#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 1

last line firstHello, and welcome to the first ever Last Line First!

Last Autumn, I ran a flash-fiction workshop in which I asked attendees to write a piece of flash using as their first line the last line of an existing short story. As an exercise, it worked well – everyone jumped in and came up with original and inspiring tales – so I thought I’d offer it as a challenge here at my blog.

Every Monday, I’m going to post the last line of an existing story for you to use as a prompt. The challenge will then be for you to write, in 200 words or fewer, a new story that starts with the last line I’ve provided.

The aim is to give you a prompt from which to write and a place to share what you’ve written. There will be no judging as such, but, for the competitive among you, each week I’ll be picking my favourite last line from the stories submitted and using it as a future last line prompt. Stories may be in any genre (except erotica and graphic horror) and do not need to reflect the source story. You may tweak the prompt however you choose. Comments on other people’s stories are more than welcome.

Here are the basics:

  • Every Monday, I will post a new last line.
  • Any time over the next seven days, you may write a ≤200 word story that starts with the given last line and submit it as a comment to the challenge post.
  • You may tweak the last line prompt in any way you like.
  • Each week, I’ll pick my favourite last line. Authors of the chosen last line will receive the Last Line First badge (pictured above) and see their story’s last line used as a prompt in the future.*
  • Each challenge closes as the next one opens.

So, with no further ado, here’s this week’s last line:

He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.

From Frankenstein; or, the modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

On your marks. Get set. Go!

(*To keep things simple: by submitting your story here, you’re agreeing to let me use its last line as a future prompt. Thanks!)

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30 thoughts on “#LastLineFirst – A #FlashFiction Challenge: Week 1”

  1. Promotion (180 words)

    He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. The wind swept through Kari’s hair and salt spray stung the small cuts that littered her bared skin. She waited, hooded eyes fixed on the horizon, her still body tense and strained.

    Lightning flickered through the sky before it struck, with a crash that heralded the rain, thundering down like the clouds above had burst. Kari turned her face to the sky and grinned as lightning struck again.

    Her sacrifice had worked – months without the slightest hint of rain and here it was; and as she stood there, her dress soaked and clinging to her skin, she felt the cuts close up and disappear – all but the three small, thin ones under each eye.

    The chill crept into her bones and Kari turned her back on the ocean, preparing for her walk home. The gods had taken her sacrifice and delivered, leaving her as the marked. She had a new job now, a new purpose in life.

    Her steps were light as she traversed the sands.

  2. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. She could just make him out, his head glistening in moonlight, as he circled the shallow pool at the foot of the water slide. But although the powercut hadn’t effected the wave machine it had taken out all the lights in the poolside bar. This was not good because God did she need a drink. She put her arms straight out in front of her and began to plod forward in what she guessed was the direction of the bar.

  3. Match Made
    @rowdy_phantom
    191 words

    Victor was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.

    And good riddance.

    We used to make mud pies together, so I had little tolerance for the goth-thing. Everything so darkly dramatic. You’d think a stroll along a bustling boardwalk would scatter his shadows. Nope. He spoke of cancer, stellar death, and how limited leisure distracts the population from what’s really important.

    “What’s really important?”

    “Suffering.”

    His mother was the sweetest thing, wore 70s jumpsuits and still cut the crusts off his sandwiches.

    Well, he’d gone to get an un-ironic latte when the siren hauled herself onto the pier.

    This was no lusty-sailor-luring siren. Ropes of kelp twined in her hair. No tail, but her skin glistened here and there with scales. Pretty in the way waves battering rocks are pretty.

    “Oh,” she said, catching sight of me. Her gaze skittered from bench to bench. “I was certain—” Her voice sounded like a seal pup being dragged over broken seashells. Indigo eyes reflected tortured depths.

    I probably should’ve kept my mouth shut, but I told her, “He’ll be right back.”

    The romantic in me couldn’t resist.

  4. Lost
    181 words

    She watched it happen, saw the moment when he finally let go and was so soon born away by the waves, lost in the darkness and distance. For days, weeks, months, she had held on to him, hoping against hope that she could keep him with her. And Oh! How he knew it! Each time he began to drift away she would feel him catch himself and with, she now realised, a superhuman effort, he would pull himself back, both of them desperately clinging to the lifeline forged from her hope. But it was not enough. Would never be enough. She knew that now. No amount of hope and love could hold him here. The pull of the darkness was too strong and he had fought against it for too long. Though she knew he did not want to leave her, she also knew he could no longer stay. He had not the strength left to resist it, not even for her. And so she watched, helpless and hopeless, as the darkness enveloped him and bore him away from her forever.

  5. Them Apples
    A.J. Walker

    Dan was jumping around like a Mexican bean. Chasing the waves down the beach and then running away as they came back. His mouth was a slobbering mess his tongue looked two feet long out the side of his mouth; ugly beast.

    Bounding up he sent slobber onto my jeans and then shook himself showering me in brine.

    I picked up the stick and made to throw. Dan stood fast waiting for me to let go. I threw it along the beach and he bolted of to fetch it. He dropped it at my feet; those pathetic eyes.

    No messing. I flung it as far as I could into the sea. Dan set off adjusting his stride to get through the water. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.

    It was a shame. That’s what I’d say. A horrible accident. Undertow. I tried everything.

    Why had she named the dog after the love of her life? How was I ever to bond with that mutt? Reminding me how I was a replacement. She loved Dan. The dog and the man.

    Well, now both Dan’s were gone. Let’s see how she likes them apples.

    (200 words)
    @zevonesque
    #FlashDogs

  6. Bottled.
    (198 words)

    He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. His resolve drowned in the seas of his own lusts. He was gone, and rehab would never find his remains.

    I watched Tim grow into an ambitious young man with prospects. He came across as a ray of sunlight in the night sky -he was my hope and joy. Having your first child at 39 meant you weren’t likely to have other options, so I poured my all into this one son to see him make good sense of his life.

    When he began to live by the bottle, however, I had been taken aback. He had drunk-driven, crashed, and had almost died. After he recovered and returned from rehab, I made him swear to me that he was never going back.

    But that lasted for as long as something terrible didn’t happen, such as losing his fiancé to death’s cold claws. I watched his sanity seep out of him as liquor after liquor replaced it. I was a seventy-year-old, hoping in vain that my son would return. But we both knew, he was never here, as his life always belonged with the bottle

  7. Foy
    word count: 207

    Life-Giving Torment

    When he awoke, he had no way of knowing how long it had been. No way to communicate he had returned. Ensnared in his own skin. Condemned to inhale and exhale until entropy consumed him.

    You can’t understand the hunger for companionship until you endure the starvation of isolation. Loved ones flitted about him, ghosts more alive than he felt, tending, watching, never presuming he was aware.

    At first he railed against this maddening hell. Minutes, hours, days–he couldn’t have said which–spent willing a finger to twitch, to bend, only to feel it remain in perfect immobility.

    Morale bleached; daily defeat accented by inadvertent mocking from the fully functional. The surrender was sluggish, imperceptible. His spirit was not so strong as to survive consciousness. He let himself be borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. Drifting…

    I-love-you-
    you-love-me-
    we’re-a-hap-py-
    fa-mi-ly.

    Oh god, make it stop! Round and round his brain wheel, it spun, a rat in perpetual motion. No dark distance could save him from those innocuous words of affection. Must. Make. It. Stop.

    And then salvation struck him…he would study the shadows, learn their language, and absorb how they marked time. If only to know when the torment would cease.

  8. Adrift

    Within seconds of placing him in the makeshift boat, he was borne away by the waves, lost in darkness and distance. She didn’t know the current would be this strong on the river.
    The fog that had stifled his squalls crept up on her. She shuddered. Until the last moment, she hadn’t thought she’d be capable of abandoning him. She reminded herself he’d be worse off living with her.
    While she didn’t think she’d be able to sleep, she slept better than she had in months. For weeks, she lived as if shrouded in fog, awaiting the consequences of that night. But nobody noticed he’d gone missing. She expected it would change when he washed up downriver. But his little body was never found. She didn’t know how she’d got away with it.
    When the fog lifted, she felt as if she’d come out of a long, twisted nightmare. She returned to the river. She wasn’t the athletic type, she thought it was unlikely she’d managed to balance along slippery rocks with the boat. She didn’t remember navigating the rocks.
    She didn’t know anymore if there’d been anything to get away with in the first place.

    (196 words)
    [I’ve tried to get this right for days and I’m still not happy with it. But I’ve put so much work into it, so might as well post it…]

  9. He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.
    Now what? How do I clean up this mess? Sure, his body’s gone; the sharks will make sure of that tonight!
    But what about the house? What about the witness? Where did she run to; where is she hiding? In the darkness? No.
    The house is the only place she could be. There’s nowhere else to hide on this beach.
    I make my way back, observing the windows. In one, I notice a silhouette.
    “Why would you hide behind a curtain? Can’t you see I’m coming for you? Stupid bitch!”
    ———————————————–
    He’s coming back. He knows I’m here. I sense that now.
    Too frightened to move, I hear him. He’s in the house. The air is filled with the scent of petrol.
    Peeping through the curtain, I see him, barrel in his hands, cigarette in his mouth.
    He’s coming towards me, pouring petrol as he goes. He drops the barrel, then steps back, spitting his cigarette to the floor.
    What’s he doing? He’s going to kill us both!
    For the second time tonight, my world explodes.
    Thrown through the window, seconds later I see the light; forever.

  10. Time Enough
    @voimaoy
    200 words

    He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. Even at the speed of light, it would take years for the signals to reach us.

    In time, he would be forgotten by the people of Earth. Life would move on without him. Generations would pass and he would be among the stars, poised on the threshold of oblivion, dreaming of sunlit beaches.

    It was bold experiment. Who would willingly go Out There, just to follow a ripple in space-time, to be borne away, who knows where. What shore would this bottle wash up on? That’s what we talked about as we walked along the beach, looking out to sea. It was easier to make up stories than to say goodbye.

    I said I’d be waiting for him, whenever he came back. Fifty years is not so long, I said. They are increasing life expectancy every day. I will be a spry centenarian. I will be here in 500 years.

    One day, there was a signal, and the ship washed up, like a bottle.

    Now I hold him, smooth as beach glass. His eyes are full of the things he’s seen, his mouth is full of stories.

  11. GOODBYE

    He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. Although there was little to see from their boat, Marie continued to scan to the horizon until she was quite certain he would not now reappear, turning then to row them both back to the shore, guided by the lights along the seafront.
    She would miss him – not so much as her brother would – but they would get along OK, eating, sleeping, playing, getting to school as normal and keeping quiet about it.
    Her brother cried that night.
    “Go to sleep now, and don’t be such a big baby. It’s for the best and as they say, ‘Every little ting’s gonna be all right’.”
    He half smiled, despite himself, tears still running down his face to the corners of his mouth, wiped away by his pyjama sleeve. He wasn’t so sure.
    “Where do you think he’ll be now?” he asked tentatively, afraid of the answer.
    “Down with the mermaids, I expect.”
    That seemed to satisfy him and she turned out the light.
    Next morning, at breakfast, he ate quite well and she was glad. But she had to ask.
    “So how was your first night without Teddy?”

    203 words

  12. OK, here goes…

    He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance. The sliver of moon provided the only beacon of light to the endless depths of ocean. Gary had long since lost sight of the shoreline.

    The water was unseasonably warm and the thought of hypothermia slipped disappointingly away.

    Gary willed his muscles to stop moving, to stop treading water and surrender to the oceans pull. The movement was involuntary, his mind not able to overpower his instinct to survive.

    He forced his limbs to straighten and felt his body drop like a pin. His breath caught before dipping below the surface; he held it until he couldn’t hold any longer. As the breath left him, Gary’s mouth filled with dense, salty water. He began to thrash uncontrollably. Before he knew it, he was back above the surface.

    Changing tact, Gary started madly swimming, forcing himself to the point of exhaustion.

    His limbs felt heavy. He felt his body give way.

    Something solid scraped his foot and he instinctively pushed back, launching his body out of the water. It took him only seconds to realise he had drifted back to the shore; death evading him once again.

    (200 words)

  13. I thought I’d flex my writing muscles and have a go at my own challenge. This is what I came up with:

    How the Selkie Drowned

    Amel feels her grip slipping, but there’s nothing he can do, and as she slides from his grasp, the waves snatch her away into darkness. He slumps against the gunwale, his muscles and mind screaming.

    Lightning slashes the sky. Thunder shakes the boat. Amel tries to lift his head, but he can’t – his strength is gone.

    ***

    As the sun rises, he opens his eyes. Above him, the greys of night are giving way to the pinks of morning. He smiles. It reminds him of yesterday, of her stepping from her skin, of her taking his hand, of her kiss. Rolling to his side, he reaches out, but his fingers find only wet and cold. He sits up, heart and stomach pitching.

    Scrabbling to his knees, he throws himself into the prow, eyes searching, searching, searching. Nothing. He gathers her skin, holds it tight to his chest. He aches to call her name, but he can’t. He doesn’t know it. The boat sways, but the sea is calm. Hope drains like sand through an hourglass.

    Only later he thinks to return her skin to the sea, and although it’s too late to help, he knows it’s the right thing to do.

    (200 words)

  14. So, I don’t begin the story with the line, but include it, and started the story from it. If this isn’t okay, may apologies.
    Also, I’ve done it in a colloquial scots… sorry.
    Clive

    ‘I’ll nae be coming’
    200 words

    The last time I went sea fishing, it wis on Goggs’ boat. We were oot a’ day an’ caught nothing. Goggs, Wee Eck, and me and nae a bite. We got ootside a couple bottles o’ rum and some beers, but nae fish.
    Then the engine broke doon and we wis borne awa’ by waves and lost in darkness and increasing distance. We kent the tide wid tak us toward rocks and we wis panicking.
    When a search light us up we cheered drunkenly. The life-boat got a rope on and towed us tae harbor. All the way there we wondered who’d ca’ed oot the coast-gaurd. Tho’ arriving in the dark there wis enough lamp-light to see my missus on the harbor-side.
    “Whit a wummin,” cheered Wee Eck.
    “Aye, a wee star that yin,” Goggs agreed.
    I wis mair circumspect. I had an idea it wisnae ma well being at the heart o’ her concern.
    I wis right. The next day I woke tae a heid slammin’ frae the drink, and ears still ringin’ frae the ear-thrashing. Divorce papers came soon after.
    So, cheers fir askin’, but naw, I’ll nae be coming fishing with you’se.

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