Homeward Bound

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“Go to the city,” they said. “You must if you want to make it. Think of the inspiration you’ll find. The audience you’ll get!”

Inspiration is plentiful and dreary, audience though… not so much.

People are rushing by, eyes cast down. Sometimes someone lingers, having a smoke or staring into their phone, always far enough not to make contact. The wind is harsh in his regular spot between the museum and the mall, sweeping the tunes away. His fingers are sore, the solos sluggish in the cold, and the few coins in the coffer won’t even pay for dinner.

He doesn’t want another lonely dinner. He just wants them to listen. Sometimes he wants to scream.

“Go to the city,” they said. “Your music has power. It’s special. You’ll make it!”

It has power, yes. Power nurtured by the hills of his homeland, by the faces of family and the wisdom of friends. The city, that’s just concrete canyons and indifference.

He will not make it. He doesn’t want to. He will go home.


Written for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of March 21, 2017
173 words
Photo-prompt by Sunayana MoiPensieve.

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Words

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She sang for her daughter when she didn’t want to sleep. Songs of beauty and strength and freedom, like her mother had done it and her grandmother before that.

The first time they caught her, she came back without her tongue. Now she hummed as she sat at her daughter’s bed. The words were in their heads – in hers, and in the child’s.

The second time they caught her, they cut her vocal cords. They had stolen the music, and she only drummed the rhythm on her knees.

But the words were still there. One day, her daughter would sing.


Written for the 99-words-challenge on the Carrot Ranch.

March 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) go down the rabbit hole to a place where art is not allowed. It could be a small story or a dystopian vision. Is there a power struggle over art? Would the general public miss it? Is the end of art a natural evolution? Go where the prompt leads.

A proper Den

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“Daughter! What is this?”

Tilly was dozing through the humid midday heat, curled around her litter, and jerked awake when the old vixen peeked through the hole in the metal wall.

“Mom!”

“Congratulations,” the fox said curtly, nodding at the cubs. “And now pack up. I know a proper den.”

“This is a proper den.” Tilly lifted her head defiantly.

Her mother tapped a claw on the metal, whiskers twitching with indignation to the harsh clank. “No, it’s not. It’s newfangled nonsense. And dangerous.” She eyed the sharp edges of the frame with a suspicious frown. “And our family has always …”

Tilly interrupted her. “… lived under an oak, I know,” she hissed, “or at least in a respectable badger set. I don’t care.”

“Exactly,” her mother said, unimpressed with her daughter’s ire.

“But it’s been here forever. Longer than you! It’s safe. And clean.” Only some moss had moulded with the torn filling of the cushion she lay on. “I like it.”

The vixen sighed and looked around again. Perhaps her daughter had a point?


Written for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of March 14, 2017
174 words

Photo-prompt by Tim Livingston / The Forester Artist.

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Honeymoon

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50 years. Her grandparents were married for half a fucking century, and now they spent their second honeymoon on a mediterranean cruise. The card was from Nice, oozing sunshine and happiness.

Acrid bile gathered in her throat as she took the next paper from the pile of mail.

A letter from her lawyer. No divorce in her circle had ever been peaceful, and hers wouldn’t be either.

Three years ago, she had believed – and sworn an oath – that it would be forever. But nothing was forever, not for her generation.

If Paul wanted a war, he would get a war.


Written for the 99-words-challenge on the Carrot Ranch.

March 9, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story. It can be between a couple before, during or after the honeymoon. Or it can refer to a honeymoon period. Go where the prompt leads.

Transformation

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The surface of the slag heap is glassy and adamant, matter from the bowels of the earth. After the trucks leave, it becomes quiet.

A gush of wind dumps a tiny dandelion parachute, and the grain rolls into a crack in the surface. It settles to wait; the rain will bring a drop of water to fill the little crevice, the wind will bring dust and soil to feed it, the sun will spend its warmth. Enough to sprout and grow.

Its flower will feed the bees, and its roots will be strong enough to burst the stone.


Written for the 99-words-challenge on the Carrot Ranch.

March 2, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include slag in a story. Slag is a glass-like by-product of smelting or refining ore. Slag is also used in making glass or can result from melting glass. It can be industrious or artistic. Go where the prompt leads.

Embers

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He put it off for years, the conversation they should’ve had – the one about failures and disappointments, violations and damage that would never heal, about what went wrong for decades, the one conversation that would hurt and change them forever.

He put it off even further when he realised that he wasn’t the only one with valid accusations, that they were both trapped in a spiral of violence where every step and every kick seemed as justified as inevitable.

Perhaps they could have done it, be honest and vulnerable for once – but they were stuck in delay and complacency, in meaningless birthday cards and fleeting once-per-month telephone calls, gotten out of the way as fast as possible, desperately trying not to reveal anything substantial and every subtle barb a little victory.

Back in this house that he hasn’t entered for years, looking at her body under a white sheet, skin waxen and colourless and thin hair draped artfully over her forehead, he realises that she was an old woman – old and frail and exhausted.

He’s ignored her ageing to be able to ignore his own – only by pretending that she was still the same overextended, ruthless, uncompromising woman she had been decades ago, he could also pretend that deep inside he was still the youth with fire and dreams.

Now, only the embers of regret glow under the surface; he should have returned earlier.


Written for Six Sentence Stories, cue “Return”.

Arrival

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She’s making friends. Already.

It’s been only a few weeks. So little time, so many changes. The people are strange, but at least they don’t shoot at us.

My little girl goes to school. It’s the law. And now she brought home a boy. Where she’s dark, he’s fair – blond and pale like all of them, grey eyes lowered. She pulls him inside. “This is Nils. We’ll do homework together.” He looks confused, uncomfortable.

She changes to Swedish, gestures. “My dad,” I guess she says. He bows, stretches out a hand.

“Hallå,” I say. The only word I know.


Written for the 99-words-flash-fiction-challenge on the Carrot Ranch:

February 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a migration story. It can imagine the dusty or arctic trails of the frontiers past or look to the travel across the galaxy. What issue about modern migration bans might influence an artistic expression in a flash? Migrate where the prompt leads you.

Just scary

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“It’s not really dangerous, Johnny,” Grit says. She sounds certain, a little exasperated, but her grip on his hand is firm. “They just want to scare us.”

In their back, the meadow is flooded in sunlight, so bright it drowns out the colours. Before them, a narrow path leads beneath the canopy, curving out of sight after a few steps.

“Danger, keep out!” the sign says, black letters on flaking white background, the red border stark contrast to the hazy green beyond. Grit regards it for a moment, then makes the first step into the shadows. The chill is a relief.

“‘m hungry,” Johnny mumbles, hours later. He still holds her hand, trusting.

“Soon,” she says.

The clearing smells like Christmas – cinnamon, ginger, vanilla. The hut is made of cookies and confections.

“See?” Grit says. “They just want to scare us.”

Johnny smiles. His sister is always right.


First published on http://adhocfiction.com/
Prompt: “sign”
max. 150 Words