The Iron Writer Challenge #119
The 2015 Summer Solstice Finals
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
The 2015 Summer Solstice Preliminary Champions
A Hapi drum
A strange, odd spirit takes you to the past and the future where you meet your successful self and your failed self at the same time
A paper crown
Julia sprinkled pink petals on her husband’s grave. She tried hearing echoes of his guitar strings that bound him to her rather than the sickening crunch of glass and metal that stole him. One month earlier, she insisted on eating wings at the place where they fell in love. On their way home, a drunk driver slammed into William’s side of the car. He died. She emerged unharmed, living with the guilt of life.
The flowers were called Sweet William. “I’ll always bring Sweet William to you,” William said each spring when he delivered bouquets to her. “That way, you’ll never forget me.” The flowers she carried to his grave were this spring’s last. Next year’s flowers wouldn’t be the same without him. She feared she’d begin to forget the way her harmonica blended with his guitar, or the way his sapphire blue eyes warmed her heart.
Suddenly, an old woman materialized on the grass before her. “You have such sad eyes,” the woman’s raspy voice remarked. “Take my hand.” Before Julia could reply, the woman’s gnarled fingers curled around hers.
Julia and the woman flew into the sky. They arrived at Henry’s Wings. The woman raised a crooked finger to her lips, motioning silence. Julia gasped, noticing herself with her husband four years ago. She couldn’t comprehend this sorcery, but chose not to question the gift of William’s presence. She gazed at his dimples remembering her failure. They had tried to study Chemistry together, but she studied the curve of his smile and earned a D on the midterm.
The woman squeezed Julia’s hand. They flew to the library where she watched William quiz her on molecules for their final. He never failed. That time, neither did she. They succeeded together. Now, she was supposed to go to medical school. How could she? She couldn’t protect William. She couldn’t protect anyone.
With another squeeze, they landed on the street outside Henry’s Wings. The chill in the air signified a future day. Julia noticed herself tapping a tiny steel drum and wearing the red apron of Henry’s Wings’ employees. Is this all I am without sweet William, she thought. The lonely twang of steel resounded through the night. She’d seen the Hapi drum online, and thought about ordering one. She thought the ringing notes could cure her ache for William’s guitar, but the twangs sounded like sobs.
They continued down the street, seeing a small boy with downcast eyes. “My mother’s always sad. I’m always sad,” the boy said to no one.
Julia opened her mouth, but remembered she wasn’t allowed to speak. They flew again.
Now, the boy’s happy eyes faced her. She knew one other person possessed those blue eyes. The boy wore a paper crown. He grabbed her white doctor’s coat. “Mommy!” he squealed to her future self, “Look what we made at school! I’m a prince!
She heard herself say, “Yes, my sweet William!”
Tears rolled down her cheeks as she watched the scene. She thought, I’ll carry and protect our sweet William, darling. And I’ll never forget you.
Mathew W. Weaver
I looked so young. And so, so very sad.
In one corner of the gym, I sat alone, a yellow paper crown on my head, a picture of utter misery. My friends had given up calling me to dance along with the rest of the partying animals.
I remembered. I’d barely made the cut to transfer out of that crapped up school, but Nate, who’d been dreaming of getting out all his life, hadn’t made it.
I was leaving, and he who should have been with me was still stuck back here. It wasn’t fair.
I walked up to myself and sat down, careful not to make physical contact. Like the rest of them, he couldn’t see me; and even if he had, the survivor’s guilt was so strong, I doubted he’d have noticed me, let alone recognize himself from the future.
“Hey,” I said, “Dude, it gets better. I know I thought I was a screw up back then. But I grow up, I get a job, I publish novels, man. And I fall in love. It gets so much better. You aren’t the failure you think you are. Not by a long shot.”
Time’s up, the voice chimed, The future awaits.
The eerie blue mist-creature was back, hovering just above my right shoulder. I took a last look at myself, turned back to the mist and nodded. The blue light brightened, and the world faded.
The first time it had done that, I’d vanished from my room and landed in the past. This time, I embraced the gas, the feeling of travelling at a hundred miles an hour while standing still.
Light flashed, something crackled, and then the picture came back into focus. This time, I knelt at the center of an immense, luxurious office, one side of which was nothing but glass panes, opening out to soaring skyscrapers just beyond.
Standing by the glass was a man in a rich, navy suit. Even from the back, he gleamed of success and power.
He can see you if you touch him, the voice reminded me, you can talk to him. Unlike your past self, this will not alter the time stream.
“But why?” I asked again, “Why give me this choice, of all people?”
We shall see.
The same reply it had given me the first time, before it had taken me to the past.
I walked up to myself, and marveled at the specs of gray in my beard. I… he… was staring at the sky, eyes vacant as he… I… silently contemplated something.
I’d be rich, I realized. I’d be standing in this office someday, staring out at that view. And here was my ticket to finding out how.
I reached out.
I swallowed, turned around and walked away.
“I’d rather find out on my own,” I replied.
Now, I know that the mist entity, didn’t have a face, but I’d have sworn that right then, it was smiling.
You have passed your test
“This was a test? Why?”
The picture began to fade. We were moving again.
“Where to, now?” I asked.
Daniel J. Sanz
Explosions ripped through the Hummer as the blast lifted and spun it broadside into the dirt road.
The scene replayed in Raymond’s head as he sat in the Whitemoon Lounge. The establishment reeked of incense and was empty, save for himself and the young man playing the Hapi steel drum.
“It should have been me,” he said to Shelly, the bartender, dropping another bourbon down his gullet. “Those guys had families…yet I’m the one sitting here. If I dropped dead tomorrow no one would miss me.”
Shelly raised a suspicious brow. “That’s not something you’re planning is it?”
It was almost as if she sensed his despair and the gun under his coat. With eyes down, he nudged the glass.
Shelly paused, then disappeared into the back. She reemerged with a small black decanter. She tipped the strange bottle and an odd blue spirit poured into the shot glass. “House special, it’ll give you the kick you need.”
He leered at it, then shrugged. Barely getting the elixir down the stars hit him. Raymond clamped his eyes shut and gasped. The room spiraled as blood rushed into his ears.
He opened his eyes ready to ream Shelly out, but she was gone. The room took on a grey tone and he turned to the rowdy party to his left. Raymond froze at the sight. Before him was himself, five years younger celebrating the success of Army graduation. He remembered his excitement.
Young Ray returned the shocked gaze, and after a moment asked, “What happened to you…to us?”
So Raymond told him about the war, and how he thought he was fighting for something noble but realized he was just serving a financial empire ruled by false kings in their posh designer suits and paper crowns.
Young Ray thought quietly and then said, “I still intend to serve my country.”
“Even if you end up like me?” Raymond responded.
“Yes Sir. Even if we end up like him.” He nodded his head past Raymond.
Raymond turned to his right and met the old man. He was feeble with empty, faded eyes. Startled, Raymond recognized himself, many years from now. The man slid over a scribbled note.
The attempt failed.
Then he pointed to the gun under Raymond’s coat. Raymond stood horrified and watched as the man pulled out the prosthetic jaw and moaned painfully through his sagging face.
Raymond’s stomach wrenched and felt the blood pull from his brain. The room spun and he fell backwards into blackness.
“Ray! Are you alright?”
Raymond opened his eyes, the lounge had returned back to its earlier empty state. He stood and brushed away the shivers that danced at his arms.
“I… I think so.”
Shelley studied him. “You want another?”
Raymond’s hand brushed over the bulk of the gun. He paused, and then looked at her sincerely.
“No, I think I’ll be OK.”
He placed cash on the bar and made his way towards the door. Before leaving, Raymond looked over his shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow Shel.”
With a smirk she replied, “I’m glad to hear that Ray.”