The Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness II

Happy New Year!

Welcome to LCP’s second annual winter flash fiction contest!

Below are the photos to inspire your stories about REBIRTH. You have until midnight on January 31 (PST) to submit up to four stories of 100-750 words each. Post your stories in the reply section below. Be sure to include your name, Twitter handle or other contact information, and a word count at the top of your story. See the complete rules here.

We look forward to reading your stories!

winter tree

girlfriends

Image credit: Girlfriends by Angie Chung (Yellow Sky Photography) Flickr under CC 2.0 
Image has not been altered from its original form.

13 thoughts on “The Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness II

  1. Pingback: January 2016 Goals | emily june street

  2. Pingback: Competitions and Submissions - January 2016 - West Lothian Writers

  3. Holly Geely

    Ritual
    @hollygeely
    218 words

    “This is a weird ritual,” Jordan said.

    “So shut up and it’ll go faster,” Nathan said.

    The nudity wasn’t the problem. Jordan wouldn’t have felt awkward at all if they hadn’t been wiggling limp pool noodles at the sky and shouting “Olé!”

    “Are you sure Rob wasn’t just yanking your chain?” Jordan asked.

    “No, man. He said he tried it. You’re supposed to do this under the tree at midnight, with the one you…” Nathan glanced over. “With your friend, and the two of you will be reborn.”

    “So you said, but reborn as what?”

    Nathan threw down his pool noodle. “Look, if you’re so opposed to this, why’d you agree to it in the first place?”

    Jordan grinned. “I was looking forward to the moonlit view of your naked physique.”

    Nathan’s naked physique blushed in said moonlight.

    “I think Rob was playing matchmaker, Nate. I’m pretty sure the pool noodles were his way of making fun of you. He’ll have a good laugh on Monday.”

    Nathan’s shoulders slumped.

    “Hey, let him laugh,” Jordan said. “I don’t know about you, but I definitely feel reborn.”

    “Yeah?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Reborn as what?” Nathan asked hopefully.

    “Why don’t you come over here and show me?” Jordan said.

    Nathan let Rob laugh as long as he wanted, because Jordan was finally his.

    Reply
  4. stephellis2013

    How the Blood Moon was Born

    675 words

    @el_Stevie
    #FlashDog

    The old tree disrobed slowly, gnarled fingers scattering the last remnants of its ragged cloak into the night sky. But the Moon turned her face from its offering.

    “What more would you have me give?” cried the tree in desperation. “What more must I do to survive these deadest of days.” It could already feel the chill creeping through its roots, nipping at its branches. It did not think it would survive another winter.

    “You are old,” said the Moon. “Tell me why I should let you return in the spring?”

    The tree thought hard but could give no good reason, except …

    “I will hold those that no others will and I will take their blood so that you may wash yourself crimson, dress yourself in silken scarlet and lead the hunts that will run in your honour.”

    “You would give me another face. One that would inspire fear and awe,” said the Moon. “That would be something indeed. Too many disregard me, worship only the sun. And all you desire in return is to be reborn each year?”

    “That is all,” said the tree.

    “Then we have a bargain,” said the Moon.

    And so those that were condemned were hung from the tree’s branches and its roots collected their blood and the Moon washed its face so that it would become a terrible sight to behold.

    The tree in turn was reborn each spring, as had been promised, its roots drinking deeper with every year, every death. Yet whilst the moon received the victim’s blood, the tree was gifted their nightmares. The torments of the deceased were etched into its wood, deep scars that caused its limbs and trunk to twist and turn in an effort to get away until its once proud form had become no more than a grotesque of nature.

    Soon, the tree could no longer bear to look upon its reflection in the nearby river, would turn its face from the Moon when she came for its offering. The tree begged to be released from their bargain but the Moon had grown proud and terrible and refused its request.

    The Hanging Tree, as it had become known, now stood silent and alone. Very few travellers went near this spot if they could help it, its association with death keeping even the hardiest of souls away. Until one day a stranger came. The hooded man looked upon the tree and then at the Moon.

    “This is a wish that should not have been granted,” he said.

    “That is no business of yours,” said the Moon.

    The stranger ignored her words, walked around the twisted and deformed shape. Then he climbed up into its branches.

    “You cannot hang there,” screeched the Moon. “You have not been condemned. Throw him out,” she cried to the tree.

    But the man had impaled himself on the clawed branches and soon his blood ran freely down the trunk. Slowly the tree felt the weight of its suffering lift, the dark dreams wash away. Feeling new life, new energy coursing through its broken body, it tentatively stretched out, became straighter, stronger.

    “You have no right,” howled the Moon, thinking of the growing numbers who now worshipped her on the nights she painted her face red. “Be careful stranger, this is my ground you walk …”

    At these words, the man threw back his hood and she saw the true Lord of the Gallows. Her light dimmed under his stern glare and the world turned blacker than it had ever done before.

    “I will give you your hunts,” said the Allfather, “but only when you are in the shadow of this world. Your shame will colour your cheeks, not the blood of men. And you,” he said to the tree, “should know to call on me above all others.”

    The tree blushed, its leaves turning as scarlet as the moon’s face, a show which was to be repeated every autumn.

    And with his children thus admonished, the God pulled up his hood and continued on his way.

    Reply
  5. Mark A. King

    The Song of the Skeleton Tree and the Sprigbirds

    @making_fiction

    113 words

    The tree of bones stretches up, stroking the disinterested hooked face of the moon.

    Arrk-ka-arrk, the sprigbirds screech into the belly of the crushed-ice clouds. They know they will not feed until their mistress has had her fill.

    Bring me the unfulfilled lives of the soon- to-be-dead, she does not speak, but says sure enough.

    Arrk-ka-arrk, the sprigbirds scream. They know such a place.

    The tree waits, time on her side. Every year another ring marks her swelling stomach. She watches the birth and death of generations. She yawns at the rise of towns and collapse of cities. It is what trees do.

    Arrk-ka-arrk, the sprigbirds shrill, as they fly above our slumbering houses.

    Reply
  6. Mark A. King

    Parental Advisory

    @making_fiction

    106 words

    She didnt

    Totes did

    No way!

    Yes way i woz their

    Howz the kidz?

    Dunno, textn u aren’t i new phone new apps gotta be dun

    They not with u?

    Their in front of me messin round kickin the lady in front got my beats on ignorin dem shes got hers in doin the same

    Dont blame u who wants ta lison to kidz anyway their stupid

    Zatctly got betta fings to do no what I mean? neva asked for this shit

    Any1 decent on bus?

    Not unles you count the old geezer with the belt round his moobs.

    U wanna game of candy crush?

    Sure

    Reply
  7. Voima Oy

    The Moth Girl
    @voimaoy
    175 words

    It was the night of the new year, and the slender curve of the new moon rose in the indigo sky.

    Kumiko looked out at the winter scene–the moon above the bare trees, the moonlight on the falling snow.

    In other rooms, she could hear the sound of parties.

    He would not be coming tonight, she told herself. No more Mr. Gomez to laugh and share stories. No more talk of old times with someone who was young when you were young.

    “You are my moth girl,” he would say. “You remind me of a girl I knew once, long ago. She had eyebrows like yours, like moths.”

    Mr.Gomez had gone to live with his son and daughter in law in Honolulu. He had sent Kumiko a postcard with blue sky and palm trees. “Wish you were here,” it said. “Why don’t you come visit? Bring your bikini.”

    Kumiko stepped away from the cold glass of the window. She shivered in the chill. Winter is coming, she thought. She folded the old clothes.

    Reply
  8. Mark A. King

    Tír na nÓg, the land of the young

    @making_fiction

    745 words

    1848, Liverpool

    The Erin’s Queen was moored in the seething port of Liverpool. Cargo of every shape and vibrant colour heaved from vessel to quay. Sounds assaulted the senses. It was easy to be lost in the cacophony of barked orders from old-men to young-boys, creaking ropes on overworked pulleys and the persistent famished screeching of circling gulls.

    The mass migration from Éire had brought news of exploitation, death and unseaworthy coffin ships. Of course I’d heard such things, but there were no choices. Our farm had been seized and notice had been served. Prison awaited, unless our landlord paid for our deportation, which he did in a manner that implied we should be grateful to him.

    We had little time to gather belongings and we were told the hold of the ship didn’t have space, yet Aoife insisted on changing into what passed for her Sunday best. “We might have nothing in Quebec, but we don’t need family, or money, or even a job,” she said, lit by the struggling morning rise. “We have each other. We have faith. When we first set foot on new soil we will have excitement and pride and hope. We’ll be reborn. We’ll learn. We’ll thrive, my love.”

    When she said such things, I forgot the hardships of toiling the lands and remembered why I married her. I could look into her eyes of blue hope and allow myself to dream, even with my ragged clothes and blooded hands.

    Before sail, I held Padraig tightly. My precious boy, my gossoon. Although he was five, he looked like a toddler. Sometimes I feared I would crush him in my embrace. “The journey will be hard, son. You mustn’t cry, whatever you see. It is a long way and we would do best not to upset anyone. Can you do that for me, Padraig, my little man?” To this he grinned and nodded.

    The dockland skies were gunmetal grey and clouds pregnant with overdue rain. The moon hung in the morning heavens, a caught trespasser in the dawn. It was only as the ship set sail that I realised the vastness of the anthracite sea. Approaching the harbour walls, a solitary tree jutted out of the stonework, all twisted convex and concave limbs, black and very dead—it stood like a guardian between the worlds.

    Before twenty days had passed, we were no longer repulsed by stench of spilled stomachs, other smells filled the air—sickness, disease, the stink of humanity turning on itself to fight for scraps of mouldy bread.

    We lost the first one on day twenty-five. An old woman, Josephine. She started the journey with eyes of empathy and wisdom. In my great shame, I was relieved when I no longer had to look at her unfocused and lifeless stare. Once the rattle of the death in her lungs had left her, I could once again hear the churn and crack of the angry ocean. Her family pushed her up, through the square of blinding light. We heard the splash a moment later. No prayer was said.

    By day thirty, sharks followed the boat, they say.

    On day thirty-three, it was a jumble of bodies, insects and madness. Departed relatives were pushed aside, survivors refused to touch them and the captain paid one sovereign for each body recovered and jettisoned. We watched the boat-hooks descend into darkness and grab what they could—hoisting, dragging—it mattered not, the treatment the dead.

    By day forty, Padraig had succumbed. His fever not tempered by his mother’s touch, his discomfort barely eased by the tales of Tír na nÓg, the land of the young. I did not tell him the tales of Oisín and Niamh, but of a forever-gossoon named Padraig.

    When he passed, no tears left his eyes.

    We would not allow him to be touched, or hooked. When others talked of the disease he would bring, Aoife made inhuman screams and I threatened consequences.

    Weeks passed. No words. No mourning.

    Stepping ashore the new lands, she straightened her dress and held her head high, carrying our rag-doll gossoon in her arms.

    I recall these events for you, my precious girl, for there is hope in everything. Even when enduring a day, minute or second feels impossible, there is a fragment of hope. For you were the first born in these lands and the world is yours. With your first breath, we found purpose. We were rebuilt. Reborn.

    Reply
  9. A V Laidlaw

    @AvLaidlaw
    736 Words

    The Wolf Moon

    The wolf moon and the winter constellations shone hard and cold behind the branches of the birch trees as John Summer led the gelding by its halter along the track. Hoof falls cracked the icy earth. The gelding snorted a cloud of ghost breath that dissipated slowly in the moonlight. Then there was silence among the snowdrifts and trees until the old man, slouched on the back of the gelding, silver streaks in his black beard and his eyes hidden under the rim of his hat, began to sing a soft lullaby. He was drunk and his wrists were tied together with knotted rope.

    “Hush now,” Summer said. “You’ll only call the wolves on us.”

    “I don’t fear ’em. The wolves ran with me up in the mountains.”

    The old man continued to sing the same lullaby Summer had sung to his youngest as the boy slipped away into the cold and hunger of winter. Summer dropped his hand on the Smith and Wesson in its holster and thought he could finish that song now. But there was a way with these things, they had to be done properly as his father had shown him and as his grandfather had shown his father all the way back through the generations. He led the gelding onwards, even as it stumbled over the rutted track, towards the hill rising naked from the woods.

    When the old man saw the blackened and lighten struck tree on the hill summit, he stopped singing and sobered. “You’re gonna do this, ain’t you?” He twisted his hands and shifted his weight in the saddle but John Summer knew how to tie ropes too well.

    “There’s more whiskey, if you want.”

    The old man said nothing and Summer shrugged. The gelding stood obediently under the thickest branch as Summer clambered up the trunk, hands scratched by the rough back but too cold to feel. He looped a rope over the branch and tied it hard as he could, then dropped the nose around the old man’s neck. The old man raised his hands as if in prayer but there was nobody a man like that could pray to.

    The moon turned yellow as it sunk towards the horizon, glittering the ice crystals on the tree. Summer slapped the gelding’s rump and it bolted back down the track. It would find its own way back to the farm, even through the darkness.

    Summer stood and looked at the figure that was once a man but no longer a man swaying at the end of the rope, its feet pointing down and its head lolling to one side, still wearing the hat that hid its eyes. This was a simple thing done in the night, deep in the woods. That was the way his father had taught him. He drank whiskey to keep himself warm as he watched the winter stars fade and the pale blue dawn break across the eastern sky.

    Afterwards, he walked back down the track to the farm and full moon followed full moon rising copper coloured into the night. He planted corn in the fields under the sun that burnished his skin and turned the air thick and dusty. Mary swelled with child and he told her they would cope, they always did, although there was nothing that could replace what they had lost last winter. The corn turned golden and Summer sharpened his scythe on the whetstone, over and over until the blade shone as if it cleaved the sunlight itself. From time to time he glanced towards the white mountains rising in the distance and gripped the scythe handle more tightly.

    On the eve of the harvest moon, he sat on his porch and watched a figure riding down the track from the mountains. Summer walked to the gate to greet the man. He was old, silver streaks in his black beard and his eyes hidden under the rim of his hat, and under his breath he sung the soft lullaby that Summer had not heard in seven months.

    “You knew I was coming back,” the old man said.

    “You don’t learn your lesson easy.”

    “Neither do you, John Summer.” The old man dismounted. He stood for a moment with his thumbs in the pockets of his jacket, looking at the farm as if he meant to buy the place. Then he took a rope from his saddle.

    Reply
  10. Marie McKay

    CHANGELINGS
    230 words
    @elaine173marie

    “Hello, there,” she whispered in the little girl’s ear. “Can I tell you something?”
    “What is it?”
    “I’m a fairy.”
    “A fairy? That’s nice,” said the little girl. “You doooo smell lovely. Like bubble gum.”
    “Thank you. Very kind. Do you know where he’s taking you, this time?”
    “Not sure. Don’t ever ask him.”
    “Did he leave out food for the dogs?”
    “Yip.”
    “Lots?”
    “Three days’ worth maybe, so we’ll be back in about five, probably.”
    “Would you like to play a game, then? He’s planning a long journey.”
    “Like what? Will it wake him? He wouldn’t like that.”
    “No, it’s a quiet game. A tippytoe game; a game as quiet as the clouds, as still as the sky.”
    “Alright then. What game is it?”
    “Hide and seek.”
    “Okay. How do we play?”
    “Well, at the next stop, we sneak ever so quietly off of the bus.”
    “Can’t.”
    “It’s a game. You won’t wake him.”
    “Can’t.”
    “I’ve a surprise for you. Please?”
    “For me?”
    “Yes. A magical one.”
    “Really?”

    ‘BABE IN THE WOODS’ CHILD FOUND AT LOST AND FOUND AREA OF LOCAL BUS STATION, THREE YEARS AFTER HER ABDUCTION.
    MALE 55 BEING HELD IN CONNECTION WITH HER DISAPPEARANCE. THE 6 YEAR-OLD WAS REUNITED WITH HER PARENTS TODAY. THEY SAID IN A STATEMENT, EARLIER, “IT’S A MIRACLE. WE CAN’T BELIEVE WE HAVE OUR LITTLE GIRL BACK.”

    Reply
  11. davidshakes

    ‘Let Me Tell You My Story, To Help Us Pass The Time.’
    David Shakes
    @theshakes72
    477 words

    Squealing brakes, glittering glass and concertinaed metal took my babies from me. Cold in the ground they lay and I, in my grief, wept freely into that consecrated soil.

    * ‘There are no accidents,’ say the children. *

    What had I done for them to be taken so young? It’ wasn’t right and I cursed the man who took them. He still lived, still walked the earth while my babies were buried in it. They didn’t even take his job.

    * ‘No event has a life of its own,’ chorus the girls. *

    ‘Take up their bones and head for the hill where a single tree grows,’ Maman told me. ‘Wait there, don’t matter how long, wait – wait until the last leaf has fallen of its own accord.’

    * ‘There exists a sacred cycle between the living and the dead,’ say the children. *

    ‘There is a price child, always a price.’ Maman said.

    I said I would pay it. I didn’t have to think. I walked the hill and sat beneath the skeletal tree. My broken nails were caked in dirt. I picked them clean like the bones of my children that lay beside me – bleached white by the moonlight.

    * ‘The serpent eats its own tale,’ chant the girls, giggling. *

    ‘When the bare limbs part the clouds and you see the stars, slip them bones in the water. Then tell Xevisio of the great harm done to you and yours. If your cause be just, He will ask Agbe what can be done.’

    * ‘What you do unto another, you do unto you. We are all one,’ say the children. *

    The sons of Mawu took pity on me, and my babies came back, swimming up from the murky depths. I blessed those Vodun and then bit my lips. Behind my babies’ eyes, old souls stared back – hungry souls.

    * ‘We are the vehicles for the expression of the serpent’s power,’ say the girls, their voices deep and serious. *

    First a voice from the waters said, ‘Your babies still slumber – they cannot be sullied by this deed.’
    And then came a voice from the tree, ‘The Loa will do what must now be done.’
    Finally, a voice from the sky said, ‘There’s always a price my child, always a price.’

    * ‘We act for the He who made the trees and the ropes,’ say the children. *

    So we walked down from the hill. I held their hands in mine, these babies who were not completely mine. We walked down the hill and met the road. We walked the road to the same stop where it happened.

    * ‘All this has happened before and will happen again,’ the girls whisper conspiratorially. *

    We got on to ride and I met you and told you my story. They didn’t even take his job you see? He’s still driving the bus.

    * ‘You’d better get off soon.’ say the children. ‘Real soon.’ *

    Reply
  12. zevonesque

    Memories of Death
    A.J. Walker

    Do you remember the Tree of Life when it worked. Nature’s clockwork my parents told me. Which came first? The Tree of Life or the Seasons? I asked.

    And so I became tied to the Tree.

    Seasons come; Seasons go. We are born, we live, then we eventually die. Leaves bud and grow. Lush greens, then the dry autumn comes before the cold death of winter. That was nature: once.

    I remember when death was such a sad thing. But life needs death like day needs night. You can’t have one without the other.

    Then something became broken. The leaves on the Tree crumpled through autumns reds and ochres to grey and black, but they did not fall. Even the memory of autumn became a dream. Whilst we too no longer died.

    Which came first, Man or the Tree? We grow old – so old – and suffer. Older and more crumpled. We suffer the agony of life. And we hate every day that comes with an agonising passion. The hate consumes our energies until there is nothing left for us.

    The silhouette of the Tree and the leaves that will not die is seared into my mind, like a tattoo I cannot remove. Each day I struggle up the hill to see it, though now I’m almost blind; my myopic eyes becoming rotten. Soon I will see only dark matter. Our planet is a purgatory, I can feel it laughing at us. We have life forever but without living. Children have become a memory of a memory while we are living ghosts of what we were.

    The Tree taunts me in my waking dreams and sleep. I have vain hope that some day soon some leaves will drop. That the gift of death will return to us; for I cannot live like this forever. Though it seems I must.

    I climb the hill again. I feel a cooling breeze as I breach the crest of the hill and there on the floor I see a leaf. Or is it a cruel trick of the light and are these cursed eyes mocking me? Has death returned? If I don’t look closely, if I don’t check for sure, then I can imagine death has returned: Shrodinger’s Leaf Litter.

    I long for winter. I swear I can feel snow. Please tell me that this is not a dream.

    Like you I long for death; so that we can be reborn.

    ——

    WC: 406
    @zevonesque

    Reply
  13. Pingback: Ritual – Holly Geely

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