Flash Frenzy Round 78

Posted: September 12, 2015 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , ,

Welcome back for Round 78 of Flash Frenzy. This weekend, Flash! Friday fiction goddess Rebekah Postupak is our judge.

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

  1. davidshakes says:

    Knight to King’s Bishop 3
    David Shakes
    360 words

    My footsteps echo around the high vaulted ceiling. Just my steps, if God is with me then he’s already seated. The checkerboard floor seems analogous – life being a game of chess played against an undefeated grandmaster. What is his game plan? Unknowable. Some of us never make it past the opening moves, caught in a checkmate we never see coming; others limp on as piece by piece disappear from the board until only one remains, shuffling from square to square in hopeless desperation.
    It’s been years since I set foot inside a place of worship, but the reverential acts are still strong in my memories, ingrained through repetition. I do not repeat them, instead I sit down on an uncomfortable chair and gaze at the opulent splendour around me. How much would one of these paintings fetch? How many mouths could that money feed? If the church were to sell off its assets, invest in medical research, then maybe I’d not be sat here in the first place.
    Is He even going to listen to me now? Like many, I’ve spent years denying Him, only to slink back in a crisis, begging for help. Where else can you go when the doctors say that’s it? We all find faith in our darkest moments. I scratch at the stubble on my head with trembling fingers. I open my mouth to pray but a deep sob escapes me and I crumple.
    Soft hands grip my shoulders, soothing words are whispered in my ears. I do not know this person but my fragile bones soak up the warmth from their embrace. The church has dimmed except for the pool of light in the arched doorway I’m led to. Instead of the afterlife, I walk through into a grey October morning.
    “Coffee?” The impossibly young priest inquires, all fresh faced and worthy.
    “Is God buying?” I ask.
    “No, I am,” he says, smiling. “But He’ll probably take a decaf.”
    The sound of my own laughter surprises me.
    We cross the street together and find a booth in the busy coffee lounge. I’m unsurprised by its checkerboard floor.
    Maybe I’ve a few moves left.

  2. Geoff Holme says:

    Beautiful story, Shakes, nicely incorporating the elements of the photo prompt, with an upbeat ending. Bless you, my son!

  3. Richard Edenfield says:

    Musical Chairs

    The ancient Roman architect, Vitruvius, had first proposed the idea in book 111 of his treatise De Architectura; the microcosm and the macrocosm. How architecture could represent the cosmos in miniature. This was adapted over time by artists and philosophers to incorporate a single human being, as well.

    Sitting between the broad expanse of carved pillars and exquisite art she wondered where her place was in the vast celestial scope of overwhelming prayer. Did what grew inside her wonder the same thing? The mass of chairs were placed in two opposing camps, like the black and white marble of the floor; good lounging against evil.

    The universe played musical chairs. A form of evolution. Survival of the spiritually fittest. She was the last one sitting. In the back of the church. The last shall be first. But she felt like a first class idiot.

    What evolution had occurred for him to run away with his ex? What last moment occurrence took place? All the invitations were received. Date established. The location found. All appropriate catering arranged. Guests had arrived. The church was filled with cheer, flowers, and chatter. Her white dress held like an army of hope.

    How long can the sound of a champagne bottle opening create a golden ring in the mind? Microcosm of the big bang? Destroy to create. Was her pain the microcosm of the larger pain of the universe? How many universes? How much pain? There was a multi-verse in her heart a place for every wavering dilemma to land. Sadness seemed to thrive like ivy on an endless fence. She wore his green windbreaker to keep her warm. The irony was not lost on her.

    Windows hung like nightgowns on prayer. A hard vast empire of emptiness surrounded her. A difficult silence. All she wanted to do was sleep.

    But in her mind she heard a pipe organ.

    Overwhelming echo of Mozart decorating the walls with a playful exuberance of hope and love.

    A perfect ensemble of singing.

    A flickering symphony of candles beating a furious pulse.

    Then abruptly, the music stopped.

    At the alter,
    she vowed she would never be left standing, again.


    (360 words)

    • stephellis2013 says:

      Love the contrast of pacing to this, from the longer, deeper discussion of her own situation, what caused her partner to jilt her, to the shorter phrases that lyrically lead her to take a new vow. ‘A flickering symphony of candles beating a furious pulse’ – great line.

    • feclark says:

      I find the words ‘Windows hung like nightgowns on prayer’ very beautiful.

  4. stephellis2013 says:


    353 words


    Nobody attends the altar. It has become a mere relic of past times, a place where sin could be absolved, where all would be forgiven. People don’t need that any more, they decide for themselves whether to turn the other cheek or not. They do not listen for voices they cannot hear. They ignore stories long dismissed by science. Religion has failed the burden of proof, become obsolete.

    I sit at the back behind the rope that prevents closer access, try to imagine what it was like but am interrupted as the rest of my party catch up with me.

    “And here, ladies and gentlemen, we have a fine example of the architecture of mistaken belief …”

    I tune the guide’s voice out. I do not want to listen to her preaching yet another sermon; we get enough of those from the government.

    The small congregation moves on as I remain seated. I ignore their disapproving stares. I paid my entry fee, the same as them and I have no desire to visit the ‘Jesus Experience’ with its crucifixion simulation even though it was proclaimed the Best Visitor Attraction of 2030.

    There is a distant cheer. The ‘Jesus Experience’ has just greeted its millionth customer. The prize? The brochure in my hand informs me it’s a luxurious weekend for two in the papal suite of the Vatican Hotel plus unlimited play in the Holy Roman Casino. Money has reclaimed its place in the temple.

    Then slowly, thankfully, the blanket of silence falls once more; a deep stillness that I have never experienced anywhere else. It is so peaceful.

    They used to say if you sit still long enough, you will hear a voice, God’s voice. I wonder if that is why we are herded through like cattle. Are they afraid of what we will hear?

    They needn’t have worried. I have never heard anything yet but after what I have witnessed in the world around me I feel that there must be more to life, more than this. So I come here each day and listen. But all I ever hear is silence.

    • Foy S. Iver says:

      Beautiful, Steph. I love the futuristic feel woven so well into ancient rituals. Even when God is silent, we seek him.

      • stephellis2013 says:

        Thank you. I have no particular ‘belief’ as such (science and proof has ruled much of my life) but I always feel that there is something more and so keep my mind open. I have friends who have a very strong faith and sometimes I do envy them that.

    • stevenstucko says:

      Hi Steph. I like the line “They do not listen for voices they cannot hear.” Some people still do… The 2030 date gives an Orwellian feel to what might be around the corner (I hope not). I smiled at the casino line and recalled my grandma losing then winning then losing at her church’s bingo bashes. My favorite part is the ending. Your MC goes there each day. She’s yearning for something. That must mean a little faith is still alive inside her. Maybe the answer is in the silence, and she will leave each day feeling more grounded and able to deal with life’s ups and downs. Works for me!

      • stephellis2013 says:

        Thank you for your comments. I like the sound of your grandma. Perhaps there is a little of the MC in me, I do not go to church but when I do visit such buildings it is always the silence, the peace built over centuries that filters through to me.

  5. Foy S. Iver says:

    WC: 138

    Modern Sunday

    I stand on the spine of the woods. Its ribs curve above to cathedral heights.

    I inhale what it exhales. Its lungs, no longer green, dance with every color of the flame.

    I taste cinnamon and allspice – that formless wafer – but cannot remember what it symbolizes. The forest’s autumnal incense of low-burning fires marries the wind.

    I listen to the orchestra. Its branches clap against each other, its leaves murmur hymns without lyrics, its creatures sing and scuttle in hidden harmony.

    I feel the earth swell and fall beneath naked feet. Its body lives and lies in meditative repose.

    Here, I seek sanctuary. Here, free of denomination and condemnation, I am still.


    “We’re sorry. Your worship time has run out. Please insert tithe to continue.”

    Damn it.

  6. A V Laidlaw says:

    358 Words

    The Belly of the Whale

    So here I am in the belly of the whale, insignificant plankton sucked into the giant maw, white columns curving like rib bones above me. A female Jonah. I wonder about these Prophets – why were they always men? Did Jonah’s wife spend hours sweating by the stove, cooking whatever they ate in those days, only for his nibs to say “look love, got to go. Called by him upstairs. You know how it is.”

    Of course, he did a runner. Women, we don’t always have that choice.

    Look at the tiles on the floor, all the patterns they make like a maze. And look at the carvings at the top of the columns. All hand carved. No electric tools back then. It must have taken them months, years even. They must have had some faith, some real conviction. Unless they did it for the money. Money. How am I going to get by? There’s no charity, not for the likes of me.

    Don’t think about it. Look at the paintings, so dark with age. Does everything get so dark, so obscure and shadowy, as we get older? When I was a little girl everything was bright, the winter morning glittering on the frost, the summer afternoon shimmering on the sea. I built sandcastles. I was going to live in one, a princess.

    It was so simple. Jesus loved me, long as I was a good girl. The priest said so. We thought priests were funny back then, in their black clothes and the way they were called Father although they didn’t have wives let alone children. Now they are scary. One waits for me behind his prison grill in the confessional. What will I tell him?

    Here I am, insignificant in the belly of the whale, and in my belly grows something small. I want Mike to come back, to be brought where he is supposed to be. He’d say I was getting big as a whale and I’d laugh and he’d laugh. I wouldn’t be hormonal, not if he were here.

    But he did a runner. Men do. And not even God will bring them back.

  7. Richard Edenfield says:

    Power Ranger Super Trooper X15-6

    After waiting in line for the entire night she was unable to obtain the Power Ranger Super Trooper X15-6 action figure. Her son would be devastated.

    Macy’s had it. Every parent in the city knew Macy’s had it. It was like some sort of rock concert at the front doors in the morning. They had restocked the item that had sold out everywhere else for one last opportunity. December 24th. D-day.

    The inside of the church was like every present you ever unwrapped from childhood to adult with all the surprise and disappointment mixed in. A new bike like grand white carved pillars. An Erector set like the symmetrical floor marbled as a glorious cake. A pair of socks represented by melancholy paintings indicating the soul’s struggle to march on.

    It was -10 degrees out. People were covered in blankets. Hot cider was given out in line by some charitable group.

    “I must get it or my son will kill himself. He has already made out his will!” A woman said that was wearing new Nike’s and getting ready as if running to salvation in some sort of religious Olympic event. The spiritual 100 yard dash.

    She couldn’t go home. She had failed. She prayed that she would be given a sign, some sort of direction to a Power Ranger Super Trooper X15-6 action figure. But all was silence. A Christmas morning silence. A gloriously rollicking anticipation deferred silence.

    The forest fires had come all at once. The droughts had caused severe fire conditions. Her husband had been a fire ranger for more than 10 years. When the wall of flames came he had no escape. She was in church when she got the call from his cell with the flames in the background whipping in the wind like sails in a storm.

    “I love you,” was all he said.

    She continued to pray for a ranger. A certain madness had developed in her. She had to get this figure, this representation of her love.

    She had to make things right.

    (346 words)

    • stephellis2013 says:

      Loved the way you turned this from the madness of parents and the materialism that rules at Christmas to a story of loss and suffering. Nicely done.

    • stevenstucko says:

      Nice twist at the end Richard. It should remind us we all have heroes in our real lives. That being said, does anyone want to buy any Cabbage Patch Dolls, Beanie Babies, or a Tickle Me Elmo? Hardly ever used. Only 102 shopping days left ’til Christmas!

  8. stevenstucko says:


    I suppose it’s normal to be nervous on one’s first day at a new job. I was. I wanted to do well and prove to those who hired me that they chose the right candidate for the position. I take my work seriously. I feel I represent my new employer, and there’s always a bit of pressure there. It started with Mr. McKay and his sandwich shop when I was fifteen. Now, as a new priest, I represent God and His word in the house that He built – specifically, Holy Cross Church in my hometown of Deerfield, Illinois.

    One might say I’ve been training for this job my whole life, although I didn’t know it at the time, and when my path became clear in my early twenties it never really seemed like a “job” per se. People refer to it as a “calling” and I guess that’s where I got hung up for a little bit. As a child I knew and respected several priests in my small parish and others that I read about or heard about on the news. I always wondered how they realized that this was the path for them. I imagined that some cosmic epiphany occurred at some point in their lives. Perhaps the clouds parted and an intense sunbeam engulfed them in its warm embrace. A booming, yet loving voice vibrating around them saying, “You, my son. You have been chosen.” That never happened to me, and I’ll admit wondering if I truly was meant to dedicate my life to this path. I often thought of asking my friends in the seminary if they had such a clear singular moment. I never did ask, I felt I would hear wondrous ethereal stories and feel more confusion and doubt, even envy.

    I came to my new job two hours early today. I was sitting in the last row of chairs looking up at all the grandeur of our lovely church and feeling the daunting responsibility I had taken on for my community. Then a booming, yet loving voice vibrated around me and said, “You’ll be fine.”

  9. feclark says:


    A black pterodactyl shadow hovered and bobbed over the motorway.

    A surge of primal fear had clutched me, its claws in deep. Not understanding what I was seeing, I looked too long.

    No one blamed me. That is what they continue to say. Still, I cannot forget the raw eyes of the mother. No blame. It does not erase what happened.

    It was almost harvest time, the weather had turned. Rain and spray and darkening light. The black form soaring unmoored from its leash. Losing the road. The screeching of brakes. Hitting the central reservation at speed. Out of control. The entire vehicle bouncing back, causing a lorry to swerve to avoid it. Ploughing into the girl on the footpath.

    Seconds, it happened in seconds. Bruised and scratched I had crawled from my car, to find carnage. I wish it had been me.

    I found out later that it was supposed to mimic a hawk. The scale of it and the whole nightmare is desperately skewed.

    Sitting here at the back now, I can feel the space arching above my head.

    I had stumbled in for sanctuary from the busy city and my screaming consciousness. I breathe in waxed dust and lilies, the rarefied air, stuttering in my lungs. Panic receding. Sweat drying cold.

    Since the accident nothing has been the same. Unjointed. Nothing connects. It is as if I am an empty shell, stuffed with night terrors and guilt.

    Forgiveness: such a complicated simplicity. Here in this perfect space of pristine white stone and polished wood I sit shivering. This is not my church, I have no religion. There is no peace for me here.

    Some farms have machines that make banging noises at irregular intervals. My grandmother used to walk round the perimeters of the fields banging the bottom of a galvanised steel bucket. I am glad she never knew what would become of me.

    Apparently the family forgive me. Apparently God forgives me. However, I can find no place to set forgiveness for myself in the word murderer, for that is what I am now, and forever more.

    Bird kites are in now. Scarecrows are out.

    359 words

    • Richard Edenfield says:

      Forgiveness: such a complicated simplicity. I like that. The whole thing, for me, revolves around that one line. To forgive ones self and the perception and ability to forgive ones self, oddly enough, I think, is the mark of greatness because it leads to forgiving others which is the hallmark of light. Which is the hallmark of art. Which is the hallmark of love.

    • stevenstucko says:

      “…rarified air, stuttering in my lungs.” That’s a great line.

  10. Richard Edenfield says:

    The Church in My Backyard
    and the Silent Ringing
    of My Bell Camera

    The architect of woodpeckers hammering out a glorious steeple with angels dying beautifully on the trees their simple colors decorating the woods with the flutter of a red flare blanket as the branches skeletal figure moves the sky with a golden flick of Godly intent.

    The prayer of weather is a prayer of growth. A squirrel scrambles as if connected to 3 million volts. The student drivers of butterflies. A stream whose water is as holy as any shrines delicate scream. The swell of mountains raising the horizon like a trophy. The birds sound out the detail of beauty allowing the devil no place to hide.

    The bride swears white in January. The groom in the darkened leaves of summer. Marriage of Heaven and Hell? Or a spot of sunlight submerging in the eye of a hawk?

    How can I capture this with my Nikon?

    How can I possibly assemble all the focus?

    I put my cap back on

    and walk home

    in glorious defeat.

    I start to listen to “Funeral,” by Arcade Fire.

    (173 words)

  11. Stella T says:

    288 words

    Lucifer v God Almighty

    I tried to focus on Linda Bell’s pale neck. She was by far the prettiest in my class possibly the nicest girl in the whole school. God I loathed her with all of my heart. One day she’d know how I felt when the walls of this place came tumbling down. I would blow the trumpet myself if I had to. I had plans. Strychnine in the communion wine, a bomb under the font, woodworm in the belfry. The last one always made me laugh that was Granddad’s best idea. He was always a bit of a joker. Resting with the Almighty now in the Big House. He’d been sent to jail for seven years. Not sure why?

    Today God would listen when I prayed to my new master. Dark thoughts had entered my head and heart. I didn’t even try to push them away like Mother Superior had instructed when thoughts of lust came to tempt us. They made me feel strong, in control, someone for once was caring for me. The voice, loud in my ears, I looked around to see if anyone else had heard. Hearing a tutting sound coming from Sister Mary Bridget I knew I’d be in detention for this. The procession never deviated from looking straight ahead, eyes lowered in humility.

    It was such a farce, most of these girls had unclean thoughts, some even weren’t virgins. We’d all be better at the local sink school down the road than pretending what we weren’t. My dad smiled at me when he laid his hands on my head to give the blessing. It wasn’t easy being the priest’s daughter especially one who had changed denominations. My new master will lead me to glory.


    Merryl’s breathing accelerated. ‘Oh my God… Oh my God… Oh my God.’

    ‘Why do they all start moaning that?’ Father Derek wondered suddenly, as he was thrusting deeper into her. ‘I have to google that question tonight.’

    ‘I’m almost there,’ Merryl panted.

    ‘I… I can’t hold it any longer,’ Father Derek lied. ‘Can I…’

    ‘Yes,’ Merryl groaned. ‘Yes.’


    ‘I’ve never been closer,’ she said, putting her hand on his chest.

    He looked at her. ‘Don’t worry, darling. It’s just a matter of letting go. Maybe next time.’

    Merryl smiled hopefully.

    But Father Derek already knew it was going to happen. In fact, he knew exactly what was going to happen within a week’s time or so. First, they’d meet again in the sacristy. This time Father Derek wouldn’t hold back. He’d be the skillful lover he really was. Tears of relief would roll down Merryl’s crimson cheecks. A few days later they’d meet again, but the door of the sacristy would remain closed. Father Derek would sit her down on one of the chairs where she had prayed so much for absolution. ‘We need to talk,’ he’d say in his stern voice. Then he’d give her the saviour speech, how he’d been thinking lately that a man in his position couldn’t carry on this forbidden relationship, but that she shouldn’t despair, in a way he had saved her from her inhibitions, she was now free to experience and enjoy lust with anyone, just not him anymore. After the speech he’d get up and walk away, leaving her hunched on the chair, sobbing.


    ‘I knew this moment would come,’ Merryl said. ‘Because I know about the other women.’ Father Derek seemed unfazed, at least on the outside. ‘But don’t worry, we won’t take any legal action against you. We’ve talked about it, a lot. Until we were left with only one question. A question we were all content with: who is going to save the saviour?’ Then Merryl stood up and left. Father Derek never got the echo of her clacking high heels out of his head.

    348 words

  13. mariemck1 says:

    The Voice
    (170 words)

    Congregations flocked to Our Lady’s.The congregations of St. Mary’s, John the Baptist’s, Holy Trinity’s, and the faithful of churches further flung than those, attended its services.

    On Sundays, Father Belrose’s counterparts looked out at empty pews. Father Belrose, himself, was rather dull, his sermons seemed interminable, yet more and more of the devoted assembled in front of him.

    This priest was dreary yet no fool. He knew that the sweet tintinnabulation from his church’s tower could entice the angels out of heaven, and he ensured every Sunday that the church’s sounds called out across the city.

    Perhaps it was the building itself he had grown to love too much, or perhaps it was himself, but he made sure his was the church that would ring out loudest with music and prayer.

    Father Belrose; however, didn’t understand how diminished those sounds were without the voice that belonged to the stooped figure in the tower. The voice of a man with the curve on his back as round as a bell.


  14. Pratibha says:

    A Pawn

    I stayed after the congregation left. The funeral mass had left me shaking like a palm tree in the path of a hurricane. I needed to compose myself before stepping out.

    The “pillar of the community” that’s what the mayor called him in the eulogy. Some choice words came to my mind, but I swallowed them. Never speak ill of the dead, I kept reminding myself. It was probably a mistake coming here. I would have been naïve to believe that I could put things right.
    I hate that I am the only one who heard his last words, the words that could have thrown her world in disarray. She, his wife, sat in the front row, in her impeccable black dress and veil, but I could see her red, chafed nose. The tears flowed silently while she clutched her shawl. I felt sorry for her, and not just because her husband had died.

    I wasn’t supposed to be there on Tuesday last week, but I had missed my 3:40 pm connecting train, and the next train was delayed. Underground humidity on the subway platform was stifling. I was breathing hard. A school kid had his asthma breathing mask on. Sweat trickled down my back and my hair. I tied my hair in a ponytail and took my place among a dozen other commuters scrolling through their digital devices. I was about to scroll past a punchline of a joke in the email when the train from the other side entered the platform. Mr. Dover stepped down from the car in front of me. His assistant Sheila greeted him, and then I witnessed what looked like a scandalous kiss. They didn’t notice me. “I started the divorce proceedings this morning,” I heard him tell her in his hoarse voice.

    Stunned, I turned around only to watch him collapse on the grimy platform. That was it; he was gone by the time paramedics arrived.

    Today, I sat here listening to everyone dole out words of praise for him, his wife sobbing inconsolably.

    I remained silent and didn’t shed a tear. I hate to be a pawn in this stupid chess game.

    360 words

  15. Richard Edenfield says:

    My Little Church

    My church is in books.

    The sermons of Thomas Wolfe, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Balzac, Rilke, Jack London, and Bukowski. The gilded message of T.C. Boyle, James Thurber, Emily Dickinson, and Dorothy Parker. And the Savior Oscar Wilde. With his 12 apostles: Henry David Thoreau, Stanley Elkin, Walt Whitman, E.B. White, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Richard Brautigan, James Salter, Proust, Camus, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Frederick Exley, and Kerouac.

    And then there was Shakespeare with his long beard peering down from heaven with his electric light orchestra.

    There is a white weather worn library at the furthest reaches of Martha’s Vineyard where I lived. A tiny wooden structure facing the ocean. That is where I prayed.

    Inside was a nun who wore a necklace of sea glass that glimmered with a modest light around her neck. The shelves had various shells on them. Driftwood was all around.

    I would sit for hours alone with a soft view rolling in the window. Sailboats would bookmark the horizon with a pale sliver of cloth. A small fireplace glowed giving warmth as I leafed through the sacred texts.

    The words used by the masters were angels to me that flew to my heart. The paragraphs were a choir. Chapters an entire earthly prayer.

    When I was little my mother would drop me off at this library; it was cheaper than a sitter. Books by Bill Peet and Doctor Seuss filled my days. Then when I got a bit older I loved Edward Gorey. Then I was ready for my baptism; Gary Larson.

    Over time I would come home and visit my church at moments when I most needed my faith; a break up with a girlfriend, 911, when I had no direction or friends. They put in a small water fountain by the door and that holy water would wash my sins away when I entered. It was from a very holy place called “The Waves,” where Virginia Woolf did the butterfly.

    I have never read the bible but I know what is in it just the same. I have read its offspring. And the son is sometimes just as telling as the father.

    (360 words)

  16. Sonya says:

    Significant Other

    First time, I came in to shelter from the downpour. If they didn’t want people to come in, they should keep the doors locked, I reasoned.

    Dwarfed by the columns and the magnificent ceiling, I didn’t see her.

    ‘They don’t built them like that anymore,’ my whisper echoed.

    ‘I know,’ she said, making me jump. ‘Reminds you how small and insignificant we are.’

    She seemed significant to me.

    Second time, I came looking for her. She arrived as I rose to leave.

    Today’s the third time. Today we get married.

    Today, I wonder if a higher power brought us together.

    (100 words)

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