I have always wanted to do a challenge like this.
While this may not technically be flash fiction, since there’s no real definition of flash fiction, well then this definitely is flash fiction.
Below is a chunk of my new story, The Water Castle.
I’ll set the stage and walk away.
You take over from there.
Each of you will start out adding a line onto the prior person’s line. Or a paragraph. A description, or action, or inner thoughts.
You can add up to 250 words for your “line,” more or less. Because you may need some description or you may need dialogue, etc., we’re not going to be strict on that. If you get to 1000 words, dial it back, but otherwise go crazy.
The idea is to have 10 or 20 or 50 different people all contribute and then see where we went. It’s not important where my story went, and if you’ve been reading it, don’t try to get this one back on track. Go wherever the prior person’s paragraph sends you.
It’s like jazz music. It’s created right on the spot.
And some jazz really, really sucks.
Hopefully this won’t.
We will get back to regular flash fiction challenges that are more traditional next week. Maybe slightly longer. So look forward to writing 2500 words on something good and thought-provoking in a week!
HERE IS THE “STARTER” STORY:
After all the years of riding by and wondering, so far the tower was much less interesting than the stories had let on. She wondered why she’d never entered it before now.
Gina realized then that she’d still been holding her breath, sweating like she’d run a mile. The concrete floor around her was riddled with debris, mostly oak leaves and trash. There were puddles from the recent rains. She forced her inner germophobe to relax, taking deep breaths of the musky air. No one had been here in a while, and even if people slept there at night, nobody was there now.
She looked around. On the far side of the circular room, under the stone steps, in a wedge too small to walk under, she spied a set of black hinges. The weather hadn’t ruined them like it had everything else; the steps served as a makeshift roof. Leaves and dirt covered the rest of whatever the hinges held. She crept over to it.
The tower didn’t seem set high enough to have a lower level. Most things in Florida didn’t.
She pushed the leaves away with her foot. It appeared to be a door. Kneeling, she brushed away the moist black dirt. She clapped her hands to knock the mess off them. The sudden noise inside the small area was louder than she expected, echoing up the tower’s insides and nearly scaring her. She glanced at her hands, frowning. They were stained nearly black.
Whatever. The thick wooden door appeared relatively new, which is to say, it didn’t look hundreds of years old like the rest of the tower. It was square, with huge black hinges on one side and a big iron ring on the other. She worked to slide a finger under the rusted pull, forcing the aged metal to comply. It inched upwards, letting her grasp it with her whole hand – but not without leaving a few marks on her fingertips.
Gina pulled. The door did not move.
She placed one hand on the side of the little door and grasped the ring firmly with the other hand, taking a deep breath of the putrid air.
She sat back on her heels, staring at door. It didn’t appear heavy enough to withstand her pulling on it. Maybe it was stuck. She put her hands on the sides of the wooden frame, trying to jiggle it back and forth. It didn’t budge.
A drop of sweat fell from her forehead. She sat back again, wiping her shoulder across her brow.
She grasped the stubborn ring one last time, using both hands, putting her foot on the side of the door.
Her fingers crowded the iron ring. She strained her arms as the rough metal dug into her skin.
The door opened a fraction. The wood bent against the old hinges, slowly opening to a dark cavity below. She grabbed the edge of the door and pried it open.
The aroma of fresh water and the sounds of the spring emanated up from the dark space. Gina leaned forward carefully, trying to not catch a stray bat or spider in the face. Cool air flowed up from the cellar. She pushed the door open wider. Dirt and spider webs lined its edges. Inside, a set of stairs descended to another concrete floor.
She leaned back, reaching a foot out to touch the first stone step. It was free of debris, unlike everything else in the tower, and its edges were clean and straight, not worn down like the ones going up the tower wall. The only dirt on these steps was the dirt she had just allowed to fall in on them.
She put some weight on the step, testing it to make sure it wouldn’t crumble to dust and drop her the twelve or so feet onto the hard concrete below.
She crawled forward, putting both feet on the step, and climbed down into the cellar.
The bright daylight outside filtered in from above. She eased down the steps.
In the center of the room sat a round, framed pool, about three feet across. It was lined with bricks and rose only inches from the floor, but it was full to the surface and rippling with water. It was the only thing in the room besides the stairs. Light seemed to emanate up from it. Gina stepped up to it and knelt down.
Inside, the rim was dotted with glowing green and blue embers, like odd lightning bugs, out of focus under the surface. The water was clear, like a swimming pool. It was visible down to the bottom, however far that was. She guessed maybe ten feet, like the one at Stacie’s house. She hovered over the opening, letting her hair dangle over her shoulders.
Leaning on one arm, she reached out a cautious finger to touch the water’s surface. It was far too clear to harbor germs or dysentery, looking more pure than the stuff that came out of their faucets at home. It had a practically had a fragrance to it, like summer rain or a clear stream.
Her finger touched the water. It was cool. The springs’ temperature was about 72 degrees year ‘round, since they came from the underground aquifer. She’d experienced that at Weekie Watchee when they went swimming there on a class trip – nice on the hands but icy on the body.
She gazed into the opening. Was it a well? Why put a well inside the tower when the springs were twenty feet away?
She dipped her dirt-stained hand into the water, withdrawing it to rub the mud off. Black droplets fell into the well as she worked the bud from her fingers. She leaned over to rinse her hands, immersing them past the wrists.
The water seemed to cling to her, pulling her towards it. Invisible hands grasped her wrists and drew her downward.
Gina jerked backwards, falling onto the hard floor. She scrambled to her feet, ready to flee up the stairs. She pressed herself against the wall, heart pounding, rubbing her wrists, watching the well bubble and roil. A green light glowed from its core.
Her heart was in her throat. A fine mist drifted out from the pool and down across the floor. The smells of mildew now permeated the air. She stepped back, not wanting the fog to touch her.
As she pressed herself into the wall, the whole room began to glow. She held her breath. The noise of the cicadas and locusts was now buzzing in her ears, dizzying her. The stench of the mold wafted down the steps and permeated her lungs.
That’s it! Whoever adds their line first, the next person has to read it and add to it in the comments below. I will periodically add them into the story as necessary, so you can comment like usual.
Ooh, what happens???
You tell me! Good luck, jazz musicians!
Here are the rules:
- As soon as you see this challenge, add to the story by posting your “line” in the comments section followed by a link to your blog IN THE SAME COMMENT.
- Don’t think, just do it. Do it now.
- On your blog, also post your line. Maybe explain why you have a random paragraph just sitting there, otherwise people may think you’ve had a stroke. You’re creative enough to handle that.
- Tell your blog readers and friends to come add a line.
- Have fun with it.
- Show off a little.
- You can add another line after 5 comments have been added between your prior comment.
- Feel free to make suggestions or cheer others on.
- There really can’t be nine rules for a challenge like this.
I’ll assemble the finished piece into one post and put it up next Friday.
That’s it! Get to it!
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.