Dreamt Things

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All that gold, shimmering brightly!  The butterfly rushed to embrace it with all the arms he had.  Landing among the yellow petals, he basked in their glow.  Ah but the cold weather was drawing in and the butterfly feared for his tender, brilliant wings.

Looking down from the last flower in the garden, the butterfly saw a snail slide down the path.  So cosy she looked in that shell, never buffeted by the wind.  “You know,” the butterfly shouted down to her, “I could’ve accepted being a snail except… all your faces look the same!  Whereas every little swirl and dot of colour on my wings is unique.  Unique!”

The snail gazed up to see where the noise was coming from.  Noticing the butterfly clinging feebly to the dying petals, she twirled her left horn, thoughtfully, then her right.  “Hmm,” she murmured, to no one in particular, “poor creatures, those butterflies.  All that flitting must be exhausting.  And then the upkeep on those wings.”  She sighed.  “But I could live with all that, I suppose, if need be, except… they’re always dreaming that they’re philosophers!  Ah now that I couldn’t abide.”

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday.  Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is at the top of this post, copyright Janet Webb. I seem to be out of practice with the 100-word limit since this story strays a good deal beyond it. Sorry, Rochelle.

Corpus

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In murky backstreets, damp, flickering gaslight barely penetrates the fog.  A little realm is mapped out.  It’s a chilly realm built for shadows, for disembodied lives that are barely there.  They inherit that place with ease.  No one else cares to make any claim on it and nothing’s out of bounds, so long as it stays unseen.

It’s a place of gloomy opportunities and the shadows carve out a niche, as best they can.  Massed in close quarters, they come to terms with their place in the world and make sense of all the confusing treasures it offers up and snatches back.

Liz belongs there, among the rest of daylight’s immigrants; so she, too, chases each of those treasures, in turn.  A prettier shadow than some of the others, she gets the chance to whore that prettiness around as she patrols the borders, walking along the fringes of the flickering light.

“Wherever you see any glow it casts a deeper shadow.”  The thought flashes through Liz’s mind, to no purpose.

True, there’s always been a hint of brightness inside her.  Or so her mother said when she was little.  Then the young men said so, when she grew.  It means she stands out, in her fashion.  It means she doesn’t mind so much the resigned feelings that swamp the streets.

Without flinching, she haggles with rough customers.  Flinches aren’t attractive.  Flinches don’t pay the bills.  So, she says it’s an honour to be partnered with other embodiments of the darkness.  Saying it so many times, Liz can scarcely remember – so many memories, all somehow the same; even if each shadow acts differently.

It’s possible to like a few, disregard most, or be repulsed.  Others are best avoided.

Morality is too flexible to be avoided, even in places so densely filled with darkness and the urge to stay hid.  Inside these seedy alleys, morality means only this: that introducing shining objects is an unacceptable risk.  It’s a blinding-bright threat.  No one has that right.  Still, there’s always a shadow that’s grimmer than the others, who takes a shine to blood and tears; who carries bright scalpels with him and a routine of butchering.

Fleeting women are met in passing.  A collision of atoms happens.

The scalpel flashes through Liz’s belly, to no purpose.  She opens up like wet, sloshing curtains.  And where her blood spatters out onto the filthy cobblestones, it turns as bright and silvery as money.  It sparkles for generations of true crime authors, who whore her remains around the bestseller lists.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Tale Weaver’s Prompt#33 “Shadow People” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up are about shadows and share the atmosphere of the picture at the top of this post by Hypothetic Realist@Deviant Art.

Trust and Other Balancing Acts

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Roped together, precariously, and using dainty umbrellas as their only means of balancing on the tightrope that supported them, they made an unlikely team.  Lithe and unhealthily slender, like a tourist passing through from the spirit world, a red-headed girl led the way.  The black party dress she wore was her “disguise,” she said, and it fluttered wildly in the wind that whipped across the roofs.  Close behind her traipsed a crow.

“This is not a promising scenario for a jewellery heist, not at all,” complained the crow, with a forlorn little caw that was hardly heard above the wailing wind.  Still, he resolutely followed after his determined mistress, placing his talons carefully around the tightrope they ascended.  He worried about her motives, but his loyalty was unquestionable.  Then, staring down at the speck of a street far below them, the crow worried about his mistress’ fragile bones and how quickly they’d snap into tiny bony trinkets if a stronger gust of wind carried her off.  Very foolish, the crow pondered, in silence; never evolving wings like that.  What on earth was your gene pool thinking of all this time?

His mistress, of course, failed to notice his concern.  Set, as she was, on forging ahead along that slender bit of rope that twanged a little at each step, her attention remained fixed on the promised prize, on the riches that lay in wait.  And so she only heard the crow’s complaint.  “What have I told you about this aura of negativity you carry around with you constantly?  It’ll drag you down in the end, it really will.  And I don’t want that, especially now, when we’re roped together like this.  Do try to brighten up a bit,” she tried to flash a little smile over her shoulder, to bolster some good cheer in him.  But, nearly losing her footing on the swaying tightrope, her attention switched back to righting herself and she merely shot back a disgruntled sneer in the crow’s direction.

The crow frowned at his mistress’ accidental sneer.  “I’m a crow,” he sighed, “I don’t do ‘bright’; it would look foolish on me.  You ought to have formed an alliance with a budgerigar if you wanted bright.”

“But budgerigar’s aren’t very bright… I mean, they’re not very clever.  Crows, meanwhile, are outrageously clever.”  At this, the crow gave a little nod and ruffled his gloomy plumes.

“Tis an astute observation and yet it hardly constitutes a plan.”

“There is a plan,” his mistress nodded.  “Most definitely.”

“Care to share?” the crow deadpanned.

“Take jewels.  Flee.  I’ve always wanted to flee, you see.”

“I do see.  Although… the authorities might not want to let you flee too far, only into a cell of their choosing.”

“I’ve thought of that.”

“Oh good.”

“If the plan goes unaccountably wrong and I’m caught during tonight’s little spree then I’ll face a lie detector test.  And what happens then?  I can’t pretend I didn’t commit the robbery because, as you see, I did.  Or rather I will.  So, that’s not an option.”

“It might perhaps still be an option never to steal the jewels?  Have we considered that yet?”

“No, that’s not an option either.  I deserve those jewels.  Those jewels deserve me.  End of argument.”

“Very well, I’ve no wish to argue.  And I feel sure you’re deserving of many jewels.  I like you.  You’re my favourite mistress.  And my favourite jewel thief, too.”

“Why, thank you!”

“It’s my pleasure.  But…”

“But?”  The girl paused on the tightrope and turned around, with wobbling care, to confront any objections face-to-face.

“But that still doesn’t explain my role here, tightrope walking my way onto the ‘Most Wanted’ list, as an accessory before the fact.”

“Well, once they strap me into that lie detector of theirs, I’ll have no choice but to confess to my crimes.  But I won’t stop there.  No, I’ll go on to admit, in great detail, that my accomplice was you, a very bright, though not bright, little crow.  No doubt they’ll decide I’m not fit to stand trial after hearing that.  And it’s just so much easier to escape from some cosy asylum, in a pleasant countryside setting, than it is from any gaol.  Trust me, I know.”

The crow gazed into his mistress’ sparkling eyes and nodded his gloomy head.  Then, turning their faces into the howling wind once more, they inched further along the tightrope towards all sorts of treasures.

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This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Photo Challenge #33 “Endless Walk” at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, where all stories in the link-up were prompted by the picture by Matilda Emgård at the top of this post.

Apply Within

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The pallid, smooth, clean-living contours of this new life of hers were perfect camouflage.  No one suspected.  The gullible and meek, the greedy and lame; they passed by each day, unknowing.

True, the blandness was upsetting; it hardly suited her needs.  But she had mastered biding her time.  While that old, demented energy still seethed in the dungeony depths of her being, yanking at the respectable chains…

Three little office workers had sat and sipped coffee.  Now three office vacancies opened up.

Hidden deep inside a nearby pillar, the satisfied gargoyle licked blood from her chiselled teeth.  “Another feast, another little stimulus to the local jobs market,” she belched.

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday.  Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is at the top of this post, copyright Melanie Greenwood.

Hype

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When I walked across the water it was a mistake, it was hype.  And hype is like a virus, it eats up everything else.  But water is only molecules, like the ground is only molecules; the difference is irrelevant.

Life isn’t molecules, whatever the evidence says.  And the message wasn’t irrelevant, whatever the evidence says.

I wanted to talk about simple things, things that anyone can influence.  But people flinch at that.  They cling to hype because it seems unattainable, so then there’s no pressure to attain it.  I should’ve let myself drown that day.  The cross was hype, too.

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This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday.  Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is at the top of this post, copyright The Reclining Gentleman.

From Aquileana’s wonderful posts about Greek mythology, I’ve read a lot about hubris, lately – and so… a reboot of the saviour of mankind.  Meanwhile, to maintain the cosmic balance, here’s a quick word from Richard Hell.