Thirteen Seconds (Friday Fictioneers, November 2013)

Copyright Kent Bonham

As is my usual practice with Friday Fictioneers, I dispense with the first inspiration that springs to mind, on the basis that everyone will have the same idea.  So if no-one does a ‘ladies of the night’ theme I shall be extremely  annoyed.  🙂

Thanks again to our gracious host for her weekly ministrations as we grow in numbers each week.  And she manages to comment on just about every one.  Well done, Rochelle.

Ramps…how considerate!

Expediency probably – a prisoner might secure his freedom by the pitching of the tumbrel.

Cheers or jeers?  No matter.

I watch him climb the steps, kneel, and for a moment his eyes hold mine.

A clang… it is done.

Thirteen seconds they say; not instantaneous, not painless, but what care they, these savages whose ‘liberty’ frees them to murder without pause or justification?

A widow for the briefest time, I stumble up the steps … a hand steadies with a last act of kindness.

The blade shrieks.

My eyes swivel to watch them blanch as I slowly smile… eleven, twelve, thirteen

About Sandra

I used to cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and wrote fiction and poetry. Now I live on the beautiful Dorset coast, enjoying the luxury of being able to have a cat, cultivating an extensive garden and getting involved in the community. I still write fiction, but only when the spirit moves me - which isn't as often as before. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
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76 Responses to Thirteen Seconds (Friday Fictioneers, November 2013)

  1. Dear Sandra,

    Your story made me gasp and most grateful you didn’t write a “ladies of the night” story. Well done as always.




  2. thrilling to the end!


  3. Very heavy story. Interesting point of view, from a soon to be severed head and a grim take on the prompt. Another good one.


  4. claireful says:

    I loved this. So many lines were perfect – if not all of them – but especially, ‘A widow for the briefest time’ and ‘the blade shrieks’. You got her fierce and angry state of mind in so few words. Wonderful.


  5. misskzebra says:

    Grim, unexpected, and very eloquently done.


  6. Excellent! So much story in so few words.

    When I was thinking of and rejecting story lines, a ladies-of-the-night scenario was never one of them. We shall wait and see. I’m glad you went with this one.



  7. Danny James says:

    Very, very good! The link ties it all together.



  8. Nice take on the prompt! I had the “ladies of the night” story stuck in my head before I read any of the posts, so I went with it. It looks like there are two themes emerging this week.


  9. elmowrites says:

    Powerful stuff this, Sandra. Perhaps I am a slow reader today – it took me a few moments to really ‘get’ it, but once I did, so many great lines. I’m another one glad you went away from your first thought. This one stands out!


  10. Helena Hann-Basquiat says:

    Oh, that’s fantastic. Brief widows of the revolution. I got shivers! True sang-froide, this one.


  11. paulmclem says:

    I always tend to stick with my first thought as my brain seems to work differently from most i.e. very rarely does anyone else have my first thought 🙂 Good job with the story.


  12. helenmidgley says:

    powerful lines, loved it 🙂


  13. draliman says:

    This was great! I loved the phrase “A widow for the briefest time”.


  14. wmqcolby says:

    Sandra, that’s diabolically good. Rich story. Lots o’ good stuff in there. Brilliant!


  15. mike olley says:

    Grim story told with an air of detachment which makes it even more dizzying. Nicely done.


  16. Hi Sandra,
    You’re not only raising castles, you’re raising the hairs on the back of my neck. Ron


  17. JKBradley says:

    And I’m to watch Sleepy Hollow on the DVR in a few moments. How fitting.


  18. OMG, terrifying! I’m not so sure I’m glad I read the link at the end, but the story was terrific!


  19. My view is that I enjoyed the story quite a bit.


  20. Jan Brown says:

    Oh!! A widow for the briefest time…very brief, indeed. Gruesome but extremely effective!


  21. Oooh creepy! I love creepy… 🙂 I especially loved that he smiled before his ‘numbers’ were up. Very clever!


  22. A totally unexpected ending and extremely well executed story, Sandra. Brilliant.


  23. Wonderful voice, powerful content.


  24. Steve Lakey says:

    This is a chilling story. Very well written. I also clicked on the link afterwards. It’s creepy to think that the ‘head’ is still aware, however briefly!


  25. zookyworld says:

    Masterfully done to describe the character’s final moments … while she kept on reasoning, even after her husband died, I was trembling. Thankfully, I still have my head — and now it has the meaning of “tumbrel” in it after I Googled it.


  26. vbholmes says:

    Great story and unique take on the prompt as well as an interesting link. You were most successful in building the mood and “executing” your ending. Well done, Sandra.


  27. Well told and an informative link. We should all carry oxygen tanks.


  28. atrm61 says:

    What a skilfully crafted piece Sandra!Loved the way you unfolded the story step by step and the icing on the cake was that totally unexpected end -I salute the writer in you!


  29. kz says:

    i swear i HEARD the blade shriek! excellent i almost wrote a ladies-of-the-night scenario but also decided against 🙂


  30. annisik51 says:

    I just checked out whether your 13 seconds was based on fact and now I feel sick! A gruesome tale this week. I like the multimedia image of the shrieking blade. Also uncanny. I’ve just bought a new computer as my old one’s sound has gone ‘funny’ – it has started to ‘whine’ and when I pushed the lid back and forth, it was squealing – through the sound system! Freaked me out that my laptop might be in pain, dying. I MUST get a grip on myself! Ann


  31. dmmacilroy says:

    Dear Sandra,

    Your consistent output of unique and varied stories puts us all to shame. When I read the word ‘tumbrel’ I knew what was coming, yet still the phrase, ‘briefly a widow’ slammed me in the gut. What a fantastic story. I have chills running up and down my back and arms. You are good…and a delight to read. Thank you for your continued presence in the group.




    • Sandra says:

      Thank you Doug, I’m indeed honoured to be part of the group. So glad you liked the story – I try to chase a different theme each week but must admit that the slightly shivery type of story holds more attraction than most. And Tale of Two Cities was probably one of the early stories that stirred an interest in reading and writing – I sooo empathised with those poor aristos. 😦 Even at the age of 10.


  32. Sandra, I haven’t read too many “ladies of the evening” stories. Not yet! Every word in your story is so exquisitely chosen. I’m hanging onto every word. Masterful!


  33. Chilling, fine writing. You hold the tension through each line and then leave us gasping. Really well done! House guests left made it impossible to read sooner… but my, how i’m enjoying it now!


  34. katlabrador says:

    Nice! Each line was well-crafted!


  35. Dee says:

    ‘ A Tale of Two Cities’ is, I think, my favourite Charles Dickens novel. When I read tumbrel I wondered what was coming and you didn’t disappoint
    Such a well crafted story, lots of tension, well done as usual


  36. Great story, superbly written.
    AnElephant loves it, even if he does not share your views on ‘poor aristos’.
    Vive la Revolution!


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