Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 13
“Stop, good citizen!” cried the complete stranger who had just burst through the door. “Sign not that paperwork!”
“What?” yelped the landlord. “What are you doing here? Who are you anyway?”
“Why, I am Apartment Man!” proclaimed the intruder, who wore a hat on his head shaped like a house’s roof.
“And I his loyal sidekick, Rent Boy!”
“And we are here to tell you…” Apartment Man pointed dramatically at the prospective tenant, “that your security deposit should be nowhere near the value of three months’ rent. Not for an unfurnished apartment!”
“Sorry,” said the landlord. “What did you say?” Continue reading
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.”
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:
Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.
Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 4
“Haven’t we already done time travel before?” asked Captain Redundancy, inquisitively.
“Only once,” answered Tautology Boy. “Three years go, in 2015.”
“Good, good.” Captain Redundancy nodded. “Nice and redundant. So what year is it now?”
“67,000,000 BC,” said Private Paradox, swinging his machete through the thick Cretaceous foliage. “We appear to have…what’s the word?”
“Overshot?” suggested Tautology Boy. “Jumped? Skipped? Missed?” The vengeful masked avenger’s sidekick was rather good with synonyms.
“Overshot?” suggested Captain Redundancy himself, since it seemed the most likely option.
“No,” said Private Paradox. “What I was going to say was ‘…deliberately travelled millions of years into the past because my promise of a redundant expedition through time was in fact a ruse devised to ensure you would furnish me with the enriched phlebotinum necessary to make this journey through time and step on a butterfly.’” Continue reading
The following was an entry for the Hampshire Writers’ Society’s December 2016 competition – “introduce a new comics character” – in which it took 3rd place. You’ll find the judge’s response at the end of the post.
Mild mannered jobseeker John Johnson by day, by night Capt. Captain “Redundancy” Redundancy is a superhero whose superpower is redundancy! Wherever there is crime and somebody is already dealing with it, Captain Redundancy will be there, his sidekick Tautology Boy by his side.
A dark and brooding figurehead of justice, Captain Redundancy spends his nights staring out over the city he is sworn to stare out over. As a symbol of his calling as a hero, he wears a pair of underpants over his tights in addition to the usual pair worn underneath. The outer pair are redunderpants. They are red. Captain Redundancy wears red redunderpants.
John Johnson gained his powers after a bite from a radioactive mosquito caused him to stumble into the path of a chemical truck full of vacuum cleaner cleaner. Following this workplace accident—which granted him the incredible powers of redundancy—he was made redundant. Having accepted Tautology Boy as his sidekick, Captain Redundancy’s sidekick became Tautology Boy. Tautology Boy’s powers of tautology are a natural and direct consequence of being Tautology Boy, whose power is tautology.
Villains across the city fear Captain Redundancy, for by the time they see him it is already too late: the arrival of his dreaded carmobile guarantees that some other superhero has doubtless foiled their plans already. Captain Redundancy will never respond to a crime unless his presence is completely redundant, and thus—in doing pretty much nothing of any consequence himself—he is a beacon of hope in dark times: not the hero the city needs, but the hero it doesn’t.
Also Tautology Boy is there too.
Catherine Wild: It has not gone unnoticed that this submission seeks to parody the comic hero concept and indeed this competition itself, which I found to be quite refreshing. That said, the character is effective, as is his side kick Tautology Boy. The submission itself is very dry and errs on the side of metafiction.
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 17
“Uh-oh! Uh-oh!! Uh-oh!!!”
“What? What is it?” Mullins came running. The sound of the food tray clattering on the floor had been a bad sign. The “Uh-oh!”s might as well have been written in neon tubing with bells on.
“It’s Count Erfitter,” said Harris. “Or…I mean…it’s not.”
Mullins took a look through the bars of the cell. “Oh geez.” He breathed in through his teeth. “Oh geez. Oh man. We are so fired.”
“Hey, hey, let’s not go nuts. We’ve let plenty of supervillains escape before and Warden Burt’s always been remarkably understanding about it.”
“Yeah, but they had psychic powers or robot tentacles or acid pee! This guy had…he had…” Mullins gestured to the thing standing in the cell. “What even is this?”
“I think it’s pizza boxes, mostly?” Harris squinted at it. “There’s some toilet paper in there too. And I think the eyes are blue M&Ms and toothpaste.”
Mullins put his head in his hands. “We are so fired.”
“To be fair, I don’t think anybody could have anticipated he’d be able to stockpile that much cinnamon chewing gum. And he was known for his cardboard cutouts.”
“Yeah! When he had a full set of paints and hours to use them! But I wouldn’t have thought you’d be so easily fooled by something he cobbled together with bits from the guards’ lounge bin!”
“In my defence, it’s pretty convincing at a glance.”
“No it isn’t!”
“Yes it is. Look, it even talks!”
“That’s a speech bubble, Harris! When was the last time you said something and the words came out of your mouth scrawled in ketchup on the back of a cereal box?”
“Well, there was last year’s Christmas Party.”
“I thought we’d agreed to never speak of that again.”
For a moment, the two of them simply stood there in silence, watching Count Erfitter’s left eye slide down his cheek.
Mullins said nothing.
Harris said nothing.
Count Erfitter said “Salut, mon ami!” but technically he hadn’t stopped saying that since it’d been stuck on the oval-shaped bit of card next to his suspiciously square and corrugated face.
“Okay, serious talk: would it look better or worse if we’d just found the cell empty?”
“What, like he didn’t bother with a decoy and just did a runner?”
“Better. Definitely better.”
“Okay.” Mullins shook out a black bin bag. “I’ll chuck this thing in the dumpster, you…punch yourself in the face or something. Just tell the warden he got the drop on you when you went in to give him his food.”
“Hey! Why do I have to be the one to punch myself in the face!”
“Because you were the one who was supposed to go in the cell and if you don’t punch yourself I’ll do it for you!”
Mullins stepped inside the cell and took one last look at the hastily-constructed junk effigy of Count Erfitter before sweeping it into the black bag. He tutted. “Seriously, man, this is just embarrassing.”
Mullins carried the bag down the stairs, out the back, and heaved it into the dumpster by the prison wall. It was a thankless job at the best of times—dangerous, poorly paid, and with nowhere near enough support from city hall—but sometimes, every once in a while, he wondered if he and Harris were to blame with the steady stream of supervillains escaping their custody. Well, Harris anyway. Basically just Harris.
He turned to walk back to the cell block, and as he did so he spotted Warden Burt running towards him waving his arms. That too was a bad sign. That was the sort of bad sign that couldn’t be any clearer if it was written in blood, set on fire, and Godzilla was spinning it around with its tiny dinosaur arms.
“That was Count Erfitter!” yelled Warden Burt. “You just binned Count Erfitter!”
Mullins turned around to discover that the pizza box, toilet roll and chewing gum dummy had torn free of the binbag and was now climbing the prison wall.
“Au revoir!” he called, as he vanished over the other side.
“Oh…” said Mullins, as Burt finally reached the dumpster. “That’s not good.”
“Captain Caulk is coming to check on the prisoner in ten minutes,” said Burt, still catching his breath. “We’re all so fired.”
“Not necessarily.” Mullins reached into the dumpster and picked out a distressingly squashy watermelon.
Warden Burt stared at it.
“So we draw a face on this and stick it in the bed…”
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 10
“Once upon a time there lived a little boy who liked to walk along the beach. One day he found a bottle washed up on the sand, and opened it in the hopes that there was a message inside. But there was no message. There was only an evil genie who popped out and said:
“‘Aha! Now that you have set me free, I shall wreak havoc all across the world! I shall be a terror like none that has ever been seen before!’
“But the boy was clever, and so he said: ‘I don’t know about that. I’ve heard tales of things much more terrifying than you.’
“‘Oh?’ said the genie, and it sat down right on the edge of the mouth of the bottle. ‘I should very much like to hear about that.’
“And so the boy began his tale: ‘Once upon a time there lived a dragon with teeth as big as oars and scales as big as rowboats, and it flew all around the Outer Hebrides frightening any it found upon the islands. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 7
There was a gentle click as the safe-cracker found the last digit of the combination. It was followed by a loud crash as the massive steel door swung violently outwards, catching him in the ribs.
“Oof!” said the safe-cracker, lying winded on the floor. He would have said something significantly less family-friendly, but his bones hurt too much to really manage anything but “Oof.”
“Eeeyeah!” shouted a man in an ostentatious red robot suit as he emerged from the suddenly-open safe. “You were trying to crack this safe, but instead the safe cracked you!”
“W-what?” the safe-cracker managed to wheeze.
“Also you wanted to get what was in the safe, but what was in the safe got you.”
There was a pause.
“What?” the safe-cracker managed to wheeze again.
“Tony Snark.” The guy in the robot suit held out his high-tech hand for the criminal to shake. “A.k.a. Irony Man.” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 2
Captain Caulk stared in amazement at the cache of treasures tucked away in the basement of the Château d’Erfitter. Just like that, the missing Sisley was the least of his concerns. Here were The Scream, The Thinker, The Mona Lisa! The theft of any one of these works could be considered the crime of the century, and yet these acts had gone completely undetected. What mastermind could have executed such a scheme? And what villain would resist taking credit for such a success?
There came a slow clap from the shadows. “Félicitations, Captain.” A man in an opera cape and a domino mask stepped forth to rest a hand on the buttocks of Michaelangelo’s David. “Vraiment, you are the real McCoy. Few others could have uncovered my little enterprise.”
“Who are you?” demanded Captain Caulk, falling for none of this flattery, “and what have you done with the Count?”
“Ohhh.” The villain tutted. “And just like that you ruin it. For you see, in truth…” he removed his mask and shook out his silver curls, “the Count d’Erfitter and the soon to be notorious Count Erfitter are one and the same!”
“That’s a pretty poor secret identity,” observed Captain Caulk, who could at a moment’s notice don his heroic Glasses of Obfuscation to become mild mannered reporter Clint Cark.
“Is it?” asked Count Erfitter, passing behind a pillar. When he emerged, he was wearing the mask once more. “Or is it a very convincing copy?” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 7
Captain Redundancy stood atop of the building he was on top of, staring out across the city that occupied his field of vision, and so much of his time. There was a light on the horizon. A light that grew ever brighter, ever closer, as destiny approached.
“Is there no other way?” came the question from his side.
Captain Redundancy watched the approaching light with steely eyes of steel. “No, my heroic friend. There can be no more talk. The time for diplomacy has long since passed.”
“Right-o. I’ll be off, then.” Doctor Diplomacy tipped his cap at the other superheroes assembled on the rooftop. “Best of luck, chaps.”
“And I also wish you the best of luck to you too.” Captain Redundancy’s gaze did not waver from the light. The sound of helicopter blades cut through the night air. The heroes watched and listened. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2015, Day 17
“Uh-oh!” wheezed the criminal, glancing behind him at the superhero hot on his heels. “Uh-oh! Uh-oh! Uh-oh!”
He turned a corner and found himself staring down a narrow alleyway that ended in a tall brick wall.
“Okay,” he said, turning around and holding out his big bag with a dollar sign on it. “If I give up the money now, can we skip all the slapping and just head straight to the police station? Please?”
The Astounding Welt hefted his ruler of justice menacingly.
Suddenly, the robber found himself ensnared in a net dropped from a first floor window.
“Aha!” cried the masked hero above. “Take that, you naughty ne’er-do-well!”
“Seriously?” The robber stared at him. “I was more or less already caught before you even got here.”
“Then all is well!” The hero flourished his cape. “For I am Captain Redundancy, the vengeful masked avenger!” Continue reading