Flash Fiction Friday #4 - July 24, 2009

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Ryan

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Jul 24, 2009, 8:05:51 AM7/24/09
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Hello everyone! Please post your stories in this thread to help
things organized!

Natalia

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Jul 24, 2009, 10:44:00 AM7/24/09
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***WARNING--mature themes, violence, and gruesome images.***

******


An ecosystem was rapidly forming in the various orifices of Henry
Levartson's body. Blowflies were the first to take up residence,
choosing for their homes primarily his ears, nose and the gaping
wounds in his chest and forearms. As darkening yellow segmented bodies
twisted, crawled, and burrowed deeper, tiny eggs opened to reveal
miniature versions of the same. In turn, predatory rove beetles
settled and feasted upon the growing maggots.

Along with the typical decomposition, rats gnawed at Henry's body with
more gusto than Henry had ever been able to muster for his own life.
As the days passed, dogs smelled his decomposing corpse and tried
unsuccessfully to pull away from their owners to investigate the
source in the ravine. Had they succeeded, the insects and animals
would have helped determine the time and cause of Henry's death. As it
was, they served only to destroy the little that still remained.

****

One day when Henry was still alive and young enough to lay claim to
all of his 15 ½ years, he decided home was unbearable. He left a short
note to that effect, packed a few belongings, and fled. He always
thought he'd go back; it seemed inevitable. But hours turned into
days, days into weeks, weeks into years, and no one came looking for
him. For a long time, he compulsively checked wanted posters wherever
he went, partially because he was curious what people would think he’d
look like years later, and partially because he wondered if he was
missed at all.

There were never any milk containers with his picture, enhanced or
otherwise, nor any flyers posted in the entrances of grocery stores.
There was no search party, and certainly no media reports or public
outrage either while he was alive or after he had died. Henry wouldn't
have been surprised to learn of his solitude after death; in the five
years, eight months, two weeks, and three days he’d lived since he'd
left home, Henry had gradually lost his ability to feel surprise or
much of anything.

Sometimes he'd make some money panhandling and would buy drugs that
made him feel something, a spark of life, a splash of colour on the
black and white canvas that was his existence. Always, it wore off too
quickly. For a long time, it bothered him that he felt so little, but
gradually that faded too.

****

In the same city that Henry Levartson lived, Konrad Platt and Martin
Rummer also resided. Just like Henry, Konrad and Martin went through
each day looking for a way to feel alive. For a time they satisfied
themselves with encounters with young women, drugs, and alcohol, but
they soon found it wasn’t enough.

Eventually, ever so casually, Martin mentioned he’d had a dream in
which he’d killed someone.

“By accident?” Konrad asked, “Or on purpose?”

Martin shrugged, and took another swig of his beer. “Does it matter?
It was just a dream.”

Konrad threw his empty bottle out of the window. “You ever killed
anyone before?”

“Nah. You?”

Konrad shook his head slowly. “Almost,” he said, regretfully, but
didn’t elaborate, even when Martin gestured with his almost-empty beer
bottle for him to continue.

Martin was quiet for a moment. He finished the last of his beer and
threw the bottle out of the same window Konrad had. When he finally
spoke the words that would change their lives, that would connect them
to one another, and to Henry, it was with a laugh.

“You wanna try it again?” Martin said, “We’re only seventeen once...”

Konrad’s answer came by way of a smile and an already formed plan.

****

It was a Wednesday. Clouds crowded the darkening sky as Martin and
Konrad met on the street mere blocks from their respective houses.

“I’m just curious, you know?” Martin said, “What it feels like.”

“Yeah.” Konrad lit his cigarette. “Just gotta pick the right one.”

Martin nodded. “Right. The right one. Which one’s the right one?”

“Him,” Konrad said. He gestured towards Henry, who was slouched
against a wall.

“Him,” Martin echoed, and looked at Henry with more contempt than
interest.

“Hey.” Henry looked up, finally noticing them. “Spare some change?”

Konrad grinned at him, and elbowed Martin. “Come with us, we’ll give
you a lot of change. Eh, Martin?”

Lowering his voice, he added, “What? Death is change!” and Martin
laughed.

****

Henry followed Martin and Konrad without question deep into the
nearby ravine. The truth, if he’d thought to tell it, was that he’d
forgotten why he’d gone with them to begin with. By the time he
remembered he’d been promised money, and started to ask for it with a
smile, Martin and Konrad had begun their assault.
Henry raised his arms to protect himself, but it was a futile
gesture.

The two boys overpowered him faster and with more ease than they’d
anticipated. They kicked until Henry’s legs and ribs were broken, and
punched until his face split and blood spilled out, and his head caved
in. Martin and Konrad whooped and laughed feverishly. Henry fell to
the ground, let out one low mourning moan, and died.

Afterwards, Martin and Konrad covered Henry’s body with fallen leaves
and branches and when they looked back, they were satisfied that he
could not been seen even if someone was looking for him. They peeled
off their outer clothes, revealing the bloodless ones underneath, put
them into a garbage bag and threw it away as they emerged from the
ravine. No one noticed.

“I’m glad,” said Martin, “glad that I know.”

Konrad smiled and slapped Martin on the back in agreement.

****

When the body was eventually discovered, and determined to be human
remains, Henry was known henceforth only as John Doe. When Martin and
Konrad heard of this, Konrad proclaimed it the punch line.

****

The boys grew into men; they each found careers, married, and raised
children. And they still speak, on occasion—but never of Henry
Levartson.

Riann

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Jul 24, 2009, 2:38:09 PM7/24/09
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“Just breathe, savour that sweet air. Inhale and feel the living move
down your nose. Feel it fill your lungs and dance through your veins
as it drives everything you do. Just breathe.”
That’s the kind of person she wanted to be, one who appreciated the
very breath that choked her, but to her it remained simply air no more
magical than the veggies or water she consumed everyday or Starbucks
coffee that secretly sustained her. Actually, a Latte could be pure
magic if made right. Tossing her car keys into her purse Dhala
digressed. There are exactly two types of sick people she fully
believed. The silent stoic martyr for whom charity runs crop up each
weekend, where people hold hands and cry, wishing they could be half
so brave, then go back to their stale daily existence. These were the
sick people who annoyed her only marginally less than those who
bemoaned the cruel hand they had been dealt and gratefully took the
pity heaped upon them, speaking with a sense of reverence about the
latest symptom or prognosis. These two variations were unified by one
thing in her view; the both defined whom they were by a single
sentence spoken in a doctor’s office however many months or years ago.
That sentence, for her, had been spoken when she was too young to
understand the ramifications of the doctor’s words or the fact that
henceforth that single statement would define her in so many people’s
minds. “Dhala’s tests are in, it’s the thing we fear most Cystic
Fibrosis, we’ll admit her now for a strong dose of anti-biotics and
take from there. These kids are living longer and longer. There is no
reason to believe that she won’t live into adulthood.”
At 23 she’d beat the odds. A double lung transplant at 18 had helped
to ensure that. She’d spent each holiday, the major ones and the minor
ones, in a hospital room at least once. Her transition from the
children’s hospital to the adult one across the street had been
seamless. In so many ways shed been the perfect patient, never really
complaining, but willingly accepting all of the interventions that
that helped her to breathe and metabolize her food. She’d tolerated
countless hours of physio therapy to loosen the mucus that sought to
suffocate her if it had its way, she ate special organic and macro-
biotic diets and eventually, embraced the G-tube which allowed her to
absorb extra calories while, she slept, by dripping thick liquid
directly into her stomach. Despite all this, she failed to conform to
her anticipated role in one way. She had never embraced being the sick
person. She had made strives to be, simply, Dhala, to have people see
her as creative, funny, or on one of those days when her black hair
took on a particularly flattering bluish shade, strikingly gorgeous.
Yet, as others her age expanded their social groups her s spiralled
seemingly smaller and smaller. As her friends grew up and moved away
from their suburban homes, those who stayed close, seemed to
unequivocally be those who had know her the longest and who has seen
her life unfold as it always seemed to, with ill times
hospitalizations and plans dictated by clinic visits. Until finally,
in the last six months she had realized that the only numbers
programmed into her cell phone aside from doctors and clinics were
those of her mother, her best-friend Ginger and their shared
“boyfriend,” Daniel, beautiful sexy undeniably gay Daniel.
Ironically, her illness had impacted Ginger and Daniel more than it
had her own view of her self. Ginger had recently graduated from
nursing school and worked on the very unit that the girls as,
impetuous teenagers had befriended Daniel, the asthma that had long
since stopped plaguing him had placed him across the hall from 14 year
old Dahlia. A game of truth and dare on a dreary Sunday afternoon, had
lead to not only first kisses for Dhala and Daniel, but a story two
lord over her two Besties for ten long years for Ginger, who spent
nearly as much time visiting the hospital as her “patient” friend.
Dhala was fairly sure Ginger owed her career to these visits, after
all at her interview the charge nurse spent more time laughing at the
escapades she recalled from that last summer of Dhala- 4 years before
than asking her questions related to her skills.
It often crossed her mind that were it not for her diagnosis, she
might not have these friends at all. Hell, she didn’t even know if she
was a likable person. Maybe every invitation to a party, every date
had been the result of sympathy. Was she as funny, smart and
interesting as she believed? Dhala supposed she’d never really know.
After all, who was going to lie to the sick girl and tell her she was
a raging bitch? All she really wanted to know was who she was
reflected in the eyes of someone who didn’t know she would likely be
dead in 10 years, and that in the meantime she’d hack up enough mucus
to fill one of the smaller great lakes.
That is why she was packing. Dhala knew it was stupid, she knew she
couldn’t buy herself more that a week, and that she’d still need her
meds and feds, but all that she could do in whatever hotel room she
ended up in. She knew which hotel chains were the cleanest. Her plan
was simple and brief. Drive for an hour then spin the four coloured
spinner from an ancient board game to which she’s assigned each colour
an attribute: red for straight, blue left, yellow right and green stop
at the next Holiday Inn or Hilton you see. She really hoped she didn’t
spin green for at least a few hours. She wanted to be far from anyone
she knew, anyone who knew her.
She could feel her heart racing she knew that she was taking the
biggest risk of her life. Not medically, but spiritually. There was no
going back after this trip she would know who she was, or who others
thought she was, separate from CF. After that maybe, she would really
be free to just be herself.


oilsdragon

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Jul 24, 2009, 5:54:41 PM7/24/09
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** I feel like this one's a bit of a cop-out, but I've decided to post
each week whether I'm happy with them or not :) Write on! ~V **

*****

Subject: Getting Back in Touch
From: erin.h...@gmail.com
To: r.e...@yahoo.com
Sent: July 24, 2009 22:46:07

Dear Richard,

I'm sorry I've been so distant since you were released. It's been a
hard time. Lisa's been sick – really sick on and off for months – and
with her allergies, the doctors aren't sure whether it's safe to give
her any meds. They're going to get her tested again when she turns 12
but until then, it's all guesswork.

Lynn is picking universities to apply to in the fall, and it seems
checkups and campuses are all we talk about in this house any more!
Rich has entered that terrible teenage phase and all he wants to do is
hide out on his computer - I can't get him to talk to me about
anything. I worry about him a little, though I shouldn't. He's a smart
kid, like you. But that's not the reassurance it used to be. But never
mind that.

I don't mean to make excuses. I just haven't known what I'd say to you
if we met. I'm glad you're out of prison? I'm scared of you? I'm
scared for you? I don't know who you are any more? All of it true. The
truth is, I miss you like crazy, big brother, but I still don't know
what to say. I'm so chicken-shit, I'll probably delete this email – I
doubt I have the nerve to send it. You'd dare me, wouldn't you? I'm
not the courageous one. You always were. I'm just your stupid baby
sister with the boring life and boring family, who doesn't understand
how we got here – or even where "here" is.

If you felt like calling again, though, I might be willing to try to
figure it out.

Erin

Sayer

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Jul 24, 2009, 6:28:57 PM7/24/09
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Thumbs Up

It was taking all my concentration to force the bits of tread and
steel plating to avoid her. The hair on the back of my neck was
standing on end and the hum of the Beholder was deafening.

Others had told me Kinetics were violent and feral, but even after the
incident in the lunchroom, I had thought that just caste prejudice.
After all, opting to embarrass your tormentors rather than injure
them, could hardly be called “feral” But as she leapt from the edge of
the crumbling hallway above me, eyes flashing, I saw a different side
to her. According to what I’d been taught about siege weapons,
Beholders were one of the most dangerous, so much so, that as unmanned
units they were programmed to simply ignore anything smaller than a
tank. The programmers assumed such hostiles would pose no threat to
the unit.

Somehow, despite this, her first attack had cloven one set of counter-
rotating treads in twain, sending links hurtling outward. I had tensed
initially, fearing that she’d be hit, but then I was overcome by a
familiar tingle and the links began slamming into each other and bits
of still falling debris, avoiding us both by mere feet in many cases.

The unit was now desperately trying to right itself and orient one of
its cannons on the tiny assailant that had dealt it such a crippling
blow, but she was undaunted. The wheels of what she had once told me
were called “rollerskates” proved to be a boon in navigating the
rotating spherical surface of the flailing Beholder. It was still
hurling bits of tread outward, but added to this were large plates of
the unit’s armour liberated by her efforts with the axe. She’d told me
about the special relationship Kinetics had with “things”, but I still
don’t really understand how she was able to penetrate the hide of a
siege engine with a weapon that I’d only ever seen behind the glass of
the antique tools display.

I concentrated on the remaining tread as pieces of the beholder flew
outward, and pushed. Suddenly a chunk of armour collided with the
still standing structure, loosening a great hunk of concrete roofing.
I was no longer paying attention to her assault on the Beholder, but
that was fine since she was now dodging the flying metal on her own.
The concrete sagged and then broke away altogether, careening towards
the crippled machine. It tore through the remaining tread and then
into the spherical body of the Beholder, driving it into the ground.
The impact hurled her clear and threw up a wall of dust blinding me.
As I choked, trying to rub the grit out of my eyes, the mechanical
keening of the machine was almost painful in its intensity. So much
different from the earlier hum, it seemed to almost be crying out in
pain. A sudden explosion blinded me again and knocked me to the
ground. Lying there, I could no longer hear the keening. Instead, the
piercing sound was replaced with an eerie silence. I could hear bits
of concrete crumbling, the wind blowing through the trees and in the
distance, I could swear that was a bird chirping.

As the dust began to settle and I climbed to my feet, I wondered if
she’d survived her initial fall and the subsequent explosion. I was
used to unlikely events unfolding, due to my caste penchant for
probability, but I hadn’t been paying attention. I could see what was
left of the Beholder smouldering in the crater left by the explosion.
The spherical surface was covered in gashes and gouges where plates of
armour had been pried away and it had buckled significantly where the
concrete roofing had impacted and speared it to the ground. Strewn
about the crater were still burning bits of wreckage, adding the
crackle of flames to the earlier sounds.

Behind the remnants of the unit, a plate of armour moved then was
shifted to the side, and there she was, axe in hand, covered in grit
and coughing as though she’d inhaled the entire dust cloud.

She’d been my only real friend. All the other children seemed to be
obsessed with caste rules and had only made friends with those that
were “allowed”. But she was different. That day in the lunchroom when
she had put them all on the floor covered in the contents of their
trays was proof of that. We weren’t supposed to be friends, it wasn’t
allowed, but none of the elders had ever tried to keep us apart
despite the protestations of the other children.

I really don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t survived
this.

Across the crater, she looked up at me, and between coughs, smiled and
gave me a “thumbs up”.

hilary slater lamont

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Jul 24, 2009, 8:24:55 PM7/24/09
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I don't think it's a cop out!! I like the character development! And why not an email story? It works for me! :D
hil
--
H i l a r y   S l a t e r
Sustainable Landscapes


hilary slater lamont

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Jul 24, 2009, 8:28:51 PM7/24/09
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woah .. this feels like a central piece of a novel... perhaps it could be? :D

Sayer

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Jul 24, 2009, 9:10:29 PM7/24/09
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Actually these characters have existed in some form or another since I
was in the 10th grade. I've just never been able to write a storyline
for them (that I liked) until now.

On Jul 24, 8:28 pm, hilary slater lamont <hilarysla...@gmail.com>
wrote:
> Sustainable Landscapes- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -

oilsdragon

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Jul 25, 2009, 4:45:24 PM7/25/09
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Natalia - That was gross! Gross, and very intriguing - I liked the
counterintuitive way your story jumps from the end to the beginning.
I'd like to see you do more with unusual narration. I like it!

Riann - I almost wish your story could have been longer, or at least,
that it had more detail - some dialogue would have been nice, to flesh
out the characters and draw more interest. It's a concept well worth
writing about and I applaud you for taking on something so big and
ambitious in such a short story.

Sayer - I think this is my favourite of your shorts that I've read so
far! As Hilary said, it feels like a piece of something longer...
there were details of the setting and character histories that you
referred to but that were left ambiguous... maybe a little too
ambiguous for me to really feel comfortable with the story. But it did
leave me interested!

tama...@gmail.com

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Jul 25, 2009, 8:47:36 PM7/25/09
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Wiping the tears away from my eyes, I sign my name. I sign the way I
usually sign, with big unnecessary swirls so that the reader has
something fancy to be impressed by. This letter gets my calligraphy
out of habit, or, more likely, out of respect. Either way, it hardly
matters. This letter’s recipient will never see it.

Oh, Jamie, I miss you so much. I’ve cried so many tears I feel like
they’re about to run out, although, of course, they never do. The
only thing that ever seems to run out is my strength. I haven’t even
got the energy to still be angry at the drunk driver who took your
life.

Attempting to reread the letter, as I always do with letters before
folding them, I barely make it past the first line.

“Dear Jamie,”

That says it all. The futility of hope is unbearable.

As I fold the letter to bury it in a drawer, I hear a quiet tapping at
my window. I turn toward the source of the noise, but see nothing out
there except a cloudy sky and the wispy tendrils of my willow tree. I
return to the burial ritual, only to hear the noise again. It’s
louder this time. I turn again. Nothing. Nothing except a little
black bird that has landed on my window sill.

“Is someone playing a trick on me?” I ask of no one in particular.

“Not at all,” replied the raven.

For a moment, I think I’ve gone crazy. Humouring myself, I ask the
bird to repeat itself. I didn’t expect it to reply.

“I said, no one is playing a trick on you.”

The raven flutters a little higher, making visible the envelope that
it’s carrying with its feet.

“I’m just here to deliver this,” the raven says, and it gestures for
me to slide the window open. I accommodate its request. The raven
drops the letter into my hands and looks up at me expectantly.

“Do I have to sign for it?” I ask.

“No,” laughs the raven. “I was just looking at your face. You seem
surprised to see me.”

“I am,” I answer honestly. “Why shouldn’t I be?”

Before the raven can answer, I read the envelope. To my utter shock,
the return address says it’s from Jamie. The address isn’t Jamie’s
home - it’s not even in the same format as any address I’ve ever seen
- but Jamie is listed as the sender.

I check the date. Today. Today, and Jamie died a week ago. How is
this possible?

The raven must have noticed my bewilderment, but offsets it with its
own nonchalance. It bobs its head towards the letter I had just
finished writing.

“Do you want me to take that for you?”

“Take it where?”

“To Jamie.”

I pray that this is all a dream, and I’m not descending into a sort of
waking madness.

“You should probably go,” I say. Then I regret talking to the raven
at all. Engaging this miserable fantasy can’t be good for me right
now.

“You don’t believe me, do you?”

“I’m trying not to.”

The raven puffs up and rustles its feathers. It puts its beak
indignantly in the air.

“I’ll have you know we take great pride in our work. To be called a
liar is an insult to us all.”

“We?” I repeat stupidly. “Us? There are more of you?”

The raven nods. “Let me show you.”

In a matter of minutes, I find myself outside in the frosty autumn
air. The only sounds are the wind rustling through the trees and my
running footsteps hitting the pavement. I scarcely take my eyes off
the raven, who soars a short distance ahead. It disappears beyond a
fence and I have to call for it to wait for me.

The park. It must be in the park. I race around the endless fence
and spot the raven on the other side. It lands on the far end of the
field and waits for me. Once I catch up, I barely have time to catch
my breath before it takes to wing again.

“Where are you taking me?”

The raven settles on a low branch of a nearby tree and gestures to a
much larger tree about a dozen metres away.

“Right here.”

Strange. I’ve been to this park countless times and yet I’ve never
noticed this tree before. The name of its species eludes me. Its
gnarled branches and swirling patterns in the bark remind me of
calligraphy on a printed textbook page - something extraordinary
hidden amongst the everyday. Light reflects differently off of this
tree than it does off of any of the others. It is almost as if it is
in another world, and only slipped into my vision by some accident of
fate.

And in the upper branches, half obscured by a generous gown of leaves,
there flit thousands of ravens. Some fly in and perch upon the
branches, whereas some seem to disappear completely. Others emerge
from the leafy darkness, sometimes from spaces where I could swear
there was no bird before.

“Is this the place where you cross through?” I ask.

The raven doesn’t answer. Instead, it offers to take my letter across
for me. I wince. I stupidly left it at home.

“Will you be back?” I ask the raven.

“Maybe,” it says. “In time. But now I have to leave.”

And with that, it flutters into the air and disappears from sight.

hilary slater lamont

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Jul 25, 2009, 11:16:46 PM7/25/09
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I want MORE :D
it could be the beginnings of a novel :D

Sayer

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Jul 26, 2009, 2:44:15 AM7/26/09
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Oilsdragon:
This story is actually a continuation of the one I posted last week
entitled "Bring It" It's just told from the point of view of the other
character in the scenario. "Bring It" explains some things about the
characters' history together (like the details of the lunchroom
incident) but leaves others deliberately ambiguous, to be explained
later possibly.
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