FlashFeeD 1.8

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Focus on the fiction writing element of: setting


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138 Replies to “FlashFeeD 1.8”

  1. The view from the bridge was incredible. A string of people lined up along the railing to gaze out into the void, surrounded by dots of light that glowed and pulsed, so near and yet so far from the moon that hung like a spherical Doberman, keeping watch over the sky.

    “Look at that, Dad!” a young girl shouted, pointing as she jumped with excitement. “Is that Venus?” The man next to her tried to follow her finger as it circled vaguely in the air.

    “It could be,” he replied. “I’m not sure if Venus is visible at this angle. It could be Mars, or Jupiter. We might see Venus later.”

    “I’d love to see Venus,” the girl sighed. “But it seems so far away.” The man gripped her tiny hand.

    “One day, maybe soon, we’ll be so close to Venus. One day.” He smiled down at her. “Isn’t that exciting?”

    The girl grinned, squeezing his finger.

    A loud crackle turned everyone’s heads. A voice boomed from loudspeakers.

    “Passengers on the bridge. Please be advised that we are about to enter the Moon’s orbit. Those susceptible to nausea may wish to retire to their cabins, or enjoy the entertainment in Tower One. We will touch-down on the Moon’s surface in approximately one hour. Those disembarking will have two hours to complete their sight-seeing and shopping. Tower Bridge Galactic Cruises thanks you for your patronage and cooperation.”


      1. Thanks, Irene. Post it anyway–unless you think of something better. It’s always interesting to see how different writers handle even similar ideas. Our styles and experience make those ideas into something unique.


    1. My favorite aspect of this story is its universality: a child’s wonder is the same, no matter which century she lives in. You’ve captured this beautiful father-daughter moment so well.


  2. Alva Holland
    110 words


    I wish they hadn’t closed the high-level walkways.

    I look at old pictures of pedestrians making their way across, their heads almost disappearing into low-hanging cloud, flagpoles with drenched flags waiting for the sky’s lid to lift, while the bascules yawned open underneath, allowing river traffic to pass, frozen pedestrians watching from above, the shudder and grind of hydraulics filling the air.

    I can see myself up there. I guess they’d notice if I slipped past security.

    I don’t think the lower level will work for me. No guarantees. Whereas from the heights of the upper walkways, it’s a certainty.

    Tomorrow, I will work it out. Tomorrow will be my last tomorrow.


    1. Wonderfully descriptive language here, Alva. Nicely done. It fits really well with the final paragraph to create the twist in terms of the character’s calculation. Great ending.


    2. I love how you build this scene, cleverly leading us along a rather beautiful journey of nostalgia. So…that last paragraph hits you like a sledgehammer. Excellent storytelling!


    3. Absolutely love the opening so much, the near-visceral feel of the descriptions. That vivid paragraphs beautifully sets up the wrenching finish. Beautifully done.


  3. There was no one at the rails on this particularly cold night because the radiation fog had settled in again mixing with the ancient fog we had known all our lives. Strange how reckless words which looked so ridiculous when that carrot-topped fool tweeted them could have caused all this havoc throughout the western world or what was left of it. The Americans learned to live with the fog first complaining about it and ramming things with their enormous vehicles because no one could see well enough to drive but they still drove their enormous vehicles very fast. We’re sturdier here and we know fog and live with it and we’ve gotten on with our lives with a sigh and a garbled nastiness that makes me proud.


    1. Excellent story of a dire future and the blindness in which some walk to ot and through it. There’s not really an happy ending here, just a better stoicism.


  4. Man On The Moon

    Like a rare jewel in the sky, that big old moon, dripping stars into the Thames. Rising up from the fog, an engineering marvel of Cornish granite, stone, and steel: Tower Bridge.

    Do not be fooled by such pretty words. Beneath the moonglow and sooty smog, lies London, a cesspool of human waste. Literally and figuratively.

    Cholera, typhoid, small pox, tuberculosis run rampant. Stench of venting cesspools and clogged drains. Poor folks washing their babies’ dirty diapers in gutter water.

    Raw sewage dumped into the Thames. Young labourer boys make futile attempts to sweep up a thousand tons of horse dung each day. Clean drinking water a luxury for the rich.

    The city is riddled with disease, poverty, and corruption. Gangs and mobs. Don’t get me started on the Irish problem.

    See that high-level walkway there above the bridge deck? Besieged by prostitutes whose immoral squeals and screams can be heard long into the night with the cacophony of clopping hooves, sounds of industry, and crying babies. Street performers, match sellers, hot potato vendors.

    The noise, filth and crowded conditions make one feel quite mad. Indeed, the asylums are overflowing like the gutters.

    One day, a man will figure out a way to visit that big old moon — so creamy white, like fresh milk.

    Until then.


      1. Thanks, Alva. Anti-irish sentiment was quite prevalent in Victorian times. I can’t even imagine how awful life was back then.


    1. I love this image of Victorian London. I’d like to be able to write like that myself.

      I sort of expected Jack the Ripper declaring to be the cure for London’s diseases at the end… 😉


      1. Thanks, Vicente! I had thought about Ripper, of course, but had to hold back on the characterization in favor of setting. But I would so love to write about that someday. Such a gruesome mystery that still haunts today.


      2. You see, the story sounded to me like one of those monologues by Batman now used mostly for fun, where he goes “Gotham is sick and I am the cure”. And I was imagining that, at the end, we’d discover this was a door into Jack’s deranged mind.

        I’m happy I was surprised because it is not, in fact, Jack. 🙂


  5. The Spearfish shook for a long minute, then stopped and drifted in the current.

    “Manoeuvre finished, sir,” th first officer officer said.

    “One third ahead,” the Captain said.

    “One third ahead, aye,” came the answer.

    The steady hum of her engines spread within the submergible’s hull as the ship lurched ahead.

    “Periscope depth, pilot,” the Captain said, as she grabbed a handgrip.

    The pilot pulled levers and rolled a wheel. The Spearfish pointed her bow upwards and started ascending. After what felt like minutes, he rolled the wheel back and the submarine started stabilizing.

    The first officer checked a depth gauge.

    “Periscope depth, sir.”

    The Captain deployed the periscope handles and pulled the tube down. Then she put her face against the visor.

    “This is the Thames, all right…”

    There was a muted collective sigh.


    “What is it, Sir?” the first officer said.

    “Look for yourself,” the Captain said, and they exchanged places.

    Through the periscope lenses, the first officer saw a thick fog, and from within the mist two towers appeared, crossing the river… But there was something else.

    “The Tower Bridge… under construction?”

    “Yes. That last time jump missed. For almost a century. We’re stranded.”


      1. Thanks. Well, I really don’t know… as I told Alva on Twitter, for once as soon as I saw the image, the story formed in my head. But it was just this, nothing else!


  6. The Watchtower

    Fog obscures the way between the worlds. Warm breath in the cold night air, we wait, sharing a cigarette.
    Is that a light in the distance, a signal, a fire?
    How long since the last messenger arrived breathless from the capital?
    How long since we last saw the stars?


      1. You get a sense of melancholy and potential uncertainty from the final line, for me. The piece could definitely be expanded to add to the overall effect too though. I’d look forward to reading it. 🙂


      1. Thank you, Irene. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I was trying to do a much darker story, but maybe it is better this way…


    1. Phew! Nice. And not a Jehovah’s Witness in sight. They’d be unreliable witnesses anyway – couldn’t see properly with that darn fog.


  7. Caught
    Mist rose around the old stone supports turning what had been a bridge into a wall. None shall pass, it declared. Some had tried, thinking to hide from bell, book and candle and though they set foot on one side of its span, they never reached the other. Nor did those who sought to sail to freedom. They would disappear into its shroud and not been seen again. The bridge devoured them, stone arms pinioned fragile bone, eyeless chambers roomed faithless flesh. Confessions whispered in secret chambers across the land were caught in the nets of the Fisher King. He drew them to him, fed on their spirits until they withered away into nothing and then cast his nets anew. One day he thought, one day he would be strong enough to walk on solid ground once more for he too was a prisoner, housed, contained in the towers of this bridge of sighs.

    Unable to destroy the monster who had wreaked havoc across the country, the people had lived in an uneasy truce with him. From across the land they had sent their tribute, just enough to keep him happy but not enough to free him. Until they forgot. Starvation drove him to dive into the waters, feeding on all those who succumbed to the lure of finding peace. Soon he was no longer hungry and found his weightless existence was so much easier than life above; he had a new kingdom. Slowly he came to the surface and breathed into the night air, formed the mists once more. Then he sank back down and waited.


    1. ‘Confessions whispered in secret chambers across the land were caught in the nets of the Fisher King.’ Fabulous, Steph. Love this, and the ominous ending.


    2. Lovely piece, Steph. Great sense of the Fisher King here – and his unfortunate prey. You could easily have a longer piece here too, if the King’s hungry enough… 😉


    3. Love the mounting doom, the despairing hope trying its best and the waiting beast. Brilliant descriptive writing and a great suffocating atmosphere.


  8. Body and Soul

    “So, a man wants to cross the river with a woman, their two souls and a body intact…” Jed says, his voice edging into an embarrassed cough as it tails off.

    “How does he do it?” Lil asks. “With no wolf at the bows or ghouls at the shores,” she adds. “Fat chance. We’re stuck out here until it clears. Again.” Water laps at the wooden slats, hidden by the thick mists swirling about the bottom of the boat.

    “Better that way than not,” is the response. “Think about those poor blighters stuck ashore.”

    “I’d rather not. Does anyone actually know what they are?”

    “They do. Or did.” Jed’s dark eyes drift shoreward.

    “Not for long.” Lil pauses, watching the turrets and struts of the bridge. “Wonder how long it’ll be this time before they light up a life?”

    “Long enough, I’d say. It’s getting worse. Stone might not be enough to keep ‘em out of the Tower soon. Wood wasn’t with us. Then where’ll we be when they’re at the guards? Who’ll say it’s safe then?”

    “We’ll be river folks whilst water is,” Lil answers. “Travel downstream. Out to sea, even. Better get building, Noah, dear.”

    “Who lives like this?”

    “We do. We have.”

    “Subject to sacrifice.”

    “We don’t have the skills set,” Lil says bluntly. “Someone has to sustain the community.”

    “At what cost?” Jed asks.

    Lil shrugs. Her eyes are elsewhere, clouded by the surrounding fog. “Guess we’ll have to live with it.” A wavering light flickers in one of the shadowed windows of the left turret of the overarching bridge.

    “For now,” Jed agrees. “Why won’t they let anyone other than sacrificed souls in?”

    “Better to let them burn than tackle the threat directly.”

    “So we can’t cross with soul and body intact?”

    “Didn’t we always know that really, love?” Lil asks. “The boat only takes two, body or soul.”



  9. “Sleep well, my prince.”

    “Don’t be a fool, slave; I always sleep well. Dim the light before you go.”

    “Yes, my prince.”

    “No, wait, I don’t like it. There’s too much fog at the window. It frightens me.”

    “What is your wish, my prince?”

    “Put the light back on.”

    “Yes, my prince. Is that better?”

    “No, you worm, you’ve made it too bright! And why did you flash the light like that? Now the fog is crawling everywhere!”

    “What would you like me to do, my prince?”

    “Turn it off! Turn it off!”

    “Yes, my prince. There. Are you pleased?”

    “It’s dark.”

    “So it is, my prince.”

    “You made it darker somehow, an unwholesome dark. How did you do that?”

    “I’m just a humble slave, my prince.”

    “You should be grateful to be a slave; I could have killed you when I conquered your rotten little kingdom.”

    “Thank you, my prince.”

    “Insolent maggot. I should lock you in the dungeons.”

    “As you wish, my prince. Shall I summon the guard?”

    “Yes—no. Wait. First look out the window. Can you still see the fog?”

    “Yes, my prince. It’s especially thick on the river tonight.”

    “Is it still at the window?”

    “It does seem to have reached quite high, my prince.”

    “Is the window closed? Check again! Lock it! Lock the window!”

    “As you wish, my prince.”

    “What is that noise? It sounds like the window is opening! Didn’t you lock it?”

    “Surely it’s the wind, my prince.”

    “Why do I hear footsteps? They are too heavy to be yours. Why are there footsteps in my room?”

    “Walls creaking in the storm, my prince.”

    “Who dares touch me? Who is that? Are those ropes? Is that a knife at my throat?? Turn the lights back on, slave! Turn them—”

    “Sleep well, my prince.”


      1. Thanks, Alva! Didn’t expect that when I plunged in, but then gave myself the challenge of building setting via dialogue. Difficult, but tremendously fun!


    1. What a great story. The fast pace of the dialogues kept me racing, expecting en ending that wouldn’t go well for someone… A perfect build-up!


      1. Thanks! Wasn’t sure myself how it’d end, but I rather suspected one or the other would go out the window… Nothing like the faint unhappy shadows of the Tower of London and the ominous mist here at the Tower Bridge to make one think of beheadings, eh?


    2. Oh…fabulous dialogue. It picked up a great pace as it went on. The slave’s patience against the prince’s mounting fear was excellent. Can almost read a smile in that last line.


  10. The Stench

    It came from nowhere. The Stench rolled up the river enveloping the banks in a choking death. Flowers wilted in front of your eyes and if you could still face the pain yourself you could see the grass turn grey. Within hours all that was touched by the fog was powder like a volcanic ash.

    It happened here on the River Ribble. I saw it. I thought there must have been a spill or a leak from a tanker or pipeline. I ran all the way home my eyes stinging and got straight on the internet. Of course, it was all over the Net; the Stench was everywhere. There were pictures from Sydney, New York, San Francisco and London – everywhere there were tidal waters there was this phenomena.

    The news channels filled up with nothing else. Spectacular images, horrific stories, convoluted explanations that ranged from plausible to downright kooky. The bottom line was that no one knew where it came from.

    It happened world wide at different times, but just once. It came in with one tide on one day. Months later people were forgetting already about it, like it didn’t matter what it was or why it had happened. I couldn’t believe it: It was a message. A portent that we needed to change. That something radical needed to happen. It was Gaia telling us all. Nature stamping it’s feet. Of that I was sure.

    I was sure last week and it mattered to me. Now I’m like everyone else. It’ll be in my highlights of the memories of the year; along with the winners of the World Cup, the Champion’s League and the Ashes and all that. Some of those photos will become iconic posters or just curiosities; I’ve still got a couple on my phone.

    If it was Gaia it needs to shout louder; it doesn’t know that people these days have the attention span of … oh look a squirrel.


  11. Blinded by the Light

    The grid had been down for just over six months. Slowly, one by one, the remaining lights are dying, flickering on the dregs of battery life. The clever build dynamos…the smarter ones hide them. Access to power, to an outlet was now bigger business than any drug or company had ever been. Controlling juice was everything, and having it lured people in better than the best hard stuff.

    That’s why they’re waiting on the edge, on that cusp between shadow and light. The bridge is shining like piles of purest cut snow. Even from here they catch the strains of music pumping out of loudspeakers, see the flicker of strobes, the promise of tech.

    Binoculars pick out revellers on the walkway, high on charged up phones that can’t call anyone but hold memories, photos, last messages…or candy crushing escapism. They pick out the prostitues, plying sex for tech use, the spotters picking out the juiciest targets, and in the gloom, the dealers to whom you’d sell your soul for a top-up.

    Under the bridge, the used up, the useless, the powerless, the hopeless addicts dying for a fix flounder in the dark and dirt. They’ll crawl up from time to time, new dark age trolls trying to catch a spark, a moment of feeling connected.

    Those crouching on the cusp move on. The bridge is just another juice trap; there is no illumination here. It’s just tech junkies craving blindness.


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