Tag Archives: Spec Fic

The Visitation

I’ve passed through the doors hundreds of times, without ever really noticing the architectural details. Over the door is a heavy stone arch, supported at either end with stone corbels featuring carved lion heads.

When I climbed the stair this evening, an unusual movement caught my eye. Turning and looking up, instead of a lion’s head I was shocked to see the visage of my former college roommate, surrounded by a ghastly greenish glow. Harley’s eyes widened, before he moaned at me, with the most eerie and dreadful tone. “Beware!”

I hadn’t thought of Harley at all in nearly over thirty years, nor had I touched a drop with dinner. I’m not commonly prone to wild flights of imagination or visitations from spectral harbingers. Yet here was Harley, or at least his face was.

He moaned a second time, “Beware!”

I stood dumbfounded on my porch step and stared upward at what was once again an unremarkable stone decoration. Was some Dickensian nightmare haunting me with images of roommates past, or was I simply losing my mind?

While I fumbled for my keys with shaking hands, I felt the sharp point digging into my back. “I’ll be having your wallet.”

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200 words, inspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt:

The Root of the Problem

I close my eyes and lean back on the couch, seeking that daydream state. Somewhere, in the depths of my racial memories, in the murky brackish water of my subconscious swamp, there must be the germ of an idea and the seed of a mighty creative work waiting to be discovered.

I dream of root tendrils seeking nutrients from the creative clay, the humus of ideas past, now fallen and decaying slowly. In my imagination, the leaves rot to form another, fresh layer of nutrients that will feed tomorrow’s ideas. My roots try to find some purchase, some magic blossom of a simple, brilliant epiphany.

Somewhere back there, in the buried creative remains of my own and other authors must be the rapture that daydreaming sometimes turns up.

I can’t find it, not today, not this week. The racial creativity myth is a fable. My ancestors cannot or will not help me.

I don’t taste the sweet honey of any fresh ideas.

The only flavors I can find are rotten acorns and blind grubs, and slimy, wet black mosses that taste like death. The root of the problem lies inside the author. He has character, but it must be rotten.

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200 words. Uninspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt:

First Class Aerial Seating

The voyage was uneventful until the ship arrived in America on Oct. 29, just in time to meet the 2011 Nor’easter (a.k.a. Snowtober). The Chairman of the Board, Hendrick Van der Decken, repeatedly vowed that his tulips would reach port despite the Devil himself.

Wind and surf drove the sailing ship miles up the coast, from Virginia to New Jersey. During a desperate Board of Directors Emergency Meeting, the ship capsized. A snownado scooped up Van der Decken and deposited his frozen corpse several miles inland.

Legend has it that on Halloween night, at lowest tide, you can still see a ruined office chair rising from the waves, and hear defiant swearing on the wind, in Dutch.

Thus began the Legend of the Flying Chairman.

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125 words, inspired by this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt:
(Okay, I cheated the word count a little, too much fun.)

PHOTO PROMPT – © Dale Rogerson

Fat Bottomed Girls

“So there were gathered together a harlequin, an astrophysicist, and fifty nude women on bicycles?

“Well, yes.”

“Wasn’t that a strange thing, in the Seventies?”

“Not exactly common. It made a massive outcry in the newspapers at the time, but the excitement died away quickly. The interesting bit, to me, was that the nude ladies were actually trying to win the bicycle race.”

“So, who did win?”

“Florence Dollenberg, from Merton. She received a congratulatory handshake from the Prime Minister.”

“Heath, Wilson, or Callaghan?”

“Oh, I think I see your error; the Eighteen Seventies. She was congratulated by William Gladstone.”

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100 words for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt:

Still confused? Take a tour with me back to the seventies…one of the seventies anyway.

(Fat Bottomed Girls and Bicycle Race were generally played together, and flipsides of the single. Freddy Mercury is the Harlequin, and Brian May the astrophysicist. That big-wheeled bike was contemporary in the 1870s…nude bicycle racing maybe not so much.

But it coooould have happened…)

The Cost of Genius

“I thought that we were special.”

“So did the Program. You know that only one child in ten thousand tests positive for the Sarasate gene. They went to enormous trouble to isolate and recruit all of us. We’re all pretty special, Sam.”

“You know that isn’t what I meant. You and I, us, we had something special, right?”

“We did. Outside the Program, the two of us alone wouldn’t have been able to continue and prosper. We needed the creative feedback from dozens of others, to keep producing new works at top level.”

“Does the art really matter that much to you? Screw the music. You know I’d give up the cello in a minute to be with you forever, Cheryl.”

“I wouldn’t want you to. You’d only resent me for it eventually. This orchestra is my home, and this violin is my life. I’m sorry about… How could they have known, when they recruited us as children?”

Sam hung his head. “The females soared on wings of genius, and the males could never be more than just competent musicians. No matter how long they studied.”

“We both have the gene, Sam. They just never guessed the effect would be sex-linked.”

“And the Program is finally tired of carrying the males, and out with the failed experiments. You’re still entirely committed to the Program?”

Cheryl drew a slow breath.

“I’m committed to my sisters, and to the potential we’ve shown. I believe this is going somewhere amazing, and I desperately need to be a part of it.

“I’ve already seen the wetware surgeon, Sam. He tinkered with some trivial memories, and you know they solved sexual orientation years ago. I’ve already been flipped, I’m sorry.”

“In my opinion, all of you have flipped.”

Cheryl smiled tenderly, “Bingo.”

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296 words. Inspired by this week’s Cracked Flash Fiction (Y1W18) prompt.

Lyc and a Promise

“I can’t decide when to change.”

“Come on, you know you need to. You don’t feel comfortable in your own body, you’ve told me so frequently. So this may be exactly what you need.”

“Maybe so, but I’m still scared.”

“Fundamentally altering your life is always scary. I have faith in you. Just think of how much better you’ll feel after. Sometimes, you just need to take the leap of faith, you know?”

“Good, the moon’s coming up, and I can already feel the Change starting.”

“Wait a second, the full moon is tonight?”

“Baby I’ve changed, please come back.”

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100 words. Inspired by this week’s 100WCGU prompt at Julia’s Place:

…I can’t decide when to change…

Borrowed the final line from New York Minute (Don Henley), it seemed appropriate.

How to Win the Princess

“Seek out the sovereigns and monarchs of every land. The princes of the entire world, their eldest sons, shall meet here in one year’s time. He who is brave, strong, and smart enough to perform my task shall receive half of my kingdom and treasure for his reward.”

The king’s plan was set in motion. In one year King Olaf addressed the assembled flower of nobility gathered before him. A dozen princes of the noblest lines came to learn the details of the contest.

“Few people know of my family’s tragic curse. Three hundred years ago, in my ancestor King Anlaf’s day, he offended a vain fairy named Radella by endorsing Princess Iris as the most beautiful lady in the land.”

“This is the curse as Radella invoked it: ‘Princess Iris shall be imprisoned in the dungeons of this castle and sealed in by walls of stone ten feet thick. There she will sleep, forever, until awaked with a kiss from a prince of noble blood.’”

King Olaf led the assembled princes down in the castle to the dungeons, where a thick wall sealed off the corridor.

“If any has thoughts of how to breach this wall and rescue Princess Iris, let him speak now and win fortune and kingdom.

One by one, the princes tried various schemes, drew diagrams, and asked questions. One by one, the princes grew discouraged. Finally only Prince Joseph remained.

“Would you answer a couple of questions, your majesty?”

“Of course, ask away.

“How long did you say Princess Iris has been sleeping?”

“For three hundred years.”

“Only a kiss can awaken her?”

“It is so.”

“In that case, I’ll give it a swing. I can do it, but I’ll need a jackhammer and all the breath mints you’ve got.”

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295 words. In response to this week’s Cracked Flash Fiction Competition prompt.

Separator

“Hurry, we must hurry. The sun will rise soon.”

She pulls me by the hand and we wade into the water. This is the lowest part of the cave, I’m thankful it’s March and the water’s only waist deep. During the rainy season, we would need to hold our breath to negotiate this stretch.

We stop while I shine the light around.

“We must prepare,” Liwayway continues tugging my hand urgently. Her eyes dart back and forth. “She comes soon.”

The cave is in Candaba Swamp in the Phillipines. The roof constantly drips and damp pervades everything, even during the dry season. The cave entrance is underwater for part of the year.

“Look over there, do you see the trunk?”

A gnarled mass of mossy roots, twisted and distorted, spreads out for meters over the cave floor. The unusual root system twists over and around other roots, rocks, and spots of yellowing ivory, shaped…

“Yes, they are skulls. She is quite old and very powerful, as I told you. These are the skulls and bones of her victims. She feeds on the unborn by preference, but she’ll also take the infants or smaller toddlers. The mothers she just kills, because they are too big to carry away.

“Bring the salt. There is only one way to kill her.”

Liwayway stepped into the root system and pulled me forward to the trunk.

Where the roots met, they twisted together and grew as a pair of leprous tree trunks for about half a meter. The scabrous bark gradually lightened in color and melded into a pair of very human thighs and lower torso.

The torso, in turn, ended abruptly a few inches above the navel. When I saw the raggedly torn flesh and viscera, my stomach churned. There were carmine threadlike worms and bloody red maggots crawling in and amongst the exposed intestines.

“We cannot allow the manananggal to rejoin with her lower body. It is nearly dawn. If we can prevent that happening until the sun comes up, she will die. Pour half the salt on the trunk, quickly.”

I swallowed to keep my lunch down, and tried keep my eyes mostly averted as I tore open the two-pound bag. I poured the salt over the torn flesh, ripped intestines, and whatever-the-hell that thing was. The worms tried to wriggle away and escape, I noticed, so I dosed them with more salt.

“Now quickly, back to the cave wall. Bring what’s left in the bag.”

Li’s urgency level was clearly on the rise, she shoved me bodily into a dark nook on the cave’s back wall.

“Pour the remaining salt in a circle around us. As long as the circle is unbroken, she will not be able to cross it.”

I heard the distinct flapping of wings, and my hands shook as I poured the last crystals from the bag. Li grabbed my hand. Her fingers crushed mine tightly as the manananggal glided into our dimly lit viewing range.

She has the upper half of a very human female, with some modifications. The most obvious of which are the enormous bat wings with almost four meters of wingspan. Her wingtips scrape the top of the cave; then she spies us, and turns in our direction.

Then there’s the tongue. She possesses several feet of elongated, prehensile tongue, ending in a bladed spur.

There’s also the bloody gore hanging from her raggedly separated torso, the bottom half of which is currently rooted across the cave. A steady, slow rain of maggots and threadworms falls under her flight path, whenever one of her resident symbionts wriggles free and falls to earth.

She screeches loudly and barrels at us, and slams into the cylinder of air directly above the circle of salt. Whatever mystic barrier Liwayway has set up using the ring of salt works very well. It does fail to block the debris that rains down, maggots and worms shaken loose by the collision.

Now the manananggal screams in obvious pain and tries to reconnect with her lower body. She cries out with impotent rage when another pile of salt blocks her goal.

When the sun rises, the manananggal explodes into flame.

“Back to hell with you, bitch,” Li hisses.

It’s another “happily ever after” ending. Monster destroyed, great job, and let’s go home. Right?

I just can’t stop wondering what Liwayway gained by gathering up those wiggling maggot symbionts in a sample jar.

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Inspired by the prompts for Mutant 750 (#55) at Grammar Ghoul Press.

© Jakub Krechowicz

Head in a Cloud

The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still.

He watches the pathway leading to a portico with ionic columns and a bronze door. Before the door is a sack of homespun wool.

Hooves clop, wheels scrape gravel, and harnesses jingle. Heat and blinding radiance forces him to look away for a moment. A chariot rolls past.

The sack is now burning. He dashes forward and pounds on the door.

A figure opens the door, looks surprised,  and quickly stamps out the flaming sack.

The man with the broad grin races down the mountainside, pursued by a thunderbolt.

“HERMES!”

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100 words. Inspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt:

(I saw Mt. Olympus, obviously. Apologies to Mr. McCartney, and flaming poo sack pranksters everywhere.)

 

Leaves of Red and Gold

The family resemblance was striking. Only the tiny lines around her eyes betray greater maturity.

“So you’re her mother?”

“I am. Don’t look so surprised.”

Months ago, I’d shared a drink and conversation with her daughter right here at this bar. Just now, I was still trying to wrap my mind around meeting the mother, without warning, sitting on the same bar stool.

“Relax. You already know we don’t bite.”

“She nibbled a bit, emotionally. I didn’t know about her husband until I was really enjoying her company, you know. My heart wasn’t broken or anything, but my little crush got crushed.”

“Well you’re safe from heartaches with me. Besides, my husband wouldn’t dream of making an appearance. Not even with a thunderbolt, I promise.”

We had recreated much the same evening as when her daughter visited; talking, laughing, and drinking. Eventually, I asked if she’d like to see “our” tree.

The tree hadn’t stopped blossoming and raining petals over the bus stop until high summer. She leaned one hand against the tree’s trunk, and colorful autumn leaves suddenly cascaded.

Demeter just laughed when she saw the sadness come over me.

“Silly mortal, loveliest of all are those which don’t endure.”

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200 words. Inspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt (and a followup to a previous tale—“You Can Tell a Lot About a Person From Her Underworld.”)