Red Lettering

Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the tag “Flash Fiction”

Penprints Flash Fiction Dash: To the Stars Who Listen

Hello, my friends! I’m coming to you today live and in person (and ahead of my deadline for once!), participating in The Penprints Flash Fiction Dash.

The challenge was to write a flash fiction beneath 1000 words from a prompt; I was allowed to stick as close to, or stray as far away from, the source material as I desired. This is the one I was given:

TO THE STARS WHO LISTEN

 

I strayed a bit.

And pushed way beyond the boundaries of what’s considered good, traditional writing.

But it was required, as stated in the rules, “You must have unfettered fun.”

I did so.

 

Note: There are some important formatting differences which don’t show up in the WordPress blog reader, so you have to click and view it on-site.


to the stars who listen
w/c 906
Athelas Hale


DEC 18, 3002 :: 22:47

This is Marcus Neeman of the Kentake. I don’t know why I came out of cryo early, but the ship won’t come out of auto to show me how long we’ve been in space. Please advise.

DEC 19, 3002 :: 02:33

The ship is still on low power, and life support is only on in this compartment. Should I suit up and see if I can find out where we are? The displays aren’t on, and I’m in 12b. We could be only days from earth for all I know.

DEC 20, 3002 :: 07:05

The ship rejected my credentials, and the captain keeps his keycard with him. I would have to take him out of cryo to get it.

I don’t know how long it takes signals to travel long distance in space. Not this long. Please respond.

DEC 21, 3002 :: 13:24

I put on my suit and went into the other sections of the ship to try and get the computers to power up. I got food and water, so I’m okay. You don’t need to worry about me. Please answer.

DEC 22: 3002 :: 23:22

Is anyone out there?

DEC 23, 3002 :: 14:18

I want to wake up someone else, but if there’s still decades between here and the colony planet, they’ll have to die out here, too. I’m not gonna be that guy. If you’re getting this, please answer. Even if you can’t put me back under, maybe just turn on voice comms with earth, so I can have a conversation with you. All these sleeping people are no good for company.

DEC 24, 3002 :: 02:53

I don’t think my sleep schedule is consistent. I’m always exhausted, but I can’t sleep, though I sure as

DEC 25, 3002 :: 04:47

Sorry I sent an unfinished sentence yesterday. I didn’t think there was anyone to care.

When I was a kid, my momma used to say, “Marc, you git in there and git your room cleaned.” That doesn’t have anything to do with anything.

I just kinda miss my mom.

DEC 26, 3002 :: 14:29

I kind of wanna write my name on the wall, but I don’t have anything sharp on hand. Why aren’t you answering? There’s gotta be someone receiving these messages. Is anyone out there?

DEC 27, 3002 :: 05:36

My name is Marcus Newman, and I am 27 years old. Or – I was when I left earth. I don’t know how many years have passed since. I can only hope that someone is still running a program to catch these messages. Maybe you only check it once every month or something.

I am not married.

I don’t know how to put myself back into cryo.

Please help me.

DEC 28

DEC 29

DEC 30, 3002 :: 14:45

I suited up again today and went out into the low power compartments. Looked at the stars through the viewport.

It was cold. I could feel it even through the suit. Maybe it was my imagination.

Man, the stars are bright this high up, but I don’t see the planet. Sure, it could be on the other side of the ship. Could be just out of sight.

But now I’m just broadcasting to the stars.

I really want to come home.

DEC 31

JAN 1

JAN 2, 3003 :: 15:53

Anyone?

:: 17:12

My middle name is Justin, in case you were curious.

:22:36

I really don’t want to die of old age out here. Please come in.

JAN 3, 3003: 02:07

The stars are listening, and it isn’t half as romantic a thought as my little sister would have thought when we were kids.

I didn’t think I would be this scared to die, but the prospect of spending the rest of my life alone and dying of old age isn’t a kind thought.

It’s about as chilling as those bloody stars, and I can’t seem to get warm.

JAN 4, 3003 :: 16:42

I found an antique Bing Crosby record in the personal items. But did they think to bring a record player? No. No, of course not.

JAN 5, 3003 :: 14:31

Can’t write. Haands shaking ttoo bad. Tomorrow.

JAN 6, 3003

JAN 7, 3003 : 02:02

I didn’t plan on starting a space diary. Sorry abut that, guys. But seriously.

My favorite joke: what’s brown and sticky?

You have to respond to hear the answer.

JAN 8, 3003 :: 19:17

It’s a stick. Tthe answer is a stickk, okay?

JAN 9, 3003 :: 10:59

 

JAN 10, 3003: 15:47

Ship, come in. This is the Etoile. Are you the Kentake? My word, we finally found you.

 

JAN 11, 3003 :: 15:50

What year is it? Are you in France? Can you contact the Burns Flat spaceport? Please don’t disappear on me. Stay here.

 

JAN 11, 3003 :: 15:52

Are you stable? We’ve locked into your position and are coming to get you. Sit tight. You’re safe now.

 

JAN 11, 3003 :: 15:53

How long have we been up here?

 

JAN 12, 3003 :: 15:58

It’s January 12, 3003.

 

Jan 12, 3003 :: 16:11

Kentake, are you still with us?

 

Jan 12, 3003 :: 16:18

Yeah.

Jan 12, 3003 :: 16:19

We’re not the first colonists in space anymore, are we?

 

Jan 13, 3003 :: 16:20

Everyone thought you were lost for good decades ago. Sit tight, soldier. You’re going home.

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The Ink Loft Flash Fiction Challenge #3

(I’ll greet y’all once I scrape the dust off my blog and am able to see you. I’m sure you guys are around here somewhere.)

Happy Friday, readers! Today I’m participating in Rachelle O’Neil’s third Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge is to write a flash fiction story below 1,000 words. I received my prompt from Rachelle at The Ink Loft, and prompted T over at To Be a Sennachie.

My prompt:

It’s New Year’s Eve. You’re running from something. And suddenly an angel appears. What happens? 1000 words. Have fun!

This prompt was difficult for me, as I have trouble beginning stories where you’re just dropped in on the action. Also, after throwing angels around casually in my first story when I was but a wee lass… I have some trouble using them in stories. I try to be particular with how I use angelic or supernatural events; I hope I did decently in this.

 


Vano’s feet pounded on the metal walkway beneath him. The coppery scent of blood stung his nostrils—some of it his, some of it theirs, painting his knuckles red.

The sky above him exploded with color.

Vano jerked. He skidded, stumbling, and hit the railing. In the blackness of the night sky, another volley of fireworks went off. Vano froze, straining his ears to hear any movement behind him as the echoes died away.

Two hundred yards beneath him, the city sprawled: homes and businesses clustered like rats on a cold night. Bright banners stretched across roads, proclaiming: “Happy New Year!”

Even from up here, Vano could make out the neighborhoods where his people lived: they were quiet and solemn. Their year started in the springtime, and they would celebrate it right, subjects in a pagan land or not.

Something moved on the other end of the walkway. Vano’s breath kicked in his lungs, and he lurched into a run again. Decades-old layers of oil and dust on the walkway made it slick beneath his feet, beads of water from the recent rain clinging to the metal.

A gun went off. The air moved beside his face, and above him, another set of fireworks painted the night blue.

I’m going to die,” he gasped. He leaned over the edge of the railing. Below, another walkway ran parallel. “Help me.”

He swiped his slick hands against his trousers, fingers brushing against his tassels. If he lived, he would have to wash the red out tomorrow.

The man behind him fired again, footsteps pounding. Vano grabbed the railing and took a breath, muscles tensing.

Happy New Year!” Someone below him screamed.

Vano launched himself over the edge and let himself fall.

He hit the walkway beneath, smashed his arm into the railing and skidded. For a second he lay flat, feeling the bruises already begin to develop.

Then, silhouetted against the blackness of the sky, a blacker figure leaned over the railing above him. A crime lord who wanted to start the new year right—namely, without Vano Fischel alive. He had been in the wrong place at the wrong time; seen the wrong thing.

He accidentally found himself in possession of multiple names that the authorities had sought for years.

Vano rolled onto his stomach and pushed upright. He glanced over the railing, but there was nothing beneath him—nothing but a straight fall to someone’s roof.

Vano started running again.

A hundred steps later, he swung around the curve onto the stairs that led to another layer, hand gripping the railing. The stairs were steep, but the elevator took too long to summon to the top. The handrail here was more uneven and ragged, the metal rusted and sharp at every turn of the stairs.

His tassel caught on the rough metal, jerking him to a halt. Vano grabbed it, able to see from the lights below where his hand left grime and blood on the white and blue stripes. It didn’t move when he pulled, caught in the ragged edge where one piece of metal met another.

Vano released it and jerked with his body. Something clicked, and his clip broke. The tassel fell away from his clothing, the end tangled in the metal and swaying in the wind.

The sky lit up. Vano left the tassel and kept on running. At the end of these stairs were buildings, but they were quiet. There would be no hiding among crowds here.

He stumbled down the steps, street lights below growing nearer, lighting up his vision. He couldn’t see the man after him, but there could be half a dozen in the city after him—they could come out of anywhere.

Then his feet touched dirt. Vano forced himself into a sprint, leaving the stairs behind.

His lungs stalled.

Vano swerved into the space between two buildings, stumbling over rubbish cluttering the area, and then sank to the ground.

He choked on air for a moment before managing to suck in a breath. It wasn’t safe to stop; if he was found, he would die here.

But he couldn’t run if he couldn’t breathe.

Vano pressed himself against the slick wall, whole body shaking as he forced air in and out, counting breaths. One. Two. Thirty. Eighty. One-hundred-fifty. The fire gradually left his lungs, leaving him to feel pain spreading throughout his body.

He needed to get out of here. He wasn’t safe.

A light flashed in the alley. Vano’s breathing stopped again, and he spun toward the source.

The world froze, his brain unable to process what he was seeing.

Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.”

Vano sat on the edge of his bed, shoving clothing into his bag. Mira stood on the other side of the room, staring at him with her innocent eyes wide open; their mother hovered in the doorway.

Mira leaned forward. “How do you know it was an angel?”

I… know.”

What did it look like?”

He opened his mouth, and then closed it again. The words didn’t come. The images barely came—he couldn’t explain what he had seen. Not even to himself.

Vano, it’s been years since God has sent a prophet,” his mother finally said, voice low.

Vano stilled. He knew: not since their country was conquered, not since they were removed from their homeland.

You don’t look like a prophet,” Mira said.

Vano laughed. He laughed because his lungs hurt, and his body was half bruises. He was down to three tassels, his trousers torn where he had skidded on the walkway. His knuckles were bruised and stained with blood.

His mother’s voice was barely able to be heard. “What will you say?”

Vano drew the drawstring on his bag and stood. The action hurt; every part of him hurt. “Repent,” he said. Just saying the words sent a thrill through him. “There comes a man who will take away your sins.”


Disclaimer: As with C.S. Lewis, I do not tell an allegory here: I tell a, “Suppose, in another world, things were to happen differently.” 

Happy New Year, kids. Go: proclaim the good news. And write on.

Flash Fiction Challenge: “I was Within and Without”

Today I’m participating in Rachelle O’Neil’s Flash Fiction Challenge again. I received a very interesting prompt from Evan White: “I was Within and Without”, a quote from the 1920s novel The Great Gatsby. These words had to be found in my story at some point.

There’s a story behind this story, one of intense procrastination (and time-consuming biology), six or seven hours of working on a story one day, and two stories written from this prompt.

My first story (one with a much grander feel than the one you’re about to read), I wrote over the course of a few days, but mostly I finished it earlier this morning (because, procrastination and biology). When I finished it, it ended up at 2,363 words; 1,363 words longer than the 1,000 word limit for the Flash Fiction Challenge. For several hours, I worked to edit out those 1,363 words. With around 300 more to go, I let my sister (who had read the lengthy original version) read it again. She (indirectly) told me that the original was better.

For the sake of the story… I dropped it. If it was already worse off, I didn’t want to edit out another 300 words. I reverted that story back to the original word count and set it aside. My faithful readers, you may be able to read that story some other time.

By this time, it was around six o’ clock in the evening, three hours past the suggested deadline to post the Flash Fiction pieces. I grasped for new story ideas, came up with something, and because the day was lengthy already, made cookies (readers, cookies are always helpful) before returning and writing this new story that you are about to read.

After editing out a few words on this new Flash Fiction story, I finally have it ready to post here, with apologies to Rachelle for being late, thanks to my sister Faith, for reading my original and letting me know it was better before, and thanks to Katie Grace, for reading over the second story for me to let me know whether or not it was absolutely horrible.

Now that you know the story behind this story, I do hope you enjoy it.

I was Within And Without

  Gusts of wind rushed through the trees, the blasts of air broken only by branches flung by the wind. I ducked around trees, straightening my leather jerkin. He should have known better than to go out today. Everyone spoke of rainstorms or hurricanes, and in the cliff-strewn forests, safe ground didn’t exist. If he wasn’t somewhere dodging flying trees, he probably lay at the bottom of a ravine somewhere.

But then, that’s why I’m here.

I brushed my hair behind my back and cupped my hands around my mouth. “Matthias!”

The rain hit.

I stumbled under the force of it, the wind catching me and blowing me a few steps forward before smacking me into a tree. Water streamed down my face, blurring my vision. Keeping a hold on the tree, I blinked rapidly, scanning the area. “Matthias!

The wind snatched away my voice. I cast a glare upward in irritation. Child, where are you?

“He-elp!”

The voice, worn thin by the force of the wind, barely reached my ears. “Matthias!”

“Help!”

Ducking low and watching for branches, I sprinted toward the voice. I had to duck once under a branch that nearly snagged my hair, and the rain obscured my vision every few seconds.

When I made it to the edge of the cliff, I nearly fell off.

I scrambled back from the edge, breath catching in my throat and my brain snapping sarcastic comments. Moving more carefully, I knelt and peered over the edge.

The rain lashed at the sandstone over a thirty foot drop, tree roots protruding from the surface. Clinging to one of them, battered, rain-sodden, and gripping the strap of a blue backpack, hung Matthias.

My first glimpse of him as a boy showed him as an average twelve-year-old.

“Matthias!” I shouted.

He looked up. “Help!

“Drop the backpack!”

He shook his head, eyes wide and frightened.

I sighed, swept my dripping hair off of my face again, and scanned the surface of the sandstone. “All right,” I said. “Hold on—I’m coming!”

I slid over the edge, carefully placing my feet on roots and ledges in the sandstone. The wind smashed me against the rough wall, stealing my breath, and I dripped almost as much as the sky. Slowly, I made my way downwards, toward Matthias.  As I neared him, I could see the facial features I knew so well; younger, his hair a few shades lighter, but still him. He shivered, clutching the root with all his might.

“Keep holding on,” I said. “I’m coming.”

The wind thrust me against the sandstone and I smacked my chin against the rock. Warmth spurted out, accompanied by sharp pain. I shook water from my eyes and glanced downward.

Matthias still clung to the root.

Something moved on the edge of my vision, and I sucked in a breath. A tree limb careened through the air. I followed it with my eyes, rapidly glancing between it and the expected place of impact.

Matthias.

“Matthias, let go!”

A fall would be better than an assisted one!

Matthias looked up at me, eyes wide. The tree limb jerked in the wind, and I thought for a moment it would miss him.

It jerked back, crashing into the side of his head. His grip on the root released, and he fell.

Cursing under my breath, I scrambled down the sandstone, slipping more often than not and grasping roots to slow my fall. I hit the ground hard, stumbled, and dashed to Matthias.

Red streaked from both sides of his head, where the tree limb hit and where it smashed his face against the rock. I lifted him as best I could, grunting and grabbing his backpack as an afterthought. Surely there was a cave or sheltered area somewhere around here.

It would be just my luck if there wasn’t.

I was Within and Without. Sheltered Within a world by a depression in the ground ringed by sandstone, I fought Without for breath, life, and, if convenient, no lasting brain damage. The darkness fluctuated, sometimes deepening, but he breathed through the night.

Matthias stirred as dawn lit up the eastern sky. I lay on my back a few feet away, sore in a way both physical and far from it. But he lived; I lived. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

Matthias groaned, but as his eyes opened he quieted, gaze darting around. Suppressing a groan of my own, I rose to my feet.

Matthias stared at me for a moment before finally saying, “Thank you.” The fact that he remembered was impressive on its own; the fact that he politely thanked me added to it. “Who are you?”

I smiled, bending over and offering him a hand. “I’m Hope.”

He took it, and I helped him to his feet.

“Matthias,” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his head.

“I know.”

He glanced at me, uncertainty flickering through his eyes.

“Your books are in the bag. I think they might be ruined.”  He looked wide-eyed toward his backpack, and I laughed under my breath. “If you go straight east, you’ll be home in an hour.”

“…Thanks,” he said.

I smiled. His mannerisms, though younger and more uncertain, were as familiar to me as breathing. I took a deep breath and reached into my jerkin, withdrawing a small blue orb. “Here.”

He took it, turning it over in his hands before looking back at me.

I stared into his equally blue eyes, solemn enough that he gave me his full attention. “You’re going to save the world someday, Matthias Wendell. Don’t forget it. Learn how to use that. When you’re done with it, give it to a little girl named Nadine.”

With an irritated push at my damp hair, I turned and started toward the opening in the rock.

“Hope,” Matthias called, and I turned back. He paused. “Nadine means hope.”

I smiled and nodded. “You’re right.” With another nod and a wave, I turned and jogged off into the forest.

 

Flash Fiction Challenge: One Chance

Today I’m participating in Rachelle O’Neil‘s Flash Fiction Challenge. In this challenge, participants are paired to receive a prompt from a participant, and give a prompt to another. I gave a prompt to Leined, and received this dialogue prompt from (my sister) Caiti Marie.

  “One chance. You know that, right? You have one chance.”

Since I have a certain love for secret agent stories, I decided to write about that. My flash fiction ended up at exactly 1000 words, by Word’s counter. I’d love to hear what you think of it!

One Chance

Photo Source (In the public domain)

Edit: WordPress seems to have eaten my formatting… :/ I’m sorry about that. It should be fixed now.


One Chance

Athelas Hale

Dusk covered the landscape of Western Europe. The last rays of a dying sun cast light upon Henry’s face, illuminating his fingers as he stirred sugar cubes into two cups of tea.

Odd little things. Hardy big enough to take two drinks from, he mused, but kept his commentary silent. Anderson, though he didn’t look like an overly sentimental man, was imperative to the operation. It would be best to avoid antagonizing him—or his country’s teacups.

They only had one chance.

“Of course, you have the codes,” Anderson murmured, voice deep even when quiet.

Henry smiled. “Of course.”

The sun slipped behind the horizon. Henry struck a match and lit two candles in one fluid motion. “You have your authorization?”

Anderson face remained still; no smirk, no frown, no expression. Those types always made Henry edgy.

“Are Americans so idiotic as to think I would come without them?”

Henry extinguished the match and pushed a teacup across the table to Anderson. No comment.

    Anderson glanced at Henry before politely reaching for the tea, and drank nothing. Henry waited.

After briefly pushing his hand into his pocket, Anderson lay several papers on the table.

A breeze from the open window rustled the papers. Henry lay a hand over the pages to steady them, glancing through them with a disinterested face that belied the nerves that fluttered in his stomach.

The open window felt like more than a breach of security, but in an abandoned hotel near a humid river in summer, the building simply became too stuffy to put up with—especially when meeting an agent you hoped to keep on good terms.

Hoped. Henry silently scoffed at the casual word. Desperately needed came closer to the truth.

This mission would be his most important—the agency’s most important. He couldn’t risk failure. Other agents patrolled the building, and no electronics would work within a mile, but there were a million and one things a person could do without electricity.

   Example, fire a gun.

After glancing through the documents, Henry looked up. “Verbal identification.”

Anderson rattled it off flawlessly. Though Henry didn’t smile, he mentally praised the work of the Linguistics. Nothing quite like a barely pronounceable sound for a password—no amount of torture or leak would have enough coaching to reproduce that.

Navajo code talkers all over again. They needed the security just as much.

A case in his pocket, apparently a metal mint box, used a fingerprint to unlock as Henry opened it. Sliding the papers out, he handed them over to Anderson.

For the first time, Henry’s contact smiled, and Henry allowed himself a small relieved breath, though he didn’t relax. It had gone well so far, but this was too important to slip up half way through.

“And the other part?”

Henry rose, both teas untouched, and nodded toward the door. “This way.”

Dust crowded the halls, mold gathering where the dinghy carpet met stained walls. Anderson wordlessly followed as Henry walked through three halls and two staircases. They stepped into the lobby at the bottom.

Broken glass doors opened outside, and long-dead elevators stood to the right.

Henry scanned the room, then glanced to Anderson. “This way.”

“Pardon me,” a French accent said from the direction of the elevator.

Mouth going dry, Henry half-turned. His right hand moved automatically toward his gun. This couldn’t go wrong—not when they were so close.

This building was supposed to be secured.

“No, no,” the man standing before the elevator said. “Don’t trouble yourselves for your weapons, please.”

Clad in black to blend in with the night, with red hair poking out from under the hat, the young man held himself with confidence—down to the cocked automatic in his left hand.

While Anderson swore, Henry smiled. His every instinct focused on the mission, leaving emotions behind. “Hello again, Percy. Or is it Benedict this time?”

How he had gotten past the other agents, Henry didn’t know—he hoped they were all right.

“Neither, this time.” He inclined his head slightly toward Anderson. “But I would like the codes, if you please.”

While the gun seemed relaxed in his hand, Henry knew he could shoot both before either managed to draw.

“Oh, well. Frenchie wants the codes, Anderson.”

“Drop them on the floor, please,” Frenchie politely requested.

Again swearing under his breath, Anderson tossed them.

Gun still trained on Henry and Anderson, Frenchie bent and picked up the papers. “Pleasure,” said he, and walked backwards to the window. Neatly, he slid through the open glass.

Henry was calling for back-up and running toward the window before they heard him hit the ground. Sliding out his gun, he strained his eyes to see.

Clearly, once again, they had a leak. What a joy to work with Intelligence.

It took Drake three seconds to reach the river and launch into the boat.

“Got both,” he told Frederick, dropping the French accent. Automatically, he reverted to his Irish brogue as Frederick powered up the gasoline engine. Their first priority now was speed.

They roared out of there.

By the time they were five miles away, Drake had every code memorized, the papers in ashes on the boat floor, the object in his pocket.

Within minutes, Fred pulled the boat into the harbor and, as they scanned the skies for choppers, both dashed toward the waiting car.

Ten minutes of a lightless car drive later, Fred was dropping him off at a waiting vehicle.

“One chance. You know that, right? You’ve got one chance.”

Drake pushed the door open. “I know.”

Fred almost smiled. “Blow the operation open.”

Drake smiled and temporarily reverted back to his French accent. “As an agent,” he said, “it’s in the pride.”

Stepping out of the car, he paused, dropping the accent. “As a human, I’m not considering the consequences for failure.”

He closed the door as silently as possible, and Fred pulled away. Running the codes through his mind, Drake smiled grimly.

One chance.

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