Categories
Short Fiction Uncategorized Writing Challenges

Child of the Air

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Author’s Note – Today’s flash fiction challenge was to write about an extinct flower that somehow blooms for the first time in a hundred years. Of course I couldn’t help putting an apocalyptic spin on a little floral fiasco. ~ J

 

It seemed like such a good idea, you know?

Just grow this seed into something people could connect with …

The rest of our work is so distant and impersonal to most of the world. Go dig around where the permafrost is thawed, tell everyone about what climate change is revealing, what it’s doing to us and our world.

Noble, important work, right?

Yeah, well, most people don’t give a shit. And I want them to. I want people to care.

As a botanist, my enthusiasm for finding the plant was no surprise, but the whole team was intrigued by my discovery. Here was the seed to a species that no one alive has ever seen bloom. Aerides glacies orchidaceae, a flower so long extinct that we don’t even have any photographs.  Not just the seed either. But spores from the fungus it would need to penetrate its route systems to nourish its growth.

I just thought, if I could grow it, take my work out of the lab … Maybe people would care about it, care about the other things we’re finding, too.

I guess it worked.

Everyone knows about my ice orchid; a flower no one had seen or smelled in a hundred years.

Unfortunately, it’s killing them.

And I don’t know how to stop it.

 

Categories
Short Fiction Uncategorized Writing Challenges

Peace Is A Lie

I really didn’t want to wake up.

Well, that actually sounds kind of ominous. I didn’t want to wake up until I’d slept off the hangover I knew was coming my way.

But wake up I did.

Only to find my head trapped in some, hot, steamy hell of a head covering. I could feel its stiff edges resting against my collar bones and it’s weight bearing down on my head.

“What the actual … ?” I asked aloud, not expecting an answer, but also not expecting the hollow special-effect sound of my voice echoing around the damn thing.

I peeled my eyes all the way open and could sort of see out of two foggy orbs of darkened plastic.

Then I remembered.

Never let your younger brother challenge you to a holiday drinking game. His liver is in better shape than yours and his capacity for clearing a hangover is almost definitely higher. Plus, he’s been a little shit since he was three.

He proved me right as he bounded into the basement game room blaring the Star Wars theme from his phone.

I pulled the strange headgear off to glare at him and discovered it was a pretty authentic Stormtrooper mask. He beamed at my disgruntled expression. “How you feelin’, bruh?”

I rolled my eyes, even though it hurt. “Like maybe I wish I could Force choke your chipper ass into silence.”

He grinned and killed the music on his phone. “Alcohol is why they call today Revenge of the Fifth, dude.”

“Right.”

Fucker.

img_1431

 

Categories
Short Fiction Uncategorized Writing Challenges

Shaken By A Strong Wind

The dream had been plaguing me for days. I’d go to bed determined that this night would be different, that I’d break the cycle. But I couldn’t.

 

I should have paid more attention to what the dream was trying to tell me.

 

I’m in bed, and at first, I think I’m just waking up in the random way people do where we sigh and roll over and drift right back off. Then I realize that it’s cold.

 

My bedroom is never cold.

 

The heat must be broken. I reach over and shake my husband’s arm. “Joshua,” I whisper, not wanting to wake the girls sleeping next door. “The fire’s gone out again.”

Josh mumbles something unintelligible and throws an arm up over his face.

 

He’s been working so much. I decide I’ll just take care of it. I always get splinters when I fill the stove, but there are worse things.

 

I get up and slide on my robe. I tiptoe past the girls’ room and out into the living room to take care of the fire.

 

It’s too bright out there, but not because there are any lights on. The moon must be full, I think absently.

 

I nearly jump when I start to walk past the bay window and Rachel’s bell clear, but startlingly inflectionless, voice says, “Mamma, the stars went out.”

 

It takes a split second before I can breathe again. Then I answer. “Sweetie, you scared me half to death! What are you doing out of bed?”

 

Carolyn speaks then, sounding, as always, exactly like her twin. “The stars went out, and now they’re falling. We want to watch them burn it all up.”

 

Gooseflesh zings up and down my arms, my spine. I look out the window, past their identical white blonde heads stained lavender by the strange light pouring in the picture window.

And they’re right.

 

The stars are indeed falling from a sky that looks nothing like it could possibly belong to Earth.

 

The girls turn toward me then, and their light blue eyes are gone. All that’s left are puckering holes filled with the light from that alien sky.

 

It woke me up screaming every day for a week. Once I could breathe again, once I could stop sobbing in terror, I’d go make my coffee, regardless of the hour and be up for the day.

 

Why didn’t I seek comfort from Josh, or go check on my girls?

 

Because they don’t exist. And they never have.

 

I’ve never married, and I don’t intend to. I’ve certainly never had children. I can’t. And even if I could, I don’t think I’d want them.

 

Especially now.

 

Now that I know.

 

When the dream came to me again this morning, instead of getting up and making coffee, I lay in bed for a long time.

 

Thinking.

 

I finally got up a couple of hours later and dressed for a long hike. I even packed my backpack for one.

 

I walked straight through my silent living room, not looking left or right. I especially avoided looking at my bay window. It was no longer stacked with pillows as a reading nook. As the dream persisted, I started filling that shelf up with everything I could that would prevent anyone, including eyeless dream offspring, from sitting on it.

 

I walked out my front door, not bothering to lock it behind me. I knew with eerie certainty that locks stopped mattering sometime between the dark and the dawn.

 

I looked up and saw what I’d been both dreading and expecting.

 

The sky has gone purple.

 

The same purple as the eyes my twins didn’t have. My twins that don’t exist.

 

The stars aren’t falling yet. But I know they will.

 

I feel it.

 

Deep in my chest.

 

But I feel something else, too.

 

We might be able to stop it.

 

 

 

I’m sure as Hell going to try.

 

Categories
Uncategorized Writing Challenges

National Novel Writing Month

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I’m not normally one for pressure or deadlines on creativity, but this year I’m embracing NaNoWriMo, not as a means to write one fifty thousand word novel, but as a motivation to finish Book II, Before the Dawn, our sequel to Always Darkest. We have roughly that many words to go based on our best estimates. I’ve been a bit stalled due to an injury that makes sitting at the computer a bit of a challenge, but hurt or not, Ben and Mal won’t wait forever.

I just needed the right encouragement to get back at the keyboard, saddled up, ready to ride the wild software. So, if you’re thinking of writing, whether it’s for this November challenge or not, I want to offer you some encouragement as well.

Just write. If it’s crap, delete it afterward. Nobody is watching. Write smutty fan fic, write a poem or a pithy little haiku, write about your day and the guy who pissed you off by walking like a drunk turtle in front of you at the market.

It doesn’t matter.

Just do it. Do it until it’s an addiction. Do it until you can’t live without it.

Write until you can’t stop.

Then get up tomorrow, and do it again.

~ J

Categories
Short Fiction Uncategorized Writing Challenges

The Mirror ~ J

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I’m at my desk, obsessively proofreading, like any other morning. I notice I’ve accidentally used ‘their’ instead of ‘they’re’. Hell and damn. I guess that’s what you get for writing half asleep. I reach for my mouse to eradicate this grammatical travesty, instead coffee sloshes on my hand.

“Huh.”

It’s a surprised sort of sound.

I’d lost track of my surroundings. I glance down, admonishing myself to be more careful, and my stomach drops. Everything on my desk is reversed.

Not just out of place. A mirror image of what I’d sat down to.

I’m breathing faster, feeling panicky nervous sweat between my shoulder blades. I want to act, but I’m momentarily frozen.

What do you even do in this situation?

Then I start to calm down. Obviously I call 911 because clearly I’m having a stroke. Or maybe the day job finally caused that nervous breakdown I’m always joking about, haha. I get up slowly. The cat perched on the back of my chair is white with pink eyes.

My breathing picks up again.

Not hyperventilating, but damned close.

Then I see her.

In the mirror hanging on the wall opposite my writing desk, there is another me, sitting in my chair with everything looking the way it should. She glances over her shoulder, and meets my eyes. For a moment blue meets blue, then hers flash dangerous red. Through the glass I can make out the sounds of my family coming downstairs.

She smiles.

I see her teeth.

Categories
Arbitratus Short Fiction Short Fiction Uncategorized Writing Challenges

Nightmare

Another writing challenge prompt inspired me. This one happens in the universe of Always Darkest, sometime in the late spring.

Think of a word (any word you want) and search it on google images. Write something inspired by the 7th image. The word I chose was ‘nightmare’. This was the seventh image.

nightmare

He woke in the total dark of his bedroom and puffed out a sigh. He was probably up for the day now, if how heavily his heart was hammering away was any indication. The last wisps of the half-remembered nightmare still vying for his attention kept him from realizing how cold it was for a moment or two. Then, as he came more fully awake he shivered.

His blankets were probably all on the floor again. Thrashing himself into a state of no blankets had become all too common in the last few months. This had been one hell of a bad dream, too. At least the little flashes still dancing behind his closed eyes told him it must have been. He’d have to find his blankets and knew once he turned on the light, sleep was all over. He sighed again.

He rolled onto his back, pried his eyes open, and froze in instant horror.

His room was pitch black, not even the sparest light from the nightlight Chris always left on in the bathroom was cutting the velvety blackness around him. It was, however, being pierced by two laser points of reddish yellow light. They were unmistakably (to someone who had spent two thousand years in Hell anyway) the glowing eyes of an Ahemait.

The Ahemait were like the hunting dogs of Hell, seeking out and devouring those with hearts deemed unworthy. Ben was never sure who got to make that particular call, but to him it always seemed the Ahemait went after souls who were just trying to be decent in spite of being condemned to Hell. He’d worried they’d send one after him at some point for a while now.

He’d told himself a hundred times that the fear was ridiculous, that as far as Hell knew he was still their loyal soldier, sworn to execute his assigned duties to grow Hell’s numbers, and more recently to chase down the subject of the prophecy. But … But, but, but … He knew Bhaal suspected him. And it wasn’t below the god to go behind Lucifer’s back to rid himself of an annoyance.

He had a split second where he was glad that tonight was not one of the nights Mal had decided to stay. At least she was safe, in her bed, miles away.

When his eyes locked with the creature’s, it started to glow faintly. That’s when he could see it’s teeth for the first time. His hammering heart seemed to seize in his chest and he couldn’t catch his breath. He wondered if the dagger sitting on his nightstand would have any effect on this beast, wondered if it was possible to fight his way out. But at that moment he didn’t really believe he could move.

The beast took a lumbering step closer to the foot of his bed and blistering hot saliva dripped onto Ben’s exposed foot. The sizzle and immediate stinging pain was enough to break his paralysis and he reached out blindly in the dark, his hand closing over the cold handle almost instantly.

Unfortunately, even his demonically enhanced reflexes were tempered by his human form and the beast was on him before he could turn the knife toward it. He realized as its teeth tore into his flesh that it wasn’t here to extinguish him. It would keep him alive in the agony of being consumed for as long as it entertained it. After a while his own screams faded into the pain and even sound was just part of the tapestry of agony that could go on forever.

Ben bolted upright in bed, gasping. He realized he was in the larger bed they’d been sharing at Mal’s house. Then the rest of the evening came back to him and drove back the dream a little, let him start to catch his breath. Mal shifted next to him.

“Hey, are you okay?”

She was wide awake. He swallowed, feeling badly. She was already used to his nightmares disrupting her sleep and they hadn’t even been sharing a bed for all that long. “Mmmhmm,” he said, not trusting his voice to convince her it was true.

She sat up and turned on her light. “Nice try.”

He managed a slightly sheepish grin. “Okay … How about, I will be in a minute?”

She moved closer to him and put and arm around him, resting her head on his shoulder. “Mostly honest, I guess. I like Honest Ben.” She paused for a second. “What was this one about?”

He shivered. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

She nodded. “Okay. Do you want to go downstairs, and I’ll start the coffee, or do you want to try to go back to sleep?”

Ben glanced across the room at his phone on the charging station on Mal’s dresser. It was only about 3 a.m. “We can go back to sleep.” he said. “I’m fine,” he added sounding less certain than he would have liked.

She pulled away a little so she could look at his face and gave him a small smile.

“I doubt it,” she said. Then she echoed his words back to him. “But you will be in a minute.”

She got up and got the extra quilt off the chest at the foot of her bed and spread it over Ben, then climbed back in and waited until he lay back down, finally smiling a little as he looked up at her. She snuggled as close as it was physically possible to be and wrapped an arm around him, resting her head against the shoulder of the arm he slid underneath her.

“You don’t have to leave the light on.”

“I know … But sometimes it’s better when I do.”

He kissed the top of her head.

She knew.

She always knew when to leave the light on. He said so and she squeezed him tight. He was never going to have to deal with the dark alone again. Not if she had anything to say about it. She was going to say so, but she realized from the softening of his breath that he had already started to doze off.

“I love you,” she whispered.

She didn’t see it, because her face was pressed against his chest, but even in his sleep, even after the terror of that dream, those words made him smile.

~ End ~

 

For more of Mal and Ben, click here.

Categories
Fan Fic For Fun Short Fiction Writing Challenges

July 20, 2016 ~ JF

“Write a page long exchange between two very different people; no setting. Write only what they say, no setting, internal thinking, descriptions or actions.”

A little shipper fan fic for you today – totally sfw

“Penny…Penny…Penny…”

“Sheldon! It’s three o’clock in the morning!”

“Oh, good! You’re using the clock I got for you! I was afraid that because of when you came to dinner last night there was some difficulty with it.”

“No…No difficulty. My cell phone has a clock on it and works fine too you know.”

“I’m very happy to hear that. I was wondering because you didn’t answer it when I tried you an hour ago.”

“That’s because I was sleeping, Sheldon.”

“Oh…Well, so was I until an hour and five minutes ago.”

“What are you doing here, Sheldon?”

“I need you to wake Leonard. And then we need a ride.”

“At 3 in the morning.”

“Well, ideally at 2 in the morning, but since you didn’t answer your phone…”

“Sheldon! Why do you need a ride at 3 in the morning?”

“Oh, well…Amy’s water broke.”

Categories
Poetry Writing Challenges

July 18, 2016 ~ JF

“Write a free form poem about the formula for happiness.”

Formula for Happiness

You want to know how to be happy, do you?

A seeker, huh? Pursuer of that golden blessed state we all crave.

This isn’t going to be easy for you to hear, so I’m giving you a chance to walk away.

No? Still here?

Okay you asked for it.

If you want to be happy, you have to realize that you are going to die.

You’re dying right now, in fact.

Do you feel that?

Down in your guts?

Maybe at the base of your skull?

Those are Death’s cold and grasping fingers, just making sure he knows where you are.

And someday that bony hand is going to close over yours.

No future.

No past.

Just…whatever.

Still with me?

Whoa, you okay, buddy? Need to sit down a minute?

No? You’re good?

Great.

So, now that you get that, what is there?

Now.

This.

Moment.

Heart thumping in your chest, maybe next to the heart of another, if you are very very lucky.

There’s the way the sun kisses the clouds before it wakes up for the day; the moon rising to say good night to Brother Sun and they both hang in the sky for a few minutes.

Your cat’s tufty ears and her whiskers brushing your arm in the morning; your dog’s slobber when you come home.

Sheets fresh from the clothes line in spring; underwear fresh from the dryer on a winter’s day.

The smell of the earth after a rain; dew on the grass.

The first day of summer.

The silent sound that snow makes, muffling the world, softening it.

Hot chocolate and children’s voices calling out to home from the sledding hill.

Food.

Sex.

Love.

An embrace.

You can still have all of these things, but you have to appreciate each of them as they come.

And if you are very very brave.

You can have

This.

Moment.

Now.

 

 

Categories
Writing Challenges

July 11, 2016 ~ JF

“Write a list of 15 songs (like a mix tape) that you would use to tell someone you hate them. None of the songs can have “hate” or “you” in the title. Include links to each of the songs so people can listen to them.”

A Playlist for That Special Someone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSvFpBOe8eY&index=6&list=PL0520710630F13D85

Categories
Short Fiction Writing Challenges

July 9, 2016 ~ JF

“Think of a word. Search it on Google Images. Write something inspired by the 7th image.”

Plateau

She could hear the drone hovering, not that far overhead, so she knew the cameras were watching. Why had she agreed to this? Sure, if they won it would pay for the wedding, the honeymoon, hell, the everything, but she’d watched The Challenge before. She knew she was in for this at some point in the game. She looked up the rock face again, taking a long slow breath. Her cheeks felt cold. She wondered if the cameras could see just how pale and sweaty she was. If they could, it would certainly be part of the clips tonight. Revealing a weakness to her competitors was not an idea that she relished. She glanced at Drew. He was calmly laying out and inspecting the climbing equipment that had arrived with the Challenge Envelope this morning. Right now she envied his military experience and wondered if he felt as unbothered as he looked. He felt her eyes on him and looked up, eyebrows climbing just a little to express his concern, but keeping the cocky smile that had quickly made their team a fan favorite.

“You okay, Reggie?”

She swallowed hard, nodded, and then smiled back. “Yeah. Million bucks, right?

“Right.” He gave her that look, the one that said if these rocks were made of rusty nails, he’d carry her up them if she needed him to, but also told her that he knew she didn’t.

They spent a few minutes dealing with the daunting equipment. Reg didn’t even know what half of it was called, although he’d coached her as much as he could during their approach. They knew they had the lead, but it wasn’t by a lot. Screwing around or stalling could cost them their place in the top three. No way was she going to let that happen. They’d been through too much already in this game. And she’d asked him to do this. He was sort of shy, definitely not one for cameras or performing, but had reluctantly agreed, knowing that the money could give them the start they both wanted. Everything was ready. The cameras were close now, stirring the dust behind them. As they always did before starting one of the Challenges, they put their arms around each other and kissed. It was for the cameras in a way, but it was still a good kiss, and gave them just enough privacy to check in.

Putting his mouth right next to her ear, Drew whispered, “Can you really do this?”

She nodded, just a little, and whispered back, “”Course I can. This is all us.”

He pulled away grinning and started up the rock face with the practiced ease of an experienced climber, his weekends of recreational search and rescue paying off in his rapid ascent. After a few minutes the expected rope dropped down from the first good ledge. She took a minute to go over everything he’d said this morning, determined to be at the top celebrating the second to last challenge before anyone else finished the approach. Drew knew even open stairs made Reggie nearly panic and had offered to back out as soon as he’d opened the envelope in their hotel room. She’d just said he was a climber and she knew he’d get her through it. She’d talked him threw the underground tunnels last week; almost certain he was going to call an end to things at any minute in the oppressive, cramped, sweaty, dark. She owed him this. He said he’d coach her through the handholds, tell her when she had a good foothold so she didn’t ever have to look down. “Just keep your eyes on me, on your hands. I’d never let you fall.”

That one sentence summed both of them up really. Remembering gave her what she needed to get her feet moving.

Reggie stepped up to the rock face, clipping in just like he’d showed her this morning, checking the connection. Her mouth was dry, but she managed, “On belay?”

She thought she sounded all right, a little shaky maybe, but the wind had picked up a little, so maybe the cameras had missed it. After he rechecked everything, Drew called down, “Belay on!”

One last deep breath. She felt a lot more confident than she expected. This was so in the bag. Acrophobia be damned. “Climbing!”

She could hear him grinning as he called down to her, knowing the cameras were pulling in tight on his dimpled smile. His ‘I love you’ was implicit in his voice, “Climb on!”