For the past few years I’ve spent the time between November 21st and December 21st scrabbling for story ideas to post a flash fiction piece every day. Thirty one pieces in thirty one days. This year is no different. Every year I wonder why I do this to myself. This year is no different.
There are a couple of reasons why I keep up this tradition. Firstly, it’s a great way to lock in the writing each day discipline. Daily writing doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m very much a creature of habit, and I’d rather those were good ones like writing. Secondly, over the years Flash Fiction Month has developed a small but loyal audience who come back each year to read the daily stories, and for that I’m very grateful. Thirdly, it’s a way of playing with ideas that may develop into a short story or more. In effect it becomes an incubator for all those ideas I jot down on my phone and never do anything with.
If you’d like to read the stories as they go up, you can follow the link to my Facebook writer page
Here’s the first week of stories. I hope you enjoy them.
After they chopped down the movie prop, they left wooden stumps to rot in the coastal fret. Splinter and split in the salt air.
Magic isn’t always intentional and the wood remembered what was amputated. The curl and flex of osiers. The friction of willow hurdles against each other. The scent of smoke and charring wool.
Slowly, over a generation, the timber unfurled, knitting itself together out of memory, and when the first people came to wonder at its reincarnation it clasped its door open, ready to welcome them in.
Keeping Up Appearances
Pasted on grins were the latest thing. The season’s gimmick. Held in place by a new organic glue, they let Simon get through the holidays, joyful expression intact.
Feasting finished and relatives returned home, he stood in front of the bathroom mirror. Peering at the packet, he followed the instructions to remove the paper thin smile. First he used water, then soap, and finally a mixture of white wine vinegar and salt. Nothing worked.
Late that night he woke to a sensation of creeping across his cheeks. Half asleep he groped around for his phone and used the camera as mirror.
Fibres at the edge of the pasted on smile stretched out, knitting to his skin as if ridged with a thousand tiny needles. Running to the bathroom he tried to wrench the mask free. Ragged paper enveloped his fingers, sewing through the bone and holding his hands in place.
The only way left for Simon to express himself was via his eyes, and they were doing anything but smiling.
1024 cocoons waited upon the console. Once the upload was complete 1024 butterflies emerged, the data stored in copper designs etched into their wings.
With a shudder of verdigris they took flight, brushing against others to transfer the code along the network.
Some fell, caught by gusts of wind or battered by rain. Others were netted by hackers transfixed by the intricacies of their wings, not noticing the other colours the butterflies still wore. Colours that warned of the brush of hairs still covering the insects abdomens. Hairs that burnt skin and flourished visions of personal hells.
Most of the butterflies made it to their destination. Sipping nectar from the upturned blossoms, they delivered the data to its destination and rested before death, their life’s work done.
Gnaw (with apologies to Ray Harryhausen)
Measuring the length of a person, the ancient teeth were too large to lift from the dig. The excavators left them in the trench, smeared with silt and plaster.
Overnight, the rain came down, seeping through the dirt and flooding the vast canines. Found its way through cracks in the dentine.
From inside the teeth, skeletons shattered through the enamel. Birthed to a new world. Rainwater filling empty eye sockets hidden for so long.
In skinless hands the skeletons grasped splinters of tooth. Tore aside the metal fencing. Clattered down the Tarmac.
Reaching the first house the vast figures smashed their way in, finding the sleeping family within. Down the street the pattern was repeated as they opened each building, one by one.
The skeletons lacked stomachs to feast on those they captured, but they still had teeth, teeth that could gnaw and grind, and soon their bare ribs were smeared with a fine paste of skin and bone. Skin and bone that was not their own.
Velvet and Wood
In the corner of the courtyard stood an empty chair, across the stone flags three mattresses just as vacant. Carol stood in the doorway for a few moments longer than normal. She knew they were there, watching her. Invisible. Could smell the perfume of coffins on them. Mould stained velvet and wood rotting even through the varnish.
“There’s nothing here,” Mark said wiping his forehead, and she knew that he would not tolerate her “ways” for much longer. She shrugged, let him take her fingers in both hands, and lead her back into the streets of people and cardamom and coriander.
In the courtyard the chair juddered away from the wall then fell back. On the mattresses the sheets lifted a touch, then dropped once more. Many years had passed since anyone had sensed the dead of the city. Now someone knew they waited, they needed to wait no longer.
One by one the sleepless fell in step behind Carol. Their path away from the scent of mould stained velvet and rotten wood. With broken fingernails and shattered bone they traced their names in Carol’s skin so that she would remember them and their lives would be spoken once more.
Drowned men sing no songs. They cannot recall the melodies in the salt scoured grasp of the sea.
Instead they grind out the air trapped in their bones and whisper the names of their loved ones. Push the bubbles of words into seaweed to float up to the surface where it might pop upon the waves for the mourning to hear.
The sodden strands of bladderwrack wash up on the beach to be ground against rocks and under the feet of children, where all words are lost in the crush of sand.
The tree grew dogs. All breeds. Some sprouted from amongst the roots with stiff ears of bracket fungus. Others curled upon themselves amongst petals, wet stamen noses pushing out into the world.
One had tangled fur that snagged on low hanging branches, others long backs that unfurled as they grew from puppy to dog.
Soon they reached the time to loosen from their stalks and run through the woodland on coppiced legs.
These dogs were made of timber and thorn, and when they yawned the tree rings that ran through them were visible in the back of their throats.
No matter whether they were filled with oak galls, or shuddered with blossom when they walked, all the dogs knew one thing, and that one thing was this. They all knew that they were very very good boys.