The Clockwork Dragon

Image of the Trans-Mongolian Railway station found at towardsrisingsun.com

“Bored, bored, bored.” Atlan manipulated the energy projecting into the boiler, cooling the steam. His partner Narangerel stood behind him in the locomotive’s cabin dilating time and slowing matter as they approached Sükhbaatar’s Trans-Mongolian station.

The eighteen-year-old girl looked at the back of her lover’s head. “You always say that, Atlan, but we are still apprentice elemental guides learning our craft.”

“I know.” The water cooled, he turned to her. “I’d just like a little excitement.”

As Narangerel released time and fixed the wheels of the stopped train, she looked out and up. “Atlan!”

From over the Russian border it appeared in the air, lit by the first rays of the sun. It was a man on a dragon, but the wings were made from massive brass rods and gears.

Atlan stared over Narangerel’s shoulder as the gleaming clockwork dragon and the dead engineer began the greatest adventure of their lives.

It wrote this wee missive for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to use the photograph/location presented by the Pegman as the prompt for crafting a tale no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Sükhbaatar, Mongolia.

I admit that it’s been a long time since I participated in one of these challenges. Truth to tell, the steam has run out of me. I’ve encountered a number of personal and professional reverses and it’s left me tired and bored.

It’s true that so far in 2019, eleven of my short stories have been chosen for publication, but as the deadline looms for several more, I feel empty.

The story above is set in the universe I’d like to write my next story in (though it never occurred to me to set it in Mongolia) where people can naturally manipulate the elements as that world’s form of technology. The “clockwork dragon” and his dead (resurrected) rider, the engineer, are actually the beginning of the story, but I don’t have the heart to dive in.

So I created my 150 word introduction, if you will, as an attempt to jump start my creativity. So far it’s not working.

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

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“Growing Flowers” by James Pyles in Flash Fiction Addiction

Promotional image for the short story “Growing Flowers” by James Pyles featured in “Flash Fiction Addiction”

The folks at Zombie Pirate Publishing produced 101 promotional images, one for each story/author in the Flash Fiction Addiction. This one’s mine.

 

Flash Fiction Addiction is Here!

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© James Pyles

As you can see, my copy of Zombie Pirate Publishing‘s latest anthology “Flash Fiction Addiction” arrived, which features my short story “Growing Flowers,” a little steampunkish piece I originally crafted for an online writing challenge. I just found out today that for a limited time only. Amazon is offering US customers 20% discount on paperback copies of FFA, so get ’em while they last.

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© James Pyles

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© James Pyles

Cloister

cloister

© Roger Bultot

A terrified Sandoval Carson treaded across rough, ancient stones paralleled by pitted archways and shrouded by overgrown vegetation. The cloister was just ahead, and so, he hoped, his salvation.

Once he had stepped through the dark mirror that had once been a patio window, he was young again, though, he suspected, only here. He had to find the one who could help him correct all his life mistakes.

“Hello, Sandoval.” The voice was behind him.

“Can you help me?” Carson pivoted and then faced himself.

Dark Carson lunged at him screaming, “I’ve always hated you.”

“Me too,” he gurgled, dying.

It’s been a while, but this morning, I decided to contribute to Rochelle Wisoff-Field‘s weekly photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

The color adjustment of the photo made me feel apprehensive, as if I were looking at a horror film, one where the hero was about to be pounced upon by the monster at any moment. In this case, the monster is himself.

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

EDIT: Forgot to add a title and to mention that this is just one of many “Dark Mirror” tales I’ve written over the past few years. Usually, they take a person to their greatest desire or need. It obviously meant something grim in Sandoval’s case.

Pre-Order “Flash Fiction Addiction” Now

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Announcement for “Flash Fiction Addiction” from Zombie Pirate Publishing

My piece of flash fiction “Growing Flowers” is one of one-hundred-and-one wee tales included in Zombie Pirate Publishing’s upcoming anthology Flash Fiction Addiction, currently available for pre-order on Amazon and delivered to your Kindle device on April 15th.

In case you don’t know, “flash fiction” tales are very, very short stories (in this case anywhere between 100 and 750 words long), and any one of them can be read in a few seconds to a few minutes. You can Go Here to find out more. Oh, in the image below, my name and story title is in the left-hand column toward the bottom.

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Flash Fiction Addiction table of contents

One December Morning in Stuyvesant Square Park

suyvesant

Snow in Stuyvesant Square Park, Second Avenue & East 17th St, Manhattan

The three teens, two boys and a girl, all ran out of The Halal Guys restaurant across 2nd Avenue near the East Village. “Anyone chasing us?” 14-year-old Brenda asked her brother Brad, pushing her red MAGA cap up over long blond locks.

“No, don’t see anyone.” Their leader, 15-year-old Ken, took them up toward Stuyvesant Square Park. It was still early morning and they’d decided to harass the old Muslim couple who’d gone into Halal for breakfast.

“Didn’t think that white guy would defend those Arabs,” Ken mused.

The trio stopped as they saw three black teens running up behind them. The oldest, a girl, said the two guys with her, “We got away.”

“Yeah,” said the youngest guy. “Who knew that black dude would defend that old white couple we were messing with.” On a nearby park bench, the mysterious Never Man was having a little fun with justice.

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

Today, the Pegman takes us to Manhattan Island (yes, it is an island). Manhattan has an impossibly rich history, so choosing one topic upon which to base my wee tale seemed an enormous task. I decided to look up the local news and found an article titled Teens Wanted in Village attack on man defending elderly couple. Apparently three African-American youth between the ages of 14 and 17 were harassing an elderly couple in a McDonalds in the East Village. A 44-year-old man came to their defense, and the trio punched and kicked him before fleeing. Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously hurt.

Since this is Black History Month, I wasn’t sure how well this story would be received (even though the news story is factual), so I decided to illustrate that anyone is capable of prejudice and cruelty, regardless of race, social perspective, or politics. I resurrected Jonathan Cyfer, the “Never Man,” who has the ability to alter time and space for purposes of justice, though 150 words hardly does him or his activities “justice.”

Oh, the Halal Guys is a real restaurant just outside the East Village (I couldn’t find the McDonalds on Google Maps), and if I ever visit Manhattan, I’d love to eat there.

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

“Flash Fiction Addiction” Anthology and a lot of Authors

Do you want to see a lot of names, because this is a lot of names. 101 authors and stories selected for this anthology out of a pool of nearly three times as many. If each writer maxed out the word count of their wee missives at 750, the total would be 75,750, or the size of a novel. Here they all are. I’m in there somewhere. 😉

Look for it on April 15, 2019.

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Flash Fiction Addiction table of contents

Being Published in the Anthology “Flash Fiction Addiction”

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Announcement for “Flash Fiction Addiction” from Zombie Pirate Publishing

My flash fiction story “Growing Flowers” has been accepted for the “Flash Fiction Addiction” anthology to be published by Zombie Pirate Publishing.

The original announcement states:

FLASH FICTION ADDICTION is now open for submissions. Very short stories 100 – 750 words long. Any genre or theme. Subs close when we have 101 accepted stories.

They received nearly 300 submissions and accepted 101, including mine. Look for it at Amazon on April 15, 2019.

EDIT: Updated image below.

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Promotional image for the anthology Flash Fiction Addiction

The Return of Flight A-10

RAF Ascension

RAF Ascension Island – January 2002 – licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

“There it is again. Let me put it on speaker, Richard.” Thirty-eight-year-old Kristen Hines was on assignment for the NSA at the RAF Ascension Space Communications facility on the mid-Atlantic island. Richard Porter was the fifty-five-year-old civilian division chief.

As the static switched from Kristen’s headset to the speakers in the secure communications room crewed by a dozen specialists, the regular pinging became a fragmented voice.

"Surrender...Nazi...A-10...spacecraft...aliens...releasing us..."

“Mr. Porter, Sir. Got something on radar.” Roger Bennett’s gaze didn’t deviate from his screen. “It’s entering Earth’s atmosphere.” Hines reached for the secure line to Washington as Porter muttered. “So the bloody Nazis did manage it.”

“What?” Kristen’s hand paused.

“Granddad was only one of six intelligence agents to discover that before the fall of the Reich, the Nazis had launched a manned rocket into space.”

“How could they have survived all these years.”

“They’re on re-entry. Guess we’ll find out.”

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

Today, the Pegman takes us to St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha in the middle of the South Atlantic.

I did my homework and discovered that RAF Ascension, also known as Wideawake Airfield or Ascension Island Auxiliary Field, “serves as a space-based communications, signals intelligence, and navigation nexus and hub (Ground station). One of only four GPS satellite ground antennas is located there.”

I also discovered that during World War Two, the island was used by the Allies “to base patrolling anti-surface-commerce-raider and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces against the Axis powers’ naval units.”

When I was looking up signals intelligence, I found an online copy of the last German message intercepted by the British during the war signaling Germany’s unconditional surrender.

Putting that all together, I wondered if there were any “conspiracy theories” based on a Nazi Manned Space Program, and lo and behold, I found the answer at Astronotes which used information about Nazi Germany’s Aggregat Rocket Program.

It was a lot of fun to write, but 150 words doesn’t do it justice.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com (link fixed).

From Up in the Sky

quarry

© Russell Gayer

“What the hell?” Sixty-two year old millionaire Warren Hollister stared down the long gully carved in his quarry terminating at an unconscious man being put on a wheeled gurney by ambulance attendants.

“It’s like I was saying. Thought he was dead, but when I checked, he was breathing,” gasped Jake Fischer, the Foreman.

“Not a scratch on him.” Hollister shook his head in wonder.

“No clothes either.”

“What are you suggesting?.”

“Who knows what happened? Last year the Russkies sent up Sputnik, and today, a man falls from the sky.”

“A superman, Jake, and right now, he’s mine.”

I authored this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 98.

This is actually part of a story that’s been floating around my head for years, the idea that a mysterious man can fall from the sky and into the hands of what could be a ruthless millionaire. Since Jake mentions that Sputnik was put in orbit the previous year, that puts my story in 1958, just over 60 years ago.

I got the scene for my rock quarry from this news story and very loosely based it on the 1953 “Adventures of Superman” television show episode Panic in the Sky (video).

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