Challenge # 2 of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest was over the weekend. For the challenge we are given writing prompts at midnight and have 48 hours to write a story using 1000 words or less. My Challenge 2 prompts were:
Location: Wildlife Refuge
Object: A Silver Spoon
Attempting to write a thriller pushed me outside my comfort zone, but I like a good challenge, and I gave it my best shot. Here's what I came up with.
They responded to an ad. “Wildlife executive director of Silver Spoon Big Cat Sanctuary to retire. Seeking heir to oversee the preserve. Interested persons should respond at silverspoonsanctuary.com.” Four did.
It was a beautiful day for mid-September, a bright blue sky, warm breeze kind of day. Vik was first to arrive, a large, muscular, athletic looking man in his mid 50s. Lily pulled up right after him. He hauled his oversized backpack out of the Jeep, then turned to assist the slender, 40-something woman. She was intently taking in the scenery, gazing at the surrounding mountains. “Have you ever been out west before?” Vik asked.
“No, I haven’t. I’m eager to see it. I’ve lived in Boston most of my life.”
“What made you decide to come out here for this?”
“I needed a change,” She picked up her bag and walked over to the gate running her hand down the handles in the shape of silver spoons.
You could hear Sal and Mara before you could see them; clearly they liked Phish. They pulled up in a vintage VW Microbus, brightly painted in red and gold, emblazoned with the logo “The Hugos.”
A porter greeted them, “Welcome to Silver Spoon Sanctuary. I will escort you to your cabins. Please bring only your essentials. No weapons are permitted on the grounds.” They were taken to a cluster of three cabins alongside a small lake. “Diana is expecting you at six for dinner at the main house. You will find a map of the grounds in your cabins, there are ATVs in the barn for your use.”
Each took some time to get settled into their cabins. Vik was the first to emerge with a shotgun slung over his shoulder and some binoculars. Lily saw him from her window and met him outside. “What are you doing with that? We were instructed not to bring weapons.”
“It looks like we have a few hours to ourselves before we meet the director. I think I’ll take advantage of the time to do some tracking.” With that he sauntered over to the barn to retrieve an ATV.
Lily stalked after him. “We didn’t come here to hunt and track the animals. I think you should at least wait and meet Diana before exploring the grounds.”
“I’m not sure why you’re here, but I fully intend to make this a hunting and gaming preserve. I am going to get a look at the terrain and get a feel for the place,” retorted Vik.
“She’ll never allow that.”
“Once she’s out of here it’s no longer her call.” Vik sped off on one of the ATVs.
Upon hearing the commotion, Sal and Mara came out of their cabin. “Where’s he off to?” Sal asked.
“He’s a hunter, he wants to get a look at the grounds,” replied Lily disgusted.
“I did a little research on the sanctuary. Diana doesn’t keep it open to the public, except for the occasional fundraiser or educational workshop,” said Mara. “If we get the opportunity, Sal and I would like to open it up as an attraction. Let people come in and meet the animals and interact with them.”
“We traveled with a circus and did an act with trained tigers for several years. I enjoy working with the big cats in particular. Why are you here? What’s your plan?” asked Sal.
“I don’t have a plan.” Lily walked back to her cabin.
It was nearing six and Vik hadn’t come back to the cabins. “I think we should leave without him,” said Mara. Sal and Lily agreed and made their way to dinner.
The main house sat upon a hill overlooking the entire grounds. Behind it a tent with tables and a buffet was set. Diana emerged from the house, her constant companion by her side, a beautiful snow leopard. She slowly made her way to the tent, wearing a flowing light blue tunic that accentuated her gray hair and blue eyes. Woman and cat were a stunning sight to behold. “Hello, I am Diana and this is Gaia.
“She’s beautiful,” cooed Mara. “How did you tame her? I’ve never seen a wild cat so docile.”
“I haven’t tamed her. I don’t believe you can tame a wild animal, and make no mistake she is a wild animal. It appears we are short one.”
“Yes, Vik. He took an ATV out this afternoon and hasn’t made it back yet,” said Sal. A gunshot was heard in the distance, followed by the roars of two lions.
“That would be Athena and Artemis. They do sound hungry,” Diana, sat and stroked Gaia behind the ears.
“You don’t think that’s Vik? Should we go look for him?” asked Mara.
“I believe Athena and Artemis already found him. There is no point. Shall we eat, I’m sure you have some questions.” The stunned guests sat in silence. “Has the cat got your tongues?” Diana laughed. “Ah, Nyx, ever the curious one.” As she spoke a tiger sauntered around the table.
“I’ve worked with tigers in the past, I’ll show you I can train one,” boasted Sal. He got up and began to approach the tiger now seated on her right.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” The tiger pinned its ears back and crouched.
“Sal, stop. Listen to her!” Mara jumped from her chair and rushed to Sal. Nyx pounced.
“Never approach the animal, always let the animal approach you. Never, ever make any sudden moves. Slowly Diana turned toward Lily, “and then there was one. Why are you here?”
Lily kneeled before her, “I’m lost. I have nothing left. I want their beauty, their strength, their courage.”
“What will you give them?”
The panther cub bounded from the shadows, approaching Lily. She licked her face and hands and curled up beside her.
“You have been chosen, name her well.” At that Diana and Gaia stood in unison and walked off into the mountains.
“Hope, I name her Hope.”
I am participating in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. I am a newbie to the competition. For the challenge we are given writing prompts at midnight and have 48 hours to write a story using 1000 words or less. My Challenge 1 prompts were:
Genre: Historical Fiction
Location: A Castle
Object: A Thimble
Here's what I came up with. Cheers to all who are participating. Happy Writing!
Isleen arose before dawn and made her way to the sacred circle on her family’s farm. She entered and kneeled to pray to the Pleiades. “Mother Goddess, on this, eve of Beltane, restore the fertility of the earth, bring growth and bounty to our crops, and restore life and vitality to our livestock and families.” She buried an offering of sweet bread, then brushed her hands through the dew-laden grass and washed her face with the cool water. As she was doing so, she faintly heard the sound of chimes, looking around she saw nothing.
Drustan rose as the sky was turning pink. He went to the Druid altar in the castle courtyard and kneeled to pray. “God of the Sun, warm and awaken the Earth. Bring light, life, and prosperity to our community.” He placed an offering of antlers, acorns, and seeds upon the altar. He meditated in silence until the sounds of the cathedral bells signaled the dawn of the day.
A long, arduous winter was finally coming to an end. Sorrow and dismay hung over the village of Ros like a black cloud. Food shortages and malnutrition had taken a toll, as 25 lives were lost to Typhus this winter season. The loss of any member of the community was felt deeply, this loss was devastating.
Today, however, spirits were lighter. As dawn broke there was hope and a promise of rebirth in the air. At the epicenter of the village, Castle Ballyros, home to Lord and Lady Cara was bustling with activity preparing for the evening rituals. The main street passing in front of the castle was being cleaned. On each end of the street an area was being prepared for two bonfires. A maypole was raised in the castle square and tables for a village-wide feast were placed around it.
Maidens gathered in the castle square toiling to string flower garlands of primrose, lilacs, daisies, and marigolds. Their melodic voices and laughter floated in the spring breeze as they worked. “Agh,” Isleen exclaimed as she pricked herself with a needle making a crown of daises and primrose. A drop of blood splashed on the flowers as she drew her finger to her mouth to stop the bleeding. “Be careful Isleen, here use a thimble. If the fairies get a scent of your blood they may whisk you away before Drustan is able to have his way with you,” teased Brie, her closest friend. “Hush, Brie, you shouldn’t speak so.” Suddenly, again she heard bells softly tinkling, “Do you hear that?” “Hear what?” Brie replied. “I thought I heard bells; this morning too.” “I don’t know how you could hear anything over all the noise in the castle square today.” Isleen looked up from her work and glanced around, it was crowded, everyone was busy, “It’s nothing,” she thought to herself. She placed the thimble on her finger and got back to work.
The bachelors of the village were in the surrounding woods collecting the nine sacred woods for the bonfires. One of the young men was playing a flute as the others divided up the work. “I know there’s a stand of Alder trees down by where the river forks, I’ll go gather those branches,” said Drustan. Off he went and soon had a bundle of the wood in his arms. As he bent to pick up one last branch he saw a flicker of white out of the corner of his eye. He stood and looked around but nothing was there.
At dusk, the villagers gathered in the castle square for the Beltane rituals. Lord Cara ignited flame through the rubbing of sticks praying to the sun Gods for a bountiful growing season and lit the bonfires. The bachelors and maidens gathered around the maypole each grasping a ribbon and began their weaving to the tunes of the harp and viola. Drustan held the ribbon over Isleen as she ducked under; they smiled coyly at one another. Baskets adorned with flowers containing the names of the Maypole dancers were presented to Lord and Lady Cara. Lady Cara drew a name, “Drustan Cara, I pronounce thee God of the Sun.” Lord Cara drew a name, “Isleen Byrne, I pronounce thee Goddess of the Earth.” Drustan and Isleen presented themselves before the Lord and Lady for their handfasting. Crowns of flowers were placed upon their heads and their hands were bound with flower garlands. Lord and Lady Cara chanted “May this marriage of Earth and Sun awaken the soil and bring bounty and wealth to our community.” Again, Isleen heard the faint sound of bells. She glanced at Drustan, and the people surrounding them, but no one seemed to indicate they had heard it.
Once the handfasting was complete, the newly crowned God and Goddess invited all to the table and the villagers sat down for a feast. When dinner had ended, Drustan and Isleen rose and signaled for the herds to be walked through the village. The cattle adorned in flowered garlands were paraded around the fires in a figure eight. Having thus been blessed they were lead to pasture for the spring season.
It was now time for the God and Goddess to take their repose into the woods. Isleen and her maidens entered first to decorate the wedding bed. They found a grove of Hawthorn, Ash, and Oak and tied ribbons from the boughs. Isleen settled herself on the mossy ground beneath the trees and waited. Again the bells chimed, louder this time, she glanced behind her and saw a beautiful woman on a white horse. “It’s time for you to join us Isleen.”
As the maidens rushed out of the woods they bid Drustan to enter. In the distance he saw the ribbons flickering in the light breeze and ran to the grove. All that was there was a floral crown with a few specks of dried blood. Isleen was gone.
Once upon a time...
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