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June 29, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Random Song Title Jamboree

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 11:41 am

This weeks Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig was to take a random song and use the title as inspiration for a story. I hit random on my iTunes collection and got Dusty Springfield: Just a little lovin’. This is what I did with it.

The bell over the door rang as Laura was placing the small bottles with hangover-remedies on the counter for easy access. Saturdays always saw a lot of trade in those.

The man entering the shop had a nervous, haggard look with stubble and dark circles under the eyes. As he came closer, a whiff of bodily odour reached her, even through the smells of herbs and flowers, and told her that it had been a while since he had last showered. He was wearing a long, bulky winter coat, despite the mild weather.

“How can I help you?” Laura asked.

“I need … I need a love potion.” His voice was hoarse.

Laura nodded and turned to the shelf behind her, taking down a small bottle containing a purplish liquid. “Now this,” she began, what she liked to think of as her disclaimer speech, “will not make anyone fall head over heels in love with you, but it will make them positively minded towards you. What you do after …”

He interrupted her. “Not good enough. I need a real love potion, not some placebo.”

Laura’s smile disappeared. The effect of the potion was very real. Sure, she mixed in purple food colouring and rosemary for the scent, but that was simply what people expected. “There is no potion that can make a stranger fall head over heels in love with you,” she explained, a bit stiffly. “Anyone who has told you that is a charlatan.”

“Not a stranger. My girlfriend. My … ex-girlfriend. I want her back. I need her back. I can’t live without her.”

“Why did she break up with you?” asked Laura.

“I … I wasn’t a good boyfriend. I took her for granted.” He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll make it up to her. I’ll be the best boyfriend she could ever want. But she won’t believe that I’ve changed. I just need a chance. Please help me. Please!”

Laura gathered up as much sympathy for the man as she could muster, which admittedly wasn’t much. She knew people like that; treated their girlfriends or boyfriends like crap and then, when they finally got kicked out, they came crawling back, promising the sun and the moon. “I can’t help you,” she said. “Maybe your ex will come around on her own, but if not, she’s not the only woman on the planet.”

“She’s the only one for me! And I’m the one for her! I just need your help to make her realise it!”

Laura snapped. “I already said no! As did she, apparently, and you need to learn to take that for an answer. What you want is tantamount to mind control and even if I could help you, I wouldn’t. Now, good day, Sir.” She pointed at the door.

“I was afraid you might say that.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun. “Give me a love potion or I’ll kill you. And make it something real or I’ll be back and kill you.”

Laura looked up from the gun, looking the man straight in the face. “There isn’t a love potion, which can do what you want.” She lifted her hand to cut him off before he could say anything or threaten her again. “However, I can give you something else.”

She turned to the shelf and took down another small bottle, opaque with a dark liquid inside.

The man licked his lips. “What does it do?”

“It contains fear.”

“Fear? I don’t need that. I could make her fear me myself, if I thought it would do any good, but I can’t scare her into being with me.”

He said can’t, thought Laura, not won’t. “It won’t make her afraid of you, just the opposite. It will make her afraid of losing you.”

“Afraid … of losing me?” He stared at the bottle almost in awe. “But will that work?”

Laura shrugged. “Depends on how you define ‘work’. It won’t make her love you, not even like you. But she will be afraid of being without you. You won’t even have to change. You can do as you’ve always done and she might end up hating you with every fibre of her being, but she won’t dare to leave.”

“But she won’t love me?” whispered the man and Laura could see the struggle in him painted clearly in his expression.

She shrugged again. “What is love if not fear? Fear of hurting the other, but mostly fear of being hurt, fear of leaving and being left. When you get right down to it, love,” she emphasised the words, “is terror.”

“I …” The man tore his gaze from the bottle and looked at her. And he finally looked her straight in the eyes. He backed away.

“I don’t want … I’m sorry … I’ll …” He kept on walking backwards, tried to pocket the gun, but dropped it instead, made a half-hearted grasp for it, the changed his mind. He backed into the door, turned around and slammed it open, sending the bells into a frenzy of jangling and ran outside.

Laura waited about half a minute before going over, closing the door and locking it before hanging up the ‘Closed’ sign. The hung over people would have to just go without a remedy today. A little suffering was good for the soul.

On her way back to the counter she stooped and picked up the gun with two fingers and a look of distaste. She carried it into the back-room to where a shoebox was sitting on a shelf. She pulled out the box and opened it with one hand, put the gun down with the small assortment of other weapons, then closed it and put it back. Then she wiped her hands on her pants legs and started thinking about what she would do with the day. Maybe make some more potions for memory and concentration; after all, the exam period would start soon.


June 18, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Dead Body

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: — Eva Therese @ 12:44 pm

Challenge by the lovely and bearded Chuck Wendig. Prompt can be found here and consisted of ‘Include a dead body in the first paragraph’.

Alice sat up carefully, head spinning, ears ringing and looked at the body lying on the floor. It reminded her of the mangled body of a prey, placed there by a proud feline the size of a bull. Then she noticed scraps of clothing made from the same material as her own lab coat, tufts of hair a certain colour.

Oh god.


“Eric?” She reached out a hand, then snatched it back. She didn’t want to touch it and anyway, there was nothing she could do. The body looked like it had been turned inside out.

She dragged her eyes away from it and looked around. The laboratory looked like it had been set on fire and then put out using a tornado. The floor was covered with broken glass and smashed equipment and there was a smell of burned wires in the air.

She tried to think back; what was the last thing she remembered? She and Eric – she had to suppress a sob at the thought – had been working on the equation and running simulations on the computer.

The computer.

She got up slowly, shards raining off her. The pounding in her head grew stronger. She knew she ought to find a phone that still worked and call for help, then sit down and put her head between her knees. Instead she walked over to the main computer.

It was still smoking and the plastic casing had melted. It was possible that her employers would be able to salvage something from it, but she rather doubted it. And all backups were made at the end of each day on external harddrives, which were then placed in a bunker in an undisclosed location. This meant that all the work they had done today was irrevocably lost, along with any answers as to what had happened, since she had no idea.

She knew for certain that she hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary. She had been grinding through all possible variations of the equations, patiently waiting for a result that might indicate that one of them were working.

She willed herself to look back at Eric. “What were you doing?” she asked the body, then shuddered and turned away.

Anyway, that line of reasoning made no sense. They had been running computer simulations for god’s sake; nothing which could have affected the real world, any more than losing a game of Minesweeper would have caused something to blow up.

Her train of thought was interrupted by the sound of the door being unlocked and then a hiss of compressed air as it started to slide open.

Alice frowned. The compressed air was part of the emergency system, which meant that there was no power to the door. She looked up at the lamps in the ceiling and noticed for the first time the small red lamps which indicated that they were running on their own internal backup batteries. Whatever had happened had taken out the power in the whole building.

The door finally opened and Major Gutierrez stepped in and, after the briefest glance at Alice, looked around assessing the damage. Her gaze barely touched the body on the floor.

“What happened?” asked Alice. Major Gutierrez was head of operations not just for this laboratory, but for the whole building. She might not be a scientist, but of anyone had any answers, it would be her.

“I was going to ask you the same thing, Doctor Kaye. This place looks like Dresden in 1945. To say nothing of your late colleague.”

“I … nothing happened,” replied Alice, annoyed at her own defensive tone, but unable to check it. “We were running simulations. Just like last month and the month before. The highlight of the day was the coffee break, because the cafeteria had cinnamon rolls.” She sniffled and had to blink to keep back tears.

Major Gutierrez looked at her with a carefully neutral expression as if she was turning something over in her head, but wanted to keep her thoughts hidden. Finally she said: “You weren’t running simulations.”

Alice blinked. “Of course we did.”

“I suppose I should say that you weren’t just running simulations. In the basement level beneath your lab, we build a prototype of your machine. Every time you ran a simulation on the computer you actually tested it in reality as well.”

Alice felt dizzy again as she let the words and their implications sink in. “Are you,” she started in a whisper, that rose to a roar, “completely insane!? Do you know what the machine can do!?” She racked her brain for an expletive. “You … you stupid bastards!”

“We were pressed for time,” said the Major.

“Did Eric know?”

“Yes. He helped develop your initial blueprints to a working prototype.” They both glanced at the body. “Look, you can chew me up later. Right now, I need you outside.”

“What’s outside?”

“Better come see for yourself.”

Puzzled, Alice stepped carefully through the wreck of her work place and followed the Major outside into the corridor and up the stairs.

At the top of the stairs, when they reached the foyer at the ground floor level, stood a young soldier, who snapped to attention, when he saw the Major, but who had such a haunted look in his eyes, that it made Alice’s heart race.

Then she looked across the foyer, which looked like it had been hit by an earthquake, through the huge windows to the outside and her heart seemed to stop altogether. She should have looked out on low barracks and a parking lot full of military vehicles. Instead there was nothing but empty land, rocky and windblown, with a few stubborn patches of grass and low shrubberies.

“Where …” It was the soldier who had come up behind them. He licked his dry lips and started again. “Where are we, ma’am?”

Alice just shook her head. “Eric,” she whispered. “Eric, you stupid bastard, what have you done?”

June 12, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Random Title Jamboree

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 9:26 am

New Flash Fiction Challenge, courtesy of Chuck Wendig. I rolled a 15 and a 15 because random number generators are lazy and got Back Country Junction.

The road ran between two villages and when you followed it past the last of the houses and out onto the moor or into the small forest – depending on which direction you were coming from – it narrowed to nothing more than a track.

Both villages were small, but both also boasted a smithy, a holy man and a doctor. Thus, neither place had anything the other wanted and the only people who went from one to the other, except the odd traveling salesman, were young people who had met each other at one of the fairs and wanted to get further acquainted. The villages were close enough that in the summertime, if you started early in the morning, you could walk from one to another, do your business and get back before sundown, but later in the year, it often happened that one of the aforementioned young people stayed too late and had to stay the night so as not to get caught out in the dark.

There were no robbers on the moor, no dangerous beast in the forest. But there was the junction. In the middle of nowhere, the track was crossed by another. People had tried following this other track in both directions and they said that on either side it went on for some miles and then faded and disappeared. But sometimes, people tried to follow the track and were never seen or heard from again.

People said that it was the preferred route of the fair folk visiting their neighbors, which just happened to intersect with the road between the two villages and very pragmatically they also said that as long as no-body used the road or in other ways bothered the fair folk, they would leave the villagers alone. So no-one used the intersecting track and no-one went from one village to the next at night and they were safe and in the end, they started to forget why they too these precautions and the cross road and the fair folk became nothing more that a tale to tell in the long winter evenings.

Maria carefully lifted Lily’s hand away from her waist and crawled out from under the blanket. Then she carefully tucked the blanket around her little sister, making sure to cover all of her feet. Lily was a light sleeper and if she got cold, she would wake and when she didn’t find Maria there, she would started to cry and wake the rest of their sisters and this wouldn’t do.

Maria slipped on her shoes, while her eyes darted around the room, looking for any sign of movement, but the four other bodies that could be seen in the pale light were all sleeping quietly. One of them, Ella, stirred when she opened the window, but only to turn around and hug her pillow. Maria took one last look and then, before she could change her mind, she tied the end of the rope to the bedpost and climbed out the window.

The Larsson family had seven daughters and in a village where not much happened, it had been the source of and endless stream of mild jibes about how you could set your calender after Eleanor Larsson’s yearly delivery. As they got older the talk had gotten to be more about how sweet and lovely the eldest of the girls, Ida, was. Last year the talk had turned to the young man she had met and fallen in love with, and after a short but hectic courtship they had married and seven months later she had given birth to a healthy boy. But just a month ago Ida’s husband had disappeared, leaving her heartbroken. She had moved back in with her parents, but the gossip was all about how she stayed in the attic with her son and refused to see anyone, just cried her eyes out.

Some of the very old people muttered, that the man had been taken by the fair folk, but vast majority of the village took the cynical view that young Matthew had been more suited as a lover than as a husband and father; that the best Ida could do was to forget about him and find a new kinder man, who would take care of her and the boy. After all she was still sweet and lovely and the fact that she had been able to give birth to a healthy child was not at all a bad thing.

Then rumors started spreading – no-one knew who had first started them, but suddenly they were everywhere – that maybe it was not Matthew who had realized that he was unfit as a husband, but Ida and that she had taken matters into her own hands. Somehow the talk reached even Ida and her family thought that her staying hidden had as much to do with being unable to face the slander as it had with her grief over Matthew.

All lies; Maria knew that. Matthew might be immature and inept in many ways, but he was as fiercely devoted to his wife and child as she was to him. Still, while Matthew was a sweet young man, Maria would never have been out on the moor in the dark for his sake. She was doing this solely for Ida. The loss of Matthew and the lies of the village was killing her, if not literally, then her at least her spirit. And Maria loved her sister far too much to stand by and do nothing.

She found her way carefully in the dark. There was a full moon, which was why she had chosen this night to do this, but she still had to look at the track in front of her to be sure she didn’t lose her way. She walked for hours while the moon rose in the sky and then started to sink again, just as she reached the junction.

Maria looked down, first one road, then the other, trying to decide which one to take, since they both looked the same. Then the wind, which had until then been a soft breeze, rose to a gust which pushed her in the back. And since that was as good a suggestion as any other, Maria went down that way.

In the beginning she was as alone as she had been until now, but not for long. Soon she saw light light shining from behind her and had to resist the urge to turn around. Then figures started to walk past her, wearing lanterns glowing with floating golden lights that did not seem to have any source. They were human looking but all very tall and inhumanly thin. They were beautiful but in the way an orchid was beautiful. There was no warmth in the way they looked.

There were many, apparently they were on their way to a large gathering. None of them looked at Maria as they passed her, but no-one tried to stop her either.

She didn’t know how and when it had happened, but she suddenly realized she was not at the moor. The path in front of her was leading through lush green grass, each leaf bejeweled with dewdrops sparkling in the moonlight.

In front of her was wall about the height of her waist with an opening in it, which the track lead through and one of the fail folk standing guard. Unlike the rest he fixed her with his gaze as she came closer and held up a hand to signal her to stop.

“What are you doing here, human?” he asked, sounding bored. “You are not welcome at our feast.”

“I believe you have my brother-in-law Matthew,” she replied, the hesitated before continuing. “I am here to negotiate his release.”

The fair one looked at her, head cocked to one side. “Very well,” he said, finally. “After all, we could use some extra entertainment tonight. You may enter.”

Maria walked through the opening in the stone wall, heart beating so fast and hard that it felt like it was trying to break open her ribcage from inside and escape. Then she got a look at hear surroundings and forgot everything.

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