Thursday, December 29, 2011

#ThursThreads - The Challenge that Ties Tales Together - Week Three

Welcome to Week Three of #ThursThreads!

It's Thursday, so what should you be doing? Writing #FlashFiction, that's what! And I've got the challenge for you. This is the last Thursday of 2011 and the new year looms brightly on the horizon. Take the challenge and run with it!

Here's how it works:
  • The prompt is a line from the previous week's winning tale.
  • The prompt can appear ANYWHERE in your story and is included in your word count.
Rules to the Game:
  • This is a Flash Fiction challenge, which means your story must be a minimum of 100 words, maximum of 250.
  • Incorporate the prompt anywhere into your story (included in your word count).
  • Post your story in the comments section of this post
  • Include your word count (or be excluded from judging)
  • Include your Twitter handle or email (so we know how to find you)
  • The challenge is open 7 AM to 7 PM Pacific Time
  • The winner will be announced on Friday, depending on how early the judge gets up. ;)
How it benefits you:
  • You get a nifty cool badge to display on your blog or site (because we're all about promotion - you know you are!)
  • You get instant recognition of your writing prowess on this blog!
  • Your writing colleagues shall announce and proclaim your greatness on Facebook, Twitter, and Google + 

Our Judge for Week Three:

The thing that goes clank in the night, and cheesey, possibly sexy, word and weight wrangler, Rafe B.

And now your #ThursThreads Challenge, tying tales together.

The Prompt:

"It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so."

Away with you, Flash Fiction Fanatics, and show us your #ThursThread. Good luck! :)


  1. Timmy Johns looped the lights around the banister, connecting the plug to another set, moving at the speed of cold molasses. He’d almost said no to Miss Gertie, but studying with twenty dollars in his pocket was better than reading while broke.

    That was the gospel of his father, anyway.

    Miss Gertie watched from her sunroom, shawl tight across thin shoulders. “Would you mind getting the lights along the overhang, too?” she called. “There should be hooks screwed into the wood there.”

    “No problem,” Timmy said, stretching to run his fingers along the edge. The cold metal froze his fingertips, and he eased the wire through the hook. “That’s a good idea. Who set that up for you?”

    Her face tightened, jowls wobbling for a moment with the movement, and then her mouth slackened. “It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so.” Her voice carried out to him, raspy and low.

    Timmy shook his head. Mom had warned him Miss Gertie was getting a little crazy. “Oh, yeah? That’s real nice.”

    She crooked her bony finger. “I’ll show you.”

    His father’s voice echoed in his head: be respectful, show your elders respect. He shrugged and clicked open the door, following her shuffling gait through the house. He rounded the corner and froze. Sitting at the dining room table were five rotting skeletons, mouths stretched open in a forever scream.

    She turned and smiled, teeth too big and too yellow. “It had not always been so.”

    250 words

  2. We leave the party together, me and the girl in the cat mask. New Year’s Eve. No moonlight, no starlight; fog drapes the hills, every branch dripping.

    It was her idea. Make love on Altar Rock. The red silk of my devil costume hisses as I walk, and she moves like the cat whose face she wears, its almond eyes curious, alluring, malevolent.

    We climb Sentinel Hill, above the town, to where the flat stone stands. She looks down at the stone, caresses it with her fingertips, and I hear her say, “It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so.” I turn toward her, my head tilted in curiosity, but she is not looking at me, not speaking to me. She says, her voice low, “Let the ancient ritual complete the cycle.” Then she turns toward me, eyes glittering with anticipation. “Are you ready?”

    Ready was an understatement. We hurriedly undress in the damp cold, then couple on the icy rock. And as I come, I feel her knife against my jaw, and she whispers, “Happy New Year.”

    181 words

  3. Communion

    "I am NOT putting that in my mouth. Fuck off."

    He looked crestfallen, but I wasn't about to tip my hand. Just because his rituals claimed to go back to the druids didn't mean I believed him. Besides, mine went back even further.

    "Look, do you want this, or not? We could try and do it your way... again... and continue to not achieve a fucking thing, or you could pull your head out of your ass and try and compromise. You might even learn something, you intractable dipshit."

    Boys would be boys. It had been so for centuries, but it hadn't always been so.

    Boys had been both more or less than boys, once, and could be again... if they'd just stop being such whiny, inflexible pains in the ass.

    [DQ'd as the judge]
    131 words

  4. The Darkness slides through the passageways; it always knows where to find me. It comes to tell me what it desires of me—never something pleasant. For me the requests no longer bother me, I am used to its requests. It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so. Before the plague took my family, I would have been revolted by the demands of hunger the Darkness put in me. Then it came to comfort me and give me new meaning—I go where it leads me and I feed. I do not know what the Darkness made of me; I only know the hunger that burns in the pit of my stomach. It always promises with whispers in my head, “this will be the last time,” and each time I know it is a lie. It has not called on me since I’ve been locked down here, now it demands my obedience; it has new flesh for me to feed on, to extinguish the fire in my stomach. The darkness leads me down passages, I’ve traveled several times, to the exit. Light emits down on me from the hole in the floor. The pipes, that I had punctured to drink the blood that flowed in them, partially removed for repair. I climb into a large cold room—halved bodies hang from butchers hooks suspended in the ceiling. I am free.

    235 Words

  5. Clarence carefully inspected the metal blade, not at all happy with a small blemish on the side. That mark, as tiny and innocent as it seemed, could collect water, which would then cause oxidization, produce a small spot of rust, and then the knife would be ruined.

    His instruments were critical to his work. They needed to be the finest and sharpest knives money could buy. If they weren’t, the flesh could be cut improperly, and his customers did not approve of ragged edges. They expected their meat to be prepared perfectly in all aspects, from presentation to fat content to thickness and taste.

    Like his father and his father’s father before him, it had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so. His ancestors had started the butcher business shortly after arriving to the New World. In that time since though, they had mastered their craft, and customers from across the country visited his butcher shop expecting and receiving the very finest of work.

    Of course, he doubted they would go elsewhere. There simply couldn’t be many others that secretly specialized in carving human flesh for cannibal and serial killer clientele.

    195 words

  6. Recklessly, I began this day. It was not my intention. I dreamt of calculated moves over the hours before realizing that I had not slept. I was rudely shaken into consciousness by the blazing alarm of dawn light. Springing into the ritual panic that I might be late was my only recourse.

    The fear that I might be second in the queue threatened any balanced perspective on my day. Why was it so important that a man beat his wife into the bathroom? It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so. This morning, however, even contemplating the change was too time-consuming. A more strategic resolution was in order.

    But, panic confuses the mind into equating action with initiative. So my movements were less preemptive than presumptive. That the lights should be turned on would have contradicted stealth swiftness. But after tripping over the vacuum and a laundry basket, falling down into the ironing board, and nearly being guillotined by the iron, I guess that I was wrong. And, it was all for nothing, since sitting on the toilet in the dark was my wife. Why do women do that?

    194 words

  7. The light danced over my hands in shimmering waves of green. I drew energy from the Earth herself, the power strengthening me.

    “Gods above.” Valina’s voice broke through my dazed excitement. “Cynric, what are you doing?”

    My focus splintered and the light refracted in a starburst as it sped away from me.

    “Did you see it?” I asked, boundless enthusiasm lifting the normal baritone of my voice to embarrassing heights. My cheeks flushed. “The light came to me, moved to my bidding. I’m a light weaver, Val.”

    She dragged me into the keep, up the steps to her private office, bolting the door behind us.

    “You cannot tell anyone.” The hushed urgency of her words finally penetrated my happiness.

    “I won’t hide this.”

    “Listen to me. There are no weavers, Cynric. The shadowkind rendered them mere archival footnotes. ‘With the death of the Weavers, humanity descended into its darkest age. It had been so for centuries—'”

    “But it had not always been so,” I interrupted. “Don’t quote histories at me, Valina. The seers are still here, and now so are the weavers. Words on a dusty scroll don’t change that.”

    “Cynric.” Her hands framed my face. “Please, you don’t understand. I mean to protect you. We see history as truth, but it is ever filtered through lies, some well-meaning, others deliberate misguidance.”

    “And if we’re still here—”

    “The shadowkind are here, too.”

    “What do I do?”

    “You train,” she said. “Secretly. And if the time comes, you fight.”

    250 words

  8. “I heard this joke once. Or a parable, maybe…”

    The bloodshot ghost paused to drag his smoke. He had manners, tilting his head back to blow his cancer straight up, rather than right at me. They were comical even; the smoke in this dive was so thick that I had needed the glow of neon to find the bar. He put his foot on the metal case beside him and slouched with his smoldering hand draped over his knee.

    “You have five monkeys in a cage. The cage has a ladder to the top, and from the top hangs a banana. When any of them touch the ladder, you spray them all with water. When they give up the banana, you swap out a monkey. He doesn’t know about the water, goes for the prize, and the others will beat the shit out of him. Repeat. At the end, you have five monkeys that have never been sprayed with water, and yet, none of them will ever touch the ladder.”

    I watched the next plume of smoke curl above his head. It had been so for centuries, Rachel said the last day he recognized her, but it had not always been so.

    “The men upstairs like ‘the way things are.’” Ash flew as he flicked his fingers. “It allows for grunt armies and plausible deniability.” He pushed the case with his boot.

    “The water hose?”

    “No.” He tapped out the cigarette and collected his payment. “The scientist.” He left.

  9. Discovery
    by Wakefield Mahon

    Dale volunteered for the survey just to get out of the bunker. Her containment suit was already thick with the acrid smell of her sweat. Radiation levels had fallen to nonlethal levels, but standard protocol erred on the side of caution. Still, it was a relief from the claustrophobia of the warrens where most of the survivors from the Atlantic seaboard had gathered.

    She ambled in the rust colored daylight across the desolate slopes. It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so. At least that’s what her grandfather told her. Before the ice age, before the Great War, this had been a beautiful valley. Centuries of surveys had collected anything and everything that was useful for maintaining the warrens.

    She hadn’t been southwest for a while and she wanted to see the interesting rock formation she’d found a few years back. She’d nearly made it to the site when a sandstorm kicked up. Repairing a tear in the suit could take hours so Dale hid behind a large rock until it passed humming an ancient song to herself.

    The break in the storm brought with it another rare delight. A ray of sunlight broke through the clouds. Out of curiosity, she hurried to see the place the light touched the ground.

    Dale could hardly contain her excitement when she tapped her radio “Control?”

    “What’s up Dale, are you okay?”

    “Yeah, but you’re not going to believe this!”


    “I think I found a living plant!”

    250 words

  10. Upon The Hearth

    “We feed the fire, and the fire feeds us,” is the whispered greeting between my people, in hallways where we light the torches, in kitchens where we stoke the fires, in chambers where we prepare the hearths, to one another and never to mortals. We are careful, my people. We serve the kings of men. It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so. Once, the infant race of Man served the Firebringers, before we were so unkindly dethroned by their barbarism.

    Now I watch the elder mortal move across the winter camp, the greybeard with his clever eyes and sharp tongue, his blackthorn staff and pronounced limp. He is the last of his family line. His sons have ruled this land for four decades but each son died in battle as young kings will, and the greybeard is old and lame. Age is one malady that will not touch the Firebringers. We bide our time.

    The elder shivers; I take my cue from him, moving closer to his fire pit, my beaded skirts making soft music. For his guests, I make an exaggerated show of bringing new flame to cold, black wood, drawing the licking sparks up high, until the mortals make low noises of appreciation, and my king is contented, basking in the praise of his people.

    And me? I feed the fire, and the fire feeds me. I bide my time.

    I have so very much of it.

    @AJAalto (245 words)

  11. “It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so,” he said, as the four children sat listening. “Long ago, in galaxy far, far away, there was a—“

    “Hey,” the oldest boy said, “that’s ‘Star Wars’, Grandpa.”

    The two girls, one the same age as the older boy and the other a few years younger, remained silent. The youngest boy sat absently tugging on the footies of his pajamas.

    “What? No,” the old man said. “It may sounds like it, but it isn’t.”

    The oldest boy looked doubtful, his mouth twisting to one side as he shrugged his shoulders in reply.

    “Okay then,” the old man continued. “Long ago in a galaxy far, far, far away,” he emphasized the final ‘far’, “there was a quaint little place filled with peaceful, rolling farm lands and little people and one of the little people was having a birthday party! His name was Milo Scaggins.”

    “Grandpa,” said the oldest girl.

    “Huh? What?”

    “That’s ‘The Hobbit’, Grandpa.”

    “Can we go watch T.V., Grandpa?” the oldest boy asked.

    “Fine,” the old man said. “Go watch T.V.” The two oldest children were gone in a flash.

    The old man looked, crestfallen, at the two remaining.

    “Stowy, Gwampa. Stowy,” the little boy said. The little girl smiled and nodded her head.

    The old man smiled. “Alright then. Well, it just so happens that Milo Scaggins was turning, oh I don’t know, eleventy-three, when suddenly a house fell on the wicked witch of the…”

    250 Words
    @redshirt6 aka Robby Hilliard

  12. “You who have lived for evil, now die by my sword,” Nemesis spoke softly, not really caring if the startled men before her heard or not.

    The more advanced their guns and chemical weapons became, the more shocked sinners seemed when Nemesis appeared before them in her shining armor with sword sharpened to cut light itself. Walking among the cruel soldiers of an even crueler master, Nemesis muddied the ground with their blood. It didn’t matter that she never blinked, because she wasn’t seeing them anyway. She didn’t hear their screams or their gunfire, didn’t feel the heat and shrapnel exploding around her. Even those gunned down by their panicked fellows still tasted her blade. Such was the law she upheld.

    It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so. Once upon a time she had been someone else, an innocent. She had taken on her present mantle so that her younger brother wouldn’t have to. Now she was Nemesis, immaculate executioner.

    166 words

  13. “Let me go, bastard!” The woman struggled against the two men that held her in place, putting hands on her shoulder and forcing her to sit in the chair.

    The man sat across the desk from her. He glanced at her with distaste before pulling out a long silvered dagger, a ruby in the pommel.

    “It’s nothing personal, my dear. This is something that has to be done. It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so.” He nodded his head. Grey eyes leveled on the struggling woman. “You should be happy that you were selected. It is an honor to be the Host. There are usually other young women who beg to be chosen.” He nodded to the men. “Put her across the table.”

    “Noooo, no. Stop. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going to curse us all.” She wiggled and struggled as they yanked her to a long stone table sitting against the window. The full moon streamed in through the open window, coating it in blue sheen.

    They secured her in the shackles and the man picked up the dagger, pointing it towards the outside. The ruby caught in the light started a slow burn in its depths. “Father, bless us.” He bowed his head.

    She arched up against the chains, watching as he picked up the dagger and drove it down into her breast. White flame burst out from her chest and she gave a scream that degenerated into a howl.

    250 words


  14. “So, Bob? What’s the word? Signing or not?”

    The sheepish, little man looked at the sleek, sinister man in the dark suit. The Devil, come to him in the flesh, offering to buy his soul in exchange for women, riches, fame.

    “Look, Bob, just make a fucking decision already. I got shit to do.”

    Wiping the sweat from his brow, the mousy man stuttered, “I…I…I just don’t know. I mean, all the stuff you said I could have…um…sounds great. But…but…um…”

    “But what, Bob?” the Devil pulled a shiny cigarette case from the inside pocket of his jacket, popped a square between his lips and lit it with a flame he produced from the tip of his thumb with a snap of his fingers; a parlor trick, but always a fun one.

    The smell of sulfur hung in the air. The small man looked at the contract in front of him.

    “It’s boilerplate shit, Bob. I know, I know…you’re afraid of losing your eternal soul; torn between immediate desires and the fear of what waits after this life. Trust me, Bob, the whole Heaven thing isn’t all they make it out to be. Why do you think I tried to take over the joint?”

    The Devil sighed as he waited for the man to make his decision. It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so. Once he was revered, exalted…loved. Centuries…millennia…

    “For fuck’s sake, Bob, grow a set! Forever’s not really that long,” the Devil lied.

    250 Words

  15. For Karen Farley it should have been a day of celebration, she was born for this, a chosen one. Karen didn't feel privileged because her life as she knew would soon be over.

    "Don't worry my dear, plenty of women feel like this before the ceremony. It's just a case of cold feet" her father had said, almost as though he was trying to convince himself everything would work out.

    "You're right dad, as usual. It will be fine. Let's go."

    The ceremony was customary and it had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so. Karen knew she was doing the right thing and felt ready to make a gracious commitment.

    "Are you ready, sweetheart?"

    "Ready as I'll ever be"

    As Karen approached the altar she realised there was no turning back. With one last glance at the cheering crowd, she savoured that final moment of freedom and took her rightful place, ready to recite the vows.

    "The gods will be happy today, Karen's sacrifice was not in vain." the priest whispered as his sword dealt a final blow.

    186 words

  16. Overture To Peace

    Khel-Nadar strode through the archway and onto the
    arena floor. Behind him, he felt the slam of the iron
    portcullis. There was no going back now, as if there ever
    had been.

    He was just ten years old and would, today, learn the
    feeling of facing an enemy bent on his destruction. It
    was a necessary rite of passage.

    The enormity of it so distracted him that he missed his
    opponent's entry onto the sands.
    The Saurian was both taller and heavier. Rows of jagged
    teeth and thick rending claws gleamed in the harsh
    sunlight. Its hide was scaly with wicked protrusions of

    A booming gong both shocked Khel-Nadar back to reality
    and signalled the beginning of the combat. The opponents
    moved forward, circling and feinting. They ducked, bobbed
    and weaved about. Only one of them would leave the
    arena alive, so they were opening cautiously.

    It had been so for centuries but it had not always been
    so. Hushed voices in darkened rooms spoke of a time
    when Humans and Saurians had co-existed in harmony.
    When...why that changed was lost in the dust of the

    He only knew this MUST end and it must end NOW.
    Someone must make the first overture if they were to
    ever know peace again.
    He let his sword fall, extending his hands placatingly. The
    Saurian cocked its head to the side quizzically.

    As Khel-Nadar stood smiling, the lizard slid toward him with fluid
    grace. A backhand swipe tore the boy's throat out.

    Perhaps peace would return SOME day but not THIS day.

    250 words @klingorengi

  17. "Can you do anything about this dust?" Professor Killian asked loudly, carefully sweeping his artifact brush over the stone.

    "The blower's on, here, let me get you some more light," Jon answered, adding another lamp to the pair already illuminating the stones filled with hieroglyphs in the cave at the far end of the recently discovered Darasa pyramid. He knelt down next to his mentor. "What have we got?”

    “Well, there is a lot of damage here. But this part seems to say," he pointed about halfway down one of the stone fragments before continuing, "It has been so for centuries, but it has not always been so.”

    “Are you sure? I read it as It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so.” The professor looked down at his student.

    “Please, Jon,” he replied, rolling his eyes, “these stones clearly outline the mandates of Pharaoh In To Dep. Had been would imply that whatever is discussed here is in the past. No these stones are a current warning.”

    Both men began arguing, their discussion of translation so intense that neither saw the weathered fabric covered hand emerge from far wall. There was a loud roar and both men looked up just as the mummy grabbed each by the neck and threw them out of the cave.

    “Idiots!” Ma Be Let, once High Scholar to the Pharaohs family yelled. “Warning my ass, can’t you see they’re just textbooks? Office hours aren’t until 4:00. Come back then!”

    249 words @dryadsgarden

  18. “Sex is dying.”

    “Dying? What do you mean?”

    “People think that it took time for reproduction to evolve from the division of single cells into the male and female differences we have now, but that’s not the case. It had been so for centuries, but it had not always been so.”

    “What was it, then?”

    “Well, from what we’ve discovered, so far, there used to be at least five sexes and intercourse required multiple partners – some simultaneous, and some sequential. Every instance of reproduction required what we would now call an orgy. The problem was, the species needed more efficient ways to advance, so the functions of some of the sexes mutated together and eventually became to two sexes we know today.”

    “So how is sex dying? Is evolution not finished yet?”

    “No. Evolution is NOT finished. We believe that humans will eventually be like many worms – reproducing asexually or even budding like yeast or dividing like bacteria. Sex, as we know it, will be a thing of the past.”

    “You’re right. Sex IS dying.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “As long as you keep talking like that, you’re not going to get any. So, why don’t you just leave your research in the lab and come to bed, already, you worm!”

    211 words

  19. #ThrusThreads is now CLOSED. Thank you all for writing. The winners will be announced tomorrow. :)

  20. Missed my window again. Sorry, Siobhan! Please keep inviting me! :D


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