Flash Fiction Challenge: The Crooked Tree

Link to challenge here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/06/15/flash-fiction-challenge-the-crooked-tree/
The tree inspired me to write this scene, which is a part of the longer story I am currently writing. It ended up not playing a big part, but it is a beautiful tree and and I am now planning on giving it a role in the story.


The branches of the tree I was tied to started to creak softly above me. I thought it was the wind. But I had been sitting here most of the night and my initial terror had slowly but surely been replaced by something like boredom. There was nothing to do except look up, so I did. Where earlier there had been only the network of thin, leafless branches, there was now a black shape, blocking out the stars and the smallest, greenish moon. I was still staring at the thing, trying to figure out what it was, when it dropped from the tree, landed right next to me and placed a hand over my mouth.

“Shh,” a voice whispered in my ear and this close I recognised Tade. “Don't make a sound. You helped me, now I'll help you. I am going to cut you loose.”

It took me a moment to understand what he meant, then panic welled up in me. He removed his hand from my mouth, but I was afraid to speak, afraid that someone would hear and find him there. Instead I shook my head so violently that I made myself dizzy.

When I stopped, he was looking at me curiously. One of his hands was on the rope around my wrists, the other held the knife, but at least he hadn't started cutting.

“Don't,” I hissed as softly as I could. He had to lean closer to listen. “If I escape, the deal is off and they will attack my home. I can't let that happen.”

He frowned. “You shouldn't have to pay for what your cousin did. You set the negotiations up in good faith; it was he who broke the peace.”

“Don't you see? It doesn't matter. Your people will attack my homeworld and they had even less to do with the slaughter than I had. I tried to make peace and I made a mess off it, but at least I can stop it spreading to my home.” The words were pouring out of me. All the arguments I had told myself before and after giving myself up. I still didn't know if I believed them myself, but they sounded good.

Tade sat back on his haunches. He had to be looking at me but in the darkness, I couldn't read his expression. “So you're willing to die to pay for a slaughter, that wasn't you fault.” It wasn't a question.

“No, I'm willing to die so no-one else will have to pay. Then it will be back to just your people and the others, killing each other.” I was growing exasperated. “I've already told you, I don't want your help and I've even explained why. Now go, before someone sees you and we'll both be in trouble.”

He didn't move.

I heaved a big sigh of annoyance. “Go,” I growled.

He leaned towards me again and I could see his face. He suddenly looked scared, his eyes even bigger than usual. “You don't understand,” he whispered. “You don't know what they will do to you. You think it's just death, just an execution.”

“I don't care. Go.” It was a struggle to keep my voice down. I wanted to yell at him. If my hands hadn't been tightly bound to the tree, I would have shoved him away or maybe just clapped them over my ears. I did not want to hear this.

He leaned in even closer, his lips so close that they grazed my ear. “They are going to …”

Then a new voice broke in. “Stop it.”

I jumped and looked around wildly. In the darkness I could just barely make out the figures standing in a circle around me and Tade. I felt tears stinging my eyes. They would never believe that I wouldn't have run away. It had all been for nothing. Now they were going to kill me anyway and then invade my home. I hadn't managed to stop it, just as I hadn't managed to make peace. I was a complete and utter failure.

I turned to Tade, who was still kneeling next to me. Even though it was his fault, I wanted to tell him to run and save himself. If he didn't die, that would at least be something. But to my surprise, he didn't look the least bit frightened. In fact, he was smiling.

“I wasn't done,” he said, speaking to the surrounding figures.

“You have done quite enough,” one of them said, the same who had spoken before. She came closer and I recognised her; it was Irivi. “We know now that she would rather die than run away, which is all we can demand from someone at her age. We can't conjure up vivid images of torture and a prolonged death and expect her to also be willing to endure that.”

Slowly, it began to dawn on me. “This was a test?”

“It was a test,” Irivi said, with a nod. She looked at the other people, who were still nothing more than dark figures in the gloom. “And she passed it. Whether it was because she wouldn't break her word or because she wanted to protect her home is irrelevant.” She cast a stern look at the others, as if daring them to argue the point. Nobody did.

“But …” I asked, even though I hardly dared to hear the answer, “what does it mean?”

“It means,” Tade answered with a smile, “that you get to live.”

Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Own Setting

This weeks Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig was to write a piece where the setting played a key part; we were then given five possible settings to write about.
I picked 'Abandoned Amusement Park'. My story is inspired by real life abandoned amusement park Takakonuma Greenland (and yes, I first read about it on Cracked). A lot of details in my description have been taken directly from that park, while others I have simply made up.


Kasumi stared at the horse on the merry-go-round. It seemed to stare back, grinning madly, forever caught in a forward trotting pose, while simultaneous going nowhere. It was bright white, but the metal bolts in its body had started to leak reddish brow rust, making it look as if it had been shot or stabbed multiple times. She tried to picture a past where happy children had ridden the horse around and around accompanied by the crisp tones of circus music, and failed. The whole place seemed as if it had never known happiness.

She turned away from the horse, back to Kaito. “Let’s get out of here,” she said, annoyed with how pleading her voice sounded. She wasn’t scared, she told herself. It was all just scrap metal, with rust seeping through the garish colours; there was nothing here that could hurt her. A gust of wind touched a dangling chain and it gave a metallic creaking that sounded like the laughter of a very old woman. Not a kind grandmother, but rather a mean-spirited, mocking, old crone.

Her brother shook his head. “No. This is the first landmark we have found in almost four hours; we’re not going to just abandon it.”

“Seems like everyone else has,” she muttered to herself. Aloud she said: “This place isn’t even on the map. We still have no idea where we are. And we still have no signal, so even if other people know where this place is, we can’t ask them to come pick us up.” She tried to sound reasonable, but just ended up sounding pleading once again. “It’s a waste of time here,” she finished, petulantly.

Kaito wasn’t looking at her; she doubted whether he had even listened to her good, solid reasons. He was looking up. Reluctantly she followed his gaze. He was looking at the Ferris wheel, tall enough to be visible over the trees; that was what had led them here in the first place.

“You can see the whole area from up there,” Kaito said. “We can find our way home.”

Kasumi pulled the sleeves on her sweater down to cover her hands. “But it’s old and not safe and you could fall.” The metallic laughter-creaking returned. She shut her eyes for an instance. Just the wind, she told herself.

I’ll be careful,” Kaito said. He was looking at her now, and yet he did not seem to really see her. He was smiling his loving, calming big-brother smile. Then he started towards the Ferris wheel as if that was the end of the discussion. Which, of course, it was. He didn’t even look back to see if Kasumi was following and after a moment of standing uncertainly, she ran after him. She wanted to stay close.

She ducked her head as she passed under one of the bends of the roller coaster. It looked like it could fall to pieces any moment and crush her. She shivered and tucked her sleeves further down. Was it just her imagination or was the air getting cold and damp?

As soon as he reached the Ferris wheel, Kaito placed a hand on it and prepared to climb up.

“Wait,” Kasumi said, then stopped, having no idea how to go on.

He turned back to her and smiled his big-brother smile again. “Nothing to worry about,” he said. “I’ll be up and down before you know it, and then we’ll know in what direction to take.” And once again, he ended the discussion by simply turning away from her and starting on his way.

She watched, miserable, as he climbed the metal construction higher and higher. And all the while it seemed to be getting colder. By the time he had reached the top, looked around and had started to climb down again, she was shivering and her teeth would have been clattering if she had not gritted them.

When Kaito was about seven or eight feet above the ground, his grip slipped and he fell. Kasumi gave a small shriek and rushed to his side to help him, but he was already getting up and brushed her hands away. He had a frown on his face.

Did you … did you see anything? Did you find the way back?”


Her heart sank.

The fog is coming in, covering everything. I could hardly see the ground right under me, much less our surroundings.”

The … fog?” She looked around. It was true. Everything was shrouded in a pale white mist. She actually felt a moment of relief; it hadn't just been her imagination that it was getting cold and damp. “What should we do then?”

We'll have to stay until the fog lifts and I can try again. I won't lie, maybe we'll have to spend the night. We should look for shelter, maybe light a fire.” He started walking.

She followed him, looking around. Through the fog, the shapes of the amusement park rides were almost unrecognisable. The roller coaster loomed over her like a huge monster or a dinosaur. The swing looked like some torture devise, designed to hold as many people as possible. She dared not think about what the merry-go-round and the horses would look like.

Flash Fiction Challenge - Song Shuffle, Part II

So I shuffled and got 'I Sing the Body Electric' with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. I also listened to the original for reference. Didn't care much for either version and couln't really get a story out of it, untill I came up with this small drabble last night, while trying to sleep. It's really just the musings of one of my characters.
Link to challenge.
When the guy finally left, he waited for about fifteen minutes, toying with his empty coffee cup as if he still had something in it, then got up and left the café himself. He took a shortcut through the park. The air was crisp as it had been the night before and the brown leaves were falling from the trees in small showers like snow. They might still get a couple of warm days, but autumn was undeniably here. The sky had a dark blue colour that looked like velvet and it seemed to be so low that he could reach out and touch it. He frowned. Thoughts like that reminded him of her and her quirky way of thinking.
Still, the night sky was a beautiful sight. Here in the middle of the park, the lights from the city were distant and the stars were bright. He stopped to look up at them and his gaze traced the familiar shapes of the constellations; Orion, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major. Then he imagined all of the stars blinking out one by one and being replaced by new stars, new constellations. He looked down, a grim smile playing on his lips. Somehow, he thought, when he tried to be quirky, it didn’t come out quite the same way.

Flash Fiction Challenge - A Story in Five Sentences

Five sentences and no more than 100 words. Well, goodbye super-run-on-sentence. Link to challenge.

A Fairytale

He draws his sword and starts hacking away at the thorny branches, which surrounds the castle and the princess inside.
The skulls of those who came before watch him, as he imagines a grandmother telling her grandchildren: 'He drew his sword ...'
The roses come alive and grab at him, but this is simply the kind of hardship all heroes must overcome.
Not until a branch slips around his neck and starts to tighten does it occur to him, that maybe he is not the hero in this tale; maybe he is simply another one of those who came before.

Flash Fiction Challenge - Making a sandwich

This weeks flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig was: "You have up to 1000 words to write a story — not a scene, but a story — where a character makes a sandwich. Any kind of character, any kind of sandwich, but the point is to infuse this seemingly mundane act with the magic story-stuff of drama and conflict. Make it the most interesting “person-making-a-sandwich” story you can possibly make it." http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/17/flash-fiction-challenge-making-a-sandwich/

This is my take on it. I am now slightly disturbed by myself and it doesn't help that I actually got the idea while I was hungry.

Danny took the bacon out of the frying pan and placed it on a paper towel. Then he poured the pieces of meat into the still greasy frying pan. There was a muffled scream from behind him, but Danny ignored it and stirred the meat to make sure it didn't got burned. When he was satisfied, he turned the heat down and stepped over to the kitchen table, where the ingredients were laid out. One was missing. He walked over to the refrigerator and opened it.

The man lying tied up on the floor was panting heavily and watching him with large frightened eyes over the gag.

“You know,” Danny said, then frowned and paused for a moment, as he wondered where the mayonnaise had gotten of to, “I'm kind of disappointed in your friends. I don't mean the fact that they haven't offered to pay the ransom; I'm hardly surprised that they didn't want to part with that much money for your fat ass.” He paused again and chuckled. “Fat ass. Heh heh!” He finally spotted the jar of mayonnaise and took it.

He closed the fridge and walked back to the cooker, where he looked at the meat, stirred it some more and added a generous dose of freshly ground pepper. Then he started to spread the mayonnaise on three slices of bread, lying on a large plate. “Really, I only made the ransom demand as a joke. And to let them know that I have you, without making it too obvious that I wanted them to know.”

He screwed the lid back on the jar, then proceeded to place a couple of lettuce leafs on the first piece of bread. “I am however, disappointed that they haven't tried to attack this place and get to you. If not to save you, then simply to stop you from spilling your beans. After all, you've been a mole for quite some time and you must know just as much juicy stuff about them as you do about me.” He added a couple of very thin tomato slices on top of the lettuce. Then he added four pieces of bacon, laid in a neat grid as if he was planning to play tic-tac-toe. He checked the meat and, satisfied, took the frying pan from the heat and placed half of the meat on top of the bacon.

The was another muffled howl, which Danny ignored as he had the first.

“As soon as they learned that I have you, they should have been barging in here, waving their guns around and trying to put a bullet through your brain, before you have a chance to talk.” He placed lettuce, tomato, bacon and the rest of the meat on the second slice of bread, then carefully placed it on top of the first slice. He put the third bread slice on top and added a couple of cocktail swords to keep the whole thing from sliding apart.

“Like I said, I'm disappointed. I was actually looking very much forward to it.”

He turned back to the man lying on the floor and walked towards him, plate in hand. He knelt down and held out the plate to him. “Doesn't it look nice?”

The man screamed again behind the gag and tried to move away, which made it look like he was trying to burrow into the wall behind him.

Danny rolled his eyes. “Oh, please,” he said. “There's no need to be so dramatic. You weren't even using that buttock for anything except sitting on.”

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Unlikable Protagonist

This week's Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig is 'You’ve got up to 1000 words to write a tale featuring an unlikable protagonist that still remains readable and compelling.' This is my try.

Link to the challenge: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/10/flash-fiction-challenge-the-unlikable-protagonist/

Meyer turned away from the counter, where the chewing-gum-chewing young lady was preparing his latte, and ran his gaze over the interior of the coffee shop. He frowned. A young couple had just grabbed the table he had wanted and the rest of the place was packed.
The woman sat down and started gently pushing and pulling a baby carriage to rock the baby to sleep, while her boyfriend or husband brought the menus. Apparently they were planning to stay for a while and eat.
The woman looked tired, which was only natural for a new mom. The man, who walked up to the counter to place their orders, smelled vaguely of sour milk and baby spit-up. Meyer turned his head away from the smell. He understood their need to get out of the house, go to a café and pretend that they were still young and free, but his was annoyed that they had to sit here and take up all the space with their baby carriage. If it hadn't been there, there would have been enough room at the table for a third person.
He found a scrap of paper in his pocket, along with a pen, and quickly scribbled the phone number of a young lady of his acquaintance. Then he reached out and took his latte, while at the same time, letting the paper slide into the man's pocket.
Meyer idly wondered what would happen. Would the woman find the paper and be furious? Or would the man find it first, and be intrigued and try to call the number? Meyer was rooting for the last option, which promised the most drama, since the young lady, who the number belonged to, was of a most persuasive nature. He could already imagine all the domino tiles falling, one after another, ending in the destruction of the relationship.
He went outside with his latte and took one of the blankets that was lying on the chairs. He shot an accusatory look at the young couple, but they didn't look at him, hadn't even noticed him. If, against all likelihood, they did not blow up over the phone number, but simply thought it a bad joke, they wouldn't remember him and even if they did, they would have no idea what they had done to deserve this. From their point of view, they had simply gone into a coffee shop and sat down at a vacant table.
Meyer turned away from the window and sipped his latte. It was on the lukewarm side of 'not warm enough'. He frowned. He was going to drink it anyway; lukewarm latte was better than no latte and he needed it, but now he would have to spend his coffee break figuring out what to do about the barista.

Flash Fiction Challenge: One Small Story In Seven Acts

Link to the challenge: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/02/03/flash-fiction-challenge-one-small-story-in-seven-acts/


Tanya walked up the stairs of the small hotel, following the bellhop. “There's not a lot of people here,” she said. “Considering the season and all that.”
The bellhop, who was a man in his early sixties, looked at her. “Well,” he said, “you look like a sensible young woman, so I suppose there'll be no harm in telling you. This place has got a reputation as being haunted.”
“Haunted?” Tanya repeated with a laugh.
“Yes. People have seen and heard thing, although hardly more than the floorboards creaking. Then some local paper decided to look into it; silly season, you know. They found out that there had been deaths in the hotel. Completely natural of course; after all, most people die in their beds and this place is filled with them. But they took the story and ran with it. And in this day and age, what with the internet and all that, it is impossible to bury.”
“That's too bad.”
The bellhop shrugged. “Some of the boys say, that lots of people would like to stay in a haunted hotel and that we should advertise it. But this is a reputable family hotel, not a ride in an amusement park.”
“Of course not. So, is my room one of the haunted?”
“No, the so-called sightings have been made in lots of different rooms and other people have slept in the same rooms and seen nothing. There's no rhyme or reason to it.”

Tanya woke up, because the moon was shining through a slit in the curtains and the light hit her face. She turned over and closed her eyes. She was just about to drift off to sleep again, when she heard a creaking sound. And another. She opened her eyes, but even with the moonlight, the room was too dim to make out.
She remembered the bellhop's remark about people hearing floorboards creaking and what she had thought of people, who got scared because of an old building settling. But this was different. The creaking sounds were coming from different directions as if someone was moving around the room. Then she heard the distinct sound of a hand sliding over fabric; someone was touching her sheet.
She shot out her hand and nearly knocked over the lamp on the bedside table, but she managed to turn it on and blinked in the sudden sharp light. The room was empty. Great, she thought, you're one of the people, who are scared of an old building settling. At least she hadn't embarrassed herself by screaming.

The next night, Tanya closed the curtains firmly and hung a black shawl over the middle. If she didn't wake because of the moonlight, then she wouldn't hear any suspicious sounds.

She was woken by a gentle shaking of her arm.
“Mfl gref five more minutes,” she muttered and turned over.
The shaking became firmer.
Tanya's eyes flew open, but in the darkness of the room she couldn't see anyone. It had to be one of the staff, who was here to tell her that there was something like a gas leak and they had to be evacuated. She reached out a shaking hand and turned on the light.
A woman was sitting on the edge of her bed. She was plump, with lots of wrinkles and looked like a kind grandmother. The room was visible through her..
Tanya wanted to scream but now that she finally had good reason to do so, she found that she couldn't. A croaking sound was all that escaped her lips. She jumped out of bed and ran out of the room.
The lit hallway outside was filled with people and for the briefest of moments she thought that everything was normal. That there really was some kind of evacuation going on and that Tanya had simply imagined that the old lady was transparent. Then she realised that she could see the pattern on the wallpaper through all the people here. They turned and looked at her and a couple of them took a step towards her.
She had to get out, but they were standing between her and the stairs, so she ran towards the window in the other end of the hall and opened it. It led out to the fire escape and she slipped out and started down. The metal grill hurt her naked feet and she immediately started freezing in her pyjamas. She didn't care.
She stumbled and fell down the stair; tumbled down the hard metal, then landed one the ground. Tanya got up, shaking, and brushed herself of. She had scraped a lot of skin, but wasn't seriously injured.
She ran towards the gate leading out of the hotel's garden, without any idea about where she would go. She just had to get out of this place.
She turned her head to see if the ghosts were following her; they weren't. Then she stopped. At the foot of the fire escape something was lying, something big. She started to slowly walk back. This side of the house lay in shadows, the only light came from the distant street lights; therefore she had to walk all the way to the thing before she could make out what it was.
He legs gave out under her and she knelt on the ground next to her own dead body. The face was turned towards her and there was puzzled expression in in, as if the body in its very last second had seen its spirit get out and run off without it.
She heard soft steps on the fire escape and looked up. The ghost were making their way down towards her. They looked sad. They also looked more solid. The old lady was first on the ground and she wrung her hands and tried to smile. “Don't worry, dear,” she said. “It's not all bad, once you get used to it.”

Flash Fiction Challenge - Present Tense

Link to the challenge: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/01/27/flash-fiction-challenge-the-present-tense/

Warning: Contains lots of implied gore

 As soon as they hear the knocking on the door, she knows that the exchange has gone wrong. It's not the careful rapping of their contact, but the sound of a fist hitting the wood with a force as if it's trying to break through it. Even as dread washes over her, she wonders why the people outside aren't being more subtle, why they're not trying to pretend to be the contact. She doubts that they can bluff their way in, but they could at least try.

The heavy machine gun – that someone showed into her hands hours ago, ignoring her weak protests, that she didn't know how to handle it – has been gravitating towards the floor all evening. Now she once again raises it and holds it front of her, like a shield. Her heart is beating fast and all her blood seems to be rushing to her head and staying there.

A sound of something splintering and a shower of glass. It takes her a moment to translate these events and understand that a window has just been broken. Her brain seems far more occupied with the feeling of a single bead of sweat as it is making its way down her back from her bra strap. The warmth and humidity is suffocating.

Something is thrown in through the window and she dives behind a large desk, dizzily hoping that it isn't tear gas. The incredible loud sound of an explosion and the room seems to shake. Something wet hits her left cheek and she realises, with a sickening feeling, that she got what she hoped for. The explosion has almost deafened her and the screams around her are muffled, but when she lifts her head to look out from behind the desk, the sight makes her stomach clench. She quickly wipes the wet smear on her cheek with her sleeve, not daring to touch it with her bare hand or look at it, in case it is something else than blood. A couple of the people on the floor are still moving and screaming, even though at least one of them looks like he shouldn't be able to, ever again.

Someone bursts into the room from one of the other doors; one of her people, although that distinction carries little weight. He takes in the carnage without blinking and then sees her. He gestures angrily at her to follow him and then runs into the next room, not looking back, confident that she will follow. She has to try a couple of times before she is able to stand up on shaking legs. She makes her way through the bodies. The one who most looks like he should be dead is looking at her and extending a hand towards her; begging for help or maybe just a quick death. Looking at the remains of his body is enough to make her break into a new sweat, even though she is already soaked. She has been grabbing the machine gun so hard that it feels like she should have left marks in the metal. It takes a conscious effort to make her fingers uncurl so she can shift her grip. She points the muzzle down at the man, then looks up into the ceiling as she squeezes the trigger. There's a burst of shots, like fireworks and she lets the trigger go with a yelp and almost drops the gun. When she looks down at the man, he is dead or a least no longer looking at her.

She catches movement out of the corner of her eye and lifts her gaze. One of the enemy soldiers has entered the room, no doubt summoned by the sound of the shooting. He is so young, barely more than a boy and it makes the machine gun he is carrying look like a toy, but there's nothing playful about the way he is pointing it at her. She doesn't lift her own weapon, it would be no use. She just looks at him, waiting for the shot. Then he lowers his own weapon, gives her a curt nod and disappears into the next room. She stares after him, confused, then realizes that he somehow thought she was one of his people.

She looks around, uncertain. She can hear the sound of gunshots and yelling and explosions and screaming coming from another part of the house, where the fighting is still going on. She doesn't want to join. She didn't think much about dying a moment ago, but she doesn't want to be another soldier, lying on the floor, begging for a merciful death, that may or may not be granted. Instead she removes the largest pieces of glass and climbs out the window, cutting herself on the remains and not caring. Outside, her legs give way and she sits down on the ground beneath the window, looking out at the naked field, which the rain and too many running feet has churned into mud. In the light from the moon the earth is grey, a greyness that is an absence of colour more than a colour in itself; looking at it, it's easy to imagine that colours have never existed. The smell of mud is overwhelming, she might as well have scooped up a handful and stuffed it in her mouth.

She tries to get up, but her legs refuse to obey her. Maybe it is just as well. She knows what they do to deserters, when they catch them. Compared to that or to joining the fighting, just sitting here until one of the enemy soldiers finds her and kills her with a single, deadly shot seems like a good option.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Random Photo Story

Link to the challenge: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/01/20/flash-fiction-challenge-random-photo-story/

The pictures:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/35127579@N05/6467467543/ (turned out to actually be a video)

Author's notes: This is a small piece featuring a pair of my main-characters musing about things. They are rather vague about some things that haven't been disclosed yet.
They were crossing the bridge, side by side. The woman called Ria squinted her eyes in the bright light from the sun reflecting in the snow and looked around with a content expression. The woman called Annie looked at her with a indulgent expression, but was in reality content herself. She couldn't manage much enthusiasm herself about being outside, but found Ria's happiness catching.
They passed a group of people and Annie's gaze automatically swept over them, keeping an eye out. When she looked back at Ria, her look had changed. Her smile seemed frozen and her eyes were haunted. Annie looked back over her shoulder at the group of people, but it was impossible to tell now, who had been the cause of the change. She looked back at Ria.
”Saw someone you knew?”
Ria nodded. ”The old lady,” she replied.
”Where from?” Annie persisted. She had seen the old lady in the group, but hadn't noticed anything of the ordinary about her.
Ria didn't say anything, which was an answer in its own right.
Annie was silent for a moment, then asked: ”Was is very bad?”
Ria nodded again.
”Is it something you can make right?”
”Someone died.”
”Any chanced she recognized you?”
”No.” Ria shot her a sharp look, like she was annoyed with Annie moving so quickly from the idea of making amends, to simple damage control. “I've changed,” she added and was then silent for so long, that Annie thought she wasn't going to say anything else. The bridge ended and they turned onto the small path along the lake. Finally she added: ”You know, they tell you, that you were a different person back then and that the things you did, doesn't count. But that doesn't change the fact that they happened. Some things you can set right again, but there are those you can't.”
Annie thought about this. ”So they lie to you. What else would you have them do?”
”What?” Ria's expression clearly said, that whatever she had expected as an answer, this was not it.
”Like you said, you've changed since then and now you feel guilt about what you used to do. That kind of guilt can be crippling, but they don't need you to curl up in the foetal position and never rise again; they need you to be up and ready to fight the kind of persons that you used to be. So they lie to you and tell you that your past life is forgiven and forgotten.”
Ria blinked. ”That was cynical.”
Annie raised an eyebrow. ”The others tried to be nice to you. It didn't seem to help, now did it?”
”I suppose not.” Ria reached out and touched a reed that swayed under her hand. The sight of her out-stretched hand made a couple of optimistic ducks lift their heads and take a few strokes in her direction.
”Regret is only worth something, if it is put to use. You can't change the past, but you can set some of it right. Then there's some that you can't. But you can still do good to other people and if you do it for long enough, the scales will tip.”
Ria looked at her. ”That's very philosophical,” she said. ”Usually I'm the only one who talks that much.”
”I talk when I have something to say.”
”So do I. It's just that I also talk outside of that.” She looked around. ”Is this where we are supposed to be?”
”Yes, it's that bench.” Annie pointed.
They sat down and looked out on the lake.
”You know,” Ria said, ”we're here early and it's kind of cold. Could you be persuaded to go get some coffee?”
”Why don't you do it?”
”Because I want to think … about stuff.”
Annie looked at her. ”Fair enough. Milk and sugar?”
”Neither, thanks.”
”Be right back.”
”I'm not going anywhere.”

Flash Fiction Challenge - The Flea Market

The archangel Gabriel liked flea markets. I wasn’t what you could call a hobby, for the word ‘hobby’ seems to indicate a specific purpose, like collecting, and Gabriel rarely bought anything. When he did, it was usually things connected to Heaven, which the humans, who sold them, knew nothing about. A couple of times he had gotten his hands on extremely powerful objects, which should never have gotten into human hands in the first place. But that wasn’t what he came for. He just liked to walk around and look at the things for sale and the things being sold. The item that one person had deemed junk to be gotten rid of, was something that another person could use, maybe even something they had been searching for a long time. He cared little for actual antique markets, preferring authentic flea markets with stuff that people had found cleaning out their attics and basements and then put up for sale.
Very rarely, so rarely that the instances had a mythical status in Heaven as something only half believed, Gabriel himself had a stall at a flea market.

Gabriel poured himself a cup of coffee from his thermos. If the people in the stalls around him had been watching him, they would have noticed that he had by now poured an absurd number of cups of coffee from the thermos, but they were much to busy to pay attention to him. The weather was far better than anyone could remember it ever having been on a market day and people were crowding the market place.
Gabriel’s stall was smaller than most of the others; he only had one table and his goods were unimpressive. They were angel figurines in all shapes, sizes and materials; angels of wood, glass, stone, ceramics, metal and porcelain, angels that were sewn or knitted.
Because of its modest appearance, many people passed right by the stall, without sparing it more than a glance. Some people scanned the figurines to see if there might be one of value among them, that they could buy cheaply and resell for a higher price, but there wasn’t and so they also moved on. The only ones who took the time to really look at his wares were the ones who meticulously inspected all the stalls in the market place. Like the young woman who was strolling from the neighbouring stall to his and stopped to look at the figurines.
“Collector?” she asked. “Or maybe, I should say ex-collector, since they are for sale.”
“I have more back home,” Gabriel replied. It wasn’t a very good joke, but he couldn’t stop himself from saying it.
The young woman nodded and leaned over, studying the figurines with an intent look, as if she had already decided to bring home an angel and just needed to decide which one.
“It’s not easy, finding the right one,” Gabriel said.
“Oh,” the young woman replied. “That’s not a problem; I can see several right ones. It’s just which one to pick.”
Gabriel smiled, but the woman didn’t see it, bent over the figurines as she were, and when she finally picked one out and straightened up, saying: “This one!” with a triumphant voice, the smile had gone, or rather, had been replaced with an ordinary smile.
The figurine was about as long as the young woman’s hand. It was a stylized female angel, her hands folded and held close to her chest, her wings almost folded but with the tip of one wing in front of her body.
“How much is it?” the young woman asked. Gabriel told her and she paid him.
He watched her as she strolled on to the next stall. She clenched the angel close to her chest for a moment, in an imitation of the figurine’s posture and then placed it in her bag.
Gabriel took a new angel from under the table and placed it where the other had stood. Then he started rearranging the angels so that the new one would harmonize with the others.