Friday, 19 November 2010

Lily's Friday Prediction

The temperature has plummeted in the south of England, the daughter is sleepwalking and the cat is flailing around as though possessed. None of which bodes well.

Many congratulations to the winner of last week's Friday Prediction, Aidan Fritz with his beautiful yet cold myth of Scandinavian heartbreak. Also to Ally Humpage as runner-up with Uriel's Punishment.

My fingers are trembling over the book as I choose this week's words. They are:

  • Saddle
  • Cousin
  • Stagnant (I'll accept stagnate, verb)
Okayyyyy. These have a different feel to the last couple of weeks. Alons-y; let's see what y'all can do.


The rules are: 100 words max flash fiction or poetry using all of the words above. Please add your entries in the Comments box below. You have all week until 9pm UK time Thursday 25 November to enter.

Winner will be announced next Thursday or Friday. If you can, please tweet about your entry, using the #fridayflash hashtag, and blog if you feel like it.

Brrrr. Warm me up someone with your words...


  1. Have to say it feels as though I've set myself up here this week...

  2. I decided that there were two stories here. One bittersweet, the other a little homage to the sublime Clark Ashton Smith. . .

    - - -

    She was graceful, confident, beautiful. Everything I wasn't, that summer, my season of awkward. Her cousin introduced us at the stables, left me to stammer, fidget, finally look up to see her smiling.

    All that week we lived in the saddle. I was in love, naturally: with her, horses, summer. I even admitted to liking myself.

    Friday brought rain; we rode anyway. We were nearly home, rounding the pond. Lightning froze the world, she was thrown, a ragdoll, slipping into the stagnant water. They told me she'd broken her neck, hadn't drowned. I already knew. In that moment we'd both died.

    - - -

    Swamp-stench filled the old woman's hut, stagnant and foetid. She waited, ancient, cousin to the oaks outside. As low apprentice I was saddled with the most hated tasks. This was the worst.

    "Madame, my master sends greetings, and thanks."

    She spoke, dry leaves rustling. "And what does your master wish from me this time?"

    Quietly I relayed his dark request.

    "Oh, yes, this I can do. But the price is high."

    Swallowing hard, I shrugged off my robe, forced steadiness into my voice. "My master also bids me to pay the fee."

    - - -

  3. Oo what a set of words...I'm too tired at the moment to want to come up with anything, but I'll have a go at some point this week...

  4. Bill, I loved both of these in as different ways as they are differently tackled - and so well written.

    1. Bittersweet indeed. This tender coming-of-age story sees a young man burgeoning with first love. We are painfully aware of his shy, awkward nature and our heart goes out to him when he says "I even admitted to liking myself." Beautiful, sensitive and tragic.

    2. I confess I haven't read Smith but know of him. If your atmospheric and dark piece, which suggests deviant payment to the crone for her occult services is reminiscent of Smith than I shall most certainly seek him out.

  5. Hello! Just found your site and thought I'd give it a go...


    His life was stagnating, or so they all said. Even last week at his sister’s wedding he’d been taken aside.

    ‘Look mate, you’ve got to get back in the saddle; forget her,’ his cousin had said around mouthfuls of cake.

    And so he’d staggered home, flicked on his laptop and bought one of those cheap last minute deals.

    Three days later he’s sitting in a hospital in Riga, holding a bandage to his head and wishing he’d been more alert at the ATM.

    That’s when she walks in. Tall, blonde, her blue eyes twinkle when he looks up, smiling.

  6. Hi there Susan. Welcome in!

    I like the quick delivery of Back In The Saddle; it tells the whole story in those 99 words. A cool twist in tense brings us to the present, and offers up a happy ending (rare on here!)

    Took a quick shufty at your blog. Great writing!

  7. Susan, quite the ride there. Perhaps a knock to the head is what he needed?

    Lily, thanks again for the kind words. The inspiration from Smith was a story I first read 20-plus years ago, it has never left me: The Mother of Toads. His works can be hard to find in print, but I found that story online:

    One other observation. I tried, with both stories, to make sure that I left no references to the narrator's gender. You gravitated to thinking that one, perhaps both, were male. I wonder why that is?

  8. Bill - #1 - loved the simple reality you give us here, makes it so easy to see ourselves in the same position, and makes the tragedy all the more moving

    #2 - I love stories like this - a devil's deal and a relative innocent caught in between - gripping stuff!

    Susan - Nice take! Poor bugger. Glad you gave him a silver lining!

  9. Bill: #1 for me, who wouldn't want to die in the saddle.

    Susan: Always, always, lookout for leggy blonds, trouble follows.

  10. Shortcut

    "Got anything?" asked Milton, fumbling with his umbrella. The warm, stinking drizzle was making the stagnant muck in Henrichs back lot even more unpleasant.

    "No," replied Blackwood, "We've only the cousin's word that she was coming here."

    "What would a teenager be doing out here alone?" asked Milton.

    Blackwood gestured at the trees, "It's a shortcut," he said,"Her boyfriend lives on the road just through there."

    "You've got..." Milton started.

    "Got the boyfriend in questioning, yes."

    A uniform waded out of the trees carrying a brown saddle shoe in an evidence bag.

    "You think?" asked Milton.




  11. "I 'spose you want to wear spurs too and get a saddle for me?"

    "Don't make me out to be a perv'. Our time in the rack is just so stagnant lately. I like doing it horsey style..with me crop and gloves"

    "There is something just way not right about this, I'm getting cold feet."

    "Why? It's not like we're brother and sister, we're just cousins.""

  12. Michael- nice n' unapologetic, and the "me crop and gloves" takes this out of the simple "redneck" stereotype. A true "through the keyhole" tale.

  13. Bill, interesting question. Yes, I did perceive both protagonists as male - perhaps I considered the the first to be a regular love story and the second as an historical piece where girls wouldn't have been given the opportunity to follow an apprenticeship. Rereading them with female protagonists makes for very different perspectives. More powerful even. Thanks for the dilemma.

  14. Chris, I wasn't sure who the Milton and Blackwood characters were until the mention of the boyfriend in questioning. I like that uncertainty. The end quickly made for a chilling tale of noir. Very, very good.

    Michael; hur hur. Yupsie, them cousins is OK. Whip crack-a-way!

  15. Voici la mienne:

    Scratching the Itch

    Imogen rubbed the well-worn saddle with myrtle and rosehip juice. It would permeate her cousin’s crotch to make it itch like hell once she took up the ride, soaking through damp jodhpurs into her stagnant knickers. The stain would spread - mimicking stale, errant blood for everyone to see.

    She thought of Harley’s promise, how they’d laughed together at the deceit.

    “Silly bitch,” he’d said. “How can she think she’ll win when she’s up against the likes of me?”

    Later, getting filthy in the yellow hay of Imogen’s empty horse-box, they missed the hiss as the brakes released.

  16. I want to try it =)

    Stronger men have come this way, have fought their way through our cursed land. This one came in nightfalls, riding like the devil, glued to his saddle. He met my cousin just outside the village. What made him stop I can´t say, but he had her on the ground, had his way with her like all them other riding men passing through, taking what isn´t theirs to take.

    My rage went through stagnant lowliness, like a cleansing sword.

    My cousin used his knife to kill herself, but it´s not her heart I´m holding. At least this one won´t ride again.

  17. Mmmnn, asuqi - interesting...

    Excellent prose with a distinct, dismissive voice. I enjoyed the stark, matter-of-fact delivery peppered with emotional description as the suicidal victim dies in parallel with the murderer.

    Welcome in.

  18. Lily - stagnant knickers? What an image! I love the voice of this, and the carefree cruelty of the main character. Seeing karma pay the comeuppance was a nice touch.

    Asuqi - I agree with Lily, this has a powerful stark energy. The character is totally unrepentant and is all the more fascinating as a result. Nicely done.

  19. Sorry previous post deleted due to continuity error.

    Cousins of the Saddle

    Blaine and me had been riding the prairie for five days now, that made us cousins of the saddle in my book. Into our second day the conversation had become stagnant, and we travelled on in unsettled silence, picking our way across the plain.

    We headed down into Fort Dakota; where Blaine dismounted his horse and spoke to the sheriff, “We were ambushed by Sioux Three days ago, I brought him back for Christian burial” he intoned. I saw my body lain across his horse and knew that I would wander the prairie alone for eternity.

  20. I cried, "Sweet Jesus", when the stagecoach tore the stagnant mirage haunting my desert. Hooves strained through the grains as the black horses approached. My lips split in hope.

    I retreated from the horse's salt-stained neck. Burlap covered the eyes in contrast with the silver-studded saddle. An ebony door exposed a crack of darkness.

    A bone hand clasped the door. "Cousin, your ride beckons." Vermillion buttons studded his mandarin suit.

    Shadows swarmed within the coach's caverns. Worms twined in his eyes. I screamed. Sand slid beneath my blistered feet as I fled. Flesh burned away while the carriage's doors neared.

  21. Bill - #1 is chilling, particularly the image of the rag doll and the ending line. Liked "even admitted to liking myself". #2 is an interesting peek into this world. (BTW, I envisioned #1 male; #2 female)

    Susan - I like the details worked into this brief but full story which makes it feel richer than its few words.

    Chris - Wow, a lot is left to be said in between the cracks of the dialogue in this piece. It works to create a vivid feel.

    Michael - Nice phrasing of the piece. Like the cadences you achieve.

    Lily - love the details in the opening (myrtle, rosehip, jodhpurs, knickers) and laughed at the prank. Interesting twist.

    Asuqi - I like the phrasing that it isn't her heart. You've created a world that feels deep as if lots more lies under the surface.

    William - Interesting. I like the narrator's voice, and the ending makes me rethink the beginning calling into question the earlier conversations... or rather brings out Blaine's grief.

  22. William, a bleak and ghostly edge to Cousins of The Saddle. I was drawn in before even we realised the narrator was dead. I really like the simple statement "...that made us cousins of the saddle in my book." Very interesting, and an intriguing write.

  23. Aidan, phew! This is so exciting. Your use of description is excellent; dripping with colour and atmosphere. I particularly loved the poetry of "Hooves strained through the grains ..." and the sartorial observation of "Vermillion buttons studded his mandarin suit."

    As is so often the case with your writing - I want to read the entire novel. Fantastic. Loved it.

  24. impossible to compete, brilliant stories here from all of you. As I said in my comment under the report of Lily's winning story, I have once again tapped into some very dark vein in my mind, not sure whether to be pleased or bothered ... I am about to go out for coffee but this snippet came, full blown, before I could leave the keyboard.

    Cousin Joey was well dead when we stuck him on the rocking horse. Plenty of glue for the saddle held him there and I have to say, he looked rather good, the drooping flesh slowly dissolving over leather chaps and worn out jeans. We left the top bare, you see, the better to watch as the bones came through.
    This was an experiment, you understand, a pure scientific experiment. I could not allow my mind to stagnate any further, I needed stimulus and this provided it – for half a day anyway.
    There’s just so long you can watch flesh melting.

  25. Antonia, welcome to my world :) I adore this nasty and visceral horror story. Punchy, very-well written and a great read.

  26. Antonia - for some reason this makes me think of the McDonald's hamburger rotting experiments; except darker and more twisted. Nice details, I like the drooping flesh, chaps, and glue.

  27. Hey, Lily. Busy with stuff at the moment so here's a pretty crappy rush job.


    Joey’s cousin, Brian, sat in the mud bath, an almost toxic smell invading his nostrils.

    “Deep breaths, Mr Baker. Let the whole experience into your body,” they’d told him once he was in the bath.

    What they didn’t tell him was that the microscopic parasites that lived in the stagnant mud would be slowly eating their way into his pores.

    The saddle bags that hung from his chest, where firm muscle had once been, were the first to be infiltrated. Thousands of the tiny creatures entered his body without him knowing. Soon he would at one with the mud.

  28. You know what David? I wish I hadn't read that while I was eating my fish cakes.

    Seriously though, a sensorial and gruesome piece. I loved "...saddle bags that hung from his chest, where firm muscle had once been." I can visualise the flabby wasted flesh. Not crappy at all - I beg to differ.

  29. Catching up on a great week of stories. . .

    Chris – your setup is just right to build the scene, then: bam, it hits you right in the face. Not pulling any punches, eh?

    Michael – horsey style? Oh boy (or girl). Nice progression from titillation to ewwww.

    Lily – once again, reminding us that we must never do anything to make you angry. And I can just hear the sound of the big truck starting to roll slowly downhill.

    asuqi – welcome aboard, and a fine way to start. Great picture of a nasty, hopeless place, and someone pushed to their limit.

    William – Great setup and twist, but most of all I love the thought that Blaine had been talking to the corpse of his friend for a day before drifting into silence for the rest of the ride. I think that could be a much longer story.

    AidanF – for some reason this makes me think of the weird-tales type comic books that I used to read as a kid. Your description built up a complete storyboard for me; I can picture the lurching stagecoach, the door yawning open. . . if only I could draw ;)

    Antonia – Oh, my. Nasty indeed – and just right for the Feardom, I think.

    David – 'let the whole experience into your body' sounds like a perfect marketing slogan, and makes the revelation of its true intent just that much more horrid.

  30. Results and this week's challenge may not be posted until mid-Friday UK time this week due to other writing commitments, I'm afraid.

    Hope you don't mind waiting?

  31. William and Aidan - this feels like two sides of the same coin - being two brilliant western ghost stories. Wonderfully distinct voices and tones. William, you've got the cool, startling reveal, and Aidan, we swim in your details until the waterline gets too high to stay afloat any longer.

    Antonia and David (wonderful how these four stories, at least to me, have paired like a couple of Geminis) I love the visceral, body- robbing indignity of the details you've used.

    Antonia - I say this with a smile and a wink - that's just gross. :) Well done.

    David - not "sucky" at all. It's actually reminiscent of something from a Cronenberg movie (a service offered at the flats in "Shivers" maybe?)

  32. Almost forgot about this, been extremely busy this week. Anyway here we go...


    The sound of time tickled the stagnant silence and wrested the fear from his frozen expression. A droplet glistened beneath the winter sun and dribbled down Abner’s unshaven face. It looked more like a tear than a globule of sweat.

    The shadow standing over him blocked out the haze, yet cradled within his tormentor’s face he saw a churlish demon, burnished with unspeakable malevolence.

    The German officer’s eyes were blackened pearls; gleamless, empty.

    Betrayed by his cousin, Abner faced the officer’s gun. His knees grew cold. He waited for his mind to implode, to saddle him with instant death.


  33. Bit late and a bit naff, but an effort, and a continuation from last week's entry, too.


    Silver snowflakes drifted, settled gently to the ground; I felt the soft crunching of the snow underfoot, my horse’s hooves treading carefully as he dared.

    I glanced into the distance, could vaguely see the castle’s outline. That was my target. That bastard cousin of mine was going to pay.

    I came to a halt, gestured to the hooded fairies behind me.

    I settled myself into the saddle, gripped the reigns of the horse, tight.

    As a chorus, we began our assault on Dionysus’s castle.

    Only death ran through my heart as we stormed through stagnant water. Revenge was mine.

  34. Well done for squeezing in there AJ and Pixie. I am in judging mode at the mo, but will return in retrospect with comments, as will others I'm sure.

  35. AJ - I'm very glad you were able to find time to enter. Abner is a stark and tragic telling of war-time survival at the expense of family. A vivid and harrowing depiction of betrayal.

    Pixie - you got there with three minutes to spare, and I'm so pleased you did. Your dark fairy tales really are developing a terrifying landscape of their own. Assault and Attack goes all the way...

  36. Hi all,

    Have to say I'm in humbled awe at everyone's pieces.

    Alan You have got two really strong stories
    Susan Completeness in 100 words
    Michael Nice bit of Saucey dialogue
    Lily I love the revenge
    Asqui A Powerful story I love your phrase "like a cleansing sword"
    AidanHope of rescue from eternal hell, dashed by hell its self coming to claim the protagonist. The word Burlap has been has been in my head all week
    Antonia I was hooked and fascinated
    David Not crappy at all, I'm put off SPA treatments for life now.
    AJ You painted a perfect picture of torment that took me back to when I visited Auswitz.
    Pixie I love the confident way the protagnist knows she/he will be victorious


Lily Childs is a writer of horror, esoteric, mystery and chilling fiction.

If you see her dancing outside in a thunder storm - don't try to bring her in. She's safe.