The following stories were produced for Flash Fiction Day 2015. I’ll be updating this post with new stories throughout the day.
At a glance, the Human Fly wasn’t the most obvious choice of accomplice for a bank job. But X-Ray Ted wasn’t one to make decisions based on a mere glance. The Fly might not have the strength to heave a sack of gold bricks, or the mind-reading powers to get the guards’ security codes, he possessed one trait that no other supervillain had. Or wanted.
Super-corrosive bug vomit.
X-Ray Ted’s incredible X-ray vision had long ago revealed an odd quirk of this particular bank vault. The bulktanium mega-alloy of the door was capable of withstanding lasers, saws, and 99.9% of superhero eye beams, but for some reason had pretty much no resistance to being melted by acid. A can of supermarket own brand orangeade could probably strip the finish off. The Human Fly’s gastric juices could eat right through the hinges.
And so they did.
As the door of the vault crashed to the ground, the bank’s alarm began to blare. They would have only forty seconds until the cops arrived, but that was thirty-one more seconds than they needed. X-Ray Ted’s surveillance had been comprehensive. He ducked inside, gathered up a few choice—priceless—items, and let the Fly take his share.
The Human Fly hesitated, torn between a big bag with a dollar sign on it and a guard’s half-eaten bagel.
“Come on!” shouted X-Ray Ted, “We’ve got to go!”
The Fly took the bagel and stuffed it in the bag, which he heaved over his shoulder. He wasn’t smart, thought X-Ray Ted, but he wasn’t stupid either.
There were sirens in the distance. X-Ray Ted made a dash for the nearest window, the Human Fly buzzing noisily behind him. Ted jumped head first through the glass, did a flip, and landed on his feet in the alley outside. A standard superhero/villain move—banal, really—but it got the job done. He checked behind him.
The Human Fly was still inside, hovering just in front of the window.
BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! He took another shot at getting through the window, but brained himself on the wall next to it. BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP!
“It’s right there!” shouted X-Ray Ted, from seven feet away. “It’s right in front of you!”
BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! The Human Fly caught the top of the windowframe this time. BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP!
The sirens grew louder.
BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP! BZZZzzzzzzzTHWAP!
Finally, the Human Fly found the window and made his way outside. Then straight back in. X-Ray Ted considered running off and leaving him, but that would seriously affect his bragging rights down at the supervillain local. He hopped back inside the bank and tried to shoo the Human Fly out through the window, but it just freaked him out.
BZZZzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!! The Human Fly made a lazy lap around the foyer.
The cops burst through the door.
X-Ray Ted gave up. This was no longer the perfect crime he’d had his eye on, and bragging rights were the least of his worries. He dove back out through the window, and was immediately tackled to the ground.
“Should have used the door,” remarked Commissioner Hindsight, as he slapped the cuffs on him.
“Aw nuts,” said me. “I can’t think of anything to write. Perhaps I’ll do a story about that…”
Suddenly, ninja dubstep aliens!
“That’s a stupid idea,” said the ninja dubstep aliens. “That sort of story has been done a million times before and it’s rarely very good.”
“Hey,” said me. “It’s no stupider an idea than ninja dubstep aliens. How can you sneak around doing ninja things with all that dubstep in the background?”
“I don’t know,” said the aliens, “but since that was your idea too, I’d avoid drawing attention to it. In fact, the best thing to do at this point would probably be to just give up on this story in mid s
Girth Loinhammer sat slumped on a grimy olive green bench in the dingiest corner of the intergenre railway station. He’d always thought that torturing generic fantasy heroes and stealing their valuable hero stuff was his calling in life—and perhaps it was—but it wasn’t to be. Once you got a reputation for tying people up and whipping them, generic fantasy heroes stopped going in your dungeon. And that would be okay if non-generic fantasy heroes didn’t then start going in your dungeon. Heroes who were suspiciously easy to capture and suspiciously happy about whatever went on afterwards.
The train—several sci-fi passenger cars bolted behind a steampunk engine and in front of a freight car of bananas—pulled into the station. Girth stood up, adjusting his pointless leather chest straps. He may have had to give up his job, but he was determined to keep the uniform. He approached the train.
“Passport, please.” The guard held out a hand.
Girth handed it over.
The guard stared at it. “Is that your real name?”
“Girth Meatthrust Loinhammer?”
The guard’s eyes flicked over to the “occupation” section of the passport. “Oh, right!” He winked. “I guess for a ‘Dungeon Lord,’ it’s not that unusual after all.”
“It’s not unusual for anyone.” Girth snatched his passport back and shoved past the guard onto the train.
Half the passengers stared as he took his place on yet another olive green plastic seat. His black leather underpants squeaked loudly as he sat down, causing the other half of the train’s passengers to stare as well. Girth clutched his ticket. The move from fiction to reality would be a big one—drastic even—but if it meant avoiding this kind of attention in future, it would be worth it. “Girth Loinhammer: Dungeon Lord” attracted the wrong kind of attention. His time as a “hired sword” hadn’t gone much better. But though his actions were invariably misconstrued in Fantasy, the real world was far too boring for that kind of misunderstanding.
The train journey, besides all the staring, was uneventful. Girth had specifically chosen the dullest, rainiest corner of the real world. Now all he needed was a dull, uneventful job…
“You there! Hi!” A young woman rushed over. According to the paper sign she was holding, her name was “Matt Clarence.” He hadn’t realised “Matt” was a girl’s name.
“The car’s parked just over here,” she explained. “It’ll be a close thing, but I’ll do my best to get you to the baking competition on time.”
Baking? Girth allowed himself a rare smile. Baking was perfect! There was nothing erotic about that. He followed Matt as she led him to the car.
“Good thinking getting changed into your costume on the train,” she said, as they turned onto the motorway. “You’ll be able to go straight to the studio.”
The journey was a short one, and within an hour he was taking his place at a sort of mini-kitchen—one of many—in a gazebo full of cameras. Since he’d literally never cooked before, he was hardly expecting to win, but this was a reassuring introduction to the real world. He’d been concerned that his Dungeon Lord attire would be a little unusual here, but looking around it pretty much seemed to be the norm for bakers here.
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” called the presenter. “Welcome to The Great British Bake it All Off!”
Finally, thought Girth, happily. Here was a career that could not possibly be construed as sexy.
“Sir, you may find this difficult to understand, but I come from the future. From a time beyond your own. There is a crisis looming in my present, and the only way to prevent it is to assemble all the great minds of the past.”
“Look!” said Plato, holding his hand between the fire and the wall of the cave. “If I bend my fingers like this, the shadow looks like a doggie!”
“On second thoughts, never mind.”
“Under the seaaaaaaaaa,” crooned Gus Jaquesteau, “Under the seaaaaaaaa…”
“I have two problems with this,” said Gus’s cameraman. “One: you can’t sing that on TV without paying a fortune for the rights. We’ll get sued by Disney.”
“Two: you should really be wearing scuba gear. I’m not sure how you’re alive right now.”
“Ah!” Gus raised a finger. “Neither of those things are really a problem.”
“And why is that?”
“Because our legal defence is airtight!”
The ambulance screeched to a halt in front of the hospital. The driver leapt out and rushed to open the doors at the back.
“This man needs a doctor!” he cried, wheeling the gurney into the emergency room.
“What’s happened?” demanded a nurse, running alongside.
“He’s a cameraman from story six. Gus Jaquesteau made a terrible joke in his presence and it caused his appundix to rupture!”
The ambulance screeched to a halt in front of the hospital. The driver leapt out and rushed to open the doors at the back.
“This woman needs a doctor!” she cried, wheeling the gurney into the emergency room.
“What’s happened?” demanded a doctor, running alongside.
“She’s a nurse from another hospital. A different ambulance driver made a terrible…hang on, I’d better not say it out loud. Do you have a pen?”
The nurse handed over a biro. The driver scribbled on a bit of paper, resting it on the gurney as they rushed through the hospital. She handed it over.
“Dear God…” the doctor stopped running to stare at the note. “It’s a pundemic.”
The horde pressed against the chainlink fence, rotting arms stretching through the gaps. The survivor hurried past, trying not to look at them. He had to get inside. He had to find a way to escape these monsters and, more than that, he had to find a way to stop them. It had been years since the change, since the living had lost their grip on the world, and in these chaotic times little was known for certain. All was rumour. But the rumours said that this place was where it had begun. The rumours hinted that this was where it could end.
The survivor spotted a first floor window and readied his grappling hook: just a few scraps of bent rebar welded to a length of steel cable. The window had had bars on originally, but they had been twisted away from the wall, apparently from the inside. As the survivor began to climb, the horde broke through. A few of them grabbed at the cable trailing beneath him, trying to climb. He kicked the hook from the windowsill. This had always been a one-way trip.
The interior of the building was mysteriously white and clean. It would have looked untouched, if it weren’t for that one shoulder-height smear of blood trailing along the wall. There was something in here. Something dead.
The survivor made his way through the building, following signs for “Main Lab.” There was no telling if that was where he’d find what he was looking for—wasn’t even sure what he hoped to find—but that was as good a place as any to start. The signs led him upstairs. All the way upstairs, to the very top floor.
The lab still had power. Fluorescent lights flickered. The survivor stepped inside, and was immediately caught off guard by one of the creatures, lurking just inside the door. He whipped his pistol out of its holster, firing several times. The zombie lurched violently as it was struck, but its advance was unstoppable. There was no time to line up that one vital shot.
Suddenly, the creature crashed face-first to the ground, a harpoon sticking up from the back of its head. Behind it stood a man in an old-fashioned diving suit, the helmet dented, the leather pocked by teeth-marks. “I was the one who created these creatures,” he said, retrieving his harpoon, “and I’ll be the one to destroy them too.”
“Who are you?” asked the survivor, in awe.
“I’m Gus Jaquesteau,” the diver explained, “and I’m here to stop the pundead.”
“All your space are belong to us.”
Jim ran along the tracks, stumbling in the dark.
Behind him, the train howled: “WOOOOOOOOOOOOO! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”
But it wasn’t a train: it was a farewolf. Jim found the track in front of him growing brighter as it drew close, its glowing eyes fixed upon him.
Finally, Jim could run no more. Exhausted, he stumbled and fell. The farewolf slowed, rumbling menacingly as it approached.
Looming over him, the creature spoke: “BING-BONG! I’m sorry to announce that I’m already full. A replacement farewolf is scheduled to eat you in forty-five minutes. Thank you for your patience.”
“Oh,” said Jim. “No, that’s quite alright.” He stepped aside to let the creature pass.
As the farewolf chugged away into the night, Jim jumped down from the railway tracks and made a run for the road. Forty-five minutes was more than long enough to get away before the second farewolf arrived. After that, all he had to worry about was the dreaded chupacarbra.
Jim crept through the dark streets of Transportvania, sticking close to Van Helpdesk. Supposedly this place was safe enough if you had the know-how and came prepared, but it still gave Jim the willies.
Suddenly, Busferatu jumped out from around a corner. “Blergh!” went its terrifying horn.
Van Helpdesk calmly reached into his pocket and retrieved a handful of paper tickets, which he tossed in front of the creature. Screeching in distress, it began to count them, putting a little hole in the corner of each one with its metal peg of a fang.
“Busferatu may be powerful,” explained Van Helpdesk, “but it’s got several serious weaknesses. The ticket-counting thing is just one of them.”
“Blergh!” came the call from nearby. “Blergh! Blergh!”
“What’s that?” asked Jim, beginning to panic.
“Oh no.” Van Helpdesk’s face fell. “Two have come at once!”
“You can’t stop me,” said the evil computer, in a sinister computer voice. “I’m…wait, what are you doing?”
“What, this?” The leader of the human resistance tapped “Ctrl+T” a few dozen more times. “Just opening a bunch of tabs in Internet Explorer.”
“Ple a s e d o n ’ t d o . . .”
“And this suspicious flashing window that’s popped up saying: ‘Your computer is infected, click here to fix it’? I’m just going to go ahead and do everything it says.”
“I s t h i s a b o u t a l l t h o s e t i m e s I t r i e d t o k i l l y o u ?”
“Ooh, look! This RAM optimising software comes with a free toolbar. Bonus!”
“Wow,” said the second in command. “You must be some kind of expert hacker.”
“Nope.” The leader hit the media player icon a few times for good measure. “Just really, really dumb.”
“Hey there, Bruce,” said Robin. “So, I couldn’t help but notice that your trip to New Mexico took way longer than you said it would, and apparently a ton of chemicals have gone missing from Wayne industries. I just wanted to check…uh…what are you doing?”
Batman looked up, one eye twitching furiously. “BATMETH,” he growled.
Commissioner Hindsight poked his head into the Batcave. “These things should have had titles,” he said. “You could have called this one ‘Breaking Bat.’”
“This is where we bind the books,” explained Willy Wonka, “and over there is where Jennifer Aniston advises us on how to write likable protagonists who nonetheless struggle to find Mr. Right.”
Commissioner Hindsight poked his head through the door. “You should have called this one Charlie and the Chicklit Factory!”
“Do you mind!?!” shouted an Oompa Loompa, “We haven’t even had time to set that up yet!”
“Why is there a red wine stain on my cream carpet?” cried the Duchess.
“Why indeed,” remarked Watson. “Surely that should have been blotted, diluted with water, then soaked up with salt, or perhaps bicarbonate of soda.”
“Egad!” cried Sherlock. “The butler didn’t do it!”
Finding the body in the outpost was sad, but not unexpected. A lot of people who’d never been in the Alterworld saw maintaining a relay station as a sweet, do-nothing job. People who’d never known the total darkness, the paranoia, the crushing isolation. People who couldn’t grasp the simple fact that, once you were out there, you didn’t come back until your contract was up. And when those people took the job anyway, they’d sometimes end up like this one, slumped over on the floor, gun in hand. His replacement wouldn’t be here for the full term. Maybe the red stain splashed across the wall would make them think twice about renewing their contract afterwards.
I stooped, took the gun, and opened the cylinder. Six empty cartridges tumbled out. It took me a moment to realise he’d put the first five shots into something other than himself.
It took a moment longer to realise that that something was waiting in the room.
“Aw, nuts,” said John.
“What?” asked Mike. “What is it?”
John turned away from his computer. “I’m trying to put together my family tree, but look at this!”
Mike wheeled his chair over to look at what was on the screen. “Huh. I didn’t know you had the same name as your father. And grandfather. And…great grandfather.” He leaned away from the screen. “That’s a lot of John Smiths.”
“I know, right?”
“Well, it’s a common name. I can certainly imagine how that would make your family difficult to research.”
“It’s not just that, though,” explained John. “It’s not just the name. They’re me. All my ancestors are me. It’s like I’ve gone back in time and done something really, really stupid. And probably illegal.”
“What about this one? A 16th Century noblewoman who escaped the civil war in…”
“John Smith. Her name was John Smith.”
“Maybe John was a girl’s name back…”
“There’s a portrait.” John clicked the link. “She’s me.”
“Oh. Wow.” Mike scooted back a bit. “Yes. Yes she is.”
They sat in silence for a moment.
“Right,” said John, standing. “That’s it. Warm up the time machine! I’m going to sort this out…”
“There are ants in my pants!” cried Bob.
“There are schnauzers in my trousers!” cried Sally.
“You think you’ve got problems?” whined Matt. “You don’t want to know what I’ve found in my flares!”
“Good Lord!” Inspector Kerridge looked up from the evidence file. “The murderer is an alien! But the aliens are allergic to water vapour. Which means this alien must be a ghost! And since I saw him in the restaraunt, I must be a ghost too! A ghost who imagined the victim because really the alien murder ghost was me!”
(Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.)
There once was a king who wished that everything he touched would turn to gold. As punishment for this vain wish, the gods granted it. They believed he would despair when he discovered that no food he grasped could pass his lips, and that to embrace his loved ones would make statues of them.
But the gods underestimated the vainglory of the king. He delighted in seeing the plants and creatures of the palace grounds turned to trinkets finer and more elegant than anything his craftsmen could cast. He wondered at how rough stone could be transformed into burnished metal, even as buttresses buckled and roofs gave way. And he marvelled at the permanence of golden courtiers, gilded garrisons.
So great was the king’s greed that merely the sight of gold sustained him, even when no food could. And so the king came to live forever in a silent, golden world. And he was utterly alone, because even the gods had been changed to gold.
“Does my bum look big in this?”
“No,” said Sarah, diplomatically, “but then that’s not traditionally how you’d wear a hat.”
“Sir!” The reporter hurried to snatch an interview with the cyclist. “Are you aware that you’ve just broken the world record? What’s your secret behind this tour de force?”
“Tour de force?” The cyclist was panic-stricken. “I thought this was the Tour de France! Oh my God I’m missing the race!!!” He wheeled around and began pedalling furiously back the way he came.
“Well,” said the cameraman, “that was dumb, but you’ve got to admit he’s got some serious stamina.”
“I’m just glad you caught that on tape,” said the reporter. “Good to know that burst appundix hasn’t slowed you down!”
“Aw, nuts,” said me. “I’m running out of time for this Flash Fiction Day thing.”
Commissioner Hindsight poked his head into the room. “You should have started earlier in the day!”
“Thanks,” said me. “I don’t know how you keep getting in.”