I Know What I Did Last Summer . . .

For those number of you who have inquiring minds and want to know

Smallboobug

This mantis is ready for the creepies and goblins, as it’s already preying on a ghost. (CREDIT: Archive of bad puns.)

(hi, hubby o’ mine!), here’s a round-up of a few things that have been on my mind of late, what I’ve seen, read, or been working on and so forth. Let it henceforth be know as a Smorgasblurb, or daisy-chain of what’s-its, widgets and, quite possibly, the world’s best collection of literary bric-a-brac.

1. Are you nervy, irritable, depressed, tired of life? Don’t keep that up! Here’s a short, down-to-earth post by author Dan Alatorre to help dispel the writer’s imposter syndrome that all some I have been feeling this summer and into the now-autumn.

2. Followed by the not-so-flattering assessment, albeit literary, of the United States’ commander in thief, by the ever-creative Rebecca Solnit (“The Loneliness of Donald Trump”) and available on Literary Hub. My favorite turn of phrase is in the very last graf: “The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego . . . One way or another, he knows he has stepped off a cliff, pronounced himself king of the air, and is in freefall.” And that, folks, is how you bring it on home (whether you agree with the message or not).

3. I’ve had quite a few “close, but no cigar” with my writing this year, so the main thing I’ve got in the pipeline right now is a short story in the Biketopia anthology of feminist speculative fiction. (Yes, that.) But seriously, Publishers Weekly has said it’s “…a deeply moving and powerful anthology. ” Wow! 

P.S. Have you got anything close to publication or recently published? I know for a fact that some of you do. So consider this your pop quiz! Your chance to blast your own horn. Please feel free to comment in the ol’ leave a reply section below. And thanks!

4. A couple weeks ago I was pursuing one of my hobbies by perusing a nearby community’s town-wide yard sales. There was an old truck parked across from a church, and I don’t know why, but I stopped to look at the wares situated among the dust. Nothing there was probably anything anyone would need or want, but the woman tending them kept engaging me, imploring me to take a look at this or that. So, I got to talking with her and, unfortunately, concluded that she most likely has some level of mental illness and lives in her truck (long story) with these two kittens she says she couldn’t bear to leave at home because they got scared. Anyhow, without trying to sound sanctimonious, have you ever looked around you to everyday people and situations? We seem to not see images we are regularly exposed to, with them fading bit-by-by, day-by- day. Perhaps it’s something as simple as misplaced keys or something vastly more important: an invisible person or unjust situation or environmental problem that just keeps persisting in a sad state mostly because of apathy.

In short, have you tried helping anyone or anything in need lately?

Our opportunities to be loving and helpful to our fellow humans abound (and not only during natural disasters): to earthquake victims in Mexico, for Puerto Ricans who might not have potable water or electricity for weeks or months, Rohingya families driven out of Myanmar/Burma, bombed-out Yemeni people starving to death or dying of cholera, or innocent people rotting into the rubble of Syria. It turns out, if we look, I mean really look, we will probably find that there’s a literal neighbor of yours or mine who is silently in need. It can certainly be very depressing and soul-submerging to confront all the violence and hatred in the world; you’re only one person, right?! But . . . Whatever you do, just try. 🙂

5. Now, on to a much more pleasant topic. If you love fantasy, fae, and fairy tales like I do—you’re probably a super-fan, in fact, as I feel like I can never learn enough from all the world’s cultures—you will want to support Enchanted Conversation, a fairy tale magazine. Not only does this publication pay authors, but its editor/creator Kate Wolford helps keep the word percolating about how fairy tales and fabulism resonate and enrich our lives today . . . whenever we see an Emperor with No Clothes or a squirrel digging hundreds of tiny nut-graves all over our yards to prepare for cold weather, a figurative army of furry ants guarding against unprepared grasshoppers. Please chip in to their Fundrazr campaign now (there are rewards beyond just knowing ‘you did good’!) and if you’re a poet or fiction writer, consider submitting to the “Godfather Death” issue now through Sept. 30th or the “Elves and the Shoemaker” taking subs in November.

6. Well, this is rather long, isn’t it? Here’s one more, and just in time for the scary month of October! Stitched Smile Publications is seeking your horror-themed stories for two different paying open calls, one about the Seven Deadly Sins and another about a drive-in pulsing on the warty split-lip of damnation. I’ve not worked with them before, but they’re listed on Duotrope and have a history of in-genre publishing with a stable of many authors. Good luck if ya do construe a boo or two for them, much like the mantis on the ghost above. And, with that, I’m in copywriting mode!

ONE FINAL WORD Hang in there, everyone; help is on its way (with apologies for the crudulous advert at the beginning)!!

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Do you miss summer already, too? (A ramble and a flash fiction piece)

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A small mantis watches me & vice versa.

Let’s see. In summary, my summer’s been about parenting, copywriting, parenting, parenting some more, mowing grass, seeing a few critters here and there, working at weeding, parenting again, a too-short vacation and time with my husband, and, (unfortunately) a car wreck (bright spot is that no one was injured beyond minor aches).

I hope your hot or dry or windy or wet season has been much more fruitful or at least enjoyable. How’d you spend it?

Here’s today’s vignette, followed by a flash fiction piece . . .

As tides of laughter and shrill screams cascade over LEGOs and reverberate off walls into my writing room (a.k.a., the couch; tomorrow, it might be the kitchen table), I realize, with some mush of sadness and trepidation, that yet another summer is ending.

But I’m ready. It was a busy season; not necessarily a creative writing-productive summer, although I did do a bit of copywriting for the dough.

In a few days, I hope to have a few fascinatin’ features and facts about my friends’ endeavors (like this one) the last few months, as I (I hope) fall into a more regular pattern of blogging about all things literary, spec-fic, ghosty, dystopian, horror-ific, and whatever fancy strikes me in the head that day. [Also, in short, I’ve missed reading & commenting on your blogs! What can I say; full-time, full-on summertime parenting takes precedence.]

Anyway, less rambling and more story-ilization, right? Here’s an odd little throw-away that I hope you’ll enjoy; coincidentally, it has both fire and fury in it (but was written months ago for a 100-word challenge I couldn’t cut enough for).

*****++++*****

Hot Fur

GENRE: Weird, futuristic, dystopian

By Leigh Ward-Smith

“As you know, we’re here to commemorate the crumbling of 21st century institutions. To a man, you each had a role in slaying the dragon that is—or should I say was?—the prevailing mentality.”

The crowd bellows a series of whoops and howls, but fidgety coughs, footshuffles, and unholstered AugReal guns give them away.

Rich, you’re losing ’em. Do something dramatic.

I pull out the cannister hidden behind the flag-strewn lectern. “You all know what this is!” I waggle the can to massive cheers.

“And this.” The realization of the clear tub’s contents spread like our accustomed rolling blackouts.

The chant went up: “Pour it, pour it!” From there, the spark was mere formality.

BLOG_anarchy bear by Gerry Lauzon

Image by Gerry Lauzon, Creative Commons license 4.0 (CC By 4.0).

“Gentlemen, witness the death rasp of the 21st century and all her attendant scum!”

As flames lick the air, I pull a fast-disintegrating specimen out with tongs. I shake a clump loose, and the pallid throng wriggle onto its fallen char.

“It’s Burn-a-Bear Workshop now, ain’t it, boys?!”

END

Feminism + Bicycles + Fiction — How You Can Help Support One or All

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My Feminist Family on the Prairie (yes, men can be feminists, too)

Believe it or not, there is a connection between feminism, bicycles, and fiction. Witness the fiction anthology Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures from Microcosm Publishing, an anthology now in its fourth incarnation. I am proud to be an author in the fourth Biketopia, and I’ve got a favor to ask on behalf of all the authors and the publisher.

But first, a little bit about the latter. Microcosm Publishing, whom you can find on Duotrope, on their Web site, and all around the social media sphere, occupies a subversive publishing space—if feminism, LGBT rights, veganism, mental health, and a punk attitude qualify as such. Book titles upcoming or already published by this Portland, Ore., company include: Trump: A Graphic Biography; Cats I’ve Known; Out of the Basement: From Cheap Trick to DIY Punk in Rockford, IL, 1973-2005; Bikequity: Money & Class; and The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism. For myself, I was drawn to a publishing company that’s been around more than 20 years and supports women who write while making a statement of engagement with our environment, politics, music, feminism, do-it yourself, relationships, and so much more.

Support a Feminist Fiction Endeavor (That I Happen to be Included In)

But there’s a small hitch to Biketopia four. It’s not completely funded. Not yet.

This is where you come in!

There’s a crowdfunding campaign at this very moment to ensure it makes its way into the world. Featuring 11 stories and a batch of reviews that are dystopian or sometimes even utopian,  Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures awaits full funding.

I cannot speak for the authors in this anthology, but as a writer among their number, I can say that my story focuses on a dystopian future in arid, desolate Colorado. Inspired possibly by subliminal crossflow from too many “Twilight Zone” marathons, I wrote about a protagonist who owns and runs a dusty diner alone but for two canine sidekicks. Then, she meets someone, and everything changes from there. So, pretty simple plot, without giving too much away.

Looking at the other story synopses, I am stoked to read Biketopia four, which includes a few comics within as well. Here are a few story blurbs from the Kickstarter fundraising page:

  • In the solarpunk future, will robots have rights, too?
  • What is the secret behind some people’s seemingly random plague immunity, and is it okay for them to take your bike?
  • When your health is closely monitored during a pregnancy, who gets to decide if bicycling is healthy or dangerous for your unborn child? (text by Microcosm Publishing)

May the Fourth Be With Us, and How You, Too, Can Submit

Please consider supporting Biketopia four via the Kickstarter drive; with a minimum of $10 you get the latest anthology. With a donation of $25 or above, you get all four Biketopia anthologies. The goodies abound, with a variety of levels from which to chose.

I’d be ever so pleased, not just for myself but for the mission of Microcosm, if you’d consider donating to the campaign and checking out Microcosm’s site. In addition to the previous book titles mentioned in the intro, you’ll see that MP offers up ezines to coloring books to stickers for your bike and all kinds of books including self-help and vegan recipes inspired by Morrissey (whose band, The Smiths, are no relation to me, sadly).

Finally, Biketopia five is, ahem, gearing up for action, too. Through March 1, you can submit your feminist-inspired science fiction (though you need not be female or identify as such) stories of 2-6K words, to Biketopia five, with a theme of “Intersections.” In fact, they say “We especially welcome submissions from writers of color and transgender and nonbinary writers, and seek stories that portray more diverse perspectives than are classically found in sci fi.”

So, get on that seat and ride your creativity into worlds unimagined!

Friday Fictioneers: Every Minute

unidentifiable-on-a-stick--Friday Fictioneers, 3 Oct. 2014, by Kent Bonham

Photograph by Kent Bonham

Genre: Science fiction (flash fiction) story

by Leigh Ward-Smith

Dr. Kyla Dysun marveled at the LP prototype from the archive.

From that mock-up to the latest incarnation of the LollyPetz product line seemed light-years. When she’d formed FiveFineMinds eight years ago, only the technology for the ChocoLiszts had been perfected. For a time, everybody with the means could generate a piano sonata with mere mouth power, thanks to edible electronics by FFM.

But the word whipper-uppers had worked a new level of magic with the LollyPetz campaign.

It is a brave new world, she thought, with such capital in it.

Later, her speech to the shareholders went grandly. “Today, 31 March 2079, carves a company milestone: one LollyPet ‘born’ every minute!”


This flash fiction is for Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers of 3 October 2014. Please visit Rochelle and check out the other Friday Fictioneers as well; you’ll find a great range of story genres and angles to go with this prompt. And, if you enjoyed my speculative fiction story, please pop back by sometime. I have a feeling I will continue the LollyPetz story soon.

The Lone Egg: Flash Fiction

Photo from Lee's Birdwatching Adventures Plus. Check out her informative blog.

Archival photo of eaglet and parent, before the extinction (from approximately 2014), by Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures Plus.

Levant Davis gently rearranged the simulated nest but wasn’t having much luck with the lone egg. As lead researcher for the Lorax Project, even he could do only so much prodding of natural processes. The recovered eagle DNA from which he’d helped create Phoenix, first of her kind in 22 generations, was rebelling in her parthenogenetic offspring.

“The sim-nest isn’t adequately insulating.” The bio-console picked up his pique. “We must maintain a core temperature of 99.67 degrees from now until pipping.”

He blew out a long breath, then muttered. “One time when cool is not cool.”

“Bio-con, erase previous statement.”

He hid his hopes. Emotions aren’t data.


Flash fiction written for the Light and Shade Challenge of 19 September 2014. My gratitude to the Raptor Resource Project Blog and the American bald eagle resource unit from The Learning Technology Center at Vanderbilt University, which provided invaluable data in which to “ground” this flash.

“Cool is not cool.”
– Matt Smith in Doctor Who, written by Steven Moffat

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers: Arthropods’ Last Stand

One morning, when Samantha Gregson woke from what she could only hope were mangled dreams, she remembered it.

It was a whatchamacalit. She followed the ant trail of taffy-like memories. It was at my bedroom window, backlighted, silhouetted by the street lamps. In profile, it looked like all pincers. Snapping at what?

Copyright Janet Webb

Copyright Janet Webb

She shook off a shudder as she rose from the bed to begin the day, pausing only to mute a stridulating alarm clock.

A heated bath to steam up the room will make my sinuses chirp hallelujah!

As her gaze flitted around appraising the newly remodeled bathroom, a quick shimmer near the window drew her eye.

The thick window sections resembled segments of a skeleton. A living insect exoskeleton. And it seemed to be steadily extracting itself from the lacy cocoon of wall, curtain, and window casing.

By the time of the first citizen sightings of window-sized lobsters and transparent bugs as large as compact cars, a towel was all that remained of Samantha in the flooded bathroom.

 

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904), plate 86: “Decapoda” by Ernst Haeckel. Decapods are an order of crustacean, and Crustacea is a subphylum of Arthropoda. Via Wikimedia Commons.


A speculative flash fiction piece that’s a little bit long, at 170ish words, for the latest Friday Fictioneers. Stop by and read the stories, show some appreciation to Janet Webb for contributing her photo (and story), or create your own.

 

The Power to Shut Heaven: A 100-Word Story

The tattered body resembled a rag-and-bone heap of red gingham.

Stax had caught a bum pouring something flammable on it.

“I doan know nuthin’,” the man snarled, then genuflected. Dingy yellow strips of sleeves fluttered like a 20-foot air-Gumby announcing a Wacky waving inflatable arm flaling tube man 017used-car lot.

“Unh-hunh.” Stax mumbled and shuffled off.

While sweeping the area, he caught a glint and bent to bring the bracelet in range.

“Sentinel, don’t be a hero.” The raggedy man glowered as the identifier’s alert clanged: “This child is wanted for questioning, under suspicion of pestilence warfare.”

Damn, Stax thought, that’s the third mangled kid this week.


This flash fiction story was submitted a few years back to an agent’s blog contest (it didn’t win, place, or show, possibly mostly attributable to the “cliffhanger” nature of the ending). I was re-inspired to dig up this microflash, strategically edit it, and dump it out here on the blog to see what you all think as well. Of course, that I am walking the WordPress realms with 300-word maestro Dieter Rogiers is a thrill and a challenge. Do sink your teeth into a helping of his stories if you haven’t yet, either on his blog or in his new book, You’re Getting Sleepy, the Hypnotist’s Apprentice Yawned: Flash Fiction in 300 Words (or Less).

 

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Hot Rockin’ at World’s End: Dystopian Flash Fiction

Source: imgur.com via Scribe's Cave, Picture Prompt #34

Source: imgur.com via Scribe’s Cave, Picture Prompt #34.


Short lexicon to follow story.


 Hot Rockin’ at World’s End

Genre: Dystopian science fiction, literary fiction

Word Count: 296 (without lexicon)

Warning!! Harsh adult language & violence might not be suitable for younger readers.

Schrödinger’s Cat had rounded up enough interested parties—or,  more to the point, partiers—for one last, big bang-yer-head at the end of time. Sure, part of the lure had been the location. All the underground dead trees had shrieked in King Diamond font:

“Kewlest Party of ANY Century! DON’T MISS special guests Megaton Leviathan and Eddie’s Hammers, Dec. 31, 2099, Erasin’ Hell at the Mosh Room!”

WorldCits with special oc-imps did a slam dance at the prospect offered by the small type, in Britny Fox font of course, promising 37⁰C temps at partytime. “BC’s fridginest freakhouse,” it shrilled.

“But, the acoustics. Color me concerned,” singer and theremin player Blind Watchmaker complained to Schrö.

“It’ll be fine, bro’. Former colliders like the ‘Shroom have excellent sound capabilities, I’m told. Besides, everybody there will be so busy stonin’ and bonin’ . . .” Although he shit-grinned, consummate concert-promoter that he was, Schrö let his voice lose volume, as if the answer to Armageddon was always achingly obvious.

“And the poser was at least partly right,” Blind Watchmaker was to recount years later. “Desperate WCs did surface for the gig—droves of them—and the sounds were tight. I think if a person was outside in the withering Canadian sun at 10 a.m., he probably still woulda felt the music crunchin’,” he pointed at the dead-center of his chest, “about here, instead of hearin’ it.”

The truth was that nobody had anticipated literal carnage. Sardined in the metal musical box, leather on jeans on synfibes like Ex-Spand, ‘bangers were squashed underboot like long-haired lightning bugs. Either trampled or crushed against coils of chilled niobium tin, some 4,700 lost their lives for love of loudness.

And still, the new century dawned, a sunken sun under the skin of night.

 LEXICON:

BC: British Columbia, a Canadian province.

Dead trees: Something like the newspapers and tabloids of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Oc-imps: Ocular implants.

Synfibes: Synthetic fibers (example: Ex-Spand).

WorldCits (thereafter, WCs): World citizens, as people of this dystopian future are called.


Written for Andreé’s weekly Scribe’s Cave photo challenge. Andreé’s own speculative fiction response to the prompt is here — and stay tuned, prose spelunkers, because her newest spec-fic book is due in November. I always love me a late-Halloween lit baby! And fellow metalfans, see if you can find all the 20th- and early 21st-century heavy-metal bands, songs, and other tropes.

Busy Monsters, Long-Form: Flash Fiction

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One of the two images offered up by The Scribe’s Cave this week. If this doesn’t get your spec-fic juices a’effervescin’, I don’t know what will. Image from Scribe’s Cave via boredpanda.com

Hello, everyone. I’d like to depart from what is possibly standard blog-operating procedure and post a long-form version (530-something words compared with 298) of my earlier flash, “Busy Monsters,” which was posted in response to the Scribe’s Cave Picture Prompt #28. (By the way, A.R. has a new prompt, a two-fer, up now. A sampling springs to life, up above in the image.)

I don’t know what you all think, but I have grown less fond of this version over the last few days. I can’t remember where I read this now, although it was recent, but it’s the idea that backstory can kind of unnecessarily bog down the “present” plot. In any case, your thoughts are always appreciated.


Busy Monsters (Long-Form)

Clouds that had earlier skulked now stalked the sky like drifting plastic bags pregnant with latrine water. Avie quickened her cadence down the path she’d been taught no drone could access, where her shadow’d been smothered an hour before. She was the group’s swiftest trail runner by leaps, even with the pokers* she wore.

abandonedplaygroundpic

Image creator: Wim Van den Eynde. Source: abandonedplaygrounds.com. Picture prompt provided by The Scribe’s Cave (prompt #28)

She nearly spiraled to her knees cresting a clot of invasive roots about 5½ kilometers from home. Instead, her palms took the force, bore brute furrows of scrapes. In one lupine motion, she wiped her hands on trouser legs and sprang up from the crouch. In that tunnel of oak and hemlock before she reached the wooden ascent—the home straight—felt like—and was—danger incarnate. Fears arose, and not only of the hyperevolved, pesticide-resistant feasters that used to be deemed mere mosquitoes. About every kilometer so far, Avie had been strafed by one of the fist-sized flyers.

Sage would be waiting in the sanctuary of the park. Nicking his ragged nails in the relative safety of the unlit “House of Horrors” of old, clogged as it was with boxy televisions topped by rabbit ears, radios, carriages and cars, and even books made of paper.

Keep the hammer down! Not much farther!

Mantras quick-stepped through her head as she prodded her stride to open despite constricted lungs and leaden legs. What she carried was that important, for Fire Season was approaching at what she sorely remembered had been dubbed “the quicksilver pace of progress” by the Dex.

Every so often, she’d come across a discarded Dex tablet, called “talkies” by her friends and family, that alternately leered and proselytized grandly at anyone within earshot. The Dex had sworn that such glitches would never, ever arise in their perfect world. They’d even sunk their hooks into a phrase whose former meaning was lost in the bowels of their dusty memories, changing it to “Profit macht frei.” Progress was profit and profit was progress to the beings who called themselves the Deus ex machina. Namely, the Dex represented a transmogrification of flesh into metal or other nonflesh, a silicon synthesis as polymer procreated with protein chain and cells cavorted with chips nested in nodes. They were one with their technology in the same way that Avie’s people had turned from its corroded facade in most facets of their daily lives. Her people were first named the Luddites or Luds, then the Neo-Luds or the Sentients, and were now pejoratively tagged by the Dex as Anti-Progressives or “Apes.” When they had to pigeonhole themselves, they usually went by the tag of Sents.

When Avie’s foot struck resounding, comfortable wood, her body should have flooded with relief. And it almost did. But for one thing.

Her shaded eyes fell to one pertinent symbol on the wall of the hill entering the group’s eastern enclave. “The Ape” mingled among graffiti, but in drone-sensitive ink. In effect, their haven had been DM’d, or drone-marked.

The Fire Season data obtained by spies in the northwestern camp would have to be put off a little longer.

Sage would be waiting, and she’d need to alert everyone. The Sents were easy prey and the Dex had the hate machine cranked up to complete annihilation.

THE END

*Pokers: Slang for shoes so rotted that toes, heels, or other foot anatomy poked through.


As a “reward” for slogging through these stories (thank you!), I’d like to share a few (mostly WordPress) sites I’ve seen that have challenges or contests running currently. Of course I would like to list them all, but space. And all that.

  •  Fantasy author Ksenia Anske’s “Mad Tutu Writing Competition,” due 11 July. May the magic be with you!
  • Week 20 of Haiku Horizons. It’s party time! Due Sunday, 13 July.
  • Former Trifectans are stoking the fires of the “Light and Shade” weekly challenge. Cruise over to the 7 July prompt, which features an image or a quote to spark the imagination. Keep it short, at 500 words or fewer.
  • Yeah Write hosts an array of weekly challenge grids, from poetry to personal essay to fiction. Get started here.

Busy Monsters: Flash Fiction

abandonedplaygroundpic

Creator: Wim Van den Eynde. Source: abandonedplaygrounds.com. Picture prompt provided by The Scribe’s Cave. Check it out!

Clouds stalked the bright sky like drifting plastic bags pregnant with latrine water. Avie quickened her cadence down the path she’d been taught no drone could access, where her shadow’d been smothered an hour before. She was the group’s swiftest trail runner, even with the pokers* she wore.

She nearly spiraled to her knees cresting a clot of invasive roots about 5½ kilometers from home. Instead, her palms took the force, bore brute furrows of scrapes. In one lupine motion, she wiped her hands on trouser legs and sprang up from the crouch. In that tunnel of oak and hemlock before she reached the wooden ascent—the home straight—felt like—and was—danger incarnate.

Sage would be waiting in the sanctuary of the park. Nicking his ragged nails in the relative safety of the unlit “House of Horrors” of old.

Not much farther!

Mantras quick-stepped through her head as she prodded her stride to open despite constricted lungs and leaden legs. What she carried was important, for Fire Season was approaching at what she sorely remembered had been dubbed “the quicksilver pace of progress” by the Dex.

Progress was profit and profit was progress to the beings who called themselves the Deus ex machina. The Dex were one with their technology in the same way that Avie’s people had turned from its corroded facade in most facets of their daily lives.

When Avie’s foot struck resounding wood, her body should have flooded with relief. And it almost did. But for one thing.

Her shaded eyes fell to one pertinent symbol on the wall of the hill entering the group’s eastern enclave. “The Ape” mingled among graffiti, in drone-sensitive ink. In effect, their haven had been DM’d, or drone-marked, and the Dex would soon be coming for them.

####

*Pokers: Slang for shoes so rotted that toes, heels, or other foot anatomy pokes through.

THE END


This short fiction piece, or flash fiction, if you will, was written especially for the Scribe’s Cave Picture Prompt #28. I encourage you to seek out these WordPress challenges, such as this one, and to have fun and learn all you can from your fellow writers and passionate readers. If you guys and gals would like it, I can post the “long-form” version of this story, about 532 words, that I whittled down to this 298-word flash fiction. Fire away your feedback cannons, folks — and thank you!