Flash fiction challenge

Diseased horror – the complete draft

Hi, all. I’ve finished the first draft of my flash fiction story. It’s definitely outside my usual fare, though with a certain connection to my life. Input is always welcome. Thanks for reading.

 

The day dawned through weepy fog, yielding a blinding whiteness empty of warmth. In the early morning light, Eloise dressed in yoga pants and an oversized sweatshirt. The formerly tight pants slid down her hips, sagging and bunching along the length of her body. She shuffled past the mirror with her eyes on her worn running shoes. Her lean fingers traced over the letters embroidered on her sweatshirt, the initials of her former university. Once she had been so proud to wear them, before appearance and prestige had ceased to matter. Many of the threads hung loose, stained brown in areas where the tips of her fingers had bled as she picked away at the letters until they were indecipherable.

Before leaving the house, Eloise pulled her mask over her face. She adjusted the straps until the mask sealed around her nose and mouth. The claustrophobic too-shallow first breath panicked her and her fingers clenched in her hair around the straps. She dragged her hands out of her hair as her breathing returned to her new normal, regular but rasping. Grabbing her car keys from the bowl by the door, she registered without interest the clumps of hair that fell from her fingers.

In her car, Eloise found herself in heavy traffic. The early hour was no deterrent. The grocery store was receiving a delivery today, one of the few events to bring people out of the their homes. The fog was liquid as she drove, shifting and swamping first her car, then the next lane over. Each car was a quarantine unit, its driver and passengers isolated and dreading contact with the outside.

The radio played droning pop tunes until the first of the hour brought on the news. The distant voice of the newsreader turned to the only real matter of concern in today’s climate.

“The government estimates that confirmed cases will reach 250,000 by the end of the month,” the voice said. Eloise’s skeletal hands tightened on the steering wheel. “Symptoms include drastic weight loss, wet cough, loss of hair and nails, and general wasting. You are urged to avoid contact with uninfected individuals and report to authorities if you experience these symptoms.”

Eloise pulled her car into a parking space at the back of the lot and walked up to the supermarket. The exertion turned her rasping breath into a wet rattling. Her mask fogged over with her labored breathing. She pressed her lean frame against a wall as wary shoppers filtered past, each face obscured by a mask. Finally, with her breathing under control, she made her way to the back of the store.

The pet food aisle was full of shoppers, piling bags of dry food and cans of wet food into their carts for the only friends still safe to have. Eloise picked up a small bag of dog food. As she shuffled toward the checkout lines, the unfamiliar heat of so many bodies combined with her difficult breathing.

The cough started deep and quiet, but gathered strength. Her mask did nothing to contain the sound. It did nothing to reassure her fellow shoppers. As her cough wracked her thin body, the people around her stared and backed away. Their eyes took in the ill-fitting clothes and the patchy hair. The wet cough and general wasting were clear.

Eloise felt the panic rising as the area around her emptied of people. She saw retreating customers reaching for their phones. Her voice croaked out between coughs. “No, please,” she said. “I’ve been tested. I’m virus-free.”

She knew there was no hope of avoiding the authorities for long out in public. As quickly and quietly as she could, she paid a reluctant, worried-looking cashier for the dog food and made her way out to her car. The fog had burned away and she felt exposed in the bright sunlight of the car. Long minutes passed before she was composed enough to drive.

When Eloise arrived home, she was greeted only by the musty smell of the unaired house as she removed her mask. The dog had ceased running to meet her. Instead she remained in the corner, mourning a master that was not yet dead.

The phone that Eloise had been inseparable from in a former life was buzzing on the counter. She looked at the message from her mother.
El, please call me back. Doc says you’re def virus free. It can’t be your project. Please please call. Love, Mom

 

Eloise put the phone down and refilled the dog’s food and water. She hadn’t eaten in days. Her cupboards were empty.

The doctors said she didn’t have the virus. But she would always have the virus. She only hoped the general wasting would lead to eventual death before the virus reached pandemic levels, before they traced it back to her thesis work and labeled it with her name. She crawled back into bed.

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flash fiction challenge: diseased horror

Hello, folks! It’s been a long weekend of putting together Ikea furniture here. Not to brag, but I think I may be the best hammer- and mallet-wielder among us. Unfortunately, that means I haven’t had too much time for sitting, thinking, and writing. I have started my next flash fiction challenge from terribleminds, however. The challenge is as follows:

“Last week: horror as spam.

This week:

The country’s in EBOLA PANIC, going so far as to elect an Ebola Czar. (Did you know that vending machines kill 13 people a year? I look forward to our new Vending Machine Czar to address this grave concern.) Disease of course freaks people out. And next Friday? Halloween. The time of horror!

Which means it’s time for you to freak people out with disease.

Write 1000 words of flash fiction.

It should be horror.

It should feature disease as an axis of that horror.

That’s it. That’s the mission.

Write it at your blog or online space.

Link back here.

Due by Halloween, noon, EST.”

 

I thought I might skip out on this one as I’m not much of a horror writer or reader. I did get an idea, though, that just might fit the criteria. I’m still working on it, but the first paragraph is below. I should have the draft complete by Friday. Here’s the opening bit.

The day dawned through weepy fog, blinding in its whiteness but empty of warmth. In the early morning light, Eloise dressed in yoga pants and an oversized sweatshirt. The formerly tight pants slid down her hips, sagging and bunching along the length of her body. She shuffled past the mirror with her eyes on her worn running shoes. Her lean fingers traced over the letters embroidered on her sweatshirt, the initials of her former university. Once she had been so proud to wear them, before appearance and prestige had ceased to matter. Many of the threads hung loose, stained brown in areas where the tips of her fingers had bled as she picked away at the letters until they were indecipherable.

flash fiction challenge – spammerpunk

Ok, I decided to go for a quick turnaround this week. The flash fiction challenge at terribleminds is as follows:

 

“So, I’ve been getting some weird spam comments and emails these days.

They are vaguely tinged with horror.

Goofy horror. Worthless, not-scary horror. Poorly-written horror.

But horror.

For instance, a strong vampire theme runs through, as in this one:

My name is Clavin.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email: [redacted] or phone number +[redacted]

No, I have no idea.

What I do know is that I enjoy when you can take one mode of communication and turn it to use in storytelling. (Example: HORRORSTOR, a recent horror novel that is framed as — no, really — a catalog from an IKEA-esque store. Or! HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY, an anthology of stories written as crowdfunding campaigns — which, not coincidentally, features a story of mine.)

So, what I want to see from you is:

A horror story framed as a spam email.

Right?

Take that assignment, run with it as you see fit.

How scary can you make a spam mail? That’s the challenge.

I’d keep it to the shorter side — 500 words or so.

Post at your online space.

Link back here.

Due by next Friday, noon EST.

I’ll pick three entrants randomly to get some free e-books from YOURS TRULY. (Though as I’m gone next Thurs – Tues at the Surrey Writer’s Conference in Vancouver, I won’t pick the random winners until Wednesday or so.)”

 

Now, in case you haven’t guessed, this is a challenge well outside my usual writing, or reading, genre. I thought of a horror-y concept, which is hopefully executed in a non-scary horror spam fashion. It is extremely short, but I think it suits the style. Let me know what you think…

 

HELLO!!~

 

Hello,please to meet (again!!). I know makes sad,so sorry to remember you. I was brother to you before born. You know when their has more than one babies in Your mom’s stomach, he can eat his brother (not with knifes and forks haha!!). We was together but you eat me so it’s only you born. Probably mother is sad so no talking about it. It is sounding so crazy!!but it is truth. Baby with no body needs new home,so I’am finding Mr. Norbert Jones. Two souls in one body is so many, you are agreeing I think, so Norbert hope I am leaving to you. I am to learn for making a jump to you (you are able learning everything on the internet!!haha). But Mr Norbert is saying I can stay when you are sending your bank details for having moneys to support us. Please for sending your informations to {email redacted}. Else I coming to you soon. Please to respond soon. Love from your brother

flash fiction challenge – apples

Howdy and hello. I’m posting a (much less) late response to this week’s flash fiction challenge at terribleminds.com. My internet doesn’t much feel like letting me access the site at the moment, so a link is not available just at the moment.

In short, the challenge was to choose three names of apple varieties and incorporate them into a flash length story. My varieties, chosen by a random number generator, were Brown Russet, Lord Lamborne, and American Beauty.

Now, here’s the thing. I wrote this story because I want to get back in the practice of writing regularly and the flash challenge is a good way of doing that. I had some ideas about this story, a bit of something to go on. But. Well, I could be more pleased. I find the story (admittedly, a first draft) clunky and ham-handed and not very successful. Feel free to join the chorus of criticism. On the other hand, I wrote something. So we’re going to chalk it up to practice, and post it, warts and all.

 

Flash Fiction Challenge 17 October 2014

 

Belinda fussed with the blankets around her granddaughter. “Young Mary rushed through her chores. She longed for a glimpse of the handsome Lord Lamborne.”

 

Mel smiled, remembering the fairytales of her youth. Belinda continued to draw the beautiful Mary and her gallant Lord Lamborne closer together in her narrative. At last they met again, by the kind of luck engineered by two people in love.

 

“The girl felt ashamed of her brown russet clothing in the face of the nobleman’s finery,” Belinda said. Mel’s smile flickered at the image of the powerful man and the poor girl, with her shabby clothes and low opinion of herself. Belinda’s tale continued. “But Lord Lamborne saw past her drab clothes to see Mary’s beauty.”

 

Mel crossed her arms against her stomach as poor old Mary and the dazzlingly wonderful Lord Lamborne, against all likelihood, grew ever more in love. The nobleman fulfilled his role as the eldest son in his family, while courting the humble girl in secret. He worked and planned and sacrificed for his love. Mary, meanwhile, sat around fretting over her coarse clothing and looking pretty. Only consideration for her daughter, the eager audience, prevented Mel from snorting at the conclusion to the story.

 

“And they decided to run away together,” Belinda said. She brushed Jeannie’s hair back from her face. “They sailed away together to a new land, where Mary would be his wife and his American beauty.”

 

With Jeannie down for the night, Mel followed Belinda into the kitchen. Belinda set a kettle to boil and pulled a mug from the cupboard.

 

“Well, that Lord Lamborne sure sounds like a catch,” Mel said. Her mother smiled at her as the water warmed in the kettle. “Miss Mary, though, she could use a bit of personality.”

 

Belinda turned away to fix her cup of tea. “Oh, it’s only a story,” she said. She didn’t turn around to say goodnight as she retired for the night with her cup of tea.

 

 

Mel kept track of the next several nights of stories. Miss Mary ended up having a surprisingly glamorous life in the colonies. Timid Violet was rescued away from her dreary existence by a dashing young lad who turned out to be a prince. The lovely, though dull, Sarah became a princess by marrying a dashing young man, who apparently had low expectations in a partner.

One night before story time, Mel pulled Belinda aside. “Mom, can we talk about the stories you’re telling Jeannie?”
Belinda folded her hands on the table in front of her, her composure becoming absolute stillness. The frown lines between her eyes appeared.

 

“I love that you are staying here now and I love that you are spending that time with Jeannie, I do,” Mel said. In her avoidance of an accusing tone, she sounded pleading. “I just wonder if we could mix them up a bit. You know, not all princesses and falling in love.”

 

“Jeannie likes princesses,” Belinda said. Her hands remained clasped in front of her.

 

Mel nodded. “I know she does, but she would like any story you tell her. She used to like bugs and paperclips and tea parties with Ninja Turtles. It would be nice if she thought about girls going on adventures or doing experiments or becoming president,” Mel said.

 

Belinda’s eyes swept up Mel’s body, taking in the sneakers, jeans, and sweatshirt. Her glance traveled to the spartan living room. “I think she gets rather enough non-princess girl reality in her everyday life,” she said. “Wouldn’t you like her to have a more happily ever after than you?”

 

The comment turned Mel cold and sparked an argument that led to a ban on bedtime stories. Mel wondered how much concern for Jeannie, sting from her mother’s criticism, and her own insecurities went into her decision.

 

 

Jeannie tugged at Mel’s hand as they entered the craft store, dragging her toward the patterns. Mel held Jeannie in her lap as they flipped through the glossy pages of the pattern books.

 

“How about a turtle?” Mel asked. She pointed to the sketched image of an elementary school kid wearing a stuffed green velour turtle shell. Jeannie shook her head and turned the page.

 

Mel advocated for several costumes, from cowgirl to mummy, astronaut to pumpkin. Jeannie kept turning the pages. Finally she came to a stop and her finger landed on a picture of a princess.

 

“I want to be a princess,” Jeannie said.

 

Mel bit her lip. “Why do you like this costume?” she asked.

 

Jeannie put her hands on her hips. “Because princesses are pretty and they get married to princes and they live in castles.”

 

“You know, real life princesses-” Mel paused, trying to think of what a modern day princess might get up to. “Real life princesses do charity work and help people.”

Jeannie shrugged.

 

“We’ll come back to this one,” Mel said. She marked the page with the princess costume.

 

Jeannie’s enthusiasm waned to the point of becoming grumpiness. Mel’s patience wore to the point of transparency. Eventually she bought the pattern and the shiny, netted, lacy fabrics to go with it.

 

In line to pay for the makings of her pretty princess, Mel said, “You know, princesses nowadays can go to school and get a job if they want to,” Mel said.

 

Jeannie shrugged. “I’ll probably be a princess that’s also a fireman and sometimes a ballerina,” she said.

 

Mel laughed and squeezed Jeannie in a quick hug. She wondered again if she had overreacted or corrected course just in time. She wondered if mending her other relationship would be so straightforward.

Second chance Anna

Hi there! It’s been a busy time, so I’ve well and truly missed the deadline for the previous flash fiction challenge. Nevermind, I’ve gone all crazy and decided to finish my piece anyway.

The sentence I chose from the comments was by georgekaltsios.

“The day after he burned the letter, he got a text from her.”

You’ll find my story -another very rough first draft- below. Thanks for reading!

 

Second chance Anna

 

The day after he burned the letter

The day after he burned the letter, he got a text from her. Peter watched the fleeting glow of his screen, lit up in concert with Anna’s tone. The chirp had sent goosebumps up his neck and across his scalp. He had paid good money to a weird guy for an insane service. It had worked.

His hand hovered over the screen. He hesitated long enough for a second message to come through. Same distinctive Anna sound. Now he hurried to open the message, feeling himself falling behind in his second chance.

Babe! Dinner at my place 730?

Bring wine 😉

Peter was off the sofa, his phone in his back pocket, on his way to the wine shop. Second chance Anna wanted wine and she was going to get it.

“Shit,” he said, alone in his car. “It worked.”

Three years before the letter

Peter stared at his phone under the table. His friend Ed was midway into his best chat up routine, but the part that required Peter hadn’t started yet. The guy’s friend was still at the bar buying drinks.

Someone thumped into the booth across from Peter. He raised his eyes to find a pretty girl with two drinks and a basket of pretzels. She handed a drink to her friend, who clinked glasses with Ed under meaningful eye contact. The girl rolled her eyes at Peter and they laughed.

“I’m Anna,” she said. When he shook her hand, it was freezing from the drink. “Usually I drink red wine, so I don’t go full popsicle.”

By the end of the night, Peter and Anna were drinking red wine in a quiet place downtown. They chatted about all the normal things, but it felt monumental to Peter. She liked the movie High Fidelity and mismatched socks and she was taking a three week vacation from the law firm to travel in Central America and he thought she was fun and exciting. He asked for her phone number with the queasiness of a late night of drinking and a powerful hope.

“Of course,” she said. She entered her number into his phone and assigned it her signature ring.

One week before he burned the letter

Peter was late to his third dinner of the week. He was fumbling his keys back into his pocket, a task made more difficult by the bouquet of flowers he was holding, when Anna stepped into the hall.

“Hi,” she said, her face ruched with tired smile.

Peter stepped toward her for a kiss, but she backed away. Her eyes were on the flowers. “Did you get my text about wine?”

The flowers sagged in Peter’s grasp. “Shit, I- yeah, but I got distracted. I was late at work,” he said, but Anna interrupted.

“Peter, you stopped at the store for flowers, but you didn’t get the one thing I asked you to bring,” Anna said. Her voice was calm, as though she were explaining the scenario to someone who needed to be brought up to speed.

 
Peter thought back to the early days of being together. He had taken Anna out two days after she got home from Belize. She’d been tan and happy, and work-weary Peter had basked in her reflected glow. On their second date, she’d taken him to a cafe on the east side of town, where he’d almost refused to park his car on the street, but had forgotten about the danger by the time the appetizers arrived. He had cooked for her on their third date, and when she’d curled up next to him on the couch, he’d seen the fabled mismatched socks. Today’s Anna hadn’t been on vacation in years and she looked tired. Both of her socks read, Smile! It’s Tuesday!

“I’m sorry,” he said. About the wine, the repeated late arrivals, the general state of neglect they had fallen into together. He handed her the flowers, which he squashed between them in a hug. Anna’s arms came up to pat him lightly on the back.

The next day, she sent him the letter. Maybe we should spend some time apart.

Two days after he burned the letter

Peter dialed the phone number of weird guy. He was starting to rethink the insane thing.

“Hey, Ron,” Peter said. “This is Peter. You, uh, did the break up letter for me.”

Ron, the weird guy, blew out his breath. “I told you, basically everyone changes their mind,” he said. “It’s too weird, I know.”

Three days ago, he had worked his limited magic on Anna’s break up letter. He had marked up the familiar words – spend some time apart, even though I still love you, focus on ourselves. Then, as he explained to Peter, he worked the spell to take the sting out of the words. It wasn’t exactly that Anna wouldn’t remember the letter or her reasons for wanting to split up. It’s just that she wouldn’t feel them so keenly. For a small fee, he reset the clock to before Anna needed to work on herself outside of a relationship, back to when she just wanted Peter to pick up some wine. All Peter had to do was burn the letter.

“Look, Pete, I’m sorry, man. But I can’t give you a refund,” Ron said.

Peter was silent a few beats too long. “It’s not that. I burned it. The spell worked.”

Ron was quiet.

Peter cleared his throat, then continued. “I was just wondering if you could take the sting out of a couple more things.”

One “amazing” sentence

Just a day or two ago, I posted a link to a flash fiction challenge at terribleminds. Now, the instruction was to post an amazing sentence. I’ve aimed, at least, to craft a sentence that provides a sense of who is doing what where and how she feels about it, with a hope to pique the interest of a reader to know a bit more about all of those facets. Although I usually fall more into the contemporary fiction category, I like the idea of playing a bit with genre fiction in these writing exercises. Setting aside the expectation of amazing, here is that sentence:

 

Del’s stomach roiled as she accelerated away from the research ship, toward the long-abandoned Earth and the legend of the Steadfasters.

 

Here’s hoping the sentence accomplishes a bit of what I set out to do. Have a look at some of the other interest-piquers at terribleminds, and let me know if you’d read on in the comments.