Flash fiction #writephoto: The dragonslayer

This short story is inspired by Sue Vincent’s gorgeous photo.

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In the middle of a distant ocean was an island fringed with inlets that made natural harbours, and with many rivers that made fertile valleys. The island should have been prosperous but the lives of the farmers and fishermen were blighted by the presence of a dragon. The uplands were blasted bare by the dragon’s breath, and the land could not be farmed. Any sheep that wandered out of the safety of the valleys were soon swept away in the dragon’s claws. Fishing barques that ventured too far from the sheltered coastal waters were also game for the beast. The fishers and farmers had not the means of killing the dragon or chasing it away, and their children, one after the other, packed their bags and went to seek their fortune on the mainland far away.

At night the dragon slept, but with half an eye open. The boats that slipped away under cover of dark waited for a strong tide and a good wind that would carry them far away by morning. On one small farm, an old couple said goodbye to their youngest child at sunset and watched in silence as the muffled oars pulled out into the tide and the dark sail unfurled. Their eyes were dry, but they knew that soon they would be unable to work their smallholding, and they in turn would have to leave and seek the charity of their children on the mainland.

On the dunghill in the farmyard, the cock, a vain and aggressive creature, heard their sad words and understood in his limited way, that the life he knew and loved as chief of all he surveyed, would soon be ending. He had sometimes seen the great leathery bird with feathers that looked more like fish scales, swooping and diving in the sky above, and was full of envy. To envy was added anger, because the leathery bird had driven away the farmer’s flock, and there would be no one to take his place when he died, no one to feed the cock and his flock of hens.

The morning after the last of the farmer’s chicks left the nest, the cock crowed a defiant challenge. The hens listened, the dog heard but took no notice, and the cat watched to see who would answer. The sun rose and the morning wore on, but for all the cock’s singing, he could not attract the dragon’s attention. So he left the barn, he left the farm, he fluttered along the narrow track that wound up to the plateau. At the end of the valley on the edge of the uplands stood a single tree with singed black branches. The cock flew up onto the topmost branch and crowed again.

In his lair, the dragon opened a lazy eye and saw the fiery bird with its peacock pride in the lonely tree. In the dark depths of the scorched earth, a spirit stirred and saw a glimmer of light. The dragon stretched his wings the colour of scarabees and leapt nonchalantly into the air. The earth spirit breathed fire from the depths into the bird spitting angry sparks, and the cock spread his wings, russet and red and green and blue, and fluttered in his ungainly way to meet the dragon. The earth breathed, and the cock grew. His wings spread wider and wider, his feathers caught the sunlight like burnished bronze, thicker and stronger, wider and taller, and he threw back his head and gave a cry like the shriek of an eagle.

When the two met, the cock was as huge as the dragon and his spurs glittered wickedly. The dragon, who saw only an angry, outsized chicken, plunged with outspread claws, that raked through the cock’s flourish of plumes and caught thin air. The cock kicked, once, twice, and the dragons leathery wings were ripped in two. The dragon belched flame in fury, but the earth breathed again and turned the fiery breath back on itself. The dragon roared and plummeted, twisting and turning, as his useless wings wrapped him in a strait jacket of flame.

The cock crowed a song of victory and cast his cunning eye over the valleys, searching out the barns where the grain was stored. He turned his awkward flight away from the plunging dragon, intent on destruction of his own, when the wind veered from the north and hissed, No more!

In an instant, the air froze as cold as a January midnight, and both the cock and the dragon turned from fire to ice, creatures of frost, until the wind blew through the crystals of their scaled and feathered effigies and blew them away.

In the valleys and the villages by the sea, snow fell for a day and a night, though the year was almost at midsummer. But when the snow melted and the sun returned, the first green shoots in a dragon’s lifetime appeared in the fire-blackened soil of the plateau.

Microfiction #Three Line Tales: Romance

For Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt.

photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha via Unsplash

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It had become their restaurant, ever since their first holiday together when he had proposed to her as they watched the sun set over Rome from the Gianicolo.

Years later, he still insisted, always gently with a smile, never giving her chance to say she wouldn’t mind trying somewhere different for a change.

She would take his hand, trying not to let her smile slip, trying not to look with too much longing at the noisy, bright, banal restaurant fronts they passed, none of which reminded her of the dreams they left behind in the romantic light of Rome.

Microfiction #Friday Fictioneers: Big things in small packages

This short story if for Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers. It ran over the limit a little, at 130 words.

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

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She looked around the tiny room sceptically.

“There’s not much room, is there?”

“Ah. This part of the apartment is already let. Your part is through here.”

The estate agent opened the door at the back of the cluttered room with a flourish and stood back.

“It’s a shower in a closet!” she squealed. “That’s not an apartment! The ad said—”

“Just step inside,” the estate agent interrupted. “You’ll see. It’s much bigger than it looks from the outside.”

Muttering under her breath she stepped into the shower room and looked about in astonishment at the receding ceiling and retreating walls. Light pulsed from an unseen source, and a strange creaking noise was coming from a thing like a giant food processor in the middle of the now gigantic room.

A man in some kind of fancy dress appeared out of nowhere with a welcoming smile, and she grabbed at a knob on the food processor as the apartment lurched as if an earthquake had struck.

Free read

As an introduction to The Pathfinders series, Finch Books are giving away Pete’s Story, a short story some of you might have already read. If you haven’t, here’s the blurb:

In the unreal world of the Abomination, only the young and brutish and their brutalised playthings survive. Pete’s Flay tribe whiles away the time before the return of the Burnt Man and the end of the end, by inventing new and more barbaric games. Meanwhile, wormholes tear up the fabric of time and space and it isn’t only refugees from the past that use them as an escape route. Ever heard of ratmen?

 

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You can get it here free download from the Finch Books site.

 

 

Microfiction #writephoto: Paradise

This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo prompt. Another pic from Sue’s horror rock collection.

 

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“Paradise,” he sighed and put his arm round her, as if this was his creation and he was adding her to the picture. “What a shame we only booked a week. If only I’d know it would be like this.”

She looked from the oily waves that rose and fell, glittering red in the westering sun, to the forest that strode down to the beach. The sand was an almost luminous silver, but the trees were already full of shadows.

“Shouldn’t we find the hotel before we—”

“Lodge. It isn’t a hotel.” His voice had an edge of irritation.

“Lodge then. I’d like to get acquainted with the plumbing and the kitchen facilities before we start exploring.”

He sighed audibly and picked up two of the bags. “It’s only through the trees, I expect. What’s the panic?”

She shrugged. “Just what I said. I’d like a shower and something to eat first.”

He shot her a look that she had never seen before. Cold and glittery, like the ocean. Had the journey got to him, she wondered, made him irritable, or did he often look at her like that, and she had simply never noticed until the red, glittery light reflected it? He turned away from her, his eye caught by something on the skyline. He raised his head and she followed his gaze. A headland that rose above the beach, and on the summit, something moved, something graceful and silent and huge. Wings?

“Wow,” he murmured. “Did you see that?”

“I saw something,” she said hesitantly.

“Big bird. Massive wingspan. It must have settled up there on that rock. Give me the camera. I’m going to see.”

He held out his hand. She had no choice. It was that or start a fight. The light in his eyes, the strange, cold light was still there. She rummaged in her bag and handed over the camera. He grabbed it without a word and started off towards the trees that clung to the base of the rocks.

“Steve,” she called. “Be careful.”

He plunged, without turning back, into the obscurity. Perhaps he hadn’t heard. She saw him, maybe five minutes later, outlined black against the red sky. She saw him peer over the far side of the headland, the camera half-raised. Her cry was echoed a fraction of a second later by Steve’s, when the rock moved and she saw a face in its craggy outline, and when the giant bird, that she saw now was a hand, swept across the headland and, with stony fingers, plucked Steve from its brow.

 

Microfiction #Three Line Tales: Quiet Morning

This is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales

photo by Annie Theby via Unsplash

tltweek80

She sipped her coffee slowly, enjoying the feeling of being alone, the first to arrive at the office, and idly wondered why the curtains were drawn at the house opposite on such a beautiful morning.

It was usually a hive of activity, kids getting off to school, parents off to work, and she moved across the office to try and get a better view, past the hippy mobile parked right across her line of vision, like a nervous horse ready to bolt.

Screams, quickly muffled, leaked from the house, as hooded figures burst through the front door, tossed four wriggling, kicking bundles into the back of the van and, as the coffee cup slipped from her fingers, the nervous horse bolted.

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