Tag Archives: terribleminds

Flash Fiction: Bright Dreams & Clock’s Revenge

The flash fiction challenge over on terribleminds this week was a little bit different. Chuck Wendig gave us five titles to choose from, and then gave us the added option of mixing up those titles and using the words in any order to create our own title.

I vacillated about which option to go with for quite a while. Then I picked one (Dead-Clock’s Revenge). Then I changed my mind and picked another (Bright Stars Gone to Black). Then I wrote my story. That’s when I realised the story I’d come up with didn’t fit either of those titles.

I had no choice but to make a new title out of the offered words.

I give you:

Bright Dreams & Clock’s Revenge

Have you ever listened to a ticking clock? I mean, really listened. Try it. Close your eyes and listen to the dead spots. The spaces between the tick, tick, ticks.

###

“Marvin! Marvin, wait up!”

I ignore her and keep walking. What is it with little sisters? Every time I turn around, there she is. Marvin, Marvin, Marvin! I’d be happy if I never heard her shout my name again.

“Marvin!”

She catches up and grabs my backpack. “Marvin!”

I spin around. “What?”

“Can I walk with you?”

Rose is six years old, which is five years younger than me. I want to tell her no. I really do. But there she is, in her pink dress and pigtails with a hopeful look on her face.

“Please?” she asks, drawing out the word.

I sigh. “Fine. Just… don’t talk to me.”

Her expression brightens. “Okay!” Then her eyes widen and her hand flies to her mouth. “Oh. I’m sorry, I talked. I did it again. Oh, no. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Marvin. I just… I just can’t—“

“Just stop,” I say, but I can’t hold back my laughter. She laughs too. Then she takes my hand. I’m too old for hand-holding. But I don’t let go.

“How come you left early?” she asks.

“No reason.”

“But you never go to school early.”

I pull my hand away. “I said, no reason. Okay?”

She clasps her hands together and looks at the pavement . “Okay.”

And now I feel bad. “I’m just meeting some of the guys. We’ve got a… thing. You know?”

“A thing?” She looks up at me. “What kind of thing?”

“Just a… thing thing.”

She keeps looking at me. I look away. The sky’s blue. No clouds. It’ll be a nice day. I glance back. Rose is still looking at me.

“What?”

“What kind of thing?” she says again.

Having a little sister is hard work.  “If I tell you, will you shut up?”

“Okay.”

“Mack – you know Mack? – Mack found this weird clock in the woods when he was hiking, and it’s got weird marks on it, and Jason says they’re Egyptian writing and he thinks it might be magic.”

She looks at me. “You’ve got a magic clock.”

“Yeah. No.” I sigh. It sounds stupid when she says it.

“That’s dumb,” she says. “And anyway, you’re not allowed to do magic. Mum says.”

“What?” I stop walking and face her. “What are you talking about?”

“Last summer when you tried to cut Fletcher in half, Mum said you weren’t allowed to do magic anymore.”

“That wasn’t real magic,” I say. “That was just magic tricks. And besides, I didn’t try to cut Fletcher in half. He was supposed to squash up in the box. It’s not my fault he got hurt.”

“Yes, but—“

“But nothing.”

She shuts up. That surprises me. When we get to school, she says, “Marvin?”

“Yes?”

“What are you going to do with the clock?”

I shrug. “I dunno.”

“But what if—“

“Go to class.” I use my best grown-up voice and she does what she’s told. I watch until she disappears inside, and then I race to the clubhouse and let myself in. The shed used to belong to the groundskeeper, but now it’s ours.

“Thought you’d chickened out,” Jason says.

“No,” I say. “Just had to take Rose to class.”

Jason makes a rude noise and Mack laughs. They don’t have little sisters. “We doing this or what?” I say.

Mack grins and pulls the clock out of his bag. “Let’s do this.”

We sit in a circle and Mack puts the clock in the middle. We think it’s a clock. It sounds like one, with the steady tick, tick, tick of time passing. But there are no hands and no numbers. Just weird symbols in a spiral starting – or ending – in the centre of what would normally be the clock face.

“What now?” I ask.

Jason says, “I stole one of my Dad’s books and looked up the symbols.” His father teaches history at the high school, and knows all sorts of cool stuff about Egypt. “I wrote down how to say them. I guess we just say them out loud.”

He hands us both a sheet of paper torn from an exercise book. There are thirteen words, but they’re not words I’ve ever seen. “What do they mean?” I ask.

“Dunno,” says Jason.

“Who cares?” says Mack.

Mack starts reciting the words, and Jason and I join in. Thirteen words. Thirteen words, and the ticking stops.

Silence.

The room goes dark.

“Who summons me from my slumber?” The voice is dark and deep and heavily accented.

Someone screams. It might be me.

Light blooms. There is no groundskeeper’s shed. There is just the sky, with bright stars and a crescent moon. And man who spoke. He’s a tall man with the head of a long-billed bird.

“Who summons Thoth?”

Mack starts to cry. Jason babbles. I say nothing.

The bird-headed man looks to the weird clock and then to us. “You have cast the heka of the Clock of the Dead. Why have you stopped the passing of time?”

We didn’t mean it! We didn’t think anything would happen! I try to shout, but the words stick in my throat.

“Time must go on,” the man says. He reaches with the rod in his hand and touches the clock.

It stutters then starts to tick.

Darkness.

Light.

“Marvin! Marvin, wait up!”

I ignore her and keep walking. What is it with little sisters? Every time I turn around, there she is. Marvin, Marvin, Marvin! I’d be happy if I never heard her shout my name again.

###

Have you ever listened to a ticking clock? I mean, really listened. Try it. Close your eyes and listen to the dead spots between the tick, tick tick. To the place where the past and future lay trapped, waiting for the present to set them free.

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Flash Fiction: Revenging the Rhythm

This week’s challenge from Mr. Wendig over at TerribleMinds was a good one:

Use the sentence “A novice revenges the rhythm” in a 1000 word story. At the beginning, at the end, somewhere in between… It doesn’t matter.

Well, I did it. And I enjoyed it. So let me know what you think.

 

Revenging the Rhythm

 There was a group of children playing a skipping game in front of the Temple. Alix watched them with a smile, until he heard their song. Then he shuddered. He was probably the only man alive who knew what the words meant.

“Alix?”

No, there was at least one more. “Hello, Bale.”

The other man fell into step, and they started toward the door at the rear of the Temple. “How much longer do you think we’ll have to do this?” he asked.

“You ask me that every year.”

 “Doesn’t mean it’s not valid. I’m not getting any younger, you know.” Bale shot a glance at his friend. “And neither are you. You look ancient.”

“Thanks.”

“So? How much longer?”

“I don’t know, Bale. As long as it takes for the debt to be paid.”

“Yes, but—“

Alix rounded on his friend. Every year, they’d had this discussion. Every year for sixty years. “I don’t know, alright?”

Bale looked hurt. “Alright,” he said. “Just trying to make conversation.”

They reached the door in silence and Alix pulled an iron key from his pocket. He took a deep breath and slid it into the lock. It turned smoothly. “Ready?”

“Ready.” 

The men went inside, and passed through the kitchens and servants areas before coming to the Temple Proper. It was brighter there, illuminated by the Eternal Flame.

It was said that if the Eternal Flame was extinguished, all life in the city would cease. Back when he was an Initiate of the Temple, Alix had questioned Master Vidas about it. “What if it goes out accidentally? What if there’s a gust a wind? What if someone lights it again straight away?” He didn’t get any answers, but he was forbidden to work in the Ritual Space without supervision.

Elder Ceren had tried to reassure him, told him it wouldn’t be forever. The old man was right about that, at least. Four years later, he’d been stripped of his Novice rank and told he wasn’t welcome to return.

Well, what they don’t know hasn’t hurt them yet.

Both men paused to bow their heads to the Flame. Then they looked around the Ritual Space. Drums and cymbals lay in a Circle, and a large basin of water sat in the centre. In a dozen hours, the Temple Priests would conduct the Ritual of Healing, a Ritual designed to improve Sun’s health and bring Her warmth back to the world. But first, Alix and Bale had their own Ritual to perform.

Bale sat in front of a drum at the top of the Circle. Alix stood in the centre and rested his hands on the edges of the pool of water.

They waited.

They waited until their bones stopped aching and their muscles grew strong, until their spines straightened and their vision grew sharp. They waited until they heard screaming.

Elder Ceren knelt at the foot of the Circle. His head was thrown back and his chest was bare and bloody. On the stone floor in front of him was his still beating heart.

Alix started to dance.

Bale’s drumbeat was fast and furious, loud enough to drown out the Elder’s screams. Alix matched the rhythm with his body. He danced like he was young, his Novice robes whipping about him as he turned and twisted, leapt and spun.

Once, he’d been the Novice chosen to dance the Ritual of Healing. Now, he danced that day in reverse. Now, he danced the Ritual of Undoing.

The screaming stopped. Elder Ceren’s heart fell into his chest, and his flesh and robes were made whole. Ghostly figures appeared around the Circle. Initiates and Novices, Masters and Elders. All the Priests Alix remembered from his youth were watching.

He danced.

At the foot of the Circle knelt a boy in Initiate robes. Like the, his heart beat a rhythm on the cold stone floor. Alix danced toward the boy, a knife in his hand. He thrust the bloody blade into the boy’s wound. Once. Twice. The heart fell back to its place. A final thrust and Alix danced away, his knife clean and new.

The drumbeats stuttered.

Something was wrong with Bale’s drum. The rhythm was broken. The rhythm was wrong. And if the rhythm was wrong, the dance was wrong. If the dance was wrong, the Sun wouldn’t Heal.

The rhythm must be revenged.

A sacrifice must be offered.

The drum slowed. Alix danced to the sluggish beat. The Ritual was drawing to its beginning.

The drum stopped.

Alix stopped, his hands on the edge of the pool.

His thoughts turned to Master Vidas. It was Master Vidas who gave Bale the faulty drum, Master Vidas who failed to bless the Initiate Sacrifice in case something went wrong, and Master Vidas who made amends by exiling Alix and Bale.

But it was Elder Ceren who had been taken as Her punishment.

Sixty years. For sixty years, Alix and Bale had danced the Ritual of Undoing on Bane Night, doing penance for the wrong that had been done to Sun and to the Elder. But now they were old.

How much penance did She need?

“Did it work?”

Alix looked over to answer him, but the words froze on his tongue. Standing behind Bale was the ghost of Elder Ceren.

“Thank you,” the Elder said. His body filled with golden light, shimmered, and disappeared.

“Yes,” Alix whispered. “It worked.”

The sun was up when they left the Temple. They said their goodbyes and went their separate ways.

The children were back at their game when Alix reached the main road. For a moment he considered telling them to change the last line of their rhyme. Then he laughed, the first laugh he’d had in a long, long time, and kept walking. Behind him, their song went on.

An Initiate gets what he’s given
A Novice revenges the rhythm
A Master pretends
That he’s made amends
But an Elder is never forgiven

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Flash Fiction: Switched Off

This week’s Flash Fiction challenge over on TerribleMinds is a Game of Aspects. What does that mean? I’m glad you asked.

Chuck has provided a list of 10 Sub-Genres, 10 Settings, and 10 Elements. By rolling three D10s (ten sided dice, for the uninitiated) or using a random number generator, you determine the three elements you need to use in your 1000 word story. My random selection meant I had to write a Cyberpunk story, set in a brothel, including tattoos.

Read on! And remember — I love to hear what you think, so don’t be shy.

Switched Off

It was show time.

I swallowed the EMP-Cap and reminded myself this was the last job I would do before I retired. Then I arched my back and rested one hand on my inner thigh, hitching my dress up a little bit more. After six years of practice, I knew exactly how to highlight my assets.

The door was opened by a tall, muscular man in jeans, a black t-shirt and a leather jacket. The bulge under his arm told me he was armed. The bulge in his pants told me he hadn’t visited a Courtesan for a while.

He took a step inside and scanned the room. While he noted the imitation mahogany table, the real crystal goblets and the open bottle of wine, I noted a few things about him. For one thing, his right hand was metallic. He was a Chromer. And Chromers weren’t known for stopping at just one cyber-enhancement.

For another, he had a UV tattoo of a gauntleted fist on the side of his neck. My room may have been dimly lit, but there was plenty of black light. Almost every organization, criminal or otherwise, marked their people with UV tatts and in my line of work it always helped to know who you were dealing with. And that tatt marked him as someone’s bodyguard.

A meaty hand locked on to the guy’s shoulder from behind. “Move it, Drake. It’s a brothel. The only danger is that I’ll use the girl up and need a new one before I’m done.”

Drake took a reluctant step sideways. “Sir—“

“Shut up,” the second man interrupted. Then he pushed his way inside, not pausing to let his eyes adjust before barreling toward the bed. He was shorter than Drake, with a face like melted butter on a broken plate.

“You.” It took me a moment to realize he was talking to me. “Don’t just lie there. Stand up and let me look at you. Gotta make sure you’re not deformed or something.”

I rolled to the edge of the bed and stood up. “Roland?”

“Who else would I be?” He frowned and gestured impatiently. “Well? Take your gear off. I didn’t pay good money to see your clothes. Let’s see if you’re worth having.”

I unzipped my black leather mini-dress from neckline to hem, then let it fall to the ground. The black light illuminated my own UV tattoo – a PCB covering everything my dress had been hiding.

“I’m Switch,” I said.

“I didn’t pay to hear you talk either,” Roland said. “Turn around.”

I did so. “Would you like some wine before we get started?”

Something heavy hit me in the back of the head. I staggered forward and fell to my knees. I looked up at the man who had dared hit me.

Roland was massaging his right knuckles. “I told you to keep your mouth shut. Next time you open it, you’ll get worse. Now stand up.”

I fought down my pride and did so, almost wishing he’d taken the time to decipher the Printed Circuit Board on my body. It marked me as an assassin just as surely as Drake’s fist tattoo marked him as a bodyguard.

Roland pushed me toward the bed. “On your stomach.”

I climbed on to the satin sheets and slid my hand under a pillow. My fingers closed around the hilt of the nano-blade I kept hidden there for emergencies, but I didn’t draw it. Not yet. Stabbing was messy and came with a whole host of extra problems. For one thing, I’d have to kill Drake as well. And then I’d have two bodies to hide.

Not worth it unless there was no other option.

Roland struggled out of his clothes climbed on the bed behind me. My mind wandered as he grunted and thrust and sweated his way to climax. Men were all the same once you got them naked. Some just tried harder to please.

When he finally collapsed next to me, I slid off the bed. Then I froze. Drake was watching me. I’d forgotten he was there. We locked eyes for a count of three. Then I shrugged and looked away. I had a job to do and if he suspected what it was, he didn’t do anything about it.

I poured two glasses of nano-laced wine and returned to the bed. Roland heaved his bulk into a sitting position and took the goblet I offered. He drained it in a single gulp. Then he grabbed mine and did the same.

Apparently I’d taken the EMP-Cap for nothing.

Roland was as good as dead. Within an hour, the nanobots he’d swallowed with the wine would make their way through his bloodstream and into his heart. Then they’d happily do what they’d been programmed to do — build little walls to repair leaks. While that was helpful in a leaky sewage system, it was less so in the arteries around someone’s heart.

From Roland’s perspective, anyway. From my perspective, it was a silent, untraceable way to make sure he died while I was far, far away.

With that in mind, I left him on the bed and retrieved my clothes.

“What are you doing?” Roland said.

“Getting dressed.”

Roland’s brows lowered. “Get back here, whore. I haven’t finished with you.”

I ignored him and zipped up my dress. Then I slid on a pair of mirror shades and walked out the door. I could hear Roland yelling behind me and Drake trying to calm him down. I didn’t care. I just kept on walking.

I had a contract to collect on and a retirement to plan. But first, I needed to get somewhere safe. I had about half an hour before the EMP-Cap I’d swallowed detonated, killing any nanobots I’d inadvertantly consumed and everything electronic within a two foot radius.

I was in high spirits. There was something profoundly satisfying about a job well done.

Maybe I should do just one more.

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Flash Fiction: You Can Quit

This week’s Flash Fiction challenge on TerribleMinds was a bit different. We were given five possible settings/scenarios, and had to choose one of them to write about. The options were:

  1. In the middle of a prison riot.
  2. Chinatown during a hurricane.
  3. In the Martian suburbs celebrating the Red Planet’s independence.
  4. In a haunted mountain pass.
  5. On the battlefield during a way between two races of mythological creatures.

I ruled out number 2 early on and then number 3, but it took me quite a while to settle on number 1. The story was also inspired by my husband musing about what type of prison you’d need for a non-super-powered super-villain. Please enjoy and leave your comments, thoughts and feedback below.

You Can Quit

Curtis took a long draw on his smoke and dropped the butt on the dirt. He ground it into the dirt with his heel then exhaled slowly. There was time for another, but he hesitated. Doris had been at him to quit again, telling him long, rambling stories about friends with mechanical voices and multi-coloured chemo drips until he was almost prepared to give up just so she’d stop.

Almost.

A young woman, maybe twenty-five or thirty, rounded the corner. “Excuse me, do you know where I’d find Warden Cole? He’s not in his office.”

Curtis was glad he hadn’t lit another smoke. Even forty years on, he was haunted by Sister Mary Margaret’s reaction when she caught him smoking behind the bike shed. That’s why he hid around the corner when he needed a nicotine hit.

“You’re lookin’ at him, Ma’am,” Curtis said, tipping an imaginary hat.

“Good afternoon,” she said with a smile. “I’m Veronica. Am I interrupting?”

“No, Ma’am. Just admirin’ the view,” Curtis said, tilting his head toward the desert landscape behind her.

Veronica smiled and then fixed her gaze on his face. “I heard there was a riot going on out here.”

Curtis sighed. Word travelled fast. “Surely is,” he said. “You listen, you can hear it through the wall. Nothin’ too bad this time, it’s just gotta run its course. You here to visit someone?”

“It sounds like you’ve had some experience with riots,” Veronica said.

Curtis hitched his trousers up over his belly. “That I have, Ma’am.” He frowned. “Course, a riot used to be about somethin’. Food or treatment or somethin’. Now…” he shrugged. “Now it’s all just politics.”

The word was an ugly one, muttered in the same way he’d say pornography or prostitution. “It’s them Mutants,” he said. Another dirty word. “Stupid idea, puttin’ ‘em in the lock-up with common folk. But politics says we gotta do it. We gotta treat ‘em with ‘equal rights’ an’ all that.”

Veronica didn’t blink. “Is a Mutant responsible for the riot today?”

Curtis laughed like a wounded hyena. “Responsible? I s’pose. But if you ask me, it’s the Governor’s fault. He transferred the Empath here.”

“An Empath started the riot?”

Curtis frowned and glanced at his watch. “I should be getting back, Ma’am. I’ve got a reporter comin’ to film me any minute. Got a speech I gotta give him, courtesy of the Governor.”

“Does the speech say an Empath started the riot?”

“Hell no,” Curtis said with a laugh. Then he remembered his manners. “Pardon my language, Ma’am. But the Governor’s not gonna say that. Politics an’ all. I just gotta say one of my guards ‘acted inappropriate’.” He made the air quotations he wouldn’t be able to make during the interview.

Veronica kept her eyes fixed on him. “Did a guard act inappropriately?”

“Nah,” Curtis said. The noise from behind the walls had died down. Maybe the riot was over. “The Empath transferred in last night, drugged up to the eyeballs to keep him quiet, and freaked out when he woke up. Started projectin’ fear and anger and next thing you know, his cellmate’s headbuttin’ the door tryin’ to get away. A couple o’ guards go in to settle things and soon the Empath’s projectin’ that shit everywhere. Half the guards fled and the inmates started fightin’ each other to be the first out. I hadda lock the place down. Damn Empaths shouldn’t be around people, you ask me. But you put ‘em in solitary and you have the human rights folks actin’ like you’re the one doin’ somethin’ wrong.”

Curtis shook his head in disgust. “They got that fancy prison for Mutants down in Dallas. Every time a Mutant gets caught they gotta build a new cell. They got  electrocuted walls so the Freaks can’t walk through ‘em, and rooms made o’ plastic and titanium and mercury and other crazy stuff. Costs taxpayers a fortune so they can’t do it for all of them. They gotta send the low level Mutants here. We get Empaths and Mind-Readers and Flyers and this one time we had a Freak who could hack computers with his brain.” He shook his head. “We’re just a prison. Ain’t got the facilities for Mutants.”

“So what’s the solution?”

The riot was definitely over. There was silence behind the wall. The only sound now was the muffled buzzing of his cell as it started vibrating in his pocket. He ignored it. “Simple. Put the Mutants on an island somewhere in the middle o’ nowhere. Let ‘em live out there, ‘stead of botherin’ good folk.”

“The Mutants convicted of crimes? Or innocent Mutants as well?”

“Innocent Mutants?” Curtis laughed his wounded-hyena laugh. “Ain’t no such thing. You give some Joe the power to walk through walls or read minds or make money outta nothin’, they’re gonna break the law. It’s just a matter of time.”

 His phone was still vibrating and it was past time for the reporter to arrive. He gestured for Veronica to accompany him back to the office. “Who did you say you were you here to visit, Ma’am?”

Curtis rounded the corner. An empty news van was parked in front of the office. There was no movement from within the vehicle, but a TV mounted on the roof showed the back of a man’s head as he walked toward a familiar building.

“What—“ Curtis breathed. He spun around, expecting to see a camera pointed at him. But there was only Veronica. Veronica with her odd, unblinking eyes. “You’re—“

“The reporter,” Veronica interrupted. “Broadcasting live.”

Curtis slumped. “Fuck,” he said. His voice echoed from every TV screen in the prison, the city, and the state.

In a daze, he pulled out his cell. It vibrated angrily. The caller ID said ‘Governor’.

As Sister Mary Margaret said, “You make your choices, you take your lashes.”

He lit a cigarette and answered the phone. At least he’d be able to tell Doris he quit something today.

 

 

 

 

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Flash Fiction: The Game

This week’s prompt on TerribleMinds was an opening line challenge. There were three opening lines to choose from:

(1) Everyone else remembers it as the day the saucers came, but I remember it as the day a man in a suit shot my father.

(2) Three truths will I tell you and one lie.

(3) Thursday was out to get me.

They were all quite intriguing, but in the end I decided to go with option 2.

The Game

 “Three truths I will tell you and one lie. That is how the game is played, is it not?” I smile and seat myself at your table.

You crush a paper napkin in your left hand and stare at me. “Game?” Your voice shakes in the most delicious way.

“Yes. A drinking game.” I signal the waiter. “I will provide you with four drinks and four statements. When the game is done, you will tell me which three were truths and which one was a lie. Yes?”

“I don’t think—“ you say, starting to stand.

“Sit down,” I say and you do. I bestow upon you my best smile. “I apologise, my dear. I do prefer not to be so forward, but the game has not yet begun.”

The waiter arrives with a drink. I slide it towards you. “We will start with a G&T, shall we? Something simple, innocuous, seemingly harmless.” I smile as you pick up the glass.

“Once we have finished the game, you will be free to leave.”

You nod and sip the drink. Your free hand is still worrying the napkin. You stop drinking after a moment and I draw my attention away from your hand and back to your face. “Drink up, my dear. Your next is on its way.”

You do and the waiter returns. He places another drink on the table. When he is gone and we are once again alone, I slide it to you. “Let us move on to something more interesting, shall we? A Tequila Sunrise they call this. Is it not beautiful and fresh and bright?”

You take the tall glass without hesitation, abandoning the shreds of napkin in your haste.

“This is not an ordinary bar.”

You stop drinking and look at me, meeting my eyes. It is a long time since I’ve looked into eyes as blue as yours.

“What do you mean?”

“Come now,” I say with a smile. “Do not pretend ignorance, my dear. I see you wearing your finest clothes, carrying an over-sized purse, all dressed up for an evening of pleasure in one of the shrines to dance and alcohol that litter the streets of this fine city. And yet here you are,” I wave my hand in a broad arc, “in a bar with no name and not even a placard on the door to mark its existence. You found your way here because this is no ordinary bar and you are no ordinary person.”

“It’s not like that,” you say, your words tripping over themselves in their haste to make my acquaintance.

“No?” I don’t try to hide my amusement.

“No.” You place the Tequila Sunrise to the table. “I was meeting a friend, but–”

“—but here you are,” I interrupt. “Drink up, my dear. The game is afoot.”

I wonder if you will attempt once more to leave. A frisson of anticipation washes over me at the thought. But you do not. You raise the glass to your lips, look into my eyes once more, and finish the drink.

The waiter returns and places a glass in front of you. Your expression slides from annoyed to perplexed and then amused.

“A Bloody Mary?” you ask.

“Oh yes,” I say. “It is a favourite.”

You pluck the celery from the glass and bite the crisp stalk. You chew slowly, the flesh crunching with every bite. My mouth waters. When I can bear it no more, I tell you to drink. My voice is huskier than I would like, but still irresistible. You lay down the stalk and raise the glass to your lips.

“I am a vampire.”

You choke. I wait while you cough and splutter and catch your breath. Then I go on. “Where I am from, they do not call me by that name. They call me drakûl. But vampire is a word more familiar to you, yes?”

You gulp down the Bloody Mary. “You’re insane.”

“Am I?” I smile, fighting my desire to reach over and wipe the thin line of tomato juice from your upper lip. “That is what you will need to decide when this game draws to its inevitable close. Three statements have I given now. One remains before the game is done.”

The waiter is back, clearing the table and depositing your fourth and final drink. This one looks like sunset in a hurricane glass, a sprig of mint on the rim. You look at it with curiosity.

“What is it?” you ask.

“It is called a Zombie, but it is merely a colourful concoction of fruit and rum . It will not literally transform you into one of the shambling undead.”

You nod and lift the glass, placing the straw between your lips.

“You will be transformed into a vampire this night.”

You do not pause. You drink, drawing the sweet liquid through the straw and into your mouth with a rhythmic sucking motion. My fangs extend in response and I look away.

“I’m finished,” you say. “That’s the end of the game, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then I know which three are true.”

I look back at you and smile, revealing my fangs in all their glory. “The first is a lie, of course. You were never free to leave.” I smile and stand. “Are you ready for your transformation, my dear, or shall I chase you first?”

You stand. My skin tingles in anticipation.

“You’re wrong,” you say. “It was your last statement that was a lie. I won’t be a vampire. Not tonight or ever.”

You reach into your purse and draw out a device that may have come from an episode of Buck Rogers. “You were right about one thing,” you say. “I’m no ordinary person. I’m a hunter. And this is my UV gun, you blood-sucking motherfucker.”

You pull the trigger.

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Flash Fiction: Bedlam

The TerribleMinds challenge this week was to write a 1000 word story in two parts. Half from the perspective of the protagonist and half from the perspective of the antagonist. It took me a little while to come up with this one, but I can honestly say that it proves that I don’t write happy stories. (Be ye warned!)

Bedlam

With the blankets tucked snugly around him at last, Bedlam Blue peered up at his mother. “Where do Wishes come from?”

“Wishes?” she asked.

Bedlam sat up in bed and nodded. “Where do Wishes come from?” he asked again.

“Well,” said his mother, sitting back down on the bed. She ran a hand through his hair and then down his gossamer wing. “Wishes come from the Human World. Sometimes, when a Human hopes and dreams of something with enough passion, a Wish is born.”

“And the Wish comes to the Wish Collectors?” Bedlam asked, his golden eyes bright.

“That’s right.”

“And the Wish Collectors trap the Wish in a crystal and give the crystal to a Wish-Bringer?”

“Yes.”

“And the Wish-Bringer goes to the Human World and finds the heart that created the Wish and makes it come true?”

“Yes,” said his mother. She lay him down and pulled the blankets up to his chin. “Now get some sleep.”

Bedlam smiled and closed his eyes. “When I grow up, I’m going to be a Wish-Bringer. Just like Daddy,” he murmured.

 # # # # #

 “You shouldn’t encourage him.”

“It’s harmless.”

“It’s not harmless. There’s barely enough Wishes as it is. By the time he’s old enough, there might not be Wish-Bringers at all. Saber and Cloud took redundancies last month, and I’m pretty sure I’m next.”

“Oh, you worry too much,” said Bedlam’s mother to his father. “Besides, it’s just a phase. He’ll grow out of it.” 

# # # # #

 Bedlam’s wings propelled him faster and faster around the course. Left, right, dodge a tree branch, duck under an acorn, spin to the right again and… pirouette on to the perch at the finish line.

He looked back. Leaves swayed in the breeze his passing had created, but nothing was out of place. It was a perfect run. He looked to the judging platform, a grin on his face and a whoop ready on his lips.

Wish-Master Strife Morningstar stood alone on the platform. His lips compressed to a thin line. Then he shook his head and walked away.

“Wait! Wish-Master!”

The old man kept walking, a flick of his wings the only sign that he’d heard. Bedlam’s grin faded. What had he done wrong? He flung himself off the perch and felt the moment of free-fall before his wings took his weight. “Wish-Master!”

When there was still no reaction, Bedlam beat his wings harder, banked, then landed in front of the Wish-Master. “Sir?”

“I’m busy,” the Wish-Master snapped. “What do you want?”

Bedlam balked, then pressed on. “Wish-Master, please. Did I miss something?”

The Wish-Master stared at him. Seconds passed in silence. Then the old man spoke. “You don’t have what it takes to be a Wish-Bringer. I’m sorry. It’s over.”

Bedlam’s mouth opened. He wanted to protest, but his voice was gone. He watched in impotent silence as the old man’s wings beat a discordant rhythm, lifted him into the air and propelled him toward the Collector.

“No,” Bedlam said at last. “It can’t be over.”

He’d worked so hard, and yearned so much his heart ached. It wasn’t over. 

# # # # #

 Strife Morningstar peered through the gap between the stone wall and the curtain. There was a big crowd. The biggest he’d seen in the Collector. He wished again that he could hand the responsibility over to someone else, but there was no one. The title would die with him.

“It’s time, Wish-Master.”

Strife nodded to his assistant. His wings fluttered against his back, betraying his nervousness. He took a deep breath to still them, then pushed the curtain aside and stepped on to the dais.

A hush fell over the crowd.

Strife raised his hand. “Bring out the accused.”

The boy, Bedlam Blue, was dragged on to the dais. Noise erupted from the crowd. Strife had known the identity of the accused, but nothing could have prepared him for the pain and resentment in the boy’s golden eyes, or the gut-wrenching, soul-destroying sight of the boy’s tattered wings.

He swallowed back bile as he waited for the noise to fade. “Bedlam Blue,” he intoned. “Did you or did you not steal a Wish-Carrier for the sole purpose of travelling to the Human World?”

The boy met his eyes without shame. “I did,” he said.

“And did you or did you not travel to the Human World without permission?”

“I did.”

“And, whilst in the Human World, did you knowingly grant an unsanctioned Wish?”

“I did.”

The noise was deafening. It went on and on. Strife didn’t try to stop it. The same shock and pain were echoing through his heart.

Eventually peace returned. “Bedlam Blue,” he said. “In light of your confession, I have no choice but to find you guilty of unauthorised Wish granting. Do you have anything to say?”

Bedlam pushed himself to his feet and looked at the crowd, then back at the Wish-Master. The guards stepped forward, but Strife waved them back. He watched the boy, watched him struggle to find the words he wanted.

“I granted a Wish,” he said at last, his golden eyes burning with equal parts pain and pride. “You didn’t believe me but I do have what it takes, Wish-Master. I’m a Wish-Bringer. Just like my father.”

Strife’s wings were quivering uncontrollably. The boy was right. He would have been a great Wish-Bringer. One of the best. If only…

If only the Human World wasn’t so full of entertainments and distractions that the Humans didn’t need Wishes anymore.

If only there were Wishes to grant.

Once, the boy could have been the best Wish-Bringer Strife had ever trained. But those days were over.

Strife couldn’t look the boy in the eye so he spoke to the crowd. “The penalty for unauthorised Wish granting is death. Let it be done.”

Then Strife turned his back and walked through the curtain, his heart howling in harmony with Bedlam’s cry of pain and rage.

 

 

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Flash Fiction: To Infinity and Beyond

This week’s flash fiction challenge on TerribleMinds is to write a 1000 word story where time travel is a prominent feature. I had a great time with this challenge, and really hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I’d like to dedicate this story to my friend Pete, who assisted me with some of the technical details. Thanks, Pete, for answering my odd questions in the middle of the night, without even asking for reasons or context!

To Infinity and Beyond

The place is just the way William remembers it – a crappy wooden shack with holes in the roof, snakes under the floorboards and enough weed in the garden to keep him and Theo toasted every day of high school and beyond. It’s quiet, but he knows what he’ll find inside. He’s been here before.

He slides his hand into the deep pocket of his trench and feels the comforting weight of his Colt Anaconda. He closes his hand around it then walks up the garden path to the gaping doorway. He pauses outside and listens. He wants to wait for the right moment.

“No, man, first we go to one of them hippy festivals in the sixties. All the chicks were easy back then.”

“Yeah! Yeah, man. That’s, like, sick.”

“Yeah… And then, right, then we, like, go back to when Kurt Cobain was about to shoot himself and we, like, save him. And then we totally rock out with Nirvana.”

 “That would be, like, so cool!”

“I know, right? We could be, like, gods. You know? Like, saving some people and killing other people and shit.”

Another pause. “You know what we should do first?”

“What?”

“Right, the first thing we do when we invent a time machine is… we come back here… and we, like, tell ourselves that we invented a time machine.”

William ducks his head and walks into the ramshackle hut. That’s his cue. “Hello, boys.”

The two teenagers leap to their feet and away from him, immediately protesting their innocence. 

“We weren’t really…”

“Didn’t know that it was…”

William holds up his left hand and smiles. “Relax,” he says. “Theo. William. I’m from the future.”

They both stare at him, eyes like saucers. “Woah,” says Theo. “We totally, like, did it. Do it. Done it.” He pauses, looks confused, then tries again. “We totally made a time machine. Didn’t we?”

“Yes,” William says with a smile. “William, I’m future you.”

Past-William’s eyes widen. “Oh man. Are you, like, here to warn me about the future? Does some robot, like, come back and try to kill me?”

“Yes. And no.” William steps further into the cabin, advancing on the boys. “You remember Laura Mackenzie?”

Past-William smirks. “Aw, yeah. I know her.”  The two boys snicker and high five each other. “She’s smokin’.”

“Yeah, she is,” says William. Had he really been such a loser as a teenager? What the hell had Laura even seen in him? He cuts that thought off quickly and refocuses on the kids. “She’s smart and funny and sexy as hell,” he says. “And you fall in love with her.”

Theo sniggers. “Dude! You fall in love…”

“Shut. Up.” William pulls his right hand out of his pocket and points the gun at Theo’s head. Then he keeps talking to Past-William. “You go out of town to college, but you and her stay in touch. When you come back, you propose to her. You get married. It’s the happiest day of your life.”

Past-William’s eyes are huge. “Wow. That’s awesome. But… why am I telling myself this?”

William continues, “You work hard. You do everything for her. She’s your life. Then you have a baby. A little boy. You name him Theodore. Everything is perfect.” He spits the word out a second time. “Fucking perfect.”

His right hand is shaking a bit, but he keeps going. “Then one day you find out the truth. You catch them together. You find out that your son isn’t really your son. You find out that your wife has been screwing your best friend for your whole fucking marriage. Ever since college. No, ever since fucking high school.”

“Man, that’s fucked up,” says Past-William. “What do I do then?”

“You take the time machine you and Theo built and you go back and make sure it never happened,” says William. He looks at Theo and tightens his finger on the trigger.

“Thought I’d find you here,” says a voice from behind him.

William spins around, releasing the trigger. There’s Theo, leaning against the rotten doorframe with a gun in his hand.

“I’m going to kill you,” says William. “I’m going to kill you in the past so Laura will never be yours. The minute I pull this trigger, you will have been dead for fifteen years.”

Theo just smiles. “You think I didn’t think of that, Billy-boy?”

A second Theo walks through the open doorway. This one has his gun pointed at Past-William. “You shoot Past-Me, and Other-Me shoots Past-You before he has time to die.” First-Theo smirks. “Or maybe I’ll shoot Past-You first. Save us both some time.”

Second-William walks in, his gun pointed at Second-Theo. “Two can play that game,” First-William says. “When I kill Past-You and the you cease to exist, I’ll go back to the future and come back enough times to stop you stopping me.”

“Wrong,” says First-Theo. “By the time this is over, you’ll be dead. So when I get back to the future, I’ll keep coming back enough times to stop you killing Past-Me. Then I’ll kill Past-You and Laura won’t even remember your name.”

The two ex-friends stare at each other. Another Theo walks in, gun raised.

Then another William. Then Theo. William. Theo.

“Dude,” whispers Past-William. “This is whack. We’re gonna kill each other. But… If one of us is dead, only one of us can go to the future and set stuff up for when we come back to the past.”

“Dude,” whispers Past-Theo. “We’re, like, so baked.”

William. Theo. William. Theo.

The cabin is overflowing. Future selves spill out into the clearing.

William. Theo. William. Theo.

The clearing is full. The woods teem with Williams and Theos.

A voice. Disembodied. Androgynous.

“Memory full. Infinite loop detected. Reality will restart in 5…”

Williams and Theos look at each other.

“4…”

“Dude!” Past-William says.

“Dude!” Past-Theo says.

“3…”

“2…”

“Fuck,” say Theos.

“1…”

Williams pull the trigger.

 

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