Voting for Flash Challenge: March 2017

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Post March 26, 2017, 08:34:48 PM

Voting for Flash Challenge: March 2017

"The Never Apologize For Saying You're Sorry Challenge"

We are fortunate to have great writers on Aphelion. This challenge has been exciting for me and now it’s time for the payoff for our writers and readers.

Voting: You may select your choice for the first, second and third place from the story line up below.

Click on my name at the top of this post and then select send private message. Copy the “Voting Template: Story Line Up” after the end of this post, and paste it into the text box. Then type a 1 after the story you liked the best overall. Type a 2 after the story you liked second and a 3 by the story you liked third. Leave the other stories without a number.

Your decision should be based on your overall feeling after reading all the stories. Which stories stayed with you? Which ones felt real to you?

No one is required to vote including the authors. However, you really should read and vote for the following reasons:

1. Are you going to leave your story’s ranking to other readers without having your say included in the votes?
2. Don’t you find it exciting to read the worlds and lives of the characters created by your follow Aphelion writers?
3. And you know you are unable to comment unless you read what you’re comment on. We need to hear what you uniquely have to say.

Authors may vote for their own stories if they feel they are deserving of the placement they are giving it.

Commenting: You may comment during the week of voting concerning your general feelings about the stories this month. The comments should reflect how you feel about how the story you’re commenting on affected you.

No negative or critical or instructive type of comments should be made “during the voting”. Save them for after the voting results, which will be posted on Sunday April 2, 2017 after 5 pm Central Standard Time.

The Story Line Up

01. Kate Thornton: The Children of Mars
02. N. J. Kailhofer: Dust
03. Hope Gillette: The Hero Forge
04. Jim Harrington: Double Play
05. Eddie Sullivan: Murder by Numbers
06. Casey Callaghan: Rewind
07. Robin B. Lipinski: Puff or Poof
08. Kandi Tims: Two Princesses and the King
09. Bingemeister: The Secrets of General Nuisance
10. Jean-Paul L. Garnier: The Button
11. Sergio Palumbo: Bring Them Back
12. The Fisher of Men: No Brainer
Last edited by Daniel Johnson on March 26, 2017, 08:45:21 PM, edited 2 times in total.
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Post March 26, 2017, 08:37:19 PM

Re: Voting for Flash Challenge: March 2017

The Children of Mars
By Kate Thornton

(Based on an African Fable of Regret)

Buzzy's body was jettisoned out into space like the trash, but not with the trash; that would have been disrespectful. With the remains decorating the hull of the space freighter, everyone except Nyota went back to work and things got back to normal.
In this case, normal meant that the ship could resume its route between De Grasse Station on Mars and Space Station Three. Foods were shipped from De Grasse to SS3, then routed to Earth. The Fukushima Event poisoned its oceans and coastlines. Earth, once a successful agricultural planet, now was inhabited only in the interiors of its major continents, with six cities holding the residual populations. Food products were grown and processed on Mars and uncontaminated water, an expensive luxury, was distilled there, too.

No one knew exactly why humans could not reproduce on Mars, but no human female had ever carried to term on the Martian surface, so after a couple of decades and thousands of failed pregnancies, they stopped trying.

Life on the freighter included all of the usual drama, but Nyota did her job and avoided conflict. She was from Shana, the African city known for beautiful textiles and medicinal plants. She did not plan to fall in love, but the trips were lonely and the crew were thrown together.

Buzzy was a pushy braggart, and his outlandish claims of sexual prowess, especially his claim that he could father Martian children, were ridiculous. "Just check with my little honey in De Grasse," he bragged. "I got me two kids, both born on the red planet." Of course, if that were true he would not be schlepping crates on a food freighter.
But the heart wants what the heart wants, and it seldom asks the brain for advice. So Nyota and Buzzy fell hard, if not in love, then at least in lust.

When Buzzy, who was a bit short of common sense, decided to surprise Nyota one night in her bunk, he should have remembered her fear of attack and at least whispered a sweet nothing or two before pouncing. But he didn't, and it was dark, and Nyota's bedside tonic - harmless in small doses but lethal otherwise - was in a cut glass bottle. She screamed, grabbed the bottle and brained Buzzy with it. If the wound didn't kill him, the poison did.

The Captain ruled accidental death and Nyota stayed an extra day in her cabin crying.

Upon landing at De Grasse, Nyota wandered the streets, dazed by what had happened. She went back early to the dock to watch the last of the cargo loading procedure. A large, plain woman stood near the freighter watching too. She turned as Nyota approached her.

"You from that ship?" she asked.

Nyota nodded.

"Do you know Robert Buzzetti?" The woman seemed anxious.

Nyota nodded again.

"I'm his wife. Where is he?"

Nyota gasped. He hadn't mentioned a wife. Kids, yes. Wife, no. "I am sorry. He was killed. "

The woman crumpled like a used tissue and sank to the dirty concrete. Nyota felt terrible. She reached for the woman and knelt beside her as the sobs rocked them both. She could not add to the woman's grief by confessing that she was the instrument of her widowhood, nor that her husband had been her lover.

"Let me take you home," Nyota offered, supporting the woman. They walked slowly through the town, and Nyota wondered if she would miss takeoff. She called the ship and arranged to stay through until the next trip.

Mrs. Buzzetti - "Call me Lynn," she said - lived in a small cubicle near the fields. Nyota inspected the tiny but neat home and noted the children's belongings. As they both drank tea, real tea from real plants, Lynn told Nyota about her life.

She had shipped from earth as a young girl. She did her stint in the fields and met Buzzy when he was a crewman on one of the big supply ships.

When Lynn became pregnant, she went to the clinic for termination, but there was a waiting list, so she continued working. She gave birth at home prematurely, expecting the hallmark stillborn of Mars. But the child lived. When Buzzy returned from a supply run, she showed him the living child.

"Get rid of it," he ordered. "It's unnatural."

Over the course of the next Martian year, Lynn produced another living child. She hid them from the local authorities, fearing notoriety and repercussions from Buzzy.

Nyota shivered. She had indeed killed the only man to have successfully fathered Martian offspring. "I must tell you something," she said, "something terrible." She confessed to Lynn what had happened. "I am so sorry. I loved him."

Lynn sighed. "I knew he was seeing other women. Have you been to the clinic?"

Nyota shook her head. "I am on leave, but I will go to the clinic." She hadn't considered that she might be pregnant. "What will you do now?"

Lynn sighed bitterly. "I'll continue to work and when the boys are old enough, I'll tell them about their cheating father and how he was killed by his mistress."

Nyota looked down."Please forgive me." She knew she could not forgive herself.

"Give me your child - his child - and I will forgive you for killing his father."

Nyota wept. Before the next Martian year, she had given birth to a living child, a boy. He was a dark-skinned version of his half brothers, the image of Buzzy.

Nyota went back to the ship and never saw her son again. In dreams, she relived the terrible night she had killed Buzzy and the day she gave up her baby to his wife, a life for a life.

But it was really two lives, as one of them was hers.

The End


By N.J. Kailhofer

"Do you not ever clean, child?" old Vala snapped. "You cannot let him in!"

Young Anna regarded the shriveled woman in filthy rags that smelled like grime and soil with obvious credulity. "Let who in?"

Vala grabbed the broom from beside the empty fireplace and spun it on Anna in her fine, flaxen dress, holding the straw end only inches from the surprised girl's nose. "He is a monster, a devil of the night."


Vala ignored her. "He will come with the dust. Keep him out."

Vala shook the broom insistently and Anna realized the old woman wanted her to take it.

"Clean, now." Vala said. "Clean well, that I may tell the Elders you are fit to marry Johan."

Anna grabbed the broom and set it aside. Indignant, she asked, "What do you mean, fit? Who are you to judge me?"

Vala strolled to the broom and calmly picked it up before abruptly smacking Anna over the head with it.


"Listen, now. No one in the village may marry without my word to the Elders." Her eyes dropped. "The cost is too high. Clean!"

Chastised and a little afraid of her visitor, Anna snatched up the old broom and hurried to cleaning Johan's small cottage. Vala crossed her arms and stood in the middle of the room, watching the girl's every action like a hawk. When Anna was done, she looked up.

Vala's face was a mask of disappointment. "Do you wish that devil to take your child?"

Anna stepped back. "What child?"

Vala snorted. "Johan's seed already grows within you."

Anna instinctively put her hand on her belly. Ashamed, she asked, "How did you know?"

Anna steeled herself for a fluid burst of abuse, but instead, Vala sighed and sat slowly into the creaky rocker by the fireplace. "You are not from this village, so you cannot know. I was once in love with a man, too, except he was not a man."

Anna sat at the table to listen.

Vala's eyes glazed, happy for a moment.

"Reynaud," the old woman said. "That was his name. Oh, he was fine. Tall, handsome, with good hair and teeth. Neatly-kept, dark, curled mustache. His clothes were nice, a rich man's, which I suppose he was. He owned a perfumery, and he always smelled delightful. He called on me late in the evenings, always after dark, and we courted... He said he traveled the land to trade his perfumes, so I loved to hear his tales of exotic lands and strange people. So different from here."

She paused, "He never smiled. His eyes would look happy, but his mouth never smiled. That was strange about him, but that was all that was unusual. In every other respect, he seemed the perfect man."

Vala looked sheepish. "I loved him, 'tis true, and I lay with him out of wedlock."

Anna raised her brows at this, but she held her tongue and did not call the old woman the hypocrite she wanted to.

"Once I knew I was with child, I had to tell him. We talked late and then lay together. He grew restless as dawn approached, but I didn't want to let him go. What if he was angry, or rejected me? I was sure I couldn't live without him. He said he must go, but I held him and said I must tell him a secret. He asked if it could wait, and I said it could not. He bid me hurry, but telling a man you have his child is not easy. I struggled. It grew light out, and finally he shouted for me to tell him, for he must leave."

Anna was at the edge of her seat. "What happened?"

"Tell him I did." Vala lost herself, remembering. "Reynaud smiled wide for the first time, and that's when I saw his huge, sharp fangs!"

Anna gasped.

"I thought he was about to rip me open and drink my blood. I was never more afraid! Then, just then, the sun came through the window and landed where we lay. The moment it did, he collapsed to dust there on the blankets. Oh, the shriek he made as it did!"

Anna's jaw fell open.

"I screamed and tossed the blankets outside, shaking his dust out into the strong wind. I watched it blow away, out of sight."

Vala continued, haltingly. "I was wrong. I was so wrong!"

Anna came and set her hand on Vala's shoulder. "What of the child?"

"Turned to dust with his father." A tear rolled down Vala's wrinkles.

Anna asked, "If he turned to dust and blew away, why do you think he could return?"

Vala held up a finger. "On the blankets the next night was the outline of his body, but made of dust. He was trying to come back together, to return from death. This is why the village must be kept clean, foolish girl, lest he steal you or your child away into the night. You must not let his dust in!"

"I won't!" Anna gathered her sweepings into a bucket. "What should I do with this?"

"I'll take it, as I do for all." Vala smiled. "Now that you understand, I must go."

Anna thanked the old woman profusely for telling the tale and bid her goodnight.

"I have kept him from the rest of the village for fifty years." Vala felt pride as she stepped out of the door, carrying the bucket of dirt and dust.

Vala decided, Anna will keep Reynaud out.

The happy crone patted the bucket, tottering away. She knew just where to empty its contents: at home.

Vala dumped every bucket from the whole village inside her home. From everything she had collected, Reynaud's dust was nearly all there.

"If only I hadn't tossed you out in the first place," Vala mumbled. "I'm sorry, my love. You'll be with me again... and not with anyone else."

The End


The Hero Forge
By Hope Gillette

"Because we're in the business of making heroes, that's why."

Raelyn's eyes snapped open, her attempt at meditation ruined by her own thoughts. With a sigh, she leaned forward and grabbed the small, polished figurine on the floor before her and placed it deep inside the inner pocket of her tunic.

No communing with the gods tonight. Not that they had anything to say to her, anyway.

Steeling herself to what she was about to do, Raelyn quietly ascended the stairs to where her husband had fallen asleep in his study. Standing in the doorway of the dark room, she could make out his moonlit form hunched over in a chair by the fireplace.

He was sound asleep; he'd worked hard that day at the market.

Walking over him with an unnatural stealth, she gently touched his hairline, her fingers barely whispering over the cool skin of his brow. They'd been together for 6 years. He was a good man, and it had been impossible not to love him.

Still, she was an Enlightener, and she had a purpose here, no matter what it cost her emotionally, physically, or mentally. With that affirmation of her role, she swallowed back her tears and picked up the pipe still smoldering on a table next to her husband's slumbering body.

He had a bad habit of leaving it burning.


At first, Balor thought he was dreaming.

He was warm, but too warm, like the heat of the summer sun hit midday and he was caught in its unforgiving light. He could feel sweat pooling in trenches on his skin, but in his half-sleep state, he couldn't figure out why the smell of smoke was heavy in the air.

It wasn't until he heard his wife scream in another room that he jolted up in bed. "Balor!" she cried out again. "Where are you? We need you! The door!"

What is going on? How did Raelyn get me to bed? He stumbled out from the tangle of sheets only to realize smoke was pouring in through the opening underneath the door. Oh gods the house. The house is on fire! Corrine! Raelyn!

Rushing to the door he tried to pull it open but the handle seared his skin. "Gods," he exclaimed, jerking back. "Raelyn!"

"Balor? Help us!" Her voice was distant, most likely coming from Corrine's room down the hall. "We can't get out! Something's blocking the door!"

They couldn't get out, but neither could Balor. With a pained cry, he grabbed the handle again, groaning as his skin blistered around the red-hot metal. Summoning all his strength, he wrenched the door inward, but to no avail. The hinges had fused shut with the heat of the fire in the interior of the house.

Cradling his disfigured hand, he ran to the window, knocking out the panes of glass with a pitcher Raelyn kept by the bed. Numb to the shards of glass biting his skin as he crawled through the opening, Balor sucked in the cool night air and tumbled out onto the grass.

No time. Get up. He could still hear Raelyn screaming from inside, her words inaudible. On his feet, he charged toward the other side of the modest cabin, the side where his daughter had a window into her own room.

In the fleeting moments as he ran, the night's scenarios ran through his mind. What could have caused this? It wasn't the season for a hearth fire, where embers might have caught after bed...

Gods. My pipe. Did he leave it burning like he had so many nights in the past?

Those thoughts slipped away as his daughter's window loomed in view, and then everything fell away as each window in the house erupted outward, flames consuming the structure entirely.

The force of the blaze was enough to knock Balor off his feet, but the grief was what kept him laying on the ground long after.


"How is he?"

"Oh, he's going through the phases, you know. He's passed the point of taking his life, at least, though he is much consumed with guilt."

In a quiet room, in an ancient ruin, the Enlightener once known as Raelyn nodded her head. "I see."

The monk sitting next to her placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. "You should take some extra time before the next one," he said softly. "If there is a next one. This has taken a great toll on you."

Unable to quell her tears, Raelyn nodded. "Yes, Master Uilleam. Tell me again, why it has to be this way?"

"Oh my child, because we're in the business of making heroes, that's why. The hero forge works through overcoming great, personal suffering." The robed man, supposedly a direct link to gods Raelyn doubted daily, smiled bleakly. "If this man chooses to rise above his pain, he will do great things for the world. If he chooses the path of bitterness and pain, well, then, on to the next."

The way her mentor casually spoke sent a shiver up the Enlightener's spine. She looked back into the rippling pool at her feet. "Yes, Master Uilleam," she replied. "If he overcomes...he is destined for great things?"

"Why, of course, child. Nothing short of saving the world."

"That's good, then," said Raelyn, her voice breaking. "I am ready for an end to this."

Master Uilleam nodded. "I am sorry about the child. Not your first, though, am I right? Surely the pain is less this time."

With a bitter chuckle, Raelyn kicked a stone into the water. "You know what they say. Every hero has a tragic story, and we are, after all heroes of our own tales."

The monk did not reply, and he and Raelyn sat in somber silence, watching the ripples bounce off the walls of the fountain.

The End


Double Play
By Jim Harrington

Date: 2216
Location: Xerion, fourth planet from the sun in the Abdula Galaxy

Danjaki noticed Yerkof enter from the haze and amble toward the bar. "Nasty out there today," Danjaki said.

"Gets worse everyday," Yerkof replied, using his fingers to brush ash and grit from his government cyber security worker's uniform. He removed his hat, slapped it against his knees a couple of times, and placed it on the bar. "Makes you wonder if those in charge ever go outside."

"Conditions have worsened since the President ordered an increase in mining production." Danjaki replied. "I hear the air quality on the other side of the planet is so bad people have to wear masks any time they're outside."

"I eVideoed a couple of friends from there last night. They said the air quality wasn't much better indoors. Asked if my office had any openings." Yerkof put his elbows on the bar and cupped his chin in his hands.

"The government keeps it up, we'll need to find another planet to live on soon. The usual?" Danjaki knew the answer but asked anyway.

"Make it a double."

Danjaki poured a long shot of dark whiskey, put a napkin on the bar, and placed the drink in front of Yerkof. "I heard about Phrya leaving you. Sorry, man."

"My own stupid mistake to cheat on her at that postal convention." Yerkof downed his drink and nodded for another. "I sure wasn't thinking with my brain."

"How'd she find out?" Danjaki asked.

"From a stupid idiot -- me." Yerkof shrugged his shoulders. "I couldn't stand deceiving her."

"You two've been together for a long time."

"Started dating in high school. Married ten years next month." Yerkof took a small sip, wiped a dusty sleeve across his face, and swiveled on the stool as a woman walked into the room grabbing everyone's attention.

"Wow, haven't seen her in here before." He stared at the Eusterian as she strode to the opposite end of the bar. Two men approached her immediately and began a conversation. She smiled and accepted a drink. When Danjaki delivered it, Yerkof thought she might have whispered something in Danjaki's ear.

The low light in the bar didn't provide Yerkof with a clear view, but he could tell she was about five feet nine inches tall, with Eusterian blue skin and a single braid of hair hanging to her waist that divided her otherwise bald head in two perfect sections. She wore a singlet that had to have been painted on. Her smallish breasts peeked out of the top. When she smiled, Yerkof felt a twitch in his crotch that made him pinch his legs together. He spent a few more minutes ogling her slim body and appealing curves.

"Need another?"

Yerkof jumped at the sound of Danjaki's voice.

"Geez, you sneaked up on me," Yerkov said, holding a hand over his heart.

"Or maybe your mind was busy elsewhere." When Yerkof, his head down as if in prayer, didn't respond, Danjaki moved a towel in circles over the bar a few times before continuing. "Think Phrya will take you back?"

"I hope so. I tried eTexting and eMessaging her, but she didn't respond. I called and it went to vMail. She's staying with her brother. I don't dare go there. Not yet, anyway."

"He's a big SOB," Danjaki said.

Yerkof nodded and finished his drink. He pulled a wad of money out of his pocket, laid it on the bar, and headed toward the door.

"Where you going?" Danjaki asked. "It's still early."

"Home to take a cold shower." Yerkof glanced again at the woman before wobbling outside on weak knees.

"Better make it a double," Danjaki yelled through a laugh.

The Eusterian woman slithered onto the stool Yerkof had vacated and put a half full glass of Third Galaxy wine on the bar.

"That's quite the disguise," Danjaki said.

"It's so unlike me, all tight and sexy," Phrya replied. "Maybe that's partially why he…" She stared straight ahead, her fingers wrapped around her glass. "Anyway, my cousin's a makeup artist in CineTown. I asked if she could help me out and voilà," she said with a swipe of a delicate hand. "Did he notice me?"

"Every man and many of the woman in here noticed you," he said. He offered to fill her glass. She covered the top with her hand and shook her head. "There's going to be a lot of drool to clean up tonight."

"Funny," she replied, crossing her legs. She saw Danjaki's eyes follow the movement and was pleased she could still attract attention from the opposite sex. "As long as Yerkof was one of the droolers." She winked, lifted the glass in salute, and took a sip of her wine. "Do you think he knew it was me?"

"Naw. It's too dark and smoky in here to see anyone clearly at that distance." Danjaki wiped the bar some more, uncertain what to do. "You gonna take him back?"

She paused before answering. "Probably, but he needs to suffer more first. Will he be back tomorrow?"

"Should be."

"I'll be here, too." She finished her wine and handed Danjaki the glass, lightly touching his wrist. "He really likes my butt, you know. Maybe I'll make sure he gets a good long look at it tomorrow." She stood up, turned her back to the bar, and wiggled from side to side. "Oh, God," she said, her cheeks warm. "I can't believe I did that."

"He'll need three cold showers," Danjaki said, stepping closer to the bar to hide his excitement.

"Let's hope," she said with a wink as she sauntered out the door, leaving many of the patrons open-mouthed.

The End


Murder by Numbers
By Eddie Sullivan

She never loved me. At least that is what I tell myself as I keep cutting. This needs to be done before the maid comes. If luck is with me I can push it a little past check out time, but the body needs to be long gone by then. A few little details can still be taken care of in the last hour or two. The best I estimate if the body isn’t gone by eight a.m. then I’m toast.

“You never loved me.” She didn’t answer.

The hacksaw didn’t seem to be doing its best work. I wondered not for the first time if you needed to sharpen them once you brought them home. It was far more likely the blade, which was replaceable, was a crappy one in the hopes of getting the buyer to spend more on an upgraded version. Again the world never seems to disappoint.

“God,” crunch, “damn,” crunch, “money grubbing” crunch, “pigs.”

The carpet knife came sharp though. Most of the meat came clean off for those first few layers. I considered doing some more cutting like that but let it pass. Staying on task was the only way this was going to work out. She said I never finished anything. I wrote half a novel, built half a porch; she even said I was only half a husband. Ironic now that she was less than a whole wife.

The clock on the night table said 5 a.m. I felt the need for more coffee. The courtesy packs were gone long ago. No time for a java run. Hmmph.

My arms were killing me by seven. Most of her was gone though, down the drain. Thank you Piggly Wiggly for being open all night and for selling cheese graters. I packed the bones in our luggage and took our clothes to the dumpster in a garbage bag that was in the Chevy. I can’t remember why it was in there. Guess I got lucky.

Clean up was easier than I thought it would be. If I looked over the room one more time I figured I would lose it. It was nine a.m. I had two hours till check out. The bags were lighter with just the bones believe it or not. I made an effort to make it seem like they had more weight than they had in reality while walking them out to the car.

Everything seemed good so I popped back up to the room and set the alarm for eleven. I would catch a well deserved nap. Then I would check out and begin my new drama free life.

The klaxon of the alarm blared and in the haze I expected to hear her complaining about something anything, the noise, the time, something. It took a moment of not hearing her voice; the voice that got under my skin worse than any alarm before I realized it was over. No more did I have to suffer the shrew.

Vigor filled my steps as I grabbed the key card off the nightstand and headed to the front desk. A young Hispanic girl was working by herself. She gave that fake customer service smile, but hers was pleasant enough and close to believable. I smiled back, why not? It was going to be a beautiful day.

“Hello sir. How was you stay?”

“Lovely. I feel refreshed.”

“That is terrific.” She took the keycard and punched at her keyboard for a moment then slid a paper across the desk.

I took the pen that was sitting there and went to sign it. Just before applying the pen I saw that the name line said ‘Karen Hundecker’.

“Excuse me miss. You gave me the wrong paper.”

“I’m sorry Mister...?”

“Palmour, Sidney Palmour.”

She typed away some more. “Huh. Stupid system. Somehow it confused you and Ms. Hundeckers room keys. You were in 112 and she was in 211.”

A prickling went up my back. I could feel the temperature drop and a miasma come over the lobby. The elevator dinged and the door opened. It was her stepping off with that stupid scowl on her face.

“There you are stupid! I leave you for one little bit in the hotel bar and you stay out all night drinking. Did you sleep in the lobby you worthless bum?”

The girl pushed the right paper across and I signed it. The harpy slapped me in the back of the head on her way out past the desk.

“Go back up and get the bags, stupid.”

There was some ridiculous award or other on the counter for display to the customers. It was a big piece of glass carved into a trophy, which was to resemble a shooting star coming up. It was for cleanest rooms in the chain like ten years ago. I grabbed it over hand and turned it like a club. Quick sprint to catch up and bang. Right across the back of her head. She never saw it coming. The young desk clerk gasped, of course. I kept swinging after she hit the ground. Pieces began to shatter off the trophy as there wasn’t much head left between it and the floor.

She would have ratted me out when she got to the car and found the bags of bones anyway. Miserable witch. When I was sure she wasn’t getting up like some mythological monsters that couldn’t die I stopped smashing.

Then I sat back and waited for the cops. They had to be coming. The breeze coming in the front doors smelled sweet. It was just about springtime. Winter was over, new beginnings were arriving. Ends and beginnings, everything was always coming around. Things had a way of working out.

The End


By Casey Callaghan

Having a time machine means never leaving a mistake uncorrected.

There's a little bit more to it than that, of course. If I hadn't found the secret to eternal youth in the far future, well, *a* far future, I would have died of old age centuries ago. And then there are the calculations. Every last variable has to be accounted for, every last quantum variation, every last -

I'm sorry if I sound a bit obsessed. But I have to be. I don't dare get a single detail wrong, not the tiniest little bit out of place. It's said that a butterfly's wings change the course of history. I've got computing hardware - from a different universe - well enough to track every last butterfly's wings to the millimeter. If only I'd had it in time, before - but even this is not enough. I can't track every last molecule of the atmosphere. I could turn the entire solar system into a giant computer - I have done that, in a few possible futures, far from where it could have any negative effects on the present - and I still wouldn't be able to simulate the problem well enough to find anything approaching a solution.

Last time I tried that - I made a self-improving AI and then jumped forward a few million years to give it time to work on the problem. It tried to psychoanalyze me instead.

It - it shouldn't be a hard problem. I just need to put everything back. Make it as if I'd never invented this infernal time machine in the first place. But that's the one thing I can't change. Because the first time I went back - two hundred years, just a test - I changed something. And I don't know what.

And everybody I ever knew is gone - replaced by similar people with different names, an entire world of total strangers with not one single person that I remember. A genocide, all the worse because there were no corpses left - I didn't just kill everyone I knew, I wiped them out of existence before they were even born! Even my own younger self - gone, inaccessible, never born - and I, every now and then, I, I try again, I go back, one second before the last time, and it never works, I never find myself back in the present, I never find my family, oh, very rarely, I find strangers with their names, once even their names and faces, but different under that, so, so, so, so different, I've spent ten thousand years trying and I'll spend ten thousand more if I need to, it needs to be right in every last detail if I have to rerun history ten billion times to get my family back then I'll do that because having a time machine means never leaving a mistake uncorrected...

The End


Puff or Poof
By: Robin B. Lipinski

“Hiya Tom. Wanna come over and look at girly magazines?” At only the age of twelve, Frank was already interested in his dad’s tattered collection of forbidden fruit hidden beneath what else? His dad’s, Fruit-of-the-Loom, underwear in the lowest drawer in the parent’s bedroom.

“Naw, not today.”

“What? Are you feeling okay…” Normally Tom and Frank were so like-minded it was as if they both were brothers or twins instead of best friends. So, it was strange to hear the disinterest.

Tom mumbled something that was not understandable and he appeared to be engrossed in something inside a large plastic bag.

“What? I can’t understand what the heck you’re saying,” and as he was saying this he grabbed at his friend’s plastic bag adding, “What’s so interesting in there?”

“Holy cat nip! Is that…Are those… Fireworks?” Tom saw that the bag had a lot of brightly colored tubes and those tubes had fuses.

Letting his friend take in the boyhood joy of seeing not one, not two, not three, but a whole bag full of illegal fireworks… It was now evident that no girly magazine could hold the youngster’s attention when compared to the hot, red hot firepower of powder and BANG!

“Dang. Where the heck did you get this from Tom? There must be enough in there to blow up a whole house.”

Smiling, Tom casually said, “I found them.”

“You found them? Where?”

“In old man Tuckerson’s garbage.”

A confused look came over Frank’s face as he said, “Tuckerson’s garbage? What were you doing in… Oh, yeah. I understand now.”

Toms face became a red as it was known to both boys that old man Tuckerson also liked girly magazines only he did not save or hide them in his bedroom, rather he threw them away. Amazing how boys can become good at ferreting out forbidden fruit such as beer, cigarettes, and such.

Frank then added, “Wonder why he threw out such great fireworks.”

“I don’t know, but they sure are cool. Lets go to the fort and check them out.”

The boys had built a fort in a cottonwood tree nearby. It was a typical boyhood fort. Built out of scabbed materials such as scrap lumber, garbage, old carpet. It definitely was not pretty or functional but it was theirs. It was their sanctuary from the prying eyes of parents or other adults. It was here they could talk about fishing, hunting, girls. It was here they could smoke cigarettes, swear like sailors, and be what the world has always been; boys. For better or worse, it was a great fort.

When both of them entered their castle, Tom dumped the contents of the bag upon the plywood floor. The plywood was extremely weathered and covered with an ample amount of forest pack-rat pellets, or in the vernacular of the boys, the forbidden word: (Rhymes with schmit.)

“Wow! Way cool! This is awesome!” Tom was greatly excited seeing the large pile of various missiles and packs of some large strange explosives. He was not as excited though as Frank.

“Dang… Would ya look at that pile? Geez, I bet we could blow up a car, maybe blow a rock to smithereens.”

Any adult looking in on this scene would pale and start sweating. They would also seize the pile or call someone brave enough to do so. There was indeed a huge pile of Chinese ordnance. Old, unstable, and extremely dangerous illegal fireworks much larger than the mundane fireworks sold every Fourth of July in town. These fireworks were so large they could only be legally purchased by professionals, with a license in pyrotechnics.

A silence came over both boys as they sat there and ogled the treasure. Only the peaceful sounds of birds flying in the forest and swooshing breeze of the leaves outside the fort could be heard.

Tom broke the silence and said, “Should we?”

Franks nodded his head and said, “Yea. Which one first?”

Tom picked up a large red ball covered in large black ‘X’-s, “How about this one?”

It was agreed and Frank reached up onto a crude wooden shelf where they had a lighter for lighting cigarettes. When he clicked it, no flame. He tried again and again with the same results of no flame. “Crap. Looks like the lighter is out of fuel. You got one on ya?”

Shaking his head, Tom said, “Nope.”

There was a silent moment again until Frank said, “Wait here, I’ll be right back.”

“Okay.” And with that said and agreed upon, Frank climbed out of the fort and ran towards home to get another form of ignition leaving his friend to guard the fort.

Sitting alone in the fort with the explosives, swooshing leaves, and chittering birds, Tom fondled the fireworks and dreamed. As he was lost in thought he spied the old lighter that did not work. A bit bored now he reached out and clicked the lighter, with the same results being no flame until on his last click, the lighter emitted a flame. What luck, the lighter emitted flame, Tom smiled, and the pile of fireworks was filled with fuses. Fuses old and highly flammable and in Toms young hands the flaming lighter merely brushed a stray fuse…

The coming explosions were great. Deer ran away in all directions. Birds were blown out of the air. The fort became kindling, and Tom? His body was now in many strange pieces, one piece resembled the outline of the country of India.

Floating in the air was the spirit of Tom and he said, “Wow! Nice!” He floated over to Frank’s body running at top speed back to the fort, the sound being heard all the way home.

Hovering over his friend, he reached out and patted Frank on his shoulder saying, “Don’t cry Frank, I’m okay. Everything will be okay.”

Frank could not hear but he felt his friend was near.

The End


Two Princesses and the King
By Kandi Tims

King Aiden rules over the land over Catan, a land rich with majestic mountains and streams filled with gold. He had two daughters, both lovely to behold. They had eyes of blue that shimmered like the majestic mountains and had golden strands of hair like the gold in the streams.

"Rachelle," said King Aiden to his eldest daughter, who was elder of the two by about three minutes. "You shall marry Prince Yule, soon to be king in yonder land of Simeesia. You shall be honored as first of his wives and rule with him in yonder land until the time when the tow lands shall be joined together. They shall be ruled as one land with armies and riches surpassed by none."

But Rachelle didn't want to marry Yule. For she had seen him but once and didn't fancy the balding upon his head or the prearrangement of their marriage. Besides, she felt that Tennison the sheriff of Catan would be a better candidate to rule with her. He was acquiring much power and had thick wavy brown hair and she liked the way he twirled his fingers about his mustache when e came by the palace to court her.

"Sister Leah," she said to her twin on the night before she was to wed. "We will make merry mischief like we did when we were of younger age. The story of our delightful switch will be told throughout all the lands. And when the mighty, soon to be king learns of this, it will already be bound by the laws of matrimony.

Leah, who had a birthmark upon her cheek, agreed and married Prince Yule. But upon the night of their wedding in their bedchambers, Leah was very afraid.

"Oh my prince," she said. "Please have mercy upon me for I have deceived you. If you will spare my life, I will be a maid servant to you all of my days." For she sensed he was a man to be feared of great honor, authority and righteousness. She lifted her golden strands of hair and showed him the birthmark. "You have married the wrong sister."

Yule was touched by how lovely and humble of spirit she was. "No, my beautiful bride, never could I have dreamed to find a wife such as you," he said.

Leah was most grateful that he not only spared her life, but he loved her very much. Unlike his father as his father's father he took on no other wives or concubines. When Yule became king, she rules by his side. As agreed they combined the two kingdoms and ruled it as one. And the people of both lands benefited from the union and honored and revered the couple. They had many children and were very happy.

Rachelle, on the other hand bemoaned her life. "It all should have been mine! I could have loved him if I had only known," she thought to herself. Rachelle had married Tennison, now the high sheriff of Catan.

"Fetch me my slippers," he said. "It was a hard day at work!"

"Work, work, work," Rachelle nagged. "That's all you care about."

Rachelle wished she could go to the great wizard and undo what had been done. "I am the eldest! I am entitled! But my sister is ruling as queen in my stead," she thought. But there was no wizard in Catan or anywhere else that could reverse the mistake that was made. Beside, to Rachelle it was not her mistake, but rather, an unfortunate twist of fate.

"Sweet cheeks," Tennison bellowed, who was now balding and round of belly from much ale. "Can you bring me some ale too?" This jolted Rachelle who was deep in thought.

"Who do you think you are talking to? I am the eldest daughter...of King Aiden...I'm entitled...Oh," she shrugged. "Here are your darn slippers."

"Ah sweetums...what about my ale?"

The End


The Secrets of General Nuisance
By Bingemeister

General Nuisance sashayed the visiting Rear Admiral into his prefabricated office to quench their parched tongues with some nerve calming hooch, brewed from rice in a still that was built from a rusted jeep radiator and filtered through a pair of long worn skivvies. Of course, the Rear Admiral was unaware of the origins of this elixir. This was okay, since he spewed it onto the general's smooth surface desk, which was due to the pretty bottoms of female service women, who frequently dusted it during sex. It didn't make no never mind, the general was happy for all the service the women under him gave...him.

"We got ourselves a nice little operation here, don't you agree Paddy?" The general was on a first name basis with all the underhanded crooks he consorted with.

"Yes indeedy, a nice profitable scam. And the military oversight committee will never get their hands dirty by showing up here overseas." The two men started to laugh in an inconspicuous way, more like an evil laugh, yet disguising the evil part so as not to give it away.

When they had their fill of laughing, they moved on to more pressing business...the laundry. Skimming money from the laundry supply purchases, adding a nickel more to the invoice and pocketing the surplus was one of the many ways the two men could pick up extra change. They did that too in the bakery and made a lot of extra dough. Didn't make a lot of money, but not every scam can be profitable. Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose.

A pretty petty female officer came into the room and said to the general, "You have a call on line one and two".

"At the same time? You know I can't think and talk simultaneously. Who's on the first line?"

"Yes sir, it's the Korean delegate Wel Hung Hoo."

"Then who is on the second line?" the general said slightly irritated.

"No sir, it's James Watt, the secretary of defense."

"So Hoo's on first and Watts on second?"

"Yes sir, and there is someone waiting for you in the outer office." She wasn’t too smart, but at least she always held her end up, which was the way the big brass liked it.

The general was distracted by her curvaceous figure, but then continued. "So, who's in the outer office?"

“No sir," the blonde attendant said getting frazzled, "Who's on first."

Getting a handle on this the general said, "Okay who, I mean what, uh..I mean the person in the outer office, what is that person's name?"

"I don't know," she said bewildered.

The general threw a banana at her and continued talking with the admiral.

The general asked, "Why don't we stroll by the nurses shower and do a top to bottom inspection. You know they can't do anything about it, cause we're so powerful."

"Sounds good. I like it when they get embarrassed and cry and tell us, boo hoo I got a husband or kids or well, whatever. They follow my orders or it's the stockade. And you know they don't get out of there without a lot of bending over. So they're screwed anyway they go."

The men started that evil laughing again, shaking their big potbellies up and down. Well they couldn't help it cause...they're so fat!

So General Nuisance and his buddy the Rear Admiral, went in the direction of the women's shower in an over excited manner. They say power has its privileges.

They called a formation insisting that all women, including the naked ones must report as is or be punished. These Brassy guys were also into that.

As they walked up and down, eyeing each and every woman in their underneath, making them feel violated (you know, these bawdy men like that too), they did not noticed one naked woman in a jeep barreling toward them at eighty miles an hour.
_ _ _ _ _

Ooooh the carnage! Oh the inhumanity! Say it isn’t so! Blood everywhere! Squashy! Squishy! And you know...she didn't just hit them once. She went crazy on their butts. The angry naked woman kept running the jeep over their ever decreasing mass of person, until the maintenance crew brought out the wet vacs.

The women who had been ogled by the former powerful men, swore that the jeep went rogue and ran the two men over…twenty or thirty times without human involvement.

Yeah they say power has its privileges. They also said something about a woman scorned.

They…say a lot of things.

The End


The Button
By Jean-Paul L. Garnier

“Enter sequence code 016358. Confirm when sequence is initiated. Out”

After all the months of sitting in this hole it was the first order ever to come through. Jerry sat up alert and began the work he had been trained for. He quickly looked over the protocol sheets and initiated the code. “Sequence initiated.”

Lights on the instrument panel began to blink and a complex fury of bleeps sprung forth from the machine. “Any further orders?” asked Jerry

Silence was the response. Probably just a training drill to see if I’m asleep at the helm down here. He went back to thumbing through his magazine, looking more at the pictures than reading. He repeated the question and again there was no response. Yep, a training exercise. I knew it. Convinced that he would not receive a response he decided not to bother the brass with more questions. Glancing up at the clock he saw that his scheduled break was coming up. He switched the machine onto automatic control then began to ascend the spiral staircase up the tube towards the exit. The elevator was still broken down and he cursed the twelve flights between him and his smoke break.

Finally he arrived at the ground floor and typed in his pin number to open the door. The door wouldn’t budge, so he shouldered it and nearly fell to the floor when it swung wide open. Recovering his balance he reached for his pack of cigarettes and was busy lighting up when he noticed the strange shift in light. It was only three in the afternoon but it sky around him appeared to be dusk. What the hell?

Jerry bent down to extinguish his smoke and realized that the ground was covered in ash. It wasn’t a training exercise. The epiphany shrank him. I, I did this. They never told me what the sequences were for. Oh God. He gazed up to the horizon and knew then that the entire landscape was now covered in fallout ash. He swallowed dryly.

Reaching for his pack once again he pulled out another smoke and lit it. Not bothering to close the door behind him he walked out into what had once been the parking lot. His boots sank into the ash as more rained down. He didn’t bother to look back as he strode into the wasteland, his mind looping the numbers 016358.

The End


Bring Them Back...
By Sergio Palumbo

For most people the term castle brought to mind an enormous stone structure on the top of a hill. And this was true for the most part, at least for similar buildings that you could spot in many of the realms that bordered this country. But the great fortress standing on top of the small mountain within the walls of the capital of the Empire of Klener also meant the personification of undisputed supremacy, as it was the seat of power for the murderous tyrant who lived there.

Well, truth be told, the great castle had seen better days, and there was much more activity around its enormous gates and along its impenetrable battlements, where cavalrymen entered and exited continuously to follow the orders of the Emperor. His troops went here and there, night and day, to execute the ruler’s commands. In most cases, their orders were to apprehend people, torment them and then kill whoever was left alive after their long imprisonment in the underground dungeons.

Actually, the usual thinking of the Emperor was very simple: he really believed that his rule would be strengthened and unquestioned if he only had his many enemies in his hands, all of them. He knew he would feel much safer once every last one of them was dead and buried.

This he had done for 60 years, having begun his reign when he was 18, and the passing years hadn’t made him less cruel. All wrapped in his luxurious garbs, with costly fur-lined vest coats, he sat in the Great Hall, his long white curls covering his shoulders while his hardened features looked weary. His appearance sought to instantly draw your attention, and the pale face showed off two black eyes that seemed to be sunken into his head. The man spent all day long thinking of possible dangers and of his enemies that still needed to be captured and killed. There were nothing else in his head, and no deeper worries to upset him.

Things had always been this way throughout the Empire, and multitudes of common people had died because of his bloody orders.

But the man had made a mistake, and it was a very large one. There was a lone sorcerer who refused to serve him. He lived alone in the woods, not interested in the material things or in meddling in the problems of the Empire. But the tyrant couldn’t tolerate anyone living within the boundaries of his lands who refused to submit to his will. Despite all the suggestions his oldest mages gave him, and the serious warnings, he wanted that man brought before his eyes to be subjected before him.

“Leave him alone, allow him to be free…” some wise mages told the powerful Emperor.

“He will never act against you if you don’t harm him…” others added.

But the bloody tyrant didn’t listen to them. “Kill him now, execute my orders!” he replied. He was not ready to accept that someone might live freely, simply. So, he ordered that man to be brought to the courtyard of the great castle and be burned alive.

When his mages saw that the ruler gave this order, they were astonished.

The bloody Emperor should have listened to his advisers. He should have stopped when that man started cursing him saying that he would be ill-starred from that moment on, and that the souls of the enemies he had killed would persecute him, turning his last days into hell on Earth. Those severe, awful and bloodcurdling words were spoken. But he didn’t stop.

Since that day, things changed in the castle, and throughout the whole Empire. The tyrant began having some strange visions, a few delusions at first that increased very soon, each one becoming stronger and more frightening. There were unusual presences, ghosts apparently, that entered and sat wherever they wanted, startling him. And what worried him most was that such souls were only visible to him! ‘Keep a cool head!’ he thought, trying his best, but there was nothing he could do.

It didn’t take the Emperor long before he recognized those faces and understood who they were, or better, who they had once been. The ghosts of the many enemies he had had killed under his rule! But he had had them killed so he could eventually get rid of those, not to have them come back as undead! Very soon they filled every corner of the great fortress he lived in. His mind started faltering, his senses weakened and he was afraid to meet his courtiers in the open, preferring to stay alone, without taking the chance to stumble into one of those presences that only he could see.

Then, he reminded himself of the curse bestowed on him by the sorcerer he had burned alive some time before, and he understood.

“Bring back my previous glorious days!” he found himself uttering in the dark, while nobody could see or hear him. But it was too late. There was no way to go back in time, to change his past actions. There was also no way to get rid of those ghosts, and turn the castle again into the image of power and stability that it had been before.

Similarly, it was unattainable by the Emperor to become what he had once been, and this was why he remained secluded, alone and mostly silent in a dim tower of the castle. For that was the only place his mages had been able to protect using their sorcery, as a safe site for the dejected ruler to stay away from the vengeful souls of the many dead he had previously killed by force.

Oh, and the fact that he had had all of those mages killed, too, once they had failed to extend that useful protection to the rest of the castle, had just added more and more ghastly presences all around, of course…

The End


No Brainer
By The Fisher of Men

There are zombies and then, there are zombies. The kind seen in Sci Fi flicks are from the recesses of the human mind; frail imaginations of ghosts and goblins, vampires and monsters. None such exist.

But what are mind-controlled slaves, who have been implanted with biochip technologies, forged through generations of torture and dehumanization.

This is where my story begins.

Human trafficking has been going on since the beginning of civilization, setting apart the elite masters from the masses (like you and me). And the plan is going, planned.

It only takes ten minutes to make an incision on the right side of a human head and insert a chip that ceases the personality and the will of the human being leaving their minds ready for programming. A mind can be programmed in many ways, even through frequencies from computer software.

There are a few signs that you're observing a mind controlled slave, but they are becoming harder to detect. Their eyes often have a glassy appearance and a dissociative stare. Many human slaves are demon possessed and so their eyes are black as the pit of hell.


"Wake up, wake up. Can you hear me?" the nurse said to the patient. The patient opened her eyes staring at the cold, white-blue ceiling, possessing no thoughts.

"She is ready for conditioning," the nurse said to the programmer.


Reader, I’ve seen this before. It is an assembly line. Cruel they are that captures the mind of those who would be free.

Most of the people involved in human conversion technology are human bots themselves.

Enslaving the human race has always been the plan. You precious reader would be terrified if you knew how short a time you really have.


The conversion lab underground at the Desario Air Force Base.

“Cyrus, the infant girl is rejecting the chip. During the three attempts, some of its brain tissue was damaged,” the lab tech said to the demon overseer.

Impatient he growled, “Incinerate it!”


Actors and actresses in movies and television are born into generational families, meaning their parents and their grandparents and their great grandparents were mind-controlled slaves. The methods of mind control now are high tech, but there have been various methods used through the centuries to enslave humans. Methods involving chemicals, hypnotism, fear induced trauma and torture too gruesome for you reader to know.

I’m a journalist researching and identifying the progression of the world toward the New World Order. I commentate through various online sources. I know the dark powers are watching me. They watch for anyone that could interrupt or delay their plans.

There has always been a violent possession of demonic spirits until technology was created around the nineteen forties (technology created for human enslavement has been fifty years in advance of known technology.


I was startled by a sound outside my window. I see through the blinds it’s a van parked on a street corner diagonal to where I am staying. They’re using equipment to monitor my actions. I’m typing this offline so they cannot see until I upload to your site, but if they have equipment to see through my walls…

I must hurry.


Ultimately, the plan is to exterminate a third of the world's population, (the useless eaters is what they call us) and implant the rest of humanity with chip technology. The elite masters buy and sale mind control slaves (people who once had a will of their own and now whose only thought is what is given to them).

In the ancient book it is told how angels who had fallen mated with human women who bore to this world a race of giants, demon/human hybrids that became the secret rulers of this planet, aided by trillions of lower ranking demons, armed with the powerful gift of deception - so powerful they have deceived the elect of this world throughout time.

You are being conditioned dear reader and are probably not aware of it.


A human slave enters the underground bunker of “The Council. “I have given orders to include RH 487 in the processed food supply. It should take effect in several months.”

“Take off your clothes!” The old filthy men enjoy their slaves.


In the air, chemicals called chemtrails are being sown which make humans receptive to programming. The media, entertainment, sports and especially the news are all programming - all designed to slowly make the human race susceptible to mass mind control.

Religion has been infiltrated and demonized; the major businesses of the world are owned and operated by the New World Order. You're in a world system where what is true seems like fantasy and what seems like fantasy is actually real and terrifying.

It is a hard fight to resist evil and cleanse your life so as to take yourself out of the world system in order to overcome it. That's why most people choose not to fight...until it's too late.

The news is programming chaos into the world - racially charged division, loss of faith in the people’s national government, inducing fear (the demons feed off of that) and creating worldwide mass instability.

One day a leader will emerge and make all the trouble go away and people will follow him, without reservation, because he will appear to give the world relief when actually the world council will just stop creating the chaos.

I have not given my life to God, a mistake I am living to regret. I need more power to fight. I could have done so much. Now, I don't know, maybe I still could. I need to try.

There are a lot of unfriendly signs. It's still not too late.

As for you dear reader, we all have to make our own choices...

The End
Last edited by Daniel Johnson on March 26, 2017, 08:50:04 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post March 26, 2017, 08:39:27 PM

Voting Template: Story Line Up

Voting Template: Story Line Up

01. Kate Thornton: The Children of Mars:
02. N. J. Kailhofer: Dust:
03. Hope Gillette: The Hero Forge:
04. Jim Harrington: Double Play:
05. Eddie Sullivan: Murder by Numbers:
06. Casey Callaghan: Rewind:
07. Robin B. Lipinski: Puff or Poof:
08. Kandi Tims: Two Princesses and the King:
09. Bingemeister: The Secrets of General Nuisance:
10. Jean-Paul L. Garnier: The Button:
11. Sergio Palumbo: Bring Them Back:
12. The Fisher of Men: No Brainer:
Last edited by Daniel Johnson on March 26, 2017, 08:54:36 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post March 27, 2017, 12:30:58 AM

Re: Voting for Flash Challenge: March 2017

My goodness! So much to read. I'll start tomorrow.

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