Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Why Do You Run?

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

Why Do You Run?
Word Count: 600

Why do you run? Where were you going? Where were you coming from?

You were long and lanky and unthinkably thin, like a fitness-obsessed millennial. Or a drug addict. It was hard to tell from the window. You clearly weren’t running for your health; I could tell that much. You didn’t look like a recreational runner. You didn’t have the lycra or the sweatpants or the earbuds that mark them. Your shoes were worn and dull, not vibrant and colorful. No one would jog through their neighborhood in shoes that sad-looking. Something was compelling you. What was it?

Why do you run? What drives you? Is it determination? If so, then to what end? Is it fear? Fear of what?

Fear of whom? Someone?

It’s silly to even think that, I know. This is a nice neighborhood full of nice people. This isn’t the sort of neighborhood where bad things happen. So that couldn’t possibly have been fear in your eyes. Clearly I was mistaken. I mean, really.

That playground you ran past—my children play there. That isn’t the kind of playground where bad things happen. I wouldn’t live so close to that kind of playground. I wouldn’t let my children play there. So, obviously, whatever you were running from, or whatever you were running to… I mean, there couldn’t have been any actual danger involved. And if there was, then you were right to keep going—to run straight on out into the next township. Where bad things do happen.

Why do you run?

It was raining, wasn’t it? As often as I think back, as often as I recall that look on your face—at the time I thought it was terror, but it obviously couldn’t have been terror—I lose other details. Were there sirens? I don’t think so. Was it raining? I’m pretty sure it was. Not a downpour but a drizzle, perhaps.

You want to know something funny? I almost called the police. I know, it was a silly idea, but that’s just instinct. I see someone running, I see fear in their face—mistakenly, of course—and I want to call the police. Who would blame me? But, honestly, what would I have told them? Someone is running through the neighborhood. Someone who doesn’t really look like a jogger. They wouldn’t have sent someone, and if they had, they wouldn’t have gotten here in time. You were running so very fast.

Why do you run?

I have a theory. Dozens, actually. Domestic dispute. Play-acting. Some elaborate prank. I could go on and on, but I’ll tell you that in every single one, you have a perfectly legitimate reason to be afraid and in every single one you wind up perfectly safe. Every single one. Because, really, what else could it be?

And you know what? In all of those scenarios, if the police had shown up, it just would have been embarrassing for all of us. I kid you not. Oh, we’d have a good laugh, but we’d all agree that it had been a waste of valuable time and resources to engage them.

So, why do you run?

How long has it been? Five years? Ten years? I really should have forgotten it by now. It’s not like I did anything wrong, and you were clearly in no danger. Not in my neighborhood. And this is truly silly of me, but I still poke my head out the window every now and then to look for you.

To see if I could stop you and ask a quick question.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Rocket Surgery

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

Rocket Surgery
Word Count: 600

Blue wire? Green wire? Blue wire?

Red wire.

Terry’s hand trembled despite her training. She blamed the coffee, but she knew it wasn’t the coffee.

-Snip-

She winced. Nothing happened. She was still here. She’d live to reclaim unexploded ordinance another day.

“Primary deactivated,” said Terry. “Looking for secondary.”

“Confirmed primary deactivated,” said Peter in her ear. “Let us know if you need help.” He wouldn’t radio again unless she spoke first. As a rule, there were no comms on her channel unless she initiated them. It was bad form to startle a bomb technician.

Although this wasn’t exactly a bomb. It was a rocket.

Bombs were different. They teased you. They invited you to try and defuse them. They were puzzles to be solved, the products of insane geniuses who wanted your last thought to be that you’d been outwitted, that you somehow deserved your fate.

Rockets, however, were designed by expert engineers to explode. That was what they did. That’s all they did. If a rocket landed without detonating, it meant something had fallen out of place, and all you could do was rush in and pull the guts apart before it accidentally fell back into place.

Terry?

It would be safer to just blow the damned thing up. It wasn’t nuclear. They’d already cleared out the ten surrounding blocks. No one would die. But it would be expensive. City blocks were expensive. Bomb technicians could be trained relatively cheaply.

Terry…

Green wire? Blue wire? Terry traced them to the pressure plate in the nose cone. What was that? A loose bolt? It had wedged between the plate and the casing. That was what had kept the leads from connecting. Well that was good news, she was safe as long as it stayed—

-Clink-

“Well, shit,” she said.

“Problem?” asked Peter.

“Hard to say,” she said. She moved her flashlight around. The bolt was gone. It had just fallen out. She must have jostled something.

-Click-whirrrrrrrr-

“Oh, that’s not good,” she said.

“Terry…”

“Shut up, Peter, I need to think.” Was it the green or the red? No, she’d already clipped the red. Was the blue the secondary? Shit.

Terry?

-Creeeeeak-

The plate was slipping.

Hey, Terry…

She got a hand under the pressure plate. It wasn’t enough to stop it, but it slowed it down. Although she needed to make sure she didn’t get it wedged, or else she might lose the hand.

She probably ought to make sure she didn’t complete the circuit either.

Red? Blue? Green? Yellow? Christ, where did a yellow wire come from?

“Oh, God,” she said.

“You can do this, Terry,” said Peter. “Remember your training.”

Which was it?

Terry, are you in there? You’re freaking me out a little.

She was frozen. She was panicked. She should have just run for it. But it was too late for that now. She reached in with her free hand and grabbed as many wires as she could hold.

“Peter, if I don’t make it… I always loved you.”

“Terry, my wife is six months pregnant.”

She closed her eyes.

“Terry?”

She yanked.

“Terry?”

Terry blinked. Anna was waving a hand in front of her face.

“Terry? Are you okay?”

Terry was in her office. Not the field. Not in the field. It had been a flashback. Damn, she thought.

“Terry?”

“I’m fine,” she answered. “I’m sorry—what were you saying?”

“I was saying let’s go with the red letterhead. It’s not rocket surgery.”

“No,” said Terry. “It’s not. It’s not rocket surgery.” She took a deep breath. “And thank God for that…”

Edited by Carolyn "This May Have More Effect If You Break It" Abram

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: The Parasite

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

The Parasite
Word Count: 600

Do you know why you’re here?

Because I tried to saw a man in half, obviously. Where am I? Why can’t I remember anything?

What’s your name?

I don’t know—what’s yours? Why won’t my arms move?

I’m Dr. Nasmith. You’re in a hospital. You’ve been restrained.

Why can’t I see? What happened to my eyes?

You don’t remember?

What happened to my eyes? Tell me what happened to my eyes!

Your name is Kevin Charles. Is that familiar?

Maybe. A bit. What happened to my eyes?

You removed them.

I… I did what?

You removed your eyes with a paring knife.



Mr. Charles?

That’s impossible.

You don’t remember?

No.

But you remember trying to, as you put it, “saw another man in half”?

Yes. Sort of. Bits and snatches. Images. It must have been one of the last things I saw.

Well, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that none of this was your fault. So, no one’s going to press charges.

I suppose that’s good news. How is that even possible?

That’s where the bad news comes in. You have a parasite.

Like what? Like Hookworm or something?

Have you ever heard of leucochloricium paradoxum?

Should I have?

It’s a flatworm that infects snails. It makes them climb up to the highest point possible, where they’ll be vulnerable to predators.

I don’t understand.

To complete its life-cycle the paradoxum has to be ingested by a bird.

Ew.

What you have is…similar.

What I have? Does it have a name?

Not yet.

But it’s curable, right?

Well, it wasn’t easy, but yes, we were able to isolate and kill it. We nearly killed you in the process, but we killed it.

That doesn’t sound so bad.

I wasn’t finished with the bad news. You see, the parasite that you have spreads through blood. Our hypothesis is that it made you want to hurt yourself and others. It’s clearly damaged your brain—that much is evident in the MRI, plus your impaired memory. But I need to know what you can remember.

Not much.

You remember assaulting someone. Do you remember who?

No. But I remember doing it.

What were you thinking?

I wasn’t thinking. You said so yourself.

Even if the parasite had been affecting your brain, you should still have perceived that as thought. What did you think? What did you feel?

I didn’t want to hurt him, I remember that. But I had to. It was a primal need. Like breathing. I wanted to hurt myself and I wanted to hurt him. That’s what I remember.

But you didn’t try to hurt him. You tried to kill him.

I know.

Why?

Because… because I knew that if I hurt him, that he’d end up like me.

Is that why you attacked your own eyes? To satisfy that need but also to keep yourself from being able to hurt others?

Maybe. I don’t remember.

Very well.

Did I kill him?

No. We saved him.

Did you cure him to.

We didn’t realize that he’d been infected until he attacked a nurse. She, in turn, attacked twelve patients and two doctors.

So… it’s spreading.

Yes, rapidly. And that, Mr. Charles, is the worst of the news.

I see… I understand, I mean. How did this all start?

We don’t know.

I don’t suppose there’s much chance of getting my eyes fixed.

Not very likely. But count that as a blessing. The world has changed in the last 72 hours. Be grateful you don’t have to see what it has become.

Edited by Carolyn "Real Bad News" Abram

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Pico De Gallo

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of flash fiction. This week, we celebrated drunken American interpretations of Mexican holidays...

Pico De Gallo
Word Count: 600

The young man was moderately cute, so Seline gave him half a smile. Clearly drunk, he staggered over and leaned on the bar, bedecked in a kitschy sombrero, tie-dyed t-shirt and—for some reason—an eye patch.

“What’s your name, beautiful?” he slurred. “Happy Pico De Gallo!”

Definitely drunk. Seline returned to her drink.

“Hey, Señorita, aren’t you going to tell me your name?”

“I’m Italian,” she said.

The young man nodded and then frowned. “Did you just say your name was ‘Italian’?”

“I’m Italian,” said Seline. “My name is American.”

“I’m confused.”

“You called me ‘Señorita’. I’m not Mexican; I’m Italian.”

“What’s ‘Señorita’ in Italian?” asked the young man.

“Signiorina,” said Seline.

“Well how do you know I didn’t say that?”

“Because it’s Cinco de Mayo and you’re a drunk white dude trying to get with a Mexican girl,” said Seline.

“Maybe I’m just calling everyone Señorita on account of this festive occasion.” He was over-pronouncing his words—probably in an attempt to make him appear soberer. “I’m Steve,” he added.

“I don’t think so, sailor,” said Seline. “Ply your wares somewhere else.”

“Aw, come on, give me a chance,” said Steve. “You don’t even know me.”

Seline gave him a once-over. He was skinny, although the beginning of a paunch was peeking over his belt. He had a three-day beard and really ragged nails. Nice smile, though. But not enough to make up for bad nails. Seline had a thing about nails. “I know enough,” she said.

“Well, I find that offensive,” said Steve.

Seline gave him what she hoped was a condescending look. “You’re offended? Mr. Happy-Pico-De-Gallo? In that ridiculous outfit and that eye-patch?”

Steve’s lip began to tremble. “Is it my fault I lost my eye in a bicycle accident?”

Guilt and panic mixed in Seline’s stomach. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” she said.

“Do you want to see?” asked Steve.

“Is it okay if I say no?” asked Seline.

Steve pulled up the patch to reveal… a perfectly healthy, normal-looking eye. “I’m just messing with you,” he said.

“You son of a bitch,” said Seline. “Why would you do that?”

“It’s a conversation-starter,” said Steve. “Makes me seem mysterious. Girls see it and they want to talk to me.” He paused, waiting for a response. “That’s the idea, anyway,” added.

“How’s that working out?” asked Seline.

“Hit or miss,” said Steve with a shrug.

“Hard to imagine why,” said Seline. “Although the eye-patch is not nearly as troubling as that ridiculous hat.”

“It’s traditional Mexican garb!”

“Have you ever even been to Mexico?” asked Seline.

“Lots of times,” said Steve. “Well, once, at least. I spent two weeks in Guatemala.”

“Guatemala is not Mexico,” said Seline.

“But it’s in Mexico,” Steven asserted.

“I’m pretty sure it’s its own country.”

A wave of confusion flitted across Steve’s face. “I thought it was… Is Guadelajara in Mexico?”

“Yes,” said Seline.

“Then that’s the one I’ve been to.”

“Yeah, we’re done here,” said Seline.

“I just want to buy you a drink,” said Steve.

“I have a drink,” said Seline.

“Appetizer?”

“Go away.”

“You’ve got a boyfriend.”

“Nope, just taste.”

Steve recoiled. “That hurt,” he said. “That was very hurtful.”

“Expect more of the same if you don’t leave right now.”

“Fine, I’ll leave,” said Steve. “You don’t have to tell me twice.”

“I’ve told you like eight times.”

“For what it’s worth, I didn’t think you were Mexican,” said Steve. “I just wanted to know your name.”

Seline turned back to her drink.

Edited by Carolyn "Hi, American!" Abram

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday Flash Fiction: Breathing The Same Air

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

Breathing The Same Air
Word Count: 600

Aaron had gone years without smoking, but now—elbow-deep in divorce proceedings—a cigarette provided one of the few moments of joy he had most days. The nicotine rush pushed back against an oncoming headache, which he’d preemptively named Marlene, after his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Who was going to end up with his BMW 6, dammit.

No, he told himself, don’t think about that. He took a long drag off his cigarette. He’d gotten over losing his wife. He’d get over the car. Somehow.

“Aaron?” asked Marlene. “I thought you quit.”

“I did,” said Aaron. Christ, how long had she been standing there? He hadn’t even heard the door.

Marlene already had a cigarette in her mouth and was fumbling in her purse for her lighter. For twenty years she’d been a smoker and in all that time she’d never been able to keep track of her lighter.

“Here,” said Aaron, pulling a disposable Bic from his pocket.

“I’ve got it,” said Marlene, still rummaging.

“You clearly don’t.”

“But I will, Aaron…” She closed her eyes and sighed. “You know, we both came out here to unwind. Can this be the one place where don’t hate each other?”

“Fine by me,” said Aaron, still holding out the lighter. “Truce?”

“Fine,” said Marlene, snatching the lighter.

“Keep it,” said Aaron when she tried to return it. “I’ve been meaning to quit anyway.”

“I bet you have.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing,” said Marlene. “We’re under a truce, remember.”

“Why’d you say it like that?” asked Aaron.

“Like what?’

“You know what I mean.”

“I’m just making small talk,” said Marlene. “If you don’t like the way I make small talk, you say something.”

“How’s your mother?” asked Aaron.

“She’s good. She’s ready to have me out of the house,” said Marlene. “She misses you.”

Aaron chuckled. “I swear she always liked me more than you.”

“Fuck you,” said Marlene. “I’m her goddamned daughter.”

“I misspoke,” said Aaron. “What I meant was that she always liked me more than you liked me.”

Marlene’s eyes were cold, but she shrugged. “True enough,” she said. “No offense.”

“None taken,” said Aaron.

“She asks me what happened with us.”

“What do you tell her?”

“I tell her we don’t love each other anymore,” said Marlene. “That’s true, right?”

“More or less,” said Aaron.

“She thinks we could have made it work, maybe. If we’d tried harder or something.”

“Do you believe that?” asked Aaron.

“I don’t know,” said Marlene. “I don’t think about it very much. What about you? Do you believe it?”

Aaron paused. “No,” he said finally. “No, I don’t think we could have fixed it.”

“Why?”

“Why couldn’t we have fixed it?”

“Why do you believe that?”

“Because I have to,” he said. “As much as I hate you sometimes, part of me still loves you. So I tell myself that it’s hopeless because that’s what I need in order to let you go.”

Marlene’s eyes narrowed. “That’s twisted.”

“You asked,” said Aaron.

“There’ll be other women, you know.”

“Maybe,” said Aaron. “It doesn’t matter.”

“It ought to,” said Marlene.

“That’s the future,” said Aaron. “Right now I have to survive the present. That means letting go of something I love because it’s the only way to move on with my life.” Aaron stubbed out his cigarette. “See you inside,” he said. “Thanks for the truce.”

“You really want the car, don’t you? We’re off the record, you can tell me.”

Aaron nodded.

“Take it.”

“Really?” asked Aaron. “You’d let it go?”

Marlene smiled. “There’ll be other cars.”

Edited by Carolyn "I've Had This Conversation A Lot" Abram

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