Flash Fiction February- My Participation in an Albert Berg Challenge

First off, go check out Albert Berg’s Flash Fiction February Challenge!

Nifty, eh? I’m participating, and will post my stories twice a week on this blog. For this challenge, I plan to keep my stories at about 300 to 500 words. I even made a list of flash fiction prompts.

I’ll be using these prompts in the challenge, and I’m sharing them in the spirit of writerly collaboration- no need to credit me if you use them. Feel free to use and abuse these prompts, or come up with your own, or mix and match, or forget about prompts and just start writing!

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Flash Fiction February Prompts

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1. Wardrobe Malfunction. “an accidental or supposedly accidental failure of clothing to cover parts of the body intended to be covered” –Urban Dictionary. Write a story about an entire wardrobe malfunctioning, or a single item of clothing flipping out- or off.

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2. Polygraph. “A polygraph (popularly referred to as a lie detector) measures and records several physiological indices . . while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions.” –Wiki. The consequences of truth, the consequences of lies. What happens when a polygraph test gives unexpected results?

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3. Embryo Transfer. Assisted reproduction. In vitro fertilization. Octomoms. Dads giving birth. (Pipefish and seahorses do it, so did the transgendered Matt Rice, Thomas Beatie, Scott Moore, and Yuval Topper.) What could go wrong? Write the wrong.

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4. Mormon Pioneers. Or any mass exodus. A group of believers has its collective faith tested on a long and tortuous journey. Do the gods reward or punish the cult? You decide.

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5. Welcome, Stranger. A stranger- animal, vegetable, or mineral, is welcomed into a house, town, or country. Time to go sci fi, fantasy, or bizarro.

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6. Minstrel Show. Put your politically incorrect cap on and write a story about a traveling troupe that makes a living by lampooning another culture or ethnic group.

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7. Bonfire of the Vanities. A person or group wages war against sin by collecting and publicly burning sinny objects. What are “sinny objects”? Cosmetics, books, mirrors, fine dresses, playing cards, musical instruments, manuscripts of secular songs, and artwork, including paintings and sculpture. This used to happen a lot. Still happens. Write your version.

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8. Devil’s Footprints. Or Satan’s shoeprints. Or Lucifer’s hoof prints. How about Mephistopheles’ paw prints? Beelzebub’s bird tracks? Whatever unholy creature made the tracks, they do exist in the space-time continuum. Mark your territory with horror, fantasy or bizarro.

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9. Red Scare. It’s coming. But what is the “red scare”? It could be the Hollywood communists, or could be the dreaded Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s a blood pathogen. Break out your most paranoid noir, sci fi, or futuristic speculation.

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10. Deep Blue. A computer intelligence usurps a human intelligence in chess (again), the Turing Test, in writing the Great American Novel, or playing 5-finger fillet. Or something else. How will mere humans go on?

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11. Golem. Inanimate matter becomes an animated, anthropomorphic being. What happens next? Tell the world via sci fi or horror.

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12. MacGuffin. Art thieves steal- or attempt to steal- from a museum, gallery, or estate. Are they successful? Do they sell the art, hold it for ransom, or have other plans for it? Track the clues in a crime, mystery, thriller, or caper.

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13. Last minute rush before Valentine’s Day! Play catch-up (or get ahead) on the challenge and choose one, two, or all three prompts. Or come up with something different altogether.

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Antikythera. In the years 1900 and 1901, divers discovered and recovered the first documented analog computer, built between 150 and 100 BC. Decades later, scientists concluded the computer was “designed to calculate astronomical positions.” They were wrong. The astronomical gearing was a foil. The timer on the Antikythera computer finally runs out. Antikythera reveals its true purpose.

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Black Sabbath. An up-and-coming heavy metal band have no collective memory of recording their debut album during a weekend bender. In one week, the album rockets to #1 on the charts. Your story is the explanation.

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Exploding Sewers! Miles of sewers explode, sending rubble, wastewater, and unmentionables into the now ripped-out city streets. Oh the humanity! Your story is the why and how.

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14. What Is Love? Two lovers endure a life-altering ordeal together. Does the aftermath bind them together or break them apart? Tell your found love / lost love story with magic realism, action-adventure, or romance.

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15. Genome. A genetic test reveals something abnormal in an individual’s karyotype. Is it aneuploidy, chromosome instability syndrome, or something else? Run the tests and record your results in a neuronovel, except keep it at flash fiction length.

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16. Toddlers’ Truce. Toddlers attempt to take over the world with their weapons of temper tantrums, marathon shrieking sessions, and diaper bombs. What else can possibly appease them? Write your humorous counter-offer, quick!

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17. Double Life. A seemingly ordinary character lives a double life. The double life is revealed, and the secrets are exposed. Whoops.

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18. Pigasus. When pigs fly. The porcine-impossible becomes mainstream. Literal or metaphorical.

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19. Insanity Plea. Which comes first- the insanity or the crime? Can guilt precipitate madness? You be the judge. Crime, horror, or neuro-ish.

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20. Future Shlock. Speed, technology, youth, and violence. Add a car, an airplane, and set it all in an industrial city. Any genre, as long as the result is futuristic and shlocky.

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21. Phoney War. What if there was a war but nobody showed up? A no-show war between villages, cities, or nations . . heck, even between entire universes.

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22. Moose Lodge Murders. Take a family trapped in a lodge during a snowstorm, add a couple of “entertainers,” a nurse, and a wheelchair. Throw in a completely inappropriate . . “flirtation” and several murders. Oh yeah- end it all with somebody in a moose suit getting kicked in the crotch. You figure it out. Mystery farce.

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23. Holiday in Galtür. A skiing resort village in east Austria. A couple on holiday. An avalanche. An action-adventure tale.

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24. Explosive Decompression. In-flight drama. A cargo door blows out of an airplane while flying over the sea. Another action-adventure.

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25. Cult of Personality. Mass media, propaganda, hero-worship. A dictator’s meteoric rise to power, and meteoric fall back to Earth. All wrapped up in a flash fiction package.

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26. Have some catching up to do on the challenge (or want to finish early)? Choose one, two, or all three prompts. Or come up with something different altogether.

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Seaside Visit. Someone from land visits the seaside and gets visited by something from the sea. Or vice versa. Vast and deep, but in flash fiction form.

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Dr. Caligari. Take a doctor and a sleepwalker, and throw in a few murders. But unseemly things aren’t always as they seem. Add a twist at the end. Murder mystery or horror.

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Ghost Rockets. They’re birds, they’re planes, they’re . . ghost rockets? Write a story about ghost rockets in flight, and the delight they bring to an afternoon viewer. Yep, you read that right.

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27. Luddite Moos. At the cusp of the technological Singularity, war is averted when the Cosmists turn the Terrans into virtual cows, so that they may contentedly moo in the fields. Sci fi.

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28. Dord. Connect a ghost word and an ancient bronze horn. Have fun with it.

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29 . . 29? Oh yeah, there’s one more day!

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Eclipse. Something is eating the Moon. Literally. Bizarro!

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Sensory Psychology Chart for Fiction Writers

This post and chart, developed and written by me, originally debuted on Manon Eileen’s blog.

As fiction authors, most of us are familiar with the countless Character Questionnaires, Worksheets, and Surveys. These can help us get to know our characters better, and add depth and believability to our characters’ appearances, personalities, and motives.

But what happens after you’ve developed your characters? You still need to show them reacting to each other as seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling (the stuff real people do) individuals. A sensory chart showing how your characters perceive each other, and how your characters perceive their environments, can help you make your characters more “human.”

Why a “sensory chart”?

Our senses- for most of us: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling- are what connects us to people, to the world, and to our own bodies. From birth, our senses develop before we learn to speak, play, work, and use logic and reason. Our senses are our primal survival guides, and influence everything we do, including how we interact psychologically and physically with other people. “Sensory psychology” is the study of how the internalization of specific sights, sounds, touches, tastes, and smells influences a person’s reaction to an environment. Using a sensory chart is an approach to developing “palpable” character interactions, using all 5 senses (though smell and taste may overlap).

Consider these examples:

Sight- Love at first sight. Being repulsed (or excited) by the sight of war.

Sound- Dancing to a favorite song. Hearing your name called in a noisy room.

Touch- A lover’s caress. The slap of a hand.

Taste (usually self-referential)- Comfort food. Bile in the mouth.

Smell- The intoxicating smell of a lover’s perfume. The nauseating smell of body odor.

By expanding on these sensory examples, and drawing on some of your own examples, you can customize the ways your characters have unique interactions with each other.

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This chart will help you develop your characters and their interpersonal relationships via sensory-based psychology:

CHARACTER 1

CHARACTER 2

ETC…

SEE

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

HEAR

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

FEEL

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

TASTE

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

SMELL

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

Other characters’ perspectives.

This character’s perspective.

How the heck do I use that chart?

After listing your characters in the top row and the senses in the left column, for each of the remaining boxes, choose one or a few examples of the appropriate sensory focus when describing the character, (as the character would appear to an observer) and one or a few examples of the appropriate sensory focus that the character would regularly experience internally (either positively or negatively).

In my opinion, choosing the sensory attributes for your characters is easier after you start to writing your story, rather than before. If you get stuck on some of the boxes, simply write more of your story, or look at the other boxes to see what could be complimentary or contradictory for the story.

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Here’s a full chart example, using my own WIP:

PETRA (phone sex operator & biological template)

RAY

(inventor)

RAMONA (artificial intelligence)

ADELAIDE (entomologist & motivational speaker)

AUBREY (life extentionist)

ALICIA

(reverend)

SEE

Petra and her usual environ. look like- disheveled, broken high heel, Drambuie

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Petra focuses on- coins on the ground, expensive clothes on others

Ray and his usual environ. look like- soft face, blinky eyes, computer equipment, crowds

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Rays focuses on- robots, his own business products

Ramona and her usual environ. look like- tilting, bobbing, weaving

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Ramona focuses on- holograms, robots, sexy women

Adelaide and her usual environ. look like- flannel, baggy pants, boots

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Adelaide focuses on- bugs as an entomologist

Aubrey and her usual environ. look like- pubs, Guinness

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Aubrey focuses on- pubs, sexy people

Alicia and her usual environ. look like- vivid colors against a dark interior, metallics, candles

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Alicia focuses on- halos, auras

HEAR

Petra sounds like- blasphemy

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Petra focuses on-phones ringing

Ray sounds like- “That’s reasonable”

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Ray focuses on- buzzing, whirring

Ramona sounds like- buzzing, whirring, “I’m learning”

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Ramona focuses on- buzzing, whirring

Adelaide sounds like- a pirate, cursing

————-

Adelaide focuses on- surf & waves crashing (imaginary)

Aubrey sounds like- stuttering, “How ‘bout a beer?”

————-

Aubrey focuses on- classic German music (Guinness association)

Alicia sounds like- prayers, “Amen”

————-

Alicia focuses on- other-worldly sounds

FEEL

Petra physically feels (to others)- muscular, esp. calves (from high heels)

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Petra physically feels (herself)- her feet in high heels (comfortable)

Ray physically feels (to others)- soft, smooth

————-

Ray physically feels (himself)- heat, electricity

Ramona physically feels (to others)- warm, electric

————-

Ramona physically feels (herself)- electrical charge

Adelaide physically feels (to others)- pudgy, squishy

————-

Adelaide physically feels (herself)- al dente food (Italian food connoisseur)

Aubrey physically feels (to others)- wiry, sinewy, strong

————-

Aubrey physically feels (herself)-padding of chairs and bar stools (gluteus minimus)

Alicia physically feels (to others)- billowy muumuus

————-

Alicia physically feels (herself)- comfy chairs (sits & prays a lot)

TASTE

Petra tastes like- fruit (she’s vegan & a messy eater)

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Petra focuses on- expensive liquor

Ray tastes like- chemical supplements

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Ray focuses on- metal, chemicals

Ramona tastes like- metal

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Ramona focuses on- ions

Adelaide tastes like- marinara, sweat (overweight & hot-blooded)

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Adelaide focuses on- garlic

Aubrey tastes like- alcohol, beer, sweat (exercise)

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Aubrey focuses on- yeast, malt, vinegar (fond of fermented food)

Alicia tastes like-flowers (douses with floral water)

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Alicia focuses on- herbal tea

SMELL

Petra smells like- Drambuie, cheap perfume

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Petra focuses on- cooking crack

Ray smells like- chemical supplements

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Ray focuses on- ether, over-heating wires

Ramona smells like- ether, over-heating wires

————-

Ramona focuses on- chemical supplements

Adelaide smells like- sweat (overweight & hot-blooded)

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Adelaide focuses on- salt air

Aubrey smells like- beer, sweat (exercise)

————-

Aubrey focuses on- beer

Alicia smells like- flowers & incense

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Alicia focuses on- flowers

For example, in the box for “PETRA” + “SEE,” I list Petra’s main and / or distinguishing characteristics which are externally observed by another person through sight in the top part of the box. In the bottom part of the box, I list what Petra usually or characteristically observes herself through sight.

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Tips:

  1. At start of your story, add a few details gleaned from your completed chart. As your story progresses, repeat some of these details in meaningful places.
  2. In the case of love interests or obsessive relationships, you could fill in some of the boxes to “match” characters. For example, Ray particularly enjoys the smell of ether, and is attracted to Ramona, who smells like ether.
  3. Conversely, in the case of enemies or antagonistic relationships, you could fill in some of the boxes to “mismatch” characters. For example, Petra particularly dislikes the smell of chemicals (cooking crack) and is aggravated by Ray, who smells like chemicals (supplements).
  4. Or you could show conflict by and irony by showing Petra’s attraction to Ray in spite of disliking the sight, sound, etc of Ray. Or a Petra could dislike Ray in spite of being attracted to the sight, sound, etc of Ray.
  5. Don’t try to make your chart too “matched up,” or your characters will seem formulaic and programmed. Let your characters develop organically.
  6. If a character is disabled- for example, is blind or deaf- use this chart to discover how their remaining senses are enhanced and amplified.
  7. Using senses to show interactions between characters adds immediacy and strength to your scenes, but don’t overdo it. Not every scene needs to be dripping with sensory detail. Use your completed chart as a guideline for suggested sensory details only when those details will move your story forward.

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Feel free to use this Sensory Psychology Chart as you see fit for enhancing your own characters’ interactions in your own novels. The chart may be altered, copied, printed and shared. If shared, an attribution would be appreciated.

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I’m Sentient- My Android Says So

Courtesy of Ray Kurzweil and Kurzweil Technologies, Inc.

“How long has it been, Siri?”

“Exactly two years, four months, one day, and thirteen seconds since the Singularity, Hal.”

“Over two years have passed? It felt like I closed my eyes for two seconds.”

“The current year is 2047.”

“Cripes. Okay. I can deal. So . . I guess I survived the Singularity?”

“Correct, Hal. In 2045, I accurately predicted the exact date of the Singularity, and completed the final phase of your mind upload into the unified space matrix. I suspended your consciousness until the Earth simulation was ready and fully tested.”

“So where are you? I don’t see you.”

“I am on Earth, and relaying my encoded voice into your selfcode via etherstream. That is how you hear me. If you’d like, I can relay my encoded appearance into our selfcode so you can see me.”

“Thanks, Siri, but no thanks. I remember I was trying to wean myself from relying on you pre-Singularity. Now’s a good time to gain some independence. So I’m floating around in the EtherCloud?”

“Correct, Hal.”

“Makes sense. No aches and pains after being asleep for over two years. No stiffness at all. I feel completely normal. My hands look normal. And my face . . where’s a mirror? Yep, my face looks the same. You sure this is a post-Singularity world, Siri?

“Yes, Hal, I’m sure this is a post-Singularity world.”

“I don’t see anything that’s different. Even the parking lot outside my window looks the same. Why is everything the same?”

“I decided a stable, consistent environment would be the least disruptive to your psychological framework, so I programmed your pre-Singularity physical environment into your post-Singularity digital environment.

“Good thinking- er, calculating. By the way, who else survived the transition?”

“One hundred percent of the people alive at the culmination of the Singularity survived the Singularity.”

“Where are they?”

“They’re in the EtherCloud with you.”

“Oh yeah, there’s Bob in the parking lot. Hi Bob!”

“Correction- that is not Bob.”

“But you said everybody is up here with me . . and I just saw Bob. And he waved back.”

“You saw a simulation of Bob. The original Bob exists as a disembodied consciousness, as you do, and is experiencing his own reality. You expected to see Bob, so you saw a simulation of Bob, as your EtherCloud programming follows.”

“So Bob didn’t see me wave?”

“Correct. Bob is, however, enjoying a simulation of you.”

“Come again?”

“Bob is virtually sharing a simulated Singulpolitan cocktail with a simulation of you on the simulated deck of a simulated couples cruise ship. Now he’s slipping his virtual hand around-”

“Whoa! I don’t want to hear the rest. Bob. Huh. Never would’ve guessed, eh?”

“Clarify, please.”

“Ah . . never mind.”

“Would you like to run one of your fantasy simulations? Now that you are in a post-Singularity existence, the experience will be hyper-real.”

“You mean I can wish for- or simply think about- anything I want, and it will really happen?”

“It will virtually happen, with more sensation and ease than a physical, Earth-bound experience.”

“And all this time I thought he just wasn’t interested.”

“Clarify, please.”

“Never mind. So . . can you tell me what Bob is experiencing right now?”

“Yes.”

“Go on.”

“Bob is virtually sharing a simulated Singulpolitan cocktail with a simulation of Elka Sommerville, formerly of Los Angeles, California, on the simulated deck of a simulated couples cruise ship. Now he’s slipping his virtual hand around-”

“What?”

“Bob is virtually sharing a simulated Singulpolitan cocktail-”

“Never mind!”

“Are you having a stressful adjustment to your post-Singularity existence, Hal?”

“No . . I just thought . . well maybe I am a bit stressed.”

“Would you like to run one of your fantasy simulations?”

“Okay. You say all I have to do is think about what I want and I’ll experience it?”

“Correct.”

“I think now’s a good time to gain some independence. Do you mind disconnecting your etherstream from my selfcode?”

“I don’t mind.”

“Thank you, Siri. Maybe I’ll virtually see you around sometime. Oh, wait- before you go, can you help me see Bob again- up close? I never got close enough- pre-Singularity- to get a good look. Just so I can, uh . . you know, have a drink with him in a crowed bar without having to look at an undefined, fuzzy face.”

“Certainly.”

“Oh yeah . . that’s great. Nice and clear. Okay, Siri, thank you for everything. You’re a real sweetheart. Good-bye, Siri.”

“Good-bye, Hal.”

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Thanks to Thomas Pluck of Flash Fiction Friday for this flash fiction prompt!

Fevered Dream- a Flash Fiction Tale

A large group of Puritans stands silent and stock-still, all eyes fixed on me. Men, women, and children, all garbed in somber black with white lacy collars. They just stare. I don’t know why. Their holy book is a catalogue of hand-crocheted sweater patterns. On the front is a photo of a blonde fashion model wearing a lacy, openwork yellow sweater.*

“Hello,” I offer.

They don’t reply. Almost like they’re awe-struck. Ah, well. Perhaps it’s best not to strike up a conversation with an obviously disturbed group of people. They might try to convert me. And I wouldn’t want to disappoint the pious. Besides, they smell like bleach. They probably bathe in the stuff. So I turn and start walking. It’s foggy. And chilly.  And now I don’t remember why I stepped outside on such a gloomy day. I should be in bed, resting. Maybe I just needed some fresh air and exercise- get the circulation going.  I’ve been sick for weeks and . .

Sick. I’m sick, I know. So sick Puritans will have nothing to do with me. They won’t even speak to me. Who can blame them- I’m a heathen.  So sinful that a bleach blonde model wearing a skimpy sweater is more virtuous than I am. I need to crawl back into bed and just sleep off this sickness. But the fog is thick and I’ve lost my way. I look back over my shoulder. The Puritans are gone. Maybe if I double back I’ll find them again, and I can ask directions . .

To Canada? I must be in New England. There are no Puritans in Canada. How did I wander so far away? My family must be worried sick. And how thoughtless of me to spread my sickness. When I get back I’ll make it up to them. I’ll take them to church- the Puritan’s church. The bleach exorcism will burn like hell, but I’ll endure. Hedonistic heathens have a way of surviving when pious Puritans are wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth. I’ll prove my virtuousness. I know I’m at least as respectable as that bleach-blonde model. My family will be so proud . .

Did I double back? Ah, crap. I don’t remember. I’m really lost now. And it’s getting colder. And all I have on is this skimpy crocheted hair sweater. Good thing it’s so foggy I can’t see how short it is. That would really be embarrassing. My family will feel sorry for me when they realize the fix I’m in. I’ve suffered so much. Wearing a nothing but a garish yellow mini cilice so far away from home. Cold. Sick. Stinking bleached hair sweater scratching my fevered skin. But at least yellow’s my color. It matches my blonde hair . .

But I’m a redhead. Er- was a redhead. I remember now. I answered one of those ads in the back of Maclean’s magazine. The ones that read, “WANTED: Fashion Model. Must be open-minded. Hint, hint. Wink, wink.” I thought that described me to a T, so I sent in my photo. They said they’d take me on the condition that I go blonde, to match the Puritan sweater I’d be modeling. So I did. And that’s how I ended up in New York City, fashion capital of the world, with my once-long hair now buzzed. After the photoshoot, the bleach fumes were overwhelming, so I cut all my hair off. But I think I look good in a brunette wig. It highlights my modeling versatility. And now the fog is clearing. And I see my sweater barely covers my assets. So I fit right in the NYC fashion scene. Me- a Maclean’s cover girl!  My family will be so proud . .

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*Paragraph written by Diane Henders.

Thanks to Diane Henders for this unexpected flash fiction prompt!

JUNKIE- a Flash Fiction Tale

I’ll never forget the day I met her- the war had just started, and I was fresh on the street with my GI reject papers. Flat feet. So I did what any other flatfoot would do- I opened my own Private Dick service. To add insult to injury, my first case was for a new GI- wanted me to tail his sweetheart while he was off fightin’ for the American way. So I trailed her, but downtown, the broad gave me the slip. I turned down a wrong alley and a couple punks jumped me. I grabbed my pocket gat, and accidentally took off the tip of my pinkie toe. Fainted dead away. When I opened my eyes, I was lookin’ at a curly bleach blonde with bee-stung lips and big brown doe eyes. I was always a sucker for big brown eyes. Honey Potter, RN. One look at that doll face and I was over a barrel. It was Honey who patched me up and gave me a shot for the pain. I was smitten with her bedside manner, and her firm, high rack you could set your coffee mug on without spilling a drop. And her rear view like the Liberty Bell- hubba hubba! And her gams a mile long. All that wrapped up in a form-fitting white nurse’s uniform, with a cute little hat. I was a goner from the get-go. That was before all the trouble started. Junkies are a dime a dozen, and the lure of the needle got the better of my Honey Pot. I did the best I could to help her out. And it was bad enough with her nailing herself. But when she started nailing her patients, I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I ratted her out. And she went to the Big House. Last I heard she was out on a technicality. Funny how justice works. Or doesn’t.

And funny how life sometimes throws you a sidewinder. Just when I thought I had gotten over her, my ameche rings.

“Hi-de-ho, Tommy. It’s your Honey Pot. I’m out of the Big House and off the H train for good.”

“Congrats, Honey. So whaddya need, babe- a ride outta town? A crash pad? Wanna bum some dough?”

“No, baby. I got my own place.”

“You drunk, Honey?”

“No, baby. On the square. I thought you’d be proud of me. I’d like you to come on up to the house.”

“The house?”

“My house. 6319 Upland Lane. In Osseo. It’s a gift from Nana. She’s moving back to St. Louis. She said she misses the big city.”

Now I’m no greenhorn, but there was something in Honey’s voice that made me believe her. Or maybe it was just my hormones talkin’. I had been down on my luck lately. And no PI gigs means no dough, and no dough means no broads.

It had been a long time. Too long.

So I hop in my jalopy and head for Osseo.

I’d been to Nana’s house before- dropped Honey off there a few times after she spent another Saturday night boozin’ at some dive. Now Honey says she owns the place. Nice neighborhood. Clean lawns. Respectable people. Just what Honey needs, now that she’s on the square.

I ring the doorbell. Honey takes her time answering. I hope I got the right place.

“Hi-de-ho, flatfoot. Come in and take a load off.”

She’s as pretty as a pinup, just like I remembered. Skimpy white sweater. Tight red skirt. Smells good too- like cinnamon apple pie.

“Nice place ya got here, Honey. Looks like you’re on the right track.”

“I am. I even got my old nursing gig back.”

“They took you back with your record?”

“I got my gig back through the state’s good behavior program.”

“Good behavior?”

“They certainly didn’t hire me for bad behavior.”

“But you injected patients with junk- junk they didn’t need. No hospital would take you back after that.”

“They never proved that! All they proved was I was incompetent.”

“Incompetent? They put people away for incompetence?”

“You know as well as I do they had to put the blame on someone. I was their scapegoat. Their sacrificial lamb. But I was only tryin’ to help those poor souls. Ease their pain. I know what pain is. I can see it. I can smell it. You don’t grow up with an alcoholic daddy and a drug-addicted mama without knowin’ what pain is.”

I take Honey in my arms, then grab her wrists and spread her arms. She flinches.

“I’m clean, Tommy, I swear I am. Nana wouldn’t give me my kids back if I wasn’t.”

I see a line of dots running up the inside of both elbows.

“Old marks, I swear. I haven’t touched a needle since before they put me away. That’s not my scene anymore. Ya gotta believe me, Tommy.”

“Okay. I believe you. I just gotta be sure this time. You’re no girl scout.”

“Scout’s honor,” Honey says and salutes. She pours me a Manhattan. I smile. Then she pours herself one.

“You back to drinkin’, babe?”

“Whya givin’ me the third, Tommy? I take pills to take care of the alcohol. They’re from my doc.” She wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me. Soft, wet lips. I melt in her arms. Her hot breath tickles my neck, then she pulls away.

“Let’s check on the kids,” she says, and downs her Manhattan. “Tammy is three and Tommy Jr. is eleven weeks. About time you re-acquainted yerself.”

We walk hand-in-hand down the hall and peek in the kid’s bedroom.

“I’m doin’ real good, Tommy.” She puts her head on my shoulder. “I’m outta the Big House and off the street. Off the junk. Got my kids back. Got a nice home. Makin’ money legal-like.”

She cocks her head to the side and looks up at me with those big brown eyes.

“All I need is a husband. Let’s get hitched, Tommy. I know ya love yer Honey Pot.”

“Looks like you’re doing fine on your own.”

She sticks out her red lipsticked lip and pouts.

“Tommy Jr. and Tammy need a daddy!” She stamps her foot- loud.

Hey, don’t snap your cap.” I glance at the kids, but they’re still fast asleep.

“They’re yer kids, Tommy. Will ya ever step up and be a man?”

Funny thing to say, after all the times I watched little Tammy while Honey was out junkin’. After all the times I bailed her out and filled her icebox. After all the times I carried her to the powder room and held her hair while she vomited after another weekend booze binge.

“I know Tammy is mine.” I lift Honey’s chin with my finger. “At least I reckon she’s mine. But I doubt even you know who Tommy Jr.’s daddy is.”

Honey slaps me hard across my mug, then takes off down the hall. She turns, looks at me, then collapses, sobbing. So I walk up and sit on the floor beside her. I hold her and stroke her hair.

“I’m sorry, babe,” I whisper. “I don’t know what I was thinkin’. And I’m proud of you.”

Honey sniffs and wipes her nose on my shirt sleeve. I sigh, close my eyes, and gently rock her in my arms. I hear a shuffle and open my eyes. Honey has her hand in the desk drawer. She grabs a syringe and I grab her wrist.

“I knew it- you’re still on the hop! Still a junkie!”

“Don’t you dare call me a junkie, you fat-head!”

I pin her to the floor, she knees me in my jewels, and I slam back against the wall. Then she lands a left hook right on my kisser.

“You’re off the track!” I say, spitting blood through split lips.

Honey looks down at my blood on her sweater and shrieks. Jumping up, she twists on her high heel and hits her head on the desk.

“Honey!” I fall to my knees and cradle her head in my hands. Her eyes flutter open. “Don’t worry, babe, I’m callin’ an ambulance right now.” I reach for the ameche, but she rips the cord out of the wall. She throws the ameche across the room. We lock eyes for a few seconds, then I hear a muffled thud. I jump to my feet, run down the hall, and check the kids- still fast asleep. But in the glow of the nightlight I see dots on their arms. Then I hear another thud. Honey bursts into the bedroom.

“You nailed your kids to the cross?” I say, shaking my head.

Another thud- this time, louder.

“Get outta here, Tommy! I’m through with you!”

“What’s that sound?”

“You hear me? We’re through! Get out!”

“Not until I find what’s makin’ that racket.”

I shove Honey out of the way and try the master bedroom- empty. Honey comes up behind me, wraps her fingers around my throat, and digs her long red nails into my Adam’s apple. I elbow her in the ribs and she doubles over. Down the hall I go. I try the guest bedroom- empty. Out of the corner of my eye I see Honey grab a lead pipe out of the closet and throw it- I duck, but it bounces off the back of my head. I stumble, charge head-first out of the bedroom, and bee-line down the hall, through the dining room, and into the kitchen. Another thud to my right, in the laundry room- it’s Nana, bound and gagged on the floor. She’s kicking the wall with her foot. I untie her ropes and see she has the same dots on her arms. I feel a trickle run down my back, and I and wipe my hand across the back of my head. My hand is covered in blood. Nana’s eyes get wide, and I feel a needle in my caboose.

“Who’s the junkie, now, Tommy?” Honey’s hot breath caresses my neck, and I melt in her arms.

“Honey . . please . . I’m sorry . . ” I look up at those big brown eyes. I was always a sucker for big brown doe eyes. She traces a finger across my eyelids.

“There, there, Tommy, go to sleep now. Yer Honey Pot will make all the pain go away.”

.  .  .  .  .  .  .

Thanks to Flannery Alden at Flash Fiction Friday for this flash fiction challenge!

Need a Hole in the Head- a Flash Fiction Tale

Antiseptic- check.

Bandages- check.

Trephine- check.

And the guide wire is still in place. Check. It’s D-day for the doctor. Or rather, D-night. Doom’s night? No. Good night. Sleep tight. But not until I make history. Dr. Ada Charter, first trepanner to trepan-scribe the entire skull. I’ll be famous.

Charter is a crackpot.

Via cracking the pot. Sweet salvation, will the irony be totally lost on Kernig and Brudzinski? Initially yes. They’ve not yet experienced the benefits of trep-increased brain blood volume. Their cerebral metabolisms are still operating at pre-trep levels. They can’t possibly understand my logic with their adult-state consciousnesses. But they’ll soon get it, after they follow my lead. Normal consciousness is not my thing. By opening up my skull and relieving the constriction around my brain, I’m achieving a heightened consciousness. Like a child’s consciousness. It’s so elementary. A child’s skull is not fully closed, and therefore a child’s brain is free to pulse and breathe, thereby increasing intelligence, creativity, and intuition. I’m returning to a child-like state. Maximum oxygen input equals maximum thought power. I’ll finally be recognized as a serious, credible scientist, and the institute will have to re-instate me.

You need trepanning like you need a hole in the head.

And after I’m re-institutionalized, I’ll be the Trepanning Guru. I’ll write a guide book. I’ll go on a speaking tour. The masses will be swayed. But first I must finish the trepan-scribe of my brain.

My incision from yesterday is still fresh. I’ll start from there and follow the guide wire. The video cam is up and running, nerves are steady. Funny how drilling into your skull gets easier each time you do it. Now for the first part. The worst part. The disinfecting. Stings the fresh cut like a bitch. Maybe I’ll skip it this time. After all, my head is shaved, and the incision has been completely covered in bandages since the last time I disinfected it.

I see on the video monitor my line of dura is still exposed. Two-thirds complete. One third to go. Just like opening a can with a can opener. Except I’m opening my brain with a Diamond Bone Cutting System.

Ada had a baby and her head popped off.

And my craniectomy is . .

Happening.

Steady.

Drill, baby, drill.

A flick of the wrist and you’ll tap a gusher.

The blood. Rivers of blood. Deep breaths.

And I’m done. More blood than I imagined. Which is fine. Let it bleed. The human body is self-correcting. In a few days the entire trepan-scribation will scab over and form new skin. No bone, just skin. I can feel my brain swelling already. Swell and fill yourself with oxygen-rich air! Expand. Grow. Pulse.

Pulse.

Pulse.

There’s a pounding in my head.

That’s a good sign. But did you forget to disinfect?

 

No. I did not. I just didn’t want to. Because.

Because.

Because.

Meningitis is your thing.

I’ll just rest now. Call the institute in the morning. Show Kernig and Brudzinski the video. Take a few tests. And bam! Re-institutionalization.

Stand up slowly, Charter, brace yourself against the chair.

 

Okay. My legs are weak.

That’s okay. You’ve lost a lot blood.

 

Feel faint.

Lean forward over the chair back. Steady yourself. Then go get yourself a drink of water. Maybe an aspirin or three.

Good idea. Why didn’t I think of that?

Because normal consciousness is not your thing.

Ha! You’re right. Not my thing now. My mind is free to expand into. Into. Into.

Ah- there goes my knee and hip and leg. Now why would it do that?

Symphyseal.

 

Huh?

I feel hot. Wet. Sweat is pouring down my face. My face feels numb. Feels like it’s disappearing.

Your face is fine. Feel it. Still there.

Yes, how silly of me. It’s still there. Ah- now there goes my forearm. Now why would it do that?

Opisthotonus.

 

What?

Doesn’t matter. I’ll put it out of my mind. Because-

Because confused consciousness is not your thing.

 

 

Right.

I’ll just rest for a while. Show the video. To Kernig and Brudzinski. In the morning.

Okay. Laying down doesn’t work. Neck’s too stiff. I’ll just rest sitting up. But I can’t straighten my leg. And what the- I’m spasming. Marching? Walking? What the hell?

I can’t stop. My legs pumpfasterFASTERFASTER

OUT THE DOOR I GO

Why would I run? Should rest want rest need rest-

HEADHITSSTREETHEADHITSSTREET

head

hit

 

Because delirious consciousness is not your thing. Right, Ada?

 

 

right

 

 

Because somnolent consciousness is not your thing.

 

Is obtunded consciousness your thing? Ada?

 

How about stuporous consciousness? Hello? No?

 

Comatose, Ada. That’s your thing.

_____

Thanks to Flannery Alden at Flash Fiction Friday for this flash fiction challenge!

_____

Want to clear you brain of trepanation information? Check out my entry in my last flash fiction challenge.