In this competition, you are given a word prompt (below), an optional special challenge, 500 words and one day to complete it.
Prompt (Items in brackets can be changed): I’m sorry, [sir], but I believe that’s [my] [suitcase].
Special Challenge: Include a special recipe.
Title: A recipe for (a) disaster
“I’m sorry, buddy, but I believe that’s my daughter. I’m her father… just remember that,” I shouted at him, my fist waving inches from his marriage-wrecking face.
I’d replayed this scene, trying to find better ways I should have dealt with our last moments before the Collapse.
This broke nights otherwise filled with insomnia, regret and sounds of violence. My days filled with road, made of shattered glass; that stretched like a glistening deadly carpet to a vanishing point I could not see and might not reach. In the verges, skeletal metal corpses loitered like road-kill. Ash caked me in the worst of humanity.
Memories tend to magnify missed details from the past. Like her delicate porcelain skin moistened by tears. Like the glacial North Sea winds, that chilled her. My fatherly embrace should have warmed her and my overcoat protected her. I projected my inadequacies and failures onto a man, undeserving, when I should have focused on her alone.
Every weekend I’d pick her up from the city, it was our time. Since she was tiny, Bethany always had a vivid imagination. We worked on secret recipes for life, for success, even for disaster. Just fun…
“So, Beth, what’s ingredient one for recipe for a disaster?”
“Good girl. Where do you get the water from?”
“No. The water might be poisonous.”
She laughed. “Yes, you’re right daddy. Maybe puddles?”
“They’d be dirty. A good survivor would look underground, but not go far into tunnels, as there might be monsters there. Ingredient two?”
“That’s easy. You need to hide from the monsters.”
I laughed this time. “Yes, of course. Hide in places where they don’t look. They’ll always check cupboards and under the bed.”
We talked until we were exhausted by carefree laughter.
On my three-week journey to London, I’d came to realise my hopes of finding her were a stalking ghost that would not rest. I relied on her hiding in the places we talked about in jest. I sought signs of life and hoped she be near enough to steal from others, but far enough away not to be discovered.
I saw a group of men, rummaging through a building.
“That little cow is in here somewhere,” one growled.
“Hands off – she’s mine,” another shouted, staking claims on his object, my daughter.
I wanted to kill them, but I knew this was a battle I couldn’t win.
“Leave this place!” I yelled to them.
“You’re having a laugh, old man,” the leader said, but then I saw him look at me more closely. The fissure scars of battles and missing teeth, nuclear embers that burn in the eyes of a father that will die to protect his child. He slithered away and the others followed.
I found her an hour later; hiding in the places we talked about. She was ragged, skinny and cold. I picked her up, embraced her warmly, and wrapped my overcoat tightly around her.
I was lucky enough to be awarded Winner of the Special Challenge Award (thanks kind judge, Jamie).
Here are the comments from judge Jamie “I love how Mr. King does a flashback in the beginning and I, the reader, don’t stumble over it. Also, the writer displays excellent command over his craft with beautifully written lines like, “In the verges, skeletal metal corpses loitered like road-kill”, ”Memories tend to magnify missed details from the past”, and “I’d came to realise my hopes of finding her were a stalking ghost that would not rest.” I love flash stories that manage to have a true beginning, middle, and end, and Mr. King achieved that. I appreciate the unusual take on the challenge in this story. I can tell I would like a longer work from this Author, he has a very authentic voice.”
Very happy with this. Especially as competition, as always, is strong.
I probably won’t be coming back to this competition for a while. It’s a great place (thanks again Alissa), but 500 words in one day, with a full time job and family is too much. I’m not as young as I was and four hours sleep is a fairly dangerous thing to do when you drive the roads I drive on to work. Thanks again to Jamie as well.