7 Sizzling Sundays of Summer Flash Fiction CONTEST, Week 6

PhotobucketCan you believe we only have one more scorching Sunday left in our Sizzling Sundays of Summer flash fiction contest? (Rules and fabulous prizes HERE). We are so blown away by the fantastic entries that choosing three finalists every week to compete for the ultimate prizes has become nearly impossible (that’s why sometimes we have four winners, because we are truly torn!). Thanks to all who submitted stories based on last week’s prompt.

Our honorable mentions this week are:

Lara Schiffbauer (“Steven hustled through the storm, head down.”)
CB Soulsby (“To them, I am unknown.”)
Ty (“She watched the big man walk towards her.”)
Andrea Ellickson (“With a name like Cari Magic Casey, she thought that magic would have come easier to her than the rest.”)
Larissa Thomson (“He’s close enough to her now that he can actually smell her.”)

And this week’s winners, in no particular order are:

Julia Jay (“She stood there once a week, right by the railings which contained the park.”)
CB Soulsby (“The black cloak.”)
Michael Molony (“Date Night.”)
Taylor Ross (“Wool reached out, like fingernails scritch-scratching, irritating the back of her neck.”)

Congratulations to Julia, Michael, CB and Taylor! Your stories have made our finalists’ round, and will be part of the big WU vote on August 12th.

Can winners enter again? Yes, we hope all of you enter again! And we hope you are having as much fun writing them as we are reading them.

And now without further ado, our final visual prompt is again provided by the talented Debbie Ohi

Remember the full rules can be found HERE, but if you’re in the mood to flash and run, cliff-notes rules are below:

  • The story must be inspired by that week’s visual prompt.
  • Each submission must be 250 words or less. 
  • Each story must contain a beginning, middle, and end.
  • All submitted work must be original–not published anywhere else, and written by you, for this contest.
  • Post submissions in the comment section of the prompt post. Each week, the deadline will be 72 hours after the prompt is posted on Sunday morning, meaning Wednesday August 8 at 7 a.m. EST.
  • No more than two entries per person, per week will be eligible for that week.
  • The top three or four stories from each week will be selected by a mix of votes in the form of Likes in the comment section and our own discretion.

Good luck!



Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in January, 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~40 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, or join our thriving Facebook community.


  1. Bernadette Phipps-Lincke says

    I am a shadow cast against the sunlight, and flickering through the trees. I am the strains of a tribal song on the ghost of a childish breath. Echoes of my footsteps molder beneath the falling leaves. Awash in the magic of these woods, I was once as real as you are now.

    I could tell you tales of my village— tools of stone, of others who came after. A boy, he sang in the court of a long dead king—his voice as sweet and high as yours is, used the trunk of that tree over there, as a pillow. His name like mine, long forgotten, yet the woods remain. They are your woods, for this moment, take care of them, so that one day children yet unborn, may dance in the falling leaves, the way you do now, the way I did then.

  2. says

    Esme opened her arms wide and trailed one leg behind her as she sang, “I am a lithe fairy twirling through the Flaming Woods.” She bowed to a leaf falling in front of her. “Greetings, fellow sylvan creature.”

    She didn’t even need to close her eyes to see herself, her red dress matching the leaves above and below her, her long brown hair flowing with her graceful movements.

    There was a snort. It wasn’t Esme.

    “Someone’s been reading too much Anne of Green Gables again.”

    Esme followed her older sister’s gaze and tugged down the hem of her T-shirt. “So what?”

    So what if she loved Anne Shirley? So what if her stomach pooched out over her shorts? But the hot flush creeping up her chest told the truth.

    Anne would’ve gushed about the scenery and overshared about what she was imagining and charmed Kelly into appreciating it all, if not joining her. All Esme managed was a whiny, “But aren’t the woods beautiful?”

    Kelly flicked a gaze at the canopy. “Yeah, yeah. Time to go.”

    Esme trudged towards her sister.

    “Say good-bye to the Flaming Woods,” Kelly said.

    “Wha?” Esme gaped at Kelly. “How did you?”

    On Kelly’s face was as close to a smile as she’d come since turning 14. “What do you think I called it when I was 10?”

    In Esme’s imagination, they linked arms and skipped home together. In reality, she kept to the required two steps behind Kelly, but with a smile.

  3. says

    Dancing through the leaves

    “Autumn, good old Autumn. My favorite season has commenced.” said Alison.
    She had had a difficult couple of months and wanted to kick-start her life again, but didn’t know how. Or failed to do so.
    She tried different things like knitting or doing something different every night, she even adopted a new way of life, but it didn’t help.
    Poor old Alison, that’s what certain people that knew her said. From a charming and cheery person, she became apathetic.
    Walking around with brown hair, she dyed it in a more reddish tone, which made stand out in public.

    Despite the knowledge that she was wanted by certain, Alison didn’t feel at all needed, it was more the opposite.
    But there she was, in her room, looking out the window as the first brown leaves started to touch the ground, making for a splendid sight.
    As she was living near the woods, she decided to go out for a stroll.

    Walking through the woods, she felt this frenzy, this ecstasy that overwhelmed her. She began hearing a beautiful melody, one that made her dance.
    Alison, as a introverted person who never danced, began doing it now, in the middle of the woods, hearing something that was only in her head. And it made her feel like she never felt before.

    After this encounter, her life changed. Not overnight and not feeling the effects consciously. Alison began doing things that she loved and didn’t know about, without it seeming odd.

    • Jeanne Kisacky says

      scroll to the bottom of the page, Under the large type “Leave a Reply” there is a grey area with blank spaces asking for name, mail, website and then a bigger white area. Fill in the info. and enter your comment there. Then fill in the captcha and click on the submit comment button

  4. Julia Jay says

    She had been told of a special place where dancers met. Pushing herself over to the open window, looking out onto the blackest of nights, she heard her Grandmother’s words floating in on balmy breeze.

    ‘You have to think yourself where you want to be, girl.’

    Words of wisdom are often hard to know, meaning hidden in the folds, letters easily slipping down never to be found.

    Tonight was the night for one last try. Eyes closed tight, concentrating hard, she forced her mind out, out from the night and into a glade. A red canopy hanging overhead speaking of mysteries unheard, unobserved, she looked around amazed she had at last arrived at this place since denied.

    And then she was up, chair abandoned, straps trailing – and she was dancing, dancing free, her legs following the beat of the air as she moved fancifully, feet sensing the pulse of the earth beneath. Her heart near to bursting as she twirled and swirled around and through the trees, feeling the bark on her hands, kicking up leaves, muscles stretching, her mind on fire as her body moved behind, balance tested as she gave a pirouette, a sweep, a bow to the artist she might have been.

    ‘Close the window now, you’ll catch cold.’

    Annoyed as the Wood disappeared from view, she still kept a smile at hand, as now she knew she could get to Dancers Wood anytime she felt she could.

  5. says

    The Dinner Hour

    Air borne even that one split second gave Helen time expect pain on landing. Her face hit the floor first. She slid just enough to feel skin pull off her cheek.

    Mark still ranted about his dinner not ready. A sharpness wrapped her arm where his fist tighten before he threw her.

    Helen pushed to a sit and covered her cheek with her hand. The sight of her damage would provoke more outrage.

    “Where in the hell is Lidia?” He stood over her now. “Well—?”

    “I think she’s in the barn.”

    “You think! When I get back that food better be on that table.”

    When the door slammed, she pulled herself up. She turned the frying chicken a last time, removed it from the skillet, and put the mashed potatoes in a bowl. She tossed some flour into the drippings for gravy.

    This afternoon she’d hurried to dig up their carrots, but the ground held fast from frost. Winter stalks make identification impossible, but this summer she memorized each location of the wild carrots, the cow parsnip, and Conium maculatum, or better known as poison hemlock. Lidia hated carrots. But there’s a sweetness in their roots that’s been bred out of the garden carrot.

    Helen set the gravy on the table. Lidia, her face void of the childish glow, dragged in behind Mark. Helen pulled a wisp of straw from Lidia’s hair.

    “Lidia, here’s sliced tomatoes.” Tomorrow she’d dance her precious woods once again.

  6. Julia Jay says

    Watching the clock hands moving so slowly they appeared to be going backwards, she could hear the monotony of speech burbling down the hall, a dog barking, a car swooshing past. As her lids closed she could almost see the beat of her heart pulsing through.

    And then she was there, alive in the magical place which nobody else even knew. The place where she felt free, known not by hours of dull questioning but by the air, the earth, the trees. As she spoke her truth the leaves would move overhead, whispering back, reflecting her dreams.

    She could be anyone and anything she wished to be. She could shoot to the moon, or fly away in a balloon rising over continents unfound. She could write a song of heaven and hear it played across the Universe, the notes written on a scroll, or write the play of her life and watch it unfold, enacted by the best of the day. She could cut diamonds, visit Rome and Capri, or perform a pirouette in the wood where time ceased to be. In these moments she felt glad to be alive, ennobled by the sighs from the earth. Here she lived, loved, and danced through the hours, the world at her command.

    She woke, calling out for her limbs to be moved, heavy now and aching from the dancing in the wood. As she was rolled over, she smiled. The whispering trees would always smile back – of that she knew.

  7. says

    Autumn Dance

    Tim listened to the good ole boys predicting winter over coffee. He sipped his own strong brew and pretended to not listen. They agreed the caterpillars wore thick coats this year.
    “It’ll be a long, cold winter,” Said one as he tucked tobacco behind his lip. “After a hot, dry summer. I had to harvest the corn early. And the beans weren‘t none too good.”
    While the men stewed over poor crops and harsh prospects, Tim left a few dollars on the table and walked out of the shop. Sissy had loved to go there early mornings. She enjoyed the complaints of the old farmers and the smell of burnt pancakes.
    He stopped by one day each year and let himself miss her . But the ritual wasn’t complete.
    Sissy had a tradition each fall. She’d take the kids into the woods where they’d chase frogs and collect pinecones. He remembered her flushed face when she came in and told him stories about something cute the kids did. On those days, she was like a kid herself.
    But she never told him about the dancing. The kids mentioned it when they pulled out the scrapbooks. He wasn’t surprised. That woman loved to dance.
    Shafts of cream and gold lit a small clearing. Leaves fell like jewels. There was Sissy, hair loose and arms raised.
    It’s going to be a long, cold winter, Tim thought. But I’ll be with you soon.
    Then, you can teach me how to dance.

  8. says

    “…and so the fairy turned herself into a beautiful girl—but she kept just enough of her magic to turn all of the leaves of the forest a deep red, the color of the sunset. The leaves and twigs of the dress she wore became deep red, too, and changed into a wooly fabric. And then she danced and, with each pirouette and petit-pas, the leaves began to fall. They fell like crimson snowflakes until the floor of the forest became completely covered, so covered that the fairy-girl stopped dancing. She could no longer see where to tread. So that, Samantha, is how fairies became human, and how Fall first came to the world.”

    Samanthas scowled, as she often did when there was something she didn’t comprehend, something that didn’t match her view of things. “That’s not true, Granddad!” she said, accusingly.

    “What?” her grandfather replied. “That Fall was made by fairies?”

    “I don’t believe the fairy would have to stop dancing,” Samantha said. “Even if all of the ground was covered with leaves, she could squash them down.” Samantha jumped up and squashed her foot into the living room carpet. “See,” she insisted. And then she began to dance around the room.

  9. says

    Rua wore a red dress, knee-length and sleeveless, form-fitting but flowing so she could move freely. Her mother said something about the cold, and she was right; the leaves on the trees had all changed color, the fall chill was descending. Rua did not feel it. Her friend Lissa had told her Matty would ask her to the fall formal, and Rua was full of a warm fuzzy glow that spread, like golden sunlight, from her heart to the tips of her fingers and toes.

    Each period seemed to last a lifetime. Matty was nowhere to be seen at recess, though Lissa assured her that he would ask at lunch. Third period dragged into fourth, a class Rua shared with Matty, and she completely missed Mr. Edward’s lecture on the Civil War while staring at the back of Matty’s head.

    He slipped out when the bell rang, and though she saw him playing basketball at lunch – he waved to her! – he made no effort to talk to her. Lissa shrugged. Maybe she’d heard wrong. The warm glow turned a sinking blue.
    Sixth period ended, and the kids scattered, heading home or to team practice or club meetings. Rua walked home alone, head bowed, until she heard footsteps behind her. It was Matty.

    “Rua,” he said, out of breath. “I – I mean, will you go to the dance with me?”

    Sinking blue turned to fuzzy red, and Rua practically floated home through the autumn trees, dancing in red and gold.

  10. Scott L. Miller says

    It’s not easy being a part-time actress in Hollywood these days. Even admitting that I am evokes doubtful glances from people I meet–I see the wheels turning inside their heads, thinking: ‘Right, she waits tables,’ or ‘she hooks on the side.’

    I’ve been a seat filler at award shows, body doubles, worn chicken or sausage costumes. I’ve been a stunt woman thrown through glass windows, jumped from ten story buildings, and been set on fire…this is a cake walk.

    All this gig’s gotten me is sore toes from being on point. The damn cue music’s starting up again [Fresh as a summer’s breeze, cool as a mountain spring…]. Take number twenty-two! the director yells. The show must go on!

    There are worse ways to make a living.

    • ML Swift says

      This was an unexpected and unusual take on the picture. I would have liked to read a little more character and scene development.

      • Scott L. Miller says

        you’re right…i didn’t have much time free to work on it…thanks ML!

  11. Melanie Bee Cee says

    Portrait of Freedom

    He stares at the painting on the wall. It depicts a young girl, dancing carefree and wild in an autumn wood. He closes his eyes and imagines how the leaves felt to her as she danced upon them. The dry, slightly spongy feel of the forest floor under her bare feet. The musky, earthy smell of the earth as it lies, waiting for its winter coat of white frozen snow. The sight of the rough brown trunks of the sleepy trees with their heads of flaming leaves – quickly turning to bare branches as the nights grow colder. Yes. He knows how the artist felt when they painted that scene – turning a lifeless canvas into a vibrant portrait of the dying of the year. The young woman, clad in a scarlet gown, twirls eternally in her private auditorium – the woodland animals and the silent trees her only witnesses, save that of the young man. Yes. He remembers dancing once as she did, dancing for the pure joy of freedom of movement and space. Unfettered energy sprang from his lithe limbs and propelled him to the stars. Now he dances for others’ pleasure instead of his own. He wondered if the trade of purity and loss of that freedom was worth the cost. One good thing – it does allow him to afford to purchase paintings like the one before him and never count the cost – at least in monetary terms.

  12. says

    “What should we do with this?” Leslie stood in front of the painting she’d always hated; the carefree girl and the floating leaves so at odds with the reality of what on in her mother’s house, in this room, in her childhood. It was an autumn that never came to their prairie town.

    Leslie used to cry looking at this painting, while her mother drank herself to death in the next room. As a girl and for the past 27 years.

    Leslie’s older sister, Maeve, pushed sweaty hair off her forehead and shrugged. “It’s up to you.”

    Maeve had left home at 17, for college, for a kibbutz, for a short-lived marriage to a preacher. But now Maeve was back after fiteen years, their mother freshly buried, with gasping promises to “help.”

    And yet. It’s up to you…. Leslie looked at Maeve, who was going grey, who was scrubbing windows.

    “Why are you here?” Leslie asked. Maeve turned, a Windex-sodden paper towel in her hand.

    “To clean mum’s house. So we can sell it.”

    “You left me.” Leslie’s throat got thick. “You left me with her.”

    “You were fine,” Maeve said. “Everything was fine.” The Windex smell was suffocating.

    “Yes,” Leslie finally said. “Everything was.”

    “Okay then,” Maeve turned back to the windows. Leslie pulled the painting off the wall and put it in the “Keep” pile, the leaves forever swirling; a cool, clean promise of Fall. The image of a day that would never, ever come.

    • says

      The first version of this I submitted was missing a word, so I resubmitted it (following version). Please delete/unpublish/don’t publish the first version.

      Thanks! And sorry!

  13. says

    “What should we do with this?” Leslie stood in front of the painting she’d always hated; the carefree girl and the floating leaves so at odds with the reality of what went on in her mother’s house, in this room, in her childhood. It was an autumn that never came to their prairie town.

    Leslie used to cry looking at this painting while her mother drank herself to death in the next room. Cry as a girl and for the past 27 years.

    Leslie’s older sister, Maeve, pushed sweaty hair off her forehead and shrugged. “It’s up to you.”

    Maeve had left home at 17, for college, for a kibbutz, for a short-lived marriage to a preacher. But now Maeve was back after fifteen years, their mother freshly buried, with gasping promises to “help.”

    And yet. It’s up to you…. Leslie looked at Maeve, who was going grey, who was scrubbing windows.

    “Why are you here?” Leslie asked. Maeve turned, a Windex-sodden paper towel in her hand.

    “To clean mum’s house. So we can sell it.”

    “You left me.” Leslie’s throat got thick. “You left me with her.”

    “You were fine,” Maeve said. “Everything was fine.” The Windex smell was suffocating.

    “Yes,” Leslie finally said. “Everything was.”

    “Okay then,” Maeve turned back to the windows. Leslie pulled the painting off the wall and put it in the “Keep” pile, the leaves forever swirling; a cool, clean promise of Fall. The image of a day that would never, ever come.

  14. Jeanne Kisacky says

    They say that fire can burn faster through the canopy than across the ground, depending on conditions. I’ve heard that burning leaves from the underbrush can float upwards, like paper-thin shining embers.
    They say you can’t outrun a fire. I never liked running. If I’m going, it will be dancing. My white dress is just shiny enough to shimmer red in the glow.
    I have known about fires all my life. You can’t live next to the forest and not know about fires. How they can engulf you from both sides. How can they leave no path unburned, or how they can leave a gap, just wide enough to be untouched and green. Or how they can jump from tree to tree, sometimes forgetting to finish the job underneath the last one.
    I know about fires. And I know the forest sprites love dancing. And courage. Grampa told me. He said the sprites were the real reason for the greenery that survived. That they could choose to protect a small area that had something particularly lovely in it.
    And he said, throwing me ahead as the fire outran him, maybe, just maybe they will be the reason for me, shining red and dancing, to survive.
    But I’m not dancing for them.

  15. says

    We walked through a northern wood ablaze with colour – maples wreathed in scarlet, and birches with their white, peeling trunks standing amid a riot of yellow leaves. It was that brief, magical spell when autumn slips in past the warmth of late summer, bringing the chill and damp that presages a sudden, brutal Midwestern winter. Ice storms, but not yet.
    We held hands, enjoying the last strong rays of a fast-setting sun. “I like this place,” I said.
    “We’re lucky,” she replied. We had hiked directly from the city into the redwoods, back in California. Years away from home had robbed us of our youthful bodies and energy. The Midwest is a constrained landscape, tortured, beaten out of its natural forms, shorn of forests, plundered, ploughed, fenced, posted, and sprayed with deadly pesticides. Everything is private, everything is poisoned. You drive on the road between your house and your job, and then go home, maybe stop at the store. You eat and sleep, buy a house, put in your time, watch your pension dwindle, watch the Packers, let the insurance companies fleece you, and wait for death.
    “I can’t believe we bought a house,” I sighed.
    But the price was right.
    A little brick house in a small town, on a hill where it wouldn’t flood. My father-in-law’s spirit must have shown us the way, because we found it immediately. And in the midst of farms, three miles away, was this place, Mosquito Hill, delightful and different in every season.

  16. Colleen Wood says

    “She’s back again,” said the wood nymph.
    “I know! I can’t get rid of her,” said the sprite.
    “I’ve shaken the trees, whistled a haunting tune, laughed at her. I don’t know what to do!” said the fairy.
    “This has got to stop! She’s thinks she’s one of us! It’s really annoying,” said the maple tree.
    “Have you tried following her home?” said the wood nymph.
    “Yes! She saw me and said ‘Are you the one trying to scare me?'” said the fairy.
    “OMG! That’s all we need!” said the maple tree.
    “”My dear friends,” said the ancient oak, “let her rejoice in our fellowship of trees, where ancient creatures live in harmony.”
    “Shut up!” said the wood nymph. “Know-it-all!”
    The oak shook down leaves on the nymph’s head.
    “I know why she’s in the woods, dancing. Her name is Ermagerd. Why would her mother name a child that? Anyway, that’s her name and no one will play with her because of it,” said the fairy, smug with the knowledge that no one else possessed.
    “Ermagerd is an ancient name that means ‘one who dances amongst the woodland creatures,’ hence, she belongs with us,” said the ancient oak.
    “Shove it!” hissed the wood nymph.
    Lilith, Queen of the Fairies, presented herself. Her subjects bowed deeply.
    “This child shall be welcome into the woods. She has a profound fear of Goosebumps books and needs an outlet for her soul.” She vanished.
    “What are Goosebumps books?” said the oak.

  17. says

    The Dance

    Nina’s dance teacher told her she’d gotten through 30 years riding subways by picturing herself in the woods, dancing to the rhythm of the moving subway cars, leaping and turning in her mind along a path that was all her own, carefree and happy, a confetti of leaves showering her with all good intentions.

    Nina so missed Edna Rinaldi, but in a way, she didn’t. The subway doors opened. People pushed and once again Nina disconnected, otherwise even the smallest annoyance, the slightest tap from a stranger, would rattle her.

    “Your heart must be in it,” Edna would tell Nina, but as hard as Nina might try, the feeling never came. She mastered the movements, but they were only movements.

    At work Nina kept to herself. She wasn’t shy or stuck up. She just had so little in common with any of them. Sometimes it was easier to go along and pretend she liked what they liked, knew the name of the celebrity someone mentioned, even if it was her first time hearing it.

    “The dance is not your mind, not your legs, nor your muscles. It is you.”

    The trouble came when Nina promised to order a replacement part for a client but forgot. Briggs got blamed. He reacted badly, got fired.

    She told her boss, “I lied.” He reacted badly.

    How could she explain to Edna, to anyone, she’d messed up her life?

    She called Briggs, apologized. They got together for drinks. Talked nothing but ballet until closing.

  18. John Buss says


    The turn of the century had brought a transformation to the still young nation. Rural cottage shops giving sway to powerful urban factories; steel rails tying a vast land together as one; the new concept of a five-day work week—all added to the excitement of a bustling lifestyle, a rebirth of individual freedom. 1908 had turned into a very liberating year, indeed.

    With nearly 200-miles of paved roadway in the nation, the horseless carriage sputters in an era of the Great American Spirit’s rediscovery. The moneyed metropolitans load up their Pierce Arrow and Packard limousines for the momentary migration of a fashionable weekend’s tent camping in the nearby foothills of the Appalachians. Sojourners escape the stone structures of D.C. to frolic in more natural existence among the gold and red leaved autumn woods.

    Away from the spying eyes of parents, servants and society, it is deep within the sylvan shadow-world that Johnna would finally be free, free to self-express the person within. Furtively looking about, the thirteen-year-old sheds the stiff cottons and irritating wools of childish clothes, sliding on only the red soft silk slip, secretively purchased for this outing.

    “Oh, the feel! I’m free!” Johnna whispers with closed eyes. “How scandalous if I were found out!”

    Liberated, Johnna’s changing body spins slowly, thin arms outstretched to the light of day.

    “How glorious! Look at me! I’m the most beautiful, graceful dancer in the world!”

    From outside the woods, the distant mother’s call: “John Edgar Hoover! Where are you?”

    • says

      Nice twist and misdirection. Start with an historical perspective, subtly morph into gender-ambiguous prose, and finish the setup with an awesome punchline. Great work! Liked!

  19. says


    They say little children see angels. She is not an angel, for little children do not see her. Young lovers do not see her, either. They have eyes for each other only. Old people look inside themselves. They will not find her there.

    Who is she? What is she? Maybe, she is a trick of dappled sunlight. A tiny swirl of red flickering behind closed eyelids. A leaf waltzing its way down to earth. A girlish woman in a fiery dress skipping through the park. Or perhaps, a fairy sprinkling golden dust on those who are half way home.

    Look for her atop a large wooded hill on a clear Indian summer day. If among simple trees wrapped in regal colors befitting emperors you spot a fragile figure – you will know you have found her. Do not be shy – come close and ask her for a dance.

    You will watch happiness lit up her face from within. She will nod, and rise on tippy toes, and place her light hands on your shoulders. Do not be afraid – if you have forgotten the steps, she will help you.

    She is waiting. Frozen in a graceful twirl like a porcelain ballerina. There is still time. Find her. Dance with her to the music of leaf fall. To the final crisp note of autumn.

  20. janet lee says

    Siren’s song

    When the wood nymph came the mother trees stood firm and held their babies tightly.
    Not this year, they said.
    This year, she would not have their babies.

    Then the wood nymph began to sing and dance.
    For many weeks the trees watched, trying to ignore the siren song.
    But they were transfixed by her body, lulled by her music, hypnotized by her graceful movements.
    Though they thought they could resist, they too began to dance, a slow sway which rippled through their limbs.
    They moved to the sounds of her beckoning.

    Then the wood nymph called to their children, and the trees forgot and let them go,
    Dance with the angel, they said, and they let their leaves fall, watching with pride as they fluttered and spun their childish dance.

    It was only after, when they heard the cries of the children, when they saw their baby leaves die at their feet, the trees knew the wood nymph had tricked them again.
    They wept sticky tears.
    And still the wood nymph danced, kicking the children as they lay upon the ground, dancing amid the death.
    The mothers watched now, barely mothers at all, naked without their children.
    And they vowed.
    Next year, they would hold their babies tighter.
    They would not be tricked by the siren’s song.

  21. says

    No more would she be just the woman behind the desk, taking names and phone numbers and scheduling appointments for other people. No more would she be the tight bun and glasses, the nondescript and entirely unmemorable person who served only as the gateway between client and consultant. No more would she keep her dreams tucked in a little box under her bed with the tiny glass bottle she had found at the beach, an opalescent duck feather, and the love letter she had received in sixth grade.

    She took off her gray twill suit and glasses, let down her long hair, left her shoes by the bed, and slipped on her red dress with the gypsy skirt and little beads sewn into the pattern.
    Then, without so much as a by-your-leave to the world’s demands and adult responsibilities, she went down to the park and ran into the woods, and she danced.

  22. says

    “Can’t you hear the music,” she shouted, twirling and kicking up leaves. She hummed a few bars from La Campanella and spun some more.

    “It’s only in your head Peggy,” he laughed, enjoying watching her dance. Rubin sat in a patch of sunlight with his back against an oak. “Anyway, I’m not very musical. I’m more a boy of the forest.” He had watched this girl dance under the trees all summer and now it was autumn. He had hoped to catch her, to put out his arm and draw her in; make her his own. But Peggy danced to her own tune.

    “Come on! Up! Dance with me,” she pulled him to his feet. She laughed and sang and skipped around him, making him feel gauche and leaden.

    “I love you Peggy Hillcoat,” he said, but she just laughed some more and he wasn’t even sure that she had heard him.

    Rubin knew that he had lost her; had probably never had her. And he knew that he would have to settle for Josie or Clarrie – good country girls with child-bearing hips and meaty forearms.

    Years later snippets of information would reach him, about how Peggy was dancing in the ballet, how she had never married, never had children. But she never came back to dance for him.

    “No one ever pinned that Peggy Hillcoat down,” said Josie, wiping floury hands on her apron. And full of regret, he would go to the woods, kick through the leaves and remember.

  23. says

    The Kiss

    As she closed her eyes the walls around her fell away, silently crumbling to the ground. Her feet skipped through the fallen blanket of autumnal red and gold beneath her feet, rustling the leaves into plumes of hope. Hope had been until now all that she had. She had clung to it. She was weightless as she rose into the air, both feet off the ground in the balmy glow of the low afternoon sun as it cradled her in its gentle warmth. She could barely see the trees as the hazy light scattered through the trunks and branches, darting rays bursting through. This place is not real, but she would stay here. She would stay wrapped up in this utopian dream for an eternity if she could.

    She felt so safe with him, so close to her for the first time. As he held her and pressed his lips against hers, cupping her face in his hands, a new season would come to pass. The leaves of her old life would fall to the ground; they would scatter and be kicked along, redundant. The sun would set, and rise again only in a place of beauty and calm. A peaceful life would be born from this dream. A life with him. As she opened her eyes, with the fading light of the sun setting behind his softly shadowed face, she knew there was nothing else to search for.

  24. Elizabeth says

    Her dancing teacher had told her, “You must feel the music within you.” She didn’t know how to do this; she wasn’t getting the steps right.

    She tried a few steps on the way home, but the honking horns, the shouting neighborhood kids and the screeching bus brakes weren’t music. They were just noise.

    Where is this place, she wondered, where I will feel the music within me? She turned a corner and found herself near the wooded park. It looked so peaceful and quiet there, so she stepped onto the leaf strewn trail.

    She pondered as she walked along the forest path. She listened to the birds warble, the squirrels scold and the wind sigh through the crimson autumn leaves.

    She took a few steps into the rosy clearing and began to dance. The music of the forest had enchanted her. Suddenly she felt music within herself, and every step was in perfect harmony.

  25. says

    They keep telling my family that I am intellectually challenged. What does that mean I wonder?

    “You have to stop her from running around bare footed and singing. Those woods are dangerous don’t you know? Anything could happen to her out there.”

    I watch my parents bow their heads. Their hands are tightly clasped together. They have no wish to restrain me for they know I am a free spirit.

    This man before us would have me in a straight jacket if he could get away with it. This same man who made my parents enclose my cot in a cage when I was small. To keep me safe he said.

    He tells them that unless they contain me he will have no choice other than to recommend that I am moved to a safe environment, monitored and controlled by drugs.

    I can’t allow that to happen. How would they feel, my Mother and my Father knowing that they failed to keep me by their side? And I? Well I would go mad of course. Locked up with no sky to sing to. No. He has to be stopped.

    “Let me show you the woods,” I say, “they are perfectly safe. No danger lurks there at all. Really. Come see.”

    My parents hid his remains in an old well at the side of the woods. I sing to him sometimes.

  26. says

    Ethan came home late, drunk, and reeking of sweat and tobacco. When he entered their bedroom, Sarah’s hair stood on end. She lay on her side, motionless, and pretended to sleep. She could hear him breathing at the door. Seconds ticked by. His feet made garish thuds against the wooden floor as he approached her. Sarah kept her eyes closed, but she could sense him standing in front of her. He whipped his belt out of the loops on his pants and snapped the leather. Instinctively, Sarah jumped.
    She opened her eyes to see Ethan towering over her. The moonlight spilled into their bedroom, allowing her to make out the evil smirk across his face. He bent down to kiss her, gently at first. Then he cupped her chin with his powerful, calloused hand. Sarah’s heart pounded in her chest. His next kiss was painful, as he mashed his stubbly face against her soft, white skin and bit down on her lip.
    As Ethan raised the belt above his head, Sarah reached under her pillow and clutched the cold metal revolver. Her hand was surprisingly steady as she pulled the trigger. One bright flash, an explosive pop, and Ethan was done. He slumped over her, blood pooling from the hole in his chest and soaking Sarah’s nightgown, turning it crimson.
    She calmly wiggled out from underneath him and ran from the cottage. Dancing through the meadow, the blood on her gown blended into the fall leaves. She was finally free.

  27. says

    Red dropped her cloak at the forest’s edge. She wasn’t supposed to leave the house without it, direct orders from Grandmother. But there was something about the scent of autumn mixed thickly with the last damp and secret bits of summer. Red felt a little wicked. Freed from the weight of her hood, she twirled and danced with the falling leaves as eager partners.

    Deeper the path tempted. Her racing heart a drumbeat in her ears. Yet as her feet succumbed, familiar voices began the whisper of threats and demands. “Turn back they prompted. How dare you! We expect more. You are needed. You have responsibilities. We are your story.”

    The more they nagged and berated the faster she danced. Frantic to shake free the expectations, Red spun ever more wildly. She didn’t choose to be someone’s errand girl. The burden of another’s life stacked heavily upon her soul burying deeper and deeper her own fairytale—her own happily ever after.

    Twisting and turning, tears now streaming down her face, Red lost track of the path and pirouetted into unevenly rooted underbrush. Her next leap landed with slippery footing. The ground became air as she peered upward toward raised slippers and branches and sky. Slowly she righted herself. Finding the wind to fill her lungs, Red stood. She exhaled the last bit of possibility, straightened her dress, picked leaves from her hair, and shuffled back toward the predestined fate of life beneath a crimson hood.

    • says

      Nice story of being trapped, yet finding a bit of freedom. I hope Red keeps up these small acts of rebellion.

  28. Lloyd says

    It was the place he used to bring her. When he was still a god in her eyes. When he was invincible. When he was well.

    At first she sat and cried. All the years passing by again. The joys of youth. The regrets of being a teenager. The mistakes of communication. The phone calls. Timid probes that came with regularity until she finally returned one. The short time of a relationship, just long enough to love again. Caregiving came next. The quick decline. The rapid fading out of a vibrant soul.

    How many hours of hugs did she miss? Days of smiles?

    But the days and hours that were there are treasures. Those thoughts filled her. Completed her. Warmed her.

    Then she danced.

    She danced for him. For herself. For her daughter. Because this is life.

  29. says

    Froggy Pond

    Marissa put the finishing touches on the girl in the pale tangerine dress dancing through a sunny field of daisies and set the painting aside to dry. She immediately placed a blank white canvas on her easel and prepared her cheeriest palette of colors with anticipation. Would this one show the girl dancing on a beach in a teal dress, ocean waves curling and feet not even touching the sand, arms up, happy? Or perhaps she’d dance amid a background of rolling hills. Marissa had begun to repeat herself but it didn’t matter as long as the girl continued to dance. She glanced at her studio walls covered with dancing girls and picked up her brush.

    She stopped after half an hour to look at her painting in progress and her smile wavered. She’d painted dense woods with hints of red in the trees and in the dancing girl’s dress and under her floating feet. She swept it off the easel. It was the second time this week the red appeared. That meant Marissa’s thoughts were going to the dark place again, where they’d found the scrap of her daughter’s red dress at the edge of the dark woods, and nothing more.

    Marissa took a deep breath and chose another canvas. She sketched a girl in a yellow dress dancing beside a froggy pond, a hint of a rainbow arcing behind her happy face.

  30. says

    A Song Loosed

    The path leads away from my door. My feet skip a quirky jig. It’s my own rhythm. Finally. The loamy earth smells are my song and the crumple of leaves the percussion. One, two, crunch, shuffle and somewhere in a branch, a jay screeches in an off-beat syncopation. The muted dusk blends the harmony of a sultry melody.

    “Back in my day,” she’d said.

    “Back in your day, what?” I asked.

    “That’s not what marriage was all about.”

    The lines of her face are an echo to her life, like deep grooves in a topographical map. I shelled another pea. “Then tell me.”

    “You kids think it’s all about feelings. Marriage was a good partnership. We got along. Silly expectations these days.” Her thumbs worked the peas with quick precision. “Like leftovers, marriage gets better as the flavors meld.”

    I slid a nail in the pea seam, letting loose pearls of pale green. “Leftovers go bad.”

    Her glasses snuck down on to the tip of her nose and rested on the fleshy bulb. She eyed me over them. “Love, sex, romance. It’s like make-up.”

    I popped a small pea in my mouth. I couldn’t resist.

    “Looks good, but it’s superficial.” She split a pile of shells.

    Raw sweetness popped and lingered, but the pulp and skin left a slight bitter aftertaste.

    Yes, back in her day.

    But I close the door on the heavy silence of my life. Running away is music, Grandma. I need to feel the song again.

  31. Zoe Beech says

    There was a fire in the girls’ toilets. Katie Mahon was the match, and I was the wood and now I’m consumed. My skin is so hot that I am nearly ash.

    I hurtle into the safest arms I know.

    And there the long pillars of trees anchor me. Red stars are woozy from the height and fall all around me, turning and twisting in their last dance. Old leaves are singing under my feet. And I can smell the deep secrets of the soil. I move with the breeze.

    Sunlight falls on my face through the cracks in the trees.

    I sigh.

    There is a fire in the forest, and I am the match and I am the wood and I am consumed.

    • Zoe Beech says

      Apologies, this is confusing because of bad proofreading! Please read –

      ‘There was a fire in the girls’ toilets. Katie Mahon’s mean mouth was the match, and I was the wood and now I’m consumed.’

    • ML Swift says

      I liked your comparison of the leaves to red stars. I had difficulty understanding the metaphor of the match and wood, first in the school bathroom, then later in the forest. Unfortunately, the whole message went over my head, and I read this several times, hoping for more clarity.

      • Zoe Beech says

        Thanks so much for your comment and trying to read through this! – it really showed me how hasty I was! I spun that out, and then didn’t edit it enough!! Oh well, lesson learnt. So the initial fire was Katie was gossiping about her… And then she just danced herself into a blaze! Aaah, the importance of editing!!

  32. says

    Sanjay stared down the barrel of his MG 5A 7.62 mm light machine gun, bored. The bunker was gloomy – corrugated iron, rough-hewn timber, sandbags – everything reeking of dirt.
    Below the hill, along a path beside a roaring freshet, a girl carrying a plastic jug of water on her head walked past. She wore a scarlet salwar kamiz, embroidered with flowers, a yellow dupatta fluttering from her shoulders, and she stepped fearlessly toward the mud-walled houses of her village, her back perfectly straight.
    Sanjay wiped his nose, wondering if the Pakistani guys on the other side of the valley also thought she was pretty. He wondered, also, how they felt about the militants they provided covering fire for – the ones who crept through the deodar scented forest, clanking with bandoliers and grenades, singing of jihad. Those Lashkar fellows would sling acid on this girl for not obeying their fatwa, if they could.
    With a sigh, Sanjay rubbed his hands together, blowing on them. It was cold in these mountains. Nothing was right here. At this elevation, trees sported red and yellow leaves, as if they were on fire. Water froze.
    Sometimes he woke up, at night, in a cold sweat, imagining the village girl’s dignified face contorted with pain, blackened by acid, oozing red and yellow pus.
    A few mortar rounds were fired that night, followed by swarming red tracers, clattering rifle shots. In the morning, through the bunker’s aperture, Sanjay saw her wearing a black burqa today, slouching along, broken.

    • Scott L. Miller says

      I liked your writing and different subject matter…the cliched fairies and wood nymph stories grew somewhat tedious and repetitive to wade through.

      For what it’s worth, I suggest more photos be used rather than these drawings. Photos offer more detail and variety.

      • says


        Thanks. I haven’t looked at the other entries yet. I usually wait until after the contest closes.

        It seemed to me that a lot of us were off our game last week.

        William Lailey

        • John Buss says


          In first discovering this site a week ago, the one thing that is missing is feedback from others on the submitted stories. Isn’t that what the “Comment” inclusion is for? Writers helping writers through outside perspectives can only improve our profession. It is my hope that WU continues these “Flash” stories and that comments are actively encouraged.


      • John Buss says


        It’s great to see someone giving some constructive criticism and appreciation for stories that are “different” from the overly literal interpretation of the drawings/photo. The artwork was meant to be an individual inspiration, allowing our unique creativity to flow in a “flash.” Unfortunately, I found this site too late to participate in four of the earlier challenges, but I’ve read through all of them.

        I hope that WU continues with these “inspired” exercises (prizes are not necessary, constructive feedback is reward enough) and look forward to seeing unique stories in the future.


  33. says

    My dress offers scant protection from the midday sun. A tingling blush already burns upon my freckled arm. So I leave my sister at the lake, and quietly slip away.

    The clammering of bird and insect recedes, and as my throbbing head cools, I can finally embrace the gentle whispering of the forest.

    I shouldn’t be here. He’s no good for me. But at the thought of him my heart flutters in time to the dancing leaves, and I skip to our clearing in a spiralling shower of cherry red.

    He waits for me, head to one side in his quiet way, windfall clothing him like a blanket.

    “You’re so beautiful,” he says, drawing me in.

    I gasp at his touch, at the crisp, clean smell of him, and my breathing slows as he pulls me closer, the chill of his skin seeping through my silk dress.

    “I couldn’t wait,” I whisper, even as I feel the energy draining from me.

    He bends forward, brushing a tear from my eye. It freezes jewel hard upon his finger.

    “So perfect,” he breathes, as I stumble against him.

    Then he holds me tight as the last sigh leaves my lips.

    Afterwards, he lowers my body to a crisp blanket of leaves, and watches as fingers of ice spread like veins across the forest floor.

    Another time, he might come for me sooner.

    Another time, we might dance together beneath the fluttering leaves.

    But for now, Winter is alone.

    • says

      This is one of your best pieces. Really liked it! As a children’s author, you have a great talent for the other genres. Always look forward to your contributions.

  34. says

    The Dancer

    “She’s adorable, Daddy!”

    A young wood nymph named Martha twirled as she called to her father. “And she love s to dance. I watch her every day.”

    At the word ‘dance,’ her father looked worried.

    “She’s human. We stay away and do nothing that could bring them harm.”

    “I know Daddy, but I’ll be careful. She tilted her head and mimicked a sad clown face.

    “Can’t I just talk to her? Pretty please?” She transformed the pout into a dazzling smile.

    “Okay, but Martha. No dancing. Never repeat what happened with the other human. You know the rules.” His eyes sought her agreement.

    She hated it when Daddy mentioned that. She hadn’t meant to talk to him, but then she saw him dance, and couldn’t let him stop.

    “Artemis has decreed that you will be banished if it happens again.”

    “But it won’t.”

    Martha approached the girl and as they played, she began to dance. Arms and legs awhirl, the girl tried to match the nymph’s hypnotic movements. Perhaps wood nymphs can dance forever but soon the girl tired. Yet Martha would not let her stop. Artemis stepped in to save the exhausted human.

    The Goddess’s words were the last Martha heard as a nymph.

    Banishment to the human world was not the worst. It was the memories. For she was not allowed to forget. Martha Graham’s dance movements captivated audiences everywhere. But in her heart, she was forever dancing in the cool Autumn winds of her Wood.

  35. ML Swift says

    Season of Life

    This is her time. Sisters Vesna and Vera have spent their seasons, providing a vast, verdant canvas overflowing with possibilities. She joyously lilts atop the trees, washing them anew in ochres of orange and red, and then pauses momentarily to quiet the temper of the sun. Her brisk freshness now fills the air. The robin gazes southward.

    Feathering down, she readies the earth, bidding the blazing foliage of the sugar maples to swaddle the dozing bulbs. She carefully plans for the lean days ahead. Eager grey squirrels gather for acorns and hazelnuts that will soon follow in the waft of her rhythmic moves. A dotted fawn beds down, disappearing in the warm sienna blanket.

    As she twirls through the sylvan, her brown-sugar hair brushes against the trees, sweetening the sap that will steep until Vesna’s return in spring. Come October, she’ll ripen the melons that adorn the fields – dousing somber pumpkin splashes amid dusky yellow leaves – and cleverly hide smatterings of blues and purples to brood in the husks of the Calico corn.

    By the last of November, her cranberry palette will have withered away, bringing burnt umber hues that mark the end of her reign. Her sister, Wynter, will then preside, and hush the weary earth with A Lullaby in White.

    As Autumn’s first day closes, she returns atop the trees and honeys the sunset, blowing a misty copper kiss to the rising Harvest Moon. This is her time.

  36. says

    Though you mightn’t believe it, there are places in the city that are as wild and as magical as those you hear about in fairytales. Take, for instance, Clarendon Park, which sits at in the heart of the industrial district. It has been there since I can remember, though no one knows why it exists in the first place. It is a odd place, with nothing but maples everywhere, a forest surrounded by concrete walls. With no spaces for families to lay down picnic rugs, the park is seldom visited.

    I saw her there one year, while I was still at school. She had come as soon as all the leaves turned red – the same red as her dress – as if autumn had finally permitted her entry. Utterly alone, with no friends and no parents, she had danced between the trunks, borne by the wind. I had been aghast that she went about unshod, that she seemed not to care how the dirt stained her feet. She had moved so beautifully, so desperately, that I had been too afraid to speak. Was she a dryad? I had wondered. Even now, despite being at an age where I should have grown out of such notions, I cannot say for sure. Still, I will remember that day forever, for it was the day my eyes were first opened to the strangeness of the city.

  37. says

    Title: The Girl and the Wolf

    One autumn day, a girl frolicked about in the forest, kicking the fallen leaves into the air.

    Suddenly, a squirrel rushed out from behind some brush. “There’s a wolf about!” he cried. “You should hide, too, before he finds you and eats you all up.”

    “Not to worry, squirrel, but thanks for the warning.” The girl pulled an acorn from her pocket and handed it to the squirrel, who was most grateful.

    She resumed her whimsical romp and was stopped again, this time by a rabbit who hopped out from behind some boulders. “You must hide now!” he said. “There’s a wolf in these woods and he’d love to make a meal of you.”

    “Not to worry, rabbit, but thanks for the warning.” The girl pulled a carrot from her pocket and gave it to the rabbit.

    She gaily continued, when a large, menacing wolf stepped in front of her.

    “Hey, Roscoe,” she said, with noticeably less enthusiasm.

    “How’d it go out there?”

    “I know where they’re all hiding,” the girl said, her voice deepening. She then removed her mask, revealing an equally vile wolf. “You be the girl next time.”

    Moral: If someone seems too nice, check for a tail.

  38. says

    As long as her people could remember, the great winged beasts had ruled the air. She had never known the joy of running across a summer meadow, basking at the seashore, or playing in the forest behind her home. Even there she would be found, as they had sharp eyes, and could easily break through the branches to snap up their prey.
    They’d done that with her little brother last year. She was supposed to be watching him while her father went to the barns, hidden in the deeper woods, but her brother had slipped away, and run – screaming with joy – in his last game with her.
    “Catch me if you can!” he’d cried, as she ran after him – ran silently, not wanting to give the winged horrors yet another target to follow. And catch him they did, with a triumphant cry from above, a snapping of branches, a swirl of fallen leaves, a beat of wings, silence.
    This spring the Others had come, in their own winged beasts – hard and silver. They had come for rocks they said, from the mountains, and would pay her people handsomely. All her people had asked for was freedom. So the Others had hunted the beasts, had cleaned out the nests, and today were herding the last of them high overhead, to be sliced apart as they flew, cut down forever.
    Today she danced in her forest.
    And the blood fell around her like autumn leaves.

  39. says


    “I’m looking for my step-daughter,” the old woman told the trees. “I want to give her a gift.” She stretched out her hand to show them a scarlet apple. The trees rustled in the spring breeze, silent but for one small leaf.
    “She’s staying in the tiny cottage at the bottom of the woods,” she whispered. “I see her dancing sometimes. I wish I could dance like her.”
    “When the others fall in the autumn, little leaf,” the old woman said, “You shall dance.”

    The trees watched quietly. They watched as the beautiful girl with jet black hair and skin as white as snow took a bite of the apple and wilted on the porch. They watched over her glass coffin and her seven faithful mourners, and told each other stories about a prince who would come to revive her, his one true love.
    The leaves grew thick and green through the summer and as October crept through the woods, they blushed red and fell from the trees, settling like dust and rotting gently into the soil.

    All but one, who landed on her own two feet and danced out into the winter, searching for a prince.

  40. says

    Captcha quirks?
    Had to try three times to get it right for my submission – and I don’t think it’s me! Same thing for comments I made on other’s stories. And this comment too likely.

    • ML Swift says

      I had Captcha issues today, too. Also, all my posts have to “await moderation,” even though I’ve posted several times before (and never anything outlandish).

  41. says

    “She isn’t wearing shoes.”


    “She isn’t wearing any shoes.”

    “Who? Kathy, what are you talking about?”

    “The girl in the picture. She’s shoeless on a forest path in late fall. Wouldn’t it be cold? What kind of mother lets her little girl go into the forest without shoes?”

    Michael sighed. Screw him. He didn’t sit in this room everyday for the past two weeks. He hasn’t memorized every recipe in the three-month old magazine he’s leafing through. He hasn’t stared at this obviously neglected little red-dressed girl wondering what kind of mother doesn’t take care of her own child.

    “How much longer will this take?” he asked.

    “Seriously. You’ve been here thirty minutes.”

    “I didn’t mean . . .”

    “I’ve been here . . .”

    “I know. You’ve been here everyday. You take her to appointments. You sit with her during the tests. You’re the one who noticed something was wrong. I get it. You care more, you love more, you’re better, and I’m shit. Kathy, I love her too. Do you think it’s easy going to work and keeping it together so I don’t get fired? I wish I could be with you. I’m doing the best I can to take care of what I need to take care of.”

    “I’m sorry. I just hate this. I hate all of this.”

    “Me too. But I love you, and I love her.”

    “What if it isn’t enough?”

    The door opened.

    “Morning,” said Dr. Ross. “I have the results.”

  42. says


    I take the long way home. Finally alone, I enter the woods and feel the oxygen fill my lungs. There’s a snap in the distance and I turn; it’s only scurrying critters, and falling leaves. I am nothing here.

    I am not the botched serve on the volleyball court, or the tongue-tied response to Mr. Jayson’s question in Pre-Calculus. Among the quiet, empty woods, for a moment, I am not even the girl who Marc McGrath pulled behind the field house during student assembly last month.

    The late afternoon sun breaks through the canopy and everything looks different. It’s the same path, the same trees, the same lonely walk home, but today the fiery leaves fluttering to the ground around me ignite something reckless inside me. I lay my books on the damp ground and dare to raise my arms like I matter. Eyes closed, face lifted, I feel the sun. It lightens the weight in my chest and makes me believe I can tell someone. I will tell someone.

    But the woods are deep, the walk is long, and by the time I emerge, the sun has faded. The familiar lump of hopelessness settles back into place. But before I trade the dirt path for pavement, I turn, glance back into the forest and hope that tomorrow both the sun and I will be stronger.

  43. Ted Knoblach says


    “Good, now throw each book into the fire, and tell me the title.”

    “Well . . . .”

    “Go on, whatever comes to mind.”

    “Okay . . . drinking.”

    “Drinking, and who’s the author of drinking?”

    “My circumstances?”

    “Yes, good, now try another title.”


    “Throw it into the fire, next one.”


    “Umhm, another?”

    “Being mean to my Mom?”

    “Good, your load is getting lighter, give me another.”

    “Cheating,” Kate sobbed.

    “Good Kate, now, of all your books, which is the largest?”

    “Um, Guilt”

    “Is it burning?

    “Sort of, honestly, the fire smolders, and then the books jump back into my arms. I can’t carry them all!”

    “That’s okay Kate, it’s your imagination; but it shows that we need to work on your guilt.”

    Kate left the doctor’s office. She felt sad. At her bus stop, a man in a ragged suit stood speaking, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    Kate believed in Christ that day.

    Now her imagination saw herself running through the autumn woods; through the fall of humanity. The winds of life still blew at her, yet her forest fire of guilt and pain burned behind. She was free. Joyous, she danced.

  44. Colleen Wood says

    So, you’re saying that you actually believe that women are going to love a tampon commercial depicting a gal blithely dancing in a red dress with a background of red fall foliage?”
    “I believe that women will love this! You must project this image to the screen, Rebecca! I don’t see why all actresses are so difficult to work with. I’m directing you! This is my masterpiece!” said Syl, his face contorting with rage.
    “Women feel like shit when they have their period!” Rebecca shouted.
    “Not that word again! It’s a visit from your Aunt Flo, damn you and your worldly woman ways!” said Syl.
    “Listen, buddy, I gave up a mouthwash ad for this cuz it pays more but I’m telling you, this is stupid! I don’t feel empowered! Why do men think they know what a woman feel s and thinks?”
    “Then leave! I will find another muse! A need a creative mind to handle the complexities of tampon usage! Be gone!”
    “Five years at Julliard to deal with a dilettante!” said Rebecca.
    “Dilettante! You whore!” said Syl.
    Rebecca stopped, poised to hit Syl in the face with her script. He looked at her, his head cocked to one side.
    “This is the fire, the rage I’m looking for! Now, put on that red dress and get out on that set and show me joy,” said Syl.
    Rebecca picked up her coat and headed to the door.
    “Five years of Julliard to hawk tampons….”

  45. says

    The forest was green until she entered it. She ran through the trees, her heart and feet pounding, her heavy steps tearing up the soil. The world blurred, but she could still see the color of her pain radiating through the woods. The verdant green was leaking away, replaced by a pulsing red.

    Finally she stumbled to a halt, but her body refused to stop moving. It shivered, spun, and spasmed, making her a blur of flailing arms and leaping legs. She whipped the woods into a frenzy, and the trees shuddered with her pain and rage. Their leaves shook free and tumbled to the ground, a torrent of orange and red, like drifting flames. She started to count them, a leaf for each of her losses, but there were far too many of both. Her thoughts whirled even faster than her body, and her tears streaked across her face and flew into the air as she turned.

    Finally she collapsed, a heap of exhausted limbs. She pressed her hands against the soil and breathed in the moist, fresh scent as the earth absorbed all her screams. For a long time, everything was still.

    Then she slowly rose, pulled up by another strange compulsion. Her body began moving again, but instead of thrashing, she seemed almost to be dancing. She felt something stirring as she spun, something fragile but promising. It was not hope or peace or joy, not yet, but something that might grow into them in time.

  46. Reilley Gorman says

    Autumn danced to the song created by the wind in the trees. She considered the Red Woods her place, not just a place. Autumn found it, and never told anyone. Red Woods was her special place.

    “Red Woods, Red Woods, Red Woods is my home,” Autumn sung, her voice ringing like chimes in the fall air.

    “How I love my beautiful home.” She opened her eyes and looked out at the spinning Red Woods. Red Woods always bloomed into the brightest of reds at this time of year.

    “Red Woods, Red Woods, Red Woods is my home.
    How I love my beautiful home.
    It is safe and it is warm.
    Here nothing can be harmed.
    Red Woods, Red Woods, Red Woods is my home….”

    Autumn sung the song she’d made up over and over again. The birds stopped singing and the squirrels ceased their chattering. The whole forest seemed to halt what it was doing to listen and watch the singing, dancing little girl. Everything, that is, except the wind, which kept blowing at a steady pace, plucking leaves of the red trees to carry away.

    As Autumn sung, she melted away into the red leaves.

  47. John Buss says


    Friday’s five-o’clock office crowd files in for one quick drink, waiting out the second rush hour of their day. Wiping her hands after the last order was filled, the bar owner looks about, seeing the briefcased type-A patrons for what they are. The back-slapping office politician circulates. The cynical promotion-passed-over one is talking to newer employees who wonder how he got that far. At opposite ends of the room are the failed office romances.

    “Like your painting.”

    She turns. The man’s head tilt indicates the redwood-framed “Dancing in Autumn Woods.” She hadn’t noticed when he walked in.

    She smiles. “An Ohi original. Love it.”

    “All about the joy of being free, isn’t it. Glenlivet, easy on the ice,” he smiles back. “Dancing down their own path.”

    Habitually, she pours a measured shot over the glass full of ice, and places his drink and change before him.

    “That’s why I bought this place. My weekends are quiet here. Weekdays after 5 keep me busy.” She looks at the painting. “What kind of person is that, do you think?”

    “Maybe born the rebellious middle-child. Definitely the one who toddled away unafraid from her mother in grocery stores. Heck, she might’ve jumped off a high dive after her first swimming lesson. That type, they’re just… different. Unrestrained. Free.”

    “Don’t work in the offices, do you?”

    “No. I’m a freelance travel writer.” He salutes the picture with his glass. “Well, it’s back to work for me.”

    He smiles, finishes his drink and steps outside.

  48. says

    Lovely, Dark and Deep

    I was told not to go into the woods, but I disobeyed, so I got punished.

    People learn from their mistakes. Not me. When something gets in my head, it’s stuck there. Doctor Reynolds says I have an obsession. That’s okay. I don’t mind. Makes me special.

    I’m not good at some things. Like I’m lousy with names, and I can’t never guess someone’s age.

    Know how old I am? Guess, take a guess. C’mon, I won’t get mad. Twenty. Had you fooled, didn’t I? I wouldn’t mind being twenty. Twenty, sounds like good.

    I like these woods. But not the spider webs. Well, maybe now, since getting used to them. I like the smell the woods has. Ever notice things smell different in the dark, like in the rain?

    It’ll be dark soon. You afraid of the dark? Nothing to be afraid of, really. Nothing’s in the dark that isn’t there in the light. That’s what I know. Remember that, next time you’re scared of the dark.

    It goes away, the scary, if you sing, but you have to do it low, with nobody hearing or you’ll get into trouble. I sing all the time. Don’t you?

    “James! You’d better start running ‘cause if I catch you, you’ll wish you were never born. James!”

    Quiet. Don’t move. She can’t see too good. Don’t make no noise. She won’t find us. But just in case, come to the cellar. It’s not scary, promise.

    “There you are!”

    Don’t forget, kitty.

  49. Larissa Thomson says

    Her first trip is kaleidoscopic.

    (I’m thin. Paper flake thin. I take a paintbrush, paint red, brown, orange strokes across the stumps of stucco. I paint oak trees in autumn because that’s what my paintbrush whispers to me. The Muskokas. The Muskokas in autumn. “Timothy Leary, takes you, trips you around the bay…” Then I paint my body raw umber and cadmium red, but it’s my Peter Paul and Mary Rubens body, “I’m leavin’ on a jet plane…”, with its marshmallow folds.)

    She decides she likes to paint when she’s all lit up.

    Her second trip is ghosts.

    (She’s whisper-thin in a paper dress. I paint her on the stuccoed wall in my room because she won’t leave my head, “Oh baby, please don’t go…” until she’s on the wall. But then it’s wrong all wrong, and I don’t like seeing this person here. Spend an hour staring at her face. Wonder who is that dancing happy on the autumn wall? And oh god, who are you and what are you doing on my wall?)

    She pulls out clumps of her hair and decides she doesn’t like to paint like this.

    Her third trip, heavenly blue.

    (I’m so freakin’ high, but I haven’t painted a sky on my autumn wall, “Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall…” and I’m still so sad that the dancer has a happy face and I, fat fourteen year-old Marlene, don’t, and Uncle John still wants me to sit on his lap at bedtime…)

  50. says

    Once upon a time, a big bad wolf was hiding in a forest high in the hills overlooking the city below. “I’m famished,” he said. “The next person who comes this way will be my dinner!”

    Just then, he heard a female voice approaching around the bend.

    “What?” the voice said. “Hold on, I have to adjust this stupid Bluetooth… That’s better… Yeah, I’m hiking. There’s, like, bugs up here—eew!—but I want to look good for my audition on Wednesday.”

    The wolf licked his chops as the voice grew louder. “Seriously… I’ve been going to yoga twice a day and eating, like, these greens from Whole Foods… I don’t know. Kale, maybe?

    “Whatev…” the voice continued. “I’m finally down to a size 2.”

    “Size 2? What the hell kind of meal is a size 2?” the wolf said aloud.

    He sighed. “I hate LA.”

  51. Oksana Carlier says

    Carol danced all the time. Carol danced in circles, around trees and through brush. These moments were her escape and her therapy, her love and her friend.

    Most nights, when Carol should have been sleeping away in bed, she would go out into the woods and dance her worries away. Carol would dance for the trees and the dirt.

    When Carol made a mistake, she danced. When Carol was angry or sad, she danced. Whenever Carol had a bad day, she danced. Whenever Carol had a good day, she danced.

    When Carol got old and grey, a particular hospital visit brought bad news. Carol had cancer and it was in its later stages. She danced for a long time that night, sad to be leaving her family and everything she knew.

    Eventually Carol came to a happy thought while dancing-she could still dance in heaven. Carol knew that she could dance anytime she wanted in Heaven, in the bright open or behind golden doors.

    During her final days on earth, Carol continued to dance. When she passed away, the priest mentioned how she had ‘danced away to a better place. Carol could dance forever in Heaven. Even now, she is dancing away in heavenly woods. She is dancing away in happiness.

  52. Oksana Carlier says

    Just looking at her, you might think that she is here for fun. You would think that she wanders these woodsy paths of her own free will. You may think that she has a deep fondness for nature.
    You don’t know the truth.
    We do. We are the people of the forest.
    She is just another wanderer who came into the woods and will probably never leave again. This forest is like a mousetrap. The cheese always looks better when you aren’t trapped, although it is still good once you are stuck inside.
    Once the forest claims you, the pain is always there in the back of your mind. A throbbing reminder that you tried to go somewhere you shouldn’t have.
    Maybe that is why most of us are still here, stuck in these woods. We will never be able to ignore the pain and find our way out.
    With the pain comes sweetness. The forest is not that bad, after all. It really is beautiful, from the ground to the topmost leaves of the trees, although not as beautiful now as it looked in the beginning.
    Few people have overcome the pain and beauty to get out. The ones who do get out yell back through the trees something about greed. This new girl does look rather greedy. She will fit in just fine; I should go and tell her about the prettiest tree in this forest. I am sure she will enjoy it, just like we all do.

  53. says

    “There is pain on the other side,” the trees say. “Turn back.”
    I ignore them and continue along the trail worn by footsteps passed. I am determined to complete my journey. There are secrets to unravel. Different rituals to learn. New dances to new songs with faster beats.
    The canopy grows thicker. The whispers louder.
    “There is cruelty. There is greed. Turn back.”
    My pace quickens. Branches lash against my bare ankles. My red dress tears, right up to the thigh, exposing wobbly flesh once concealed, like the thick skin of a pig.
    “There is death. Turn back.”
    I cannot block them out any longer.
    “What is death?” I cry into foliage so dense I can no longer see the sky.
    I’m frightened of nothingness. I want to turn back but movement ahead catches my eye; a woman.
    She gestures to me. I rush forward but feel no need to clasp her hand like I once would have so instinctively.
    “The journey’s over,” she says.
    “Where’s the pain?” I say. “Where’s the cruelty?”
    “They’ve always been there. You just couldn’t see them before.”
    “That can’t be true.”
    “But it is.”
    “And death? Has that always been there?”
    “Yes,” she says. “But you must take another journey to reach it.”
    “When it’s time.”
    We walk side by side. I’m taller than before.
    “Will someone meet me on the other side?” I say.
    “That,” says the woman, “is your decision.”
    Above me, the branches part. And there is sun.

  54. says

    “She’s always worse this time of month.”
    Jerry peered through the viewing window. The girl was stunning, a vivid slash of colour in an otherwise colourless room.
    “Doesn’t look the sort,” he muttered.
    Fraser laughed. “Well, yeah, but that’s not your brain talking.”
    The other side of the door, the girl twirled and spun on bare feet, with an expression of pure rapture on her upturned face.
    “What’s she doing?”
    “They found her like that, up in the hills, along with the bodies,” the other nurse explained. “Just give her the pills on time, and get out of there. You’ll be fine.”
    When Fraser clocked out that evening, Jerry went to visit Ruby.
    Her eyes widened when he came into her room, but not as much as they should have.
    Close up, she was real pretty.
    “You found me,” she whispered.
    “Took a while,” Jerry nodded. “You killed my whole pack.”
    Then the moon came out.
    In the morning, Fraser helped clean up the remains.
    The victim was a mess, cut wide open.
    Ruby caught him looking.
    “You want to know why I did it?” she slurred through the drugs.
    “Same reason as always.” He shrugged “You were looking for Grandma.”

    • John Buss says

      It’s a shame that this story didn’t make it in before the closing. From among the various interpretations of the same picture, my favorites have always been the “not so literal” ones. You have a very creative, albeit twisted, mind and are destined for greatness! I look forward to reading more of your stories.

      • says

        Thank you ( I think?), I notice yours was an interesting take on the picture too, I liked that. It’s too bad about the deadline, but it came to me last minute and I couldn’t resist posting one more time.

        • John Buss says

          Purely complimentary, I assure you! As for the deadline, I also missed last week’s but I submitted my story anyway. I wish that I had discovered this site five weeks earlier but, now that I have, I hope WU holds many, many more Flash Fiction challenges. I enjoy reading all of the short stories, but a few, like yours, truly stand out as exceptional.

  55. says

    Chloe touched her brush to the paper once more…and again. The last few leaves.

    She relaxed, looking at her painting with that work-well-done satisfaction she loved so much. The graceful curved lines of the little girl, her arm and leg following the flow of her hair. The brilliant red-orange of the trees, the floating leaves. It was some of her best work, she thought. She faxed the completed picture to the publisher and sat back, mentally crossing her fingers. This time she really believed that she’d taken the first step toward her dream, being a children’s book illustrator.

    When the phone rang, Chloe drew in a quick breath and picked it up.

    What is this you’ve sent us? The voice on the other end sounded annoyed. This is supposed to be an illustration for “Little Red Riding Hood.” Why’s this girl dancing? Where’s the hood?

    Now she was annoyed. Think outside the box, she said. The hood is a total cliché. Everyone’s always done that. The hood is symbolic. The red represents the danger in the world around her–the wolf, right? That’s all in the red leaves and her dress. Her dancing represents the innocence she’s about to lose.

    This is a kids’ book, the other voice almost shouted. We need the hood.

    Then I’m not your woman, she said with finality. She hung up and sighed. She wouldn’t give up her principles. She was an artist.

    It would always be hard for a true artist in this world.

  56. T.R. Edwards says


    So you find yourself consumed with Curiosity, dancing about in a lifeless world empowered by men, still free to pursuit. But beware little one, my big eyes still spies the tasty flesh twisting inside your cloak of red as it tempts my soul; my enormous ears can still hear your muted laughs of joy, delighted by the cold pain of the still warm Red Season.
    You matured too fast, lavishing from the bounty of your Season of Green. But that time has shifted on past, and soon, all the colors will bleed to gray, a chill will crawl through your bones, and a hunger will creep through your soul; for the Season of White will soon press itself upon your world; and your hooded eyes will find themselves bound to a destined path before them.
    And after the extended dormancy, at the conception of a new Season of Green, our fragrances will join as one; and you will find yourself once again peering into my enormous, bright eyes, and whispering a lullaby into my ever inquisitive ears, and be forever consumed with the needs of my new life.
    But for now little one, sojourn on. Dance and enjoy life’s freedom.