“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! 🙂

 

Friday Fiction: Dinosaur Waltz

Happy Friday! I rarely do blog posts on Friday, but it’s my turn up at bat over at Story Empire with a Friday Fiction Prompt. I could hardly ask others to play along and not take a shot at it myself. So, here goes…from the cloud below choose a single word to use as a creative writing primer. You can even use your own selection. The only rule is that the word must begin with “sub.”

a word cloud of various words beginning with "sub"If you decide to give the challenge a whirl (and I hope you do), please link back to the Story Empire post in the comments so we can see your creative genius at work. In the meantime, here’s my attempt to be creative and step away from urban legends for a change. I chose the word submarine:

Dinosaur Waltz by Mae Clair

Captain Wade Sloan studied the map on the plotting table. Running at flank was risky with such an old submarine, but the Raleigh had held together through worse. After two weeks of flirting with the boundary line of enemy waters, the crew was wound tight. They’d been on high alert from day one, but had done their part admirably, serving as a diversion for the Seeker-Class subs christened in 2112.

The last of her kind still in service for the NorthWestCoalition, the Raleigh was scheduled to be retired when they returned to port. He’d could either adapt to the NWC’s Seeker technology or retire, too.

“Skipper.” Seaman Dyer’s voice broke through his reverie. “Sir, I’m picking up the signature of another sub, closing fast.”

Nuclear submarine in a deep blue sea. Digital illustration.

“Type and distance.”

“Attack class, Sir.  Not one of ours. “Bearing zero-five-zero, six thousand yards.”

An old tub, like the Raleigh.  “Helmsman. Hard left rudder, ten degrees port.”

“Sir, she’s locked on us.” Dyer bent over the sonar station. “Flooding her tubes.”

Two dinosaurs, giving it one last whirl.

Sloan wrenched the mic from the periscope stand. “Engineering, port ahead two-thirds.  Missile room, flood torpedo tubes one and four.”  He focused on Dyer. “Range.”

“Forty-five hundred yards, Sir.  Still closing.” A pause as Dyer adjusted a dial. “Enemy torpedo in the water, locked on.”

“Helmsman, down plane, hard to starboard.” Sloan clicked the mic again. “Missile room, prepare to fire.”

A second later the reply bounced back.  “Ready to fire, Sir.”

Sloan leaned across Dyer and activated the aft camera.

“Tracking, Sir.” Dyer was intent on the sound in his headset.  “Twenty-five hundred yards to enemy torpedo.”

“Stand by,” Sloan said into the mic.

“Twelve hundred yards,” Dyer announced.

Sloan clicked the mic.  “Missile room, fire one.”

“Fire one.” The nearly insubstantial concussion of the release vibrated through the decking.

“Homing.” Dyer licked his lips, counted off seconds:  “Locked, Sir.”

Sloan raised the mic.  “All hands brace for impact.”  The Raleigh shuddered, rocked hard to the side, but held course.

“Torpedo destroyed.” Dyer’s voice rebounded above a cacophony of warning claxons. “Enemy sub altering course to zero-nine-five.  She’s turning tail, Skipper.”

Sloan called the adjustment to the planesman. “Stay with her.” Sparks danced overhead. He caught a flash-fire eruption from the corner of his eye, but O’Malley was already on it. “Missile room, stand by number four torpedo.”

“Standing by.”

“Engine room, back flank.”

“Aye, Sir.  back flank.”

The boat settled, evening out on a smoother plane. Emergency lighting kicked in, followed quickly by the main systems. Sloan caught the reek of ozone as O’Malley turned a fire extinguisher on the small outbreak of flame. “Damage control, report.”

“Minimal circuitry damage, Sir.  She’s watertight.”

“Range to target is fourteen hundred yards, Skipper.” Dyer flashed a grin. “She doesn’t have our speed.”

The hunter had become the hunted.  Sloan spoke into the microphone.  “Missile room, fire number four.”

“Firing number four.”

“All hands brace for shockwave.”

The backlash from the explosion was merciless, sending Sloan sprawling. A boat destroyed, lives loss. Could it be anything less than savage? He pulled himself upright only to be sent tumbling again by the brutal rocking of the boat. The control room plunged into darkness.

In another few moments the Raleigh reestablished trim. The lighting flickered sluggishly then surged to full power.

Sloan hauled himself to his feet. “Damage control report.”

Problems were minimal and the group in the control room relaxed. A few back-slaps were exchanged as seaman resettled at their stations. Another day and they’d be in the clear, safely back in port.

Sloan returned to the plotting table to focus on their course. After ten minutes, Dyer spoke again.

“Captain Sloan I think you should see this.”sonar screen

There was something in his voice that made several heads swivel in his direction. Sloan crossed to the sonar station and stood staring down at the screen.

“I think that sub we destroyed was a suicide, Sir.” Dyer’s face had gone pale, the color of chalk. He swallowed hard and motioned to the mass of blips on the sonar screen. “All Seeker-Class. The signatures don’t match ours.”

Sloan’s mouth was dry. “Enemy?”

“Aye, Sir. The explosion of that other sub told them exactly where to find us. I guess she was a diversion, too.”

The old dinosaur. “And a damn good one.”