I had such fun last week doing MidWeek Flash, I decided to do another one. This time, a little less weird. Hope you like it.
Again, the rules are listed on the site. If you like to write, you should give it a shot. This week’s picture prompt is below. And thanks to Miranda Kate for this opportunity to stretch my writing muscles. I’ve missed the flash circuit.
The Waiting House
by Stacy Bennett
The clack of her heels echoed off the tattered walls as she tried not to notice the peeling wallpaper. Cobwebs danced in the fouled breeze that floated through broken windows. She had grown used to the smell these past months, but her teeth clenched against the cloying chemical taste that lodged like bile in her throat.
The house had survived the skirmishes, its walls intact though a dusty abandonment pervaded its once immaculate rooms – a betrayal that still brought a pang of guilt. They had been months into the war before her brothers could persuade her to leave. When the skies turned black, their entreaties intensified accompanied by threats of bodily removal should she continue to argue. They hadn’t understood why she clung to the house, as stubborn as the English ivy climbing the red brick wall.
I haven’t done flash fiction in ages and so when I got a sudden craving for it, I went over to check outMiranda Kate‘s MidWeek Flashfor this week. The rules are simple and listed on the site. If you like to write, you should give it a shot. This week’s picture prompt is below. Isn’t it gorgeous?
I hope you enjoy my flash. Be warned, this one’s really weird. Not sure what I was on today, but at least I wrote. ROFL.
by Stacy Bennett
I don’t know if you remember those dark days, my friend. The days before the Mirror Men came. Mimicatronic, that was the new tech. At least, I think that’s what it was called.
The Mirror Men. Imitation counselors to soothe our collective unconscious. Silica suits stuffed with bits of AI and Freud and a weedy whiff of new age. (For the lingering hippies, like Mrs. McDonough. Do ya remember her? And her pissing little dog?)
Anyway. We lived in the tenements then. Rook Street. Ten of us to a room. Like roaches, you said. Squirming on top of each other in the stinking swelter of post-Warm autumn. We were on the verge of riots that year. Fueled by an internet drought. Electricity was scarce as sex. Remember only being able to charge every three days? That kind of restriction could drive a man to kill, wouldn’t you say?
Well, I don’t know if you remember when the first one came to our town. But I remember when they hauled all of Rook Street out into the drizzle to be “saved.” Were you there, or had ya walked to the Plaza? I can’t remember but I know they lined us up on the street.Continue reading “Mirror Man – MidWeek Flash”
I watch the snowflakes dance as they fall from the low gray clouds of the threatening storm. My forehead presses hard against the frigid glass, slick and damp as ice, filling my vision with the yard from duck pond to coop and down the lane, instead of the walker and hospital bed dominating what once was our living room. Outside winter remains the same, and for all I know, it’s forty years ago out there.
I close my eyes and breathe only shallowly so I can forget my lungs don’t work right. Propped here at the door, I can forget my legs don’t move without pain. Behind my eyelids, I am still a young woman, still in love.
I hear the nurses talk, telling each other how strong my will to live must be. I hate to disappoint them, but they’re wrong. It isn’t strength that’s kept me here this long, it’s fear. Fear that the other side isn’t at all like Charlie said it would be, fear that he won’t be there waiting to take my hand. If I only had his faith, I could just let go. And I would, too, because I’m tired; tired of the business of dying, tired of the walker and the feeding tube and the faces of doctors that come and go and won’t look me in the eye.
As I stare into the swirling flakes, sudden movement sharpens my mind with curiosity. The glass is fogged but beyond, in the whiteness, a flash of dark sails over the pond. Impatient, I rub the condensation away and, in the distance, obscured by age-dimmed eyes and falling snow, the figure of a man floats across the frozen water.
“It can’t be,” I whisper, fogging the glass again. Anxiety locks down my chest making it harder to breathe. I should sit down but I can’t tear my eyes from him. That jacket – the lamb’s wool collar – I remember it. And that ratty red baseball cap is in a box in my closet. I’m sure of it.
I turn for the nurse only to find I’m alone. She’s busy in the kitchen, preparing the paste that is my lunch. But I need to know who’s out there. I need to know if it’s him and that need burns behind my breastbone, sending tired pains of warning down my arm. I can’t wait. With trembling hands, I unlock the door and slide it open. The cutting cold blasts through the threadbare house dress to my bare skin, but I don’t care. The scent of fresh snow stirs my heart. Memories rise to the surface of the muddy pond of my mind.
As I stand shivering, the man on the ice stops and waves to me. My hands clutch the door as he steps off the pond and strides up the little low hill, red cap obscuring most of his face. Still the quirk of his thin lips brings the prick of tears.
“Charlie?” The wind gusts, taking my thin words and scattering them across the lawn with the storm’s icy flakes.
“Edie,” he says with a voice like maple syrup on Sunday morning. “What took you so long?”
Suddenly, I’m frightened. “You left,” is all I can choke out.
Taking the cap from his head, the whipping wind ruffles his blond hair. His gray eyes hold me warmly like a hand-knit scarf. “I’m sorry. I had no choice.”
I know he didn’t mean to go when he did but it hurt all the same. “I missed you,” I explain, my throat thick with the longing I’ve had to live with. My knees begin to give way but strong hands catch me – his hands. They’re as young as mine are old and I stare in horror at my mottled skin and swollen knuckles. I don’t want him to see me like this, I think, as tears break free and travel down the riverbed crevices of my cheeks.
“That’s all over now, Edie.” His voice shields me against the freezing wind blowing through the house. And suddenly, I notice he’s glowing like streetlights in wintertime, bright and ethereal. “It’s time,” he says, smiling, and leans down to press his lips to mine. And I am young again.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I think I see wings lofting from his broad shoulders, and they gather the light and tuck around me like goose down. And the cold is gone. The tightness in my chest, too. And all is warm and soft and light. And I feel brave.
“Let’s go,” he says, leading me by the hand.
I look back for just a moment, smiling for the first time in ages, and I don’t feel sorry for the old woman lying dead in the doorway, the snow blanketing her in fresh white hope. She’s finally free to be with the one she’s always loved.
For the first time in probably more than a year, I entered Siobhan Muir’s flash fiction contest #ThursThreads. Its a fun contest where the prompt is a phrase taken from the previous week’s winner. Being very short, only 100 to 250 words, it can be difficult to get your point across with any kind of style.
If you’re a writer of any kind, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s fun and will hone your writing in ways longer works don’t. Here is my humble offering.
Paid in Full
The doorbell woke me with another skull-splitting headache, a shoe-leather tongue and dry gritty eyes. The nightmares persisted too, although I’d gotten rid of nearly all the cursed doubloons. No one had told me, when I started out, that the antiques business really did have a paranormal downside. With only three more to go, I felt less and less guilty about who I dumped my problem on.
The doorbell nagged again. When I finally opened the door, my ex-husband stared wide-eyed at my disheveled morning face.
“Hi, Janice. Sorry to bother.”
No he wasn’t. “What?” I asked sharply.
“I need that money you owe me. For last week.”
His new wife made enough to support them both three times over and he was still nickel-and-diming me, the bastard.
“Wait here.” I shut the door and grabbed some bills from my purse. My hand hesitated only briefly over the bowl of silver coins before I scooped them up too.
I opened the door and shoved the money at him. “That’s two hundred. The coins are worth the rest,” I said.
“I’m sorry. I know things are tight,” he said, looking at the payment his hand. “But I’m just trying to be fair.”
“Not at all,” I said, fake smile plastered on my face and bitterness churning in my gut. “You deserve to be paid what I owe you.”
It’s Throwback Thursday again and I’m in the mood for some flash fiction. Here is a short piece from the 2013 Twelfth Night Masquerade Flash Fiction Contest run by Meg McNulty that was such fun.
The clock chimed, its lustrous tones resounding inside me, chaining my heartbeat to its rhythm. Counting. Waiting. Ten…eleven…twelve – Midnight! My breath stopped with the sound though my heart fluttered like a caged thing.
At the tolling of the clock, Giovanni’s note had read. Love’s raven will bind you forevermore.
Weeks ago, that had sounded romantic. Now it was eerie. Perhaps holding the Masque had been foolish. It was my husband’s fancy after all, not mine. But Gio’s letters convinced me and so here I was, lost in a sea of crimson feathers, cobalt silk, gold filigree, and pearls.
A raven, he’d said. Would I even know him? I searched the false faces, but eyes became unrecognizable without owners. The harder I looked, the more fantastical the ball became. My body trembled in anticipation. Or was that fear?
It had been a year since our last tryst when evil plots had spilled beneath the garden willow, sealed to silence with a kiss so passionate I could feel it even now. Little had I realized the year of solitude I would suffer afterward. Without him. Without either of them. A mourning widow didn’t get visitors.
But I’d put away the black and the storm of raucous revelry around me brought back Dominic’s last night. How his fingers had stroked me while memories of Gio’s kisses filled my mind, heating my blood.
A startling hand settled on my hip. I turned. The Raven waited, his nearness sending a flush through me. His face was completely hidden behind the large black beak and riot of feathers, topped by a dark hooded cloak.
The Raven nodded. Wordless.
The strangeness strangled my smile, silencing the lover’s greeting I’d planned. Trepidation trickled like sweat down my spine. “It’s been a year,” I offered.
He nodded again and held out a gloved hand. I was to follow. I stared at the ebony leather for long minutes, my feet stuck to the floor. Then I closed my eyes, bathing in memories of our passion and slipped delicate fingers into his grasp.
He led me through the crowd, ephemeral as ghosts. Out the door, down the steps to a stygian carriage pulled by inky steeds. We climbed in and it jerked into motion.
“We’ve done it, Gio. Now we can be together forever,” I sighed.
He nodded once more and stared at me. Knowing unblinking eyes held mine. Russet eyes.
But Gio’s eyes were blue!
“Who-.” I reached for the mask but he wagged a warning finger. Unmasking was bad luck, but I had to know. That brown was too familiar. Brown eyes in the night, a bed other than Gio’s. My hand went for his mask again and slid it from his face which baited me from the deep shadows of his hood.
“Show me!” I screeched as fear clutched at my throat.
Slow hands slid back the hood and moonlight shone on the smiling face of Death.
It’s Throwback Thursday again and I thought I’d resurrect another flash fiction from the archives. I believe this challenge came from a musical prompt. The goal is only to let the music influence the story not dictate specifics. Hope you like the tunes and the tale.
Farther from home
Xander woke with urgent fear following the dream-link from his beautiful wife. She gave him the coordinates of the rescue portal. And that it was the Agency last attempt at his recovery.
Sleep evaded him after that. When morning finally deigned to arrive and his cell was unlocked, he meekly followed the others to the day-room. He’d been cheeking his meds for a week. Everything was brighter, sharper and he’d finally managed to remember the portal’s location. He forced a numb shuffle, trying not to draw attention to himself, as he approached the far windows.
Xander didn’t know how long he’d been institutionalized before the dreams managed to break through. But they’d convinced him to stop the pills. A few days ago, he finally remembered the field stabilizer malfunction that left him combative and disoriented after his last jump. He’d attacked his first contacts. A rookie mistake.
When the authorities took him in, they’d stripped his equipment, sedated him and labeled him psychotic. What else would you do with a man who claimed to be a time traveler?
His original mission long forgotten, his only thought now was to get back home. Standing in the golden light of morning, the scene before him wavered; flashes of purple sparks rimmed the edges of the portal. He could have wept with joy.
“Mr. Doe!” The strident voice echoed off the linoleum.
Damn, he thought, turning slowly as the resident psychiatrist marched up to him. Two orderlies grabbed his arms before he could speak.
“You haven’t been taking your medicine,” she chided, opening her hand to reveal a pile of red-and-white pills.
He forced a smile, “I don’t need them. I’m cured.”
“I’ll be the judge of that.” With a tilt of her head, she motioned the men to remove him.
“No!” Panic swelled.
Her eyes narrowed.
“The day is so beautiful. I’d hate to waste it in your dark office.”
“Take your pills. Then you can stay.”
Desperate and short on time, he whispered, “I can prove I’m not crazy.”
“We’ve been over this.”
“I will be gone before you can blink,” he said, his eyes darting to the portal that flickered in the sun-drenched plate glass.
Suicide is considered a sin here, Mr. Doe.”
“I’m not talking in bloody euphemisms!” he roared, and immediately regretted it as she reached into her pocket and drew out a hypodermic.
“No, please.” He said, eyes wide and his palms up beseeching mercy. He shouldn’t have struggled. One dose and he’d be done.
“This will calm you.”
The portal was already shrinking. The words ‘Agency’s last attempt’ echoed in his mind. “Calm me, my ass; it’s a fucking lobotomy in a syringe!”
“You’re exaggerating again, Mr. Doe.”
The sparks were slowing. Time was almost up.
“You’re right.” He said, slumping heavily against the orderlies who grunted under his full weight.
“That’s better.” She cocked her head with a placating smile.
Suddenly, he thrust forward, finding strength in desperation. Pulling away from the orderlies, he grabbed her and shoved her at them, leaving them in a tangle of limbs as he whirled and leapt for the dwindling portal.
As he tumbled through the rift, his body screamed. His mind stretched to the breaking point. Reality unfolded and then folded itself up again, and he landed with a hard thump on black asphalt with the smell of grease in his nose.
Goddamit, this wasn’t the Portal Lab! Where the hell had they sent him to this time?
It’s Thursday again. And although I won’t do a throwback flash every Thursday, JB Lacaden reminded me that three years ago today, this was the pic for Angela Goff’s delightful Visual Dare Challenge. (Thanks, JB!) It is a particular favorite of mine, for no clear reason except maybe that I love the photo prompt.
BTW, Visual Dare is still running. If you like to write, you should definitely check it out!
by Stacy Bennett
The old piano sat on the porch, weather worn and out of tune.
Jasmine liked it there, liked the feel of the ivories beneath her paws – those four silent-padded, rabbit-furred, varmint-deadly night-feet. Under the fading moonlight, she would leap up to the keyboard and play her muted symphony, pacing like a jungle tiger up to the highest octave and back. Once, and then again, and again in syncopated rhythm of her own making, until a sliver of sunlight glinted across her calico fur.
The shimmering morning rays shot through the trees and low-lying fog, its flare hiding the mystical moment from mortal eyes. She stopped her tune, stretched and changed and finally stood tiptoe on two feet once more, her magical symphony of transformation complete until the next moon.
So for Throwback Thursday, here’s an old flash of mine from 2012…. The prompt was PIRATES.
The Queen and the Pirate
Her castle perched above the bay and, on mornings like this one, the salty sea air would waft through the windows of her pristine domain and wake her with trembling eagerness, sure in the knowledge that her pirate king would come today.
Though generally a prisoner of her station, the thought of him would steel her resolve, and she would slip away from under the servants’ noses.
Once free, she hastened to the lower edge of her gardens,to the locked gate where she knew he was waiting for her – rough, untrimmed, and oh-so-daringly roguish.
Today, he had brought her delicious delicacies from afar, pungent meats that appealed to the primal hunger that rumbled beneath her refined and well-coiffed façade. And though the bars prevented her from touching him, she couldn’t deny the heat that warmed her at his virile male scent and gruff voice.
All too soon, though, footsteps warned that the servants had noticed her absence. As he leaned closer, she thrust her nose against his cheek to remember the smell of salt and fish that clung to his beard.
A sudden hand on her collar pulled her back. “Bad dog Queenie! Get away from that mutt or I’ll have to flea dip you for the third time this month!”