Written by Charli Mills

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

August 19, 2021

A car alarm screeches, a unicorn snorts, and a spaceship breaks the sound barrier. But writers use the cacophony of sound to craft stories.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Cacophony by Norah Colvin

Children’s voices rose from the street with excitement, until laughter exploded like fireworks, startling a flock of corellas into screeching flight.

Mrs Black in #4 slammed her door and windows tight, excluding the abhorrent noise daring to smother her favourite show.

Mr Judd from #5, pruning his grevilleas, shook his fist and said, “Stone the crows! What’s with all that racket?”

Mr Dredge in #7 dozed on, snoring in decibels way higher than those outside.

But Mrs Twigg in #3 flung wide her window, inhaling the children’s merriment that inspired memories of her own childhood antics so long ago.


This Sickness by Kerry E.B. Black

Someone with a ball peen hammer pounds every joint, stretching muscle and ligament until bone grinds cartilage.

An orchestra warms-up between the ears, its cacophony deafening, with pulse matching its erratic rhythm.

Eyes receded into aching sockets, where lightshows dance along the periphery.

Shadows sink into vision, obscuring. Strained eyesight triggers migraines, with comic book enthusiasm. “Bang, Pow, Pop!”

Razorblades reside in vocal cords, stripping speech to a barely audible squeak. Amusing to the children.

An anaconda squeezes the midsection, shrinking stomach capacity.

Hazy zombie turns to exhausted fever dreams between doses of medicine that promise returned good health.


Laying in a Hospital Bed by Susan Spitulnik

An inward sucking noise
An outward swooshing
Over and Over
The ventilator keeps perfect time

The incessant beeping
When the IV bag is empty
“Someone” please turn it off
Where is everyone

Now a fall-alarm is blaring
My adrenalin rushes but
I hear no one running in response
Don’t they care

Too busy to answer call buttons
But I can hear them talking
How many people are working
Where is my friendly nurse

The meal-cart wheels squeak
Compartment doors slam
The tube prevents eating
My mind says I’m hungry

My God, it’s finally quiet
It’s peaceful
Am I dead


Night Sounds by Bill Engleson

The crow came to my window at midnight,
cawed his screech,
his dark bird speech,
like a bent rusty nail caught in his throat,
pulled out by the sinister hammer of night,
the crow’s squawky plea
in much the same tone,
a raw shattered bone
stuck in his craw
as when he flies the zone
far above my head
In the dead
of day.

The crow stayed at window ‘til morn,
and beyond,
a bent broken bird
sprawled on the sill,
rotting away,
flies pecking its flesh
as the sun lit the day,
as the crows had their say.


Dream a Little Dream by Sarah Whiley

There’s a cacophony in my head.
And it won’t go away.
I’ve tried sleeping pills
But there’s no guarantee.

I drop some helium
To cull the birds
Coz the tweets are endless
A faithless dirge

And so I’m held
Too painfully aware.
Is it possible to hope?
Do I dare to care?

This fustian pair
Between my ears
See that decisions are made
for me in arrears

Wishes are portable
This I do know
Thoughts are transferable
Wherever I go.

So while there is still
a slit; a gleam
I have to believe I can
Dream a little dream


Well, Why Not? (Part 4) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Sister Indelicata left the cacophony of squeals and laughter behind her; the tall, hardwood door sneezed delicately shut, blessing the happy, healed family. Indelicata’s bare feet whispered swift and sure, softer than the guttering of the beeswax candles that provided more scent than light.

She caught the perfume of open sea before she saw it, and glided through the marble hallway to the worn spiral stairs and ocean access.

She shimmered; habit, wimple, and net slid free into the freezing waves. Flicking her mermaid’s tail, she dove.

Goodbyes were easiest if her charges never liked her to begin with.


Aloysius’s Changes by Nancy Brady

Aloysius had just finished lapping at the fountain in the middle of the maze. He sat, licking his paws and whiskers. His bath complete, the white cat sauntered away.
Aloysius’s tail flicked from side to side causing a cacophony of colors to burst out. To the left and right, he left a trail of lush wildflowers in his wake. Purple and blue lupine, poppies of red, and yellow and orange coneflowers with deep indigo centers sprung up all around him. Green ferns, too, could be seen waving their fronds.
Not only had he changed, but so had the garden.


Silent Came the Night by Frank James

Footsteps captivated a smile into a wrinkled face
A final prayer begged forgiveness to no response
Boots thumping grabbed his throat
The lock clanking shivered his body
Rattling chains extorted a moan
His whimpering proclaimed the end was near
Dragging feet marked his last seconds, as guards pulled him down the long hall
Rapping and squealing opened the door to the next life
A priest praying welcomed him into the tiny chamber
A final protest fell hushed by manacles clasping arms tight
His last word: Please
A flip of a switch silent came the night
Whoosh went the spirit


Voiceless by Joanne Fisher

Harriet loved Lily. She felt deeply connected to her, though Lily never spoke to Harriet. All she wanted was a chance to speak to Lily to tell her how she felt and what Lily meant to her.

Now after years of pining away for her, Lily had unexpectedly consented to meet her in a cafe.

“So you wanted to tell me something?” Lily asked.

With a cacophony of voices behind her, Harriet gazed longingly at Lily’s blonde hair and perfect skin. She found herself unable to speak, as if she didn’t know where to start or what to say.


A Wooden Sanctuary by Donna Matthews

a past week cacophony clamors around inside my head
harsh self-loathing
a death certificate
grief picked open
bizarre new dizzyness
money— work— purpose— insecurity— anxiety
discordant thinking no one else can see
all reaching a deafening crescendo— when did this concert grow so noisy?

thinking too much

I lace up my boots— and walk
one foot in front of the other
into the cover of a wooden sanctuary.

The clanking noise inside drowns out
a new cacophony—
cicada hum above, babbling creek below.

My breathing settles into a new rhythm—
that wondrous, peaceful melody of now.


Copse of Cragged Cliff by Connor Dickinson

3pm. Granite bowl. Foxglove pestled. My knotted-knuckles s-n-a-p and c-r-a-c-k:
sinewy-veins, grinding roots of poisonous digitalis for marrow-bone-broth. His last supper.
‘Soup . . . . honeymooner?’
‘Mmm . . . . Clarissa.’

His mother’s soul-less s-c-r-e-e-c-h-i-n-g statues me at convulsing ribbed-shutters. My nostrils torch as Romani’s blazing umbilical tail, scorches and whips a million spruce leaves, raven-black.
Thanatos cometh.
Her cavernous, d-e-t-a-c-h-e-d. face: misty-mottled-blue. Hovers around me.
Howling putrid breath, lacerates my barked flesh.
Thrashing her bitches’ acidic tongue, licking bones clean of skin.
Gypsy-blood cursifying. Fracking my bones. E-x-o-r-c-i-s-m.
My jowl r-a-t-t-l-e-s ? but no-body hears.

As, she entombs me.


Batter-born Biscuits by Charli Mills

Batter-born biscuits dropped to a sizzling cast-iron griddle. Max held her lips in formation. The day before, her mother complained Max was too pretty to withhold her smile. Max adjusted her prosthetic foot to stand near the outdoor flames. The arrival of a squawking blue jay, twittering squirrels, and her father in a silk robe announced morning with forest cacophony. Weird as her dad might be, she’d take him at her campfire wearing what suited him best over the silent pretense of her mother’s morning prayers, rules, and cold cereal. Funny how grim her mother looked, reading her devotions.


Judy Says ‘No’ by Doug Jacquier

As she stood in the queue at the bank, Judy was approached by a smarmy suit and patronisingly advised that she could complete her transaction at the ATM outside. Judy said loudly ‘No, I’d prefer to keep a teller in a job, not in another queue, at the unemployment office. That way they can pay the rent and feed their kids.’ The suit approached others and a chant of ‘No’ began to gather in strength, rising to a cacophony that had the security guard retreat with his hands over his ears. But to Judy, it sounded like a symphony.


Tower of Babel by Anne Goodwin

Beyond the wire, the night was silent. Within the camp, moaning built a tower of noise. Women called, but to little purpose. Words are worthless if those who hear can’t comprehend. Detainees complained in ninety different mother tongues.

A translator fished among the discord for languages she recognised. Echoed pleas in Pashto, Dari, Belarusian and Tajik. Others dredged for schoolgirl Urdu or dialects they’d heard their neighbours speak. Each language a stepping-stone to another, phrase by phrase community took hold.

That’s how they learnt that some were journalists, others lawyers. That’s how their fight for justice boomed and bloomed.


Cacophony by Reena Saxena

shrill allegations
piercing souls
raised fingers
I’ll break some day…
What are they trying to
make me feel guilty about?

I want to give them mirrors
which show pictures
like those of Dorian Gray
podcasts which repeat
their word bullets
smash their eardrums

deep sense of inadequacy
their egos demand
unquestioning obedience
as they get uglier by the day

now helpless…

They all disappear
I transcend
Into a state of being
alone, peaceful
On a solo journey
never to return

No destinations
nor a quest for happiness
finding eternal truths
masquerading as Life


Burn by Anita Dawes

The spiralling crescendo of roman candles
Shot towards heaven
Pulls an ancient knowing from my soul
Like a half-remembered dream
I stumble forward for knowledge
That is stacked up behind me
Above my head, fireworks light the sky
The sound echoes in my bones
An old sound that never went away
The colours remind me of something hidden
The lost pages of the grand grimoire
which have everything to do with
the last cacophony of sound
that will never be heard again.
the world will fall silent
not if I get my hands on it
I will burn it…


Savannah Lands by Saifun Hassam

The dry winds intensified. The roar of the fire was deafening. Older forest groves were engulfed instantly.

For two days, animals streamed out of the valleys. They ran along ancient treks sounding warnings. Above the thud of pounding feet, you could hear the urgent trumpeting of elephants, the defiant roar of lions, the panicky laughter of hyenas, the howling of monkeys. Antelopes and gazelles ran, graceful, focused, silent. Elands and wild buffaloes rumbled along.

Majid, a biologist, and fireman followed the animals along a scorched forest road. He would do everything he could for the animals to find refuge.


Dawn by Joanne Fisher

Natasha dreamed she was with Ellie. They were holding hands and walking down the sidewalk. It was sunny and they were heading for the beach. Then she was suddenly awoken. The dawn chorus had begun in the treetops above her. Already there was a cacophony.of birdsong building up. Since the end times they had gotten louder.

Natasha reluctantly got out of her sleeping bag and looked around, in case there was a roving band of survivors nearby. She didn’t want to end up being eaten, or worse. Thinking of Ellie, she quickly packed up her things and moved on.


Tarnished Tranquility Rebecca Glaessner

She’s trudging through the forest as silence hits, sending chills through her despite the hike and heat of nearing sunrise. Could’ve been peaceful, under different circumstances.

Determined to find her missing friend, she persists. Body growing numb.

The forest’s stagnant silence thickens. Her mind reels.

Shouldn’t have ignored the reports, her friend wasn’t invulnerable.

And neither is she.

Sudden sound startles her, the cacophony yanking her senses back.

From nowhere, her friend emerges, barrels past, yelling “run!”

She staggers, follows.

Noise strengthening her after the eerie silence, they escape back to the comfort of a chaotic, sound-filled, life-affirming world.


Cicada Circus by Duane L Herrmann

Summertime. Hot. As heat rises: 85, 95, 100 (Dear God, NO MORE!), cicadas increase their chorus. Some in seven year cycles, others – eleven years. This, the eleventh year, they are out in full force shrieking their joy and life in the heat. Today 100, and they did not stop until long after dark when it cooled down to 85. Finally cacophony was over and we could all sleep. The sun would soon cook us another day. As a child I delighted in finding the cases they had emerged from, and attach them to something else, but no longer.


Myth by Simon

Dog’s are howling, someone’s going to die!

Who said that?

Dad said!

Death is inevitable and no one on earth could predict it.

But dad said, dog’s cacophony is a bad sign.

World is created by men like your dad, don’t believe anyone, question them, even me. Dog’s are our friends, they love us, the abandoned dogs feel lonely and they let out their feelings by howling, if some other dogs Howl, they share their feelings together.

I would like to adopt all our street dog’s.

All of them?

Yes mom, I don’t want them to feel lonely again.


Summer in Suburbia by Annette Rochelle Aben

The thumping bass of the stereo starts around nine in the morning and blares all day long. Cue the beer-drinking corn hole players who curse if they win and curse if they lose. Then there are the children who bounce from the trampoline into the pool while shrieking like bloody murder at the top of their lungs. Add to this, the poor dog who barks from one end of the yard to the other to remind them that he needs to eat. And when it starts at nine in the evening, it goes on until 4 in the morning.


Summer of Love by D. Avery

The pair of geese that patrolled the yard were first to sound the alarm. Then his father’s hounds bugled from the kennels. The Jerseys lowed as they closed ranks across the pasture and filed toward the barn. Finally there came the sharp report of the screen door springing shut behind his mother, anxiously wringing her dish towel on the familiar porch, laughing and crying at his approach.

These welcoming sounds began to quiet the shrieks and chants from the gauntlet he’d faced at the airport. But even as his mother refrained, ‘You’re really home’, doubts drummed like throbbing pain.


Cacophony by FloridaBorne

Summer. Time for fans in the window. In the kitchen, there’s a ceiling fan, and a window fan cools the concrete floor where dogs like to lay.

Each fan sings a different pitch, gentle background music when I used to sit on the steps to watch clouds float by.

Once, a cacophony of crickets, katydids, birdsong, and wind flowing through the pine needles blended together.

A peaceful sound.

People moved from city to country. They play music so loud you wonder if their children are going to be deaf before the age of 15.

Now, there is no peace.


Unbound Sounds by JulesPaige

All that’s left is crumbs.
Empty pie tin
Pitted the cherries
Cup of sugar…
Quartered the feast

(spoons rattled, clanged
oven door opened with a metallic creek
and closed, bang
fork scrapped the china plate…
scritchty scratch
buttons popping… tapping the wall, ping
rattled and settled, plop)

Ate each quart(her)
Cherries, cherries, yum, yum!
Patterns on her dress
Now on the floor –
Since it don’t fit no more.

(now resting stretched
out on the bed
with a soft pillow for her head…
content and full –
there not so dainty
started as a wheeze,
now an outright snore)


Bela’s Evenings by Kavita Deo

Every evening Bela sat in her large patio overlooking a green hill and surrounded by greenery. A beautiful view for sure!

Bela enjoyed this hour with her coffee while winding up her day. Highlight of the coffee hour was surely the large gathering of crows that would start making a noise as if they are in a round table and trying to come at a resolution. Hearing them the parrots, the peacocks and sparrows would join them. Bela didn’t exactly mind the cacophony but would be all ears and wished she could get them to chirp in symphony!


Surround Sound by C Mills

Shorty approached the Poet Tree. Ribbons and leaves bobbed in the breeze. Silence. Kid was off chasing Curly in a unicorn-y snafu. Somehow the piglet got stuck in a child’s floatie after Kid and Pal helped Marge dismount from her big bass adventure. Whatever cacophony hung over the lake between campfires in these parts, Shorty couldn’t hear. Ol’ Captain pulled at the bit. Shorty let the gelding have his head to munch the grass and swung a leg to rest across the saddle swells. Characters laughed, moaned, cajoled, and rose up in the distant ranch ether. All was well.


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  1. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    It seems the prompt did inspire the lyrical poets in us this week. So many sounds in so many ways. A cacophony of emotions wrangled into symphonic simplicity. Beautiful writing all.

    • Charli Mills

      I enjoyed how the poets came out with their toolbags of skills. Ah, well summarized: “A cacophony of emotions wrangled into symphonic simplicity.”

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    OMG! I was about to wonder if the machine got snarled by my Yarn, then remembered… I plumb forgot the Ranch Yarn!
    Well done Charli. Thanks for having my back and bringing up the rear.
    This collection of cacophonous poetry and prose is a joyful noise. Well done all.

    • Charli Mills

      Funny, I thought I missed it and went looking. Laughed and happily penned a Short View. It’s been a hot one weeding and ith tech difficulties, I figured Kid and Pal were wiped out. I’ve always got the rear!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Nope, my bad. I so took K & P for granite, thought they were set in stone. You rocked it from the rear and I am not affronted by your doing so. Good on ya.

  3. joanne the geek

    A wonderful cacophony of different voices. A great collection, as always.

    • Charli Mills

      Sound bounced from story to poem to story. Yes, another delightful collection. Thanks, Joanne!

  4. noelleg44

    A wonderful collection of interpretations!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for reading, Noelle! I always enjoy the differences in perspectives.

  5. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Brilliant 99-word stories! I loved all the poetry! I’ve been adding to the cacophony by spreading this all around. <3

    • Charli Mills

      look at all the poetic responses you are encouraging! I think poets and cacophony aligned.

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        I love it! We’ve unleashed the poets! This is so cool! ????????????

  6. pedometergeek

    Make a joyful noise…and it was so! Wonderful sounds and blissful silence living side by side. Lots of poetry to enjoy and flash fiction, too. Great collection, and well done. I really enjoyed all the various pieces this week. Thanks for sharing all of your works, Ranchers!

    • Charli Mills

      Indeed, a joyful noise, Nan! I love the variety.

  7. Doug Jacquier

    What a celestial cornucopia of cacophony. First time I’ve ever had to use earplugs to read. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, celestial…save that for the next challenge!

  8. Mr Connor Dickinson

    Great writing everyone. Inspiring sensory detail.


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