School has kept me busy, but I managed to participate in last week's #PhotoStoryPrompt (albeit a little late). #PhotoStoryPrompt (previously known as #PhotoStoryChallenge) is a flash fiction exercise created by Radina Valova, which challenges writers to use her photographs as inspiration for a story or part of a story. Participants write flash fiction anywhere from the length of a tweet to the length of a full short story. It can also be a great exercise for getting to know a character you already have in mind, or sparking new ideas for characters and stories in the future.
Above is last Thursday's photo prompt. The rules of the challenge were that the main character must use a shovel and say the words "it has to." An optional challenge was to write it as a screenplay.
I've participated in a few of these challenges now, but I decided to bring back my characters from my first challenge. I posted a recap of that challenge's flash fiction if you'd like to read a previous scene between these characters. Something about the juxtaposition of a farm girl and a demon queen won't get out of my head. There's a chance I will turn this story into something longer and thought out in the future, but for now, enjoy my unedited flash fiction below.
“How do you know it will come this way?” Annora asked.
“It has to,” I said. “The barriers you placed around the spawning location will bar it from going towards town, and these trees are packed in tightly enough to be a barrier themselves. This road is the clearest path to the farm.”
The wooden handle of my shovel scraped my palm as I leaned against it. The shovel had served me many times before on the farm. It was familiar—a memory of home, of my seventeen years spent in the most mundane of ways. It probably never expected to be used to dig up the crown of a demon queen, or fight off undead monsters. But that’s life for you, I guess. Sometimes years of mundanity build up to one spectacular moment.
“What do you plan to do when it comes?” Annora asked. “Hit it with your shovel?”
I swiveled the shovel against the asphalt so I faced her as she paced back and forth beneath the bridge. For a demon queen, she was quite fidgety. Maybe it was all that fire inside her, searching for a release.
“I thought maybe you, with all of your demonic fire powers, could fight it,” I said. “But if that fails, then yes, I will use the shovel.”
Annora paused in her pacing to search my face, as if determining if I was joking or not. “We might consider something more practical.” I scoffed, and rubbed my forehead. Dirt from my fingers smudged onto my skin. “What?”
“Nothing,” I said. The road stretched ahead. Silent. Waiting. Birds called to each other among the trees, apparently unaware of the approaching force. The gravel along the road shifted with Annora’s renewed pacing. The juxtaposition of normal and abnormal fed the anxiety clawing at my stomach until I gripped the shovel so tightly a splinter bit into my skin. “Annora.”
The shifting gravel stopped. I breathed in, and faced her.
“Don’t leave me,” I said.
The skin between Annora’s black brows pinched together. “I would never leave you to fight—”
“No,” I said, pushing the shovel to the ground as I stepped closer. It clanged against the asphalt and then settled into silence. “I’m not talking about leaving me in these woods. I’m talking about leaving me leaving me. For good, never to be seen again.”
“Do you think I want to do that?” she asked.
The thumping of my heart filled my ears as heat burned my skin. “You made me promise to let you go.”
“My kingdom is dying,” she said. “If I can’t get back there to help my people, this is going to keep happening. Monsters from my world will invade yours. Do you want that?”
“Of course not,” I said. Another breath. “But I want you.”
Annora’s expression went slack with surprise. “Charlotte—”
I huffed. “Don’t ‘Charlotte’ me when I am standing here telling you how I feel. Either you want me or you don’t. Tell me.”
“It is far more complicated than that,” Annora said. “I can’t stay in this town with you forever. I can’t be trapped in a pact with you forever.”
“I am not asking you to do any of that!” I exclaimed. “I get it. You have responsibilities, and a kingdom, and you live in another world. Is a vacation completely out of the question? Maybe a letter here and there?”
Annora watched me. All her fidgeting had stopped, leaving her uncharacteristically still. I held my arms at my side, refusing to cross them, refusing to hide from her.
“Do you want me?” I asked.
“I want you,” she said. No hesitation.
My breath slipped out in a sigh of relief. “Good. That’s good.” My heart still pounded in my chest. It was worse than the time I had to ask Grady Mills to prom. Worse than standing up for a speech in front of my class.
Annora strode straight through the puddle between us, pulled me into her arms, and kissed me firmly on the mouth. I curled my fingers into her shoulders, against the worn fabric of the shirt she borrowed and her soft, dark skin beneath. The smell of dirt, sweat, and cedar filled my nose. No fire and brimstone.
Then I realized the pounding in my ears no longer came from my own beating heart, but from an external source, and I pushed Annora back to face the monster charging down the road on all four legs. Green flames burned along its arched back and its mouth hung open to reveal a plethora of glistening teeth.
With half my brain still focused on that kiss and the other struggling to process the oncoming threat, all I managed to get out was, “I told you so.”
Annora snorted, kicked the shovel up into her hand, and pushed the handle into mine.
“Here,” she said. “In case my demonic fire powers fail me.”
That's all for now. Stay tuned for future challenge recaps. Meanwhile, I need to jump back into writing for my CampNaNoWriMo word count goal, and stop getting distracted by a farm girl's pact with a demon queen. Check out Radina Valova on Twitter for weekly #PhotoStoryPrompts. If you'd like to read the other contributions to the challenge, go here.
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.