Mr. Bartholomew’s Temporal Train

japanese soldiers 1930s

Japanese soldiers celebrating after victory in China, 1938 – Found at AHIIperiod1 – licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License

Twenty-five year old elementary school teacher Preston Dunn arrived at the train station just before six on Sunday morning. He normally slept in on the weekend, but he was enormously curious about the strange train ticket that had been delivered to his home by special messenger three days ago. Well, he was also intrigued by the promise of $10,000, a thousand of which had already been deposited into his checking account, if he attended the invitation-only event.

“Mr. Bartholomew’s Temporal Train Ride,” he murmured as he read the ticket again while standing just outside the depot’s main doors. He noticed other people entering but not very many.

Inside, he presented the ticket to someone dressed in an old-fashioned conductor’s outfit, something that would have been in vogue when his Dad was a little boy.

“Welcome to Mr. Bartholomew’s Temporal Train Ride, Sir.”

“Thanks. Can you tell me what this is all about? I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a train before.”

“Mr. Bartholomew hopes to provide each of his passengers with a unique, personal experience. Of course, the choice to take the trip is totally up to you.”

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Who is a Nazi and Why Should I Care?

hitler and staff

Adolf Hitler and his staff salute during the opening ceremonies of the XIth Olympic Games on Aug. 1, 1936, in Berlin, Germany. Getty Images

Nazi:
noun
1. historical
a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
adjective
1. of or concerning the Nazis or Nazism.

That’s the dictionary definition of “Nazi.” Of course, there’s a lot more to it, and to get the details, please visit the Wikipedia pages for Nazism and The Nazi Party.

Why am I bringing this up?

I read a blog post recently where apparently, speculative fiction author N.K. Jenisin called science fiction author Jon Del Arroz a Nazi on twitter. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a conservative being equated to a Nazi, but does this really mean Mr. Del Arroz belongs to the Nazi Party?

Not that I can tell. According to blog posts such as this one and his authoring articles like this one at the online magazine The Federalist, he is certainly a political conservative, but again, does that make him (or any other conservative) an actual Nazi?

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The Target

Taxi

Photo credit: Kai Pilger pexels-photo-462867 Taxi

Peter took a taxi from JFK into Manhattan, seeing the driver frown in the rear view mirror when he gave the address.

Anna had met him outside Terminal 4 where she’d given him the item secured in a laptop case. He was the only one in the organization who could deliver it to the target, but it would mean his death as well. It hardly mattered, He had stage four liver cancer and would be dead soon anyway.

Arriving at the Trump Tower, he paid the fare adding a generous trip. He had more in common with the driver than the man might expect.

Showing his ID, he was waved through every level of security except the Secret Service. Fortunately, the laptop was a working model.

“Donald, how good to see you again.” He shook hands with one of his oldest friends. They exchanged pleasantries in the President’s private suite, and then, “Let me show you that information we have on the FBI.”

The explosion killed them both instantly, raining debris onto 5th Avenue.

Listening to the news, Anna felt both grief and joy. Now maybe the government would reunite all of those poor babies with their parents at the border.

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner – 2018 Week #25 challenge. The idea is to use the photo above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

No, I’m not advocating assassinating President Trump or hurting or killing anyone. However, Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has been blamed for the separation of parents and children who have illegally attempted to enter the U.S., is all over the news and social media. Also, all you have to do is search twitter for the hashtag #resistance, and you can see the tremendous response to this policy in specific, and President Trump in general.

So I thought I’d create an extremist form of that resistance, one in which even some of Trump’s closest friends have joined, and one that is willing to use lethal force to enact political and social change.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Oh, “Peter” and “Anna” are totally fictitious and is not based on any actual people.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com. Remember, this linkup still needs a lot of love, so please consider contributing a story. Thanks.

Social Experiment

venice

© Fatima Fakier Deria

“They’re beginning to panic, Vym.”

Vym and Qloutyd were watching the news broadcasts from their alien stealth ship in low Earth orbit.

“Naturally. They expect Venice to be flooded in a century according to their belief in this climate change phenomena. They could hardly expect the famous canals to actually dry up.”

“They’re blaming…wait a minute, low tides caused by a super blue blood moon. They have the most colorful names for things, don’t you think?”

“It’s just more data for us to gather in our social experiments.”

“Our planetary climate generator is working perfectly. Humans are so easily frightened.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above to inspire creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

Venice is a very famous place with a long and remarkable history, so I tried to think of something unique. Looking up news for the city, I came across an article called Venice canals dry up after super blue blood moon and low rainfall cause water levels to drop dated 2 Feb 2018. It’s such an unexpected occurrence that I thought I’d have aliens cause it, as well as the whole climate change phenomena, as a social experiment to see how we poor humans would react. Apparently, we’re very predictable.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

When Julia Wore Her Thorns

maslk of thorns

Photo credit: Enzzo Barrena

The mask of thorns was almost a part of her now, as if it were growing out of her skin instead of inexorably piercing it, boring through muscle and bone. Blood, thick as syrup, slowly described glacial paths across her face, then down her delicate throat and onto her chest and shoulders.

Julia’s body was paralyzed in a sea of stones. At first, they felt crushing, and she impotently thrashed and screamed in claustrophobic terror. Now she could barely feel them, just like the thorns, her nerves disconnecting from pain, or for that matter, from pleasure as well.

Was it irony that brought her the tiny, yellow bird, or was that Vaughn’s idea of a joke, like the parable of the Zen Monk, the Tiger, and the Strawberry? No, that’s not right. The real meaning of the parable was not to let yourself get distracted by pleasure when you need to save yourself from imminent danger.

But the bird was the only kindness in a world of horror, and trapped as she was, Julia had no hope of saving herself.

“Don’t be stupid,” chirped the bird. “Vaughn didn’t do this to you. You did.”

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Frozen Love

ice

© Enisa

It had to be as beautiful as possible, but because of the ice sculpture’s size, Victor had to use automated industrial saws and chisels. It didn’t help that he was working alone in a freezing warehouse, but he required absolute secrecy.

He sat behind the console of the remote control unit and directed robots with heated metal arms to smooth out the edges.

“It will be alright, my dear. This will be the most elegant piece of artwork I have ever produced.”

The rented semi was out back, the temperature inside adjusted to below freezing. He’d arrange an “accidental” explosion here to cover his work, and then hide her away someplace that would always be winter cold.

“Perfect. Absolutely perfect.” Victor stood and pulled his gloves on, then walked up to the twelve-foot tall frigid form. Through the pristine pure ice, he could see her dressed in elegant silk, now as cold as his own heart. “You will never leave me for another, Nora. I shall keep our love frozen in time forever.”

I wrote this for the 170th FFfAW Challenge. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

The photo looked like some sort of ice sculpture, so I looked up the basics of making one. I also knew I wanted to make it big.

I borrowed the character names from an old Batman villain called Mr. Freeze. In the 1990s “Batman the Animated Series,” he was Victor Fries (pronounced “Freeze”), who, while trying to cryogenically freeze his wife to keep her from dying of an illness, is interrupted by his corrupt boss. He messes up the process, killing Nora, and changing Fries to someone who needs a sub-zero environment to survive. Thus a super villain is born.

In the case of my wee tale, I didn’t give Victor superpowers, but I did turn him into a homicidally jealous artist.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

Galactic North: A Brief Book Review

galactic north

Cover art for Alastair Reynolds’ book ‘Galactic North.”

A friend of mine loaned me his copy of this book because we share similar tastes in reading and I must say I found it well-written and compelling. Galactic North is a collection of eight short stories all set in the same “universe” and spanning centuries.

They involve different variations of the human race, and how they cooperate and compete with each other across the ages and light years. It’s space opera at its finest including plausible “space pirates.”

Author Alastair Reynolds has a Ph.D in Astronomy and was previously employed as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency, so he definitely possesses the qualifications for writing “hard science fiction.”

Interestingly enough, in addition to realistically portrayed interstellar travel, suspended animation, and human cybernetic hive minds, he focuses quite a bit on the medical adaptations to human beings, from the hyper-cerebral Conjoiners, to the terrifying Denizens.

The only thing that put me off a bit were the instances of what I call “medical atrocities,” that is, how some of the people in the stories end up horribly altered and mutilated, but that’s more a problem with my squeamishness than Reynolds’ writing.

As I understand it, Reynolds has written a number of other short stories and novels in the “Revelation Space” series, comparable to Larry Niven’s “Known Space” series. I have no problem giving “Galactic North” a solid five stars on Amazon, which I will be doing in just a bit.

Deasiling with Brady

starbucks closed

Scott Mayerowitz/AP

Twenty-four year old Brady Walsh authentically enjoyed it when people called her a ginger. It was much better than being a drab brunette or a vaunted blonde, and anyone meaning to insult her with the term were doing so out of envy.

She had resolved to deasil, invoking only positive qualities and expressions of her personality, now that she had arrived in America, as a counterweight to all of the negativity in the world.

“Oh damn,” the former Dubliner muttered. “There goes my resolve. Bloody Starbucks is closed because of negativity. No. Postponing my afternoon caffeine is a finite problem. Plenty of other coffee places in Portland.”

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Aekh’s Kikroot

planet

Image: hongkiat.com

Surprisingly, they were sexually compatible, so Aekh could teach him the forty-one forms of the Shin Ratda, as well as his native planet’s Kama Sutra and Ars Amatoria. She stood fully one meter taller than Quinn, and he marvelled that her elongated limbs and torso could hold her upright. Of course, at the moment, they were both prone, with her arms and legs encircling him like ivory pythons.

Within his thoughts, he called her “the Albino,” but all Uok’ahr were chalk-white and completely hairless. The iris of her eyes were a faint pink, except when she was angry or climaxing when they turned blood-red. Her body temperature was slightly higher than his, so when he entered her or even touched her skin, he momentarily thought he was going to be burned.

She spoke standard Castailian with just a faint accent, but he could never quite place it. No one off of her homeworld could speak the Uok’ahr language or languages, but then, no offworlder had been permitted to enter their solar system for several centuries. The last who tried, Birooli pirates, had vanished in a brilliant flare of incandescent light as their ships passed the system’s first warning marker. The type of weapon used was unknown.

“My Kikroot.” It has her term of endearment for Quinn. It meant something like “little one” but could also be translated as “student” or “child.”

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This Year’s Father’s Day

father's day

Photo credit: Susan Spaulding

Every morning for the past three years, Gary took his convenience store donut and coffee to the park and had breakfast at one of the picnic tables. It had been a difficult time between the forced retirement and then Helen suddenly and angrily divorcing him. Most of all, he missed his kids and grandkids. They’d taken Helen’s side in the split up. He was lonely but stoic, or at least he pretended to be.

“Grandpa! Grandpa!” It was his grandson Tony running up to him from the parking lot. The eleven-year-old hit him like a loving freight train.

“You’ve really grown. I’ve missed you.” They drowned in each other’s arms.

Gary looked up to find himself surrounded by all of his kids, their spouses, and all of his grandkids.

Emily, his youngest, kissed him on the cheek. “Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Come home with us and have a real breakfast. We love you.”

It took a few minutes for the old man to compose himself enough to leave the park with his forgiving family.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction of June 17, 2018 hosted by Susan. The idea it to take the image above and use it as a prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 174.

I cheated somewhat and read Iain’s story before writing my own. Since his theme was Father’s Day ( realize there are parts of the world that don’t have this celebration) and I’m a Dad and Grandpa, I decided to go that route as well, taking a sad beginning and brightening it.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.