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Rockin’ Titanic

Published January 31, 2014 by Rebecca Martin

 Since August of 2012, I’ve been working on a novel about an up-and-coming American rock band, fronted by Daisy Carter. The trilogy (gee, I’m not at all ambitious for a first-time author, am I?) will tell the story of the band over the course of five years: their ups and downs, loves and losses, triumphs and letdowns. 

Daisy’s bandmates are Pete (guitar), John (drums), and Beth (bass and keyboards.) They are touring with an English rock band whose members are named Noel (lead singer), Reg (guitar), Dev (drums), and Paul (bass). If you’re visiting my site to read my story and are unfamiliar with my novel’s storyline, I wanted to inform you about some of the characters before you began reading. Otherwise, you’ll have no idea who these people are

Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge for this week fit nicely into my work in progress. We have been asked to 1) Invent a cocktail AND 2) write a story around this cocktail. 

Rockin’ Titanic

John and Paul staggered into Noel’s hotel suite, their arms around each other’s shoulders, both of them grinning with amusement. In each of their free hands, they held an ice bucket, which held full bottles of different kinds of liquor. Beth trailed in a few steps behind them, grinning and shaking her head. She walked over to the sofa where Daisy and Noel were seated, then perched herself on the arm of the sofa next to Daisy.

“We have an announcement to make,” Paul’s voice rang out over the laughter and conversations of the groupies and hangers-on who had congregated in the room. “We’d like to introduce you all to our little bundle of joy.” John snickered as Paul produced a sleeve of cups from his ice bucket. The two men started pouring five different liquids into the cup, eyeing with precision the amount going into the cups each time they poured.

“Ladies first,” John walked over with two cups in his hand and gave one to Daisy and one to Beth. Paul handed a cup to Noel and one to John. “We call her the Titanic,” he raised his cup in salute to the new addition to the rock family.

“Yeah,” Paul added, “because this shit will sink your ass if you drink too much of it.” He and John laughed as though that was the funniest thing they had ever heard.

After a wide-eyed stare at the constant laughter from two otherwise quiet men, Daisy looked up at Beth on the sofa arm above her. “Should we tell them that there’s already a cocktail with that name?”

“Don’t bother,” she replied. “I already tried to tell them, but they were too busy shouting over each other about what should go in the drink.” She looked around the room. “Where’s Pete?”

“He said he was going somewhere with Reg.” Daisy sniffed the drink and immediately recoiled. “Jesus, what’s in this, John? It smells strong.”

“Says the woman who drinks a bottle of whiskey in one sitting,” Beth remarked under her breath. Hearing that, Daisy punched Beth’s side in response.

“Let’s see,” John thought, ticking a finger off each time he named an ingredient, “tequila, vodka, dark rum, bourbon, and Irish whiskey.” He smiled down at Daisy. “The whiskey’s in your honor.”  Paul had said something to John that only the two of them understood, causing John to fall to his knees in front of her. For a moment, she thought he was bowing down to her as a joke, but she realized he was still laughing hysterically about whatever Paul said.

“Why don’t you guys…” Daisy began, but Paul pulled John to his feet and they were both shouting “Whiskeeey,  WHISKEEEEEEY” over and over, drowning her words out.

She got up and walked over to John, waving her hands up and down, back and forth in John’s face until he looked down at her. “Why don’t you guys give it more of a rock name, since you invented it on a rock and roll tour?”

John’s eyes filled with wonder and he stared at Daisy as though she were the most brilliant person in the world. He kissed her on top of her head and said “Perfect.”

“Let’s call it ‘Rockin’ Titanic’,” Paul shouted in triumph. He and John now started shouting ‘rockin’ Titanic’ repeatedly until it became a competition to see who could shout it the loudest.

“Well, you tried,” Beth walked past Daisy to mingle with the other people in the room.

Daisy returned to her seat next to Noel, a stunned expression on her face. “I’ve known John for almost ten years. I have never seen him like this.”

Noel shrugged in between sniffing and tasting the drink. “So what? He’s happy.”

“No, no. I’ve seen him happy before and he didn’t act like this. Now he’s…I don’t know. Giddy. And boisterous. Well, he’s boisterous for John.”

Noel didn’t respond, but continued drinking. “Paul’s right, this will put you on your ass. But it tastes pretty good.”

“Yeah,” Daisy agreed, taking large gulps, “it’s like if a Long Island Iced Tea was cranked up to eleven.”

Within an hour, the effects of the invented beverage began to sink in. Two girls fought over who was the better dancer and then began an impromptu dance-off just to show the room who really was the best. In one corner of the room, people started having a loud sing-along, even though no one knew all the words to the song they were singing. Others started making out with whoever sat next to them, not bothering to leave the room when things began to heat up.

John sat on the floor by himself, looking around the room and admiring the outcome of his handiwork. Daisy left her seat where she and Noel were quietly watching everyone and sat down next to John, tucking her legs up under her so that she was resting her butt on her feet. “You okay, John?”

He turned and smiled at her, his eyes showing her that he had sampled quite a bit of his own creation. “I’m good, Daiz. You?”

She returned his smile and said, “Yeah, I’m good.” She leaned to one side so that she was now slanted and seated on her hip. “You know, I tell people that when you first joined the Tragedy, it was a good six months before you started speaking in full sentences around us. Before that, it was always ‘cool, man’ and ‘yeah, sounds good.’ But tonight…” she trailed off and shook her head as though she still couldn’t believe the version of John she had witnessed.

A brief smile flashed across John’s face, but then he was quiet for a few moments, staring into space. “It’s because I was scared,” he said finally.

“Scared?” Daisy repeated. John was typically a quiet man, very shy until he became more comfortable around people, but scared was not something she would ever attribute to him. “Scared of what?”

“Losing my spot in the band.”

“What?!” She was incredulous. How could he think he would lose his spot? Why had he never said anything before?

“It’s true. I walked in that first day for my audition with you guys and I listened to Pete’s guitar playing and your voice…” he trailed off, thinking for a moment. “I’d played drums in bands before where it seemed like it was working and next thing I knew, they were looking for someone else. There was just something with the Tragedy, I felt it right away. Beth and I played so perfectly, like we had always played together. I was scared it was just a matter of time before one of you decided I didn’t fit in with the band. So I kept my mouth shut until I felt like the probation period was over.”

Daisy didn’t know what to say. She wished she had known back then that John was feeling that way. She would have done everything in her power to make him feel at ease and make him understand that they wanted him. She got up on her knees and  put her arms around his neck. “John, you’re one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen. No one else brings the drive and passion to our rhythm the way you do. You were irreplaceable back then and it’s even truer now than it was before.” She gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek. “Sorry, dude, you’re stuck with us.”

“Thanks,” he laughed, rubbing her saliva off his face.

She returned to her seated position and peered at John. “So…what happened tonight? I mean, I’m not complaining about the way you’ve been tonight. It’s been great. I’ve just never seen that side of you before now.”

“Daiz, don’t you get it?” He looked at her and his eyes were shining with a brilliance she had never seen. “We’re here, we did it! We’re on tour opening for one of the biggest rock bands in the world. All our hard work and living through shit pay and shit gigs finally paid off. It’s the Promised Land.” A contented smile spread across John’s face, like someone bathing in sunlight on a chilly day. “And it’s better than I could have imagined.”

Sleeping Beauty: A Space Odyssey

Published January 26, 2014 by Rebecca Martin

This week’s “Flash Fiction” challenge was a great one, but…well, challenging. We had to rewrite a fairy tale using a sub-genre. I randomized both categories and got Little Briar Rose as a space opera (think Star Wars.) Enjoy!

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/01/24/flash-fiction-challenge-fairy-tales-remixed/

Sleeping Beauty: A Space Odyssey

The Gondek ruled the eastern half of the Andacassian galaxy. The current leader was worried for, despite a peaceful rule, she had only nine sons and no daughters. Gondek law explicitly dictated that only a female could rule the provinces.

The Leader finally gave birth to a beautiful daughter and immediately planned a great feast, inviting all the rulers and ambassadors from as far as five galaxies away.

On the day of the celebration, all the guests arrived in splendor. When the Gondek Leader called the assembly to order, the dignitaries came forward to pronounce their gifts upon the daughter, such as renaming their capital cities in honor of the baby.  Others bestowed less tangible gifts on the infant, such as the wisdom to rule, the ability to love without prejudice, and a kind nature. The festivities continued on this way for many hours until night fell.

Just as the last bit of daylight disappeared, a great explosion lit up the sky. The attendees gasped as a cloaked figure emerged from the sky on a dangling wire, alighting on the ground just outside the ballroom. Four pairs of legs on each side of the body carried the new arrival down the silver carpet that led to the doors of the ballroom. The creature rose up slowly and stood erect, its metallic blue form shining in the floodlights.

It was the Ka’chera leader. She strode through the sliding doors, taking no note of the whispering guests or of the condescending looks from those moving away from her. Eyes straight ahead, she walked toward the host.

“Greetings, Gondeks,” she said in a loud, clear voice. “Only yesterday, my advisors informed me of this gathering, yet I do not recall receiving an invitation.”

The Gondek leader rose from her seat, moving toward her guest. “You have my humblest apologies, my friend. It surely was an oversight as you are, of course, welcome here anytime.”

The Ka’chera crouched down and tapped two of her legs on the floor as though she had been waiting for someone for a long time. “It is doubtful that you remembered to invite so many from so far away and yet could not remember to include your western neighbor. It is no matter my dear, you shall pay for your so-called oversight.” Lightning-quick, she stood erect again and was face-to-face with the Gondek leader. “Here is my gift to the newborn: on the day your precious daughter turns sixteen, she will cross paths with a Ka’chera and on that day she will die.” The Ka’chera leader spun around and exited, departing as quickly as she had arrived.

The Gondek leader left the celebration and called an emergency meeting of her security council. Council members discussed what they knew about the Ka’chera and the Leader ordered specific actions.

“Rather than strike out at them in return, we will protect ourselves from an assault. The Ka’chera residents thrive in darkness; we will bathe our capital city in light at all hours. They inhabit the lush rainforests of their provinces; therefore, we will rid the capital city and its surrounding areas of all foliage. Should a Ka’chera cross our borders, it will be considered an act of war, and the offender will be exterminated immediately, no questions asked.”

In the years that followed, the Gondek leader took special pains to make sure that her daughter had a full guard about her at all times. Although a bit overprotected, the princess grew up to be a wise, loving, and good-natured young woman.

On her sixteenth birthday, she ventured out far beyond the borders of the capital city, much to the dismay of her guards, for night had already fallen outside the city. Feeling mischievous, she shook off her guards and ran as far as she could until she happened upon a beautiful rainforest. She wondered if she were still in her home province, for she had never seen such a breathtaking landscape. Deciding that she had gone far enough, she made her way to return home when suddenly she heard a rasping breath followed by tormented moans.

She walked closer to the sound and saw a tarantula lying on its back with all of its legs up in the air except for one. The creature turned its head and groaned, giving a startled cry when it saw the princess.

“Don’t be afraid,” the princess said, moving toward the pitiable creature. “Let me help you up.”

“My leg is broken,” the spider croaked. “I’ve been waiting for a long time.” As the maiden helped the spider up, all eight of the creature’s legs wrapped around her body so that she could not move. “I mean, princess, I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.”

A flicker of fear passed through the maiden’s eyes. Suddenly, she brought her knee up to kick the spider’s lower body, and then with her other foot she kicked the spider hard enough to slip out of her grasp. She ran as fast as she could, but the spider was faster, catching up to the princess and grabbing her from behind. The maiden grabbed the spider’s topmost legs and flipped it onto its back, putting her foot on its lungs.

“I know who you are, Ka’chera,” the princess said over the spider’s struggles for air. “Did you really think that my mother would not have prepared me for this day?” When the spider fainted, the maiden hoisted it onto her back and brought it into the capital city.

Knowing her mother’s edict, the princess begged the Gondek leader to show mercy and allow the Ka’chera leader to return to her own province. The entire Andacassian galaxy celebrated the maiden’s kindness and wisdom, for it fostered a peaceful coexistence for many years.

Briony and the Ka’chera

Published January 24, 2014 by Rebecca Martin

This week’s Flash Fiction challenge was called The Who, The Where, The Uh-oh. We received a list of protagonists, settings, and problems. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/01/17/flash-fiction-challenge-the-who-the-where-the-uh-oh/

For my story, I chose a bartender, a far-flung space station, and unsolved murder. (Though when I began writing the story, the “uh-oh” was left for dead, out for revenge. As I wrote the story it was “ooh, no, my protagonist is trapped.” But then as I continued writing, it turns out that she was trapped because of…well, read the story and you’ll see why she’s trapped.)

And now…Briony and the Ka’chera.

Briony tried to open her eyes, but her lids were too heavy. The spot between her shoulders ached and she could barely feel her legs. What a night she’d had. Maybe she should sleep in today.

She tried once more to open her eyes, now realizing that the lashes were stuck together. She sat up, wincing from the pain in her back, and rubbed until her eyes opened more easily. She looked around, wishing she had kept them closed. She was in a large, pristine white room with four walls, and no doors or windows. She was on a flat, white bed that protruded from a wall. There was one bed behind her and one in front of her. She looked to her left and there were three more beds protruding from the wall. Why was there no door? Where in the hell was she?

There was a noise behind her and she turned quickly to see where it came from, now aware of a sharp pain in her left arm. The wall seemed to slide open, revealing a door. An eight-foot tall green…thing came toward her. It looked almost cylindrical and had nothing to suggest any sort of humanity: no eyes, nose, mouth, or even limbs. It glided toward her and its chest area began to open as something came out of the chest, extending toward Briony. She opened her mouth to scream, but no sound would come out. Worst still, paralyzed with fear, she watched as the thing that came out of the creature’s chest touch her left arm. The pain in her arm subsided; perhaps this creature wasn’t so scary after all.

The door opened again and someone else entered the room, this one looking more human, to Briony’s relief. As it got closer, the face gave a less-than-human appearance less human. It had four eyes placed in a diamond shape on the face. Its nose was thing and long, with a wide mouth below it, accentuated by thin lips. The body was clothed in white, though there was nothing about its figure to suggest whether it was male or female. All the eyes looked back at Briony.

“You have finally awakened.  I was worried.” The rasping voice coming out of the creature was calm and feminine. “How do you feel?”

“Okay,” Briony’s own voice sounded strange to her, much more hoarse than usual.

“I am sure you have many questions. My name is D’lheera and I am a physician. This is Estwen,” she gestured to the green creature who made a move similar to a bow.”

“Physician,” Briony repeated. “So…this is a hospital?”

D’lheera’s top and bottom eyes shifted to the left and then back again. “Of sorts,” she replied. “This is the sick bay of a space station.”

Briony’s two eyes widened. A space station? “How far am I from home?”

“Quite far.” D’lheera inclined her head to the left. “You are in the custody of the Ka’cheva.”

“Who?”

D’lheera’s wide mouth spread even wider and she sat down next to Briony. “I see I must explain further,” she mused. “The Ka’cheva rule the western half of the Andacassian Galaxy. The space station where we are now is in the middle of their province.”

Briony thought for a moment. “You said I’m ‘in their custody.’ What does that mean?”

“You have been placed under arrest.”

Ah, so it meant the same thing here that it meant on Earth. “Wh-why am I in their custody?” she sputtered.

D’lheera made a sound as though she couldn’t believe what she just heard. “You cannot commit a crime of this magnitude and expect the Ka’chera to do nothing.”

“What crime?” Briony cried out. She tried to stand up, but her legs buckled and she had to sit back down again.

D’lheera squinted at her. “Why, you have murdered the Leader’s son.”

Briony was stunned into silence. Murder? Surely not. For a moment, she couldn’t think, but then forced her mind to try to remember something, anything, that had happened before she woke up in a space station, far away from her home planet. What did the Leader’s son even look like? For that matter what did the Leader look like?

She closed her eyes, allowing her mind to scan for her last memory. She was at her job, nearing the end of her shift. Most of the customers had gone home, except for one guy sitting at the end of the bar. The only two waitresses working that night were counting their tips and would be going home in a few minutes. Briony announced last call and wiped down the bar. There had been a loud sound, one of the waitresses screamed and after that…nothing.

She opened her eyes and looked up to see D’lheera watching her. Estwen had already left the room.  “So, I’m in custody. What happens now?”

It was several minutes before D’lheera responded. “A decision must be made for…” She stopped, not wanting to say any more.

“A decision for what?” Briony prompted.

D’lheera’s four eyes looked away from Briony’s face. “For the date of your execution.”

“My execution?” Briony shouted. “Just like that? I was on Earth and now suddenly I’m going to die?”

“Lower your voice,” D’lheera commanded. “Someone will hear you.”

“Who cares if anyone hears me? I’m going to die.” She was suddenly out of breath, as though she had just run a long time. “I don’t even know if I really killed the Leader’s son. I’d never killed anyone before this.” She put her head between her knees, trying to calm down, trying to slow her breathing down. A thought occurred to her and she sat back up, looking at D’lheera. “Don’t they have some kind of trial where I can defend myself against the charges?”

“Not for this sort of crime,” D’lheera shook her head.

“Wait, so why am I here in sick bay? I woke up on this space station after being unconscious for who knows how long. They nursed me back to health just so they could kill me? Where is the justice in that?”

“Who said there was any justice?”

Briony’s eyes widened and she leaned in closer to D’lheera. “You have to help me,” she whispered. “I have to get out of here and get back home to Earth, where I belong.”

D’lheera stood up. “I cannot assist a criminal.” She took a few steps away from Briony as though she were about to leave the room, but she turned back. “Do you have any idea how long it took me to get where I am now? Do you understand what a privileged position it is to be a physician for the Ka’chera?”

“You’re just going to let me die, then?” Briony nearly whimpered. “You’re going to let me take the fall for something I didn’t do?”

“If you did not do it, then perhaps you can tell me who did.”

Briony put her head in her hands. “I don’t know,” she moaned. She peered up at D’lheera. “The Leader rules half of this galaxy and the murder of his son is blamed on a bartender from Earth? He doesn’t have any other enemies?” When D’lheera didn’t answer, Briony stared at the floor. “That’s what I thought.”

An uncomfortable silence filled the room, finally broken by the door sliding open. Estwen glided in, pushing a tray into the room with his body.

“I will leave you in peace to sustain yourself,” D’lheera said. “I will return in a few hours to check on you.” She and Estwen exited, leaving Briony in the empty room with an aching body and a terrified spirit. The Ka’chera had trapped her here until they decided when she would die. Her only hope now was that death would be quick and painless.