The New Neighbors

the fairy farm

© Eric Wicklund

“What do you think, Pumpkin?”

“I think it’s totally awesome, Grandpa. Thank you so much for making it for me.”

The other houses on the block had Christmas lights and nativity scenes, but six-year-old Aubrey loved Fairies, so he made her a Fairy Farm instead.

She knelt down reviewing everything. “Here’s the chicken coop, the barn, an old log, a bench, a table, a little campfire, and there’s the house. It’s so beautiful, Grandpa.” She gave the gray-haired man a hug.

“Wait, Grandpa. What’s that on the roof?

“It’s a cross, Aubrey.”

“Um, why?”

“It’ll be Christmas soon and I couldn’t completely ignore…”

“Silly Grandpa. Fairies are Druids, not Christians.”

“Tell you what, when the Fairies move in, they can decide if they want to keep the cross.”

“Deal, Grandpa.”

“Let’s go in and see how the Chicken Pies are doing.”

Minutes later, the tiny door to the Fairy house creaked open. “Gawd. Thought they’d never leave, Gertrude.”

“Same here, Andrew. Druids. Did you ever hear of such a thing?”

“Indeed, m’love. Let’s do some proper decorating now. I brought the bulbs and tinsel, do you have the box with the lights?”

“Yes, dearest. It’s right with the Nativity scene.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for December 10th 2017. The idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

I’ve probably written something like this before in response to a similar prompt, but nothing else came to mind. What appears to be a cross on the roof of the Fairy House was a bit of a problem in the overall context, but then it also gave me my “hook.” So I thought I’d have a little fun with this being the Christmas season as well as “religious preferences” among both humans and fairies.

As an aside, my wife is Jewish so we don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s easy for me to find my house when I come home from work at night since it’s the only one on the block without lights and decorations. No, I don’t even have a fairy farm out back.

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

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Refuge Lake

resort by a lake

© A Mixed Bag 2013

Marco felt creepy whenever he made a delivery to the resort in the Sierra Nevada’s. Scenery changed from alpines and mountains to high desert and a salty lake.

He got a bonus for doing the run every month. He never knew what he was hauling. Once he arrived, he was paid to get drunk and play with barmaids. Next morning he drove his empty rig back to L.A.

The resort and wasn’t on any map. Whenever he got close to the place, his GPS went nuts.

One night after making a delivery, he tried talking to the local girl he’d had sex with.

“Say girl, what goes on here?”

“We’re just visitors, refugees starting a new life.”

“You look more Swedish than Syrian. Who you kidding?”

“Just go to sleep and don’t worry, boyfriend.”

When she was sleeping, Marco got up and looked out toward the lake. People swimming even at this hour in a glow under the water, but they weren’t exactly people. The light got brighter, then it broke the surface and sailed up into the heavens.

Marco muttered, “Refugees, but from up there.”

He turned around. Marion was standing behind him, nictitating membranes fluttering across ichthyic eyes.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for December 3rd 2017. 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.

The image reminded me of a high desert lake and Mono Lake, CA is about the strangest lake I’ve ever seen. This doesn’t look like Mono Lake, but I wondered if I could somehow make this place not as it appears.

I saw that the truck to the left hand side of the frame said “Thermo-Express,” and a quick Google search turned up a trucking company from Los Angeles by that name. I doubt it’s related to the truck in the photo but I decided to use it anyway.

A salty lake with no inlet or outlet, a place that should be in the Sierra Nevada Mountains but then the terrain abruptly changes. A resort not on any map and that doesn’t register on GPS.

If alien refugees needed a safe and isolated place to settle and make a life for themselves, maybe it would be like this. They’d still need supplies from outside though, but for the right price and certain other incentives, maybe a driver could be convinced not to pay too much attention to what he was delivering.

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

The Girl and the Princess

 

lighthouse

© A Mixed Bag 2013

Ted and Priscilla were slowly motoring away from the lighthouse on Gasparilla Island, the small yacht’s sails secured it being a calm day on the Gulf. They were finally fulfilling their dream of spending the summers sailing the coastline.

“So you say that lighthouse is supposed to be haunted, Ted?” Priscilla was chuckling.

“Presumably the daughter of the lighthouse keeper died there sometime in the early 19th century. She’s been heard giggling and playing upstairs.”

“I’m more interested in the headless ghost of the Spanish princess decapitated by a pirate.”

“Of course you are, you macabre wench.”

Priscilla laughed. “If you weren’t steering this tub, I’d…”

Two unseen figures watched at the railing near the top of the lighthouse. A headless woman and a little girl held hands while a cat’s spectre affectionately rubbed against their ankles.

“Tourists,” the child said in disgust. “Wish we didn’t have to put up with them, Josefa. Glad they’re finally gone.”

She looked up at where the princess’s head should be. Josefa turned as if she were looking down, then squeezed her girl’s hand.

“I know. I love you, too. Let’s go back inside and play with my dollies. Casper, you come in, too.”

When I saw the prompt, I immediately decided to write about a haunted lighthouse and so looked up Top 10 Haunted Lighthouses.

The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse on Gasparilla Island, Florida (number 2 on the list) really is supposed to be haunted by a young girl, supposedly the ghost of a keeper’s daughter who died there. Legends say she can be heard giggling and playing upstairs. The headless body of Josefa, a Spanish princess decapitated by a pirate is said to wander the sand nearby. I decided to make the child and the princess friends. Another lighthouse on the list may or may not have a ghostly cat in residence.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for November 26th 2017. The idea is to use the photo at the top as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

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

The Mantis Project

 

mantis

Photo of a mantis

Miles turned his head in a 270 degree arc. His vision was so much more acute than it had been, especially in the very center. It was thrilling, astounding. Then he looked at his hands.

They weren’t hands anymore, although they had adaptations that would let him hold objects. New muscles on his back twitched and he felt the wings. He couldn’t achieve sustained flight, but using powerful hind limbs, he could soar almost a kilometer before landing.

“The simulation’s ending, Miles. Relax. It’ll be over in a few seconds.”

Miles Hawkins took a deep breath with his own lungs again. Brilliant scientist Daniel Hunt bent down in front of Miles’s chair. Technicians removed the sensory leads.

“That’s what your life would be like after the adaptation.”

“So, I’d be able to survive on Hansen’s World, explore with other adaptations.”

“We use the word ‘syntheorg,’ and yes, you’d be a new generation of interplanetary colonists, perfectly adapted to the existing environment. One caveat. This is a one-way process. You’ll never be able to come back to Earth again; never be…human.”

“My life ended when my car burned during the riot and I was mutilated. The Mantis project is nothing but freedom.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction – 19 November 2017. The idea is to use the photo above as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Again, I’m leveraging the technology in the world of Mikiko Jahn, a young technician who was horribly injured in a nuclear power plant disaster and then over a period of years, rebuilt literally from scratch using revolutionary materials and processes invented by brilliant scientist Daniel Hunt. The reconstruction made Mikiko more than human but in some ways, also less.

For this story, I extended the technology and intent and here you see that Dr. Hunt is using the synthecon process to radically adapt human beings to be able to survive on planets outside our solar system, to become the very first interstellar explorers.

I remember in the 1960s and 70s reading about the concept of using cyborgs or cybernetic organisms, machine adapted humans, to do something similar. However, instead of using mechanical and electronic parts, I’m suggesting a complete fusion between the organic and the biosynthetic.

I know this doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with the prompt, but when I saw the photo and was struggling to find a hook for a story, I remembered a 1994 television series called M.A.N.T.I.S. In the series, African-American scientist Miles Hawkins is paralyzed from the waist down by a police officer’s bullet fired during a riot. The officer was never convicted of a crime and Hawkins lost his lawsuit against him.

In an effort to walk again and to perform true deeds of justice, Hawkins invented the M.A.N.T.I.S. exoskeleton, which effectively gave him superpowers.

The television show ended after one season, but it was a brilliant concept. I used the name “Miles Hawkins” for my protagonist as an homage to the series.

In addition to the links I’ve already posted, I also visited the M.A.N.T.I.S. Wikipedia page as well as the page on the actual Mantis. I also had the 1976 Frederik Pohl science fiction novel Man Plus in mind.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to Inlinkz.com.

Audrey of the Sewers

 

sewer

© A Mixed Bag 2014

“Hey, kid.”

Twelve-year-old Jeff Edwards was crossing the street when he heard it.

“Down here.”

He looked down at the sewer drain.

“Come a little closer.”

“What the…?”

“Wait! It’s not what you think.”

Jeff stopped. The drain was securely grated so he figured nothing could get out. Then he felt something. A little vine had wrapped around his ankle. He pulled but was stuck.

“No, stop!”

“C’mon, I haven’t had a descent meal in forever. Getting tired of rats, mice, and dead goldfish.”

“Somebody help me!”

The vine got stronger, growing sharp spines.

“Just a few toes, I promise.”

“Ka-chunk”. Jeff saw Old Man Henderson slamming his ax down on the vine cutting it in two.

“Run, boy.”

Jeff jumped to the sidewalk.

“Figured this thing’d grown back by now.” He was wearing a metal tank on his back. The sexagenarian grabbed the tank’s hose by the nozzle and sprayed liquid into the grate.

“No. Please. Crap, that hurts. Stop.”

The plant’s voice faded. Jeff looked and saw nothing green was there anymore.

“Damn plant,” cursed Henderson. “My neighbor Seymour dumped it in the sewer but the alien keeps coming back. Herbicide’ll put it down. Best run along, Jeffy.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for 12 November 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

When I saw the sewer grate, I immediately thought of the 2017 film It based on Stephen King’s novel. I’ve never seen the film and never will (mainly because I don’t find being scared to death entertaining), but I’ve seen the advertising and the image of the clown peeking out of the sewer drain in the gutter is iconic.

However, I didn’t want to just re-write the same story and seeing a bit of plant life growing out of the grate, I took a look at the 1986 version of the movie Little Shop of Horrors based on the off-Broadway play and starring Rick Moranis as florist Seymour Krelborn.

In that movie (which I’ve never seen either), Seymour used an alien plant he named Audrey II (the original Audrey is his girlfriend) to draw business to his florist shop before realizing that the plant liked to eat human flesh and blood. The film ended when Seymour electrocuted the plant which destroyed his shop. Subsequently, he and Audrey married and settled down in the suburbs. However, a smiling Audrey II bud can be seen among the flowers in the front yard in the movie’s last scene.

I decided to extend that idea, having Seymour find the bud and flush it down the toilet. Audrey II survives, but old man Henderson, having discovered the carnivorous plant and realizing what it was, keeps it in check each spring with his ax and a tank of herbicide. He’d been working in his yard when he heard Jeff scream and, knowing what happened, grabbed what he needed and put Audrey II down for another year.

I just wrote this tale for the fun of it, mixing a serious horror movie with a horror-comedy musical.

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

The Halloween Bandits

fake heads

© J Hardy Carroll

On Tuesday, October 31st at 11:57 a.m., Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn entered Gordon’s Community Bank on the corner of Elm and Broadway. Bank employees had been seeing “the cosplay crowd” filtering in and out all morning long and it was pretty amusing. That is until the Joker handed the teller a note and produced a handgun.

Outside, Robin had disabled the silent alarm to the police while Catwoman waited in the getaway van.

Less than two hours later, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, and Daphne pulled the same job at the Second National Bank on River Drive with Fred disabling the alarms and Velma driving the vehicle.

At a minute until three, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and She Hulk hit a Curio Shop on Franklin. It didn’t have a silent alarm so Hawkeye kept watch while Black Widow sat in the driver’s seat.

“What the hell did you take these stupid little heads for, Jen? Cash. Only cash, remember?” They were resting back at the hideout.

scooby doo gang

© 1969 – “Scooby Doo, Where Are You!”

“Sue me, Matty. I like ’em, okay?”

“Okay, profitable haul. It’ll set us up for the year.”

“Right, Selena.” Pete was still counting his share. “Next year, the Halloween Bandits strike another city at random.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge of October 29th 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

I had an idea for what I wanted to write even before seeing the prompt, so I had to work the image into my story. I’d read some Sunday comic strip earlier that made me think how easy it would be to walk into a bank on Halloween in disguise when any other day of the year, the staff would immediately call the police. I also thought it would be interesting to have this gang commit their crimes only on Halloween and in a different city picked at random each year.

Of course, they’d have to steal enough to support themselves for the coming year, but if they weren’t greedy, that would probably work. I very, very loosely based my “Halloween Bandits” on various television and animated cartoon versions of the Royal Flush Gang.

Oh, Jen is named after Jennifer Walters, the alter ego of the She Hulk. Matty is for Matt Murdock, Daredevil. Selena is named for Selena Kyle, Catwoman, and Pete is for Peter Parker, the secret identity of Spider-Man. The dialogue didn’t require all five gang members and besides, I hit the 200 word limit.

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

UXO London

london bus line

© A Mixed Bag 2013

The American wasn’t used to public transport being colored red. He boarded the bus at the Kings Reach Building stop, paid his fare and took an available seat near the back. He was supposed to meet her at Tower Gateway Station. From there, they’d walk to Tower Hill tube station and continue their journey. The usual UXO team would be on hand, but the two “yanks,” who just happened to be visiting London as tourists, were specialists and had been asked to assist.

Christopher Faust stared out the window into the bright autumn sunlight which he understood to be unusual. His partner and lover Johnnie Albarran had come equipped with every form of rain gear known to man while he came prepared for almost nothing. It was why they worked so well together. She was the planner and he was the intuitive. He hoped they’d be enough.

The Blitz in 40 and 41 left an untold legacy of unexploded ordnance here in the city, but the police believed their current problem was delivered during the lesser known Operation Steinbock, probably in early 1944. Faust and Albarran normally wouldn’t be involved in such a thing but this UXO was different. It was radioactive.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for October 22nd 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

Fortunately the original image was rather large, so I was able to read the bus’ marquee. From that, I found the photo was taken in London, discovered the vehicle’s route, and that it terminated at the Tower Gateway DLR station. While I was writing all this, I was still wondering why my two characters were going to meet. Crime? Romance? Then, when I started to think of the London Underground, the idea of unexploded ordnance or UXO entered my head. I looked up a London UXO map and there are scores of such devices left over from the Blitz.

I needed something more unusual though, which is why I had to find out when the last time was the Nazis bombed Southern England. From there, and recalling that at least in theory or rumor, the Nazis were also attempting to develop an atomic bomb, the conclusion of my wee tale became clear.

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

And The Sea Gave Up The Dead

ocean princess

© A Mixed Bag 2013

“Relax, Rachel. This is a cruise ship. We aren’t in the middle of the ocean, we’re docked in Barcelona. Don’t you want to spend two extra days here? It’s beautiful.”

“I’m sorry. I’ve always been afraid of the water, Chad.”

Then why did you agree on a sea cruise for our honeymoon?”

He held her close. They were standing at the rail facing the city. Their ship the Oceana was going to be delayed here while divers made emergency repairs on a leaking propeller shaft seal.

“Face your fears. That sort of thing. When we have children, I can’t be the Momma who’s afraid to take them to the beach.”

catherine buckley

Miss Catherine Buckley, boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger.

“Great. How about a swim?” He chided her.

“Swimming lessons after we get back home.” She was only mildly annoyed at his teasing, but she never told him about the dreams of drowning in icy water, of a sinking ship named Titanic, of a twenty-two year old woman named Catherine Buckley.

Her lifelong nightmares had faded until she read a news story saying the Titanic was slowly being eaten away and would vanish entirely in twenty years.

Maybe then the dreams would disappear again and Catherine would finally have peace.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction of October 15th 2017 challenge. The idea is to use the image above to inspire crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Seeing the words “Ocean Princess” on the side of that small craft, I did a bit of Googling and found it could match up to several craft. Renamed MV Oceana, the Ocean Princess entered service in November 2002. According to Wikipedia, “In early April 2014, Oceana underwent emergency repairs after she developed a problem with one of her propeller shaft seals. The ship stayed in port in Barcelona for three days instead of the scheduled one for divers to carry out the repairs.”

I’d recently read about how the Titanic is slowly being deteriorated by bacteria and will be completely disintegrated within twenty years. This breaks my heart because it is the final memorial for all the souls who went down with her. Also, I’ve been fascinated with the legend of the Titanic since I was a child and was both excited and disappointed when the wreck was actually found.

I decided to tinker with history a bit so that both the Oceana being stuck in Barcelona and the discovery of the Titanic’s imminent demise occurs during the same year. I also decided to play with reincarnation a bit. Catherine (or Katherine) Buckley did die aboard the Titanic and I picked her more or less at random from a list of the victims. Her body was recovered and interned in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Massachusetts by her sister who lived in Roxbury at the time.

I took the title for today’s tale from Revelation 20:13.

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

I Wonder What Would Happen…

egyptian artifact

© Kathryn Forbes 2009

“Why we’re doing this again, Wyatt?”

“We’ve done this countless times, Josue…take a real artifact and substitute a fake in order to maintain our timeline. If we let any evidence remain of alien visitors to ancient Earth, it would drastically change history and you and I might never exist.”

Wyatt Ellison and Josue Hunter were historians working for an agency that maintained timeline integrity. Whenever the Temporal Event Indicator at their lab lit up, it meant they had another job ahead of them. Today, they were removing the extraterrestrial circuitry from an Egyptian artifact. Actually, it had been in storage in the basement of a museum in London for decades, but tomorrow it would be examined in detail for the first time.

“There. Done. We can go home now Josue old boy.”

“Just once I’d like to see what would happen if we didn’t respond to that pesky light. Oh well.”

Wistfulness and carelessness went hand in hand. Josue followed Wyatt back to the future not noticing he’d left a small but vital control chip behind.

Ellison and Hunter shot forward through the centuries until, crossing over the moment each was born, vanished into the realm of probability.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of October 8, 2017 (yesterday). The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 198.

For this one, I decided to dust off a couple of characters I introduced here. I wrote three stories using them and then hit a dead end. Occasionally, I bring back old characters when I find a new use for them. Sadly, Josue’s mistake ends their adventures before they begin (although since they are fictional and I am their creator, I can resurrect them any time I feel like).

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

Fox Strikes a Bargain

fox

© A Mixed Bag – 2012

The Fantastic Mr. Fox was pissed. It wasn’t supposed to work out this way. He and his mates were supposed to outwit those three dumb farmers and steal all the food, but when he was raiding Bean’s henhouse, the old boy got the upper hand and caught him in a box trap.

Oh, it’s the middle of the night to be sure so he’s still in bed, but when dawn comes, the bastard and his two pals would have him cold and then where would the Fox’s family be?

“If you agree not to hurt us, we’ll let you out.”

“What? Who’s there?”

“Are you daft? You’re in a henhouse. We’re the hens.”

“If you let me out and I don’t hurt you, what is my family supposed to eat, not to mention my friend Badger and his brood? We have a right to live, too.”

“We know where the farmers keep their larder. Play it smart, and you’ll eat like kings.”

“Seems reasonable. Okay ladies, you have a bargain.”

Thanks to the tunneling skills of Fox and Badger, from that day forth, the livestock and the woodland animals cooperated and they all lived well.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of October 1st 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 195.

Yes, I leveraged Roald Dahl’s 1970 children’s tale Fantastic Mr. Fox for this one. It was the second thing I thought of when I saw the photo. Actually, I thought three things.

First, that fox looked pissed. Second, the Fantastic Mr. Fox popped into my head, so I looked the book up on Wikipedia. The third was I didn’t have the heart to write about a dead and taxidermied animal.

I also didn’t think it appropriate (though it would be natural) for the fox to be freed only to kill and eat the hens, so I worked out a deal between the two “factions” where they’d all benefit.

True story. I used to live in a home in the local foothills and behind my house was a small wild area. We did periodically see a fox hunting out there who we dubbed “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” We even saw him once walking in our backyard with a mouse’s tail hanging out his mouth (presumably the rest of the mouse was inside).

Alas, he killed Mr. Duck’s mate at one point and the Duck was very cranky from that day on.

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