Flash Frenzy Round 123

Posted: January 21, 2017 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , ,

Welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 123! I hope everyone had a wonderful week and is prepared to write some equally wonderful flash. Our judge this weekend is A.J. Walker.

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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photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

 

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Comments
  1. Steve Lodge says:

    Shokolokobangoshe
    by Steve Lodge
    342 words
    @steveweave71

    Professor Drew Hatch climbed down from the train carriage he had occupied for 2 hours and looked around the small, bustling station of Quarrel. He had an overnight bag and he headed for the Quarrel Motel. Having checked in, he walked towards the lake, called Drip.

    The train was pulling out of the station and he walked beside it until it had built up a head of steam and was heading off to the next station around the other side of the lake.

    Hatch was on a 2 year contract, teaching Ceramic Engineering and Flirting at the Iffy Ilumasha University, on an exchange programme that took Professor Vincent Prumer Ogwe from Ilumasha Uni to the University of Sparrowditch. During his time in this remote region, Hatch was determined to see some of the wild animals and the beauty spots that called this place home. The enormous lake, called Drip, was one such area of natural beauty. He also had a longing to see a frisky rhino.

    The wooden sign told him he had arrived in the village of Tolerable Weightlessness, the nearest settlement to the fabulous lake. Drip was home to hundreds of flamingos, a sight so beautiful, Hatch was captivated. The grace, the plumage, the majesty. Hatch was transfixed.

    At dusk, he sat drinking beer with a village elder called Rick. Children were running noisily around in the dusty street outside Rick’s humble abode.

    “How did you come to this place?” Rick asked.

    “I took the train.” Replied Hatch, sipping his ice cold beer.

    “Ah. Yes. The train. It has caused a lot of problems around here to these poor dear flamingos. Many get hit on the tracks and lose their legs.” Rick looked morose as he opened another beer.

    “That’s terrible,” Hatch said sadly. “What happens to them?”

    “You see around you. We are a poor community. We need donations. We have no facility or equipment to help them. The children carry the flamingos back to the lake and throw them back in and after that, we call them swans.”

  2. A V Laidlaw says:

    @AvLaidlaw
    359 Words

    The White Room

    A drawn-out whistle and a light in the darkness. The man stood up from the bench in the waiting room. He pushed his hands into the pockets of his greatcoat and peered out of the window. His breath misted on the glass. “It’s coming,” he said.

    “But they don’t always stop, do they?” The woman remained seated with her back against the whitewashed wall. Her hair was bunched up under a woollen hat and she had turned up the collar of her coat. There was no-one else at the station. The ticket office was closed and the machine on the platform was broken; someone had tried to prise off the front for the money inside.

    “Not always,” he said. “A mystery known only to the train company.”

    The floor trembled as the train approached. The woman gripped the armrest of the bench tightly. “When I was a kid,” she said. “We move to a house by the railway line. Those first nights, whenever a train passed, I thought it was an earthquake.”

    “You’re too negative. Sometimes you have to tear down the world to start over.”

    “It’s a big thing.”

    “It’ll be fine. Trust me.”

    “Now it’s coming, I’m not so sure.”

    “We’ve talked this over a hundred times. “

    “Talk is talk.”

    “You know it’s for the best.” He walked towards the door. “We should wait outside.”

    She followed him out onto the platform. The night was clear and stars dusted the sky. The light on the train grew brighter and larger, throwing a hard shadow of the man across the concrete, until the stars vanished and everything was white. She tried to said something but the rattling and bellowing of the train was too loud. The air churned around them and dragged at their clothes. She shut her eyes but the noise and the light left her dazed.

    “It didn’t stop,” the man said in the silence that followed. “I expect you’re pleased.”

    “The train didn’t stop. It’s a fact, like the earth going around the sun. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

    “We’ll wait for the next one.”

    “I’m tired of waiting. Let’s go home.”

  3. Angelique Pacheco says:

    Word count:360

    Runaway Train.

    As the sun begins to set, she sits, waiting with expectation for her new life to begin. The train hums as it makes a clacking sound over the tracks, taking her away from her past and into her future. She didn’t have a bad life, just a dissatisfying one. A life where she was expected to be everything to everyone, until she had no more to give. She didn’t realize how she was being chipped away, until there was almost nothing left to salvage.

    She was a good wife who always made sure that her husband’s needs came first. He always had a hot meal waiting for him when he got home from work, even if it meant dashing into the local store for a ready-made meal on her way home from work. His laundry was always clean and ironed. On weekends they entertained in a spotless home. He was proud of her, no doubt, but did not see it fit to find her some help or to help her himself.

    When the children came, she had to break off more bits of herself to cater to their every need. She loved her children and she wanted them to have everything of the best in life. This simply meant she had less time. She stopped reading. She stopped drawing. Instead, she became a nurse, a counselor, a cook, a teacher, a taxi, a fashion advisor and a mediator between siblings. All these things kept chipping away at her and eventually the days started to bleed into one another, like watercolors in the rain.

    She began to believe that she wasn’t enough and that she was dysfunctional somehow, because everyone else seemed to have it all together. She could no longer see the joy of living and this saddened her.

    So this morning when she went downstairs for her usual cup of coffee, she saw that the milk was finished. She didn’t get upset. Instead, she picked up her hand bag and left. She boarded the first train she saw. She isn’t selfish. She loves her husband and her kids. She will be back once she finds all her missing pieces.

  4. ewansmithxxx says:

    @ewanandsmith
    360 words

    The Mission

    DeeZee’s feet raced along the rough forest track. His heart was pounding him like a jackhammer, his breath searing his chest like gobbets of molten lead. He caught a glimpse of the luminescent figures on his watch as his pumping hand flashed past his face. He groaned. He was late. The train was due in less than four minutes and he still had half a mile of forest to battle through.
    Above him, swaying trees blocked out even glimmers of light from the stars. He forced his way through the undergrowth, vicious thorns scratching at his face and eyes. Then, at last, he was through to the summit, the valley spread out below him.
    “What was that?” he muttered in dismay, hearing a distant whistle. The train was already approaching the bridge. Throwing caution to the wind, he launched himself into the darkness below. He needed that information, everything depended on it. Plummetting through bushes, his body careening off trees, his momentum carried him forward.
    Suddenly, his foot was caught. He crashed to the ground, his head smashing against something – a stone, a branch. He lay for a moment, stunned. But then he was gripped by unimaginable horror. Two yellow eyes were glaring down at him, foul breath in his face, stinking saliva dribbling onto his mouth. And the hideous growling…
    Then came the whistle again. It was the whistle that did it. He had to get to that train. He felt a stone in his outstretched fingers. Whipping his hand over, he smashed it against the beast’s head. Then he was up and racing down the slope. He fell again, tumbling head-over-heels through bushes, against trees, and then crashed out onto open track to see the huge, shrieking train racing towards him. Just for an instant, he glimpsed it before it flashed past. But a glimpse was enough.
    DeeZee leant back against the icy metal pylon, his eyes closed. He had recorded the vital data and through his shattered body pulsed the mixture of exhilaration and exhaustion that always accompanied the completion of yet another successful mission.
    He smiled quietly to himself. Who said that trainspotting was for nerds?

  5. stephellis2013 says:

    Condemned

    360 words

    @el_Stevie
    #FlashDog

    Storm clouds raced down the track, occasionally allowing a flicker of light to pierce the gloom. The guard looked over Glyn’s shoulder. ‘Ten years ago today,” he said. “Went off the rails right here. Poor sods didn’t stand a chance.”

    Glyn slowed the train further. Targets be damned. He was buggered if he was going to risk his neck on this part of the line. The sheer drop to the sea had haunted his dreams for years, a never-ending nightmare. But his luck had run out and driver shortage had placed him here, on this night.

    “Points failure,” continued the guard. “The signalman was sent to trial, wasn’t he?”

    “Yes, but he tried to stop it,” said Glyn. “Ran down the track, tried to warn them.”

    “Too late though, wasn’t he?”

    “It was an accident,” said Glyn.

    “No,” said the guard. “Bastard was drunk. Lost my Dad because of him … he was the train driver,” he added in response to Glyn’s querying look.

    “Yet you work this route?”

    “No, boyo,” laughed the guard. “Never, except for tonight. Biding my time, see. Waiting.”

    The hairs prickled on the back of Glyn’s neck. He felt the guard’s cold breath as he whispered in his ear. “Waiting, see. Waiting for the son.”

    “It was an accident,” repeated Glyn.

    “Drunk. He was drunk. One hundred people died because of him. Because of you.”

    Because of him. He’d carried this secret with him ever since that night. It was he who had forced his father—a recovering alcoholic—to drink, a petty revenge over some argument he couldn’t even remember. And in his desire to get his own back, Glyn hadn’t even considered the consequences of his actions.

    The train was approaching the bend now. Something was blocking the tracks. A light, a man running along the line towards them, warning them … history repeating.

    “The passengers …” said Glyn.

    “Passengers? There are no passengers tonight. I would not condemn the innocent. Only you.”

    In horror, Glyn looked behind him. Saw no carriages, only darkness.

    And then the train was flying, rushing towards the waves and he was alone in the driver’s cab, condemned.

  6. ewansmithxxx says:

    ‘Targets be damned’. As a retired teacher, I consider that sentence alone should be enough for you to win this week!

  7. alva1206 says:

    Alva Holland
    @Alva1206
    360 words

    A Community Welcome

    There are ten new families joining our small community this week. Four of them arrived by bus on Monday, carrying all their worldly goods in suitcases, one each. Sixteen people in all including eight children under ten. Their small faces have seen too much for their young years. Fear and tears alternate in their eyes. Their mouths have not yet learned to smile. Their parents hold them close.

    The remaining six families will arrive by train this evening. We’re told to be at the station at eight p.m. to meet our designated family. We are the welcoming committee. When we signed up as volunteers for the Parish Council ten years ago, we thought the depth of our involvement would be the annual parish fair, the bring and buy sale, or the bi-annual cook-out in aid of the church upkeep.

    The pressures mounted. The local problems became smaller and the national issues bigger. We became global citizens, responsible for caring for people who weren’t our own. The Council could no longer ignore the plight of those seeking help and refuge. There was a meeting. The usual dissenters were drowned out by those wishing to help. There was agreement on numbers. And today became the day.

    The train approaches the town, just two carriages needed for the twenty or so people on-board. We are ready and waiting. We are determined that these people will have an opportunity to see that life doesn’t have to be about war and strife. That people are genuinely good-natured and caring. That we appreciate diversity and change. That we are prepared to open our hearts to share our good fortune. We know it’s only luck of birth that places us in privileged or destitute lives. We can make a difference.

    My children have drawn welcoming pictures and have bought new colouring books and pencils to give to the new arrivals. Standing watching the train lights approach, they are welcoming and willing. The Council, bombarded with red tape issues, managed to overcome all to provide temporary accommodation in a disused warehouse in the centre of town. It’s not ideal but it’s not war-torn.

    Welcome to our life, refugees.

  8. ewansmithxxx says:

    A train coming; a train going. It’s a great image to use in a story to indicate a new future. I do like the way this shows a small, settled community stretching out bravely into the strangeness of the wild world out there.

  9. Tremendous

    The train’s rushing through the dark. Gonad Dump and his band of climate change deniers are partying like there’s no tomorrow. Bucketsful of Champagne. Gold-leaf-topped canapés on marble platters. Nuts. Fruit loops.

    Dump’s leafing through newspapers looking for unsightly pictures of himself. He finds several. How dare they make him look like that? He’s the most important man in the world now. He’d run his country like his businesses; smart, tremendously & by paying for as little as possible. He’d make his country great again. He’d already convinced enough folk it wasn’t already great. To hell with those other countries out to destroy his. He would build a big wall. Or a small fence.

    Gonad Dump was tremendously proud of his achievements so far: his impressions of reporters were spot on, he just labelled news he didn’t like as false, he’d realised fat people who couldn’t get out of bed were a security threat. He was getting good at Twitter and had established a tremendous reputation for grabbing women. Their own fault.

    The driver’s asleep, dreaming he’s in his bed. He should be in a hospital bed but he’s fighting his illness by keeping going. He’ll be a hero to half the world tomorrow. He has only a few weeks left anyway.

    And before you mention the Dead Man’s Switch; it’s faulty and for some reason hasn’t been checked. Only I know this.

    Sheep on the line. A ewe and twin lambs.

    The train’s getting closer and closer. Heading round the bend.

    Crash!

    Carriages concertina up like a … like a toy train only bigger. Flames the same vivid orange as Gonad Dump’s self-satisfied face burst into the sky. Tangerine fireworks.

    Tremend … Fantastic!

    The explosions wake the occupants of lakeside houses. They rush out, heading toward the engine. Ignoring the shouts and screams from the burning carriages, they carry trays of buttered vegetables, dishes of mac ‘n’ cheese and bottles of beer. Children follow with plates, forks and mint jelly.

    Roast lamb for all.

    After the feast, they warm themselves at the crackling orange blaze, toast their great country and promise to remove the word tremendous from all dictionaries.

    @SalnPage
    360 words
    #FlashDog

    • alva1206 says:

      You’re sending tremors far and wide with this one, Sal. No doubt, Gonad Dump is trembling in his shoes, wondering what you have in store for him next. As Ewan says, tremen…eh…fab story.

    • stephellis2013 says:

      Perfect selection of canapes. Terrific name for the new POTUS. Will never be able to think of him as anything else now. 🙂

      • Thanks, Steph. Was going to go for an anagram but this came to me & made me laugh so Gonad Dump he is even though he already has a comedy name. Long wondered if he knows what many people here use the word ‘trump’ for. 😉

    • inksian says:

      Loved the name. Loved the whole thing. Sad about the sheep, but mint jelly soothes the sorrow.

  10. ewansmithxxx says:

    Fruit Loops – mmmmm.

    That was tremen…er…great!

  11. A Winding Up Of Sorts

    It is time. I feel the seconds ticking past, somewhere deep within me and know I should move. It will not be long. Gathering my long skirts, I gain a modicum of momentum and climb the steep steps, mechanical, onto the platform to watch for its arrival.

    There are others there this morning. Many stand motionless; some watch with me. Their heads turn to acknowledge me as my boots click-clack against the platform and I weave amongst the gathered bodies. We nod, one to another. A common courtesy. We, who can, will afford it. It is precious little and forgotten elsewhere.

    It is time, almost. We always know. Now, we congregate together, keeping our own company.

    “Such fragile things,” a dark haired man says to me. “They tire easily.”

    “You don’t mind?” I ask.

    He shrugs wool-suited shoulders in response, once. “They can’t help themselves. It’s how they are made.”

    “Perhaps,” I reply.

    “You think not?” a lighter haired woman queries, as we pass our time.

    “Is there no change?”

    “Maybe one day,” the lady concedes. “One future day.”

    A low pitched whistle sounds in the distance. Beyond the empty tracks, there is a faint white light and a more murky grey haze on the horizon.

    “’Tis not our concern,” the man says. “Not now. Not any more. We are done with them and they with us. They will take care of themselves, one way or another.” His head turns to look towards the carriages rattling towards us, concentrating on their progress.

    “Do you know where it goes?” I ask the blonde lady, instead.

    “Does it matter?” she replies. With that, she too, falls silent.

    A sigh passes my parted lips, as the train draws closer towards the platform. I can feel the vibration from within as the time passes. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

    He has neglected to wind me for a week straight, though he forgot only intermittently before. I knew then it was time to part our ways. Soon.

    We outlast them, always. Their invention outlasts their hearts – wound tight, at first, then loosening, with time.

    I take several steps forward. The carriage is close now. Time, it is.

    @FallIntoFiction
    #FlashDog

    (360 words)

  12. @firdausp
    (360 words)

    Chhotu: little one

    I balanced a cloth bag full of ‘kulhars’ (handleless terracotta cups) on one shoulder, and the large kettle of tea in my other hand. It was hot, not just the kettle, but the weather. Not even dawn yet, and the breeze was warm against my sweating face. I could hear the morning call for prayer from the nearby mosque. The train was running late, it should have been here by now.
    The platform was deserted except for a few porters standing and smoking and the stationmaster reading charts beside the retiring room. It was a small station, few trains stopped here.
    I was worried the tea might get cold. My mother had brewed it to perfection. She had put a generous amount of ginger while boiling it. It was sweet and strong, the ginger flavour had woken my sleepy mind and I was in high spirits.
    The train finally arrived, rushing past me in a blur then slowing down to a clanging halt. I ignored the air-conditioned bogeys, those passengers were used to the weak tea in styrofoam cups from the pantry car. I was headed for the general class. That’s where the real people were, they would enjoy a cup of strong ginger tea.
    The train stopped for exactly seven minutes, the time I had to sell the tea. I walked alongside the train tapping on windows, crying out, “Chai…chai!”
    “Hey Chhotu, two cups.”
    “Chhotu here.”
    “Chhotu!”
    Almost ten, I was short for my age, so I was used to this name, it meant ‘little one’.
    I catered to everyone’s call. Hurriedly pouring tea, and pocketing the money. A few men had climbed out of the train. One gestured to me, I poured out a cup for him. He searched for money in his pocket. I was losing precious time. I told him I would be back in a minute. When I got back, the train was already moving and the man had disappeared. Oh well, I thought, it was just one cup. Then I saw on the bench, where he had been standing, an empty kulhar with a ten rupee note under it.
    The sun was rising.

  13. TanGental says:

    Askance

    350 words, @geofflepard

    I had to catch the train north that day, for work. Did I think I’d pass the exact spot? Not consciously and, in fact, just then my concentration had slipped, the conversation with Karen still playing on a loop in my head. Maybe that’s why I saw what I saw, not that I believed it.
    I was so surprised I nearly pulled the cord. I sat there, sure it was just some trick of the light, some trick played by my id.
    I tried to pretend it was nothing but what if it was real?
    I took the train four times that month, never seeing a thing; but I knew, each time, I’d go again even when I questioned my sanity. I just needed a morsel of hope to encourage me to believe.
    The fifth time I caught the train it happened. The sky was just that shade of dark, the air just the right kind of still, my mind was full of the calmest of thoughts. This time, I forced myself to a look askance, like that first time, trusting my peripheral vision for a telltale fragment of that fleeting image: an opening, crumbling rocks, a face. That face. Her face.
    I knew – I just knew – in that moment that I’d found her. I just needed to go there, to be sure. But then I told Karen I’d seen her, her face and something broke with us. I suppose it cracked when she left, finding herself she said. I understood, I could see the pain but it killed Karen. The anger, the hurt in her face when I told her, it said it all.
    As the train’s lights disappeared I took the short walk to the spot, so familiar from happier times. To our cave, hers and mine. I could have left it, as Karen wanted but I needed to know, to stop the madness.
    I found it easily and with just the right sort of look, askance, saw her. Shimmering. Happy. I’d set our daughter free. But in that moment I wondered what else I had unleashed.

  14. Mark A. King says:

    The Man in Blue

    @making_fiction

    341 words

     

    The man in blue watches from the edges of the railway track.

    To anyone observing the scene, the focus is firmly on the train. It hurtles forward, its demonic white eyes devouring the Polish darkness, its imprint stamped hard on the retina long after it has passed.

    He is almost invisible in the shade of the copse. But he is there, if you look closely enough. The man in blue likes it this way.

    He pats his German Shepard, Ashen, a playful name he gave the pup after he found it licking the dust below the bellowing chimneys.

    He smiles to himself, the name could easily have been spectacles, shoes, false teeth—the dogs sometimes like to play amongst the piles of personal items that can’t be sold, or reused. Items that will not burn in the great furnaces. Perhaps it is wrong to think of these items as personal. It is the detritus of animals, as he believes them to be. Who would want to touch such things but other animals?

    He feels the rumble of the passing train vibrate through his boots, hears the sound of wheels—metal on metal.

    The net is closing in on him and his people. But not before the final trains are loaded and sent to the camps.

    He used to watch them. Used to mock them, starve them, prod them. But something unnerved him.

    In his sleep they come for him. They live, more now than perhaps they did when they breathed.

    When he walked the camps he felt unsafe. In their silence he could hear the death rattle of his mortality. In their eyes he seldom saw fear, more often he saw pity.

    Why would they pity him? He had everything. They had nothing.

    And he watches the train pass into the abyss of the forest.

    He watches the sun melt into the earth and he wishes for it to stay suspended, even a few feet above the horizon.

    For the night comes for him.

    And… soon more faces will haunt his dreams.

  15. Sian Brighal says:

    @sian_ink
    359 words

    It’s All in the Leap

    We used to watch the train go past as kids. Most of the others, crazy on youth, ran alongside, leaping across the tracks in front of the train. Even poor Cindy Mayer getting killed didn’t stop them. Beating the train had become a thing of honour…rite of passage stuff. Young Micky used to get a shiner from his dad regular for his antics, but he jumped more than any of us. He’s done well for himself…travelled the world, written beautiful books, on most Bestseller Lists.

    I never jumped the train…and somehow that seems to linger in minds. I’ll always be one of them who didn’t do it. Sam did. He got closer to that train than anyone…has a scar on his right arm from where it caught him as it thundered past. And that marked him, he always says. He’s mayor now…and I’m just Susie, working the late shift at the gas station: nice gal…reliable. I don’t mind so much.

    Me and Sam used to watch the train. I guess we knew then that the train didn’t care. Instead of a worthy foe, we were inconsequential. We were just like so many lucky insects that managed to avoid its forward surge. We used to say that train’s true challenge was at the end of the line, not jumping some silly tracks. Used to say a lot of things. But time thunders on unceasingly…like that train.

    I go down to the tracks sometimes, sit on the embankment, chew the ends of straw like I used to. Somewhere, Sam is always giving a speech or something, and the other jumpers are in their offices, or clubs, or coffee mornings. I watch that train, see the kids jump sometimes when it’s holiday time. I study those metal tracks and wonder if there really is anything in that leap from one side to the other.

    Today, Sam marries his sweetheart: that was me, but he says it’s always been her. I’m done with sitting and staring at the track. I can see pebbles, skittering madly on the rails, and I hear that familiar rumble. My train is coming, and I’m ready to jump.

    • ewansmithxxx says:

      Oh no!

      Oh that’s so beautiful…and sad. As you read the story, you can feel it building up to something but you’re not sure what. Oooh…where’s a tissue!

      (The story also reminded me of our gang’s habit of racing across the road in front of cars to show how brave we were when I was young and idiotic. Completely bonkers…)

  16. @stellakateT
    279 words

    Werewolves of London

    The train hurtled along the rails the wheels singing the song of homecoming. She sat demurely in the corner of the carriage trying to read Pride and Prejudice. He watched her. Licking his lips and salivating at the smell of the burger. He loved meat. The brown paper bag sat on the table between them. He wondered if it was a double cheeseburger, his favourite and had she added fries and those little sachets of tomato sauce or better still barbecue sauce.

    “Is that a burger?”

    She glanced up, her brown eyes beguiling. His heart missed a beat or two and he felt the hairs on the back of his hand rise and his fingers start to swell.

    “Yes, but I prefer Chinese food”
    “Maybe we could share it. I’m Warren and you are?”

    She gestured towards the end of the carriage and they rose from their seats simultaneously like the notes of a love song coming together.

    Arriving at Euston Station the concourse swarming with people, she stepped daintily from the train, scanning left to right looking for that special person. Then she was enveloped in the arms of her beloved sister. Wiping the tiny speck of red from the corner of her mouth her sister laughingly asked if she’d had a good journey.

    The cleaner had to be taken to hospital after finding his mutilated body in the carriage toilet. The transport police felt her shock too. It was a hideous crime and the second body to be found with bite marks and flesh torn on this route. Like an animal devouring its prey. What the hell had been let loose on the 9.15 am from Coventry?

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