Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 43

Today’s photo prompt:

 

Dragon’s bidding:

 

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

 

Silent Voters

I’m a fisherman, like my father and my grandfather. I go out every night and cast my net till dawn. I get a pittance at the market for my hard work and sleepless nights.

You like fish. You pay high prices at the restaurant, while my family can hardly make ends meet. You wear designer suits, and drive a comfortable car. What can you offer us?

You say you want to spend the night with me, on my little boat. You bring warm, waterproof clothes and boots, and the reporters take our picture.

Tomorrow the news will parade your empathy with the poor. You want me to nod, and smile, while the cameras record from the shore.

Tonight you will meet the others, the nameless, countless fishermen, who lost their lives for their families, and their country. Ask them to vote for you, when you join them at the bottom of the sea.

Wave goodbye.

Your journey ends here.

 

Have a look at some of the other entries

Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 41

Today’s photo prompt:

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

Today’s dragon’s bidding:

The Castle seen from the window is known as the Krak de Chevaliers (Qalat al-Hosn), in Syria.

Rules: Based on the photo prompt and including the Dragon’s bidding. Between 140 – 160 words. Enter your Flash fiction in the comments in the Flash! Fiction Blog, and add word count and twitter handle.

 

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My Flash Fiction for this week.

Her Eyes.

I’m back in the same hotel, overlooking the same Medieval castle, and lying on the same bed where I begged her to marry me and start a new life in another continent.

I met her when I was an international exchange student in Homs, preparing my PhD in petroleum engineering. I felt the unexpected thump of love at first sight when her supple fingers sunk into my stunned hand, and her warm honey eyes melted into mine.

My tutor, who introduced us, proudly announced that his only daughter was shortly to marry his brother’s son, her first cousin. I failed to dissuade her, and left, alone.

Too many years later, I read her letter one more time:
Although you are always with me, it’s time we meet again. Please come for me. Now I can leave’.

I looked at the picture in the envelope and sighed.

A child smiling at the camera.

Her eyes.

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Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 38

Today’s photo prompt:


Today’s Dragon’s bidding:

What really happened.

On August 29, 1965, US spacecraft,  Gemini 5, landed back on Earth after an eight-day mission. The return crew were Astronauts Conrad and Cooper.  The crew had to use the re-entry thrusters to orient the spacecraft due to system failures. The retrofire and re-entry were conducted in darkness by the spacecraft computer. However the computer had been misprogrammed with an erroneous rotation rate of the Earth. Cooper’s efforts compensated for what he recognized as an erroneous reading and brought the capsule down closer to the ship than they would otherwise have been, and probably saved their lives.


 

My Flash Fiction inspired by the photo and Dragon’s bidding:

The Alien (158 words)

‘Officer!’

‘Yes, Captain?’

‘Are we going to tell them what we saw?’

‘Sir?’

‘What really happened?’

‘Of course, sir. The information is recorded in the log books and databases.’

‘I mean who we saw: the alien.’

‘We didn’t see anyone, sir. It was just you and me on board the spaceship for eight days and eight nights. It was a boring, routine, flight.’

‘But you saw her, too!’

‘No, sir. I saw no one.’

‘But it’s thanks to her that we’re still alive! She told me to change our course. You heard her, too!’

‘We readjusted the data on the landing device because we saw an error, sir, and we recalculated.’

‘But the alien…’

‘With all due respects, sir. We can be acclaimed as national heroes, or become the laughing-stock of the media.’

The captain reflected for an agonizing moment before replying.

‘Of course. What’s the point of telling them?’

‘No point, sir. They’d never believe us.’

****

Would you like to read some of this weeks’ other entries?

This short piece makes me think about truth and lies.

We all lie sometimes, for well-meaning reasons, such as not to hurt people, or to make a point by ‘bending’ the truth. We sometimes decide that certain information can and should be withheld, for a good cause, like to protect someone who is not ‘ready’ for the truth.

In this case of my flash fiction story, the astronauts decide to lie due to fear of the consequences. They don’t want to be laughed at. ‘They’ll think I’m soft’, or ‘They’ll think I’ve gone mad if I say that’.

If you think you won’t be believed, why tell the truth? It’s hard to convince someone of the truth, without proof, so it’s easier to retreat and lie.

People get used to lying, that is, to saying what others want to hear, until they forget the truth. They forget who they are and what they really think. They are the sad, self-destructive lies.

It takes courage to say the truth, when you know no one will believe you, or when you could become a public laughing-stock. It’s easier to say what people want to hear.

Other times there are darker reasons to lie or hold back information. Somebody may want to deceive, confuse, or manipulate. Those are the blatant, dangerous lies.

Truth or lie? Did the astronauts make the right decision?

Flash! Friday – Vol 2 – 37

Todays’s photo prompt:

 

Marooned, by Howard Pyle, 1909. Public Domain.

Today’s Dragon’s bidding. Include the following aspect:


Word limit: 150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt. Add your Twitter handle.

 
I’ve written a ghostly Flash Fiction today, inspired by the story of a marooned pirate, towards the end of the 18th century, on an Island off the coast of New Zealand, which is an exclusive tourist resort nowadays. Hope you like it!

 

A Good Place To Die. (160 words)

The pirate wasn’t alone. He had bread, water, and a loaded gun. He wasn’t on an island. He was on a large sand bar at low tide. He wasn’t dead. He arrogantly promised his executioners he’d never leave.

Three hundred years later, Tom accompanied the tourists to one of the most remote and unspoilt places on the planet, with golden beaches and clear, turquoise waters, exploring swimming holes, waterfalls, and following forest trails.

He told them the story of the marooned pirate who haunted the island. His gunshot is heard once a year, when the sea swallows up the island, on full blue moon tides.

Everyone shuddered when they heard the shot as they were returning to the hotel, missing one member of the group. In his vacant room, he had left a message: ‘This is s a good place to die.’

While under the submerged island, in the center of the Earth, the living dead planned their revenge.

 
There’s still time to post your story in comments or read the other entries.

Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 36

This weeks’ photo prompt and Dragon’s bidding:

Cave Monastery. Vardezia, Georgia. CC photo by Ben van der Ploeg.

Three Lessons (160 words)

I looked up to the towering mountain, as water and rocks gushed out of its ruined caves.

‘Why have you brought me here, father, in this thunderstorm?’

‘Tamar, first Queen of Georgia, built this cave monastery over 900 years ago, to preserve our religion from the invading Mongols. There was a secret tunnel starting here, at the river, and leading up to our sacred place.’

‘What happened?’

‘There was an earthquake and most of it collapsed, although monks have been living there up to this day. Why did God allow the earthquake to destroy his monastery?’

‘Perhaps God didn’t like the way they worshipped, and he wanted to punish them for building this stronghold?’

‘No, my son. God wants to teach us three lessons: firstly, that the forces of nature are stronger than man; secondly, that nothing on Earth is permanent; and thirdly, that we can and must always be prepared to start again from scratch and rebuild our dreams.’

****

Have a look at today’s other entries

 

Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 34. Remembering the First of August

This weeks’ photo prompt:

Today’s Dragon’s Bidding:

 

 

Rules: Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt and dragon’s bidding.

 

This is my entry for this week’s contest (160 words).

 

THE GATE TO FREEDOM

‘My father’s grandfather died in 1830. He was born in Africa, made captive, sold as a slave by his own countrymen, and brought to Surinam to work in the sugar plantations. After escaping to the rain forest, he was caught, and both his feet were cut off, so that he could not escape again. It was a slow, painful death.

Don’t ever forget you owe your freedom to that man, and make sure you bring your sons and daughters here, on the 1st of August, at least once in your life.’

‘But father, I don’t understand. You were born in London, and I was adopted in China.’

‘Son, this proud, crumbling door is all that remains of a water-mill, which belonged to a sugar refinery dating back to 1830, before the emancipation of slaves. That gate, which nature has tried unsuccessfully to bury, holds the memory of something none of us can remember, and yet we must never forget.’

 *****

 

Have a look at some of the other entries here.

 

Basic background information to the Abolition of Slavery in the British Empire.

On August 29th, 1833, a new law for the gradual abolition of slavery was passed in the British Parliament, in London.

The freedom of slaves came in two stages. The first was on the first of August 1834, which marked the emancipation of all slaves in the British Colonies.

On that day, it is said that many slaves walked up hills and climbed trees to witness the dawning of the first day of their freedom. Thousands attended ‘Divine Services’ to give thanks and praise on the Caribbean islands.

It was, however, a case of gradual freedom with conditions. The only slaves freed were those who were not yet born and those under six years of age.

All other slaves were to enter a six-year apprenticeship during which they were to continue working on the plantations, without pay, for their former masters, for 40 hours a week, in exchange for food, clothing, medical care, and provision grounds on which they could grow their own food. They could also hire themselves out to other plantations and earn more wages and buy their freedom. This apprenticeship ended in four, instead of six years, on the first of August, 1838, when the second stage of freedom started.

On this occasion, a hearse containing shackles and chains which had been used to reduce rebellious slaves was driven through the streets of Spanish Town, Jamaica, and burned.

Sugar plantations have played an important role in Surinam’s history. Today tourists can still see water mills which belonged to sugar refineries, although they are now abandoned and covered with vegetation.

We cannot change the past, but we can remind ourselves of our collective past, honour the people who struggled for a better world, and work hard to ensure that the things we are not proud of, should not happen again.

 

Flash Friday! –Vol 2 – 33

Last Friday’s 140-160 word story prompt for Flash Friday included the following picture prompt:

 

Miranda — The Tempest. Painting by John William Waterhouse, 1916. Public domain photo.

And the following word prompt:

This was my story:

Miranda

 

I sat on the stool looking away from the artist.

‘Don’t move!’ He barked. ‘I need to paint your profile.’

I wanted to tell him my neck and shoulders were stiff and aching, but I needed the shillings he was paying, and he was bad tempered if I complained.

‘Speak to me about your country and about your journey across the sea.’

So I told him while he painted.

‘Now tell me about the shipwreck.’

‘There was no shipwreck.’ I lied.

‘Imagine you saw one and tell me.’

So I told him.

Days and hours later, when my neck was so stiff I thought it might break, he gave me my freedom and cried, ‘Come and look, Miranda. It’s perfect!’

I thought it was a portrait, but he would never let me see until it was finished.

I was shocked.

‘You’ve never seen the sea!’ I blurted out.

‘I saw you and heard you, my love, and that was enough.’

 ****

 

Have a look at some of the other stories here. 

 

Shakespeare’s The Tempest

I love this picture, and I really enjoyed writing the ‘Flash Fiction’ it inspired. The Tempest is also one of my favourite plays, especially as a result of the classes I taught on Postcolonial English Literature to undergraduates.

The Tempest is considered by most scholars as Shakespeare’s last play (1610-11?), which was written as a farewell to London and the stage he so loved. Due to his failing health, he retired to Stratford (although he returned to London occasionally), where he lived with his wife, Anne Hathaway, until his death in 1616.

The Tempest contains one of his most magnificent soliloquies, by Prospero, which is the epilogue to the play, and perhaps to Shakespeare’s artistic life:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,

Prospero tells us he no longer has the necessary charms to continue, and must retire and he finally asks for forgiveness before he bids his audience goodbye:

Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

Watch Sir John Gielgud’s rendering here  (just over a minute on YouTube)

It was not until the 20th century, and the advent of postcolonial and feminist literary criticism that The Tempest came to be considered as one of Shakespeare’s most powerful plays.

Prospero, who should have been Duke of Milan, was exiled on a remote island, where he enslaves, Caliban, a deformed monster and the only human inhabitant, teaching him his religion and his language (a theme taken up by Jonathan Swift in Robinson Crusoe, a century later). Caliban repays him with the following lines which have given Postcolonial scholars much food for thought:

You taught me language, and my profit on it is I know how to curse.

The red plague rid you for learning me your language!

These words have been used to illustrate Shakespeare’s discontent with the way colonisation was occurring, enslaving, taking advantage of indigenous populations, and undermining their culture.

This play has also attracted Feminist criticism because there is only one female character physically ‘present’ in the play, Miranda, who finally succumbs to her father’s wishes and marries the son of the King of Naples, thereby restoring his honour, although she marries for love.

A play well worth reading and rereading…