Wednesday 31 January 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 40

This week's photo was created by Emerald-Depths (Danielle Clifton) an American digital artist over on Deviant Art. Access to this picture has been restricted on this site to members only, probably due to the amount of use it has had online - it took me a long time to track it down. Danielle has called it The Road Home. And it certainly could be.

Took me a while to get an opening line in my head for this one as so many tales were vying for my attention - but many felt like repeats of other stories I had written. Finally one came and grew in the first paragraph. It's the best type of writing when that happens, when it all starts to fall into place. Some could say this is a beginning to a novel- many of my flash pieces are - and maybe one day. So many ideas, so little time to write them all. 😉

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.


The race to the heath was on. If Byron didn’t get there first, he might as well stop now and let Todd kill him. The portals were his only hope; if he jumped through quickly enough, there’d be no way to trace him.

He didn’t want to think about where he might be jumping to yet though. For now he just had to get up there and choose one of the standing stones before Todd and his crew blocked them off.

He knew it had only been rumours about the cult being in control of them. Todd had wanted people to believe that so he could have them all to himself. But Byron knew better. He’d been there that night, he’d seen the truth; he’d watched that guy Fenton being taken through no matter how many enchantments Todd’s crew had made to prevent it. They had no control.

And since that fateful night Byron had become curious, returning again and again to try and work it out for himself. Between time in the public library and digging around in local folklore he’d come a fair way too. He knew how to use them. He’d even experimented a couple of times.

But that was when it had happened, when Todd and his crew had found out. He’d been seen and they’d set a trap for him as he’d come out, catching it on camera. They’d attempted to blackmail him with it: show his family, show his boss. What they hadn’t banked on were people’s lack of belief. They’d thought the video had been faked; they’d thought it was a joke. His boss had laughed about it.

Todd hadn’t been happy. So now Byron’s only chance of survival was through one of the portals.

As he rushed up the heath with his heavy backpack, he thought about which one of the three to choose. The view through on the stone had to be clear: if it wasn’t clear he couldn’t risk jumping. They’d do one of two things: knock over the stones, face down, so they couldn’t be accessed anymore, or they’d send someone through to chase him down. He didn’t think they’d chase him. He didn’t think they’d be gutsy enough. Plus they wouldn’t have a clue how to return – otherwise Fenton would have come back.

It crossed Byron’s mind to find him, but it was only fleeting as he turned round, walking backwards for a few seconds to see how far behind they were. He could see Todd’s van down on the road, it looked like a matchbox car from this height. He could see Johnno’s van had joined it. They’d be on the move now. And they might have another route.

He picked up the pace and started jogging. There really was no time to lose. He knew that at least five minutes had to lapse after he jumped for there to be no trace. He’d reached the circle now and was already reciting incantations. He could feel the energy shift in the circle. He looked at the three of them, two were clear: he had a choice between the small one and the medium one. He didn’t like the look of the desert in the medium one, but the small one looked like a reflection of the heath he was on, could he trust it? One thing he had learnt was not to trust what the eye was showing you.

He spoke a stream of invocations at it. It clouded up. He knew it. They’d already been up here trying to block his way. He stood in front of the medium one and did the same, it remained clear, but it worried him. If they’d set one up to fool him, how did he know they hadn’t set another? He turned to the tallest one, which reflected darkened storm clouds. He delivered a string of enchantments and it cleared immediately, giving him a breathtaking view of rolling hills.

His choice was made. He jumped through, landing on soft firm grass. He invoked spells in the circle on the other side; they should close the portal off for a couple of days, giving him a head start. Then he headed to the nearest hill, hoping to find a town of some sort on the other side. Either way he needed to get out of site of the stone circle and find a way to survive here.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 39

This week's photo prompt was taken by Piroshki-Photography, a Serbian photographer. You can find more of their photos on their page at Deviant Art. They call this one 'Curved Reality'. It was taken in Santa Margherita Ligure, in Genoa, Italy.

I could see the opening of this tale immediately, but the story took longer to appear, although not in depth. It was tricky only hinting at it without really knowing what it was about but pretending I did! 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

The Establishment

Dorian staggered into the square, holding onto the wall of the alleyway he was coming through. He sensed people looking at him, but all he could see were the buildings in the plaza swaying and wobbling. Was this actually happening? He couldn’t be sure but he was mesmerized by them.

The architecture took on new meaning as it reshaped before his eyes. He had a growing desire to go up and touch them. He moved forward, the ground rolled under his feet.  He staggered again, this time falling to his knees. He looked around him. The people he thought were there weren’t; the cafe terraces were empty, not a sole in the streets.

The buildings were still moving. Dorian crawled to the edge of one to put his hand against it. He could feel it vibrate through his palm. He rubbed the brickwork. It felt real.

Then he heard a voice.

“Mr. Bradshaw, tell us how you got here?”

Dorian looked around him again; there was still no one in the plaza. Who was speaking?

“Who are you? Where are you? Show yourself!” He didn’t like the swaying anymore; it was making him feel sick.

“You know who we are, Mr. Bradshaw, and you know why we are not showing ourselves.”

Dorian felt something nag at the back of his mind, something before he stumbled into the plaza. Where was he before he was here? He fought to gain a hold on his memory. How did he get here? He remembered the alleyway between two buildings. What two buildings? He remembered a plane journey; he remembered a city, sweet scent of trees baked in the sun. He was in Italy! Yes, Genoa. But why? He was tracking something, or was it someone? Why couldn’t he remember?

“If you know me, you know why I am here. Stop messing with my head and talk to me!” Dorian could barely raise his head now. He understood that what was happening was not real; it was a magnetic field that worked on his mind; an illusion to disorientate him, to put him off the scent. “I’m not leaving until you do, and remember I am being tracked.”

Those last words brought everything back into sharp focus: He knew why he was here and what his plan had been. Their tricks couldn’t work anymore.

The plaza faded. The blank wall it had been projected onto took its place. The wall was grey concrete. It had been real. He had managed to get inside.

Dorian heard footsteps and slumped back into a sitting position on the floor, resting his back against the wall. The men that appeared didn’t look happy.

“How did you get in here? How did you find us?”

Dorian smiled. “You should be concerning yourself with what my arrival means, and how long you have got.”

The two men glanced at each other clearly unnerved by Dorian’s words. Then another set of footsteps could be heard, these ones slower and heavier, as though trying to be threatening.

Dorian wasn’t surprised to see the man that made them. He had suspected all along that Johnson Hayward had been the head of this particular establishment. In fact he was pleased to have it finally confirmed. The smile he gave wasn’t welcomed.

“You think you have achieved something by gaining access to this location, but you seem to forget how we operate.”

“Why don’t you enlighten me, Mr Hayward?”

He gave Dorian a smirk. “You would like that, wouldn’t you? But not this time, this time we are one step ahead.”

Johnson Hayward clapped his hands and the lights went out, literally and metaphorically as a hard hit to the head rendered Dorian unconscious.

When he came to he was lying in the middle of a plaza – the same plaza that had been wobbling in front of him earlier. This time it was real and full of life, the sounds of people and cars and movement all around him. Someone came over and spoke to him in Italian, offering a hand. He took it and stood up, taking a few seconds to steady himself before thanking them and walking away.

He searched for the alleyway but he couldn’t find it. Eventually he gave up and returned to his hotel. Damn, he’d lost them, though this was the closest he had come in five years. It wasn’t over yet.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 38

This week's photo prompt is from a young American photographer, Alex Currie, who is just 20 years old. She has some incredible work. Go and have a look at her website. She was 16 when she took this photo, and you can read an article about it here.

I wrote half of this with one story in mind, but when I  came back to it the following day I couldn't pick it up and so changed it to another story. A nice bit of Sci-Fi for a change.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.


Message in a Bottle

Christopher sat up, his heart pounding, forehead pricking with sweat. He could still see the chair surrounded by ocean as far as the eye could see, and him twisting and turning on it, somehow stuck to it as the tide came in.

What did it mean? Did it mean anything? He wasn’t sure. Sometimes his dreams happened in real life, things he dreamt – no matter how random, would suddenly fall into place and unfold before his eyes.

Water was a metaphor for emotions in dreams. Did he feel overwhelmed? Some days. It was tough at school. Yeah, he liked wearing bow ties, so what? It was better than the chumps who copied the latest YouTuber’s hair do.

Christopher had always known he didn’t fit in and he was good with that. He didn’t need to fit in. He had his own friends and they didn’t fit in either. They hadn’t when they were at school and they didn’t now as they pursued their cutting edge careers.

Christopher checked the time; he didn’t want to be late for Professor Hardingsworth. He got dressed, choosing a red bow tie. It was Saturday; he was going to the university, not high school.

Once he’d locked his bike outside the science building, Christopher rushed through empty corridors to the studio in the basement, the professor’s favourite place. It was meant for photography, but the professor had commandeered it. He was testing more complex things than how light fell on a chair. Although there was a chair. Christopher hesitated; it looked like the one in his dream.

“Morning Professor. What are you planning today?”

The professor’s head popped up from a row of laptops he had on his desk. “Christopher. Excellent. Be a good lad and sit on that chair for me, will you?”

Christopher smiled. There was never any chit-chat with the professor; he always got right down to business. He took a seat.

“What is this experiment for, Professor?”

“Co-existing realities, Christopher. Are there any?”

“What, here Professor?”

“Here, there, anywhere. Can we locate one? That’s the question for today.”

“And the chair?”

“Somewhere to put the test subject?”

“Test subject? You mean me?”

“Yes.” He chuckled. “Hope that’s alright.”

“Of course, sir. But how does me sitting here do anything?”

“Do? It’s less about doing, it’s more about sensing. Hang on.” The professor tapped vigorously on various keyboards.

Christopher heard a seagull cry. He assumed it was outside. Then it sounded like several were circulating the room. He was sure he could hear waves crashing too.

The professor glanced at him. “You hearing something?”

“Yes, I think so.”

The professor grabbed a bottle off his desk and thrust it into Christopher’s hands. Christopher looked at it. It had a piece of paper rolled up inside: Message in a bottle.

“Throw it, Christopher, as hard as you can.”

He felt the bottle in his hands: glass. It would shatter hard against the wall, but who was he to argue. He flung it out to his left and braced for impact, anticipating it smashing, but there was nothing. The bottle was gone.

He looked wide-eyed at the Professor who laughed his funny donkey laugh.

“Quick Christopher, let’s go.” The professor grabbed his coat and rushed out the door. Christopher followed. They jumped into the professor’s car, and drove out of the car park.

“Where are we off to, Professor?”

“Why the beach, of course.”

“For the bottle?”

“That’s right.”

“But how do you know where?”

The professor laughed. “When will you learn to trust me?”

Christopher smiled. He loved Professor Hardingsworth’s enthusiasm and passion. And he was right, the professor was rarely wrong in his calculations.

They pulled up at the deserted autumn beach. The professor hopped out of the car and strode down to the edge of the surf. He hesitated and then let out an ‘Ah!’ He walked to the right, wading into shallow water without a care for his shoes, and grabbed a bottle floating there.

He came out shaking water off the bottle and unscrewed the lid. He pulled out the paper and smiled ... then froze.

“What is it, Professor? Is it the right one?”

“Yes, yes it is, Christopher, but someone has answered it.”


He handed the note to Christopher who read the “Hello is anyone out there?” message in the professor’s handwriting, and then scanned the scrawled reply at the bottom: “Yes, we’re here. Please help us.”

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 37

This week's photo prompt was taken by Kari Liimatainen, a photographer from Finland. She has some amazing seasonal photos. You should take a look at her gallery over on Deviant Art.

I could hear these voices as soon as I saw this picture. The question was, what was going to happen. I rather liked how it turned out.

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

 Festival Offering

“You’re sure they’re going to come through here?”
“Yes Master, they come through here every week.”
“Okay, good.”

Rhodri looked through the eyepiece of the crossbow resting on his shoulder at the snow covered clearing ahead. If Hadrin was right, then they could land themselves a serious feed tonight.

He adjusted his footing in the little stream to keep himself hidden behind the overhanging trees, the snow giving them weight and creating a thick screen. He also moved to give himself more stability. The water wasn’t deep, but the rocks were slippery. They had to stay in the water to keep their scent off the land - plus footprints: they didn’t want to be hunted too.

“When did you last see them, Hadrin?”
“They were rounding the spinney near the rocky mount, Master, so they shouldn’t be long now.”
“Good work.”

Rhodri was grateful for the little elf’s speed. He was an asset to their team and had helped them keep their bellies full since his capture two moons ago. Rhodri could hear movement: a rattling that indicated a wagon, and ... was that singing?

“Are they stupid?” he whispered to Hadrin.
“Or smart, Master.”

He felt something hit him in the head hard and the sound of a splash as he fell into the stream.

When he came to, Rhodri could feel his body being jostled from side to side. He was moving, but how? He opened his eyes and saw a wooden ceiling. He was in a wagon, and from the singing, it was the wagon he had planned on capturing.

He moved to sit up but found himself pinned to the floor, even his head had been strapped back.

“Whoa Master, I wouldn’t move if I were you, those restraints have a tendency of tightening under pressure.”
“What’s happening, Hadrin, why am I tied down in a wagon?”
“Dinner, Master, we mustn’t miss it. It’s a special one tonight.”
“I don’t understand your meaning, Hadrin?”
“Tonight it’s the festival of Yanis, and we need to supply the offering.”
“You’re talking gibberish, Hadrin, what offering?”
“You Master. It has been planned for some time. It was fortunate you took a shine to me, made it a bit easier.”

Hadrin smiled at Rhodri and he felt a shiver go up his spine.

“But you have been working with me against your people.”
“That’s what you believed, yes Master.”
“You hated them for leaving you for dead.”
“Yes Master, that’s what I pretended.”
Rhodri roared, “YOU DUPED ME HADRIN!”
Hadrin giggled. “Yes Master.”

Rhodri tugged at his arms and legs and tried to lift his head. But Hadrin had been right; he lay back gasping as the strap round his neck choked him. Hadrin came to his aid to loosen it slightly.

“Why do you bother to keep me alive?”
“Oh you mustn’t be dead, Master, we have to follow the ritual of the ancients. Once a troll has been entrapped he must be duly processed. The blood letting is done in stages, for maximum results.”
“Results, Hadrin?” Rhodri could feel his blood drain from his face already.
“Your soul must be cleansed to pass through the doors of Arroubin.”
“Yes. A cut for each life you have taken.”

Rhodri stared at the ceiling thinking about the hundreds he had slaughtered.

“Don’t worry Master, you have plenty of flesh. I made sure of that.”

Rhodri realised Hadrin was referring to all the food he helped him catch. It had all been a set up. The elves had planned it all along. He closed his eyes. It was going to be a long night.

“Yes, that’s right master, save your strength. You will need it.” Rhodri could hear the smirk in Hadrin’s voice.