This week’s flash fiction post is a “Promptly Penned.” All of the bloggers use the same phrase(s) to inspire them, the phrases that inspired this are in bold.
“Why are you glaring at me?”
“I’m hoping you’ll spontaneously combust. Or at least end up with a terrible headache.”
“Geez, who peed in your cornflakes this morning?”
“You did, Maggie! Don’t you remember?” Reaching the end of my rope, I threw my pen across my desk and stood up. “You want a list of everything you’ve done today, and just today, to make me want to inflict harm on you?” Advancing on her, I was satisfied to see Maggie cringe away from me. Good, I was done putting up with her crap.
“First, I’ve had to hear three, count them three, times about your phone call with your brother this weekend. And let me tell you, it wasn’t that interesting the first time around. Then, you used the last of MY creamer that was in the fridge, with MY name on it. You opened MY mail. And then you told our boss that I was the reason your report was late. Which makes no sense. I have nothing to do with that project!” At this point, I was breathing hard, having really gotten into the ranting frame of mind.
Maggie’s lips had taken on that pucker she gets, that looks like she’s sucking on a lemon. “Well, if you were to just focus on your job and not other people’s business, then maybe these things wouldn’t bother you so much.”
I was speechless, she was completely unaware of how much of a hypocrite she was. Not to mention how annoying.
“Well, Maggie, if you weren’t such a bitch, we wouldn’t have to talk at all.”
With that, I sat down and went back to glaring at Maggie with all the force I could muster. She tried to ignore me, but she kept glancing up and meeting my eyes. Each time she looked a little more frightened. Finally, I felt it. That little spark in my brain that meant I had reached my goal.
Before my eyes, Maggie was engulfed in a huge flame that reached the ceiling. As quickly as it had appeared, it was gone, leaving no trace behind.
As I was silently congratulating myself, by boss walked up.
“Jules, have you seen Maggie? I need to ask her some questions.”
Using my most innocent, wide-eyed stare I shook my head. “No Nolan, I haven’t seen her. Not since you stopped by earlier.”
And just like that, no more Maggie in my life. I breathed a contented sigh of relief, wondering who I should teach a lesson to next.
This is another First Time post, this time focusing on a First Argument. I might be stretching this one a little bit, because I sincerely doubt this is the first argument any of these characters have ever had, but it’s the first in this story, and this is related to the First Meeting post which you can read here.
After a thoughtful moment Grandpa asked the question I had been dreading. “What did you see?”
Taking a deep breath to steady myself, I told them everything I had seen. The blood, the slashed and mangled body, and the fact that it was a young women. That part hadn’t registered with me at first, but replaying that horrible scene in my head I saw she had been beautiful. Before he got to her. Brown hair, as best I could tell through the blood. And her face had been untouched. Clean, actually.
At my descriptions, Gran’s lips pursed in anger. I’m not sure if it was anger at what had been done to the poor girl or anger at my having seen it. Probably a bit of both.
“Could you tell if it was a memory or a something the person was just thinking about?” That was my dad, always straight to the point.
“No way to tell unless it was a conscious thought. And it wasn’t.”
“Do you know who you got the vision off?”
“I…no. There were so many people getting of the ferry the same time we were. I was bumped from behind and ran into a couple of people in front of me because of that. But I couldn’t tell you what any of them looked like. It was just an ordinary crowd.”
Will pushed the plate of cookies towards me, knowing how much I loved them. I’m sure he was hoping to help cheer me up, but I couldn’t eat. The sights I had seen kept swirling in my head like a tornado of blood and gore.
“What do we do with this information?” Grandpa asked.
“What information?” Dad countered. “The information that my psychic teenage daughter saw what could have simply been a sick psycho’s fantasy when she brushed up against some unknown person in a large crowd? Maybe it was a scene from a movie that stuck with someone. Maybe it was…”
But before Dad could keep going, I interrupted. “It was real. I don’t know if it was past, present, or future, but it was real.”
Gran put her hand over mine. “How do you know that?”
“The rage and the…the…pleasure behind it. It was a feeling of pride, I think. Pride in the scene and the act. I think that’s how the vision got through my defenses. It was the strength of the emotions that allowed it to push through, maybe even helped it.”
“I repeat,” Grandpa said, “what do we do with this information?
Everyone looked at me, but it was Dad who spoke. “We do nothing with it. We don’t know that it means anything or even have any concrete details we can pass to anyone.”
“Dad,” I said quietly, meeting his stare with one of my own, “you know that’s not possible. You know that’s not what mom would have done. I have to go to the police.”
“Absolutely not,” Dad said. “There is no way I’m letting my teenage daughter tell the police she may have seen a crime scene in someone’s head because she’s psychic. At best, they’ll blow her off. At worst, they’ll try to lock her up thinking she’s mentally ill.”
“Now, we should talk about this,” Gran said. “Maybe she can tell them something useful.”
“And what exactly would that be?” I had never heard my dad speak to Gran in that tone of voice and apparently she hadn’t either.
“Don’t you take that tone with me, Robert Matthews,” she said. “I am still your mother, I don’t care how old you are.”
“Yes, you are. And I’m Francie’s dad, so I get to decide what’s best for her.”
“What about what Francie thinks?” Will asked, his quiet voice drawing attention from everyone. “She’s the one who saw it, she’s the one who has those pictures stuck her in head now. Shouldn’t she be the one to decide the next steps, if there are any?”
I smiled at him gratefully before meeting my dad’s gaze again. “You know I have to say something. What did mom always tell me? With great power comes great responsibility.”
“That’s from Spiderman,” he said with a sad smile.
“I know that. But the sentiment is the same and she meant it. Mom always said because I had this extra sense that allowed me to see what others couldn’t, I had to help if I saw an opportunity. What if that poor woman I saw on the table is still alive right now and I could help save her? How can I walk away from that?”
Dad leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers through his hair, making it stand up straight. “You don’t know what it’s like, Francie, to try to tell someone you have knowledge that you absolutely shouldn’t have. I saw your mother try time and again to tell people things they didn’t want to hear, it didn’t end well. Many times either they didn’t believe and she wasn’t able to change anything or they listened to her and became suspicious of how she knew what she knew. I don’t want that for you.”
“I know,” I said. “I know you want to protect me dad, but when it comes to this, you just can’t. This is my ability, my call.” Dad stared at me for a second with sad eyes before standing up and walking out of the room.
All I’ll say about this Wordless Wednesday post is that these are all places I’ve thought about running away to…
It’s time for another flash fiction inspired by a photo, the picture is below. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this one, it seems a little too similar to the last flash fiction I posted, but it’s where my mind kept going.
She could hear footsteps echoing down the hall as he continued to look for her. She’d slipped out of the party as quietly as possible, hoping no one would notice her absence, but of course Arthur did. Three text messages with no answer from her and he was getting worried. Walking into the library he saw her, sitting in front of the cold fireplace.
“What are you doing in here? Why didn’t you answer me?” Concern made his voice sharper than he intended.
“I just needed some space, Arthur. There are too many people in there. Too many people I don’t know and it’s making me uncomfortable. I know they all think I shouldn’t be here.” Rising slowly, she walked to the nearest bookcase, slowly trailing her fingers along the leather spines. She loved this room more than any other in the house.
“Why do think that? And why shouldn’t you be here? You’re with me, you belong here.” The coolness radiating off her was making him nervous.
“I’m with you, therefore I belong? What kind of sense does that make? If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be accepted into this world of wealth. Is that what you’re telling me? We all know I should be working at this party, not attending as a guest. Right?” Her words were harsh but said with little emotion.
“No, Sophie, that’s not what I meant. I just, I meant…” Sighing, Arthur ran his hands though his hair, tugging on the ends in frustration. “Can you please just come back to the party and we can talk about this later?”
Continuing her slow tour of the room, Sophie stopped in front of a mirror that was hanging over a sideboard. Gilded and ornate, the frame was hideous. The mirror itself an odd shape, completely impractical. But it was old, and expensive. Like everything else here. Looking at her reflection, she wondered exactly what all those people, his people, in the other room saw when they looked at her. Not someone good enough for him, that was obvious.
“No, I don’t think I will,” she said softly. “I don’t belong in there, with them. They know it. I know it. You don’t seem to, but I can’t fix that.” Turning to face the mirror fully, Sophie met Arthur’s eyes in the reflection. “We knew this wouldn’t last, don’t act surprised.”
“This is news to me! I am surprised! I thought your heart was in this, in us.”
Sophie turned to face him and the anguish on his face was hard to see, but she knew it wouldn’t last. Soon, his family would have their way and he would be with someone more suitable, more acceptable. And he would forget about her.
“So this is it? You’re not going to say anything else?”
“What else is there to say? Except, good-bye, Arthur.”
He stared at her in disbelief before turning on his heel and leaving the library.
Listening to his footsteps retreating down the hall, Sophie turned back to the mirror, staring at her own dry own eyes. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, where do I belong?”
This month’s flash fiction song inspiration is God of Ocean Tides by Counting Crows. As much as I love them, I hadn’t heard this song before. I put it on repeat on my drive to work one morning and….bam! Inspiration.
How long had he been driving? Ethan didn’t even know at this point. All he could remember were headlights and gas stations and billboards lining the dark highways. As soon as he had read the note, he’d jumped in the car and started heading south, knowing that’s where she would go. Where Maddie always went. It was sacred to her.
Her note had said only, “I’m leaving, please just let me go.”
As if he could.
Sometime around midnight he crossed through Tennessee, skirting around Memphis, barely noticing when he crossed the state line into Mississippi. Every mile bringing him closer to Maddie.
The sun was coming up when he reached the coast, throwing orange and pink across the shimmering Gulf. Ethan drove to the pier, only recently rebuilt, the one Maddie had shown him on their first trip here, the one she had played on as a child. The one where her grandfather had taken her fishing. The one she had fallen off when she was only three. As he parked the car and climbed out, he saw her standing at the end, a lone figure silhouetted against the rising sun.
Although she must have heard his footsteps in the quiet morning, she didn’t acknowledge him until he was standing next to her, leaning on the railing
“I asked you to just let me go.” Her voice was quiet but resigned. Like she had been anticipating him.
“I don’t know how you expect me to do that, Maddie. No reason, no warning. Three years, and I come home from my dad’s house to a note. What the hell?” Ethan had promised himself he would stay calm, but his voice was steadily rising. “Don’t I at least deserve some kind of explanation? Aren’t I worth that?” The last was yelled, out in the direction of the waves.
Taking a calming breath, he turned back to Maddie to see tears streaming down her face. “Why are you crying? You did this.”
The venom in his voice was almost impossible to stand, but in the end, it would make things easier. Steeling herself, she said, “I never loved you.” Maddie’s heart broke as she told the lie.
“I don’t believe you.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s true. I stayed because it was comfortable, but I can’t do that anymore. Please, Ethan, just go. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.” Refusing to make eye contact, she ignored the glare she could feel heating the side of her face. A few minutes passed in silence before she heard him spin around and stalk back down the pier.
As his car started and he sped off, Maddie’s tears flowed harder, if that was possible. Her hands drifted down to rest lightly on her soon-to-be bump. “It’s okay, baby,” she whispered. “It’s better this way. He never wanted kids. Now he won’t feel obligated and we can go be happy somewhere else.”
We have a new feature added to the blogging schedule this year called “First Time.” This will be a chance to showcase characters, either from a story already on our blog, from a new piece, or from a another WIP, doing something specific for the first time. This month’s theme is First Meeting. I chose something a little different for this month. While there is a first meeting involved, the two characters don’t know each other, even after they “meet.” You’ll see what I mean. This snippet is the opening from a young adult paranormal/thriller type story I’ve been working on.
Standing on the top deck of the ferry, I closed my eyes and let the wind whip my hair around my face. We were almost to the island and as much as I was looking forward to being back there, I didn’t want the ride to end. Finally, I opened my eyes to look around when a shoulder bumped lightly against mine. Just dad, coming to enjoy the view with me. He loved the island as much as I did, it felt like home to both of us.
In silence we watched the island grow closer. The majestic Grand Hotel stood like a sentry, watching all the ferries on their way to and from the island. The green tops of the trees in the state park glittered in the sunshine and the blue skies overhead were cloudless and bright. Eventually, the boat made its way to the dock where the practiced hands of the crew parked it gently, so the passengers could disembark.
We met the third member of our party, my best friend Will, on the bottom deck where he had chosen to wait out the ride. He wouldn’t listen when I said the fresh air would help his queasy stomach, so when we met up with him, he looked pale and sweaty.
The three of us gathered our computers and duffel bags, the rest of our stuff was already at our destination and joined the throngs of people streaming onto dry land. Seemingly without thinking, Dad and Will took positions on either side of me to create a little insulation. The gesture was automatic for both of them, even though it wasn’t really necessary anymore.
As I was stepping off the walkway onto the dock, I was jostled by the crowd and the world fell away.
I was in a dimly lit large room of some sort, high ceilings and few furnishings. The only sound was a constant drip, but it was muffled and sounded far away. My vision improved as I walked farther into the room and I could make out a table, with a shape on top of it. I got within a few feet and realized the shape was a person or had been. Parts were missing, a leg below the knee, some of the fingers. What remained was sliced and torn and covered in blood. I could see blood dripping onto a tarp under the table, the source of the sound.
In a burst of sunlight, I came back to myself and realized I was clinging to Will’s arm, my dad trying to lead us away from the crowd. On shaky legs I let them guide me to a bench and sat down to catch my breath.
“Sweetie, are you ok?”
It took me a second to find my voice so that I could answer my dad. “Just need to sit a minute. That came out of nowhere.”
“What happened?” Will asked, looking concerned.
“Not sure. Must have bumped into someone’s arm or something. I couldn’t block it, it cut through my shields.”
“What did you see?”
Looking around I noticed a few people staring at us curiously. “Not here. Can I tell you when we get to Gran and Grandpa’s?”
Before I could stop them, they each grabbed one of my bags and added to their own loads. They were both so protective of me, especially after a vision. It was sweet but infuriating at the same time. As much as they wanted to help, they weren’t psychic. They couldn’t know what it was like to see into someone else’s mind.