The Flash Fiction Challenge
For April 23 I am taking part in a flash fiction challenge with deadlinesforwriters. Previously I had only written ‘normal’ length short stories with them, and ‘only’ one per month. This has been a lot of fun and the challenge sounded like I could learn a lot from it.
So here I am and here are the first ten stories. We are given a daily prompt and a word count at midnight and then have time to submit our stories within a 24 hour window from 8am until 8am the next day.
I did learn a lot, not least about punctuation of dialogue and capitalisation of titles. But also about my process of getting inspired. Or how to handle being totally uninspired. And I get to read some amazing work by the others in the group and receive some very valuable feedback.
(Prompt 1 – Bust, 150 words)
If only the job interview had taken place in winter.
She was mentally preparing for yet another interview when the man thrust his arm through the closing doors of the lift. She had already illuminated the button she needed. He pushed it again.
She rolled her eyes and wiped her forehead. This summer heat was an extra nuisance. At least the colour of her dress made her feel somewhat happy with herself this Monday morning.
She recognized him from the photo. The same smart suit and slick hairstyle. Halfway up, she realised he was also looking at her, but not from the corner of his eyes. He stared at the region below her neck, his grin showing teeth.
At their stop he left first, only to have to ring the bell at the door to the offices. She unlocked it and brushed past, saying ‘I can’t wait for you to explain why you are the right person for the job.’
(Prompt 2 – Tea, 35 words)
35 years together and neither Lydia nor Henry have so far skipped their tea time tradition.
They always have a cuppa at 5pm.
After lunch, Lydia left on her bike to see a friend.
Henry chooses her favourite loose leaf.
Lydia‘s cup has gone cold by the time his mobile rings.
Like Riding a Rike, Only Completely Different
(Prompt 3 – Coach, 250 words)
Meta is bothered by how her career choices seem to make her muse flaky.
‘Now, what exactly is bothering you about this assignment?’ Brigid leaned back and steepled her fingers.
‘I don’t know – the word doesn’t inspire me. Or it inspires me too much. It’s what I ended up not making a career of and I can’t write about that.’
‘Who says that you have to? Who says you can’t skip today?’
‘It’s a challenge. You are meant to accept it and just do it. I can’t just, you know – arrrgh!’
‘Where did you say you name was from?’
‘It’s German. Bit old-fashioned’
‘The e is long.’
Brigid tilted her head and continued. ‘What would you say is the upside to this task?’
Meta sighed and closed her eyes. ‘Not much comes to mind. Of course, I could be reasonable and talk about how it’s good for me and my discipline. But today I just feel stuck.’
‘I guess that some very mean person signed you up for this without asking you?’
‘Ha ha, not helping!’
Brigid smiled. ‘I am not here to help, at least not in the way you seem to be hoping for. You know that. Tell me, what is the worst thing that could happen if you just started typing?’
Meta looked at her hands. ‘I might not find a perfect ending,’ she murmured.
‘And what if your story did not have the perfect ending?’
Meta stood up. ‘This is not working. I should write about the mother showing her daughter how to ride a bike after all.’
(Prompt 4 – Minutes, 120 words)
It is not recommended to do photosensitive spells in a hurry. But sometimes circumstances converge to force your hand.
Where was Yolanthe with the Agrimony? Even in the silent darkness, Lexa felt the sun already gaining strength again. If she didn’t succeed before the end of the eclipse, the unfinished spell would blow up in her face.
Lexa preferred planning for contingencies over improvising. Today, however, she had had to prepare in a hurry.
Her hands shook when she dropped the ammonite into the cauldron, but too late: All at the same time, flames lit up the village, the shadows dissolved and the sigils on the ground exploded.
From her almost empty bag she pulled her last tool. The sword, stuck in there at the last minute, flashed in the sunlight.
Time to make the dragon pay for Yolanthe.
(Prompt 5 – Scent, 50 words)
Losing your sense of smell is bad enough. But what if this new disability was the least of her problems?
Her home looked the same as before the accident.
She sniffed the air, trying to remember. Nothing. No memory and no sensation.
The tree outside had been bare, hadn’t it?
It was not because of the loss of smell that she never found the sign saying ‘Specimen 456, switched 04/23’.
What Goes Around
(Prompt 6 – Blame, 120 words)
They say the moral arc of the universe is long. Mercs are looking to bend it.
Only one lamp now, have to save energy. I thought we had time, but the fires reached Denmark yesterday. There go the last crops.
Those weather scientists should have spoken up sooner, people should have elected better politicians, instead of blocking roads or debating plastic straws.
My dad thought bigger. Built a lucrative business. Before he died from that chicken bug. Why wasn’t anything done about biosecurity while there was still time?
Mercs roaming the streets. Nobody has money left to pay them, even my millions are gone. Now they are just looking for revenge.
I check the steel doors to my underground bunker, when I hear them shouting outside. There is a click and the single lamp goes out.
The Perks of Being Royalty
(Prompt 7 – No, 99 words)
Sometimes you have to be brave and just ask for something.
You might even get the answer you want.
The prince looked from the slain ogre to the woman he had just saved. After a few seconds, the hunter master cleared his throat and wiggled his left hand.
The prince blinked. ‘Oh, of course!’
He reached into his pocket to produce a huge diamond ring which sparkled in the sunlight. As he held it out to the woman, her eyes went wide, her hand clutching her chest.
‘Um. I’m supposed to marry you now. If that’s alright with you?’
When she politely declined, he let out a deep breath and grinned. Happily ever after was overrated.
Gardening at Night
(Prompt 8 – Lawn, 300 words)
The mayor and his secretrary are faced with yet another case of vandalism.
‘Mildred, you have to come over, it‘s happened again!‘ The mayor sounded out of breath over the telephone.
Mildred’s clock said that it was 8am on a Saturday morning. He would have to pay her overtime.
‘Of course, Mayor Brown, I’ll be with you shortly!‘
She finished her coffee. Someone really wanted to get on the mayor’s last nerves.
Mildred left her bike at the entrance to the park. There he was, sweating and red in the face.
‘There! How am I going to look in the pictures for the Rotary event on Monday?’
He gestured to the fresh beds of pink and white primulas in the middle of the green. The lovely springtime impression they made was marred by the fact that they formed letters. The message read:
‘That’s a bit harsh Mr. Brown. I wonder what kind of person would do this. Maybe they should spend some time with you, find out what you are really like.’
‘Thank you, Mildred. But is there any way we can get this repaired in time? I want it flawless! Is there anyone I can rely on?’
‘I can ask around, but they are all very busy in spring. Also, it’ll be difficult to just make the letters disappear. Do we have the funds for rolled turf?’
‘Again? I don’t think the council will agree.’
‘Strange, Mayor Jones never had that kind of problem with them.’
‘Maybe because he always did what they wanted?’
Mildred gazed at the mayor.
‘Do you want me to call the turf company for a quote?’
‘Yes! Do you really have to retire next month?’
Mildred laughed. ‘I do, this is all getting a bit too exciting!’
Back home she rang her nephew’s landscaping company and thanked them for the excellent work arranging the primulas.
(Prompt 9 – Leather, 100 words)
Fighting at the breakfast table, about shoes of all things, is not the best recipe for intergenerational peace.
‘If the stone age people hadn’t used leather, they wouldn’t have survived!’
So much for a quiet Sunday breakfast.
‘Dad, we are not stone age people.’
‘So you think plastic shoes are good for the environment?’
She gritted her teeth. ‘They’re hemp. Have you seen what is involved in the tanning industry?’
‘This vegan thing is just another phase. Like your hair used to be purple.’
She took a moment to really look at her father. His angry face. Then she said the magic words that finally shut him up:
‘It doesn’t change the fact that I still love you.’
Reincarnation Gone Wrong
(Prompt 10 – Blocks, 75 words)
What if we come back fully aware, only to learn that some babies are just mean?
They said I wouldn’t remember, but I do. I have been able to sit for a month, yet still no articulation, tongue all untrained.
Today we are visiting mom’s friend. She has a baby too, Cissa. She has lots of toys.
Cubes with letters on. I reach for them with my clumsy fingers, to send out a message at last. Cissa kicks the blocks apart and smirks.
I look into her eyes: She remembers too.
Thank you for reading! Have you taken part in a challenge like this one or have you published short stories online? Let me know so I can read them too.
Would you like to read more of my stories? You can find them here!
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