Friday, May 31, 2013

FFF: A Hook To Hang The World On

Every week, Kurt posts a new flash fiction story. This week, we honor St. Louis's most iconic bit of architecture...

A Hook To Hang The World On
Word Count: 597

The ocean was smooth, the sky calm. Three figures in rags rode their raft up to the silver structure that protruded from the water. Two of them appeared to be sleeping, but the third, Gaz, held up his hand to shield his eyes from the sun. As they drew nearer to the structure, he stowed his paddle and stared up in awe. Then he gave one of his compatriots a kick.

“Ow,” said Charlie. “Shite, mate, but ‘at’s bright.” He covered his eyes with his hand. The giant structure in front of him glistened in the light.

“There it is,” Gaz said.

Charlie sat up and shook his head. “There wot is?”

“Is da Norf Pole,” said Gaz.

Merril stirred and sat up. “Oi, dat’s bright, mate,” she said.

“Where’s da Norf Pole?” asked Charlie.

“There,” said Gaz, pointing at the giant silver structure that arched out of the water and then back down into it. “There it is. I tol’ you dis was da Norf Pole.”

“It ain’t da Norf Pole,” said Charlie. “It’s just a big thing.”

Merril snorted. “I agrees wit’ Charlie,” she said. “I would fink we can still go Norf from here.”

“I’m tellin’ yous, dis da Norf Pole,” said Gaz. “It ‘as to be. Why else would dis hook be here?”

Charlie looked up at the “hook” and scratched his head. “There’s other buildin’s around,” he said. “You can see bits of ‘em under da water. Maybe it’s just anover buildin’.”

“No, it’s a hook, I tells ya,” said Gaz. “A hook ter hang da world on. ‘At’s why dis ‘as ter be da Norf Pole. Dis was where da world hung from, before it got dumped in all dis water.”

“I would fink the Norf Pole should be colder, mate,” said Merril.

“Wot?” said Gaz. “It’s cold.”

“It’s breezy,” said Merril, “but it ain’t cold.”

“I don’t know’s I’ve ever been somewhere dat’s well-and-truly cold,” said Charlie.

“Ain’t no places like ‘at no more,” said Gaz. “Not since da gods dropped da Earf into da water.”

“I still fink it’s just a buildin’,” said Charlie.

“Who would build a buildin’ lookin’ like dat?” asked Gaz. “A big ol’ silver fing wot comes up one side and goes down de other. Is like a hook wot you find on a Christmas ornament.”

“Dat don’t mean it ain’t just anover buildin’,” said Charlie.

“Den why is it here?” asked Gaz, standing in the raft. “Why is it here when all da rest of ‘em fell over?”

“I don’t know,” said Charlie.

“I know, and I’ll tell you,” said Gaz. “It’s here to remind us. De ancients pissed off da gods and so da gods abandoned us all, lef’ us swimmin’ in a world of water, waitin’ around ter starve or drown. But da gods dinna want us ter forget da ‘orrible mistakes da ancients made, so ‘ey lef’ dis hook right ‘ere. Lef’ it so’s we could see how far we’ve fallen, and maybe one day da gods’ll lift us back up again.”

Merril and Charlie sat in silence. They looked up at Gaz and then back at each other. Charlie shrugged.

“It’s a good story, mate,” said Merril, “but ‘ow do we convince da gods ter lift da world back up?”

“Well, fuck if I know,” said Gaz. “But it is a good story, innit?”

“I still fink we can go further Norf from here,” said Merril.

“Nah, it’s Souf every way from here,” said Gaz.

“I guess we’re goin’ Souf, den,” said Charlie.

“Too right, mate,” said Gaz.

Edited by Carolyn "My Brain Hurts" Abram.

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Friday, May 24, 2013

FFF: The Breckenridge

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week...

The Breckenridge
Word Count: 600

Sheri turned another corner to find another long, deserted corridor. She shined her flashlight on the nearest door, which bore the number “235”. She was back where she’d started, and no closer to finding a way out.

It was a matter of some debate whether the Breckinridge Hotel was haunted or just deadly. It had closed down decades ago—the land was too far from the highway and too old to be repaired. A handful of firms had bought it up with the hopes of razing the structure and developing condos or a strip mall, but the plans always fell through. So it stood abandoned, accumulating dust.

Sheri had heard the stories. Children playing nearby heard strange noises, and occasionally someone would go missing. On her fourteenth birthday, she’d decided to brave it alone. Initially, she’d meant to prove her courage to herself and her friends. Now, she just wanted to leave.

“Dammit,” she said. “I’ve already come this way.”

A lock of blond hair had fallen into her eyes, and she brushed it back behind her ear. She wiped her clammy hands on her cargo shorts and clipped her flashlight to her belt. She’d been down every hall and couldn’t find any way off this floor. No stairs, no elevator, nothing. But there had been an elevator, hadn’t there? That was how she’d gotten up onto this floor, wasn’t it?

Wasn’t it?

The past was getting fuzzy. She needed to get out, and fast.

Sheri heard a noise coming from farther down the hall. “Hello!” she called, but no one answered. “Hello!” she shouted again. “I’m trying to find a way out.”

A faint wisp of… something… floated at the far end. She ran after it and shined her light on it, but the specter faded as soon as she approached. “Where are you?” shouted Sheri. “I need to find a way out.”

A ghostly echo—barely a shadow of a voice—sounded behind her. “This way…” it said.

“Oh, thank you,” said Sheri, running towards it. She stopped at the end of the hall, out of breath. She’d been running for hours, it seemed.

“The way out…” The voice was behind her again. She walked this time, not wanting to lose the voice.

“Hello,” said the voice. It sounded so distant, but Sheri forced herself to move slowly. This noise was her only hope of escaping. About twenty feet ahead of her, she thought she could see shadows converging into a shape.

“Hello,” said Sheri.

“Where are you?”

“I’m here!” said Sheri. “Where are you?”

She neared the shape forming in the hallway. It looked like a person, almost, but it drifted in and out of focus as she walked. The voice faded in and out. It was talking, but Sheri couldn’t understand the words. “Hello,” she said.

“This way.”

“I’m trying to find my way out,” said Sheri. “Whatever you are, can you help me?”

“Can you help me?” pleaded the voice.

Sheri froze. She raised her light. The specter turned around and looked at her—only it didn’t look at her, it was looking behind her, through her. “I’m trying to find the way out,” it said.

The specter was an old woman. An old woman with blond hair that fell into her eyes, and a flashlight clipped to her cargo shorts. Underneath the years and wrinkles, Sheri discerned a face that looked very much like… her own.

“Dammit,” said the specter. “I’ve already been this way.”

Sheri raised a hand to touch her face and saw lines and veins.

The flashlight fell to the floor.

Edited by Carolyn "I'm Trying To Be Creeped Out" Abram.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

FFF: A Dental Specialist

Every week, Kurt posts a new bit of flash fiction. This week...

A Dental Specialist
Word Count: 600

Dr. Stephenson wore blue hospital scrubs and a silver crucifix. He smiled broadly. “Do come in, Mr. Haversham,” he said to his patient.

Haversham was short and trim. He wore a tan suit jacket over a colorful shirt along with white pants and a straw fedora. Despite his pallor, he looked as though he’d just returned from the Caribbean—which was, of course, ridiculous. “Thank you,” he said as he crossed the threshold. He sniffed. “Garlic?”

“It’s an unfortunate but necessary precaution,” said Dr. Stephenson. “Have you eaten tonight?”

“I had a nip just before two,” said Haversham.

“Excellent,” said Stephenson, relieved. It was dangerous to work on the hungry ones. He guided his patient to the chair where his assistant, Tracy, stood. She wore purple scrubs and a mask. She also carried—discreetly—a vial of holy water.

Haversham reclined in the dentist’s chair and looked up at Tracy. “O-positive?” he asked with a glimmer in his eyes. If he was tense at all, he didn’t show it.

“That’s an awfully personal question,” she said, smiling. “I think you’d have to buy me a drink first.”

“Alright, Mr. Haversham, let’s see it,” said Stephenson.

Haversham took a breath and slowly extended his fangs.

Stephenson peered into the vampire’s mouth. The right incisor was broken in half. “How’d you manage this?”

“I’m an eager eater,” said Haversham. “I didn’t notice the silver chain on her neck until it was too late. Speaking of, doctor, would you be so kind?”

Stephenson looked down to see his own silver necklace dangling perilously close to his patient’s chest. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, stuffing it safely inside his scrubs. “Any pain?”

“Tremendous amounts at first,” said Haversham. “But not anymore, no.”

“Sensitivity to cold?” asked Stephenson.

“I don’t eat anything cold, doctor,” said Haversham.

“Boy, you really banged the hell out of this, didn’t you?” said Stephenson. “I’m surprised it didn’t do more damage.”

“Oh, it did,” said Haversham. “I had a nasty hairlip for a few hours. The flesh healed and the other teeth grew back, but fangs are special.”

“Tracy,” said Stephenson. “We’ve got a fracture on eleven. We’ll need a crown.”

“Silver?” asked Tracy.

Haversham inhaled sharply.

“That’s the just the color,” said Stephenson.

Haversham relaxed. “It’s amazing what you never get used to. Samantha always wore silver—she hates the way gold clashes with her skin tone. And it looks even worse now that’s she’s turned and lost all the color in her cheeks. So now everything has to be platinum.”

“Sounds like she has expensive taste,” said Stephenson. “Speaking of which, this is going to be a custom job, so it will be on the pricey side.”

“And me without insurance,” said Haversham. “You have payment plans?”

“We’ll work out something,” said Stephenson.

“How long will it take?” asked Haversham. “Sunup is in three hours, after all.”

“Well, we’ll do a mold tonight and get you on your way. Give me a few days to prep the crown. Can you come back Thursday night?”

“Thursday is Bingo,” said Haversham, “but I suppose they won’t miss me this once.”

“I’ll put it on the calendar. Now, I saw a little build-up in there. How often are you flossing?”

Haversham hissed and lurched forward in the chair. Tracy pulled her vial out and Stephenson stepped back with his cross held in front of him. For a moment they stared at each other in breathless silence.

“Sorry,” said Stephenson. “Nobody likes that question.”

Haversham sat back. “The fault is mine,” he said. “You’re just doing your job. So, Thursday?”

Edited by Carolyn "Bingo For Eternity" Abram.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

FFF: The Italicist

Every week, Kurt posts a new bit of flash fiction. This week's story contains a HIDDEN MESSAGE! Enjoy...

The Italicist
Word Count: 600

Craven and Miller kicked in the door of the empty motel room. They looked around and cleared the bathroom, then they holstered their weapons. Miller swore under his breath. Another dead end.

“Dammit,” said Craven. “Where could he be?”

Six months. Miller had followed this trail for six months, only to find an empty room. It wasn’t even a particularly nice room. It looked like it hadn’t been renovated since the late seventies—orange carpet with wood paneled walls. Miller sighed. “He’s obviously not here,” he said.

“Is this even the right place?” asked Craven.

“Yeah,” said Miller.

“Are we sure?” asked Craven. “I mean, are we sure?”

“Pretty sure,” said Miller. “The trail led here. We know where he was coming from.”

“Too bad we don’t know where he was going to,” said Craven.

Miller sat on the bed. They’d been tracking the espionage artist known as The Italicist for half a year. He—or she—had been leaking government information to foreign powers, encoding it into key phrases of public dispatches. The only problem was that nobody knew who he—or she—was, and he—or she—had led Special Agents Miller and Craven on a merry chase across the country.

“God, I could use a drink right about now,” said Craven. “Or some sushi.”

“That’s nice,” said Miller.

“You ever go to the place on Fifth? Really cute waitresses,” said Craven. “What say we head over there and try to pick up some yellowtail.”

Miller eyed his partner, who was grinning and waggling his eyebrows. “You know, my sister-in-law is Korean.”

Your sister,” said Craven. “Man, I’m sorry. I was just making a joke.” 

“Forget it,” said Miller. “Let’s get forensics in here.” They’d only been working together for less than a month, but Miller could already tell they weren’t getting along. Sighing, he opened the closet, but all he found were a few empty hangers and an ironing board. No clothes, no shoes, no suitcase. Empty. Mostly empty.

“Hey, look at this,” said Craven. He was eying a TV tray with a half-eaten bagel and a glass of thick, dark liquid. He sniffed it. “Smells like Ovaltine,” he said. “Can you believe that? Who drinks Ovaltine?”

“This is good news,” said Miller, brightening. “Maybe we can get some DNA off the bagel.”

“And if he’s a government employee, that means we’ll be able to match it to a face,” said Craven. “Probably,” he added.

“More importantly,” said Miller, “it means he left in a hurry. Which means he’s close by.”

Craven walked around the bed and stood next to Miller. “Probably right under our noses. Dammit, that’s frustrating.”

Miller looked cross-ways as his partner. “That’s the job,” he said. “They frequently get away. But we tracked him this far. The credit card in Overland to the security footage at the mart down the street. A leads to B leads to C. We’re closing in.”

“Yeah,” said Craven. “Hey, I’m really sorry about the yellowtail joke.”

“I said forget it.”

“Tell you what, sushi’s on me,” said Craven.

Miller sighed. This partnership was not going to work out well at all. “You know what,” he said, “I’m not a huge sushi fan, but if you want to make it up to me, you could go down the street and get me a coffee.”

“Sure,” said Craven.

Miller was on his phone when he heard the tires squeal. He peered out the window and saw Craven in the car. Heading South. Fast.

There weren’t any coffee shops to the South.

“Son of a bitch.”

Edited by Carolyn "I Forgot To Tell You That You Were Ridiculous" Abram.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

FFF: Lawyers Of The Lamp

Every week, Kurt posts a new bit of flash fiction. This week...

Lawyers Of The Lamp
Word Count: 600

Are you a U.S. citizen? Are you over 18 years of age? Have you discovered a magic lamp that contains a genie who will grant you three wishes? If you can answer “yes” to all three of these questions, then I have an important message for you: Dealing with genies can be difficult. Why do it yourself when you can get help from knowledgeable professionals who specialize in maximizing your wish-fulfillment? Call our toll-free* number right now to let us help you avoid wasted wishes.

Hi. My name is Jacob Jacobson. You know my law firm: Jacobson, Pradhan & Associates. We have the most experience of any law firm in helping you get what you deserve from your genie. If you have a magic lamp that contains a genie who is willing to grant you three wishes, don’t do anything before you call our toll-free* number. Our service pays for itself.

Our legal associates are experts trained in genie litigation, negotiation, and arbitration. We know all the ins and outs of the rules that govern genie wish-fulfillment. We know what your genie will and won’t do for you. We also know what does and what does not qualify as a bona fide wish.

But, most importantly, we can help you draft and revise your wish into a water-tight command that even the most reluctant genie will be forced to obey. No ironic punishments, no heavy-handed moral lessons, just you getting the maximum amount that you can get from your genie.

And remember, we don’t collect unless you are so unfathomably wealthy that you won’t even notice the ridiculously outlandish bill for our services.

But wait. What if you’ve already used one or even two of your allotted wishes? That’s no problem. Jacobson, Pradhan & Associates can still help you get the most out of your remaining wishes. Our service literally** pays for itself.

But don’t take our word for it. Just listen to this testimonial from our most recent satisfied customer:

I found a magic lamp and wished for a relationship with a supermodel. That mean old genie turned my sister into a professional model and told me that my wish was granted. So I contacted Jacobson, Pradhan & Associates using this toll-free* number. Not only did the genie give me back my wish, he also made my sister a fry cook and gave me my very own country. Thanks, Jacobson, Pradhan & Associates!

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But that’s not all. We also offer a number of services for non-genie wish-granting engagements. Opening a fortune cookie? Blowing out the candles on your birthday cake? Holding onto a magic idol? Don’t do anything before you call our toll-free number. You’ll be glad you did. We guarantee*** it!

Don’t waste wishes. Call our toll-free* number today!

*Some fees may apply.

**For certain definitions of the word “literally”.

***Not an actual guarantee.

This is legal advertising and should not be construed in any way as legal advice. Jacobson, Pradhan & Associates are not licensed to practice non-supernatural law or to appear in any courtroom. If you need personalized legal assistance on non-supernatural matters, contact a real-life attorney in your area. Not valid outside the United States. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future results. Immunity from other genies not included. No wishing for more wishes. Void where prohibited (including but not limited to the states of Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Alaska, and the Territory of Puerto Rico). Translation services not included. Not responsible for death, injury, or personal and heritable curses.

Edited by Carolyn "I \Literally\ Fell Out Of My Chair" Abram.

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