December Flash Challenge: The Voting

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

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Please vote for your favorite story:

Poll ended at January 10, 2018, 07:52:59 PM

Legend Of One
The Balloon
The Case With The Alien Rubbish
It’s Never Too Late
Beautiful Error
Total votes : 9
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Post December 27, 2017, 07:52:59 PM

December Flash Challenge: The Voting

Here are the entrants for the Challenge. Please vote for your favorites!

Legend of One

Smells. Always there are smells wafting through the senses, as if the air itself existed solely to entice the olfactory nerves.

Nerves. Pinging pulses of electrical charges filling the brain with sensations of touch, of sound, of taste, and of course, of smell.

Sewage. The byproduct of life, of species which consume and possess the senses of smell, aided by nerves, and leaving waste which fit all derogatory terms of touch, sound, taste, and of course, of smell.

“Hey Pete, are you awake yet? Come on, get your fat ass up and out of bed.” Friends such as what Pete had were only a thin line of reality away from being an enemy.

Pete was laying there, sleeping soundly. Dreaming of hot women most likely or maybe puppies. Pete was known to be a bit strange. He was only a thin line of reality away from being crazy.

Two men. Friends as much as strangers. Both fitting whatever title fit the moment. And at the moment, Pete was fat, snoring loudly, dreaming of other worlds while his friend was still verbally assaulting him.

“Hey fat man. Get up. We got work to do or don’t you want to get paid? No pay, no ding dongs or pizza. Hey… get up.” Now the senses of touch kicked in while the friend shook Pete.

“Whaa…what are you doing?” Pete asked while arguably more asleep than awake. “Can’t you see I’m…” Yep. Sleep won. Pete fell back asleep.

“Ha! Ha, what an idiot you are. Come on, get up.” And as quickly as the friend had woken Pete and as quickly as Pete fell back asleep, so too did the friend. Falling to the floor snoring, and dreaming.

All around the world, people woke and slept. They used their nervous system. They used their senses. They consumed and made waste. And they lived as they dreamt.

Dreams. Dreams are an illusion. A concoction of reality and fantasy. Some dreams come true. Most were just a jumble of neural seizures caught in the act of random acts.

While Pete and his friend lay side-by-side, sleeping, they started to dream of each other. Their dreams were real as both were now in a real world of reality. Oblivious to what was watching them.

Watching. Listening. Tasting. Feeling. Consuming. Laying waste.

Was the glass on the window on the wall next to Pete and his friend real? For that matter, was the smile on the face and the glare of piercing blue eyes tinged with crimson. Looking through the window…Real?

For billions of years life of senses and sensations evolved, devolved, existed. Dreams rooted in fantasy and reality. All real… All. Real?

Fools. The Watcher itself was all that truly existed. Its dreams were the reality of a world seeming real. You do not exist. She does not exist. He does not exist. Pete does not exist. Pete’s friend does not exist.

Your dreams. Your lives. All a play toy for the Watcher. But, for what it’s worth, your worth, your life, your dreams… they make you feel alive. For the Watcher who rules all, it alone only, is alive. Or, if you are more prone to pessimism, you are nothing more than sewage left over from the Watchers dreams…

The End


Names were changed, but the following story is true.

Sarah sprang from the plaid couch where she'd been glued. She dropped her video game controller to the carpet and sprinted for the front door, crashing into the wall in the front entryway, almost knocking over a plant stand, before careening out the screen door.

I dropped the wooden spoon into the casserole I was mixing in the kitchen and dashed to see what was all the hubbub. I saw Sarah running down the centerline of the sunny, concrete street, back towards our house, chasing a balloon that was blowing on a strong, changing wind just ahead of her. It was about seven feet in the air, and its string bobbed up and down just out of her reach. Sarah was running hard, gaining a little on it with each stride. When they were just in front of our house, the wind suddenly died and she snagged it.

I saw the balloon was made of mylar with "Happy Mother's Day" printed on one side. The other side was shiny silver. A plastic heart hung at the end of the white, gift ribbon that served as a string.

She brought it in and handed it to my wife. "I felt guilty for not getting you anything, but here, Mom. Happy Mother's Day."
My wife, Flora, looked touched, and said, "Thank you." Flora hugged her.

I smiled at Sarah and went back to making dinner for my wife and two daughters. Sarah's a good kid. They both are.
Flora tried to set the plastic heart on the sideboard in the dining room, just outside the living room, but it floated straight to the ceiling, and stayed there. It didn't move. Spring turned into summer, and still it stayed, a silent sentinel in the house floating in that same spot.

Late in August, I asked my wife how long she was going to keep that Mother's Day balloon.

"I'd like to get rid of it," she replied, "but I can't. Sarah gave it to me, and you can't get rid of a present."

I know it sounds silly, but looking at it now, I think we hurt its feelings. The very next day, it started to lose pressure, floating a foot down from the ceiling. Within a few more days, it was at eye level. Then it dropped low enough the cat chewed the plastic weight off the string and air currents started floating the balloon freely around the house. That's when the trouble started.

Our other girl, Ivy, complained at dinner about it. She said it kept following her around and that it was watching her.
Flora and I laughed about that. I explained, "You create wind patterns yourself when you walk. That probably pulled the balloon behind you. It weighs practically nothing, you know."

Ivy looked decidedly unconvinced.

The next evening, Ivy called me into her room. The balloon was floating, dead still, over where she lay on her bed. "Dad, I just took it out to the dining room because it was in here, again. I feel like it's watching me. It's creepy."

I smiled at her. "The air conditioning moves it around. The other day when the windows were open, I found it in one, pressed against the screen. It's nothing."

"It's creepy! It keeps coming in here. Please get rid of it."

"I can't. It was your mother's present." I took it out to the kitchen.

Flora complained next, that it came in through the open door on the bathroom and sat there, dead still, as if watching, while she did her hair. She knew it was silly, but I saw on her face a little doubt.

The next evening, Flora found it upstairs, caught in the railing at the top of the steps. She let it loose, leaving it hovering over the open stairwell. That's exactly where I found it when I came up to go to bed a few minutes later.

I walked around it, then the opposite way from our bedroom to use the bathroom at the other end of the house. When I came back past the stairs, the balloon was not there. I didn't think anything of it, but when I stepped into our room, there it was. It hovered two feet up over my wife's feet, spinning.

I laughed. "Hey, dear, look at your feet."

She did. "Ok, that is kind of creepy. Could you please take it out?"

I walked it back toward the stairs, thinking about how the air conditioning wasn't running. The air currents from me went in the opposite direction. The windows were closed. How did it get to our bedroom?

"You can go now," I said to it, pushing it down the stairwell. My gentle push sent it down the steps and through the doorway at the bottom before it rose out of sight toward the ceiling in the room down there. That was a strange flight path, for a balloon.

The next morning, we couldn't find the balloon, and we looked all over the house.

I mean, we really looked, in every nook and cranny, behind things, in the basement, in the upstairs. Everywhere. It was nowhere to be found. Everyone swore they didn't do anything to it or even see it, and we've never seen it since.

Ivy was just glad it was gone. Sarah just shrugged it off, but kids always think they'll get another wish later, without realizing that wasn't how the universe worked. I know I'd said the words. I told that balloon it could leave when I sent it down the stairwell, never thinking it understood.

I'd like to be philosophical about it, figuring maybe it was just a wandering soul that stayed happy with us for a time, until we shunned it... but what bothers me to this day is this:

If it was just a balloon, how did it get out of the house?

The End

The case with the alien rubbish…

There had long been UFO sightings across the whole country, in this state and in many others, of course. Many didn’t believe in such things and put such photos or videos down as fake news, attributing them to photo-shopping or being misinterpreted. Brett had never doubted that aliens existed and believed the UFO images were clear evidence of their presence. Not all of them were true, by all means, and it made him wonder why several of the images had been posted to begin with…maybe it was to undermine the plausibility of others…

Then there were people like him, who not only believed in aliens but also wanted to touch them with their own hands, or just wanted to hold an authentic piece of alien technology. It wasn’t even important if what they discovered was some piece of rubbish - alien rubbish! – or other objects that those creatures left behind once their spaceships had visited and gone away. They might think that such by-products of their space engines, or the waste from their bathroom, was of no use, but it was of great value to men like Brett. After all, something like that might be composed of some unknown alien alloy or it might have inside of it some organic substances completely alien to Earth!

You might think that such minor finds would be unimportant, different from laying your hands on an alien console or having an alien vessel’s powerful weapons ready to study, but you would be wrong! Certainly, if you could just possess one such thing, even a piece of alien garbage, that would be mind-blowing! And finally enough with people thinking that it was just raw material for some Urban Legends…

For instance, imagine you can retrieve a very ancient Chinese vase from a pre-Columbian South American tomb or find a gun in a prehistoric burial ground. Such amazing artifacts could really leave their mark on science…provided that you could find them to begin with of course.

Stories about such rare discoveries had always been around. Brett had heard of some UFO hunters who stumbled into some strange metal near a state road in rural America after sighting an unknown brilliant object. And Brett had in his garage a sort of dried vegetable that he had once retrieved from the site of a possible UFO landing site, although he had no way to authenticate it, nor had he ever found anyone who believed his story.

How lucky he had been two weeks ago, when he had seen that UFO near a rocky outcrop facing the lake where he usually went to fish. Brett had immediately gone to check it for any alien objects that might be found there. Much to his surprise, what he saw before his blue eyes were bony remains, probably from a dead man, although he could never explain how parts of a human body might have burned so badly to turn them into the piece of poop that lay at his feet. What had happened? Before calling the authorities, he had taken all the photos he could. This might be useful to him one day, in order to help him figure out why these remains were in such poor condition.

What really made Brett suspicious was the way the local sheriff’s manners changed when he saw the garbage, calling in unknown men wearing blue-suits who came and ordered people to leave the scene. So, the man considered, that this really had to be an unusual find, so maybe it involved aliens from another world.

Since then, Brett had come to the conclusion that he’d better continue the search for UFO artifacts near his home alone, and he always hurried to the site of any possible alien landing sites before others could get there. This had to be done in order to retrieve any information he wanted before others could remove all the evidence for their own purposes.

So that night he had hurriedly run with his blond curls waving in the wind, coming to this place near the lake where another alien spaceship was supposedly heading according to an underground radio station that transmitted the coordinates to UFO hunters.

There was darkness all around him as the forty-year-old man ran across the fields, away from the highway, with a large flashlight in his hand. He had almost fallen twice and his arms were already bruised because of shrubs he had stumbled over. But he was desperate to get there first, yearning to know the truth!

By the time he finally got there, not far from the shore, he had cut his fingers in several places. Then, all of that didn’t matter anymore and his eyes flew open as he saw the shape of the alien UFO hovering over the water.

“I found you, now I know you are real…!” the man shouted at the top of his voice. Then his feet stumbled into something unusual. As his light shone on it he saw that it was the bony remains of a possible human body. Again. So what was going on? Were those aliens doing bloody experiments on humans, and dropping these corpses to the ground before leaving Earth? If such theories were correct, he suddenly realized he might be in danger. Then he saw the UFO turn around and head straight for him.

As the cold light coming from the alien spaceship reached him, working like a tractor beam, he was lifted upwards into the huge unknown vessel. Brett was fearful that he knew what might be next for him...and it wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience.

How unlucky that it was just him to undergo all that… At least, the man told to himself in his last minutes of consciousness, he could hope that one day someone else would follow in his footsteps and go searching for the possible artifacts of alien origin, even for alien garbage.

Hopefully, that day, someone would find his bony remains dumped somewhere on Earth…


It’s Never Too Late

I returned to my hometown to attend my 50th class reunion. It was my first visit since leaving for college. I know that sounds strange, but the reason is simple. Dad received a job offer to work at NASA in Alabama six months after I left for Purdue University to study engineering, like Dad. With my parents gone, there was no reason to come back to where I grew up. I wasn’t 100 percent certain why I had now.

I parked my car on a side street and walked from one end of town to the other. It took less than five minutes. I never understood why Dad preferred living in such a small place. The college where he worked was twenty miles away in a city not that much bigger. He said Mom felt safer here. At least traffic wasn’t an issue.

Not much had changed in fifty years. Most of the buildings wore the same tired outsides. A new bank sat across from what used to be a soda shop, now a restaurant and bar. The post office was no longer on its usual corner. The gas station/garage on the corner of Main and Church had doubled in sized. I’d noticed the new wing on the high school as I drove into town and decided to walk the three long blocks there to see what else had changed.

I saw the statue as I neared the school and froze when I realized who it was. Ms. Fontaine started teaching English my senior year. I enjoyed reading, so I signed up for an Advanced Placement course. It was love at first sight—at least for me—when I walked in the room the first day of classes and saw the new teacher with her shoulder length auburn hair, red lipstick, and perfect teeth peeking through a perfect smile. She wore a gray sweater and maroon skirt, the school colors.
My cheeks warmed when she called my name while taking attendance. I spent that first class avoiding eye contact by writing in my notebook, or staring at the back of Jake Davis’ head.

The only time she spoke to me outside of the classroom was to congratulate me at my graduation ceremony and to tell me how much she enjoyed having me in her class. My cheeks warmed once again, as a thank you stumbled out of my mouth.
I never forgot Ms. Fontaine. I considered reconnecting with her after college. She was only four or five years older than I. I never did. Instead, I married Emmi Lou, and she and I raised three wonderful children. Emmi died eight months ago of pancreatic cancer. I miss her a lot.

I stopped at the memorial park where the statue of Ms. Fontaine now resided and read the plaque. According to the inscription, after twenty years of teaching, she became the school superintendent, and after retiring from that job was elected mayor, a job she retained until she passed away. No cause was given.

I returned to the old soda shop, sat on a stool with a cracked leather top, and ordered the turkey platter. Two men sat a couple of stools away. One of them looked kind of familiar. I waited for a break in their conversation before asking about the statue at the school. The one who looked familiar asked if I knew Ms. Fontaine. I said not really.

“Well, she was quite the woman. No one expected her to stay here for any length of time. She sure surprised us. And she was a wonderful human being to boot. Most of the town folk believe she’s still with us.” The man paused to sneeze into a faded shirt sleeve. “Thomas here saw her walking around last Halloween watching out for the little ones.”

“That’s right,” Thomas said.

“Others have seen her at the football games. Some think she was responsible for us winning a state football championship last fall, by keeping everyone’s spirits high, even when we were behind.”

The familiar-looking man went on, about how much Ms. Fontaine meant to the town, while Thomas grunted approval. After finishing my dinner, I decided to return to the statue.

I sat on a metal bench and took in the marigolds surrounding the base. Emmi loved marigolds. Medium sized stones provided a border. School was out for the summer, so it was quiet. I found that relaxing. I closed my eyes and pictured Ms. Fontaine as she appeared that first day of class. I took a few deep breaths and felt my shoulders relax. They tightened again when I heard a familiar voice say my name.

“Royce, is that you?”

I opened my eyes and saw Ms. Fontaine standing next to her statue. She looked older but had retained that youthful smile. She wore a skirt and sweater, the color matching the statue, as did her skin and hair.

“Ms. . . . Ms. Fontaine?”

“Yes. I’m glad you finally returned home.” She sat on the bench, our legs nearly touching. “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.” I looked around to see if anyone was watching.

“Don’t worry. No one can see me. Not really.” She reached for my hand. “Only you.”

I couldn’t believe it when my cheeks warmed once more. “Did you know. . .?”

“Know how you felt about me? Almost from the beginning.” She squeezed my hand. “By the end of the semester, I felt something for you, too.”

We sat silently and enjoyed each other’s company until darkness fell.

I rose to leave, and she stood with me.

“It’s time for me to go,” I said.

“I know,”she replied. “Would you like me to come with you?”

“Won’t the town folks miss you?”

“I’ll always be in their heads and hearts. That’s my legacy.”

“And a fine legacy it is,” I said, as I took her hand and we walked toward the horizon.



Ash pulled the camper van across the pitted road and stopped. Next to him, Rich read out the words at the top of the sign in front of them:


“Shit, did you know about this, Ash?”

Ash frowned. “Well I saw something about it one of the guide books but what’s the problem? There’s no barriers or anything.”

Rich continued. “‘This land is part of the Maralinga Tjarutja Lands. Access requires the consent of Maralinga Tjarutja.’ See, there’s a phone number, we’re supposed to tell someone first!”

“Ah, sod that,” said Ash, fishing a cellphone out from the door pocket. “Look, no signal out here anyway, mate.”
Across the Nullarbor Plain to their left, another glorious Outback sunset was beginning to develop. “It’s going to be dark soon, Rich. We need to push on and find a place to stop.”


Further along, well into the bush two miles off the road, they made camp. Beneath a pair of wizened trees. Rich set a fire in the orange-red dirt and put potatoes in tinfoil in its embers.

Ash sipped on a lukewarm bottle of a brew called West End that they’d brought with them from Adelaide. “My god, this is piss!” he snarled. “Speaking of piss, I’m going for one!”

Rich chuckled as Ash disappeared behind the converted Land Cruiser.

Away from the trees and the boundary of firelight, Ash was suddenly unnerved. He hurried to the task. Without pausing to zip up, he turned back towards the camp and --

-- the Aborigine blocked his path. Frazzled greying hair was just visible in the gloom. Ash swore and stumbled back. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t see you there!” He laughed nervously. “Where the hell did you come from?!”

It was only when she spoke, softly, that Ash realised the figure before him was female.

“Do you have permission to be here?” she said.

“What …? Er, no! Our phone doesn’t work. We did see the sign….”

Back at the fire, Rich looked up. “I thought I heard voices!”

“Rich, this is erm --”

“Noora,” said the lady, moving towards the fire.

“She was just out there. In the bush!”

“I’ll have a beer,” said Noora, spying Ash’s bottle on the floor.

Noora sat down cross-legged by the fire. They could now see she wore a floral dress, a thick black anorak, unopened, and was barefoot.

She swigged the West End. “Where you boys heading …?”

“We’re sort of making our way to Alice Springs,” said Ash. “We’re tourists, from England. We started out from Adelaide last week.”

“Sort of? I see.”

Rich piped up, “How did you get here? We didn’t hear another vehicle.”

“I don’t have one. This is where I live. I heard you.”

Noora shuffled on the sandy floor. “So, you’ve seen the sign back there. Doesn’t that scare you?”

“We don’t know anything about this site, to be honest,” said Ash.

“You’re Poms right? And you really don’t know what happened here? Well let me tell you, you Brits came along and fucked it all right up.”


Noora told them about the British nuclear weapons testing conducted at the Maralinga range in the 1950s and 60s. Seven atomic bombs had been detonated, irretrievably contaminating the land. Half-hearted cleanup attempts in the years that followed had formally made most of the site fit for human habitation again --

-- “But we know it isn’t really,” spat Noora, “despite what they say. We only come for short times here. And there’s still one area where no one is allowed to go even now, all fenced off. Don’t reckon that place will ever get fixed.”

She swigged again. “Some of my people were still in the area when they set the first bomb off.”

“Oh …! What happened?” said Rich.

“Well, they survived … for a while anyway, until the cancers got ‘em. But their kids, afterwards, they’re the ones who really suffered.”


Ash and Noora finished the rest of the beer. Rich offered Noora one of the baked potatoes, laden with beans, but she would not take it. “Think about the wood you used for this fire, and how long it’s been here,” she said.

Eventually, the Aborigine stood to leave. “Since you boys don’t seem to know much about anything, you won’t know about the Burribota.”

Oh here we go, thought Ash, some tribal bollocks.

Flame shadows crossed Noora’s lined face. “The kids after really did come out worst. Bits missing, or added, or put in places where they just shouldn’t have been. Most of them never got born, or if they did, didn’t last long. The Burribota was one of the unlucky ones; it survived.”

“It …?” said Ash.

“Well, it was born neither a he nor a she.”

“It’s still alive?”

“It lives … in a manner. The baby was born just a few miles from where the first bomb went off, maybe six months after. The father knew straight away the child could not be. He took the baby out into the desert and left it there for Nature to take its course. But Nature had another plan.”

“So it survived?” asked Rich. “How?”

Rich thought that Noora smiled then. “We Anangu have been around for a very long time. Before your time, even, you White Men. We and the land are as one. We know to live here, together. The Burribota found purpose in its new form. It exists now to remind those who need to be reminded this is not their land, and never will be.”

Noora began to retreat. “Most mutations are bad,” she told them calmly, “this is the truth. But maybe, just once in many millions of times, a change can be for the better.”


Ashley Freeman and Richard Harding were never seen again, their rented vehicle never located. It was as if the ground of Maralinga had swallowed them whole.

"Extremely difficult- Virtually impossible- However, it should only take me ten minutes or so..."
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Post January 03, 2018, 10:33:56 AM

Re: December Flash Challenge: The Voting

I'm just back from vacation in Switzerland (despite the damn' Italian railways that, on the way back, had many hours of delay...much more than usual, truth be told :mrgreen: ...) and my votes are in now...
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Post January 05, 2018, 10:34:53 PM

Re: December Flash Challenge: The Voting

My vote is in.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?

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