Friday, November 29, 2013

Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge: 200 words, part 2

Written for the 2nd part of Chuck Wendig's 5 week flash fiction challenge on Terrible Minds.  Basically, one picks 200 words written by someone else for last  week's challenge, then adds their own 200 words to the mix.  Below, the story beginning I chose by Fatma Alici, and following that, the 200 words I added.


Another shot glass slammed down as Toops flashed her big, black eyes at me.  “Are you going to black out.”  Her tone as dry as the desert planet we had left.
I never black out. “  I grinned motioning for another shot.  “I’m only resting my eyes.”
 Toops rolled her eyes and crossed her arms.   “Yeah, I believe you, Lancer.  I really do.”  Her scarred fingers pushed her still full glass back and forth across the metal bar top.  “Didn’t you say we have a man coming in to offer us a job?
You handle all the contracts.  I’m your simple minded muscle.”  I winked at her.  “Me big man.  Me hit things hard.”  The burning fire scalded my throat as I took another shot.
Her hand snapped out faster than my eye could follow.  Those strong fingers crushed mine into my palm.  “Do not call for another shot.  I swear I will break your fingers right now.”
A hearty chuckle rumbled up my throat.  “Alright, alright boss lady.”
My fingers were released.  “We are partners.”
You say that now, but once the client gets here you’ll change your tune.”  She couldn’t deny it.  It was true.
---
The mark joined us not too long after that. I know they're supposed to be clients, but I can't help thinking of them as marks. Lancer likes to think of us as noble ruffians, taking on jobs to help the weak and disenfranchised. Truth is, we take on the jobs that pay the most. Sometimes that means we take the client for a bit of a ride.

Lancer was right about one thing: when the client arrives, I play boss. Pretty much have to; no one would buy me as the hired muscle – at least no one with all their bits in tact. Marks are always weary of a girl without a purpose. They'll buy me as the brains, but not the brawn.

Lancer brought this one in. I let him do that once in a while because it makes him feel like we're equal partners. More importantly, it makes the marks think that I'm hot stuff. They're so lucky to get me, I send one of my peons first to see if they're worthwhile instead of going myself. Doesn't always work, but when it does, it's a much bigger payday.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge

Wrote this for Chuck Wendig's most recent flash fiction challenge on Terrible Minds.

Blurred, crystalline shapes whined into view.

Rebecca blinked, but otherwise kept still while she assessed the damage. The glass had exploded inward, which bothered her less because it had knocked her down, and more because exploded inward was a contradiction. She didn't like that.

Her habit had protected her ears and God had protected her eyes. Her hands hadn't been so well looked after.

She put a cautious, bleeding hand on a pile of glass cubes, another on bare concrete, and started to push herself up. For the first and – she hoped – only time, she was glad Mother Superior insisted on those ugly, thick-soled shoes. Her stilettos never would have gained traction.

A hand appeared in front of her. She took it without questioning its origin. It was strong, warm, masculine. She was happy to allow the man to help her stand, to accept her glasses as he handed them back. For a second, Rebecca let herself believe she might escape. She put her glasses on.
She started, which startled the man. His one hand hung awkwardly in the air, as if he was still waiting for her to take her glasses; the other rested on his gun.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Quicksand - Part 34


Sally trailed along behind the Daisy Chain and Charm-Charm, and zoned in and out of their conversation – and it was their conversation. She felt useless and utterly relieved to be. They made plans and told stories and from what Sally did listen to, it seemed like Nod was a very small place; there was hardly anyone who Daisy Chain mentioned that Charm-Charm didn't know about - and she wanted most of them dead.

Charm-Charm was a lot more willing to explain things than Daisy Chain, at least the very basics of things. Raiders, she said, were all the same. They roamed Nod in large groups, looking for humans or other figments to attack and drain the Dust from. Most of the gangs were led by a Keeper, a figment who could somehow prevent a human from waking up from their nightmare before their Dust was harvested. The gangs that didn't have a Keeper hunted other figments exclusively.

"They're worse than hunters," Charm-Charm spat. “Turning on their own.”

"I thought they were hunters," Sally said slowly. She immediately wished she'd kept her mouth shut.

Daisy Chain's shoulders tensed in anticipation of the impending shit storm.

In fairness to Charm-Charm, Sally had to admit that the murderous glint in her eye only lasted for a second. She turned back to Daisy Chain and talked over her shoulder to Sally. "No. Hunters are humans and they're in drug-induced comas, like you.” She smiled. “They hunt us to get high. They don't need a Keeper to keep them asleep. They do that to themselves."

Sally tried not to shudder. She tried to look calm, resolute, anything but giddy with adrenaline and terror, which is what she actually felt. Her feet felt like they were floating. The sun felt much too warm. She thought she was going to faint. Or throw up, said a little voice. She wondered if throwing up in a dream meant that she'd throw up in real life - and if she did, would she choke to death? And if she died, would she disappear from here?

"You'll be fine," Daisy Chain told her, as if he could read her thoughts. Could he do that when I was a kid? "We're going on the offensive, which is the best thing we can do; it's the last thing they'll expect."

Sally couldn't help picturing herself in armour, carrying a sword, ready to go into battle.
Charm-Charm turned back around and looked at her. She said, "Shit," but not as an expletive - more like a nod of respect.

Daisy Chain looked as well, and smiled – an expression which was creepy at the best of times.
Sally glanced down at her armour. "What the—"

"Don't think too hard about it," Daisy Chain warned her. "It happens sometimes, with people who are Dust heavy, if they let it. It's sort of—"

"Is it like lucid dreaming?" Sally asked, wondering at the lightness of her glistening silver breast plate.

Daisy Chain's nostrils flared slightly. "Something like that. Try not to think about it."
Something struck Sally. “Is that how you got the weapons before? The knife and bow and—”

“Sally. I said don't think about it.” He turned around and he and Charm-Charm started to walk again.

It was hard not to think about, the same way that every time you try not to think of a pink elephant, you inevitably think of one. But Sally tried. Not because, in her dazed and floaty state, she was worried about what would happen if she thought too hard; she was just worried about how Daisy Chain would react if she disobeyed him.

Sally could see where Charm-Charm got her weapons: she carried them. She wore her gun and ammo draped over her like sashes and kept a knife tucked into her garter. She chenked when she walked.

“So, where are we going?” Sally asked, trying to distract herself from what she was wearing. “Are we just... marching in?”

“One more person we have to see,” Daisy Chain said over his shoulder.

Charm-Charm stopped walking. “Come on. Not him.”

“We need him.”

Charm-Charm shook her head. “Like a kick in the face.”

Charm—

Charm-Charm sighed and started walking again. “Fine. But I don't like it.”

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Quicksand - Part 33


Sally realized early on that her presence wasn't really required and her input was certainly not expected. Daisy Chain had introduced her to Charm-Charm and she had become immediately irrelevant. She wandered into a little patch of sun just outside of the deep archway and half-listened to the others rabbiting on. Ha! Rabbiting on. How very droll

Daisy Chain was explaining who exactly they were after and mentioning to Charm-Charm that, if she was up for it, Minty seemed to be in some trouble as well and if they possibly could, they should see to her raiders when they were finished with Sally's. Charm-Charm liked the idea, provided there wasn't anyone better to kill on hand.
.......................................................................................................

I know, it's been a while since I posted a chapter, sorry about that.  Please accept this lack of further shameless plugging of my work...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Quicksand, Part 32


They found Charm-Charm under a massive stone bridge which lay across a field and was too high to connect anything to anything else. She was standing in one of the arches, leaning against the cool, damp stone, smoking a cigarette. She nodded politely to Daisy Chain, then gave Sally a judgemental once-over. “Is this who you wanted me to meet?” She sneered. “She looks human.”

“She is human,” Daisy Chain said, a bit abruptly. “Earth born. Don't pretend you can't tell the difference.”

Charm-Charm bristled. “So she's human. Why have you brought her to me?”

“There are raiders after her.”

“And?”

“And we want to get to them first.”

“And?”

“And when a lack of hunters presents itself, who would you rather be killing?”

Charm-Charm shrugged. “Fair point. Why are they after her? Is she Dust heavy?”

“Not especially, no.” Daisy Chain looked down at his feet, embarrassed. “A bit. She's the last of my humans.” Sally didn't know if he was embarrassed because he had humans or if it was because he had one as seemingly useless as her. Or was he embarrassed that he needed help protecting her?

Charm-Charm nodded, understanding but disapproving. “I see.” She perked up slightly. “So who are we going to kill?”

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Quicksand, Part 31



They had started walking again. Sally didn't know where to, but she was too exhausted to ask. She realized that in nightmares it was nearly impossible to get to where you wanted to be and that the sluggishness she felt might be a reflection of that. Maybe if she didn't want to be anywhere, it would be easier to get there.

“Don't drag your feet,” Daisy Chain told her. He had his hands in his pockets and his head down as if trudging through a strong wind.

—but there was no wind. The sidewalk they were on had broken up and turned into rocks and stones and twigs and dirt and it was now a path through a forest with trickling stream.

“I can take you home,” Daisy Chain said, after a while.

Sally perked up. “You can?” She was about to hug him. Her arms were already stretched out. “Wait. What about the guys that are after me?”

“They'll still be after you. I'll try to find them here before you need to sleep again.”

“What if you can't?”

“Then you'll just have to try to remember – and run.”

Sally thought it over. “So... say I do go back. When I sleep I come back here?”

“To Nod. When you wake up, first thing, draw a picture. A place in Nod. Not the one we were attacked in. Somewhere where you felt safe.”

Sally wanted to say that she hadn't felt safe since seeing Daisy Chain beckoning her into a dark alley, but what she blurted out instead was, “I can't draw!”

Daisy Chain shrugged. “You're going to have to. And you're going to have to look at it every night before bed, until you fall asleep. And when the raiders figure out where you're going to wake up, you'll have to draw a new picture and erase the other one from memory.”

“And how long do I need to keep doing that?”

Daisy Chain shook his head, the way he did when he was trying to dislodge a particularly stupid or childish question from his brain. “What? Forever. As long as you're alive.”

“So you're saying, every time I sleep, for the rest of my life—”

Daisy Chain clapped his paws together twice, slowly. “Now she get's it.” He looked a little friendlier and added, “It's the best I can do, Sally.”

Sally walked on in silence.

“What if I stayed?” Sally asked after a long time. “I don't mean forever. But what would we have to do to make it safe for me to sleep?”

Daisy Chain pondered this. “Stick to the original plan. Find the raiders that are trying to kill you and kill them.”

“That's it?”

“Isn't that enough? When you're up close, Sally, it's not like watching some cartoon character get crushed by an anvil.” He stopped, grabbed her hand and pulled it to his chest. It was warm, soft, moving. She could feel his heartbeat, rapid, more rabbit than man. “We're real. We're alive. And when we die, we die. It isn't pretty.”

As delicately as she could, Sally pulled her hand away. “I know,” she told him. “I get that.”

“We'll need help,” Daisy Chain said.

“From where? I thought everyone here was—you're going to say Minty, aren't you?”

Daisy Chain looked taken aback. “Minty? No, that poor girl has enough of her own shit to deal with without getting involved in mine. We leave her out of this.”

Sally was relieved and tried not to let it show.

“We'll go see Charm-Charm.”

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quicksand, Part 30


Sally walked along a tired concrete path. It was flanked on either side by evergreens, except they weren't green; they were black as if, even up close, they were silhouetted against the sunless pink and yellow sky. She felt like she had been walking for hours, but she kept speeding up. She wanted to put as much space as possible between herself and Daisy Chain – and his homicidal lingerie bunny. She couldn't get away from them fast enough. But she wasn't exactly comfortable on her own, either. Every sound made her heart jump and every crack in the pavement made her skin crawl. She couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched, followed, plotted against and she had no idea how to wake herself up.

Sally's mind went back to the hunter. That's what the slutty rabbit had called him – that had been her excuse. The guy's a hunter. The guy was a hunter. No one dressed like that who wasn't, or didn't want people to think that they were. And that had been enough of a reason for Daisy Chain to condone his murder, apparently. Sally wasn't fond of hunters, as a breed. She couldn't figure out how anyone derived enjoyment from killing animals, and as for the hunt itself, tracking an unarmed creature of lower intelligence with gun from a safe distance didn't seem very sporting to her – but she wouldn't want to see someone killed for it; and the way he had died. She could still remember it, every detail, every ruby drop that had sprayed through the air, his face contorted in pain and fear and the way that, at the end, his eyes just went blank, and when he fell, there wasn't even a thud. Even sound had stopped caring about him.
She was angry with Daisy Chain. Not just angry with him; disgusted by him. She couldn't believe that her fuzzy, friendly childhood hero was actually a monster, a calculating killer, devoid of compassion and able to witness a murder with apathy. But he had saved her, hadn't he? She had stopped moving in the park and he had stayed back to protect her. If they had all rushed at once, that group of figments could have killed him and God only knew what would have happened to Sally if they had. And now, thanks to Daisy Chain, they didn't have a leader, they were wandering around Nod with no purpose, no direction—I hope they're not wandering anywhere near here, said a small voice, unearthing itself from her subconscious. Actually, she realized, she could be quite close to them – them or people like them. Daisy Chain had said that Nod was full of raiders. They could be anywhere.

Sally couldn't help imagining Thrib, leaking black ink, dragging his half-dead body after her, calling out her name. She smiled, just a little, when she realized that he would be calling out Thally, Thally, but when she thought of him using the lobster thing as his henchman, her smile faded. He could be out there, right now, looking for her.
A heavy hand landed on Sally's back.

There you are,” Daisy Chain said, as Sally's heart slid down out of her throat. “What the Hell are you doing?”

“Let go of me!” Sally shouted. She tried to spring forward, but Daisy Chain tightened his grip on her shoulder. “Let me go!” It came out as a high-pitched shriek. Despite Sally's insistence, her struggles were in vain.  “You let her kill that guy,” Sally hissed, still trying to pull free. “I saw you.”

“Yeah, I did. So what?”

Sally felt that she could have coped with almost any answer, have graciously accepted any offers of regret, but the callousness of his response made her sick. “I hate you,” she told him – and suddenly she could remember telling him the same thing all those years ago, when he'd told her she was never going to see him again. Sitting in the plastic yellow chair by her tea party table, too mad to get up and give him a hug goodbye.

Daisy Chain released Sally as she surged forward again and she fell onto her face. He did not offer to help her up. “This is the way life is here, now,” he told her. “That guy came here to hunt—to kill figments and steal our Dust. To get high. And I'm supposed to do what? Let it happen? Tell Charm-Charm, Sorry, I know hunters killed your whole family and they've been invading our world and murdering our children for centuries, but would you mind not killing this one; Sally's lurking in the bushes over there and it might upset her delicate stomach? I don't think so. Life is hard. It's ugly. Deal with it.”

Sally tried to pick herself up.

“I thought I was doing you a favour by bringing you here. I thought I could keep you safer if I kept you with me.”

Daisy Chain looked exhausted. He gave Sally his hand and hauled her upright. Once she was standing, he stepped back awkwardly, looked down and shoved his hand-paws into the pockets of his jeans. “I didn't mean for any of this, you know.”

“I know,” Sally heard herself say it before she was aware of having thought it – but it was true, it was written clearly on Daisy Chain's face. “But, the blood...”
Daisy Chain looked up at her, confused. “It wasn't blood, Sally. It was Dust.”

“I thought Dust was blue.”

“Some of it is. It depends who it comes from. She drained his Dust—”

“It looked like blood,” Sally muttered under her breath. “If it was Dust, why was it red?”

“Because blood is red.”

“I thought blood was red because of iron.”

“Maybe his Dust had iron in it. Stop trying to make sense of everything; you're wasting your time.”

“And the way he died—”

“He's not dead. I've tried to explain this to you. She drained his Dust, which means on Earth, he's a vegetable. Which is worse. And I hate to say it, Sally, but the same thing will happen to you.” He sighed a long, sad sigh and looked back at his feet. “It's my fault,” he told her. “They're only after you because of me.”

Sally was having trouble getting used to the speed of the place. Everything, including her own thoughts and emotions changed so quickly, without warning. Now she wanted to forgive Daisy Chain, hug him, to make him feel better. He looked so wounded, so vulnerable, so—“Are you wearing a thong?”

The question snapped Daisy Chain out of whatever revelry he had been lost to. He looked up at Sally. “Yeah. So?”

Sally glanced at the two red strips of fabric strung across Daisy Chain's boney hips and realized that they had always been there. Somewhat uncomfortably, she also realized that there was something decidedly close-minded about commenting on anyone's choice of underthings, most especially if that person was a giant talking rabbit. She tried not to let her eyes linger. The only appropriate answer was a non-committal one. “Ah,” she said.

There was some uncomfortable shifting on both sides.

“Look, I know you didn't mean for any of this,” Sally told him after a moment. “And I know you've been doing everything you've been doing to try to help me. But this place... I can't stay here. It's weird here. It's wrong.” She paused before adding, “Um, no offence.”

Daisy Chain shook his head. “None taken. Nod used to be beautiful. Parts of it still are. But between the raiders and the humans, it's a nightmare.”

It took a second for what he'd said to sink in and part of it caught in Sally's brain. 

Humans caused this?”

Daisy Chain shrugged. “Yeah. No offence.”

If you are enjoying Quicksand, please come back soon for the next chapter.  In the meantime, you may like my novel Aigaion Girl.