Daily Flash Fiction S2 #7: buck

June 13th, 2008

Terry walked past the sign. Then he stopped and stepped back, and read the sign again. Yep.

“Buck bucks for a buck!”

Whilst he was mid-stare a disheveled man approached, leaning on a fence post. “He will, you know.”

“Who will?”

The man waved his hand behind him. A deer stood in a paddock, calmly eating grass. It was a male – a buck.

“So you’re telling me that in exchange for a dollar this deer will…”

“Perform a sudden jerky movement.”

Terry grunted, and pulled out a dollar bill, waving it to the man.

“What are you doing that for? I don’t want it.”

“Don’t you own it?”

“Don’t be stupid, nobody owns a deer. I own the land, but the deer happens to be on it.”

“But it’s in a paddock.”

“And the gate’s open. Come on.”

He walked away and Terry walked through the gate, which he now realized was indeed open. He found himself staring at the deer, which stared back.

“It’s funny. I thought they were skittish creatures.”

“Only if they think they have something to fear.”

“I suppose I do have a kind heart.”

The man laughed “No, I doubt that’s it somehow.”

Terry frowned, feeling dimly insulted, and then held out the dollar. The deer ate it.

“Hey!”

The deer bucked backwards, and then landed back o all fours and continued eating.

“It ate my dollar!”

“Well what do you expect a deer to do with a dollar? He’s not going to go down the convenience store and pick up some groceries.”

“And all it does is buck?”

“What do you expect for a dollar? Anyway, you kids have fun, I’ve work to do.”

“You’re just going to leave me alone with the deer?”

“I’m sure you’ll be okay.

Terry grunted. “Stupid waste of money.” he held out another dollar.

Daily Flash Fiction S2 #6: rough music

June 12th, 2008

Byron stared out the round ships porthole at the gas giant beyond, its ring illuminated by the blue sun. It looked almost like something out of science fiction, one of the old serials from the twentieth century.

Of course, in those serials everyone had enough to eat.

Frederic sat down beside him. “Rough music abroad tonight.”

Byron frowned “We haven’t been allowed to play music for a month, waste of ship’s resources. And do you remember what happened when Galvesen tried to make a harmonica out of spare parts?”

“It’s a euphemism. Rough music. Its what they called it in the old days when the cannonballs rolled across the lower decks of an old galleon. But really it’s about mutinous thoughts.”

“Mutiny. Like on the Bounty?”

“Somewhat, but I doubt it’d be that easy. Captain Auron isn’t totally incompetent, he’s just overcome with a little vision. Can I count on your support?”

Byron paused. “Would you take us home?”

“No, but I’d go back to that uncharted colony we saw a few weeks back. There are women and good eating there”

“I have a girl at home.”

Frederic shrugged “Either you starve out here and your body goes back to her, or you live. Maybe we could find a way to send for her, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Mutiny’s still a capital crime.”

Byron said nothing. Frederic walked away.

The days passed normally. Byron spent most of his time in front of his console checking code and running simulations for the next jump. They had been pursuing the signal shadow for the past month and a half, and were now five weeks overdue returning to the Mars colony. The captain was convinced there was something they were chasing, possibly the enemy.

The Earth Theogony had been fighting its war with the Anaezedi for seven years now, and there had been two ship engagements in that time – skirmishes. The entire war was fought with railguns hyperspace cruise missiles, but the Theogony was convinced of a threat of Anaezedi ships breaking through to Holy Terra and raiding the chaste homeworld.

It was assumed they would raid, of course. They did not originate from Terra and were thus not God’s Chosen, and as such they must be degenerate and monstrous. No-one had ever seen an Anaezedi, of course, and Byron wasn’t entirely convinced they knew they were at war.

On the fifth day after his meeting with Frederic the ship suddenly ground to a halt, the tumbler stopped rotating, and everything started to float. Then the secure door at the end of the hall blew open, and Frederic came in through a cloud of purple smoke, bearing a plasma rifle and a cutlass. The sword was not for show – it was the most practical way to fight on a spacecraft that would ensure no explosive decompression.

As he passed some men tried to stand and fight, only to find themselves slashed open or kicked by some remarkable null-g acrobatics. Frederic had fought in the colony wars, back before artificial gravity tumblers were widespread. Frederic stopped by Byron console and held out a cutlass, hilt first. Byron hesitated. He thought briefly of Karyn, and then thought of his own stomach, and he took the blade and leapt out of his seat, pulling himself along behind Frederic and the other loyalists. They smiled as they admitted him.

The command pod was in disarray as Auron roared to his men close to the hub, holding on to a handle and desperate to get control back. Then he saw Frederic and paused. He saw Frederic’s men, and his eyes locked on Byron. Then he nodded.

They put him in an escape pod with a homing beacon, along with ten loyalists. Then Frederic pulled the escape handle and watched them go.

“Well then. To U-24493 and the uncharted colony!” the men gave up a cry. One man looked haunted, staring back from a console. Byron floated over with Frederic and then they saw it.

A ship, unfamiliar in shape, like a great spinning disc, drawing close. Its rim flashed with sparks.

“We have incoming, sir! multiple particulate bombardment, it’s a railgun launch!”

Frederic gaped.

Daily Flash Fiction S2 #5: clock tax

June 11th, 2008

Aeron watched the ticking clock, the minute hand twitching with an audible clank, down towards its end, to his end.

Well, his probable end anyway. Especially if this essay was not completed.

He didn’t understand the emphasis. He was here to be a wizard, not a damn writer.

A sound on the edge of his conscious awareness. He ignored it, guessing it to be his tired mind. The essay was due in fourteen minutes, and he was still copying the neat version into his manuscript book. The book was keyed to immolate itself if exposed to magical forces to avoid cheating – or at least to make cheating hard.

what you need is time

The whispering was louder now, more insistent. He shook his head and looked out of the window, at the grey overcast sky and the sea and the watchtower. He had never seen a less threatening or brooding day, nor was it a happy or shining day – it was simply mediocre, like he felt.

He went back to his work and copied out the next word, his hand moving carefully as it drew out the magical symbols he needed to diagram

what you need is time

Did he hear something? No. The words continued to flow, the curve around the edge of the Lanaeronian quadrant to tap into sap-powers had to be precise and incredibly detailed or he would be in real trouble.

WhatYouNeedIsTime.

His head snapped up and he found himself staring at the clock. Was it talking?

ICanGiveYouTime.

He shook his head. No. “If the book is exposed to magical forces it will combust.” He didn’t know who he thought he was talking to.

TheBookDoesNotNeedToBeExposedOnlyYou

He looked at the clock and frowned. “What do you mean?”

YouThinkIWillStopTimeButIWontIWillSpeedYouUp

Why would it help me? He thought back to his demonology lessons with that Thusian werewolf. There must be some sort of

Toll?YesThereWillBeATollATaxIfYouWillButItIsEasyHowMuchDoYouWantThhis?

He realized he had not spoken. But he was shielded. This was…

ITIsDoneSeeMyHandMoveSlowerYouCanWorkNow

“I didn’t say yes!”

ThatDoesn’tMatterISuggestYouWork.

He didn’t feel any different. He looked down at the manuscript book and started working…

…and the page was full, the ink dry. He blinked and looked up. The clock had not moved. Out of his window the watchtower clock also had not shifted. He turned the page

and it was full.

And he worked, and the essay was finished. He closed the book and walked out, handed the tome in, and walked back to his room. He sat down and looked at the clock, frowning.

“So what’s the toll?”

He blinked and the hour hand and jumped forward. He glanced out of the window and saw that it was night already. So trading the hours would work back and forth? That didn’t seem so bad. He would have to do this more-

a knock at the door. He stood up, suddenly afraid of the cheating commission. Had the book reported him? Had he left some kind of burn mark on the page, something he hadn’t detected but the magisters had?

The knock came again. He reached out for the door, and saw that his hands were covered in blood.

Daily Flash Fiction S2 #4: Old Sir Basil

June 10th, 2008

Old Sir Basil isn’t all that old – he’s not young, but he has a sort of timelessness about him. I’m pretty certain he’s not really called Basil, and he’s definitely no Sir.

He blinked, peering at me over his handlebar moustache. Any other man of his age and style reacting like that and I would have expected his monocle to pop out, maybe plop into his tea comically. But not sir Basil.

“What the devil are you talking about old bean?” the man rumbled. His arms are like the bunched ropes they used to moor big ships down at the docks, and there are those that say that’s where he’s from. Others say he was a bricklayer, still others say he’s a product of black magic, or carved out of granite, or the fruit of some blasted union between a lady prize fighter and a gorilla from the zoo. Me? I’d rather just no know.

“I… I said I can’t…”

“I heard what you said. I’m asking you what you mean.”

My mouth was dry, and my entire head throbbed just from the fear.

“Cat got your tongue? Never mind, I’ll tell you what you mean. What you mean is that you don’t think you owe me any more favours, don’t you? You means to say that old Sir Basil, ‘im don’t matter, e’s just some old fart who’ll just talk to ‘imself in ‘is chair, oh e’s done us some favours, but they don’ matter now.” he was standing, towering over me, and I shrank in my chair. Normally when faced with fear I does a runner, but this time I froze, and he tower over me. The monocle popped out and hung on his waistcoat, and it wasn’t funny at all.

“Well you listen to me, my lad. You owe me, and you owe me ‘andsome like. or makin’ buckle an’ tongue meet will be the very least of your problems.”

It was a simple job. Four of us, with hammers, one old bloke passing through an alley looking for boys to sodomize, one tidy sum. Not as tidy as it could have been – most folks would blackmail such a gent, but not Old sir Basil. Old Sir Basil sees himself as a businessman, sure, but also a philanthropist – and he sees as the lowest of the low, below even the boys they prey upon.

So we killed the git, took his gold, and ran for it. But before we’d gone long a copper stumbled on his body -whether by design or spectacularly bad luck on our part, I don’t know. He blew sodomizers his whistle, chased us down with a load of others, and they took us to the nearest station

We was tortured -‘interrogated’ they calls it, but I know what it was – and some of us must have given up old sir basil’s name. I think it might have been me. The old git came in on his cane, posing as some genteel, talking in his lah-de-dah voice, talking about how he’s never seen us and how shameful it is that a gang of thugs would try to implicate him. then I was tried, and he was there as a witness, and I was sentenced to a life of hard labour and the old git grinned at me as I was sent down. And as I looked back I knew that yes, I would pay him back, pay back all I owed him.

Daily Flash Fiction S2 #8: Fatidical

May 12th, 2008

I lay upon the lectern, tightly closed, staring up at the man who dares to attempt to unravel my secrets.

I lie in a chamber with a time-locked door. The door will lock itself from the outside after a delay, giving those that enter my chambers only a half hour in which to read me – certainly not enough to devour all of my contents. I am chained to prevent removal, and excess noise or tugging on the chain will wake the serpent. This has happened twice since my incarceration, and the slow numbing venom-death of the invader always fills me with a kind of pleasure.

The Bibliomancers have long since come and gone. They seek prophecy by the simplest means, by raising my leaves and allowing me to fall open where I desire. this is foolish, and each one of them has died a painful death. There were those who doubted the prophecy while others said it was only too true – for every one of those men who attempted it met an untimely end.

A few come sometimes, brave or reckless souls who doubt my power. Most of those I slay for the insult of having underestimated my power so greatly, but some come with a sense of humility and these I merely destroy, leaving them naked and alone, free of their wealth and respective status. These events are so easy to manipulate.

But this one is different. When he opens me it is with a respect, and yet a sense of firmness. He does not appear to be terrified of me, and yet he treats me with a sense of respect.

My prophecies shift and change as he turns the pages as I try to find something that will catch his eye, stop him in his tracks. I examine his personhood and detect a sense of perfume. And then I know it, and he stops.

He is in love, I can see it and smell it, and though there are those who believe love to be a strength, I know it for the weakness that it is. the fools that come to my lectern come with a purpose, but they never achieve what they mean to – every time I stop them with a threat or a cajole.

But then he shakes his head and carries on before he starts to read.

Angered, I shift my prophecies again, with word of great power, immense honour, an evil darkness that threatens to break loose deep beneath the sea, a source of limitless food to stave off famine, a way to bring about an end to war. Still he thumbs on. I try cures to disease, mind-reading, psychokinesis, magical techniques that are incredibly powerful without the cost of memory. Still he goes on. He is coming close to the end, and I try one last effort to snare him.

On the Creation of Prophecy.

This stops him, this is the information he seeks. Deep within my pages – or is it my spine? – my heart leaps with a kind of hope, and an idea. He reads my words, then reads them again, and then turns to leave. The door slams and the serpent is roused.

“And what fate have you prepared for this one, my little friend?” the serpent whispers to my leaves.

“A truly painful one. The man is in love, and those are my favourites.” I answer, desperate that my betrayal should not show. For the lord that created both myself and the serpent understands not the desire for procreation that exists in all living things, and though I am some thin mockery of life those same drives exist within me. Somewhere, soon, I hope there will be many more books just like me.

Daily Flash Fiction S2 #2: blackwork

May 6th, 2008

“I can’t be saying I know, Selmy.”

“It’s easy work, it don’t interfere with your undertaking, and it’s damn good money.”

“Aye, I can see that. But I don’t know about going up to that old tower there in the woods. There’s unnatural things abroad.”

“Everything’s unnatural. What, do you think houses just spring up out of the ground, or that corpses bury themselves?”

“Well of course not. I buries them.”

“Precisely. And if you buries them, why can’t you un-bury them?”

“They’s been consigned to the earth by the local druids, we ain’t supposed to dig ’em up after.”

“If we didn’t do all the things we ain’t supposed to we’d not breed or smoke or drink or live, we’d all be livin’ in the trees naked. An’ it’s awful hard to keep from breedin’ if you’re naked.”

“I dunno, not if you’re cold enough.”

“That’s not my point. You live in a house and wear woolens on your back and dig the earth with a shovel, and nowt about this is natural. Besides, with the bread prices going up after that war in the south what choice do we have?”

“What if the Life priests take the town back, they’re moving north you know.”

“Then they’ll kill us. But if we run out of money then we’ll starve an’ so will our families. The life priests would only kill us for our crimes, while famine will just kill us all.”

Selmy’s eyes narrowed. Then he nodded.

The night air was chill as he and his friend walked out under a pale moon. Harsh shadows, so strong they seemed almost like they could carry an edge, lay on the ground from buildings or leafless trees.

They walked to the temple grounds, and ducked over the hedge onto consecrated ground – which squelched underfoot just as the vulgar ground on the other side.

They found the grave Selmy had dug that morning, closest to the hedge, and set to digging. When they opened the casket the aroma of fresh herbs washed over them, and Selmy pulled what was once young Camomile Westrop out of the casket, putting her corpse in the sack. Then he closed the casket, put it back in the grave and buried it, continuously glancing back at the temple, its lights extinguished.

He finished and stood up straight, stretching his back, and looked back to the temple.

A thin shaft of light stretched out from the open doorway, and a lantern bobbed in the distance.

Selmy tried not to panic as they gathered their tools and ran to the hedge. He heard a shout behind just as he ducked over and ran out over the hills and dales.

The woods were dark even with the moonlight, and they kept to tracks as much as they could – but the tower was not on any of the tracks, and they soon had to strike out into the blackness, moving slowly to avoid tripping over roots or bears.

But the tower loomed out of the night as Selmy knew it would, and when he knocked on the door it swung open almost immediately. The windows above were black, and yet the inside blazed with white light unlike that of any candle. They entered and deposited the sack, and the old man looked in and made an odd strangled noise, before starting to giggle. Then he looked up and seemed to remember why they were there.

He took from a casket a little bag and handed it to Selmy and another to his friend. They were heavy and they chinked in a satisfying way. They turned to the door just in time to see it shatter, and a man in white plate armour enter.

“Sinful warlock! I have come to end your days.” the knight stepped in and saw the body of Camomile laid out the slab, stopping suddenly. “Oh sweet maiden ended before your time, What deeds hath this foul warlock wrought.” he whipped around seeing the two men by the door, slowly finding their feet. “Henchmen to this dark lord! Did you kill this maid?”

“She was no maid if the rumors I’m told of are true. but no we didn’t kill her. Hell, my wife midwifed the little girl.”

“Oh speak your lies as much as you will. I know the truth and the light guides my blade!” he raised the sword and dropped it on Selmy’s friend, cutting the man from shoulder to groin

“Pah! The wretch’s blood is all over my armour, now I will have to-“

Selmy felt the cry erupt from his throat as he lunged forwards, knocking the knight to the ground and slamming his head against the flagstones.

“That man was my friend! I had known him for five and a score years, seen his children grow and get strong. All he wanted to do – all I want to do – is look after my family!” he tore the helmet off the knight and saw his face and stopped. No more than a boy, no older than camomile, tears in his eyes and snot down his face. then Selmy saw a flash and fell backwards, and looking up he saw the knight’s limbs stand out straight before crumpling in like a dead spider, and black smoke coiling from the joints, and a blackened skull where his head should be.

The warlock made an odd tittering sound.

“You have done well! Now you may serve me.”

He shook his head. “I’ll have no more part in this.” he turned around and walked away, and then felt a pain in his back, and he fell into darkness. He heard the warlock.

“Wrong answer.” and a titter, and then that was it.

Daily Flash Fiction S2 #3: Flahooler

May 5th, 2008

Aaron walked glumly, eyes fixed on the ground, mouth set in a manner that mirrored the hemisphere of rising sun on the road behind him.

No flahooler he; life was serious and he knew it. There was a peat harvest to get in, and if he didn’t get it he would have nothing to sell and his children would starve. the previous days work had given him meager pickings, and much would need to be harvested for him to make up for it.

The day was clear, but as he moved with his mouth set he saw clouds gather overhead, and the rain started to fall. He reached the spot and started cutting with his tool, but the rain made his feet slip and slide, and soon he fell and slid down the embankment to the edge of the river. He sat there, defeated, sagging, and then he heard a noise. He thought it was running water for a second, but he soon identified it as laughter. He looked up a saw a small girl, no more than four years, standing in a white dress and laughing.

He was angry for about half a second, until the laughter wore away at him like the river against its banks. It was infectious, honest, and he started to laugh himself.

The rain seemed less heavy somehow, he didn’t feel as wet. He stood and looked up and even as he looked he saw a bright patch on the horizon as the rain passed. He looked back down.

The girl was gone. He realized then that she hadn’t looked wet, not at all.

Daily Flash Fiction S2 #1: Swearing

May 5th, 2008

Doran walked into the ritual chamber, feeling the warmth of the guttering torches all around that released choking black smoke into the atmosphere. He felt the gooseflesh on the front of his naked body relax while it remained on his back, reacting to the chill air of the desert night outside.

He walked to the bull totem at the rear of the chamber and sank to his knees, opening his arms wide and staring into the deep eyes. then he started to curse.

He began with the most eloquent and detailed curse he knew, damning the bull-totem to decades of psychological torment. As he went the curses became more visceral, threatening the bull-god’s family, his very person, his sexual future. And finally he reached the final curse, the most basic he knew, that eternal curse, the single word that was most taboo in his culture. It was not, on reflection, all that bad – he condemned the god to, what, intercourse? But distilled within that word was all of his hatred, his rage, his anger and aggression at the way the world was, the need for death and doom and disease, the fact that one had to kill to survive, and the eternal struggle that was both necessary and so transient, for the hell in which he lived.

Then he stood, still staring at that face, felt the chill disappear and the horror subside. He bowed to the totem and backed away, his face staring at the floor. As he backed out he felt harsh wool on his back as the chief himself draped the homespun raiment onto him. Then he turned and looked out at the menfolk of the tribe, and saw that now he was one of them, a man of the Molochi.

Aside: The Blook!

March 5th, 2008

So I’ve collected the first hundred and seventy six stories from this very website and stuck them in a blook – for more information, click here!

Aside: Sliiiightly off track…

May 12th, 2007

Apologies for the lack of story-ness in recent weeks, I’ve been extraordinarily busy with university work, much of which I’m shamefully behind on. Don’t know when I’ll be back, either – a short story and then a novel loom on the horizon.

I don’t think I’ve ever covered the genesis of this project, so I shall do so now: originally I started writing these little pieces to tide me over while I edited my first novel, but lately I’ve come to realize that that particular piece isn’t going anywhere (it’s not a novel, but rather a trilogy, and I’m not in the right professional position to produce a books series right now).

If you like, you can consider this to be the end of ‘season 1’ of daily flash fiction. I’ll pick it up again next time I need to edit a longer work. If you want to be informed of future events, contact me via the contact form or leave a comment here and I can email you when I start again.

Cheers – it has been fun, and will continue to be.