Posts Tagged original

Flash Fiction Week: First Times

I’m doing something a little different this week.  A little more…masochistic.  The current Chuck Wendig challenge is to write a story set in one of five provided settings.  I also tend to max out at five posts a week, so I figured, what the hell?  Why not do all five?  I’ll post them one per day for the rest of the week, in the order provided in the challenge.

Lunar Brothel

Abandoned Amusement Park

The Bottom of the Ocean

Penthouse Apartment during the Apocalypse

Fairy Tale Forest

Am I mad, perhaps, but pushing comfort zones is part of being an author, and trying to write five good flash pieces like this, it’s certainly pushing the comfort zone.

Day Two: Ride the Time Vortex
Day Three: Finding a Way
Day Four: Above it All
Day Five: Among the Trees

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Flash Fiction: The Fire of the Gods

Back on the wagon with another Chuck Wendig challenge.  This week:

Your story will be titled: “The Fire of the Gods.”

And that’s it. That’s all I demand of you.

Well, besides the standard parameters, of course. The story must be under 1000 words. Post it at your blog (not in the comments here, or I may delete it), then link back so we can all see it.

However, since I missed last week’s challenge I’m dropping myself a penalty.  Even though it’s past the noon deadline for last week’s I’m going to do both challenges in one.  So here’s last week:

I have, in fact, chosen 20 words.

You must choose 10 of these words and use them throughout your ~1000 word flash fiction story.

Might be tricky, but hey, that’s why this is a challenge and not, say, me tickling your privates with a feather.

The ten words:

Beast, brooch, cape, dinosaur, dove, fever, finger, flea, gate, insult, justice, mattress, moth, paradise, research, scream, seed, sparrow, tornado, university.

There we go.  It’s two Wendig challenges in one maddening story.  Let’s get to it.

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Flash Fiction: Epithets

Another Friday, and again Chuck Wendig has thrown down the gauntlet.  This week’s challenge:

Go to Your Favorite Music Player. Dig out your digital music collection.

Maybe this is iTunes or Spotify, or use Pandora if you’d rather go that way.

Hit SHUFFLE, then “Play.”

Translation: pull up a random song.

The title to this song is the title to your story.

Use the song for inspiration, too, if you feel so inclined.

My iPod must have known what was up, because I hit the shuffle button and up came the Paul and Storm song “Epithets.”  Target length was 1000 words, but I shot for 500.  The story is after the break.

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Flash fiction: Sandwich Theory

Another Friday, another Chuck Wendig challenge.  This week’s prompt:

You have up to 1000 words to write a story — not a scene, but a story — where a character makes a sandwich. Any kind of character, any kind of sandwich, but the point is to infuse this seemingly mundane act with the magic story-stuff of drama and conflict. Make it the most interesting “person-making-a-sandwich” story you can possibly make it. It needs to grip the testicles. It must twist the nipples. It must not let go.

Check out other sandwich stories over on his blog, and my story after the break.

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Flash fiction: Not An Apology

Another shot at a Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge.  This week’s challenge is the unlikeable protagonist.  This went to a rather dark place, I’ll give you that warning right now, and I’m not actually sure I got it quite right.

Not An Apology

DL Thurston

I’m not going to say I’m sorry.  I’m not sorry.

I loved you.  If you can’t see that, that’s not my fault.  But you were imperfect, you were flawed.  I fixed that for you.  You had one leg that was just a tiny bit shorter than the other, so I stretched it.  I may have gone too far, as you then had one leg that was just a tiny bit longer than the other.  So I stretched the other.  You stood so much straighter, and didn’t that help the pain in your back?  That you wouldn’t stop complaining about the pain in your legs, that hurt me.

So I did something for your pain.  Did you know that pain isn’t real?  There is nothing in the nervous system that can be identified as pain.  It’s all in the brain.  So I removed that part of your brain.  No more pain, because who would want to feel pain if given the option?  I didn’t realize that you would strain so hard without the pain, I didn’t realize you would twist your own arms far enough to break your bones.  I heard them, and it broke my heart.  I didn’t want you to break them anymore.

Titanium is so strong, so light, so elastic.  That’s why they use it in golf clubs.  That’s why I used it in you.  It won’t bend.  It won’t break.  Bone is so fragile, so unnecessary.  I’m jealous of your new skeleton, I really am.  I would do it myself, if there were anyone else nearly so brilliant as me who could do the surgery.  Isn’t that enough?  To know that I gave you something that I cannot give myself?

But then you cried.

You’re so beautiful.  So very beautiful.  It’s why I loved you so.  But when you cry, it’s hidden.  Your eyes, so clear and blue, become bloodshot and cloudy.  Your skin, so soft and pale, becomes red and puffy.  I don’t think you realized just how ugly crying made you.  I’m sure you wouldn’t have continued if you’d known.  You put me in such a difficult position.  I couldn’t take away your emotions, that just wouldn’t do at all.

Otherwise, how would you love me?

Cauterization was the only option.  You’d have done the same.  If you really sit down and take a moment to think of this all rationally, if you’d stop letting your emotions get in the way.  Shouldn’t you be happy you still have them?  I let you keep them.  You’re welcome.

Every asymmetry I fixed.  Scientists have proven that human concepts of beauty are tied to symmetry.  I moved freckles, I removed moles, did you know your left eye wasn’t quite as blue before I started?  I couldn’t get the teeth right, that’s why I needed to start over from scratch.  I spared no expense.  That’s ivory, the next best thing to your own teeth.  You can keep those.  Consider them my gift to you.  They’re molded to your mouth anyway, they would be of no use to me.

I did this all because I loved you.  But now, I wish I knew how to say this, you’re just not the woman I fell in love with anymore.  What we had was wonderful, and I won’t forget the time you’ve spent with me down here.  I’m not going to mince words, you deserve so much more than that.  I’ve found someone else.  And she’s perfect.

Well.  Nearly perfect.

But I can fix that.

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Flash fiction: I’m Worried

This is for Chuck Wendig’s present tense flash fiction challenge, itself a response to io9’s 10 Writing “Rules” We Wish More Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Would Break.  This is about breaking rule 9: no Present Tense.  Go read up on the other 9 to decide which ones you may want to break.  Since I know I have a certain number of female readers, may I especially suggest #7.  And I think I just also broke #1, since this is a prologue to the short story.

I’m Worried

DL Thurston

I’m worried.  Still no word from Dwayne.  We sent him out with our lunch order half an hour ago.  The restaurant is right across the street.  Or, it was right across the street.  Now, I’m not so sure.  The fog has rolled in even further, a thick curtain across the world.  Three hours ago it was clear.  Two hours ago we couldn’t see the airport.  Now, we can’t see the restaurant.  Or even the street.  The world out the window is our building, the smoking deck, then just a light gray nothing.  I wouldn’t normally be worried, I’ve seen fog before.  But not like this fog.  It’s different somehow.  Something about the total opacity.  The world doesn’t fade into it, it comes to an abrupt stop.

And I’m worried.

“When did you last get an email?” Nancy asks over the cubicle wall.  She can see the fog, too.

“Ten minutes ago.”

“Not from inside the building.”

I pull out my Blackberry and scroll.  Typically email would flow in from customers.  Today?  There’s an email outlining the company’s “shelter in place” policy, another reminding us that performance reviews are due, three emails spaced fifteen minutes apart about my mailbox being over size limit.  Ah, there.  “8:14 this morning.”  That’s nearly four hours ago.  I look out the window again.  Is it closer now?  There’s a railing along the edge of the smoking deck. I count the posts.  Five.  Ten.  Fifteen.  Eighteen.  I can see eighteen of them.  I’ve tried calling my wife.  Did she just have her phone off?  I don’t have reception now, or I’d try again.

“Where the hell is he, I’m starving?” asks Paul.  He’s from deeper in the cubicle farm.  He can’t see the window from there.  I hear him now whistle, “there goes my ten dollars.”

Five.  Ten.  Fourteen.  The edge of the fog now touches the building near accounts receivable.  There’s a scream from down the hall.  I leave my cube.  I get away from the window.  My mind dances.  My legs pump.  I don’t know what the fog is, but I don’t want to find out.  Heads pop out of cubicles as I run past.  They ask where I’m going.  I don’t stop.  Now is not the time to stop.  Someone runs from the other direction.  Fool.  He’s going the wrong way.  The path through the cubicles is a maze, but I’m the rat.  I know where the cheese is.  When taupe carpeted walls block my path, I turn left.  When cream cinder blocks rear up, I turn right.  Ahead is the glass front door.

Beyond is the fog.  I stop.  My heart continues.  It pounds and aches in my chest.  My wife’s office building is in that direction.  Vaguely, somewhere.  Still no reception.  There’s an emergency exit to the right.  I run.  Screams come from all directions now.  Panic.  More runners in the cubicle halls.  One runs into me, knocks me over.  He’s coming from the direction I’m heading.  I pull myself up.  I have to see for myself.  The door is wide open, and a smell rolls in.  It’s not the fresh sting of ozone after a rain.  This smells like striking a match.

“No way out,” someone says.  “No way out.”

The fog is darker now.  It pours in through the emergency door.  It slips through the walls like they aren’t there.  I can see it over the cubicles to my right and left.  I know it’s behind me.  The smell is everywhere.  Prayers.  Crying.  Screaming.  People react differently in a moment of crisis.  My mind blanks entirely.  A calm clarity.  Hands tug at me, try to pull me back.  I shake them off.  Whatever the fog is, it is not going to stop now.  It’s at my toes.  It licks my nose.

I step forward.

I am no longer worried.

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Fortnightcap: Carbon Offsets

Carbon Offsets

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

The auditor walked back into the house, cross referencing some tables.  “That behemoth outside, that your only car?”

“Yeah,” said the homeowner from his kitchen.

“My data says that gets about 13 miles to the gallon.  Sound about right?”

The homeowner emerged with a glass of water and sat down at his dining room table.  “Give or take.”

“And how far do you drive it each day?”

“Sixty miles round trip to work.”

“Sixty?” the auditor said with an appreciative whistle.  “That’s over four gallons a day.”

“You almost done,” he asked.  He was nervous, he wanted to get this over with, couldn’t even remember why this audit seemed like such a good idea to begin with.

“Yup.  Just want to make sure I’ve got everything.  You live here alone, drive to work 60 miles a day at just 13 MPG.  Your electrical bills show that you use about 1500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.  You eat out more than you eat in, and when you do eat in you’re getting delivery.”

“Is that bad?”

“I don’t judge the way people live, I just audit it.”

“So.  So how do carbon offsets work?”

“Well,” the auditor sat down at the table, “we determine your carbon footprint, then we give you the option for how many carbon offsets you want to purchase.  That money goes to fund projects that are carbon negative but politically difficult to get funding for.  Wind farms, for example.  So you end up helping take some carbon out of the air while at the same time continuing to spew plenty of it into the air.  Hence ‘offset.'”

“So it’s like an indulgence?”

“You’ll make people uncomfortable if you talk about it that way.  Between us, yeah, the idea is to let people feel better about themselves without changing their lifestyle in any meaningful way.  And let me tell you, sir, you are a magnificent bastard when it comes to carbon footprint.  You’re a god damned carbon Sasquatch.”  The inspector rose from the table, and stepped around behind the home owner.  “It’s rare that I find someone with a bigger carbon footprint than mine.”

“Do…do you buy offsets?”

“No,” the auditor said, pulling the garrote wire from his watch, “I’ve found other ways to offset my usage.”

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.  Wind turbine picture released to public domain by creator.

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Fortnightcap: Vicious Cycle

Vicious Cycle

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

“So.  You’ve come to kill me then?”

He didn’t turn around.  He didn’t need to.  He’d heard the faint click of the gun’s hammer being pulled back, and knew there was only one person who could be holding it.

“I have to.  You know I have to.  It’s the only way.”

“You won’t be able to.”  He turned his chair around, wanting to face the person with the gun.  He knew a general identity but not a face, not even a gender.  There was no mistaking the man there.  The high cheekbones.  The gentle nose.  This could only be his grandson.  “And really, I’m disappointed in your lack of imagination here.”

“You’re not making this easy for me.”

“It’s not supposed to be easy.  In fact, it’s supposed to be impossible.  I’m sure you’ve seen the equations, the proof that the timeline is immutable, unchangeable.  And really, picking on an old man like me?”

“You’re five years younger than me.”

“Oh sure,” he rose from his chair, and walked towards his grandson.  Around him lay the bits and pieces of his failed prototypes, in a room beyond was his success.  “I suppose now I am, but don’t you know me as an old man?  Wasn’t I kind to you?  I’ve always wanted to be a grandfather.  Your grandmother says I can’t wait to be old, and I suppose she’s right.  Are we still alive?”

His grandson’s hand was shaking, more and more as he stepped closer and closer.  “Please.  Please just stop.  You know it has to be this way.”

“Why?  Just because it’s called the Grandfather Paradox?  You have another grandfather, you know.  Somewhere else out there.  You could have even tried to kill your younger self, same paradox.”

“You invented the thing.  You’re the one everyone knows.  You’re the one that proved it’s impossible.  It just…it just has to be you.  Has to be this way.”

“You can’t.”

“Could you please sit back down?”

“You can’t.”

“Stop saying that!”  He was getting flustered.  There were tears streaming down his face, and his hand shook all the more.

“What’s your name?”

“Why does that matter?”

“If you’re going to kill me, I’d like to at least know your name.”

“They…they named me after you.”

The inventor smiled.  “Charles, then.  Do they call you ‘Charlie?’  I always hated Charlie.  Why don’t you give me the gun.  There are other paradoxes, other ways of testing things.  It doesn’t have to be this way.”

“It…it does.”  The resolve in his voice was slipping away.  His grip on the gun loosened.  The inventor reached out and pulled it away.

“That’s good.  Now, I’d love to hear all about your life.  My life.  That would be a paradox, too.  Let’s just put the safety on this,” the gun was slick with sweat.  It slipped in his hand.  He tried to catch it, but as he did the world exploded in noise and pain.  He looked down at the gaping hole in his own chest.

The inventor fell to his knees, looking up at his grandson’s shocked expression.  “This,” he said, each word a struggle, “wasn’t in my equations.”  Darkness closed in around him as the paradox storms swept in.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: With Apologies

With Apologies

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Ah how the sake did flow.

We’d gathered for a celebration in the great hall, among the jade and gold sculptures and tapestries that hung along the walls.  It was a room that promised decadence, and we delivered.  The battle had been long and hard, many good men lay dead on the fields.  Around me were the surviving samurais, cloaks stained in blood.  The blood of enemies, the blood of friends, their own blood, it all mingled together into dried brown stains.  Their swords were clean, they’d seen to that.

We drank to their brothers, we drank to their foes, we drank to the lord of the shogunate, lost in the battle and assumed dead.  But his land was secure, and in his place his son would rise and rule.

It had been an honor to fight along side them.  To see them in action.  To follow their code and defend their lands.

Again the servers went to the giant cask rolled out for the celebration, plunging ladles farther and farther down, bringing out more of the sweet drink that fueled the festivities.  It had a bite, but it was a pleasant one trimmed with the taste of plums.

Finally the cask was emptied, and the samurai and their attendants lefts one by one until there were just three of us left enjoying stories that translated past our language barriers, laughing at jokes that we couldn’t understand.  I’d hoped for one more drink, and looked down into the cask, hoping there might be just a few drops of the sweet rice wine left.  I was aware it was from the private reserve of the feudal lord of these lands, the man they toasted, intended only for his lips.  None had thought twice about opening the cask, to celebrate his life and mark his passing.

I looked deep, but alas it was gone.  As were, when I looked up, my friends.  Instead there stood the man we toasted, the owner of this hall, the owner of the sake, not dead but triumphantly stained with the blood of his enemies, limping into the hall.

That’s when I learned a lesson the hard way.  There’s nothing more dangerous than standing alone, staring down the barrel of a shogun.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap Bonus: The Rock

The Rock

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

I was reminded recently of the geology class I took as a kid.  It wasn’t anything more than a program to give bored kids something to do during the summer, and I can’t remember how old I was except that it was at a time when the word “schist” was extremely funny.  We got to collect rocks, we were given others, and the activities included things like gluing rocks to bits of index card and labeling them with their type.

The highlight was going to involve a wet saw and a bucket of rocks each a little larger than a shooter marble.  It was geode cutting day.  Each kid got to pull rocks at random out of the pail and the teacher would saw them in half until there was a geode.  It was exciting.  Normal rock shops, even the ones that have cut your own geodes, tend to just give you one chance to get lucky.

I can remember the whine of the saw.  It was damn loud.  Then again, most childhood sense memories get amplified don’t they?  It would roar to life, then whine through each of the rocks in turn before spinning down just to start the whole cycle again with the next rock.  Each time it was the same.  Except for the one time it wasn’t.

I can remember that sound, too.  It was like the scream of the saw going through the rock, but there was something else.  Something more.  I don’t think the teacher heard it when it happened, he had ear protection on, but we did.  The teacher picked up one of the halves of the rock, and we could see it was hollow inside.  But it wasn’t a geode, they tended to have intricate crystals pointing inwards from all directions.

And it wasn’t empty.

The thing in the rock was green.  I don’t know if that was its true color, or if that was the result of the blade slicing through it.  I just remember an intense green, and some sort of fluid dripping from the cavity.  We’d learned the smell during the class.  It was sulfur.  A few of the kids screamed, others rushed forward the way kids will do when they see something gross.  I wasn’t part of that crowd.  I hung back, not getting a good view until the tight ring of kids pushing in to see scrambled backwards.

The thing was moving.  It was alive, for however much longer.  It wasn’t more than a half an inch long, and pulled itself forward with two limbs just above where the saw had cut it through.  It had eyes.  I can’t remember much more of the details, but I remember the eyes.  It looked at each of us, and as the eyes fell on me I heard a voice, soft and dying, in my head.  The word is one I don’t know, I never knew.  Then it collapsed, and died.

It’s odd that I have difficulty now remembering this.  It’s all so clear, but even as early as my mom picking me up I just showed her the geode I had, and happily went home.  I remember mostly in dreams, or in that odd floating period just before falling asleep.  I remember its eyes.  And I remember the word it spoke.  I know it’s important somehow.  I just wish I could hold onto the memory.  Hold onto the word.

If only I knew why it was so important.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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