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October 1: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionIt was the second day of the Hearts of Gold Festival, late August when the desert air of Fallon, Nevada felt like the inside of a clay oven. My husband was hawking hearts of gold cantaloupe with a childhood friend who farmed the melons. I was slicing orange-fleshed samples that were as refreshing as sherbert on a hot day. Nearby, our 10-month-old daughter in her Wrangler diaper cover,  red-and-white striped top and straw cowgirl hat was riding green watermelons like a pony.

wild watermelons

Riding Wild Watermelons

Today is the first day of October, yet my mind wanders back to this one in August  a quarter of a century ago. My Wild Watermelon Rider will soon celebrate another autumn birthday and I’m ever so grateful. We almost lost her that day.

Recently, someone who knows us mutually online commented about my daughter, “Is there anything she can’t do?” Modestly, I can reply that Watermelon Rider is a typical first-born, a high-achiever. I could boast in ten thousand words what incredible talent she has with which to line her many achievements. But I’ll spare you a bragging mother, and her some privacy.

I almost missed seeing her her in ballet slippers, arctic parka and wearing her radio producer Muppet-like sound recording gear. On that day long ago, Watermelon Rider disappeared.

Where could a baby–a baby!–dash off to? I was slicing, Todd was hawking, she was gone.

Panic flushed the crowd. This was a close community and one of their own was missing. As people spread out to look, I called her name in sobbing tones. Shortly, the rodeo announcer paged the “parents of a missing three-year-old.” Oh, my God, someone else’s child was missing, too! Was it a serial kidnapper come to prey on a sleepy farm-town festival?

We’d later find out that the announcer couldn’t tell the difference between a 10-month-old and three-year-old. The child he spotted was ours. He was horrified because he could see from his lofty view over the rodeo arena that a tiny tot all alone was ambling to the tug-o-war pit–a wide and deep expanse of water and mud built for one team to drag another through. He was afraid she’d go in and made the hasty announcement.

Her Dad found our wee Watermelon Rider and we were like drunken sailors trying to find our shore legs after that. In retrospect, she wasn’t missing for long but long enough for me to write a series of thrillers out of all the thoughts that battered my imagination. It made me realize that there are worse things than death. The word gone stops my heart.

For the remainder of motherhood–two more joined their sister in giving me frets–I developed a quivering fear that my children would disappear and I would never know what happened. This fear drove me to watch shows like America’s Most Wanted, hosted by a man whose son disappeared in the 1980s; a heartbreaking mystery never resolved. Cold Case Files and Missing tortured my thoughts with fates I swore I couldn’t bare.

Somehow, we all survived their childhood. There’s nothing like in-the-trenches experience to conquer fear and as they matured, I began to let go of that idea of “the worst thing that could happen” and savor the moments I had with each.

Then a morbid thought came to me this past weekend as I worked on the last revision of my novel. I came to a point where I felt satisfied. There’s still work, there’s still the editor and no one has yet picked up my glass slipper and made me a writing princess with a publishing contract. But I’m satisfied to say, “I wrote a novel.” And the queer thought that came to me was, I can die now.

It surprised me, the peaceful feeling that came to rest, knowing I could die and not regret ever having written a book. It’s not published, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve finished something I’ve wanted to do since childhood. Instead of being shamed in death by volumes of notes,  journals and incomplete stories–I’d leave behind proof that I did this. It fulfills me. I laughed off the idea that I was ready to meet my maker.

Until I suffered an ocular migraine on Sunday. I have had two in my life, both under extreme duress and within days of each other. I went blind, total darkness. This happened decades ago, when I escaped a bad situation. The terror of escape brought on the migraines and I’ve not had cause to experience one since.

Except that I gave up coffee a week ago. And replaced it with black tea. Caffeine has never left a noticeable calling card for me. I don’t get jittery or headaches. But this new tea–organic, expensive and not my cuppa evidently–caused an eye spasm that triggered an ocular migraine. I’ve since eliminated the tea and have not had a re-occurrence. Back to the safety of coffee.

Knowing that the weird zig-zaggy flashing lights are the first sign of going blind, I panicked. Because I was not even remotely stressed, and hadn’t yet connected it to the tea, I didn’t know why it was happening. I tried to ignore it, but soon I couldn’t read my own writing on the screen.

And that’s when I realized that although I was accepting of death now, the worst thing that could happen to me is to go blind. I’m visual. I write visually. I’m not auditory and when I speak I often say things like, “It’s better in writing.” I’ve come to trust that if I write, I’ll discover the story on the page. But what if I can’t see the page? I depend upon my eyes for my craft.

This week we’re going to poke a stick at our hidden fears–or those of our characters. Anne Goodwin wrote a  review of literary dementia on her blog Annecdotal and recites a masterful passage by author, Michael Ignatieff from his novel Scar Tissue, as he describes a character facing the same deterioration of dementia as he witnessed in his parents.

She challenges anyone to come up with a better description of terror.

Yet fears can be quirky, too and an interesting way to create unique characters. Amber Prince wrote this week that she fears teeth (congratulations, Amber, on your One Lovely Blog Award and thank you for sharing). While it made me chuckle and recall wriggling baby teeth, I also thought it would be a brilliant quirk to give a character. It’s such details that build the story.

October 1, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) show a character confronting something worse than death. It can be a universal fear or something unique to the character. What does this fear reveal about motive? Does it color the tone, deepen the plot or add to absurdity? Go ahead, poke a pencil at fear this week.

It’s an interesting question for me to ask of Sarah Shull. History is vague on what she did after Hickok shot and killed Cob McCanles at Rock Creek July 12, 1861. Legend says that the Pony Express put Sarah on a stage the next day. That Sarah left Rock Creek the next day after the incident is most likely, and historian Mark Dugan suggests she lived with Cob’s brother Leroy at least until August 12, 1861. Sarah faced death at Rock Creek. What more did she fear?

Widows by Charli Mills

“You were fixing to leave again, weren’t you?” Mary climbed the buckboard to sit next to Sarah. “With Cob?”

Sarah stared at buffalo grass on the prairie horizon, waiting for Leroy. He was taking her to his ranch north, but wanted to see his nephew before they left Rock Creek. “Maybe.”

“Why keep running? You afraid I’ll follow?”

“Wasn’t me running this time. I don’t want to be mocked. And I don’t want to be alone.”

“I’ll not go back to Carolina a widow. They shunned me, too, Sarah.”

Sarah shuddered despite the summer sun. Not that. Never again.


Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.




  1. lorilschafer says:

    It isn’t often that I finish one of your posts in a cold sweat, Charli, but you’ve done it this time. I think we can all empathize with the missing-kid nightmare, and your fear of blindness is one I definitely share – I just don’t process information nearly as well aurally, and I can’t even imagine what I’d do without my eyes. Glad you’re feeling better, though. Take care.

    • Charli Mills says:

      For a moment I thought I achieved my other worst fear–looking silly verbally! I saw “aurally” in your comment and my brain registered, yeah that’s the word I was looking for and I panicked thinking I wrote oral…whew! “Auditory” wasn’t the best choice but better than than sticking my foot in my mouth! Thanks for reading. Sorry for the cold sweat. Lots of things I can handle, few terrify me.

  2. Sherri says:

    Oh that horrendous feeling of our world coming to a standstill when our child goes missing. As I read your story of your Watermelon Rider (so cute and the photo too!) I thought of the times I’m sure I’ve aged years thanks to all three of my kids putting ice-cold fear into my heart. What a merciful relief that you found her, safe and sound…
    So sorry for your awful headache and the fears of going blind that came with it. I had some vision problems recently, turned out I wasn’t giving myself enough breaks from staring at the computer screen, but it scared me half to death with just the same thoughts that went through your mind. Nothing makes much sense to me until it’s written down, otherwise it’s in one ear and out the other. I can’t even begin to face that possibility of going blind…
    But you finished your novel, hooray! It gives me hope that there is indeed peace at the end of all the turmoil, that there is a measure of rest at the end…until the next time anyway 😉 You did Charli, you really did it and I’m sending you big congratulatory hugs 🙂
    Another great prompt to think about. Until then, I really hope you are feeling much better now. Take good care of yourself and see you soon 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Parenthood is not for cowards, is it? So many times it does make us confront those fears. Now I have a fear of Newman’s Organic Black Tea! I think the computer screen can cause eye spasms, too which can lead to the ocular migraine (weird, but no headache, just loss of vision). We should look up eye strain exercises and put our eyes on a workout plan! We could be eye-exercise buddies! 😀

      Novel finished to my satisfaction (not to my editor’s)! I’m sitting with 200 pages today to re-sort. At least it’s not rewriting, maybe some transitions. But I have to cut and put elsewhere to make the timeline fit better. The storyboard helped me in figuring out how. Now the time to move it. I’m down to days, but determined still and the Hub even bought me a bottle of Presecco that’s lingering in the fridge for when I send off the manuscript! Willpower don’t fail me now–it’s for AFTER not DURING!

      Feeling fit now that I’m back to drinking coffee morning and nettle tea in the afternoon! Thanks!

      • Sherri says:

        Haha…yes, eye-exercise buddies, love that 🙂 I seriously got worried about it for a while but I didn’t have the horrid scare you did 🙁 Let’s hope you never have that again…
        Ahh…that Prosecco is calling your name and I hope you can keep that willpower up…if so, you are a stronger woman than me 😉 But how wonderful when you get to that point and send off your manuscript. Woo hoo!! There’ll be a rip-roaring party down at Carrot Ranch that night 😉
        So glad you’re on the up and up and no more of that organic black tea for you! I couldn’t be without my tea (plain old English black tea) and don’t drink much coffee other than a nice cup about mid-morning otherwise it makes my heart race. Weird isn’t it? Never tried nettle tea I admit but I do occasionally drink peppermint tea for tummy troubles (I have IBS, hope that isn’t too much info, ha!) but other than that I don’t touch herbal tea even though my daughter is always telling me off that black tea is probably the worst thing I could drink. Oh well, we have to have one vice in life…perhaps we should both make it Prosecco…within reason of course! Have a great weekend my friend and good luck with those transitions…you’re almost there 😀

      • Charli Mills says:

        Cheers to our vices, as long as they don’t kill us or blind us! 😀 Almost…there…You’ll hear that Prosecco cork pop all the way across the pond!

      • Sherri says:


  3. TanGental says:

    Your lead ins are becoming the most gripping instalments. Dare I say it that when I actually come to the prompt I’m a little disappointed and that is not with the prompt but with the fact that you’ve finished this week’s Story time with Charli. Every parent will share your fear. I can remember standing over the Lawyer’s cot, debating with the Textiliste if we should wake him up to make sure he was just asleep and not dead. We tried listening to his breathing, feeling his chest to sense movement, even holding a mirror under his nose. We gave him a little tickle and he snuffled like a pig, the best sound in the world. Four hours later, in the Middle of the night, when he cracked our slumbers with his banshee wails, we cursed our stupidity, even as we knew we’d do the same again, and again, pretty much for ever. The prompt itself is a challenging one this week and you’ve deftly Woven it into the continuing saga of Sara. Can I do the same with Mary?

    • Charli Mills says:

      I greatly appreciate that you read my post! I try to mark out the prompt so that those who want to get on with it can, but I also like to be able to have full expression of my thoughts. Lately, there’s been discussion of time and length and what you should or shouldn’t have in a post, but I see our blogs as our expressions. No matter how great of a master you become at the craft of writing, it’s discovery and expression of your unique voice that will be most important. If not on our blogs, where else can we practice that voice? My favorite reads of the week are those blogs where the writer knows his or her voice and it brings me back. Yours included. Length only deters me when it’s another writer saying the same thing that 100s of other writers say. Be you! And I’ll be me! Best platform to develop, I think. So thanks so much for reading.

      Ah, those parental terrors. I remember those mistakes of waking the babe. Not waking seemed worse. But I really don’t know how parents of missing children cope with one day, they are gone. The not knowing, the imagined horrors, gives me shudders.

      What does Mary really fear? That’s a great question for her.

      • TanGental says:

        Charli, there’s such philosophy in what you write. It takes a real skill to do such a 360 degree analysis as you do on our writing. I suspect that’s why we come back (leaving aside the fact that the prompts are just too tempting). You do have an unique voice that’s for sure. Anyway, you don’t need my flattery – that’s what the Hub is for!
        Ah Mary. A while back I realised that she had a secret that is at the heart of this. Maybe a little will be revealed this time in (one of) her fears…

      • Charli Mills says:

        The secret to my 360 degree analysis is–look there’s a chicken–I’m easily distracted yet somehow it all makes sense in some bigger picture of the barn yard. Thank you, flattery appreciated from all directions. 🙂 The Hub remembers to compliment the cooking.

        Isn’t that exciting? To write into an unknown story, discover a character and her secrets? Mary has wonderful depth so I know there remains much below her surface. You’re on a good writing role with her story!

  4. Annecdotist says:

    You’ve given us a lot to reflect on, Charli, in this beautifully written and moving post. I haven’t had children of my own but can totally appreciate that terror when they’re not where you think they should be. How different your life would have been if you had lost her on that day.
    Congratulations on finishing your novel and good luck in your submissions (if that’s the next step). I was interested that completing it made you think you could die because, if anything, I feel the opposite: getting my novel out into the world will be an indication that I can live!
    Delighted my post has inspired this prompt, and thanks so much for the link. You’ve inspired me to think more deeply about motivation, as I think some people/characters are motivated more by fear than by desire. Hopefully I’ll be able to put some of that into a flash but, in case I don’t manage to organise my thoughts in time, I’ve posted today a review of a novel that I think connects with my own deepest fears which are difficult to articulate but I think it’s something about being dehumanised, as was the experience of the Japanese prisoners of war:
    Now I’m off to check on Amber’s fear of teeth!

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s humanly impossible to have 24/7 heightened awareness of where our children are…or anything else beloved to us. It’s in those moments when we turn away, let our guard down, relax that tragedy can happen. Horrifying to ponder, but rich humus to the writer planting the seed of a remarkable story. Fear as motivation can lend depth to a story or even character development. Well, now that it’s okay for me to die, I really do want to live! And yes, submissions are next. I’ve already decided that I’ll call this phase, The Great Rejection Rodeo. I might get bucked of time after time, but all I need is one 8 second ride to win the purse. Thanks for mentioning a fear that hard to articulate–I’m trying to figure that out with Sarah Shull and I think that’s it. I think she fears the dehumanizing experience of being shut out of her family and community as a punishment of shame. Although, dehumanization can take many forms. Another potential prompt, though perhaps I’ll lighten up next time. I’m fascinated by the Japanese prisoners of war because I grew up near a camp in California. I know a writer who is working on a WIP about the corresponding German prisoner of war camps in the midwest. Thanks for all the great discussions here and abroad at Annectdotal. Oh, yes! Check out Amber’s great quirk!

  5. susanzutautas says:

    I cannot find any words to add to what has already been said above Charli. Remarkable piece!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Susan. Fear is universal, but what we fear can shape who we are or what we do. This will an interesting collection of stories!

    • Charli Mills says:

      I saw TL Pogue posted your flash on FB and the graphic alone made me shudder–flames! Off to go read now!

    • TanGental says:

      Great piece Susan. So much happening and I love the bit about mother – first fear is parental approbation!

    • A fear that gripped me for years. It was top 3 for sure. Now, with kids, it’s moved down on the list but I still think about it. Okay, thanks. Now I’m freaking about it. 😉

      Nice flash!

  6. A great read, Charli. I was enjoying that golden autumn day until you led us further down memory lane when I held my breath till I finished that section.
    Fear of something is always with us unfortunately, as are the reasons for those fears. Sometimes life does feel like walking on a very narrow bridge over a very deep chasm.
    I empathize with your eye difficulties. I’ve only ever had one slightly weird experience of lights starting to flash in the left hand corner of my vision when I was working at the computer. So I got out my herbal book, ran out into the garden, picked and made sage and chamomile tea, lay down and everything returned to normal!
    Congratulations on finishing the novel. It’s a genuine achievement, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – and enjoy that Prosecco!

    • Charli Mills says:

      It does feel like that bridge at times and we have to remember not to look down unless, of course, we are writing about it. 🙂 Sage and chamomile! That’s the tea I need to be drinking. I do drink nettle tea daily, but I’m also a sucker for my morning caffeine. Yes, those flashing lights are an eye spasm. Good thing to back away from the screen and give it a rest. Thank you! I will toast all the writers who’ve blazed the trail before me and all the writers making their way up the hill! We dare to see a different view in life.

  7. My flash fiction:
    Miles and miles of gravel road, one turnoff, a rutted driveway. An airplane ticket cost, oh, $800 and one day of my time. Driving across America cost 3 days, 2,345 miles and $1,000 in food, hotel and gas costs. Reunions aren’t cheap.
    Rolling hills covered in silvery sage-brush alight under the sun surrounded most of the dirty white trailer.
    I took a deep breath and a whiff of cut hay filled my nostrils. Underneath I could smell the chalky, irony taste of blood. Mom’s blood as she carried my four-year-old body.
    The door opened slowly. I blinked.
    “Hi Dad.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Knowing you to be a talented environmental journalist, now I read first-hand your mastery of literary writing. The miles, years and memories packed into 99 words is astounding. The fear, gripping, timeless. The details cut with beauty and pain. Thank you for joining us at the ranch!

    • ruchira says:

      So much action packed in just 99 words!
      Loved it!

  8. Norah says:

    Congratulations on completing your novel, Charli. What a marvellous accomplishment! I’m impressed.
    I totally enjoyed reading this post and all the wonderful comments that have followed. I, too, could identify with the parental fears expressed in your post and some of the comments. That children reach adulthood relatively unscathed is a remarkable achievement. Hub and I often comment on how fortunate we have been, and sometimes feel something akin to, but not quite, guilt when we hear of the tragic stories of others. I don’t know how I would cope.
    I have suffered a few of these ocular migraines too, but never to the extent of blindness as you did. That would indeed be scary. For a reader and writer, loss of vision would be difficult to cope with. I even find it a pain now with my middle-age onset of myopia. Putting glasses on for close work and removing them again is a real pain, but at least having them does mean that I can still read, if not as well or as comfortably as in previous years.
    Fear is a great prompt. Unfortunately, for me, I (‘m afraid I) won’t be joining in this time but do look forward to reading the compilation when done!
    I enjoyed reading a little more of Sarah’s story.
    What a lot of richness there was to explore in this post! And I agree with you about your uniqueness of voice. It is special indeed.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Norah. Tomorrow (Sunday) is the “big day” that I submit the revision to my editor for copy edits. Then we move on the querying the manuscript. Whoo! What a ride, but just like riding horses, each time gets easier to know what to do!

      It’s hard to lose vision. I’ve always had impairment and wear glasses, but I notice the Hub always searching for his “readers.” I think I’d rather have permanent glasses than the on-and-off business!

      Never fear! The prompts are here for when it benefits the writers! 🙂 Thanks for taking time to read!

      • Norah says:

        Sunday is nearly over for me. I hope things went well with your editor. I look forward to hearing of progress you make.
        I agree with you about ‘readers’. I find it very frustrating to have to get my glasses out of my bag, and out of their case and put them on to do anything up close, including reading, and then put them away again when I am finished. I often think it would be easier if I could wear them all the time. Hub is short-sighted and wears glasses all the time. It is funny now when we are both doing close work. I put my glasses on, and he takes his off!
        It’s always a pleasure to read! 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Sunday has come and gone and my first novel is done! It’s in the hands of a capable editor and soon it will start its journey toward publication. Oh, how the glasses situation sounds familiar just in reverse! Thank you, Norah!

      • Norah says:

        May the journey be smooth and quick, unlike the journey described in your latest post.

      • Yay! Congratulations, Charli! Will expect some news soon… 🙂

  9. […] week Charli has given us a prompt where we show fear and a fate worse than death. She says  October 1, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no […]

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yup, Irene, that’s a fate worse than death and I’m going to think about it when the Hub drives me down the windy mountain roads!

  10. This is just a wonderful post Charli. Full of great news with finishing your novel. I felt elated when I finished mine but that soon turned to grief when it was first given to an external person to read. Grief not because they didn’t like it but grief because I had lost my baby. I had held it close to my heart and only my heart for so long that I suffered badly when I let go. Reading about you losing your daughter that day (and I’m so glad you found her) was a little how I felt and I do know how you felt as my husband was kidnapped and although he wasn’t a child I was still panicking for a long time after we got him back.
    Henry Miller wrote in Big Sur and the oranges of Heironymous Bosch at a time when life was just perfect that this was the time to kill yourself. His reason behind this was that when you are feeling on top of the world, life is perfect (the book is finished) that to go at this point would be preventing the mundane coming back into your life. Perfection in life can’t last. I don’t think he meant to die either but perhaps that is why you felt that.
    My flash is done – a great prompt thanks Charli. Yours shows all the items you suggested. I don’t think mine shows any of them but it was interesting to do.

    • Charli Mills says:

      That grief is real. I felt it, too in April, but then my manuscript came back to me with three pages of revisions needed. It was like someone taking your child and then saying, this kid’s a brat, take him back! 🙂 Not really, that extreme, but it opened the door to me letting someone else read, to objectively revise it and now it is done. I really like that story about Henry Miller. It articulates my feeling without being morbid. Its like arriving to a place I’ve always wanted to go.

      Kidnapped? Your husband? Oh, that’s frightful! The idea of just…gone…chills me.

      I’m glad you took the challenge. I’m going to go read your flash now!

      • I loved the Henry Miller as well and have never forgotten it.
        I can remember a few weeks after we were reunited we were in the street, then suddenly he was gone. I ran up and down looking for him and ended up in tears. When he eventually found me I didn’t think I’d ever let him go and all I could say was “I thought you were stolen again.” It is a feeling I’ll never forget.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Once you experienced it, I’m sure it was difficult to not expect it. How frightening!

  11. Pete says:


    My room was busy today.

    My son came with his family.

    The waves of names crashed down on me, only I was back on that beach, where I’d held my best friend in his final moments as a hail of mortar and gunfire rained down on us, the taste of salt water and iron on my lips.

    But I’m a stranger to them.

    Ellie would have handled this better, she’d always been able to smooth the edges. Oh my sweet Ellie! Her face had faded in the prison that was my own mind.

    I was alone on that beach.

    • Charli Mills says:

      This flash actually made me cry. Anne Goodwin’s post on dementia started the idea this week to write into fear. But I never thought about the horrific memories that one faced in life resurfacing with clarity as the faces of loved ones fade in memory. You capture that awful dichotomy so well in 99 words. It’s a beautiful piece of writing.

    • Love this, Pete.

  12. Fear Itself

    Scott never looked in the mirror.

    As he aged, grey hairs appeared among the sandy brown strands. Lines and creases formed around his eyes and mouth. These things didn’t bother Scott. He had never been afraid of growing old. The mirror showed him something else. Something he couldn’t face.

    Years ago, Scott noticed that each day he looked a little bit more like his father. It nearly killed him to see that reflection. So he didn’t look. He was terrified of becoming like him. It was a horrifying thought. But the truth was that Scott was afraid of himself.

    • TanGental says:

      I read your pieces, Sarah, and the sense of a threat or implied evil is so strong. This is a classic of its kind.

    • ruchira says:

      gosh! some sad memories huh that prevents him to look like his dad?

      well narrated!

    • Charli Mills says:

      That’s such a silent fear to live with, and one that would only increase with time. Great use of details to show us this fear, starting with the physical and ending with the confession. Great flash (and it didn’t include a foot or poisoned apple)! 🙂

    • Thanks!

      Geoff: I love your read on the “sense of threat or implied evil”. I guess that’s what I do in most of my flash, huh? I’d never looked at it quite that way but, looking at some of my other pieces, it’s true. 🙂

      Ruchira: Thank you. Yes, I thought facing yourself (literally) and being afraid of what you see would be the worst fear of all.

      Charli: Yes! A “silent fear”. Not spiders or clowns or enclosed spaces (those would be memoir) but a fear no one can see. (Pun intended.) No poison, drowning, or foot. Gee, I’m THAT writer. Forevermore. 😉

  13. […] Charli Mills is prompting us to face those unspoken fears this week.   In face, something ‘worse than death’ so a real deep seated fear. […]

  14. TanGental says:

    Tricky, this one. Anyway, here’s the link.

  15. paulamoyer says:

    Hole in the Self

    By Paula Moyer

    Looking back to the winter of 1973, Jean saw that she was a baby then. Not even 21. Her marriage had evaporated. It was as if someone else were talking into the phone, reserving a spot in the dormitory. Wooden hands packed her bags, loaded them into the 1964 Falcon.

    She drove the commute to her college town, but this time to move back. Those same wooden hands clutched the wheel. She rounded a curve. A guard rail beckoned, “just end it here.” But she drove on.

    Death seemed easier. Instead, she dodged the guard rail and kept going.

    • ruchira says:

      it is sad when the mind and the body do not agree…
      loved it!

    • Charli Mills says:

      You expressed so well that “wooden” feeling of numbness when life as we know it ends yet the body still functions. The mind craves relief. Who we are dodges and moves on. So happy to see you back at Carrot Ranch!

  16. rllafg says:

    Golf Ball Nightmare by Larry LaForge

    Until recently my life as a golf ball was pretty sweet.

    Sure, I got smacked around a bunch, but that’s what it’s all about. We love to be struck hard and launched high into the sky, soaring gloriously above the trees and landing softly on the green. Sheer ecstasy!

    But then it happened — every golf ball’s worst fear. Abandonment.

    Some of us are found and get to live the dream again. Others aren’t so lucky.

    The dude who did me in was a duffer. I had no chance. Someone please find me.

    Here’s the last thing I remember:


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

    • ruchira says:

      I agree not all get it twice. well written and could feel the anxiety!

    • Charli Mills says:

      What does a golf ball fear? The things you think of, Larry! It sounds as if there’s a haunting going on, some poor caddy who sees “gone balls.” Whispers of splash, find me… Love the line: “The dude who did me in was a duffer.” Thanks for bringing some levity to our heavy prompt!

  17. Annecdotist says:

    Reflecting over the past few days, I think the fear of a fate worse than death is my subject and I’m wondering if how I’m feeling is how Norah felt about the school prompt: so many possibilities, how to choose?
    So I’ve cheated a bit, as I’ve no doubt done before, in offering two, neither of which is entirely original. The first is a reworking of a scene from one of my short stories, Habeas Corpus:

    He lay prone on the ground, blinded by the canvas hood, immobilised by the rope. As the engine revved, he knew that nothing in his life could compensate for how it would end, dragged behind that car at forty miles an hour, skin flayed and bones splintered. Thirty-seven years of connections and commitments whittled down to a trail of scrappy body parts on a dirt road in a land deprived of care.
    He had no thoughts. No memories. No pictures of better times to steer him through his final moments.
    A bullet to the head would’ve been so sweet.

    You can find out what had gone before and what happens next here at the Baltimore Review:

    The second is up on my blog today, another bit of fanfiction perhaps, the idea stolen from the novel I’ve just finished reading and might make more sense in the context of that review:

    Thanks again Charli for another challenging challenge.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Anne, I’m delighted when writers find inspiration at any level. The only constraint is 99 words. Verse, BOTS, part of a post, part of a bigger story, reworked scene, etc. are all great ways to use the flash to communicate or share writing and ideas. I think this is an excellent way to get readers hooked into a story, too! How many times have we posted and I’ve seen readers (on the FB page) ask, “More?”

      The first flash (and short story it hails from) is modernly medieval. It sounds like the death sentence of being drawn and quartered. That it takes place behind a truck seems so out of place. Yet, such violence, such lack of humanity still exists beyond the safety of our social media and comfortable houses and shopping sprees for shoes.

      The second I will go read at your blog which has been very active. That you found time for flash fiction this week is amazing!

  18. Lisa Reiter says:

    Wow Charli – lots of powerful threads in here for me. Didn’t you once do a post on synchronicity..!

    Just love the picture of your buckeroo-lette riding a watermelon! I totally feel your horror here and so glad she was just headed to join in the tug-o-war!

    I once lost Max in a Theme Park – you can’t imagine how it would be possible if you’re a sensible parent, but one minute he was playing with the two older boys of my friend and the next he was gone. Gill ran straight to the nearest exit fearing a child-napping and I ran around calling in that headless fashion only a parent can. The naughtier of Gill’s boys thought to check underneath a giant roundabout and there he was ‘playing hide-n-seek’! Lasso on him after that!

    I need to write my book before I die so I think that’s why I’m struggling to finish it – in case I do! What a thought, hey?! Not so surprised you met your accomplishment with that!

    And so nasty those ocular migraines – Max had one once and I thought he was having a stroke – the symptoms are terrifying! His barber gets them with tension arising between his shoulder blades (has botox there now to reduce the problems!) and funnily enough Max had been ‘gaming it’ all the day before proped on one shoulder lying on the floor with a friend.

    Could the marathon edit session at the keyboard have anything to do with it?

    Great post, great prompt as ever! Lxx 😀

    • Charli Mills says:

      Just as I find elements of synchronicity on your blog! That feeling in those moments of searching as a parent is gut-wrenching. A lasso is a handy parenting item at times!

      I felt that same need–that desire to write a book before I die. For you, it’s more specific, but you understand the idea. Let me encourage you–it’s a peaceful feeling! 🙂

      Interesting–I do get tension in my back and neck, but I’m committed to what stretching and do back, leg and arm exercises. Nothing big, but it makes a difference in how I hold tension from running a desk all day. I haven’t had any eye spasms since I quit the black tea. Don’t think I’d like botox for the condition!

      Thanks, Lisa!

  19. ruchira says:

    Entering in my 99 word fiction

    Charli, your story made me anxious since the character was depicted beautifully 🙂

  20. Here’s the link to the blog post, with lots of pretty pictures this week; it seems fears lend themselves more willingly to art than do dreams:

    and here’s the flash:

    The Nightmare of Merlin

    No one can make that journey on foot in one day, so here I am sitting under a large and, gods be praised, leafy tree which affords me shelter and hiding without having to resort to magic. Tonight the moon is full, a Harvest Moon, for September. I’m only too glad of her light as I shall not sleep. I fear the nightmare will be upon me this night, that the witch whom I shall teach so attentively will lock me within this tree that has my back. But even dreams have the power to make manifest a reality.

    Brightest Blessings to all, as always,
    Tally 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ooh, pretty pictures, I like that! I’ll go take a look. The nightmare of Merlin, though fearing something magical, is all too real. Betrayal, loss of freedom. Merlin’s bigger-than-life personality shines like the harvest Moon in this flash! Blessings in return, Tally!

  21. Charli Mills says:

    Howdy Rough Writers! Just to let you know, I’ll be traveling tomorrow to visit my sister (the Hub’s sister, but I claim her for my own). She lives in Kansas and I’ll be meeting my grand nephews and niece for the first time. I may enlist the 3-year-olds in crafting the next prompt. I think we could use a light-hearted one! Friday and Saturday we will travel to Rock Creek and stay in the small Nebraska town of Fairbury nearby. I’m beyond excited and have a ridiculous number of research books packed with my camera, computer and cowgirl boots. Thank you for hanging out at the Carrot Ranch and sharing your phenomenal talents, words and interest. Your flash fictions this week have pushed into interesting writing territory.

    • Amber Prince says:

      3 year olds have the best imagination! Can’t wait to see what you come up with. Have a safe and fun trip.

    • Sarah says:

      Have fun with your sister and on your trip! I traveled last weekend, and that (plus some volunteer work) has messed with my writing time. I’m hoping to get something completed tonight (yes, I know it’s past the deadline). I look forward to what the 3 year olds come up with! (Maybe something to do with “why?”)

      • Charli Mills says:

        Funny how we think it won’t…mess with our writing time…but it does. Glad I came to a coffee shop this morning. I’m going to attempt to capture his story, too!

  22. […] October 1, 2014 challenge from Over at the Carrot Ranch Communications prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) show a character confronting something worse than death. It […]

  23. […] when Charli asked us in this week’s flash fiction challenge to show a character confronting something worse than death, I immediately thought of some […]

  24. Sherri says:

    Hi Charli! Phew, by the skin of my teeth galloping in at the last minute…hope you enjoy and I’ll be in touch a bit later on. Yee Haa!!!

  25. Geez, Charli! I’m having a panic attack! (Yes, I just got to the reading of your post–apologies.) That is horrifying. Losing one of my children IS a fate worse than death. I’m sweating just typing this.

    I had read the flash last week. Love it. The story continues…

    • Charli Mills says:

      Don’t apologize! I like to have a weekly ramble but also set up the prompt so you don’t actually get lost in the maze of my mind. 🙂 But thanks, when you do read!

      Yeah, I remember those sweats, all too well. They do lessen…in time…lots of time.

  26. The “Watermelon Rider” is one of the best descriptions I have ever read in describing one’s child and the picture connects you to a little girl. The fear in your story made a few minutes last into an eternity. And CONGRATULATIONS on finishing. Sorry about the migraine which followed. But to finish, YOU DID IT! So happy for you!

    • Charli Mills says:

      It was the scariest moment of parenthood–that first missing child moment. My little Watermelon Rider joined me here in Kansas.

      Thank you, it’s a good feeling to have finished and be embarking on another!

  27. The Fear by Rachel E. Bledsoe

    Jebediah felt the color drain as two words spilled into the room.

    “All in,” said Mark as he shoved bills and gold directly center. Next came three “folds” and it was Jebediah’s decision.

    “Whatcha’ gonna do, Jeb?”

    Looking at the board, he only had two pairs, jacks and nines. The damn board vibrated a possibility to the straight or even a flush.

    Mark taunted “C’mon and play.”

    Jebediah had gambled away most of his life. Mark owned half this one horse town already.

    “I fold, Mark, only got two pair.”

    “Ah shit, Jeb. I was bluffin’.” The fear won.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sharp story! So much contained in 99 words–not only the fear, but the culture of a one-horse town that drives the fear and the sense of entrapment. Great characterization, too!

  28. […] am also submitting this to the Carrot Ranch writing prompt for October 1, 2014, which is to write of something “worse than death.” […]

  29. Sarah says:

    I know this is past the deadline, but I’m sharing it anyway. It may not be “worse” than death, but it does deny a full life.

  30. Charli Mills says:

    Thanks to United Airlines, there is a delay in today’s compilation. I finally arrived on Kansas….my suitcase did not….having trouble accessing internet on my computer not on my phone. Hoping tomorrow will be a better day for resolutions.

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Charli, just read your updates over here having sent my flash over at the very last minute last night, my time. Glad you arrived safely and really hope your suitcase arrives shortly and all will be resolved. Have a fantastic time, can’t wait to hear all about it 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Just dropped my sister off at work in downtown Topeka, Kansas and I’m settling into a coffee shop here–lovely ham and egg on a croissant and an almond breve. And internet connection! Yay! My computer would not recognize my sister’s wireless last night. My phone does, but I can’t do the compilations on my phone! Catching up and I’m sure I’ll vent a sentence or two over United. No luggage, yet…day two of same clothes…and I had planned to dress so cute! 🙂

      • Sherri says:

        The coffee shop sounds divine and so glad you got your internet connection. But I’m so sorry about your luggage 🙁 Darn airlines. I’d say a good excuse to go on a shopping spree but I don’t think that’s what you had in mind when you flew out to visit your sister. Do hope you get it today…like right now o_O

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