And, lo and behold, I force myself to take a break from all the fun of prepping my manuscript for beta readers to bring to you another Flash Fiction Friday! I’m hoping that today, in general, is a good day for work. I have the day off from the paying job, and a brief peek at next week shows a really odd schedule. Instead of my usual days off, I’m working a different set of days. I’m not sure if this is going to be my new “regular hours” for a few weeks (as is often the case with these schedule changes), but I do know it’s going to throw me off my game a little. Here’s to hoping for a great, productive day today so that when I’m all out of sync next week, I’m still on my own two feet.
Ahhh, to be a creature of habit in an unpredictable world.
No matter. Let’s get to the flash fiction! The idea of this prompt is simple and like most flash fiction prompts out there. I’m going to post a picture and, if you feel so inclined or inspired, write up a little blurb inspired by the picture. Who knows where it might go? My current Featured Story came from a prompt like this. Feel free to share it on your own blog or on this blog. I never get around to reading half the prompts that get posts, but I know I’ll certainly try to. Below, you’ll find my own contribution. Let’s go!
They had tied the boy down, but it was no use. Despite the tightness of his bonds, he writhed and pitched against them in the throes of his fever, crying out into the night. That such a sound could come from such a small body! It caused the other passengers on the ship to huddle together, lifting their shoulders as if to protect them against the wails as they rattled their spines and disturbed their sensibilities. They grew wary of anyone showing even the slightest sign of sickness, wanting it to be just the boy, no one else, infected and possessed with this strange demon. They avoided the room in the corner cabin, where, shirtless and sweating, the boy would pitch and jerk, straining against the ropes while his voice lifted in such haunting shouts that the others whispered that they should do him a kindness and put him down like a poor dog.
“It’s because of the women, mum.” The young girl, whose name was Caroline, clutched her mother’s hand and looked up at her with wide, frightened blue eyes. They were on the deck far away from the corner cabin with the sick boy inside, though the wind seemed to carry his howls as easily as if they were feathers or leaves. “That’s why he’s screaming; the women are coming for his voice.”
“Women?” The young girl’s mother, whose name was Elizabeth, frowned at her daughter and had to force down a shudder, from fear, from distress, from the cold ocean spray pushing up against the railing and seeping into their clothes. “What women?”
“The wailing women,” Caroline stated, shrinking back against her mother’s skirts. “We’ve all seen them, all of us. Four of them; they’re so beautiful, mum, but the noise that they make! They wail and scream and clutch at their clothes, and they look like they’ve lost something. I saw them go into his room, too, mum, I think they found what they were looking for.”
She had fastened herself to her mother’s hand, turning her face against her skirt. “I’m just glad it wasn’t me,” Caroline murmured into the stiff, colorful cloth.
Elizabeth opened her mouth to chastise young Caroline, to tell her that she was making up stories and that no such women existed, but, just as she did, the wind around them seemed to stop, and the faint screams in the distance ceased, replaced with a startling, uncomfortable silence. The wind eventually picked up, but not before everyone aboard realized that the young boy had died, and, all around the ship, the children clung to their mothers, knowing that the wailing women would not yet be satisfied.
Once again, I feel my flash fictions never do justice to the larger story lurking underneath. But there you have my submission, a little creepy, and that’s a little good. What have you got in store for this gorgeous and curious picture? I’d love to see it!