Category Archives: fiction

The World That Was

This isn’t a sneak peak at anything from the Technophobia universe, just a little vignette in an experimental format. These 1000 words contain the following prompts:
Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds
Linda Hill at Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS
Julie Duffy at Write On Wednesday
Bree Salyer at #FFC2018
 

I think that I always knew that I was different. I wasn’t like other adults that I knew. I know, it’s not something you expect someone to admit. Most people will tell you that they weren’t like other children. Me, I’m not like other adults. I’ve tried time and again to figure it out, but it always eluded me. It’s like a scene from a… Well, this is going to shock you. I can trust you, can’t I? It’s like a scene from a book, but a book that I’ve never read. Right, no one reads books, except… I see the realization behind your eyes. Yes, I’m a librarian. You know, in the world that was, that word had a completely different meaning.

There are lots of words that existed once before, but are lost to the decay. “Gun” is one of those words. The easiest way to explain it is that that we used chemicals to launch a piece of metal at mind-staggering speeds. Right? Something like that up here? It would kill us all. Don’t look at me like that. It was an occurrence all too common in the worlds that was. People then weren’t confined to metal and plastic. They experienced endless vistas of sky and rock. So beautiful…

That’s, um. Well… That’s not to say that we don’t have beauty up here. I’ve sat for hours in the ring. Just watching. The black field with so so many points of light. Then she presents herself. The ancient Greeks called her Gaea. The equally ancient Romans called her Terra. I can only imagine what those ancient peoples saw when they looked up at the sky. But Gaea, or Terra, is just so sad now. I’ve seen images of her in books. Blue waters, green landmass, and puffy clouds of white.

What? I told you I’m a librarian. I go down to the surface all the time. Remember? I’m different from other adults. If I make you uncomfortable, you can leave. I know that you didn’t know who you were going to meet. No? Okay. Where was I? Oh, yes, the world that was. Right, how we killed Terra. Right, or Gaea. Well, those chemicals that fired hunks of metal at incredulous speeds? We kept making them bigger and faster. More chemicals, refined and shaped hunks of metal. And the chemicals? Explosions that could destroy great swaths of land and everyone on it. You can imagine, we almost caused our own extinction. We ravaged her, you know. We ravaged each other. We became so obsessed with how to hurt one another…
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Space Combat

This is sort of a reply to Linn Fergus’ recent post on space combat. My friend, Eric Larson, and I discuss a variety of things, and space combat happens to be one of them. He helped come up with this treatise. Here are the seven prompts worked into these 990 words: Terrible Minds, #SoCS, A Beautiful Mess, #52weeks52stories, The Writing Reader, Write on Wednesday, and #FFC2018. This isn’s officially part of Days Until Home, but it could be…
 

“There is a lot of space, more of it than humans can comprehend. If every person in this room had a billion children, each child could have their own area of space a billion miles wide, and we’d still have plenty of space left. So fighting for control of space is stupid. Armed conflict is most often a result of scarcity of resources, and space is a resource we have in unfathomable abundance. Why risk death, and spend resources for any piece of space, when you can just go have this other,” Jeremy Thompkins waved his hand to the side, “empty space next door?”

He leaned forward, and gripped the lectern. “What is scarce, and worth fighting for, is land. Rocky moons that we can reach are a major hassle, and we need rocky moons to make everything from space stations to underwear.” Jeremy paused as a smattering of laughter rippled through the room. “‘Hassle’ doesn’t quite cover it; these moons are like winning the lottery. These are the resources people will continue to fight over, and die for. Which brings us to the only space worth fighting for: orbital space.”

“Controlling orbital space around a moon or planet controls the resources below. From orbit you can knock out most communications, much of their surveillance of the surface, and even hamper their ability to navigate. Not to mention dropping kinetic projectiles on their infrastructure with devastating effect.” Jeremy’s knuckles turned white for a moment as he gripped the lectern. Hopefully, he thought, none of these fresh-faced contracts will experience what I did in Australia. He continued, “Sixteen days is the record that a population on the surface has held out while an embargo force controlled orbital space above. That was because the besieging force was limited, and they wanted to capture as much of the infrastructure intact as possible. No sense having to take time building new stuff if you can just use their stuff. Which was only partially successful in this case since the defenders engaged in “scorched earth” tactics – destroying or sabotaging their facilities before surrendering. This has been the last resort tactic of a retreating defender for centuries.”
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Goodbye Razor’s Reef

I’m a tad over at 1032, but the first draft was at 1500 words, so I’m done cutting. My friend, L. Fergus has written 22 books about an angelic anti-hero named Kita. Razor’s Pass is the name of one of the books in the series, and hopefully will be published soon. This rambling doesn’t have anything to do with the world of Kita, other than I stole the names of a few places in Birthright, and Razor’s Pass. This one is chock full of prompts: Terribleminds, #SoCS, The Writing Reader, and of course, Bree Salyer’s #FFC2018.

The rough-hewn wooden door creaked when she pushed it open. The creak was nothing new, and yet again, Nany wished she had paid the coin for a spell that would’ve silenced the annoying sound. But, as was all life in Razor’s Reef, her meager coin was reserved for the necessities.

A deluge of precipitation threatened to follow her into her humble dwelling. The rain seemed to have a mind of its own. Nany paused, and examined the ribbons of water pelting the pane of crystal set into the wooden door. The individual droplets coalesced into a cloud, and then formed the rough outline of a face. Damn those elementals, Nany cursed silently. The mass of droplets seemed to respond to her sour mood, and the torrent against her door intensified.

Nany closed her eyes, and drew breath in through her mouth. Holding it, she focused on a tiny rivulet that wandered down her cheek from her wet hair. The water started to vibrate, then subsume to steam. Her eyes snapped open, and the accompanying exhale focused her power. She was aware of each droplet, and its proximity to her body. Her eyes flared a subtle purple, and she willed the droplets back to the murky water.

The shriek of the elemental echoed in her head. She felt a twinge of guilt, but water elementals were notorious tricksters. This particular elemental was especially troublesome. Most would realize their place, and scurry back to the Razor’s Sea. This one decided to resist her magical command.

The elemental continued to solidify. The small eyes, and flowing hair almost looked real. A strong jaw, and feminine neck became obvious as the droplets coalesced from top to bottom. Nany centered herself, and reinforced her aura. She drew power from the wooden floor, and by extension the rocky land below. The elemental grew hazy for a moment, and the beautiful eyes showed a profound sadness.

Nany paused. The elemental’s lips curled upward, and the droplets continued their downward journey. An ample bosom formed, and Nany felt a flush rise on her cheeks. Elegant legs finally reached the ground, and the elemental stepped toward Nany’s door. The mist continued to gather, and the elemental became more and more dense. The scene behind her faded as the elemental forced light to refract through droplets, and form color. Her eyes were as blue as the sky on a clear summer day, but they reflected like an animal. Her skin was a pale brown, like the trunk of an Amara tree. A simple green tunic covered enough of her amazing body to keep her modest.
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Interruptions

Okay, so I went a little crazy with this one. How about the first chapter to the sequel to my debut murder mystery? This is 2150 words, more than double the going rate for flash fiction. If you dig what I wrote, be sure to check out Score of Silence. It should be published by Amber Cove Publishing in February or March of this year! I’ve worked in prompts from Terribleminds, Said Bree’s 2018 flash fiction challenge, and Julie from Write on Wednesday.

Caroline led the way up the steps to her room at Vivian’s, Tupper in tow. He grumbled as he wrestled a banker’s box full of files through the door behind her, tripping over the clothing strewn on the floor.

“Where…?”

“Dining room table,” she said, kicking aside dirty laundry to make a path before heading to the kitchen. The fridge was in as much disarray as the rest of the apartment, but she found two beers at the back. Kimberly’s favorite, she thought, shoving one back while rummaging for something her stodgy partner would prefer. She pulled the cork on the wine bottle and passed it under her nose. Better. Now, if she could just find a clean glass.

Tupper was already settled in a chair when she returned, the box lid tossed aside and stacks of files lining the antique table so out of place in the otherwise sparsely decorated room. He traded a stack of papers for the glass of wine and she pulled them across the table, cracking open her can of beer as she slid onto a chair.

They sorted in silence, exchanging files as they went, all the while scribbling notes that passed between them without comment. Caroline glanced at the dusty CD player on the sideboard, but thought better of it. For all she would have liked a bit of background music, the sound would have destroyed the groove they had long before established. Besides, Tupper hated The Dancing Pigs.

For almost an hour the only sound was that of shuffling papers and the scratching of pencils. When a tap came at the door, Caroline lifted her head, unsure if what she’d heard was simply the groans of the old building. Again, a knock, more insistent that the first. She left Tupper hunched over documents and went to investigate.

She stopped with her hand on the doorknob. After the events of the previous month, she was still skittish. She didn’t want to admit it, but how else was she supposed to react to having been drugged, abducted, and forced to clear her name against a pair of overzealous FBI agents—not to mention and the federal prosecutor that had wanted to pin everything on her. Doula Breech’s smile and casual wave still grated on her nerves. Still, the real killer had been caught, the mole in the FBI exposed, and the charges dropped. She even thought that one of the FBI agents, Steve Braxton, might prove to be a new contact in the FBI as Tupper’s former team took promotions and transfers. She did not have to be afraid. Why, then, was she?
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Wrong Place Wrong Time (FFC2018)

I was inspired recently. Cindy and I are gearing up to write the third book in the Sixteen Sunsets Saga. Here’s a little short to whet your appetite. I’ve included prompts by Chuck Wendig & Bree Salyer.

They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Joaquin and Quake picked their way through the debris left in the demolition of Globe Tower. They both wore backpacks stuffed with bottled water, air filtration masks, and first aid supplies. Joaquin wanted them both to be armed in the brave new world that they fought against, but their leader, Anne Henderson, insisted that although Major Globe was dead, his legacy of discrimination, bigotry, and hatred lived on. As a couple of college-age kids picking through the debris, they were at most, trespassing. Armed, they were insurgents. Terrorists. Criminals.

The two didn’t speak. It wasn’t that the masks they wore made it difficult; it was the devastation all around them. Their mood was somber. Neither of them knew what sights their little excursion would bring. Their destination was the unknown. They’d left the safety of their hideout in the dark hours. It was the only time that people with superpowers could travel. Their movements went unnoticed, the Seattle Police tried to enforce curfew, but they were spread thin due to daily rioting.

The riots were getting worse. Those with super powers tried to defend their right to exist. The Superhub was in shambles. Andy still hadn’t recovered from his experience at the base of Globe Tower. His ramblings of a phantom self only served to fuel the image of an unstable young man. No one at the hideout had stopped them. Anne seemed to ignore anything not directly involved with tracking down Kristof. It didn’t mean that she was unaware of their nightly romp through the disaster area. She likely had eyes everywhere. Joaquin was certain that having an immortal super in their midst was an asset, but there were those that remembered Anne’s previous affiliation, albeit a forced one, with Major Globe.

It felt good for Joaquin to do something. The losses were staggering. Frank Massey’s daughter did her best to keep their outfit running. Her eyes were always puffy. With their numbers dwindled, it was not hard to hear her crying in the wee hours. Inside the warehouse, sound carried with no concern to snores, the sounds of sex, of a grieving daughter over her hero father.

Hero.

Detective Frank Massey was a hero. Even before the disaster, the city had been in chaos. Their covert underground railway orchestrated by Massey’s partner, Betty Patterson, smuggled many supers out of Seattle. The police presence before Globe Tower fell was one thing – now, Seattle was a police state. The streets were crawling with armed soldiers, the Army National Guard called in to assist getting the populace under control. Something Joaquin knew that Frank Massey would’ve rallied against. For a hero cop, the old man wasn’t half bad.

The duo had been out every night searching for their family. Neither of them had a biological family. Quake was cast out by his parents fearing that his emerging superpowers would bring unwanted scrutiny to their family. This was before the “supers crisis,” initiated by a confused super-powered Miles Jensen, dubbed The Madison Park Butcher, and the machinations of an egomaniacal kingpin by the name of Jacob Globe. Now… Quake’s story played out again and again as worried people lashed out against those that were different. Co-workers “outed” supers living as if they had no powers.

Parents against children.

Husbands against wives.

Neighbors against neighbors.
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13 Week Streak: 05

I miss writing weekly flash fiction. I’m glad that Thain in Vain and Dusty Devil brought back a weekly event like the #13WeekStreak. I enjoy stretching my interpretation of the prompts. I enjoy keeping my story limited to 500 words:

* * *

The operator of the Mansion of Horror wasn’t always the carnie with the sad smile he was famous for. Before Playland, before death, before ruin, and most definitely before the incident, he was a wealthy man. He had power. He had money. He had a beautiful wife who adored him. He was the envy of his peers. He was the American dream.

Not the real American dream, mind you. You know, the one where anything’s possible. When America was a place that you could go to escape tyranny and persecution. No, he subscribed to the dream of a house in the suburbs. A white picket fence and a pair of sporty cars in the 2.5-car garage. Dinner was always on the table when he came home from drinking with the boys.

It was the summer of ’66, after all. The terrors of the 50s were behind America. The national flag featured fifty stars for quite a few years back then. Jorge was a man about town, and they all loved him for it. Women wanted to be with him. Men wanted to be him. He was always faithful to Lucille, and she doted on him. The summer of ‘66 was looking up for Jorge. His life wouldn’t run afoul the fates for another eighteen months.

The summer of ’66 was three years before he found communion with the dregs of society. They had ruled Lucille’s death self-inflicted, but Jorge knew that that was not the case. He knew the combination of his brief infidelity and the policies of the Catholic Church were the culmination of his greatest loss.

It wasn’t a loss that would balance another exurbanite purchase. The taxman wouldn’t weigh this loss against gains made on the market, and decide that as a contributing member of society that, “boys will be boys.”

Jorge stood tall, as a man should, when the police arrived at his office. His stoic demeanor betrayed no hint of underlying turmoil. He thanked the officers, offered a firm handshake, and returned to his desk. He motioned for the door to remain open as they departed. He would grieve for Lucille in private, as all good Americans should.

His decline wasn’t rapid by any stretch of the imagination. It did take him a year to be exonerated in his wife’s death. Another six months for his friends and colleges to shun him. Even the target of his unfortunate ardor ignored his cries for help.

It was eighteen months later, when Jorge, easily confused for a vagabond, retrieved a crumpled up newspaper in the gutter. Like the paper, he could never be new again, but a help wanted ad in the summer of ’69 promised a new life. His old life of privilege and moneyed wants would be forgotten. Cast aside.

Today, we commit Jorge to the ground after forty-five glorious years with Playland. We’ve returned here to pay our respects and bury him next to his wife. Rest in peace Jorge, you’ll be missed.


13 Week Streak: 04

[500 words]I skipped last week because I had a deadline to take care of for War of the Worlds: Firestorm. I’m back this week with a little taste of the Sixteen Sunsets Saga before the first book. Enjoy!

* * *

“Hurry up, man, someone’s gonna bust us!”

Joaquin ignored Tyrone, and focused on working the slim jim. “Chill,” he replied.

“You said you did this before,” Tyrone wheezed. His wheeze subsumed to a wet cough.

Joaquin paused and met Tyrone’s eyes. “You need a hit?”

“Bitch, you ain’t my momma.”

Joaquin focused on Tyrone’s bulging eyes and pale lips. “Look like youse dyin’, man.”

Tyrone gave him the finger, and reached into his jacket, and pulled out his inhaler. He breathed out twice in rapid succession and depressed the cylinder.

Joaquin returned to jimmying the lock on the Plymouth Duster. He couldn’t quite work the thin metal correctly. The only other tool they had was a flat-head screwdriver for the ignition. Be easier if we just smash the window, he thought, ain’t nobody gonna send a couple fourteen-year-olds to jail. Especially since… It was easy for him to justify stealing Tyrone’s mother’s white boyfriend’s car. Poor white families had been moving into his neighborhood for years. They thought they could get cheap property and fix it up. The racial divide in Seattle wasn’t as bad as LA, but you still had to watch yourself.

Joaquin felt his arm jostled. “Check out this bitch,” he whispered.

Joaquin turned from the Duster and saw a white kid, about he same age as them walking down the sidewalk brandishing a wooden sword. Every few steps, he would swing or stab at imaginary foes.

Joaquin grinned, elbowing Tyrone. “Probably fightin’ ninjas an’ shit.”

The white kid slowed his roll and watched them. He sidled up to them. “Yo, Dawg, you need help?”

Joaquin closed his eyes. “Whaddaya know ‘bout jackin a car, uh dude?”

The white kid smiled. “Andy, Andy Kitz.” He ran his fingers along the slim jim and it swayed back and forth. “You can learn all kinds of stuff on Youtube.”

Tyrone smirked, but Joaquin stepped away and motioned for Andy to prove it.

Andy dug his fingers into the seam where the door met the frame. He pried the door away, and shoved his wooden sword into the gap. He pushed on the sword until the gap was big enough to get his small hand and arm in. Andy grunted as his fingers brushed against the door lock. Finally, he gripped the cylinder between his knuckles and the door popped. “Where you guys headin’?” he asked.

Tyrone gave Andy a shove. “Nunya business, homey,” he replied at the same time Joaquin announced, “The beach.”

Andy frowned.

Joaquin sighed. “Fine, we headin’ to Whidbey Island.”

Andy nodded, shrugged his shoulders, and turned to walk down the street.

Joaquin grabbed him by his skinny arm. “You know what happens to snitches, right?”

Andy shook his arm free. “You don’t have to worry ‘bout me,” he declared, “They’re always watching.”

The Duster purred to life. “Move over, bitch,” Joaquin barked at Tyrone, “We got places to be.”

They drove past Andy and his wooden sword and made their way to Whidbey Island.