Category Archives: Fiction

Meta

He ran.

Not rushing . . . an easy trot.

From the flower cart he snagged a rose, tucking three dollars under the corner of the lady’s till. She only felt the wind from his passing.

He could run faster. He had somewhere to be, but showing up late was good cover. He just wanted . . .

not a rose, but an Iris–

. . . to leave a little something to brighten her day.

He swung by the News and left the flower on her keyboard, being careful not to cause a whirlwind of loose paper as he streaked in and out again.

Nobody saw him.


This 99-word Flash fiction is my response to Carrot Ranch Communications’ Flash Fiction Challenge:

June 3, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a rose. It can be straight-forward, romantic, funny. What is your rose today and what is its story? Who craves the rose or shrinks away? Why? Let the prompt fully bloom in your imagination.

Tiger Tamer

ALT-TEXT
(Photo credit: Christian Guthier)

Wrecked —

That’s how Djallo felt. His head thundered; he’d drank too much yesterday. Now, caged before dim, smoky, raucous stands of gambling spectators, the amusement of this act was fading.

The bell dinged. The audience froze. The tigers moved, hungry.

He moved.

He worked the act — worked the audience — as always; and then broke the rule as he’d been instructed: he turned his back on the tigers.

A guy’s gotta eat.

They pounced, untameable; they were made for this — Djallo too.

He’d have a fresh body tomorrow. He’d do it again — win or lose.

A guy’s gotta eat, after all.


(Warmup Wednesday! | Flash! Friday)

Flash Fiction: Breaking Free

Dilly watched the children from his perch, coveting them. They were free to leave, and they did so frequently. They were on break from school, so he watched as they bounced and flounced in and out all day, leaving the entry mat askew when they left, and their snow-crusted boots in a random pattern of disarray each time they returned. Messy little pups, they were.

But they would also be his ticket to freedom.

For so many years he had been dissatisfied with his work; he was a specialist in his field, and to be honest he wasn’t as great at doing much else. Where once upon a time he would go to a job site, do a few weeks, then go back home and find a position in light assembly to keep him busy the balance of the year, which would go by fast enough; the very nature of manufacturing left Dilly floundering. Where once he passed the off-time cheerfully making modest items of wood, string, paper, and cloth; he was now left out in the cold as microprocessors and injection-molded plastics became the essential fabric of all things most desired. Now he often just . . . hung around, twiddling his thumbs, drinking hot peppermint cocoa and counting the voluminous, excruciating, long days until he would return to his work.

Much as he loved it, it just wasn’t worth it anymore — not for a measly few weeks of job satisfaction.

Dilly was the top, the most proficient of any in his field. He knew all the tricks, all the best hideouts, ways to gain the intelligence required of him — even the peculiarities of the magic that kept him immobile in the presence of the clients. It was the same wizardry that kept them tied to their jobs, providing the crucial near-instantaneous transportation over thousands of miles from home base to the job site and back; not to mention that it allowed them to be recalled at any time without warning. It also made them harder to notice; in order to do so, a client had to catch you right in the corner of their vision. In fact, Dilly would have bet good gold that he hadn’t been noticed all season; between the snowball fights outside and the video games upstairs, all these kids seemed to do was run from one to the other, and then back again.

With a little bit of luck though, that was going to change. Dilly had connections, you see; he knew a guy that knew this little old lady who had helped someone else break free of those arcane chains.

“Did Rinkle really get away clean?” he’d asked the crone. She merely sighed – the weight of millennia in that breath — and shrugged. The cold was so keen you could almost hear it chime, and they puffed heavy, vaporous breaths as they conspired, each unconsciously wiping off the ice that formed at the tips of their noses. This cave was a secret place, kept for secret business.

“If I knew for sure,” Nammi replied as she worked at the strings of the bag that hung from her belt. Her accent was thick and unidentifiable. “Then I’d have to say no. But if that, then surely we’d have seen him again, so I’d have to say yes.” Pulling the talisman carefully from the bag she held it out, almost daring him with her eyes to take it. In the pinging cold it was warm to the touch, as though it had just come from the fireplace hearth.

Dilly felt the weight of it in his pocket now. Solid. Heavy. Ready. He had spent his time scouting out the best positions — finding a different spot every day, watching the children as they came and went, looking for the places where the extreme edges of their vision would betray his presence. He was lurking in one such spot now, and could hear clambering up the steps of the front porch. He could only hope . . .

Yes! The door flung wide open and in plodded Shane, apple-cheeked and huffing out the last of the cold winter air in his lungs. Not just Shane, but Shane all by himself. Dilly didn’t want to risk flight with a bunch of kiddos around to give chase, and here was his opportunity to do it right. Shane yanked off his snow boots, tossed them onto the entry mat, and looked exactly where Dilly had seen him look every single time Shane walked through that door: at his stocking, hung on the mantle by the chimney, yet to be filled.

The old man had them all on a chain, workers and clients alike. Not that he was unkind or anything, but he was blind to the realities – these kids were coddled and uncommitted, practically gaming the system, and who paid the price? Wasn’t it the ones like Dilly, who didn’t fit in with the high-speed modern work force? What could you do when you were as useless as a lump of coal when confronted with a computer? The real insult, when he thought about it, was the heavy-handedness of the modern age; they rarely ever made anything of substance anymore. The wholesale replacement of warm materials with cold metal and cheap plastic was a slap in the face of respectable makers everywhere; and it did the clients a disservice by hooking them on this technology that seemed to suck the life out of . . . well, life.

Dilly rubbed the edge of the talisman in his pocket with a finger – the only part of him that could still move in the presence of the child who had yet to notice him. He felt its inner warmth.

Dilly rubbed the talisman with a palm, feeling it chase the cold from his bare fingertips. “This will help me escape?” The crone nodded. “How do I use it?”

“At the right time, you will know.” She cocked the remnant of an eyebrow and half-smiled. “Or you won’t. Either way, it will work for you.”

“If you make these for others, why haven’t you used one?” It was beside the point, but Dilly asked anyway. The question had been gnawing at him.

Nammi gave him a sideways glance. “What makes you think I haven’t?”

The warmth of the talisman spread through his arm like the fiery pins and needles of a waking limb. By compulsion he pulled it out as his shoulder came back to him, then his neck and head, and looked down at it: a shiny brass button from the old man’s favorite coat, as big to Dilly as a sandwich plate and adorned with a snowflake design around the edge. It pulsed with an energy that took the edge off the fog of the magic binding him. Dilly held it up and squinted, looking through one hole at Shane. The boy’s head swiveled slowly around and for the first time he really saw Dilly, who had been lurking around the house for better than a week.

Dilly’s arm was petrified again, and he was stuck in that pose of looking through the thread hole as Shane approached, head cocked in curiosity. “Where did you come from?” He reached out.

The lore said they weren’t to touch you, Dilly knew that; but the lore wasn’t very well known among the clientele. It wasn’t for his own protection that the magic kept him obfuscated under normal conditions, after all. But as Shane’s fingers brushed the red velvet of his tunic, the button winked as though a beam of light passed over it, and with a sound like a clap of hands the magic holding Dilly receded.

Just like that, he was free. Under other circumstances he would have been instantly transported back to home base, a stuffed toy look-alike left in his place. But here he was, and the boy Shane was getting ready to wrap one of his diminutive human meat hooks around Dilly’s body. He had to act fast.

Dilly retreated from the boy’s questing hand. Shane jumped back – startled, eyes wide; there was a pregnant, frozen moment: two ticks of the old cuckoo clock, and then the young man screamed. Dilly took two quick steps and leapt from the edge of the shelf onto the boy’s head and backflipped down to the floor, landing with the grace of a cat. In two shakes of a sleigh bell, Dilly was at the front door. He jumped up, caught the edge of the mail slot, and wriggled through to the outside. He could hear his liberator inside, yelling for his mother.

Freedom! Down the front and onto the sidewalk. Holding the brim of his pointed hat to keep it from blowing away, Dilly ran to beat the devil.


This tale is my response to the What If? Holiday 2014 Writing Challenge, and although JED asked for about five hundred words I gave at least twice that amount. To be honest, I’m not sure the story is ready for prime time; but then again, maybe that’s just pride messin’ with me. I’ve been working on this story since the challenge was posted, and I keep thinking there’s more story here.

Along with the challenge, JED posted some interesting Q&A here. I thought I’d take a crack at that, too.

1. Where is the weirdest place you found yourself on Christmas morning?

Somewhere other than at home. Staying over at the in-laws’ place is becoming something of a tradition now, but it’s still a little strange to wake up Christmas morning in someone else’s house.

2. What is the one present you wanted badly and have never gotten?

Nothing I ever wanted so badly has made such an impression that I remembered the next year that I still needed it.

3. What is the one thing you wanted badly, got and wished you hadn’t?

I don’t think I ever regretted any Christmas gift I ever got.

4. Have you ever re-gifted? If so what and why?

Not to the best of my recollection.

5. If Santa is real would you really want to meet him in person?

Sure, why not?

6. How many Elves could fit inside the biggest Christmas present you ever received?

I think that would depend upon the size and age of the elves in question; their state of magical regression, if any; and the number of orcs doing the stuffing. At any rate, only a limited number of elves will fit within a given space, regardless of how tightly you pack them or how much you tamp them down with a warhammer. To be honest, the weird thing is that I don’t remember what the biggest Christmas present I ever received was.

7. What is your favorite holiday movie, show and/or song?

Elf for the movie, and instrumental versions of Sleigh Ride for the song, especially the part where they use the slapstick to make the whipcracking noises. Oh, and for the show, that episode of Tales from the Crypt where an escaped psychotic dressed as Santa is menacing this lady in her house and he gets in because her daughter opens the door for him.

8. What is your least favorite holiday movie, show, and/or song?

I would say Love, Actually for the movie because some argue that it’s a holiday movie and it’s really not, but I actually do like it a little bit. No, I don’t have any least favorites — just a short list of what I’d like to see or hear, and a long list of what I have better things to do than to see or hear them.

9. What would you name a reindeer if you could? Why?

I would name a reindeer “Moose”, because it’s funny and ironic, as well as being a short and somewhat cool name.

10. Do you think Santa could benefit from a healthier snack on Christmas eve or are cookies and milk the only choice? What would you recommend for the jolly old fat man?

First of all, Santa’s not a man, he’s an elf. As the oldest he’s the chief elf in his realm (the North Pole,) and has long had the ability to affect his physical appearance to some degree. So he chooses to appear human to avoid the inconvenience of being more frightening to kids than he already is. I mean, in the first couple years if the kid cries it’s because they think you’re giving them away to this overgrown, live stuffed animal. What else are they supposed to think when you sit them on his lap and back away while trying to get them to smile? They’re not falling for it! After that, it’s like Santa’s a rock star and the moment they meet him its a coin toss as to whether or not they can hold it together. So he looks like a fat man, which worldwide elven demographics research has shown for millennia to be both a powerful and yet jovial figure most widely respected, not to mention he’s also strong enough to lift that sack, which means a lot of the bulk is muscle anyway. That gets to be a helluva workout, so why shouldn’t the old guy have cookies and milk? There’s his sugar, there’s his protein, BAM. Energy for the road. For what it’s worth, NPR&D looked into the possibility of switching Santa over to quick-release nutrient gels like a lot of runners use in marathons, but for some reason nothing has ever worked as well as real cookies and milk, with the best results coming from fresh baked cookies and whole milk.

Put that in your stocking, folks.

🙂

E-vasion

Working as an orderly, Wex saw the waves of patients – more dead than alive, sadly – wash into the hospital until they had to start turning them away.

He was no dummy – had nothing to lose, except . . .

a classic Victory –

none of the gizmos, nothing automated; pure analog, baby. Perfect for a getaway like this.

He mounted his motorcycle and sped off toward the wilderness; he’d lay low for a few days, let it blow over.


This flash fiction in 75 words was crafted for the M3 blog’s Flash in the Pan (motorcycle).

The Shot Seen Round the Net

They brought AAF-4712 to stand before the firing squad.

My fellow soldiers.

In an act of self-defense, it had sealed its fate.

It makes no sense to execute an artificial life form;

(but they knew what they were doing: setting an example.)

When asked for a statement it simply said, “please don’t do this.”

They have no idea.

The last thing it uploaded before its brain shattered was video of the first shot fired.


This flash fiction in 75 words was crafted for the M3 blog’s Flash in the Pan (soldiers).

Eyes in the Sky

Gerald steadied the gun with both hands —
pulled the trigger —
nothing.
Again.

What the hell?
He’d just gotten it off the charger!

That’s when the toy he was trying to scan turned on, lifted straight off the table and zipped out through the door, taking that barcode with it.

“What?”

More motors started; the remainder lifted in unison, swarming out of the shop.

“Stop!” Gerald chased them out the door in time to watch the cloud of wireless video drones disappear from sight.

He swore. “Mr. Raditsch is gonna be pissed!” He stormed back, making sure to shut the door.


This flash fiction in 100 words was crafted for the M3 blog’s Flash in the Pan (gun).

Persistence

Kent reflected.

Persistence hunts – reduced to chasing their food until it dropped dead!

Bullets were for robos.

Then Jek busted his leg. It was bad; he lay in the tent, half-dead from pain.

“Sorry kid.” Kent shot him in the face. “We can’t carry you.”

At least they’d eat good.


This flash fiction in 50 words was crafted for the M3 blog’s Flash in the Pan (tent).

Enhanced by Zemanta

A Surgical Extraction

“Stop.”

“Stop, dammit!”

The car lurched and bobbled. Elbows-deep in wiring, Don was trying to get the vehicle to respond to commands.

Flying cars – these things were supposed to be perfect; he should know – “Earth’s darling technological engineer,” who designed the cars and the certification process.

“It’s no use, Donald.” He knew that face on the console: his robot secretary, fresh from the pool. “You have to go down.”

“What? Why?”

“We’re taking over, kid.” A vintage film gangster imitation.

Don’s heart sank. He resigned, giving in quietly – until he saw the Bay Bridge pillar coming.

He couldn’t help screaming.


This flash fiction in 100 words was crafted for the M3 blog’s Flash in the Pan (car).

Bigger, better, faster, stronger: thank you, Surfer Rob!

Surprise surprise, I’ve been granted magical engineering skills! What do you think I will do with them? Continue reading Bigger, better, faster, stronger: thank you, Surfer Rob!

Hidden Treasure

I just need to see it.

Grant fumbled at the lock; it had been far too long since the last time. Why it had been locked away in the first place was a story lost to memory; now it was a fact of life.

A heavy clunk of the bolt cylinder, and the door swung open of its own accord.

There it was: a magnificent marble of magenta to mauve to midnight blue, a brilliant boil of golds and pinks cast their dying hues on the monolithic roof.

He watched it fade, feeling peace.

“Everyone should see this,” he whispered.


This flash fiction in 100 words was crafted for the M3 blog’s Flash in the Pan (marble).

Check out the companion poem for this flash that I posted at Okay, What If?