Flash Frenzy Round 73

Posted: August 8, 2015 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , ,

Welcome back for another round of Flash Frenzy. This weekend, Foy Iver has the honor of reading subs and the difficult task of choosing a Flash Master.

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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  1. A V Laidlaw says:

    @AvLaidlaw
    355 Words

    Beyond Belief

    The woman is lonely. You don’t need to be Sigmund Freud to know that – people don’t walk into this bar because they’re living the live you read about in the Sunday Supplements. The neon lights outside wink through the windows like streetwalkers. Every few minutes the floor shakes as a train rattles past on the Northern Line as if the whole bar has the DTs. Music plays on the jukebox but nobody is listening.

    I watch her reflection in the big mirror as she walks up to the bar. Middle-aged but she takes care of herself. A skirt puffed out like a mushroom with petticoats underneath. Kind of old fashioned but I like that. Better than the hypnotic stare of the smartphone you get these days. She asks for tea.

    I don’t know if we even have tea. “Don’t you want something with a snap?”

    “I like tea. It reminds me of an old friend. We used to have tea-parties.”

    “Boyfriend?”

    “I was only a little girl.” She looked at me side-on but stone-cold unwavering. A challenge. “There was a hair.”

    “Like a wig?”

    “Hare like a rabbit. A rabbit too, a white one. And a dormouse.”

    “Some party.”

    “It was just a game.” But she looks down at her shoes, the way people do when they’re lying.
    So she’s crazy but I can’t complain. I’ve wasted enough of my time trying to explain to bone-faced doctors why it felt like I was underwater and slowly drowning.

    There are teabags in the staff area so I brew her up a cup in a chipped Arsenal FC mug. She sits at a table and drinks it, dainty, her thumb and forefinger pinching the handle. Then she looks at her watch and says, “I’m late.”

    As she stands and scrapes back the chair, I ask her her name. She just turns back and smiles, the kind of smile that I wish meant if only things were different.

    People like me lose their childhoods, put them down somewhere and can’t find them again. Not that woman though. Long after she’s gone, her smile remains, hanging in the air.

  2. “Rivulets”
    360 words
    @patrickjstahl

    Rivulets of blood streamed down my fist. “What have I done?” I muttered again, falling to my knees. The tears slipped off my chin. The blood ran cold down my palm.

    “You made a mistake.”

    I turned to face an ageless man, his linen robes cinched with a golden belt. He seemed to be shining, but I figured it had to be from the crying. “I hurt her.”

    “You did, son, but it’s over now. You’ve learned.”

    “Who are you?” My throat burned. I cleared the dampness from my eyes and saw that he was glowing with fourteen rays of light.

    “Your guardian angel.” The man smiled.

    I crinkled my forehead. “Why are you here?”

    “I am always here.”

    “Where?”

    “Wherever you are. Standing in a place beyond belief between your realm and mine.”

    I stood and wrapped my hand with a handkerchief, thankfully clean. “Between Earth and Heaven?”

    “Sort of. We understand it about as well as you do. Only God knows.”

    “Why are you showing yourself to me?”

    “It’s been months, Rickard. You need to move past it and remember.”

    I shuddered. “Remember? I remember. I remember all of it.”

    “Not that.” The angel shook his head. “I’m here to make you remember what you learned when you were young. Remember that you are not alone and that you are forgiven when you repent.”

    “I guess it’s true then.” I chuckled, looking down at my shoes. “Unless I’m just finally going insane.”

    “It is quite unusual, being given the green light to show myself, but I could see you suffer no longer. You’ve always believed, son. You had only forgotten what it meant.”

    “And what does it mean?” I tried to look the angel in the eyes, but they were too bright.

    “It means that you will always be given another chance so long as you continue to believe in Him and that He will be with you always, to conquer all.”

    In that moment the grace of God poured down upon me in rivulets. And I remembered. I blinked and the angel was gone.

    No, not gone. Just there in his little place beyond belief once more.

  3. voimaoy says:

    Turn Left Past Prairie Bend
    @voimaoy
    360 words

    It was a town that time forgot. That was what Mick Fogarty was thinking, as he drove into the little town of Prairie Bend, just off the interstate. He told himself he needed gasoline and directions. He didn’t want to admit the sign on the highway intrigued him– ‘A Place Beyond Belief.’ Mick Fogarty appreciated things ironically.

    But it was not irony he felt as he drove down the main street, past the hardware store and the bank. He had no words for the feeling that washed over him that summer afternoon. It was a complex feeling, a feeling of loss for something that he had never known. It was like a dark cloud covered the sun.

    The gas station attendant only added to Mick’s inexplicable sadness. The name on his shirt said “Ray” and though Mick was sure he hadn’t seen him before, there was something familiar about the man. He seemed so calm and easygoing, at peace with the world. Maybe that was it. Mick never felt that way, himself.

    “I saw that sign,” Mick said. “Where can I find that place?”

    “You can’t miss it,” Ray grinned. “Just turn left at the edge of town.”

    By the trailer park, Mick saw the sign, but there was only an empty field. A girl in shorts and a t-shirt was hanging laundry on a line.

    “Can I help you?” She smiled that same friendly smile. Her blue eyes looked familiar, too.

    “Do I know you?’

    “Why sure. I’m Mary. Or Louise. Or whoever you want. I’m sorry. I’m new at this. Who were you looking for?”

    “Actually, I was looking for a place.” Mick pointed to the sign.

    “Oh that. You just missed it. Or you could be early. Maybe tomorrow? Yes, tomorrow. Why don’t you come back then?”

    “Right.” Mick got back in the car. “Be seeing you.”

    What a joke, he thought. He drove back to Prairie Bend. The gas station attendant waved as he passed, but Mick just kept on driving. As he headed to the highway, he noticed a car that looked a lot like his, in the ditch by the side of the road.

  4. Stunning Garden

    ‘You can walk straight through. It’s a hologram, see?’
    DI David Chaplin followed Desmond, recalling a television drama from when he was a kid. Ghosts passing through a door.
    ‘Left it switched on for you. Powered by a solar panel, unlike the rest … Well, you see the lengths he went to.’
    ‘I’ve heard all about it. I just need to see, okay?’
    ‘Rightio, Sir.’
    Chaplin glanced back, seeing nothing but the gate with tape across, a pair of PCs keeping guard, the street beyond.
    ‘This way, Sir. He was a good tenant. Rent on time. Kept the house and garden immaculate. Just wish I’d …’
    ‘Yeah, I know.’
    ‘I mean, I could’ve stopped it. Now he’s legged it to God knows where. What if he does it again?’
    ‘We’ll get him.’
    The path curved as the trees gave way to well-kept lawn and flower beds. Gerberas, poppies and massive pampas grass. A trellis; entwined climbing roses and honeysuckle. Desmond pointed them all out. It certainly was a beautiful garden. Stunning. Chaplin stared at the pink and mauve sweet peas, his old Mum’s favourite. He needed to visit again but not like last time when she told him she had a son called David who never came. He couldn’t bear it.
    Desmond’s voice cut into his thoughts, as he gazed blindly at the goalposts, swing ball and collection of bikes.
    They walked on.
    ‘When I think of those poor kids, I just …’
    They’d arrived at the clearing. Chaplin glared at Desmond to shut him up. So this was where it all happened. The wooden bench with chains and padlocks. Nails with wires attached sticking up from the seat. Chaplin’s eyes followed the cables to the outdoor electricity supply. The man had thought of everything.
    He bent to look closer. He pulled out the photographs of the victims, stealing himself to look again. All so young and obviously terrified to the end. He stood and turned to see Desmond watching him intently. Desmond, who’d given Chaplin’s colleagues a vivid and elaborate description of his now missing tenant although the neighbours had never seen him. Helpful man Desmond. Almost too helpful.

    @SalnPage
    360 Words

  5. mariemck1 says:

    Escape

    (148 words)
    @elaine173marie

    We’re here. 
    Where?a crooked, question mark smile.
    The place we wished for.
    Will they come with their doctors and their machines?words balancing on gossamer thread.
    They won’t hurt us now. They don’t know where we are, remember? deep green reassurance.
    But what about the dogs? fear tangible, vibrating the air.
    We crossed the water. The trail ended. We were careful; they know not a word of this place.warm hand pressing on tiny, sharp shoulders.
    Will we able to play here? eyes of saucers.
    Of course we will sunbeam smile.
    And laugh? dark hair dancing in the cool breeze.
     
    ‘Yes, my beautiful daughter! And the most wonderful of things is that we will hear each other again. We can speak our minds. We can unlock, here, the words we have kept buried in our throats,’
    she said, moving her lips for the first time since the humans came.

  6. stevenstucko says:

    ABOVE AND BEYOND (360 words)

    You can’t tell someone they have the wrong sense of humor. Or the wrong favorite color. Or that they like the wrong food. People decide, or rather possess, these unique perspectives on their own. My point is, that the people I see each Sunday are as varied and multilayered as the blossoms in a country garden.

    I greet parishioners and hand out programs as they file into Mass at St. Pete’s the Apostles Church. I nod and smile, hand them the folded flyer and during that brief moment when both our hands are gripping the piece of paper – I feel them. I know why they are in church that Sunday. Call it what you will, it’s not for me to question, it’s just something I’m able to do.

    I learn about the spider-spoked path each individual takes on their way to the center – the hub that is our little parish. Oh, what a tangled web! But my friends, it is all clear to me.

    The hall is heaven for an hour – bejeweled with soaring kaleidoscoped glass windows, impossibly high arches and domes under which one feels safer than if they were in a reinforced bunker. Marble and stone statues whisper ancient tales – stories that for millennia, have guided trusting followers.

    Some folks come out of ritualized obligation. Perhaps their parents brought them each Sunday and they feel they must bring their own children because, well, that’s just what one does. Others bring with them hopes of absolution, dragging their shame-filled baggage like heavy luggage squeaking behind them on broken wobbly wheels. Some bring their own Bibles with the day’s Gospel marked with a ribbon lovingly placed between the pages. There are many parishioners with no agenda other than to sit in a sacred place and offer gratitude to God.

    Yes, I can tell. I know why people come to church each Sunday morning. The reason goes beyond individual beliefs. Everyone has their own personal perspective – you can’t tell them they’re wrong. What they all do share is faith. A faith that tells them that life is worth the effort.

  7. feclark says:

    A Place Beyond Belief

    “Are you for real?”

    I am trapped by the words, skewered through, I know what’s coming.

    “Look at you with your stupid hat and that old shirt. DMs at your age, and those jeans they’re indecent – more holes than denim.”

    I shuffle my DM clad feet, poke a finger through the hole in the denim on my left thigh – making it worse.

    “What is it you think you are doing here, while everyone else is working at proper jobs and raising families? How dare you! What the hell do you think you are doing? Isn’t it time to stop all this and grow up?

    I cringe in shame, impotent; no words of defence will come.

    “Do you imagine that anything you can do here will be new or different or special? Do you think, for one moment, that YOU are new or different or SPECIAL? Do me a favour…..you are BEYOND…belief.”

    I pace the depths of it in my mind and come up empty. Even I can see that there has been nothing new for a long time now. Explanations and excuses bubble up, but my throat dries and nothing will come out. Tears sting, I ache for myself.

    “What happened to that last piece, eh? Four week’s work, materials and time – wasted – you drama queen. What for? Some grand gesture? A purging? A new start? Wish you hadn’t now don’t you?”

    Shamefaced I imagine the ashes of my latest failure.

    “How are you going to pay the bills next month? Fix the car? Sort out that leak?”

    Then, I smile, that old fuck-you smile at my fiercest critic, who regards me from the mirror. I raise my stained coffee cup to my reflection, toasting my resolve. I will work today.

    Even through the blackness that spirals down, I know I will eat from cans and go without, rather than give up now.

    Here I dwell in that place – beyond belief, because I have to, because the buzz when it works – when I work – is an infinity of all that one could ever imagine.

    My advice to you, my friend? Go further: to that place beyond belief.

    358 words
    @feclarkart

  8. I love this character and the moment of realisation about who is talking to them is really well executed!

  9. zevonesque says:

    The Butterfly Effect
    A.J. Walker

    Beauty and wonder surrounds me, I am turned each day by its colour and surprises. The carpet of grass this morning was kissed softly by dew. As the sun rose it was reflected a million times in these miniature glass beads. A million times I am blessed.

    The ponderous bees bob and weave through the lavender despite their mathematic probability. How can a bee fly? I have honey with my toast in celebration and thanks to their industry. Cheers bees!

    The coffee hit stirs me and my eyes are spiked by the flickering patterns of butterflies in the long grasses. Their beauty is other worldly. They appear painted by children, designed by innocence. I am dumbfounded.

    I am thinking beneath a cloudless blue sky. Blue sky thinking. There is not a word to do justice to this moment. I am in a place beyond belief.

    Take the time to look and think. Crack open a jar of honey. Smell the coffee and listen to the birds. Watch the flowers unfurl and their painted visitors. For you are here too.

    (179 words)
    @zevonesque

  10. Daniel Finkel says:

    In Our Town
    By Daniel Finkel

    None of us believed Harvey Walker when he told us that he was quitting drinking. We just laughed at him and called him names until finally he got mad and stormed away. It turns out we were right, too, because the first place he went was Ray’s Bar, and within an hour of all that sober and sorrowful and solemn talk about stopping forever, he was swilling down beers and singing along with the best of them. At least, we heard that he was singing. That’s what Susan Rice told Hannah Albert, and what Hannah Albert told Margaret Smith, but Margaret didn’t believe her.

    We live in a town. It’s a great town. Johnny Appleseed could have passed through a few centuries back, there are so many apple trees. In our town, though, we don’t put stock in Johnny Appleseed. Old Bill Henderson’s kid was talking about him once at a town meeting, and Bill Henderson had to take him aside and say to him, “You shouldn’t talk about Johnny Appleseed, son. No one puts stock in Johnny Appleseed anymore.” As it turned out, though, that was just the tip of the iceberg (we don’t believe in the Titanic hoax either, but it’s a useful expression), because a few days later, we heard that Timothy Buck had been spotted in his own house, praying. Praying! Well, we didn’t know what to think, so Bill Henderson just upped and asked him, “Do you believe in God, Tim?”

    “Of course not,” Timothy said. But really, what else was he going to say?

    And that’s an adult, mind you. The children are a thousand times worse. They go off about fairies and pixies and angels and who knows what other nonsense, and we just have to keep drilling it out of them. There’s no throwing salt over the left shoulder in our town, no saying “God bless you,” or giving to charity. We used to, but if you think about it, donating money is really just giving support for a “charitable cause,” and no one believes in causes anymore. In our town, we’ve moved beyond belief.

    (353 words)

  11. Certainly

    You stand beneath the tall wire framework supporting the words “A place beyond belief”, displayed in all caps with what appear to be thin glass bulbs. Perhaps they light up at night, if they are in fact glass bulbs. But if the sign is to be believed you wonder if things are more than they appear to be. You stand on tiptoe and stretch your fingers to snap the bottom bulb of the letter “F” off the grid and bring it to your nose. As you suspected, no, hoped, it smells faintly of strawberry lemon candy and you pop a curved piece of the bulb in your mouth, feeling only a little guilty about the destruction.

    You walk past the sign and through trees that are surprisingly gossipy. You had always believed trees to be wise and above such things, but what the birch tree has to say about Clementine Jones’s hat and her attachment her lawn ornaments makes you frown in disapproval. After all, Clementine Jones doesn’t gossip about the birch tree.

    You keep walking and come upon a game of hopscotch already in action with your childhood hero, a talking wallaby, and the cartoon chef from the labels of soup cans that sit on store shelves. You are eager to join in the game and agree with your childhood hero that there is more to be done to promote kindness in the world and that yes, August is the month most popular among ladybugs. The wallaby, however, disagrees. The cartoon chef gets caught on a gust of wind, and paper thin disappears up into the trees, shrugging and waving goodbye.

    You leave the game and come to an armchair seated below a cloud of butterflies. You sit down and they recount your favorite book word for word, each butterfly whispering a single sentence of the story. You smile and settle in the chair, legs swinging over the arm.

    But you can’t help but shake your head, for this place is not beyond belief, but everything you assumed the world could be.

    343 words
    @CaseyCaseRose

  12. Michael Osias LeBlond says:

    El Norte (356 words)

    Forced through the slippery softness of the birth canal, the child tumbled out of the squatting girl onto the warm, spongy mud. Chewing the cord of life the new mother severed the connection they had shared since the last cold winds. She lifted her daughter out of the muck and stretching her arms, held her firstborn above her head. Greeting the night with a squeal of delight, the baby breathed in the thin mountain air as the tepid rain cleansed her small body.

    Bringing her daughter close to her bosom she looked in her dark eyes and said to her, “My child, your name shall be, Maria Guadalupe.”

    ***

    When Maria grew older and could no longer contain her curiosity she asked her mother a question.

    “Will I ever know my father, Mama? Please tell me where is he”

    Sitting on the dirt floor she beckoned her daughter to come be with her. Maria sat on her mother’s soft familiar lap and looked at her expectantly.

    “He is in el norte working and gathering savings and will come for us soon.”

    “Oh, Mama I can hardly wait until I meet him. It is my greatest wish.

    What is this el norte, Mama? Tell me about it, please.”

    “Oh, my child, it is a wonderful place where everyone is rich. No one is hungry because the food can be found in buildings, beautiful buildings taller than the great mountain trees. We will live in a large house with a floor and it is always dry inside, even when the rain comes. There are schools where you will go with other children and learn to read and write. It is never dark, even at night, everything is bright. Everyone is taken care of and they are all happy in el norte. It is a place where you can become anything you dream.”

    When Maria went to sleep on the damp floor that night she didn’t notice the cold. Her thoughts kept her warm as they drifted to the father she would soon know and to a place where she could become anything she dreamed, a place beyond belief.

  13. Sonya says:

    Risky Business

    ‘Incredible.’
    ‘Innit? Can you believe how beautiful they are?’
    I can’t. I wonder if I’m dreaming.
    ‘Impossible.’
    ‘My first thought when I heard about ‘em. Yet here they are.’
    We know about them from old folk tales. We didn’t believe in them any more than we did in air-conditioning. Typical Kit, nobody else would risk his life to prove the veracity of a rumour.
    We marvel at the trees for a minute but we both know that the sun will fry us if we don’t seek shelter.
    ‘Kit,’ I say, ‘look at all that shade.’
    Kit grins.
    ‘Wanna risk it?’

    100 words
    @_supersonya

  14. Karl A Russell says:

    Asteroid X-237

    Myers sat on the doorstep of Heaven, removed his helmet and lit a cigarette. He’d been trying to ration them for the trip, but it didn’t seem important now.

    Behind him, in the house, Pastor Janes broke off his sobbing for long enough to throw up again, then carried on.

    Only Buckley seemed to be taking the discovery in his stride, standing by the landing module and watching the horizon, waiting for the main ship to dawn and reconnect the radio signal.

    Myers watched him thoughtfully as he smoked. He drew his service revolver and aimed it.

    “You’re not going to stop me,” Buckley said, without turning round.

    Myers shrugged.

    “I can’t let you send that message.”

    “This is what we came for. The biggest discovery of all time. You want to stop me?”

    Myers looked at his revolver, then slid it into its holster.

    “I’d probably miss anyway; I was never that good on the range. So what are you going to tell them?”

    “That we found Him, He’s dead, and everything else was a lie.”

    “You really believe that?”

    “Come on Myers, you saw it as well as I did. Janes certainly seems to believe it, but I think we’re in a new place now. A place beyond belief. We have facts instead.”

    Myers stood and joined Buckley by the lander, watching the moons drift lazily by.

    “What about the Russians though? We tell everyone and everything changes. The Russians will get to the moon first, we’ll pull out of Vietnam, the whole thing will fall apart.”

    “So we stop fighting, start working together, maybe accept that we’re not all that different after all. Is that really such a terrible thought?”

    “It’s easier for you; you were an atheist to begin with.”

    Buckley grinned.

    “That should make it harder. At least you were right.”

    He pointed to a bright spot on the horizon.

    “There’s the ship. Ready?”

    Myers nodded.

    Buckley reached for the radio.

    Then Pastor Janes shot them both in the head.

    He took the radio in his blood slick hands and dashed it to the rocks, then went to sit at his Lord’s right hand.

    359 words
    @karl_a_russell

  15. Pattyann McCarthy says:

    @PattyannMc
    WC: 359

    Welcome to FunTown

    “Well now, WHO do we have here?” A crazy looking clown pointed at me as I entered. “This is FunTown, a place beyond belief!”

    I was taken aback by his loudness AND his look. Neither eye matched in color or placement. One triangular eyeball glowed green, and placed where an eyeball should be. The other glowed abscess red, bulging out of a pocketed dimple on his cheek. His nose, a typical bulbous cherry-red clowns’ nose, but it was sticking out of his forehead! His head was smooth and ghost-white. A beefy jutting chin was where his mouth should’ve been, but THAT was on the side of his neck, red lips drawn around it, and elongated pointy fangs making so he couldn’t close his thin lips.

    I turned to run back through the gate I’d just come, but it disappeared!

    “Gotcha misssssy!” He hollered my direction. “There’sss no going back. Ta get out, ya have ta go through!” He slithered the Ess.

    “Don’t want to; I changed my mind!”

    “Nope. No doing that, it’sss through or . . .”

    “Or?” I squeaked, fear paralyzing my vocal chords.

    “Lemme tell ya, it’sss better ta go through. Thisss way if ya pleassse? May I have your ticket?”

    Stark white gloves directed me, or, were they his hands?

    “I didn’t get a ticket.”

    “That’sss what they ALL sssay!”

    I followed the direction his ghost-white hands pointed, forcing my feet to move. He led me into a Giant clowns’ mouth that looked like a Fun House. Scared, I went through; he followed me in. Fingers of fear crept down my spine, tickling fine hairs. All I saw was a dirty cot to lie down.

    He motioned for me to lie down, backed out of the room, and then the lights went out. Panic swallowed me.

    I lay, petrified and blinded, cloaked in pitch black. I jumped when crazy calliope music shattered my eardrums, and cried when air blew across me. My mind concocted all kinds of terrifying things, and I screamed the scream of the insane when hundreds of slimy hands stroked me.

    Jolting upright, relief flooded me; thinking it was a dream. It wasn’t – I screamed much more . . .

  16. […] for Flash Frenzy, round 73, where it came […]

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