Alas, Poor King George III

Photo via Flash Prompt


Fifty years after its initial run, HAMILTON was still going strong.

Of course, they’d made some minor changes to keep things fresh and appeal to the Post-Apocalyptical generation.

Still, having one of the Previously Living (‘undead’ wasn’t PC) playing King George III had been an inspired choice.

Critics even said his performance of “You’ll Be Back,” rivaled that of Jonathan Groff.

Checking the Locks

Eagle Cane via Flash PromptTap. Tap. Tap.

Every night, at precisely twelve minutes past ten, the rhythmic tapping begins.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

It starts at the back of the house, at the kitchen door. Three taps, then a pause. Sometimes the doorknob rattles slightly, but most nights it’s only the tapping we hear. The quiet lasts for the space of four deep breaths, and then it continues down the hall to the French doors in the living room.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

These doors don’t have the kind of locks that rattle, but if we’re sitting in the living room, just reading by the fire or maybe watching television (I admit, we watch far too much television) we sometimes feel a faint breeze, as if the seal between the two doors has been tested and found to be slightly lacking.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Five times we hear the sound, until it reaches the laundry room door –  the mud room, really, that leads to the garage. That pause is longer. We used to think it was because it was a double door, but one night when I was changing laundry loads so we’d have clean underwear the next morning, I thought I heard the tapping continuing across the garage floor. I even opened the door to look, but all I saw was our cars and piles of boxes that haven’t been opened since we moved into this house, five years ago.

Tap. Tap. Tap… Tap.

There’s always a pause when the noises approach the front door. I’m not sure why. My husband says it’s because the foyer of our house was remodeled about a decade before we bought it, and clearly Charles – that’s the name we’ve given to our tapping ghost – is a bit confused.

I see no reason to argue the point.

Tap, tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap Tap. Tap… Tap… Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

The sound recedes, as if someone’s ascending the stairs… and if we strain to listen we can hear it continue beyond the second floor, up the final five steps that lead to the attic.

And then they stop.

We’ve explored the attic, of course. There’s nothing up there except our Christmas decorations, the box that holds our plastic tree, and a few odds and ends we unpacked, but never found places for.

In any case, the tapping always ends at ten-thirty exactly.

We live with it for a year, then two, then ten.

At some point, it morphs from being a curiosity into an annoyance, and finally, it becomes one of those ‘house noises’ that you learn to ignore, like the refrigerator hum you only really notice when it’s absent because of a power outage or something.

Years later, we’re participating in the neighborhood garage sale, when a young man comes up to me carrying a black cane with an eagle for a handle. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he asks, “how much do you want for this?”

“Oh… I don’t know,” I begin.

My husband interrupts. “That’s not actually for sale,” he says gently. “It’s a family heirloom.”

We don’t tell him neither of us has ever seen the thing before.

The potential buyer is polite. He even ends up buying an antique metal milk can we bought at a flea market and never found a use for.

Later that night, at twelve past ten precisely, we hear it begin in the kitchen. Tap. Tap. Tap. And we look at each other and smile, because somehow we know it’s just Charles, checking the locks.

The New Age of Plastics

Fish via Flash PromptIt was inevitable, Dr. Lopez thought, that life would find a way. Humans were too late to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Oh, they’d managed, finally, to skim away all the floating crap – the bottles and the used bath toys and such – but the molecular plastic – the microscopic bits of polymers that formed the Pacific Cloud – they couldn’t do anything about that.

She scooped the transparent fish out of the water, expecting it to gasp in desperation, but it seemed completely tranquil, suspended between her hands as content as it had seemed in the tide pool where she’d found it.

Jelly-fish had more mass, even the thinnest, palest of them. And yet this creature managed to retain its structure.

She’d have to take it back to the lab to be certain, but she was pretty sure it was made of water, held together by a polymer membrane.

Gently, Ana transferred the fish into a container of water for the trip back to the mainland. She was excited – looking forward to being the first to claim ‘discovery’ of this being.

She was also trepidatious. With this fish’s existence, a new Age of Plastics had begun.

Wakanda the Great

Wakanda via Flash PromptThe difference between being a real seer and a convincing fake wasn’t that great, she thought. Opaque contact lenses, jewelry collected from sales at head shops and garage sales, and an exotic accent were the most important ingredients, but it was a confident stance that really sold it.

She would step into the street and block someone’s path, and then, holding her hand in front of her belly as if there were something tugging at her navel, she would address her selected target:

“I’m Wakanda, and I have a message for you from Beyond. Will you come with me and hear it?”

Drama school had really paid off, Wendy thought, as she led her newest client (expensive hat, no wedding ring) into her tiny, candle-lit storefront. And this was certainly more fun than waiting tables.

Unwanted Roses

Bloody Rose via Flash PromptWe stand there, both of us, staring at the too-small mound of fresh earth, and the stone that shows birth and death on the same day, in the same year.

“Dearest, it is growing dark; are you certain you wish to remain here?”

“Just a little longer,” I tell my husband. “Please?”

It wasn’t usual anymore, the burying of bodies, but I had insisted. “I want to bring him home. I want to bury him next to his grandfather.”

And so, even though we live in an age when the dead are cremated and the ashes mixed into the gardens, or, if you had the resources, consigned to the heart of a star, we put the body of our stillborn son in stasis and carted him half way across the quadrant for an old-fashioned funeral.

Our friends had returned to the spaceship that had brought us here, but we’d be staying on, in our jungle bungalow, on the privately-owned planet that was sometimes a retreat, sometimes a refuge, sometimes a vacation destination, and always – always –  the place we both considered home, even more than the silvery ship in orbit, where my husband worked.

I don’t know where the roses had come from. Obviously, someone had sent them, as you do. We’d received all kinds of flowers and cards. My uncle, the rock star, had even planted a grove of trees on one of the colony worlds where he was donating performances and music lessons – part of his image restructuring, I knew – but a nice gesture, even so.

I do know that the sharp thorns were the only thing I could feel, biting through the gloves my husband had insisted I wear, and drawing blood that is dripping steadily to the ground, sinking into the soil – a part of me, left with my child who will never grow up.

“Dearest, you are shivering and you are bleeding. Please allow me to escort you back inside.”

I turn to look into his face, etched with sorrow and grief that matches mine, and worry lines that are all his own. “I don’t want to – I’m not ready to leave him.”

“And we shall not leave him, beloved. We will only be inside, a few meters away. We will not leave him until you are ready.” His tone is gentle. Patient. Careful.

I answer with a nod. I allow my husband to pry the rose from my hand. He stares at it for a moment, my blood staining his skin, and then he drops it and leads me inside.

The rest of the bouquet is waiting there, on the counter, the card unopened. I wait to read it until after I’ve changed into an old t-shirt and sweatpants and allowed the thorn-picks in my hand to be treated.

My reaction to the words is immediate and violent. I sweep my hand across the counter knocking the vase to the floor. It shatters on the tile, water and broken glass spraying everywhere.

My husband shouts my name, filling the syllables with alarm and concern. “What is wrong?” he asks me, leading me away from the mess.

I hand him the card, see his expression change as he reads the simple message addressed solely to me. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Pigeon.” There is no signature, but it doesn’t matter, we both know who sent the flowers.

“I should have recognized that these were not sent from a close friend,” my husband says, taking the blame for my upset as his own. “You have never cared for roses.”


Sphere via Flash PromptShe stood there on the lower level of the ruins, staring at the sphere that had crashed  through from the floor above.

“So,” Joanie said, over her comm. “The good news is, we found the lower chamber.”

“And the bad news?” her supervisor’s voice crackled. The dust and the depth were interfering with the signal.

Joanie hesitated. “Well…”

“Report, Meyers. That’s an order.”

Joanie Meyers straightened her posture even though the comm was audio-only. “We’ve lost integrity of the site. The Titans were playing soccer with a cement sphere, and that’s what caused the cave-in.”

“I knew those boys were more trouble than they were worth. Still, growing up in that high gravity makes them invaluable as hired muscle.”

“There’s more.”

“More?” Even with the static, Joanie could hear the annoyed disbelief in her supervisor’s tone.

“Yes. The sphere they were using as a soccer ball? It’s… hovering. One might even say… suspended.”

There was silence for three seconds, then five, then seven. Just as the tenth second ticked by, the supervisor spoke again.

“Take pictures and video of everything. I’m sending in the Collection Team.”


The connection closed, Joanie turned her attention back to the floating sphere. She felt a strong desire to touch it, but she knew Protocol would have a fit if she did. Still, what harm could she do, one small-ish humanoid woman?

She stepped forward, picking her way through the fallen stone and other debris. It didn’t look particularly special. It was up awfully high above the floor though.

Maybe she should have been surprised when it came to meet her. Gingerly she placed a hand on the sphere Felt just like stone under her hand, but there was a jolt and then there was a voice inside her head. –Will you be my friend?–

“Yes,” she found herself answering.


When Collection arrived the following morning, Joanie was waiting near the sphere. Her eyes flashed a reflection of it that even she didn’t notice, and when the first member of the team approached her she smiled brightly. “I’m Joanie Meyers from Advance,” she said. “Will you be my friend?”

Truth and Power


Truth via Flash Prompt“Mommy, why is that man wearing a crown of lights?”

My little girl clutched at my hand as we watched the ritual unfold before us. Was she too young for this? But I answered her question: “He is the embodiment of Truth, that which illuminates us all.”

“Then, why is his face so dark?”

Oh, child. That you must learn such things. “Because, precious girl, Truth is often obscured – that means hidden – by other things.”

“You mean Lies?”

“Sometimes,” I answered. “But sometimes Truth hides in darkness because it’s too real, or too painful, or because we aren’t yet ready to see it.”


Power Touch via Flash PromptAt fourteen, the mirror mocked her, with her acne-prone skin and mousy brown hair. Every time she looked into it, her self-esteem plummeted through the linoleum-tiled floor, and through the carpeted living room floor a story below. She was certain she would never be pretty enough, tall enough, thin enough.

At forty-seven, the mirror no longer mocked her. Instead it told her the brutal truth: She had never become conventionally pretty, or thin, or tall.

She planted her bare feet on the cool tile floor and stared at her reflection with confidence.

Once, its touch had been lethal.

Now, there was power in the truth of a life lived on its own terms.

Forget Ophelia

Forget Ophelia via Flash PromptWe all know that rosemary is for remembrance. Ophelia made that bit of flower-lore beyond famous. Easy to do, what with the dramatic exit she made. Drowning? Really?

Okay, okay, there’s never been firm agreement on whether her death was murder or suicide or just an unhappy accident, but still, who doesn’t hear the name Hamlet and immediately think of Yorick’s skull or that poor, waterlogged crazy girl?

I, on the other hand, died in the prettiest way possible. No, not alcohol. Not pills either.


Oh, you call it tuberculosis these days, but when I was living, it was consumption.

Sure, consumption had some nasty symptoms. You become weak, and your body wastes away until your bones show and your eyes look sunken. And there’s a horrible, hacking cough.

But at the same time?

There’s a rosy glow to your pale cheeks, and while your skin becomes nearly translucent, it remains warm. Hot even. And your lips? Your lips end up being vampire-red up to the very end.

Or at least that’s how it was for me.

It took a while, that whole ‘dying gracefully’ thing. I had three different suitors bringing me flowers and sweets, things to keep me interested – to keep me alive.

But in the end, I never got beyond the occasional chaste kiss with the one boy I really loved.

So, Ophelia can keep her weeds and herbs.

The flower in my hands when I was buried – the flower I carry now to touch the foreheads of innocent lovers in their dreams, and wish them well – it’s the white carnation, the flower that symbolizes purity.

Notes: Special thanks to my friend Debra Smouse for the second layer of inspiration for this piece.

A Murder of Crows

Birdman via Flash Prompt“Psst! Your birds are showing!”

Ren looked around, searching for the source of the whisper and eventually meeting the gaze of an old woman bright eyes and blue-tinted gray hair. She was a jay, then. They were always pointing out the obvious.

“I know,” he said, trying not to be sullen and failing utterly.

“Don’t you think you should do something about it? The pure humans will drive you out of town if they see.”

“I know,” Ren said again, putting a bit of a growl in his throat. Well, he tried for a growl; it came out more like a croak, and he rolled his eyes in displeasure.

“Yes, that’s what they’ll do. They’ll drive you out, the humans will. Drive you out then go looking for more, and then we’ll all be at risk.”

I know,” Ren repeated a third time, letting his anger out. “Look, I’m trying. I know they’re visible, but I can’t… the spell doesn’t work.”

But the old woman was still chattering. Jays tended to do that. “All of us at risk, and then we’ll have to find a new planet, and this one’s so nice, with the plump worms and the tall trees and the skies with room to really fly, and then – what do you mean the spell doesn’t work?”

“I’ve grounded and centered and counted to ten – to fifty, even. I’ve done the incantation. I’ve drunk the calming tea, and no matter what I do, I cannot banish the thoughts of Unkindness for longer than a couple of minutes.”

“Unkindness? Unkindness?” The women tilted her head one way then another, peering at him from one bright eye at a time. “But, you’re not a Raven. You’re a Crow.”

All of Ren’s senses suddenly focused on the old woman. “I’m a what?”

“You’re a Crow. Banishing Unkindness doesn’t work for Crows. You have to banish – ”

“Murderous Thoughts,” he said with her. “I have to banish Murderous Thoughts. I… my mother was a Raven,” he spoke the last five words very quietly.

“I’m sure she was, dear. Happens all the time. She probably pushed you out of the nest much sooner than the rest of your clutchmates, didn’t she? She’d have to, if she knew.”

Ren nodded, his head bobbing in a birdlike way that he usually managed to hold in check. Humans were too perceptive. They might not be able to see his Birds most of the time, but they’d notice the body language that was just a bit… off.

The old woman – the Jay – had gone quiet and still. That was odd, Ren thought. Jays only in did that when they sensed danger.

He looked at her more closely. She was old, yes, but not so old that there wasn’t some plumpness left. And she wasn’t too big… and he could – oh, God – he could hear her rapid heartbeat threatening to burst through her body.

He was a Crow, she’d told him.

He couldn’t reintegrate his Birds with the Unkindness spell – that only worked on Ravens. Crows required… blood. Blood and death. They had to give in to their Murderous Thoughts in order to banish them.

Silently, Ren thanked the Jay, the old woman, before he lashed out.

Hours later, all that was left in the street were a few blue feathers, and a handbag full of birdseed.




No Angel

Swallowing Light via Flash PromptShe called him a god, and compared him to an angel.

He was no angel.

But he might have been a god once. Or maybe he would be a god later, in her future. Time ran in circles around him, and this wasn’t his first adventure in human form.

She knew, of course.

He got the feeling she could see right through him.

“What are you?”  She always asked the question in the middle of the night, after they’d shared physical pleasure. “Are you even real?”

“Didn’t what we did feel real?”

“Well,” she said. “There’s real and there’s real.”

“Is this real?” he asked, and tickled her. “Or this?” he asked and kissed her.

She giggled against his mouth.

He swallowed her laughter. Then he spit out her soul.

He was definitely no angel.

And he remembered now. He wasn’t a god.

He was the devil.