Posts Tagged ‘story’

Flash Fiction Month #3, Episode 2: Menace From Beyond The Starbucks

Another episode of the third season of Flash Fiction Month. Read the last installment here, and read the installments from the second Flash Fiction Month here.

A fragment of puff pastry drifted lazily through the air, and yet again Wes had to ask himself how he’d gotten into such a terrible mess.

In retrospect, it must’ve begun when the European Space Agency claimed they’d made first contact with an alien species. This was happening ever more frequently, and once Wes had overcome his shock at the ever stranger smorgasbord of xenoforms on the city streets, he began to wonder why it was always Europe finding new species. Why couldn’t NASA get a few? Wes was a proud-blooded American who could trace his ancestry all the way back to a rustic cabin somewhere in the South Carolina Piedmont before things got hazy, and like any proud patriot, he spent much of his free time commiserating with his friends in a vaguely Italian coffee shop.

“I’ll take a cinnamon cruffin and a caramel macchiato,” said Wes to the barista on duty. He paid for the items, turned to find a table, and slammed straight into a pile of snot.

“!!! !$$@ $!  ! !($ !#_!” it shrieked. The ESA had christened this aliens’ species the “Wackelpuddings” for their amorphous construction. Its companion (a sharkman from Sigma Sagittarii) growled and slapped a fin to its face as Wes stepped back, desparately seeking to extract himself from the Wackelpudding’s body.

“Look, I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going,” Wes tried to explain, but the Wackelpudding was looking for a fight. It lashed out with a makeshift tentacle and nearly cut into Wes’s face. It tried again, but then the sharkman moved to block its attack.

“Leave him alone, Sigmar! He simply wishes to enjoy his pastry in peace,” he growled. The pudding made a few abortive beeps and hisses… then it was silent. Wes sighed in relief and made his way over to a table to wait for his order. He only had to wait about a minute before he got his coffee and pastry. Unfortunately, on the way back, another person walked into the Wackelpudding. Its second shriek shattered the windows. Wes dove under his table, miscalculated slightly, and hit his forehead. He blacked out for a second, and awoke to the sound of meaty punches burrowing into various flavors of flesh. He peeked out from under the table in an attempt to figure out what was going on, but dove back under when he saw the Wackelpudding pull out something that looked like a gun

And just then, gravity failed. Wes’s body lazily drifted off the ground. He could hear sirens in the distance – eerie, low pitched sirens with a strange guttural undertone to them.

“Sigmar the Conqueror! We have you surrounded! Come out with your hands up, or we will be forced to come into the premises!” shouted an unfamiliar voice.

This was bad. Wes was sure he had a concussion, and the last thing he needed on top of it was to get caught in the middle of a gun fight. As he lay there hoping the Wackelpudding wouldn’t get any dangerous ideas, he couldn’t help but wonder what that cruffin would’ve tasted like.



Flash Fiction Month #3, Episode 1: Malicious Noncompliance

Flash Fiction Month is back… …again! I’m sticking with the last two years’ rules. Each month’s posts will be a self-contained story, most likely of about the usual 400-500 word length. I make no guarantees of subject, style, or anything else. You can read last year’s installments here.

Monday, 11:31 AM. I always like to clean the men’s restroom before the big lunch time rush. Can you imagine a horde of jocks stampeding the facilities, stumbling over themselves to get to the toilets before they become toilets, only to find that some hung over executive had a little too much hair of the dog and has filled a stall with his… well…

Okay, perhaps I should be honest with you. My challenges as a janitor in the Winnebago Building go above and beyond what my fellow travelers in the sanitation industry have to deal with. Still, I like the challenge – it keeps me busy and gives me an opportunity to exercise the power and responsibility my supplies give me. In that spirit, I head into the restroom to make everything shine… and the first thing I see is a clogged toilet disgorging filthy water all over the floor. Someone’s stuffed nearly half a roll of toilet paper into the bowl! I have a philosophy when it comes to using such quantities of paper – flush early, flush often, pay your penance when the water bill comes. You do not try to see how much the system can handle in one go.

This is, in fact, the fourth time this has happened in this cell this week. It’s not my duty to name and shame whoever’s abusing the fixtures, but I can at least hope to educate the people I serve. As part of my supplies, I keep a pen, paper, and some clear tape so I can leave messages as necessary. How does this one go again?

“Please stop flushing so much toilet paper in one go! If you need to use a lot of toilet paper, then flush multiple times in order to prevent the pipes from backing up. Thank you.”

I find appending pleasantries at the end usually improves compliance. Usually. There are some exceptions. I return to the men’s restroom the next day and open the door for the first round of morning cleaning, only to find a veritable wall of white rushing towards me-

It took me a second to put it together – this is toilet paper! A heck of a lot of it, too! A quantity of toilet paper so enormous that it’s buried me up to my knees and jammed the door open in the process. I look up to see a solid, impenetrable wall of thin tissues, except for a small indentation where it collapsed on me.

“Who did this?” I shout at the tissues. They are unmoved.

“What were they thinking?” They remain unmoved.

I figure I’m going to need my claw tool for this. Usually, it’s reserved for removing stray turds from the corners of toilet stalls, but for all I know some of that toilet paper could be smeared with unmentionable waste; best that I put a little distance between myself and the product just in case.

“What’s going on here?” says a voice to my side, just as I’m pulling on my gloves. Oh crap. It’s the building owner; he likes to patrol the halls at odd hours for whatever reason.

“Some monster filled the entire bathroom up to the ceiling with toilet paper, as far as I can tell! You’ve got to call the cops or something,” I respond. The building owner shakes his head and grimaces at me.

“I can’t get the cops involved on this! It’s probably just a prank. You’d better get this bathroom usable before everyone else gets here.” With that, he wanders off, as if this happens all the time. I can’t argue with him; I’ve got fifty, maybe a hundred bucks in my savings account? I spend easily that much a month on cleaning supplies!

Today is going to be a long day.

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 5: The One Drop Society

The final installment of Flash Fiction Month #2 is a story idea I’ve had banging around the inside of my cranium for some time. Extracting stories from your head and putting them to paper (or pixels) is a good way to stave off madness. Read the last installment here, and read the installments from the first Flash Fiction Month here.

NOTE: This story contains sensitive content that may be offensive to various demographics. You’d think they wouldn’t be able to collaborate to deadly effect, but Destruction released a song called “United By Hatred” on their 2nd album, Eternal Devastation (which I have, in fact, reviewed). Any resemblance to actual political positions, real or imagined, historical or contemporary, left or right, purple or pink with yellow polka dots, etc. is entirely coincidental.

It’s 1842. For whatever reason, the town of Aschaffenburg in South Carolina recently passed a law stating that a person with even so much as one African ancestor would be considered black for legal purposes. One of our undercover agents blew their cover by calling the proposed bill a “one drop rule” in a fit of spluttering rage. When we were done reprimanding him, we admitted he’d given us an idea.

Read more…

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 4: Partially Hydrogenated

We are up to four episodes of Flash Fiction Month now! It all ends next week, but try not to think too hard about it. Sometimes, you just have to live in the moment. The overall plot of today’s story was inspired by a longtime reader’s suggestion. Read the last installment here, and read the installments from the first Flash Fiction Month here.

Somewhere in the unfathomable depths of rural Iowa…

Okay, let’s be honest – Bill doesn’t like carnivals all that much. Sure, he tags along if his family wants to go to one, but the peculiar mixture of low budget thrills and low budget customers doesn’t quite sit right with him. Too much of either actually tends to make him wake up in the morning with either a hangover, or a stress migraine. Still, he’s here, so he figures he ought to man up for his wife and kid and try to make the most of the day. Bill has, however, picked up a few tricks for minimizing the casualties of carnival. First, he gets all of his thrill riding out of the way in the morning, when his breakfast (bacon and eggs) has settled a bit, and isn’t quite at risk of emergency ejection. Afternoons, on the other hand, are a better time for games and shows that don’t require quite the same level of physical endurance and toughness. After all, it’s not like he’s the one getting dunked or shot at. In the middle of all of this, though…

“Get yer fried butter here! It’s deep fried, it’s buttery, and this is the only place ya’ll can git without your doctor having a heart attack for you!”

Bill has already sampled enough fried carnival food to legally change his name to “Big Bill”, but the novelty of fried butter is simply too much for him to pass up. He heads over to the stall that’s selling the product and asks for a portion.

“Fried butter! Bright as the moon and tastes better, too!”

That’s a little weird, but the carnie is still following through and prepping Bill’s “food”. He pays for the fried butter, eats a piece; I’m not entirely sure what he was expecting, but he seems to like it, at least as a work of carnie art.

“You like that, eh? Got plenty more where that came from, n’yeh,” says the carnie, finally addressing Bill, who has by now pushed down about half his portion and is beginning to reconsider his initial approval. It seems a bit too greasy, even for carnival standards.

“You know, I just go with the moon stuff because the kids seem to like it,” the carnie continues, because Bill’s suddenly glazed expression makes it obvious that he’s clearly very interested in what the carnie has to say. “Thing is, nobody’s ever been to the moon, so I don’t know if it’s true.”

“I, I, what?” Bill finally says. His mouth doesn’t feel right. There’s a congealed mass of something inside that’s interfering with his diction. It turns out to be fried butter.

“Oh, sure, they broadcasted moon landings in 1969, but everyone knows those are fake,” continues the carnie. Fried butter was an afterthought – this is his true passion in life. “Haven’t you seen them so-called photos? They’re full of flaws and glitches that a trained eye can see.”

Bill is questioning whether or not he should eat the last blob of battered butter. It looks like it’s beginning to get cold.

“And for every faked photo, there’s a photo or film that NASA claims exists, but it’s missing! Do they think we’re all rubes?”

Bill is beginning to question the entire course of his life about now.

“And NASA is still faking science in an attempt to drain money from the military! We have to do something about, I-”

“I gotta get to the bathroom, man. I’m gonna hurl-” Bill can’t even finish his sentence before the fried butter and other carnival delicacies (partially reconstituted by now) force their way up his digestive tract and end up spattered on the dirt below him.

“You okay, man? I was sure I washed my hands before I served you?” says the carnie, who clearly doesn’t have the temerity to preach to the sick. Let’s hope his boss didn’t hear him.

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 3: Emergency Preparedness Edition

Another episode of the second season of Flash Fiction Month! How many of these are there going to be? (Hint: Probably five). Today’s installment is inspired by actual events… which I altered just enough for this story that I won’t have to pay anybody. Read the last installment here, and read the installments from the first Flash Fiction Month here.

“Aw, crud baskets! The power just went out!”

Joan didn’t really need to tell me. The sudden darkness and awkward silence that descended on the house were evidence enough. The lights flickered on briefly for a few seconds about a minute later, but then they were gone yet again.

“Guess we’d better call the electric company,” said Joan from downstairs. “What was their number again?”

“I think I wrote it down on a magnet on the fridge,” I responded. “Use your phone as a flashlight.”

“I can’t! I left it charging in the living room, and I can’t see anything! Can you help me out here?”

Luckily for Joan, mine was literally at my desk. I navigated down the stairs with some trepidation, but eventually I managed to make my way to the living room without breaking any important limbs. To my consternation, Joan’s phone was, for all purposes, a torch cutting through the total darkness of the living room, and I was wondering why she couldn’t use its reflection or other forms of luminescence to make her way towards it. I valued my life too much to actually express these thoughts to her face, so I just grudgingly unplugged the the phone and brought it to her.

“Excellent! I’m getting that number and making a call. Just sit tight and we’ll have power in no time!”

Five minutes passed. The bastards at the electric company had apparently put Joan on hold. I made my way over to the window – it looked like all the rest of the houses on the block were electricity-free for the moment. Nobody outside, either – I guess they were just sitting tight and waiting for the power to come back on. But I’m better than that sort of passive behavior, so I had to find something to do.

It occurred to me all of a sudden that I had a mostly charged smartphone in the palm of my hands. When did that happen? No matter. I logged onto Facebook – my circle of friends was up to their usual shenanigans – pontificating, photobombing, pigging out, and so forth. Nobody else seemed to be complaining about a lack of power, which was further evidence for this being an entirely local problem. I started composing a status message.

“The power just cut out here. That’s super lame, and it’d better come on soon!” I ended up writing; now to wait and see what happens. Several minutes passed without the electricity being restored, but then…

Samantha just liked my post! Life is sweet. I mean, not the outage, but the rest of my life is still pretty good.

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 2: Mission Impossible

Another episode of the second season of Flash Fiction Month. Read the last installment here, and read the installments from the first Flash Fiction Month here.

Resolved: We should increase marshmallow consumption by at least thirteen percent. Anything more than twenty percent may result in a potentially undesirable chemical cascade.

Also resolved: The price of peanuts, and their corresponding paste and butter products is too damn high. We do not have other options, and the vendors understand this on the most intimate of levels. Regardless, we must increase peanut product consumption as well, although it may take several months to form a reasonable estimate.

There is one major logistical facility approximately 2 kilometers to the east that contains supplies of our required sustenance. It is heavily fortified – the entire facility is, in fact, encased in a foundation of reinforced bricks and concrete. Furthermore, it is surrounded by dangerous, rugged terrain full of rapidly moving obstacles, and also static barricades that can tear through even the thickest armor if we are not careful. The only factor in our favor is that this fortress is understaffed. While the building is heavily trafficked, the majority of its visitors are travelers from distant lands who seek to use its services, as opposed to defensive personnel. If we make our move at a time when the place is undermanned, then our chances of success are substantially increased.

To this end, we have requisitioned a special combat package from home base that will assuredly increase our combat effectiveness on this mission. Since heavy armor is most likely to be unnecessarily cumbersome and would provide insufficient protection against enemy fire or environmental hazards, the equipment included focuses on boosting mobility, firepower, and to a lesser extent, stealth capabilities. This is ideally going to be a quick smash and grab mission – get in quickly, disable all opposition, acquire the victuals, and get out, ideally before the place goes on full alarm. Of particular note is an experimental nerve gas dispenser that can incapacitate organic life forms in a fifty foot radius, although so far we have only managed to scrounge up a few canisters of ammunition.

We have forty hours to prepare. Best of luck, and pray to your various gods that you’ll survive.

8:26 PM, Shopping Pun Mart Superstore:

“One loaf of bread, one package of Jif peanut butter, one package of marshmallow fluff, a half gallon of milk, two pounds of bananas, and a package of breath mints. That will be $11.38.”

“I’ll pay with cash,” I responded, handing the cashier a twenty dollar bill, and getting my change, receipt, and a bag of groceries in return. I left the store without incident.

“Fucking price gouging stores. Do they think I’m made out of money?” I muttered under my breath. “Next time, I’m going to Market Basket.”

Flash Fiction Month #2, Episode 1: Stage VI

Flash Fiction Month is back! The rules are the same as last time; each of this month’s posts will be a self-contained story, most likely of about the usual 400-500 word length. I make no guarantees of subject, style, or anything else. You can read last year’s installments here.

Six years ago, I found a discolored patch of skin on my leg and went to see the doctor. Turned out that I had a malignant melanoma that I’d luckily caught very early on. We excised it, I did my share of chemotherapy, I recovered, and then I went on with my life, seemingly unharmed but for the need to schedule extra maintenance checkups with my doctor to make sure it didn’t come back.

Six months ago, I got a strange envelope in the mail with no return address. It contained a musty, foul-smelling piece of paper stained with brown ink that vaguely resembled words, but was otherwise completely unintelligible. At the time, I thought it was a prank gone wrong, so I tossed the letter out in the garbage. It slipped my mind soon after – I had a lot of important projects going at work that I didn’t want to leave hanging.

Six weeks ago, however, I received a much more disturbing letter. A pair of lawyers (Richard and Simon Dowling, who had colonized late night TV with their advertisements and burnt their phone number into my mind) sent me a letter informing me that one of their clients had demanded restitution from me for “unlawful separation”, and since I had refused to provide it, I was now required to appear at my local courthouse.

“This has to be some sort of joke, right?” I asked them in a call I placed soon after. Read more…