Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Pray To Your Gods

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

Pray To Your Gods
Word Count: 600

You are all that stands between your people and enslavement. Two armies face off across a deep valley, neither willing to attack uphill, and so they invoke the sacred tradition. The enemy’s champion approaches, ready to engage you in single combat to determine the fate of both nations.

He approaches with caution, although you are plainly outmatched. He’s taller and broader. You barely know how to use a sword. You’re a good runner and light on your feet, but you’ve never been brave. Your fellow soldiers have spent the last few days whispering behind your back. No one actually expects you to win. They only asked you to hold out for as long as possible. Clearly they mean to escape. Barely half of your ranks have turned out to watch the fight, meanwhile the enemy’s numbers swell as their ragtag reserve forces in mismatched uniforms run up to get a better look.

You pray to your gods.

Your opponent touches his sword to his shoulder in salute and the fight begins. You want to win, and you make your best effort, but your will collapses once the first blow falls. The blunt impact against your shield reverberates up your arm, reminding you that you are weak and protected only by a few planks of wood held together with metal bolts. So you run.

You don’t flee the arena, but you put some distance between yourself and your opponent. He bellows at you to fight him. The crowd jeers. Your shame is outweighed only by your desire to survive. Your opponent pursues, and you lead him around in circles. The shield is heavy and slowing you down, so you discard it. You can block with a sword well enough. The enemy army laughs, as well as your own.

Your opponent swings at you, and you deflect the blow away with your sword. The clamor bites at your ears. You run, leading your opponent around to the other side. He calls you a coward. He’s not wrong. You run. He follows.

You’ve always been fast. Your mother used to send you on errands to your father and brothers on the farm. You’d carry messages, meals, water, whatever anyone needed. When the war started, you were a scout, and that suited your skills and temperament. Go far, go fast, don’t let the enemy see you.

A desperate thrust lands near your foot. You jump back and swing. Your blow is stopped by a shield and the enemy sword comes around again for your head. You avoid it, but barely. Has it been enough time yet? Can you die a coward now so the remnants of your army can be enslaved?

You don’t want to die a coward. So you find your courage.

When your opponent moves to chase, you change directions and swing at his side. He beats your sword away with his, and it drops from your hand. You run to pick it up, but his blade catches your calf and you fall next to it. You roll to face the death blow, but your opponent hesitates, distracted by the crowd. You grab your fallen sword and stab him in the throat.

Victory is yours. You sit up. You see the crowd.

The enemy army has fallen. Their bodies litter the ground. All that remains are the reserves in their mismatched, bloody uniforms. You recognize many of their faces. From your army.

Then you realize that this wasn’t combat. This was a ruse. A slaughter. Victory without valor. Without honor. In violation of the sacred tradition.

The gods will not be pleased.

Edited by Carolyn "No Reciprocal Salute Required?" Abram

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Thoughts Of A 2048 Player

What's this 2048 game I keep hearing about? Might as well check it out.

Oh, that's interesting. I'm not sure I see the appeal, but it's kind of fun, I guess.

Okay, I understand the mechanic behind it pretty well, I can probably get higher than 32 now.

128. Not bad. I should get back to work. Oh, what the hell, one more round. It's pretty quick.

256. Man, and I caught some lucky breaks to get that high. How do they expect you to get all the way up to 2048? That's just ridiculous.

Okay, back to work for real.

Oh, just one more round.

Hah! 512! I'm getting the hang of it.

Okay, I've got a technique now. Focus on two directions and build out, try to store all of your value along one side. I can probably turn this into a winning strategy, but I really should get back to--oh, who am I kidding?

512, 512, 512. Nearly had a 1024 there. Must refine my strategy.

It's okay, I'm not really that hungry.

1024! The end is in sight! Bam!

This game used to go pretty quickly, right? I swear I lost the first game in five minutes. I'm playing much faster and it takes twenty before I--damn! Nearly had 1024. Must refine this strategy.

Okay, something's wrong here. My strategy works beautifully at the start, but it kind of falls apart once you get some big numbers on the board. There's got to be a way to crack this.

Why do you hate me, you stupid, stupid game.

"Man, that's some nice free time you've got there. Shame if anything happened to it."--the makes of 2048.

That was pretty funny, I'll post that on Twitter after one more round.

Oh, man, I just thought of another 2048 joke I can post after I get around to posting that first one I thought of.

When did it become Thursday?

Ach! I was so damned close! So. Damned. Close.

It's just a game. Not being able to win doesn't make you any less of a person. Why am I so hungry?

Another 1024. I don't even know how the hell I'm supposed to get two of those, let alone get them next to each other.

I just want to beat it. Just once. I'll beat it and then I'll put it down and never look at it again, but I'm so close to the end I can't just give up. Giving up would be the real tragedy. I'm nothing. I'm no one. I'm garbage. Until I beat this goddamn game. Just. Once.

1024, and the board is pretty clear. I can do this. I can do it. I can do it. Don't swipe the wrong direction. Just breathe. No pressure.

Okay, that was a bad place for that two to pop up. Throwing me off, but I can probably still do it.

Shit. Another... well... No, I can probably... I can still do this.

All is lost.

I am a sad, pathetic human being.

Okay, all is not technically lost. Once I'm done with this I'll analyze my... Wait... Did I just... Was that...

I did it.


I DID IT!




I can get back to my life. I can get back to my job. I can eat something. I can sleep. I can...

I wonder if I could beat it again...


Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: UVB PSA By Tommy (Age 9)

This week, instead of Friday Flash Fiction, we present the following Public Service Announcement...

UVB PSA by Tommy (Age 9)
Word Count: 595

Skin cancer affects us all, because we all have skin. In a single year, 60,000 Americans will contract skin cancer, and another 9,000 of them will die of skin cancer. This is a problem, people.

The cause of the cancer is UVB rays. UVA and UVC are bad too, but they are less bad. UVB are a major cause of skin cancer, which can cause you painful surgery and will kill 9,000 of us in a single year if you’re American.

The UVB rays that did this are harmful and out to get you, so it’s important that you know what to do if you get skin cancer or are harmed by the cancer.

What To Do If You Get Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is bad. Don’t get skin cancer.

How To Avoid Getting Skin Cancer

Avoid UVB rays, because UVB rays are a major cause of skin cancer.

How To Avoid UVB Rays

Because the real problem here is UVB rays, it’s best to avoid them altogether, if you can. Try these easy steps:
  1. First, if you see a UVB ray coming down the street, cross and walk on the other side. Now, a lot of people may think this is rude, but I think it’s just good sense. You wouldn’t cross the street because there was a person walking towards you, but I bet you would if that person could give you cancer. 
  2. Number two, don’t go to places where UVB rays hang out, like the beach, the places with lots of light-up beds, or that Kroger on 26th Street. This is just common sense, people. 
  3. Finally, don’t borrow money from a UVB ray. I know, they seem like a good guy willing to give you a chance, and they have competitive rates, but what if you can’t pay him back? He’s going to have to come to you to get it, and you can’t just say “go away, UVB ray,” because then he can say “I’m not going to go away until you give me back my money!” and you’ll say “but I don’t want you to give me cancer” and he’ll just say “well you shouldn’t have borrowed money that you can’t pay back—maybe it serves you right to get skin cancer” and then you won’t say anything because how can you argue with that? 
  4. Last, and most importantly, always wear sunglasses. UVB rays hate sunglasses. They bounce right off them. They can still get at you from behind, but if they come at you from the front, you can just deflect them away with your sunglasses. The downside to this is that sometimes it’s night time, so it might make sense to also always carry a flashlight.

Conclusion

I hope you have found this helpful. As we have seen, UVB rays are really bad dudes who will hurt you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance. No one wants to be one of the 9,000 Americans—and countless foreigners—who die each and every year of a preventable disease of the skin.

Hopefully, someday science will discover a way for us to live without UVB rays, or possibly without skin. I feel like the latter is more likely because UVB rays are really small, and it would be hard to catch them all, but science is doing amazing things in the realms of making people live without skin. However, having no skin is disgusting, and we’d have to wear lots of clothes and masks all the time.

Thank you.

Edited by Carolyn "Don't Ever Let Me Get A Beagle" Abram

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Blog Post: The Musical: The Recanting

Well, it seems that ten seconds worth of Googling while crafting yesterday's post would have given me this image:


Monday, March 17, 2014

Blog Post: The Musical!

When I was a teen, there was a string of movies--movies that would eventually have sequels--based on twenty-year-old television shows.


Now we're seeing movies from that same era turned into Broadway musicals.


Clearly, there is only one possible way this can end:



Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: A Classic Prank

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

A Classic Prank
Word Count: 600
(Trigger warning: story contains references to violence against women.)

“We should have started with the bed,” said Stubbs, grunting under his end of the desk. “Built the rest of the room around it.”

“We wouldn’t have gotten it out first,” said Tyler. “The TV was in the way. Are you sure this is a good idea?”

They hefted the desk down the hallway and angled it around into the stairwell.

“It’s a classic prank,” said Stubbs. “I can’t wait to see the look on Turk’s face. Hold your end higher. It’s slipping.”

Tyler adjusted. “That better?”

“Yes, thanks,” said Stubbs.

They got the desk down the stairs and out onto the porch and set it up next to the TV stand, the mini-fridge, the lamp. They’d arranged every stick of furniture from Turk Hansen’s dorm-room on the porch. They’d even run a few power chords out so the television could be playing. Tyler smiled. Porching was indeed a classic prank. But still…

“Everybody’s so tense lately, you know?” he said as they headed back up the steps.

“Hard to imagine why,” said Stubbs. “Four freshman girls missing in as many months. This is just what we need to break the tension. How long is Turk in class?”

“Another twenty-five minutes,” said Tyler. “Unless they let out early.”

“Plenty of time,” said Stubbs, picking up Turk’s computer tower. “Besides, Reggie’s in that class with him. He’ll text if something comes up.”

“Turk’s gonna be pissed,” said Tyler, carrying the monitor and keyboard.

“What’s to be pissed about?” asked Stubbs. “It’s a classic prank. We’ll all have a laugh and then we’ll help him put it back.”

“He hates it when people mess with his stuff,” said Tyler.

“Well, he can pull the stick out of his ass,” said Stubbs. “Then we’ll all laugh and help him put it back.” He plugged the computer into one of the extension cords and turned it on while Tyler attached the monitor. “What should he have on his screen? Gay porn?”

“I don’t know his Windows password,” said Tyler, “and neither do you.”

“Oh yeah,” said Stubbs. “Oh well. That just leaves the bed.”

They headed back up the stairs to Turk’s room.

“I still think he’s going to be pissed,” said Tyler.

“Then he should lock his room.”

“He did,” said Tyler. “You unlocked it.”

Stubbs grinned stupidly. They each grabbed an edge of the mattress and lifted it off the bed.

“Where do you think they went?” asked Stubbs.

“Who?”

“Those girls.”

“Who knows,” said Tyler. “They all knew each other, right? Probably just running away. First taste of college freedom went straight to their heads, or something.”

They lifted the box spring from the frame.

“I don’t buy it,” said Stubbs. “Probably got themselves axe-murdered or something.”

They stood the box spring up and heard a thunk from inside.

“What they hell was that?” asked Tyler.

Stubbs’ phone rang. “Oh shit, it’s Reggie,” he said.

“There’s something in there,” said Tyler.

“Yo,” said Stubbs.

Tyler reached a hand in and felt around. His fingers found something plastic.

“Turk? What are you doing on Reggie’s phone?”

Tyler wrapped his hand around the plastic and pulled it out. It was a sandwich bag.

“I confiscated it,” said Turk’s voice. Tyler could hear it. And it wasn’t coming from the phone. It was in the doorway.

Tyler looked at the bag in his hands. Inside, wrapped in gauze, were four individual, female fingers. He dropped it.

“Oh, fuck me,” he said.

“I thought I told you guys not to mess with my stuff,” said Turk. The door closed behind him.

Edited by Carolyn "What The Hell Is That Smell?" Abram

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Grandma Deedee

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

Grandma Deedee
Word Count: 600

Allen sat on the floor as his daughter, Tasha, run around the room. Grandma Deedee watched lovingly from the chair. It was a new living situation for her and the apartment in the assisted living facility was smaller than she’d been used to, but from what Allen could tell she seemed to be settling in.

“And how old is she now?” asked Grandma Deedee.

“Two-and-a-half,” said Allen.

“She’s so big,” said Grandma Deedee.

Allen agreed that, yes, she was big.

“And full of energy, too.”

“Yeah, she’s a little hurricane, this one.”

Tasha did another lap around living room.

“Are they treating you well?” asked Allen.

Grandma Deedee blustered. She ran a wrinkly hand through hair that looked like loose cotton. “What kind of question is that?” she asked.

It seemed like a perfectly reasonable one to Allen. “How’s the staff?” he asked. “That’s what I mean.”

“Oh, they’re fine,” said Grandma Deedee. “They’re a little pushy.”

Good, thought Allen. Nursing home staff—or, rather, assisted living facility staff—ought to be a little pushy. Lord knows the inmates were. Inmates? Allen checked himself. Residents. That would have been embarrassing if he’d said it out loud.

“And how old is she now?” asked Grandma Deedee again, pointing at Tasha.

“She’s five,” said Allen. He felt guilty lying to her—Tasha would be three in a few months. But what was the point of taking care of the senile and the elderly if you couldn’t have a little fun with them?

“Full of energy,” said Grandma Deedee.

“Yeah, she’s a little tornado,” said Allen. “So, you said the staff are pushy?”

“Some of them,” said Grandma Deedee.

“In what way?” asked Allen.

“What way what?”

“How are they pushy?”

Grandma Deedee pondered this for a moment. “Oh, you know,” she said. “They’re just kind of pushy.”

Allen wondered if pushy was code for Jewish, the way it was with some of Grandma Deedee’s friends. They were proud Southern women, which didn’t automatically make them racists, and they would be quick to tell you that it was perfectly normal to have a great deal of pride in one’s Southern heritage without being racist.

That said, they were all totally racist.

“And how old is she now?”

“Just turned twelve.”

“Really? She’s kind of small.”

“She’ll catch up.”

“Full of energy, though.”

“Yeah, she’s a regular Tasmanian Devil.”

Allen was ready to get out of there. He hated nursing homes—rather, assisted living facilities. Whatever, he didn’t like being there. Inevitably someday Tasha, the little imp currently crawling under the coffee table, would decide that he’d outlived his usefulness and stick him in a home like this because he couldn’t take care of himself.

Someone knocked at the door.

“Come in,” Grandma Deedee hollered.

The handle turned, but didn’t open, because it was locked. I got up and opened the door. Another inmate—resident—stood at the doorway. “Deedee!” she shouted. “It’s almost time for Downton!”

Grandma Deedee lit up. “Hello, Nora,” she said. “This is my grandson Allen and his daughter Tisha.”

“It’s Tasha, actually,” said Allen.

“You don’t look much like a Tasha,” said Nora.

“No, I’m Allen,” said Allen. “And we were just leaving.”

“Sure you don’t want to stay and watch Downton with us?”

“I don’t think Tasha would sit through it,” said Allen.

“Who’s Tasha?” asked Nora.

“Oh, never mind him, Nora,” said Grandma Deedee. “You don’t want to talk to him; he’s not right in the head. I keep asking him how old his daughter is and he’s given me three different answers!”

Edited by Carolyn "Pretty Sure He's An Ass" Abram

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