Flash fiction challenges such as Five Sentence Fiction has kept me writing and improved my craft, so I serve up some here every Tuesday. Since every one likes choices I’m providing you with two weekly writing prompts. You can participate in either one, or double your pleasure by trying your hand at both. Submit your efforts any time between now and next Tuesday.
The Standard Prompt will always consist of a two-word prompt to be used as inspiration. The Non-Standard Prompt will change from week to week. Sometimes it will be a visual prompt, sometimes a first sentence or phrase, sometimes a scenario, etc. The limit for the Two for Tuesday Standard Prompts is 200 words and the Non Standard Prompt has a minimum of 200 words but no limit allowing for more in depth explorations. Use the little blue link thing below to submit your link or leave an entry in the comments section.
Don’t forget to check out the other entries.
Since this is Challenge #13, I felt two sinister prompts were in order. Here is this week’s two-fer:
You have lots of creative leeway. The limit is 200 words. The words can be used:
- simply as a point of inspiration and do not have to be used directly
- they can be included exactly as provided
- or each word can be used independently of each other (for example if Death Row was the prompt instead of crafting a story about an inmate on the way to the gallows, you might write something like: Despite feeling like death from an excess of cheap vodka consumed the night before, Evelyn moved on to planting her next row of spinach).
This week’s alternative prompt is a senario:
Thumping and yelling is heard coming from next door through the paper thin apartment walls. When Mark flushes after using the toilet, the bowl clogs and backs up with copious amounts of blood.
As per usual with the Non-Standard Prompt there is no word limit (to allow for more in depth explorations) but there is a minimum of 200 words.
If you prefer to write first and read later, be forewarned that my own personal effort follows. This week I opted for just the Non-Standard prompt. It’s a lot longer than ususal but I hope you enjoy it:
Flushed (1,834 Words)
Jeezez, she’s at it again, thought Mark, what time is it, 2:00? He checked the clock, it was actually 2:23. The staccato delivery of angry words from next door were muffled by insulation and wall board as if he were hearing the argument from underwater. It wasn’t all one sided, there were both the high registers of a woman and the deeper notes of a man’s voice. Mark’s neighbor, Haley, was a high maintenance girl. At least that was his impression from the limited observations of passing her in the hall or occasionally sharing an elevator with her. She obviously was having a bit of a row with her latest beau, who was in some kind of investment banking, day trading or financial related vocation. He wore expensive looking suits, slicked his hair back and sported a Don Johnson-esque perpetual 5-day growth of beard.
There was a loud thump against one of the shared walls. It was hard enough to topple a stack of change on Mark’s dresser. “Whoa. That’s getting a little out of hand.” He could hear more heated exchanges and something was broken. The yelling became less intrusive. They must have moved to another room that didn’t back up to Mark’s bedroom. His eyes drooped closed and his desperate need for sleep filtered out the rest of the noise.
He jolted awake to a complaining bladder. With eyes still closed he did the Helen Keller dance through the darkness trying to avoid barking his shin on the blanket chest or raising a bruise on his thigh from the corner of his dresser on the way to the master bath. With the light still off he flushed when he was finished but the toilet gave a paltry little burble rather than the customary rushing whoosh. He turned the light on and peered in the bowl. There was just a small puddle barely filling the recess at the bottom.
Before he even had a chance to grab the plunger a spiral of red curled into his toilet followed by a “floop” sound and a rush of about a gallon of a thick, muddy, crimson mixture.
“Christ! What the—?” He shook the handle and a whole dark red mass of blood and hair burbled up, inching towards the rim, threatening to overflow. Mark kicked the white throw rug out of harm’s way and rammed the plumber’s helper into the middle of the ugly mess and began plunging with an urgency. The slopping and splashing left little polka dots of red on the white porcelain rim and Mark gagged twice.
As suddenly as the nightmare had flooded his toilet it drained away with a gurgle. With a wad of toilet paper he wiped away the red dots and flushed it down with crossed fingers. After straightening the rug, he vigorously washed his hands.
“Oh my God,” he said aloud, and physically shook off a shiver that ran from head to toe. He went back and stared into his toilet bowl. Everything looked normal, no blood or gore.
Back in the bedroom, the spilled stack of coins on the dresser caught Mark’s eye. That had happened. There had been an argument going on in Haley’s apartment. Something or someone did bang against the wall, hard enough to knock over some pocket change.
He thought about banging on his neighbor’s door and demand to talk to Haley, but it was after 4:00 in the morning and there was no law against shouting matches. What was he going to say, “You guys were really getting into it about two hours ago. Blood backed up into my toilet, lots of blood.” How could he prove it?
He walked back into the bathroom. The toilet was clean and he gave it another flush. It drained and refilled like normal. There was no hint of blood or evidence of clogging, no proof or indication that anything out of the ordinary had ever taken place.
Mark dropped back onto the bed and didn’t even bother to slide beneath the covers. He gave his face a rough quick massage with both hands and let out an extended sigh. Exhaustion soon won out and he drifted into an uneasy sleep.
When he woke the sun was slanting through the windows from a higher angle than usual. He had slept through much of the morning and there was a persistent banging. Someone was knocking on the door.
“Coming! Coming!” he called. Mark opened the door to two suited and serious looking men both holding out identification.
“Mr. Winstead?” asked the older of the two and Mark nodded his head in reply. “I’m Detective Harper and this is Detective Briarton. There was a disturbance next door and we’d like to ask a few question. Mind if we step in?”
Mark stepped to the side, “No, please. Anything I can do to help.” He led them into the family room and shifted a bunch of junk from the sofa to the floor. “Make yourselves comfortable.” The one named Harper sat down and nodded to his partner.
“Actually, Mr. Winstead,” said Briarton who remained standing, “we were hoping that I could take a quick look around while you chat with Detective Harper. Nothing in depth, mind you. Just, you know, take a peek in each room. I don’t need to look inside any drawers or anything. But it’s up to you. We don’t have a search warrant at this point.” The man smiled with arched eyebrows waiting for either approval or obstruction.
“Uh…” Mark shook his head. “I don’t know…” An edge of irritation had crept into his voice and he gave a little sigh. “Am I…? Let me get this straight, am I under some kind of suspicion?”
“We don’t have any suspects at this point,” said the older detective. “We’re simply trying to figure out what we have here. We don’t even know if there is a crime yet. Did you hear anything last night, Mr. Winstead?”
“Please call me Mark, and yes, feel free to take a look around.” He rubbed his face and turned back to Harper as Briarton left the room. “Yeah, I heard an argument. A pretty heavy one, things getting broken and stuff.”
“And what time was this?”
“I don’t know around 2 AM. Maybe a little later, like 2:20-someth—”
“Boss!” Briarton interrupted with a call from the other room, “You need to come see this.”
Mark and Harper exchanged a look and suddenly panic inflated across Mark’s chest as he stood abruptly. Detective Harper got up from the couch slowly with a side glance at Mark and he stepped from the room towards Briarton’s voice. Mark followed him down the hall to the bathroom where the toilet was brimming red and the white throw rug was soaking up more blood.
“Mr. Winsted, I’m arresting you on suspicion of murder. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…” From behind the officer someone began knocking on the door.
He jolted awake and shook away the remnants of his nightmare. The sun was slanting through the windows from a higher angle than usual. He had slept through much of the morning and there was a persistent banging. Someone actually was knocking on the door.
“Coming! Coming!” he called. Mark opened the door to find Haley with a swollen, blackened eye and a few bruises. She carried a plate of cookies.
“Sorry about all the racket last night.” she gave a shy smile and despite the battering she was still a very attractive girl. “A peace offering.” She held the plate out to him. “They’re still warm. I just finished them.” She looked at her feet and then back up at him, “A peace offering and a bribe, actually. I was wondering if you could help me take some trash bags down to the dumpster?” She stared at him waiting for an answer. “Hello?”
“Uh, sorry. Thanks for the cookies. Are you okay?” Mark pointed to his eye indicating her shiner.
“Oh yeah. I”ll be fine. The asshole’s gone. He won’t be back.”
“Come on in,” said Mark standing aside. “A cup of coffee, some fresh baked cookies?”
“No. Thanks all the same. Like I said I was hoping you might help me shift some bags of trash. I couldn’t sleep after Gary left. So I did some major spring cleaning. I used some of those contractor bags and I guess I over filled them. They weigh a ton. If it’s not convenient, I can ask the guy in 403.” She smiled at him again and took a step in towards him.
“No, no. I’ll help you.” He set the plate of cookies down and followed her next door.
Just inside the door were four large heavy duty contractor-style black plastic bags tied and duct taped closed. Mark grabbed two and shouldered the first one. It was clear that he wasn’t going to be able to carry more than one. “Good God, what’s in here?”
“Make up and shoes,” Haley joked. “Half my life really. The disposable half. My lease is up next month so I’m starting to clear shit out. I’m getting rid of all the useless stuff.”
The two of them made it down the service elevator with a bag each to the dumpster in the back and hefted them in and went back for the rest. As Mark was lifting the last bag it snagged on a rusty flange and tore a hole. A thin thread of thick, sticky red liquid drooled from the hole onto the blacktop and splashed a little onto his white running shoes—three drops in the shape of Mickey Mouse. “What the f—?” he said as the bag tipped into the dumpster.
She was on him in a flash and her hand shot to his crotch. “Keep you mouth shut and I can make you a very happy man,” Her hand cupped his balls and she gave them a bit of a caress. He could feel himself growing hard. “Turn against me and you’re balls will be hanging from my rear view mirror.” and she gave them a hard squeeze. “Understand?”
Unable to speak he nodded his head with tears springing to his eyes and she let go. Then she stepped up to him and pressed herself against him and said, “Now how about some cookies…and maybe a little cream to go with them?” The bulge grew in Mark’s pants and the blood thrummed in his ears like a drum.
Mark jolted awake and shook away the remnants of his nightmare. The sun was slanting through the windows from a higher angle than usual. He had slept through much of the morning and there was a persistent banging. Someone was knocking on the door.
“Coming! Coming!” he called…