Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mystery Theme Month 2: The Sequel

Hey, it's contest time again! In March, I had a Friday Flash Fiction mystery theme, and we're going it again this month. The five entries for November are all linked by a common theme. If you can guess it, you'll get props from me, and maybe even a prize of some sort.

And here's a hint: With the referents (erm, things being referred to) I will be deliberately disregarding the way they are generally ordered. So don't let that throw you.

Happy guessing!

]{p

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: The Dry Ruin

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

The Dry Ruin
Word Count: 600

How did it last so long, I wonder? It’s an artificial structure, clearly made by something intelligent. It extends out of the water—a dry ruin—and yet does not seem capable of holding water in. There are pipes to run water up, but the cement and glass that make up the exterior could never have held it in. How did these ancient simians live without being submerged? Bless my fins, but it is a mystery.

Perhaps the dryness is how it has lasted so long. The water teems with life that destroys anything it can use and overruns anything else. All that’s left of the ancient simians is a grid of concrete, and even that has nearly wasted away. Only the structures that extend out have survived. And there are so few of them.

I’ve heard tell of trees that grow up out of the water—currents bring new friends and new friends bring stories—but I’ve never seen one. They say the trees put down their roots in the ocean and stretch up past the surface and go on forever. They say they’re bigger around than a whale.

Perhaps this is a concrete tree, then. It just grew and grew and died, and no one told it to fall over, so it never did. Sometimes I think if I said to it “Hey fool, you’re dead,” it would crumble away to ash and foam. Sometimes I want to try, but I don’t.

The HighFish thinks I’m crazy for wanting to come out of the water, for wanting to see what the ancients left. Maybe so. But he didn’t forbid me, so I came, and that’s how I’ve seen what I’ve seen. I’ve seen the concrete trees. I’ve seen the old ice that floats on the cold waters where the ancients froze their homes.

I even saw one of the ancients—well, I saw what was left. It was only bones in one of the ancient simian structures. I had a breathing mask to keep water in my gills, and I managed to get about ten or twenty feet out of the water. I found him there in a chair, a pile of bones unmolested by time and undertow. He looked ill-suited for swimming, but what can you tell from bones? Not very much.

His chest was like a cage made of bones, and his head was round and gaping. Only half of a mouth—the rest must have rolled off somewhere. Long and gangly arms. It was oddly beautiful, I confess. I wanted to take a bone with me to keep, but I know what the water would do to it. Better to leave it.

I told all of this to the HighFish. He still thinks I’m crazy. He says it swims close to blasphemy to ask so many questions about long-dead monkeys. I assure him I won’t swim too close, but I am lying, of course. I want to know how they did it. How did they swim up to the edge of the sea and keep going? How did they plant the roots of their concrete trees? How did they live with the sun on their faces? How did they face the day and the night and the day and the night without the constant change driving them crazy? How did they drag their heavy selves around the dry ruins?

Who were they? Where did they go? Are they coming back? Before they gave up and cast all of their secrets into the ocean, to be destroyed and overrun by those that followed.

Edited by Carolyn "I Still Don't Know If It Is A Title Or A Type Of Fish" Abram.

Like what you see? Help me out by liking my author page on Facebook or re-posting the story using the buttons below.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Raphus Cucullatus

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

Raphus Cucullatus
Word Count: 600

“What brings you to Mauritius?” Abel asked.

“Birding,” said the stranger. He wore funny clothes and his Dutch was terrible—even his English was strange. But Abel had agreed to show him around, so Abel would show him around.

“Birding?” asked Abel, unfamiliar with the word.

“Just a hobby,” said the stranger. “I’m looking for a species of bird.”

“You want to eat it?” asked Abel.

“No, I just want to see it.”

“I don’t understand this hobby of yours, I’m afraid,” said Abel.

“Oh, it’s not that unusual,” said the stranger. “There are people who travel the world to see works of art or ancient cities. They cover great distances—often at great expense. That’s not all that different from what I’m doing.”

“Only, you want to see a bird,” said Abel.

“That’s right.”

“Must be some important bird.”

“It can only be found here and now on Mauritius,” said the stranger.

“And you don’t want to eat it?” asked Abel.

“Not at all.”

“You’re an unusual man, Mr…” prompted Abel, hoping to get the fellow’s name.

“Just a man who likes birds,” said the stranger.

They picked their way across the beach, hiking over dunes. The stranger carried an odd stick, not quite a walking stick or a dueling stick, and not quite a shepherd’s crook either, but somewhere in between. Abel could have sworn he heard it hum, but that was preposterous. Sticks didn’t hum. Must have been the wind or the ocean playing tricks on his ears.

A gull flew overhead.

“That the bird you’re looking for?” asked Abel, pointing. It wouldn’t be—gulls were everywhere, not just on Mauritius—but Abel was keen to get the conversation going again.

“The bird I’m looking for won’t be found in the air,” said the stranger.

They walked on, crossing dune after dune and had to cut inland as the forest overtook the shore. Abel hacked vines out of their way, and as they moved out toward the ocean again, the stranger reached out a hand.

As Abel’s eyes readjusted to the sun, he saw a three-foot bird bobbing along the water. “That thing?” he asked. “A dodo?”

“Shh,” said the stranger. “You might frighten it.”

Abel laughed. “More likely he’ll walk up and peck at you. Those little ostriches are too dumb to be frightened of you.”

“Actually, they’re more closely related to pigeons,” said the stranger.

“I see why you don’t want to eat it, though,” said Abel. “They taste like horse leavings—only greasier.”

The stranger pulled a small box from his trouser pocket. Then he looked at it—seemed to look through it, actually. He tapped the top of it, and then moved to the side and performed the whole ritual again. He repeated this several times before returning it to his pocket. The dodo seemed only mildly concerned with the stranger’s attentions, or his small box. “It’s beautiful,” said the stranger.

“They must have ugly birds where you come from,” said Abel.

“Well, I must give you something for your trouble,” said the stranger.

“It’s no trouble,” said Abel. “I can hike along the beach all day. Shall we head back?”

“You go on ahead,” said the stranger. “I’ll catch up.”

Abel started back into the trees, but he stopped when he heard the humming sound—the same humming that he’d heard coming from the stranger’s walking stick. Only it was louder, and it was definitely not the ocean. He turned back and was blinded by a flash of blue light.

When the light subsided, the hum—and the stranger—were gone.

Edited by Carolyn "Are We Playing Dr. Who's Game?" Abram.

Like what you see? Help me out by liking my author page on Facebook or re-posting the story using the buttons below.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: The 39th Assassin

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

The 39th Assassin
Word Count: 597

Damon bypassed the razor, the poisoned wine, and the tiny pistol to pick up a bottle of bourbon. He peeled the wax off the top and unstoppered the bottle, taking a moment to inhale the vapors. “I’ve been wondering how I should kill you,” he said to the man he knew only as Claude. “You’re the 38th person who has tried to take my life.”

“I won’t be the last,” said Claude, tied up and bleeding all over the chair and carpet.

Damon smiled and crossed the room to a small bar. “Do you have an opinion on the matter?” he asked. His finger lingered on a dagger for a moment before he pulled two glasses from the cupboard. “Something painless, I imagine.”

“Don’t go to any trouble on my account,” said Claude.

“Oh, it’s no trouble,” said Damon. “Care for a night cap?”

“Most kind,” said Claude. He leaned forward and spat out a mouthful of blood that might have had a tooth in it.

“Terrible business, this,” said Damon, pouring the bourbon. He took one glass and held it up to Claude’s mouth. The beaten man placed a bloody lip on the glass. Damon tilted it back for him. Claude sipped and swallowed and hissed as Damon set the glass on the ground. “Not to your liking?”

“Burns a bit,” said Claude, spitting out more blood.

“The first man who tried to kill me was a sniper,” said Damon. “I shot him in the head. The next man used poison gas, which would have been slow and painful, had I not been able to evade it. I garroted him. Then, when he’d passed out, I let him breathe. Then I garroted him again. I’ll spare you the details, but his death was most unpleasant.”

Claude nodded.

“And you left me in a freezer. Freezing to death is not pleasant at all. I suppose you’re beginning to regret that choice.”

“Only because you escaped,” said Claude.

Damon smiled and walked back to the bar. “So you see my dilemma,” he said. He picked up the second glass and sniffed at the spirits within. He gave it a little swirl. Good legs.

“You could always use a slow-acting poison,” said Claude. “Put it in a bottle of bourbon, perhaps.”

“You insult me,” said Damon. “This is a private stock from a small distillery in Kentucky. I order it from them directly. $350 a bottle. One does not poison a $350 bottle of Kentucky private stock.”

Claude laughed. “Well, then I’m out of ideas,” he said.

“I might ask you why you chose a freezer?” asked Damon, swirling his glass.

“You left my brother in Siberia twelve years ago,” said Claude. “He froze.”

“You’re Rene’s brother,” said Damon. “Terrible business, that. He was a good man.”

“A good man that you killed,” said Claude, with a hacking cough

“Sometimes even good men have to die,” said Damon. “It was never personal—not with him, anyway.” He took a long, slow pull from his bourbon glass. Sweet, oaky, nectar. “It was a shame I had to do that to him.”

“Well, I gave you the chance to make amends,” said Claude, coughing even worse now. “But you had to go and escape.”

“Indeed,” said Damon. “Do you have any other family I should be wary of?”

Claude coughed again, spitting out more blood. “Just a sister,” he said.

“What does she do?”

“She runs a small distillery in Kentucky,” said Claude, laughing, coughing, spewing blood. His head rolled back and he began to twitch.

Damon dropped his glass.

Edited by Carolyn "This Character Is A Paranoid Nut" Abram.

Like what you see? Help me out by liking my author page on Facebook or re-posting the story using the buttons below.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: The Survivor

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

The Survivor
Word Count: 595

Alright, sir, tell me again what you were doing.

I was scavenging.

Why?

For food.

You don’t have food at home?

I already told you, there’s none left.

Why didn’t you go out and get more?

I was doing that. That’s what I just told you. Jesus, you aren’t listening to a word I say, are you?

You told me you were scavenging.

I want to see my daughter.

She’s safe.

No, she’s not. She needs to eat.

We’re getting her something to eat.

She hasn’t eaten in days.

Why hasn’t she eaten in days?

I told you, we’re out of food.

And that’s why you were scavenging.

Yes, that’s why.

How often do you go scavenging?

I don’t know. Every few days. Maybe more. It depends. If we find a lot, we can last a little longer. We go out only when we need to. It’s not safe.

Why isn’t it safe?

Because they’re out there.

Who is ‘they’?

They. Them. Others. The people that would hurt us.

Can you be more specific?

Other survivors. They want to take our food. Kill us. Do things to us.

Where are they?

Out there. Everywhere. You should know… You’re one of them.

I see.

You can hear them, sometimes. Jesus, I need to see my daughter.

You know, your daughter is horribly malnourished.

That’s why we were looking for food. Jesus Christ, it’s like you don’t even hear a word I say.

Calm down, sir.

That’s easy for you to say. You’re the one with the gun. I’m the one with the family to feed.

I don’t have a gun.

Of course you have a gun.

Where’s your wife?

I never married.

Where’s Emily’s mother?

How do you know her name? Don’t call her that. I didn’t tell you that you could call her that.

Her mother. What happened to her mother?

…We don’t talk about her mother.

Is she alive?

She left us. I doubt it. There are so few of us left. Since that day.

Tell me about that day.

July 8th, 3:17 pm. The power went out. That was when I knew something was wrong.

Did anyone else’s power go out?

…I don’t understand the question.

Your power went out. What about your neighbors’?

I don’t have any neighbors.

You used to.

But I don’t anymore. Now there are only survivors. Me and my daughter, and the people who would hurt us.

What about me?

You’re one of them, I already told you.

I’m not going to hurt you.

You’re keeping me from my daughter, how could you possibly hurt me more deeply than that.

There’s some concern that you might be a danger to your daughter.

I’m the only thing keeping her alive right now.

That may have been true for a time, but it’s not anymore. We’re keeping her alive. Us. ‘They,’ if you will.

At what cost. Oh, God, what are you doing to her?

Feeding her. Clothing her. Seeing that she has proper dental care. Things you obviously weren’t able to do for her.

I just want her to survive. To keep on going. Someone has to survive.

Sir, I’m going to need you to calm down.

They blew it up. They blew the whole thing up.

Sir…

Everything fell apart on that day.

Sir, can you calm down?

And now you’ve taken her from me.

Sir!

And now… Now they’ve won. Now they’ve won. Now they’ve won.

Sir! Sir?… Sir, can you hear me? Sir, answer if you can hear me. Sir?… Sir?… Are you still there?

Edited by Carolyn "Here Are The Things I Am Confused About" Abram.

Like what you see? Help me out by liking my author page on Facebook or re-posting the story using the buttons below.