The Map: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Stream

Stream

Ten-year-old Evette sat on the steps of her grandparent’s farmhouse front porch. Her brother, twelve-year-old Sam, and her twin cousins, Brian and Barry, same age as Sam, were playing in the tree-house nestled in the branches of the maple at the left side of the house. Its mate stood sentinel on the other side of the house, shading the walk from the driveway to the porch.

She’d been told in no uncertain terms that as a girl, she was not allowed in their club. Evette sighed. Their parents and grandparents were out back on the deck, having beers and talking non-stop about boring stuff. There had been nothing to do all day, all alone.

Last night she’d heard her Grandmother say that she wanted to start cleaning out the attic while she was still spry enough to do it. Grandfather Bob shushed her. “It’s a hundred eleven in the attic this time of year, Claudette. Leave it till fall when it’s cooler.”

Grandma had agreed and the after dinner conversation turned to other things. This morning while the boys had run out to the barn to dare each other to jump from the hay loft into the pile below, she had crept up to the attic to see what treasures might be up there. It was creepy and even at nine in the morning, already so hot the sweat began to trickle down her temples as soon as she managed to get in the stuck attic door.

Evette sneezed. A thick layer of dust covered everything. The only light came from a small, dust-clogged window at the end of the house. The wood was raw, unpainted and she got a sliver when she’d put her hand on a rafter to balance herself as she’d climbed over a pile of plastic bins in front of the door. She stood in an empty spot and looked around. A dresser with its mirror in front of it sat halfway down the right wall. The roof line came to just three feet from the floor there. No wonder the mirror was standing on the floor. Cardboard boxes lined the walls while taller stuff, a dressmaker’s dummy, for example, stood in the middle.

On the left wall, more boxes and bins but just a few feet from the window she’d spotted a large, old-fashioned trunk. Evette fingered the hasp, there was no lock, so she pulled it from the ring-thing and lifted the top. It was heavy and a cascade of decades’ worth of dust poured off of the lid and swirled around the trunk, making her sneeze again. She pushed the lid to the wall and let it rest there.

In the trunk, on top, were uniforms. She remembered Grandpa saying how he’d been in the Army. Someplace called Korea, far, far away. Under that was a metal box, about 4 inches square and about a foot and a half long. Army printing was on it and she tried to open it but it was locked. Placing it on the floor she rifled through other things, a shoebox of photos of soldiers, a packet of letters tied with a shoestring, the addresses faded.

Under all of that was an envelope, nothing written on it. She picked it up. It was unsealed so she looked inside. Once read, she stuffed it in her pocket and put everything back in the trunk and closed it.

This afternoon, she pulled it from her pocket. Checking to make sure her brother and cousins were busy, she opened it and studied it. Out here, where there was more light, she realized it was a map of Grandpa’s farm. Her little finger traced along a line that was labeled stream. She knew where that was. Two days ago all four kids had spent the day wading, the boys trying to build a dam or catch minnows in their hands. Away from that was a drawing of a circle of trees. An X was in the middle.

She looked at the tree-house. The boys were yelling through some make-believe game of Tarzan and attackers. Evette stuck the map in her pocket and drifted off of the porch and around the back. The adults were involved in telling stories about their childhoods and usually she’d stick around to hear that but not now. Now she walked to the barn, out of sight, and after stopping for a shovel, headed to the stream.

She thought she remembered that circle of trees from last year’s visit. Grandpa had told them that the fairies had caused the trees to grow in a circle. She’s spent the whole rest of the day searching the daisies and black-eyed susans looking for fairies. Now she wanted to see what might really be where the X was on Grandpa’s map. She found the stream and walking along it, spotted the trees. They were bigger than she remembered. Evette skipped across the flower-filled pasture, Grandpa had stopped keeping cows long ago, straight to the trees. In the middle it was cool and quiet, almost as though there were fairies here, keeping the world away. Studying the map again, she looked around. Right in the middle, she stuck her shovel into the ground and began to dig.

The next day the police were there searching the entire house. Grandpa had been lead off in handcuffs. Everyone else had been herded into the living room. Grandma was crying on the sofa with Mama beside her, arm wrapped around her shoulders.

Uncle Bill whispered to papa. “He stole it. Before he joined the army? How the hell did Evette find it?”

Papa shook his head. “She told the police she found the map in the attic and went to see what was at the X.”

Uncle Bill ran his hand through his hair. “Half a million dollars. I can’t believe it.”

Evette cried to herself in the arm chair. She didn’t know what she’d done wrong.

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Serial: Lost Rainbows Chapter 12 – The Leprechauns Face the Wizard

Lost Rainbows by Connie Cockrell

Lost Rainbows by Connie Cockrell

Chapter Twelve – The Leprechauns Face the Wizard (Lost Rainbows – Serial)

By Connie Cockrell

Shamus O’Malley is on a quest to recover the Leprechaun Kingdom’s magic rainbows and gold before the rainbows are lost forever. To do so he must travel to the new world where he finds the evil wizard, David Bannon, intent on using the magic from the rainbows and the gold to conquer the Leprechaun Kingdom. He also finds an ally, Becca Bannon, the wizard’s niece. Can Becca and Shamus recover the rainbows and gold and defeat her wizard uncle?

This entry is part 12 of 16 in the series Lost Rainbows

Want to start this serial from the beginning? Click here for links to all available chapters.

The Leprechauns Face the Wizard

The Leprechaun King’s army exited the magic road one stop away from the ruin where the wizard’s mirror sat. The Captain of the Guard formed three companies of one hundred leprechauns each and posted them across the southern end of the valley where the road continued toward the sidhe. The King’s small pavilion had been erected and the King was inside with Shamus, Becca, and the army Commander when the Guard Captain reported his deployments.

“Well done, Captain. Join us at the map table.”

The King and the others were at a table in the middle of the pavilion, maps spread out across it. The Commander pointed to the spot on the map where the wizard Bannon was still spewing the mechanized soldiers through the mirror. “Spies tell me the wizard has at least three times the soldiers that we do. They come through the mirror, line up in perfect rows and stand there.” He ran his hand across the top of his red hair, pulled back smoothly into several braids that hung down around his shoulders. “We don’t know how to fight these machines, Sire. How do we kill them?”

Becca spoke up. “If you will permit, Sire…” She looked to the King for approval to go on. He nodded. “Machines use power from devices hidden within their chests, usually. The metal of the chest will be very hard.” She looked at the leprechauns, forehead furrowed. “The metal may be too hard for your lances or swords to penetrate. Chopping off legs will cause them to topple, then it would be easier to find the access door to their chests, either on the front or back, open it and destroy the inside.”

The Commander shook his head. “That takes a lot of time, miss. Our men would be killed as they fussed over getting inside the chest. At least the machine would be down, though.”

The group all nodded.

“What about the wizard?” the Captain asked the girl. “Will he have other wizards with him?”

Becca shook her head. “I don’t know. I didn’t know until Shamus came to my house that my uncle even was a wizard. I have no idea what power he has or how many other wizards there may be.”

The two soldiers’ faces were grim. Shamus and the King frowned. The King asked, “And you, Miss Becca, what powers have you mastered since your training with us?”

She took a deep breath. “The Advisors and your daughter, have been very patient with me. Princess Lyeen has been suggesting powers that she’s made note of in the archives. I’ve tried to perform each of the powers. I’ll have to admit, the only one I’ve come close to mastering is the making of fire.” Her hands twisted in front of her and her eyes were downcast. It was a poor showing from her and not helpful in the least. She was surprised by Shamus’s next remark.

“Well done, Miss Becca.” He grinned at the others around the table. “Without someone with the power, it’s very difficult to even attempt so many uses of magic. Well done. No doubt we’ll be able to use whatever magic you can control to great advantage.”

Becca raised her eyes to see the leprechauns all smiling. Perhaps she wouldn’t be useless. She stood up straighter as she resolved to do whatever she could in the fight against her uncle. Since she’d been in the sidhe and the King’s Hall, she’d encountered nothing but kindness and generosity. She and Princess Lyeen, despite the wide gulf in ages, had became good friends. The Princess explained life in the sidhe and Becca told the interested Princess all about life in the modern world. The girl was grateful for the kindness and the friendship. It was so different from her life with her uncle.

The next morning, the King rode to the front of the deployed leprechaun companies. The plan was to approach the castle ruin and prevent the wizard from sending his mechanical army into the nearby Road Gate and on to the leprechauns’ main stronghold.

The day was beautiful with a warm early summer breeze and sunshine pouring out of a clear blue sky. Puffy white clouds floated overhead as song-birds sang from the hedgerows and trees they passed. Wildflower heads bobbed in the breeze in drifts of white, yellow, orange and purple. It seemed unreal to Becca that soon they would have to fight with her uncle. Her heart was heavy. While he had never been fatherly, he had been kind and interested in her school-work and hobbies. The difference between her cold existence at home and her life with the leprechauns was extreme. She understood now that her uncle had been preparing her as a weapon to use against her new friends. Becca pulled on the reins of the pony she was riding as he reached for a bite of grass from the side of the road. Shamus dropped back from the King’s side to ride with her.

“Miss Becca, you look very sad.”

“I was just thinking that my uncle was going to use me as a weapon against you.” She waved a fly away from her face.

“I think he was, Miss Becca.” He looked at her with concern. “But that is not you. We would not fight your uncle if he was not attacking us.”

“I understand.” Becca’s voice grew tight. “But still, he is my uncle. I wish he had not come.”

The sun was high in the sky when the leprechaun army reached the hill overlooking the Magic Road gate. Out of sight of the activity below, they saw rows of highly polished silver man-like machines standing stock still in the meadow in front of the ruined castle. A pale yellow silk tent stood next to the ruin.

“Majesty, there must be six hundred of the machines,” the Commander said quietly.

“What do the spies say?” the King asked.

“Sire, the wizard has been bringing through men that look exactly like the wizard. There are at least a hundred of them within the ruin. The wizard Bannon went into the tent three hours ago and has not emerged.”

The King turned to Becca. “Is it possible for the wizard to copy himself?”

Becca wanted to cry. “I’m sorry, Majesty. I don’t know.”

The King scratched at an ear. “We don’t know if the other men are wizards or not. If they can use magic, we will be in dire straits indeed.” He turned to the Commander. “We need to know where the other men are, wizards or not.”

He turned to Shamus. “Stay with Miss Becca. She is a prize I will not allow the wizard to have. If it goes ill for us, get her back to the sidhe and assist the Princess with the defense of our land.”

King Shadenan spoke to Becca last. “Miss, I’m sorry I must do this. You understand your uncle is attacking us?”

Tears formed in her eyes. “Yes, Sire. I understand.”

He looked on her face with sorrow. “I must protect my land, Miss Becca. I ask that you help me do that.”

She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat. “I will help you, King Mac Shadenan.” A tear ran down her cheek.

He nodded, face grim, and turned back to his Commander and his Captain of the Guard. “Gentlemen. We’ll circle around the ruin, a company each at a third of the way around. I will attempt to talk to wizard Bannon. If he refuses to return to his own land, I’ll give the signal to attack. Use Plan A.” He looked down the hill. “May the wind be at your back.”

 

~~~~~

 

Lost Rainbows

To be continued…

Come back for more! Look for the next exciting installment each Wednesday.

 

You can read more of this story serially on this website for free or you can buy it and read it now at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

See more at: www.ConniesRandomThoughts.wordpress.com or https://www.facebook.com/ConniesRandomThoughts

 

Thank you for reading. You can support the story by commenting or leaving a review. Buy my other books for more reading pleasure. If you’ve enjoyed this chapter, please spread the word, tell a friend or share the link to the story by using the share buttons to your right. The author is part of the Forward Motion Flash Fiction Friday Challenge and the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour.

© 2015 Connie Cockrell

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Stowaway Annie

Connie the Kid - School Photo

Connie the Kid – School Photo

Crewman Sharif Vega put his duffle on the carry cart with care. Then he piled a case of Centauri Blood wine, a crate of fresh binga fruit and a box of cleaning detergent around it. He rolled it through the crowded spaceport and onto the monorail that carried passengers and crew to their desired gates. He got off at Gate D32 and rolled the cart to the desk.

“Hey, Lyn,” he greeted his shipmate at the desk as he maneuvered the cart around the desk. “I have some last minute buys for the ship.”

Lyn checked her electronic pad and nodded briefly as she scanned the items on the cart. “Great. I love binga fruit. I’ve checked you in, Sharif, go on in.”

Sharif wiped his hands on his ship suit and gripped the cart handle. He had been sure Lyn would ask about the duffle. He sped down the access way and into the ship’s entryway. The fruit and wine went to the galley, the detergent in the cleaning locker and he hurried along the corridor to crew quarters.

He lifted the duffel and carried it into his cabin. Sharif put it on the bed and unzipped it halfway. “Are you comfortable enough?” He peeked into the bag.

“I’m fine,” a small female voice came from inside the duffel.

“Stay here. I’ve got work to do but I’ll be back in awhile.” He pulled the zipper nearly closed and left the cabin.

It wasn’t long before the ship lifted off and jumped into hyper space. When they came out the Captain said over breakfast, “There’s a forty kilo discrepancy in the mass of the ship. Sharif, after you take over the freight console from Hawk, check the records of the freight we on-boarded on Centauri. Either the canisters were mislabeled or one of the readers made an error.”

Sharif nodded, eyes downcast. He couldn’t look the Captain in the eye. “Yes, sir.”

“I know it’s a small error,” the Captain told the crew around the table. “But I don’t want it becoming a big error. Find out the problem.”

The whole crew nodded. Sharif choked down his coffee and hurried from the galley. An hour later, he excused himself from the bridge and knocked on the Captain’s cabin door.

“Enter.”

The Captain was in his sleeping robe at the small desk. Sharif could see the manifest on the Captain’s pad. “Sir, I need to talk to you.”

Captain Teigen looked up. “You found the discrepancy?”

Sharif shuffled his feet. “In a way, Sir. Yes.”

An eyebrow rose. “Spit it out, Sharif.”

“Well, Sir,” Sharif began to twist his hands together. “You know how on Centauri the vids were full of reports of a search for a criminal’s grand-daughter?”

The Captain sat up. “I remember.” His tone of voice went level.

“The girl found me. Asked for help.” He stuck his hands in his pockets, thought better of it and pulled them out again. “I didn’t know who she was, at first. Just another beggar kid, you know. They’re all over the place.”

Captain Teigen’s eyebrows drew together.

Sharif licked his lips, then pulled himself up, squaring his shoulders. He blurted out. “I smuggled her onto the ship.”

“You did what?” The Captain’s voice went hard. His eyes bored into Sharif.

“They were going to kill her, Captain. You know that. All for some minor infraction her grand-father made. They kill the three generations, over some law that would just get a fine on Earth.” He twisted his hands again.

“Bring the girl here.”

Sharif nodded and dashed out of the door. When he got back, the girl in tow, the Captain was dressed.

“Captain, this is Annie, ten years old. Annie, this is Captain Teigen.”

The blue-eyed, blond girl stared up at the Captain. She stuck out her hand. “Nice to meet you, Sir.”

The Captain’s eyebrow twitched but he shook her hand. “Nice to meet you, Annie. You present me with a problem.”

“Yes, Sir. I’m sorry.”

A glare was shot at Sharif. “You have put me and the ship in a very difficult situation, Crewman Vega. We could be banned from Centauri, a very lucrative freight run for us. I could lose my ship for kidnapping a child from another planet. We could all be sent to prison.”

“But, Sir. I had to help. It’s not right that they were going to kill her for something she didn’t do. They don’t care about her, why should they care that she came with us. I didn’t kidnap her, Sir, she came willingly, to escape a death sentence. There must be a regulation for that?”

Teigen’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t go space lawyer on me, Vega. You’re in enough trouble. Get the girl a cabin and fed. Then you’re on report. You do your job during your duty hours, eat, and go to your cabin. That’s it. No rec time. Only the minimum gym time.” He turned Annie. “You may go to the galley to eat, work out in the gym, participate in any appropriate recreational activities. You are not allowed in any working spaces, the bridge, engine rooms, any other location that a passenger has no business being in. Understood?”

“Yes, Sir. I understand.”

“Good. Take care of it Sharif. Get out.”

The Captain and the Exec spent the next four hours going over System Law. They finally found a clause that would allow Annie to escape Centuri without bankrupting the ship. They turned her over to Child Protection on Minataur. Sharif hugged her at the access way, the assigned mentor watching. “Good luck, Annie.”

“Thank you, Sharif. I’m sorry about the trouble I got you in.”

“No worries, girl. Good luck on your new planet.”

“I knew you were the right spacer to approach.” She shook his hand. “Call me when you come back.”

“I’ll do that.”

He watched as the mentor took her hand and left for her new life.

 

 

The End

990 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday: Chapter from The Downtrodden

Book, The Downtrodden, Brown Rain Series, Connie Cockrell

Front Cover for The Downtrodden

I thought, for something different, I’d share a partial chapter from The Downtrodden, the second book of the Brown Rain series. Links to purchase are at the end.

MOVING ON

As for food, the damaged gas station was a bust. They spent the first night in a house, cheering when they found a mylar packet of rice dinner in a cupboard, untouched by mice. The next day they began their hunt for food. On Main Street they found a hiking store where they acquired two sleeping bags in the back room, still in plastic-wrapped boxes. Kyra actually whooped.

The other bags in the store were full of mouse nests. They also managed to replace their knives which had been stolen by the Children of God. Kyra was happy about that. Since they’d escaped she’d been afraid of running into more wild dogs or even wolves. Memories of the fight with the last feral dogs they’d run into haunted her dreams. She wanted a knife for close fighting.

The shop didn’t have any bows or arrows. She felt that lack most of all. A knife was good but better to have some distance between her and any enemy. It was her best weapon and she felt naked without it. The store also had two cases of dehydrated food, one of chili and one of chicken stew. The mice had demolished the chicken but there were several packets of chili that were still in good shape. Those went into the packs. The grocery store in the center of town had been thoroughly looted. “Looks like the Children did get over here,” Kyra said as they left the empty store.

“Maybe there’s one on the outskirts,” Alyssa said as she bent over the sidewalk, clearing a way. They stopped by any store that looked as though it would have gear or supplies, but it was the same as the grocery. By noon they were resting in the park in the center of Fern Springs where the town had erected a pavilion, similar to the one at their school over their spring. Kyra had found packets of honey at the hiking store and shared them out, two for her and two for Alyssa.

“I wonder what happened to the bees.” Kyra had her back to a pavilion support as she squeezed crystallized honey into her mouth.

Alyssa licked her fingers. “They may be all gone. The brown rain covered everything. Without flowers the hives, even the biggest ones, wouldn’t have been able to survive more than a year or two. The rain lasted four years.”

Kyra gazed at the little park. She tried to imagine what it looked like all green grass and leafy trees, the little stream from the spring meandering through the park, flowers growing on its banks. It wasn’t possible. She was so used to seeing everything covered with the gray-brown oily sludge from a toxic rain that ended over a decade ago that she couldn’t imagine anything else. The color of the path that Alyssa had healed so they could get to this pavilion was a startling green against the depressing oily sludge. “How big do you think this park is?”

Alyssa looked around. “A quarter acre, maybe.” She turned to Kyra. “Why?”

“Just thinking how nice this park would be if it was green, the way it should be. Maybe animals could come and eat the grass, drink the clean water.” She waved her hand. “Never mind, it’s a silly thought.”

“No it’s not. This is exactly what I came out here to do.” She stood up. “You can watch from here.” Alyssa danced down the spongy wooden steps and began to work. She started close to the pavilion, around and around in bigger and bigger squares. Grass mostly, but there were a few oak and maple trees in the park that she healed too. She stopped at the sidewalks that surrounded the park and washed her hands in the stream as it dropped into a culvert and flowed out of the park.

“There,” she said, her face full of smiles as she reached the pavilion. “An oasis in a toxic desert.”

Kyra handed her a bottle of water. “I like it. Do you think your paths and these patches will help?”

“I know they will.” She wiped her mouth and handed the bottle back to Kyra. “The toxins are breaking down, I can feel it.”

Kyra’s face lit up. “They are?”

“Yeah, but it’s going to be a long time yet. In the meantime, my little paths are a break. A spot for wildlife to get a toe-hold. Bugs, then birds, then bigger prey and predators.” She looked thoughtful. “To be honest I was completely surprised that dogs had survived. They must be finding something to eat. Maybe something we can eat too. ”

Kyra refilled the bottle. “If it’s going to be a long time we’d better get going. You up for more paths? I want to check more stores and if that fails, houses.”

“Sure.” Alyssa turned and walked to Main Street and made a path to the store side of the street.

That night they stayed in a house near the edge of town. As expected, pickings had been slim in the stores but for some reason the Children had left most houses alone. The two raided closets for suitable hiking clothes, dry goods, or anything else they thought would be useful. Just outside of town they explored a farm house with a large but mouse-eaten pantry. Fortunately a bag of beans was found and cooked, mashed into a paste and dried into patties as road food. They had enough to eat for nine days so they moved on.

End of Chapter Section

You can buy The Downtrodden and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Yawo and Zanque

Lioness

Lioness by JoygasmPie via www.DeviantArt.com

Yawo and Zanque were born a day apart to first cousins. It was tradition was to name children in alphabetical order. Names at the end of the alphabet were always considered unlucky, being the end and not the beginning.  The women were shamed, having had the bad luck to bear children, sons at that, at the end of the community’s alphabet. Their aunt, always cunning, managed to bear a daughter next, a name beginning with an ‘A’, Anaria. The young women suspected witchcraft but as the wife of the chief, it was pointless to accuse.

The boys grew in beauty and strength. Shunned by the rest of the children, they depended upon each other and despite the Aunt’s efforts, little Anaria stayed close to Yawo and Zanque. When the boys were seven they were sent, as all boys their age, to watch the cattle. Yawo yawned in the mid-day heat. “They tease us, cousin. Set to watching in the heat of the day. They know the lions will not come when it is so hot.”

“They want to catch us, Yawo. Asleep or playing.” The boy stood up and stretched. They will not find us lax. We are the end but not lazy.”

Little six-year-old Anaria toddled up to her cousins. “Hi.”

She sat in the dust in the shade of the middling tree and with a few twists of grass made a doll. She offered it to Yawo. “You are the oldest, you get the first gift.”

Aware of the sacred ties of females and males, the boy bowed and accepted the gift. “You honor me, young Anaria.”

She made another and gave it to Zanque. “For you, fierce fighter.”

He bowed and accepted her gift. “You honor us, cousin.”

The girl stood. “It’s time, warriors. Look outward.”

The boys were confused but did as she bid. Zanque hissed. “To the north, my cousin. The lion prowls.”

The boys both spied a lioness creeping through the dry grass, nearing the cattle herd. “You go left, cousin,” Yawo whispered. “I’ll go right.”

He eyed his young female cousin. “Stay, honored female.”

She bowed and sat crosslegged under the tree. “I await your return.”

The boys crept out, spears in hand. The lifeblood of the tribe was at stake if the lioness should take even a single cow.

Yawo hefted his fire sharpened spear. It was one thing to creep up on the stuffed skin the hunt masters hung in the forest. It was quite another to sneak up on the best hunter in the savannah, who was ready to shred a boy too brave for his own good.

On his side Zanque moved as silently as he could through the dry grass. He stopped to rub his hand in the dust, the better to grip his spear. He worried that the lioness would attack before he was ready to defend his cousin.

What about the rest of the pride? Yawo thought. Where are they? He risked a peek above the grass heads. He didn’t see any lions but that meant nothing.

Both boys took deep, calming breaths as the hunt master had taught them. They could feel each other across the expanse of grass. They crept forward until they could each hear the soft huffing of the lioness. This time of year they knew she was hunting to feed her cubs. That made her even more dangerous.

On a hunch, Yawo gave a soft hiss. He stopped and listened. To his right he heard a gentle whuff. The lioness raised her head, he could see her ears. He did his best to quiet his rapid heartbeat.

On the other side of the lioness, Zanque heard both noises. He regripped his spear. The lioness was after the tribe’s cattle. Worse, his best friend and his female cousin were in danger.

Both boys crept closer, gripping and re-gripping their spears. The lioness prepared to spring. The boys saw the grass shiver. They readied their spears and when the lioness sprang both boys let loose their spears.

The giant cat screamed. The herd thundered away. The boys ran up on the lioness, paws twitching in the dust. Two spears arrowed from her body, one on each side. They were still standing there when their cousin, Anaria, appeared between them.

“Good kill,” she told them.

Elders, alerted by the big cat’s screams ran up. “What happened?”

“They killed the lioness,” young Anaria told them. Her eyes never strayed from the elders. “My cousins have saved the herd.”

The men bowed and the eldest waved others to pick up the cat and the boys. A procession into the village caught Anaria’s mother unaware. Chanting by the men overrode any objection she had. The girl stood behind the boys as the lioness was skinned and fangs and claws removed.

The boys gave Anaria both fang and claw to honor her. The hide was divided between the boys who gave the skins to their mothers. They kept a fang and a claw each which they made into necklaces.

After, the boys and Anaria grew to adulthood. Anaria became the high priestess and her cousins the leaders of the tribe. It became common for boys to have names from the end of the alphabet. Just in honor of their chieftains, of course.

 

The End

884Words

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Flash Fiction Friday: Defiance

Defiance by astra888 (hattori-hanzo) via www.DeviantArt.com

Defiance by astra888 (hattori-hanzo) via www.DeviantArt.com

Jennie stood in the middle of a gaggle of High School graduates watching her classmates. They were hugging their parents, getting photos taken; many of the girls had plastic wrapped bouquets in hand. Her white cap slid from her head in the warm June breeze. She unzipped her gown and took it off. No one was going to take her picture and it was too hot anyway.

Her Celtic dragon tattoo glowed green and gold in the sunlight. Missy Chamber’s mom scowled when she saw it over Missy’s shoulder as they hugged. Little did she know Missy had a tat on her left butt cheek, a tiny pair of pursed lips. “So my Mom can kiss my ass,” she told Jennie the night she got it. That was during winter break, right after Jennie had the dragon done.

“What about your parents, aren’t they going to be mad?”

“What do I care,” Missy hiccupped. They were drinking Colt 45 from brown paper bags in the park in the center of town. Jennie had hooked them out of the fridge. Her parents had been drinking since mid-afternoon, they’d never miss the two beers.

As she walked to the door of the school, she passed Carl Chu. His parents had given him a new Porsche for graduation. He winked at her as she passed by. They’d dated briefly last year, a fling on the wrong side of the tracks for him. He’d invited her to his house a few times, his parents watching her every second, afraid she’d steal something. It didn’t matter. As soon as she’d put out a few times the challenge was gone and he’d dropped her over summer vacation.

Her father had backhanded her across the room when he found out. Her mother took her to the clinic to have the baby aborted. She complained to every nurse and doctor about how Jennie was a big disappointment. On the way home her mother told her, “Don’t come begging for a second chance. This was it. Next time get the bum who got you knocked-up to pay for the clinic.”

Jennie kept quiet. You’re no prize either. But she held her tongue. Her mother could hit like a line backer.

In the hallway leading to the classroom where they were to drop off the caps and gowns, she passed a clot of girls surrounding Emily Little. She’d just gotten her acceptance letter to Brown. Jennie remembered going to grade school with Emily. They played together on the playground; Emily too shy to play with anyone else. She was smart then, Jennie remembered. No wonder she’s the class Valedictorian.

Emily nodded to her so she nodded back. Jennie was barely past the group when the whispering began. “Her parents didn’t come.” “Did you know her parents are drunk every night?” “My Dad had her father as a client in a domestic violence case.”

Jennie stood up straighter. She knew the girl’s lawyer father. He tried to pick her up every Saturday night at the diner where she waitressed. What would she think if she knew about her perv father.

She turned in the cap and gown, taking the tassel off and tucking it into her short shorts pocket. At least she’d graduated. That was a miracle in itself. Her parents called her stupid, looser, waste of space, every day of her life. Jennie ground her teeth together. Two years ago she’d retorted, “Takes one to know one.” Her father knocked her across the room and broke her arm and three ribs. Since then she’d said as little to them as possible and stayed out of the house as much as she could.

Andy Coulter stopped her in the hall as she neared the exit. “Hi, Jennie.”

Angry about the girls and her parents, she almost blew by him. She knew he had a crush on her, after all, she was pretty good looking, why shouldn’t he? So she stopped. “Andy.”

He blushed. “Uh, you going to a party or anything?”

“Nah,” she stuck her hands in the pockets and shot out her left hip. “Too lame.”

“Yeah,” he stuttered. “Lame.” His eyes darted around the now bare hallway; all of the posters and announcement sheets had already been removed by the janitors. “You going to college in the fall?”

Jennie stood up. “No.” She swallowed. “Couldn’t decide where to go.”

“Oh,” his face fell. “I got accepted to Ridgeway. Maybe get a degree in electrical engineering.”

“I heard Ridgeway’s good.” Jennie was glad for him but it ticked her off that she would be staying in this dead end town, working for crap wages and tips.

His face brightened. “Maybe you can go to the Community College. It would give you the basics while you figure out where you want to go.”

Jennie dug her fingernails into her palms. “Maybe. Look, I gotta go home and get ready for work.”

“Sure, Jennie. See ya.”

She moved past him to the door. “Yeah, see ya.”

She fumed all the way home. Community College, wh’s gonna pay for that? Not her. Not unless she got a better job. When she came in the front door her parents were in their recliners, beers in hand and cans on the floor watching a movie they’d seen a million times.

Her father called out. “So, you’re graduated?”

“Yeah.” She inched toward the stairs to go to her bedroom.

“Don’t go thinkin’ you’re better’n us. You’re still a stupid twit who’ll never amount to shit.”

She raced up the stairs. Oh, yeah? Andy’s comment about the Community College leapt to mind. I’ll see about that. She threw on her diner uniform and left the house. She had just enough time to run over to the college before work.

 

 

The End

962 Words

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Friday Flash Fiction: FTL Dilemma

How about a SciFi story for today?

FTL Dilemma

Aubrey sank to the floor of the engine room. He’d just put the last body in the maw of the main recycler. He leaned his head against the bulkhead and closed his eyes. Two hundred and three bodies. He ran a hand through his curly black, close cropped hair and groaned. Every muscle hurt. He struggled to his feet. It was time to check on the kids.

Patyn Polanski was the oldest of the three remaining children. At thirteen, she helped him get water and food to the other two but she was newly recovered herself. When he entered the cabin, she was asleep. The ten year old Hal Corliss was asleep too; arm thrown over his black-haired head and so was eight year old Bree Webber. Her long blonde hair a tangle spread across her pillow. The kids knew each other, but he didn’t really know them. Twenty-two years old, he didn’t hang with the kids anymore.

He left the cabin and went to the galley. He needed some broth and time to rest. Two days ago Aubrey managed to find the dehydrated stock, added it and water to a pot, and left it in the galley. Patyn could just get some, heat it and give it to the others. He scooped a mugful and heated it in the microwave then slipped into a chair to drink it. He jumped at her voice.

“Is it done?” Patyn leaned against the edge of the galley door. She had dark circles under her eyes. Her shoulder length, dark brown hair was nearly as tangled as Bree’s.

Aubrey motioned her to a chair. “Yeah. Just finished. Want some broth?”

She nodded as she slid into the chair opposite him. He levered himself up and got her a mugful and sat it on the table.

“Have you told the kids?” he asked.

She shook her head as she held her face in the steam from the cup. “They barely wake up. I gave them some broth and they went right back to sleep.” She looked up at him, concern on her face. “Can you fly the ship?”

“I think so.” He drained his mug and put it back down. “I’ve had my turn at the controls like everyone else.” He sighed. “That’s next; to go to the bridge and get us to the nearest station. I need to sleep first.”

“I’ll be with the kids till you get up.”

#

Aubrey sat in the Captain’s chair where very system on the bridge could be accessed. He pulled up the operations manual and reviewed the checklist for starting the engines. Patyn wandered in.

“Is it alright that I’m on the bridge?” she asked from just inside the doorway.

He turned to look at her. “Why not. All the rules are out the lock now anyway.” He went back to the manual.

She came in and sat in the Communications chair.

“Do you have any training on the bridge yet?” he asked her.

“No. I just started Ship Systems training, in the galley.”

“Too bad.” He took a deep breath. “I’m going to start this baby up.” He punched a number of buttons on the board in front of him. He checked the manual to be sure he had the sequence right. “Here’s the last button.” Aubrey punched it and waited.

Patyn looked around. “Should we feel the engines working?”

Aubrey rubbed his face with both hands. “Yeah, something’s wrong.”

She paled, eyes wide.

“It’ll be alright. The Chief Engineer probably did something. I’ll call up the Engineering manual and look for it.”

She swallowed and nodded. “I’ll check on the kids.”

An hour later, Aubrey stumbled into the galley. He made a sandwich and dropped into the nearest chair to eat it. Patyn was watching from a nearby table, a sandwich in front of her too.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

He chewed and swallowed. “I can’t find the problem. I was too hungry to think.” He took another bite. “How are the kids?”

“Awake. I put a vid on for them.”

He nodded and finished his sandwich. “Can you leave them for a few minutes?”

“Yeah. I’ll check on them then I’ll be ready.” She wiped the table in front of her with the napkin and shoved it into the kitchen recycler.

Aubrey got a glass of water and drank it down. She was back in four minutes. “They’re fine. I told them I had to help you.”

He turned his gaunt face to her. “You told them about the rest of the family?”

Patyn rubbed an eye. “Yeah, they said they knew.”

He wondered how they knew but the kids always seemed to know what was going on with the ship. He sighed. “Let’s go to Engineering.”

At the Chief Engineer’s console, Aubrey brought up the manual. “I was hoping the Chief would have left a note or something. Check his log, can ya?”

She slid into the second console chair and tapped out commands. “I see an Engineer Log,” she told him. “I can’t open it.”

Aubrey switched screens. “Let me try from here.” He tapped a few keys. “I see it but it won’t open.” He slumped back into the chair. “It’s password protected.”

“I was hoping it would open from that console,” she said.

They sat, shoulders drooping, staring at the screens. “How did you get into the Captain’s files?” she asked after a minute.

“The manual had an emergency code, you know,” he snorted, “in case of catastrophic emergency.”

“Will the same code work on the Engineer’s files?” she asked.

He brightened. “Let’s see.” He tapped the code into the log in. He whooped. “It’s open!”

Patyn grinned.

He punched several keys on the console. They felt the reassuring vibration of the huge engines starting up. “I didn’t realize I was missing that sound,” he said as he watched the monitor show engine performance steady into the green. “Tell the kids we’re going to be alright.”

997 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday: New Life

Another one of the stories I worked on while taking the Holly Lisle class: How to write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck. (https://howtothinksideways.com/)  I’m not happy with my title to this one. What do you think? What would you name this story?

New Life

“Jean, you really did it?” my best friend Joy asked, wide-eyed with surprise.

I nodded, heart thumping. She’s the only one I told.

“What are your parents going to say?” she covered her mouth, glancing quickly around the room. “What will the pastor say?” she whispered.

I knew what they’d say. Mama would retreat into silence and Papa would erupt. I tossed my braid over my shoulder. “I don’t care,” I sniffed. “There’s more to life than marrying the man the community picks for me and having his babies.”

Joy looked over her shoulder at the door. “But you can’t just…leave!”

It all crystallized for me right then. “I don’t want to end up like my mother! She never talks, Joy. Except to call us for meals or tell us what chore needs to be done next. No! There’s a whole world out there,” I pointed out the window. “And I’m going to see it.”

Two months later Papa called from the parlor, “Jean!”

It was time to make supper and Mama said I cooked so well, I made most of our meals. “Yes, Papa,” I walked into the room, wiping my hands on a towel. I froze. Mama was sitting down, hands folded and eyes downcast. I’d never seen her sitting down this time of day before.

“Come here,” he said. I loved my parents but his tone of voice made me hesitate. He pulled a paper out of his pocket. “Did you send this stranger,” he shook the paper, shouting, “a letter?”

In a soft voice I answered, “Yes, Papa.”

His face grew red and his voice quiet. “You shame us. Writing to strangers! Outsiders!” He dropped the letter and his hands to his lap. He shook his head. “What do you say to this?”

The look on his face told me he didn’t understand. “I want to see the world, Papa. I want to be more than a farm wife.” Mama’s head came up, tears flowing down her face.

Papa burst out, “Are we not good enough for you?”

“No…no, I just want something more.”

I spent the rest of the week in my room, staring out over the horizon. Mama brought me all the bread I could eat and plenty of water.

On Sunday I was made to stand in front of the congregation, Papa and Mama behind me.  After a long sermon about the wickedness of the world and the weakness of women, I was excommunicated. Papa drove me to the bus stop giving me my letter, ticket and $100. We stood quietly until it was time to board. As I climbed the steps, I heard him say, “Be safe.”

At the meeting with the director, he looked me up and down, and even though I’d cut my braid off, I still wasn’t much to look at. “Can you cook?”

Standing in the grocery store line, Joy noticed a tabloid picture of her friend, Jean. She was named Hollywood’s best personal chef.

The End

497 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday: Commodity

I took this prompt from the Forward Motion site. What fuels the engine of commerce and sets people at each other’s throats to provide? Oil, Gold, Some form of magic? An exotic element? How and why is that commodity important to the world and how does it affect the characters.

I wanted something basic. Something that maybe had once been common and now was important. Here’s what I came up with.

Commodity

Hobin listened to the subdued chatter in the control room. The expedition was beginning its eighth day of searching Eraze, the nearest planet to theirs. The team only had two more days to search; then they had to return to Altera. His communicator buzzed.

“Hobin.”

“Hobin, this is Kaltar. Any word yet from the expedition?”

“No sir. Nothing yet.”

“This was your idea, Hobin. Let’s all hope it works.”

Hobin rolled his eyes. Did his boss think he didn’t understand the need? “Yes sir, we all hope it works.”

He switched the communicator off and sighed. He knew better than anyone what was at stake. It buzzed in his hand. “Hobin.”

“Hobin, its Ema. You left without your lunch this morning.”

He smiled, “Yes dear, thank you for calling.”

“Shall I bring it by?”

“That would be lovely. Bring a lunch for yourself; we’ll eat in the park.”

He could just about hear her grinning at the other end of the communicator, “I will. We haven’t lunched together in far too long.”

“Alright, dear. I’ll meet you in the park at noon.”

He was still smiling as he clicked off. Getting a call from his wife would normally be the highlight of his day. But today, even better, he was going to get to see her over lunch. The communicator went back into his jacket pocket.

They met at their favorite bench in the park, right in front of a pond. A small waterfall at the near end of the pond made a lovely splashing sound, punctuating the bird calls. She was already there when he arrived. They kissed briefly and sat on the bench.

She passed him his lunch and they opened their bags. Sandwich in one hand, he held her free hand. “What have you been up to this morning?”

“Nothing, really,” she shook her head and gazed out over the water, rippling in the slight breeze. “I took my salt tablets.”

Hobin nodded, chewing. “Good. Do we have enough?”

Ema sighed, putting her sandwich on her bag. “I don’t know. We’ve been saving salt since we were married. We’ve cut into your share to the danger point. How’s the expedition doing?”

Hobin put his sandwich down too. “Nothing so far. All of the surveys were done from satellites, so who knows if we’re looking in the right places, or even if there’s any salt there at all.”

She squeezed his hand. “There has to be, Hobin. Altera can’t be the only planet in the solar system with salt.”

He nodded, moving closer to her, and put his arm around her. “I’m hoping there’s salt there. But even so, the expedition can only bring back a few pounds. Then we’d have to put together a whole mining expedition. It may take years to get enough salt back here to make a difference in the population.”

Tears in her eyes, she turned to face him. “But that would mean millions of people couldn’t have children! The population would crash.”

Wiping her eyes, he said, “True. But I don’t know what else can be done. So much waste in the past, salt used for everything. No one gave any thought to the fact it might be irreplaceable. Now, the whole species may become extinct.”

Ema patted his hand. “But your idea to mine nearby planets was good. The government even said so. They put billions of dollars into it. They must think it’s a good idea.”

“They hope so. But if the expedition doesn’t find any salt, I’m the one they’re going to blame.”

“It’s,” she started to shout, then recovered herself, “it’s not your fault. This has been coming on for generations. We need the salt to reproduce. I need the salt to reproduce.”

He stopped her. “Speaking of reproducing, are your salt levels is high enough for us to get pregnant?”

She slumped back on the bench. “Not yet.”

He turned his whole body to her and took both of her hands in his. “Take more of the salt.”

She started to protest.

“No. Take the salt in levels high enough. It’s a waste to just take a little. Get your levels up and let’s get you pregnant.”

“But,” she began.

He put his finger over her mouth. “But, nothing. Do it. I’ll worry about getting enough salt for you to carry the baby to term. You worry about getting there.”

He wiped the tears from her eyes. “It’ll be a little girl, with your eyes.”

“And your hair,” she said, a tiny smile beginning.

The communicator in his pocket buzzed. “Hobin.”

“Hobin, get back to the control center. The expedition may have found salt.”

He closed his eyes, “Yes, I’ll be there shortly.”

He switched off and said, “I’ve…”

Ema shushed him. “Go, get us some salt.”

 

The End

800 Words

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Flash Fiction Friday: Names

I opened my browser up the other day and found a Yahoo news article about a couple who’d been told that the name they’d chosen for their child was not acceptable. I had to read that article of course. It turns out a lot of countries actually control the names parents are allowed to name their children. Well slap me silly! Here’s what I came up with.

Names

Guo and Nuan Lo stood proudly in the temple. It was Naming Day for their new daughter. The priest had the sacred oil ready; the mandatory government functionary was at Guo’s left. Friends and family were standing behind the couple. Naming Day gifts were on the table at the couple’s home, ready to open after the feast.
The priest lit the incense, chanting prayers to Guo’s and Nuan’s ancestors, calling them to witness the new name of the baby girl Nuan held in her arms. Nuan adjusted the tiny red cap the baby wore, matching her red silk dress and tiny baby shoes. She worried a little that the ancestors, or the majority of them anyway, were back on Earth. There were only two generations of ancestors here on New Peking. She hoped that was enough to bring luck to the new female.
The priest struck the alter bell three times, completing the ancestor summoning. Holding the bowl of sacred oil, he approached the couple. Nuan handed the baby to Guo, it was his responsibility to name the child.
Holding his oil covered thumb over the baby’s forehead, the priest asked, “What is the girl child’s name?”
Guo pulled his shoulders back and in a clear voice said, “Ixcheu.”
Nuan stiffened at the gasp from the audience. She saw her husband point his chin higher as the mouth of government man beside him dropped open.
He turned red. “You can’t name the baby that! That’s an alien name. Only Chinese names are authorized!”
Nuan blushed at the insult to their friend, Revik, at the back of the audience.
Her husband turned to the government man, “I have worked with the aliens for years. I have made many friends among them, one of them, Revik, my best friend. It is time to do that friendship honor. The child’s name shall be Ixcheu.” He faced the priest, “Her name is as I say.”
The priest looked to the government man.
The man grew red, “It is not authorized. Priest, name the girl, Yi, meaning Suitable.”
Nervously, the priest stepped forward, dabbed the girl with sacred oil on earlobes, forehead and chin, “You are named,” and as he said, “Yi,” Guo shouted, “Ixcheu.”
The audience gasped and began murmuring with their neighbors as the priest finished the rites. The parents, priest and government man stepped to the monitor to record the name. The government man forced his way to the monitor ahead of Guo, causing more audience comments over the bad manners of the man. He typed in Yi, and hit the send button, turning triumphantly to the parents.
“It is official, her name is Yi.” He bowed a micrometer to the parents, then a little deeper to the priest; and marched out of the temple.
Five years later, Yi, called Ixcheu, by her parents, came to class for the first time. Again, the teacher, maintaining colony custom, began by calling the girl, Yi. She refused to respond until the teacher called her Ixcheu. Thus, each year, the girl had a battle of wills with her new teacher and each year she won.
Upon her graduation from college, as a lawyer, her first action was to petition the government to change the law concerning naming conventions for the colony. By now, many children were in name limbo, their parents trying to honor alien friends and mentors but the government refused to relax the naming conventions.
Using all of those people as her base, she challenged the government. The day of the trial arrived.
In her closing argument she maintained, “Your honor, the time has passed for strict adherence to an archaic policy. I certainly understand the desire to maintain our traditional culture. However, it’s time to embrace the new culture, a mixed culture of human and alien. Mandatory naming conventions don’t strengthen our culture, it weakens our ties to the multi-cultural environment that exists today. It’s an insult to our alien, and to our non-Chinese human co-workers and friends.”
The government lawyer glared at her. She froze for a moment but gathered her resolve and continued. “My esteemed colleague,” she nodded to him, “contends that our heritage would be lost if we allowed other than traditional Chinese names. That it’s an affront to our ancestors to use non-Chinese or non-human names. I insist that it’s an honor to use these non-traditional names, an honor to the friends and co-workers among us who are not of Chinese ancestry.”
The judge pounded his gavel at the noise from the audience. “Quiet in the courtroom.”
Ixcheu took that time to sip some water. Her stomach was in a knot and her hands were sweaty. Once the courtroom settled down, she continued.
“Your honor, our history reports the concern our ancestors had about our heritage when we first arrived on New Peking. So many non-Chinese and aliens were among us, they thought our culture would be lost. I can appreciate that. But that was one hundred years ago. Nothing remains static, we must make allowances for changing social structures, not remain locked in a rigid system that refuses all change and growth. Please, Your Honor, allow the law to be changed.”
She sat down, the judge glaring at her. Finally he recessed the court until the next day. He’d give his judgment then.
Ixcheu spent the night with her family and friends examining the trial from every angle, trying to guess how the judge would rule.
The next day, the judge rapped the gavel on his stand once, and Ixcheu and the government representative rose. The judge looked between them, Ixcheu couldn’t read his face. She clenched and unclenched her fists, her stomach in knots. The judge took a deep breath and stared at Ixcheu.
“I rule in favor of the petitioner, Yi Lo, henceforth to be known, officially, as Ixcheu Lo.” He rapped his gavel and the courtroom erupted in cheers.

The End
985 Words
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