Below the Surface

Friday Fictioneers 09-05

Photo Copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

“Tell me the story again, Mommy,” begged Myrtle.

“Once more, then sleep, sweetheart,” Olive replied.

“There once was a sprout who tried to push out, but she just couldn’t find her way. She looked to the sun, but there was none, blinded by lazy haze. She called to the rain, but it fell in a blaze, so the sprout just withered away.”

“Mommy, will I ever see real plants and rain and sun and a bonfire under the stars?”

“Someday, when it’s safe outside, maybe we’ll discover a sprout up on the surface. Until then, we have our cyber-nature.”


This far-fetched tale brought to you by the Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. The challenge is to write a 100-word or less story based on the photo. I heard a rumor that today (9/4) is Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ birthday. Happy Birthday to our gracious host.

Click on the badge below to read the other stories and poems:

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The Civilized World

We spoiled our planet. The weight of our needs surpassed her generosity. She was tolerant until she was not. She waged a war of unspeakable ferocity and violence, unlike any that we could imagine in our worst nightmares.

She was our true enemy, the one we should have feared and respected, but instead we immersed our hearts and minds in a battle of egos and superiority, a blind and deaf us versus them crusade.

We called our former prosperity civilization, a misnomer in every way. We left behind our dead world, blanketed in ice and the obsolete remnants of our shameless materialism. The few thousand of us that escaped vowed not to be driven by brutality in the name of morality, faith or love. We are resolved to coexist with reverence for nature and humanity with the peaceful inhabitants of our newfound planet known as Earth.


I wrote this bleak tale for the VisDare writing prompt, based on the black and white photo. If you would like to read the other stories or try your hand at writing one, click on the image below.

VisDare

The New Muse

Friday Fictioneers 05-02

Photo © – Renee Heath

A year ago, the new edition of me, my sequel, entered the story. She slipped in between the sheets and became his fresh, eager muse. Desperate to thrill him, she was not daunted by his mythical desire to manipulate her character, to mold her with fictitious flattery and romantic, candlelit tales of happily-ever-after.

When she’s no longer able to inspire his imagination, he’ll place her dog-eared volume on his special shelf, next to me and his other silent muses. Each of us bookmarked with a lock of hair, his literary trophies, as our bones gather dust beneath his library floorboards.


Written for Friday Fictioneers 100-word photo prompt. You can find more stories by clicking on the badge.

Greater Than a Pound of Flesh

“Mr. Rancher, you stand before me today for crimes against the society of Bovidae,” announced Judge Cowed. “You are charged with kidnapping, imprisoning, slaughtering and callously devouring the flesh of thousands of innocent citizens. How do you plead?”

With a mulish stance, Mr. Rancher replied, “Not guilty. I’ve committed no crime. I merely provided a service to my fellow humans. We must eat something, and you creatures are quite tasty.”

Grumbling undulated through the courtroom. Judge Cowed glowered at him and said, “After much scrutiny, the state denies your plea. The evidence is overwhelming. The jury has found you guilty of mass murder.”

The courtroom erupted in pandemonium. The judge smacked his gavel on the podium and called for order.

“Punishment is as follows: MacDonald Rancher, you are hereby sentenced to life in solitary confinement at the human felony farm. Now, Bailiff, put this coward out to pasture.”

_____

VisDareThis story of strangeness was written for VisDare photo prompt over at Angela Goff’s new WordPress blog: Anonymous Legacy. Yes that’s right, VisDare has moved! Check out the prompt (click on the VisualDare badge) for yourself and read the other entries or write your own. Just a reminder, the rules are to write a story/poem of 150 words or less based on the photo and the weekly word prompt. This week’s word was Scrutiny.

A Shroud of Ignorance

The gauzy air settles upon my skin like a refreshing gift. It shrouds the harsh sun for a brief, breathtaking moment, and I hungrily gulp it in. If only I could bottle this feeling of freedom, this peaceful respite, for the others.

A distant voice reaches my ears, and I cringe. I have lingered too long, adrift in reverie. They are too close. I turn from the polluted river and silently retreat into the dead forest. I watch them tromp by, ignorant and apathetic, and imagine the day when we reclaim our once flourishing planet from the greedy humans.

This story was written for Friday Fictioneers 100-word photo prompt hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Click here to read the other stories.

Natural Selection: A Friday Fictioneers Tale

Friday Fictioneers 12-6

Copyright – Randy Mazie

The tour group stared at the ruins as their guide telepathically explained its mysterious history. “We believe this structure, called a parking garage, was erected over 2000 years ago. It housed motorized transporters called automobiles. Any questions?”

“Is it true automobiles consumed gasoline?” asked an adolescent.

“Yes, but the oil reserves were depleted in the year 2049, shortly before the Occupation,” replied the tour guide.

An adult asked, “What do the hieroglyphics mean?”

“Historians have translated them to mean, ‘Do not invade.’ Perhaps a plea for us to leave their planet. As we all know, humans weren’t the fittest species.”

I’ve been missing from the world of blogging for a couple of weeks. I took a short break to visit family and friends and picked up a nasty cold along the way. I’m feeling much better now. It’s good to be back.

This story was written for the photo prompt from Friday Fictioneers. The challenge was to write a 100-word or less story. You can join the fun here.

Architect in the Looking Glass

Ananta reluctantly sipped the revolting liquid concocted by the village shaman. She gagged as the last swallow closed her throat, forcing it through her nose.

“Stings like fire!” she complained as tears welled in her soulful eyes.

“Ananta, do not defy Architect with blasphemous criticism,” the shaman cautioned.

“Sorry, Father,” she replied and bowed her head in shame.

He inspected the wooden cup. It was crucial that she consume all of the medicine before he began the second phase of the ritual. Except for the verbal indiscretion, she had been obedient. He could proceed with confidence.

Architect had chosen Ananta for her innocent beauty. Her sacrifice would bring a fruitful season to the village.

Ananta’s vision blurred and doubled. Two shaman, two staircases, two of everything. She was bewildered by such a strange feeling. She slumped on the bottom step and raised her face to the sky for guidance, as her mind went blank.

To prepare her for Architect, the shaman painted a stunning motif on her flawless, dark skin using gentle strokes of red ochre. Lighting a roll of sage, he encircled her earthly body with the healing smoke to rid her of wickedness.

The second part of the ritual completed, he lifted Ananta’s limp body and climbed the white stairs to the periphery of the clouds. He raised her above his head and chanted, “Great Architect, I deliver a sacrifice to appease you until the advent of next season’s longest day.”

Architect appeared from the clouds with the brilliance of a thousand explosions, reflecting in the smooth glass that floated in the sky. The shaman placed Ananta on the steps and retreated, knowing never to look directly at Architect’s radiance.

Ananta’s journey into the looking glass was complete. The village would flourish another season.

Written for NaNo Triple VisDare 2. The challenge this week was to write a 300-word or less story based on the three photos.

Bedtime Stories

This short story was previously published by Sips Card back in January. I thought I would share it for my month-long Halloween creep-fest. If you’ve never visited Sips Card website, check it out. They publish fiction short stories and poetry, and they are a paying publication.

In their own words, here’s what they are all about:

Sips Card puts short fiction and poetry into local coffee shop venues around the country (and in Scotland). We are a publication run by artists, for artists. Each card contains a QR code, loaded with a short story, or set of poems, from a writer meant to last as long as a cup of coffee. The cards include the issue’s author, story title, and website/e-mail.”

Check their submission guidelines at sipscard.com/submit/ and send them one of your stories or poems. The next issue is their 2nd Anniversary.

Bedtime Stories

by Lisa Yow-Williams

Gracila rummaged through the decaying wooden trunk, growing more horrified with each discolored, aging photograph she discovered. She touched each one apprehensively and swallowed hard to hold back the revulsion that caused her stomach to spasm.

She tossed the photographs in a haphazard pile and cautiously pushed them around, mixing and churning the display of horror, fearful that touching them might contaminate her. Dust swirled heavily in the dim rays of sunlight filtering through the lone porthole in the musty attic room. She wished she had never opened the old trunk.

She wanted to look away but couldn’t. She was transfixed, mesmerized by the realization that the photos changed everything. It meant the monsters were real.

The stories were supposed to be fairy tales; bedtime stories passed down from generation to generation. Gracila’s mother told her the fables of The Extinct Ones when she was a child. She believed and they frightened her then, but she grew up. Now, strewn on the scuffed, wood floor in front of her was the proof of their existence.

Closing her eyes tightly, Gracila tried to recall one of the bedtime stories from her childhood. She could picture her mother, Thyla, sitting on the edge of the bed animatedly mimicking The Extinct Ones.

Gracila’s wide eyes would stare at her mother in awe as she curled into her favorite velvety blanket, and pulled it up to her nose. She pressed her shoulders deep into the pillow as she tried to create a cocoon of safety around her to keep the monsters away.

Thyla would start the stories with, “Many, many seasons ago The Extinct Ones invaded and ravaged our planet with pestilence and carnage…,” in an eerie, high-pitched voice and wild eyes that she reserved solely for story time. Her mother would flail her arms like a feral animal attacking.

Gracila loved the vivid stories; loved being scared. But not like this.

The sound of the creaking floorboards wrenched Gracila from her memories. Her mother stood in the attic doorway looking as if she might faint; her face pinched and pale. Her trembling hand tightly grasped the locket around her neck, causing her knuckles to turn white. Gracila glared at her mother through wet eyes, speechless, with her mouth slightly opened in disbelief.

“I hoped you would never know the truth. I should have destroyed the photographs, but they are a part of our history that I couldn’t bear to eradicate,” Thyla said mournfully.

“Why, Mother? How can they be real?”

“I should never have told you that those bedtime stories were fairy tales. It was a mistake, I realize now. But now that you know they’re real, we must talk,” said Thyla as she entered the attic room and knelt down on the floor next to Gracila.

“So they were real, and they did all the horrible things from the bedtime stories?” Gracila hissed as she reached down to pick up one of the photographs. She bent it and thrust it angrily at her mother. Spittle flew from her mouth and a frothy glob settled on the edge of her lower lip. Tears flooded down her blotchy, red cheeks.

Thyla gently took the photograph from Gracila’s hand and said, “Yes, and much worse. But they can no longer hurt us or anyone else. They’re dead. Our ancestors gave them the name The Extinct Ones because they could no longer bear to utter or hear their true name. Over the centuries the stories have been passed down as tales, mostly so we would never forget. We just wanted to protect the children.”

“I had no idea they were so hideous, Mother. The stories didn’t prepare me for the site of them,” Gracila said as she gazed at the photograph her mother held. “They’re disgusting animals without compassion,” she gasped.

Thyla turned the ancient photograph over and held it up to Gracila as she said, “The name we no longer utter is here on the back of this photograph.” She pointed at the name as Gracila stared at it in dismay.

Gracila took the photograph from her mother and looked closer, attempting to pronounce the name correctly, “Humans? They were called Humans? What a repulsive name.”

Of Unknown Origin: A Short Story

When the sinkhole opened in the courtyard of La Grande Arche in Paris, experts believed it was a natural occurrence. They were wrong.

The mechanical sounds began within 48 hours, followed by the ear-splitting squeaks that drove away the onlookers. Authorities cordoned off the area. They waited and watched in wonderment, tinged in dread.

Inside the hole, the earth swirled like a whirlpool. World scientists clad in biohazard gear milled around the opening, expectantly. On the fifth day, a grinding racket preceded the emergence of a wide, metallic object. A colossal staircase extended into the clouds.

Some believed it was a gift. Others believed it was a hoax. Some wanted to possess it. Others wanted to destroy it. The planet squabbled.

“It’s evil. It emerged from hell.”

“It’s good. It reaches to the heavens.”

The world chose sides, divided. On the seventh day, as the staircase loomed, world war commenced.

This has been another VisDare photo prompt from Anonymous Legacy. It was a challenge for me to keep this at or under 150 words. I barely made it; 150 words exactly. I was supposed to try to use the word Trajectory, but I couldn’t fit it in. However, the main challenge was to use the photo. I chose La Grande Arche in Paris as the setting because the photo was taken there.

If you want to join the fun, click on the badge below:

Anonymous Legacy

Trifecta Week Ninety-Four: A Stylish Aftermath

SwingThe warning bell sounded with a clang. Three minutes left. The children scrambled from the yard like ants into the nest; dust left in their wake.

Julee waited them out on the swings with her best friend, Trila. She dreaded going back into the classroom.

“We better go,” said Trila, the mask muffling her words to a breathless whisper. Her voice seemed halting as it drifted through the filter.

“I know,” Julee replied. “I guess I thought this year would be different.”

Trila shook her head and watched Julee as she sulked.

“The popular girls ignored us again. Just like last year. Strutting around the playground like they own it, all cool in their Gucci gas masks and Chanel fire-retardant jumpsuits. It’s not fair,” Julee whined.

She jumped off the swing and linked arms with Trila. Together they strolled toward the school entrance.

“Did you see Mally’s pink Marc Jacob’s weapon holster?” Trila asked. “I’d die for one of those.”

“Me too! I’m gonna save my allowance for one,” Julee replied.

The final bell rang as they reached the concrete double-door entry. It began to swing closed, just as they slipped through into the decontamination chamber. As the doors hissed shut and the spray cleansed their drab, unfashionable uniforms, Julee groaned, “We’re late again. Corporal Blith is gonna be mad.”

“Who cares? Maybe he’ll kick us out of Bomb Diffusing 3. It’s soooo boring!”

The spray shut off and an electronic voice announced, “Decontamination complete. Proceed to your regularly scheduled class. Please no running in the halls.” A single door opened into a stark white corridor where they removed their masks and stored them in lockers.

A booming voice from behind startled them, “Do you have a hall pass?”

“No,” they answered in unison.

“Report to detention in Sector Y,” the drone hall monitor said.

Fashion envy forgotten, the girls giggled as they hurried off to detention, elated that Bomb Diffusing was avoided for one more day.

This week’s Trifecta writing challenge was to use the word MASK, the third definition of the word:

3a : a protective covering for the face

3b : gas mask

3c : a device covering the mouth and nose to facilitate inhalation

3d : a comparable device to prevent exhalation of infective material

3e : a cosmetic preparation for the skin of the face that produces a tightening effect as it dries

If you would like to join the challenge or read the other entries, click on the badge:

Trifecta

Body of Man: A Short Story

Body of ManJust one press away from manufactured happiness, her index finger hovered over the iPhone 9 screen. It boasted a money-back guarantee of the ideal man in just five easy steps. The app asked if she was ready to Submit. She thought it was all a little surreal.

The fine print on the client agreement used buzzwords like faithful, durable, lifelike, obedient, programmable. The personality and physical trait options were infinite. Continue reading

Fighting for a Life

The cage was cramped and reeked of waste and wet animal. The attendants tried to keep it clean, but the filth piled up quickly with four animals to each cage.

Zagra, curled in the corner against the metal gate, trembled as she tried to nap on the cold, uncomfortable grate floor. The only warm pet bed Shelter Cagewas occupied by Chimera, the dominant female. They were all afraid of Chimera and chose to allow her the queen’s bed when she napped. It was wiser not to instigate a fight. If they were caught, the attendants might deem them hostile; a death sentence for most in this homeless animal shelter.

Chimera yawned and stretched her gangly legs. They protruded over the edge of her bed, stealing even more valuable floor space from the others. Still, none of them protested. They merely adjusted their positions to accommodate her. When Zagra unintentionally bumped Chimera’s leg, the ferocious female nipped at her, almost drew blood. Continue reading