Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I'm wayyyyyy behind on Flash Fiction Challenges ...

Due to a ton on crazyshit going on, I haven't done Flash Fiction Challenges on a regular basis in a long-ass time.

I'm going to make up for it, starting today, and work backward to where I last left off.

This Flash Fiction Challenge: The Secret Door

Dream House

   Before you stands an old door, hidden in an archway carved into a 10-foot-tall hedge of lush greenery that taunts passers-by with its plethora of secrets.  Many times, you have wondered what lies beyond that hedge, but it has never been open ... until now.
   As you enter, a surreal scenery unfolds.  You see a cozy craftsman bungalow with scalloped eaves in sage green contrasting beautifully with the maroon shutters that adorn its bay windows. A generous front porch with squared-off marigold pillars flank the midnight blue arched beveled double door inset with hand-made stained glass and surrounded by a bright coral door frame.
   As you walk around the house, you see a massive oak tree with a tire swing, hanging off of a branch thick enough to support an adult's weight, so you take it for a test drive.  Suddenly, you're a child again, feeling the breeze blow through your hair as you lean back and surrender yourself to the relaxing motion of the swing.
   After a few minutes pass, you realize it's time to explore some more, and venture further out into the back yard.  A huge dining table topped with a bright yellow and white polk-a-dot tablecloth sits underneath a vast, multi-hued chandelier and surrounded by chairs of every pastel color known to man.  Some of them are wooden, some of them are cushy, wing-back chairs.  At any moment, you expect to see a white rabbit scurrying about, rambling about the time.  Louis Carrol would be proud.
   Curiouser and curiouser, you think to yourself.  There's just something about this place that seems familiar.
   You decide to try the sliding back door and find it unlocked.  "Hello?  Is anyone here?" you ask as you look around for any sign of life.  After a moment of silence, you walk in slowly, half-expecting someone to scream for help or whack you with a cast-iron skillet.
   No cries for help or swinging cookware greet you as you turn on the light and enter the master bedroom.  Instead, you see a king-sized bed whose canopy extends to the entire ceiling like a silk tent in every shade of blue and purple.  The bed is piled high with jewel-toned pillows, and the comforter is a sapphire blue, swirled with lilac purple.  A plush, thick lavender rug stands out against a dark hardwood floor.  The master bathroom continues the purple theme, with a royal purple contrasting with turquoise throughout.  A claw-foot bathtub in purple and white is framed by darker purple curtains, and shelves on the walls feature more candles than a Catholic altar.
   The hallway continues the blue, purple and turquoise theme, with a cream-colored chaise lounge accenting the center.
   In the center of the living room is an elegant antique purple velvet hump-back couch, with a silver-plated back.
   The kitchen takes on a slightly unexpected French theme, with a red-and-white argyle backsplash over black marble countertops, and a black-and-white tiled floor leading to the breakfast area, where an antique white bistro sets against black lacquer walls.
   You wonder what kind of person lives in this bohemian paradise, and suddenly, you realize:  Ten years ago, when you were a naive dreamer, you created a notebook full of pictures from magazines that resembled every aspect of this place.
   Curiouser and curiouser ...
   Suddenly, a purple fairy emerges from a sparkly cloud that appears out of nowhere.
   Your heart skips a beat and you back away in shock.
   "Don't be alarmed, sweetie," she says in a soothing voice.  "This is your house!"
   You stand there, stunned, with your jaw dropped to the beautiful hardwood floor.
   "We've been watching you for years, and we didn't like the streak of bad luck you've been given."
   Your mind goes over the rolling series of disappointments that has been your life in recent years.  The broken dreams, the job layoffs, the bitter break-ups ... Yep, life has been quite the bitch lately.
   "We searched through your subconscious and found these images.  We discovered they were part of this book you discarded after you lost your house," the fairy said.
   "Wait a minute ... who is we?"
   The fairy laughs, and you realize she's not a fairy at all -- she's an alien.
   "Sorry, please allow me to introduce myself.  You can call me Sandy -- that's the closest thing in the English translation from my alien language.  You were randomly selected for our anthropological study.
   "Now, I know what you must be thinking -- we've seen every movie, every X-Files episode, and we know humankind doesn't trust anyone from outer planets.  Please, let me assure you, we only want to study your culture."
   Still in shock, all you can do is blink in response.
   "We don't normally interfere with humans' lives, but we took a particular interest in yours.  We decided to separate you because you are an ideal candidate for our experiment.
   "This is where you will be spending the rest of your life.  You will want for nothing.  We will supply nothing but the best food, clothing and anything else you desire.  We are currently searching for a suitable mate, so you can be fulfilled in your domestic life.  Please let me know if there's anything else we can do for you."
   Curiouser and curiouser.   Well, it's not like you had any real freedom in your former life -- always having to slave away at a crappy job you didn't like, to pay for a crappy apartment with paper-thin walls where you couldn't get any sleep, that was full of crappy furniture you picked up from the side of the road.  You lived a solitary life, with no friends and no love life.  You had nothing worth missing, because you had already lost everything.  You shrug.
   "Sounds great, Sandy!"  You take in a deep breath as you look around at the beautiful surroundings, and head straight for the cushy bed.  Hell, you didn't even care if the aliens themselves decided to impregnate you.  If this was your new prison, you were ready to do time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Opening Line

A Special Place in Hell
by Kristin Mireles

   This week's Flash Fiction Challenge is called "Choose Your Opening Line."  It reminds me of when I was a kid and I would read the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series.  Those were so much fun!  Anyway, here's my entry:

   “You must walk three paces behind me,” she said.  “And never raise your eyes to mine.”
   Dan thought it was a weird request, but he followed obediently.  Hell, why not.  I'm up for anything.  He had never met anyone like Vickie, and he couldn't wait to get to know her better.  
   He met her after stepping out the back door of his favorite restaurant for a cigarette.  
   Dan needed to get away from the tension after witnessing a woman raise all kinds of hell and flat-out refuse to pay her bill because she and the rest of her table didn't like the food -- even though they ate all of it.  
   He lit up, and a gorgeous, slender 6-foot-tall brunette with a little red dress came up from out of nowhere and asked to borrow a cigarette.  The way she looked, she could have asked to borrow his soul, and he wouldn't have denied her.  
  They laughed together as they talked about the obnoxious restaurant customers, and as their cigarettes were almost completely burned out, she put her hand on his arm and said, barely above a whisper, "Wanna see something you'll never forget?"
   And now here he was, going down this crazy path.  He thought it might be something cool, like an underground club.  It turned out to be literally underground.  
   "Hey, aren't you even going to give me a hint about where we're going?"
   "I promise, Dan, you've never been anywhere like it."
   She flashed a smile and said, "You know those people who are always assholes to salespersons, who run restaurant servers around like they're their personal staff, who abuse receptionists and other customer service workers?  
"Because they made these workers' lives hell on Earth, they will have a special place to serve in Hell."
   Vickie lit the pathway with her iPhone, carefully descending steps that finally came to a huge, concrete brick archway with a sign above it that read, "This will not end well."
   Exactly what I was just thinking, Dan thought.  A chill crept up his spine as they passed through.
   Vickie stopped at a doorway that revealed a room full of terrible screams.  Dan looked in to see people trying in vain to soothe screaming infants and puppies.  
   "This is the first circle," Vickie said.  "These are customers who -- just like colicky infants and puppies suffering separation anxiety -- were innocently unaware that their constant demands for attention made extra work for those whose job it was to help them. They will have no rest."      
   Further down, the second circle revealed people chained behind a desk, with thousands of hands grasping for them from all directions because in life they selfishly acted as if they were the only customers who mattered.  
   In the third spiral, people were walking up steep hills carrying enormous sacks because each of them became an impossible burden on society by habitually trying to work the system for discounts or free meals.  
   A disturbing scene opened up to Dan when Vickie brought him to the fourth circle of Hell, full of giant, oozing globs of ... people?!?
   "These were those who worked in management, and never backed their employees when customer complaints came up," she explained. 
   "Let me guess ... they have to go all eternity without a spine, since they never really had one in life," Dan said.
   "Exactly," Vickie said with a satisfied smile.
   The circles of Hell that followed were each a great spectacle.  In the fifth circle, those who would bully and yell at people in the service and retail industry were confined to a concrete cell echoing with piercing shrieks that would ring in their ears for all eternity.  
   Unfortunate souls in the sixth circle were made to walk back and forth, without a rest, because in life they would constantly enter a store right before closing.
   Vickie led him to the seventh circle, reserved for managers who played political games with their employees.  
   "Because spiritually, they were such vile creatures in life, these sinners would be forced to become one of the most vile creatures that ever walked the Earth -- cockroaches, constantly having to run away from a giant foot.  After being stomped, they would black out, and wake up again as new cockroaches, running around until they are squashed again."
   Dan shuddered all the way to the eighth circle, full of people who would take up a commissioned salesperson's time with hours of negotiations, only to take that deal to the competitor's business. 
   "Isn't that what the salespeople were there for?" Dan asked. 
   "Commissioned salespeople are not paid by the hour.  If I wanted you to go mow my lawn, pull all the weeds, and trim all the hedges and told you to do it for free, what would you tell me?"
   "Hell no!  That's hard work!  I would expect you to pay me for that shit!"
   "Exactly.  These people are essentially stealing valuable time and labor.  That's why they will spend all eternity in the trenches of Hell, doing hard labor without reward."
   The ninth circle was the most disgusting.  People who would give condescending lectures to customer service personnel who didn't kiss their ass were stung by a million buzzing bees that never died, while stuck waist-deep in a steaming vat of dung. 
   Dan's nostrils were burning from the olfactory assault. 
   "Are you ready to go back?  I think we've seen enough today," Vickie said after she looked at her watch.
   Dan was relieved.  He couldn't stand the smell any longer.  
   As Dan resurfaced, he turned around to see the obnoxious family leaving the restaurant, complaining loudly.  Clearly, no amount of free food would appease them.  
   When he looked back, Vickie was gone.  He quickly went back to the bar and closed out his tab.  His bill came to $41.23.
  "Here, thanks for the great service.  Keep the change," he said as he gave the server a $100 bill.  The server stood there in shock as Dan smiled, then walked out of the restaurant, knowing he had made someone's night.