Lot 476

no tresspassing

© Sascha Darlington

It had been five years since the Collier Xenogenics Lab had been shut down. It still sits vacant and the government is even afraid to demolish it, not convinced that it’s been completely sterilized. Fifty-seven men and women and several hundred lab animals from chimps to mice all died when the genetically engineered virus named Lot 476 escaped into the main complex through a faulty seal. Fortunately, 476 could survive in an open atmosphere only thirteen minutes but it only took four minutes to kill.

Joseph Morgan stood outside the abandoned parking lot looking at the “No Trespassing” sign and seeing the locked gate. He shuddered at the memory of those Fifty-seven bodies bleeding out on the floors of the three labs in the building as he regained consciousness. In a panic, he ran not considering the consequences of opening the outside security doors. Why should he? His wife was just showing him around where she worked.

But that was after 476 itself had died. No one knew Joseph was the only survivor of the accident. However, he knew that the cancer that was killing him five years ago had completely vanished and he hadn’t aged a day since.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for February 18th 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 196.

Last night, I watched the 2011 film Contagion for the first time. It has what is referred to as “an all-star cast” and actually the writing was really good. I looked at a few reviews and its technical accuracy while not flawless, is better than most medical thrillers.

With that in mind, I decided to create my own little medical disaster, one that killed fifty-seven people and cured one.

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

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The Other Side

corridor

© J. Hardy Carroll

This had to be a dream because it had that totally unreal feeling about it. He was walking down a corridor with closed doors on either side, but the one he really wanted was the doorway straight ahead. He could see daylight coming from underneath. It was the way out.

He also couldn’t help but notice the fire extinguisher on the floor to the left of the doorway. They’re usually mounted on the wall.

His footsteps were silent even on the break floor but he could hear the sound of his own breathing so he was alive.

He stopped at the door and pressed his ear against it to listen. It was hot, really hot. He couldn’t hear anything but had to pull his head away.

“In for a penny.” His voice sounded strange to him. Then he gave the metal doorknob a brief touch. Too hot to touch. He had a rag in his back pocket and he used that to protect his hand.

He pushed the door open gently. Flames. A city street outside a cheap motel. He grabbed the extinguisher and created a path. There was a figure just ahead. “Welcome to Hell.”

Then he woke up.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of February 11th 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for authoring a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

The tale is pretty much taken from all of the visual cues. The image looks unreal but the sepia tone plus the fire extinguisher say there’s something hot. I picked “Hell” but then decided it was all a dream after all because I didn’t sleep well and my dreams were pretty messed up anyway. No research this time, just reactions.

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

Fugitive

wheelbarrow

© Dawn M. Miller

Even when he was a kid, he had always wanted a place in the country away from people. Sure, he had to put a lot of work into it over the years, but he was still in pretty good shape. He’d just cleared that dead tree which he’d turn into firewood tomorrow.

“Leave the freaking wheelbarrow for later, too.” He wiped the sweat from his brow with an old rag and then took a moment to look back down the dirt drive. It was almost a mile to the road, and that was just some little, rural ribbon of crumbling asphalt. He drove into town every other week or so to buy supplies augmenting what he grew in his field out back and the two hothouses.

He never had internet put in or used satellite for TV. Power came from solar and wind, used a septic tank since he was too far out for sewage, he was as self-sufficient as he could manage.

Conceivably they could still find him. He was as about off the grid as you can get, but they were relentless. When you pull off the world’s first skyjacking, you’ll never fall off their radar.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of February 4th 2018. The idea is to use the photo above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 198.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about the man authorities know as D.B. Cooper who, on 24 November 1971, hijacked a Boeing 727 extorting $200,000 (a lot of money in 1971) and then bailing out of the aircraft somewhere between Oregon and Washington. His true identity and whereabouts, assuming he survived the parachute jump, have never been established.

I read a news story yesterday where someone claimed to have broken the code Cooper left behind in his note of demands. Supposedly, Cooper is really Robert Rackshaw, a former member of Army intelligence, and the code he employed was one recognized as used by his unit.

Rackshaw is still alive and residing in the San Diego area but the FBI issued a statement saying they have no evidence to solve the case.

I had “Cooper” on my mind, so I thought I’d write about him.

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

Telltale

two cups of tea

Found at bothellnaturalmedicine.com

“Come James, you call this tea?”

“I call this America John, but I didn’t call you in for criticism.”

When James heard his friend, part of a famous London detective team would be in LA, desperation compelled him to reach out. Now they were seated in the study of his 1920s mansion once owned by a silent movie star sipping a disappointing Darjeeling.

“My wife has been gone a month and the police are useless.”

“I see.” John noticed that James seemed distracted and kept glancing down. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“It’s the damned pounding. It won’t go away, John.”

“James, I know you and Mary hadn’t been getting along. Are you sure she just didn’t run off?”

“No, it was foul play. I’m sure of it. Only you can help me, John. Only you can discover…” He stopped talking, picked up his cup and set it down again. He kept staring down at the throw rug and tugging at his ear.

“I agree, James. I know where Mary went now. She never left. Why don’t you lift up the rug and show me how you buried her body under the floorboards.”

“Then you can hear her heartbeat too.”

I wrote this for the Weekend Writing Prompt #40 – Afternoon Tea challenge hosted by Sammi Cox. For prose work, the idea is to use the phrase “Afternoon Tea” to craft a mystery-themed story solved over afternoon tea that is no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

First of all, I cry foul, because it’s almost impossible to create a credible mystery including clues in a mere 200 words. But since that’s all I had to work with, I felt forced to “borrow” a pre-existing mystery, in this case Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. I remember having to study this story in Junior High and it totally freaked me out.

I also “borrowed” John Watson as played by actor Martin Freeman in the BBC television series Sherlock which I thoroughly enjoy.

Hopefully you got how my character James murdered his wife Mary and then deposited the corpse under the wooden floorboards of his study in his 1920s spanish mansion in Los Angeles (probably something that looks like this). However guilt makes him continually look back at that section of the floor and has him imagine he can still hear Mary’s heartbeat. John, being no slouch, quickly figures out that James wants John to solve the mystery (it had to be quickly since again…200 words).

This being America, we don’t tend to value our afternoon tea as they do in London.

Stone and Time

statue

© Eric Wicklund

“Gross.” Eight-year-old Jillian looked at the statue of the naked man and woman kissing. “Is this your Grandpa’s?”

“Yeah.” Tory looked down at the ground embarrassed. “He inherited the cabin from Great-grandpa but the will said the statue had to stay.”

When Tory invited his best friend from school to spend the weekend in the woods at Grandpa’s cabin, he forgot about the statue. Now he wished Grandpa had thrown a tarp over it or something.

“Yuck. Who’d want something like this?”

“I think it was supposed to be Great-grandpa and Great-grandma when they were younger. Hey, let’s forget about this and go down by the stream, Jillian.”

The girl immediately brightened. “I saw some toy sailboats in the shed. Think they still float?”

The two children ran off to play as Tory’s Grandpa looked out of the kitchen window at them while sipping his coffee. Only he knew that the name plate at the base of the statue, buried under inches of mud, said “Tory and Jillian.” His Dad and Mom had been reincarnated. Now all that was needed was time and letting nature take its course.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for January 28th 2018. 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 190.

I had to think a bit about what to right about a statue of two (apparently) naked people kissing. For some reason, I settled on a reincarnation theme.

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

Are They Windmills or Giants?

windmills

© C.E. Ayr

“Don Quixote?”

Wendy hadn’t visited her Uncle Brian’s place in Idaho for years but Mom finally “guilted” her into making the trip from California.

“I keep it as a reminder.”

They had been going through old keepsakes in his spare bedroom where she’d be sleeping, looking for family photo albums when they came across it.

“Of what?”

“That we can be easily deluded about what is and isn’t real.”

She thought this was as good a time as any. Wendy loved the old man but he had some pretty archaic ideas. “I brought you something.” She reached into her open suitcase, pulled out a book, and handed it to him.

“The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood,” he read from the cover. “I’ve heard of it.”

“I thought it might help you understand me better now that I’m grown up.”

“I’ll promise to read it on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

He left the room and came back a few minutes later with a dusty hardback he had obviously owned for decades. Taking it, she read the cover. “Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.”

“Right, Wendy. I’ll read your book if you read mine. Maybe you’ll learn to understand me better, too.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for January 21st 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

The image is obviously the iconic scene of Don Quixote in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s 17th century novel tilting at windmills which he imagined to be giants.

Yesterday was the Women’s March of 2018 which, like the same event a year before, was largely a protest against the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. I have mixed feelings about how some portions of it were executed, especially the fact of some protestors dressing in costumes designed to mimic female genitals.

Other women however, dressed as characters from Atwood’s novel which has now been developed as a television series.

Both Atwood’s and Orwell’s novels, written decades apart, predict a dystopian future where society is ruled by a totalitarian government. Orwell created a cautionary tale about what life would be like under a communist/socialist dictatorship, while Atwood took the opposite approach casting her totalitarian regime as conservative and Christian.

I used the image of “tilting at windmills” to illustrate, based on the manipulation of news and social media, how easily we can lose track of what is factual and what is not. If we simply believe what we’re told, then we can allow ourselves to blindly follow one ideology or another without considering the stability of the foundation upon which those beliefs are based.

So the younger and more liberal Wendy will make an effort to understand her Uncle’s perspectives while the older and more conservative Brian will do the same.

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

Caged

cat

Snow leopard

They think I’m inferior because I’m in their cage. I’m inferior because I look differently, act differently, have different morals and values than they do. They think they are so superior and they laugh at me, calling me names because to them I’m just an animal.

I want revenge. I want to strike back, shove their vile lying taunts down their flabby throats.

No. That didn’t work the last time when we were the superior ones and they were in our cages. It never works because one or the other always suffers.

There are only two options. The desirable one is to co-exist, to treat each other with mutual respect and dignity. But how? We are so different and we are being driven further apart by radical extremists who each say one side must win for anything to be good. But that means the other side much be crushed under the victor’s heel.

The other choice is mutual annihilation. Let God sort out the bodies and start anew. God. They hate me even for that, believing they are the ultimate moral and creative force in the universe.

They may have me in their cage but we’re all in a prison.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of January 14th 2018. The idea is to use the image above to inspire writing a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Normally, I’m pretty literal in my interpretation of the prompts, but lately I’ve been inundated with politically and socially driven rhetoric from both sides of the fence (as if there were only two sides). That, plus the false alarm stating that Hawaii was under missile attack really set me off.

Both conservatives and liberals seem to think that their side must “win” in order to save their country or the world or something. That means, they have to marginalize, denigrate, and “cage” those who aren’t exactly like them.

Sure, there have been differing political and social opinions ever since there has been civilization, but it seems like the past eight to ten years or so in the U.S. that it’s gotten much, much worse. I sometimes feel I’m on one or more groups’ “hit list” because of my views, or just because I’m old, white, and male, but I don’t doubt that others feel the same way.

So what options are there? Like I said, there are two. The first is to make an effort to understand each other and allow the moderate position, which is currently being violently choked to death, to grow larger again. Really try to see the other person’s point of view and why they feel so concerned about whatever issues are important to them (it doesn’t mean we’ll always agree, but at least we’ll understand that we’re all human).

The other is to destroy ourselves and let God or Mother Nature or whatever force larger than humanity you believe in (unless you believe humanity is the ultimate moral force in the universe) to take over and start again.

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

Coffee and Tea

cup

Photo Credit: MorgueFile

He couldn’t believe he was drinking see-through coffee from a little porcelain cup decorated with pink flowers, but what the heck. The things you do for love, right? He had to build the fire for her and actually make the coffee, but she chose the cups and the number of scoops.

“How’s your coffee, Grandpa?”

“It’s fine sweetie. How’s your tea?” She drank lukewarm chamomile tea on cold winter afternoons when someone made it for her.

“It’s fine, Grandpa. Can you read me a book?”

“Sure, which one?”

She pulled out one of her favorites, “Sesame Street Library,” with Elmo and the little black puppy in it.

“Here!” She thrust it in his free hand. He put down his cup on the coffee table and after she did the same, she cuddled up to him and he started to read.

She leaned her old, grey head against his shoulder. Ben Richards loved his granddaughter but she was almost ninety now and her dementia was advanced. He wasn’t able to pass on the immortality gene to his children or theirs, so all he could do was visit and love them and watch them age and die.

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner -2018 Week #2 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for writing a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 195.

At first, I wasn’t at all drawn to the image and thought I’d pass up this week’s “practitioner” challenge. After all, the cup is one that most likely an old woman or little girl would fancy. Then I thought of putting the two together. Time travel doesn’t work, but immortality does.

There was an American TV show on in about 1970 called The Immortal starring Christopher George as Ben Richards. Richards is a test driver who discovers his blood contains an immunity to every disease known to mankind meaning that he never gets sick and will age very slowly. His brother, who disappeared years before may also carry the same blood factor, but whenever Richards gives a transfusion to someone else, the beneficial effects are only temporary.

Naturally a greedy and aging millionaire wants to capture Richards so he can become his personal and permanent blood donor. Richards has to go on the run to stay one step ahead of the bad guys and try to find his brother. The show only lasted one season, probably because it had been done in so many other ways before (and since).

My granddaughter (who is two-and-a-half) really does love the book Sesame Street Library in which Elmo goes looking for his little black puppy. Of course, everyone thinks he’s looking for a book “about” a little black puppy. Childhood hilarity ensues.

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

A Last Ale at Blakes

blakes of dover

© A Mixed Bag 2010

He was sitting at a table nursing one of the ales for which Blakes of Dover is noted when she walked in. The young Japanese woman was immediately drawn to him, walked over, and took a seat at his table.

“I thought we might have a bit of lunch before you take me in, Mikiko.” Timothy nodded and a server came immediately over.

“Yes sir?”

He looked at the woman, “What will you be having?”

“Order for both of us.”

He ordered Beef with Chips and two more ales.

“I knew it was only a matter of time. I won’t bother asking how you found me. I’m glad you came alone.”

“They’re waiting outside to arrest you, Timothy. It’s either us or Mzimu.”

“It’s either prison or a shallow grave in a field somewhere.”

“At least you chose a pleasant venue for your last meal.”

The ales quietly arrived and the international assassin known as Hellspite proposed a toast to the one person in the world who had finally captured him. His career was finally over and he trusted her to finish what he started by bringing down the gang of human traffickers that had started it all.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of January 7th 2018. The idea is to take the image above and use it to prompt the creation of a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 198.

I’m obviously leveraging characters from my Mikiko Jahn SciFi/Adventure series. I’m thankful the photo included a very recognizable sign for Blakes of Dover and I discovered that Dover is less than twenty miles from Dymchurch where the latter part of my larger story takes place.

These events occur after my most recent chapter in the series and I’m not sure yet if this wee tale will become part of the canon. I guess it depends on whether or not I want Fleming (AKA Hellspite) to escape or not.

Oh, this scene is set specifically in the cellar bar which is perfect for a quiet drink and a small lunch.

To read other stories inspired by the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Chimera Problem

windmills

© Jules Paige

The first settlement on Hansen’s Planet was zealous about shifting totally from nuclear energy to renewable, sustainable, “green” energy within the first twenty-five years after arrival.

The problem was no matter what they tried, the indigenous bird-like creatures they called “Chimera” seemed just as zealous about committing mass suicide using their “green” technology.

“Various solar panel designs didn’t work because they’d fly into the concentrated light and burn or smash into the photocells, Bill.”

“Anita, I was hoping your Wind Turbine design would discourage them, but they’re flying right into them through the inhibiting air currents they generate.”

Bill Anghal was the Colony Planner and Anita Kahn was Chief Engineer, but they and the design team couldn’t develop a “Chimera-proof” power generation system.

“What are we missing, Bill?”

“I’ve got it!” They turned and saw Rolf Ingram running up. The eclectic scientist had been studying the “suicides” for months.

He arrived out of breath. “Look,” he wheezed. Deaths…not random…bodies form…patterns.”

“What?” Bill and Anita both grabbed at his iPad.

“Damn. The patterns formed by the Chimera corpses…” Anita let her voice trail off.

“Right,” Rolf leaned over her shoulder. “It’s a language. The Chimera are intelligent. They’re trying to communicate.”

I wrote this story for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of December 31st 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for writing a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

The image immediately made me think of all of those wind turbine farms, and then I thought about the problem they pose to birds and bats. I did a small amount of research looking at articles such as Will Wind Turbines Ever Be Safe For Birds? and Wind farms are hardly the bird slayers they’re made out to be—here’s why as well as Solar Farms Threaten Birds and Why Solar Power Is Good for Birds. Like it or not, there is no such thing as a 100% safe form of energy generation for the environment and wildlife.

So what happens on another planet when the first established colony settlement wants to go totally green avoiding the mistakes of people on their mother planet only to discover that a native life form insists on exterminating itself using your best efforts at sustainable power production?

The story’s conclusion was one idea I had for an answer. An intelligent alien race that couldn’t think of any other way to communicate except by how they arranged their deaths.

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