Forward Rewind Forward

This story is based on the following image and writing prompt: 

Frosted Tamaracks flash fiction writing prompt by KS Brooks ALL RIGHTS RESERVED122911 peek
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks.

They wanted to rough it. There would be no phones, no computers, no contact with the outside world.

Trevor could see the glaring flaw in that plan now. Zack started having acute abdominal pain last night. This morning he was feverish and almost unresponsive. Whatever it was, they needed to get him to a hospital and quickly.

They crafted a makeshift stretcher to carry Zack several miles back to the trail head. When they got there, the car was gone…


The old Jeep must have exploded into a billion, microscopic, god-forsaken pieces. Trevor cursed, wishing for the eightieth time he’d brought his sat phone. “Well, bud, looks like I’m hiking for help.”

“I always knew it would end like this,” Zack whispered.

“Say what?” Trevor leaned close, ignoring his shaking hands–must be adrenaline.

“I’ve dreamt this a thousand times, bringing us here. I must die.”

The stress made Trevor feel pissed. “No, you must NOT die. We survived Iraq, we’ll survive this.”

“I’ve been here, seen this. I just didn’t believe it’d really happen. She’s gotta live…”

“Calm yourself, man. Just a little SNAFU. Do you remember how far to the nearest settlement?” Trevor hefted the stretcher, sweat congealing under his gear.

“She loves you,” Zack coughed. “I’ll sacrifice, to save her.”

“Shut up–you’re going home.”

Trevor’s terror subsided when Zack finally quieted. He fixated on pacing himself. Trevor doubted rescuers came by often, but he’d get Zack to safety.

But then Zack had to speak. “Be good to her. Like you’ve been good to me– Thanks, dude.”

“No goodbyes!” Trevor roared, plowing onward. But the stretcher jerked while Zack’s scream embedded shrapnel into Trevor’s bones.

Suddenly, Trevor noticed the keening began in his own throat, not Zack’s. And he was saturated by frost. Pine needles bored into him from below, concern plastering the familiar faces hovering above. Zack crouched besides his friend, his hand heating Trevor’s shoulder. “Dude, it’s all cool. We fight the same demon.”


Thank you, veterans, for your courage to look death in the eye and tell it to go fight someone its own size.

Originally written for the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge.

Also, attribution goes to the article, From “Irritable Heart” to “Shellshock”: How Post-Traumatic Stress Became a Disease, which influenced this post.

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An Engagement?

The Prompt:

Jeremy sat across from Heather in the little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant. It was just his style to take her some place like that to “unexpectedly” pop the question. She waited eagerly to see the ring box appear on the table. He’d been hinting at it for nearly a month now. At least, she was pretty sure of it.

But the lemon chicken came and went. So did the fortune cookies. Heather felt her temper boiling up, but she batted it back down. Surely he would take her somewhere for dessert, or maybe a romantic walk along the lake, and ask her then. He had to ask her tonight, didn’t he?

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks.
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks.

 

Their conversation grew stale, as did the leftover taste of fortune cookies. Finally, Jeremy awkwardly pulled an impeccable velvet box from his pocket.

Heather straightened, plastering on her yes smile–she’d been practicing for months.

“What is that?” Heather purred.

“First, I have something to tell you.” He paused dramatically. “I’m moving.”

Heather stared blankly at him, wondering what he meant. He was moving to another apartment? Or wait–maybe he wanted to move in together?

Jeremy continued, “I’m going to Botswana. I didn’t want to tell you until I knew it was for sure, but I applied to the Peace Corp and I finally received my assignment.”

She was stunned. Heather’s perfect smile drooped. She barely managed to squeak, “When?”

“Five weeks.” Jeremy scratched his forehead like he was considering a math problem; all previous nerves had vanished. “Obviously we needed to talk about this right away.”

Heather’s shock briefly faded and she snapped “You bet, buster! I can’t believe you didn’t say anything!”

“Wait! Before you go all crazy on me just open the box.” He slid it over.

Inside on the satin pillow sat a golden ring. But not just any golden ring. There was no diamond. In fact, it looked almost like an earring. Heather looked up to excitement in Jeremy’s eyes.

“In some cultures, when a couple mates she wears a nose ring as a marker that she’s taken.” Jeremy smiled confidently. “You see, Heather, I want you to come with me. Will you be my female?”


 

This was written for Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge

The Last Trip Down Beach Lane

This short story was prompted by the following image:

Old Woman. CC2.0 photo by Giorgio Grande.
Old Woman. CC2.0 photo by Giorgio Grande.

Mademoiselle Villeneuve and her companion creaked, shuffling down the cobblestone towards the end of the road. One step, one roll. One drop mirroring past beginnings in Mademoiselle’s eye.

“Félicitations pour ton diplôme! Bonne chance dans le monde!” echoed behind them as she threw her cap in the wind, riding towards the future.

Sunbeams cast wickers of flame on the coastal path, a golden gleam to guide them. One step, one roll. One shared memory of love from the heart.

She sat on the blue bars giggling, flying towards the moon. He dragged his feet on this same beach lane, slowing them just enough so he could kiss her neck.

Mademoiselle’s clog skimmed sand, choking the grout, and their bony frames shuttered. One step, one roll. One more movement reminding them they were now broken and bald.

They carried meager paychecks together, then wine and bouquets. They skidded from uncounted fights; pedaled towards countless friendships. Children, then grandchildren twirling their wheels.

Mademoiselle and her partner had arrived. She held to his frame so tightly as they stood one last time gazing at their shore.

Peeling off her wig and clothes, she rested them and her beloved bicycle against the junkyard’s gates. Then without a backward glance, Mademoiselle Villeneuve maneuvered through sand to surf, burying her bruised body under the salty sea.


This was originally written for Flash! Friday flash fiction contest

Rejected

(Note: this following image is the prompt for this story)

Krak des Chevaliers/Qalat al-Hosn, Syria. CC photo by Jon Martin.
Krak des Chevaliers/Qalat al-Hosn, Syria. CC photo by Jon Martin.

 

He had melted into the bed for an hour by now, surely. Actually, it could have been hours, thirty of them. Those decades had passed in a blink, would he know if the hours had played the same game?

 

The sun was a hazy ball on the horizon. He felt his gaping chasm acutely, head pounding from the ache where his heart had laid.

 

To pass time’s lack of essence, he listened to the refrigerator’s tinks. A whole colony of miniatures lived there. With top-hats, tails; frilly dresses and bonnets– holes cut for ears.

 

He heard the minis scurry up and down the railings, the stairs and the elaborate castles they build in the mound of cooling rejected pastry. They had made exquisite pillars of the champagne bottles.
He considered folding himself into a jerky square, hiding in the frozen room. He imagined delighting in their revelry almost as much as he hated himself in this eternal moment dragging on.

 

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This was written for this Flash! Friday fiction contest.

 

Falling For The Oceanographer

The following story is inspired by this image:

Typhoon Maid Thursday. CC photo by Shuji Moriwaki.
Typhoon Maid Thursday. CC photo by Shuji Moriwaki.

 

Clipper approaching, I studied the misty unknown: Silver tide, green sky. Hmmphing heavily, I collapsed on the concrete. Pre-meditating, I shuddered at the cold I’d be wrapped in.

 

I curse you, Zayle, with your left dimple, common smile, and scruffy cheeks. So tan, they’d be pale now.

 

In high school we were together in the aquarium club two periods a day. You seduced me with your way with sharks and I flirted with salt water. You’d stand behind me, bright-burning close, guiding my net up, then back down the glass tanks, teaching me to clear algae. Carefully, you whispered the secrets of the coral in my ear.

 

Bonded by the brine, I followed you like a sea-puppy through college, and then abroad where work drifted. I appreciated the starfish, but mostly I just loved you.


Ironically, I’m left with your career now, enslaved to your ocean. Your name might mean strength of the sea, but mine doesn’t. Mine only meant yours.

 


Read Arron Ravenel Clay’s story based on the same image here.

 

 

Kefilwe’s Story: A Girl With HIV (For World AIDS Day)

My momma’s got AIDS” the little girl whispered.

It was one of those whispers that is so quiet that it knocks your breath away, like a sonic boom. Her skin was like copper, hardened, darkened, but smoother than silk. She had a pock-mark on the corner of her forehead, near where her coarse, black hair began to embrace her head. I couldn’t help but think that she looked beautiful. Her dirty “Adiddas” shirt had questionable smears on it, which made my stomach turn. Pathetic and beautiful.

I’ve never met someone with AIDS until now,” I whispered back.

She nodded, knowingly. “Neither did I until my daddy got sick. He’s gone. My momma was mad at him when she found out. She told me that he shouldn’t have done it, that it was wrong for him to do that to her. I don’t know what she meant, but I guessed it meant that if you have AIDS it means you’re a bad person.

I listened to her as we bumped our way over the dry, lumpy grass road.  I glanced around to see if I could find my water bottle. I wasn’t used to the feeling of dust continually clinging to my skin. We were driving to a medical compound, which according to my uneducated guess, must be even closer to the Kalahari Desert than we already were.

It seemed surreal. I vaguely tried to connect the string of events that got me here, but I quickly gave up doing so. However I got here, I was here. Just for this week. But I was in a different world.

But Kefilwe, my copper-skinned companion, actually probably had known many people with AIDS before her dad.  At least one-fourth of the people in her little African Village were HIV positive, which is actually normal in Botswana (and much of Southern Africa).

I shook my head at the sheer magnitude of the situation.  I knew Kefilwe’s mom was dying. Maybe if we could get the drugs to her sooner, but she had an advanced case of Tuberculous, as well. I guessed she had less than a month to live.

This poor little girl worked so hard. From sunrise, to sunset she would do what little she could to make her mom’s life less miserable. I marveled that my neighbor’s kid back in the States, the same age as Kefilwe, ate Lucky Charms, went to school, Karate, and then after dinner would watch TV, or maybe go outside to catch fireflies.  All the while this girl would be mushing who-knows-what, and then cooking it over a fire for her and her mom to eat. Or maybe she would be fetching water from that stinky mud-hole three miles away to cool off her mom’s forehead.

The only reason I actually believed this nonsense, that Kefilwe’s drastically different life was actually real, was because I had watched her live it for a few days now. And she didn’t complain about it. Which must mean that it’s normal, because if it was my neighbor kid living Kefilwe’s place, there would be hell to hear.

Do you think only bad people have AIDS?” Kefilwe was on a monologue of questions. “I don’t think my momma’s bad. She doesn’t look pretty, but she’s not bad. The witch-doctor said that my momma has an evil spirit. But the church-people say that God is punishing her.

I knew that in Botswana, although a large portion of its people consider themselves Christian, many practice a traditional African religion as well, referred to here as Badimo. Although I considered witch-doctors something of story books, I couldn’t help but wonder if we were not so different in America, practicing multiple beliefs at the same time while only claiming one.

Kefilwe, have you gone to school?” I asked. Kefilwe just looked at me confused and then turned back to admiringly study the new stuffed polar bear someone on my team had given her. I wondered if she even had a clue of what a polar bear, or even what snow was.

Another passenger took advantage of her distraction, leaned over, and proceeded to explain to me that the small school which had serviced Kefilwe’s village shut down five years ago when both the teachers had passed away because of AIDS. The passenger, who worked for Peace Corps, continued by telling me that if a country who was a major world-player, like India, China, or Russia had the same AIDS infection rate as this area in Africa did, their economies would also falter. Yet, because of their global influence, it would create a domino effect in the economies of the world.

Are you serious? That just seems so, extreme.”  I told the Peace Corp, my voice ringing with skepticism.

I am,” she responded as we bumped over what could only be a ravine. “A huge portion of the cape of Africa’s labor force has already succumbed to AIDS. This has created gaps all over society and overwhelming barriers to growth.

I knew that India already had a high rate of AIDS infection. I had never considered the effect of such a disease on a whole country before, let alone its effect on a continent, or the world at large.

Kefilwe stopped fiddling with her already smudged polar bear, picking up our conversation again. “My momma says she won’t come back soon, and it will happen just like when my daddy died. She said she will look even skinnier  and not talk much before that happens. She told me I don’t have to cry when she won’t let me feed her.

I smiled sadly at her, brushing my thumb along her cheek. It’s not everyday I hear such a young child talk about sickness and death. She will soon be added to the fourteen million children who have been orphaned in Southern Africa because of AIDS.

 

My momma says I need to get that medicine for myself so I don’t end up like her and daddy. Momma says you have that medicine. She said you could get it for me. She said that the nice people in your big village over the waters will hear about how we need their help, and they will bring us back the medicine.”

My heart broke then. Kefilwe had put her little hand in mine, and just looked up at me with huge black eyes full of hope.

I don’t think Kefilwe was even aware that she was already HIV positive. She never had a choice- she was born with it. A little knowledge, basic medical assistance, and access to antiretroviral drugs could have easily kept her from this fate. Instead Kefilwe is a statistic, one of the 400,000 babies born with HIV yearly. But on a positive note, she had made it this far. Half of the children born with HIV don’t even live past age two.

I began to wonder about Kefilwe’s future. “Do you have any brothers or sisters, Kefilwe?

I have a sister who is about five, and we had a baby brother. He died last year.” I began to panic. Kefilwe was the oldest of another HIV positive girl. Would Kefilwe have someone to take her in, and regularly give her the antiretroviral drugs when her mom died? Or would she become the head of her household? I shuttered.

We guessed Kefilwe was six-and-a-half.

As if she knew what I was thinking, Kefilwe scooted closer across the ripped-seats, shyly grabbed me around my waist, and began to sing. Her tiny voice was shaky and off-pitch. But as I smiled down at her, she grew in confidence and sang beautifully louder. Soon everyone else riding with us either joined with her song, or was grinning at her, clapping their hands to the beat.

We arrived at the clinic, and I begin to help the medical workers process their new clients. Because of the antiretroviral drugs (AVRs) we were able to deliver, these individuals would not only survive, but probably would even thrive for years. Or at least as long as they had access to them.

After helping distributing the AVRs with me, Kefilwe tugged at my pant leg and asked me for a drink. I stooped to her level, took her little hands, and closed that first forty-cent pill within her fingers.

I hoped my family would not mind the ramifications of what I was about to say. But I couldn’t not.

I took a deep breath, and with Kefilwe’s eyes locked with mine I promised her that it would all be okay, that I would make sure of it.  Kefilwe glanced down at that life-giving pill and then gazed in wonder back at me.

You see, she is my hero, even though she looks at me as if I am hers.

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“These are the brutal facts of the AIDS pandemic, the doomsday virus that I sometimes call the greatest humanitarian crisis of all time. But once again I want to stress that there is reason for hope. . . Between 2001 and 2005, prevalence rates fell in Botswana from 38.8 to 24.1 percent . . .” (p.150).

Stearns, Richard. 2010. The Hole in Our Gospel.  World Vision, Inc. Thomas Nelson: Nashville.

 

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This is a fictitious story based on facts. Kefilwe’s story is meant to give an accurate example of the current situation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

To learn more about this and what you can do, please look at this post:

AIDS/HIV 101: Why Should I Care?