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 “Short Story”

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:



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 2, 3003 :: 15:53


:: 17:12

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


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


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.

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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