Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge

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Brandy Alexander (Warning: Contains Profanity)

Published March 22, 2014 by Rebecca Martin

I swear, I think Wendig and I are on the same wavelength. Tuesday on the way to work, I thought about a few story angles for a short story I wanted to write about a new character. I already had a name for her: Brandy Alexander. Possibly told in vignettes, the story would chronicle Brandy’s layoff from her job, which would later force her to move in with her parents until she got back on her feet. But how would life as a single woman work if she was living under her parents roof again? By Thursday, I’d already jotted down the path the story would take.

On Friday, Chuck Wendig posted this week’s flash fiction challenge: Write a 1000-word story, but split it up into ten chapters. While the story, Brandy Alexander, is not as vignette-y as I had originally planned, the story is told as I’d envisioned it on Tuesday. It clocks in at 980 words.

Chap 1 – Doomsday

Monday, April 10

Brandy Alexander sits in her boss’ office hearing only fragments of his words.

 “pink slip…cuts in all departments… by seniority.”

She blinks twice, trying to focus on his face. He looks uncomfortable, as if he just realized he shit his pants and is still sitting in it.  

The last thing she hears him say is “You still have three weeks, so if I were you, I’d use up any accrued personal days.” At least a full sentence registered in her brain that time.

She’ll start hitting the temp agencies tomorrow. Short-term jobs are better than nothing.

Chap 2 The Job Search

Monday, April 17

The hunt is on. Only two weeks left to go until she’s out of a job. There’s not one damn job in human resources. Ain’t that a bitch?

The Dairy Barn’s hiring, no experience necessary. Does she really want to work at a local burger-and-ice cream joint for minimum wage?  Sure, there’s a discount on the meals, but she’ll come home every night smelling like stale fries. Thirty years old isn’t supposed to look like this, right?

Brandy circles the job in the newspaper. It can’t hurt to apply. Work nights at The Barn and temp during the day.

Chap 3 The Doctor’s Office

Monday,April 24

“You can always move in with us.”

Yeah, as an absolute last resort, Brandy thinks. “Mom, I gotta go. They just called me in.”

Her doctor sees her on the examination table and notices her jeans are still on.  “No pelvic exam?”

“No way. You got your little tool stuck last time,” she gestures toward the speculum.  “So you’re staying clear of this area,” and she motions over her crotch with her hand.

She lies on the table. “Besides, this will be the last time you’ll see me for awhile. Let’s celebrate by keeping away from my cooch.”

Chap 4 Butch Tomboy, the Workout Queen

Monday, May 22

8:30 A.M. Brandy shows up for a three-week light industrial temp assignment.

“Help unpack desks and chairs then assemble them. Report to Tammy Dagneau,” the lady on the phone says. Should be easy enough.

By lunchtime, Brandy is on her way home. One morning working for Tammy, aka Butch Tomboy, is all she can take.  When you’re the supervisor of a worksite, it’s apparently necessary to stand around all morning, be bossy with the temps, sneer at their contempt for manual labor and talk about working out with your two minions.

Thank god she still has her weekend job at The Dairy Barn.

Chap 5 Is this the real life?

Sunday, August 13

Her savings is almost gone. Now is the time for the full-on panic attack.

Sunday dinner at her parents’ house. No visible signs that children ever lived here. Her old room is an office. Her brother’s old room is a scrapbooking room.

“When you move in next week, you’ll have to sleep on this,” her mother motions to the loveseat that, until recently, has been in the garage for eight years. Brandy leans in for a whiff. Gross. Rancid mildew. Mental note: buy sprayable deodorizer and a decent air mattress.

Chap 6 Moving Day

Saturday, August 20

Brandy drops her last box on the floor of the scrapbooking room, aka her bedroom. All her furniture and anything she won’t need for the next few months are in a rental storage unit. We’ll be back together soon, my babies.

Any day now, she’ll find a new HR job and Brandy Alexander will be back on top of the world. Until then, keep doing temp jobs. Office work only.

The smell of fried chicken wafts through the house. Bonus to an adult moving back in with the parents: Mom does most of the cooking and laundry.

Chap 7 The Tell-Tale Wand

2:00 A.M., sometime in September.

Her vagina is not happy. It’s been too long. Good thing she has her vibrators. Problem: how to use them without waking her parents. Bean-flicking on the air mattress will be loud.

This looks like a job for Rancid Mildew Loveseat.

Chap 8 Brandy Alexander’s Guide to Noiseless Masturbation

Open the closet door. Stay still for five minutes. Feel around in the dark for the box that holds the large black backpack. Take the backpack out of the box. Stay still for another five minutes. Take small green daypack out of the backpack. Take the Hitachi Wand out of the daypack. Hello, old friend. Plug the wand in. Lie quietly on the loveseat for five minutes. Lay a cushion on the loveseat, lay a towel on the pillow, then put the Wand on top of the towel.

Climb on and have the ride of your life. Just try not to make any noise when the orgasm hits.

Chap 9 Date Night

Wednesday, November 29

Brandy’s got a date with the new guy at The Dairy Barn. A little younger than her at 21 years old, but cute as a button. Problem: what is she supposed to do at the end of the date? Take him back to her parents’ house? She’ll cross that bridge when she gets to it.

They make out in his car before and after pizza. At the end of the date, he’s pissed off because she won’t put out.

Now she’s pissed off. “Oh, so you buy me a couple of slices of pizza and now I gotta let you fuck me? My pussy’s worth more than that!”

He drives her home, still stewing. She gets out of the car without even looking at him. Tomorrow at work is going to be awkward.

Chap 10 The Comeback

Monday, February 12

Victory at last! Thanks to her diligent efforts, she’s going back to work at the first place she worked at out of college. She now works as an HR generalist, bringing in almost twice the salary she made at her last job.

As soon as she gets her first paycheck, she’ll start looking for a place. It’s a good thing she moved in with her parents when she still had money in savings. Now she’ll have money for deposits, a moving truck, and a few new items to spruce up her new place.

The Infernal Bargain

Published March 13, 2014 by Rebecca Martin

Hello, kids, it’s that time of week again: Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge. We had a challenge of 1500 words, I come in at 1480.

This is my favorite type of challenge: Chuck gives us a few lists with multiple possibilities. We roll a die (i.e. online random number generator) and write a story with those elements. I rolled the virtual die and got a 9 and a 2: a faithful hound and an infernal bargain, respectively. I played a little bit with the idea of a faithful hound, as you’ll see. Enjoy!

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/03/07/flash-fiction-challenge-must-contain/ 

Briony woke up but she did not open her eyes right away. What was the point? Assuming she had counted correctly, today was day sixty of her imprisonment; for two months she had been in the custody of an alien race for a murder she did not commit.

She reluctantly opened her eyes when she heard the door open. D’lheera, the alien doctor, walk in the small room.

“At last, you are awake. Excellent. My master has an important job for both of us. You will lead the task and I am to accompany you.” D’lheera almost sounded excited about this job, as if she was happy to finally get out of the house.

Thank God. Then maybe Briony could go home. “What’s the job?”

“Master will inform us tomorrow in a special audience.”

“Wait, you’ll accompany me?” Briony said.

“Yes, my master is calling upon my natural skills as a huntress, which will be of great use to you. And depending on the danger of our mission, you may need a doctor.”

Oh, great, Briony thought. So this assignment, whatever it is, could kill me. I’m dead any way you look at it.

The next day, Briony’s guards ushered her into a small, ornate room and she stood on the spot indicated by one of the guards. A side door opened and D’lheera entered and sat on a footstool placed very close to a large chair. Her mouth turned up slightly and she gave Briony an encouraging smile.

The sight of what next came through the side door made Briony’s heart stop. She wanted to scream but no sound would come. Instead, she stood there with a horrified look on her face, her mouth wide open as if to scream. The largest spider she had ever seen scurried toward the large chair and sat down, its metallic blue body shimmering in the light above Briony’s head, the only light in the room.

“Do not be afraid. I will not harm you,” the spider said and Briony began to relax a little. She was clearly hallucinating, for there was no such thing as a talking arachnid. “You are aware, Earthling, that you are in my custody for the murder of my son, the heir to my throne. However, D’lheera informed me that you were not guilty of this crime. Other intelligence confirms this fact.

This same intelligence informs me that the Gondeks perpetrated this horrible act. I have no issue with the daughter, the one they now call the Spider Hunter. She spared my life in an act of mercy. Her mother is a different matter entirely.  I will release you and allow you to return to your home planet on one condition: you must infiltrate the Gondek kingdom kill their leader. D’lheera will go with you as your guide. Even among her own race of excellent trackers, she is one of the best.” Briony watched the spider as she spoke, understanding that refusing to do the job would not be an option. Was the spider aware that Briony had never killed anyone and had no training for this kind of thing? She glanced at D’lheera who shifted slightly in her seat. She would not have thought anything of it if D’lheera skin had not suddenly gone so pale.

The spider motioned to the guard on her left. The door opened at four guards came in with what, to Briony’s eyes, looked like a human man: tall with dark black skin. As she turned to look back at the spider, she noticed the horrified expression on D’lheera’s face.

“Briony, this is one of the sons of the Gondek leader,” the spider said. “I’ve brought him here so that you know how to recognize the Gondeks.”

Briony turned her attention away from D’lheera’s shocked face and back to study the captive. She looked into a pair of emerald green eyes, a striking contrast against his dark skin. Around his neck was something that appeared to be a gold necklace, but upon further scrutiny, Briony realized the skin surrounding the collarbone was golden.

“The gold around his collarbone identifies him as a member of the royal family. The plebian Gondeks will not have the same mark.” She extended a leg toward D’lheera’s head, causing D’lheera to flinch. Her body relaxed a little when the spider’s leg stroked her head. She turned and stared into her master’s eyes.

“This was not, perhaps, the best decision, D’lheera.” The spider’s calm voice matched the soothing touch she applied to her servant’s head. “You foolishly thought you could hide this from me. If you fail at this task, or if you do not return,” she pointed to the captive in front of her, “then your husband’s life will be my recompense.” She turned to the guards. “Take him away.”

She motioned to the guard at her right. He walked forward and produced a garment, then handed it to D’lheera, allowing her to smell it so she could recognize the scent. This struck Briony as odd, but perhaps the Ka’chera leader found it necessary.

The next morning, in the spacecraft on the way to the Gondek side of the galaxy, Briony looked out the window and stared up at the stars, amazed at their expanse and brilliance. She had often done that on chilly, cloudless nights on Earth. But her enjoyment of the view was short-lived for she remembered the task at hand: murder. Or maybe she would wake up in her own bed and realize this had all been a bad dream.

“Who are the Gondeks?” Her voice trembled.

“My master rules the western half of the Andacassian galaxy. The Gondeks rule the eastern half.”

“Your leader said ‘I have no issue with the daughter.’ What was she talking about?”

D’lheera told Briony the story of Gondek leader and the long-awaited birth of her daughter – an event dating back nearly twenty Earth years – and how this now-adult daughter spared the life of the Ka’chera leader. At least Briony understood why there was a feud between the two races.

“And now we’re supposed to kill your husband’s mother.”

“Yes.”

“But there’s a good chance that we’ll be killed.”

D’lheera said nothing at first. When she finally spoke, her voice was like that of a frightened child. “The Gondeks are highly skilled at combat.”

Great, Briony thought, that means there’s a 99% chance we’ll be killed. They were quiet for several minutes. “Why didn’t you tell anybody you were married to a Gondek?”

“Many reasons.” D’lheera answered shortly. She then turned to Briony. “Master let me see my husband last night. We both agree that you never should have been involved in this feud.”

“Well, that makes three of us,” Briony retorted. “You said ‘many reasons.’ Like what?”

D’lheera looked at her for a long moment. “Well, Gondek subjects may marry whomever they choose. The offspring of the Gondek leader, on the other hand, may only marry another Gondek. That way, the future descendants to the throne will not have the tainted blood of another race.

Also, if my master were to learn that one of her most trusted servants married the son of her enemy…” her voice trailed off.

Briony didn’t see the issue. D’lheera’s master had clearly been aware of the marriage for some time and didn’t seem offended. Except for the whole ‘kill his mother or I’ll kill him’ thing. A punishment for D’lheera?

“But, if you’re married to a Gondek, why aren’t you working for them instead of the spiders?” The giant, talking spiders, she corrected herself.

D’lheera shook her head sadly. “Impossible. I do not have the luxury of leaving.” She saw that Briony looked confused and continued. “In the time of my ancestors, about three or four generations ago, my people were conquered by the Ka’chera. Though it was usually their custom to annihilate their opponents, they recognized our loyalty and our natural skills as hunters. We have been in their servitude ever since.”

D’lheera sat up a little straighter and smiled. “I am different, though. When I was small, my intelligence brought me to the attention of the leader of the Ka’chera. Because I was far more intelligent than the other children of my race, my master sent me for training as a physician.”

“And you’re loyal to your master, no matter what,” Briony observed. Loyal, outside of the fact that she hid the truth of her marriage from the Ka’chera leader. Maybe this was an indication that D’lheera – and maybe even her race – was ready for a new master. If Briony could somehow change D’lheera’s allegiance, then her intelligence and loyalty would work in her favor. She wouldn’t have to kill anyone, she could go home, and D’lheera and her husband could go live somewhere else in peace and freedom.

The question remained, how could Briony make D’lheera loyal to her?

The Sounds of Snoring

Published March 3, 2014 by Rebecca Martin

This week’s challenge from Chuck Wendig:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/02/27/writing-exercise-describe-one-things-ten-ways/

I just finished reading Ozzy Osbourne’s memoir , in which he said that one of his roommates at Betty Ford snored “like a moose with a tracheotomy.” The belly laugh I got out of that inspired me to write my descriptive list about snoring.

  1. like a hibernating bear
  2. A jackhammer in the middle of the road, noisily pounding away into the concrete.
  3. the sounds of an unidentifiable wounded animal
  4. Darth Vader with a sinus infection
  5. the sound of a blender on the ‘frappe’ setting throughout the night
  6. Powerful enough to dislodge window dressings (a sure sign I grew up watching endless amounts of cartoons.)
  7. a lion announcing his presence
  8. an auditory form of Chinese water torture for the non-snorer sleeping next to them.
  9. a prophet of doom heralding another sleepless night for their non-snoring sleepmate
  10. a chainsaw buzzing through the trunk of a giant Sequoia

Dark Horse

Published February 22, 2014 by Rebecca Martin

Courtesy of Chuck Wendig once again, this week’s flash fiction challenge was a beauty: pick a random song title and that’s the title of your story, 1000 words or less. I got “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry, but I chose not to use the same subject matter. Rather I went in a different direction with the following story. Enjoy!

Dark Horse

Joe opened his eyes. It was still dark out. He looked at the clock: 6:28 a.m. He still had two minutes before his alarm went off and so he closed his eyes again.

Dark, he thought, grimacing. He saw dark in his dreams, too. The dark horse trotting by the window of the café.  Not galloping. Trotting at a pace slow enough for Joe to take a good, long look. Then he woke up. Why was a horse out on a busy street in broad daylight, just passing by a café? He had the weirdest dreams sometimes.

Opening his eyes, he rolled over, turned off the alarm and reached to grab his phone off the night table . He entered “dark horse dream meaning” into the search engine. The first result took him to a website devoted to dream interpretations. It said, “To dream of a dark horse will signify prosperous conditions, but a large amount of unhappiness. Fleeting pleasures usually follow this dream.”

“Prosperous conditions then a large amount of unhappiness,” he repeated. Interesting.  Did “prosperous” refer to material prosperity? Or could it be interpreted as any sort of success?

Out of the corner of his eye, in the small amount of light afforded by the glow of the phone screen, he could see a black shape on the floor, moving toward him, then disappearing just as quickly as it had appeared.

Before he had a chance to sit up, the black shape was in the air, then landed neatly on his chest.

“Gah!” he shouted. It took a moment for him to catch his breath. Finally he said, “Good morning, Sylvester. Thanks for the heart attack.” He would have thought that after a year of living with this cat, he would be used to it pouncing on him before the first light of day, but no. Sylvester meowed at him and he meowed back. They continued their morning ritual of meowing at each other for another thirty seconds until Sylvester stared back at him instead of meowing. “I know, I know,” Joe sighed. “You want your breakfast. Come on.”

He put the cat food in the dish and watched Sylvester wolf down the food as though he hadn’t been fed in a week. Smiling to himself, he started getting ready for work.

While he showered, he thought about the dark horse in his dream again. The subject matter didn’t bother him as much as the frequency of the dream. The fifth time in three weeks had to mean something. Maybe he should take precautions.

As he shaved, he caught sight of the triangular piece that had been missing from the mirror for the last year. He kept meaning to replace it, but never got around to it. The missing piece was in the corner of the mirror, so it wasn’t as though Joe couldn’t see his reflection.

Prosperous conditions, he thought to himself. Today was payday. Maybe he should leave the money in the bank for the time being. It was the middle of the month and no bills were due, so he didn’t need any money right now.

Twenty minutes later, he was dressed and on his way out the door. He paused near Sylvester and gave him a goodbye scratch on the head. Sylvester inclined his head toward Joe, wanting it to continue, but Joe went out to his car to go to work.

He stopped at the convenience store on the way in, grabbing a cup of coffee and a bear claw, just as he did every Friday. The girl behind the counter smiled at him when it was his turn to be served, just as she did every Friday.

“You want your Powerball ticket too, right?” she said. “It’s up to forty million dollars.”

Prosperous conditions, he warned himself. Don’t take any chances.  “Not today,” he smiled back at her. “Just the coffee and pastry.” He fumbled around in his wallet for the cash while the girl put the bear claw in a white, plastic bag for him.

He waited until he sat at his desk at the office before he started munching on his breakfast. He reached into the middle drawer for a packet of sugar, feeling an envelope that hadn’t been in there yesterday. He pulled it out and examined the greeting-card sized envelope while he stirred the sugar into his coffee.

He tore open the envelope and pulled out the card inside. The front of the card read, ‘Happy belated birthday.’ He opened it to read the message and money fell out. ‘Sorry I missed your birthday last week, Dan’ the message read. Dan Wideman from Human Resources. They had been playing basketball together once a week for the last two years. He looked at the twenty-dollar bill that had fallen out. He held his breath. Twenty dollars didn’t count as a ‘prosperous condition’, right? Should he put it in his wallet, or just stick it back in the card and leave it in his desk?

His life was going well right now ― he was happy at his job, he had been on a few good dates with a woman from payroll, he had a good chunk of money put away in savings― and he really didn’t need the ‘large amount of unhappiness’ the dream interpretation warned about.He was being ridiculous, he knew. He wasn’t usually the type to give any heed to superstitions or dream interpretations, but the dark horse had continued to show up in his dreams. He spent the rest of the morning locked in this debate with himself: ignore the dream and continue his life as though nothing happened or take the dream seriously and be careful.

For the time being, he decided to continue taking precautions. He still had ten dollars in his wallet, so at least he still had enough cash to pay for lunch.

Tainted Love (warning: contains graphic language)

Published February 15, 2014 by Rebecca Martin

This week, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge was all about twisted love. I took this opportunity to add another layer to my work-in-progress novel, Florentine Tragedy: A Rock Story. Thanks, Chuck! You really know how to help boost a word count when an author feels like they’ve run out of things to say about their characters. xxx

Moe Alvarez stood outside by the stage door and watched the road crew load the instruments into the van. The band brought the house down tonight, the years of polishing their onstage persona culminating in a triumphant end to their cross-country tour. Florentine Tragedy never failed to blow him away with their performance, every time like the first time.

He could still remember that first time, clear as day. The band had performed at a small venue with just fifty people in the audience but they had played as if the place was packed. After that day, he went to see their shows whenever they were within a sixty-mile driving distance. he wanted to see the band more, especially their lead singer.

God he’d never seen anyone like her, a tiny woman with a big voice that sent chills up his spine, belting out the notes she sang. In between lyrics, she tumbled, somersaulted, and danced around on the stage as though she were determined to give those fifty people their money’s worth. He loved the way she would strut across the stage as though she owned the venue and every living soul in it, commanding the audience, holding them in the palm of her hand. She was the queen of that venue and they were her loyal subjects.

After the fifth show he attended, she had walked right up to him.  “Hi, I’m Daisy Carter,” she grinned, flicking her long, dark hair over her shoulder, sticking out her hand to shake his hand. “I keep seeing you at our shows. Thanks a lot for the support.” Her off-stage persona was just as energetic as it was onstage, and twice as friendly. He had let her do most of the talking that night, just so he could keep staring into her hazel eyes. When he asked if she had a boyfriend, her smile froze. Had he said something wrong?

“I don’t have it narrowed down to just one,” she winked at him, and left it at that. After a few months of friendship, he asked again. “I don’t have time for a boyfriend,” she said, “my band’s trying to make it.” Two months later, just before she spent the night at his place for the first time, she said with a half-smile, “Moe, this doesn’t mean I’m narrowing it down to one.” He was okay with that. At least, that’s what he had told Daisy. He would satisfy her in bed and one day she would satisfy his heart.

The stage door opened, interrupting his thoughts. There she was. Fans swarmed around her the moment she emerged from the venue so she didn’t see Moe standing there. That gave him the chance to watch her talk to her fans, which he did until there were two or three people left. He was proud of the way she handled herself in the face of so many requests for photos, autographs, and questions, knowing she hadn’t always felt comfortable with strangers wanting something from her. He smiled every time she threw her head back and laughed. She had such a great laugh; people always joined her even if they didn’t hear the comment or joke that amused her.

Unable to wait anymore, he walked over to her, touched her back and whispered in her ear. “You coming to my place tonight?” He raised his eyebrows, pleased to see her eyes widen in surprise at his sudden materialization, a big smile lighting up her whole face.

“Yeah,” she murmured, making sure only he heard her, “I’ll see you there in about an hour.”

“Can’t wait.” He winked and walked away, running his hands through his long, dark hair. Perfect. That gave him plenty of time to go back to his place, light some candles, and put on some nice music. He wanted the atmosphere to be perfect tonight. After they made love, he was going to tell Daisy he loved her and didn’t want to share her with other men anymore. After all the support he had given her over the years ― the emotional support, the financial support, the massages to any part of her body that was sore after a performance ― she could see how much cared about her.

Three hours later, Moe wrapped his arms around Daisy and kissed her on the cheek. Being inside her always felt fantastic, but holding her in his arms afterwards ran a close second. She usually complained that she didn’t like cuddling after sex, but tonight she lay still in his arms. He smiled at her and she looked up into his small, dark eyes. She put her hand on the back of his head and pulled him closer, with soft kisses, but her kisses became more intense, more heated. They made out that way for several minutes until Moe broke away. He couldn’t resist taking one last little taste of her lips before he spoke. “Hey, you know Divine Condemned is in town tomorrow night?”

“Of course I know!” she beamed.

“Are you going to the show tomorrow night?” Moe asked.

“I wouldn’t miss it. We know the guys in the opening band, so they’re putting our band on the guest list.”

“Oh.” What was he going to do with those two tickets now? He had paid quite a bit of money for them.

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, I thought I’d take you with me.”

“How about if you come with me? You can be my plus one.”

“Cool.” He settled her in his arms again and closed his eyes. His plans had changed, but at least they’d be there together. After a few minutes, Daisy tossed the covers back and sat up. He lifted his head up. “Where are you going?” He tried to pull her back into his arms, but she eased herself out of his embrace, got out of bed, and started dressing.

“Babe, I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow before the concert. I’m going to head home now, but I’ll pick you up at five.”

He frowned at her in silence for a few moments until Daisy turned around and saw the expression on his face. “Just once I’d love to wake up next to you in the morning,” he sighed, sitting up.

She bent over to pick her jeans up off the floor, turning her back. “Were you going to make me breakfast?” He could hear the faint sarcasm in her voice.

“Is it so wrong to spend some time with me when we’re not fucking?” He hated that word for the act of love, but when she got up and left in a hurry this way, there was no other word for it. He made an effort to keep from losing his temper, but he could feel his plans for the evening slipping out of his grasp.  

She turned to face him again, smiling. “Don’t be so dramatic, Moe. The band has a lot going on right now, you know that. I don’t have time to lie around in bed spooning all night.” Ah, so her old excuse ‘I don’t have time’ made its comeback. She walked back to the bed and leaned over to kiss him. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” She patted his cheek. “Get some sleep. You’ll need it. We’re going to rock our asses off tomorrow night.”

He watched her walk out the door. The moment she was gone, a string of profanities left his mouth. He flopped back down on the bed and punched the pillow where Daisy’s head had just been. How much more did he need to give her before she finally cut him a fucking break and let him into her heart?

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.