Day 6 of Thrilling Fiction: The Mutant in Microfiction

DragonEye Supermoon

Once upon a time one cloudy night . . .

Day 6 (Oct. 24 for me, though strangely not according to WordPress) has dawned and almost passed by. Here’s to crepuscular creative writing!

I had the good luck to rescue a huge turtle from the middle of the road today (safely, yay for us both!), as well as accomplish some Samhain shopping with ninja kid #1.

If only I could have invited those of you who enjoy breakfast for dinner to our dinner of homemade banana pancakes, crescent rolls stuffed with either spinach, cheese, tomato, and pepperoni or some variation on that theme, and pomegranate arils. Too bad the bread’s hidey-hole didn’t fool ninja #2 into eating his vegetables.

As to writing, I knew I wanted to do a story featuring neither the “real world” nor science fiction, but rather either something inanimate or something Other, probably in the “monster” realm. So, here you have it: very short and not so creepy today. Oh well. This microfiction story was based on a prompt I did a year or two ago, I think with me needing to use the words flammable, heroic, and caring.

Enjoy the respite from a longer story!

Her Mutant Mate

Caring. Heroic. The words circled three times and flopped down in Zia’s mind.

It was nothing of the sort. Instinctual, yes. Stoic, probably. Possibly even as cold as she imagined the moon’s surface to be.

Nevertheless, it was just what she did. Her chosen lot, for her love and her light: Nils.

He whimpered from his wheelchair. The slobber slid down the stubble-bordered crevices around his mouth, and she moved to blot them, knowing he’d probably twist his neck away—and yet, never be able to articulate exactly why.

She noticed that he wasn’t nearly as alert today. Each day leached more energy from him while also lashing her closer to his side.

Life is both flammable and fickle, she thought as she stroked him to sleep.

Especially when you’re mated—and as good as married—to an aging werewolf.

####THE END####

Busy Monsters, Long-Form: Flash Fiction

scribescavepictureprompt-pic-number29

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!

Friday Fictioneers: Meditatin’ on a Museum Wall

GENRE: Fiction with a historical angle, highly dialectical (Southern United States)

WORD COUNT: Too many for FF! (191 words)


Photograph "Old Wallpaper" copyright Mary Shipman.

Photograph “Old Wallpaper” copyright Mary Shipman.

Ever’body just stares and stares at the wall. Sump’un about people dat dey luuuuuuv a stony myst’ry, love them some bustin thu splinters an all.

From de time people, dey first built huts or stacked sticks and hung hides, dere been dat need tuh be boxed-out. Or is it tuh wall sump’un in?

All I know is, I come to my desk at dis museum, 8-sharp, 6 days a week. I make coffee so good, ever’body jaws ’bout it.

Mostly tourists come thu, but dey suhprise me now’n’agin.

“Why they bother to hide free-slave papers there?” a wheat-haired kid ’bout 8 crooked a thumbs-up at the two exposed vaults just yest’day.

“Cause de men chasin’ dem on this here railroad didn’t care nutin’ for freedom noway. They hearts was rotted out like parts of dis wall.”

Well, I made it my job to open de curtains wide each an ever’day at the Crossroads Underground Railroad Museum, so as nobody try’n’hide from de past no more. Uglified or not.

I ain ’bout to let no dadgum barrier be throwed up crosst any people’s necks evah agin. We all de same race. Human.


For Friday Fictioneers, 20 June 2014 “Summer Re-Run,” by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Any feedback welcomed as always, especially to help nail down the dialect.

 

 

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.

A Memory of Mountains

Photograph courtesy of and copyrighted by Erin Leary. She writes, too. Go visit her!

Photograph courtesy of and copyrighted by Erin Leary. She writes, too. Go visit her!

His field filling up with fog that clung like a kind of cloudy cobwebbing to the tines of the mountain maple, hemlock, and white pine.

“Bah, those times are long-gone!” William Wallace MacIntyre, whose granddaddy Robert had a hand in naming him after a rumored relative, shoved the old photo back into a bulging envelope marked Family Memories 1951-1975.

Misty-Lyn’s baby will never grow up to see fingers of light tracing a ridge of sprawling, awing yellow and auburn. Never fish or take a dip in a sky-clean stream. The only mountain lights that child will ever see will come from them damn machines!

He winced as he worked the stick he’d cut earlier that month, pearl-handled pocketknife sliding and shearing as nimbly as ever, only pausing to sandpaper with the final touches later in the day.

Hillbilly older than Methusaleh’s housecat poses with Imperium Coal CEO Glenn Reed at site of proposed mountaintop removal. He imagined the goateed young photographer’s snarky caption.

“Well, we’ll see who has the last laugh this time.”

A grim chuckle escaped thin lips choked by wrinkles, as if ivied.

“Let’s go thu the big spot agin’, Gran-daddy!” Misty-Lyn’s cute gap-toothed smile swam up gradually from memory as he finished the walking stick by hand-winding a leather grip at the top and putting on the cap-piece: a phoenix . . . with a little extra spice, he thought. That through-mountain “spot” tunnel, too, would be taken out by Reed’s project as it thundered down the hollers he loved.

He thought of Misty-Lyn and her baby again as he struggled to his feet with his own newborn creation. The press and the CEO’s entourage would be there soon, and he didn’t want to be late to meet Mr. Reed.

***

Tuning out the old man’s yarn, Glenn Reed instead zoned in on the cursive “do unto others” painstakingly burned into the masterful walking stick and the birdy motif on the top near the grip, evidently leather, fantasizing if there might be some way to monetize the old coot’s obvious woodworking skills.

Maybe a series of on-demand subscriber videos, with different levels for different dollar-values, he mused.

When he saw Mr. MacIntyre’s cane rising, rising, through a molasses of air, to tap him in the dead-center of the chest, the last thing he expected was for his world to go ear-splittingly dark.


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ weekly Friday Fictioneers challenge. This is way, way overlong (by almost 4 times, clocking in around 398 words). If you are curious about either mountaintop mining or the legend of Cole Mountain Light (as a North Carolinian, I had as my original inspiration the Brown Mountain Lights, but the Old North State didn’t work as a setting here), check out these links.

 

 

 

 

Language Lessons with Vincent Price

I’ve got Michael Jackson on my mind a lot lately; I’m not sure why, and no matter what I do, he just won’t beat it. In any case, you have him to thank or curse for this latest writing effort, a short fiction piece that plays with denotations: namely, the word funk (noun), third definition, meaning “a slump.”

It is loosely based on a prompt for the Trifecta writing challenge, which asks for 33 to 333 words on funk. Mine falls outside the word count, at just past 500 words, and I won’t have time to shave it down before the deadline, but here’s a light, fluffy piece for a change of pace. I hope you enjoy it, especially in a week filled with so much negative world news.

***

FICTION, HUMOR

Language Lessons with Vincent Price

©Leigh Ward-Smith, 2014

Gwen Marsh didn’t know how she’d get past the gargoyle at the gate—weather-bitten Mrs. Brainerd. She of the Oil of Olay stench and inky fingers.

VincentPricefromTheBat-greggorysshocktheatertumblr

This is a publicity still from the movie The Bat (1959), starring Vincent Price. Obtained at GreGGory’s Shock Theater site.

She pressed the brittle-boned paperback closer to truant cleavage as if it were a secret Valentine. Or, in this case, a vile-entine. Gwen could nearly hear Ashley’s breathy words from yesterday: D’ya really think so? I guess we could ask an older kid. Push play again. More hushed giggles.

She glanced down and let the book fall away from her chest: The Totally Bawdy Book of Hickory-Switch Humor, Putrid Put-Downs, and Salacious Slang.

Mom would tan my hide if she knew I had this book, not to mention how I’d gotten it. It was marked for check-out by adults only, in Mrs. Brainerd’s precise hand—and lovingly sealed with twine besides.

I’ve got to go through with this! Gwen pumped herself up to do the unthinkable.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Brainerd was stamping away, going one-by-one through a stack of returns. Every so often, she’d squint and wrinkle her upper lip like Elvis’ evil clone, close the cover harshly, and audibly humph.

Gwen needed some kind of diversion. Pulling the fire alarm lever might work, but then if it didn’t, she’d be in even deeper doo.

Oh, for the love of Michael Jackson! Gwen imagined the pink leather jacket shimmering in the closet she shared with her little sister. It wasn’t the signature look, but it was the best her parents could afford.

“What the . . . funk?” she whispered, letting the forbidden word coil around her conscience. Maybe it doesn’t mean what we think it means. Ashley’s a Southern Baptist, so how would she know? She isn’t even allowed to watch TV, much less buy a cassette. “Devil music,” her parents would probably say.

Gwen strained to remember all the lyrics. I’m sure the spooky old dude in the song says “funk.” She had slipped back to a table near the bathrooms. It was almost closing time. In a few minutes, the plucked vulture would flap her wings, circle through the library, and catch Gwen red-faced.

She dug in her backpack and fished out fingernail clippers. After two clips, she was in, with fingers sprinting to salacious slang.

There it was! But, then, no. This word has no n. She scratched at her black curls, but after a few moments thought to race to the open dictionary at the end of the reference section stacks.

C-D-F. She moved her finger down the page.“Funk . . .” she read the definitions quietly to herself.

Dang, don’t I feel like a fool! Michael, how could you trick me? I am most definitely not thrilled!

Even as Gwen was lamenting her luck, she ceased to be aware of her surroundings. Only the click-click-click brought her back, and she turned to face Mrs. Brainerd . . . and her Fate.

Talk about a funk! I have a feeling I’m gonna be in one long, grounded slump by the time she’s done talking to my mom about this “unfortunate incident.”

THE END