Week 2 of my Flash Fiction Month
The idea is that I spend the month running up to Short Story Day (Winter Solstice) writing a piece of flash fiction a day.
This year I’m using the 17th century book ‘A Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne’ by George Withers, as a starting point. Ignoring the poems, I’m using the illustrations to kick off ideas. (You can see the book at The Gutenberg Project.
I put a new story up every day at my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/stevetoase1) and then collect them here. For each one I’ll put the link to the illustration from George Withers’ book
The Moth and The Spider
Timid and fragile, the moth carried seeds within its wings. Not knowing what flowers would blossom unnerved the moth. He landed on a hawthorn branch beside the spider.
“I do not know if they will become lilies or roses. Whether they will bloom once a year or if they will bloom once in a lifetime.”
The spider thought for a moment.
“Come here I will help you answer your question. Fly into my web.”
Rising into the air, the moth flew into the strands of silk, not worrying when it could not move. Not fretting when the spider cocooned him. After all, what was more natural for a moth than to be constrained, and the silk was much softer than any cocoon.
By the time the spider softened and feasted on the wings the moth was past caring. Not interested in eating the seeds, the spider let them tumble to the soil.
Over two months the spider watched them grow, then bud, then blossom. Beautiful lupins as purple as the moth. As faceted as his eyes. Eyes that would never see the beautiful flowers from the seeds he carried in his wings.
Bringing In The Crops
The harvest turned to snakes. Instead of digging up potatoes, the people’s spades found vipers nesting in the soil. When children picked blackberries from hedgerows the fruit turned to garter snakes on their gloved palms. Wheat collapsed to thousands of rattlesnakes as the combines reaped the fields. In the orchards apples became windfall and turned to pythons, tangling in people’s hair, and around their necks.
With no food in the storehouses the people called meetings to decide what to do, and with nothing else to do they searched the internet for recipes. By the evening they had menus ready, with stir fry and fritters. Soups and breaded strips. That night they slept, knowing they would not starve in the coming year.
But the people were the harvest and the snakes found their way into the houses, into their bedrooms. Into their mouths. By morning the land was a writhing knot and the reptiles born of soil and wheat seed were fed and fat, and slept amongst the bones of the dead.
Bill knew all the prohibitions about taking the flowers that lay within the hurdle fence, but knew of no such rules covering the hurdles themselves. With his saw he severed the willow from where it was pressed into the soil and carried the armful of wood back home. Stacking them on the back porch he went inside and sat down, falling asleep from the effort.
By the back door, the willows staves sprouted, sending fresh branches into the air, and finding the thin garden soil. Spreading multiplying. Looking for nutrition to fuel their growth.
Their roots spread under the door, and across the carpet. Creeping over the sleeping man and softening him for food. Pressing roots into his skin and muscle, until they were ready to grow, filling each room until nothing inside the house remained apart from willow.
The three moons were distant relations by light on their mother’s side, but had never met. Their lives around different planets in different galaxies kept them apart. One spoke of a valley on a nearby world where a river ran clear with crystal, each gem so tiny and precise that fish of iron swam the currents.
They agreed to meet, and over many centuries shrugged gravity and shed orbits to make their way to the distant planet. By the time they reached the unfamiliar skies the river had dried to solidity and the fish rusted within.
With disappointment they hugged each other, and the light from the double sun reflected from them to the still crystal river, and back into the air.
The moons were too close, embraced, and when the returned light hit them it melted rock and fused their crescents together. There they are there still, interlocked, waiting for the planet’s gravity to drag them smashing into the crystal river.
The Left Hand
The mayor went first, placing his hand on the wooden block as the old man chewed through it with the metal teeth. Next came the parents, mothers and fathers, each giving a single hand to the fence that ran all around the village.
When they were finished the fingers curled toward the fields and the townspeople wrapped their wounds.
The sun went down and the creatures dragged themselves from the hedges, wearing skins of blackthorn and hawthorn. Berries pale and rotting hung from branches knotted into limbs, dragging on the floor as they slouched across the furrows.
Walking across the fields they became clotted with soil until they reached the fence of hands, just where the old man had said it would be. So far their prey had been down to luck and opportunity. Now they knew where to find them and they would feast until their thorns were white with marrow.
Abel drew things as he supposed them to be, bearing no resemblance to what they looked like in real life. His crocodiles had ears flattened to their heads. Elephants with manes and necks like horses, and the feet of large cats.
So when the demon appeared to him as a small child caught up in a hedgerow, caught by thorns from ambitious brambling, Abel failed to recognise the lord of hell. The demons of Abel’s paintings were armour plated, horned creatures. The blond haired, smudge-cheeked child did not have the lava red eyes of Abel’s paintings, but blue and pale. Questioning and lost. The fingers sunk into his chest, teasing away strands of his soul, were not talons. Instead, small fingers with blackberry skin under their nails.
There would be no chance for him to correct his drawings.
The rattle that Carver found was made of bone and gold, much larger than the tiny door he found it beside. He turned the object over and over, careful not to let it make a noise until he’d examined the sphere and the handle for warnings.
Finding none, he shook the rattle in the air, letting the sound change volume and tempo. From the tiny slits in the sphere the smell of rasping bone seeped out to coat his hand.
He wasn’t sure what he expected to happen, but when nothing did he found a rhythm and continued scenting the air with burnt knuckle bones. Still nothing happened, so Carver sat beside the tree and let sleep take him.
The skeletons had heard his call, but it took them time to dig themselves free and walk across the fields. They found the sleeping man beside the tree, the death rattle resting on his lap. Now silent. Its call still playing in their teeth.
First they set up their table, placing out their tools. Then they drew lots. Who would get the muscles, who would get the skin. The tendons. The nerves. Many more people would have to scent the air with the rattle before they would be complete again. They were patient, and their return had begun.
I hope you’re enjoying them. It’s interesting writing within the restrictions placed by the book, though there are a lot of symbols to choose from.
If you do like the flash fiction please consider hopping over to Ko-Fi and buying me a coffee. Two more weeks to go. I might need it! https://ko-fi.com/stevetoase