February 22: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

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

February 22, 2018

White stretches all the way to nowhere. The apex kisses the horizon in secret and white cannot be separated from white like marble lips locked in eternity. Lady Lake is Michelangelo and sculpts her Superior domain into classical form. This is Keweenaw Bay.

Highway 2 curves around the bay and if I turn and look northeast I can glimpse this endless white where it’s impossible for me to discern the frozen lake from the cloudy sky.

Once beyond the bay, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan emerges a wintery forested wilderness. Lodgepole pines and slender, leafless birch cluster across rolling hills and open up to lakes and streams. The snowpack doesn’t measure up to a third of what the Keweenaw has and yet there’s plenty for snowmobilers.

Small towns come in and out of view as we drive through. We are headed to one of the largest rural VA hospitals in the nation — Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center. Everyone we’ve encountered in the medical system has been top-notch, but chasing down resolutions is like chasing unicorns.

Do the answers really exist?

Today, we had breakthroughs and more tests scheduled. Today, we gained a glimmer of hope.

Look, there she goes — the last unicorn. The maiden’s quest and protector, the unicorn has hidden since the rise of western civilization. Perhaps as women claim their bodies and voices, their lives and livelihoods, the unicorns will return.

But we have our own Carrot Ranch mythology when it comes to unicorns. When the literary community first began to solidify, we discovered that with safe space to explore we turned to dark writing. In retrospect, it signaled that we were willing to risk writing deeper into our truths and imagination. We trusted each other enough to present writing we wouldn’t typically pen or share.

It was a validating moment.

To lighten the mood I joked that we’d take on writing “unicorns and rainbows” next. The official prompt was “mythical creatures,” and it gave way to more dark writing and yet became one of the most profound collections we’ve assembled at Carrot Ranch. It is now Chapter 12 in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. And why we have a unicorn in our book trailer:

Work has begun on Vol. 2. In September, I put out a call for Rough Writers, and we added to the fold. From this group, 30 writers are participating in building a unique anthology that begins with 99 words first crafted here. It’s a process that will see fruition by the end of 2018.

Everyone who writes here has an essential identity from Welcomed Lurker to Constant Ranch-Hands to Ranch Ambassadors to Rough Writers to Friends to Patrons to Readers. We are all part of Buckaroo Nation — a status the community has bestowed upon those who write at Carrot Ranch. Our community is vibrant with creativity and diversity; our mission is simple — make literary art accessible.

To that goal, the Ranch is what you make of it. Bloggers can find their way through Carrot Ranch to a hub of important and exciting blogs. Fictioneers can participate in a prompt and discover other prompts within the greater community. Memoirists can find other like-minded writers. Same goes for most genres. Authors can find a platform that extends their own and newbies can learn from those with more experience.

Flash fiction is both a fun and worthy literary form, as well as a writing tool. You can learn more about my thoughts on the power of flash fiction here. You can also extend your writing reach as a guest essayist or taking on an advanced fiction challenge here. Raw Literature is a series that allows us all to discuss what we write, how, and why. You can join in every Tuesday.

Because the mission of Carrot Ranch Literary Community is accessibility, I want to make sure everyone here has a chance to participate in Vol. 2. I’m opening a section for “Friends” that will include responses to a new prompt. Because this is a published book, I will work with each writer to polish their submissions. You will get a bio along with our Rough Writers. It’s an excellent opportunity to build your writing portfolio.

If you are interested, please respond by March 14, 2018:

February 22, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a unicorn. It can be realistic or fantastical. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by February 27, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 28). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

NOTE: The following is from The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1.

The Secret Stall by Charli Mills

“I don’t wanna pick blackberries. They got too many thorns.” Libby stuck her throbbing thumb in her mouth.

“Look, Libby’s a baby.” Her brother Joe pointed, and their cousins laughed. Libby headed to the barn. The cat was nicer than these five boys.

“Here kitty…” She could hear boy-chatter across the yard. It was dark inside. A shuffle sounded from behind the farm tractor. Careful not to trip over tools, Libby made her way to the back where a glow in the stall revealed a shining horn.

It was attached to a unicorn sleeping on a pile of quilts.

###

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248 Comments

  1. Eric Pone

    I would like to submit to the Anthology this year. Can you email details. Please.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Eric! I have you down and will have more details to send you after March 14.

      • Eric Pone

        Yay!!

      • Charli Mills

        😀

    • Shallow Reflections

      I guess it would be a tough relationship if one person believes in unicorns and the other does not. Is there counseling for that?

      • Charli Mills

        If there isn’t, there might need to be!

    • Charli Mills

      Eric, I chuckle at the assumption between Tolkien and unicorns because it’s weirdly true — no unicorns led a hobbit’s quest, but those who don’t read fantasy would assume unicorn associations!

      • Eric Pone

        I am working on dialogue construction.

      • Charli Mills

        Dialog is a heavy-hitter in a writer’s tool-box and a smart craft technique to work on. You can set the pace with “snappy” back-and-forth dialog and also slow it down by adding content in between statements. You can create tension, build mystery and reveal surprises.

        Technically, keep a few key points in mind: the best dialog tag is the one writers tend to find the most boring: he said/she says. Use asks/asked for questioning. She “pontificated” or he “angrily confessed” might sound good to our ears as we write but they break a reader code of clarity. If she is expressing something in a pompous way, show how her mannerisms reflect what she says. If he is angry, show angry actions or words. But stick to said/says as your dialog tags.

        Another technical tip is to use action or details to indicate who is speaking. Often, we have a clear idea of the conversation in our head, but when you revise, consider reader clarity. How will the reader keep track of who is speaking without relying upon dialog tags for every turn of conversation. However, if you want that fast pace, keep extra content to a minimum or not at all.

        A final technical point is structure. Flash fiction is a place for us to explore structure and I try to be mindful of intentional styles. It’s also interesting to note that structure differs between British English and American English (the use of quotation marks and line spacing).

        As an American writer these are common dialog structures for you to consider (British styles differ, and some writers experiment with poetic license but to begin with know the common basics):

        1. Dialog is set within double quotation marks. “How nice,” she said.
        2. Punctuation goes in the quotation marks. “Why do we care?” He scratched his chin.
        3. If you adhere to a specific style (even American stylebooks differ between journalism, personal essays and literary writing) stick to one. Be consistent, which is the point of style. It creates structural clarity for you to build your stories upon.
        4. Lines of dialog between characters are separated by lines and action stays with the speaker. For example:

        “Is that the kind of shirt you’d wear to a party?” Carrie asked.

        Simon shrugged. “It looks fine to me.”

        Carrie’s frown lines deepened. “The color is washed out and the style is so 1986.”

        “Get a life, Carrie.” Simon crumpled his empty punch cup, the styrofoam giving way to his grasp.

        Martha walked up to the couple she’d known for ten years. “Hey, you guys doing all right?”

        Simon stormed off and Carrie slumped into a chair with tears in her eyes. “Some party,” she said.

        ###

        Glad you brought up a craft technique that I could address for anyone else interested in working on dialog. I love dialog, and like other writers, I’m always striving to overcome issues of tone, meaning, and clarity. It’s good to stick to basic structures that your readers understand and recognize. Unless you are into experimental language stories, stick to the basics.

        We did have an entry this week (published in the Of Unicorns collection) by joem18 that used experimental punctuation and dialog. It works because it remains clear who is talking and it addsto the youthful demeanor of the story’s narrator.

        Hope you all find this helpful! It helps me to know where our community writers are looking to work on craft.

      • Norah

        This is great information about dialogue, Charli. It is frustrating that each country has its own style. Punctuation of dialogue is a sticking point for me. Australian publishers prefer single inverted commas, but children in school are taught double. They call them sixty-sixes and ninety-nines. I have chosen to use double in all my stories as that’s what the children are taught. I figure that, on my website, I’m the publisher and I can choose, so that’s what I choose. When I submit to a publisher, of course I will have to “submit” to their requirements.

  2. calmkate

    oh lovely!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate! I’m going to take that as you like unicorns. 😉

      • calmkate

        lol never been into them until your challenge Charli, I like to stretch my repertoire, thanks for the opportunity!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! You know, I used to feel the same way. I was into horses, not unicorns. But the first time we wrote about them four years ago it changed my mind. Glad to have another convert!

  3. Norah

    Hi Charli, I hope the help from the VA is more tangible than a unicorn, but that good things shine through like the glow of the unicorn’s horn.
    Your earth to sky white is matched by our earth to sky grey today. The state is covered by cloud and the sky is crying. Many parts are very grateful as they were dry. Other parts are getting too much. Why can we never be content with the weather?
    I might just have to dig Marnie’s unicorn out of that rubbish bin where she discarded it and see where it takes me (or her) again. I hope we enjoy the ride. Take care all.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli,
      I’m back with my contribution to the collection “Unicorns aren’t real”. https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-15x

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, I’m convinced I’ll ride a unicorn before we ever complete access to healthcare through the VA. But that doesn’t stop me from hoping for the glow of a unicorn’s horn. Perhaps you have unicorn tears raining down on you. Svea was another island recently beset by rain and gray, but odd given it is in the arctic! I’m looking forward to your post and seeing if Marnie has made another appearance.

      • Norah

        I do hope you don’t have to ride a unicorn before you receive the help you need. Riding a unicorn would be a great way of celebrating! The weather has shown many changes recently, in many places around the world.

      • Charli Mills

        Some people believe climate change is as mythical as unicorns. I’ve been following scientists and environmentalists with great interest since 1998. The extremes in weather events that they spoke of, we are seeing. What is difficult to answer is what do we do as world citizens? But philosophy teaches us that climate change exists because claims that it doesn’t exist proves its existence (do I have that right?). Off to find my unicorn ride! 🙂

      • Norah

        I think you’ve got that right about the existence of climate change. I wish we could will away the existence of other ills by obliterating them from our vocabulary; like violence, war, discrimination …

  4. Frank Hubeny

    Unicorn

    Generally two of something balance better aesthetically and provide depth of experience, but I only had one horn growing out of the top of my head.

    I wasn’t disabled or anything, but who would hire me? If you didn’t look at the horn, which was hard not to, I actually looked pretty good.

    Kids bullied me because of the horn. I fought back. I did that a lot. I got real good at it. I mean it was fun. They sent me to the Riverland State Detention Facility and cut off my horn.

    So, yeah, I was a unicorn.

    • Charli Mills

      Brilliant to take what we know about unicorns and apply it to something surprising about the narrator. A great story about identity, Frank.

      • Frank Hubeny

        Thank you!

    • Norah

      Bullying is a terrible ill. I feel sad that a unicorn should be bullied, I feel even sadder for innocent children who suffer bullying.

  5. floatinggold

    I have to admit that I wasn’t sure what the requirements for those submissions are. I’m interested, but not sure if I qualify, etc. My apologies if I’m being a nuisance, but I would appreciate some more clarification on how, where and what.

    • Charli Mills

      Good questions! Right now I’m taking a head count for writers who would be interested. As far as qualifications, what is key is that you are part of the community — writing, reading, commenting. I’ll have a challenge to offer to writers (99-words) so it’s a form that you are familiar with. After March 14, I’ll email the details.

      • floatinggold

        Great! Thank you! Can’t wait.

    • Nicole

      njoyslife.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/unicorn-a-cautionary-tale/

      • Nicole

        Thank you! I am new to this and can easily make a mess of things!

      • Jules

        No worries, we are all friendlies here.
        (…believe me when I tell you I’m no techie.)
        🙂

      • Jules

        (Blue or what ever color the link is at the site you are at… here it is red…I keep forgetting that).

      • Charli Mills

        And I’ll be along to fix any broken links, too, like the link unicorn of the Ranch. ????

    • Shallow Reflections

      A corn eating unicorn! I always wondered what they ate. 😉

      • Nicole

        I have it on good authority – they definitely prefer fictional corn.

      • Shallow Reflections

        Ahh, that makes perfect sense!

      • Nicole

        ????

    • Charli Mills

      Nicole, I know this monstrosity and I can’t wait for the arrival of TimesUp! Great use of mythology to tell a modern tale of greed an injustice.

      • Nicole

        Thank you! Me too!

  6. denmaniacs4

    Magical Thinking

    It could have been a unicorn except for the fact that it wasn’t. The fact was…it was a cat.

    The truth didn’t matter to Mulroney.

    On that day when his mind snapped, all he cared about was a memory from his magical childhood, a dream of a thousand magnificent unicorns scampering in the sky.

    The next morning, he begged his parents to come outside and bear witness.

    They humoured him, said, “yes, we see them.”

    “Why did you lie?” the doctor asked.

    “He was so excited,” they replied.

    “The world will crush him,” the doctor predicted with uncanny accuracy.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    • Juliet

      Beautifully sad.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Awwwe, that was so sad. Just because no one else can see it doesn’t mean it’s not real. It is, for him.

    • paulamoyer

      Oh, so sad!

    • Shallow Reflections

      Loving parents, overlooking reality to enjoy a moment with their son.

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      A sad truth. And a good reminder that perception is reality, no matter what anyone else says or sees.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Bill, so much emotion raised in this flash from delight to sorrow.

  7. Juliet

    Ooooh, a lovely one, Charli. I’m definitely in as a Friend and have pressed the submit button. Work beckons but I’ll be back later. I have a little inkling of an idea as I munch my toast????

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you like unicorns. Juliet! And I have you on the Friends list. I’ll email more details March 15.

      • Juliet

        Great. Looking forward to that! ????

  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    On the Horn of a Dilemma

    “Jeez, Pal. Do ya know what she wants this week?! Ain’t right fer a place that goes on about diversity an’ all. Shorty’s been on the road, musta got brainwashed.”
    “Kid, jist calm yersef.”
    “Wunder what color?”
    “Kid, they can be any color you want.”
    “Yeah, right. They’ll be all the same, all regulated. Why ain’tcha bothered, Pal? Oh, did Shorty give ya epaulets, make ya feel impotent?”
    “That’s important and WHAT?”
    “Uniforms, Shorty says uniforms now at Buckaroo Nation. Seems a might imperialistic ta me.”
    “Kid, we’re to get unicorns, not uniforms.”
    “Oh.”
    “Yeah.”
    “That’s weird.”
    “Jest ride.”

    • Annecdotist

      Love this! I might just cheat and write uniforms!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        While Shorty’s not looking, let’s design the emperialistic Buckaroo Nation uniform.

    • Juliet

      Dang D! I love it.

    • denmaniacs4

      some delicious Leo Gorcey-like malapropisms here. Which is a compliment just in case someone thinks a Bowery Boy reference is a lesser observation…

    • Jules

      At least a patch we can attach to our dungaree jackets:

      “Rough Writers of the Buckaroo Nation”
      With a unicorn!

      • Charli Mills

        Working on it! 😉

      • Norah

        Love your idea, Jules. 🙂

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha ha ha

    • paulamoyer

      Ha, ha!

    • Shallow Reflections

      Love this! And since I’m getting to an age when I have some trouble hearing, it is totally believable!

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      Hah! Love it!

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a mighty fine story of word confusion from our dear Pal and Kid! D, I laughed over the impotent/important and unicorns/uniforms. Wondered what Kid had in his craw! No imperialism today but we’ll rise up when and where literary art is needed.

    • Norah

      I don’t know how you bring these out each week, D. I think you’re the one who’s been brainwashed. Your stories are always so clever, and I know I’m in for a smile – that’s always a good thing.

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Jest Quest

    Uni-corns?
    Yep.
    A-maizing. I dunno, Pal. I don’t know much ‘bout uni-corns.
    Break it down Kid. Ya know hosses?
    Ain’t my first time at the rodeo.
    An’ ya know longhorns?
    Well, sure, we’ve had our share a longhorns at the ranch.
    So jest round up a bronc with one long horn.
    Thinkin’ we’re gonna have ta ride a long ways fer this ‘un.
    Yep. Ta antiquity.
    Next ta Barbuda?
    No, into olden times, maybe even magical times.
    Think I’ll jest hang back this time.
    What’sa matter Kid?
    Um, jest read ya gotta be a Virginian ta catch a uni-corn.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Dang, Kid, betcha the forgotten quotation marks is killing’ ya.”
      “Betcha yer enjoyin’ that fact, Pal.”
      “Yep.”
      “Are you a Virginian Pal?”
      “Shush, Kid.”

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! No worries — I found a magical unicorn and it sprayed rainbows and quotation marks!

    • Juliet

      I’m laughin’ mighty hard here!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Are you from Virginia? These two seem to think they need to ride with someone from Virginia.

      • Juliet

        Where’s Virginia? I’m from Bonnie Scotland!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “Aussie! Help me take down these dang posters the Kid put up.”
      “I’d be happy to Pal… ‘Paying bonnie bitcoin for legit Virginians?’ Pal, what is the Kid up to now?”
      “It’s a long story, which has no place here.”
      “We’ll get these posters down in a flash.”

      • Norah

        I hope the posters are down now. There were in bad taste. 🙂

    • Jules

      Awe I’m a Pennsylvanian … (well now anyways. I’m a native Floridian…)
      And golly… after a couple of kiddos… I ain’t no Virginian….
      😀

    • anuragbakhshi

      Virginian…ha ha ha ha ha.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Tell Kid I think it’s okay to be a West Virginian, too!

    • Norah

      I read it perfectly without the quotation marks. (I’m a good reader, mostly!) Except I didn’t get the Virginian joke. (I’m also a bit naive.) Thanks to Jules for explaining it quietly to me. 🙂

    • Shallow Reflections

      No damsels in distress in this story thanks to Rex!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kay, got you down on the Friends list! More info via email March 15.

    • Norah

      Great story. You’re riding fine to meet the challenge.

      • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

        Thanks, Norah! I really enjoyed your Flash about unicorns too. Made me chuckle at the end 😉

      • Norah

        Thank you, Kay. I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

  10. Juliet

    Hi, I’m back already. Shhh don’t tell the boss. Flash beckoned more than work tasks. Anyway, here’s this week’s offering. A silly, fluffy one for a change. Must be because the sun is shining here at last 🙂

    Miss Meadows

    As soon as they saw her impish, sparkling face they had to name her Aurn.

    They saw their families feign smiles, and they heard the whispers whenever they took her out.

    “Such a pretty child. But what an ugly name. They should have called her Daisy or Lily or Rose. She would go far in life as Daisy Meadows”. Then they laughed.

    Aurn heard too. But she really didn’t care. She knew why they had done it. They reminded her every night.

    “Why do we love you so much?”

    “Because I am unique.”

    “Yes, our little glittery unique Aurn.”

    • Jules

      How can you surprise a Unicorn…
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .

      Unique up on him.

      • Charli Mills

        😀

    • anuragbakhshi

      Awwe, so cute.

      • Juliet

        Thanks! Sugar n’ spice mood this week.

    • Charli Mills

      Clever play on words, Juliet! No worries — you boss doesn’t need to know you took a unicorn break!

    • Jules

      Interestingly enough… our grocery store now sells beer. And you can mix up your bottles in a six pack. I haven’t seen any Unicorn brews… but there are some strangely name ales and brews!

      • bowmanauthor

        There’s an Elephant Beer!

      • Jules

        Well if you can have special coffee that’s been processed through a Monkey… yep it exists… I guess you can have Elephant Beer. Puts a new spin on when some one says their beer tastes a bit ‘off’… 😉

      • bowmanauthor

        Yes, I know the monkey coffee procedure. Thankfully, the Elephant beer is merely symbolic.Danish, I think.

    • Shallow Reflections

      If you drink enough of these, you will see real unicorns!

      • weejars

        Maybe that’s why they named it so! It DID have a very high alcohol content!

    • Charli Mills

      Unicorns can elicit such, Sarah!

  11. Annecdotist

    Yay, unicorns again! Got mine in early (though not as early as many others, I see), paired with my Times Past memoir post:
    Learning to write http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/02/learning-to-write.html
    I hope your trip to the hospital was profitable. There’s not much difference between sky and ground here right now, although last night’s hard frost is starting to melt away.

    • Charli Mills

      Without even looking, I can still call to mind your first unicorn flash, Anne. It left a mark on my memory, how it made me think of puberty and transitions. Good call to pair it with Times Past!

      The usual compliant — the VA moves like sludge. We get brilliant insights and more tests (wait until April, now). The psychologist we met with was an expert in body language and expressions so on that account, I was fascinated. Enjoy your Beast from the East!

      • Annecdotist

        Interesting that she’s assessing body language!
        Yes, the beast is here, thick snow and blizzards closing down the country! I’ll have to revisit some of your posts for survival tips at low temperatures.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, no, Anne! Hunker down and hide from the Beast with warm blankets, hot tea, and good books. He must be a friend of the Lady Lake. Take care!

        And yes, the feedback on expressions (asking, “What this about, why do you do that when you say…”) was enlightening.

  12. pensitivity101

    Hi Charli. Yes, I’d be interested in being considered for the ‘Friends’ new section if I could qualify.

    • Charli Mills

      Of course, you do, Di! You are definitely a Friend! I have you on the list and plan to email everyone on March 15. Can you shoot me your email address at wordsforpeople@gmail.com?

      • pensitivity101

        Email details sent

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, Di!

  13. Ann Edall-Robson

    Grandpa’s Imagination
    by Ann Edall-Robson

    “Come quick, Maggie. I told you they were still around.”?

    “Where, Grandpa, where? I don’t see anything.”

    “You have to look really close, across the field, near the far corner.”

    “I don’t see anything! Show me, show me. I don’t want to miss it. Summer’s almost over and you said you have only seen them in August.”

    “Oh, there were a few in September, once.”

    “I still can’t see it.”

    “It’s over there, beside the willow bush.”

    “Grandpa! That’s a cob of corn!”

    “Yup, I told you, a uni-corn. One cob of corn left to harvest.”

    “Oh, Grandpa…”

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/grandpas-imagination

    • Juliet

      Lovely one, Ann.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Grandpa seems to be adept at pulling legs 🙂

    • Shallow Reflections

      I can hear grandpa laughing at the great word play he pulled off while pulling his granddaugher’s leg. 🙂

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      Haha! Cute one!

    • Charli Mills

      Grampa is one step ahead of them (he probably practiced on his kids, too)! A sweet flash, Ann.

  14. paulamoyer

    This one pulled me out of my BOTS zone, Charli!

    Magical Appearance

    By Paula Moyer

    Eight-year=old Jean loved the fairy tale book at her grandmother’s. A glossy, dark green cover, illustrations with every story. Big, thick, and heavy.

    One afternoon she brought the hefty volume to the back yard. Perched in the white Adirondack chair, she turned the pages in complete absorption.

    When the Rose-of-Sharon bush rustled, she didn’t look up. Just the ubiquitous Oklahoma wind. The stomp roused her.

    Then Jean saw the small, white horse through the leaves. Oddly calm.

    When Jean reached up to pet its nose, she saw it. The conical tusk.

    “It’s true.” The horse spoke! “We are real.”

    • anuragbakhshi

      Of course they are 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      You surprised me with this one, Paula! You lept off the edge of BOTS and landed in fiction. 🙂

      • paulamoyer

        Yup! The fairy tale book and the Adirondack chair are BOTS. I don’t think there were any unicorn stories in the book, and I am sure that my grandmother would not have let me take a book outside. But yeah! Fiction!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Great use of mixed elements!

    • bowmanauthor

      Lovely fantasy.

      • pensitivity101

        Thank you.

    • paulamoyer

      What a gem!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Paula!

    • Charli Mills

      Such a classical story in flash. Well done, Di!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli. It was a lovely image to work with.

  15. Colleen Chesebro

    Unicorns? Did you suggest that especially for me??? LOVE me some unicorns! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! I figured you’d be loving the unicorns, Colleen! ????

    • Shallow Reflections

      That mother is never going to win this battle with the ex! LOL.

      • Ritu

        Lol!

    • paulamoyer

      Ha, ha! Gotta love Amazon.

      • Ritu

        You just gotta! ????

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, that’s an unfair advantage pulled by Dad! A good dose of humor!

      • Ritu

        Glad you enjoyed Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      Now we know where they are hiding! Thanks, Denise!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Stephanie! Good to see a fellow Keweenaw writer venture here! Both your unicorn versions are spectacular.

      • SBibb

        Thanks! I couldn’t resist… I enjoy unicorn lore. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for chasing after the unicorns, Michael!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Moral of the story: don’t piss off Grandma!

      • floridaborne

        I have a tshirt that says, “Age and Treachery always triumphs over youth and skill.” Yep. Don’t piss off grandma. 🙂

  16. dgkaye

    Wonderful post and opportunity you offer Charli. Could you tell us a bit more about what the ‘friend’ signup is for. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for asking, Debby!

      The Congress of Rough Writers is the core of Carrot Ranch. We go a step further than writing together in a community and building a collaborative book based on what we began with 99 words. 30 is a manageable number of writers to bring together. We had an open call to get new Rough Writers in September. We now have our 30 writers for Vol. 2.

      However, we have far more writers than 30 at Carrot Ranch and connecting communities. I wanted to involve more writers without increasing the core of Vol. 2. Thus the “Friends” opportunity. Depending upon how many writers respond between now and March 14 I will work with them to create a new section in Vol. 2. We did that in Vol. 1 with new Rough Writers who were too new to have many flash fictions to build from in the anthology.

      I’ll email anyone who is interested with specific details and timeline on March 15.

      • dgkaye

        Oh fantastic Charli. I’ll look forward to an email. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ruchira. I’m grateful for a beautiful drive. We have to make it often enough!

  17. Kerry E.B. Black

    Youthicorn
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    It sparkles in my periphery, silver as moonlight and as illusive. When I turn to catch it with my full gaze, it flees swifter than a shy spirit. Still I feel its unfailing goodness.

    I used to be good, too, used to befriend the creature that haunts the corners of my consciousness. That was long ago, before age and experience settled upon my shoulders like cloaks layered atop one another. Before I lost my innocent interpretations and bowed to cynicism.

    Now its glinting horn points to my failure, the unicorn that was but will never again exist for me.

    • Juliet

      Bring that unicorn back, Kerry.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Awwwe, it’s still there, they’re magical creatures, remember? They don’t die that easily.

    • Charli Mills

      Good one, Kerry! Such an apt description of aging — it’s not the loss of memory, hair or shape. It’s the added weight of cynicism.

  18. Marje @ Kyrosmagica

    I’d love to have a go Charli for the anthology. Is this prompt with the anthology in mind? By the way I love the unicorn prompt that’s so cool, will definitely see if I can rustle something up. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Marje! I got you on the list and you’ll get an email March 15.

  19. Marje @ Kyrosmagica

    Reblogged this on M J Mallon Author and commented:
    A great opportunity by Charli at Carrot Ranch Literary Community to be featured in her anthology. And the prompt is so awesome – Unicorns – how can I say no!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Adele!

      • Adele Marie

        My pleasure. xxx

  20. Abby

    Okay, first thought was ‘fantasy? not my thing!’, second was to reflect on what is precious. An experimental piece emerged. Collateral Damage-Zen Style

    Very happy to submit to the anthology if you feel I would add to it, Charli. Let me know. x

    • Abby

      And my link is not working again. I’ll fix that by next week, honest!

      ismidlifeliminal.wordpress.com/2018/02/24/collateral-damage-zen-style/

      • Charli Mills

        It’s okay! I’m the link unicorn of the Ranch! ????

      • Abby

        Magic ??tah dah ??????????? you’re the best ????

      • Charli Mills

        It took a few unicorns even for me to get it right!

    • Charli Mills

      I like how your thought processes went, Abby. It pushed you to think outside the expected. And yes — I’d welcome your participation in the anthology. Send me your email (wordsforpeole@gmail.com) and I’ll give you details after March 14.

      • Abby

        Emailed 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Timely for unicorns!

      • calmkate

        lol thought I’d add that for humour … mystery and humour surround unicorns 🙂

    • Lisa A. Listwa

      I love this one!

      • wallietheimp

        Thank you 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Good to know Wallie likes unicorns! They are hanging out at the Ranch.

  21. susansleggs

    My Secret Friend

    My homework was late again and my grades were dropping.
    My English teacher said sadly, “How long has your Mom been in the hospital this time?”
    “Six weeks.”
    “I’m sorry. Try to do better getting your homework done. Are you all right at home alone so much?”
    “Yes. I go for a lot of walks in the woods. It’s quiet there and I like to watch the chipmunks. They make me laugh.”
    “You’re sure it’s safe.”
    “Yes. I never see another human.” I didn’t tell her about the unicorn that walks with me. I knew she wouldn’t believe me.

    https://susansleggs.com/2018/02/24/my-secret-friend-flash-fiction/

    • anuragbakhshi

      Awwe, such a touching story.

      • susansleggs

        Thank you

    • Charli Mills

      Great use of adding a fantasy twist to concrete details. You created a story where I wanted to see this child have the comfort of a unicorn.

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Charli, BOTS, my own, just no real unicorn.

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes, I think a child in such a situation does survive through imagination. Sounds like a caring teacher and a hard time.

    • Charli Mills

      Maybe that will be your extra credit, Colleen! Sounds like a unicorn might be your muse.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Awww, Thanks, Charli ????????

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Annette!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Patrick!

    • Charli Mills

      The philosophy and conclusion make for a beautiful story, Reena!

  22. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/singing-their-joy/

    Singing Their Joy

    The People hear their clan singing their joy at returning, their chirps and squeals, their clicking talk. The People gather to greet them, also singing happiness, laughter and talk. For both clans it is a time of feasting.
    The men joke as they keep watch. We can see the ivory horns, but these ones are too far off, these ones are not ready. Hundreds more will swim by. There will be those who will come close, to be received by the People. We are grateful, waste nothing. We carve their stories in ivory, so the tuugaalik will live forever.

    • Charli Mills

      Real unicorns swim the arctic waters feeding on krill. Nice one, D.!

  23. Shallow Reflections

    I’ve grown to love the Carrot Ranch, and I’m hoping it’s not a passing infatuation. Getting a medical diagnosis can seem like chasing unicorns or trying to distinguish the horizon from lake when there is only white. I hope you have answers soon. In the meantime, I love the book trailer, and the community. Here is my entry for the week. I’m relieved it doesn’t entail winter or ice. It’s called Friendship is blind:
    🙂 https://www.shallowreflections.com/friendship-blind-flash-fiction/

    • Abby

      Love this one 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’m so pleased the Ranch has grown on you, Molly. I certainly enjoy your participation and humor. Although your flash this week was a touch of humanity for a new unicorn and a blind friend. That seems to sum up the best friendships! I love the book trailer, too! Thank you!

      • Shallow Reflections

        Thank you, Charli. I love to write humor but I reserve the right to be more serious from time to time. Where ever the prompt leads, right? ??????

      • Charli Mills

        That’s right! By learning to follow that instinct we learn to write what is authentic to each of us. <3

  24. Jules

    Charli,
    I hope all the testing goes well. I enjoyed your enchantment.
    I combined some prompts to get my own fragment. 😉

    (See the Title Link for all the prompts squished in this 99 word segment. )

    The Rescue?

    So deep into the forest to the place of ‘dried rose petals
    lacing her memories of bouquets’ that were only imagined.
    Into the spaces where spider’s abandoned webs created
    ‘filaments of dust written in a dead language…’ That is
    where the trance took her. She thought to decree her life
    was full of worth, yet it appeared stygian.

    Until a hoof attached to an appendage of a dream rested
    near her knee as she sat upon the end of old wooden road.
    All she had to do was accept ‘this’ fate – and never return to
    reality. The unicorn concurred.

    ©JP/dh

    • anuragbakhshi

      And I concur too 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      A lovely escape and a fine mashup, Jules. I’m impressed at the depths you go to mine language, prompts and even comments. That’s literary art!

    • Charli Mills

      Not a problem, Deborah! Digital allows for correcting or erasing. 🙂 And welcome to Carrot Ranch!

      • bowmanauthor

        Thank you, Charli! So nice to meet you. I’m still finding my way with flash fiction, but I love the creativity and imagination in the incredibly different responses. Wonderful to read!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anurag! And I have you on the list with details forthcoming after March 14. Good to have you on board!

  25. anuragbakhshi

    And all the best for the tests Charli, fingers crossed, or should I say, hooves crossed. I’m sure your personal unicorn is watching over you guys.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks! I’ll keep a lookout for that personal unicorn. 😉

  26. Chelsea Owens

    Astrael held his breath tightly, lightly. From opposite the clearing, his fine-tuned ears made out the slight shhhh of ground foliage against itself.

    He heard it over the slight babbling of the small stream. He sensed it amongst nighttime warblings of crickets and insomniac fairy chatter.

    Full moon skylight pulled free of the clouds, sending winking water reflections from the circled group of trees. He pulled farther behind the ferns and now-sparkling trunk which concealed him.

    Just then, she came. Majestically, silently, carefully into the open space stepped the unicorn.

    Just as silently and carefully, Astrael raised his bow.

    https://chelseaannowens.com/2018/02/25/moonlit-magic/

    • Charli Mills

      Great soundscape: “…warblings of crickets and insomniac fairy chatter.”

  27. joem18b

    my contribution: https://joem18b.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/unicorn/

    my mama told me not to hang round rufus. don’t see that boy no more. he’s not our kind she said.

    he’s my kind i said.

    your young just horsing around my papa said your not stable yet. it’s your first rodeo.

    he’s lasso’d my heart i said.

    he wrangled your brain, papa said.

    i forbid you mama said but without disrepecting her wishes i respected mine more and rufus and i galloped into the woods behind our barn. the moon was full and i was left unsupervised as the t-shirt says.

    now i’m mama of the world’s first zebra-corn.

    • Abby

      I love the way you’ve written this. The language and lack of punctuation just lift it so well. And the pragmatic ‘everyday’ family conversation contrasted with the fantastical subject matter is a great idea.

    • Charli Mills

      Great use of language and wordplay. You’ve captured a rebellious teen spirit and the result, well, humorous!

      • joem18b

        🙂

  28. Sherri Matthews

    Hi Charli! At last, I made it over here to start the week off on a better footing…ever the optimist, right?! My first gallop to the Ranch came just after your first ‘mythical creature’ prompt, so I’m excited to get a second chance with your unicorn prompt! I hope and pray your answers aren’t as elusive as a unicorn though… Just confirming you have me down for Vol 2 so I don’t need to submit above? I’ll fly in with a flash shortly 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills

      You galloped in at a good spot, Sherri! Unicorns have a magical touch on stories. You are good to go on Vol. 2! I’m trying to make room for all our wonderful friends at the Ranch so I have a special prompt planned. Thanks for stopping by! <3 ????

      • Sherri Matthews

        Aww…love the emojie 🙂 Thanks so much Charli, looking forward to your special prompt! <3

    • Charli Mills

      That’s interesting heather — perhaps what the purity of the unicorn reflects back to us are our own flaws. I’m glad you stuck with it!

  29. Michael B. Fishman

    This sentence made me sad – “Do the answers really exist?” I hope they do and I hope you guys got some answers from the new tests and gained a little more hope. I guess unicorns are cool but in the realm of magical creatures I like mermaids more. And griffins (but not as much as mermaids!). Anyway, here’s my stab at this week’s unicorn prompt:
    https://michaelsfishbowl.com/2018/02/26/party-animal-carrot-ranch-flash-fiction-challenge/

    • Charli Mills

      Unicorns have grown on me, Michael! Although, I think I like the Phoenix best of the mythological creatures. Thank you, we will keep looking for answers.

  30. Dickensian

    The end of Magic

    She had grazed in these fields since the beginning of time. But it was all over now. The last unicorn raised her head and looked around. She would miss the lilac sky, the blue fields and the lakes of crimson.
    She knew what was happening. The number of people believing in magic, believing in her, was in decline. Hard, cold facts had taken over and people no longer dreamed. She lay down, breathing the sweet scent from the grass, ready to close her eyes one last time. But just as she thought it was all over, someone started dreaming.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch and thank you for a beautiful flash that reminds us to keep dreaming the unicorn dream.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Jack!

    • Charli Mills

      Unicorns are leading writers to some interesting stories. Thanks for sharing your Dealmakers experience and your nieces pony-unicorns of fondant, Robbie!

  31. Sherri Matthews

    Here’s my flash Charli, hope not too late! Thank you! <3

    Hidden Treasure

    “Someink wrong with this ‘orse.”

    “Ere…let me ‘ave a go.” Eve took the brush from Jim and replaced his rough bursts with soft, smooth strokes across the horse’s shoulders.

    “So white and pretty, you are me darlin’. How I would love to fly away with you…”

    Jim, close as breath, grabbed Eve by the back of her neck.

    “Shut the hell up, talkin’ like that. Ain’t I warned you enough times? Shut yer trap if you want the dosh.”

    Jim left for the pub.

    Eve kept brushing, smiling through tears as she caressed the nub of a first wing.

    • Abby

      Ooh, escape! Great ending.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you Abby! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, this one is going to fly and take Eve with her! Great use of dialog, too. I felt grabbed into the story and ready to take flight with Eve. Good one, Sherri!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Oh thank you Charli – you made my day! Come fly with me – or Eve! 😀 <3

  32. Lisa A. Listwa

    Would you believe the unicorn stumped me? I thought I had an idea, but then…pfft.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Yes, I believe it. I felt bad for following it up with a raven but I quothe, nevermore on the mystical creatures for a while!

      • Lisa A. Listwa

        The raven I can do. The unicorn not so much. 😀

  33. bowmanauthor

    I love what you did with this. So insightful and meaningful.

  34. Charli Mills

    Beautifully lyrical Rugby, and deeply powerful.

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sue!

  36. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Deborah!

  37. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Rebecca!

  38. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Molly!

  39. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Matt!

  40. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Geoff!

  41. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Lisa!

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  16. Friendship is blind - #flash fiction - Shallow Reflections - […] via Carrot Ranch Literary Community – February 22 Flash Fiction Challenge […]
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