Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

Two for Tuesday #21 – Inexplicable

with 2 comments

This week’s Two for Tuesday prompts from Andy Black are:


‘Standard Prompt:
wax museum

You have lots of creative leeway. The limit is 200 words. The words can be used:

  • simply as a point of inspiration and do not have to be used directly
  • they can be included exactly as provided
  • or each word can be used independently of each other (for example if Death Row was the prompt instead of crafting a story about an inmate on the way to the gallows, you might write something like: Despite feeling like death from an excess of cheap vodka consumed the night before, Evelyn moved on to planting her next row of spinach).

Non-Standard Prompt:
For this week’s alternative prompt I’m suggesting that you begin a story with the climax and use flashbacks to lead the reader through how the story got there.

As per usual with the Non-Standard Prompt there is no word limit (to allow for more in depth explorations) but there is a minimum of 200 words.’


I don’t think I fulfilled the flashback aspect of the non-standard prompt adequately, and my title is useless. Suggestions for a better one will be received gratefully (and adopted!).


Inexplicable (512 words)

Harry looked at the sprinkling of mourners. It wasn’t much of a turnout, one black jacket for each dead body. A family of five wiped out and no one to see them off.  Standing in the graveyard, the sun was bright, the birds chattering. The weather reminded Harry of the day six weeks earlier when he had seen them for the first time. None of it made any sense. Early summer had been warm and no one could say why they’d had the fire lit.

Harry ran his finger around his collar, pulling at the tie that trapped his throat. As he listened to the priest he wondered if he should buy another black tie, his was looking a little tatty. Police work had turned out to be less about car chases and catching criminals and more about looking presentable, thumping keyboards, and searching for the inexplicable. Harry hated the unsolved, the insolvable. And this case could only ever be subject to conjecture; the witnesses were all dead. The neighbours had seen and heard nothing. Through all the interviews no one had come up with anything controversial, less so anything enlightening.

Sheila had been missed first by work colleagues. A couple had phoned the police station after not being able to raise her at home or on her mobile. The desk constable had said the family were probably on holiday and had forgotten to tell anyone. The school was of the same opinion and a letter was drafted to call in the parents for a discussion about unapproved absences. The benefits office made a note that Trevor hadn’t signed on and to find out why when he next appeared. It was the sun shining through windows, onto already over-heated bodies, that had the neighbours rushing to their phones as the taste of death seeped onto the landing.

A family plot was a rare and expensive thing these days, Harry mused, but someone had manoeuvred so they would lie all together, from the shortest to the tallest, the youngest to the oldest. He wondered if it would have been more fitting to leave them as they’d been found, the three children between and protected by their parents. Mum and Dad had been in easy chairs, the three kids on the sofa. The eldest two were halfway through a game of Connect Four, while the five-year-old played with her coloured bricks. They’d lain on her lap, longest to shortest, just as she was being laid to rest now.

Harry shivered and took a step backwards. It was too much. Five needless deaths. Five pointless deaths. Five deaths because the family couldn’t afford to have the gas fire serviced this year on top of everything else. And still no explanation as to why the fire had been on.

As the last coffin was lowered, Harry saw himself walking in to their sitting room, mask clamped to his face. Carbon monoxide was a merciless killer. If it hadn’t been for the stench, the scene would have made for the perfect family tableau in a wax museum.





Written by Sarah Ann

August 18, 2013 at 9:19 pm

2 Responses

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  1. A chilling story. I am never a stickler for rules. I offer prompts in the hopes that people will tap out a few sentences and have fun doing it. If that means skirting the rules so be it. If that means posting after the deadline, no problem. I liked your story very much and in a sense you started off with the end and revealed how we got there so I think you fulfilled the prompt just fine! Good stuff…


    August 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    • Thanks Andy. I like your rules, and I put myself in the straight-jacket to try to follow them. It’s fun to test myself, to see what I can do. I find more rules can make writing easier, because there are certain things I have to do or include. Coming up with a story from a one-word prompt or a photo with no other guidance can be really difficult. It was challenging to incorporate all the prompts I missed while I was away into a story, but I had lots of fun trying:

      Sarah Ann

      August 19, 2013 at 7:37 pm

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