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February 8, 2016

Flash Fiction Challenge -The Subgenre Tango

Filed under: flash fiction challenge, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Eva Therese @ 7:16 pm

It’s been forever since I last did one of these, but fortunately I am unable to withstand the lure of a random subgenre mash-up. I rolled a 9 and a 10 and got Whodunit?/Military Sci-fi. Yay! I don’t really know anything about the military, but sci-fi means that I can just make stuff up.

Challenge courtesy of the lovely and very bearded Chuck Wendig.


”Ma’am?”

Hale turned away from the transparent wall, where she had been staring out at the electric typhoon which, half a kilometre below, was tearing up the surface of Kepler-184, know by the settlers as Iuiturn.

“Is there a reason you have brought us here?” The speaker was a woman in her late forties who carried herself with an air of authority, even though she held no military rank.

“I have gathered you here, because I know who the killed General Tibbett and Cody.”

These words were greeted by a muttering from the three people gathered in the mess deck.

“I cannot claim much knowledge about legal procedures on Earth,” said Joger, a large grey and green alien, who spoke via voice synthesizer. “But should there not be an arrest made? A trial of some sort? Why are we here?”

“Because the killer is among us.”

As opposed to her last words, these were met with complete silence as everyone eyed each other nervously.

“Why don’t you arrest them, then?” asked Kirts, who had been Tibbett’s orderly before the general had been killed.

“All in good time,” said Hale. “You see, this was a very clever killer, who led me on a merry chase.” She narrowed her eyes. “Helped by everyone in here.”

This time there was the sound of outraged protestations, until Hale raised her hand and they fell into a disgruntled silence.

“Surely,” began Kirst, “you don’t mean everyone. I certainly …”

“Kirst,” interrupted Hale and pointed a finger at him. “You claimed to be oh-so-fond of the general, when in fact it was so strained between you, that she had been planning to fire you as her orderly. That meant that you would have to join the rank and file and maybe even get in a real battle.”

Kirst started stuttering, but no real words came out, as Hale continued. “Did you tell me any of this? No, I had to dig around in Tibbett’s waste paper basket, where I found the draft for Tibbett’s letter where she was writing to request a replacement. The typhoon stopped all outgoing communications and you managed to delete the message, she was going to send, but she always wrote a paper draft first. And if you hadn’t been such a poor orderly you would have known that.”

“I swear,” Kirst was sweating now. “I didn’t kill her. It’s true she was going to fire me and when I found her dead, I thought that maybe she hadn’t sent the message yet and so I deleted it. But I didn’t kill her!”

“Of course you didn’t,” said Hale. “You’re still fired, however. Have fun fighting the Vreosk.”

She turned to Joger. “And you’re here as a negotiator on behalf of your people. But very conveniently forgot to mention that you have a history with Tibbett. Back when she was Sergeant of the Riders she led Operation Zero Hour in which your home town of Moegawa was annihilated. I only found out because Tibbett regularly sent money to a foundation for veterans from the battle. And I only knew about that, because Tibbett mistrusted the computers enough to keep a written record of all transactions she made. Took a while to unravel it, but I found out in the end.”

“That was then. We must focus on the now, if we are ever to achieve peace.” Joger replied in his clipped speech. “I did not kill the general.”

“I know.” Hale turned to the last person, the woman who had first spoken. “And then there’s you, Justicar Franklin, who came to a remote military base on an inspection, right before getting caught by an electric typhoon. And at the same time as the general was here, no less. Very peculiar timing, if you ask me.”

Franklin smirked. “Surely, you’re not accusing me of being uncooperative. I’ve told you all about the general and my relationship with her; not that there was much to tell.”

“True.”

“And why would I have done that, if I had killed her.”

“You didn’t.”

“I’m confused,” said Kirst. “You said the killer was among us. But if none of us killed Tibbett, then who did?”

“Cody.”

“Cody?” repeated Kirst and Franklin at the same time as Joger said: “The cook?”

“The cook, yes. You see, Cody wasn’t his real name and he wasn’t even from Earth but born and raised on Plewua.”

“A spy?” breathed Kirst.

“Exactly. He killed the real Cody and took his identity. Then he got himself a job here, near the front, where he could send back whatever snatches of information he could pick up.

But then the general came to visit and she would be able to discover the truth. Because the general knew the real Cody’s brother, who also took part in Operation Zero Hour and died in the assault. She would want to meet the brother of her soldier, but there’s no way that Cody’s cover story would stand up to that kind of scrutiny. So he killed the general, hoping that the killing would be blamed on someone else, probably Joger.”

The alien gave a grunt, which needed no translation.

There was a moment’s silence as everyone digested the news.

Then Joger asked: “Did Cody kill himself?”

“No, he was killed by another person, for reasons that had nothing to do with him being a spy or the general’s murder. He was killed by the one person who had been completely forthcoming, because she knew that she would never be suspected for the murder of the general.” Hale turned towards Franklin. “She came to this desolate piece of rock and had herself stranded in a typhoon, wanting to get to another person entirely.”

Franklin was pale as a sheet and shaking all over. “When?” she asked breathlessly. “When did he kill Cody and take his place?”

“It’s difficult to be exact, but somewhere around standard year G7 or G8.”

With a groan, Franklin covered her face with her hands. “Then I killed the wrong man. The real Cody was already dead and I killed the wrong man.

I’ve waited so long for my revenge. And now I find out it’s all be for nothing.” She looked at Hale, her eyes wet. “You can’t possibly know what he did. So how did you find out it was me?”

“I knew it, when I found out Cody had been the killer. That’s when I started to suspect, that that the reason you had been so helpful was that you wanted the general’s killer found, so you could pin the murder of the cook on them as well. Everyone would assume that they had been killed because they saw who poisoned the food and leave it at that. But since the cook killed the general himself, there had to be another reason entirely for his murder.”

Franklin nodded gloomily. “It would have been very convenient.”

“I found out the truth about Cody, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to kill him, rather than just reveal his secret, which would lead to him being executed. Then it finally dawned on me: someone had a beef with the real Cody, but didn’t know that he had been replaced in the meantime.”

Franklin looked down. “A ‘beef’ you call it. He killed my friends from the orphanage, all of them. He was a guilty as if he had slit their throats himself and it would have been kinder if he had.” She swallowed. “I lived there for a time, after my parents died, until they could find my relatives. I made friends with the other children. I returned nine years later and found out, that not a month after I had left, there had been a outbreak of water swellings. The medicine had arrived too late and no-one had survived.

I always suspected the truth, but it took more than a decade before I could get access to the records and look into it. They covered it up, you see. Cody was supposed to deliver the medicine, but he stole it. His superiors didn’t want the truth to come out, didn’t want people in the colonies to lose faith in the military, but the truth is there in the records, if you know what to look for.”

Hale nodded. “The typhoon is moving on; we’ll back in touch with the rest of the world in a few hours time. Are you going to come quietly?”

Franklin sniffled and blinked a few times to keep back tears. “I will. I should be punished. I killed the wrong man, after all.”

“Yes, well,” said Hale as she waved one of the soldiers to come forward and handcuff Franklin. “All things considered, I suppose the court might look favourably on your case.”

March 5, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge – The Four Part Story Final Part

Filed under: flash fiction challenge, Uncategorized — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 6:54 pm

This week’s challenge from the bearded sage Chuck Wendig is last part of the collaboration where everyone took turns to write parts of a story. This is the final part of Time Warp, started by Lauren and continued by Simon and CJ. I’ve copied their parts in below with links to their respective parts of the internet.


Part 1
It was a day like any other. She had come down the stairs, her phone was ringing, and she stopped to answer it, realizing her pump had slipped halfway off. She put her hand against the building, and leaned in, pulling the pump over her heel. She caught herself looking at a bearded man, sitting in the park, reading a newspaper. Her eyes looked him up and down.

On a hunch, she crossed the road to the park, not even looking for taxi cabs, even though she knew they wouldn’t stop. She’d read just the other day about a kid who had been hit, holding hands with his father. She didn’t know why she was headed to the park. She should have turned right and walked the length of the street, on the way to Barnes Butler to drop off the package. But there was something vaguely familiar she saw in the man.

When she had crossed, she stopped and she stared at the back of his head, silently daring him to turn around. He was engrossed in the newspaper, and she thought maybe she should just turn and leave. Instead, she barreled forward as if driven by a motor and stood in front of him, like a tree, blocking his reading light. He shook the paper and tilted his eyes up towards her. His face twitched in instant recognition, but it was too late for him to go anywhere.

“I thought that was you,” she said.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“I work across the street.”

She sat down next to him, and he folded up the paper and sat it on his knee. He gave her a sidelong look as she stared at the print on the paper and gingerly picked it up with her thumb and index finger. “You know if you’re going to sit here on a bench in Central Park in the middle of New York City, the least you could do is buy a newspaper dated for today. March 4, 1972, really Henry?”

“I take it there’s nothing in that manila envelope I need to be worried about. It doesn’t look thick enough to carry a gun.”

“What do they say these days?” she asked, raising her eyebrows at him. “Take a chill pill?”

“Yes, I think that’s correct. I’ll tell you the English language is not what it used to be.”

“You’re not my target this time.”

“Who is?”

“That’s privileged information, and you know it.”

“So how come you can’t kill me now, but in 2150 I’m your mortal enemy?”

She shrugged, clutching the package in her hand, and looking from side to side to make sure no one had followed her. He put his hand down on the bench, and he moved it over towards her skirt, but her reflexes were quick and she slapped it away. It pained her too, because she’d always found him attractive, even with a target on his head. But this wasn’t one of those spy movies where the two people fell in love and forgot all about the price on their head. She knew she’d have to target Henry next time they warped, and she didn’t want to risk unnecessary emotions becoming involved. She had never been here, to this time, and it was a surprise to see him. He looked innocent and younger than the last time she’d seen him. Of course then, his hands had been gripping the side of the building and she had been just about to peel them off one by one. She had imagined the scene as he dropped the fifty stories to the ground. She could even hear the splat his body would have made against the pavement, but in that exact moment in time she had warped.

The next assignment had not been a good one either, because it had occurred during the war, and it had taken much longer than she expected. Blue versus Gray, and she had been a housewife. She thought to herself that she should have never taken this job. She had no roots. Babies born and abandoned. But here she was, still at the hands of the powers to be. “I could help you,” he said.

“And why would you do that?”

“Because you didn’t kill me last time.”

Ha, she thought to herself. Only because there was a glitch in the machine. “I tried to.”

“Have you thought that maybe the orders have changed?”

She looked him in the eyes. She felt like she could trust him, but she didn’t know why. Her mind jumped to the moment in time where he was about to fall to his death. His eyes had looked sincere and warm, and in that moment she had felt a twinge of guilt. She never felt that way. It was always just business to her, never guilt.

“And why would they have changed?”

“Ophelia, we’re working for different people who have the same objective, aren’t we?”

She nodded, because she knew he was right. She looked down at her watch, the second hand spinning fast, and she felt the familiar wave come over her. No, not now, she thought. She couldn’t warp now. She grabbed the park bench, her grip tightened against the wood, as if she could save herself from traveling through space and time.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I think it’s coming. The warp.”

He shook his head. “That’s impossible. You haven’t done your job yet.”

“And how do you know what my job is?” she asked.

“That’s simple,” he said. “Our groups, they’ve—“

But the words were gone, in a swirling whirlwind, because in that moment her body was disassembling into millions of tiny particles, atoms, quarks, and it was traveling through a funnel towards another time period. ………

Part 2
Re-materialising was unpleasant. There’s no other way to put it.

Hundreds of hours of training. Thousands of real-time warps, some of them across vast distances and durations. Rational thought. Mental preparation. Will. None of it really did much to take the edge off the sensation of having your body smashed to its component parts and swapped with identical ones somewhere, and somewhen, else.
Though it was supposed to be instantaneous – at least to to the five pitifully dull human senses – operatives often spoke about an almost imperceptible moment as they came out of a warp, a moment that passed in a fraction of a heartbeat. A brief, excruciating instant where the consciousness was present, but the body was not. They called it the Void, and it was terrifying.

Ophelia came around screaming, certain she could feel every tiny layer of skin being drawn to her bones like filings to a magnet. Someone put a hand over mouth, another on her back and lowered her gently to the floor. Her memory kicked in, then her hearing. Someone was speaking, softly, reassuringly.

“Phe. Phe, I’m sorry, there’s so little time. It’s OK, Phe. It’s OK.” A hand on her forehead. “I had to pull you. I’m sorry. No time.” It was Isaac, the warp tech. His pale, boyish features were shot through with guilt or concern or both. Ophelia focused and let him guide her back to her feet, doing most of the work as his slight frame struggled to support hers. She calmed as recognition of her surroundings flooded over her. The two of them now stood in a debriefing chamber under the clinical glare of three perfectly spaced strips of LED’s. The chambers were designed to be identical, from the dimensions and the furniture down to the shade of high-gloss grey that covered the walls, ceilings and doors. There were hundreds of them scattered across six continents, hidden in office buildings and disused railway stations and specialist bunkers. She could’ve been anywhere in the world.

“Zac, what’s going on?” Ophelia asked, scanning Zac’s face for clues. “I haven’t made the drop. The target’s still out there somewhere – I didn’t finish the job.”

Now she’d a chance to look at him properly, she could see Zac was haggard. Tiredness dragged at his cheeks and brow, and his usually alert and inquisitive eyes were watery and ringed with black. His once-white shirt and coat were stained with old sweat.

“There’s not much time to explain, Phe,” said Zac, busying around her. “I’m setting you up to go back straight away.” He pulled the watch from her wrist and replaced it with another, identical one. “Things have changed. Bad changed.” He met Ophelia’s gaze and held it, and it took a moment for her to realise he was holding out a hand for the envelope. The one she’d been clasping all this time. She handed it over.

“What do you mean, changed?” Henry had hinted at that, too. What had he meant? Had he known she was going to be here, now?

“Zac, Henry was back there. I was talking to him when you pulled me.”

“Henry?” He handed her another envelope, indistinguishable from the first. “In NYC04? Henry, as in – ”

“Yeah, that Henry.”

“And you spoke with him?”

“Sure, he was sat on a bench in the middle of Central Park, reading a paper. I had to be sure it was him.”

Zac ceased his fussing and took a step back. His expression had been grim before; now, hopelessness was starting to show. He rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands. “Damn, Phe. Things are worse than I thought. We need to get you back to where you were and pronto.”

“What the hell is going on?” said Ophelia, irritated now. “You’re sending me back to the exact same time and place? For what? What’s changed? I – ”

Ophelia’s breath caught. The room was shaking violently, the tortured screech of twisting metal drowning out her words. Zac stumbled, about to fall, and she pulled him quickly upright with a hand under his armpit.
The tremors stopped a few moments later. Ophelia thought she could hear muffled voices in the distance.
Zac swore under his breath. “Phe, I’m heading straight over to control. In a couple of minutes you’re going to warp back to NYC.” He walked to the door of the chamber and produced a key fob from his pocket, which he held up to a small panel mounted on the wall before throwing to her.

“Lock the door behind me. If you’re not in Central Park in five minutes from the point I leave you, get out of here and stay low. Left out of this door, straight on and up until you see daylight.”

“What am I supposed to do in New York?”

“Make the drop. Deliver the package – the one I just gave you. Same place. If you make it, your watch will bring you home.”

“What about my target? The briefing said letting him walk would be catastrophic.”

Another tremor rocked the room, throwing the door open. Zac shut it hurriedly, covering it with his back. His eyes were wide and fearful.

“Everything’s changed. There’s a new target. They know I’ve pulled you and they’re coming. They know you’re here. I have to get to control. Now.”

Ophelia crossed the room and put a hand to Zac’s cheek. His expression hardened, but she could see he was shaking. He looked exhausted. “What are you going to do?”

“Get you into warp. That’s all that matters. The only way to fix this is you.”

Zac turned and opened the door, taking great care to check both ways before stepping into the corridor outside. “Good luck, Phe. Get ready to lock the door.”

“Wait, Zac – who is the new target?”

Zac smiled. “Isn’t it obvious?”

He started off down the corridor. Ophelia watched him go, her hand resting on the doorknob.

Over his shoulder, Zac called: “You.” …….

Part 3
Rematerialising was bad. Twice in under fifteen minutes was testing the limits of Ophelia’s resolve. She threw up in the nearest garbage can and looked around. Central Park was fairly empty this morning, but a few joggers gave her dirty looks as they went by.

She tucked the package under her arm and scanned the benches. No sign of Henry. It didn’t make sense. If this was the same time and place, he should be here.

Ophelia took the path out of the park and headed for Barnes Butler. At the first light, she made the mistake of looking behind her.

They were almost blending in. But she was trained on the right clothing and accessories for almost every time and place in history. The hats were wrong. She made eye contact with the shorter man. He stopped, grabbing his companion and they spun away into the park.

She moved faster up 5th Avenue. They would be back. Ophelia tried to remember the paths in and out of Central Park. If she could get clear before they came out, she’d have a better chance of reaching the store in time to make her original drop.

As she passed the convenience store, someone grabbed her arm. She went for her gun, forgetting they didn’t exist in this time period so she hadn’t been allowed to bring it.

“Henry!” She snapped, recognising the beard before she fully saw his face. Her heart pounded a little less. “I thought you were those guys.”

“I know. They showed up just after you vanished. I saw them looking around and leaving when it was clear you warped. They must not have gone far.” He gestured towards the package. “I think they’re here to stop you leaving that.”

“Well, my assignment hasn’t changed.” She swallowed, uncomfortable about the idea of who her target was.

“No, I got that.” He looked outside of the shop and nodded. “Come on, it’s safe.” Ophelia hesitated to follow him. They were still on opposite sides. He rolled his eyes and pulled her by the hand. “Come on, I’m not trying to set you up.”

He walked close to her, keeping one hand against her back. It was almost protective and she hid a smile. On days like this it was easy to forget they were at war.

“Are you planning to escort me all the way there?” She joked. He nodded, tight-lipped.

“I told you, things have changed. They’re not going to like that you’re back.”

Ophelia scanned the glimpses of the park over the fence. “I can’t see anyone. Maybe they didn’t expect to get made and they’ve left.” She and Henry looked at each other. Ophelia laughed. “I know, I know. But a girl can dream of the easy life.”

They covered the three blocks to the store, moving at a fast pace. She preferred this. It was almost too fast to talk.

“There it is.”

“Stay with me.” He held her arm tighter. She tensed but she wasn’t sure if Henry was the one triggering her feeling of unease.

Ophelia had the familiar sense that something wasn’t right. Everything had happened so fast that she hadn’t had a chance to sit down and work out which piece of information didn’t fit.

“It’s right there.” She scanned the streets, but the light had changed and everyone was stopped. “I have to get this done.”

Ophelia pulled her arm away from Henry and ran out into the street. She was halfway across the road when he yelled to her. The words vanished behind the blare of horns.

She didn’t see the black town car accelerate through the red.

The driver’s side clipped her. Ophelia flew into the air, coming down hard on the car’s hood. Pain sparked through her hip and up her side. The car wasn’t slowing down. She rolled, sliding off the side of the hood and onto the pavement. She didn’t want to move. A taxi skidded to a halt beside her, and soon a stranger was helping Ophelia stand. She limped forward, her left knee turning purple as it swelled.

Ophelia looked around. Henry was gone. She didn’t know if that meant he had finished his assignment. If he’d been here to kill her, he hadn’t done a good job. Neither had the other two men and the idea they might have unfinished business pushed her to keep going.

She brushed aside offers of rides to the hospital and looked around for the manila envelope. Heart starting to race in panic, she dropped to her knees, ignoring the pain. It had slid under a parked car. She wriggled under on her stomach to pull it out and stood. She saw the town car turning onto the street. She was right; they’d circled to check she was dead.

“I have to go.” She pushed through the crowd of onlookers, the envelope clutched in her hand. Each step sent bolts of blackout pain up her spine and into her head. No one could say she wasn’t dedicated to her job.

She entered the store and approached the counter. “Hi, I have a package to drop off for someone?”

A sales associate took it, looking at the name. “Oh yes, my manager. She’s just in the back. I’ll leave it here for her.” She did a great job pretending Ophelia wasn’t covered in scratches with ripped clothing.

Ophelia nodded her thanks. A wave overtook her. Combined with her injuries, it was enough to make her swoon and grab the counter for support. She glanced at her watch. The warp was coming.

“Oh, Ms. Dell. This is for you.” A shadow loomed over the counter and the sales associate handed the envelope to someone beside Ophelia.

Ophelia looked up. Her eyes widened. The room started to blur. This didn’t make sense but suddenly she knew what was wrong. As the whirlwind overtook her, she scrambled to undo the clasp on her watch. She couldn’t go back.

Part 4
She managed to get the strap loosened and threw the watch on the desk. It disappeared before it made contact with the wood, leaving her temporarily stranded.

The sales assistance’s eyes went wide and she opened her mouth, but the woman called Ms. Dell silenced her with a glance and sent her into the back room with a wave, before turning her attention to Ophelia.

Except that she was Ophelia. Ophelia herself felt severely underwhelmed at this discovery. It wasn’t just that her training had prepared her in case this ever happened, but everything had been turned upside down in the last hour or so and this revelation seemed almost mundane.

No, what bothered her was the fact that this Ophelia seemed to be neither form her future and certainly not her past, but seemed to be the exact same age as her. Her hair and make-up was different and she had a rounder face, a fuller body, but it still spoke volumes about Ophelia’s own beat-up condition that the sales assistant hadn’t noticed the resemblance. Hell, she even had a few of the grey hairs that Ophelia had discovered only last month. The woman, Ms. Dell, was her, but as she had never been.

There’s a new target. You.’ Zac’s word echoed. She reached for her gun, a second before remembering that she didn’t have it. She scanned the room, but saw nothing she could turn into a weapon and in her battered up condition she could not expect to come out on top in a fight.

Ms. Dell smiled as if guessing Ophelia’s every thought.

What …” Ophelia’s mouth had gone dry and she had to lick her lips before continuing. “What the hell is going on?”

I’m trying to stop time travel. For good,” said Ms. Dell. She looked at the envelope in her hand. “And this is the last piece I need.”

Wait, what? Why would you do something like that?”

When I was just a few years older than you are, I realized the truth about what they were doing and what it was doing to the world. So I went back in time to talk to my younger self and got her to infiltrate the agency.”

No,” Ophelia said, more firmly than she felt. “I’ve never talked to an older version of myself. And I would never betray …”

Oh, but you have. And you did. But the story doesn’t end there. Their move was to send someone forward in time to kill the older version before she could talk to the younger. They could just have killed the younger Ophelia, but this would not only lose them a valuable player, but also cause several events to collapse in on themselves, irrevocably.”

So it never happened.”

Ms. Dell smiled sadly. “The original Ophelia, if we may call her that, had predicted this move and made plans with the younger to circumvent the effect. And the agency made their counter moves and so it continued; a game of chess, played in four dimensions. At some point the time line couldn’t handle all this going back and forth and it split. Now there’s one version of Ophelia, where she’s a mole and one where she’s a loyal agent.”

Ophelia’s head had started spinning and not only because she had just banged it on a speeding car. “Two alternate time lines in one universe. I’ve heard about it, but it’s only possible in theory and only with subatomic particles. To do it with anything bigger than that would require …”

A paradox generator.” Ms. Dell waved the envelope. “This contain the calculations I’ll need to build it.”

You haven’t built it yet? How do you even know it will work?”

Well, I’m here, aren’t I?”

That … makes absolutely no sense.”

Ms. Dell merely shrugged in an infuriatingly nonchalant way.

But they sent me here with the papers. If what you’re saying is true, why would the agency just hand them over?”

I told you that the younger Ophelia infiltrated the agency and one of the persons she managed to turn was Zac. Half the time he’s loyal to them, but the other half he is our man. He told me that the papers would be delivered to Dell and he made sure to pull you out and put you back in at the same time and location, except that I had taken Ms. Dells place.”

Ophelia shook her head, trying to clear it, but that only made the pain worse. “He said something was happening. Everything was shaking.”

Ms. Dell nodded. “The agency are trying to preserve time traveling while at the same time I’m trying to destroy it and the pressure is making the time stream unravel at the centre. That’s why they wanted Dell to build them a paradox machine to get the upper hand.” She was going to say something more, but never got the chance. A shot rang out and blood blossomed like a rose on the pristine white shit. Ms. Dell looked down with a grim expression before toppling over onto the desk.

Ophelia turned and saw Henry standing there, gun drawn.

You shot me!” she exclaimed.

He frowned. “Not you. A version of you. A bad copy.”

Ophelia looked at the body and didn’t feel so certain. A tremor went through the earth, making everything shake. Now that Ms. Dell had been shot she would no longer be making the paradox machine and everything had once again been thrown to the wind.

She wasn’t even armed.”

She was a threat to everything. So much so, that your group and mine decided to work together to take her out. We knew she would try to contact you sooner or later, but we weren’t sure if she would pick up the formula herself. But it worked out. Now, just hand me that envelope.”

Ophelia picked it up, but her fingers tightened around it protectively.

I know what you’re thinking but you have no gun, no watch, this is the end of the line. Don’t make me shoot you as well.” Henry looked at her pleadingly, but now she could see how fake it was and she didn’t understand how she could ever have thought him sincere.

No, she thought, you don’t know what I’m thinking. But the other Ophelia had. And the other way around. She knew that the other woman would have seen this coming, would have had a contingency plan. And her eyes fell on the watch around her wrist, where the hands were turning faster and faster. She made a dive for it. Henry fired, but too late and missed her and she grabbed the watch and tore at it so hard that the strap broke and then the warp came. I can do it, she thought, even as her body was torn apart at a molecular level. I can invent the paradox machine. After all, I’m here, am I not?

February 17, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Four-Part Story Part Two

Filed under: flash fiction challenge, Uncategorized — Tags: , — Eva Therese @ 5:18 pm

This week’s flash fiction challenge is the second part of a four-part story. First part – which you should go read first – is here, written by Addy and it is part of the challenge, so I’m allowed to continue it.


Weir didn’t have time to fire, but her training kicked in. She swung her riffle and it smashed into the husk’s face with a wet crunch and enough force to send it flying back and make her hands go numb for a second.

“Run!” she yelled as the husks closed in on them. She started down the street, jumping over rubble and when a screeching husk jumped in front of her, she blew a hole though its chest.

A few hundred meters away, the central tower loomed. As they neared it, one of the mounted turrets turned towards them and the husks.

Weir’s sensed something wrong. “Duck!” she yelled and threw herself behind the fallen remains of a buildings facade, the rest of the team at her heels.

A shot blasted through the space she had occupied not a moment ago, but at least, she noted with grim satisfaction, it hit one of the husks coming after her. It would seem nobody was controlling the turrets, so they were just shooting at everything that moved.

The husks were behind them and they were unable to get closer to the tower. The bullets sprouting from the turrets were keeping the husks back, but it wouldn’t be long before they would find a way to their hiding spot.

Weir dared a look out and almost had her head blasted off. The central tower was so close, but might as well have been on another planet. There was no way past those turrets. But maybe they could go beneath them.

With a few punches on her wrist, Weir brought up a 3D map of this part of the city. They were in luck; the street they were on had a subway line running under it.

“Get ready to move,” said Weir and grabbed a shell from her belt, a small explosive charge designed to clear inaccessible areas. She looped it over her head, down the street and a moment later there was a sharp crack, more like the sound of thunder than an explosion and small pieces of debris rained down over them.

The blast had punched a neat hole in the ground leading down to the subway tunnel.

“Move!” she shouted and began running, the turrets firing, bullets spraying up concrete all around her,

She jumped into the hole and took a roll as she landed, her squad following. She heard a sharp yell from Danny, looked up and saw Sara grabbing his arm, dragging him the last few feet, before she dumped him unceremoniously into the hole and jumping in after him. They both landed heavily on the ground. Danny giving a grunt of pain.

Weir bent over him to asses the damage. The shot had gone straight into his upper arm, tearing his suit.

“You’ve been exposed,” said Weir quietly. “I’m sorry.” She aimed her riffle at him.

“Wait! I … Just wait,” he said.

She hesitated, but didn’t lower her weapon.

“Just let me … Not like this. Let me die fighting. The husks are going to follow us any moment. I can delay them.”

Weir thought, but only for a moment, before nodding. “Good man,” she said.

She turned to look at the rest of the squad. “Keep moving!” she ordered and they all started running.

A few moments later they heard the first shots behind them. It went on, getting dimmer as they moved away. Then there was the sound of a scream, cut mercifully short.

They reached the subway station right underneath the tower, so far still free of husks. The doors to the building were sealed, but this was why Weir had brought the explosives and it took only a few moments to blast a hole in the door big enough to push through.

Weir went in first, then the rest with Sally last. The large hall they were in was untouched by the destruction raging in the rest of the city. Neither were there any sign of husks.

“Should we seal the doors?” asked Felix.

“Leave them,” answered Weir. “We’ll never get it done properly before the husks get here. We’ll have to get to the control room and secure that, then we can …”

She turned at the sound of a noise, her riffle up and ready to fire, but it was not a husk coming through the door, only a woman wearing the clothes of an office worker. Weir studied the figure carefully but saw no signs of the virus. Maybe she had gotten lucky and the tower had sealed itself before the contamination had gotten inside. But if that was the case, her luck had just run out. Weir shot a glance at the doors they had blasted open and felt a pang of regret. Still, with the city about to be wiped put, it didn’t really make a difference.

“Are you here to save us?” The woman was young, as far as Weir could see. She was trembling slightly, but her voice was steady.

“No,” said Weir, “we’re here to collect data. Where’s the control room?”

“It’s two floors up. You’ll have to take the stairs; there’s no power. Anyway, you can’t get in.”

“Leave that to us. Can you take us there?”

The woman nodded.

“Let’s go,” said Weir, with a final look at the opening behind them.

“I’m Lyra,” said the young woman as they started up the stairs.

“Weir. Are there other survivors?”

“About twenty of us. We’re holed up in the room next to the control room. It’s the safest part of the building.”

She wasn’t lying. As they reached the floor the control room was on, Weir saw a glass wall and behind it a group of frightened civilians huddled, among them two small children.

“Blast the staircase,” she told Felix. “We won’t be coming that way again and it will slow down the husks.”


Third part by ToniJ here.
Fourth part by CJ here.

October 26, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Subgenre Smash-And-Grab

This weeks flash fiction challenge, as always, courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here.

Random number generating gave me Slasher Horror and Zombies. And all in good time for Halloween.
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Here in the basement, the banging on the door and the screeching of the zombies were distant and muffled by several barriers. In the relative silence, other sounds could be heard. Quick, frightened intakes of breath and quiet whimpers, not all of them coming from children. The survivors all huddled close together, watching the entrance to the stairs.
They were pushing up against the back wall as if they were hoping to melt into it when the zombies broke down the door. And they would break it down and smash through the makeshift barriers as they had done with everything else that had been put in their way, dead or alive. Especially alive. It was unclear whether the zombies actually ate the humans they killed, but they seemed to have an intense hatred of the living, wanting nothing more than to kill them or convert them into their own kind.
The whole basement reeked of sweat.
A soft voice spoke. “Hush, sweetie. Everything will be alright.”
The enormity of this lie made several people turn their heads and peer through the dim light at the speaker. She was a young woman, holding a little boy, a son or perhaps a younger brother. She met their looks with a stubborn glare of her own, as if daring them, any of them, to contradict her. No-one did.
A man’s voice sounded from out of the darkness in a corner of the cellar. “You might want to consider releasing me.” It was a voice dark and cool and smooth like black silk.
A short stocky man spoke up. “Want your chance to kill us before the zombies get here? A couple of last murders before your time is up? Or do you imagine that they will welcome you as one of their own?” He spat on the floor.
“Compared to what I’ve heard that the zombies do to people,” the voice answered, “I would consider myself almost merciful. A quick, clean death is suddenly not such a bad prospect for yourself and your loved ones.”
There was a heavy silence, broken only by small whimpers as several parents realized that they had actually, for a moment, consider his suggestion for their children.
The woman who had spoken before was not one of them. She stared in the direction of the voice, as if her gaze could penetrate the darkness. “If we release you,” she asked, ignoring the gasps around her, “what will you do?”
“Have a go at the zombies, of course.”
The stocky man spat again. “What kind of idiots do you take us for!? Why should you help us?”
“Well, you were kind enough to not hand me over to the police. Even if it was only because you wanted to keep me here and hand out your own kind of justice.” The voice sounded remarkably cheerful at this thought. “Also, I have never tried to kill something that was already dead. I wonder how that feels.”
Several people shuddered.
The woman let go of the little boy’s shoulders and took a small step towards the darkness. A man grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?! He’ll kill us all!”
“Look at it this way,” came the voice again. “You can release me in the hope that I will leave you alone and go after the zombies. Or you can wait for the zombies, hoping that they will take me and leave you alone.”
The woman yanked her arm free. “What choice do we have?”
From above came the sickening sound of splintering wood. The screeching grew more audible.
“Very true,” said the voice softly. “What choice do you have? Anyway,” it grew cheerful again, “it sounds to me like you have about five minutes to make up your minds. No rush.”
The woman took a couple of tentative steps into the darkness. No-one followed her, but no-one tried to stop her either. She could just make out a figure in the corner, tied up and unceremoniously dumped. Her nose wrinkled automatically as she caught the stench of urine. Then the figure lifted its head and looked straight at her and she gave a small gasp and stepped back. What made her recoil was the fact that he looked nice and friendly, like someone you would want to talk to, be friends with, maybe even take home after a few drinks. The realization that it could have been her among his victims, almost made her turn back. Instead she forced herself to kneel down and began to work the ropes.
After a few minutes, in which she tried to ignore the sounds from above, she realized that it was fruitless. The ropes were thick and the knots had been bound tightly by someone much stronger than her. She was about to turn around and ask one of the others to come and help her, when the killer said: “I think you need a knife for that. You can borrow one of mine.”
“Borrow one of yours?” she repeated, stupidly. Then she realized what he meant and felt sick.
“They’re right over there.” He nodded to give a direction. “And better hurry up,” he added in a conspiratorial whisper.
She got up and managed to stay up, even through a rush of faintness. There was a table and on it lay two knives, a chef’s knife and a big cleaver. For a moment she wondered why the people who had brought him here, hadn’t gotten rid of them. Surely it would be dangerous to have them lying around, in case he got loose. Then it hid her and she felt sick again. She picked up the chef’s knife with a shaking hand.
“Better bring them both. I’m going to need them,” she heard him call and she picked up the cleaver as well with numb fingers, carried the knives back, knelt down and started to cut through the ropes.

October 12, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Horror In Three Sentences

Filed under: flash fiction challenge, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Eva Therese @ 9:29 pm

This week’s Flash Fiction Challenge, courtesy of Chuck Wendig is ‘Horror in three sentences’. Which lends itself well to run-on sentences.

One day, he smiled at his mirror only to have his reflection not smile back. Maybe he could have smashed the mirror or maybe he could have run away, but he just stood, gaping, while his unsmiling counterpart reached out towards him and drew him in. Trapped in the cold void behind the glass, he screams unheard as the reflection walks around in his place, living his life, always smiling.

June 6, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge – Choose Your Own Words

Filed under: flash fiction challenge, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Eva Therese @ 6:04 pm

Challenge courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here. My five words, chosen by a random number generator were: Scorpion, legend and holiday.
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It was the day of the Festival of the Slaying. The street was filled with small girls in white dresses, all holding a wreath of white flowers in one hand and wielding a small maul with a long shaft and a head of crystal glass in the other. They were making their way – some running and laughing, others walking solemnly – to the statue in the middle of the town square, to lay their flowers before spending the rest of the day playing and eating buns.

Hane sat in the shadowy side of the square, nursing a pint. He was looking at the statue. It depicted the hero of the city, Rhida the Slayer, standing proud with one foot on the broken body of a giant scorpion, the size of a rhino. She had slain it a hundred years ago, but the statue had been erected only some twenty years ago.

Back then, Hane had tried to tell the stonecutters that they were doing it all wrong, but they didn’t want to listen, even though he was one of the few persons still alive, who had seen Rhida in person, when he was a boy around 10. Now at the age of 110 he was the only one left, but people still wouldn’t listen to him, when he told them about Rhida.

Oh, the scorpion was perfect. He should know, he was also the last person alive to have seen one of them and it was because of that, he only had one leg. The other had been chopped off to stop the poison from spreading.

The giant scorpions had lived in caves underground and, most of the time, had threatened no one except unlucky spelunkers. But they could live for more than a hundred years and never stopped growing and when they grew too big to survive on the meagre prey in the caves, they came to the surface.

The villagers had killed the rest of, them smaller ones, but this was the queen, the biggest of them all and she had killed everyone who came after her, until Rhida showed up. She had destroyed its eggs and then killed it, thus rendering the giant scorpions extinct, but had died right after, from blood loss or poison. She had never stood triumphantly over the dead scorpion like the statue did, where the only weakness showing was her leaning on the diamond maul, she had used to smash the scorpion.

Furthermore the statue had a serene face shining with beauty and wisdom. The real Rhida, Hane remembered, had a nose that had been broken so many times that it now looked like a turnip. She has also been ill-tempered, selfish, lying, greedy and with a foul mouth. She was a woman who looked after herself first and last. The string of events that had led to her eventually going down into the caves to rid the village of the last scorpion before it could breed, had been strange indeed. Hane thought that it might have been the one unselfish thing she had ever done in her entire life and of course it had ended with her getting killed.

But the villagers would hear none of this. The wanted to believe that Rhida had been a hero with every virtue imaginable and that she had sought out the village, looking to rid them of their plague. This was the story they told their children and they held up Rhida as shining example of all things good and proper.

Once a year, they dressed their little girls up in white dresses – never mind that Rhida properly never owned a white piece of clothing in her entire life and would have dirtied it within moments, had she ever gotten one – and let them lay their flowers and wield their little glass mauls, in honour of the great hero.

Hane sighed, took a sip of beer and closed his eyes. Why couldn’t he let it go? These people believed what they wanted to believe. What they needed to believe. What was wrong with using Rhida as a role model for little girls and boys?

He could hear a noise, but it was at the edge of his hearing and he couldn’t make out what it was. Probably some overenthusiastic children. What was wrong, he thought, was that it wasn’t true. Rhida had been brave in the end and a great warrior, but she had had her flaws and plenty of them. They weren’t honouring her or her sacrifice, because they were in fact honouring a completely different person, who they had made up for the occasion and had given Rhida’s name and credited with her deed.

Hane opened his eyes. He could hear screaming and it did not sound playful or even like a spoiled child having a tantrum. It sounded genuinely terrified. The real Rhida had been careless. She might have gone searching for the scorpions eggs, but she most likely hadn’t found all of them.

The screaming was growing louder as both more people joined in and as they came running this way.
Now, if people hadn’t made such a paragon out of her, beginning right after her death, maybe someone would have checked up on her. Maybe someone would have gone into the caves to look for remaining scorpion eggs. But oh no, Rhida could do no wrong, so of course she had gotten all of them.

A crowd of people streamed into the square, screaming and crying and tripping and trampling each other. Behind them Hane could see something black and shiny, the size of a rhino. He took another sip of his pint. He was old and dying with a belly full of beer was not the worst way to go.

He felt a bit sorry for villagers, but only a bit. After all, he had tried to tell them, but they hadn’t wanted to listen.

May 21, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Random Fantasy Character Generator

The Flash Fiction Challenge is as always courtesy of Chuck Wendig and can be found here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/05/17/flash-fiction-challenge-the-random-fantasy-character-generator/

I got five random character concepts from a generator and decided to go with:

A cynical warlord is doomed to wander the world

And may I say, I had a blast writing it!

The story is set in or around the present time, but I am deliberately vague as to the place, since I didn’t have time to do proper research on an actual location.

————————————————————————————————————————————————-

The door opened and Natasja looked up. She was surprised to a see a costumer, since the rainstorm was keeping even the most thirsty of the townspeople indoors. She was even more surprised that the man who entered wasn’t a local. She could barely remember the last time she had served someone who wasn’t from around here. The highway took the rest of the world past their little town and there was no reason for anyone to stop.

He was soaked; the water dripping from him had already formed a small puddle beneath him. Had he been out walking in the storm?

The man pulled off his long dark coat and draped it across the back of a chair, before walking up to the bar. He had grey hair, but his face was smooth, except for a few crows’ feet around the eyes. She thought she had seen him somewhere before, but couldn’t think of where.

Natasja tried her biggest, brightest smile, even though something about the man seemed a bit odd. Maybe it was simply the fact that there was a faint smell of wet smoke surrounding him. Not cigarette smoke, but real smoke, as if he had been warming himself by a bonfire, before going back out into the rain. She wished that there had been other customers. “Hi!” she said. “What can I get you? Something warm?”

He sat down. “Coffee, please. Would it be possible to get something a little stronger in it?”

She shook her head. “Uh-uh. Sorry, but we don’t have a license.”

He sighed. “Just coffee then.”

“Cream and sugar?”

“No thank you, miss.”

She poured the coffee into a mug and watched him take a sip, then carefully put down the mug. He made no comments on the content.

“It’s … an awful weather,” she said. The words sounded lame, even before she was done uttering them, but he got a thoughtful look, like she had said something important.

When he spoke however, it was only to say something almost equally banal. “It is a lovely little town. Very peaceful.”

“Thank you.”

“It wasn’t always like this, you know.”

“It wasn’t?”

“Oh, no.” He gave the coffee another try. “This place was once the site of a great battle.”

She ran a hand through her hair. Why was this guy weirding her out? He was obviously just some history buff. “I didn’t know,” she said. “Or, you know, I did know. I heard about it in history class. But that was a long time ago. So is that why you’re here? To study local history?” I’m babbling, she thought. “I’m afraid you’re out of luck. There was a fire in the local archive this morning. They’re still sorting through it, but a lot went up in flames.”

“No, I have been here before, but I am afraid that this time I am just passing through. However, you can be sure, that if I get the chance, I will be visiting this peaceful little town again and make it a longer stay.”

Why did it feel like he was making a threat, when all he was doing was making polite small talk? She smiled nervously. “I think the rain is letting up.” She could have kicked herself because of how stupid that sounded. It was raining as hard as ever; just then a gust of wind blew the rain against the windows with a sound as if someone had thrown a bucket of water at it.

But the man didn’t seem to hear her. “Tell me,” he said, after a moment, “have you ever heard the saying that a man dies twice? The second time is when he is forgotten by everyone.”

She nodded. “The old people say that.”

“Do you think it would work the other way around? That if everyone forgot about someone, then he would die?”

“I don’t see how.”

“Of course not.” He shook his head. “A young thing like you have probably never given much thought to death and being forgotten.”

She smiled. She hoped it didn’t look as fake as it felt.

“I should be on my way.” He placed a handful of coins on the bar, before getting up to get his coat.

Natasja looked at the coins. There was money for the coffee and also a generous tip. And then there was a big, slightly irregular coin. “Um, sir?” she said and he looked up from buttoning his coat. “Don’t you want this coin back? It looks old.” She picked it up. The year on the coin was the year before the war. The smell of wet smoke seemed to wash over her, demanding to no longer be ignored. He smelt of smoke and there had been a fire at the archive earlier today. And suddenly she remembered, why he seemed so familiar. There had been a picture in the archive, from the war, of a man in uniform, who looked just like this stranger. She looked up from the coin at him.

He once again looked thoughtful. “I see you remember now. We can’t have that.” He took a gun from the pocket of his coat.

This can’t be happing, she thought. This isn’t happening. “Don’t,” she stammered. “I’ll open the cash register. There’s not a lot, because of the weather, but you can have it all. Just don’t”

“I’m sorry,” he said pointing the gun at her.

And in that moment, he looked and sounded just like the insurance agent, who had told her and her mother, that the life insurance would not be paid out, since her father’s death had been a suicide and he was very sorry about that.

“No, you’re not,” she said.

His smile seemed to flicker as if he wasn’t sure if he should go on pretending or let it drop. “No. Not really,” he said. Then he pulled the trigger.

January 10, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Spin the Wheel

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Eva Therese @ 7:35 pm

The prompt for the challenge can be found here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/01/04/flash-fiction-challenge-spin-the-wheel/

My specific prompts, chosen randomly, were:
Subgenre: Superhero
Setting: On the surface of a comet
Must Feature: Magical foodstuff

The comet roared towards Earth. In about five minutes it would enter the plants atmosphere and begin to burn, but for now, it was still relatively safe to stand on and she enjoyed the ride. Sanjay smiled in anticipation of the death toll and the chaos that would follow. It would be …
“Stop this dastardly deed, you villain!” boomed a voice behind her.
Sanjay turned.
Behind her stood a masked man. He was dressed in a green and silver costume with the underpants on the outside, the mark of superheroes everywhere. He wasn’t wearing any kind of spacesuit so she guessed that he was protected by a forcefield and that he had some kind of magnetic shoes, that allowed him to stand on the comet. Pretty standard equipment really.
She lifted an eyebrow, almost always the gesture of a supervillian and said: “And who might you be?”
The masked man straightened a bit. “I … am Noodle Man.”
She frowned. “I can’t say I ever heard … Wait, it does ring a bell. You got your powers from eating a bowl of noodles.”
“Yeah. Are you gonna make something of it?”
“Why would I? I’ve heard of worse ways to get your powers, than from radioactive foodstuff.”
The air seemed to go out of him. He rubbed the back of his neck. “They were magical noodles. But, yeah, I suppose so. I just get a lot of …But this isn’t about me.” He cleared his throat and spoke again in the booming voice. “You will no succeed with your evil plan, for I, Noodle Man, am here to stop you!”
“Oh, yeah? What are you going to do?”
“I am going to stop you, of course.”
“Yes, but how? Just announcing that you plan to do so, isn’t going to get the job done, you know?”
He didn’t answer. His hand started moving towards the back of his neck again, but he caught himself and jerked it back down.
She sighed impatiently. “You’re really not very good at this, are you?”
“Well, it’s my first real …”
“Just barging in like this, without having any idea what you’re going to do, is going to get you laughed at, more than having a stupid origin story ever could. Honestly! At least you could have sneaked up on me, rather than yelling about your intent.”
Noodle Man had red spots on his cheeks under the mask, from anger or embarrassment; she guessed a combination of both.
“There’s no reason to be rude, you know! I’m doing my best!”
“Well, your best isn’t good enough!”
“Oh and I suppose you got everything right the first time, when you decided to become a supervillain, little Miss Perfect!”
“I didn’t have to. It was enough, that I could make all the heroes do even worse than me.”
“And another thing … Wait, what do you mean by that?”
She stared at him incredulously. “Don’t tell me that you decided to go after a supervillain without even researching what her powers are?”
“Well, I …”
“That’s not just stupid, that’s pants-on-backwards-stupid!”
“There wasn’t exactly time, you know! I was told that a giant comet was hurtling towards Earth and that I was the only one free to stop it. I didn’t pause to check wikipedia. But what are your powers then?”
She smirked. “Self-doubt. As in, the ability to inflict it on others.”
“Oh,” he said.
“Oh,” she replied. She looked over her shoulder at the controls. Still about a minute until the comet entered Earth’s atmosphere. Then, out of idle curiosity, she asked: “What are your powers?”
“Distraction.”
Her eyebrows went up in actual surprise. “Distraction?”
“Yes, distraction. As in, I come barging in shouting and waving my arms and then people feel compelled to look at me and talk to me, while my partner gets into position and take them out with a ranged weapon, from a safe distance. She doesn’t have any super powers by the way, she’s just a really good shot.”
Sanjay’s throat had suddenly gone dry. “Oh,” she managed to croak.
Noodle Man nodded. “Oh,” he agreed.
Then the shot hit her in the back and everything went black.

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