Echo Hall

By Virginia Moffatt

Three generations of women experience love, loss and conflict in times of war

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Flash Fiction Marathon (1): Turning Japanese.

To celebrate National Flash Fiction Day next Saturday (25th June). I am taking story prompts people send me and turning them into stories, publishing one a day.

Here's the first, from Kate Liddle: 'A woman arrives in A&E wearing no shoes, clearly European but only speaking Japanese' 


Turning Japanese



‘Pardon?’  Kate has had a busy night.  She’s hardly had time to look up at the stream of patients at her  window and now; she is so tired, she can barely raise her head.

‘Watashi wa watashi no atama o uchimashitashi, ishi no shinsatsu o suru hitsuyō ga arimashita.’

This time, Kate looks up, dropping her pen as she does so. She looks again, shakes her head to make sure she hasn’t dozed off.  It is three am in the morning in Ashton A&E and a woman is speaking Japanese to her. A tall woman, with grey hair. A white woman.

‘Do you speak English?’

The woman repeats the sentence.  Kate studies her. She is a bit glassy eyed, but doesn’t appear to have any injuries, and the queue is growing longer.

‘Sit over there.’  The receptionist points to the seating area and thankfully, the woman understands, heads towards the chairs and sits down. It is then that Kate notices her bare feet. How far has she walked with no shoes? She calls the on-call manager and turns to the next person in line.

The night passes. The on-call manager phones, an  interpreter is booked for seven.  Every now and then Kate has a moment to glance across at the woman. She sits, back straight, staring ahead with a vacant smile. Whoever she is, she doesn’t look like she’ll keel over just yet.

At four as the last patient has been triaged; Kate has the chance to stand and stretch.  As she does so, two young men run in, shouting in unison.

‘Have you seen a woman?’

‘Five eleven, greying hair, red dress, no shoes.’

She points to chairs. ‘Thank God.’  The tall dark haired man rushes over to her.  The smaller blond puffs an explanation, how she banged her head, and they thought she was resting.  ‘She must have got up, was confused and came here.’

‘Do you know why she’s speaking  Japanese?’

‘What?’ Kate explains. ‘I have no idea. She’s never even been to Japan.’

He takes the paperwork, and joins the others.  It is four thirty and time for her break.

When she returns at five, the woman and her sons have gone to the treatment area. The rest of the night passes uneventfully. At seven the interpreter arrives.  Kate sends him through, but he is back in minutes. There is no sign of the woman, or her sons, who now she comes to think of it, bore no physical resemblance to each other.  She tries the mobile number they left, but it is unobtainable.   The address turns out be a warehouse in a business park.

She sighs. Just another Saturday night prank then. As if they weren’t busy enough.


‘Fixed the translation circuit?’

‘Yep’ Ben rubs his eyes. It has been a long night.  ‘Sorry I left the door open.’

‘I’m over it. Proved  useful.  The sat nav works, she said the right sentences...’

‘Albeit in the wrong language.’

‘The fake pulse is working, we just need to sort the blood pressure system and we can try again.’  Adam gazes at their creation with pride. ‘Turing Prize, here we come.’ 


Many thanks to Kate for this intriguing idea and Google Translate  for the Japanese.

If you'd like to give me a prompt leave one below or on my Facebook page (Virginia Moffatt)

To find out more about National Flash Fiction Day please visit their website

The National Flash Fiction Day anthology 'A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed' is now on sale .



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Jennifer Harvey
 Jennifer Harvey says:

A commuter walks to the end of the railway platform every morning and takes a photo of the railway track. Why?

posted 18th June 2016

Virginia Moffatt
 Virginia Moffatt says:

Nice - I have a few prompts from FB and know which one is next, but this goes on the list! Thanks.

posted 18th June 2016

Jennifer Harvey
 Jennifer Harvey says:

Oh yey! Thank you :)

posted 18th June 2016

Heather Speight
 Heather Speight says:

Intriguing...Spooky! Was puzzled ( I often am) - anyway it led me to find out more about Alan Turing :-)
Is there a story no.2? I don't seem to have It. Not sure where to look.

posted 21st June 2016

Virginia Moffatt
 Virginia Moffatt says:

Hi Heather - hope it made sense when you looked up Turing! Story number two three and four should be in the Shed will just check I've made it public :-)

posted 21st June 2016

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