Friday, 14 January 2011

Lily's Friday Prediction

And here we are again, back in the land of the living (dead) and ready for the new Friday Prediction.

Thanks go to Asuqi for judging last week's challenge. Pixie J. King's The Tree House was a worthy winner with Aidan F and AJ Humpage as very close runners-up with Kelb-el-Khela and Driftwood.

Back to business then, and the magical three words are:

  • Tunnel
  • Horse
  • Judge


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 on Thursday 20 January 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.

Do excuse me while I fly away to save the world...


  1. The Horse Thief

    The horse-thief gazed into the dark tunnels of the judge's eyes. His was a hanging offense. With a wife in labor with a breech birth, and a flustered midwife, his need of a doctor was immediate. This was immaterial.

    He had been caught straightaway. His wife and baby died.

    He would get no clemency from this man, nor did he desire it. He had failed.

    As the noose tightened around his windpipe and his feet spasmodically jerked under him, he could almost see her at the edge of the crowd… waiting for him to join her.

  2. Oh, I don't think I'm going to get time to take part this week but I had to at least find out what the words are and now that they're turning over in my head...(all I can think of is 'horse caught sideways in tunnel, you be the judge.')

    It's turning into a bit of an addiction these fun wee weekly challenges. Lily, I blame you- but in a good way! ;0)

    Mimi - Well done & first to the post too! I like how you used tunnels to describe his eyes. But what a harsh fate. A sad tale but I like the resigned, almost wistful, tone.

  3. Such a tragedy Mimi and a very bleak atmosphere. What man wouldn't steal a horse to fetch the doctor or midwife? I'm glad his wife was waiting for him as he dropped.

  4. Susan - not take part? But the words, surely, you can't let them go; they're in your head - teasing you, wrapping themselves round your synapses with feathery tendrils saying "Write me".


  5. Mimi, that was fast work and brilliantly written, too!
    See what I mean about setting high standards for the rest of us ...

  6. Trojan Horse

    The boor, Odysseus, rambles about his horse. Cassandra wears Sinon's skin reminding herself that myths are fluid. Only the soothsayer judges them all: past, future, and morphable oral lore.

    All but thirty retreat. Cassandra pricks a finger on the wooden contraption, losing a drop of her blood and more as Laocoön succumbs to Poseidon's serpents. She has limits.

    Odysseus places a hand on the nose. "The wood is warm."

    Cassandra speaks with Sinon's voice. "The sun, my hero."

    He enters the beast's tunnel, maw capturing his cries so only Cassandra hears. She looses the beast on the hidden Greek ships.

  7. Mimi - love the depth you've added to a "simple" horse thief tale. Heartbreaking. Now, I'll have to come up with a second go! My own "western" pales in comparison.

    Aidan - stunning description as always. I can taste the mythology - it's Greek-a-licious.

    My own take...

    Daltry's Hideout

    "You didn't have to come out here with us, Judge," said Jake.

    "The hell I didn't, Sheriff." muttered Judge Stephens, "After what he did to them folks in Walton, I aim to see Daltry brought down myself - today.

    Dawn painted the hillside a murderous red; the abandoned mine was a lightless socket, promising midnight within. As the posse approached, their horses jigged and whinnied, trying to turn back.

    From the tunnel, there came an unearthly, echoing giggle, then a man screaming, "No! Please!

    Jake pulled his revolver, the others followed suit. Stephens dismounted, shotgun in hand.

    "Today" he repeated.

  8. And #2

    Getting out

    Horse checked his watch - he judged that shift change would take at least ten more minutes, after that, the cells would swing open for breakfast. It was time to go. He signalled the others.

    Stitches hopped down and pulled the bunk away from the wall. Johnny pried off the fake tile, and their tunnel was exposed.

    While they busied themselves placing the decoys, Horse quietly took out his spoon-handled shank.

    Smitty in D-block would vouch he'd rushed down to breakfast. And by the time the guards sorted out the mess in here, Horse would be long gone.

  9. Mimi: I like the tension of breech birth and flustered midwife. I feel for this man and want to fight his resignedness.

    Chris: Daltry's Hideout, for some reason I think there's something worse in that mine than the lawmen's guns. I like the way the horses have more sense. Nice creepy image with socket. Getting out, I like the way you used the names; and intriguing voice.

    Susan, your snippet makes me think of Princess Di for some reason.

  10. Chris: westerns like they were never written...
    good one. Getting out, like it, nasties aplenty.

    I wasn't going to write mine yet. Seems others had other ideas ...
    Jiggety’s Fate

    A tunnel’s a tunnel, right? You go in one end and you come out t’other.
    That damn fool horse Jiggety went in the tunnel, so it did. It never came out, so it didn’t. Now I’m not good when it comes to thinking; don’t you judge me on what I did next, will ya?
    I went in the tunnel. Without a light.
    And I tripped and slid on something slick, slimy and stinking. I puked and got the hell out of there.
    Thing is, what I saw on my boots made me glad I took no light with me.

  11. Death Wants a Moment's Peace

    Death tunneled its way into the sand, sighing deep for rest from judgment.

    Moira on her horse traveled the loneliest beach on earth, reins loose in her hand. She whistled once.

    “Go away,” Death said, and clapped a bony hand over its foolish mouth.

    “Can’t,” she replied. “The Gates are all backed up. The Devil and the saints are playing cards, waitin’ on you.”

    “Not my problem.”

    The horse pawed at the sand until Death was forced to arise, grains trickling through its robe and skeleton.

    “Fine. But your turn is coming, missy.”

    “I know,” she said, and she did.


    A/N: Moira is sometimes a Fate. Dependin'.

  12. mimi - a novel in just a few sentences! You can sense your “hero’s” resignation (or welcome?) of the noose. Powerful stuff!

    Aidan – not familiar with much mythology, but your poetic words are seducing me to seek out these ancient tales and enjoy them!!

    Chris - #1 Forgot how much I love a good western – baddies getting their come-uppance!

    Chris - #2 ah…a ‘Green Mile’ moment! Very atmospheric – would like to see more, please!

    Antonia – Succint and to the point – what you don’t see is more often than not scarier than you imagine!

    R.S. – even Death wants a break! Nice concept – will you expand this story for us, sometime?

    Here you go with my offering for this week - smack on 100 words (and boy, was it hard whittling it down from 130!!!!)

    Close Shave

    “Tunnel vision, that’s what you need in this game. It’s a two-horse race – life or death. Take my advice: back life; cut and run - live to fight another day.”

    I cleaned the soap off the razor as Carlzini continued.

    “Believe me,” he said, his eyes closed; “Judge the situation; weigh the odds.”

    Rigo, his bodyguard, raised his hat as he left.

    I nodded my assent and lifted the knife again.

    Yes, I thought, cut and run. I watched the tremulous shudder as the knife sliced cleanly through the jugular artery and knew I’d backed the right horse this time.

  13. Aidan - fabulously evocative glimpse into the (apparent) myth of the Trojan Horse. Loved "morphable oral lore". Great writing.

    I really like Daltry's Hideout, Chris. "Dawn painted the hillside a murderous red" - superb description. And justice - what more could we want.

    And Getting Out did it for me too. Gritty noir that leaves me wanting to know what happens next.

    Ooh Antonia, apart from a most excellent title, I really like the delivery and SO want to know what he saw on his boots. Great narrative.

    Ms Rebecca Bohn - you tickle my bone marrow with Death Wants a Moment's Peace. You perfectly purvey Death's exhaustion and Moira's constant barrage. Just brilliant.

    Sue, mmmn - nice. Very clever use of the two-horse race. This vignette needs to be expanded - your barber is a truly enigmatic character.

  14. Here's one - might have another. This upset me.


    Billy’s choking Horse; foil raised – poking it before the snort. Fucking idiot. I watch him drown as it hits; see his eyes slam to pinpoints before they roll to the sky and he falls into his own shit-smeared tunnel.

    Who am I to judge? Toothless, puckered mouth and pocked face; Society’s reject. The can in my hand is the state of the man. I turn over, bones screaming. Tonight’s cardboard bed is already damp; me – I’m weary before I even dare sleep. I curl up, sixty-three yet baby thumb in mouth, and pray it won’t rain until morning.

  15. Powerful, Lily, and very sad. I wonder on how many dimly lit streets this scenario will be played out tonight....

  16. Mimi--the voice in this is consistent and perfect in tone. I think the Old West has a hold of you; don't even think of tryin' to escape. :) This one will be hard to beat this week, methinks.

    Aidan--I'm a huge fan of mythology, and I love this. You've got the language and feel down perfect, and this line: Cassandra wears Sinon's skin reminding herself that myths are fluid.: Love it. Great piece.

    Chris--These are both great, but I do love a prison escape tale! Now you've got me wondering if they make it, and what happens next for Horse. Sounds like he's got leadership ability and he's fucking tough. Interesting character...

    Antonia--It's the voice that makes this so special. I'm admirin' this one up and down. And without describing him, I've got a great picture in my head of your narrator. Well done.

    Sue--Of course I don't know what those other 30 words were, but I gotta say that this is probably perfect as it is. Not a word wasted, and you portrayed Carlzini excellently with just a few lines of dialogue.

    Lily--Fucking hell. Fucking hell. I can see why this one upset you; it upset me to read it. They talk about truth in writing, gettin' to the truth and all that. I don't know how many stories are out there about homeless folk and people addicted to drugs, but this one doesn't stray from the absolute truth, and it's hurtful and sad. The details are just heartwrenching.

    Good reads, y'all. Looking forward to some others joining the fray.

  17. Lily, wherever that came from, it was deep. As if you opened up for that moment and channelled the final scenes from an addict's life. No wonder it upset you. I get the feeling it HAD to be written.
    RS: gorgeous imagery here!
    Sue, jealous, that I am, perfection in 100 words!

  18. Thanks Sue, Rebecca, Antonia.

    Don't worry - I've never had a predilection for substances but I used to work somewhere in the 1980s where I dealt with people on a daily basis who did. It is so sad, and such a waste of life. I saw some horrendous things and am near-phobic about it, and still scared of what it does to people.

    Occasionally I see one of them, still on the streets, still alive - and it takes me back. And then I have to tell myself not to dream about it when I go to bed. So yes, Antonia Pavement came from deep within my trauma cage.

  19. Tardiness is my name at the moment. I'll be back to comment on others and with another one I suspect. Here's my first effort. It comes in ata 51 words. How lazy am I?

    The Voice

    Judge me as you will. I see things, things that others cannot.

    The car hurtling towards them: the drunken driver asleep behind the wheel.

    The train entering the tunnel: only never emerging from the other end, the explosion devastating.

    That rocking horse you’ve bought your daughter…well, your tears will never stop.


  20. David, 51 words as chilling as that do the job, as far as I'm concerned. The last line in particular made me shiver. A very powerful write.

  21. David - gobsmacked is what I am! So much conveyed, with so little actually said.......genius!

    (I think I will give up now ;-) )

  22. David, I always use the entire 100 and wish I could succintly get across a story in less. So I really admire that you were able to do exactly that, and to produce such an emotional wallop in those 51. Well done.

  23. Thanks for the comments everyone. Because of Lily's gracious hosting of this little fête d'écrit, I now have a list of "stories to expand" as long as my arm!

    Antonia Love the simple (!) charm of your narrator, and the icky surprise at the end.

    Rebecca (Sorry - just found out that's what the "R" was for and had to use it once... :P) I'd imagine you have a pretty good bead on things. Death is pretty damned busy. Who wouldn't want a break now and then? Moira's fierce confidence sells the tale though.

    Sue H - I just watched "Casino" again and your bloody tale would be right at home in one of those epic mob movies. Excellent write.

    Lily - it's a shame you never let yourself win this thing. This was gut wrenching. I could tell that you'd seen the real thing at some point. Horrors worse than horror.

    David Excellent penning as well. Sometimes I wish I could see the future. Now I don't, and probably won't again. Strong stuff.

  24. David, 51 words? I had to cut and cut and cut to get mine down to the 100! Brilliantly portrayed with a killer last line.

    Everyone, thanks for the good words. At times I like donning a different 'head' to tell a story.

  25. Mimi - I like the description ‘dark tunnel of the judge’s eyes’ to invoke a narrow emotionless stare. Great sadness in this one.

    Aiden - alluring, seductive; Odysseus still intrigues thanks to your poetic descriptions.

    Chris No 1 - I love the descriptions in this piece, like ‘murderous red’ and ‘lightless socket’ which describe the mine. Great imagery which helps build the picture.

    Chris No 2 - some interesting characters here and innovative use of the words. Somehow, you managed to make us root for them to escape...

    Antonia – Eww, creepy. Dread to think what he was walking it!

    RS - I can feel how henpecked Death feels with Moira rattling him; human qualities in darkness, the whole premise works well.

    Sue H. - this reminds me of Mario Puzo, the nasty side of a mobster in waiting, and powered by some great narrative.

    Lily - this is a powerful punch to the conscience, just oozing with lush narrative. Evocative and sad - one of your best flashes to date.

    David - that's a 'stop you in your tracks' flash. So few words and he so much emotion. Excellent stuff.

  26. Eleven Minutes

    Snatched. Satisfied.

    A gluttonous feast.

    Wide eyes stared out from a horse-like face, metallic and cold. He lapsed between breaths, careful not to let his stench fill the tunnel, but his rancour drifted like rancid smog, followed him.

    It was hard to judge, but it had taken him around eleven minutes.

    He slipped the soiled blade inside his coat, zipped himself and shuffled into the shadows.

    Farther down the tunnel; legs and arms outstretched, a cool grey shroud masked her naked flesh. Her voice crumbled.

    Eight years old.

    Bleating her last, the colour of her misery seeped from her wound.

  27. AJ, this absolutely breaks my heart. The description of your murderer "horse-like face, metallic and cold" is horribly real and I can almost smell his stink. This evil man and the very taboo subject could spurn a novel.

    Thank you, AJ and Chris for your comments on Pavement.

  28. AJ, how do you do that ... evoke such heartbreak in so few words ... flash fiction at its absolute best. What an amazing last line.

  29. AJ--horrifying end for the girl, and worse that he so easily zips up and leaves. I can tell that he's already nearly forgotten her. Chilling.

  30. I just had to write something to counter Pavement. This untitled poem is still sad but it's softer.

    She keeps colours in shoe-boxes,
    judging the shades by the stains that they make.
    Ink spilt on photos where faces
    have blurred
    over time.

    Rocking-horse journeys through
    tunnels of love, forced into pockets
    of sisters, her brother and always her mother.
    But sharpest are memories of
    Daddy’s fat tears;
    when she grasped at his hand
    from his side
    as they lowered her white coffin
    into cold ground.

    It contained her remains.

    A doctor, unable to save his own child;
    how he’d tried, how he cried.

    Today Beth picks out Daddy’s favourite pink;
    wraps her pale wraith in a
    rose-madder dress.

  31. That was beautiful and heart wrenching, Lily.

    Who'd have thought all this dark and melancholy would come from "Horse, tunnel, and judge"?

    Next week, it had better be "puppies, posies and chocolate" to counter! (Though given the imaginations here, it may well prove to be the most sinister fodder yet!)

  32. Thanks all, for the comments. In answer to your question, Antonia...I challange myself to be better and better each time I write. Well I try anyway!

  33. Though I´ve been quiet, I´ve read and enjoyed! My last minute appearance:

    Alter Ego

    The tunnel begins here but ends nowhere, which makes it a genius and rather spectacular piece of art.

    Its entrance is between the horse and the king, in the middle of the town square, but you can´t see it if you look straight at it. Lots of people have disappeared into it, only I came out.

    I´m… modified but present and you mustn´t judge me; this isn´t death, it´s just change.

    I appear in front of people to breathe my ice and they freeze. I think my smile must be ugly to behold.

    I have no consolation to offer.

  34. Asuqi - truly fascinating. I love "I´m… modified but present", a well-placed pause. I have visions of a shimmering space that sharply solidifies as it attacks, before beating a blind, bemused retreat. Great stuff.

  35. Asuqi--Fascinating, and your usual swallow's wing use of language, dipping sharp and lifting fast and frighteningly.

    I imagined a giant chessboard, a village built on it, and saw this all from their perspective. Probably not what you intended, but I like it like that. :)

  36. Hi everyone,

    I've been up against it this week, so I think I'm going to be upto the wire. Hopefully, I'll manage to finish something before the deadline.

  37. RS: love the image of death clawing into the sands to hide away.

    SueH: the barber is an interesting character here.

    Lily: Pavement, dark world here without much hope; liked the phrase the can in my hand is the state of the man for the sounds and the sense of hopelessness. Poem, I enjoyed the phrase, "shades by the stains that they made".

    David: I like the way you use rocking horse at the end. Poignant.

    AJ: I found the colour of her misery particularly impacting; sadness tinging the world to grey and white.

    Asuqi: Loved the surreal quality of this piece (at least in my reading). I imagine a jack-frost like character unseeing who emerged from the painting.

  38. Inspiration = 0. Doubt there will be any from me this week. Not unless something miraculously appears in the next hour and a half! :(

  39. To everyone.....I've read them all but seriously had no time to comment. It's so awesome that a bunch of writers can come up with so many different scenarios from 3 words. Well done everyone!! Thanks all for your comments on my "lazy" 51 worder. It came out in one roll!

    I'll have more time on the next one. Thanks, and thank you Lily for doing this week in, week out!! You're a star and I'm looking forward to Femme February!! (I could have been a lady for a month if you needed an extra story!) ;-)

  40. Oh, David - I've seen you in a kilt. It would work like a charm.

    Congratulations to you by the way on your new Editorship at The Flash Fiction Offensive. Go visit and submit, everyone! (Quick plug).

  41. My heads been up and down the canal banks of England this week and as I couldn't get my story below 200 and counting, I thre a poem together.

    I'm running out of time so just so I don't miss a week here's mine

    The Ballad of Kit Crewbucket

    From the tunnel depths I heard a wailing sound, from several souls that she had drowned.

    How many there it’s hard to judge, their bodies sunk beneath the sludge

    The headless bogart known as Kit, likes to play around a bit.

    With the temperament of the wildest horse, she stalks this stretch of watercourse.

    With wailing drone and chains to clink she seeks another barge to sink.

  42. Righto, I've managed to come up with something. It aint pretty, I'll admit. But it's something. Late as usual though...I'm sleepy...


    Wild horses couldn’t stop me.

    There’s nothing to judge, nothing for me to prove. You raped my last drop of my existence.

    I shuddered in the cold, the darkness suffocating me like a black veil. It knew my plans.

    Vibrations. Weak vibrations trembled from the ground; through the soles of my feet, travelled though my body and up my spine, calling me; inviting me.

    In a trance, my feet stepped onto the track, the vibrations becoming stronger.

    I glanced up; saw a bright light emerging from the tunnel, horns blazing.

    I smiled as the train hit me.

    I was free.

  43. William I love the name Kit Crewbucket! You describe her so well I feel I can actually smell her pungent odour as she does her rounds. And, I have to ask, where is her head - and how does she wail? Lovely imagery.

    Pixie - you got in there just in time! Ouch; this is a very emotive piece, very well-written. You describe the vibrations of the oncoming train vividly. I always pity the drivers in cases like these. Very sad.

  44. Ready..., Steady......, STOP.

    The week's Prediction is now closed.

    Results coming very soon!

  45. Wait -- David's worn a kilt? Are there pictures??? Inquiring minds want to know!

    William--Kit Crewbucket! Love the name, and I love her story. She's a bad, bad girl. Ghoul. Whichever. Both. :)

    Pixie--Oooh, dark, dark stuff, Pix. Dredged that right up out of that bleakness at the last minute, didn't you? Good girl!


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.