Flash Fiction Month 2019, Day 28
Once upon a time there lived a hunter in a wild land. Each morning he set out into the forest to check his traps and seek out game. Each afternoon he returned to his cottage to tend its small garden and to cook a simple meal. And each night, he rested that he would be ready to begin the next day anew.
One day, while treading a path that even he seldom used, the hunter passed an old man who wore a thick cloak and walked with a long staff. The hunter gave him a cordial greeting, yet the man responded by grasping his arm, pulling him backwards along the path.
“I pray you,” said the traveller, “walk no farther this way!”
The hunter began to protest, but his words were drowned out by a widowmaker falling on the path where the traveller had just passed and he had just been approaching. The vast bough rested, still trembling from the impact, as the hunter struggled to put his gratitude into words.
But “Do not thank me,” said the traveller. “I have not saved your life, but rather the trouble of lifting that bough.”
The hunter looked to the traveller and realised with horror that the man’s wrinkled face was but a skull, and his thick cloak a pale shroud. Likewise he carried not a staff, but a vicious dart. The hunter tried to pull away, but the terrible figure’s fleshless hand was still closed over his arm, and he remained fixed upon the path as firmly as a coffin nail. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 14
Challenge #7*: Write a story in which at least one character only speaks in verse, another represents the Shakespearian fool, and someone dies tragically. It must include at least 10 words created by Shakespeare and the final word count must be a multiple of 37.
“Behold, the fair Ophelia whose feet
“so nimbly guide the course of skis that fly
“not upon base snow, that blights the land
“but water, flawless, perfect in its sheen.
“Drawn by vessel motorisèd she
“like Phoebus’ car glides swift across the lake,
“though not so bright, her radiance less grand,
“her fair-faced beauty gentler on the eyes.”
“Hamlet,” said the gravedigger, “it’s cool how much you like Ophelia and all—I’ll agree it’s admirable that she was so keen to give waterskiing a try—but I’ve got a job to do here and I think we can both agree I should probably get it done sooner rather than later. This isn’t the best time to stand on the lakeshore reciting an ode to her, if you see what I mean. I’m certainly finding it unhelpful, and I’m not sure it’s the best thing you could be doing right now either.”
“Stop up thy mouth, thou idle-headed fool!
“Canst thou not see mine eyes—only for her,
“Mine ears deaf but for that sweet engine’s sound,
“That draws my love behind, approaching me—”
There was a crunch as the leaky motorboat ploughed over the enrapt Hamlet. A lone eyeball shot out from beneath with a loud squeak, plopping into the water a considerable distance from the shore.
Laertes hopped out of the boat and walked away, oblivious to the carnage.
Ophelia stepped from her skis and followed him.
“That’s what you get for standing in the slipway,” lamented the gravedigger, shaking his head. Hamlet might have been well-read, but he hadn’t had a whole lot of common sense.
But on the bright side, the gravedigger considered as he approached the bloodstained shore, the hole he’d dug so far would probably be big enough after all.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 1
Challenge #1: Write an adventure story using a character, setting and MacGuffin suggested by three different fellow participants. The character must be an autobiographical description of the person who suggested it.
Character: An engineer who prefers to solve problems with a hammer – but in down time enjoys drawing and singing folk songs. Enjoys outdoor pursuits as long as any trip culminates in a visit to a good old fashioned pub with a hearty meal and a tankard of cider. (squanpie)
Setting: The fully furnished and richly decorated throne room of a long-abandoned castle. Why it was never cleared out or looted is uncertain, only that everything remains, dusty and mildewed and occasionally a little moth-nibbled but otherwise untouched. (Oreramar)
MacGuffin: An enchanted coin that can be spent to bribe anyone to do anything. (distortified)
With a sudden mechanical rattle, the door swung shut.
Lara would have turned to look at it, but her attention was instead drawn to the figure who had pulled the lever. The figure on the throne.
“You seek the Beggar’s Sovereign, I take it?” His accent was unfamiliar: nowhere in the world had she heard a voice quite the same.
“Yes,” she answered plainly. “It belongs in a museum.” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 22
Challenge #10*: Write an interactive story with at least two good endings and two bad endings. It must feature a conflict between Man and Society, and must also involve a choice that hinges on equipping the right item.
In the arena, two majestic alabaster unicorns duel to the death. Their tungsten chainsaw horns ring out against one another like a swarm of killer bees in a blender.
Place bet: 3
Leave: 4 Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 26
“I think you know why I’m here.”
The merchant stared at the figure in his doorway. In a way, he’d been expecting this visit for many years. However, it was not exactly as he had anticipated. “Shouldn’t you be speaking in all caps or something?” he asked.
The robed skeleton stared blankly at him. “Meh,” it shrugged. “It’s been done.”
“It’s just that caps would be a lot easier to…”
“Silence, mortal,” interjected Death, very quietly. “I have come to claim what you owe. It is…inevitable.”
The merchant shrank back into his hallway as the skeleton stepped inside, the lamps on the wall flickering at its approach. Death drew closer, closer, then paused to peer into the study to its left.
“Is this where you keep your receipts?” it asked.
“What?” The merchant was understandably surprised.
“Your receipts,” explained Death, popping on a pair of reading glasses. It didn’t have the ears or nose necessary to support them, so it simply stuck the ends of the frames into its eye sockets. “I’ll need to see your expenses for the current fiscal year.” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 8
Challenge #4: Write a story in which a first person narrator witnesses what they think is the end of the world.
It had been an unremarkable Tuesday at the petrol station until Pestilence—of Four Horsemen fame—came in and started leafing through a magazine. He didn’t exactly have a “Hello, my name is…” tag pinned to his robe, but it was pretty obvious to look at him. Limp hair, pale, pock-marked face, bow legs…it was like he had every disease in the world, and was only alive because all of them were tripping over each other trying to kill him. “Three Stooges Syndrome,” I think they call it. But that probably wasn’t it.
He must have realised I was staring because he said: “Sorry. I know this isn’t, like, a library, but I sent a letter in to the Agony Aunt a while back and I want to see if they’ve printed a response.”
“Oh, right,” I said. “No, that’s okay.” As a rule, I didn’t take issue with people having a quick skim of the Sports section or just checking what the articles were. I might have taken issue with people’s mangy horses dripping eye gunk into the plastic crate of apples by the door, but in this particular case it seemed wisest not to draw attention to it.
I took a look around the shop, like “Is anyone else seeing this?” but most of the customers were on their way out. The reason was pretty obvious.
“Jesus Christ, dude,” said one guy, hand over his mouth, “you smell like death.”
“I get that a lot,” said Pestilence. “I’m starting to think we use the same deodorant or something.”
I’m pretty sure that guy hadn’t actually seen who he was talking to until then, because at that moment he did a double take, made it a triple take just to be sure, then dashed into the automatic doors, knocking himself out. The doors opened with a merry “Ping!” noise, waited a bit, then closed dejectedly.
I took a few shallow breaths, trying to work out if there was anything I should be doing right now. Frantic prayer seemed like a good option, but at the same time I wasn’t sure it counted if your only reason for doing it was that the Apocalypse had already started. If it did count at this point, I decided, that wouldn’t be fair to everyone who’d died without getting this kind of massive hint, and so I abstained on moral grounds. Also because I was feeling a bit dizzy at this point and was afraid I might pass out and hit my head on the corner of the till. I could picture my entrance to the afterlife going like this:
Saint Peter: “Hello Rick.”
Me: “Wow—you already know my name?”
Saint Peter: “Not usually, no, but you died wearing one of those ‘Hello, my name is…’ tags. That’s pretty lame.”
Me: “Ouch. I thought you were supposed to be a saint.”
Saint Peter: “I am, but given that it’s the apocalypse and most people die punching thirty demons while gargling mead I think your lameness is extreme enough to warrant comment. But at least you won’t have to keep introducing yourself in Hell, where you’re going despite having seen one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse first hand. I would have figured that would be your cue to start praying, but hey, what’s done is done.”
Me: “Hey, I’ll have you know I decided not to do that on moral grounds. It totally wouldn’t be fair to everyone who didn’t see one of the four horsemen.”
Saint Peter: “Oh, boo-hoo. Don’t be such a martyr.”
And then obviously he, like, pulls a lever and there’s a trapdoor or something. To be honest, I was aware at the time that it was quite an odd little exchange to imagine just then, and it seemed likely that the horseman fumes rapidly filling the shop were making me hallucinate.
I stumbled over to the window and opened it as far as it would go. Just then, an impossibly muscular man galloped past on a Clydesdale, firing twin miniguns into the air and shouting “YEEEEEEEAH!!!” as he did so.
Pestilence walked off towards the big cooling cabinets, then came back with four pints of milk. “Famine keeps bugging me because I drank some of his. Apparently that’s a really big deal for some reason.” His breath was even worse than his everyday apocalyptic stench. “I don’t see why. I don’t think he even uses it.”
I scanned the barcode. Feeling that building a rapport with this guy would probably help my chances of survival, I fought the urge to chunder and tried to make smalltalk. “No luck with the Agony Aunt, then?”
“No.” He sounded glum.
“What did you write in about?”
“I’m trying to find a girlfriend, but it’s not going well. I’ve got, well…all the STDs. Frankly.”
“Yeah.” He drummed his soggy fingers on the countertop.
That hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped.
“Can I get these as well?” he asked, holding up a pack of throat lozenges.
“Sure!” I smiled, desperate to salvage what was probably my last chance not to get splattered into chunky salsa in an epic battle between good and evil that I really didn’t have that much riding on, if I was honest. “I guess you’ve got to be on top form just now, right?”
“Huh?” He looked at me blankly.
“You know. With the whole End of Days thing.”
“Oh, that!” He laughed, slapping his thigh with a horrible squelching sound. “That’s not happening for at least another six hundred million years.”
“Oh.” That certainly took the pressure off. “So why are you here?”
“Me and the guys are going to see Mamma Mia.”
I really hadn’t expected to hear that. “Sounds nice.”
“Yeah! Should be good. Well, see you around!”
As he rode off down the road, I took a look at the crate of putrefied apples by the door. Apocalypse or no Apocalypse, I really hoped I wouldn’t see him around.