Flash Frenzy Round 83

Posted: October 31, 2015 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , , ,

**Edit: 1,000 apologies, flash  dogs. I forgot to schedule this to autopost on time.**

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Welcome to Round 83. This weekend, David Shakes will be acting as judge. Once again, I’ll be issuing a special challenge, but it’s entirely up to you if you wish to incorporate it into your story, and up to Shakes if he wants to issue bonus points. Lately, I’ve found myself somewhat obsessed with the concept of masks—more so as it happens to be Halloween season. Your challenge is to incorporate some kind of mask (real or imagined) into your submission.

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 of Ashwin Rao

  1. stephellis2013 says:

    Old Harry

    357 words


    Frank stared up at the house. It was perfect. But so far the owner had refused to sell.

    “Old Harry’s a strange bloke,” said the agent. “Said you’d never be able to pay his price.”

    But Frank would not accept defeat. He knew how to handle elderly householders.

    In the darkness, the house seemed even more isolated from its neighbours. Only the weak candlelight dancing behind dirty glass indicated anyone was at home. Frank made his way up the weed-strewn path.

    The door was open.

    Frank jumped as a ghostly head suddenly hovered in front of him.

    “Hah, got you! Trick or treat,” cackled an old voice gleefully.

    “You certainly did, Mr …?”

    “Call me Harry. Everyone does.”

    “I’m …”

    “Oh I know who you are young man and what you want,” said Harry. “Come in, come in.”

    He led Frank into a small room where faces gazed down from every wall. “I reckon you’d like to get straight to business?” he said.

    Frank nodded, this would be over quickly.

    “My price,” said Harry, nodding at the faces. “Is a mask, one so real you would think it was flesh.”

    Mad, thought Frank. But he would play along.

    “You will work on this,” said Harry, uncovering a block of material. “I’ll even let you use your own knife.”

    Easy, thought Frank. I can do a mask, I’ve carved enough faces in my time.

    His knife slid unresistingly into the strange wood, found the face more-or-less carved itself.

    “Now the test,” said Harry, placing the mask over Frank’s face and turning him towards a mirror.
    Frank gasped. He looked just like the head that had greeted him on arrival. He tried to pull the mask off but it held fast.

    “You know, Frank,” said Harry confidingly. “People always want something for nothing, especially at Halloween. You really thought you could con me … Old Harry?”

    Still Frank struggled with the mask.

    No,” said Harry. “You’re stuck with it. You wear the face you deserve.”

    Frank felt cold steel at his throat.

    “A new head to scare trick-or-treaters will do just nicely, don’t you think?” whispered Harry. “Happy Halloween.”

  2. Geoff Holme says:

    So that was Old Harry’s game… Spooky stuff, Steph. Great start to the contest.

  3. A V Laidlaw says:

    328 Words

    The Masks of Babylon

    I have been a murderer, a prostitute, an addict, a blasphemer.

    It began with the Festival of Masks. Each summer solstice the citizens of Babylon wrapped themselves in black robes and wore wooden masks. Anonymous to the Gods of the Tigris and Euphrates, the citizens roamed the torch-lit streets and pursed carnal desires, their essence reduced to the fanged grimaces and rouged leers crudely painted on the masks. A young girl inhaled the smoke of burning poppy seeds. A married labourer found himself aroused in the lily-white arms of a young nobleman. A middle-aged woman gambled her children into slavery on the rattle of the bone dice.

    With time the wooden masks became welded to the faces of their inhabitants. The citizens found it harder to remove their mask at dawn after solstice night, tearing the skin and revealing shameful bodies and blood on the flagstones to their naked eyes. The citizens kept the masks for days after the festival finished, despite the priests who preached against this blasphemy with raw throats until stoned to death by a mask-wearing mob, mourned only by the impotent Gods on their high ziggurats.

    After a century the citizens wore their masks throughout the year. On their thirteenth birthday, the age of majority, children were married to their masks in a ritual conducted by the Magi, the painted expression changing from lust to anger to greed as they matured. Travellers put on masks when they entered the city by order of the King and found themselves trapped, unable to remove the mask and escape back to the civilised world. Yet more travellers came, fleeing the oppressive moralities of their homes, enticed by the promise to discover their true self in Babylon.

    I alone rebelled. At the age of forty, I cut off my mask and peeled away the skin and bone that had become merged with the wood. Now I wander the streets of a city in perpetual destruction, invisible and faceless.

    • stephellis2013 says:

      Very atmospheric piece. Makes me think perhaps this is an analogy for modern life and we’re all wearing masks … aren’t we?


    * * *

    Brian S Creek
    358 words

    * * *

    The heat of the inferno bathes my face as I watch the chaos unfold from the sidewalk opposite. The firemen try to find a way in, but it’s hopeless. The people inside are going to die.
    “I can help.”
    The voice. That damned voice.
    “Do it.”
    I clench my fists, angry. Not because the voice is wrong, but because it’s right. Those people can be saved. At a price. I look around the crowd I’m part of; couples, elderly folk, kids. Faces glowing orange, eyes on the disaster.
    “What about him?”
    I spot a guy who looks like the streets are his home. Face dirty, clothes well worn. He takes a sip of something nested in a brown paper bag. It’s wrong to judge, to pick him over anyone else here. But that’s how society thinks.
    “Do it.”
    I convince myself that he won’t be missed, that he has nothing else to live for. Because if I ever think I’m making the wrong decision, I couldn’t live with myself. I tango through the crowd, no one paying me attention because I’m not a burning building about to become headline news, and reach the homeless man.
    “What you want?” he barks.
    “How’d you like to save those people?”
    He laughs at me and offers the bottle.
    I ignore him and pull a wooden mask from my backpack. “Put this on,” I tell him. “Put this on and do what needs to be done.”
    He looks from me to the mask and back. “You’re crazy.”
    “Just do it. Trust me.”
    He takes the mask, weighs it up, laughs, and places it in front of his face. “Boo,” he says. And then he freezes, dropping the bottle of drink from his grip. He goes quiet as his body starts to change.
    I could stay and watch but I’ve seen it before. The news will talk of a mysterious hero who threw himself into danger and saved those people. They won’t find the hero of course. They never do. Because that’s the cost. One life for many.
    And I’ll wake up tomorrow with the mask back in my possession. Just like always.

  5. CR Smith says:

    The Skeleton


    WC 360

    Pushing my way towards The Cricketer’s bar, I caught snippets of conversations.
    Who was it? Why were multiple holes found in the skull? Why WAS it clasping a length of wood?
    There was plenty of conjecture.

    The skeleton’s discovery had brought the felling of trees on the eastern side to an immediate standstill. Not being from these parts, and having little knowledge of the ancient wood’s history, I listened intently to the old stories retold by village elders.The more I learnt, the more my sense of foreboding grew.

    That night my sleep was disturbed by a strange sound. Pressing my face to the window, I caught sight of a moving shadow below. I dressed quickly, intending to wake the others, but their rooms were already empty. The pub’s front door was thrown wide open, allowing moonlight to pour inside. The sound persisted, and I noted the direction from whence it came. Grabbing a commemorative cricket bat from the wall for protection, I made my way cautiously towards it.

    From the edge of the wood a distant glow could be seen at its heart. I debated wether or not to approach, but unfortunately my curiosity got the better of me. At its centre I discovered a large willow tree, surrounded by small bonfires. Outside the ring of flames, shadowed figures wearing decorative masks held hands, forming a circle, chanting softly, crunching fallen foliage underfoot. I gasped on hearing the sound that had enticed me. The wailing was emanating from the tree.

    As masks turned in my direction, roots appeared from the ground, wrapping around me, pulling me closer, forcing me to kneel while branches enveloped me. Feeling sharp pressure through my skull, I smelt blood, its warmth trickled down my face. I gasped for air as the roots squeezed tighter, forcing the air from my lungs.

    Regaining consciousness, I found myself trapped, cocooned in a shroud of roots, still clasping the useless cricket bat. The sound of wailing had increased, only now it was hard to tell from who it stemmed. My final vision was of masked faces throwing soil over me. When I was completely buried, the wailing stopped.

  6. stephellis2013 says:

    Great spooky tale for Halloween 🙂

  7. voimaoy says:

    The Moon Mask
    300 words

    Once there was a woman who wanted the moon for a mask, to hide her face behind its changing faces.

    She lived in a place of perpetual night, where the darkness deceives the look of things. Here, owls become foxes and wolves become men. The wind bites with sharp teeth, and the stars look on.

    Because she was a witch woman, she lured the moon down from the sky.

    “Now I have the moon for a face,” she said. “I will catch that hunter, too. His bright young body will shine in my house. We will keep each other warm for the winter.”

    The hunter spotted her in the distance and followed her light through the trees, his dogs barking at his feet.

    At last, in a clearing, they came face to face. “Are you chasing me,” she teased him. The dark of her hair was like a raven’s wing across the moon at 3 am.

    “”Who are you?” he said. ” Let me see you.” Was it the shimmering of the sky that made her figure flicker?

    “I am the light you see in your dreams, Mighty Hunter. I am the fresh tracks in the snow, the trail of black blood on the ice. Come with me.”

    The hunter felt the wind grow colder. The dogs began to whimper.

    “Who are you really?”

    “You ask so many questions. Let me ask you one. Are you a brave man?”

    “I am brave enough.”

    “Are you brave enough to face my true face? I don’t think so.”

    With that, she turned toward him, and he could see the empty space where her face should be, the black whirlpools that were her eyes. The hunter tried to run away, but the wind in her hair whipped through him. The dogs howled at the moon.

  8. Richard Edenfield says:

    “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” – Oscar Wilde

    The 24 Hour Masquerade

    The pandas mating window can be as short as 24 hours out of the year. Imagine setting up a table with candles, preparing a robust meal, and shaving and getting into your best wedding attire for a black and white intertwined moment of a single day of intimacy.

    Frank Bailey loved his wife. They understood each others nuances. Liked the same movies. The same food. But they never communicated. Never expressed their feelings out loud. Except for one day a year. On Halloween they both went to their respective closets like two boxers to get gloves causing them to wear their hearts on their respective sleeves; the sleeve being their face.

    Sandy Bailey was never much of a talker. She was shy and evasive. Her long red hair she frequently let ride the contours of her face hiding any expression that might escape into the cruel unfeeling world.

    They both walked into the living room wearing beautifully carved exterior facial representations. Hidden with sequins and velvet. Sandy walked with a long suggestive gait while channeling Chanel #5. Frank had a confidence with his shoulders strong and back with a long cleft in his chin separating the sentences he spoke with a hard perfect confidence.

    They spoke of philosophy and religion. Their feeling on death. And spiritual issues. They went to a museum with their masks on and discussed masterpieces and the artistic temperament. They held hands in cold fall air as they bought hotdogs on a corner both laughing as mustard dripped on a chin that was lifted with a warm tongue.

    They finished their evening by taking a carriage ride through Central Park. Soft caresses and a vulnerability exposed. Moonlight reflecting a delayed embrace.

    At home they carved the white sheets of their bed as if a fine marble made into the image of an undying sunset. Then they fell asleep in each others arms basking in an orange receptive glow.

    In the morning they sat in the kitchen having coffee and looking at their devices.

    “Would you please pass the cream?”

    He passed the cream.

    Outside it started to snow.

    Each flake a truth of
    Its very own.


    (360 words)

  9. A Dance Of Dues

    The room is dimly lit, decked in tissue blacks and whites, traces of copal incense discernible, as Catrina’s card is handed to the attendant to allow her across the threshold into the masque’s assembled. “Last year it was red,” she murmurs.


    “No matter,” Catrina responds, smoothing her dark curls. “My darker half is here already?”

    The faceless attendant nods. “Yes, my Lady.”

    Catrina moves between the thin figures with their fragile throats and distended throats, drifting across the open floor into the centre. “Poor souls,” she murmurs. “May your onward passing be swift.” Pausing, she plucks a string of marigolds from those braided into her hair and casts them at those passing nearest to her. The flowers catch briefly on the featureless bodies, who clutch at her arms, swinging her to and fro, before she weaves onward, reaching the epicentre where he is waiting for her.

    “My Lord,” she greets the motionless dark clothed man, tall and thin.

    “My Lady,” he responds, holding out his arms for her to move into them. “You are well?”

    “Whilst our time lasts,” she says. “You feel yourself festive?”

    “I do, my wife,” he replies, smiling, displaying bone white teeth beneath his dark eyes. “Do you recall your steps?”

    “Yearly,” Catrina says, taking her husband’s hand, orange petals crushed between their clutched fingertips, bleeding their hue onto his, as well as her own. Her free one stains the fabric of her gown, where she holds it up, away from the floor.

    “Our winter is upon us shortly,” he says.

    Lady Catrina smiles, though her eyes remain solemn. “Dance with me whilst we may.”

    “To death.”

    Together the couple twirl, amidst the assembled spirits and skulls clustered around them, their twinned hollows heedless.

    “Will you take your dues yet?” Catrina asks, tilting her head to look at her husband.

    “You have them safe?”

    “Do you doubt it?” She pulls her husband closer, bringing his lips towards her own.

    “To life,” Death says, afterwards.

    “To yours,” Catrina says. “I fear I tire now, my Lord.”

    “The carriage is a tiring business,” Death replies. “Next time I shall dance your dues for you the year through.”


    (360 words)

  10. Mother

    Are you okay? Miranda said.

    Sure, Pinocchio said.

    Immediatley his nose grew a few inches.

    You know, Miranda said, you can wear as much make-up as you want, you can never hide.

    Pinocchio shrugged his shoulders.

    He hadn’t had an easy life. When Geppetto passed away, he slowly drowned in a swamp of sorrow. He started drinking. Hard. The point where it became pathetic passed him by. He was down in the dumps, too lethargic to look up. And then it hit him: he never had a mother. Of course he already knew that, he talked about it a lot with Geppetto. But it never felt like the invisible poison it actually was. Until that moment.

    Pinocchio started cross-dressing. He put on make-up. Drew thick, black eyebrows, accentued his eyes with black eyeliner and coloured his lips with the most flaming red you could imagine. Some said Pinocchio went crazy. But he was just being pragmatic. He needed his mother in his life, that female presence, the soft touch that had been lacking every single day. So he decided to transform himself into her.

    To make ends meet, he started performing with Miranda at The Harem, a theatre at the wrong side of town. Despite the sleaze, Pinocchio blossomed. The applause he received grew longer and louder every night. But it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. Every hand clap just fed the black hole of attention inside of him.

    His performances turned erratic. The manager, Dirty Phil, had warned him to clean up his act. And then it hit him – again: it was an act. He was just pretending. He was never going to get a mother by wearing a mask of greasepaint.

    That evening, backstage, Miranda saw Pinocchio crumbling before her eyes. Dirty Phil stuck his head from behind the door and grunted, 5 minutes to showtime.

    You’re not okay, are you? Miranda said.

    Pinocchio nodded no. His nose didn’t grow.

    Here, take this box of wipes and get out of here, Miranda said. You’ve tried your best and now you know. That’s all that matters.

    Pinocchio looked in the mirror, one last time. Thanks, he said.

    360 words

  11. Richard Edenfield says:

    The Spiritual Paparazzi

    Mother Nature was not reacting, she was attacking. A grimacing tree angled toward a knife cut moon staggering a pale blood across the world. A coldness was greeted with warming. Death by affection. She stooped to conquer. Her connection… the original internet, was getting bad reception and timing out. There was no size. No greater value. A true electric democracy.

    “If the fish dies, so does the net.”

    This was a tribe in the Amazon.

    A totem was constructed to ward off the machines that like giant prehistoric insects buzzed the day.

    “We don’t believe in ancient curses.” He said raising a metal smile that turned a tree into toothpicks.

    The ceremony was constructed from a connection to the universe. A will based magic conceived of balance and survival. Capturing sunlight in a bottle. The birth of justice.

    The spiritual paparazzi watched from the wings, a golden energy fluttering in the air. Spirits watched mankind’s slow unraveling. Incremental kindness. Flashbulb stars and autograph blood flow. Everyone would go down with the ship.

    The mass deaths were unexplained. The machines stopped barking orders and making a living by killing the planet. An old man took his son to the river and showed him how to catch a reflection as if it was a photograph of an angel published on the clear perfect surface of a beating heart.

    His face was painted with the fierce expression of love. A mask that the entire forest wore as a metal of honor.


    (248 words)

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