[POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015


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Post February 19, 2015, 09:14:44 PM

[POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

The “Still Among Us?” Challenge

THE CHALLENGE: Write a story where the protagonist is a cryptid. Make it so they are not looking to be found and have found a way to hide or stay out of the way reasonably. Now throw in a bit of bad luck and disaster that un-does their well laid plans and causes a snafu which reveals them in some manner.






A Novel Experience



I could feel the noisy buzzing in my head again. It seemed that they always turned the thing up higher than it needed to be. One wondered why they allowed the tourists to set the interface knobs themselves but of course tourists always like to play with knobs and dials. It wasn't like it would give them a headach, oh no, their end was carefully set and controlled lest a lawsuit rear its head. It was occasionally amusing to watch their reactions of course. Their faces would twitch slightly as the foreign sensations intruded on their normal thought processes. Sometimes their head would cock to the side as their neck went limp under the interface headset. It was at times like these that one could really make merry at their expense for they had lost all sense of themselves for a moment. It was just such a situation now as I crept a bit closer trying to ignore the static that leapt across my head and caused my leaves to rustle involuntarily.
The bears never seemed to get used to it. A few were up and sniffing around looking very concerned. At least none had given up and lay down in defeat this time. That was the hardest thing to watch. The wolves had a better time of it. Perhaps because they were used to being a more social and sharing themselves with others.
As I got closer the vibrations began to ebb a bit. Whatever the tourists were aiming at today in the park it was clearly behind me now. It seemed they had brought with them some of their own offspring to see the new births of spring. They had much the same dumb and oddly cute look on their faces as the bear cubs. They were munching on something as the adults pointed at the various creatures and connected with them. They were always doing this and I was determined to get more information. Just because I live in the woods and look like mother nature herself doesn't mean I don't appreciate the intricacies of new technology. Such things continue to visit my woods frequently and they have an ever growing impact.
I went unnoticed as always moving close among the pines. I had reached a perch a few branch-lengths when one of the young humans, unseen by its elders, began pushing buttons. The polished surface became unlocked from its bear target and a loud and audible gasp was elicited from some of the others who had the curious masks on their faces. This was proving to be a more enlightening outing than usual.
The shiny thing they always had themselves attached to began to make a high pitched whirring noise and rotated around this way and that for a moment before settling down. It was then that my mind was engulfed in a mad, twisted blur. I suppose I must have looked like nothing so much as a branch as I fell out of the tree concealed as I was. Strange for a live and healthy branch to fall thus but maybe no one noticed as stranger things were occurring. I wouldn't be surprised if I had had on my face as stupid a look on my face as I saw in theirs. Few saw the incident and none have reported back to me about it. Most there were locked into a wholly different world in any case. When people came to this wood I was annoyed. When they built roads I was frustrated. When they began building tourist centers I was worried. None of these invasions however, could come near to matching this breach of my very mind and soul. But I learned even as they did. As the pain become emotion I found myself almost in awe both of the powers which these people had and what they also missed. It was a world I had barely seen the fringes of. But then they had known nothing of mine. Though I could understand more than I ever though possible of them I knew they could percieve me more deeply. This was menat to be a one way event after all. Living the sensations of a bear, or a wolf or an elk. A more primal and visceral sensation than these people would otherwise know. I was a novelty no one had counted on and now I was laid bare my true self exposed in my own mind and thus made manifest on the ground where I lay. One of the offspring pointed at me and said with its mouth not its mind, a language I could interpret now, “Look at the green lady” and the world changed...

The End




Electrosmooth

“Yeti! Yeti! Yeti!” the children all chanted in unison.
“He’s so hairy I’ll bet he has to comb his whole body.”
“My dad says he belongs in a zoo.”
“What a freak.”
The children of the playground danced around Ralph, dropping insults and teasing in the sing-song manner of their age. From out of nowhere a stone struck Ralph on the head, sending him to the asphalt. The chanting stopped and the children stood in a circle, no one daring to say who had thrown the rock. When the bell rang they all ran off to class, leaving Ralph where he had fallen. It was the last day that he ever attended school.

###

“Do you suffer from unwanted hair? Are you tired of razors, powders, and creams that don’t work? If so, then the new Electrosmooth from Bionetics International is the solution for you. The Electrosmooth zaps unwanted hair out of existence with its new pain-free, patented Quantalaz technology…”
Annoyed, Ralph switched off the television. Did even it need to remind him? He walked to the bathroom to look in the mirror and see if he really looked so strange. It was not until he opened the door that he remembered that his mother had removed the mirror. Moping back to the living-room, he switched on the T.V. , his only window to the world of people. Maybe he should buy something like the Electrosmooth.

###

Ducking on his way out the front door, Ralph left his mother’s house for the first time in nearly fifteen years. He shielded his eyes to block the harsh light, a light strikingly different from that of the television. In his pocket burned unspent birthday money from years of letters sent by an unmet grandmother. He jogged towards the taxi door while scanning the street, relieved that it was an off hour. The cabby’s eyes widened as he asked “where to” through the rearview mirror. All through the drive Ralph caught the stares of more people than he had ever met in person.

###

“You’re not going to believe our good luck Eddie. A gold mine just walked into the shop. He looks like some kind of yeti or something, and you guessed it, he’s here for an Electrosmooth. Think of the ad campaign it could make. Seems like he doesn’t have much dough to me, I’ll bet we could even work out a trade offer.”
Carson hung up the phone with a feeling of satisfaction. If the boss was pleased then he knew he was onto something.

“Ralph, with your unique gift, and our unique product, we could make quite a team. Why not sign up with us, we’ll throw in a free Electrosmooth, and even get you some medical help if it’s needed. We think that you’d make a perfect example of how our product can help people, people like yourself.” Carson bit his lip in anticipation, knowing that he had Ralph hooked, and that his ad campaign would be a smash success.

###

The lights of the studio dazzled him. Never in his life had he met so many people, and never in his life had he felt so accepted and liked. The people were wonderful, but the best thing of all was that he was going to be on television. Just a commercial, but to Ralph is was the real world, one in which he could finally participate. Behind the scenes was a shock that he was not prepared for, but he resigned to not let it show. He enjoyed the limelight.

###

On his way home he stopped at the store and bought a mirror for the bathroom. For the first time in his life he felt unafraid of the outside world, the one which his mother had demonized since almost before he could remember. Hanging the mirror with pride, he took the first good look at his now hairless face and body. It was foreign and would take getting used to, but he was unashamed.
The telephone interrupted his first prideful moment, but he answered with enthusiasm, wanting to talk to someone. The voice on the other end sounded nervous and excited.
“Ralph, I’m glad you answered. This is Dr. Charleston. It’s a miracle that we’ve found you. You know that we’ve been trying to track you down ever since you were taken out of school. You’re quite a hard man to get a find. Forgive me for being blunt, but your condition, I mean we’ve been needing someone with your condition, you see we’ve discovered that your abnormal hair growth holds the cure for cancer. With one of your hairs we can cross reference genes and destabilize the rapid growth process. It’s just that your condition is exceedingly rare, and you are believed to be the last hypertrichiac alive. With your help we could save thousands of lives.”
In the mirror Ralph watched as his smile sagged. The phone sank back into the cradle. In front of him sat the box that housed the Electrosmooth. Bold letters on the side of the box read, results permanent.

THE END



The Poppe Creek Monster

Jonathan and Theresa had never had much luck in love, as both were in their mid-30s when they met, and both had been recently left behind by their respective mates. Trying out an online dating site, they had been surprised to find they had a 93% serendipity rating.

‘Kirk or Picard and why’, Jon had texted after introducing himself via his phone.

‘Classic over Next Generation and Picard over Kirk in a civilized universe,’ was Theresa’s reply.

‘Obviously,’ Jon had texted back, as overjoyed as a nerd could possibly be.

From that point on the two were inseparable. When they weren’t together they were calling each other, when they couldn’t call - they texted, when they weren’t texting they were in the same room.

So it was not a surprise when they found out they had a similar interest in a local Kentucky myth not far from where they lived: The Poppe Creek Monster. The tale went that a creature existed just outside their city limits that haunted a trestle of the Norfolk Southern Railroad. When they discovered how much they each loved the urban legend, they knew they had to go see the goat-man for themselves.

Turning onto the Taylorsville Road exit from the Gene Snyder freeway, they switched off the air conditioning to get a feel for the weather outside. It was a clear, hot July night and the lovers were hoping the coolness of Poppe Creek’s water would make the heat bearable. However, when they pulled up by the train trestle in the moonlight, parking beside the creek, the fog that had formed over the cool water only made the moisture cling to their skin and clothes.

There was another car parked in the field by the train tracks and Jonathan could see a man in the distance headed up a dirt path towards the trestle, but he quickly disappeared into the dense fog that hung over the creek.

“I guess we should follow him,” said Jon as more of a question more than a suggestion.

“Well, we’ve come this far – we might as well see the trestle from the top,” answered Theresa taking the lead. And so they began to climb. By the time they were halfway up the hill, the pair had lost sight of each other in the dense fog although Jon knew his girlfriend couldn’t be more than six feet ahead of him.

The moisture on the path made the dirt and grass slick and Jon slipped once, suddenly taking notice of how high up they actually were. He could see the top of the hill where the tracks met the trestle, but Theresa must have already made it to the top because he didn’t see her anywhere.
“Theresa?” he shouted out, looking at the ‘No Trespassing’ sign. “Are you on the tracks?”

“Yeah, come on up,” her sweet voice floated down out of the fog. “I’m standing on the Trestle right now. You have got to see this view!”

Jonathan climbed a little higher until he was standing on the gravel beside the tracks. He thought it was odd that his girlfriend had chosen to go onto the trestle without him. He remembered that the monster was supposed to have the ability to mimic people’s voices, to make it seem normal to step into harm’s way. He tried to see her better by turning his flashlight’s beam into the wall of fog over the creek, but the light just bounced back off the mist that drifted between the 8-foot-high fences enclosing the trestle.

“Come back off the tracks, honey,” he called into the opaque vapor. “There might be a train coming.”

He heard a mocking chuckle before Theresa’s sweet voice echoed out of the mist. “We checked the train schedule before we came. Don’t you remember?”

Jon did not remember doing any such thing. He hadn’t anticipated becoming separated or the fog being so thick, but he knew they had never checked the computer about it. “Kirk or Picard?” he shouted into the mist.

“Picard,” came back the answer in Theresa’s voice, as if it were an echo.

“Tennet or Smith?” he shouted.

The voice hesitated for a moment, before finally saying sweetly, “Smith.”

Jonathan was certain now that he was talking to a devil not his lover. Just then he heard the tracks begin to whine quietly. It was as if all of creation had stopped making noise, there was no sound except the humming of the rails.

“Jonathan! Help me! Where are you?” he heard Theresa shout out, but it seemed to be coming from a different direction than before.

Another voice answered before Jon could speak, a voice that sounded like his. “I’m over here, love...on the trestle, come a little closer!”

The man was so desperate now that he turned his flashlight again into the fog but this time a breeze whipped up and Jon could see his girlfriend not more than four feet in front of him. Standing before them both was a towering gnarled creature with the head and shoulders of a goat and the body of a man twisted with age, a smirking grimace on his fury lips.

The woman shrieked with horror and stepped off the trestle, onto the gravel. The train was rounding the curve and its headlight illuminated the creature as it threw its head back and howled. Jon grabbed his love, pulling her onto the grassy hillside beside the tracks, where they held each other, shivering, praying that the force of the wheels wouldn’t suck them under the train. It took five long minutes for their nightmare to end. Or had it?

As the couple ran down the dirt path away from the monster a voice shouted out sweetly from the trestle, Theresa’s voice in fact: “Come back soon and we’ll play some more!” Than a hideous, evil laugh echoed after them as they jumped into their car and sped off, vowing never to return.

The End



Hunger Shames


Whirinaki Forest Park, in New Zealand, was a publicly accessible forested area in the North Island of the country, and was part of the eastern boundary flanking the Urewera National Park. Due to its geographic isolation, it was one of the last regions to be claimed by the British during colonization in the 19th and 20th centuries, and some Māori leaders had found refuge there from their pursuers. It was a wild place where many tall trees stretched up to the sky, giving shelter to strange birds called saddlebacks that hid in the leafy branches of the undergrowth.

There were many legends about this place - as is common when people think of very secluded sites - and some of them involved the presence of a few wild, violent men called the Maero. According to the oldest Māori tradition, these men had bony fingers and long, dirty hair all over their bodies. They supposedly killed their prey, from time to time, with long pointed fingers and then ate them. Certainly, there had always been tales about them, but nobody was sure they really existed because no one had ever spotted one of them. Occasionally a tourist disappeared while visiting this zone, never to be seen again, and some of those events were reputed to be connected to such creatures, but there was no real evidence pointing to them.

As the sun was going down among the tall undergrowth, one of those legendary beings was moving through the vegetation, searching for something to eat. It had been a few days since he had tasted a very skinny tourist that he had assaulted suddenly before dragging his corpse to the most inaccessible area of that forest. Then, he had made all the remains of the dead man disappear completely, as he didn’t want to leave any traces behind: that was how he had kept his existence well concealed and why he was able to keep killing at will, even though with self-restraint, of course. And this was exactly what he was trying to do that evening, when he sensed someone walking around and began to follow the stranger so he could attack using his deadly bony fingers, which was his modus operandi. However, things seemed to be a little different this time, as the odor in the air wasn’t something he had smelled before. There were other details about his prey that looked very unusual, as well…

Anyway, the Maero was hungry and he started following the prey’s steps, ready to assault him as soon as the opportunity arose. After some time, his target stopped next to a huge rock, and so the wild creature knew that was the right moment to seize his food for the day.

As the massive Maero got out of the undergrowth, his arms hit the target and his powerful fingers fiercely pierced his victim’s skin. Then, before even looking upon the face of his prey, he grabbed the corpse and dragged it back into the thick woods. It was only when he stopped running and examined the remains that lay at his feet that he noticed something incredible: the features of the short corpse were really very peculiar, as there were two extremely wide black eyes, an almost non-existent nose on a swollen, hairless enlarged cranium, a dark gray skin - or maybe it was just a never-seen-before outfit, at least so it seemed to the wild being. However unusual the prey looked to him, the Maero was still hungry, and so he began eating his food. Maybe the meat was a little tough and dry, but he finished his meal in the end.

It was only later that same day, when he was thinking of resting in the forest and completely getting rid of any traces of the corpse, that he started feeling a pain in his stomach. Actually, he remembered having stomach-aches at times, but this was much worse than ever before. The pain was incredibly hard to bear, and it grew worse and worse, as a matter of fact, so he decided not to eat the rest of the corpse and just stayed under a tree, hoping that the sufferings were finally going to be over, sooner or later.

During the night that followed, he heard a strange noise, and then saw a vivid light in the sky, towering above the vegetation, followed by footsteps. He would have tried to escape, to protect himself, but he was too weak to move. So, there he remained, helpless and scared until a group of short individuals, very similar in appearance to the prey he had taken before, came forwards and looked at him. Soon afterwards, an energy burst hit him, leaving his body unconscious.

-------------

Actually, things were worse than the wild Maero, in his little and limited mind might ever imagine. Those gray-skinned strangers had come to this place in search of their missing colleague. And these aliens weren’t visiting Earth just to do research, as they truly happened to be serial killers from outer space!

They had found the planet of humans not long ago, and had started mutilating cattle and other beasts at night, as a fun activity to behold with their bug-eyes, while their unruly kids were busy drawing crop circles here and there. They couldn’t believe their good luck since they had now found an interesting fierce cryptid in New Zealand. Now they were ready to start a delightful new sort of safari, certain that they would love kidnapping those previously unknown creatures, making them suffer for as long as the aliens wanted to. Nobody would even discover they had disappeared, ever.

Thinking of that newly discovered cryptid, the short leader of that alien team of serial killers reminded himself of that old saying of those humans, the Maori, that went: ‘E kore e ea i te kupu taku aroha mōu…’, that was, more or less, ‘Words can't express how much I love you…’, undoubtedly.


THE END




To vote, rate these stories using the form below with scores of 0-10 (in whole numbers) and send it to me via PM:

Categories:
1) What overall score would you give the story?
2) How good was the Characterization?
3) How effective (or original) was the plot?
4) How clear was the setting to you?
5) How good was the use of dialog?
6) How well did the story meet or address the challenge as it was given?

NOTE: you must have posted at least one message before you can send a PM. Join in a discussion or just say hi in a thread before voting via PM. If I suspect a voter of being a false identity (i.e. a troll), I won't count their vote.

Author scores for their own entry will not be counted.

Like so for each entry please:

(Title)
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:



Voting will close on Saturday, February 28th, 2015 at approximately 8 p.m., East Coast Time.

Sorry for the short voting window it has been a short busy month!
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
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Post February 23, 2015, 05:11:04 AM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

My votes are already in...eh,eh :D
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Post February 23, 2015, 11:56:11 PM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

My votes are on the way.
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Post February 24, 2015, 02:05:15 PM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

This was a fun challenge for me to read through and score. I like monsters to begin with, and monsters that might be real are fun to think about, indeed. :D
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Post February 28, 2015, 11:07:14 AM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

Leonard Nimoy - boldly going into the Final Frontier. You are and will always be my friend. LLAP :(
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Post February 28, 2015, 08:56:25 PM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

closed
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
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Post February 28, 2015, 10:37:00 PM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

The Winner is.....

The Poppe Creek Monster by Michele “bottomdweller” Dutcher


Other great reads.....


Hunger Shames by Sergio “ente per ente” Palumbo
Electrosmooth by J.P. Garnier
A Novel Experience by Spacer



Stay tuned for a new contest!
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
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Post February 28, 2015, 11:52:53 PM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

Congrats, Michele! Buy a drink with the prize money! (Just remember to turn the faucet off when you're done!)

Here were my scores--and now, addd comments, too:
A Novel Experience
1) Overall: 4
2) Characterization: 6
3) Plot: 4
4) Setting: 4
5) Dialog: 2
6) Challenge: 5

total 25
comments:
Very confusing; I couldn't figure out just what was happening with the technology. Its purpose was explained, but its unexpected effect wasn't.


Electrosmooth
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 7
3) Plot: 10
4) Setting: 5
5) Dialog: 9
6) Challenge: 8

total 46
comments:
Plot hole: the doctor said they only needed one of his hairs for a DNA sample ... genetic testing is usually done with saliva samples. Besides, I'd think Ralph would have left the hair on his head.

Also, the ending was very abrupt.


The Poppe Creek Monster
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 6
3) Plot: 7
4) Setting: 3
5) Dialog: 9
6) Challenge: 10

total 43
comment:
The setting description confused me. They parked next to the creek, but then you say the other car was by the train tracks ... I found it all on a Google map with the arial view, and I'm still not certain where this took place, but to get up to the trestle, they'd be in the woods.

I did like their method of identifying each other by geek-code. Nice job with that.


Hunger Shames
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 5
3) Plot: 7
4) Setting: 5
5) Dialog: 1
6) Challenge: 10

total 35
comments:
Cryptids *and* serial killers from space! I think I'd have liked it better if there had only been one or the other. Still, it was fun to have the crop circles and cattle mutilations in there.
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Post March 01, 2015, 07:39:48 PM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

Great stories this month everyone!
"Reality is that which does not go away when you stop believing in it." PKD
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Post March 02, 2015, 05:36:28 AM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

Many Congratulations, Michele "bottomdweller"!!! Well done, and such a great story, indeed!!! :D

(About Nimoy's sad passing, he really was so inconic and unforgettable...one of the most known faces worldwide ever...be you a fan of Star Trek, or not, you will always be remembering him...)
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Post March 02, 2015, 09:57:10 AM

Re: [POLL] APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: February 2015

Thanks much for the congrats! Lester, if I use this story again, I will make the changes you suggested - or at least look at the map again. Perhaps I'll take a ride out there and see if I can discover the MONSTER myself. It's one of the 10 most publicized monsters in the United States and it's right here in Louisville Kentucky. Cool!
I liked the way Sergio put 2 mythical creatures into the same story...the Maero and the space aliens (although the space aliens may not be mythical of course).
The story about the zoo was interesting, but I kept having to re-read sentences because the details were veiled - but it did fulfill the challenge, telling how a creature could disguise herself in the modern world.
Interesting stories all round. Thanks again!
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