Flash Fiction

Trope-Tastic Thursday #002 – “Never Was This Universe” – #WOEGTTT

Howdy all, and welcome back to Trope-Tastic Thursday, my weekly writing challenge, where we explore the world of fiction through tropes!  What is a trope? I’m glad you asked! Here’s what our pals at TVTropes.org have to say about it:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

In a way, tropes are like cliches (but not boring), in that they define what a reader has come to expect of certain elements of fiction. That could be the normal expectations of what to expect of an Evil Overlord, or the standard elements found in a type of fiction, like, say, Steam Punk! The point is, a reader will naturally expect certain things, and those things are defined as tropes.

And my challenge to you, each week, is to take this week’s trope and use it in a piece of fiction that is 1,000 words or less in length. You can use that trope however you wish, either playing it straight (using the trope as it is described, more or less) or turning the trope (going against the expectations defined by that particular trope). Either way, the goal is to explore the trope and see what kind of awesome fiction we can come up with. Don’t feel restricted by genre, either – just because a trope is common in, say, Fantasy, doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to use it in a drama!

Last week’s trope was “Vocal Dissonance” – check out the awesome stories that came from it:

“Songbird” by Quietude’s Junction

“We Are Roma” by Naomi Harvey

“The Wake of Pappy O’Bannon” by Mark Baron

“Zit-Faced Idiots” by Helen Espinosa

“The Boat” by Kate Spyder

“Vocal Dissonance” by Kate Loveton

And wow! Let me say, I am so glad we decided to open up this challenge a bit. What an awesome response from some excellent writers. If I missed your entry, let me know, and I’ll pop it in there – and remember, tag your stories with #woegttt to make it easier for me to find them! :)

And now, for this week’s trope….

NEVER WAS THIS UNIVERSE!
(follow the link for examples)

From TVTropes.org:

Alternate History provides a method for creating a setting which is almost like our world, but varies in large enough ways that they couldn’t plausibly actually be ours.

This trope covers settings which feel like Alternate History in this way, but don’t actually have a specified point of divergence: no matter how far back in history you look, their history has always been different from ours in some way (frequently, though not always, because it contains un-Masqueraded fantasy elements). In Spite of a Nail is necessarily in effect, in order to keep the setting approximately similar to the real world—indeed, sometimes the histories of these settings are more different from reality than their presents.

Compare Alien Space Bats; it’s nearly always possible to Retcon this sort of world into an alternate history with Alien Space Bats, by adding in a point of divergence that’s earlier than any other history you’ve introduced. Also compare Historical Fantasy. See also Close Enough Timeline and Rubber-Band History. Contrast Plausible Deniability.

What a fun trope! Definitely be sure to look at the examples given – this kind of thing covers comic book universes, parallel dimensions, and so much more.

Your challenge is to write a story in 1,000 words or less. Your deadline is next Thursday, August 28st, by noon Eastern time. Play with the trope, have fun with it, and when you are done, post it to your writing site, and come back here with a link to your post. If you can, include the hashtag #woegttt in your tags, to make it easier for other writers to find and read your challenge. Next Thursday, I’ll include a link back to your blog so that everyone can get a chance to read your story!

And one final caveat – next week, I will be at DragonCon, from Wednesday night through Monday afternoon. I should still be able to get a challenge post made, but if I get delayed by the biggest nerdfest on the East Coast of the United States, I do hope you will forgive me. ;)

Oh! And if you happen to be going to DragonCon too? LOOK ME UP! I’d love to meet some of my writer friends there!

If you have any questions or need clarification, let me know here! I’ll help however I can!

On your marks….

Get set…

Trope!

 

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“Jacob’s Ladder” – Song Lyric Story Saturday prompt from Naomi Harvey!

This week, the lovely Naomi Harvey of So I want to be an author… created an intriguing new flash fiction challenge! Called Song Lyric Story Saturday, the idea is a fun one – Naomi posts a random lyric or two from a song, and our job is to create a story in 1500 words or less inspired by that lyric. It doesn’t have to use the actual words of the lyric, but the story should be clearly influenced by it. I thought this was a fantastically fun idea, and couldn’t wait to throw my hat into the challenge.

This week’s lyric?

When the end has come and buildings falling down fast, when we’ve spoilt the land and dried up all the sea…

So here, at 1500 words, is “Jacob’s Ladder”

“Your persistence is admirable, I’ll give you that,” said the man in the impeccable suit, “but really, Jacob…don’t you think it’s time to call it quits?”

Jacob sighed, and put down the binoculars. He turned to look at the man in the suit, the man that had no name. The man that wasn’t actually there.

“Shut the fuck up,” Jacob snarled. He reached down for his canteen, shook it. Empty. He turned his gaze back to the horizon.

Up ahead, he could just see through the haze of heat and dust the remnants of an old office building. It swayed in the never ceasing wind like some sort of giant, manmade reed, and even here, from so long a distance, he could hear it creak and moan.

Fuck. There was supposed to be a lake here! He looked down to his tactical bag, opened it, dug through the pockets and pulled out an old, worn map. His fingers, grimy with dry, thick dust, scanned across the lines and creases, trying to determine which was which. The groan of steel, bitterly complaining about its burden, filled the air.

“Fuck,” he said aloud. It was getting harder and harder to find water. This place, this building, should have been on the edge of a large lake. He looked through the binoculars again and for a moment, the dust cleared just enough for him to see a long, deep hollow beyond the tortured high-rise, its surface cracked and crumbling. And dry. Bone dry.

The impeccable man chuckled.

“I told you there wouldn’t be anything there,” he chided, “but would you listen?”

“I said, shut the fuck up.”

“Is that what you really want, Jacob? Honestly? Because I think you might regret saying that later.”

Jacob pulled the binoculars from his eyes, squeezed them tight, and rubbed them hard. He blinked several times, then turned back. The man was still there. The impossible man. Wind and dirt and grime blew all around him, but his suit remained clean. Perfect. Unruffled by wind, untouched by dirt.

Imaginary.

He couldn’t quite remember when the man had first appeared. He had vague recollections of it being after he had wakened from a fevered dream. His eyes fluttering, his head throbbing, and then, there he was. The impeccable man.

A rollercoaster of emotions swept through Jacob at that moment. First, fear, panic. It had been a long damned time since he’d seen another human being, and that had not been a pleasant encounter. His side still ached from the memory of the club that had probably broken a rib or two. Then, befuddlement; the man’s incredibly fine, tailored clothes were incredibly jarring in the post-Fall world, where one scavenged what one could, regardless of cut or style or fit. And last…relief. Much as he hated to admit it, he was relieve to see another human being, to have someone to talk to, argue with, listen to. Even if he was a figment of his mind.

Jacob remained silent.

The man nodded, sagely. Jacob wished he could smack him. Instead, he tucked the binoculars away, pulled his worn, old scarf up over his face to block the dust, and began walking towards the building.

“What are you doing?”

He nodded towards the building.

“Could be something left inside. I need water, and a lot of buildings were only looted on the lower levels after the Fall. That one’s tall enough, there could be an old water cooler tank or case of bottled water or something.”

The man frowned. Even his frown was perfect, balanced, symmetrical.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. Doesn’t look very safe.”

“What do you care? You’re imaginary.”

The man stopped.

“Perhaps I am. Perhaps I’m not. Either way, and end to you could mean an end to me. Shouldn’t I get a choice?”

“Sure,” Jacob said with a huff, “Let’s thumb wrestle for it.”

The man’s face went cold. Jacob felt inwardly pleased at calling him on his lack of physical form.

“You know what? Do it. Go in there. I don’t have to go. I can make the choice not to. So go, get yourself killed. As I said, maybe it’s time to call it quits.”

“Maybe it is.”

Silence.

Jacob looked again. The man was gone. Not unusual, entirely. There were plenty of times he’d vanished in the past. He’d be back, no doubt, to gloat if Jacob found nothing or to sulk if he scored big.

Time to find out which.

***

He’d spent at least an hour looking for any other way up but the fire escape, and failed. The ground floor had been, predictably, well looted, but he guessed from the look of the barricaded stairwells that there may well still be something worth having on the upper floors. Plus, it wasn’t like he had much of a choice. He was already getting a little woozy from dehydration.

That fire escape, though. Rusted, rickety, swaying in the breeze. He could see how it pulled away from the wall every so often as it wobbled. And the ladder was so far up. Still, he might have a chance. He opened his pack again, rummaged around, and pulled out his rope and the makeshift grappling hook inside. It was ugly, pieced together from old car parts, but it worked. He tested the weight, gave it a few spins, and sent it sailing.

It hit with a clatter. A quick tug confirmed that it had caught, and he began heaving it towards him. The metal groaned, low and loud at first, then a higher shriek as the rust began to give way to the relentless tug of his rope. Then, with a final desperate shriek, the escape ladder shuddered and surrendered, crashing down with a bang. Jacob coiled his rope, and walked over to the ladder. He gave it a few shakes, gingerly set a foot on the first rung, then the second, and bounced a few times. It held. Good.

He went up, up, up. The first three floors were completely inaccessible, the windows completely boarded up. Further still, then. The same for the fourth, the fifth. By now, he could feel the sway of the building with every gust of dust-laden wind, and once, the fire escape pulled away from the side of the building entirely, leaving him grasping the ladder with knuckles gone white with stress and pressure. But then the building swayed again, and the rickety old ladder smashed against the side of the building with a bone rattling clank. Jacob had to catch his breath. His heart pounded ferociously beneath his chest, and for a moment, he wondered if the impeccable man had not been right after all.p

“Of course I was right,” the man said, sitting calmly on the platform just above Jacob.

“I thought you weren’t going to come,” Jacob growled, but he couldn’t fully hide the gladness he felt at not being alone.

“I couldn’t leave you here, Jacob. Not alone. Not so far up from the world below. How far are we now, Jacob?”

He’d lost count. Jacob looked down, and saw only swirling clouds of dust and ruin, the microscopic remnants of the spoiled land below. The building teetered. He looked up, and saw the fire escape climb and climb, only to disappear into another cloud of dust, the dehydrated remains of a sea bed now gone. God, he was so thirsty.

“I think you’ve gone far enough, Jacob,” the man said, but this time, the edge to it, the sarcasm was gone and in its place, something more akin to…concern? Tenderness?

“Can’t stop,” Jacob said, gritting his teeth as the ladder swayed again, “Gotta find a way in. Find water. I’ll die otherwise.”

The impeccable man stared at him for a long while, silent. His eyes, a strange, watery blue, seemed fit to burst with tears, but none escaped. He just sat there, watching Jacob, who clung to the ladder and could not find the strength or courage to move against the swaying, blowing storm. Finally, he nodded.

“Very well. I can do no more this time. Good bye Jacob.”

He stood, walked to the edge of the platform, and leapt.

“NO!” screamed Jacob, and he instinctually shot out a hand to grab for the man who wasn’t there. As he did, his body weight shifted, and a horrible, deep cry shook through the entire building. Timbers creaked and snapped in thundering cracks, as brick began to crumble. Jacob cried out, but his voice was lost in the tumultuous crash of the high rise.

***

“We were close this time, Phillip. We almost had him free.”

Phillip turned to the impeccably dressed man, and nodded.

“Perhaps next time, Doctor Jennings? Perhaps next time, we can bring him back to the real world, and out of this fantasy he’s built.”

Jennings, dressed impeccably, looked in at Jacob as he thrashed against the padded wall. His watery blue eyes swelled with tears.

“Perhaps.”

“Wayward Son”– #FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 33

flash-fiction-badge1A super-short tale this week for Thain in Vain’s #FFC52 Flash Fiction Challenge! For week 33, we have a fun little prompt –

Open the book you are reading right now (or a favourite if you aren’t reading anything, oh, and shame on you!), turn to page 33 (or 33% on e-readers) and write a super flash fiction about the first proper noun (person, place or thing) on the page! Word count is 500 as usual, but feel free to use 33 as your word count for this week!!

What did I choose? Stick around after and find out. Here is “Wayward Son” in 33 words.

 

She rose before me, high atop Kolvir, her legendary stair winding up her steepest cliff.

I’d ridden hard, through hells and heavens and all the Shadows in between.

Amber.

Soon, she would fall.

Though I’m actually reading a couple of different books at the moment, I knew from the moment I saw this prompt that I would return to my very favorite, the amazing universe of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. Imagine my delight when the very first proper noun was Amber herself! I was tempted, SO tempted, to write a 500 word piece for this, but I enjoyed the challenge of telling a story in far fewer words. Here’s hoping I did her justice.

Trope-Tastic Thursday #001 – “Vocal Dissonance” – #WOEGTTT

(OOPS! This was supposed to be a scheduled post, but I hit the wrong button. *blush!*  Since several have already seen it, I’ll leave it up – but next weeks will actually post on Thursday!)

Howdy, my writerly friends, and welcome to the first edition of Trope-Tastic Thursday! As explained in yesterday’s lead up, Trope-Tastic Thursday is my weekly writing challenge, where we explore the world of fiction through tropes.

What is a trope? I’m glad you asked! Here’s what our pals at TVTropes.org have to say about it:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.

In a way, tropes are like cliches (but not boring), in that they define what a reader has come to expect of certain elements of fiction. That could be the normal expectations of what to expect of an Evil Overlord, or the standard elements found in a type of fiction, like, say, Steam Punk! The point is, a reader will naturally expect certain things, and those things are defined as tropes.

And my challenge to you, each week, is to take this week’s trope and use it in a piece of fiction that is 1,000 words or less in length. You can use that trope however you wish, either playing it straight (using the trope as it is described, more or less) or turning the trope (going against the expectations defined by that particular trope). Either way, the goal is to explore the trope and see what kind of awesome fiction we can come up with. Don’t feel restricted by genre, either – just because a trope is common in, say, Fantasy, doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to use it in a drama!

And this week’s trope is….

VOCAL DISSONANCE!
(follow the link for examples)

From TVTropes.org:

While it may be wrong to judge a book by its cover, it’s something that happens. You see a person, you expect certain things. This extends even to their voice. If you see a muscular man, you expect a deep macho voice. The Vamp will have a sexy, sultry voice. A child’s voice is high pitched. And so on.

This trope is about when those expectations don’t match up e.g. when the muscular man has the sultry voice, The Vamp has the childish voice, and the child has the deep voice. This trope is generally played for comedy, since the idea of a squeaky voice off a big person or vice-versa is generally seen as absurd.

For better or for worse, this can sometimes come about by chance, depending on how casting in a voiced work goes. It also can occur because people tend to expect all the inhabitants of a given country to look basically the same, so hearing, say, a British accent and then realizing it’s issuing from the mouth of an ethnically Chinese person can be quite a shock.

Cute, but Cacophonic is a subtrope of this, specifically referring to when “an extremely cute and/or tiny animal turns out to have a surprisingly loud cry.” Instant Soprano, another subtrope, occurs when the Vocal Dissonance arises in response to a Groin Attack. Not to be confused with Larynx Dissonance, which involves an actor attempting to impersonate their opposite gender, or Lyrical Dissonance, which involves song lyrics.

So there we have it! Your challenge is to write a story that involves Vocal Dissonance, in 1,000 words or less. Your deadline is next Thursday, August 21st, by noon Eastern time. Play with the trope, have fun with it, and when you are done, post it to your writing site, and come back here with a link to your post. If you can, include the hashtag #woegttt in your tags, to make it easier for other writers to find and read your challenge. Next Thursday, I’ll include a link back to your blog so that everyone can get a chance to read your story!

If you have any questions or need clarification, let me know here! I’ll help however I can!

On your marks….

Get set…

Trope!

Coming tomorrow to a writing blog near you: Trope-Tastic Thursday! #WOEGTTT

Howdy all, and welcome to the lead-up to the first edition of Trope-Tastic Thursday! Yes, this is a blatant attempt to keep the #woegttt hashtag I started with the now defunct Turn-a-Trope Tuesdays, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me that, won’t you?

After much thought and feedback from you, my friends and fellow writers, I’ve decided to make some changes to my weekly challenge. For one thing, a lot of folks expressed confusion over what a trope is, exactly, and what it meant to turn it. That’s my fault entirely – I think I explained it once, but should have included a reminder in each prompt. We’ll change that, this go-around. Second, after getting through some easier tropes to turn, I actually found my original concept to be almost too restrictive – some tropes, it appears, are damned near impossible to turn. Third, I wanted to change the day to Thursday, as I was consistently missing Tuesday deadlines due to a need to catch up on work after my weekends.

So here’s what I’ve decided to do. We are going to start a new challenge. Every Thursday, I will pick a trope (more on that in a moment), and the challenge will be simple – write a story that uses that trope, either playing it straight (doing exactly what the trope describes) or turning the trope (delivering a story that acknowledges the expectations of the trope but takes it in an unexpected direction).  Each week’s challenge will be 1,000 words or less – don’t feel you have to use up all that space if you don’t need it, and if you go a little over? I’m sure we’ll forgive you.

Now, to the meat of the issue…what exactly is a trope? I’ll let the fine folks at TVTropes.org explain it, as they do it best:

Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means “stereotyped and trite.” In other words, dull and uninteresting. We are not looking for dull and uninteresting entries. We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them.

So, in essence, a trope is a tool in a writer’s tool box. It is a commonly understood expectation for different aspects of fiction. For example, a writer who is working on a High Fantasy story knows that his or her readers are going to expect certain common elements to be present; perhaps a Dark Lord with his evil hordes seeks his Artifacts of Doom, and is opposed by The Chosen One and his (or their) mysterious wandering wizard friend. These common elements (all linked above) are called tropes, and define what a reader is naturally inclined to expect in that kind of element of fiction or from that kind of character.

Now, tropes can be played with in a number of ways; they can be played straight – that is, delivering exactly what the reader expects (with your own unique voice, of course). The wizard character, for instance, may be a wise and valuable mentor. Or, you might decide to turn the trope, and deliver the opposite of what the reader expects – that same wizard may actually be a bumbling idiot who threatens the entire story with his poor guidance! As the writer, you choose which direction you want to take each week’s trope – the challenge is, can you play the trope straight, and still entertain your reader with a stunning plot? Or will you turn the trope and deliver something they never saw coming?

I can’t wait to see what kind of stories we can generate here, and to introduce those of you new to the idea of tropes to an extensive new tool box for your works of fiction. Understanding tropes makes us better writers, and better writers write better stories.

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow, and take up the Trope-Tastic Thursday Challenge!

Turn-A-Trope Tuesday (Wednesday?) #8: “Verbal Tic Name” – #WOEGTTT

Ok, ok, it’s Wednesday, not Tuesday. But I had to work late last night and when I got home, I immediately went out with my daughter to see Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” I’m not going to spoil the film here, because it’s awesome and fun and you really should go see it. But, I totally want to play with some of the film’s tropes (which, by the way, the film does a fine job of doing all on its own!).

So this week’s Turn-A-Trope Tuesday Wednesday, we are going to pay homage to Groot, with the “Verbal Tic Name.”

But first, check out last week’s entries!  Helen’s “The Not Ideal, Mighty Fine Workaround” and my “Super Sexy”!

From TVTropes.org:
In Pokémon Speak, the only thing a character says is his or her name. This is essentially the inverse: a character is named for the only thing he or she says. If it’s the only thing they’ve ever said, it might be unclear (or forgotten) which came first, especially if the first question they were asked was “what’s your name?” The way it usually works is someone with a limited or one-word vocabulary is named after that one word. Often, this will occur because other characters don’t know this character’s real name (if there even is one), and are uncomfortable with not having something to call them beyond “Hey, You!.” The simple solution: Take the only word(s) they ever utter and turn that into their name. Note that, despite the title, the source of the name isn’t necessarily a Verbal Tic. However, the spirit is there in that the character’s limited vocabulary is his or her defining attribute.

“Super Sexy” – Turn-A-Trope #7, #WOEGTTT

I know, I know, deadlines, right? Better late than never! Here is my entry to this last week’s Turn-a-Trope Tuesday, “Good People Have Good Sex.”  Sometimes, it just isn’t so…

“Silver Fox, you vixen, you!” cried out the Scarlet Saber with delight, “Don’t think I haven’t heard!”

The Fox blushed, and on her silvered skin, it glowed a deep, dark crimson befitting her BFF’s nom-de-vigilance.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Scarlet.”

“Please, sweetie. I have super senses, remember? I heard your door close three miles away, and the voice, thanking you for a wonderful night…at breakfast? If that wasn’t Captain Amazing, then I will hang up my bloody saber right now and never fight crime again!”

The Fox sighed. Well, if one couldn’t be honest with her besty…

“You’re right…it *was* Captain Amazing. He…uh…well…he came over for dinner…”

“And stayed for breakfast?” Scarlet interrupted with a wink. Silver Fox nodded shyly.

“Oh, you have to do better than that, love,” Scarlet prodded, “This is Captain Amazing we’re talking about! So tall, so broad shouldered, so perfectly chiseled, so impeccably dressed…such a large…codpiece…”

A glimmer of something crossed the Fox’s face, and Scarlet, her senses being super, after all, caught it immediately.

“By my sword,” she gasped, “Don’t tell me…Captain Amazing isn’t….”

She held up her fingers about an inch apart. Fox couldn’t help it. She broke into a laugh, which Scarlet joined. A few moments later, she wiped a tear from her cheek.

“No, no…It’s not that. He’s perfectly adequately, um….equipped. Not too big, not too small, just…”

“Spill it, sister,” Scarlett urged. The Fox swallowed, hard.

“Well, let’s just say that, romantically? He’s not so awesome.”

“Do tell! Is he too aggressive? I do love an aggressive man. If he is and you don’t want him…”

“No, it’s not that either. He is definitely sure of himself, and likes to take the lead, but…”

The Silver Fox paused. Was she really going to get into this? She sighed again. May as well.

“Let’s just say…maybe he and the Minuteman should change names,” she admitted, blushing.

Scarlet roared. At first, it irritated Fox, but soon she found herself rolling with laughter as well.
“That’s ok sweetie. Minuteman would be better off as ‘The Living Plank’, anyway. He’s dreadfully boring in the sack.”

“What? Scarlet, don’t tell me…”

Scarlet nodded.

“Remember the Kxylyntll Invasion? Right after that. It was terrible…for someone so passionate about patriotism, he sure is mechanical in bed.”

Fox laughed.

“But I thought you were with the Pimpernel then!”

“Ha! The pimp part is right…I caught him cheating on me with that floozy, the Silk Psychic!”

“No! The one that looks like…”

“…Charlie Sheen in drag!” the pair said in unison, before falling into more laughter.

“Maybe you should have gone after the Mighty Hammer instead,” Fox suggested.

“Gay,” Scarlet sighed.

“Nightshift?”

“Prude.”

“Cardinal Justice?”

“Way, WAY too kinky.”

“Scarlet! Now you’re just being silly…is there anyone in the super community that you haven’t bedded and rejected?”

“What can I say, sweetie, a girl has needs. And it’s a limited dating pool when you have a supernaturally strengthened libido! I was going to aim for Captain Awesome, but now…”

Fox grinned, her blush still evident.

“Surely, there has to be someone out there who has met up to your needs…”

It was Scarlet’s turn to blush, and Fox jumped on that eagerly.

“There is! Oh, you have to tell me who!”

“Only if you promise to never whisper a word about this to anyone! And not to judge me!”

Fox crossed her heart. Scarlet nodded.

“Darkstar,” she said, barely above a whisper. Fox’s mouth fell open, her eyes widened in shock.

“Darkstar?! The villain???”

Scar frowned, looked away, but Fox touched her shoulder and turned her.

“Do tell..I promise I won’t judge.”

Scarlet sighed.

“I didn’t know it was Darkstar at the time. Nor he that I was the Scarlet Saber. We met in our mundanes…he was Derrick Devlin and I was Samantha Smythe. We met on one of those dating sites…I was trying to, you know, scratch the itch without dipping back into the pool of Super Disappointment. But…oh, Fox…”

Tears fell from Scarlet’s face, and Fox took her in a comforting embrace.

“It’s just…he was so gentle, Fox. Sweet. Tender. Caring. And by the stars, so very, very talented in bed.”

Fox was flabbergasted.

“Are we talking about the same Darkstar? The one who wants to rule with an iron fist? The one who tried to conquer at least three different nations just last week?”

Scarlet nodded.

“He isn’t all bad, you know. He just can’t stand chaos, conflict…so he tries to solve it by taking over. But on the inside…he’s so much different. And alas, in prison now. Again.”

“I’m sorry, Scarlet.”

“It’s ok, sweetie. I’ll…”

An explosion rocked in the distance, interrupting the two heroines. In a flash, they were up, and on their way to the scene. Moments later, they stood outside the Metro City Maximum Security Prison. The Mighty Hammer and Captain Amazing were already there, talking to the guards.

“What happened?” Fox asked.

“Breakout!” the Mighty Hammer said, his eyes gazing longingly at Captain Amazing’s tights. Captain Amazing turned, and approached the trio.

“Fear not, ladies…me and the Hammer can handle this one. Darkstar is loose…but we can take him.”

“We’ll pound his ass into the ground,” the Mighty Hammer exclaimed, high-fiving Captain Amazing, “and have him back behind bars in less than a minute!”

Fox and Scarlet burst into laughter.

They couldn’t help it.

“Babies From Candy” – #FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 30

flash-fiction-badge1Week Thirty is upon us, and though I’m a bit late, I had to throw my hat into this challenge from the ever lovely Thain in Vain!

This week’s prompt? A man steals a large sum of money to pay a debt to a loan shark. He saves his ass from a beating, but is haunted by the nature of what has done.

 

Here is my entry – “Babies from Candy”

I have a problem. I gamble. Poorly. I ran up a lot of debt to very dangerous people. When Alphonse visited me the first time, he made it clear what would happen if I didn’t have Sal’s money the next. The fingers on my left hand, still in a cast, reminded me.

I was dead. I knew it. I work at a non-profit. I barely make enough to survive…which was why I gambled. Trying to bring in a little extra dough. My early successes got to my head, I got in too deep…and, well…broken fingers.

Then came Mrs. Candace McAnley. The old biddy was loaded; her husband was some kind of tycoon before he’d died. She always came in with a pitifully small check and a huge attitude.

“For the babies,” she’d say with a sniff. Her donation to our children’s cancer organization was so small, we’d joke she could have donated an extra nickel if she hadn’t wasted the money on the paper for the check. When she stopped coming, no one cared.

I noticed, but only because she irritated me. So haughty. So uppity. Then she came back. Different. Fragile, doddering. Not the Mrs. McAnley who would waltz in like she owned the place. No…she came back weak, shaking. Her hair had fallen out.

Ah. Cancer. It’s probably wrong of me, that my first thought was it was about time it hit someone who deserved it. Then I looked in her eyes. I saw the pain, the anxiety, the fear for her life. I knew that all too well. My fingers throbbed in sympathy.

Her hands trembled horribly, holding the check.

“Here,” she managed with a soft, broken voice, “For…for the babies. Be a doll, and finish it out for me, will you?”

She didn’t wait for the receipt, as she’d always done. Just turned and made her way painfully out the door. I looked down. My heart nearly stopped.

It was huge. The exact amount I owed to Sal, huge. The payee field, blank. She’s asked me to finish it out for her…

I slid the check in my pocket, and went home. All night, I tossed and turned. I tried to rationalize, tried to reason. The kids  my charity helped were almost all terminal. The money would keep them alive maybe a little bit longer, but I would definitely be dead without it.  Mrs. McAnley died the next day. I took the check to the bank. Got the money.

Paid Sal.

“Two-hundred fifty thousand,” Alphonse said. My hands were slick with sweat. Sal nodded, and Alphonse took the briefcase back to the Cadillac they’d pulled up in. Sal chewed on a fat, rancid cigar, staring at me.

“That’s a lot of scratch for a dope like you,” he said, finally, “Where’d you get it?”

“Does it matter?”

He shrugged.

“Guess not. We’re square, kid. Come see me again some time.”

He turned. Got back into his car, and left.

I fell to the ground, and cried.

Turn-A-Trope Tuesday #7: “Good People Have Good Sex” – #WOEGTTT

At last! We’re back with another go at Turn-A-Trope Tuesday, where cliches don’t matter and stereotypes are challenged! As usual, the rules to this challenge are simple – take the assigned trope, and find a way to challenge what is expected, and do it in a thousand words or less. Turn the trope around, make it something unusual. These challenges can be really tough, but can also help you to find new ways of looking at things that are expected in good fiction. The best writers today are masters of turning tropes – will you be one too?

Before we dive into this week’s saucy trope, let’s take a look at the entries from the last challenge:

Helen’s Bring Her Back and my Be Careful What You Wish For!

This week, we return with something a bit spicier – the old trope that Good People Have Good Sex!

From TVTropes.org:

Main characters and other positive characters always have healthy sex lives. They might go through long periods of not being in a relationship (they may even be Hollywood Dateless) during which they may have a lot of good sex anyway or not. But when they are in one, the sex is frequent and good (unless the relationship is near its end).

Another version is that when villains have sex, it tends to be quick and emotionless. It will often be treated as an act of self-gratification and only the dominant villain will emerge with their desire sated. When heroes make love, it tends to be caring and passionate, with both parties emerging satisfied. This difference can be cause for a Sex Face Turn for a dissatisfied villain. Of course, this trope applies mainly for experienced adults.

For most teenage characters, even and sometimes especially heroes, any on-screen mention of sex will end in awkwardness at best, tragedy at worst. See Their First Time. Only laughingstock old guys ever need Viagra. In the days before such drugs existed, male impotence was generally perceived as a trait of villains. Impotence leads to insanity, which leads to evil actions, as with General Ripper in Dr. Strangelove or The Man with the Golden Gun.

In many settings, only characters of questionable morality have “weird” sexual preferences. For really old fashioned settings, this may even include gays and lesbians.

“Be Careful What You Wish For” – Turn-A-Trope #6, #WOEGTTT

After a hell of a week, I have finally gotten a chance to write something. I tell ya, it’s a huge relief. I had not realized how much I’ve come to enjoy venting a little fiction into the blogosphere, and how much it would aggravate me when I miss getting to do it. Hopefully, this story, my late entry for last week’s Turn-A-Trope Tuesday challenge, Make A Wish, will get me back on track.

Be careful what you wish for.

I use to find myself wishing for something more. Something bigger, something better, something different than who I am. A real life Walter Mitty, I guess, lost in day dreams about what might have been had I been fitter, sexier, richer. Or born in another era, where my prodigious talents would have been truly appreciated for what they were. Or where I could show off my knowledge of ancient skills and histories and brilliant intelligence and have those things impress instead of finding scorn.

I would wish every night, upon the same star in the sky. Of course, it probably wasn’t a star. It was probably Venus, or hell, something even less sexy. A satellite. Star light, star bright, first star I see at night, probably a Sputnik in low orbit flight. Still, every night, I’d go up to the roof and lay on my back and stare at the cosmos above and just wish, more than anything, to be something different. And every day, I’d awake, the same, old, boring me. And most of all, alone.

It was the loneliness, I think, that made me look for the first time at the space between those sparkling points of light. That emptiness, that black and unchanging void that screamed as much in its solitude as did my soul in its own loneliness. When all was sparkling and bright around it, it was empty. Black. Wanting. I wanted, too. I stared into that void, and wished. No light, just night, nothing sparkling clean and bright, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish…I suddenly felt very foolish. I think may actually have blushed at that moment, embarrassed by my own silliness. I sighed, hard, and for a moment had to fight back a welling wetness from within my eyes.

Fuck wishes. I think I said that aloud too. But seriously, fuck them. I’ve wished a million, billion things and never once have they come true. And the insidious thing about wishing is that the very act seems to drain you of ambition. I’d make a wish, and the part of me that wanted it was somehow a little more satisfied that at least I’d done something, right? And then I’d do nothing. Because I’d wished. Look at that star, or Venus, or Sputnik, and say “I wish I were in better shape” instead of just getting off my ass and going to the gym. And in my head, that part of me that was tired of being doughy and soft would smile at my effort, and the yearning would fade. I’d never get to the gym. I didn’t need to. I had wishes.

I swallowed the sadness that had lumped in my throat, wiped away the tears in my eyes. I got up off that dusty old roof, brushed my pants off, and started to walk back to the dormer window that brought me out to my nightly wishing spot. As I reached the window, I looked back, realizing that it was over. I was not ever going to do this again. I was done with wishes.

Almost.

I looked to that spot, that void, and I made my final wish.

“I will not wish ever again,” I said, low but heavy with shame and anger, “I will not ever ask another thing, so these are my last. I wish, how I wish, that this wasn’t my life, that I were someone, anyone else, somewhere, anywhere else. I wish that wishing stars weren’t absolute bullshit, and that tomorrow I could wake up and be anyone but me. I wish…”

I paused, fighting back the tears, the lump in my throat, the wetness coming again to my eyes.
“I wish I wasn’t alone.”

And then…I swear, the patch had been empty, black. But I saw a twinkle there. Bright, dancing, sparkling in the night. I laughed, hollowly. My void had been nothing more than a cloud obscuring a star. A star just like all the other junk in space. Brilliant and wishless. I went inside, locked the window, and found my way to bed. Sleep came to me, heavy and burdened. Fitful. I tossed and turned all night, struggling with my self-conscious that didn’t want to accept a world without wishes.

And then I woke.

And I was not in my bed. I was not in my home. I was not in my clothes. All around me, a world of strange and alien sights, strange and alien smells, sounds. I leapt up to my feet, pinched myself. I looked to the sky, and saw darkness filled with points of light, all in patterns I’d never seen. Elation washed over me! My wish! Oh could it be? Had I gotten my wish?

And then, shock. Realization. Numbness, as I began to fully understand.

I was not smart, here. My talents were nothing, here. My knowledge, useless, here. It was like I was someone else entirely. Chills washed down my spine. God, what was I going to do?

And then…oh god, then. I heard it. Out there, far, but getting closer. A horrifying, shrieking sound that reminded my of the last part of my wish.

Because it’d come true. All of it. I wasn’t me here – the me of my world was gone. My world was gone. The stars weren’t bullshit. I had awaken someplace else, someone else.

The shriek was closer now, angry, hungry sounding.

I was not alone.

And the stars above me twinkled and laughed.