Category Archives: Flash Fiction Friday

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20-Sept-2019

Doggies, and bottles, and trains, oh my!

Daryl straightened his crisp uniform and knocked politely on the door to the train car.

“One moment,” an elderly woman’s voice said.

One glance out the window behind him showed an arm of the Milky Way in all of its glory. Maybe he’d get to take an excursion at their next stop.

The lock on the door clicked.

Daryl plastered on a smile and hoped that this woman didn’t have a car full of Seulra cats with her. He was never going to get the silver fur off of his pants.

The door opened to reveal an elderly woman dressed in the latest cubic fashion holding a small, white animal in one arm. Daryl wasn’t sure which one looked more snooty, the woman or the dog.

“Mrs. Filton, my name is Daryl. I’ll be taking care of you on your journey.” He held out a data card. “Just hold this in your hand and talk. I will be able to hear you.”

She eyed the card with distrust.

“Ma’am, is there anything you need as we’re departing?” He really wanted her to say no.

To his relief, she shook her head. “No, young man, we’re fine. If we need you, we will call.”

With that she shut the door again.

Daryl blinked, then sighed. Either she would be the quietest guest on this trip, or the most demanding. Only time would tell. He quickly introduced himself to his last two cars, then made his way back to his station.

The other two stewards, Tikei and Jega had arrived, and were talking about their charges.

“I’ve got one with three little kids who look like they’ve never been told no. I bet you there is at least a thousand credits worth of damage to the car by the time they leave,” Jega said.

“Two men with their mistresses,” Tikei said.

Daryl winced for them, then said, “Selura cats.” He pointed to his pants.

Tikei reached into a cubby and pulled out a ball. Daryl started rubbing it on his legs.

Daryl had barely finished—having got at least ninety-five percent of the hair off—when a chime sounded in his ear, and a women’s monotone voice spoke. “Car 34. Mrs. Filton.”

“Great,” Daryl muttered. He turned the channel on. “Mrs. Filton, what can I do for you?”

“Young man, I can’t find my dog’s water bottle.”

“Your dog’s water bottle?” Daryl said, trying to sound as if he cared.

The other two shook their heads.

“That’s what I said. Get here right away and help me find it.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Jega grinned. “Old and needy?”

“Apparently.” Daryl sighed, got up and headed back toward cabin 34.

Mrs. Filton answered right away. Her once neat, grey bun had been pulled at, and Daryl could hear a low growl coming from the bed. “Young man, I must find my dog’s water bottle!”

Daryl let his training take over. “When was the last time you saw it?”

“I gave Candy Cane his drink when we got to the car. Now it’s missing!” The woman’s voice rose to a wail. “I have to find it.”

Poor dog had an unfortunate name.

“Mrs. Filton, where do you remember putting it down?”

“Right there!” She pointed at the dresser.

Daryl peeked around the dresser, looked under and opened all of the drawers.

“It might have fallen and rolled into the hall when those children came by.”

Children? Daryl stopped his search and stood. “Can you give me a description of the bottle?”

Mrs. Filton stared at him as if he’d just grown horns.

“What color was it?” Daryl did his best to keep his voice even.

“Uh, pink.”

Shocking. “What brand?”

Candy Cane whined.

Mrs. Filton sniffed. “He won’t drink out of anything else.”

“I understand. The more information you can give me, the better chance we have of finding the bottle.”

She blinked.

“Do you perhaps have a picture?”

“Ah. Yes.” She pulled a data pad from her bosom and swiped it to life. Pictures filled the air, and she pushed them aside until she found one with the bottle in it.

Daryl recognized the make and model. “Are there any identifying marks?”

“Just his paw print on the bottom.” Tears welled in her eyes as Candy Cane whined again.

“In red paint?”

“White.”

“Perfect.” Daryl pat the air with his hands. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Filton, we’ll find it for you soon. Do your best to remain calm.”

More hair cascaded from her bun as she nodded.

Daryl stepped back out into the hall and bolted to his station and sat.

“Problem?” Tikei asked.

“Missing doggie water bottle. It’s pretty much the end of the universe.” Daryl blinked, and a copy of the picture Mrs. Filton had shown him appeared on a screen. He hit a button. “Can I get one of these 3-D printed as soon as possible? Add a small, white paw print from the dog in cabin 34.”

“You’re not even going to look for it?” Jega asked.

“Why? I think the kids from your section took it.”

“Ah. Never mind. Good plan.”

“I thought so.”

***

I’ve been writing a story in first person, so going back to third person really fried my brain!

Genre – Space Western

Random Item – Doggie Water Bottle

Setting – Sleeper Car on a Train


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13-Sept-2019

Sorry to those with a queasy stomach…

Melanie sat in the booth surrounded by half-eaten burgers and already discarded toys in relative peace and quiet. It had been at least fifteen minutes since anyone had invaded her personal space, touched her with a sticky hand, or screamed mommy in her ear so loud she thought it might burst.

Sure, the general din of the indoor playground was rather allowed, but at least it wasn’t just her kids screaming. It was more like a jungle, with a low grumble and once in awhile a particularly high or loud voice would stand out from the rest kind of like a monkey but not quite.

If not for the disgusting smell of ketchup, it might have been the perfect fifteen minutes.

She recognized the next shriek as her youngest, and looked up from her phone. She found six year old Zac triumphant after climbing to the very top of the playground. She found her oldest, Marion, meeting his gaze, letting him know that it was his job to get his little brother down.

That had been the agreement when she’d finally caved into bringing them here. Marion just rolled his eyes and started climbing.

Right before Melanie eyes returned to her phone screen, a particularly shrill sound overpowered the rest. Her middle child, and only girl, was yelling and delight as she swung on the swing that was attached to a pole by ropes.

“Mommy look at me!” she cried. “Mommy look at me!”

Melanie knew that if she didn’t watch at least once she would never get her peace and quiet back, so she put her phone down and gazed at Clara. Melanie watched as her daughter swung back and forth and twisted and pretended she was a mermaid. Then Clara struggle to her feet and said, look “Mommy, I’m standing!”

Melanie smiled, “Good job baby.” She eyed the soft mat beneath her daughter and decided if she fell she wouldn’t break anything. Then she went back to her phone. Melanie only got a few paragraphs into her book before the dreaded sound came.

It wasn’t a scream of delight or yell of anger. Instead, it was a screech of pure terror that caused every mother and father in the restaurant to look up to make sure it wasn’t their child. Melanie didn’t have to look to know it was Clara.

Sure enough, her daughter stood on the swing with one hand on the rope on one side and the other hand held out of her out in front of her as if it had done something to offend her. She screamed again. One of her ear piercing ones, and look straight at Melanie.

“Mommy!” The sound should have registered above what the human ear can hear here, but it did not. Melanie sighed, grab the wet wipes from her purse and ran to her daughter.

“Get it off!” Clara yelled as she shook her hand. As she did so, the swing under her feet lurched one way, then the other. Clara’s body jerked around, trying to keep up.

Melanie knew she wouldn’t get there in time, and winced as Clara fell off and hit the floor. The soft floor, which probably hadn’t really hurt, but Clara wailed as if it was the end of the world.

A few parents gave Melanie looks of pity as she ran by. Others glared down their noses at her. Melanie ignored them, ignored the signs that said she couldn’t be on the special, squishy floor with her shoes on, and knelt next to her daughter.

“Get it off!” Clara screamed again, apparently more wounded by the unknown substance on her hand than the fall she’d just taken.

“Give me your hand,” Melanie said in a calm voice. The therapist had told her to use the calm voice whenever this happened.

Clara writhed like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. “Get it off!”

Melanie could hear the creature from the movies say, “Precious.”

“Come on, Clara, give me your hand,” Melanie said again.

“Whaaaaaaa!” was all se got in return.

The therapist had said to give Clara three chances before Melanie simply grabbed her hand and wiped it off. A quick glance around told Melanie that every eye in the place was on them, so she decided to screw the advice and grabbed her daughter’s hand.

Unfortunately, her first attempt missed.

Clara didn’t like to be restrained, and knew what Melanie was trying to do, so she freaked out even more. Instead of letting her mom help her, Clara let out one last blood-curdling scream before she flailed at Melanie.

Melanie watched in horror as the dirty hand came toward her face. She could clearly see the ketchup—or what she hoped was ketchup—all over Clara’s fingers.

Melanie blocked her eyes.

Clara’s fingers hit her hand, but then retreated and shoved themselves into Melanie’s open mouth.

The reaction was instantaneous. The moment Clara’s fingers touched her tongue, Melanie gagged on the vinegar and tomato taste. She shoved Clara back, covered her mouth and got to her feet.

Her stomach heaved.

Clara continued to scream.

The world lurched one way, then the other.

Melanie fought the urge to vomit for a few steps, but before she could get off of the playground, bile rose in her throat, her stomach constricted and she threw up.

It went everywhere.

Now all the children screamed. Some of the parents did too.

Melanie wanted to care, but she hurled again.

Then a sympathetic vomiter took up the baton, and a few seconds later, the play land was full of the most unpleasant sound in the world.

And that was nothing compared to the stench.

***

Not your typical horror, but still pretty…horrible.

Genre – Horror

Location – Fast Food Restaurant

Random Object – Rope Swing


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6-Sept-2019

I swear I didn’t roll the apocalypse on purpose…

I took a deep breath before I stepped outside. Amy was sitting on the shallow edge of the empty swimming pool, bouncing a rubber ball off the bottom, the far side and back to her with such precision that she threw then held her hand up waiting for the ball’s return. Thump, thump, thwak. I wasn’t sure if she could control the ball, or if she involuntarily calculated the angles.

My eyes drifted to the windows of their own accord, and repressed a shiver when I saw the force field, made of the water from the pool, holding out droves of hungry, angry, frightened people. Most had some sort of weapon. In another hour or two, when the figured out they couldn’t get through the field, they would turn on one another.

Just like the last two mobs.

Or had it been three?

I stopped a few feet away from Amy, and cleared my throat.

“What is it, Brad?” she asked in a voice that held none of her old kindness.

“The people here in the hotel are running out of food and water.”

The ball hit Amy’s palm with a smack, and I braced myself as her head turned.

Gone were the blue eyes and blonde hair. Now her eyes glowed silver, and her hair had turned jet black. Her skin looked like yellow parchment. I could see the blood running through her veins, and it wasn’t red. Or blue.

I swallowed again, and had to remind myself that this was no longer my wife.

“You said they had another week,” used-to-be-Amy said in a flat voice.

“You, uh, used some of the water to expand the shield.”

Those alien, silver eyes stared at me. It cocked her head to the side—just like Amy always did when she was about to tease me—and smiled. Only the smile made me want to run and hide. “My bad.” It returned its attention to the pool and threw the ball.

I wasn’t sure how powerful this…thing inside my wife was. Could it hear the people up in their rooms planning to kill her? Did it know that over half of the population of the world had died in the past month after it had taken most of the drinking water to bond itself to my wife?

Did it care?

The only reason it had kept those of us in the hotel alive was because we amused it.

Well, it probably wouldn’t be very amused when a mass of people came to chop it to pieces.

Which is why I was really here. My heartbeat sped up, and sweat formed on my brow as I closed the gap and squat down beside used-to-be-Amy.

Thump, thump, thwak. The ball smacked her hand again, and she held it. Her head turned and she gazed right into my eyes.

For a moment I couldn’t breathe, let alone talk.

I’d seen predators in the wild—big cats, wolves and such—and they had looked at me with a sliver of respect overshadowed by an interest in how I would taste.

These eyes held exactly no interest in me. As if I were an insect in its path that didn’t even need acknowledging.

I screwed up my courage and spoke in a shaking voice. “I was wondering, is my Amy still in there?”

It blinked. “You mean the soul who inhabited this body?”

I nodded, afraid words would fail me.

It thought for a moment. “I have no destroyed her. She is still…there.”

“Can I talk to her?”

She cocked her head to the side again. “Why?”

“To—” My voice caught, and I swallowed again. “To say goodbye.”

“Why? She is still there.”

“Will you let her out again?”

She shook her head. “She is safe.” Then she returned her attention to the ball and the empty pool.

I had one job today, and that was to find out if this thing could be hurt. Now I knew my wife was alive, my mission had changed. I licked my lips. “There are people here who want to kill you.”

“I am aware.”

“I came to warn you.”

“You came hurt me,” she said. The thump, thump, thwak cadence of the ball didn’t falter.

I slowly rose.

“Go ahead. Try to stab me with the screwdriver in your pocket.”

Sweat suddenly coated Brad’s palms. “What will happen?”

Thump, thump, thwak. “Nothing.”

“I don’t want to hurt my wife.”

“I told you, she is safe. Now try to harm me, or the people here won’t trust you anymore.”

“Why do you care about that?”

“It would bring my amusement to an end.”

I took a step back. Then another. “What are you?”

“Does it matter?”

Anger boiled up inside of me. I drew the screwdriver, yelled and drove it into the thing’s temple.

Only even with all of my weight it didn’t penetrate. The screwdriver bounced off as if the head had been diamond. I stood with my mouth open. The screwdriver landed on the cement with a ting.

Thump, thump, thwak. “No go. Come up with a better plan. You know where to find me.”

***

No idea where this was going, but that’s the point of Flash Fiction, right?

Genre – Apocalyptic

Random Object – Bouncy Ball

Setting – Hotel Swimming Pool


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30-Aug-2019

This is why eating healthy can kill you!

“This is too good to be true.” Jane squinted at the abandoned, weathered fruit stand.

“It’s a pretty remote area.” Hank handed her the binoculars.

Jane dragged herself forward, and parted the grass. She raised the binoculars to her eyes and held her breath.

Sure enough, the fruit stand seemed to be intact. No people that she could see. No cars that had stopped and then been abandoned. And the fruit still sat in baskets. A chill ran up her spine, as a grumble sounded from her stomach. She wanted to believe that it was safe, but they’d lost six members of their group to the contents of an overturned grocery truck the day before.

“Looks okay,” Hank said.

Jane sighed and handed the binoculars back. “Too risky.”

Even though the others were over a hundred yards away, huddled on the other side of a hill, Hank lowered his voice as if they could hear him. “We need food.”

Jane looked into his dark eyes. A week ago she would have called them cold. Now she knew what cold was. “We need to be alive.”

“Some of our group won’t last another day without something to eat.”

They’d had this argument no less than four times already today. Jane had made the group pass up the last three possible sources of food. If not for the grocery truck, they probably would have rioted. Jane had suggested they leave it alone, but she’d been overridden.

Now they had less mouths to feed.

Jane wished that was a comfort. Still, Hank was right. She sighed. “Fine. We leave the others where they are while you and I will go check it out. We’ll circle around so it looks like we’re coming from the other direction.”

Hank looked relived.

“If anything goes wrong, you tell them to run.” Jane pointed at the radio.

“Roger that.” Hank relayed the message.

Jane took the binoculars and glared at the fruit stand. The late fall weather had been perfect for preserving the fruit, which sat in the shade most of the day. She didn’t see any animals, but she could see insects buzzing around.

Or maybe it was her imagination.

Hank finished the message. “Ready?”

“Ready.”

It took them an hour to circle around so they approached along the road from the other direction. In that time they neither heard or saw another human or animal. No cars on the highway. No planes overhead.

Hank adjusted the straps on his pack, and his fingers strayed to the butt of his shotgun. “I hate this silence.”

“I thought you lived in the middle of nowhere,” Jane said.

“I do, but even then you get birds and stuff. This is…eerie.”

Jane had to agree. The wind gently rippled the grass-covered hills, but other than that, there was no noise save for their feet clomping along the road.

“You’re a teacher, right? Do you like quiet?” Hank asked.

It was unlike him to make conversation. He must be nervous. Jane decided to distract him. If the stand had been infiltrated, then the two of them were probably dead anyway. Approaching silently wouldn’t help. “Too much quiet makes me nervous. There aren’t many things that will silence twenty five fifth graders.”

Hank chuckled. “Kids.”

“Kids.”

They rounded the bend and the fruit stand came into sight. It sat in the side of the road next to a patch of dirt that could hold maybe four cars. The sign had been repainted “Fresh Fruit.”

Jane wanted to slow down. Heck, she wanted to turn and run. Her heart sped up and she licked her lips, but she hadn’t survived the past week by running away.

Hank drew his shotgun.

Jane pulled out her sword. Who knew that the VR version of Fruit Ninja, along with her obsession with katanas, would come into play during the apocalypse?

They stopped fifty feet away. Sunshine fell from above, but the sweat trickling down Jane’s back was cold. “Cover me.” Jane pulled a stethoscope from her pocket and put it around her neck.

“If I tell you to hit the dirt, do it,” Hank said.

Jane knew the drill, but nodded. She drew her sword and slowly walked forward.

The breeze seemed to stop, and all Jane could hear was the pounding of blood through her ears.

Left. Right. Left. Right.

Jane kept her eyes on the basket of apples, which sat on the ground closest to her position. If even one of them twitched, she would have Hank open fire.

Left. Right. Left. Right.

The only thing that moved was her shadow.

Jane licked her lips and blinked away a drop of sweat. Ten feet. Five. Three. She took one more step and nudged the basket with the sword.

The apples didn’t stir.

She kicked it.

Nothing.

Beyond the apples sat peaches, pears, cherries and a variety of vegetables. The intermingling smells made her wrinkle her nose. This produce wouldn’t be good for much longer.

Jane turned and nodded to Hank, who came closer. He positioned himself perpendicular to Jane.

Jane slid her sword into the scabbard, and reached toward an apple with a shaking hand.

“Be ready to toss it,” Hank said.

Her fingers stopped an inch from the red skin. She swallowed, and gently picked the apple up.

Every muscle in her body was ready to throw it, but it didn’t move. Didn’t writhe. Didn’t open a gaping mouth and bite her.

Hands still shaking, she put the stethoscope in one ear, then pressed the other end to the apple.

Jane closed her eyes and listened.

She was no doctor, but she knew a heartbeat when she heard it. Faint, but there. Still in the first stage. She pulled her sword, threw the apple in the air and cleanly chopped it in two.

Each half hit the ground and spun.

Hank swore.

Jane scowled. “Torch it all.” They would keep moving.

***

I feel like I did a pretty good job on this one, considering what I rolled!

Genre: Apocalypse

Random Object: Stethoscope

Setting: Fruit Stand


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