Race the Date

"Stew" - Race the Date #12



Master Phillips was rudely woken by a crewman at daybreak. He struggled to see through his sleep encrusted eyes, but from the stench he guessed it was Gove.

        ‘Cap’an, chosen you for the landing.’ he growled.

        Phillips grabbed a cloth, arguably less filthy than him, and proceeded to smear dirt around his face, trying to leave the bit around the nose a little cleaner. He bounced up to the deck before most of the landing party, who ambled up in their own time showing varying degrees of enthusiasm.

        Before long they were rowing through the Pacific waves towards the broad sandy beach.

        ‘About time the weather let us in,’ muttered Spencer.

        ‘Desperate for some new friends?’ said Daniels.

        ‘Some fruit wouldn’t go amiss, maybe some meat,’ said Spencer, ‘But aye if there are any ladies…’

        After watching the island, stuck for days behind the reef, the only sign of island life they’d seen were birds. Fredricks said he heard pigs at one point. His marbles were lost during the Doldrums though.

        As they approached their landing the forest rose as a monumental impenetrable wall from the edge of the beach.

        Excitement was palpable as they pulled up the boat – the men on the ground would get their fill of the first fruits; a great position to be in Phillips thought.

        He was reconsidering this whilst he tried to loosen the ties around his wrists. The giant bubbling vats, which currently smelled of vegetable stew, were drawing his vision. Phillips was pretty sure he’d get to taste some of it shortly, but was not looking forward to his dinner placing.

        They were evidently not the first pirates to land there, as the indigenous tribe, as well as outnumbering them, were much armed better. They also had fabulous spices for their stew.

(300 words)
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"Return of the Dead" - Race the Date #11

Race the Date #11

Return of the Dead

Angelo was squashed uncomfortably into an awkward corner of the cafe and was fidgeting. There was something wrong with the taste of the coffee and he left it virtually untouched. He’d briefly contemplated a stronger drink over the road, but that way lay problems. His hands were clammy and he rubbed them hard down his pristine jeans.

Half a mile away Raul was sat in a bus station waiting room with a grin wide across his face at the thought of seeing his brother again. He’d been out of the refugee camp for a month before he’d found Angelo had survived the attack on the village and it had then taken another three weeks to search him out. He’d never felt more elated.

Angelo knew it was probably just avoidance, but his clammy hands were starting to annoy him. He stared at them willing them dry. Maria had told him he was suffering survivors guilt. So many friends and relations had died during the troubles, and he had thought his brother among them. Now he knew Raul hadn’t died but had spent all that time in the infamous refugee camp just a few hours from the city. Angelo had eventually prospered after the civil war had ended and even had a young family; he worried Raul would resent him for it. It was frightening that one wrong spelling - a simple administrative error - had robbed them of years together.

As he entered the bus station Angelo saw Raul turn towards him, his face thin and much older, yet unequivocally his gorgeous younger brother.

They sat in comfortable silence for an age just soaking up each others very existence. Over a vat of coffee their divergent histories then began to leak out as the years melted away in the tropical heat.

(299 words)

"The Tiger's Tail" - Race the Date #9

Jaipur Snake Charmer
The Snake Charmer - (photo source)

The Tiger's Tail

Chhaya, the tiger, watched the villager's festivities. Even through the undergrowth and evening darkness he saw their brightly coloured garments as they sang and danced. They looked happy. Chhaya was not.

        Earlier in the day he’d seen a traveling man with a basket entertain the children with a
pungi and a great snake. He immediately recognised the bespectacled Aswara and saw his discomfort.

        Aswara had been missing for several days and whilst they weren’t the closest of friends their truce between each other felt like kinship. It was difficult to watch him swaying groggily for the sake of a few rupees. He needed to do something to help. Chhaya couldn’t get near the village as it was well defended - they were well aware of his presence in the jungle. He needed a plan.

        A dripping sound behind him caught his attention and he turned to see his swaying tail hovering above a puddle. Plop. He looked at his muddy tail like he’d never seen it before. Plop. A plan.

        Next day Chhaya waited in the undergrowth. Early in the morning as hoped, the snake charmer walked the perimeter with his basket, a sack and a forked branch - peering and prodding the undergrowth. Chhaya turned his back on the charmer and slowly swished his tail - he’d worked all night perfecting it.

        The charmer saw a fantastic snake he didn’t recognise and put down the basket in readiness to catch it. When his forked branch poked behind its head he was surprised to see the mud flakes. He was surprised to see orange and black fur. He was most surprised to see a tiger turn and pounce from the forest.

        Chhaya left the man trembling whilst he carried the basket into the forest and freed Aswara. They became real friends that day.

(300 words)


"The Eighth Work" - Race the Date


The Eighth Work

Thaksin was late for college, but ambled out his bedroom without any urgency. He needed breakfast.

        ‘Thaki, have you heard? Well, of course you haven’t.’ his mother said, ‘They’ve done it again!’

        His dad looked up from the television, ‘Or
he has, I’m not sure it’s a they.’

        Thaksin yawned a chasm, scratched his balls then grabbed for the coffee jug.

        ‘What are you talking about dad?’

        His dad pointed at the television, ‘They said there’d be eight works and they’ve been true to their word. Look son that
Muay Thai has painted a whole wall of the Palace.’

        Thaksin could feel the room shudder. As the coffee began to work he realised it was his mother jumping up and down next to him. ‘This is amazing, I can’t believe they - or he - has got away with it. I know the paintings are good, but this is a pure political punch in the guts.’

        ‘Perhaps a blow to the head,’ said his dad, ‘They chose their name well “
The Art of Eight Limbs” - clever!’

        Glaring at Thaksin from the screen the stark black and white painting was beautiful to behold, he loved the contrast with the ubiquitous reds and golds of the palace. Work, poverty and death presented as an eastern Guernica. On such a venue no one could question its meaning.

        Thaksin slurped his coffee and noticed some paint flecks on his knuckles he’d missed earlier. His thumbnail removed the last of the flecks and Muay Thai was gone.

        It was Muay Thai’s masterpiece - and legacy - copycat art quickly popped up around the country, then across Asia. As the Arab Spring had spread around the Mediterranean years earlier, so the Artist Revolution began in Bangkok with the work of a little unknown artist who couldn’t fight for toffee.

(299 words)
Race the Date “Muay Thai” 6th January 2014

This Story WON the Race the Date this week. My first Flash Fiction win of 2014 - so I'm chuffed to little mint balls, I am.

Nice HM - Race the Date

Was nice to get an HM - that's an Honourable Mention to you and me - for my story 'Cycle of Proof' on Monday. Indeed very nice!

Now hope to have time to write a MWBB for this week.

Alum Bike

"Cycle of Proof" - Race the Date

Cycle of Proof

The battered plastic table had witnessed much vociferous debate over the last week, but right now there were three men stood around it theatrically scratching their heads. Minutes passing as each tried to avoid speaking; eighty years of experience and they were stumped.

          Professor Chandler, the most eminent of the archaeologists - lately all over the television and peering out from the world’s book shop windows - couldn’t help but think of how he’d report this.

          ‘As archaeologists we can only ever conjecture when we find items without context,’ he stopped.

          Professors Zhang and Lillywhite looked at him hopeful he would just plough on, rescue them from this hole. He didn’t.

          ‘Is that it?’ asked Lillywhite.

          The pause hadn’t helped ‘
Indiana’ out as he had hoped. ‘Well, we have so much context here. It’s all dated, these are without doubt Early Bronze Age roundhouses. This was found beneath our latest dated strata - 2000BC.’

          They knew all this.

          ‘And...?’ Zhang asked a little snappily.

          ‘Well, it’s just a fantastic find isn’t it? Changes everything. I mean
everything!’ Indiana was beginning to see possibilities - TV series and books - he was more photogenic than the others and was already in the box seat.

          ‘We can’t report this! I mean look at it,’ Lillywhite held up part of a frame, ‘Aluminium metal wasn’t produced until the 19th Century and we’re going to say some Stone Age...’

          ‘Bronze Age,’ Zhang interjected.

          ‘Same difference,’ Lillywhite pulled a face, ‘some Bronze Age savages produced this 4000 years before the industrialised world could?’

          Chandler shrugged, ‘The evidence speaks for itself. Just facts.’

          ‘Look, we know that the smelting procedures are complex and all that, and that there’s 4000 years without any other bloody evidence of aluminium metal, but for heaven’s sake man, it’s obviously a bicycle!’

(300 words) @zevonesque

Cara Michael's Race the Date #7 'Aluminium'

iaho-1Alum Bike


"The Smooth Valley" - Race the Date

The Smooth Valley
John has been met by silence, his words just left to hang there. No-one will tell him what’s in the valley. It’s shown on the map as almost blank a little topography, but the aerial photographs show an isolated valley with mysterious buildings and great mounds of earth. John decides he needs to go and see it for himself.

          The car is packed - along with John there’s the driver, a man from the state owned company, a man from a ministry and two men who never speak and who haven’t been introduced. Outside the car there’s nothing for John to see - to judge where they are, or how fast they’re getting there. The cassette machine is broken, so the only sounds are the heating fans and of the snow sloughing into the windows. It’s -40C outside and there’s an almost complete white out. The blue sky above shows John that this is old snow - dry snow that has lain for months - the steppe winds are whipping the drifts in a reworked snowstorm as the sun shines just metres above.

          There is no topography today, it appears like icing on a cake. The valley - the men in the car - protected by the season.

(206 words) for Race the Date #5

"Nuts" - Race the Date


The pair of us surveyed the breathtaking view from the edge of a spotless black sand beach. We were both awaken from our thoughts when a coconut fell with an ominous thud just a foot behind us. As one we edged forward on to the beach, away from more nutty danger.

          Herman looked at me. ‘You can see that this is the most recent of the islands, as it’s so much larger than the next one ,’ he pointed. ‘Behind it in the haze I think I can make out a couple of much smaller islands - the tail of the archipelago.’

          ‘It’s roasting hot here,’ I stated the obvious, ‘I think we need to find some shade.’

          ‘I agree,’ Herman said, ‘Somewhere away from falling coconuts.’

          He picked the one up that had attacked us moments earlier, ‘Waste not, want not,’ he said. Then he led the way into the island.

          It was slow progress away from the beach through ever thickening vegetation. I was unsure if Herman had any idea where we were heading other than inland, but I certainly didn’t. Eventually though we found ourselves at a grassy area on the edge of the trees, giving us shade and a priceless cooling wind.

          ‘I’m not sure what to say,’ I said.

          ‘Well, we’re on the largest island of a volcanic archipelago somewhere in the northern tropics,’ Herman said all matter of fact.

          I looked at him, incredulous.

          He took a look at the rock outcrop we were sat on, ‘Looks like basalt pillow lava to me.’

          ‘Forget the geology lesson mate,’ I said as I put my briefcase down then fanned myself with the Evening Standard, ‘Just tell me how the hell we got here!’

          ‘I would think the more pertinent question is how we get away,’ Herman said.

(300 words)

Race the Date - Cara Michaels

Second is Nowhere

Second is Nowhere

‘First to the other side the spoils,’ the tall girl said, ‘Second place is nowhere.’

‘I’ve heard that somewhere before,’ I said flatly.

The six of us crouched down by the gate, not wanting to start, but also anxious to get it over with. The mournful horn was due any moment.

‘One of us is going to be rich beyond our wildest dreams,’ said a young blonde lad.

‘I don’t know, my dreams are pretty wild,’ I said.

We fell silent and all looked out across The Field, nerves jangling. It had looked innocuous just twenty minutes earlier in the flat grey hardly-light, but as the sun rose and cut through the thin mist and the shadows began to shorten then the debris and game paraphernalia could be resolved in its cruel reality. The legacy of former architecture was strewn across The Field as mangled metal work, piles of stone, bricks and timber and in between these grotesque barrages were random eruptions of soils and rock - craters of death from earlier races.

Just 15 metres from the gate was a crater still containing the remnants of Clara, the first loser from last months game. Everyone remembered her bravado on the telebox, she was so gung-ho she’d been blown up before the other five contestants had even left the gate.

I shuddered thinking about her, it brought me back to the reality of it all. Only one of us would get to the other side to be feted, or maybe none at all - any left on the field alive after someone had reached the other side was blown to pieces in a gory firework display. I could see how the rapid dart for it would be preferable to being “so near but so far” - second really wasn’t anywhere.

299 words

"Tea Time" - Race the Date

Tea Time

Derek played with his thinning hair whilst he looked into his steaming mug of builder’s tea. He was dreaming of time travel. Again. If he could do it he was keen on the old favorite of going back a few years setting up a bank account and investing a few measly pounds in stocks that he knew would soar. Oh how easy life could be now. He’d be in the Savoy hobnobbing with the nobs instead of being sat in the greasy spoon re-reading a ragged copy of the Metro.

Then of course there’s the time travel tourism; popping back to see key moments in history - not getting involved of course (it may impact on future stocks). A pretty good life it would be.

He picked up the mug and took a slurp. It was a good honest brew - probably much better than he’d get in the Savoy he mused. The tea worked its magic and stopped him in his tracks. All this time he kept wasting thinking about time travel and other things that would never - could never - happen to him.

‘We’re all time travelers, we’re all just going in the same direction’, he muttered to himself.

He picked the mug up as Patricia wiped his grotty formica table down in a none to subtle “If you don’t buy something else then it’s time to leave” motion. She then switched on the old cathode ray TV in the corner - he’d never noticed it before - and it spluttered into life just as “Back to the Future” was starting. Again.

On the way home Derek bought a lottery ticket. Well, you’ve got to dream.

(274 words @zevonesque)
Written for 'Race the Date' (first ever one) on Cara Michaels website - 4 November 2013
Race the Date is a new Flash Fiction challenge for between 100 and 300 words.