Tuesday, 23 May 2017

National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2017 - I'm in!

I was over the moon last week to find out I am going to be in the National Flash Fiction Day 2017 Anthology. I sent in two entries, and my entry 'Friends' made it through. I'm delighted!

The cover is yet to be revealed, but the title of the Anthology will be:

 Sleep Is A Beautiful Colour

For those that don't know, National Flash Fiction Day is a yearly event founded and run by Calum Kerr, who himself is an avid flash writer. It has taken place for several years now, and this year it takes place on the 24th of June.


On the actually day there is also a Flash Flood Journal, where a piece of flash is put up on the blog every 10 minutes by a different writer for the entire 24 hours. I have managed to get a piece accepted for the last four years, and I plan on trying again this year.

Various events take place around the UK to support it. You can find more details about those on the official website.







Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 11

Despite the stir last week's picture created, only 3 entries were produced - although they were rather magnificent entries, with some really diverse perspectives. It's what I love the most about running this challenge, how differently the prompt photo speaks to writers.

This weeks' photo is from the inside of the abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadephia, PA, which was was operational from 1829 until 1971. The photo was taken by Simon Woolbert, who can be found over on Flicker.

My story reflects the darkness of this photo, but yours doesn't have to. What perspective do you see?

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here. 



Life Sentence 

She brought her arm up and dragged the nail down as hard as she could to mark the wall. It took all the energy she had. There wasn’t much left now, the raging thirst having given way to a burning throat and a light, almost out of body feeling. These marks were the only thing that registered her time here, or even her existence.

She’d been here a long time; so long she couldn’t remember not being here anymore. She knew there was some semblance of a memory in the back of her mind, something bright, free, like a breath of fresh air – although that too was a memory, that didn’t exist here. It was a prison, she knew that, could see it from the bars on the tiny window up at the top of the wall. Window would normally indicate light, but the only light she caught a glimpse of was the flashing of a strip light out in the hallway that came in under the door. It stuttered and changed. She knew it would go out eventually, but she was no longer sure if she would survive to see it happen.

She wondered why there were boards on the window, but not as much as she wondered why the water had stopped. The water in the tap had been her lifeline since she had woken up here. Despite the dust and grime in the cell and coating the sink, water still came through. She caught bugs and things crawling along the floor to feed herself, to try and keep the pain in her stomach at bay, but she needed the water more. She didn’t know why they had stopped it.

There was a they – there had to be. Someone had put her here. She didn’t know who or why; no one came, no one checked in on her. There was no sound; there was no noise, other than the scuttling of insects and creatures in the walls or across the floor. She’d sat and listened ever endingly for something, anything, but there was nothing.

Her hand dropped back to the floor and she watched the nail fall out of her hand. She looked at the marks, the hundreds of them. They signified a day as best as she could ascertain by the crack of light that came through the boards on the tiny window. But there could be more than there should be. She didn’t know. It didn’t matter. Who would ever see them?


***

“If you follow the corridor down this way, you will find the cell where she was found.” A tour guide took the group down another one of the penitentiary’s abandoned corridors.

“And who was she?” someone asked.

“Nobody knows. No identification was found. We only know that she was about 7 years old when she died, and from the markings on the wall she had been in there for over 2 years.”

“Surely she had a family who missed her?” A southern accent from the back.

“Maybe, but there are so many missing children, it can be hard to identify them.”

“Not even by dental records?” A woman in the front found the idea incredulous.

“Her teeth had rotted from malnutrition, there was nothing to work with.”

The silence of minds working overtime on all the possible scenarios lingered in the air as the group paused outside the closed cell door.

“But I don’t get it, why was she brought here and left here?” A young guy off to the side spoke for the group.

“Many theories have been suggested: something happened to the person who brought her here – maybe got killed in an accident or something and no one knew she was here; she was kidnapped and the kidnapper couldn’t get the ransom paid; someone wanted rid of their child. Unfortunately none of them are pleasant.”

The tour guide observed that enough time had been spent on this particular story, and led the group on.

“Now, if we turn right at the end of this corridor we will arrive at the cell that the infamous mobster, Al Capone, was held in for a brief eight month stint back at the end of the 1920s ...”



Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 10

Oh my goodness, we are now in double figures: 10 weeks! And it only feels like yesterday that I started this challenge. And last week we topped the record with a whopping 8 incredible entries! Whoo Hoo!

The challenge is coming along nicely, with a few regulars who are showing such wonderful support by sharing it around and encouraging others to join. I am extremely grateful, thank you.

So to this week's photo prompt. This piece of art is by Igor Zenin, a photographer from the Republic of Moldova. This piece is called, quite simply, Dancing Trees.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

A few people have asked how to leave a clickable link. Blogger is annoying that it doesn't automatically happen. You need to use a bit of HTML code:

Enter the following HTML code into the comment box: <a href="www.google.com">Home</a> Change "www.google.com" to whatever website you want to link to. Change "Home" to whatever text you want to display as the link.

But if it is too complicated. I am happy to do it for you in a reply underneath.



Captured 

Pete snuggled down into the underbrush and lay in wait. He was going to capture them this time for sure. It was going to be sensational, and he was going to rock the world with it.

It had been a hard trudge here in the dark finding his way through the trees and the underbrush with just a small torch, but the sky had lightened since he had settled in, and once the sun started to peep over the horizon he knew they would come out.

The first time he’d seen them he’d been sure it was some kind of flash back from the poppers he’d taken at a rave a couple of nights before. Such a thing wasn’t possible. Trees weren’t people, or more accurately: beautiful feminine effigies.

When the trunks had lifted up out of the ground like released balloons, Pete had shut his eyes and shaken his head, sure that it was some hallucination or distortion in his brain. But when he’d opened them again there were no rooted trees in the area, only carved naked women dancing around wearing trees like hats as though celebrating some invisible party.

He’d remained transfixed and unmoving like a garden gnome, with his fishing rod poised over the small lake that divided him from the spectacle, watching their movements until, after an indeterminate amount of time, they’d sank back down into the earth and all that could be seen were trees again.

He’d waited a while and then gone over and walked round the trees, touching them, reassuring himself that they were indeed trees, that the bark was wood.

From then on he had returned, randomly, covering a variety of times, and established they only came at sunrise, and only for a few moments; that the window of their existence was short and if he was to capture evidence of them he had to be ready and waiting.

So here he was, video camera set up in front of him on a mini tripod, and a photographic camera round his neck.

As the bottom of the sun rose above the hills on the horizon, the bottom of the trees lifted and the dancing ladies returned to life.

Pete pressed the record button and sat back to watch, mesmerised, lifting the photographic camera up to his eye intending to take some shots, but finding himself lowering it again to watch them through his human lenses; their movements hypnotic, ebbing and flowing. Although he became aware that time was running out, and wanting stills as much as footage he placed his finger on the button, intending to let the shutter run and take picture after picture.

But he hadn’t considered the sound the camera would make. They might be dancing, but it was to an inner music, there was only the swishing sound of wind through trees as they moved.

By time the shutter closed on the first photograph, they stopped moving and all eyes turned to the bush he was under. By the second it was whisked away from above him. There was no third because he dropped the camera when a branch swung across and threw him up into the air, before another grasped him. It pulled him into the folds of its branches and he was only aware of a downward motion as darkness surrounded him.

He came to rest in a hollow earth chamber, and waited, his eyes unable to penetrate the darkness, his mind unable to calculate the passing of time. But nothing happened and no sounds reached him, and he began to wonder if they ever would. 


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 9

I'm on holiday and this is scheduled, so I have NO idea how many of you entered last week's - well I might if I have peeked on the laptop. Hopefully you all were inspired and loved last weeks.

This week I have gone for a different sort of face - a clock face, in particular a destroyed clock face. This is from the clock tower in Finale Emilia, Italy, after an earthquake which struck the area May 20, 2012. And this image appeared in several news sites with no one credited.

I wasn't sure how my story for this one was going to turn out. But I like it a lot. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.




The After 

Oiyou foraged some Greenies out of the new growth. This area hadn’t been trampled so he was in luck. It was early, so he pushed back against some rubble and sat down to enjoy them before other peeples came along.

He looked up at the tall pile of rocks that held the strange piece of circle. Some said it was the moon, but Gammy had said that was nonsense; the moon only came out at night and wasn’t there in the day. This never went away. It was stuck on the pile of rocks, which looked like they’d fall any minute. Plus it never went changed, it always stayed half round. 

Oiyou pondered the strange marks on it. He didn’t know what they were. Someone over by the jungleyard had said they were numbers, but Gammy had shown him those and these looked nothing like them.

Gammy knew lots of things. She knew about the Before. She’d been born near it. She hadn’t got sick like the others, she said. She’d been put in a special hole, and stayed there a long time. She said it was why she didn’t like foraging: too much open, too much space. She didn’t know what to do with it.

Oiyou didn’t think you could do anything with it. It was just there and you had to get across it to get to good forage. It was why he was fatter than some of them – that and he didn’t get the Bellyarc. He wasn’t sure what it was, but it seemed to be put them off eating, so much so that they got thin and lay down till they were dead. He liked eating. He hoped he never got it. Gammy said maybe acuz she never did, he never would. He didn’t know how you could tell.

He heard someone scrabbling further over. He popped his head up and saw Grabhem. He didn’t like him, no one did. He was trouble. Would hit and hurt till he got what you had.

Oiyou shuffled round the other side of the rubble and headed to the Grandplace with the funny shaped metal. ‘Statchews’ Gammy called them. She said she’d had a couple of tiny ones when she was shorter. She’d played with them. Oiyou didn’t see the point of them. They looked strange, like they were peeples but weren’t. And some were shaped funny. Gammy called them animoles. Oiyou had never seen one of those. Gammy said there were lots in the Before, but they were all gone now.

He wondered if they were like those creepy crawly things that ran up your legs sometimes when you were foraging, but bigger. He didn’t know. If so, he was glad they weren’t here anymore.

He looked round. He’d lost Grabhem. Good. He didn’t need to keep moving on. He wanted to look for some more Greenies to take back to Gammy. She looked different this morning. Her face looked like the colour of rocks and she said she needed to sleep more today. Her breath sounded wrong. He hoped she wasn’t going to be dead. The thought made water come into his eyes. He hated it when that happened. It made his tummy hurt, which could mean the Bellyarc, and he didn’t want that, no, no, no.

He sniffed, then heard a rumble behind him. Others were coming. He shuffled off, spotting another bit of new brush he hadn’t looked in. He’d find some good fat Greenies for Gammy, then she’d be the right colour again. 


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 8

Two months in already - time just flies by. And again we had a big week - five incredible entries for last week's photo! 

This week I have gone with a face. It was a struggle to find the creator of this incredible image because their current page on Deviant Art is empty. But two sources confirmed that it is indeed called 'Dragon Incarnate' and was created/copyrighted by LuckyWolf13 (Lauren from the US).

The story I imagined coming out of this picture turned into something else, and refused to change to what I wanted - as stories are often wont to do. And it pushed the Word Count too. But I do rather like it. Hope you do too.

The General Guidelines can be found here.




The Challenger

Avilijn sat in front of the mirror watching the tracer work on the intricate design on the left side of her face. She remained stock still as the heat of the needle left behind its black ink creating a depiction of her latest conquest for all to see.

This latest scrollwork made it clear that she wasn’t to be trifled with. It made it clear she was a woman of strength and means. She felt a flush of pride, her mind turning to what she needed to do to have designs on the right side.

Her musing was interrupted by Finnella, who fluttered in behind her in awe and anxiety.

“Calm your wings Finnella, and tell me what news?”

“Word has spread my lady, more will come to try and defeat you.”

Avilijn smiled, her eyes flashing. “Good. I need more.”

“There is talk of Falcroon showing up.”

Avilijn’s mouth opened as her eyes sparkled. “Oh yes, taking him would be my pleasure.”

Avilijn pictured Falcroon and his oversized wings. The way he would always flex them whenever a pretty fledgling would go by while still in conversation with another. He thought he was such a hot shot. Would he really dare to come and take her on? She wondered. Would he be vain enough to risk his life? Would pride be his downfall? 

The pecking order was strong, and she had to keep them all in place now. Since her father’s demise many had tried to usurp her and turn the skies into chaos, but she was responsible for maintaining peace at all costs – something Hawkseye had found out to his detriment ... and death. 

Falcroon was coming to defend his honour. They had always had an intimate alliance: brothers in blood. She’d heard of their comradeship during the War of the Kestrel Marshes, but he had to understand that compliance was going to be the only way, and if that meant bloodshed then so be it. She wasn’t afraid.

A messenger arrived and she waited for Finnella to speak to them. When Finnella turned, the fearful bright eyes that met hers in the mirror told her all she needed to know.

“When is he coming?”

“At evening song.”

Avilijn glanced at the artist who had lifted the needle from her face. “Time to prepare for the right side decoration.”

The artist gave her a bob of the head as Avilijn rose to take on her next contender.

***

Avilijn stretched her turquoise and black wings, the magnificent glint causing gasps from the crowd, who had begun to gather in the archaic atrium since word had spread of the challenge.

Falcroon was more subdued than Avilijn expected. Was he nervous? Or was this something he didn’t want to do? But he was the one who had requested the duel, so it was his choice. She waited for his move.

But he didn’t swoop, instead he spoke.

“Princess, I am deeply hurt by the loss of my blood brother. Some believe I come to avenge his death, but I am not foolish enough to try. Instead I ask you to take my life too, so I can rejoin with him in eternity.”

Avilijn struggled to hide her annoyance. This wasn’t what she wanted. She wasn’t here to grant wishes, or be some kind of public executioner. What game was he playing?

“Falcroon we are known to each other. If you aren’t here to challenge me, then you pledge fealty. I offer nothing else.”

He surprised her by flying low and bowing his head, offering the back of his neck; an act of submission. And one she had to acknowledge.

She flew over him in acceptance, but rather than remaining in position, Falcroon twisted just as her talons crossed over him, stretching his head back and up, exposing his neck. Before Avilijn could react a claw sliced through his skin, sweeping across it – deep. Blood gushed, as his body fell limp to the ground below.

Avilijn circled in shocked dismay. He had manipulated her into granting his wish, but this also placed her in a precarious position of an unwarranted kill, something which could upset the balance of power.

Damn him! He had not only avenged Hawkseye’s death, but achieved Hawkseye’s original intent.

 


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 7

Last week's photo prompt set a record at 5 wonderful entries! Such a diverse range of stories too. I love seeing how people are inspired. I am hoping this image will do the same.

I ummed and arhhed over the choice for this week's photo, as there are just SO many waiting to be used. I want to provide something new and fresh each week, and not the same sort of photo either, as well as a prompt that provides ample possibilities. I'm hoping this one does.

This photo was taken by Sirombo (Luca) from Italy over on Deviant Art.

My tale this week is actually based on the novel I have been working on, which is in the final editing stages. It gives a good outline of it, although it is set 10years on.

The General Guidelines can be found here.



Fresh Start

Lizzy stooped to pick up the feather stuck in the pebbles on the beach. She ran it through her fingers as she looked out to sea at the setting sun. It was a sign, she knew it.

Feathers had always shown up at significant times in her life: a turquoise one had landed on her windowsill the day before Steve had asked her out; a tiny brown one had been on the dashboard in her car the day he had proposed, and a beautiful white one had fluttered in through the kitchen window the day before her wedding. They had all signified good things. And this one did too. This  one signified freedom.

She inhaled deeply, taking in the sea air, something she hadn’t been able to do for over ten years. Instead she had been stuck in a prison cell looking at four grey walls twenty hours a day. It was the penance you paid for losing your mind and taking your husband’s life.

She sighed, still feeling the weight of what she had done deep inside her chest. The last time she’d walked on a beach she’d been with Steve on a holiday they’d taken to try and recover from the loss of their second child. They’d splashed out and gone to the Maldives, a dream destination for Lizzy. With Steve’s modelling career taking off they’d been able to afford it.

It had helped a bit; they’d reconnected a little, although the return home had not gone as well as hoped with his parents forgetting to cancel the delivery of the pram. It had stood there in the entrance hall, taunting her when they’d arrived.

Gosh that all seemed so long ago. Another lifetime. She could recall the feelings but they didn’t cut her like they used to. She had something new to cut herself up about instead; something much bigger. And now she was out, the pain of what she had done was much keener.

In the years running up to the murder her head had become fuzzy, full of angry noise, bitterness and resent. And during her first years inside it hadn’t cleared; it had only become foggier as more negative emotions had swallowed her up: guilt, shame and despair. Now she stood here, finally out, on a beach in the crisp evening air, there was no noise in her head, no anger, there was only sadness and a gratitude at the chance for a fresh start.

Lizzy took in another deep breath and turned her back on the sunset. But before she could begin on that, she had to face the people and the memories from the past, the last part of her penance. But the arrival of the grey feather was a positive sign, and one she clung to as she headed back up the beach. 



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 6

It seems that last week's challenge was a hit, with 4 wonderful entries. I hope we can eventually top that, but I am very happy it spoke to so many people. I am hoping this image will do the same.

Despite hours trawling search engines, I can not find the person who took this photo - the key site that it seems to link to is currently 'under construction'. But it appears on thousands of pinterest boards, so I was able to find out where it was:

The Chateau de Singes (Castle of Monkeys) is really the Château à Cahaignes (Castle Cahaignes), located in Cahaignes, Eure, Upper Normandy, France. Abandoned in 1976.

This is how it inspired me. I hope it inspires you too. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.




Threshold

She could see the cracks of light falling on the floor, so knew that stepping through the door would not lead her into darkness. And she could even see more doors in the distance so she knew it wasn’t a trap, so what held her on the threshold?

It could only be fear – but fear of what? Fear that it would not take her anywhere; that the time and effort to go through and find out it was a dead-end would take too much from her. She had been through so many doors like this, with the light shining in, only to find that they were empty, devoid of the life and connection she sought. She wasn’t sure she could deal with the overwhelming disappointment again.

But standing her on the threshold was no solution; she gained nothing standing here – she knew that. You gained nothing without risk. Sometimes you had to take a leap and hope for the best, and try and not anticipate what might come; try and embrace the moment and have no expectation.

She heard the creak of another door in the distance. She heard the chatter of voices.

Her heart yearned to be a part of them, to join in and feel alive again, feel a part of something. She had been trapped in this place for so long, she could only fantasise what it might be like.

Her toes tingled as the voices drew nearer. Shadows moved further ahead in the corridor she was looking into. They would come round the corner at any moment. They would face her and she would see them. If she could just step forward she could greet them, she could walk with them and hear their conversation properly and not just snippets. But she could not compel herself to do so.

“... just a simple mark on her skin ... hidden away ... fear of reprisal ...”

The voices grew louder

“... broke in ... caught ... there was an uprising ...”

They would be here any second.

“So they killed her for a simple birthmark?”

“Yes, and they say her ghost still haunts this ruined mansion.”