Thanks to everyone who participated in the flash contest here on WriterWriter for the month of June. The entries were so varied as to tone and flow that fellow judge RC Lewis and I had to do some serious debating back and forth before we settled on our placers. Check by tomorrow for your first place winner! And now, for your enjoyment, in 3rd place we have some flash fiction from follower AM Supinger, with her story, "Star."
The woods were quiet and damp as Nevo crawled through the leaves on the ground. The road in front of her was dark and moonlit, but a shiver went up her spine as she glanced both ways.
She needed to get away, leave this evil place behind. A madman wanted her and she had no intention of being found.
With only an owl's hoot breaking the silence, she scooted back. She'd gotten ten paces from the road when the unpaved stones glinted strangely. She froze. A light bloomed nearby, a blue-white blaze unlike any fire Nevo had ever seen. In panic, she scrambled into the woods, a sharp buzzing sound hounding her footsteps.
She stumbled when a tree root reached up and latched on to her knee, imprisoning her with splintering tentacles. She fell. One frantic glance behind her stole the last bit of air in her chest.
A star was falling towards her.
It's bright light illuminated the gloomy quiet of the woods, and Nevo ducked her head in fear. Her gasps brought little comfort to her frantic body. With instinct raging in her veins, she fought her way free of the enchanted tree and fled the light.
The darkness was no more comfort than water to a drowning man, but Nevo never stopped. The shadows beckoned and concealed. Several times the star zoomed overheard; its trail of glittering iridescence was enticing, but she puffed out heavy breaths and focused on the mud clinging to her bare toes.
When she could run no more, and pre-dawn lit the sky with purple bruises, she collapsed. In her moment of weakness the star appeared and hovered over her. In its depths she felt the madman's eyes, and when it hurled towards her she heard his laughter. The blue-white light was neither hot nor cold, but some of both, and it plunged its painful core inside her chest, burrowing out between her shoulder blades.
Before death claimed her eyes, the sky bled red.
And in 2nd place, we have follower Riley Redgate, with her story, "Prudence and Impudence."
PRUDENCE AND IMPUDENCE
She stands alone in the parking lot beside the baseball stadium. She doesn’t know what she’s waiting for.
Something lands gently in her hair. Her frail hands shake as she extracts it.
In the harsh white floodlights, the prominent veins of her hands appear carved of marble, and the small item in her palm shimmers like platinum. Roughly the size and shape of a cornflake, it quivers in the breeze.
“What’s this?” Prudence whispers to herself. “What’s this—”
Another lands in her outstretched hand.
She shifts, her sandals scuffling on the cracked concrete of the parking lot. Her neck creaks backward, tilting her face toward the sky. The clouds are a roiling dark sea, but those six sets of floodlights leach away the darkness. A centipede of pale lightning scuttles across the rumbling underbelly of the sky.
Prudence’s blue eyes flash behind her spectacles.
She blows into her palm, and the two flakes flutter away, lost in eddies of spiraling wind.
The lightning slashes once more. It illuminates something huge in the sky, electrifies a vibrating structure high above that rattles with the thunder. This structure is arched, Gothic; the base drips with rusting filigree; the upper echelon of its architecture glimmers like new steel.
Prudence takes a step, the breath catching in her throat. Then the toe of her sandal snags an edge of the pavement. She falls. Her knee hits the stone first. Her palms follow, tearing and bloodying, and she sprawls out. Her spectacles skitter from her eyes.
She is too feeble to stand, but she rolls onto her back. Somehow, without her spectacles, she sees everything more clearly—a bridge, rising from the depths of one cloud, latching onto the brink of another. Steel cords lace the spiky iron peaks together, and lightning twines over those cords, stripping the metal coating from them, casting that metal down in flakes.
The scraps flutter and twirl. They are like snowflakes in a harsh wind.
Minutes pass, and the storm rages on— thunderclap after thunderclap echo off the bridge in the sky. Silver flakes slowly coat Prudence’s body. She is a receptacle for the electricity in the air. She is a mirror for the bridge.
The final car pulls out of the parking lot, its driver ignorant of everything above his opaque truck ceiling.
Beyond the fence, above the field, the floodlights slam off one by one.
Prudence’s eyes fill with wonder. In the afterglow of the artificial light, the lightning looks ever more effervescent, ever more perilous. Sparking from the heavens like a stream of starlight. Light. I must know about light.
But science has not yet answered Prudence’s questions.
In the liquid properties of light lies depth—
And in the liquid properties of light lies energy—
And in the liquid properties of light lies godlessness—
But what lies in depth?
Do I lie in godlessness for wondering?
A blinding column of lightning tears through the air and engulfs her body.
The silver coating on her skin blasts away, hovering for a split second in the sea of electricity. Then it is whisked upward.
The crackling heat does not relent. The wrinkles in Prudence’s skin smooth and melt. Her clothes fry, char and flutter away. She curls up like a child, her hair blistering and tearing from her every follicle, and as the lightning fades, she cries. Lightning is not supposed to act this way, and she should not be alive.
Science cannot answer Prudence’s questions.
How am I alive?
Do I lie in godlessness for wondering?
Then a dark shadow topples from the bridge.
It thrusts wings out and flaps them mightily. It descends, beating the sky back stroke by powerful stroke, and where its feet finally brush the asphalt, ice forms.
It brushes a hand over Prudence’s forehead. Thick golden hair flushes itself from her scalp. The cataracts fade from her eyes, and she stands, strong, young, tall, naked.
Science will never ask Prudence’s questions.
Can I hope to come with you?
Her tears mar the next question. Do I lie in godlessness for wondering?
The angel has a voice that is neither here nor there. It speaks neither words nor images; neither emotion nor action. Its wings are everything and nothing, flickering from marble to wind to spiderweb to clay to brilliant gold.
“No; you cannot hope,” it whispers, “because hope is the question that faith cannot answer.”
Prudence does not feel naked. She does not feel bashful. She does not feel hesitant.
She finally knows what she is waiting for.
“Come with me, and hope for nothing,” breathes the angel into her ear. If the angel were less beautiful, it would be nearly sensual. But it is too perfect for her to desire it. “No, Prudence, do not hope. Believe, instead.”
She grasps onto its wings, which have transformed into spindly, twisted, mechanical fingers. They groan and creak and grind into action.
The two figures rise together, clawing into the sky, leaving the corpse of Prudence on the pavement, and mortality beneath that, and concrete beneath that. And, far beneath that, they leave the answers to questions that were wrong from the very beginning. Questions that will be wrong until the end.