A Little Magic: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Camp Fire by Kiaraz via DeviantArt.com

I just needed a little magic. Just a little. Enough to get the fire started, get the room warm, maybe to save my mother. I heard her moan from her pallet along the wall. I rearranged the wet wood in the fireplace. If I could just get the wood to burn. I could make a little soup, a cup of tea, anything to warm her up. Me too, to be honest.

She moaned again. I knew she had a fever. If the soldiers had just left any of my brothers or sisters behind I wouldn’t be in this fix. But they took all of the people with magic abilities off to fight the war. Father had been taken a year ago. Yesterday, they came for the rest. The wailing and screaming in the village had been horrific. My stomach roiled just thinking about it as I struggled to light the fire.

“Come on.” I willed my shaking hands to strike the flint against the steel but they were too cold. My sister Hilda would have just held her hand over the tiny pile of kindling and it would have burst into flame. A year younger than me she always gave me a hug when she made the fire. It was my job, but she knew I didn’t have any magic. A tear ran down my face. And now she was gone, along with my littlest sister, Maggie, and my big brothers, Todd and Edward. All gone. Dragged away to fight even though Maggie was only eight.

My hands shook more, with anger this time. How were we supposed to plow the fields or plant the crops with so many villagers gone? I glared at the tiny pile in the fireplace, gripping the flint until it cut my hand. The wood smoked then burst into flame. I rocked back from my squat and sat hard on the floor, staring. The flame began to die down and I scrambled to my feet to feed the tiny fire twigs, then sticks, then wood. I piled the wood on, uncaring if I set the house on fire or not. Mother would be warm, at least tonight. I set the kettle on the hob and put the pot on the hook, filled it with water and the jerky and vegetables I’d already prepared. I put two pinches of salt in the pot, unconcerned with where more salt would come from.

Another pot went next to the fire and I filled it with water to warm. Clean water to wipe mother’s face and hands. As I tended her, I finally allowed myself to think about the fire. The mage yesterday took one look at me and passed me by even as the soldiers were dragging my brothers and sisters out of the house. Mother cried out from her sick bed and it broke my heart. There was nothing she could do. She didn’t have any more magic than I did. But, I did have magic. I started a fire!

How had I done it? I just remembered feeling angry. So angry. Rage, that’s what it was. Rage against the king and his stupid war. Rage against the mage and the soldiers. Rage against my mother’s sickness. The water in the bowl I was dipping the rag into began to boil. I dropped the rag into the water and blinked. The water calmed but was hot.

I put the bowl on the table and wrapped my arms around myself. I’d never been so angry before in my life. I did have magic but just a little. I used both hands to wipe the tears from my eyes. So little magic I was of no use to the King but here, well, here I was of use. I wondered how many of the other villagers had tiny sparks of magic?

The next morning I went door to door and asked the remaining people. They shook their heads but I could see in their eyes that they were going to try. The priest, so old that the mage and the soldiers left him behind even though he did have magic, patted me on the shoulder.

“Child. Be careful. Don’t let that rage take over just for a bit of magic.”

He was a fool. All I had left was rage. Hadn’t the King’s men dragged off more than three quarters of our village? “Who will do the plowing and planting, priest? Me? I’m twelve. Mother is sick. The rest of the village is in the same shape I am. Too young, too old, too sick. We’ll starve.”

His eyes filled with tears as he nodded. “True, child. But rage will burn you up.”

“Maybe.” I turned and left.

Mother died not long after I found my rage. It was a hard year. I grew hard with it. We worked together, we survivors. We plowed and planted. We learned to hunt and forage. Winter killed many of us but at the next spring we that remained were stronger. I was leader, even though I was only just come into my womanhood. We gathered wood, nurtured our tiny magics, made plans.

The King lost his war. The new King’s soldiers came through and saw the pitiful remnant we were and went away. We grew stronger. We had children. We made contacts throughout the land with others like us. We hid our tiny magics until it was time. Then we attacked. The mages first, then the new king and his lords. It didn’t take long. They underestimated us. We had no great magic.

I was named Leader, I refused to be called Queen. Many wanted to kill everyone with magic. I said no. Would we kill ourselves? I set the cleverest of us to creating weapons that needed no magic. We would be ready when and if the time came, magic or not.

 

Thank You!

981 Words

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Rain Wet Earth: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Yard River by Randy Cockrell

A monsoon storm blew in. Great dark clouds piled up over the escarpment and filled the sky, spilling down into the valley. Rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning punctuated the now dark day. The air began to cool—a relief from the heat and humidity.

Rain began to fall. Fat, heavy drops coming one at a time, then the sky opened and water gushed down as though from a fire hose. The gullies and gutters filled and overflowed. I watched from my window, closed against the wind-whipped water. It was over in a few minutes and I stepped out of my front door. The smell of rain wet earth drifted by as the sun broke through the racing clouds and made me want to go camping.

My husband came out and put his arm around my shoulders. “That didn’t last long.”

“Never does. I feel like going camping.”

He nodded. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“The camping box is ready. We just need to load it and the tent into the car and get some groceries.”

A grin spread across his face. “No plan? Just go?”

“Yes. A few days in the outdoors will do us both good.”

I got a squeeze. “Sure. Why not. Let’s go camping!”

The still wet pine in the front yard sparkled like Christmas in the sunlight as I turned to go inside to pack. The scent of rain wet earth followed me into the house.

 

Thank You!

243 Words

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Brigands in the Woods: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Box by Connie Cockrell

Lord Belsing closed his book as he heard his coachmen yelling, “Whoa!” What was this? It was still half a day to Lord Releh’s castle. He heard the Captain of the Guard shouting orders. Belsing pulled the curtains and stuck his head out of the carriage window

He saw guards lined up on either side of the carriage, six more were ranked across the road in front of the carriage horses, Captain Udon in the front. Beyond him were masked men, highway men from the look of them.

“Give us your gold,” the lead highwayman said. “No one will be harmed.”

Captain Udon’s horse danced, the Captain brought the horse back into line without effort. “Be off with you, brigand. You’ll get no gold from us.” He moved his hand to his sword hilt.

The brigand eyed the Captain then the carriage. “Those are Lord Belsing’s colors, Captain. He has enough to share. We’ll spare you, your men and the lord if you accede to our demands.”

“Fancy talk for a thief,” the Captain snarled. “Ready!” he called.

The guards drew their swords. The guard beside Lord Belsing’s window said, “Better get inside, my lord.”

Belsing thought not. He was on his way to propose to Lady Nyesta Releh and wanted this business done and without bloodshed. He was about to get out of the carriage when he heard rustling. He looked into the woods. There, men came out from behind tree trunks and boulders, all ready to fire their bows. They outnumbered the guard five to one. He opened the carriage door and descended.

“Gentlemen,” he called.

Captain Udon didn’t turn around. “Please return to the carriage, My Lord. I’ll deal with this scum.

Belsing strode to the Captain and addressed the brigand. “Sir. Would three purses of gold satisfy you?”

The brigand laughed. “I can see the chests in your supply wagon. You carry more than three purses of gold.”

Belsing sighed. He didn’t want to treat with this man at all. “May I have your name, Sir, since you so clearly know mine.”

The brigand gave a jaunty salute. “Iristan, My Lord. Prince of the woodlands.”

“I’ve heard of you, Prince Iristan. You’re causing a great deal of trouble on the roads.”

Iristan bowed. “Thank you, My Lord. Now, if we could have at your supply wagon.”

Captain Udon drew his sword. “Hold, ruffian. Or you will meet my sword.”

Iristan laughed. He flicked his hand. A circle of arrows hit the ground encircling the Captain’s horse.

Belsing jumped as three of the arrows whizzed past him.

Iristan patted his horse on the neck to sooth it. “You are surrounded and outnumbered. There is no need for you or your men to die today.”

Belsing raised his hand. “Hold Captain. Let us walk back to the supply wagon with Prince Iristan.”

“My Lord!” The Captain began.

“Come, Prince.” Belsing waved to the brigand. “Let us complete this business and we’ll be on our way.”

“By your leave, My Lord.”

Belsing marched back to the wagon and stopped next to the driver. Iristan rode behind him and the Captain followed as half of Iristan’s men came out of the woods to the road. “There,” Belsing said. “The chests of gold are marked. Please leave the rest.”

Iristan made a small gesture and his men came forward. Two men jumped up into the open wagon and hauled the small chests to the back and handed them down to their fellows. “Take just four,” Iristan called to his men. “After all, Lord Belsing must pay his way on his journey.”

Belsing was relieved at that. While he was a Lord, gold didn’t grow on trees and he didn’t have much compared to the other Lords. Udon grumbled under his breath.

Iristan rode up to the wagon and looking in. He picked up a highly-polished box, hinges, clasps and corners capped with fine brass and inlayed with mother of pearl in a swirling leaf design. “This, I’ll keep for myself.”

“No!” Belsing leapt forward. “You cannot have that.”

Iristan wheeled his horse around, box still in his hand. “Why not?”

Belsing swallowed to calm himself. “That is a gift for Lady Releh. A…a proposal gift.”

Iristan laughed. “Men! Lord Belsing is going to propose!” They all laughed. He looked back to Belsing. “What’s in the box?”

Beside him, Belsing could see Captain Udon’s sword rise. “Please. It’s a very rare tea. Grown in China. I’ve had men gone for two years to bring it to me for this gift.”

“A great treasure then.” Iristan put the box in his lap. “What say you, men? Should we give the Lord his tea back?”

Some good naturedly shouted yes, some no. Belsing’s stomach clenched. The Lady was known to love tea. He wanted the box back. “Man-to-man, Prince, return the Lady’s gift.”

Iristan looked around him. Belsing could see his eyes dancing with merriment. “It would be cruel to send the Lord to his proposal with no gift.” Iristan handed the box to Belsing. “Take it and good fortune.”

Before Belsing could respond, Iristan whistled. His men scurried into the woods on all sides and disappeared as Iristan and his mounted riders galloped away, down the road Belsing had just traveled.

Captain Udon shouted, “About! Follow those men!”

“No!” Belsing called. “We proceed to Lord Releh’s castle.”

“My Lord!” Udon pleaded.

“It’s a waste of time. The men on horseback will have already melted into the forest with the rest of the men. You’ll not find them.”

“We need to clear the King’s Way of this rabble.”

“We do.” Belsing sighed and walked to his carriage door. “But not today. Let’s go.”

With poor grace the Captain called his men into marching order and the carriage moved on. Belsing stroked the smooth surface of the box, tracing the mother of pearl. Yes. We’ll catch up with the Prince of the Forest. But first, I’ll propose to Lady Nyesta.

 

Thank You!

998 Words

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Mars Wings Part 6 and Final: Flash Fiction Friday Post

A view from the “Kimberly” formation on Mars taken by NASA’s Curiosity Rover

Part 6 of 6

You can find Part 1 here:

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/images/index.html

 

I woke up a few minutes later, all kinds of people were milling around the room. Mom had a medtech kneeling next to her.

“Welcome back.”

I turned to my right, a medtech was kneeling next to me. “We gassed the room. You’re fine, you’re mom’s fine.”

“Amber?”

“They’ve been taken into custody.”

That’s when Dad knelt on my left. “Hey, pumpkin? How you doing?”

I coughed. “Okay. What’s going to happen to Amber and Tayln?”

“They were with the group that bombed the Security office. There will be an investigation. We’ll have to wait and see.”

I sat up. Dad held his hand on my back to steady me. “It’s so sad.”

“Yes it is, Pumpkin. Yes it is.”

The investigation didn’t take long. I guess Amber and Tayln told the authorities everything. They were charged with terrorism and sentenced to labor in the mines.

We were in the concourse when the verdict and sentencing were read. All of us clustered around a bench, watching the monitors. Kayla and I had our arms wrapped around each other and cried when the camera focused on Amber and Tayln. Both of them wept as the security officers took them away.

“How awful,” Elise said as we sat, stunned on the bench.

“How awful for Dary,” Albert snarled. “He died in the bombing.”

I nodded. “And Angus is still in the hospital.”

Tommie and Hope were besties and had their arms around each other as Kayla and I were. Both of them had tears running down their faces. “I don’t understand,” Hope said, sniffling. “What good did the bombing do?”

“It got attention, I guess.” The vids for the last few days had been full of the names of the separatist group. All of them arrested. “Maybe they thought no one was listening to them.”

“Maybe they were self-centered jerks,” Albert snapped. “Killing and maiming over a hundred people. That’s not how you get attention—get things done.”

I wiped my eyes and stood up. “True. We need to do better about keeping people informed.”

“Informed?” Kayla looked up at me. “How?”

“Well, Amber was angry that we’re eating soy meat. She really believed we eat that because we ship all of the food we grow to Earth.”

“That’s a load of crap.” Albert pointed at me. “People on Earth have rationing too.”

“I know. So maybe if we all knew how much of what we produce gets shipped to Earth, and why, it may make people more understanding.” I put my hand on Albert’s arm. He was trembling with anger.

“Maybe.” He shook my hand off of his arm. “But I’m going to be listening. Anyone who starts talking like a separatist is going to get my fist in their face.” He stalked off.

I just felt tired. “See you all later.” I waved and headed home. I was only twelve. I’d think about it all another day.

 

Thank You!

487 Words

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Mars Wings Part 5: Friday Flash Fiction Post

This May 22, 2015, view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) in NASA’s curiosity Mars rover shows the “Marias Pass” area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone—the pale zone in the center of the image—lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone.

Part 5 of 6 – An apology here. I meant this to be a 5 part serial and it went a little long so part 6 and the end, is next week.

You can find Part 1 here:

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/images/index.html

 

It was after midnight when the blast doors opened and Mom’s comm buzzed. “Yes?”

I watched as she nodded. “It’s your father,” she mouthed at me. I sighed with relief. He was okay, then.

“Yes. We’ll go straight home. Love you.” She clicked off. “That was Ian,” she told the Korians who had come over to hear the news. “He said we should go back to our berths and stay there until we get further information.”

“So it’s not over?” David put his arm around his wife.

Mom shook her head. “Not yet. Let’s get home. We’ll be able to clean up and get some rest.”

I didn’t sleep well and woke up late in the morning with a headache. Mom made me sit and eat, which helped. “Any news from Dad?”

“No.” She sat down with a cup of tea. “The vid has been telling everyone to stay home.”

I nodded. “I’m going to call the Korians. Make sure they’re all right.”

Mom patted my hand. “Very thoughtful, Helga.”

While mom did the dishes, I called the Korians. David said they were all fine so I wished them a peaceful day and clicked off. That’s when the door chime rang. I opened the door and Tayln and Amber rushed in. Tayln grabbed my arm, Amber stepped around us and went into the kitchen, she had a blaster pointed at mom. My stomach churned.

“Stop everything and sit at the table,” Amber commanded.

Mom shut off the water and dried her hands. “Of course.” She walked slowly to the table and sat down. Tayln shoved me to a chair and I sat, reaching out to hold Mom’s hand.

“What do you want?” Mom asked.

Amber looked at me. “Your dad’s in Security, right?

I nodded. I could feel my heart racing.

“Call him.” She jabbed the blaster in my direction. “Now!”

I picked my comm up from the table and hit the number for dad. “Dad,” I said when he answered.

Amber grabbed the comm from my hands. “We have your daughter and wife, Daws.

I couldn’t hear what Dad said but Amber went red in the face. “You call off the chase, or it won’t end well.” She clicked off and threw my comm on the table.

“Why are you doing this?” I could see the moisture from my sweaty hands on the table.

Amber glared at me. “I suppose we have you to thank for our situation.”

I shook my head.

She gave Tayln a look that should have killed him. “And you. You could not keep your mouth shut.”

“I said I was sorry, Amber.” His shoulders slumped.

I realized he was scared. I’d never seen him so meek.

“Get me a glass of water and find something to eat.” Amber waved him out of her sight.

Tayln hurried to the kitchen. I could hear him drawing water. Then cupboards and fridge opening and closing.

Mom spoke to Amber. “You could turn yourself in. You’d be treated fairly.”

“You can shut up.” Amber pulled a chair out and sat down, the butt of the blaster resting on the table, pointing at my mom.

“We’re friends, Amber. Why are you doing this?” I wanted to get her to stop pointing that blaster.

“We weren’t friends. You and the others, hanging in the concourse, thinking you’re cool.” She took a deep breath and shook her head. “Brainwashed, all of you. Living hand to mouth on your ration cards while everything we grow and make gets shipped back to Earth. We wouldn’t need ration cards if not for that.”

Tayln brought out a glass of water and a plate with a sandwich on it and set them in front of Amber. “Soy chicken was all they had.”

Amber scowled. “See! Not even real meat. Something out of a vat.”

Despite her scorn, she picked up the sandwich and bit into it. If they’d been on the run since the blast, or maybe the roundup Dad told me about, she may not have had anything to eat in a day or more. Tayln returned to the kitchen then was back with his own plate and glass. He didn’t sit down though, he paced, sandwich in hand, gulping it down in huge bites. “What are we going to do? We’ve run out of hiding places.” he asked Amber between swallows.

She shook her head. “Get Daws to give us a deal.”

“You know he won’t do that. The council won’t allow it,” Mom said quietly.

Amber picked up her glass and drained it, then handed it to Tayln. “More.”

He stared at her a moment, then took the glass.

“What did Dad say?” I asked Amber.

She flushed red. “Told me we should come in.”

“You should, Amber. You’re smart. There’s no where to hide here. You can’t leave. What else is there?”

She pointed the blaster at me. “You can just shut up, too.” She brushed her normally smooth flowing hair back out of her face. It looked like it hadn’t been combed in a while.

Tayln brought her water back and put it on the table. He drank his own until it was empty. “She’s right, Amber. We’ve been running for the last twenty-four hours. There’s no where to go.”

“Call your father again.” Amber glared at Tayln, then me.

I nodded and made the call. When it started ringing, I handed her the unit.

“We need assurances,” she said.

I really wished I could hear what Dad was saying. Tayln paced behind Amber, pale and sweating.

“If I don’t get some concessions, I’m going to shoot both of them.” She stood up and pointed the blaster at my mom.

“No!” I cried out and stood, knocking my chair over with a crash.

Amber pointed the blaster at me. “I’ll do it!” she yelled.

I felt dizzy. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion. The room seemed to get darker. I held onto the table edge. What was happening?

 

 

Thank You!

1000 Words

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Mars Wings Part 4: Flash Fiction Friday Post

This image shows the floor of Suzhi Crater, an approximately 25-kilometer diameter impact crater located northeast of Hellas Planitia.

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/images/index.html

Part 4 of 5

You can find Part 1 here:

I met Kayla mid-morning the next day in the concourse outside of Glenna’s Gifts. The concourse was busy, Christmas was only a day away. I had my eye on a bracelet made from gold found right here on Mars with a red Martian stone set in the middle for my mom. She lounged on the bench until Tommie and Albert showed up, then the rest of the gang. Amber showed up last, Tayln getting up to give her his spot on the bench.

“What’s the news?” Amber asked.

I shrugged. “Just Christmas.”

Tayln laughed. “Oh. It’s going to be a good one, all right.”

Amber gave him a look that was plainly meant to mean shut up.

“Something going on?” I didn’t like the way Tayln was grinning. He was up to something.

Amber sighed. “Nothing important.” She changed the subject and it was an hour before we all began to drift away.

“Don’t be on the concourse on Christmas Day,” Amber said to us before we left.

Again, Tayln smirked.

“Why not?” I liked to come down to hear the Choral Society sing. It was something my family always did. I’d even sent a message to the Korians about it.

Amber shook her head. “Just don’t.” She turned and left, Tayln on her heels.

Everyone else was gone, even Kayla so I couldn’t ask her what she thought about Amber’s comment. Did she mean something was planned? Something bad? I didn’t like it. I went to the Security office at the end of the concourse. At the desk I asked for my dad then sat down to wait. He came a few minutes later and took me back to his console.

“What’s up, pumpkin?” He drew up a chair for me and sat in his spot.

“I don’t know for sure, Dad.” I took a breath. “Something Amber said a few minutes ago.”

“What’s that?”

“Not to come to the concourse on Christmas. But we always go, to hear the music. Why would she say that?” I twisted my hands in my lap.

He turned to his console. “What’s her last name?”

“Novak.”

He typed a few strokes. I could see her file come up. The picture was from last year. Her hair was longer now. His fingers tapped on the desk as he read. “Anyone else?”

“Tayln Roose. They both talk about separating from Earth.”

He typed and Tayln’s file came up. Dad read and sighed, then typed some more. Other reports came up, which I was too far away to read. “She talk about a time?”

I shook my head.

His fingers twitched on the keyboard. “Could be nothing.” He spun his chair around to face me. “Thanks for bringing it in.” He stood up. “I’ll check it out.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

He walked me out and I wandered down the concourse. What if it was something? Something bad. I hoped not.

The next morning was Christmas. Mom loved the bracelet and Dad loved the new shirt I’d bought them. They gave me three new games, just up from Earth, a new tunic top and a bracelet. The bracelet had a tiny button and when I pushed it, a tiny hologram of mom and dad appeared over the bracelet. I couldn’t wait to show Kayla.

Mid-afternoon we went to the main concourse. I was a little worried. “But what about Amber?” I asked dad in a soft voice so mom couldn’t hear.

“We rounded up some agitators yesterday.” He wagged an eyebrow at me. “It’s all taken care of.”

That made me feel better. I took his hand as we walked along. “Good.” I saw the Korians at the concert spot and introduced my parents to them. We sat together and enjoyed the music. Afterward, we were all walking together back to our berths, when from behind us, at the end of the tunnel where the Security office was, there was an explosion. The blast knocked me and Ali off of our feet. People were screaming and smoke filled the air. I could hear the blast doors slam shut, trapping us in the tunnel.

Idai was yelling, “What do we do? What do we do?”

Dad pulled me and mom together. “Get them,” he pointed with his chin, “Somewhere safe. I’ve got to go.”

Mom nodded. “Be safe.”

Dad ran toward the blast site and disappeared into the smoke and crowd. I grabbed Ali’s hand. “Stay with us.”

Mom got Idai and David together and pushed David to take Zane’s hand. “Follow me.”

She led us to the other end of the concourse. Many of the shops already had their blast doors shut. She hustled us into Frank’s Grocery, just as Frank was closing the blast doors. “Come on,” he said as he waved us in. “Hurry.”

We hustled in and joined the small crowd at the back of the store. The blast door clanged shut. Frank came to the back. “We don’t know how long this is going to be so everyone get comfortable. I let go of Ali’s hand and she went to her mother. All of us had smoke streaked faces. We sat down, backs against the shelves and I leaned my head on mom’s shoulder, her arm around me. The Korians sat across from us.

“It’ll be fine,” Mom told them. “I’m just sorry this happened so soon after you’ve arrived.”

David nodded, his arm around Idai. “What do you think happened, the separatists?”

“We won’t know until it’s over.” Mom shook her head. “Sorry.”

He gripped his wife tighter and with his other arm, hugged his son. Idai had her arm around Ali. “So be it.”

 

 

 

Thank You!

943 Words

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Creating the Gift: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Blue Pottery Bowl by Connie Cockrell

Blue Pottery Bowl by Connie Cockrell

Emily Wu checked her bank statement and sighed. It wasn’t going to work, getting her mother a nice Christmas gift. She was sick of the TV talking heads telling everyone it was the economy. The economy seemed good for the rich. Why didn’t any of that trickle down to her? She closed the bank app on her computer and rubbed her eyes. Her $8.53 per hour job gave her just over $1700 a month. It wasn’t enough. With rent so high, she had to live at the edge of town which meant she needed a car to get to work. She needed nice clothes to be the receptionist at the office she worked at. Thrift stores helped with that, but then there was the medical insurance, poor as it was, it was at least something if she got sick. Then the life insurance, taxes, cell phone bill, internet, and on and on and on. She choked back a sob. All she wanted to do was buy her mom a nice Christmas gift.

At work the next day she was looking through the paper. A local artists group was doing a workshop for gifts. Anyone could come and create a project. At the bottom was the price for the workshop, $25, and a name, Brian Wellsley with his phone number. Emily sighed. Twenty-five dollars was a quarter of her grocery bill or half a tank of gas. She thought about it all day. Finally, deciding that she could live on rice and beans for a week, she called the number.

“Hi, I’m Emily Wu. I saw your article in the paper. I’d like to sign up.”

“Great. Love to have you.” He gave her the address and time and when they hung up, Emily smiled. He sounded nice. It would be good to do something besides watch TV in the evening.

The day of the workshop, Emily brought clothes to change into after work. No sense wasting gas by driving home then back into town. The address turned out to be an old factory, turned into artist workshops and apartments. She’d heard about these. It seemed cool. There were signs directing people to a large open space where wooden tables, easels, stools were scattered around the room. Art hung on the walls and from the ceiling. The splashes of color made the room seem friendly and alive.

She found an empty stool and sat down at a table, greeting others who had also signed up. Brian introduced himself and several other artists and that they’d be helping everyone with their projects. After going over the projects available, they broke into groups, each around the project they wanted to do. Emily had to switch tables. She wanted to work on a pottery project. She was pleased to see that Brian was the mentor for her group.

At every step of the process of molding the clay, shaping it, prepping it for the oven and decorating it, Brian was there. His hands over hers, laughing. They went out for coffee after class and talked about their dreams. After five weeks, the workshop was over. Emily had a bowl, glazed blue, for her mother. But she had received a gift, too. New friends, a new-found passion and a new love.

They went out nearly every night. He spent the weekends at her house. By Christmas, he was invited to meet her family. Her mother loved the bowl. Even better, in the kitchen, she complemented Emily on Brian. “He’s a lovely young man, Emily.” She gave Emily a hug. “I’m happy for you.”

The next spring, they were married. One afternoon, Emily was looking at her bank statement. She played with the ring on her finger. The statement didn’t look any better but she no longer fretted. Her life was now full. Happiness covered everything and she felt rich beyond measure. Brian came into the room and gave her a kiss on top of her head.

“We still solvent?”

“Barely.” She laughed and turned off the computer. “And that’s enough for me.”

 

Thank You!

677 Words

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Mars Wings Part 3: Flash Fiction Friday Post

pia21206

You can find Part 1 here: http://wp.me/p6LAko-Om

Part 3 of 5

Photo by https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/images/index.html

We changed the subject. None of us had the answers. It bothered me that people wanted to separate from Earth. I mean, that’s where we’re from, right? I was alone reading my homework assignment on a public terminal, when my comm chimed. It was the Korian’s. I glanced at the time. They’d taken three hours. Good for them. “Hi, David.”

“Hi, Helga. We’re ready for some questions.”

“I’ll be right there.” I closed my book and hustled off. The door opened as soon as I pushed the announcer button. Ali was in the doorway. She must have been standing right there.

“Come in.” She grinned and waved me in.

“Yes, Helga. Tea?” Idai was in the kitchen.

“Thank you.” They’d found the cupboards and their starter supply of groceries.

We sat around the kitchen table and the questions started. David wanted to know about the lab schedules, Idai was concerned with water rations and the cost of air. Zane wanted to know about sports groups. Seems he was into basketball. Ali’s only question was, “Does Mars celebrate Christmas?”

“Of course. You’ll see on the Main Concourse. It’s decorated, you can buy gifts at the stores. There’s an increase in the sugar rations for the holiday so stock up now.” I could see everyone visibly relax.

Then David asked. “Is it safe? The video talked about a separatist group.” Idai stopped smiling.

I shrugged. “There’s some discussion. Why?”

“No attacks on new arrivals? On government offices?” David stared hard at me.

“Nothing. It’s safe. You can go anywhere that’s not restricted. No one will bother you.”

I watched Idai take David’s hand. “It’s just,” she paused, “a little unnerving to get here and find out there are people who don’t like Earth. Maybe they don’t like new colonists.”

“No way. We’re growing. We like to have new people come.” I finished my tea and stood up. They didn’t look totally convinced. “Shall I walk you to the Main concourse?”

Ali leapt from her seat. “Yes. Can we, Mom? Dad? I want to see it.”

Idai and David exchanged glances. “Yes.” David stood. Idai and Zane did too. “Let’s look at our new home.”

I made them open and close the few closed doors. Most stood open all the time except during drills or emergencies. I had to spend a whole day last year in the garden when the pressure dropped in my tunnel. All the doors slammed shut while I was working the compost pile. I was the only one in there. I’ll admit I was afraid with only the periodic announcements to keep me company. The garden was in the best shape ever by the time the doors were opened.

Ali was delighted. She danced up and down pointing out the different shops and the holiday decorations.

I pointed out the public terminals. “I was doing my homework here while I waited for you.”

Zane looked interested in that. “You can log in from anywhere?”

I nodded. He nodded back. I finally impressed him.

We walked the length of the concourse and back again. “You ready to be on your own?”

David nodded. “I think so. Appreciate the tour. We’ll stay a little while. Idai wants to do some shopping.”

“Sure. Keep your rations in mind as you buy. Use your comms to keep check.”

Idai smiled. “The same as Earth, really. Rations there too.”

“Have fun.” I waved and left. Mom would be making supper and I was hungry.

At dinner dad asked how my sponsoring went.

“Good. They were a little prickly at first but they seemed good when I left them in the Main Concourse.”

“Scared, Helga. They had all the training and briefings but still, they’re on a different planet, in a hole in the ground.” Mom passed me the potato mash.

“Sure. I was nice. They have a daughter my age, Ari.” I took my share of the potatoes, Mom had made gravy to go with it, my favorite.

“What’s the father do?” Dad took the potatoes from me while mom passed the green beans.

“Biologist. The mom, Idai didn’t say what she does.”

“We’re expecting a couple more computer techs in this wave. Maybe I’ll meet her.” Mom said.

We were nearly done with dinner when the separatist conversation came to my mind. “Do you know anything about the separatist movement, Dad?”

He stopped mopping his plate with his roll and looked at me. “Why?”

I shrugged. “I heard some of the kids talking about it. That Earth is taking stuff from us. It was in the video’s the Korian’s watched and David asked if there was any danger.” I ate the last of my soy-beef while dad composed his answer. As a security officer, he’d know the truth.

He took a deep breath. “There is a sentiment running through the colony that Mars should be more autonomous.”

“What’s autonomous?”

“Independent, dear,” mom answered.

Dad nodded. “Right. There’s no organized group, per se. But there are members of the council who have broached the topic. They believe we’re strong enough to govern our own affairs.”

It sounded dull to me. “Oh. So Earth government doesn’t take our research and inventions from us for nothing?”

Dad scowled. “They pay for a lot, it’s only fair they get a return on their investments.”

Finance. That sounded more boring that government. “Sounds fair, I guess.” I picked up my plate and headed for the dishwasher. “I’ve got homework to finish. Great dinner, Mom.”

“Thank you, Helga.” She stood up and grabbed empty bowls. “I’m glad you liked it.”

Dad laughed. “You made potato mash and gravy. She thinks it’s great every time.”

“I do!”

Later in my room I finished my homework and started a game. As I shot alien ships from the screen I thought about what Amber and Tayln said in the concourse. They seemed pretty upset about Earth. I wondered if maybe Dad was holding back information. Maybe I’d ask around in the morning.

 

 

Thank You!

1000 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

 

 

 

 

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Mars Wings 2: Flash Fiction Friday Post

mars-sunset-msl-curiosity-martian-sky-pia194001

http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=7189 Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M Univ.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of the sun setting at the close of the mission’s 956th Martian day, or sol (April 15, 2015), from the rover’s location in Gale Crater.

Here’s the thing. I couldn’t stop thinking about this story last week. http://wp.me/p6LAko-Om.  I knew it was just a partial story and it kept nagging at me. So here we are. I’m going to make this a short serial and give you both a Christmas and a New Year’s story out of it. I’m totally pantsing this thing so you get it rough and only lightly edited. Hope you enjoy.

Part 2 of 5

It would take at least two hours for them to get settled and view the first video. Longer if they decided to be thorough and view all the associated vids. I decided to hustle over to the main tunnel. It was the original tunnel, that the first landers found and developed into the first habitat. Now it’s the Main Street, as they say on Earth. A large concourse, the old berths now shops. It’s beautiful, all the walls covered in spider plants and such that take CO2 and turn it into oxy. Planters with flowers in the walkway the ceiling had a light net that made it seem like stars twinkling. My favorite part of the habitat.

My crew was in front of Benji’s, the ice cream shop. As old as the habitat, one of the original landers, Benji, retired and decided to grow soy beans. He figured out how to make it into ice cream. No dairy needed. He always said that’s what he missed most. Now his son, Dayrn, runs the place, or did. He’s gotten old, too, and people get old slowly on Mars. Grandson, Isha, is the new manager, learning from his dad. I like that. Mars business belongs to Mars.

I skidded into the group, knocking Kayla to the side. She punched me in the arm. “Earther!”

“Waiter.” I punched her back. We both laughed.

“How’d it go?” Tayln lounged against a planter of Christmas cactus. It was far from blooming.

I sank, cross-legged to the tile floor. “As you’d expect. Lots of questions. A little resentment.” I rolled my eyes. It was the same every ship. They thought they knew it all. Coming to rescue the hicks. “I liked the girl. My age. Gads, she’s so small!”

Everyone laughed. I was the last in the group to get sponsor duty. They’d all been through it.

“Who do you think will buy it?” Dary asked, all hyped. He made me nervous, to be honest. There was something wrong with him.

“No one, I hope. If I’m a good enough sponsor.”

Dary giggled. A sound all wrong in more than one way.

“Maybe so. But I’ll do my best.”

“I don’t know why they keep allowing them to come.” Tayln shook his head. “We don’t need them. They keep us back. All this talk about Earth. We’re Mars. We don’t need them.”

“Too much listening to Sirius, Tayln.” Amber stretched her whole body. It was like watching liquid in motion.

“What do you mean?” I wanted to know.

Amber was a year younger than Tayln but, I thought, twice as smart. She was working in the astro-physics lab when she wasn’t with us. Tayln was in the Engineering section, and it was just clean-up, to be honest. Work that had to be done but still, not as smart as Amber.

She drew a breath. “I agree, Tayln, that we shouldn’t be tied so much to Earth. I mean, really. They’re marking winter’s onset and we’re coming into spring. It’s ludicrous. And all these Earth holidays. Bastille Day, what’s that mean to us. We should have a Lander’s Day.”

“We do have Lander’s Day.” I didn’t understand. What was wrong with Bastille Day?

Amber smiled at me. “True, little one.” She looked around the group. “But what holiday is coming?”

“Christmas.” I and all the rest shouted.

“I love Christmas.” I had to admit. The wall tree, the presents, the extra colored lights. It made everything happier.

“And what does Christmas mean to us?” Amber looked around the circle.

“An extra sugar ration!” Angus Holloran called out. We all laughed.

“Yes,” Amber grinned. “Extra sugar ration. Candy, chocolate, it’s all a party, isn’t it?” She grew serious. “But what does it mean?”

We all shook our heads.

“It’s a religious holiday.” She looked around the group as people walked by us, toddlers in tow, shopping bags filled with the week’s groceries. “It’s a yoke, to tie us to Earth.”

I had to take a minute to process that. What was she saying? “What religion?” I finally asked.

Tayln snorted. “The one that keeps us tied to Earth.”

“And why is that bad?” I wanted to know. All of our time was dual, Mars and Earth time. Mars rotated at a different rate, of course our days differed but still, we all knew what time it was in Greenwich. Our most important shifts of scientists and government worked to Greenwich time.

Amber looked at me with a sad smile. I felt like an idiot and began to blush. “Sweet child. It’s a trick to keep us tied.” She looked to Tayln, who nodded. “We’re nothing but a cash cow to Earth. We discover new materials, new insight into the cosmos, new medicines and they take it all. As though they’re our masters!”

I didn’t like the word masters. It made me feel small and ignorant. I’m not small or ignorant. “Why?”

Amber stood. I knew the audience was over. “To keep us down, Sweet one. To keep us down.”

She swept away, Tayln trailing. The rest of us huddled together. “What’s she mean by that?” I asked.

Elise, Tommie, Hope, Dary, Kayla and Albert shook their heads. They were older than me but younger than Amber and Tayln. “I think they’re radicals.” Tommie finally said. “My pop said there’s a group in the habitat that are trying to get us to break away from Earth.

“Break away? That’s stupid. Where would we go?” I was annoyed. We were in orbit around the same sun. How could we break away?

“The governments,” Elise said. “We don’t answer to the Earth government. We don’t take their colonists unless we say so. We don’t send all of our work to them for nothing.”

“Are you a radical?” I asked. I mean what else were we supposed to do? “We owe Earth. That’s in all the histories.

Elise shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. Do you?”

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You!

994 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Mars Wings: Friday Flash Fiction Post

mars-mro-orbiter-fresh-crater-sirenum-fossae-br2

http://mars.nasa.gov/multimedia/images/?ImageID=7731  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

I’ve been watching the Smithsonian channel show, Mars. A mix of television show and documentary. It’s really getting me as excited about the space program again as I was when I was a kid, racing home from school to watch space launches. The following story is just a brief foray into space once again. And yes, there are echoes of Heinlein in there.

 

I waited at the gate. The first families with children were arriving from Earth. Would they look different somehow? In class, we’d been told about how different it would be for them. They wouldn’t be able to go outside without a suit. They wouldn’t automatically know all the safety rules. They may become claustrophobic living inside the tunnels. They’d be stronger, having grown up in a heavier gravity.

All in all, I wondered if their parents had a clue. What were they thinking?

The alarm sounded, the light over the door began to flash, and the pressure lock opened. They came down the ramp in family groups their duffels banging against their legs. Parents and children looked around, wide-eyed. Their faces showed fear, then after they realized they could breathe, curiosity, at the tunnel, plants lining the walls, the crowd waiting for them.

I waited as each family’s sponsor was called as they hit the bottom of the ramp. My name was called when the eighth family appeared. I moved through the crowd of Martians and stopped at the registration table. The guy at the table was taking their names. The Korian family, Dad, David, Mom, Idai, Daughter, Ali, Son, Zane, I overheard. The registrar looked up. “Hey, Helga. The Korian family is going to berth 23, tunnel 4.” He handed David a set of key cards. “Your keys. One for each of you. Lose a card, it will be fifty credits to buy a new one.” David nodded while Idai, Ali and Zane stared at me. “Helga will guide you to your new quarters. She’s your sponsor. You need to ask questions, call her. She’ll give you her comm.”

“Thank you.” David told the registrar. He turned to me. “Lead on, Miss.”

“Later, Pavel.” I waved to the registrar. He was a neighbor in my family’s tunnel.

He gave me a wave and looked at the next family.

“This way.” I turned and left, moving through the thinning crowd. The Korian’s followed. David moved up beside me. “How old are you?”

I knew that was coming. We’d been briefed on the culture. “I’m twelve. I’m tall for my age compared to Earth normal. The lower gravity allows us to grow taller.”

Idai nodded. “I’d read that. You’re the same age as Ali.”

I took a quick look at Ali. She had to be a head shorter than me. “Nice to meet you.”

“Um, not to be rude, but you’re our sponsor? Not your parents?” David asked, a look of disbelief on his face.

“Yep. I’m your sponsor. I know everything you need to know. I was born here. It’s all automatic for me. My parents have their own people to sponsor.”

“I see.”

His tone of voice said he didn’t.

“You’ll find that kids here have a lot of responsibility. There aren’t a lot of us. So, everyone, even kids, have duties to perform. This is one of mine. I’m also the garden supervisor in my tunnel.”

“Garden supervisor?” Ali looked curious.

“Yes. I’m responsible for collecting any compostables from each berth, getting it to the garden compost pile, and setting up the work schedules.”

Zane spoke. “Will we get jobs?”

“Eventually. Not when you’re newbs. You don’t know enough yet.”

David was having a bit of trouble with the plan. “I don’t mean to criticize but you’re only twelve. I’m a research biologist. Why would I take orders from a twelve-year-old?”

I sighed as I guided them left into tunnel two. “Because I know how things work here and you don’t. I don’t mean to be rude but you just got off the boat. You don’t know the emergency procedures. You don’t know where anything is. You need to become acclimated.”

“We took all the classes,” Ali said.

“That’s good. You’ll need that information.” I turned to look at her. “First thing you do when you get to your berth is watch the newcomer vid. That’s critical. It will tell you your assembly point in case of a problem. It will give you your passwords and set up your accounts. You can’t do anything or go anywhere until that is done because none of the pressure doors will open for you.”

“I know that,” Zane said. His voice reflected his father’s. Probably thought a fifteen-year-old boy shouldn’t have to listen to a twelve-year-old girl.

“Good.” We turned right into tunnel 3. “School is on your own vid. There’s a vid in every room so there won’t be any problems getting your classwork.” I looked at the parents. “Or your work assignments. David. I know you’ll be working in the labs. You can download the maps to the warren and the locations of where you want to go, from there.”

I turned right again into tunnel 4. “This tunnel is new, made to accommodate the new colonists from your ship. I stopped halfway down the tunnel in front of the door with a big, red, 23 stenciled on it. “Your new home.

David stepped forward and pressed the card to the lock. The door opened.

“It’s a pressure lock.” Idai studied the door with some surprise.

“Nearly every door is.” I motioned them to go in. “My comm code is on your introductory vid. Comm units for each of you are on the kitchen table. I’ll let you get settled.” I backed away from the door.

Idai raised her hand. “Wait! What about…?”

“Watch the vid then call me. I’ll come back and you can ask your questions.” I left. They had to learn how to think for themselves. Odds were one of the four of them would make a fatal mistake in the first seven days. I hoped it wasn’t Ari. She seemed nice.

 

 

 

 

Thank You!

956 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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