Archived entries for FastFiction

Today marks the completion of one month’s worth of Fast Fictions over at www.MemphisFastFiction.com.

The project’s been more or less what I’ve expected, so far. I can feel the edges of my brain starting to fray, but I don’t feel completely overwhelmed, which was a real concern of mine. I think I’ll actually be able to pull this off.

I was originally writing in chunks, where I’d sit down for four or five hours and bang out a half dozen pieces. I’d leave the final review for the day they were supposed to go up, so I felt like I was sticking to the “One-Story-A-Day” bit. But now I am doing the one-a-day from scratch method. Which is a lot riskier, but I feel more rewarding. This is all about me becoming a better writer, and cramming it all into one day then faffing about for the rest of the week wasn’t doing me any good.

So, what’ve I written about?

Well, there’s a good bit of historical stuff in there. Specific period references to people and places. The rest is stuff that takes places in the present, usually referencing things that I’ve experienced, or know about. Bizarrely for me, though, I’ve only written one piece set in the future. I have had a giant robot stomping on downtown, though.

I did get a letter from my Grandmother last week. She wanted to let me know that she was following the project, and that the stories overall were fairly dark. “You and you friends must not all be made out of rainbows and puppy dog tails,” she said.

I’ve tried to lighten things up since then.

Title: A Way to Die

Word: Frozen

Prompt by Kerry Crawford

200 words about the thing that really matters in life – booze.:

Baba-Yaga’s frozen tit it was cold.

He could feel his testicles pushing up ever farther into his gut – searching for any signs of warmth. He laughed at the foolishness of his balls.

For this was winter and they were in a Russian’s sac. There was no warmth anywhere to be found.

Passing by the church, he noted the orange light in the windows, curling smoke from the chimney, and hymns from the crack in the door.

He took a lantern from the church steps and continued down the road.

Trees rose up around him, blotting out the sky,

He felt the wolves before he saw their eyes. Dirty yellow asterisms, moving back and forth amongst the trees.

“Back, you pack of mongrels!”

He flung the lantern at them, sinking it into the snow.

“My mother was more a bitch than any of yours! She squatted me out on a night twice as cold as this! I am Russian! A bear fears no pack of wolves!”

They scattered into the night.

He recovered the lantern from the snow, relighting it.

After all, the church might be near, and the road dangerous. But tavern is far, so he will walk carefully.

Just a note about this one – That last line? That’s basically a paraphrasing of a real Russian proverb:

The church is near but the road is icy; the bar is far away but I will walk carefully.

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Title: Into The Wilds

Word: Acidic

200 words about the taste of freedom:

The arcology loomed, casting a long shadow across the veldt, the edges dithering over the lush, waving vegetation. The bottom of the setting sun is obscured by that impossibly large weave of glass, steel and concrete.

Most of his group stared up at it, slack-jawed. The inside of the arcology had been all they’d known of the world, and their grandparent’s grandparents had known of the world.

Instead, he focused on the opposite horizon. Green, endless green, spreading out in all directions.

He scratched at the bandage on his wrist. The coyotes had taken out his personal wireless transmitter. It had been a part of him since birth.

The coyotes packed their gear and started to head back to the ventilation feeder tube they used to ferry people out of the arcology.

One of them stopped and tossed him a small, round thing.

He eyed it warily.

“It’s called an apple. You eat it.” said the coyote.

He bit into it. It was sweet and slightly acidic, it crunched between his teeth, and the juices ran down over his chin. It was unlike anything he’d ever tasted.

“The trees are full of them.”

He looked up, and they were.

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Title: White Sister of the Alleyway

Word: Immaculate

200 words about the new religion for the sinners on the street:

The wicked, the lost, the suffering. They all come to me. Those that God has turned His back on, who make their wage dealing in sins. These are my children, clutching at my robes, looking for protection.

Saying their private prayers to the Saint of Death.

My shrine is a secret place, hidden in the alley between the florist and the butcher. From here, I keep watch over those that have fallen through the cracks.

A cartel soldier asking me to bless his guns so he might come home safe. A prostitute praying that this abortion will be her last. A drug dealer pleading that his son will never know what his father does. An addict overdosing at my feet, begging me for comfort. A group of runaways stealing the apples and sugar skulls from my altar, gifts freely given so they might see another day.

Across the favela market sits another idol. That immaculate whore, cursing me and my children to her Father, whispering to her partitioners that my children are worshipping the Devil.

And maybe they are right. Maybe I am a devil. But better a devil than a Father who will not comfort His crying, suffering children.

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I’m cheating a bit with this one. My submission well has run a bit dry, so I’m just making up titles and picking interesting words out of my iTunes track list to use with those titles.

Title: Intravenous Electric Fire

Word: Metastatic

200 words the dark side of the bright and shining future:

Sitting in the hospital bed, looking up at the neon lights, she felt horrible.

How could she have been so stupid? They’d been warning her against experimenting since she was a child. “This is your I/O port. This is your I/O port fried.” the old ads used to say.

Too late for her now, though. She’d Buzzed, and was the one in a thousand that couldn’t take it. Her friends told her it would be cool, to jack up the gain on her implant, to really feel the pulse of the signal. And while it lasted, it was.

It also caused a metastatic feedback loop in her autonomic nervous system. Hard locking it like a computer. Slowly, but surely, it would spread up her brain, destroying the parts that made her, her.

They could always take her chip out, save her life. But could you really even call that life? She’d be separated from the social neural networks, her friends would completely forget about her. If she couldn’t let her consciousness auto respond to emails while she slept, no company would hire her. She’d be socially and professionally isolated.

A technological cripple in this bright and shining future.

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Title: The Last Light
Word: Windswept

Submitted by Laurel.

200 words about the last moments of a cosmonaut:

That annoying pinging had started up again. It was the O2 sensor this time. He flicked the switch under the warning light, extinguishing it and silencing the noise.

If he was going to die, he certainly wasn’t going to go out listening to that damned racket.

His mind slipped back to Baikonur, listening to one of Korolev’s endless mission briefings. To his left, the pretty boy, Gagarin, was chatting up one of the female stenographers. He looked out the windows to his right, across the endless windswept grass of the steppe. It was an alien world compared to the evergreen forests of his home in the west.

It was the scientists on the ground, the vaunted Chief Designer and his men, they’d gotten the trajectory wrong. They’d shot him too far, and his orbit had gone elliptical. His tiny spaceship was speeding up with each pass around the globe, and soon it would slingshot into space.

He coughed, and was back in the capsule. Just in time to see the sun vanish behind the Earth. And for the first time there was doubt in his mind.

About which would be the first to give out – his oxygen, or his orbit.

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Title: The Front Lines
Word: Purity

Submitted by Laurel.

200 words about the last night together:

They had finished all of the good wine in the house, and the last scraps of the magnificent roast duck were being eyed by the cat.

For their part, they had retired to bed but had not gone to sleep. They were not yet married, but she had give her purity to him. After all, what did it matter. He would be back in the spring, they would be married and all of this war foolishness would be behind them.

The bed dressings were now more on the floor than the bed. And the two of them were intertwined in a human knot.

The closet door was slightly ajar. And they could feel the presence of the things inside. His uniform, neatly pressed and swaying on a hanger, his stuffed rucksack below, and his rifle leaning against the closet wall.

“I don’t want to go.” He said.

“I know.” She replied.

At the train station the next morning there were hundreds, thousands, of men just like him. It was raining a dull, gray, cold rain. The raindrops mixing in with the tears of every mother, wife, daughter or sister that would never see their sons, husbands, fathers or brothers again.

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Title: The Green Docket
Word: Juice

Submitted by Shane.

With this, I wanted to play with structural things. Dialog, bizarre formatting, etc. And I’ve been pushing hard on a bunch of new things that I needed a break from. FastFictions are perfect for that.

200 words about coming to terms with what you’ve done:

“This’ll never work, you know. Some one will catch on. It’s gotten to big, there are too many people involved. Secrets like this don’t keep.”

Here we go again.

“Oh will you shut up? You worry like a fucking fourteen year old girl. Boo-hoo, will he ever call me? Boo-hoo, will people find out what we’re doing? Of course they will! And so long as we hold our shit together – you hold your shit together – we’ll be fine, be protected, when it all comes out.”

I’m almost to my breaking point.

“We promised them free energy! Green energy! And we lied through our teeth, smiling like snake oil salesmen when we took their money.”

He never had the backbone for what we’re doing.

“So long as we keep giving them the juice, they aren’t going to give a damn where it comes from. And you know it. People are greedy. Greedy and selfish. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a Walmart in every town in America. ”

Was too much of a hero.

“I just wanted to change the world. Make it better.”

Too much of a dreamer.

“Hey. You did.”

Need to remember to make it look like an accident.

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Title: Our First Kiss
Word: Monumental

Submission by Laurel.

200 words about what happens when you share secrets:

In the woods north of where I grew up, we both stir, half-dreaming, in our sleeping bags. The morning light works its way through the walls of the tent. The cool dew is held back.

We camp in a grove of ancient trees, not marked on any maps or linked to any trails. This is my secret that I have let you in on, a place that no directions can find.

Those trees, towering over us, their boughs buttressing the sky, are the monumental supports to this, nature’s church. The singing birds proclaim it my sanctuary

For years, I would come here to believe I was the only person the whole world. My every act legendary and timeless, immortal. But now that you are here, I am mortal once again.

You roll over, and we lay face to face for a moment. I hold my breath, unknowingly. Craning your neck forward, ever so slightly, your nose brushes my cheek. You slide your mouth over mine, and we kiss. I still don’t breathe.

You retreat back into your sleeping bag, pulling it up around your face and letting out a contented sign.

“G’mornin’.” You mumble.

I finally remember to breathe.

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Title: Nature’s Only Son
Word: Embrace

Submission by Laurel.

200 words about squaring things before the end:

Alphonse smelled worse in death than he did in life. Which made the stink coming off of his corpse the stuff of pungent legends.

In hindsight, Dale knew that should’ve thought about his companion’s lack of personal hygiene before he shot the man in the head. But the moment between them was heated and there wasn’t a whole lot of time to think. Coughing, he straightened up a bit. There was the taste of blood at the back of his tongue.

“Lookit all them stars, Alphonse. Sure are pretty.” Dale lingered for a moment longer before he brought his eyes down to Alphonse’s body. He had trouble focusing.

“Now look, I know things were said that neither you or I can take back. Can’t take them back, nor the bullets that came after them. You shot me, I shot you. Let’s leave it at that. End of story. When we get to where ever we’re goin’, up above, or more likely, down below, you and I embrace and call it evens. No sense draggin’ this crap into the hereafter, is there?

I’m gonna take your silence as a polite acceptance of my offer, Alphonse.”

Overhead, the stars continued to wheel.

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Have I ever told you that the story of the Pied Piper scares the crap out of me? It does. It’s a combination of things that does it. Children being used as collateral for their parent’s busted deals, a force that controls people, and the fact that you never know what the hell happens to the kids.

Oh, and then there’s that nagging little bit of fact to the story. The Hamelin town record begins with the line “10 years after the children left.”

Title: Rampaging Rodents of Fear
Word: Innocence

Submission by Rikki.

200 words about a return of a sinister force:

In the deepest parts of the Hollow Under the Hill, his were the only footfalls. The halls were empty without his children. They’d been sent up and out into the world of Men, starting the cycle over again.

Settling down at his sewing table, he watched the fire in the great stone hearth cast dancing shadows around the chamber. The shadows reminded of how the children had danced all those years ago. Danced behind as he’d played, danced out of the small hamlet, danced down into the Hollow Under the Hill, never ceasing, even when the hill closed shut behind him.

Each child bought him a year of life as it had danced away its innocence.Their feet changing from things used to walk to things used to scurry. The final one of that last batch only succumbing to his magic a few weeks ago.

He turned his attention back to his sewing. Fashions had changed since he’d last walked the world. And it would not do for him to not look his best.

After all, it had been such a very, very long time since he’d played his pipes for the children. And oh how Hamelin town had grown.

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Continuing with this whole “writing outside of what I’m comfortable with” thing, I did this one sexier than I’ve written anything before.

This time, it’s all about the senses.

Title: Her Green Necklace
Word: Fragility

200 words about the true pleasures in life:

The air had a taste that night. Even here in The Bund, where street vendors were forbidden, it proudly trespassed. The city’s flavors – British, French, Indian, Nipponese, Russian, Jewish and Chinese – conspired with the humid nighttime air to spread across all of Shanghai.

He relished in it, and in the plunging neckline of his companion’s silk evening gown.

“It’s jade.”

She gestured to the string of small green pearl-like stones that wrapped around her slender neck and slipped down, stopping just short of the rise of her breasts.

“I must confess, that was not what was holding my attention.”

She laughed and pulled him closer to her. “I know,” she whispered in his ear. Her breath was far sweeter than the savory that hung in the air.

Slowing as they passed the North China Daily News Building. The sound of working presses was audible from the street. A banner, proclaiming WAR, shouted out from the window.

“Don’t.”

She pulled at his sleeve.

“The fragility of the world is inescapable. Worrying just makes you bitter. All that should worry you is how my dress looks on your floor.”

Now he pulled at her.

“Keep the necklace on.”

And she did.

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So, the last one got me in trouble. A fair bit of trouble, too. I think someone even went so far as to call it “soul crushing”. And since I was supposed to be making happy instead of sad…well…let’s just say that why I’m taking a new approach to the same prompt this week.

Submitted for your, hopefully happy, approval.

Title: Bright as the Sun
Word: Unabashed

200 words about the simple joys of childhood:

The sugar from the cotton candy had formed a thin film on his teeth. He ran his tongue over them, stopping at the recently loosed incisor to wiggle it – not quite ready. Soon enough he’d slip it under his pillow, and awaken to find  several shiny coins waiting for him. Enough for more cotton candy.

Stomping the midway dust off his half-way new, half-way dingy sneakers, he caught up to his parents. His father reached down and the tousled sandy brown hair of his son with thick, strong hands. The wind rippled through his mother’s gingham skirt. The slight smell of lavender and baking bread drifted out from it, up into his nose, and finally twisted around his brain. He smiled, gave an unabashed laugh and buried his face in the folds of the checkered fabric.

The yellow incandescence of the fairground lights dropped off as they joined the rest of revelers on the hillside that sloped down, toward the edge of a glassy lake. The last hints of day faded as his parents adjusted their blanket and told him to sit.

Moments later the sky snapped and boomed, the sparkles of the fireworks glinting in his eyes.

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The last from Laurel, and admittedly not happy. But, I’ve had an obsession with Hiroshima lover imagery for a while, and this let my play with it.

Title: Bright as the Sun
Word: Unabashed

200 words about a tragic, but timeless love:

It was our wedding day.

The ceremony was over, and I slipped my uchikake on over my white kimono. The ornate gown was my grandmother’s. Its survival through the fire bombings was a small miracle.

In the courtyard he waited for me. His traditional obi vest traded for a modern suit. A new cane, purchased for the wedding, supported him. Quickly and gracefully, I descended the steps and took my place at my new husband’s side. From here on I would be his support. I would keep him standing in place of the leg lost in the war.

He pressed his head into mine and inhaled deeply.

“Boku no sakura.”

My cherry blossom.

As we stepped out from under the red painted gate of the temple a second sun erupted in the sky. For a moment I thought that the heavens must be so jealous of our unabashed love they had sent another sun, hoping to outshine us. My husband pulled me close, and my skin felt warm from the blinding light and the heat of his body.

When the light faded, we were as shadows. Eternally embracing in the scorch marks left on a shattered concrete wall. Hiroshima lovers.

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Another from Laurel. The second in her attempts to get me to write “happy” fast fiction. She rejected the last one as unsatisfactorily dark, so I’m back at it again with another one.

Title: A Promise Kept
Word: Vivacious

200 words about secret passion :

There was a culvert under the fence. Big enough to slip thought without mussing your clothes.

The MPs knew about it, the GIs knew about it, and so long as everyone showed up where they were supposed to the next morning, no one else would know about it.

A mutually agreed upon bending of the rules to keep the peace. Too band the Japs and the Krauts weren’t as reasonable.

Stealing into town, he heard the music blocks before he saw the gathered crowd, a vivacious throng waiting for the doors to swing open. There she was, on the edge. A smoke in her hand and red ribbon twisted in her hair. Just like last time.

He slid up to her.

“I could die tomorrow. And I’d be fine with that, except for one thing.”

“And what’s that?”

“Not without a dance. A dance and a shot at a kiss.”

“Just a kiss is it, soldier boy?” She leaned in close. He could feel her warm breath over the hairs on his neck.

“Like I said, I could die tomorrow. Who knows, I might get ambitious.”

With a wink he scooped up her hand and pulled her into the dancehall.

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This one comes from Laurel, and is a little different than my normal submissions. You see, L thinks that I can’t write something “happy”. She’s said as much. Problem is, I can’t rightly disagree with her. I don’t start out to write with the tone that I do, it just sort of…happens. But she’s challenged me to write FastFiction that isn’t horribly depressing and grim. That challenge was in the form of three prompts, and this is one of them.

Title: Fuel to the Fire
Word: Exuberant

200 words about what is truly vain :

He moves through crowd in much the same way that the water flows through the canals. The people are like plaster and brick towers, rising toward the blistering heat of the sun, as he, the dark, cool water, twists unnoticed below them.

Not that they would notice him. They stand transfixed, straining to hear the overly exuberant preaching of a hard-faced man at the heart of the piazza. Behind the man, towering over the man, are the makings of a bonfire. Art, furnishings, clothes, all the trappings of a gifted life, piled high, waiting to be put to the torch. The thin man in the rough brown robe calls for a blaze to sear away the vanities of the world.

He thought the thin man had probably never known the harshness of stone for a pillow nor the pain of a starving belly. But, no matter. He shrugs as he cuts his last purse string for the night.

Those than can afford to burn their things are more than welcome to their piety. He’ll gladly relieve them of any excess vanity in their purses.

Let them stay warm burning away their sins. A tavern’s fire is all he needs.

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This one comes from Peter.

Title: The Indescribable Nothing
Word: Palpable

200 words scrawled on a scrap of paper before death:

Got to write this while I still can.

Not sure what’ll freeze first – the ink in the pen or the blood in my veins.

The storm’s howling away outside. Came up out of nowhere. Air around us went solid, palpable, whiting out everything. No idea what happened to the rest.

Weather report was clear this morning. Least that’s what the captain said. Came down here on an Antarctic tourist cruise. To see old abandoned whaling towns. Wife didn’t want to come, but this was the last season. Environmentalists putting a stop to them. I came alone.

Storm was so sudden. Saw it come over the ridge, a solid wall roaring down at us. Word’s can’t describe it. All of your senses filled up, overloaded. There’s so much it might as well be nothing. Everything is static.

Couldn’t have been more than a few minutes that I was in the storm, felt like a lifetime. Heart was beating faster and faster, I was getting colder. I panicked, ran – smack into this shed. Keeps wind out, but not cold.

If you find this – find me – tell Margaret I love her.

-Note found on unidentified body at Grytviken Whaling Station, 23rd March, 2011

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This one comes from Rachel and my original FastFiction project.

Title: A Moment Before Me
Word: Gelatinous

200 words on the need to forget and start over clean:

It’s probably for the best they don’t let you remember this bit.

There’s lots of shouting, people running about, anxiety and stress everywhere you look. Then it gets worse. Things start stretching and tearing, gelatinous gunk oozes out of places you’d rather not think about, and people really start shouting.

I can’t think of a more terrible way to start things off.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just right. All that anger and pain and tension wrapped up into one crystallizing moment, prepping you for what’s coming in behind it. That great steel beast called life, barreling down the tracks, headed right smack for you.

Supposedly, they don’t let you remember any of your previous go-‘rounds because they want you doing something different each time. If you remembered, you’d spend your whole life trying to fix the stuff you’d messed up the last time you were down there. It’d be a whole world of people trying to fix things that were never broken. Nothing new ever happening. Gives me the creeps just thinking about it.

Ignorance really isn’t so much bliss, I guess, it’s more of a clean slate.

Ah well, time’s up, here we go.

I’m being born.

Here’s to my breeding friends. Keep making babies, they’ll be good people.

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This one comes from Blake Palmer.

Title: Instead of Letting Go
Word: Intractable

200 words on love and the inescapable nature of death :

They came to rest just short of the solar shock.

“We’re here, my love. It’s the system that I told you about, the one with the twin suns. One massive and orange, the other small and white. Spinning around each other in an eternal dance of ferocious beauty. Their light spreading out through clouds of proto-planetary dust. Like a hazy sunset over the harbor where you grew up. Frozen in time. Beautiful and mysterious.

Give it a scant few billion years and it’ll all firm up. There’s enough for two, maybe three planets. All in the habitable zone. Any luck and they’ll be just like yours. Green, wet, alive. You won’t even be able to tell the difference. It’ll be just like home. Promise.”

In the cold nothing of space, his tears freeze against his cheeks.

“I’m sorry. I’m so, so very sorry. My people can be anything, do anything, fix anything. Anything…anything but death. Death is always the intractable thing.”

He spreads his arms, and she slips away from him for the last time.

“They will wrap you up and hold you forever, they are my proxy for what I wish I could do.

I love you.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hug my girlfriend.

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This one comes from Brooks Talley.

Title: The Man Who Died
Word: Bassoon

200 words on the possessions of a deadman:

Carl ripped one of his legendary farts.

“Dammit, Crack a window! Bad enough in here without you adding to it!”

Carl laughed his hacking smoker laugh and pushed one of windows open. The clack and roar of a moving train poured in.

I went back to picking through the pile of oddly shaped instrument cases, looking for bag 112. It belonged to some touring orchestra person. Specifically, a touring orchestra person that died in the train privy not two hours ago.

“What’s the stiff’s story, anyway?” I called to Carl, who was digging through his own pile of misshapen luggage. “Heard he was a baffoon player or somethin’.”

“Tha’s bassoon, you twit. Sss! Sss! Not Fff! Ah! Gotcha!”

Carl suddenly appeared at my side, hoisting a rectangular case over his head. “Found it!”

The weak latch gave out, and the case flapped open, spilling wooden tubes covered in metal bits, small glass jars and a leather syringe kit.

We stood frozen, staring at the drugs.

In a single motion, Carl tossed them out the open window.

“There’s enough embarrassment in livin’. Folks don’t need more of it after they’re dead. Let the poor bastard keep whatever dignity he had left.”

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