Flash Fiction
This story is simple.

There’s no deeper meaning. No commentary on society or human nature. No treatise on how people should behave, or the consequences of careless action, or even an ode to beauty or love.

It’s just a 400-word gimmick. But an entertaining one.

The entire point of it is the first and the last line. That’s it. All the stuff in the middle was just getting from one to the other, which will make sense when you read it.

Go on, then. Read it.

basically the same

“They’re basically the same thing.”

Jenny gawked. “The same thing?”

Val nodded. She wasn’t even looking at her friend.

“Yeah,” she said. “The same thing.”

Jenny stopped walking. As if on cue, a dog barked somewhere in the distance.

“How is being bitten by a vampire the same as sex?”

Val circled back to her friend. They had the sidewalk to themselves. Hell, they had the street to themselves. But it was well-lit and in a mostly-nice part of town, so neither was particularly worried. Plus, they had cell phones, and Jenny never when anywhere without mace on her keyring.

“Well,” Val began, “both involve penetration, for one.”

Jenny scrunched her nose. Val rolled her eyes.

“Like you haven’t thought about it.”

“It’s that word,” Jenny said. “Penetration. I don’t like how it sounds. It’s so, I don’t know, forceful, I guess.”

“It’s what happens. And in both cases, it’s something hard sliding into something soft.”

“Okay, stop.”

Val only grinned.

“If it’s the first time, sex even involves blood.”

“I said stop.”

Val laughed quietly to herself. “Okay, princess. But you asked.”

“I didn’t ask for details. Not like those.”

“And anyway, you gotta get over being so fucking innocent.”

Jenny’s eyes went wide.

“What?” Val asked.

“You said the f-word.”

Val grinned conspiratorially. “It’s just a fucking word.”

“Stop it. Why are you being so gross tonight?”

Val thought about that for a moment.

“I’m not sure. I mean, we just saw a horror film. Could be that. Or maybe I just like torturing you. It’s what friends do.”

“Well, think about puppies or something.”

“Vampire puppies?”

“No! Regular, cute little puppies. Geez, what is wrong with you?”

Val laughed, and then they walked in silence for several blocks. They parted ways at Jenny’s house. Val lived just three blocks east. They hugged, and Val said she’d call when she got home.

Only she never called.

Cutting through the alley by her house, she’d run into a stranger. A man she didn’t recognize, but about whom she did not have a good feeling. When he saw her, he leered and said, “Wanna fuck?”

“Uh, no, creep.”

A grin split his face, revealing not teeth, but fangs.

“Then maybe a snack,” the stranger replied. “You know, they’re basically the same thing.”

Earlier today, a Facebook friend posted a simple request. “Tell me something good,” she said. I’ve been watching responses come in. It’s a fascinating informal sociological study.

Some of the responses have been genuinely inspiring. Some have been silly, which is its own kind of inspiration. And some, more than I would have expected, have been focused entirely on the responder.

It’s good that so-and-so is older than me, for example. Or it’s good that I’m doing something nice for someone.

Those things aren’t bad, but I feel like there’s something better about finding good outside of yourself. In many ways, that’s the goal of art. To find goodness in the world – in other people, in nature, in the ebb and flow of things – and bring it to light.

Can you imagine an artist who only seeks to highlight what she thinks is awesome about herself? An artist whose sole goal is to convince the world that he’s kick-ass?

(Basically, can you imagine more artists like Kanye West? And . . . I just threw up a little in my mouth.)

Isn’t it better to focus on the goodness outside ourselves? To turn our attention to that which is lovely about the world beyond who we are? To allow that goodness to inspire us and lead us to be better people, rather than just patting ourselves on the back?

I think so.

If you’re up for it, tell me something good in the comments below. Something good that isn’t about you.

Flash FictionThe last several weeks have been pure chaos, though I admit that shouldn’t stop me from writing. I’ll try to be better. I promise.

Thank you for waiting so politely in my absence. You didn’t complain or pitch a fit or anything, and I appreciate that ever so much. Especially given how much you must have missed me. It was agony, I’m sure, but you managed it quite nicely.

This week, I’m venturing back to The Prediction for our prompt:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘necessary’, ‘pucker’, and ‘willow’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

I hope you enjoy it.

the price is the price

“Necessary?” he asked. “Is anything really necessary? That willow by the lake, for example. Seems a bit much to me, but there it is.”

I sighed. Fairies are exhausting.

“That’s not what I mean,” I explained. “Is there another way to cover the cost?”

His eyes widened with understanding. “Oh. I see. Too expensive for you?”

“In a manner of speaking,” I said.

“Sorry, lass. The price is the price. Pay it or chew cabbage.”

What could I do? No substitute would work for the spell.

I closed my eyes and puckered. His lips were cool like the autumn breeze.

the 9A friend reminded me of this little bit of wisdom today.

Safe feels good. It feels secure. And it’s a lie.

But you don’t really see that until the risks are HIGH. Then it’s like you’re at the edge of the platform, looking down at a tightrope, and struggling to take the first step.

If you don’t, you know your heart will never soar. And if you do…you might fall. So what do you truly want – to touch the sky or kiss the ground?

Yup. Two weeks in a row. I’m just exhausted.

I’m not done writing fiction. I’ll be back. But I’m not doing.

the 9I didn’t post fiction last week. It’s rare that I take a week off, but it was a crazy-busy week. I could have pushed myself to go ahead and write something, anything, but that’s not why or how I write fiction.

I write fiction because it’s fulfilling. Because it’s fun. Because I want to.

I think all art should come from that place.

That doesn’t mean you never have to push yourself for the sake of art. Sometimes you do. Sometimes art requires great devotion. In the learning of a new skill. In the commitment of time. In slow, methodical execution. Or even in resolve to explore emotion, meaning and purpose on a deeply personal level.

But even then, even when it feels like it’s draining you dry, it should also fill you up. If it doesn’t, why the hell are you doing it at all?

Flash FictionI’ve written several variations of this scene. Not the same characters, the same situation, or the same outcome. Just the set up.

An immortal and a human coming to some kind of arrangement in an environment of mock civility. I find it fascinating.

Sometimes the immortal has the clear upper hand. Sometimes the mortal holds his/her ground. The power dynamic isn’t the point.

Rather, it’s the tension I like. A threat delivered with courtesy.

Is anything as unnerving as a killer with manners?

I won’t claim this particular piece is polished. It’s not. It’s a rough draft, pure and simple. Go easy on me if you spot flaws.

May dawn find you…

savage

“So, what’s the deal with your friend?”

Marco raised his eyebrows. Sometimes he gets hung up on what he would call ‘the modern vernacular’.

“Him,” I said pointing to the other chair.

“Oh,” Marco relied, “he is here for your edification.”

I gave him the same look I give my cat when he noses his way to the bottom of a full food bowl and then flips out at the impending shortage.

“I’m not feeling particularly edified,” I said.

“Consider him a cautionary tale, by way of courtesy.”

I figured as much. Like I needed the warning.

I get it, Marco baby. You’re a badass. I’m shakin’ in my Docs.

“Gotcha. So, can we talk business or is there some kind of protocol? I know you’re big into tradition.”

“Under other circumstances, I would be obliged to offer you refreshment. However, any kind of sustenance, even libation, also signifies the promise of safe passage. You have no such assurance from me, pramatie.”

I smirked.

“You know I love it when you talk dirty to me.”

He did not return the smile.

“The matter at hand shan’t require more than a short negotiation. I have but one requirement.”

Oh, boy. Here it comes.

He continued. “Bring me Lucian’s head. Pledge this service and you may leave here unharmed.”

I looked at Marco’s friend.

“And if I don’t?”

Marco nodded.

“I don’t get you, Marco. You know I hate threats. I mean, look at this whole mess with your brother. He tried to force me into service, and I got his blood all over my favorite boots. Do you know what a pain in the ass that was?”

“Am I to take that as a refusal?”

I shrugged.

“Yes and no, Mister Man. Yes and no. Look, I want Lucian dead, too. But I don’t really feel like hauling his head back here to Casa de Death just so you can sit me next to another example of your wrath. I’m not scared of you. You should know that by now.”

“Ignorance is the delight of fools,” he said.

“And pride the undoing of the immortal,” I shot back.

“We seem to be at an impasse.”

Slowly, I slid a hand behind my back, my fingers slipping easily around the bone handle of my favorite silver knife. I brought it into view, making sure he perceived my intent. He did nothing to stop me.

I stood, walking behind his friend. The poor bastard was incapable of reaction. In all likelihood he didn’t even know I was there.

His arms and legs had been severed at the joints. His eyes gouged out. His tongue most likely removed. His ears torn loose. The scar tissue on the sides of his head caught the dim light of the room, each wrinkle of skin screaming testimony of unspeakable pain.

I wondered how long Marco had kept him like this. How many times he’d drained him within inches of his life, only to stop short. Only to keep him suffering.

With a quick gesture, I ended it, the blade slicing deep into his jugular. He didn’t even gurgle as he bled out.

“You’re a savage, Marco.”

“Says the woman who just gutted a pig in my parlor. Were you aware of his trespasses, you might find the punishment he suffered insufficient.”

He was probably right, there. Marco tends to keep bad company.

“I’ll take care of Lucian,” I said. “Not for you. And not you’re not getting his head. News of his death will have to be enough.”

“Very well,” Marco conceded. “Within the week, please.”

“When I’m fucking ready,” I said. “And stop playing with your food. A man your age should know better.”

He smiled just wide enough to show me his fangs.

I rolled my eyes. Seriously, do they think that shit still works on me?

“I’ll see you when I see you,” I said. “Or maybe I won’t.”

“May dusk find you,” he said.

“And dawn, you,” I replied.

I wiped my blade on his curtains on the way out. It was tacky, but strategic.

Lesson one with dealing with his kind. It’s not enough to show them courage. You have to show complete disregard. They have no respect for life. Let ‘em know you’re concerned about your own and they’ll exploit your sense of self-preservation.

Dare them to kill you. Then they’ve got nothing.

I’ve been daring Marco for a while. Maybe one day he’ll try to follow through.

And maybe his former friend will save him a seat in hell.

Ready for a rant? Good.

Here goes. Language evolves. Get over it.

Too vague? Gotcha. Check out this clip from The Big Bang Theory. (The video quality isn’t great, but it’ll do.)

Sheldon makes the point that the word “nauseous” is often used in place of the word “nauseated,” which would technically be grammatically correct. But I disagree with Sheldon in two ways.

First, while “nauseous” may have originally meant “disgusting or loathsome,” dictionary.com confirms Leonard’s use of the word. Suck on that, Sheldon.

Second, the original meaning of the word doesn’t matter.

Language isn’t static. It never has been. Over time, it morphs and changes. What a word meant 50 years ago is irrelevant today. What matters is how words are used now.

There are a smattering of words out there people frequently misuse. So much so that their meaning has been adjusted in the common vernacular. As an artist, you can pick fights about those words, correcting people when they break from traditional definitions, or you can roll with evolution.

If you decide to be a grammar Nazi, that’s exactly how you’ll be seen. Even writers hate overly nitpicky grammar snobs.

Should you follow grammatical rules? Absolutely. A writer who doesn’t will come across as amateurish and lazy.

But remember that language changes over time. If you can’t change with it, you’ll quickly become irrelevant.

Flash FictionI was tempted to slip into Kinter’s voice for this one. It was one of the prompt words specifically. “Kudos” sounds like the trumped up sort of thing he would say in a casual, mildly smarmy kind of way.

But today isn’t his day. This story is not about him.

He would never utter the closing sentence of this tale. And, really, he’s not on any kind of mission. He fancies himself an artist, not a prophet.

I do like the implication of that last line, though. I’m not sure if it comes through as clearly as I’d like, but I only have 100 words. Sometimes you have to roll the dice on these super-short stories, hoping all the gruesome details you’ve only hinted at find purchase in the mind of the reader.

Geez. Now I’m talking like Kinter. Apparently, he’s trying to find his way back into the spotlight. Maybe I’ll have to weave him into next week’s tale.

The prompt for this week comes to us from the folks over at The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘belly’, ‘kudos’, and ‘vacant’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

Enjoy.

on the side

The hovel is vacant now, the last occupant liberated in spectacular fashion. It was a real show. You should’ve seen it.

You didn’t, of course. They don’t splash those pictures on the evening news. If it bleeds it leads, my ass.

Still, people are talking. Talking about me. About my work. Not kudos, mind you, but at least they know.

But The Mission doesn’t put food in my belly or a roof over my head. Mine isn’t an especially lucrative Calling. Not these days.

So, I sigh and say what must be said.

“You want fries with that?”