The Recluse

Photo Prompt courtesy Sue Vincent

I ran away to the remotest corner of the earth, it was gorgeous, spectacular, stark

For I had a secret to hide, one which was just like me- ancient, terrible, dark

But still they came looking for me, they couldn’t just leave me alone

Forgetting the simple fact that if you look at Medusa, you will turn into stone.

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Written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Distant shared at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by Sue’s amazing photograph.

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The Happiest Day of My Life

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

Father took us to the fair today, and for the first time since Mum died, we felt truly happy.

We rode on the Merry-go-round ten times. Father let us ride as much as we wanted. He says we’ll come again once the famine is over. Our new mom will also be with us then. I don’t think she likes us much. But Father says she has told him to take us for a walk in the forest tomorrow morning, so maybe she is not that bad after all.

Gretel and I are very excited about tomorrow’s walk.

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97 words.

Written as a part of the Friday Fictioneers challenge, hosted by the inimitable Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (more details HERE). The objective is to write a short story of 100 words or less based on the photo prompt given above (This week’s photo courtesy J. Hardy Carroll.)

To read other stories from this week’s challenge, visit HERE.

 

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Second Chances

” Do you see the rainbow?” I asked her.

“Of course,” she replied, “It’s bright, vibrant and beautiful.”

“And do you see the other rainbow, the one to its right?” I asked.

“If I try hard enough, yes,” she replied.

“Mother Nature started off with the first one,” I said in a calm voice, “But it was all faded, and bleak, and colorless. So she tried again, and look, what a wonder she created. Life is all about second chances, my dear.”

She kept staring at the rainbow, and said in a low voice, “You are right. Everyone deserves a second chance.” And then, she slowly, lowered the sword that she was holding against my throat, and let it fall to the ground with a clatter.

But before it could come to  a rest, I scooped it up in my right hand, and with one swoosh, removed Alice’s head from her body.

A swish of my left hand, and the rainbows disappeared.

It was fun being the Red Queen of Wonderland.

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170 words.

Written as a part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, the weekly writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The objective is to write a flash fiction story in less than 175 words, based on the weekly photo prompt given above. This week’s photo was contributed by @any1mark66. For more information visit HERE. To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE.

 

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The Legendary Rivals

It was impossible to find two other friends who were as close as Karan and Guddu.

You don’t have to take my word for it.

Their parents said so.

Their siblings said so.

Their other friends said so.

Their relatives said so.

Their acquaintances said so.

Their colleagues said so.

Their neighbours said so.

Everyone within a five-mile radius of their apartment said so.

But it wasn’t always so.

For, you see, till the time they were twelve years old, Karan and Guddu were sworn mortal enemies, what Bollywood so aptly refers to as khandaani dushmans (Family rivalry, loosely translated, in which the son of one can never marry the daughter of the other, so naturally they (the son and daughter, not the parents) fall in love, and when the families do not agree to their match, commit suicide to stay together in the afterlife at least. I have been told that Shakespeare borrowed this concept for one of his plays, having learnt about it from an Indian girlfriend, whose family was against their marriage because Shakespeare was a foreigner, and as a result, the girl had….not committed suicide, but happily married a rich Indian prince and moved back to India), without the khandaans being involved in any way at all in this case of course.

Their rivalry had started quite early, in fact, it could not have been earlier. It had started right from the time they had been born.

Their mothers went into labour at the same time, went to the hospital in the same ambulance, and gave birth to their respective sons at the same time, to the last second. And this marked the start of their race to get ahead of each other at any cost.

Karan blew the first bugle in this legendary battle spanning generations (OK, OK, not generations, but years, fine? Nitpickers!) by bawling nonstop for 48 hours, without sleeping a wink, till the hospital paid his parents a million Rupees just to incentivize them to leave the hospital and take him back home. They reached their apartment building to a loud and raucous welcome from all their neighbours and friends. And everyone was so tired with the partying, that when Guddu and his parents came back from the hospital, no one was around to welcome them.

Score: Karan-1, Guddu-Nil.

But even at the age of just three days, Guddu was not one to take things lying down (figuratively of course, since being unable to sit straight as yet, all he COULD do was to keep lying down). He had his revenge the very next day, when he caught the hair of their common maid tightly in his cute little fists, and refused to let her go to Karan’s place the entire day, resulting in Karan being forced to lie around in his dirty diapers till late at night, when his mother finally got irritated with his constant bawling and threw him down from the balcony of their 16th-floor apartment. Oh wait, that was just her dream, though she did feel quite good for a few minutes after waking up, till Karan started bawling again of course.

Score: Karan-1, Guddu-1.

And so, as the two neighbours grew up, their rivalry blossomed as well. At the age of two, Karan invited all his friends to Taj (Their neighborhood bakery, not the five-star hotel, he was not THAT rich, at least, not till then), but ‘accidentally’ forgot to invite Guddu, who pestered his father to buy ALL the items of the same bakery for his birthday, (which, if you remember, was on the same day), just a few minutes before Karan’s party was to start, leading to an extremely embarrassing situation for Karan.

Score: Karan 26, Guddu: 27.

At the age of three, both got admitted into the same pre-school, the elite PSM (Prabhadevi Shishu Mandir), on the same day, and got kicked out on the same day too, for forming rival gangs and attacking each other on their first day at the pre-school.

Score: Karan 74, Guddu: 74. Aah, equal again I see.

The rivalry continued in school, from almost blinding each other with their pencils for ‘winning’ the higher roll number among the two, to breaking the legs of all the chairs in the class except one, so that only one of them would be sitting, while the other would be forced to remain standing (along with 40 other students, but they did not matter of course).

Score: Karan 232, Guddu: 231.

And so it continued, for the next one decade, with neither giving the other even an inch of leeway, and the score kept on piling up. And now, they were in the Eighth Grade. The year that would change their lives, forever.

On the first day of the new session, the Principal came to their class and announced that one lucky student from the Eight Grade would be selected for a month-long National Summer Camp to be held in Dehradun. The entire class was agog and atwitter with excitement, but Karan and Guddu just looked at each other with a smirk on their faces, and growled in a low voice. The race was on!

I won’t bore you with the details of the various levels of contests and examinations that students were put through for a chance to represent their school in the Summer Camp, but suffice it to say that it was a memorable experience for the Eight Grade. Not because of the actual activities, but because of lengths that Karan and Guddu went to in order to win each task. From greasing the floor (and the rope, for good measure) during the Tug-of-War to almost setting the Chemistry Lab on fire in order to distract their competitors during the written test, absolutely no holds were barred.

Karan-5486. Guddu-5487.

One by one, their competitors had fallen by the wayside (sometimes literally), till only three contestants remained standing (again, literally, as many of their classmates had been nobbled by our disastrous duo)- Karan, Guddu, and Ranjeet.

It was the morning of the final contest, in which Karan, Guddu, and Ranjeet would be competing with each other for the Grand Prize- a seat in the National Summer Camp. The final task was a suitably tough one- an Egg-and-Spoon race….with a difference.

The first was a technical difference of course. As theirs was a Gujarati, pure-vegetarian school, the Egg-and-Spoon race was being conducted without an actual egg, with a Table Tennis ball taking its place on the spoons.

The second difference was that they would be running, or rather, hopping, with only one leg.

The third difference, just to make things even more interesting, was that their arms were tied behind their backs.

At exactly 0900 hours, the Principal fired a gun into the air (leading to a passing pigeon falling right into the huge cauldron in which Undhiyo (a Gujarati delicacy containing a variety of vegetables) was being prepared for the party after the race), and the race was on!

The three contestants started hopping towards the finish line together, but very soon, a clear gap emerged between the three. Leading the race was Guddu, with Karan just a couple of steps behind him, and Ranjeet following way behind.

Karan huffed and puffed, much like the legendary wolf who had blown away the houses of those three little pigs (though being a vegetarian, he would not really eat those pigs), but he just could not catch up with Guddu, who kept on looking behind to mock him.

And it was then that it happened. The finish line, with its trophy, the ticket to the Camp, and the pigeon Undhiyo, was just 10 meters away when Guddu turned to laugh at Karan again, and lost his balance. BAM! he fell to the ground, with both arms tied behind his back.

Karan saw his rival fall, and changed course immediately to avoid colliding with his fallen body. Serves him right, he thought to himself, and hopped on towards the finishing line. No one could stop him now. He would win the contest, and represent their school at the Summer Camp. He would be away in cool Dehradun for a month, while his rival Guddu would languish alone in Mumbai’s sweltering heat for an entire month….For an entire month….For an entire month…..

And just like that, as the crowd was on its feet (whoever could still stand, that is) cheering him on, just half a meter away from the finishing line, Karan looked back, and deliberately fell down and started rolling back, towards Guddu. And as he came to a stop right next to Guddu, he saw Ranjeet slowly hop across the finish line to claim the sole available spot at the Summer Camp.

His eyes filled with horror and disbelief, Guddu, shouted at Karan, “Why the hell did you do that for?”

Karan smiled through tear-filled eyes(I would like to clarify here, as per Karan’s explicit request, that the tears were due to the fall and the roll and not because of any stupid ‘girly’ emotions(his words, not mine)) and said, “I realized that winning the contest would mean staying away from you for an entire month. And then it hit me- Ever since we were born, we have never stayed apart for even one day, how would I survive for a full month!”

Guddu kept looking at Karan as if he had gone crazy, and then…he started laughing…and laughing….and laughing….and Karan joined in, as the school looked on at the crazy duo.

And this mad laughter, dear readers, continues to this day, for almost two decades have passed since then, but Karan and Guddu have still not stayed away from each other even for a single day. And before you ask, no, not even when Karan got married two years ago….But that, as they say, is another story, for another time!

 

 

 

 

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The Scoop

Jimmy excitedly picked up the newspaper fresh from the press, ink still wet and smudgy. But he didn’t care. He eyes were transfixed on the front page photograph that would save his career.

His name had been on the list of those being given the pink slip at month-end. Not after this exclusive!

The scheme to push the kid into the snow leopard’s cage had been hare-brained and hair-raising, but it DID work out brilliantly in the end, thought Jimmy Olsen to himself, as he looked at the photograph of his friend Superman rescuing a child from the cage.

223 01 January 14th 2018

Photo courtesy Al Forbes.

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99 words.

Once again, this week’s story is a mashup of two separate challenges:

1.The Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Challenge, hosted by their lead buckaroo Charli Mills. The prompt this week was:

January 11, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.

2. The Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, hosted by Al Forbes. The objective was to write a story of 200 words or less based on the photo prompt given above. For more details visit HERE. To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE.

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The Cursed Crow

The crow sat on the thin, dry branch, lonely, morose, listless, waiting

For the pain to subside, for someone to see him for who he was, without hating

Every day he would sit at the same spot, from dawn till late at night

But they would come, they would look at him, and be repulsed at his mere sight

 

For you see, dear readers, the crow was not just ‘regular crow’ ugly, but worse

His body was covered with pus-filled wounds, all due to a wicked witch’s curse

He had been a handsome prince once, though you would not believe it if you saw him now

And had spurned the advances of the witch, going as far as to call her a fat cow

 

Now hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, this much we all know

But a scorned witch is even more dangerous, don’t say later that I didn’t tell you so

She cursed him to turn into the creature whose very sight filled him with contempt

So that he knew how it felt to be treated with disgust, and to be spurned at every attempt

 

He begged and pleaded with her to lift her curse, and she finally said that he would come back into her good books

And turn back into a prince when a girl would look after him for one month, despite his hideous looks

The only condition was that he could not reveal his real identity to anyone at all

Which meant that he kept waiting and waiting, through Summer, Winter, Spring, and Fall

 

Until one day, a cute little girl of some six or seven years

Saw him sitting alone, and her eyes filled with tears

She climbed up the tree, and gently lifted him up in her palm

And bringing him down, dressed his wounds with some balm

 

She took him home with her, and named him Kyle

And despite his ugliness, she always looked at him with a smile

They played together, she shared all her joys and sorrows with him

And very soon, the prince felt that his bowl of happiness was now filled up to the brim

 

Twenty nine days had passed now, each moment of each day filled with laughter and joy

For the girl treated the crow like a friend, not as a pet or a toy

They would complete a month together the next day

And the crow would become a prince again, with the yoke of the curse thrown away

 

The thirtieth day dawned, bright and clear, as if the Gods of nature had awakened it with a kiss

And the girl woke up with her usual smile, but suddenly, she knew that something was amiss

She looked by her bedside, and her heart gave a lurch as she saw

The reason why she had not been awakened by her friend Kyle’s caw-caw

 

She looked high and she looked low, and she asked everyone for miles around

But Kyle had disappeared without a trace, and he was nowhere to be found

Worried sick for his safety, she kept praying for him till late at night

And for the first time in almost a month, slept without holding Kyle tight

 

The night passed somehow, as it always does, and the sun came up again

When suddenly, the girl’s sleep was disturbed by a deeply familiar refrain

Caw-Caw, came a voice in her ears, and she leaped out of bed

And hugged Kyle with her tiny hands, glad that he was not injured or dead

 

No recriminations followed, no bitterness, no anger, everything went immediately back to the way it was before

They laughed together, cried together, helping each other out in every chore

She did not know it then, but her best friend would continue to disappear every thirtieth day, even though it would break her heart and make her sad

For he knew that if he lived with her for thirty days at a stretch, he would regain his human form, and his kingdom, but lose the only true friend he ever had!

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Written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Crow at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the beautiful picture provided by Sue as this time’s prompt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gratitude

Photo Copyright: Victor & Sarah Potter

I woke up with a start to find myself still in the cave, but surrounded by bright lights, and holding them… giants…lots of giants.

Even in my befuddled state, I tried to look for an escape route, but there was none. I felt like I was caught in a spider’s web. I would have laughed at the irony if I wasn’t so scared!

One giant came forward, and pointed a huge sword towards me.

I must be going crazy, for this giant looked rather familiar.

And then, King Robert the Bruce said in a booming voice, “Arise, Sir Spider!”

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Written as a part of the Friday Fictioneers challenge, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (more details HERE). The objective is to write a short story of 100 words or less, based on the photo prompt given above.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE.

 

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The Magic Beans

 

Jack looked at the tree with a look of pure, unadulterated joy on his face. It looked magical.

“Sell me the cow,” the old man had told him yesterday, “in exchange for these three magic beans.”

Obviously, Jack had readily agreed, and used the seeds as per the old man’s instructions.

First thing in the morning, Jack rushed to his backyard to check out the effect of the magic seeds. And now, he stood transfixed, staring at the new tree, grown so tall that its roots had burst out of the ground to support it, grown so tall that it looked as if it was touching the sky.

He started climbing the tree….when suddenly, his mother came out, and grabbed him by the collar.

Jack cried out in frustration, “Let go of me mom, I want to see where this tree goes.”

His mother replied calmly, “I will let you climb this flower pot once you reveal the source of those strange-looking beans that I saw you put in your milk last night!”

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174 words.

Written as a part of Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, hosted by Priceless Joy. The challenge is to write a flash fiction story in 175 words or less, based on the weekly photo prompt given above (courtesy fandango this time). For more information, visit HERE.

To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE.

 

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How I Saved the World

I was standing quietly at the edge of the forest, holding a ‘borrowed’ glass of stolen scotch in one hand, and a cigarette in the other.  Suddenly, I heard a loud rustling sound. Fearing that it was my Dad, come to check if I was smoking or drinking without his knowledge again (I was doing both HE HE), I quickly climbed up a tree.

But no, it was not Dad, not by a long mile.

In fact, it was two huge spiders, the like of which no one had ever seen before, and they stopped under the very tree on which I was hiding.

If you think this was shocking, imagine my surprise when I realized that they were talking….and I could actually understand them. And what I heard shook me to the core- They were the Emperor and Empress of all spiders….and they were discussing plans to eat up all humans and take over the world.

Shocked out of my wits, I watched with fascinated horror as my glass of scotch slipped out of my hand…..and fell right on top of the two giant spiders.

They immediately reacted like well-trained Samurai or Ninja, claws out, looking left-right-left-right with quick movement of their eyes. And then, almost as if on cue, they both looked UP!

And saw a scrawny boy of 11, trying to hide himself unsuccessfully in the thin branches above.

“Get down, you puny human…” shouted the Empress.

“Or we will come up!” the Emperor completed her threat.

“NOOOOOO” I whimpered…and my cigarette popped out of my mouth involuntarily, and I could barely keep my eyes open as it fell down, almost in slow motion….right on top of the Empress.

WHOOOOOSHHHHHHH!!!

There was a loud noise as the Empress burst into flames as soon as the spilled scotch came into contact with the lit cigarette.

The Emperor valiantly tried to beat at the fire with all his arms and legs , but forgot one simple thing- the scotch had fallen on him too! Within minutes, the two giant spiders, along with their dreams of world domination, were toast.

 

And that is how, my dear George, I ended up saving the world!

“Wow Great-grandpa, I never knew you did something so great,” said little George with wide-eyed innocence.

“That’s nothing,” I replied with swagger, “wait till you hear about how I saved Dinosaurs from extinction. But first, be a good sport and refill my glass of scotch. And remember, not a word of all this to Great-grandma, it gives her a complex that I have achieved so much in life, while she is still just the Queen of England.”

 

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The Last Bastion

222 01 January 7th 2018

The town looked dead, as everyone had gathered in the castle to celebrate our victory.

The war between zombies and humans had been going on for decades. The entire planet was under the rule of zombies, except Copper Country, which kept resisting with unprecedented bravery.

And then, just in the nick of time, we discovered that copper could ‘kill’ zombies.

Rejuvenated, we gathered all the copper in the kingdom in one place…

…and destroyed it.

The castle had not taken too long to fall once it ran out of copper.

We zombies now had complete control over the world.

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99 words.

This week’s story is a mashup of two separate challenges:

1.The Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Challenge, hosted by their lead buckaroo Charli Mills. The prompt this week was:

January 4, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads.

2. The Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, hosted by Al Forbes. The objective was to write a story of 200 words or less based on the photo prompt given above. For more details visit HERE. To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE.

 

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