Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last One Standing Tall #6

A Fantasy-Western Serial
It all started here, but feel free to begin wherever you like.

Not even a lone tumbleweed blew across the empty streets of downtown Wheatfield.

Even so, Reed could feel the presence of humans all around him. Humans watching. Humans waiting for... what? He walked further into town, always keeping an eye behind him to his horse, Abe, who was still slurping noisly from the water trough, his tail swatting flies. Every little noise sounded so loud in the silence.

A fierce wind howled through the streets, his boots sliding over the crackling dirt. He spread his arms, extending vines to the brittle ground, but they found no cracks to dig in and take root. He fell back, his body spinning, ramming into one of the buildings, tangling in his own limbs until the wind finally died down as quickly as it had come up. He retracted his vined arms, rubbing them, watching the small bruises heal up.

He sat up to get his bearings until a door behind him swung open, rapping against the back of his head. He bent over, groaning, as hands grabbed onto him and yanked him inside into the darkness. He struggled. A hand clamped over his mouth. He kicked out and knocked something over. Feet pounding against hardwood floors, scampering. The sound of a match scraping and a flash of fire. Someone holding it too close to him, removing his hat. A chorus of gasps like a blast of quick winds.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Zombie Luv Flash Fic Contest:
Love After Death

I thought I knew what love was. The usual things: gentle touches, deep kisses, sweet words whispered, a ring... I was only nineteen the day I died. I knew nothing of real love.

When he ripped my sleeve, exposing the weeping bite marks, no one said anything. Everyone knew. I knew.  I didn't want to die. I'm ashamed that I begged my so-called true love to help me even as he shot me in the heart. His words, the last words I heard while alive, stung as I hit the ground.

"Can't ruin such a pretty face."

My mouth and glassy eyes stared wide open at all of them surrounding me as my life bled out. Their faces soon faded into darkness.

I don't know how much time passed until I first became... aware.
All I knew was weight pressing me down and utter darkness. At first I felt cocooned in a comforter, wanting to hide from the morning sun, only it wasn't that kind of bed. It was the garden variety. Dirt. In my mouth, up my nose, all over, wet and soft, densely packed. I screamed. The sound that emitted though muffled by it was deafening and frightening. Not human. Beyond understanding.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 6

It all started here...

"You didn't answer my question," Andrew said after some timed had passed, "You told me where it -- I mean he -- came from but I wanted to know why I got it."

He indicated the fish-dragon curled in his lap, its fantail curled around it like a cat, the gills flapping as it breathed in and out. It wasn't that he didn't have a million other questions, (like how it was breathing air in the first place!) but perhaps that one was the most urgent because he had a feeling this was serious.

"The Queen's eggs have always been passed down through our family. Yours was the last to be hatched."

As if he didn't have enough questions already. He frowned.

"So Erik, he was my...?"

"Your great, great, great," she had to count on her fingers to keep track, "great grandfather." She smiled.

"Do we have a photo of him?"

"Oh my darling," she laughed, "They didn't have cameras back then."

"What about a painting?"

She shook her head, "I'm afraid not."

"Then how do we know for sure? How do I know you're not just making this up?"

"Besides the egg, you mean?" She said softly.

He thought for a moment before saying, "Yes." She didn't seem angry.

"So you really don't believe me?"

"I need proof!"

"He's not proof enough?"

Andrew looked down again at the little dragon, his little dragon, he reminded himself. He picked up him in his hands and turned him around, waking him up. He turned him over again and again looking for a seam or a screw or anything that might indicate he wasn't as real as he seemed. Is it terrible that I want to find something to disprove him, he thought. The little creature giggled and smiled at Andrew even though he was dangling him upside down. He finally let him rest on his shoulder, his little whiskers gripping him tightly for balance. He yawned.

"I think he's real," Andrew said, "But I don't know about the rest... I mean, it's not that I think you're a liar or anything..."

"That's good to know!" She said, laughing again. He was glad to see she hadn't lost her sense of humor.

"But," he continued, "Did my parents know? Why haven't you ever told me before? Why now? Does everyone else know but me?"

"Oh Andrew," she started, pulling him into a hug, "No, not everyone. Only a few of us know. It's for their safety," she gently petted the dragon, "as well as ours. Believe me dear, I've wanted to tell you so much, every summer that you've come here."

"Why didn't you then?"

"It wasn't time yet."

"So how did you know it was time now?"

She sighed. He could tell her good humor was wearing down under his constant barrage of questions.

"I'm sorry,"  he said quickly, "I just want to know."

"I know you have lots of questions." She winced and stood up carefully, motioning for him to get up as well. "Come with me," she said, "It's high time I introduce you to them."

"Who? You don't have any close neighbors."

"They're not neighbors, they're family."

"How come I haven't met them before?"

Aunt Jenna laughed, "Well, you haven't been to the bottom of the lake yet, have you?"

"What's down there?"

"Our family's dragon den." She grinned.

With those words his imagination thundered on miles ahead, trying to determine what a dragon den could possibly look like. Was there lots of treasure? Maybe some suits of armor or artifacts? No, that was silly. Obviously he was nowhere near a castle or anything even remotely related to ancient history. Still, did dragons really like treasure? He realized just how little he really did know. It was true that he loved to swim in the lake, but he had never gone deeper than he would have in a swimming pool. He had always been afraid of seeing a giant fish or a monster lurking down there.

One time he thought he had seen something down there, had even felt an impossibly large fin (or had it been just some water weeds?) brush against his toes. He had flailed ashore, afraid to go back in until Jenna waded in and stood there for a whole ten minutes, proving it was safe. He had been seven then. The thought of going anywhere near the bottom of the lake frightened him.

"I can't hold my breath that long. I can't even really swim that well," he lied.

"Nonsense, I've seen you swim. You're just like your mother." She laughed. "You're probably more fish-like than he is," she said pointing to the dragon who was still perched on his shoulder and fast asleep again, still clinging tightly. "Now no more questions and fussing. Go get your swimming suit. We only have a few hours left of daylight."

"No, it's too cold."

"Andrew," she said, a little more sternly.

"Please, I don't want to go," he whined.

"Andrew, I'm not going to ask again. You'll be perfectly safe as long as you stay with me."

He shuffled his feet, unsure what else to say. He knew she would carry him there if she had to. That was the tone she always used when he was in trouble.

"I would never do anything to endanger you. You're my favorite nephew and a strong boy. You'll be just fine."

He blushed a little and turned away. Nodding slowly he mumbled an okay and trudged to his room, the little dragon still attached to his shoulder. It whistled, creating a strange gurgling tune.

When he had finally gotten his swim-trunks on, he strapped on his favorite pair of velcroed sandals. He tightened them. He figured he would wear them in the water to help him sink a little better. The thought of that suddenly scared him. Was he really going to do this? But Aunt Jenna words repeated. She wouldn't do anything to hurt him. She had always protected him. And a part of him did want to see the inside of a dragon's den.

It was a ten-minute walk down to the lake. The fish-dragon toddled along on behind Andrew who stuck close to Aunt Jenna. She had changed into a one-piece swim-suit under a thin white cover-up. Her skin was wrinkled and he could see the veins standing out on her legs as she walked along the dusty path, still barefoot. She was strong though from her life spent working on her farm. When he was younger she'd wrestle with him, but now he was beginning to see her age more, not nearly as energetic as she had been when he was little. She was still feisty though and he loved her for that. She was the opposite of his mom, who was always so reserved and quiet.

Soon they were standing at the lake's edge. The little dragon did not wait for an invitation and dove into the water. Andrew nearly leapt in after it but stopped when it resurfaced and looked up at them both expectantly.

"My word! I've never seen a hatchling so eager! I had to push Esmeralda into the lake!" She laughed.

"Who's Esmeralda?"

"You'll see very soon," she said, "Come along now."

Together they waded into the lake, her cover-up ballooning slightly in the water. He winced at the chilly temperature, bringing his legs close together as goose-pimples rippled along his skin. She was already at the edge of the lake shelf where he knew it dropped off deeper, so he hurried along wrapping his arms tightly as if that helped him be any less cold. It was up to his chest now.

"Just bob a little to get used to the water. We'll pass the thermocline on the way down and it will be much warmer."

"What's a thermocline?"

"You'll see."

He sighed. After a few moments soaking his head underneath the muddy water, he found he could unclench his arms and spread them out, the water still cold, but feeling better. At least it was shaping up to be a warm night, but it was still warmer outside than in the water.

"Alright now follow me. Take a big breath. It's not very deep, but it is a stretch. Remember to release the pressure just like I taught you," She added, pinching her nose and making a blowing noise.

With a splash she bent over and dove deep down into the lake, the little dragon following after her. Andrew filled his lungs with air, as much as he could manage, and he dove down, making a big splash as he kicked down, propelling himself down, trying not to blow out too much air as he cleared his nose, releasing the vice of pressure squeezing his forehead.

Never losing sight of her white cover-up swishing like a ghostly fantail, he followed her deeper and deeper than he had ever dove before.

Continue to Part 7?

Thursday, June 17, 2010


She missed the plains. Or rather, she missed the night sky above them, especially the late summer nights, when she felt exposed to the universe.

She'd lie on her back, knowing if the Earth ever stopped turning she'd be flung off it, propelled into those endless stars. The thought scared her, made her clench the wet grass in her fists, nails scraping against the rich dirt. But it was also romantic in a way, becoming one with the sky. It was poetry. His poetry.

She'd breathe in the sunflowers, waving in the wind, framing an edge of the sky like a windowsill. He stood nearby, smiling at her, leaning against the fence, relaxed, his curls bobbing in the breeze, chewing on a long stalk of golden wheat. He smirked at her. She had never told him.

Nor could she again. She opened her eyes. Bit by bit she sat up from the creaking dorm bed, leaning against the hospital green colored walls, painted over a dozen times at least. It smelled so chemical-like and chilled her through her worn cotton shirt. She looked out the window, open just enough to allow a breeze, but never far enough for her to slip out it, even if the barrier wasn't there. So many lights were burning at night. She couldn't sleep even though she was exhausted.

"I need to get away," she said, but knew that was more of a dream than the plains themselves. So far from home.

The words echoed in the bare space, carrying the weight of her emotions. She wanted to leave yes, but could she leave? Perhaps not could, but would, she amended. Would she try to escape? She pressed her fingers against the barriers, watching the ripples of magic flow along the walls, moving along all sides of the room until they lost momentum and faded. She pulled back, her head aching. How had they built such a room? They didn't have magic here.

She pressed her palms against her eyelids, so caught up in her nightly woes that she almost missed the envelope that sailed under the door, skidding along the cold tiles, a light scratching noise. She looked down to her side and stared hard at the envelope, for a moment disbelieving in its mere existence. But the red seal upon it, pressed in real beeswax, she could smell it, it was fresh and smelled like the hives of the plains. She could not ignore that.

Scooping it up she felt the material, paper linen, flipping it, rubbing a finger over the calligraphied ink, smudging her name, which though familiar, felt so foreign as of late.


Was she going crazy? Had she imagined this small token? Dragging the edge along her finger, she winced, seeing a drop of blood form. No dream. She sucked on it lightly, looking at the envelope.

She hesitated, wondering if this wasn't some kind of trick. Was it laced with poison? Perhaps a paper-thin needle to prick her finger on? Wouldn't a swift death be better than being trapped here, she argued, shoving down the paranoia threatening to deafen her with its banshee warnings. Ripping the edge off, she squeezed it open, letting the contents flutter onto her duvet.

The paper smelled of lavender. She held it up to her nose, breathing deeply. If it was a poison, let her at least die smelling a scent so dear to her heart. A wind blew through, lifting her hair and it was like she was back in the plains again, leaning over the wild lavender, his hand squeezing hers, quiet words passing between them.

She opened her eyes and peered at the blank paper. It was a trick. A cruel one. She thrust it against the window, wanting to break it with her fist, but like everything here, it was reinforced, beyond her powers to shatter it. Her fist glowed briefly against the barrier, but the color drained and she shuddered. She felt numb in its coldness. Tears fell from her eyes as she looked up at the paper, ready to rip it to shreds.


Words fading into view.

She spread her hands to the edges, holding it up against the glass at the moonlight. There were words there, glowing softly, written lovingly by hand. Her eyes fell to the last word, a name she knew so well. Prospero. She had spoiled herself and smiled. It did not matter what the rest of it said, so long as his name was among the words.

If you're reading this, I've
finally broken through the
compound's barrier. Coming
to get you tonight. Polished
your daggers. Sorry it took
me so long.


A loon's call echoed across the darkened campus. She pressed herself against the window, peering down into the courtyard. He stood there in perfect stance with a black shaft loaded into his obsidian bow. A smirk as he released the arrow, her heart flying with it as it exploded into the barrier, rippling violently, knocking her back as a shower of glass crystal rained everywhere, her hands shielding her face from the debris.

When she looked up he was crouched on the sill, a hand extended, offering the ivory handles of her twin blades. Her hands closed over them, relishing the familiar weight, the comfort from gripping them, the energy flowing through them, marks glowing along the blades. She could feel the locks holding down her magic releasing now that the barrier was gone.

"You missed a spot," she teased, the first time she's smiled in weeks, setting the daggers lovingly on the sheets beside her. His face was serious.

"I missed you."

She drew him into her arms as he knelt before her. His bow fell beside her blades. She pressed her face against his neck, smelling the scent of  the plains, smelling him, a mix of sweat and leather.

"Forgive me," she said, "I failed."

"You only fail when you give up hope," he said. She could feel his breath flowing through her hair like a warm summer breeze.

A siren sounded behind them, men running across the grounds, swarming like bees to a broken hive. He pulled her to her feet, both of them retrieving their weapons.

"There's so many."

"We're together now, aren't we?"

She smiled. She could feel the plains' magic in the hand touching hers. It increased, the bubble surrounding them, lifting them off the ground. All the magical energy that had been repressed in her exploded in a rush, a bursting hydrant of power that she could not stop and didn't dare try. He grinned.

They leapt down from her prison, the wind cooling the burning heat at her forehead, their feet brushing only lightly against the ground. They sped through the guards, repeling them with sweeping movements of her daggers and shots from his bow, their combined magic arcing off the bubble's edge like lightning. She could see the break in the barrier ahead, glowing a swirling blue. They blocked it, five men deep. They put away their weapons.

Joining hands, they thrust their opposite hands forward, fingers splayed. The men went flying in all directions as they crossed through the portal. They tumbled endlessly, losing contact.

She landed hard on the ground, face down in tall grasses, barely missing ramming her skull into a tree. For a frightening moment she couldn't find him beside her, but she heard him say "Up here!" and looked up into the tree. There he was, hanging from a branch by his ankle. He was laughing.

"Welcome home,"  he said, his eyes so bright and happy.

In those eyes, she was already home.


Thanks for reading!

If you loved it, hated it, or somewhere in-between please let me know. I'm always open for improvement. If you like this one, why not read some of my other #FridayFlash entries?

I write new flash fiction every Friday. On Tuesdays I update one of my #TuesdaySerials: Last One Standing Tall and Eleven & Counting.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Last One Standing Tall #5

A Fantasy-Western Serial
It all started here, but feel free to begin wherever you like.


The sun had moved high over their heads by the time they had reached the edge of the desert that marked the border to the next town, Wheatfield, now just a dim outline in the heat a few miles at most along the cracked ground. A cloud-line swirled overhead, casting a dark shadow over them. They slowed their horses and stopped, looking up.

The air became still. Not even the dried grasses swayed in the silence. Reed and Anna noticed immediately, they could feel the quiet around them. It was like the wind had taken its last breath and died. The air felt hotter and thick. For a moment Reed remembered the air of Anna's greenhouse. Only this wasn't calming. Something was wrong.

"A storm?" Reed asked, turning around to watch the clouds move swiftly behind them. He had never seen a storm pass so quickly. The Green Mountains had their share of thunderstorms, but he had never felt anything like this.

"No," Anna said, her horse backing up in fright, whinnying loudly. "Oh Lord... no..."

"What?" Reed had never heard her sound so frightened.

Anna simply pointed upwards into the clouds.

Reed had never seen a tornado before, let alone five of them all at once. Had never even heard about them. His fellow Xylem had mentioned natural disasters plaguing the human settlements, but he had never cared to listen to such stories. He figured that was all they were, just human tales. He didn't know what to think as they spiraled down from the black cloud, stretching down like the fingers of God to caress the desert sands. He pulled his horse, Abe, to a halt. He sat in awe, watching them explore along the dusty ground, debris kicking up around them, turning them black. For a moment he didn't hear Anna calling his name.

As he turned, he could not only see the fear on her face, but feel it radiating out from her. "What are they?" he asked, his words filled with reverence.

"Tornadoes," she said, "I've seen 'em all my life, but I ain't never seen this many at once or moving this fast. It ain't natural." She shook her head.

"Are they dangerous?"

"You kiddin me! You get cornered by one of those and you're as good as dead. They'll blow you off your feet and send everything around you flying at you so fast it'll cut right through you."

"Can we go around them?"

"Are you crazy? You can't go around them like they're a boulder on a path! Look at 'em, they don't have a pattern, they just fling around willy-nilly. We don't got a choice. We gotta turn back, Mr. Reed. Least til they pass."

"How long do they last?"

"Two, maybe three minutes if we're lucky, longer if we're not," she said and steered Clark around, heading back the way they came.

Hesistating for just a moment more, he finally followed after her, until she stopped again.

"You've gotta be kidding me."


He pulled up beside her and looked across the desert, catching sight of an approaching dust cloud. It wasn't another tornado, or even a smaller dust devil, it was a large group of vehicles heading their way and fast. They were clustered tightly together in an almost military formation. Unfortunately for them, it wasn't the Calvary.

"Reinheart," she said evenly, "I just know it. C'mon, we'll have to cut sideways. Maybe if we're lucky he'll run into those," she said, indicating the tornadoes. "Even a car's no match for a tornado. They'd be stupid to follow."

Reed nodded, following her lead. They galloped as fast as the horses could go, heading south. Neither of them could keep their eyes off the tornadoes as they passed by. Anna gasped when the tornadoes began to head towards them, changing direction almost as if they were being pulled magnetically by some unseen force.

"Impossible," Anna said, "I think they're chasing us..."

"They are not the only ones," Reed said, nodding towards the approaching cars, becoming more visible by the second. "We cannot outrun them much longer. Their machines are swifter than our horses."

"No, no, no!" Anna said, "They're cornering us! I forgot about the Muddy River. It's up ahead," she pointed to what he could barely see as a wide gap in the ground. The closer he got, he saw the canyon, cut by a river, its water brown, moving fast, the gap across it too wide to jump. They both slowed the horses as they reached the gap.

Anna briefly glanced back and forth between the tornadoes blocking their exit and the vehicles closing in. "I'm not giving up," she said, "Let's keep alongside it."

So close to the edge, they rode in a steady gait, always looking to the left, the funnel clouds dark before the sun, like iron bars trapping them, pressing them against the river's edge. Shots fired overhead. Behind them the vehicles closed the gap, bumping along the uneven ground. They could even hear them shouting now over the rumble of the engines. Neither of them dared look back, focusing on the town, so close and yet so far out of their reach. They could feel the winds now from the tornadoes, dust that stung at their eyes as it blasted about. The air that had been so quiet was now rumbling softly at first but growing in volume. Reed had never heard a wind so loud and angry.

"That's it!" Anna shouted suddenly, breaking and turning about wildly. "Mr. Reed, you get on to town, I'm gonna lead them away."

He couldn't believe what she was doing and no sooner had she announced this before she was galloping towards them full-speed.

"Anna! Come back!"

She turned back for a moment, "Don't worry about me," she said, and for the first time he saw her draw a pistol from her jacket. "They don't want me, they want you! You find my Dad! I'll catch up later!" Then she was lost in the clouds of dust swirling around them. He could barely see anything, and looked up, even the sun barely shown through as a bright circle within the amber cloud. It moved swiftly as he rode.

He had no choice. He could barely see where he was going and continued forward as fast as Abe could go. He couldn't hear anything over the roaring wind that threatened to deafen him. He held one hand on his hat, losing a few of the leaves on his head to the wind. Something cut him across his cheek. He ducked as a bush whizzed by. A fierce terror he could not describe overtook him.

Time was meaningless near the tornadoes. It wasn't until the winds began to die down that he became aware of what had happened, finding himself only a quarter of a mile from the town proper.  It shocked him that none of the buildings seemed disturbed in the least. The clouds were subsiding, the tornadoes gone as quickly as they had arrived, only the dust clouds showing that anything had happened. Some part of him wondered if he hadn't dreamed them up in the first place, until he placed his hand against his cheek. The cut healed easily enough under his touch, the green fibers sewing back together, weaving and tightening.

He looked around, dismounting from Abe, who he left to drink at a water trough near the town's edge. The horse seemed calm now and just as bored as ever. From here Reed could see the main street. Wheatfield's buildings here were bigger, longer, and there were more of them, but unlike Anna's town, this human village was empty. Empty as his own had been in the mountains. Many of the windows were boarded up.

Uneasiness settled upon him. This town did not feel right. Not in the least.

Continue to #6?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Highest Score

The high score on the Galaga table at Peter Piper Pizza on Alameda Avenue had always been Jessica's.

JES, as she was known on the score boards in the tiny arcade, had never been conquered, sitting pretty at 281,280 points. She always carried a few quarters in her pocket just in case she needed a quick run against the hoards of bug invaders. Peter's was local, but was more than just a pizza joint. Built when her parents were teenagers, her mom had even worked there for a time when Jessica was little. Peter's held a lot of childhood memories. It was her place. Her sanctuary.

So you can imagine how she felt when she sat down at the table for a quick run and noticed something had changed. The number under the red high score read: 379,720 points. That's not right, she thought. Was the machine broken? She was about to hit the tiny red 1-player button when the screen flashed to the high score screen.What she saw made her nearly pick up the machine with both hands and slam it into the wall.

        SCORE     NAME
1ST   379,720      DAN
2ND   281,280      JES

No one had ever dared challenge her before and this guy was clearly good. DAN huh? Say goodbye to your dignity, DAN, she thought, you're just about to get PWN'D by a girl. She cracked her knuckles and hit the start button, pulling all 8 quarters out of her pocket and letting them spill across the screen edge. She had a feeling she was going to need them.

Thirty-six quarters and a day later, she sat back in the worn wooden chair and sipped her Cherry Coke, nibbling on the stem that had long since lost its cherry. She smirked at the high score board which now read:

        SCORE     NAME
1ST   403,330      JES
2ND   379,720      DAN 

A celebratory supreme pizza was in order, so she ordered one and sat in her favorite booth by the window, watching the joggers, rollerbladers and dog walkers pass by. Her mind was light years away in a tiny pixelized cockpit shooting with 75% accuracy. She almost wanted to play again just to push it up higher, but that was a silly idea. That was probably the best DAN had. He wouldn't dare show his face here again, whoever he was.

Considering her marathon, she knew she should take a break from playing for a while, but something was nagging at the back of her mind every time she rode by on her scooter, her palms sweating, adrenaline pumping through her veins. She pulled over into the next empty spot and hopped off, not even stopping to take off her helmet. I gotta see the scoreboard again, she thought, just a quick look. But once she was inside she couldn't fight habit and ordered a Cherry Coke, sitting down, figuring if she had come in she might as well play a round or two, just to calm down. She removed the cherry and chomped down on it.

She choked on the cherry when she saw the score had changed again. 502,340 was listed under the high score. Her pulse quickened, her fist tightening around the joystick. She spammed the fire button, knowing the machine would take its own sweet time to get to the high score list but trying to make it hurry anyway. Her left eye twitched a few times and she rubbed it to try and make it stop. She nearly missed what it said on the Top 5 listing:

        SCORE     NAME
1ST   502,340      DAN
2ND   403,330      JES
3RD   400,110      JUS
4TH   390,270      GIV
5TH   388,660      UP

Just give up!? This time she cursed and leapt up so fast that she spilled her Coke on the floor and knocked over her chair. A couple patrons watched her closely, she could feel their negative thoughts hit her like gunshots. Her face flushed. She hadn't meant to cause a scene, but it was just... This guy, whoever he was, he deserved to get hit by a truck.

Kate, the cashier on duty, glared like a statue of a nun as she ran up to ask for paper towels to clean up her mess. It was her fault, she would clean it up.

"What's gotten into you lately?"

"Paper towels?" Jessica asked.

"You didn't answer me, Jess."

"It's DAN."

"Dan? I didn't know you had a boyfriend."

"He's not my boyfriend!" She said a little too forcefully and then bit her pinky nail, "I mean, he's this jerk who keeps beating my score on Galaga."

"That's what all that was about?" Kate said, and laughed, reaching underneath to hand her a soapy rag. "Use this instead. It'll save a tree."

"It's not funny. This is serious."

"Oh come now, it's just a bunch of numbers."

"It's not. It's a matter of pride."

"Then go beat his score then. Don't stand around here whining about it. And no more tantrums. You'll scare away the business."

She sighed. Kate was right. "Sorry."

"Just clean it up. I'll get you a new Cherry Coke."

Winning didn't come easy at all this time. It was a lot harder. But two weeks later Jessica had finally done it. She rested her cheek against the warm glass and closed her eyes, still seeing the ships zooming at her. She could practically play in her sleep now. She even had dreams about little alien ships surrounding her like flies that she couldn't get rid of no matter how much she swatted at them. She squinted down at the screen.

        SCORE     NAME
1ST   565,880      JES
2ND   502,340      DAN

"In your face, DAN," she said, sitting up and stretching. She downed the last of her third Cherry Coke, shaking it for the last few drops. She burped and folded her arms. One thing was for sure. DAN would be back. She brought her empty glasses to Kate.

"I see you did it. Took you long enough," Kate said with a grin.

"Kate, can you keep an eye on the table this weekend? Tell me if you see anyone playing it more than an hour."

"Jessica I am not going to stand around playing spy for you. If you want to see this guy so bad, then stick around. I'm sure he'll show up. There's a lot of people in on the weekends."

The next few days Jessica practically lived at Peter Piper Pizza. She had no idea who she was looking for. DAN could be anyone. A fat old guy who'd been playing it since '81 - or maybe a little genius kid who had learned all of his tricks watching the good players on YouTube. Maybe DAN was short for Danielle? She realized just how little she knew about DAN. Other than DAN was a jerk. She really hoped it was someone she could slug in the jaw and not feel guilty about it. In her mind she acted out her exacting her revenge in a number of different ways, but most of all, she wanted to see the look of shock and disappointment that was sure to be on DAN's face.

So she waited, sitting at her favorite booth, watching the Galaga table like a fox watches a rabbit hole, just waiting for the prey to come out and play. As Kate had predicted there were lots of people coming in. Kate was giving her the eye, which she knew meant: if all the tables fill up, I'm gonna ask you to move. She hoped she wouldn't have to, but when the lunch rush hit, Kate stood over her table and Jessica quietly gathered up her things and meandered into the arcade, finally plopping on the wobbly barstool in front of Street Fighter II. She figured she might as well entertain herself and put in two quarters.

When she looked back at the end of the round, there was someone sitting at the table.

His lanky legs barely fit under the table. He looked to be about her age with well-kept hair, baggy jeans and a black t-shirt. She suddenly had to know was on the front of his t-shirt. She didn't look back to the game even as M. Bison beat the crap out of her Chun-Li and the Game Over screen flashed. Her eyes were locked on him. This was it. Now or never. She bit her nail again and steeled herself. Don't show any fear. He was a jerk and she had to put him in his place.

He gave a low whistle. He was on the High Score screen. He didn't say a word, simply slipping in a quarter into the coin slot. He squirmed in the chair, preparing himself for battle. It was now or never.

"DAN?" She said suddenly, surprised at the squeak in her voice. "You... That was my high score."

He turned, smiling almost as widely as the Yoshi on his shirt. He adjusted his thin-framed rectangular glasses, "JES, I presume? You're really good. I don't know if I can beat you this time. 525,770 is my all-time high."

Jessica couldn't say why but her anger melted away, replaced by something else entirely. He didn't seem at all how she pictured he would be.

"Sorry if I made you upset, I just wanted to make sure you would play again," he smirked. "Care to join me?"

She hesitated, wanting to gnaw her whole pinky off, but holding her hands tightly together. Her face felt hot. She wondered if the A/C was broken. It was hard for her to breathe. She nearly left the restaurant, nearly turned and ran out, but forced herself to walk over and calmly sit down opposite him. It felt so odd to sit at the other end of the table. Her heart was beating too fast.

"So what's your real name?" he asked as he slipped in another quarter and his level began, working the joystick expertly back and forth.


"I'm Daniel. But all my friends call me Dan... You can call me Dan." He looked up briefly and smiled at her. He was so nice, and he was kinda cute.

Jessica smiled back. "You can call me Jess."


Thanks for reading!

If you loved it, hated it, or somewhere in-between please let me know. I'm always open for improvement. If you like this one, why not read some of my other #FridayFlash entries?

I write new flash fiction every Friday. On Tuesdays I update one of my #TuesdaySerials: Last One Standing Tall and Eleven & Counting.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eleven & Counting - Part 5

This is Part 5 but it all started here...

"Hold on a sec," Andrew interrupted. "What does this story have to do with anything? Where did the egg come from?"

"If you would let me finish, Andrew," Aunt Jenna said, "I'll be happy to tell you. Here, help me dry him off."

The little fish-like dragon was clean now, no longer gooey from the egg. His mottled colors were even more vibrant and his scales shimmered like the inside of a oyster. Blue, green, pink. Andrew had a betta fish once, and he remembered that the males were always more colorful than the females. They were like peacocks, using colors to attract mates. The thought of more dragons like this one intrigued him. He took the towel from Aunt Jenna and was surprised when the little dragon curled up into the towel like a cat, rubbing against it and drying off.

"Why do we have to dry it off? You said it was a water dragon." He felt ridiculous drying off a fish.

"Lake dragons are very particular about their water, as you will see. May I finish?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said with a sigh.

"Maybe I won't finish if that's your attitude."


Aunt Jenna smirked.

"I mean, you should finish."

"No more interruptions?"

"I promise."

The baby dragon opened its wide mouth and made a noise that was halfway between a gurgle and a chirp. It reminded him of those plastic bird whistles you filled with water, or at least how he played them, which sounded more like a bird gargling water. He gently dried it off, surprised at how soft its fins were. They were smooth as pebbles, flexible as rubber, yet sturdy. The tiny fish-dragon curled up in his lap, keeping his eyes fixed on Aunt Jenna as she continued.

As I was saying, Erik wished to save the Fae maiden, even though there was a price to be paid. He did not know what the price was, but it did not matter to him at the time. He was in love for the first time.

"Andalaise, please grant my wish," he said.

"If I bond with you," she replied, "my connection will be restored. But know this, you may never leave this forest, lest we both shall die and fade from this world."

"I would never leave this room if I could be with you always."

"You are truly a fool to say such a thing. But how I love you. Take my hand and vow to me then. Cursed are you if you break it, blessed are you if you keep it. You, and all your descendants as well."

He held her hand tightly. "I vow to never leave this forest."

In that very instant, the bond was created between them. They could feel it in their bones. Later that night, Erik took Andalaise as his wife. They lived happily together in the forest, teaching each other the ways of their peoples and they prospered in the bounty of the land during their first harvest.

As their first Winter set in, she was already heavy with child. Their son, Liam, was born in the middle of a terrible storm. The blizzard continued relentlessly for seven days and seven nights. They were running low on food and Andalaise grew weaker each day. Erik gave up his portions to feed her that she might be able to feed their son. Each day the game grew more scarce. He knew he could find more food outside the forest, but knew he could not leave it. They would both die. Their son was scarcely a few days old and would die without their care. However, they would all die soon regardless without any food.

Facing such utter despair, he wept at the lake where he had rescued his dear Andalaise. His cries awakened the Silver Gulariss, the Queen of the Lake Dragons. She rose from her winter sleep under the mud at the bottom of the lake and crashed through the icy barrier. She looked down in anger upon Erik who scrambled backwards.

"Begone foul human! You have disturbed my winter slumber. You are not welcome in the realm of the Gulariss," she hissed, spraying water that turned to ice crystals on the air. All about her danced a mist that became like snow in the cold, ice forming along her delicate fantail and fins.

"Forgive me! I beseech you, oh noble one," he cried, "Andalaise, my wife and daughter of the Fae, and our newborn son are dying of hunger. I would do anything you ask if you would give me food for them."

The fish-dragon listened to his plea and her heart softened, for she was not a merciless creature. The winter winds blew, but she seemed not to notice, studying him, staring into his eyes with her own. He found he couldn't look away. They were golden orbs.

"Yes, I see you have bonded with the Fae. You are already in bondage to this forest. What manner of human are you, that you so carelessly throw your life away?"

"I am but a humble man with one wish, to protect those that I love."

"Ah, your heart is indeed pure. I can also feel the Fae powers. They are strong within you. Perhaps then you could be of use to me. Pledge your life to serve me, son of Man, and I will feed your family for a lifetime. They will want for nothing."

"How may I serve you?"

"As Queen of the Gulariss I lay a single egg once every eleven of your human years. Once I have laid seven eggs, I will die. My seventh will come this very Spring."

"Then you wish for me to care for your eggs? But why do they need my care?"

"Normally my mate would care for my eggs, but he was killed, taken as a trophy by greedy Men who valued his colorful scales. Now there is no one to protect my children when I am gone."

He bowed deeply before her. "Then it would be my honor. I will pledge to serve you. I shall take care of your eggs as if they were my own children."

The fish-dragon rose higher and let out a bubbly laugh. "I am deeply touched. You are truly noble, that you would treat me and my kin with such compassion. What is your name, human, that I might address you properly."


"Erik the Kind-hearted, extend your hand." He did so. Using her long whisker, she traced a symbol on his palm. It glowed red hot, burning into his skin.

"Erik, as you protect my children, so my children shall protect yours. Together we shall unite our families in friendship. From this day forward, you belong to the Clan of Gulariss."

He touched his face to the ground, "My Lady Gulariss is both noble and generous. I asked only for food and you have offered me friendship. I cannot thank you enough."

"Rise! Sir Erik of the Gulariss! It is I who should be thanking you. You have improved my mood considerably, for now I have hope for the future. That is beyond worth. But for now, let us think of the present. I shall bring food to your family. Enough to last you through this confounded winter. All I will ask of you now is that you return here on the first day of Spring."

The Queen kept her promise, more than fulfilling her end of the bargain. All through the cold, harsh winter, Erik's family had more than enough to eat, so much that much of it began to spoil and had to be stored deep within the snow banks.

The following Spring, he kept his end of the bargain and met the Great Queen as she came ashore in all of her beauty, to his surprise, walking on her finned limbs as graceful as a gazelle, her slim body held high like a swan's. Her whiskers plucked an oyster from her back, setting it before him. She caressed the surface and it opened, revealing six eggs, each a color of the rainbow: indigo, purple, red, orange, yellow and green.

"My time is nearly at an end. I shall fly to my nesting ground at the center of the forest. I must ask that you come along, so that you may retrieve the egg when I am done."

"Andalaise will guard the others while we are gone."

The Queen nodded to her and she bowed with respect. "Thank you, my Lady Gulariss. Your kindness has brought good health to my family." She turned and showed the small baby that was sleeping peacefully in a sling tied across her back.

"He is but the first of many. I see strong children in your future." Andalaise blushed and smiled.

"Come, Erik. You may ride on my back." She helped him up and he held onto her tightly as she took off, her fins reflecting the light, casting small rainbows over the ground. Andalaise watched them fly high into the sky.

Andalaise began to worry when Erik did not return, but she did not leave Liam or her new children, the six eggs, which she kept in a place of honor. But she need not have worried. Two days later he finally did return, carrying the last of the Queen's eggs: blue as a sapphire.

"And that very egg," Aunt Jenna finished, "Is the same egg that I gave to you today."

Where once Andrew would have clapped, laughed, or said it was an unbelievable story but a good one, he now sat in silence. He couldn't deny the truth, because it was sitting in his lap and smiling up at him.

Continue to Part 6?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Miracle Man

A Friday Flash by J.M. Rich

I feel like I'm at a damn AA meeting. Hello. My name is Mike and I have lung cancer. No, I never smoked. It was asbestos in my apartment. That's what you get for trying to do something yourself.

For the record, it's always too cold on the fourth floor at Danish General. Every time I'm stuck there the nurses won't do a thing about it except gimme another blanket. As if that helps.

But you know what I hate the most? I hate it when people stare at you like they could contract cancer just from being in the same room with you. I know, I know, most people know it isn't contagious like a cold. But most people seem to keep their distance just the same, don't they? I don't even think they realize they're doing it. The fake smiles, the awkard wave and "Hey, how's it going?" even know they know full well how's it's going. I'm dying. It's cancer. What do you expect?

Don't think I'm always this pessimistic. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows, same as the cancer. I just need to type all this up before I do break down and actually tell someone everything. Like any of you will believe me either, but there's just some things that I need to say here so I don't go blabbing and earn myself a permanent trip into the crazy ward. Hell, I know I'm going to end up there. It's only a matter of time now, isn't it?

Look, I don't know how much time I have, so I'm just gonna be blunt cause everything else I've tried writing sounds too haughty. I have a super power.

Any of you ever wanted a super power? Me, I always wanted super strength. I mean who wouldn't get a kick out of bending steel beams like plastic straws and kicking cars out of your way. I've always wanted to kick a Hummer.

You know what I ended up with instead? A cure for cancer. Leukemia. Alzheimer's. I'm a living antidote. It's all here in my fingertips. That's me. Miracle Man.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

I know one of you wise guys is saying, "Well why don't you heal yourself, genius!" Yeah, of course I tried that. That's the strangest part about this whole thing. I can help everyone but me. I don't know why. It doesn't make sense. Not that anything makes sense about all of this. 

I don't blame you if you don't believe me. Hell, I didn't believe it myself at first. The first few people I cured I just wrote it off as coincidences, until Simon. Then, I knew.

It was Vicky who signed me up for Hospital Pals program. She said it would be good for me. Considering she was nice enough not to dump my ass as soon as she found out I had Mr. Big C - I tend to listen to her. She's good - too good for the likes of me.

Anyway, my pal was Simon. Amazing kid. Wanted to be a cancer doctor. Can you believe it? He didn't deserve to be here, but can't you say that about a lot of these kids? Damnit, they're so nice. I envy the pediatric side of the ward sometimes cause it's so positive over there. Unlike this side of things. Too many nights where you wish you didn't hear the wailing down the hall. Not that it's all sunshine over there either. They just try to keep things upbeat for the kids when they can, you know?

Even though Simon was only like 8 or something and I was more than triple that, we had a ton of similar interests, including fast cars. Kid had a great eye for a Porche. We were car-watching in the glass-walkway over the street bridging Building II and III when it happened.

One minute he was fine and laughing about a purple slug bug and the next he was seizing. I barely caught him before he hit the ground. I panicked and called out for help. It was one thing to see someone seize, and I had seen my share in the ward, but it was another to see it happen to someone you care about. Someone so small.

My hands were shaking as I lowered him to the ground. I took off my jacket and slipped it under his head so it didn't bang against the cold tiles. No one was coming to help. I yelled again. I felt so helpless and so utterly useless. When it finally passed, he began to cry.

"I'm sorry, Mike. I peed my pants. I didn't mean to..." He had nothing to be sorry for. I held him in my arms as he cried and he hugged me tightly.

"Am I dying, Mike? Am I dying?" I was crying. I couldn't stand his suffering. I wanted him to get better and maybe that was all it took.

Something passed between us that felt like at first like a warm wave, but it intensified. I thought I was burning alive. It was the same as before with Gerald, with Emma, with Paulie. Only it was stronger now. The fires within me consumed everything until everything was black and charred.

It was a day later and I was back in my room when I came to. I called my nurse and asked about Simon. She seemed surprised but then said, "Oh I suppose you haven't heard yet. Well, he's apparently been cured like those other three people. They're saying it's another miracle of God. He's probably just gone into remission. That usually happens." I wanted to slap her.

Dr. Carmichaels met with me privately later that day. Asked me directly if I had noticed anything strange about any of the patients. At some point just before their recovery, each patient recalled being struck with a violent hot flash. Each patient had been with me at the time, touching me. A handshake. A hand on a shoulder. Hands helping him stand. A hug...

I kept my mouth shut. That night, I had to see for myself. I snuck around after hours and I tried to make it happen. By doing it on command I found I could control the heat like a faucet. I let it burn as hot as I could take it before dousing it and moving on. I couldn't stay in one place so I went everywhere. Seniors. Adults. Teens. Kids. Babies. I healed thirteen in that night alone before I became completely exhausted. By the end of the week they were calling this place The Hospital of Miracles. The sick were lining up to get in and the Press tried to squeeze in at every open door. No one knew what was causing it and with so many cases popping up with no evidence of me involved, I was removed from suspicion.

Security tightened though, and I found it harder to sneak around. I had to invent excuses, even forge a few things I'd rather not admit to. I should have stopped then, but I couldn't. Once I found this power, I knew I had to help as many people as I could. I had to.

Simon was like my son, the son I'll never have with Vicky. Everyday I think if I can just save a few more people like him before my clock runs out... But it's getting so hard.

I guess that's why I'm writing this. I want people to know the truth before they catch me.

Tonight I'm going for it. I'm shooting for the whole terminal ward. God help me whatever happens tomorrow, but I can't stand waiting anymore. I need to help. I need to heal. I just have to. I'm sorry I couldn't do more. I don't give a damn what happens to me anymore. My life isn't worth as much as someone like Simon. I've taken so many things for granted. The world will be better off when I'm gone.

Vicky, if you're reading this, please forget about me and move on to something better. You deserve it.

Mike Sands
a.k.a Miracle Man


Thanks for reading!

If you loved it, hated it, or somewhere in-between please let me know. I'm always open for improvement. If you like this one, why not read some of my other #FridayFlash entries?

I write new flash fiction every Friday. On Tuesdays I update one of my #TuesdaySerials: Last One Standing Tall and Eleven & Counting.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Last One Standing Tall #4

A Fantasy-Western Serial
It all started here, but feel free to begin wherever you like.

It was an hour before dawn when Reed returned. As he came through the front door, he found Anna waiting for him, her arms crossed and her hair standing up in all directions. She was wearing a robe and looked like she hadn't been able to sleep much either. He realized he was still wearing the hat, so he quickly removed it and offered it to her. To his surprise, she chuckled and then laughed.

"No, no, you hold onto that. Daddy hasn't worn those in ages, but they aren't half bad on you," she said, admiring the clothes on him. "What possessed you to try them on?"

"I had to get some fresh air," he said, "Did I wake you?"

"Well, it is mighty hard to sleep with someone wandering around your house all night, then coming down to find him gone with no idea of where he had gone to," she emphasized, "but I'm glad you're okay. I was worried maybe those men had come back--"

"Anna," he interrupted.

"What is it? You look a little on the green side, if you'll excuse the pun."

He wasn't sure what she meant by that, but went ahead with what he wanted to say, "The Sheriff, the man you are looking for. He is your father."

"Yeah, so he is," she said. "How did you know that?"

"I heard news of him."

She bit her lip, tears welling up in her eyes. "I don't care what anyone said. My daddy is alive, do you understand me? Alive. And tomorrow I'm gonna find him and bring some order back to this outhouse of a town."

She left the room and was up the staircase before he could think of a reply. A few seconds later he heard her door slam. Reed wandered back to the living room. As he passed the window he knocked over a frame and caught it before it hit the ground. It was a human picture. The man who had traded with his village had such a device and he had seen a picture similar to it. It was the most fascinating of human magic. In the picture was a younger Anna and a man who must be her father, for they had similar features, especially the eyes and in their smile. He looked proud and very happy. Reed had not meant any harm. He had only wanted to tell her. Perhaps he still had a lot to learn about humans.


Anna whistled as she came down to breakfast an hour later. She was packed and ready to go, which was fine with Reed. She offered him food and he politely declined everything but a bowl of strawberries.

"I wasn't sure if you ate food," she said, watching him eat them one by one as she finished her fried eggs and bacon, "I mean, you're a plant and those are plants right?"

"I am not a strawberry bush."

"But you are a plant."

"You are eating other animals," he said, pointing to her breakfast.

"Heh. You got me there," she said, "So do you eat animals?"

"I have eaten fish. I could try others, I suppose."

"The Xylem don't have any laws or anything for eating animals?"

"Not that it matters anymore," he said, and they finished eating in silence.


"I've got something for you before we head out," Anna said, "Wait here."

She returned with a pair of boots. As she brought them closer he saw they were nearly filled to the top with soil. She reached her hand in and let the soil drop from her palm back into the boot. It dawned on him what they were for and he admired her ingenuity.

"This way you won't have to worry about finding good soil in the desert," she said, "And you won't have to hop around in that pot."

They both laughed at the thought. It felt good to do so.

"I packed a canteen full of it too, in addition to your water. Just in case."

"Thank you," he took the boots from her.

"I have a good feeling about today, Mr. Reed," she said.

He could see the hope in her eyes. Her smile reminded him of the little girl he had seen in the picture frame, and of her father beside her. For her sake, he hoped they were just rumors. He hadn't told her what he had seen at the saloon. It wasn't important.

The rich soil felt good between his roots as he pulled on the boots. The first few steps were a little shakey because he wasn't used to using something else to walk on the ground. They felt clunky. However, he discovered that the longer he walked in them, the more he liked them and the easier it was to keep balance without feeling the ground directly. He could see why humans had adapted to their use; it could be the reason why they were able to adapt to all kinds of terrain and even scale the great mountains.

He donned the long coat and hat again and went outside. They would give him protection from the desert sun during the hottest parts of the day. Anna was busy in the small stable getting the horses ready. He also made sure to drink more water than he thought he would need before they left. This time he felt more prepared for what lay ahead. In the back of his mind, he still wasn't sure what to do with himself now that his race were no more. Distracting himself with human problems seemed to be helping him. He felt more alive now than he had in the past few months, even when Willowbark was still alive.

A pang of regret stung him again. Why hadn't they gone to the humans for help? Willowbark had forbidden him to leave the village to look for soil. He wished now he would have broken that vow and gone anyway. Maybe he could have saved him. But he couldn't have left him alone in his sickness. At that point he needed nearly constant care. No, Reed wouldn't have been able to leave Willowbark alone like that. He would have been dead either way so it was better that at least he wasn't alone in his last moments... alone like Reed was now.

He stopped staring at the greenhouse as he felt a hand on his shoulder. Anna was already on her horse and ready to go, the saddlebags packed. She smiled down at him. "Abe's saddled up for you," she pointed to a palamino standing nearby who was munching on a hanging plant. "Abe! Sorry, Mr. Reed. I swear he's more like a grazing bull than a horse."

Reed hoped Abe wouldn't try to eat him for a snack along the way. Maybe he'd be better off walking. He steered clear of Clark who was eyeing him suspiciously and snorted loudly as he passed. The other horse didn't even seem to notice him.

"Clark are you still giving him trouble?" Her stallion whinnied in reply. "Hush you. Saddle-up, Mr. Reed. Maybe we can make it all the way to New Olive before Noon."

"I'm afraid you folks won't be leaving town anytime soon."

Blocking the way back into town was the man from the saloon. The man who killed two men. The man who was now pointing his gun at the two of them. Nine men flanked him but only he had his gun drawn.

Anna rode Clark forward. When they did not move out of her way, Clark whinnied, backing up. "Good morning, Mr. Reinheart. What brings you out from under your rock this lovely morning?"

"I mean to talk to your friend." Reed felt those eyes on him again even though he was looking directly at Anna.

"He's just passing through. If you'll excuse us, we'll be on our way."

Reinheart took hold of Clark's bridle and the stallion snorted. "I'm afraid you don't have any say in the matter, Miss Daniels."

"You just try and stop us."

The hammer clicked back as he aimed his gun at her heart. "Don't tempt me," he said, just loudly enough for Reed to hear.

She did not back down. "I'm not afraid of someone like you."

"You should be."

The gunshot flew wild as Clark neighed, rearing up wildly. Reinheart lost grip on the bridle and fell. He barely rolled out of the way before Clark's hoof could slam down through his skull. "Reed!" she shouted. "Follow me!"

Abe yanked out the plant he was chewing on as Reed mounted, locking his boots into the stirrups. He grabbed the reins and followed Anna's lead as they fled through the back, squeezing through the alleyway between the greenhouse and her house. Shots rang out behind them, shattering hanging pots and glass, ricocheting off the brickwork as Reinheart screamed out orders.

As soon as they were in the open air, they charged into a full gallop, darting past alarmed pedestrians and carriages. Reed leaned into the gallop and used one hand to hold down his hat. Once they broke free of the town they kept going, heading south-east with the sun rising on their left.

Now that Reed had the hang of riding, he enjoyed himself. He had never felt anything like this. His heart beat strong as the wind rumbled in his ears so loud he could hear nothing else. He had been born a son of the earth, but now he was reborn to the Great Winds, blasting past cactus and dried plants, kicking up dust devils that swept over the cracked ground. He thrust out his hat and called out a victory whoop that carried as far as the South Wind could take it.

Continue to #5?