Friday, November 29, 2013

The Watcher (Flash! Friday #52 entry)

Caroline had watched them for a hundred years. She’d continue watching a thousand years more, pursuing vengeance, until such a time that she was finally able to do to them as they’d done to her. 

Crouched in a corner, Caroline cursed the demons, calling each one by name. Four students raised artificial human faces; soulless eyes turned from texts to gaze instead upon the specter-child. 

Plucked from her bed like a piece of ripe fruit, she’d been peeled and parted, her tender flesh consumed by an insatiable ill on a moonless, winter night. 

Her foul rage nourished them still. 

So they let her watch.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Revenge is Not A Side Dish (Finish That Thought #21 entry)

“Is cranberry sauce supposed to taste like this?”

It was the last thing Becca said before she and the rest of her family were snoring face down in mounds of mashed potatoes and lakes of congealing gravy. As the roof was withdrawn from Becca’s single-story home, the lights flickered and died. Darkness was quickly replaced by a gently pulsing, bruised-plum spotlight, and a bespectacled zebra descended through the unroofed building into the dining room. Lylae flicked her striped ears, listening for anyone elsewhere in the house who might still be awake.

“What do you see?” The voice of Lylae’s commander whispered through the communicator as if the unconscious bipeds might be roused if she spoke with her usual authority.

“Eight bipeds. Five adults and three juveniles. All adequately sedated.”

“Any sign of the ambassador?”

Through her spectacles, Lylae could see bright, fluorescent motes dancing in the air. “I’m reading trace particles matching the ambassador’s genetic profile. The trail appears to be originating from an adjoining chamber.”

“Proceed with your investigation.”

“Yes, Commander Gondii.” Lylae moved quickly, her hooves clattering loudly in the otherwise silent household. As she stepped through the doorway she stepped on something rubbery and slick. She lost her balance and slid into the kitchen, colliding with a center island and toppling a stack of soiled pots and pans. The resulting commotion was enough to elicit an unpleasant feedback signal from her communicator.

“Lylae, is everything all right? Have you been harmed? Has the mission been compromised?”

“Everything is fine.” Lylae said. She looked back toward the doorway. Sprawled on the floor was Becca’s unconscious daughter. The floor was littered with the deviled eggs she’d been sent to collect. “I’ve discovered a fourth juvenile in the adjacent room. Also unconscious.” Lylae untangled herself from the floor and resumed her search. There was a significant increase in the fluorescent signal. Lylae followed the gradient.

“The ambassador’s signature is much stronger in here.” Lylae moved carefully so as not to trip on any of the dishes and risk another embarrassing fall. As she rounded the backside of the island, the gradient transformed into a dense cloud of fluorescence.  “I’ve isolated the source of the signal. I believe the ambassador is being held captive inside this steel cell.”

“Do you think you can handle a rescue, or should I send the extraction team?”

Lylae gripped a cotton rag hanging from the front of the steel door between her teeth and yanked; the silvery door fell open. A gust of hot, moist air pummeled her face, fogging her spectacles and temporarily shielding her from the horror within.

“Forget the extraction team, Commander Gondii,” Lylae said, as she stared at the browned turkey, roasted to perfection. “Send in the assault forces.”  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Renovations (Race the Date #4 entry)

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Keto asked.

“Not only is it a good idea, it’s my only option; just look at it!”

Keto gazed upward through the rippling currents at the doomed isles. They did prevent her from admiring the lovely Helios as he rode his golden chariot across the sky, but that didn’t justify the destruction of an entire civilization. Besides, Poseidon harbored no secret desire to ogle his brother from afar; his motivation for eradicating the archipelago lay elsewhere.

Keto frowned. “And you don’t think Zeus will be angry that you’ve obliterated an entire civilization just so you can use the rubble to erect a life-sized statue of yourself in the living room?”

“Meh, easy come, easy go. I’ll just say they angered me by failing to conquer Athens or some such rubbish. Besides, in a few years nobody is even going to remember Atlantis existed.” Poseidon stroked his mossy beard and said, “Now, hold my drink and watch this.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanks, Obamacare (Race The Date #3 entry)

Jaime shuddered but did not blink, keeping his eyes on the cut-out tacked to the wall for as long as possible before the blindfold was secured. He memorized the cut-out’s contours, focusing on the critical zone. Some of the players had placed close. Very close. He had to be closer.

Hands gripped his shoulders, forcing him to spin. One...Two...Three times. The floor tipped and Jaime staggered sideways. He took three compensatory steps in the opposite direction. Hands gripped his shoulders again, but this time he was shoved forward, toward the wall, the cut-out, and salvation.

The memorized image was a perfect imprint in his mind; he approached the wall as if he weren't blindfolded at all. Jaime reached out an arm and, without hesitation, plunged the pin into the wall. There was a collective gasp from the other players.

Jaime removed his blindfold, his Cheshire Cat grin melting off his face as he saw that his piece—a pink construction paper heart—was pinned to the cardboard man in the dead center of his forehead, over a foot from its target. Elsewhere, on and around the cut-out, were a pair of lungs, half a dozen kidneys, and a liver.

“Bad luck,” a man said, gripping Jaime once more by the shoulders.

Jaime shot a look over to the other players. A woman, the one whose mother needed a new kidney, was weeping. She’d won.

“No,” Jaime said, “Chrissy needs a new heart.”

“Man, lotsa people need new hearts. Thanks to you, someone's gonna get one.”


“No buts,” the man said, producing a firearm. “You knew the rules when you signed up. You win, you get a donor. You lose, you are the donor.”

The man ushered Jaime and eight other healthy men and women toward a door marked SURGERY.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Children of Perdition (Flash! Friday #50 entry)

The children were gone, but the children were not gone.

Mounted on a steed as thin and frail as a child’s stick-figure drawing, he fled across an endless desert landscape. Like his horse, the rider possessed little substance; his gaunt frame was a mosaic of exposed bone and blistered skin, bleached and baked brick-red beneath an unremitting noonday sun.

The mare heaved, expelling a great, sorrowful sigh. He might have stroked her neck, might have offered some consolation or encouragement, but his hands were as they always were—hooked like claws around the damned pipe. His fingers moved over its holes in sharp, involuntary jerks. Hot, hollow breaths were drawn from his lungs and funneled through the slender ivory tube that rested between cracked, bleeding lips.

Terrifying in its innocent cheeriness, the familiar melody swirled in the air, trailing behind him like an invisible cape.

As always, when the piper played, the children followed.

An army of footprints tracked through the sands behind him. Each tiny imprint vanished an instant after it was laid, carried away and forgotten by an indifferent wind. Tirelessly they marched, the evanescent tracks the only trace of a lonely hoard that relentlessly pursued the piper and his enchanting tune.

The mare heaved again, shuddered, and, with an almost silent whinny, collapsed. The piper toppled headfirst into an abrasive dune. Unable to free his hands from the cursed instrument, he flailed in the shifting sands, drowning beneath coarse waves.  

Ghost hands lifted him from the gritty current and set him upright near the dead animal. Unable to speak, he bid the horse farewell with his yellow, unblinking eyes. Her spirit had repaid its cosmic debt, and now he would have to carry out his penance in solitude. The piper trudged forward.

On earth, the children were gone; they were drowned in a river.

But here, the children were not gone; they would follow him forever over an endless ocean of sand.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Midnight Sun (Race the Date #2 entry)

The world was a buffet of adventure from which Zach and Anna supped frequently. As they stood on the edge of the world, watching the sun dip toward the horizon, Anna took inventory of their conquests.

Champagne on the summit of Everest.
Riddles in the shadow of the Sphinx.
A solo marathon along the Great Wall of China.
Vows witnessed by the of Moai of Easter Island.

They had sampled generously, savoring the flavor of every experience their blue planet had to offer until only stale leftovers remained.

Months prior, while on a birthday safari, Anna had confided in one of her fellows travelers her growing boredom. The traveler produced a stone from his satchel and pressed it into Anna’s hand. It thrummed, emitting a shallow, aubergine glow as the man mouthed unearthly wisdom into Anna’s eager ear.

Anna squeezed Zach’s hand as her watch signaled the arrival of the witching hour. She rested the stone on a mossy carpet, bathing it in the golden rays of a midnight sun. The stone erupted into kaleidoscope of sound and light. Galaxies swirled in a cyclone of unfathomable beauty.

The possibilities were infinite.

Hand in hand, Anna and Zach stepped into the vortex; their bodies burst into a spray of ecstatic particles and were carried away by a dazzling current of light.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wrong Place, Right Time (Race The Date #1 entry)

Cassidy couldn’t tell if her skin was boiling or frozen. Maybe it was both. Probably, it didn’t matter. Whatever that status of her exposed epidermis, it was the first distinction in a lifetime of serial unknowns that Cassidy didn’t care if she had wrong.
She’d been wrong about a lot of things in her life. Wrong about brown crayons tasting like chocolate. Wrong about bottle rockets making her bicycle go faster. Wrong about viral vectors being the cure for cancer. But she never gave up. Every wrong answer was a baited hook luring her toward a state of newfound understanding and undiscovered truths.
Her colleagues, friends and family all said she was crazy, that time travel was impossible, but her work required viable tissue. Ancient tissue. Cassidy was determined to get it. She explored the fields of physics and engineering, seeking to unlock the secrets of time travel. Only then, might her experiments on human physiology and disease bear fruit.
She was prepared to be wrong again—she was, after all, operating far outside her area of expertise—and it never occurred to Cassidy, as she calibrated her untested time displacement chamber, that consideration of the Earth’s location in space on the desired arrival date might be an important factor.
Displaced in time, but not in space, Cassidy drifted in a silent vacuum. Through a watery crimson veil, she could appreciate the jagged outline of a single landmass stamped onto the surface of a young blue globe. Pangea.
Maybe burning, maybe freezing, but definitely out of breath, Cassidy acquiesced to an encroaching darkness as she gazed down on an Earth two hundred million years younger than the one she’d left, proving time travel was possible.
About that, at least, she had been right.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Reflections (Flash! Friday #49 entry)

Suspended in time and spanning the great inky chasm of NeverWas, Lauren stood on the Bridge of Fleeting Moments. Behind her, Lauren’s Past rippled in a silver pool of light. Reflected in its surface were her triumphs, her failures, and the bittersweet memory of lost love. Ahead of her, a golden pool churned; its surface was a featureless glow reflecting the limitless potential of Lauren’s unwritten Future.

Seduced by the nostalgia of bygone days, Lauren longed to return to  familiar times and reclaim her wasted happiness.

She moved toward the silvery echo of yesteryear.

Gold deepened to amber. Amber to copper. Copper to rust.

The bridge shuddered; heavy slabs of stone plummeted into the NeverWas. Lauren cast an uneasy glance across the dissolving bridge to her vanishing future. A single focus still pulsed with golden promise.

She hesitated.

Forward? Back? Or into the abyss?

Lauren closed her eyes and leapt.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Paradise by the Dashboard Light (Flash! Friday #48 entry)

It was date night again. Lester caressed cracked leather and counted hash marks on the dash—one for every romantic evening that had culminated in sweet satisfaction. It was a moonless night, and this stretch of road, though close to campus, was far enough from the influence of artificial light to still allow for stealth. He cruised over the blacktop sans headlights. Black on black on black. 

She wanted it. He knew she did. Lester wanted it, too. 

“Soon, my love.” he said. 

She wasn’t shiny or new. She didn’t have electronic windows or automatic steering. Minerva was a dinosaur, a relic from another time, and she was the love of Lester’s life. Her heavy steel body never dented or buckled when it collided with unsuspecting flesh, and dried blood blended seamlessly with her rusty freckles.  

A hundred yards ahead, paired caution lights strobed on either side of the road. Lester traced the silhouette of a backpacked youth as it stepped into the flashing crosswalk. 

Riding Minerva like a sorcerer atop a rogue comet, Lester plowed into the wide-eyed, open-mouthed co-ed, howling like a jackal as her body—limbs tangled and bent at unnatural angles—bounced off Minerva’s hurtling frame and was crushed beneath two sets of metal-studded snow tires. 

Lester stopped the car. But only for a moment. He didn’t dare linger. As life ebbed from the mangled heap visible in the rear view mirror, Lester carved another crooked scar into the dashboard. 

The engine shuddered and Lester whispered, “I know, Minerva. I love you, too.”