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.

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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.

Midweek Markets: The Dark Earth Edition

If there’s any auspicious day to be a writer, it’s most likely today, William Shakespeare’s birthday. But I’ll spare you the astrology and entrails- or tea-leaf readings and simply wish the Bard a happy birthday. What do you get the 450-year-old cultural icon who has everything? Naturally, you write in his honour.

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Title page of the First Folio, with copper engraving of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout. Image courtesy of Elizabethan Club and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University (via Wikipedia).

On that note, here are some midweek markets to help you blast away that coating of quintessence-dust!

  1. Get grisly: Writer, it’s the wee hours of the morning and you’re plotting revenge. If you can scare people with your own desert places or alien races, then Dark Markets could be after your new blood. Check out this clearinghouse/treasure-trove of sources and resources to send your “dark” writing darlings out to, for possible sacrifice. It’s wordcraftery, Lovecraftery, and more!
  2. Love Your Mother: Brother, can you spare a rhyme? Okay, it need not rhyme, but if you can tap into a brevity of wit about Mother Nature/Earth Day, Six-Word Memoirs and SMITH magazine want your six-worded thoughts. Their SixContest #22 seeks nuggets of “What You’d Say to Mother Nature” and features a small prize (a keychain). Submit through Friday, 25 April, until 3:00PM ET, on their site. Good green luck to you all!
  3. You down with OTP? That would be On the Premises, “a Web-based fiction magazine . . . [that] aims to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write what we feel are creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose.” There are no entry fees. Nonetheless, they offer cash prizes, publication/exposure for winners, and free critiques for contest finalists who do not get published (nonfinalists can also purchase critiques). The latest contest unravels in the form of decisions. They write: One or more characters face an especially difficult decision.” To find further criteria for your “1,000 but no more than 5,000 words” piece due 30 May 2014, visit OTP online. Note that they also hold mini-contests (with small cash prizes) for only their e-newsletter subscribers. My personal observation as a several-year newsletter subscriber is that if you’ve got spec-fic (speculative fiction) chops, this market will be particularly fruitful for you.