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“To Boldly Go” – #FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 32

flash-fiction-badge1Howdy folks. Here I am, back again with another entry in the ever awesome Thain in Vain’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The prompt?

A celebrity of your choice (alive or dead) applies for a job and gets an interview.

This week’s entry is a strange one for me – I’ll explain after the story, as I don’t want to spoil it for you. Stick around after.

“So tell me, Ryb’neor, what makes you think you are qualified for this assignment?”

Ryb’neor smiled as they orbited slowly over the surface of the planet that glimmered the same blue as his eyes.

“Supreme Commander, I’ve made the study of primitive life forms my life’s work. This is the first chance we have to truly study and understand an alien culture on the cusp of star travel. I’ve studied this species extensively, analyzed their media, absorbed their understanding of the universe. It’s my hope that perhaps I can guide them. Help them understand their own condition, before they reach out to the stars.”

The Commander furrowed his eyestalks, one turned towards the blue orb below and the other staring intently at Ryb’neor.

“You know the Law. You are not to directly interfere with their progress. You are not to directly change the path of their civilization. I know you’ve grown fond of these…children…and I fear you will be unable to resist the temptation to sway them with knowledge they are not ready to have.”

“Your concerns are noted, Commander. I know the consequences of breaking the Law, and fond as I am, truly, of these people, I would not risk breaking the Grand Treaty to push them where they are not ready to go.”

“Even if they are a danger to themselves? To their very existence? Can you let them go that path, if it the path they choose leads to their own destruction?”

Ryb’neor fell silent. He knew that what his superior suggested was a possibility. For all their wonder, their exuberance, their joy, they were still a violent, chaotic, mad species. In truth, it was that madness that sang to him, drew him, inspired him. His race had long since evolved past the passions that drove this species, but the spark of passion burned within him. He hid it well, but perhaps there, on that polished blue orb, he could find himself. Could he, then, let them destroy themselves?

“If it is their path, it is their path…but perhaps I can sway them, discreetly.”

“How?”

“Laughter. Tears. Anger. Sadness. Hope.”

“Emotions? Primitive things…”

“Perhaps…but are they not a primitive people?”

The Supreme Commander sat quietly for a while. Finally, he nodded.

“Understand, if I give you this, it will be permanent. You will not be reassigned, you will not be allowed to leave. The surgery will be…extensive. Painful. Are you truly ready to go through all that, for a species that may kill itself off before it ever reaches the stars?”

Ryb’neor nodded.

“Very well. Assignment granted, Ryb’neor.”

***

Ryb’neor smiled. It took getting used to in this funny new body. Waiting in this room, he could not help but remember the last interview with his commander. And here he was, about to embark on a new adventure, on his new home.

The door opened.

“Mr. Williams? Are you ready for your audition?”

Ryb’neor…no, it was Robin, now…smiled broader.

“Nanu-nanu,” he whispered, and his eyes twinkled blue.

I started this story last week, after struggling with deciding what kind of story I wanted to tell.  I ended up choosing Robin Williams because I thought it would be fun to imagine a world where he really *was* Mork, essentially. Mork and Mindy was a favorite of mine as a child, and is something that, believe it or not, I think about all the time. It’s kind of hard not to when your name is Mark and your wife is named Myndee. And yes, she’s named after the show.

So here it has been, sitting in my drafts, waiting to be edited down from the 630 word story I started with to the 500 word limit of the challenge…when yesterday happened. I will be honest, I thought long and hard about deleting my draft and not posting the story. I didn’t want to seem as if I were jumping on some band wagon or taking advantage of the death of one of the few celebrities I have ever genuinely admired.

But in the end, I decided I’d publish it anyway. RIP, Mr. Robin Williams. I hate that sadness overtook you.

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My Not-So-Bitchin’ Camaro

Today, my friends, I am going to tell you another story of my near escapes from Death. That winged reaper has danced a scintillating tango with me since I was a child, coming close, so close, but never quite touching. I’ve already written about one of these times, in my near miss through strep throat. Here’s another memory.

My 1979 Camaro Berlinetta was not my first car. That honor went to the 1943 Volkswagen Bug that I had used, abused, and ultimately, well, blew up. With the death of that little German War Machine (ah, to be a stupid punk teenager and not realize the implications and power of names), I had decided I wanted something newer, but still affordable for the shoestring budget of an odd-job working teenager. I also wanted something cooler, and as the Dead Milkmen would be happy to endorse, fewer things are cooler than a bitchin’ Camaro.

Alas, this Camaro was more rustin’ than bitchin’, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care that the power windows were broken. That the AC was broken. That the heater was stuck on permanent full blast. That the interior of the car was stripped of everything, including insulation, down to bare metal. That the tires were all bald as hell, and the whole care rust brown. From actual rust, not paint. No, what I cared about was speed – and boy, let me tell you, that Camaro could fly. Even if you did had to open the doors at every stoplight to keep from getting heatstroke in the summer. I drove that Camaro for a good year, despite its scrap-heapitude, and you know? It was fun. Fast and loud and broken, which fit my punker/thug reputation.

The second summer I had it, my best friend and I landed a shit job working at a tree farm in the mountains of Colorado. Our job was pretty simple – we arrived at the farm, and took the trees that were dug up already, wrapped their roots in burlap, and loaded them on a flatbed for delivery. We were usually the only ones on site – the migrant workers who dug up the trees did so early (to beat any heat of the day) and our boss usually showed up at the end of the week to verify the count of trees we’d bagged and give us cash for our paycheck. Anyway, it was late May, almost June. We got up to the tree farm around nine in the morning, and the weather was fucking gorgeous. T-shirts and shorts weather, the way a day in late May should be. We were a bit miserable to say the least – the work pretty much required jeans and flannel shirts, so we were hot and not happy about it. We got to work, bullshitting about this and that. Then around one in the afternoon, the temperature dropped a good 20-30 degrees in minutes.

This put me on edge, instantly. My car was not ready for winter conditions. Basically, a death trap sled in car form. I turned to my buddy and said, “Dude, if it starts snowing, I am off this fucking mountain.” He bitched because he wanted to wait for the boss to show up with our pay, and I told him he was welcome to wait in the snow, but I would be getting off that mountain. He agreed, reluctantly. We kept bagging for a half hour, when this big, fat snowflake came drifting down between us.

“Seeya!” I said, and got up and went to my car. My buddy followed, jumped in, and we made our way down the dirt road to the mountain highway that would take us back to the city at the base of the mountain.

It took us about five minutes to get to the road. In that time, around 4-5″ of snow had already fallen. It was crazy how hard it was coming down; the windshield wipers on the not-so-bitchin’ Camaro were almost worthless. Every time they’d swipe one direction, enough snow would fall that the back swing would build it up against the base of the windshield, and the wipers would become worthless in minutes. So every few hundred yards, I’d have to stop and get out, clear the snow from the backswing, and keep going. To make it even more fun, the roads were getting slicker and slicker, so that it was a bit like driving on the ice level of Mario cart. Except on a mountain, with no little helper in a balloon/cloud with a crane to help drag you back on track. To make it even more fun, the freakin’ heater? The one stuck permanently on that turned my car into an Easy Bake Berlinetta for the previous year? It gave out as soon as we hit the paved road.

So there we are, slipping and sliding in my deathtrap Camaro down the mountain, and after a few wild fishtails I finally get the car to stop so I can clean off the windshield again. I was sick of getting out of the car, and had resolved to fuck with the heater controls to see if I could get it to work, so I told my buddy it was his turn to get out and clear the windshield while I did so. He obliged, opening his door and stepping out of the car. Except he didn’t get out. Instead, he slammed the door, and began scrambling over me as if he had opened the door to a prison shower scene and he was dressed in clothes with pedophile written all over them. He was screaming and in a blind panic, clawing at my door handle, and he opened it, causing us both to tumble out. I started yelling at him, asking what the fuck his problem was. He was whiter than the falling snow, catching his breath. Finally, he grabs my hand, and escorts me gingerly around to the front of the car.

Now, I know this is the internet and people are prone to exaggerate here, but I am telling you the honest-to-God truth:  my car had stopped a scant few inches from the edge of a 200+ foot drop into a gorge. When my buddy opened the door to step out, he literally put his foot into empty air, had looked down, and nearly passed out before scrambling over me, screaming like a little girl. I was instantly struck by a wave of dizziness myself. My buddy refused to get back in the car. He said he’d rather freeze to death. I wasn’t so anxious either, but I didn’t want to try to hike my way off a mountain during a freak blizzard. Thankfully, a big rig truck came down the highway as we were debating what to do, and the trucker gave us a lift down the mountain.

My dad and I went back up a week later, when the snow had cleared, to get the car. A plow had pushed it even closer to the edge, enough so that my dad didn’t even want to attempt to drive it, since it still had some ice underneath. We hooked a tow chain to the front, pulled it free, and I drove it home.

And traded it in that week on a newer, less death-trappy car.

Punctuational Perversity Pervades

I just,
can’t seem,
to keep,
from adding commas to,
my work;
Pausing,
every other word,
like freakin’,
Captain,
Kirk.
Punctuational perversity,
pervades,
within my mind;
I have,
to see,
a comma
at the end of,
every line.
If not,
a pause,
Then a full,
stop, a,
period-ication,
A semi-colon,
dot dot dot,
perhaps a hy-
phenation.
And so,
dear reader,
please,
forgive,
when such,
said things,
invade;
it’s just,
that,
punctuational,
perversity,
pervades.

Duke Lazell’s Missing Finger – A flashback flash fiction!

So, this is a flash fiction I did a couple months back, but I wanted to share it here because it was a fun exercise. The deal behind it was this – my buddy sent me a text with a title and the first sentence of a story, and I had to come up with the rest of the tale, in under an hour. This is my result.

That fucking bird didn’t know it, but it had seen its last sunrise. It wasn’t even properly dawn, for light’s sake, but the bloody thing was there, just outside the window, caw-cawing away at the great threat it perceived rising in the east every morning, a threat that even now was only thinking of creeping over the horizon. And this bird, this loathsome little jackdaw, overly impressed with its size and ability, thought that its mere voice could keep that great fiery bird from infringing on its courting territory. Enough.

The hangover, of course, didn’t help. My head throbbed with the beat of a thousand swords against a thousand shields, a relentless thump-thumping that alone could drive a man to madness. When combined with that shadow-sworn bird and its ceaseless melody of avian chest thumping, it was a cacophony that even I, Galmor the Great, newly appointed wizard supreme of the court of King Phalian the Kind, could not endure. And trust me, normally, I can endure quite a lot. You have to when you’re a wizard.

I stumbled from my bed in a wobble, a half-stumble, half-fall towards the washbasin. Thank the light that the porter had seen the pitcher filled, and a touch at its side confirmed that it was at least still lukewarm. I chanted a brief incantation, and the copper that formed the pitcher glowed. In moments, steam rose, and I poured a bit of the now hot water into the basin, splashed it upon my face, and tried to wash away the remnants from last night’s feastings that still remained in my beard. The bird continued to screech, and my face in the looking glass sneered.

“Bloody bird,” the image spat, “I really wish you’d see to that beast.”

I sighed, irritated that what I had previously wished was now being demanded of me. Like most wizards, I have a deplorable dislike of authority, and it took nothing more than the vocalization of my own desire from someone other than me, no matter how incorporeal, to spark a thought of resistance in me. And then the bird called, and my resolve returned.

“I intend to,” I growled, and the me in the mirror gave a smug little smirk of satisfaction. Shadows take me if I didn’t think seriously then about breaking the glass, but such things bear ill fortunes and clearly my day was full enough of those as it was. Right then, to the bird.

Storming over to the window (literally storming, I might add, for a small cloudburst had formed over my head in my wrath, and even now was growing in size and darkness), I flung back the curtains and immediately closed them. Blast, but the sun was growing bright already, despite the desperate efforts of that damnable bird! A flicker of lightning danced within the cloud over my head, and the air filled with the scent of pending rain. I reached over, grabbed my staff, and pried the curtain back more slowly, letting my eyes adjust to the brightness, wincing through the pain it caused behind my much abused and still slightly inebriated optical nerves.

There it was, my tormentor, my torturer, my morning nemesis. There, perched upon the outstretched hand of a statue of Duke Lazell, father of my king (and current employer) and to my unceasing consternation, a great lover of all things fowl. Indeed, the wretched squawker that so constantly irritated my mornings was no doubt one of the many specimens the late duke had collected in the palace gardens, with the assistance, no doubt, of the former wizard supreme. Much to my displeasure, when the two accidently blew themselves up (and the previous king, to whom the Duke was heir) several years prior to my employment, the explosion didn’t take the damnable birds with them. And doubled to that displeasure was the fact that Phalian the Kind, earning his name, took a soft-hearted liking to all the things his father loved (at least, the things his father loved that suited him), and had declared that all things feathered protected under kingdom law. To kill a fowl was to foul the king’s law, and the punishment, surely, would be far less kind than the king’s sobriquet implied.

But I was wizard supreme, and damned if I was going to suffer one more early awakening. Thunder rumbled over my head as I took aim upon the blighted beast, pointing my staff in its cursed direction, and with a fury equal to any demon of shadow, I muttered my lethal curse at it. Lightning struck from the cloud above my head, coursing down to my staff and then arcing outward towards the bird. There was a sharp snap, the deep, tangy smell of electrical discharge, and shortly, the lovely scent of roasted bird. And then, a crack, a thud, and a gasp.

I rushed to look out the window to see the cause of the latter. There, on the ground at the feet of the statue of Duke Lazell, lay a great stone finger. I glanced to the statue’s hand, and winced when I saw that perhaps my fury had been a bit over exuberant. For in my need to unalive the beast of my disdain, I had added a bit too much umph to my spell, and it had severed from the stone effigy the rocky likeness’s middle finger. As for the gasp, that likely belonged to the manservant who even now scurried off towards the king’s guard. Lovely. Great. Just what my morning needed. I had better think quick.

“Good morrow, and light be praised!” I exclaimed when, very shortly thereafter, the door to my chambers was kicked open by said guard. And who should be there with them, but his Majesty, still in his dressing robe, and his seneschal, his chief royal advisor, and if some were to be believed, his lover.

“GALMOR!” the king bellowed, “What is the meaning of this?”

“The meaning of what, your Majesty?” I asked, my voice the essence of calmness and civility.

“You know damned well what!”

I shrugged noncommittally. The king sighed, and pointed out the window at the statue of the duke, framed perfectly through that portal.

“Ah!” I said, as if it had just occurred to me what he was speaking of, “You’ve noticed my improvement to your father’s statue!”

“IMPROVEMENT?” he roared.

“Yes, your Majesty. You see, I noticed upon taking residence in this tower that the statue of your father was…imperfect. The middle finger on his outstretched hand was clearly too short. And as any learned wizard can tell you, a too short middle finger is a sign of bastardry. It has bothered me since my appointment to this position, and I could bear the insult to your name no longer!”

The guards glanced at each other, clearly confused. The king looked to his seneschal, who shrugged. The great advantage to being a wizard was that no one ever questioned your logic. The king harumphed a bit, as the seneschal shifted nervously from foot to foot, and the guards continued to stare in evident confusion.

“Well then,” the king said, clearly still angry but unable to justify punishing me for removing any doubt to his lineage, “There is still the matter of the bird!”

“The bird?” I asked innocently.

“Yes, the bird, shades curse you! You killed one of my father’s birds!”

My face took on a look of abject horror.

“Light, no!” I cried out, “Alas, the poor beast must have seen what I saw, must have meant to cover the insult with its own presence, and alighted just as my spell was cast upon that wretched finger!”

The seneschal sniffled suspiciously, but I ignored him. The king harumphed again.

“Then you did not intend to kill the fowl?”

“Your majesty, I assure you,” I said extending my middle finger, “I aimed but for this. I never in my life intended to shoot the bird.”

Be not sorry for being you…

Please don’t say sorry for you being you –
You are who you’ve been from the start,
If they can’t accept “to thine own self be true”
Then they do not deserve of your heart.
Please do not try to be what you are not
To meet some other one’s whims;
There only lies madness when you become caught
In trying to be perfect for “him”…
Or her, as it suits you, or even for they
Who expect you to meet what they wish;
You don’t owe them anything, dear, so I say
You should tell them to swim with the fish.
And, strange as it seems, that goes also for me,
Should I ask you to be something too –
Fear not, then, to tell me to jump in the sea
For I’d do just the same, love, to you.

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Stock Photo What-The-Palooza

I don’t know why, but I’ve always found it hard to write based off of a picture for inspiration. Weird writing prompts I can go with all day, but show me a picture and tell me to write about it, and for some reason, I always freeze up. I don’t know why that is, but I found it to stay true with this week’s writing challenge from the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig.

That said, I committed to a picture (#42, posted below) , and interestingly enough, as I sat her struggling with writer’s block, I realized exactly what my story would be…

Below, said story and the picture that inspired it.

Image

“Don’t do it,” he said. “I’m telling you now, it’s a bad idea.”

I looked at the man before me and I have to admit, I was puzzled. Maybe it was the cheap, flimsy bathrobe wrapped around his body, almost but not quite translucent enough to reveal the hairy body beneath. Maybe it was the oh so fashionable soup strainer mustache, or the matching bushy eyebrows that made one think of stale cigar smoke and cheap booze. Maybe it was the way he was holding up a grocer’s scale like some strange vegan version of Lady Justice, weighing heads of lettuce like they were the heads of the condemned in revolutionary France. Maybe it was the bunny hood.

It was probably the bunny hood.

“Don’t do what, exactly?” I asked, still not quite sure what he was talking about or where he actually came from.

“Don’t start it like this.”

“Start what?”

“Your story, dimwit!”

“My story?”

“Yeah. Don’t you know that starting a story with a dream sequence is a bad idea?”

A dream sequence! That would explain some things, sure! I pinched myself, hard. It stung. The bunny-man gave a tsk-tsk, shaking his head sadly.

“See, there you go, running with the dream tropes. Pinching yourself, really? Let me guess, your next step is gonna involve a splash of water?”

I looked down at the liquid laden bucket that had inexplicably appeared in my hand. I set it down gingerly, somewhat embarassed. The bunny looked pleased.

“So, if this is a dream,” I said, “who are you supposed to be?”

“I’m not going to tell you,” he replied. “Look, I’m offended enough just being here. That you expect me to then reveal some great detail about your inner turmoil and traipse gleefully through exposition land is, frankly, insulting. You want to know why you’re here? Figure it out your damned self.”

“Ah!” I exlaimed, “I know exactly who you are!”

“Do you?”

“I do. And you’re an evil bastard, let me tell you.”

“Please do. I love hearing about my questionable parenthood from a guy talking to a man in a rabbit suit.”

“You’re him. The wicked beast that haunts me any time I try and write a story based off a picture based prompt. You’re Writer’s Block!”

The rabbit-man laughed, and gave a half bow.

“Guilty as charged,” he admitted, “but I’m really not so bad as that.”

“I think you are.”

“Of course you do. You’re a writer. You’re bound to hate me.”

He took a break to set down the scale and the lettuce, plucking a single leaf and then munching on it loudly.

“But,” he said between chomps, “What you don’t realize is that I’m the greatest pal you’ve got.”

I stared blankly.

“You’re really going to make me do it, aren’t you? Fine. Fine! I’ll do it. I’ll play Mr. Exposition, but only this once, you dig?”

I nodded.

“Alright. It’s like this. I’m not the asshole people make me out to be. Sure, I can be crippling. I can come in in the middle of a really great story and really throw you for a curve. I bring things to a crashing stop, and it could be hours, days, weeks, hell, years before you get back to writing. So I guess, yeah, I can understand your frustration.

Thing is, though, I’m doing you a favor. You wanna know why I come in and louse up your flow? Because what you were writing wasn’t working. Simple as that. It’s kind of like a train wreck crossing over a busy intersection. You weren’t paying attention, things started to go off track and boom, there I am. Stopping the flow of words, keeping you from launching yourself into the fiery, burning doom of crap story telling.

But do I get any credit for that? No! I get yelled at, cursed, threatened, begged, cajoled, even propositioned if I’d just go away. Or worse, I get blamed when you really wanted to play some stupid Facebook game anyway. You don’t care that I take the bullets, man. You don’t care that I shoulder that blame, even when it’s unfairly laid on me. You just bitch, bitch, bitch, moan, moan, moan.”

“Gee,” I said, shrugging a little self-consciously, “I don’t know what to say.”

“Ah, no, wait. That one is my fault, sorry. No one ever knows what to say when I’m around. Kinda intentional, that. Look, let’s just let bygones be bygones, alright? Since we’re clearly committed to this dream crap, lets skip forward to the part with the booze and the women. Buy me a carrot juice, introduce me to some of those dream babes, and we’ll call things even. Sound good? Shall we do this?”

“Yes,” I said, extending a hand in friendship to my old nemesis, “Let us.”

2014 Flash Fiction Challenge, Week 19 – this was a tough one!

Ok, so I didn’t make the deadline for submitting this at Thain in Vain’s blog, but I liked the prompt and wanted to write to it anyway. It was crazy hard getting this to not be over 500 words. My first draft was just shy of 700. It was an excellent exercise in editing (ahhhhh I love alliteration) however, as I went through and trimmed it to the lean but fun story it turned out as.  Hope y’all enjoy it.

The prompt? A man’s dog (or pet of your choice) develops the uncanny ability to communicate telepathically with him. No more than 500 words.

“Bob. BOB!”

Bob sat up, his hands flying to his eyes, wiping away the sleep.

“Who’s there?”

“We need to talk, Bob.”

Bob stared slack-jawed around the apartment, brow furrowed. He leaned over the side of the bed, looking beneath it.  He went to the wardrobe, flung it open. He checked the TV. Off.

A sigh followed.

“Look down. The end table.”

Bob looked down at the table, saw a magazine with a picture of the President and a goldfish bowl. In it, Flipper, his goldfish. Bob leaned down close to the magazine.

“Mr. President?” he whispered.

“Fucks sake, Bob, no! In the bowl!”

Bob jumped.

“Flipper?!?”

“Yes. Flipper.  GOD I hate that name. You do realize that Flipper was a dolphin, right? You know what dolphins eat, right? It’s like intentionally naming a kid after a serial killer.”

Bob frowned.

“I guess I never thought of that.”

“You haven’t thought about a lot of things, Bob. That’s why we need to talk.”

“I’m still a little…confused. Um…how, exactly, is it that we’re talking?”

“Telepathy, Bob. Look, I don’t have the patience to explain this to you because I know you aren’t going to understand it anyway. Hint, Bob – you have to *read* those brainy magazines you leave lying about to be smarter. And the girls you bring home aren’t impressed with them anyway.”

Bob was flustered. Was he really being lectured by a goldfish? Maybe he was hallucinating. Maybe it was last night’s dinner. He thought it had tasted off.

“It wasn’t dinner, Bob.”

“How did y…”

“Telepathy, Bob, fuck! I’m not going to explain it! Look, I’m just going to say this. Despite my frustration, I like you. You’re a decent guy. You feed me well, you keep my water clean, you even did the research and got me a filter and bubbler, which, you know, props. Because a lot of people don’t think a goldfish needs those. But we do, Bob, we do. We need to talk because I know you like that Amy girl and you’re thinking of popping the question.”

“No I’m…”

“Don’t lie, Bob. Telepathy. Thing is, I was cool with you dating her, because hey, everyone wants to have a bit of fun now and then. That’s a hint, Bob. This tank is made for two, know what I mean? Anyway, this girl. Amy. Don’t marry her.”

“And why not?” Bob asked, indignant at the gall of his fish.

“She’s a gold digger, Bob. She knows about the inheritance that’s coming your way, and when it does, she’s splitting and taking half.”

“But ho…”

“Do I really have to say telepathy again?”

Bob’s head drooped, his lips frowned.

“Awww…don’t be like that, big guy. There’s plenty of fish in the sea. I should know. Look, from now on, you bring girls over, I’ll scan their thoughts, and we’ll find you the right one.”

Bob’s face lightened.

“Really? You’d do that?”

“Sure thing, pal. Just one condition.”

“Name it, anything!”

“Change my fucking name.”