Friday Fiction #13

Thanks to Madison Woods, as ever, for a challenging picture inspriation this week. Please do take a look at the over stories linked in the comments section of her blog.

As always, I welcome comments and critique on my story below. I found this a hard one, and in particular difficult to get everything into 100 words, so I’ve had to leave a lot open to interpretation. Let me know if it does, or doesn’t, work for you in the comments and / or please join in my poll as to who the narrator is hoping to find!

The third step

There were three steps up to the house. The first felt like the highest, dragging my feet and heart out of the wet forest floor. The second was tiny, a stumble. Having made the commitment to go ahead, it got lost in momentum. She might have come home.

But the third step was the hardest. She might not. I was stuck there on that second ledge for an eternity of doubt. The last chance to sink back into the leaf litter of not knowing. If I went forward, I could find elation, or the final certainty that she was gone.


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

54 responses to “Friday Fiction #13

  1. Oh, Elmo!

    You’ve got me, hook line and sinker. I don’t have the slightest idea who’s who and what’s what, but I want to know and that’s what will keep me reading. Great job. I’ll keep my eyes on the comment section for hints.



    • Great to have you back, Doug! I missed your thoughts last week. And I’m so glad you enjoyed this piece; I couldn’t tell when I was writing it if it was all too obscure and people would get frustrated by the lack of answers! As requested, I’ll sow some clues in the comments…

  2. This one is a puzzle, i’m not really sure. It lends itself to many possibilities (so why limit it?). Here’s mine for the week:

    • Thanks for stopping by Janet! I’m glad the obscurity was well received – why limit it indeed. I thought the poll might be fun though – see if others came down on the same side I did?

  3. Caerlynn Nash

    … then again, could it be something totally different… like a beloved dog… You definitely captured the sadness of potential loss.

    • Caerlynn, actually you are closer than you think! I was remembering all the stories we’ve had recently about lost dogs. I can’t remember who last week posted a story about going out looking for the dog and coming home to find it waiting for him – this is exactly the sort of feeling I was going for (although maybe not with a dog…)

  4. I think that is was a lover and therefore doubt is cast. Love the use of the Polldaddy! What fun!

  5. TheOthers1

    I was afraid to hazard a guess as I’d probably get it wrong. I was trying really hard to figure it out though. Nice job! We are both in agreement on the 100 words being difficult.

    • they are difficult, but a great exercise in brevity and making every word count. Hopefully this will be good practice for pitches, cover letters and plot summaries when we all become famous authors!
      And go on, hazard a guess, there’s no wrong answer, only what you make of the story.

  6. Terrific, Elmo! It is a poem, a mood (anticipation) piece, so it doesn’t really matter who is or is not at the end of the steps. As is said about life, it’s the journey, not the end, and you have amazingly extracted a journey out of stones, leaves and water. You are an alchemist.

  7. I could feel for the guy… Some people just go without a word and are never missed… and there are others whose scent lingers years after they have abandoned you yearning for more… beautiful!

    Here’s mine –

  8. I think the main character is a female, actually. At first I was thinking a male. But then I thought a little more. I’m thinking she’s looking for a child. One who may have drowned in the stream. Or is presumed to have drowned. Just a thought.

    Anyway, this is the link to my drabble:

    • Thanks for stopping by, Quill. I had the MC as female too, although I’m not sure why or whether it matters and as I said in a previous comment, there’s certainly no “right answer” in a piece as brief as this.

  9. An intriguing tale. To me it felt as if the she he spoke of was a lost love.
    An air of uncertainty, of wanting to know and at the same time fear of being afraid of the outcome shone through this story.

    • the uncertainty was definitely what I was going for here, Mike, thanks. I think it is such a wonderful/terrible part of humantiy that we seek asnwers, even though we don’t always want to know them!

  10. The amount of discussion created speaks to the quality of the story you’ve written, as it really does evoke a sense of loss, whether known or unknown isn’t clear but that’s part of the fun.
    Good stuff!

    • Great, thanks niiko. I really need to move away from these stories of loss. It’s obviously something wedged in my psyche at the moment. Happy sotry next week, I promise! (Someone remind me!)

  11. Hi Elmo,
    I liked the double meaning of the steps. I’m still guessing where the steps are going, but that little mystery made me think hard and re-read and is very intriguing.
    Here’s mine:

  12. The rock representing the steps was wonderful. I was unsure who ‘she’ was, a wife, daughter? Still very intrigueing, I loved it.

    Link to mine:

  13. miq

    I loved the presented emotion and uncertainty. But to me I kept getting hung up on the three steps. Maybe the brevity of the piece made it feel contrived (just the 3 steps bit) but something felt forced to me. But I absolutely loved the line “The last chance to sink back into the leaf litter of not knowing.” So beautiful and so relatable.

    Here’s mine:

    • Thanks for your comment, miq. I started writing this as an abstract piece about the difficulty of taking steps towards anything (whether that’s a place or a realisation or something like breaking a habit or addiction) and I think maybe some of the abstract stuff got carried over, but the stone in the picture said steps to me, so that’s where I had to go – contrived or not!
      I’m pleased that you liked the leaf litter of not knowing – I couldn’t decide if it was a bit overly poetic, so I’m glad it went down well.

  14. My first thought, Elmo, was a wife/mother and “I” is hoping she has returned when she went missing or walked out. It pulled at my heart strings. Nicely done. πŸ™‚

  15. You skillfully develop a sense of longing in the narrator — it’s really impressive.

    Small concrit: Based on the rest of the piece, I think you could do more with the fourth sentence that begins “Having made…” As it stands it feels fairly abstract and slightly redundant and whisking it away would leave room for you to really hone the other sentences or add a tidbit.

    Obviously, I really like the piece as a whole, though, and it may just be a personal taste comment.

    • So glad you’re impressed, Lime!

      I take your point about that sentence – reading it again today, it does feel a bit repetitive. tiny, a stumble, lost … all ways of saying the same thing. Thanks for making me go back over it – and for taking the time to give me your concrit skills!

  16. I found this to be really powerful and a insightful reflection of the emotional turmoil which would be experienced in response to loss, abandonment or a similar trauma. I like that you work in her(?) contemplation of denial/continued ignorance. I personally got the sense of a missing/abducted child, although any given read on the ambiguity would work, I think.
    A seriously impressive interpretation of the prompt. I’m glad to see your piece receiving the positive reaction it deserves. I’m a fan πŸ™‚

    • Oooh! A fan! I’m so excited! I hope I continue to give you writing you enjoy, andy. Missing child is definitely where my mind went too, when I was writing it, but as I think the poll and the comments have shown – once we’ve written them, the words belong to our readers to do with as they will!

  17. What a poetic flow to this, and yet down to earth in its way of showing how desperately we hold on to hope. In my mind this was about a missing child, because of that first step “dragging feet and heart” out of the forest. That describes to me a longing to return, check one more time, search for what is lost. And how huge must it feel, the last step, that final hesitation, a juxtaposition of hope and fear, and belief in possibilities.

    Beautifully written, you have wrenched my heart. And I thank you for the wrenching, because that is what reading is all about for me – feeling.

    • As per my reply to Siobhan above, I’ll endeavour to avoid heart wrenching next week, Judee, but I hope you’ll enjoy it just as much. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by and buoying me up with your enthusiasm!

  18. Lora Mitchell

    Strange…mystery. Most readers feel it’s a woman…I don’t. I think it’s a man searching for a missing loved one…step by step,,.hoping to find her. I may be totally off the wall, but that is what I feel.

    Here’s mine:

    • If that’s what you feel, Lora, then it’s absolutely right. i firmly believe that writing belongs to the reader – and if the writer wants to give you a particular image, it’s his or her job to supply it. What I wanted to give you was an emotion, who “I” and “she” are is down to you!

  19. Madison Woods

    A quiz??!! Haha are you going to give us the answer later?

    I’ve been thinking of doing that on Sunday to vote for a reader’s award on our Friday flash pieces each week.

    Loved your story by the way.

    • Thanks Madison! I’m a sucker for votes, quizzes and all things button-related, so I thought i’d give it a go. It you could set one up for the Fictioneers, that would be incredible and definitely something to strive for! But it sounds like this would be a lot of work for you, and I know you’ve got a lot on your plate right now, given recent blog posts!
      As ever, thanks for the picture. Happy story next week, I promise.

  20. Jackie

    My heart is waiting for the answer? Clever you – as you have created so many feelings and illusions in so little words; the depth the soul can sink too and the feeling of heartache, but no matter how low the soul sinks HOPE can still surface if one has the FAITH to pursue……………

    • Thanks Jackie – I seem to have been looking at hope and fear the last few weeks through these little stories. Maybe that says something about me, but I think it also says something about humanity – so many of our stories come from those two emotions, two sides of the same coin. If the narrator goes into the house, she will remove either hope or fear – either “she” will be there, or gone for good. It’s a powerful moment, and I tried to capture the dilemma of whether to press on to discovery, or hide in uncertainty.

  21. Russell

    A proverbial damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don’t mystery. I could feel the anxiety as the narrator’s stomach tied in knots. The voting is a great idea too. You really know how to get your readers involved!

  22. Beautifully obscure – with some intriguing details. I don’t know if I want to know more of just chew on this for a while. Well done.

  23. Excellent idea and enjoyed the poll too. Nice ly open to our own interpretation which is always fun in flash fiction.

  24. After reading your story and looking at the picture I really like how you interpreted it. In my preparations I stared at the picture, trying to see things that would perhaps go unnoticed. I see you were much more observant than I. Very nice.

    • Thanks Steven! I just couldn’t look at the rock and not see steps, that’s obviously wha tthe muse had in mind for me that day! I started writing an abstract piece about steps, but then I felt like they had to lead somewhere, so I turned it into the little vignette you read. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  25. Such a beautiful piece. Well written and impressive. Got me thinking for

    • for…? I wait with baited breath to hear for what!

      • I apologize for the failure!
        Reminder to self: Norv, a Monday night, with a feverish state, with a laptop in the kitchen, make a combination which won’t lead to desired results. It will appeal too much to gremlims, and tempt them to submit unfinished comments……..
        I’m really sorry, Elmo, for ruining the flow of your blog comments with this clumsiness. Will come back in a minute with what I meant to say… for what is worth. πŸ˜€

  26. I loved this piece, re-read it several times, for its beauty and for letting it sink in… and letting it draw the images it wants in my mind more clearly. The strangest thing is, it almost inspires me to write on it, to write the next part. Except I won’t dare do that, so I’ll only try to explain.

    Each reading, I cannot avoid that in my mind, they, the main character and its lost one, are not human. They may be sentient or close to humans, still not human… Maybe fish (heh, the image). Maybe elves.
    There was something, a detail that happened in the recent past, which makes his clan think they know she won’t be there. Predators raid? There was always a chance it could happen, and today, they’re sure she won’t be there. Yet they don’t interrupt him, they let him find whatever he has to find on his own. Much to their surprise…
    She must be something special, not in the sense of lover or spouse or family, maybe another kind of creature, he took care of and cared for deeply. She seemed so innocent and helpless. Yet, the event had changed her, had marked her coming of age. The ugly duckling of sorts… The time has come for her to blossom.

    Rambling off. πŸ˜€

    I claim innocence for the rambling, for you asked who was she. But okay, I’m not innocent, I ruined the blog comments once, and it seems I’m doing it a second time… Sorry!
    It’s kind of difficult right now to wake up from my living dream, however please allow me to say this: I won’t be doing it every time.
    I think.

    Thank you so much for the story. Clumsily be it, I love sinking in these flash stories, I admit. I’m really looking forward to your book. πŸ™‚

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