This week I’d like to try something a little different. I say “try,” but the fact that you’re reading this means I tried it and it worked, even if it did take me longer than I expected. :-) Last week, for my Passion For Poetry post on Random Writings, I shared two poems I’d come up with for my poetry group, using a prompt we were given for our monthly “poemwork.”
The prompt was as follows: Take any 3-5 consecutive lines from the index of Bartlett’s Famous Quotations. Filling in the gaps with your imagination, expand on the thought and feelings you glimpse between the lines to compose your poem.
My lines were:
Imagination, cold and barren
Imaginations are as foul
Imagine why or whence
Imagining fear in the night
Imagining the grave
I thought it would be interesting to take this one step further and use this as my prompt for my flash fiction. You should give it a try some time, it was kind of interesting to work with. You can read the poems I came up with HERE. The story is based on the first one.
The path before her came straight from the devil’s imagination, cold and barren, a bleak landscape stretching forth into a wasteland of empty dreams. It was littered with those who had gone before her, their bones scattered like flotsam on a tidal shore. She could see her goal in the distance, the shiny pinpoint of blue light on the peak at the far side of the plain. All she had to do was get to it.
She remembered her training, the last words of wisdom her mentor had for her: Imaginations are as foul creatures, intentionally misleading, inspiring hope that has no place here. Do not use your imagination; do not look for things that are not there. Trust your instincts, trust your gut. Above all, do not listen to the whispers on the wind.
There were others here. She could feel them, hidden in the shadows, waiting, watching to see if she was foolish enough, or desperate enough, to step down off the black rock she was crouched upon. They’d been drawn here, just as she had been, just had all those whose bones littered the plain before her had been. In time the pull of this place would prove too much and they, too, would succumb to the lure of the Prize.
How many dead? Too many to count surely. And not one of them knew what the Prize was. Was it treasure? Knowledge? Power? No one knew. They only knew the inescapable pull of it, drawing them to this desolate place where they awaited their turn.
The landscape shifted, as it did every seven candlemarks. Though changed profoundly each time, each time it was still bleak and unforgiving. The path she’d picked out was obscured now, but it made no difference. All paths led to the Prize. It was time to step down off the rock.
No more than a handful of steps and she could hear the voices on the wind: Imagine why or whence we came into this space between realities, the great void that enshrouds us. A shiver went up her spine but she kept moving, one foot carefully placed in front of the other. She did not look back. There was no point. Once you set foot on the black sand of the Prize Plain there was no turning back. Your only hope of survival was the Prize.
She walked with a measured pace, tireless and determined, ignoring the bones bleaching in the sun. The black sand crunched under foot. The scent of death filled the air.
The voices whispered to her again: Imagining fear in the night surpassed only by the waking dream.
“Is that the best you’ve got,” she called, taunting.
Phantoms grew out of the aether surrounding her. Fantastic beasts with sharp claws and dripping fangs. Scaled birds of prey flew at her and in spite of herself she ducked. Her mentor had warned her of this, that the biggest danger would be illusions created by the plain; her training had been focused on dealing with it.
She paused in her tracks and the phantoms drew back, sure of victory. From her pack she pulled three slender pieces of wood which she fitted together to make into a long stick. Delving into her pack a second time she withdrew a long strip of cloth and tied it across her eyes.
Continuing on her journey, she felt her way with the cane, opening herself up to her other senses. Despite her handicap she made better time this way. No longer was she impeded by what she could see.
The voices on the wind began to sing to her, a siren’s song of promises. Lay down the burden that you carry needlessly. The way has been long and you grow weary; take your ease for just a few moments.
She was tired. She’d been travelling for hours. Perhaps a short rest was in order.
Her steps began to slow.
You have done well, better than anyone before you. Remove your blindfold and see for yourself. Rest weary Seeker.
Her steps faltered, then stopped. She’d been walking for so long . . . Could she really be further than anyone before her?
You are almost to your goal. See for yourself.
Of its own volition her hand crept up to the blindfold and pulled it away.
Once again the Seeker fails and is left imagining the grave that waits. Reality shatters, fragmenting, a downward spiral into madness. The Prize awaits another day.