The Trailer to Heaven

rainbow

© @Any1Mark66

There’s lots of beautiful scenery in Utah as you drive down Interstate 15 but that one part of my trip didn’t have any. Just flat, dry desert and sagebrush. Sure, there’s the odd building or two, but nothing you’d want to stay in. Well, except maybe for that trailer sitting there just off the highway.

No pot of gold or leprechaun lives there, but all the same, everyday when the sun is shining, there’s a rainbow that ends right at the trailer, visible from any angle. What causes it? Beats me. No one goes near, though. Something happens if you try. It gets harder, like walking through water until it’s like walking through rock.

I drive to Southern Utah to visit Mom sometimes. She’s not doing so well. Dementia, you see. She’s the only one who knows why there’s a rainbow over that trailer, though.

“That’s the entrance to Heaven, Jimmy. That’s where your Dad went when he passed.”

I didn’t believe her but then I looked into her eyes. There were rainbows in them.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of January 16, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image at the top of the page to inspire you to author a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

That desert could easily be found in some parts of Utah and most parts of Nevada and I have made the trip to Mom’s more than a few times. I didn’t want to write about leprechauns or pots of gold, so I had to think of another treasure. Fortunately, the answer presented itself.

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

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Virtual

woods

Photo credit: Fandango

It could have been any time of year except winter. Jake hoped it was a nice, cool summer morning. He didn’t like the heat, but summer mornings were just about right, like the Goldilocks of seasons and times of day.

He was in the mountains he guessed. Didn’t matter really. He was free for a while, free to walk, hike, run, scream, anything.

He felt good, strong, alive. Jake couldn’t remember a time when he experienced the world this way. He took a deep clean breath.

“Mr. Francisco. We’re done calibrating the system and are shutting down now.” The voice was disembodied but it was Simmons.

“So soon?”

“We can put you back in VR when we get the programs uploaded, probably next week.”

He sighed. When they turned it off, the VR world would vanish and he’d be a bed-ridden ALS victim again. Doctors said he had a year left. The virtual reality his company invented was the only way he’d be able to live out his days as an able-bodied man.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of January 9, 2018. The idea is to take the image above and use it to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 173.

I had a lot of different ideas for the image and then I noticed that when the screenshot or digital photo was taken, a four-arrowed cursor was also captured just above and to the left of center. That gave me the idea for a person enjoying the great outdoors only to discover he’s in a “holodeck” or something.

I fleshed the concept out a bit more and came up with the story you’ve just read. A friend of mine is an ALS sufferer and while he can still get along without a motorized wheelchair, he’s approaching that particular milestone all too quickly. He needs a machine to help him breathe sometimes, which is why I had my character take a deep breath.

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

Remembering Two Lives

marina

© J.S. Brand

Landon remembered two childhoods. Sitting at the Lauderdale Marina, he contemplated his ordinary life as a twenty-year-old student.

“Are you a crane or a morphing bloodslayer about to rip out my throat?”

The crane ignored the NSU sophomore and waited for its next meal to appear.

He had been nine and his sister Dani was turning three when it happened. It was their week to be with Dad and Landon was supposed to call his sister in for dinner. She thought it was a game and ran. Dad was yelling for him to hurry up. She did stuff like this just to get him in trouble.

“Dani, come in now!”

“No!” She screamed and bolted away.

And then it was night in a big, creepy forest.

“Dad!” Where was Dad and their house?

Something ran into him. “Landon, I’m scared!” Dani was crying, clinging to his legs. He put his arms around her.

“Ahem.”

Landon jumped startled.

“Perhaps I can help.”

That was the first time they met a dragon.

I don’t usually write two responses to a single flash fiction prompt, but I’ve been trying to puzzle a few things out.

The first has to do with the long series of fantasy stories I periodically write for my eight-year-old grandson. The most recent one is The Outside-In World. Sometimes I use a few of his ideas or concepts and he suggested writing a tale where he is a young adult looking back on a life of extraordinary adventures with a dragon. That’s how I ended his last story but I didn’t know where to take it next.

The other is a novel that I wanted to write stalled in my imagination. I’ve presented short snippets here on this blog involving some of the main characters. They appeared in missives such as The Whisperer, The Way Home, Where Did Our Home Go?, and Mr. Covingham’s Secret.

I’m planning on including older versions of my grandchildren in these stories but like I said, I got stuck and then distracted into others such as those involving my vampire Sean Becker and my synthetic woman turned black ops agent Mikiko Jahn.

But this one is always in the back of my mind and maybe an expanded version of the current tale will shake a few things loose.

How were Landon and Dani suddenly yanked from their Dad’s backyard and thrust into a mysterious forest, one with a talking dragon? That’s just the very beginning of a long tale of adventure.

Oh, since I set my first response to the prompt in Florida, this one happens at the Lauderdale Marina which is just a short distance from where I’m having my grandson go to school at Nova Southeastern University. Yes, it’s a long way from Idaho and if this becomes “canon,” the location is bound to change.

I’m posting the URL to this story at the Link Up and hopefully I’m not breaking too many rules.

A Brief Respite from Hell

marina

© J.S. Brand

Finally I can relax for a little while. It’s such a nice afternoon. I don’t own a boat but I love this marina.

The bird doesn’t have a care. Oh to be like the bird simply standing in the water near a small tree waiting for lunch to swim by.

I know the people on their yachts probably have cares, but they seem not to from where I’m sitting.

If only I could make these few moments last forever. No, that’s not right. They are precious only because they are few. Eternal peace would probably be boring.

I don’t want to leave. Just a few minutes longer please?

I know. I have to go back. This is only a fantasy and you can’t really live in a fantasy.

True life is lived in the cold and darkness, in snow and ice, and drones like me only get the briefest taste of freedom.

Good-bye my little marina. I hope I’ll be able to visit again. Now I rise. Back to life in darkness and purgatory.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of January 2, 2018. The idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

I had a tough time with this one. It looks like a marina which I find very relaxing. I once read that one of the 10 best places to retire is Port St. Lucie, Florida. I looked up marinas in that area and found a bunch of them, but that still didn’t help.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my office at home and it’s still pitch black outside. It’s about 26 degrees F and will only climb to just below freezing today.

After my second three-day weekend in a row, I don’t want to get in my car and drive to work in the dark. That’s the full inspiration for this wee missive.

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

The Alternative Lens

glasses

© Enisa

The specially designed mannequin upon which the glasses were kept was distorted, being pushed partially out of reality. This was Silvia Mason’s goal. Her employer had paid millions for the world’s greatest thief to break into a classified government facility and steal the experimental Alternative Lens, but she was going to keep them for herself. Once she put them on, she would be phased fractions of a second outside normal time. She would be invisible, intangible, could go anywhere and do anything.

She entered the vault without being detected but had only one way out. Wearing the Lens. She put them on and every alarm conceivable blared and flashed around her.

The Captain of the Guard had arrived looking very pleased with himself. “Take them off. You cannot escape.”

Silvia started to laugh but then the others appeared in her phased reality.

“We never use the Lens because the phased reality is occupied by very unfriendly inhabitants.”

By the time she was visible again, even strong men vomited at the horrific sight of her remains.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of December 26, 2017. The idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

The mannequin’s head looked strangely unrealistic so I thought up “phased invisibility” or a device that pushed the wearer slightly out of normal space-time, enabling them to move in five dimensions. However, no one ever said such a reality might not already be occupied by horrific and deadly beings. So much for Silvia’s escape plan.

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

Not Enough Time

dino

© Yinglan

The little boy followed his Mom around the corner as Tony Lange materialized near a reconstructed fossil. His clothes were torn and soiled, his hair and beard matted with three months growth.

“I’m back. Got to warn them. It isn’t the answer. We’ll all die.”

He struggled to his feet and then he saw the wall painting and screamed.

“Mommy, what’s wrong with that man?”

Security guards kept the crowd back as an ambulance crew arrived.

“Take it easy,” the first medic said. “You’ll be fine.”

“No,” he murmured half-conscious. “You can’t save humanity by sending us 100 million years back…too hostile. We end up as prey, not colonists.”

As he was loaded onto a stretcher, the boy nervously fingered his transistor radio turning it on.

“President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin today. He died an hour ago of a wound caused by a rifle bullet fired at him as he was riding through downtown Dallas.”

Tony’s eyes widened. “I didn’t get back all the way. I’m seventy-two years too early!”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of December 19, 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

When I saw the image, I thought of time travel (of course) and of someone coming forward in time about 100 million years (the middle of the Cretaceous period) into the present. Two ideas popped into my head.

The first was the original “cliffhanger” for the pilot episode of The Time Tunnel starring James Darren as Tony Newman and Robert Colbert as Doug Phillips. In the pilot, Tony uses the Time Tunnel to send himself back into history proving that it actually works in order to keep the project’s Congressional funding from being cut. He ends up on the Titanic mere hours before it is destined to be sunk. In an attempt to rescue him, fellow scientist Doug Phillips goes back. They are unsuccessful in preventing the ship’s destruction, but the team in the time tunnel manage to switch them to a different time period.

The show always ended with a teaser scene from the next episode which in this case was an encounter with Halley’s Comet in the early 20th century, however for the pilot before the show was picked up, the teaser had Tony and Doug appearing in a steaming hot jungle and then encountering a dinosaur.

The second thought was of a show I’ve never watched but thought might be interesting. Terra Nova was a short-lived series (December 9, 2011 to March 5, 2012) about people on an overpopulated Earth in the year 2149 who were sent back to colonize the Cretaceous Period. I thought this was kind of crazy for a few reasons, the first being the “butterfly effect,” since they’d have no idea how their actions even so far back in history would affect their present, and the second being that there are freaking dinosaurs out there and they were the dominant species on the planet at that time. What makes anyone think that even with advanced weapons, they wouldn’t turn into anything more than prey?

So what if a colonist managed somehow to project himself forward in time to warn everyone that the project didn’t work? However, as you have just read, he dropped out of the time stream 72 years too early, specifically on 22 November 1963 in Dallas, Texas at a Natural History museum just hours after President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Horribly tragic in many different ways.

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

The Dish We’re Served

plate

© Yarnspinnerr

“What are you eating, Grandpa.”

“Ashes, apparently.”

Elizabeth was twelve and still enjoyed visiting her Grandpa for the holidays. Mom and Dad would be up in a few days but this time was just for the two of them. Lately though Grandpa had been acting strange.

“I can make you a sandwich for lunch if you’d like.”

“No, sweetie. This is the plate set before me and this is what I’ll eat.”

“But what is it, Grandpa? It doesn’t even look like food.”

“It’s what’s left of your dreams after the magic’s gone. Dried up like autumn leaves. Good for nothing but throwing away.”

“Oh, Grandpa.” She slipped up behind the old man and hugged him as he sat at the table. You still miss Grandma, don’t you?”

The old man reached up and gently put his hand on the girl’s shoulder.

“She was my dream. Now God’s taken the magic away.”

Elizabeth sat in the next chair and put her arms around him. “I miss her too, Grandpa. I promise. I’ll always love you.”

I write this for the FFfAW Challenge-Week of December 12, 2017 challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I have no idea what’s on that plate and it really made it tough to think of anything to write. I thought about aliens, the supernatural, some sort of tie in to Christmas or Hanukkah, but nothing really clicked. What I wrote above is the best I could come up with. Dining on dead and dried up dreams after the magic has gone. The family members one generation older than me are getting sicker and some have died this year. Looking back, I realize I’ve been looking death in the face. The only thing that gives me hope is the children who will come after us.

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

The Girl, The Unicorn, and Their Kitten

enisa

© Enisa

“Now you knew I had to grow up sometime, Marigold.”

“Yes, but it all seemed to happen so fast, Phoebe.”

Phoebe couldn’t actually see the unicorn, but that was just as well because she was driving South on Interstate 5 and unicorns are terribly distracting.

“That’s what Mom and Dad said, too.”

“But your parents aren’t immortal, Phoebe. I am. The passing of centuries to me is like how the passing of a few days is to you.”

“Then I aged from eight to eighteen in the wink of an eye.” Phoebe was joking around but it was no joke to Marigold.

“Please don’t jest. I want to savor every moment of being your friend.”

“You will, Marigold. I promise.”

“When do we get to this ‘UCLA?'”

“In just a few hours. You’ll have to stay hidden on my clothes when we’re there.”

“Fortunately, little Muffin can be my eyes and ears, Phoebe.”

“Familiar spirits do come in handy, Marigold.”

“They do indeed, Phoebe.”

“Meow and please don’t speak of me as if I’m not here.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of December 5, 2017. The idea is to use the photo above as the inspiration for authoring a piece of flash fiction no more than 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I admit to being momentarily flustered when seeing this week’s photo prompt. “What in the world can I make of that,” I thought.

In 1983, My wife and I moved from Berkeley to Orange County, California, both so I could attend graduate school and so she could take charge of her recently deceased Dad’s house. I drove down with our cat “Mamacat” (long story). Well even though I had her sedated and in a carrier, she was pretty unhappy, so I put my hand in her carrier to pet her. Bad mistake, grievous error. She was out like a flash and parked herself under the brake pedal. I was traveling South on Interstate 5 at about 75 mph and if I had to stop in a hurry, she was going to be toast.

Fortunately, everything all worked out, but the photo sort of reminded me of the journey. I couldn’t really use that story, but the horses on the woman’s blouse reminded me of unicorns.

True confession time. I read a comic strip called Phoebe and her Unicorn written and drawn by Dana Simpson. I don’t know why I started reading it. I saw that it was new at GoComics.com and decided to give it a whirl. Then I got hooked, although sometimes I get a little annoyed at Phoebe’s millennial generation parents (I assume they’re about Simpson’s age).

I decided to use the character names for my wee tale, age Phoebe ten years and have her going off to university. I had to make something up for the kitten since there isn’t one on the comic strip. Just a fun, lighthearted tale.

In the comic strip, absolutely no one is surprised or otherwise reacts to a full-sized unicorn always being around Phoebe, but I decided for the sake of UCLA that Marigold would have to hide as a design on Phoebe’s clothing. Besides, I’m not sure she would have fit inside the car otherwise.

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

Diminished

grasshopper

© @any1mark66

Everyone told me shrinking an object or a person while maintaining that object’s original properties is impossible and they’re right. Planck’s constant prevents it. That means no Ant-Man, Atom, and no little subs like in Fantastic Voyage.

Surprise. I’m only six-inches tall. This grasshopper doesn’t know I’m standing in front of it because I’m not. I’m a hologram. My perceptions have been projected into a half-foot tall holographic matrix.

Fascinating, except for one thing. I can’t disengage from the matrix. I’m stuck inside the projection of myself in my backyard.

“Hello, tiny.”

“Helen?” What…how can you see me?”

“I arranged your little accident.”

“What? But why?”

“When I come back from my business trip in three weeks, I’ll discover you were killed in a home lab accident. Tragic for the widow, but I’ll inherit your fortune and your hunky lab assistant, Harold.”

“Helen, why? I thought we loved each other.”

“You’ve always loved your gadgets more than me. You never even noticed me screwing Harold practically under your nose. Go hop around with your friend.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of November 28, 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I think I’ve written a few stories prompted by photos of insects lately, so how could I make this one different? Well, when I was a kid, I really did read the old 1960s comic books about Ant-Man and The Atom and was fascinated by the idea of being able to shrink way down in size. Also, one of my favorite science fiction movies to this day is the 1966 film “Fantastic Voyage.”

However, as I very briefly explained, Planck’s constant prevents real-life shrinking (learn more at PhysicsForums.com and this BoingBoing.net article).

However, if you could create a holographic matrix of the correct proportions and then project your perceptions into the construct, you would experience being small without actually being small (at least as far as my fake science goes).

Just don’t let your two-timing wife know. Otherwise, you’ll end up like our hapless and nameless scientist.

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

Now read Diminished: The Expanded Story.

One Last Escape From Hell

sunset

© Footy and Foodie

“I never thought sunsets were so precious, Trent. I used to be annoyed at how people would keep taking photos of them.”

“You never know the blessings you have until they’re gone, Esta.” They stood together at the edge of the shallow sea and watched the sun descend into night.

“You mean like Earth is gone, like how we destroyed the biosphere? But it’s not gone, Trent. It’s sitting out there pristine and pure. Can’t we go back to how it is now?

“That’s not how the tesseract works, Esta. We brought five hundred people and everything we’d need to build a human colony here. The gateway leads only from Earth’s present to Venus three billion years ago, our now. It’s a one-way trip. Earth’s out there, but we’ll never see it again except through a telescope.”

“Can we take better care of our life on Venus, Trent?”

“Yes, but it won’t last. In about a billion years or so, the climate will start changing on Venus too, and it will become another living hell.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of November 21, 2017 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to create a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I have to admit when I saw the photo, I really did think something like “oh no, not another sunset.” I mean how many stories can you write about a sunset? Then I started thinking about how to tweak this to make it a very unusual sunset. A lot of different ideas came to mind, but then I went to my “files” and revisited the Science Daily article Venus may have been habitable, NASA climate modeling suggests. Based on current climate modeling technology and techniques (which admittedly are far from perfect), some NASA scientists believe that up until about two billion years ago, Venus may have been habitable, possessing shallow oceans, breathable air, and a livable surface temperature.

However, being much closer to the Sun than Earth, ultraviolet radiation eventually burned off the oceans and, with no surface water available, carbon dioxide built up leading to a runaway greenhouse effect. Today, the surface of Venus is a unparalleled hell, with an atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth’s, acid rains, mega-hurricane winds, and a surface temperature that can go as high as 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius).

I previously used the concept of a one-way tesseract or temporal gateway leading from Earth’s present to billions of years in the past on another planet in the story The Five Billion Year Love, which I still consider one of my better efforts at a romance, loss, and science fiction tale. In today’s story, the tesseract is a one-way portal from an Earth with an all but unlivable climate to three billion years into the past on Venus when it was habitable.

It’s an interesting thought that if humans could save themselves by moving to Venus in the distant past, then would natural events have caused the second planet’s eventual environmental demise or would human beings make the same mistakes twice?

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