Summer of Super Short Stories 2, Week Six

Welcome to week six of our contest.

This week our judge is Holly Geely, the flashdog with all the funnies. Check out her upcoming release, The Dragon’s Toenail, a fantasy satire and more. It will be available on August, 30th 2015.

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 three-word phrase in any part of your story:

“six crystal pillars”

magic stone

Image credit: Untitled by Julian Povey Flickr CC 2.0 
Image has not been altered from its original form.

 

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

  1. stephellis2013

    One Day

    347 words

    @el_Stevie

    The children walked excitedly through the city’s silent streets. Menna had whispered them a story of magic the night before; one told her by their grandma, one, she whispered, that was forbidden.

    “Okay, then,” said Menna, once they’d reached the fields. “Now we join hands.”

    The six grabbed hold of each other and watched the sky nervously. It was still dark, but a subtle shift in its density told them sunrise was on its way.

    “Do you really think she’ll come?” asked Diana.

    “If we get the words right.”

    “And she’ll give us treasure?”

    “Anything you wish. That’s what Grandma said.”

    A gold dot appeared on the horizon.

    “Now,” said Menna firmly. “Now!”

    Slowly the children began to circle, singing the Song of Eleanor.

    “Come Eleanor with your golden glove
    Come take the hearts of those you love
    Grant their wishes on this day
    And let six crystal pillars guide your way.”

    And whilst they sang, Grandma watched and waited.

    As if on cue, the sky cracked and a dazzling sunbeam splintered, spearing the children with a flash. And when the light faded, the children had vanished, replaced by a circle of six crystal pillars. Other voices shouted now.

    Mother, what did you do?”

    “Why do you think it was me?”

    “Because once a witch, always a witch. And you never liked the children.”

    “Ah, you have me there. All that screaming and shouting. Always pinching things. No pleases or thank yous.”

    “Mother. We agreed you’d let us raise our children our way.”

    “Ah yes. Let them express themselves. That’s your way isn’t it? Well, I’ve had enough of them expressing themselves. You should see the state of my garden … and the cat still hasn’t recovered.”

    Mother.

    “Oh, alright. But can’t I have one day? Just one day, please? It’ll be so peaceful. You could put your feet up …”

    Mother …

    “You could read a book.”

    A pause. “One day, eh?”

    “Yes, one day. Go on. It won’t do them any harm.”

    Another pause. “One day then, Mother.”

    She smiled guiltily. One whole day …

    Reply
    1. Pattyann McCarthy

      This is fantastic, Steph. I love the tone and pace of this and the great twist at the end. Something anyone raising children would dream to have; just ONE day of quiet. Well done.

      Reply
      1. stephellis2013

        Thank you 🙂 I have 3 children but they are now almost all grown up (21,18,14) so it is a lot more peaceful although they still have their moments …

        Reply
  2. Madilyn Quinn

    Second Nature
    @MadilynQuinn
    330 words

    Six crystal pillars of ice shot up from somewhere north of her apartment. The moonlight glitters off of them and her mother scolds her for making up stories. Jay crawls through her window later that night.

    She doesn’t get stopped on the way, but it doesn’t surprise her. She’s always overlooked. The pillars clear and blue like glass glitter and wink at her, beckoning, but her pace slows when she realizes where they are.

    The old meat packing facility has been shut down longer than she’s been alive, but it still has a faint rank smell. She crouches near the gate, staring at the carnival. People walk among the bright booths and attractions. Kids giggle and the murmur of talk drifts towards her.

    Swallowing, she steps out and up to the concession stand. The man behind the window is huge, nearly taking up the entire space. She forks over two bills and he slides a small ticket through the hole in the window. The crowds don’t notice her and she drifts effortlessly through. There are a few games of chance, a group of women belly dancing and fire breathing, and a psychic tent. But she heads towards the big top.

    The stands are mostly empty because there isn’t anything on stage besides two men having an hushed conversation. Oddly, it’s peaceful and she settles in the first row.
    Being alone has become second nature to her. She listens to the sounds of the carnival with her eyes closed.

    “Oye, girl!”

    She startles and looks up. The two men from before are staring at her, but there’s no longer a big top.

    “What’re you doing here?”

    “I…” The concrete slab she sits on is cold. The glow of the ice pillars lights the parking lot. “Carnival?”

    One of them quirks an eyebrow. “There ain’t no carnival here, kid.” His gives his companion a furtive look. “You need to get outta here.”

    She nods and slides off the concrete, heading home.

    Reply
    1. Pattyann McCarthy

      Ah, the imagination of children. Really liked this piece. Enjoyed the ending though it made me sad.

      Reply
    2. stephellis2013

      It sounds as though her imagination fills the gaps in her life; that brief reference to her being overlooked makes her sound quite lonely. I’m glad those men actually warned her to leave – it could’ve been so much worse.

      Reply
  3. voimaoy

    The First World
    @voimaoy
    330 words

    Gold they were, with golden eyes, in the golden light of that place. They sat under the six crystal pillars of wisdom in their otherworldly realm. They were playing for worlds, round as marbles.

    It was a children’s game. As they grew older, they learned to make their own, to make the colors spin. It was a friendly competition to see who could make the best and most interesting world. Who would win?

    They were dragons (or that is how the legend goes). Anyway, they were five elemental beings. One was blue as the oceans and rivers. One was green like the trees. One was black like the metals and minerals. One was bright as flame. One was the color of the wind.

    At first, they made a lot of mistakes. Blue made a watery mess. Green made a world of mud and moss. Black dropped her world and it smashed into pieces. Flame got burnt. Wind had a fit of sneezing. This would not do. They decided to work together and see what they could come up with.

    First, they made a list. They wanted to make a world with all these things—spider silk and goldfish, sparrows and trees, clouds and rivers. They added the value of pi, gravity, and wi-fi.
    Pi made them think of pie, so they added that. They kept adding more and more things.

    Meanwhile, life began on the world the dragons had made. There were people all over the world now. They had their own ideas.

    At first they had worshipped the dragons. They saw their shadows in the clouds and waves. Then, they built cities, and armies. They were constantly fighting among themselves. The world exploded in floods and fires.

    That was the end of the first world the dragons made. They picked up the leftovers and fed them to the jaguars. Next time, we’ll do better, they agreed. Let’s make crows and dolphins smarter next time. And let’s change the value of pi.

    Reply
    1. stephellis2013

      Love this ‘Creation’ story; I’m a sucker for myths and fables and this has the just the same ‘voice’ or tone as those written so long ago (obviously with the exception of Wi-Fi!).

      Reply
      1. voimaoy

        Thank you so much, Steph. Really appreciate your thoughtful comments on all the stories. And that’s in addition to writing a story yourself and judging Flash Friday. Impressive.

        Reply
    2. mtdecker

      I love everything about this, the beauty, the simplicity… the addition of Pi! (and I loved the idea of making it better… and that final little bit about changing the value of pi made me laugh! Well done, as always!

      Reply
  4. A V Laidlaw

    @AvLaidlaw
    348 Words

    Alexander at Delphi

    On Mount Parnassus there is a cavern where ghostly veins seep across the floor, twist into six crystal pillars that scintillate like fireflies in the shadows, before they spread out again across the cave roof. This is the cavern of the Oracle. She sits cross-legged, a spidery creature with shabby rags draped over her bones, her face as creviced as the rocks surrounding her. Her eyes are pupiless white yet she regards the young man standing before her with a hungry gaze.

    “I want the world,” he says.

    There will be a time when young men will forget they are beautiful and will dress in black like the old but this one is young and well proportioned as if freshly moulded my the Gods. His breast plate glimmers in the crystal light. His fingers flex over the pommel of his sword.

    “A world is a heavy thing,” the Oracle says. “Can you carry it?”

    “I am the son of a king.”

    “Kings have many sons. Not all of them acknowledged.”

    The sword scrapes as he half pulls it from the scabbard. “It’s my birthright.”

    The Oracle smiles. Her teeth are rotten and broken, and her mouth is black and gaping. “You think another few years of life are worth anything to me?”

    The sword slips back into the scabbard but he does not apologise. He scowls but the son of a king will not be placated. The Oracle hisses. She reaches into her robes and takes out a sphere of green and blue glass, reflecting the lights like the camp fires of an army. She throws it towards the boy.

    “So see if you can carry it.”

    The sphere is small, he catches it in the palm of one hand, but heavy and the tendons in his arms and his shoulder strain as he grips it. The effort wrinkles his face around his eyes and blood vessels in his hands burst and speckle his skin with liver spots. He stoops as he holds it and an old man hobbles out of the cavern, the world in his hand.

    Reply
    1. Pattyann McCarthy

      Fantastic A V. Great imagery here with the crystal pillars, and the twist at the end is brilliant.

      Reply
  5. Ophelia Leong

    @OpheliaLeong
    341 Words

    The Pillars

    The six crystal pillars haunted the edges of Amy’s vision, taunting her like the wisp of a half-forgotten memory. Every time she looked around the house, they wavered in the glimmering sunlight coming in through the windows. If she happened to peer outside into her garden, they stood in perfect symmetry amongst the rose bushes.
    She heard her name whispered on the wings of the wind. They were waiting for her.
    “Do you see those…pillars over there?” she once asked her husband, Mike, after he came home from the bowling club.
    He frowned at her and scratched his armpit. “Are you seeing things now? Better go to the doctor, honey. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    That was the last time she mentioned them.
    One day, as the sun spread its wheat-colored rays over her garden, Amy paused in washing the dishes and looked out the window. The pillars stood there, awash in the sunlight. This time, she really looked at them, and they didn’t waver. In fact, they looked solid.
    Amy thought about her life. The children were grown and dealing with their own families and jobs. She hadn’t had a phone call from any of them for a few weeks now. Then there was Mike, who, now retired, decided to spend all his free time without her.
    Amy wondered about those pillars. There was a pureness about them, and she thought back to her childhood. A wind chime, she remembered finally. The pillars reminded her of a wind chime that had hung on the front porch of her parent’s house many years ago. The crystals had tinkled together, caressed by the wind, and had there been six of them hanging? Yes, Amy was rather sure there had been.
    She put down the towel and bowl she was wiping and, barefoot, walked out into the backyard. The pillars stood behind the garden, as inviting as a summer breeze. She could hear a faint tinkling song winding around her, drawing her towards them.
    “Yes,” she murmured, “I’m coming home.”

    Reply
    1. Pattyann McCarthy

      Very nice, Ophelia. Made me think of my childhood and how mesmerized I was with my grandmother’s wind chimes. Great story.

      Reply
    2. stephellis2013

      I picked up a tinge of sadness to this story as she looks back – the children living their own lives, the husband being too much with her, factors bringing about depression and a sense of ’emptiness’. The pillars have remained her constant throughout her life and so it is to them she turns. Nicely done.

      Reply
  6. Pattyann McCarthy

    @PattyannMc
    WC: 350

    Peacefulness Among the Poppies

    Among the eloquent, and those who can afford, people seek misty caverns when their worlds fill with noise and troubles.

    Bitsie descended gritty steps to the underworld beneath San Francisco’s Chinatown. Her genteel bustled daywear and short train dragged filth behind her; laced boots, tell tale of her approach. Passing well-to-do mustached men in stiff collars who gave reproachful stares with glassy eyes, she dipped her head in case one should recognize her and tattle to her husband, the Constable, who disproved of the barbarous activity. She came in quest for peace. It cost her mere cents for tranquility, escaping the mayhem of the Constables position and sheer boredom with him at home.

    Skulking through smoky corridors laced with golden paper orbs casting shadows in the gloom, her footfalls echoed. Spiders languidly spun lacy threads as she breathed putrid aromas. Her eyes stung, nostrils dripped as she encroached upon the anticipated den.

    Luxurious trappings of satin couches and colorful silk pillows lured her, offering a pleasing recline. Metallic golden orbs hung from the shadowy ceiling, candlelight dim to offer her respite in a haze of smoke.

    An attendant escorted her to a pleasing nook. A shimmering golden pipe ornately forged sat upon a jade table, a flame beneath to heat the poppies’ essence. A decrepit old man kneeling on dirty pillows filled the bowl, placing a golden mouthpiece between her waiting lips. He nodded when the substance vaporized; she inhaled deeply. Laying against the pillows, she respired the pungent smoke.

    Her vision swam as she gazed at a golden orb hanging from the ceiling, imagining she saw the entire universe frozen in its watery reflection. The dazzling gleam pulled her inside. Draped in golden threads she stood upon a dais between six crystal pillars, sparkling as they turned under a brilliant sky of stars. Imagining she was Queen of the Galaxies, she reached her hand out, gently plucking a star and made a wish. The star twinkled in her palm. She released it to join liquid gold sunshine spilling over the edge of the universe. Sighing, she was at peace.

    Reply
      1. Pattyann McCarthy

        Thanks so much, Ophelia. I had to do a bit of research for this piece, but I’ll tell you, I learned a great deal! Very eye-opening. 🙂

        Reply
    1. stephellis2013

      A ‘genteel’ lady resorting to opium dens is quite a contrast, as is the description of the luxurious surroundings in comparison to the decrepit man preparing the drug and the filthy pillows. This contrast jars and cleverly tells the reader how wrong such a situation is, how low she is in truth sinking. But it gives her some peace – for a short while, I hope she gets her wish.

      Reply
      1. Pattyann McCarthy

        Thanks Steph for recognizing the contrasts. I was going to take out the old man and his dirty pillows, but realized it painted a more interesting image to leave him in the story. 🙂

        Reply
  7. Mark A. King

    Crystal Reign

    @making_fiction

    168 words

    Kyle once looked like Brad Pitt.

    Now his skin is blemished, like extreme cigarette burns—emptied ridges of happiness, caldera valleys of desire.

    Everyone knows what he uses. Everyone knows what he has become. His hoodie pulled low to hide the signs.

    During his first high, he scrawled down how he felt. He named the list the Six Crystal Pillars.

    ________________
    Happy
    Smart
    Invincible
    In control
    Hopeful
    A better me
    ________________

    He fought the days of itching, the parasitic insect crawl just beneath his skin. But the pillars were calling him. How it felt to be a better person, to see the world as it is meant to be seen. Losing his job was a setback. Stealing from his mum was a necessity. But these things are raincloud smudges on a distant sky.

    Now he avoids mirrors, windows, the murky puddles of the city streets; for they all show him what he doesn’t want to see.

    Slumped in a doorway, he takes out the stained note, the pillars, from his damp pockets and thinks he’ll rewrite the list, one day, but first he needs his fix. Just one.

    Reply
    1. stephellis2013

      Terrific story. Love the way you describe his fall from that first high – which gave him the pillars – and how, as time progresses, he proves the falsity of each one. Particularly liked the phrase ‘raincloud smudges on a distant sky’, beautiful imagery.

      Reply
  8. feclark

    Madame Doofay and the Six Sugar Candy Skulls

    “I see six be-jewelled skulls, atop six crystal pillars.”

    I regard the seventh skull-shaped gummy chew, stuck on the top of my middle finger. Swivelling its grinning face round I flip the world the bird; waiting for Madame Doofay to reply.

    “The skulls will speak to you of the way ahead.”

    This dame is a bit off tangent.

    The skulls were a gift from Jason, from the festival, I had not been invited. I had moped all weekend, delighted when he had turned up with the bag of sugared candy, soured only by talk of Felicity who had shared his adventures.

    “The sixth has a message for you.”

    I hold the telephone mouthpiece further away. Swallow. Skull six, yellow I think. It keeps its own counsel. I dip the seventh skull into my gin and tonic and watch the sugar fizz, then slurp.
    “This is no laughing matter.”

    “I’m….not…laughing.” A fizzle of gin and sugar goes down the wrong way. “I just want to know about Jason, that’s all.”

    BEEP.

    “Time’s up my dear, if you wish to pay for a second session please press the star key now.”
    Coughing sour gin and sugar, I hit the star key.

    BEEP.

    “I am Madame Doofay, I scry my crystal-ball for you – what is it you wish to know?”

    “It’s still me,” through the coughing.

    “Me who dear?”

    “…….. about Jason.” I fling myself onto the floor, head between my knees, choking.

    “Ah, I see in my crystal-ball a proud young man, smiling at an amber-haired beauty.”

    Felicity has amber hair, I bet she even bought the darn skulls.

    I throw up the sugary mess, but something is still stuck and I retch.

    “The crystal never lies, my dear. I see six pillars of crystal and six skulls – the sixth skull will tell you your truth.”

    BEEP.

    “Time’s up my dear, if you wish to pay for a second session please press the star key now.”
    “HELP! Can’t…..breathe.”

    I drop the phone. From where I lie I hear the BEEP, then, no more.

    The yellow sixth skull melts away, mission accomplished.

    349 words
    @feclarkart

    Reply
    1. stephellis2013

      I’m reading this as quite a dark story, the skulls poisoned or drugs perhaps (as they come from a festival) and it sounds as though it was Amber. Enjoyed the way this was told through dialogue with a phone-in clairvoyant, nice technique.

      Reply
  9. necwrites

    Not Exactly Magical
    @rowdy_phantom
    350 words

    It’s a bit of a hoof to the site. I can take you up the easy-crowded way or the tricky-secluded way. An astronaut like you can handle the rough climb.

    Yeah, I grew up here. Cool? Everything seems cool when it’s vacation novelty. What kid doesn’t romanticize your job?

    Hear that? When the wind hits them just right, you get a major chord.

    Most tourists have romantic ideas—oh, excuse me, traveler. Of babies lullabied by crystal song. Of children playing in a thousand splinters of rainbows. Of tales murmured at the fireside.

    Yeah, to get the guide’s license I had to memorize every folktale. The gift shops down below sell the compilation. Special edition, eh? Yeah, my Grams stamped that one. Got us a new roof out of the deal. Mind the vines.

    Let’s see. There’s the one about the waltzing nymphs, or the roosting wyverns. How about the goblins that steal our grain cakes and goat cheese?

    I have a tale that’s not in the anthology. I don’t tell it often, but then I don’t get to private-tour an astronaut very often either.

    In the beginning, it wasn’t music that issued from the Sestet. They were screams.

    Forty years ago, the summer sky boiled with sudden cloud. A craft emerged like a mess of angry eels. It rumbled like a stampede of mountain-sized yaks. From the center drooped what looked like a satin fist gripping an orb. When the fist opened, the orb streaked down and shattered on the butte. The shards remain as the six crystal pillars you see today.

    The screams came from the weird figures trapped inside.

    They’re still in there. Notice how you can’t see straight through. The ministry had carvers add more facets. People don’t endure 14-hour flights for encased corpses. And it’ll cost me my job if the ministry finds out I told you.

    Why risk it? Well, you mentioned you’re going on the second Procyon mission, to find out what happened last year to the crew of Procyon I. You and five other astronauts.

    I thought I’d save you the trip.

    Reply
    1. mtdecker

      WOOF! (and I mean that in the best way possible – it’s my phrase for something that is hard hitting and usually below the belt line) Well done.

      Reply
  10. Mark A. King

    Crystal Nights

    @making_fiction

    234 Words

    Crystal follows the routine—as she does for every big night out.

    The six crystal pillars are a magical thing.

    Her bra is stuffed with socks to give her the curves she knows will draw eyes and entice attention. Perhaps the offer of a few drinks at the end of the night from an admirer?

    Her legs are smooth but she is larger than she used to be, she perseveres  but they chafe in her tight glittery dress.

    Her shoes are purely for show. They would be given warnings from any Health and Safety department.

    Her lippy is applied for visual impact and not subtlety. She cakes on the gloss, it’s indoors but others might need their sunglasses when they look at her.

    Her hair is easy to fix. She learnt long ago that hours of blow-drying, litres of hairspray and painful combing can be avoided with a realistic wig.

    Her fake tan is applied to the skin showing beyond the clothing. It is the colour of energy drinks. No point in wasting time on body parts that won’t be seen.

    At the club she is the centre of attention. She is loved and adored. Oh how she lives for these nights.

    When the night is finished and she is alone, she slowly and forlornly reverts back. And for the rest of the week she will be Ian from IT once again.

    Reply
    1. stephellis2013

      From imagining this was going to be some tired old street-walker you turn it into a very sympathetic story of one man’s struggle to be himself. I feel so sorry for Ian.

      Reply
  11. mtdecker

    Three Pillars to the Wise
    171 Words
    @mishmhem
    #FlashDogs

    Three pillars of wisdom: past, present and future, guard the temple of the wise. To see the future: look to the past; to speak of the present: stand between the past and the future for they are mirrored images each reflecting the other.

    These were the words my mother gave me and though I did not understand them, I kept them in my heart.

    So much of our world is known, but there is so much more to the world than just the physical. This I learned from my father who spoke to me of spirit.

    Three pillars of spirit: mind, soul and chi, guard the temple that is you. To see yourself, you must accept all three and hold them in your heart.

    Six crystal pillars, form the matrix that holds the potential, of all that is and will be.
    I think the secret is we can never know it all, until it is time to move on.

    Me? I’m staying right here, to see where the path will lead.

    Reply
    1. stephellis2013

      Beautifully written piece of philosophical thought. I like the way that rather than know the answers, she prefers the journey of discovery.

      Reply
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