This Milk Will Self Destruct In Ten Seconds

milk

© Yinglan Z. 2018

He was a tall man, stark white hair, about forty-five years old. He parked the Buick in front of the hotel, but he wouldn’t be staying long.

Walking up to the front desk, he asked the petite brunette, “Do you have a key for Peter Aurness?”

She smiled. “Just one moment, Sir.” The young woman retrieved a key from a box behind her. “Room 101, around the corner and down the hall.”

“Thanks.” He knew her eyes were following him as he walked away. He had a quiet charisma some women found appealing.

Slipping the key in the lock, he opened the door and flipped on the light. He sat at the table, the only pieces of furniture in the room. There was a small carton of milk and an envelope waiting for him. He adjusted the antenna, heard a click, and then the whirring sound of a cassette tape.

“Good morning, Mr. Phelps.”

Jim Phelps opened the envelope and began to follow along as the control voice outlined the next impossible mission.

I wrote this for the 185th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 172.

An antenna coming out of a milk carton and an envelope? No help from the language. All I could read were the ISO numbers and even Googling them wasn’t illuminating.

Peter Graves

Publicity photo of Peter Graves – 1967

I’ve written a Mission: Impossible themed story before, and it was the only thing I could think of that fit the photo. Between 1967 and 1973, the late actor Peter Graves played Jim Phelps, the leader of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF), a loose collection of experts who, when presented with an “impossible” task, pooled their resources and came up with a daring solution that was only revealed as the episode unfolded.

Graves’ real name was Peter Duesler Aurness, so I thought I’d throw that into my tale.

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

I’m adding a photo of Graves as he looked in 1967 just for giggles.

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Seeking Justice

the chelsea beach bar

© Michelle DeAngelis

Jeannie and Richard met outside the Chelsea Beach Bar in Atlantic City, their hometown. She had barely been able to hold in her tears, but became hysterical when he’d gotten out of his car and walked over to her. There was nothing left for the PI to do but hold his old girlfriend and let her cry. The Marine veteran’s instincts never let him tune out his surroundings, such as the multicolored para-sail against a dull blue sky and the sound of the wind blowing through the grass.

“You’re going to find them for me.” She’d finally stopped sobbing.

“I figured that’s why you called me after so long.”

“We were going to get married. He wanted to wait until after tomorrow’s boxing match in Vegas to announce it.”

“You know when I find them, it won’t help. He’ll still be dead.”

“I know. But he deserves justice. I don’t trust the cops on this one. I think they’re in on it. Habib thought the fight was rigged.”

“I know. I’ll find his killers.

I wrote this for the 183rd FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 174.

I looked up The Chelsea Beach Bar since it’s figured prominently in the photo, and found it is in Atlantic City. I looked up the local news and discovered that Atlantic City boxer Qa’id Muhammad was found murdered yesterday near Las Vegas. I decided not to use Muhammad’s name in my story and to fictionalize the crime out of respect for the grieving family.

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

Buying a Memory

donut dog

© Yinglan Z.

“You’ve got to be kidding.” It was Martin’s first reaction to his wife Helen’s suggestion. “You want to buy this…this thing for our three-year-old granddaughter?”

“It’s adorable.”

“It’s ridiculous, and it’s made of porcelain. Couldn’t we get her a gift that won’t break when she drops it?”

“But she’ll love it.”

“She’ll love a lot of things that are cuter, less expensive, and less fragile.”

“But Marty…”

“Okay, let’s have it. What’s the real reason?”

Helen looked down at her shoes and when she faced Martin again, he saw tears streaming down her cheeks. He put his hands gently on her shoulders.

“What is it?” His voice was calm, soft, almost a whisper.

“My Grandpa gave something just like it to me for my fifth birthday. He…he died of a heart attack a month later.”

Martin pulled his wife close and held her. “Alright. We’ll get it for her.”

“Marty? Marty, you make me so happy.”

“But we’ll keep it high up on a shelf so she can admire until she’s older.”

I wrote this for the 180th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 172.

Yes, I think donut dog is ridiculous, too. However, I had to think of some reason for validating this choice of gift.

My son is divorced and the visitation schedule for his two children is that they spend one week with their Mom and the alternating week with him (and us). In addition, due to my ex-daughter-in-law’s work schedule, we babysit our three-year-old granddaughter Monday through Wednesday on her week.

My grandson has favorite stuffed animals that he carries back and forth for a sense of stability, but up until now, my granddaughter hasn’t done so. Yesterday, my wife took our granddaughter to the store and bought her an “Elsa” backpack plus two special stuffed animals she can always keep with her, just like her brother. They look ridiculous, but she adores them, and I adore her.

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

We Don’t Want Your Kind Here

no entry

© yarnspinnerr

The sign said “No Entry” in two languages, but Allen saw the young couple approach the main doors from the side and go in any way. He knew the sign was directed at him, not him personally, but you had to be a member in good standing of the Party to even be considered.

The event was held in a different city each year, and today it was in Mumbai, but the administrators lived in the U.S., and their influence was everywhere.

Officially, segregation didn’t exist, but when “his kind,” as they often referred to non-Party members, tried to petition for even ancillary status, they were rebuffed. Since they’d taken control of the political structure, entertainment, all news venues, they hadn’t felt it necessary to use him as a punching bag anymore, but they still called him a “Nazi” from time to time.

His kind wasn’t allowed at any of the popular venues including WorldCon. They didn’t think it was possible for a cisgender, white male from Montana to be a science fiction fan.

I wrote this for the 179th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I’ve been chronicling the whole WorldCon 76 meltdown and recovery, as well as the latest shots fired at conservatives who, for some reason, are not only thought of as “Nazis,” but not considered worthy of being science fiction fans. So I thought I’d write yet another tale of the dystopia where prejudice is alive and well and running the world.

Yes, I know. I rant about this a lot, but now that this year’s WorldCon is officially over, I’ll find something else to focus my attention on.

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

Waiting for Dana

ferry

© Ted Strutz

Joel Carpenter dozed in his rental car waiting for the ferry. Ten hour drive from San Francisco to Boise. Ditched the car, switched IDs, then an hour flight from Boise to Seatac, and another hour to rent a car and get here. What they were doing was beyond illegal. This had better be worth it.

Bainbridge assured him it would be, once he got onto the island, drove another 20 minutes to his gated estate, got past security, and transferred the rest of the money.

It had been eighteen months since Virginia had gone missing during a scuba dive near Fiji. Joel thought he would lose his mind with loss and grief. The worst thing was he just went on living.

Bainbridge was the finest robotics engineer of the century. The AI was bleeding edge, total human simulation. In another hour, he would have his fiancée back, or at least the next best thing. He’d excuse her absence as a long sabbatical. Now they could be married.

I wrote this for the 178th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 166.

I’ve recently seen the 1983 film WarGames which includes a ferry ride to find a reclusive scientist on a forested island (in Oregon rather than Washington). Reclusive scientists made me think of the 2014 film Ex Machina, which, of course, is about humanoid female robots.

I’ve written this sort of story many times before, but I didn’t get much sleep last night, and the muse needs more coffee.

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

Getting Ready for School

bench

© Wildverbs

“You seem depressed, Joey. The older man looked at his nine-year-old grandson sitting on the bench beside him.

“I’ve got less than two weeks of freedom left.”

“What do you mean?”

“School. I won’t be able to hang out with you at the park and tell stories.”

“I thought you liked school.”

The boy absent-mindedly caused a small whirlwind to lift some water from the lake to the roots of a nearby tree. “I guess so, but every year it gets harder.”

“Every year, you get smarter, and the discipline’s good for you. By the way, so close to the lake, the tree doesn’t need extra water.”

“I know. I was just bored.”

“That’s exactly why you need to go to school. You’ve had plenty of rest and now your restless.” Grandpa casually waved his hand and adjusted the humidity level of the dirt under the tree to optimal levels.

“Do you think I’ll ever be as good a wizard as you, Grandpa?”

“Keep going to school and practicing. You’ll make a great sorcerer one day.”

I wrote this for the 177th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

Initially, I didn’t think I’d write for the prompt this week since it seemed similar to something I’d seen just recently, but then again, I considered that a challenge too.

My grandson really is lamenting that he has less than two weeks of freedom until summer vacation ends and he has to go back to school. Since we hang out a lot together and tell stories, I decided to mine that conversation with a slight twist.

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

The Red High Heels

red shoes

© Yinglan Z.

George looked admiringly at the shoes on his wife’s delicate feet. This was the finest shoe store in Hong Kong.

“What do you think?” She turned her ankle, modeling the heels.

“They look lovely. Another wedding gift, Edith?” He smiled at her as only a newlywed can.

“Would you?” She clapped her hands and laughed.

George turned to the salesman. “We’ll take these as well. Can you have our purchases sent to our hotel? A dozen pair would be a little difficult for us to carry.”

The salesman stood and bowed. “Of course, Sir. We would be glad to be of service, but since I am the last person in the store this evening, they won’t arrive until tomorrow.” He internally scoffed at the American tourists. Frivolous fools. They could never suspect he was an intelligence analyst for the Communists. His cover was perfect.

Edith and George gave each other knowing looks. The two American agents were there to kidnap and interrogate their adversary. By dawn, they’d know everything about China’s complement of nuclear weapons.

I wrote this for the 176th FFfAW Photo Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

I forgot about the word count and was over 300 words into writing my spy thriller when I remembered, so I had to edit it down quite a bit. Now it feels somewhat forced and hurried, but I hope I got my idea across successfully. Never trust appearances.

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

The Tic Tac Toe Clue

tic tac toe

© yarnspinnerr

Private Investigator Margurite Carter and her client, shipping tycoon Jeremiah Burton, were inside one of his waterfront warehouses sometime past midnight.

“You’re sure my partner is using this place to hide opium smuggled in from the Far East?”

“Yeah, but we still have to find proof before going to the cops.”

“Where do you suggest we look?”

“Try someplace besides my chest. My eyes are up here.”

“Sorry.” Burton wasn’t used to not being in charge of every situation and tried to look chagrined.

“Men.” Margurite rolled her eyes.

They stood in front of nine stacks of crates organized three across by three deep. “My source said it should be among these.”

“You trust the cook on the freighter that delivered this cargo?”

“He said he’d leave a clue. Wait. A sheet of paper’s stuck to the far right stack with a butcher knife.”

“Odd, but so what? It’s just a game of tic tac toe.”

Carter snapped her fingers as the proverbial light bulb illuminated over her head. “No it isn’t. It’s a map.

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

Once again, I dusted off my 1940s “hardboiled detective” Margurite Carter who first appeared in The Haunted Detective and was mentioned in The Digital Muse. I couldn’t think of a story about a game of tic tac toe, but as a map or diagram describing which of the stacks of crates contained opium, it worked just fine.

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

Stones

park

© Michelle De Angelis.

The beautiful park, the gentle couple strolling just ahead of him, the cool of the summer evening only made a dull impression on him, all because her blood had added one more stain to his soul.

“She was only three years old, God. Why did that butcher have to murder her?”

Detective Keith Simmons was due to retire soon. This would be his last murder investigation and he thought he’d seen it all. Then he saw the blood and her torn, battered body.

He suppressed sorrow and summoned rage. Prison was too good for that scumbag. There was a better justice.

“Excuse me.” He looked up and saw one of the people who had been ahead of him. “I believe you could benefit from this.”

Keith mutely accepted the note she was holding. As she turned back and started walking with her companion again, he unfolded it and read, “The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.”

Tomorrow, he’d visit the child’s family again. It was his first stepping stone.

I wrote this for the 172th FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 175.

Yesterday, I read a news account (actually several) about how a man with a knife attacked nine people, six of them children, at a girl’s third birthday party. The three year old died.

After reading it, I wrote my own commentary, feeling the hope being drained out of life because of such events.

Today, I’m trying to be a bit more optimistic and not let things like this defeat my spirit. It isn’t easy.

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

The Last American Flag

old glory

© Yinglan Z.

Alex and Ginnie brought their heavily armed team up to the top of Crystal Peak. They didn’t have much time and had no hope at all. When they placed the flag here six months ago, they knew they were breaking the law, but America had been founded by a courageous group of law breakers. This time, there would be no forming a new nation, because the America they knew, the one their fathers and grandfathers knew, was gone.

First, it was “taking the knee” during the pledge in protest. Then there was stomping on the flag or burning it, and posting the videos to YouTube, which immediately went viral. Finally, at the behest of President Julian Sanders, Congress abolished the Constitution to form the People’s Socialist Party of America. Flying Old Glory became illegal.

“They’re coming.” Ginnie grabbed her husband’s arm. He said nothing and waited. The small band of resistance fighters watched the brigade of black-clad security forces and prepared to make their last stand and die with their nation as did their forefathers.

I wrote this for the 171st FFfAW Challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. 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.

After a vain attempt to locate where the photo was taken, I decided on a different approach based very loosely on news items I’ve been reading over the past couple of days. As difficult as some of those events may seem and how some people view the U.S. currently, it could still be much, much worse.

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