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And it was still hot.”

Wren closed the relic bound by tape and adoration. Around her voices barked orders, feet stampeding across the ship’s deck. She sucked on her drip-tube, the bitter water of the condense-pouch as warm as the sun beating down.

Hands shading eyes, Wren gazed out at the various ships lying prostrate on the desert floor. Squat beasts, whose residents waited to see if Project Old Faithful, her father’s dream, would become reality.

Mind racing, Wren parted the fading pages. Max staring back from his sailboat beside a beautiful tree growing from blue-green water.

Wren had never seen a tree, let alone an ocean. Her father had once told her that air had come from trees not factories. That before the age of wastefulness forests had stretched across the world.

Wren lay back, feeling water under the ship, imagining the dark shade of trees cloaking the sky, spreading life back into the world.

Another sip, bitter warm water.

A klaxon wailed, footsteps falling silent.

Sitting up, Wren felt her father’s familiar grasp on her shoulders.

They waited, together in silence.

A dull thud off in the distance, then blue shards erupted, piercing the sky.

As her father’s tears fell onto her hair.

Photo courtesy of Dave Peticolas

Photo courtesy of Dave Peticolas

This week tried something different and entered into the 500 word flash fiction held by the incredible talents at Luminous Creatures Press. The photo prompt supplied was one of those that initially seemed to deny any sense of narrative or character, yet thankfully a tale finally emerged!

Hope you enjoy

IR

The Eternals

‘They are quite beautiful aren’t they father? I mean … I always knew how pretty they were, but seeing them here … I …’

Her father’s fingers closed around Amelia’s hand, his eyes brimming with pride. Stood at the crossroads of The Avenues of The Nation the ivory compositions on their ornate plinths stretched outwards: North, South, East and West. They had spent most of the morning ambling down the immaculate avenues, examining each composition, seeking respite from the sun under the dark span of ancient trees. Until they found themselves before The Trinity, commissioned to mark the end of the War of Suffering. Stephen knelt in submission, Francesca and Ann looking off towards the future. It seemed slightly unreal to see it in the flesh, an image that had been in every textbook Amelia had studied at school. A hundred years, yet their beauty, their youthfulness was untarnished by time.

‘Yes my darling, beautiful, ah …’ father’s fingers delved into his waistcoat pocket, retrieving his chirruping pocket watch, ‘it seems time has caught up with us, curtain calls.’

Backstage, the pandemonium of the arena was in stark contrast to the serenity outside. Amelia pulled on the elegant ivory dress adorned with lilies, a sequined covered parasol instead of a hat. Her schoolmistress, Mrs Fotheringham, had chosen the outfit for her, as she had chosen Amelia to represent the school. Her class had accompanied her home that afternoon, the bright crimson envelope clasped tight in her hand.

That evening, when father had returned from work she had watched the tears roll down his face as he read the letter by the waning light of the whale oil lantern. Later, when his emotions were in check, he had sat beside her bed, telling her how her mother had always dreamed of being chosen, of visiting the capital, of standing in the Arena of the Immortals.

Yet she hadn’t been chosen, too plain they had told her, uninteresting of face and mind.

If only she was here to see her little girl now.

The backstage organiser ushered Amelia to the wings, in time to watch the girl before her, emeralds in her hair. The theme this year was The Sirens, another trinity composition. They had walked past the pedestal, located towards the end of the Northern Avenue. Her father had told her that he didn’t mind if she was overlooked, yet if she was chosen he would visit her every year, with a bunch of lilies. That she would know he was there, that it didn’t hurt, that she would be beautiful forever.

The light blinded her eyes as Amelia, smiling broadly, stepping with confidence and poise, walked forward. Weeks spent pacing the scarred wood of the school hall, books stacked on head, the lick of Mrs Fotheringham’s riding crop as motivation. All that work and pain, it was worth it just for this moment.

Amelia spun, gracefully twirling amongst the spotlights that sparkled across her glittering parasol.

Dreaming of becoming eternal.

If you have a moment you may well feel like popping over to see the folk at With Painted Words who’ve kindly featured my dystopian tale The Gang this month.

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The prompt was the photograph above and my original idea focused on a girl with an American Beauty obsession and her platonic male geek friend who had designs of a darker nature. Yet in the end it ended up being something completely different.

The joy of writing I suppose!

Hope  you enjoy.

Best IR

Red Umbrella is used courtesy of SJ Franks

Damn I’m getting far too addicted to writing flash … like some virtual crack head I find myself trawling blog upon blog looking for another hit, somewhere else to get high. Anyway I subjected those poor folk at Finish That Thought to a submission this week, coming second (joint I should add) …

Their prompt mechanic is taking the beginnings of a sentence, in this case “fingers trembling she slowly unrolled the ancient document”, and taking the narrative onwards from there. 500 word limit etc and I really enjoyed the idea it prompted …

IR

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Lost in Translation (497 words)

Fingers trembling she slowly unrolled the ancient document, a small yellowing page, placing it carefully onto the table. Dust spiraled lazily off of the dry page, instigating a coughing fit that echoed back and forth between the barren stacks of the deserted library.

Astrid took a swig from her canteen, quelling the rebellion within, before returning her attention to the page. As she had suspected the faded print was discernible yet, as she had also feared, unfamiliar. She cursed Max for his hot headedness, if he hadn’t threatened the hermit whose treasure this was, if Max hadn’t fired off that round trying to persuade the hermit to translate. If the resultant ricochet hadn’t split the Hermit’s head apart.

If ….

Well that was the past, like Max now was. Astrid had last seen him walking back towards the wasteland. His tail between his legs, the gun in her possession. She knew that by now she would have convinced the Hermit, lured the secret of the page out of him.

Astrid willed the black lines on the page to form into something even her basic grasp of English could understand. Whatever it meant was important, the Hermit’s behavior told her as much, hiding it within a thin steel tube, coveting it, protecting it. Whatever the words meant, they offered something worth dying for.

The toll of weeks spent traversing the wasteland threatened to overwhelm her. The constant battle against heat, thirst and brigands had almost thwarted their journey here. Astrid rested her head on the table, giving in to the tiredness.

#

When she awoke a new day had dawned, Astrid sprung to her feet, revolver drawn. Yet the library was empty, just the page on the table and the rotten corpses of books decomposing on the floor. She was gutted to see that the markings still made no sense, the truth tantalizingly out of her reach.

Astrid paced between the stacks, eating a ration pack, working out her options. Returning to Big Smoke was foolish, finding someone to translate very unlikely. Suddenly Astrid found herself on the floor, tripped by a book sticking up out of a pile. She was about to throw it away in anger when she realised that the cover had markings like the page. She focused hard on the English words she recognised alongside: Ch …I … Nese … to … Eng …Lish.

This was it! She ran back to the table, fingers tracing the black marks: 這是一個虛構的工作。名,人物和地方的產品 …

By the time she had finished the sun had fallen and risen again. Ration packs lay around her feet as for the hundredth time her fingers traced the translation she had carved into the wooden table.

She wanted to scream in frustration. What did it mean? What was the secret? She read again:

“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters and places are the products …

image courtesy and property of James Charlick

Pleasant surprise of the week, well aside from the heat of summer finally shifting, was my hastily thrown together entry this week for Flash Friday coming second. Really enjoyed the photo prompt and time travel theme, and thanks to all the other submitters for providing some intriguing responses …

So here’s the photo prompt …

wawona_tree_road

And here’s the piece.

Traveling Without Moving

I seek solace within ancient tales, of sap and water, root and growth.

Why?

Blame the foolish ones. I left the time they began journeying through me. Cavalcades of foot and horse, cart and limp, that eventually became just drips and drops of soon to be dead things. A shuffling column of despair, toiling through the hole they cut within me in the time we towered like sentinels.

A scar, marking their civilised progress. Their achievement as a culture. Of stone and blade, of fire and linearity.

Foolish things, of minute lives and smaller understanding.

Now I choose to exist within rhizome memories. I become the first root that tasted water; the trunk that soared, the branch that colonised space.

Better that than the reality of now, of withering roots and dead rain. Of endless winters and ash filled skies.

The final achievement of the foolish.