What Are You Trying to Tell Me?

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.

jewish paul

Image credit: Drake Dunaway – the Jewish Paul

He closed his Bible at the end of 2 Thessalonians 3:17 and pondered. Did Paul know that his letters, those that survived to be canonized anyway, would become binding instructions for all Christianity nearly two-thousand years into the future? Could his letters really be compared to the writing of the Prophets in the Old Testament, and especially the words of Jesus in the Gospels?

“It’s in the Bible and Pastor says that’s good enough, but is it really? It’s not like Jesus was dictating the letters to Paul. There are some parts of the epistles he said were his own judgment and not of the Spirit.”

He knew both the Jews and the Church believed Paul invented a new religion called Christianity that totally broke from everything that had been written in the first two-thirds of the Bible. If God wanted to write a “love letter” to humanity, why was it a letter that’s so hard to understand, and with so many contradictions?

If God wrote a “love letter” like so many mushy, feely people at his church keep telling him, why were there so many different interpretations?

“I know. Pastor said it was because of sin, but all of the questions I ask him, he has pat, one word or one sentence answers to. Isn’t God more complicated than that?”

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The Tunnel Dwellers

tunnel tour

Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

Thousands of people had taken the tour of Seattle’s underground, what was left of the original city after the devastating 1889 fire. The city was rebuilt on its ruins one to two stories above, leaving these tunnels as a monument to history. However, only a few realized that just a portion of the original underground was restored in 1965. People had been taking this tour for over fifty years now, and had never guessed the truth.

An old 1907 newspaper story gave him the clues necessary to find his way into the real world under the streets of Seattle. Over a hundred years ago, the tunnels harbored flophouses for the homeless, gambling halls, speakeasies, and opium dens. They’d been cleared out by police anticipating the 1909 World Fair in Seattle, and left to rot. The tunnels were forgotten by most, but once rediscovered, found a new use. Now they sheltered the city’s covert den of vampires who had been preying on its citizens for decades.

Jeff had seen all he needed to see. He would notify the local branch of the Van Helsings, the international and secret Catholic order of vampire hunters. There would be another fire just after dawn tomorrow.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of May 20, 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 197.

The image seemed more benign than sinister, just a bunch of tourists walking around, so I looked up famous tunnel tours. That lead me to Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour of old Seattle, which I’d heard of. I found the original history of the Seattle Underground, including the fire, and then the other facts I cited in my small story.

It was perfect for horror, which I knew because I’d watched the 1973 television movie “The Night Strangler” starring Darren McGavin, back in the day.

I decided to leverage the world I created in my Sean Becker vampire stories. Now a centuries old banned Catholic order of vampire hunters has found where Seattle’s population of the undead has been hiding. Collateral damage is assured, but in their eyes, it’s a small price to pay for ridding the Northwest of these feared, supernatural predators.

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

Saving the Prophet

shipwreck

The Shipwreck, a painting by JMW Turner that forms part of the Tate collection in London.

The ceiling for his craft was infinity, and its floor was an age. It provided a buffer, so that the passing of a season or a millennium was all the same. In this way, he could not only travel up and down the corridors of his own history, but diverge into many others. Once at his destination, he would descend upon that world like a single drop of rain.

The sphere shimmered half in and half out of the timespace continuum as it alighted on the shore near Muxnar Reef in ancient Malta. The unmanned probes he had sent back searched across the local decades, and discovered the exact place, date, and time of the storm and the shipwreck. They were struggling in the surf now. It would all be so easy.

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The Sins of Our Fathers

San Ignacio de Velasco, Bolivia

Near San Ignacio de Velasco, Bolivia – © Google 2018

The vintage Beechcraft AT-11 landed eight souls on a little dirt airstrip near San Ignacio de Velasco in Bolivia. Intelligence said he’d be making a stopover in this tiny hamlet to visit an old friend, another German expat.

He’d just founded Transmaritima, Bolivia’s first ocean shipping company and was anxious to brag about it, especially to other war criminals who were still cowering in fear.

The aircraft halted and the pilot killed the engines. “We’ll be returning to La Paz as soon as we refuel. We won’t be coming back unless we get your signal.”

Five of the passengers had already disembarked with their equipment. The sixth approached the cockpit. “If we don’t succeed, there will be no reason to come back.”

“You’ll succeed.”

“We plan to. The sons of Nazi butchers must wipe the blood from our hands. In less than twenty-four hours, Klaus Barbie will be dead.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take the Google maps image and location presented and use it to inspire crafting a flash fiction piece no longer than 150 words. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to San Ignacio de Velasco, Bolivia. According to Wikipedia, there isn’t much information available about the town or José Miguel de Velasco Province. However, both articles mention the area possessing a small population of the descendants of post-World War II German immigrants.

That was the hook.

Looking at this morning’s email notification from Bookbub, I’d seen a title by Tania Crasnianski (translated by Molly Grogan) called Children of Nazis which includes interviews with the children of Himmler, Göring, Höss, Mengele and others.

I also found a 1982 New York Times article about Klaus Barbie, who was the SS commander in Lyons, France between 1942 and 1944. He had fled to Bolivia after the war and unfortunately, did quite well for himself.

In the 1960’s, Barbie really did found Transmaritima, Bolivia’s first ocean shipping company, in a joint venture with the navy. I decided to put all of that together and formed an elite team of assassins, the sons of Nazi war criminals, who had taken on the mission of wiping their bloody legacy from the face of the Earth.

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

Oh, among other fun facts, San Ignacio de Velasco in the present day does have a dirt strip for an “airport.” Figured they could have one in the 1960s as well. Keep in mind this is fiction, and Barbie was not assassinated. He was eventually captured, tried, convicted, and died in prison in Lyon, France in 1991 at the age of 77.

Dangerous Waters

beach

MorgueFile April file8051277901708

Merilyn and Riyn waited at the seashore. They had met over twenty years ago on this very beach, although their fates had been intertwined nearly fifteen years earlier after he had saved her from drowning when she was a child.

Now they stood hand in hand and gazed at the sea. They were the undisputed rulers of the Takahe sub-continent, and because of them, a sweeping national effort had significantly reduced the country’s legacy of polluting the Eastern Ocean.

It wasn’t enough. Making a treaty with Kea, their neighbor across the waves, was easy. The more difficult relationship to forge was with Riyn’s countrymen, the undersea people of the Two Kingdoms. If they couldn’t make a peace with the so-called “sea gods” who had exiled their King for falling in love with a woman of the surface, then the coming conflict would destroy both worlds.

“There he is!” Merilyn pointed into the surf. He was rising from it.

“Watatsumi!” Riyn was happy to see his son alive and well after being away for nearly five months.

“Mother! Father!” The young man, for that is how he now appeared, stood on shore. “King Suijin agreed. The Two Kingdoms will join us.”

I wrote this for the Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner – 2018 Week #20 challenge. 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.

This story relates to characters from my recent tale The Elephants of Yesterday, but little six-year-old Merilyn is now about forty, married, and co-ruling her nation alongside her husband, who is an exiled monarch from an undersea kingdom.

Yes, it’s complicated. I’m using characters and themes from a short story I recently submitted for publication (I won’t find out if it’s been accepted or rejected for some time probably). The basic concept is the literal marrying of the surface and undersea worlds, and what they couldn’t accomplish separately is finally achieved through their “synthesis;” Merilyn and Riyn’s son.

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

As I’ve mentioned previously, this linkup needs some love, so please consider contributing a story. Thanks.

Old Boots

old boots

Photo credit: Courtney Wright

Gilbert felt sad leaving his old boots behind. He’d had them for so many years, that they were more duct tape now than plastic and rubber.

He wore them that winter he was sleeping in an abandoned car behind Miller’s warehouse. Old Man Frank had turned him on to that one. Hit by a truck crossing the street one night. That was no way to die.

Now Gilbert had new boots, new clothes, and a new place to live, too. Being homeless was rotten, but it was still a life, and amid all the hardship, he’d made some good friends.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use the image above to create a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

The boots looked like they belonged to a homeless person, so I went with that. I didn’t have enough room within the 100 word limit to mention the various microhouse project that are springing up in various communities to provide living space for the homeless.

Fun fact: My son Michael reminded me that at his High School Senior prom, a couple went dressed in a tuxedo and gown made entirely of duct tape. He still has the photos.

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

Flight Girl in Dieselworld

aircraft

© 2017 – Yinglan Z.

“Do you think you can fly it, Keisha?”

“I’m not sure. I trained in a Cessna 152, not some World War Two wannabe.”

The sixteen-year-old was once again in a different universe, the one she had saved last year, only for her friend Josiah Covington, twenty years had passed. She remembered him as a shy, intelligent nine-year-old boy, but now he was nearly thirty. Unfortunately, he also had a broken arm, so escaping Tyson’s heavily guarded aerodrome was in her hands now.

“Remember how our principles of aviation are different.”

“They better not be too different, otherwise, we’ll never get out of here.”

Keisha helped Josiah into the rear seat and then hopped into the cockpit.

“I see the starter. Battery looks good. Plenty of fuel. Barsoonian charge is on standby. Ready.”

The young engineer used his good hand to close the cockpit. “Take her up. We’ll only get one chance to make it out of here. We have to stop Stanley Tyson’s mad plan to use nuclear weapons from your world to conquer Europe.”

I wrote this for the 167th FFfAW Writing 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.

This is something of a “sequel” to Return to Dieselworld and based on the character Keisha Davis, whose latest steampunk adventure you can find in Prelude to Piracy. I thought it would be fun to have Keisha experience different “sub-genres”.

Fun fact: Not far from where I live, we have something called the Warhawk Air Museum which has aircraft and other exhibits from World War One through the Vietnam War era. I’ve been there with my grandson and it’s a lot of fun.

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

Oh, and don’t worry about what a “Barsoonian charge” is. That’s being revealed in the steampunk story line.

Want to see more of Keisha in Dieselworld? Read The Adventures of Rocket Girl.

The Seedy Profiler

hand spreader

Image found at Pennington.com

It was in the days of cedars when Cedric the seeder spread his precious gift as if in a daze.

Just kidding.

Winter hadn’t been kind to his lawn, and Bill was using a hand seeder to spread some “love” on some of the barer patches. He didn’t want to get it too close to the cedar in the northwest corner though, because pulling weeds as well as unwanted grasses was such a boring chore.

His wife had been visiting her mother for the past five days, which suited him just fine, since he preferred working by his own schedule than hers.

It was monotonous labor, and he found himself pacing the yard in something of a daze before realizing he was out of seed.

“Guess I’ll just call it good, then.” He walked around the side of the house and then back into the garage. Putting the hand implement back on its appointed shelf, he manually turned on the sprinkler system to soak the grass seed in.

He left his work shoes by the door, washed his hands in the kitchen sink, poured another cup of hot, black coffee, and returned to the computer in his study. This was the other reason he was glad his wife was gone. This latest cold case had been kicking his ass, but the retired FBI special agent still felt like he was getting close to discovering the identity of the Zodiac killer.

I wrote this for Saturday Mix – Double Take challenge for 12 May 2018. The idea today is to use two pairs of homophones in a poem, short story, or other creative work. They are:

  • cedar – an evergreen tree
  • seeder – one who broadcasts seeds

and

  • days – more than one day
  • daze – to bewilder

As usual, I bolded the words in the body of my story so they’d be easy to find.

Yes, I started out with a little joke, and then got slightly more serious. The words, for me at least, didn’t evoke any drama, so I made something up.

The Missing Manuscript Affair

Gwynedd

Stream near Bethesda in Gwynedd county, Wales on 23 Dec 2013 after a storm – Photo credit: BBC.com

Only about a dozen or so people knew that Olivia Lewis, the woman discovered drowned in a fast-flowing stream near Bethesda after a storm, was a retired SIS operative. She never carried a gun, for her talents were in finding the right approach to a target and then getting them to tell her anything she wanted.

Aging MI6 agent Ian Dennis took part of his training under her decades ago, which was when she had confided with him. He knew why she was murdered. She had owned the first draft of one of World War Two veteran Leslie Bonnet’s short stories, which contained a seventy-year-old secret he had learned while training pilots in China.

Now the draft was missing, and it was a race to discover the true location of lost Sichuan Temple, which legend said contained an ancient device more powerful than all the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

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

Today, the Pegman takes us to Gwynedd, Wales.

Of course I looked up the county of Gwynedd and discovered, among many other things, that World War Two veteran turned author made his home there after the war. Before that, he had spent some time in China in 1943 helping to create the Chinese Air Force as a service separate from their army.

I also found a 23 December 2013 BBC news story that reported a woman had drowned in a stream in Nant Ffrancon near Bethesda after a storm.

The lost temple is totally made up, though loosely based on this news article.

I created the beginning of yet another “Ian Dennis” mystery just for fun. Some of you may remember Ian from my short series The Mauritius Robbery Affair.

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

The Pirate Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny

Artist’s depiction of the pirate Anne Bonny

The crash of wave and snap of sail sung to her, and Anne Bonny was never more alive than when she was at sea. Now that she and Calico Jack Rackham were wedded, aboard the stolen and former Royal Navy frigate “William,” she, Rackham, and her closest companion Mary Read had recruited a new crew and were far from Governor Rogers and his Nassau boot lickers.

“Wanted pirates. That’s what they’ll call us, isn’t that true Annie?”

“Aye and it is, Mary. It is true, and we’ll plunder the continent from Boston to the Carolinas. We’ll be rich, and as respected as much as any man.”

“But Calico Jack still be the Captain.”

Anne turned the wheel to bring the mainsail into the wind. Jack was inspecting the repairs on the foredeck, and there was no member of the crew close enough to hear them over the roar of the sea.

“That’s true as well, Mary, but all things be temporary.”

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