Tag Archives: flash fiction

Microcosms 45

The prompt this week commemorates Dostoyevsky’s birthday and it took me a while to be inspired. I’m really finding that I get more creative the more restrictive the parameters (which actually aligns with modern research into how creativity works so isn’t that surprising, really).

This week’s elements were:

Novel/Novella: Landlady

Short Story: Weak Heart

Genre: Romance

End of an Era

296 Words

Mariana inhaled as she raised her hand to the doorbell, her heart fluttering in anticipation.

“Oh be quiet, you silly old fool,” she muttered toward her chest as footsteps approached.

The door opened, and there he was. Her tenant, Daniel, towered over her, blond and gorgeous. He’d clearly been exerting himself – no doubt last-minute cleaning for the inspection – and his muscular young body glistened beneath loose-fitting singlet and shorts. Blue eyes twinkled as he smiled at the old Greek woman.

“Mariana! Right on time as usual.” He leaned in to kiss her cheek and she swooned to his natural musk.

“Daniel,” she responded, forcing her voice not to waver, “always a pleasure!”

He invited her in and began the tour, pointing out where the tired paint was still fading and the tired walls still cracking. The unit was well-loved, despite its old, sun-bleached state. Mariana’s children kept insisting she should do the place up and double the rent, but she loved its old-fashioned charm – and she loved its current tenant, who could not afford a rise that high.

They got to the bathroom and she noticed some feminine touches: an extra toothbrush and pink razor resting on the vanity. Her heart skipped a beat.

“Daniel, you’re not sub-letting behind my back now, are you?” she admonished with a chuckle.

Daniel blushed. “My girlfriend stays here on the weekends,” he admitted sheepishly. “That’s not a problem, is it?”

She swallowed disappointment as her fantasy shattered. “Foolish woman!” she thought.

“Of course not, Daniel dear. I’m only teasing.”

The inspection finished and they exchanged their farewell pleasantries, although Daniel noted that Mariana seemed a little flatter than usual. As she got into her car she let out a wistful sigh.

Maybe her children had a point after all…

Microcosms 43

After judging Microcosms 42 last week, it’s back to being a regular old entrant for me this time.

Not that I’m complaining, mind: it was such a fun prompt this week – an homage to Rocky Horror Picture Show, to celebrate Halloween.

I will readily admit it, back in the late 90s I used to dress up and head to George St cinemas in Sydney every Friday night to watch the regular screening/performance. I knew all the call-backs, sang along to all the songs, got to know the cast.

Good times.

Here’s my tongue-in-cheek entry to celebrate an incredibly fun movie. I managed to submit it with a few hours to spare this week! But it’s now too late for you to vote for your favourites. You should totally go read all the other entries anyway though.

The “Character” and “Activity” prompts were drawn from the lyrics to Science Fiction/Double Feature.

Give Yourself Over

Character: Bride

Activity: Coming from Space

Genre: Romance

300 words

Michael paced nervously. The clearing where they’d agreed to meet was a little more dark and remote than he would have liked – and now Rainey was late.

He checked his phone for messages and pulled up Rainey’s profile again.

Those curves, that crazy hair, that vintage pin-up style.

Yep. Worth the wait. Assuming the pictures were legit (he’d been burned before).

Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the centre of the clearing and Michael dove to the ground. When he looked up again, Rainey was there.

He scrambled to his feet, agog.

“Michael,” she purred warmly, “I am Nellorain, agent of the Infinite Joy, and I have come to claim you as my bride.”

Michael blinked and swallowed. “Uh, what?”

She walked towards him, her sinuous body contained by a black corset and heels, her dark hair piled high upon her head, a gossamer negligee billowing behind her.

“My people study pleasure in all its forms and you have been chosen to help expand our understanding of this planet.”

Michael glanced around him, unsure how to respond.

Rainey continued. “You have no worldly commitments, no real friends, and many, many frustrated desires. Come with me and experience a bliss beyond your imagination.”

Michael slumped a little. “Wait – are you calling me a loser?”

Rainey cocked her head. “I believe that’s the vernacular, yes.” She reached out and took hold of both his hands.

A surge of pure ecstasy coursed through his veins, knocking the wind right out of him. Her voice echoed in his head.

“Will you join me willingly, Michael?”

He shivered and smiled, any doubts or hurt feelings forgotten. “Well, when you put it that way…”

Rainey beamed and turned her face to the heavens. Another lightning bolt struck the ground and the clearing was empty once more.

Craziness

There’s a lot going on in the land of Meg right now.

I’m doing fierce battle with my depression while trying to keep my kids adequately fed, watered and entertained.

I’m trying to keep the momentum going on my diet (basically calorie counting and keeping active: I’ve lost ~6kg in the last 6 months with my sneaky, it’s-not-really-a-diet-it’s-just-a-few-days-without-treats-here-and-there approach) and sporadically attending a drop-in karate class around the corner.

My husband is helping a friend start up a virtual storefront business that I will assist with admin/marketing/content writing once it takes off (which hopefully it does! Ka-CHING!).

I’ve started a partial certification in Education Support that is looking fun and promising, and I hope to be able to take the rest of the course next year so I can eventually get a casual job during school hours.

My dabbling in flash fiction is going well: not only am I judging this week’s Microcosms contest (seriously, it’s an awesome prompt this week – go enter!) but I’ve found this curated list of writing competitions and signed up to enter The Great Flash Fiction War over this weekend. First prize is $2000. Bring it!

And then the girls have two birthday parties to attend this weekend. Plus the school fair.

Oh, and I have a weird, exhausted-but-not-symptomatic head-cold thing going on.

I’m not freaking out. YOU’RE freaking out!

Anyway, none of that is the “craziness” I’m referring to.

No, the crazy part happened this evening.

Lately my youngest miss (who turned four just over a week ago…) has been asking me to stay in their room until she’s asleep. I find it draining, but considering I used to cosleep with both girls all night every night I can deal with this little bit of neediness with grace. I just play some meditation music on my phone, fire up my kindle app (set to white writing on a black background) and read in the dark while she settles next to me.

On a whim this evening I decided to start rereading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I read it towards the end of last year and found it quite inspiring, with its approach for identifying and dismantling Resistance in your life. 

Near the beginning, in the introduction, this section fell really heavily into my brain, like it was important that I paid attention this time:

Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still, small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times before, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.

I read shit like this All. The. Time. I love that inspirational stuff. But I generally say “Psh! Whatever. It’s all well and good if you HAVE a single, driving passion but what if you don’t? I’m passionate about everything – but nothing ever seems to be truly passionate about me…”

This time, though…

I don’t know if it was the quiet, meditative setting, or the wine I’d drunk with dinner, or the culmination of my incessant ruminating on what exactly will keep me happy at the moment (or, more precisely, what will keep the melancholic lethargy at bay) – or possibly a combination of everything – but I stopped for a moment to dwell on this passage.

I took a good look at the gaping, craggy pit that’s been squatting in my chest lately and sucking the energy out of everything. I peered inside and saw a little, brow-beaten Meg at the bottom. She’s been there before – many times – and almost feels at home there. In the past I’ve thought that the way out was through singing, or saxophone, or DJing, or writing, or working with children in some capacity.

This time when I leaned into that cavern of yearning listlessness and whispered “What will make you happy?” she stretched a hand up my spine and whispered back:

I want to be a dancer.

*record scratch*

wut?

She twirled and struck a pose.

Dancing is what makes me happy.

Holy shit.

She’s right.

I’m never happier than when I’m in a crowd on a dance floor losing myself in the music. It’s why I was a goth for so long, and why I fell into DJing: I’d go clubbing AT LEAST once a week if at all possible and dance my heart out.

I freaking HATE “exercise” with a fiery passion – but I can dance for hours on end. As a kid I avoided all sports but took several types of dance class a week, right up until puberty kicked in and I had enough of the bitchiness and competitiveness.

Last weekend reminded me of this, when I went to my 20th reunion for my old school in Dubbo. It was a super fun evening and we ended up at a nightclub. I had the weekend to myself so I got quite drunk and danced my butt off. The music was amazing, with a really skilful DJ beat-matching and mixing like a champ. It was so much fun that I almost started crying.

So now what?

I’m a frumpy mum in the country. How the heck can I use this passion to drive my life down the right path? I can feel in my bones that I’m onto something here, that I need to incorporate the freedom of dance more deeply into my life. But how?

It’s a tough one for sure.

Microcosms 41

Late to share this one, but….

*insert drumroll*

I WON THE JUDGE’S PICK!

So stoked. Had a lot happening this weekend and I miscalculated the new deadline due to the start of daylight savings here (managed to add an extra hour somehow…) so entered my story late. I found the prompt really inspiring though so I’m glad my entry was accepted – and rated so highly. 

I don’t normally dig crime as a genre, but I was reading This Book Is Full of Spiders by David Wong when the prompt was posted and had the creepy ghost/monster/child Anna in my head. It all kind of snowballed from there.

Anyway, here’s my *winning* entry for Microcosms 41. I’ll be judging next week so please go enter and give me a bunch of amazing stories to read!

Inspiration or Title: Sweets from a Stranger [I made this my title]

Genre: Crime

279 words

Clyde shivered and blew into his cupped hands. The basement was icy and dank, reeking of cat piss. And sadness. 

Still, all his good leads had dried up. And all his less good leads. Now he was onto wild notions and speculation. The Smithy family had once stored belongings here with a friend, two years before their mysterious disappearance. The friend had sold the place to developers a few months later (“It was always so damp and depressing! I couldn’t handle it.”) and it had sat empty and neglected ever since.

He opened the door that lead to the alleyway outside, seeking out fresh air but finding only refuse. A young girl skipped around the corner and froze when she saw him.

“Hey Mister,” she said, “what are you doing in the bad house?”

Clyde snorted. “I was just wondering that myself!” He walked toward her and pulled a mint from his pocket. “Would you like a lolly, young..?”

“Lucinda,” she responded, snatching the sweet from his hand.

He smiled. “Why do you call it ‘the bad house?'”

She flinched. “Because the bad man waits for the children. He poisons their toys and whisks them away!”

At the sound of footsteps Clyde started and turned to see his partner, Keats, in the doorway. “You okay out here Clyde?”

“Sure. I’m just chatting with Lucinda here.”

“Who?”

Clyde turned back. There was no sign of the girl besides a stray mint wrapper cavorting in the breeze.

He shivered again.

“Boss?”

“I’m fine, Keats. I want a detailed history of this property, and a chemical analysis done on the Smithy kids’ toys. I have a feeling there’s life in this case yet.”

Microcosms 34

I didn’t get around to posting my last Microcosms story (it was my birthday that week so I was too distracted for blogging) (because I’m a big woman-child who still gets excited Every. Single. Birthday) but there are HEAPS of stories this week, so think of it as a double dose.

Entries have closed, but do go read them all and vote/comment on your favourites if you like.

Here’s my entry this week.

Character: Driver

Setting: Rural Road

Genre: Romance

(I ignored the photo prompt)

The Final Lesson

Melissa checked her reflection before sliding into the driver’s seat. 

Looking hot, babe!

She smiled at Peter as she did up her belt. She’d been resistant about learning to drive as an adult, but the move out bush had necessitated a change of attitude.

Plus her instructor turned out to be a total dreamboat.

Truth be told she could have passed the driving test weeks ago, but she wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Not yet.

Possibly not ever.

Peter smiled back politely, trying to remain professional. Melissa’s scent was maddening in such confined quarters. Truth be told he should have sent Melissa off to do her test weeks ago, but he wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Not yet.

Possibly not ever.

“Alright Melissa. Pull out from the kerb and head for the highway. We’re practicing tight, curvaceous- I mean,” he swallowed, “curvy roads today.”

Melissa stifled a giggle. Time to play.

She slowly shifted into drive and stroked the shaft of the handbrake a little before gently easing it off. Peter watched intently, biting his lip to stay in control of his treacherous body.

They drove out of town to a secluded section of road that twisted through the undulating countryside. As Peter guided her through the motions – “Ease into this bit”; “Lean in harder”; “Watch out for rear-endings here” – the tension became unbearable.

Finally he could take it no more. He directed her to park and took a deep breath.

“Melissa, this has to be your last lesson. I… I can’t be your teacher anymore.”

Melissa deflated a little. Have I read this wrong?

“May I take you out for dinner instead?”

She beamed and internally pumped her fist.

“That works for me.” She smiled slyly. “I’ll drive.”

Flash Fiction

I still love it. I’m not a full #flashdog by any stretch, but I really do love to squeeze in a bit of short, sharp writing whenever I can.

My current favourite weekly challenge since the demise of Micro Bookends is its successor, Microcosms. No matter how random my week gets, I always check in with it each Friday and try to give it a shot.

It’s a really great format: each week you are provided with a character, a setting, a genre, and an optional photo prompt, with which you then weave a story in 300 words or less. You can spin the wheel to get different parameters, but I personally love the challenge of sticking to the initial elements. That limitation really gets the creative juices flowing!

I can’t recommend it enough if you want to improve your writing technique.

And even if you don’t write fiction, there are always some amazing stories to read – you can upvote your favourite one(s) to win the Community Pick for the week, no matter whether or not you choose to enter.

For this week’s competition I well and truly missed the deadline (it was a busy day…) but I found the prompts so inspiring that I entered a story late anyway. Given that I am fairly consistent with it, I figured I’d start sharing my stories here each week too. Maybe that will prompt me to blog more in general again…

Microcosms 32
Character: Inventor

Setting: Grand Hotel (I only subtly evoked the setting this time…)

Genre: Fantasy

(I chose not to incorporate the optional photo prompt.)

The Exchange

The door didn’t so much burst open, as burst into pieces. 

Jax didn’t flinch – though, to be fair, trolls were widely renowned for their unflappability. 

“Katrice,” he rasped in a voice forged from granite. “Dramatic as always.”

The wily battle-Elf smirked and tipped her head. “One does have a reputation to maintain,” she replied. Her eyes darted to the corner of the elaborately furnished room. “Is that him?”

Jax grunted. “Yep. That’s the freak you want. Take him!”

Katrice tossed the troll a bag of coins and sidled up to the industrious blond man. He was tinkering away at something on the floor and ever-so-slightly rocking back and forth. She nudged his shoulder with her foot; he didn’t react, focussing laser-like on his task.

The troll shuddered with a sound of grinding boulders. “He gives me the creeps! Why d’you want him so bad?”

Katrice shrugged, sheathing her sword. “The boss says he’s the smartest guy ever lived. He “has use” for his inventions – whatever that means.”

She hooked her hands under the inventor’s arms and hauled him up. “C’mon sunshine! You’re my property now.”

The blond man suddenly grinned and held aloft an intricate ball of gears and tubing. He pressed a button on its side, threw it to the centre of the room and kicked Katrice’s kneecap with such force that she could do nothing but collapse, releasing him.

As he darted through the broken door towards the lobby, the device released a sickly green gas that made Jax seize up, while Katrice helplessly retched on the floor beside him.

“Fuck. That. Guy!” Katrice gasped between convulsions.

Jax swivelled his eyes to look through the window, where he could see the inventor wandering aimlessly away.

“Always the weird ones,” he muttered through clenched teeth.

A Very Surprising Addiction

So I’m really getting into the whole flash fiction thing. It is super fun creating vignettes in so few words and seeing how differently people interpret the same prompts.

I’ve already mentioned Micro Bookends (which I won a few weeks ago), but another one I’ve started following is Flash! Friday. Their limit is 190-210 words and they give you a story element and photo prompt to work from. This week’s prompt was quite inspiring so I finally got my shit together to write an entry (rather than just idly daydream about it) BUT then life got in the way before I could whittle my 469-word first draft down and enter it by the deadline. *massive sad-face*

I’m so gosh-darn proud of it though so figured I’d share it here instead. The title isn’t quite right and it’s still twice as long as it should be – but since I’m not submitting it I don’t have to trim it back any more now, do I? Enjoy!

Story Element: A fleeting moment

Photo Prompt:

2015/02/img_1812.jpg

Fare Thee Well

Hurry! Hurry!

Louis tried to weave through the thronging crowds, slippery with perspiration and dank with the musk of rain-dampened wool. In his haste he pinballed from elbow to shoulder to hip to back, leaving a snarling trail of curses in his wake.

Faster! Faster!

He narrowly missed clipping a behemoth of a pram (two yowling toddlers strapped belligerently inside) by crashing through a gaggle of brawny youths. He barely noticed their jeers as he corrected his course and pushed on toward the barricade.

There it is! The procession! I’m not too late!

The crowds were thicker here. A desperate glance; a tree! But is it close enough?

I’ll try anyway.

He clambered up the tree and launched over the barricade before his resolve could waver. “Evangeline!” he cried, as he stumbled to his feet and ran toward the group of adventurers preparing to embark, zeroing in on the feathered cap nestled jauntily in the pile of hair he longed to stroke once more.

Firm hands grasped his shoulders and tried to restrain his dogged momentum. “Annie! Please!”

The feather quivered. “Louis?” a sweet voice called out incredulously. “Louis? Is that you?”

“Evangeline!” he called again, tears pricking at his eyes.

A diminutive figure pushed her way to the fore and joyfully ran towards his subdued, bowed form. “Louis! What are you doing here? What will your parents say?”

Her hands on his face. He smelled her sweet fragrance and dropped to his knees as the guards released their grip. Words and sensations swirled around his head as the desperate energy that drove him here retreated to his pounding heart. This was it. His last goodbye. What words would come?

He stared into her eyes, willing his feelings to write themselves on his face.

“I love you,” he uttered simply, unable to say more.

Her eyes softened and sparkled. She ruffled his hair and caressed the side of his face, letting out one of her delicious, musical peals of delighted laughter.

She leaned down and kissed his cheek. “I know,” she breathed into his ear. “Goodbye, dear Louis.”

A straightened back, a blown kiss, and she was gone. The world faded away as Louis slumped in the quickening rain, unfocused eyes gazing numbly at the ground where she had stood. When he next looked up the crowds had cleared, the square empty save for himself and the memory of moments past, never to be revisited again.

Daily(ish) Gratitude 11/12/14

Today I am grateful for:

1. Fun diversions like Micro Bookends to sink my teeth into. I can see myself becoming a flash fiction fanatic before too long…

2. A spontaneous coffee date with a friend and her ONE WEEK OLD baby. Squee!

3. The knowledge that hubby is driving our oldest in to school in the morning. Bring on school holidays already! Cannot wait to have no timetable for a while.