Flash Fiction #17: “The Shoe”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

 

“The Shoe”

A fantasy flash fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The little girl walked up to the market stall and yelled above the din, “I would like to sell you a shoe, please!”

The old man huffed and stared at the single yellow shoe. “A shoe? Not a pair of shoes?”

“It’s all I have.”

“It’s not enough! Who on earth buys one shoe?” He leaned over the rim of his stall, inspecting her bare feet. “What happened to your other shoe?”

“I sold it, too.”

What idiot buys only one shoe? he thought to himself. “What will you wear to protect your feet?”

“My feet don’t need protecting. I have something important to tell you.”

Sure. Right, he thought. Odd duck, this one was. “Why would you sell your shoes?”

“Because I have nothing else left to convince you with.”

“Convince me of what?”

“That I am the love of your life.”

He barked a laugh. Cute kid. “Do you need money?”

The little girl raised a dark brow. “Who said anything about money? I’m talking about true love, here.”

Huh. Must be bashful talking about needing money. “What do you need the money for so badly?”

“Who says I need money?”

“One would assume you are in dire need of money, m’ dear. Otherwise, who would sell one’s footwear?”

“I told you,” she said simply. “I’m here to convince you I’m your one true love.”

Whatever. He didn’t have time for this. He glanced up to see several prospective patrons—who would probably buy something instead of trying to sell him garbage—pass over his booth because the little girl and her insufferable yellow shoe were blocking the way. “All right, here, here. Five coppers. Will that get you to go away?”

She eyed the money and pressed her lips together. “Three silvers.”

“Jeez, kid. You’ve got some spunk, I’ll give you that. Four coppers.”

“Two silvers.”

“One silver—”

“Sold!”

“Wait, no. Dangit!”

He growled as the little girl swiped the silver coin off the counter and skipped away, leaving her shoe behind.

He scowled at it. This is what he’d lost a silver for? It was beat up, with barely any stitching left to hold the sole in place. Obviously well-worn. The leather was wrinkled and some strange, hardened symbol was stamped on the side. A rainbow?

“Ah, there it is.”

He looked up. And blinked. Blinked again.

Was he going insane?

There stood whom he swore was the little girl, only a few years older. Wearing outlandish garb—what bizarre religion was Nike?—she proudly slapped the silver coin, now dull with age, onto his countertop, placed her fists on her hips, and declared, “I am here to buy my shoe, and prove to you I am your one true love.”

He completely ignored the true love part, because nothing about the rest of this situation made any sense. “I—uh—now, wait a minute. Didn’t you just sell me this shoe?”

“You did, less than a minute ago, I wager.”

All right, this day was getting weirder. Maybe his wife had spiked his morning brew. “I… that wasn’t you.”

“It most certainly was.”

“I—prove it!”

Grinning like a cat eyeing a nice tasty canary, she said, “Fine. When you get home today, Harot, I’m going to tell you ‘I told you so.’”

Seriously? “You told me what?”

“That I am your—”

“One true love, I got it, I got it. Whatever. You think that counts as proof? What’s wrong with you!”

He blinked and she was gone, along with her yellow shoe. Spooked, he decided to close up shop for the day and return home. The smell of warm apple pie greeted him as he walked in. “Ika, you won’t believe—”

He stopped in the kitchen and stared. Stared harder, willing it not to be true. “Ika?”

There sat his wife at the kitchen table, knitting a sweater with that Nike symbol on it.

“But—she had that sweater on!”

Ika smiled knowingly. “Who, dear?”

“That cheeky little girl I saw in the market today! The one who sold me a yellow shoe and then bought it back a minute later, only she was older this time! The same girl who kept prattling on about me being her one true love!”

“Ah, you met the younger me—from about three hundred years from now.”

“Wait, what? You’re saying that girl—er, girls—was you?”

“Of course it was me, silly.” She tapped the wristwatch about her wrist. “Don’t you know this watch allows me to travel through time?”

“I thought you were just making that story up,” he grumbled.

She laughed. “You’re so adorable when you’re grumpy, Harot. Anyway, your great-great-great-and-then-some grandson sold it to me. I was thirteen years old. I was in his shop when I spied your picture and fell head over heels in love with you on the spot. It was then I decided I had to go back in time to marry you.”

He thought of how they met. He’d been fishing and she’d literally come out of nowhere, wearing nothing but a nightdress. And the strangest shoes…

His eyes widened. Rushing to the closet, he pulled forth a pair of worn yellow shoes.

His wife smiled as her husband stumbled into the kitchen in awe. “Then,” Harot said, “you really are…”

She walked over to him and kissed him. “Your one true love. Told you so.”

Flash Fiction Friday #16: “The Well and the Wish”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“The Well and the Wish”

A fantasy flash fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The little girl clutched the gold coin to her heart. It had taken so many hours of work to earn. Would it be worth losing it for a single wish? Did wishes even come true?

Closing her eyes, she held her breath and wished, wished, wished with all her heart. Tilting her hand, she released the coin. It tumbled through air and landed with a splash far below.

The little girl grasped the brick well and leaned over its side to peer into the dark depths below. Was that something swimming down there?

Golden fins poked the surface, and a moment later, a girl with bright yellow hair appeared. She pushed her long, damp locks out of her face. Her eyes were as big as apples! She smiled, and the little girl saw rows of tiny sharp teeth.

“Hello,” said the well-girl, “I am the water sprite of the wishing well. Why did you pay tribute?”

Fearful of all those teeth, the little girl hesitated. She really needed this wish. Steeling her spine, she said, “I need to make a wish, please.”

“You can’t.”

“Why not?”

The sprite shrugged. “There is no need. You have all the magic and potential you need inside of you. If you want something, go make it happen.” With a flick of her fins, the sprite splashed back down to the depths of the well and out of sight.

With a sigh, the little girl returned home. Later that night, the sprite’s words began to sink in. She was the magic. She was all she needed to make her wishes come to pass.

And so she tried harder, worked harder.

Twenty years later, holding the hand of a little girl of her own, she returned to the well. “Why are we here, Mamma?”

“I want you to make a wish. Toss this coin into there.” She picked her baby up and pointed to the water.

With a giggle, the little girl chucked the coin into the water.

No sprite appeared, but the woman already knew she wouldn’t. Dreams and fears, she thought. That’s all the sprite was. A figment of her own making.

“Did you make a wish?” she asked her daughter.

The little girl nodded. “I wished for—”

“No,” said the mother, pressing her fingers against her daughter’s lips. “Don’t tell me, show me.”

With that, she took her little girl’s hand and went off to show her how to accomplish her wishes.

 

Flash Fiction Friday #15: “Coins for Wishes”

I must be in a very “hustler” mood, because the main characters in today’s flash fiction are unapologetic con artists. lol Fun to write.

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

 

“Coins for Wishes”

A fantasy flash fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The genie looked at his inventory in the wishes warehouse at the back of his store and sighed. Honestly, he needed someone to sort out all these boring wishes for him. “A new pair of shoes.” “More milk from my cows.”

How dreadfully boring.

The bell at the front door chimed as a young man walked into the genie’s shop on Dreamers Boulevard.

The genie poked his head out.

He stared, blinked. Blinked again.

He wasn’t hallucinating! There really was a customer in his store!

The genie strolled out from the back, smiling. “Welcome! Can I help you, sir?”

“Oh! Hello.” The man gripped a small satchel. “I was hoping to purchase a wish. You do sell those, right?”

“Yes, I sell wishes.” It took effort to keep sarcasm out of his voice. “What sort of wish do you need?”

“Um… Well, you see, I don’t have very much money.”

The genie had already noted the man’s threadbare tunic and patched tights. The soles of his boots were also loose and flapped as he walked.

“It’s fine,” the genie said, waving a hand. “I can work out a payment arrangement, if necessary.”

The man’s shoulders slacked as he blew out a breath. Hope rekindled in his eyes. It contrasted with the shadows in his gaunt face. “Thank you, sir. I didn’t think I would find a place like yours anymore.”

Yes, thank you for reminding me my livelihood, the very reason for my existence, is dying. “It’s true that business has been steadily declining since people decided to work to make their dreams come true versus wishing for them.”

“Wishes aren’t cheap.”

“Honey, there are two forms of payment in this world—money and time. Being immortal, I have all the time in the world. Can you mortals say the same?”

That shadow of doubt returned to the man’s face. He bit his lip.

“Nevermind.” Honestly, these mortals were such serious creatures! Then again, he supposed he’d be serious, too, if he only had sixty or so years to live. “Shall we begin the paperwork?” He snapped his fingers. A roll of parchment, a quill, and a vial of ink appeared in his hand in a puff of pink smoke. The scroll unfurled itself and floated over to the man, who gazed in astonishment.

“Sign on the dotted line, please.”

“And I can have whatever I want?”

“For the right price. But yes, that’s the gist of it.”

The man’s gaze became hungry. Snatching the quill, he dipped it into the ink and scrawled his name three times. The second he finished, the quill, ink, and parchment vanished.

“Where did they go?” the man asked.

“Who knows? I’ll find them when I need them. Now, lets discuss this wish of yours.”

The man pursed his lips, his eyes growing thoughtful. “You say time and money are the only two currencies in this world.”

“Whole-heartedly believe it.”

A heartbeat passed. “I’ve changed my mind. I want to be immortal, like you. Turn me into a genie.”

The genie’s eyebrows shot up. He hadn’t been expecting that. “Are you certain? The life of a genie, especially in these times, is unstable and harrowing.”

“It cannot be worse than my current life. I lost my family in a terrible accident. A year later, my business failed. I have nothing.”

Yes, yes, in the thousand years of his existence, he’d heard every sob story on the planet. “Very well. How much did you bring?”

“What?”

“How much money?”

“Oh!” The man handed him the satchel.

It felt very light. The genie opened it and dumped its paltry contents out onto his palm. “You’re joking. Three bronze coins?”

“The last of my savings, sir.”

How terrible.

When the genie didn’t say anything, the man said, “You promised there would be a payment plan.”

He most certainly did not make any promises, but he wasn’t about to tell the man that. “Very well.” With a snap of his fingers, the man’s drab, lamentable attire turned into colorful silk. His form had filled out. He looked healthy, and his skin glowed with the same faint golden light as the genie’s.

He held up his hands in wonder and laughed. “I’m a genie! I’m immortal!”

“You certainly are. Now, let’s talk payment…. Let’s see, at the rate of three bronze coins per month, we’re looking at one million, nine-hundred-and-seventy-nine thousand, six-hundred years, two months, one week, twelve hours and five second.”

“I… wait, what?”

“I said we’re looking at one million—”

“No, no, I heard you the first time! That can’t be right!”

“Success doesn’t come cheap. Now,” the genie said, slinging an arm over the man’s shoulders. “Let’s talk business. You cannot wish for bronze coins—you have to earn your money, same as any genie.”

“But I don’t know the first thing about being a genie!”

“That, my new shiny friend, is where I come in. How would you feel working for me? Actually, it doesn’t matter how you feel, because you have no choice. Let me show you my wishes warehouse.”

 

Flash Fiction Friday #14: “Sleight of Hand”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Sleight of Hand”

A fantasy flash fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The magician wriggled her fingers over the cards scattered across the table. “All right, then,” she said to the king seated across from her. “Choose a card.”

“Any card?”

“Yes.”

He reached forward and plucked a card from the velvet tablecloth and handed it to her.

The magician didn’t glance at it as she promptly tossed it onto the table and pushed all the cards into a jumbled pile.

His jaw dropped and he gaped at her. “What did you do that for?”

“Ssh, ssh, ssh!” She leaned forward, her robes spilling over the cards, and thrust a finger upon his lips, silencing him. The guards behind the king shifted their weight, their gloved hands resting over the pommels of their swords.

“You’ll ruin my concentration, Your Majesty,” she said slyly, winking a coal-rimmed eye at him and smiling broadly. She leaned back slowly, making sure to give him a good glimpse of her just-too-low neckline.

His eyes trained where she’d wanted them to. Smiling and practically purring like a contented cat, she scooped up the deck, shuffled them with the efficiency of an expert card-dealer, and once more spread them in an arc upon the table. “My king,” she said, her hand gliding above the cards, from left to right. “Is this… yours?” She snatched one up and presented it to him, face out.

He leaned forward and squinted. His bushy brows drew together beneath his massive gold crown. “No, not at all! I had the Ace of Hearts!”

“Oh, bother. I’m sure it’s in here somewhere…” She reshuffled, repeated the process of spreading the cards wide. “Is… this it?”

“No.”

“What about this?”

“No.”

“Or… aha! This one!”

“No, no, and no!” With a huff, the king stood up and slammed both fists on the table, making it rattle. “You’re a fraud! A liar! You don’t have any magic at all!”

She scoffed, pressing a hand to her chest. “I’ll have you know, I’m very good at my trade.”

“And what might that be? Because it isn’t magic! I’m leaving.”

She stood and rushed around the table as he turned to walk away, intercepting him. “Please, Your Majesty, I can make it up to…” She stopped and squinted at the collar of his tunic.

“Well, what is it, woman?” he snapped. “Do I have something on my shirt?”

“Possibly,” she said, stepping closer. He didn’t move away as she reached up and plucked something from his collar. Her face lit up. “Your Majesty,” she said, holding it up to him, “it’s your card!”

“Impossible!” He snatched it out of her hand. His eyes went wide. He glanced at her, then back to the card and back to her again. Back and forth, back and forth. “How… how did you do this?”

She shrugged. “Magic.”

“Your… you… do that again.” He sat down.

And so she did, five more times, until the king was clapping with glee. “That’s marvelous! You’re stupendous!”

“Thank you, Your Majesty. You are too kind.”

The bell began to toll, and the king rose. “Well, it’s time for church. Won’t you join us, my dear?”

She stood and bowed her head. “No, sire. I find my faith is best served in the modest confines of my own dwelling.”

“Indeed. Here,” he said, removing a satchel from his cloak and retrieving a gold coin. “For you. A truly wonderful magician.”

“You are too kind.”

A moment later, the door to the cottage closed.

“About time!”

Cloth rustled as a tall, handsome man removed an invisible cloak, making him seem as if he’d appeared out of nowhere. Which, she supposed, he had.

“I thought he would never leave!”

“Luckily for us, he stayed.” She stood and gave her husband a kiss. “How did we make out?”

“Let’s see…” He reached into his shoulder bag. “He had two coin satchels on him. I took the liberty of replacing the contents of one with rocks, in exchange for these beauties.” He dumped a pile of silver coins onto the table. “I also managed this…” He deposited a gold and ruby encrusted pocket watch on top of the coins. “And this.” A velvet box followed.

Intrigued, she picked it up and opened it. She gasped with joy.

“I thought it would look marvelous on you,” he said, removing the pearl necklace and draping it about her neck.

He stood behind her and kissed the top of her head as they gazed at their reflections in the mirror across the room. Firelight danced off their features.

She ran her fingertips along the glossy pearls, admiring them. Turning to face him, she wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled.

“Yes,” she said, indeed they do.”

She kissed him. “Shall we get out of here before this cottage’s real owners come back? And before His Majesty realizes we’ve swindled him?”

“Yes, my darling, we shall.” He stepped back and offered his arm. “On to the next town?”

She took his arm and grinned. “On to the next adventure.”

Flash Fiction Friday #13: “The Will of the Gods”

Definitely the longest flash fiction I’ve written so far, coming in just shy of 900 words. Enjoy!

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“The Will of the Gods”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The young man looked up at the stairs leading to the temple in the clouds. Atop its pointed crest glowed a fire, haloed by cloud vapor.

He turned to his grandfather, who was stooped over, wrinkled in age, and covered in the midnight-blue robes of the Order of the Sun.

“Must I do this?” the young man asked, a quiver of fear in his voice.

“It is the will of the gods,” his grandfather said, his eyes filled with sorrow.

“But what if the gods are wrong?”

“The gods are never wrong,” his grandfather said sternly.

“But I don’t understand why I must do this.”

“You don’t have to understand—you just have to trust. Have faith.”

Faith. It sounded like such a dirty word at that moment, thinking of what lay ahead.

He looked down at the crowd gathered at the base of the temple. Torches flickered and hissed in the wind, the yellow glow of fire highlighting the familiar faces of the villagers. Of his family. They looked up at him with tears in their eyes.

His gaze lifted to the shadowy forest beyond, to the tips of the trees bathed in moonlight.

Would he make it to the treeline before the archers shot him down? Was there truly no escaping his fate?

As if sensing what he was thinking, his grandfather softly repeated, “Have faith.”

The man wanted to scream. What good was faith if it cost him everything?

With a resigned sigh, he looked at his loved ones one last time. He swallowed past the knot in his throat, and, with a nod to his grandfather, started the long trek up the temple stairs.

The ceremonial drums beat in the distance, a steady thrum-thrum-thrum that contrasted with his fluttering heart. With each step that brought him closer to his doom, everything in him screamed at him to turn around and run.

Would it hurt? he wondered as he climbed, his legs like lead. Would he scream when the dagger pierced his heart?

Around him swayed temple maidens, their faces covered by gauzy veils, their robes rippling in the increasing wind. They seemed not to care that he was about to die. And for what? To appease gods he had never seen? Gods who had let his prayers for food to feed his starving family go unanswered? Crops had not grown in this region for the past three years. Trade with neighboring countries had ceased. Some believed the gods had truly abandoned them. And he was their last hope.

A sacrifice worth a thousand lives.

In a blink, he was at the top of the temple, a white-cloaked figure his only companion. The high priestess, her beautiful face illuminated by firelight from the four great cauldrons burning at the top of the temple, bowed in greeting. The dagger, its hilt encrusted in jewels, glittered in her hands. “Welcome, son of the gods.”

“I am no such thing. I am an ordinary man.” Who will never truly get to experience life, he silently added.

She shook her head, her ruby lips smiling slightly. “You have more power than you know. Come and see.” She gestured to the stone altar.

Reluctantly, he dragged his feet and lay upon its cool surface.

The priestess hovered above him, smearing a sweet-scented oil on his forehead and cheeks. She gently closed his eyes. “Sssshhh…” she cooed. “It will all be over soon.”

He barely had time to grab a breath before the dagger pierced his flesh, diving straight into his heart. His eyes flew wide open, a scream forming in his throat. Columns of fire burst from the cauldrons, towering into the sky as the wind shrieked and howled. Charred clouds roiled overhead, and lightning whipped against the furious night.

The priestess chanted and sang a song of their people, and they echoed her from far below. In a few seconds, it was all over. There was peace, quiet, and a steady humming in his veins. Stiffly, he reached up to touch his chest. His heart beat! Was he not dead after all?

Slowly, he opened his eyes—and stared in wonder at the glow upon his flesh, like a thousand glittering diamonds had been embedded in his tanned skin. “How is this possible?” he said in wonder. “How am I still alive?”

“It is the will of the gods,” the priestess said simply, as if surprised he even asked.

He climbed off the table and stood. Power sizzled along his fingertips. An image popped into his mind, and suddenly, he knew what he must do. With a laugh, he raised his hands to the sky. Magical rain, shimmering like stardust, poured, nourishing their land. The brown and dead changed to green and lush with life. Crops grew. Flowers bloomed. The people rejoiced and danced in the rain, laughing for the first time in ages.

The Order had been right. He had been their last hope.

He hung his head in shame. “I did not have faith.”

The priestess approached and lifted his chin, her dark eyes kind. “The gods never demanded that you erase your doubts, just that you have faith. You climbed on that altar despite your fears and reservations. That is faith enough.”

Flash Fiction Friday #12: “Crystal Corn”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Crystal Corn”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

There was a kingdom once known as the Gold Land because nothing would grow there if it wasn’t the color gold. No one knew why this was; they just accepted it without question because their lives were happy and peaceful.

One day, a farmer’s corn crops produced cobs of crystal. “Egads!” cried the old farmer as he pulled back the stiff green leaves. The crystal sparkled in the sunlight, looking perfectly innocent and completely unaware of the distress it was causing the farmer.

He looked around. What if someone saw this? Would he lose his profession? Be mocked by the locals? Or worse, be banned from Gold Land?

He had to cover this up. There must be some way to fix this!

Yet day by day, stalk by stalk appeared, laden with crystals.

“This cannot be!” he cried to his wife one day. “I cannot sell this!”

“Have you tried?” she asked.

“Have you lost your mind? Of course not! No one can find out!”

“Why not?”

“Because this is Gold Land! Crystals are not gold!”

“What if the people of Gold Land like crystals more than gold?”

“They won’t.”

“Have you asked them?”

“No,” he grumbled, crossing his spindly arms.

She chuckled. “Being different isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe this ‘hiccup’ is good. It was getting rather boring around here with all this gold.”

Terrified and convinced it would not work, the old farmer followed his wife’s crazy plan and began to attempt to sell the crystal corn around town. At first he told people he’d been gifted the corn from a traveling, unnamed merchant. After all, he couldn’t possibly tell them the corn was his!

Word rapidly spread, and soon, the corn began to sell. First by the bushel, then by the boxful. When people began bringing carts and loading it up with corn, he told his wife, “It’s working! They love it!”

“Of course they do,” she said. “They were bored.”

“We have more money than ever!”

“And so we shall, all because you were willing to take a risk and be different.”

Flash Fiction Friday #11: “Shadow in the Wind”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Shadow in the Wind”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The wind howled and scraped against the boy’s ears as he climbed the mountain.

“Turn back,” the wind said, raking its icy claws against his cheeks.

“Give up,” whispered another voice.

He felt the tug of dark hands but resisted. “I can’t give up. I have to reach the top.”

“The top is too far.”

“You’ll never make it.”

“I must.”

“No, you can’t. You are just a boy.”

“My father was just a boy when he climbed this mountain.”

“He was stronger than you, smarter than you.”

The boy ignored the shadows moving amidst him. He didn’t acknowledge their glowing red eyes or mocking grins.

Sweat dampened his brow. The wind beat against him, threatening to snatch him off the jagged cliffs. Cold numbed his fingers, his toes, but he kept going.

“Stop, before you hurt yourself.”

“I’m stronger than I look.”

He gritted his teeth, climbing higher and higher as the wind shrieked and swirled.

“Give up!”

“No!”

“Turn back!”

“I’ve come too far. I’m almost there.”

“You’ll fall to your death.”

“Then at least I gave it my all. I’ll know I died after never giving up.”

At last, he hurled himself, exhausted, onto the top of the mountain. He lay there a while, breathing in the crisp, clean air, and marveled at how calm it was up here. Sitting up, gazed out in wonder over the raging storm below.

It tried to stop him. But he won. He’d persisted, and he’d come out on the other side to something wonderful.

Sunshine made the clouds glow gold against the bright blue of the open sky. Up here, the air was so clean, so fresh. There was nothing but calm and peace.

And joy.

He laughed. He always knew he was strong enough to conquer the mountain.

He’d just needed to prove it to himself.

Guest Flash Fiction by Fantasy Author Jennifer Silverwood

*First appeared on We Write Fantasy. Reposted with permission.

Read more of Jennifer’s writings at her website – https://jennifersilverwood.com/.

***

Mama first told her about the magic in trees after Papa disappeared in the flood.
“Listen good, Lou,” she had whispered, “the tree’s memory is longest. They got roots dug deep in that old earth. Water washes us away but the trees remember.”
There was no headstone for Papa, just a tree Mama carved his Christian name into.
CONRAD LAFAYETTE MASON
Sap bled over the letters often.
“See the tears the trees shed for your Papa?” Mama had said.
Lou took her papa’s knife to the bark, carefully carving Papa’s name over and over.
She marked moments in her life under that tree.
Carving Papa’s name with their dog, Rusty licking her tears away.
Carving Papa’s name again with her first boyfriend pressing kisses down her neck.
Sometimes, when she was alone, Lou swore the tree whispered with her father’s voice.

They buried Mama under that tree years later, adding her name in strong block letters under Papa’s.
LETTIE WOOD MASON
A new dog and boyfriend stood by her side as she insisted on carving Mama’s name.
“The trees remember best,” she whispered to the boyfriend, to the dog and the wind whispering through the branches with Mama’s voice.
The family thought it unhealthy she took so many trips back to the old farmhouse alone. They wanted her to bring her boyfriend. But she couldn’t bring him and hear Papa and Mama’s voices.
She brought her dog instead, for the family’s peace of mind. The tree liked her dog.
“I won’t forget,” she promised the aged bark, cheek pressed to the freshly carved names of her parents.

Years passed, adding wrinkles and gray hair to hear head. Her children accepted her need to visit “the tree” as they called it, though none understood “Mama’s obsession.”
She laughed with the tree about her silly children.
“They worry I’m getting on in years, too old to come up here alone. Too feeble to use a knife.” Her cackle sounded brittle.
The wind whispered back Papa’s hearty chuckle with Mama’s sing-song gale.
When Lou pressed her ear against the tree, she listened to the creaks and groans that seemed to promise, “Soon.”
Lou smiled, agreeing, “Soon.”
Death didn’t frighten her like it frightened her children and grandchildren.
In those final weeks with sickness eating away her limbs, she often told them, “Time turns us all to dust, but the trees remember. When I’m gone, listen for me by the tree.”

Her children buried Lou beside her mother, beneath the tree she had loved so much.
They carved her name in strong block letters, just like she had wanted.
LOUISE MASON BIRCH
They took turns each month, visiting Mama’s grave and carving over her name.
The tree cried tears of sap along with them.
The wind often whispered with her voice, “Remember.”
So they did.

****

I love this so much, and hope you did, too. Jen is a fabulous writer and such an awesome person. Read more of her writings at her website – https://jennifersilverwood.com/.

Thanks for letting me share, Jen!

Flash Fiction Friday #10: “Bright as Stars”

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“Bright as Stars”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

“You must hurry, my dear!” said the old wizard, clutching the young starling’s hands. “Tonight is the night. You must release your power into the sky, or you will turn into stardust.”

“Stardusting” was what her friends called it. She’d seen her sister turn into stardust because she couldn’t release the Light in time. The loss of her sister ached deep within her, but she couldn’t focus on her pain now. She had to release her gift.

She let the old man usher her up the stairs of the palace. “Why do the royals keep starlings?” she asked as their footsteps echoed off the cold stone walls.

“Because your Light is precious. It lights up the night sky with beauty and wonder. Otherwise, we would have nothing but darkest night, stretching on forever. New starlings are needed once the Light burns out up above.”

“Why do I even have this gift if my fate is to give it away?”

“Why do flamecasters bear flames? Or watermancers create water? Why do wizards shepherd all the magical children? Everyone has a purpose, my dear. Now hurry.”

Up and up they climbed. Already dizzy, the girl didn’t dare look down. Her sister was afraid of heights. That’s what did her in—she couldn’t make the climb. She would not—could not—be her sister. Her mother and father wouldn’t survive the loss of two children.

Out they burst through a wooden door and onto the rooftop terrace. Bright yellow flags rippled on the night wind, and the moon cast a silvery glow on the crests of waves in the surrounding moat.

The girl looked up, straight up. So many stars! So many had released their gifts—or became stars themselves. Was her sister watching her right now? Was she proud of what she was about to do?

Sparkling white light began to build in the girl’s hands. She lifted them as her blood began to thrum.

“Now, child!” hissed the wizard.

Unsure what she was supposed to do but trusting instinct, the girl thrust her hands up. Light shot from her fingertips, and she cried out at the joy and the pain. It bolted into the sky, ricocheting off clouds and moonbeams until at last settling into thousands of tiny drops of glittering starlight.

Weary but grateful to be relieved of her gift, the girl stumbled.

The wizard caught her. “Well done, my child.” He stroked her hair. “You’ve done this kingdom a great service. All those people below—” with his staff, he gestured out at the twinkling city below—“will be so glad you were selfless enough to brighten their days.”

“Yes,” she murmured, her eyes growing heavier. “Selfless. I’m thankful to share my gift with others.”

She drifted off to sleep, seeing her sister smiling down at her, the pride and affection in her gaze shining bright as stars.