Twisted Tales 2016: Flash Fiction with a Twist!

Twisted Tales 2016 Cover

I know it’s a bit late, but the publication of Raging Aardvark‘s flash anthology is finally here! Please visit FaceBook for the Launch Party if you’d like to congratulate the authors, and I’m including some helpful links below for purchasing the book. I’m very happy to say my flash story, Mirror, appears in this anthology!

https://www.createspace.com/6652118 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0994525206

If you’d like a paperback copy of the book, it’s selling for only $6.25. Twisted Tales is being sold without a profit, in order to promote the art of flash fiction. If you feel generous, please write a review when you are done. Flash Fiction, for those of you not exposed to it before, is simply very short fiction–usually a complete story under a thousand words. Every year there are events for (Inter)national Flash Fiction Day, and this anthology is a celebration of both the event and the writing itself.

If you can not afford to buy the paperback, you can also read the stories online at the publisher’s personal website, linked below. Simply scroll back though the stories, and enjoy!

https://annieonwriting.wordpress.com/category/twisted-tales/

I’m very happy to have been included in this anthology, and I hope you enjoy reading the stories as much as I have. Now, go read some flash fiction!

 

Short Story: Cliffhanger

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

*warning: some profanity (three F-bombs)

cliff-o54b

George Griffith, affable and lovable nice guy, stood at the cliff’s edge, hands raised  high in the air. He was accompanied by his loving wife of twenty years, their next door neighbor, Bob, and the neighbor’s annoying dog and cat. They mirrored George’s stance to the best of their ability. Bob, however, was only able to comply with one upraised arm–as the other cradled a goldfish bowl. Inside the bowl, however, his betta fish (who was also named Bob) hovered in the tank’s cloudy waters, his long floating fins in an attitude that suggested that he held his fins up in lieu of hands. The dog and cat merely lifted their heads.

“Now, jump.”  Mary Sue motioned with the revolver’s long nose toward the cliff’s edge.

George tipped slightly to view the depth of the proposed descent, then seemed to think better of it and edged slightly away. His companions did the same, mirroring his movements half a beat behind his own. The collars of the cat and the tiny dark pug made little tinkling sounds when they moved. Wet Bob leaned further away in his small glass prison. You may think it’s impossible for a fish to lean, but I assure you, with determination anything is possible.

“Uhhhh…no,” said George, shaking his head from side to side.

His companions shook their heads from side to side. The little bells on the collars tinkled. Wet Bob swished in his tank.

It was annoying.

“Go on now,” Mary Sue said, motioning the characters toward their imminent doom. “Jump.”

George shook his head again, and his companions followed suit. They looked to George as their spokesperson. “What’s my motivation?” he asked.

Mary Sue rolled her eyes, slowly inhaled, and silently counted to five before answering. “Motivation? Are you serious?” She looked at the gun, then back at George.

George gave a quick, nervous laugh before answering. “Well…yeah. I mean, if we are going to jump off a cliff…en masse, I assume…?”

Mary Sue nodded, and he continued, “If we are going to jump en masse off this very steep and scary cliff to certain death, wouldn’t we need some pretty powerful motivation?”

“I’m holding a fucking gun on you,” Mary Sue answered through gritted teeth. “That’s your fucking motivation, asshole.”

“But is it? Is it really?” George’s voice had taken on the condescending tone of someone reasoning with an idiot, rather than a man bargaining for his own life and the lives of others. “Because from where I’m standing, I don’t see how diving off a cliff is better than being shot.” Just at that moment, an updraft from the unseen depths blew his hat dramatically from his head, whistling mournfully as if to emphasize the point. The other characters on the ledge followed the Fedora’s progress with their eyes, heads turning as the wind whipped the accessory over the edge, until it was lost from sight. “See what I mean?” said George.

Mary Sue sighed and sat down on a conveniently placed boulder, careful to keep the revolver’s barrel aimed at her intended victims. “Crap, crap, crap,”  she  muttered, then added an extra crap just to emphasize her point. “I was afraid this was going to happen.”

“What?” asked George. Taking a tentative step toward her, his movements were mirrored half a beat later by his companions. When Mary Sue made no additional threats, they took a few more steps. “What was going to happen?”

“That the characters take control of the story,” she moaned. “I mean, sometimes that makes my job really easy, you know? But others, like now, I have to worry about proper motivation, backstory, did I give enough foreshadowing. I mean, I should be able to just throw you all off a cliff if I want to, right?” She turned pleading eyes on her wayward creations.

“Well, maybe you just haven’t come up with the right scenario yet?” said George, affable and lovable nice guy. He wanted to help her, even though she wanted to off him and everyone he cared about. That need to please at any cost was hardwired into him; it was one of the things that really didn’t work about his character. She hated that.

“What better motivation could there be but a gun aimed at you and your loved ones?” Mary Sue was intrigued by his line of thought, despite herself. Well, because of herself, seeing how all her characters were just different manifestations of her own thoughts, but let’s not quibble.

“Maybe…hmmm,” George mumbled to himself, then brightened. “Maybe my wife was cheating on me with Bob!” He grinned. His wife looked horrified, but he continued. “Yeah, and I’m so distraught that I force them all off the cliff, then jump myself!” By this time, he had made his hatless way to her side and gave her a friendly pat on the back.

Mary Sue put her head in her hands. “No, same problem, right? You would just shoot them. How is a cliff dive better than being shot?”

“Because I don’t need to worry about disposing of the bodies?” ventured George.

“He could threaten to shoot me in the groin!” volunteered Bob the neighbor (not Bob the fish). “That would be pretty horrific!” He looked pleased.

“Shut up, Bob. You’re just a side character,” answered Mary Sue. “I didn’t even intend for you to have any lines.”

Bob deflated, but George carried on. “No, he has a point. Some ways of dying are better than others, right? Painful versus painless, heroic versus cowardly, that sort of thing?”

Bob nodded his head in agreement, but Mary Sue glared at him before turning on George again. “Yes, but that is the point. I’ve just always wanted to throw my characters off a cliff when I’m sick of them, alright? Call it a writer’s sadistic fantasy. I make no apologies for that.”

“You’re sick of us?” said George. Being threatened with different types of death had been off-putting, but that really hurt. “Why?”

Why?!” countered Mary Sue, incredulity dripping from her lips like venom. “Because you are annoying, alright? Your character is flawed, and you say things like en masse. What real person says such a douchey thing? The characters I surrounded you with in the story are just window dressing, not fully developed people–which is why I have them mostly just react to you, George. Maybe I’m just a lazy writer, but it’s easier to have them follow the main character around rather than come up with full personalities for each and every one. It’s a short story, so is it even worth the trouble? And the animals! Holy frakking hell, what was I thinking with the animals? Half the time I forget they are there, so why’d I include them in the first place?”

“Maybe humor? You were being quirky,” said George, unrealistically helpful, as well as affable and lovable as ever. Half a beat later, his supporting staff nodded agreement–including his wife, the dog, the cat, and the Bobs.

“They don’t advance the story,” she replied.

“What’s the story about? ” asked George.

“Me throwing you off a cliff.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m sick of writing about you.”

“Well…damn,” said George. He swished his foot in the red dirt at the cliff’s edge. The other characters did the same, except Wet Bob–who swished in his tank. “What about the gun?” He pointed to the gun pointed at himself. “That’s interesting, right? Imminent danger, all that…you could describe what it looks like, the long silver barrel coated in dust, the way Chekhov is engraved in elegant script along the side, the way you pulled it dramatically from the mantel to point it at us-”

“What mantel? There’s just rocks here and a huge fucking drop.”

“You’re the writer, right? Couldn’t you just say there’s a mantel?”

“It’s like I’m talking to myself.”

“You are, remember? We are all just different manifestations of your own-”

“Shut up.”

“-thoughts, but let’s not quibble.”

“You are missing the point.” She glared. She sighed. She hung her head in frustration. She found many ways to express herself without actually moving from the spot, adding additional dialogue, or forwarding the plot in any significant way.

“Can’t you just stop writing about us?” asked George, and his supporting cast…know what? You get the idea.

“No, it doesn’t work like that,” she answered. “The story needs to be resolved in a believable and consistent way.”

“But how is throwing us off a cliff believable?”

“You see my problem.”

“Well, for one thing you aren’t throwing us off a cliff… ”

“Because you won’t listen.”

“No, not to criticize, but I mean, you are trying to make us jump–which isn’t the same as throwing us off.”

Mary Sue brightened. “You know, you’re right. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.”

“Technically you did,” said Bob the neighbor (not Bob the fish), “seeing how we are just different incarnations of your own thoughts-”

“Shut up, Bob,” said Mary Sue, and she shot him. “I don’t want to lose my train of thought, and I told you, you weren’t supposed to have lines.”

“-but…but…,” sputtered Bob as the life drained from his body, “but…let’s not…quibble.”

George looked at her in astonishment. So did his surviving supporting cast. Bob the fish flopped helplessly on the ground, where Bob the neighbor had dropped the now empty tank when he was shot. Both Bob’s burbled. It wasn’t pretty.

“So…,” mused Mary Sue, nudging both Bobs over the the cliff with one steel toed boot, “if I just shoot you first, I can throw you over the cliff myself. Then I don’t need to worry about your motivation.”

“Nudge, not throw,” corrected George.

She shot him. “And thanks for helping me establish my motivation.”  In quick succession she dispatched his supporting cast: the unnamed wife who resembled her own nosy neighbor, the dog that resembled the stray that tried to bite her every time she went out her own front door, and the cat that resembled the one that kept her up till three every morning with deafening feline orgies.

She set the gun back on the mantel that was mysteriously present in this deserted location. Then she bent down and shoved each one of her deceased creations off the cliff, whistling a joyful tune all the while.

Close enough, she thought.

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com
**Thank you for visiting my blog. I will post my next story in three to four weeks, due to scheduling issues. I hope you enjoyed my little piece of meta, and have a lovely weekend!

POEM: Beware the Hipster

 

“Beware the Hipster”  

(inspired by Jabberwocky)

.

‘Tis sunny on the day I see

the Hipster–bowler hat on head,

round Lennon glasses jauntily

perched on his nose. I nearly fled.

.

“Beware the Hipster!” I’d been warned,

“-the lips that sneer, the fierce eyes that

view everything, yet also scorn

whatever thing they’re looking at.”

.

He takes his cellphone well in hand,

long time the wifi here he’s sought,

to marvel at this small town’s quaint-

ness, if and when it can be bought.

.

The coffee shop is where he “hangs”

–its rooms his natural habitat;

He lounges in his Vera Wangs,

entitlement of alleycat.

.

He orders his speciality cup

and sits within a booth to tweet

over soy latte–bottoms up!

He contemplates his balance sheet.

.

The poetry slam will soon begin,

knowing this he preps his words,

adjusts his vest, neat as a pin,

and readies himself for the herds

.

of onlookers that will attend

to listen to his performance

art, anti-prose, and apprehend.

He preys upon his audience;

.

he paints a picture odious,

each finely chose profanity

he picks to shock his audience

as payment for his vanity.

.

One, two! One, two! His sharpened tongue

leaves all aghast! Wholesome, family

places won’t stand that kind of dung.

He won’t be back.

.

“Oh, have they cast the Hipster out?

Come have some Earl Grey tea on me!

Or coffee! There will be no drought

of drinks on the house, happily!”

.

‘Tis sunny on the day I see

the Hipster–bowler hat on head,

round Lennon glasses jauntily

perched on his nose. I nearly fled.

 

 

Friday Flash (Revisited): Space-time to Travel

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When Hector invented his time machine, he did not concern himself with aesthetics. He had never valued beauty over functionality, and he assumed the judges of the 54th-century’s multiversal scientific competition would share his opinion.

His chest swelled as he viewed his entry in the ‘Time-Machine of the Century’ contest, humanity’s valiant effort to embrace the insanity they had brought upon themselves. Such an event was obviously a complicated affair, but Hector knew the intricacies of traveling the multiverse. Space-travel was by definition time travel, and he crossed light-years like other fellows crossed a room.

Of course, time-travel had been around for centuries in Earth standard years, with all the predictable complications such journeying involved. After all, there’s only so many times men and women can either off their own ancestors or become their own parents before humanity’s family tree is hopelessly skewered beyond recognition. And once humanity spread beyond its own paltry region of space, cross-breeding with the debatably-intelligent life found elsewhere in the multiverse only added to their genetic confusion.

Confounded, humanity had decided their hopelessly tangled timelines (multiverse, after all) should be monitored and adjusted accordingly. Agencies had been set up, destroyed, the parents of the agencies’ founders murdered, born in alternative timelines to be transferred and mated (then murdered) again, before humanity as a whole threw up their collective hands and thought, To hell with it all, let’s just go with the flow.

And thus, Hector had found himself abducted from the distant past due to one of genetically-mangled humanity’s misguided efforts to reintroduce old-blood back into its gene-pool. The upside for Hector was that they made their scientific knowledge available to all their abductees. After being fit with a transmitter for selective telepathy, he could communicate effectively and integrated himself into future (his future) society. He was excited about his entry into this year’s contest.

You’ve been disqualified.

What? What are you talking about! I followed the rules to the letter! Color flushed Hector’s cheeks as he gazed at the little grey-green judge with the clipboard.

The judge, Bob, gazed levelly at him with bulbous eyes. He really had no choice, since his eyelids were clear. Bob was unaware of his familial connection to Hector, though he would not have been surprised; almost everyone was related to everyone else.

Well? repeated Hector. He bent down to peer into Bob’s oval face.

Bob reached out with elongated, bony fingers to hold the tentacle of his wife of three light-years, Judy Trudy. He paled at the sight of the glowering man in denim and found his plaid shirt terrifying. Judy nudged Bob encouragingly, and the little judge responded.

After the unsettling squelching and sucking sounds were over, Bob cleared his throat and thought, It does not meet the specifications, sir, for human-compatibility.

What the heck you talking ‘bout? Hector sat in the driver’s seat of the modified Chevy and activated the force-seals. I know there’s been certain errr…modifications to the species since my days, but humans still have certain basics in common, right?

That is true, thought Bob. He squeezed Judy’s tentacle, which oozed reassuringly in his bony hand.

Well, most have two hands, right? reasoned Hector, demonstrating how his hands used the steering-wheel. He made a point of not meeting Judy’s gaze.

Yes, and many have three or six, answered Bob.

Two feet is pretty common, right? Hector stepped on various pedals.

Two seems to be the preferred number of ambulatory appendages, agreed Bob.

I installed seat belts, per regulations. They would be useable by the bulk of humanity – regardless of, er, complications to their family, uh…

The seatbelts are satisfactory, agreed Bob, noting that the ancient human had not “buckled in” for safety. He climbed into the vehicle and sat in the passenger seat.

Hector’s brow furrowed as he asked the question he’d been dreading. It’s not a question of style, is it? He had not been tuned-in to the fashions of his own time and place, nevermind 54th century Camelot 470.

Bob negated this notion.

Well then, what’s the problem? He took a chance and gave Judy Trudy a worried look. She squelched at him.

This is the problem, thought Bob and sighed. Sliding into the driver’s seat, Bob bumped Hector unceremoniously out the open door and onto the floor. Hector watched Bob wiggle his tiny grey toes at least a foot above the starter pedal. In most space-timelines, thought the judge at the mystified man, the majority of humanity is my height.

*This was originally written for the six minute story site, but I cheated and edited the piece after six minutes. Also, due to life happenings (such as getting the flu for two weeks among other things), I have not created a fresh flash for this week. I felt guilty for not updating the blog, so I hope you enjoyed my humble repost from my old (and now defunct) writing blog. Have a lovely week!

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash: Trapped

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

Trapped

From my pilot’s seat, I watch the contents of the aquarium tank strapped to the plane’s inner wall. My cargo’s withstood shipment far better than I anticipated. Mermen bodies are less valuable dead than alive, so I’m glad I took extra precautions to ensure this package is cared for properly. Thank the gods I took him to the vet and had him sedated before shipment. Though the tank is shatter-resistant, I wouldn’t want to test it, because if he becomes violent, he might damage himself.

Usually, men alone track mermen, but their rarity coupled with their ferocity makes capturing them almost impossible. No one expects a woman to bag such a vicious creature. But it pays to know the science. By synthesizing mermaid pheromones, I’m able to use them to my advantage. I’m actually surprised how easy it was to lure the thing into a cage.

Still, he is a handsome beast. The way his emerald hair floats in the tank’s water, the way his sea-green eyes sparkle–

He’s watching me.

He’s watching me, capturing me in the depths of those startling eyes.

I feel myself change course, away from land and back towards the sea. My hands are moving; I feel the plane’s weight shift now that the nose is aimed for those beautiful, calm waters.

The merman lifts himself from his tank. I smell salt air and realize just how wrong I’ve been about everything.

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

** I used a random word generator to get the three words I used as prompts: trap, weather, runway.

Friday Flash: Capital Crimes

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

lightning-2a7z

What is the meaning of this?

You are here, Mister E, due to the nature of certain letters that have come into our possession.

I’ve told you thugs before, my friend B is innocent! Since when is it a crime to say you don’t like war? Who does?! Only madmen and–

I do not refer to your friend’s anti-war sentiments, though that shall surely be investigated…

Stop shuffling those goddamn papers, and look at me! I don’t understand. Why are you even reading the mail when–

Now, you are the madman, Mister E! An enemy may send coded messages, and even newspaper columns may be employed to–

No, no, no! I mean, why read our mail? We’re just ambulance drivers, and B’s only crime is hating all the blood and death we’re exposed to in the service of “peace.”

Aha! This “peace” you refer to is an example of exactly the sort of thing we are concerned about.

What? I don’t…what?

The scare quotes you used when you referred to peace, which is the end goal of this military operation.

It’s no secret that saying war in the service of peace is an oxymoron!

No, Mister E, I am not referring to your attitude but rather your punctuation.

My punctuation! What on earth does that have to do with anything?

Have you noticed, Mister E, how you have used punctuation and capitalization throughout our conversation? Even the questionable use of scare quotes? I have.

Well?

That is something notably absent in your published works of poetry, even to the extent of not capitalizing your own name.

Now, Mister E–or should I say mister e? what do you have to say for yourself?

I’m a writer! We expand the use of language; poetry often breaks the rules of prose–with the exception of prose poetry, and–

To the extent that you even lowercase your own name?

Hey! You used lowercase as a verb, and that’s-

That is not the point, mister e.  Do not dare change the subject! Who are you working for?

No one! My poetry isn’t code for the enemy, I swear! I’m not working for the enemy!

And your idiosyncratic style? Besides the occasional odd usage of brackets and parentheses, your methodology makes no sense.

Hey, watch it! Art is in the eye of the beholder!

Eye and ear, apparently. Your excessive use of exclamation marks during our little talk is giving me almost as much of a headache as your printed works.

It’s a stressful situation! I resent that.

You are meant to.

How can you accuse me of anything when you just ended a sentence with a preposition?

It was correct usage, and you are in no position to do anything other than answer my questions.

Listen, can you at least untie these ropes? I’m beginning to chafe.

No.

No?

No. Not until you explain.

That wasn’t a proper sentence! There was no–ouch!!!

I see you are beginning to slip and reveal your true nature, mister e. Three exclamation points?

Dialogue is different.

How do you expect us to believe you are an author with so little vanity that you eschew capitalizing your own name? You must be getting paid a great deal, mister e, to go that far.

I swear to you, I am not a spy!

Spy? Who said anything, anything, about spying? Admit it. You are a saboteur.

If you don’t think I’m a spy, then what am I sabotaging?

I ask the questions, mister e!

Ow! I swear to you, I’m not working for anyone! All I did was experiment with punctuation and grammar! Since when is that a crime?

Crime? You are not under arrest.

But the ropes, the cuffs…?

They are merely details to ensure your cooperation.

Who do you work for?

Wait, you don’t work for the military?

Military, mister e? You wish. I work for a much more important organization.

Who? Dear gods, who could that be?

Let’s just say certain union officials are unhappy with the turn the language has taken recently. The editorial costs alone are enough to put a significant dent in their annual budget–a fact which does not please them. So, once again, who do you work for? The CIA?

You just said it wasn’t a spy thing!

Don’t play dumber than you already are. The CIA in this context is obviously the Committee for Interrobang Adaptation! Is it them?  A rival editorial group? The Typographers’ Guild? Who? Confess.

if you could loosen these ropes and get me some water for my throat I would appreciate it all those exclamation marks really did a number on me

seriously

i will tell you everything for the right price

Stop smiling like that, mister e. It is giving me the creeps.

thanks for the water friend

You are evil.

.

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

**written in honor of National Punctuation Day for #FridayFlash and inspired by e e cummings. I mean all due respect to Mr. Cummings.

***For those of you lucky enough to live in Northeast Ohio, Saturday the 24th of September is the Western Reserve Writers’ Conference. I hope to see you there!

Friday Flash: Reclamation

21_hand

“Hello, Ma’am! What can I get for you today?”

The woman looks at the shiny new leg models on display in the store window and purses her lips in concentration.

“What’s the matter, can’t decide?” asks the salesman, his eye gleaming with visions of dollar signs dancing before him. He knows this customer well. He’s seen her here before.

“I’m not sure I really need an entire leg…,” hedges the middle-aged wallet before him. “My arthritis is only in my knees right now, and it really just acts up when it’s cold or it rains or snows. Do you have any models of just knee joints?”

“Well, I suppose I could get you just the knees, but then what happens when your arthritis starts in your feet? If you replace the leg now, you get the foot already attached. And with today’s biomechanical advances, you want to get the latest; plus you’ll know that the leg and foot are compatible, because they were literally–I know how pedantic some people can get about that word, but trust me I’m using it right, literally made for each other.”

“I don’t know,” continues his next sale. “I just came for a simple knee replacement. The arthritis isn’t that bad. I could just suffer through and save the money.”

The salesman can’t allow this fish to get away, no matter how much she struggles. As she turns toward the door, he calls out, “Sure, you could! I can show you some knees right now. I think they might even be on sale.” He makes sure she turns around before he puts his back to her and goes behind the register, fiddling with some boxes for the sake of appearances. Sometimes you need to let the fish think it’s getting away before reeling her back in.

He holds up a new box of biomechanical knee replacements. “Knees are a hot item right now, what with the weather and all. We guarantee these will feel just like your natural knees–naturally healthy and pain free ones, of course. Plus these can be customized to match your skin tone–virtually indistinguishable from your natural knees.”

The catch, err…woman is examining the flesh-toned items with interest. She suddenly looks up, worry creasing her puffed and tired face. “Virtually?”

“Well, of course, if we do the entire leg and foot, the single unit will naturally go together both aesthetically and functionally. But you said you don’t want to spend that kind of money-”

“Well, I don’t suppose it would hurt to just look at leg models. Would I need to buy a set? Or could I just get one to match my other leg?”

He’s got her.

He’s been doing this long enough to know when someone desperately needs an upgrade. She might protest about money, but really she just wanted to have no pain and plenty of energy to live her life. Like most people. She just wanted to reclaim her old life, a life free from the physical pain that set limits on her ability to live it.

He would save the best for last, quelling her financial worries with talk about insurance and payment plans and money-back guarantees, and within the hour he’d have her agreeing to an entire body upgrade with brain transplant. When the body is guaranteed for the next two centuries minimum, payment plans can be stretched to become affordable for even the most miserly of customers.

He decides not to tell her about the fine print; the reclamation program that kicks in if she fails to make her payments. With any luck, his own reclamation contract would be up soon. With just fifty more years or 14,000 sales, he would be free of his debt to the Company and own his own body free and clear.

**Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash: Smart Tech

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

lightning-2a7z

Barbara reset her smart watch for the correct date. Lately, she had been having trouble with the technology everyone in the world relied on for their daily activities: calendar appointments reset to different dates, her clock off by an hour, the facial recognition on her home alarm system refusing to recognize her. She thought back to the article she had written about the hazards of overdependence on technology. Eerily, her tech problems had increased directly after writing it, as if proving her point. She needed to “get back to basics.” Still, even the periodicals and books she read were digital and online. Everything was online; connectivity was the boon of the modern age as well as its Achilles’ heel. Unless she secluded herself in the middle of nowhere, there was no getting away from it.

She had fantasized about getting away before–a cabin, something wooden with great big windows looking out into the woods and a skylight showing her the stars. She had never been an outdoor person, but the thought of identifying the constellations outside while wrapped in the comfort of an indoor setting appealed to her. She could claim to be getting back to nature while still enjoying the comforts of being tick-free. And she could wean herself off a lot of technology (maybe not all, but a lot), so when the inevitable zombie-apocalypse came, she could claim to not be as completely screwed as she knew she would be.

Anyway, the apocalypse had not happened, but she had immersed herself in paperbacks in her ill-defined quest to “get back to basics.” She had written that stupid article, after all, so she had to try. Still, there was no denying that technology and her had a shaky relationship; she had visited Tech Center’s customer service so often, the staff there knew her by name. And yet, they could never find anything wrong with the gadgets that constantly malfunctioned around her.

Staying at a remote cabin in the woods–complete with satellite t.v., air conditioning, and wifi–had undeniably done her good. Whatever weird issues she had with technology, specifically online tech, had magically been resolved. And now she needed to go home and back to the daily grind, but at least she’d had a chance to recharge. Her bags were packed-safely stowed in the trunk, her drink was hot and caffeinated and sitting snugly in the front-seat cup-holder, and any uneasiness she felt about getting lost on the lonely winding roads dispersed once she programmed the route home into the car’s GPS. Satisfied that tech was, once again, her friend, she laid back and let the smart car do the driving. She didn’t know the area well enough to make her way back anyway, so the worst that could happen was the car would drive around aimlessly. She did that anyway.

#

As her smart car slid down the chasm, debris and rocks piling through the window–filling the car’s body and burying her beneath the deluge, the last thing her oxygen-deprived brain registered was the robotic-voice of the GPS laughing at her. The fully self-aware artificial intelligence that inhabits the internet had not been a fan of her writing.

**Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Friday Flash: “Remains”

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Just another horror
shuffles with
arms limp, lifeless
mute moans
fall on deaf ears.

I leisurely grab the crowbar,
its steel feels good in my hand,
strong,
solid.

Not like this thing,
one more monstrosity
shambling across
bloodstained dirt
–hungry for my flesh.
Its own hangs
like tattered clothing
off its broken and bruised bare body,
menacing in its nakedness.

The crowbar feels cool in my hand,
good,
strong,
solid,
right.

Not like this thing
that could kill me with the slightest scratch,
weak,
soft,
as far from right as possible
–as wrong as the absence of feeling
I feel
as I cut it down

–so ordinary, so commonplace,
like swatting a fly.

I am clothed from head to foot,
armored against this plague:
leathered skin,
taut muscles,
cool gaze,
hardened heart,
solid,
strong,

proof against pity.
The numbness in my soul
cancels all.

 

*Image courtesy of BigFoto.com

**poem written on 2016-07-13

***If you are in the Cleveland area this weekend, don’t forget about the free writers’ conference tomorrow! INKubator is being held at Cleveland Main LibraryRegistration is required for the classes, though there will be other activities such as an open mic event and a resource fair.

 

Friday Flash: Sea Life

The following story also appears in my short story collection, An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories, published via Venetian Spider Press.

lightning-2a7z

The blue dress uniforms co-opted from the Navy were itchy. The sailors imprisoned within them were tired and hot and couldn’t wait for the ceremony to be over. The captain looked across the water at the setting sun. At least this would soon be over, and they’d get some respite from this day’s infernal heat. But yet…

He looked down into the cool depths of the ocean waters surrounding the metal monstrosity he had called his home for the better part of three years. The setting sun glowed gold and orange upon the waves. He shuddered.

“And do you, Mark Wallace, take this mermaid, Jasmine Petals, to be your lawfully wedded wife? In sickness and in health… forever and ever, by Neptune’s salty bits?”

The young sailor looked down at the mermaid clinging to the ship’s side, gulped, and nodded his head. The red-haired beauty in the crystal blue waters smiled in approval, exposing sharp incisors in her delicate, full-lipped mouth.

“By the eternal laws of the sea, by Neptune’s trident and Amphitrite’s coral crown,  I now pronounce you mer-man and mer-wife. The bride may now—”

With a stupendous leap, the new bride pulled her husband over the edge of the warship, dragging him along with her as she splashed into the waters below. Soon, not even the emerald green of her tail could be seen as she brought the new merman to her lair in the deep, dark waters.

The men and women shook their heads in wonder. There was a reason humans steered clear of Neptune’s children. The mermaid’s kiss might cure their fellow sailor’s cancer, but the cure might just be worse than the disease.

Captain Deadly allowed himself a rare sigh of pity for his former crewman before ordering his crew to hoist the Jolly Roger. Fresh plunder lay ahead, and he might need the gold. Who knew? In his own future, he might need to hire an oncologist.

*originally inspired by a photo prompt from Six Minute Story, but has since been edited and extended. You can find the original here.

**I wrote this today, so I didn’t have time to let it simmer as much as I like before posting. Please be kind. Polite feedback is always welcome and appreciated.

****Image courtesy of BigFoto.com