We look back to reflect, to see where we came from, to see what lingers in the shadows. Glancing over our shoulders or peering in the wing mirrors of cars, we try to better understand where we are going. And why.
Writers jumped into 2019 with both feet. Looking back produced a strong round of stories to start the forward momentum of a new year.
The following is based on the January 3, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a character who looks back.
Part 1 (10-minute read)
Hobos by Faith A. Colburn
“I thought I’d have a family.” He moved to the other side of the fire. “My mom and pop. They were so . . .” He poked at the fire, adding fuel.
“So . . . what?”
“I don’t know. Agreeable. They never fought or exchanged a cross word. They were just so good together.”
“Not at all like that. Sometimes there’d be just a touch or they’d exchange a glance and it was so full of . . .”
“I don’t know. Tenderness? Gives me the shivers.” He stared into the flames. “I want that.”
Looking Back by D. Avery
“I have to settle gran-mere’s estate. Such as it is.”
He watched her zip her duffle bag. She was a light packer. And an impulsive traveler.
“Can’t you handle this over the phone, or email?”
“I’d rather do it in person. It’s not that far. I shouldn’t be gone long.”
He and Hope stood on the porch in silence, watching her go.
She glanced in the rearview, then stopped. She backed up, turned the truck off.
“I bet Luciene would be willing to care for the animals. If you and Hope wanna go with me?”
Hope’s smile said yes.
Away by Mary Beene
Ellen should never have turned her head. Facing forward hid the single tear that stole down her mother’s cheek. Her skin turned to ice. This was not a happy visit to her uncle’s home where she would spend her time skipping on the lawn with her many cousins. She was never coming back to the tiny house in the city. All her mother’s cheer struck her now for the falsity that it was. The woman had finally accepted the truth; there was no way to feed them both. Ellen would now earn her suppers serving in the big house.
Looking Back by Deborah Lee
“Only whores pierce their ears and gad themselves up like that,” Daddy had said. Daddy had said lots of things and done worse, which had a bit to do with her running off at sixteen.
And which had a lot to do with why almost the first thing she’d done, alone and free, was pierce her ears.
And which had everything to do with why the first earrings she’d bought were the biggest, brassiest, whoriest pair of hoops she could find.
She feels eyes boring into back, but when she looks behind her in the mirror, she’s alone. Smiling.
Looking Back by Floridaborne
“You dare ask why?” I chuckled, my voice calm… eyes narrowed.
My friends stormed inside to help me finish off a man who thought nothing of using young girls as commodities.
For my 18th birthday, these same friends had pooled their money for a night of pleasure in the big city. One of the whores standing on a corner was my sister, who’d disappeared the year before!
Rehab couldn’t save the shell that remained. I dedicated my life to ridding the world of pimps, and other parasitic vermin.
“She was only 12!” I said, beating his face to pulp.
Autumn by Tracey Robinson
Kelsey turned her face to the sun. The warmth felt good in the crisp autumn air, the sun so different from a year ago in the desert heat. She could still taste the sand and hear the distant mortar explosions. She shuddered as she thought of the MRE she would have had for lunch. Her mind drifted to John but she would not go there.
Autumn is what she dreamt of twelve long months ago: life back in a four seasons world. Her heart beat with joy as she hurried to the diner and a tuna melt with fries.
The Summer of My Life by Stevie Turner
I’m sure it rained in the East End of London in the 1960s when I was a child, but my memories are of sunshine. The heat would shimmer above the roof of our car, as I roller skated in the road with friends or sat on our front doorstep with a pile of comics and a bag of chocolate buttons. Mum would be in the kitchen doing whatever she did, and Dad would be out in the garden dead-heading roses or cutting the grass with one of those old-fashioned mowers.
Life was good back when it was always summer.
Solace of the Land by Ann Edall-Robson
It calls her name. It always has. The quiet, the solitude, but most of all, the connection to her heart. The echo of the wolves penetrating the valley walls. The lazy hawk floating high overhead in the early morning light. The rustle of the leaves dancing to a summer breeze and the mournful wail of the north wind pushing snow through naked branches. Tiny dots of green and colour carpeting the meadow floor in spring. Where is this place where people are none? Where gravel roads turn into deer trails. It is the one place her soul finds solace.
Looking Back by Pete Fanning
Up until this summer, my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t make the baseball team. After all that time practicing, playing catch in the front yard. Dad with his glove, trying not to roll his eyes whenever I missed a grounder—which was whenever he threw a grounder.
“It’ll come,” he said.
It never came. But as team manager I got a jersey, team picture, even a shiny trophy. All without striking out and causing us to lose.
Then, about a month ago, I said forget it. What’s the point? That was also around the time I met Lia.
Decision Reimaged by Nancy Brady
Annie looked back on some decisions all the time, but only one continued to haunt her. In retrospect, she wished she had taken a chance; to be someone other than what she was: an insecure, flat-chested, glasses-wearing brace face freshman.
Annie remembers the autumn day in study hall when Dave, a junior, asked her to homecoming. She wanted to go, but worried this was a joke, she turned him down. If only she could have set her fears aside, acted confident, and laughed it off as a joke if otherwise, then she would have a night to remember, always.
A Different Point of View by Nancy Brady
Annie still shows up in his dreams.
Looking back to his junior year, Dave remembered he wanted to take Annie to homecoming. He’d gotten to know her during the previous summer.
His plan to ask Annie improved once he talked the teacher into assigning them to the same table.
Asking any girl out was always fraught with anxiety and vulnerability, but one sunny autumn day, he asked her. He was hurt when she said “No, my parents won’t let me.”
Dave ended up taking another, but had Annie agreed, it might have been a night to remember, always.
Safety in Snailmail by Liz Husebye Hartmann
She swore, smacking her forehead with her fist, once, twice, a third time. This couldn’t happen, not when perfect delivery was so critical.
She hung her head and shook out her shoulders. She was a planner, not a pantser–not free and spontaneous. She opened her mouth, hoping the words would tumble out, all passionate sincerity.
“I’m sorry I…” She drew a blank, and looked back at her notes on the table of her solitary apartment. The words were right there, but her memory was shit.
“It’s no use,” she sighed. “Delivery will have to be by US Mail.”
Something Sensational to Read in the Train by Anne Goodwin
She mentioned a diary; looked pleased when I invited her to bring it in. A slim substitute for a confidante, but somewhere for her feelings at least.
“January – twenty bananas and sixty slices of toast.”
Strange: the referral didn’t mention eating distress.
“February – fifty robins and three jays.”
A metaphor for escape?
“March – seventy sudokus and fourteen crosswords.”
Life was a puzzle? I shifted in my seat.
“April – eighteen library books.”
I couldn’t stay silent. “Did anything else happen that year?”
She closed the book, her face too. I cursed my impatience. Counting saved her. I should respect that.
Chester Drops His Guard by Molly Stevens
Chester emerged from the bedroom and was surprised to see Ruth sitting on the couch surrounded by photo albums.
“What are you doing up so early?” he said.
“I couldn’t sleep. Guess the end of the year made me sentimental. Look at this wedding picture of us.”
Chester peered at the photo over her shoulder.
“Yup, that’s us. Young and hopeful.”
“We aren’t young any more, but we still have hope!”
Chester looked away, but not before Ruth saw the mist in his eyes.
“Awww, there’s the softie I married.”
“Harrumph. Where’s my coffee?”
Ruth smiled. “Coming right up.”
The End of One Year Just Might Be My Last by Bill Engleson
Some New Years, I think I’m sinking into a bog, a squalid sinkhole of quicksand.
There I am, what’s left of me, being sucked down into the slurp of time.
Those last few days of whatever year is fizzling out, I always want time to stop, to halt the wear and tear on my future.
Every New Year shortens my possibilities.
So, I mention this to my buddies.
They say, “get a life.”
I say, “I have one. I’d like to keep it.”
Then I go off into a corner, look out a window, knock back some brandy, whimper.
He Waited by Teresa Grabs
Erik rested on the hard, wooden bench and waited. The sun warmed his weathered face. Buttered popcorn, cotton candy, and the unmistakable aroma of fried batter swirled on the breeze. Children’s laughter made him chuckle. With his eyes closed, he watched as Alan and Harvey rode the ferris wheel while Mary called, “look at me daddy” from the pony ride. His hand remembered holding Sarah’s as they walked in the glow of the midway. Slow, deep breathing brought the memories closer. It was a warm summer afternoon.
“Join me on the ferris wheel?”
“I’ve waited for you.” Erik smiled.
Old Thoughts by Anita Dawes
The road behind me looks thin, worn out
Too many people have trod this thin strip of memory
Wet tarmac shines back. Old thoughts lay forgotten
Old memories drop like winter leaves
Old friends come to mind
Too many lost to time
The road that lives behind me
Where memories linger, waiting to be revisited
There are many passages in my past
That are worth revisiting
Others I should leave in the dark
Looking back, digging over old ground
Isn’t the best use of your time
If you look back far enough
You’ll meet yourself coming around the bend…
Part 2 (10-minute read)
Treasure by D. Avery
They traveled at night, leaving the uncertainty and danger of the distillation camps behind. They walked, Ahden’s stories a mantra; stories of green, stories of trees that once cooled and soothed the land. Ahden’s most fantastic stories concerned the forked stick he claimed would point to water lying like buried treasure underground. He said he’d find water or die trying.
The three of them sipped carefully from their flask of water. This girl had joined them and hadn’t looked back. Ahden and Leena would tell her what they remembered, teach her all they knew. They lived for her now.
The Right Bank byTN Kerr
The night was wet.
Not with raindrops, but a heavy mist hanging in the air without ever seeming to fall on the pavement.
Luc moved up the Rue des Barres, away from the river as gargoyles from Église Saint-Gervais watched from above.
Glancing over his shoulder he caught a shimmer illuminated in the single streetlight below.
Only a flickering, as though the lamplight were refilling a space hastily vacated by whatever he had not seen.
There could be no doubt. They were on to him again.
He quickened his pace and remembered Aubree; her dark hair, and her laughter.
Don’t Look Back by Norah Colvin
Don’t look back. Don’t look back.
She pulled her coat tight, pressed her bag into her side and leaned into the wind, quickening her pace.
The footsteps pounded behind her, closing in. She knew, even over the wind’s roar, they were coming for her. She breathed in shallow quick gasps.
Don’t look back. Don’t look back. If she couldn’t see them, perhaps they didn’t exist?
Her eyes stung. The wind stole her breath. Her side split.
Lights ahead. Please. Please … almost.
A hand on her shoulder. A deep gravelly unintelligible voice. She twisted. “Noooo!”
“Miss, you forgot your umbrella.”
Ancient Truths by Colleen M. Chesebro
Staring into the river, Dennitsa felt the ancient memories drag her back into the past. As if she had lived long ago, the hazy recollections played out in her mind.
The truth stared her in the face. The Slavic witches were descended from the flying dragons who were the spirits of the fallen angels. They had tumbled out of the skies at the beginning of time. Those spirits copulated with human women, creating offspring who were known as the Vedma. The Vedma became the female witches, and the Leshovik became the dragon men.
Dennitsa had been born a witch!
When the Stakes Are High by Chelsea Owens
It wasn’t till the hungry flames were nearly at her hem that Briar’s thoughts turned to self-reflection. Before that point she was, quite naturally, declaring innocence whilst returning insults.
Her efforts were of no use. The fire rose higher, the smoke stung her lungs and eyes, the cackling jeers grew louder than the crackling logs. She could see her angry accusers through the wafting smoke lines.
“Witch! Witch! Witch!” they chanted.
These simple townsfolk had no brains. If she were a witch, wouldn’t she be gone? She sighed; coughed. She never should have left her staff under the bed.
True Love’s Kiss by Anurag Bakhshi
The memory of last night’s kiss, and what happened after, still lingered in the air. Post our 5th glass of wine, one thing had led to another, and…
What a ravishing beauty! Who would have thought that she would go in for an ugly mug like mine. I still couldn’t believe my luck.
Looking back, it had turned out to be a good, no great year. She had been disappointed, of course, when I hadn’t immediately transformed into a handsome prince afterwards, but she would have to learn to live with it, just like the 27 beauties before her.
Remember Lot’s Wife by H.R.R. Gorman
“Remember Lot’s wife?” Lance asked. He rolled the wire cord out, taking careful steps as he laid it on the ground. “God turned her to salt for lookin’ back.”
“That was Sodom and Gomorra, though, not the bowlin’ alley. You suppose God’d saltify us if we just take a last couple throws?” Despite his reluctance, Drew placed the charge mechanism on the ground and fed in Lance’s wire.
Lance sat down behind the blast shield. “Dunno ’bout that. Place coulda been full of sin.”
Drew nodded. “Boss’ll be mad even if God isn’t. Help me run the final checks.”
Buried Treasure by Jo Hawk The Writer
Cal dropped to his knees and gently lifted the book from the debris. Somehow it survived. If he wasn’t cradling in his hands feeling its weight, the caress of its leather cover, he would not have believed it possible.
Clutching the book to his chest, the memories coursed through him. Professor Dugan stood before him, telling Cal the odds were stacked against him ever succeeding. Cal felt defiance surge through him once again. They could laugh and sneer, but they were wrong. Sitting in the rubble Cal felt his destiny waiting.
He would show them how wrong they were.
Earthrise by Saifun Hassam
Julian was dying on the Moon. Somehow, something went wrong as his space shuttle entered the suborbital space of the Moon. The damaged space shuttle turned cartwheels before landing on the Luna Space Station. The medics had rushed to his rescue. He was barely alive.
Julian was a space-farer. An astronaut, geologist and geographer. It seemed eons since he had left Earth, for the Outer planets, and their satellite moons.
He drifted in and out of consciousness. His last thoughts were of flying in a reconnaissance orbiter, high over the Moon’s Compton Crater, and watching the blue Earth rise.
The Rush by kate @ aroused
I just hope he keeps following me. He’ll never suspect that Rick took the other car.
On reflection I wonder that we didn’t start this earlier but we were too busy conforming to societal standards. It all started when we couldn’t afford the best treatment for little James.
Is he still following me, better slow down a bit?
Now it’s the excitement as the adrenaline rush has really kicked in. We could retire comfortably but what for. Rick and I love these mind games then the chase.
Shame James isn’t here to share the fun of ‘acquiring’ their identities.
Flash Fiction: Wing Mirror by The Dark Netizen
There it is, that blasted black Bentley.
I can see it clearly in my wing mirror. My instincts are telling me to get as far away from it as I can. It’s a wonder that my sedan has been able to keep ahead for so long. In fact, I believe that the Bentley’s driver is toying with me. The black car is close now. I can see the driver’s face. Is that a fucking skull? Wait, where did he go?
Ohhh Lord! He’s in my rear seat!! Carrying a bloody SCYTHE!!
Objects in mirror are closer than they appear…
Looking Back by Frank Hubeney
Dean and Martha sat at the outdoor table after ordering coffee and croissants. They didn’t say anything to each other but started reading messages and typing into their phones. After the waiter delivered the order and left, Dean picked up a croissant from the plate. So did Martha. Then he turned in his chair and looked back.
That was the signal.
By some assessments the winners are those who are still able to walk away after the bullets fly. Other think it is not so simple. Blood creates a blur not only in space but across memories and lifetimes.
Now She Could Move On by Susan Sleggs
Dr. Stephanie Davidson, still limping slightly, came out of the courthouse feeling free and relaxed. Her happiness radiated onto the people she passed. Her divorce from the man that had hired a killer to make her disappear was finalized and both men were serving long jail terms. Thankfully there were no news cameras or questions as a divorce hearing was nothing compared to the attempted murder trials the year before. The police officer that had saved her life when the attempt had been made waited for her. He gazed at her with adoration and said, “No looking back sweetheart.”
Father Time Is Undefeated by @DaveMMAdden
He never should have been there in the first place. Everyone knew it—except him!
“I’m gonna train harder than ever. You’ll see!”
His team, family and coaches alike, bought, though weren’t entirely sold on, the idea of returning to the cage.
The adrenaline, the crowd’s deafening screams, his name printed in bold across the marquee: he needed this fix like a junkie’s blood itches for their drug of choice!
Through a ringing in his ears, he could hear what happened on the forlorn faces surrounding him.
Maybe this time he will hang the gloves up for good? Maybe.
Death Does Not Come by Robbie Cheadle
When I look back over my life, I note that I am lacking in one experience. Death. This greatest leveler of them all has always passed me by unscathed.
I heard it, like a rabid dog, whining relentlessly outside my door during a home invasion, when the car was hi-jacked and while I was perched precariously on the edge of a cliff as a child.
It barked madly for attention during my children’s lives when one stopped breathing, another had croup and throughout the twenty-eight anaesthetics and operations they collectively undertook.
It always slunk away, tail between its legs.
Part 3 (10-minute read)
Nothing Stays Perfect Forever (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Looking back, Danni understood that she gained more than Ike in a marriage. She said yes to the man she fell in love with and the ranch-home he offered with garden, barn, history, and horses. She said yes to his family, getting the grandmother she always longed to have. She said yes to North Idaho, a balm to a harsh childhood. She said yes to finally concluding her studies and working her hard-earned degrees. Looking back, Danni saw all she stood to lose. Would she have said yes that spring day had she known Ike would leave for Iraq?
Salto Quantico by JulesPaige
In retrospect Marietta had a breakthrough year. Though it took up way too much energy,
that long standing grudge that the sisters held for so many silent years. They finally were talking again. Though there were limits that had been set in cement. The two were not friends in their youth and most likely would not be best pals. But at least they were talking, and even laughing.
To be a peacekeeper of the hearth, that too was work. Etta hoped a slight name change helped.
shifting sands cannot
stand still while powerful sea
Looking Back by Kay Kingsley
And with that, I turned and walked away, heart pounding, I exhaled total relief. We were over and a 1,000 pounds of weight lifted off my shoulders. This was the right thing to do… wasn’t it? It only took me 10 seconds to second guess myself for the 100th time and my pace slowed. Don’t look back! But he would be sobbing, crushed by my announcement and only I could console him. I stopped and turned around ready to play the game again and to my utter surprise, he was gone and I was the one left looking back.
Looking Back by tearsofbloodinmyheart
“Stacy don’t do it…..” Carls voice trails off into oblivion as I put my foot on the first step.
“I’m telling you Stace…” By now his voice is fading. I’m on the fourth step of many, I wasn’t listening when Mr Bright and Sunny was running through his speil.
Carl is becoming smaller, although if I’m truthful I’m not looking down. By the time I’m at the top, on the small shaky platform, Carl is just a dot.
Ms Happy tightens the harness. I look back just before I step off the edge and smile. It’s time to go Carl.
Remembrance by Joanne Fisher
Jenny accidentally knocked the cup off the bench. She helplessly watched as it fell in slow-motion to the floor and broke into two pieces. She picked up the fragments crying. This had been the cup that Kirsten always used.
Jenny remembered the day Kirsten broke up with her and moved out, leaving the cup behind as a painful reminder. She never thought she would get over this loss or be able to love anyone ever again, but now looking back some months later she realised she had already come a long way. She would survive this and love again.
Then and Now by Di @ pensitivity101
I am not who I was,
Nor would I want to be
That empty crushed shell,
I am not where I used to be,
Nor would I want to go back,
I have found my way,
Am loved, truly blessed,
My life is refreshed.
I know not where I’m going,
But I am not alone,
I have found my soul mate,
My saviour, my guide,
Always at my side.
It doesn’t matter what we were,
Together we simply Are,
Two drifting halves, forever joined,
Not perfect, but meant to be,
Us, exactly what you see.
Blackened Mirror by Reena Saxena
A penny drops. But he does not bend to pick it up. He moves ahead to grab the gold watch on the mantelpiece.
“He controls time now. He can choose to focus on certain parts, not necessarily in sequential order. Doctors call it selective amnesia or partial memory loss.”
The seer’s words are ignored as the family focuses on medical treatment.
Five years later, he is featured on a magazine cover, as the Most Successful Businessman of the Year. The world hears his bytes.
“I suffer from a handicap. I cannot look back, so I don’t remember any failure.”
Departing Alice by Susi J. Smith
Alice sat on the bench, staring at the rows of unlit buses. Wind rattled the glass panes. She pulled the tattered blanket around her shoulders and lay back, watching the blue and red sign flicker. Tomorrow. She’d leave tomorrow.
Jovial laughter woke her. Light peeked in through the dirty windows.
“Morning Alice.” Ted handed her a steaming coffee. She cupped it, breathing in the aroma.
Coffee downed, Alice crept towards the bus. She placed one foot on the metal step and stopped. “Not today. Tomorrow, I’ll leave tomorrow.” Head bowed, she hurried back to the comfort of her bench.
Happy New Year by Ruchira Khanna
As I ring in the New Year lots of memories flood before me: the good, the bad, the ugly while ‘am so involved with that flashback that ‘am unaware of the various expressions on my face.
When reminded ‘am filled with apprehension yet gratitude to be able to enjoy the coming year of whatever it may bring, as I continue to leave my carbon imprint.
I may be an ordinary person, but my consciousness allows me to breathe with appreciation as I ponder back and realize that I have been able to touch atleast a handful of souls each year.
Back Up by D. Avery
“Look where yer goin’, Kid!”
“I’m enterin’ the new year reflectin’ on where I been. Like Janus.”
“Yer an anus all right, walkin’ bass ackwards like thet. Turn aroun’ an’ look forward, Kid.”
“Looks good, Pal, lookin’ back. They’s a long trail a yarns, fer sure.”
“Yer gonna git tangled in thet yarn an’ trip.”
“Dang, I sure shoveled a lotta shit last year. Shorty even give me a badge. Ow! I’ve hit a wall.”
“Carrot Ranch don’t do walls. Jist backed inta the broad side a the barn with yer behind. Git up, look ta the trail ahead.”
Best Face Forward by D. Avery
“Hey Kid. See yer walkin’ facin’ the right way now. Have a seat.”
“Uh, no thanks, Pal… still hurtin’. Darn barn.”
“Ya looks as if yer hurtin’.”
“This’s ma thinkin’ face.”
“Thinkin’ back ta when I tried ma hand at writin’.”
“Thinkin’ ta do more a it. Send D. Avery packin’. Do ma own writin’.”
“Kid, it don’t work thet way. Asides, it’s a heckuva lot easier bein’ written than doin’ the writin’. An’ what if ya git D. Avery’s voice in yer head, huh?”
“She does claim we write ourselves…”
“Let’s keep our present arrangemint, Kid.”
Buckaroo’s Journey by A. Kidd
“Been writin’, Kid?”
“Gotta 99 word flash then?”
“Better! Jist started writin’, next thing I know, they’s hunnerds an’ hunnerds a words.”
“Yer a known shoveler. Which 99 ya gonna present? “
“No more, no less.”
“Huh. Gotta cut to the chase then.”
“To the quick.”
“Down ta the bone. What’s it about?”
“A buckaroo who looks back.”
“Where’s the plot, the conflict?”
“Looks back while descending.”
“Descending inta a cave? An abyss?”
“Nope, jist cellar stairs.”
“What’s the lesson?”
“Look where yer goin’.”
“Where was she goin’?”
“Think they was some elixir down there.”