Flash Fiction Month 2019, Day 11
Challenge #5: Write a story including a plan that fails because of an unforseen and inherent flaw. It must include a character and setting based on two tarot cards chosen at random from the Major Arcana. Optionally, a phone call must be made at some point.
My two cards were Temperance and Wheel of Fortune.
Far away, in a time not yet remembered, there lived a king who delighted in all precious things. His crown was forged of platinum, and gemstones of cut trinitite adorned his hands.
Twenty-two knights served this king, and twenty-two he sent out on a journey, when news reached his ears of a distant land where dwelt a serpent with horns of gold. The wastes were home to many strange creatures—atom-bred—and he wished to have a horn from this beast as a drinking vessel.
The knights readied their steeds, and a crowd gathered to witness the spectacle. These were strange animals with hides of iron and chrome: they ate no food, and would drink nothing but the pungent water drawn from the deepest well. Each of these creatures stood twice as tall as a man, save for two: the steed of the first knight, for whom the wastes had long been home, and the steed of the twenty-first, who had once been his squire. These two were no larger than cattle, seeming dwarfed even by the meagre provisions that they carried.
The journey began, and those knights at the front of the party spurred their steeds on as fast as they would go. Dust rose from the earth and smoke rose from their mouths. All were eager to claim the serpent’s horn, and with it the king’s favour. Yet some settled for a slower pace, among them the first and the twenty-first. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 1
Challenge #1: Write an adventure story using a character, setting and MacGuffin suggested by three different fellow participants. The character must be an autobiographical description of the person who suggested it.
Character: An engineer who prefers to solve problems with a hammer – but in down time enjoys drawing and singing folk songs. Enjoys outdoor pursuits as long as any trip culminates in a visit to a good old fashioned pub with a hearty meal and a tankard of cider. (squanpie)
Setting: The fully furnished and richly decorated throne room of a long-abandoned castle. Why it was never cleared out or looted is uncertain, only that everything remains, dusty and mildewed and occasionally a little moth-nibbled but otherwise untouched. (Oreramar)
MacGuffin: An enchanted coin that can be spent to bribe anyone to do anything. (distortified)
With a sudden mechanical rattle, the door swung shut.
Lara would have turned to look at it, but her attention was instead drawn to the figure who had pulled the lever. The figure on the throne.
“You seek the Beggar’s Sovereign, I take it?” His accent was unfamiliar: nowhere in the world had she heard a voice quite the same.
“Yes,” she answered plainly. “It belongs in a museum.” 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 2016, Day 30
The corpse of the dragon lay steaming upon the floor, the marks of its wrath seared permanently into the cavern walls. Yet the heroes stood victorious. Leaving the dragon to stink and smoulder, they ventured deeper into its lair, appraising the stock of treasure the winged terror had amassed across the ages.
“This will ease the suffering of our land…” observed Khemaghan the Keen, lifting a gem-studded chalice, worth several fortunes on its own.
“…but it will not repair the devastation that the beast has wrought.” Quilbar the Quick was troubled by the same thought.
“We beat it,” said Skondar the Strong, speaking firmly as ever. “We won. It’s over.”
But from the bones of the dragon, there sprang forth a new threat. For in its hoard—beyond the reach of mortal man for years known only to the gods—there stood a copper lamp upon a bare pedestal. In every other room, gold and jewels had lain strewn across the floor, a careless bed for the vile serpent.
In this room, the floor was bare. A perfect, solid circle of clear stone marked a perimeter about the pedestal, as though gold and silver feared to draw too close to the base metal that stood atop it.
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 20
“Sir, about the alien invasion.”
“Yes?” The general turned to the implausibly photogenic scientist. Without some kind of technological breakthrough, there was no way the military would be able to repel the alien fleet.
“I’m afraid our extensive research has proven fruitless.” The scientist began to count on his fingers: “We’ve proven conclusively that the aliens are not especially susceptible to the common cold or other Earth diseases. They are not allergic to water. Country music does not make their heads explode.” He shrugged. “That’s pretty much all we had.”
“I see.” The general clasped his hands behind his back and stared at the big neon map of the world on the wall. “Is there no way we can hold them back?”
“Well…” the scientist flipped through the sheets of paper on his clipboard. “We did initially manage to slow their advance by scattering LEGO bricks on key bridges and junctions, but then they put shoes on. There was some talk of trying the same thing with marbles, and…” he scanned the remaining sheets. “No, we haven’t yet managed to replicate that early success.”
“So what you’re saying is that the alien invasion force could burst through those doors at any moment?”
The general pointed to the doors of the War Room, which burst open at that very moment. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 15
In times of uncertainty, it was the custom of the clans to place their idols in the temple on the mountain, and seek answers from the gods. The clan of the river brought an idol of gold. The clan of the forest brought an idol of wood. The clan of the hillside brought an idol of stone.
“Almighty gods,” the three oracles called in unison. “We wish to know which of our clans you hold in highest esteem. Leave your mark upon the idol so that we may know.”
This troubled the gods, for they knew that to favour one clan above the others was likely to breed war among them. However, to give no sign would let the matter fester, and likely breed war still. The gods deliberated late into the night. It was decided that they would send a storm to smite the temple, and make their displeasure known.
At midnight the oracles saw the lightning strike the spire, and at dawn they visited the ashes of the temple.
The idol of gold had melted all across the floor, and from this the oracle of the river surmised that her clan had been chosen, because the idol had been made one with the temple.
The idol of wood had been burned away completely, and from this the oracle of the forest surmised that her clan had been chosen, because the idol had been taken up to heaven.
The idol of stone remained upon the altar, and from this the oracle of the hillside surmised that her clan had been chosen, because the idol had been spared.
All three oracles brought their news down the mountain, and all three clans were satisfied.
It wasn’t quite what the gods had had in mind, but, they supposed, it got the job done.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:
Click any cover to download that book in your choice of format.
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 14
Once upon a time there lived a Sultan, ruler over a rich land. Wise founder of a thriving city, he would once a year open up his grand palace to accept gifts from his subjects, and to bestow gifts in return.
The first guest was a merchant, robed in garments of fine silk. “I bring a hundredweight of salt, in the hopes that your highness will permit me to continue trade with the nations to the East.”
The Sultan knew the merchant well: he travelled far to earn his coin and was in truth as much an emissary as a trader. “Your gift is received gladly,” he said, “and mine gladly given.”
And so the merchant departed, and the second guest arrived. This man was an artisan, dressed in white linen. “I bring a golden statuette, in the hopes that your highness will remember my work when he has deeds to commemorate or gardens to furnish with pleasing things.”
The Sultan knew the artisan too, for this was the man who had sculpted his likeness for the public square. “Your gift is received gladly,” he said, “and it will be remembered.”
And so the artisan departed, and the third guest arrived. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 5
“So what are you in for?”
“Oh, nothing much.” Carl vigorously chalked his cue, buying precious time. “The boss wanted some stuff stolen from a place, it didn’t go to plan…the usual.”
“Huh.” The inmate with the prominent widow’s peak lined up his shot, took it, and sent the cue ball spinning into the corner pocket. “Was the place anywhere interesting?”
“Uh…” Carl put the cue ball back on the table and sank a red into the side pocket. “Not really. You know, standard secret lab. Nothing out of the ordinary.” It was more or less true. He took his next shot, leaving another red covering the corner pocket.
The inmate took his turn. A wild jab from the cue sent the ball flying off the table and bouncing noisily across the floor. “Frank!” he shouted. “Little help?”
Frank tossed the ball back.
The inmate caught it and handed it to Carl. “So what was the stuff?” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 4
Challenge #2: “The Blue Pill.” Write a 600-word piece, which must incorporate dreams or dreamlike imagery. Also, it should have elements of stream of consciousness writing included somewhere within.
Lord Harlington pushes between phosphorescent strands of growth stretching for the lightless sky. A shame that the world has furnished him with no game greater than the elephant—but there are hunting grounds beyond the world, and lands darker than darkest Africa.
Cold, stagnant water in knee-high boots. The warning click of the Ferniot counter. Shut it off. What threat is ALICE exposure after Malaria in Nairobi? After fever in the Congo? His quarry is near: a few dark tendrils waving above the glowing multitude. He readies his weapon: a shotgun over a large-calibre rifle.
In the overgrowth, progress is unnaturally slow. Everything is silent, calm. Bright shoots curl around Harlington’s coat, drag across the fabric, then retreat as he passes. Despite the cold, he remembers India, the trail through the wilderness, the guide who vanished into the grass and was never seen again. He presses on, wading through the stalks until they thin out into a kind of clearing.
The creature is vast. A buoyant, gas-filled thing that has descended to drink. Harlington traces the sights across its form, looking for some vital place to put the shot. Waving fronds. Flapping membranes. Exposed ribs of cartilage.
The beast is dead.
So why does it move? Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 1
Once upon a time, there lived a king in a marble tower. Around the tower there lay a city, and around the city there lay a wilderness, which the king tended as though it were a garden. No beasts stalked its hills, and no brigands lurked beside its roads, though the king’s domain stretched on for many miles and the members of his watch were few.
One evening, a sorcerer passing through these wild lands stopped to seek shelter in the tower. In exchange for a meal and a night’s rest, the sorcerer offered the king an enchanted rose: one that would never wither, and would never lose its scent.
But the king had many roses. Beyond the walls of his city, they sprang from the ground like wheat, and his tower was never without them. It was customary for his subjects to leave roses as gifts, the king explained, but surely a powerful sorcerer—a noble visitor from a foreign land—could afford to leave a more substantial offering?
A dark look passed over the face of the sorcerer, but still he conceded that the king’s words were true. “Bring me milk and honey, and a single pearl,” said the sorcerer, “and I shall conjure a gift like none that you have seen.” Continue reading