Raw Talent: a #ThursThreads Tribute to Mary Decker

For those of us who’ve been writing flash fiction for a while, there are quite a few people we’ve known for a long time. I’ve been posting every Thursday since December 15th 2011, and we’re closing in on our twelfth year writing quick 250-word tales each week.

I’d already been posting for 3 solid years when Mary Decker appeared on the blog. She had her first win within 18 weeks, on July 2 2015, and her quirky, smart voice captured many a judge from then on.

Unfortunately, I lost years 4-7 to a change in website host so I don’t have the first five winning tales she gave us, but I’ve gathered the rest below. For the record, she won my challenge a whopping THIRTY-TWO TIMES, and deservedly so.

This is a very long post, so feel free to take your time. They are arranged by year, and the dates and prompts are ahead of each tale. I hope you enjoy her writing as much as we did.

Date: January 2, 2020
Prompt: “Do I look like I’m twelve?”

Mistaken Identity

I did my best to keep to the shadows. Being seen these days was rarely a good thing. People were roving in gangs if they were roving at all. More and more people were being divided into the shamblers and those who would be shambling soon enough.

I opened my senses as I tried to get a feel for the over sized mall. Even before the dead stopped dying, this place had been abandoned.

It was built in the ‘70s to serve the shopping needs of folks on the west side of town. Time, competition and a series of murders kind of took the charm out of the place.

That made it the perfect place to set up camp, mainly because there was nothing left to scavenge here.

I staked my claim to one of the storerooms on the second floor.and was on my way out when I met Oscar, or more the point, I met his Louisville Slugger.

The introduction ended in a lot of sparks and pain, and then blackness.

When I came to, I was sprawled out on the floor, with Oscar standing watch. I guess he realized things weren’t quite what they seemed.

“Hello?” I asked experimentally.

“Hey, sorry— thought you were a shambler.”

I blinked. “Do I look like…”

“I’m twelve?” he half asked, half stated. “Everyone looks like they’re big, shambling and dangerous.”

He had a point.

243 words (not including title)

Date: January 9, 2020
Prompt: “He had a point.”

Nice doggy

“Is that all you’re going to say?”

The man’s tone was sharp, nasal and almost as annoying as he was.

“What else do you want me to say?”

“I want to know you’re going to stand up for me:

Most of the time I would, but since I didn’t know which way he was going to jump these days, I couldn’t guarantee how I’d react. “If you say something I could get behind, I’m there— but I’m not going to follow you blind. You know where I stand and you know which side of my bread is buttered, the rest is up to you.”

“So, you’re going to dictate the terms of our friendship?”

I rolled my eyes. “The terms of our friendship are the same as they always been – be honest, be true, don’t take BS.”

“I’m not asking you to violate that.”

“Yeah, but you aren’t telling me which part is going to apply.”

“Be honest, be true…”

“No B.S.?”

He smiled, taking a sword from its wall hanging. He inspected it for a moment and then lunged at me, backing me up to the wall, the tip of his blade against my breast bone.

I smiled. He had a point, and as long as it was one thrust away from my heart, he had my support… at least until I could draw my Sig-Sauer.

228 words, not including title

Date: January 30, 2020
Prompt: “I didn’t sign up for this.”

Destination Unknown.

Mac spat on the ground as he swore. Looking at the wreckage I could see why— the ship had been scythed in half. Acid had eaten through the cowling and at least half the electronics.

“What the hell did Dancer do to this thing?”

“She landed on 0213-78,” I answered as I pulled out the bucket and mopped up after Mac. I’d learned a long time ago that his spit tended to leave stains on the deck plating, and it was easier to clean up before it had a chance to set.

“What was it?”

“Class 2 planet, low atmo – possibly good for raw materials. He didn’t want to be used.”

“It didn’t want?”

“Yeah, sentient planet – said it didn’t want to be cut up for parts then did a number on the ship. Kept Dancer safe, out of respect and because he didn’t want to start a war.”

“He? Goddamned planet ‘an y’re calling it ‘He’”

“That was what the planet said,” I pointed out. I tend not to argue with large inanimate objects— Call it superstition – don’t provoke the place where you’re landing, especially when they can split a fuselage in half without blinking.

“Shit,” he growled spitting on the floor again, his smile daring me to say anything. “I didn’t sign up for this.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him he had— or maybe it was just common sense finally kicking in. I mopped up and made myself scarce. It was safer that way.

250 words (not including title)

Date: April 2, 2020
Prompt: “Things are going south.”

Before Its Prime

“South-paw, this is Papa Three, do you copy?”

There was a long pause, and I was about to repeat when South-paw answered in his slow drawl.

“Hey Papa Three, how are things?”

Several answers came to mind, ‘Hell in a handbasket’ would have been my first choice if they’d been getting better. As it was, hell was a bit optimistic.

Things are going, South-paw. How’s by you?”

“Well, you know… no use complaining.”

That hadn’t stopped him yet.” South-paw, you hear anything on the op?”

“Just to dig in until daylight.”

I looked at the calendar and sighed. “Tell me you brought the cards,” I answered

“I brought the cards and a six-pack. I’ll be fine.”

I shook my head, it was going to be a very long night, indeed.

“Six pack is not going to cut it,” I warned him

“What, it’s only one night.”

“South-paw, didn’t anybody tell you, daylight will be here in 179 days.”

There was a long silence. “Oh. Better order some more— you got Prime?”

177 words (not including title)

Date: April 9, 2020
Prompt: “Hell in a handbasket.”

Team Building Failure

He was in hell. He hated these ‘team-building’ games, they were torturous but word had come from on high, and he was stuck playing their game.

He read the piece of paper and started drawing, the guessing began immediately after.

“A tisket?”

“What the hell is a ‘tisket’!?”

He shook his head and pointed to the drawing. He needed them to focus or the game would never end. He pointed and then circled the inside of his drawing.

“A basket.”

“There’s a hole in the basket!”

This was going to be a lot harder than he first thought. He circled the bottom of the basket and began praying.

“Not a hole… an egg?”

Before he could stop them, his team was off and running in the wrong direction.

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatched.”

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

“Because there’s a hole in the basket.”

Angrily, he drew flames trying to get them to pull it together.

“There’s a fire in the basket?”

“Fire in the hole!”

“Wait… someone was fired for putting all his eggs in one basket.”

“Because there was a hole in it.”

“Will you leave off the with the hole…”

He was dying.

Finally, his second in command yelled “Hell!” and things were rolling again.

Deviled eggs!

“The road to hell is…”

He couldn’t take it anymore and blurted out “In a… basket… Hell in a handbasket, I swear!”

It was the last time Satan played Pictionary with the staff.

250 words (Not including title)

Date: July 2, 2020
Prompt: “You could change that.”


William thought about everything that had happened that night and sighed. It was hard to tell where it started to fall apart.

His perfect dinner with Marie was ruined before it began, the bread was bad, the wine had lost its flavor and the meat had a greenish tinge to it.

Marie had been a trooper, suggesting that they go out for dinner and leave the clean-up for later. William had been reluctant to leave, but the moon was out and he really did want to salvage the evening.

They settled for a quiet walk along the beach. That had been magical until they’d found a dead body washed against the pier. Now instead of romantic moonlight, the night was broken by flashing red and blue lights.

He waited while the detectives took Marie’s statement, but things just weren’t fitting together. The narrative kept changing. When William went to tell the detectives what had happened he found himself at a loss.

“I was just trying to propose,” he said in a half whine and realized his mistake.

The detective shook his head. “What’s really going on?”

William sighed. “Somethings missing from this entire story and I don’t know what it is, I don’t think I can find it.”

“You could change that,” Marie told him, gently rubbing his shoulders.

“But how?” He asked unsure where to start.

“It’s called a re-write,” Marie replied and he was once again staring at a blank page, wondering where everything went wrong.

250 words, not including the Title

Date: July 30, 2020
Prompt: “Going down that road was a bad trip.”

Trouble loves company

“So what happened, exactly?” I asked wondering how my best friend and her brother had ended up in traction in the hospital, looking more like the mummy’s errant twins than two of the best reporters in town.

“I can’t say…” Evan answered

“Can’t or won’t?” I asked.

“Going down that road was a bad trip,” Marta began.

“Downhill,” her brother added.

“On rollerblades.”

“Into traffic, picking up speed, heading towards a brick wall.”

“In front of a glass factory.”

“Right before a sixty-foot drop.”

“Into a tank full of piranha.”

I watched them as they continued to describe what had happened, at least metaphorically.

“That was then swallowed by an Orca.”

I shook my head. I’d seen these two get into trouble before, but usually one was worse for wear than the other— this time they were both a mess.

“So, you both hit the same rough spot?”

“No,” Marta answered. “I slipped up and bozo head here went after me.”

“Down the hill?”

“Well… no one would have believed her without the video…”

175 words of mostly silliness

Date: August 13, 2020
Prompt: “Time to go into battle.”

The Battle of Ted’s Deli

I told them I was going to clean up this town, and that is what I planned to do. I held no illusions that it would be exactly what it was, war. And almost as soon as I made my bold statement there were people gunning for me.

I loaded up a wide array of weapons and implements to make the job easier but I could tell people were waiting for me to fail. Well, some of them were, others were getting ready to make sure I failed.

I surveyed the town, read through the records, and figured out my plan of attack. It wasn’t going to be pretty, but I knew what I had to do. Weapons holstered, I headed out to the south side of town, all the naysayers gathered on the North end, just watching me.

“Time to go into battle,” I said and wheeled my mop bucket to the corner deli. I could hear the wheels squeak and before I knew it the naysayers were gathered around me.

“You’ll want to use ammonia on that.” One suggested. “No, vinegar!” another suggested.

By the time I finished at the deli, I’d had enough. I mixed the ammonia with the bleach and walked away. Now I could clean in peace.

212 words not including title

Date: November 19, 2020
Prompt: “Keep your little secrets.”

Not What I Expected

You keep your little secrets,
In a jar by the door,
They litter your life
So you tried to round them up
But you can never keep them straight.
The big secrets, those have a way of getting out
And then life is never the same.
Your little secrets make you feel safe
Make you feel kind
But the real secrets,
Those are the ones that could kill
So you keep your little secrets,
Where everyone can see
While you go on safari
To hunt the big ones down.
They lie in weight
Too massive to ignore
They lie in time
Fading in and out of sight.
The little secrets won’t kill you
But they can hurt you just the same
It’s the big ones that shatter
It’s the big ones that break
So you hunt them in the dark
Knowing you can’t outrun the truth.

146 words – not including the title

Date: December 31, 2020
Prompt: “He should be here to negotiate.”

Last Call

The corporate lawyers flooded into the board room, quoting Latin legal phrases about due process. They were just a series of fractured phrases crashing together in my head.

Habeas Corpus Delicti, Ex Parte, post facto, quid pro quo

It sounded like a conjuring in a bad ‘made for television’ movie but even as they spoke I couldn’t help but think, ‘He should be here.’

“To Negotiate this settlement we can proceed without Daniels being present,” the chief lawyer stated.


“How what?” he asked, and I could tell from the expression on his face he was trying to find out who had invited me and fire them.

“How can you ‘settle’ a complaint that has no grounds, against a man who’s not here and give away the company he created?” I asked. “You do know that he’s your boss, right?”

“And as such, we have the right, no the duty to keep the company solvent in his absence,” he chief lawyer said, to a course of what sounded like Latin agreement.

“He should be here,” I sighed

“Should doesn’t stop the clock. If and when he returns, we will bring him up to speed.”

“If and when?” I asked. “He went to the bathroom. He’s been gone three minutes.”

In the background under their breaths, I heard the final portion of their incantation.

“Ipso facto, quod erat demonstrandum.”

I’m not sure what was proven, but in the morning I was there and they weren’t. Perhaps they mispronounced ‘demonstrandum.’

250 words not including title

Date: March 18, 2021
Prompt: “He should have been alone.”


There are words, phrases we should never utter. Words of have power here, the power of intent. When you speak them, whether they are heard or not, the power goes where it will and intent has consequences. These are the words you must unlearn.”

Then there are the words and phrases, whose power is stronger than any other. Soft words, that can overpower even the strongest of emotions.

Words like ‘love’, ‘kindness’, ‘agape.’ These are the words that you must learn.

When you put evil out into the world, it takes on a life of its own. It strikes at people needlessly— people who are already alone, and hurting and they see it as a sign that the universe is against them.

It is not. The universe itself does not care. It is inanimate, and it is we who must make our way in it it does not help or hinder. It simply is.

As for the man who hates? You can say ‘he should have been alone’ and to that I say, he was and that was where his hate was born, under the full moon of self-loathing and pain.

He should have been alone in his hate, but put those words out into the universe and they were answered. I say— he should not have been alone. There should have been someone to correct him and bring him back to the words of true power.

Hate destroys what love builds, but love echoes on.

247 words not including title.

Date: April 8, 2021
Prompt: “Imagine what you could do with it.”

Banish Misfortune

“I imagine too much.”

Sometimes it feels like the therapist wants me to fill in her blanks. I was never good at that. I prefer multiple choice it gives me guidelines— a clue as to what is acceptable.

How do I tell her that the sound of branches brushing against the house become demons dragging their nails against the clapboard; that the wind blowing through the trees is the hot breath of the enemy closing in?

How do I make her understand that these are images but memories? How do I tell her that I have seen that glint in her eyes as she writes, binding my fate to her words?

Her word is the power keeping me here— binding me to this place, and I’m not sure if the 36 psychiatric hold will stand. It’s up to her and she knows when I’m lying.

“Can you give me an example?” she asks, her thumb strokes the ring in her middle finger.”

The demon in my dream had done the same thing, and I’m not sure which side of the dream is real now.

I calm my breathing, trying to reach the images, and she smiles at me.

“Imagine,” she prompts. “Imagine the power you hold; imagine what you could do with it.”

I let out a trembling breath and nod as I see the greed in her eyes.

“Three wishes,” I agree, and the deal is struck.

When she releases the circle, all bets are off. Imagine.

248 words not including title

Date: April 15, 2021
Prompt: “Can you give me an example?”

Don’t talk to strangers

“Hello, you’re on the air with Dr. Francis,” DVM Mark Francis stated as the board op took the first call.

“I was wondering if you could help me with my dog. He hasn’t been acting like himself lately.”

“Well, that’s why we’re here— although please remember, while we can offer advice we should not be seen as a replacement for your vet.”

“It’s not serious, at least I don’t think it is it’s just— he’s not acting right.”

Dr. Francis nodded to himself as he listened, not only to the man’s words to his tone and how he spoke as if he had all the time in the world.

“So— can you give me an example?”

“Well, someone broke into my house,” the caller answered. “And he froze… like he wasn’t sure if he should attack, herd the person out, or get lovies.”

Dr. Francis smiled at the phrase ‘get lovies.’ It never ceased to amaze him how the coldest person out there could melt at the thought of their dog.”

“Well, those are three very different drives coming into play and all of those are normal reactions, albeit any given dog will usually only have one reaction. What did you want him to do?”

“I guess I just wanted him to scare the person away.”

“And did he?”

“Sort of,” the man answered. “But I think that was more the three heads than anything he actually did.”

“Three? Sir, what’s your dog’s name?”


“…as in…”


“Next caller!”

250 words not including title

Date: June 17, 2021
Prompt: “It takes me back.”


As I escape into the indigo, my afterburners trace my path and I can breathe again. I don’t belong on the ground. Some people need the greens of growing things, the browns of fertile earth, the green people, the grounders.

Its funny how we can look at the same thing and see something very different. People have claimed colors for their causes and used them to draw political lines but for me, the colors we choose are the colors of our worlds.

The blue people like the oceans and the skies, the greensmen like the growing world of earth, the gray and gold are drawn to the cities, that grow up between the blue and the green worlds. Worlds between worlds within worlds

Worlds of sand and snow. Worlds of fire and cool winds. They are beautiful, but I am bound to the indigo of space. Alone I chart my course, traveling to worlds of ice, and chemical mixes that would eat the paint off of their ivory towers. They call me a pariah because I can’t live in their world. I don’t belong there any more than they belong in mine. But I will always welcome them.

The call of space is in my veins and I was born with stardust in my eyes. Stars are born and die out here, and no matter how many times I leave, it takes me back, as it always does.

They say I’m just a pilot, but I am so much more.

250 words not including title

Date: August 19, 2021
Prompt: “You have a question?”

With age comes Wisdom

Snow; sand-drift; hail, it all blended together after a while and still he walked. The Sphinx with its serene countenance, right before it tried to eat his liver, that was fun. Illusions of a thousand delights it offered him, and the genie, not to be outdone offering one thousand and one.

He let his breath out in a huff as he reminded himself that he had a job to do, and they were here to stop him— or prove him worthy.

Twenty-seven steps up the ladder, down two as penance for helping Sisyphus up the hill, then glide to a sudden stop as if on command. He waited in line, as other petitioners made their needs known.

The oracle sat on her jeweled throne dispensing wisdom. Finally, after what felt like eons, it was his turn. He brought her the agreed on price for her answer: peacock feathers in every hue, the seeing eye, and the light of the searcher.

“You have a quest…”

“Ion – that was 5 dollars on its own and 10 if you bundle it with Hallmark and Turner Classic, right?”

“Unless you wish to move up a tier,” the oracle said gesturing towards the next line over.

“Gods no, they aren’t paying me enough.”

With a wave of the oracle’s hand, he was back in his seat, and he took the caller off hold.

“I’m sorry ma’am. Those are you options.”

“What about Hulu?”

He sighed. “Let me consult the ora…er… boss.”

249 words – not including the title

Date: April 28, 2022
Prompt: “Something’s wrong.”

Trouble on the Rise

“Something’s wrong.”

“Ya think?” Iggie asked as he pushed himself off the floor. “What was your first clue?”

“Well, there’s the fact that we’re laying on the floor.”

“Oh, good. I’d hate to think I’d missed a clue or something,” Iggie added as he offered his friend a hand up.

Together they surveyed the damaged lab.

“This is not good.”

“Boss,” Iggie sighed as he shook his head and poured them both a drink. “You are either the master of understatement or really good at overstating the obvious. I can’t decide, but if the next words out of your mouth are ‘We have to find him,’ I’m going to have to hit you.”

“Iggie, if you try I will knock you into next week.”

“I think our friend the good doctor already did that.”

Iggie looked out the tower window, realizing for the first time that there was no longer a window, but rather a gaping hole where the window used to be— and from it he could see torches approaching the castle.

“We’re too late, Frankie— I think someone found him…”

182 words not including title

Date: April 28, 2022
Prompt: “I did my share.”

Lessons in diplomacy

I had just finished shutting down the board and making my report when I heard Sgt Hightower come over the squawk box.

“Crash, you up to a little recon work?”

That piqued my interest, considering the fact that every delegate in the fleet had their own designated pilot.

“How much trouble am I going to be in?”

It’s only taken me, what, 17 years to learn to ask that question before I head out.

“Not much— we’re just checking out a few things.”

“What things?” I asked warily

“There was a blip on the scanners, just out of base station’s scanner.”

“And you can’t notify patrol?”

“No, that could be bad.”

If there is one thing I have learned since leaving Earth, it was that when Hightower classifies something as potentially bad— well let’s just say he’s not prone to exaggerations.

Considering the fact that we are now both considered Liaison officers to specific races and the last thing either one of us wants are complications, I nodded and started preflight.

“Anything else?” I asked.

“We’ll need some steaks.”

“How many?”

“Three… Four if you want one.”

“Just steaks?”

“I’ve got the wine,” he added stepping aboard with a picnic basket, he handed me a set of coordinates.

He took over, turning flight prep into meal prep, and I did my share. By the time we took off, the steaks were grilling on the manifold and we proceeded to liaise with the Askemiri.

I could get used to this job.

250 words, not including title

Date: September 1, 2022
Prompt: “You know why I’m here.”

Who Hunts the Hungry?

Cal pulled his army jacket a little tighter around him as the caravan pulled into the parking lot near the bridge and unpacked their gear. Some of it he recognized, and some he didn’t but he knew what they were the minute one of them started talkin’ about Madame Laveau, ghosts, and vampires.

He also saw a small group of neo-goths targeting the group. He sighed. He could just let the two groups duke it out, but it wasn’t in the best interest of the neighborhood.

With a sigh, he pulled his collar up and approached the ghost hunters. He knew that warning them away would only make them want to stay so he smiled and drew closer.

“Y’all know why I’m here,” he said in a long-suffering voice as he reached the group. “That’ll be fifty dollars.”

“What?” Their leader demanded.

Cal nodded pointing to the parking sign. “Fifty dollars.”

“But, we have a permit.”

“Permit don’t cover parkin’, son.”

He smiled as they briefly discussed the merits of paying before packing up and leaving. They were long gone by the time the hunters were in position.

“You’re going to pay for that, old man,” one of the neogoths growled

He turned, towards them his eyes, glowing in the dark, “You know why I’m here,” he answered. “Ain’t no prey here— just put dem fangs back inside your head an’ keep moving.”

He shook his head as they walked away. Kids these days.

244 words, not including title

Date: December 22, 2022
Prompt: “I’m not afraid of him.”

A Hard Talk

“Look I can’t explain it to you.”

“Sure you can. Ya start talkin’ You find a place to begin and just say what’s on your mind.”

“It’s not that simple.”

Cal looked to the skies and shook his head. “You got breath in your lungs, you sittin’ there tellin’ me it ain’t simple. Ah can do complicated. Ah just need words.”

He could feel her glaring at him as he walked inside, grabbed two beers from the cooler, and handed her one before opening his.

He took a pull. He let his breath out with a satisfied smile and studied it for a minute.

“I can tell you the process used to brew this here beer. I can talk ‘bout chemical reactions and fermentation. Or I can just say, it’s good, but I’m still talkin’ bout it. It ain’t complicated – it’s just beer,”

“We aren’t talking about beer.”

“No, we aren’t, we also ain’t talkin’ ‘bout your daddy neither. No we’re talkin’ hard about how you ain’t talkin’ about him. Why you so afraid ‘ah him?”

“I’m not afraid of him.”

“Well, cher, you afraid ah somethin’ an the more you don’t talk about it, the worse it gonna get.”

“You don’t know what it’s like.”

Cal snorted and took another sip. “Mah daddy used people like puppets, an he tried to kill me when I was five so as he could live forever. Yours can’t be dat bad.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“But did you die?”


“Dat’s a start.”

250 words, not including title

Date: January 12, 2023
Prompt: “Did you miss me?”

Winning is for losers.

Cal looked at the forces gathered against them and squared his shoulders. He had to prove that he would do anything to protect what was his, and he had to remind his enemies that nothing was stronger than a man with nothing to lose.

He had let them start the fight, holding back until they’d committed fully. This had to look real, and that meant it had to be real.

He felt pain sear into his brain as he started to lose control. He growled, an unholy smile gracing his lips as he focused on his enemies.

“Sometimes you fight fire with water,” he said. “Sometimes you fight it with foam— Ah prefer to fight fire with hell-fire.”

As he spoke, his eyes began to glow and he started to turn. It was time to remind them of just who and what he was.

“You know why blood magic don’t work on me?” he asked, taunting them with the one fact that had eluded them, “I haven’t had any in 250 years.”

The admission set the blood mage free and her spell swept through guilty and innocent alike. And at its end, only the innocent remained.

Cal blinked, his voice sounding distant even to him. “Did you miss me on purpose?”

She laughed at the accusation in his voice.

“I wasn’t trying to hit you,” she assured him. “Then again, I wasn’t trying not to either.”

He smiled, they’d faced the madness that couldn’t be defeated, and somehow they’d survived.

250 Words – not including title

Date: April 27, 2023
Prompt: “Does it sparkle in the night?”

Weather or knot

From the waterside to the edge of night
Hear the wind as it walks through the water,
Through the waves to where the cattails grow.
Does it sparkle? Does it glow?

It moves silently, leaving trouble in its wake
It is peace, it is calm, it is life.

When the storms come from distant lands
Its rains speak of its commands
The silence can be deafening as it screams into the night
Letting loose the rage without control

When the rains clear, and the wind has gone to sea
At the edge of the ruins, the spirits move
Once again through the night
Mourning what was, recovering what is, nurturing what will be.

A spark is all it takes.
Does it glow, does it sparkle?
In the night, all is calm where the cattails grow
That is the riddle of it all

From the shore, to the bayou and beyond
The whispers speak of worlds long gone
Do they sparkle? Do they glow?
Between the squalls In the shadows of the hurricane
Is there life beyond these walls?
From the waterside to the edge of night

If she knows, she’ll never tell
What she knows by sight or smell.

199 words

Date: June 22, 2023
Prompt: “I was her assistant.”

In tense

It’s amazing how a few letters can change everything.

I am, I was. We are, we were. Time changes us all.

She was my world, I was hers but I wasn’t her world. I was her friend, I was her assistant, but I was never more. I was her rock, her safe place– until I wasn’t there. I should have been there, but I wasn’t, and I will regret it, ever more.

It’s amazing how one letter can change everything. Love, loved, live, lived. Fire, fired. Alive, a life lived. It can be so intense, until it changes. In time, in place, in meaning –

It is all in tense. And in the telling. The meaning, and the lettering. That’s all it is, and all it will ever be. I was hers until I wasn’t and she wasn’t mine. She always stood apart, a part of something else. She is.

No more. All ways. Always. That is the truth we all avoid, and all it takes is a letter or two to change the meaning– or just being given space.

179 words (not including title)

Date: July 13, 2023
Prompt: “Have you been drinking?”

Sheets to the Wind

“Look, you need to know”

“Know what?”

The question was simple, but the way he looked at me I knew it wasn’t good. And then then I smelled his breath, make that his vapor trail. No, this was bad.

“Have you been drinking?”

“Yes. No. Not nearly enough.”

“Which is it?”

“Yes, I am drinking. Now. I was not drinking then, and I haven’t had nearly enough since.”

“Since what?”

He poured me a double and passed it across the bar. “You’re going to need that.”

“You’re pushing me.”

“Just trust me. Once you see this– you can’t unsee it.”

I took a sip, hoping it would loosen his tongue, but he just kept staring at me. I downed it and placed the glass on the bar. Instead of talking, he poured me another.

“You’re still three behind me,” he said gesturing to the glass.

This was annoying. I stared at it and then back at him. It was a game of drunken chicken and he was winning. I took the shot, and my world shifted a hair to the left.

My eyes widened as I caught my first glimpse of the man watching me from the corner of the bar. He was shrouded in a mist that kept him hidden, but the booze had broken the illusion. His robes kept him hidden, but I could see his reflection. Death was sitting at my bar, and he was wearing heart-covered boxers.

I tapped my glass and nodded. Nate poured another.

250 words – not including the title

Date: July 20, 2023
Prompt: “You’re going to need that.”

Cold Irony

Ozone. I coughed, feeling my way around. I winced when my hand touch the cockpit doors. Too hot. No one could have survived.

We have to get out.

I couldn’t tell if it was just a thought but the steward was not moving. Untethered I reach towards him, only to have a hand latch onto my wrist.

“He’s gone. We have to move.”

It was Peabody, His voice bringing me back from the edge as he pulled me to the emergency exit. I didn’t want to leave but staying meant death.

I blinked as the roaring in my ears increased. The white fog that rolled through the cabin filled my mind. Numbness was settling in.

Peabody pushed me out the door. I fell to the ground and rolled as something landed next to me. I assumed it was Peabody, but it was a survival pack.

“You’re going to need that,” his voice, a whisper on the wind. “Run.”

As I ran, I realized they were the last words I’d hear from him.

I ran, and kept running until I collapsed. I knew it wouldn’t take the elemental long to catch up, so I opened the pack and took stock. Instead of banishing equipment, or even a fire extinguisher, I found a romance novel, some astronaut ice cream, and a box of Kleenex. Peabody had tossed me the wrong pack.

I wonder if tears will stop a demon. Somehow, I doubt it.

241 words, not including title

Tying Tales Together, #ThursThreads Year 11 Got a tale to tie on?

Date: September 28, 2023
Prompt: “How did you see her?”

Seeing in Negative

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Paranormal Investigations 101. I’m Dr Todd, and I’ll be your instructor. Our goal here is to discover and enhance your natural skills. Once the evaluation is finished, you will be assigned a training cadre. Any questions?”

Andre’s hand was already up.

“Yes, Mr. Phelps?”

“Uh, sir– I wanted to ask about,” he paused then nodded towards the back of the room.

Dr. Todd smiled.

“She’s just auditing this class.”

Andre’s expression was perplexed, but the instructor just began handing out equipment and lab manuals as if nothing had passed between the two of them.

The instructor’s voice had an almost hypnotic effect on the class, but Andre kept turning and looking back at the woman in the back of the room. A woman who was not there. She had never been there, but Andre was all too aware of her presence.

The session turned into a series of 20-minute lectures, a 30-minute test, and a ten-minute break, by the time the day had finished the class was more than ready to head home. As the students filed out, Dr. Todd stopped Andre.

“Mr. Phelps, a moment please.”


“One question. How did you see her?”

The rest of the class hovered around the door, curious to hear his answer.

“I didn’t– I saw an absence around her there was no dust, no light, no shadow. Plus, she was wearing Lilly of the Valley.”

238 Words (not including title)

Date: February 15, 2024
Prompt: “She knew what had happened here.”

First Impressions

The first thing that struck Detective Samantha Collings was the desolation of the scene. Murder, while not unheard of in San Souixie, was still something of a novelty. She’d expected a circus but found the quiet rain to be her only companion.

Her partner hadn’t arrived yet, so she could walk the scene and take it all in before he came and derailed her thoughts with his measurements and unending stream of consciousness.

She could close her eyes and feel the breeze against her skin. It gave her time to organize her thoughts and feel the emotions that echoed through the park.

Looking at the body without touching it, she knew what had happened.

‘Here,’ she thought as she studied the prone form. ‘This is where she fell.’

She sighed as she heard her partner’s radio blaring as he pulled into the parking lot above the pathway. He was listening to yet another neo-punk band, and to her relief the radio died as he shut his car off. She wanted to think while she still could.

She’d have to wait for the coroner’s report to be sure, but from what she’d seen, the victim had been pushed. She stepped aside, letting Jonesie record his first impressions. She usually ignored his personal recordings and waited until they were back at the station before they compared notes, but something in his words sent a chill up her spine.

‘The last thing to strike Detective Collings was a 4×6,..”

247 words, not including title

Date: February 22, 2024
Prompt: “This is where she fell.”

The Grand Tour

Images and afterthoughts, that’s all that she could see—a moment frozen in time, captured on film. She could feel the emotions on people’s faces as they posed for the pictures. It was strange marrying up the pictures from the album and the crime scene photos– before and after.

Before, everything seemed so bright and cheerful, but the forensic photos painted a darker picture. They were witness to the truth behind the lies in the carefully posed images. Meticulously maintained lawns, and carefully coifed women drinking from delicate teacups, bespoke a genteal world. while whisps of smoke and ash, and the scent of stale coffee filled the room.

The photos played out like cards, telling two different stories. A picture of the formal gardens, sunlit mazes of roses, and flame bushes hinted at summer bliss. They lay in stark contrast to the photos of carefully collected evidence, meticulously numbered and notated.

The swing, she would climb pretending she was a sailor on the yardarm of a tall ship, fell from the desk, revealing the dark stains of rust and old blood. The photos of be beach. This is where she fell in love. It was also where her heart broke.

He’d taken another to their spot along the bay. She mourned the death of love and tried to stop the bitter flow of tears. This is where her darker half was born. And it would not rest until he had paid.

Images and afterthoughts. That’s all they really were.

249 words not including title.

These were all simply Mary’s wins. She wrote almost every week since she started in 2015, so if you want to visit all the challenge posts, she’ll be there at the end of the list, just before deadline. Happy reading.

Thank you, Mary. Your writing brought us all such joy.

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