Category Archives: Friday flash

Threads of Time, Part II

There is a second part to the collaborative story writing I did last week. Building on someone else’s 200 works. Chuck Wendig is marvellous for his prompting!

First part of the story is written by a fine person going by nitromidget and can be found at her blog.

As the knitting needle vibrated in Marley’s chest, she gasped hungrily for air, until she realised although it felt like it rent her heart, it still continued to beat. But through the air, seemingly spooling out of her, was a glowing chord of soft green.

The crone reached a gnarled hand to the floating tendril and bent to look at it, twisting it slowly between finger and thumb, testing its fineness. Marley grabbed at the line, wanting to pull it back, but it dissolved as she touched it. A tutting like the rustling of dry leaves was the response as the ancient old woman turned back to Marley’s snoring client, casting back on and resuming her knitting.

“You are not ready, child.”

“Neither is she.” Marley waved a hand in the drifting thread, dissipating it.

With eyes dark as night and an expression of indulgent patience, the elderly woman turned her face back to Marley. “What do you know of the universe, child? I have seen worlds rise and fall. I have seen millions die. What do you think to tell me that would change what I do to protect existence as you know it?”

Marley’s mouth hung open and the old woman snorted. “Nothing. As I thought.”

The Wendy Lady

Charlie, better known as Spokes for his ability to turn anything into a ride, was pretty new to Neverland and was sure that if there was a better place, one lonely little orphan wasn’t likely to see it.

When Peter had taken his hand and led him from the dingy orphanage that had been his home, Spokes knew it was the happiest moment of his life. No more rules, no more school or chores or cruel Mrs Hudson who ran the orphanage with a Puritanism that would give the most docile child an urge to escape.

His happy thought had been the first bike he built from scraps and spare parts. She was a beauty and rode like the wind, with the noise of a group of boys running sticks along fences. Spokes was pretty sure his second happy thought was flying.

Peter had been here, showing him all the secret places, how to swing on ropes and that he should definitely stay away from the mermaids, who blew him pretty kisses from faces hiding malice and mischief. He showed him how to fight with slingshot, sword and bow and arrow. Spokes vowed one day to do it all from the back of a bicycle.

He introduced Spokes to the Darlings, saving special mention for the Wendy lady. Spokes thought she was the most beautiful person he had ever seen, with a smile like sunshine.

Today Peter went away and all the colour drained from the hideout. The Lost Boys disappeared quick smart, and Spokes found himself stumbling through the forest, looking for his playmates.

From beside his ear came an agitated tinkling. He turned to find Tinkerbell, burning brightly beside him. He still had trouble understanding her.

“‘Lo Tink!” he winked. “Wha’s this game?”

She blinked and tinkled at him frantically before zooming off into the foliage.

“Tink! Wait!” With clumsy bounds, he ran after her, branches slapping him in the face, roots tripping him.

Spokes stumbled into a clearing , and found the Wendy lady, crouched over something. A soft glow lit up her face from beneath, bringing a chilling element to her smile.

“Ah, Spokes,” her voice was low and dangerous and she didn’t even turn to look at him, “I knew I could count on you.”

Slowly she stood, and Spokes could see Tinkerbell hanging limp, one wing pinched between the Wendy lady’s outstretched fingers. Spokes didn’t know much about faeries, but he was pretty sure that would hurt later.

“All the boys are hiding,” Wendy said in a voice that made Spokes wish he was hiding too. “And my brothers…”

Spokes wasn’t sure what to do. He wouldn’t outrun Wendy if Tink couldn’t. He was afraid. Wendy snatched his hand and held it with none of her gentleness from before. She dragged him back further into the tangled vines and thick stands of trees.

“Where are we going, Wendy lady?”

“To do what needs to be done, of course.”

They came to a cave, its entrance barred closed with rough hewn logs. A curtain of vines had been pinned back, obviously used to hide it previously. From the outside, there was a complicated mechanism of unlocking, and Spokes watched as each of the parts moved. The door swung in and Wendy threw both of her captives in.

“Stay here while I fetch the others. Then, we’ll get to work.”

Spokes didn’t like it. He was feeling like he was back at the orphanage. He sat with his head on his knees for a bit, pushing the dirt around with his toes.

Ever so slightly, the light brightened. Spokes turned as Tink sat up, clutching her head and emitting a high-pitched moan. She tried flapping her wings and faltered, face-planting in the dirt with a pained squeal. Spokes picked her up and put her on his shoulder.

Now that she was awake, he could see the inside of the cave. “What is this place?”

Dangling from the roof he could see a small, clear cage. Perfect size for someone small. And luminescent. There were benches with needles and thimbles.


Tink shook her head, eyes downcast. She pointed at a draping cloth and Spokes whipped it off. Piles of cloth, embroidered delicately with shining silk thread, the russet tone so familiar.

“Hook’s clothes?” Spokes squeaked as he rubbed his head vigorously. “Us?”

Tink nodded slowly. She snuggled into Spokes’ neck. Thoughts like cogs ticked in his brain, one part spurring on another. He took a long stick from the corner and was sad when the little faerie recoiled. Feeding it out a small gap in the door, he expertly maneuvered it out, followed by a skinny arm up to the elbow. Gently, he twisted it, pushing on one small lever. There was an audible click and the door swung open. Tink zipped out and Spokes followed, the whirr of his thoughts almost audible as he rubbed his scraggly hair. Her small light hovering erratically, she waited. He whispered his devious plan to her.

Wendy returned, baby John in hand and two of the smaller boys under her arm. She threw them in and slammed the door, briskly turning away again.

“Wait, Wendy lady!” Spokes called. “Tink is hurt real bad.”

Stopping still, the Wendy lady turned, stiff with worry. Tink was Pan’s favourite; she could not be replaced or explained away. She stalked back, her dress trailing behind her.

Inside the cave, the light flickered and spluttered, Tink looked sure to be done for. Wendy ran to her side, “No, no, no…Tink…”

As she knelt, Spokes looped their makeshift lasso over her and pulled tight, trapping her arms beneath the twisted bonds. Spokes and the other boys hoisted her to the ceiling where she shrieked and struggled and then cajoled. The boys kept her tied until Pan returned.

“It was all for you, to keep things the way you wanted. We have to work to make a life for ourselves. Hook buys, so we make.” Her head hung with shame as she whispered, “I never meant to hurt anybody.”

“But you did Wendy. Maybe you were just too old for Neverland, already caught in the grip of adulthood, of the dreams of having shiny things…”

All the Darlings were returned home, to return never more.

And Spokes…Let’s just say that Neverland never lost its magic for him.


Like fluffy cotton wool, dyed grey and absorbing the sounds and smells of the world about, the fog descended on the city. Where it went, they went, silent footsteps down the streets and alleyways.

She is walking all alone, her confidence worn outside in the studded tattered vest with the patches of half a dozen angry punk bands on the outside and with the unbrushed, unwashed hair, dye faded over months, shoved under the dark beanie. It was the brash conversation with a friend, speaking of illicit things in a tone so loud people three back could hear, to this suddenly quiet person slipping down streets alone; it was this sudden change between that had attracted them.

Those that crept beneath the cover of the fog were the ones of legend that had been preying on the solitary, the weak, or those that would give them sport; these others had been driving the fog for thousands of years, feeding from the luckless around the Thames and in the deep, dark forests that the Hellenic and Celtic feared for exactly these predators and tricksters of lonely places. For centuries, they had drawn the fog with them like a screening cloak, used it for play and to disorient.

The girl turns, a sneer on her face. “All right. Who’s there?”

Her voice drowns in the muffling mist. A clang echoes by her feet, and she shrieks as something leaps out. A cat, a grey streak against the ground, yowling as it runs, as she should. But she lets go of her breath with a gush and laughs at her stupidity. But that feeling of eyes on her still lifts the sensitive hairs at the back of her neck, gets her heart hammering.

She continues on her way, distracted by the noise behind her, like a thousand autumn leaves tumbling together and crunching.

“Whoever you are, cut it out and piss off. I can defend myself, and I am not afraid of you.”

It’s like a hiss, the sound of their laughter, like the howling winds sneaking through a chink in the brickwork, chilling you to the bone.

The girl stalks onward, determined to get out of this alley. Ignoring all her instincts, the fear flooding through her veins with the adrenaline, she presses on.

Around her, tendrils of mist probe at the edges of her vest, tangle the strands of her hair. She jerks, a puppet dancing at the pulling of their strings.

“Who are you? Leave me alone.”

Frantic now, she stumbles into a run, desperate for the cross street she knows is ahead. Coalescing from the mist in front of her, swirling atom by atom, the shadowy figures form, laughing at her panic. Their shapes are grotesque, twisted, gnarled and deformed; millennia of their depravity transforming their outward appearance to match what lay within.

With taloned limbs, they reach as one, hissing with laughter as she screams and jerks from them. Surrounding her now, fog in between a barrier from the outside world, they creep in as she spins like a top, searching for a weak point. With a ferocity they enjoy, she launches herself at the littlest one, her fists flailing.

A bag drops to the ground with a thud. Above, a window opens, a head pops out. There are no more disturbing sounds. Shuffling painfully down an alleyway, an old man long down on his luck finds a bag. He rifles through it, takes the few notes, looks around. He drops the bag again, and scuttles off, tugging down the beanie and wrapping the jacket tight about him, cherishing the anonymity.

From the fog they watch. And they wait.

Orichalcum Slave

In the still and quiet in the town, ever this way since the water came, there are no voices crying out, and the bells have long since ceased ringing. But here, Heike waits, as asked to by his master. He has been waiting so long.

Over time, his bionic eyes have adopted to the change in light. So little of it filters down. Where once his master’s plants grew, undulating weed now rules. Heike has made some of the little fish his pets. They come to him now, their skins metallic like his own.

His joints grow less mobile and his skin is becoming marred with the scars of the barnacles that attempt to make his hull their home, discoloured by salts drawn to his orichalcum skin.

How he longs for his family; for their smiles and the gentle touches of inclusion.Sometimes a shadow in the ripple of the water makes him turn with joyful remembrance, the hope of a connection, only for the shark to swim over in strong, slow strokes. Their bedrooms stand empty, what remains of their curtains waft now in the current, a tragic reflection of before.

Standing now at the empty gable, he looks out at the city, the buildings in disrepair, the great pillars tumbled, blocks from the buildings offset from their foundations. Their home still stood; his master was the city’s Master Architect and he, the stalwart assistant. His master would be proud to see that all of his creations had stood the test of time; barely a crumble among them. 

He wanders through the hallways, the frescos painted by his mistress. Barely an echo of what they once were, he traces the brushstrokes that had pictographically told their story. Lingering in the corner, with reverent fingers he traces the outline she had painted, a soft-edged picture of their faithful man. Still, he waits.

Yes, he remembers the day the ground shook. People running around like ants, lost and confused. From the shelter of the house, he watched the water, bubbling, a maelstrom of belongings and currents. There were screams and sobbing. And Heike waited, like his master had asked.

“Heike,” his voice rough and face drawn, “stay. Look after our home. We will see you at the end.”

Heike had nodded in assent and watched them go, dressed in their finery, their cases apparently heavy. Even when he blinks, he can still see his little charge’s hand in her father’s, waving goodbye.

Why did they not take him? Heike was his master’s greatest achievement; his wealth and protection was wrapped up in Heike’s orichalcum hide. The names they had called his beloved master. Those voices are all gone now.

Did he mean that one day they would all be together in paradise? He knew the master believed that all life had souls. Were they beyond him in paradise now?

Heike looks upon his hearth under the shifting aquamarines and royal blues, highlighting the ruffled ridges of his cultivated coral.

He misses them so much. He knew that no one believed in his softly-glowing hydrogen heart, but he had loved them and did so still. Where were they now?

Beyond the city walls, Heike spots a change in the light density of the water. He changes his focal distance. There is a light, descending down toward the city. Hope surges through his heart. They’d remembered him!

With his heavy step, he bounds down the streets as fast as his mechanical legs allow, heart light as air on the current. At the city gates he waited, his hands pressed together in his customary greeting. The fierce beam of the craft’s spotlight swallows his subservient little frame beneath the richness of the semi-circular city gate.

They were finally coming home.

Whisper, continued.

This is a first and a real challenge for me. I have never written the ending to someone else’s short story, though I did collaborate when I was much, much younger (one day we’ll write that best-seller together, Maryam). 

This week, I am continuing in the challenge with Chuck Wendig over at his terribleminds blog to take someone else’s cliffhanger and continue it. I chose to write the ending to a story called Whisper, an intriguing piece by writer Margit Sage. Please take a look at her story before you read mine.

Raina picked her way timidly down the dank and dirty alley, looking sideways at the dingy bricks, hoping to find a door between the scrawling tags and tattered notices. Stepping over a murky puddle, she stumbled on the uneven ground and crashed into garbage, pieces of paper and refuse flying everywhere.

Picking herself up, and pulling a piece of towelette from her–what was that; don’t think about it–she turned with disgust and spotted the door. It was innocuous, badly faded boards with the scraps of what might have once been red paint, now a rusty streak here and there. As she got closer, she could see the gouges from where someone had tried to open it, probably with a crowbar. Beside the door, there was a plain black button beneath a grilled opening. Was it a buzzer?

Silence followed. A loud crackle made her step back. Somewhere overhead she heard a grinding, machinery on the move.

“Who’s there?” Almost as friendly as the reception she’d had in the cemetery.

“Ms. Edwinson. I am the executor of James Edwinson’s estate.”

The door creaked open. Raina wished, the first time she ever had, that there was–somebody–anybody waiting for her at home. She supposed she should have told her landlady, just in case. She peered into the dark opening, hearing clanking and the sliding of a big metallic door. A hush followed the gush of a hydraulic device, leaving Raina awkwardly contemplating escape.

“Ms. Edwinson?” A professional woman’s voice echoed from the chamber within.

Pressing her courage to the sticking-place insistently, Raina cleared her throat and stepped into the darkness. As her eyes adjusted, she could see a plump woman, hair drawn back, the highlighted edge or a pair of librarian-style glasses.

“Follow me.” With a sharp turn on her heel, and a quickness of step that had Raina almost running after her, the woman delved deeper into the building, to the light at the end of a wide corridor.

Catching up to the woman, Raina could see she was in her sixties, but sharply dressed. Definitely the gatekeeper.

“Excuse me, but I don’t think that I caught your name.”

With the tiniest smile, the woman replied. “You can call me Doctor McTaggart.”

Stepping into a light so bright it seared her retinas, Raina and the Doctor came to the end of the corridor.

“What is this place?” Raina could see people in private consultation rooms, their identities protected by frosted glass. An assistant came out, holding a vial of rich red blood.

“What we sell here, Ms. Edwinson, is a chance at immortality.”

Doctor McTaggart guided her into an elevator. Raina made sure she watched for the floors, so she knew her way out. At their floor, she drew aside one of the frosted doors and ushered Raina in. The room was comfortable, well appointed, sedate in dark browns and greens.

“Are those Mr. Edwinson’s ashes?”  With an authoritative gesture, she indicated that Raina was to hand them over.

“There’s a video for you to watch.”

Slowly, the room darkened and the temperature cooled. A screen dropped slowly from the ceiling. There was a blip, and there was her uncle, full of life. Raina guessed it had been made about 5 years ago. Probably around the time he was initially diagnosed with the cancer.

“Hello Raina. If you’re watching this, I’m probably dead. You probably have no idea what you’re doing here or what this facility is. I’m sorry about the secrecy but it’s part of my contract with them. Life Industries offer to make sure your memory is retained.” His laughter was tinny in the speakers. “I wish I could see your face right now. You’d have that serious little expression, with the knitted brows and wrinkle in your nose.”

Raina self-consciously changed expression, feeling as if someone were watching.

“Take it easy, Raina. Let an old man have his memories. This is part of my last will and testament, and accordingly, I bequeath my entire estate to the last surviving member of my kin, my niece, Ms. Raina Edwinson.”

A little knot in that had been building in her stomach since that discovery in the safe loosened. She hadn’t wanted the family estate or responsibilities, but the thought of it going to someone who didn’t understand the significance of their history would have upset her.

“I assume someone will be along with the all the corresponding paperwork soon, my dear. Now let me tell you what I’ve done.” The image of her uncle began playing with a dirty, great gem. “With my ashes, that by now, no doubt, the resourceful McTaggart has taken from you, I am to be formed into two gems. One will be for you to remember me by. The other my dear is going to be inscribed with some details about my honourable self; about what made me, well, me!”

“Take a look out the window,” he chortled, having a great time. “Look I say!” The image paused, and sighed. “Raina, you haven’t got all day.”

Hesitantly Raina made her way to a curtain on the far side of the room. Drawing it back, she saw a burning trail in the sky, a smoke tail lingering behind as it punched through the heavy grey cloud layer.

Her uncle’s video crowed, “Shot into space in a miniature rocket. My inscribed gem, some of my blood preserved for posterity, and a data chip all about me.”

Raina shook her head. Her uncle had some crackpot ideas, but this one really took the cake. A diamond on a rocket into space. Apparently he’d had too much time, and definitely too much money.

“Raina,” the voice was gentle, caring. “Take care of yourself. Look after our family’s legacy.”

The video blipped out, and Doctor McTaggart was back. One hand held a bulky envelope which undoubtedly held the will, an edited copy of the recording, and the gem they’d made from his ashes. In the other was a clipboard with a non-disclosure agreement.

Weary of forms, Raina scratched her name on the page and turned to leave.

With a strange and alarmed look on her face, Doctor McTaggart pressed her hand to her ear. “If you’ll please excuse me, there’s been an incident I have to attend to. One of my staff will collect you and escort you out momentarily.”

The door shut behind her with a decided click. Raina leaned against the wall. The door opened within a minute. “Time to go, Ms. Edwinson.”

In the silence of the elevator, the assistant hummed. Raina was exhausted and it was only as she was being left again in the dirty alleyway that she recognised it as Ride of Valkyries; her uncle’s favourite tune.

She looked up and into a face that appeared right out of her childhood memories.

“Uncle James?”

There was a crinkly smile, a wink, and the gentleman ducked past her and ran down the alley.


Somehow, it had all gone wrong. Gorgan hadn’t been looking forward to the fleshy, hairy bodies with their unusual excretions and strange habits. However, humans weren’t supposed to have this many optical inputs and the manual adjusting was giving him quite the headache. And the carapace…He’d been inside insectoids before but this was different. Hairy carapaces. This was the stuff terror was made of.

He’d been meant to infiltrate the newly sentient species, learn their ways, if they’d be acceptable to trade with. But somewhere in the upload, there’d been a mix up. Certainly the limbs that he waved in his vision included no tactile digits. He couldn’t communicate or operate this world’s inelegant technology in this form. He was much too small. Gorgan had wracked his brain to figure out what to do.

It was by pure chance that his thread caught on a rock as he paced back and forth. He looked up above, strong tensile threads singing in the breeze. With one barbed leg, he strummed the thread. It was slightly pliable and would make a great building tool.

The question was what he could make of it. Gargon contemplated as he stared up at the interlinked threads above, shining silver bright and singing pure notes.

Suddenly he remembered an old method of signalling. A 3D structure, representing mathematical knowledge, used as a substitute for language.

The way that they had discovered human intelligence.

Sir, our operative is missing.

The ship commander inclined her head at the officer, indicating that he had her attention.

There seems to have been a glitch in transfer. A solar flare disrupted the electromagnetic fields. We believe he has gone to a different host. The biosignal lock was lost. 

You’ve checked all the usual frequencies?

The silent affirmation from the officer was regretful.

Give him some more time. The Commander’s tone was dismissive. He is very experienced. He will contact us. There is still time before the takeover.

Very well Commander.

Around and around he went, thread spooling behind him. Vaguely, he dreamed of weavers from his home world, the ancient tradition of the story tapestry. Their species had long outgrown it, keeping examples only an anthropological sake, to see how far they had evolved. He found himself wondering if they’d felt such a sense of achievement.

With a little flourish of his abdomen, he twirled the last thread in the strange little cone. With one sharp leg, he set the structure thrumming. The thin threads that anchored the cone and jutting pole sang, accompanied by a soft hum from the hashed surrounding structure.

Crouching back, Gorgan felt a sense of accomplishment. He’d put them in a radius about the location he was supposed to have been deposited. His first few attempts had been clumsy, but most of the structures were spot on for mathematical model. The most beautiful sounds came from them; a chorus of notes singing in the wind.

These legs, with their strange bends and hinging were proving to be very useful indeed. He wondered if they might be incorporated into new equipment designs. He examined them carefully with the eight eyes he’d now adapted too. He made a mental note to discuss it with the design team when he returned.

He was careful not to think about the word if. He was not out of hope. Not yet. He had some time left before the host’s natural instincts asserted themselves. He wondered if the Commander would remember the older fallback protocols.

Somewhere off in the distance, he heard a strange buzzing sound. There was a twang, followed by a jangling of chords, a rhythm angry and desperate. Gorgan’s mandibles clacked together. He was so, so hungry.

“Dude!” The stick crashed next to the delicate structure. “Check out this crazy thing.”

“That is crazy!” A set of big brown eyes over a long and protruding nose came close to touching the structure. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Take a picture. We might make a million dollars out of it.”

“Or we could just put it up on the internet.” The lens moved in, closing on the tiny filaments.

“Yeah, I guess. Have you taken the shot?”

“Look at it.”

“That’s awesome. You can see the tiny threads. Wonder what whack spider did that?”

“Who knows. Wanna get a brew?”


The spider’s mandibles clicked delightedly as it sucked the juicy insides of the fly. Its feast was accompanied by the tinkling notes of song that it didn’t recognise from its own web. Still, it rather enjoyed the change. It worked in such great harmony with its own web.

Maybe it would go explore. It could be another spider in its territory. The spider’s mandibles clicked defensively with the thought.

A memory lingered at the back of its mind. It should remember something. But…it must be nothing.

Satsified, the spider stalked its web.

Outside the atmosphere, a ship in camouflage mode moved into a time fold.

At a workstation, a clock blinked zeros, lighting up the open electronic manual beneath, highlighting the page on mathematical forms and maydays.

The lab was empty: the mission had been a failure. The loss of a good operative and the dearth of information only compounded the misadventure.

The ship winked out of the galaxy, leaving behind the spider, playing with its fly.


This is prompted by this incredible (and I believe, unidentified) structure, brought to my attention by the latest flash fiction challenge at terribleminds.

A Mentor’s Mantle

Arriving at the funeral of your mentor in the brightest of striped air balloons is not the way to stop people talking. Ella Fritz, dressed in a black bustled gown with hand embroidered lace, did not need an entrance to captivate the attention of those gathered. With the stares she got, one would think they did not realise that her choice of transport had been rather limited. Who carries air balloons in black anyhow?

She was glad to see that the coffin had been closed. The accident that had stolen her mentor had left him a disfigured mess, and she didn’t need that imprinted on her memory any more than it already was. Stroking the smooth, glossy surface, a few tears gathered in her dark eyes and spilled down the dark curve of her cheek.

Taking the hand of the Professor’s wife, she silently kissed the soft cheek and shared a moment of solidarity with her. Words were ineffectual to communicate their shared grief. Both had never had another love like his.

Beyond the coffin on its stand, a willow waved its tendril branches in the breeze. The Professor would have approved of this place, Ella felt; a moment’s peace that he’d never had in his frenetic life. A remote hill in a secluded spot, resting in the shade of tree beside the red rust canyons of this land that he had loved so much.

Sitting at the back, Ella watched as the minister gathered the mourners for the service. A wry smile for the memory of the good Professor’s lack of time for the men of the cloth echoing in her mind, she tuned out to the words that someone of her profession would consider cold comfort. She liked to think of the Professor now scattered amongst the dust and the pieces of her world, driving it on with the force of his passion. But she knew that was just her.

After many years of faithful service and companionship, she’d never seen the Professor’s feet of clay, as you were want to do when familiarity bred its special contempt. With a sly smile, she wondered if others might consider that she was the clay; a young street girl he picked because of the quick deceit she pulled on him with some magnesium and a match. He’d scoured every street in that backwater hovel collection until he’d found the teen orphan. Apprenticing to him had been the best decision of her life.

If only he hadn’t been experimenting with that brimstone on his own! They had agreed to start the experiments on the properties when she returned from the outpost, but he had seemingly started without her. Which was unusual in itself, because he had always been such a stickler for safety. With their hired hand helping her at the market, there had been no one around to assist when it had all gone wrong. Ella shuddered with the memory of the green-tinged burns, the bubbles of skin like those on a stew left too long. She was glad she had managed to save the Professor’s wife that at least.

Ugly doubt had niggled at her, but a thorough investigation of the laboratory had not turned up any evidence of wrong-doing. The sheriff had eventually asked her what leads he was supposed to be investigating. Accidents could happen to anyone, even the great Professor Switch.

Like the washing out of a tide, the neat rows of white chairs emptied, and people shuffled towards the tents erected for the wake. The gravedigger piled on the red earth, the hollow sound of clods hitting the lid of the coffin making Ella shiver. She’d attended too many funerals on this forsaken colony. She noted that many of her Professor’s esteemed colleagues were not here. So many had doubted his dream.

Ella slipped her arm into the frail one of the Professor’s wife. Claire watched with dull grey eyes as the pit filled, impervious to the red dust settling on her skirts. Ella noted the new silvers in the brown hair pulled back tightly beneath her widow’s hood.

“It was too soon,” Claire said woodenly, her face turning to Ella. “We are both so young.”

Ella’s mouth twisted in sympathy for the woman who had cared for her. Barely middle-aged, this should not have been her burden so early. “I know, I know.”

Ella felt a sudden heaviness in her palm. She opened it to find the Professor’s pocketwatch shining bright and gold in her palm. With wide eyes, she refused it. It was too much.

“He wanted you to have it,” Claire smiled with remembered happiness. “He once told me that you were his greatest achievement.”

Pesky tears prickled as she turned away, stowing the keepsake in a small and hidden pocket in the folds of her dress. “Thank you,” she whispered, to both of them.

Claire began her slow descent to the pavillion, turning to see Ella untying the balloon with deft hands. “You’re not coming in?” Claire called out.

“I thought continuing his work might be the best tribute for him.”

A thin-lipped smile came to Claire’s face. Science was always stealing those she loved. She raised a hand in farewell and went to do her duty to her husband.

Stepping lightly into the balloon, and lashing the gate tightly shut, Ella lifted off, floating over the canyon and towards home. She checked the notes she’d stored in a secret compartment, the ones worth the life of the man who was almost her father. His secret invention, the atomic clock, that would revolutionise the way the world would operate. A secret Ella worried he had been killed for.

Today, she would take on his mantle. Tomorrow she would be realising his dream.

Another piece of Flash Fiction, inspired by terrible minds, that had to have the following words in it. FUNERAL CAPTIVATE DECEIT BRIMSTONE CANYON BALLOON CLAY DISFIGURED WILLOW ATOMIC

A steam clock stop

20130802-20130802-IMG_1638It was a quiet little street, until shortly before the clock was to strike the hour. People would be begin to gather, collecting in little pockets, creating eddies and disrupting the flow of traffic. Someone would dart across to the clock, caressing its brass casings lovingly, before posing so that a photograph would be taken. Some would climb to get a better look at the twisting balls that were the clock mechanics, this one here dropping to mark the minutes. Others would look to the lovingly hand-crafted face, at the delicate petals of flowers about the dial.

The loud explanations of the homeless guide drew in others as he went through the motions of explaining the steam clock and directing people to the steam vents; his voice lured those on the fringes, those curious to see what the fuss was about.

All around the clock, they would build, this solid wall of admirers. Excitement builds in them, flowing out, infecting the people around them. Like little lemmings, they stand at the foot of the clock, gathering to worship at the altar of beauty. Hopeful faces would turn upwards, looking to capture the first steam-powered movements of the whistles.

Around the corner, dressed in what once was finery but now bore the tell-tale fringing of wear, a man in vest and unravelling bow-tie waits, watching the deepening colours of the gathering energy cloud with puffy eyes. His hair is streaked with grey and unkempt, as if he has been sleeping rough for many days. He focuses on the guide in his shabby, lurid orange safety vest; his jumping about lighting up the cloud with flares of energy. The man watches, one hand restlessly fiddling with the handkerchief in his waistcoat pocket, the folded tip no longer stiff and fresh.

He waits for the swirling energy to peak, the strike is but seconds away now, the crowd waiting with baited breath of the first whistling note. At the first larger swirl of steam, the man whirls into action.

Moving faster than the eye can see, he whisks through the crowd, weaving between the clusters, gathering the glowing golden energy in his ballooning handkerchief, stuffing it in handfuls into his mouth. He leaves only as much as he can spare to keep the clock ticking and to time. He is not greedy and knows that next time he comes, it will be better if the clock chimes on the hour.

As the Westminster Quarters issue from the clock, the man walks away, his hair curling softly and glowing gold in the sunshine, his eyes bright and clear. His whole attire is immaculate and looks brand new, while a little old-fashioned. Under his arm, a large handkerchief is tied in a bundle which squirms noticeably.

A small child, holding onto her mummy’s neck notices and opens her mouth in a perfectly astonished O. The man winks at her, tucking his bundle more tightly under his arm, stealing away with the glut of energy that will fill him for days.

He muses as he walks away, that maybe he will stay in Vancouver for a while. After all, he hasn’t dined like this for many centuries, on a food so pure. He smiles. Perhaps the quiet life is the one for this energy eater.

Baby mama

There she was so tiny and perfect in my arms. Little puckering rosebud mouth, tiny little sucking movements as she moved towards my swollen chest. She had the tiniest dark fuzz on her head. That was from my family’s side. We’d yet to see her eyes but I guessed they’d be dark too.

Gently, I rocked her in my arms. The nurse should not have given her to me, but then she didn’t know better. She could never have known this was never meant to happen, this bonding experience unique to mother and child. She was born of me, in my blood, but she couldn’t be mine. We’d agreed. I just had never known how excruciating the sacrifice would be.

It was then that they walked in. Her parents. My sister, that wasn’t born that way, and her wife. They were to be my baby’s parents. I looked up at Sarah with tears in my eyes.

“They gave her to me,” I said, tears welling in my eyes.

Sarah just looked at me, the expression part betrayed and part pitying. She’d been with me when my two babies were born. She knew my mothering instinct was strong and fierce. Hell, I’d almost beaten up a kid twice my size who picked on her when we were kids. I was a mother hen, and proud of it. She knew the torture I was going through.

It was Penny who surprised me. Gently she stepped in beside me and wrapped her arms around me. She didn’t try to take the baby.

Quietly she said, “This must be the luckiest little girl in the world. Not only does she have lots of people who love her without having met her, but she is one of the only little girls in the world with 3 mummies that love her. “

I began to cry, in that silent way, with big fat tears running down my cheeks. I shook with the emotions flooding through me. My sister Sarah, who I loved and who had been through so much, came and held me too.

I remembered the night that they’d asked me to be their surrogate. My kids had been playing quietly on the floor, and I wondered how I could possibly deny them so much joy. I remembered when Sarah was my little brother instead and how much children had loved her. I knew how Penny’s serious, quiet ways would balance out her impetuous nature. And how the government would not allow them a chance to be parents any other way. It was love that had made me say yes. And I could never have known how much joy it would bring us all.

Trembling, I handed her over. As one, they held her, their little family. They never let go of me as they held her. I was crying harder now, but it was the cathartic crying. I knew this little girl would be so loved, and I would always be a part of her life. I had given the most important gift I could ever give – motherhood.

House that preys

Where the sun rarely shone, the place where pigeons came to roost, in the shadow of the skyscrapers, was a small gothic church. The drab grey bricks were well maintained, white paint adorned the windowsills of the arched, stained-glass windows. The church liked the white. It was reminded of the large whites of their eyes when they finally surrendered.

During the week, outside the church, the workers came and sat. The warm air attracted them, the light and gardens, to eat their lunch in the peaceful surrounds. Quietly, it watched them gorge themselves, feeding on the energy their gluttony provided. Often, the people would look up, confused as to why they had eaten so much and still felt hungry.

On the weekends, the church had to take its pickings. Often the caretaker would pick up the carcasses of dead pigeons, wondering where they had come from. Pigeons were not a favourite, but they would do if no other sustenance was on offer. Weddings were an extremely tasty dish. All the envy of the bride in white, the unsurpressed longings of those about to commit to a lifetime of sex with one other. The church creaked, its low giggle, remembering all the askew skirts and dropped trousers of the brides and grooms, bared beneath it’s beams. Lust and adultery were… dellllicioussssssssssss

But the days where they filled its all, those righteous congregations, those were good. All of those sins, escaping, being thought about over and over… Mmmmm… Those were the days. It was ironic, the doors clattered with amused tones, that they often left more pious than they came.

Sometimes it remembered fondly the priests who had lived within its influence. How over time, it had sucked them dry of any evils. They mostly died after that, screaming in their sleep of demons. Too good for this world, the parishioners said.

Others were weak. Their minds were putty to be moulded by the church. The adulterers were fun, but wailed to much. The gluttons, fat and rotund, grew too lazy to be any fun. The building’s most tasty dish, one that made it shiver with delight, was the paedophiles. Forbidden and sexual, it forced the thoughts and the touch upon them. Many sickened, left, burning with what they’d done. For a select few, their delectable behavior they saw as normal, for they themselves had been through it in their orphanages and homes. These, the behavior they saw as normal, for they themselves had been through it in their orphanages and homes. These, the church fostered and cared for. Its absolute favourite.

Now, they thought to sell it. At first, the rumblings in the hall made it angry. Pieces of the church suddenly fell and injured the board members. Then one proposal caught its attention. A nightclub. The church practically leapt with glee. It concentrated its hardest. Slowly, when the vote came, the proposal was passed, to the confusion of the board. But that night, the church delighted. Soon, it would feast….