HAPPY NEW YEAR! Welcome back. I hope everyone had a wonderful set of holidays. The Angry Hourglass is back, and Jaime Burchardt is here to help us kick off the first Flash Frenzy of 2017. This will be another multi-photo prompt. You may incorporate images and themes from as many as you like, but your story must clearly relate to at least one.

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 and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

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Comments
  1. steve lodge says:

    Sparrowditch by Steve Lodge
    315 words
    @steveweave71

    Summer pushed in early this year, introducing a flurry of activity from a large party of volunteers. They met outside the pub on the green, “Onward Flies The Bird.” They were to start work on the derelict cricket pavilion, situated on the opposite side of the village green and long an inevitable target of vandals.

    In trying to throw a veil of normality over the village, the newly-formed Sparrowditch Village Committee had turned to a blend of traditional village entertainments to lift the morale of the villagers and paint a positive picture to visitors. Too easy to associate Sparrowditch with the three bodies found last New Year in the big house atop Redmask Hill, or the man found two days later, hanged in Celthorn Woods, assumed to be the suicide of the murderer. So cricket, a village fair, a music festival, darts on horseback and a farting on the green competition (weather permitting), were all lined up for the summer.

    Job one then. The sprucing up of the tired-looking cricket pavilion. The Committee also planned to use the pavilion in winter for children’s playgroups and such.

    It was a little after 10am that Saturday morning when the first volunteers crossed the green and went inside the pavilion. There they found two more bodies. There was no smell. These were very recent corpses. From what had been learned at the time by the villagers, it very much seemed to be the work of the same hand as the three in Redmask Hill. But then who was the hanged man in the woods?

    The Hawkmeadow Courier reporter, Phil Comfortable, was first beside the police car when it arrived on the scene. “What is going on in this village?” he shouted at the Inspector, Pepper Titus, before she was moved away towards the pavilion by her sergeant, Withers. She turned towards the reporter and shrugged. “It’s Midsummer Madness.”

  2. A V Laidlaw says:

    @AvLaidlaw
    350 Words

    Requiem

    Isla stopped at the bottom of the stairs and listened. The grandfather clock in the hallway ticked ponderously and the walls of the old house she could not bear to leave creaked from the winter cold. Then the music started again, a violin playing Mozart softly and hesitantly. She climbed the stairs one step at a time and afraid to breathe as if this might break the fragile memory.

    The sound of the violin came from the room she rented to the music student. The door was open. He stood beside the window, the violin tucked under his chin and his spidery fingers clutching the bow. He wore wire frame glasses that reminded her of Sebastian. All the young men she saw reminded her of Sebastian, the same pale blue eyes or the same sleepy half-smile. It made it easier somehow.

    He saw her standing in the doorway and put the violin and bow down on the bed. He blushed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were home.”

    “Please, keep playing.”

    “I couldn’t.”

    “Mozart was my fiancé’s favourite. He said you never had to think about playing it. That every note was so perfect they just flowed one after the other.”

    “You’re engaged?” He glanced over her shoulder as if he expected someone else to be standing there.

    “He was playing a concert in Stuttgart, when the Bomb hit.”

    He frowned and put his hand to his mouth for a moment. “Stuttgart. We were taught about that in school.”

    He looked at her. His eyes were ever so young. Younger than Sebastian and a different shade of blue. He picked up the violin and began to play again. It sounded scratchy and graceless and nothing like it had sounded when Sebastian played for her.

    She left him playing and went into the garden where her breath misted. But she still heard the music coming faintly from his room. Crows roosted in the bare birch trees and their ugly cries ripped through the air, growing louder until they drowned out the sound of the violin. The world belonged to them now.

  3. ewansmithxxx says:

    @ewanandsmith
    360 words

    Intolerance

    For as long as time itself, Mother Owl had been considered the wisest among the Birds. Always, it was to her that they turned for sense and guidance.
    “For shame, Birds!” she cried this day, her voice shaking with rage. “Look at those trees. What do you see?”
    Sparrow, hopping about the grass, stopped and looked up. High above her were crows, dark and foreboding. Wren, gripping close to a trunk, saw their vicious beaks and shuddered. Starling flying in quick curves and arcs through the sky, screeched in protest. Never would he land in a tree infested by crows.
    “We have allowed one group amongst us to become despised and rejected,” snarled Mother Owl. “Shame on us! Shame!”
    Seagull bustled forward, pushing smaller birds carelessly out of his way. “Crows aren’t like us,” he said harshly. “Their habits are disgusting.” Murmurs of agreement rose up on many sides.
    Mother Owl fixed Seagull with a glare. “We are ALL – BIRDS – TOGETHER,” she pronounced in a tone that brooked no arguing. “We are the Glory of Creation with our feathers, beaks and claws. We alone have conquered the sky.”
    For a moment, Ostrich seemed about to make a retort. But instead she sullenly scratched the ground with a vast foot.
    “Crows have no morals,” muttered Thrush. “They take food from all of us.”
    Mother Owl uttered a mocking shriek. “Are there not insects enough in the world for each of us?” Heron opened his beak. “…and fish too,” Mother Owl added hurriedly.
    She turned to the gathered throng. “We Birds are the children of the Dinosaurs. We have inhabited this Earth for 100 million years. Where is your pride? Your respect? ”
    She glided over to a prominent log. “ALL – BIRDS – TOGETHER!” she cried. “ALL – BIRDS – TOGETHER! ALL – BIRDS – TOGETHER!” Gradually, the chant began to be picked up.

    Two of the crows looked down from high in a tree. “They’re lively tonight,” said one. “What do you reckon is going on?”
    “Sounds like anthropomorphic bollocks to me,” retorted the other. “Come on, let’s go to the dump and find some thing to eat.”
    And off they flew.

  4. stephellis2013 says:

    The Swing of the Pendulum

    360 words

    @el_Stevie
    #FlashDog

    The grey-washed dawn rises early and my murder is almost upon me. My old friend Poe couldn’t have set the scene any better: the gloomy solitude, the shadows shifting at the edges of vision, the birds gathered above me in the ghost of trees. Those damned birds. Every single beady eye fixed on me, waiting. At least I know I can only die once, I am no Prometheus. My liver, in this instance, is safe although my doctor has long disagreed with me, warning me of the dangers of my over-indulgence. He has set the clock ticking, bequeathed me a time-frame and I have filled every minute, every hour, every day knowing that each sunrise would bring me to this moment—my last day.

    I want no witnesses.

    It tickles me to think that I, the one everyone declares to be easily led, a simpleton and – in muttered asides – a cuckold, will leave a mystery behind. One for you, eh Edgar?

    My bones ache from the damp, a bodily discomfort I will not have to suffer much longer, so I tolerate it and my jaundiced eye remains fixed on the path ahead.

    I listen and Nature listens with me. My feathered friends, those harbingers of doom, cock their heads attentively. A hundred tiny heartbeats and my own telltale heart pounding to the beat of time.

    Something has disturbed the silence and I strain my hearing further. The snap of a twig. The crunch of dead leaves. The swish of a skirt. Soft guilty breath eddying towards me.

    The swing of the pendulum is getting shorter.

    I watch, as I have watched her so often before – although in happier times. Still the birds remain, bearing silent witness until that instance when she sees me … and the blade in my hand. Her screams disturb the watchers and the air vibrates with the thrum of their wings, their own shrieks drowning out her cries for help. And when she falls silent, I lay her down in our new marriage bed taking my rightful place beside her, closing my eyes, allowing the wind that rises to hide us beneath a coverlet of leaves.

    • ewansmithxxx says:

      The way you’ve created atmosphere in this story is wonderful, steph. You made my bones ache from the damp in your descriptions (so I’m contacting my lawyer to arrange redress…)

      • stephellis2013 says:

        Thank you for your comments, much appreciated – don’t think you’ll get much redress though – I have nothing so you can have lots of that!!

    • Voima Oy says:

      Moody and terrifying, worthy of Poe, indeed. Brilliant piece!

  5. Voima Oy says:

    Eyes of Glass
    @voimaoy
    245 words

    After the rain, the children changed. Their eyes turned hard as marbles, milky white, unseeing. They said the light was blinding, before they stopped speaking at all. There was no longer a need.

    Indeed, it seemed they were able to communicate with each other at a frequency us older folks could barely hear. It was a kind of low-pitched hum, the same hum that came from the fields that flourished after the rain. The same hum that vibrated through the trees, and made the birds fall out of the sky.

    A sudden flash of lightning caused Nick Wilder’s truck to explode one afternoon. Everything was quiet except for that humming in the fields. He said the grass was singing to him.

    I have seen the same expression on his face on stained-glass saints in cathedrals. The same wordless yearning for angels.

    He was the first of the grownups to be affected. Then, one by one, people woke up with eyes like glass. They reported dreams of blinding light, and then they too fell silent. They gathered with their children in the fields outside of town. Everyone was waiting, waving with the grass in the wind.

    I am the last one left, the oldest. Now, in my dreams, I can see the beam of light, and I am caught in it. I see myself rising in the fields with the others. The hum grows louder, a crescendo, a chorus of voices, before everything dissolves in light.

  6. ewansmithxxx says:

    There’s such a strangeness to this piece. Is it scary – is it dreamlike? Love the idea of “wordless yearning”.

  7. Rebekah Postupak says:

    The diamond burned like the fire of a thousand suns on her finger. She basked in its light; the diamond was the talk of the gym, the school, the church, the town. It set off sparks in her own face, too, such that friends and strangers, if unwarned, would find their own pulses racing and cheeks flushing at having glimpsed the flames roaring in her eyes.

    The diamond glowed like an end-of-summer campfire on her finger: sweet, warm, familiar. Some days it sparkled in the sunlight of the kitchen windowsill where it waited comfortably as she scrubbed the dishes, the floor, the children, the cat. Some days she forgot to put it back on altogether, but when she remembered, her heart and face and kitchen once again warmed and gleamed in its pleasant light.

    The diamond glimmered like a candle on her finger. Turned just right, it could sometimes capture the tiny dancing flame and mirror it on the walls, such that a neighbor walking past might catch a pale flash out of the corner of an eye and stop for a moment, studying the dark windows, puzzled. She often twisted the diamond inward so it rested at the top of her palm, where it burnt its angry embers deep into her flesh.

    The diamond flickered like a dying flashlight at the back of her drawer. It clung with fading strength to its box beneath the green lace, the sandalwood sachets, the size two workout capris, the curled-edge, blank-stare photos. Occasionally, while putting on lotion, she might inadvertently run a finger across the fading scar belonging to its old blister and ever so slightly, ever so briefly, tremble.

    The diamond wavered.

    It–

    282 words
    @postupak

    • ewansmithxxx says:

      Oh I love this. There’s such sadness in the diamond which once had such power in the narrator’s life (the idea of the passing neighbor catching a flash of light from it was great) ending up almost forgotten at the back of a drawer. : – (

  8. zevonesque says:

    Them Apples
    A.J. Walker

    I woke up gently, aware of rustling grass, my head sore as resting on a sharp boulder. When I finally opened my eyes they struggled to focus. In my peripheral vision a blurred smudge of what I took to be grass swayed somewhat in time with the wind. It was an unusual start to the day.

    I tried to recall what I was doing before falling asleep in a field. It would be nice to have a clue. I was pretty sure I normally woke up in bed; and almost always my own. I couldn’t remember ever waking up in a field before. Unless I wasn’t who I thought I was. And I was far from certain of that.

    I judged that I was probably looking up and that therefore the light greyness was sky.

    I was pretty sure I must have a headache. Although my senses were so out of kilter I couldn’t be sure what I was feeling other than confused. Time had gone abstract; had I woken up in a field beneath this grey sky a minute ago or an hour? My body and mind was broken, that much was sure, which now I came to think about it suggested that I’d gone to the Green Man again. I tried to feel my mouth with my tongue, but failed as someone had replaced it with sandpaper.

    It must have been the Green Man. The last time I’d ended up with a day of sandpaper mouth it was after their scrumpy competition. That had led me to avoid apples in any form for six months – mind you that may have been someone else.

    I heard a caw. And another. It seemed to kickstart my mind to into action. Suddenly I could see waterfalls all around me. No, they were branches. Weeping like water. And there were birds in them. Crows.

    I knew these trees.

    The grass rustled again and I heard panting before feeling another sandpaper tongue lick my face. It was surely Patches, the landlord’s dog.

    My heart dipped, it wasn’t a field. I hadn’t made it beyond the edge of the Green Man’s car park.

    Apples!

    ___
    WC: 360
    @zevonesque
    #FlashDogs

  9. ewansmithxxx says:

    lol. Waking up in a field with a tongue like sandpaper – I remember those days! (Long gone, thank goodness…)

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