Tagged: challenge

Ultraviolent Unicorn Deathmatch of Destiny 2: Aquatic Boogaloo

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 31

Challenge #14: Write a story that includes a criminal character and is not set on dry land. It may be a 369er, an epistolary narrative, or a work of interactive fiction.

A hyperlinked version of this story is available here.

1

You are Wishes O’Houlihan, top agent of the International Leprechaun Police. Riding atop your mighty steed – a unicorn with a chainsaw for a horn – you are unstoppable.

Your mission is to take down Captain Blokebeard, the most notorious pirate of the North Specific.

…but how?

Parachute in! 2

Speedboat chase! 3

Launch yourself from a cannon! 4 Continue reading

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The Three Commandments

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 28

Challenge #13*: Write a story that involves an original fictional religion, a moral quandary, a language the protagonist can’t understand and a crisis of faith. The story must be either 555, 666, or 777 words in length.

“Thank you for coming, Father 73.”

The priest gave a dismissive wave of his nylon-gloved manipulator. “What sort of example would I set if I didn’t? ‘Render help to thy neighbour, except where such help would violate the first or second of my commandments.’ But also, I am curious to see what you have found.”

Surveyor 6359 lifted the tarpaulin from the object in the trench. Until it was understood and documented, the excavation could not continue and no more magtrack could be laid.

“A precursor relic,” she explained. “I think a container of some sort. We thought it best to send for someone to decipher the ancient script upon its surface before any attempt to move it.”

“This is wise.” Father 73 nodded. “The precursors set forth many trials and tests of faith: some of their devices will detonate rather than yield up their mysteries.” Continue reading

Squinter Cell: Pandora Whenever

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 26

Challenge #12: Write a story that includes a powerful janitor, incompetent guards, and a substance with miraculous properties. One of these elements must be inverted.

“Intruder is in air vents. Please advise.”

“Do not deviate from patrol route. I repeat: do not deviate from patrol route.”

“But he’s banging around in there and it’s super obvious and the boss is just down the hall.”

“Look. Which of these sounds better? ‘Gee, the Pandora Virus is missing! The guy who took it must have been a total ghost because literally nobody noticed him,’ or ‘Hey, about that dude who got all the way into the bioweapons lab before anyone raised the alarm. He must have been super quiet right up until he started trying to cram his entire body through a flimsy metal duct.’ Because—”

“Oh God,” the guard whispered into his collar mic. “He’s stopped. I think he knows I can hear him!”

“Okay,” said Tim. “Stay calm and repeat after me: ‘Man, I can’t believe that creaky old vent’s acting up again.’”

“Man. I can’t believe that creaky old vent is acting up again.”

From the safety of the broom closet, Tim heard the unmistakable sound of knees mangling sheet metal start up once more. It really was loud: like RoboCop trying to hump a wobble board. Continue reading

The Damocles Protocol

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 24

Challenge #11: Write a story that takes place within either a utopian or dystopian setting. It must make use of dramatic irony and a key scene must revolve around a musical instrument.

At 2:47am Michael Johnson died of a heroin overdose on the third floor of a multi-storey car park just outside Hull.

At 9:18am his body was discovered by an Ikea employee, who subsequently called an ambulance.

At 9:44am the death was reported and a unique identification number sent to a server at the Ministry of Justice.

At 9:45am the code was broadcast, detonating one specific half-gram charge of plastic explosive.

***

Julia Walker’s phone was broken. She got out of bed, pulled on her clothes and turned on the TV.

“…collapsed in Parliament shortly before 10am and was pronounced dead on the scene. When approached for comment—”

The time in the breaking news banner read ten fifteen. Julia switched over to some ancient sitcom and stuck two slices of bread in the toaster. Then she boiled the kettle. The noise drowned out the voices on TV, but it was one she’d seen before: Ross had left a sandwich in the fridge and somebody else ate it. The camera cut to progressively more distant scenes as he shouted about it, prompting a flock of birds to take flight on a street somewhere. The effect was only slightly hampered by the weird square aspect ratio and grainy image. Continue reading

Try Some, Buy Some

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 21

Challenge #10*: David Bowie Day. Write a story that begins as hard fantasy and ends as space opera. It must include five different images taken from Bowie’s song lyrics and the names of two bands in which he appeared. At least one of the characters must be iconic and the word count must correspond to the length of a track from the album Blackstar.

“Ew,” said Girth Loinhammer, putting down his stein. “That is…”

“Yeah,” agreed Sekhmet, hurriedly rubbing at her tongue. “It’s…it’s got an aftertaste.”

“I don’t understand the hype. It’s big and it’s bland.”

“Yo, bartender!” Sekhmet snapped her fingers. “What sort of mead is this?”

“That, my good…” the bartender seemed a little thrown off by the fact that Sekhmet had the head of a lioness “…lady?”

“Was it the miniskirt that gave it away?”

“Yes, well. That is the finest mead that Urmaland has seen since the winter of 409, when levies imposed by the neighbouring Fiefdom of Kirik disrupted trade agreements that had facilitated the import of the king bees necessary to—” Continue reading

The Dunwich Helper(s)

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 19

Challenge #9: Write a story in collaboration with at least one other author. It must feature a ragtag bunch of misfits, a humanoid abomination, as well as MacGuyvering and a character being punished for doing a good deed. Of these tropes, one must be played straight, one inverted, one subverted and one exaggerated.

This story was written in collaboration with GDeyke and Aida Reluzco.

“Hi. My name’s Steve, and I have the face of an eldritch abomination.”

A mumbled “Hi, Steve” made its way around the room in acknowledgement. Steve, indeed, had the face of an eldritch abomination. Tentacle-beard and all.

“I wasn’t always this way,” Steve explained. “I mean—obviously. Can you imagine what my mother would have said if I’d come out like this?”

The room tittered nervously.

“I’ve always had skin problems,” Steve continued, “but, like, conventional skin problems. Not go-mad-from-the-revelation skin problems. I try to stay fairly upbeat, but…” Steve trailed off dejectedly, staring into the expectant, if uncomfortable, faces before him.

“Anyway, there was a sketchy clinical trial in Fresno and here we are.” He scratched a tentacle. Continue reading

When Grandmother Calls

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 17

Challenge #8: Write a magical realist story featuring a mentor character in which there is no direct dialogue.

When Grandmother calls, she says that everything will turn out alright in the end. I haven’t told her that the wolves are at the door.

Metaphorically and literally.

I’m not sure which concerns me more.

At first I thought that it was stress. You worry about a thing—about next week’s work rota, about making ends meet—and you start to see it as an animal skulking about behind the railings across the road.

Then you realise that there really is an animal, and you think that it’s a fox.

Then you hear the howling, find the claw marks in the wood.

***

When Grandmother calls, she says that everything will turn out alright in the end. I haven’t told her that the wolves are in the stairwell.

Nobody else seems to notice as they step over them or squeeze by. Perhaps they think they’re just somebody’s dogs. Perhaps it’s simply easier than acknowledging that they’re there.

While the sun’s up they just sit there, lounging on the stairs.

I don’t look at them after dark.

***

When Grandmother calls, she says that everything will turn out alright in the end. I haven’t told her that the wolves are in the flat.

They’re drinking all the milk and using all the broadband watching Breaking Bad.

But I do tell Grandmother that she was right all along.

Things are easier now the rent’s split twenty ways.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

Shakespeare Jumps the Shark

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 14

Challenge #7*: Write a story in which at least one character only speaks in verse, another represents the Shakespearian fool, and someone dies tragically. It must include at least 10 words created by Shakespeare and the final word count must be a multiple of 37.

“Behold, the fair Ophelia whose feet

“so nimbly guide the course of skis that fly

“not upon base snow, that blights the land

“but water, flawless, perfect in its sheen.

“Drawn by vessel motorisèd she

“like Phoebus’ car glides swift across the lake,

“though not so bright, her radiance less grand,

“her fair-faced beauty gentler on the eyes.”

“Hamlet,” said the gravedigger, “it’s cool how much you like Ophelia and all—I’ll agree it’s admirable that she was so keen to give waterskiing a try—but I’ve got a job to do here and I think we can both agree I should probably get it done sooner rather than later. This isn’t the best time to stand on the lakeshore reciting an ode to her, if you see what I mean. I’m certainly finding it unhelpful, and I’m not sure it’s the best thing you could be doing right now either.”

“Stop up thy mouth, thou idle-headed fool!

“Canst thou not see mine eyes—only for her,

“Mine ears deaf but for that sweet engine’s sound,

“That draws my love behind, approaching me—”

There was a crunch as the leaky motorboat ploughed over the enrapt Hamlet. A lone eyeball shot out from beneath with a loud squeak, plopping into the water a considerable distance from the shore.

Laertes hopped out of the boat and walked away, oblivious to the carnage.

Ophelia stepped from her skis and followed him.

“That’s what you get for standing in the slipway,” lamented the gravedigger, shaking his head. Hamlet might have been well-read, but he hadn’t had a whole lot of common sense.

But on the bright side, the gravedigger considered as he approached the bloodstained shore, the hole he’d dug so far would probably be big enough after all.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

Going Out With a Bang

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 12

Challenge #6: Write a story involving a wannabe character in which it is implied someone dies in a spectacular fashion.

It was a beautiful evening, the tranquillity of the gentle pink sunset marred only slightly by the battle raging on between every superhero in the city and the skyscraper-sized fire-breathing dinosaur that had emerged from the harbour an hour or so earlier.

“Hi, Mr. O’Nuclear,” said Tina, rather suddenly.

Mr. O’Nuclear jumped. He hadn’t realised anyone else was on the roof.

“You know you can just call me Therm, right?” he said.

“My mum says it’s rude to call grownups by their first names,” explained Tina, opening the door of the pigeon loft.

Therm considered this. “I think that’s a bit old-fashioned, but it’s good that you do what your parents tell you.”

Tina began to feed the birds.

Therm watched a cloud drift lazily across the horizon.

The dinosaur fired a ginormous laser beam from its face.

“Why are you wearing a big green onesie?” asked Tina. “And a cape?”

“Well,” Therm chuckled. “I suppose there’s no harm telling you this now. The truth is, I’ve been a superhero for about six years now. Ever since I jumped into the path of an intercontinental ballistic missile to prevent World War Three.”

“Oh, cool!” Tina walked over. “Do you have a superhero name?”

Therm swept a hand in front of him as if revealing invisible words in the air: “Major Megaton.” He paused. “I was pushing for Colonel Kiloton myself, but they didn’t want to promote me that far just for the name. Come to think of it, I reckon that’s probably why so many superheroes are ‘Captain’ something-or-other.”

“Got any superpowers?”

“Besides having a 100 kiloton warhead lodged in my ribcage, not really.”

“Oh.”

The dinosaur in the distance demolished the headquarters of the Daily Bungle with a swipe of its tail. On the bright side, Therm considered, the thing was getting farther from the city centre.

“I’ve always wanted to be a superhero,” said Tina. “But there aren’t a lot of girl ones out there.”

“Well…a lot of superheroes start out as soldiers, or scientists, or billionaire CEOs, and since women are still under-represented in those fields there’s kind of a knock-on…” Therm realised this probably wasn’t a helpful way to address the issue. “But I mean, that’s all the more reason for you to do it!”

“Do you really think I could!?”

“Yeah! You can do anything you put your mind to!”

“Can I help out with the dinosaur, then? That would be so cool!”

“Ooh. That’s… Look, that dinosaur’s a biggie. Literally. I mean, you don’t want to tackle something like that on your first try. They wouldn’t even have called me if it wasn’t really, really serious.”

“Oh.” Tina looked at her shoes. “Okay.”

Therm watched the last little snippet of the sun vanish below the horizon.

The dinosaur swatted at a biplane peppering it with machine-gun fire.

Therm wondered when the historical aviation society had gotten involved.

“So…why aren’t you there now?” Tina asked.

“I need to let the other heroes draw the creature a few miles from the city before I can…you know…do my thing,” explained Therm.

“So it doesn’t fall on anyone when you defeat it?”

“Umm…” Therm gave a nervous smile. “Something like that.”

“Superheroes spend more time waiting around than I thought.”

“Oh, it’s not like that! I mean, sure, it is for me. And anybody who relies on one of those big searchlight symbols pointed at a cloud. And then there’s stakeouts…” Again, Therm felt as though he wasn’t exactly doing his bit to encourage the next generation of superheroes. “But there’s much more to being a hero than just waiting for a bank heist to foil. For a supervillain to punch. For a fire-breathing dinosaur to blast to smithereens. The most important things are the small things. Speaking up when someone does something bad. Recognising when they do something good. Being there for your friends. Making new friends! It sounds goofy, but those are the things that are really important.”

The sun, at last, dipped below the horizon. The dinosaur was well out into the suburbs by now. Therm figured that if he had anything else to say, now was the time to say it.

At last it came to him: “The big stuff…” he began. “The big stuff will turn out okay as long as there’s at least one person there to do it. But the small stuff, that’s up to everyone.”

The dinosaur was moving at quite a pace—whoever was in that biplane really seemed to have riled it up—and if Therm was honest with himself he knew he’d already put off leaving longer than he had to.

“Why do you want to be a superhero, Tina?”

“I want to punch bad guys and shoot monsters with eye-beams and use a grappling hook to climb a building!”

Therm nodded. “Those are all really good reasons. But you have to remember that as much of a difference as those things make, what really matters is that people know you’re looking out for them. Because then they’ll look out for each other too.”

“Okay,” said Tina. “But I still think shooting eye-beams at monsters is important too.”

“It is,” conceded Therm, “but that’s not something I can help you with.”

He took an item from his utility belt.

“Maybe this’ll do instead.”

“No way!” Tina took the grappling pistol. “Can I have this? Really?” Then she thought for a bit. “Don’t you need it?”

“Naah. I’m sure you’ll get more use out of it than me.”

Therm dropped off the edge of the building and landed in a dramatic pose before sprinting off towards the dinosaur in the distance.

Tina watched him until he vanished between the buildings.

“Still feeding the pigeons?” asked her mother, stepping out of the stairwell. “Come on. It’s time you went to bed.”

“Can I heat up the hot chocolate with my eye-beams?” asked Tina, excitedly.

“Only if you’re very, very careful,” said her mother. “I’m not replacing the fridge again.”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

Puss in Boots in Boots

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 10

Challenge #5: Write a story set in a mall including a fairy tale character and an element of anthropomorphism.

“Does this sun cream protect against UVA and UVB?” asked Rumplestiltskin.

“Dunno,” said the cat sitting at the counter, without looking up.

“Well what about this one?” He picked up a different bottle—far too small to be good value for money—from the little impulse-buy shelf dividing the queue from the rest of the shop.

“Dunno,” said the cat, again. He licked one of his tiny cat thumbs and used it to turn the page of his magazine.

“Is there anything you do know?” Rumplestiltskin snapped.

The cat, at last, looked up. “I know I wouldn’t wear that shirt with those shorts,” he said.

Rumplestiltskin tutted and huffed. “This is the worst customer service I’ve ever had!” he proclaimed. “Do you know who I am?”

“Don’t know…” said the cat, absent-mindedly turning another page, “don’t care.”

“Well, you should care!” Rumplestiltskin waggled a tiny finger over the counter. “There are plenty of other shops around here. I could easily take my business elsewhere!”

“Not my problem.”

The cat hopped down from the cashier’s chair, boots clacking against the linoleum. He tucked the magazine back into the rack by the door.

“I was just putting my feet up,” he explained as he left. “I don’t work here.”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.