I have unearthed a few files from ye olden days and have been looking through them to see if I had accidentally written anything good. While you are waiting for me to come up with anything from that search, here’s a flash fiction I did in 2019 in response to a single prompt word on a site called BlogBattle which, if I remember right, was ‘flower’.
There was a 1000 word target, so I stuck strictly to that by writing it in about 1050 and then pleading for forgiveness. Doubtless I could have edited it down instead, but breaking rules, even if only by a little bit, always makes me feel like I’m being a bit of a rebel.
The Sage sat on his wooden platform, cross-legged and still. Close inspection would have revealed breathing, if you were patient enough to wait for an hour or so for the next breath and held a mirror under his nose.
The pale yellow desert sands had started to form small dunes in the folds of the sage’s faded orange tunic and, also indicating he had not moved for some time, a eighteen inch high cone of sand had piled up on its cloth stretched between his knees.
It can be hard to tell if a meditating Sage is still alive to the unobservant eye. In fact, many Sages choose to wear a spoon hanging around their neck on a string, ready for either the opportunity to eagerly devour any bowl of rice offered, or to fulfil the need to dig themselves out if a passer-by mistakes them for dead, decides to do the decent thing and buries them.
Brother Um approached, silently and stealthily. There was always satisfaction to be gained in successfully surprising a meditating Sage, mainly to hear some of the inventive new curse words that could be heard when you were successful and shouted ‘Boo!’
The ladder to the platform now had three rungs left to climb to the top, rather than the seven it had when Brother Um had left. By his calculation, the Sage would need his spoon by next Tuesday if the winds kept up.
The Sage spoke without opening his eyes.
“Welcome back, Brother Um.”
The monk, with one foot on the bottom step, looked crestfallen, but acknowledged his presence.
“Um… Yes master, it is me. Did you hear me coming? I was moving with the Librarians Whisper of Shush.”
“Brother Um, the lightness of your footsteps are immaterial if you have been fifteen days in the desert, wearing the same yak wool robe. There are then other means of measuring your approach.”
The Sage opened his eyes and took in the large sweating figure of Brother Um.
“I have taught you of the unimportance of material things, however sometimes there is some importance in the material around your… er, things.”
“Yes Sage, um… I think I understand.”
The Sage looked down at Brother Um, and then looked all around him, which took a long time because Brother Um took a long time to look around.
“Did you find a flower, Brother Um?”
“Ah? That is something Brother Ah would say.”
Brother Um’s task of finding a flower in the desert had begun over a week ago, with the Sage suddenly opening his eyes and simply saying “Brother Um, please go and find me a flower.”
That is what the desert trip, in the emptiness beyond the high walls of the monastery, was all about. A test of the young apprentice monk’s endurance and resourcefulness, the ‘Yu Wot’.
There was the three day walk over, around and through the dunes to the meditation platform. A five day meditation. And then the Sage would make his request for his pupil to obtain, from wherever they might find it in the wilderness, whatever it was he had just thought of.
The young monks often compared the stories of improbable requests they had managed on this rite of passage. Brother Oh had dined well on his tale of being asked for a hot dog by his Sage, and recounted with pride how, even in a desert, he had the resourcefulness to return to his master with a goat’s penis wrapped in a pitta bread. He always said it would have looked more convincing if he’d had a knife, but at least the goat enjoyed the pitta bread afterwards.
By this standard, Brother Um was gratified by the simplicity of his quest and smiled with satisfaction as he stepped to his left at the foot of the platform stairs to reveal the result of his resourcefulness.
Unveiled, having been eclipsed in his shade, was a young woman. She was dressed appropriately for the temperature, in that she was wearing only two pieces of shimmering material in strategic places that would have only been enough to make the Sage a small hat. She was also shaking sand out of… well, somewhere.
“Sage, may I present to you, Marigold. Um.. that’s a flower.”
The Sage started to scoop the sand out of his lap and throw it over the edge of the platform. The wind scattered it away in grainy clouds as he threw and the Sage noted with some relief that Brother Um was now also slightly downwind of him
“Why are Marigold’s hands bound Brother Um?”
“Well, she wasn’t that keen to come Sage, so I had to fashion a method of dragging her.”
“And that material across her mouth?”
“She kept going on about how not keen she was Sage.”
“I see…” The Sage paused
None of the brothers liked a Sage’s pause, mainly for the fact that you never knew how long a Sage’s pause was going to be. Brother Er said his master paused twenty four years ago and he’s still waiting to see if he’s decided if he wants one or two fried eggs with his breakfast.
“What do you think that might be Brother Um?” The Sage gestured over Brother Um’s shoulder.
Brother Um turned and looked to the far distance where, over a shimmering dune top, there was a wide darker strip. It had something glinting in the sun mixed in and a cloud of sand rising up behind it. It was also moving towards them.
“Ah. That might be the men from the camp where I found Marigold, Sage… Er… Sage?”
There was no Sage on the platform any more. Instead a door was being pulled closed by a scrawny arm into its floor, followed by the sound of bolts being squeaked into place.
A muffled voice called out “Your final lesson Brother Um, seeing as twenty minutes isn’t enough time to teach you to fight in the Way of the Unpredictable Prawn…”
Brother Um looked at Marigold, then looked up again at the approaching billowing cloud of sand, with glinting bits and added ‘Kiiiiiiilllll himmmmmm!’ sounds.
“Be careful which wild flowers you pick…”