Plugging Away

I posted a flash fic on a website for a contest last night.

If you have the time, go read it.

If you have more time, leave a comment.

If you have even more time, check out the other stories. A couple of my friends will be posting their stories today, and I’ll provide links to their stories as well. They’re terrific.

It’s just exciting to see people writing. People I know and love. Awesome people.

Maybe More Than Two People Would Get This; I Don’t Know

So I promised a friend I would finish a short story for her birthday. I haven’t written a real short story in a very long time. It took a weird turn, and it might be worst thing I’ve ever done. Regarding writing.

It was interesting observing this come together. I’m still developing my style, perspective, voice, blaht cetera.

I sent my friend the story Friday morning, apologizing up front for it.

Friday was her birthday.

I stayed up until 5am that morning writing it. Slept for less than two hours. Then I went to class. Then I went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the weekend.

In Times New Roman 12-point, it occupies six full pages. 2,537 words. That’s not even two days’ worth for NaNoWriMo.

This is not a novel, though.

I’ll stick the tip of the iceberg before the cut.

The Jar

The jar’s contents rattled. The glass container lay packed between a pair of old tennis shoes and a blue bath towel in a grey duffel bag. As Lauren’s weight shifted from side to side with each step, some of the pieces would bounce and hit the screwtop lid with a metallic ting. It sounded like popcorn in a kettle. One of the shoe’s nonmarking outsoles somehow scuffed the jar with a series of polysynthetic rubber scratches. Other supplies lay carefully placed in the bag Lauren prepared the night before.

She brought different supplies for different jobs, depending.

Continue reading

Instead of Sleep

Bryce stood in front of a full-length mirror in Ava’s bedroom, admiring his figure.

Ava could see her own reflection, watching Bryce watch himself.

He had pulled the boxers up over his trousers and let his thumbs stretch and then release the elastic against the reinforced strip of khaki beneath it with a muffled snap. The layered waistbands hung about two inches below where Ava imagined his navel would be. That is, if he had one. The doubled fabric, in addition to the bunching of the elastic, created an outward, lateral curve in silhouette from his abdomen: he looked like he had hips. Blue polka dots scattered deliberately about on the mid-thigh shorts, a series of plots – mapping an ever-elusive, unknown target – confounding her eyes.

His head and arms had then found corresponding holes in an old t-shirt. The threadbare, translucent, dark blue material and the pale skin of his torso beneath it produced a sheer effect. The cracked, yellow, iron-on block letters across the front read, FREAK U 2 above a cracked, iron-on cartoon chicken. The shirt that once fit now hung loosely from his lanky body, except that the untucked fabric at the bottom clung to his pants and outer-underpants. The frayed sleeves came just above his elbows, and the ends of stray strings brushed a few faded but distinct freckles.

Bryce kicked off a pair of steel-toed boots and slipped on some running shoes. These were only a couple of months old, and Bryce used them for his early-morning jogs before work. He pulled the laces tight, tied an overhand knot, looped the bow, then tied the bow into another overhand knot. He wiggled his toes, rotated his ankles to stretch, then sprang back to standing. A few distant sirens passed. Fire department. Police. Every night for the past three weeks. No other sounds broke the night’s silence with this much frequency or terror.

Ava handed Bryce his glasses. He raised the unfolded frames to his face and slid the arms back to rest on his ears and settled the center piece on the bridge of his nose.  She gave him one last glanceover. Something looked skiwumpus. Smirking, she stepped close and tapped the left top corner of the glasses up, restoring symmetry to his incredible, perfect face. He’d had the glasses anyway – he’d need sonar without them – but this was the finishing touch.

“This? This is it? This is your costume?” Ava wore a fitted black t-shirt and black skinny jeans with black, narrow slippers. Her shiny, jet black hair was pulled back into a tight pony tail, revealing strong cheekbones that softened into her natural, closed smile. The black further slimmed her already slender body. It was a flattering outfit, and Bryce pretended not to notice. They’d be stealthing around in the dark where he couldn’t see her anyway.

Ava raised an eyebrow and nodded once at the mirror, trying to stifle laughter.

“Hey, at least the blues match.”

“I guess you have a point, there.”

She exited the room before him, then he stepped out and closed the door. They crept down the carpeted stairs that led right to the front door of the house. Bryce unlocked the deadbolt and wrapped his hand around the doorknob. He turned it.  He placed his other hand firmly on Ava’s shoulder, and she looked at him. She held her breath.  She knew what he was going to say. Her eyes followed as he opened the door and switched off the porchlight. She stepped into the thick darkness and sensed the soft thud of the door pressing into the jamb. She felt him right behind her and exhaled. Ava heard it: a faint whisper, but it was enough.

“Let’s go fight some crime.”

Wreck, Draft

She widened her eyes, then squinted.

A single point appeared from deep within the tunnel.

She stood near the middle of the platform, northbound side. Not too many people waited around her, just a few latenight commuters, a few awkward couples on midweek dates.  She held her arms slightly away from her body. Her jeans clung to her legs and her back felt sticky underneath her lightweight t-shirt. Sweat pasted her hair to her forehead. The summer heat had seeped through the streets down into the tunnels, turning the underground maze into a giant steamroom. No one talked; no one held hands. Everything perspired.

Her heart raced.

The approaching train pushed hot air through the station. Its nearing, thunderous momentum shook the platform. The train’s lights grew larger and soon she saw its whole face. She saw the front windows; she saw the door you can’t open from the inside. She saw the driver. She took a deep breath.

She timed it.

She closed her eyes.

For a split second, her body stayed mid-air.

Silence surrounded her as the train slammed into her, punched that last breath from her lungs,  bumping her forward a few feet before she fell onto the tracks.

She figured not to jump over the space between the rails, on the chance of the train passing over her and maybe even allowing her to survive. She tumbled and bounced between the rail nearest the platform and the far rail.

And, the third, high-voltage rail.

The brakes screeched. The train lurched. But she did not hear or feel this. She did not hear witness screams. She did not hear voices of loved ones in her mind or see flashes of friends’ faces. She did not smell her skin burn.  She did not feel ribs crack or organs crush or limbs sever or her own breathing arrest; her own corpse, a tattered lump.

Her eyes fell open.

Distant Land

My friend Alicia started this story at 3:37pm the other day. I wrapped it up at 4:17. It was a lot of fun. I thought it wasn’t too shabby so I decided to post it. The chat format makes it look like a narrative poem. Enjoy.

   once upon a time
there were a group of girls that were friends
   one day
   they decided to take a trip to a distant land
   they started out late one night
   in the rain
there was a chill in the air despite it being summertime
   the wind breathed of something on their heels
   something scary
   but they pressed on
and laughed in the face of the black unknown
   mile after mile they went
   determined to see the distant land
   until
   one day
   they arrived
they all broke out into song and dance at such a wonderous discovery
   one might have even cried
   at the one who had been lost along the way
   well
   as they were traveling
   the scary thing caught up with the one who was struggling
the Scary thing tangled up her legs and made her fall
   it slithered up the fallen girl and slipped into the crevice of her soul
she got up and walked on so the others didn’t know the danger she was in
   the danger they were all in
   so they arrived in a distant land
and they rejoiced at what was there
   but the one girl
   the one who the Scary thing invaded
   she stood aloof from the others
   while they sang and danced
   she backed away
   onto the road they’d taken
   and left the others there
   the others soon noticed
   their friend had disappeared
so they decided to set up camp
   and search for her
   they combed the perimeter
   and found all manner of berries
   and wild corn
and game, which they made note to hunt later
   but this group
   could not find their friend
   they searched into the late night
   and into the morning twilight
when suddenly
   from the trail that led to this distant land
   appeared a young lady
she introduced herself
   and asked if she could be their friend
   the others discussed it
and decided it wouldn’t hurt
   so they welcomed the new girl into their group
   this new girl, however
   had an essence about her
   and the others could tell
   that something wasn’t quite right
but they continued to befriend her
   they played together
   they sang
   she happened to know a lot of the songs they knew
   they danced and ate and lived many days in harmony
until one day
   one of the original group went missing
   and the new girl was the first to let everyone know
and she didn’t know if she went wandering off and got lost
   or something worse
   something much worse
   so the group split up
combed the perimeter of their little colony
   along their gardens
   up in the watchtower
   they couldn’t find her
   after a few hours
   they did come upon a pile of bones
bones that glistened
   still looked moist
as if whatever devoured the once whole being had just finished
   the group assumed
   this was their friend
   and gathered her bones
   and performed a proper burial
   the new girl
as a long plume of smoke ascended into the sky
   shed a single tear
   for this friend
   that she had stumbled upon so many days ago
the group mourned an appropriate season
   then began harvesting their crops
when one of the girls saw a dog sitting at the edge of the garden
   this dog
   had the eyes of the Scary thing
   but no one else recognized them
   no one else
   but the new girl
   she saw the dog
   and she turned around
   terrified
wondering if he smelled her
   she glanced over her shoulder
   and saw the dog’s eyes
   and the dog’s eyes saw her
   the new girl
approached the group
   she told them
   she knows what happened to their old friend
   the one they just buried
   and the one before, from weeks ago
and the new girl proposed an idea
   that the others wouldn’t even think of accepting
   because this girl was their friend
   but this girl knew things
   things that were dangerous for the group
   and had wanted to protect the group
but failed
   twice
   possibly three times
   because the dog was there now
   the dog was there
   this new girl
   she took the dog
   by the scruff
   and led him to the trailhead
and she took his paws
   in her hands
   and she muttered something
indecipherable
   over and over and over again
   until slowly
   this dog
   transformed
writhing
   howling
   that turned to groans
   and what was left
   was their old friend
   the Scary thing was gone
   but the new girl
was no longer
   the group brought their old friend back to health
   fed her
   gave her clothes
   and decided it was time to settle elsewhere
they packed their things
   and shrouded the new girl
   and carried her body to the river
and built a raft and set her body on it
   and set her downstream
   while the others
headed upstream
   ready to start over
   again

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time a woman found herself in a strange land. It looked familiar, she recognized quite a few people.

This woman realized she couldn’t go back to where she came from, so she decided she’d try to make a home for herself.

She unpacked her things, she organized her space.

She reunited with the people she knew, and she began to think her life wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

Then, one day as she was picking flowers in a vast, swaying meadow at sunset, Evil entered the town. It was large and looming, like the storm cloud that had begun to settle upon the town. The hair prickled on the woman’s arms and neck.

It began to rain, and the woman ran in a panic to her home.

Her heart pounded, and she closed the door behind her. She was soaking wet.

Lightning flashed, chaos ensued. She saw cars floating in the valley. This was bad.

She dried off with a towel, and in the candlelight she noticed that she hadn’t really escaped.

The Evil had gotten to her, inflicted her with its poison, deforming her slowly.

A doctor answered her call. He stopped by but could make no conclusive diagnosis.

She kept wondering what it could be; how her body was transforming.

She’s been unwell before. She knew of different treatments.

But this – this was different.

What didn’t she know?

The solution was simple. The cure was easy.

All she had to do was stop worrying.

But even if she did know this? She was still doomed.

Doomed.

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It Began Before This

He couldn’t stop looking at her. He watched the way her eyes smiled, the way she held her hands and waved them when she talked; how the right side of her smile curved more upward than the left. He liked how her neckline looked, soft, sloping into her collarbone, forming gentle hollows. His eyes followed her slender hands to their fingertips and he wondered what the slightest touch would feel like. He took note of her well-fitted clothes, her legs. Her legs spoke a language all their own. They crossed at the knee, then at the ankle. They straightened, bent. She sometimes flexed her feet. All this happened independently of her hands, her upper body, her speaking. His heart pounded, but he was barely breathing.

She noticed him among the crowd – his eyes. They followed her without being too conspicuous. He wasn’t too tall, his stance more vulnerable than most men’s. She continued looking at the others listening to her, finishing her story about a canoe that tipped over. In her periphery she glanced at his hair – dark, not too short; his shoulders were strong; his arms hung casually to his sides, but he clenched his jaw. His face gave the faintest hint of a shadow, and she wondered how his scruff might feel when he kisses her. He wore a blazer and white dress shirt, no tie. She finally caught his eye, and they acknowledged each other with subtle nods.

She had seen him before. She had seen him seeing her seeing him before. For months now. They had mutual friends, but they had never spoken to each other.

It was someone else’s turn to tell a story.

She walked over and tapped him on the shoulder.

They both knew she was too old for him. They didn’t care.

She asked him what he thought about last night’s game. He thought the opponent’s offense was weak and that their team got lucky. As he continued to speak they took the opportunity to notice each other’s features from a closer range: how playful her hair actually looked, how deep his dimples were when he laughed. He asked her how next week’s game might look, and she said since it’s a home game the team should fare better. He raised his glass, and she clinked hers against it. Smirking, they cheered simultaneously.

Go, Cougars.