Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Rites of Spring.

The world has begun to shake off the Winter for another year.  But it's still cold at night and the wind sometimes whips through the branches of the trees around my house. I'm rather an insomniac , and so many nights I lie in bed and listen to the house creaking through the wee hours.  My mind percolates with ideas and pictures of horrific and lovely things.  They meld together and become story ideas.

And so I often wonder, during those wakeful hours, where others find inspiration.  Please feel free to share.

And now it's time.  As always, you have all made choosing so difficult.

This week's winner is John Xero with Fractured:  This piece is beautifully textured and so descriptive! Every sentence built on its predecessor with such skill.  I can't stop reading it and each new reading reveals new things.  Thank you, John!

And in second place this week is Noah Heinrich with Technical Difficulties: I am simply charmed with this story.  It's fresh, original, and both humorous and terrifying.  I am so glad that you decided to join us. I can't wait to read more from you.  Thank you!

And now for words:


The usual rules apply: 100 words maximum (excluding title) of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction or noir. All variants and use of the words and stems are fine. You have until Friday evening.

Feel free to post links to your stories on Twitter or Facebook or whichever social media best pleases you and, if you like, remind your friends that we are open to new and returning writers.

The gates are open!


  1. Many congratulations, John and Noah! Brilliant writing from you both.
    I will be back with comments, Friday I did 15 tarot readings straight off, still recovering, along with information being thrown at me from every direction for a hefty ancient man/modern man book.
    The Captain is intrigued with this week's words and we will be visiting again very soon, to comment and to say hi. Might even get his contribution earlier this week, who knows? The Captain is very much his own man, I cannot boss him about, nor would I try!

  2. Thank you! =D
    And congratulations, Noah. =)

  3. Congratulations, John and Noah, wonderful stories!

  4. Thank you! And congratulations Xero, your story was amazing.

  5. And finally back on the other serial...


    Chapter 3, the present

    The sky roars. At high velocities air becomes like water, a palpable presence, a physical force to be pushed through. Even so, this is not Alpha’s top speed.

    He flies slower so Thunder can keep pace.

    They are high over the vast rippling sapphire of the Atlantic Ocean. Mindmap briefs them from the Keep.


    Mindmap is a psychic, drinks a lot of energy drinks, is constantly wired, and always sounds as if she’s shouting.

    Explain, Mindy...


    1. Super use of the prompts - I like Mindy's shouting, proof once again of your enviable ability to crete characters of depth.

    2. Good to be back in this serial, John, like this instalment. Like the idea of London being in a bubble, stops it bothering the rest of us...

  6. Here's a sequel to my first entry. We'll see if I keep i going.
    Dare You, Part 2

    With a sound like glass shards dragging across taut wires, the shape in the circle vanished, leaving the warlock alone. She felt the invisible bubble of protection around her unravel and dissolve, but knew that she was no longer in danger. For now.
    She limped across the room to the dining room table, knowing that she could clean the chalk off the floor later. The kids wouldn’t come home from school for another four hours.
    She sat and turned the ceremonial knife over in her fingers, and allowed her lips to smile.
    Did he really think that distance meant safety?

    1. Oh - I hope you can keep this going too - love the mix of domestic and other world - and a heart-stopping final line.

    2. Love the sound in the first line, creates up a proper horror movie atmosphere. And as Sandra says, the blend of the real world and the otherworldly is a good one.

      It's a lot of fun, running serials here, and good writing practice on a number of counts I think. Look forward to this going further. =)

    3. yes, keep going with a serial, my first attempt at serialisation ended up as a book (due out next month...) like this, good images and a lot of tension in a very small space.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Congrats to John and to Noah, well done both.


    His head fizzed with fright, but in his mind it sounded like a squall of cockroaches, hissing, clicking and scratching around hollow cavities. The heat pressed against him, sucking the air from his lungs. His legs wobbled.

    The soldier kneeling beside him remained silent as he fingered wires poking from a crude box in the sand at Joey’s feet.

    Sweat and sand scratched the back of Joey’s eyes. ‘You can make it safe, right?’

    ‘Yeah…’ Then the kneeling soldier snipped a wire and instantly looked to the light; fear expanding like a bubble across a fathomless expression.

    But Joey knew.

    1. Terrifyingly poised. ending badly.

    2. That penultimate line is superb, capturing that all-consuming terror as it blossoms. What a horrifying situation, and too real.

    3. Oh yes, good one, suspense throughout, culminating in that devastating last line.

  9. Esprit

    Deft fingers turning ancient dial, quiet clicks echoed in Malcolm’s head.

    “Hurry up!” Sal hissed.

    “One shouldn’t rush delicate work.” The last tumbler fell into place, satisfying need for perfection.

    “Cops could show at any minute.”

    “Then you won’t have done your job.”

    “Fucking ponce.”

    Malcolm opened the safe and laconically placed stacks of bills into Sal’s shaking hands. The younger man zipped it up and turned away, anticipating dissipation.

    Thin wire across delicate throat, pink bubbles erupting from surprised lips, Sal fell.

    Bonds tucked into his inside jacket pocket, Malcolm stepped over the body and into a finer world.

    1. No honour among thieves, eh? Great little crime drabble; we don't see too much of that genre on this scale, and you've done it proud! =)

    2. love crime stories and this is so well done, thanks, a real treat.

  10. Another story I came up for this challenge. I enjoyed writing this one a lot!

    The Early Morning Watch

    I’ve been up since 3 AM, and am on my fifth cup of coffee. I’m feeling pretty wired now; the pistol in my hand is practically humming. Looking through the semi-solid walls of the safety zone, I watch the eternal hurricane that howls at us like a mad god. Thankfully, the colony’s shimmering bubble muffles the noise.
    I used to think guard duty was pointless. There’s nothing out there, but wind, dust and acid rain. What were we looking for? That was before the stranger arrived, before she collapsed in the airlock, and whispered with human lips: “You don’t belong.”

    1. Ooh yes - really like this one, and what a superb ending.

    2. Eerie. Contained. Then the last line blows it wide open. Nicely done.

    3. I can see why you enjoyed writing this one, Noah! good one, it really is.

  11. A change of focus [80]

    Wire untwisted, bottle eased from cork, drift of smoke surprisingly unsulphured, liquid gold poured steadily: a froth of bubbles.
    John Pettinger, mildly suspicious, ‘What are we celebrating?’
    Wicked grin, ‘As we speak, Mildred Jones is being held hostage –‘
    What? Shouldn’t we –?‘
    ‘I arranged it.’ Vanessa checked her watch. ‘In a couple of hours I’ll rescue her, at great personal risk –‘
    ‘Whereupon her gratitude will make you safe.‘
    Vanessa’s phone, ‘Bit early, but... ‘ Face fell. ‘Oh shit. The hostage-taker’s wife’s returned. Caught them in flagrante. She has a gun.’
    ‘Time for you to take that personal risk.’

    1. It never goes to plan, does it? Episode 80, and keeps the serial tense and moving, but works really well as its own little piece too.

      Having commented on RR's about that we don't see too many crime drabbles, I'm reminded that you do such good ones week after week! =)

    2. this has maintained its momentum throughout, and this is no exception. Really 'nice' ending here, if you know what I mean...

  12. Very well done, John and Noah - long may you both keep writing here.
    [Earlier post removed for minor edit]

    Colour of being (yellow)

    Drowsy, fog-filled nights of crying, sucking, blood and soreness; his voice harsh instructing, urging, fingers moving me as a wired and mindless marionette to sit to fit to hold its tiny wailing skin against my tenderness. My world become a bubble of narrow yellow-sheeted bed, yellow light from curtains ever closed.

    He said he had to go for food.
    He said to keep it safe he’d put it down beside the bed.
    Snuffled breathing woke me, then it stopped.
    I rolled to see.
    It was awake.
    Blue eyes.
    Exact same colour as its useless father.

    1. This gives me chills every time I read it. Like any good horror story, we are scared more by what we don't see than what we do.

    2. I love that little repetition, "to sit to fit to hold its tiny wailing skin..."

      Properly creepy and deliriously descriptive.

  13. (cosmic discord)

    As a young boy envisaging space battles I saw shields as bubbles of safety, waiting to be popped.

    Such a gross oversimplification.

    In technical terms they were charged fields of interference and governed polarity differentiations. Harriet described them as wrapping the ship in smoke and cotton wool, obfuscating and cushioning incoming fire. Master Blake called them kata, choreographed patterns of electromagnetic force designed to maximise defensive possibilities.

    What I saw on screen was more like a wire mesh. Lines of charge and probability under my unpractised command.

    I was blowing bubbles with shaky hands. Praying to God they wouldn’t burst.

    1. I love the way you juxtapose the scientific "reality" with poetic description. It really lets the reader feel the narrator's uncertainty and nerves. Well done!

    2. wonderful mix here, a story to lose yourself in, visualising the images.

  14. Safe. The concept is complete illusion. It doesn’t matter how far away from people you get, or how completely you hide. The things that really hurt aren’t out there, are they? They’re in here with us. That idea that someone planted in your head, that you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough…that you don’t deserve to be loved.

    Yeah, you can hide in your little armored bubble, tell yourself you snipped and ripped that wire years ago
    But if that’s true, why are you still sitting here with a pile of rainbow colored razor blades on the coffee table?

    1. This one is a real gut punch. It does away with pretense and gets straight to the heart of those feelings that keep us up at night. It's personal but universal. I love it.

    2. Yeah, this one sticks the knife in and twists. Words can leave worse scars than sticks and stones could ever dream of... Some of those wounds never heal.

      Powerful, painful, true.

    3. this is why I am pestering you to write me a story, Colleen, the anthologies are open and waiting...

    4. Thank you all so much! I'll be honest...I almost didn't post this. Antonia, I'm working on something for you!

    5. I'm glad you did post Colleen - if only for the rainbow-coloured razor blades!!

  15. Shaman

    It wasn’t easy being shaman to the twenty-first century.

    People didn’t see the old darkness that crept along new paths. The devils that slipped into their homes on crackling electricity, riding the wires in their walls.

    Humanity was more connected than ever, and less so, whole crowds in bubbles of privacy and self-involvement. Trusting their safety to modern times and technology.

    Jacob walked amongst them. He saw beyond the flesh and concrete of cities to the souls and tribe beneath. He sang the old prayers, chalked the old wards. Protected the tribe in return for glances, sniggers, pennies and pity.

    1. this walks a new pathway, old and new combined, the battle between the two, beautifully depicted.

  16. You don't rush the Captain. He comes, he speaks, he goes. This is the 49th instalment of the story of the journey of the good ship Infinity.
    A bubble or six below the wire hawser holding us in port says someone is about. We aren’t safe on the Infinity while we be in port. Even as I thought this, I heard feet on the deck above me, went out to see the crew returning, whole, thanks be to God! ‘Cap’n’ they said, no salute, I never ask for that. They raised a sail, began drawing up the anchor, leaving me to ask, who raised the curse – and why?
    As the anchor rose up, sommat came with it. Sommat out of this world. For once I was afeared.

    1. You convey a thoughtful, apprehensive man, and yet there is no doubt of the steel in his backbone, the fire in his gut. He says he is afeared, but I get the feeling anything challenging him best be very sure of itself.

    2. Really love that 'bubble or six' and how subtly it warns, and thoroughly agree with John's assessment of the Captain. Forty-nine episodes and all rich and enjoyable.

  17. Seems I got a little carried away this week... (again). I had one part written for Rise, but a second part demanded to be written too! (Both containing all three words, of course.)


    The furore passed and for a moment no one dared breathe, or speak. They were cocooned in taut silence ‘til Ruth burst the bubble.

    “She can’t stay.” Her hands were on her hips, her lips thin as wire, her eyes challenging.

    “Yeah, we are a bit wanting for space...” Harry gestured at the broad expanse of basement.

    Charlie’s laugh faltered into a choked cough as Ruth flung the brothers a fiery glare.

    “Oh, and we ain’t wanting for grub, I suppose?”

    “And what, Ruth?” George asked. “Toss her back out, with the dog lords on the hunt? It ain’t safe.”


    “It ain’t never safe, George. When the dog lords slink back down to their hell some other bunch of bastards will bubble to the surface like shit in the great river. The flesh punks’d happily pluck a pretty little piece like her off the streets. The carnival of sin would lap her up. If some gutter thug didn’t wrap a wire round her throat first. Maybe we should just sell her to Old Jeremiah and get us some food; he’d feed her, give her shelter.”

    “Ain’t all he’d do,” Charlie muttered, and matching looks of revulsion crossed the brothers’ faces.

    1. Yikes John - just come back to catch up - this is terrifyingly good.

  18. All right, loves. I'm gonna sneak in here and close the gates. Please feel free to continue commenting as you will. I assume that RR will be around sometime tomorrow with winners and words.