They silence him, but his shadow shouts on – a nightmare scream that fills the room, echoes down the corridors. They shut the door, but the scream spills under it. They brick up the doorway, plaster over it, so that you’d never know the room was there, but the scream remains.
They leave the house. Ivy grows over the walls, blocks the windows, but the scream continues. They bulldoze the damn house, but still the scream is there. People move away. The street empties. No-one can live there.
The neighbourhood thins out. Empty houses can’t be filled. The scream just spreads, filling the whole city. It won’t be drowned by sirens, car horns, piped music. People leave their homes, their jobs – relocate. The scream is alone, echoing down silent streets of boarded-up shops, empty apartment buildings. Dandelions split the tarmac.
Bjorn is hosting prosery night at dVerse. It’s our only prose prompt – 144 words, including a line from a poem. Tonight’s line comes from Maya Angelou’s Caged Bird: “his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream”.
He’d never spoken to her, but this time, in his uniform, would be his last chance, and he intended to use it. He patted his pocket. The poem he’d written her was there.
The train pulled into her station, and he stood at the window, looking to see where she got on. Nothing. No one left and no one came on the bare platform.
She had to run the last quarter of a mile after her bike got that stupid puncture. She was going to speak to him today. All the young men were being called up – who knew when he’d be gone?
She reached the platform as the train pulled out. She clocked his uniform and gasped, ran faster, reaching for him. Too late.
Just something white – a piece of paper – fluttering from the open window – a butterfly set free.
I’m hosting Prosery for dVerse tonight – 144 words of prose, incorporating a line that I get to choose for you! I’ve chosen a line from “Adlestrop” by Edward Thomas – No one left and no one came On the bare platform”. His death at Arras in 1917 has obviously influenced my thinking tonight.
I could never resist a handsome face. I’d see him, leaning over the side of a boat, and I’d be struck by a lightning bolt of desire. I’d hear a voice raised in song and my heart would burst open. Always a shock, always sudden. I don’t know why.
I was surprised every time love started. Or ended.
My blood is colder than theirs, of course, and my life much longer. Handsome boys grow pale and lose their beauty. Their fingers pucker in salt water. Their singing stops, and they yearn for sunlight, green grass, the feeling of air in their lungs.
Suddenly they bore me, and then, with one flick of my silver tail, I’m gone. Off in search of the next handsome boy who strays too close to the water. Off in search of something like love.
Merrill is hosting Prosery at dVersetonight. Our quotation is “I don’t know why I was surprised every time love started or ended” from I wanted to be surprised by Jane Hirshfield. 144 words of flash fiction – prose, not poetry. Whatever next?
If I concentrate, I can slip between the molecules in the wall. I can absorb the energy of a bullet, make it my own. There are moments caught between heartbeats when I can stretch time. I’m not sure what that makes me – angel? demon? blessed or cursed?
I’ve always done this: slithered out of my own body, wriggled under the skin of lovers. I have survived car crashes, conflagrations; I’ve sought vengeance: spread my fingers in the rapist’s brain; I’ve sought mayhem – guided the arrow that started the battle.
I have watched everything I love grow old and worn. I’ve moved on and started over a thousand times. I’ve passed through ice and flames. I’m not even sure of my own name now, wouldn’t recognise myself in a mirror – except for my eyes. There are galaxies in there, burning in the darkness. I’m lonely.
Kim is hosting the prosery prompt tonight at dVerse. What’s prosery, I hear you cry? A piece of prose, 144 words, incorporating a line from a poem chosen by the host. Tonight the line is from Louis MacNeice – “there are moments caught between heartbeats”
Darkness fell, and Adeline was alone in the forest. She shivered. The full moon shone on the rock face in front of her, and she started to climb. Up high, she’d be away from predators, and in the morning she’d be able to get an idea of where she was. She rubbed at her eyes with a free hand, and decided to cheer herself by singing. She could only remember a rousing hymn that her aunt sang with gusto:
“…the Rock cries out to us today…”
“You may stand upon me, but do not hide your face”.
Adeline froze. The rock itself had spoken. Had she woken it, with her singing? Or was she dreaming?
There was movement. The rock spoke again.
“Don’t be afraid, child. Trolls don’t eat humans”.
Adeline considered. A troll was definitely preferable to her aunt.
Frank is hosting Prosery at dVerse tonight, and gives us a quote from Maya Angelou:
The Rock cries out to us today, You may stand upon me, But do not hide your face.
That is a tough one, you have to admit.
A cow is screaming across the arroyo. I’m sweating, but my mouth is dry – my lips taste of dust when I lick them. I feel like screaming, too. The cow won’t last the night. We lit a fire to keep away night creatures and it’s comforting. If the damn cow would stop screaming I might get some sleep.
Tomorrow, I’ll dig for water.
The moon is bright and there are more stars than I’ve ever seen before. A few nights ago we had the strength to sing, but now we’re too exhausted. We passed more abandoned cars today, found some melted sweets, licked the papers for the taste of sugar. We can’t keep going, but we can’t stop either.
The cow screams again. Somebody swears at it, and we all laugh. What else can we do?
Linda is hosting at dVerse tonight, and it’s prosery night – 144 word flash fiction, incorporating a quote. Tonight’s quote is from Jim Harrison – “a cow is screaming across the arroyo”. I had to look up arroyo – it’s a dried up creek bed.
He was so gorgeous. It was hard to believe – she’d met him on the train, mentioned the party – and now, look, here he was, putting up decorations. She couldn’t remember buying such life-like bats, or such realistic cobwebs, but the room looked amazing. Her fingers absently rubbed the sticky patch on her throat, where moments ago he had set his lips.
How beautiful he was, and how creative! He’d transformed her flat-pack flat into a dark, mysterious boudoir.
He turned and grinned at her.
“If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant” he murmured. “I can’t wait to meet your friends. Are they all as warm and beatiful as you?”.
He held out his hand and she drifted towards him, unable to help herself. She needed the feel of his mouth on her throat again.
Victoria is running the dVerse bar tonight, and introducing us to Jane Kenyon. It’s prosery night, and the weather here is awful – it’s cold and wet, with intermittent hail. The perfect night to sit around the fire and swap spooky stories. More stories over at dVerse – and the quotation we have to fit into our 144 word prose is “If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant”. Come and play.
This is a dead city, and those of us who live here are just ghosts, muttering among the ruins.
When the rains moved North and the river dried up, we had the chance to leave, but some of us chose to stay until it was too late. Now we are trapped here, unable to cross the desert to find somewhere gentler to live, clinging to life in crumbling palaces.
This is the barrenness of harvest, or pestilence, I sometimes think. We sowed the seeds for this, we set loose the plague, and now we suffer as we deserve. Yet some evenings, when the air is cooler and the breeze has the taste of rain, I remember the sound of children playing, of laughter in shady courtyards, and I think then that death will be kind to me, will recognise that I am his already.
Bjorn is hosting at dVerse tonight, and it’s prosery time again! 144 words of flash fiction, including a quotation given to us by our host. Tonight he’s chosen two lines from Louise Gluck (can’t work out how to do an umlaut, sorry): this is the barrenness of harvest or pestilence.
Head over to dVerse and check out the other writers there. It’s a great place to hang out.
A leaf-green gown, a magpie feather cloak, a pair of birch bark shoes – these memories were left here with the trees when I entered the human world, my heart snagged by a huntsman with cunning fingers and sky-blue eyes. His kiss meant more to me than a leaf-green gown, his dark hair was softer than a magpie feather cloak. I gave him three whispering children – two green-eyed boys, a blue-eyed girl. I watched him age while I did not.
I’m returning to the forest now, to mourn him, slipping back into my woodland clothes, as if I never was away.
My kind forget carelessly, though. I’ll wander here until my heart is snagged once more, by a pair of brown eyes, a smile like sunlight. I’ll leave my secrets lightly then, go visiting the human world.
It’s Prosery night at dVerse. Flash fiction inspired by a quotation, a story in 144 words. Tonight our host is Merril, and she gives us a line from Jo Harjo, the new US Poet Laureate. She’s chosen this line:
“These memories were left here with the trees”
from the poem “How to Write a Poem in a Time of War.” You can read the entire poem here.
You don’t know this now, but In two days time, you will leave. You will pack one small case. You will post the keys back through the letter box as you leave.
You will take a train to the airport. You will wait in the departure lounge alone, drinking bland coffee; you will buy a pair of sunglasses, a notebook.
Later that day, you will sit in a small restaurant in a foreign square, warmed by the evening sun. You will order a glass of white wine, and a plate of pasta. You will eat it slowly.
You will leave your phone unanswered. You will read your novel. You will go back to a quiet room, with a window looking out over red roof tops.
You will feel a knot loosen in your chest.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
For the third dVerse prosery – a piece of flash fiction – 144 words, including a quotation, set this time by Kim – a line from Derek Walcott:
“You will love again the stranger who was yourself”
What a resonant line…