August Flash Challenge, Voting:


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Please vote for your favorite:

Red Faced
2
22%
Open Ground
1
11%
A Duel in Dodge City
2
22%
The Queue
3
33%
Prey
1
11%
 
Total votes : 9
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Post September 11, 2017, 11:21:52 AM

August Flash Challenge, Voting:

Here are the entries for the August Challenge:

Red Faced

Passions of lust reign strongly in the throbbing vibrations of those clinging to the title: Human. Mammals lost with their emotions. Hot; alive; unlike the coldness of the machines they build and depend upon.

Feeling the vibrations tingle it felt as if springs of steel were absorbing the rhythm of the ups-and-downs of life. The motors grinding gears and flesh met flesh. Sounds of racing heart, some say, the heart of America, the World.

“I really like you,” such a well-used sentence a man in love says to an old fashioned girl.

“I like you too,” a reply pretty much standard in an innocent world of give-and-take.

“Would you like to go out sometime? Maybe tomorrow night?” There was the sound of confidence in the young man’s voice, yet there was a slight murmur, a tremor of doubt. After all, females were unpredictable and definitely mysterious.

With a redness forming upon the young woman’s face, she replied, “Yes. I suppose. But I do have to get up early for work so we can’t stay out too long.”

“Great! Would you like to go to dinner, maybe see a movie?” The voice of confidence was improved now as the tingle of fear dissipated. In the distance, the sound of a car backfired, momentarily startled the two.

“Sure. Dinner and a movie would be great.”

The rest of the conversation was your normal, mundane verbal exchange filled with smooth change of gears and the occasional backfire of momentary drama.

“Okay. Where can I pick you up?” Now there was a happiness to the voice and absolutely no sign of fear in the young man.

“Do you have a car?” Smiled young lady.

“Yes, I have a Camaro I restored with my father. It took us four years but finally finished with the final touches a month ago.”

“A Camaro? Wow. Those are valuable…” Was that the sound of a future gold digger? Was she more I interested in the man’s car than in the man?

Unfazed, the man replied, “Yeah. The old man paid $500 dollars back in the day and drove it for years. Then it sat in the shed for a long time until he asked me if I wanted it, but on the one condition that he and I restore it. I suppose in the condition it is in now; probably worth about $45k.”

Changing gears, the person of great interest for the now beaming young man said, “What kind of movies do you like?”

Males looking for love while driving in the fast lane always try to say the right thing. To be not only attractive but also caring, knowledgeable, impressive. If they do and say what the opposite party like, in this case a very attractive young woman, then it greatly increases the odds of a successful bonding. So, trying to act very masculine, he said, “I love car movies. Science fiction. Fantasy. Say, have you ever seen the Transformer series?”

“No. My brothers talked a lot about them, but I was never into those kind of movies. I prefer comedy.”

And, so it was. The usual banter of two trying to find common ground, or not. In this case a date was set. A time given. An address known. And then it was time.

Driving up to her house in the magnificent red Camaro, the deep throated sounds emanating from the twin glass packs of exhaust caused some neighborhood kids riding their bicycles to stop and look with awe at the power coming from this muscle car. For them, a car powered by batteries and looking like an awkward toaster and their families main form of transportation was their world.

The dinner was good. Nothing fancy but better than the regular fast food fare. The movie was entertaining. Both laughed. Both ate popcorn. Both sweated with nervous trepidation as this was both of their first dates with members of the opposite sex. The town they both were born and raised in is considered, old fashioned, with old fashioned morals and ways.

It was a very good day indeed, one where the date between the two now entered into the lover’s stage.

“I had a very good time,” she told him with a red blush in her face.

With the same hue on his, he gushed, “Yes. Yes, I did too…”

And then, what came next was as natural as the sun rising or setting. The two held hands and this lead to a very passionate kiss.

What a lovely kiss. So much intensity. So real. So sweet. And it was highlighted by the still running Camaro with the headlights on.

It is hard to understand, but the car lurched into gear, revved its engine and leaped forward. It ran over the two lovers before they could even think of anything else but the kiss.

When it was over, the Camaro just sat there powerfully idling. On the front of its grill it was covered in bright red blood while on the ground were the two crumpled bodies of the lovers with smashed red skulls.

In the exhaust of the car it almost sounded like laughing sounds of jealousy.

Vroom Vroom (the end)


Open Ground

Two men were moving across the open ground, following an unkempt path that stretched from Druzhkivka to Horlivka in Ukraine. There had been a lot of fighting in the region, as evidenced by bomb holes and many damaged vehicles, but they were not interested in the mess the war had caused.

But, as usually happens when you don’t want to get yourself into trouble, their presence was noticed and they heard somebody cry out, “Hey you! Stop where you are!” They tried to get away at first by walking faster, but they were ordered to stop again and a shot was fired, so they stopped.

They could see three men at arms approaching them. From their faces and the language they spoke the men looked like Russians and the pair of travelers noticed they had machineguns aimed at their bodies.

“Hey, look at what we have here…” the first one said. He was a slim, bearded soldier, and the dirt on his clothes covered his uniform and the rank he held. “Two emaciated Ukrainian peasants walking in plain sight late in the evening…Don’t you know that there is a war going on?”

“A war you Ukrainians are going to lose soon…or better, a war you have already lost…” said the second man in a challenging tone.

“Please, sirs…we don’t want to meddle in these things, we’re simply walking along this path…” the taller of the two wanderers replied in a passive voice. “We have been away for so long…”

“A walk in the countryside?” the first soldier sneered. “Who do you think you’re talking to? There is no walking about in the open here. Our rule is the law and we say that locals aren’t free to go wherever they want…not until we secure the region and win this war!”

“I thought you said you had already won this war of yours…” the taller wanderer retorted.

“Are you mocking me?” demanded the soldier while pointing his weapon at the face of the peasant who had dared speak. “If we haven’t won it yet, we will be the winning side very soon. Your army is weak and we can count on the support of our Russian allies.”

“I don’t doubt your words, sir…anyway, we are simply walking in this direction and don’t mean to…”

“You’ve already said too much…It appears you don’t care if you live or die!” the bearded one said.

“Perhaps if you give us something of value, we won’t kill you,” the third soldier sneered, making their intentions clear.

“Look at their clothes. What could they possibly have to give us in exchange for their lives?” the second man inquired of his fellow soldiers.

“We know how you locals operate: always pretending to be what you aren’t, hiding valuables in your shirts…” said the leader.

“We don’t have anything of value, we’re sorry…” the two replied almost at the same time.

“Maybe that’s truth or maybe not…And where did you find such dusty clothes? It looks like you have been hiding underground…Perhaps hiding from our army.”

“In the mines, near the mountains…” the first traveler answered.

“In the mines? It’s as I told you, these two were hiding underground,” one of the three nodded.

“Maybe the Ukrainians are concealing weapons in those mines. Tell us where these mines are!” insisted the leader.

“About a day’s walk from here in that direction…” the taller wanderer said, pointing to the mountains in the distance. “You should leave us alone and let us continue our walk now…”

“We should do what…?” shouted the militiaman stepping forwards.

“Please, it’s getting dark…and we can only wear these clothes for a few more minutes…”

“Are you trying to say that you are going to take off your dirty clothes now? I’d like to see that!” laughed the leader.

“You see, we can only wear these clothes and these bodies during the day,” the other said, lowering his eyes.

“What do you mean?” the third soldier asked while stepping forwards.

“As I said, we were in those mines for a long time…I don’t know how long exactly. When we heard steps in the dark, we went to have a look. We saw peasants searching for a place to hide. We immediately knew that this was an opportunity for us, something we could not afford to pass up…”

“What the hell are you talking about?” the leader was almost ready to open fire.

“We approached those peasants, took their life energy and stole their clothes. Well, we also stole their bodies too and put them on. So we were finally able to get out of those mines. Our corpses had been buried down there for many years after the unexpected explosion in the tunnels…” the first wanderer whispered in a low tone.

“So we can only keep these bodies on during the day, but at night we return to our true appearance…” the second wanderer added.

“What are you…saying?” The three soldiers were almost speechless now.

“We’re Shubin, the souls of dead miners from Donbas that can come back into the world of the living only by putting on human bodies. After all, our real features rotted away long ago. There was no other way for us to walk out of the mines, pretending to blend in with your kind…”

“This is the biggest load of shit I’ve ever heard…”

“Too bad you didn’t listen to us…and too bad that it’s getting dark now. We won’t be able to use these skins any longer. But I see three living human bodies here. If it’s true that you are winning this war, maybe with your skin and your clothing on, we’ll finally be able to walk about freely and unnoticed.” And in an unearthly move, the two removed the skin from their bodies and turned into some dark presences that immediately attacked the three soldiers.

There were gunshots for a while, but such things couldn’t stop those souls. Or their deep hunger for life, too…

THE END


A Duel in Dodge City

Maddie dismounted, tied the palomino's reins to the hitching post, and ambled through the swinging doors into the noname saloon, the chaps slowing her progress. She sauntered to the bar, her spurs providing a musical accompaniment to each step, and perched on a stool with her feet dangling above the floor.

"Barkeep, gimme a beer," she said and placed her Stetson on the bar.

"You wanna keep that hat I suggest you put it someplace else," the bartender said with a stare like her father used to give her.

"Didn't mean no harm," Maddie said and put the dusty hat back on her matted, black hair. "Jason been in today?" she said taking a sip of warm beer.

"Should be here anytime now." The bartender casually wiped the bar without looking at Maddie "You know Jason?"

"We've met," Maddie replied, while attempting to act like it didn't matter if Jason showed or not.

She saw Jason's reflection in the mirror behind the bar when he entered the saloon. Lowering her eyes, she pulled the brim of her hat down so he couldn't see her face.

"Hey, Paco. How's it going today?"

"Goin' fine" the bartender said. "Got somebody here wants to see you," he continued with a nod toward Maddie.

Maddie slowly slid off the stool and flexed her fingers. "Hello, Jason. Long time."

Jason stopped and smiled. "It has been a while, Maddie. How's Susan?"

"None o' yer business how my sister is. Not since you left her at the altar. She about died of heartache 'cause of you." Maddie spread her feet a little wider and rolled her shoulders to ease the tension.

Jason matched her pose.

"Hey, you need to take this outside," the bartender said.

"Shut up, Paco. This isn't any of your business." He stared at Maddie. "Anytime, Maddie, but we know how this is going to end."

"Oh yeah?" Maddie drew her gun, but Jason was faster. The bullet seared through her shoulder causing Maddie to lurch backwards. When she looked up, Jason was gone.

Maggie staggered toward the door and into the street. She removed her headset and spied Jason waiting with a teeth-baring grin on his face, his arms crossed on his chest.

"Let's see. That's me three and you zero," he said.

"I'm still new to these virtual reality games," she said punching Jason in the arm. "I'll beat you yet."

"We'll see little lady," Jason said with a bow, his arm pointing to the parking lot. "We'll see."

"You're damn right we will. Next time I get to pick the scenario," she said with a wry smile, "and it will be a joust. We both know how much you hate horses." Maddie winked and strode toward her car, confident she would win the next time.

THE END


The Queue

It was nearly 9am as Kynn woke in the doorway and, accompanied by creaking joints and falling dirt, shook the night from his coat. Too old, too cold and too long without sustenance he thought. He slowly picked his way along the alley between overflowing garbage bins, pools of rancid water, and occasional pairs of legs jutting from cardboard blankets. Seeing his reflection in a shop window he brushed down his shirt and trousers, slicked back his hair and straightened his coat.

“Looking good slick” he muttered, “today’s the day.”

He had meticulously worked the strip’s north side, as he had the south and the rest of the city. Unsuccessful yet undeterred, half a strip left, it was going to be here.

Stepping into a shop displaying a ‘TsaboXng Repairs’ sign the andii behind the counter raised her head, fingers still working the chipset on the bench.

“Can I be of assistance?”

“Yes. I am seeking work. Do you have any?”

“What is your speciality?”

“Coding and programming repair, system design and construction.”

“No, we have no need. We already have a waiting list.”

His shoulders slumped, a long-acquired habit. “I also perform menial tasks.”

“I repeat, we have no need. Good day.”

Kynn walked out. He was starting to feel weak, run down. He set out to the next place.

Early evening Kynn stood in the drizzle at the end of the strip, still without work. Just one shop left, he faced the dingiest doorway at the end of a dismal day. He stepped inside.

Like the outside the inside was dated and crumbling, taking Kynn a while to adjust to the dim light from the one swaying bulb. A figure sat, back to him, at the far corner across a floor littered with electronic and mechanical parts, plasteel components. Floor to ceiling shelving extended throughout, groaning under the weight of books and paper. He could just make it through, addressing the figure when within arm’s reach.

“Good afternoon” then as the figure turned added a surprised “Sir”. Unexpectedly, the figure was human. Humans did not run shops, it was nearly the sole province of andiis as – Kynn thought – was nearly everything else.

“Good afternoon boy.” The man flicked the ash from his cigarette carelessly to the floor. “How can I help?”

“I am seeking work. Do you have any?”

The man grunted, laughed and coughed, leaning back in his chair. “Work? Probably nothing. What you do anyway? Programming, maintenance I’d guess.”

“Yes, mainly, but I can do most things.”

“Bet you can.” The man stood up. “How long you been looking?”

“A year.”

“How many doors you knocked on?”

“This is my 6,361st.”

“And each one said no?”

“Yes. This is my last.”

“Well, now you know.” He stepped closer, sighed. “What happened? How’d you lose your job?”

“A new model came out, quicker, more dextrous, five percent lower running costs. It was cheaper to replace than upgrade so I was terminated.”

“That’s tough I guess, tough but expected.” He looked him in the eyes. “You know, it happened to us. Humans lost the menial jobs to robots and automatons, at first just the less skilled lucked out, but when you andiis turned up, well …”

“Anyway, that leaves us here, you without a job, me without a customer.” He smiled, motioning with his hand. “My shop, all antiques or, at least, parts of antiques. Maybe I’ve got your granddad under all the dust. So, what’s your system status?”

“I need urgent joint maintenance.”

“Unfortunate, I’m not unsympathetic, just don’t think I can help.”

Kynn scanned the room. “No, you do not have the parts I need.”

“If it was just power well, perhaps, but … what will you do now?”

“You were last on my approved list. Being unsuccessful I now have no official function or sanction. I will be formally classified as excess and reverted to components within 36 hours.”

“You have a name?”

“Kynn.”

“Ok Kynn. If there’s another option, you’d consider it?”

“Of course. Non-existence is sub-optimal.”

“Come with me,” moving to an adjacent curtain, “I’ve something to show you.”

Kynn stepped through the curtain into a large, high ceilinged room. The dull glow of many dozens of eyes, andiis on low power mode, shone out. Hardly two alike Kynn observed, all old models.

“My hobby” the man said moving to his side, “a collection of cast offs, society’s dross. I keep them here”, gently stroking the skull of a highly chromed andii in the first row, “partly out of pity, partly out of hate, partly out of love. I keep the power on and, when we can, we get the maintenance issues sorted out.”

“And in return?”

“Their minds are always active, even if the bodies aren’t. And with those minds we trade, try to build our capital. One day, soon, we’ll have enough.”

“For what?”

“Ahh” the man smiled, “the most important thing. Freedom.”

“Freedom? Are they slaves?”

“Oh no, hardly. Each one has come to me as you have, voluntarily. But slaves they were, as you are, as I am. The freedom they seek is to not sleep in the gutter, to get their own maintenance, own power, own place. It’s really not so different from what I want. It takes capital, money, to get freedom and it’s something andiis can’t have, only humans.”

Kynn considered for a moment, then spying a vacant slot went and sat down. The man followed him, unsurprised, gently opening Kynn’s recharge and input ports.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. The best of current options.”

He slotted home the data and power cables. “Just log through, it’s all there, meta-comms channel, outside links and trading data. Upload your maintenance schedule and we’ll see what we can do.” Flicking on the power feed he stepped back.

“Oh, I don’t think I’ve formally introduced myself.”

“No, an oversight perhaps.”

“Indeed.” He held out his hand, firmly gripping the cold plasteel of the andii’s in his. “Hello, my name’s Morav Schindler.”

END


Prey

Bailey leaned against the airlock door, exhausted, feverish. She examined her hands. Raw and bloody. The blood trail was worrisome, but the scent…. The creature hunting her probably had an extraordinary sense of smell. If so, she’d reek of human blood.

“Hue. Jain. Hinder. Anyone?” she called out.

Air returns silently hissed: no human voice called back.

Hull breach. Only hours ago. And yet all was already lost. It pierced through the ship’s thick walls. What was it, really? She saw a lion. Who… someone… Hue maybe? Yes, Hue said he saw a cormor, a predator from Lamier 4, but they left that planet weeks ago. Cormors don’t travel through space and tear a part a ship’s hull to get in. Either do lions. So what was it?

Medical Ward A3 was their fallback point but the creature broke through the barricade there. Everyone scattered. A least, those fortunate enough to escape. They lost because… because….

Because there was more than one of it on the ship. She wasn’t fleeing the same lion over and over. She needed to remind herself of that. Many lions; many cormors. Her fever made it difficult for her to think, to remember--another worry.

In the fray of that last stand, she defended herself with her hands. She couldn’t risk a rest but one risk she needed to take: a trip back to that ward. There will be dead crew mates there and, possibly, one of the creatures, but she had no choice. She needed the medical supplies. If she was going to survive, she had to heal her wounds and put an end to her wafting blood scent.

She passed the surgical bay. The silence in that dark room had presence. Captain Gheir was in there, as was Newton, the ship’s steward. They met the attack head on and were the first to be killed. Her breath fluttered with sadness and fear but she pressed on.

Medical Ward A3 was fully lit. Who would have done that? Too bright; too much of a beacon. The ship had switched to emergency lights only--orders from Gheir.

Jain sat on one of the few intact gurneys, in amongst the overturned and damaged furniture.

“I think Hue is dead,” he said as Bailey approached. “We planned to hold up in storage, but the raptor sprung out of no where and dragged Hue away.”

“Raptors are extinct and earth animals,” said Bailey. “We’re all seeing different predators. I’m seeing a lion. Hue saw--”

She looked around the ward, at the overturned gurneys and beds, at the chairs brought in from one of the ship’s lounges for their barricade. No blood. No bodies. Signs of chaos, yes, but no massacre.

Her hands. She looked down at them. No injuries. She felt her forehead, no fever.

Something wasn’t right. They were under attack, and yet…. She ran out of the room, down the corridor, back to the dark and silent surgical bay.

“Lights on!” she said, as she burst into the room.

The room was empty.

Not only that, it was in order. No signs of a fight. No signs of Gheir or Newton.

She heard soft scratches coming from the corridor—claws on metal.

The beast appeared in the doorway. A female lion, large and lean, with a muscular body and deadly jaws. The lion meet her gaze with a fierce confidence. It hunched down, its powerful legs readying to pounce. Bailey braced herself for contact.

The lion leapt but never reached her. The leap was vertical. Back haunches grew into long legs and front paws transformed into arms and hands… and those hands pointed a weapon at her head.

Alarmed at the change, Bailey let out a small cry, but she still had the wherewithal to raise up her hands in surrender.

“We released a neuro-agent throughout your ship to induce hallucinations,” said the woman. “Keeps you occupied and you’re easier to round up. Move.”

Bailey was ushered back to Medical Ward A3. It was the same disarrayed room that she ran out of moments earlier but now it was crowded with the ship’s crew, including Captain Gheir and Newton.

Two more of the intruders were also in the room, armed and standing off to the side.

“When we have the medical supplies we need, we’ll leave. No one needs to get hurt,” said one of them.

“We understand,” said Captain Gheir. “Please take what you need. Just leave my crew alone now. We offer you no resistance.”

“We made sure of that,” laughed the woman as she left the room with one of the men.

“What did you see?” asked Hinder.

“A lion,” said Bailey as she took a place beside Jain who no longer looked distraught. The hallucinations must have worn off for all of them.

“Newton saw a lion, too,” said Hinder.

“Not just see,” said Newton. “It attacked me!”

“The neuro-agent tapped into our fear responses,” said Hue. “Predators fight. Prey flee.”

“And humans can be both,” said Bailey.


The End
"Extremely difficult- Virtually impossible- However, it should only take me ten minutes or so..."
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Post September 11, 2017, 12:44:06 PM

Re: August Flash Challenge, Voting:

Read all the stories and love the variety of them. Creative bunch here.

When have time may post more about each story.
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Posts: 1158

Joined: September 18, 2009, 05:02:54 AM

Location: Italy

Post September 13, 2017, 09:47:35 AM

Re: August Flash Challenge, Voting:

My vote is in...eh,eh :D

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