prompt: peacock, puzzle, electric

If it hadn’t been for the photo on the front of the box, there’d be no way to tell the puzzle was supposed to be a large, colorful peacock. It’d been three hours and Ryland had finished the border, started filling in one corner, and the lightning continued in earnest outside the window. This wasn’t Ryland’s first hurricane, but it was the first since he’d moved out on his own. His first one alone. 

Like clockwork, his mind started to run down the mental list. There were enough batteries for his five flashlights, the shutters had covered the windows since the night before, and the food stores were stocked. Lightning flashed again and Ryland’s fingers clenched around the puzzle piece. The only reason there even was a peacock in the first was because his mother always did puzzles during hurricanes. With rain pounding on their roof, she’d declare them to be calming and time consuming. Once the electricity went, they were able to be done by candlelight or flashlight. 

Lightning struck again, overhead the electricity flickered and even with the puzzle, it was nothing like the storms he remembered growing up. Too quiet inside meant that everything that happened outside only sounded louder. He never felt more alone.

prompt: cherry, flag, sofa

The cool leather couch pressed against Sarah’s thighs as she clicked the button to another Fourth of July special. A crowd danced on the beach to what seemed to be the EDM version of the Star Spangled Banner. It was cheesy but a cherry colored speedo caught her eye, the man shaking his ass with everything he had in him. Sarah found she couldn’t look away, far more interested in watching the crowd more than the DJ on stage. The way the thin fabric curved around the man’s skin made Sarah shift on the sofa.

Then the camera panned away and landed on lips, bright cherry pink–practically as plump as the man’s ass had been. Red, vibrant, and the woman they belonged to danced in a stringy white bikini. Sarah’s gaze drifted from her lips down, over her sunkissed collarbones, along the dip of her chest. Her breath caught at the way the bathing suit barely held on as she danced. Sarah licked her lips, pressed her thighs together.

The camera swung away again, this time to the ocean, then back to the stage, then an American flag. Sarah groaned at herself and stood up from the couch, turning off the TV. It was time she went to find some fireworks of her own. 

prompt: holly, baboon, squeaky

The stroller tire squeaked with every turn and the sun screaming overhead only deepened Holly’s headache. They hadn’t even made it to the baboon sanctuary yet, and Sybil seemed more interested in sobbing than looking at the animals. 

“Sybil, please, remember how we were so excited to see the parakeets? Then the baboons! We talked about it all week.”

Sybil continued screeching louder than any of the birds in the aviary.

A couple next to them, with children more interested in their devices than what their parents were pointing at, sent a glare towards Sybil. Holly clenched her jaw; they were at the zoo for godsakes, not the movie theater.

Holly made the decision to roll her squeaky stroller right by them on their way to the baboons. If Sybil wouldn’t quiet, at least she’d be useful.  

prompt: ferry, candy, darkness

The wind hit Sandra’s face, a faint spray from the bay splashing across her cheek. She could sit inside the ferry’s cabin with her friends, but something about the cotton candy colored clouds and the sun setting into the horizon beckoned Sandra outside. 

They were running away. Her family–back on the island, already cast into the darkness of night–had no idea that when they woke they’d be missing a daughter. Her friends, as well, all of them, slipping off into the night. 

The wind rushed by Sandra’s ears, a whirl so loud it managed to push away her thoughts, the mild panic, the exhilarating freedom. On the other side of the bay, she would step foot into her new life. But for now, it was only her and the ferry, under the cotton candy colored clouds, escaping the darkness.

prompt: flirt, pink, open

There’d been a row of pink tulips lining the path, the last time Stacy walked up their stone entryway. Now there was nothing but snow, the brightness of spring buried. When she reached the door, Stacy didn’t need to turn the knob to know it would no longer be left open for her, that Carol had locked it–changed the locks even–months ago.

Now, Stacy knocked and waited.

Carol took her time answering, the dog they’d rescued together barking as she waited, as if labeling her an intruder. She’d missed Rose for months, the way she acted like a lapdog even though she weighed nearly ninety pounds. It was a manageable feeling to focus on, compared to the bone-aching loss of Carol.

The door opened, and there wasn’t a welcoming smile, only a barely there flash of pain in Carol’s eyes before she shuttered it all away behind a wall that Stacy no longer had permission to pass through. It was hard to believe this woman used to laugh with her, flirt with her, used to love her–How quickly all of it could turn into this, buried like pink tulips under the snow.

prompt: monochrome, light, star

The world appeared in black and white. The dark shadows of the New York City skyline a stark silhouette against the vibrant white of the moon. The Soldier had a mission, and with a single minded focus he prowled through the alley, silently hooking his metal hand around the ladder of a fire escape that hung over his head.

Through the black night he climbed, silent in his movements even as the wind picked up. He made it to top, turned immediately into position on his perch. There was a man that the Boss deemed needed a bullet in their head. The Soldier looked through the scope of his sniper, scanning over the building across the street, the white light windows each their own flicker of life, easily discarded when the Soldier determined they were not his mark.

It was a shuffle of white and black, the dark night and the bright life dispersed throughout the city.

Then–Red.

Bright, vibrant red shot across his sniper’s scope like a star hurtling through the sky, the only color in the night. A superhero, flying over New York City. The Soldier pulled his sniper away from the mission. He followed the red in his scope, watched, as it paused in the air, facing the Soldier. He couldn’t look away.

prompt: television, church, fresh

“It’s not a religion, Ben!” Alice’s voice had surpassed shrill a half a dozen exclamation points ago and now settled somewhere in the vicinity of ear-splitting. “It’s a television show.”

“Yes. One that comes on every Sunday.” 

“Like church?” 

Ben kept his gaze on the television, knowing that the way he chose to answer the question would directly affect his wife’s mood for the rest of the day. “Of course not, sweetie.”

“Sweetie,” Alice mocked. “That’s fresh.”

He never won with Alice these days so instead of trying, he finally ripped his gaze from the television and locked it on Alice’s steely grey-blue eyes. “My show is obviously more entertaining than church, dear.”

Alice’s face turned red. She let out a half-growl, half-shriek noise, and then she pivoted towards the front door, slamming it behind her, presumably off to church. Ben turned back to the television, and counted down the minutes until his favorite show. 

prompt: asphalt, thunderstorm, chocolate

Rain hit the asphalt in an unrelenting staccato rhythm that meant many things, but mostly it meant Francine would be late. Again. Marc let the curtain fall over the window as he retreated back into the living room in defeat. 

It’d been so long since he’d last seen her chocolate eyes. 

From his well worn spot on the couch, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes, allowing himself a brief moment to remember the way her eyes would lighten to amber under the afternoon sun. Recalling the memory was simple enough, but the onslaught of emotions that accompanied it had never been easy for Marc to bear. 

Instead, he opened his eyes again, fixed them on the television, and waited. 

prompt: heaven, broom, car

Katie pulled her thumb out from between her teeth, because this was important. “I promise you, Jessie. Promise, promise.”

Suspicious blue eyes narrowed. “You’re wrong. I saw it, brooms can definitely fly.”

“You saw a movie–”

“And went on the ride!”

“That was all fake. Like when that car flew in that other movie.” Katie continued explaining, but Jessie still sat on the broom, looking over the edge of the couch that they really shouldn’t be standing on. She was still about to jump. 

“That’s different,” Jessie countered. “Cars have roads, what do brooms have?”

“Floors!”

“Well then if I crash into the floor, it won’t be that big of a deal.”

“For the broom and the floor, but for Jessie–?”

But Jessie didn’t hear or didn’t care, instead she jumped. Then, there was a short scream, followed by a crash. 

“Told you so.” 

Jessie groaned, pulling the broom out from under her with one hand and rubbing her head with the other. “I think I saw heaven.”

The Other Side

It was windy on the other side. With each step, Val’s hair whipped around her head, lashing at her cheeks and neck.

“Just another three steps,” the voice in her head said. It was a deep voice, a male voice. The timbre was one she had heard before but could not place. “Through the mirror and you’ll be free.”

And a part of her knew it was a trap. Following a voice that had no body, one that had called to her as she sat curled in a ball by her bed, crying. Her mother had warned her not to follow the voices as she was carted off to the asylum. Yet here she was, following

The wind picked up again, pushing her forward, spinning around her so that it became hard to grasp any of it for a single inhale.

She looked back and Val had expected to see her room, the bed she’d had since she was a child, but all she saw was a field of green grass.

And she knew she had made a mistake.