writing prompt

#FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 27 – “The Pen is Mightier”

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Week 27 has arrived in Thane in Vain’s Flash Fiction challenge! This week, the theme was thus:

A journalist writing a story about living on death row begins to fall for one of the inmates she’s interviewing.

I’ll admit, I cheated a little on this one, in that the falling in love part has been shifted slightly, but I like the results so I’m going to run with it. Here is “The Pen is Mightier.”

It was almost time. She felt her heart pound as she heard the thick, heavy bars in the hall beyond. She fidgeted in the hard plastic seat of the visiting room, and a thought slipped through her head.

Should I really be doing this?

It was only a brief thought. Of course she should. She was Samantha Hanes. She had a Pulitzer, for God’s sake, spent time embedded in war zones, survived an attack on her position there. She had nothing to fear.

She fidgeted anyway.

The door opened, and she stifled a gasp.

Jonathon Lemay entered in chains. A part of her, a kinky part of her, stirred. She suppressed it. Must be professional. The guards led Lemay to a chair, fit his chains into slots in the floor. One turned to her.

“We’ll be right outside of the door. Don’t get too close. If you feel the need, hit the panic button.”

“Thank you,” she nodded. They left, leaving her with Lemay.

He was beautiful. She blushed to think it, but it was truth. He was tall, symmetrical, thick hair and eyes a gorgeous shade of blue. His physique, divine. Better than it had been in Iraq.

His eyes narrowed. She felt her face flush again.

“Hanes?”

He remembered her! Her heart pounded with fear and delight. She felt her breath grow heavier. She lingered on thoughts that were definitely unprofessional.

“Why are you here?”

Her vision of him broke, for a moment.

“I’m here to interview you, Mr. Lemay. I’m doing a story on the life of prisoners on death row. I know we have personal history, but I convinced them I could keep things professional.”

“Personal history?”

His confusion bothered her. She straightened her blouse, perked out her breasts.

“You don’t have to be coy, Jon. They aren’t listening. I paid a lot to ensure that.”

“Hanes…”

“Please,” she said with a nervous chuckle, “Sam. You know you can call me Sam.”

She didn’t like the look on his face. Didn’t like it at all. He was supposed to be grateful, damn it; he was supposed to be happy! It was her turn to be the savior, to make him fall in love.

Like he had done to her. In Iraq.

But who was she? Just a journalist? He saved her life, yes, and won her heart. But he didn’t want it. He had another, a girl waiting back home. But that was ok. She didn’t want him either, before he saved her life. She knew that.

That’s why the girl back home had to go away. That’s why she had to make it look like he’d killed her. It wasn’t hard. She’d trained with them, after all. She saw how they worked. And once he was here, in prison?

She could save his life. She would make him love her. She may not have a gun, but she had a pen. She smiled.

After all, the pen was so much mightier than the sword.

 

“Bad Parents” – Chuck Wendig’s Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. TRIGGER WARNING

Just in under the deadline, here is my story for Chuck Wendig’s challenge from this past week. A story about “Bad Parents”, 1000 words or less.

This is not the story I originally intended to tell. That one I wrote, rewrote, rewrote again, and then finally deleted. I’m not ready to tell that one yet.

This one is dark, very dark. I give you fair warning now that it is about child abuse, murder, and such like things. If this is the kind of thing that upsets you, skip this one.

No one ever tells you about the smell. The movies, the shows, they make it look almost…glamorous, when you shoot someone. A bang, a puff of smoke, a bright light, a splatter of pretty crimson that paints the wall like that abstract painter guy…Jackson-something. Mom always liked his stuff. I didn’t get it. The smell is terrible. Like copper and shit and sewage. Maybe it’s different if you shoot them somewhere other than the balls and lower stomach?

Christ. I can hear him still. I wish he’d die but I don’t have the stomach or the will to shoot him again. And maybe…maybe I kind of want him to suffer, even if each groan that escapes his lips makes me feel like vomiting. Even through the door, I can hear him dragging himself across the floor croaking a strange, strangled, gurgling noise like some sort of sick frog. Disgusting. Bleeding and shitting all over the floor, no doubt. Mom is going to be so pissed off.

After all, he is…was…her husband.

I look down at the gun in my hand and I wonder how many bullets I have left. I never really learned about them. I mean, I knew the basics, but I didn’t even know how to load or reload or whatever you are supposed to do with them. I do know you point the dangerous end and you flip the safety thing and you pull the trigger. And not the button that makes the bullet-thingy fall out. I guess TV is good for something after all, huh? There’s always that ditzy girl who points the gun and presses the wrong button. Or gets reminded the safety is on. Dumb!

I wonder if I should shoot her too. Mom, I mean. Part of me screams at the idea, revolts. Another…not so much.

She let it happen, after all. She had to have known. No…she did know. I can’t make excuses for her. She knew. I told her. I told her what he was doing, how he was touching me…there. I feel sick again, just thinking about it. Have to force myself to stop. She knew, but she didn’t do anything about it. He was husband number three, after all, and she wasn’t getting any younger. She said that all the time.

So she put up with the shit. The laziness. The yelling. The name calling. The slaps, the punches, the bruises. The way he looked at me, her daughter. She listened when he lied and when he locked himself in my room she bought that the door must have “accidently” locked itself. When I would find any excuse I could to be with her, she said I was just too clingy. Seperation Anxiety? Really Mom?

I didn’t tell her at first. I was scared. Scared that he’d hurt me worse, hurt her worse. He threatened that he would. Said that if I told he would beat the shit out of her, break her, make sure no other man would ever want to be with her again. Did I want that? Huh, sweetie? You want your mom to have to earn her living lying on her back for ten dollars a pop, cause she sure as hell wouldn’t make more than that when he got finished with her.

But then one day she found me. Crying. Rocking. She took me in her arms and she rocked with me and she asked me.

“Cass, sweety? Is there something wrong?”
And I felt warm. Safe. I told her.

I still feel the sting of her hand. The bruises have faded but I still feel each punch. My hair still hurts when it remembers her dragging me through the hall, screaming and calling me a liar, a whore, a filthy little tempter. It was my fault, see. I shouldn’t dress like such a slut. She burned my makeup and my music and most of my heart that day.

“Casssss.”

What’s left of my heart plummets. He moans out again.

“Casssssss…c…c…call…..9…”

He stops, coughing. I hear something thick and wet splatter against the wood floor, and something in me snaps.

I open the door.

He’s right there. The smell is even worse now. The floor doesn’t look like a pretty painting. It looks horrible. Dark. Brownish. I gag. He looks up at me. Kind of looks like one of those monsters, zombies. I don’t know…I don’t like those shows. Too gory. He reaches out his hand.

“Cass…sw…sweetie…”

There is a pop, a shockingly loud pop and a ringing in my ears before I even realize I’ve shot him. There is a strange, gurgling rattle, and then he’s quiet. The only sound is the ringing in my ears.

I close the door. I cry. I can’t help it. God, what am I going to do? I sit there, at the door. I sit there for a long time.

And then I hear it. Keys in the lock. Mom is home. I look down. How many bullets are left?

I don’t know.

Maybe just one.

My hands tremble. I am so fucked. So, so fucked. The door begins to open. For a moment, it really is just like the movies. Everything is slow, deliberate. I look at the gun and I think, yes, maybe there’s just one more bullet left.

I raise my arm. The gun is so, so heavy. Heavier than I thought it would be. The door swings wider. I sit straighter. Proper. Ladylike. She walks in all fake smiles and empty cheer and an arm full of crap. She looks at me.

“Cass, sweetie? Is there something wrong?”

I smile. I press the gun beneath my chin, and I wonder.

Will she believe me now?

“The Measure of a Man” – Turn-a-trope #4, #WOEGTTT

This one was incredibly tough! Were it not that I refused to be beaten by my own challenge, I would have tossed in the towel. That said, I think the following tale does a decent job of skewering the trope, “A Man is Not a Virgin.”

Enjoy.

Tomas rode with the fury of a man possessed. The gates of the ancient temple of Kalziban lay behind him, and in his wake, the bodies of a legion of slain hellions. Ahead, he could see the door that lead to the inner temple, and the Pool of Tears. He knew that he would find her there. Lillian. His sworn ward.

As the Knight of the cloak, it has been his responsibility to protect her. And he had, through countless dangers, countless attempts on her life. She was the last of the purest bloodline, and her death would profit many an evil man. He had fought dozens to defend her, and bested them all. Sir Tomas of the Cloak was, perhaps, the greatest knight who’d ever served.

She had vanished in the night, despite all precautions. Tomas knew this time would come, had since the moment of her birth. Tonight, the moons above aligned with the Dread star, the Blood Eye of Kalziban. He knew that whoever took her, would take her here. His horse stumbled, fell. Tomas leapt from its back as it went, tumbling to the ground in clash of steel and leather. He cried out as he struck a stony pillar. His horse, ridden far beyond exhaustion, cried out, and expired. He rose to his feet, and ran up the stairs and through the temple’s doors.

“You’re too late,” Alcyon cackled. The dread summoner held up his hands, dripping with blood. “Too late, hero, too late to save her, too late to stop the summoning!”

Tomas fell to his knees with a sob. Before him, splayed across the pentacle carved into the ground, was Lillian. Sweet, innocent Lillian. The last of legal heir to the kingdom of Tancreath. The Virgin Princess. The Keeper of the Barrier. His sworn ward.

Tears fell from Tomas’ cheek. He cast away his shield as he took her hand in his own, felt the cold lifelessness therein. Her body, a ruin of blood and savagery, her thighs, a spectacle of disaster and debauchery.  Tomas’ sword slipped from his free hand, and reached, tenderly, for her cold staring eyes, unfocused and staring into the void. He closed them, softly, and brushed away a lock of coal black hair.

“It would have been enough,” the knight croaked hoarsely, “to have just killed her. ”

“Oh,” the summoner spoke, his voice filled with sarcastic mock pity, “yes, it would have. But then I would not have gotten to see this, would I have? The undefeatable Sir Tomas of the Cloak, brought to his knees? Not by a sword, not by a lance, not by an army of men…but by a man. A single man, with nothing in his hands…but blood.”

Alcyon continued to laugh madly. Tomas felt his head swim. A strange, numbing wave crashed against his nerves, his face, his limbs tingling. He rose, slowly, a final sob given to his fallen ward as he raised her up in his arms. He turned, looked to the Pool of Tears. Slowly, he walked towards it, heedless of the summoner and his madness. Around him, lights began to grow, strange, glowing, otherworldly emanations that rose from the ancient runes and sigils carved and cast throughout the hall.

“Too late!” Alcyon cried, sobbing in mirth, “She is dead!”

Tomas didn’t listen. He continued to the pool, till he stood overlooking its pale, milky waters. A drop of blood fell from Lillian’s outstretched arm, and slipped into the pool, an angry red swirl on a sea of pearl.

“She is dead,” Alcyon repeated, but his laughter cracked, slowing, “It is over, fool! And besides…”

The summoner nodded at the pool.

“It takes the life of a virgin of royal birth to halt the summoning of the Dread Lord Kalziban. She was the last. It is over!”

Tomas, silent still, lowered the girl’s body to the pool, then watched her slip beneath the surface. He stood then, turned to the mad summoner.

“Do you know the measure of a man, summoner? Do you know why I took up the Cloak?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper. Alcyon’s grin faltered.

“The Cloak is not an easy burden to bear. Its wearer must be good and strong. Generous and just. Compassionate and merciful. Swift of blade, swift of defense. Trustworthy and…pure.”

The knight turned and looked at the summoner, his eyes rimmed with red, stained with tears, but cold, so cold.

“Pure. Untouched by the hands, the lips, the body of a lover.”

Tomas ran a hand through hair as black as pitch, the same color as Lillian’s.

“I took the Cloak because I was born a bastard. And now…”

Tomas stepped to the edge of the pool. Alcyon stumbled forward, slipped in blood. He crashed to the ground, then looked up, his eyes wide with something they had never known.

Fear.

“…now I will see my sister safely to the Underworld.”

Tomas dived into the pool. Alcyon shrieked, raged, as the knight’s heavy armour pulled him quickly downward. The summoner scrambled to the pool, plunging his arms in, staining the water pink with blood. But the knight was gone, the pool empty.

Around him the walls began to shake. The sigils began to glow a violent red.  A sharp smell of ozone filled the air, and the crack of the barrier, the gateway between worlds, slammed through the air. Alcyon howled as the dissipating energies tore about the room. The ceiling quaked, and pieces began to collapse.

Then bitterly, he laughed, as the temple collapsed around him.

“What the Heart Seeks” – Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Doing The Subgenre Twist, Once Again

Another week, another interesting challenge form the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig!  This week, we had to choose two story genres at random, and mix them together into a single story of subgenre-melty-goodness in 2000 words or less. As usual, I used the random number generator/recorder at Invisible Castle to keep myself honest, and came up with an 18 and a 2 – a Noir Dystopia. Shiny!

I came two words shy of the goal with the following piece, “What the Heart Seeks.”  It was harder than I thought, inserting dystopian elements into a noir world. I ended up adding a touch of sci-fi to the mix, and shook it real hard. I hope the results tickle your tastebuds.

I knew she was trouble the moment she walked in the door. Her hair was long, loose, dark, falling over her shoulders like an avalanche of black curls. Her eyes, green as a piece of fine jade. Her lips, shockingly red and shockingly full. Her skin, lightly tanned, as if the sun had kissed her ever so gently. Her clothes so tight, I’d have sworn she was shaken up and poured into them. Every bit of her, head to toe, was a violation of the Morality Code. And frankly, I didn’t give a damn. I tossed out the garnish of taboo and drank her in like a drunk at an open bar.

“Mr. Monroe?”

I must have been staring too long, because her eyebrow raised, and she cocked a hand on one of those impossibly curvy hips. I went to speak, found my jaw was hanging slack, closed it. Rolled my head and shrugged.

“What’s it to you?” I said, trying to play disinterested, though I was sure I’d blown that hand already.

“I hear you’re a Seeker, Mr. Monroe. A good one.”

I put a toothpick into my mouth, gnawed on it. I wanted a cigarette, bad, but I was out of cards for them and though they were plentiful on the black market, getting caught sucking down on one without a ration stamp was more trouble than I wanted to get in. And no matter how tempting she looked, I didn’t know this dame. Best to play it safe.

“I have been known to find things, sure. For a price.”

“What kind of things?” she asked, sauntering closer.

“Things,” I shot back. I don’t like being interrogated.

“You ever find…people?”

I paused. My chewing stopped. I reached up and pulled the toothpick from my mouth, and spun it in my fingers. I knew what she was asking, and it could get me in a lot of trouble. Unlicensed use of meta-human abilities was punishable by…well, anything they damned well wanted to do. Still, there was something about her. I gave in.

“People are tough. Not like objects. They change too much, nothing solid to focus on. Besides, most the time, someone goes missing, it’s because they crossed the Greycoats.”

Outside, a shrill whistle sounded, followed by the sound of running, cries. Punctuated my point perfectly.

“Tough,” she said, almost a whisper as she leaned in real close, “but not impossible.”

I couldn’t help but get a whiff of her, of that sweet, unidentifiable but completely irresistible perfume. I can’t deny, it had an effect. Down below, I felt myself stir in ways both immoral and illegal. Damn…this dame was trouble. Why, oh why do I like trouble so much? Still, long as it had been, much as I may be driven by those illegal, animal desires…I don’t work for free.

“No. Not impossible, Miss…”

I paused. I hadn’t even thought to get her name. It’s like she pushed every single one of my buttons, just right. I felt a flush rise to my cheeks.

“Neris. Neris Molpe, Mr. Monroe,” she said, with a smile that could melt even the black heart of a stalwart Greycoat.

“Uh, you can call me Sam.”

“Alright…Sam. So…will you take the job?”

I almost said yes. Hell, if she had asked right then, I might of walked right up to a Grey Inquisitor and pissed on his boots. But there’s one thing that drives me more than even the most primal lust.

“First, there’s a matter of cost. Seeking’s risky business, and battin’ those eyes won’t pay the rent. Or the taxman. Or bribe the Inquisitors. I need to know what you’ve got to offer before I can say one way or the other.”

Her demeanor cooled slightly.

“Of course,” she said, and the chill from her lips could have frosted over glass. Oh well. So much for that fantasy. She reached into her bag, a nice, colorful thing that would have gotten her arrested in a less questionable part of town. Color incites passion, passion incited immorality. That’s what the loudspeakers said, anyway, wasn’t it? Her hand slid in, slid out, now carrying…

My jaw dropped. My heart pounded wildly beneath my wrinkled shirt and battered overcoat. I literally had to rub my eyes, to be sure I wasn’t seeing things. I even thought about pinching myself.

“Are those…”

“Reproduction licenses, Mr. Monroe. Two of them.”

She may well have said she held the contents of the Imperial treasury in her hands. Reproduction was highly, strictly regulated. It could take a couple a dozen years or more to get a license for a single child. Many who got them found that years of chemical libido inhibition also killed their ability to have children, but by some strange lack of oversight, the licenses were open. They weren’t bound to a particular name or couple. They were transferable. And very, very pricey.

I licked my lips. Didn’t want to seem to eager but I really couldn’t deny that I was. I rubbed my jaw, felt the stubble that had grown there.
“Alright, Ms. Molpe…”

“Neris, please.”

“Yeah. Alright Neris. You have yourself a Seeker.”

***

It’d been a long night. Miss Molpe…Neris…was hesitant on the details. Couldn’t blame her for that, though. These days, anyone could be a Greycoat. Even me.

We’d evaded three patrols so far, running through dark alleys and abandoned service tunnels, following the distinctive pull my mind felt towards the object of her desire. Every once in a while, the trail would start to dim, and I’d have to ask her for another detail to freshen the imprint. Like I’d said, humans are tough. Changing. Moods shift, and something that defined a person one moment might change the next.

It’s easier, of course, if the person in question has some sort of unchanging feature; a significant scar, a great hairy blemish, a tattoo…well, a tattoo would work if they hadn’t been outlawed by Imperial edict. Even then, though, the way a person views their own attributes can sway how well they can be Sought. Where I might see an angry red scar, the bearer might see a proud badge of heroism. The devil is in the details, they say.

And the devil was poking me, hard. I fingered the stiletto hidden in the sleeve of my trench coat, then sighed.

“I need something more,” I said, sucking on my teeth as I tried to pinpoint the fleeting tug of my Seeking. Neris leaned against the alley wall, trying to catch her breath. I guess we’d been moving a bit faster than she was prepared to go; hard to say. When I start Seeking, I tend to loose myself in the pursuit. She held up a hand. I nodded.

After a moment, she closed her eyes and furrowed her brow. It was clear that she was trying to find just the right detail out, that wouldn’t expose too much information but give me enough to give her a lead. A tingle of paranoia crept up my spine like a spider up a drainpipe, but with a shiver, I dismissed it. Paranoia was the norm these days, ever since the emperor dissolved the senate and handed power directly to the Inquisitors. As much as I might distrust her, she surely distrusted me.

“Can we rest a moment more?” she asked, opening her astonishingly jade eyes and batting her lashes. Those things had to be a mile long. I grunted, gave a nod. But something was nagging me, and I had to ask.

“Who are we tracking, Neris? Boyfriend? Relative?”

Her cheeks flushed the color of a cheap wine.

“No…nothing like that. He’s just…someone who…has something of mine.”

“A thief?”

She shrugged, looking away from my eyes. My jaw tightened, eyes narrowed.

And then she looked up at me again. Those eyes, those impossible eyes, gazed at me like she was drilling a hole in my soul and looking to strike gold. And damn if she didn’t.

“Please, Mr. Monroe…I can’t. I can’t talk about it more than that. Is it enough that he has something of mine? Can we work with that for now?”

I concentrated, felt the return of that familiar tug. Yes…that would work. I nodded, and we were off again, chasing the ghost of her little thief. Whoever he was.

***

We hunted most the night, when we finally came upon the end of the line. The tugging within me, the feeling I’d followed all night, released. Tension fled from me like water from a sieve. I felt my muscles loosen, relax.

“He’s here,” I told her, nodding towards the abandoned storage buildings across from us. “He’s inside one of them – sorry I can’t be more accurate, but this is as close as I can get with people.”

Neris nodded, and started to walk briskly towards the buildings, when that wave of paranoia hit me again. I reached out, stopped her.

“Wait. Something’s wrong.”

My eyes narrowed, searching, not Seeking. It was quiet. Too quiet. No sounds of whistles, no barking dogs. No signs that an Imperial patrol had been through here, no sign that they were coming. And where there are no signs of Imperials, there are almost always signs of crime. This place was clean. I pulled Neris back behind me, reached into my jacket, pulled my unlicensed revolver.

“It’s a trap,” I growled.

“I know,” she said, and I felt the cold, round touch of a barrel against the back of my neck. Every bit of me cringed. I’d been had. Hard.

“Your gun. Drop it.”

I considered, briefly, resisting. I’m no slouch when it comes to using a gat, and my impression thus far was that this dame wasn’t used to getting her hands dirty. Not this way at least. And then, the Greycoats came. A whole squad, swarming out from the storage buildings. I may have been able to take her, but my gun was at least a dozen rounds shy of taking the rest.

“Excellent work, Mrs. Molpe,” the lead Greycoat said. “We’ve been after this Seeker for some time now, but he has always proven too slippery a fish.”

Mrs. Molpe? Fuck me.

“Stop, Donovan,” she said, her voice cracking in what almost sounded like sorrow.

He slapped her, hard.

“That’s Captain Donovan, you dirty little Enticer.”

An Enticer? They sent an Enticer? It all began to make sense. The loose details, the feelings of paranoia, the way I set aside my usual distrust so easily. I looked at Donovan. Shit. He was the one I was Seeking the entire time.

I looked over my shoulder at the apparently married Neris Molpe, and sneered.

“Don’t,” she pleaded, “Don’t hate me, Sam. They have my husband. I didn’t have a choice.”

“Everyone has a choice, Neris.”

“Not true,” Donovan said pointing his gun at me menacingly, “You are out of them, Mr. Monroe.”

I smirked. Couldn’t help it. I  had a choice.

I lunged, and as I did, pulled the stiletto from my coat sleeve. Donovan’s eyes widened; guess he’d never had anyone resist before. He tried to bring his gun to bear, but I was on him to quick. I buried my blade in his throat. He gurgled, gasped, fell backwards.

I felt the first shot that hit me, but I didn’t feel the rest. My body became suddenly heavy, and I slipped to the ground. I heard Neris scream, and a moment later, felt her arms wrap around me, cradling my head.

“Sam! Oh, Sam…I’m sorry Sam!” she said, sobs wracking her body. I tried to move, couldn’t. Hurt.

“S’ok, dame. I made my choice.”

Coldness swept over me. My sight began to fail. I looked at her, at those impossibly green eyes, and smiled. Imagine that. Me, in the arms of a beautiful dame, her eyes heavy with tears for a cagey old Seeker. I tried to laugh, coughed blood instead.

There were worse ways to go.

Turn-a-trope Tuesday #4: “A Man is not a Virgin” – #woegttt

It’s time again for Turn-a-trope Tuesday, where we take a standard trope and attempt to tell a story that turns it on its head! What does that mean exactly? Well, essentially, it means to take a common element of fiction and to do something unexpected with it. As you can see from past entries in this series, sometimes that means a complete reversal of the trope, and other times, it means a small subversion, a slight alteration that still leads to the unexpected. Why do we do this? Because it’s good for a well balanced writer to be able to spot and break cliches, and to learn how to surprise a reader while setting them up for something else entirely.

But first, let’s have a big round of applause for last week’s entrants in the “Resigned to the Call” challenge! Check out their stories, and see how they twisted that trope to delight and surprise you!

The Guardians, at Helen’s Ramblings on This Thing Called Life

To Ask or Not To Ask, at rhonwynalyna

To Heed the Call, at Woegman’s World of Witty Wonder

Now, on to this week’s trope – A Man is Not a Virgin

From TVTropes.org:

“While teenagers Can’t Get Away with Nuthin’ , and characters in slasher films often suffer Death by Sex, it is understood that the leading male must be sexually active. A guy who has never Done It, or even just does not Do It often, is simply Not Man Enough to save the day, solve the mystery or whatever. It doesn’t matter whether sexual experience is in any way relevant to the skills needed in the plot, he just has to be Man Enough so he has to have Done It and preferably Do It Regularly. That’s How It Is. Don’t Argue.

Establishing the character’s sexual competence varies from seeing a beautiful blonde, who has nothing to do with the plot and no lines to speak, crossing or leaving his bedroom early on in the film, to references to his ex-wife or old flames. Generally, however, the more macho Action Heroes don’t have wives or steady girlfriends when the adventure starts, because that would stop them from hooking up with the female lead. We just have to be made aware that she is far from being the first beautiful woman he’s had (Direct-to-DVD movies often get much lazier about this and combine it with the requisite sex scene, and will often have the male protagonist have sex with a few girls on screen while he’s in the process of falling for the female protagonist).

It also, of course, serves to make the audience absolutely and totally sure that their hero is ardently heterosexual. After all, while homosexual or bisexual characters are becoming more and more common, the number of them that are leading characters can probably be counted on one hand. Establishing the male lead’s heterosexuality assures the majority of the audience that it is thusly safe for women to want him and men to want to be him. Note that the term “virgin” originally meant “a female who has not had sex with a man”, and thus literally no male was ever a virgin — which sort of underscores the trope. The definition became more vague as language evolved.

This trope is NOT simply for examples where a male is expected to have sex and/or teased until he does so. This trope is for when a male is portrayed in-universe as feeble, pathetic, and poorly adjusted, with his virginity as an implicit or explicit cause. “

As usual, you have 1000 words to turn this trope on its head. Have fun! :)

 

 

(Edited to fix a typo – you get 1000 words, not 100!)

#FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 25 – “The Verdict”

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Howdy all. This week’s entry for the ever awesome Thain in Vain’s Flash Fiction Challenge is below. The theme?

Your protagonist is a member of jury about to hear the sentencing of the criminal you just convicted.

I decided to do two things with this story. One, I wasn’t going to reveal the sentencing, which, contrary to what they show in the movies, doesn’t necessarily happen immediately following the verdict. And two, I decided to continue exploring a character I introduced in Chuck Wendig’s latest challenge.

So here is “The Verdict”

It was weird being on this side of the box. How many times had I sat with the defense, waiting for people just like this to decide my fate? Watching their faces, some angry, some bored, some with empty, far-looking gazes.

I’d lucked out. No convictions. Not saying I wasn’t guilty, but never beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s what mattered. My lawyer was slick, sure. Jimmie the Gent saw to that. Likewise, I’m sure he saw to it that at least one member of each jury I’d faced was bent, to assure the conviction went the way he wanted.

That’s why I was here, wasn’t it?

“All rise for the honorable Judge Malcolm McFarley.”

I stood up, rolled my shoulders. In the pit of my stomach, I felt butterflies. Huh, funny. It felt just like when I was out there, on the other side. I looked at the guy standing with the defense. Vincent Taglieri. Didn’t know him personally, didn’t have to. The Gent told me what I needed to know. Taglieri’s lawyer was slick too. Real slick. The prosecution made a tough case, but his guy made every weaseling turn he could make, and hell, even though I knew he was guilty, I found it easy to doubt.

And I fuckin’ hated kid touchers.

That’s one thing about my line of work. Sometimes, you run with people you just can’t stand. By nature, the profession draws undesirables. Jimmie the Gent had that going for him, though. If he could avoid it, he wouldn’t work with the worst of them. But some guys…some guys just had to be stomached.

“You may be seated.”

We sat. The judge wasn’t in Jimmie’s pocket. He was straight and hard as shit. His sentence would be the maximum he could get away with and not risk an appeal. He hated crime. Loved justice. Too bad the American system was too fucked to see it gotten.

“Vincent Taglieri, you have been accused of the abduction and rape of a child of thirteen. The time has come to ask the jury for their verdict. Will the foreman please rise?”

I stood. Yeah, me, the foreman. Fucked up, right?

“Mr. Foreman, has the jury reached a verdict?”

“We have, your Honor.”

“Will you please read the verdict?”

I looked over at Vincent. He looked back, an almost imperceptible smirk on his lips. He recognized me. Knew that if Jimmie had gone through the hassle of hiring a real slick lawyer and getting a man on the jury, he was as good as free.

“Guilty, on all charges,” I said, staring Vincent in the eyes. His face drained of color. There was an eruption of sound in the courtroom, followed by the banging gavel.

“Mr. Taglieri is to be taken into custody while I determine his sentence.”

I watched them drag him out of the courtroom. The whole time, he stared back at me. Jimmie was gonna be pissed.

But like I said, I fucking hate kid touchers.

Turn-a-trope Tuesday #3: “Resigned to the Call”, #WOEGTTT

Howdy all! It’s time again for Turn-a-trope Tuesday! This week, I want to try something a bit new – if you happen to join in the contest, please do me a favor and include in your tags or title, the hashtag #WOEGTTT. This will let me search entries each week and include them on a follow up blog, giving your stories to this challenge a chance to shine!

Special thanks to last week’s entrant, Helen Espinosa, with her awesome tale of eery, vegetative jealousy…

So, now, on to this week’s trope! The random trope generator this week gives us an interesting counterpoint to last week’s “Unwanted Revival.” The trope? “Resigned to the Call!”

From TVTropes.org:

“There are many ways a character can respond to the Call to Adventure. If he’s thrilled about it, and excited, he’s Jumped at the Call. If he ignores it, or tries to continue living as though The Call never came, he’s Refused The Call.

Then there’s the hero who isn’t happy about being called, but doesn’t believe that he can avoid it, either. For whatever reason, his reaction isn’t “Yay! Adventure!” or “Leave me alone. I’m not doing it.” His reaction is “I can’t talk you into picking someone else, can I? I’m gonna have to do this thing, aren’t I? (sigh) Fine. Let’s get it over with.” He’s Resigned To The Call.”

So, can you manage to turn this trope on its head? Can you take what people expect and give them the unexpected?

I can’t wait to see if you can! Standard rules apply, due by Monday the 23rd, 1000 words or less. Have fun!

“Hell Hath No Fury” – my entry for Turn-a-trope Tueday #2!

Finishing just before the deadline (though it’s posting a bit late) is my own entry for my Turn-a-trope Tuesday challenge, Unwanted Revival. 1000 words on the nose!

***

Hell was not what James thought it would be. There was no lake of burning fire. No devils with forks to torment him, no endless hills and great boulders to push up them. Hell was simply…empty. The only thing there was the lack of everything. No feeling of anything, save for the feeling of longing. It was like hungering but never being able to sate it. Thirsting, but no water able to quench it. Absolute fatigue, with no sleep abating it. Longing with no possible relief. He could not imagine anything worse, because even that was robbed of him; he could literally not imagine. Hell was not some describable torture. Hell was primal, eternal boredom.

When the first tug came, when he actually felt something calling to him, he lunged for it, unable to resist. Oh, the sensation of it! He felt himself moving, felt it! Faster, pulling away from that infernal darkness. A wind that existed only in his mind kissed his form, and he reveled in its caress, Needed it! Reached for it, and felt his own movements!

Images, oh God, colors! Light coming together, slowly at first and then quickening. Shapes formed in the darkness, filled with color, grew into forms that he started to recognize. Pillows. Candles. Flames, flickering back and forth. Even so dull a light as theirs was near blinding to his sight-hungry eyes, but at least they were blinding! He could feel the pain, the delightful pain of their light within his eyes!

Smells, glorious, powerful smells! Burning sage, the hint of something warm and coppery. Sweet perfumes, so foreign already to his smell-starved mind, and yet somehow familiar. Heavy, earthen scents, like freshly dug soil. The smell of burning wax, of sulfur. God, how had he never noticed how good sulfur could smell? How could he ever have gagged at such a thing?

It was all real. A desperate need for air filled him, and he breathed in deep, harsh, gasping breaths. Pure, cool air filled his lungs, and he felt every wonderful bit of it. He became aware, finally, of sound. The crackle of flames overshadowed by a soft, low chant. Voices! His mind registered voices, softly whispering some language he didn’t know, but voices nonetheless.

He tried to sit up, aware that he was laying down. Something stopped him, and a strange, metallic clanking registered in his ears. Clanking? He looked towards his wrists, found them bound in heavy iron manacles.

“Wha…” his voice croaked, his brain remembering how to process speech, but a figure stepped forward from the chanters and laid a finger across his lips, silencing him. He looked up, confused, but comprehending, as the figure slipped back the hood that covered her head and hid her face in shadows.

“Cheryl?” James asked, incredulity in his voice. His wife, Cheryl, smiled, her glossy red lips parting to show her perfect teeth. The smile never reached her eyes.

“Yes, James. It’s  me, Cheryl. Do you remember what happened to you James?”

He blinked several times, confused, but a moment later, memory began to flood back to him. He remembered a car, his car, driving too fast down a dark country road. He remembered the road looked wet where it had not rained. He remembered his car skidding out beneath him. He remembered the squeal of tires, the smell of burning rubber, the shock of breaking glass. Instinctually, he tried to cover his face with his hands as memory of the glass shards flooded his brain, but the manacles prevented that.

Cheryl smiled knowingly.

“It was a terrible accident, James. Poor, poor James, speeding back home. But from where, James?”

He felt his face drain of color, a numbness go over her body. Could she know? How?

“It was from my place, Cheryl,” another woman’s voice chimed in. James felt his stomach flop. No…no, it couldn’t be!

It was. Anna, his mistress. Well, one of his mistresses.

“Imagine my surprise, lover boy, when I found out you were married,” Anna said. Her voice was pleasant but there was a hint of ice to it, a chilliness that terrified him.

“Or mine,” a third voice said. Fuck, not Ellie too.

“Or mine.”

“Or mine.”

God, no. James felt himself awash with panic. How could this be? How could they all have found each other? Cheryl, Anna, Ellie, Laura, Michelle, Saundra. All of his women. All his little toys. All he had lied to for so long.

“A funeral is a funny thing,” Cheryl said. “Sometimes, it brings people together you never would guess had a connection.”

“And sometimes, with their combined heartbreak, those people can do great things, discover talents they never knew they had,” Saundra said with a bit of bitter mirth to her voice.

His vision finally fully cleared, and James stared around the room in growing horror. His body, shackled to the floor, smelled of embalming fluid and soil. Around him, drawn on the floor in blood, a pentagram. At every point, a brazier filled with burning herbs. Sage, perhaps. And gathered there in a circle, every woman he had lied to. Cheated on, cheated with. Every lover he had taken to bed in the past six years of his marriage.

“We know what hell is like,” Laura said.

“We couldn’t bear the thought of you not feeling anything,” Ellie said.

“So we brought you back,” Cheryl said, her voice like ice, “We brought you back to make you feel.”

James screamed as the knife found his thigh, and upwards to his root. He writhed in agony as Cheryl twisted the blade there, at the pure, shattering pain of it.

“P…please,” he gasped, “D…d…don’t….”

“Don’t worry? Oh, we won’t, love boy,” Anna laughed. “We can bring you back as often as we want, whole as can be, healthy, fine, full of life.”

“And we will,” Michelle added, “Until we think you’ve truly felt the pain we’ve felt.”

The knife cut. James screamed. And soon, darkness returned.

For now.

#FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 24 – “Big Trouble”

Image

It’s that time again kiddos! This week, the lovely Thain in Vain challenges us with a prompt that took me a while to play with. However, I’m very happy with the following, a tale of big trouble, coming in at a neat 500 words on the nose.

SMACK!

My slap caught Little Bob square on his face, and for a second, his gibbering ceased.

“Calm yourself,” I growled, wiping my hand across my shirt. Little Bob about as greasy as a guy could get without qualifying for an EPA cleanup. His eyes darted back towards the basement door, which moments before, he’d crashed through and slammed in a panic.

So unprofessional. His pappy, Big Bob, was gonna be pissed. That was him, on the back of our jumpsuits, smiling with two cartoonish thumbs thrust in the air, surrounded by the words “Big Bob’s Big Bug Busters.” I’d been with the five B’s for around five years, which was about four years (and 9/10’s) longer than I had intended. But the pay was alright, and Big B was a pretty laid back guy to work for. Plus, I like killing bugs. Creepy little bastards. I turned my attention back on the Little B, Big B’s near-worthless man-child of a son. I had the pleasure of training him in the old man’s footsteps. It was going to take work. A lot of it.

“Now, why’d you come running up those stairs like that and slamming the door?” I asked.

“I saw one, Chuck.”

“Saw one?”

“A roach. A roach!”

My eyes could not have rolled faster.

“Well no shit, Sherlock. We’re fucking exterminators. That’s what we’re here for.”

“This one was different,” he whimpered, “Huge.”

I sighed. Every fucking bug was huge to Little B. Last week, it was the Case of the Monster Roly-Poly. That thing had to have been, what, 3/4 of an inch? The week before, the Case of the Enormous Mosquito. Maybe a quarter of an inch. I was getting the impression that Little B just wasn’t cut out for the family business.

“Look, you stay up here, ok? Spray the cabinets or something. I’ll hit the basement.”

His skin turned an ashy white, but he just nodded. Whatever. I opened the door, and descended the steps.

The lights were out. Great. I reached up, flipped on my head lamp, and looked around for the telltale scurry of the common german cockroach.

Then I saw it.

It was a good thing I was wearing a headlamp, or I’d have dropped the light. As it was, I stood, paralyzed.

Little B was right. I’d seen some big ones in my time, but this one…..this one was huge. It had to be the size of a good sized dog, though all flat and low to the ground. I swear I heard its antennae creak as they waved about in the air. My breath, which had fled the moment I’d caught it in the light, finally came back, and I began to slowly back towards the stairs.

That’s when I heard the scream. Little B.

Oh, shit.

Big B’s first rule of cockroaches popped into my head.

For every roach you see, there’s a hundred more in the walls, waiting for dinner.

The walls began to creak.

Fuck

Turn-a-trope Tuesday #2: “Unwanted Revival”

It’s Tuesday, and time for my next Turn-a-trope Tuesday!

I’m going to be honest…there are going to be times I hit the random button a couple of times on TVTropes.org. While all tropes have a place, some are just a lot harder to fictionalize. The first two I generated tonight were very specifically related to video-game mechanics, and while I am sure a story could have been woven from them, I wanted something a little broader to ease into this week with.  Thankfully, the third time was the charm, coming up with “Unwanted Revival”.

As stated on that site:

A character is dead, or comatose, and for whatever reason isn’t happy about being revived from that state.

 It also applies to less lethal circumstances – a character who deliberately vanished by hiding or faking their death is unhappy to have to return.

There you go, trope fans! Your mission, should you choose to accept it – write a story involving an Unwanted Revival, but turn the trope in an interesting way. You don’t have to do a complete reversal, but it should be something that gives an alternate take to the way this type of story plays out.

Deadline? Next Monday, the 16th. 1000 words or less.

Have fun with it!