The Rune

The first challenge of Rachel Harrie’s Writer’s Platform-Building Campaign is to create a 200-word flash fiction story that begins with the words “The door swung open.”

The opening words have a sinister implication to me. For one thing, the phrase is passive: “the door swung open,” not “he/she opened the door.” The phrase implies that the door may not have been opened by someone, but rather by something. As you will see, this impression colored my response to the challenge.

For bonus goals, campaigners who accepted the challenge could end the story with “the door swung shut” and try to write exactly 200 words. Well, according to MS Word, the following story is exactly 200 words, and it starts and ends with the challenge words.

I hope you enjoy it.


The door swung open and admitted a cool, moist draft. The light breeze circled the room and ruffled the papers on my desk, which I pinned in place with a slap of my hand. The lantern on my desk flickered, but thankfully did not go out. I didn’t bother turning around because the stench of carrion that accompanied the draft told me exactly who, or should I say what, would be lurking at the threshold.

At that moment, nothing mattered more than the rune on the block of wood in front of me. If I turned around now, the rune would never be finished, and nothing would matter to me ever again.

I bent back to my task, trying to calm the shaking hand that held a razor-sharp carving blade so I could lay the final stroke that would complete the rune. I peeled a thin sliver from the block’s dark surface, revealing the lighter-colored wood underneath.

A deep otherworldly moan rose behind me, and the surge of adrenalin it caused threatened to spoil the stroke. But I finished the rune and spoke its eldritch name. With my utterance, the moan rose to a shriek, and the door swung shut.



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  1. I like it! Good scene setting and a nice, complete little story.

  2. I enjoyed this. Sometimes the monster you don’t see is way more frightening 🙂

  3. Makes me want more…so eloquent.

  4. Michael: Thanks! I felt the same way about your story.

    Sarah: Yeah, we had too few words to work with to get into any detail about the monster, but I decided it was unnecessary for the very reason you said! Thanks!

    Heather: Wow, that’s nice of you to say. Thank you! I actually did start thinking of a short story version based on this concept, or possibly working the scene into one of the books in the series I’m writing.

  5. Lovely. Just lovely. I like that it’s a full story with no loose ends. I voted for you. So far, this is my favorite story. If you want to check out mine, it’s nr. 186

  6. Thanks for your comments, Katharina. I enjoyed your story as well and voted for your entry. Best of luck!

  7. I like the mystery and tension. Well done!

  8. Alleged Author says

    Then what? Then what???

  9. Great use of the senses. This really pulled me, like the start of a good book. If I had more, I would’ve kept reading :).

  10. BTW, I left an award for you on my blog. Come and collect it.

  11. Phew! He got the rune done! That was a really well-crafted little piece – it really felt complete in spite of the short word count. Nicely done!!

  12. Next page please! Nicely done Daniel 🙂

  13. I like that the MC won out in the end. Nicely done. Mine is #72

  14. Thanks everyone for stopping by and commenting! I appreciate it.

    This was my first effort at flash fiction and had more of a "horror" aspect than my normal writing, but it was a lot of fun. I may have to play with this form some more, but I really need more than 200 words to work with!

  15. I really loved your line, "A deep otherworldly moan…" great imagery.

    I’m entry #236

  16. Thanks Kathy! I checked out your entry too. Talk about imagery. Like! like!

  17. Liked it a lot. I was particularly struck by the power that can reside in deftness and precision instruments — here a word, and a single precise stroke with a specialist’s blade to defeat a ravening monster. Very cool.

    And I agree. That was one monster we didn’t have to ‘see!’

    Paula (#265)

  18. Thanks for commenting, Paula. Yes, sometimes precision is required and "close" isn’t good enough to keep you alive!

  19. Strikingly misterious. I love dark paranormal! Now you made me think of that rune – I want to know how it looks.

    Thank you for reading and commenting on my entry (#76) 🙂

  20. Very interesting. I wonder what the rune does.

  21. You set the scene in a vivid way – it was very mysterious and suspenseful. Great use of sensory details too, like ‘cool, moist draft’ and ‘stench of carrion.’

  22. Alica: It’s a Banishing Rune. I don’t know if there really is such a thing, but if not, I just made one up!

    Angela: I’ll have to do some research in to runes and find out if there is a Banishing Rune. If so, that’s what it looks like. If not, I’ll have to get creative. 😉

    Jocelyn: Thanks! Writing flash fiction makes you think extra hard about every word. I’m sure the experience will improve my novel-length work.

  23. Wendy Terrien says

    Love this! Clearly there’s some history there that the narrator knows and we do not, and I’m a little envious that I am out of the loop. But I feel that the narrator wins and I do like that. Good stuff!

  24. "If I turned around now, the rune would never be finished, and nothing would matter to me ever again."

    That was one important rune! Glad he got it done before the Grim Reaper came to take him away.

    Nicely done. 🙂

  25. Oh, lovely imagery! I’m so glad he was able to concentrate enough to finish!

  26. Wendy: Thanks! I think feeling a little "out of the loop" is par for these 200-word entries. I’ve gotten pretty lost in some of them!

    J.R.: Thank you. Yep, it was a close thing. You could say his life was hanging by a sliver. But that would be a bad joke.

    Rebecca: Thanks for coming by! I enjoyed the "death and destruction" piece you decided on as well.

  27. So atmospheric! This is right up my street. Would love to read on…

  28. Ooooh! this was definitely tantalizing… I would read more 🙂

  29. Terrific entry, Daniel. I was hooked from the first paragraph. Love the medieval vibe going on… even though I’m guessing this is set in the present/not so distant past from the papers on the desk. The lantern, too, threw me as to a specific dating. ~ Nadja

  30. Really powerful punch at the end. Nice entry.

  31. MC: Glad you liked it. I’m into atmosphere myself, but wow is it hard to write!

    1000th.monkey: Thanks!

    Nadja: Yes, "parchment" would probably have been a better choice of words, or perhaps having "scrolls" on the desk. That’s what I get for rushing it.

    Holly: Thank you. I’m finding that endings are the hardest part.

  32. This is a tight, descriptive story! Good job.

  33. Barbara: Thank you for visiting. I appreciate your support!

  34. Nice set up. I’ll give it a "like."
    I’m #190.

  35. Very Lovecraftian and menacing. Liked it a lot.

    (new follower from the Adult Fiction group)
    Moody Writing

  36. Andrew: Thanks for the like! I’ll check out your entry. I’ve been bouncing around in the list and haven’t hit yours yet.

    Mooderino: Your "handle" cracks me up. Thanks for your comments. Just checked out your blog. You have a remarkable talent for the short post. I find myself virtually incapable of articulating a thought in fewer than a dozen paragraphs. This first challenge was a REAL challenge for someone like me.

  37. Awesome! I love that he can’t even look to see what the demon looks like because he has to finish the rune. You did a great job of engaging the senses on this one.

    I agree with you that writing flash should help tighten up our novel length work. I kind of am glad for the opportunity to push my boudaries with the different rules of the challenges.

  38. Nice tense story. I like the way he held his nerve and his shaking hand to finish his rune. I would have turned round!

  39. Mel: Thanks! I’m working on that senses thing. I agree on the pushing boundaries. I wasn’t actually planning on participating, but when I thought about the opening words, the scene just appeared in my head, and I had to write it!

    Claire: Thanks for commenting. I’m not sure I’d have been able to resist turning around myself, but then I’d probably be demon meat!

  40. You sure Garth Nix isn’t one of your influences? The setting was as stark and eery as some of them in his Abhorsen series. Lovely and chilling.

  41. Hi there! Thanks for visiting my blog earlier. I’ve just had a read through your flash fiction – very clever! Only 200 words (or less – didn’t count!) and you’ve told a complete story – fab!

  42. A.B.: Nope, never heard of Garth Nix. I just looked him up though, and he sounds like an author I’d enjoy. Thanks for the tip!

    Amanda: Thanks for coming by, and thanks for your comments on my story. Isn’t the Platform Campaign a blast?

  43. On a bit of a side note, I’ve passed along to you the Liebster Blog Award. You can see it at my blog. Do with it what you will but I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

  44. Thanks Wendy. That makes three now. I better get off my butt and do something with it. I hope it isn’t like a chain letter where breaking the chain causes some kind of disaster! 😉

  45. Yes, that was a great flash, and thanks for taking part in the challenge! I’m one of your fellow campaigners from the fantasy group.

    Congratulations on the awards! Myself, I don’t believe that breaking the chain is a bad thing – it’s up to you if you want to pass on the love or not. But enjoy the moment!

  46. Thanks for stopping by, Chris!