Hello everyone and welcome to Author SuzannE Burke’s “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week She features an image and invites Everyone to write a Flash Fiction, or Non-Fiction, piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of their choosing. Maximum word count: 750 words. In Addition to running a wonderful Blog, Suzanne has written many exciting books. Please a have a look at her site: Wecome to the world of Suzanne Burke
Here is my contribution to this week’s prompt. Enjoy!
Here is the image prompt
Sophie hated these woods at night. During the day, they were cheerful. Cicadas played their endless rattle songs in the trees, while black-capped chickadees fed from your hand.
This trail was usually lit by sunlight, its rays marked the path ahead with the promise of a refreshing dip in Potters Lake, or, if you went the other way, the back door of Nanny and Pappy’s cottage. On most afternoons, the smell of fresh baked cookies would reach your nose before the brown walls of the cottage could be seen.
Yes, the daytime was safe time, but not now, out here, in the dark, and with only an old lantern that Pappy had used as a kid . . . now that was old.
Her teacher, Mr. Palmer, had said darkness was just the absence of light, that everything was the same. She’d love to have that man here, now. If only he could here the thumps, the rustle of branches as they were parted by the claws of who knows what. Sophie tried to ignore them, to keep the lantern pointed only at the path ahead. She was weirdly mad at the lantern for lighting up the edges of path. It showed a pair of glowing eyes that stared at her very soul, before disappearing back into the woods.
Every ounce of her wanted to run back to the cottage. Her desire was increased when she heard the crazy call of something on the lake to her right, just beyond the bushes. Sophie had jumped then . . . had almost dropped the lantern, and then what? Complete darkness!
She felt the gross things squirm at her side; disgusting, slimy, and terrifying. She tried to imagine they were not there. But they were, and the sooner she got to the lake, the sooner she’d be rid of them. Sophie shuddered at the thought of what was to come.
Something grabbed her right sneaker, and she was pulled towards the bush. A scream was caught in her throat, it wouldn’t do her terror justice, anyways, and who knows what blood thirsty monsters it would attract.
Claws tore at her jacket and snatched her hair. In her panic, she dropped the lantern and it smashed as she fought for her life.
Trees are good for the environment. Not these ones, Palmer, not all trees were good! Some were evil and would grab you . . . these trees kill you! Find that in your stupid Life Science book, Palmer.
Then she was free of them. She raced towards the lake. Scared to death, running like a crazy person down a trail that was almost as dark as her closet. But there was a weird satisfaction that she’d at least ripped off some of their spiny fingers They were still freakishly stuck in her hair, though.
Their angry brothers and sisters tried to stop her, by grabbing at her feet, but she was ready for them, this time. She was an expert dodgeball player. Nimble as a mountain goat, her gym teacher had said. Well, all those games had certainly paid off.
She didn’t have the nerve to get the broken lantern, but the slimy things were still with her. She hated her luck.
A monster screeched in the trees and her feet seemed to float over the path. Up ahead, was the last corner before the lake. Another screech, this time directly overhead, was answered by a bone chilling yodel!
There was nothing for it, no turning back for Sophie. She had a job to do and no self-respecting girl would let it go undone.
Sophie put her head down, to avoid it being torn off by the screechy thing and raced to the lake. The slimy creatures bounced off her right side, and it felt like every monster from all the horror films she’d ever heard about were after her.
The lake appeared. The job was finished!
“Sophie! What on earth happened to your hair? Are you alright?” Pappy’s worried face looked at her from his boat, that was still tied to the dock.
Sophie ran onto the dock, nearly of breath. It was difficult to speak, but she managed, “I-I’m okay, now.”
She reached into her coat pocket and cringed. Her hand grabbed the carton of those slimy devils. “Here’s the worms we forgot.”
“Thanks, Sweetie, that was brave of you to go back in the dark. Especially with all of those roots on the trail. Now, let’s get those twigs out of your hair.”
Hello, welcome to my take on Author Suzanne Burke’s weekly ‘Fiction In A Flash Challenge.’
Writer’s are challenged to come up with a short story based on a photo provided. The maximum word count is 750.
I am grateful to Suzanne for provoding this challenge and allowing us to use her blog to showcase our writing. Please click on this link to view Suzanne’s wonderful blog and see the works of other authors. Welcome to the World of Suzanne Burke.
Here is this week’s photo prompt:
“Dad! Did you see that? Daaad!”
“Ouch! Why’d you rip my headphones out for? I was just getting into a marketing podcast about nose hair trimmers.”
“Huh? Wha-? Look out the window! Doesn’t it look like some place we watched on that Area 51 documentary last week? Don’t make that face, either.”
“What face ? Oh Chad, you have a wonderful imagination but I’m afraid it gets the best of you at times. Here, let me see . . . oh, that is interesting.”
“What? You see them too, don’t you? You see them! Runways and small, too small, buildings that must go underground! I mean, one of them looks like the size of a porta potty. What would you do with that?”
“Ummm . . . Chad. Firstly, need I remind you that even though we are flying low because of the heavy clouds, we are still thousands of feet up. Secondly, you’ve spent enough time at summer camp to know what porta potties are for.”
“Look! They’re loading something from the back of a truck! It’s an ali—”
“Side of beef. Chad, that’s an abattoir, where they, uh, you, know. You like hamburgers, don’t you?”
“Eeewwww. . . I used to. Please stop slicing your finger across your throat. It’s not that, Dad. Cows don’t have arms . . . biology 101. Geez, how do you ‘adult’.”
“Nope, those are freezer trucks, and they are taking the beef to market. You see those smaller packages coming out of that other building? Those are probably steaks, hamburger, and some other yummy things.”
“Uh, Chad, you don’t look so well. What’s wrong?”
“You mean, that they sell alien meat in the stores pretending that it’s beef? I need to use the restroom.”
“Uh, that’s not what I meant. Okay, hold on, I’m moving my legs so you can get out.”
Chad’s father watched his son race to the restroom. He shook his head and imagined his brand-new Napoleon Rogue BBQ being relegated to grilling vegetables only . . . 70500 BTU’s wasted on asparagus and mushrooms. He slid over to the window for a final peak and rubbed his eyes. Had that ‘side of beef’ just waved up at him?
This is not an easy blog for me to write, but I’m feeling called to expose my secret for the sake of those who may be suffering in silence.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that has been linked to my career as a Correctional Officer. Think of me as you will, I am no longer concerned with stigmas and shaming. Believe me, this condition is as real as any physical disorder and just as devastating.
No, I’m not looking for sympathy. I want to reach out to those who are ‘there’ and feel that they have nowhere to turn. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m yelling the words below, however, these are from personal experience and cannot be stressed enough.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
YOU ARE NOT WEAK.
YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN TO YOUR FAMILY OR ANYONE ELSE.
PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE AND GET HELP.
IF YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE FOOLING THOSE WHO KNOW YOU BEST INTO BELIEVING NOTHING IS WRONG, YOU ARE ONLY FOOLING YOURSELF. THEY NOTICE, TRUST ME.
YOUR LOVED ONES MAY NOT ‘GET YOU’ BUT THEY WANT TO HELP.
YOUR FAMILY MAY NEED TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP AS WELL, BECAUSE PTSD IS TRAUMATIZING TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU HAVE PTSD, BUT IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SEEK HELP AND WORK AT RECOVERING.
SUICIDE OR NUMBING WITH DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR WHATEVER POISONOUS “COPING” MECHANISM YOU MAY CHOOSE, IS NOT THE ANSWER.
My pride got in the way and I waited too long. In fact, if you want to talk, I am available at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise confidentiality and lay no claim to being a professional counsellor, but I will do my best to give support and listen. I want you to know that you are not being intrusive if you email me to talk. I have friends who are dealing with PTSD and it is therapeutic to share with others who ‘get it’.
I’ll spare you the gruesome details of how I came to this point, that’s not what this blog is about. I’m currently off on disability for my condition and receiving professional help. I will say one fact that came as a surprise to me. In spite of all the violence, death, and life-threatening situations that I have endured, the biggest contributor was the feeling of betrayal at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me and my coworkers. They were negligent. There is a geographical and bureaucratic detachment, combined with ignorance of the realities of our job. In addition, there is also, what seems to me, an apparent lack of concern because we are deemed unimportant. I will stop there, because I become angry just thinking about it.
PTSD can be caused by a single traumatic event, or, in my case, cumulative events. It is not just an issue for first responders, anyone can be afflicted.
No one has the right to tell you to, “Suck it up, it’s all in your head.”
That’s complete bulls**t!
I’ve lost six coworkers to suicide over the years and there are more that I did not know personally. I have also seen too many drink themselves to death, all to numb the pain. If that is what “sucking it” up means, count me out!
If you need immediate help because of suicidal thoughts, please contact a help line or the police. You can get better, there is hope and help in the darkness.
Here is a poem I wrote sometime ago that sheds a bit of light on what living with this issue can feel like. I composed this at my worst. I am glad to say that I no longer feel this way most of the time.
What Haunts Me.
Morning light through window shines, but I wish for darkness to remain,
For with the light, come the demands of life, far too much
“Take your meds!” they preach. “They will help to reduce the pain.”
I swallow them down to banish the ghosts, yet never escape their clutch
What happened to the man I used to be? Full of life and no dark stain,
He’s but gone, a phantom from another time, never to return again.
We are all different, and I know we have different values, beliefs and situations, but here are a few things that have helped me on the road to recovery.
My belief in God.
My wonderful and supportive friends and family.
Prescribed and monitored medication.
Leaving the situation (work).
An attitude of gratitude, yes, concentrating and giving thanks for the blessings in my life.
Regular physical exercise.
Volunteering as much as I can in these strange days of COVID.
Good nutrition and sleep (not always easy but it will come with time).
Being outdoors, especially enjoying nature.
Avoiding the news and social media, at times.
Your thoughts control your emotions, so I’ve been taught to practice a technique called CATCH, CHECK, CHANGE: If you have a bad thought capture it, check the rationale behind it, change it to something positive. This one takes some work.
This list is not exhaustive, and you will discover your own path to healing.
Just one more thing before I close. I want you to know, especially the wonderful friends I’ve made at Rave Reviews Book Club , that if I don’t respond to comments in a proper time frame, participate in supportive activities, blog, or retweet, I’m probably having a rough day and cannot focus. It’s nothing personal. It’s taking me forever to write my second book because of this.
I’m on the mend and fighting back, and someday I’ll finish that book. 🙂
Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. You deserve a great life and there is always hope.
I can say with great confidence that we’re all weary of COVID and the toll it has taken on so many areas of life.
Yesterday, in spite of everything, in spite of a young girl’s fear that the celebration of her eleventh birthday would be confined to the virtual world, a small family gathering took place at our home. Social distancing was respected, and my beautiful daughter had a chance to safely bask in the love of her three-dimensional family. However, physical touch outside of immediate family was a no-go.
I composed a short poem to reflect on what has been the experiences of so many.
They came! Pure joy, bright smile, Grandma! Grandpa!
Air hug, squeeze tight, baby girl, please stay safe!