March 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

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.

March 10, 2016

March 9

Photo by Geoff Le Pard 2016

It’s dark and the dogs have to pee. With one arm wrapped around the porch post, I lean toward the dark lawn to let Grenny reach as far as he can to pee on leash. No way will I let him cavort in the darkness. He’ll bring back a monster I can’t see.

The Hub calls me the Cowardly Cowgirl. He finds it amusing that I scream over mice and refuse to step a toe across the dark shadows of night. He recently bought me a monster-finder. I think it’s actually called a night scope, but whatever it is the device can pick up eyeballs and heat-shifting forms in the darkness. Like that’s going to make me less afraid of monsters.

I live in North Idaho where monsters are  real. A woman new to the area posted on a local social media group about tips for hiking alone. No one mentioned lurking rapists or muggers, but everyone who responded had a story about wild monsters. The woman asked if she need a firearm, bear spray or of her dogs would suffice. The responses? Both, and don’t let your dogs run or they’ll bring back whatever is out there to you.

Yep. I know that. We live in grizzly country. Wolves slather on the fringes of my property and I’ve nearly been trampled by a moose (not nearly, but could have been). Coyotes grow to trickster proportions and in the summers I even dread the pond gang of bull frogs. Monsters and darkness go hand in hand. Give me broad daylight and I’ll pick huckleberries past the clumps of bear hair, read my book on the Pack River while my dogs entice moose or wolves into an attack, and explore remote and unknown places.

I don’t carry bear spray or pack a firearm. But I also don’t stray far from the man who does. I feel safe from monsters in the company of the Hub. After all, he did rescue our meddlesome dog from a grizzly by mere force of voice. Sgt. Mills mode I call it.

At night, though, I get jittery. Even with the Hub leading me to the back pastures to teach me how to use the scope. He seriously thinks that giving me night vision will ease my monster fears. I tolerate the lessons and groan when he says, “Let’s go look at stars and monsters.” For four years this man trudged at night in South American  jungles with deadly snakes, spiders the size of eco-cars and guerrilla soldiers with guns. He’s been bit, shot at and drowned three times yet he doesn’t fear the dark.

Instead, he sees darkness in our government, in drug lords and the evil intentions of powerful men.

We all see monsters in one form or another. Call them fears or risk-avoidance. And we don’t agree on the monsters we see. The Hub might think it foolish for a pastor to minister to addicts, felons and the mentally unstable, and was not surprised when Pastor Tim was shot. By a monster, some might say. A crazed monster who himself feared aliens. But Pastor Tim sees hurting and broken people, broken systems, not monsters. His family asked others to pray for the man who shot him.

It’s not monsters that interest me, but rather monster-slayers. And like monsters, we don’t all agree on what needs slaying. It’s perspective. However, it is also a rich human complexity to explore in literature — what are the monsters and who are their slayers? Are monster-slayers heroic or misguided?

James Butler Hickok earned the name “Wild Bill”once the story of his infamous fight with the guerrilla McKandlas and ten of his men became popularized in Harper’s Weekly (think sensational tabloid). And David Colbert “Cobb” McCanles earned the title of monster, although recent historians are satisfied to raise him up to that of a bully. But why is Cobb a bully and Hickok a frontier hero? Again, it’s perspective. Hickok is forgiven any sins because he was a Civil War scout, a plainsman and occasional lawman.

However, Cobb was a lawman consistently for over six years. He was General of Musters for his militia and when he arrived in Rock Creek, he organized the citizens to adjudicate crime. He refused to kill criminals (vigilantes often hung men for lesser crimes or those fabricated). His punishments, which could be harsh, did not result in loss of life. Cobb never killed anyone in the line of duty whereas Hickock killed over 100 men. Cobb is called a bully for punishing people and Hickok is revered for bringing order to the frontier by killing “bad guys” a.k.a monsters of the west. Hickok is a monster-slayer; Cobb a monster.

See how complicated it can be? We all need special goggles to help us see in dark places. Many times, the darkness is within. Some of us write to bring light to stave the darkness and others write the darkness out in order to let light in. In a way, considering all the struggles we have as writers to keep the monsters of doubt at bay, we are all monster-slayers when we persevere to write.

March 9, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a monster story. You can pick any perspective, even that of the monster. It can be literal or symbolic; it can be heroic or realistic. Think about the shifting roles of what is a monster and who is a monster-slayer. Consider how easily we give the label to others or to fears we can’t name.

Respond by March 15, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

A big Gracias to Geoff LePard for the monster photo. Read more about where this monster lurks.


Monster Hunt by Charli Mills

Wilstach patted his mustache with a lace hanky. Sarah, lost in thoughts of Rock Creek, heard her friends speak in her head.

“A fine dandy for lunch, Rosebud,” Cobb said.

Nancy Jane scoffed. “That man for real? Sarah, you need to kick him in the shins.”

“I’d play poker with him. Strip his money and ego in minutes,” added Hickok.

Wilstach repeated a question. She had to snuff the voices, bury secrets with the dead. Lunch was not so tempting that she’d betray them. Her stomach growled in protest.

“Mrs. Devald. Tell me, which one was the real monster?”


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  1. Annecdotist

    Ha, the monsters on the fringe of your property sure put my fear of cows in perspective! You, Charli, of course, are a genuine monster slayer, cutting through prejudice to create a vibrant community. Then in Rock Creek you’re tackling the monster of lazy thinking that labels some heroes and some villains and exploring the genuine ambiguities that apply to all characters. Beautifully portrayed in your flash once again.
    Thanks also for linking to my post about writerly struggles. I was thinking as I read your post that the monster concept also applies really well to that particular novel in which monsters are created by the media and the mob, but it’s up to the reader to decide who is the real monster.

    • Charli Mills

      I forgot to mention we have slathering rabid cows here, too! 😉 Your comment makes me feel as though I pick up my pen like a sword. Thank you, that really gives me meaningful satisfaction. Like maybe I can do this thing called writing. And maybe writers can form communities on common ground. And perhaps, fiction can correct the oversights of history. The reader ultimately has an important role, too in interpretation. Readers can choose to believe in the orchestrated monsters or slay them with new insight and knowledge.

      • Norah

        I love your last sentence Charli: such power in that truth.

    • Pat Cummings

      To all: Check out the Wikipedia entry for “Wak Wak”…

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Pat! A new monster for the X-Files.

    • Charli Mills

      And that’s a monster I hadn’t yet heard of, so thank you for the education as well as the story.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you at the ranch, Gordon! What a great flash and insight to one of my favorite authors.

  2. denmaniacs4

    As I expand on “The Life and Time of Clancy Dobbs,” a journey I wasn’t expecting to take only a few short weeks ago, I will, of course, let my creative gremlins be guided by your wise and beautifully executed prompts, Charli.

    On the Road to Union City

    Along about noon, the twice weekly stage from Coryville whizzed by. After we waved it on, Aggie and I dismounted to give our horses and our saddle sores a breather.

    “If I’m not being a nosy old woman, what takes you to Union City, Mr. Dobbs?”

    “Time you called me Clancy, Aggie. Hell, we’re almost engaged.”

    “Well, fiancé, same question?”

    “I don’t wish to darken your bright beautiful day.”

    “I am resilient, sir.”

    “Mmm, okay. There is man waiting for me there by the name of Brace Caldwell.”

    “Just a man?”

    “By biblical measure, he is a fire-spitting leviathan.”

    • Charli Mills

      An unexpected journey for you, perhaps, but I’m enjoying the ride! You really have a knack for the western vernacular. Your dialog really puts me right there in the story. Great last line that fits the prompt so well and moves along your tale!

  3. Elliott

    2016/03/09- flashfiction (Monster) challenge

    Never cry, Wolf by Elliott Lyngreen

    100 years in each backwoods step

    We enter white wooden door, into classic cabin,

    Cynically, “jagetit?”—rage, “Yes!”—

    In pulse rubicund skies, elongate the only window

    Suck down these anecdotes immediately

    We know in our deepest deepest hearts this is the last hope

    Creep sneering, .. I breathe lighter and lighter,

    Arrest flaring nostrils approaching

    Swallowing chests until the last bit slinks, throats

    Claw crawling cure, seizes in, around,

    “What’s wrong?”—“What’s Wrong?”—

    Silver elixir fails, red hairs sliver

    Moon, reflection, beast grins

    ‘Yea?…, C’mon my RedWolf!

    You’re nothing without me’

    We shatter out, through sounds just in pieces

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Elliot! A perfect classic made new with your creative touch. Great use of words to control the pacing and tension. And it is full of tension!

      • Elliott

        Thanks for having me Charli!

    • denmaniacs4

      we all face that little monster. At least, I do, that’s for sure. Nicely done. I’m g____ with admiring envy.

    • Charli Mills

      Writers are beset by all kinds of monsters from the black dog of doubt to the one with green eyes and warts! We slay every day.

  4. Pete

    The way you write stories about your husband cracks me up. Sweet, loving, with a dash of good-natured ribbing! I don’t live in the wilderness, I do have woods in my backyard with black bears and foxes, and the occasional coyotes. Not that I’m ever scared, Charli, never…of course not. Wonderful post and I loved the flash. My shins hurt!

    Old Miss Maben

    We creep up to Miss Maben’s room, giggling through the finger on our smiles. She sits slumped, crumpled, her face lost in a gentle wheeze.

    My sister shoves me, then burst down the hallway. Miss Maben’s eyes flicker then widen before she snaps to life. I scamper off as she shrieks about the kids in her yard.

    Back in Gram’s room, we catch our breaths and howl with laughter. Yard! How silly! Do it again?

    Miss Mable is terrifying. Fascinating. How she thinks she’s at her porch. She sees grass on the floor.

    And yet, she always sees us.

    • Charli Mills

      A dash of good-natured ribbing is a spice for the marriage stew pot. I’m brave when accompanied. 😉 Thanks! This is such a great line: “She sits slumped, crumpled, her face lost in a gentle wheeze.” I can see her clearly, as well as the misguided monster-slayers. An interesting look at generations and dementia. Great flash!

    • Charli Mills

      And what a grand monster it is!

  5. rogershipp

    Mountain Dew Must Die

    “No… … Must not… … In three weeks, only one calculated misstep… a celebration with a friend. That one does not count.”

    I carefully allocated the water into my pitcher. Using a paring knife, I purposefully sliced the top of the plastic sleeve containing my miracle rejuvenator. Upending the wrapper, it emptied into the pitcher of water turning the once bitter elements into a refreshing herb-sweetened ambrosia.
    Reaching into the upper-right cabinet, I selected a huge, 16-ounce receptacle and filled it with filtered ice cubes.

    Pouring the tangy nectar into my glass… I had once again overcome my cravings.

    • Charli Mills

      I can imagine that title engraved upon the shield of a knight! Great take on the prompt, the monster of cravings.

      • rogershipp


    • Norah

      Excellent telling of a sadly true story.

      • imagenn793

        Thanks for the positive response 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Your flash made me realize how bullies have found a new hunting ground with everyone plugged into one device or another. Difficult to escape.

      • imagenn793

        The negatives to social media and the effects that it has on your mind psychologically in a lot of cases rules over the positives. Technology is a scary thing and I’m glad my little piece introduced this 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Anything that has that kind of control over our thinking is scary. I like writing because it exercises the brain and uses critical thinking skills we seem to be missing in the mainstream of social media. A good topic to use literature to bring to light.

  6. ruchira

    First off Charli I commend you on uniting these authors under one roof >3 it’s not an easy job esp since we all are virtual but you made distances fonder via these wonderful and mindblowing flash fiction prompts!

    My take:

    • Charli Mills

      It’s wonderful that despite the differences and distances all you writers gather at the ranch! Thank you for taking on the prompts!

    • Pete

      Powerful stuff, Sarah. Great flash!

    • Charli Mills

      Why am I not surprised you have many monster stories, hee, hee…!

  7. Norah

    Charli, you always appear so brave to me. I didn’t think anything would faze you. Nice to have such a brave Hub to protect and keep you safe. I love that he provided you with a monster-finder. Like you, I’d think I’d be a bit reluctant to use it for fear of seeing something. Then what would I do? I think a nose and a toe outside, ready to flee inside and slam the door in an instant if need be, is the best policy.
    Love the flash. You’ve mentioned Wilstach before. I love the way Sarah’s thoughts play him as the monster. Well done there. I think what you’ve previously said about him paints a clearer picture of where Sarah’s thoughts would be heading in response.
    This is a great challenge. I love the image you borrowed from Geoff.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m afraid of the dark. And grizzlies. Especially grizzlies in the dark! I’m starting to “enjoy” my monster-finder mostly because I haven’t found any. It’s a relief to get to see into the darkness. I might overcome my fear yet. Wilstach was one of the Hickok biographers, and he tracked down Sarah. I’ve always been curious as to how because she married a few years after Rock Creek and they moved around a lot. The NYC Library has three boxes of correspondence belonging to Wilstach in their archives and I’ve wanted to go through those boxes to see if I can find letters he sent or received in regards to writing his biography of Hickok. The library will let me go through the boxes, but only if I get to NYC! Sigh…so I came up with my own “story.” Most likely he tracked down one of her brothers. And yes! I love the monster photo Geoff so graciously let me borrow!

      • Norah

        I’d be afraid of grizzlies too! Especially in the dark!
        Thank you for the information about Wilstach. I must be thinking of the wrong historian. Now that I think of it, his name may have begun with the letter “C”. If I had more time I’d go back through your post to see, but I’m a bit low on time at the moment. Sorry. I think you did well to come up with your own story! 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Connely! He was a contemporary of Wilstach and loathed Cobb, even shredding the dignity of yet a third historian who recorded Cobb’s son and his eye-witness testimony.

  8. writersdream9

    I didn’t know quite where to go with this one and then it flashed ( pun intended) and write I did! Thanks, Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Yes, another reason this is called “flash” fiction! 😀

  9. paulamoyer

    My mind decided to give Jean a rest and introduce Frieda (aka my maternal grandmother):

    Monster Pandemic

    By Paula Moyer

    1918: Frieda rejoiced on Armistice Day. The war was over! Harwood would return! They could marry! She had eyed a little white house in Shawnee, their hometown 40 miles west of Oklahoma City.

    Then it came, that stealthy ogre. At the school where she taught, a fellow teacher started coughing. The next day came the news. Stella was dead. Then another and another. The school closed. Miraculously, Frieda’s family was spared.

    What kind of monster was this thing? 18 million died worldwide, more than during the war.

    Afterward, she would shudder and say, “The flu. The flu is treacherous.”

    • Charli Mills

      Clever move to introduce Frieda! I might think that flash fiction could be an interesting way to explore your maternal grandmother and her stories. The Spanish Flu was a monster! Chilling paragraph that begins with this great line: “Then it came, that stealthy ogre.”

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Charli. She was a great storyteller (real name: Winnie).

    • paulamoyer

      Good one, Larry!

    • Charli Mills

      Even your invitation to read has me laughing in anticipation! Ed and Edna are my kind of couple…so polite…! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Is Lizard Man a real monster from your area? Like Sasquatch? Well, he’s hairy and has two eyes, but I think he’s supposed to be 7 feet tall, too. And big feet.

  10. Sacha Black

    Oh boy, I so agree with your husband, there are so many more symbolic monsters in this world than we realise. For me, as scary as the physical monsters are, it’s the ones we can’t see, the ones controlling things that affect us that are so much more scary.

    So here’s something, this little snippet is from my actual WIP! Never done that before, tweaked to fit into your 99 words, here is an excerpt from Keepers:

    I pulled my lips away and glared into his wild, panicked eyes as he realised what I’d done. My chest burnt with the pressure of his air and mine locked inside my lungs. He clutched at his empty throat realising I was suffocating him. He reached out with a desperate hand and for the briefest moment I questioned who was the real monster.
    “Your parents deserved to die,” he choked.
    I batted his fingers away like a dead fly and watched as his face jumped from violent red to ghostly white and his eyes rolled back in his head.

    • Charli Mills

      What a wild way to kill someone! That brief reflection slows down the tension, and is a good place to put his declaration. I’m looking forward to Keepers! I’m curious — how did it work for you to condense a scene?

      • Sacha Black

        Actually it wasn’t too bad, but I chose carefully as this is a scene within a scene sort of thing! Usually I would have found it impossible but I didn’t look at the manuscript I wrote from memory not that I’d written it that long ago but not having to edit text made it much easier ????

    • Charli Mills

      A smorgasbord of monsters! That’s frightfully wonderful. 🙂

    • A. E. Robson

      Love your take on the monster prompt.

      • susanzutautas

        Thank you!

    • Charli Mills

      Susan!!! <3 I'm beyond happy to see you at the ranch! Yes, it can be, but then again it can enhance the creative depths when the block breaks. May that be upon you!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Nageshwar!

  11. A. E. Robson

    We have many monsters in our lives. Some born from imagination and some display themselves as real beings. This thought provoking prompt took my mind in many directions. Thank you, once again Charli, for the inspiration to look outside the box.

    The Monster Known as Shy
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    “When the riders come I’m going to tell them they can’t ride Ginger. He’s my horse.”

    The little girl peaked from behind the kitchen curtain watching the men saddling the gentle horse. The giant that was her friend.

    The bold conversations were with herself. She watched, year after year as the gathering crew left the barn. Her Ginger was always with them and she was always going to give those guys what for!

    She was timid and shy. Her voice and nerve buried beneath the monster. Slaying the demon that kept her quiet and alone would happen, one day.

    • Kerry E.B. Black

      I hope she wins soon!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a good one! I hadn’t thought of shyness that way but can see it clearly as a monster in your flash. My heart goes out to the little girl and her Ginger!

  12. Kerry E.B. Black

    Adrena’s Insides
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    It claws its way through her serenity, mangling Adrena’s insides. It squeezes, and she knows soon, truth will stain her soul and bleed into the open. She can’t care. Glinting garnet pools congeal into stinking, blackening clots. Her face contorts as clawing rips her insides.

    Transformation burns. Her screams turn to howls haunting virgin’s dreams. Gasps rip through the wilderness of abandoned reason, and she ignores tears for what once she hoped.

    She prowls, catches their scent, pursues. Her feet make no sound as they pad after prey.

    A bang sears, and she falls, shot by a wary foe.

    • Charli Mills

      This is classic monster stuff, and great gut-twisting details.

  13. Kerry E.B. Black

    I thought of another that perhaps you’ll like more.

    Put Up a Fight
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Sylvia scowled at her ruined manicure as the family served breakfast. Quiche again. Sylvia’s sister only made quiche. When Sylvia chewed her second bite, a hair tickled her throat. She extracted it, disgusted. Long and black. “Gross.”

    Mother set a napkin on her lap. “You girls be careful. Police found another body last night. Pauline Prescott.”

    Sylvia’s mouth fell open. “I know her!”

    Her sister flipped her blonde strands. “Knew. Mom said she’s dead.”

    Mother’s brows knitted. “Pauline was that brunette cheerleader, right?”

    Sylvia nodded.

    “Police said she put up a fight.”

    Sylvia thought, “Enough to ruin a manicure.”

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! The morning after, perhaps? The thought of a teenage girl as a werewolf has such dark comedy possibilities!

  14. Norah

    Hi Charli, I gone a little dark with my flash this week. Thanks for the challenge. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes we go into the dark to shed light. Thanks for taking the challenge!

    • Charli Mills

      That surprises me, Anne! You write into some deep monster minds in some of your fiction. But you pulled through!

      • Annecdotist

        I think it was a case of too many monsters in my head to choose the right one!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, no the dreaded term papers! Yes, you need a break…and cookies!

  15. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Hi Charli, Just got in I think with a bit of fun. Came to it late this week and although there is such a wealth of monster material in your post, in our writing critics and in life generally I had to resort to monster monsters.
    Loved your flash and the old Sarah. She really draws me in. There are always two sides to every story but not even lunch is going to make Sarah talk.

    • Charli Mills

      Great title and photo, very classic monster monster set up with a classic Irene Waters dark humor twist!

    • Charli Mills

      Monsters as a prompt is sort of an invitation to walk in the dark. 🙂

      • Christina Rose

        It is indeed!

  16. julespaige

    Finding time during nap time for:


    The Monster had always been in the not-knowing. Jack’s
    Mother left his father before he could make any memories
    of the man that shared two out of his three names. His
    half brothers had always wondered what Jack’s Mother
    had told him about their father. It turns out she said absolutely
    nothing at all.

    Jack’s Mother was barely there for him, but she was The
    Monster he knew. When Jack was eighteen he had the
    opportunity to visit and then live with his father for a while.
    Now Jack had to figure out how not to become ‘A Monster’.


    see the prompt (and definition for Autodidacticism here:

    • Charli Mills

      That opening line grabs me. Not knowing can grow into it’s own kind of monster. Your flash examines those family dynamics and I can feel for Jack’s plight.

      • julespaige

        Sometimes children learn the right way or ways of kindness in spite of childhoods that were not idyllic.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Tony!

  17. Charli Mills

    A creative way to develop time span in 99 words.


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