The City of Dreams- Fiction in a Flash Challenge #writingcommunity #amwriting #flashfiction


Fiction in a Flash Challenge

Suzanne Burke came up with this inspiring weekly challenge. Read more and join in here

The City of Dreams

The iconic Hollywood sign was more garish in the bright California sun than Beth expected. She’d dreamed of this moment for so long, it didn’t seem real.

She reached for her cheap Polaroid camera, hesitated, then shrugged and quickly snapped the photo before the tour bus chugged out of the view point. Her parents might not care, but her young sister, Sara, would. She’d begged to come with Beth, but their father wouldn’t hear of it.

“If your sister wants to run off and get herself into who-knows-what kind of trouble, that’s up to her. She’s old enough to do what she wants. But you ain’t, and I say you’re not going anywhere.”

Yep, that was dear old Dad. Cripes, would it be so hard for him to say something nice? Just once? For as long as she could remember, their family had scrambled to keep food on the table. Yet, now that Beth had been offered a small part in a feature film, her parents acted as though she was betraying them in some crazy way.

Her mother cried buckets when Beth packed up her things. “Something bad is going to happen, I just knows it. You should be staying home, getting married, and raising a family like your daddy and I did.”

She’d wrung her hands and sank wearily onto the old feather tick mattress. “I already lost your brother, what am I going to do without you?”

The guilt had set in then. Beth’s brother, Marcus, had died in a farming accident the year before and it had destroyed the family. Daddy never smiled anymore, and Momma… she was a shell of the person she’d been. It hurt Beth to see them like that. All the more reason to earn enough money to take some of the financial burden off their shoulders. Maybe then they could start to heal.

She opened the camera case and pulled out a stack of pictures she’d taken since starting this journey. Some were obvious tourist shots, like the one taken at sunset on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, though it thrilled her to think she might be there one day herself. She held up her latest, and most precious photo- the Hollywood sign. The epitome of all her dreams was within reach.

All she had to do was…

A sudden scream from the front sent Beth’s heart scrambling up her throat. She grasped the back of the seat in front of her and tried to see past all the heads. Was that…? Holy smokes, it was. Some guy stood at the front of the bus waving a gun in the air. He yelled something to the driver, spittle flying from his mouth. The bus lurched like a drunk on a sidewalk as the brakes were applied, bringing them to a dust choking halt on the side of a gravel road.

And that’s when Beth realized they were in serious trouble.

While she’d been looking at her photos, they had apparently left the paved highway heading into the city and were now somewhere in the middle of nowhere with nothing but scrub brush for company. Well, that and the black eighteen wheeler sitting on the side of the road like a hulking shadow.

The screams grew in volume as the front passengers were herded off the bus. That is until the man with the gun shot the driver. Blood, and Lord knows what, sprayed the window by his head. Things got real quiet after that.

Three men stood outside, rifles resting on their shoulders, dark hats pulled over their eyes. Beth kept thinking, praying, it was all a mistake, or better yet, one of those action movies her brother had snuck out to the drive in to watch. But, inside she knew, this was no movie and she was no actress. She was a girl from Alabama who wanted to be home in her own bed waking from a nightmare with her mother’s comforting arms around her shoulders.

~~~

The detective frowned and squinted into the fading light. Three months and three separate disappearances. The traffickers were brazen. They didn’t even bother to cover their tracks this time; the clear treads of a semi were left in the dusty ditch line. Not that it would do them much good. There were thousands of trucks on the road every damn day. It was like finding a needle in a haystack.

He glanced down at the photo in his gloved hand. The Hollywood sign outlined in umber. Close to dusk then. So many came here in search of success. He could have told them Hollywood was the place dreams come to die.

Love’s Tempo- Fiction in a Flash #FlashFiction Challenge #WritersCommunity #amwriting


Love’s Tempo- Fiction in a Flash Challenge #18

This week’s photo prompt for Suzanne Burke’s Flash Fiction Challenge is a mysterious piece of sheet music and a woman holding a rose. You can take part here:

He was at it again. She rued the day she’d allowed him to buy the baby grand. Day and night, he lived for those damn ebony keys. He didn’t even share their bedroom half the time, preferring instead to sleep with his infernal music.

It was their tenth anniversary and she’d worked all day to create the perfect meal; chicken cordon bleu, garlic and chive mashed potatoes, savory roast vegetables, and his favorite dessert, bananas foster. And through it all, he’d played. She’d tuned out the actual melody years ago. It was either that or go stark raving mad. It was the same song, over and over and over again.

At first, she’d tried to take an active interest in his… let’s call it what it was–addiction. She’d join him in the den, offering input into the music. In return, He’d give her a vacant smile and continue the way he was, dark head bent lovingly over the keyboard.

Then she’d gone the opposite direction, ignoring him, going about her day as though everything was perfectly fine. Making excuses for his negligence. Alone, and lonely.

But, tonight was the end. She couldn’t do it anymore. He was turning her into a bitter shrew and she didn’t like it. After dinner, she was going to give him the separation papers.

“Hungry?” she asked with forced gaiety.

“Hmm?” he murmured, penning some notes onto the sheet music.

“It’s our anniversary. I made dinner.” Not quite as cheerful now.

“Can it wait? I’m close to a breakthrough.” He glanced up with a smile.

Her heart did that stupid leap, still affected by him after all these years. “Please.” She hated the entreaty in her voice.

“Sure, babe. I’ll be right behind you.” He turned back to the piano and she slowly returned to the kitchen. Picked up the heavy butcher’s knife, and waltzed toward the den, buoyed by the harmonious chords bursting down the hall.

She was surprised by how easy it was, the cold steel sinking like warm butter into his back. The tune he was playing turning strident, a cry for help echoing in her head.

Then nothing.

Blessed silence as the ivory keys turned red and his precious music died with him.

She yanked the knife free, his body slouched over the keyboard, and gouged deep lines in the shiny black finish. The shriek of steel becoming cries of agony- hers. It was his fault- all of it. He’d destroyed their love as easily as she’d just ruined his beloved piano.

Finally, she circled around to the sheet music, and was about to rip it to shreds when the title stayed her hand.

Love’s Tempo- an pledge to my beautiful wife, who loves me far more than I deserve.

Yours forever, honey

Slowly, painfully, she sank to the floor near her husband’s head and sliced her wrists. As she grew faint, their blood melded into an eternal chorus–the day the music died.

Fiction in a Flash Challenge 17- #WritingCommunity #amwriting @pursoot


Fiction in a Flash Challenge #17

The week’s flash fiction challenge is titled Message in a Bottle. Join here on Suzanne Burke’s inspiring blog: https://sooozburkeauthor.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/fiction-in-a-flash-challenge-week-17-new-image-prompt-join-in-the-funpursoot-iartg-asmsg-writingcommunity/

The sand is cool and grainy under my toes, a refreshing relief from the warmth of the sun on my shoulders. I’ve been walking this mostly deserted beach for hours, lost in memories of happier times.

I arrived as a visiter, but for the last twelve years this has been home. I’m not sure how I’ll survive without the wash of the waves, the briny scent, or the crimson sunsets, but I must. It’s up to me to continue the search.

Something green glints in the shallows and I pad out to investigate. It’s a bottle, half-buried in the wet sand, its cork pointing toward the North Star sparkling brightly in the evening sky.

Heart pumping, I tug until the sand gives up its treasure with a pop and carefully carry the fragile glass up the beach. Upon closer inspection, I spot a roll of paper inside the luminous green bottle.

“Sam, is that you?”

A wavery voice from my past jerks my attention away from my find.

Could it be?

The woman I never thought to see again, picks up her skirts and runs toward me, her silver hair flowing like a moonbeam.

With a joyous bark, I bound toward her, the aches and pains in my old bones forgotten. She came back.

“Oh, Sam,” she cries, falling to her knees to wrap frail arms around my neck. “I can’t believe I found you.”

I want to tell her I’ve been searching and searching for her, too, but of course I can’t. Instead, I whine and lick her chin in greeting, my tail swishing the sand.

“It was the cancer, boy. I’ve been in the hospital all this time. I thought I’d lost you.” She puts her head to mine and weeps.

A long while later, she slowly rises and, with a hand on my back, follows me over to the green bottle.

“What do you have there, Sam, a treasure?”

I already found my treasure tonight, but I bark and push the bottle toward her.

“Okay, okay.” She chuckles. “I get the message.”

She carefully works the cork from the bottle and tips the paper into her hand. Unrolling the missive, she reads, “Whoever finds this note, know this; there is no greater gift than love.”

As my old friend and I make our way down the beach, I sigh, contented for the first time in months. The bottle is right, love soothes the soul.

Bitmoji Image

The Land of the Free- Fiction in a Flash Challenge #amwriting #WritingCommunity @pursoot


Fiction in a Flash Challenge #16

Suzanne Burke came up with this beautiful photo for this week’s prompt. Read the entries and join in here: https://sooozburkeauthor.wordpress.com/2020/09/04/fiction-in-a-flash-challenge-week-16-new-image-prompt-join-in-the-fun-pursoot-iartg-asmsg-writingcommunity/

The full moon rode a crest of diaphanous clouds in the midnight sky, turning the snow into a diamond-encrusted field stretching as far as Luna could see. A soft wind ruffled her fur and sighed through the pines, increasing her loneliness.

It had been two weeks since she’d plunged into the freezing cold river. By the time she managed to slow her headlong journey through the angry waves, she’d been miles from her family. Crawling up the bank, Luna took refuge under a fallen tree and shivered until sleep took her under.

Three frosty days later, hunger drove her from the makeshift shelter. Stiff and aching muscles protested, but she shook, sending ice projectiles flying in all directions, and hobbled into the forest. A wounded rabbit provided the nourishment she needed and strength coursed through her veins.

Now to find her way home.

Instinct sent her feet flying upriver, back toward the snow-capped peaks of the Mackenzie Mountains. Wawatay followed her nighttime journey, the spirits dancing their way into the next world, the blue and green streaks lighting her way.

A shot rang out, kicking up the powdery snow near Luna’s tail. She yelped, and dodged to the right. What was tha… Bang. The echo resounded off the trees, knocking snow from the branches. Her pulse leaping in fear, she took flight, running full out away from the horrible noise. She ran, and ran, until her breath sawed in and out of her mouth, and still she ran.

Dawn was breaking the night sky apart by the time Luna slowed to a stop, tail tucked between her legs. Hopeless, she lifted her head and howled at the gods for leaving her out here all alone. A moment later, an answering call traveled on the wind.

Could it be?

Afraid to hope, Luna watched and waited until a pack of wolves loped into view. The big male in the lead had a distinctive coat of black fur with a silver streak down the back- her father.

Luna took off at a mad dash, yipping with joy. Her family surrounded her, licking and nipping their love and affection. Somehow, some way, she’d defied the odds and found her way home here in the land of the free.

The Stories These Walls Could Tell- #FictionInAFlash #WritingCommunity @pursoot


Soooz Burke has found a wonderful photo for this week’s challenge! You can read more and join in below:

The wallpaper hangs in jagged strips from the walls, faded jacquard prints of a more dignified time. Cobwebs drap from the dilapidated ceiling, and I try not to imagine how big the spider is that created them.

Tom and I won this house at auction, before…

The floors creak beneath my sneakers and are gray with dust and grime, but they look original to my weary eyes. The drive took hours and all I can think about is a warm bath and soft bed- neither of which I’ll find here. I’ll go back to the small town I’d passed through soon, but first I need to finish what I started.

“We did it,” I tell my husband, sure he can hear me wherever he is.

The baby moves beneath my breasts and I gently rub the spot, my throat tight when I feel a tiny heel. Tom wanted this child so much. That and the home he’d grown up in. It’s bittersweet to know we’ve succeeded.

“It’s everything you said it was,” I say, continuing my one-sided conversation. “The fireplace is huge. No wonder you thought Santa got stuck up the chimney.” I trail a finger along the mantle. “Baby’s stocking will look lost on here.”

The tears that are never very far away wet my cheeks. It’s been five months, but I miss him still.

I always will.

With renewed determination, I climb the surprisingly sturdy staircase and enter the first room on the right- Tom’s childhood bedroom. A warm sensation flows over me and my tears dry as peace descends. He’s here, I can feel him.

The room is empty, other than an old blue chest shoved under the stained window. My heart flutters wildly and I’m suddenly scared of what I’ll find.

“Go,” a ghostly voice intones, his breath warm on my ear.

I startle and stumble forward. “Always so bossy,” I grouch with a smile.

The lid is heavy. I have to work to get it up, and then I sneeze as a musty fog rises from the interior. “Geez, Tom, you could have warned me.”

He chuckles from over my shoulder. I can almost feel his arms around me and baby.

His baseball hat from seventh grade sits on top the pile of memorabilia. My fingers tremble as they trace the Saints emblem. Who would have thought he’d go on to have a successful career in the NBL?

Alongside the hat, lay an autographed baseball bat, and below that, the reason I’m here. A leatherbound journal. My husband’s thoughts and dreams in his messy script fill the pages, front to back.

The house will be baby and my future, but this journal? It’s my link to the past and is truly priceless.

The baby rolls, creating a wave across my stomach and my dearly departed husband laughs.

His family is home.

The Final Countdown- #FictioninAFlash #Challenge


This week’s Fiction in A Flash Challenge

I’ve been enjoying the many posts inspired by Soooz Burke’s wonderful prompts to the Fiction in A Flash Challenge and decided to give it a try. You can read more and join in here.

The Final Countdown

Four.

Three.

Two…

Any moment now and the final performance of my career will begin. I can’t complain, I’ve had a good run, but I wish I was more prepared.

I’ve wasted so many opportunities. Chances to live, love, create meaningful connections.

Instead, I’m here the way I’ve been most of my life- alone.

It’s not all bad though.

I’m more successful than I could have dreamed. People know my name. They cheer for me. Buy tickets to see me.

I’m famous.

I wonder if any of that will matter now.

One…

The gates open and I step through.

My afterlife begins.