Friday, December 25, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction Story-- UFOGG

“Like Superman?” Jimmy said almost hopefully.

I shook my head. “No. Not like Superman.”

“Oh! Oh! Roswell! Area 51! Independence day!” he suggested excitedly, “Star Trek? Star Wars!” There was waving of arms. Above his head.

I sighed. “Do you have to define my existence through television and movies?”

“Yes.” As if it was absurd for me to think it could be understood any other way. I did a classic facepalm before I felt his hand on my shoulder. I looked up.
He let his hand stay on my shoulder for a moment longer than necessary. Stifling a giggle, I wondered if he noticed. Then I wondered if he did it on purpose. I could never really figure out what we were, Jimmy and I. We were friends, of course, but sometimes, I thought we could have been something more. And when he touched me, I could almost believe he felt it too.

“Define the new through what we know, we do,” he said, “Mmm-hmm.”

“You suck at Yoda, but fine, I guess...” Shrugging, I looked at him sideways. I paused. “Roswell then.”

He nodded, understanding, and for a moment I was purely glad he was in my life—whatever he was. I did just want to be a normal kid, like those in Roswell. It was all I had ever known, and then suddenly, I find out this strange truth about me, the truth that changes everything about everything. But it’s all right, because I had Jimmy to help me through it, to help me find my way back to normality.

“Want some hot sauce then?”

The image I’d pictured of him leading me though a thick forest suddenly crumpled in my mind’s eye. I shot him a look.

“I’m just joking, Bree,” he said, “Wait, should I still call you that? Bree?”

“What else would you call me?” I said.

“Alien interloper?” His hands twitched as though they were about to start waving around again. I eyed them, willing them to still. “Spawn of the non-Earthlings?”

“How about Un-human Former Ordinary Girl?”

“UFOG? Nice try,” he said, “It would have to have a double “G”. Un-human Former Ordinary Geek Girl. UFOGG. Or does the geek negate the ordinary? But no. Just no. Let’s stick with Bree. Deal?”

“So very much a deal.” I grinned back at him. We shook on it. So human name Bree it is. But I couldn’t help but wonder--did I have another name? I stared up at the night sky and the stars stared back at me through the clouds. On a less cloudy day, could I see the planet of my ancestors?

He tugged on my hand, and I gave in, standing up with a groan. “Walk and talk,” he said, “Okay, so why Roswell?”

I shrugged. “Because they were cool.”

“As opposed to Superman, of course.”

I groaned. Back to Superman. “Bah. I don’t have superpowers.”

“They had superpowers in Roswell. You need to re-watch your DVDs,” he said, “In fact, I’ll make you a list of necessary viewing. Think of it as a history lesson of your people.”

I stopped walking; he didn’t. “My people?”

“Okay, okay. Alien folk,” he amended quickly, walking back to where I stood.

“What? No, I mean, it’s all fiction, and not about my people or whatever.”

“How do you know they didn’t encounter your kind and base the movies off that?” he asked, tapping my arm a few extra times for good measure. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it could be possible. And there are a lot of movies.

“Aha!” he said triumphantly at my lack of response.

“Do you care that I’m...not....human?” I asked.

“You were never human,” he said, “Why should it start to bother me now?”

“Thank you,” I said. I felt tears swim over my eyes and spill out over my cheeks.
He wiped them away, his fingers tracing their own paths on my face. “Don’t cry, Bree...”

We were so close, one of his hands on my waist, the other catching an errant tear. My breath caught. I looked into his grey eyes, grey like the clouds above, grey like his sweater and he smiled. He moved his hand to the back of my neck, guiding me closer yet. Finally, I thought, all these years I’d been waiting for this moment. Finally.

His lips descended towards mine. All I could hear was my heart beating too quickly in my chest. I closed my eyes, leaned yet closer.

“Firefly?” he whispered.

“What?!” I muttered. Of their own accord, my eyes opened slightly. “There were no aliens in Firefly.”

His smile widened. “Okay, you pass.”

And then, finally, we kissed. It was only for a moment, but it was a moment I’d been waiting for since I’d met him.

“That was...” he breathed.

“I know,” I said, smiling back at him. I loved that his arms were still tight around me. We stood like that for a moment that I would have stretched into eternity if I could.

“I feel like Captain Kirk,” he said.

“I know.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flash Fiction Story: Destiny

His hand closed upon my shoulder. I lifted my head at his touch, but
didn't look back. I knew him well enough not to have to. The dark
flowing robes, the sickle. It could be only one.

"It's time," he said, "I'm sorry."

The words echoed ominously in the air as he withdrew his hand.

As he laid a scroll upon my outstretched palms, he looked almost
regretful. I unrolled it and read the single printed line without
reaction. "This is a death sentence," it proclaimed.

"Destiny to be met and all," he said in a voice that was barely
audible. Even so, I heard a smile in his voice, a hunger in it, that
belied his apparent regret.

I opened my eyes then, rubbed the sleep from them, and put on my
favorite wig--the one that looked even better than the hair that once
flowed luxuriously from my now-bald scalp.

"Destiny," I said, "The name's Mirabelle. Nice to meet you."

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Flash Fiction Story - Worst Case Scenario

"What's the worst that could happen?" she asked, in her best I'm-being-reassuring voice. It sounded vaguely familiar, like Mom's, before the stroke.

I paced around the room another time for good measure before answering, "He tells me he's put fast-acting poison in my coffee and I'll be dead before I can stand up?"


She pursed her lips. "Don't drink the coffee."


"He could put it in lemonade, too."


"For Heaven's sake, Marcia," she said, "you don't have to list every possible drink they sell at the cafe that could be poisoned. All I'm saying is don't do anything you're not comfortable with."

I blinked back tears. "I'm not comfortable with this. With any of this."


In one smooth motion, Pamela left her chair and was immediately beside me, shrink-wrapping me with her arms.


"I know, baby sister, I know," she murmured into my hair. "Do you want me to go with you? I could, you know. Or I could go instead of you."


"I haven't been your baby sister for a couple dozen years now," I said, "and no, I have to do this alone."


I tried in vain to disentangle myself from her all-encompassing arms. She always turned into such an octopus when she hugged. She hugged like her hug was the only thing keeping the hug-ee from being swallowed up by the earth. I'd say her hugs brought out my claustrophobia, but that would be a slight exaggeration.


Pamela squeezed me even tighter before finally releasing me. "You'll always be my baby sister. Even when you're as old as dirt. Hey, remember when Pluto was a planet?"


I awarded her a a subtle upward tugging of my lips that only she could have caught and she grinned triumphantly back at me in response.


"Okay. Here I go. Moving. Anytime now. See you after the Last Great Meet-up. Bye-bye." But my feet didn't obey my words and I looked at Pamela helplessly. "Well....this is me going..."


"Careful, don't get whiplash..." Pamela shot me one of her infamous looks, again reminding me of pre-stroke Mom. I may have been the one to resemble Mom the most when it came to looks, but Pamela had definitely inherited her mannerisms and intonations. I never told her this, though, in case it made her stop.


"Right. I can do this," I said, "I'll just go. Tell him in the end, love just wasn't enough. Tell him it was fun. Tell him I'll always remember him. Not tell him what he has to change because there's no point. Give him back his jacket and that random orange sock. And then get the hell out of Dodge before I pull a Niagara Falls."


She smiled wryly at me and handed me my own coat. With one last lingering look into the mirror, I strode semi-confidently to the door.


"Hey, kid?"


I turned around, eyebrow raised.


She paused, poker-faced. "Don't drink the lemonade."


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Friday, October 16, 2009

Flash Fiction Story: Silent Treatment

So she's sitting there again when I come in. On the floor, cross-legged, facing away from me. At first I think she's doing one of those exercise things, whatever you call them. Pilot-eez or Yoda or something. I know she's not, but I try to pretend.

"Hello, dear, I'm home..." I say.

I put down by bag and take off my coat before I glance back at her. Sure enough, she's still in the same position. If I had some fraction-measuring ruler, I doubt it would have registered even the smallest change. I hate how she just sits there. She does this now. I come home, and she doesn't react. She robot-ifies. It's a thing.

"Did you make anything for dinner?" I ask.

Again, no answer. Last night I had to eat emergency rations. I tried to give her one but she didn't even blink at me. When I got up in the morning, she was still sitting there, the un-opened rations bar same as where I'd placed it. If it keeps up this way, I'll probably starve. A man can't survive on emergency rations forever. He'd die of culinary boredom. It happened to a friend of mine. He wrecked his shuttle on some human-forsaken planetoid and when rescue found him, he was dead
as the 'toid. There were still plenty of Emerations so it's not like he ran out of supplies. They did an autopsy but afterwards, all they could say was he should be alive today. I knew the guy: he lived for food, and Emerations just couldn't cut it. Don't want to end up like him, but with her sitting there like that, I think I might be on the same damn 'toid, emergency-rationing myself to death.

When we first got married, things were different, things were simple. I got home, she was there, dinner was made, love was made, sleep was slept. That was before my promotion. We were young and in love and all that. Things were different afterwards. She couldn't support my work,
she said. It's wrong to de-ecologize a planet for our own use, she argued, there are other beings to consider. Well, excuse me for trying to provide for her, for the family we were supposed to have. And those beings? Not even sentient. She wants to sacrifice our livelihood, our futures, for insects and rodents and plant life! Ridiculous.

"Okay, dear, I'm going to bed then. You coming?" I say, grabbing an Emerations shake for variety. Same awful substance, in liquid form. I can't decide which is worse, so I alternate.

She doesn't say anything. She's probably waiting for me to go into the other room before she moves. She's probably sitting there wishing I would just leave. These days, even though I know she hates my job as much as ever, she probably wants me to stay there all the time, not come home at all. She's probably glad she couldn't have children now.

"That's it," I say, "The final push of my abort-mission button!"

So I get back into the room where she's sitting and tap her on the shoulder. I'm not going to stop until she reacts. Took a couple of minutes, but then she turns her head and opens her mouth, and her eyes lock onto mine.

"Three days, five hours, twelve seconds since I left this robot in my place," a strange electronic version of my wife's voice says, "and you have failed to notice the difference. Should have done this long ago. Have a nice life."

I stand there, this robot wife of mine still sitting cross-legged, staring up at me and all I can think is how amazing technology is, that it can look like real anger in those computerized eyes.


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Friday, October 2, 2009

Flash Fiction Story-Recipe for Love

INGREDIENTS

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, once around the pan in a slow
stream
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 shallots, minced
• 1 cup vodka
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
• Coarse salt and pepper
• 16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn
Serve with:
• Crusty bread, for passing

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic and
shallots. Gently sauté shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their
sweetness. Add vodka to the pan (3 turns around the pan in a steady
stream will equal about 1 cup). Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2
or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and
reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked
to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad
or other side dishes.
Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from
heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Pass
pasta with crusty bread.*

It was that recipe that made her fall in love with him. She still
liked to look at it from time to time, to remember the dream of it--
the fantasy of that first night.

Two years after her husband had left her for the pretty blonde dental
hygienist, the seed that was her loneliness had grown into a tree
whose shadow she lived in daily--until one morning when she found she
no longer took comfort from its shade.

"What do I have to lose?" she said, with a laugh, to a friend that
day.

"Meet your Match: A Match Made in Heaven!" proclaimed the site, but
the repetition and play on clichés did nothing to encourage her. At
first she debated each question at length. Some (Would you describe
yourself as introverted?) were easy to answer while others (If you
were a part of a pineapple, which part would you be?) perplexed her.
After a while, she clicked responses without thinking, without even
reading the question in its entirety. If she happened to catch a
mistake, she often didn't alter it--for reasons which alternated
between skepticism and fatalism.

When she bit her lip, took a deep breath, closed her eyes and clicked
"finish", she nearly passed out. Almost immediately, her matches
started flowing in. Caroline skimmed the matches, eliminating the ones
with the more unsavory words or pictures. Of the ones that remained,
most were so formulaic that she passed over them too, their printed
words devolving into "blah blah blah" in her mind's ear.

Just when Caroline had given up hope of finding anyone worthwhile to
"wink" at (wink? she thought, Seriously? I'm supposed to "wink" at men
that interest me? Maybe it should be "honk". How crude!), his profile
caught her eye. Oh, he was attractive, but it wasn't his photo that
captured her.

Instead of writing about himself (as most self-centered men seemed to
enjoy on this site), he'd posted a recipe. What a strange thing to do,
she thought as she tapped "print" repeatedly.

In the car, for the first time in years, she found herself excited for
dinner.

At the grocery store, Caroline searched for the ingredients with
relish, pausing each time she saw someone plucking the same items off
the shelves to wonder if she had seen the same profile, and was
preparing the same dinner. Somehow, it made her feel far less alone.

In her kitchen, sautéing seemed sensual; turning simmering into
boiling was almost climatic. And eating it did things to her pallet
she hadn't thought possible.

By the time Caroline had finished savouring the last bite, she was a
little surprised to find herself thoroughly in love. Only that, after
all, could have made her rush to her computer before even clearing the
table or washing the dishes.

Scanning all the supposed heavenly-made matches, she desperately
looked for her love, "Cooking4U". Caroline could scarcely wait to
"wink" at him, to tell him how much she had enjoyed dinner, to find
out his real name, to meet him in person. If he was anything like the
pasta, she thought, she really had found her match. Visions of a
spokeswoman-future flooded her thoughts. She could see an image of
herself with her handsome new husband, and a quote, "I met my match,
and you can too!"...or something more original, some clever play on
words that would melt the hearts of naysayers and bring love to the
searching.

Oh yes, months later, she could remember the fantasy of it all, could
still taste it on her tongue. It wasn't unlike her first marriage.
Perhaps it always started that way, before diminishing into reality.
Maybe there was a biological reason for it; there usually was for such
things. Or maybe the heart was simply funnel-shaped, closing off until
but a trickle might escape into it.

She'd still make the pasta, of course, it was too good not to. Not for
herself, but for others, and then afterwards, when her friends and
family would drone on at length about how amazing it was, she'd
readily hand over the recipe. When they'd ask where she'd come across
it, though, Caroline's lips would curve into a bitter-sweet smile.
That was the one secret she'd never tell, the one story she'd keep to
herself. After all, she'd die before letting anyone know she'd fallen
in love with an ad for a cookbook.

*Recipe passed along to me years ago by a friend; original source
unknown

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Flash Fiction Story--The Great Puzzle

I poured another glass of my favourite merlot and picked up the postcard again. It wasn’t really anything special; just a few seagulls flying across a mostly blue sky overtop sparkling blue water. Tampa, Florida scrawled across the top left corner.

Of course, I knew who it was from before I even turned it over. Wanda. The woman for whom my father had abandoned my mother and me almost 15 years ago. Wanda, the woman who’d made more of an effort over the years to reconnect the two of us than he’d ever made in his entire life. Wanda, the woman whose very name made my skin crawl.

I’d received dozens of such postcards over the years. They always seemed to have some kind of animal on them. Dolphins. Whales. Alligators. Puppies. Sickening really.

So when I picked up this one, I expected the typical message on the back: Hi Sweetest Girl! Your Dad and I are having such a fantabulous time here. You should come and visit! He misses you soooooo much!!! We know you’re busy, but please try to write us back sometime! Bundles of love with bows on top, Wanda and Dad.

Something along those lines.

I never thought I’d wish for another postcard like that. And, well, I guess I still wouldn’t. I just wasn’t expecting this. I suppose no one ever really does.

With another sip of wine, I turned the card over and re-read the message.

“Dearest Sammie, I’m sorry to have to tell you this...but your father no longer flies high in the sky of life with us. He passed peacefully on Aug 7th, with me and your step-brother at his side. I’m sure he would have wanted you to be there...there just wasn’t any time. He loved you sooooo much!!!! Please write back, come visit, the funeral is Monday. Bundles of love as always, Wanda."

Who tells someone their father’s dead on a bloody postcard? And who makes a stupid pun on said postcard? Seriously.

I drained the last of the wine in one giant swallow. Wishing the bottle wasn't already empty, I pushed the glass out of the way.

The Great Puzzle. Dad's little pet term for life. And, of course, he was obsessed with actual puzzles. It was the unrequested unwanted gift he'd always give me, year after year, without fail. Come to think of it, he and Wanda really did deserve each other.

The funny thing is I couldn't not complete the puzzles he gave me. I don't know why. Like I was compelled to do it by some higher, father-loving-despite-everything power. Until this year. The FLDE Powers That Be had finally given up too and so this year's puzzle was still carelessly wrapped in silver paper, unevenly folded, with tape peeling off.

I'd told myself I'd open it if--and only if--he ever convinced me that there was more to him, and to us, than this pointless gift. Enough's enough, you know? But I guess that’s one day that’ll never see light.And maybe this last puzzle could my good-bye to what was and what could never be.

I tore it open, and tossed the wrapping to the side. The puzzle was a shot of earth as seen from space and had a thousand pieces. Literally.I sat there for three and a half hours putting it together. I'm really good at puzzles. Lots of practice, I suppose.

The phone rang a few times, like an alarm clock valiantly trying to wake me from this strange dream. I ignored it.

I fingered the last puzzle piece. It was mostly white, with some red,and it fit exactly no where. Certainly not in the empty spot somewhere in Australia.

"Damn him," I muttered, "That's just like him, give me a puzzle that can't be solved. Way to give me closure, Dad. Very freaking thoughtful."

I tried to force it in anyway, even though it couldn't possibly fit. In frustration, I flung the piece onto the table. It bounced once and landed face down. That's when I saw it, printed in ridiculously tiny letters. I had to get out a magnifying glass just to read it. I have no clue how he managed to write so bloody small.

"I'm sorry I never quite fit in your life. I have the puzzle for this piece, and you have the piece to my puzzle. Try again? Love, Dad."

Tears flooded my vision as I dialled a number I had memorized long ago but never called. It rang only once. I wasn't ready. But I guess you never really can be.

"Hello, Wanda?" I said, "It's Sammie."

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Flash Fiction Friday Story--Always Space for Jealousy

This week's story is in response to a prompt/challenge to include the following:

Main character: A jealous husband
Antagonist: mutant squids
Setting: outer space


*******
Chrissy manoeuvred herself over to the window and stared out. Outside the spaceship was dark and starless; inside almost the same.

“What are you looking at?” John asked, floating towards her.

“The vast nothingness.”

“Don’t lie, you’re dreaming of him, aren’t you?” His frown was all-encompassing.

As his space-suited fingers found her arm and clamped down, Chrissy sighed.

“There is no ‘him’. ‘He’ was fixing our shields, that’s it. I promise.”

“Better be it. Or I’ll fix his shields,” John muttered.

Something caught her eye as she rolled them, something purple and large, with tentacles thick like elephant trunks, and eyes like wormholes.

“John!” Chrissy screamed, “Turn the boat! Turn the boat!”

“Holy freakish mutant squid!” John yelled as he clamoured to the wheel and turned it hard starboard.

The squid casually grabbed the ship with two of is tentacles, peered inside curiously for a moment, and then shoved the boat away.

As the boat somersaulted into relative safety, Chrissy and John sat in stunned silence for a moment.

"Chrissy?”

“Yes, John?”

He looked down, wishing he could resist asking the question, but knowing he couldn’t. Managing not to tap her fingers, she waited.


“Tell me the truth, okay?” he said finally, “you know before when you were looking out of the window so dreamily? Were you....were you looking at the squid?”

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Flash Fiction Friday Story--House in the Sky

The house was small, wooden, rickety, and floating in the vast red sky above me. Without really meaning to--half walking, half floating—I slowly made my way towards it. I don’t think there was any other direction I could move.

“Hello?” I whispered, “Is there—Is there anyone there?”

No one answered, but I felt invited in just the same. A door knob where there had been none before appeared the instant my hand grazed the door, and when I turned it, the door swung open easily.

“Hello?” I said again. Peering into the darkness, I could see nothing. I stepped in and the door to the outside world closed behind me.

“Been waiting for you,” said a deep voice, “Thank you for heeding our call.”

I swallowed nervously. “C-call? Heeding?”

I moved further into the darkness, letting it envelope me until I could almost believe I didn’t exist outside of it. Was that other life even my own? Had I imagined it? The darkness swallowed me, who I thought I was, who I wanted to be, and left something foreign in its place. I grasped at the abstract thought, but even that seemed to be devoured by the darkness around me. I was bereft of myself, clothed only in the absence of light.There was a rustling noise and then light suddenly flooded the small house. I winced and covered my eyes.

“Oh, sorry,” said a small man, “Didn’t mean to make you question your very existence.”

“I...”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” he said in that voice that seemed too large for him. “Happens all the time. Well, not all the time, precisely. But it is quite common in the dark. Especially this dark.”

He grinned knowingly at me, as my sense of self gradually returned.

“Why am I here?” I asked, lowering myself into the chair he gestured to.

He laughed. “Do you even know where ‘here’ is?”

I thought back. Before the floating house, the last thing I remembered was going to bed early (because it was a school night and I had a presentation the next day).

“This is a dream?”

“Ah, you’re a quick one,” said the man, “You’re close. ‘Here’ is in a dream, but it is not the dream itself. But it’s not important. The important thing, of course, is that you are here, no matter where‘here’ is."

I looked at him blankly, waiting for him to continue. He nodded encouragingly, waiting for me to say something. I gave in.

“Okay...”

“So here’s everything you need. The box, the list, the checking-things-off marker. Off you go.”

He thrust a large box into my hands, and started to leave.

“Wait! What am I supposed to do with all this? I think you’ve got the wrong girl...” I jumped up and tried to return it to him. The man pushed it back towards me.He laughed, deep and boomingly.

“No, no, you heeded the call. You’ve been dreaming of this house for some time, yes?”

I tried to cross my arms but the box got in the way. Sighing, I shrugged instead.

“Lots of people have recurring dreams. I’m sure I’m not the only one.There’s that guy that had that theory and...”

“Oh, of course, we sent the call to a number of people, but you’re the only one who heeded it. As I mentioned.”

“So...what would I have to do?” I asked.

He smiled. “Make dreams come true. There’s an instruction manual somewhere in there. It passes from one person to another--it’s a floating job, see? In a floating house. I know, I know. Dreams are quite literal. It something we’re working on.”

“That sounds nice,” I admitted, “Making dreams come true..."

“Oh yes,” he said, nodding. He patted me on the shoulder and walked out of the house. I could see him waving through the closing space until the last moment when door clicked shut. A second later it swung open again.

“Almost forgot! You have to follow the instructions, to the letter.And never, ever speak of this to anyone. Or dreams will become undone.Even the ones already dreamt. Remember—to the letter! Okay, have fun, kid!”

And with that he left again. I put the box on the table, taking out all the items. I counted, and re-counted them. Something was definitely missing. Heart pounding, I ran to the door.

“Wait!” I yelled, “You forgot the instructions! Sir? Sir! I don’t know how to make dreams come true! There aren’t any instructions!”

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Flash Fiction # 3 (Week 4) A Life, Forgotten

***WARNING--mature themes, violence, and gruesome images.***

******

An ecosystem was rapidly forming in the various orifices of Henry Levartson's body. Blowflies were the first to take up residence, choosing for their homes primarily his ears, nose and the gaping wounds in his chest and forearms. As darkening yellow segmented bodies twisted, crawled, and burrowed deeper, tiny eggs opened to reveal miniature versions of the same. In turn, predatory rove beetles settled and feasted upon the growing maggots.

Along with the typical decomposition, rats gnawed at Henry's body with more gusto than Henry had ever been able to muster for his own life. As the days passed, dogs smelled his decomposing corpse and tried unsuccessfully to pull away from their owners to investigate the source in the ravine. Had they succeeded, the insects and animals would have helped determine the time and cause of Henry's death. As it was, they served only to destroy the little that still remained.

****

One day when Henry was still alive and young enough to lay claim to all of his 15 ½ years, he decided home was unbearable. He left a short note to that effect, packed a few belongings, and fled. He always thought he'd go back; it seemed inevitable. But hours turned into days, days into weeks, weeks into years, and no one came looking for him. For a long time, he compulsively checked wanted posters wherever he went, partially because he was curious what people would think he’d look like years later, and partially because he wondered if he was missed at all.

There were never any milk containers with his picture, enhanced or otherwise, nor any flyers posted in the entrances of grocery stores. There was no search party, and certainly no media reports or public outrage either while he was alive or after he had died. Henry wouldn't have been surprised to learn of his solitude after death; in the five years, eight months, two weeks, and three days he’d lived since he'd left home, Henry had gradually lost his ability to feel surprise or much of anything.

Sometimes he'd make some money panhandling and would buy drugs that made him feel something, a spark of life, a splash of colour on the black and white canvas that was his existence. Always, it wore off too quickly. For a long time, it bothered him that he felt so little, but gradually that faded too.

****

In the same city that Henry Levartson lived, Konrad Platt and Martin Rummer also resided. Just like Henry, Konrad and Martin went through each day looking for a way to feel alive. For a time they satisfied themselves with encounters with young women, drugs, and alcohol, but they soon found it wasn’t enough.

Eventually, ever so casually, Martin mentioned he’d had a dream in which he’d killed someone.

“By accident?” Konrad asked, “Or on purpose?”

Martin shrugged, and took another swig of his beer. “Does it matter? It was just a dream.”

Konrad threw his empty bottle out of the window. “You ever killed anyone before?”

“Nah. You?”

Konrad shook his head slowly. “Almost,” he said, regretfully, but didn’t elaborate, even when Martin gestured with his almost-empty beer bottle for him to continue.

Martin was quiet for a moment. He finished the last of his beer and threw the bottle out of the same window Konrad had. When he finally spoke the words that would change their lives, that would connect them to one another, and to Henry, it was with a laugh.

“You wanna try it again?” Martin said, “We’re only seventeen once...”

Konrad’s answer came by way of a smile and an already formed plan.

****

It was a Wednesday. Clouds crowded the darkening sky as Martin and Konrad met on the street mere blocks from their respective houses.

“I’m just curious, you know?” Martin said, “What it feels like.”

“Yeah.” Konrad lit his cigarette. “Just gotta pick the right one.”

Martin nodded. “Right. The right one. Which one’s the right one?”

“Him,” Konrad said. He gestured towards Henry, who was slouched against a wall.

“Him,” Martin echoed, and looked at Henry with more contempt than interest.

“Hey.” Henry looked up, finally noticing them. “Spare some change?”

Konrad grinned at him, and elbowed Martin. “Come with us, we’ll give you a lot of change. Eh, Martin?”

Lowering his voice, he added, “What? Death is change!” and Martin laughed.

****

Henry followed Martin and Konrad without question deep into the nearby ravine. The truth, if he’d thought to tell it, was that he’d forgotten why he’d gone with them to begin with. By the time he remembered he’d been promised money, and started to ask for it with a smile, Martin and Konrad had begun their assault. Henry raised his arms to protect himself, but it was a futile gesture.

The two boys overpowered him faster and with more ease than they’d anticipated. They kicked until Henry’s legs and ribs were broken, and punched until his face split and blood spilled out, and his head caved in. Martin and Konrad whooped and laughed feverishly. Henry fell to the ground, let out one low mourning moan, and died.

Afterwards, Martin and Konrad covered Henry’s body with fallen leaves and branches and when they looked back, they were satisfied that he could not been seen even if someone was looking for him. They peeled off their outer clothes, revealing the bloodless ones underneath, put them into a garbage bag and threw it away as they emerged from the ravine. No one noticed.

“I’m glad,” said Martin, “glad that I know.”

Konrad smiled and slapped Martin on the back in agreement.

****

When the body was eventually discovered, and determined to be human remains, Henry was known henceforth only as John Doe. When Martin and Konrad heard of this, Konrad proclaimed it the punch line.

****

The boys grew into men; they each found careers, married, and raised children. And they still speak, on occasion—but never of Henry Levartson.

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Flash Fiction # 2 - On the Wrong Side of a Shaky Line

Once, as a child, I was completely captivated by a black-and-white photo of a German woman some time after World War 1. She looked so sad--all the hope and life drained from her eyes--yet she had forgotten not to smile. It's a strange thing to remember, after all these years, but more than the photo, it's the caption beneath it that I still think of: "Money was so worthless during this difficult time that many German housewives often used it to fuel their fires."

I hold the bottle with my own worthless money tightly to my chest. It'd be a cold day in hell before I tossed my money into any fire. That woman still had hope--hope that one day life would get better, that she'd be able to buy things for her children again, that she'd see them grow up. I, on the other hand, know otherwise. My children are already dead. No one thinks of earning money or spending it anymore. Those days are long past. Now we think only of surviving another day.

But when I hold my bottle in my hand, close to my heart, when I place it just so and close my eyes, I can almost believe I'm there again. My smiling parents welcome me back, tell me I shouldn't watch movies that give me nightmares, and everything I've lived is easily explained away. Yes, I can almost believe it's true--that I am young again and life is sweet. But when I swallow, the dream of what was is gone and only reality and a bitter taste remain.

"Grandma?" Kit comes tentatively towards me. Her voice is smooth and soft and reminds me that there is still good in this world. Her brother, Holt, inches along beside her. I try to hide my little spells, but they are both just so perceptive.

I force a smile. "Yes, my babes?"

"Is it story time yet?" Kit asks.

"It's always story time, dear," I say. It's true. When you don't have anything, you have stories of the times that you did. And I have many stories.

Kit and Holt smile at each other. It's so nice to see them getting along-it's a new development, them realizing they can be friends.

"When I was a little girl, growing up in the B.Z. years, technology was so grand we could write things to someone on the other side of the word and they could read them in an instant. I'll never forget how much I loved Twitter, I--"

"Not that one, Grandma," Kit says, "You told us that one last time."

I know which one they want--they know the ending, and it's not a happy one. It's not a story I want to tell again, but when you live to see a shaky line drawn between Before Zombies. and After Zombies, telling the story becomes one of many unavoidable necessities.

"They were always among us," I began, "there is no such thing as B.Z., it's just a kind of short hand, an impossible estimate of when our numbers and strength plummeted and theirs flourished. They were like animals, devouring our pets for snacks, and then humans for dinner. We didn't call them Zombies right away. No, when there were few, we called it an epidemic and tried to cure them. Failing that, we called them addicts and criminals, and tried to rehabilitate them."

"And then you called them monsters and tried to kill them," Kit adds.

Holt covers his ears. He doesn't like that word, "kill". Maybe because he's heard it so many times already.

"Yes," I say, chocking down tears that I cannot let fall, not in front of the children.

At that moment, as if of its own accord, Holt's finger points to the door. His already-dark eyes darken. I forget for a moment that he doesn't speak anymore and wait for him to say whatever thought looms forebodingly behind those eyes.

Kit turns to me in horror, and speaks the words her brother cannot. "They're coming..." she whispers.

And so they are. The door suddenly seems inconsequential as it flings open. I should have reinforced it more than I did, I shouldn't have divided all the boards between the doors and the windows . I should have realized that they'd just come in through the front. I should have...

I shout "Get behind me!" and grab my shotgun. Not counting our three bullets, I have nine shots. Nine shots and it's all over. A strange calm sets over me. I shoot the first one, and, gurgling, it falls. My next shot misses, but I reload quickly and shoot it down before the zombie managed more than two steps towards us.

Holt clings to my leg, shaking so vehemently that, just for a second, I glance down at him.

"Grandma!" Kit cries, "Look out!"

The remaining Zombie comes towards me with inzombie speed. I'd never seen anything like it, and I've seen my fair share. My arthritic fingers betraying me, I fumble desperately to load the gun, but it's too late. The Zombie lets out a triumphant moan as it reaches towards me with one hand, dead eyes locked onto mine.

"No!" I scream. In slow motion, I see the bullet in my hand fall to the ground.

I slam the butt of the gun into the Zombie's temple. It blinks at me, and I hit it again, and another time just to be sure. It falls unceremoniously to the ground, and I heave a sigh of relief. Quickly, I close the door, bolt it, and the children help me move the old bookcase in front of it.

I look at Kit and Holt, and they at me. Smiling, I think--survival is sweet, it is its own reward, and yes, I'd throw my money into a fire for just one more day.

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Flash Fiction # 1- Writing on the Walls

There’s writing on the walls where I am. I don’t know what it says which is strange because I think I wrote it. The pen is in my hand. It’s blue and the lid is missing and I think if I stop writing the ink will dry up forever and all the words in me will be trapped. And they’ll get angry if they can’t get out, and I will explode. The gray wall with blue scrawled writing will be red then. I don’t like red. Red is the colour of my anger. It might be fire, because fire is red too, and so is blood, but I think it is anger because it’s redder still.

There’s a lot of writing on the walls because I’ve been here a very long time. Or maybe it’s only been a few minutes, and I can write fast. Maybe I didn’t write it at all and only picked up the pen afterwards. It’s hard to know what’s true. I killed my watch because it was lying to me. It said time only goes forward. It said there are hours and minutes and seconds and the time between them never changes. And then it just stopped. It died so I killed it. I don’t like things that aren’t true. You think you know what’s true, but you don’t.

You think I’m crazy. You think I’m in some place where they stick crazy people so regular people don’t have to see them everyday. But I’m not. I’ve been in those places and they don’t give you pens there. They think a pen is a weapon there, a sword you can write or stab with, and I will never go back. You think because the walls are gray I’m not at home. I like gray. Life is gray. Gray is what you get when you take a sunny day and add clouds. The truth is I don’t know where I am.

This gray room has window with a board that boards it up and a door with a lock that locks me inside. I tried to open it. I pulled and pulled and the door only laughed. It told me I’d be in here forever. It told me I’d die here and one day they’d find my bones still wrapped in my skin. I don’t like things that aren’t true. And you and that door are not true.

I think the key to the lock is hidden in the blue writing I can’t read. All the letters in all the words in all the groups of words are mixed up. Life is mixed up. Unravelling one to understand the other is the key to getting out of here--the key to the key to the lock. I won’t be in here forever. It’s impossible because there isn’t enough wall to write on to be here forever. And there isn’t enough ink. The key is remembering what’s true.

Truth is the same word in all tenses, but the future is best, and the past is hardest. I remember I came in here to sleep, because it was cold out, and it was white outside and gray inside. The door wasn’t locked; there was no key. There was some writing on the walls but it was in black spray paint,not my blue ink so I know I didn’t write it. It said “MAYZE WUZ HERE”. I don’t know what that means either. Words in thick black lines are evil so I crossed it out but I could still see it through the blue.

I remember I found the pen in the corner with three clear needles. It looked like a star, like the North Star in the corner of my gray room pointing the way out. I think it might be the key, but it pointed in eight different directions so I got lost again.

I stop trying to remember because now the door looks like it’s opening, but it’s not true. Someone looks like they’ve opened it. It looks like a man whose clothes are the colour of my pen. It’s a good colour; it’s the colour of the sky without the clouds that make it gray. But I like gray and I like my pen with blue ink and I haven’t figured out the writing on the wall yet and I can’t leave just because the door is open and that man is there and he has that hat. The ink hasn’t run out, and there is still wall to write on, and he can’t make me go. He can’t make me go. I won’t go. I will use the pen and its ink will be red on that man.

Get out of here!
This is my gray room!
You can’t have it!

That is the poem I will write in red with my blue pen. My red anger swells inside me, wanting more red, wanting the man’s red, so I raise my sword high. The man doesn’t even look up, doesn’t even care. The man is stupid even though he is wearing a good colour. He takes off that hat and shakes his head.

“Helluva a way to go,” he says, “Betcha just came in to stay warm, huh, buddy?”

My sword still wants to write in red, but I stop because I don’t understand why he’s saying things to me but not looking at me. I’m not on the ground where he’s staring with his eyes. He should be looking at me if I’m going to write my poem on him or else I might make a mistake. I don’t want to make a mistake, because mistakes aren’t true, and writing things makes them true, so he should look at me. The door laughs. It’s an ugly laugh that sounds like choking.

“Told you so,” says the door, and laughs harder.

I don’t like things that aren’t true and nothing is true. I think that’s what the blue writing has been saying all along.

****************************************************************

http://groups.google.com/group/flashfictionfridays?hl=en: Read, Write, Join, Comment! New stories (1000 words or less) posted every Friday.

Flash Fiction Stories

I've decided to post in this very multi-purpose-y blog of mine (hopefully) weekly stories written for Flash Fiction Fridays, which was begun by Ryan (@theorangemonkey on Twitter). And be sure to check out http://groups.google.com/group/flashfictionfridays?hl=en to read, write, and comment on stories!

(Comments are good. Very good. Unless they're bad. But that's still good.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

First Day of Summer at Humber River

In honour of my new camera, my blog has been transformed into a photo blog. All these photos were taken at the Humber River in Toronto, ON. Since the consensus is that a picture are worth a thousand words, and I have significantly more than one photo up, I'll keep the actual words on the brief side. Hope you enjoy!





Do not try to bend the spoon. There is no spoon. It's an elephant, right? Right?










Pretty.








It's so easy to forget that this still exists so nearby sometimes.






Flowers doing as flowers do.









Why did I take pictures of ducks, you ask? I thought it was funny how the two of them started bathing at the exact same time. Why did I find it post-worthy? Patience. The answer lies in the next photo.





So after taking the last photo, I look over at all the other ducks and realize they are all cleaning themselves, too! Weird, huh? What?! You're not nearly as enthralled by this as I clearly am? But the birds...at the same.... fine. Next photo.










A duck, mid-flight...









I promise I was on the right side of the fence. (Above it doesn't count right?)











Okay. I had to include this one because it was so very creepy. Looks like an albino vampire goose-bat in a tree-coffin, waiting for night, vhen it vill emerge to drink your blood...








A tree, like life....a tangle of entwined branches...and therein lies its beauty.






Sometimes you just have to keep going. Even if you feel like something's just a little off-kilter.












When you're between a rock and a place of watery death, cling to the rock and drink of the water. (I'm getting all kinds of wisdom from nature today.)








The small Blue Heron that I set out to find and- much to my surprise-actually found was.....not so blue. Still, beautiful and regal, the Heron stood upon its stone throne as even the surrounding murky water shone under the sun's fond gaze.






Not far away from the Heron (which I, fun fact, first saw with my grandfather when I was a child, and thought it was a pelican)....was a seagull who had more Heron-y visions of life.





Admittedly, I went a little trigger happy, but with such a graceful creature held in my camera's eye, can you blame me?





Oh, angelic bird of my youth and memories....why are you white and not blue?!




It found a great fishing spot, where I think it had more luck than the human families nearby.












The murky water, minus the Heron-within lies danger and mystery.







Taking a dip.




Breaking point. Almost.










*Quasi-evil laugh* You thought the comments were always for the photo above it, didn't you?I'm changing it up for the next two photos with this random comment. Are we trees or are we dancers?








Slow dancing...








Ballet....Or possibly hip-hop?







Tai chi is very popular with the tree-people these days.


It was so serene and picturesque, nature itself seemed to pose. Almost all photos were taken on auto since I haven't quite figured out all the features but with any luck, my skills and photos will only improve. Hope you enjoyed! Comments always welcome!








Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Rain in Toronto Falls Mainly on Luminato

It's raining. I mention this because each of those cute little droplets have conspired to make my plans go down the drain. Thanks a lot, rain. Like plants are more important that free outdoor movies. Like we need them to survive or something. Sheesh.

As the cars swish by, I sit here writing this, and thinking about the rain and, more importantly, about the elusive Luminato. The first event I wanted to go to was an Evening with Neil Gaiman, which sounded somewhere far beyond awesome. Like comparatively, awesome was just a small side street that the coolness of the road of the event passed by early on. Anyway, it was sold out, which is good--don't get me wrong--just not for me.

Yesterday there was another event that sounded very cool: a reading with authors commissioned to write about "Gothic Toronto". When my friend and I arrived, we learned the line up had begun long, long before. I bought a "chap book", which was kind of sort of proof of being there. I added it to the endless pile of books I have yet to read. Might take some time to count the pile, much less make a dent in reading the books in it, but one of these days...

So, after being turned away from the reading, we went off in search of a large red ball. Apparently it's touring the city, being squashed into the most unlikely of locations. One of the volunteers pointed us in the right direction. I figured, even if it had moved, surely we'd find it. I mean, it's a giant red ball, definitely no relation to a needle. Where could it hide, really? I had this image of the ball rolling through the streets of Toronto with people following it like it was the Pied Piper. We looked and looked, but suffice to say, it was no where to be found. Clearly, the Red Ball had disappeared into some mystical rabbit hole, and would re-emerge in Australia.

Wandering somewhat aimlessly, we found ourselves at Yonge & Dundas square where they had swing dancing music that seemed more slow and jazzy than swing. The photography there was cool. It was a theme, see...photographers obsessed with music, musicians obsessed with photography. For some reason, the image of the snake eating its tail comes to mind. I'd want to yank the tail out of its mouth, and tell it that it's better off biting the hand that feeds it then its own tail....but back to the non-completely circular story.

Eventually, swearing we'd return the next day, blanket and goodies in hand, for Tales of the Uncanny and live accompaniment, we departed. We synchronized our watches, or we would have if either of us were wearing them. The point is we planned. We figured we'd be there around 8:00, a full hour and a half earlier then the show was set to begin. Nothing could possibly stop us.

Yes. The reading may have been read without us, the audience may have lacked us for the evening with Neil Gaiman, the Red Ball may have rolled away and disappeared into another continent or dimension, but there was no way we'd miss the movies.

And then in rained. Brave the cruel rain, you say? Sit with precariously balanced umbrellas and damp blankets of doom? I think not. We de-synchronized our non-existent watches. My friend ate our picnic (in the same vein as Homer eating his pet lobster, I'd imagine) and I...well, I took a nap. And wrote this. I suppose there's still hope of going to an event or two....Luminato's not over yet. And after all, as an eventually wise lady named after a certain shade of red once said, tomorrow is another day.

Unless it rains.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Lottery Ticket

My brother turns 18 tomorrow. In celebration of this, I bought him a lottery ticket (and Firefly, Serenity, and the descriptively titled The Orange Box game but that's another story.) The Lottery Ticket I chose was of the CSI variety and across the yellow police tape at the top of the ticket, it read"Solve the Crime to Win Up To $75 000". Oooh solving crimes, I thought, and picked out a second one for myself.

Now the way it works is this: you scratch the entire crime scene and each of the corresponding symbols in your files. In the end, one suspect, one tool, one procedure, and one evidence box remain. Then you scratch the "crime solved" box. If it matches any of your four symbols, you win!

The way it happened was this: my first symbol matched, and I laughed. The second matched and I got excited. When the third also matched, I figured I must have misunderstood something along the way. Maybe if they matched, it meant I'd lost? I flipped it over to re-read the directions. Nope, no mistake. I was...winning?!

Up until now, I'd been playing the ticket half-heartedly, while watching Third Watch (a sad one where a major character dies) and with one remaining symbol to be revealed, I hit pause, and moved from the sofa to the kitchen. I don't know why I needed that change of scenery. Maybe I thought the cool glass of the kitchen table would ground me.

Telling myself to remain calm, I carefully scratched the last area..........and it matched.

I was starting to feel lightheaded. Vision blurring a little, I squinted at the lottery ticket and checked the symbols again. There had to be some catch, some trick. People win big bucks on lottery tickets, it's true, but I'm not those people. I'm one of the masses who get 3 corners when you need 4 to win. If you need to uncover all the letters of a word, I'm one of the people who gets an "x" when I need an "a". There had to be some trick...or maybe...could it be I really was up to 75K richer? But I wasn't prepared! I didn't even have a "happy dance" ready for the occasion.

I stood up. Still squinting and nearing delirium, I stubbornly looked for the catch, and the amount of money I'd won. I didn't see anything in the fine print on the back, nothing other the "up to 75, 000" and "win up to 4 times" on the front.

And then I realized what I'd been missing. Yes, I had finally deduced what the catch was. And a catch there was. I had to scratch the prize lots beside each symbol in my files to see the amount won. Slowly, with a mixture of trepidation and esctasy, I scratched each prize lot with my potentially-soon-to-be-framed quarter.

And afterwards I did what I'd dreamed about over the years: I called my mom and told her I'd won the lottery!!

Of course, with Monday being a holiday and all, I won't be able to collect my winnings till Tuesday...but for $12, I think I can manage some patience.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Alpha Blog Post

Ah, in the title lies a lie. This is not my first blog. There is another....created a long, long time ago...that hides in anonymity still. The mystery, the intrigue, the...moving on. Doesn't "musings" sound like music? Like the lyrical connections a mind makes between seemingly unrelated thoughts? Which reminds me of something that happened the other day.

Some friends and I went to a restaurant to celebrate a good friend's 26th birthday and a strange thing happened. We said we'd start with their red house wine and the server smoothly responded, "No, we'll start with your IDs". We looked at him blankly until my friend said, "Uh...the red...?" and he repeated, "No, your IDs." Bemused, we showed them to him and he, satisfied, brought us our wine. Seems like an innocuous incident, doesn't it? Completely forgettable? And yet it wasn't....

Strangely sometimes it's the most average of events that make one ponder the largest questions about life... questions about growing older, future babies, careers, dreams, and what on earth this blog is going to be about....

And the answer is...I don't have any. I just said I had questions. But really first blogs aren't so much about anything as they about nothing. In the end, they're just a way to say hello. Which is all I'm trying to say. So...hello!