Something to Smile About

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This week’s photo prompt is provided by Grant-Sud. FFfAW

“Why do you do that?”

Morning sunlight peeked over the horizon, songbirds offered their first chirps. His voice cracked too loudly in the new day.

“What?” She stood, dusted debris off her tights, slipped her chalk into her dress pocket.

“Those stupid smiles. Why you gotta draw them everywhere?”

“When I was 7 my daddy killed my kitten,” she said. “Right in front of me he did.”

“That ain’t nothing worth smiling about.”

“Daddy’s gone now. You’re here and this wall is pink. Pink is my favorite color, you’re my favorite person, and there is always something to smile about.”

He shook his head, walked toward the office to pay. Her heart blossom with a brilliance to rival the rising sun.

In the car she took out her chalk, sketched a smile onto the dashboard and waited for him to take them home.

(144 words)

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This was written in response to a Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers prompt.

Visit FFfAW to read the rules and share your own response.

To see more of the prompt responses visit the inlinkz below!

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Look at Me

Turn around.

She had her back to him now, still, again, it made him angry.

Look at me.

She always ignored him, always, always.

She ignored his notes.  She ignored his flowers.  She hung upon him when he called her.

Turn around.

She played his heart like an instrument.  She strummed his emotions like she strummed her guitar.  She didn’t know him, didn’t see him.

Look. At. Me.

She heard something, maybe his desire for her resonated. She turned around, walked to the window.

See me.

She squinted into the dark, not seeing what she heard, not seeing, still not seeing.

See me.

He reached in the open window.  He touched her hand.

LOVE ME!

She sucked in a breath, eyes wide, chest heaving as her scream built.

Crescendo.

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Image Credit

Poachers

Josiah had come into the forest looking for a clue but instead found a flowing crimson skirt in the water.  The river was turning to blood.  A wide swath where he stood, it narrowed upstream.  An accusatory arrow, pointing back to its origin.

A deer, he thought, or some animal.  Something shot and left to die, to waste.

“Ass-hats,” he murmured to nobody, resettling his pack on his back, making sure he could reach his camera.

He had started bird-watching two summers ago, but this year he had found several carcass abandoned in the woods.  Usually deer, sometimes a wild pig, once a bobcat the latter still alive and bleeding.  These animals were left for the other wild animals to scavenge on.  The inhumanity of it was too much for him.

He’d gone to his head once, complaining about poachers.

“You can’t poach a deer, son.” His dad had dismissed.  “Besides, it was probably an animal killed it anyway.”

Animals didn’t hunt with spears and bows, Josiah knew.  Animals didn’t leave their kill to waste and rot either.  Something was going on in his woods.

Now, ripples of red led him back upstream.  He thought to take pictures of whatever victim had fell in the water.  Maybe catch an arrow shaft, a clear bullet hole.  Have evidence.

The trail of ichor didn’t lead to the fawn hide of a dead doe.  His eyes stopped at a swatch of creamy white,  a leg, a thigh.

A nymph.

He gasped, camera stopped midway to his eye as he realized he was looking at a woman.  More than likely human, because nymphs didn’t exist, she stood naked and blood smeared, her side turned to him, her head down.  She wasn’t aware he was there.

Her hip was bleeding, her stomach, her breast covered in scratches.  She seemed to be washing the blood off her body.  Something dark floated in the water in front of her.  Her clothes she supposed.  But if she had stepped in the water to bathe, why wouldn’t she have taken her clothes off at the shore.

Her hair was deep burgundy.  What a day for red things, Josiah thought.  Then wondered, was it really red, or was it more blood?

He knew he should say something, felt like a pervert peeking on her.  Clearly she was hurt, needed help.  After all the crimson skirt that led him here came from the pool of blood awash at her hips.

Still, he couldn’t stop staring.  Bloody, disgusting, she was beautiful.  Raising the camera he pushed the button.

His camera was digital and nearly silent.  He used it to hunt birds with and didn’t want a flash or click to scare the timid ones away.  But silent as it was she heard it.

Her head snapped up, turned towards him in an instant.  Her eyes flashed, later Josiah would tell everyone that they ACTUALLY flashed, giving of their own light.

Her lip curled over her teeth, locked in a snarl.

Hatred flowed from her as thick as her blood, and Josiah blushed, looked down at the black mass near her feet.  Was it moving?

“S..s…sorry.” he stammered.  “I just saw the blood in the water and I thought…  Are you okay?”

He felt pulled to look at her again.  Not at her body, but at her eyes.  Brown, flecked golden, flecked a glowing yellow.

She stood up straighter, eyes still bright, teeth still barred.  As she straightened a fresh gout of blood poured from the biggest wound in her side. One hand she kept clenched at her side.  The other she reached out towards him, red covered palm up.  Fingers beckoned.

Again he found himself thinking how beautiful she was.  How perfect her body was.  How much he wanted her.  Behind those thoughts he knew they were wrong.  This whole situation was wrong.  But something more primal was pulling at him.

He took a step towards the water, a second.  A third and his boots were in the water.  A fourth and tainted water poured into his boots. She never moved.  She stood, hand out, teeth showing, chest heaving, bleeding everywhere.

“STOP!”

The sound blew though the woods.  Birds scattered, the woman flinched slightly and a man stepped out of the trees.

His clothes, his face, his weapon raised and aimed towards the river, each part of him looked as if it had grown out of the dirt with the rest of the wild.

“Help her,” Josiah said. “She’s hurt!”

“She’s savage son.” The man said.  “Come away from her.”

Behind him something splashed, moaned.  Ignoring the man he made to turn back to her, but she was coming to him, hand still out, teeth still barred

“I SAID COME AWAY!”

The mans voice was stronger than whatever primal spell the bloody woman had him under he looked past her, seeing that the dark form in the water had a face, had a body, had been the source of most of the blood after all.

The woman seemed to flicker, and he felt a sensation in his skin, in his bones.  The world thrummed and there was a woman there, but she was also more.  Something dark and hungry and he didn’t want to see it, refused to see it.

He turned to run for the man in the woods, to the safety of the spear he had, to seek shelter behind his commanding voice, but she was on him already, strong fingers digging into his shoulder.

Her body was cold and he could smell the blood on her, the bile on her, could feel her hot breath on his throat and he found himself immobile.

The man in the woods shook his head slightly, ever so slightly and he saw him shift, saw the spear coming forward, its silver tip glinting against the darkness of everything around him, taking up his whole world.

Then there was pain.  The spear ripped into his shoulder.  Her teeth tore into his neck, something else raked across his back.  Something that felt like live electrical wire.  He thought momentarily about the human mouth, and how bites from people tended to fester.

Later….

He opened his eyes to the same pains that had closed them.  The shoulder hurting the worst, pumping fire down his arm, into his torso.  Merging with the lightning bolts of electric pain in his back.

He was alone.  He felt it before he opened his eyes.  No man.  No woman.  Frogs sang at the waters edge.  Stars flicked above him like celestial fireflies.

The camera was gone.  His pack was still there.  A dirty bit of paper fluttered from beneath its strap.

“I’m sorry.”

Only two words, looked like they might have been smeared in blood, and he wasn’t sure what they meant.  Sorry for what?  For who?

Somewhere far away he heard an animal cry out in the night….and the electricity in his spine responded.

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Inspired by savage.
Also inspired in part by She Wolf.

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Anonymous

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Anonymous

The woman stood on the beach, at the barest reach of the ocean waves. Foaming water danced over her toes, salty wind tossed her hair, but her body was still.

The children stood several yards behind her, rigid as if hypnotized by her immobility. Holding hands they try to match her stillness, but the wind is strong. The girl rocks back on her heels. The boy squeezes her hand harder, as if afraid she might lift up and blow away entirely.

Farther back, in the small seaside town, someone screamed. The scream turned into a howl. The sound was all pain and animalistic terror, no humanity left by the end.

Someone had either been caught out or been called out.

The monsters were smarter than the movies had led everyone to believe. They remembered names and knowing someone’s name was a powerful, powerful tool.

Still, the woman stood, as if transfixed by the reflection of the moon on the unsettled water. The foaming tips of spent waves now washed over her ankles. The tide was coming in.

“What if it’s not her?” the girl whispered.

They couldn’t see her eyes but knew the slope of her shoulders, and before she left she had taught them to question everything always.

“What if it is?” the boy answers.

Something had called their father out, and he had gone willingly into the night. She had been gone for years, but she knew his name and had given them theirs.

The dunes came alive with whispers. It could have been the wind blowing in the sea grass but the grass was calling out names.

The boy tugged the girl’s hand, pulling her aside, pulling her away. She wanted to look back because it might not be her. What if it WAS?

Shadows crawled from the dune, low and slinking, the whispers louder, louder, louder then stopping as the shadows reached the spot where the ocean met the sand.

At the water’s edge, the woman turned her head towards where the children had stood a moment ago, but seeing no one she knew she turned her eyes back to the moon.

(356 Words)

Rooted

garden-1020507_960_720Ashleigh had grown roots.

It wasn’t something she intended to do, but having happened she couldn’t make it unhappen.

She had stood still too long, and the place had gotten to her.  Feathers feelers came from the soles of her feet, reaching down into the dirt of the town while the dirt reached up to embrace them.

Threadlike things those roots were and her friends tried to convince her it wasn’t too late.

Her friends didn’t have roots.  They could travel and stay gone and never feel the effects of being uprooted.

“Just come with us,” they would sing and coo.  “There is no reason you can’t.”

She had intended to graduate.  She had intended to go to college.  She had intended to move to the big city, to get a good job.  She had intended to grow, to go away, to never look back.

She stood in her own yard, looking at the horizon she could never cross.  In her blood she could feel the history of the town, being fed to her by the hairs on her feet.

“You can grow here,” her mother told her. “You can thrive.  I’ve done well.  Look at your father.  You’ll be happy like we’re happy.”

Her mother’s roots were strong and firmly planted.  They reached and traveled far under the dirt of the town, embracing it all.  In the spring her mother flowered.  Her father was broad and strong and his roots so deep she thought he would live forever.

They had done very well.  They were very happy.

But they could never leave.  Never for long.  Outside of the town her parents aged and wilted.

She knew it would be true for her too.

Her roots were young, but they were roots.  They would grow far, like her mothers.  They would grow deep like her fathers.

Closing her eyes she sighed and turned her face to the sun.

Ashleigh had grown roots, and now she would thrive.

Inspired by: Roots

The Clean Room

With a great gasp of air, the man sat up on the stretcher. His eyes were wide and frightened at the sight of the equipment all around him.

There was a crackle of static, then a voice over a pa system.

“It’s okay son, you’re in a hospital. You’ll be okay, but I need to ask you some questions. Do you know who you are?”

The man looked down at his body, crossed and crisscrossed with wires and medical tape, IVs ran into both of his arms.

“Why am I here?” he asked.

“Do you know who you are?”

“What happened to me?” his voice was touched with panic. He’d never been in a hospital where the nurses only spoke over the PA. Maybe he had been infected with something, some virus. He’d read that it could happen.

“We will answer your questions later, first you must answer ours. Do you know who you are?”

“My name is Daniel. Daniel Facet.”

“That’s right. Very good.” the voice answered, as if he were taking a quiz and passing.

“Do you know why you’re here, Daniel?”

“I….” Daniel looked around the room. Sterile white walls, no windows, one door. It didn’t look like a normal door at all. It looked secure. A clean room. Why was he in a clean room.

“Daniel?”

“I don’t remember. I can’t.”

“Do you know where you’re from, Daniel? Do you know your hometown?”

“Macon.” he said without hesitation.

“Do you know your parent’s names?”

“Molly and Gerald Facet.”

“Good. Good. Do you know why you’re here, Daniel?”

He was here because…because of something important.

His eyes went back to the door.

“Am I sick?” He asked. “Did I catch something. Some government bug?”

“We will answer your questions later, Daniel, but we need you to tell us why you’re here.”

Daniel jumped as one of the machines beside the bed began to whir. He tried to stand up, but his legs seemed to be strapped to the bed. His eyes kept going to the door. The door.

His arms tingled where the IV needles went in.

“Daniel?” the voice asked.

“I’m here because I killed a girl.” he said suddenly, surprising himself. “Her name was Amanda Peet. She was seventeen. Used to date my neighbor’s son.”

“Is that true, Daniel? Is that why you’re here.”

The whirring machine shut off. Daniel closed his eyes and saw the door. Him being led through the door by two men. Him laying down on the table. He remembered the vial. The blue vial.

“No.” He told the voice. “I killed her, but that’s not why. That’s not why I’m here.”

“Why are you here Daniel?”

“I’m here for you to experiment on. I’m a guinea pig. A lab rat.”

“Very good, Daniel, you’re remembering well now. Do you know why you’re here?”

“I’m here because I killed Amanda Peet, and you came and told me that you wanted to use me, test things on me, and if I survived I would be a free man.”

“That’s right, Daniel. And did you survive?”

He closed his eyes again, saw the blue vial, the needle. They had to stick in in his chest, in his heart. It hurt. It hurt badly. He remembered his body straining, hrememberedrd the men holding him down and he remembered…

“No. I didn’t survive. I died. But you brought me back. You keep bringing me back. You wont let me be dead.”

Daniel cried, sobbed until his chest hurt. Everyone would laugh at him if they knew how he cried, but they would never know. They wouldn’t know because he was dead. Over and over again he was dead.

“Did it hurt Dainel?”

“Yes.” He said. It hurt quite badly. But the blue one was better. Not as bad as the green one.”

“Good, Daniel. Good.”

The door hissed open and two men came in. One of them carried a case as white as the room. The case had a bio-hazard symbol on it.

“Do I get to go home now?” Daniel asked, knowing the answer already.

“No Daniel. Not yet. Not this time. But soon, Daniel. Soon. Just as soon as we get it right. The regeneration formula is imperfect yet. But we have to make a painless death to keep those human rights monkeys off our backs, or everyone will know something is not right at the executions. When you die a painless death and live again, then you can go home, Daniel.”

One of the men pushed Daniel down, and he lay back willingly, as the other man prepared the syringe. The vial was red this time.

He knew he would never go home. He knew that if it didn’t hurt, that if he died a painless death and came back, they wouldn’t let him go home, they would use him as a soldier, like the rest of them, or they would keep him in the lab and make him be a monkey in another test.

As the needle slid into his arm he prayed that it would hurt very badly, and that he would stay dead this time.

(Originally posted in 2006 on Noner’s Notebook)

Rock’s in the Road

The following was written for the February 2: Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch.

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“Rock’s in the road.”

“Already?”

“Getting faster.”

“Guess it is.”

It was hot out, the sun high.  Moving the rock was hard work.

“You gotta stop this, Darlin.” he drawled at the stone.  Laying his hand on it, he felt the vibration, like it was purring without sound.

He wondered if they ought to call somebody.  Rocks shouldn’t purr, even silently.  Rocks shouldn’t move on their own, no matter how slow.

“Alright then,” he said, putting his tired shoulder against the vibrating mass and shoving.  He wished, not for the first time, it had never fallen from the sky.

(99 words)

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If you like this Flash Fiction you might also like Puddle Jumping

Puddle Jumping

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Photo Credit Jessia Haines via FFfAW.

Today’s tidbit is in response to FFfAW 100th Challenge, and also my first time participating in this site’s challenges.

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SPLASH
SPLASH

It had rained for days and day, now the world was awash in rainbow puddles and Anthony was focused on jumping in each and every one while Herny looked on in horror.

“You shouldn’t to that, Tony.  You’re gonna fall in one and drown.”

SPLASH
SPLASH

“Who says?”

“My Nana says.  Some of them are deeper than they look.  You’ll fall in and drown.”

“Your Nana just doesn’t want you to get your boots dirty.”

SPLASH
SPLASH

SPLOOT.

Carefully Henry walked to where he had last seen Anthony.  Standing at the edge of the puddle, looking down, he could barely see his friends face as he floated downward into the puddled depths.

“Told you so.” he said, before continuing to walk home, carefully avoiding any puddles along the way.

(131 words)

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If you liked my story, or even if you didn’t, click the blue froggy below to see everyone else’s flash fictions on this prompt.

Ordering Takeout

The waitress was new.

He took more meals at the diner than he did at home, and was familiar with the staff.  She was new and refreshingly fresh.

The other girls knew him by name, Denise flirted, but not as much as she used to.  Laney made a point not to go to his table anymore, even if he sat in her area.

That is why he got the new girl.  Laney sent her out, bright white Keds squeaking on the floor, fresh pad open to take his order.

She was a redhead, freckles thick over the bridge of her nose.  She had a soft body, not fat but a little too round in the waist, as the hips.  He could see her in middle age being one of those women who wouldn’t be able to tie her own shoes, but not yet.   Right now she was near as perfect as a young woman could get.

He wondered if the freckles ran across her shoulders?  Down her back?

She reminded him a lot of an old girlfriend.  Back when he was young and handsome, back when girls were conquests for him.  She had been a redhead too.  She had been a cheerleader.  She had been a huge disappointment when she got pregnant.

Normally he didn’t ask so early, not the first night he met a girl.  Not even the second or third.  He usually waited a week.  Let them get to know him, know he was harmless really.  Let them talk to the other girls first.

But Laney was here tonight, and Laney would tell her quick.

So he asked, “Will you take me home with you tonight?  To spend the night?”

The shock on her face he expected and was happy to see it was shock and nothing more.  Sometimes shock turned to disgust.  Sometimes to anger.  When he was lucky it was eagerness.  He thought he saw a little eager in the way her mouth turned up at the corner.

“I’ll pay you,” he said.  He gave her his price.

She disappeared in the back with the squeak of a shoe, the swish of a door.  Laney was back there, she would tell it like it was.

The large silver clock over the counter ticked.  Another waitress washed the counter at the bar, trying to look at him without looking at him.  They all knew, and they all waited to see who he would ask.

She reappeared sans apron, grandmotherly brown should bag over one arm.

“Shifts almost over anyway,” she said.  She took his arm when he offered it.  Walked close to him as she led him to her car.

At her apartment, she asked, “How will you get home?”

He told her he’d call his driver to come get him.

“I’ve got to shower first,” she said, “I smell like older burgers and grease.”

She locked the door to the bathroom, he heard the click.  It didn’t bother him.  Gave him time to look around.

Her apartment was tiny.  Most of them were.  Hers was smaller than most.  The kitchen and living room together.  The bathroom she had locked herself in.  A bedroom, dark and secret.

She kept it well clean.  No dust and dirt, discarded cans, empty pizza boxes.  She was young, working hard, earning good tips.  He bet she saved.  She wanted to go places in the world.

On top of her huge and ancient television was a photo.  He walked over, picked it up.  The woman looked familiar.  An older version of the girl.  Her mother then.  Maybe he was wrong, and her soft curves wouldn’t turn to ugly bloat.  The woman was beautiful, stunning even.

Sitting the photo aside he turned away as he heard the water stop with a squeal.

His waitress stepped out, hair damp, wrapped in a large and soft towel.  He thought for a moment about asking her about the woman in the photo.  Who was she?  Why did her photo stir such a sense of de ja vu in him?

But her freckles did go across her shoulders, and when she dropped the towel he saw they covered the tops of her breasts too.

He forgot about the photo.

Many hours later he woke from a dream, a nightmare really.  His last conquest before college, the cheerleader, nineteen years ago more or less.  In the dream, she was telling him again that she was pregnant, that the child was his.  He was having none of it.  He had called her horrible names, said things he didn’t really mean because he did love her.  But he couldn’t be a father.

In his nightmare, she had killed herself.

In reality, he didn’t know what became of her.  He left, went to college, lost his looks, gained his wealth.

Gently he raised himself from the bed and dressed.  His waitress shifted a little in her sleep.  Taking out his wallet he counted out the bills.  All hundreds, to the amount he promised her.

Light from the lamp outside touched her side of her face.  Her red hair.  Her freckles.  So beautiful.  So familiar.

Suddenly he knew why the woman in the photo had looked so familiar. Why hours of being with his waitress had given him nightmares instead of deep and restful sleep.

She looked just like her mother did, nineteen years ago…

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Inspired by Recognize.
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