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September 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s not a stairway, but it is a path to Heaven. I’m walking cream-colored pavers, delighting in a profusion of white flowers from sweet alyssum that hugs the path to grand clusters of panicle hydrangea the color of vintage cotton. White daisies with dark centers nod to bumbles and spindly green stalks as tall as my hips explode with blazing white stars. I’m stunned by all the beauty as if the Milky Way took to seed here on earth.

The stairway is lined with books, writing quills, and instruments of science. The stairs themselves are crafted of wrought iron, spelling out the alphabet and hidden words. A fireplace with settee and chairs beckon the reader in us all with promises of tales to unfold. Downstairs more books line the walls, and two antique cubbies form nooks in green velvet. This is not the stairs to Heaven, but to a book-lover, it might as well be.

Appropriately, the stairs to book sub-heaven grace a cluster of buildings called The Fortress, Great Hall, Classroom and Library. In the middle of a square courtyard between castle and brick walls, an iron wizard stabs his staff into the ground and reaches heavenward (actually, Heaven is on a hill behind him).

Yet there be dragons! On the castle turret of the Fortress ringed in lightning rods, a flame-skinned dragon bares teeth and strikes a paw toward Heaven below. Another dragon snarls from a dungeon three stories below. Deep Space lies between, but first one must access a wizard’s alley, Kings Cross, a slide down the Rabbit Hole into Wonderland, a trek across a desert and more dragons, including one that protects a hoard of computer hardware.

You might be surprised to learn that my son, Runner, works near Heaven. His workplace is epic — a 950-acre campus of strange, fantastical and out-of-this-world offices, classrooms, and employee space comprising the Epic Systems Corporation Intergalactic Headquarters. It’s a software company to support the healthcare industry and is privately owned by the most successful female IT company founder in the world.

When Runner got the job five months ago, we celebrated his success. Friends in  healthcare gushed, “He must be so smart.” Epic has a reputation for hiring the most brilliant, and we always knew Runner was as bright as his sisters. He is a Project Manager, and it’s interesting to hear of his company’s value-based operations. I read them on a bathroom wall (and yes, the bathroom was epic).

Our running joke as Runner gave the family a tour was that everything lives up to the company name, including the wind turbines to power the campus, organic farms to feed the near-10,000 employees, underground parking garages, and an 11,000-seat stadium built five stories underground in a complex called Deep Space. I straddled a rattlesnake, battled dragons, and chased Alice down a slide to Wonderland. I walked down Diagon Alley, but by another name thus not to infringe upon HP copyrights. However, J.K. Rowling is quoted on several walls.

Here’s a drone-eye view of Epic:

You can also learn more about the company through stories and snapshots at Epic’s website.

We took a few photos of our own, although it was hard to break away from simply experiencing the place with Runner as our tour guide. Over the weekend, I saw other proud families grinning and gawking as sons and daughters led the way. My daughter joked that her brother joined a cult. My SIL wanted to join if only to play D&D on campus. He fell for the dragons.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We finished our tour just beyond Heaven at The Farm where cows and sheep lurk in the hallways. After an epic walk across campus, we grabbed Cow Bikes and pedaled back to The Fortress where Runner had parked his brand new Mini Cooper in the Great Abyss. We later enjoyed his mixology talents (he supported himself through college as a bartender), including a rum daiquiri Hemingway used to drink. Because we were in Wisconsin, I ate cheese every day I was there. Heaven!

One final word — as we continue to prepare for the Rodeo in October, 24-Hour Free-write contests to qualify as one of five writers to compete in The TUFFest Ride will post. I’m also looking for some more sponsors if you have a book or blog you might want to advertise. Use the contact form if you are interested.

Carrot Ranch is a literary community to engage and support all writers. If you want to claim Rancher Badges to support your own goals, you can contact me with your request as it is September already. And if you want to read how 99-words can help you get to 50,0000, I recently was asked to write for NaNoWriMo. You can also catch my latest marketing article at BadRedhead Media for Rachel Thompson.

Now, to write!

September 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It can be real or imagined. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 11, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. Rules & Guidelines.


Upward Mobility (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Mist rose from the pond with the morning coolness of a mountain camp at 7,000 feet. Danni stretched in sun salutations on the sagging porch of her Forest Service cabin while coffee percolated. The aroma grew strong, and she padded back inside on bare feet to pour a cup. The rest she saved for her thermos. As she drove her quad toward the archeological dig, Danni spotted elk, a skittering coyote and a Cooper’s hawk. At the worksite, trenches waited for the volunteers who would follow. She contemplated her epic workplace. At last, Danni would be the lead archeologist.


  1. syncwithdeep says:

    Oh lovely writeup and breathtaking video Charli.. I loved the playback music in the video.. Thanks for the video

  2. Norah says:

    Wow! What an epic workplace. Runner/Mixologist has done very well. Your saying that he was as clever as his sisters amused me. I’m sure there was never any doubt. Thanks for the links. I enjoyed finding out a little more about the organisation and its founder. I am impressed that she has pledged 99% of her assets to the Giving Pledge. She sounds like a reasonable employer with some interesting regulations e.g. dress. I’m not sure that I’ve ever experienced an epic workplace, but I’ll see how I go with the prompt.

    • I have a friend who worked for Epic when the company was much smaller; I’m really glad they’ve taken a lot of work environment lessons from when they were a startup company.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Oh, that’s interesting H.R.R. I think they started to build this “epic” campus in 2010. I’m sure it was intense to build a company like this from the ground up. The work environment now is amazing. But expectations of productivity and service are high.

      • Norah says:

        Sounds wonderful.

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s epic, including the dress code! I’m not sure I’d want to be there on a day when there are no visitors… Her pledge to philanthropy is amazing, following the lead of the Gates. When you see the campus, you can see how much energy and creativity is invested in making it a inspiring place to work.

    • Norah says:

      Hi Charli,
      Here’s my contribution: It’s EPIC.
      I hope you enjoy it.

      It’s EPIC

      Roll up! Roll up! Come one, come all. This new attraction will have you enthralled. Bring parents, bring partners, siblings and friends. No one’s excluded. It’s Earth’s latest trend. Your eyes won’t believe. Your ears won’t deceive. It’s a sensory explosion, for all to explore. It’s entertaining, electrifying, edifying too. It’s a universe first, and it happened on Earth. It’s empowering, engrossing. There’s so much to see. With no space left empty, it’s elaborate, exciting, extols energy. With exquisite exhibits and enlightening exposures, it’s the most, enticing, enriching, educational environment, established on Earth. It’s EPIC, the Exceptional Pinterest-Inspired Classroom.

  3. denmaniacs4 says:


    “He’s so young,” I can hear my mother say.

    “He’s fourteen,” my father states the obvious.

    “That’s what I mean. Delivering papers is one thing. People ask to have the paper delivered. They want kids delivering the news. But this?”

    I’ve been delivering the Snuffle River Clarion six days a week for three years. Seventy customers. That’s been my bar. It goes down every so often. People move. A few have died.

    But I ain’t a kid any longer.

    The future is in door-to-door.

    Watkins Products!


    Vegetable Oil Soap, ‘Pure Enough To Eat!’


    I’ll make a fortune.

  4. Virtual Reality

    “Jeez, Kid, that post was kinda trippy. Had ta wunder ‘bout Shorty fer a bit there…”
    “Trippy? Have ta wunder ‘bout you, Pal.”
    “It’s a wunder we git anythin’ done aroun’ here what with all the yackin’. Saddle up, Kid, it’s time ta ride.”
    “Pal, do we ride or write? This kin be punny place, I git confused.”
    “Reckon, you an’ me, we ride, jist do ranch-like chores.”
    “Good, writin’s too much work. I’d ruther be herdin’ strays, tendin’ the stock, ridin’ the range… It’s beautiful here.”
    “Yep. We really have an epic workplace, Kid.”
    “I imagin’ we do.”

  5. […] September 6 – Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  6. Hi Charli. I hope you like my effort this week

    A sign of the Times.

    Scott loved his job at the Living Museum. It was inspired, and different.
    Admittance was free, but there were warnings about laser lights and flashing images.
    Only fifty people were admitted at any one time, the doors closing behind them.
    The room was dark, save for a single spot of light on the far wall.
    The music started, loud and upbeat. Lights pulsed to the rhythm, and the magic began.
    Holographic figures moved amongst them, through them, so real and yet only a projected image. Patrons felt themselves drawn into a time past, present and future all at once.

  7. […] Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  8. weejars says:

    My effort this week is BOTS…picture of the rock included.

    Site is private but just request access to view

  9. […] Carrot Ranch September 6: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  10. […] was written for the weekly Carrot Ranch prompt.  The prompt this week was “awesome work places,” and I thought about how that is so […]

  11. Abhijit Ray says:

    Here is my link. I have also submitted in the section above.

  12. […] Linked to Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch. The prompt this week is “epic workplace”. Stories must be exactly 99 […]

  13. Frank Hubeny says:

    Epic Workplace

    Eric was a loner. That’s why he liked people. They were rare like deer or bear in the distance. He took a break from thinning paper company land with brush saw holstered on his back and his head lost in his helmet.

    He saw the hikers coming. One of them asked him if they were still on the Appalachian Trail. “Yes! Keep going. It’s right over there.” The trail wasn’t easy to see.

    Eric wondered why people walked that trail, but he was glad to see them. He was glad he could give someone good directions on their way.

  14. Ritu says:

    That truly sounds like an amazing place to work!
    Here’s my entry!

    • kayuk says:

      What an interesting cheese shop. I think there’s an expanded story there. I want to hear more about the Transylvanian Blue Vein and what happens if it gets out of its sealed cabinet.

  15. “I scrolled thru the pics. Ah, what an awesome place to read sci fi, fantasy… Wait! Is that Ms. Mills? And is that an EPIC WISCONSIN RATTLER??? Why does it have that glittering eye?? … I freeze with EPIC HORROR!!”

    Hi Charli,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences!


    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! There were so many reading nooks, Epic hidey-holes. I want there to be a Take-Your_Mother-to-Work Day so I could read. And yes, I’d bring my Brandon Sanderson or Robert Jordan. My SIL wanted to play D&D there. Mum on a Rattler and its eye was glittering because Heaven was across the pathway!

  16. Jules says:

    Charli and All –

    *I’m just glad I got my free write in before the phone rang… *

    Double Wow!! What a cool looking place to work and grow! Best to Runner!

    However, I’ve been up since 6 am. One of those days to get the Grand off to his school. Then I got a call from hubby – We were headed out of Dodge. Not much one can do while riding shot gun for about 8 hours… I might be retiring early – Since we may just be repeating this journey to head home tomorrow.

    But that’s not my Epic journey. It’s just my Hubby’s job to go where the clients have issues.

    So… More hopefully sooner, but maybe a day or two later….

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Jules! Sounds like you had an epic day or two of travel. His job is epic in that he responds to quickly to clients wherever they are. I hope your grandson is off to a great start in school this year. Thank you and best to you and your family!

  17. […] September 6: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  18. susansleggs says:

    Charli, My husband is an estimator in big construction, you could see the numbers racking up super quick as he read the description of Runners work place. What an accomplishment! My workplace is a happy messy place…..

    My Peaceful Workspace

    If someone asked where I would like to have an epic quilting space, I would answer, on a bluff overlooking the Oregon coast, or high in a sky scraper with lots of windows to admire the scenery day and night, or perhaps on Flathead Lake in Montana to view the mountains and water. But let’s be logical about this; if I’m sewing I’m not looking at a view. I think I’ll keep the 600 square feet in the basement of my current home. Peace resides there and my cats keep me company. Besides I’m usually working in my pajamas.

  19. […] Carrot Ranch: Epic September 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It can be real or imagined. Go where the prompt leads. Respond by September 11, 2018. […]

  20. Jules says:

    Charli and All,

    To get to that point to be at a place where you want to be – working or not – that is epic. I like how Dani has gotten to take the ‘Bull by the horns’ 🙂

    I went with fiction in a short sci fi bit…
    (Remember the icon goes to a closed site – if you want to go to the post use the title link – thank you.) Here:

    DracoMage Station

    DracoMage Station

    Would anyone believe me if I had told them my dream to get
    here had started with experiments in astral projection? What
    Mattered now was the height, width and breadth of the
    present gift. And that I was employed by those who
    specialized in making dreams come true.

    Looking out the thick portal of the station, breathing recycled
    air, I thought about every little cubby I had to endure in order
    to be a part of this crew. And at this workstation – an epic
    location out in space. The view from DracoMage to earth
    made my human heart swell.


    I’m not quite in space… but still far from home. Once hubby’s day ends (whenever that ends) we have about 8 hours of travel. So … see you all tomorrow or later in the week.

  21. […] Carrot Ranch the September 6, 2018 99 word challenge is to write about an epic workplace, real or imagined. GirlieOnTheEdge would have us write a Six […]

    • kayuk says:

      My teacher friend says that one student who pays attention and gets something out of her class is worth working with shortages in her school system and putting in extra hours. It’s the light that goes forward.

  22. Phew. My epic career didn’t get in the way of a response.

  23. […] Written for the September 6th Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  24. tnkerr says:

    Devil Boat

    I read that she was called “The Devil Boat” in reference to Revelations Chapter 13. We never called her that. The USS HAWKBILL SSN666 was a highly decorated Sturgeon Class Attack Submarine.

    What was most grand about her was the crew.

    Every crewman on a submarine stakes his survival on the skills and knowledge of the rest. This creates a bond. It builds pride in self and in others as, daily, you do more than you ever thought possible.

    It’s a dangerous and cramped workplace. It’s not for everyone. It sometimes stinks. It frustrates. I’d undoubtedly do it again.

    • I know a guy who actively served on a submarine. It is a life shaping experience I’d say. I like how your focus was on the human component.

      • tnkerr says:

        I have always believed that people are a company’s biggest asset, I also think that the people you work with govern morale. It’s all about the people.

    • kayuk says:

      I was on one of the Polaris subs once. Invited in by one of the crew while it was docked in Norfolk, VA. It was definitely not designed for tall or big people, and I can see where one would need a pretty calm temperament to serve on one. However, every man on board appeared happy to claim a birth on it.

      • tnkerr says:

        Polaris boats are pretty big too. And, you’re right you get a sense of belonging, a sense of pride. Sounds kinda stupid, but it’s true. I’m glad you liked the piece.

      • kayuk says:

        My first husband was on the JFK. Aircraft carriers are a whole different bucket of fish. It’s a floating city. And my dad was on the Kittyhawk, a destroyer, ‘guarding’ the Enterprise back during the Bay of Pigs. He called it a motorized cork, but worked in the boiler room. Among other things, it was his crew’s job to cool the boilers before abandoning ship so they wouldn’t explode and kill everyone. One memory leads to another…so many memories of Navy life.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Such a great story that captures that sense of service. I love the power of this well place line: “What was most grand about her was the crew.”

  25. […] out this week’s writing prompt at Carrot Ranch and crack […]

  26. Working on The Unsinkable Ship

    “They’re wanting sheets in cabin four, Miss Elizabeth.”

    “Yes, miss. I’ll get them right away,” the maid said politely with a curtsy to her matron.

    “And be sure you’re minding your place. Just because we’re working in first class doesn’t mean—”

    But Elizabeth was already down the hallway, gathering clean linens in the laundry room. Her friend Gayle was there, in the corner where they whispered their secrets and dreams.

    “Just think of it, Liz! Us—on the Titanic!”

    It’d be kind of bitter sweet to work on the Titanic and I wouldn’t like the class system and separations. But, it’s still worth pondering, yeah? Such a sad story but it still transfixes a lot of people today, including myself.

    Thanks for reading!

  27. […] Carrot Ranch Literary Society Prompt […]

  28. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link: […]

  29. Dream Job

    “I have had a lot of other jobs, but this is by far the best. I mean, it can be intense, but I enjoy the challenge. In my present work I am able to really use and incorporate all my previous experiences and prior knowledge to advantage. And I have a lot of latitude, a lot of freedom. I often work outside, I can dress how I want, set my own hours… it’s pretty awesome. Dream job. I am really enjoying myself.”

    “Uh, Dude, you’re unemployed. You haven’t worked in months.”

    “But I have been working at writing! Epic!”

  30. Pete says:

    “Noah, Noah, Noah…”

    I broke off my thoughts, elbow deep in the murk of dishwater and plotting. Rhonda stared at me over a haphazard pile of pots and dishes, used napkins, trash and utensils. ‘I swear kid, sometimes I wonder where you go in that head of yours. Anyway, this is the last of the buffet.”

    She stalked off to light a smoke. I turned to the load. A three-gallon pot of Clam chowder with a day’s worth of insulation around the lip. I picked up my scraper and smiled. I had all night to get this chapter right…

  31. oneletterup says:

    Great workspace Charli! Wow!

    My contribution:


    “I’m doing my works!”
    The little girl demonstrates.
    Carefully pouring water from cup to bowl.

    The silent visitor watches in surprise.
    She’s never seen such a grand school.

    Small wooden tables and chairs. A low matching sink.
    Sun pouring in on many bright, happy faces.
    The little boy calls out “Me too. Look at my works!”
    Red cubes stacked high.

    A place for important work. For all.
    Pouring. Sorting. Counting. Writing.
    Girls and boys. Older helping younger.
    Just like her.

    The teacher, sitting on the big rug, smiles.
    “Please join us for circle time.”

    “Welcome to Greenwood Montessori school.”

  32. It sounds like Runner has found the perfect job for him which is very fortunate. A great piece of flash fiction too, Charli. Terence and I have been world travelers for the past week so I missed your prompt. I have managed to get it done this week though. We arrived back home this morning. Here it is:

  33. […] September 6: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  34. […] While I had been contemplating a post about Pinterest classrooms for a while, this week seemed the perfect time, even if this isn’t the post I had been planning. You see, Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It can be real or imagined. Go where t…. […]

  35. Well. If there ever was an EPIC workplace, that would be it. Wow! That’s amazing.

    I’ve got to catch up on some things here. You wrote a piece for NaNo? So cool! I’ll check that out.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sarah, Epic was full of space that would attract writers and readers. I think they should open up their campus as a writers retreat. Yes, I got to write for both NaNoWriMo and NaNoProMo! Thanks!

  36. […] Mills’ September 6 – Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch Literary […]

  37. Annecdotist says:

    Enjoyed your guide to the Epic campus, an enviable workplace indeed. Glad you had such an enjoyable visit and you’re justifiably proud of your son to have secured a position there. My question is, with such a great place to work, would people want to go home?
    Given your devotion to the hero’s journey story structure, I’m sure you won’t mind that I’ve based my flash on the classical meaning of the word epic in The call, along with a post on fictionalised workplaces:
    Taking our characters to work

    • Charli Mills says:

      Anne, I almost think they can get away with beds there and then their workers would be like a human hive. One part I forgot to mention — on the days my son is there (the irony is that he travels a lot for his job) he goes out to one of the courtyards and opens up a game of chess with pieces three feet tall. He says by noon the game is over with multiple people stepping out to move a piece. I hope Epic can bring some of that delight to the healthcare systems they serve.

      Your flash has me laughing!

  38. papershots says:

    Hi Charlie! Great to be back in the challenge after a very long break. Hope you’re well, but I think you are from reading your post 🙂 Here’s my entry.

  39. […] In response to: […]

  40. […] September 6: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  41. Here’s my contribution for this week. Sometimes the theme has to it with me for a few days until the story just seems to appear as if by magic.

    He tells everyone he meets about his job and therefore indirectly where he works…..”I’m a Jazz saxophonist” “I’m a web designer” “I’m a Yoga teacher” “….An architect” “…..a maths teacher” “…….the CEO of a huge fashion house”. The list is endless, and as he very rarely meets the same person twice, there is no worry of being ‘caught out’, ‘on the hop’ or whichever emotion can be applied.
    At night he goes home and slips into POD13458 his webliner attached, his data is recharged. He listens to Bach whilst the jobs he does flash into his memory store.

    • kayuk says:

      Nice, a scifi twist.

    • Charli Mills says:

      The brain begins to recognize the 99-word constraint as a problem-solver. What you are experiencing is exciting because your brain is recognizing the prompts as the problem to solve. The solution is like magic. But really, it’s science. And what a captivating flash you reached this week.

  42. I wanted to take a job that may be disgusting or scary for someone but is just a regular workday for someone else. Here is my entry:

  43. Ann Edall-Robson says:

    Epic Workspace
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    The room is pristine to start, but soon takes on a look somewhat chaotic. Books spread out across open spaces where once there were thoughts of organization, and streamlining the hours to make them as productive as possible. Sounds of thunking, banging, clinking as doors open and close revealing needed tools. There are small marred bits of paper, tattered edged recipes, speckled from age and use. No one interrupts in this epic workplace where the tantalizing smells and mouth watering finales meld as one. To do so would jeopardize the anticipation of savouring the memories coming from the kitchen.

  44. […] weeks flash fiction challenge over at the Carrot Ranch is to write about an epic workplace – real or imagined in ninety-nine words […]

  45. kayuk says:

    Epic Workspace submission

    Space…the Final Frontier
    by Kayuk

    Words, like hammers, pound into me …again. “Isn’t there ONE SINGLE SPACE in this house I can put my things?”

    Tears beg release. Manly things are piled on sofas, beds, tables, and floors in every room. A year after moving in, I’m still an intruder in a man’s sanctuary.

    The tirade continues but, through patio doors, a shady table and chair await me. Abutting the grass is a lovely pond, with a serene view of ducklings following mama.

    He storms out and, laptop in hand, I sigh and step through the door to a warm breeze and epic workplace.

  46. Trying this out on you all. Marge wanted her workplace mentioned.

    In the Cards

    The guys had circled their beer coolers for poker night in Ernest’s garage, where it was less humid than the trailer.
    “Marge, I can’t believe you quit being shop foreman to work in this two-bit two bay garage. Left the largest dealership around- state of the art equipment, only working on newer vehicles-”
    “Yeah”, chimed Lloyd. “Epic.”
    “The work here’s actually more interesting, our customers bring us all sorts of mechanical mysteries to be solved. It’s more personal. And I got tired of babysitting.”
    “Oooh, personal! Marge and Ernest up in a tree…”
    “Like I said…”
    “Epic”, Lloyd repeated.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Marge did well to get out of there. Not so sure Ernest needs to be hanging out with these “boys.” Their lack of maturity comes out clearly!

  47. kayuk says:

    I agree with Marge, an interesting, challenging job is the best.

  48. […] is a second take for the Carrot Ranch September 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It can be real or imagined. […]

  49. […] weeks flash fiction challenge over at the Carrot Ranch is to write about an epic workplace – real or imagined in ninety-nine words […]

  50. […] week at the Ranch, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It […]

  51. Deborah Lee says:

    I’m a day late (and several dollars short, as usual…lol) but I actually wrote something this week!

    Runner’s job sounds epic indeed! What a beautiful campus.

    Jane, not so much. But everything’s relative. 😉

    • Charli Mills says:

      We share a similar schedule, Deborah! 😉 I wouldn’t think Jane would get so lucky as to work an epic job but after all, she’s been through, it must feel epic to have some relief. Put your story in the form and I’ll get it in the collection!

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