Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015


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Post October 09, 2015, 09:12:46 AM

Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

The Rope a Dope Trope



This may be my final one as Flash Editor folks! Let’s have some fun.Take a standard horror trope and flip it on its head somehow.

THE PREMISE: The challenge this time is to write a flash story with a same old horror trope, but.... change an essential part that always ends up being a given.


THE CHALLENGE: I challenge you to write speculative flash fiction where a horror story is flipped on its head.




CITY OF GHOSTS

It was late afternoon and he hated to stop but he was on the road and knew that he had to. Graysen needed to find a store before venturing into the desert, as he wanted to buy something sweet before he got too far away from the city.

Of course, any place he went might give him problems and he always tried his best to stay away from crowded places so he could remain calm and relaxed.

As the 40-year-old bearded man entered the store, his eyes looked right, left and center, as he commonly did, because he didn’t want to run into any unexpected encounters. Such happenings were common, especially around here, which was the main reason he wanted to get as far away - as quickly as possible - taking his motorcycle and his meager belongings with him. He had always been very fond of his Britten V-1000 and his vintage leather jacket.

Outrageous in its day, his V-1000 was an old racing motorcycle that looked and performed like nothing else, offering blistering performance coupled with a visionary shape. From its 165-hp, sand-cast aluminum-alloy engine to its girder-style forks, each detail reflected its designer’s attitude and brilliant mechanical mind. Only ten of these bikes were ever built and he proudly owned one of them.

While he walked around inside, searching the shelves for Hostess cupcakes, his eyes never stopped roaming, in order to see if something else was close. After a few moments, he found the colorful packages he was looking for, and he immediately grabbed them. Now all he needed was a bottle of whiskey and he would be done with his shopping for today.

As he grabbed a Jack Daniels and turned towards the blonde-haired woman at the register, he saw what he feared might be here. A faint, pale presence appeared in the middle of the store and its hideous features told him that it was not much different from what he had previously stumbled into. The ghost was in its fifties and looked like a woman with burned skin, her slender body covered in ghastly wounds with parts of her bony structure being clearly visible.

As Graysen instinctively moved backwards and walked to the rear of the store to keep clear of the scary ghost, it approached him and started talking in a low, terrible voice that he alone could hear. “I’m Sylvie, I lived here, and I died here because of the disaster. I want you to listen to me, I need your help: please save me! Save us all!” And with that being said, the apparition immediately disappeared in a whiff of smoke and rotten meat.

“Hey mister, are you ready to pay?” asked the woman cashier who was eyeing him suspiciously. “Is there anything else I can help you find?”

Graysen raised his eyes and, as if he was still trying to come out of his present stupor, he simply replied, “No, thanks. This is all I need. How much?”

“It’ll be $17.25,” the cashier said.

His fingers bustled about his pockets and found the required cash. ‘Exact amount, no time to waste’ he told himself. The man almost started running out the door with the same troubled look on his pale face. Then, he headed for his beloved motorcycle and jumped on. He powered it up and rode it flat-out in order to distance himself from that small town and get into the empty desert. There he would be safe! There he would also be alone, away from all those presences that always appeared to him, asking for his help. He couldn’t help them anyway - he was not a superhero like in the comics. Moreover, he wouldn’t even know how to begin to save them…

*****
As soon as the man had exited the store, the curly 8-year-old daughter of the shop owner came out the back and found her mother, the cashier.

“Who was that?” the girl asked.

“Just a customer, he sure was in a hurry…”

“Nobody stops here for long, mother. Maybe our town is too small.”

“I don’t think so, sweetie…” the woman replied. “It’s just that most of the tourists are heading towards the desert. They just stop here, buy something and move on.”

“We’re going to become a city of ghosts, mother,” the child insisted.

“Don’t say that, Sylvie. Try reading something besides ghost stories once in a while!”

*****

When the disaster finally struck, the whole area was turned into a wasteland that nobody dared to enter for many years. Graysen had long since passed away. It was a shame that he had been given such an amazing psychic gift but no one understood it – not even the man himself, as a matter of fact.

Graysen had always been able to see dead people, especially in this area. After all these years he knew that he only had two options: either spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital or move away from everyone.

But things might have been very different, indeed, if only that man had known that he was not only endowed with the power of seeing dead people from the past – but he could see the ghosts of people who would die in the future. What he was seeing was their souls before they even grew up, exactly as he had just seen the ghost of the cashier’s daughter who was only 8-years-old. He saw her ghost as she would become when the child grew up and died. Sylvie’s future ghastly remains would come to the world of living humans from time to time, trying to warn the few that might see her of the impending disaster.

But there was no way to change the destruction that was coming, by any means. After all, people didn’t even take too seriously what they saw before their own eyes nowadays. How could anyone blame them if they didn’t believe in things that came out of the future?


THE END


The Tragedy of a Vampire Countess

Mortals have learned to fear my name, the name of Countess Reinhardt. I preside over a land of perpetual darkness, darkness so thick the human eye can’t see more than ten feet into the distance. It’s a forsaken land populated by monsters the likes of which humans have only seen in their nightmares. An inexplicable red sky hangs over their solitary houses both day and night.

The black outline of my castle dominates the horizon. Its archaic walls are stained with the filth of ages but it’s the only place a vampire countess like me can call home. The doors to my throne room open to a prize I’ve been waiting for, a beautiful young man from the village who has fallen under my spell.

His attempts to resist me made his gait uneven. I twirled a black lock of hair with my index finger. “… So thrilling,” I said to him, “You still think you can escape me, don’t you?”

500 years ago, I was just a commoner; the kind of girl all the men ignored. Mt first kiss was with a demon banished to a forest outside of town. It was a red kiss that placed upon me the curse of un-death. My rotten corpse moved as if it were still alive and my new hypnotic eyes granted me power of the same men who had dismissed me, I gathered them in my castle like trophies whose lives revolved around my twisted desires. And there in the darkness, I committed depraved acts that would offend the gods themselves.

The centuries marched on but no matter how many men I bewitched, I always found myself wanting more. Such irrational lust drove me to visit human villages in disguise to hunt for new victims. And one night I found the perfect one: Michael Harker, a young school teacher. He was under observation in an asylum; apparently his desire to explore his sexuality had caused the doctors to diagnose him with brain illness, something that affected so many young men across the land.

I experienced a thrill I hadn’t felt in decades when I snuck into his room. It was his innocence I longed for, an innocence I would strip away once I had him under my sheets. How surprised I was when he managed to resist my hypnotic gaze.

In that moment, memories more than 500 years old came back to me, memories of the girl I used to be: unpopular, unwanted, unattractive.

“I’m not ugly anymore, how dare you ignore me!” I foolishly shouted.

Alerted to my invasion, the famous vampire hunter Abigail Van Helsing burst into the room to confront me. Resorting to desperation, I took the unwilling boy under my arm and jumped out the window. My inhuman body allowed me to sprint miles across the monster-infested countryside and back to my castle.

Michael Harker never stopped resisting me. It was beyond vexing; I had amassed a harem of young men who fell to their knees at the mere sight of my mystical form. Day and night I seduced him only to be met with disappointment.

“I can do things beyond your wildest dreams,” I said to him, “No one has to know.”

He responded confidently: “I don’t belong to you or anyone else.”

The depression that took root in my ethereal mind was debilitating, I couldn’t even find the energy to feed. Michael was all I could think about. It was a frivolous pursuit to say the least, I held hundreds of men under my spell but it was the one I couldn’t posses that enslaved my lust. How could anyone remain so chaste in my spectacular presence?

Then came the day Doctor Helsing made her daring rescue attempt. The sound of my castle doors being smashed in shook the empty wine bottles in my room. Inebriated and weak from hunger, I grabbed my sword and prepared for an onslaught that would most likely end my immortal existence.

“Michael,” I muttered to myself, “If you only knew how you brought this demon to her knees.”

Helsing was waiting for me in my throne room shepherding an army of mortals. Even in my emaciated state, I managed to slay over fifty of them, but the outcome was inevitable. As I lay on the ground with lethal wood protruding from my bloodied chest, I watched Michael happily re-unite with the doctor.

I felt a sick smile spread cross my pale lips. While he was in captivity, Michael acted so scared and demure. It was that kind of fake fragility that captivated me. If only Abigail knew how manipulative he was.

“Good luck to you,” I whispered as my slayer left the castle, “I hope that boy destroys you like he destroyed me.”

The End



Death Trap

A signal chirped… then it repeated itself.

Glances were exchanged across the table, followed by the bowl of mashed potatoes. Paz shoved a spoonful of carrots into his mouth… then sighed. He turned and squinted at the screen: the words "Unidentified Automated Signal" were blinking with what appeared to be jumbled code flashing underneath. Then he returned to his meal and the faces of twelve downcast rangers.

"Lieutenant Paz, you answering that?" said the computer through the speakers. "Military Protocol Section 4, Paragraph 22 dictates that active personnel must investigate unidentified signals unless such action compromises the execution of—"

"Yes, I know," said Paz with his mouth half full. "I'm eating."

Sergeant Dwayne "Unstoppable Tight End" Mortimer scanned the men. "Sir, the words 'death' and 'trap' comes to mind but we couldn't kill anyone in our last op. We could really use some action."

Paz kept chewing. "Computer, where's the signal coming from?"

"MU-45 in Sector 310."

"Is anything out there?" asked Corporal Trumna as she marched to the drink dispenser.

"I've already changed course and, given Sergeant Mortimer's concern, updated all your wills," said the computer. "I recommend you all go over it again before sending."



Paz strode into the armory. "Good to go? Everything alright?"

Mortimer put down one assault rifle and picked up another. "Yes… and no. Nothing wrong with our weapons. I checked and rechecked when we got back and again now."

Paz grabbed a weapon for himself and shrugged. "Well, the equipment didn't exactly fail… just that no one died like we thought they should."

There was a beep. "We are in GSO directly above the signal source on MU-45," said the computer. "Preliminary scans indicate an operationally safe atmosphere. Dropship prep is complete. C'mon, chop-chop."



"Operationally safe atmosphere my butt," muttered Paz in his seat. The dropship quaked. The winds outside raged and it was conveniently dark. Apart from the flashes of lightning. Someone hurled their dinner against a window. Paz knitted his brow. So not cleaning that up.

"Sir, there's a… a structure," said Trumna in the pilot's seat. Mortimer was standing next to her.

Paz unbuckled his harness and staggered towards the front. On screen, the structure was basically a bunker with merely one level aboveground. Through the windshield, thunder and rain, he could vaguely make out its outline.

"Resembles United Earth's standard off-world designs," said Mortimer. "What's that doing out here? Secret facility?"

"I have no records of any sanctioned operations on this planet," said the computer. "The signal source is located in sub-level four and I cannot decipher its nature."

"Thanks," grunted Paz, "how pleasantly ominous and—"

The dropship rolled. Paz hit the floor. Then the dropship rolled some more.

"Damn this storm… we're going down," Trumna called out, pulling the joystick. "Hold on, we can still make it to the landing pad."

They didn't.



Steam rose from the mangled airframe, the rain having mostly extinguished the fire. Paz scanned: twelve of them including himself. Trumna was missing. He remembered the dropship cabin collapsing somewhat dramatically. Not sure how he survived that. Trumna obviously didn't. Either way, the computer needed to send down a dropship later.

Paz forced himself up. "You're all still wishing for action?!"

At least the crash had somehow busted the door wide open. Then something creaked. Everyone turned to see the wreck budge and raised their weapons… then Trumna popped out, covered with oil and soot.

"Sorry 'bout that," she said as she adjusted her helmet and brushed off some glass granules.

Paz squinted. No time for celebrations or questions. "Let's move it!"



The corridors were dark, of course. And the air was stale too. Paz saw no signs of struggle or any disturbance apart from the lack of main power.

"Definitely United Earth infrastructure," said Mortimer. "Stairs to sub-level four just up ahead."

The squad made their way down… their boots clanking on the grilled floors.

"Might as well encounter some parasitic monster while we're at it," whispered Mortimer.

Light rippled across the walls at the T-junction ahead. Paz made some fancy hand signals and the squad moved up. When they rounded the corner and turned left, they all gawked. The floor was littered with bodies in white coats. At the centre of the room was a large glowing ball, the periphery rippling and pulsing steadily.

"I don't think that's a parasitic monster," uttered Trumna as she checked a terminal. "Although there could be one inside assuming it's an energy barrier."

Paz looked around. The bodies all seemed intact. No blood, no signs of trauma.

"Maybe the signal is a secret distress code," said Mortimer. "This is obviously some secret facility."

The energy field warped momentarily, now pulsing erratically. Trumna pointed to a graph, the line flickering. "I recommend shutting it down."

Paz nodded. The squad aimed their assault rifles as Trumna hit a few keys. The field flashed off… revealing a black lanky form with a—

They unloaded.

Sparks erupted as rounds ricocheted. No effect.

The squad inched back when the tall figure glided toward them. Then Paz realized that it was actually a humanoid form donning a black hooded robe and in its calciferous grip was a gleaming scythe.

"Heeeello!" it boomed. "Thanks for releasing me. These bastards here tried to trap me, probably wanted to be immortal. Well, they partly succeeded but not before I organized their exit interviews and sent out a distress call."

Glances were exchanged.

"I messed that part up, did I? Sorry." Then it shrugged. "Anyway, as a reward, I can give you all a painless death if you want but decide quickly. I haven't worked for a week, must be so many who need taking."

Paz opened his mouth but closed it without saying a word and turned to go.

"Where're you going?" asked Death, stalking forward.

"Err… we have work too," answered Mortimer with a reluctant smile, looking up at the towering figure.

"You're gonna kill people, right? May I come along?"

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 Oct 31st, 2015 8PM EST
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 October 12, 2015, 12:22:10 PM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

My votes are in...so everybody better duck. :twisted: Just playin' peeps! As always, I'm in awe of the inventiveness of the authors.
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Post October 13, 2015, 11:58:12 PM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

Ugh, I'm not too thrilled with how my story turned out. It sounded a lot clearer in my head.
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Post October 18, 2015, 02:23:18 PM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

My votes are in. This was a good challenge.
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Post October 20, 2015, 07:32:43 AM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

I'm back to Europe...eh,eh...My votes are in, eventually...A very good Challenge indeed this month!!! :D
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Post November 01, 2015, 09:35:43 PM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

Will tally the scores and post soon. Then we will see what the future holds!
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 November 11, 2015, 11:22:25 PM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

Scores

City of Ghosts by ente per ente
204.8

Death Trap by jto
236

Tragedy of the Vampire Countess by Wesson
212.6



Congrats Joey T!
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 November 12, 2015, 03:25:16 AM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

Congratulations to the winner, indeed!!! :D

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Post November 12, 2015, 10:33:28 AM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

Thanks!
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Post November 12, 2015, 01:34:00 PM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

Congrats, Joey!

This must have been a busy month for me or something. It just seems like it's been forever since this challenge was posted.

Anyway, here's how I voted:

CITY OF GHOSTS
1) Overall: 7
2) Characterization: 8
3) Plot: 10
4) Setting: 8
5) Dialog: 7
6) Challenge: 6

total: 46

Comments:
Continuity: he back-pedals to the rear of the store, but isn't shown getting back to the register.

I wasn't sure how to score this for the challenge. What trope does it flip? Must be the part about seeing ghosts from the future.
*******

The Tragedy of a Vampire Countess
1) Overall: 9
2) Characterization: 7
3) Plot: 10
4) Setting: 5
5) Dialog: 8
6) Challenge: 10

total: 49

Comments:
Inconsistencies: nobody can see farther than ten feet, yet they can see the castle against the horizon. Also, the story is given first-person, but post-mortem.

Challenge/plot—nice reversal, and a great ending.
*******


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

total: 55

Comments:
Delightful humor; thanks for the grins.
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Post November 13, 2015, 12:00:37 PM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

Sorry I'm late, congratulations jto!
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Post November 13, 2015, 03:43:31 PM

Re: Poll: APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: Sept/Oct 2015

Congrats to Joey T.
I thought that Sergio's story was very imaginative - running into ghosts from the future. I noticed that Lester gave him a 10 for plot. This explains why ghosts would be so insistent - wanting someone in their 'past' to tell them to get out of that location. The little girl was interesting as well - because she was often reading about ghosts.
I thought Death Trap's ending was funny/creative. Hey, you're going to kill people, and that's what I love to do - so can I come to. Funny!
Since the house is on fire - at least let us warm ourselves.

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