Welcome to my daily world.  The picture you see as this weeks prompt is part of the ceiling where I work … in a TV studio.  Below sit the news presenters (for those of you outside the US, we call them “anchors”).  My shot of the studio lights is a light I see every day.  I always thought that it looked like a serpent head, mouth open, about to pounce on one of them and swallow them whole (oh, don’t try to make my day!).  But, it never does.  For a long time I wanted to take that picture and I finally did.  Might name him “Ollie.”

Anyway, this story is not about television, but about an Army video that surfaced during a hostage situation.  And if they don’t figure it out, it’ll be too late.

Your Floor Director is Rochelle Wisoff-Fields encouraging you to go to her blog channel and see the world through her eyes (and everyone else’s eyes, too) at Friday Fictioneer Central.





I knew red-blooded patriot Walt Bennett long before he made Lieutenant Colonel.  The video of Walt, held hostage by terrorists and denouncing the U.S., never lost its shock value on us even after several viewings.

A forced speech, sure, but could we prove it?  We in the Situation Room knew him as “unbreakable.”

I saw the answer.  Immediately I perked up.  “Run it again!”

They ran it again.  “There!  You see it?  Drumming fingers, blinking eyes?”

Morse Code.  I scribbled down their rhythms.  Bingo!

The letters read:

“T-O-R-T-U-R-I-N-G M-E …”



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68 Responses to Walt

  1. Dear Kent,

    What can I say? You knocked that one out of the ballpark and into the next stadium!!!!

    I daresay we can expect more than a few stories about Ollie. Heavy sigh.

    Thank you for the photo. One of my favorites thus far…as is your story. Your turn. 😉



    • wmqcolby says:

      Aww, shucks, ma’am. Twern’t nuthin’. 😉

      I noticed someone else saw Ollie in their story, too. Maybe I WILL write that one …
      Toddah rabbah and shalom.

  2. Sandra says:

    Wow you’re up early this week Kent. I didn’t know you worked in television either – so that’s where this great photo comes from. A very clever story too – well done on both counts.

    • wmqcolby says:

      My shift is from 2:30PM to 11:00PM, so I posted at midnight, Kansas City time.
      Thanks for your comments. I also am SO THRILLED that you worked in television! Send me an e-mail to tell me more. Rochelle has my address. I’ll share with you some of my “war stories” too.

  3. The light, the one I guess you call Ollie looked to me like batman. I wish I had the comedic flair to match a story to that but I don’t. You did inspire the evil seductress in me though.
    I enjoyed your story, the Morse code is genius!

  4. Kent, how funny, we both wrote about a Walt B. this week. This is an amazing story, one of the best I’ve read so far. What a sobering ending.
    Thanks again for the picture. It’s quite inspiring.

    • wmqcolby says:

      Hahaha! I was going to say the same thing, Dave, about the Walt B. scenario. Brilliant minds think alike, yes? 😉

      The story idea came to me through an actual anecdote I heard from a Vietnam vet back when I was in junior high. I don’t remember the details at all except the ending. Since I’m a big Mission: Impossible fan (old series) and have really enjoyed that espionage show, Burn Notice, it was a natural. I think I must be a closet mystery writer.

  5. elmowrites says:

    I saw Ollie too, but I had so many options for this story, he didn’t get a look in. Actually, I’m not that pleased with mine – a bit of silliness for this week – so feel free to skip it.
    Your story is even better than the photo. I love how you reel us in, it doesn’t need the explanation in the intro, it’s immediately clear where we are. Two things – one big, one small. First, I’m unclear why an unbreakable man would bow, even to torture, to make a video that will so clearly be a PR coup for his captors; second, I think the penultimate line should be letters not words.

    • wmqcolby says:

      Ahh, thanks. Good questions, all. Glad you saw Ollie. 😉

      1. The story was from an anecdote from a Vietnam vet who had a friend or colleague who was a prisoner of war and batted his eyes in Morse Code the word “torture.” I don’t remember the details other than that, though.
      2. As a former soldier myself, our training required us to remember one thing if you’re captured: your first priority is to escape at all costs. This probably would have been it.
      3. The letters have dashes between them to discern them as letters. However, if you can show me what you had in mind, I’d like to try to use it. My stories always could use some help and creative constructive criticism from you is ALWAYS welcome.

      • elmowrites says:

        Thanks for such a detailed reply. Let’s see what we can do. OK, reverse order.
        3. All I meant was that I see this guys transcribing the Morse code as you’ve put it. I think he would say “the Letters read” rather than “the Words read”. Maybe that’s my lay understanding though, it’s certainly a tiny thing.
        2 / 1. Let me start by saying I don’t mean any disrespect to those who break. I’d break if they even talked about torture! Anyone who managed to hold it together enough to do what your prisoner does is a hero.
        Now, let’s move into fiction. Some uber-unbreakable hyper-man (I’m talking the Daniel Craig James Bond in that horrible scene with the wicker chair) wouldn’t break even so much as this character. Giving his friends the message that he’s being tortured seems like it’s an excuse for the things he is saying, which isn’t enough. He wouldn’t give his captors the satisfaction of the propaganda victory. UNLESS there was something in it for him. Giving his friends the message that he’s being held at this location and maybe the big cheese bad guy is there as well… THAT would be worth getting them to video. I’m hoping his next message will be a clue to his whereabouts to help rescue attempts.

        Does that make more sense now? I feel I’m rambling!

    • wmqcolby says:

      You made great sense, Jen. No rambling there, no disrespect, etc. Super advice! I might want to expand this story, now.

      And Daniel Craig ROCKS as James Bond!!! He’s awesome. 😀

      • elmowrites says:

        haha, you expand away. I’ll have 10% of the royalties, OK?! And yes, I agree DC is a good Bond. Very different from the famous character Sean Connery created, but probably closer to Ian Fleming’s original vision.

  6. Wow, Kent, what a great tale! And it really is a fantastic photo — I hope many unusual stories come out of it.

  7. Kent, a disconcerting tale of strength. I imagine Walt had no choice but to do the video and would be sweating like crazy, hoping not to be caught sending messages with his fingers.

    • wmqcolby says:

      Correct, correct and correct. There are many clever ways to send stuff in code. And I have always been fascinated by the corollary, too — hiding in plain sight.
      Thanks for reading and your comments. 🙂

  8. Kent, I think this is one of your best stories ever! I have only one small thing: “after several viewings” seems as thought it should be “even after several viewings.” It makes a big difference in meaning. Great job!


    • wmqcolby says:

      Would you believe that was in an earlier draft? I’ll see what I can do tonight. It’s confirmation. 😀 Thanks for reading and the vote of confidence.

  9. K.Z. says:

    🙂 really enjoyed your story kent. and thank you for the photo, i found it quite challenging! lol 🙂

  10. Ah. this was a very enjoyable.. great that he could get his message through… I guess they knew he would would keep the secrets.. thank you for a challenging picture.

  11. Hala J. says:

    Haha, I saw Ollie right from the get-go and my story is (kinda) about him. Can’t say I’d name him Ollie myself…it looks more like a female to me and I’d name her “Nagini” after the cobra in the story of Rikki Tikki Tavi. But that’s just me.

    Anyways! Awesome story! (Painful too…and all too real). Never would have come up with that from the photo, but that’s why I love FF. You see so many interpretations. Great read!

    • wmqcolby says:

      Thanks, Hala. Incidentally, Ollie was a puppet character in an old American show called Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Ollie was a dragon-type puppet and Kukla was a clown-type puppet. Fran was the human who spoke to them. One of the greats of children’s TV shows. Now, Nangini is good. I liked Rikki Tikki Tavi. And yeah, so many interpretations. Thanks for reading and your nice comments.

  12. Good one. I’m afraid I took a route somewhere between Ollie and Batman. Not nearly as original – nor as sobering – as this, but oh well… 😉

  13. Good take. I thought the same thing as you when I first saw your picture but what you’ve come up with is way more sinister, though the end is strangely uplifting.

  14. Good story and clever idea about the code. We really can’t judge what makes a person break since most of us have never been subjected to torture. I think most people wouldn’t believe what is an obvious forced confession anyway. Well done. Thanks for the photo this week.

  15. And here was naive me thinking that the bit above the photo was the story and thinking ‘this is bl**dy good!!!’ And then it went and got gooder and gooder 🙂

  16. Lovely. Very Homelands. So clever.

  17. Subroto says:

    Thanks for the photograph for this weeks prompt and that’s a very clever take on the prompt

  18. I really enjoyed your story and writing my own story for your photo. Yours is a unique take on the prompt. Torture never came to mind, but I did see Ollie lurking in there. 🙂

  19. rgayer55 says:

    I bet they were hold Walt down at the DMV. Those folks are a sadistic lot and if you don’t bring the right paperwork you might never be heard from again.

  20. This was a very compelling piece. You packed a significant heap of suspense into such few words with the decoding of Walt’s message. I admire your ability to hit the ground running and put great use to every single word. Also, I greatly appreciate you sharing that photo. Maybe it’s the paranoia and superstition in me, but I would not be able to look at that thing on a daily basis. You can tell by its eyes that someday, someone’s going down. I applaud your courage, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    • wmqcolby says:

      Hahaha! Well, if you see it from where I usually see it, you have to be at a certain angle. In person, it’s just another light with barn doors and a source-four bulb. I mean, Bugs Bunny is scarier than THIS thing. Probably because it’s photogenic is what makes it look sinister.

      Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  21. helenmidgley says:

    That was a fab bit of storytelling, great tale 🙂

  22. vbholmes says:

    In answer to Jen’s comment about the prisoner’s motive, I recently read the New York Times obit of Jeremiah Denton which said his morse code message was first confirmation of the blatant mistreatment of US prisoners of war by the Vietnamese. Your story inspired me to try transmitting morse code with my eyes and it would take a genius to transcribe my eyelash batting. Well-told tale, Kent, and provocative photo which has produced some really good stories.

  23. wmqcolby says:

    Ah, so THAT was who it was! Jeremiah Denton. A great story at that. I had heard that story about him years ago, but didn’t remember the details. Thanks also for liking my photo. It was something that I had that looked “interesting” other than landscapes, etc.

  24. scrbwly says:

    I loved it :). now i can see a torture chamber below the lights

  25. Sun says:

    i enjoyed both your story and photograph.thankfully your character Walt had someone thinking on the same level. thanks for sharing.

  26. elappleby says:

    Wow! An impressive story, seriously (and I don’t get serious very often 🙂 ). Great build up, great climax. Basically, great.

  27. babso2you says:

    Excellent! And, thank you for the great photo to put my story to!

  28. Dee says:

    This was a great story Kent, I think one of your best, A great back story and brilliant ending, loved it

  29. Fantastic flash fiction! Thank you for the photo prompt too, and for the little piece of your life you shared with us 🙂

  30. Pingback: Friday Fictioneers: Enter Stage Centre | A Mixed Bag

  31. tedstrutz says:

    What the hell! That’s a great story, Kent.

  32. Chilling piece. Just terrific!

  33. wmqcolby says:

    Thanks, Perry! It is one of the most chilling stories and it DID happen for real. Sometimes you can’t make up this stuff.

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