‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge’ Week #21 NEW Image Prompt! Join in the fun! #IARTG #WritingCommunity #flashfiction #writingprompts @pursoot

It’s that time again! Suzanne Burke chose a great photo for her most recent flash fiction photo prompt—a perfect fit for autumn weather, Halloweenish happenings, or things that go bump in the night. As always, I enjoyed playing with this prompt and giving my muse free rein. To learn more about Soooz’s weekly fiction challenge, click HERE to join in the fun.

This time I came in at exactly 750 words (the limit) when including the title.

Old abandoned, boarded up two-story home in autumn woods at sunset

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

I’ve Got a Plan

“You really bought this?”  Mason shook his head as he surveyed the derelict property. In its day, the house had probably been grand. Now, it was nothing more than a weathered, ivy-encrusted shell. Gilded by the last rays of the setting sun, the old two-story appeared part of the barren woodland surrounding it. “I hope you can get your money back.”

“It was dirt cheap.” Jeremy’s face glowed with pride. “Besides…I’ve got a plan.”

There was always a plan with Jeremy—another fanciful idea or dragon tail. It had been that way since he was a kid. “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the plan?”

“A Halloween Haunt. Picture it.” Jeremy spread his hands, framing the house. “It won’t take a lot of money. Just enough to shore things up and make certain they’re sound. We add a few fog machines, cheap vintage furniture, and I’m telling you, Dad, it can’t fail.”

“You’ll need actors.”

“I’ve got that covered. We add to the existing atmosphere and play up grim and creepy.”

Business would be limited to a few months in the fall, but that wasn’t entirely problematic. Plus, it would be good experience if the kid pulled it off. At twenty-eight, it was time he managed something. 

“Maybe.” Mason wasn’t ready to commit. “Let’s see inside.”

~ooOOoo~

Isabelle rolled her eyes at the agonized creak of the front door. It had started screeching like that somewhere during the last century. “Dearest, we have company.”

Liam flipped a page in his book. “Two men. I saw them standing out front.”

“Don’t you think you should go downstairs and see what they’re about?” She lowered her embroidery hoop to her lap, the soft folds of her saffron gown, a color match for the flames in the hearth. As cozy as their sitting room was, she understood why Liam was reluctant to leave but one of them had to address the situation. “You’ve already read Moby Dick numerous times.”

“But I never tire of it. We could send Chloe.”

“That strumpet?” Isabelle clucked her tongue. “I think not. I don’t even know why the fool girl insists on lingering.”

“She did love me.” Liam set his book aside. “Probably still does.”

He was a distinguished man with a smattering of gray in his hair, his eyes the dark blue of midnight skies. Isabelle was sometimes overcome by her devotion to him. She couldn’t term the affection love—not any longer—but her emotion ran strong. She’d been naïve when they’d wed, but after a decade discerned his wandering eye. Especially after Chloe came to live with them, lending a hand with domestic chores.

“Her love is irrelevant. I do not share.”

“As you proved.”

Isabelle flashed an innocent smile. “You always enjoyed my tea in the past.”

“Minus the poison.”

“At least I followed you to the grave by drinking it myself.”

“Not quite the grave.” He motioned to the room at large.

“Which brings us back to the problem downstairs.”

“Very well.” Liam heaved a breath. “I’ll scare them off like the others.”

~ooOOoo~

“It has potential.” After exploring the main level, Mason was almost ready to commit. It would take an outlay of cash, but nothing he couldn’t raise. Maybe this time Jeremy would finally turn one of his pipedreams into gold. “We should look upstairs.”

He started toward the staircase, halting abruptly when he spied a figure at the top. “What the—” 

The man’s face appeared chiseled from granite. Dressed in outdated clothing, he looked much like a Dicken’s character, wearing a short waistcoat, silken cravat, and high-topped boots. 

He speared a finger in their direction. “Trespassers! You do not belong here!” The walls shook at the boom of his voice. The floor heaved and cracked. Behind him, lightning exploded from the ceiling, filling the air with ozone. “Leave while you can.”

“Holy shit!” Mason stumbled backward, colliding with his son.

Jeremy caught him by the shoulders. “Don’t mind him, Dad. That’s just Mr. O’Conner.” He hustled past, climbing the steps two at a time. “Hiya, Mr. O’Conner.” He flipped a wave to the stunned apparition. “Chloe told me all about you and your wife. You’re going to fit right in. Aren’t they, Dad?” Jeremy glanced over his shoulder. “Dad?”

Mason stood rooted to the landing, knees quavering, heart thundering. “J-J-Jeremey…” He couldn’t seem to find his voice. “Th-that’s a ghost.”

“Yeah, I know.” The idiot kid grinned ear-to-ear. “Didn’t I tell you we wouldn’t need actors?”

“Fiction In A Flash Challenge” Week #11 NEW Image Prompt. @pursoot #IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity.

Happy Wednesday! I am back again and participating in the Flash Fiction challenge Suzanne Burke has shared on her blog. This is my third week in a row, and I’m having a blast enjoying these prompts. Below is the photo for this week and my take on it!

Waterfall spilling into verdant valley, stark, barren, leafless tree in foregroundMrs. Conway

Jarrod Hamilton was not a rich man but considered himself a talented one. For the last eight years he’d made a living teaching the upper crust ladies of Victorian London the finer arts of painting with oils. During that time, he’d often had to bite his tongue rather than offer advice­. On other occasions, he fawned over inferior work all the while cringing at the substandard quality his students produced. But catering to delicate egos paid the bills and helped him maintain his lifestyle, mediocre as it was.

Perhaps that was why Mrs. Conway so surprised him. Unlike the other ladies who breezed in each Wednesday, chattering like magpies, Millicent Conway arrived early and alone. A quiet woman widowed for over a year—if gossip was to be believed—she rarely engaged with others. Of the near dozen students in his class, she was the only one with a dram of talent. He’d observed the growth of her painting for weeks, maintaining his silence on her progress. Now, with the final brushstrokes applied, he could no longer contain his thoughts.

“Very striking, Mrs. Conway.” Jarrod stood with his hands behind his back as he looked over her shoulder. “The assignment was to paint a representation of self. I’m curious why you chose a waterfall.”

Millicent set her brush aside with a graceful movement, as dainty and refined as a delicate bird. “Your praise is most kind, sir.” She seemed reluctant to say more.

Undaunted, he peered closer. “A more cynical man than I might guess the waterfall is not the subject of your painting.”

She blinked, wide-eyed and curious. “Pardon?”

“I suspect the true focus is the tree in the foreground. Desolate and barren while the waterfall feeds a valley rich with life.” He eyed her sharply, prying beneath the buttoned-up layers of her personality. “The tree is Isolated and alone.”

Her spine stiffened. She fingered her collar. “How observant of you. Sometimes people are much the same.”

“Only by choice.”

She looked away.

“Do you know what I see, Mrs. Conway? Despite the fact the tree doesn’t embrace the vibrance of the valley, its roots are deep. Steadfast. A strong force in the face of adversity.”

She relaxed, her smile wan. “Ah, but you don’t see beneath the surface, Mr. Hamilton. Sometimes there is a reason for that distance. The exterior is gilt and flash, while the inside has been poisoned with disease.”

His gut clenched. The chatter of his other students created a buzz like the constant drone of honeybees in the background. He wanted to swat them away. “Disease?”

She wiped her hands on a rag. “It destroys from the inside out. You can’t see the damage until it is too late, and there is nothing to be done.”

“Like a cancer?”

“Precisely.”

Bile burned the back of his throat. “Then there is no hope?”

She squeezed his hand, her fingers cold. “There is always hope. Especially when those who suffer have made peace and no longer feel the need to be part of the valley. They have their own verdant dell waiting, guarded by loved ones who have passed.” Warmth touched her eyes. “The tree must bend. Break at last.”

His throat grew tight. He nodded toward the painting. “What will become of this?”

“It matters not to me.”

“May I have it?”

She appeared surprised. “Of course, but I fail to understand why you would want it.”

How could he tell her? Finally, after years of teaching petticoats, dowagers, and debutantes, someone in his class had spoken clearly through canvas and oil. It may not have mattered to her, but even as disease shortened her life, she’d found a way to instill meaning in his work.

It made him believe he could find his own waterfall and valley.

At the very least, she’d taught him how to be a tree.


I hope you enjoyed my short fic. If you’d like to try your hand, visit Soooz’s blog each Friday for a new prompt. You have until Thursday of the following week to post something. Lots of time to get creative! 🙂