Saturday, October 24, 2015

X Meets Y ... The Horror Edition

   This round of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge is X Meets Y ... The Horror Edition!  The Random Number Generator selected for me: Nightmare on Elm Street meets Back to the Future!  Please do enjoy!

Back to the Nightmare

   The speeding car grew increasingly faster as Nancy, Tina, Glen, and Rod banged on the windows, struggling to get out.  As their screams pierced the air, Marge tried to help them, only to be pulled inside the car.
   The hood started smoking as the car raced down the bucolic country road, driving the passengers to new heights of fear and panic.  Nancy's eyes grew wide as she saw the earth before them caving in.  Barreling toward the cliff, their death seemed imminent.
   Freddy threw his head back, as he released a menacing laugh.
   Suddenly, the tires popped.  The car spun away from the cliff, careening into the desert.  
   Nancy hit her head, forcing her back to reality.
   She looked around, realizing her friends were gone.  She was alone, behind the wheel, and apparently had fallen unconscious while driving.
   "Are you OK, M'am?"
   The voice jolted her.  She looked up to see a guy with a funny-looking hat.  She shook her head and squinted her eyes.
   "Wh-who are you?"
   "I'm Marty.  The fate of the world is in danger.  We have to go back in time to save your friends.  There's no time to explain.  Get in the time machine!"
   He helped her out of the car and put her into the DeLorean.  Stunned, she looked around at the high-tech car's interior.
   She could see how the car stopped; a string of nails stopped the car, subsequently saving her life.  She rubbed her head where she had hit it, still in disbelief.
   As he strapped himself in to the car, he explained what happened.
   "Nancy, you and your friends are the only ones who understand Freddy, who know how to kill him.  You are the only ones who can save the rest of the world.  
   "Doc visited the future, and saw what happens.  In the future, he terrorizes teenagers and kills them, one by one.  He moves from town to town, leaving a trail of murders in his path.  
   "For every kid he kills, he gains their life force.  Ultimately, he becomes all powerful and wipes out the entire human race."
   Nancy took a minute to process what she had just been told.  She took a deep breath and looked up.
   "Let's kill this son of a bitch, once and for all," she pronounced.
   Marty set the time back and explained when they were going.
   "Doc and I snuck into the Libyans' camp, and stole the rest of the plutonium to fuel the time machine.  Then, we took all of their guns and ammunition.  And trust me -- you'll need it."
   Marty and Nancy went to the sleepover, where Tina was murdered.  They snuck into the room where Tina and Rod were about to sleep.
   Nancy hid battery-operated alarm clocks under the bed, and in the closet, and everywhere she could think of.
   That night, as time Tina and Rod started to drift off, they were jolted awake by the first alarm.
   "What the fuck is going on," Rod demanded.  He and Tina looked all over to find the alarms.  "Is this your idea of a joke, Glen?"
   Marty and Nancy hid, watching the agitated teens bicker over the alarm clocks.  It seemed pretty juvenile, but they saved lives that night.
   The next day, as the kids went to school, Marty told Nancy the second part of his plan.
   "You're going to have to bring him into our reality.  When you originally did that, you didn't beat him.  But I've watched him, and I know how we can take him down.
   "We will need you, and Present Nancy, to join forces.  There will be unforeseen effects on you in the future, but it's a small sacrifice to pay for saving the world."
   When Nancy and her friends got home, Marty greeted them and told them he knew all about Freddy.  He then told them where he was from, and introduced them to Future Nancy as proof.
   "Oh my god," Present Nancy exclaimed, looking Future Nancy up and down.  Future Nancy took her hand and assured her: We're going to get through this.  We have to.
   Marty showed them his arsenal of weapons, and how to use them.  
   "Future Nancy is going to fall asleep, then bring him into our world," he told them.  "The second that happens, we have to kill him.  The fate of the world is in our hands!"
   Future Nancy got in on a group hug with Present Nancy, and all of her friends.  Then, she laid down, fully aware that it was a suicide mission.
   The next thing she knew, she was in a dream world again, surrounded by birthday cake and brightly colored streamers.  It was her fifth birthday party, the best memory of her childhood.
   She and her friends sat around a table, and the grown-ups brought them cupcakes.  She excitedly bit into hers, and a copper taste filled her mouth.  She looked to see blood started oozing out of her birthday cake.
   She gasped in shock, and looked around to see all of her friends eating normal cake and fully enjoying themselves.
   "OK, guys, it's time for presents," her mom announced.
   She was excited to see what she got.  Her mom brought around a big box that was too big to be carried.  It was bright green, with a pink ribbon tied around it.
   She couldn't wait to open it!  This was the biggest gift she had ever seen!
   When she pulled one of the ribbon's tails, the bow came undone and fell to the floor. 
   "Pop goes the weasel!"
   Freddy burst out of the box, fully extending his claws.  The children screamed.
   "Nancy, I've come for you!  I'm here to make sure you have a screaming good time!"
   Nancy screamed and ran.  She ran down the hallway, tears streaming down her face.  She knew what she had to do, but her old fears took over.
   She ran into a dead end.  None of the doors would open.  She turned around to see Freddy looming overhead, ready to strike.
   She ducked as he swung, and grabbed him at the waist.  As she tumbled, the impact woke her, and she brought Freddy along.
   "Nancy, run!"
   Nancy did as she was told, and ran past her friends as they pointed their guns at Freddy.  They all started shooting.  He laughed maniacally as the bullets had no affect.
   He slashed Rod, and watched in amusement as his body fell, lifeless, to the floor.
   "You want me, come and get me," Freddy sang.
   He disappeared, and reappeared behind Tina.  Her eyes grew big as the blade of his claw drew a red line across her neck.  He disappeared again as her jugular vein spurted her lifeblood all over the room.
   Marty ran, looking for Future Nancy.  He arrived at the kitchen to find that he was too late.  He watched in horror as Freddy carved her tongue out with a paring knife.
   Freddy sneered at Marty.  "Well, are ya gonna do something?"
   He slit open her abdomen, letting her entrails spill out.  "Or are you chicken," he mocked as he held up her liver.
   A dark pall fell over Marty's face.
   "Nobody.  Calls.  Me.  Chicken."
   He lifted his flame thrower and let loose on the scar-faced demon standing before him.  Freddy screamed in horror, begging it to stop.
   He was reduced to ashes.  Marty dropped his weapons, breathing a sigh of relief.
   "Glen?  Nancy?  You guys OK?"
   Nancy called out, "Is he dead?"
   "He is."
   Nancy and Glen came out to see the carnage in front of them.  She cried as she saw how her future self died.
   Glen held her closes as she cried on his shoulder.  Marty bowed his head in solemnity.
   Suddenly, a giant harpoon pierced all three of them.  As the teens gargled, looking around in wide-eyed shock, Freddy's laughter filled the room.
   "Did you think you were free?  You are all my children.  Forever!"
   "Freddy," Marty pleased.  "That car Nancy and I came in, it's a time machine!  You can go back to before all of this happened.  To before you were burned.  To before all of this!"
   Freddy laughed again.
   "Foolish boy!  Before, I had no power!  Now, I have more power than ever!  And it grows with every kill!
   "I am a horrible, vengeful god!  I destroy at will!  And nothing can stop me!"
   The teens gurgled up blood as Freddy laughed in their faces.
   "Did you like how all of this went down, because I sure had a good time," Freddy taunted.  "In fact, I think I'll keep doing this!  Using the DeLorean, I can travel back in time, and kill each of you a different way each time!"
   He laughed maniacally as the three watched helplessly.
   As he climbed into the DeLorean, he winked at the teens.
   "This is going to be fun!"

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Devastating Battle I Didn't See Coming

This week's Flash Fiction Challenge is to Tell a Story From Your Life. I'm going to share what it was like to receive a diagnosis for a disease I didn't even know existed.

The Devastating Battle I Didn't See Coming 

   Tears streamed down my face as I listened to the doctor's words. 
   "There's a mass in your left eye.  We're not sure what it is."
   The only thing that ran through my head was cancer.  I was terrified that I would lose my eye.  
   He said he would send the images to a specialist, and schedule an appointment for me to be seen.
   I was completely taken by surprise.  The only symptom at the time was a small, dark spot in my vision that made it hard to see whenever I was applying eyeliner to my right eye (because when I do this, I close that eye, relying solely on the left eye to see for application).  
   When the problem arose, I was uninsured at the time, and decided to "wait and see."  But after a few months, it started to grow larger, and I decided to pay out of pocket for a checkup.
   I was still in tears when I left the doctor's office.  About ten minutes later, he called to tell me the specialist looked over the images, and she said it wasn't cancer.  She would go over the details the following Monday morning.
   At the visit, she told me I had Presumed Ocular Histoplasmosis Syndrome, a chronic, degenerative disease endemic to the river valley region.  Histoplasmosis is a fungus that grows in fecal matter from birds or bats along the Mississippi River, becomes airborne, and invades your lungs.  In rare cases, such as mine, it travels up to the eye.
   POHS acts very similar to Macular Degeneration.  Swelling inside the eye causes bleeding.  Bleeding kills cells and leaves scar tissue, and causes permanent damage to the central vision.  
   By the time symptoms start showing up, the damage is done.  The beginning effects are "Histo Scars" -- scar tissue along the peripheral that is undetectable without medical equipment.  
   There is no cure.  All you can do is fight it with regular treatments, and hope that it doesn't spread to the other eye.
   The treatments include needles, needles, and more needles, which is totally awesome when you're dreadfully terrified of them!  Throw in the added fun of having veins that either hide or move around whenever syringes are near, and you're in for a rollicking good time!  
   One type of treatment, photodynamic therapy, involves being shot in the eye with a cold laser.  You have to hold completely still for this one, or you'll risk permanent injury.  The first time I had this, my Nervous Giggling Fear Response was in full swing.  
   I sat there laughing uncontrollably for a good twenty minutes, much to the dismay of the doctor, the annoyance of the techs, and to my own embarrassment.
   A more common treatment, ocular injection, is every bit as scary as it sounds.  When I had to get this, I was terrified.  
   Since it was a busy day, it took the specialist a long time to get to me.  This left me plenty of time  to work out my alternating laughing/crying fits in preparation for getting stuck in the eye with a needle as I sat alone in a patient's room.
   But nothing would prepare me for the most terrifying thing: a metal apparatus shaped like a set of tiny claws that they needed to pry my eyelids open.
   They talked me through the process, but when they showed me "the claw," I panicked and started screaming uncontrollably like an ingenue under attack in a classic horror movie.  I had never before been filled with so much terror.
   When they were installing "the claw," I had to hold perfectly still.  It prevented me from blinking, which made me want to blink even more.  Which, in turn, made my eyelids incredibly sore afterward.
   I utilized my yoga breathing technique to try to calm myself, focusing on a spot on the ceiling.  A tech held my hand, and reassured me as the specialist injected a numbing shot, then the actual medicine.
   Despite the treatments, my central vision in that eye is pretty much useless.  It's like looking out of a fish-eye lens that has been covered in mud.  I can't read from that eye, let alone see to drive.  
   Thankfully, the peripheral vision in that eye is still intact, and vision in my other eye is practically perfect, so I'm still able to do all the things I love: read, write, and design.
   I hope the day never comes when I have to fight that battle with my other eye.  From this experience, I learned just how precious vision is, and how quickly it can be destroyed.  
   I became fully aware that it might not always be there.  Not just because of POHS, but because, at any time, there could be an accident that decimates something previously taken for granted.  
   At any time, a parasite could invade and feed on a precious organ until the source is rendered useless.  At any time, some unforeseen force could take away that which you never imagined living without.
   That's why it's important to remember what you have, and be grateful for it.  Your organs, your mental faculties, your very life, are all precious and fleeting.  
   Sooner or later, they will be gone.  Will you be able to say that you made the most of them?  That you valued that which you were given?  Every day is a gift, an opportunity to create, an opportunity to utilize what you have.
   Don't let it go to waste.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Why I Write

This week's Flash Fiction Challenge is actually not writing fiction; it's writing about why I write. Here it is:

Why I Write

   I can't remember the first time I sat down and wrote something of fiction.  I can, however, remember the first time I had a favorite book: Golden Book's "The Pokey Little Puppy", because in my young, impressionable mind, desserts and puppies were a double-win.  (And still are, as a matter of fact!)
   I've always loved books, and I read hungrily and fervently from a young age.  (I had serious coordination problems when I was younger.  Sports were out of the question, but reading always came easy to me.)  My favorite pastime was to go to the library, check out the maximum number of books, and read them all in the two-week period before they were due.
   I had a lot of difficulty expressing myself as a child.  My parents tell me that I took a long time to learn to talk.  My brother, who was two years older, would speak for me.   
   When I finally did start talking, I had a speech impediment.  I couldn't pronounce my "Rs", and had serious problems acquiring a normal speech pattern.  This, combined with my lack of coordination, made for a very awkward childhood.  It was very isolating; even in my family, no one else had my issues.
   It wasn't until my freshman year in high school that I found my own voice through writing. Something clicked.  I realized I could write the way I always wished I could speak.  I learned that my family, all of whom were overbearing, could finally understand what I was trying to tell them if I put it in writing.  
   Through writing, I could make myself clear without being talked over or interrupted.  Through writing, my thoughts, which were otherwise horribly snarled together, would magically untangle and set themselves in order.  Through writing, who I really was could come through, unobscured and untainted.  Through writing, I was made to be understood.  Through writing, I was made whole.
   Over time, I was able to work out some of the kinks in my verbal communication skills.  Menial jobs that included repetitious phrases helped me to improve my speech patterns.  But writing remained -- and still remains -- my most effective form of communication.
   There were times in my life when I didn't write.  Caught up in Pursuit of the Practical, I was ultimately unfulfilled.  I knew there was something missing, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.  It wasn't until my last newspaper job, after a five-year hiatus from the journalism industry initiated by a layoff, that I realized why I wasn't functioning properly.
   I needed to write.  I needed to express myself, to reactivate that part of my brain that I had abandoned.  So I blew off the dust and cleared away the refuse in that part of my psyche which I never should have neglected.  I Googled writing exercises, and found Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenges.  
   Immediately, I knew I was back where I belong.  His challenges sparked my imagination and lit a fire that I had allowed to die out.  His writing inspired me.  And his advice encouraged me to embrace that which Everyday Routine and Pursuit of the Practical had made me forget.
   For some time, I shied away from becoming a novelist.  It seemed too daunting.  I didn't think I had the attention span for it.  
   And let's just say I was late to the NaNoWriMo party; I actually didn't even know what it was until I saw it in Wendig's blog last fall.  I was afraid to start it then, but a part of me wondered ...
   This past Spring, the local Nano group I had joined on Facebook mentioned a writer's conference that coming weekend.  It was the single most influential weekend I've experienced in a long time.  
   It was more than just the sessions, which were amazing and inspiring.  For the first time, I finally felt like I was surrounded by my people!  I could sense the kindred spirits all around me, and it was invigorating and refreshing.  
   My entire life, I've been misunderstood.  I've felt like a misfit, even in my own family.  On the Briggs-Meyer's scale, I'm INFP.  After researching this personality type, I've started to better understand myself.  (Of course I've always been "weird" -- those with my personality type comprise only 4% of the population.)  
   For this personality type, writing is an ideal career.  When I first saw that, I casually dismissed it, having been brainwashed for years to believe that the Pursuit of the Practical was the only way.  
   This summer, I finally decided to take the plunge.  My first Nano of any kind, JuNoWriMo, was an eye-opener that broke major ground for me.  I was challenged beyond anything I had ever done, and I realized my personal limits in writing were just arbitrary constructs that I had created out of fear.  They weren't based on reality.  
   Breaking through those walls taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to.  Before June, the most I'd ever written in one day was 3,000 words.  On my novel-writing journey, I had two days where I wrote 10K words, thanks to word sprints and word wars.  I completed 50K words two days before the end of the month.  And in July, when I participated in (and completed) Camp NaNoWriMo, I wrote 15K in one day.
   Writing can be a scary thing to pursue, when everyone around you pressures you to join them in the Pursuit of the Practical.  What they don't realize is what is practical for them can be death to someone who is meant for creative pursuits.  
   What is truly practical for me is to embrace who I am as a writer.  To stop hiding behind socially-mandated norms.  To stop making excuses.  To stop numbing my brain and allowing myself to be lulled into complacency with hours of television.  To stop the bullshit.
   Why do I write?  Because I must.  For me, to try to exist without it is to deny who I am at my very core.  It's every bit as necessary as breathing.  To not write is to stifle my creativity, my potential, my very being.
   I have outgrown the cage that was built for me by well-meaning people in my life, and by myself.  At this juncture, it's either: spread my wings and fly, or allow my wings to be clipped by limiting beliefs.  In refusing to fly, I would sentence myself to become haunted by the ghosts of unfulfilled potential, and cursed to forever wonder what my life might have been, if I had just been brave enough.  
   As a certain three-eyed raven from GRRM's novels is fond of saying, "Fly or Die."

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Corruption of Things Which Were Once Alive

This week's Flash Fiction Challenge is Random Phrase, where you visit a website that gives you a random phrase and write 1K words including that.  My random phrase is "forensic souring".

The Corruption of Things Which Were Once Alive

   Lester never really loved his job.  It was just something he did, on the way to finding his dreams.  The economy had crashed right after he graduated college with his degree in graphic design.
   He loved art and design.  It was his life.  In his younger years, he dreamed about working at a cutting-edge advertising firm, or designing for his favorite magazines.  The possibilities seemed endless -- that was, before he got a taste of the real world.
   He felt like he was really good at what he did.  He worked hard.  He had talent.  He had passion.  But what he didn't have was a job lined up for when he graduated.  
   One by one, his friends around him were offered internships and full-time jobs.  But for some reason, he couldn't seem to get his foot in the door.  He sent letters to firms and businesses around the country, just begging for someone to give him a chance.  But competition was fierce, and he was somehow always overlooked.  He took freelance gigs whenever he could, but those were few and far between.
   After three months of living as a starving artist, he reluctantly took a job as a mortician's assistant.  The pay wasn't much, but it was just enough to pay the bills, and to buy him an occasional night out.  He promised himself that he would keep applying for jobs, that maybe it would become easier now that the pressure was off.  Maybe he would have better luck now that he wasn't so desperate.  Maybe.
   After about a year of learning the trade, the mortician took a higher paying job at a competitor, and he was automatically promoted.  It meant a huge upgrade in his way of life.  He couldn't pass it up.
   Lester was perfecting his craft.  Corpses seemingly came to life as he painted their faces and stitched their wounds.  Sure, it wasn't his original passion, but it paid the bills.  He was coming up in the world.  
   Over time, he was practicing design less and less in his free time.  His freelance work went from being put on the back burner to being thrown away completely.  His hair was greying, his skin wrinkling, and his dreams decaying, smothered by the life he created for himself.  In the bustle of everyday life, working to survive the real world, he forgot about his dreams altogether.  
   That was, until Frances Englebert was wheeled into his lab.  
   "Old Frankie!  Man, it's been a while.  I'm sorry to see you like this."
   He sighed in remorse, wishing for one more opportunity to speak to Frankie.
   Frankie was a talented artist, and Lester's friendly rival at the art college.  He looked up to him, envied him. Especially when he was offered a job at a big design firm in New York City.  Lester read in the funeral program that he had made quite a life for himself.  He worked his way to the top, and started his own firm.  He had a beautiful family, and plenty of friends.
   And now, here he was.  His death was a tragedy, but his life was an inspiration.  His legacy lived on through his children and his business, all of which had flourished.
   Lester felt tears roll down his cheek.  It was the first time he had felt anything in years.  It suddenly dawned on him -- all this time, he had put all of his energy into living the practical life.  He was surrounded by decay, spending all of his efforts trying to make death look as pretty as possible, painting an illusion of animation over the forensic souring that corrupted that which was once alive.  
   The reality sank in that night as he prepared his old friend for his final presentation to the world.
   The next morning, the funeral director came in to see his mortician crumpled on the floor with tears in his eyes, his face puffy from hours of crying.
   Lester was mourning, not just for his friend, but for himself and everything in his own life that he had allowed to die.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

In a Red Dress and Alone

In this week's Flash Fiction Challenge, The Random Song Title Jamboree, a random song title from my music collection is the title for the story (although not necessarily the basis.  Please do enjoy:

In a Red Dress and Alone

   She stood there, listening to the conversations around her.  Alexis sipped her cocktail slowly, feeling more and more awkward by the moment.
   This was a new town, a new environment altogether.  A far cry from her hometown.  She had been given a huge opportunity with her first job after college, and didn't think twice about leaving behind everyone and everything she had ever known.
   She was excited at first when a coworker at her new job, Sophie, had invited her to her birthday party.  She had hoped Sophie would introduce her to some people at the party to help her get acquainted.  But once Alexis had arrived, Sophie was in her own little world, surrounded by her adoring fans.
   Being the life of the party seemed to be more of a priority for Sophie than making her guests feel at home, and Alexis couldn't be mad at her for that, could she?  After all, it was her birthday.  Alexis occupied her own little corner of the room while Sophie chatted and laughed with her circle of friends.
   Sophie seemed so perfect, with her full, pouty lips, her perky, firm breasts, and her hair that never lost its bounce.  She was one of those effortlessly amazing girls who never had to worry about getting zits on her perfect skin, or about knowing what to do in any social situation.  If there was a manual somewhere on how to handle social encounters of every kind, she had probably written all the current revisions.
   Everyone was so drawn to her, and not just at this party.  At work, she was always being praised for her accomplishments.  Upper management would flock to her desk, falling over themselves to compliment her latest project.  Alexis, who sat just a few cubicles over, would listen in as they waxed eloquent about how amazing Sophia was.
   And while Alexis always considered herself to be above petty jealousy, it was impossible not to feel just a twinge of it as Little Miss Perfect was being lauded as the Most Awesome Person of the Year by practically everyone around.
   And her birthday party was no different.  Alexis felt like she wasn't even good enough to be in this woman's shadow.  The moment she walked in the door of Sophie's apartment, which looked like it was decorated by Martha Stewart, herself, she felt inadequate.  Smiling faces emanated with forced politeness, but Alexis could tell everyone was wondering who she was.  Hell, these days, she wondered that very same thing, herself.
   And why did she decide to wear this red dress?  She had very little opportunity to wear it in other facets of her life, being neither appropriate attire for work, nor for grocery shopping.  It had a vintage style to it, with a square neckline that minimized her proportionate bust line, and a skirt that flared out and stopped right above her knees.  It looked so cute on the hanger, and nothing else in her closet seemed like the kind of thing to wear to this party.  And her shoes -- black patent heels that pinched her toes together and made her back hurt -- just looked all wrong.
   This was the first party Alexis had been invited to since she had graduated college.  It was probably safe to assume that there would not be jello shots or beer pong here.
   After seeing what all the other partygoers were wearing, the dress made her feel like a little girl.  Everyone else wore either black or blue, or conservative neutrals.  Most of the other girls had jeans on, and the ones who did wear a skirt or a dress wore something much more sophisticated and elegant than what Alexis had selected.  And the birthday girl, herself, wore a dress that made her look like a mythical water nymph -- with delicate fabric in a muted cornflower blue, softly flowing down her graceful silhouette and ending mid calf in an asymmetrical handkerchief hem.  Her short, graceful curls framed her beautiful, perpetually smiling face.  The more Alexis looked at her, the more inadequate she felt.
   The awkwardness was excruciating.  She concentrated very hard on her drink.  It wasn't exactly fascinating, but it was infinitely better than looking around the room and risking eye contact with strangers.  Alexis hated situations like this.  There were about a million things she would rather be doing.  In fact, if she weren't at this party, she would have been at home, cuddling with her yorkie, and reading.  It was a mistake coming here.
   She decided she would wait about five minutes more, speak briefly to Sophie, and get back home to her comfortable pajamas and a glass of wine.  Wading through the sea of strangers, she finally made her way to the birthday girl.
   "Hey, Sophie, I just wanted to tell you happy birthday.  I'm about to head out."
   "OK, I'll see you at work on Monday."
   Sophie barely acknowledged her, before going back to her circle of admirers.  They all whispered and giggled together as Alexis stepped out.
   She breathed a sigh of relief as she sat in the driver's seat of her car and closed her door.  She was going back to her fortress of solitude, to bask in the glow of a new book.
   Back at the party, a very shy and very awkward young man sighed as he stared into his beer.  He could barely contain his disappointment.  He didn't know anyone there, and he was just about to muster the courage to speak to the pretty girl in the red dress.  But before he even got the chance, she quickly made her exit.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Some Things, Once Smelled, Can Never Be Unsmelled

I haven't done very many Flash Fiction Challenges lately because I'm doing JuNoWriMo, and writing a fabulous Texas-themed zombie novel.  I decided to take a break to do this week's challenge, The Dead Body, which involves a dead body in the very first paragraph.  So, without further ado, here's my morbid tale.

Some Things, Once Smelled, Can Never Be Unsmelled

   A barely putrescent corpse, yellow and grey and crawling with maggots, lay on the cold cement of an abandoned basement.  Its inanimate body seemed at home here, having already been given over to the darkness.  Cockroaches, flies, and spiders had taken over, the only signs of life in an otherwise lifeless place.  
   Cobwebs stretched from the ceiling to the rotting, abandoned furniture that had long been reduced to rusted, moldy pieces of cushion and wood that, along with the decaying human body, served as a collective buffet for the creatures that lived here.
   The smell that overwhelmed the room and seeped into every porous bit of material was a powerful mix of copper, rot, and a hint of sweetness that could inspire nausea in the strongest of stomachs.   
   A real estate agent named Carla gagged upon entering this room, her indulgent lunch from Panera Bread preparing to make an encore presentation to the world.  The creamy, golden yellow soup of broccoli and cheese made a grand exit in the most explosive projectile manner, mixed with pieces of lightly toasted (now soggy) ciabatta bread, thin-sliced lean roast beef, and a wonderfully nutty artesian Swiss cheese.
   Carla doubled over, her throat and nostrils burning intensely from the stomach acid that came up.  She grabbed the rail and tried to take the next step down.  Her Louis Vuitton heel hit a part of the step made slippery by the putrid sludge that had just erupted from her mouth.  
   As she lost her footing and grabbed on to the rail, it ripped away from the wall.  She fell backwards, and in trying to catch herself, sprained her right wrist as she tumbled to the floor.
   She looked up, her Nordstrom St. John Collection royal blue shift dress torn and covered in vomit and a thick layer of dust -- this room had about thirty layers of it on any given surface.  She tried to stand up, and her left ankle collapsed underneath her as she screamed in pain.  She looked down to see her ankle, swollen and misshapen, and a deep shade of purple.  
   Carla closed her eyes and tried not to panic.  She took deep breaths and calmed her mind.  She looked around for her cellphone.
   It must have fallen off of me when I fell down the stairs, she thought.  She forced herself to stand up, using the bookcase behind her to keep her balance.  This bookcase was not bolted to the wall, and quickly came crashing down on her.  A cockroach that was crawling across the top shelf fell onto her face, then quickly scurried off.
   She screamed, and shook her head in a panic.  Once the bug was gone, she closed her eyes and shuddered, disgusted.  She kept her eyes shut and took deep breaths to remain calm.  She envisioned a beach with white sands on a sunny day, matching the rhythm of her breath to the imaginary tide that rolled in and out.  
   Last week, this house seemed like such a good deal.  She bought it at auction for a fraction of what she planned to sell it for.  Including the basement, there were three stories of space ready to be remodeled.  She had yet to have it inspected; she just wanted to look around and see what she was dealing with.
   Carla tried to push the bookcase off of herself, but it was too heavy.  She forgot that she had sprained her wrist, until she tried to use it and it hurt like hell.  She groaned with pain.
   She blinked back tears as she looked around the room, and finally located her cell phone.  It was just a few feet out of reach.  As she tried to stretch, to pull herself out from under the bookcase, she saw what was just beyond it, and what was the source of the awful smell that caused her to lose her lunch in the first place.
   The cell phone was next to the hand of a dead body that was buzzing with flies.  Maybe it was her imagination, but it seemed to be mocking her, with its hollow eyes and a smug smile that stretched across its dead face.  
   She couldn't reach the cell phone, but if that corpse could just come back to life, it could call someone for help.  She was almost desperate enough to ask it.
   No, that's nonsense, she thought.  Keep yourself together, girl!  There has to be a way out of this!
   If she couldn't get help, then who would find her?  No one knew she was here.  On a whim, she had stopped by to check out her new flip house after her afternoon appointment had cancelled.
   She wondered how long it would take for anyone to find her body.  If she didn't make it out of here alive, the office would simply assume she quit, and replace her.
   She was single; the only one who would notice her absence at home was Melisandra, her Maine Coon.  She hoped her landlord would come by to check in on her, and rescue the cat before she starved to death.
   Carla closed her eyes, and took a deep breath.  Suddenly, she could feel a huge spider crawling up her leg.  Unable to move, she started to panic.
   Vain attempts to get herself out from under the bookcase only resulted in more pain.  And the only ones who could hear her screams were the creatures that would soon feast on her flesh.
   A new dawn, a new day.  The sun was bright and shining, illuminating a beautiful beach, covered with white sand that was gracefully kissed by clear blue water.  But none of that mirthful sun made it into the dark, damp basement, where a skeleton sat within reach of a cell phone.  It stared with unblinking eyes at a barely putrescent corpse trapped underneath a bookcase, yellow and grey and crawling with maggots.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Toonces' Last Wild Ride

This week's Flash Fiction Challenge is about car races, so naturally I had to go off the beaten (and tire-tread laden) path.  (Wayyy the fuck off.)  Please do enjoy.

Toonces Last Wild Ride

   He was at the end of his nine lives.  And they had all been good ones.
   Toonces, the cat who was world-renowned for his unique driving ability, was reflecting on his former lives.  All the female cats he loved, his owners who were entirely too trusting, and the time he went full-rebel and had to serve time in the slammer.
   And then, there was Spunky, his old rival.  He never knew what happened to Spunky.  One day, Toonces was enjoying a spirited game of table tennis with Spunky, and then, he just left and never came back.  His owners wouldn't tell him where he was, either.
   Toonces had driven over many cliffs in his former lives.  And they were all spectacular.
   His owners, God rest their souls, died a few years ago.  Toonces ran away after he saw them being removed from the house.  He didn't know what would happen to him if the authorities found him in that house, what with his arrest record and all.
   Alone, he walked the streets at night.  He followed the smell of warm food wafting behind restaurants.  Toonces caught the rats and birds that wandered in the alleyways.  He even found a friend who fed him every night.
   The Old Lady was a kind and loving woman.  She would put out warm milk and cat food out every night to make sure he didn't go hungry.
   Even though he no longer lived under a roof, Toonces lived like a king.  Every need the beautiful black and white Tabby had was seen to by The Old Lady.  She would even let him in during nights that were cold or extremely wet.  He would always be gone by morning, though.  He was done living the domestic life.
   Toonces was enjoying things as they were, until one fateful night.  He walked down 6th Street in the early evening, as he always did, and smelled that something was terribly wrong.
   He crept up to The Old Lady's doorway, and saw her lying in a pool of blood in her own living room.  Death had already taken her in his final, cold embrace.  Toonces lowered his head in respect for his one and only friend.
   Suddenly, he heard a crash in one of the back rooms.  He slinked inside to investigate further, and followed the source of the noise.
   Two large men dressed in black were rifling through her things.  They didn't belong there.  He recognized the smell -- he had smelled them on The Old Lady's body as she lay dead in the other room.  They were her killers.
   Toonces hid, watching The Intruders.  He knew he needed to avenge The Old Lady.  And he knew exactly how.
   He followed the men as they snuck out of the house.  Creeping along the rain gutters outside, Toonces could hear them bragging in the alleyway a few blocks away as he grew closer.
   "Man, that old bitch was loaded!"
   "Wait 'til we cash this shit in!  We's gon' be rich!  I don't know 'bout you, but I'm gon' git turnt up tonight!"
   The only "turning up" this bastard is gonna do is "turning up" dead, Toonces thought to himself as his eyes shifted from left to right, surveying the area.
   A 2015 Ford Cobra, jet black with lime green leather interior, pulled up to let The Intruders in.  The driver laughed as they told him about The Old Lady.
   As the car started to peel off, a beer bottle hit the windshield, causing a small crack on the passenger side.
   "What the fuck!"  The driver screamed as he slammed on the breaks, put the car in park, and stepped out fully prepared for a fight.  "Brad, if that's you, you better come out and face me, motherfucker!  I'm gettin' real sick of your shit, fool!"
   Toonces pounced.  With his jagged, untrimmed claws, he slit open the driver's jugular vein.  The driver screamed and fell to the ground as blood spurted from his neck.
   The Intruders were too busy smoking a joint in the car and laughing at each others' jokes to notice what happened.  It wasn't until Toonces started driving the car, erratically, that The Intruders noticed anything was off.
   "Yo, Andy!  Where'd the fuck you learn how to drive?  You been drinking or somethin'?"
    Toonces turned around to look at the pothead murderers, a menacing gleam in his eye.
   The Intruders suddenly sobered up and screamed in mutual panic.
   "What the fuck?!?  What the fucking fuck?"
   A knowing smile crept across Toonces' face.  It was like all his previous lives had been a dress rehearsal for this one.  This was the one that really counted.  It was time for Toonces to meet his destiny.
   He pushed a brick onto the gas pedal and sailed toward the edge of the neighborhood.  Dodging cars and pedestrians, he sped through red lights and stop signs alike.
   A squad car turned on its lights and tailed the Cobra.  Toonces made no attempt to slow down.
   "Slow down and pull off the road.  This is the police," a loudspeaker blared.
   But Toonces didn't give a fuck.
   More squad cars joined in the chase.  Toonces swerved through a busy intersection, barely dodging an 18-wheeler.  The police car directly behind him was not so lucky, colliding into the truck at 85 miles per hour, demolishing the cars powerful chassis.  The other squad cars behind it had to swerve to avoid hitting it.  One ran into a nearby storefront, another slammed into a young couple on the crosswalk.
   Another squad car made it around and through the madness, and hightailed it for the runaway car.
   Toonces couldn't look back.  He had to keep going toward his fate.
   He turned onto the road leading to his destination.  The street ended at the edge of town, right before a sharp cliff.
   The Intruders were begging for their lives.
   "Please, don't kill us!  We'll give you anything!"
   "Yeah, we got diamonds and shit!  We'll give you whatever you want!"
   Toonces didn't have any need for diamonds, and their pleas only managed to disgust him.  Begging was for dogs.
   Racing past a trailer park, Toonces found a NOS button under the armrest.  Accelerating to a blinding speed, the car clumsily careened toward the end of the street.
   Toonces could barely keep the powerful car on the road.  It fishtailed and burst through a barricade at the end of the street.  Shards of orange and white-colored wood went flying.  A construction sign that read, "Dead End," made a few aerial flips before it finally landed next to the rotting remains of an armadillo carcass.
   "Damn," said a man enjoying a beer outside his trailer home.  He and his friend got a good look at the driver and his panicking passengers right before the NOS kicked in.  "That cat can drive!"
   "Yes, he can," his friend replied, spitting tobacco juice into his empty beer can as the car plummeted over the cliff and exploded into a ball of fire.
   "But not very well."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Rising Cost of Curiosity

   This week's flash fiction is another clashing of subgenres.  The Random Number Generator selected Techno Thriller Body Horror for me!  I decided to make it as freaky as possible.

The Rising Cost of Curiosity

   "I can only hope this message makes its way to you," he said.
   It was the first time in three months Lila had seen Rick.  She had all but given up on finding him.  
   His was the kind of job you could never discuss.  She wasn't supposed to know Rick's "trips to meet with clients" were, in fact, secret government missions.  (She never let him know that she knew.)
   He would sometimes leave without notice on clandestine missions, but he would have a message of some kind delivered to her within a week so she knew he was all right, claiming there was a client emergency of some sort.
   This time was different.  She knew from the first day he was gone. 
   There were little telltale signs that indicated things were not like before, or the time before that, or the many other times.  
   And this video message was full confirmation.  Rick explained what his real job was, and (in details she could never repeat) that he was on a rescue mission for a Canadian dignitary who had visited North Korea to speak with the country's leaders about opening up the lines of communication between them and the Western world.  
   And then, he was never seen or heard from again.
   Rick led the mission, but he didn't know when he would be back or what was going on.  Once he was inside the border, he said, he saw things he never imagined. 
   And that was it.  The video ended, and Lila was left wondering what he was trying to tell her.
   She knew someone out there didn't want her to see this video.  
   But she had connections, and hacking skills that were well-above average.  One of the connections, a fellow hacker known as Pazuzu MacNeil, had procured and sent Rick's message.
   Lila took a deep breath and steadied herself.  She knew what she would have to do.
   She gathered her things and prepared to leave.  
   After booking her flight to South Korea, she studied the borders on Google Earth to determine the best place to sneak in to the North.  
   Right before she left the house, Lila received another message from Pazuzu.  This time, he said, it was the full video.  But she needed to sit down for this one.  It wouldn't be easy to watch.
   She skipped past the part she had already seen, and saw something she was completely unprepared for.  Footage of videos taken inside a secret government base.  The dignitary was strapped to a table, twitching uncontrollably.  
   After doctors placed him under sedation, they cut into his skull and removed pieces of brain.  Lila gasped as she saw the man awaken during surgery, screaming.  More footage revealed the next experiment: The doctors cut off his right leg.  Each video clip showed more and more body parts being removed, until the man was finally put down.  In the final stages, he had some strange boils on his face that burst, splattering all over the doctors.  
   The protective suits worn by the doctors were no match for the infectious fluids that seeped through to their skin.
   More footage showed the newly infected doctors strapped down to tables, this time, real hazmat suits were worn by the new group of attending doctors.
   "I don't know how long I'll be gone, or what the hell is going on here.  If I never see you again, please remember that I love you, and that you were the best part of my entire life," Rick said, right before military police broke down the door and dragged him away. 
   The screen went blank.  End of message.
   I have to find out what happened, Lila thought.  I have to find out where the fuck he is.
   On her long flight across the Pacific, Lila tried to figure out what could have happened.  Why did they take the dignitary?  Did the infected doctors live?  And where did they take my husband?
   Utilizing her route and her trusty PMHD (a portable motion and body heat detector designed to sense any humans approaching within a 50-yard radius), she crept across the border, past the guards and into safety.
   Lila used her GPS tracker to find her husband.  (She implanted a tiny chip into the base of his neck one night after serving up a GHB-infused cocktail.)  
   He was inside the government base, and she had to find him before he met the same fate as the dignitary.  She crept inside, and all her gadgets went dead.  Damn, she thought, they must have a jammer in the building.  
   She crept along the wall, listening carefully for any signs of other people.  She crouched down to avoid being seen through a window, and her GPS fell, making a huge racket as it bounced several times off the floor before settling in the other side of the hallway.  
   The next thing Lila saw as she looked up was an incredibly smug face.
   Lila was strapped down to a chair as men in white coats fired questions at her and examined her belongings.  They were able to ascertain who she was, and who her husband was.
   "You must be Lila," said a short man wearing an officer's hat.  "I'm afraid you're too late to see Rick in person.  I'm afraid this will be the best we can do."
   He turned her chair around so she could view a large screen.  It showed her husband getting beaten by men in uniforms as they interrogated him.  Finally, a doctor entered the room carrying a large syringe.  The men held Rick down as the doctor injected him.
   "We named it Namguhng's Disease after our first major casualty.  Dr. Namguhng was an accomplished scientist and a man of honor.  He loved his country, and in the end, sacrificed himself for a great cause."
   Lila stared in disbelief.  "A great cause?!?  What cause is that?"
   "For the glory and praise of our supreme leader, "Kahn Jung XXVX!  Kahn dreamed that it was North Korea's destiny to become the world's reigning superpower.  In order to fulfill our destiny, we must create a weapon unlike anything the world has ever seen!"
   He explained to Lila how they designed a supervirus powerful enough to wipe out entire nations within days of infection.  However, they didn't anticipate the strength of the virus. They couldn't contain it, and Namguhng's Disease began to spread among the people.
   Deaths caused by this disease were swift and terrifying.  The beginning stage, a barely noticeable tremor in the hands, was something the average person could easily mistake for excess caffeine or low blood sugar.
   Blepharospasm, or rapidly twitching eyes, would follow.  Then, throughout the body, blood vessels would contract and tighten, causing wet gangrene and rapid necrosis.  The pain suffered by the infected was excruciating.
   But the most frightening part was how the disease spread.  Blisters filled with pus and blood would explode, infecting all nearby persons upon contact.  The acidic pus (which the doctors learned the hard way) could seep through any pores in one's clothing, so all those within the nearby vicinity of the infected must wear proper hazmat suits, or risk infection.
   "We have been very careful to keep this disease contained," the man explained.  "However, a few citizens have exhibited signs.  Anyone suspected of having the disease is immediately transported to the treatment facility."
   "So," Lila said, "You have a cure?"
   "Unfortunately, no.  We thought we did.  We infected a group of monkeys, and successfully created an antivirus to combat the disease.  However, it did not work on humans."
   "So, now you're experimenting on the infected humans to find a cure?"
   "We had no other choice," the man answered.  "We have never seen anything like this.  The disease spreads so rapidly, and every time we think we're getting closer to a cure, it evolves.  Still, we can't risk news of our experiments getting out to the rest of the world.  We have to keep our biological weapon a secret.  Our work is too important."
   "You still haven't told me what the fuck you did with my husband," Lila said.
   "You see, we have to use every opportunity we can to find a cure.  And intruders make the best lab rats, don't you think?"
   He played a new video that showed Rick strapped to the table, his infection in the latter stages.  His hands and feet were black, his skin covered with lesions.  He writhed in pain as the doctors prepared to amputate.
   Lila turned her head and shut her eyes as Rick screamed in excruciating pain.  
   "You bastards," she whispered.
   "Yes, Lila.  We are bastards," the man declared with a smug expression.  "And you are another intruder."
   Lila lowered her eyes and shuddered.  She knew exactly what would come next.

Friday, May 1, 2015

X Meets Y Again

This week's Flash Fiction Challenge is to create a mash-up of two different things, using a Random Number Generator.   The RNG gods are smiling on me today; I have the honor of presenting Terminator meets Lord of the Flies (but not in the literal sense -- I created my own characters and setting).

The Horrific Things One Sometimes Encounters While On an Island Paradise

   Zach's parents were taking him on a cruise to the Bahamas to celebrate his grades and his 14th birthday.  He couldn't wait.
   The cruise started off well enough with buffets and pools with waterslides.  He even met Leslie, the prettiest girl he'd ever known.  She asked him to come to the teen club with her.
   Zach and Leslie had a blast at the exclusive youth club, chatting and watching other kids play video games.
   That's when things went horribly wrong.
   "Hey, guys," the cruise staff member said.  "I just wanted to give you a heads up -- you might feel the ship rock a little.  There's an unexpected storm outside.  But don't worry!  We've got everything under control!"
   The teens shrugged, then went about their playtime.  The boat started rocking more and more violently.  Leslie and Zach held on to each other, terrified of what would happen next as they crouched against the wall.  Everything went dark, and that's when the panic really began.  The ship was rolling around, tossing everything around (except the furniture, which was thoughtfully bolted down).
   The next thing Zach remembered was waking up on a beach.  He looked around and found Leslie draped over the broken remains of a chair.
   She started coughing and spitting sea water.  He ran to help her.
   "Hey!  Are you OK?"
   "I think," she rasped between wheezes.  "What happened?"
   "A storm hit us.  Hard.  The last thing I remember," Zach said as he helped her steady herself," is the ship rocking back and forth.  Stuff was flying everywhere, and everyone was tumbling all over the place.  There was a lot of blood."
   "OHMYGOD," Leslie gasped.  "Where are my parents?!? Where are your parents?!?"
   "I don't know," Zach admitted.  "You're the only other person I've seen since I woke up on this beach."
   "Where are we, anyway?  What is this place?"
   "I don't know.  Let's see if there's anyone else."
   Days passed.  Weeks passed.  They continued on their search, eating whatever tropical fruit they could find, and catching water in enormous banana leaves to drink.
   In mid-afternoon one day, Zach suddenly took off running.
   "I think I see someone," he called back.  Leslie matched his pace, and the two quickly arrived upon a makeshift encampment comprised of broken pieces from the ship.
   As they looked for signs of life, two barrel-chested teen boys stepped in front of them, like underaged bouncers at an oddly themed night club.
   "Whoa!  Where did you two come from," Zach asked.
   "We didn't see either of you on the island -- where did you come from," asked the guard with a bright shock of red hair.
   "I'm Zach, and she's Leslie.  We came from the other end of the mountain," Zach replied, pointing.
   "Oh, of course," the boy said.  "We have been searching for survivors, but we haven't covered the entire island yet.  There hasn't been any sign of civilization, either.  No buildings, no roads, nothing."
   He leered at Leslie.  "We also didn't know if there were any female survivors anywhere."
   Leslie moved closer to Zach.
   "Brock will be pleased," the other said with a sardonic grin.  "We'll take you to him."
   The two guards took Zach and Leslie by the arms and let them further into the camp.
   They entered a large tepee made of large metal scraps with an enormous piece of carpet for a door.  Salvaged sofas and tables were arranged throughout, and a tall, brawny boy stood in the center, wearing an ill-fitting bellhop's jacket over his bare chest.  The guards announced Zach and Leslie's names.
   "I'm glad we found more survivors," Brock said, oozing with charm.  "The only people who survived that storm, that we've seen at least, were in the teen club tower.  It seems the structure protected us while the rest of the ship was destroyed.
   "The boys and I have constructed this place to shelter us.  You are more than welcome to stay here.  The boys are staying in the small tepees you passed on the way here."
   He looked Leslie up and down.
   "You can stay with me tonight," Brock said to the trembling ingenue.  "I could really use some female company."
   Zach puffed his chest out, placing himself between Brock and Leslie.
   "I don't think she wants to do that."
   "don't remember offering that as a choice," Brock sneered.  A dark pall came over his face as he stood toe-to-toe with Zach.
   As Leslie backed away toward the door, the guards grabbed her.
   "What's wrong, Leslie?  Do you think you're too good for us," Brock oozed.
   "Let go of me!"
   One of the guards put a hand over her mouth, whispering for her to relax as she struggled to get away.
   Zach pushed Brock away, then charged toward the guards.
   "One step closer and we kill her, right here."
   One of the guards kissed her cheek, sneering arrogantly at Zach.
   "Hey, I know you're all eager to get to know Leslie," Zach said, "but I found her first.  I'm willing to share her, after tonight."
   Leslie looked at Zach with total surprise.
   "All I'm asking for is tonight.  If I hadn't saved her, she wouldn't even be here."
   After a moment, Brock reluctantly nodded, and the guards released Leslie.
   "You can sleep in the mud hut, but after tonight, she's mine," Brock sneered.
   Leslie sighed with relief, and took Zach's hand as they slowly walked toward the door.
   "One more thing," Brock said.
   The two froze, nervously awaiting Zach's next words.
   "We want a show.  You have to keep the doors and windows open so we can see everything that's going on.  There isn't any porn out here, and my guys are getting a little stir-crazy."
   Leslie and Zach exchanged looks of apprehension, but he knew there would be no way around it.  Leslie, nodded, then lowered her eyes.
   "It's a deal," Zach said.
   The guards showed them to the hut, and they eagerly sat down on the first comfortable sofa they had seen since the ship capsized.
   "Leslie," Zach said with sincerity in his eyes. "I know this isn't exactly what you would have wanted, but I promise I'll take care of you.  I won't let them hurt you."
   The boys started gathering outside.  Zach looked out and counted, there were about 12 of them, all armed and lecherous.  He had no hope of fighting them.  He and Leslie would have to escape after the rest of the camp was asleep.
   "I've never done this," she whispered.
   "It's OK, I haven't either."
   He smiled shyly, then gently pulled Leslie in for a kiss.  She wrapped her arms around him and pressed her body against his.  The vulgar audience cheered, then started yelling explicit instructions, which Zach completely ignored.
   "Just focus on me.  I'll get us out of here tonight," Zach whispered.  "In the meantime, I'll try not to hurt you."
   Leslie nodded, then slowly took off her clothes.  More cheers.  She kept her eyes on Zach, who disrobed quickly, then held Leslie close.  He kissed her passionately and lowered her down to the couch, ignoring the crude onlookers.  For now, nothing else in the world existed.  It was just Zach and Leslie; everything else fell away.
   Zach tried as much as he could to keep his promise to be gentle as he made love to her.  It was over entirely too soon.
   Zach spooned Leslie, whispering his plans of escape as he kissed her neck.  "I know this is scary, but I promise I'll get us out of here."
   Leslie nodded.
   Her quiet sobs eventually gave way to slumber.  Zach stayed awake, strategizing a way to get out.  A different set of guards watched the camp by night.
   Zach crept up behind one guard as the other walked the perimeter.  He threw him to the ground, grabbed a huge rock and bashed the guard's head in, blood spattering in all directions.
   The other guard was making his way back.  Zach hid behind a tree, holding the rock with both hands.  The guard saw the feet of his friend lying supine on the ground.
   "Hey, wake up!"
   The guard moved closer to his friend, trying to wake him.  It wasn't long before he saw what remained of the head.  Zach prepared to deliver the same fate met by the other guard.
   What Zach didn't bargain for was a fallen tree branch lying in the darkness, waiting to be tripped over.  Which he did.
   Zach fell head first toward the ground, hitting his head on the rock.  He blacked out.
   He opened his eyes to see the boys gathered around Leslie.  She was naked and tied to a tree, muffled sobs barely escaping her gagged mouth.  Tears streamed down her face as her eyes met Zach, silently begging him for help.
   He struggled against the cords that bound his hands and feet.  He, too, was gagged.  The boys noticed him squirming, and started mocking him.  He watched in helpless despair as Brock approached Leslie and pinched her nipples, licking her face as he looked at Zach with perverse glee.
   Suddenly, an explosive blast pierced through the camp.  Brock stood in front of Leslie, protecting his new toy.  Zach looked up to see the tree Leslie was tied to was knocked down, as Brock lay a in bloody mess.
   Zach looked up to see a man with a huge shotgun -- wait, that couldn't be a man, he thought; pieces of flesh were peeled back to reveal a metal skeleton.  The boys ran toward the intruder in vain attempts to stop him.  Spears that pierced his skin halted as they hit the metal beneath.  The intruder staked the offending camp members.  Another boy ran at him with a knife.  The robot reached through the boy's chest and pulled out his still-beating heart, seconds before his lifeless body collapsed.
   Zach closed his eyes and prepared himself for his own certain death.
   A tap on his shoulder caused him to jolt and turn around.  It was Leslie, wearing Brock's jacket over her otherwise naked body.  She cut through the rope, freeing him.
   "Come on, Zach," she whispered.  "Let's GO!"
  "Did they hurt you," Zach whispered.
   "No, but they were about to," she replied.
   He took her hand and they ran as fast as they could, away from the living nightmares.
   They crashed right into another robot disguised as a human.  It stood unfazed as Zach and Leslie both stumbled back, falling to the ground.  He extended his hands to help them up.
   "Come with me if you want to live."
   The good robot lifted his gun toward the killer robot and fired.  The other robot was knocked off his feet, artificial flesh melting off metal skeleton.  The good robot took them to a mountain with a very narrow pathway to the top, and a clear view of any intruders.  A large boulder provided a hiding place, should the need arise.
   That night they set up camp.  The good robot explained everything.  It and the other robot are called "Terminators," created by a company in the future called "Skynet."  Terminators are used to enslave mankind as artificial intelligence takes over the planet.
   What everyone thought was a storm was actually a rupture in the fabric of space and time, caused by the other Terminator, a "Z" series model.  Its mission was to kill Zach and Leslie, because their child would grow up to lead mankind's revolution against the machines, and be the savior of all humanity.
   The good Terminator, a "T-800" model, followed the Z series in the same rift, so as to not draw attention.  It told had scanned Leslie's body and determined she had already been impregnated.
   The T-800 would build a boat to get Zach and Leslie to safety the next day, and he assured the two he would keep guard overnight.
   Zach and Leslie kissed, and made love for the second time before they fell asleep in each other's arms.
   The next morning, they woke up to the sounds of the T-800 assembling a boat on the beach below.  They couldn't wait to get back to civilization and away from the nightmares.  It wasn't long before the boat was finished.
   Before they left the island, Leslie needed to use the bathroom.
   "I'll go with you," Zach said.  He didn't want to risk her and the baby getting hurt.
   As they returned to the boat and the T-800, they could tell something wasn't right.  They emerged from the foliage to see a few dead bodies strewn around on the beach, and the T-800's head severed from his body.  Apparently, there were other survivors from last night's attack.
   The daytime guards and two other boys surrounded Zach and Leslie.
   "You thought you were going to leave us, didn't you?"  The redheaded guard sneered.
   The other boys were circling Leslie like hyenas with a weak gazelle.
   A bullet pierced the redhead's skull.  He fell to the ground.
   The T-800's body was still moving, and still determined to carry out its mission to protect Zach and Leslie.  Just then, the Z model emerged, ready to collect his bounty.
   Zach punched one of the boys encircling Leslie as the others stood in confusion and shock.  He took her by the hand, and they ran back to the mountain, leaving behind a cacophony of terrified screams.
   They held each other, trembling and crying at the mountain top.
   "I promised I would get us out of here, and I will do everything I can to uphold that promise, Leslie," Zach assured as he stroked her hair.  "I love you, Leslie."
   "I love you too, Zach," Leslie said, then kissed him, holding on for dear life.
   Their intimate moment was over just as soon as it began.  Zach could sense something coming.
   He motioned for Leslie to crouch down as he looked over the edge.  The Z model's hands had morphed into hooks, and he was climbing up the side of the mountain.  Zach moved to the other side of the boulder, using all his adrenaline-fueled strength to protect his new family.
   He pushed it off the side, and watched it knock the Z model off the mountain, then crush it on the ground below.  Zach looked at Leslie with relief.  He couldn't believe it was over.  Now, they could finally leave.
   Leslie's eyes fixed on his with equal parts love and eagerness for the life they would share.  Her expression quickly changed to complete terror.  Zach opened his mouth, about to ask what it was, before he felt a presence behind him.
   It was the Terminator.  It had liquefied itself on the way down, and survived being flattened by the boulder.  Leslie screamed in horror as its hand morphed into an icepick and ran through Zach's chest.
   Leslie pulled something out of her pocket the T-800 gave to her the night before.
   "Your priority is to protect the child growing inside you," it had told her.  "The fate of mankind is in your hands."
   Leslie's hands shook as she realized what the token was.  The polyurethane-encased red button on the top was a detonator.
   She looked at Zach, who was fighting for his life.  The killing machine had him in its grip, and would soon take Leslie's life and that of her child, if she didn't act fast.
   Looking into the eyes of her first love, Leslie whispered, "I love you, Zach.  I'll never forget you."
   Zach understood.  A tear ran down his cheek as he silently said goodbye.
   Leslie pushed the button, shoved the device into Zach's mouth and pushed him and the Terminator off the cliff.  The mountain shook as he and the Terminator exploded in mid-air.  Leslie dodged the flaming projectile that flew toward her head.
   Fire spread quickly through the trees, too quickly for her to stop it.  It would be a matter of time before the entire island was engulfed.  She climbed down the mountain to see what remained of the boat.  Miraculously, it was intact.
   Rowing away from the island inferno, Leslie knew this was just the beginning of a war that was soon to come.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Things They Forgot to Mention in Puberty Class

   This week's Flash Fiction Challenge was to write a 2,000-word story based on another writer's sentence.  There were a lot to choose from, but ultimately, I chose one from mannixk that sparked my interest the most.  WARNING:  Potential triggers.  Also, some parts may even make your eyes bleed -- I made full use of this English-to-text-lingo translator for realism.

The Things They Forgot to Mention in Puberty Class

   On the morning of her thirteenth birthday, the whites of her eyes turned inky black.  She sat in her bed, looking around her hot-pink bedroom walls.
   Suddenly, in a very weird way, it had become abundantly clear to Jessica that her childhood had ended.
   Under the puffy, multicolored floral comforter that brightened up her sunny room, she felt something ... wet!  
   She threw her snuggly, giant-sized Tigger across the room and jerked the covers off of herself.
   Her bright orange bedsheets were soaked with fresh blood.  ... And so were her Spongebob Squarepants pajama shorts.  ... And her favorite white panties with purple polka dots.  ... As well as her inner thighs -- her perfect inner thighs!
   They were all ruined!  It was so freakin' gross!
   She was most upset about her blood-smeared thighs.  She had worked so freakin' hard to achieve that thigh gap that came so easily to all the other girls.  She only kept down one meal a week, and it had to be no more than 200 calories.  No cute guy would ever want anything to do with her if she had nasty, cottage cheese thighs.
   And to see all her hard work covered in menses was like seeing a dog take a piss on an artist's masterpiece.  She felt so dirty.  She had to become clean again.
   Jessica jumped out of bed and, ripping all of her disgusting clothes off, she quickly ran to the shower to cleanse herself of the nastiness that had practically gushed out of her body the night before.
   She scrubbed herself vigorously, as usual, putting extra effort this time on her thighs.  She had to make sure every bit of the menstrual fluid was off of her.
   Her family wasn't there; they went on a camping trip without her.  She had been fighting with them a lot the week before.
   Jessica sank to the shower floor and cried as she thought about how her bitchy step-mother, Jackie, told her they were leaving her behind because no one in the family wanted to be around her.  On her fucking birthday weekend!  Jackie cancelled the party she'd been planning for weeks, and told her they'd all go out to celebrate the next weekend, but only if Jessica could behave herself that following week.  Her dad felt bad for her, and gave her his credit card so she could treat herself.
   She closed her eyes as the warm water poured over her alabaster skin, drenching her raven black hair.  Meanwhile, the same dark magic that obscured the whites of her eyes had progressed, changing her irises from hazel green to jet black, unbeknownst to their owner.  Jessica just sat for a minute, hugging her knees tight to her chest to stop her stomach from growling.
   I can't eat today, she thought.  I have to be strong.  It wouldn't be time to eat for at least three more days.
   Jessica stepped out of the shower and toweled off.  Thankfully, her mother had plenty of tampons, and she learned in Puberty Class how to use them.  She remembered back to the illustrations and teacher's instructions:  Relax.  Squat.  Insert slowly.
   Still, it hurt a little going in.  She took a deep breath and pushed it in the rest of the way.  She hated the way it felt: this scratchy cylinder of absorbent fibers, so alien in her body.
   She wiped the steam off the bathroom mirror to get a good look at herself.  Her eyes looked really different.  She leaned in closer to get a better look.  They were entirely black.  It was actually ... cool!    I don't know how or what the fuck happened, but this looks really hot, she thought.   She smiled at herself, thinking about how much the other girls in school would envy her.  Suddenly, her stomach growled loudly in an annoying disruption to her self admiration.
   To get her mind off of eating, she decided to clean and redecorate her room.  It was time to leave all that little girl shit behind.  She had been meaning to do this for a long time, and she wasn't going to put it off any longer.
   She grabbed the biggest garbage bag she could find, then threw her bloodstained comforter, sheets, and clothes away.  She grabbed everything else that made it look like a little kid's room.  The butterfly decals on the wall, the flower-shaped rug, the Care Bear collection on the shelves.  Everything had to go.
   She texted Serena, her bestie -- who happened to be South Dakota's minimum driving age at 14 1/2, and have the ultimate teenage bragging rights with her very own Cadillac Escalade.
   "hA bitch, got NE plans 2day?"
   "Not unLS U count masturbating vigorously 2 pix of Ryan Gosling."
   "SRSLY?!?  U filthy whore!!!"
   "U jst don't undRstNd our luv, cuz you're jst a nasty butt slut!"
   "LOL!  feck u!  cum over alredi!  I wnt 2 go shopping!"
   "k.  b rght ther."
   Jessica finished getting ready, applying her eyeliner extra thick with a wing at the tip to accentuate her new look.  She admired herself in the full-length mirror, nodding approvingly at how her super tiny dress accentuated her super tiny waist.  She especially loved the way her eyes looked, and hoped Lance would notice.
   The doorbell rang, interrupting her train of thought.  Jessica let Serena in, and showed her the new look.
   "Your eyes are all black!  Are those contacts?"
   "Nope.  I woke up like this."
   "So, I just got my first period today.  How's that for a birthday present?"
   "Congrats, you're finally blossoming into a young lady!"
   Jessica threw a decorative pillow at Serena.
   "Fuck off!  You sound just like that Puberty Class teacher!"
   They headed off to the mall to shop for new clothes, and some new digs for Jessica's room.  And, just as predicted, Lance was there.
   He was always exactly wherever she was, like clockwork, every weekend.  And at school, he and his friends spent their free time following Jessica and her friends around.  They watched her every move, and whenever she looked back, they made no attempt to look like they were doing anything else.  Lance never really talked to her; he just leered at her from across the room.
   (To most girls, this would be either really annoying, or creepy, or both.  But Jessica, a textbook narcissist, took this as the ultimate compliment.  It was like she had a fan club, and he was the president.)
   After the desired decorations for her room were acquired, and visits to the requisite tweenage specialty stores were made, Jessica made a point to walk right past Lance and his friends, just to taunt them.  She pretended not to notice them, while fully aware of their gawking eyes.
   Normally, she and Serena would keep walking, then laugh at the dorks once they were out of earshot.  But today was different.  Very different.
   She stopped suddenly, then turned to face him and, with a smile, greeted him for the first time in his life.
   "Hey, don't we have Chem class together?"
   Lance stood for a moment like a deer in headlights.  He gathered himself enough to muster a logical answer to the goddess' question.  He wasn't sure why, but she somehow looked even more beautiful than normal.
   "Yes.  I sit behind you."
   Jessica smiled.  If Picasso had a brilliant gift for painting, she had the same level of brilliance in wrapping barely pubescent boys around her little finger.
   "Serena and I are celebrating my birthday today, because my family's out of town.  I have the house to myself.  All weekend."
   She lingered on the last two words just a little, to make sure Lance got the point.
   "Well, ummm, I don't have any plans for the rest of the day."
   His friends echoed the sentiment, responding in a chorus of teenage awkwardness.
   She exchanged numbers with Lance, looked him in the eye and said, "I'll see you at 5!  You can bring your friends, if you want!"
   Lance looked as if he had just won the lottery.  His excitement betrayed all efforts to look cool for the goddess and her friend.  He would gladly become her acolyte, even if it was only for one night.
  When the got back to her house, Jessica and Serena spent the next few hours painting and redecorating the bedroom.
   Later that night, Lance and his friends arrived.  Jessica ordered pizza (which she herself would not touch), and Serena's had snuck a few liquor bottles from her parents' house.
   They all talked excitedly, and Lance caught Jessica eyeing him hungrily.  She walked toward him, eyes focused solely on his.  Lance felt the bulge in his pants growing, and lowered his plate in attempt to conceal it.
   Jessica grabbed the plate and threw it in the trash in one fowl swoop, eagerly viewing his appreciation of her beauty.  She took his hand and led him to her bedroom, walking at a fast pace past all his gawking friends.
   She pulled him inside, then slammed the door shut.  Taking off her shirt, she revealed two perky breasts, nicely framed by her Victoria's Secret push-up bra, a vision of hot pink satin with scalloped black lace edges and a demure bow in the center.  Her matching thong was just a makeout session away from revealing itself.
   Lance stood nervously, staring at her chest as if it was a profound puzzle to be solved.  Jessica smiled and moved in closer, taking his hands and putting them on her hips.  Exhaling, he wrapped his arms around her and began to kiss her, running his hands up and down her back.
   Suddenly, he stopped, and backed away.
   "What's wrong, Lance?  Are you a virgin?"
   Lance stammered.  "Uh ... n-n-no!"
   Jessica grew impatient.
   "Then what the fuck?"
   "Uh, Jessica?  ...  Look at your back in the mirror."
   Jessica turned on the light, backed up to the dresser mirror, and gasped.  Her back looked like something was growing out of it.  She had no fucking clue what it was, but she would do something about it later.
   "I don't know what that is, but let's not worry about that right now."
   "Are you crazy?"
   Jessica shook her head, and to get things back on track, took off her bra.  That was enough to drive Lance -- or any boy for that matter -- to distraction.
   He started to say something, but his hormones intervened and his hands found their way to her breasts.  He started kissing Jessica again, and she pulled him close, pressing her body against his.
   Hunger pangs started up again as she felt her pulse quicken in time with his.  But this time, it wasn't food Jessica was hungry for.
   With a quick motion, she grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head back.  The hunger inside her began to satisfy itself.  Lance's weak attempt to call for help came out in a silent scream as his soul was ripped away from his body.  Like a discarded locust shell, there was nothing left of him but an empty, lifeless frame.
   Jessica released her hold and let him fall to the floor like a rag doll.  She tilted her head in curiosity at what remained of her most ardent admirer.
   This strange force inside her that had been awakened by her pubescent changes was fueled and strengthened, and ready to complete the transformation.  Her canine teeth were pushed out by fangs that begged for flesh to tear into.  The raised skin on her back started to break as black feathered wings slowly fanned out to full extension.
   Jessica turned to face herself in the mirror and immediately liked what she saw.  She touched the fangs, feeling their sharp edges nearly pierce her fingers.  She turned to the side, posing, admiring the way her wings accentuated her long legs.
   The hunger pangs still lingered, growing increasingly strong and intense.
   Flipping her perfectly straight black hair, Jessica headed back out to join the party, eager to be worshipped by the poor souls whom she would soon devour.