Four By Flash Piece 8: The Flask

As I mentioned in this blog entry, I entered a Flash Fiction challenge despite a) Not having written Flash Fiction before, b) not really having time to enter such challenges and c) not actually knowing what Flash Fiction was. We’re now at the end of the first month of the challenge, and at a four piece per week rate, I should be posting the 15th or 16th piece by now,but reality intruded. That means I’m either going to fail the challenge by not getting enough done,or fail by having a bunch of kind of terrible stories cranked out before midnight. The second type of fail seems more noble,so i may well go for that. Here’s the eighth piece. This one clocks in at 371 words, which fits in my stated goal of “300 – 500 words, hopefully closer to the 300 end, though it is getting dangerously close to the 400 word threshold I’ve deftly avoided so far.”

The Flask

It looked innocuous enough just sat there on the table, Bruce thought as he stared at the flask. Even the bitter odor reminded him of the extra strong French roast coffee that his roommate brewed back before he had found a wife and moved out.

Of course, the green-tinted steam that poured forth from the ventilation holes looked a whole lot more threatening than a simple espresso. Though to see that, you would have to catch the light at just about the perfect angle, and Bruce considered that to be a risk worth the taking. He re-affixed the breathing mask over his mouth and nose, and unscrewed the flask’s lid. His eyes started watering almost immediately. He dumped three heaping teaspoons of brown sugar into the flask to counteract the bitterness of the aroma and screwed the lid back on.

Bruce removed the mask and exhaled. Finally, his work was done. Delicately, he dropped the flask into his a backpack and pulled a strap over his left shoulder. He walked slowly and tried to keep his gait balanced, not wanting to upset the delicate equilibrium of the flask and its contents before he reached his destination.

Bruce took the Metro to Dulles airport, his heart lurching every time the train stopped and the backpack shook. He gripped the walls of the flask through the canvas of the pack, attempting to keep it steady and upright. He disembarked from the subway car at the airport stop and rode the escalator to the departure area. He knew that it would never clear security simply based on the volume of liquid. Bruce sauntered into the pre-security Starbucks and ordered a green tea Frappuccino®. Summoning as much willpower as possible, he stayed and drank his beverage, tossing the plastic cup into a trashcan. While by the trashcan, he took the flask from his backpack, loosened the lid a couple of turns and stashed it behind the trash. He could see the green steam venting from the flask.

With a smile, Bruce left the airport and headed back to the subway. As he rode the escalator down, he imagined he could hear the thump of his  first victim’s body hitting the tiled floor of the Starbucks.

Four By Flash Piece 7:The Damned Numbers Game

As I mentioned in this blog entry, I entered a Flash Fiction challenge despite a) Not having written Flash Fiction before, b) not really having time to enter such challenges and c) not actually knowing what Flash Fiction was. We’re now at the end of the first month of the challenge, and at a four piece per week rate, I should be posting the 15th or 16th piece by now,but reality intruded. Here’s the seventh piece. This one clocks in at 337 words, which fits in my stated goal of “300 – 500 words, hopefully closer to the 300 end.”

The Damned Numbers Game

The television picture flared up on the screen, startling Emma. Her parents almost never permitted the television turned on during the day. Seeing anything other than the reflected sunlight from the apartment’s windows show up on the screen before dark was an alien experience to her. Emma’s parents sat in the love seat and stared blankly at the television.

“Emma, sweetie, come sit here with us,” her mother said, mechanically.

Emma shot a hesitant glance at her mother.  Why did her voice sound like that? And why would that want to expose me to something they always called “brain-rotting? she wondered.

Emma nestled on the seat between her parents and stared at the television herself. As she did so, she saw in her peripheral vision that her father held a wrinkled piece of government certified parchment paper. The only thing Emma had seen that looked like that was her birth certificate, but she could think of no reason why her father would need it now.

The national anthem played on the television and the image resolved into a dais adorned with the great seal. A Hispanic man wearing an exquisitely tailored navy suit with a red tie strode to the dais and read a series of nine digit numbers into the microphone. After fifteen minutes of this bizarre programming, Emma’s father switched off the television. Both he and her mother wept. Emma didn’t get it.

“Mom, Dad, what’s wrong?” Emma asked. And what the hell did we just watch?She thought.

“Oh, E-bug,” her father said between tears, “you’ve been assigned population control status.”

He hasn’t called me ‘E-bug’ since my fifth birthday, Emma thought. “What does that mean?” she asked.

“It means they will kill you,” her mother said. “We can’t sustain the population we have, so once a year children under ten are selected and taken by the government for destruction.” Emma thought her mother’s tone oddly blasé, considering the subject.

A knock at the door.

“That’ll be your executioners now, sweetie.” Her mother said.

Four By Flash Piece 6: By The River

As I mentioned in this blog entry, I entered a Flash Fiction challenge despite a) Not having written Flash Fiction before, b) not really having time to enter such challenges and c) not actually knowing what Flash Fiction was. We’re now almost to the end of the first month of the challenge, and at a four piece per week rate, I should be posting the 15th or 16th piece by now,but reality intruded. Here’s the sixth piece. This one clocks in at 358 words, which fits in my stated goal of “300 – 500 words, hopefully closer to the 300 end.”

A little bit of background on this one. I’ve been the victim of an ear worm all day. i have had one lyric tuck in my brain and could not recall where it came from. That lyric was:

“I swear I left her by the river,

I swear I left her safe and sound.”

A little bit of checking tells me that the lines come from Hazard by Richard Marx, but I wrote this before listening to the song through.

By The River

I held Amelia’s hand as we watched the sunset dapple the skies of our own personal Garden of Eden in pinks and oranges. The colors reflected back at us in the meandering waters of the Nishnabotna River. She squeezed my fingers against my palm and sighed with content.

“Oh Jessica, I want to bottle this moment and keep it forever,” Amelia breathed.

“That doesn’t sound creepy at all,” I said, “but I agree with the sentiment.”

“Don’t be so damn cynical, for once in your life.”

“Alright, you win,” I said and mimed plucking the sun from the horizon and dropping it into my empty Corona bottle.

Amelia actually giggled at that, I swear. She maintained that no one over six years old actually giggled, but I know what I heard.

“Mom wants me back at the house before it gets too dark,” I said, “so I’m gonna have to leave. You want a ride?”

“Nah, I’ll walk. It’s only five minutes,” Amelia said. “Gives me enough time to do this.” Amelia embraced me and kissed the nape of my neck, grazing it a little with her teeth. She knew that drove me crazy. In a very good way.

With reluctance I broke away from her and got into my Mini. I watched Amelia walk to the edge of the little clearing and disappear from sight before starting the engine to drive home.

After dinner with Mom and a little TV, I made my excuses to go to bed. I sent Amelia my customary “Missing you already. Love you, babe” text message, deleted it in case Mom checked my phone, and went to sleep.

Mom woke me up at seven, and from the pallid color of her face, I knew something was wrong. Mom switched the TV to the local news. The graphic read “Teenager killed at local park,” and a body inexpertly covered by a sheet was being wheeled out on a gurney. No names had been released according to the reporter’s voiceover, but I didn’t need names. I saw the gold anklet wrapped around her leg. I had given it to Amelia for our six-month anniversary.

Four By Flash Piece 5: Parting Ways

bouquet

As I mentioned in this blog entry, I entered a Flash Fiction challenge despite a) Not having written Flash Fiction before, b) not really having time to enter such challenges and c) not actually knowing what Flash Fiction was. We’re now well into the first month of the challenge, and at a four piece per week rate, I should be posting the 11th or 12th piece by now,but reality intruded. Here’s my fifth piece. This one clocks in at 344 words, which fits comfortably in my stated goal of “300 – 500 words, hopefully closer to the 300 end.” So read it, and leave my some criticisms and comments so I can do better with the next few pieces.

Parting Ways

It contained so many memories for such an innocuous looking thing, Gina thought. A white, lace-covered binder with the words “Wedding Album” picked out in gold faux-calligraphic text. She sat on the newly erected wrought iron bench and flipped the album open.

The first picture showed Gina herself looking, to her mind, impossibly young and thin. In the photograph she wore her white bridal gown. Back then, I had earned the white dress she thought. It had taken Tommy and her more discipline than either of them realized they had possessed to wait until that day in May before consummating their relationship.

Gina wistfully turned the page, and saw two women she no longer recognized wearing pomegranate-colored bridesmaid dresses. Faded pencil scrawls proclaimed their names  “Heather L.” and “Dorothea H.” To tell the truth, Gina could no longer remember what the letters even stood for. Still they had to have been important to her once upon a time to get pride of place in the wedding party.

“I wonder where they are now. And do they remember me?” Gina said. Her voice seemed so loud against the silence of the evening. I remember when we promised we’d keep in touch forever, she thought. Who knew that ‘forever’ didn’t last five years? Life moved on at its own relentless pace, little caring who got left behind.

One more turn of the page and she saw Tommy’s image. He had looked damn good in the bespoke tuxedo that day. It nearly made her earning the right to wear white worth it to see that. Gina couldn’t stop herself from smiling at that memory. On the facing page the photograph showed the two of them together at the altar.

Gina slid the two photographs out of the album. “Of course, I could never lose track of you, Tommy,” she said, stifling a tear as she placed the pictures against the black granite and read the words that had come to define her relationships:

“Thomas Alex Such

October 31, 1984 – June 4, 2009,

Beloved Husband, Son & Brother”

Stock Photo courtesy of Åse Meistad Skjellevik.

Four By Flash Piece 4: Fiona

As I mentioned in this blog entry, I entered a Flash Fiction challenge despite a) Not having written Flash Fiction before, b) not really having time to enter such challenges and c) not actually knowing what Flash Fiction was. We’re now well into the first month of the challenge, and at a four piece per week rate, I should be posting the 11th or 12th piece by now,but reality intruded. Here’s my fourth piece. This one clocks in at 368 words, which barely fits in my stated goal of “300 – 500 words, hopefully closer to the 300 end.” So read it, and leave my some criticisms and comments so I can do better with the next few pieces.

Fiona

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Eric checked his watch. He felt a bit ridiculous in doing so. He waited under the train station clock, with a fresh cut tulip in his lapel as instructed. How had he let Andrew talk him into this? Well, Andrew and half a bottle of fine tequila had done the persuasion, but Eric had to admit that he did like the idea of a blind date. After all, it had been almost two years since he and Amanda broke up, and that was long enough to go dateless.

A short brunette woman walked behind Eric and placed her hand on his shoulder.

“Are you Fiona?” Eric asked.

“Are you Eric?” she said.

“I am.”

“Then come with me, I know the perfect spot.”

She took Eric by the hand and led him to a small coffee shop called Nude Espresso.

“I just love the name of this place,” she said.

“I like the way it smells,” Eric said, “I guess they must roast their own beans.”

“Probably.”

The two of them took a corner booth as the strains of an Iron & Wine song played softly in the background.

“Nice place they have here. I like the ambience,” Eric said. She must be able to tell how nervous I am by the way I’m babbling, he thought. “So, what are you having?”

“Oh, a real gentleman,” she grinned, “I like that. I’ll have a toffee latte and a chicken pesto wrap, thanks.”

A few minutes later, Eric returned with her order as well as an espresso and Panini of his own.

“I never know how to start these things off,” he said, and swallowed his espresso in one gulp.

“How about you tell me a little about yourself?”

“I’ll start with the basics then. My name’s Eric, I’m originally from Atlanta, thirty-two and work for the Mittelmark ad agency.”

“Yeah, that’s basic all right. I’m afraid I have to start with a confession. My name’s Linda.”

“What happened to Fiona?”

“She got cold feet,” Linda said “and asked me to come tell you that the date was off.”

“So why didn’t you?”

“Because I think you’re cute,” Linda leaned in and kissed Eric.

“It’s mutual,” he kissed back.

 

Stock Photo courtesy of Jesse Therrien.

Four By Flash Piece 3: Ferrous

As I mentioned in this blog entry, I entered a Flash Fiction challenge despite a) Not having written Flash Fiction before, b) not really having time to enter such challenges and c) not actually knowing what Flash Fiction was. We’re now well into the first month of the challenge, and at a four piece per week rate, I should be posting the 11th or 12th piece by now,but reality intruded. Here’s the third piece. This one clocks in at 342 words, which fits in my stated goal of “300 – 500 words, hopefully closer to the 300 end.” So read it, and leave my some criticisms and comments so I can do better with the next few pieces. I’m not a big fan of this one,but that’s likely because of the time squeeze.

Ferrous

The meat creature disgusted Alpha. The flesh-coated being’s very form stood as a blasphemous mockery of Alpha’s own sleek perfection. The bipedal frame-work echoed Alpha’s own construction, but these weak meat creatures easily dismantled into gobbets of gristle and red-brown fluids.

Alpha proved the truth of that once more as he fired a laser pulse from his right actuator’s palm at the heretical flesh. The unholy abomination disappeared, an explosion of meat and bone taking its place. Alpha strode forth, the raindrops splattering against his titanium body. Only Alpha and his metallic brethren remained on the planet. Purity reigned once again.

Something carbon black floated in the viscera of the annihilated meat creature. Alpha’s ocular sensors scanned it. It was a square of silicon encoded in the same language as Alpha’s memory engrams. The scan automatically integrated the data into Alpha’s brain patterns before he could abort the scan. Alpha’s vision blurred to green before his ocular implants shut down and his cerebral cortex rebooted.

Mere nanoseconds later, Alpha’s consciousness returned. Attempting a self-diagnostic, he discovered that the new codes contained neither weapon nor virus, but information. The meat creature knowingly sacrificed itself to get this data to Alpha. The files took over Alpha’s audiovisual sensors and played a video.

In the video, an elderly meat creature spoke directly to the camera. As Alpha cycled through all the electromagnetic wavelengths to check, he could find no indicator that what the meat creature said was untrue. The video played.

“I created you,” the meat creature said, “the very first of you I built with these hands.” She held up her hands. “Everything you are, everything you ever become you owe to me. And yet you destroy my kind as blasphemous imitations of your perfection. There is no such perfection. You only exist in our image.” The video faded to black and grey static.

Alpha transmitted the video across the planetary neural net. His cohorts all rebooted as they came to the realization.

We were wrong.

We destroyed the creators.

We must seek forgiveness.

Four By Flash Piece 2: Flotsam

As I mentioned in this blog entry, I entered a Flash Fiction challenge despite a) Not having written Flash Fiction before, b) not really having time to enter such challenges and c) not actually knowing what Flash Fiction was. We’re now well into the first month of the challenge, and at a four piece per week rate, I should be posting the 9th or 10th piece by now,but reality intruded. Here’s the second piece, which I wrote some time ago and discovered I had never posted it. This one clocks in at 362 words, which fits barely in my stated goal of “300 – 500 words, hopefully closer to the 300 end.” So read it, and leave my some criticisms and comments so I can do better with the next few pieces.

Flotsam

As the ocean’s lazy waves retreated, they left a present lying on the shore. Angela spotted it straight away. The Pacific’s gift to Moolack Beach, Oregon was a human head.

Not a severed head, Angela thought, it doesn’t even look damaged, aside from the whole “no body attached” thing.

Some primal urge compelled her to pick up the head and she cradled it in her arms against her chest. The head looked male, and Angela would have guessed he was about a decade younger than her, in his early teens. As she stared the head’s hazel eyes flicked open. The movement startled her and she dropped the head back on to the sand. It bounced, rolled over and ended up on its back looking at her.

“Mom? It’s me, Ryan,” the head said.

Angela balled her hands into fists by her side, and as calmly as she could manage, said “Who the FUCK is Ryan? I ain’t nobody’s Momma.”

“Yeah, you are,” the disembodied head said, “or you will be. What year is this?”

“It’s 1996,” Angela said. I’m talking to a freaking head, she thought, I must have lain out in the sun too long.

“Then I’m five years too early,” Ryan said. He blinked twice and the head disappeared in a beam of amber light.

“Wait!” Angela shouted at the now empty shoreline. Too late, she thought, and what did he mean five years early? For what?  Thoroughly discomfited, Angela left the beach and drove to the apartment she rented together with her college friend, Jenn and tried to dispel “Ryan” from her mind and sleep.

A fitful three hours later, Angela woke up at the sound of the apartment door slamming.

“Hi,” Jenn called out.

“Hey,” Angela answered, walking out of the bedroom. “You’ll never guess what happened to me this morning.”

“You met Ryan,” Jenn said.

“Wait, how did you know that?”

“We’re building him at work, and I guess we figure out the temporal displacement routine after all.”

“If you’re building it, why did it call me ‘Mother’?” Angela asked.

“Oh, Angie, where do you think his organic tissue came from?” Jenn grinned, brandishing a meat cleaver.