Saturday, January 30, 2010

Abandoned on an Organic World

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Weregild" in Mirror Shards.

From the Viceroy's rooms on the third floor of what used to be an embassy for one of the petty nation states on this filthy organic world, the Viceroy saw flickers of orange torchlight refract through the windows and listened to the crowd's noise that hadn't coalesced into the single shout of a mob. Yet. He had to do something before they revolted. The Viceroy turned away from the window his black leather cape swirling to nip at the walls and he strode into the hallway where his aide had been waiting and who had been caught off guard and had to run to keep up with the Viceroy's long steps.

"They're going to revolt," said the Viceroy. His voice rasped with a touch of reverberation on the Rs.

"Yes sir," said the aide.

The Viceroy stopped and lifted the aide off of the ground and he slammed the aide against the wall. "We do not want you to revolt."

"No sir," whispered the aide through the Viceroy's chokehold. "I was only acknowledging your statement." The Viceroy dropped the aide and he fell to his knees. "You're very astute my Viceroy, nothing escapes you."

The Viceroy flowed into the conference room, but it was empty except for the primitive florescent lighting that the citizens of this world used. "Where are my colleagues?" asked the Viceroy.

"They have found errands they must run on other worlds."

"All of them?" The Viceroy stared at the aide who dropped his head to look at the floor. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I meant to."

"What ships remain, we must make an example of this crowd before it turns into a mob and revolts."

"None, sir."

"None?" The aide was silent. The Viceroy didn't know what he could do. There were no ships for him to either leave this world or to use their weapons to bring these primitive citizens under control. Effectively, his brethren had stripped him of power and abandoned him here.

He had to speak with his superior back on the mother world. His eyes, a flickering red glow behind the matte black surface, stared at the aide. "What's your name?"

"Hira Sebi, sir."

These organic lifeforms were good for one thing, even if they made bad aides, they could fuel a transmission.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ricocheting down the Jive

A response to Neil Gaiman's Armageddon/tea choice tweet.

I'm one of those undecisive ones, you know one of those who when offered a choice between Armageddon and tea dithers over the type of tea. It ain't because I'm some kind of tea snob, no, it's all bitter leaves to me, it's rather because I've got some kind of obsessive compulsive thingy and deep down I know that something worse than Armageddon is gonna get me if I have Earl Grey more than once a day.

What's all this got to do with Jag Wilson you ask. Everything and nothing, but you want him so you gotta listen to my tale. This was back in July and I was ricocheting down the jive downtown lookin' to get out of the heat. I was dithering between the movies, but they were all weak summer swill, and droppin' in the pool hall. It was kind of fuzzy thinking because it was so hot you know how it gets here seein' as you work in this slum of a police station with no air-conditioning. Ouch, no no I'm not dockin' you none, no need to rough me up.

Where was I, oh right, ricocheting down the jive. Anyways, that's when I first met Jag. You know how he is, summer dreamer and all. Right away he wanted to be my friend. But I'm not like that, no I didn't trust his smooth talkin'. It don't surprise me none you lookin' for him now.

What's that you say. Yeah, so I hung with him but he was the only one down there who wasn't purple-bellied and it don't mean he trusted me none. Kept telling me about ghosts, he was a little whacked you see, but he wasn't any worse than the drivel at the multiplex. All that sci-fi garbage warps your mind I tell you.

Anyways, Jag tells me how one of his ghosts are going to get him in the Institute's diamond exhibit. Some wishy-washy tale that I didn't believe about his ghost pals seein' the future and guidin' us through the alarms. I didn't believe them but of course ya know me. I dithered. But I tell you, I didn't rob no Arty. How'd I fence those diamonds anyways. I haven't seen Jag since the robbery. All honest and everything. No, no, I didn't see Jag since before the robbery. I'm innocent I tell ya.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


A response to Heather Hansen's "Tell the Story" in Flashy Fiction.

The wails from Kathy's car vibrated through Mike and Kathy's office and interrupted Mike's morning news fix. Mike wedged the palm of his hands over his ears to silence the engine's screams. Mike couldn't imagine how Kathy could stand that car. The painful pin-on-needles screech ended as Kathy got further away. Mike stretched to reach the back of his head and release the net implant. The implant cable with its segmented magnesium-ion shielding retracted into the wall.

In the bedroom, laundry overflowed from Mike's closet and the anti-gravity bed, another one of Kathy's finds, was unkempt with the comforter floating in a tangled mass. Mike pulled open the dresser drawer, but it was empty. He sighed and looked wistfully at the pile of laundry. The wrinkled clothes had almost visible fumes that rose off of the piles of shirts, mismatched socks, and boxers. Mike could put it off no longer, he would have to confront Kathy's new washer. He grabbed an armload of clothes and walked into the washroom.

A boxy robot with two legs, no neck, and a thick plate glass window over his stomach lit up when Mike entered the room. "Good morning Mr. Robson. Oh boy, oh boy, do you have a job for me?"

"Yes," said Mike and he continued under his breath, "Whoever thought washers needed a personality should be shot."

"Whoa... no one messes with my daddy," said the washer. The robot's LED eyes flickered phosphorescent greens and yellows. "Restraining order #537221a has been granted. You are not allowed on the grounds of Dr. Lui Wong or in any building owned by Wong Industries."

Mike rolled his eyes. When would someone invent a robot that understood sarcasm? "So how do I operate you?"

"Just stuff your clothes in the washing receptacle and I'll take care of the rest."

"I need them done in fifteen minutes so I can leave for work."

"Not a problem."

Mike grabbed a bowl of yogurt from the refrigerator and called up his schedule and todos on his tablet. The proposal for Blanding Industries was due today and Mike grimaced. It would be a long day.

Mike walked back into the laundry room and found bits of cloth flying through the air. A pair of jeans, one leg bit off at the knees, draped down the front of the washer. "What's going on here, you're supposed to wash my clothes not eat them."

"Um... sorry?" said the robot. "I must have gotten distracted when I googled pineapple juice to find the best way to remove the pineapple stain on your boxers." The robot squeaked. "There's a lot of good cooking sites out there on the net."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Development" in Mirror Shards.

Harold walked a loop between the pixeled tile of the farm fields and the silo that stood within the city. He deposited his load in a silo and watched the ticker register another five produce points. The screen blinked as a worker was created by the gamemaster dropping the produce points perilously close to starvation. Harold would have shook his hands at the sky if only the stored animations had given him that option. Couldn't the gamemaster see how inefficient this was.

Another rebar skeleton exuded itself out of one of the farm tiles as unmanned hammers and drills flickered around the rebar. Yet another tile that Harold would have to walk around as he harvested produce points. Hadn't the gamemaster ever heard of local produce?

The hand of the gamemaster descended from the sky, picked Harold up, and shook him until a little heart glowed over Harold's chest. "No, not that," yelled Harold at the cursor. Not another mating. This gamemaster was driven to end this game in starvation. Harold wiggled to no avail as the gamemaster's hand dropped him by Suzy again and she took his hand as they walked into the apartment building with red hearts flashing around them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sidhe Motors Company

A response to RJ Clarken's "Monday Muse" in Flashy Fiction.

"Have I got a deal for you!"

Kathy twirled around with one arm holding the canvas bag of groceries and the other hand fumbling through her purse trying to find the Prius's key fob. She'd parked on the outskirts of the parking lot as usual -- Kathy didn't understand why someone would waste time trying to get a close parking spot -- and hadn't noticed anybody near her car. Yet, a man wearing a blue-striped suit stood in front of a small round car with lots of curves.

"Umm... I didn't see you," said Kathy.

"I can see you care about the environment."

"Yeah." Didn't everyone care about the environment. "I've got to go, there's company coming for dinner."

"But you'll miss the opportunity of a lifetime." The salesman slapped the hood of the car and it snarled like a treed cat. "You're driving last year's Prius. They may have been a technical marvel last year, but they're nothing next to this beauty."


"Zero emissions and she doesn't require a drop of fuel. There will never be a better car for the environment."

How was that possible wondered Kathy. If it was true though, she'd be the envy of everyone. Still holding her groceries, Kathy walked towards the car and traced a finger along the curves. "What are you doing out here at the grocery store instead of your dealership?"

"Here, let me take that," said the salesman as he took the bag of groceries from Kathy's arms and set them in the trunk of the car. "We're having a teensy tiny problem or are with noise pollution." Kathy raised her eyebrows. "Nothing to worry about," continued the salesman. "Slide into the drivers seat and feel her smooth environmentally enlightened power."

The drivers seat was snug, not that different from the Prius. Embossed on the steering wheel were the letters SMC. Once the salesman had closed the passenger's door, Kathy asked, "What brand is SMC?"

"Sidhe Motor Company. It's a new company with a patent for powering cars with the screams from banshees."


"Don't worry, you won't hear a thing." He tossed her the keys. "Go ahead, take her for a spin."

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Baying of Wolves

I'm currently in Sweden this week. My posts may be somewhat erratic this week.

Today's scene seed is from an image I saw yesterday of a Swede zooming across the ice on what looked like a windsurfing rig. I saw him on my way to visit a friend in Värmdo.

Ivan welcomed the wind that blasted against his face and left frozen mucus twisted into his beard as long as it helped him speed across the water. The triangular sail, all that was left of his canvas tent, snapped in the wind. Ivan hoped that the sail and makeshift runner would hold as he skittered across the ice. Memories of the wolves, Sköll and Hati, haunted Ivan. The slaughter they induced yipped at Ivan like an open wound he couldn't stop picking. Prince Birger and the men he had commanded -- including Ivan -- hadn't been a match for the speed and ferocity of Fenrir's spawn. The sail must hold. If Ivan failed, the Prince's sacrifice would have been in vain.

Ivan's sword cut through the thin layer of snow and bit into the ice so that it allowed Ivan to skate back to the castle almost as fast as the wind despite his tacking back and forth. The wind brought with it the victorious howls of the wolves. Ivan did not dare to look back. The howls grew louder. Ivan prayed to Sól and felt her warm breath upon his shoulders as her wind almost yanked the sail out of his frozen fingers. He flew before the wind, whose force worried the torn edges of the canvas. Hold out. Just two more islands.

One more island.

A pain ripped through Ivan and he was twisted forward as Sköll's jaws locked onto a forearm. The board of Ivan's craft tottered as Ivan was pulled off balance. He struggled to keep one arm holding the sail. Ivan lifted his legs and kicked forward and felt the sinew of his arm tear. He was free. He sailed into the harbor as men stationed on towers fired arrows at the two wolves. The wolves turned and climbed the pale stone towers to chase after the bowmen. The distraction gave Ivan enough time to crash against the shore at the foot of the castle. The guards looked at Ivan like he was crazy as he ran bow-legged towards the castle calling for the King.

His mission would be successful. But, did they have enough time to prepare for the wolves who were already in the harbor?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mortok's Treaty

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Remembrance of Me" in Mirror Shards.

Mortok dropped the bar across the doorframe even though he had instructed the servants not to disturb him, it wasn't wise to take unnecessary chances. He wore all black, not that it mattered where he was going, and sat on the gray stone where the first rays of sunrise would strike. It was still his fortress today and even if that traitor had signed it away in the treaty, that didn't mean treaties couldn't be changed.

The sun rose crowned by orange fire that reflected off the clouds. Mortok took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and envisioned the diamond rune. He opened it like a door and behind him the first light of dawn on the cold stone floor faded into darkness. Ahead of him stretched a path that glowed with faint pinpricks of light like stars. He walked until he arrived at a mountain that arose out of the black nothingness. The path led to a granite chair hewn out of the rock. A layer of black feathers covered the armrests and the seat. It was cold and Mortok shivered. He sat down and covered himself with the feathers that provided insulation and he felt his fingers tingle as they warmed. He wasn't here for warmth.

Two ravens flew towards him, darker shadows against the stars in the ethereal path that he had walked. Mortok waited. The ravens alighted upon his shoulders.

Mortok closed his eyes and guided his thoughts so that they were slow and the images bright. He pictured himself walking through the rain in Fridsholm, no home left. He pictured the red-haired others living in his fortress and worshiping other gods. He pictured weak men and hairless horses and rusting iron.

He was done and opened his eyes to see if the ravens had understood. Their dark eyes looked at him and Mortok felt the ravens' talons tighten on his clavicle drawing beads of blood that trickled down his chest. The raven on his left, Huginn, leaned forward and pecked out Mortok's eye. Mortok fought to sit still and when the raven had finished he watched the world blackout as he blinked his right eye.

The ravens spread out their wings and with strong beats they lifted off Mortok's shoulder. Mortok watched them wink at him as they flew away, leaving a black feather that floated into his lap.

Mortok got up and walked home along the starry path. He smiled. Odin had said yes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Unloading Synesthesia

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "(copper and ashes)" in Mirror Shards.

Janus watched the traffic judge (black pepper) preside over a petty speeding offense. The police officer (ozone) had an archaic notepad in his hand as he stood before the holographic display and identified the latitude and longitude from where he had taken the laser speed rating, including measurements to the hundredth of klicks per hour, and the exact latitude and longitude of the defendant (charred beef). The time of day was in millisecond accuracy and the officer played back a recording that focused on his interactions with the defendant.

The judge asked the defendant, "It says here that you plead not guilty. Do you wish to change your plea?"

The defendant's hands fidgeted (skunk) at his side and Janus watched the defendant's head bob as the defendant shuffled his feet. There wasn't much the defendant could do. It was obvious he was guilty. Janus worried about his own case. Perhaps, it would have been better to have just paid the fine. But, it was an unloading zone and Janus had been unloading supplies for the dorm party. On the other hand, how was Janus going to explain the length of time that his car had been parked in the unloading zone.

"I sentence you to traffic school, but will waive this speeding ticket from your record," said the judge (October rain). "Janus Tielsson and Ofc. Michael Hartley, please stand before me." Ofc. Hartley (wet dog fur) had a manila folder (library) under an arm with the pages wrinkled on the edges and his uniform was crinkled. "Please describe the incident."

"The vehicle was parked in an unloading zone only," said Ofc. Hartley. Janus was surprised by the brevity of the officer's statement and the lack of holographic presentation.

"Which vehicle?" asked the judge. "License number? Make? Model?"

"I can look that up, your honor." As Ofc. Hartley flipped through the sheets in the manila folder, some of them fell and scattered upon the floor. "It's in here somewhere."

"Do you deny that this is your car?" asked the judge.

"No," answered Janus.

"Do you deny the parking violation?"

"I was parked in the unloading zone because I was unloading my car on school business and when we came back out, I found the ticket." Janus rubbed his sweaty palms together (yeast).

"Ofc. Hartley, is unloading of vehicles allowed where the vehicle was parked?"

"Ummm... yes, but --"

"Then it sounds like there is no case here. Case closed." (post-rain breeze)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Seeing for the First Time

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Demonstration" in Mirror Shards.

"Morning, Billy, time to sniff the coffee." She scurried into the room and stepped on Billy's prized paper airplane.

She crouched down to feel the plane underfoot and gingerly picked it up holding it out in front of her as she stooped towards the window as if the sun might heal its broken folds.

"I'm sorry Billy, you have to learn to put things away. Here, take this," she said turning away from the window and not quite looking at Billy.

Billy snatched the plane out of his mom's hands and threw it under his bed where it would be safe from his clumsy mom.

"Why can't you avoid breaking my things?" asked Billy as he flopped down on his bed again.

His mom walked to the bed, sat down, and felt around until she brushed his knee and then took his hand in hers. "I don't want to break your things, but I can't know where they are unless you keep them organized."

Why was she so obsessed with organization wondered Billy. The plane had been there right in the middle of the room and it wasn't like it was dark in here. The sun shone in the window like it did every morning.

His mom sneezed. "It stinks in here, how many times do I have to remind you that he's an outdoor cat only and not allowed indoors. How you can find anything after that creature traipses all over your room leaving a scent trail of grass, mud, and finch feathers I'll never understand."

Billy wasn't slow, but he realized that there was something different about him. He didn't have to be organized to know what was in front of him and smells were so inexact he couldn't trust them. But his mom and others seemed to depend on smells, organization --

"I just heard the waffles finish, get rid of the cat and come down and have breakfast," said Billy's mom.

-- and sound.

Chasing Manhood

I submitted an entrant in Jason Evan's "Silhouette" flash fiction contest that he is running on his blog Clarity of Night. You can find my entry here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Buffalo Girl Won't You Come out Tonight

A response to Suzanne Young's "Friday Funkday" in Flashy Fiction.

I let out a held breath. True love. Well, except for the fact that he was ancient. Oh, and perhaps the 8.31 light years between us might be a problem too. I loved Jimmy's voice. That thick honeyed croon of his seemed to resonate across my skin leaving goosebumps every time I played his voice off the recording we had just received from Earth.

I danced down the stairs and I wished it was Christmas -- whatever that was -- and hummed one of the songs I heard him singing. It didn't matter that in the recording, he had his own true love. But mommy said that was a story, all make-believe, and it wasn't true. I bet he didn't have anyone and was waiting for a true love just like me.

"Hey, watch where you're going," said Philip as I stepped backward up the stairs and crashed into him. "Are you singing that buffalo song again?"

I was silent, I didn't want Philip to razz me again. But, as if he had some seventh sense he slapped my tail and said, "Bet Mr. Stewart don't like tails." Philip squeezed past me to race down the stairs and disappear into the kitchen.

I sat down and tried not to look dejected. This was true love. It didn't matter what the skin looked like. It was who you were inside. Jimmy had to love me, it was true love after all. He'd use his lasso to get him all the way here.

I smiled and ran towards the kitchen hoping that Philip hadn't gorged himself on all the stew cakes already.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Canadian Whiskey

A response to Heather Hansen's "Three Word Salad" in Flashy Fiction.

A red light blinked on the dash as the car spoke in a stilted voice, "The engine is going to overheat... please pull to the side of the road and turn the car off."

Ken and I sat in the back seat as we passed the exit sign for 8 Mile Road. I wore Ken's sports jacket over Mike's gold shirt. We still had another half hour of driving before getting to the Ambassador Bridge.

"Shit," said Stacy who drove the Buick Skylark. Stacy was blonde and stocky like a soccer player. She was a great friend but you had to be careful around her because she was one of those soccer players who would kick your ankle, knock you down, and leave you writhing in the grass if you crossed her.

"What's wrong?" asked Ken.

"There's a leak in the radiator," said Stacy. "We're probably out of radiator fluid."

"If you drive to the next exit, there will be a gas station there."

Mary, riding in the passenger seat, reached her hand back and squeezed my knee. She almost looked like Stacy's twin except her hair was dyed red and she wasn't as stocky. I didn't like this. Detroit's neon lights reflected off the pavement in the dark and I could imagine inner-city thugs crawling around the gas station like predators. Of course, the risk was probably better than getting stranded on the freeway."

"I'll get some radiator fluid," said Ken. "Be right back."

Mary, Stacy, and I stood around the car with its doors open. I watched three men, about as young as we were, who watched us from the shadows of the building next door to the gas station.

Ken came back lugging a plastic jug of radiator fluid.

"Let's pour the radiator fluid in and get going," I said.

"No," said Ken, "you need to wait until the engine cools down.

I didn't want to wait, I had Mike's old drivers license that we bent and rubbed to make the photo look worn so that the bouncers wouldn't notice I wasn't Mike. I was jittery from that and the young men that watched us.

"Okay, that should do it," said Ken. "Do you have an old rag?"

"Yes," said Stacy.

Ken popped the hood, took the rag from Stacy, and twisted the radiator cap off one twist at a time. The radiator fluid glugged as Ken poured it.

"As good as new. Well, not really. But let's get going." We all piled back into the car and I looked forward, with a little trepidation, to the Canadian bar.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Food Lotto

"Are you sure this is the right place?" asked Tony as he pulled into the empty parking lot around a two-story warehouse built out of corrugated iron. Except for the road they had traveled, only gently rolling green fields neighbored the warehouse.

"Google Maps says it is." Christine shook the newspaper flyer and said, "I double-checked the address. We couldn't be too early could we?"

"It's almost 10 AM, out here that is probably time for lunch. But, hopefully you're right. I don't want to just turn around and drive back so let's see if we can find anything."

The warehouse didn't have any signs on it or any windows. A single small door stood out because it was the one spot on the building without corrugated metal.
A blue placard was duct-taped to the door. It read, "Herndon's Food Lottery!!!"

"We're at the right place," said Christine. "You sure you want to go in?"

"We came all this way. It would be a waste to head back now."

"Doesn't it seem a little bit spooky? No cars and the middle of nowhere?"

"It's the middle of the day," said Tony. "Besides we can't really tweet about this unless we go in." Tony twisted the doorknob and pushed his way into the warehouse. It was dark and it took a couple moments for his eyes to adjust. The door clattered shut with the tinkling of small bells.

"Welcome to my food lottery," said a middle-aged man whose skin was prematurely wrinkled like a raisin and wore jean coveralls over a white shirt. "You look like first-timers here. Let me show you the apparatus."

The man, it had to be Herndon, turned and walked down narrow corridors between bins full of watermelons, corn, spinach, bok choy, and tomatoes. The wooden slat bins were about twice the size of the cage that Sandee, their golden retriever, slept inside. Herndon walked quick and Tony hurried to catch up before he got stranded in the maze of narrow corridors.

They arrived at a wall that must have been near the center of the warehouse, because it stretched at least twenty feet above them. Canvas-sided containers filled with produce were connected to a metal pole and chain-linked metal. Empty bins were scattered before the wall with one side open.

"How do you like it?" asked Herndon.

"What is it?" asked Christine.

"I call it the lotto wall. I charge $50 for a large box and $30 for a medium. Are you willing to play?"

Tony paused, it was a lot of money just to satisfy a little bit of curiosity. But not that much, they'd probably spent more than that in gas for the trip. "We'll take a large box," said Tony.

"Great." Herndon walked over to a wall and grabbed a small box that dangled from the end of a black cable and had a red button on it. The canvas containers shook as the metal chain lifted them higher. The canvas on the top row of containers folded back and Tony expected to see some of the vegetables fall. Instead, there was the loud noise of metal running on metal and a wedge-shaped sledge ran across metal runners that lined the top of the wall. The sledge pushed vegetables from the bins before it until it reached the end of the track and the vegetables fell into a large box.

"How are we going to use that?" asked Christine.

"There will be plenty of good stuff. You're getting it downright cheap so don't worry if you have to throw a little bit out."

Christine looked at Tony and raised her eyebrows.

"I'm working on a new one over here," said Herndon. "I call it the Can Claw. I'll throw it in for free if you want to try it out today."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tourist Information

A response to Deb Markanton's "Saturday Tripping" in Flashy Fiction.

"Jude, I don't like the looks of this neighborhood," said Adrienne.

"Don't worry about it, all of the guides say the old town is safe. Look at that," said Jude as he pointed at some green leaves that peaked out between buildings, "a little bit of nature."

"It looks sickly --" Adrienne stopped speaking as a man, his eyes hidden by a hooded sweatshirt, stepped out of an alley. He stared at them as he passed and Adrienne held her breath listening to ensure she heard his steps recede. "I don't like it here, let's go back to the street with the boutiques."

"Tourist information."

Adrienne stopped and stared at an old brick and cement building with red stenciled letters. Jude broke her grasp on his arm and strode towards the building. "It's just graffiti," said Adrienne. "There is no one here."

"Yes, no one..." Jude strode to stand under a painting of a man in a black sweatshirt with his head obscured by a black hat and Jude turned to look at Adrienne with his head right under the painted man's hands which had been raised like a pyramid. "But this building, it's been here a long time."

Adrienne looked over her shoulder to see whether anyone else was on the street. She ran to stand before Jude. "You are talking nonsense."

"No. There's a park a couple blocks over and a hole-in-the-wall pizza restaurant. You hungry?"