Flash Fiction Challenge: Curiosity…

I apologise for the late post today. I have been busy with flash fiction and short stories over the past week. My short story is destined for submission to an Australian anthology, the flash fiction (in this case under 1000 words) was a challenge issued by Chuck Wendig on his blog, Terrible Minds . This week's theme was to 'Roll randomly on the three tables below, and you will select three things that must be contained within your story.'  Why not? I rolled the dice. The result -
  • Table 1: A strange bird
  • Table 2: A vampire
  • Table 3: A shoebox of full of photographs.
Challenge accepted. Needs more work but a good start for a quick challenge. 967 words in all. Just made the limit. Phew.

Curiosity... by Karen J Carlisle (c) 2015

Fixer-upper? That was an understatement. No wonder the old house had been so cheap! If Sam had known the place needed so much work, she wouldn't have bought it. She glanced at the plastic bags piled up in the corner of the lounge room. It had taken all day but order was finally being restored. Maybe the old house had some life left in it yet? She let out a long sigh and leaned on the wall next to the fireplace. The panel moved under her shoulder. Click. A secret door? These old houses are full of surprises. Sam opened the panel to reveal a hidden cupboard, reaching all the way to the ceiling. She craned her neck to scan each dust-caked shelf. Nothing.  She reached for the top shelf. Too high. Sam returned to the dim hallway to fetch the small step ladder. Daylight was fading; she should return tomorrow, when the electrician had reconnected the power. She glanced up into the mirrors that ran along the wall. The cupboard beckoned. Sam checked her watch and bit her lip. Just enough time to check that last shelf. She grabbed her old camping lantern, flicked it on, and returned to the lounge room. She climbed the ladder and slid the lantern on the top shelf, above her. Still too short. Next time I bring the full-sized ladder. Sam raised herself on the balls of her feet and stretched her fingers toward the back of the deep shelf. Her fingertips brushed against something. A box? She leaned forward, edging her finger around the box until her fingernail hooked into a thin slit at the corner. Caw, Caw! Something flapped around her head. Sam sucked in her breath. Her entire body tensed. She threw her hands up for protection, as her head jerked forward, smashing her forehead into the edge of the shelf. The ladder toppled. The light faded.

 ***

Sam sat up slowly and cursed under her breath. The room floated around her. Muffled sounds broke though the silence. She shook her head, trying to halt the spinning. Big mistake! The room warped around her. Every one of her internal organs somersaulted. In unison. A chill crept along her limbs. She swallowed the vomit that ascended in her throat. Remain calm. A few drops of blood dripped onto her apricot blouse. She wiped her forehead. Not much blood. Probably from hitting the shelf. Check for other damage. A torn sleeve,  jeans covered in dust. It could have been worse. Sam scanned the room. The ladder lay beside her - an old shoebox crumpled under one bent leg.  Photographs were strewn over the floor. Some were very old hand-tinted, sepia photos. There were family portraits - a father, a mother and a boy in Victorian clothing; a few photos of just the mother and the boy, dressed in black; and several photos of the child and a strange bird. They documented the boy growing into a man - always accompanied by the strange, black bird sitting mid-air beside him. Caw! A large black bird sat watching her. It cocked its head and blinked. It shimmered for a moment before solidifying. Sam rubbed her eyes. The bird remained. Watching. I must have hit my head harder than I thought. The photos swirled around her and plopped back onto the floor. I didn't feel a breeze. Sam rested her head in her hands. Definitely concussion. She scanned the photos around her. Thin handwriting covered the back of one: Donovan - aged 16. Sam reached for the photograph. "I am sorry to intrude." Sam spun around to face the hall. A few seconds later her head caught up. A shadowy figure stood in the doorway, silhouetted by the reflections of the fading sunset in the mirrors behind him. "The door was open. The agent said you would be here." An English accent. The man stepped into the light of the fallen lantern. He glanced past her. His eyes widened. "Oh, can I help?" Sam pulled herself to her feet, leaning on the fireplace to keep her balance. "Yes, sorry about the mess. I am still cleaning up, Mr...?" "Just call me Vinnie." The man took a step closer. He looked familiar. He was tall, dark and well-dressed, like he had just come from a wedding - or a funeral.  Sam glanced back at the photos. "Oh dear, are you a relative?" "Yes, my family lived here for a long time." "I am so sorry. The funeral was today, wasn't it?" The man nodded. "Your grandfather?" she asked. " Son, actually." Now Sam's hearing was playing tricks on her too. She rubbed her temples and slowly shook her head. The light-headedness had returned. She felt queasy. Vinnie's face blurred. "You look like you need some help," said Vinnie. "I fell off the ladder. I think I have concussion." "I think you need to rest for a while, to adjust." Sam stumbled into the hall. Vinnie followed. Caw! There was a flutter of wings in the corner of her eye. The bird landed on Vinnie's shoulder. He didn't flinch. Obviously a figment of my imagination. They walked down the hall towards the bedroom. Sam glanced into the mirrors. The bird followed her, sitting stately on ... Nothing. It bobbed mid-air, just behind her. Sam turned to Vinnie. He smiled. The strange bird blinked back at her, from his shoulder. She checked the mirror again. No Vinnie. "You're a..." "Don't worry, Miss Samantha. We will look after you." Sam felt cold. The light-headedness returned. She searched the mirror and saw nothing but the bird bobbing beside her. She squinted, trying to focus on the fading lantern in the other room. A body lay on the floor, dressed in an apricot blouse and dusty jeans.

 THE END.

 

December Flash Friday, the Fourth.

I hope you all had a splendid day yesterday (or today for those behind Australia's time zone). Here is my gift to you - my last offering for this month. I had a immense fun writing this one. The limit was 700 words.

“AT AUNT ENID’S”

by Karen J Carlisle (c) 2013

Lucy was not fond of visiting Aunt Enid. Her aunt was nice enough but had never really embraced the electronic age. She had no internet access or pay television. Lucy always got bored. Use your imagination, her aunt would say. Reality can be so much more exciting. Aunt Enid had a passion for garden gnomes. It was almost pathological. She collected them from everywhere. There were small cute ones, large ugly ones and novelty ones with axes in their heads. They hailed from England, Germany and local garage sales. Lucy picked her way through the gnome collection which stood in formation over the entire front yard. They all stared at her. Or was that her imagination? “Mind the gnomes, dear!” yelled her aunt.

#

Every night Aunt Enid would go out to Bingo, leaving Lucy to entertain herself. Tonight she hugged Lucy as she left, yet again. “Are you sure that you won’t be bored?” asked Aunt Enid. Lucy pictured herself sitting in the Town Hall, amongst the cardigan-clad brigade, marking off Bingo cards in an effort to win a basket of goodies. She winced. “I’ll find something to do,” she said. Her aunt smiled and disappeared up the garden path. There are only so many things that can be done to stave off boredom. Lucy had already read the contents of her aunt’s bookshelf on previous visits. It had not taken long to re-organise them into alphabetical order. After a few hours of reality TV and repeats, Lucy’s brain grew restless. She wandered to the front window and proceeded to name each and every gnome in her aunt’s collection. Clouds darkened the sky. The wind caught the rose bushes. A branch lashed out knocking over one of Aunt Enid’s precious gnomes. Lucy braved the brewing storm to retrieve the gnome. He looked so sad lying with one ceramic arm shattered on the concrete path. Aunt Enid will be so upset, she thought as she returned to the house with the retrieved pieces.

#

It was getting late when Lucy heard strange noises from the street. The wind had stopped a few hours earlier, yet the front picket fence was shaking. The rose bushes were not. Through the window, Lucy saw strange shapes writhing in the street light, just beyond the fence perimeter. “Ash wood,” said Aunt Enid in her ear, startling Lucy who had not heard her come home. “It is good for protection but it won’t hold them for long.” Aunt Enid struck her walking cane on the floor. It glowed. The air reverberated as a wave pulsed outward. Lucy struggled to hold her balance. There was a cracking sound from the front yard. Then another. The picket fence buckled as the shapes rolled over it and onto the lawn. The gnome guards took a step forward in unison. Those with fishing rods now brandished swords in their place. Axes were removed from heads and were now pointed towards the shadows. Each gnome rushed the intruders in turn, demolishing them from below. As each row of gnomes fell, another took its place. With military precision they fought on until finally the dark shapes dissolved into a grey mist. “Open the door,” said Aunt Enid. Lucy unlatched the door, threw it open then clung to the wall beside it, leaving a clear line of sight. Aunt Enid held her cane at arm’s length and blew gently along it, towards the doorway. The grey mist stirred then retreated beyond the picket fence. The gnomes halted then turned toward the house. Those left standing marched to their spot leaving the broken remains of their comrades behind. Only when they had all returned did they turn, as one, to face the street. There was silence. Aunt Enid slammed the front door shut and locked it. She walked calmly into the lounge room and slumped into her favourite chair. “Is that exciting enough for you?” she said. Lucy nodded slowly, trying to let the night’s events sink in. “Then you had better fetch the superglue,” she said.

THE END

The idea for this flash fiction sprang from one of my WiPs (works-in-progress) - my fantasy story Through the Mirror, Darkly.

December Flash Friday, the Third

This week's flash fiction was written last year. The inspiration was a writing prompt 'Children's story with the theme: peas' - limit 500 words. Just a bit of fun.

Snow Peas

By Karen J Carlisle (c) 2013

Mum always tells us to eat our greens. They are good for us.  We grow them in the front yard. This year she went pea mad, planting every pea type known. I hate peas. I swallow them whole, like pills. Mum planted snow peas. She was hoped I would like them. I did, but not as mum had hoped. Summer was hot. The snow peas were dying. Mum was sad. I wished I could help. I wanted to chase the heat away. I couldn’t, so I ate the snow peas. They were cold. As I opened my mouth, a gust of cold air rushed out. It filled the room. Small icicles grew on everything it touched. Mum almost fell off her chair in surprise.  I opened my mouth again, this time freezing mum’s cup of tea. Then I had an idea. Outside the sun was still beating down. I turned towards the vegetable garden and breathed. The air chilled around me. The temperature dropped. It felt like Spring. If I could lower it for long enough then maybe the peas could survive the heatwave. The temperature continued to drop. Now it was like winter.  Small icicles formed on the leaves, turning the tips black. I heard the front door slam. Mum stood beside me. “Oh dear,” she said. “Peas don’t like frost.” Mum looked sad. I didn’t speak. The peas continued to freeze.  She hugged me. “Thank you for trying,” she said. Though mum was upset at the loss of her babies, I must admit I was glad that I did not have to eat any more peas that summer. It took two days for the snow pea effect to wear off. During that time, we discovered many new flavours of icies. Mum decided that she was not going to make me eat peas anymore. I suppose I do love snow peas, after all.

 THE END

*Flash fiction is a short story of less than 800 words (definitions vary from 500-1000 words)