short story

The Treasure Chest

Clearing the attic, I came across an old wooden barrel-lidded chest. Its hasp had been broken, the rusted padlock still attached and hanging useless, but everything else about it looked oddly pristine. A mix of trepidation and curiosity beheld me as I gripped the sides of the lid and inched it open.

Inside was a hand drawn map, a brass key and nothing more. The map had aged badly but beneath the stains of time I could just about make out the circumference of an island made apparent by the draughtsman’s inclusion of groups of tiny waves surrounding its enclosed shape. In a space between the waves was a scaled line noting a measure of half a mile. Within the island were groupings of palm trees, a dwelling which looked a lot like a shed, a large letter X, and an incongruous but perfectly recognisable standard door, the sort you normally see on the outside of any ordinary house.

It was then that I looked inside the empty chest and discovered that its base was in fact a door, with panels, a knob, and a keyhole, just like the one drawn on the island of the map.

Looking at the map again, I calculated that the door was easily within distance of the large X. I then held the key up to examine it in the half light; could it, I wondered, fit the lock in the chest door?

There was only one thing for it. Exhaling long and deeply, I put the key into the lock at the base of the chest and turned. There was some resistance, then a definite click. I grasped the knob of the door, holding my breath at this point. My palm was moist with perspiration and I couldn’t turn it sufficiently. Wiping my hand across the front of my shirt, I took hold for a second time, gripped tightly and, exhaling as before, turned the knob successfully. I sensed a lightness in the door and pulled it upwards, towards me. Suddenly, a huge gush of salt water poured forth from the chest, flooding the attic and washing its contents and me down the ceiling hatch and into the floor beneath. I fought for breath and control of my senses, the plume of water was unabating, my possessions cascaded down the stairs and into the street; I followed them, helplessly, soon after. Eventually, I managed to reach for the safety of a lamppost and pulled my fatigued body to the side, watching the torrent of water resemble a river in flood, or a tsunami, rolling down the street and through the town.

“What happened, Bud?”, a voice asked over me.

I looked up into the face of a policeman looking down.

“I guess someone drew the door in the wrong place”, was all I could think of answering.

The river is still flowing to this day, but as for the chest, I never set eyes on it again.

(493 words)


written for Peregrine Arc’s Creativity Contest writing prompt – “Treasure Chest”

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#writephoto: Before The Flood

Removing themselves from the tent, the three of them sat cross-legged on the sheet of tarpaulin, and looked skywards.

“Red sky in the morning, shepherds’ warning”, said Japheth.

“Red sky at night, shepherds’ delight”, added Shem.

“Baked potatoes on lamb, shepherds’ pie!”, said Ham.

Shem plucked a sod of grass and threw it at Ham. It struck the top of his head and bounced away; they all laughed at that.

Outside of the city, the sky appeared vast and overwhelming, its shocking redness increasing its imposingness; the broken plane of cloud resembled a sheet of bloody tripe.

“I imagine it’s like being inside the belly of a dragon”, said Japheth.

“Like a belly of fire?”, asked Shem.

“Do you think the dragon’s fire starts in its belly?”, said Ham, “wouldn’t it more likely start from its lungs?”

“Don’t be daft. If we were inside its lungs, it’d have a coughing fit. It’d cough us to the other side of this field!”, cried Shem.

“It’s commonly held that the dragon makes fire from its pyrotid glands, situated at the back of its throat”, said Japheth.

“Are they very big, these pyro whatsit glands?”, asked Ham.

Japheth shrugged in ignorance and said, “Dunno. Why?”

“Well, they’d have to be to get us, this tarp’, the tent, the field and all these trees inside…”

Shem plucked up another sod to throw at Ham and caught him squarely on the side of his face. Pieces of grit flew into his ear. Just then, the dragon coughed and expelled all three across the field and over the trees in a plume of flame. They screamed but Ham screamed the loudest.

He woke in the dim half-light of new day with Shem barking hotly into his left ear. A rasping, congested voice, something about his turn to light the fire, put the water on, and make breakfast. He’d been dreaming again. Outside it was raining; he could hear it softly pattering on the canvas overhead. It looked like another wet day ahead, like the six before; and how many more?

Removing himself from the tent, he crouched down and lifted a corner of the tarpaulin which covered the fire pit and the wood. The wood seemed dry but the pit was waterlogged. He looked skywards and cursed until the rain burned his eyes and he had to turn again to the ground. It was a good job they weren’t shepherds, he thought, because they sure hadn’t heeded the warning.

(415 words)


Inspired by and written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Renewal”.

image by Sue Vincent.

The Name Of The Cloud That Ate The Sun

In the ages of yore, a sky ogre, becoming jealous of the day, transformed himself into a great cloud and, gliding stealthily through the high air, swallowed the sun whole. As he slowly digested the heavenly orb, the Earth below became dark and dismal until nighttime seemed to reign the hours in perpetuity.

The men of Earth, fearing for their futures, sent an emissary to appease the cloud and plead that he might release the sun, if only for part of the time.

“And what shall I receive in return?”, demanded the cloud.

The emissary thought hard for a while until a notion occurred to him and he said,

“If you allow the sun’s release for part of the day, we will honour your name in a great book made exclusively for this purpose.”

The cloud considered the offer for a moment and then asked, curiously, “What name?”

The question shocked the emissary as he hadn’t an answer to hand, but he wasn’t anything if not quick of mind, and so he explained,

“Is any name enough for one as eminent as yourself, sir? Surely, we would honour you with many names, each befitting your many natures: there shall be high Cirrus, and broad Altostratus, and elegant Cumulus, and bold Cumulonimbus, and…”

“Wait!”, screamed the cloud, “What are you suggesting? Those…names!”

“Do they not please, sir?”, asked the emissary growing nervous. “Are they not honourable enough”

The cloud curled itself around, self-consciously, and grew slightly redder.

“Well,”, it said, “I was thinking…. of some names…. a bit like Sith, or Neff, or Porr. Something like those. Memorable names; simple ones as the sun, the sky, and the moon have!”

The emissary thought hard and fast.

“But, your honour, are you not greater than the sun you’ve consumed? And as for the moon, well… An eminence as yourself, my lord, deserves the greatest of names, the longest of names, and, clearly, the most obtuse of names, to be both scholarly and divine.”

The cloud considered this and, growing increasingly flattered, finally agreed and spat out the sun into a clear portion of blue sky. It then regarded the emissary below,

“Go on then, man, go and write the book!,” he insisted.

And so the great book was bound and the many names inscribed therein and that is why few men remember, or even know, the names of clouds now, whereas even a child knows the sun, the sky and the moon. Yet a deal has been made and is appropriately honoured, and the sun is set free for some of the day, or until the cloud deems it is time enough and devours it some more.

(448 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt.

photo provided by Sue Vincent.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;” said Shakespeare through Juliette.

I am, it seems, still stuck on the issue of the naming of things. If, I wonder, a rose was called a pig, would it smell as sweet? The subjectiveness of taste, the prejudice of association, the scepticism in the face of a simple truth – who knows? Maybe the pig would become the ideal house pet.

The Ends

“What shall I do with all the end pieces, sir?”

Said the new Apprentice Meat Pasty Pastry Case End Trimmer brandishing his snippers aloft in a rather careless way.

“Are there that many, boy?”

Questioned the Chief Meat Pasty Pastry Chef in reply from the farther end of the conveyor.

“Did thee cut off too thickly? Did thee waste a lot a pastry?”, he added.

The boy assessed the damage and wondered if he’d done wrong.

“Ney, lad, don’t fret. We’ll cover them bits in cheese and ground black pepper and bake ‘em with the rest, then we’ll have a nibble while we wait on turkey to roast. Ma’s bought a bird big as an ostrich this year, and we won’t be eating him before teatime, I reckon.”

Relieved, the boy grinned, put down his snippers and skipped off to the fridge to get the round of cheddar.

(148 words)


Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers Photo Prompt – Week #197.

This week’s Flash Fiction story was inspired by the picture kindly provided by Yarnspinnerr.

Thanks Yarnspinnerr!

Happy Christmas, Everyone.

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE or click on the black box right, or on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.

The Naming of Things

Imagine the sun rising, an bright, early dawn, in the garden at Eden. Adam rolling to his right side to lean on one elbow, the back of the hand on his other arm coming up to rub the sleepy dust from his eyes, blinking towards the divine yellow light. In a moment, he jumps up.

“Eve, where are my clean fig leaves?”

Eve, already in the midst of making the first brew, calls back,

“In the airing cupboard, dear!”

It’s another big day ahead, another commission of naming things. It’s hopelessly random; up until yesterday, Adam had to confront Eve with a mime for fig leaf. Leaf turned out to be a cinch but fig, for some reason, caused much hilarity which reduced Eve to tears, entirely down to the fruit’s similarity to the parts of Adam which differentiated him from her. And so fig and leaf had to be summarily named.

Today, for a change, he would name some of the things which stayed put: immobile, stationary, inanimate, and inert. Of course, such words as those would be as alien to him as discombobulation would be to a child, but the sense of it is understood. Intellect precedes language. In fact, were it not for Eve, he needn’t bother with the task of naming stuff at all; he knew what he meant without words, and a leaf is a leaf is a leaf.

(234 words)


Written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt.

I was also inspired by the following quote,

“Finding the words is another step in learning to see”

This is from an article in Brain Pickings on the book, Gathering Moss, by bryologist, Robin Wall Kimmerer and on how she believes naming confers dignity upon life.

“Bryologist” was a word unknown to me and the significance for me is that as a young child, mosses fascinated me. I used to collect them and study their forms under a small optical microscope I had asked Father Christmas for. All that time and I hadn’t known there was a name for what I could have become had it not been for the distractions of teen culture and girls.

The resemblance of the fruit of the fig to both man and woman body parts is a well established one, I believe.

Santa’s Secret

“Well, Rudolph, my old red-nosed buddy”, said Santa, “I won’t be doing this for much longer.”

“Really?”, said Rudolph.

“Kids today have it all; they’re not fussed about some random fat man coming around once a year.”

Rudolph’s nose began to glow. Santa continued,

“When I first started out, a kid would be thrilled to get an orange or a balloon. I once turned up at one house having forgotten the present. So I just painted a great big lump of coal red and he was over the moon. Kids today? You can’t satisfy them.”

They stood in silence for a bit.

“What about Christmas?”, asked Rudolph.

“What of it?”, replied Santa.

“Well, I mean, the true spirit, apart from the cynical commercialism and all that”, said Rudolph

“Well, it’s a funny thing, Rudolph. It wasn’t mentioned when I applied for this job but I’ll let you into a secret. I’m a Buddhist.”

“How strange”, said Rudolph, becoming that excited, his nose seemed on the verge of meltdown, “me too!”

(171 words)


Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers Photo Prompt – Week #196.

This week’s Flash Fiction story was inspired by the picture kindly provided by Akshata Ram.

Thanks Akshata!

In fact, I’m all for Christmas and have no issue with Santa being Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Sikh, Jain or whatever. I’m not religious but I’m not anti-religious. It’s all a fascinating aspect of being human.

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE or click on the black box right, or on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.

A Long and Lonely Road

You can wait a good while for a lift on a lonely road like this. He’d spent three hours stamping his feet and blowing into his hands; he couldn’t say how this helped the cold but it seemed instinctive, something learned in the womb. For the first hour, some residual warmth from the heater had sustained him but this had petered away and he had resorted to pacing the highway.

He’d passed a gas station ten miles back. Emptying out the trunk onto the road, he’d found the can he’d kept for such an emergency. He was in the middle of putting everything back when he saw the headlights. Leaving the rest littered on the dirt, he picked up the can and stuck out a hand. The car slowed to a promise but within five yards, it suddenly accelerated and swiftly passed; he watched it disappear into the gloom. He shook his head looking down at the contents of his trunk. It’s not easy getting a ride when you’re a hockey mask and chainsaw salesman.

(174 words)


Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers Photo Prompt – Week #195.

This week’s Flash Fiction story was inspired by the picture kindly provided by Jodi McKinney.

Thanks Jodi!

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE or click on the black box right, or on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.

A Perceived Threat

The impertinence!

It was an unlawful violation of sovereign territory, it was a threat to national security, and it could be justification for war!

The object appeared over the horizon, a black, shapeless entity, obviously some highly technical design devised to avoid radar. Yet now it was visible to the eyes of the inhabitants of the mountains surrounding the capital.

Call the Militia!“, came the call. And they came, patriotic volunteers, every one, and each adequately armed as all men are required to be.

When they arrived, the threat had not moved. They took aim and fired. The rattle of Kalashnikovs reverberated around the valleys, but the threat stood firm.

When all their bullets were fired, the commander called for ammunition. Meanwhile, Marko, the freshest recruit, studied the threat more closely. Hesitantly, he moved forwards, his useless rifle still trained on the object. By inches he moved, and then all at once dropped his arms and shrieked.

Haa!”, he cried, turning to his comrades. “It’s just a speck of dust on the photo!

(173 words)


Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers – 194th Photo Prompt

This week’s Flash Fiction story was inspired by the picture kindly provided by Yinglan.

Thanks Yinglan!

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE or click on the black box right, or on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.

Flash-Fiction !!!

In a suburb not far away, Maris Piper looked for all appearances your average housewife but she had a secret. She could, at will, transform into the amazon of justice known as Golden Wonderwoman.

Her arch-nemesis, the Spanish cur, Bravas Patatas, was always cooking up some nefarious crime, from flooding the chip factory with mayo to hiding Mr. Potato Head’s nose. Today, he was planning a heist on The London Potato Museum.

He didn’t get far. As he entered the King Edward Room, Golden Wonderwoman was there, wielding her masher.

Squishhhh!!!

Thwarted again, Bravas Patatas was mashed potato.

(99 words)


Written for the Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Challenge.

“In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs mashed potatoes with a superpower. It can be in any circumstance, funny or poignant. Go where the prompt leads.”

Well, there’s a turn up for the books – the first time I’ve hit exactly 99 words on the first draft. Must be some kind of superpower. Not.

Lines

Quiller pulled open the drawer of his great walnut desk and withdrew a short ebony tube. Next, he withdrew a squat glass bottle of some dark fluid. I looked up and met that familiar stern gaze. At length, he turned again to the bottle, removing its cap. He picked up the tube and then I noticed it had two halves; with a couple of twists, he separated these to reveal a brilliantly golden triangle at one end. I was fascinated to watch him place this end inside the bottle’s neck and pull on a tiny lever concealed along the tube’s length. He then handed me this tube, minute flecks of blue liquid adhering to its glinting, triangular point.

While I marvelled at the device in my hand, Quiller had slid a large sheet of white paper in front of me. I looked up at him again. He tapped the sheet.

“Please write out one thousand times, ‘I must cease abusing this planet’s resources, either wilfully or mindlessly, for the rest of my days.’”

(173 words)


Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers – Photo Prompt #190

We are all guilty, me too.

I know that “lines” are a universal punishment for kids having watched the opening credits of the Simpsons with Bart writing them on the chalk board before whizzing off on his skateboard. Officially, in my school, it was called “imposition”, and done at home on paper and given in the next day. It was, I think, considered the most lenient and less serious punishment but I would happily have been detained or whacked any day. Lines is a form of prolonged psychological torture.

This week’s photo prompt provided by Yarnspinnerr. Thank you, Yarnspinnerr.

The rules for FFFAW are all explained HERE and please click on the blue FROG button below to read other stories submitted.