The Dragon and The Dying Stars, my final piece for Flash Fiction Month 2017, was selected as a Daily Deviation over on deviantart.com today! If you’re not familiar with the site, that means it’s been prominently featured as something that’s worth checking out: it’s not an award as such, but still it’s nice to know that my story has been selected and it’s already getting a whole lot of new readers as a result. This has happened a few times before, and it’s always a real boost.
Also worth mentioning is that saturdaystorytellers recently released a recording of another dragon-related story of mine, The Chalice and the Swords. This one was written in 20 minutes as part of a “write-off” challenge in which that’s all the time you get. Those aren’t running any more, which is a shame because I feel as though I got a lot of great stories out of them despite the tight time limit. This incarnation of the story was narrated by Don Socrates, and the image you see above is Awaking by AhhhFire.
Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure is now complete! It took 25 months to write and is comprised of 1023 passages of text totalling 181,029 words (107 of which are “nuts” and 62 of which are “balls”). At least 1,024 of those words are simply “The End,” which should give you some idea of the range of alternate endings available. If you’ve been following for a while, you’ll know that it was always planned to have 512 of the things.
I’ll be attempting to screenshot the entire flowchart at some point to give some idea of the scale, but don’t currently have the necessary hardware attached to my computer. The full thing – even at the minimum level of magnification that Twine allows – spreads across eight monitors, so the only way I can actually capture it is to spread it across two and use those to grab the four corners of the chart, which I later stitch together. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 31
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 Carador 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:
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.
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
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
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 23
“You’re a wizard, Henry.”
“You’re a wizard, Henry,” repeated the large, hairy man with the umbrella. “And a darn good’un!”
“Stop!” shouted a smaller hairy man with a laser sword as he leapt over the already-knocked-down door. “That man is an impostor! You’re actually a space wizard. He was going to try and trap you in some kind of fake wizard school here on Earth!”
“Stop!” shouted an even smaller scaly…person, also with a laser sword as he squeezed past the second guy. “This man is an impostor! You’re actually a space lizard. He was going to try and trap you on some dank swamp planet where you’d never discover your true reptilian nature!”
“Stop!” shouted a larger scaly person with a very long scarf. “This iguanaman is an impostor! You’re actually a time lizard. He was going to…”
“Henry?” A woman stepped through the door. “Henry, is everything alright? Who are you talking to?” Continue reading
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.
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.
Place bet: 3
Leave: 4 Continue reading
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.
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
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 4
Challenge #2: Write a four-part story featuring four different settings. Each part must have an identical word count and the settings must correspond to the four classical elements.
Once upon an ancient time, a terrible giant rose from the land. A remnant of a savage age, the giant had no taste for peace: his only joys were destruction and strife. Stone was his skin and stone was his heart, so neither arrow nor entreaty could end his assault upon the good people who lived in those parts. But still they had one hope:
“Cornwall John, Cornwall John!” the people cried. “Save us from the terrible giant who tears up crops with his stone hands and treads upon our livestock with his stone feet.”
So Cornwall John strode out upon the plain to face this dire foe.
Now, Cornwall John was big as a house, but the stone giant was big as a castle, and it laughed to hear his challenge.
“Go on then,” the giant said, leaning down and pointing to its chin. “I am generous. I shall let you throw the first punch, since any punch of mine is sure to be the last.”
Then Cornwall John drew back his fist, and with a single strike cast the great stone giant into the sea, where he sank and drowned. For you see, not only was Cornwall John as big as a house, but his fists were made of brick! This, in the end, was the giant’s undoing. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 1
Challenge #1: Write a story of survival against seemingly insurmountable odds including elements of black comedy and a “Screw destiny!” moment.
On any other day, the harbour would have seemed bustling with life. In truth, however, the streets were empty, and the bloated hands that manned the vessels at the dock were anything but alive. Shrouded in a cloud of inky vapour, Baal-Sogoth rose from the depths, strode through the surf and began to climb the granite spire that looked out across the shore. The Lord of the Abyss had, as prophecy foretold, come to claim dominion over the people of the earth and sand. In days to come, he would have his drowned servants carry the hills to fill the depths, making all the world even so that no land broke the surface of the sea, and no waves marred its perfect face.
In days to come, Baal-Sogoth would look upon the Earth and see a glassy, fish-like eye no different to his own.
In days to come, the Earth would look back with its new dead life, and see his eye in turn. Continue reading