Summer of Super Short Stories 2, Week Four

After week three’s infidelities, perhaps week four will inspire you to consider LOVE? Our judge, romance author Margaret Locke, is an expert on the topic, after all. Learn more about her at http://margaretlocke.com/

As always, below you will find a photo prompt and a line prompt. Use the picture to inspire you. The line prompt must be included somewhere in your story of 350 words or less. You can see a larger version of the picture by clicking on it. There are no content restrictions, but our judge  this week advises that any violence and graphic material should be necessary to the story and not gratuitous.

Submit your story or stories (up to two) in the reply section to this post no later than Saturday at 6pm PST. Please include word count and Twitter handle/email/other identifiers at the beginning of the story. Winners will be announced next Tuesday. Please see our Contest Rules for more information.


And here are your prompts!

Use this four word phrase in any part of your story:

“You have a choice

silence

Image credit: Silence by Eddi Van W  flickr CC 2.0
Image has not been altered from its original form.

33 thoughts on “Summer of Super Short Stories 2, Week Four

  1. Holly Geely

    Secrets
    @hollygeely
    300 words

    “Who do you love?” Megan says.

    What a question! I love my mother and father, I love my brother, I love that late-night newscaster with the funny haircut. He cracks me up whenever I can’t sleep. I should watch less television.

    She looks mad. I don’t think that’s what she means.

    “What is love, anyway?” I ask.

    “I don’t want philosophy, Sarah. I want an answer.”

    Crap. She found out about Mary-Anne, didn’t she?

    “You have a choice. Me or Alicia. You can’t have both.”

    Oh yeah. Alicia. I’m just glad she didn’t find out about Sylvia. I love Sarah, I really do, but she can be so dense. We’ve been together eight years, isn’t that commitment enough? She should have learned to trust me by now. I’m tempted to pick Alicia, just to see her face turn funny colours.

    “I’m not having an affair with Alicia. She’s one of my students,” I say.

    “Students?”

    “I started teaching origami on the side to make some extra money.”

    “Why would we need extra money?” Megan asks. She’s got this hangup about finances. She likes to know exactly how much money we’ve got. I love that about her, because it means I never have to worry, but it also means I can’t do anything secret.

    “I wanted to buy you a present,” I say.

    Before she can ask “Why?” or “What is it?” I get down on one knee and show her the ring. She makes this adorable squeaking noise when she’s surprised.

    “Way back when, we decided I’d be the one to propose. I know you were joking, because of my reputation, but here it is. Megan, will you marry me?”

    “That depends,” Megan says.

    “On what?”

    “On whether or not Sylvia is one of your students.”

    Double crap.

    She’s not.

    Reply
  2. Madilyn Quinn

    The Choice
    @MadilynQuinn
    340 words

    The clap of thunder in her head jolts her and she turns a startled look to her husband. He squints, confused, but his expression rapidly morphs to fear.
    “Belle!”
    Her vision falls away like chipped paint, leaving nothing but darkness and a roar of wind in her ears. She chokes as the air tears through her, bowing her legs. Her palms crack against the ground and she heaves, gasping.
    The wind snaps still and grass floods her vision. Thick and fragrant, it tickles her nose. Somehow, she’s no longer in her kitchen. She sits back on her ankles slowly, the place overloading her senses. Flowers of every color and ones she’s never seen before surround her, bury her. A sweet, floral smell fills her and the sun warms the skin of her arms. Yet, a sense of calm saturates her.
    What happened? First that shock of pain in her, then the blackness and silence. She swallows and gazes around her.
    Behind her, a man is seated crossed-legged on the ground. Wildflowers grow around and on him and he doesn’t move save for a slight breath.
    “Hello?”
    He opens his eyes and she startles back from the universe that swirls around in them. She sees the tree of her life, roots and branches stretching in many directions, seeds snapping up saplings around her.
    “Am I dead?”
    He gives her a patient, kind smile.
    Heartbreak tears through her. She died. She died so abruptly, right in front of her husband. Gasping, she drops her head, letting her hair shield her face and the tears that stream down it.
    Wind whispers through the grass and the man’s fingertips touch her chin, tipping her face up. Warmth spreads through her.
    “You lived an exceptional life.”
    The statement brings along fresh tears.
    “But,” he raises both vine-covered arms and on either side of him a door slits the sky. In one is a nursery, bustling with new life, and the others shows the stars, glittering in the vastness of space. “Now you have a choice.”

    Reply
    1. KM Zafari

      Wow! This is lovely.

      I had a brain hemorrhage a couple of years ago, right in front of my kids. Woke up in the hospital. I was so struck how it was like flipping off a switch.

      In part for this reason, and also because it’s so well written, this story gave me the chills. Not sure I can read it again. lol But it’s great.:)

      Reply
    2. Pattyann McCarthy

      Wonderful story here! Lost my Mom a few months ago, and it happened in the blink of an eye. Great writing!

      Reply
  3. Tim Stevenson

    A Moment Of Reflection.
    @tallfiction
    347 Words

    Cansu settled herself on the marble around the pond. The children of the village smiled to see her there, the woman whose name meant “Life Water”, serene in the late afternoon sun.
    She rested a hand on the cool stone, the veins in the rock mirroring the pulse of life within her. The afternoon breeze cooled her thoughts, and led them towards the bright, empty place she sought.
    In the market, raised voices caught the air and filled it with talk of marriages and business, while Cansu faded from the world and overflowed with reflected light.
    Namiq, Cansu’s husband, had the loudest voice of all. The slap of his hand on the counter was a crack of authority. His opinion on how things should be was loud and freely given. He had many sons, and soon there would be another.
    Cansu touched her belly and watched the blossoms float across the water.
    A girl approached Cansu and sat timidly, waiting.
    Kemal, Cansu’s oldest son was betrothed to this girl. She quivered like the grass on the shore while her son, like her husband, raised his voice and moulded his small corner of the world.
    “How do you bear it?” the girl asked.
    Cansu gave the girl a blossom from the water.
    “You have a flower,” she said, using the language only women understand. “Hold it in your hand, or let it drift away. Nothing is certain. Nothing is arranged.”
    These were dangerous words. The arrangement of a marriage was stone, a hard, immutable thing.
    “But he is your son,” the girl said. Her eyes were wide with the shimmering of hope.
    Cansu listened to the rough men in the market, and the breeze that took their words away towards the haze of the mountains.
    “Only you can let the flower go,” Cansu said. “Remember, you have a choice.”
    “And if I hold on?” the girl’s tiny fingers wrapped around the petals.
    The words of the men blew this way and that, guided by the wind, fading to nothing as Cansu let the light fill her weeping eyes.

    Reply
    1. KM Zafari

      This has such a sad gentleness to it. I love that she is so supportive of her future daughter-in-law. Female solidarity in a world ruled by men, communicating in ways that only they can understand. She tries to help her, but does the girl want to be helped? Is there hope for her? It seems like things will never change in her world.

      Reply
  4. Karl A Russell

    A Day In The Month Of Leaves

    Seventh bell peals.
    The sound of the meditation bowl rings clear.
    Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō
    Cicadas sing from the gardens.
    It is the morning after the night without sleep.

    Paper screen slides silently open.
    Father stands before me, as big as all the world.
    “You are awake?”
    I nod, rise from my bed, kneel upon the tatami.

    Leather armour creaks.
    Metal plates jangle.
    He kneels to face me.

    “You have a choice.”

    I nod once more.

    He holds out his hands to me.
    I long to fall into his arms.
    But his hands are not empty.
    In one, a lotus flower.
    In the other, a blade.
    The choice is clear.
    The decision is not.

    Father is old, a slab of granite of a man, tempered by the years he has spent on his path.
    Scars make his face a map of his wandering.
    The lotus is the softest thing he has touched since his war began.

    To choose the lotus means staying in the monastery.
    Peace.
    Comfort.
    The gardens in spring.

    To choose the blade means walking father’s path.
    Pain.
    Suffering.
    Vengeance.

    I think of my mother, as much as I can recall.
    Cherry blossom lips.
    Eyes of jade.
    A slash of crimson blood on crisp snow.

    I touch the blade.
    The world holds a breath.
    The monks chant.
    I nod.

    A servant enters, to see that it is done correctly.
    The blade turns inwards.
    Father’s stomach blooms across the tatami.
    The servant raises my father’s sword.
    A heron cries in the garden.
    Father’s head rolls to rest against my knees.

    The servant moves to clean the blade, but I stay him with a word.
    The sword – the duty – is mine now.
    I stand, take the sword, and walk from the room.
    The dripping blade traces my father’s final path in blood.

    The heron takes flight in the garden.

    309 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

    Reply
  5. David Shakes

    I Loved Her
    103 words
    @TheShakes72
    David Shakes

    “Visualise this: a beautiful flower, petals as fragile as porcelain, sits in your palm. You have a choice…”
    “Crush it! Squeeze it until its sticky juices stain my fingers and its sickly scent hangs heavy in the air.”
    “But it’s just flower, David.”
    “I can’t stand it.”
    “Can’t stand the flower?”
    “Course not – bloody thing’s not even real. Can’t stand the therapy.”
    “The state say you have to do this David, it’s a condition of your sentence.”
    “But it’s not fair! Dad made me do it! I couldn’t help it! It’s not my fault. I loved her.”
    “David, you had a choice.”

    Reply
  6. A V Laidlaw

    @AvLaidlaw
    314 Words

    The Voyage Home From Troy

    Dreams of war follow me across the grey seas. Taste of salt blood on my lips and the heat of vengeance crouched in my breast like a beast. Whimpers from a dog nuzzling the lifeless body of its mistress. Corpses pulled from the buildings as we fired the city. Shadows of vultures across our faces. Crackle of the funeral pyres that burnt for weeks with the smoke casting a perpetual twilight across the dusty plains.

    Each morning when I wake she comes to me, the lotus flower cupped in her hands. She smiles gracefully when I only expect to see the sardonic smiles of the dead.

    “Take the lotus flower,” she says, “and forget.”

    “No more dreams?”

    There is silence. The sunlight drips like honey through the branches of the trees. I see my old companions lying in the shade among the lotus eaters, as sorrowless and innocent as they had been before we left Ithaca all those years ago.

    “No more dreams,” she says.

    I have never taken the lotus flower. Unshaven and crippled and old. I am a blasphemy here.

    As I sit up to take the flower, the old wounds ache. She lowers the flower in my hands, petals unclasped and welcoming, lighter than I expect as if it does not belong to this world of burning towers and grey seas. Its scent twists around me and the ache from my wound ebbs away. In it I see emptiness and peace, forgiveness for all we have done. Even the Gods cannot see into the heart of the lotus flower.

    You had no choice. You had your oath to your king. You had your honour to defend.

    Once more I let the flower drop from my hands. The ache from my wounds flares through my body. The cries for mercy pierce me again.

    You have a choice. You always have a choice.

    Reply
  7. santinoprinzi

    Twitter: @tinoprinzi

    ALL LOVE HAS ITS OWN SCENT
    (78 words)

    You have a choice, she’d told herself once upon time, but now she knows differently; sometimes choice is not an option.

    He deflowered her petal by petal, lie by lie, leaving her a feeble stalk alone in the wind.

    But beyond her sad slenderness her aroma still billowed. She couldn’t let him taint her fully. Afresh, she regained her petals. She bloomed again for love, and that was her choice, but she’d always remember the wasp’s sharpest sting.

    Reply
  8. Foy S. Iver

    @fs_iver
    WC: 348

    Georgie Hanson’s Bad Day

    Georgie Hanson was having a bad day. This wasn’t unusual. Most of Georgie’s days were bad days. He’d grown to accept this as an immutable truth. On a normal day, he would spill instant oats on his freshly ironed shirt by 5:37a.m., miss the six o’eight train, get doused by a cabby on the compulsory walk into work, piss off the secretary with a bumbling compliment, and only realize he’d forgotten his lunch and his wallet by the time noon rolled around. But this was different.

    Georgie Hanson was having a very bad day. It started when the skies split. They opened the way soapsubs in a bath are pushed aside by a toy boat, only instead of soapsuds they were clouds, and instead of a boat, it was a ship. Dark and frowning it descended, and because Georgie had needed to change into a third clean shirt that morning, thereby arriving 30 seconds late to the platform, and forced, as always, into the 45-minute walk, he was the first life form they saw.

    Georgie Hanson was having a very, really bad day. Presuming him to be the Alpha Entity, Earth’s visitors presented Georgie with gifts. Or what must have been gifts. The first item was gray and goopy, much like what Georgie’s cat, Annabellee (that’s how he’d thought the poem spelt it), would’ve coughed up at his feet. The second was a tubular object that resembled a giant whoziwhatsem like they sold at Adam’s Eve on Kent. The third item wasn’t an item at all. It was a woman. Only one of their women. She might have been beautiful with a little less mascara over her third eye.

    “For you.” The shortest one’s vocal vibrator sparked.

    “Erm, thank you,” Georgie said. “But I’m not interested. At the moment.”

    “You have a choice.” They were closing in on him.

    “They’re lovely. Really. But–”

    They bundled them into his arms – even the woman. Then they smiled.

    “Good do business on you. Earth look nice in our system.”

    “Crap.”

    Georgie Hanson was having a very, really, super bad day.

    Reply
  9. mariemck1

    Speed Dating at Petals!

    Keep track of potential princes on your special score card:

    Let’s Get Scoring…

    1. Reasonable. Polite. Clean.
    2. Nervous?
    3. A tad dull.
    4. Not my usual type.
    5. How old!?
    6. A little self absorbed.
    7. Boring.
    8. Boring!!!
    9. Kill me now!
    10. Ooh, things just got interesting!
    11. Where’s number 10 seated?
    12. He seems to like girl 2.
    13. Damn. 10 definitely likes brunettes.
    14. Are we at 14 already?
    15. Not number 10.

    You have a choice! Petal Princesses, which of our fine gentlemen could be your Petal Prince?
     
    Enter three choices here to see if we can play matchmaker today: 10! 10! 10!

    (112 words)
    @elaine173marie

    Reply
  10. Pattyann McCarthy

    Pattyann McCarthy
    @PattyannMc
    WC: 349

    Ponies, Unicorns, and a Dahlia

    Burdens weary my heart. Floundering, struggling as fish to breathe air. My heart yearns for uplifting ease, my life filled with weighty cares, I pray for better. Prayers seem to fall deaf. Struggle and strife, the glue binding me, ribbons of scarlet encircle me. I feel need to turn to the world for answers, walking from faith. I’m tangled in doubt.

    The webs of dreams cling to me, eyes opening to sunshine . . .

    The Dalai Lama and I stood on the highest mountain peak, Nyainqentanghla; a name I can’t pronounce, that means ‘God of Grassland.’ Dressed only in a petal pink nightie, I stood knee-deep in drifts of luminous glittery-diamond snow, but the cold neither bothered nor benefited me.

    “This mountain peak is bound to magic,” Dalai whispered with a smile and a flourish of his hand over the land below.

    Beneath, I saw two beautiful rivers lazily winding through emerald grasslands, blue as the azure sky. White Ponies and mystical sparkling-horned Unicorns frolicked beside the waters amid seas of delicate watercolor blossoms. Billowy clouds dreamily graced azure, the air fragrant, sweet as spun sugar. My breath caught; my senses enrapt with spellbinding visions.

    “Why are we here,” I whispered to Dalai, confused.

    “We are here to ease your soul, but, you have a choice to make.” He gazed at me, expecting.

    “What choice?” In mind, my burdens came forward.

    Dalai displayed opened palms. In one, lay a dazzling pink Dahlia, perfect in form, radiating delicious perfumes. The other held an Obsidian gemstone, glinting the sun’s rays. “You must choose,” he said, gently smiling.

    I desired to choose the Dahlia, but the gemstone drew me into itself. “I choose the Obsidian,” I breathed.

    Dalai’s smile brightened.

    My eyebrows crinkled.

    “You see, the Dahlia embodies the World, its trappings; the Obsidian is for internal healing, helping you embrace your beliefs. Nearly all choose the Dahlia for its splendor, coveting the things of this world, but not you Little One, you’ve chosen correctly. I believe it’s an answer to your prayers.

    Tears gently fell; faith refreshed, a smile kissed my lips.

    Reply
  11. necwrites

    Running Out of Petals
    350 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    She loves me, she loves me not. It takes longer with a lotus, but that doesn’t do much for my chances.

    You had a choice, though you did your best to hide it. You wore loose sweaters over the swell, blamed a switch in medication for water retention. No one knew you had a “problem” at all.
    Except for the butterflies.
    A winged ribbon of color swirled about your middle as if asters grew from your bellybutton. You brushed them away and chose to let whatever happened happen. I happened.

    She loves me?

    You didn’t choose to give me up for legal adoption (as urged by the nurses). Healthy, placid newborn boy—placement in a secure and caring home would have been easy. Instead, you went home with me to see how things would work out. Between the earplugs and the child-benefit checks, you figured things were working out just fine.
    Insects still fret at the window above the crib—damselflies by day, moths by night—which was fine too because their buzzing and smacking made good white-noise lullabies, so you didn’t have to learn any.

    She loves me not.

    You chose not to respond to my panicked shrieks. You turned up the TV and inspired sleepy sympathy from the neighbors with the word colic. Licorice water did nothing to chase away the hob-gobs bobbing about the crib rail. Yes, I remember them. Some faces brand themselves into one’s brain. Like yours did.

    She once loved me.

    You might have noticed that your infant’s brown eyes had suddenly gone a mismatched blue and green. You shrugged it off. Babies change. All the web forums say so. Those new tooth buds hurt, but at least he’d calm for nursing.

    Love me not.

    In the lotus fields, the pixies bring me milk stolen from saucers. Winged ribbons of color attend my every whimper, but they can’t mother me. They say we can trade back when the other is weaned, but I’m not so sure I want to.

    All your choices amounted to doing nothing–which is a choice not to care.

    Reply
  12. Stephen Shirres (@The_Red_Fleece)

    Ripples of Choice
    by Stephen Shirres (@The_Red_Fleece)
    Word Count = 321

    “You have a choice.”
    The four simple words echo, in stereo through Sally’s head. One is experience, the other conviction. In front of her a lake of blue stretches out, flowers float on the surface. There is no wind or waves yet the flowers move. Sally scoops one up with pale red petals. Yet it is more than that: hundreds of colours and shades, more than humans have named.
    “You have a choice.”
    Experience is louder this time. Silver hair and sage nods. Love, guidance, wisdom and everything else a mother should be. “Look what is around you. How could you gives this up. Never see a flower like that again.”
    The flower is beautiful but sad. An inflection that spreads through Sally. Yes it is beautiful in its natural habitat. Not glass bowls in concrete blocks, left on the side to be forgotten and die.
    Artificially white clouds rise behind the crown of petals and mix into the grey clouds. Can’t they see how stupid that looks?
    “You have a choice.”
    Conviction takes over the mic, all long brown unfarmed hair lacking in shine. Love, lust, friendship and everything else a girlfriend should be. “The flower is beautiful and so are its brothers and sisters. They are all beautiful and free. Help them stay that way.”
    Sally follows the white cloud to its source, a black chimney stabbing into the sky. Its hilt more black metal of industry. The reason Sally is here.
    “You have a choice.”
    The four simple words are in mono now, a single voice of conviction. Sally releases the flower back onto the water, swings her rack sack off her shoulders and opens the main flap. Digital red numbers stare back, two unplugged wires hang below. Sally clicks them into place, red first then blue. The counter wakes up…click, click, click.
    “You have a choice.” Experience, pleading. Sally ignores the words and walks towards her target.

    Reply
    1. mariemck1

      ‘Yet it is more than that: hundreds of colours and shades, more than humans have named.’ What a succinct and beautiful line. And your ending caught me completely offguard. Excellent.

      Reply
  13. Shiloh A. Ohmes

    Salt and Cactus Spines

    @Shi3Ohm

    350 words.

    Fred pulls off the highway sometime before dawn. It’s all borderlands here, harsh and quiet, stretching from one horizon to another. Nobody else on the road this time of night, just them.

    Taz, her sister, asleep in the passenger seat. Jimmy, Fred’s son, laid out in the back of the hearse, whistle-wheezing on blankets where a coffin should be.

    That’s it, her little family. Rope burns from a noose around Jimmy’s neck, a bullet in Taz’s shoulder, and betrayal from a town they used to serve and safeguard laid thick in bruises and blood. So much for loyalty, or gratitude.

    The radio croons out some love song, all weepy and soothing, talking about it like it’s a cotton candy paradise. Fred turns it off in disgust, slips out of the hearse and lights herself a cigarette while lightning flashes overhead.

    Love, for Fred, is something made of salt and cactus thorns. It gets down into your bones, nests among the marrow, and reminds you every day that it’s there. It’s not pretty, and it’s not the pinnacle of happiness, or whatever the radio believes.

    Smoke curls around her face, disappears in the wind. She lifts her hands and pulls on the magic threading the fabric of the borderlands. Calls it into her reach, weaves the threads together. No words, no fancy alter, just her will and determination and love.

    The spell-hound takes shape, rising from the sand and prickly-pear, cold eyes shining out of an earthen head. It shakes off excess dirt and lumbers to her, shoulders level with hers, the body nearly the length of a car.

    Fred blows smoke into its mouth and gives it three names.

    “Bring me their souls.”

    It flashes teeth and growls, then turns and lopes back toward town.

    Fred stands watch until sunrise.

    Love appears soft and sweet to them who’ve only toed the canyon’s edge. It demands sacrifice, but you have a choice.

    She chooses the salt, the cactus thorns, and fashions them as armor around Taz and Jimmy.

    Fred jumps the edge every time, fall be damned.

    Reply
  14. mtdecker

    Moving Forward while Standing Still.
    346 Words
    @mishmhem
    #FlashDogs

    “Life is all about choice. You can hide from responsibility by saying you’re a victim of circumstance, but that’s one of the worst lies you can tell yourself.

    “I’m not saying that there aren’t bad things that happen— that’s the way of things, but letting it decide who and what you are is a choice, and trust me… its a poor choice at best.”

    Evan paused, checking his notes. He let his breath out slowly and gave his ‘handler’ a shy smile.

    She gave him an encouraging nod, but there was no mistaking her hand on the butt of her gun. He had to give the speech he’d been given… that much was obvious.

    He drew his breath and looked out the window. “…but letting it decide who and what you are is the worst choice you can make.”

    He looked back and saw an approving smile on her face.

    He let out a relived smile. He just had to hold it together for a little while longer.

    As the limo pulled up to the venue he forced a smile and offered his ‘guard’ his arm. He knew she was watching his every move as he greeted his constituents.

    He exchanged pleasantries, all the while thinking about the speech she and her ‘constituents’ had dictated to him.

    Before he knew it it was time. He moved to the podium as she backed into the shadows. He had no doubt she was ready to take him out the moment he deviated from their script.

    “Good evening,” he began. “As you know… Life is all about choice. You can hide from responsibility saying you’re a victim of circumstance, but that’s a lie you tell yourself…”

    He fumbled with the cards, carefully checking them, knowing that she was behind him, where she couldn’t see the backs of his cards.

    He continued the speech, smiling as security carefully took her down.

    With a relieved smile he turned and showed her the message she’d missed.

    “Help. I am being held at gun point.”

    He smiled at her. “You have a choice.”

    Reply
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