Sounds of Harbingers

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

September 3, 2014

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionSound is the element writers explored this week, using it to announce some sort of change to the story. Sometimes it is the absence of sound that speaks loudest. Creativity is limitless, as are the types of sounds that writers use as harbingers.

The following stories are based on the August 27, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use sound to announce some sort of change. Enjoy reading the results!

Jackpot by Larry LaForge

Amidst the constant ding, ding, ding a deafening sound suddenly blasts: whoop, whoop, whoop.

Eddie knows immediately things will never be the same.

Despite the commotion, Eddie’s mind drifts back. “Here’s a dollar,” his pal Jack had said last week. “Give the slots a shot for me in Vegas. I totally trust you, man.”

All eyes in the casino are on the flashing dollar slot machine showing a million dollar payout. Cheers erupt. Before the play Eddie had mumbled, “This one is yours, Jackie boy.”

Eddie ponders his dilemma as the casino settles back to normal.

Ding, ding, ding.

The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.


Rivals by Pete

The casual evening sun roamed the horizon, and just over the volley of drums and clashing of cymbals, the sinuous thread of horns cut through the thick of August as the marching band prepared for the season opener on Friday. Ridgeton’s two high schools, Stonewall and Fairmont, kicked off each year at City Stadium, and this year’s clash carried the additional weight of mending the divide that had captured the town. The heat wouldn’t relinquish its reins for another month. The wounds would take a lifetime to heal. But for now, the sounds of rivalry echoed throughout the streets.


American Road Trip by Sherri Matthews

Annie turned towards the rumble of the V8 engine as she watched the low-rider inch slowly towards her where she stood in the street.

“Whose that?” she asked, raising a hand to her eyes against the blinding headlights.

“Don’t look at them!” Ken hissed.

“But…I was only….”

“Turn away, now…!”

Annie froze as Ken took a swig from his beer bottle in a failed attempt to look cool.

At last the gang drove off deep into the LA night while Annie heard the distant whines of a police siren.

This wasn’t the American road trip she had bargained for.


For Those Who Have Ears to Hear by Tally Pendragon

The roads were still good, if lacking their former glory. A man appeared, out of nowhere, carrying a staff and smiling. “I believe this is yours,” he said, and put it into Merlin’s hands. In the silence Merlin could hear the slithering. As it grew closer, his mind expanded, until restored silence brought a bright flash. With his consciousness so newly awakened he was not surprised to see that a green and purple dragon had wound itself around the staff, its head resting on top and it’s wings folding themselves neatly into the gaps. Now his purpose was clear.


Openings by Geoff Le Pard

‘Leave me ALONE!’

The door bulged as it slammed shut. Mary’s daughter’s muffled sobs were replaced by Carly Simon.

‘What’s up?” Mary flinched when she felt her husband’s hand.

‘She hates me.’

Paul listened. ‘She’s got your taste in music.’

‘It’s not funny.’

‘Why would she hate you?’

Mary didn’t answer. She pressed against the wood. ‘What was that?’

‘I didn’t hear anything.’

When Mary opened the door, the room was empty, the window open. ‘See?’

‘But where’s she gone? What’s going on?’

‘Bloody Rupert, that’s where.’

Paul hesitated. ‘Oh for god’s sake. This has to end, Mary. Now.’


Silence is Not Golden by Sarah Unsicker

Tears blend with my own. I hold the squirming child in my arms while I tread an endless circle around the room, alone, and afraid.

We lie down together. I fall asleep to the sound of her sobs.

The room is gray in the twilight when I wake up. There is an eerie silence as she lays still next to me.

Seconds feel like hours as I unwrap the sheet from her head. I bring her limp body to my chest to give her my breath, my warmth, my heart.

Never have I been so happy for her tears.


Making Change by Chris Magnuson

It rained last night. The ground is wet. The sky is dark blue to the south; storm clouds looking wicked. I look to the north. The sky is a lighter blue with fluffy clouds dotted across it. The breeze is soft, then strong. The sun is warm on my arms, back and legs. I start in on one end. I grab hold of a weed and pull. With each pull I hear, “schlep…..schlep… The sound is of weeds resisting their removal. I keep pulling. “Schlep…schlep. I check the sky occasionally. Schlep….schlep. Ah, finally I have a weed free garden.


Castles in the Ground by Sarah Brentyn

Ella fished her pink plastic shovel out of its hiding place next to the boiler. She scraped it against concrete, pretending the floor was sand. A cardboard box full of yellowed newspapers and mouse droppings became her beach pail. She hummed and built a castle, her little hands shaping tall towers. The basement was dark and cramped but she imagined sunshine and sky.

The click of the lock startled Ella. She froze, hand poised in mid-air, heart beating like a caged hummingbird. A creak from the first stair roused her. She scrambled to hide the shovel for next time.


The Crows by Irene Waters

“Look at those crows circling.” Marcia said “Gives me the creeps knowing someone’s going to die tonight. Like vultures waiting to take the soul to another place.”

“Don’t be stupid. That’s just an old wives tale.” Peter’s exasperation was apparent. “Just because they’re circling doesn’t mean anyone’s going to die.” They walked on in silence, lost in their own thoughts.

Crrrrrack! Peter looked up at the noise to see the branch falling rapidly toward him.

Boom! The ground shook from the force of the impact. Marcia shook her head as she looked at Peter’s lifeless eyes. “Old wives tale huh?”


Through the Floor by Susan Zutautas

Steamy hot water beat down against my sore and weary body. It had been a long frustrating day but the shower was massaging it all away.

Humming Thunder Road, and starting to feel rejuvenated, I reached down for the soap and heard crackling and splitting noises that were very loud.

When I came to Al was kneeling beside me repeating over and over, “wake up.”

“Why am I in the basement?”

“You were taking a shower and the tub fell through the floor. Try not to move too much, an ambulance is on its way.

“Seriously, oh my God!!!”


Sound Flash Memoir #1 by Norah Colvin

Awakened suddenly, I didn’t dare breathe. The sound was unrecognizable: guttural, movie theatre loud in surround sound. I sat up. The sound continued. I wasn’t dreaming. I nudged Bob. No response. Gripped with fear but needing to know, I tiptoed to the window and peeked through the curtain slit. I expected to see The Creature from the Black Lagoon. There was nothing. Now it came from the front, inside the house? My son! I tore down the hall. He slept peacefully! Back to the bedroom. Bob awoke. “Did you hear that?” he asked, wide eyes staring . . .


Flight From North Carolina by Charli Mills

Coins clinked in Cob’s burly hand as he jingled the liberty dollars Dryer paid for the two horses. Sarah couldn’t see how many. What mattered was boarding the Johnson City train before any Wataugans tracked their midnight ride. Waiting in line at the busy depot, Cob leaned against the wall watching folks like he was at a Sunday picnic.

“You keep fussing your bonnet, Rosebud, everyone on this platform’s going to think you’re fugitive.”

Sarah put her hands down and glared at the black locomotive. The whistle screeched and Sarah grabbed Cob’s arm. “We’ve gotta get on that train.”


Harbinger Flash by Anne Goodwin

Though the hoot of the train brought relief, she maintained a mask of indifference as it loomed into view clouded with steam. The weight of the crystal radio had all but wrenched her arm from its socket but she held the case as if it contained nothing more than some lacy lingerie and a freshly starched blouse. Five minutes, ten at most, and she’d be safe.

The thud of jackboots on paving rose above the hiss of brakes. A carriage door swung open. Before she could reach it, the soldier raised his rifle and roared down the platform: “Halt!”


Sound Flash Memoir #2 by Norah Colvin

The boat tossed mercilessly. I battled to contain my insides while all around were losing theirs into little paper bags offered unceremoniously to obliging staff.

Finally, just before landfall, I joined in. Then it was over – for me. Bob’s queasiness laid him up for the night; but I went to tea.

The path back to the cabin was unlit but for a splash of moonlight. Suddenly horrific wailing assaulted my ears. Was Bob being murdered? I hurried back. He was fine, but the eerie sound unsettled us far into the night.

In the morning we laughed: mutton birds nesting!


Flash Fiction Challenge by Laura Burke

“Ice accumulation will be like the killer storm of 1988.” The weatherman droned on, endless coverage in the background. “As temperatures drop, snapping limbs will sound like gunshots.”

Cabin Fever. It’s a thing. Time for bed.

Midnight. So far, no tree limb gunfire. I imagined limbs on power lines, electricity gone, frozen pipes, roof damage.

The covers wiggled. My dog squirmed, stretching her frame against the curve of my hip, burrowing her nose under blankets. She stilled. Except for her snoring.

Gentle white noise filled the room, rhythmic and seductive. The outdoors melted away. My mind stilled. Sleep, finally.


New prompt on Wednesday. All writers welcome!

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  1. Sherri

    Love the variety as always, another wonderful flash collection Charli. You really know how to get us thinking 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Like a good buckaroo, I recognize the best ones to round up into the herd. 😉 I was connecting with a regional author that I might get to meet in October, down in Boise and I directed her to the compilations and she said what great talent! I agree!

      • Sherri


  2. magnusoncmm

    I will second that Sherri! 🙂

    • Charli Mills


  3. Charli Mills

    Smiling, happy group here!

  4. Norah

    What a great group of writers you are lassoing in! More and more each week with so many different takes on the same prompt – always fun to read! 🙂

  5. Sarah Brentyn

    Fantastic sound and silence. Love these.

    Charli – This was an excellent challenge. I realized how much I rely on visual description and tried to find the same amount of sound in my writing. Not there. Thank you. It was a great writing exercise.

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