A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon, Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021, week 41

ride in a hot air balloon flash fiction

Following the story-line of Ferris Wheel and Two of a Kind read A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon, my contribution to fiction in a flash challenge week 41 based on the image prompt provided by Author Suzanne Burke.
Enjoy! I had so much fun writing it 🙂

A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon, Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021, week 41

A Ride in the Hot Air Balloon

The ballroom was a giant aviary. People’s actions, she found, mimicked those of birds. Courtship, chatter, hunt, all here. Except that birds, birds didn’t belong in a cage.

She spotted the gold-trimmed black mask the instant she crossed the doorway. Nothing ever escaped her eagle-like eyesight. Yet she pretended not to, allowing him the illusion of initiating the hunt. Men fell for that. So she stood atop the stairs, in her black and caviar-beige Channel evening gown, the perfect shade of beige. She stood, tensed, the center of his attention; him, the man with the mask matching hers. She stood; unable to enjoy what was finally coming. Feeling none of the happiness she thought she will.

Why they call it sweet revenge? She tasted bile.

 It had been stipulated in the contract. Both parties involved will be issued matching masks. Both parties will be aware that arriving at the masked-ball involved and was conditioned by, establishing contact with their prescribed partner.

He’d come. He was watching her, facing her, as she closed the distance. One step at a time, oblivious to music, and the agitation surrounding them. Aware of her dry mouth, her increased pulse, and the reason she’d done it all. To right a wrong.

For the first time since she dressed she was thankful for the mask, covering her flushed cheeks. Her lips, frozen in a sneer she hoped mimicked a smile. The pain she had harbored forever, she allowed it to escape as she took step after step. There was so much hatred that letting some steam escape, by staring at him, didn’t matter anymore.

By the time she had descended, he had closed the distance extending his hand to aid her take that final step. Her arm stiff, to mask tremor, she reached for his.

Their touch felt electrifying, and he smiled the moment he saw the specks of aged whiskey in her treacle eyes.

‘I am sorry I wasn’t there, at the foot of the Ferris Wheel’, he said, so she recognized him. Really saw him. Past the black mask trimmed with gold, past her veils of hatred. It was him, as the contract stipulated it will be, the man she wanted for her revenge, yet he was also himself, the man she had met in the park.

‘The bird-watcher!’

He smiled.

Too late. His had touched her gloved one, the double glove soaked in poison. Soon, his somatic muscles will paralyze. Her plan would have reached its climax.

~

He came through with a strange feeling, that his feet were not touching ground. And he was cold, chilled to the bone.

He was dangling.

Was he dead? His eyes were open, he thought. All he saw was blackness.

Black is the impression of lack of color, his mind offered.

He heard nothing either, only the blood rushing through his ears. He would have touched his eyelids but his arms were secured against his body, tied like a cocoon. He could wiggle his fingers though, frozen stiff.

His mouth shot open. A yell came out.

No echo. His voice just left his body – and was gone. And his body was dangling in space.

At least he wasn’t buried.

Purgatory?

He looked around again. Above, as below, he discerned specks of light. Of all sizes. Then a river of them as if someone had spilled, in the dead of night, milk across the floor.

The Milky Way!

More crumbs ablaze caught his eye in the celestial horizon. A handful of fairy lights. A city!

And his body, dangling between them.

From what?

Ignoring his stiff neck he forced it backward and stared, forcing sight. A silk glove tied around his neck brushed his cheek like a slap. After the ozone-rich air an explosion of freesia invaded his senses. It matured, denoting elegance and grace

Stop it, you old goat.

And another note, above the spring-like ones: shimmering hints of honey.

The dawn, lifting the horizon, removed the amnesia cloak too. He remembered the masked woman descending the stairs, their bird-watching, and she, his project for the night. The disbelief that slashed his heart, and the electric shock when their hands touched. Losing consciousness…

‘Why?!’ he howled at the moon.

From the height of the hot air balloon gondola the woman in the black and caviar-beige Chanel gown retrieved a picture, kissed it, and let it slide along the cord to the man dangling below.

‘That’s why,’ she raged, her scathing tone like knives. ‘Remember her?’

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Hello everyone and welcome to the “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week Author Suzanne Burke will feature an image and invites everyone to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words. Suzanne runs a great blog as well as authoring many exciting books. WECOME TO THE WORLD OF SUZANNE BURKE

What do you think of the story thus far, in its three installments? I’d love to read your impressions in comments below.

The Fox and the Tiger, a Fable

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger

The Fox and the Tiger is a fable as old as life, yet I like to imagine it taking place shortly after humans appeared on the Earth, perhaps hailing from Africa, a time when animals still spoke among themselves in a language understood by humans. A time of peace and harmony. Today tigers, in their natural habitat, live freely only in Asia, but foxes are most versatile, and we find them on every continent save for Antarctica.

The Fox and the Tiger, a fable

Once upon a time, and a long, long time ago when animals still shared the same language and spoke to one another, an orange fox with a bushy tail met a red-yellow tiger with great paws.

The tiger showed off his stripes that seemed to move like waves along with its sinuous muscles, smiled charmingly to parade his long, yellow teeth, a piece of raw meat still stuck behind one of them, then stretched one paw to admire his long, sharp claws, and prepared himself to devour the fox.

For what help is a fox that crosses a tiger’s path, but to become his snack?

fox alexander andrews
I wonder what question is this fox asking us? Image by Alexander Andrews, Unsplash

Yet the fox lowered her head, avoiding direct eye contact just like Mother Fox told her a million times (and the little fox did pay attention each time), swiped her tail left, then right, and spoke softly and sweetly.

‘My dear Sir Tiger,’ she began, ‘how stripy your stripes are, how grand your teeth, and how sharp your claws are. You must think of yourself as the King of Beasts, and with a great cause’ she added quickly. ‘But does your courage compare with my own? Look at little me,’ and saying so Fox bowed, making herself appear even smaller. ‘Let us walk together and I will show you what I mean,’ and with one rounded movement of her front paw, she pointed ahead, waiting for Tiger to start moving.

‘What do you mean?’ Tiger growled low, irritated, masking a burp for he had just gulped down his breakfast, and that gave him gas. Everything seemed to cause him gas lately.

‘Let us step side by side and if Man will catch sight of me and not fear me, then it is you, Sir Tiger, who is indeed the King of Beasts, and so you may devour me on the spot.’

Tiger gave a crooked smile, his stomach rather crampy, but the thought that topping up his breakfast with a little fox might relieve his cramps appealed to him. Plus, it would be an easy task. While Fox, moving lightly, made sure she kept away (for she was rather scared of the great Tiger… and his breath was quite stinky too), yet half a step ahead of the big cat.

So, soon enough after their encounter, Tiger and Fox rambled side by side on the broad path. For the great vulture flying with the clouds they were but two flowers, one orange, and one red-yellow.

Yet any beast or traveler that as much as caught sight of them ran away in an instant, screaming with great fright.

After a while Fox lay her head low again, swished her bushy, orange tail, turned, and said sweetly, ‘See, oh great Tiger, Man and all the beasts we encountered ran away at the sight of me, before even seeing you.’

Tiger didn’t know what to make of it, all true and staring him in the face, yet not understanding little Fox’s cunning plan. So he turned, rambled in his throat, and ran away himself, losing his snack, the fox, and taking only his bruised pride with him.

Tiger had seen well that men and beasts appeared to be afraid of Fox, but had not noticed that Fox had borrowed from him, shamelessly, the terror he inspired.

Moral of the story:

Never despair, rather think of a way out and you will soon be safe.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Did you know? In South Africa the The Cape fox (Vulpes chama) is called an asse, cama fox or the silver-backed fox. It is a small fox-like animals, native to southern Africa. It is also called a South African version of a fennec fox due to its big ears.

You can enjoy The Fox and the Tiger and MORE in:

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger

The BLT, the Bear, the Lion and the Tiger is a picture book inspired by true life events, the real friendship between a BEAR, a LION and a TIGER.

The Ferris Wheel, Fiction in A Flash Challenge 2021, week 39

ferris wheel flash fiction

Welcome to Ferris Wheel, my week’s response to the image prompt of Fiction in a Flash Challenge 2021, week 39, as initiated by Author Suzanne Burke.

The Ferris Wheel

The man with the felt hat liked the park because its tangled alleys – bordered by old trees that saw as many sunsets as he did – made him feel like a ship wandering the seven seas. He would come here whenever he caught an opportunity, sometimes as often as every second month – he was an optimist – for the man with the felt hat had a job, a job he once enjoyed, like a fisherman reeling in the big catch of the day. Now he was more like a fish in a net… so to say. To keep up with the nautical theme, he smiled.

But not today. Today he was a ship choosing its course across seas he knew too well. A ship with a set compass.

Left at the newsstand, then the first alley left again stood the tree where he’d last seen the Bishop. Ah, to spot its red head profiled against the crisp winter sky again!

She’d draw him in his nest, the woman who sometimes sat on the bench across from his. She’d been lucky to spot him in his nest long enough to sketch him. Quite the artist she was. A natural talent. A natural beauty too, her alabaster profile against the clear blue sky. If he’ll only see it again.

‘He’s got himself a pair, you know,’ she spoke as he walked past her bench.

‘The Bishop?’ he asked like it was the most natural thing in the world for two strangers to engage in conversation about a bird.

She nodded, forcing him to turn his head back from the bare tree and to bend to see her drawing. She turned the sketch pad to show him what she’d been working on.

‘You’ve been away for a while,’ the woman smiled. ‘It was a treat to watch them meet. But I drew them for you, so you won’t miss it.’

‘I do wonder how they see us,’ and he accentuated they with a tip of his head towards the tree. His hand flew up as if he was measuring the height of the arbor. ‘From the height of their branch,’ and his head stood upturned for a moment, smiling at the sun, and at the peaceful life of the little birds.

That’s when his phone rang, like a cloud chilling one to the bone in a flash, in the heat of the day.

She smiled and returned to her drawing, allowing him his privacy.

‘Work,’ he sighed upon his return.

‘And you have to go,’ she said and she tilted her head the way she used to whenever the Bishop would fly away for the day – and she knew the bird-watching was over… ‘Again,’ the slant of her head had added, like a whisper, and he’d heard it.

Was he right in assuming? Should he? At his age? Should he be a  Bishop?

‘I wonder,’ he started then stopped as if a blast of wind had frozen the words on his lips.

‘Yes?’ and her eyebrows arched the way they did whenever the Bishop was in sight.

‘The Ferris wheel,’ he waved towards the far end of the park. Last carriage goes up at 17:45. Would you do me the honour and join me? We’d get a Bishop’s glimpse over the world.’

He couldn’t tell her how he knew the schedule. He couldn’t tell her it was his job to know everything, any trivial piece of information, and use it to his advantage.

She smiled but didn’t ask how he knew such details. She smiled brighter than he’d ever seen her smile for the Bishop, and she tilted her head.

Had she agreed?

‘I’ll wait for you at the leg of the Ferris wheel. With two tickets,’ and he lifted his felt hat in salute.

He didn’t count on the crowds, on the rowdy group of teenagers celebrating a birthday. For the first time, he didn’t count on being swept by the crowd inside an open carriage. He was at the top of the wheel before he knew it. The ground squeezed below, too far for him to see clearly with his reading glasses.

Was she there? That speck on the ground, was it she? He boxed the air to reveal his watch. 17:49 and darkness all around.

The lights of the Ferris wheel mocked him, as did the glow of the city.

He was but a fish trapped in a net, a fish who dreamed to be a Bishop for a night.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

I wrote the follow-up: Two of a Kind. 🙂

Hello everyone and welcome to the “Fiction in A Flash Challenge!” Each week Author Suzanne Burke will feature an image and invites everyone to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing.  Maximum word count: 750 words. Suzanne runs a great blog as well as authoring many exciting books. WECOME TO THE WORLD OF SUZANNE BURKE

Enjoy short fiction? Have a look at my 100 words story, Short Stories or my Humorous stories 🙂

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The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov, and a Story

golden gate portal black church brasov

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov dates from 1450, a time when Vlad Tepes was a lad of only 19 years old and already an ex-prince (3 month Voievode of Wallachia at the age of 17), and now a political fugitive, a nomad in Moldavia where he was consolidating his friendship with his maternal cousin, future Stephen the Great.

There are seven points of entrance into the Black Church of Brasov. Starting west, in clock wise motion, they are the West Portal and also the main entrance, the Sacrificial Portal and the Golden Gate Portal (1450) on the North side, and on the South side the door to the vestry and a small access door followed by the South Portal (1467), and the Confessional Door.

For over five hundred years have the bells of Black Church (which began to raise at the end of the 14th century on the grounds of a Catholic nunnery belonging to the Order of Prémontré) called the worshipers to service, or punctuated important events. The bells were first mentioned in 1476 when the inhabitants of Brasov (Corona in Latin or Kronstadt in German) were urged to celebrate the crowning of Vlad Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, as ruler, voievode of Wallachia.

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov
The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov (one of the two North portals, dating from 1450). Source, Pat Furstenberg

It is easy to recognize the Gothic architectural of Black Church. Know that it was modeled after the magnificent Saint Sebaldus Church in Nürnberg due to the flourishing commercial and handcraft relations between Brașov and the imperial city of Nürnberg.

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church faces a rather narrow passage. Only five meters separate the Black Church from the high brick wall of its neighbors, the people of Brasov. Thus, even with your back against this wall one would struggle to see the roof top placed at a height of approximately 65 meters. And the strange statues atop…

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church ~WIP extract~

She met the church at its north-west corner, the bell tower profiling ahead, aiming to touch the heavens.

The church was not black, but it shot upwards as a body of stones in as many shades of gray as the souls who prayed inside; some dark, some uncertain, and, in between, a few almost pure.

Her steps took her straight ahead, past the west portal with its main entrance, and around the solitary bell tower. Waiting for her as she turned the corner was a man dressed in an ankle-length overrobe with a brimless cap balancing his opulent beard. From the height of his pedestal, he was pointing away with an extended right finger, while in his left hand he held an open book.  What was he pointing at?

She hurried past the statue, past the inconspicuous door of the confessional with strange vertical markings in its stony pillars, past a double-door portal, her steps lost in a crisscrossing of fresh marks, her mind chasing one thought after the other. Then around she turned, following the church’s east arc inside which the altar with its numerous lacet windows was sheltered, each one guarded by effigies staring down.

A couple walked past, arm in arm, their unison stride yielding a sole crunching noise on the icy snow underfoot.
If Drachen doesn’t show up I’m on my own.
The pair’s synchronized dance singled her out.
Nice one, Kate. You got yourself to trust a stranger again, she admonished herself.

By the time she reached the north facade, the silence reigned as the snow, fresher here, swallowed and hushed her footsteps. She saw her breath leaving her mouth in small puffs, lonely signs of life, and wondered, if her soul would leave her body that very instant, would she tell the difference?

Get a grip, Kate!

She dug her feet into the snow eager to make a noise where none prevailed, but her legs slowed down as she neared the Golden Gate Portal. Not because it was the famous north portal of the Black Church, but because ahead there were no footprints, the snow as untainted as a paper not even touched by thought. Kate held her breath and urged her heart so slow down, to slow down the hammering she heard in her ears. Or were those footprints? She spun, expecting to find someone behind. No one in sight. She stood alone between the gray walls of the Black Church to her left, massive in their silence, and the brick wall of an adjacent property to her right, a sinuous line stretching ahead.

And again, the feeling that a strange pair of eyes were upon her. Was there someone on the church’s lofty roof? With her back pressed against the brick wall to maximize her view, Kate scrutinized the temple’s rooftop.

the statue of a child peering down atop the roof near the Golden Portal, Black Church, Brasov
The statue of a child peering down atop the roof near the Golden Portal, Black Church, Brasov (source Wikimedia)

Was it? Her eyes caught a human shape. Yes, there! On the roof, to the left side of the portal, it looked like a child was peering down. Could he see her? Her hands flew to her mouth. Was he scared? He must be, so precariously balancing towards the abyss. What was he doing there? Was he reaching towards her? She opened her mouth to call but stopped, aware of the stillness in the air. Even the snowflakes seemed suspended, frozen in the past, the height of the church protecting the narrow alley against any harsh weather. Here, where she stood, it was as if there was no climate at all. She looked right, along the length of the path. She looked left. No one. Whom could she call for help? She searched the roof again. She’ll signal the child to wait. She’ll help. But the boy had vanished.

Kate strode forward. Find someone. Wrestling the fresh snow, she glanced up, over her shoulder. Help that boy. Her feet zigzagged out of balance, all reservations of spoiling the pristine canvas snowballed into concern. Rescue him. But where is he now?

The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov, and the window above it. Source, Pat Furstenberg
The Golden Gate Portal of Black Church, Brasov, and the window above it. Source, Pat Furstenberg

The more concerned she got, the wider her stride became. The wider her stride, the more she struggled. The more she struggled, the more determined she was to reached the end of that narrow path, the unblemished path over which a sentence hanged. And she did not want to be the one to carry it out. On she pushed, bursting into the safety of the market’s open space, of bustling civilization. Yes, she’d heard the clanking of a truck. She’ll go inside the church and ask for help. Look! By the church’s main portal there was a priest, she recognized him by his long, black cassock.

‘Wait,’ Kate called. ‘Parinte,’ Father, in the local language, the appellative for a priest.

But the man in the black cassock did not hear her and he did not enter the church either but turned sharply left, along its southern facade.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

Black Church Golden Portal, gothic style, focus on tympanum and archivolts
Black Church Golden Portal, gothic style, focus on tympanum and archivolts. Source, Pat Furstenberg
The carved doors of Black Church Golden Portal
The carved doors of Black Church Golden Portal. Source, Pat Furstenberg

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thursday doors, 100 words story

Thursday Doors is a blog feature everyone can take part in, hosted by Dan Antion over at No Facilities – where you can discover more doors from around the world.

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1st of March, 1 Martie Mărțișor

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 March, Martie Martisor

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun on 1st of March is a story lesser known about the symbolism behind the red and white ribbon of 1 Martie, the Mărțișor in Romania.

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun

It was the way it’s always been, the way his father honored the tradition, as did his father before him. No questions asked. It was a ritual that required to be fulfilled because it made the world turn around. And it went like this.

Day after day, from the height of its balcony in the sky, Sun poured its life-giving light onto the earth. Day after day he witnessed rainbows smiling over streams, birds joining in song, and flowers blooming everywhere. Yet he couldn’t touch any, couldn’t hear their song, and couldn’t even smell the flowers. His own work and he couldn’t enjoy it.

Yet it’s always been like this. It was tradition.

Until one day when Sun crossed his arms – and they were strong, passionate arms. As he did so, more energy roamed through his body, and more fire and light his presence radiated… One day Sun crossed his arms and made up his mind.

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor
The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor

He will touch the rainbow, splash in the rivers, and smell the flowers. Just once.

So he turned himself, changed himself, just like that, using only a wink of its energy, into a girl. A beautiful girl, for everything Sun created, was beautiful. And the girl could splash into the streams, smell the flowers, and chase the rainbows. She was very happy. And very beautiful, so beautiful that she caught the eye of a few young men.

One of them especially thought more of himself than the others. He was taller too, much taller than most young men. The earth shook when he walked, for he was that strongly built, and nobody dared cross him, or cross his way, for he had claws where his fingers ended, he breathed out fire when he was angry, and whenever he swiped his tail left and right to prove a point, nothing was left standing. He was Dragon, Zmeu. And Dragon took the beautiful maiden who frolicked in the waters, had garlands of flowers in her hair and over her bosom, and chased rainbows. He took her because he liked her. Yet people said, whispered in dark corners, that he stole her, he kidnapped her. For she never agreed.
But did Dragon cared? No.

People saw everything, heard it all, but not knowing the young girl and fearing Dragon did nothing. They went on with their lives as if nothing happened. Burdened enough as they were by the fact that the sun would not come up.

All but one. A Braveheart, a Voinic, a young lad, shorter than the average, true, but one who saw, and did, and thought, and acted. A foolish lad, some would say. The same ones for whom the grapes were sour if they could not reach them.

Braveheart chased after Dragon and, eventually, much later than expected for he did not know where Dragon lived and had only the tracks left behind to read, follow only the broken flower heads streaming the way, and pay attention only to the tell-tale signs of burned bushes and destroyed structures, later, much later, he reached the Dragon’s lair. Outside the gate, Braveheart almost missed the last flower, almost burned to a crisp, the last whisper to tell him that he was in the right place. Where no one else wanted to be.

By now it was pitch dark for the sun was still not shining, and all humans were mourning, their wailing having replaced the song of birds and the singing of streams. The children even forgot their games, and even how to be happy, for no one was cheerful around them anymore, to show them how to smile.

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor, Wooden carved door at Bran Castle

 It took Braveheart a lot of knocking in the Dragon’s door, and calling, till Dragon showed up, and he would have burned Braveheart with his angry, fiery breath if it wasn’t for the lad’s quick instincts. Or perhaps it’s been the stench that warned him of the beast’s sudden arrival.

On hearing why the human bothered him, and such a puny specimen even, to ask him to release the beautiful maiden, Dragon laughed, sure of himself, and accepted the lad’s call to a fair fight.

The fight was short, a sword against a claw, a good heart against a wicked one, an honest mind against a twisted one, and surprisingly (but not to me and I hope that not to you either) Braveheart won. The maiden was released and she ran back into the sky, almost instantly (had she thanked her saviour? We do not know…) turning herself into the Sun again, appalled with the human’s egoism.

And the Sun shone again, the humans were happy again, children played once more, flowers bloomed, rainbows formed bridges, and birds flew underneath ad over them. All was as before, except for Braveheart who never recovered from the fight, and no one searched for.

During the time that Sun had turned himself into a maiden, and darkness had covered earth, snow fell too. Now with the Sun shining again, snow started to melt. In a spot near the Dragon’s lair, where Braveheart fell without being able to get up again – and nobody came to his rescue or care – Snowdrops lifted their heads from underneath the icy snow. And nearby, still bright red was Braveheart’s blood that he lost in battle.

The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor
The Braveheart who Freed the Sun, 1 st of March, 1 Martie, Mărțișor

News of his help in bringing the Sun back up on the sky spread slowly. At first, few believed, some even said it was but a legend, a bedtime story. Eventually, humans, feeling guilty for not having come to the lad’s rescue, thought of bringing at least a small homage to Braveheart. So they tied together two flowers, one white, to symbolize spring and rebirth, a new chance for humankind, and one red in remembrance of the lad’s sacrifice, and of his love for freedom and a fair chance in life for everyone.

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

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