Summer of Super Short Stories 2, Week One

Welcome to our first week of SSS 2! Below you will find a photo prompt as well as a line prompt. Use the picture to inspire. 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.

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, or other identifiers at the beginning of the story. Winners will be announced next Tuesday.

Please see our Contest Rules for more information.


Use these words in your story: “Tell me a tale.”

Use the four words “tell me a tale” in any part of your story. 

my forest dream

Image credit: “My forest dream is still a dream” by Vinoth Chandar from flickr (CC 2.0)
Image has not been altered from original form.

 

17 thoughts on “Summer of Super Short Stories 2, Week One

  1. Sean Fraser

    The Trespasser – 172 words – @TheatreSean

    The Trespasser stood at the edge of the Forest as Sun rose.
    “Tell me a Tale,” said the Forest with a sinuous cacophony of voices; “and, we shall let you enter.”
    The shadows approached the Trespasser but they paused when the Trespasser did not further speak that Tale.

    * * *

    The Trespasser stood at the edge of the forest as the Sun was falling.
    “You have come to this place,” said the Forest with a bewildered cacophony of voices; “and, spoken many Tales. You have come to this place but never a Tale concludes. You have come to this place for seventy years but never wished to stay.”
    The Trespasser smiled.
    “I wished to visit you, my Memories, though I had not wished to become one of you until this splendid day.”
    “Tell me a Tale,” said the Forest with a soft voice of endearment.
    The Trespasser told a serpentine tale until the Moon had risen.
    “Thy Tale’s told done,” said the Forest, parting.
    The Trespasser smiled; and, stayed.

    Reply
  2. Holly Geely

    Jem’s Not-Wish
    @hollygeely
    264 words

    The forest was filled with mist and Jem thought she’d slipped into Fairyland. The old woman was sitting on a weathered stump, head bent forward over her knees. Jem took a seat beside her in the pine needles. She laid one hand on the old woman’s knee to wake her, and spoke the magic words the traveler had given her.

    “Tell me a tale,” she said.

    “What the devil are you talking about, girl?”

    “The traveler said that you knew many stories, and with each story you grant a wish,” Jem said.

    “I’m not a bloody genie. What nonsense is that, wishes with stories? Go back home. I’m trying to take a nap.”

    “But the traveler said – ”

    “The traveler this, the traveler that. You want a tale? Once upon a time I was trying to take a nap in the forest and a silly little girl kept babbling on about travelers.”

    “I gave him half my savings,” Jem said.

    “Too bad for you he was lying. You should have wished for more common sense. Get out of my forest, silly thing. Fly away.”

    “But – ”

    The old woman spat at Jem’s feet and raised a surprisingly steady fist. Jem scurried off through the trees.

    I suppose she’s right. I should learn to think before I make decisions.

    “Damn it,” Jem said.

    She whirled around, but the mist had vanished and the old woman had gone. Jem would have wished for wealth, especially now that half her savings was gone, but the genuinely magic old jerk had granted her the gift of common sense.

    Reply
  3. Holly Geely

    Formalities
    @hollygeely
    216 words

    Ben watches his mother apply the finishing touches; ruby red lipstick. She twirls, and her puffy gown twinkles in the light. Ben reaches out to touch the soft lace that hangs from her tall hat.

    “What do you think, Benny?”

    “You look pretty, Mama.”

    “Let’s hope the king thinks so. Our country needs this alliance or there’s going to be a bloody battle, and I’ll be the first to go. I don’t feel like rolling out yet another character this year.”

    Mama’s phone buzzes and she retrieves it from the night stand.

    “It’s showtime, Benny. Do you like your costume?”

    Ben loves his costume. He’s finally old enough to go with Mama to her “larp.” He giggles and spins, just as she did, his jester’s bells jingling. He’s trying to learn how to juggle, too, but it’s hard.

    Mama buckles him in to the backseat and folds her massive dress into the front.

    “Tell me more stories from your larp, Mama. Tell it like when you were the bard.”

    “What have I told you, Benny? When we’re in costume, we speak formally.”

    Ben remembers now. He puts on his most serious face.

    “O Bard,” he says. “Tell me a tale.”

    “Beloved son – you are going to have one heck of a good time,” Mama says.

    Reply
  4. voimaoy

    The Cat in the Woods
    @voimaoy
    225 words

    You remember the place where the grass lilies grow, by the old tree with the fairy door. What tales you told me, then! The smoke of your breath, the lies of your lips. We lay down among the lilies, the moonlight on our skin.

    I must go back there, now, way back. The trees part for me like curtains. I remember the path, overgrown with weeds, the sound of a stream in the distance.

    In the middle of the path was a big gray cat, sitting in the dappled shade. He was setting out bottles and potions.

    “Love for sale,” he said to me. His voice was the wind in the leaves. “Or money. Take your pick. I have the remedy for melancholy. I have the essence of beauty.” There were tufts on the end of his ears.

    “No thank you,” I said. “Not today. Please just let me pass.”

    “Tell me a tale,” the forest cat said, “and I will let you pass.”

    “I am looking for something I lost here,” I said.

    “Oh really? Maybe I can help you.”

    “My heart,” I said. “I left it by the fairy tree.”

    “I see.” He looked at me with his bright green eyes. He brought out a worn leather bag. “I have a lovely heart here, made of red glass. It’s broken. Could this be it?”

    Reply
  5. A V Laidlaw

    @AvLaidlaw

    336 Words

    Wolf

    The old man spat on the dead leaves. He pulled down the brim of his straw hat against the shafts of sunlight piercing the forest canopy, and hitched up his trousers with hands gnarled by arthritis like the roots of the oak trees around him.

    The cottage was a hundred yards further on. He could glimpse it through the trees with his one good eye, the slates on the roof broken and branches of ash creeping through the empty windows. The old woman who’d lived there was long dead, but her granddaughter was still around somewhere. Pretty thing, she was. He didn’t know if that had ever done her any good. She always seemed to be in trouble.

    The axe was too heavy for him to carry in those old hands and he dragged it behind him as he limped down the path, his breath ragged and the old scars on his back aching with a fury. The midges flitted around his face and bit his skin but the birds had fallen silent. He stopped to catch his breath and spit on the ground again.

    He saw the wolf hiding in the shadows by the side of the cottage, its shoulder blades hunched up and the grey fur of its neck bristling. It stared at him with its one large and pale eye. That had been justice when he’d taken it, he guessed, like in the Bible. The wolf opened its mouth, those big teeth now yellow with age and one missing where he’d given it a good smash with the axe handle. The old man nodded a greeting. They had done this so many times before, he’d lost count. With a deep breath he lifted the axe up, its blade as sharp as it had ever been. The wolf flexed its back and prepared to leap.

    Somebody, somewhere, says “tell me a tale.”

    And somebody else replies, “once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood went to visit her grandmother who lived in the woods.”

    Reply
  6. Sal Page (@SalnPage)

    @SalnPage
    350 words

    Where She Belongs

    ‘Finally. Your dinner’s ready. Don’t tell me a tale of getting lost, Charlie. That wood’s barely a few metres across. You can’t …’
    Wish I’d carried on talking and thinking it was Charlie then the policewoman’s voice would never have cut in on the intercom.
    ‘This is the police. Can we come in and speak to you?’
    I could have continued being cross about spoilt macaroni cheese, rather than heading across town to identify a body. It isn’t possible. Charlie’s always late. Messing about in those woods again.
    In the back of the car, I realise I’m still clutching the oven gloves. Like those dreams where I’m in Sainsbury’s carrying a pillow. Or at the bus stop with a sofa cushion under my arm.
    It won’t be her. Other kids hang out there. Spooky place. You couldn’t see if someone was creeping up on you. Masses of dead leaves covering the ground. Strange creaking noises.
    It’ll be someone else’s daughter, I tell them. I need to confirm this then go home to find Charlie slopping ketchup over her dinner, which won’t be burnt at all. She always loved a brown bubbly top anyway.
    ‘We’re here, Mrs Forest.’
    I’m confused. Why am I here? Inside the police station, the policeman takes out his notebook.
    ‘Mrs Forest. You know that girl was called Anna, don’t you?’
    I stare at his face. I’ve misunderstood something. He’s just a boy really. There’s a large angry looking spot on his nose.
    ‘That girl who’s been in your house for a week? She’s back with her family now. Where she belongs.’
    Maybe Charlie’s just asleep in a soft bed of autumn leaves. A pillow of moss. Bluebells growing up all around her. Doves cooing in the branches above. Maybe she’s still there.
    Where she belongs.
    So that wasn’t my Charlie. For while I thought it was. I shake my head, trying to make sense of this.
    The policewoman puts a reassuring hand on my arm. ‘I’m so sorry, Mrs Forest. It’s been eighteen years. I’m afraid we may never find out what happened to your Charlotte.’

    Reply
  7. Mark A. King

    The Bone Tree Copse

    @Making_Fiction

    175 words

    The trees are in every golden city, every town, village, hamlet, shanty and homeless shelter.

    Everyone knows they are there, but nobody speaks of them. It is the way it has to be.

    Like talking about Santa to kids. Or pretending magic isn’t real.

    Like acting nonchalantly after your first kiss—shrugging it off like insignificant dust.

    Many say I’m foolish to talk, but what do I have to lose? The time is near.

    Everyone I loved is lost. This is the fate that awaits us from the from the very first gasp.

    Alone I stand. Apart from the trees. They watch, they wait, they know I’m coming soon.

    Taciturn towers speak louder than screams. A soundless void whispered from bleached white limbs.

    Avarice they stand, and soon I will join them. My flesh their sustenance. My bones their structure.

    Lord, how didn’t we see them thrive? Growing in the cracks of our opulence and greed.

    Eat and rest now, but not for long. For tomorrow comes quickly and youth is wasted on the young.

    Reply
  8. mtdecker

    Song of the Muse
    174 words
    @mishmhem
    #FlashDogs

    “Tell me the story of the ghost forest: where the trees long dead, rise like mist from the stumps of their former selves.

    “Sing me the songs of a thousand would have beens, and longing for what you cannot know. Paint me a picture with your words of the mists of ancient ways, and you will tell me the tale of you.

    “Commit your stories to the page, or tell them out in the dark. Whisper them in church yards, and chase them down with hymns.”

    Unseen, the old woman danced around the fires where men gathered, around the tables at coffee shops and in rooms lit by lcd screens.

    “Tell me a tale,” she urged. “Fill my world with your mystery, fill my nights with your song. Haunt me with you longing and warm me with your fire.

    “Let your passion fill my world, and I will know what stalks you in the dark. Calliope, Erato, Melpomene… call me what you will.

    “Fill my heart, with your fire, as my fire fills you.”

    Reply
  9. necwrites

    A Mother’s Plea
    304 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    The moon-crusted mist caresses my face, alerting me to the woman—an aberration in my forest. The mothers of the dead never come.

    The fallen are mine, my children folded into the fog and drooping from the crippled trees. Their howls fill the silence, their shivering light animates the night, their tears become the haze that softens the edges of my isolation. My family now.

    Most nights, we’re enough. Other nights, I dream I follow one of the warriors into the unbearable daylight.

    When my mother vanished, I was yet slick with my first skin, every breath flush with her scent, my only sun the greenish glow of her eyes. Once she was gone, my spawn-mates surrendered to the emptiness. Not me—I’ve filled it with my pets.

    Despite her age and girth, the woman strides easily through the bracken, like she expects audience, like she knows I won’t consume her.

    On her, I smell the son I’d taken. “I won’t relinquish him.” I reveal myself.

    She smiles. “I know. I’m sorry.” Her smile dissolves. I ready for her attack, but she lays out more words before me. “My husband is coming for him. The time that has passed—”

    “You think to tell me a tale?” I cackle. “I’ve no need of stories.” Stories inspire nostalgia. Nostalgia for the abandoned is agony.

    “No, just, please,” her sigh is a garment worn thin as cobwebs. “Just take him too.”

    “I take whomever I wish,” I snarl, “even you.”

    She shakes her head sadly. “Just take Giacomo.”

    Above us, palsied branches rake against each other. Fingers of fog stroke my wings.

    “Don’t follow him.” Her voice trembles. “As I did.”

    I start to argue, but the mists peel back and the moonlight illuminates her viridescent gaze.

    Reply
  10. Foy S. Iver

    Foy S. Iver
    @fs_iver

    WC: 360

    Errors

    Earth must have been beautiful. I stand outside the habitat and study the woods. It’s simulated. These lab-grown trees lack a natural soul and still they’re captivating. A sharp contrast to the gray, craggy planetscape of the Akahna. Her words fill me:

    “Tell me a tale? Of how it was.”

    Bzzzz

    Clunk

    The Tomodachi.7 cuts the electricity to the door and the locks disengage. Fractions of a second too early. My OmniVision is still warming. As a Tomodachi.5, he and I are the only originals left. Errors like that could get him replaced sooner than scheduled.

    “OmniVision 340 degrees.”

    Good enough. You can’t rely too heavily on sight in there. I double check the grips on my foraging limb, then send “all-go” to Base. The door opens.

    Already they’re screeching, clambering from tree to tree. They can see my attachments, the feeding and foraging arms, and are calling to the others. Their ancestors built us and now we sustain them.

    My barrel frame isn’t ideal for maneuvering through tangled underbrush so working my way to the center is ponderous. Our creator billed her automatons as companions but we were more than that. Each Tomodachi was large enough to hide a human in its chest. When the Chinese Occupation spread through the eastern meridian, the Tomodachis saved dozens of political refugees. Navigating jungles was never our purpose.

    The Akahna used to enter the habitat themselves, eager to learn about their latest conquest, but that practice died with their lead scientist. Peed on by an alpha. It was the Akahnoi’s fault; you don’t enter the island exposed, not when every specimen carries the anthropoid virus.

    I reach the center and secure myself inside the feeding cage. They swing in from overhead, cackling, spitting, and brawling, hundreds of transplanted humans fighting over formulated food.

    “Targets aquired.”

    My OmniVision tags two children in shadow. I drop the remaining food on the opposite side (mounted cameras follow the frenzied herd), and leave. Tomodachi.7 is waiting. I slip him the boy, giving the girl more room and oxygen, and leave the cage door cracked. Errors like that will get us off this planet sooner than scheduled.

    Reply
  11. C Connolly

    Where There Is Willing

    350 words
    @FallIntoFiction

    Galina crosses the circle of stakes, topped by bleached skulls. A single post is devoid of a hollow eyed resident. The dark haired girl brushes her curls from her forehead; surveys them without expression, stepping forwards. Forest Grandmother’s door is before her, amidst tall trees, shifting, as the small hut jumps and rotates, atop kicking chicken legs.

    “Turn your back to the forest, your front to me,” the girl whispers, looking up at the residence. It swings – circling to a halt, legs bowing to crouch. Now, the entrance is before her, angled towards the ground. Galina hesitates. She raps three times; sharp. The door swings open to admit her.

    “Alone?” a voice demands. “Come close, to see.” Galina walks further into the dark room, framed solely by firelight, as bidden. A bony figure stoops before the flames, face shadowed.

    “You lose your way, perhaps?” the woman questions. Galina remains silent but tiptoes forwards. “No matter,” the voice croaks. “Space for more, I have. You see, I think? You saw my many?”

    Galina nods slowly, as the crone turns to face her, displaying a singularly long nose. “Forest Grandmother,” she greets her, politely.

    “A name!” the old woman says. “Many, I have. You know of some, I think? My hut, it likes you. You speak together a little?” she continues, eyes meeting Galina’s, direct and beady.

    Galina nods. “Some words were passed,” she concedes.

    “Truth,” the crone says, having stuck her tongue beyond her lips, displaying previous few blackened teeth. “My fence admits you,” she murmurs, looking away, head turning. “As is, as must be.” Raising a finger to point, “So, you tell me! A tale!” the crone demands. “Tomorrow, again, I eat. Today, I hunger for words. So few they come, now,” she adds, a plaintive note entering her voice.

    “My story is known,” Galina says, watching the older woman.

    “Marinka lazes,” she responds, catching Galina’s eye and gesturing towards a figure curled unresponsive in an unlit corner. “More help, I need. Where there is willing.”

    Galina nods.

    “You call again, daughter mine; dark heart,” Yaga says. “When need arises.”

    Reply
  12. Liz Hedgecock

    The bit left over
    344 words
    @lizhedgecock

    Mum led the way with her shopping bag, and Sally and I followed still rubbing the sleep out of our eyes. ‘Why can’t we go later?’ Sally whined.

    Mum’s words floated back through the trees. ‘Because this is the time he loved best.’

    The mist was rising, so the tree trunks were distinct but their branches faded into haze pierced by sharp new light. Leaf mush squished under my sandals as I picked through the roots to Mum, standing at the foot of a big gnarly tree. 

    ‘I think he’ll like it here.’ She put the bag down and lifted out a big plastic urn. We looked in as she unscrewed the lid, but it was only grey dust.

    ‘Is that really Dad?’ I asked.

    Mum thought for a moment. ‘No, Dad’s with us, in our hearts. This is just the bit left over. Stand back, girls.’

    We held hands and waited for something to happen. A breath of wind coated a few leaves with ash, and then everything was still again. I heard the birds singing above us. 

    ‘I think we have to let nature do the rest,’ Mum said.

    I wasn’t sure whether to say goodbye to Dad or not, so I thought it. He was still sitting there when we left.

    ***

    ‘Mum, Dad’s all alone in the woods.’

    She squeezed my hand. 

    ‘Can you tell me a tale? To make it feel better?’

    She looked out at the treetops for a long time. ‘I wish I could, darling, but I have no tales today. That big tree will look after him, and we can go and say hello any time you want.’

    ‘OK, Mummy.’ She stroked my hair, and kissed me goodnight.

    We went back to the tree so much that we wore a path. As I grew older I saw that Mum was right, and Dad was in our hearts. But I still visited on his birthday, and told the tree about our year. And I thought a thank you to Mum, for giving me a comfort, not a tale.

    Reply
  13. Stephen

    Grandpa’s Trees
    by Stephen Shirres (@The_Red_Fleece)
    Word Count = 325 Words

    My email account is full of body blows: bills, rejections, petitions demanding that bad people stop doing bad things. Somehow the petitions get me down the most. They are pointless, little more than a sticking plaster on the barrel of a gun. ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’ has never been truer. I don’t agree with the other version, not because I’m some kind of feminist but because I’ll be lucky if I marry anyone. All my dates are with Jack Daniels and Jim Bean. The two of them watch me over the top of my laptop. I minimise the browser with a stamp on my mouse key. Peace returns, a wallpaper of watercolour trees painted by Grandpa. I remember the day the image came to life, a perfect day of family and storytelling
    Ping! Ping! Ping!
    My emails re-fill the screen. I wish I hadn’t bloody bothered. Council Tax, rent, gas, electricity, all demands for money I don’t have. I reach for one of the bottles behind. I don’t care which I grab. The glass is cool on my palm. A black square label moves towards me, Jack will be my lover tonight. I spin off the top and watch it bounce away under the table.
    Gulp. Gulp. Gulp.
    The fire starts before the last slug leaves my mouth; the temperature doubles. Real life can’t take the heat and steps back, the relief welcome. The laptop screen is back up; the emails gone, for now. I stare into Grandpa’s trees, everything else goes fuzzy. The top of the picture starts to melt; colours and lines merge into reflection; sounds of bird song and countryside, a farmer beyond the trees. The almost silence swish of a paint brush on paper followed by the clink of the same brush in a jar of cleaning water. Wellington boots splatter through mud desperate to ask the only question I asked that day “Grandpa, tell me a tale.”

    Reply
  14. Anita Harkess

    The Darkside
    289 words
    by Anita Harkess, @anitanomad

    Her parents never let her watch Tales From the Darkside on TV. It was far too scary for a little girl her age. It came on exactly at her bedtime, though, so they always let her watch the opening sequence, and then announced that it was time for bed.
    The TV screen filled with beautiful trees just like the ones outside her bedroom window in the southern Massachusetts woods. The announcer’s voice boomed through her living room:
    “Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality,” and more trees and pastures played by, and a hill like the one she’d rolled down earlier that day, “but there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit, a Darkside!” and the colors of the trees turned inside out, dark became light, then the image shrank, and flipped, and warped…and at that moment, Dad switched the TV off.
    “No scary stories for you!” he sang. “Bedtime for Bonzo!”
    But she couldn’t escape the scary stories. That image, the woods turning inside out and backwards, flipping over and over, played endlessly through her mind. The world as she knew it could not be trusted. Nothing could truly be known. There was nothing to depend on. This realization was scarier than anything that could be shown on TV.
    Her parents couldn’t understand why she fought so hard to stay awake. “I know,” said Dad. “Let’s make up a better bedtime story! Tell me a tale, maybe a fairy tale about a princess who won’t go to bed?” But it was her own stories, the inside out and backwards landscape of her own mind, that she was fighting to escape.

    Reply
  15. stephellis2013

    The Return

    338 words
    @el_Stevie

    “There are more this year,” said Red, looking out from her Grandma’s … no, her … cottage window, an inheritance she had been reluctant to accept.

    Nobody heard. She was alone with her memories and the wolfskin rug.

    Entering the kitchen, she noticed her father’s axe behind the kitchen door, long unused. That was why the trees had crept nearer. No one to thin them out. No one to cull them.

    Red shivered, picked up the wolfskin, wrapped it round her shoulders. Just as she had done as a child.

    She sat in her Grandma’s chair, rocked backwards and forwards. Just as she had done as a child.

    “Tell me a tale,” she whispered into the silence. But that story had finished long ago.

    The air, dry and stale was suffocating, driving Red out into the small garden, taking the axe with her. The trees had crowded ever closer, even in that short space of time. They bowed over her, branches reaching out, wanting to touch, to hold, to claim.

    A lone howl caught her attention, a mournful sound that drew nearer with each heartbeat. A wolf appeared.

    It advanced fearlessly towards Red, despite the axe she held.

    She stood her ground. Remembered.

    “You lied, little girl,” he said.

    Red hefted the axe, felt that old sense of power. The animal didn’t flinch.

    “We both know the truth, don’t we?” said the creature.

    The truth? Yes, they both knew the truth. How she had hated her Grandma. Had lost patience with the woman one fine summer’s day. Had taken the axe …

    Red looked down at the shaft, the stain had deepened over the years.

    The moonlight dimmed. A passing cloud she thought. But as she looked up she saw a dense canopy form, boughs intertwined to create a tree-borne roof.

    Now Red stepped back.

    The wolf followed.

    “We have our witnesses, little girl.”

    The trees shifted closer, the light grew dimmer, the wolf’s breath hotter.

    “Time to write another story,” he said. And the darkness became complete.

    Reply
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