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 Bermuda Banishment


Friday Fictioneers photograph courtesy of Marie Gail Stratford. Be sure to check out her fiction and other works, too.

Flash Fiction by Leigh Ward-Smith

Genre: Modern Fantasy

For Friday Fictioneers, 26 Sept. 2014


A swell of laughter pushed through fleshy lips the color of the Calypso Deep.

“The Egyptians got it wrong with all that Isis prattle.” He traced the rough underside of an amber bottle with his thumb.

“Me, I relished washing impertinent man ashore.”

He marveled at his collection, which now filled thirty-three warehouses and the bar in Bermuda.

“Even Zeus’ conquests cannot rival mine. From every ellipse of the Earth and practically every nationality and language!”

His hubris drifted to rage about the banishment. At least I have these glass reminders of measly man, he gestured.

“In the end, I judge all humans’ hearts are the same.”

He picked a bottle at random and hurled it to the stone floor.



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.



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).



Two Become One (Fiction)

WARNING!! Possible triggers: child loss, genetic/fetal illness, miscarriage, spousal loss.

dancing shiva

This 11th-century statue is held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is called Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja), and melds in one image Shiva’s role as “creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe and conveys the Indian conception of the never-ending cycle of time.”

Sometime before the anesthetic began to swaddle her in silence, Reena Estling let her eyes travel up the wall to what should have been a benign painting of the sun skimming across still water. Instead, she saw flaming arrows. A mortal struggle of two elements—light and liquid, each comfortable in its skin of confirmed and utter puissance.

I am become death radiated from her core, impaling the air and the hospital bed equally and shooting shafts through the room. As she felt herself being lifted, she wondered how the thought did not maim her halcyon attendants. The thought became a chant, reminded her of Daddy’s horse cantering amid the snow at Christmastime. Quarterhorse snorts and bells bit through layers of memory, and she felt herself nickering.

An unbroken line of lights and currents from opened doors caressed her mind, and the rock-a-byeing sent her deeper into herself.

To where David still was. He wouldn’t mind the gown hanging gauntly on her frame. “My lovely girl” he’d called her well until the AARP offers began to pile up under the roll-top of the secretary desk they shared.

And then she relived the settling in. It was a plush sofa of a married life.

Has it been that long, my love? he beckoned. She couldn’t remember for her life when she first began to notice him changing. First it was innocuous: the keys with the Cardinals bat, his brown leather gardener’s gloves that were worn through, from use, at the fingertips. It evolved to eclipse memories of their honeymoon 51 years earlier on Key West.

Come with me. She heard David’s urgings mingling with sea sounds as if both were imprisoned in a conch shell. Walk with me, my lovely girl.

He was barefoot, but the beach bore no prints.

I can’t. She hoped he understood. She had to put this right.

Reena didn’t even have time to let her neighbor and best friend, Maryanna, know that Dr. Roberts had prepared her for an emergency procedure.

How can you truly explain such an extraordinarity? A stone baby. Reena made Dr. Roberts repeat it five times. He’d used the medical term, lithopedion, to name her little mystery. “You have a calcified fetus in your abdomen, and we’ve got to excise, uhm, it to give you some pain relief.”

O, god! My immune system has mummified my own child!

David should have been with her for this. She needed him there, for he had wanted a child so fiercely.

She wasn’t sure if the memories were balkanizing, each clawing to come to the top of her mind, or if the medication was making hashish of her mind. Now David’s fingers were ash, laced tightly around her right wrist. He was almost pleading, pulling her toward the noise. The next moment, the nurse was doing her best to fix a mask of calm across her own hovering face.

David, we have a child. He needs me. I cannot leave with you today.

Reena wondered if she’d feel it when their son was taken. She’d known David was gone before Sandy, the Memory Care nurse, had called her. That morning she’d woken to a chill nestled in her chest, some forlorn egg. Such sorrow had not surfaced since they’d miscarried a child 46 years ago.

Son, my body has been a shrine to the promise of you, praying for you. And now I learn I am a mausoleum. Please forgive me for letting you go. She flung the thought out like shaking a bib free of cracker crumbs, hoping it would catch some cloud, some thing in the process of going-away-forever.

This is a fiction piece, or flash fiction if you prefer, that I wrote for a particular prompt, but it didn’t catch fire (so to speak). I hope you took something beneficial away from reading this story and will consider sharing or reading this blog again sometime; I typically post new fiction (or occasionally poetry) at least once a week. And I always welcome your feedback to improve my writing; I hope I can offer you likewise if you’re a writer. My best regards to you.

Silly Sunday Short Fiction: The (Ob)Noxious Saleswoman

A shortie here that I did, but never submitted, for some once-upon writing challenge about “painted into a corner.” No umbrage meant to salespeople (been there, done that). But hope you enjoy!

Before I even realized it, I was backed up against the “Tutus for your Dog” display. Lemme tell you, butterfly patterns were unbecoming to my backside.

Sage interrogated the air around me, and peach punctured my nostrils.

“C’mon, hun, these make great gifts for anybody,” she implored with an ‘I’ll get-you-my-pretty, and your little dog-too,’ come-to-me waggle of her finger. My silent, snarky rejoinder: “Yeah, right. Great for anybody whose nose has suddenly harakiri’ed off the precipice of their face.”

My eyes pleaded with passers-by, who glided (glid? glode? Can’t think words times like these, just slinking, weaving, eerrr, twist torso, get away, ahhhh) by, wayward swans leaving luxe in their wakes. My bony hand gripped my daughter’s small wing-like one and wrenched it forward and away from the sweep of that coal-ash discharge pipe of a woman with thickly painted eyelids and spiked fingernails. The latter I knew because they’d raked my flesh, and four ashen furrows now bore proof.

Quick! Bulk lunging left to block way! Mooooovve, kiddo! I pitched my left hipwhere I’d once cradled her gelatinous bodyinto Maddie with a masterful mommy shove. All pelvis and pinched-up nose. (“Anger-danger face” her little brother would call it.)

“This is the last straw,” I at last lobbed to the pushy potpourri-candle-perfumery saleswoman who was now arcing right. “Leave us alone!” came out a bit louder than I’d intended.

Then we turned and fled down a bisecting aisle, making like two 80s-era moms chasing a blue-light special on Cabbage Patch Dolls on Dec. 24th.

Flash Fiction: Touching Up the Gray

Genre: Dystopian sci-fi, flash fiction

As you step into the room that’s purposefully drained of color, your skin shifts, tries to hide its roots from me.

I don’t believe it. It’s World Leader Sangre! Here? In my research lab! What could she possibly want? It’s certainly not the publicity.

“Lady Sangre, it’s a distinct honor to have you here. May I ask why you are paying me a visit on this of all days? Surely you know the daily forecast is dodgy at best.”

Brushing aside my faux empathy, she blundered on. “Skin-perfecting,” she tentatively pokes at the air to bring up the advertisement bubble’s catchphrase. Magazines had dozens of decades since liquidified into denizens of the air, summoned forth like Athena from Zeus’ headache at the stab of a finger, epithelium-covered, mech, or otherwise.

“Can you do the opposite or at least make me think you can?” She gestured at the Damarcadian model in the latest issue of Womens Underground Today slathering synthetic eagle-tail oil on her time-disfigured face. Her voice is pitched just below a whispered beg, but her eyes worry the air where the model’s transformation hangs its now mercurially beaming face.

Presumably seeing my hesitation (did my face slide back its screen?), she continues. “I just want to feel the . . . creature comforts of my own old cells again. Please.”

Flesh-bound idiot!

I must have wrinkled my otherwise perfectly structured nose (if I do say so myself), because she reached across the charged space for my synth-enclosed hands. Like most all of us these days, she was nano-small but her bristles drilled crude indents into me so effectively, I could almost call up a dim memory of what pain was.

“Surely you can reverse the process that you yourself pioneered! I can offer you anything you want in payment. Potable water. Access to drought-resistant agriculture. The latest and best unsullied air. The newest tunneling technology for your dominion. (Yawn. I’d rather have unfettered access to the seed and gene catalogs.)”

Still, I dithered. Could there be more riches she’s not mentioning, like safe transport—?”

“Any. Thing!” she interrupted with outstretched hands, palms tremulous, but up.

“It’s a deal,” I said at last, pulling the skull saw and forceps from the case as I eased into my sales spiel. “Here at YouGenics lab, the focus is on you and the traveler inside your head. But don’t worry, the brain re-wrinkling process is non-irritating, doesn’t abrade the nostrils too much, and is absolutely completely 100% reversible.  . . .”


A scene from a fantastic movie, Terry Gilliam's "Brazil."

This microfiction was partly inspired by a scene from a fantastic movie, Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.” See it, if you haven’t already.


Six Words on Spring Renewal

Boing, boing. No, that’s not the sound of my last wit snapping.

Here in the States, it is Spring, and for the religious, a series of holidays/holydays are occurring. If nothing else, it is a time for a renaissance of Nature.

To that end, Six Words/Smith magazine is seeking—but only until 3 p.m. CST today, so get hopping—your six-word ruminations on renewal. If you don’t participate over there (technically, I’m not participating with them either), feel free to direct me to your six-word post.

Here are a few I played around with; hope you enjoy them. Likewise, your day and weekend!

Six-Word Meditations on Spring

Last year’s tomatillos, diaphanous snow globes.

Noticed hole in soul; went running.

Chives sprouting, daughter’s skin like onions.

Violets bouquet the grass with bruises.

Bunny ricochets yard detritus: Spring’s harrier.

Ornamental pear flaring; beetles begin awakening.

Monday Writing Markets, The Speculative Fiction Edition

Hic sunt dracones!

Three-headed Russian dragon

A three-headed Russian dragon (titled “Общины св. Евгении,” 1912) from Wikimedia Commons. Originally by Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin.

For those of us many years in arrears on our Latin studies, as I, this phrase is translated as “Here are dragons.” To date, this sentence has been found on a dyad of old globes.

Dragons perhaps best typify that crux of imagination and uncertainty. They are terrible and terrifying to some, powerful and majestic myth to others.

On that note, let’s get on the trail of some speculative-fiction writing markets, where I hope you’ll be able to chart your own course to creativity, complete with dragons or critics (or do I repeat myself?). As always, please read back issues of the publications themselves (where available) or subscribe to them; scour their pages or Web sites to see what work they like to publish; do your own research on the market(s); and, if you decide to submit, marry yourself to their submission guidelines or calls for queries.

  1. Even if you’ve never personally made the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs, if you write science fiction (or fantasy), Parsec might be just the venue for you. Their latest short story contest, with a theme of “parch,” seeks stories from the horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres. “Stories must be original, unpublished, unsold and no more than 3500 words in length,” and can be submitted only by non-professional writers, whom they define as “those who have not met eligibility requirements for SFWA or equivalent: sale of a novel or sale of 3 stories to a large circulation publication.” Deadline is April 30, so throw on that wingéd thinking cap!
  2. Try it before it’s gone (time travel notwithstanding): Kazka Press has an unthemed SFF (“sci-fi, fantasy, horror, or related sub-genres”) writing contest, called 713 flash fiction after a previous incarnation of a 713-word count, whose deadline is April 20 and, the month after that, nil.Sadly, this speculative fiction competition is closing after April 2014, so get to work on your as-yet-unpublished short story between 500 and 1,000 words. They note that “If you’re selected as a winner of our monthly contest, we’ll purchase First Worldwide Electronic Rights from you for $15, regardless of word count.”
  3. And now, at last armageddon (translation: I’ma gettin’) to this week’s last market. Do you have a disturbing apocalyptic potboiler of a manuscript? Then Dystopia Press might be just the place for your chiseled wordcraftery. DP publishes “post apocalyptic (what happens after the world/civilization collapses) and dystopian (what happens after the world/society veers off in some disturbing direction) trade paperback novels.” If you have an 80,000- to 100,000-word unpublished manuscript, consider working up a synopsis and sending them the first 50 double-spaced pages of the edited manuscript. Submissions are managed free via the online service Submittable. Read complete submission details here.

Happy wordcrafting, fellow spec-fic-ionados!


And the Clocks Tick Maliciously

Bleeding Pen--Objects

Writing is bleeding. Photograph ©Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014.

I was adrift, but now I’m back on familiar sands. To celebrate, here are a couple of sifted fifties of flash fiction for your reading Schadenfreude (only kidding!), submitted for the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge.

And the Clocks Tick Maliciously

While hiking, Ava rolls memories—arils of time—on her tongue. The blurred bridge from mother to daughter grows acrid, sways, begins to cinder. Cells synchronize, but strands draw taut. She forces violets to ease through mind grooves and presses any relics of familial contusions under sandals, into yielding clay.

Little Lives in Play

Your curly mop wheels with the wind. Dervish, sprite, or joy made bodied, you stack worlds skyward with your words. Shouts tumble out, raft down to me, Huck-like. Then, Icarean, on the highest rung, arms suddenly scissoring, and a sick smack of watermelon-splitting.

I wake in a skin of sweat.