Rendezvous in the woods

PHOTO PROMPT © Karen Rawson

He gazed at the delicate line of her neck, tracing with his eyes along her collar-bone.

“Josh, are you listening?” Carrie cocked her head to one side, blue eyes sparkling, blonde hair flowing with the breeze.

“Huh? What were you saying?” He slipped his hand into his pocket.

“So you always come here?” she looked at the bubbling creek, and bare trees.

“It’s better in the spring.” He tried not to think of the other women.

She shivered. “It’s cold.”

He drew a blade from his pocket. Only the trees heard her screams, but they would never tell.

98 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Write a story in 100 words or less. Thanks to Karen Rawson for this week’s prompt which inspired me to write my thriller-date-gone-horribly-wrong flash fiction.

Click the blue frog for more flash fiction.

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Goodnight kiss

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

He shut the closet door and sank into the darkness. Mark clasped his hands over his ears to silence the buzzing. But he was helpless against the visions that replayed in his mind.

Blood. On a single gold hoop earring. Matted brown hair. He tasted bile in the back of his throat.

Three days later his wife’s body was found near the beach and he was arrested. The detective presented the evidence bag containing the stained earring they found in his car. Nausea enveloped him as he tried to remember. He had kissed her goodnight. But after that – nothing.

99 words

I struggled with this image. Everytime I tried to think of something, all I could see was crinoline… Probably because I had read Rochelle’s post first.

So I went back to my thriller roots, and saw jewellery instead in those suspended circular artwork things. I’m not sure if my main MC is guilty or not. Looking forward to seeing your thoughts in the comments. Thank you, Dale Rogerson, my friend, for this week’s image!

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The challenge is to write a story in 100 words or less. Click the blue frog icon to read more flash fiction from other super cool writers.

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A friend in need

 

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Bindi split the wood with a satisfying crack. Sarah always asked her why she did men’s work. Sarah did nothing but sit pretty. And since she had come to her homeless and in need, Bindi had come to hate her backstabbing, ungrateful ways.

“Have you seen Sarah anywhere?” Her husband Greg appeared unexpectedly. Wouldn’t you like to know? she thought.

Gazing off into the forest bordering their farm, she shrugged. “Probably ran away again.”

A smear of blood near the axe handle caught her eye.

“We ought to get a new axe. This one has seen its last.”

99 words

This serene picture of chopped wood discs, (thanks to Rochelle for this week’s image) inspired me back to thrillers. Guess where Bindi hid Sarah’s body?

Written for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle where the challenge is to write a story in 100 words or less.

Click the blue frog to read more flash fiction from other great writers.

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#StoryWord Challenge: My experience

#StoryWords is a challenge hosted by Richelle Renae (aka @Richelle_Renae) where participants tweet in 140 characters a line using the word provided for that day. It ran the entire month of April. At the end of the month, the tweets should form a story.

It was very challenging to write within the word constraints. Armed with only a broad idea that I wanted it to be a thriller of some sort, I played it by ear. Plus I had to catch up as I started a few days late. Catching up was how I wrote the story. It was far from perfect.

For the first word “bucket” I wanted to write something that had nothing to do with a bucket’s usual function – holding water, cleaning item, ice-bucket challenge – none of those. But someone could use it to stay out of a hangman’s noose. And so the first line was tweeted. After that I simply tried to make the words fit into the story that was evolving. Along with readers, I discovered the story as it developed.

It turned out to be a crime thriller. Who knew? I certainly did not.

And that was the fun part. Finding out the plot twists as they were published.

140 characters seems daunting. But in my case, it curbed my long winding, turbulent and unnecessary verbosity. Most days I found myself thanking the tweet length for saving me from having to illustrate further. (So the guy finds himself in the woods, who cares how he got there? It’s all backstory anyway.) Tweet length story developments turned out to be very forgiving.

Being restricted to specific words is terrifying. If we can’t choose our words as authors, there goes our freedom, and with it all imagination. Yet constraints can be as inspiring as blank canvases. It forces you to be resourceful and you get highly creative too. Which is great! Like the tweet length, the provided words created very intriguing sentences creating very interesting stories. It’s fiction after all. Get as weird and zany as you want.

I was determined to do it, no matter the result, because if anything I knew I would learn from it.

And the best part: I won.

Yes I did. I won the Spring Challenge. My first ever win in my writing career (not counting high school accolades – no grown adult writer should count those).

Award in hand, behind the podium, I’d like to thank my flash fiction communities Friday Fictioneers and Flash Fiction For Aspiring Writers. Writing in 100 and 150 words or less is one of the best writing craft sharpening tools I’ve ever done. And I recommend it to both aspiring and bestselling author. It’s fun, challenging, and gives invaluable insight into just how much (or little) is needed to tell a good story, and how too many words detract from effective storytelling.

A big thank you to #StoryWords host Richelle!

Hope to see you in the next #Storywords Tweet Story Challenge in the Summer (Winter for us in southern hemisphere).

You may read my #StoryWord thriller here.

 

When we were friends 

           PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

Shona pulled up her collar. A fine mist gathered around the group, complicit in their betrayal.

Everything about death was cold. Light leaves the eyes. Blood stops flowing, warmth dissipates. But this arm, though limp in her grasp, felt warm.

She wished she could turn back time. Just an hour. Before it all went wrong. She knew they were on the point of no return as they tossed their friend into the shallow hole in the ground, and covered her with dirt. Shona watched till the dirt piled high, then they patted it flat and covered it with dry leaves.

100 words

Written for Friday Fictioneers hosted by the awesome Rochelle where we’re challenged to write flash fiction, an entire story with beginning, middle and end in 100 words or less.

Click to read more flash fiction. 

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Scars Series

We want to hide them, tuck them away with our guilty conscience. They are the cracks in our flawlessness, evidence of mistakes we made, impulses overtaking our rational minds. A reminder of a time we’d rather forget, a relationship gone sour, a stranger getting too close or health that deteriorated. It is the past reaching it’s shiny, jagged fleshy fingers into the present.

Or we wear them with a quiet pride that speaks for us before we have uttered a word. “Here is one who is strong, who has borne the cruel twists of life and gained a lifelong token to show for it.”

Scars tell the story of trauma, survival and healing all on their own. They appear skin deep, but their roots go so much deeper, far into the recesses of the soul and the mind.

In appreciation of the will of the human body to heal itself, I present three short stories. Each bears a theme of scars either in physical, psychological or emotional types.

  1. Mikail (physical scars)

 

scars-1

 

They rolled in traffic past an ambulance stuck on the side of the road, steam hissing from under its bonnet. Read full story

2. Louder than a lion (psychological scars)

louder-than-a-lion3

 

 

“She hurried along, tripping over her own feet. The street noises melted into each other coagulating into one mighty racket.”  Read full story

 

 

 

3. Moulded Hearts (emotional scars)

Lianne

For fifteen years everything was perfect. Perfect and safe. Nothing could go wrong, and nothing ever did. Her life was cast from a flawless mould, with no heartache and few surprises. Until yesterday. Read full story.

 

Louder than a lion (story two Scars series)

The mobile lay on the kitchen counter, the screen light blazing. Then it went off. Zuzannah swallowed down the sour taste rising in the back of her throat. She picked up the phone, swiped the screen and re-read the message.

You don’t belong here. 

It was from an unknown number, but she recognised it. It was the same number that sent her a series of hostile messages over the last month. All the messages were listed in conversation mode. At first she ignored it, but it was starting to bug her. She tried to think who it could be, who in her network could have her number. Her stomach twisted at the thought of it being someone she might know. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. She had to stay calm. They, whoever they were, would not get to her.

It could be anyone. Her number was not exactly top-secret. It appeared on notice boards and contact lists of organisations where she volunteered. Her heart sank. She planned on volunteering until she got a job. Despite applying everywhere, job prospects were dismal for people like her. They didn’t say it in so many words, but she understood.  The interviewers asked if she would remove her headscarf for the job. Her answer was “No”, and she guessed so was theirs. None of them got back to her.

Katy Perry started singing You held me down, but I got up. Already brushing off the dust. Zuzannah flinched at the sound of her mobile ringing in her hand. She peeped at the screen and smiled.

“Hi Zoë!” A pause. “Oh sorry, I got… delayed. Is it ten o’ clock already?” She glanced at her watch and hopped off the kitchen bar stool. “I’m on my way. Give me five minutes.”

She grabbed her purse off the kitchen counter and jolted out the door. The anonymous messages were getting to her. She had forgotten about their weekly Saturday brunch. Zoë was already at Ethiopia Cafe and she was not happy.

“You know I don’t like waiting!” Zoë threw her hands up in the air when Zuzannah entered the cafe. Parting palm leaf fronds and bead curtains,  she made her way to Zoë’s table.

“Yeah, I know. Sorry. I’m here now.” She tried her sweetest smile and patted Zoë’s shoulder.

Zoë rolled her eyes and kissed her friend, once on each cheek and one more, middle-eastern style. She sat down, picked up her cigarette from the ashtray and laid her elbow on the table so that the cigarette rested near her face. She studied Zuzannah with her kohl rimmed eyes.

“You okay?” she took a deep drag. “You look flustered.” She blew out smoke and it hovered like a cloud.

“Do you mind?” Zuzannah waved smoke out of her face. “I’m flustered, because I basically ran all the way here.”

Zoë leaned over the table, and smoothed Zuzannah’s hijab, folding it neatly and tucking stray hairs underneath it. “Now you don’t look like a crazy mad woman.”

Zuzannah bowed her head, hiding the blush rising on her cheeks. She patted her silk hijab, tugging the safety pin under her chin into its proper position. Satisfied it was neat, she sat straighter in her chair. “Thanks.” she mumbled.

A waitress brought a macchiato and a latte. “I took the liberty of ordering for you.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.” Zuzannah laughed at her audacity and sipped her latte. “Hazelnut?”

“Yeah, what do you think?”

“Not bad.” It tasted good. Sweet and mildly nutty. She stifled a giggle. A bit like Zoë.

Zoë leaned back in her chair and grinned. She flipped her hair to one side, revealing a side-shaved hairstyle. Zuzannah smiled. People were always surprised they were friends let alone besties. She appeared so conservative, and Zoë so free-spirited.

Katy Perry sang again. Zuzannah reached into her purse for her phone, was about to answer, then stopped. Unknown number. She stiffened. She threw it back in her purse.

“You’re not going to get that?” Zoë raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t want to.”

“What? Why? It might be important. It might be a guy.” She lingered on the word guy and gave a lopsided smile.

“I doubt it. If it is a guy he needs to work on his pick up lines. Malice isn’t very attractive.” Zuzannah exhaled, relieved to finally tell someone about the disturbing messages.

Zoë frowned. “What do you mean?”

Zuzannah sighed, took her phone out of her purse and showed Zoë the series of messages.

Go back to your country, you filthy rotten scum.

We won’t let you take over our country with your backward cult.

Take that rag off your head. Or I’ll do it for you.

There were others, with foul tasting language. She spared Zoë the distastefulness.

Zoë clasped her hand over her mouth. Her eyes grew wide and wet. “Zuzannah…” Then a tear rolled down her cheek, and she went over to her, pulled her close in an embrace. Zoë might appear tough, but she had a soft heart.

Zuzannah buried her face in her hair, her chest growing tight, holding back her own tears. She held onto Zoë.

When they let go, Zoë kept one arm around her shoulder. “How long have you been getting these?”

“For about a month.” Zuzannah’s voice sounded small to her ears.

“A month?! And you didn’t tell me? Have you told the police?”

“What can the police do?” She shrugged, “And I didn’t want to bother you. It didn’t seem important, at first.”

“The police can trace the number, you know, do detective stuff!”

“Maybe… I just want it to stop.” She didn’t think the police could help her. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know who was behind it either. What if it was someone she volunteered with? An acquaintance? A friend? A sour taste rose in her throat. She coughed and swallowed to clear it. She just wanted it to stop. It had to.

The train steered around a bend and the passengers swayed with it. Zuzannah was on her way to the mall. Zoë left for a family gathering where there would be extended family, baklava and barbecue, and lots of nieces and nephews running around. She insisted Zuzannah join them, but she wasn’t in the mood for socialising. Lately, she preferred to stay away from such gatherings where she’d have to force herself to smile and make small talk. A couple of hours at the mall for some lone retail therapy was more appealing. There was this pair of studded ankle boots she had her eye on. It would go perfectly with her skinny jeans.

The feeling gripped her suddenly. She couldn’t explain it, but she felt the odd sensation that she was being watched. Followed. She glanced around at the other passengers. They were all engrossed in their own bubble lives. Some were reading, others were asleep and swaying with the train. A man and a woman deep in conversation. She was about to look away, when they looked at her. Their lips curled in a sneer. Zuzannah felt very aware of her hijab, the silk scraping her cheeks, the safety pin tightening underneath her chin. She offered a shaky smile. The couple turned their backs to her.

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the – Zuzannah reached into her purse and before taking it out, rejected the call. She swiped the screen to see whose call she cut short. Unknown number. Her pulse quickened. She squeezed her eyes shut, opened them and looked again. Unknown number. Leave me alone! Her heart beat at her ribcage, begging to be noticed. She wanted to disappear. She leaned back in her seat, trying to appear relaxed. She fought the urge to run out of the still moving train. She should have stayed with Zoë.

The train stopped and the doors slid open. She rose and made for the exit, steering well clear of the couple. On the platform, she kept her eyes in front of her and she was carried out of the underground with the wave of rushing commuters. The street was busy, horns blaring, people shouting. A man in a black jacket and baseball cap moved toward her. She ducked into the nearest store. A bookstore. She peered from behind the book displays at the strange man. He walked over to another man, and they fist bumped and half hugged in greeting. She breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t coming for her. She left the bookstore and scurried to the mall.

Her mobile’s tune was muffled in the noise of the street. She opened her purse and it belted out, ‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar. Unknown number. She wanted to throw her phone away. Why won’t they leave me alone?

 She switched her phone to silent and decided to go home. Shopping lost its lustre now. She felt exhausted.  The long months of job hunting, the malicious messages, the couple on the train, it all drained her. After living her whole life in this city, it had succeeded in making her feel like a foreigner. Worse. A foreigner could still be a tourist eager to spend much wanted money. Zuzannah realised she was far worse. She was an outcast. Hated. The enemy. She hadn’t done anything wrong, but the facts didn’t make a difference anymore.

She hurried along, tripping over her feet. The street noises melted into one another coagulating into one mighty  racket. The fact was she could remove her scarf for regulations or malevolent stalkers, but it wouldn’t stop her wanting to wear it. She could change her appearance to meet their expectations, but it wouldn’t change who she was or what she stood for. Her heart beat unusually, her breath came in short gasps. A roaring begun in her ears, the street noises receding beyond it. Another disturbing fact glared at her, like a lion eyes its prey with a deadly stare, chasing it then trapping it, blotting out any shadow of hope with its fearsome form : It could get worse.

Mr Jeremy Gould put the receiver down. He pursed his lips and frowned. He had tried calling Zuzannah Rashid many times, but each time there was no answer. He planned to double-check her number with her colleague at The United Mission. They had recommended her for this job and she seemed to have all the qualifications. Exactly what he was looking for. He tapped his forefinger on his desk. Now, if only he could get hold of her.

 

******The end******