600 Second Saga

I’m starting a podcast at the end of March. It will be 600 Second Saga. It will be a flash fiction podcast. 600 seconds (or 10 minutes) or less of science fiction and fantasy delivered as a weekly podcast.

I will be writing and reading my own works, but I’d also like to read flash fiction from other authors.

I am in search of pieces that are 1,000 words or less that float anywhere within or near the sci-fi and fantasy realms. I’ll read it. Put the audio, along with credits and plugs for your work, in my podcast. I’ll make sure that you get the audio to use on your site as well.

Guidelines page

600 Second Saga Submission Guidelines

Please submit:

  • Flash fiction pieces less than 1,000 words (750-1000 ideally)
  • Reprints
  • Science fiction and fantasy

Rights and payment:

  • You retain all your rights – reprints are encouraged – give me a place to point people if they’d like to buy your work
  • You’ll receive a copy of the audio and be able to use that on your site or to promote your work
  • Work will be posted on the podcast feed for at least 3 months – after that you can contact me to take it down
  • There is no payment

How do I submit?

  • Email your flash fiction to mariahavix@insani-x.com with 600 Second Saga Submission in the subject
  • Include:
    • Story title
    • Your pen name
    • A short bio
    • Links – where can your stuff be purchased?
    • Any publishing history
    • I’ll respond to let you know it was received within 48 hours, decision on the piece will be within a month

I’m also open to artwork, please contact me directly.

 

I don’t Facebook-my characters do: Facebook Invasion

Over at Terrible Minds Chuck Wendig threw down a confusing but interesting flash fiction challenge.

Tell a story using a social media platform (FB/Twitter/etc). Yeah, ok Chuck, I’ll grant you, it’s hard to explain! Basically an epistolary using your social media of choice. An interesting challenge. Not one I’m sure I’ll be quick to repeat, but difficult things are good challenges. Though I do love reading messages and tweets from superheroes, I’m not sure that is the kind of writer I am. I am not nearly cool enough for that.

I opted for Facebook, despite my lack of booking of face.

There is no audio with this because I don’t even know how I’d do that. There is however for your viewing pleasure, screen caps of this Facebook Invasion.

Facebook Invasion

I’m not entirely sure the best way to make this accessible in case you want it in a not screen cap format. But I’ve created a PDF of the script for Facebook Invasion. (If this doesn’t work for you please let me know!)

Stay tuned, later this week I’ll be updating you on where I’m at with the upcoming podcast, options for participating, and other cool things. I hope.

The number one thing I’ve learned from this flash fiction piece is I cannot spell “invasion” I keep typing “invation”.

Alone – Again

A couple of updates and then onto another flash fiction piece (or jump ahead for Alone – Again).

Update: Publishing

Thieves has been updated and remastered and is out now on Amazon for $.99. It will also, hopefully, be out soon on Audible as an audiobook. (Check back for updates on that.) I will also have another audiobook (I’m reading someone else’s book) coming out soon on Audible. I’ll announce that when everything is finalized and it is available.

Update: Podcasting

I will be kicking off my own podcast in March. It will be a primarily flash fiction podcast. So episodes will be normally 10 minutes or less of audio fiction. I may also create opportunities to feature flash fiction from other authors, so please get in touch with me if you are interested.

Update: Dead stuff…wait…

I think I found – yet another!- dead podcast, but it had a flash fiction challenge I decided to take on anyway, despite being…months late. Whoops.

Episode 6 – Keeping it Real – Writing in the moment

Alone – Again

Alone – Again audio

The glass shatters on the closing door. I kick the couch and growl at the pain.
“Alone.” I huff and storm across the apartment. The apartment was designed for two, now it would be just me, alone. “Again.”

I brush my hands across my face, red and hot with anger. I growl at the empty space. I snarl at the hole left behind. I won’t get irrational and overly emotional. I’m perfectly rational about this.

She’s the one who is being irrational. I have been nothing but rational, reasonable, and kind.

I grab the plates off the table and toss them into the kitchen recycler. I flick the switch and it starts separating things. The recycler will pull the organic detritus from the strong, sturdy, remoldable plastic.

I storm over to shelves and throw them open. I snap at her clothes “I was great, she said. I was everything she wanted. She loved me.” I grab an armful of her clothes and throw them into the laundry chute. “LIES!” The chute flashes Recycle or Clean. I smack Recycle.

I stop in the middle of the living room and look around for evidence of her. A painting she made. Worthless. Her absurdly, expensive collection of old fashioned silverware. Sell it. She said she never wanted to see me again, so she wouldn’t.

I unclench my jaw and massage my neck. “I don’t deserve this. I deserve someone who cares about me.”

I sink into the chair and lean back into the computer. I look through my files, cleaning her out of them.

I’m going to make her go away. I open my editor and start pulling out memories. I start with the oldest ones, the best ones. I have a note in my editor to never start with the newest memories. I don’t know why it is there, but I trust me. I feel my anger, my frustration rise as the memories slip away. Until, I sweep the last of them out and my body relaxes.

I look at my system, my brain editor is open, I frown for a moment. I must have been stressed out about something but that’s gone now. I think maybe I’ll turn in early tonight. I hear a chime from the door.

A beautiful blonde in an incredibly sexy red dress shoves past me. Her face is smeared with makeup and tears. She grabs down a painting I don’t remember buying, and weird collection of shadowboxes with something shiny inside. I watch her with confusion.

“You already deleted me didn’t you?” She wipes at the makeup, smearing it more. “You’re never going to be happy if you don’t start learning and stop deleting. But it doesn’t matter. You’re going to delete this right now aren’t you?” She snorts and leaves.

I go back to the computer to pull up whatever I’d just deleted. I look at the editor and instead delete my recent memory with a swipe.

Ring of Bullets

Another flash fiction challenge from someone else’s title thanks to Chuck Wendig. I selected Ring of Bullets and I went weirdly literal? I feel like there are a lot of places to go weirdly literal with Ring of Bullets. Last time I selected a title no one else had picked and then as the stories started to filter in it was one of the more popular ones. So I’m just going with the one that grabbed me when I read through the list.

I’m still working toward the short and flash fiction podcast. I will be likely opening it up to doing reading of other author’s work occasionally so if you are interested please let me know.

Ring of Bullets

Ring of Bullets – Audio version

It has been 16 years. 16 years of peace, prosperity, life saving breakthroughs, empathy, and all the good things humanity ever strove toward. The first few years no one believed it, no one knew this would be real, no one thought it would last.

A few people today, still say it won’t stick. They stand on the street corners, yelling and shouting, while people walk past in a blissful haze. I sometimes stop and watch. Every couple hours a Representative comes out and brings them water, or a snack, and offers them help. I’ve never seen someone take the help.

Well, not in the last ten years. At the start, of course, everyone was getting help. Everyone was helping. Then people got used to it. The world is perfect, but it isn’t special anymore. Just another perfect Tuesday.

I remember what it used to be. It really is better now. I remember the ache of hunger, the deep despair of loss, the dull emptiness of disasters—the worse feeling when it was people who made the disaster.

The last few years have been the strangest. I feel like I don’t belong in this world anymore. It is still perfect. It is still amazing. Every single day.

I was excited 16 years ago. I was thrilled to finally be able to follow my passion of making art. I had help setting up a jewelry studio. I started to find my niche when people brought me old things. They wanted them turned into bracelets, necklaces, shimmering reminders of the past. Of how far we’ve come.

This job was bullets. An old man—he would have been an old man when the peace began—came in with a handful of bullets. He wanted something that he could give his great-granddaughter on her wedding day.

The bullets were lighter than I expected. He’d taken them apart before he brought them to me. He wasn’t sure what he wanted exactly. He said I was the artist, I should use them to make art. I’d smiled at him.

I would make him something that honored what it had taken to get here. The sacrifices had been great.

I ran the bullets through my scanner and my cleaner. They were, just as he’d said, safe, already taken apart.

I sat at my bench and pulled out a paper sketch pad. I had a computer I could sketch on too, of course, I used it for people who wanted something specific. I could render it in minutes while they watched. When I had time, I preferred the paper, the sound of the scratch of the pencil.

I sketched a dozen designs and threw them out. Nothing was working right. I decided just to work with the metals. I dumped the bullets out onto the table, dozens of them.

I picked up one with the outer part peeling off. I was able to peel away the copper easily with my fingers. At some point the lights in my workshop came on automatically. I had tiny cuts on my fingers and a pile of separated metals.

I scooped up the heavy discs, dotted with my blood and dropped them into my bin to recycle. I knew that I would make a bracelet, a thin, delicate, copper bracelet. It would gleam and shine with potential.

Working the bracelet took a few days, but every time I passed the recycle bin I ached just a bit at the dull, flat discs.

I ran my fingers through them, the discards of the past and finally dug them all out. I separated them and pulled out the lead and tin, heated and waiting for me.

I carved a ring, smooth with only a single ridge running through the middle. I poured dozens of mixtures into the mold. One came out, a dull tin alloy mix. It felt like it might have been a year old or a thousand.

He came in and I showed him the bracelet. He was delighted and was sure it would be perfect for a wedding gift.

I placed the bracelet in a box and hesitated for a moment before taking out the ring. If I was the artist and I was creating art, this was the art I had created. I unfolded the cloth around the ring.

He stared at it for a long time in silence. “You know sometimes I think I don’t belong in this world anymore. The world is beautiful, sparkling, gleaming.” The ring didn’t sparkle or gleam, I did think it was still beautiful.

He hesitated before finally reached out and picking it up. “This reminds me of…” He stopped and slid it on his finger. “Of a time long since passed.”

The Crow of Nine-World

Another flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig:  The Crow of Nine-World. This one was the best, because I didn’t have to come up with a title. And I hate titles.

Pick from a list of titles and write something.  While “The River’s Mask” was very tempting I went with The Crow of Nine-World.

A quick pause before we get to the main action. I’m considering starting a podcast to put the audio in. I’d love any feedback if people would like that option.

The Crow of Nine-World audio

The Crow of Nine-World

A tall, blue-haired, female elf walked through the shop door. The shopkeeper preened his smooth black feathers on his shoulders with his beak and cawed at her. He picked up the nearest item and his cloth and started polishing it. He watched her.

12.6 seconds after she walked through the front door he lifted his hand. “Welcome to The Crow’s Nest miss.”

She turned sharply to him, bumping into a mannequin that displayed items at her level and for her class. The mannequin tipped and reappeared in the correct spot when she got out of the way. She walked toward him a bit awkwardly, her gait exaggerated and unnatural.

“Menu!” She shouted at him. “Quests? Shit, hey Suze what am I supposed to say?”

“Are you new around here miss?” Crow tilted his head, his voice lilted with laughter.

“Hi?” She finally managed to walk over to the counter he stood behind, only after stepping over one of the shorter displays of boots.

“Hello miss. Are you new around here?” He set down the bauble and picked up another identical one and started polishing it.

“Quests. Beginner quests. It’s not giving me any quests!” She reached out and grabbed Crow’s beak. “It’s really cool! I can totally feel it!” She squealed with delight. He stepped back and twisted out of her grip. He gave a quick caw and smoothed the feathers on his shoulder.

“Oh, wait, why shouldn’t I? I mean it’s not real. I could kill it and it’s not like it’s real.” The elf pulled out a wooden dagger from the folds of her robes. Her hand didn’t grasp it tightly and she dropped it.

He stooped and scooped up her dagger. “Would you like to sell this to me miss?” His voice was not gentle any longer. In his hand the wooden dagger glinted like polished gold.

“No, I don’t want to sell it! I need a quest so I can upgrade it and Suze said it was in here.” The elf grabbed for the dagger. Her hand moved fast and she brought it down right on the tip of the dagger. She screamed and swore.

Crow paused for a moment. “Would you like a healing potion miss?”

“How the fuck does this hurt? Like it really hurts!” She was grabbing her hand and wrapping her robes around it.

“You’ve injured yourself miss. Injuries often cause pain. I have healing potions. I also have a single, special, invincibility potion that will make you invulnerable to all pain for 3 seconds.” Crow watched the blood drip to the stone floor which seemed to absorb it.

“Stop laughing! It’s not funny, it really hurts. Sure, give me your best healing potion!”

“I would never laugh at your pain miss.” Crow squatted down and plucked a tiny red vial from the shelf under the counter.

“See, even the game is nicer to me than you are. Thank you, shopkeep.” She reached out to grab the vial but smacked her hand on the counter. She sucked in a quick breath and pulled her hand back to try again.

“That will be 824 pieces.” He held the vial tightly as her hand collided with his.

She looked over his left shoulder. “I only have 8 pieces.”

“Would you like to buy additional pieces?” Crow raised his other hand. A scroll unfurled next to him and all  the tiny motions in the shop–the curtain in the wind, the rat under a table, his chest rising and falling–stopped.

“No, I don’t want to buy shit in your stupid game. Why did I agree to play this?” She waved her hand at Crow.

Nothing happened. She pushed on his arm with the scroll. His feathers were stiff and didn’t move. She frowned and stepped to the right a bit. She reached out and pushed her hand forward again and touched the scroll at the top. It rolled back up and vanished.

“Would you still like to purchase the healing potion miss?” Crow smiled at her and stepped slightly so he was in front of her again. The small motions in the room resumed.

“No. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Ok, back to why I came here. I need to start a quest to upgrade my dagger.” It had blood on it, she brandished it at him. He stepped back away from the edge of the counter and gave a loud caw.

“Have you tried over at the orphanage? They always have work for someone who is good with children.” His voice had a gentle tone and his head tilt seemed inquisitive.

“I just got back from trying to kill the rats for orphans. I don’t even know how to get a damn starter quest done.”

She vanished.

The shop froze. Just for a moment Crow’s eyes flickered and then he, too, froze.

The same tall, blue-haired, female elf walked through the shop front door. Moving smoothly, with an incredible grace and walked right up to Crow.

Crow had just picked up his bauble to start polishing it. The elf bowed deeply in front of him. Her face was contorted. She opened her mouth and laughter came out, she doubled over clutching her stomach laughing.

Crow set the shiny bauble down and preened, smoothing the feathers on his arm.

She straightened and regained her breath, then bowed again. “Excuse me, good sir Crow. It is a pleasure to be in your presence.”

“A pleasure to meet you as well miss.” Crow bowed in return and the feathers along his back gleamed in the flickering lights above them.

“Is there anything I could do for you?” Her face froze with a twist of a smile.

“In fact, miss, I was just about to call for someone to run this bundle over to the orphanage. If you would do it I might be able to help you improve your weapon. If that would interest you. Or perhaps a new set of robes?” He reached under the counter and pulled out a small bundle wrapped in twine.

She lifted the bundle easily and slipped it inside a fold in her robe where it vanished. She bowed again. “Thank you very much Crow. I will return soon. And that is how you get a goddamn starter quest!”

She vanished.

The shop froze. Crow’s eyes flickered for several moments, the feathers on his shoulder raised up and froze.

Cold Escape – A flash fiction challenge

Why?

Chuck Wendig threw down some sort of gauntlet filled with geese and assassins and lightening. And also pretty pictures. Because what good is a goose without a pretty picture? I don’t understand either. I’m secretly not entirely sure he understands. Shh.

But what I do understand is a challenge. This challenge was to write a 1K flash fiction piece about a photo from a random photo generator.

Show me!

The lovely photo I selected (in part because it’s a bit chilly here this weekend) by Kirchmeier (who has lots of other cold photos, because cold).

Listen

I also did audio. You can download the mp3 here: Cold Escape audio

Or read it below.

Cold Escape

Again. I lifted my left foot and leaned forward. I was falling more than walking.

Again. I lifted my right foot, I could barely feel anything except the cold. It burned the little skin that was exposed. My body shook in a desperate attempt to warm up. My right foot crunched into the snow as I put it down.

Again. Lift foot. The boots I’d stolen weren’t warm enough. The three layers of pants weren’t enough. Foot crunched into snow, I felt the grasses laden with frost push up under my pants and scrape against my skin.

Again. Lift foot. Don’t fall. My arms flailed out automatically, to steady my body, I didn’t feel like I had control of it anymore. My too short sleeves exposed my bare skin to the icy cold. The shock of the cold made me gasp. The frozen air filled my lungs. I couldn’t stop. I had to move forward.

Again. I shook as I lifted my foot. I thought about pulling my arms back to my body, they obeyed slowly. I tried to tug the sleeves on the three layers of sweaters I had manage steal. I couldn’t do it without taking my hands out of the sweater sleeves I’d cut and sewn into a semblance of mittens. I brought my foot down. I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t turn around.

Again. I lifted my foot. I didn’t know how long I’d been here. But I couldn’t stay another day, staying meant death. I’d rather die out here, than back there. I had to keep moving forward. I looked down, through my frost laden lashes, at my hands. I pulled one mitten sleeve off. I worked as quick as I could to pull the sleeves of the sweaters down, and wrangle the mitten back on. My foot came down.

Again. I repeated with the other hand as I lifted my foot. I had to keep moving. I knew they wouldn’t notice I was gone until morning, but I didn’t know how long that would be, or how far I could get by then. I pulled my arms in close to my body. I wanted to cry and shake and curl up into a ball. I put my foot down, another step forward.

Again. If I could get past the grey beyond, past the clouds, I would be out, I could be free, I could be safe. My foot slid in the boot as I lifted it. The boots were too big, even with the extra socks. I put my head down again and just thought about the steps.

Again. A few steps later or a few thousand. I looked up and saw the tree. Standing tall, proud, alone. Each branch, no matter how tiny was thick with frost. The sky was a crystal blue. At some point the sun had come up behind me. It was another of those days that I would have called a lovely day a few months ago. Sunny and blue, with only a few wisps of clouds. But it held death. Probably mine.

Again. If only I could get to the tree. I wasn’t sure what then. Stop and scrape the snow from the inside of my boots. The rolling grey beyond still seemed a forever away. But the tree, I could make it to the tree. My foot came down, the crackling and crunching sound I knew was there but I could only hear the thoughts in my head, my ears too cold, my brain too cold. Everything was too cold.

Again. A sound as I lifted my leg, the cold of the pants pressing against my skin trading for the cold of the air trapped between my skin and the cloth. A whisper. Not dogs or machines or people yelling behind me. A warm whisper. Warm. A whisper like hot cider, like a bowl of hot soup, warm to the core.

Again. The whisper filled me. I lifted my head to look for the source. Only the endless expanse of frost and snow covered grasses poking up and the one lone tree. I gave a heavy warm sigh and the moisture from my breath clung to my lashes, lacing them together. The tree.

Again. It wanted me closer. I kept moving. It was a hum that filled me. It promised I would be free. I was close. I would be safe. I would be free. I would not be dragged back.

Again. I was almost there. I paused, reaching up to brush the frost from my eyes. The tree reached out for me. I stepped toward the nearest branch. Low, low enough for me to touch. I reached up at the curled finger covered in frost. I didn’t remember taking my mitten off. But I wasn’t cold anymore. I stroked the frost with my finger and it melted away, the water ran down my hand, it should have burned my skin with cold.

Again. I tried to lift my legs but they were frozen in place. They weren’t cold, but they were frozen, heavy, unmoving. I tried to twist, but my waist wouldn’t move. My arm still stretched out to the tree. My fingers turned the color of bark, cracking. I wasn’t cold. I tried to wiggle my toes and felt them stretch down into the earth. The roots of the other tree wrapped around my toes.

I didn’t need to move again. They would never drag me back. They would never capture me. I was safe. I was still. I was free. I felt the branches grow from me. I hadn’t made it to the grey, but I wouldn’t be take back.

Now we two beckon to others. We whisper of the safety, the freedom, the life that can be lived. Someday we will be many. We will be space enough for some to hide in, before continuing on. Someday, one will make it beyond the grey.

Flash Fiction Challenge – Borrowed Character

I spent most of the day so far hammering through a read aloud/record/listen pass of my short for the upcoming anthology (new author added! Check Ariele Sieling’s stuff out).

But I took a break to clear my head and meet the flash fiction challenge of the week from terrible minds.

I borrowed the character Karen Boyd from the Scary Hippopotamus for the terrible minds flash fiction challenge of the week. Karen sounds awesome (go read!) and I’m not sure I did her justice, but I hope you enjoy her.

Flash Fiction Challenge Audio

I have 18 minutes.

I hope I have 18 minutes. I slip into the chair of the station manager and grin. Ellis never locks his desk, getting in within the first five minutes means it won’t demand identification. I set my taser on the desk, pointed at the door. I’d spent weeks making sure that not only did I know every single person on ship, but I have an idea of who might come in, who I will need to shoot, who I will need to sweet talk, who I might be able to share the truth with.

I’m not completely sure what I’m looking for today. This might be the first of many trips to dig through files and see what answers I can find. I start to go through the files, schedules, process documents, a glossary for all the acronyms we use. I didn’t think I’d find a manifesto detailing all the lies they’d told, the way they’d built people, the purpose of the mission, but it would have been nice if it was there.

I select the search function and look through the recent searches. Schedules. Everything around here is always about the schedule so I don’t know how I could be surprised that it was all about schedules.

Personnel files, they must be in here somewhere. I dig deeper, trying to make sure I’m not doing anything that can be noticed later as out of place. I’d really just like to type my own name into the search function, but that would be the fastest way to give me away.

A sharp rap on the door pulls my attention up. My hand goes to my taser, I’m going to have to use it, go with Plan B.

“I believe I am to report here for orders.” I didn’t recognize the man at the door. I know everyone on this damn ship. We are on a space ship. In space. I know everyone on the ship, that is in space. This isn’t possible. He doesn’t recognize me.

“Ma’am,” The man speaks again. “They told me that I was to report here for orders. I just got out of cry and I don’t remember much ma’am so I’d appreciate if you could tell me…who you are, what I’m doing here…just about anything.”

I think back to when I came out on the ship. When I was printed and built. They told me I was woken out of cryo. They told me to report to the station manager.

“Yes, come in and have a seat.” I sit up a little straighter.

15 minutes left.

I wave at the seat. “It is a little disorienting isn’t it?” I give a friendly smile.

“Yes ma’am it is.” He sits down looking greatly relieved. He nods. “I can’t remember much of anything. What am I doing here? This is a space ship right?” He leans forward at the last looking around a bit confused.

I laugh. It isn’t the most official thing to do, but I can’t help myself. “Yes, we are on a space ship. You’ll have a full briefing packet in your room.” I don’t know if I should tell him the truth, as much of it as I know, make an ally.

“Thank you so much ma’am.”

“Karen Boyd. Do you know what your name is?” Someone will know I’ve been here so I might as well go all in. I turn to the computer and type my name into the search field.

“No ma’am.” His confusion is thick. “I mean Karen. I mean Ms Boyd. I mean …” He pauses and looks at me, he’s sorting through his thoughts. I start moving files to the drive I’d managed to secure. Anything with my name on it, lots of schedules, but some things that look promising. I’m not even bothering to open them.

12 minutes left.

“I’m not sure what I mean ma’am. Ma’am sort of seems like the thing seems the most natural.” The man frowns. He examines his hands. I move more files.

In my haste I open one of my files. I nod at him absently. A thought suddenly occurs to me. We only have resources on the ship for an exact number of people I know every person on this ship. Except the man in front of me. How are we going to feed one more person? How are we going to house one more person? We need oxygen and greens.

I try to hide my confusion. The file is a schedule. I go to close it and then glance at the names. I scan the list for my name. It’s on there. I feel a tiny bit of relief. I start to read the rest of the names, looking for one that is missing.

“Ma’am?” The man across from me catches my attention again. He is watching me, like I’m the one with authority. He thinks I’m the one in charge I remind myself. A name I don’t recognize on the sheet jumps out.

“Reginald.” I smile at him. I don’t know who is missing, but this must be the man in front of me. Who is Reginald?

8 minutes left.

“That doesn’t sound like my name.” He frowns. He repeats it to himself quietly. I keep looking for the missing name, but there are a couple hundred people on the station. Not so many I can’t know them all, but apparently enough that I can’t find the missing name in a matter of minutes. “Is there anything else you can tell me about why we are on a ship in space, we are in space right?”

“Yes, we are in space.” I know this story, I’ve heard it a hundred times before. “We are on a colonization mission. We had one final transmission from Earth, where we came from,” I can’t remember if this was something I knew or something I’d learned, “but it was a mess. We don’t know what it was. We have to assume we are the last of humanity.”

I wait for the surprise. It doesn’t come. He nods, like this is something he knows already. Maybe he is the person I need to talk to. “That seems familiar. Is that supposed to be familiar? I feel like maybe I know about communications? Is that possible?” He looks to me for the answers.

3 minutes left. I need to leave now.

I stand. He stands. I grab the drive from the computer. They are going to know I was here. Eventually. I’m going to try to make sense of everything I can first.

“Let me show you where you can get something to eat, we can have a brief chat.” I wave him toward the door and he steps out.

There is probably a ticking clock now. I need to learn more about the files, about what this man knows, and I need to do it before someone figures out what I’m doing.

Time’s up.

A character

The latest Flash Fiction Challenge at terribleminds. A character in 250 words. (Luckily not 250 characters…)

I pull the blankets up over my face and whine. I hide in the warmth of the bed, but my brain won’t shut up. I sigh dramatically and throw the heavy quilt off, swinging my feet over the edge of the bed. The familiar metal on cement sound of my feet rings out. I stomp over to the stove and pull it open tossing in more wood and coughing at the smoke.

I check the news and toss it aside in seconds. I’m looking for something, but I don’t know what it is. Every day I make sure the house is secure, I read the news, I play games, I fix what breaks. Mostly though, I wait.

The good days are the ones when things break, on the house or me. Then I spend hours, if I’m lucky days or weeks in the shop fixing it. The problem is every time I fix something it’s less likely to break down, a few more months and I’ll have upgraded everything.

I try the new harpoon I installed in my arm, mostly it’s a fire stirrer,  leaning in too close, I my face and shoulders get scorchingly hot. I pull it out of the fire, covered in soot and curse. I pick up the cloth in my hand to wipe the poker off. It’s still too hot to touch and I curse some more.

I wander into the shop and start messing with the printer to try something new for today.

Mothman’s Bride – A Flash Fiction Challenge

For the Flash Fiction Pop Culture Challenge from Chuck Wendig I rolled up a 7 for The Mothman Prophecies (which of course I have not seen, however I have seen many shows on cryptoeverything, read books, listened to podcasts —Monster Talk is awesome– so I decided to go with what I know of Mothman the cryptid and call that a win) and Princess Bride (which I have seen, most notably at a midnight showing I once went to alone because it was a really bad no good horrible time but the feel in a packed theater of people who knew all the lines was both the most warm fuzzy thing and the closest to a cult I’ve ever been).

Mothman’s Bride

I stomped down the well worn stone path. My bag and sword were heavy and hot. I was sticky and uncomfortable. The air wasn’t even cool at night.

I saw it again. The huge thing, eight feet tall, wings as wide as four men’s arms stretched tip to tip, bright glowing red eyes, he sat perched on top of something I couldn’t make out. The moonlight only illuminated his plate sized red eyes.

“Yes, I’m coming for you.” I shouted at it. It felt like the thousandth time. “I will avenge my parents. Now if you could just wait there for a few minutes and we can properly have this out.”

I didn’t bother to drop my bag or draw my sword. He’d fly off as soon as I got close. I stopped and peeled my shirt away from my skin and fanned it trying to get some air flow going. “It’s like a thousand degrees here, could you at least like flap your wings for a breeze?” At least I wasn’t wearing trousers, mom had been right about a long, light skirt being surprisingly travel friendly.

“Oh, fine.” I drew my sword and charged forward. As I neared the fence post it dove at me. I lifted the sword, aiming for the side, just damage one of his wings. He’d be down and I could fight him face to face.

I managed to connect with the edge of the leathery wing, but adding one more small cut wasn’t enough to take him down today. The force of the wind generated nearly knocked me over but I was ready this time.

After he flew away I turned to face the danger. Wherever he went, there was danger.

An old woman came out of a hut a short distance from the overly tall fence post. “You’re here to steal my son, you hussy! Well, you can’t have him!” She threw something at me. She had a great arm for an old woman. It landed near me, but didn’t hit me. I crouched down to examine it.

As soon as I did I stood up, when the jerk with the wings shows up there is danger and you run away. I turned and a rat the size of a large dog leapt at me. I swung my sword making a connection, but its hide was too thick to cut through easily.

Another came at me from the side. I swung again, connecting with its side, I knocked it away it gave a horrible squeal.

“No!” The deep bellow startled me but I managed to keep my attention on the third rat coming at me. I swung my sword aiming to hit its face with the flat side of my sword, it squealed and ran away and I turned for the next.

Except when I turned there was a man, a giant, twice as tall as me. He reached down and picked up the fourth rat pulling it out of the way of my sword. I kept going with my swing and toppled over.

A fifth rat, they seemed to run away after they were hit, managed to get its teeth into my leg. As I lifted my sword the giant lifted the rat who didn’t let go of me.

The giant held up the rat by the tail, the rat held me by the leg. I was dangling with my sword above my head, which was of course actually below me. Mom never warned me that a skirt could get in the way if I was being hung upside down by a giant holding onto a rat who was biting me.

“Go away!” The giant shook us. I clung to the sword, the rat clung to me, the giant clung to the rat.

“I’m trying to, but your friend won’t let go of me.” I shouted up to the giant.

“Mitsy, drop it!” The rat let go of me and I fell to the ground. The giant cradled the huge rat against his chest and grabbed another.

I scrambled to my feet and started to run away.

“You stay away from my baby!” The old woman yelled again.

“I’m trying to stay away!” I ran down the hill past the hut shouting. Another rat was coming after me but it stopped. I hoped it meant that the giant had grabbed his friend.

I heard a screech. I hoped it was the horrible man with the wings and not the rats.

I’d walked for weeks looking for the winged man without seeing him. Lately I’d been seeing him more than once a day. I was getting closer. I would avenge my parents. He collapsed a bridge on them.

I kept on running and stumbling forward. I finally regained my balance and put my sword away. I turned around and looked back. I could see the giant sitting on the ground with the rats climbing over him. I slowed and continued down the path.

The screech came again. I looked for the red plate sized glowing eyes. I spotted them in a dark wood to the side.

“Why can’t you ever be like in a nice warm cabin with a cozy fire?” I was hopeful that the last cut to the wing would slow him down. Maybe after all these years I was finally making progress.

He screeched again. He unfurled the huge wings. Behind him something lit up the space and I got a very good look at his wings. Over the years I’d gotten a few cuts into the rough leathery wings, so maybe it was finally making a difference.

I entered the woods and off to my left a flare of light caught my attention. A flare of fire rising up out of the ground. I stepped away but it burned for a few moments and then died down. I walked over to it and kicked at the ground. It smelled like sulfur. There were no trees or bushes growing around it.

“This is a danger I can handle. I looked around for rocks with moss on them and followed the path of them, avoiding the occasional spurts of fire.” The giant man folded his wings around him.  Usually he unfurled them to take off as I got closer.

“Hey!” I figured I might as well try something different since I was this close now. I stepped around a bare sandy area and watched a rock sink in fast. “Moss good, sand bad. Check.” I kept moving toward the man slowly. “Stick around for a moment and have a chat with me.”

He seemed to be leaning against a tree. He didn’t move away. I didn’t pull my sword out, but I did keep a very close eye on where all the sandy spots were and where the ground was safely mossy. I wasn’t quite close enough to strike but the ground around me was growing and green so I stopped.

“You killed my parents. Tell me why.” I didn’t care why, I just wanted to avenge them. I watched carefully to see what he’d do. If I could get closer I could strike.

He screeched again, then he spoke. His voice was weirdly thin and reedy, it seemed like it would blow away. It didn’t fit at all with his giant size. “I don’t kill anyone or hurt anyone. I warn. Why do you chase danger?”

I frowned. “I don’t chase danger, I’m chasing you. You collapsed the bridge on my parents. Do you even remember killing them?” I struggled to remember watching the bridge that fell. My parents were in a boat below the bridge and the boat was destroyed, they weren’t able to swim out with all the debris falling around them.

“I remember. You started chasing danger that day. The only thing you’ve gotten better at is finding trouble. I didn’t do anything to them. The bridge was collapsing, I was trying to warn people away.” He unfurled his wings.

This was my last moment. I had to make a difference now. I saw the five steps that it would take to close the distance to him. I pulled out my sword and closed four of them. His wings drooped, he didn’t take off.

I closed the final step and stabbed at his torso. I was going to avenge them. The sword went in more smoothly than I expected.

He didn’t move away. He didn’t scream. He didn’t pull back. He sighed. “I told you, I warn. I’m not here to hurt you. I didn’t hurt them.”

I frowned and pulled the sword out and swung again. This time slicing at his wing. I could feel the sword as it cut through, but nothing on the wing changed. It was like I hadn’t done anything.

He sighed again. I swung over and over. At his neck, I even tried to stab at his weird giant plate eyes. Nothing mattered. “Do you feel any better?”

“Not really.” I jerked and tugged to get the sword out of the tree behind him. He just kept standing there, looking bored.

“Sometimes bad things happen. I’m there to warn people away from bad things. If you don’t take the warning I can’t help you.” He flexed his wings a bit, the edges looked exactly the same amount of frayed as they always had.

My parents, I couldn’t avenge them. I’d tried for over half my life and I couldn’t even manage to do that. I’d learned to sword fight. I’d become an expert tracker. I’d fought all kinds of crazy things. But I couldn’t fight something that wouldn’t die.

But I could try. I stepped forward and punched him. My fist connected with him, he felt like a man, my hand hurt like I’d punched a man in the jaw. He was totally unfazed. I stepped back, watching the fire spurt up beside him, running right through his wing.

“Well, what do I do now?” I put my sword away and plopped on the ground, away from the sand and sulfur smell. My life had no goal, no meaning, no aim. I hung my head defeated.

“Have you considered becoming a pirate?”