Summer of Super Short Stories 2, Week Seven

Welcome to week seven of our contest.

This week our judge is Kristen Falso-Capaldi, who wears many writing hats: Flashdog, screenplay writer, and novelist.

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.

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:

“death comes to everything”

birdgirl

Image credit: Nereid by Claire Elizabeth Flickr CC 2.0 
Image has not been altered from its original form.

 

44 thoughts on “Summer of Super Short Stories 2, Week Seven

  1. Pingback: Summer of Super Short Stories Week Seven | emily june street

  2. feclark

    THE BLUE BIRD

    Yesterday had held the potential to be a perfect day. After he had left, a thick envelope from an old friend arrived by post. She brewed fresh coffee, peeled a clementine, and sat and savoured the letter.

    Chatty and full of news, it brought hope, a part of her old self stirred. The fruit juice on her fingers and the lingering aroma of coffee smelt exotic in the small apartment.

    She suddenly felt giddy with life again.

    Out to the grocer’s, the pharmacy, errands run there was still time for the market. The first day of spring and the sky was the most beautiful blue.

    She found the ceramic bird, among the household debris, noticed it for its colour; the impossible blue of the sky that day. Wanted it immediately, a keepsake of this feeling of lightness. She held it in her palm, cool and smooth, its weight convincingly heavy. There was a small mysterious hole in the top of the bird’s head.

    She bought it without haggling, calculating the juggling she would have to do with the housekeeping money. Everything seemed possible.

    On his return she had shared her joy, showing him the blue bird. He became enraged at her ‘spendthrift ways’, cursed, grabbed the bird, smashed it against the kitchen wall.

    She knew from past experience not to weep. Swept the broken ceramics up, served the meal, retired to bed.

    The next day, after he had gone to work, in her bare feet she trod on an un-noticed shard of the bird. Unshed tears from the night before, and many nights before that, unleashed. On the kitchen floor she had wept violently, until utterly spent. Then lay down, closed her eyes.

    Death comes to everything, but oh, she had only had the blue bird for a few hours.

    Opening her eyes she saw a curl of paper under the kitchen units. It could only have come from the blue bird; he demanded that she kept the apartment spotless.

    Reaching out she found that the paper was yellowed, and there, hand-written in old-style letters was the word ‘FREEDOM.’

    349 words
    @feclarkart

    Reply
  3. stephellis2013

    A God’s Justice

    348 words

    @el_Stevie
    #Flashdogs

    “Tell me,” cried Sibyl, “of your journey.”

    The raven circled as if uncertain. He had flown the world, traversed the nine realms and could feel the All-Father watching him, waiting, whilst his brother Huginn whispered in the ear of the Hanged Man.

    Even at this height, Muninn could see the taint of treachery on her flesh; hear the beat of the heart polluted by hate, scent the blood of Loki in her veins. Yet he obeyed her. After all, he did have a story to tell, a message from Odin One-Eye.

    And so he told her of Jormungand, how he circled the world of man, biting his own tail.

    “Bah,” she said. “I know of the Midgard serpent. I have survived his bite.”

    And he told her of the eagle that lived in the branches of Yggdrasill.

    “Hah,” she said. “I know of this bird. I have survived his talons.”

    And he told her of Nidhogg feasting on the corpses of the dead.

    “Tell me something new,” she said. “I know of this dragon. I have survived his fire.”

    And so he told her of Sibyl, the Daughter of Lies and Deceit. How she had picked the mistletoe for Loki and aided in the death of Balder.

    Sibyl laughed. “Why do you tell me my own story?”

    “Because you do not yet know its end. You think you have evaded justice, that Odin knows nothing of your part in the murder of his son. But you are wrong. Hel has prepared a room for you in her hall. She has already opened her gates and awaits you.”

    “Then she will wait a long time,” said Sibyl, and turned to walk away.

    But she could not move. The raven had grown, become giant, turned day to eternal night as Muninn ripped out her eyes, tore out her poisoned heart.

    “All must bow to the will of Odin One-Eye,” said Muninn. “And this is the message he has commanded me to give you … even though you have the blood of gods running through you … death comes to everything.”

    Reply
  4. A V Laidlaw

    @AvLaidlaw
    348 Words

    Harpies

    In the evening, as the veins of the sea burn with the fire of the setting sun, I hear them. Their keens pierce the air, a mourning cry for everything I have lost. The sky darkens from the shadows of their wings beating the air with languid power.

    The first time I ran and cowered but now I stand and let their talons scratch my flesh. The blood wells and trickles over my skin. This is not bravery. I am too weary to fight anymore. They land and strut across the ground, wings folded across their backs, their talons digging into the dirt. This is the worse of it, when they cock their heads to the side and look at me; these bird creatures wear the faces of my wife and daughters.

    I see Celeste with her loom at the window of our house. To make love to her was to be enveloped in the petals of a sweet-scented flower. Emily fearless as the wolf. Her skin copper from days in the sun as she climbed the cypress tress to watch ships sail past the island. Hermione as gentle as a doe. She once found an abandoned fledgeling and held it against her breast for warmth and fed it from her finger tip.

    I was content.

    But contentment eats at the soul as rust eats at the plough blade. I found myself intoxicated by the shameless musks of women bare breasted and dressed in paste jewellery, by the smoky dreams of the poppy seed warm in my blood. I spent timeless days in places where I scarce knew myself until I returned home to find my house empty, only my breath echoing against the walls.

    That evening, the harpies came.

    They strut through the house like the concubines of a king. They devour my food so, when they fly home across the sea, I am left with hunger clawing my belly. I am too tired and weary. Death comes to everything, but not to me. I live day after empty day, waiting for the evening and their return.

    Reply
  5. mtdecker

    To Everything Its Season

    348 Words
    @mishmhem
    #FlashDogs

    For the first time in forever, Ember wept. She had rarely cried in life and now that she had passed, albeit slowly, from one world to the next she had thought herself impervious to grief.

    Her companion looked at her, a slow yet kindly smile on his face.

    “You may no longer be as you were,” he told her, his soft voice somehow jangling her nerves. “But you were, and are, human. It is in your nature.”

    She watched him realizing that while her companion had been compassionate- he had never really been emotional. Hell, he hadn’t really connected to her on an emotional level. And that was why she felt some how connected to him.

    Up until that moment she realized that something was missing, but she’d attributed that to him being as much an emotional misfit as she was.

    She sighed, then noticed the way he looked at her.

    “He was just so young,” Ember explained as she pushed her tears away.

    “Sooner or later… death comes to everything.”

    She frowned at his attempt at soothing words. Normally his pragmatic offerings were helpful but today, they rubbed her the wrong way.

    “Sometimes,” she admitted. “I wish I were stone, then none of this would touch me… even death.”

    Her companion shook his head. “All things,” he assured her. “Rocks break, water dries up… death comes.”

    She scowled at him.

    “The harder the thing— the worse the end.”

    She wandered what would happen when death came for her companion then sighed. He and death were old friends and something told her he’d welcome the change.

    “What about me?” she finally asked.

    “Death came to you, you accepted his help— now your work with me.”

    “But where’s the meaning in all this?”

    “There is none,” he said with a shrug. “It simply is.”

    She tried to object. She wanted meaning, she needed comfort. “Then why was I spared.”

    “Someone has to drive.”

    Ember sighed. The afterlife, in her case, meant chauffeuring death to his next gig.

    She sighed and wiped her tears away. Someone had to do it.

    Reply
  6. Mark A. King

    The half-life of bats and cats

    @making_fiction

    340 words

    In the silence of the old barn, the bats dangled. Their eerie bones wrapped in flaking wing membrane and delicate fingers sagged from carpels. They reminded me of what had become of the relationship between Mom and me.

    In the films and in the books, the birds fall from the sky. But it wasn’t like that. The end started with a sky full of feathers. Black. White. Viscous burgundy. The birds, like all creatures sensing the end, had enough sense to find shelter and solitude—they landed where they could, and died their painful deaths in the hedges, the roads and the gardens.

    Before the avian sickness, our relationship, if you could call it that, was one akin to animals. Like the bats that used to fly around our homestead, I would find my own way in the world. To others I may have seemed to haphazardly dart from hobby to hobby and from boy to boy in ungainly patterns. I knew no other way. Mom was like the stalking cat, in the shadows, unseen, watching and waiting.

    When there is only predator and prey, things are easy; but I didn’t realize this at the time. A game of simple survival for the prey. Sometimes for the predator, it is not survival, merely a chance to inflict cruelty in play.

    There are no simple things anymore.

    We were the lucky two percent with genetic immunity. The few that remained dwindled over the decades. Initially our battles were with others hopeful we could save them. Then secondary diseases and pestilence took their fill. Many perished from thirst and hunger, which became as natural to us as breathing the stench of death-soaked air.

    And now she is finally leaving me. I am losing my tormentor, but I will be lonely without her. What purpose will I serve in her absence? We came here to visit what once was not happiness, just simplicity. And as I pull the blanket over her dust-caked bed and close her eyes, I whisper, “Death comes to everything.”

    Reply
  7. Mark A. King

    The first kiss between Death and Everything

    @making_fiction

    183 words

    At the summer party, Barry positioned himself at the buffet table, awaiting the nod from the DJ. He wanted to be first in line for the uncovering of the cling-film delectables. He figured it was best to  avoid long queues, his Grim Reaper suit was chaffing, and he wished he’d paid a fiver more and gone for the de-lux version.

    Things could be worse, he could’ve been Geraldine; her Statue of Liberty outfit came with a torch that looked more like a plastic pigeon. She spent much of the night waving it above her arm in the twirling psychedelic disco lights.

    Standing there, feeling somewhat gaseous, he realised in hindsight that the Mojito cocktails and Jaeger-bomb chasers were probably a mistake.

    “Who are you supposed to be?” he slurred at Laura, who was standing next to him in the growing queue.

    “I’m Life, you idiot,” she slurred back. “You know…everything.”

    “You’re Everything?”

    “Yeah.”

    Death comes to Everything, he smiles and whispers in her ear. And as they kissed next to the Scotch eggs and pork pies, the office romance of 2015 was born.

    Reply
  8. Pattyann McCarthy

    @PattyannMc
    WC: 344

    Little Bird Fly

    Maggie was born with Down syndrome and treated cruelly because she’s different. She’s called many names I won’t repeat, that have ripped her bulging heart to shreds, and I kiss the hurt, holding her tightly as she dries her watery eyes, sobs hitching.

    I watch my beautiful Little Bird playing with her big brother, Timmy on the beach. We come every year on her birthday; today she’s seven. My heart explodes with joy watching her fly down the shoreline, an eagle kite, her favorite bird, sailing high in the sky behind her, reaching for the yellow orb boldly lighting the day. Her giggles reach my ears over gentle winds blowing across the dunes and sleepy rolling waves caressing the sand. She lights my face and my heart, and Timmy is so patient with her. The love and pride I feel for him is immeasurable as he keeps her happy. They’re siblings ‘and’ best friends.

    Her short legs pump fast as they can, ponytail flying behind her as she runs further down the sand holding her kite string, laughing up at the sky. That bright face, eyes shining, happy, these days make living worth the trials. I watch Timmy follow behind, keeping her safe as I gaze with a heart as full as any mothers can be.

    I try not to think of Maggie’s last doctor’s appointment. I try hard. I don’t want anything to spoil this trip to the seashore, but his words still sting my ears, impaling my heart. The kids are far enough away that they won’t see tears rolling down my pale cheeks as the doctors words come back to me . . .

    . . . She’s in heart failure; enjoy her life while you still can . . .

    . . . Death comes to everything and it’s simply her time. I’m sorry there isn’t more I can do . . .

    . . . She won’t survive another operation; she’s not strong enough.

    I know I shouldn’t let her run like that, but how can I take this day, her joy, away from her. I know one day soon, that my Little Bird will fly away . . .

    Reply
  9. Sonya

    Flighty

    Filled with a happiness I haven’t experienced since chasing birds as a boy, I stand in the coffee shop queue. I can’t stop glancing her way in case she disappears again. From this distance, it seems no time has passed – she’s even wearing, as a headscarf, the turquoise shawl I bought her once. From across the table, she’s almost translucent.

    ’So, how’ve you been?’

    ‘Death comes to everything, sooner or later’ she says. ‘To me, it’s coming sooner. I wanted to see you before I…’

    They are so alike, happiness and birds – any sign of trouble and they take flight.

    @_supersonya
    100 words

    Reply
  10. Ophelia Leong

    @OpheliaLeong
    349 words

    The City Under The Clouds

    Underneath the carpet of marshmallow soft clouds, lay the city of Below. Adam lived in Above and whenever he passed the winding staircase leading down through the clouds, he stopped and wondered.
    “What happened to Below?” he asked his mother once while they were walking. “Why can’t we go down there?”
    His mother took his hand and led him away, her scarf writhing in the wind like a snake.
    It wasn’t until he was almost man-grown that he ventured down there. The staircase started off the edge of a cliff in the outskirts of Above and Adam, shouldering a knapsack, began climbing down.
    The wind blew playfully in his ears, like the faint coos of doves. The clouds were as thick as wool and the further down he went, they covered everything like white moss. The steps were grey and scattered with stones, as though they were breaking apart. No one had lived in Below for hundreds of years, his mother had told him. Adam wondered what he would find.
    After a few hours of walking down, he reached the last step. The clouds had lifted and he stared into a forest of rot and disarray. Crumbled buildings vomited debris, and unhealthy gray trees struggled to grow between cracks in the ground. He saw walls covered in scratch marks and shivered; what had caused such markings?
    He walked through Below, ears straining for sounds of others, but all he could hear was the wind. Eventually he found his way to what had once been a plaza, and in the middle of the upturned rocks and wreckage was a statue. Adam approached it carefully, and what he saw entranced him.
    A carefree girl, face serene, held out her hand and a bird rested on her fingers. The girl’s head was against the wind, and she looked as though she were caught in a moment of freedom.
    Adam moved closer to touch the statue, but halted suddenly.
    At the bottom, scratched in scrawling letters were the words: “death comes to everything.”
    Adam knew he was in the graveyard of a city.

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  11. C Connolly

    Raven Girl

    Death comes to everything, eventually. The whispers tickle Branwen’s ears, burgeoning within; butterfly bodies beating within her stomach, as they tell her so. “Shut up,” she says. “Give over now.” The teenager clasps a hand to her stomach, rubbing it, over and over. “Not yet,” she says. “Not now.”

    The raven haired girl she scans the sky for a small silhouette as the light fades. “Come, Corvie,” Bran bids, swallowing saliva. Her eyes dart upwards, shifting, here and there. “Quickly,” she adds, word clipped.

    A dot on the horizon plummets towards the slim figure, who stretches out a hand. “Four score, seven times seven,” Bran whispers, voice trembling. A tear forms at the corner of her eye. Her fingers curl into a trembling fist, knuckles whitening. The girl’s brow is sweaty as the black bird descends. She watches it; avid.

    Moments later, Branwen opens her lips wide – hasty – all pink tongue and black backed throat; the image of the parted beak from which an indistinct grey blur drops from above. Within moments the girl has swallowed it whole, throat working quickly to pass it through her oesophagus and onwards into her system.

    “Hallie,” Bran says. “Hello and welcome.” She sighs once, eyes closing, fingers caressing a slightly distended abdomen. “We travel a little together – until you disembark.”

    “I’ll take another, tonight,” Bran commands quickly, addressing her jet winged companion, whose feet grasp her right shoulder. Beady eyes shine before feathers fly skywards, up and away.

    “Perhaps still another,” the girl murmurs, frowning. “I hunger – today.” She clears her throat; guttural. “So it begins, in the end.” The girl nods, eyes clouded; unfocused. “I will take you – all – when I go. We are one with another.” Silence surrounds her as her chin levels.

    “Though you must direct me,” the girl says, voice lifting as she finishes speaking. “What is, is unavoidable. We are what we must be, in the end,” she adds hastily.

    Time lengthens. “Come, Corvie. Quick,” Bran says, voice thin.

    Death comes to everything, eventually – but Bran must fill herself from them before she numbers amongst them.

    (350 words)

    @FallIntoFiction

    Reply
  12. zevonesque

    Beneath the Not Quite Dead Tree
    A.J. Walker

    Alison squinted into the sun’s glare. She was looking at the apparently dead but never decaying tree. It was alive with the noise and flashy colours of goldfinches. Twelve of them flitting around the branches, playfully knocking each other from their perches.

    Five minutes earlier there’d been thirteen; now one lay dead at her feet.

    Elizabeth sat cross-legged by the finch gesturing for Alison to do likewise.

    She touched Alison’s knee, looking into her eyes.

    “I know it’s difficult to begin with. When mother first showed me how to kill a bird, dog or a pig I wouldn’t do it.” Elizabeth said, nodding to her own words.

    Alison shrugged. “Can’t I just forage and pick the green things as I’ve always done?”

    “There comes a time… you’re grown up now.”

    Elizabeth seemed to change before Alison. She was no longer the grown up sixteen year old, she was now a wise old woman.

    “Death comes to everything. Look at the tree. This bird. Think of our graveyard.”

    “And the goats we had.”

    “Exactly.” Elizabeth said. “See, I know you’re ready.”

    “But why do we kill things?” said Alison, gesturing to the goldfinch.

    A grin expanded across Elizabeth’s face like a radiant dawn.

    “Here’s the first lesson and it’s one you’ll never forget. Death does come to everything, but there are things we can do to slow it down. In people, I mean. That’s what our mothers do; what we will do.”

    “Magic?”

    “Yes, sometimes it’s herbs and infusions. Sometimes it’s poultices. Even just words. Sometimes it’s a more complicated kind of spelling. Sometimes deaths are needed to save a life.”

    “As a kind of balance?”

    “Maybe.” Elizabeth said. “I don’t know.”

    Elizabeth picked up the dead bird, it’s eyes as cinders.

    Alison glimpsed a ball of herbs, pods and beetles she didn’t recognise in her other hand.

    Elizabeth cupped her hands around the tiny corpse, quietly incanted some words then blew into them. When she opened them the tiny goldfinch chirruped its song before flying up to the not quite dead tree.

    Alison never did forget her first lesson.

    (350 words)
    @zevonesque

    Reply
  13. necwrites

    Why the Tropics Don’t Get Cold
    348 words
    @rowdy_phantom

    On her seasonal voyage from pole to pole, the tern hit a wall of warm air that could barely hold her aloft. Under her wings, the attenuated zephyr faltered as if it had crossed a hundred seas before churning the air above the islands.

    Laboring to maintain lift, the tern nearly overlooked the activity below. Normally smooth sands rippled with sketches. Among them knelt a human girl in a white shift. The tern landed on a nearby twist of driftwood.

    Designs frolicked all along the shore. A sun with rays that curled and swooped, a hundred-square hopscotch, daisies crammed with as many petals as could fit around their central rings, dancing animals, whirling flames. Inspected individually, each image a childish rendering in sand. Taken together, something occult. With power enough to attenuate the wind.

    Hello, child, the seabird chirped.

    The girl’s gaze flicked toward the tern. Her owl-depth eyes belied her innocent stature, as did her industry. The tern fluttered, but held her perch.

    What are you doing? the seabird asked, even though she had an idea.

    The girl’s sticks wove a sandy spider web. “Grandma gets one more summer,” she muttered, “that’s what the oracles say.” Her black curls twisted in chaotic breezes that rose up from the patterned ground.

    You’re trying to block autumn, the seabird noted.

    “The old lady took me in when no one else would.”

    Death comes to everything.

    “Not if I can help it.” Scarred-over gill slits traced her collarbones. Tender remnants of webbing folded between her fingers. Details bespoke a heritage not human.

    The winds grow weary.

    “I owe nothing to the winds.” With a curl of two fingers, she conjured an eddy of sand and spray that drove the bird into the sky.

    Indignant, the tern hastened her flight toward the pole figuring the sprite would have to surrender sometime.

    Yet, ever afterwards, at the midpoint of her migrations, the tern found herself struggling through a belt of heavy heat that girded the world. And she knew that an elderly woman still shared supper with her foundling from the sea.

    Reply
  14. Foy S. Iver

    @fs_iver
    WC: 158

    A Phoenix Denied its Fire

    Iron skin imprisons a clear mind.

    To them, I’m still me. The same soul trapped beneath heavy eyelids, waiting for the moment I remember myself. It’ll only take a week, or two, a month, maybe more but not long, no, not long.

    They’re wrong. I’m a husk yearning to be thrown to compost; a corpse begging for its worms, a phoenix denied its fire. They are free and fluid. They do not know it’s possible to loath time for what it is: the presence of a future, a continuing.

    Against my tympanic drums, whispers of advanced directives and God’s timing sound. They fear the guilt of taking what is not theirs to take.

    Please, god, take it!

    Their hearts would bleed tears if they knew how loudly I scream this. But they cannot hear, cannot see, cannot feel what rages beneath calm mouth and peaceful brow.

    So I endure. This anthem alone sustains me: death comes to everything.

    Reply
  15. voimaoy

    Memory Wife
    @voimaoy
    155 words

    Death comes to everything, he thought, and yet his love lived on. She, who had taken his hand, in the youth of their days, was not with him anymore. The chair in the living room was filled with her absence. He made coffee and drank it alone.

    But he heard her in the kitchen in the mornings, still, her step on the stair. Her dust, scattered in the garden like milkweed seeds.

    It’s what she wanted, he told the kids, grown up, with kids of their own.

    “You’ll sell the house, of course,” they said. “It’s too big for just you, Dad, don’t you think so?”

    He cleaned the gutters and thought of her. Her smile was the dew on the spider webs.

    That spring, the crows returned. Once they had filled the oak tree across the alley.

    At night, he dreamed of a big black bird, enfolding him in her soft black wings.

    Reply

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