Apartment 51 - Fall Flash Fiction Challenge
Hello, and welcome to Apartment 51!
Apartment 51 is the newly renovated space above the Cup & Platter, and it is meant for those of a literary bent. It is, quite literally, a "speak-easy", but of the more bookish sort. I've heard there's a secret room or two hidden in here, with an assortment of--ahem--banned books, if you are in the mood to explore. It will also be the permanent home of Ditto Town's Flash Fiction Challenges. Flash Fiction Challenges are designed to create very short, self-contained stories on a given theme or prompt, within a certain set of parameters. Once stories have been submitted, writers can provide each other with feedback, of the friendly sort.
As you explore, please note the following rules:
1. This thread is specifically for authors to post finished pieces and receive feedback. It is not for roleplays.
2. For the same reasons, please refrain from discussing tangent topics or plotting in this thread.
Flash Fiction Rules:
1. Keep all posts rated “G” or “PG” for the sake of our younger members.
2. Your story must be longer than 10 words and shorter than 1500 words. All stories must be on the prompt given, and all stories must be given a title to differentiate from stories written by other authors.
3. Members may only post one story per prompt.
4. All characters must be characters you have invented yourself, not taken from other authors. This means fan fiction is not allowed. You can use your characters from other Ditto Town stories, or ones made up just for this thread.
5. Remember again to post the title of your story at the top.
1. Always include the title of the story you are commenting on.
2. Remember to THINK—are your comments true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind?
3. Make your posts substantial. For example, if you want to say “Good job!” or “I really liked your story!” add some details (“I really liked your story because it highlighted the strong friendship between Cheddar the Chipmunk and his Talking Thimble without being overbearing and cheesy”).
4. Please keep in mind that all writers are at a different place in their writing journey. Thus, we ask that you focus on giving feedback, rather than editing pointers.
Without further ado, your prompt is as follows:
Write a story that reflects the spirit of fall. Whether it is about going back to school, crunchy leaves, or Halloween, your story should reflect your favorite parts of the changing seasons.
Feel free to revise this prompt to fit your individual storytelling style by changing the tense or changing any pronouns necessary to fit your characters. Also, keep in mind this event will come to a close on October 31st.
Now, sit back, relax, and perhaps have a nice cup of suitable beverage. I'll be back down in the C&P, if anyone needs me.
~ Read the Ditto Town Frequently Asked Questions ~
The last of the fiery red leaves from the maple tree came floating down to join the piles that crunched crisply under May's feet. She saw them land, and a smile crossed her face, followed by a sigh. Ordinarily, she loved this time of year: the mild cool days replacing the torrid heat of summer, the smell of bonfires and of freshly turned earth, the brilliant array of foliage. There was a sense of purpose, of newly kindled ambition to do things, most particularly to prepare for the onset of winter. Harvest, repairs, a general tidying away of odds and ends--battening down the hatches before the snow came. This year, though, she was not ready.
Apprehensively she sniffed the air; it certainly smelled like snow. Dark clouds hung ominously low on the horizon. She liked to watch the soft flakes whispering down, the beautiful blanket covering over the brown land; she did not enjoy digging root crops out from under it, or wrestling out chunks of firewood frozen together, never mind the nuisance of removing slimy leaves and stems from the garden patch after it had melted away. She had done that once, the first year she had been on the property, and had sworn never to do so again.
If only she had not broken her arm, just at the time when all of these tasks were crying out to be completed. True, it was healed up now, but it was still weak, and she was so far behind. It was hopeless to contemplate getting everything done; she must stop dithering now, decide what was most important, and focus on that.
She was making a mental list, when she heard a vehicle door slam, an unusual sound this far from town. A truck was pulled up outside her gate, and a man--a young man--was coming toward the house. What could he want? He looked vaguely familiar to May, though for the life of her she couldn't guess why.
"Mrs Sanders?" he began, with a bashful smile. "I--we--well, we were wondering if you could use a hand out here, with your yard?"
"Oh!" May gave a little gasp. She looked the young fellow up and down. He didn't appear to be a scammer or even a salesman. "I--I'm afraid that I can't afford to hire anybody today. I am sorry--what group are you collecting money for?"
"Oh dear! I haven't begun very well, have I? No, we don't want to be paid," he replied. "My friends and I are going around, seeing if there are any widows or elderly people that need help. From the church in town. I'm Jack Trenton, the new pastor's son."
"Oh," said May again, recognizing him now that she had some context. "Why, you just might be an answer to prayer. Most years I would have everything done by now, but this year.... What are you willing to do?"
"Why, whatever you need to have done. Chop wood, carry water, scrub floors--you name it, we'll do it. Just a moment," and he turned towards the road. Enthusiastically he waved both arms. The doors of the truck burst open, and a crowd of laughing boys and girls emerged.
May was almost overwhelmed. She hadn't paid much attention to the youngsters in the church--they had always just been there--and she had not expected that they would ever take any notice of her. Now they were coming to her for orders--two more vehicles had pulled up behind the truck, spewing out their passengers to join the fray.
She was barely permitted to lift a finger herself, so busy was she in overseeing the various endeavors. Two brisk young men began to split the logs into quarters, and as quickly as the pieces fell, some of the girls carted it away to the woodshed. Another party took up forks and set off to lift the potatoes, carrots and parsnips from their earthy beds. Others began a leaf-raking competition, seeing who could make the biggest pile in the shortest time. Armed with a hammer and nails, Jack circumnavigated the house, tacking down any loose boards that might flap about in the wind.
Everywhere there was a flurry of activity, and the air was filled with laughter and snippets of song, hymns and choruses sounding from all different quarters. Perhaps it was rather a joyful noise than a melodious one, since they were not all singing the same thing, nor in the same key, but there was no doubt about its cheerfulness.
With so many willing hands, the jobs got done licketty-split. May could hardly believe what they accomplished in one short afternoon. Now, what could she do for them, to show how much she appreciated their kindness? Ah, that was it!
As the last piece of firewood was stacked, and the last vegetable stowed in the root cellar, May came staggering forth bearing a great big pot of hot chocolate. They all stood round the bonfire, rosy cheeks glowing, and chilled fingers wrapped around warm mugs. Then with merry shouts of farewell, the young people all streamed out to their cars, and drove away, leaving May to look around with grateful eyes at the evidence of the hard work done.
The first flakes of snow were beginning to fall from the sky as she went indoors at last, into her warm house. It was not just the house that was warm, however; her heart was also glowing, as she experienced the joys of belonging to a community in a way that she had never done before.
Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away ... my days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle
A cool autumn breeze blows the leaves near a marble headstone facing a breathtaking view, the sun is setting and painting a picture of vibrant deep purples, reds, and oranges in the soon to be night sky. A tall figure soon appears wearing a red cloak and white knit scarf, she carries flowers and a picnic basket with a small stuffed kitten inside. She sits down next to the headstone and touches it, the name reads Morgan Soleira; had she been alive she would have been the same age as the visitor. The woman removes her hood to reveal pale blue eyes and long red hair that would fall to her knees if standing.
Hannah Soleira placed the flowers next to the cold marble stone and unpacked the basket, "I did say I would visit from time to time, I brought you your favourite cat. Even though it was originally mine." She mused with a sly grin, she could almost hear her twin's voice in her head, I'm the older one its mine!
"You will be pleased to know I am in my last year in school, starts this fall. Only I transferred to a different school I head to the town this week, which means I won't be able to visit as much. I hope you like the view, I remembered you liked this spot. Also the sunset, I miss watching you paint when the light faded, you still managed to capture it like a photograph. Oh its your favourite time of year too, autumn, you would like the colours, reds, oranges, yellows, even browns." Hannah explained as though her sister was there, the wind seemed to blow in response to her words.
She starts to eat her sandwich and look at the view again, as she does, small tears begin to fall, like the rain would soon as it got colder. "Sorry, I know you do not want tears, I just miss you sis, you could come with me if you were still here. I think you would like this new place, I bet there are sports for you to play, you always were the more athletic one." A laugh escapes as the tears fall a little more. The wind blows again in response and more leaves cover the ground. The twenty-two year old takes a breath and continues her supper.
"How long has it been since you left? Three years? I wish I knew what made you so sad all the time. I hope you are happy at last, I keep every smile and laugh of yours in my memory, those became few and far between." Hannah continued, she remembered the day she found her sister; alone and cold. She wondered often what she could have done to prevent it but stopped herself, it would only push her in the same place that her sister told her not to be in. Just be the happy one please? For me? Her sister's voice rang in her ears again.
"It was winter I remember that, your least favourite. You liked fall, and spring, when colours are everywhere and not the same. I like this time too, the times we spent jumping in leaf piles or pretending we could fly in the wind. Those were happier days--" Hannah cut herself off and looked at the kitten, she realised something as she gazed at the green eyes and black fur still on the worn, old, and very much loved kitten of childhood's past. "I also came to give you my cat, yes MY cat not yours, I think it is time anyway to move on. You always looked forward anyway, never wanting to look at your past even when life for you was short so here you are." The young woman set the kitten next to the flowers and packed up her picnic basket.
The wind blew in response again and more leaves fell, Hannah stood up tall as the trees behind her and her red hair matched the falling leaves. "I need to say goodbye and start the next chapter, its what you would want and its what I should have done so many times; let go." She said unsteadily as the cold touched her face. "Just try and be happy? For me? Where ever you are?"
Hannah gave one last glance at the marble stone before walking back to the blue car and her new life, letting go and moving forward was hard for her but she hoped it would become easier as time went on. She looked at the leaves that continued to ride the wind, I wish it still did not hurt to have you gone, I feel like a part of me is missing. She thought as she got into the car and drove away.
The marble stone overlooked the view again, alone as the wind beat against it with autumn leaves in its wake. The colours in the sky were nearly gone as the days would grow shorter and colder.
It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.
The Herbalist's Conundrum
“Eleri, are you planning on staying at the shop tonight?” Zainab asked me, her face appearing over my shoulder. I looked up at her, straining to see without a light. She snickered.
“You got too caught up in your books again, and forgot it gets dark when the sun goes down, didn’t you?”
“Oh, hush, Zainab,” I grumbled, standing up and turning on the light. “I just need to index a couple things before we head home, ok?”
“Fine, fine, don’t mind me, I’ll just take your book and sit on it, just in case you are inclined to peek at the next chapter.”
I shook my head, but said nothing as she settled, on my book, in the seat I had so recently vacated. The single lamp by the register illuminated the shop surprisingly well, and make the dusky outdoor light vanish in contrast. I stepped out onto the stoop to catch the last colors of the fading sunset. A few people hurried down the streets; they all had homes they were intent on reaching, I was sure. Zainab and I had much less of a journey to make, as our apartment was directly above the shop, accessible by a set of stairs hidden in the back. I knocked the doorstop inside and pulled the door to, locking both the deadbolt and the little useless chain. For some reason it made me feel safer having it there; plus Zainab had trouble undoing it if she wanted out, which always amused me.
The shop itself was small and rather well packed, with no space wasted. Indeed, while most of our customers raved about the “aesthetic”, we kept herb bundles handing from the ceiling simply because there was nowhere else to put them. I often considered moving, especially on the occasions where I rammed into a table, but it had a rather spacious workroom behind it that was nearly impossible to find elsewhere. We used this mainly for compounding and processing, which is the backbone of the entire operation, but every now and then after a particularly bustling morning, Zainab would nap on one of the tables. She always pretends it is cozy, but I’ve yet to see the value of sleep on hard flat surfaces, especially when one’s own bed is merely up a flight of stairs. Then again, Zainab could get comfortable anywhere, and in almost any position, as was currently proven by the fact that she had one foot resting on the arm of my chair, the other on the back, and her was head lolling off the front as she inspected (and chewed) her nails. She needed a pedicure again.
“You’re gonna fall off and hit your head,” I observed.
“Oh Eleri of little faith,” she grinned at me, “no I won’t.”
I tapped her nose. She crinkled it up and rubbed her face.
“Are you done yet?” she asked.
“What? No, I still have to file the paperwork from today’s clients.”
“But…who’s going to feeeeeeed meeeeeee?”
“Oh, lay off, lazybones.”
She watched me quietly, then straightened up and sat like a proper member of society.
“You know, we need to discuss how much time you are spending on the shop,” she said. I froze for a moment, then looked at her. She was quite serious, staring back at me with large, unblinking eyes.
“We need the shop, Zai-Zai,” I said finally. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worthwhile.”
“It’s become more important to you than me.”
“What, I give you my time, my work, my fellowship, my love, and you pour all of your effort into the shop?”
“The shop has only been running for a few years. It’s barely breaking even, despite the work we do here. It needs all my—our—energies.”
“Eleri, darling, it’s rather simple, you see--”
“What do you want?” I asked.
“You to pay attention to me, of course.”
“All the time.”
“Seriously? Lay off it, Zai.”
I reached for my book. She slapped my hand away.
“I am serious, Eleri. This is getting out of hand. You have time for the shop, for your books, for a dozen different things, and you aren’t paying any attention to me. I should come first in your life, not all that other stuff. Use your magic power, and sort this out.”
I closed my eyes and felt for a moment. It is a lot easier to see the truth in a need when you aren’t the one involved.
“I can try to do better Zai, I really will,” I finally said. “But you have to try to let me focus when I need to, and to stop…getting underfoot all the time.”
“I know, but that’s what’s happening, and you’re tripping me up so I can’t finish things. But if you can let me get things done during the day, so I don’t have to do them at night, we can have shop-free evenings.”
“No reading during the day, then,” she said curtly. “You could have had all this put away earlier, if you didn’t have your nose in a book.”
“Then I need to have time to read in the evenings.”
“I’ll accept cuddling with books.”
“And maybe some light reading when it’s slow.”
Zainab’s eyes narrowed for a moment, then she yawned.
“Fine, fine. But no more late dinners.”
“Well, start upstairs, and let’s get it going.”
Zainab slid off the chair and started up, only to stop on the third step and look back at me through the slats.
“Are you coming?”
“Yes, yes, I’m coming,” I said, shoving the last papers in their folder and turning out the light. I paused.
“Now I can’t see anything.”
“Oh, come, the stairs are right over here.”
I followed Zainab’s voice to the stairs, bumping into her when I started up.
“Owwwwwwww,” she grumbled. “I’m right here, ya doofus.”
“Well, keep moving so we both can get what we want,” I said.
A few seconds later, I heard her soft footfalls on the landing. We walked into the apartment together. I switched on the light. Zainab stretched, then thumped her head against me.
“I know, I know, food,” I said. She smiled with her eyes.
“Hi,” she said.
“I’m hungry, Ele.”
“Of course you are.” I pushed her aside, pulled some food out of the cabinet, and dumped it in her bowl. She thumped her head against me again as I put it down, then settled in to eat. I got my own food, and we both ate in the kitchen, occasionally stopping to watch each other. I dumped my dish in the sink, ignoring the fact that I would have to wash it later, and settled on the couch. I patted my lap, and Zai joined me. I played with her toe beans, inspecting her nails when they came out. I did need to trim them. I scratched under her chin, then ran my hand down her back.
“Ugh, you’re getting fur all over me,” I grumbled.
Zai just closed her eyes and purred.
Avatar thanks to AITB
Well, I hope you all had loads of fun, but it appears it is time for me to turn the last of the lights out. As the saying goes, you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here! If you are looking for a place to hang out before the next Apartment 51 Challenge, which I estimate should be sometime in May, I would recommend checking out the Town Square, where you can chat with fellow Dittotopians great and small. It never closes, even in foul weather. If you wish to comment on any of the stories posted here, stop by the Cavern Tavern.
You can expect the next Apartment 51 challenge to commence early next year.
~ Read the Ditto Town Frequently Asked Questions ~