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 2019, Day 19
Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood was walking through the forest towards her grandmother’s cottage when she saw a wolf coming the other way along the path. Her mother had warned her to be careful of wolves, and so she stepped off the trail and hid in the shade of a sturdy conifer.
But evidently she did not step quickly enough, for the wolf called out: “Who’s there? Are you the Big Bad Wolf?”
This seemed a very strange question indeed, and since she had been spotted anyway Little Red Riding Hood returned to the path.
“No,” she said. “I thought you were—the Big Bad Wolf, I mean.”
“Oh!” the wolf laughed. “No, though people get us mixed up all the time. I’m the Big Band Wolf, you see, and this is my Big Wolf Band.” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 12
Once upon a time, there was a busy and prosperous town. Whitewall was its name, for every building from the mayor’s great house to the shepherds’ simple cottages was built of stone that shone white as snow in the sun. On one side of the town was a deep quarry, whence the stone was taken, and on the other a vast forest with an ancient pool. The town could not expand into the quarry, which was a solid barrier, and would not expand into the forest, which was held sacred, and so as it grew the buildings formed a line against the trees. In this way too, seen from afar, the place resembled a wall all of white.
But though so constrained, the town grew great, and the quarry still greater, and in time the sound of steel against stone grew loud enough to reach the forest’s pool. In this pool there lived a great worm that had slumbered too long for any to recall that it existed. In days of old, the heathen peoples of that place had revered it as a god, but it grew tired and they forgetful, so that only that vague memory of the pool as holy place remained. But the workmen woke the worm, and the worm remembered.
“Who has woken me from my slumber?” the worm demanded. “Who will serve me in these strange new days?” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 15
In times of uncertainty, it was the custom of the clans to place their idols in the temple on the mountain, and seek answers from the gods. The clan of the river brought an idol of gold. The clan of the forest brought an idol of wood. The clan of the hillside brought an idol of stone.
“Almighty gods,” the three oracles called in unison. “We wish to know which of our clans you hold in highest esteem. Leave your mark upon the idol so that we may know.”
This troubled the gods, for they knew that to favour one clan above the others was likely to breed war among them. However, to give no sign would let the matter fester, and likely breed war still. The gods deliberated late into the night. It was decided that they would send a storm to smite the temple, and make their displeasure known.
At midnight the oracles saw the lightning strike the spire, and at dawn they visited the ashes of the temple.
The idol of gold had melted all across the floor, and from this the oracle of the river surmised that her clan had been chosen, because the idol had been made one with the temple.
The idol of wood had been burned away completely, and from this the oracle of the forest surmised that her clan had been chosen, because the idol had been taken up to heaven.
The idol of stone remained upon the altar, and from this the oracle of the hillside surmised that her clan had been chosen, because the idol had been spared.
All three oracles brought their news down the mountain, and all three clans were satisfied.
It wasn’t quite what the gods had had in mind, but, they supposed, it got the job done.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
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Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 28
Long ago, when the forest was young, a fox was walking amongst the trees. He had not been walking far when he came across a little frog croaking by a puddle. Immediately, the fox seized the frog, and would have swallowed it down in one gulp if the frog hadn’t spoken.
“You may as well let me go, fox,” said the frog. “I can make myself far too big for you to eat.”
“Go on, then,” said the fox, “show me.”
So the frog gulped in many breaths to swell itself, and it did indeed look too big to eat.
But the fox saw how it was done. “This is nothing but air,” scoffed the fox, and he swallowed the frog breath and all.
The fox had not walked much farther when he came across a little squirrel nibbling pinecones on the path. Immediately, he seized it, and would have swallowed it down in one gulp had the squirrel not spoken.
“You may as well let me go, fox,” said the squirrel. “I can make myself far too big for you to eat.”
“Go on, then,” said the fox, “show me.”
So the squirrel bristled up its fur, and it did indeed look too big to eat.
But the fox saw how it was done. “This is nothing but fluff,” scoffed the fox, and he swallowed the squirrel fur and all.
The fox had not walked much farther than this when he came across a tiny new butterfly just emerged from its cocoon. This creature the fox did not even need to seize, for it was still too frail to escape. But the butterfly saw the fox approach, and it spoke.
“You may as well let me go, fox,” said the butterfly, “I can make myself far too big for you to eat.”
At this, the fox laughed. “You are almost too small to be worth eating! How can you become too big?”
So the butterfly flipped open its wings, and suddenly it was not a butterfly, but two huge eyes staring back at the fox, who now felt very small indeed.
“How!?” cried the fox, confused and afraid, and he fled back the way he came, terrified that the butterfly—with its great hunting eyes—would come and eat him. At night, sometimes you can hear him crying still: “How!? How!?”