Burnt Out

This short piece of writing is for the purposes of the competition at Ad Hoc Fiction. With only a 150 word count and a weekly word prompt, this week’s word being “burn”, this competition gives its winner free entry into the Bath Flash Fiction Award, for a chance to win £1000!


The rain beats heavy against the window, rapping angrily as though it is desperate to come inside. I see it as an angry loan-shark, beating at the glass as its greedy eyes stray towards what little furniture I have left. It wants to tear it apart, taking it away from me on a stream of gushing floods.

I turn away from the window to bend low over my work, trying to shut everything out as my paintbrush moves up and down, almost mechanically. I don’t have long here now. They know I can’t pay what I owe, and I know they’re coming for me, but still my paintbrush moves up and down, creating careful little brush strokes on the page.

Before me, my last remaining candle continues to burn. Its flickering and dying, but it still provides some light. When that goes, I will know that my time is up.

Story Starters: A Collection

My biggest problem as a writer has always been sticking to one story after I create the initial opening; it’s too tempting to move onto something new and more exciting! Here’s three story starters, varying in length, that I’ve, at some point, abandoned.

1) This opening story sentence is for the purposes of the writing competition at: Writer’s Digest, with the brief of a maximum word count at 25 words, and the picture prompt seen below.

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A snowy owl swooped low above the forest, invisible against the white trees, and ignorant, for little did it know of the danger lurking there.

2) The flames roared high above them, great waves of smoke towering higher still. They choked and coughed as they ran, ducking and diving around the broken infrastructure that now surrounded them. Time was running out; they were already scorched and burned in more places than they knew, the agony of their wounds occasionally causing them to contort their steps as they raced onwards. Great chunks of wall and ceiling were crashing around them, too, wires dropping down into the fiery mass and sparks exploding from every direction. The reality was that they had entered hell itself, and every runner accepted that fact with a bleak resolution. There was no turning back, and, chances were, there was no escape. Hell had become the endless corridor of fire that they now faced, and they were all too aware of it.

3) The sirens were louder than they should have been. Even before her body crumpled and collapsed onto the pavement, they were there with us, ringing in our minds and pounding in our hearts. Craig was bent over her, muttering to himself and beating the ground with his fist. Little Pete was at his side as usual, waiting for the directions that would never come again. I didn’t need to crouch over her as they did, though, because I knew. In reality, I think we all knew, even before we’d hit her; we’d known even before she’d been lit up in front of my car headlights and Craig had fought to avoid her. There was no use checking her pulse or breathing rate. There was no point, because Kelly Holmes was dead, and we’d killed her. We were murderers.

“We should run,” Craig breathed, turning to face us in the half-dark. “The sirens don’t mean anything. They could be hours away yet.”

“I agree,” Little Pete piped up instantly, not even allowing a breath between Craig’s suggestion and his own sycophantic plea for attention. I shrugged, but I doubted that they could see the slight movement in the darkness. I wasn’t going to run. I didn’t want to run. I was a murderer. I had to stay and face the police, no matter how devastating that would be.

“Dan,” Craig persisted, ignoring Little Pete. “We need to go, now.” I swallowed hard, feeling braver in every new cry of the sirens.

“Then go,” I whispered, looking not at Craig and Little Pete, but at Kelly. She was beautiful even now, her long, dark hair a mess about her shoulders and back, and her slender, ghostly form almost shining in the light from the surrounding street lamps. I’d known her since she was little, from when we’d played together in my back garden. She was dead now. She would never breathe again, never laugh, never smile. She was simply gone.

“Dan, they’ll get you!” Craig whispered, his voice slightly incredulous. I could not look at my best friend, though. He wasn’t like me. He wasn’t feeling this like I was. He felt only fear, whereas I felt only loss, grief and a furious, biting sense of self-hatred. I had done this. “Dan, you know what that means!” Craig persisted, shaking my shoulder now.

“If you want to run, run,” I snapped, looking at Craig at last. “Save yourself. You better hurry up, though. It’s been too long already.” Craig stepped back slightly, confusion edging its way into his fear clouded mind. He looked at Little Pete then, suddenly lost and vulnerable. Pete looked back, and suddenly they were no longer leader and disciple, but two scared boys: criminals.

Without another word, they took off, running in the opposite direction from the houses and sirens beyond them. There were fields not too far off, and after that, the forest. If they made it that far, they were safe. It was said that fugitives and criminals caked the trees themselves, living amongst the branches and leaves on the earthy floor. I used to have nightmares about the place, but for Craig and Little Pete, it had just become the last hope. Maybe, just maybe, they would be okay.

I looked back at Kelly then, and my heart shuddered to a halt, too.

Lost in the Magic

This is a short story from a while ago, inspired from the prompt word: “oils”.

Marie sat alone in the depths of the dusty attic, her legs crossed and hands tucked neatly away inside her lap. A flickering candle stood before her, the only light to half illuminate her pale features. She was no stranger to the grimy beams and forgotten relics of the family attic, though.

When she had come up to the attic for the first time, small and gullible though she had been, Marie had found a collection of toys from when she was younger. She’d entertained herself with dolls and trainsets, until she’d found the one thing that she really loved doing.

It was in front of her now, the candle acting as a paperweight for her masterpiece. She had a paintbrush in her hand and oil paints dripping from the half-lit scrap of paper. Painting was her passion; her world. Through it, she could escape to as many different worlds as she saw fit. Even as her parents raged below her, another argument having broken out, Marie felt safe.

Today, it was a mountainside that she created, green grass contrasting with the icy peaks above. She wished that she was at that mountain now, its wind whistling through her long, auburn hair, and sheep bleating in the distance. That was her paradise, and she longed for it.

Marie painted long into the night; at that moment, she forgot the troubles of her family and the stress she was under. She was free, and she was safe.

The next morning, Marie’s mother woke to find her daughter’s bedroom empty. The house was searched for hours on end, Marie’s brother even daring the dusty depths of the attic twice, but Marie was nowhere to be found.

All that they could find, left on the pillow of the nine-year-old’s bed, was an oil painting, splashes of inky liquid covering the scrap of paper. It was a picture of a beautiful mountain scene, with ice neatly covering the peaks. There was a little girl stood in the foreground of the painting, a candle in her hand, and a smile stretched across her pale features.