Baxville strapped her twin pistols into her shoulder harness, whistling for her hounds. They tore from behind the Westward Factory, which was taller than night itself, but less illustrious than the competition–Southbend Incorporate–sitting pristinely on the corner.
Within seconds, sulfur and wet appreciative tongues descended on Baxville, but she pushed her adoring canines aside, striding across the fog- laden street, crimson under the Westward’s lighting. Baxville thudded on Southbend’s chiseled grand entrance like she was representing hell itself. “Lyon, we are going to duel this out once and for all!”
A girl in a white waistcoat peered through an angled window.
Baxville continued, “Your granddaddy cheated on that deal. You know it! Southbend is mine!”
“Well your daddy cheated on his wife, coming to the sweeter side.” The impeccable duchess smiled back coldly.
Baxville growled and her dogs assaulted the window; Lyon could be seen falling back–hard–onto the checkered tile. While Lyon recovered inside, Baxville pulled out a pistol and aimed at her own mirrored reflection.
Lyon was still muffled behind the glass: “Just because I get your inheritance too, doesn’t mean you get mine.”
“If you only knew what came with Westward,” Baxville sneered, “then you wouldn’t be so keen to take all.”
Lyon glared. “Oh, I know what comes with Westward: irrationality, daddy’s bones and loads of money.”
As always, Baxville fired at the diamond glass with a resounding crack, then turned back towards the factory, the Westward’s hounds behind her. Baxville only performed this defeating ritual hoping to force her half-sister’s salvation.
This following story was written based on the following image as a prompt:
The stone might be dusting her toes, but Joan can stand on her own through a little dirt.
What I’m concerned about it whether she war away the sticks and stones. Can she fight off heartbreak? A friend’s betrayal? Cruel laughter or an enemy disguised as her boyfriend?
She was always a tender reed, an unlit wick in my arms. I’d wonder how one so thirsty–needy–could be one so strong. She used to giggle adorably when I’d use our lamb skin to hide my face. Even then, with a chubby grasp on the leather, she wasn’t scared when her protector was out of sight.
Pigtails and arrows, swimming holes and swords; braver than I, but I’d hold her to comfort while enveloped in the dark.
Despite the plague, despite the wars, she was her own but she was everyone’s–especially mine.
Then one day, my fragile girl flew away. Joan handle the world, I’m just not sure I can.
“Boop, boopity-bloop,” my nails rattled, clutching the box while I jerked, gripping tightly to control this stone and my hopes in it.
“Don’t you mean ‘Beep, beepity-bleep?’ ” Harold asked, concerned.
“‘Boop’ works just as well as ‘beep.'”
“Are you sure?” Harold’s unibrow rose a smidgen. You could call us brothers–thanks to our rabid family dynamics–so I knew he was nervous.
“It will work,” I assured, my faith living. We couldn’t keep living these monthly nights of terror.
Harold whimpered, “What if the Uncles find out?”
“Shut your chops so I can concentrate!” Relenting, I added, “We’ll bring something home from the butcher’s.”
Harold wrapped his fur-streaked arms around himself, rocking, waiting. I beeped and booped the incantation on the lycanthropy amulet.
Finally we heard the roar, that hopeful promise brewing. A flash banished the dusk while the city heedlessly moved around us. Searching for the russet moon, I tensely reached for Harold’s paws, but instead our smooth, calm palms collided, curse-free.
If I could only remove the blurred dancers, the stabbing in my brain would be soothed.
These dragons sway, a waltz of mirth and color. But they also ring shrilly, shrieking as they bite down, chomping-off the heads of bystanders. The blood rushes, pooling at toes and tingling nerves, crimson cascading from empty sockets.
I rub my temples. If I squint tightly I can almost imagine they’re shinning lights, marking Wintertide and the change of seasons. The screams then morph into carols; the wings, melded from knives into free-spirited tinsel.
I’ve scoured this purse all evening with no avail. Ironically–as if I could have thwarted misery all along–relief surfaces, taunting from the clutter.
Ignoring the whirling, hellish beasts, I inhale from a vial of eucalyptus and peppermint, then pop two capsules of reprieve. This migraine forged of daggers dissipates as I slip on my impish, disappearing, specs.
Relieving in clarity, the ballerinas now move lithe and lovely, their bloodlust quelled.
This short story was originally written for Flash! Friday flash fiction, awarded as follows:
Judge, Sinéad: This story’s title was an excellent, and witty, reference to not only the prompt image but also the ‘many-headed’ narrator, who is dealing with conflicting messages from all corners. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the author recreates the visual and auditory disruption the headache causes, and how well it all wraps into a performance, both the dance of the writhing, clashing dragons and finally the gentle whirl of the ballerinas as everything settles into its proper place. Another tale with an unusual take on the prompt image, and a story which made great use of all the senses.
Judge, Pratibha: One word, execution. From the opening line to the resolution, the tension builds gradually and unwinds skillfully. This unique take on the prompt left me breathless. The image of the dancers as a collective unit, hydra, as seen through the eyes of an aching head, is painted vividly in the second paragraph. Tension mounts in the third paragraph, as the music reaches the crescendo. I loved the description, “the wings, melded from knives into free-spirited tinsel.” Upon finding the cure for his/her headache, the narrator is relieved and so does the dramatic tension, and the dancers now move “lithe and lovely.” The skillful use of language and clear story arc put this story high on my list.
I laugh, ‘cuz Princess gives me tickles when she goes a-hillin’.
I call her Stellalina. We’uns need to be a’namin’ the princesses. But the others say I be a baby, cryin’ on, making pets out nuthin’ but fleas.
I sing, “It don’t matter what they say, I be layin’ here all day– Stella’ be my Special!”
Princess be tired. Princess be hiding in Molehole when she be tired, tossin’, turnin’, and givin’ me the itches. But I don’t want to scratch or she be dead. No more Stellalina.
My sweat coils in thick steam down towards Molehole. I hope it be fresh– I want Stellanlina to love my luscious expanse and stay.
I might just be a giant carcass of land. But if I ever pry-up from my stone prison, I’d still carry this little’un with me, trompin’ worlds. And if she like, I’d let her go a’hillin’ and giggin’ whenever she want.