Four Doomsdays – Doom Three: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Mushrooms, Otherwise known as Fungus by Randy Cockrell

“And in other news…”

I half-listened as I changed my three-month-old daughter, Becca. It was always bad news on the TV and I was too engaged with my first-born to care about whatever was troubling the rest of the world. My world was perfect.

Still on maternity leave, I took Becca down to the kitchen and poured my husband, Ron, his coffee and put it on the table at his place. This was his first day back to work from paternity leave. We’d had such a nice time this last three weeks. I was sorry that he had to go back to work already.

He came into the kitchen, adjusting his tie. “I’m sorry I have to put this thing on again.” He sat down at his place as I put a bowl of cereal in front of him.

“Then don’t. You don’t have to wear it.”

He shook his head. “No. If you want to get ahead, dress for two levels above where you are. That’s the CEO. He wears a tie, I wear a tie.” He scooped cereal into his mouth.
I shrugged. Ron was ambitious and I couldn’t blame him, so was I. But my system was still swimming in maternal hormones. At the moment, I couldn’t generate any sympathy. “Your call.”

I pulled Becca to me and pulled up my shirt. One of the best parts of the day was nursing time. I could feel her little mouth clamp onto my breast and begin to suck. I still couldn’t believe that I had a baby and I was feeding her. Me. Out of my own body. The wonder of it was still overwhelming. When I looked up, Ron was smiling at me. “I’m going to miss this.”

“I’m going to miss you.”

He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Oh. Did you see the news? Some sort of infection is sweeping through India. Killing babies.” He studied Becca, still going strong on my breast. “That sucks.”

I nodded but didn’t answer. What must those parents be feeling? I’d be frantic.

Ron scooped up the rest of his cereal and gulped down his coffee. “Home by six.” He got up, grabbed his brief case and kissed each of us on the head.

“Drive safe.” I was talking to his back as he headed out the door to the garage. He waved and was gone.

After Becca ate, she had a bath, clean clothes, and was down for a nap. Time for me to shower and dress. Then it was into the kitchen, the baby monitor on the counter, as I washed up the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. The TV cycled through to another news cast. I listened this time as the story about India came back on. “Just in,” the newscaster looked into the camera, face concerned. “It seems China has had a similar outbreak as India. The government there has been keeping it quiet but refugees coming over the border of Nepal have reported children dying by the thousands.
I shook my head as I dried my hands. Poor parents. How awful.

“The Indian government has called on the United Nations for medical support.” The newscaster went on to the next story and I turned off the TV. I was glad I didn’t live over there.

That afternoon, I met some other mothers at the park. Of course, Becca was too young to run and play but it was good to get her out into the fresh air. “Did you hear about India and China?” I asked as I sat down.

“Yes. What a nightmare.” Carol’s baby was the same age as mine. We were in the same room at the hospital. “I cannot even imagine.”

“It’s the conditions,” Margery said with a sniff. “The sanitation over there is non-existent. No wonder there’s disease running rampant.

“What if it get’s here?” Joan stopped talking to wipe her three-year-old’s nose. “I mean, with air travel, disease can spread around the world in no time.”

Margery shook her head as she watched her four-year-old son go down the slide. “The people with the illness are not rich enough to travel. We’re safe enough.”

We all nodded but I wondered. I took pre-med in college before transferring into computer science. Disease was no respecter of socio-economic classes. Look at the plague back in medieval Europe or the flu back in the 1900’s. Millions of dead. Europe lost so many people modern historians marvel that the continent recovered.

I mentioned it at dinner that night.

Ron nodded. “It’s all everyone was talking about at work. Apparently, there is something going around in the bigger cities.”

It felt like my heart was in my throat. “What kind of something?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Lot’s of kids sick. But it’s all a rumor. There’s nothing on TV about it.”

After dinner was cleaned up and Ron was watching a recorded game, I got on the internet and did a search. Pictures put up by private individuals showed grieving parents. YouTube videos showed anguished parents pleading with everyone to stay home and not go out in public. A fungus they said. Some kind of deadly fungus.
I told Ron.

“Can’t be. It would be public by now if there were that many cases.” He went back to the game.

I could hear Becca begin to cry over the baby monitor.

I went upstairs. The poor thing was screaming as I went into the bedroom. “That’s okay, sweetheart. Momma’s here.” I picked her up. Out of the spot where her skull met her neck, something white sprang out.

I screamed, holding Becca out from me face down in the crook of my arm, something long and white. Blood seeped from around the base of it.

Ron came racing in.

“Call 911. Something’s wrong!” I sobbed as Becca kept screaming.

Cordyceps, the doctor said. A new, virulent strain of fungus. By the end of two years, every child under the age of five was dead.

Words: 1000

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Four Doomsdays – Doomsday Two: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Monsoon River in my Back Yard

I watched from my backyard—luckily a high spot—as a storm cell, a super cell, formed to the south. The fifth one in as many months. Damn! I’d just repaired the roof. I went to the front yard and rang the bell I’d found after the first storm in a local antique shop.

Once, a life-time ago, my sister-in-law used a similar bell to call my niece, Nell, in from her explorations, for dinner. Why didn’t I just call the neighbors? The phones and internet went out with the first storm and were never restored.  Power went out the second storm. That did return but storm three killed it. Apparently forever.

I sighed. My neighbors and friends around town finally stopped claiming climate change was a hoax. Many of them, all over sixty, were dead. Like my husband who had been out looking for supplies, killed by one of the hoard of refugees swarming out of the big cities. Or like our friend, Rick, who was on the roof too long making last second repairs just before a storm hit. Dead. My neighbor to the left, the other side of the drainage ditch, was critically injured as super storm two drove a tree from the empty lot across the street through the front door of his house, right through his chest.

It was a struggle getting him to the hospital, debris littered every flooded road. When we got there injured crowded the emergency room and halls. There were too many injured and not enough staff or medicine. As a 20-year retiree from the Air Force, I could see the doc shake his head at the triage nurse. She made my neighbor as comfortable as they could but he was dead in half and hour. As the neighbor, I told his wife. She went pale. Then tears began to flow but she never made a sound. I sat with her all night, relieved by another neighbor in the morning. kShe died two weeks later. I’m not sure if it was grief or just that she’d run out of her diabetes medicine.

All of us worked together in our immediate neighborhood as best we could but at sixty-five I was the youngest. It was summer but none of us had real fireplaces or even wood stoves. We were cooking over campfires in our front yards with fallen branches and downed trees. There were certainly plenty of those. All of our houses had piped in gas. I’d gone down to the gas company after the first storm and asked how to turn off the gas. Once mine was off, I went to all of the neighbors and got them to turn theirs off. Three days later across town, a house blew, taking a block and a half of neighborhood with it.

Supplies were scarce as the highway up from the major city was blocked by landslides. Without power we were using hand tools to do just about anything. The local hardware stores were major hubs of exchange and advice. The newspaper was also a spot of major importance. They posted messages in their windows and amazingly, they had an antique press in the basement. Probably the only basement in town. They put out a paper a week with news from the state and federal government, what was left of them, information about deaths, where supplies could be located, and food. Food was very important.

My tiny vegetable garden had been ripped to shreds the first storm. The local community garden as well. People with food allergies, like me, were suffering. Many had died, just as those with severe injuries or major issues, like my neighbor’s diabetes. I had gotten some tips from an old-timer about snares. I’d gotten some rabbits. I’d hunt but my husband and I had never had gun. None of my neighbors did either. A small meat market had sprung up in front of the now defunct Walmart from local hunters selling their excess deer, elk, and javalina. Money was gone, it was worthless. Everything was by barter. Civilization as we’d once known it was gone.

How’d this happen? Simple. We’d ignored the climate scientists for too long. I’d demonstrated in front of our state capital for changes to environmental laws but the right in this state and others, was too strong. The arctic and Antarctic ice caps began melting at ever increasing rates. The Pacific current became warmer, as moisture from the melting ice caps not only flooded into the oceans but rose into the air. The heat and the moisture began making storms. Bigger and bigger storms. Then the tundra in Russia, Canada, Alaska and other northern places began to thaw releasing ancient carbon dioxide into the air. It has been a perfect storm, after storm, after storm.

It didn’t matter now, I thought as I went to check my backyard fence. The drainage ditch, twelve feet deep, flooded every super storm. My fence was washing out. There was nothing I could do about it. I worried about my house, at the edge of the ditch. Would this storm wash it out? Like the country and the world, I had to just survive.

The wind was picking up. As I watched the storm come in I realized, Mother Nature was doing what we wouldn’t do, fix the imbalance.

 

Thank You!

891 Words

 

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Fourth of July, Giveaways, Writing : Monday Blog Post

Newest News:

Fourth of July already! Did you take several days off or are you starting today and taking off through Wednesday? Since I’m retired, I don’t have to take time off from work but hubby and I decided to just stay home and chill out. We’ll do our usual Tuesday hike with the local hiking group for our excitement and I’ll be at my town’s 4th of July festival in a booth to promote the upcoming Northern Gila County Fair. I’m excited about that. It should be fun. Whatever you’ve decided or decide to do, stay safe and come home healthy.

See below for two new giveaways!

Connie Promoting the Payson Book Festival and talking to a customre about her books.

I had a blast at Saturday’s Farmer’s Market. Lots of people were interested in hearing about the book festival and many stopped to chat about my books. All in all it was a great visit but hot and breezy!

meteor_by_brandonstricker-d6ai470 via DeviantArt.com

I’ve decided to do the next three Friday flash fiction stories on Doomsday. I did one last Friday and I’m still thinking about what to do for story number 2. What do you consider doomsday?

Giveaways:

The 2018 Authors/Bloggers Spring Giveaway at http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/giveaways-and-prizes/ has ended. As soon as the admin generates the winners, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, here’s the 2018 Authors/Bloggers Summer Giveaway. https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/giveaways-and-prizes/. There’s $80 as a Grand Prize Paypal Cash and 27 books and 27 prizes available to win.

Also, July is the Smashwords site’s Summer/Winter Giveaway. I have books ranging from free to 25% or even 75% off. I don’t usually do this so if you’re interested in some discounts, this is your month! You can find a list of all of my books at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/conniecockrell with the discounts already marked. Enjoy!

Shout Out:

Here’s a shout out to Marsha Ward, an Amazon best-selling author who writes authentic historical fiction set in 19th Century America. She is a multi-published writer, editor, workshop presenter, mentor, and consultant. Marsha has written five novels in The Owen Family Saga, another that begins the Promised Valley series; and many other works. A former journalist, Marsha is the recipient of the 2015 Whitney Lifetime Achievement Award and President of Rim Country Chapter of APW.

Marsha’s latest work is Lies and Secrets. This is a 3-story collection filling in more of the Owen Family saga.

Scandalous: An Owen Family Story

Young Julianna Owen didn’t think flirting with Parley Morgan at the barn raising would lead him to put his hands where they ought not to be. But even worse, her sister discovers them, and Parley abandons her, running off into the woods.

Julianna’s strict father has found where she is hiding, and her world on the Colorado frontier is crashing down around her ears. She thought love and romance was only about going on picnics and holding hands, not rough kisses and hurtful pawing.

Now the consequences of her actions might be beyond what she can bear.

In the 1866 Owen Family universe, Scandalous shines a light on teen hormones run amok during a trying time in the family’s story, as it ties up a loose thread from the novel, Spinster’s Folly.

Review: “Be careful what you wish for; you might just get it. I love the Owen Family stories. The love of family and the adventures are made so real in Mrs. Ward’s writings. Details are so vivid a reader can feel themselves there.”

Broken: A Shenandoah Neighbors Story

Rida Owen didn’t know married life on the Colorado frontier could be so difficult. Nothing in her Catholic upbringing prepared her for long, lonely nights when her husband, Bert, goes drinking. And womanizing. And then comes home to beat her.

Her mother-in-law thinks she’s stuck up when she doesn’t participate in homestead washday. Rida only wants to hide her bruises and preserve her marriage.

Then a neighbor from her past stops to say hello and reveals a secret of his own.

Broken is a Shenandoah Neighbors story that illuminates a dark corner of the Owen Family universe in 1875.

Review: “Marsha Ward writes a compelling story of strength and endurance, beautifully worded and detailed to the post Civil War era.”

Bloodied Leather: A Shenandoah Neighbors Story

Isabelle Gilbert chafes against the restrictions that Victorian life puts on a young lady.

Forced to accept a betrothal to Percival Egmont, an English ex-patriot like her father, she is disturbed by his passion for prize-fighting—and other pursuits. And what if Mama spots the bruise on her cheek?

Then shared secrets perplex Isabelle even more.

A Shenandoah Neighbor story, Bloodied Leather extends the Owen Family universe into 1886.

Review: “An interesting short story with good characterization and dialogue that says more than the words alone. So worth the read.”
~~~

Read the stories free on KindleUnlimited, or get your copy today before the price goes up. Link to Amazon

Learn more at http://marshaward.com The Facebook author page link is

https://www.facebook.com/authormarshaward/

https://www.amazon.com/Marsha-Ward/e/B003RB9P9Q/

 

Where Will I Be?

Check my website, http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/where-will-i-be/ for my future engagements.

My next event adventure is the Payson Book Festival. www.PaysonBookFestival.org. We’re completing the final touches and now heavily promoting the festival. It’s again at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino ballroom. The organizer there is so wonderful to work with. At any rate, we’ll have 80 authors, entertainment, children’s story times (yep, more than one!) and of course the casino has great food in it’s restaurants. Hope to see you there.

Newsletter Sign Up:

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. I’ve put sign-up gifts on the regular and the SciFi/Fantasy and the Cozy Mystery newsletter sign-ups. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. Be prepared for fun and contests! Click on the video link for a short video from me. Hear what I’m working on. Join my “A” Team to be the first to read my books and hear what new books are coming.

Don’t forget to follow my blog, too. Different material goes in the blog as in the newsletter. You can share both, so spread the word!

Newest Book Release:

Tested released January 31st and I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords, today! You can also see all my books on http://conniesrandomthoughts.com/my-books-and-other-published-work/. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a short, honest, review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s critical to help me promote the books to other readers. Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reading my blog. Like all of the other work I do as an author, it takes time and money. If you enjoy this Monday blog and the Friday free story and the recipe I put up on the 25th of every month, consider donating to https://www.paypal.me/ConniesRandomThought. I appreciate any donation to help support this blog.

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Four Doomsdays – Doom One: Flash Fiction Friday Post

meteor_by_brandonstricker-d6ai470 via DeviantArt.com

The social media feeds and the news outlets and the television and the radio had been blasting for weeks. Everybody had an opinion, but no one really knew anything. I know I’d been hearing about a nuclear attack since I was a child, hiding under our school desks, arms over our heads at the sound of the alarm.

I thought our leadership was nuts. The president, especially. Ranting one minute, friends with all the foreign leaders the next. The Congress was nearly as bad. It was all or nothing all the time. No one wanted to compromise. If a person tuned into foreign news broadcasts, they were calling us out of control.

I kept my head down and took care of my farm. What else was I going to do? I didn’t travel to a whole other planet to stand around whining. People needed to eat and I was good at farming, so I stuck to that.

This is, until the bombs fell. Well, not bombs, actually, just asteroids. I knew that they could be just as destructive, but, my brain, at least, never grasped it fully. Made sense, after all. Why contaminate the environment? The blast from the rocks hitting pretty much was the same as with nukes. Each one wiped out what it hit. Each one also threw so much dirt and dust into the air, the land was cut off from the sun. It got cold. The crops died in the fields. Survivors scavenged across the countryside like a cloud of locusts, stealing anything they could get their hands on.

Me and other farmers, we tried. Bert Spark lost his wife Ann when a mad pack of survivors attacked their farm. Ann was trying to keep them from stealing everything in the cupboards, she had kids to feed, too. But they overwhelmed her and took everything, including her life.

Bert was hurt trying to keep them from stealing the chickens. After that, we consolidated on my farm as it was the most defensible. Everyone brought their stock, any feed they had, food supplies, bedding, the whole lot. We were sleeping in every room of my house but the kitchen and the baths. It worked for a while. That is until the survivors banded together and raided police and army weapons caches.

We had shotguns, some hunting rifles, and were totally out-matched. They shot the livestock and took the carcasses. They surrounded us and wouldn’t let us leave the house. They had trucks and took all the animals they didn’t shoot. Then they raided the barns. There went all the small stock and the feed stores. We lost six farmers in all, four men and two women. I was surprised to see them all drive off without raiding the house. I guess they figured they didn’t need to. We were beat.

Winter came early and we struggled through that. We set traps and caught rabbits and game birds. There was a lot of thin soup. Spring was cold and wet, no good at all for growing crops with the seed we’d saved. We did forage but not much vegetation on this new world was good for humans to eat. We lost the oldest among us. I think she just gave up as we found her in her bed, dead. We lost a couple of the toddlers, too. They caught cold, then pneumonia, and there just wasn’t any medicine to give them. We had a nice spot on a hill, overlooking the farm, where they were all buried.

It never really did get to be summer. The dust in the air kept the planet from warming. The second winter was bad. We lost three more. I’m not sure if it was starvation or disease. Either one had the same outcome. When the calendar said it should be spring, we started getting messages from Earth. Surrender, the messages said, and there would be help coming.

We sent a message out surrendering. Hell, if someone would come and bring food, that was good enough for us. We kept a person on the monitors all the time. Some fool on the coast decided to put up a fight. Moron. That kept help from arriving. We still didn’t have enough warmth to plant. None of us thought we could make it another year.

Then a jet flew over the farm. Those of us outside just stood and stared, mouths open. Days later, military trucks came driving up the road. By the time they parked, we were all outside. Some young Captain got out and soldiers poured out of the back in full fighting gear. I sighed as they surrounded us. There was no point, really. We didn’t have enough strength left to fight them.

He read a long announcement about how we were conquered and were now citizens of Earth. A local planetary government would be established and we’d be taxed to pay for the war. We had to sign a surrender, then they gave us rations. I asked for seed and livestock for us all. We were ready to get back to farming. He said that would all be coming. LeAnn asked for more rations as we were starving. A couple of soldiers took a couple of cases from the last truck and handed them over. LeAnn started crying. The Captain signaled and the soldiers got back on the truck. We were reminded to keep listening to the broadcasts as he got into his seat. We all nodded and he and the convoy drove off.

I heard that there were pockets of resistance. No matter to me. When the seed and livestock arrived, everyone divided evenly and went back to their own farms. It was tough. The weather didn’t really get back to normal for three more years. It was tough to pay the taxes, but whatever. Life is just tough, isn’t it?

Words: 981

Next week, Doom Two

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Haunted: Flash Fiction Friday Post

screamer-by_eurai at https://www.deviantart.com/art/Screamer-29923535

https://www.deviantart.com/art/Screamer-29923535

“Where’d you get the parts?” Lieutenant Wong studied the inventory on his crystal.

“From a salvage company. They recovered the Del Rio from Hippolita Four.” MaintTech Dora Soledad checked her crystal. “Shame about the Del Rio.”

Wong nodded and clicked off his crystal. “Yeah. Three hundred and twenty-seven colonists and the whole crew, dead.” He sighed. “Okay. We’ll go with these. Start with the engine. That capacitor is way over due for replacement.”

Dora nodded. Wouldn’t be if the company cared about anything but the bottom line, she thought. Wong turned and left the maintenance shop. Dora went over to the shelf where the capacitors were stored. She looked over the parts. They all looked pretty good, so she picked one, grabbed her took kit, and headed for the engine room.

The Chief Engineer, Sue Goode, was sitting watch at her boards and greeted Dora when she arrived. “No kidding, there are parts?”

“Yeah.” Dora grinned. “I grabbed a whole list of parts as soon as I saw them come up on the sales boards. Used but in good condition.”

“Fantastic.” Sue grinned back. “About time.”

Dora put the part in, tested it, and was done in an hour. She gave Sue a wave as she left.

The next day she was at the noon mess with the third engineer, Dave Bookman. “It was creepy down in engineering last night.” He sighed. “I kept hearing things.”

“What kind of things?” Dora took a sip of her soup.

Dave shrugged. “It sounded like screaming.”

Dora’s eyebrow rose. “Screaming.”

“Yeah! I checked over that whole engine. Everything in the room. Couldn’t find anything wrong.” Dave shuddered. “Creepy.”

Dora nodded. “Sure.”

Two days later, she was walking along a passageway when she caught sight of something from the corner of her eye. When she turned to see it, it drifted away, like smoke, through the bulkhead. She shook her head. That wasn’t possible. Seeing things, she thought, and went on her way.

At the evening mess, it was all the talk. Just about everyone had seen or heard something. Just inside hearing range, or just about in sight, it was scaring everyone. “What could it be?” Dave asked her. “Are we all going nuts?”

“Everyone? All at once?” Dora shook her head. “I’m not buying it.”

“Well, something is happening.” He crossed his arms. “What’s the Captain going to do about it?”

Dora shrugged. “He can’t stop people from seeing things, Dave.”

Dave stood and picked up his tray. “I guess. But something is going on.”

Dora finished her meal after Dave left. Thinking about it. Finished, she went to see the Lieutenant. “Sir. Have you heard about the ghosts?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been hearing stuff myself.” He studied her. “You?”

“I’ve seen something, not sure what.”

“Okay. What do you have?”

“It seems to me the sightings started after I began using the parts from the Del Rio”

He rubbed his chin. “How do you figure?”

The sighting I had was in the hall where I’d replaced a fan blade the day before in the air handling system. Dave Bookman heard screaming the night I replaced the capacitor in the engine room. I’ve been listening to people talk about where they were when they had a sighting. It’s all places I’ve worked over the last three days.” She took a breath. “Where were you when you heard stuff?”

He thought a moment. “Outside the bridge, for one.”

“I replaced the switch plate to the door.”

“Let’s talk to the Captain.”

They met in the Captain’s ready room and explained Dora’s theory. “And how did it happen?” he asked.

“I heard the Del Rio crashed hard, Sir. Quite a psychic shock. Drove their, souls, I guess, right into the nearest thing.”

The Captain nodded. “Sounds like a lot of hooey to me.”

“What can we do about it?” Wong asked.

“Nothing. It’s a figment of people’s imaginations.”

“But Sir,” Dora started to speak. He cut her off.

“No. I’m not buying it. Dismissed.”

Dora spent the next week doing her best not to use any parts from the Del Rio but often, they were the only parts available. Apparitions hung clearly beside the shelves and racks in the Maintenance Office. She tried to talk to them, reassure them, but it didn’t seem they could hear her.

People were starting to look haggard, especially the people who were hearing screaming. Dave Bookman collapsed and had to be taken to the clinic where they sedated him.

The Captain showed up in the Maintenance Office, stopping short just inside the doorway. His eyes grew bigger as he looked around the crowded room. “How long?” He gestured at the ghosts.

“Four days.” Dora looked around. “I try to talk to them. But no response.”

He rubbed his cheek. “I’ll check with the doctor.”

Dora nodded as he left and went back to work.

The doc started in the Maintenance Office. “Captain said you’ve been talking to them.”

“Yeah. It doesn’t help, though.”

“Supportive counseling, it’s called.” He watched the ghosts as they drifted around the room. Better is what you’ve already done, in vivo exposure. They’ve been put back on a space ship. Eventually they’ll see that nothing bad is happening and they’ll get better. Probably disappear.” He turned to her. “They don’t bother you, interfere in any way, anything?”

“Nope. They just drift around. I walk around them, though. It seems rude to walk through them.”

The doc nodded. “Yeah. I can see that. Just keep talking to them. It’s about the best we can do.”

He gave the people who could hear screaming drugs to keep them calm and set others to talking to the parts that had been installed around the ship.

It took three months for the first of the ghosts to disappear. Last to go were the screamers, the shock of their death more acute with them. Dora was a little sad to see her ghosts go. They were good company.

Words: 1000

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Out of Touch: Flash Fiction Friday Story

https://www.deviantart.com/art/A-Lineage-of-Flip-Top-Communicators-Grids-Opened-419088744 by Galaxy1701d via DeviantArt.com

“But I’m waiting for a call back!”

“I’m sorry Miz An. You’re on the twenty-hour plan.” He looked at me archly. “Unless, of course, you want to upgrade to the twenty-four-hour plan.”

I closed my eyes so he couldn’t see me roll them. “No. I can’t afford that.” I sucked in a deep breath, trying to think. I really needed this job or I’d be on the ten-hour plan. “Look. Why can’t I just pay for four hours.”

I thought his eyes were going to pop out. “Miz An! That is not possible. I mean,” he rolled his eyes, “the cost!” Then he looked at me, assessing whether I was lying about my financial status. “You can afford the hourly rate?”

I couldn’t afford the hourly rate. But I could borrow credits from my mom. The recruiter was in Japan. I needed to be available for the call as soon as they decided, which was supposed to be o-dark-thirty my time. “I can handle the cost of four hours.” I put on my confident face.

He took another breath. “Very well. That will be one-hundred and twenty credits. Will that be hard credits or your swipe?”

Crap. I didn’t have the hard credits or nearly enough on my swipe. “Uh.” I dug my comm out of my pocket and looked at the screen. “Look. I have to take this call. It’s about work.” I hurried out of the store but in the door reflection I could see him shaking his head. I held the comm up to my ear to make the ruse real and left. Out of sight, I stuffed the comm back in my pocket and leaned back onto the building.

Mom would still be at work and her company did not allow people to use their comm while on duty. Back in the day there was too much data trading so now, people had to give up their comms at the security desk and pick them up at break, lunch, or after work. Who else could I get the credits from. I called my sister.

“Hey, Kari. What’s going on?”

“Lynn.” I could hear the baby screaming in the background. “Nothin’ much. Little Johnny has an ear infection.”

“Sounds rough.”

“Yeah.”

I could see her run a hand through her failed pony tail. Hair was hanging loose all around her face. “He’s been screaming for five hours straight. The clinic said the meds would kick in soon.”

That didn’t bode well for me. “Uh. I need a favor.”

She looked me square in the screen. “No. Didn’t you just hear me say I had to buy meds?” Kari shook her head. “Unbelievable.”

“I had to try. It’s getting late and I need four hours on my comm plan for a job notification.”

“How do you know they’re going to call you.”

I sighed. Big sister jabs always hurt. “I’ll admit I haven’t always been the most reliable, Kari, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to get this job. But not if I don’t have a comm for them to call me on.”

“Where’s the job?”

“Tokyo.”

Her eyes went wide. “Japan?”

“Yep.”

A look of surprise, then an impressed look crossed her face. Finally. I did something she approved of. “Good for you. Get out of this dying excuse for a city.” Her face fell. “How much do you need?”

“Hundred twenty.”

“Holy crap, Lynn! We don’t have that kind of spread.” I watched her rub an eye. I knew this was going to be a tough sell. “I don’t have a spare credit, Lynn.” She looked so sad as she pulled out a kitchen chair and sat down. Her shoulders slumped and she rested her elbow on the table. She looked totally defeated.

“Sorry, Kari. I am. I’ll find the credits somewhere.”

She bit her bottom lip. “You know John just got that new job. He doesn’t get paid till the end of the month.”

I held up my hand. “Don’t worry about it. Mom get’s off at midnight. I’ll try her.”

“That’s cutting it close.”

“Sure.” I nodded but put on a happy face for her. She and John had been struggling even before little Johnny came along. “It’ll work out.” We traded good-bye’s and I clicked off.

I shoved off of the wall and began to walk. At a little park, well lit, I sat on a bench. There were lots of people out and about. It was a twenty-four-hour world after all. I called several friends, watching the time click closer and closer to midnight. Everyone was in the same boat as me. At midnight I had no choice. I called mom. The comm went to voice-mail. I waited ten minutes and called again.

“Lynn.”

“Hey, mom. How are you?”

“Tired. It’s after midnight, what do you need?”

That was my mom, right to the point. I explained the situation.

“You think you’re going to get the job?”

“I do.”

“Well. I guess. What do you need?”

“Just send me the credits. I’ll pay you back. Really.”

She gave me the stink eye. I’d been lax about that before. “You’d better.” I watched her punch the screen. “Okay. It’s done. Get your time.”

“Thanks, Mom. You’re the best.” I clicked off and hurried to the comm store. The clerk I’d dealt with was gone. A girl was at the counter. “I’d like to buy four hours, please. Added to my current plan.”

She looked at me like I’d grown a second head. “That can’t be done.”

“Yes. It can. I talked to the guy you replaced. It costs a hundred twenty for four hours.”

It was obvious she didn’t believe me. She checked her comm. “I guess.” She took her time punching in the order but eventually she asked for my swipe. I held the comm to hers. They both beeped. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had the time. Now, if I could just get the job.

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Time for Tea and Treachery: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Tea Set by Connie Cockrell

Tea. My mom always told me it can fix just about anything. An ice-cold glass on a hot summer day after working in the garden makes everything seem right with the world. A nice hot mug of a mint and menthol tea, your face over the rising steam, is the best thing when you have a cold or it’s allergy season. Or a cup with your best friend as she sobs over the break-up with her boyfriend. That one needs pots of tea.

Today, though. Today was a different kind of day. The table was set with my best tablecloth and tea china. I’d selected a Lapsang Souchong tea for its smoky flavor and aroma. It was steeping in its pot in the kitchen as I expected my guest, Zuri Anranyo, any moment. I added a final cookie to the plate on the table then took the package back to the kitchen.

I took a deep breath. Time to put on some soothing classical music. By the time I had it playing on repeat, the doorbell rang.

I invited Zuri in after we hugged. I’m not much of a hugger but Zuri was so I endured the gesture.

“How lovely!” Zuri sat as she looked over the table. She leaned over the low bowl of roses on the table and sniffed. “What a wonderful scent.”

“I picked them this morning.”

“You did?” She shook her head. “You’re a super woman, Orly. Is there anything you can’t do?”

I smiled. “Oh, I’m sure there is. I just haven’t found it yet.” I gave a mock flip of my hand and she laughed. “I’ll be right back.” In the kitchen I took the tea ball out of the pot and put the pot on a tray with a plate of tiny sandwiches then took it into the morning room. “Tea and sandwiches. A proper English tea time.” I put the tray on the table. “Let me pour.”

“This looks wonderful, Orly.”

I poured tea for her and for me, then sat down. “Help yourself to the sandwiches. There are cucumber and a pate. Take what you like.” I watched as she selected one of each, then handed me the plate. I took what she did and put my napkin in my lap. “There is milk and sugar,” I said as I pointed out the little pitcher and the sugar bowl.

She poured some milk into her tea then two lumps of sugar. “Thank you for inviting me, Orly. After…” she shook her hand in a stopping motion. “After Bob came with me, well, it’s kind of you, anyway.”

I ground my teeth together but smiled. “You’re my best friend, Zuri. And, as for Bob, the heart wants what it wants, right.” I ignored the burning lump in my chest.

Zuri nodded and sipped her tea. She made a bit of a face. “That smoky tea, what’s it called?”

“Lapsang Souchong. I love it.” I knew she didn’t. I didn’t much care. “It goes well with the pate.”

She nodded and took a bite of the sandwich with pate. “Oh. Yes. It does.”

I watched as she ate the sandwich and then the cucumber one as well. She looked around the table. I knew she was looking for water, anything to wash the sandwiches down without having to drink the tea. I deliberately hadn’t put any out. I wanted her to drink that tea. I picked up my cup and put my lips to the rim but didn’t drink. She took another sandwich.

“I’ll admit I’m a bit famished.” She patted her lips with the napkin. “I totally skipped lunch. I wanted to get some of the wedding planning done and I knew I’d be here with you this afternoon and didn’t want to rush.” She looked me in the eyes and put a hand over mine across the table. “Things have been strained, I know. And, well, I’ve wanted to make up with you for months.”

I nodded. “I know. It’s,” I took a breath, “awkward, is all.”

She patted my hand and picked up her tea. Zuri sipped.

“Let me get you a cookie.” I handed her the plate and she took two. She always had a sweet tooth. “Your favorite.”

She smiled. She loved those crispy lemon cookies with the large crystals of sugar sprinkled on top. I’d gone clear across town to the bakery where she bought them, just to make her feel comfortable. I watched her bite into one, eyes closed, savoring the clean lemon flavor. “Ummm, these are so good. Did you get them from LaMont’s?”

“I did.”

“LaMont’s is the best. Thank you.” She finished the cookie and sipped more tea. “You know, this tea really goes with the tartness of these cookies.”

“I thought so too.” I picked up my cup and pretended to sip again. “Now tell me about your wedding plans.”

I listened to her drone on for an hour. I made sure her tea cup stayed full and the sandwiches and cookies were close to her hand. When she left, I closed the door. If she kept eating like that she was going to need a bigger dress. Then I snorted. No, she wouldn’t.

Bob called me the next morning. I could hardly understand him for all the blubbering. “She’s dead, Orly.”

I made the appropriate noises. “I’m so sorry, Bob.”

“She was so relieved when you invited her to tea. Thank you, Orly, for giving her a lovely afternoon.”

“My pleasure.” I smiled as I hung up. I’d cleaned up everything yesterday afternoon. One last thing remained. I pulled the bottle of poison from under the sink and dumped it down the drain. I rinsed it several times, soaked the label off of the bottle and taking them with me, tossed the bottle in a dumpster at a gas station on the other side of town. I threw the label in another dumpster in mid-town. No one would ever know.

999 words

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Thirty Years: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Cold

You may remember I follow the Chuck Wendig blog over on TerribleMinds.com. He likes to toss out story prompts and see what the writers who follow him come up with. The stories are usually awesome, there are some great writers out there. Anyway, the most recent prompt was to write about revenge. Here’s my take on it.

Thirty Years

Joe didn’t even notice, at first. I start small. On his commute to work, I got mud on his trouser leg. He was annoyed, of course, but it barely registered with him. Then it was a wrong number, right in the middle of his presentation. You’d think he’d know enough to turn off his cell in a situation like that.

Then it was a flat tire on his car, just when he was about to take his second wife out to dinner. Life is so stressful. Just one more thing to aggravate a man. I cancelled his hotel reservation at his conference. He ended up paying extra after spending half an hour at the hotel desk. He missed his client dinner. His boss wasn’t very happy. Then I cancelled his order for his wife’s anniversary present. It was such a lovely sapphire and diamond necklace, too. He was on her shit list for a month.

I hacked his work computer and made files disappear. More trouble with the boss. He was passed up for that promotion he’d wanted. Wife wasn’t happy about that, either. I helped that along by planting a note in his pocket, lightly scented and written in lavender-colored ink, all hearts and flowers. She left the next day.

Under a lot of stress at his job, he made mistakes I didn’t create. He was let go six weeks after wifey left. That’s when the drinking really took off. I didn’t even have to drain his bank account. The wife handled that all on her own. The home owner’s association began hassling him because he was letting the yard go. Those fines really start to add up. It only took six months for him to lose the house all together. You’ve got to keep up the mortgage payments, and that’s tough to do when you can’t get a job. His old boss wouldn’t provide a letter of recommendation. That really looks bad to the prospective employer.

The police started showing up at the crappy apartment he rented, after an anonymous tip said he was building bombs. The landlord tossed him out. He was reduced to sleeping in a homeless shelter, where everything he didn’t have on was stolen, even his shoes. I didn’t do that. Not out of generosity, I just never thought of it. The homeless were doing my job for me.

He started begging on the street, a bottle of cheap booze tucked into the pocket of his thrift store jacket. The cops arrested him for taking a leak at the back of a building. Now he had a record, on top of all the other problems. His downward spiral hardly needed me to do anything any longer.

It was winter when they let him go. They found him, frozen, in the dumpster he was in trying to stay warm. My job was done.

Joe was number six. The last one. Now I could breathe. I was free. Free from the memory of those six college football players who thought it was funny to grab a hundred-pound girl heading to her dorm from a night study at the library. They took turns. Laughing, drinking, having a good time. My life was ruined. I couldn’t concentrate on my studies so I dropped out. I had nightmares. I went to support groups. None of that helped. But then one day, it occurred to me that I could make their lives a living hell, just like they did to me. So I took computer classes. I studied psychology. I apprenticed at a stock brokerage to learn finance. Then I started on the list.

One at a time. Some of them collapsed fast. Number four took ten years. But Joe was the last one. Revenge is best served cold, they say. Thirty years, cold, by my experience.

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Yellowstone Arrival: Flash Fiction Friday Post

In June of 2017, my husband and I traveled up to Yellowstone National Park to visit a friend and see the sights. This describes the entrance to the park.

A Bison studies us as we pass by on the entrance to the park. A Bison is the size of a sedan.

We left the sun-baked desert and entered a world of green.

Flat and green, it seemed to run forever.

Crops and houses and schools.

Tame.

Safe.

It was a surprise when we entered the tunnel.

It ran for miles.

Lodgepole pines small and great.

Once in a while they opened and before us ran rivers and meadows,

dotted with great hulking brown shaggy behemoths,

placid in the impermanent sunshine.

Wild.

Dangerous.

Boiling mud, steaming water, birds and fish, elk and bison, cliffs and meadows, rivers and streams.

Our hearts beat quicker.

This is where we’re meant to be.

Not hemmed in.

Not scheduled by mere clocks, but by the sun and moon.

I take my meeting on a wind-blown hilltop,

The earth spread below me in a cloud-dappled wonder,

The way the first human saw it.

It is good.

 

Thank You!

139 Words

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

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It’s So Beautiful: Flash Fiction Friday Post

New Babylon by DigitalCutti on DeviantArt

I was scrolling through Pinterest, a SciFi page, and saw the above picture. It looked so lovely. A place I wanted to go. But a story about a beautiful place with lovely, generous people who would help a bunch of refugees sounded like a boring story. So I came up with this. If it reminds you of The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells and Morlocks, well, yes. Read on.

It’s So Beautiful

We gathered around the monitors as if around ancient campfires.

“I thought it was a lie,” my best friend Jazana breathed softly, as though she didn’t want to break a dream.

“They said it was true.” My response was lame but I was too fascinated with what was on the monitor to think of a sharper comeback. Jazana was right. None of us had really believed what our board of governors had told us. Oh, yes. They’d shown us pictures. Both of Helicity, the new world, and of our old world, Earth System One, Ganymede.

The old world, which I clearly remembered, was a pit of corporate greed and too many people in too small a space. The ship, Rebellion, was put together secretly, though the details we were given were fuzzy. I mean, how’d the leaders of the rebellion hide a whole space ship? But anyway, we were loaded on in secret, shoved into cryo-pods and frozen. They’d woken us two years ago and began teaching us skills.

Jazana wrapped an arm around me. We were both orphans. Somehow both of our sets of parents had died in the pods. I sighed. The world looked so good on long-range. Modern, clean, beautiful. There wasn’t a trace of smog on the screen. As the planet rotated and our ship drew closer, we could see that the whole planet was like that. I dashed the tears from my eyes.

Jazana and I were in the same track, engineering with a minor in leadership. We were going to be management. There were lots of engineering lessons. We were the ones taking care of this ship. But there were also lessons on leadership and government. Economics, too, and social engineering. One day one of us could be the governor. Leader of our rebellion colony. Helicity was a stopgap home. We’d learned that the info about Helicity had been stolen. None of our data had indicated if Earth System had ever visited the planet. It was a risk, our teachers had told us. But one worth while if we could find a planet of our own.

A week later our leaders shuttled down to Helicity, their capital city of Tatham, to meet with their planetary leaders. I could hardly concentrate on our pulse engine power coupling lesson as thoughts about what was going on whirled through my head. A spanner banged down next to my hand on the cover of the coupling.

“Bang, Zuri. Congratulations. You’ve just killed us all.” Sergeant Aranyo glared at me.

I blushed to the roots of my blonde hair. “Sorry, Sergeant Aranyo. I lost my concentration.”

“Pull your head out. Start again. All of you. Thank Zuri for it.”

I had a sympathetic look from Jazana but the other five cadets gave me a glare. That was going to cost me. Probably my dinner. My stomach growled. We’d been on short rations for the last six months. I couldn’t afford to give up my dinner, but it looked like Jaque, the Captain’s son, biggest bully in our age group, was going to make me pay. The others went along because it was just easier that way. No one wanted Jaque’s attention on them. No one would stick up for me against that, despite all the training that said otherwise.

After dinner, the board of governors shared pictures of Tatham as they rode in hover cars from the landing pad to the Council chambers. It was so beautiful. There was no word on whether they’d let us stay, give us supplies, or even give us the address of another planet. It was too early, the Governor Prime said. I believed him. He was such a kindly looking man.

We worked all week, different engine systems each day, with combat training tossed in to keep us in shape. Somehow, I was always paired with Jaque. I had the bruises to prove it. The seventh day I limped to the medic. She took a look at my knee.

“It’s not broken, just bruised. I don’t have any pain meds. I have to save them for serious cases.”

I nodded. That’s the way things went on our ship. Too little of everything.

“Keep a cold pack on it when you’re not working.” She handed one to me. “Bring it back in three days.”

“Of course.”

On the tenth day, the Governor was back on the monitor. A deal had been struck. We were going to be allowed to move into the city—get jobs, while the council of Helicity decided on a home planet for us.

The cheering could be heard all over the ship.

Off-loading began on day twelve. I had everything of value I owned in my duffle. Jazana and the other girls from my cabin were in line with me. We couldn’t stop grinning. We talked about what new food there would be and how much of it. We talked about walking in the sunlight, breathing fresh air, getting pretty clothes instead of ragged ship suits.

Off the ship we were loaded onto transports and taken through the downtown out to the countryside. I was so excited. Even when we entered a tunnel, I didn’t think anything of it. We were off loaded into a cavernous space with cement-looking walls. We were escorted to various halls, separated into different rooms in some random-seeming fashion. I was separated from Jazana.

I was led to a conveyor belt and shown how to attach one strange widget to another. Then the belt started. We worked for hours, then given a dry ration and a bottle of water in a room with at least a hundred cots. I was too tired to eat and fell asleep.

The same happened the next day and the next. It’s been fifty years. I haven’t seen Jazana. There are rumors, of course, that we’d been sold to save the rest. And the shock collars, to keep us in line. I haven’t seen the sun in all that time.

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