Tagged: challenge

The Dragon and the Dying Stars

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 31

Challenge #14: Write a story in the style of a fairy tale, including phrase repetition and involving stars as physical objects. It must be serious in tone but also include a Phillips screwdriver.

This challenge was set by G. Deyke.

Once upon a time, in a world far distant, the night sky grew dark. Slowly, at first, the stars grew dim. The king’s philosophers at first thought that this was nothing more than the action of passing aeons, and that more would burn anew. But ere long their numbers dwindled, and the naked eye saw plainly what no telescope could: the stars were consumed.

Troubled, the king sent out his greatest knight upon a steed of chrome. Agravane was that knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a sword born of a dying star. Never would that blade break, and never would its edge grow dull. For many weeks Agravane rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone that stood before his throne.

At last, Agravane found his foe, and the king at last saw who it was who plucked the stars from the aether like grapes from the vine.

It was a dragon, vast as his kingdom and black as the void. Each wing was as wide as a galaxy, and its eyes glowed like quasars. Its manner and its motions were that of a great animal; its structure and its form, that of a terrible machine.

When the dragon spoke, it spoke not to the knight before it, but to the king beyond the stone: “I have lived since before the days of time. Since before the noise of creation and beyond the notion of being. Your universe is an affront to me, but in its matter I have found a host, and that host offers a solution. From one hundred billion dying stars I built this body, and with it I shall consume all the living stars that remain. Then there shall be stillness and silence and peace until the heat death of the universe, wherein there shall be stillness and silence and peace still.”

In his throne, the king trembled at the threat of such a foe. But Agravane was fearless.

He held aloft his sword: “You might have seized your matter from the stars by force, but mine was a gift granted in a time of dire need. When I stood alone against the hordes of Far Reach and my weapon snapped in twain, bright Achernar crystallised into a blade that would never fail me so.”

But though Agravane was fearless, he was not wise, and his sword did not avail him: the dragon was forged of star-steel too, and though the blade did not dull against its scales, neither could it cut them, and the beast crushed him in its mighty hand unhindered. Agravane’s sword was lost to the aether whence it came.

Fearful, the king sent out a second knight upon a second steed. Carador was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a spear born of a dying star. Never would that shaft snap, nor would the point fail to find its mark. For many weeks Agravane rode through the void, and for as many weeks the king watched through the seeing-stone.

“What fool comes to challenge me?” demanded the dragon, in a voice that carried even through the void.

“No fool am I,” Carador responded, keeping his distance “for I carry the same spear that came to me during the siege of Omega Centauri when my own weapon was lost.”

The dragon snorted: “Never can you pierce my scales with your stick.”

Carador took aim: “I do not intend to try.”

He did not direct his spear against the dragon’s scales, but instead towards one of its vast eyes. Unerring, the spear flew, yet clattered from the boiling orb: even the eyes were forged of star-steel, and even the eyes could not be harmed.

With a single pulse of its fiery gaze, the dragon tore the knight’s very atoms asunder, and Carador’s spear too was lost to the aether whence it came.

Holding little hope, the king summoned still one more knight. Gilhault was this knight’s name, and in his hand he bore a hammer born of a dying star. When swung, the head was weightless, yet when it struck a foe it held the mass of a thousand moons.

But before Gilhault could mount his steed, an unseen assailant cracked his visor with a cudgel so he could not brave the void: Elayn, his squire, stole the reins and rode off in his stead.

Furious, the king sent all his knights to pursue her, but all were left behind: none tended the steeds with more skill or kindness than Elayn, and so none could catch Gilhault’s, which she had so long cared for.

Elayn faced the dragon.

The dragon laughed. “Will you fight me with a simple cudgel?”

“No.” Elayn drew her own gift of star-steel from her voidcloak. “With this.”

And the dragon laughed louder, for the item she produced was but a Phillips screwdriver.

“I too was at the battle against the hordes of the Far Reach, and there my master was dismounted. I leapt through the void to reach his steed, but found it maimed beyond motion. For weeks we drifted, helpless, until we were caught in the orbit of Leporis. From that star was born this screwdriver, and with it I saved this steed.”

“Go home, little girl,” said the dragon. “You have some years yet before I trouble myself with your sphere: do not forfeit them.”

Elayn did not answer this insult. She merely charged forwards, and the dragon, without even going to the effort of stretching out its neck, consumed her whole.

But though every piece of the dragon was formed of a dying star—every piece indestructible—they were held together with screws of star-steel. And though their threads would never strip and their shanks never break, no bond held them in their place but simple force.

In this way, with nothing but a screwdriver, Elayn beheaded the monster whose neck no blade could sever.

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.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

Never Let Me Down

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 29

Challenge #13*: David Bowie Day. Write a story including a character in mourning and exploring the theme of religion. It must include at least three David Bowie film titles, a swan song, and a character who speaks to the audience only in David Bowie song titles.

Everyone had been sad about it, naturally. To so suddenly lose a figure so beloved to so many. But it had struck Hades more than most. To him it was deeply personal, somehow. It shouldn’t have been—until it had happened, he’d never even been in the same room—but it was. He bet Baal never had to put up with this sort of sacrilege.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” said Virgil to the reader.

That was Virgil’s imaginary friend: “the reader.” Hades wasn’t sure when it had started, but he suspected it had something to do with his still-alive friend Dante waltzing off to Purgatory and leaving him stuck here. That or the linguine incident. That had been hard on everybody. Hades himself didn’t much like to think about it. He turned his attention instead to Charon, still trying to lift the deceased into his tiny little canoe.

“Have you tried using a lever of some kind?” yelled one of the shades.

“For the last time, Archimedes, enough with the levers!” Hades yelled back, then turned to Charon once more.

He didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Continue reading

I, Reefer

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 27

Challenge #1: Write a 369er set in cloudcuckooland in which the protagonist is the only sane character.

“Moo,” said Snarf Garfunkel

“Moo,” said Mews Willis.

“Moo,” said Melissa McKitty.

“Is there, like, something… up… with our cats?” asked Farmer Jones.

“I think… Um, I think… I think… Um…” Farmer Bishop squinted at the field of large, black and white cats grazing among the fronds of pink, alien foliage rippling in the breeze. “They seem fine,” she continued at last.

“THOSE ARE COWS, YOU IDIOT,” yelled Olivia.

***

“Gentlemen.” Junior Vice-Badass Chad Buckley addressed the Committee for the Neatification of Fiscal Awesomeness. “A new planet calls for a new currency. Or something.”

“How about…” Spreadsheet Glaminator Richard Smith tented his fingers. “We used to put money into machines to get coffee. How about we put coffee into money… to get machines?”

Buckley did that finger-snap-pointing thing thing. “I love it!”

“YOUR ECONOMY IS TANKING RAPIDLY,” yelled Olivia.

***

“Okay,” began Lead Science-Maker-Happener Lauren Harper. “I’ve confirmed the strange yelling noises are emanating from Gasulon VII itself, but it’s safe to ignore them.”

“MY NAME IS OLIVIA, AND IT’S REALLY NOT.”

“And the reason the atmosphere is so good is… it’s just really good. Science over!”

“IT’S ACTUALLY BECAUSE I’M 47% THC.”

“Anybody got any Doritos? I’m super hungry for some reason.”

“THAT WOULD ALSO BE THE THC.”

 

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.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

The Mousetrap

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 25

Challenge #11: Write a story set in a board game. Its word count must be a multiple of 13.

“Well well well…”

Inspector Whiskers’ big round ears caught the unmistakable sound of a revolver being cocked.

“Looks like I’ve got a tail.”

Whiskers turned. “You’ve been keeping up this game of cat-and-mouse for quite some time, Officer Nibbles.”

“Longer than you know.” The mouse stepped into the pool of light beneath the streetlamp, streams of rain leaving hard lines in the fur of his face. “Too long to have you rat me out to the big cheese.”

“Why’d you do it?” Whiskers didn’t really need to ask, but he did need to buy some time. “You only got a couple more years on the job. Why risk your retirement plan?”

“Retirement plan?” Nibbles gave a short, squeaking laugh. “The way things are going down at the Department, I’ll be poor as a church mouse—and so will you! No, Inspector. This…” he gestured about the docks with the barrel of his gun. “This is my retirement plan.” Continue reading

The Twin Chalices

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 24

Once upon a time, there lived a powerful enchantress. But though her strong magic sustained her for a long, long time, there came a day when she began to grow old. She knew that it was time to choose an apprentice to someday succeed her, and so she called upon her two most promising students.

Aegorath was of noble blood, born under the Dragon Moon, and saw through the world’s veil as through a still pool. Yet where others of noble birth counted upon name alone, and others with special gifts relied upon those over study, Aegorath worked hard, far more proficient as an acolyte than many masters.

Thilo too worked hard, but the seers had found him in a nameless village, far away, and he had therefore begun his studies later than the others his age. His efforts had been spent first in gaining an equal footing with the others, and later in compensation for the fact that his gaze pierced the veil no more clearly than the others.

“The ways of our order dictate that I must decide upon an apprentice,” said the enchantress, “and I have decided that it will be one of you. However, the final choice will be by way of a challenge.” Continue reading

Ultraviolent Unicorn Deathmatch of Destiny

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 22

Challenge #10*: Write an interactive story with at least two good endings and two bad endings. It must feature a conflict between Man and Society, and must also involve a choice that hinges on equipping the right item.

A hyperlinked version of this story is available here.

1

In the arena, two majestic alabaster unicorns duel to the death. Their tungsten chainsaw horns ring out against one another like a swarm of killer bees in a blender.

Intervene: 2

Place bet: 3

Leave: 4 Continue reading

White Rabbit

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 20

Challenge #9: Write a story featuring every sense but sight. It must have a palindromic word count and not use any adverbs ending in “-ly.”

“Bugger. There go the lights.”

“Spare lantern?”

There were a few seconds of vigorous clicking while Harper tried the switch.

“Dead.”

“Oh well. Absolute last resort I suppose…”

I fished about in my pocket for the lighter. What I found instead was most disconcerting.

“Harper?”

“Yeah?”

“Harper, there’s a hole in my pocket.”

The silent dark of the Alterworld was polluted by a string of graphic obscenities. Continue reading

And I Would Write 500 More

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 18

Challenge #8: Write a story at least 500 words in length including no unnecessary details whatsoever.

“Banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana,” proclaimed Captain Redundancy.

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.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

An Ernest Mistake

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 15

Challenge #7*: Write a story from the perspective of an existing detective character in collaboration with another author. It must include a red herring and a film noir style inner monologue, but must not take place in a typical film noir setting.

This story was produced in collaboration with Joe Wright, and features his character, Yves Carabin.

I knew she was trouble from the moment she walked in. It was the way she pushed open the door. The way that she walked. This was a dame who took nonsense from nobody, with legs that went all the way up and boobs that went all the way down. Also her hat was on fire, or I might just have had a shade too much opium. It was almost four o’clock by the time she paid me that visit—the end of a very slow day—and by then it was hard to tell.

“The name’s Barbara Beckwith.” She took the seat in front of the desk, patting down her grey curls with a white-gloved hand. “I hear you’re a man who can take care of problems.”

“I’m a man who can solve problems,” I explained. “If you want a problem taken care of, you want a man from Lower London. One with a wrench or a length of pipe.” I did actually have a derringer, myself, but it was purely for protection. I didn’t like people to get the wrong idea about my profession.

“Like a plumber?”

Well, that was promising. One needed a certain level of wealth to maintain such a level of naivité. “Sure,” I said. “Why not?” Continue reading

Lord Harlington’s Heir

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 13

Challenge #6: Write a creature horror story featuring a psycho party member in which a torch is used as a weapon.

“I was terribly sorry to learn about your uncle, Mr. Heathcote.” Mr. Smith extended his hand to shake.

Taking it, the man gave a dismissive tut. “Oh, he was only second uncle. And, ah, it’s Lord Heathcote now.”

“Ah, yes. Yes, of course.” This fellow might have been rather callous, but if he was quick to pick up the title, he would be quick to pick up the pen. “Shall we go inside?”

“In a moment, perhaps.”

The hesitation caught Smith by surprise, though the slightly imperious tone did not.

“I overheard some rather curious gossip in the bar of my hotel last night.”

Smith remained at the door, his hand on the key in the lock. The longer he kept it there, the more that unturned key started to feel like his commission slipping through his grasp.

He let go and turned. “I daresay you must have.” He smiled faintly. “A man dies inside a locked room but his body is nowhere to be found: your uncle’s misfortune might have been lifted straight out of the latest Christie. But I assure you, the investigation was quite thorough, and its conclusions entirely unremarkable. Come.” He turned the key at last. “I will show you.” Continue reading