bit of advice? Freebie?” Oakes continued, head once more in the direction of the busy screen. Stafford was silent. “Don’t make this personal. Once a contract terminates, the result’s settled. See?”

    Stafford did – clearly. He found himself counting forwards – each inevitable digit.

    (360 words)
    @FallIntoFiction
    #FlashDog

  14. Stella T says:

    @stellakateT
    318 words

    The Lighthouse

    She loved the lighthouse; it was more than ugly, it was beautiful, perching precariously on the cliff edge. It had stopped guiding ships away from the rocks years ago and been replaced by a new unmanned one at the bottom of the cliffs. Thick chains with a giant padlock fastened the big imposing steel gates; the occupier must be keen to keep visitors away. Her hair blew around her face and she tasted salt on her lips. It brought back memories of years ago when she was young. She’d fallen in and out of love so easily. She remembered one boy whose heart she broke. He’d never married and was reputed to be a recluse, like Miss Haversham. Poor fool, wasting his life. She looked up at the window high up in the wall and thought she saw a glimpse of a face looking out. Maybe she could arrange a visit to look around and meet the owner.

    He looked down from the window and shuddered with recognition. He could see her looking up. The pale face with the bluest eyes he’d ever known. He had loved her too much. His friends had warned him but he couldn’t see how obsessive and controlling he’d become. Hadn’t he atoned for his mistake with the years in jail? His life wasted! The priest was surprised; burning incense and chanting the ritual words that he as an educated man of the cloth couldn’t believe in. With his request for the parish priest to exorcise the land surrounding the lighthouse he had hoped it would lay the demons that plagued him night and day.

    She walked around the side of the building and headed for the cliff edge. She seemed to have a recollection of being here before. Being told it wasn’t safe; she shivered with a sense of deja vous as the seagulls circled, diving and calling out to warn her.

    • Foy S. Iver says:

      I love this, Stella! Your description pulls me in at the first paragraph and the backstory has me hooked by the second. Great write.

  15. Blackburn says:

    A Little Off the Edges

    “Golden Ticket”

    (359 Words)

    It’s still dark when Tom picks me up. We slide my board underneath his and head to the coast with little promise of anything more than a knee to thigh-high roller. Not much. Just an opportunity to catch-up with a buddy I only get to see once a year.

    “Here, ” he says, handing me a thermos of coffee.

    Tom loads his coffee the night before. I’m a deli or coffee shop guy. But he’s driving.

    I take a sip. It’s a little too sweet.

    “It’s good to see you, Bro,” I say.

    “Ah, I’m so glad you’re home, Man. Things good over there?”

    “Yeah, they are. You? How’s Elisa?”

    “Ah she’s great, Man. I’ll tell her you asked about her. It’ll make her happy.”

    “Over there” is Istanbul. I took a teaching job overseas a while back.

    We roll into the lot as a pickup passes in the opposite direction. He gives us a thumbs-down. Taking our coffees, we go have a peak anyway.

    There’s a one-off lesson I offer to my students each year. Not part of the required curriculum, though. I ask the kids what makes them miserable. “Homework, right?” “Yeah,” they yell. “Okay. But now you have to be honest. Who’s ever done a homework assignment that they liked?” The hands wriggle up. “Interesting. Now what makes you happy?”

    I tell them that for me, it’s surfing, but that there are times when it doesn’t.

    Tom and I stare at the flat water, the sun beginning to crest on the horizon.

    “Let’s walk a bit” says Tom. “Elisa asked me to look for some sea glass.”

    Sea glass, huh? Broken bottles tossed by the surf, the edges sanded, baked to a cloudy finish.

    We walk along the pebbled edge of the water. An older couple squeezes out a smile as they pass.

    “They think we’re gay.”

    “Yeah, probably,” he says. “You’re not coming home, are you?” he says, his eyes jumping between the pebbles.

    “No, probably not,” I say, kicking at a lump in the sand. “This some?” I ask.

    “That’s blue glass, Man. Awesome. You have no idea how happy that’s gonna make her.”

    • Foy S. Iver says:

      I love the details you slip in: “I take a sip. It’s a little too sweet.” “I’ll tell her you asked about her. It’ll make her happy” “He gives us a thumbs-down” ” An older couple squeezes out a smile “. You tell so much in the in betweens.

    • ladyhazmat says:

      Please send me your contact info via the “contact” tab so that I can forward it to FlashDog HQ. Thanks. 🙂

  16. Foy S. Iver says:

    Foy S. Iver
    @fs_iver
    WC: 349

    Funny Thing about the Bottom.

    You tell yourself that if you wake up, it’s a sign.

    You thought you’d hit bottom last week when the Bill Gates of all sales slipped through your fingers.

    But the bottom dropped again when your boss found out, ripped your danglers from between your legs, and served them to you on a pink slip.

    Still wasn’t the bottom because then you got home and shared the wonderful news. Maggie sank to the linoleum, sobbing as bills past due fluttered down, ash over Pompeii. Of course, Jamie and his bear, had to be watching, too young to understand why his superhero and Mommy were crumpled on the floor.

    None of those where the bottom.

    The bottom tastes like little white pills chased with stiff drinks after 7 years sober. It sounds like questions you’re afraid to answer – What’s the point? Why keep on keeping on? Simultaneously, the bottom feels like imploding and exploding; the weight of the universe grinding your spirit into dust, while pain pushes you apart from the ribcage out.

    The bottom is you lying below the tide line, praying the waves drag you to deep water. Let the fish take care of your corpse. Spare Maggie the $10,000 in funeral convention she can’t afford. She won’t understand but it’s for the best.

    You shiver in the cold sand and watch the stars spin. Your head feels thick. The waves whisper and you let go.

    Funny thing about the bottom. Once you’ve hit it, all that’s left is up.

    Gulls. Waves.

    Your eyes open.

    Salt. Sky.

    You pull yourself to sitting and the stench of ammonia burns your nostrils; urine dries on your boxer briefs, soaked through to your jeans. Sick is crusted on your mouth and neck, green and slimy like the algae tangled in your legs.

    But you’re alive.

    Unfamiliar warmth spreads from your belly. You want to hug your son and kiss your wife. To live. Maybe you don’t know why you’re here. But you’re willing to wait and find out.

    Over the ocean, the sun resurrects. For you, it’s like the first sunrise.

    • stevenstucko says:

      Bills flutter like ashes over Pompeii. One of many great descriptions. Sobering story. I hope this guy starts going to meetings again and gets a good sponsor.

  17. Sometimes Love Isn’t Enough

    They’ll hate me when they see this picture. But I’m not going to write a letter. And I want to leave something behind.

    I’ll just step back a little more. That way I have everyone in the shot, with the sea, the beach and the weekend home. My distance to them will be all the more symbolic. They don’t know it yet, but in my mind I am already gone.

    Of course tonight will be like any other recent night together. We’ll have dinner and long conversations about our lives, what’s happening, where we’re at and what we’re going to do about it. The kind of conversations old friends are supposed to have. Then someone, probably Tom, will casually mention I seem to be doing better, seem to be getting over her. And I’ll say, Myeah. And then someone, probably Alice, will say, Ah, but you know we all love you, right? And then I’ll say, Yes, but sometimes love isn’t enough. And I’ll shrug my shoulders and flash a defeated smile. Plenty of fish in the sea, Mike will say, once again. But I am done swimming.

    Is that not fair towards the people who care for me? Well, guess what. Life isn’t fair. I know all about that. I realise they are my friends, but none of them knows what it’s like in my head. Despite the many talks, the phone calls, the emails. In their eyes I see understanding, or what they think is understanding, but they don’t know.

    So I have decided. This is as personal as it gets. A click in a brain only I have. That’s why it’ll be difficult for them to have peace with it. They will have had nothing to say in the matter. It’s the ultimate exclusion.

    I’m sure some of them will have seen it coming. When they are honest with themselves. But that’s the hard part. Because then the questions come. Why couldn’t they get through to me? Why couldn’t they stop me? And they don’t realise the only answer is: because they couldn’t.

    I better get back to the group. It’s almost dinnertime.

    356 words
    @bartvangoethem
    #flashdog

  18. Clive Tern says:

    The Swimmer
    golden ticket

    338 words

    The last hundred yards were the worst. The water was too shallow for swimming so I grabbed rocks which littered the seabed and pulled up the shore. Then it becomes easier to stand and walk, a little easier. The muscles in my thighs trembled with the effort, they burned with fire. Four miles across the bay. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’d been told it was possible, I just wasn’t sure, until now.
    Above the high water mark I collapsed to the ground and would have wept, if the effort were not so great. Footsteps crunched in the gravel.
    “Ma’am, are you okay?”
    Instinct made me flinch from their uniform, but they helped me up and led me to the brightly lit building near bye. Swimming across the bay I had thought it a lighthouse. The wardroom was warm and I was wrapped in warm towels and a blanket. Hot tea with brandy was thrust into my hand and, afterwards, I was left to sleep.
    But that was years ago.
    Today’s swim, in the early evening, was less dangerous. These days the wardroom is kitted out for swimmers to change in. Soldiers no longer guard the shore, watching for escapees from the redundant evil axis.
    The suits that entered while I toweled my hair weren’t military, but they were definitely government.
    “Dr. Yeung, we’d like to talk to you about contact with your homeland.”
    I acquiesced. It seemed a good idea. Outside I ran, ran for the water, ran for freedom. There’ll always be sanctuary for me at home.
    The first hundred yards were the worst. Waiting for the bullet to hit. In the water I knew it would be easier, that I would be less of a target. I almost made it. The whip-crack of bullets sounded so distant, the splashes from the bullets benign, until one hit my shoulder.
    I keep going, pulling into the growing gloom, swimming towards the light on a shore which used to be dark.
    I wont make it.

    @clivetern

  19. treadingwords says:

    MANHUNT

    golden ticket
    359 words
    by Alicia VanNoy Call
    @callthewriter

    It’s like a fall, that spiral of helplessness winding through your gut as you flail against gravity. That bit of nothing waiting for impact., then a sickening jolt when the jump abruptly ends.

    Of course, you never know where you’ll end up. The jump could drop you anywhere. In the middle of a thoroughfare. A raging battle. Once, I fell through the branches of a poplar and landed right next to a placid milk cow. She lowed at me, as surprised as I was to be deposited in her pasture.

    This time, I’m careening through the Strand with that falling-forever sensation and then I’m lurched out of it and into churning water, blinded by sand and salt and I realize I’m on a beach. The familiar terror of where when who am I now and I struggle up out of the roaring surf, my clothes plastered and heavy. A double sun hangs low; the sky is painted with coral shades and grey. Gulls swoop overhead.

    I stand bent, hands on knees to catch my breath, the brine scent of the sea thick everywhere. I know they’re behind me. I know any moment. . . but just two breaths, three, as my head stops spinning and the jump energy leaves my bones and then I’ll be ready.

    Ready to run again.

    I check the charger. Three minutes. I haven’t gone far this time. They’ll be right behind me.

    I see a family walking their pet, further down. I trot away from them, toward a jetty twisting out into the water. There are volcanic rocks, good for cover.

    I’ve almost reached the rocks when I hear a shout. I cast a glance back and see four figures rising out of the sea. I clamber over the rocks, cutting my hands. Sliding into the wet sand on the other side, I check the charge.

    Twenty seconds.

    I dare one peek. A laser bolt goes ricocheting over my head. I count the seconds down like those moments, when you’re a kid, waiting for a launch, with that insane anticipation.

    I activate the jump. I’m yanked into the Strand.

    The bastards will have to keep looking.

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