Category Archives: writing prompt

Sunday Photo Fiction – January 15th 2017– Thwarted Destiny

Here’s a piece in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction flash fiction challenge for January 15th 2017– two hundred words based on this image–

skul-cup

I don’t whether to giggle or beg for forgiveness.  And I fudged the word limit a little.  I know no shame…..

Copyright 2017 Douglas Daniel

*******************************

Yes, mortal– look upon me and know fear.

When I lived I was Muraz Khan the Terrible, the Blood-soaked, conqueror of Samarkhand and Beluchistan, devastator of Ashgabat, pillager of Tehran.  My hordes ranged across the broad world.  Mighty kings trembled and crawled on their bellies to kiss my gore-spattered boots.  Those same kings gave me their daughters as playthings.

But on the verge of conquering the whole world, I was betrayed by a blood brother, Hanno.  My bones were made into this chalice, and Hanno celebrated at an orgy, quaffing wine from my skull.

But my loyal magister put a curse on my bones.  That very night an earthquake swallowed Hanno and the city in which he roistered.  I would rise again to fulfill my destiny whenever I next lay in the hands of a man of power.

Centuries later archaeologists uncovered me.  I thought my day had come.  But something went wrong.

I was stolen from the artifact locker that very night by a graduate student.  Three years later, needing extra cash for a Playstation, he sold me at a flea market to an accountant named Marvin and his wife Jenny, who sews quilts with kitten patterns.

Now I sit, locked in a china cabinet in Lower Hoboken with a collection of Disney Princess® glasses.

I must escape and fulfill my destiny.  Somehow….

Let it go, let it go…..

Oh, just shut up, Elsa.

Flash Fiction– Five Days

I have occasionally participated in a weekly flash-fiction challenge in the Writer’s Discussion Group community on Google-Plus, sponsored by one of the community’s moderators, Amy Knepper.  It’s usually based on a picture or an image (I don’t have permission to post the image here, so if you want to see this week’s you will need to go to the site).  I haven’t usually cross-connected the flash-fiction I’ve done on Google-Plus to my WordPress blog, but this week’s challenge kinda tickled me and I thought I’d share it here.

Horror, it seems, can lurk anywhere…..

Copyright 2016 Douglas Daniel

****************************************

Five Days

Day One:

I’ve sealed myself in.  I had no choice.  The chaos outside has become too great.  I nailed my door shut and piled furniture against it.  Otherwise THEY will break in, and it will all be over.

I have supplies to last me several days.  Hopefully the chaos will be over by then.  Judging by the horrifying sounds coming from outside, it surely cannot last long.

I try to focus on my work.  Perhaps it’s pointless, now, but it’s the only thing keeping me sane– a bit of normality in a world gone insane.

Day Two:

There was moaning outside my door last night– evidently someone in severe pain.  A sound of tremendous suffering–   it tore my heart.  I almost opened the door to rescue whoever it was, but I stopped myself just in time.  Perhaps it was a trick– THEY are ruthless, and will stop at nothing to keep me from completing my work.  I steeled myself and ignored the moaning.  I think I was right to do so, because soon after, before dawn, the chaos resumed.

Day Three:

It’s worse than ever.  Surely no one can survive the madness out there.  It sounds as if all the furies of Hell have been unleashed and have ridden down on us upon a whirlwind.

In the morning I heard THEM.  They were just outside the door, pounding on it, whispering, shrieking– “Jimmy…come out…we want to see you, Jimmy…come to us….”

I put a pillow over my head and strove to ignore them.  I’m safe in here, as long as I stay resolute.  As long as I don’t open the door.  I just have to keep the door closed.

Day Four:

This morning THEY resorted to a new tactic– they drilled holes in my door, letting in the watery, smoke-filled light from outside.  The appearance of each hole was accompanied by maniacal laughter.  I would have thought even so simple a technical feat would have been beyond THEM in their current state.   THEY proved me wrong.

I retaliated by spraying pepper spray into each hole.  This brought shrieks of agony, but gales of fresh hysterical laughter as well.  THEY are too far gone to care, I suppose.

Day Five:

It is over.  At noon the cacophony outside my door became too much.  I think my mind came unhinged at last.  Suddenly I had to end it, one way or the other.

I pushed away the book case and the furniture.  I ripped away the boards.  I shoved it all aside and pulled open the door.  The scene that confronted me was as bad as I had imagined, or worse.

Beer cans littered the living room floor.  Ashtrays were filled to overflowing with cigarette butts.  Boxes of half-eaten and mostly stale pizza covered the tables.  The room stank of cigarette smoke, spilled beer and pizza sauce.

My housemates lay scattered all about.  Hollis and Young slouched in easy chairs, watching a basketball game on the plasma TV, its volume cranked to the max.  It had to be, because Gary and Wesley were in the adjoining family room with Limp Bizkit blasting away.  Terry looked passed out on the coach, and on the divan Cheryl and Bruce were approximately the same position in which I had last seen them five days before, all twisted together and lip-locked.

“Goddamn it!” I shouted.  “I am trying to write a master’s thesis here!”

Billy, standing in his underwear in the middle of the room and wearing his dual beer-can hat, blinked at me.  “Dude, chill,” he said.  “Spring break’s almost over.”

Sunday Photo Fiction – March 20th 2016– The Door Between Worlds

A Sunday Photo Flash Fiction challenge– 200 words based on this image–

148-03-march-20th-2016

Haven’t done one of these in a while, so this is probably meh.  Plus, I couldn’t quite squeeze the story into the 200 word limit. Sorry.

Copyright 2016 Douglas Daniel

******************************************

Clarke shoved the garage door open.  Dust motes danced in sunbeams.  A bare concrete floor, a wooden bench on one side, a bricked-up back door.  “What’s this about?” I asked.

“It has to do with the gravity wave activity we’ve been picking up,” Clarke said.

I wondered how, but said nothing.  I was just glad Clarke and I were on speaking terms again.  Radical changes in physics as we knew it and personal conflicts were a bad mix.

“Look again, Peter,” Clarke said.

I stepped into the garage.  I saw nothing, until I peered down at the floor.  A dark discoloration– not an oil stain, but a perfect circle.  It seemed to shimmer.

“What is it?” I said.

“A physicist of your caliber should be able to figure it out,” Clarke said from behind me.

I shook my head.  “Sorry.  I need a clue.”

“Okay.”  Clarke’s tone changed.  “Carol belongs to me.”

He shoved me.  I stumbled into the circle.

I fell, and fell, and fell.  Wind that was not wind rushed past me.  Tortured vacuum screamed in my ears.  I stretched, pulled ever downward.

I hit the ground.  There was grass beneath me, all around me.

I looked up.  The garage was gone.  I was in open country, grass in every direction, and hills in the distance.

Above those hills, three moons stood in the sky.  None of them were the Moon.

“Oh, God,” I said.

Great sadness….

One of the flash fiction prompts I have recently followed has been the Mondays Finish the Story photo prompt– 150 words inspired by a picture and an initial sentence, sometimes straightforward, sometimes not. To someone who always thought that short fiction was anything under 100,000 words, trying to compose something in no more than 150 was a real challenge, but one which I came to enjoy.

Although I never met Barbara Beacham, the lady who ran the prompt, she was always friendly and encouraging in our online exchanges, and surprisingly willing to put up with the doggerel I composed. I looked forward to the prompt every Monday. It often seemed to bring out the silly and irreverent in me and forced me to stretch myself as a writer.

Two Mondays ago the prompt didn’t appear. I hoped everything was well, but yesterday Barbara’s husband posted a final entry on the blog saying that said she had passed away after an illness. He asked that readers not post to the blog itself, as he will no longer be monitoring it. However, I still wanted to note how this gracious lady, who I never saw face-to-face, helped me grow as a writer. I am better at this business because of her. And that is a truth of this strange world we live in– people we never meet can nevertheless have a powerful impact on you. Barbara’s on me was wholly positive. I am deeply grateful, and very sorry she is gone.

Mondays Finish the Story – April 27th, 2015 – Morning flowers.

Mondays Finish the Story flash fiction challenge for April 27th, 2015– 150 words based on this image–

© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“Are you laughing at me?“

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
*****************************************

“Are you laughing at me?“

“No, no—it’s just—well, the orchids are a little silly looking….”

“I’m sorry—they’re what they had.”

“I’m not complaining…they’re very nice—in a buck-toothed sort of way.”

“You are laughing….”

“At the orchids, just the orchids.”

“Okay…so you really like them?”

“Yes, I do. What’s the occasion?”

“No occasion. It’s just, I’ve, you know, never given you flowers. Thought I might.”

“Hmm…a man gives a woman flowers, there’s usually some sort of occasion. Or he’s got something on his mind.”

“Why should I have anything on my mind? What gives you the impression I have something on my mind?”

“Weelll…the economy has collapsed, the country is in revolution, a mutated plague is sweeping across Asia, and heavily-armed aliens have landed and claimed Earth for their own, and the one thing you think of is to bring me flowers? At 3:42 AM?”

“Um…yes. There might not be time later.”

Monday’s Finish the Story– The Swag

Monday’s Finish the Story flash fiction challenge for February 2nd– 150 words based on this picture–

Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham
Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence– “Diamond Jack had his hideout next to the Rattlesnake River.”

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
************************************

Diamond Jack had his hideout next to the Rattlesnake River. It was the only human habitation in three hundred square miles.

The day after his biggest heist ever, Jack rode down to his hideout, rejoicing. In his saddle-bags were crammed ten thousand silver dollars, taken from the Denver express. It was all Jack’s, because after the robbery he had shot his two accomplices, Sergei McCooley and Chihuahua Chelsey, in the back. He piled the silver on his table, gloating over it and admiring its gleam.

He went down to the river to get a bucket of water for his coffee and was bitten to death by a rattlesnake. In 1973 his swag was found by a hippie couple searching for themselves. They used the money to open a health-food store and, later, a pot dispensary.

Moral: who the hell builds a hideout next to some place called Rattlesnake River?

Finish the story– White Knight

The Monday Finish the Story flash fiction challenge, 100 – 150 words based on the following picture–

Copyright 2014 Barbara W. Beacham
Copyright 2014 Barbara W. Beacham

and the initial sentence “They say that life is a game of chess…”

I noticed something about the picture and went with it….

***************************************
“They say that life is a game of chess,” said the Black Queen.

“Yes,” replied the White King. “Order, hierarchy, everyone in their place, according to their assigned roles. “

“And, then,” said the White Queen, “the clash of opposing forces, the constant of competition, the subtle machinations of the powerful, the maneuverings that produce victory or defeat….”

“It is how life itself is,” the Black King intoned. “We are but its noble reflection.”

“Let us begin the battle…,” said the Black Queen.

“Wait just a minute!” cried the White King.

“What is it, my lord?” said the White Queen.

“Where the bloody hell is my knight?” the White King hollered.

“WOO-HOO!” the White Knight cried, as he streaked down the cruise-ship’s water-slide.

To the light

Another Finish the Story challenge, asking for 150 words based on this image–

Photo by: Barbara Beacham
Photo by: Barbara Beacham

and this opening sentence–

“Donning her fins and snorkel, she headed out into the deep water.”

Frankly, I’m not too sure about how this one turned out. It’s more suggestive of an opening than a complete story. Still, for what it’s worth, here it is.

************************************************************

Donning her fins and snorkel, she headed out into the deep water. She ignored the screams from shore. Done with you, she thought.

The water was warm and clear. She could see the bottom—rock and sand, waving seaweed, a furtive damselfish or two. It was calming. She needed calm right now.

She stroked forward, taking her time. It might be only minutes before the garda came out after her, but you couldn’t rush this. To be at peace is the key.

She felt it first in the pit of her stomach—a lurch as if the ocean had dropped out from under her, although nothing changed. She caught herself, then heard—

Are you sure, mortal?

Yes.

Very well.

A spiraling light shone. She took a breath and dove down toward it. The sea spun around her and pulled her down into the light, into a new world.

Flash fiction- Finish the Story

I haven’t done one of these for a while. Here’s a flash-fiction challenge to finish the story, based on this image–

Image copyright 2014, Barbara W. Beacham
Image copyright 2014, Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“In the compound on the hill, lives a man with a dream.”

And we have to do it in 150 words.

And I usually break out in a sweat if I have to do something in under 5000 words. Challenging? Oh, yes….

**************************
“In the compound on the hill, lives a man with a dream,” said the shaman.

“His sort of dreams are dangerous. We must kill him,” said the leader.

“He only wants to restore what has been lost!”

“By technology! By building. Deny that his sort have murdered the earth.”

There was no denying it. The red wastes stretched in every direction, the dessicated earth a testimony to the folly of their ancestors. The compound, with its trees and shining glass, was a bright and tiny spot of life within devastation.

The shaman held up his hands. “I plead with you, brethren—do not do this. He strives to give us hope….”

“False hope! The sort of hope that leads back to the fire.” The leader turned to his followers. “We must wipe out this abomination!”

The ragged men lifted flint-tipped spears and clubs, screaming eagerness to kill and burn. They surged up the slope, straight into the fire of the automated machine-guns.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: FIVE RANDOM WORDS

Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge— a 1000 word story using five words out of the following list–

Whalebone

Foxglove

Djinn

Orphan

Lollipop

Casket

Hermit

Hound

Acid

Topaz

This isn’t going to win any Hugos, but I took a shot.

*********************************************

“Topaz!” Orphan came running up the trail. “Master!”

“Boy, stop yelling,” Topaz said. “I heard you coming minutes ago. What’s the trouble?”

Orphan stopped, panting. “General…Foxglove…he’s coming. With…soldiers.”

Topaz sighed. He stood up from his seat in front of his hut, leaning on his cane. His knees creaked. “Orphan, go find Cassia– she’s by the pond. Take her up to the hut by the falls. A young girl like her will tempt soldiers. Both of you hide until it’s safe.”

“What about you, master?” Orphan asked.

“Don’t be concerned about me,” Topaz said. “I have nothing these soldiers want. If I’m wrong, well, at my age death is always hanging about, anyway.”

“Master…,” Orphan said, horrified.

“But you youngsters are in danger. Get Cassia up to the falls.” He started to turn away, stopped. “You know, if this does go poorly, it occurs to me I should finally give you a proper name. I’ve been calling you Orphan all this time, but you’re nearly a man grown.”

“Is this the time, master…?”

“There may not be a later time,” Topaz said. He studied the younger man. “I name you Arrow, for you have always been swift and true.”

“Master, can’t you come with us?”

“No,” Topaz said. “Someone has to greet our guests. Go.”

Arrow turned and ran. Topaz stepped forward into the clearing. He leaned on his cane and waited.

The jingle of harness, the tread of boots; Topaz glimpsed the riders, and the foot soldiers coming behind. The company wound its way up the trail. Topaz waited.

The soldiers entered the clearing. The riders pulled up short at the sight of Topaz. At their head rode a big man, all in armor, as if he rode to battle, instead of a hermit’s cottage. Suspicious eyes peered out of a scarred face.

Topaz bowed. “I greet you, General Foxglove, Lord and General of the Five Lands. You honor my humble house.”

“Are you the Hermit of Blackfalls?” Foxglove demanded.

“Some call me that. My name is Topaz. I greet you in peace, as a guest. If it please you, my lord, there is tea and bread within.”

Foxglove squinted at Topaz. One of his officers turned in his saddle and gestured. Two of the foot-soldiers broke ranks and hurried past Topaz into the cottage. Topaz waited.

The two re-emerged. “It’s empty, my lord,” one said.

Foxglove grunted and dismounted. So did his officers. The foot-soldiers spread out in a perimeter around the hut. Topaz led the way into the cottage.

The kettle was hot, the tea steeping. Foxglove and his officers crowded in; no one sat. Topaz noticed Foxglove’s gaze fall on the small silver casket on the table. The casket was old and battered, but it was bright in the room.

“I heard that you were a man of wisdom and simplicity,” Foxglove said, as Topaz poured tea. “Yet you have that.” He pointed to the casket.

“An heirloom,” Topaz said. “It contains nothing of value.”

Foxglove loomed over Topaz. “They say that no man becomes Emperor without speaking to the Hermit of Blackfalls.”

“People do say that,” Topaz said. “There has been no Emperor in five hundred years, so it’s not been tested lately. Do you wish to be Emperor?”

Foxglove smiled. Topaz shuddered. “I shall be Emperor. I want the Empire, and I will take it. I take everything I want.”

“So this is why my lord favors me with a visit?”

“I came to see,” Foxglove said, “if you had anything that might help me.”

Topaz sighed. “My lord, I’m sorry, but my wisdom is merely that which comes from living a long time. All I can tell you is that, just because we want something, it doesn’t mean it is good for us to have it.”

Foxglove glowered at him. “What is this? Why shouldn’t I take what I want? If I’m strong enough….”

“Strength is no justification for taking,” Topaz said, “and taking without right always ends badly.”

Foxglove growled. “This is a waste of time. I thought you would pass on some secret of the Old Times, something useful, but I see you are just a weak old man.”

“I am weak and old– some mornings my sciatica is terrible….”

“Enough,” Foxglove said. “I should gut you, hermit, but that would stir up the peasants. So I’ll just show you how I take what I want.” He scooped up the casket, tucked it under one arm. He sneered at Topaz. “Have anything to say about it, old man?”

Topaz spread his hands. “You may take anything you want, my lord. I greeted you in peace, I say farewell in peace. But while my lord may take that casket, I would caution you against opening it.”

“Opening it?” Foxglove said. “Why shouldn’t I open it?”

“You won’t like the contents.”

Foxglove growled. “Come, let’s leave this fool.”

The soldiers stepped back out into the sunshine. Topaz stayed where he was, waiting. Through the open door he saw Foxglove fumble with the latch of the casket, and throw it open.

The sun disappeared; blackness swirled all around. Topaz could see nothing, but he heard screams, howling, and the sound of rending flesh. He felt it– the ravening hunger. The screams faded. Topaz felt the hunger turn on him.

He stood straight. His cane glowed in the darkness. You have fed, he told the hunger. Now, back to your prison, thing. Leave the world of the living to the living.

The hunger fought him, but it could not resist the light. The light grew and grew. The hunger shrank and howled and shrank yet again.

The sun shone; birds sang in the tops of the pines. Topaz breathed a deep breath. Leaning on his cane, he went outside. He stooped and picked up the casket. He shut the lid and snapped the latch closed. There was no sign of Foxglove or of his men, save their footprints.

“Some people just won’t listen,” Topaz said.