One December Morning in Stuyvesant Square Park

suyvesant

Snow in Stuyvesant Square Park, Second Avenue & East 17th St, Manhattan

The three teens, two boys and a girl, all ran out of The Halal Guys restaurant across 2nd Avenue near the East Village. “Anyone chasing us?” 14-year-old Brenda asked her brother Brad, pushing her red MAGA cap up over long blond locks.

“No, don’t see anyone.” Their leader, 15-year-old Ken, took them up toward Stuyvesant Square Park. It was still early morning and they’d decided to harass the old Muslim couple who’d gone into Halal for breakfast.

“Didn’t think that white guy would defend those Arabs,” Ken mused.

The trio stopped as they saw three black teens running up behind them. The oldest, a girl, said the two guys with her, “We got away.”

“Yeah,” said the youngest guy. “Who knew that black dude would defend that old white couple we were messing with.” On a nearby park bench, the mysterious Never Man was having a little fun with justice.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Manhattan Island (yes, it is an island). Manhattan has an impossibly rich history, so choosing one topic upon which to base my wee tale seemed an enormous task. I decided to look up the local news and found an article titled Teens Wanted in Village attack on man defending elderly couple. Apparently three African-American youth between the ages of 14 and 17 were harassing an elderly couple in a McDonalds in the East Village. A 44-year-old man came to their defense, and the trio punched and kicked him before fleeing. Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously hurt.

Since this is Black History Month, I wasn’t sure how well this story would be received (even though the news story is factual), so I decided to illustrate that anyone is capable of prejudice and cruelty, regardless of race, social perspective, or politics. I resurrected Jonathan Cyfer, the “Never Man,” who has the ability to alter time and space for purposes of justice, though 150 words hardly does him or his activities “justice.”

Oh, the Halal Guys is a real restaurant just outside the East Village (I couldn’t find the McDonalds on Google Maps), and if I ever visit Manhattan, I’d love to eat there.

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

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The Return of Flight A-10

RAF Ascension

RAF Ascension Island – January 2002 – licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

“There it is again. Let me put it on speaker, Richard.” Thirty-eight-year-old Kristen Hines was on assignment for the NSA at the RAF Ascension Space Communications facility on the mid-Atlantic island. Richard Porter was the fifty-five-year-old civilian division chief.

As the static switched from Kristen’s headset to the speakers in the secure communications room crewed by a dozen specialists, the regular pinging became a fragmented voice.

"Surrender...Nazi...A-10...spacecraft...aliens...releasing us..."

“Mr. Porter, Sir. Got something on radar.” Roger Bennett’s gaze didn’t deviate from his screen. “It’s entering Earth’s atmosphere.” Hines reached for the secure line to Washington as Porter muttered. “So the bloody Nazis did manage it.”

“What?” Kristen’s hand paused.

“Granddad was only one of six intelligence agents to discover that before the fall of the Reich, the Nazis had launched a manned rocket into space.”

“How could they have survived all these years.”

“They’re on re-entry. Guess we’ll find out.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image/location and use it as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in the middle of the South Atlantic.

I did my homework and discovered that RAF Ascension, also known as Wideawake Airfield or Ascension Island Auxiliary Field, “serves as a space-based communications, signals intelligence, and navigation nexus and hub (Ground station). One of only four GPS satellite ground antennas is located there.”

I also discovered that during World War Two, the island was used by the Allies “to base patrolling anti-surface-commerce-raider and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces against the Axis powers’ naval units.”

When I was looking up signals intelligence, I found an online copy of the last German message intercepted by the British during the war signaling Germany’s unconditional surrender.

Putting that all together, I wondered if there were any “conspiracy theories” based on a Nazi Manned Space Program, and lo and behold, I found the answer at Astronotes which used information about Nazi Germany’s Aggregat Rocket Program.

It was a lot of fun to write, but 150 words doesn’t do it justice.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com (link fixed).

A Hero in Harare

movies

Sterkinekor Lusaka Arcades Centre in Lusaka, Zambia – found at afrotourism.com

“I want to meet this Miles Morales,” twelve-year-old Miriro murmured spontaneously as he and his eleven-year-old sister Anesu did their maths homework at the kitchen table, warm afternoon sunlight streaming in the western window.

“What are you talking about,” she replied in irritation. “He doesn’t even exist. He’s a cartoon.”

“Uncle Tongai took me and my mates to see Spider-Verse over the weekend. The movie said anyone could wear the mask and be Spider-Man.” He was grinning, his mind completely diverted from his textbook.

“You’re daft. This isn’t Brooklyn, America. It’s Harare, Zimbabwe. Just because black Americans look like us doesn’t mean we’re all the same. Our lives are different.”

“Anybody can be a hero, Anesu.”

“Be a hero and finish your studies before Mama comes back from the market and we both get in trouble.”

But it was too late. Miriro was already thinking about his new costume.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps location/image as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Harare, Zimbabwe.

Yesterday, I saw the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) with my son and my nine-year-old grandson. I subsequently published my review online and obviously still have the movie on my mind.

One of the things I’ve been considering, both with this movie, and especially with the Marvel Studios film Black Panther (2018) is that in the African nations, culturally, black people have widely varying cultures compared to African-American audiences, so the differing populations may not have as much in common with each other as people in the U.S. might imagine.

Having said that, the central message of “Spider-Verse” is that anybody can wear the mask. It was meant as a commentary about how historically, superheroes have been white, but it doesn’t automatically have to be that way. Any kid, no matter who they are, can be a hero.

I decided to put a spin on the message and say that any kid anywhere in the world also can aspire to be more than who they are, mask or no mask, even a twelve-year-old boy living in Harare.

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

The Hidden Immortal

Kraków-Płaszów

Kraków-Płaszów in 1942 – This photograph is in the public domain

Norbert Salomon, though today he went by a different name, had survived the Kraków Ghetto, he had survived the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp, he had survived the Polish persecution of Jews after the war, eventually emigrated to a newly born Israel, survived acts of war and terrorism by the so-called “Palestinian” Arabs, and he would survive this.

“I thought America would be a safe haven.” The twenty-five year old Ashkenazi Jew (for centuries, he always appeared to be between twenty-five and forty-five, changing identities when anyone suspected), sat in a darkened room, his youthful face and dark hair illuminated by his laptop screen, nimble fingers rapidly tapping keys. “But with the synagogue shootings, and now Muslim antisemites elected to Congress, something has to be done. Ah, I’ve cracked her d-base. Now to dump all her dirty little secrets on the internet. With any luck, she’ll be deposed even before inauguration.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image/location and use it as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Krakow, Poland.

In Googling “Krakow,” the autocomplete came up with “Krakow Ghetto,” so I rolled with it, particularly since my wife and children are Jewish. Not only did I find information on Kraków Ghetto but also the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp.

I wanted to do something about a death camp survivor and landed on the idea of a Jewish man who had lived long before Hitler’s Holocaust and who would continue to live long afterward. A Jew who had seen so much persecution across the long centuries might either hide out or choose to fight back, not with guns and bombs, but this being the 21st century, with information.

I know some will disagree with my interpretation of recent political events and figures, but from Salomon’s point of view, it makes sense to publicly expose threats to the Jewish people at every turn as a matter of continued self-preservation.

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

Survivalist

garnet mountain fire lookout

© Google 2017

Forty-five year old Faith had been hiding from the Qu’Tufot for over six months, ever since she’d escaped the work camp near Logan. There’d originally been four of them. Jodi and Kurt got shot by the Guard, what the humans collaborators with the aliens called themselves, and Ernie had a heart attack during the climb up Garnet Mountain. He showed her how the alien field generator they’d stolen worked. As long as she wore it, her energy signature was invisible to orbiting and ground sensors.

Hunting near the Fire Lookout was good. Pa had taught her to be a survivalist. The battery on the softball-sized generator would last another year, which would also keep her warm and reclaim water from the air for drinking.

It was just dumb luck that this was a storage cache for the local Resistance. Now all she had to do was wait until they returned.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image and/or location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout, Big Sky, Montana. I looked up the site at Recreation.gov and consulted a map of the general area for several hundred miles around.

The name of the aliens and the general situation is taken from a story I’ve submitted and that is still under consideration for an anthology about the fourth world war (yes, you read that right). The location and characters are different, but there are plenty of stories to tell under these circumstances.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com. Oh, I’m late today because we had our three-year-old granddaughter sleep over last night, and she’s been up since about seven this morning. I’ve got a bit of a window to write now that she’s taking her nap.

The Hunted

Frankfurt Christmas Market

The Frankfurt Christmas Market – image found at frankfurt-tourismus.de – no credit listed

The Israeli had been born in Frankfurt, so the Christmas market was familiar. He used to sneak out with his Christian friends as a boy to sample the lights, the music, and the smell from the food vendors (though he was still observant enough not to partake).

Elon Rosenberg, late of the Israeli Air Force, victim of a tragic air crash after his F161 fighter had been shot down by a Syrian missile, horribly mutilated, and rebuilt from scratch by an eccentric Scottish scientist, had altered his appearance to look like a typical Frankfurter. His would-be assassins did not recognize him, but he saw the pair very clearly.

“I could just walk away,” he muttered. “But no one must know my secret.”

Hours later, a cook found the two bodies in a garbage bin. By then, the synthetic man was halfway to Wiesbaden and his next assignment.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps image/location as the prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 147.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Frankfurt, Germany. I discovered that there’s an annual Christmas Market in Frankfurt. Also, being a child of the 1960s, I love a good cold war thriller set in Europe, so I borrowed a character introduced late in my Mikiko Jahn/Synthetic Woman saga and inserted him here.

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

Inescapable

night market

Night Market (JuanChrist) by JuanChrist (flickr) Tags: fujifilm x100t market nightmarket cambodia bavet

Bavet police inspector Borey Seng stood in the market’s bathroom as coroners continued to examine the body of the 66-year-old Malaysian man, murdered by an object that gashed across his face and eyes.

“Who would gouge out an old man’s eyes, and what was he doing in Cambodia in the first place?”

“I might have that answer to that inspector.” Officer Channary Som’s face was as round as her name suggested.

“Continue,” he muttered.

“His name was Rayyan Megat. Records indicate he entered Cambodia at the Bavet-Moc Bai border last week, but get this. His fingerprints match those of a former CIA assassin known as bóng, “shadow,” in English.

“So?”

“So bóng was noted for gouging out the eyes of his victims.”

“There is no escape from karma.”

Seng’s and Som’s voices faded from the specter’s hearing as he ascended, his spirit set free from his forty-five-year-old quest for vengeance.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia. A quick search of Wikipedia revealed very little interesting information about this province, as did one for its largest city Bavet.

Then, a news item titled Malaysian killed in Bavet caught my attention. I preserved some of the details of the actual murder, but added fictionalized names and situations, including the 1973 assassination of some nameless victim of a CIA operative during the Vietnam War. In this case, karma or justice is blind.

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

The Castle’s Secrets

bran castle

Found at bran-castle.com – Image credit not given

“Mommy, why are we staying up so late?” twelve-year-old Ileana sat anxiously on the edge of her mother’s bed while Queen Marie of Romania patted her hand.

“I want you to meet someone, but he only comes late at night.” She made her smile look comforting, but she too was nervous, and in her case, with good reason.

The door to the Queen’s grand bedroom in her Bran Castle retreat slowly creaked open. The servants were forbidden to come unbidden at this hour, so it could only be one man.

“You are welcome to enter, Vlad.”

He was dressed in black, though the white of his shirt showed through the cloak’s dark collar.

“Thank you, my Queen. Is this the little Princess?”

Ileana stood and bowed. “It is good sir. How may I address you?”

A moment of uncharacteristic compassion glimmered in the Impaler’s eyes as he whispered, “Father.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image/location and use it as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 148.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Bran Castle, Romania. I looked it up and found it has a tangential association to the Dracula legend, although it’s doubtful author Bram Stoker knew of its existence when he penned his famous novel.

That said, I dipped into the histories of Princess Ileana of Romania and her mother Queen Marie, who indeed used the castle as her personal retreat.

Ileana was born in 1909, and although it was alleged that she was really the child of Marie’s lover Prince Barbu Stirbey, Marie’s husband, King Ferdinand I claimed paternity. Here, I’m suggesting another father entirely.

Can a vampire, a member of the undead, impregnate a living woman? Probably not if you think of a vampire as an animated corpse with no living biology (in spite of the Twilight movie series), but I recall when Marvel Comics ran their Dracula title in the 1970s, in one issue, they did have Dracula on a throne seated beside his living Queen, who was enormously pregnant, so some have suggested the possibility.

And I suppose if a demonic Incubus can have “relations” with a woman, so can a vampire.

Anyway, it makes good Halloween fodder.

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

The Queen of New Orleans

new orleans french quarter

Image credit: GonzoVeritas – found at reddit

It was after two in the morning and a light rain fell on New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Sean Becker walked into a small jazz club. He was almost the only white person here, but his bond with those around him went deeper than race.

“You da one wantin’ to see Mama Marie.” She could have been about fifteen, coal-dark skin and hair, but her eyes burned emerald.

“Yes.”

“Come.”

They walked through curtains and then down a dark hallway, terminating at a door. “She’s expectin’ you.” The child who could have been centuries old left as Sean opened the door and entered.

“What you got to offer?”

The voodoo queen whose mausoleum was just a mile away lived up to the legend.

“Release my mother and I’ll tell you where you can find Lilith.”

“The vampire queen. If you give her to me, your mother lives. Marie Laveau swears it.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image/location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to New Orleans, Louisiana. There is so much that could be written by this iconic city, but is also figures into my unfinished first draft of a horror novel featuring the vampire Sean Becker. You can read about him in such stories as Approaching Advent and The Beginning of the Fall.

My wee tale was actually to be part of the climax of my novel, with Sean facing the ancient voodoo queen Marie Laveau who is now the matriarch of a clan of vampires. I did a bit more research and came up with How to Experience New Orleans’ Voodoo Culture. I even looked up the weather, and yes, it’s raining in the Big Easy today.

Oh, and although Lilith is often characterized as the mother of all the succubus, in my tale, she’s the worldwide queen of all vampires.

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

The Secret of NYU Flight 4

project mogul balloon

Project Mogul was an US Airforce secret project to detect nuclear test acoustically with microphones mounted on high altitude balloons – Photo found at factrepublic.com

“Weather balloon my ass,” groused Bill Brazel, who was the first to find the wreckage. “Ain’t no weather balloon with all that machinery attached.”

“You settle down and eat your dinner and don’t stick your nose in the government’s business.” Bill’s wife Ethel sat down at the table with her own plate of stew.

“Trying to keep me out of trouble?”

Her face softened into a smile as she patted his forearm. “Just don’t want my husband getting mixed up in such things.”

“You’ve always been so good to me.” The cowboy smiled back.

The new Ethel’s thoughts drifted to the pod hidden in the corner of their basement, feeding off of the corpse of the original woman. Tonight it would duplicate and replace Bill. Tomorrow, they’d go to work on their neighbors, all thanks to the alien spores which had been inadvertently captured by the failed high altitude balloon.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image/location and use it as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Roswell, New Mexico. Naturally, my first thought was of the 1947 Roswell UFO Incident. While the government claimed it was a weather balloon that had crashed, by the 1970s and beyond, conspiracy theorists spread various ideas about one or more alien spaceships having been found near Roswell, and that the government had covered it up.

Actually, there was a government cover up, but no aliens were involved. It was a balloon that had crashed, but it was part of Project Mogul which “was a top secret project by the US Army Air Forces involving microphones flown on high-altitude balloons, whose primary purpose was long-distance detection of sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests.” The object that crashed was “a Project Mogul balloon, probably NYU Flight 4 launched June 4, 1947. Unlike a weather balloon, the Project Mogul paraphernalia was massive and contained unusual types of materials,” so it could have looked alien to the untrained eye.

I also leveraged the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If the alien takeover began near Roswell just over 70 years ago, would there be any humans left by now?

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

Oh, ranch foreman Bill Brazel was the first person to find the wreckage, but the dialog and everything else about the scene in which I depict him is fictional.