Each month, we post a photograph as a writing prompt. Post your 100-word story in the comments section, and we’ll choose one to feature in our next issue. To see examples, read photo stories we’ve published in the past.
Photo credit: greenzowie
Share on Facebook
I don’t know her name. All I know is why I’m here.
It’s winter and her laughter is the sound of ice cubes clinking against glass. I take a good look at her, reach out to hold her hand. Her fingers are soft icicles.
‘Tell me a horror story,’ she says, smiling a smile to melt the South Pole.
‘Hon, you should know that what I’m about to do to you is enough of a horror story,’ I say.
The knife whispers through her mouth. She melts in my arms like a snowflake touching blood.
I never knew her name.
We stopped by a lake. Saw the sky stratified in blues, greys and white. Felt frosty air thicken.
“She’s golden,” Sonny said as he watched the leader dog devour caribou. “Saved me from drowning through ice.”
I closed the thermos emptied of coffee, positioned myself on the sled. Sonny yelled out a command. The team of six malamutes sprung us forward.
“Reckon we can make two miles before nightfall,” he said. “Set up camp,”
“What’s over there?” I asked.
“Remnants of igloos.”
More commands. Our sled slid faster. Ice crackling beneath us.
Night approached with spirits of the past watching.
Super imagery! I feel I’m there. And cold.
Lucy could bend even the smallest rays of light to her will. She created her own humidity, burrowed deep and made dormant things grow. Her only enemies were tedium and despair. Lucy picked ruthless fights, played the princess, and slept like the dead. Sometimes we made love atop mounds of clean laundry. Lucy refracted. She diffused, scattered, and multiplied. I simply reflected. She charmed breezes and coaxed gentle rains, tamed the sun with gelato and laughter and lemonade. She stained the leaves, directed their flight then cushioned their fall. I just threw snowballs of insecurity and eventually doused her flame.
Frozen Water Everywhere But Not A Drop To Drink
Cold, it was always cold. The Water Expedition had marched one-hundred days across the alien tundra. Dark clouds rolled in like waves, the wind howled, while ice particles nipped at their faces. There was ice all around them but it was cloudy and full of cryo-bacteria; not the clear ice of fresh water. They felt weak and drained from their long march with rationed food and water. Though their supplies were running low they marched on, praying that the glaciers before them were clear. If they could not find that Stone of Life then the colony on Pluto would die.
Title: Once upon a time.
For this unique moment in time we are here together.
Take this time and hold it close to you.
Dismiss your prejudices and reflect; for am I not here before you naked and defenceless.
Take a long steady look, do not shy away. Now tell me. What is it you see?
Are you listening to me, really listening? What is it you hear?
Sniff. Sniff deeply. What is it you smell?
Touch me. Go on touch me. What is it you feel?
Now let go. For in the circumference of time.
I have been a snowflake and will be again.
It broke off before anyone knew it had cracked.
The sharp sound filled an emptiness that landed on deaf ears.
The fall was padded,
But the jagged edges left behind,
the connections to its ultimate life force,
were as inconceivable as the depths of the sea.
Inching away in increments a snail could easily surpass,
it distanced itself
to a place of solitary confinement.
It had grown smaller, yes,
but the edges which once aligned with its other half
had begun to melt away,
so that one day
it would be completely smooth,
foregoing its former partner.
The thin edge of the paper slices the tip of my finger, but I continue so that blood paints a hole where an eye might have been. I place the frozen swan on the window sill, bloody socket on display.
I want more sheets of paper to fold a lake, a river, a frozen ocean into existence. Then, giant ice structures bursting through horizons: monoliths pointing to the skies, sharp crystals cut from the elements, glaciers like ragged jewels. At these, I’ll throw myself. Arms spread out; barelegged, ensuring thin skin’s exposed.
A thousand origami razor blades in one go.
Mascara and Deep Blue
I stood there and watched you comb away at the bits of mascara stuck to your lashes. One by one, the black chunks fell on to your vanity and stilled in the puddle of tears seeping into the crevices. I loved you at one point, I think. And I know you always knew there was a doubt. Which is why when the cold tundras came to sweep us away, you fought so, so hard to stay footed. You were so focused on the winds that you didn’t notice the ice crack beneath you until you were submerged into deep blue.
I’d been here in July when the scorched earth had long surrendered to the sun. When the gentle curve of the russet horizon felt the weight of the sky on its shoulders. Stillness reigned infinite but there was no sleep. No life blossomed from the soil. I’d known heat and thirst that would smother even the most robust beasts. In summer I’d prayed for mercy; for the cool soothing balm of earth’s celestial routine. To feel complete.
But this. The suspension of life. There is no breath, no skin, no heartbeat in this frozen Hell. I’ve been The Seasons’ fool.
Silence bleeds into the tundra as the cold seeps into my bones.
Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop.
Transition stumbles upon me — alone, unaware, yet unafraid.
I gaze at the emptiness behind me. I contemplate the fullness stretching before me.
The lack of that follows me acts as a reminder. It deems that what once was no longer is.
Satisfaction begs me to come forward. My longingness for completion aches.
Change. Adjust. Transform.
I slowly shed the old light from my tired bones as I meet a vibrancy that has only been spoken of.
I don’t breathe, but I stare. I’m home.
“It is an illusion I think.”
“What is an illusion?”
“The horizon. The ice. The snow. The gathering mist. It is all an illusion.”
“No, you are wrong this is not an illusion.”
“No, you say.”
“Yes. I can feel the pain of the cold in my bones.”
“Yes, of course you do it is all part of the illusion. Just smoke and mirrors that is all this is.”
“Smoke and mirrors you say. Just an illusion. I say it is more.”
“Do you know? Tell me what is it that you see what more do you think it is?”
“Give it time,” her father said. “When the ice between you melts, you’ll enjoy a happy life together again.”
So she waited. She withstood his frigid glares, his frozen fingers that brushed against her only unintentionally. Her husband: an ice berg.
How long could it take for him to thaw? She was patient– fed him velvety soups, booked trips for two to Cozumel.
In time, she saw signs. First, a few droplets, then water pooling at his feet. When the ice finally melted, to her horror she discovered another layer. This one, even thicker. Impenetrable.
When flying, I often wonder what it would be like if the plane went down right now, what it would feel like to die on this particular surface – a jagged mountain range, a waterless desert, an urban jungle. Or that old classic – a formidable ocean. Would I survive hitting the water? Would sharks feast on me? Would I simply drown? Or would I somehow make it all the way to the bottom, perhaps with a moment to look around? But, right now, try as I might, I cannot imagine what crashing on this icicle might feel like. It is otherworldly.
“Use a metaphor to describe your soul.”
The teacher’s prompt seemed cruel. As everyone spun sunny tales, all I could picture was frozen tundra.
It had once been a light, warm place that let visitors in. But visitors were rough, and I decided it must become inhospitable. And so it is.
It is now so frigid and lonesome, I cannot bear it either.
Head on paper, my eyes well up with tears. “Why do you weep?” The teacher asks. He takes my story.
“This is not your metaphor. Here is another.”
On the paper is one word: Renew.
Ice Scream (revised)
“Order now and we’ll double your order,” barked the TV pitchman. So I ordered. Do-it-yourself igloo kits. “All you add is water.” It sounded so simple.
I failed to read the disclaimer, “Guarantee void below 66.5°N and above 66.5°S.” Who reads that fine print anyway?
The kits arrived. My wife didn’t share my enthusiasm. “One for you and one for the dog,” she said, and slammed the door.
“… of little faith,” I muttered. They looked great to me.
The igloos collapsed as the ice melted. I called out for my dog. For her. But no one answered.
Your story is another gift, Jeff. Thanks!
It’s enough to sit here and see the vision without feeling the frigid blocks
It’s enough to close my eyes and feel the lifting to this place
It’s enough to design a day on this
On my pillow, beads in hand
Softly breathing in and out. The mind empty.
As I travel to this pristine place.
The deepest eye can rest and linger in the elegant and pure glory.
There are icecaps in a piercing blue world, clouds so weightless, you can taste the cotton-candy white on paused lips.
The silence is so grand it is screaming.
I am patient. I can wait. I know it’s only a matter of time. Something will happen; the ice will thaw somehow, someone will come and melt it or break it apart, not realizing what they’ve done. It may not happen today or tomorrow, or a thousand tomorrows from now, but it will happen. Sooner or later something will happen to free me from this frozen prison, and once again I will make the earth tremble with the beating of my wings, and fill my footprints with the blood of the mighty and defiant. It’s only a matter of time.
The camera had long since frozen, so even if they found something no one would ever believe them.
“You didn’t find Bigfoot. What makes you think you’ll find the Abominable Snowman?” Quentin yelled over the howling wind.
Terrance trudged forward, moving remarkably well for someone traipsing across the North Pole.
“The Abominable Snowman?” Wyatt asked from the rear. “You do realize the Abominable Snowman is said to inhabit the Himalayan region of Nepal and Tibet, don’t you?”
The group stopped. Even Terrance.
“Why didn’t you say something before now?” Terrance asked.
“I thought we were looking for Santa Claus.”
Windows to the Soul
I stared at his pupils, but the vagrant’s eyebrow tumor disturbed my concentration. I sensed its magnetism tugging at my eyeballs and resisted. His grey irises gleamed with a peculiar radiance, like sunlight refracted through ancient glaciers. Ages of history appeared frozen in their depths. The longer I looked, the more I felt trapped in the ice.
Peering deeper, the ice melted, and I saw a look like that of an abused puppy, unsure of whether to expect affection or a beating. In that look, I simultaneously glimpsed blind terror and depthless love. Any resentment I held towards him faded.
“Ice, stretching from horizon to horizon. A world frozen-”
“Old fashioned, don’t you think?”
“A classic, sir. The world grows cold, cities fall dark. Vivid stuff.”
“What else is there?”
“Floods, in blood or water.”
“My grandmother uses plague!”
“Or larva flows? Reasonable prices-”
“A fire sale? That’s just insulting. Goodbye.”
“Wait! What if the ice is caused by nanobots?”
“Nanobots. They escape the lab and form a funeral veil across the sky.”
“It’s still ice, though.”
“But it’s your ice, sir. A classic delivered with a twist. People love that.”
“Horizon to horizon, sir. Guaranteed.”
I have accepted that there is no hope for me. I will die out here along with the countless other adventurer and explorers before me. My family urged me not to go on this trip but I have always wanted to explore this frozen tundra ever since I was little. In my hand I clutch my final words to my family. I only hope it won’t take the searchers too long to find my frozen corpse, that is if they are still looking for me. For now though I will close my eyes and imagine I am home.
The gift box held a snow globe.
“It’s a metaphor,” she explained earnestly. “The tundra means endless possibilities. And this crystal here, it’s you.”
It looked like fifty shades of disappointing to me.
“The other iceberg stands for obstacles. But look at all this space! You can easily find your way around it.”
I stared at the monochromatic trinket.
“The lady working at the store explained it so well. I don’t think I did it justice. But isn’t the story so cool?”
Pointedly looking from my well-meaning stepmother to her housewarming present and back, I replied, “You were definitely scammed.”
They say we’re all going to die. That we’re melting into the sea. That the polar bears are leaving, the ice is thinning. They tell me New York will one day be a gigantic harbor and the Empire State will be no more. Old men in suits with white hair and white skin, they tell us different. They claim there are worse things than a dying planet. Turbans and young black men. Smoking an herb and Plan B…”Dammit Obama”. These are of great concern to them.
But the oceans, the mountains, bees, and the sky. Don’t die Mother, don’t die!!!
“Order now and we’ll double your order,” barked the TV pitchman. So I ordered. Do-it-yourself igloo kits. “All you ad is water.” It sounded so simple.
The kits arrived. My wife didn’t share my enthusiasm. “One for you and one for the dog,” she said, and slammed the door.
The igloo froze solid as the ice melted. I called out for my dog. For her. No one answered.
Oh God. Why must you keep proving to me that there’s merit in the nano form?
“Alaska is much warmer than this….”a stranger whispered, in the midst of shivers. He opened his mouth to cry for help, but no one heard him. They all walked to and fro like wandering souls, but dressed like Eskimos. Telephone booths were in almost every corner, but all frozen. Messenger birds would get hypothermia in a few feet in the air. Everyone around him looked happy and shivery at the same time. He pinched himself, to confirm whether he was dreaming. Auroras in the early mornings and evenings helped him forget how it felt like to be cold and unknown.
She had never liked the snow, nor cared for the cold. Winter, she had always thought, was an insidious thing. She much preferred the season-less environment of Florida, her home state. There it was a perpetual summer: always warm, comfortable, and giving.
She peeked out of the window of their brand new house. It overlooked a lake, now frozen. Her husband snored loudly from the other room but she ignored him. In the center of the lake were two big ice mounds. Slowly they would melt, further and further away from each other. How sad she thought, and closed the blinds.
The white plane shears our consciousness. Torn apart, exposed to the other. Revealed, our crystalline rationales, frigidly logical constructs, hard conclusions. Neither shattered nor crumbled, riven by the day and more – rushing, rushing, rushing through, over, around. Fissures of certainty wearing smooth. Melting and freezing, rivulets cry in the harsh sun. Thoughts desiccate. Worse, our union is challenged -our fit, jagged edges held tight by smooth clefts. Smoothing, one’s becoming two.
Finally, night’s grace again slays the day’s assaults. Visceral bonds, below, unseen, warm us together. We drift, joined, the harshness banished, reformed body and soul we hold us, whole.
Being priced out of the rental market in the Developed World meant that Vincent’s new home was a frozen wasteland with a couple of mounds of dirty ice. The agent said it was that or the desert.
The idea was to push the mounds together and live in the crevice. It was in a different hemisphere to Vincent’s office but, if he could get the Internet going, he could work from home mostly.
The best thing: No neighbours. No more yelling from the ceiling; no more screaming from the walls. And no more feeling guilty for not calling the police.
“Are you cold my friend”.
“Don’t be stupid. Of course I’m cold”.
“Don’t you just hate the winter? I much prefer life when I’m in a liquid state since I’m actually kind of shy and I don’t stand out so much then. The warmer temperatures are also nice”.
“It’s different for me. I get terribly uncomfortable in liquid form because I can never decide where I begin and end, but I have to agree with you, warmer is better”.
“I don’t know about you, but for me life as an ice chunk would be absolutely unbearable without you my friend”.
Many treasures wash up on Belinda’s beach, but none as miraculous as the ice carvings. Like everything else, she just finds them planted in the sand. No card. No return address. Belinda doesn’t ask questions. She knows it’s only a matter of days.
The act of observation seems to reshape the sculptures’ contours. Blink and they’re a whole new thing. They recede, streaming back to the cosmic waters of their birth. Turn away for a moment and they’re gone. Belinda knows the drill, knows when to say: “Farewell my beautiful companions. We will meet again someday in that vast sea.”
The problem with candles is that they’re speechless. Otherwise, their flicker might whisper like a snake’s tongue, only sibilants to start.
The problem with you is pretending for weeks now that a vigilant candle is the same as speaking. At dinners as quiet as breath, two fork stems clink against two plate rims, signaling that it’s over.
The problem with me is that I’m camped out on the sofa, so I can test her name when I cannot sleep. I speak it alone ever since you spoke, ‘and the next minute she was gone’ like a worthy explanation to me.
FYI, This was written for last month’s prompt, which was a picture of a candle.
Mail (will not be published) (required)