Tag Archives: flash fiction

I Hunted Dragons Once

After Kitagawa Utamaro: detail of Pink Flowers with Butterflies and a Dragonfly (public domain)

I hunted dragons once. Courting danger,
Armed with nothing but a net, my hands, a jam jar,
I ventured onto wastelands alone, a stranger
To my primeval prey, a knight to war.

Winged beasties, flitting over hard-baked earth,
Seeking scrubby growth for landing strips:
I stalked them, watched them pause and barely stir,
Balanced on stalks of grass, suspended on the lips
Of pools (putrid, slick with slime like Grendel’s lair),
Their rainbow iridescence, blues and reds
And greens and mauves, upheld by filigreed air,
Their slender bodies capped by swivel heads.

I caught these wonders, cupped them in my hands,
Transferred them into glass-walled living rooms,
Grass-filled their glamorous future homelands,
Never thinking these would be their tombs.

I hunted dragons once, so wanting thus to be
Protective. But they wanted to be free.

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One-sided phone call

Why do you want me to be a 24-hour flash in the pan?

If not then I can see you on the way back from the airport.

Let’s do the same on the weekend.

You could have been a bit of a great book without saying why.

I mentioned that I was going to stop reviewing enjoyable books…


Predictive Text Flash Fiction

Not a sausage

It’s five, nearly time to return to the office.

He’s shown the last prospective buyers of the day the show home, and they seem possibles, even if a bit non-committal. She liked it, for definite, but it wasn’t his kind of thing. Obvs. Maybe she’d talk him into it.

Ease back into the car as you watch them drive off. Nope, body language not saying anything. Ah well, back to the office. Drive off the estate, past the last house, take a left towards town.

He suddenly takes another left down Shaftesbury Close. That house at the end, with the FOR SALE sign. It’s been on the books for a while. Lewis said the couple that last looked at it complained it was spooky, gave them the heebie-jeebies.

Let’s see what’s going on there it before I call it a day.

Russ parks the car in the driveway. Looks quiet in the cul-de-sac. He gets out. Nah, not that quiet, there’s a dog barking somewhere. He hasn’t got a key, but he’ll have a nosey round, see what he can see, find out what all this malarkey’s about.

Down the side alley between the house and garage. Could do with a bit of work, the pebbledash is cracking in places, grass growing between new cracks in the faux crazy paving concrete. Garden’s overgrown — not surprising, it’s been on the market for several months.

He peers in through the dingy kitchen windows. Nothing, not a sausage. Not a sausage, ha! It’s a kitchen, innit? Not a sausage, love it. Smiles at his own joke, and then …

He stops mid-step, craning his neck to listen intently. Is that a child crying? If only that damn dog would stop barking he could hear. Where is that bloody dog? And where’s that crying coming from?


Short story composed from a list with multiple choices. Elements chosen:
crying child — House for Sale — barking dog — 5.00 pm

Ten past ten

He was arrested as he walked by the shop window. It was full of clocks, their faces regarding him dispassionately. Each clock registered ten past ten. Their hands were raised in blessing, a gesture half enfolding, half disclaiming responsibility.

As he gazed at the display Time effected a rallentando.

He noticed the reflections of passers-by slowing to a pause. Is this how time ended, an elastic spring stretching out to the last moment of entropy?

He saw people’s faces suddenly turn towards his, as surprised and unbelieving as his. The window fell in on itself, the clocks leapt in shock.

He was wrong. It wasn’t Entropy at all.

It was the Big Bang.

_____

A piece reflecting on how time seems to slow down after a violent event while our consciousness labours to catch up 

Two Little Dickie Birds

When I was little our mum used to keep budgies. They were all colours – green, blue, yellow, white – but they were so noisy. My sister and I couldn’t stand it, chirpy-chirp-chirp all day, even at night until the cloth was put over their cage. But she loved them, our mum did, she talked to them, taught them sentences and rhymes, even recorded them on an old-fashioned tape recorder.

She gave them names, too. Georgie was one, and she taught it “Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry” – except it never learnt to say the last word and stopped with the words “and made them,” which was annoying.

Mostly they were called Joey. “Hello, Joey!” it would say to itself, and “Who’s a pretty boy, Joey?” This was very annoying.

After one of the Joey birds died she got a pair. She called them Peter and Paul, like in the nursery rhyme:

Two little dickie birds sitting on a wall,
One named Peter, one named Paul.

This didn’t make sense because one of them was a girl and should have been called Paula or Polly, but mum still called it Paul. Peter was blue and Polly (that’s what us kids called it) was green. Peter learnt to say

Fly away Peter, fly away Paul,
Come back Peter, come back Paul.

There was this trick our mum showed us when we were little, with bits of tissue attached to two fingers, but I thought it was silly teaching it to the budgies because I remember thinking it would give them ideas about flying away.

One day it happened. Peter managed to get out the back door while mum was hanging out the washing. It definitely wasn’t my fault. Anyway, mum started shouting and we all rushed out into the garden, me, my sister and my dad. “He’s flown into the trees behind the garages!” she said, and sure enough we could see a bit of blue halfway up a tree. Our dad got out a ladder but I could see he’d only frighten the bird so I said I’d go up it.

So I did go up, and at the top I had to leave the ladder and use branches for my hands and feet. I was just reaching out with my left hand, quietly saying, “Come back, Peter, come back,” when my dad chucked a stone. It hit the branch Peter was sitting on and he flew away. I don’t know why he threw the stone; maybe he was fed up with all the chirping about Peter and Paul flying away.

Anyway, soon after that Polly died – it was from a broken heart, mum said – and mum got another budgie, a yellow one. She called it Joey. It never learnt to talk, just chirped.

Dad seemed to spend more time in the garage after that, but I never found out why.


  • Written for a creative writing class homework on writing for children.
    Budgerigars are also known as parakeets

Restart

He sat at the laptop, fingers poised over the keyboard. Minutes passed before the proverbial lightbulb appeared above his head. He smiled, tapped out the first word . . . and the screen went blank. He’d forgotten the scheduled restart for updates. Now the impatient fingers were tapping the table. Pray inspiration wouldn’t run out before . . .


Flash Fiction Fifty Five: a short piece consisting only of 55 words, including the title

Fret

This morning, just like any morning, she looked out of the window as soon as she rose from bed. Just like any morning she could see the sea. Some days she could see for miles — almost to the mainland, she was sure – across the bright blue waters. Other times the ocean was grey, reflecting the storm clouds overhead, when the waves were like the team of off-white steeds she remembered leading her father’s racing chariot. But today she could barely see anything, so heavy was the sea-fret billowing towards the land. Nothing would be coming to harbour until the mist lifted, she was sure.

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What he’d learned

Not long ago – it may be yesterday – there were two children called Alice and Bran. Now Alice and Bran lived in the last house at the end of the estate on the outskirts of a large town. You won’t have heard of this town, so it probably doesn’t matter what it’s called. Every day, Alice and Bran’s parents drove to work in the town and Alice and Bran caught to bus to school. At the end of the day they all came back home, did what they had to do and then went to bed.

On the other side of their house was a wood. Alice and Bran were told never to go into the wood because it was dangerous and you could lose yourself, so they never did. Instead, if ever they went for a walk they took their dog Cerberus around the estate and then came straight back home. And so it went on for some time.

One day, Alice said to her mam and dad, “It’s a small wood, you could never get lost in there, and it doesn’t look dangerous. Why can’t we go in there?” But her parents said, “No, Alice! You must never go there, nothing good will come of it!” Though she asked more than once they would never give her any reason why they couldn’t go into the wood.

There came a day when it was the school holidays and her parents drove to work as usual and Alice and Bran were at home all on their own. “Shall we go for a walk round the estate with Cerberus?” suggested Bran, but Alice said, “Maybe later.” Well, later came, and Bran called to Alice and said, “Shall we go for that walk with Cerberus now?” But there was no answer. Bran knew then that Alice had gone into the wood.

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So it begins

graves

Things come in threes: he’s about to drop her off at the shops when he realises he’s left his phone at home, so can’t liaise about where and when to meet up.

Next, after he’s filled up the car with petrol, he discovers his wallet is in his other man-bag. At home.

After some frantic running around the money problem is solved when he spots her coming out of a shop. But later, returning from a visit to the local library, he finds his everyday glasses are no longer on his nose — and the library isn’t open for another two days.

“Is it nearly time for the pillow over the head?’ she murmurs, sultrily. And so it begins.

Year

cropped-wpid-img_20140918_210448.jpg

She drew the diary from her shoulder bag, and its weight seemed portentous.

Feeling a sudden chill she picked up the poker with her other hand and stirred the glowing coals, breathing new life into the fire.

As if on impulse, she deftly threw the book into the flames.

Take that, 2016! she thought, fiercely.

 

Flash Fiction Fifty Five, a story made up of 55 words including the title

A dream of death

mushroom_cloud

He’d never been close to death until then.

Yes, he’d seen dead bodies – his grandma, his father, a body in a road. True, this was death, but death as it had happened to others, deaths already tainted by premonitions of their passing or tinged with the innocent curiosity that characterises the young. This was not imminent death as it might apply to him: a moment of reckoning, a brief interval pointlessly proffered to put his house in order.

For those who’ve lived through it, even if memories have faded, the Cold War was a time of surviving on a precipice. Sometimes its edge visibly crumbled at one’s feet, as it did during the Cuba crisis. Sometimes there was just a feeling of vertiginous malaise watching grainy news footage of CND marchers, whether or not they were really cranks or communist stooges.

But one day death really came knocking at his door of his consciousness. It began with a huge hole opening up within his chest: this first inkling of dread was immediately followed by absolute certainty that this was the point of no return. There was rarely any sound – rather like newsreel and archive footage then – but instead a white light banishing all subtlety of shading or substance. The blinding was only temporary as the eye strained to make out a skyscape in which a growing and rapidly expanding organism gradually revealed itself. Sometimes it might be a roiling brain obscenely expanding upon its stem; or it might take the form of a superheated fungus, its cap haloed by multiplying lenticular clouds, the annulus a secondary fist about to fulfil its threat.

This dire image he knew as prelude to a period of slow, lingering extinction when mind and body succumbed to invisible poison. And as heavy limbs and numbed brain feebly but ineffectually struggled with debilitation and despair his being would rise up from the depths of lethargy, surfacing trapped by the sweat-soaked sheets. Awake he would relive the images, so real it was hard to believe they hadn’t just happened; and bit by bit the realisation would dawn that there had been a reprieve. Annihilation hadn’t yet occurred, even though it would only be a matter of time.

Time: it had been decades since he had last had the dreams. Somewhere around the eighties they had faded away like morning mist in a river valley. But surreptitiously, secretly, they had crept back closer and closer to his unsuspecting consciousness, conspiring with the worsening crises here, there and everywhere. And as atrocity after atrocity and bellicosity after animosity obtruded into current affairs his dreams became darker and his fears became stronger, until the certain knowledge of man’s inhumanity and unstoppable stupidity took physical form and death exploded into his vision and its dark cloud rolled once again.