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What is it that we find when we look back at the road we’ve walked along? That was the thought circulating within my mind as I forged this short flash fiction inspired by the photo prompt from The Angry Hourglass weekly flash fiction competition.

As with most of my writing these days, the photo took me down a darker path than that i initially wandered along (my word there seems to be a lot of path, road metaphors in this post) but I hope you still find some enjoyment in the tale. Oh and the tale/title was inspired by The The’s Infected, an album that has long cast its influence over me.

best

IR

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

 

Twilight of a Champion

The crack of bat upon ball momentarily silenced the gathered masses. Flint peered up out of the bullpen, watching the white meteor arc across the perfectly blue sky. He turned away as the swelling roar of the home crowd confirmed his fears.

Home Run!

Flint didn’t watch the runners jogging their way around, high fiving, punching the air. The bases had been loaded, that ball the final nail in his coffin.

He threw his mitt to the floor, walked away, down the corridor, past the locker room. Out of the stadium.

There was nothing else to do.

The next morning, sunlight blasted away the cobwebs spun by beer and whisky chasers. Head pounding, he dry swallowed two aspirin as he stared at the bloodshot eyes of the zombie lurking within the mirror. As Flint ambled down the hallway, the headlines that his mother framed when he was first drafted only worsened his mood. Headlines that declared him to be the Messiah, the boy who would one day become a Goliath destroying all.

Goliath, the name had stuck. As a young man he had enjoyed the sensation it created, the posters of him smiting down inferior rivals, wrecking havoc. Indeed in that first season he had set the strike out record for a rookie. He was a god amongst insects. Then, as injury and abuse clouded both body and mind, so it was his waistband, not his trophy cabinet, that filled out.

Now he was not even a player, just a fat old balding guy with a dodgy elbow and nothing else. By the front door stood old faithful, the bat that, as a kid in that dusty diamond, would smite everything thrown his way. He examined the initials scratched into the handle, how the polished wood still felt right in his grip, an extension of his very being.

They were waiting in the kitchen, the table laden with a breakfast that made his stomach boil with resentment. They were there, his young family, mocking his failure with their patronizing smiles.

He hefted the bat in his hand.

Maybe he just had one innings left in him after all.

The car was filthy, the hose barely displacing the red gunk that clung to the bumper. Liz adjusted the nozzle, focusing the blast. Her fingers trembling, whether with the coldness of the morning or guilt, she couldn’t tell.

The front of the car was a mess though, bonnet crumpled, lights smashed. Getting home from the pub had been tricky, her heart pounding in her mouth. Expecting blue lights to erupt behind her at any moment.

It was just a deer, leaping out of the shadows.

The fact that it had a childlike face was merely a trick of the night.

Another Friday passed, another entry into the weekly flash fiction competition that is held by those fine people at Flash! Friday. The photo prompt this week was John William’s painting of Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the theme was that of freedom. I tried to do something different with my writing and style this week, attempting to avoid my normal inclination towards dystopia and near future realities. I was somewhat surprised at the tale that finally evolved, sadly no placing this week, but I hope you find it of interest.

miranda_-_the_tempest_jww

Miranda — The Tempest. Painting by John William Waterhouse, 1916. Public domain photo.

 

The Storm Outside

The galleon plunged through the treacherous waters that, moments ago, had been tranquil. As white horses crested over the hull, Ferdinand pondered whether the vessel would survive the onslaught. The voices beyond the wall, erupting in anger, distracted him momentarily.

Another wave erupted, rocking the galleon to and fro. The ship was his father’s gift, a project for them to build together. In reality Ferdinand spent hours sat at the table, watching him curse and rage in frustration. Mother sat silently at his side, a dark moon floating under her eye.

Another wave, the voices were louder now. Ferdinand slid his head under the water, pulling the galleon down with him. Reducing the world to the sinking vessel and the bubbles rising from his nose.

Finally, the coldness of the bath forced Ferdinand to pull the plug. In the kitchen his mother was sat alone, her face ashen, tissue clenched in fist.

For Daddy had pulled the plug as well.

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The frantic knocking interrupted Phillipa’s Dr Who marathon. She hit pause, Tom Baker frozen in time. Escape that Time Lord!

The familiar silhouette was at the door. Phillipa opened, forced back as Percy burst in, running upstairs.

‘Oi, steady!’

Phillipa found him in the bathroom ransacking her medicine cabinet, vials and ointments clattering into the sink.

“Perce? Stop, you’re scaring me!”

No response. Percy was now emptying out the cupboard under the sink. Triumphantly retrieving a wad of sanitary towels.

Enough!

Phillipa hauled him up, ‘Percy, speak. What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?’

He turned, his crimson chin glistening.

The elephant was being unhelpful. Percy was tempted to turn it into a lion, but he had one of those already. He wrestled again with the beast, forcing the frayed trunk, attached by elastic, back to the front of its face.

The elephant hissed, awakening the hippo and tiger that till now, comforted by the warmth of the fire, had ignored their titanic struggle.

The elephant lashed out, drawing blood from Percy’s cheek.

‘Oi! That hurt’

Percy stormed off to the bathroom.

The elephant meandered to the fire, joining his comrades.

Hanging from its collar, a heart, inscribed with Dumbledore.

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“Any luck?”

Kate shook her head, rattling the box of dried cat food again. The back yard was bereft of any feline presence no matter what she did.

‘Look I’m sure he’ll be back when you come home from school.’

‘But its been two days mum, Mr Dumbledore has never been away that long. Ever!”

“Well we’re running late for school, so Mr Dumbledore will have to take care of himself. Now go get your shoes.”

Kate sat a little longer, rattling the box, listening out for the tinkle of Mr D’s bell.

Wondering where her best friend had gone.

Another Friday, another bash at the tempting weekly prompt supplied by the folks at Flash! Friday. Recently inspiration, writing and general life itself have lacked any spark. So I was delighted to find that this week I was accorded runner up position – behind that goliath of flash fiction Karl A. Russell  (you should check out his winning entry by the way!).

The photo prompt is below, the theme this week was clumsiness.

Hope you enjoy

IR

 

Shiva. CC photo by Raphael Goetter.

Shiva. CC photo by Raphael Goetter.

 

The Champ

Lights flashed as she took her position. The audience silent, transfixed by her feet precariously balanced on the thin strip beneath her. This day had been coming, all her mentors and friends had promised her as much. The inevitable outcome, forged from her single-minded pursuit of that perfect state.

Heart pounding, she raised her arms midway, taking in a breath. She was back in the old school gymnasium. The scent of talc, the complaint of equipment, Skye’s perfect ponytail bobbing to and fro in front. For years she followed in the wake of that hair, in the shadow of that girl. Well, where was perfect Skye now?

‘When you’re ready Madam’

Snapped back to reality she takes a step, then another. Maybe this time she’ll win.

Then a treacherous foot betrays her, ensnaring the other. The harsh bite of tarmac as she hits the ground.

Blue and red flashes across her vision as the officer stoops down, breathalyzer in hand.

 

Judges Comment

I love how this story lets our own preconceptions from the image lead us astray, then strengthens those preconceptions with the flash back moments, then turns it all on its head. The lights? Not a spotlight, but a cop car. The audience? Not thousands of fans but a cop. The inevitable, promised day? Not the shining Olympic moment but the low point on a self-destructive path.  Each of those moments draws us down the wrong path and yet entirely holds up even when we know where the story’s going while rereading.