Flash! Friday

Until December 2015 @postupak hosted Flash! Friday every week. Writers had 24 hours to submit a response to a prompt with a limited word count. The contest is now closed, but the website still exists to preserve the stories written and as a memory of the very special writing community that grew around it.

Here are my entries:

Freedom (photo prompt 27.09.13)

By Alexis/El Caminante

By Alexis/El Caminante

They didn’t want to let me go.  All those grasping hands – mum’s boney ones, daddy’s strong ones and grandpa’s frail ones – they reached as high as they could but I have been preparing for this moment ever since I was a babe in arms.

They were always trying to tell me what to do, you see.  Mum wanted me to wear my hair with a slick centre parting so all the other mothers would coo at me.  Daddy wanted me to pretend I like fishing as much as he does, but the first time I saw a hook in that trout’s mouth with its dead eyes…well, I just knew it wasn’t for me.  And as for grandpa, if I have to sit quietly and listen to any more of his stories, I’ll turn to stone on the spot, I just know it.  So I’ve been learning to fly.

This life.  It’s mine.

  • ENDS –

Master and Me (Photo prompt 11.10.13)

Photo by Dan Fador

Photo by Dan Fador

My master is down there.  He slipped from the cliff top during our morning walk.  It was just past dawn and the emerging sun cast a hazy light across the landscape.  He fell without a whimper.  I guess his eyes aren’t what they used to be.  I haven’t looked over the cliff top yet.  I want to take a moment to feel the breeze in my coat, to take in this marvellous vista without being hurried along, to taste the freedom of not being tied to a leash, of being alone.

I did love him once, the silly old fool.  When I was a pup we used to roll around together in the daisy field and afterwards he’d chase me home.  Then his interest waned.  I hadn’t pictured my future to be one of lacklustre coexistence. I wanted the real deal.

I can hear a scrabbling at the rock face and it almost pulls at my heartstrings.  We were supposed to be man and beast.  Oh, it could have been so beautiful between us.  But as I look down at my matted fur, I make my decision.  I want to be my own man now.  It’s probably too late to help now anyway.  This view, it really is to die for.

  • ENDS –

Family Ties (Photo prompt 22.11.13)

This is not a peaceful place. The high walls and the barbed wire are reminiscent of a prison. It is in fact his father’s memory, which traps him. And those burnished robes. To me, they look so burdensome; I know he feels their weight too.

We have loved each other all our lives. In me he discovered his joy and peace. His family shunned him when they found out, so I became his family. I cooked for him and washed his clothes. I bathed his brow when he was sick. I used to dream of the tinkling laughs of our future children.

Last winter his father was killed, violently, in this place. So he took the robes, as his father had always wanted, to bring his mother comfort. One day, the old woman will die and he will come back to me. Until then, I will wait here patiently, quiet as a church mouse.

-ENDS –

The Freedom Within (Photo prompt 6.12.13)

I dream of dragons every night. I am the strongest of them all as we swoop towards the stars. Sometimes I catch sight of my own tail and I know I am beautiful, with shining emerald scales the colour of the mountains and claws that leave my prey defenceless. My lifeblood surges through me as my wings beat in time with my heart.

When I wake in the morning, the contrast between my mangled human form and my dragon one fills me with momentary bitterness. I wait for my nightly escapades with eagerness and impatience. It wasn’t always this way. After the accident, sleep was a poor companion; shadowy figures danced before me stealing my peace in the midnight hours. Mother would stand vigil at my bedside day and night, placing cool cloths on my brow as I lay limp under the sweaty bed-clothes.

My body might still be broken but my mind is stronger. I conjure up my dragon dreams at will. I have been trapped within these decaying walls for nineteen long months but each night I am free. I wish I could show my parents that the mind can soar without its carcass. Last night my senses were heightened. I saw ornate temples, black oceans and magnificent sand-filled bays that would soften even my father’s battle-hardened exterior. But their guilt drowns them until there is no joy left.  They suffocate me with the need to make amends. I have become the symbol of all they have lost, and for them daytime ghouls are worse than nightmares.

I am changing in ways my parents cannot as yet perceive. I covet sleep, day or night, yearning for the mist of drowsiness to envelop me so I can assume the form that has become more real to me than my human body.  My dragon self is powerful, sacred, vengeful. If they insist on keeping me awake for their own solace, I will have no choice. I will rise up with lungs full of fire and wrath to fight for my freedom. It is all I have left.

  • ENDS –

The Snow Guardian (Photo prompt 20.12.13; include ‘duty’)

I have watched over Susie since the first time she built me. Her tinkling laugh warmed my ice-cold heart as she piled glistening snowflakes upon each other. I stood proudly on her papa’s ranch, her guardian on the darkest nights of the year. She remade me year after year with diminishing care but I remembered the first year and my love for her remained unchanged.

When she was eleven I watched from afar as they told her her papa wouldn’t be coming home. My cold touch could not comfort her in her grief so I pledged to continue my silent watch over her. When the sun’s rays begin to melt my form, I trickle into the earth, duty-bound to return the following year.

Susie is thirty now and I am a lack-lustre, lop-sided parody. She is a sombre woman but I remind her of the child she once was. And that is enough for us both.

  • ENDS –

There’s No Place Like Home (Photo prompt 10.01.14. Include time travel)

‘Andy, come back here!’

We’d spent an idyllic few days in the Croatan National Forest where we had a summer house. Until mom discovered my stash of beer. How else is a fifteen year old supposed to stomach a family holiday?

‘In for a penny, in for a…’ I thought, determined to escape mother’s wrath.

There it was – hidden in the bark of an enormous tree – father’s pride and joy.

‘Time for a spin, old girl. Been waiting a long time for this.’

Mother’s shouts floated on the still air as I climbed into the gleaming chassis. I pulled the lever, watching clouds spin past as the time-machine sped through the vortex to another time and place.

‘Where are we going?’

I turned with a start. George, my six year old brother grinned at me mischievously from the back seat.

‘How on earth?!’

Over the years we took in many sights, but we never made it back to mother.

-ENDS-

The Knight That Never Was (10.15)

They called him The Red Curse. Tales of him caused children to tremble and men to reach for their swords. To me he was Rodin. He never spoke; his name came to me whispered on the wind.

We fought side by side against the rising dark. When Rodin turned his hooded globes to me on blood-thickened fields, I saw not a villain but kin worthy of my steel and coat of arms.

Without him we would have been devoured. Yet the townspeople did not rejoice. Men are stronger when they are bonded by hate. Two dawns after the final battle, they tethered Rodin’s wings to the ground and pierced him with scalding rods.

Rodin endured as the crowds grew. By dusk his scales were torn and slick with sweat. A solitary anguished call reverberated across the isles, but still he did not unleash his fiery breath on them.

I knew my quest then. As the townspeople slept, drunk on their mastery of the dragon, I unclipped his chains and lit the hay bales until the sky turned crimson. Rodin flew, damaged and majestic, a valiant creature trapped in a vessel of fear. His wings beat a path away from the menfolk who had betrayed him: the knight that never was.

  • ENDS –

An Unfinished Story (Photo prompt 04.12.15. Include a dragon. Final Flash! Friday contest)

The deserted village nestled in a valley, just the place to complete his novel. Beckton was no ordinary bolthole. Tom felt it in his bones: the eerie fog submerging the rental cottage; the urge to lock his car doors.

He swallowed his unease and ventured out towards a half-lit café, his laptop under his arm. The man behind the counter registered surprise.

“You shouldn’t have come here. Didn’t you feel the warnings?”

“Feel the warnings?” said Tom.

“Well, I could hardly put up a sign. She’s watching.” His features seemed to rearrange themselves as he spoke.

“Who is?”

“The beautiful girl, who lived there.” He pointed across the street.

“Where is she now?” A knot of fear unfurled in Tom’s belly.

“Everywhere.”

Tom saw the walls unmask themselves: peeling paint became glistening scales; dim lighting, a fiery glow. The dragon’s head descended, gnashing teeth and scalding breath, leaving behind only the bones of a barely started novel.

Gossamer Bandages (11.12.15)

On Friday everything changed. Overnight the world had been bandaged in gossamer threads, as if a greater power had said,

“Enough. Only compassion will emerge from this cocoon.”

We clambered over silken fibres holding the earth together. Suspended above our heads, like baubles on a tree, were tanks, missiles and the emblems of big business gone bust. They clanked in the wind, a warning to tread carefully in this new world.

We advanced two by two: storytellers and scientists, teachers and inventors, doctors and judges, imams and priests, farmers and soldiers.

On Thursday oblivion had awaited; on Friday rose hope.

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