Every week, Fiction Writers Group hosts a flash fiction contest. Based on a photo prompt, the writers create a three-hundred-word flash fiction piece. Up to three of the most popular stories are posted here on our blog!
This week’s top stories are pasted below. If you would like to read new stories every week, remember to follow our blog by clicking the “follow” button at the bottom of this post. Enjoy!
Gary D Holdaway
While the Leopard Stalks
In a remote corner of the Vietnamese jungle, young Lau lowers himself cross-legged into a shallow creek. He resists the urge to squirm or to fight the feeling of wetness as it first claims his naked feet, engulfs his lower legs, and climbs the cloth of his robes up his lower back.
Thin rays of sunlight burst through the canopy of trees, dotting the clearing with leaf-shaped patches of golden heat. Lau accepts the tingling warmth to crawl across his head as sweat drips across his face and down his back.
He’s aware of the eyes on him as he places the silver bowl facedown in his lap. The amused, watchful eyes of Master Ling, the curious looks of the birds sitting upon their perches, and the calculated, hungry gaze of the leopards that stalk each distant shadow.
With a more shallow bowl Lau scoops up some water, raises it slowly to head-height, and begins to pour it down over the upturned bowl. Immediately thousands of cold beads splash from the top of the dome, catching light as they dance from it in all directions. Each icy, glittery, pinprick awakens the skin as they find his face, his chest, and his arms.
The silence is abolished by the pitched ringing of metal and the pitter-patter splashing of the beads returning to their source. Lau resists each urge to wince or pull back from the sensations. They are his to own, his to experience.
He repeats this over and over, contemplating life and appreciating all that comes with it. The beauty of sensation and sound, the blessings of taste and smell. He could be robbed any minute of his future, but was that ever his to begin with? Not a thing could lay hands on this present moment.
Not a thing.
“The magic isn’t in the water, you know,”
the stranger said, leaning in to whisper in Hank’s ear.
“Excuse me?” Hank said, sparing a look at the tall man in the Panama hat and devilish goatee before returning his attention to the young monk pouring the spring water over the bowl.
“The bowl is different after the ceremony; that much is proven. There have been analyses of the sound profile just before and after, and the harmonic range is day and night different.”
“I see,” Hank said. While the detail was rather interesting, he’d rather enjoy the solemnity of the ceremony than have it explained to him.
“But it’s just water,” the stranger went on. “They only perform the ritual at the source of this river because it makes the purest conduit. The magic comes from the monk. The water is just how he gets it into the bowl.”
Hank had had enough. “Listen, Mr…”
“Josephus Harnswaggle,” the man said, taking Hank’s hand in his own frigid hand and shaking it.
Hank lost everything he’d been about to say. “Really?”
“Most assuredly. Now, do you know the purpose of this ceremony?”
“I’m familiar with singing bowls. Now if you don’t—”
“Oh, these aren’t just singing bowls. They’re spirit bowls. Each is dedicated to the memory of a particular loved one. Playing it apparently brings memories of them to life. This one is mine.”
Applause broke out, and Hank returned his attention to the monk, afraid he’d missed something. The monk bowed. Apparently, the ceremony was over.
Oh well, perhaps he’d catch the next one, better informed.
“Who did you have it made for?” Hank asked, turning back to Mr. Harnswaggle.
Only, the man was nowhere to be seen.
“For you, Mrs. Harnswaggle,” the monk said, handing the bowl to an elderly woman.
His name is Niko. They told me that I was to be his companion and guardian, but that is a lie. My job is to watch him and report everything that happens. I am a spy.
The boy is a Prishka—a sacred person. I do not believe in such things, but they clearly do. They work hard not to show it, but there is something about him that frightens them.
So I watch and I tell them what I see. There is never anything interesting to report.
The boy squats at the edge of the water. The warm sunlight and sparkling water create a glow upon his innocent face. How could anyone be afraid of him? I could snap his bones like twigs.
He lifts a dish full of water and pours out a shimmering cascade. It thrums and splashes upon the inverted pot in his lap. The tone it makes is sweet and hypnotic. I feel a bit drowsy.
My mind wanders to my own childhood, splashing and playing at the edge of a river very much like this one with my little sister Lura. The light sparkles from the droplets in her hair like diamonds. She looks like a tiny princess.
Suddenly, I come back to the present and look at the boy. The water still dances on the pot and that sweet resonant sound still hangs in the air.
Then, I realize that he is no longer pouring the water. The dish lies beside him. He is holding his hand up and wiggling his fingers. The water dances on the pot like a marionette.
I shift my weight and a twig snaps. The water falls in a final splash. The boy glances in my direction and calmly grins.
Tonight I will have an interesting report.
We hope you enjoyed the stories our members wrote. If you would like to participate in the contest, join Fiction Writers Groupand search for the weekly #flashfictionsaturday tag. See you again next week!