writing challenge

A Ghost Story #writephoto

Along that passage we share with presence
unseen, only knowing they’re there and perhaps
where they’ve been, by the scent of dankness, like
dew on old earth, or stone dust; by the motes
which twist in the morning’s beam, and a shadow
glimpsed where one ought not to be; when hairs
stand up upon our neck and our limbs grow
inexplicably chill, then, for a long
moment’s passing, all of time stands still.

written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Open”


Forgotten Memories #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

Just a wall, we wouldn’t have noticed it, but a door, that’s something else. Remember how it drew our thoughts to imagining what could be on the other side?

Not that we would have bothered with a boring old door when there was that wall to climb. Besides, doors have locks, and a lock needs a key, and we didn’t have one of those between us. Which was a good job, really, because, I said, who wanted a key to unlock a door in a wall when you can climb over it instead? Not us.

It was apples on the other side, if you must know. Not that we went a bundle on apples; especially not those kind as they were sour green cookers. Remember, we made the little one eat a whole half of a big ‘un until he said he felt sick and threatened to tell his mum? He would have as well. We gave him nine pence and a button – that’s all we could muster between us – to keep him quiet. I don’t know if he ever told on us; we didn’t hear anything bad.

Not being able to eat the fruit, we had a battle instead, dividing ourselves into two tribes, standing apart and hurling great, green apples at each other. It was a laugh. Until Graham caught one in the gob; made his lip bleed; bright red all down his yellow shirt. And he cried.

He ran blubbing to the door and, somehow, he had it open, just like that, and was off home. The door hadn’t been locked at all, all that time. Fancy that? Still, it was a good job we hadn’t tried it first because, as I say, who wanted to walk through a silly old door when there was a perfectly good wall to climb?

written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Forgotten”.

(The image incidentally brought to mind HG Well’s short story, “The Door In The Wall”. It’s good; it’s part of a short story collection of his and I recommend it.)


a flash-fiction piece

In my seat, I try not to meet the eyes of my strange travelling companions in the row opposite while surreptitiously giving each of them the once-over.

When the carriage enters the underground tunnel, the dismal faces multiply as those seated to my left and my right are reflected in the windows behind those in front.

The noise is loud and a stifling blanket of claustrophobia begins to envelop me.

In the centre, above the head of a baldy man listening to yellow headphones, is the red emergency stop lever with its stark white warning, “£50 penalty for improper use”, and I wonder if that isn’t such a deterrent sum in this day and age.

I am suddenly aware of an out-of-body experience as I watch myself leap from my seat and, grasping the red handle, swing down on it with all my weight.

As we float uncontrollably in the ether of a peculiar parallel existence, some of the passengers are giving me the evil eye, like, how are they going to explain this to their boss later, while others are clearly bemused, yet to catch on to what’s happened, but I bet most will come to reflect on this sudden existential change with fondness, as you do, once you’ve realised you’ve actually survived something totally unexpected.

written for GirlieOnTheEdge’s Six Sentence Story – “Release”.

“Rules of the hop:
Write 6 Sentences. No more. No less.
Use the current week’s prompt word.
Come back here on Thursday, link your post…
Spread the word and put in a good one to your fellow writers.

The Unsung Ballad of Rod Taylor, Actor

a flash-fiction piece

You see some strange looking abodes in my job: hot food courier for Deliveroo. Take no. 73, Jackbottom Lane; its frontage put me in mind of the post-apocalyptic underground shelter inhabited by the cannibalistic Morlocks, in the film, The Time Machine, starring Australian actor, Rod Taylor.

Before landing the role, Taylor won an award in Sydney which included a ticket to London, with a stop over in L.A. He didn’t go to London, deciding Hollywood was a better bet. It was.

The Eloi exhibited no such subversiveness having evolved into a complaisant race, commanded only by the siren’s call, causing them to file, like Pavlov’s dogs, into the Morlocks’ shelter, to be consumed.

That is, until Rod arrives with our 20th century ethics: folks eating other folks? Wrong! But is it right to impose one society’s ethics on another?

I hand no. 73 their Hawaiian pizza. Buon appetito.

(150 words)

written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #32

“Every Wednesday I post a photo (this week it’s that one above.)
You respond with something CREATIVE.

You have plenty of scope and only two criteria:

Your creative offering is indeed yours
Your writing is kept to 150 words or less.”

A Big Small Act of Kindness #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

She ran an efficient refuge hostel, you couldn’t say less. Two spots to the right, six spots to the left, but strictly No Harlequins! Those were her rules.

“Yes, love, how can we help you? Need a space for the winter?”

The ladybird at the door looked shaken.

“Erm, no, thank you, but I was hoping you might have taken in some children…”

“Children!” she said, horrified, “What children would these be, then?”

She gave a quizzical glance to the tiny red thing hiding behind the larger one before her.

“Who’s this one, then?” she asked, accusingly.

The ladybird looked around, as if she hadn’t been aware of the little thing all along.

“This is my little Ann,” she replied, “she’s all I found, after the fire…”

“Fire?!” the manageress exclaimed with stern suspicion, “What fire would this be, then? We don’t tolerate no firebugs here…”

“No, no, no!” the mother implored. “I was out collecting aphids when I heard the cry; fly away home! But too late, the house was gone, as were the kids, except little Ann who had the sense to crawl beneath a pan…”

“Oh, you poor thing,” interrupted the manageress, because bugs have sensibilities too. She turned to face the twin entrances and bellowed into the masses,

“Oi! Anyone seen this here lady’s children?! Seeking refuge from an house fire, they are!”

There was a scuffle and a tussle, a bit of pushing, and a shove, and a faint cry of “Mum!”, and three two-spots in increasing sizes finally came to the fore, and all five of them then burst into tears. Though not the manageress; she was made of tougher stuff. At least that’s what her reputation had you believe. But under the hard elytra beat a heart of gold.

“You’ll be needing somewhere to stay,” she whispered, “take my place, two stones down the aisle, on the left. I can just as easily put my head down here, if you like,”

She then gestured to the masses behind her, “Keep an eye on this lot.”

And so the Ladybird spent the winter in the manageress’s house, and when Spring arrived, and with the help of her children, she built a brand new house, with fire retardant materials, and with reliable smoke alarms installed everywhere for good measure.

written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Small”

With the Sea, One Can Never Be Too Careful

a flash-fiction piece

It would’ve been better not to occur to me, that scene from a movie, which may have been Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, where a sign painter, like me, is in the middle of painting the name of a boat which is on a trailer, on a beach, like this one. It’s relevant that he is on the port side, the stern facing down, and so when somebody, Monsieur Hulot likely, releases the boat to gravity and the call of the sea, the painter, frozen in surprise, fails to lift his brush and paints a perfectly straight line through his painstakingly crafted work.

There are many things which affect the superstitious sensibilities of seafaring men: women on board; bananas; the second Monday in August; the killing of an albatross; and renaming a boat.

I put the brush down and check the spelling again. With the sea, one can never be too careful.

(150 words)

written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #31

“Every Wednesday I post a photo (this week it’s that one above.)
You respond with something CREATIVE.

You have plenty of scope and only two criteria:

Your creative offering is indeed yours
Your writing is kept to 150 words or less.”

Tempting the gods #writephoto

a flash-fiction piece

I stand high on the cliff’s edge observing the one below; I cannot make out their sex. My head spins and my knees feel like jelly from acrophobia, though it’s not the height that worries me so much as what’s below my feet. Solid earth all the way down or just an outcrop of unreliable rock and then nothing but unsupportive air? All that and the look of the unimpeded edge, and this fallen angel on my shoulder who may, for reasons of mischief, cast a spell of impetuousness in my mind, urging me to step forwards.

But the scene below entices a curiosity. The person stands stock still looking towards the sea which, by stealthy degrees, creeps ever closer to their feet. I begin to count the waves. There is a rhythm of seven: six in a row simply tease and never appear to advance before the backwash reclaims them. Then comes the seventh, stronger than before. Taking all by surprise, it rushes the shore, an inch or two, or three, a line closer than before. Yet the person stands firm.

I think of King Cnut, poised on a throne brought by attendants to face the waves. The purpose was to show he had no rule over nature and could not command the tides. Mother Earth treats all her kin the same, whether pauper or king. She gets on with the business of running her house and we all have to fall in with her scheme, like it or not. It is better to like it, I think, and speaking of falls; what plans has she for this cliff edge now? I decide not to tempt her, nor my impish angel. I step away from the cliff, and leave the person below to a fate of their own choosing.

(300 words)

written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo #writephoto prompt – “Choices”

Strawberries and Mint

a flash-fiction piece

She’ll make mint julep and sit besides the strawberry patch. Now and then, she’ll pluck a berry, dipping it into the cocktail before taking a bite.

She’s put on her Summer dress, a necklace of pearls, and painted her nails cerise; her toes showing brightly through white sandals; she’s looking how her mother looked on Summer days in the garden, when dad cut the lawn.

She watches the robotic mower cutting her own grass, remembering its way around. Would it yearn, she wonders, for gardens past, like humans do?

She takes another strawberry and the last sip of cocktail.

(99 words)

written for the Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Challenge, May 30th.

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes strawberries and mint. The combination evokes color contrast, scents, and taste. Where will the combination take you? Go where the prompt leads!

Five Sisters

a flash-fiction piece

Five sisters had, at different times, placed a candle below the window to mourn the death of the sixth. She’d been found early that morning, poisoned. The inspector considered the obvious rule: whoever saw the victim last was the murderer.

After questioning the rector, he had a clear idea which candle each had laid. Did the first belong to the perpetrator? Or had the ruse only occur to them upon seeing the first candle lit?
He noticed how one candle had been placed but retained its fresh white wick. Why had it not been lit?


His sergeant’s voice behind him seemed to echo the thought. In actuality, the man was merely wanting instructions, having finished questioning the neighbours.

The inspector took one last look at the five candles then spun around briskly to face the sergeant.

“Right, Sergeant,” he said, confidently, “I think we can make an arrest now.”

(150 words)

written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #29

Only two criteria:

Your creative offering is indeed yours.
Your writing is kept to 150 words or less

image by Crispina Kemp.

Subject: M30s-A537860 (Bradford H. Willoughby)

a flash-fiction piece

Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia; 16:34; 05/13/2023.

The second traverse of the Amazon Monitoring and Accumulating Surveillance System, AMASS, confirms its targets efficiently. Like subject #M30s-A537860, known to its human associates as “Brad”. It will only be a matter of time before this identity is assessed by the data hub at HQ. But for the moment it’s safe, providing Brad doesn’t remove his shades: the satellite has been equipped with the latest long-distance iris recognition software.

Nevertheless, within nanoseconds it has harvested plenty. The beer he drinks, not craft but a popular Italian brand, brewed in Belgium on license, from a recipe obtained in a food lab in Latvia. His cigarettes are American, filter tipped, medium quality and inexpensive; and he doesn’t inhale too deeply. His clothes, hat and sandals are a combination of chain store chic and designer label styles, though the majority of the latter are cheap copies. His wristwatch is, surprisingly, vintage Omega and the shades he hasn’t yet removed are Ray-Bans. He has chosen to read Stephen King, a lesser novel; his reading glasses have a diopter of +1.5 and were purchased over-the-counter.

Now the satellite has passed and the data banked and a micro-assessment made as to the subject’s potential: does #M30s-A537860 warrant a third pass; is identity validation cost effective at this point? For the time being, Brad is safe, or at least his credit account is. There are more viable targets on hand, and the satellite, having gathered and assessed, moves ever on…

(247 words)

written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie photo challenge prompt #265