Friday Flash Fiction Post: Images of a Black Flame

Images of a Black Flame

I dredged up this prompt from long ago and for some reason, it spoke to me now. I have written a chapter of what seems like a longer work. Do you like it? Do you want to read more? Let me know. If there’s no interest, I’ll let the story drop, never to be seen again.

Chapter 1

Anrak woke with a gasp and sat straight up in her bed. She pulled her russet hair, come loose in her sleep, back from her face and flipped her braid to her back. Deep calming breaths, just breathe. She looked around her tiny room, the embers of the fire close to gone, and tried to reorient herself while her heart beat slowed. The dream had seemed so real.

In the morning, she rose from her pallet and began the day’s work. Breakfast for Master Eddan and herself was first before they began the task of taking down the dried herbs and putting them into jars and boxes.

Eddan came into the main room as Anrak scooped oatmeal into bowls. “I put dried cherries in it this morning.”

Eddan sat at the table and nodded. “I’m pleased.” He eyed her, his face, wrinkled with time, showed concern. “I heard you call out last night. The dream again?”

Anrak swallowed. “Yes.” She sighed. “I wish I knew what it means.”

“Just the image of a black flame? Was it on a table, an altar, in a building, the woods?”

The apprentice rubbed an eye. “There might have been a candle, or that’s just wishful thinking on my part. I don’t understand why it terrifies me.” She scooped oatmeal into her bowl and sat across the table from her master. “It’s as though the flame is alive, can see me.” She stirred the mush around the bowl. “Or that there’s someone near, in the same space with the flame.” Anrak shook her head. “It makes no sense.” She ate a spoonful of the oatmeal.

Eddan stroked his beard, gone white in the twelve years she’d been his apprentice. “I’ve been thinking about your flame. I’ve read through all of my books looking for a reference. It might be time to go to the Mage Council to collaborate.”

“Is that wise?”

Eddan snorted. “They’ll have to get over themselves. They know I was right, it just galls them that I saw the dragon coming before the rest of them did.” He scooped up a spoonful and ate it.

“Good thing you did. Otherwise the land would have been seared from one end to the other. The King was happy.”

“Yes, but I’m concerned that you keep seeing this image and are fearful of it. It could be a portent. That’s why I took you as an apprentice. Your dreams are strong and even as an untrained child, could foresee events. We’ll go today. After breakfast, pack us some travel food, prepare our bags. We’ll go to the council and get some help.”

#

After four days walk, Eddan and Anrak reached the castle where many of their brother and sister mages lived and studied. It was located in the capital city, making it easy for the King to summon them should he need counsel or assistance. They were ushered to the rooms of the head of the council.

“Gar’dyne!” Eddan strode across the carpets strewn across the stone floor like pools of color. “So good to see you.” The two men clasped each other’s arms and hugged in greeting.

“It’s been too long, Eddan.” The mage held his friend at arm’s length and studied his appearance. “You’ve gotten grayer.”

“And you’ve gotten thinner. Doesn’t your apprentice feed you?” Eddan laughed.

“He does, but I don’t always remember to eat what he brings me.” He looked past Eddan. “And this is Anrak?” Gar’dyne walked to her and gave her a gentle embrace. “You have grown into a fine young woman.” He studied her face. “But you have dark circles under your eyes. Are you well?”

She smiled at the kind old man. “I am well.” Anrak looked to her master.

Eddan spoke up. “She is dreaming. We want the council to help us.”

“Come, sit.” He led them to a table and chairs. “Tell me everything.”

#

After the tale, Gar’dyne called for tea, bread and cheese. “It seems to me, this black flame is a symbol, a warning perhaps.”

While they ate, Eddan said, “That’s my thought also. The library here is large, there may be some reference to a black flame and one or more of the council may have knowledge of this image.”

“We’ll meet after supper in the council chamber and tell the rest of the mages. He stood up. “I’ll have Yawo escort you to your chambers. Rest, have a quiet supper and meet us after.”

Eddan shook Gar’dyne’s hand. “Thank you. I feel this is a threat. We should be prepared.”

#

At the meeting of the mages, they hashed over Anrak’s dream. By the time they finished, she was exhausted.

“I don’t know,” Tankal, a middle-aged man whose main talent as a mage was creating flame, whined. “None of us seem to know what this image she dreams of is about.”

“Belsing,” Gar’dyne called out. “You’re the one with the best knowledge of the library yet you’ve said nothing.”

Anrak turned to look at Belsing. At least ninety, he looked as fragile as the ancient manuscripts he studied.

“There might be something, a prophesy, very old. Something about a war with black flames. I’d have to research it.” He scratched his liver-spotted bald head. “I would suggest a dream reader stay with Anrak tonight and view the dream with her.”

“Excellent idea, Belsing.” Gar’dyne turned to a woman that was near his age. “Releh, you’re the best dream follower we have. Would you help us tonight?”

Relah looked at Anrak. “If the young woman gives me permission, I’d be happy to help.”

Anrak nodded. “I would appreciate that service. Thank you.”

“Then it is done.” Gar’dyne clapped his hands. “We’ll reconvene in at mid-morning to discuss what has happened over the night.”

 

End of Chapter 1

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Chapter 1 from It’s a Question of College

Soccer, Randy Cockrell

Soccer Game by Randy Cockrell

I have a confession, I totally did not get a story done for today. *blushes* By way of apology, I give you the first chapter to It’s a Question of College. Some of you know that I’m writing a YA series called All About Bob. This series is a result of a writing exercise I did over a year ago. It’s still rough, I’ll be editing and rewriting after it’s finished. And if you can think of a better title, I’ll be happy to consider it.

This chapter is over 1600 words, so a little longer than normal. Enjoy.

Chapter 1 It’s a Question of College

Bob ran as fast as he could taking the front porch steps two at a time gasping for breath from the run up the hill where his parent’s run down two-story frame house stood. He’d stopped looking at the neighborhood years ago. Dead grass, mattresses with the stuffing coming out, crappy sofas and armchairs on sagging porches were so normal he didn’t even notice them anymore. He raised the rusty hinged top to the mailbox now only loosely nailed to the wall beside the front door. Shit, he thought as he peered inside. She’s already gotten the mail.

He left the top open when the hinges froze in place and opened the screen door, more holes than screen, to open the front door. The glass was duct-taped along three long cracks radiating from the edges from the last time his father slammed the door in one of his drunken rages. He’d stopped noticing that, too. He closed the door quietly. Maybe his mother was up in her room, sleeping off the afternoon binge. School books tucked under his arm, he stepped softly across the worn carpet to the kitchen.

His mother was in front of the stove, stirring what smelled like spaghetti sauce. He rolled his eyes in his head. Of course today she felt like staying a little sober, he could see the bottle of beer, condensation on the outside of it, sitting on the counter beside the stove. And she’s fixing dinner — of all days. He looked on the kitchen table, there was the mail. Just as he was going to fade back into the living room she turned and saw him.

“Bobbie, didn’t hear ya come in.” She reached for the beer and took a long pull, setting it back on the counter with a burb. “Opps,” she giggled. “Sorry.”

“Uh, yeah. Soccer practice is over.” He took a breath and walked into the kitchen. “You’re makin’ supper.” He did his best to look casual as he went to the table and dropped his books next to the mail. The top envelope was the light bill. He didn’t dare search the pile while she was watching.

“I felt like spaghetti tonight.”

He wasn’t surprised. It was about the only thing she ever made. “Great, Ma. Sounds good.” He went to the fridge and opened the door. Inside was two 18 packs of beer, the kind his father drank, three sticks of butter, half a loaf of bread and two colas. He took a cola and shut the fridge door. “I’ll do my homework while you cook.” He went back to the table, shoved up against the dirty white painted wall, and casually knocked the mail to the floor as he picked up his books. He put the books back on the table and crouched down to pick up the mail, being careful to pick up one at a time so he could skim the return addresses. It wasn’t in the pile. Bob stood and tapped them into a neat stack and put them back on the table.

“Sorry about that.” He got his books and went to his room. The days were getting shorter, he had to turn on the lamp on the rickety desk he’d found three blocks away a couple of years ago with a Free sign on it. The chair was from a yard sale. He traded the owner a yard mowing for it. The books fell on the desk with a thump, causing the whole thing to shake. Bob flopped in the chair a sigh escaping. That was close, he thought as he dug a pen out of his notebook. I thought for sure the report card was supposed to be out today. He did not want his parents to see that card.  He opened his math text and found the page with the homework problems. Math was his hardest subject so he tended to do that homework first.

An hour later he heard his mother shout from the kitchen, “Dinner!”

He had one more problem to do but decided to do it after supper. His stomach was growling. The two hour soccer practice after school burned the peanut butter sandwich he had for lunch away fast. He was halfway through the kitchen when he noticed his father sitting in the end seat at the table. Bob stopped. “Uh, Hi dad. Didn’t hear ya come in.”

“Nose always stuck in a book,” Ted Kowalski snorted. He drained his can of beer and slammed it on the table. “Get me another one, kid.”

Bob got the beer as his mother drained the spaghetti and put it next to his father’s plate. He took the empty and tossed it into the trash. When he was ten he’d learned about recycling in school. That night he’d picked up his father’s empty aluminum can and rinsed it out and set it on the drain board.

“What the hell ya doin’,” his father had screamed at him from the kitchen table.

Bob walked over to his father and explained. He knew his father, a sanitation worker, would understand. Ted reached out and cuffed Bob in the head leaving a red mark across the left side of his face. “Don’t be a smart ass. That recyclin’ is a bunch of shit. Just something to make my life miserable.”

Bob never tried it again, at least in the house. He got a glass of water from the sink and sat down at the other end of the table. His mother, Marcy, sat on the long side of the table, between them. She put the pan of pasta in the middle of the table. No bowl for her. That was one less thing to wash.

After Ted and Marcy dished up their food, Bob put some on his plate. His mother passed him the green can of parmesan cheese. There was only a teaspoon left in the can. Bob sighed to himself. Sighing aloud would only get him a slap. He wound the pasta onto his fork and took the bite. The pasta was overdone and mushy. “Good dinner, ma,” he said as he went for the next forkful. It was food and would fill his belly.

Marcy drank some beer, burped, and said, “Thanks, Bobbie.”

Bob had tuned out his father’s detailed description of his miserable day on the garbage truck, his thoughts were on the report card his mother had. He tried to think of a way to tell them he really wanted to go to college. His soccer coach thought it could be done. Bob didn’t want to work on a garbage truck like his old man. There had to be something better. They were half way through their plates of spaghetti when his mother pulled an envelope out of her sweatpants pocket. “This came in the mail today.” She put it next to Ted’s plate.

Her husband eyed the envelope. “What the hell is it? A bill?”

She grinned at her son. “It’s Bobbie’s report card.”

Bob’s stomach sank. He’d managed to keep them from seeing his report card all last year. Why the hell didn’t she stick to her routine!

His old man put his fork down and picked up the envelope. He pulled the two page computer printout from the envelope. “What the hell is this shit? When I was in school ya got an actual card.”

Marcy giggled, her thin graying dirty blond pony tail swinging behind her head. “It’s all computers now, Ted.”

“Bullshit,” he muttered as he peered at the small print. He flipped the page, read it, then slapped it on the table. “B’s and C’s. I always knew you was stupid.” Ted picked up his beer and drained it. “Get me another one, stupid.”

Bob picked up the empty, dropped it in the trash and got the new one, putting it beside his father’s plate. His stomach was churning the spaghetti as he sat back down. “I’m doing better this year than last.”

He father eyed him across the table. “I don’t remember any report cards from last year.”

Bob kept his face neutral. “No? They weren’t that great. Nothing to remember.” He picked up his fork and twirled spaghetti around with it.

Ted snorted. “I’ll bet.”

Bob choked the rest of his plate of food down. His father wouldn’t tolerate wasted food. Marcy picked up her empty plate and her husband’s. Ted got up and went to the living room after draining his can of beer and getting a fresh one.

“I think you’re doin’ good, Bobbie. Don’t pay him no mind, school was never his favorite.” She rinsed the plates and put them in the sink, grabbed a beer and went to watch TV with her husband.

Bob scraped the rest of what was on his plate into the trash. His father wouldn’t know. He never touched the trash. That was Bob’s job. He rinsed his plate and put it in the sink. Then he dug the left over spaghetti out of the pot and put it in a bowl and covered it with plastic wrap. He rinsed the pot. He left the dishes for his mother. She tried to have him wash them one night a few years ago and Ted exploded. That was women’s work. His son wouldn’t do women’s work. Bob shrugged. He’d prefer to do the dishes. At least then they wouldn’t be sitting there for two or three days.

He picked up  the forgotten report card, tucked it into his shirt and went to his room. His parents had already forgotten about it. Bob would forge their signature and take it to school in the morning.

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Flash Fiction Friday Post: Mean Girl

Preacher's Cave Mouth by Randy Cockrell

Preacher’s Cave Mouth by Randy Cockrell

I wonder at times if my readers are interested in the writing process? I wrote this as part of a 3 day mini-workshop. This is the final step to the workshop, writing the opening scene to a story. What do you think? Do you want to read more? Is the character engaging? Do you sympathize? Comments are open.

Mean Girl

“Don’t leave me!” sobbed Sonia Lizzaro to Kortni Forsythe but Kortni had already crawled ahead, leaving Sonia in the pitch black cave, bugs crawling all over her and with a broken leg besides. She was on her own. She couldn’t even hear Kortni any longer.

Sonia wiped her teary face on her shoulder. She could feel the mud slide across her face. She sniffed and could smell the decay around her. “Serves me right,” she said out loud. The cave was too quiet. She wanted to hear a voice, even if it was her own. “I should have known better to try and save her. She’s picked on me since we were in grade school, why would she change now?”

Sonia steeled herself to crawl through the mud and muck of the cave floor. It was certain that Kortni wasn’t going to help. Her broken leg hit a rock in the dark, sending pain shooting up her leg to her brain. She groaned but kept moving. Chubby and out of shape, Sonia gasped for breath. The mud and cave were cold but she was sweating.

“I should have let that crazy hike have her. I shuld have run back to the teacher as soon as I got up from where he knocked me down. Nooo. Instead I go after them, watching till he left. She’d do the same for you, I though. Ha, what a joke. Who was I kidding?”

She slithered forward, the cave ceiling just inches over her head. “She was so grateful when I untied her. We cleared the rock fall together. I thought we’d be friends. Yeah, friends. As soon as I showed her the direction out she left me. If only that rock hadn’t fallen on my leg.”

Another wave of pain flooded through her. She stopped and gasped. A wave of fresh air hit her face. “Maybe I’m nearly at the entrance,” she told herself. “Come on, Sonia. Get a move on. It’s freezing in here.” She crawled further, raising her head and forcing her eyes wide to catch any glimmer of light.

She screamed and brushed wildly at her face where a bug was crawling. Sonia sobbed with fear and disgust. “Let me out of here,” she wept. “Please, God, just get me out.” Crawling again she counted every arm pull forward. “You can do it. Keep it up. Go ten more.”

It seemed to take forever but after ten sets of ten she saw a glimmer of light. “Thank you, God.” She moved faster not that she could see the way out.

Finally she stuch her head out of the crevice. She wept with joy at the sun’s warmth on her face. Sonia slid out of the hole onto the rock surrounding the cave mouth and lay on the warm rock. She looked at herself after she caught her breath. She was covered in mud and squashed bugs. Kortni’s scarf, tied around the gash in her leg was filthy. “That’s never gonna come clean,” she said to herself.

Sonia pulled herself up on a rock then stood on her good leg. She looked around for a stick to help her walk. She just wanted to go home and get clean. If she never went outside again it would be too soon. She hobbled from rock to tree, finally finding a stick. When she got back to school she was going to tell everyone how Kortni had left her.

Struggling to stagger along, she didn’t hear the brushes rustling. It wasn’t until a shadow fell across her path that she looked up.

“You again,” the hiker grinned. “You look like crap.” He frowned at her. “You took my girl away from me.”

Sonia’s heart fell. The fear and terror of the cave came boiling out of her. “Leave me alone!” she screamed at him.

He laughed then grabbed her arm. “You’ll have to do.” He pulled her back the way she’d just come.

She began to cry.

 

The End

664 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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