Monthly Archives: September 2014
Today’s offering is Part II of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge from last week. As you may recall, we were tasked to write the first 500 words of a flash fiction story that someone else would finish this week. Chuck has pulled a fast one on all of us, however, by instructing us to write the middle 500 words of someone else’s story rather than the ending. Ooo, tricksy!
The story I chose is “Velocity” by Mark Gardner. I’ve pasted his beginning here, but please circle back to his original post and read more of his work (http://article94.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/velocity/). I think you’ll be pleased.
Part I (by Mark Gardner)
I rush to you with my eyes open wide. I’ve protected you for years, but now you’re my undoing.
I gaze at the weapon clutched in my hand. My knuckles white with exertion. I cling to what’s familiar, but it mocks me. A tool for keeping the peace used in such a profane manner.
I tried to stop them, but I wasn’t good enough. I did my duty with honor.
“Velocity two meters per second squared. Dispatching rescue drone.”
I snort at my ‘assistant.’ Or as much of a snort you can muster while falling. I’m reminded of a quip my partner said once: When trouble breaks out, the assistants break down. I kept up with all the maintenance, followed all the procedures. When the damn thing broke, I requisitioned a replacement.
I’d seen old videos of skydivers. They fall spread-eagle for maximum drag, but I’ve already reached terminal velocity. The problem is, they had a parachute. It’s been said, It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end. It’s amazing what trivialities the mind conjures in a situation like this.
“Rescue drone deployed. Calculating time until intercept.”
It’s amazing I can hear the thing with the wind rushing over me. The sound is intense. If it weren’t for my cochlear implant, I’d never know if help was on the way. The implant inputs audio directly into my auditory cortex and detects the vibrations of the tympanic membrane in my ear when I speak.
“Drone inbound. Estimated time until arrival, thirty-seven seconds.”
“Assistant.” I said. “Access geolocation. Estimate time until impact.”
I hear the beep. “Five thousand nine hundred eighty seven feet until impact. Estimated time, thirty-three seconds.”
I feel tears briefly – the wind steals them and their meaning from me. The sky is so clear, I can see for miles and miles. Below, the patchwork of ground creates a mosaic. It would be beautiful if it didn’t mean my death.
Resigned to my fate, I holster my weapon. I suspect if the wind wasn’t biting my clothing, I might try to straighten my tie and jacket. If I have to be a corpse, I’d prefer to be a handsome corpse.
“Impact immanent. Reduce speed immediately.”
No shit. I think as I see less and less of the mosaic below. I squeeze my eyes and think about what led me here.
Part II (by LC Feeney)
Gemma. Well, to be fair, not Gemma herself, but a need to impress her.
I’d always wanted to be special, to make something of myself. I’d lapped up all the propaganda, the adventure and romance they promised, the whole “be part of something bigger, something important” crap the recruiters feed you. When I’d signed up, I’d envisioned myself as something of a white knight, a superhero, a great defender of the clueless, unwashed masses. I’d risen through the ranks pretty quickly, and when I met Gemma, it seemed like a sign from God that I was on the right track, that we were meant to be. She was perfect in every way and I was determined to be worthy of her attention, her affection.
I focused on the memory of our last encounter, determined that my dying thoughts would be of her. Her short, coppery hair had fallen into her eyes, like it always did when she leaned down to kiss me, and she’d tasted of coconut curry and good beer from our supper. Our lovemaking had been slow, comfortable, familiar, and she had snuggled down into the crook of my arm afterward, so small and pale and smooth. I’d tried not to wake her as I’d gathered my gear and dressed in the dark, but she’d thrown on my carelessly discarded shirt from the day before and walked me to the door. She always did that, wearing my shirts around the house when I was away. She said she could smell me when she wore them, and it kept her from being lonely.
What would I have done differently, if I’d known that that would be the last time I’d ever touch her, ever kiss her? Would I have held her in my arms a little longer, kissed her a little more slowly, looked more deeply into her eyes as I said my goodbyes? Would I have tried to tell her how much I love her, or how my life had changed for the better since I’d met her? Would I have left her with some pithy, memorable line that she could recite, through tears, at my memorial service or have engraved on my headstone? Or would I have just driven away, like I had done so many times before, so as not to give her any unnecessary grief?
How much time did I have left? Could I send her a message?
“Assistant, contact Gemma,” I shouted, suddenly desperate to connect with her one last time.
An eternity of waiting, then a reply. “Gemma is unavailable. Would you like to leave a message?”
“No.” The tears sprang to my eyes again. It was a stupid, selfish idea anyway. She didn’t need to hear me die. It was better this way. At least, for her.
I willed my breathing to slow and my mind to focus on Gemma again, standing in the doorway wrapped in my dress shirt, blowing me kisses and waving as I pulled away from the curb.
Upon the recommendation of a good friend and fellow writer (thanks, Lynn!), I decided to accept Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge this week. His challenge is to write 500 words of a story, but don’t end it. Apparently, someone else will write the ending to my story next week, and I assume I’ll be writing the ending to someone else’s story as well.
So, without further ado, here is the first half of my story:
It was the summer of 1986. I had just turned 21 years old and was working on becoming a famous rock star/movie actress. I had applied to American Conservatory Theater, and while I didn’t get into their year-round program, I had been invited to attend their summer program. That’s how I found myself sitting in a bar on the edge of the Tenderloin in San Francisco on a week-night in July.
It looked like every seedy, little neighborhood dive bar looks – long, narrow and dark, with a bar running most of the way down one wall. There was a gigantic mirror that ran along the wall behind the bar, the better to watch yourself while enjoying your Budweiser or your bourbon and branch. It was populated by a group of regulars – folks who were drinking their way through their disability checks or needing an escape from the monotony of their one-room flat downtown. On this particular day, I was sitting at the bar on a stool near the door, nursing a Cuba Libre and watching my aunt, her girlfriend, my friend Tom, and Three-Finger John play Liar’s Dice.
Liar’s Dice is like poker except that instead of cards, you shake dice in a cup and then try to bluff the other players about your “hand.” The players had agreed that whomever lost would buy a round of drinks for the entire group. I was a broke theater student, so I’d declined the invitation, but Tom insisted that I be included in the round of drinks, even though I wasn’t playing. The group agreed and the first round of the game was played, which Tom won and Three Finger John lost. John good-naturedly bought the round of drinks and started pressing the group to play again. They played, Tom won and John lost again, so he bought the second round of drinks, begrudgingly. For the first two rounds of the game, Tom had me blow into the dice cup before his turn, and he joked that my “lucky lime breath” was the reason he had won the first two rounds. When they played the third round, I blew into the dice cup as before, and sure enough, Tom won again. Unfortunately, John lost again, and he was not happy about it.
Three Finger John was an alcoholic and a compulsive gambler. I never saw him in that bar when he wasn’t lit, and the gossip was that he’d lost those two fingers on his left hand when he couldn’t pay off a gambling debt. I don’t know why he lost three rounds of Liar’s Dice in a row that day, but it probably had to do with the several beers he’d enjoyed before the game started, compounded by a bit of bad luck. Whatever the cause, by the time he had to shell out for the third round of drinks, he was pissed, particularly about having to pay for my drinks since I wasn’t even playing the game.