@Charli_Mills Flash Fiction Challenge: Spreading the Light

In response to Charil’s Carrot Range Flash Fiction Challenge: Spreading the Light

Tensions were running high as was expected at this time of year. The first weekend of December must always be murderously hot, and so the whole household must work away in baking heat to cover the property in artistically arranged Christmas lights.

From previous experience we knew we must stock the freezer with zooper doopers. It didn’t matter how old we were, that stuff was more potent than Gatorade. But even though we prepared, by late afternoon we had dissolved into sweaty, frustrated shouting matches.

Until the sun went down and the lights came on.

And everything was okay.

December 16

I was very literal with the prompt this time, wasn’t I? On that note, did we all get to see the Christmas lights in our neighbourhood? It was always a tradition in my family, not to put up Christmas lights, but to drive around on Christmas Eve and see everyone else’s lights!

While googling pictures of Christmas lights for inspiration, I came across this wonderful article from Canberra highlighting the people who decorate their homes for others to visit, raising funds and drawing attention to important charities. The stories in this article are far more important than my frivolous flash fiction, so if you want to give it a read you can find it here.

 

 

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Flash Fiction: Neighbourly Garden

In response to Charli’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Prompt: Neighbourly

It was the first summer she’d noticed the little garden hadn’t been tended. The flowers were still managing, but the ground was cracked and the leaves had begun to dry. It was always a highlight on her walk, and she’d always wondered who tended to the strangely well-kept garden that sat outside the old apartment block.

So the next day, she came back with a watering can. The day after, someone had tipped fresh soil around the flowers, but it hadn’t seemed properly tilled. She smiled and came back with trowel and fork to finish what her neighbour started.

April 15

#FlashFiction Challenge from @Charli_Mills

In response to the Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Symptoms

Symptom: change in voice. Diagnosis: pharyngeal cancer.

He knew it.

The crossing turned green and pain jolted up as he stepped forwards.

Symptom: jarring pain from little toe. Diagnosis: broken toe.

Staring at the answers from dr.net, he gave little notice to the standstill traffic picking up around him. What about that strange itchy bump?

Symptom: lump under left buttock. Diagnosis: fungal infection.

That couldn’t be right.

Head bowed to his phone, he heard the crossing signal and stepped out onto the road. Nothing more could be said about him now, except…

Symptom: Self-absorbed in minor ailments. Diagnosis: Hypochondriac.

MdD

I decided to go back and use some of Charli’s old prompts. Since I haven’t done this prompt before, I figured there was no harm 😉

March 18

To see other entries of this challenge click here.

 

 

Flash Fiction: Toffee Day

I used the Day 2 prompt from http://flashfiction365.tumblr.com/prompts to inspire this story. The main character is strongly influenced by the guy from The Rosie Project

Her bright orange lips clashed against the red toffee apple she was biting into, and I couldn’t help but stare: she was a kaleidoscope of clashing colours. Navy-blue tattoos ran around her neck and under the collar of her pale green cardigan, which did little to hide the black tank top underneath. Her skirt was also green, but the opposite shade, and her leggings matched her lipstick.

“Take a picture, it’ll last longer.” Her harsh words surprised me. I didn’t mean to irritate her, but trying to explain that just angered her further.

“It’s not polite to stare,” she said as if she were talking to a little boy.

“There’s just so much to look at-”

She swung the toffee apple like a mace, so surprisingly violent that there was no time for the thought “I should duck now” to enter my head. Thankfully, she didn’t hit my cheek hard enough to break anything, but it was enough for the fruit to stick and hang off my burgeoning beard.

She walked off.

I wanted to know where I went wrong, but the toffee dragging on my facial hair was nonsensically painful. I had to walk around, holding the toffee apple up to my face, until I found a bathroom. The mirror and water allowed me to get to work, and using a little soap helped, but I would need hot water to get the rest of the toffee off my face.

Well, that was my day done. At least I’d helped out at the toffee apple stall before I was hit in the face with one. I’d done my bit, and now I could go home and… re-analyse how I should interact with people.

Flash Fiction: Shadow Man

I woke immobilised, the weight of sleep still pressing upon my limbs even though my eyes were wide open. I could see him there, crouched, leaning against the wall with his head bowed towards me. I had to scream. I had to move!

I shut my eyes in an effort to redistribute my panic, but when I opened them again he was gone – replaced with a box, my backpack, and an old shirt. I blinked and for a split second the image blurred back towards him, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He was never here.

I relaxed and took stock of myself. The adrenaline overdose ebbed away, leaving me feeling strangely energised when I had just been paralysed. What a terrifying event. Was I so paranoid that the fear had frozen me? I curled my hand into a fist, just to reassure myself I could move my limbs again.

Where had it come from? I had gone so long without an incident, and while this one hadn’t led me to lashing out the fear was familiar. The trigger was more than the shadows under the dim light of dawn. It was the dream.

“It was a dream,” I said aloud, trying to seal my fears away with the words. I could tell the difference now, between a dream and a visit. This last one had been cobbled together – memories skewed with fears. It hadn’t been real.

Not like when I was younger…

Here under the covers, I felt safe enough to think about it. The man of shadows, who came to pull me apart and stitch me back together, so what I loved was what I hated and what I hated was what I loved. I didn’t know if he was a real demon or just something out of the darkness in my own mind, but once I grew up the visits stopped. I had not.

The visits messed me up, but I was almost free. I wouldn’t tell my therapist about this dream, not now, not when I was about to be released…

The day was bright and sunny, a clear sky with a light tinge of blue. It was glorious, as if it were created just for me, so I could fully appreciate my freedom. I was settled. I was at peace. I was deemed safe.

But the tendrils of darkness still crawled at the corners of my mind, and I wondered…

What if he was real?

Mini Story: Don’t Take Anything Lying Down

The air-conditioning was too cold, and I was still sweating. My knees couldn’t be still; if it wasn’t the left then it was the right, bouncing up and down to the point where the person next to me shifted away out of fear of being hit. I forced my eyes onto the cover letter I held in my hand, reviewing and revising and committing it all to memory. I was as prepared as I could be. Now it just needed to be over.

“Thomas Lane.”

The bloke next to me rose and I was the only person left in the waiting room. Even the receptionist had gone home. Why was this taking so long? My interview was for four-thirty, and it was a quarter past five.

Again, I bowed my head and read over my letter, my recommendations, and my resume. The printed sheets were just words now, no longer making any sense to me. I was too wound-up. I’d been so sure these words were the best they could be, and now I wasn’t sure of anything.

Finally, Thomas Lane walked out of the interview room, ignored me, and pressed the button for the lift. I waited. The lift came and carried Thomas Lane away. I waited some more. When a man in a suit walked out I raised my head expectantly, but he gave a start when he saw me.

“Oh shit, we’ve got another one!” He waved his hand over his mouth as if he hadn’t meant to speak so loudly, or perhaps at all. He suddenly turned tail and reclosed the interview room door behind him. I waited.

After another minute, he re-entered the waiting room and gave an apologetic grimace.

“Look, I’m sorry about this but it seems we’ve run well over time and, well, I think we’ve already made our decision.”

Who decided that this insecure person should be conducting the interviews? I’d caught the informal ‘look’ the hesitant ‘well’ and the jarring ‘I think we’ve’.

“Excuse me,” I said clearly. “How can you think you’ve made a decision? You’ve either made it or you haven’t. If you are hesitant about it, then you have not made a decision.”

He blinked, but quickly recovered. I wondered if the insecurity was an act. “No, we have made a decision. Thank you for coming in.”

“No.”

“No?”

“No.” I walked up to him, shaking with rage, and he thankfully backed away into the interview room, where another person was placing files in their bag.

“I came here on time for an interview. I deserve a fair go.”

I handed him and the remaindering person copies of my documents, and sat down at the small conference table.

He sighed as he flicked through my resume. “Alright, let’s make this quick.”

I smiled. “You won’t be disappointed.”

Flash Fiction: Striving to Relax

Relax. Empty your mind…

What’s an empty mind meant to look like? The darkness of space, or a blinding white light?

Breathe deep. Concentrate on your breathing…

But breathing is the most natural thing you can’t concentrate on it thinking about it doesn’t help it just… crap! I forgot how to breathe! I can’t breathe!

Okay, don’t concentrate on your breathing. Ignore your breathing.

Relaxing is painful!

Alright, imagine a peaceful place… a deep blue lake-

Am I in the lake?

You’re not in the lake – you’re imagining the lake.

So… I’m on the bank of the lake? Is it muddy or sandy? Are my feet meant to be in the water?

You’re further up the bank on a grassy slope, watching the sunlight twinkle across the surface of the water.

Twinkle? Stars twinkle. Sunlight reflects much stronger than that. I wouldn’t be looking at it, it’d burn my eyes.

Forget the lake. Lie back in the grass and look up at the clear blue sky. No, you’re not looking into the sun!

I hate lying on the grass. There’s always prickles or ants.

There are no prickles or ants.

That’s unrealistic. I can’t believe that.

You scrutinised the place you are sitting before you sat down – there are no prickles or ants!

But ants can move…

.

I give up and open my eyes, before turning the ‘soothing sounds’ music off and uncrossing my legs. Wincing a little, I stretch out one leg, sigh with disappointment, and rest my cheek on my other knee. Finally, I rise up and open the door.

“How did the meditation go?”

“Not well. But on the plus side, I was able to brainstorm for a new flash fiction.”

My new adult urban fantasy is currently free when you download it from Smashwords!

Flash Fiction: Delusional Dialogue

“It’s like my skin is covered in little ants.”

“That’s prickly heat. You haven’t drunk enough water and now you’re overheating.”

“What? I’m not a computer.”

“Go have a shower, drink half a litre of water and then eat some sugar. If you haven’t developed a migraine after that, you’re good.”

“How can you live like this? You don’t even have air conditioning!”

“This isn’t that hot. The fact that you’ve managed to experience heat stress is more to do with you than the heat.”

“This isn’t that hot? I’m sweating in places I didn’t know I could sweat! It’s like every part of my body is an armpit.”

“So go have that shower.”

“Ugh. I think there’s a bug running behind my knees but it turns out its sweat tricking down! How can the backs of knees sweat?”

“Naturally.”

“I’m a ham, baking in my own glaze.”

“Are you just going to complain or are you going to do something about it?”

“Actually, I think the heat is making me more creative.”

“That’s not creativity – that’s delusion. Seriously, you need to cool yourself down or else you’re gonna suffer some brain damage.”

“Heat can do that?”

“Heat, and me. Go have freaking shower already.”

Flash Fiction: Dinner Dialogue

“If I can make it, I’m not going to order it.”

“That’s ridiculous. Can’t you just enjoy eating out?”

“If I order Spaghetti Bolognese and I know I can do better, I can’t enjoy it.”

“We are in a five star restaurant! This is absolutely no judgement on your cooking but I think their spag bol will be better.”

“But what if it isn’t? Then it’s just overpriced disappointment.”

They’ve used five different mushrooms and it’s topped with shaved truffle!

“That won’t make it good though; just expensive.”

“Look, I understand where you are coming from, but the whole point of this menu is ‘gormet-izing’ regular food. Just order what you want.”

“Right, and I want the calamari.”

“You hate squid!”

“But if this is meant to be the best of the best, then the meal should make me like squid.”

“You’re setting yourself up for failure.”

“Excuse me mademoiselles, have you perused the menu?”

“Yes, I’ll have the calamari and chips.”

“And I’ve got to order the spag bol so my friend has something to eat.”

“…Excuse me?”

“Oh, the Spaghetti Bolognese.”

“You spent the past five minutes arguing against me when you’re just going to order for me anyway?!… oh, that was quick.”

“How’s the squid?”

“…Okay, I guess.”

“I knew it.”

“Hey! That’s my dinner!”

“No, the spaghetti is. You’re lucky I don’t like it.”

“…Thanks.”

“You’re bloody welcome.”

Mini Story: The Hidden House

Not a single soul in the whole neighbourhood knew who owned the house behind the walls, nor if anyone lived there. It was easily the biggest block on the highest point of the hill, so the land alone would be valuable whether or not the house was. That was the thing – the walls surrounding the property were so high that only a hint of a red roof could be seen, and that was when I was standing on my own roof! I couldn’t tell if the house was brick or wood or wide or long, only that the tallest point of the roof was red.

“If you’re so keen to find out…” Denny grinned, looking up at me through his sunglasses. “I dare you to climb the wall.”

I returned the grin. Denny knew I would never do anything about my curiosity unless I was challenged. Carefully, I slid back down the roof to the ladder and asked Denny to hold it again.

“What do I get?” I asked when I could face him again.

“Nothing.” His grin grew wider. “You’ll never get over that wall. There’s no purchase – you’d need a ladder three times the length of this one.”

I realised he was right. “How about I do one better?” I asked. “I’ll walk through the front gate.”

Denny shook his head. “You can try. No one gets in.”

Even the gate was as high as the wall, though I could see a person-sized door which must have been openable. The wooden palings were so close together that I couldn’t even spy anything through the cracks.

I knocked. Several times. Then I shouted.

Denny, leaning on the wall next to me, shook his head. “You’re not getting in.”

I sighed and rested my head on the wooden gate, trying again to see something, anything. Between the pale white wood, I thought I could see a blur of red. Red bricks? I stared and tried to angle myself to get the best perspective. It didn’t help. I was about to pull away when there was a blur of movement, and the colour changed to the deepest brown. It was so sudden I flinched backwards and lost my place. I tried in vain to find it again, but my accidental peephole was gone.

“What is it?”

“I thought… I thought I saw I saw someone.”

Denny snickered. “Well, if someone was there, they don’t want you in, do they?”

My hands had been resting against the gate. Reluctantly, I pulled away.

“I told ya you’d never get in.”

I didn’t say it, but he was wrong. I just had to build a bigger ladder.