April’s Zeroflash Competition Entries

Patience

by Jack Koebnig

@koebnig

You don’t fool me. The others, some of the others, perhaps, but not me.

Boats do not take to your surface, nor fish to your depths. I know what you are. I have witnessed your true form, stared into your black lifeless eyes and felt the hate radiating from your merciless heart.

You don’t fool me.

I will prove that my actions are just. I will sit here, high above your false form and wait. I have time. When one embarks on a quest, one has nothing but time. And when you turn, for I know you must, I will be here, ready with my net.

You will not escape me. Not a second time.

I will show those blind fools that ignoring the problem, one that is as obvious as a drop of ink on a square of fresh parchment, is not a valid course of action.

‘We must take arms. We must stand as one. Only then will we survive.’

They will rue the day that they ignored my warning. Just see if they do not.

I was the one to break their conspiracy of silence, and for my trouble I was excommunicated, banished ten leagues beyond the fortress walls. But I hold no ill will towards them. They are simply scared and scared people do what comes naturally; they focus on their own personal survival.

Rest well, demon. For when you wake, I shall be waiting. Net in hand.

You will never fool me.

A Simple Genie

by Chloe Gilholy

“Good evening, Bobby.”

A red fog taints the cemetery. A silhouette of a monk floats towards me. The man is black all over with only white lines where his facial features should be. His eyes are shut. He comes to me and opens his eyes. He bows. The shadows melt away to reveal a mystical demon.

His pale human appearance makes me shiver. “Who are you?”

He grins. “I am Shiku Mortem: a simple genie.”

“What do you want?” If he wants to kill me – please be quick. I should be dead by now.

Shiku jumps towards me with his rotten hands open. “You – I have a gift for you.”

I shake my head and run. “I’m not interested. I don’t want to be in this world anymore.”

Shiku blocks the path and grips me. Chains emerge from the ground. They’re no different to the chains that trap me in this vicious circle of depression. “I know why you did it. And I know what you want – but you can’t have it. Which is why I am going to grant you four wishes.”

“My only wish is to die!” My lips tremble and my voice strains. Overwhelmed with tears, my body is dragged to the floor. “I have nobody. I have nothing. PLEASE.” I’m choking on my own tearful pleas. “Just let me die.”

“YOU CANNOT DIE!” Shiku slams his fists together and unleashes a white aura that wipes out the whole cemetery so it’s just us and this white space. “If you do die, I will revive you. Call me and I shall grant your wish.”

“What’s the catch?”

“You cannot eliminate your past.”

“This is not fair.”

“Life isn’t fair. Like I said, I’m just a simple genie.”

“I don’t want your wishes. Go away!”

Seconds, minutes and hours

by Marjan Sierhuis

     Muffled voices, and a cacophony of sounds creeps stealthily through a crack in the hospital door.  They go unnoticed by the couple within.  A wall clock quietly sweeps hands around a clock face and counts down seconds, minutes and hours.  Medical equipment, a crash cart, and supplies on over laden carts now sit idle on the sidelines; soldiers who have seen recent battle.

Eyes closed, Charles lies quietly in bed while beads of perspiration tickle his forehead, and trickle their way down cheeks to lips that taste of salt.  His heart cycles incessantly in his chest and answers to the beat of its own drummer.  Oxygen moves frugally in and out of his lungs.  The element is like the forces of the sun and the moon that play among the tides of the ocean.

But Charles is not alone.  Rose, his wife of forty years sits in a chair by his bedside.  A concerned look crosses her delicate features as beams of sunlight peek over her shoulder. They cast their brilliance on the creased photo she clutches tightly between her fingertips.  It is of their wedding which now seems such a long time ago.

Rose leans over, kisses her husband’s cheek and whispers in his ear.  Gently she pats his damp forehead with a handkerchief.  Suddenly, it falls from her fingertips, catches on a puff of air and floats onto his pillow.

She grasps his cold hand in hers, eyes filled with unshed tears and bows her head in silent prayer.  Slowly, Charles opens his eyes and with a slight tilt of his head glances down at her. He knows he will not be alone.

November Bay

by Alex L Williams

@vividnest

Darkness expanded into the deserted harbour as Alice’s feet pounded the cobbles. The inky sea smashed the moon into fragments and drizzle plastered hairs to her face. She clenched her key. Every man, woman and child was hidden away with shutters closed and doors bolted. It was a full moon; they knew the routine.

A glance over her shoulder revealed a vast purple head, far larger than the surrounding rowing boats, rising from the ocean. Its humanoid face glistened as its bright eyes sucked at the lights of the waterfront. The key fell from her trembling fingers and rattled into a drain.

Alice pressed herself against a wall, hidden behind a bin. She watched as, one by one, long tentacles reached up and stretched towards the sky. The stories were true; he was half-man half-octopus. Alice burrowed her eyes into her elbow as the octogiant walked up the slipway, his eight arms moving in graceful waves, his ambling body heading for the town.

He checked each house, his hungry eyes level with the upstairs windows, hoping to glimpse a human. He’d taken two people in the last four years, a young woman and an old fisherman.

A shadow loomed, then the end of a limb slipped around Alice’s waist and a scream dropped from her mouth into the empty street. He lifted her struggling body and carried her back to the sea. She gasped as he submerged her. Thoughts of death swam through her mind. Her lungs flooded, but she found she could breathe and they travelled for miles over the seabed.

They joined two humans in an underwater cave and the octogiant lay down.  ‘loneliness had engulfed him,’ said the woman, ‘so we sleep wrapped in his arms each night.’

‘You’ll grow to love him,’ said the old man.

Fireflash

by Mark Warren

Watching from here I can almost feel my wallet getting fatter. This will be the fifth race he has won in as many weeks. The winner’s pot plus the winnings from a few ‘not-so-legal’ bets heading my way.

Fireflash. I’d found him a few months back when on the run from a botched burglary that I should have planned better. I’d followed a river through some woods, scratched almost every inch of myself climbing through brambles, and then there he was. Silver mane glittering in the dappled moonlight. And that horn, perfectly twisted to a point not six inches from his eyes. Friendly as anything, he was. Obviously I didn’t believe it at first, thought some nutter had glued something to a horse for their stuck-up kids to play with. But close up it became clear. The horn was growing straight out the head.

He seemed willing to follow me, with a little coaxing, and we found an abandoned barn. My plan, if you can call it that, was to tie it up and call the press. Someone would pay for a story and pictures. If there was no fall-out I’d sell him to the highest bidder. That was until I saw it run. And I mean run. I’d been to the horses many times but I’d never seen one run like that. So I formed a new plan.

Now, I couldn’t enter a unicorn in a horse race – I’m not stupid – so I took a hacksaw and Fireflash was born. His mane is no longer silver and his temper rivals that of a boxer at a weigh-in, but he runs fast. The horn I keep with me always because when I hold it he does what I say. And right now I say ‘win me a race, boy’.

Serpent of Venice

by Ella Syverson

The wizened tour guide propels the gondola with ease, each stroke of the long oar causing a gentle ripple through the clouded waters.

“There’s a myth,” he tells the tourists. “An urban legend, if you will. It says a great beast lives beneath Venice. Serpentine, they say, with scales like a snake, eyes like a cat, and jaws like a Nile crocodile. It haunts the canals silent as death itself, feeding on fish and those unlucky enough to fall from their boat.”

The tourists listen avidly, hanging on the gondolier’s every word. He chuckles softly to himself. “Only a tale, though. Only a tale.” He continues his tour, now telling the history of a cathedral they pass.

As the sun sets and the tourists retire to their hotels, the gondolier sets off, away from the city center. He ties his boat to a dock adjoining the butcher’s shop. He enters, and returns lugging a heavy bundle in a canvas sack. The old man grunts as he heaves it into the gondola, and pushes off from the dock.

Now he returns to the heart of the city. He retraces the route of his tour through the oldest canals, and comes to stop before the cathedral. He begins to whistle, a lilting, melancholy tune. As he whistles, he unties his canvas parsel. He leans over the edge of the gondola and smiles. He reaches out a wrinkled hand to stroke the long, reptilian snout that has emerged from the black water. Slitted yellow eyes blink back at him from beneath the surface.

Greetings observed, the gondolier takes the goat carcass from its canvas wrappings and launches it into the canal. With one snap of its crocodilian jaws, the serpent has swallowed the goat and disappeared once again into the canal’s dark embrace.

River Child

by Mark Carew

I was feeling cold outside under the pine trees, when I discovered the hot tub with its centre bubbling like a volcano.  I jumped right in.  The water was so warm!  And there were little icy water jets that made my legs and back tingle.  I sat on the ledge and settled back to watch the clouds go by.  A family of four just like my own were sitting opposite on their ledge, enjoying their time at the water park.  I was so warm in the bubbling water I forgot I had limbs.  I just rested there.

 

There was a man next to me.  He lay back with his face almost covered by the water.  His large eyes were closed.  He appeared to be asleep.  When the water bubbled around his beak-like nose, he looked happy and inched back up into the air.  I knew how he felt.  The water was so lovely and warm; it made me feel sleepy too.

 

 

 

When I looked again only the man’s hair was visible, so I followed him beneath the water’s surface.  The man sat on a long tail.  His skin was patterned like turtle scales.  His nose was an eagle’s beak.  His feet had grown four toes like claws.  The creature half-opened his eyes, as large as ping pong balls, and made a dreamy smile.  I smiled back too as the water entered my mouth and lungs.  The water was so warm it was lovely.  Above the hub tub, silhouetted against the trees and the sky, was my Mum.  She was looking for me.  I was thinking, I’m just down here, can’t you see me?  She was missing out.  The hot tub was so peaceful and there were beautiful animals in it all the way to the bottom.

The Sea Will Claim it Back

by Sophia Haddad

The sea is claiming back our home town. The promenade accepts its damp embrace and lets the sea spray do its decay. So I will have to tell my children what it was like, the waters where my mum and grandma came from.

Grandma, I’ll tell my daughters that when a slippery siren caught the attention of Grandad’s boat that you rose out of the sea and ripped it apart with your tentacles. That you used the wood to build cabins on the beach, where mermaids can morph into humans and then go for ice cream.

Mum, I’ll tell my daughters about the time a young Poseidon stole your crown and you took his trident to use it to bar him from the shore. Then your children played in the shallows, knowing he couldn’t seek revenge by dragging them out.

Aphrodite herself used to live in Grandma’s bathroom, it was so beautiful! She used to bathe inside a shell while seahorses spun pearls into her hair. It was here that we discussed how to protect our skin from the sun and how to use coral to paint our lips.

Like the lost sailors in cursed seas, people never really leave this town, we roam in circles. Occasionally, we are drawn into the current that takes us back, comfortable in it’s dead arms and the warm welcome of the abyss.

Bait

by Jane DeBond

I gaze at the beach. It doesn’t look like anyone is coming. As I turn back to the sea, I see her. Long blonde hair, dazzling smile. She looks like a mermaid, except, almost sadly, I see she’s wearing flippers.

“Waiting for someone?” She asks.

It’s my turn to smile. I have great teeth too. “Seems like I’m on my own as usual.”

She looks down at my flippers. “Did you want to dive?” I nod. “The caves?”

“Yes. I’ve heard they’re legendary, but…”

“You don’t know where they are do you? You need someone to show you.”

“I was expecting someone.” I look down and shuffle my feet.

“I can take you; I’ve been there a thousand times.”

I look up. “OK. But then…” and I’m thinking out loud, “dinner?”

Her face lights up. “I’m always hungry after diving.”

I’m smitten. She’s hooked me.

 

I follow her lazy walk along the beach, hypnotised by her gently swaying body and I feel like I’m being pulled along behind her. We’re near the rocks, she turns and nods at me to make sure I understand, then dives down somewhere I didn’t even think was deep enough. I dive too, mystified, assuming the cave entrance is close.

 

I can’t see her. I’m flailing about down here, swimming round and round until I bear left and  ahead I see what could be an entrance to the caves. There are rocks above me. I’m confined and I’m beginning to feel like I’ve been fooled. Where is she? Now I’m worried. Was she toying with  me?

 

No. She’s there, right in front of me but she’s looking scared. Terrified.

I smile again. Showing all of my lovely white pointed teeth. Hundreds of them.

Dinner will be especially sweet tonight.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

by Carl R. Jennings

“Look”, the Brownie said, rubbing his face as though trying to wipe away the exhaustion. “We do the chores, you leave out food for us. I’m sorry, Madam, I cannot see where the issue lies.”

The woman, sitting up in bed, shook her head.

“I don’t know,” she said, primly smoothing the wrinkles in her nightgown. “This just doesn’t sound like a good bargain.”

As the Brownie buried his head in his hands, she looked out of the window at the night sky, sprinkled with sparkling specks like forgotten pieces of broken glass. She looked back at the foot of her bed when she heard the Brownie take a deep breath.

“All the housework,” the Brownie said with strained patience. “For just one bowl of food.”

The woman crossed her arms across her chest and glared down her nose at the tiny man.

“I already employ servants,” she said. “Why should I pay for the same work twice?”

The Brownie turned away, whipped the pointed hat off his head, and bit down hard on it. The woman raised an eyebrow.

“If this is the way you and your associates are going to act while you’re in my house…” she said, letting the sentence trail off into terrible uncertainty.

The Brownie shoved his hat, masticated and damp, back on his head and turned back around.

“Madam,” he said, patience failing him. “You home will be guaranteed spotless by sunrise. The kind of work we do is worth a bowl of porridge and honey, surely.”

The woman made a show of tapping her chin thoughtfully.

“O-kay,” she said, slowly.

The Brownie’s face lit up.

“But do I really need to put honey in it?” the woman said. “It’s expensive.”

The Brownie’s face plunged back into exasperated darkness.

A Bowl of Salt

by Christian Kriticos

As a child, I was frightened of the dark. Every evening, when the world shrank into invisibility, I would imagine demons crawling in the shadows, waiting to torment me when I fell asleep.

My mother, rather than reason away the existence of these mystical beings, indulged my imagination. She told me that demons were real, but that they could easily be tricked. She placed a bowl of salt outside my bedroom door and explained that any demons which came upon it would be compelled, by their compulsive curiosity, to count every grain before they could enter. Of course, such a task could never be completed in a single night, and the frustrated demons would be forced to flee at sunrise, only to start all over should they ever return again in the darkness.

For years that bowl of salt remained outside my bedroom door, and each time I walked past it appeared to me a comfort, a small pillar of security. Later, somewhere in my teenage years, it began to seem silly. I had become cynical with the world, and no longer believed in demons, so one day I returned the salt to the kitchen. My mother said nothing, and the bowl migrated to the dinner table, its contents, over the years, slowly sprinkled over a thousand meals.

Now I am much older, and have seen and experienced so much of the world. There have been coincidences in my life improbable beyond reckoning; I have seen the greatest kindnesses and the worst evils enacted equally without reason; and I have learned of flora and fauna which exist – microscopic, aquatic, and airborne– far less plausible than demons.

Indeed, I have become old enough to believe anything.

So now, once again, I keep a bowl of salt outside my bedroom door.

The Sea Witch

by Carolyn Ward

I lay in the water, staring up. The clouds rippled, and sunshine was captured and magnified by a thousand bubbles. I flexed my tail, moving only to stay still like a shark. A shy octopus twirled into a crevice behind me, its movement echoing all around.

It was a day for memories, and I thought all the way back to the day I had become. Family ties had led to an unwanted marriage proposal. I remembered hot tears, and then my toes crinkling with panic. Running hard up the hill to the cliffs. My ankles had ached, my feet bruising from the rocky track.

At the top the wind had roared like a lion, rocking me. My feet were bare, cold now, silken slippers lost on the climb. The wind wrapped cold hands around my calves, flash-drying my tears. I had stepped to the cliff edge, the black sea below ululating like a living thing.

‘No!’ came the scream from behind, and I twisted to see my sister, the little fool.

‘It’s too late,’ I shivered.

‘Please Meggie!’ her eyes were wild, her black hair tossed by the cliff wind. ‘Don’t! Clem isn’t so bad? Mama says it’ll secure our…’

I shook my head, my own hair stinging my face as the wind took a ribbon. My gown caught like a sail, and I raised my arms. I wasn’t afraid.

The fall was endless. A lifetime later I hit the water like a rag doll. My sister’s scream became the wind, rushing and whirling away through forests and mountains. My life had ended and also begun.

Clem wouldn’t want me now, I smiled, the water blue on my lips. Sometimes he walked to the beach and stared out over the bay, yearning.

I was beyond him now.

Ocean Crossing Orbs Of Black

by Basel St. Gael

On boats of wood and pain crossed the warrior of red who gave herself one last story on running away from blood-spilt stone inlay.  Over that boat’s edge she does see this glowing agent of sheen and black with a surface gaze.

This is a story of monstrous terror named after losing her father’s light, hidden in tales of fairies and nymphs–sea creatures floating through a blood-curdling labyrinth.  It’s true she grew up by the sea, but that cauldron of sparkling darkness looks upon her with a thousand eyes she cannot see.  The first time she drifted over the sandbar at the coast of Normandy it did blink, and she’s never gone out so far again.

These are Grecian legends long where monsters almighty know the presence of their equals above measuring a life not-so-fleeting.

Tentacles and glints stare above and flit several feet behind with distant adoration and longing at the redhead carrying about her fury, pain, and loss.  This giant black pearl swims for harbors far away though it cannot pass in shallow tints.  Its vision of smoothest stone and might bleeds something more than earthly veins.

Starting the next moon this stalker of deepest sea slows to watch that boat of godly transport turn to New York docks.  Watching for the last time is that otherworldly soul underneath the city where a family’s orphaned and inspires standards of gold.

She of red plus black hunts a figure so dark seen below feeling so kindred, knowing it patrols seas she did border, near familiar trade winds.  Never looking back on open waters is this crimson swordswoman torn in twain.  Leaning on brick walls and hiding in canebrakes she recalls daily the orb beneath her last seen when bellied to that mahogany ship’s rail.

The Wolf

by Charlie Kinsella

There once was a little boy with a red hood.

His father had given him the task of going to his grandfather’s house as he was sick, so he could deliver to him some cake and wine.

His father had told him to stay on the path due to the dangers of the forest, but the boy was curious so he strayed off the path.

He explored the forest by looking in the large trees, many were covered with mushrooms and the leaves were falling off the trees. There were many bushes with ripe juicy looking berries.

He finally came upon a glade filled with many flowers, out of the glade came a wolf

“Who are you” the boy asked

“I’m a shape-shifter, I’ve been following you, were are you going?” she asked

“I’m going to my grandfather’s house, its right along were the path is. I’m going to give him some cake and wine because he’s sick” the little boy said naively.

“Why don’t you pick some flowers”

“Ok then”

The wolf walked off while the boy picked many different flowers from the glade, after he had picked a fair amount he carried on with his journey to derived cake and wine to his sick grandfather.

He came to his grandfather’s house and unlocked the latch and went into the house he noticed something strange about his grandfather, who was lying in the bed, he walked over to him.

“Hello” his grandfather replied in an inhuman voice

“What a high voice you have!”

“All the better to greet you with”

“Goodness, what big eyes you have!”

“The better to see you with”

“And what big hands you have!”

“The better to hug and grab you with”

“What a big mouth you have”

“The better to eat you with!”

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