8 Comments

Looking For A Picture’s Worth…

I hope you have been enjoying the Five Sentence Fiction entries as much as I have. But I thought it would be interesting to go long form on you today so, here is something a little different. I am once again invoking the “pictures” part of my blog title.

I look in lots of places for inspiration.  I recently stumbled across a forgotten folder of photos on my computer that were taken back in the 1940s.  I downloaded and set them aside several years ago so sadly I have no recollection of where they came from or who took them.  I would love to give credit where credit is due.

I didn’t know how I would use them but I loved the pictures. They are stunning and evocative photos taken back when color photography was still in its infancy, but the hue and clarity of these shots is wonderful.  I include a couple here as story prompts.  Since a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, my challenge to you is to chose one (or more) and write a story in 1,000 words or less (much less if you prefer, there is no minimum) and share it with us.  Let us know which photo you chose as inspiration.

Photo A:


Photo B:


Photo C:


Photo D:


Photo E:


Photo F:


Photo G:


Photo H:

I look forward to reading your efforts. To start things off here’s my contribution, which, by the way, is my inaugural effort at Sci-Fi:

Out of Time [Photo H, 966 words]:

Harper Welles pushed through the heavy crowd along Hyde-Pierce Promenade in the heart of the Blue Zone. He was fighting against the tide of people like a spawning salmon. The collar of his long canvas coat was turned up to keep the stinging rain off his neck while his mask protected most of his face. Branded in mustard yellow lettering across the area just above the bug-eye lenses was his government assigned Personal ID: W-HG070147-BL-91-937PA.

A beefy hand clothed in a neoprene glove clutched at the shoulder of Harper’s black duster and roughly yanked him into the narrow, dark space between buildings. “Well lookie here, Flick. We got us a young one from Sector 91.  A little far from home aren’t you? Do your Matri and Patri know where you are, offspring?” The words came out stark and unencumbered. Harper just stared at the mountainous man with missing teeth and a face peppered with small glistening acne-like sores.  He had heard about those who had acclimated to the ruinous, lung-biting atmosphere but their life expectancy was considerably shorter.

“He’s a good one, Bull,” said the shorter of the two. His words sounded normal, muffled. Flick’s government PID had been shaved off his mask. Shit, Harper thought, Unknowns. “I wonder if he makes noise,” Flick continued and poked Harper lightly with a slender metal rod.

“Yeah, offspring. I asked you a question. You a deaf-mute or something?” Harper, still surprised into silence, blinked as Bull effortlessly lifted him from his feet.  “Let’s give this one some flying lessons, Flick.”  The landscape tilted and rotated as he felt himself sail through the air.  He watched the slice of dirty orange haze outside the alley until he hit the back wall and fell onto a pile of debris, his mask jarred loose from his head.  The cardboard and trash collapsed beneath him like a sink hole and Harper disappeared through it.

The landing on his back was a hard one and forced all the air out of his lungs. He kept his eyes squeezed closed bracing for a second attack from the pair of Unknowns. At the same time Harper was afraid to breathe in without his mask. His ears were ringing by the time reflexes took over and he gulped air into his lungs. Sweet, cool, soothing, unexpected air.

His eyes sprang open and like Dorothy stepping into Munchkin Land, Harper was faced with an equally alien landscape. He slid up the alley wall to a standing position, eyes darting. The orange dinge had been replaced with lapis blue skies and the poisoned atmosphere was gone. Harper filled his lungs again, deeply. No burn. No choking. Just pure, smooth, perfumed air.

Bull and Flick, along with the rest of the scurrying populace, had vanished. Only a few unmasked individuals dotted the walkway beyond the alley, moving at a leisurely, unguarded pace. Bright unfiltered sunlight bathed the relatively clean concrete and macadam. Near the mouth of the short alley was the entrance to what purported to be the Grand Grocery Co. Loosely hand lettered on the glass doors were the words “WE’RE OPEN. COME IN!” After looking around for a moment longer, Harper complied with the directive.

Before poking his head inside, he ran his hand over the door frame in a caressing motion. Wood. He had never seen this much wood. A whole building constructed from it, the proprietor must be a very wealthy man.  The floors creaked under his footsteps despite his stepping reverently to avoid damage. He was assaulted with a wall of smells. Fresh, sweet, earthy and grassy smells. He was amazed by the pyramids of fruits and abundance of vegetable stacked with abandon in heavy crate-like bins. Fruit and veg right from the tree and soil.

“Son?” An older man in a shoulder-to-shin white apron stood at the front window where he had been stacking round orange-skinned foods for display. “Can I help you? Are you feeling all right? You don’t look well.” The shopkeeper was alarmed by the boy’s extremely pale and unhealthy appearance.

“I was attacked by a couple of…” He stopped himself before the word “Unknowns” came out.

“You’re not local, are you, son?” Harper shook his head in answer to the old man’s question.  He has no idea how much an understatement that is, Harper thought. “Take a seat.  There’s a chair over behind the counter.”  The old man steered the black-coated young man over towards the counter with a kind hand on his back.  “I saw you eyein’ those oranges.  Would you like one?”

Harper nodded this time. He was disarmed by the kindness the man showed.  The world—or time—he came from was a desperate, untrusting place and period. His own family unit, if he had still belonged to one, would not have shown caring of this level. The man in the apron returned with two oranges and Harper sunk his teeth deeply into one.

“Hang on there, son. Those ain’t apples. You gotta peel these.  Here, let me show you.”  The shopkeeper removed the thick bumpy skin in big chunks revealing tender succulent wedges.  The boy popped one in his mouth and bit down. Juice as fresh and welcomed as the air and sun outside the shop filled his mouth.  He greedily shoved two more sections in at the same time. Juice leaked from the corners of his mouth while tears ran down his cheeks mixing with the nectar. He wept as the old man—a stranger to him—stroked the boy’s back with gentle compassion.  Harper Garrett Welles had no idea how he would ever find his way back to where or when he came from. He desperately hoped that he never would.

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8 comments on “Looking For A Picture’s Worth…

  1. Love it! Very sweet, and the descriptions are amazing!

  2. For some reason your post isn’t coming up on my Reader and I kept thinking that you said you were going to post something. These photos are lovely! I’ll write something up soon and link back here. I think I’ll try something with photo E first as soon as something comes to me. 1K words, right?

    Cool story. Harper must be the alien. I liked him a lot. He was sweet and vulnerable. A great read.

  3. PHOTO C
    “God damn sun.” Al Zurek mumbled to no one in particular as he adjusted his plastic hardhat, the inner band already creating a sweat ring around his brow. “Fucking day shifts.”
    “Would you mind working Pawelik’s schedule for a couple of weeks?” A few days ago foreman Gerry Gardner had stood behind Al, leg up on the bench in the locker room, trying to appear chummy. Al knew it wasn’t a request. Pawelik was the foreman’s brother-in-law and, seniority be damned, he knew the two of them, early morning beers and Slim Jims in hand would soon be huddled together in a damp deer-stand somewhere in northern Wisconsin. “He has some family issues.”
    “I hope Bambi’s father shoves his sixteen point rack up your ass” Al said safely to the same no one. How anyone got up at four am every morning was beyond him.
    Al was too tired to walk the ties of the railroad yard his normal two at a time, so he duck-waddled each creosote covered plank, watching out for the ankle twisting rocks between the rails as he headed out to the switch yard for the morning inspection. With his shortened gait now in cadence, Al shaded his eyes against the morning glare and peered out over the expanse of hundreds of switches, signals and relay boxes that created the Union Station interlocking plant. Unconsciously stepping two rails over to the next set of tracks to avoid an oncoming yard engine, he remembered his first day when then foreman Herbie Barnak tried to explain how easy it was to tell how the switches were lined up. “Just follow the rails with your eyes, Al. See the switch points? See how they curve over? See the signal? That Burlington is heading for track sixteen, this Amtrak is going to four, see?” Al didn’t see shit. In front of him was a fettuccine jumble of gleaming metal crowded with smoking, hulking killer monstrosities, pulling endless cars filled with the day’s commuters to deposit points a few hundred yards behind him at each track’s end. He’d stayed close to Herbie that day.
    “Pickett, keep up!”Al yelled over his shoulder. Even walking one tie at a time, Al was still fifty feet in front of his latest greenhorn Carl Pickett whose schedule was union mandated to follow his mentor, and who apparently had an even more difficult time with the early shift than Al. Of course, young Pickett’s reasons for his aversion to any hour before noon were night club, liquor and female, not late news, Letterman, Sports Center and on some nights, infomercial based.
    Ahead, under the viaduct that served as an outhouse for the squadrons of loose bowelled pigeons, Al noticed what appeared to be the contents of a Salvation Army donation box stagger across the tracks.
    “I think that’s Spanky.” Pickett offered, though the haze in Carl’s eyes convinced Al that even an afternoon wake up time couldn’t have saved him from the residual effects of the previous night thereby casting doubt on any of Carl’s declarations. “What the hell is he doing?”
    Spanky was, for lack of more politically correct words, one of the station’s bums, a mostly harmless mortgage-free resident who, during Al’s normal night shifts, was usually seen in a horizontal position along his favorite pile of discarded cardboard boxes, engaged in the activity that gave him his moniker.
    The pile of clothes continued its serpentine path across the yard until, West Witch like, melted across the path of a Milwaukee Road Express. The squeal of emergency brakes didn’t even begin until a hundred yards after the explosion of cloth and flesh, and some commuters had spreading coffee stains and a new water cooler story.
    “Whoa!” Pickett said after time resumed. He ran towards the largest remaining pile of clothes, their color changing swiftly, and reached down. “Check it out!”
    Whether still fueled by Absolut and Red Bull or sustained by whatever chemical enhancements necessary to accommodate his early shift, Pickett found the nerve to pick up the now detached head and held it up high like a conquering knight.
    ”It IS Spanky! Pickett shouted as the greasy hair of the recently departed began to slide through his fingers. “He doesn’t look too good.”
    “Nah.” Al offered, finally waking up. “That guy is too tall to be Spanky.”

    • Steve–

      You should write as much as you read. A fantastic story.

      “In front of him was a fettuccine jumble of gleaming metal crowded with smoking, hulking killer monstrosities, pulling endless cars filled with the day’s commuters to deposit points a few hundred yards behind him at each track’s end.”

      and

      “Spanky was, for lack of more politically correct words, one of the station’s bums, a mostly harmless mortgage-free resident who, during Al’s normal night shifts, was usually seen in a horizontal position along his favorite pile of discarded cardboard boxes, engaged in the activity that gave him his moniker.”

      and

      “The squeal of emergency brakes didn’t even begin until a hundred yards after the explosion of cloth and flesh, and some commuters had spreading coffee stains and a new water cooler story.”

      are fabulous descriptive gems. Truly enjoyed it and hope that you share more of your talent in the future. I am humbled…

  4. [...] prompt from Andy that has to be 1K words or less. Let’s see if I’m even up to this challenge, shall we? [...]

  5. [...] picture prompt from Andy. My Kindle isn’t wanting to post the pic correctly and I don’t have access to my [...]

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