Category Archives: Flash Fiction Friday

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18-May-2018

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What happens when a wizard gets a hold of a cuckoo clock

Drake sat on the rickety stool near a table. Ticking filled the air like a swarm of angry bees. He stared at one of the hundreds of cuckoo clocks that hung above him on the wall. Unlike the more traditional clocks, this one looked like a castle, complete with turrets, gargoyles, a trebuchet and little knights that would come out every hour, chasing a dragon.

Or was the dragon chasing them?

Drake could never tell.

His favorite part was when one of the towers caught on fire and burned.

His master had enchanted the clock when he had come of age. Now it was Drake’s turn.

The scratchy red robe—the formal attire for wizard testing—made his skin crawl, and the black cape pulled at his skinny shoulders, making him feel like he was going to topple off of his perch.

But the hat was the worst. Could they have nice, pointy hats where he could store his wand? No. They had to have big, bulbous things that looked like a turtle had camped on his head. And despite all of the room in them, he was not allowed to store anything there. Not even a snack.

Drake fingered his wand—a long, thin piece of hardwood that he’d pulled from a tree when he was six. That had been seven years ago. His time for parlor tricks had ended, and now his master expected him to enchant his own clock.

It sounded easy on the surface, but to do it properly, he had to change the structure of the thing while keeping the gears aligned so it would still tell time. Also, he needed to understand how to alter the characters. Which again sounded easy, but trying to talk a tiny wooden goat into becoming a much larger and more ferocious troll was going to be difficult. Not to mention twisting the house—a safe and warming place—into a stone bridge that the troll could live under.

Drake pictured the clock as it was now with its friendly house, a family and their animals along with the weights, and then went through each step for the transformation in his mind.

The really tricky part was going to be making the front porch into a flowing river.

As far as Drake knew, no one had tried it before. He would be the first. His name would go down in wizard history, just as his master’s had for the tower that burst into flames each time the clock struck twelve, and then rebuilt itself an hour later.

No one had shown Drake how to do any of this. Not directly. Magic was a mystery, and while they guild provided young apprentices with a Master, often the secrets had to be learned through trial and error.

It would be easier if their world had hard and fast rules for anything, but it didn’t. One day the sun would rise in the east, then in the west the next. Sometimes clouds would bring rain and other times they would rain down fire.

But magic, that was different. Once you made your own rules, you had to stick with them. Drake’s master could not do water magic. He’d used fire magic on his clock, and now that’s how his magic worked. No one knew what would happen when a young wizard enchanted a clock.

Once in a while an apprentice would disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.

Drake didn’t want that, but he also didn’t want to perform lesser changes on the clock and get stuck doing menial tasks for the guild for the rest of his life.

One of his friends, just two years older, had simply changed every color on their clock. Drake’s eyes darted to it. Now his friend sat in a clothing shop, adjusting colors of dresses, scarves and hats for women.

Drake wanted to shine. He wanted to be able to move along the rivers, which were deemed too dangerous for travel. With water magic, he would be able to do that.

He hoped.

The swish of robes sounded as the Elders entered the room.

Drake sat up straight and turned to look at them.

Six wizards—men and women—entered. His master followed them, holding Drake’s clock.

Drake had been waiting for this moment for years. He expected a big speech about magic and how it would change him and about all the good he could do. He was prepared for several minutes of rather dull exposition before they would get to the matter at hand.

None of this happened. Instead, the elder Elder dipped his head, his mustache brushing his knees, and spoke. “Are you ready?”

Drake blinked. “Uh, yes.”

The elder Elder motioned to Drake’s Master, who brought the clock forward, and set it on the table.

“Then proceed,” the elder Elder said.

It took a moment for Drake to catch up. The wizards stared at him. He slid off the stool and went to the table. He closed his eyes, picturing everything he wanted to do, and then willed the changes into the wand.

He spoke to the goat, assuring the animal that being a troll would be much more fun than being a goat. He sent cold into the house and twisted it into the bridge. Each character saw reason and transformed into its new form.

Then Drake concentrated on the stones. Movement. Water. Cool. Pure. Bubbling.

A light gurgle sounded. Drake put one last push into it, and then opened his eyes.

A smile spread his lips. He’d done it. He looked at his Master, and then the Elders.

They looked mildly impressed.

I opened my mouth to speak, but a bubble came out.

The elder Elder nodded. “Water wizard. Very rare. Very volatile.” He looked at Drake’s master. “Get him to the river before he dries out.”

Drake felt his eyes wide.

“Not to worry,” the elder Elder said, “maybe you can fix the tides.”

***

I hate it when I write one of these and I want to know more.

Sorry, there’s no more.

And yes, I did push the mystery genre a bit.

Genre – Mystery

Character – Wizard

Setting – In the City

Random Object – Cuckoo Clock

Theme – Coming of Age


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11-May-2018

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The last Christmas kaleidoscope projector in the galaxy

Ja’en gently opened the container. The flimsy lid, made out of the same material as the box, rotated up. Her eye stalks hovered, looking at the contents.

A faceted, clear ball peered back at her.

“What’s that?” Suc’e asked, leaning over the floating counter.

“Special order,” Ja’en said as she slipped a tentacle down the corner of the box and wrapped the base of the device.

The shop would open in a few minutes, and Ja’en had wanted to get everything in order before then. But this had distracted her. She heard the doors automatically unseal, but ignored them. No one came in this early.

The special order?” Suc’e’s insect eyes glittered as Ja’en pulled the item free.

“Yes.”

A black, metal cone attached the faceted clear ball to a sharp, plastic stem. A black cord exited  the cone. Ja’en wiggled the ball and cone and found that the assembly swiveled.

“What is it?” Suc’e asked. He turned his triangular head to the side and licked the air with what he called a tongue.

“I’m not sure, but it’s Earther.”

Suc’e scuttled back a step. “What?”

“Don’t believe everything you hear about the Earthers,” Ja’en said, still studying the ball.

“But they’re savages,” Suc’e said. “That’s probably a weapon.”

“Does this look like a weapon to you?”

“Doesn’t matter, my queen says that Earthers will kill you rather than look at you.”

A gruff voice spoke from behind Ja’en.

“Depends on how tasty you are.”

Ja’en jumped, and cradled the device next to her body. Her two hearts sped up, and her flight glands began to secrete.

Suc’e scuttled back another step, and held a pincer out in front of himself.

Ja’en stilled her energy and turned.

She’d never met the buyer. He’d always sent someone else to pick up his orders. She’d wondered why he never came. Now she knew.

Not many beings in the galaxy had seen a human in the flesh before. There were plenty of vids on the net of the destruction of Earth and all of their colonies, and none of them painted humans in a favorable light.

“Sir?” Ja’en said.

He pointed to the object in her tentacles. “I believe that’s my special order.”

It was difficult to gauge his mood. Humans didn’t change color or scent when they were angry. There was supposed to be a way to tell with their mouth, but Ja’en had never read the articles. This male—she was fairly certain he was male—had a scar that ran down one side if his dark face. Lines of hair sat above each of his small, cold eyes. The only other hair he had was on the top of his head, and as all humans, he covered the rest of himself.

“Uh, yes. Of course.”

Another customer came into the store, and Ja’en waved at Suc’e to go and take care of them. Her assistant practically ran away.

“May I?” he asked, pointing with his strange arm with fingers at the end.

“Yes.” Ja’en wrapped the object in two tentacles and offered it to him. She held her breath as the human’s hands came toward her. His fingers slowly, gently took the object from her.

Parts of his face changed as he studied it, turning it over and over in his hands. After a moment, he looked up.

“Do you have the box?”

“Here,” Ja’en said, pointing.

The human moved to the container, rummaged around inside and pulled a flat disc out of it. He removed the clear ball with a click and inserted the disc into the cone. Then he replaced the ball, pulled a small black box from his coat pocket and inserted the end of the cord into it.

Ja’en bit back a gurgled cry as light exploded from the faceted ball.

Colors that Ja’en couldn’t even describe appeared on the shop’s ceiling. Like stars, but different. And in its own way, beautiful. The array began to move, the entire thing twisting around an invisible axis.

She risked a glance at the human, afraid he was going to be upset at her outburst, but his eyes were on the ceiling. His face had changed again. Somehow it had softened. She plucked up her courage and asked, “What is it?”

He looked at her, and then at the array. “Back on Earth we had a holiday called Christmas. We celebrated giving and getting and love. My family had one of these when I was a little boy. My brother and I would sit at our window and watch it for hours.”

Ja’en could see why. There was a beautiful simplicity to it. Soothing.

Moisture gathered in the human’s eyes, but he blinked and it was gone. He pulled the plug and the display disappeared. He reached into another pocket and offered her a generous pile of credits.

“This is too much,” she said, waving her tentacles in front of her.

“You got it here early, just as I asked.” He slipped the machine back into the box and closed it. “If Earth were still around, Christmas day would be tomorrow.” He set the credits on the floating counter. “Thank you.”

Ja’en watched as he picked up the box and walked away.

What had he said? Giving, getting and love? Were those really things that Earthers valued? It sure hadn’t looked like it at the end.

But here was this human, thanking her. She moved toward the door. “I hope you have a good Christmas day.”

The human stopped. His body tensed, and Ja’en thought she had made a terrible mistake, but after a moment he turned. “I do to.”

***

I hate it when a short story like this explodes into more in my brain.

lalalalala, I’m writing something else right now!

Genre – Science Fiction

Character – Female

Setting – In a shop

Random Object – Christmas Kaleidoscope Projector

Theme – Death


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04-May-2018

I didn’t know that a Monkey Paw was a knot.

But that isn’t what this story is about.

The Prince stopped his horse and stared at the blood-soaked street. He could smell the tang of iron and the finality of death coming from the thousands of bodies in the city that had become a battlefield. The sun hung at the horizon, throwing rays of light that cast long shadows. A few once-men still moaned. The Prince’s soldiers were putting them out of their misery.

“Your majesty?” the Prince’s squire said in a meek voice. Somehow the boy had stayed on his horse through the entire battle. He’d even killed quite a number of the once-men.

“We need to find the Duke’s body before the sun sets,” the Prince said. “Fan out.”

“Yes, my lord,” the boy muttered. On any other day the Prince might punish him for his tone, but not today. Today was for much bigger things.

The Prince urged his horse forward, and the battle-hardened stallion picked his way through the bodies toward the intersection where the Duke had made his final stand. The squire paralleled his position on the next street over, also searching the ground.

The shadows elongated, and the bottom tip of the sun touched the distant mountains.

The Prince sped his horse up. They had to find it before dark.

“Here!” the squire shouted, waving his hand.

One pull of the reins was all it took for the Prince’s stallion to turn and gallop toward the squire.

A few of the Prince’s soldiers also ran toward the position.

The squire had dismounted, and was turning a body over. His eyes widened—a stark contrast to his dirt and blood-covered face. He looked up. “It’s him, my lord.”

“Step away,” the Prince commanded.

The squire obeyed. Soldiers came from each street, creating a loose circle around the intersection.

The Prince pulled his horse to a stop and jumped off. If not for the magic holding a deep cut on his leg together, he would have fallen, but the med mages had done their job, and he would live to fight another day.

Unlike the traitorous Duke.

The squire had indeed found the man. His gleaming armor had somehow come out of the battle almost unscathed. The arrow through the side of his head must have taken the Duke down.

And once he had died, the power had died with him. But it would reawaken if not claimed by another.

The Prince squat down and checked the Duke for a piece of leather around his neck. There was none. Frowning, the Prince began to search the man’s cloak.

“Surely he would have kept it closer than that,” the Prince muttered to himself.

He scowled when he found nothing.

“What are you looking for?” the squire asked.

“Be silent!” the Prince snapped. He pulled the Duke’s shoulder and turned him on his back.

The sun dipped farther, and what light remained turned grey. The soldiers around him began to shift. A moan came from a few feet away, and the squire turned to face away with his hand on his sword.

Eyes darting over the dead man’s body, the Prince finally saw what he was looking for. “Ah.”

The Prince gently took hold of the Duke’s gauntlet and tugged. It came off with little effort, and the bauble the Prince had been searching for spilled out.

“He kept it close.”

One soldier looked over his shoulder, caught a glimpse of the object and quickly turned away. None of the others were brave enough to do even that.

The Prince stood, holding the thing by a tiny chain that he’d had his royal jeweler put around it. The remaining sunlight illuminated the small, gnarled thing. Brown hair clung to the fingers and knuckles. Blackened claws curled into the palm. It was about the size of his big toe.

The moaning stopped.

Another soldier made a religious sign and started muttering prayers.

The squire, ever eager to learn, turned to the Prince. “What is it?”

The Prince glanced at the squire, and then back at the paw. “The Duke wanted to save his people from the plague. I’m sure he wished that those who had died would come back to life.”

The squire swallowed. “And it did this?”

“It did.”

“You gave it to him?”

“I allowed it to fall into his hands.” The Prince watched as  the sun set and the gleaming chain darkened.

“Because he was plotting against you.”

The Prince smiled and hooked the monkey’s paw to a leather strap around his own neck. “He dug his own grave.” He looked around at his triumph. “This plague cannot spread. Burn the city to the ground.”

***

The actual random object was a Monkey Fist, which is indeed a knot, but the story of the Monkey’s Paw is what came to mind, so that’s what I used.

Here’s a wiki article about the story.

Genre – Fantasy

Character – Someone in Charge

Setting – In the City

Random Object – Monkey Fist

Theme – Suffering


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27-Apr-2018

What happens when the villain meets true innocence?

It’s difficult to concentrate on murder with a set of big, blue eyes staring at you over the back of a seat.

The little girl watched me as I watched the people waiting for trains. Some smiled and sat on the edge of their seats, anxious to be off. Others slumped back with their eyes closed and their trunks at their feet or beside them.

Each person that entered brought the dust from outside. Spurs clanked as the men with boots walked in and sat. Ladies dresses swished. Bonnets covered hair. Hats sat on knees. One family had their hands full with twin boys about four years old who found being chased around the benches to be the most exciting thing that had ever happened to them.

I sat in the corner, waiting. My gaze never stayed too long on one person. I didn’t miss anyone who came through the door.

And yet the sensation of the little girl in front of me, who couldn’t be more than three years old, watching me would not leave.

So I gave in, for the fifth time, and looked at her. This time I smiled.

I was surprised that she didn’t start crying. I’d let my black beard grow wild, and my gold tooth probably shone in the light. While she had those innocent blue eyes, I had dark, shifty eyes with brows that hung low. This alone should have told her to stop staring.

Instead she smiled a shy smile. Dimples creased her round cheeks and I could have sworn a blush rose from her neck. She giggled and buried her blond curls into the once white blanket that she held in her hands.

Her mother turned to see what the little girl was giggling about, saw me, gave me a scowl—as any sensible person would do—and turned around. She tried to get the little girl to sit, but that lasted all of six seconds before she was back to watching me.

I hadn’t seen my own daughter in almost ten years. For good reason. I wasn’t a good man. Her mother was a good woman. I’d left them plenty of money and hadn’t looked back. Hopefully she’d found a nice man to marry who was raising my daughter to be a lady.

I shook my head and turned my attention back to the task at hand.

A shadow crossed the window. The door opened and a man’s silhouette—complete with cowboy hat—blocked the light.

I shifted in my seat.

That was him.

Marshal Martelle. He’d hunted down most of my gang. He’d thwarted the last train robbery we’d tried. And while he’d never seen me, as far as I was aware, I knew who he was.

The tall shadow strode into the station, resolving into a slender man hauling a small bag. Shaggy blond hair poked out from under the hat. His shiny star was pinned to his vest. A scar ran down his right cheek. A pistol sat on each hip, with enough ammo present to take care of everyone in the room.

I licked my lips, but made no other move. I could be patient.

The little girl in front of me leaned over the seat, still watching me.

I ignored her, keeping one eye on the man and the other eye on the door. Had he come alone? I dropped one hand to my own pistol and popped the strap on my holster.

The little girl giggled.

Good thing I was planning to draw him out back before shooting him, or I might feel guilty for killing a man in front of children.

The Marshal tipped his hat to a couple of men in the room, but his eyes scanned the crowd. Maybe he knew who I was. But his gaze didn’t get to me. Instead, it stopped at the woman and child in front of me.

“There is he is,” the woman said. She physically turned the little girl away from me and toward the Marshal.

“Daddy!” the little girl squealed. As graceful as a kitten, she maneuvered her chubby little form off the bench and ran across the room.

Daddy?

My heart stopped.

The Marshal dropped his bag, squat down and opened his arms. The little girl ran into them. The woman rose to meet the Marshal, and once he had scooped up his daughter, he rose and embraced his wife with one arm and a kiss on the head.

I scowled.

Whatever words the happy family spoke did not get across the room and into my brain.

What did get to me was the little girl. The Marshal picked up his bag, turned his back on me and started toward the door, but the girl twisted over his shoulder. Her eyes found mine, and she smiled. Her chubby fingers waved in the way only a small child can. Those eyes.

Those damn eyes.

I pressed my lips together and watched the happy family leave the station.

Revenge was going to have to wait for another day.

***

So cute. I almost gagged.

Genre – Western

Character – Villain

Setting – A Station

Random Object – Security Blanket

Theme – Love Conquers All


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