FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - May 2017


Writing challenges, flash fiction, interesting anecdotes, amusements, and general miscellanea.

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Post April 24, 2016, 05:07:23 PM

Campfire Games

October Flash

By:
Rick Tornello



The stupid light was shining right in my eyes. Who would have imagined that a particle whose rest mass if not 0, was as close to non-zero as could be and had intelligence and was sentient? Boy, were we all wrong.

Photons, light as we have now discovered is the native intelligence of the universe. It sees all, knows all, remembers all and when all is said and done, is all. It’s that simple or complex. The Santa Claus myth musta got twisted, and like a lot of myths, the Santa Claus myth was based upon some truth long forgotten.

Surprise, and merry Christmas folks.

####

Many people have damned the light. It shows all to be seen. It is the great equalizer. The darkness may be scary, and hide the unknown, but for those of us who have things to cover up, and who doesn’t, the light of justice, of truth, call it what you will, is scarier still.

That damned light, right in front of me all this time, captured all my life and my thoughts. It is multidimensional. It illuminates everything. It is doing the same to every one you alive out there today. I can only guess it will project all that came before too. Nothing can be hidden, no thing.

Think about it my friends. What skeletons are you hiding?

Light was a gift from the gods, giving site to reason, and to our minds so that we might reflect back on our gifts and the givers of those gifts. But have we done so? Maybe a few, artists, philosophers, musicians, healers and writers have, but on the whole, the masses, throughout all time, (a funny term for referring back to this mass less entity that is everything, when you consider it), have done nothing but squander these gifts.

And here we are, sitting around this campfire, wondering what will to be next, what will the end be? Some have said fire, some said ice, but no it won’t be those things. That, I can promise you.

Don’t look for tomorrow, don’t look for the sun, the light. It will be gone. As a race, our blindness is sealed. And if you feel as I do, you too will bemoan our fates. I believe, no…I know, our future will be empty, just pure darkness, no stars, no anything. We have been banished.

As I sit here before you in this darkness, I do hear you all breathing. I think it’s finally over. It’s too dark to see and I’m too scared to look.


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:08:22 PM

Campfire Games

- Winner -



The Altar

By:
Michele Dutcher



The stupid light was shining right in my eyes, so I motioned for David to turn it off. “Sorry about that,” he told me. “I forgot that my helmet light was still on.” David was in his fifties, in coveralls, and was meeting me where the gravel road intersected the path leading into the woods.

“Have you already been caving today?” I asked. “I thought we were supposed to meet-up at 8 PM, after I got off work.”

“Right, but I had a small group of cavers who wanted to go in, so I took them. They’re still probably down there milling around.” He grinned sheepishly, as if he were a schoolboy who had been caught.

“Do you think they’ll find the Indian carvings?” I asked. “I don’t want anyone around them until I can get more pictures and publish my paper online.”

“I didn’t take them back that far. I’m sure your petroglyphs are okay, Gwynn.” He switched on his flashlight before turning his back on me, motioning to follow him into the trees and shrubs.

As we began to hike, I noticed how quickly the darkness had fallen under the leafy canopy. “It seems creepy to be going in after sunset.”

“Day or night, stormy weather or fair – it’s always the same inside a cave,” answered David.

As we walked along the wagon rut path, I saw the abandoned stone lodge. “That’s odd,” I whispered. “It looks like there’s a blue light coming through the windows on the top floor.”

“That’s impossible,” sighed David, as if shushing a child. “There’s no second floor anymore. It rotted out decades ago. It’s probably just the reflection of the moon.”

“But it’s cloudy – there’s no moon out tonight.” I strained to see. “Stop David, please! Look at the window! Someone’s in there!”

David looked up and a dark figure behind the window shifted, allowing the blue glow to shine out for only a moment before it suddenly blinked out.
“It’s just a cloud passing overhead, Gwynn. Let’s get to the cave.”

I could feel my legs beginning to tremble as we started our descent to the canyon’s floor. I heard water rushing from the cave even before I saw the cave’s mouth in the near darkness.

“We need to turn on our helmet lights,” instructed David, and I did as I was told. I had the feeling that someone was watching from the darkness of the steep, graying cliffs, so I was glad to get inside the stone walls of the cave.

As we splashed through the shallow stream, I was surprised to hear voices coming from further back. “Who is that?”

“Oh, you mean those voices? Those are probably the people I led through earlier. They’re members of that online club, the ‘I love CRV’ club.”

“I saw the homepage online. What’s up with their membership list? Their names are so odd: Alva Watts, Fern Voyles? Old names, you know? Some of them are even the same as names on the wall.”

David began to stutter a little, as if taken off-guard. “Maybe they’re family names, passed down. Anyways, Indian Rock should be right around the corner here…”

Suddenly the cave opened up into a large room and I could see forty people in caving gear standing in front of the wall.

“I thought you’d never get here,” said a tall man. “It’s almost time for him to arrive. Is this her?”

“Yep!” said David. “She asks a lot of questions.”

“Well, all your questions are about to be answered. I’m Charles Heifes,” the tall man said – motioning for two men to block the path to the entry corridor.

I was stunned and confused. “Charles Heifes? From Brookmor Indiana?”

“That exact man.”

“But the date etched into the stone was Jan 25, 1909? I don’t understand.”

A woman stepped forward, shining her helmet light into my eyes. “And I’m Mrs. Heifes. A century ago my husband and I were trapped in the Inn by a terrible blizzard. We were cut off from the main road, the food was gone and the firewood was running out. So we came down into the cave where it was warmer. That was when we found the altar – and the image of the shaman.”

In the faint light of the cave the shaman’s petroglyph began to glow. Everyone reached up, turning out their helmet lights.

“We were starving until HE appeared to save us,” shouted Mr. Heifes. All eyes were transfixed on the wall now, waiting, waiting… “Look now! He comes!”

All those present dropped to their knees as a blue figure stepped through the wall onto the ancient altar. He wore a square helmet with a slot in it showing his piercing black eyes. He was majestic in a feathered kilt and leather moccasins. His chest was bare with a scar that ran from throat to navel. “Is this the new one?” the wind in the cave whispered.

“She is,” answered the group in unison, bowing their heads.

I edged my way to the opening that led further into the darkness of the cave.

“Carve your name into the wall and join with us forever!” said the figure bathed in blue light.

Suddenly all those present took off their helmets, revealing only skulls. “Carve your name – protect his altar! Carve your name – protect his altar!” I felt my knees giving way. Then my survival instincts took over, and I ran into the darkness away from the cult, tripping through the water, climbing over rocks. Only by chance did points of light appear in a hole in the cave wall, revealing the stars in the night sky outside. I grabbed onto any tree roots that I could, pulling myself upwards through the hole with the last of my strength.

That was how I ended up shivering here, hiding behind this rock in the woods. I think it is finally over. It is too dark to see and I am too scared to look.


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:33:52 PM

Caught in a World So Cold

This challenge was run by Eddie Sulllivan.

The challenge was write a story set in an extremely cold climate where your protagonist or protagonists are lost, trapped, or fleeing.


Example story:



Wolves of the Tundra

By:
Eddie Sullivan



The snow cracked underneath his boots. He could look back for miles and see his own foot prints. He didn’t understand why they didn’t come for him. They had left this gear a little to conveniently laying around. It was good gear but not sufficient for this wasteland. It was obvious he wasn’t supposed to make it more than a day or two.

Each time the wind howled he swore he heard them, then he would convince himself it was just his imagination. The heat of his body melted the snow that got inside his clothes whenever he stumbled. That same howling wind drew the heat fro his body and gave it up to the ether. Ron Johnson had pursued stories through war zones and hurricanes and lived to tell the stories to his readers all around the world. He was thoroughly convinced that he would not survive coming to investigate reports of werewolves in the these snowy Canadian hills. He kept walking because he didn’t know what else to do.

He had come across the cabin just where his guide told him to look when he said he would go no farther into the Rougarou territory. The whole town was unwelcoming and looked at him funny when he said he was looking to go back into that country. He had seen the cabin and there was smoke coming from the chimney. That was the last thing he remembered till he woke in the basement. The two backwoodsman taunted him for days in that cellar. He watched them change just to scare him over and over. Then one day nothing. After twenty fours hours of nothing he overcame his fear enough to climb out of the sub-basement. He found the clothes and a flashlight. He got the clothes on grabbed the light and ran out the door. He got forty feet from the cabin and that was when the howling started. He ran flat out till he couldn’t stand, as soon as he could he ran flat out again. Now he swore he hadn’t seen or heard anyone or thing for miles.

He was considering just hunkering down in the snow when he noticed a light through the trees in the distance. The Town? He steeled himself to the pain of running when he was so cold and so tired. His breath leaked warmth out into the frozen waste around him.

He got to the tree-line and it was the town. Then he heard it. Feet running through the snow behind him and growls. No! He would not make it all this way just to lose out at the last minute. The snowy town’s streets were empty but the lights were on and cars were parked at the local town watering hole. He ran with everything he had left. He half sprinted and half stumbled down the one little street. He got to the bar and couldn’t feel his feet, his lungs ached from the cold air cycling through his lungs quickly from exertion. He threw open the door.

“The wolves, they are real. Behind me. Help.” The heat of the inside of the bar hit his lungs and the temperature change made it harder to breathe. The waitress came over and helped him up.

“Please. They are coming right behind me.”

She turned towards the old fellow nursing a beer near the front door. “Monti lock that door.”

He gained some breath back. “We have to get help. The sheriff or something.”

“Easy city boy. It is Sunday city boy. Everyone in town is here to watch the football from down your way in the States.” The girl smiled at him.

It was then that he realized they were all looking at him. He looked across the room and there were the two men from the cabin. The old man by the door “Monti” cleared his throat.

“God only knows a football game just ain’t right without a proper buffet spread, Right kin?”

Then they all changed.


The End
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Post April 24, 2016, 05:34:42 PM

Re: FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?

Skipping School

By:
Rick Tornello



I was skipping school. I had my girlfriend Sheila jack into the system and fake our parental out-sick notes. I was sitting in the crotch of our favorite tree hiding spot in the park waiting for her. I heard this thunder like crack coming from the ground. I noticed ice. It was a bolder of ice. What was ice doing in the park? This is the south west. We don’t get snow. We get heat. We get parched and we get droughts. It’s a desert out there. We steal our water from up north.

The cops showed up quickly and blocked off the park. National Guard Troops showed up a few hours later, armed.

Armed against what, a giant ice cube that refused to melt? I had to pee and I was still in this tree. I kept quiet and hugged a big limb. I didn’t want to be seen. Sheila never showed up.

She called. The phone was in my pocket. Luckily I had the phone on vibrate. Unluckily, that didn’t help my situation.

“What’s going on in the park?” she wanted to know.

“I have to be quiet. There are cops and troops all over the place. I have no idea. There’s a boulder of ice that won’t melt and I’m stuck up in this tree and I have to pee.”

“Hold it tightly and let it leak out slowly,” she snorted and laughed. “Send me a picture you big dope.”

“OF me peeing? Real funny.”

“No you big doofus, what’s going on.”

“I knew that. Hold on.”

I yanked it out and peed against a distant branch as soon as the cops went off toward the giant ice cube. I heard her laughing.

I got a few pictures off and then something strange occurred. Two people just showed up in Eskimo type garb from the same spot as the ice. They were screaming in a language I never heard. They were pointing to the ice and running. The troops tackled them after tazering them. It took a few shots since they were apparently well protected.

“Sheila you have to see this.” I kept the phone camera on the whole goings on.

“Freddy the news says there is something strange happening in the park and urged all the people to stay away. Your pictures are being downloaded all over the place. I heard that this is happening in other southern cities all over the planet. Turn your camera off before they figure out where you are. You know we have that other tree we screw against, go there if you can.”

“Oh I’m just supposed to saunter off. It’s okay officer. I’m just going to my sex tree.”

“Freddy, you’re such an idiot. Why do I love you?”

“You tell me I,” answered quietly. “Cops below. I’ll keep the phone on, record what you hear.”

I listened as they spoke:
“I heard one of the Guardsmen say that there seemed to be a breech between our dimensions. I have no idea,” said the first one.

“So the multiverse is real?” asked the other one. “I thought it was science fiction, something in the movies.”

“The ice is coming in from another world and that these people are running from it. They said that it’s happening all over our planet. Washington is worried that they can’t stop it or close the breech.”

“So what, are we going to have an ice age?” laughed the other cop. “This is the south west. It’s a desert out past the city limits. What ice is going to stand up to that heat?”

“Are you blind and dumb too? Do you notice any melting?” Hissed the first cop. There was a big thunder like noise. “Shit now there’s more ice over there.” He pointed to an area just by a rocky outcrop.

“Freddy, what’s happening?” asked Sheila

“More ice. More Eskimos Oh my god there’s a whole tribe of them and they’re armed.”
They’ve lifted their hands up and dropped their weapons. One is coming forward and talking to the troop commander. Are you getting all this?”

“Shit yes.”

“My batteries are low so I’ll transmit till they go dead. A helo just landed and some bigwigs in uniforms just got out. They’re meeting with the Eskimos or whatever they are.

“I’m guessing it’s not good by the look on all the faces and, Oh shit, one of the soldier just ran to one of the officers. They are looking up in the trees. They’re pointing in my direction. I’m cooked. Sheila, call my dad. I’m about to be arrested.”

Four military types were below Freddy’s hiding spot. “You in the tree, we have your phone located,” said one.

Another one said, “It’s a kid.”
“You, kid get down from there or we’ll shoot you down,” commanded the first guardsman.

Freddy was escorted to the place where the officers were gathered. The first guardsman said, “General, Sir, it’s a kid up in a tree with a phone. What do you want to do?”

“Get him in the copter and to base immediately. We’ll get his parents too and any of his friends. If this gets out…”

“Sir it’s already all over the net.”

The general shook his head and gave Freddy a nasty look.

“Shut the net down. Call FEMA, GET a Declaration of National Emergency and jam all the fucking cell tower transmissions. If the Chinese can do it so can we. I’ll take responsibility.”

A soldier ran up to the group as they were boarding the helo. “Sir, we’re getting more visitors… and ice.”


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:35:45 PM

Caught in a World So Cold

The World’s Biggest Fool

By:
Michele Dutcher



Ermil Sanders stood on a hill overlooking the frozen graveyard, noting the half-dozen mourners in the distance who were carrying a body bag to an empty space in the snow. He couldn’t help but smirk at their futility as they huddled together in the grayness of the afternoon, the Bishop’s ring around the blurred sun hanging in the cloud-choked sky. He noted from the shape of the bag that the feet of the beloved had been filed down to a point, allowing the corpse to eventually be hammered into the frozen earth.

Death had become mundane. It was more of a surprise to him that the six mourners were still alive than their body-bagged companion was dead.

The middle-aged man looked at the dog beside him, who wagged his tail as Ermil gazed down. “As a philosopher once said, ‘leave the dead to bury the dead’ – that’s the order of the day, Spot. Right or wrong?”

“It is far past time to be worried about such niceties,” answered the canine. “I wonder if the body-bag is being used to hide the fact that parts of the beloved have been chewed off while the body was in rigor – before it was frozen solid.”

“You’re probably right, Spot. Everything’s gotta eat, you know…even what’s left of us humans.”

Ermil thought about following the weaker humans as a small woman and her child peeled away quickly after the short service. The group probably had a hoard of food hidden somewhere – perhaps in one of the local caves or in a crypt nearby. He thought about introducing himself, but then thought again, deciding against looking for company. As a loner, Ermil had been able to raid small convenient stores in the city, getting enough frozen food to last one person and one dog for awhile. If he introduced himself, everyone in the group would see him and his dog as food and he’d need to watch his back, sleeping with one eye open.

It was enough for now to watch from the top of the hill, knowing all the people below would probably be dead in six months anyway. The wind began to pick up, as the blowing snow began to turn red – reflecting the bright red sunset. A vivid red sheet of snow raced towards him, drawn up from a drift at the base of a long-dead tree. He pulled his motorcycle goggles over his eyes as the snow raced towards him, biting into exposed skin as if he were being sandblasted.

“You hungry, boy?” the man asked the dog, knowing what the animal would say.

“You betcha, boss!” said the canine emphatically.

“There’s a 7-11 on Magnolia we haven’t hit yet. I know it’ll have some dog food for you and maybe some cigarettes for me.”

“What’s your hurry - here’s your hat,” exclaimed the cocker spaniel.

The two started to move on, making their way towards a small store he had gone to a couple of times before the comet hit, smacking the Hawaiian Islands so hard that the active volcanoes had exploded. There had been talk among friends of his who were also scientists, in the weeks following the disaster, that the Earth itself had been shoved hard enough to be veered from her path, forcing her to orbit further and further from the sun. It was just a matter of time before everything and everyone was as frozen as a Popsicle.

In a way it was funny, because Ermil Sanders had been one of the greatest prophets of Global Warming – being asked to speak numerous times on the impending disaster that would happen decades in the future. Sometimes he had to laugh at himself, calling himself the World’s Biggest Fool. Global Warming didn’t seem like such a bad idea now.

Ermil looked up into the clouds. “At least the acid rain hasn’t started falling yet. That’s the next step, you know…the sulfur that’s in the atmosphere falling in the form of rain.” He looked down again at his protégé – the one creature on Earth that made life worth living – at least until the end would finally come. Ermil had to keep alive for him. Who would look over the dog if he curled up in a ball and died? – They’d try to eat the canine - those rogues, those mourners in the graveyard.

“Come on, boy,” said the man, pulling on the leash. Soon the dog was happily following behind him.

An hour later, the man who had sludge-hammered the corpse into the frozen ground crossed over the snowy footprints left by Ermil in the purple twilight. He wondered about what the man who left the footprints was dragging behind him.


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:36:48 PM

Caught in a World So Cold

Snow Now

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Yafnof loved to stay next to the fireplace in the Wide Hall of the fortress, which was a bit strange, given the nature of his incredible powers. That was because the beardless 22-year-old slender man was best known as the famous ‘Ruler of the Icy Mountains’ or ‘The Snow Sorcerer’. It was reported that he could make it snow so hard as to create an impassable snowstorm that could quickly envelope a whole region, if he wanted to.


That was why he had been sent by the king to this lonely fortress. The castle was positioned on the border of the Icy Mountains that were the entry point of the High Realm for everyone coming from the Northern Expanses. The place itself was very well defended during wintertime as the Trolls and the tall Orcs didn’t dare approach this site because of the steep slopes and the harsh weather. These creatures also found it impossible to hunt food during this season - notwithstanding that they could smell from a distance the tasty human meat that walked around inside those tall walls…

The true problems started when spring came, as that was the right time for those hungry creatures to follow the mountain paths to reach the fortress, in order to eat the food (and the humans, too…) that the soldiers had been keeping in their strange building for so long.

It was at that time that Yafnof was especially useful: his powers were capable of making snow fall in a matter of minutes, producing a huge storm that would force the approaching monsters to move away again.

That was exactly what the young sorcerer was going to do now. When Yafnof got to where he had the best view on the battlements facing south, his dark eyes stared at the scenery outside the fortress before noticing the Orcs that had been previously spotted by the guards. There they were, so he had to be quick and use his sorcery. He moved forward, his skinny arms wrapped in furs, when all at once the first icy particles magically started falling from the sky and the slopes were soon covered by a thick layer of snow. The noteworthy sudden change in the weather was just enough to make the castle’s enemies change their mind, of course.

As he saw the creatures running away, Yafnof told himself that he had done his duty for today. He could feel his body beginning to freeze, starting from his fingers and along his arms - and it made him remember the consequences of using his great power. In fact, even though he was able to command the sky to snow, his body was not unaffected by the freezing cold and he might get frostbite or die of exposure if he wasn’t careful. That was why he had to limit his use of such sorcery. And that was why he loved staying next to the fireplace for most of the day, clearly…

After that display of great power, the man walked back to the main tower and had a hearty lunch, offered to him by the soldiers.So, things went well and calmly for the rest of the Spring, but it was what happened the next summer that changed everything…

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

“They’re coming! Hairy Blue Trolls are approaching!” yelled the commander at arms. The men ran to take their assigned places along the fortress’s battlements.

Yafnof looked at the commander. “Those are not just common monsters that can be stopped by using a single snowstorm. They eat snow and are not afraid of the worst weather on these mountains.”

“I know it, sorcerer. And it seems that those creatures have found a powerful leader that is strong enough to bring all of his kind to our fortress. They are too many of them and they are too hungry to be stopped!”

“My power might prove to be not enough today,” Yafnof said dejectedly. “Unless I try something even more dangerous.”

So, the daring man walked down to the main gate. He ordered it to be opened and exited the walls, going directly to the middle of the plain that stretched before the fortress. Then he raised his arms and started the most potent enchantment that he had ever tried. At first an overcast sky swept in above the sorcerer and the incoming enemies, and the snow started falling on the rocks, flowers and trees. It quickly turned into a powerful snowstorm. Actually, in a matter of minutes it became the heaviest snowstorm any human had ever seen, and the Hairy Blue Trolls knew it was too much for them. They retreated and a cry of joy burst out back at the fortress, but it was not roaring enough to reach the ears of the sorcerer.

The battle was won now, but the sense of deep freezing Yafnof felt inside his body and his mind was so overwhelming that he just couldn’t remove it from his thoughts. The man knew he had gone too far, that he had done something really dangerous that might be fatal. He also knew that he was unable to escape from his present situation!

The sorcerer couldn’t speak, and the inability to use his hands and the impossibility of walking kept him stuck to the ground. His body turned itself into an icy statue as he finally lost the last of his power, the snow enveloping him once and for all.

His upright figure - trapped in that state - remained there for many years, while the soldiers thanked him for his sacrifice and always turned to him with respect when walking next to his sacred icy remains.

Yafnof would have been happy with how it all worked out. However, he probably would have been even happier if the children of the chief of the fortress didn’t throw snowballs at him, a lifeless snowman, when they were playing outside and nobody was around to watch and tell them to stop…


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Post April 24, 2016, 05:37:37 PM

Caught in a World So Cold

- Winner -


No Man's Land

By:
Brian Kendig



"It's blue out here," Professor Blatt sighed. She pulled her coat and hood more tightly around herself against the cold. "Everything's blue."

Her radio crackled. "No, the snow's white. And technically the ice has no color, it's translucent."

"Don't contradict me, Asahi," Blatt snapped at the second-year grad student. "Give me red, give me yellow, give me anything but blue. There's nothing out here but snow and sky and more snow. The mining equipment is getting close to its maximum depth and all we've discovered is more ice. You still so sure of your coordinates?"

There was a pause. "I'm sure," came Asahi's quiet reply. "And now you usually say something like 'this had better be worth it,' and then I remind you that it is. We're digging through snow that's an ice age thick. It's going to take time to find anything down there. But I'm sure that this is the right place and I'm absolutely certain that by the end of the day we're going to make a discovery that will tell us a lot about the ancient people who were here before us." The voice paused again. "By the end of the week, at least."

That didn't help Blatt's mood any. "How did you talk me into leaving the basement lab for this? I'm not fond of being out in bright light."

"You know the nighttime temperatures can be lethal. And you'll want to be here, anyway, in case we make any discoveries. I meant 'when,' not 'in case,'" Asahi amended.

The professor spotted some commotion from the workers around one of the rigs. "Stand by, Asahi," she radioed. She half-crawled across the ice, leaning into the wind, until she found the expedition's anthropologist, wearing a nametag that read 'Palm.' "Tell me what's up."

"What's up is a relic!" replied Palm, gesturing breathlessly. "I believe the drills have finally reached what was once ground level, and we've recovered ... this!" As she spoke, a crane gingerly pulled a living-room-sized block of ice from the nearest excavation tunnel, lowered it to within a few feet of the ground, then dropped it the rest of the way. The thud knocked Blatt onto her back, but as she rose and shook snow from her coat, she saw the vague outline of something large and yellow inside the block. She approached it slowly, trying to make out its contents until Palm interrupted her: "You'll want to come around this side, it's easier." Sure enough, the other side of the block of ice revealed that the drill had sliced this artifact cleanly in half. Already, the engineers were dragging warm-air blowers over to this side to begin the thawing process.

Blatt found her voice. "What IS it?"

"I believe," Palm said excitedly, "it was called a 'taxicab.'"

"And that?" asked Blatt, pointing to a smaller piece that had broken off the block.

Palm crouched over it and studied it intently. Then she stood and took a half-step backwards in surprise. "Man!" The commotion around her ceased immediately, all attention on her and her discovery. "Well, the top half of a man. We really need to be more careful with our drill bits. But I am familiar with the style in which this one is dressed, and if my hunch is correct..." She turned the frozen remains face-down and pulled at the fabric behind its neck. "'Men's Wearhouse', if I'm reading it correctly. You know what this means, don't you?" she asked the professor.

"It means that men were still alive during the last ice age," Blatt answered her, as the significance of this sunk in. "There must be millions of them trapped down there, frozen solid. I thought they had died out thousands of years earlier. This is going to turn science and history on their heads."

Palm had already left the corpse and was pulling something else from the ice. "Bonus!" she exclaimed. "This is what was called a 'briefcase'. This particular one is made of genuine crocodile leather, which should make it water-resistant, and that means there wouldn't be any water damage to..." She cracked the briefcase open like an egg. "This!" Nestled within the briefcase, between manila folders and a well-preserved fast food lunch, was a small black smartphone, still intact. She attached a clip that snapped readily into the data port on the phone's edge, powered it up, and defeated its encryption. "I had hoped that would work!" she said giddily. "We only had an incomplete set of specifications to work from. But now we should be able to access all of the data it holds. Cached information, news, personal messages --"

"Give it here," Blatt demanded, and Palm complied. Blatt examined the device from every angle. "This symbol on the back has religious significance," she said in a hushed tone. "It appears in references to temples where people would gather and sacrifice their wages." She turned the device so that she could see rows of icons on its glowing face. "How do I view the data stored in this?"

"Just tap the glass."

Blatt tapped gently on the glass. Nothing happened. Then she tried slightly more firmly, but still nothing happened. She handed it back to Palm for a try. Palm tapped at it, shrugged at her.

Blatt sighed unhappily through her mandibles. "We've come all this way..." She pulled her hood back from her face, let it slide off to expose her head-carapace to the frigid air for just a few moments so that she could unfurl her antennae. "The temperature will drop soon. Let's call it a day. We've discovered the ruins of Boston, we've found evidence that man survived longer into the Information Age than previously thought, and we've even recovered a relic from that period." She tapped again at it with her claw; still it did not respond. "Once we learn how to access the data in this device, we could very well understand a key chapter in cockroach evolution."


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Post April 24, 2016, 06:44:06 PM

Subordinate Clause

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to write a story explaining how Santa can be in so many places at once all in one night.


Example story:




The Gift

By:
Eddie Sullivan



“Trust me I’m your sponsor.” Jimmy led me down Clark St. on Christmas Eve. “You've earned this. After tonight you won’t want back on the junk ever again. All you had to do was stay sober and drug free for the past two years to prove your commitment. I wasn’t even allowed to mention this till that happened.”

“I don’t know man.” He was looking at me with a rapturous smile. “It seems a shame to get clean just to get high on something else after two years.”

Jimmy just smiled wider. “I know it seems counterintuitive man. Just trust me once you have Kringle there are no other drugs. They only give it out on December twenty-fourth and the rest of the year you don’t bother with anything else because literally nothing else is worth it.”

I shook my head for the tenth time tonight. “Jimmy this is nuts. Why do they only give it out one night a year? Why do we get it from free? Who are they?”

He looked up at the night sky. It had started snowing lightly. He caught a snowflake on his tongue. “Look I told you earlier I sponsor at Narcotics Anonymous so I can sponsor for people to have Kringle. It is all real. Let’s just say it is a charity thing, think of them as Santa’s little helpers, OK?”

He was leading me into a less than desirable part of town. We finally arrived at an older looking warehouse. There was already a line at the door. All folks lined up two by two. Apparently everyone brought guests to this party.

We got close to the door and I could see in as the next pair went in. It looked like an airlock. You know those set ups that have an inner door and an outer one? One won’t open till the other closes. Eventually we were next.

“Jimmy, I'm really not sure about this.”

His smile was so friendly and he spoke with such a confident, calm inflection that it almost didn’t matter what the answer was, it was all in his tone. It rang of trust and safety, a bastion of therapeutic affect. “Listen Eddie, have I ever steered you wrong? I've always been there for you right from the beginning right?”

“Yeah Jimmy. Sorry I sure it'll be fine.”

The outer door opened and we went in. I heard gears and locks cycle. The inner door opened. This situation was already weird, but I wasn’t prepared for what was inside by many a measure.

“Are those midgets holding guns, Jim?”

He cringed at the word. “Dude, they're elves, don’t say midgets!”

The little guys right inside the door holding what looked to me like full auto assault rifles painted like candy canes were disconcerting in their little green tunics and caps. That was nothing compared to what was further in. To start with there were lots of elves everywhere. The far side of the warehouse had sleighs lined up like a giant stock car race starting line. That wasn’t the weirdest either.

Jim was looking around smiling, and he had a tear in his eye. “Oh Eddie, this is my favorite night of the year. It doesn’t get better than this.”

“Jim there are hundreds of naked Santas in here with us. What kinda freaky stuff did you get me into?”

He looked like he was going to answer but a third elf stopped in front of us. “Put out your hands please gentleman.” We did and he placed a gelatin based capsule in each of our hands. That wouldn’t have been all that weird but it looked like it was filled with red and green glitter. At this point I swear to you I have not lost my sobriety, honestly. When the thing touched my palm I heard sleigh bells. “Guests please ingest your Kringle.”

Jimmy looked at me. “You came this far man. You got to do it or they will give it to you in the end without the teeth. They never have to do it after the first year cause you’l want it for the rest of your life, but it is so much easier if you just trust it the first year.”

The elves actually looked like they meant business and might be able to follow through. I figured this was weird but if Jimmy could swallow a capsule of glitter, so could I if it meant not being shot or violated.

“Cheers and down the hatch Eddie boy!” The lead elf handed us some dixie cups full of water and we took our medicine.

The little elf mimicked opening is mouth so we would so him our empty mouths and we did. “Gentlemen this way if you please.”

He lead us into a side room together and turned to leave. “I will return for you in a moment.”

I shook my head and looked at Jimmy. “What the heck is this weirdness man?”

Jimmy looked like he was blurry. No not blurry just getting bigger. He struggled to take his clothes off. “Quick Eddie get naked or the clothes will rip. The elves will store them for you.” Now that he mentioned it my gear was starting to feel tight.

I stripped mostly out of panic. I watched as Jimmy grew a white beard and put on what seemed to be two hundred pounds right before my eyes. “Jimmy what the heck? You just turned into freakin’ Santa Claus!”

Jimmy put one hand on his big jolly belly which jiggled like a bowl full of jelly. He hooked a thumb and gestured over his shoulder at a wall mirror. I saw that there were two Santa Clauses in the room.

I smiled and then laughed. “Ho Ho Ho” That was when it kicked into my brain. Pure uncut Christmas Spirit. That was how he got everywhere in one night.

“Merry Christmas!” Santa bellowed.

“Merry Christmas!” Santa said right back to him.


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Post April 24, 2016, 06:45:36 PM

Subordinate Clause

A Kindness Repaid

By:
Michele Dutcher



Throughout the land of Kardose, the platoons of elfin armies raged. Sword upon sword, fist against fist, the bloody battle spread over the meadows and forests like a fiery plague of death.

Nickoli watched the horrifying scene from beneath a tree whose roots were intertwined with the boulders on the mountainside. He wore elfin battlegear that had been scorched in the conflict below.

Swinchi, an elf much broader than Nickoli came to stand beside him. “I remember a time when you and I ran laughing through those fields and forests together.”

“As do I,” echoed Nickoli, saddened by the memory. “Now the elfin nations fight wars with our bare hands, trying to posses whatever little magic is left in our world.” They both looked down to the dirt as though trying not to see the death raging below them.

As Nickoli raised his eyes slowly he noticed smoke coming from the smokestack of a small cabin in the distance. “Look there, brother, someone remains. The house has towering doorways – I make it out to be a human’s home.”

“They’re probably hoping this war will stop before it reaches their doorstep,” said Swinchi.

“Maybe. But perhaps they don’t know what danger is treading up their mountain, so close to them. Perhaps they are ill or deaf or blind. Soon the battle will be here and their safe hostel will be burned to the ground. We should beat on the door to warn them.”

Swinchi put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Forget these foolish humans, brother. I must return to my troops. I can see them there beneath the branches of the Hugerdy trees, getting ready to regroup and rejoin the fight.” He stopped for a moment, knowing he wasn’t likely to pull his younger brother away from doing what he believed to be the kindest route. He then nodded in the direction of the cabin. “Go ahead, Nicky – warn them and then rejoin us. Your heart is too big to let others die in vain, even if those others aren’t even elfin.”

The brothers shook hands before going different directions.

Nickoli’s trek didn’t take him far before he was on the doorstep of the small chalet. He looked inside the windows, but only saw a small bush decorated with lit candlesticks and golden spheres. “These humans are an odd lot,” he whispered to himself, shaking his head. He raised his hand to beat against the door but it opened before he could knock.

“Good morrow, kind elf,” said the female human, a full foot taller than Nickoli. She wore a floor length blue dress with a white apron and she motioned for him to enter the cottage. “Can I get you some refreshment?”

“Madam, I have come to take you from this place – to warn you about the war raging in the fields beneath. You must pack what you can carry and leave now!”

The woman merely grinned a little, reaching behind her to pull an infant from off the floor. “My son and I will be fine, elf. You see, I am a sorceress – and I have placed a spell of protection around this bungalow. Nothing shall harm me or my child, not even the elfin wars. It is Christmas Eve and I shall not leave my house.”

Nickoli was taken aback at her determination. It was only then that he truly noticed and the warmth of the fireplace and the gifts. “But I came straight up to your door, madam. The next soldier won’t knock on your door to warn you – rather he will beat it down to take whatever he wants.”
The old sorceress shook her head no. She looked into the peaceful eyes of the giggling child she held. “You came to my door because I wanted you to. Others would have been blocked. I noticed your character from a distance, your desire to help others, even if they are a species not your own, even if they are humans.”

The elf could feel his shoulders relax as he looked into the safety of her eyes. “If you have magic, as you say you do – help me to win this battle.”
“There will always be wars and rumors of war.” She put the child down to play with his toys. “However, if you are determined to win this fight, I may have a spell that will prove useful.”

With a swipe of her hand a doorway appeared, inside of which were a multitude of other doorways. “This portal will allow you to be in an infinite number of homes at the same time – but only for ten minutes on Christmas Eve. You can step through it and bring death to the families of your enemies. The fighting will stop because they will have nothing left to die for.”

Nikoli’s hand went to his dagger, thinking about the opportunity to plunge it into the hearts of his enemies. But he put his knife back in his belt when he saw the infant playing in the candlelight. “If only there could be one day a year when all children were able to be happy and playful and peaceful and loved – perhaps those memories would end war and show everyone how precious life can be.”

“I knew you had a good heart, Nikoli. I give you permission, once a year, to enter through this portal and bring joy to children everywhere – to bring peace and memories that will help men remember to love life more than they love themselves.” The woman transformed into a beautiful being of light, handing him a bag full of toys. “Go now, transforming the world with your gifts and your love.”

As Nikoli stepped through the doorway portal into a million homes at once, the cottage on the hillside transformed into an invisible castle that would be waiting for Nikoli Claus every time he returned from his errand of mercy, from his errand to change his war-torn world.


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Post April 24, 2016, 06:46:28 PM

Subordinate Clause

Family Investment

By:
Mary Noelle



He was cleaning the attic, well actually that isn’t true. He was snooping. His wife always hid the gifts in the same places every year and he always found them every year. This year so far no dice. In a last ditch attempt to discover their whereabouts he snuck up to the attic. He couldn’t imagine Destiny coming up to this spider infested, cobweb covered, unlit loft anymore than he could have foreseen her out smarting him with a good hiding place. He didn’t marry her for her brains though. He had cleaned up in the eighties so well that he could afford to have a twenty five year old trophy wife to replace the one he had sent packing and the one he put into the ground in an ill fated sky diving accident. This year somehow she had bested him at every turn. Tim was not the type to lose a contest of wits to a high school dropout stripper less than half his age.

Tim Giles threw things from side to side in desperation. Good God did he have everything up here that he ever owned. There were things from his childhood that he had long since forgotten. Memories of days when “Crusher” Tim Giles had not the vaguest notion of a successful college football career and a position with the biggest brokerage house in New York City. Thoughts of corporate espionage and back-room deals to advance up the corporate ladder were all unformed in the head of little Timmy when he owned these things. There was a box of action figures all so well used that even in the light of the Mag-lite it was obvious. A Matchbox car case in the shape of a tire held little cars beyond counting. For a moment “Crusher” couldn’t think of money, trophy wives, and what he expected for Christmas this year (a Rolex). He was almost tempted to sit down and play with these old things.

He shook his head to clear the sentiment. Back to beating his young wife at their little game. He backed away from the boxes of toys to allow their spell to fade. Something hit his calf muscle in the dark. He turned and shined the light on it. An old water damaged box full of flannel shirts, dockers pants, and assorted crap was sitting on the floor. It was easy to identify the junk. It was leftovers from his grandfathers estate. The old man had given him the seed money begrudgingly to make his first investments under the agreement that he be the one to receive all his worldly goods when he passed. Also under the condition that he never dispose of anything until he had personally looked at it. When the old man died he put it all in storage rather than take the time to bother to go through it. He was a man of his word and disposed of nothing. That didn’t mean he had to go through the crap. But wait what was that? The Thermos, really? The old man had that thing everyday of his life. He never let anyone touch it, fill it, empty it, or drink from it. He especially never let Timmy near it. A sense of triumph came over “Crusher”. It took him almost fifty years but he had won. He was going to take that container and drink Irish Coffee out of it for the rest of his days. Greedy hands lurched down and swiped it up.

Oddly it felt full. He shook it a bit, back and forth. What on earth? No liquid should stay in there for twenty years without evaporating. If it was water based it would dry up. If it was prone to rot it would have blown the thermos up. Maybe the reason Gramps never let anyone near it was because it was booze. The thought of Scotch that was who knows how good aged another twenty years made his mouth water. It was worth a peek, after all if it was anything else the item maybe contaminated.
He cracked it open expecting either the heavenly smell of good Scotch or perhaps the noxious odor of rotten who knows what. What he smelled instead was....EGGNOG? Not rotten eggnog either, it was delightful cinnamony, and warm. The thermos was warm too now that he thought about it. This was bizarre. What was more bizarre was he found himself taking the thermos cover which served as a cup and pouring out a serving. Why would he want to drink eggnog that had been up in an attic for twenty years. He had no idea yet still he raised it to his lips. It tasted like gingerbread, no wait...candy canes, then eggnog, yet a bit like mulled cider. It was warm going down. The warmth was spreading through him before he could even place the taste.

A green glowing line appeared in front of him about an inch wide but six feet up and down. It began to strobe red then green and back and forth between the too colors frantically. Eventually it grew blinding and then expanded. It opened to another place. A place filled with....Elves!

A little man was waiting directly on the other side of the portal. “Your grandfather said you would be along eventually. You sure took your sweet time. He obviously had more faith in you than I did. I lost a hundred bucks this year when your portal opened. I am Sack, your elven handler. Hurry up and get to wardrobe for your red suit, the other Santas are waiting on you for the briefing. It is going to be a long night.”

Timmy looked down at his belly like a bowl full of jelly. He glanced at a full body mirror nearby. He had the white beard, the rosy cheeks, the whole deal. This was certainly going to be a change in lifestyle. He stepped through the portal.


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Post April 24, 2016, 06:47:13 PM

Subordinate Clause

- Winner -

What Warms Your Heart

By:
Sergio Palumbo




It was nighttime and, as it always happened at this time of year, the tall old man was carrying a huge sack full of boxes, trying not to make a sound while walking through the parlor. He had trouble getting past the chairs that were placed in his path, which looked like fuzzy shapes under the faint light of his small flashlight, leaving the rest of the room entirely wrapped in darkness. He had almost stumbled twice and he could only hope that he wouldn’t run up against that wide trug the man knew had to be around somewhere.

He was perfectly aware that he had gotten a little heavier over the course of the last few months, as he had already dangerously brushed three times against a table and a bookshelf in the sitting room, before reaching the place where the tree stood.

The ritual of carolers - people walking from home to home singing carols in the neighborhood - had begun early that morning, reminding the man about his usual Christmas duties. He had immediately taken out of his closet the many gifts he had already prepared for his two 13-year-old sons, ready to be placed close to the traditional tree that stood next to the fireplace, as every good father was used to doing.

The giant, pink (the color that was most fashionable this year) Holiday Tinsel Tree, towered to the top of the room at the far right corner. It was full of glowing lights and ornaments, as if it was a magical fruit tree - or a group of leafy branches with many stars that beautifully shone through them. Its leafage was heavy with the homemade decorations that his wife and the boys enjoyed so much.

Style and color assortments might vary, but that tree - be it made of plastic or of a real trunk- was present inside of every noteworthy house in town, as it simply contained within its branches all the fundamentals and best qualities of Christmas, certainly! As a matter of fact, long before Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had held a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as everyone today decorated home during the festive season with pines, ancient peoples had placed boughs over their front door and main window. In many countries, it had always been believed that such practices would keep away witches, evil beings and even illness.

It was not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the holiday tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred; therefore they tried hard to remove ‘pagan mockery’ from the observance, penalizing any joyful expressions that desecrated ‘that holy event.’ That way of thinking continued into the 19th century, until German and Irish immigrants, along with their traditions, undermined it. But it was only in the 1890s that Christmas ornaments began to arrive from Germany in abundance, giving rise to the Christmas tree’s popularity around the U.S. Of course Americans liked their Christmas trees to be huge, much taller than the Europeans had ever had, as they had used small plants only about four feet in height to decorate their homes. Eventually such trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having one in the home became a real American tradition.

Once the man had left the boxes on the floor, his blue eyes seemed to glitter for a while, as he stared at the low flames in the fireplace that reflected their brilliant sparkles on the Christmas ornaments that the tree had been adorned with. It lasted only for a moment, but in that brief second the man felt like the happiest individual in the world, and his heart was completely full of satisfaction and goodwill.

*****

Drawing his mind back into his workshop, surrounded by the snowy peaks and the icy plains that stretched all around his wooden mansion, the gray-bearded man in his carmine-whitish clothes came to his senses again.

Santa was a bit tired tonight, undoubtedly, as he always was at Christmastime. There were so many gifts to be given and so many places to be at the same time, you know… As the world’s population had grown larger and larger, he knew that the day would come when he wouldn’t be able to be everywhere at once, pleasing the good children who deserved his appreciation, notwithstanding his incredible means of transport that took him into the sky at night.

So, he had started doing things in a better way. It was thanks to his incredible powers, which lay deeper than human knowledge could ever achieve in the future, that Santa was capable of accomplishing all his many duties during this period. In fact, he could connect his mind with all the fathers of the kids who had earned Christmas gifts worldwide and - by briefly entering their body - he could get done what he really wanted to without ever leaving his northern abode, eventually. It was his thoughts, his will that commanded those individuals and made all of them do what was necessary…

So, it was Santa himself who inspired the humans and allowed them to go shopping, eagerly buying the things - be they games, sweets, books and the likes - that their young sons and daughters desired for this important holiday, everything that they would find next to the tree on Christmas morning. And wasn’t it always said that around Christmas time everyone is good? It was merely because of his mind connecting with them at the same time, for a moment, that it all became possible!

Sure, at times some problems and misunderstandings might happen, as his present system of mind exchange wasn’t perfect yet, and someone might get something he didn’t really wish for or something that he wasn’t expecting. But, after all, if anyone received a gift they truly didn’t like or need, re-gifting was always an option, you know…


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:29:25 AM

The What Were Challenge

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan

The challenge was to write a story where the protagonist is a were creature.


Example story:

Getting a Webbed Foot in the Door

By:
Eddie Sullivan



Nicholas stared up at the highest tower in the castle. He longed to live the good life so badly. Time after time he told himself someday he would find a way to live there. He was willing to do anything.

“Hey boy! You daydreaming again?” His father caught him looking toward his future home when he should’ve been cleaning horseshite. “These stables ain’t gonna clean themselves layabout!”

He began to push the shovel around in the muck so the old man would leave. That was the last straw, as soon as the bastard was out of sight he sprang into action. He had been stealing coin from his father’s inn patrons and the till for months. Nothing really noticeable, some here and some there. The result was quite a bit of money. He kept it hidden at the bottom of his shite cart which was always full. No one in their right mind was going dig around in a wheelbarrow of shite. He had no qualms about retrieving it, his life was shite. He looked like shite, smelled like shite, and no matter how well he washed even his food tasted a bit like shite. He stuck his hand down deep into the warm, soft turds till he felt the bag. Pushing down harder he grabbed on and immediately felt the weight of his loot. Venturing a look both ways to ensure no one was looking before he yanked his hand out, he quickly transferred it from wagon to the inside of his tunic. His hand transferred a fair amount of shite to the inside of his clothing too, again he didn’t care. It wasn’t like he could smell worse. It was time to see the witch.

Nicholas ran out of the stable and down the street before he saw anyone. Eventually his father would notice him missing and would have every intention of beating him when he returned. Lucky for Nick, he had no intention of returning. He would take this loot to the witch and she’d find a way he could live in the castle. He would pay her to cast a spell that would have him eating at the same castle as the king and the princess that no one had laid eyes on since she was a small child. It was said around the city she was lovely, but she was also notoriously foolish. The king kept her at the castle so she wouldn’t get into trouble which he would then have to handle. It also kept her from foolishly bumping into boys her age and falling in love with the wrong kind.

He arrived at the witches house after over an hour of walking after clearing the front gate just as they were closing it for the evening. The city guards men had warned him against going out alone, but didn’t really care all that much what happened to one young peasant who smelled like poop. There was no attempt to stop him, they just locked up behind him. He saw the hut in the clearing, it seemed to be made entirely of sticks which was odd giving it’s large size. He approached.

“Oi! I need your help. I am willing to pay.” His voice was extremely loud in an attempt to hide the fear he felt at approaching a witch’s house after the sundown.

A voice came from behind him. “Who you yelling at and why do you smell so badly of shite?”

He jumped and momentarily smelled even worse of shite if at all possible. He turned quickly and there was a cute little old woman in a dress made of burlap sack cloth with a kerchief over her head.

“Are you the witch?” He was expecting something a bit more scary.

“Yeah, not that scary I know. Come inside and state your business so I can put these herbs and mushrooms away.” She said this as she hoisted a basket from her left arm onto her right to give it some relief from a heavy load.

They went in and she sold him a potion which would give him the power to take on the spirit of the next animal he encountered that got its saliva on him. He was a bit concerned that he would need to get bit by an animal but that didn’t stop him from buying the potion from her with all his money and gulping it right down. He brought his concern up once he had chugged every drop. She assured him that once the animal shared it’s essence with him it would see him as kindred and leave him alone.

She told him to leave her house and go to the right as there was a bear’s den and several wolves which frequented the crags in that direction. She felt he would not have much luck to the left as that only lead to a bog. He assured her that was just what he would do. He would become the wolf or even better the bear. He would lead the king’s army and marry his daughter. Unfortunately Nicholas didn’t know his left from his right. He went the wrong direction.

Upon entering the swamp he lost his temper and tripped on an exposed root. Laying on the ground he opened his eyes to see a big ugly bull frog looking at him.

“Go on get outta here you stupid....” The frog lunged ballistically and bit his tongue inside his mouth. They stayed locked in an embrace before Nick realized what this meant. The frog let go and was removed and thrown to the side.

He ran back to the witch and told her of his misfortune hoping she’d help.

“Well young man I think I have a plan, but you are going to have to wash the stink of shite off you and learn to walk and talk like a prince to pull it off. We have work to do. How you feel about being married?”


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:30:40 AM

The What Were Challenge

A Lesson in Good Manners

By:
Michele Dutcher



The old lady in the red overcoat sat in the park, waiting to feed the squirrels that had gathered around her. Her face was partially hidden by a green and white knitted scarf that had been wrapped twice around her head and throat.

The woman unzipped and then reached into a large cloth bag sitting on the bench beside her, bringing out a plastic bag full of peanuts, still in the shell. She smiled as she checked the bag – the nuts were unsalted because she would never feed those she loved salted anything, because it would be bad for their tender little hearts. She looked around at the mass of furry creatures looking at her by now, having come down from the trees to visit with her.

From a distance the homeless man could see the red blotch of a woman surrounded by what seemed to be a hundred tiny piles of fur. As he came up behind her, he realized that the piles of fur were actually dozens of squirrels, all of them with their eyes riveted onto the old woman.
As the dirty, scraggly, homeless man stepped in front of the old woman’s park bench she threw some unshelled peanuts onto the sidewalk, a few falling onto his ragged low-topped tennis shoes.

“Hey, lady – watch out for where you’re throwing them things!” – he said, obviously insulted.

“Oh, I’m sorry, dear,” she said in a high squeaky old person voice, one he hated. “I didn’t see you standing there.”

“Yeah, okay then. No harm done I guess,” said the young man, pretending to stomp the shells off his shoes. The man looked up and around, checking to be certain no one would be walking past for a while. Actually his timing was perfect because the meager winter sunlight was already fading, although it was only six o’clock. “Gimme a cigarette,” he ordered, sticking out his hand.

She looked up at him. “Do you see me smoking?” she asked.

“No. But I figured you had just finished smoking one. Do you have a smoke for me or not!”

“I have never smoked and I never will. It’s a dirty, filthy habit, and if you can’t afford to pay for your own cigarettes, you certainly shouldn’t be smoking.”

“Who do you think you’re talking to old woman?” he demanded. “I asked you nicely for a cigarette! You are so rude!”

The old woman threw her pets another handful of shelled peanuts. “It’s rude to ask strangers to give you stuff,” she told the man without looking at him. “Now, if you don’t mind, my pets are hungry.”

“Pets?” he said in a huff. “These squirrels aren’t your pets – they’re just pests, tree rats!” He swung his left foot back, trying to kick one of the squirrels around his feet, just missing it. “ If you have money enough to waste feeding them, you must have money enough to buy me a meal.”

The old lady threw out another handful of peanuts to the army of squirrels surrounding the Central Park bench. She hadn’t brought many peanuts with her, certainly not enough for the mob of squirrels looking at her with hungry eyes.

“Are you listening to me, old woman?” demanded the man, screaming down at her, his fists clenched. “You don’t have any cigarettes, you don’t have any money. What the hell are you good for? Someone should teach you a lesson in manners.”

“Someone should teach YOU a lesson in manners,” she said firmly.

The homeless man’s hands were almost on her now when she suddenly bent down, touching the backside of her ankle with her finger. Before she could sit up, half-a-dozen small creatures were on the man’s feet, biting his ankles. Before he could scream, four more of them had raced up the man’s muddy coat, their claws tearing at his throat before their tiny teeth tore open his neck.

The old woman smiled as she began to get smaller and smaller, watching the man sink to his knees, as the tree rats swarmed over his filthy body until he, if seen from a distance in the darkness, might have appeared to be a giant squirrel himself, down on all fours, with a teeming coat of gray and red fur.

By now the old woman would have been hard to differentiate from the other squirrels, but the old lady was now a red squirrel herself, racing to the most delicious part of the man’s body – his eyeballs - which had been left for her by her community of tree rats.

After half an hour the old woman in the red cloth coat, the savior of the tree rats of Central Park, their redeemer, sat on the wooden bench again, smiling at her tiny friends. The woman was happy now, as the army of squirrels began to wander back to their nests, contentedly. Tomorrow she would be back, feeding a hundred squirrels with just one small bag of unsalted, shelled peanuts.


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:31:30 AM

Re: FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?

Wish You Were Hare…

By:
Sergio Palumbo



The other boys’ voice came from outside the bedroom window on his father’s farm. Initially, Howell turned over, as if he wanted the calls to be a dream, then a worried expression appeared on his face when he heard them again. He didn’t want it to happen, but he knew he had no other alternative today: the young boy had already refused to go along with them yesterday, and the day before that, pretending to be sick, but now he had to face them.

Howell was 13-years-old, and he knew he had to follow them or his friends would say he didn’t want to help their town. Even worse – those might think he was afraid of jackrabbits, and would make fun of him…

The Southern Plains where they lived had been devastated during 1930s, and America had faced its worst drought - people naming it the ‘Dust Bowl’. Many previous dust storms had menaced Plains states, and a massive one - 1800 miles wide - hit on May 11, 1934. The desperate local farmers didn’t know it was a consequence of over-plowing/over-grazing the terrain during the past years, but the wheat market collapsed and the storms turned daylight to darkness most of the times.

Once the farms dried up, the land was defenseless against the winds that hit that part of the country. Then, as if they had just been unleashed - though they only came to find some food when most of the wild vegetation had been destroyed - the jackrabbits descended on the Plains, eating whatever meager crops were left. It was during that time that, to combat the hundreds of thousands leporids that did overrun the Dust Bowl states, some towns staged ‘rabbit drives’ in which farmers went hunting jackrabbits, beating them to death with their baseball bat. Desperate men will do desperate things…

At first, young boys weren’t involved in the hunts, and they only followed their fathers to have some fun when those went out to kill the jackrabbits. Later, once such dust storms started killing hundreds of people, they eagerly started doing their duty as well.

Actually, it was not that Howell was afraid of hares or jackrabbits, but in his heart he’d rather not kill them. Truth be told, he had once owned a young hare named Pipkin, when he was a child. His family had found that animal and he was raised beside their dogs and their cat. Then the dust storms had started, and his family had also begun finding dead chickens on the farm. His father thought it was bad luck to have a hare as a pet, as such an animal wasn’t meant to live that way, or so he thought. He wanted to get rid of the rabbit, but his grandmother had always said they shouldn’t upset the hare, that they’d better treat him with care, but his parents didn’t listen to her. She was part Native American, and his parents thought she put too much stock in old tales, including the Powhatan tradition that the leader of the gods was the Great Hare…

Fact is that the killing of chickens on their farm was probably done by foxes, but the adults didn’t think so. Moreover, his older sister said she had seen Pipkin become wild while he was outside one night, and that experience had frightened her. Actually, his sister was always talking about improbable things, but at that moment their parents were eager to believe her.

Probably the hare would have been killed the next day if, finally, his father hadn’t followed the last request of their old grandmother. “Do not harm Pipkin, just set him free…” she had said. So the man had let him go away, into the openness of the plains that stretched around their farm. It was true that, from that moment, no more chickens had been killed, but some dead foxes were found around their home…

Howell had become very sad because his pet hare had gone. He loved the rabbit.

That day, Howell met his friends and all of them went out hunting. The young blonde-haired boy was given a big stick, and soon they reached a place where their ‘rabbit drive’ of the day started. As one of the lads rounded up several leporids, the others surrounded them, so they could deathly beat them - when suddenly something happened! A lone hare appeared on a heap full of shrubs in the distance, and he started looking at the boys with hatred. Of course, no one would ever be scared of a common jack-rabbit, but such eyes and appearance were fierce and frightening, unbelievably. He started growing and growing, soon becoming much taller than a horse, a wild expression in his eyes, and the lads feared for their lives.

Then, the creature happened to look at Howell’s face. It smelled the air, and then he stopped. ‘Pipkin, is that you?’ the boy thought, as he was sure he recognized his old hare. In a minute, the jackrabbits all moved towards the huge creature, as if he was their king. Then all the animals went away, never to be seen again.

Howell was sure he had stumbled onto his lost Pipkin that day, and he was happy that his pet was still alive. He also supposed that the hare had stopped only when he had recognized him, thus sparing his friends from even worse consequences.

Legend has it that such big were-creatures were the result of an animal being bitten by some kind of were-monster on the plains at night, which caused a monstrous transformation. The blonde-haired boy didn’t know if those tales were true, but he liked to think Pipkin would stay free in those lands forever. He also liked to believe that his hare would be watching their farm to make certain nothing bad ever happened to Howell and his family again, if they just let the jackrabbits live freely…


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:32:17 AM

The What Were Challenge

- Winner -



Fishbowl

By:
JP Garner



What am I doing here? I'm going about this all wrong. This approach would never work to gain her. But alas I am here, in her apartment, and I know that she will be returning from work soon. I should have just asked her out the night that I met her there. Instead, like an idiot, I followed her home to see where she lived, and have reduced myself to the lowness of stalker. To make matters even worse, now I have broken into her apartment. What did I expect to accomplish by coming here, best case scenario I get thrown out, but more likely I'm going to end up in jail.

Oh no, I hear her coming up the stairs. Now more than ever I regret having come here. What drove me to this in the first place? I wish I could just shut my eyes and be back at home. Or better yet be back several days ago before this whole stupid obsession of mine began. Now I can hear her unlocking the door and I know that whatever I do has to be done in the next few seconds. I look around in desperation, and see nothing but an unfamiliar apartment. Then a fishless fishbowl catches my eye.

Closing my eyes I pray harder than I ever have as I hear the latch from the door unlock. All of my focus leans itself towards the empty fishbowl. The color gold explodes in my mind as I find myself suddenly struggling to breathe. I feel as though I'm choking on water, then realize that in fact I am. But in a moment the water begins to go down easier and it seems that I am breathing it without discomfort. Finally, opening my eyes, I see the world as if through a curved piece of glass. Then it dawns on me that that is exactly what I am doing.

I see the door close as though it were curving in space, but I hear nothing except for a muffled thud, nothing like the sound a door usually makes. The world seems to blur and contract with my every movement. I find that only if I remain very still can I get a clear picture of what is happening on the other side of the glass. Despite the difficulty with my vision, swimming does feel quite comfortable, a great contrast to the severe nervousness and panic I had experienced just moments before.

The water around me pulses with vibrations. I am getting the sense that she is now headed in my direction. Her figure waves and undulates through the apparently thick air, and only by her footsteps am I really able to tell that she is coming straight for the fishbowl. Her hand dips into the water and the refraction scares me half to death. The displacement of the water causes me to surge in the opposite direction than I am trying to swim. In the next moment I feel myself freed from the water and suffocating once again, this time in the confines of her hand.

It was difficult to make out her words, as I was focused on gasping for the air that I would not receive. Though I believe that I made out at least one of her sentences.

"Well, well, Sampson, it looks like we do have a feeder fish left after all, you won't have to wait until tomorrow for a snack."

Only then did the gravity of my mistake sink in, for I had failed to notice the tank on the other side of the room, the one containing a turtle.


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:54:23 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to write a story where the protagonist is a cryptid


Example story:

The Night the Evening Went South in the Cold North

By:
Eddie Sullivan



So I’m driving along after work buzzing down Route 14 listening to my favorite podcast. It hadn’t been a good day but hadn’t been a bad on either. Road is slippery but there isn’t much traffic, I figure I will be home in ten or fifteen. The guy in front of me isn’t tearing along but he is somewhere in the ball park of the speed limit, so I figure I will give him about two car lengths. No sooner had I thought this than he stopped dead in the middle of the road, in winter, in Vermont, doing forty miles an hour. It was hit him or go for the freshly plowed snow bank on the right side. I chose the snow bank. I figured I would pull out so I could tail him and introduce boot to ass, I didn’t catch his plate as he slowly started back up and pulled away. I was stuck and he was gone. My head started pounding. I rallied my composure. I had taken my medication, I had done my meditation earlier. This too shall pass.

No houses were right in sight. Very angry. A truck pulls up along side of my dilemma. Nice old couple real country folks, good folks.

“You need help son? I don’t think I can get you out even with my chains.”

I shake my head a bit, not answering “No”, just shaking it because it seems appropriate. Maybe I am hoping if I keep stirring the rage won’t settle.

“I appreciate it if you could give me a ride down the street and I will call the auto club.”

Old man nods a good natured Vermont nod and gestures to get in. His wife scoots over. It was like I said good folk. I definitely don’t want any rage to leak out now, not with kind folk doing a good deed. They leave me at the store and I dig out the auto club card and call their number. I tell the girl on the other end I know the local tow vendor they send.

“You need to tell him I am half way between the bridge and the high school, not far from the town-line.”

She gives a practiced retort like what I said didn’t even matter. God damn minimum wage zombie. She can go off script even in the service of better service. “I have to tell them a cross street sir.”

“They will know what I am saying, I need them to find me sooner rather than later.”

“Sir I will tell then you are on Route 14 near the Chelsea Street bridge.”

I am too pissed to think straight. “Sure whatever I will be at my car.” I head out to walk the miles back to my car to meet the tow truck. Given auto club response times I should just make it back if I hustle.

I need not have rushed. Miss “I can’t go off script” has given them directions which send them to the opposite end of town so I get back to the car with well over an hour to spare. I don’t do well with to much time to think when I have been wound up.

The tow guy is nice enough. He does his job and gets me out of the snow bank. He earns whatever the auto club pays him and the added bonus of me not decapitating him and feasting on his warm organs right there on the roadside. Whoa I really need to get home and get to my medication. I need to have enough benzodiazepines in me to tranquilize a rhino post haste or something bad is going to go down.

I drive up the snowy Vermont hill, well really it is a small mountain I live on. Coincidence continues to flop with me all the way home. I narrowly miss not one, not two, but three separate head on collisions with full grown deer. Three miles and I see a buck and two does almost smash into me in three separate spots. All miss narrowly and bound off into the woods. Not my night, this last bit really gets me worked up. It makes me want to hunt instead of go home.

I pull up my driveway and see the back end of a grey Dodge parked in my driveway. I live at the top of the hill. It is two miles of woods to the nearest neighbor. I don’t really do unexpected visitors, especially not tonight. Wait a God Damn minute! That is the car! I park and get out in one motion.

A piss-ant college looking turd gets out one side, and a buddy as smarmy looking and spoiled as the first get out the other side.

Dink one says, “Oh man were you the local yokel I brake checked back coming into town? Bummer. You should’t follow so close.” His friend was trying to hide a smirk.

“I think it best that you let me go inside, I need to take my medication. You should be gone when I look back out.”

He put his hand on my arm and his buddy came over on my other side and put his hand on my shoulder. “Wait a minute Bra’, we came all the way from upstate cause we heard you had inside info on a real wild trip. Someone said you knew where to find a Wendigo and you need to show us. We will even pay you enough you can buy moose meat or whatever you woods people eat.”

I looked into his eyes. “ Yeah you know what, now that I think about it, I don’t need those tranquilizers at all. You make an interesting offer. I can show you a Wendigo. I can show you possible the most wild, scary ass Wendigo to ever stalk these woods.”

The change comes quick when I don’t even other to hold it back. Dinner was served.


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:55:19 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

A Novel Experience

By:
Spacer



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


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:56:04 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

Electrosmooth

By:
JP Garner



“Yeti! Yeti! Yeti!” the children all chanted in unison.

“He’s so hairy I’ll bet he has to comb his whole body.”

“My dad says he belongs in a zoo.”

“What a freak.”

The children of the playground danced around Ralph, dropping insults and teasing in the sing-song manner of their age. From out of nowhere a stone struck Ralph on the head, sending him to the asphalt. The chanting stopped and the children stood in a circle, no one daring to say who had thrown the rock. When the bell rang they all ran off to class, leaving Ralph where he had fallen. It was the last day that he ever attended school.

###

“Do you suffer from unwanted hair? Are you tired of razors, powders, and creams that don’t work? If so, then the new Electrosmooth from Bionetics International is the solution for you. The Electrosmooth zaps unwanted hair out of existence with its new pain-free, patented Quantalaz technology…”

Annoyed, Ralph switched off the television. Did even it need to remind him? He walked to the bathroom to look in the mirror and see if he really looked so strange. It was not until he opened the door that he remembered that his mother had removed the mirror. Moping back to the living-room, he switched on the T.V. , his only window to the world of people. Maybe he should buy something like the Electrosmooth.

###

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

###

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

Carson hung up the phone with a feeling of satisfaction. If the boss was pleased then he knew he was onto something.

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

###

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

###

On his way home he stopped at the store and bought a mirror for the bathroom. For the first time in his life he felt unafraid of the outside world, the one which his mother had demonized since almost before he could remember. Hanging the mirror with pride, he took the first good look at his now hairless face and body. It was foreign and would take getting used to, but he was unashamed.

The telephone interrupted his first prideful moment, but he answered with enthusiasm, wanting to talk to someone. The voice on the other end sounded nervous and excited.

“Ralph, I’m glad you answered. This is Dr. Charleston. It’s a miracle that we’ve found you. You know that we’ve been trying to track you down ever since you were taken out of school. You’re quite a hard man to get a find. Forgive me for being blunt, but your condition, I mean we’ve been needing someone with your condition, you see we’ve discovered that your abnormal hair growth holds the cure for cancer. With one of your hairs we can cross reference genes and destabilize the rapid growth process. It’s just that your condition is exceedingly rare, and you are believed to be the last hypertrichiac alive. With your help we could save thousands of lives.”

In the mirror Ralph watched as his smile sagged. The phone sank back into the cradle. In front of him sat the box that housed the Electrosmooth. Bold letters on the side of the box read, results permanent.


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:57:02 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

Hunger Shames

By:
Sergio Palumbo



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Post April 28, 2016, 10:57:57 AM

The "Still Among Us?" Challenge

- Winner -



The Poppe Creek Monster

By:
Michele Dutcher



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tennet or Smith?” he shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Post April 29, 2016, 10:07:43 PM

Change That Tune: 1980's Pop Music Version

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan.

The challenge was to take the title of a 1980's pop song and write a story that the title inspired.


Example story:


Inspired by the title of the song "Send me an Angel" by Real Life, 1983.

Send Me An Angel

By:
Eddie Sullivan



I just wanted to fit in. I thought I would do anything to make the guys from Essex St. like me. I was brave so I took the dare. Now I am in this locked old steamer trunk with my hands and feet tied together. It is hot in here. I am not sure they are coming back for me.

I had trouble with these guys on and off again since I was six years old. I figured I had earned a little respect by putting myself in a few daring situations over the last few years. Now that I was ten I figured I had paid my dues and they would let me in their club. The older guys seemed cooler and had better bicycles. Most of them wore those cool gloves with the fingers cut off when they rode around town. I had told them there was nothing I was scared of and they could even test me

Jaime wasn’t the leader, he might have been the second most important of the crew because of his age, but he was the one with an idea. He was a smelly dirty kid, from a smelly dirty house, with smelly dirty biker parents. He felt it was his duty to spread the misery he received at home to anyone and everyone. He thought of the idea where I was locked in the trunk tied up. The trunk was in the clubhouse, which was in the woods, nowhere near any responsible adult. If I couldn’t escape on my own they didn’t want me to get help.

They tied me up, locked me up, and left me here. After they left I realized that maybe this was a bad idea. These guys really weren’t that nice. They also weren’t that smart. I might be in big trouble.

Time went by. It might have been fifteen minutes or it may have been an hour. My arms and legs were beginning to go numb. No one responded to my yells and screams. I cried. I cried a lot. The air was hot in the trunk.

It had been a long time. I hadn’t heard anyone and no one seemed to hear me. My arms and legs had “gone to sleep”. I started thinking perhaps that wasn’t such a bad idea. Maybe I would just go to sleep and then someone would come find me eventually. I felt kind of, sort of tired. So I began drifting off to sleep.

Just before I dropped off entirely the top of the trunk opened. The light was awful bright coming in, must have been cause I was in the dark so long. Hands reached in and untied the ropes on my arms and legs. I was lifted out of the trunk and placed on the floor. I looked up and there was a naked lady standing over me, with wings. I don’t mean she had no arms, I mean she had them on her back. She had hair like Olivia Newton John has on that one album cover, you know the one I mean. I think she was an angel. My limbs were coming back to life, problem was something else was responding too. I was almost eleven and she was naked and beautiful.

I wanted to thank her for saving me and excuse myself for, well you know. She just smiled down at me, then bent over and kissed my forehead. My arms and legs were awake enough now so I turned over to push myself up, mostly so I didn’t have to look up at her naked as a captive audience anymore. I rolled over into a feeble push up position. By the time I struggled to my feet she was gone.

I left the clubhouse and found those rotten kids playing baseball in the park. I told them that they sucked at tying knots and they could go to hell. I never figured I would tell this story, mostly cause who would believe it. Well anyway that was what really happened, believe it or not, that’s on you friend.


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Post April 29, 2016, 10:08:47 PM

Change That Tune: 1980's Pop Music Version

Inspired by the title of the song "Mandela Day" by Simple Minds.

Mandela Day

By:
Sergio Palumbo



The South Africans (or Afrikaners as part of the people from that old land on Earth still called themselves) were one the last countries that embarked on space exploration and colonization after the new technology of QuantumSpeed was discovered and became available for traveling from star to star.

Many had thought, especially in sci-fi tales of a time gone by, that the day humans achieved interstellar travel it would be thanks to a worldwide organization that would unite all the countries of Earth in order to maximize energy, costs and resources. Everyone assumed that such an alliance would have built a starship that no superpower could build by itself, manned by an international crew that would boldly go together to find a new home, finally spreading Earthlings across the vastness of space.

But things had gone differently, as a matter of fact, and the most powerful countries had quickly taken steps to create their own national settlements on other newly-discovered worlds. So, when the South Africa government raised enough money to follow the others and eventually made its move, their huge vessel left Earth for the first interplanetary travel that country had ever attempted. The spaceship arrived on Biko I, the verdant planet orbiting Lacaille 8760, after only three months of travel. Though it was predictable, the first outpost they built there was named Mandela – after the most revered president in their history, of course.

As green and pleasing as a well-manicured summer meadow, that world was exactly what the colonists needed in order to forget about the deprivations they had undergone back on Earth - suffering that had been due to the continuous depletion of the soil and the desertification of the cultivable lands during the last years of the 22th century.

What they couldn’t have known, however, was that this planet was already of interest to another species, the GHIHHTH, who had positioned automated devices on the surface of the planet meant to survey and collect data. Perhaps they had done all that for a future colonization, although no alien from that species was present on the planet at that time.Anyway, the sudden appearance of the Earthlings made the GHIHHTH hurry up, and in just a matter of six months, the warlike GHIHHTH had showed up - which changed everything. The men and women who had reached the Mandela outpost didn’t want to start a war, for many reasons: they didn’t know exactly how powerful those aliens were; they were very far from Earth and with no reinforcements expected - no troops, technology or food; and they were tired after the long journey and only wanted a new home where they could start a comfortable life.

In a way, hostile events had happened before any negotiations could be attempted, with the Earthlings openly declaring that they were not leaving that world, although some agreements might have been reached to allow both species to live and peacefully prosper on the surface. Anyway, as soon as the delegates sent from Mandela got back to the small outpost, the entire settlement was sealed off by the GHIHHTH using an invisible and impenetrable dome that didn’t allow humans to go outside. Wild beasts, insects, air and water could come and go, but nothing else. The message was clear: if Earthlings wanted to stay on that world – a world that the strong GHIHHTH said was their property - they would have to live in the dome, separated from the rest of the planet. The only other option was for them to finally decide to leave – whether they went back to Earth or journeyed further out into space, to search for another home elsewhere.

To many of the human colonists, this terrible situation reminded them of heartbreaking events which had occurred in South Africa’s history, when their ancestors had suffered greatly because of racial segregation which had been enforced through legislation by the National Party government. Under that system, the rights, associations, and movements of the majority black inhabitants had been curtailed for decades. There was not much they could do, but the humans simply didn’t want to leave, and they refused to surrender!

Though no help came from the other countries of Earth, and although no way was found to escape that forced boundary, the poor colonists resisted and did their best during the following years. Many examples of virtue were displayed by the local population, given the scarcity of resources available, and what some of those humans accomplished using only the few instruments and devices they had at their fingertips was incredible.

It was one of those highly-skilled individuals, a black seventeen-year-old female researcher named Refilwe - a real whiz-kid – that finally changed it all. Her tests on new minerals that were under the site - which were abundant all over the planet - proved to be enough to allow her to succeed at weakening the transparent dome the GHIHHTH had positioned. But that wasn’t enough. She even happened to find out how to strengthen the force field at will, and, most of all, how to reverse its effects! Though it required time, the day came when the machinery she had built was activated and slowly the dome that had long kept the human colonists imprisoned disappeared. Then it began to enclose the rest of the planet – except Mandela- in its grip. So, it was the GHIHHTH who were imprisoned now, and none of their attempts to escape or destroy it had any effect.

The South Africans colonists certainly didn’t plan to cruelly leave the aliens segregated that way forever, of course - although they thought it wouldn’t hurt for those beings to have a taste of their own treatment for a while. As Refilwe had once said, and the population of the Mandela outpost still remembers her words clearly today, “We’ll finally free you, one day or another. But not so easily, not now, not yet…”


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Post April 29, 2016, 10:09:47 PM

Change That Tune: 1980's Pop Music Version

Inspired by the title of the song "I Melt With You" by Modern English, 1982.

I Melt With You

By:
JP Garner



“This is Kim Montgomery with the 8 O’clock News. This evening marks the incredible moment when humanity will, for the first time, attempt a long term departure from Earth. The largest rocket ever built will be launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on the new specially constructed launch pad designed to withstand the tremendous force that this behemoth of a craft will create. Spectators and protestors have gathered around the launch site and have been warned to stay away from the upcoming blast. National Guard has also gathered to protect the citizens and potentially prevent the riot that many have predicted will occur. Public displeasure has been mounting since the final announcement of those to be included on the journey. What was said to be a lottery has seemed to most more like an elitist selection. While many say that they would have opted to stay at home, others feel that they have been abandoned by their governments, left behind to suffer the fate of a dying Earth. With only a few years left on the countdown until the end, problems will be exacerbated by tonight’s launch. Experts are now saying that with such massive inertial thrust, the revived and beefed up Orion craft will actually alter the Earth’s spin. Launch vehicles take advantage of the Earth’s spin to gain some extra speed towards escape velocity, and we’ve just received information that the enormous craft leaving us, with the one hundred thousand aboard, could possibly push the Earth so hard in the other direction that the planet may slow down and eventually become tidally locked. With the clock ticking for humanity no one is happy about more bad news, nor the possibility of our atmosphere melting away. Some supporters of the mission say that it is a small price to pay for humanity’s second chance, yet still dissidence is growing and it is feared that sabotage may be attempted.”

###

“Stand back I say, no one is to pass this line. It’s for your own safety people.” Thomas tried to shout over the din of the crowd.
“If they were really thinking about our safety then we’d be on that ship with them, and they wouldn’t be stopping the Earth in its tracks.” An angry protester within earshot of Thomas’ remarks shook a cardboard sign, yelling hysterically.
“I’m just doing my job, please stand back. The blast from this thing is going to be enormous, if you don’t back up then you won’t even be around to complain about the Earth stopping, now move.” It pained Thomas to be treating these people this way. He, like everyone else, wished that he had been chosen for the pilgrimage to another world. But he hadn’t, and as a National Guardsman his place was to keep people from interfering with the most important launch in history, the one that just might save the human race.
Thomas felt a shock like being hit with a brick. His vision blackened for a moment before he understood that he had been smacked across the face with a protester’s sign post. For a second he thought that the launch was underway, but the sound he heard was coming from the crowd and was soon joined by gun fire.

###

Clarence and Katy held sweaty hands, both squeezing tight with anxiety. The Captain announced that the countdown was about to start and that everyone should take one last look at their home planet before taking off.
“Oh my god Clarence, it’s horrible, there’s a riot going on out there.” squeaked Katy.
“Look away Katy. The future is wide open to us. Let’s not bring this vision with us as our last memory of Earth. Of course the people staying behind aren’t happy about us leaving, but they should be. We are the last hope, and we need to leave with hope. If we do, you’ll see the difference, it will get better, you’ll see.”


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Post April 29, 2016, 10:11:23 PM

Change That Tune: 1980's Pop Music Version

Inspired by the title of the song "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics, 1983.

Sweet Dreams

By:
Michele Dutcher



The square room was as stark as Jacquan True remembered it, his orange jumpsuit standing out in contrast against the white walls. The only furniture in the room was two chairs facing each other on either side of a metal table. One chair was filled by a fragile examiner named Forest Delgado, who motioned for Jacquan to take the other seat.

“Do you know why you’re back here?” asked Delgado.

“To play more video poker?” snorted Jacquan, crossing his heavy arms over his solid chest.

“I can see why you might think that…”

“Wait! Wait!” the prisoner interrupted. “It’s something of space, isn’t it? – outer space?”

Delgado looked surprised. “Why would you say that? Who told you that?”

“No one told me,” he said defiantly. “But I’m right, aren’t I?” He shifted in his chair, uneasily. “I dream things, you know. I dream the future.”

“Is that how you scored so well on the card games? – did you dream what would come up next?”

“No, no – when I’m playing poker it’s like the future whispers in my ear, so I can pick out which cards I want to keep.”

“And you win 93% of the time,” said Forest, checking a clipboard.

“That’s what placed me here. I was winning at cards and someone called me a cheater. No one calls Jacquan a cheater and lives! – Que sera, sera.”

“Logically, if you dream the future, why didn’t you change things so you wouldn’t end up here?”

“Well that’s the thing: you can’t change the future; you can only see what is going to happen beforehand…like a 30 second movie.”

“I may be able to get you out of here,” said Delgado.

“How?”

“We’ve sent two flights to Mars, but they both disappeared.”

“Qui, I know.”

“With your ability, you could dream the trip one day at a time, and tell us in advance what is going to happen – so we’ll know how to change things on trip four.”

“Why should Jacquan help?”

“You’re in here for life. If you do survive, you’ll be set-up in modules on Mars for the rest of your life with three other crewmen – all prisoners with unique abilities.”

The inmate picked at his jumpsuit. “Can I wear something besides this obscene orange jumpsuit?”

“Anything you want – just make a list and hand it to the warden.”

“I suppose that anyplace is better than this. You have yourself a physic spaceman.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed the recruiter. “In two weeks you’ll be on your way to Mars. Guards!”
****
May 23, 2023

The next five months proved uneventful as the crew of four convicts floated towards the Red Planet. 1 _ hours each day was spent on exercising, and there were 3 meals served automatically by the kitchen appliances. This close to Mars, the Earth and Luna appeared as two crescents – the larger one blue and the smaller one white.

Ten minutes a day was set aside for each crew member to report back to Earth. This took place within a soundproof room with glass windows. Jacquan’s dreams were peaceful now and he told this to the camera.

The man who called himself Simon was blind. Eddie was deaf and was teaching Jacquan sign language. The fourth man – Wilson – didn’t have any obvious distinctions, but Jacquan thought he might have a photographic memory because he had been trained to manually land the ship if systems failed.

The computer awoke the physic during REM sleep – and made sure he wrote down what he had been dreaming about each night.

October 5th 10:15

Jacquan sat in the sound proof booth, 20 minutes ahead of his scheduled time. He watched his crewmates walk past, trying to give his report as calmly as possible. “This may well be my final transmission – as an accident will happen in 20 minutes that will kill everyone on board.” Eddie walked past and nodded towards Jacquan, and they nodded to each other. “I saw my fellow crewmates, suited up, helmets on, dead. The alarms were blaring – their tongues hung out of their mouths. As I approached the bridge screen two words were flashing.” Jacquan got out his notebook. “Magnetic Whirlpool. I have no intention of telling my crewmates what I saw because nothing I do will change the future. In my mind, they’re all dead right now – they just don’t know it yet.”

Suddenly Eddie opened the door to the booth, pulling Jacquan out. “I read your lips and saw what you said about all of us being dead! When? When!”

“14 minutes,” replied Jacquan.

“Everyone to the bridge,” screamed Eddie. “Everyone suit up!”

As the others followed procedure, Jacquan went to the common area and got out a bottle of rum they had been saving for the landing. If you had to meet your maker, you might as well meet him hammered. The alarms went off and the lights went out.
****
December 14th

Jacquan slipped into the communications booth of his original ship.

“Jacquan True to Earth, reporting from the surface of Mars. It has taken me 6 weeks to get the booth fixed, and I’ll need to make this short. After a soft landing by the autopilot, I found the modules sent here earlier were in good condition. The three modules are now linked up. Everyone else is dead of course. Protocol says to jump into a suit as soon as the alarm goes off – but don’t do that! – You’ll suffocate because the whirlpool messes up the air inside the helmets. There’s enough air in the ship to last until everything goes back to normal, just wait it out.

“I have lots of food and the greenhouse is going strong. But I’d like someone to play cards with besides the computer –come on up. This is Jacquan True signing off, commander of the Martian base Baton Rouge. I’m off to take a nap now, so sweet dreams my Earth friends, and C’est la vie.”


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Post April 29, 2016, 10:12:39 PM

Change That Tune: 1980's Pop Music Version

- Winner -


Inspired by the title of the song "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John, 1983.

I’m Still Standing

By:
Rick Tornello



A probe of some kind is jammed into me. A hand, a strong perfumed hand, grabs me. I cannot see. My sight has been cut off. This hand grabs my neck, lifts me up, yanks me back and then rams my face into a metal wall. Then slam-slam-slam –slam-slam.

I keep telling myself, I will not break, I will not break, I will not…slam-slam-slam. My god, that hurts. The shocks run all through me. I could just crack and die. NO!
I’m strong I will not crack, I will not break, no matter. What?

One of them just shoved some metal thing up my… my god what’s wrong with these people?

And again this same hand, I can smell it, grabs my neck, pull and push and slam-slam-slam-slam.

I have no idea where I am. Now it’s cold. I’m on the floor. I can tell it’s concrete, and it is cold. They leave me here, blind and with no protection. Why what have I done?

A different hand grabs me and throws me on a table; some greasy wet instrument is being shoved into me again and again. When will they stop?

I WILL NOT crack. I will not break! I am strong.

It’s so cold.

I must have passed out. It’s that perfumed hand again. She’s grabbing me and what now? I feel warm, no not warm, I feel hot. I want to scream but I can’t.

Someone else jams me up with that probe and rams me against that metal wall. Slam-slam. It’s only two times. What do they think I’ll break? Have they no mercy?

And it stops. They never talk; they just do, and do. I can hear their breathing and their laughter. And I hear the fingers hitting a keyboard.

And… what…wait, they’re gone. I’m expecting more of the same that I didn’t hear them leave. I heard no door open. I’m still blind. I hurt, I’m burned, and I’m dirty and greasy all over from that shit they put on me and into me.

The door opens and I hear her. “That session was a good one. Let’s see if this one will do the job.

Not a fucking chance. I will not break. I’d better never meet you. I’d better never see you or know your name, I’d better…another probe is shoved in me, I’m slammed against the metal wall and it feels like it explodes inside me. I’m going to die, my god. I will not break. I will not crack no matter what they do. I will not…

####

Well Dr. Wells. What do you think of our experiment?

“Mr. K,” says Dr. Wells, “I’m impressed. This metallurgy, the combination of the graphine and chrome moly in this new weapon is stronger and lighter than anything we’ve made or anyone as manufactured before. It won’t jam and it morphs to accept all ammunition including a mix of the NATO and Russian calibers. This should, no it will knock the AK 47 off the bestseller list once we get these out to market. The Board of Directors will be very pleased and more so once we get that export license.

“How long before we can start production?” ask Dr. Wells as she handles the weapon. You said you added some other things to the manufacturing process which makes it more adaptable in all combat situations.

Mr. K responds, “Dr. Wells, regarding production, we already have. The warehouse is full. And as far as your other question goes, all I’m allowed to disclose is that we developed a granular sub atomic artificial intelligence function that’s imbedded into the whole gun that allows the alloy to remember and learn from experience.

“We’re experimenting with the next generation. You’re holding one of the prototypes it in your hands right now. We think we’ve discovered something odd about the AI functions and we’re shipping them to Aberdeen and a DARPA lab for some classified testing tomorrow.

Mr. K adds, “Dr. Wells, if you want to play with it out a bit more we recommend five shots and running a cleaning rod and a few patches through it. This way you maintain the accuracy for testing purposes. In the field it’s not important. The gun will function in any environment. The patches, cleaning rods, jags, cleaning solvent and oil are on the table. Have fun.”

Dr. Wells nods, puts her ear protectors on, grabs the gun, checks the chamber to make sure it’s empty. For some reason there is a shell in the chamber. That’s odd and dangerous, she thinks. She ejects it, picks it off the floor and looks to see if it was a misfire. There is no firing pin hit on the primer. She puts the bullet into her pocket and then stashes a few magazines of different calibers in her shooting bag and heads back to the range. I’ll speak to Mr. K. about this later.


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Post April 29, 2016, 10:56:33 PM

Change That Tune: 2010+ Music Version

This challenge was run by Eddie Sullivan

The challenge was to take the title of a 2010 or newer pop song and write a story that the title inspired.


Example story:


Inspired by the title of the song "Come With Me Now" by The Kongos, 2011.

Come with Me Now

By:
Eddie Sullivan



Steven sat on the shore looking out at the surf breaking on the rocks under the moon light. The air smelled of salt and seaweed and the breeze felt cool on his face. He considered putting on his jacket, but thought better of it. The chill was keeping him grounded in the moment. The whisky was making him sleepy but he didn’t feel ill so he must have stopped in time.

The waves were crashing and focusing his thoughts. The rhythms were repetitive and meditative. Susie shouldn’t have blurted it out like that at the party. It wasn’t his fault. No one should find out they were going to be a father like that, drunk with the music blaring. She knew he wouldn’t have been hanging on Jenny if he had known. He was a good guy. She shouldn’t have egged him on like that, he shouldn’t have hit her.

He was sorry, but it was her fault too. Another thing, it probably wasn’t his kid they had broken up weeks ago. She had time to be anywhere with anyone in two weeks. She was weird anyway, some kind of exchange student vacationing here with her host family for the summer. It was a beach resort romance. He would just lay low the next three days and then go back to Westport with his folks. It would all die down then. He looked up at the waves as he thought he heard music just faintly.

“Huh...Hello?”

A bluish purple sparkle lingered by the surface a couple of feet out from shore. It was hard to focus on and see properly. The music increased with volume slightly and a head peeked up to the surface.

“Steven, my love, do you hear my song? It is a song of love and forgiveness. I know you love me and are sorry.”

It was her, Susie. She had come to forgive him. He got up and brushed the sand from his legs. He picked up the beer he brought with him from the house party and drained it. Going to her to explain was suddenly the right thing, she had swam all this way to forgive him. Something about that thought didn’t ring true for a moment but his doubt quickly faded. She was singing her song of forgiveness and love; it made everything all right and calm. He had to join her in the water and make it right.

She raised out of the more a little more and the song somehow increased again in volume but yet still seemed soft and calm. She was bare breasted and the purple blue hue seemed to be coming from her under the water. She was lovely. He had been wrong to hurt her, wrong to strike her. He would go to her now and make amends. He went down to the water and stripped off his shirt and shoes.

The water was cold, the Atlantic waters were always cold off all the New England states, it gave him a moment of shock. Why was he going in the water? What the hell was happening? He looked up to get his bearings and saw her again, and he heard the music. Somehow she sang, even when she seemed to stop to speak the song persisted. He again noticed her bosom, the young attractive bosom with the moon and sea water highlighting it. He had the natural reaction any young man would. She was here to forgive him. She was going to show her forgiveness in the most pleasurable way possible. Everything would be all right. He waded out about half way to her as she spoke.

“Come love. Be there for our baby. Do your duty. You are essential to us. We could not leave without you.”

Steven knew these words were true. They needed him, he needed her in a different way. Everyone would get what they needed. All he had to do was go a bit farther into her waiting embrace. He said nothing to her now as there was nothing to say, she wanted him. His child needed him. The last few feet of surf was all that separated him from where he should be.

She came just the slightest bit forward at the end and embraced him. He felt her chest press on his bare chest and warmth spread through his body. She kissed him deeply, yet the singing somehow continued. Her tongue went in his mouth and tasted of honey and cherries. He felt weak and realized she was supporting him in her arms. Steven looked down and saw her bottom was no longer legs and feet. It was tail and scales, they glimmered in the moonlight purple and blue.

Susie stared into his eyes. She lowered her mouth to kiss him again. She broke the kiss and smelled him.

“We need you Steven. The baby and I must eat before we return to the depths. I will take you into me and nourish our baby. You will die so he may live. You will be with us always.”

He felt her teeth break the flesh as she embraced him in a hug and pulled him under the surf. It was all no burden, he would be there for them. It would be just fine, the music said it was true.


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Post April 29, 2016, 10:57:35 PM

Change That Tune: 2010+ Music Version

Inspired by the title of the song "Just in Time" by Barbra Lica, 2014.

Just in Time

By:
Rod Taylor



I am watching him when he disappears. No camouflage, blending with the background, dropping flat. Just plain vanishes. The spotter camera is new, the image perfect. Remote streaming every second to my web drive. I pull the viewfinders away, rub my eyes, replace them. The path is still empty. I get to my feet, slowly, pushing up from the park bench, camera glued to the spot. Eighty meters, perhaps ninety, just where the meadow ends and the forest begins. Then suddenly, movement in the trees and I snap the lens up. Focus. Gasp. He’s there, walking the path. Out of the forest now, not in. Ten meters from where he winked out, going the other direction. Chestnut hair messed up, dark green jacket--torn? I can’t quite tell. Moving quickly now, over the open ground. Towards me. Looking at me.

I stash the camera and yank my smartphone from its pouch, swipe it open. Speed-dial, first entry as I turn, start towards the park gates. Nobody in sight. It’s just him, and me.

“Hello?”

“Janet. It’s me.” Trying to think of what to say. “I need backup.”

“What--Sam, what? You on one of your spying missions again?”

“Something like that.” Over my shoulder he’s gaining on me. Maybe thirty meters now, his face intent. A gash down the side, like he’s torn his cheek on something sharp. Blood oozing down to his chin. “Bird watching,” I say.

“I get it. So, call the ambulance?”

I start running, past the deserted playground. Birds scatter from the bushes along the path, among them two of the crossbills I’d been trying to watch. “I don’t know,” I say. My breathing labored, the words broken up. “Something fast.”

“Sam, I’ll call you back.” Silence. I stow the phone, fumbling with the magnetic catch. My poor condition is really starting to show. Breath coming in desperate gasps, chest burning. The gates don’t seem any closer. My pursuer, the vanishing man, nearly on me. A quick glance, all I get before he takes me down, a flying tackle below the knees. My head spins as I topple, arms flailing, trying to cushion the impact. Too slow. My head hits, ears singing as the world lurches, whirls down to darkness.

For a moment, I don’t remember where I am. Then it all comes back in a rush. On the bench, new camera cradled in my hands. Watching the grosbeaks in the big pine down by the path, near the edge of the forest. With the amazing zoom I can pick out every detail from a hundred meters, probably more. It’s the perfect time of day to catch birds in their habitat, not a soul here but me. A few strategically placed caches of birdseed along the tree-line and I’m getting the greatest footage I’ve ever strung together.

The birds suddenly scatter. I scan the trees nearby. Fox, perhaps? Raccoon? A shadow emerges from the dimness and I zoom the camera back to take it in. The man saunters casually out along the path, his hunter green jacket neatly buttoned, chestnut hair immaculately combed. I watch him through the lens as he strolls along the path towards me, turns to move out across the wider meadow and the swamp on the far side of the park. Something, somehow, familiar in that face…

My smartphone buzzes, yanking me out of it. I set the camera down and swipe the phone open. “Sam,” I say.

“It’s me.” There is an urgency in Janet’s voice. “Are you alright?”

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know, I just had this feeling, like something wasn’t quite--Sam, where are you?”

“Sitting on a bench in Langmore Park. Streaming footage.”

“Nothing weird going on?”

“Peaceful and quiet. Up until a moment ago, I was the only--”

My head hurts and there’s a dizziness behind my eyes. Slowly I lift one arm, rub a hand across my aching jaw. Blood there, a thin gash down my left cheek. I sit up, wait for the world to stabilize around me. Mixed forest, maple and birch, pine, hemlock. Birdsong everywhere. Chickadee, finch, cardinal. And there, a junco. My bag is lying beside me, the contents spilled out across the ground. Water bottle, tuna salad sandwich, apple. My new camera, its lens damaged. Birdseed, the bag spilled and seeds scattered. I shake my head, moan at the ache there. Something is definitely not right. I need to get to a hospital. Heave myself to my feet and collect my belongings, shoulder the load, move off deliberately down the path. The meadow just ahead, yellow grasses swaying in the breezy sunlight. My eyes adjust slowly, finally focus on a figure standing across the edge of meadow, maybe a hundred meters. Beside a bench, his bag there on the seat. He turns, fumbles with the bag, does not see me wave. Begins to walk away, quickly. My shout is lost in the breeze. I start to jog, an awkward gait, but it galvanizes me.

“Wait,” I yell. The words come out unformed, garbled, as if I’m out of practice. The man ahead seems not to notice, stumbling unevenly forward away from me. I move faster, desperate now, catch him just past the playground. He is shaky, staggering, but my energy is nearly spent. I have to stop him. Lunge for his ankles, bring him down in a heap ahead of me. His foot bounces up and hits my temple, and all goes black.

“Sam?” Janet’s voice is anxious. “Sam?”

I open my eyes. Paramedics all around. Oxygen mask over my face. I blink at her.

“You had another attack,” she says. “Hit your head. You’ll be OK.”

I nod. Pull the mask away. “My footage?”

“Perfect,” she says. “Great nature shots.”

“Nothing else?”

She kneels beside me. “No. Now get some rest.”

As I’m closing my eyes, across the meadow I think I see a green shape move against the yellow grass. Probably nothing.


The End
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Post April 29, 2016, 10:58:42 PM

Change That Tune: 2010+ Music Version

Inspired by the title of the song "World Peace is None of Your Business" by Morrissey, 2014

World Peace Is None Of Your Business

By:
JP Garner



Do you yearn for the good old days proper warfare? Do you miss a sense of right and wrong, and which side you're on? A time when it was acceptable to be different and people had pride in such things, when violence and national identity worked hand-in-hand. We all know that the changes the world has gone through are for the better, but it leaves no place for the inner workings and necessities of mankind's soul. Civilization began with organized violence and for the first time in human history, civilization is held up without such organization. While this is a tremendous benefit to us all, it leaves a hole and hunger in the human psyche. At World Peace Inc. our aim is to balance these factors.

Join us for a peaceful warfare retreat, in which everything happens with full consent and there are no losers. Should you choose victim, or conqueror, is all up to your discretion and taste. Armaments and battlefield, lodging and accommodations, are all provided in a discreet and private location. Not only is this an opportunity for you to live out your instincts, but you can also do mankind favor with the intentional trimming down of the population in a consensual way.

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Have you ever wanted to be on the winning side of a battle? To engage the enemy without fear of negative repercussion? To be on the side that is just, without involving civilian collateral damage? If so, the Conqueror Package is for you. We provide you with a weeklong authentic battle scenario against those who have signed up for inevitable defeat. The bloodshed is real. The tactics are real. The warfare is real. It is the stakes that have changed. For the first time in history you can go into war for the actual betterment of mankind. Two needs filled with one game. Human instinct and population control.

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If neither of these packages suit your taste, try our new auxiliary Battle Reenactment Program, with less certain odds but all of the gory details. Be a part of history in more ways than one, full regalia provided, but by all means the enthusiast may provide their own.

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Satiate your instinct and help the world maintain its immaculate balance, affordable, humane, and civilized, World Peace Inc. offers you the best of both worlds, for the betterment of the world.



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Post April 29, 2016, 10:59:28 PM

Re: FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?

Inspired by the title of the song "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas, 2010

I Gotta Feeling

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Huvd was in the middle of a lush park, sitting on a bench, his senses unusually at ease (finally!) - the same as his huge eyes. Of course he was still tuned-in and still listening to the voices that came at him from all directions. His telepathic enhancements made it easy for him to keep an eye on the city that stretched into the distance surrounding the park, so there was no need to use any mechanical listening devices.

And then, they came, again: all those lamentations, curses, screams. They were yelling out, crying out, with sorrow and regret.

-A ship was approaching the seaport, two miles from the park, and it was clearly off-course. The captain had unexpectedly left the bridge before the time and the crew felt lost. The paying passengers were fighting each other, trying to take their baggage with them instead of assisting the elderly people in need. More than that, no officials on the shore were proficient enough to prevent the disaster from occurring in the few minutes remaining;

-A crowd was crying out because of a sudden strike that had stopped the subway. It had occurred in combination with a protest by all the city taxis whose drivers had parked their vehicles in the road and were walking home, preventing any private car from moving forward or turning around. It was an unbelievable hurly burly that wasn’t going to cease anytime soon;

-Meanwhile, in the City Council’s chambers, a politician with no experience at all about the specific matter before him was eagerly signing a document which required that people followed some unnecessary laws. He was thinking only of his friends who would benefit from the unscrupulous regulation instead of the good of all the citizens. The policemen outside, who were supposed to be guarding the entrance, were in a bar nearby airily sipping coffee, leaving no one to look out for thieves who were stealing computers and other devices in the main hall of the same building. None of the video-cameras were working correctly because no one had set them properly, nor had they activated the internal link due to a disruption in the secondary electrical system that had just occurred a month ago;

-An outdated hospital was turning away most of its ill patients given the scarcity of beds, so there was complete and utter confusion among sick who shoved and objected. Meanwhile the hospital’s three new buildings, that had been completed two years ago, were still closed due to the lack of the necessary inspections because the regulations changed every two months. Besides that, one of the new structures was obviously going to collapse soon because of the poor materials originally used to build it;

-An experienced judge was thinking about how he could set free a known assassin who was connected to the local mob, without appearing to be corrupt, though he clearly happened to be. He was trying to find an useful technicality he could use, which would ultimately save his personal career, too;

And many, many other calamities kept popping up, minute by minute: an unceasing series of boasts, false claims, unscrupulous actions, and unlawful decisions…

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

“Are you back from your vacation?” the high-ranking officer asked Huvd as he entered the control room.

“Yes, I am,” the tall hairless bear-like alien replied. “That primitive planet, and especially the unorganized country I was in is the perfect place for ones like us to have some rest and relaxation. It’s wilder than a jungle!”

“But there are really no wild beasts there…” the other objected.

“Oh, there are, in other forms…In a way, being there just makes you feel alive, with no rules to follow, no laws to be respected and no consideration for anything or anyone. It’s so different from here, where we are always bound by our regulations and by our duties.”

“Yes, you’re right,” his colleague added with a knowing look. “So, you finally gotta feeling after so long. Are you planning to go back there when you have more free time?”

“There? Well, probably not. After all, the place where I stayed is a country named Italy, that is so unstable, so uncertain, how can I even be sure it will still exist on that distant planet when I go on vacation again in a couple of years? I don’t even understand how that country is still standing…”

“Do you mean you wouldn’t like just another day or two?” the other asked him.

“Exactly. I don’t mind visiting there but only for a very brief period. When I come back, I like to find functioning up-to-date mechanisms, modern elevators that are still running, superior services, and a society that fits my needs. I can easily resist going back to that planet.”

“I see. You’re not a romantic individual, nor an unruly one....”

“Typically, nobody among us usually is,” Huvd replied in a plain tone. “We are all members of the Space Technicians’ Congregation, and we were built this way, in accordance with the wishes of our masters who genetically conceived us and matched us to fit the jobs we do. We are renowned across all the known inhabited systems for our great ability to pilot the most massive starships in this galaxy, finding the best course possible to get where we are going. Moreover, we have almost no feelings, we always restrain our desires and we lead a life of unending training, improvement, and continuous upgrade. We are connected to the main computer’s navigation system so we always work together during the journeys. Our telepathic senses were enhanced to let us get to our destination quickly, and to protect our mind from external alien disturbances, if necessary, not for our fun or entertainment. Were we just romantic or unruly all the time, that could greatly harm us when we set out on our space flight, you know…”

The other smiled, but it was a perfectly self-restrained, short-term smile, as common politeness clearly required.


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Post April 29, 2016, 11:00:38 PM

Change That Tune: 2010+ Music Version

Inspired by the title of the song "Till the World Ends" by Femme Fatale.

Till the World Ends

By:
Michele Dutcher



By now, humanity was dispersed throughout their home star system, but most people lived on the third and fourth planets closest to the Sun, so people often wondered why the Sisters of Crystal were so far removed from the rest of humanity. The accepted response was that the time spent on the journey to see them was part of the price for their prayers. After years of suffering in silence, watching his mother anguishing over one particular incident in her long life, Dorvor decided he was willing to pay that price.

The middle-aged man had been told on Mars that seeing the nun’s floating pyramid on Europa was worth the price of the star-ship ticket on its own merit, but Dorvor was unconvinced until he saw it out the ship’s window for himself. The crystal pyramid was twenty stories tall and moved over the surface of the planet’s cracked ice like a glass over an Ouija board. It had been constructed this way to continually dodge the bursts of water that shot out through the ice, exploding from the moon’s sub-surface ocean.

The bottom floors of the pyramid were reserved for the pilgrims who visited the nunnery – pilgrims like Dorvor, who disembarked quickly from the spaceship, walking through the foyer. As he waited to be called in to his appointed audience with the Sisters, he looked over the informational plaques in the vestibule. He passed his hand over the metal plate and a reenactment could be seen. It showed the steamship Titanic hitting the iceberg in 1912, and people trying to escape the sinking vessel. The image then shifted to a woman in a church in Belfast who invited others to sing with her, “For those in peril on the Sea” while the ship was actually sinking.

“Fascinating beginning, wouldn’t you say?” a second pilgrim, also a man, asked the nervous Dorvor.

“Indeed. Praying for people during their greatest hour of need, using only spiritual insight centuries ago – it’s amazing.”

“As I understand it, the basic idea holds true. If there is a God, then that being is beyond time and space, and so the constraints of time and space do not bind him. Praying for those at peril in the past is as effective as praying for those at peril in the present or in the future.”

Dorvor was glad for a theological distraction while he waited. “From a scientific viewpoint, if the universe is holographic in nature, and each particle knows what every other particle is doing, then praying for anyone along any timeline is a viable option. Even Einstein believed that everything was happening all at once and it was all connected – our brains being instruments that allow us to separate time into individual rooms if you will.”

“Nicely put,” said the older man. “I’m Tewold from Mars. I’m here about my dead wife.”

“I’m Dorvor from Earth. I’m here about my mother. She went through a disaster in the Sea of Japan nearly 130 years ago – a tsunami. She’s dying now and has nightmares about the event whenever she sleeps – so I’m here to ask the Sisters to pray for her, so she can finally find peace.”

A portion of the wall disappeared and a nun, dressed head to toe in red velvet robes, stepped before the two men. Her face was covered with white lace beneath a red velvet hood. She waited for one of the men to follow her.

“Go ahead,” said Tewold. “Your mother is still alive while my wife can wait.”

Dorvor nodded with thanks and followed the woman into the next room. They entered into a small cubicle, one of dozens surrounding the bright floor of an arena where a hundred nuns sat, their heads bowed in prayer. Above them floated hundreds of digital bubbles, each one filled with a prayer request for a person in the past.

“We can’t change your mother’s past, only pray for her as she goes through the crisis - a tsunami I believe,” said the nun while focusing on the floor of the arena.

“Yes, yes! She was on a beach and there was a tsunami that washed away the hotels and buildings. She keeps having nightmares about the injured people calling to her from under the debris. Somehow, she managed to get to safety before the second wave hit, but she has always felt guilty about her survivial.”

The nun’s hood nodded slightly to show that she had heard and understood the man’s prayer request. A digital bubble appeared above their heads and, as the nun motioned towards the bright room, the bubble went out through the glass, joining the other prayers hovering over the nuns on the floor.

The white lace face-mask turned towards the man. “Is there something you want to ask me,” whispered the nun in a comforting tone.

“How far back have your prayers gone so far?”

“As far back as the Fall of Rome. Using ancestry rolls we slip in bubbles with names of the ancient ones.”

“And when does The Order see an end to the need for these prayers?”

“We’ll keep praying for those in past peril till the world ends,” the nun answered resolutely. At this she gestured and the door opened.

Dorvor stepped out into the hallway, to find the communicator implanted in behind his left ear was buzzing. “Rachel, what’s going on? I just finished talking with the Nuns.”

“Grandmother is sleeping peacefully! She woke up and said something about hearing a bluebird singing on the hillside, as if it was leading her upwards to safety. She had forgotten about the bird until now, but saw it as a sign, urging her to climb out of the valley and live.”

Dorvor smiled and looked back at the now blank wall. “I’ll be home soon,” he told his wife, breathing a sigh of relief.


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