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A quick round up of the stories I've submitted in the past few weeks, these include a number of placings (or not) and my first ever Flash Master. I hope you enjoy them.
Summer Dying Fast
(title borrowed from Cradle of Filth track, listen to it!)
The stamp on Tyler’s shoulder burned. He had been branded at birth and the mark had never bothered him before. Now it felt as if it had come alive, wriggling and squirming its way across his skin.
Looking around the crowded beach he noticed others like him, most showing the same signs of discomfort. He tried to distract himself with music, jamming in earplugs and turning the volume to high. Jagged growls roared through his head, a pounding, relentless beat closing out the sounds of summer beneath a blanket of metal.
But if anything, the itch grew fiercer, forcing him to stand up, move about. He walked towards his fellow sufferers, seeing as he closed in that their brands were moving, distorting, black ink turning silver, snaking its way across flesh, tendrils branching in all directions.
Terrified, he looked down at his arms, noticed the same corruption of his own body. Then the world faded.
A voice. “Class of 2100. A good year it seems.”
“Do you think they’ll miss it, Peter?” asked another.
“This, all this. The experience of human life.”
“No, it’ll just be another byte of data to them. A bank of man’s emotions and idiosyncrasies so that they are more responsive to our needs,” said Peter. “Don’t waste your pity on them, Leonard.”
By now the fidgeting group had completely stilled. A dazzling display as the sun reflected off their new metallic coats. A cell phone vibrated.
“Time to go,” said Peter, hanging up on the call. “The results of our latest in utero scans are ready for selection.”
Leonard followed quietly, thinking of his own wife. How would she, he, cope if their unborn son fell below standard, became marked out for dehumanisation.
Population controls were strict. The only way to become parents was to sign a contract agreeing to yield substandard offspring to the government. In return they would be allowed a specified time as a family. Leonard’s own contract gave him eighteen years.
He glanced up at the sky, the setting sun was smearing its bloody rays against gathering clouds. He sensed a storm was coming.
Lost in Transmission
Flash Master 23rd June
_ My life had been stone-walled … literally; random messages, excerpts of private thoughts - all taken out of context - were projected onto stone pathways and brick monstrosities. Morning, noon and night, my mind released its contents to the outside world and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Privacy had become foreign to me and now I had to hide from the world to avoid bruising encounters.
It had all started with the new Think Aloud cell phones; a technological breakthrough which rendered the physical effort of text and speech unnecessary, the chip in the cell was powerful enough to detect and translate the electrical impulses in the brain. It could literally read your mind and transmit the message from source in an almost telepathy. And then the phone itself became obsolete, replaced by a chip under the skin.
Of course we went wild for it. I queued overnight to be amongst the first to get the latest version and as they embedded the chip, I felt no concern, only excitement at the possibilities open to me.
And for a while all was wonderful. I could send messages to the other side of the world and not just words, but pictures, videos, songs, all by just thinking it.
But I drew the short straw. I got the faulty model.
Initially, it wasn’t too bad, just a missing word or two. Then it happened. Happy recollections of the previous night were suddenly projected onto a nearby apartment block. All in glorious X-rated detail. My girlfriend was mortified and fled the city until our notoriety died down. When she returned she dumped me rather than suffer such embarrassment again.
The Support desk was useless, ‘Please press Reset’ and ‘Have a nice day’.
Nor could I remove it. The chip had fused with skin, had become part of me; a side-effect warned about on insertion as I signed the disclaimer.
Soon however, it wasn’t just me. Chip after chip failed and communications went into meltdown. All meaning had been lost. Now we all hide from each other, not speaking, not trusting, not listening.
2nd Runner Up 29th June
Prompt: photo + character: writer
“What is this place?” asked Jerome.
“Writer’s Block,” responded the guard briefly; a man of few words, he was well-suited to his position.
Jerome gazed blankly at his surroundings; whoever had built it exhibited a total lack of inspiration.
Jerome followed the guard, feeling the weight of his sentence as he stumbled at its beginning. He recalled the judge’s stinging rejection, “Writers who cannot write cannot be writers.”
“I’m nearing the end of my shift,” said the guard as he pressed Enter. “Someone will collect you for submission in a couple of hours.”
“Time to meet your deadline,” said the new guard, leading Jerome and the other inmates deep beneath the building.
Jerome found himself at the edge of a fiery pit, its heat so intense that he was sent staggering back into the cavern’s wall but the guard pulled him forward again.
“These are the fires of imagination,” he said. “The time you spend here is determined by your form.”
Jerome sighed with relief. He was a flash writer and a spark had been ignited. He only needed two hundred words. This was not his ending, it was his first line. He was chasing the dragon. He was flying. He was free.
Honourable Mention 22 June
Prompt: photo + theme: deja vu
The Oneiroi hovered greedily over the bed.
“It’s my turn,” said Morpheus, roughly pushing his brother aside. “You gave the last one nightmares.”
“Well that is my job,” said Phobetor. “And mother said we needed the practise.”
Their mother. Nyx. She terrified him. Best get on with it. Morpheus gazed down at the slumbering man, carefully fashioning his dream, the warning of the disaster to come, the journey he should not make.
“Hey, pack it in.”
Phantasus, his younger brother had elbowed his way into the dream. “I haven’t had a turn yet. Mother said to share …”
Morpheus sighed in frustration, he hoped that he’d done just enough for the man.
A disturbed night had made Graham Marten late for work. He paused briefly as he stepped onto the railway platform and surveyed the sleek engine. There was an odd familiarity about it, even though he’d never travelled this way before. Graham shook himself, ridiculous.
He got on the train.
“Do you think Morpheus will be angry?” Phantasus asked his mother, as they surveyed the carnage.
“I shouldn’t worry, dear. By the time he wakes up, he’ll have forgotten everything about it.”
Then Nyx filled Morpheus’ flagon with water from the river Lethe. Just to make sure.
Special Mention 15th June.
Prompt: photo + setting: theatre
Dust motes danced lazily in the sunlight. Its feeble rays piercing rotten beams and fallen rafters, a spotlight without a star on which to focus. Richard stirred, tossing aside the remnants of what had once been the stage curtain. His body ached from a night spent on bare floorboards, his makeshift straw mattress – a relic from props – doing little to ease his discomfort.
His mind wandered back to his glory days.
Who are you kidding?
He had performed in Macbeth.
As a tree in Birnam Wood.
His interpretation had been second to none.
You were plastered.
Richard’s hand automatically reached for the bottle. Alcohol had become his ball and chain, imprisoning him in an act without end.
An old playbill, yellow and torn curled down the mould-ridden wall. Only the title was still legible, Othello; hadn’t he been cast as Cassio once?
That should have been his big break but drunken celebrations had led to disgrace. He would have been perfect he thought, looking sadly at the now empty bottle. Even now, he could still recall his lines:
O thou invisible spirit of wine! If thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee devil!
No more. It was time to bring down the curtain.
A Foreign Country
Honourable Mention 14th June
“Double time now! Quick march, one, two, one, two …”
The flashback was brief, fleeting. More and more these days, Martin felt like a tourist, a stranger in the foreign country of his own mind. Soon there would be nothing left to salvage.
He stared at his fellow residents, all wrecks scrapped by a society that regarded them as inconvenient, beyond repair.
A woman sat next to him. It wasn’t right for such beautiful eyes to look so sad. Did he know her? He smiled and saw the relief on her face. Still he could not remember, but for her, for those eyes, he would put on an act.
A writer - I think that says it all.