#VSS365 is a very popular hashtag on Twitter. VSS stands for Very Short Story and Twitterati post micro stories, based on a daily one word prompt. The best part of VSS is the brevity. Weaving a story or a compelling slice-of-life piece or a memorable glimpse in a 280 character limit is a feat.
There are times when you do not know what to write. Or there are times when you have plenty to say but the words just don’t flow. Prompts help to be the starting point for your writing. Usually I feel constricted by the prompts, whether they describe a situation or are presented as a phrase or a sentence. The picture prompts are better for me but the one word prompts along with the required brevity have worked best for me.
I posted many micro stories based on these prompts on Twitter. The hashtag is the prompt for that day. Here are a few of my favourite ones:
What do you think of when someone says Grass?
The word ‘Close’ evokes warmth, nostalgia or even claustrophobia?
Chefs are the glamorous versions of cooks. Or are they?
Cakes bring celebration. But are things what they seem?
Have you tried writing microstories based on a prompt? What kind of prompts work best for you?
I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa.
Anna crawled across the beige carpet to reach the banister and looked down at the boisterous party below. The hall was aglow with the candles that had been fitted into the wall holders for three days now. A band was playing, half hidden behind the curtains at one end of the hall. The flowers arranged in bunches added colour to the corners. The women glittered in their sequined clothes and the masks they wore for the Halloween party. The men glided about, nursing their drinks, flitting from group to group.
Anna put a hand on the side of her stomach and groaned. She did not want to make a sound but it would not matter. The music was loud and no one would want to look up the darkened staircase and the corridor beyond. She thought back to the beating and her stomach lurched again. Her hand had a large welt from the glass of the broken crystal vase. She had been cleaning the hall along with the other servants when she had turned around and knocked the vase off the pedestal.
Anna crept down the corridor and pushed open a door. The floor was a mess of gowns, dresses, scarves and trinkets. The girls had been in a hurry to get dressed. Anna ran her good hand through the clothes and picked a shimmery gown and mask. Tonight was the night she could finally run away.
This short story is part of #TellTaleThursday with Anshu and Priya.
I sat my sunglasses atop the coffee cup. It was flimsy, the paper cup and just like it, I felt my legs shake beneath the tiny table. Outside the sun was bright and the gleam off a parked car made me screw up my eyes.
And that was when I saw him. The same shuffling gait that was now accentuated as age caught up with him. He looked around the car park slowly, as if I would be waiting for him outside, and then started towards the entrance of the cafe. I watched him through the glass frontage, as he pushed open the creaky door, his face half hidden by the jacket he wore, inspite of the heat.
Suddenly, I wanted to be away from here. Agreeing to meet him after all these years had been foolish. Perhaps, I had been taken in by his silky smooth drawl on the phone that charmed me back then, but now, did I really want to spend more time with this… tramp?
Hastily, I picked up my sunglasses from the table and the coffee cup upturned. I ignored the spill and walked rapidly towards the door and out of it before he could recognise me and call me back. The door stuck as I pushed at it and I nearly collided with the man in a blue checked shirt and faded jeans. His hair was slicked back and in my hurry I saw something familiar in his eyes. But, no time before my ex recognised me and called me back.
My high heels skittered on the tarmac and I knew the man I had run into turned around to watch me. As I fumbled with the keys in my purse, he walked inside with a puzzled look.
“I am here to meet a young lady”, he drawled in a silky smooth voice to the man behind the counter.
This Flash Fiction is part of #MyFriendAlexa. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter.
You would be surprised to hear from me. No, you would be puzzled. You would look down to the unfamiliar name at the end of the letter, frown, search your memory and come up with nothing. Who is this from, you would wonder. But, your memory would fail you.
I first saw you in a crowd, that year of the extraordinarily hot summer, wearing blue, your coiffed hair losing strands in the heat. People around me whispered, pointing you out, for obviously, even then you were a head turner. I wondered why and pulled myself away to enter the rectangular, dark room, with the cobbled floor and took a seat next to the wall lined with little jars holding condiments, herbs, pickles.
The lady holding her pans and measuring spoons would appear at just the right time every day to teach us to put together simple ingredients to rustle up a gourmet meal. I was then struggling to master the craft, in fact trying any craft that would help me earn my livelihood and you, on the other hand, looked the pampered daughter of a rich scion.
I did not really want to talk to you, I was content to feel your presence. I thought of your soft flesh as I carved the juicy, soft mangoes to extract the pulp. The slow and precise slicing of vegetables made me aware of your long nails that flashed exotic colours every day. Your nails were sharper than my knives for they could tear apart hearts. I could see you in the milk vessels as the milk formed a thin layer of fat slowly on the surface accentuating the white colour. I smelt you in the fresh herbs that we tore with our hands, not daring to bring the blades near them.
I sat, listening to the teacher’s polite, cultured voice, imagining instead yours, talking to me, asking about me, my life in the dingy, one room with thin walls that could not mute the next door whisperings and the sound of scrambling mice.
The day, I was asked to come up to the cooking platform, I shook inside for even though I was getting good at the stirring and the cooking, the cold surface of the cooking stove made me think of you. For many minutes, I bent my head and concentrated on cooking the perfect sauce. When it was about to be done, I dared look up to steal a glance in your direction. I expected, feared, prayed for an admiring glance but you were busy talking… That felt like a rejection and I froze for long seconds till the sauce boiled over and the sizzle brought me back to what I was doing. Silently, I mopped up the mess, feeling like a failure.
Did you look at me then? Do you remember me now? Do you know that after that day, I stopped coming to the class? I redoubled my efforts at mastering the culinary skills in my one room house. I went on to have a successful career, yes, it would be successful in your eyes, it got me money and recognition. Sometimes, I felt empty but I considered I was making you proud.
I saw you the other day, no, saw your picture in the glossy that was on the shiny table at the dentist’s waiting room. Your eyes looked sad, the corners of your mouth downturned and you seemed to have spilled some wine down the front of your designer gown. People around seemed to be laughing at you, rather than with you. Does beauty fade so fast?
I had to write to you and tell you that I dream of you still. That I am here waiting to make the perfect meal, to feed your appetite.
I look out through the bars, clutching the orange candy in my palm. Every Iittle while, it slips out and I drop it nearly, for my hand is wet. The bars are hot to touch and the sun is in my eyes. I look back at the squeaking swings where the children crowd about. I look for Dana’s yellow frock. She is behind the snotty kid in the red shirt. Dana always pushes the children in the queue.
I shift the candy to my other hand and wipe it on my brown shorts. I have pockets but I hold it still.
There is the lady with the brown curls. The curls hang over her forehead. She looks through the bars too, from the other side and smile at me. She looks at the crowd of kids near the swings. Her head to one side and her hand on her cheek, she looks down. Her curls cover her face and her ring with the crystal, shines strong in the sun.
I hear a shout from behind and someone pulls me by my shirt. Abe is pulling at me roughly. “Don’t you look at her! Don’t talk to her! She is a witch.”
I lick my dry lips and turn away from the bars. I am sure she has heard him. I know that. I look back and she is still sitting on the bench across the flower beds, looking down, looking down.
I touch the bars of the park gate one last time and then pull them back again. The bars are hot.
I run behind Abe to where Dana is and hold her frock tight. She looks down at me in anger and then sees the candy in my hand. Dana pulls my cheeks and I hand it over to her. The candy with the wet cover. As if I had dropped it in a puddle and then fished it out. The way Dana and I do, sometimes, when there is rain and we put our coins in the paper boats to ride in.
I get on the swing and she pushes, hard, so that I grab the chains with my hands, glad that the candy is gone and my hand is not wet and I can hold on tight. I go up and up and then I look across the big green park and I see her, the pretty lady once again, not looking down but at us, at me, her eyes small against the sun and her smile little and hard.
Dana screams and a boy with long hair pushes her down in the dirt. No one pushes my swing any more and I want to hit that boy but the swing is still high and I cannot jump off. It slows down in a while and Dana is sitting in the dirt, her face has a dark brown blotch and tears down her cheeks . Dana has short black hair.
I look through the bars at the boy in the brown shorts, his hair wet with sweat and limp. He has eyes that glitter and he looks at me.
Whenever I come and sit on this bench next to my little Arnie, now deep in the earth and the daisies and the grasses growing over him, I see the boy playing in the park next to the cemetery. There are a bunch of kids there, yelling and shoving and fighting.
The children come on the weekends, towards the evening, when the sun is less fierce. I am always here, wanting to talk to Arnie, looking for him in that bunch of kids and my Arnie would have been taller than all of them. He never liked the swings but ran along all the paths.
The forest beyond the park looks dark and inviting. I often walk there, listening to the sounds of the jungle. There are birds that sing and there are birds that bring a message. From the long gone. I listen. But Arnie never talks.
Would he have liked to come here and play with them? With these children? Would he have liked my handing over the candies to little ones? Arnie would have shouted and snatched them from my hands first of all. That little boy always takes it from me so shyly. And then he holds it in his fist like treasure. Opens his hand every little while to look at it and sometimes giving it to another kid.
I like his hair. Like a wet mop. Not like Arnie’s brown mane. Shy and quiet with eyes full of understanding. Would he come to me if I called?
I see the children now, in a cluster around the swings. They yell so much that it makes me wince. But they could have been Arnie’s friends and perhaps Arnie could listen to them now, the noisy bunch. They are running and screaming and alive and Arnie was running in the street one last time as the blue car careened forward slow, slow and hit Arnie so slow. But he fell and bled and moaned. Is he moaning still, beneath the flowers and the warm, rather hot sun?
I get up from the bench. My long white dress gets stuck in the bushes. I pull at it impatiently. The children are fighting and someone is down on the ground, crying and the little child is up in the swing, looking down at the girl with anxious eyes.
I walk to the gate of the park and push it open. The bars are hot to touch in the fierce sun. It creaks on its hinges and the children look my way. Their faces form a perfect O, as they look in with rounded eyes and a frozen countenance. I mumble the spell under my breath as I walk towards them but I stumble and trip. The boy rushes forward to help me up, his eyes limpid pools of pity. But the spell breaks and the bunch runs back screaming in horror. I smile at the boy who hesitates and I hold out the candy.
The little boy scampered through the puddles left by the rain that came on him suddenly. The tin roof of his shack by the dirt track had holes that let in the rain water. The coarse orange blanket he shared with his brother was soaking wet. He would get curses and kicks when Buddy got home from working the shift. He pulled the blanket out to spread and dry in the sun, dragging it and making it muddy.
The sky looked grey and the little boy sat outside on the edge of a large jagged stone, half buried in the dirt track. Momma had once cut her face on that, when Pa had pushed her out in a drunken rage. She was gone before long and the boys took to looking for food in the bins.
The sun was out now and it got warm. The little boy scraped the mud stains out of the blanket and flicked away the water droplets.
Word Count : 162. This is my submission for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers Challenge, where we are given a photo prompt and approximately 100-175 words with which to build our stories. The challenge is open to everyone who would like to participate.
Clickety clack went the sound in all hours of the night. Granny’s house was near the rail tracks and the trains could be heard whooshing by, the tracks rattling, the screech of the wheels and the shrill whistle. The branches of the nearby trees rustled in the wind, disturbed by the passing train.
The children always hated the noise and put their fingers in their ears to block out the sound. Granny smiled because she had lived half her life there. The trains did not let her feel lonely, she said.
And now she gathered the children’s clothes and tied them in a dirty sheet to make a bundle that their father could carry. He was coming later that day to take his little ones across the tracks to the settlement where he had a small farm.
“Please come with us, Granny,” they tugged at her skirts. “I have someone to take care of,” she said placidly, as she plucked button daisies and held them in her sweating fists, hobbling slowly towards her husband’s grave.
Word Count : 175
Thank you to Louise Bunting with The Storyteller’s Abode for the prompt photo this week.
This is my submission for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers Challenge, where we are given a photo prompt and approximately 100-175 words with which to build our stories. The challenge is open to everyone who would like to participate.
In the day, the brook had murmured soothingly. It had been bright and sunny, the grass had smelt sweet and the glistening of the metallic bridge made them squint. The children had been quite content playing on the grassy bank while Kiara kept an eye on them. The warmth made her drowsy but she did not give in to sleep, listening placidly to the laughing and the high pitched squeals.
Now, in the gathering dark, the flashlights made the shadows look deep and eerie. There was silence except for the scramble of the rescue team’s shoes on the loose stones and the squelch of the wet mud. The lights shone on a little red sock caught in the bushes. Kiara screamed in her mind while she fought to catch her breath.
Rachel woke up with a start. The storm had gathered force and there was a lone window banging somewhere. The wind whooshed around the turrets and through the crevices in the ancient stone walls. The walls were crumbling in places and she could sometimes hear loose stones rattling down the sides of the huge castle. She could hear voices when she walked along the passages of the magnificent house. It was just such a night when she had first dreamt of her new house, this castle. Her wealthy suitor was surprised to have her hand so fast in marriage. So, here she was, a few months later, in the historic, rambling house with an army of servants at her beck and call. And now she had dreamt of a pool of blood.
She didn’t even flinch as she heard the blood curdling scream.
She shut her eyes against the sunlight filtering in from the closed curtains. The sound of the ball being bounced about in the tennis court brought on a pounding headache-the kind she was quite prone to now.
She looked at her son’s peaceful face as he snored gently, the carefree sleep of an eight year old. They had been at this for the past five days; having a party all night, walking the lawns, sighting the moon, listening to the waves crash on the boulders. And then sleeping away for the most part of the day.
Trying to shut out the memories of her husband, his father. Hearing his baritone above the sound of the ball. Of his scream as he jumped from the balcony. They had been asleep but she heard the final cry as he plunged seven stories to the concrete floor below.
“Mom”, he cried in his sleep, sobbing imperceptibly. “No, don’t push, Mom”.
Word Count: 158
Posted in response to the flash fiction challenge hosted by Priceless Joy- Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers . The photo prompt is used to write a short story of 100-150 words.