Ashley Wilda

Author

Tag: Flash Fiction

RUN: Update and Sneak Peek

Hello everyone!  The  blog is officially back… a post on my adventures will hopefully make an appearance soon.  RUN is progressing fabulously… although it appears to be morphing into a novella–the word count currently hovering at 20,000 words–the characters are continuing to surprise and entertain.  Here’s a sneak peek of the first page:

 

Pain.  Light.  Garbled noise.  Warm wetness seeping down my arm.  Gritty asphalt under my palms, my cheek.  Drifting between heady black and greyish white.

Footsteps.  Footsteps on my right.

“Brandon, get over here.”  The footsteps stop.  A presence crouches near me.  A whisper of breath on my hand, my face.  “Hey.”  The voice is soft.  “Hey, can you hear me?”  I force my eyes open, barely.  Crimson trails stain my limp fingers.  I bring the blurred face above into focus.  My mind, emotionless, collects details.  A boy.  Teenage.  Long, spiky blond hair.  Concerned brown eyes.  A hand, reaching…

Reaching?

My heartbeat flies.  My shallow breathing comes faster.  Memories flashing by.  Pain.  Screams.  Dark.  Hurt.  Trapped.  Pain.

His feather-light touch burns me, and I jerk back.  A growl builds in the back of my throat.  I strain to push myself up with energy I didn’t know I had, but fall back, having moved only a centimeter or two.

The boy has pulled back his hand.  “Hey, whoa there, sorry.  It’s okay, you’ll be fine.  I’m a friend, I’m not going to hurt you.”

Boots clomp to my left and stop near my shoulder.  My whole body tenses involuntarily.  My breath rasps, panicked, in my throat.

“My gosh.”  A deeper voice, distinctly male.  I feel a hand on my left wrist and jerk violently, crying out in fear and pain.  I can’t think, I can’t breathe…

The boy half rises.  “Back off, give her space.  She’s scared.”

Understatement.  Terrified, I’m terrified.

He bends close, purposefully making eye contact.  His eyes are gentle.  Pleading.  “Let me help.”

I don’t respond, I can barely comprehend his words… I’m kind of floating, floating, like I’m drifting off to sleep.  Help?  Why do I need help…  Sharp pain lances through my arm, and I cry out.  The sharpness brings focus.

“Please,” he’s saying.  “Let us help.”  He reaches out to me again, but pauses, his fingers hovering over mine.

I close the distance.  “Okay,” I say.

“Bean”

“Bean” is a flash fiction story about a mysterious girl and her young tag along.

Bean

The Ferris wheel spun, twisted, and spurned us from the heights, its neon green lights spasming in the darkness.  I lay on my back in the sand, watching it turn as the cold ocean waters lapped at my sinking heels.  A warm little hand wormed its way into mine.  I started at first, then smiled, squeezing gently back.  Finally.  How long had it been?  Two weeks?  A month?

“Sar-ah?”  A childish voice from the darkness to my left.  The first word.  What would she say next?

“Yes, Bean?”  Maybe she would protest at her nickname, although I thought she liked it.  She had never worked up the courage to tell me.  It fit her skinny, six year old frame.

“What’s a canned ham?”  I almost laughed, but I didn’t want to scare her.

“A canned ham?  Well, it’s almost like jello, but ham.  In a can.”

There was a small pause.  Then, “What’s jello?”  Jello?  She didn’t know what jello was?  Anger twisted inside me, a snake rearing its ugly head, but I batted it away.  No, not tonight.  There would be time for that later.

“How ’bout I show you, Bean?  Would you like that?”  The small hand wrapped around my finger in response, tugging me up.  This time I did laugh, and a little giggle answered from the void.  How I would manage to find jello at a fair, I had no idea… but I would find it.  I would tear the world apart for jello, if that’s what it took.  I shook my head as we walked up the beach, Bean’s little footsteps thudding softly beside me.  How hard it would be to let her go.  But it was necessary.  The shudder that followed the thought had nothing to do with the chill ocean breeze.

As we crested the dunes, the light from the Ferris wheel caught in Bean’s stringy blond hair and turned her eyes to glowing emerald.

“Leashed”

“Leashed” is a flash fiction piece inspired by a prompt that asked me to write about a character exploring a structure he had never seen before.  I chose a set of monkey bars, and this was the result.

Leashed

The steel bars glinted in the dying sunlight, gleaming dully like winter’s first frost.  The structure formed a rectangle with the ground, two vertical ladders topped with a longer horizontal one, the cylindrical rungs spaced about two feet apart.  I stood on my tiptoes and ran a hand along the ceiling ladder, letting my fingers skip from cold rung to rung.  Footsteps crunched behind me, and I whirled around, jerking my hands away from the welded metal and shoving them deep in my pockets.  I exhaled at seeing the swinging brown ponytail and ratty navy sweatshirt.  I turned my back to the girl, laying a heavy hand on the top rung of the closest ladder, but the muscles in my back and shoulders remained tense.  “What do you want, Kalia.”

She snorted.  “Whatcha doin’ out here, tough guy?”

The muscle in my neck pulsed.  “Can’t you leave me alone for more than ten minutes?”  The frustration of my body bled into my words, stretching them like taught tendons.  I climbed up the ladder and hung from the first bar set high above the frozen earth, swinging my legs for momentum.  Gripping the next bar, I stared back at Kalia and raised my eyebrows, daring her to tell me to get down, that I didn’t belong.

“Stop that.  I’m not going to challenge your freedom, stupid.”  My spine tingled at her mocking tone, tossing my own words from the previous trial back at me.  “Your little acts of rebellion are only going to send one message—I’m Mister Idiot.  I mean, what kid’s never seen a set of monkey bars before.”

“I can do whatever the heck I want to.”  I leaped for the next bar with both hands, enjoying the slumping jerk as I caught it.  I could feel the power awakening in my body.  Oh, to fight again.  Oh, for the smooth leather pommel of my sword Scintath in my hands.

“If the elders hear you talking like that, you’ll land back in jail before you can say jackrabbit.”

Hooking my heel over the side, I swung myself on top of the bars into a sitting position.  I let my legs hang over the side and kicked my feet back and forth, feeling gravity tug at my heavy combat boots.

I stared at Kalia, taking in her skinny frame, her hands cocked on her hips, her disapproving brown eyes.  I had seen, much less talked to, very few girls in my life, but somehow I was sure that this one was a rarity among womankind.  The assassin’s life didn’t lend itself to meeting girls, especially not ones that lived ten seconds past the moment you saw them.  Usually, they only had time to say “oh.”  Did I want to live that life?  Did I really want the elders to just kick me out of their city of Saroth to wander on my way, leaving a trail of blood behind?  Was there more to life than death?

I shook my head to clear it.  Those kinds of thoughts would get me killed.  “Death is the only goal of life” was the assassin’s motto.  Hold true to that, and I would stay alive.  That was all that mattered.

I jumped off the—monkey bars?  Was that it?—and stalked out of the clearing, entering the forest surrounding it.  Kalia’s tennis shoes crunched through the leaves in my wake.

“And where do you think you’re going?”

I smiled slightly at her sass.  “Are all girls this cute when they’re mad?”

“What?  Arggh.”  There was a dull thump of shoe hitting the earth, probably obliterating some poor insect in the process.

“Hey, I was just asking.”

The footsteps halted suddenly, and I stopped too.

“Kath… be careful.”  It came like a leaf floating on the wind, so quiet I wasn’t sure if she had spoken at all.  Overcome with a sudden urgency, I turned, her name on my tongue… and she was gone.  My shoulders slumped.  I turned back to the lonely path before me, kicking at dying bits of crimson, burnt orange, and brittle brown.  The bare black branches of the trees stretched like interlocking fingers across the colorless sky, locking me in, an eternal cage.

“Do You Ever?”

“Do You Ever?” is a piece made almost entirely of questions.  As you read it, think about each question, apply it to your own life, your own heart.  You may be surprised at what you find.

 

Do You Ever?

Do you like your life? I mean, really?

Would you change anything at all? Or maybe a lot, everything?

Do you have a purpose? If you decide you don’t, do you wish you had one?

When you watch movies with lots of danger, fighting, saving the world stuff–adventure–do you wish that world was your own? Do you wonder, like I do, if you would love it, or hate it, if you were there?

Do you ever feel like you were called to do more than what you are? Do you ever long to make a difference, or at least try?

Or how about this– do you ever wonder if the lack of suffering, of striving, or honest-to-goodness effort in your life, is wrong? That sitting on your blessings, on your abilities as a human being, is wrong?

Do you ever feel like you are ignoring your heart?  I do.

When the days drag long, monotonous, full of empty business in which nothing important actually gets done, are you ever overtaken with a sudden urge to drop everything, and just go, be someone else?

Where would you go?  Visit a protest in China, maybe?  A house arrest in Vietnam?  Or maybe a ship sinking in the frigid Artic Circle?

Who would you be? What would you do?  I mean, every hero, or even every well-meaning person, or hero-wanna-be, has to have a goal.  What would yours be?

Would you want to help people in bad situations?  No, not just the bad ones, the really bad ones?

Would you dare risk your life for a stranger?  I think I would.  I think it’s worth it.  Do you?

Your weapon of choice, what would it be?  A sword?  A pistol?  Mace?  A bazooka, maybe? Or even just your words?

Would you sneak around, anonymous?  Or would you like to be famous, instead?

Would there be a reward, do you think?  Or would you even like a reward?  Would it take away from the whole point?

What about friendship?  Is that a big enough reward?  I think so.

Save a life, make a friend.  Those are good goals to start with.  Stay alive?  Yes, let’s add that.

So when will you go?  Today, tomorrow?  You will go, won’t you?

“Run Like Water, Burn Like the Sun”

“Run Like Water, Burn Like the Sun” is a short flash fiction piece that I wrote in response to a writing prompt, and turned out to be lots of fun to write.  I hope it’s just as much fun to read!

 

Run Like Water, Burn Like the Sun

“Why are you so angry?”

I stare back at the eyes peeking over the back of the grey wooden pew. “Stow it, Marie.”

The shock of red hair disappears again, and I continue painting. Back and forth, back and forth. The rhythm of the brush is soothing, a kind of haven.

“Why did you pick such a boring color?”

I sigh. “It’s blue, Marie. Do you have some kind of problem with the color blue?”

“No–it’s just… boring.”

“Hmph. I think it’s a good sensible color.”

“Sensible is often just another word for boring.”

My brush pauses for a second. “Are you painting over there?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Well then do more painting and less talking.”

Blessed silence.

Then, “I think blue’s a sad color.”

“I don’t.”

“You don’t have to be so snappy, you know. I think you picked blue because you’re sad.”

“Marie…”

“What? It’s true. The whole town knows it.” A brush waves an arc above the bench, paint splattering on my face. That stupid girl can never keep her hands still when she talks.

I don’t answer, and neither of us say anything for a good while. Then, “I think… I think anger, is just–maybe–a way of being sad.” The words come low and quiet, but it feels like an arrow. I suck in a breath.

“Stop babbling, child.”

“I’m not a child. You’re only four years older than I am, and I’m sixteen.”

“What does it matter. All this fuss about a color. You’re stuck with the same color that I am, so there.”

Silence from the other side of the bench.

“There.” I rock back on my heels, surveying my work. “I’m done. You?”

“Just almost…” A brush flicks up into the air, as if ending a sweeping arc. But that brush… it’s small. Too delicate for the broad painting of an ordinary church pew.

“Marie…”

“I’m done, I’m done! Chill out, already.” There is a soft snap, like the closing of a clasp. The willowy girl rises to her feet, brushing a runaway red-gold strand of hair behind her ear. Her green eyes seem fresh, as if they had just been born, supercharged with living honey. “I guess I’ll see you at church, huh Elise?” She walks backwards, a lopsided smirk on her face. “Hey, and remember to smile!” She turns around and strides out the wide stone arch, a small black case swinging loosely from her fingers.

“Hmph.” The room feels empty without her, but I don’t want to admit it, even to myself. I scrub my hands down my face. Ew, I forgot about the paint. My fingers come away smudged with orange. Orange?

A speck of color catches my eye. A fleck of green paint lies streaked against the dark stone floor.

Marie.

I shove myself up from my knees and hurry around to the other side of the bench. The blast of color snatches my breath from me.

A bright flame of color fairly bursts from the formerly dull, cracking wood. The entire spectrum of color is somehow incorporated into the painting, featuring a burning sun fading into pale blues, indigoes, and forest greens, a depiction of the downfall of night so alive it is almost breathing. How I know it is a sunrise, I have no idea. But I just know.

Even more unexplainable are the tears I cannot stop. They trickle down my cheeks and splash against the stone. And I kneel for a second time, not to grudgingly paint a pew, but to let my poorly disguised sadness run from me like water and burn like the sun in the painting. The sadness is much more beautiful in death, the banishing of the night–into joy.

Contest Entry: “Finley”

Tessa Emily Hall–author of Purple Moon– hosts a weekly writing competition on her blog, and today I came in second!

Below is my entry:

Finley

I just stand there, looking at her. Finley’s wispy brown hair blows across her face, twisting in the cold breeze. Solemn green eyes peek between the strands. She sniffs and swipes at the grime on her cheek with the back of her hand. Somehow she’s even more beautiful dirt-streaked–if that’s even possible. Something else shines through her exhaustion– in her wide, solid stance, in the anger hardening her eyes, in the whitened knuckles of her clenched fists. She’s not defeated–no. She’s fighting inside, building to the climax, the final battle, the deepest kind of strength bleeding through the outer wounds.

“All right, Adrian?”

She’s caught me staring. Again. I smirk, beyond caring by now. Hoping that maybe she doesn’t mind–maybe hoping for more than that. No, not hoping– aching.

“I guess.” I shrug, lifting one shoulder and letting it drop again.

She sighs and shakes her head. “Of course you’re not. I’m so stupid.”

“No you’re not.” I want to say more than that. Do more than that. Want to run my fingers through that flyaway hair. But I won’t, because I’m afraid I’ll scare her away. If she runs, I’ll die, burn inside. Be reduced to a twisted mess of ashes and smoke, just like our city.

She’s all I have left.My Badge

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