September 19, 2022, prompt: Write a story about mud on the tires in 99 words (no more, no less). The tires can be from any conveyance or serve as an analogy. How did they get muddy, and why? What impact does mud on the tires have on the story (plot) or characters (motivation)? Go where the prompt leads! Click here for details.
An Annoying Speck – by Hugh W. Roberts
It was the tiniest speck of mud on the tyre, but it annoyed him. He couldn’t leave it there on such a special occasion.
“MARSHALL! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” bellowed a voice.
“But sir, there’s–“
“I DON’T CARE. BACK TO YOUR POSITION, NOW!”
A few seconds before setting off, Marshall retook his chance and removed the mud while his leader turned his back.
Then, on the sound of his boss’s bellowing voice giving orders, Midshipman Marshall joined the other 97 royal navy sailors in towing the carriage containing the Queen’s coffin as the sound of bagpipes played.
Written for the 99-word flash fiction challenge hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch.
Enjoyed this piece of flash fiction? Then you’ll love ‘Glimpses.’
28 short stories and pieces of flash fiction take the reader on a rollercoaster of twists and turns.
I probably talk or think about death more often than others.
I don’t talk about sex as much as I do death, but is that a problem when entering the autumn years of your life?
Many people I know don’t like talking about death. Do you? Many don’t enjoy discussing sex but is it easier to talk about than death?
Is it odd or natural to think and talk about death and sex simultaneously? You tell me.
Once upon a time, sex was a subject people didn’t like talking about. I’m going back to my early years here when sex was a hush-hush subject, almost taboo.
There was little information available about sex while I was growing up. The reaction I once got from my elders when I asked, ‘where do babies come from because I know the stork doesn’t bring them?‘ was like watching the faces of those watching the gory scene in a horror movie. ‘Is it something about a man and a woman solving a puzzle?‘ I went on to ask.
When I asked those questions, I got looks of shock, horror and embarrassment. My grandmother walked out of the room while my mother and father tried to change the subject quickly.
During the lockdown, my partner and I talked about death. But it was only while updating our wills. We couldn’t get past the point where we would talk about our deaths and what we wanted to happen when that time came. ‘We’ll talk about that another day,’ I told myself, yet death can come to any of us anytime. Can you imagine the problems we cause by not talking to each other about death?
Although nobody likes talking about death, we read, write and watch it happening in books, on television, in theatres and cinemas. It seems natural when reading, writing or watching it, but when talking about our deaths or the death of somebody we know, there comes the point where I hope somebody else will take the lead, and the subject will quickly change.
Why am I talking about death?
I have written about death here, but the truth is that what I call the otherside of death (where the person dying is not me) is approaching; it becomes a subject we can’t avoid. I have an aunt who is nearing the end of her life.
At 95 years old, some say my aunt has had an excellent innings. She loved life, but she wouldn’t like the life she is now living. I think I followed her for the love she had for life. However, she has spent what is left of her life in a hospital bed for the last three months. Her final words to me before she went into a deep sleep were, ‘I want to go home.’
I can relate to how she feels. Whenever I have been ill and not at home, I’ve always wanted to go home. If we allow it, being in familiar surroundings can help. Well, it always works for me. But does it help when nearing our final days?
As she faded in and out of consciousness, my aunt reacted to some voices in her hospital room yet ignored others. I wondered if she could choose which voices she wanted to respond to and which she chose to ignore? Does she have any control over what she hears while her life slips away?
Why do some people die quicker than others?
Truth be known, I wouldn’t say I like watching my aunt’s death being so drawn-out. The family all agree that she’d hate to be at the point she is – having to live the drawing out of the last days of her life in a deep sleep in a hospital bed. ‘There’s nothing else we can do for her except keep her comfortable,’ the medical staff tell us. ‘But keep talking to her because hearing is the last sense to go.‘
Really? Is hearing the last thing the dying sense? How can they possibly know? Have some of these staff lived previous lives, or has somebody who has left this world told them that’s what happens? It seems odd to say. I can not work out how they know.
When my father died in October 2020, his death was swift. He died within 24 hours of being taken ill. There were no weeks of being unconscious in a hospital bed. Yet when my mother died in September 2015, she took many weeks to die after we were told there was nothing else they could do. Why do some people die quickly, yet others seem to take weeks, months or years to pass?
Are those who have long-drawn-out deaths having to pay for what they may have done during their lives, or is there something or someone who has overall control over how long it takes for us to die? Do some linger because there is some unsettled business to attend to, or do we have no power over how long it takes to take that final breath?
Where do we go just before we die?
Years ago, I believed there was a waiting room we entered when dying. We sat there waiting for our name to be called before going through another door that took us on our next journey. Some remained longer in that waiting room than others. But while we wait, we are occasionally permitted to briefly go back through the first door to check what is happening in the world we are leaving. Perhaps we’re not quite ready to go because we’re waiting for somebody to come and say goodbye?
I’ve often asked myself why my mother took so long to pass away. Did she not want to go, or was she told she had to wait her turn? In life, we queue. Do we have to queue to die?
When we die, are we leaving behind those still alive, or do the living leave us behind?
I probably talk or think about death more often than others. Many people I know don’t like talking about it. How often do you talk about death?
Perhaps I should have talked more about sex? But would anyone have wanted to discuss it with me?
What are your thoughts on why we dislike discussing death or sex?
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July 22, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a hometown. It can be your hometown or a fictional one. Who is there? When is it set? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!
When Death Comes Quickly – by Hugh W. Roberts
Finding herself abandoned by her parents, Annabelle settled down for the night. This was the first time she’d be alone in her hometown, and it was dark, damp and smelly.
Squeezing into a tiny corner, she sobbed. Why had her parents decided now was the time to leave their hometown without her? She was too vulnerable to be left alone.
It was a bright light that woke her before she and her hometown were covered in a minty mouthwash that instantly killed them.
Not even a germ was safe when its hometown was the mouth of a human being.
Written for the 99-word flash fiction challenge hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Click here to join in.
Click on the ‘Diversity With A Twist’ image to read my post ‘How To Write Yourself Into A Piece Of Fiction Without Knowing It’ on my new column at the Carrot Ranch
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In September 2015, when my mother passed away, both my brother and I were with her as she took her final breath. I remember thinking how beautiful she was. She’d been in a deep sleep for nearly a week and, over that week, she seemed to age quickly. But during the last ten minutes of her life, beauty and youth came back to her.
Can people nearing death hear us?
The medical staff told us to talk to Mum while she slept. ‘She’ll hear you’, were their words, but how could they have known? Had they once been near death’s door where they witnessed the voices of those still living, or had somebody who had experienced near-death told them what happens?
We took their advice and talked to Mum as if she was sitting there having tea and biscuits with us. However, occasionally, general chit-chat turned to tears as we told her how much we loved her and to go on her way with whoever was waiting for her. But how did we know that somebody was waiting for her?
Twelve hours earlier, Mum had briefly opened her eyes and looked up at me. I spoke to her and wondered if she knew who I was. I didn’t tell her who I was but made sure I told her that I loved her.
Having suffered from dementia for the last five years of her life, I asked myself if her condition was still stopping her from recognising me, and if she saw me as a stranger?
When she looked into my eyes, squeezed my hand gently and smiled, before closing her eyes again, I thought I knew the answer. However, years on, I still wonder if I did have the answer. Why? Because I didn’t have any proof of who she saw when she had looked up at me. However, at least she did know that she was loved.
Do books and movies hold the secrets to death?
Maybe the answers are in the fiction we read and watch? After all, whenever we read a book or watch a movie, are we witnessing what the author or authors believe about death?
When we read about a person being at ‘death’s door’, or watching a film where a death occurs, is the author sharing some of their experiences with us from a previous life they can’t quite remember?
What about those who claim to have witnessed the bright light that appears when they were near death? Are they talking from experience, or is it guesswork? Even if only a tiny amount of what they tell us happens, are they telling us what they have witnessed, or are they merely portraying it?
Do the lights go off when we die?
Is knowing you’re about to die, a gift?
Death is something many of us find difficult to talk about. When my step-father asked me to help him organise funeral plans for both him and my mother, it was something I didn’t want to talk about with him. I felt uneasy having to discuss it with him.
He, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have any problems in asking me to help him put the funeral plans into place. He’d already decided which company he wanted to use, how much he wanted to spend, and what would happen on the day.
After I agreed to help him, I wondered why he had chosen that time to ask for my help. He had, after all, been thinking about death because he already knew which company he wanted to use and what both funerals should include. Nine months later, he suffered a heart attack and passed away. Did he know that the actual day of his death was nearing?
Are the displays of death as beautiful as the displays of life?
Have I made any plans for my death? No. Why? There’s something about death that I don’t like talking about, yet here I am discussing it with you.
Talking about death makes people uneasy. None of us wants that, do we? However, in some circumstances, shouldn’t the discussion make us feel happy that it’s out in the open?
If talking about death takes pressure off others, why do we still not want to talk about it?
I knew that my step-father was glad when I helped him organise his and my mother’s funerals. He knew that nobody had anything to worry about when he and my mother passed away. It was all paid for, and nobody had to do anything apart from pick up a phone, and report their deaths.
Everything was taken care of. My step-father was happy, and I should be happy because some of the pressure he’d experienced with death was something I wouldn’t have to go through.
If Hell is below us, why do we still bury some of the dead in the ground?
Can only the dead answer the questions we have of death?
Do you ever wonder who the last person will be that you will see before closing your eyes and allowing death to take you on your next journey? Is there another journey after death? Are there journeys for all of us, none of us, or just some of us?
Some of us still have a birthday to look forward to this year, while the rest of us may be looking forward to a birthday next year. But what about our death day? During the last 12 months, we’ve all passed the date in the month we are going to depart this world (our death-day). Do you ever wonder about that date, knowing that it passes you by every single year?
Does not knowing the date of our death day make us better people or make our lives any more comfortable? If you knew the date of your death-day, would you change anything about the way you live your life? Would you ensure you became a better person and made the most of every single moment of your life?
Do we become isolated when we die?
Would you visit those you seldom see more often knowing that you may soon lose the chance ever to see them again?
Like my step-father did, would you ensure that loved ones are taken care of by preparing for your death? As well as celebrating a birthday, shouldn’t we all celebrate our death day?
Has the location of our death already been chosen for us?
I’ve often wondered about the place where I am going to die. Is that place already somewhere I know or is it somewhere I’ve yet to visit? Will it be at home? Will it be in a shop, theatre, cinema or a bar? What season will it occur? What day of the week will it be? Perhaps, Friday (the day I was born)?
Will I be with others who all have the same death-day as me, or will I be on my own? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be alone when death approaches me. I want to be with people (just as I was on the day I was born).
I’m not sure about being surrounded by my family and friends at the time of my death. I don’t like the thought of them watching me pass away. It wouldn’t be fair to them, would it?
However, being surrounded by total strangers seem alright. I wonder if those strangers are already in my life or if I’ve yet to encounter them?
I don’t like to think about myself dying in a hospital bed or on a beautiful beach in full sun. Although I love living by the sea, the feel of sand on my skin is something I’ve never been fond of experiencing, yet its beauty attracts me.
Can I become a rainbow when I die?
I do like the thought of dying while sitting in front of the TV, especially if what I am watching is making me laugh or feel happy.
Does the way we’d like to die change as we grow older?
When I was younger, the thought of passing away while in a passionate embrace was something I thought was one of the best ways to die. However, as I grew older, I started to think about how unfortunate it would be for the person with me at the time. Now, I wouldn’t want to find myself in that position. Would you?
When I pass away, will anything or anybody replace me? How do I convince people not to be sad that I am no longer here? I want them to celebrate my life, not my death. Does grief have to come hand-in-hand with death? Even if it is a stranger who has just entered my life when I close my eyes for the final time, and sadness will be erased away by time, won’t it?
There is something about death that I do know. While we are still here, we should do all we can to ensure that the sadness that often comes with death is not the kind that buries its roots deeply into those that we leave behind.
Do the dead leave us behind, or are we leaving them behind?