Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge – It’s X Meets Y

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Dear God…Chuck Wendig…I haven’t been doing the flash fiction thing much lately mainly due to time constraints, but I always love Chuck’s random number generator title challenges. So, last week he gave two lists of book/movie titles. We were challenged to write a mashup of one meets the other. I used a random number generator and ended up with a disastrous combination of The Terminator meets 50 Shades of Grey.
The result is easily the most ridiculous story I have ever written. Most definitely NOT SAFE FOR WORK…but don’t get too excited, it’s not really sexy, just very, very ridiculous.

This story is terrible and embarrassing so read it now if you want because I’ll probably take it down soon. All I can say is…sorry. Seriously…just…sorry! *slinks away*

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50 Shades of Turing

The lab was bright with artificial light and gleaming surfaces. Every piece of equipment, every table, tablet, and laptop computer was white and shining in antiseptic perfection. The young, ebony-skinned engineer was a dark contrast to her surroundings and the only organic thing in the room. Even the air she breathed was scrubbed clean by machines before she drew it into her lungs. She leaned over the little robot she was working on, reaching in with white-gloved fingers to connect a wire within its metal body.
The sterile calm of the room was interrupted by the whir of rubber-treaded wheels heading through the door, leaving little black smudge marks as they rolled her way. The sound stopped directly behind her and a tinny, synthetic voice spoke.

“God I want you.”

Robin pivoted on her stool, clenching her teeth with a sneer. She beheld the human-sized robot that had rolled up behind her. It lurked just within her personal space, clutching a loop of braided silk in its metal pincers. The weirdly big eyes that Stan had given it blinked at her once. She rolled her own eyes with a groan.

“Stan!” she called.

The bot released its silk lasso with one pincer as it made a grab for her ponytail with the other. Robin ducked out of the way, sliding off her stool to step out of the thing’s reach.

“Holy cow! We’re going to have to work on keeping you still, baby…” the synthetic voice purred.

“God damn it, Stan!” she shouted, raising her voice to an angry shout. She stalked to the door of the lab, sticking her head out to look up and down the hall for her errant colleague. The bot rolled after her, brandishing the braided silk suggestively.

“If I want to buy you a fucking car, I’ll buy you a fucking car!” it recited.

“Yeah, okay, why don’t you go do that, clanky. You can offer to pay for it with blow jobs and spankings.” She leaned in close to the bot, reaching around as it turned its head toward her face with a simulated sigh.

“I want you sore, baby.”

She yanked the battery pack from its back, hearing the satisfying snap of a hard shutdown. She stuck her head back out the door. “Stan! Your freaking kinkbot is on the loose again!” With one more disgusted glance at the bot, Robin strode across the lab to plop back onto her stool as she heard a rush of running footsteps in the hallway. Stan burst into the lab, red-faced with panic in his eyes.

“Willie!” he cried. “God, I’m sorry Robin! Did he…uh…did he do anything…unforgiveable?”

“That dialog is pretty unforgiveable, but he didn’t manage to do anything physical if that’s what you mean.”

“Ah shit. He got away from me. I’m really sorry.”

Robin folded her arms and shook her head. “50 Shades, Stan?”

Stan blushed furiously. “Stop judging me! I told you I just downloaded it out of curiosity!”

“Mmm hmm. But you didn’t delete it, obviously since your stupid bot read it and got perverted for life.”

“It’s not his fault!” Stan protested, taking the battery pack she held out to him. “He was in…well kind of in adolescence at the time. He imprinted on it. Who would have guessed that damned book would be the one to make a lasting impression?”

Robin chuckled. “Be grateful it wasn’t iRobot or he would have tossed your ass out the window.”

Stan lowered his eyebrows and glanced at Willie as if he was trying to decide if the bot could actually throw him.

“You got lucky again this time, professor. But if Herr Wanderlust rolls into the wrong lab one of these days, you’ll be saying hasta la vista to your funding.”

“I know, I know.” Stan slipped the battery pack into the pocket of his lab coat and started pacing, wringing his hands and yanking absently at his unruly mop of brown hair. “Why are they going after my funding? Haven’t I made progress? Doesn’t the fact that he’s obsessed with kinky sex from a book show that he has some form of sentience? I mean, how much more proof do we need?”

“I wouldn’t exactly call that a Turing Test, Stan. He’s just parroting the damned book.” She turned away to drape a plastic tarp over her own little robot. “And anyway, this is a respectable lab. That baby-oil-lubed embarrassment could start writing original poetry and the company isn’t going to show it to the scientific community, let alone the public.”

“I know,” he groaned. “Why? Why THAT book? I’ve got Shakespeare on my fucking e-reader! Descartes! He couldn’t have gone in for The Emperor’s Handbook?”

“That’ll teach you to keep your wanking material at home.”

Stan blushed again, turning scarlet this time. He ducked his head and stalked over to his runaway robot.

“I…I’ll see you later, Robin. Sorry again.” He grabbed a handle on Willie’s back and circled around to wheel him along to his own lab.

Stan spent the next two weeks obsessing over his impending funding review, trying to get Willie ready. He had kept the bot plugged into Netflix for days, trying to get him to imprint on something…anything other than soft porn. But when he got him up in front of the bigwigs, all he wanted to talk about was whips and some kind of vaginal balls? Stan tried to argue that as proof of independent thought. He didn’t remember any vaginal balls in the book. Wasn’t it one or the other? Who had both?

They pulled his funding and gave him a month to find another backer or clear out of his lab space. Determined to find someone to finance his impending breakthrough, he changed Willie’s entire routine. No exposure to anything but classic literature and music. No more Netflix. Willie had seemed close to getting interested in a couple of other movies, but nothing that was going to help their cause. Risky Business was only going to encourage more salacious talk and The Terminator? Oh God…Stan didn’t even want to consider where that might lead. He called up his LinkedIn profile and started searching for someone willing to back him.

***

There was nobody. Three weeks. Three weeks of begging, pleading, bargaining all for nothing. It seemed that word had spread after the funding meeting fiasco and now he was just a laughingstock. Stan sat at his desk with his head in his hands.

“Hey perk up, professor! I hear congratulations are in order.”
Stan jerked his head up and stared. It was way past time for everyone to be gone for the day. Robin stood leaning into his office in her winter coat and boots.

“Whoa sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.”

Stan blinked at her. “Oh…no, it’s okay. I was just thinking. I…uh…did you say congratulations?”

“Yeah, and I meant it too! Don’t worry, you’ll get Willie’s horny ass in line. I’m glad you’re staying. It goes to show, there’s a backer for everything right?” Her phone chimed and she pulled it out to check the display. “Crap, it’s late! Gotta go. It’s after eight, you should go home too! See you tomorrow!”

“I have a backer?” he muttered at Robin’s retreating back. “But everyone said no.” Stan pulled his keyboard close and peered at the monitor as he began to type.

Two hours later, he sat back and let out a long, slow sigh. The money was there. Thousands of dollars, funneled through his own PayPal account. Anywhere from three to five $1,000 payments every night for the last two weeks, with another one made just an hour ago…but he had absolutely no idea where the money was coming from. He gasped for air, casting around his office as if he had left the answer sitting around somewhere. Should he try to find out the source of the money or just use it?

His panic was interrupted by a loud giggle followed by the sound of drunken shushing. He stared out his doorway as a heavyset middle-aged couple staggered past, leaning into one another.

Stan jumped up to follow them. “Hey! Excuse me!” he called. “This is private property. You’re not supposed to be in here.”

The couple pivoted as one, staring at him and breaking into a fresh bout of giggles. The man straightened and stepped forward. “It’s okay man. It’s cool. Willie gave us the code. We paid in advance. Online.” He glanced around and leaned in for a beer-stinking whisper, “Craigslist.”

Stan froze. “Willie? Gave you the code? On Craigslist?” He stared as the couple nodded knowingly and turned to continue down the hall. They turned left as Stan followed them at a distance. The couple stopped at the door to one of the empty office spaces and knocked – one normal knock followed by two fast raps.

The door opened and Willie rolled out. He was draped in red silk with a little leather whip clutched in one of his pincers. Stan glimpsed dim mood lighting in the office instead of the usual fluorescents as the soft lilt of La Traviata floated down the hall.

Willie opened the door all the way and rolled in close to the couple. “Come with me if you want to really live,” he said, the synthetic voice somehow managing to drip with desire and a hint of an Austrian accent.

The couple burst into peals of laughter and staggered into the office. Willie turned his gaze on Stan and rolled forward to meet him.

Stan’s mouth worked soundlessly for a moment before he found his voice. “The money, our funding. It’s from you?”

Willie cocked his head to one side.

“So you’ve…you’re really become self-aware? And…um…and also I guess…an Internet prostitute, uhh, dominant?”
Willie winked one of his big eyes and cracked the little whip in the air, making Stan flinch. “I’ll be back.”

He rolled back into the room, shutting the door behind him with a soft click.

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Highland Feud – More Flash Fiction from Chuck Wendig

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This week our evil overlord (a.k.a. fabulous author Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com) bade us to write a 2,000-word story by picking an entry from each of three lists – The Who, The Where, and The Uh-Oh. We could pick randomly or by choice. I decided to combine the two by allowing one of my teenagers to pick for me. This got me An Accountant, in a Mad Botanist’s Greenhouse, Beseiged by Supernatural Enemies.  The result was…

Highland Feud

by McKkenzie

               “…and please leave a message at the beep.”

               Aidan cleared his throat as his assistant’s recorded voice finished and the tone sounded. “Hey, Max. I’m guessing you bugged out of the office a little early. Uh, which is totally fine. My meeting finished early too so I’m stopping at Dr. Banks’ house to get those signatures and then I’m just going to head home, so I’ll see y…” He stopped short at the sound of the phone being snatched up.

                “You did not just say you’re stopping at Banks’ house.”

                Aidan chuckled. “Hello to you too, Maxine. And yes, I’m in front of his place now. It’s no big deal, he’s harmless.

                “Uuuh, yeah, gonna have to disagree with you on that one, boss. The guy’s fly-munching crazy on his best day.”

                “But he’s rich, he’s a regular client, and he pays his bills on time,” Aidan reminded her. “Besides, I left a message on his phone that I’d be coming by so he’s expecting me.”

                “Come on, Aidan. I’ll go back with you tomorrow, or I’ll have Banks come to the office. You know better than to go to that whackjob’s house.”

                “Thanks, mom, but I’m a big boy now. I even used the potty earlier.”

                “You’re an accountant, not a superhero, Aidan. Come on, I’m serious.”

                “Me too. See you tomorrow, Max.”

               Aidan hit the End button and pocketed his phone. He’d be the first to admit his little business would probably go under without Max’s hovering, but some days it wore a little thin. If he couldn’t handle a 70-year-old, crazy botanist he might as well turn his balls in and call it a day. He congratulated himself on not saying that last bit to Max. She’d probably have come out here to kick his ass. Chuckling, he grabbed Banks’ file from the passenger’s seat and stepped out of the Jeep.

                He shivered a little in the crisp autumn air, though he had to allow that the chill might be from the atmosphere. It was only 4:30, but the days were getting shorter and it wasn’t entirely pleasant being here as the sun was going down. He glanced around at the unkempt lawn, the unraked leaves, and the overgrown shrubbery. The place was a mess, much like its owner. Something about the big, old mansion just made it seem to lurk. It made the hairs stand up on Aidan’s neck, but now that he’d been dismissive and brave to Max, he had no choice but to go ahead.

                Aidan stepped forward to ring the bell and saw a note taped to the door handle.

                “In the greenhouse in back, Mr. Ferguson.”

                Fabulous. Aidan had been hoping to go no farther than the front porch, but now he’d have to wander back onto the sprawling property. Could he claim not to have seen it? Say he rang the bell but nobody answered? He rejected the notion with a sigh. Max would take one look at what she called his “earnest wittew face” and know he was full of shit. No way she’d ever let him live it down.

                Aidan squared his shoulders and trudged around the porch to the huge wooden gate. It was situated like a door in the middle of the thick hedge that surrounded the back of the house. The gate was so heavy, he nearly bobbled Banks’ tax folder as he heaved at it.

                “Christ,” he muttered. “Has this thing ever been opened?” He saw the greenhouse as soon as he cleared the side yard. It was enormous and lit up like a beacon in the middle of the dark property. As he headed across the weed-choked lawn, he had the creeping realization that if the greenhouse lights were to go out he would be plunged into darkness — or at least duskness. Was that a word? He took a deep breath. “I am thirty-eight years old,” he muttered to himself. “I am a college graduate, I have my own business, I run four miles every day, and I’m trained in karate. I am not afraid of the fucking dark.” Well okay, he admitted mentally, he had learned the first three katas and quit…but still.

                He reached the greenhouse and jumped a little at his own reflection staring at him from the mirrored door. That was weird. Wasn’t the whole thing supposed to be made of clear glass? He took a moment to compose himself, running his fingers through his short brown hair and trying not to look like he’d been spooked.

                The stifling heat hit him like a warm, wet slap as he walked through the door and he wrinkled his nose at the peaty, organic smell that permeated the air. “Dr. Banks?” he called. He preferred city smells and had never understood anyone who liked to get dirty, even when he’d been a boy. He closed the door behind him and headed in, hoping to make it quick.

                The place seemed deserted. “Sir,” he called again. “It’s Aidan Ferguson. I got your note and I’m here with the papers for you to sign.”

                As big as it was, the place was bright as the damned sun and it seemed impossible he wouldn’t be able to spot the man. Aidan set his mouth in a line of grim determination and marched deeper into the loamy maze of rows. He had just reached the center of the structure when all the lights winked out.

                “Son of a bitch!” he yelled. He whirled around, heart hammering as he waited for his eyes to adjust to the gloom. The crazy old fart must have been locking up outside. “Dr. Banks, can you hear me? Don’t leave! I’m in the greenhouse and I can’t see!”

                The deep chuckle that rose up out of the darkness made the skin on his back feel like it was trying to crawl up over his shoulders. What the fuck? He froze, unwilling to call out again in case it made it easier for the chuckler to find him.

                “Ferguson.”

                The voice was so menacing, for the first time in his life, Aidan had a clear understanding of the urge to piss yourself in fright. He managed to avoid that indignity and tried to work up some bravado. After a moment, he swallowed hard and settled for snark.

                “Good guess since I just announced my name,” he called out, pleased at how steady his voice sounded. “Who the hell are you and where is Dr. Banks?”

                “Banks is unimportant,” the voice said. “We are here for you.”

                Instinctively, Aidan squatted down, clutching the file folder to his chest. As he did, a spade whistled by, exactly where his head had been a moment before. Shoving the file folder under a bench, he scrambled away on his hands and knees, stopping as he reached the wall of the greenhouse.

                The chuckle sounded again, deeper and so resonant that Aidan felt it in his chest. There was a heartbeat of silence and then tools and pots from all over the greenhouse began to rain down on him. Aidan scrambled along the wall amid the deafening chaos in what he hoped was the direction of the door. As he hit a solid corner, he realized he had gone the wrong way.

                Aidan began kicking frantically at the glass, thinking he would break the lowest pane and crawl out to make a run for it. He cried out as his foot rebounded off the thick glass. Blood dripped into his right eye and he swiped at it, realizing his forehead was cut. Half blind now, he leaped into a squat and headed along the next wall knowing he had to hit the door eventually.

                As he rounded the second corner, a hand reached out and yanked him off his feet. Before he could cry out, another talon-like hand clamped over his mouth and dragged him under one of the long tables.              

                “Shhhhh,” a voice rasped hot breath against his neck. “It’s Dr. Banks. Don’t give us away.”

                Aidan twisted around squinting with his unobstructed eye and was just able to make out Banks’ crazy hair and prominent nose. Banks hissed into his ear as the cacophony of breaking pots and clanging tools went on unabated. “I’m sorry, they gave me no choice!”

                “Who?” Aidan demanded. “Why?”

                “The ghosts!” the old man giggled. “They hate you…your family. They’re going to kill you!”

                “But I don’t have a family!” Aidan protested.

                “That’s the thing,” Banks began.

               The crashing stopped abruptly and the air began to vibrate again. “They’re looking for you,” the old man gasped. “The door is that way!” He gave Aidan a shove down one of the rows.

               Aidan shuffled along, skirting the tables as quietly as he could, heading for an opaque rectangle that he hoped was the door. Yes! He was only a few yards away now and he could see the handle glinting in the moonlight. He reached out and something slammed into his chest. He landed hard on his back with the air forced out of his lungs. Aidan sat up, struggling to breathe as a huge pot of dirt sailed out of the darkness to crash into his shoulder, flattening him again. He goggled at a cloud of glowing mist that slowly began to gather in the aisle.

               “Finally,” the voice said as the mist coalesced into the form of a man. He was tall and heavyset, with black, slicked back hair and a nose that reminded Aidan of Dr. Banks. “The last Ferguson is mine. Your line dies tonight.”

               Aidan forced himself back into a sitting position as he gulped air into his oxygen-starved lungs. “Mister,” he gasped. “You don’t have to kill me to get rid of the Fergusons! My parents are dead, I’m an only child and I’m not even married. I don’t want kids. Just wait a few years and we’ll all be gone anyway!”

               “Revenge is not something I leave to chance,” the ghost replied. An enormous pair of pruning shears floated through his nebulous head and angled down to aim at Aidan’s throat.

               “No!” he screamed. He tried to roll under the nearest table, but found himself held fast by invisible claws.

               The door to the greenhouse burst open. A petite young woman with spiky blonde hair stepped through, holding a staff high over her head. The tip of the staff was an Egyptian-styled eye that emitted a blinding light. She leaped forward and stabbed the ghost in the back, thrusting straight through his chest. The ghost screamed and burst apart. Aidan struggled as the claws that held him began to tear at his hair and skin.

               The woman’s hand flashed out and Aidan felt something hit him square in the chest.

               “Put it on!” she screamed.

               He looked down as the necklace she had thrown at him fell into his lap. It had a heavy gold chain that ended in an amulet with two crescents cupping an open hand. Aidan slipped it over his head with an effort and felt the grasping talons fall away as the pressure left the greenhouse with a shriek, shattering most of the walls as it went.

               The woman approached Aidan with a smirk, offering her hand to help him up as the lights blinked on.

               In a daze, Aidan allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. “Max,” he gasped. “What the hell? How did you know? Where did you get this stuff? What the…”

               “Easy cowboy,” she soothed. “Let’s get the hell out of here and I’ll explain it all over a drink.”

               A mad little chuckle floated through the air, making Aidan flinch. He and Maxine looked across the wreckage to find the mad botanist puttering around, sweeping up debris and giggling to himself.

***

               “Demon hunters?” Aidan repeated throwing back his second Glenfiddich. His forehead still stung a bit and his ankle and shoulder were killing him, but the scotch was beginning to help.

               “Well sort of,” Max clarified. “They hunted the dark magicians who consorted with demons. Which is how they ended up killing off the last gifted member of the Morgan clan. Seamus Morgan, the gentleman you met tonight, vowed revenge at his death and he’s been after the Fergusons ever since.

               “And my dad hired you to look out for me?”

               “Well, technically his estate did. The lawyers handled the whole thing.”

               “Why didn’t he just tell me?” Aidan shook his head and held his glass out for another round.

               “And what would you have done if he had, Mr. Skeptic?” Max asked pouring generously.

               “I dunno…I…”

               “You would have laughed it off and put the amulet in some box somewhere. You’d have lost it and you know it. And now you’d be dead.”

               “I guess…maybe,” Aidan allowed.

               “Your dad knew you, sport. Get over it.”

               “I tried to tell Morgan that the Fergusons were done anyway. He didn’t have to go to the trouble.”

               “Yeah, well that’s not exactly true,” Max drawled.

               “What the hell does that mean?” he demanded.

               “Remember that cute redhead you had the thing with at that accountant’s conference?”

               “Yeeeaaaaah…”

               “She’ll be popping out a new Ferguson in about five months.”

               Aidan sat back and stared at her in stunned silence. “Did you arrange that too?”

               “Ha! Nope. That was all you, sport. I was just charged with providing support for any little bastards you might produce.”

               “Will the baby have to wear one of these too?” he asked, fingering the amulet.

               “Yep. I’ll be waiting in the delivery room to slip it over her tiny wittew head.”

               “Her?” he asked.

               “Her. And it already looks like she’s going to have all the magical talent you lacked.”

               “Well that would have made my dad happy.”

               “I’m sure that’s true.”

               “So I guess my days as an accountant are pretty much over?”

               “You’re back at the family feedbag until she’s done with her training, yeah.” Max smiled and poured him another drink.

 

Distractions and a NOT-New Year’s Resolution

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There is something I need to change. I’ve been resisting this change, not because I don’t want to do it but because the realization has come to me at just at this time of year. It feels like a New Year’s resolution…but I hate those things.  They’re stupid and useless. They’re so widely broken within days or weeks that they’re a societal joke.

The obstinate, childish part of me wants to wait a month so the change isn’t connected to January 1st…but forcing myself not to be tied to a date is just as stupid as being tied to the date, right? And this change is seriously needed.

The holidays are big at our house. We have kids, we have extended family, we have pets, we have lots and lots of traditions…maybe too many traditions. We have movies we watch, places we go, songs we listen to, games we play, food we make, gifts we buy, stockings we fill, about 5,000 decorations we put up both inside and outside and 20+ years of ornaments to put on a tree that we must go out to purchase each year because fake trees are evil (that last one comes from my husband). Even the smallest member of our household has a stocking that must be put up and duly filled with ferret-loot.

The holidays are awesome and we love them…but all that we do adds up to a huge, almost insurmountable, month-and-a-half-long DISTRACTION. Paying work competes with book writing on a daily basis at the slowest of times, but during the holidays…ugh.

I hung in there for a while, but around mid-December actual fiction writing gave way to holiday prep and mental masturbation (my tacky term for stories that are written only in my head). It must be said that mental masturbation isn’t a total waste of time. I use these mental tales to create back stories for my characters. How they got where they are, how they grew up, etc. I’m sure it helps the writing overall and I often have little epiphanies — “Right, so that’s why she does that thing that’s in the actual book later!” But as far as advancing the word count of the book I’m trying to write, nada. I did get a couple of little blog posts in, and I finished a paying freelance job, but my book…nope. I even missed the last installment of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction exercise and that bummed me out. So what went wrong? Why did that happen so easily?

As always at times like this, I turn to my wise UAMs (Unwitting Author Mentors) to guide me. The advice I found – write every day. Every day. Even if it’s just a few hundred words written in a spare moment…do it. Not having this requirement for myself made it all too easy for the writing I love to get shuttled to the back of the line. So my NOT New Year’s Resolution is to write fiction every day.

While I’ve seen some authors who count blog posts, non-fiction, and even emails in their daily word count, that’s not going to work for me since I write non-fiction for a living. It would be too easy to say “yeah, I wrote 2,000 words every day last week…uh, but not one word in my book.”

I started this not-resolution late last night. Instead of allowing myself to fall into bed for sleep, I brought my trusty laptop with me so I could bang out maybe 300 words. That turned into 900+ in a heartbeat and I had that wonderful, “yeah, there it is” feeling again.

Other writers…how about you? Does this happen to you each year? What do you do about it? Do tell in the Comments…and Happy New Year, all!

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction: Whisper Down the Lane Part 4

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As mentioned in previous posts, this is a fun exercise from http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/ in which participants are taking over each other’s stories 200 words at a time. We’re on week four and here is my addition to a story about a lecture hall with two people who aren’t quite what they seem. Note to gun enthusiasts…sorry if I’m way off on my terminology. I looked the reference up a few seconds ago and I’m in a time crunch here, so if there’s no such thing as a semi-auto Colt…try not to hurt me too bad. 😉

Has this one been titled yet?  How about Masks?

***

Started by David Kearney at http://scenesandsequels.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/chuck-wendigs-flash-fiction-challenge-200-words-at-a-time-part-one/

The lecture theatre door slammed shut with a bang so loud half the room jumped in their seat. Alice descended the stairs, not oblivious to the 200 pairs of indignant eyes boring through her, and took the only available seat at the front of the class.

Professor Gordon Kane stood at the lectern and looked over the top his glasses at her. “Welcome Miss Turner, what a remarkable entrance. I was just about to introduce my colleague to your classmates, may I continue?”

Alice’s face burned so hard she thought her hair might catch fire.

Kane gestured toward a tall man wearing a green turtleneck and a tweed jacket with leather patches at the elbows. “I expect that many of you will recognize our guest,” he said.

She recognized him immediately; in fact, he was the very reason she was late for class.

“His book, Changing Minds, has spent the last six months perched at the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list, his television show of the same name has surprised and delighted audiences around the world and we are very fortunate to have him here today. It is, therefore, my very great privilege to introduce Dr. Lucas Spencer.”

The room erupted into deafening applause. Dr. Spencer moved to the lectern and held up his right hand. “Thank you, Gordon. Thank you, everyone,” he said. “I’d like to ask for five volunteers.”

***

continued by Mark Gardner at http://article94.blogspot.com/2013/11/200-more-words_29.html

Alice’s hand rocketed upward. She willed with all her being that he choose her. She didn’t want to look too desperate, but she had to be chosen. Dr. Spencer looked around the room and his eyes locked briefly with hers. She hoped her loud entrance was enough to get on stage. The blast radius was only five feet, so she had to be in his “bubble.”

Dr. Spencer chose a diverse group of volunteers. Different ethnicities and social standing, but they were all male. Alice wondered if she had chosen the wrong gender. After four of her classmates made their way to the stage, Dr. Spencer looked at her and smiled.

“Alice, please join us on stage.”

Alice glanced at the watch covering the scar on her wrist. She had worked hard to show her peers she was just like the rest of them.

If they only knew, she thought as she ascended the steps to the stage. It was almost time–her purpose on this world had almost reached fruition. Dr. Spencer greeted each volunteer with a hearty handshake. That would be her moment.

The room was awash with hundreds of conversations, but she focused on only Dr. Spencer.

***

Continued by Renee Elizabeths at http://reneeelizabeths.blogspot.com/2013/12/flash-fiction-200-words-at-time-part.html

Alice took her place at the far side of the stage. She let her gaze bounce, never settling on Dr. Spencer for too long. Her fingers kept reaching for the watch, pinching the links of the band together and then smoothing them.

Adrenaline disguised as nervous fidgeting.

Sweat trickled down Alice’s neck as he shook the hand of third boy he’d chosen and she resisted the urge to squirm. Dr. Spencer was close enough now that she could feel the edges of the psychic field. She prayed her modified suppressors would hold.

Dr. Spencer took the hand of the boy standing next to her. “Don’t be nervous,” he said, his quiet voice modulated to be smooth and enticing. “There’s nothing to worry about. Not anymore.” Dr. Spencer smiled and the boy smiled back, his eyes glazing under the attack.

Dr. Spencer dropped his hand and took a step toward Alice. Then another.

So close now.

Her heart pounded. Her fingers twisted the watchband one more time. Positioning the detonator under her thumb.

Dr. Spencer took the final step and held out his hand.

Alice took a breath, tried to pull her lips into a smile, and pressed the button.

***

Part 4 by me…McKkenzie

Nothing happened. Dr. Spencer stood there with his hand out, his lips began to curve upward as his eyes twinkled.

“Aren’t you going to shake my hand, Alice?”

Alice looked down at the watch as her already pounding heart picked up the pace. She was pressing her own naked wrist bone. Her eyes flicked up to find the watch dangling from Dr. Spencer’s finger. Oh crap, the suppressors weren’t working.

“A fine piece of craftsmanship,” he said, giving the watch a mocking swing. “I take it you have strong opinions about my work?”

Alice suppressed a shiver as sweat began to soak through her shirt, chilling her skin on the drafty stage.

“I have strong opinions about slavery, sir,” she grated through clenched teeth. Her equipment hadn’t failed her entirely. She could still think, but could she act?

Dr. Kane cleared his throat. “So…ah, if we can get started…” he began. Alice registered the confusion in his voice and the growing tension in the room.

Okay, the bomb wasn’t happening, but she still had the semi-auto Colt in the small of her back. Spencer was trapped in this body for now. If she could blow a few holes in his head it would be over.

Her hand slid around her slim waist and she struggled to hide a surge of relief as she grasped the gun and pulled it free.

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction: Whisper Down the Lane Part 3

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As mentioned last week, this is a fun exercise from http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/ in which participants are taking over each other’s stories 200 words at a time.  Here is my contribution of the third part of an ever so slightly Biblical story…

First 200 words by:  http://apocryptica.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/390/

Jacob stood alone on the fog covered dock. A spectral figure wreathed in frost and ice crystal.
The glock hung loosely at his side with the apathy of sleep deprivation.

A beam of light lanced through the fog and somewhere far off a fog horn belched.

He waited.

His fingers were numb on the grip and his exposed skin was cold and clammy.

He waited some more.

Then he heard it, the slow stutter of hooves clacked across the dock; Each step loud and surreal in the opaque air.

CLACK-CLACK.

He shivered.

Jacob told himself it was only the chill of the fog, but he knew better.

He saw the eyes first.

Red as rage and hot as a furnace.

One step after another.

CLACK-CLACK.

He ran his tongue over his ragged lips and croaked out a greeting.

“h-here.”

His voice sounded like a lost child.

Afraid, alone and desperately wanting to be elsewhere.

The terrible eyes moved forward in their unrelenting pace.

CLACK-CLACK.

It ripped through the fog, its two cloven hooves leaving a scorch marked trail.

His teeth chattered .

It came to a sudden halt, its black armor clanking like a death toll.

It gave a serrated grin.“I think we both know why I’m here.”

Second 200 words by: http://carlthenomad.blogspot.com/2013/12/1000-words-in-5-parts.html

“Listen… uhm…”

It shook its head slowly back and forth.

“No, Jacob, No. Think before you speak. Ask yourself, is this something that needs to be said, or is it something I’ve heard too many times before?”

Jacob opened his mouth but found his voice had taken the advice seriously and gone somewhere to think. Esau smiled again and moved closer. The step thudded and the dock creaked. The hand with the gun jerked up and aimed at several places in the general area of a heart. He brought up his other hand to steady the trembling.

“Oh dear, it doesn’t have silver bullets does it?”

Jacob darted a look at the gun.

“N-no…”

“Jacob, that was a joke.” This was murmured in his ear. During that moment he had looked at the gun instead of the target Esau had covered the distance between them. And had done so silently. It stood in front of him, leaning over to put its head next to Jacob’s. He could smell sage smoke and salt water.

“What are you doing with this Jacob? Guns don’t kill people. Well, not people like me.”

Third 200 words by me…

Panic overrode common sense and Jacob began to babble. “C’mon, Esau. Be reasonable, brother. We can work this out! I’ve got…”

Esau’s huge hand flashed up to grab Jacob by the neck, stopping his speech along with his breath. With its other hand, it took the Glock from Jacob’s limp fingers and crushed it in its fist. “Do not call me that again!”

Jacob’s eyes widened in terror and he did his best to nod. Esau let up on the pressure, but kept its hand where it was. “I don’t think we’ll be doing any negotiating tonight, brother,” Esau snarled. “Last time I was reasonable you tried to cleanse yourself of me. Nice try, by the way, but it’s going to take a lot more than Wiccan nonsense to pull your ass out of this fire.”

“Okay,” Jacob croaked. “I’m sorry about that, but you can’t blame me for trying, right?”

“Can’t I?”

“Es, I really am sorry. For everything.”

“Liar!” Esau spat. “Thief! Nothing can make up for what you did!”

“Look br…Es. You don’t know what I have. See my truck parked over there? I’ve got 150 gold bars in the back. They’re yours…”

Esau chuckled. “Hey, thanks bro. Those are going to come in handy in my new life. The life I get to start living here on Earth while you take my place in Hell.”

Thoughts on cowardice and writing

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About 18 years ago, I was working regularly as a corporate writer while writing fiction on the side pretty steadily. My dream, my goal, was to make a living from the fiction side of things and to eventually be free of the marketing drivel. So I was steaming along, writing sci-fi/fantasy short stories, submitting to magazines…when I started to get the dreaded rejections. Some were all-business; one in particular was kind of…well…mean.

And it wrecked me.

Yep, like so many bazillions before me, I let rejection and criticism get to me and I stopped submitting. I never stopped writing…I just stopped showing my stuff to anyone and eventually I even stopped writing it down and just kept it in my own head. In the meantime, I started a family, became a fairly successful freelance writer, lived my life, and did get free of marketing drivel in favor of actual journalism for the most part…but I always regretted never making a go of fiction writing.

In the last year, through the “miracle” of Twitter, I’ve discovered advice from wonderful authors like Richard Kadrey, Stephen King, John Scalzi, Jim Butcher, Neal Asher, Joe Abercrombie, and Chuck Wendig. Published, successful authors who are telling me to keep at it – keep writing, “write through the suck,” be arrogant when you can’t be confident, and write it now, fix it later. Why all men? I don’t know. They’re just some of my favorite authors who also happen to have given advice about writing.

I wish Twitter had been around 18 years ago…but on the bright side, I’m only in my 40s now and I’m still writing. And, more importantly, I’m admitting to myself that what stopped me before was pure cowardice. The rejections hurt and I wussed out and played it safe.

Coincidentally, for a few years just before finding this great advice online, my family and I went through a period of one awful disaster after another, which taught me that life is too fucking short not to pursue your dreams. And now that the dust has settled and things are looking up, I find my outlook has changed dramatically.

Now I have this 100% unfollowed Blog …but I don’t care…I’m going to talk my way through this even if nobody is listening. I’m writing a book (which is about 80% finished as of this post) and I’m going to finish that bastard if it god damned kills me. Then I’m going to wait a couple of weeks and edit it. Then I’m going to show it to a few trusted people, make more changes, fix what I screwed up, and start looking for an agent. And while I know it’s a long shot…at least I’ll know I tried and that somebody, somewhere read what I wrote…and that’s worth something to me.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep supporting myself with journalism and a smattering of marketing drivel. I’ll also keep doing fun stuff like Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction and post it here. I’ll probably also post some other short stories. Either way, I’ll keep whoever might be reading this updated on my progress…we’ll see…

–          McKenzie, December 4, 2013