We look to the past. We glance over the precipice. We avoid the mirror. This week, writers poked a pencil at fear, something worse than death and the stories that emerged hold clarity, tragedy, triumph and numbness. Fear is the gateway to human emotion and motive; a driving force for a writer to explore and master.
The following stories are based on the October 1, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) show a character confronting something worse than death.
The Fear of Fear Itself by Geoff Le Pard
‘What is it?’ Paul carried two wine glasses onto the terrace.
Mary pushed the papers across the table. A birth certificate.
Paul scanned it. ‘How long have you had this?’
‘I found it when I cleaned out Dad’s desk.’
‘It doesn’t mean anything.’
Mary’s hand shook.
‘Peter loved you…’
‘Don’t.’ Mary slapped a midge harder than strictly necessary. ‘Why did he never say? He knew I’d find it.’
‘He didn’t expect to die. Maybe he planned…’
Mary stood, taking her glass. ‘Planned? He schemed.’
Paul, alone, re-read the paper. Mary was adopted. So only Rupert was Peter’s real child.
Flash Scene From Habeas Corpus by Anne Goodwin
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.
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.
The Nightmare of Merlin by Tally Pendragon
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.
The Defeat by Ruchira Khanna
Pedro is moving his feet briskly in the ground trying to level off the mud.
His mind is moving aimlessly that he did not notice his coach come near him and direct him to start the game.
Looks up towards the voice, frowns for a microsecond, then brings his attention to the surroundings by a quick nod, and a silent, “I can do it.”
He propels his first ball after a deep inhalation, which helped pacify his mind that was drifting flash forward to a scenario where he gave away runs that led to the defeat of his team.
Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin
The other children called me Ghost Girl, but Mama said I was special. When the burning sun had gone to bed, we played with sticks and stones in the dirt outside our hut.
Mama warned me not to walk in the forest. The medicine man would catch me, she said. But, with Mama dead, how else could I get the wood to cook my food?
Now the doctor says I’m special, so special the people travel miles to swap a goat for a lock of my pure-white hair. An ox for a finger. A bicycle for my beating heart.
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.
Fear Itself by Sarah Brentyn
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.
Normandy by Pete
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.
Flash Fiction by Irene Waters
The world tumbled as the glass broke and metal twisted. Over and over it turned. My body thrown forwards then backwards. Finally the sound of the ginding metal stopped. Silence. Silence as total as the pain was immense. I tried to move. I had to get out. I had to get out but I couldn’t move.
I could hear sounds now. Voices. Rescuing sounds. Sounds of sirens. Chopper blades. They bundled me, protected me, collared me, carried me, whispered reassurances to me. I didn’t care. I wished that I was dead. Alive from the head up was something worse than death.
Flash Fiction by Krysti Shallenberger
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.
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.
Fire by Susan Zutautas
Beth was sunbathing the by the pool. A whiff of smoke engulfed her nose, and her eyes shot open as she looked up at her apartment. Oh no the candles! She went to run and a man stopped her. She could hear the sirens getting closer and closer. Panic stricken all Beth could think was that her mother was going to kill her.
Terror overtook all of Beth’s emotions. Anna, a friend and neighbor, forced Beth into a cold shower trying to bring Beth to her senses. A slap to the face stung.
So much was lost that day.
Sapphire by Sarah Unsicker
The October air was warm and humid, a storm was brewing in the atmosphere. I eagerly took my seat, ready to relax with two thousand of my closest friends.
An auburn-haired policeman tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to leave. My cheeks flared. I had been looking forward to this concert for weeks. “You are a security threat, and I cannot allow you to remain at the concert,” she said in a low voice. “The singer has brown eyes, as does most of the audience.”
Once again, my sapphire eyes kept me from a great life experience.
No Way Out by Sherri Matthews
Bill leapt out of his seat like an escaped animal as the letter landed on the front door mat. Hands shaking, he ripped open the envelope.
In large, red letters the repossession order stared back at him like a snake about to go for his throat. Rooted to the spot, he fumbled for his mobile as it vibrated into life.
“Bill? Did the letter come…? Bill? Are you there…?”
Bill stared into silence and hit ‘End’ on his phone as he tossed it into the bin. There’s no going back now he thought, as he headed for the garage.
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.
Out of My Cage by Amber Prince
Strangers came and led me away from my home. They smelled like grass, something we weren’t used to smelling often. I bowed my head hoping that the bumpy ride would end soon. My stomach quivered, my last meal threatening to resurface.
The stillness hurt my ears. I missed my home with its comforting noises and the cold concrete floor.
It was an accident, hands pawing at me, calling my name; I hadn’t meant to wet myself. Hiding behind the door, my tail between my legs, I awaited the outburst.
Instead they laughed. What kind of hell was this place?
New prompt on Wednesday. All writers welcome to respond.