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The silver coin spun in the moonlight, lions and nobility blurring into a mythical beast. Tabitha snatched it from the air, her patron disappearing into the East End’s gloomy labyrinth. The coin magicked into the folds of her emerald satin dress, joining the eight other crowns already earned tonight. One more and Tabitha could retreat to Old Sally’s, a glass of port for her soul and balm for her sores.

“Evening young lady.”

Moonlight traced over an immaculately tailored suit, top hat and gloves. The face was old but handsome, fine lines echoed by a fine moustache. In one hand the gent held a suitcase.

“Somethin take yer fancy?”

“Indeed, though not your undoubtedly welcoming embrace, I’m a collector by trade.”

“Collector?”

“Broken things, discarded things. Would you care to see?”

Tabitha nodded, the gent keeling, locks clicking. As he prised the lid open silver light spilled out, filling the alleyway. Tabitha moved closer, inside, lying on a blanket of darkness was the moon.

“Is it?”

He nodded encouraging her closer, Tabitha leaning in, hand reaching out, wanting only to caress this pearl of lustrous silver.

A push in the small of her back, suddenly Tabitha was falling, spiraling into endless darkness.

As locks snapped back into place.

Scuffed boots trod across the cracked arid group. Max head bowed, let the rhythm of each step carry him onwards. Pausing only to lift his head toward the tree far off in the distance. Under whose shade the saviour would be waiting,

Hobbling with each step, dirt and dust coating his ski, Max cursed his toil. The sky was barren aside from the sun that burnt his mind as much as his skin. The shade of the tree when he reached it was as cold as the freshest mountain pool.

The man was there, the hood of his dark robe covering all but his mouth. Max waited as the grin slowly peeled back, revealing tombstone teeth, haphazardly leaning one against the other.

“Romans 3:23?”

Max ran his dry tongue over the crumbled remains of a white picket fence.

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

The man nodded, Max’s belly growling as he watched a skeletal hand reach up into the dark canopy of the tree. White thin fingers grasping at a light bulb. Plucking it down.

“Feast my son,”

#

Max awoke, the crack pipe still clenched in his fist. Scorched black by years of devotion.

Before long the bulb glowed orange once more.

AL-Z1-M#R

The sand splayed out before Zoe, shards of glass sparkled like jewels amidst the undulating dunes. Poseidon roared again from his lair, a frustrated wail that filled the world. Dropping to her knees Zoe plucked at the glass, a scarlet bead bursting into existence as a barbed thorn pierced her skin. Waves rolled down over black clouds as Zoe sucked at crimson. Meanwhile Poseidon thrashed and wailed, oblivious to her pain.

He hadn’t meant it, how could he when the Furies had cast their influence so deep into his very soul. All Zoe could do was perch on the edge of the storm watching his once noble face contorted by confusion and pain. When he had grabbed at the hourglass, demanding to know where she was, the love of his life, the giver of existence to Zoe, she had tried to calm him. To assure him that everything was going to be okay.

He had screamed in disbelief at the revelation, holding aloft this revered relic whose grains had counted Mother’s daily writing ritual. When blue skies were omnipresent and they were together.

In dismay he had cast the hourglass down, showering the floor in glass and time.

Time, which had eroded his consciousness like sand.

The Return

The compartment was empty apart from Astrid, Grandfather and the echoes of the others who had sat here before. Outside, brown and grey stone merged into green fields, as blurred memories rose of her breath clouding vision and sculpting fragile hearts onto glass.

The carriage swaying, drumbeats of rail under wheel. Interrupted only by places that Grandfather spoke fondly of – Bristol – Taunton – Exeter, Astrid watched grey faces alight into a world devoured by grey rain.

Near their destination the sun banished the gloom. Astrid alighted onto the platform, the seaside town of Torquay. Holding tightly to Grandfather she navigated their way through the bustle of tourists and commuters.

The beach wasn’t far from the station, the world ending at the border of red sand and dark water. Astrid stood at the edge, time slowing as she watched white horses gallop, salt coating her skin.

Then she let Grandfather go.

Just as he had made her promise she would.

Meat, stacked in columns within the village larder; the interior as bitter as the winter that lay beyond the door. Stepping outside, his breath a chain of clouds, William hefted another crimson-flecked sack from the wagon onto his shoulders.

The contents smelled reassuringly of jasmine and peppermint. Unwittingly William pressed his face into the sackcloth.

Snapshots erupted within William’s mind: summer meadows, golden hair, soft lips, whispered desires.

Tabitha.

Her fault.

Too slow, too trusting.

He had Frannie now, plain conniving Frannie.

Tears spilled, Will understood this was grief, the elders had warned it would come.

Yet he mustn’t forget to remain grateful.

For wasn’t he one of the free?

So this weekend had the odd moment to grab sometime to write flash for the virtual competitions that linger out there (wherever out there is). Was incredibly pleased/shocked/stunned etc to find my 500 word short entered into Luminous Creatures Press‘ Summer of Short Stories taking first place.

The prompt this week was this rather satisfied creature:

Flash-fic-week-10

The photo prompt at first left me staring at a blank screen, a lack of inspiration when I then perused Karl A Russell’s entry (that you should read along with the other entrants, one story in particular features your erstwhile scribe as a dog!).

Thankfully however the block faded away and I found myself in a Terry Gilliam-esqe realm of bureaucracy, waiting rooms and the everyman. Shades of Gilliam’s wonderful Brazil and 12 Monkeys just kept popping into my mind as I wrote.

Anyway hope you enjoy

Ir

 

Return Ticket

“Number 11232242, please go to desk 48.”

Felix lifted himself up from the plastic orange chair that had adhered itself to his skin. Legs complaining, he set off across the vast room, past rows of bright orange chairs, each occupied by a resident clutching a numbered ticket. Envious glances marked his progress across the hall. Felix didn’t care, he was just glad that his number had finally been called.

Behind the polished glass of the cubicle was an attractive young woman. Felix felt his heart sink as his nemesis stirred in his trousers. They were always attractive and young, no matter his self-delusion he knew they saw him only as the balding overweight middle-aged man he knew he was. Her attention was focused on a computer as he approached, Felix went to cough politely but a raised manicured finger halted him mid intake.

Her fingers danced over the keyboard, she was blonde. Why always blonde?

Fucking hell he felt so horny.

“Boarding details?”

“Ah, somewhere and please, call me Felix …”

The look back, a marvelous combination of disdain and boredom stopped him midsentence.

“In the chute …”

“The chute?”

Another malevolent glare, a finger pointing to the brass tube beside the glass.

“Take a tube, put your documents inside.”

Felix clumsily stuffed his documents into the small canister, then watched it disappear up into the ceiling.

Moments later and with an elegant whoosh it dropped onto the desk in front of the girl.

“So …” She perused his documents, “ hmm, you’ve requested a return.”

“Yes, well when the gentleman at arrivals had explained my options, to be honest a return seemed a great deal.”

“Gentleman?”

“Tall, beard … very helpful … handing out brochures.”

Another raised finger; Felix dutifully fell silent as she picked up her phone. Her voice cheerfully melodic as the other person answered.

‘Hi, this is Claire from processing. Sorry seems Peter’s at it again … I know its just we’ll never hit our quotas if he … excellent okay, yeah and you.’

She put the phone down, her warmth fading immediately.

“Well if it was me you’d be getting the standard eternal darkness package, yet seems my hands are tied, so what were you after?”

“Well I was hoping for something a bit more athletic, sporty, I mean it’d be great if I was into running maybe?”

“”Sporty … well lets see, ah yes seems I have something suitable” her eyes lit up at the information on her computer screen, “if you could just place your hand firmly within the square etched on the glass.

Felix lifted his hand. The glass was cold.

“Will this hurt?”

“Probably.”

She hit a button.

White light.

Felix was running across a field, tongue lolling, heart racing, four legs sprinting in unison. He sped through the thick grass that brushed against his fur, a perfect blue sky above him.

A young blonde woman waiting for him, leash in hand.

Maybe this was going to work out after all.

 

Judge’s Comment

Image Ronin’s masterful humor is on display in “Return Ticket,” the story of a man who chooses reincarnation with lovely results. I love the carefully drawn details in this story: the plastic orange chair that sticks to skin and that raised manicured finger of the woman deciding his fate. Such well-placed details draw the reader further into the story just like a cinematic close-up—a perfect technique for flash fiction. Felix makes a great end, returning to life as dog. I’d choose the same thing.