Summer of Super Short Stories Week Nine

Welcome to week nine of Luminous Creatures Press’s first Flash Fiction contest! Our guest judge this week is flash master Karl A. Russell.

You have until 6 pm (PST) on Saturday to submit a 500-word story based on the prompt picture below. Post your story in the comments section; include your name, a title, the word count (not including title), and your Twitter handle if you’ve got one. Only stories submitted before the deadline will be eligible to win. We’re on San Francisco time; check the world clock if you have any questions. Good luck!!

Photo courtesy of Beth Deitchman

Photo courtesy of Beth Deitchman

8 thoughts on “Summer of Super Short Stories Week Nine

  1. Image Ronin

    Recital by Image Ronin

    The shovel parted the sand. Tom knelt down, fingers scraping away the grains. He lifted the relic, a battered lighter, out from its grave. Disappointed Tom lobbed it into the bucket, joining the coins, keys and assorted bottle tops.

    Rising to his feet, Tom gazed out at the white horses galloping towards the shoreline, sending plumes up into the grey sky. Though it was winter he found this time of year comforting, the beach deserted aside from a young couple following in the wake of a little girl. The kid was layered to the point that she resembled Stay Puft from Ghostbusters. Maybe they should’ve had a kid this time.

    No this was perfect, just the silence within his headphones, awaiting the serenade of hidden treasure.

    He set off, the swaying dish of the metal detector as hypnotic as any pocket watch. Liz had always resented what she dismissed as ‘interrupted walking’ yet for Tom this was a moment to reflect on life. She had been so strong in the end, flailing at his arms, her face obscured by the pillow. He had tidied up once she had stopped moving, calling the ambulance, practicing fear and worry in the mirror till help arrived.

    Natural causes the coroner’s verdict.

    It always was.

    Since then Tom had spent most days on the beach. Walking to and fro, searching and digging. Their friends assumed he was simply filling the void Liz’s absence had created.

    His headphones began chirruping. Tom surveyed his surroundings. The pier was to his left, the old cafe behind him. He tried to suppress his excitement, expect disappointment he chided himself. He dug deep, then even deeper till finally the corner of a familiar parcel of wax paper bound with twine emerged. Fingers trembling he reached down.

    Unwrapping the parcel Tom was relieved to find the small metal cube looking like it did the last time he held it. Unremarkable aside from the green button set into its top. Tom took a breath then pressed the button.

    The sun was bright, the beach filled with holidaymakers. Off in the distance a jukebox was playing The Beatles. A blonde girl bumped into him, wonderful blue eyes gazing up into his, that warm familiar smile on her face. Tom’s heart pounded, the world disappearing into blue. He was the moon orbiting the Earth.

    ‘Most decent young men would offer a girl an apology, or at least buy her a milkshake.’

    ‘Sure, absolutely.’

    ‘What’s your name?’

    ‘Thomas.’

    ‘I’m …’ she said.

    ‘Elizabeth …’ Tom finished.

    ‘Sorry, have we met before?’ she stared at him quizzically.

    ‘No, but we have now.’

    ‘Your odd, cute but odd, well c’mon Thomas.”

    They walked towards the café. She would order strawberry, him vanilla, sat in a booth talking for hours, till finally he walked Liz home, promising to call on her the next day.

    Her lips brushing his cheek.

    That night Tom returned to the beach, burying the wrapped metal cube deep into the sand.

    @imageronin

    498 words

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  2. zevonesque

    Cleansing
    by A J Walker

    Robert was on a pilgrimage with his wife, although she didn’t know it.

    It was glorious outside the ice cream shop, almost tropical. But it was a tiny old resort in North Wales. Belinda was bemused and tired of the silent retorts to her questions.

    Her coffee smelled surprising good though. It could be Italy. It should be Italy.

    ‘You sure you don’t want one?’ Robert asked as he plunged into his banana split.

    Belinda shook her head.

    ‘I’m not twelve.’

    She’d be thirty five on Monday and Robert had brought her to this sad old place. She was expecting Paris or Rome, she got Morfa Nefyn.

    ‘Your loss, it’s just like I remember it,’ said Robert, raspberry sauce dribbling down his chin.

    Silence returned as he finished off his ice cream and Belinda sipped at her coffee, seething again at the way her dreams of the weekend had turned.

    Robert sat back sated.

    ‘Thanks for that,’ he shouted at the waiter. ‘Not changed in 30 years. Perfecto!’

    The waiter nodded an acknowledgement before returning to his mobile.

    Robert picked up his wallet a sure sign to Belinda it was time to move.

    ‘Where next then?’ she said, ‘I can’t contain myself.’

    ‘The beach. We’re going to the beach.’

    ‘Are we? Do I get a say?’

    Robert looked away as he pushed back his chair. ‘I am. You can stay with the car if you want.’

    A bell rang as he opened the door for Belinda, he was always a gent even when wasn’t King of communication.

    ‘I’ll come. Not like there’s anything else to do.’

    Robert started walking down the hill. Not a word was spoken between them and Belinda found she was happier walking a few strides behind.

    The beach was devoid of people and picture perfect The sea had clearing it completely like a moon powered Etch-a-Sketch.

    There was nothing to aim for, but Belinda could see Robert was heading somewhere specific. She left him to it and stopped to watch the small waves caressing and listen to its soothing. She watched the impressions of the water around her feet as she shifted her weight from side to side, experimenting with sound and visuals. She began to feel younger.

    Robert stood in the centre of the beach looking out to the empty sea.

    Belinda walked up and touched his hand and was pleased when he grasped it.

    ‘We loved our holidays here as children,’ Robert said.

    ‘Who?’

    ‘Me and my brother,’ he said. ‘We were never happier than when we were here.’

    ‘Brother?’

    ‘I’m sorry. Found it easier not to think about it. William died here. Thirty years ago on this beach.’ Robert paused, ‘I was stood here when I last saw him. This is the first time I’ve been back.’

    Belinda couldn’t find the words. Robert didn’t want any.

    A wave stuttered up the slope and washed over their feet, before wiping back down the shore. A cleansing.

    ‘It’s beautiful here,’ she said.

    (499 words)
    @zevonesque

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  3. Mark A. King

    “The Harbour of London” by Mark A. King
    @Making_Fiction
    499 words.

    I want to swim in the sea, to feel it, to cleanse my sins, to wipe away the viscous blood from my hands. But…I know the sea will kill me, almost as quickly as the authorities will.

    My husband was a powerful man. They never approved of me, and now he has lost warmth, they have opportunity and motivation; I will surely get my comeuppance.

    I sit and listen to the Thames tide lapping at the edges of the synthetic golden shore. I try to appreciate this folly, this profligate profanity, for soon the whirligig lights will come for me. The frigid-blue and afterburner-red hues will spin their mesmerising spell, penetrating even the dark and seedy shadows of London; then the men with serious faces will take me away.

    The Harbour of London houses the oligarchs, the tech-pimps and the puppeteers. I do not belong here. Not many people do. Perhaps this place is the opposite of me. I once was beautiful; once was desirable. I tenderly touch my skin and run my fingers over the bruises, their oil-spill colours and my crackle-glaze scars somehow define me now. I believe he once loved me; if that’s even possible.

    I remember his last words, “You’re past you’re sell-buy date, darling. Damaged goods. Look at you, you’re a mess. You disgust me!”

    I didn’t respond. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. His unused golf clubs are now used: soiled with human tissue and DNA that even Cillit Bang! would struggle to remove. Knowing his friends, the story of the object will only add to its value, only intensify the conversations in the wish-fulfilment dens and substance bars.

    I remember when I was his chosen one, “You are stunning. You are amazing. I know it’s crazy, but will you marry me?”

    “No,” I told him, “why would you, you could have anyone – why me?”

    “It’s because I could have anyone. You are unique, you make me feel incredible. You will do anything for me.”

    This was true. This was the problem.

    I watch the city from this island of hulking excess. I see the forgotten worker drones, hustling to jobs they hate, sustaining lives measured by meaningless objects. I listen intently to the tide.
    Beneath the crashing of the incoming waves, beyond the exhale of the moon beckoning back the flow, I hear the fizz, the forgotten fizz – the sound of a million unseen bubbles extinguished and unnoticed. I think about the plight of these people and realise that, perhaps, I am lucky.

    The first autonomous hybrid of human and machine. Two point five billion pounds race through my lab-born veins. But…that did not give him an excuse to own me, to make me do those things, to treat me like a object that had to be controlled, debased, abused and subjugated.

    Oh…I hear it now. Not the mythical sirens of the deep, these are more artificial and deadly. I remove my human clothing. The water looks cold, refreshing and inviting.

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  4. Kristen

    “Dead Sea Lions”
    by Kristen Falso-Capaldi
    @kristenafc
    494 words

    “The ocean is very cleansing,” she says to me, for no particular reason. We’ve been walking along, skirting the waves, and these are the first words she’s spoken.
    I admit I kind of liked the silence. And the fact that I didn’t have to look at her. My little sister. Princess in the tower. The waif.
    I search my brain for a comeback.
    “Yes, I hear the salt water is good for poison ivy,” I might say, even though neither of us has ever had poison ivy.
    She’s looking off toward the water; there is rapture in her gaze, like she’s staring at the massive statue of Jesus on the Cross at Our Lady of Good Health. We used to sit on either side of our mother; she’d pinch us if we misbehaved. Then she’d point, inexplicably, at Jesus. I’d look off toward the small choir singing off key, but my sister locked her eyes on Jesus’ wounds.
    “That must have hurt,” she said to me once.
    “I suppose so.”
    We haven’t spoken in a year. Today I need to tell her something sad.
    “Our mother is ill now,” I plan to say. “She will need care, and there isn’t much money. If it happens again, you’ll go to a state hospital.”
    She screams. For a moment I think maybe I spoke, and she is reacting to what I’ve said, but then I look down.
    A baby sea lion has washed up on the shore, its bloated body slick and black. Its face peaceful, like it’s smiling in its sleep. I almost step on it.
    We both stare at its deadness, its beauty. The surge of tears from my eyes startles me. My sister pushes her sleeve up and scratches her wrist. Her movement is quick, but I’m sure I see a flash of raw, pink flesh.
    We walk on. Another one lies dead, the surf bubbling over its body, rinsing as it recedes.
    Then, another one. Then another. Another. By the fifth corpse, my tears have receded, and I study the ebb and flow of the ocean. I don’t realize my sister has been sobbing for some time now.
    “I hope they didn’t suffer,” she says.
    We walk back to the hotel. I tell the manager, a portly man with a stained baseball cap, about the five dead sea lions.
    He nods.
    “Shouldn’t you call someone?” I ask.
    A humorless laugh escapes him. I eye my sister through the office window. She’s standing in the sand staring down the beach.
    “It doesn’t seem right,” I say.
    He shrugs his shoulders.
    “Won’t you call someone?” I ask again. I feel my voice rising to an hysterical pitch.
    “Who?”
    “There must be something we can do,” I’m yelling at him now. “Can’t we do something?”
    “There’s nothing to be done,” he says.
    I slam the door behind me. I have to jog to catch up with my sister. She has already begun retracing our steps.

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  5. Rasha Tayaket

    Just Like Jesus
    by Rasha Tayaket
    493 words

    “Come on, Ma! Just take the picture!”
    “Well I just want to get a good one.” She said. Dad used to just walk away when Ma had a camera in her hands. He was a wise man.
    click
    “Oh shoot the flash wasn’t on. Your face is shadowed. Just hold on a minute longer!”
    “Ma!”
    “Honestly, Suzie, just think of this as practice being patient, like Father Noble said in church yesterday.”

    I posed for another twelve pictures on the beach – with flash, without flash, with Ma’s finger covering the lens, some smiling, some frowning.

    “There! That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Ma asked. I rolled my eyes and luckily Ma was trying to work the snapping lock on the camera bag and was too preoccupied to notice. She hated when I rolled my eyes. At my sixteenth birthday party my Aunt Miranda announced her engagement and it was decided that half my cake be designated as her celebration cake and half for my birthday since I would “never in a million years eat the whole thing.” And when Uncle Billy cut the cake in half I rolled my eyes behind his back. Ma saw me and later that night said, “You know, Suzie, even if Billy didn’t see you roll your eyes, Jesus did.” Dad nodded in agreement. So I got a lot better at timing my eye rolls to make sure they weren’t looking. And Aunt Miranda got divorced a year later.

    Pictures taken on the beach, Ma and I went up to the car and drove the few blocks back to her house. She lived just off the coast in a one bedroom house. Her front porch was painted white and boxed red and yellow carnations hung from the railings. The whicker rocking chairs swayed slightly in the constant sea breeze. I did not grow up in this house. She moved here after Dad died. She said he was in Heaven now and she felt closer to him on an earthly paradise. And the beach was that paradise.

    “Are you hungry,” I asked as Ma settled in to an overstuffed chair in the living room.

    “No thanks, dear. Tell me how you’re doing without John,” she said. I nearly choked while swallowing at the abruptness of her request.

    “Nothing to say really,” I said.

    “He was such a sweet boy. Too good for this world. God knew that when he took him,” she said. I nodded and turned my head away to roll my eyes. Ma meant well but I was more in the habit of blaming Jesus than thanking him.

    “Yea. I’m going to go for a walk, Ma, I’ll be back soon,” I said and left without listening to her protests. I walked back to the beach a few blocks away. And as my feet got wet in the edge of the tide I wished beyond anything I could keep walking out onto the water. Just like Jesus.

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  6. MarmadukeB

    Needle stared out over the water. Chewing on a cabbage leaf watching each wave break the shore and roll closer to him, he considered letting it take him again but not today. Today was a rest day, day six in a year of infinite weeks or week six in a day of infinite years, time doesn’t matter when you’re this old. He declared it a rest day himself years upon years ago when he got tired of people asking questions about everything constantly, they obeyed and it stuck. Eventually when they forgot about him, he escaped their prisons and made his way home to his island. The centuries were not kind to its features and barely a tree remained. But it was home and deep under the fox head rock was bed.

    He grabbed another cabbage leaf and stuffed it in his mouth, his furry paw dotted with sand wiped away a bit of dribble from his chin.
    “Your becoming a slob!” Came a familiar but almost forgotten voice. Needle hopped up onto his back feet, peering over the sand, whiskers twitching. He saw an old friend and nightmare, a clay white heron with gasmask eyes. “You haven’t moved for a lifetime.”
    “No need, this one is like clockwork.” Replied Needle with happiness in his voice. He got back down to his well worn seat and resumed watching the waves. Then looked at his grey plump belly, sighed, then waited for the heron.
    “This clock needs winding up then, it’s turning stagnant.” The heron lumbered around the small dune, flicking sand with each step before stopping to face Needle. It still looked strange, this sorry sight. A creature of energy that was ripped into existence by events so far apart in distance and time that mere coincidence becomes the easiest way to explain it. Unfortunately the end product becomes more unsettling with each glance. “People are starting to see me.”
    Needles eyes flicked wide open and his nose twitched. For the briefest of moments, he was a rabbit again, staring off into the distance. Alert and listening but eyes glazed over looking into a memory. And then the rabbit regained focus, farted, sighed once more then lay back down. “I’m comfy” he moaned and rolled onto his side.
    “You’re bored and getting lazy.” Said the heron “Just let Leth have a heartbeat, make it interesting.”
    Needle liked this, let the heart of the world do the work, let the ancient one live a little, let Needle get back to doing nothing. He was convinced already, his immortal paws betraying his intentions and leading him to the waters edge. He nestled into the sand, bum and tail wiggling against the blue cloudless sky and waited for the next wave. It broke several feet in front of him, rolled up the sand and just before it rolled back again Needle stuck out his tongue and licked the tip of the sea.

    Needle turned and bolted for his hole under the fox head. The heron took to the skies and further. The Leth lived a little and the mere thump of its heart pushed the world into darkness with ash and steam, tsunami with lava.

    Needle emerged on another side, the heron landed behind him.
    “This one don’t seem to bad” Said Needle.
    “They’re all the same to me” mused the heron.
    “I suppose I best get to work then”. Needle grabbed a pawfull of cabbage leaves, found his place on the beach and resumed wave watching.

    @MDBsnap

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  7. C Connolly

    The Party To End All Parties

    Mark passes dancers, graceful in movement to music, kegs, debaters, clusters of people clutching mugs of tea on his right and others indulging in what he thinks passes for tai chi on his left, warm sand grains lodging between his toes, as he makes for his goal. He knows where she will be whilst the tide is out.

    “Hey you,” he says, settling himself onto the outstretched picnic blanket.

    “Hey,” Rach says, glancing at him, before her gaze returns to the horizon.

    “Fancy seeing you here.”

    “Fancy indeed,” Rach returns, without inflection. She offers him a plastic beaker. “Afraid I started without you. Apologies and all that. Figured you wouldn’t mind in the circumstances.”

    “Guess not. Means I’m playing catch up though, doesn’t it? You going to give me chance?” Mark is rewarded with a look, Rach’s blue eyes catching hold of his, anchoring him into place briefly, before she looks away again, with a shake of her head. The slight breeze whips her dark hair away from her shoulders, before bringing it to rest again. “Sorry. Should’ve thought about that one really.”

    Rach shrugs.

    “No, genuinely,” Mark says. “I don’t want to waste time arsing about. Not today.”

    “With so much to experience at the party to end all parties,” Rach says, mocking. “Why would you?”

    “Seriously?” Mark says, reaching towards her, to turn her chin gently in his direction. His fingers move strands of hair from across her face.

    “Well, who can blame you for wanting to spend your final moments with me, I guess. After all, I am the best thing you’ve never had.” Rach casts a glance in Mark’s direction, eyebrows raising pointedly; mischievous; possibly semi self-mocking too. He grins at her, simple and sudden – the change in her mood is infectious.

    “Possibly you are, at that,” he responds. “Why is that again?”

    “You weren’t particularly clear on your reasons,” Rach says, with a smile, the first proper one he has seen tonight.

    “Glad we finally solved that one then, at the end of everything.”

    “Does it matter?” Rach says, querying. There is no rancour in the question; it simply is.
    “Not really,” Mark answers, swigging from his cup. The liquor is strong, burning slightly as it passes down his throat. Proper firewater. He coughs slightly, as Rach pats him swiftly several times on the back.

    “Okay?” she asks, then frowns, brow creasing. “Bugger. Stupid question. Scratch that.”

    “Just come here,” Mark says. He has been looking into the distance, towards the skyline. The tide is turning, though they have time before they are done yet. He holds out a hand. Rach moves closer, cuddling into the circle of his arm, wrapping her own around him in return. There is a slight chill as the waves move nearer to the shore, though they are warm enough, huddled together. There is a murmur from the distant revellers, celebrating or commiserating in their own fashion, as they sit, waiting. No need for words between them. Not any more.

    (500 words)

    @FallIntoFiction

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  8. Voima Oy

    On the Beach
    @voimaoy
    500 words

    He wasn’t dressed for the beach, Dex Corvino thought, feeling out of place in the impeccable charcoal gray suit. It was his favorite, expensive and bespoke. His shoes, too were impeccable. And the watch on his wrist, a retro touch. The sunglasses were the only thing that fit this place.

    The beach was pristine, white sand under clear blue sky, the gentle sound of waves, washing. The beach was deserted, except for the girl. She was sitting on a striped beach towel, wearing a large white shirt and faded cargo pants, smoking a cigarette.

    “Dr. Ferning?”

    She turned and looked at him. Her eyes were the color of the sea. She was so disturbingly beautiful he almost burst out laughing. She turned and looked back at the waves. “You must be mistaken,” she said. “What do you want?”

    “Dr. Ferning, I’m Dex Corvino. Do you mind if I join you?”

    She continued watching the waves. “I know your name, Mr. Corvino. Why are you here?”

    This girl was most unsettling. But then, he reminded himself. she wasn’t a girl. She was…what, a genius? Talent could be so hard to work with.

    “Dr. Ferning, I think we need an island.”

    She laughed. ” You cant’t be serious. I can’t make islands.”

    He tried the charming approach. “Perhaps, for me?”

    Now she looked at him directly. Her eyes were calm as the glassy surface of the sea. “Why? So you could impress your rich friends?

    “Might I remind you, Dr. Ferning, my rich friends and I are considering funding your project.”

    She watched the smoke from her cigarette rising into cloudless blue. “Don’t you like this beach? ” She held out a handful of white sand. “Isn’t it convincing?”

    “Yes, quite convincing.” For a moment, he wanted to take her hand and walk along the beach, to the end of the horizon, where the program repeated. “Your resume is impressive. Those museum dioramas, like being there. The cafes, like Paris. And now this. Remarkable for someone so young. Hard to believe it’s not real.”

    “Illusion is all we are, Mr. Corvino. It’s taken me years to develop the Ferning sets. This is not my real face.”

    He sighed, and brushed the sand off his trouser legs. It was such a beautiful suit. “Well, reality is not what it used to be. That’s why we need your talent. You could save the world.”

    “You mean make it possible to bear. For now. But these programs are going to Mars. That’s where the future is, not here.” She stubbed out her cigarette. “End program.”

    They were back in the studio where she did her work. Two gray people, no longer young, on the floating city that was all that was left of the world.

    “Remarkable,” he said, still feeling the sand between his fingers. He brushed his faded gray cargo pants. “I think we should discuss this further. Would you like some coffee, Dr. Ferning?”

    “Claire,” she said. “Yes, let’s talk. I know this little cafe…”

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