Fiction Friday: The End

photo illustration by sara b. healy

Smoke stung her eyes and nose. She put a piece of torn cloth over her nose and tied in behind her head. It would have to do, but with the oil and gasses, she knew it wouldn’t last long.

In the thick black sky, flames shot up into the air, seeking escape. Carcasses of burned vehicles were everywhere, including fire trucks and ambulances. People ran past her with their hands covering their ears. She heard only silence; her eardrums had burst from the first explosions.

They had been so powerful, windows and walls fell inward, like invisible hands pushed them. It looked like a movie scene. She’d hoped it was a movie scene, but another explosion had lifted and tossed her outside, leaving her crumpled under the burning trees.

She didn’t remember getting to the street, but somehow she had. People wandered about. Some dazed, like her, while others screamed. She couldn’t hear them, but her eyes watched their contorted mouths open as they ran.

She kept walking, trying to escape the putrid smell of burning bodies. In the distance, more explosions burst, like orange-red flowers. In her mind, the line from Dante played over and over again, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

This truly was hell and she didn’t know how to get out of it or even how deep it went. People passed her, but no one stopped, even though she reached out to them. Huge asphalt cracks opened up before her. She almost fell, but managed to make her way around them.

Tired and wanting rest, the endless heat drove her on. She hurried through an alley. Broken glass tore her bare feet. She ignored the pain; there was nothing she could do about it. Across her mind a thought flickered. This is “The End.”

They’d talked about “The End” for years, but no one had really believed it. Those who spoke of it were considered doomsayers and crazies. She didn’t know what had happened, but to her eyes, this looked exactly like they’d depicted it. Fear nibbled at her heart, making it stutter, but she pushed on.

Out of the alley, she walked to the one building still standing. It was made of old stone. While it had crumbled in places and smoke billowed from it, she climbed the steps anyway. They were worn down by age and green with algae and moss, but they cooled her feet. It was a hard climb and her breathing was ragged when she reached the top.

As she caught her breath, she stared at the thick wooden door. It was open, smoldering and hanging askew. Above the door was a stone plaque. Carved into it was one word, Bibliotheca. She looked in. Burning papers were blowing everywhere. In other places, books were ablaze. A red fire extinguisher lay on its side, obviously dead.

She stepped inside and almost tripped over a burning book. Using the cloth from her face, she put out the flames. Reaching down, she picked it up. It burned her fingers. She dropped the book. It fell open.

Most of the pages were blackened and unreadable, but when she squatted down, one half-burned page still had writing on it. Her eyes read the words, absorbing them. Then, she spoke them, even though she couldn’t hear. Her throat hurt with the effort, but she needed to do it.

“There will always be dark times, but when people join together sharing hope and wisdom, their spirits will ignite and lead them out of the darkness.”

She looked up and saw a small group of bedraggled people emerging from the smoke. They beckoned to her. All were covered in black soot and some obviously injured. But they smiled at her. She smiled back, even though her burned skin stretched in pain.

They were the survivors; already at the task of joining together and finding strength in the human bond. She stood and walked towards them. As she did, she thought, “It’s not the end. We’re alive. Together, we will survive this darkness!”

*     *     *     *     *

This is based on a prompt from Liz of The Writing Reader: Write a scene about a character’s reaction to a crisis. It fit a story I had started working on for another site’s prompt, but couldn’t finish. Thanks to Liz, I completed it. It’s definitely not my usual fare, but I hope you enjoyed it.

NOTE:  I’m not a believer in doomsday prophecies, but I am a believer in hope and the ability of people to survive crises, whatever they may be.

Gossip!

photo by sara b. healy

Hey, you sitting in that pool chair.
It’s me. Sheila, the parrot…over here.
Yeah, I’m talking to you!
Parrots can talk, you know.
Come closer.
Don’t worry. I don’t bite.
People get their pictures taken with me, right?
Well, I learned some shocking news at our latest photo shoot.
I can’t stand it. I have to tell someone.
I’m not usually a gossip, but this is just too good.
It’s gonna shock you to the core.
Bend your head so I can whisper in your ear….
Did you know…..?

The Photo Challenge

Share the “gossip” this little parrot needs to tell. Keep your comments to 65 words or less.

You’re welcome to continue this as a dialogue or just write what the parrot wants to gossip about. Is it about a person or another parrot? What happened and why is it so shocking to the parrot?

Use your imagination! Create whatever comes to mind. Most of all, have fun with this:~)

Quickie Challenge

How do you feel about gossip? Is it bad, good or somewhere in between?

 

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

illustration by The Big Book of Art

Henry was finally meeting Angie, but it wasn’t his choice. He stared at her picture at the online dating site. She was a beauty with long dark brown hair and warm “melt in your mouth” chocolate eyes. I love looking at her.

They’d been writing and texting each other for a couple of weeks. He kept putting off meeting her, but she convinced him by inviting him to a book signing by Michael Connelly, his favorite mystery writer. He couldn’t resist.

He glanced in the mirror on the bathroom door. He’d dressed casually – blue jeans, a loose white shirt and boots. While his jeans were hemmed, the shirt cuffs almost covered his hands. He sighed. I hate being short!

Henry had curly black hair and indigo blue eyes. Everyone said he was attractive, except for the fact he was five feet and four and one half inches tall and that was with his lifts in.

A co-worker, John, was an experienced online dater. He told Henry women looking for men online didn’t like short men. “Don’t say your real height! Everyone cheats about this. Hey, my picture was before I went bald. Once they get to know you, they don’t care!”

So, Henry faked his picture. His friend George was good with Photoshop. With a few clicks and adjustments, he made Henry took taller. It looked real. But  he also had to lie about how tall he was in the stats section of his profile. Liar, liar pants on fire!

The fake picture got him lots of winks, views and emails. He didn’t think about the ramifications of his lies until he met Angie. Not only was she pretty, but they had so much in common. They both loved cats, dark humor, mystery books, Hitchcock and 1950’s music.

Henry stood on his tiptoes and straightened his shoulders, making himself as tall as he could. The man in the mirror did the same. I’m a cheat, but what choice did I have?

He stepped away from the mirror. With slumped shoulders, he looked at Angie’s latest text. “We meet F2F 2Nite! SYS, :-) It made him smile. She likes me! I know it! But will she like the short me?

The clock struck seven o’clock. It was time to go. The drive was uneventful, except for the butterflies tap-dancing in his stomach. He found a parking space, walked to Angie house and rang the doorbell.

Angie spoke through the door. “Henry, is that you?”

“Angie, what’s going on? You ready to go?”

“Well, no. I sort of had an accident today.”

“Are you okay? I can hardly hear you.”

The door cracked open, but Henry still couldn’t see Angie. “I’m okay, but my hair isn’t. It’s a long story.”

“I’m willing to listen.”

“Oh, Henry, I was stupid. I was watching my sister’s little kids and fell asleep. They decided to play beauty shop. They cut off my hair!”  On the word “hair,” Angie voice squeaked.

“It can’t be that bad Angie. Let me see.”

The door opened, exposing Angie. Henry gasped. She looked like someone from Night of the Living Dead, only worse. Parts of her brown hair were totally cut off, while others hung at choppy angles. Her mascara had run and created dark smudges under her eyes. She stared at him, waiting.

“Well, it’s definitely creative, but….” Seeing Angie’s eyes made Henry stop his attempt at levity. This wasn’t the time, “I’m sorry about your hair, Angie.”

Angie sniffed. Tears shined in her eyes. She rubbed her arms. “My sister’s taking me to her stylist tomorrow. I hope she can do something.” Angie shredded a Kleenex. It joined the others on the floor.

She looked so miserable; Henry stepped inside, pulling her into a hug. She had to lean down to rest her head on his shoulder. He patted her back and let her cry. After a few minutes, she spoke so softly he almost didn’t hear her.

“Can we stay here instead of going out? Please!”

The butterflies danced the Tango. She’s not cancelling! 

He managed to speak calmly. “Sure. We’ll order pizza and watch a movie. They’re playing a Hitchcock one on the WOLD channel.”

Turned out WOLD was showing a marathon of Hitchcock movies. They watched all their favorites. Angie was so upset about her hair; she didn’t even notice Henry was short. They laughed. They talked. Eventually, they kissed.

A year later, Henry asked Angie if she would have gone out with him if she’d known in advance how tall he was.

She blushed, hemmed and hawed for a minute. Took a sip of tea, bit her lip and finally said. “No, Henry, I probably wouldn’t have.” Seeing him frown, she added with a big grin, “but I’m really glad I did.”

*    *    *    *    *

This fiction story is written for The Writing Reader and is based on the following prompt:  Write a scene about someone who cheats. What is the inner monologue that the person goes through to rationalize the cheating?

For those of you who enjoy good writing prompts, check out The Writing Reader. Liz comes up with some really creative ideas.

Photo Challenge: Name the Animal

photo by sara b. healy

I live in Florida, USA. We have some unusual animals in our state.

We even have our own Bigfoot. He’s called the Skunk Ape. I’m not sure how fond I am of having a Skunk Ape as one of our unusual animals, but the pictures tell the story. Also, according to those who’ve gotten close enough to snap a picture, so does the nose.

You never know when a new animal will emerge from the one of our swamps. As a serious photographer, I make it my mission to seek and find the odd, strange and unique.

Therefore, when I discovered this animal on a golf course, I took his picture. So far, no one has been able to identify him.

Your challenge: Be the Zoologist

You’ve been asked to study this new animal and then answer the following questions.

  1. What kind of animal is he? Is it a mammal, bird, fish, reptile, amphibian, invertebrate or invent your own?
  2. What name would give him? I’m not talking about Harry or Mary. I mean an animal name, like the Skunk Ape.
  3. What unusual things should we know about this new animal? Hint: Be creative, but I’m not sure you can beat the “skunk” ape:~)

Extra credit

Write about the order, genus and the family of this new creature similar to Wikipedia’s description of an alligator:

“An alligator is a crocodilian (order) in the genus Alligator of the family Alligatoridae.”

Remember This

Photo Challenges are meant to be silly and fun. Enjoy making things up:~)