Flash Frenzy Round 108

Posted: May 21, 2016 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , ,

Greetings, writers. Welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 108. Your judge this weekend is Mark King.

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.

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photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

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Comments
  1. davidshakes says:

    Would For The Trees.
    359 words
    Damien Tremores

    We’ll walk the waterside path today.
    Beneath this dusting of pine needles rests layer upon layer of nutrient rich earth – the forest feeds itself through biodynamics or God’s divine plan.
    Our former footsteps left inconsequential prints upon these winding routes, only to be covered by leaf litter or obliterated by the footfalls of those with less grace than you.
    If I could still trace our paths would they alter? I think not – for we were creatures of habit you and I. We had our walks and we had our seasons – snow laden pines in the winter, summers at the arboretum.
    I remember the spring we found out we would remain a couple only – the bitter irony that in the season of new life we’d be unable to make any.
    I told you I loved you, that it didn’t matter, but you walked out alone regardless – the only other time you left me.
    I found you here, of course, your salty tears falling into the river – sending your story to the oceans for the whales to lament. I held your hands and we cried together for what would never be.
    They came, you know, they all came. The nieces and the nephews and their respective families. They all came. And why wouldn’t they when you poured your love into them as if they were our own?
    They’re back at the house, but this last walk is for us alone. The sun is warm when it breaks through the leaves and there’s a gentle buzz of insects in the spring air. Is it God’s divine plan that all my heartaches come in this season, my emotions at odds with the setting?
    I don’t know what I’ll do later when the house is emptied and I am alone. What will I do without you?
    Your letter said your spirit would be here, in this place you loved so much, but I’m struggling to believe that.
    I will scatter your ashes beneath the tree where you promised to be mine forever, then I will sit by the waters to weep and send the whales a new song.

  2. steve lodge says:

    Obscured By Blood
    by Steve Lodge
    345 words
    @steveweave71

    Deputy Ray Burkitt sat in the front seat of the patrol car he had been driving. Now it was riddled with bullets and so was he. He jerked back into consciousness and tried to remember what had happened.

    OK, he and his partner, Deputy Joan something – this patrol partnership was barely a week old. What was her surname? Where was she? Probably went for help. No, that can’t be it. Car radio right here. Must have been hit in the hail of bullets. Officer down!

    She must be lying on the road outside of his range of vision. He tried to cry out to her but just a mouthful of blood came out. He groaned.

    OK, on patrol on a country road near the turn off for the waterfront trail. They’d pulled a car over, the car stopped, men got out and fired at the patrol car. Nothing said. They just opened fire.

    He saw on the dash his loyalty card from Gulch Coffee Shop over in Noon City. The card was soaked in blood. One more cup and he’d have got a free cup. They may not accept a bloodstained card, though. May have strict rules about defaced cards.

    He thought of his lovely wife, Ruthie. A sob welled up inside of him, then another as he thought of their son, Linus. Probably out walking with that old hound of his. Down that leafy trail he favoured that took him from the crossroads at Rettensack through Nature’s Finest, bringing them out by the arboretum not far from here. God, don’t let it be Linus that finds me.

    A solitary bird in song. He was half aware of tears running down his cheeks. Come on Ray! Get a grip. Let’s go find Joan. He thought then how cute she was, then wondered if a happily married man was allowed to think things like that. Man, he felt tired.

    The cool wind through the shattered windscreen made him shiver. Must go and find Joan. First, summon up some energy. Just close his eyes for a minute.

  3. Firebug

    Pine ash smelled the best. In the quiet hours after his parents were asleep, Elliot would reach up under his bed and remove his glass vials, examining each one.

    He imagined himself in a movie of his life: twisting the lids off of each and sniffing the trophies within. His eyes would roll back in his head with the smell of the sooty remains of each conquest. That’s how villains were depicted and he didn’t disagree with the portrayal.

    He took his pen out and re-labeled one of the vials that had smeared after months of handling. The masking tape on each was clearly noted with the date he’d set each fire. Some fizzled out after he’d fled the scene, but most got the job done. The land was cleared and progress could be made. It was much easier, and cheaper to clear burnt trees from the land with a bulldozer than pay a whole team of loggers to do the same. The feds were less inclined to fight to keep the burnt remains of their preserves.

    His parents used to fight. Now they didn’t. Elliott solved that. They were an odd couple that the local press loved to profile. The Park Ranger who fell for the land developer. The better they got at their jobs and the more promotions they received, the more obligated they were defend their employers positions at work and ultimately at home too. Dad used to take his work home with him, complaining that mother’s company was pushing too hard to cede too much from the preserves. Mother fought back that he had more than enough land to share. Every night ended in a yelling match even after Elliott retreated to his room.

    Take your children to work day changed everything for Elliott. In seeing each of his parent’s work first hand, he’d come up with the solution: Fire. If he noticed their tensions flare up he’d sneak out and make a solution.

    The pit in his stomach ached, so Elliott sniffed the vials again easing the pain. He’d practiced his story again and again with his parents for tomorrow’s deposition with the fire marshal.

    360 words

  4. davidshakes says:

    Part Transcript of Interview with Miss D. Tremores.

    359 words
    David Shakes
    @theshakes72

    They found remains of more than forty people tangled in the roots of trees at the arboretum – women and children included.
    As you’ll know, philanthropist Damien Tremores left his mark left all over the city, not least the botanical gardens and parks.
    He’d ordered the creation of an arboretum so that workers could benefit from fresh air and tranquility – a rare chance to experience the exotic right at the heart of their squalid existence.
    It transpired that this seemingly generous act hid a dark secret.
    Were you aware Mr Tremores had a reputation for a fascination with the occult? He mixed in esoteric circles. Many speculated as to why his landmark be built upon the bodies of the people he’d said he was providing for.
    Most believe the sacrifice was an offering for prosperity. The fact that a full forty years passed before industries began to decline and businesses move elsewhere fuelling these theories.
    Mr Tremores’ health declined almost in tandem with his city. Both dying before the end of the last century.
    The developers who snapped up cheap property in the recessions that followed would have been bound by acts to leave the parks alone, had it not been for the great storms of 2010. Trees that stood for more than one hundred years were uprooted overnight – their grisly secrets uncovered.
    There were two publicised mysteries in the case of the ‘botanical bodies’ as the papers called them.
    The first, that in each case, even in babies, the canines in the upper jaw were unnaturally overdeveloped.
    The second, that in every corpse the roots of the trees had been deliberately trained to pierce the hearts of the victims beneath them.
    A third mystery was hidden, known only to a few. The bodies of those recovered began to disappear from the morgue, though cctv footage revealed nothing.
    We now believe that the spate of recent attacks and deaths from bites are linked, but we’re not certain.
    That’s where we’re hoping you’ll help, Miss Tremores. As Damien’s last living relative, you must know of some family stories?
    Tell us, Miss Tremores, do you believe that vampires exist?

    • stephellis2013 says:

      Loved the build up to the vampire theme – could actually be a longer story focusing on the trees ability to pin their victims into the ground?

  5. stephellis2013 says:

    The Return

    359 words

    @el_Stevie
    #FlashDog

    One eye opened, watering slightly as smoke-tinged dusk revealed itself to the Crone. Her other eye remained in its permanent sleep whilst coffined teeth curled into an expectant smile. Her ancient bones warmed to the kiss of the Samhain fire, heat rising from the cleft of the yew trunk to ease her rebirth. Winter was calling and it was time to reclaim her throne.

    “Hey, you can’t light a fire there,” yelled a voice across the clearing.

    Two shadowy figures stood up and turned their dead eyes on the ranger. They did not answer.

    “I said you can’t have a fire there,” repeated the man, now almost upon them. “Don’t you realise …”

    But something in their stance, in the way they looked at him, made the ranger pause.

    And the Crone stretched her skeletal body.

    Stepped back into the world.

    “I’m still cold,” she croaked, allowing her ivory fingers to stroke the ranger’s cheek. “My fires should burn brighter, fiercer, especially on this night of all nights.”

    The ranger froze beneath her Medusa’s gaze. “The trees …” he eventually managed to whisper.

    “Oh, the trees are safe enough,” said the Crone, and the men behind her smiled. “It is you who will warm me tonight.”

    She cackled with delight at his horrified expression, a sound that ripped across the sky and echoed back with a warning of thunder. “No, no,” she said. “This body’s too old for such pleasures … although perhaps …” Her hag’s face leered close to his and he recoiled at the stench.

    “Oh dear,” she said. “Gentlemen, I’m afraid I do not appear to be to this young man’s taste.”

    They all laughed, except for the ranger who finally began to regain his senses, tried to move … but could not.

    Ancient roots had probed up through the soil, entwining his legs, gift-wrapping him for the Crone in a wooden winding sheet. Around him the sacred kindling had already been scattered and then suddenly all became fire and pain.

    Her laugh and his screams mingled together across the veil of night in a satanic hallelujah. The Crone’s coronation was complete and winter had returned.

  6. davidshakes says:

    A brilliant example of why I love the power and eloquence of the genre – Steph, you’ll forever be the horror writer I want to match.

  7. Caught

    by Pleasant Street
    @areyouthrilled
    357 words

    The screen door is open and I walk in. Jeremy likes it open so I don’t nag anymore. I smell spaghetti. He cooked? I hear his voice and call out. He suddenly walks out of the den as if he has not heard, his hand resting on the back of a blonde who looks familiar. Is she Jack’s teacher? I duck around the corner. I want to catch him in the act, furious now, when I see my favourite red pumps, dangling from her fingers as they walk through the kitchen and out the door. He closes and locks it and I run out the side way to watch from around the garage. They take off in presumably her burgundy BMW and I grab my bike and hop on, hurrying to keep abreast of where they are headed. They don’t go far, turning off the side entrance of the old arboretum where we used to walk. I am crushed. Why would Jeremy cheat on me?

    I have to hustle to catch up and I am way down the dirt road, but I see where they parked ahead. If I yelled to him now, he wouldn’t hear it. Jeremy and Kristy, it was always us. Everyone we knew said so. My heart is in my throat as I huff and pant and finally come close enough to see them and hear their voices. I watch Jer take my shoes from the woman and lay them neatly by flowers and a weathered cross.

    “It’s because of you,” he says, “that I can move on with my life after ten years. Thank you for understanding.” They embrace as I reach them, seeing my name on the cross and the small stones and shells beneath.

    “You’re a good man, keeping her memory alive. But it’s time,” she says gently and leans against him, looking down at the crude shrine in the bed of violets. I look down at my feet, remembering a tango in those shoes. I watch my body turn transparent and start to melt away, feeling myself gently tugged far until I cannot see them, or that world, anymore.

  8. CR Smith says:

    Keep it in the Family

    Grandfather planted trees beside the water. By the time I was born they had grown big enough to shade my pushchair from the sun. I remember reaching for the dappled sunlight filtering through the leaves; listening to them rustling in the breeze.
    By the time I was old enough to climb, these trees were reaching for the sky. They grew big and strong. Strong enough to support a makeshift swing, big enough to conceal me when I had no wish to be found.
    I had my first kiss beneath their canopy, cried tears of joy when my future husband got down on one knee. We married in nature’s cathedral, exchanged vows in the fading light, made love beneath the stars on a bed of fallen leaves. We carved our names into one of the trunks — together forever.
    Our son took his first steps beneath the green awning. I pushed him on the swing, chastised him when he climbed their branches. These trees became part of our family, each ring of growth bearing witness.
    My father’s ashes were scattered around their trunks, like his father’s before him. When we inherited the arboretum my husband said we should build on the land. He wanted to flatten everything my family had nurtured, wanted to wipe away decades of growth.
    He wanted to destroy my trees. They knew. The leaves whispered to me, told me what I had to do. They provided me with the instrument of death; I whittled it to a point. Tonight, under the trees’ watchful gaze, I will bury my husband’s body amongst their roots.

    W/C 265 @carolrosalind

  9. mariemck1 says:

    The Sound of Darkness
     
    Evan’s hands make fists the size of cotton balls when he hears his father’s drunken lullaby.

    Sienna lies still wishing only for sleep.

    Kristofer’s sleep is fitful as strange voices slip in and out of doors and dreams.

    Livia reaches for her little brother trying to fill his stomach with words.

    Akello turns gingerly on one side to avoid more bruises from his bed of concrete…

    a chorus of voices singing out, hoping in vain that we might hear. Still no one comes, just as if they were not there.
    Silence.

    Yet, one day, Earth, beleaguered by our apathy, will surely lose her patience and tremble at her core. She will roar waves of anger through Her mantle tearing up soil, loosening embedded roots to topple giants so that when She hears just one child calling out in the darkness all of the forest will fall.

    145 words @elaine173marie

  10. A V Laidlaw says:

    @AvLaidlaw
    358 Words

    The Colour of the Fox is Gold

    A fox sits among the grass at the arboretum car-park, fur golden in the dawn, gaze indifferent and ancient. I step out of the Volvo and light a cigarette. The fox turns and trots down the path until the white tip of its tail is lost in the shadows of the trees. I stub out the cigarette with the heel of my slingbacks. They’re ridiculous things that hurt my ankles and pinch my toes. I pull them off and leave them beside the car. I follow the fox down the path, into the shadows.

    A blackbird rustles through the undergrowth and a wood pigeon claps wings in startled flight. The strap of my handbag digs into my arm. I peer inside – the security pass to the dismal office, the credit cards heavy with debt, the photograph of John before he lost his charm to the after-work scotch – and drop it against the roots of an oak tree gnarled with age.

    A butterfly flits in the shafts of sunlight. The air is warm with the scent of azaleas. The rest of the world sleeps. I pull the dress, brought for too much from one of those boutiques where the saleswomen are so perfect, over my head and throw it to the ground. The sun burnishes my skin.

    I glimpse the fox again and hurry after it along the path until it reaches a pool. The silent water reflects the tree branches stretched and twisted above it, all shimmering and unreal, its depths as deep as human memory. Nothing has changed for a thousand years. I feel too human. A blasphemy here. I slip out of my underwear, the black lace that I once hoped would rekindle whatever heat existed between us. It doesn’t matter anymore. I can breathe again.

    I wade into the pool, into the stillness. The fox watches me. It has watched me for a millennium. Waist deep in the water, I throw my bracelets and wedding ring across the pool. They splash and sink into the deep. An offering of gold to the gods of sky, earth and water.

    I pray for a change.

  11. Voima Oy says:

    The Fox Bride
    @voimaoy
    359 words

    There’s a wedding, today. It’s my wedding. I will carry white flowers, lily-of-the valley and foxgloves. All the residents of the forest will be there–the squirrels and badgers and hares. Even the swans who live on the lake are coming. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

    But the noisy ones are back, all the people, with their laughing and crying. And their children, running and screaming. They ride their contraptions down the path through the trees. I don’t like that. They have not been invited.

    Look! Some people have spread a tablecloth on the ground. They are laughing and unwrapping sandwiches. I can hear the wine being poured.

    Don’t they know it’s my special day? The park should be closed. The Arboretum is off limits. But would they understand? No. They think only of themselves, as if they own this place.

    They won’t bother us, my parents reassure me. People don’t venture beyond the path. The shadows of the trees will hide us. So, I dry my eyes, and smile at my mother. She looks like she is ready to cry. “You are lovely,” she says. My father looks so proud.

    And here is Raymond, with his family. He is so handsome in his red coat. We walk through the trees, an elegant procession–first, the badgers, then the rabbits, followed by the possums and the raccoons. We move through dappled sunlight, like the lace of my veil. We are in our own world, invisible to the outsiders. Their noises are far away.

    We stop in a clearing in the forest. Here, we exchange our vows. There are congratulations from the guests, and the party begins. The frogs have brought their lutes and drums. The squirrels have brought mulberry pies.

    Why do I feel that someone is watching us? “It’s all right,” Raymond tells me, but I sense a movement in the trees. “It’s nothing,” he says, but he feels it, too. We are not alone.

    The ears of the rabbits are twitching. The badgers bristle and growl.

    Yes! There is someone behind that tree. It’s one of their children, a girl. She’s looking right at me.

  12. Richard Edenfield says:

    Butterfly Graffiti
    ________________

    Sky was your headstone. Dates always changing. A season in your hair. Flash of laughter from water. Trees pushing air past your lungs. You’re growing in shade that draws light strokes that paints you a pretty vase.

    I fell in love with a flower. You became a flower. You reached a moment of complete enlightenment. Your petals shaped like energy-saving lightbulbs reached into my Tiffany lamp heart.

    I’m almost enlightened. But I’m not a flower, yet. I’m a gardener. I plant words in rows and water them with my eyes. I water other people’s words, as well. I came to visit you June 12th, 2017. This needs time to grow.

    One morning we were having coffee. The sun started speaking french as it came through french windows. An accent of morning gathered in the applause of your softly fluttering eyes. Wings awkwardly floating past glass. Butterfly graffiti. Then you turned into a flower. As you did, you dropped the newspaper. Flowers do not care about news. But you finished your coffee.

    I took you to our secret spot. The place that whispers. Deep moments of poetry. Leaves gathering thoughts. I read you things I liked: De Profundis, Van Gogh’s letters, The Little Prince; and Keats. You listened and we watched people from afar. Walking. Kissing. Swimming. We were in-between worlds. Realizing that love was the removal of distance.

    I drove you in my grey 1973 Dodge Dart Swinger. The radio worked if you brought musical instruments. It was always overcast with a slight chance of breakdown. Once, we even celebrated Christmas under my pine scented air freshener hanging from my rear-view. I could make you laugh.

    When we arrived, I planted you. You seemed happy. I left you to return later.

    When I returned, I found you gone. I panicked. Then I saw a young man on one knee giving you to his girlfriend. I wanted to run and get you. But then she started to cry and her tears fell on your petals. And the words that I didn’t have started to grow all around me. A silent parade of love that I wrote down and gave to you.
    _________________________________

    (360 Words)
    grxhauntedengine04@gmail.com

  13. Picnic by Jeff Rowlands
    @jeffnuggets
    360 words

    Marie followed Steve cautiously along the footpath that led to the waterside. Funny place for a first date but then she usually let the other party choose the location. He strode ahead decisively, dressed like he was on a hike rather than just for an afternoon stroll and a picnic. Was he trying to look masculine and decisive or was he just selfish?

    They left the shade of the trees and she had to admit that the setting was stunning. She drank in the surroundings, might as well squeeze as much enjoyment out of the afternoon as possible. She looked at his thick salt and pepper hair, surely he was a bit old for the dating scene but then she was not a great deal younger herself.

    The sun beat down, heating them up rapidly as they sat on a picnic blanket. He proffered sandwiches, beer and wine. She reluctantly took a sandwich just to be polite and pecked at the ham and mustard, too bold for her tastes. Not really hungry anyway.

    Marie did not know where to look when he started to take his shirt off, his body tense. Was he going to produce an axe from his rucksack and start chopping wood? She had not asked how long he had planned for this. She shook her head, this could be a long afternoon. She stayed as far from him as was acceptable without being rude. She tried to relax anyway but he seemed so coiled that it was hard.

    A group of runners neared, athletic looking, probably a sports team. He tensed more as they neared, she thought his shoulders might snap like an elastic band pulled too rigid. One jogger spotted him, chuckled and said “take it easy Grandad”. He looked mortified. His shoulders slumped, his stomach softened, he smiled at her ruefully, expecting her to be disappointed.

    She recognised the acceptance of defeat in his body language, maybe they had more in common than she realised? She smiled a little and touched his shoulder gently, asked if she could trouble him for a little wine. She moved a little closer as he started pouring it.

  14. zevonesque says:

    The Place That Talks
    A.J. Walker

    This place with trees as tall as a cathedral lies in my heart. My breathing changes when I am here. It is a cathedral to me with its music played by the wind and birdsongs, the stained-glass windows replaced by myriad greens.

    I look up at the towering timber through the tangled epiphytes and the mingled fingers of branches, looking hopelessly for sunshine or a fragment of sky. But the canopy is too thick here.

    I can just hear the sea lapping against the timbered walkway behind me and can picture the gulls gliding above me, hovering still in the heavy headwinds. In my mind’s eye they are watching me. Like they did last year.

    How had she come to this place? My place. What made her choose it?

    I pat the smooth cool timber of the birch beside me feeling its breath. Sensing its memory. The collective memory of this sacred space.

    The beech tree opposite hadn’t changed since the year before. But at least there was no rope. No unnaturally shiny shoes swaying in front of me. No silent scream.

    I put down the flowers I’d picked up at the garage. Placing them as carefully as I could against the beech. The prime colours of the tulips, even subdued by the lack of sunlight, looked out of place here. So did the plastic wrapping. I noticed the price sticker on the cellophane and thought about removing it. But thought better of it, it was a gift to no-one who’d read it.

    Backing away from flowers I knew it had been the right thing for me to do. American’s would call it closure or some such nonsense I supposed. In any case I would not come back here, this place had been spoiled for me. I’d find somewhere else where I could think for myself. Maybe with some old oaks. This place only talked to me now; it no longer listened.

    —-
    WC 324
    @zevonesque

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