Why Does My Wine Glass Look Like That?

glasses

© A Mixed Bag 2013

Johnny B. and his two companions in “crime” had a merry time of it in first class on their way from London to Sydney. He was late the villain of a popular CW television series, and now taking his musical show on the road, or rather in the air, and he wanted to have a good time. Unfortunately, most of the other people in the aircraft’s exclusive section took a dim view of the three adults behaving like self-indulgent adolescents.

Of course, he took to twitter to humiliate them as was his right as one living out loud and up front.

But sleep had taken everyone eventually. For John, insomnia was a close companion, and eventually, whilst the other passengers were slumbering, he had awakened. Johnny looked at the still half-full cup of wine on his tray. The liquid inside wouldn’t be at that angle unless the aircraft was in a steep dive.

Then the speakers crackled to life. “Ladies and Gentlemen…”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge for April 22nd 2018. The idea is to take the image above and use it as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 162.

I follow actor John Barrowman on twitter, and this tweet of his made me wonder what had actually transpired. I consider commercial aircraft to be “libraries with wings,” and yes, I do enjoy a modicum of quiet (children notwithstanding, me being a Dad and Grandpa).

I also recall seeing a single panel comic strip I read some decades ago depicting an aircraft passenger looking at the glass on his tray, with the liquid being tilted at an angle indicating the plane was in a steep dive.

Together, that formed today’s tale.

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

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The Long Winter

skiing

© A Mixed Bag – 2013

“I can’t believe snow season’s extended into May. It’s incredible.” Dora had just finished her Junior year and would normally be cultivating her tan for the summer, but ski conditions at Snowbird were perfect.

Her boyfriend Herb Klein graduated with a degree in History and had been accepted into Law school. “It’s amazing, like summer is never going to come.”

Dora’s facial expression became solemn. “Herbie, you don’t think…”

“Think what?” Then he realized what she meant. “That’s nuts. With climate change and all, this is just a fluke. The temps will be in the 90s by the beginning of June. You’ll see.”

The gondola got to the top, and they stepped off with the other skiers. By the time she hit the powder, Dora had forgotten all about her foolish worries.

“Say Ted, take a look at this.” Ralph Manx had been a Senior Meteorologist at the National Weather Service for ten years, and he still couldn’t believe what he was reading.

“Same stuff, different day. No warm up in sight for anything above the 40th parallel.”

“It’ll be summer in six weeks. How is this possible?”

“Beats me. News agencies are already playing up ‘mini-Ice Age’ stories.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction – April 15th 2018 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as a prompt for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

I saw that the photo’s file name included the date “15 May 2016,” which seemed a little late to go skiing (but what do I know?), so I imagined a winter that just kept hanging around. I found an image of the 40th parallel as it crosses the United States at The Daily Mail I could use for reference.

Picture a world where it’s winter everywhere above that red line.

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

The Momentary Sojourner

wilderness path

© Mike Vore

The long neglected boards of the path moaned like a ghost in torment under his boots. This was no longer the real world or at least the one he lived in. Ahead, perched on a rock outcropping was the owl, but not quite an owl.

“Who? Who? Who are you?” Its cry was only slightly human.

“You called me? You said I could see them.”

The old man got closer to the rocks and his host.

“Here, here.”

He climbed up next to the eldritch creature and looked beyond into the pool. It was water and then it wasn’t.

“My grandchildren?”

Noah Davidson couldn’t rescue his grandchildren, but he was allowed to briefly watch them crossing the frozen tundra in the company of a guide not much older than his granddaughter Mandy.

“When will they return home?”

The owl shook its head in a very human manner.

Noah looked back into the vision. “Your Mom and Dad are waiting for you. Come back soon.”

Last night, Noah’s son and daughter-in-law were in a car accident and both were badly hurt. The children were in the car with them but when first responders arrived, all five of the kids had vanished.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of February 25th 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.

I’m actually trying to write a novel involving the adventures of the Davidson children, first with Gerliliam and then with Shay and Dani. I’ve posted bits as pieces of it, including “after tales” on this blog.

In today’s tale, I’ve created a situation where the five Davidson children’s Grandpa has made some sort of “deal” to be able to see, but not communicate with the kids. I’ve also hinted at part of what happened to them that resulted in their being whisked to a strange and mythical land and what they have to return to after their long adventures end.

The story most related to this one is Mr. Covingham’s Secret, however you can find other “clues” to this universe in stories such as Where Did Our Home Go?, The Whisperer Expanded, and Adventure’s Bitter Memories. To find out about some of the other children mentioned in this story, read She Treats Us Like Her Children.

If you’re curious about Gerliliam, here’s a sketch I made of him some months ago.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Refuge Lake

resort by a lake

© A Mixed Bag 2013

Marco felt creepy whenever he made a delivery to the resort in the Sierra Nevada’s. Scenery changed from alpines and mountains to high desert and a salty lake.

He got a bonus for doing the run every month. He never knew what he was hauling. Once he arrived, he was paid to get drunk and play with barmaids. Next morning he drove his empty rig back to L.A.

The resort and wasn’t on any map. Whenever he got close to the place, his GPS went nuts.

One night after making a delivery, he tried talking to the local girl he’d had sex with.

“Say girl, what goes on here?”

“We’re just visitors, refugees starting a new life.”

“You look more Swedish than Syrian. Who you kidding?”

“Just go to sleep and don’t worry, boyfriend.”

When she was sleeping, Marco got up and looked out toward the lake. People swimming even at this hour in a glow under the water, but they weren’t exactly people. The light got brighter, then it broke the surface and sailed up into the heavens.

Marco muttered, “Refugees, but from up there.”

He turned around. Marion was standing behind him, nictitating membranes fluttering across ichthyic eyes.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for December 3rd 2017. The idea is to use the photo above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

The image reminded me of a high desert lake and Mono Lake, CA is about the strangest lake I’ve ever seen. This doesn’t look like Mono Lake, but I wondered if I could somehow make this place not as it appears.

I saw that the truck to the left hand side of the frame said “Thermo-Express,” and a quick Google search turned up a trucking company from Los Angeles by that name. I doubt it’s related to the truck in the photo but I decided to use it anyway.

A salty lake with no inlet or outlet, a place that should be in the Sierra Nevada Mountains but then the terrain abruptly changes. A resort not on any map and that doesn’t register on GPS.

If alien refugees needed a safe and isolated place to settle and make a life for themselves, maybe it would be like this. They’d still need supplies from outside though, but for the right price and certain other incentives, maybe a driver could be convinced not to pay too much attention to what he was delivering.

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

The Mantis Project

 

mantis

Photo of a mantis

Miles turned his head in a 270 degree arc. His vision was so much more acute than it had been, especially in the very center. It was thrilling, astounding. Then he looked at his hands.

They weren’t hands anymore, although they had adaptations that would let him hold objects. New muscles on his back twitched and he felt the wings. He couldn’t achieve sustained flight, but using powerful hind limbs, he could soar almost a kilometer before landing.

“The simulation’s ending, Miles. Relax. It’ll be over in a few seconds.”

Miles Hawkins took a deep breath with his own lungs again. Brilliant scientist Daniel Hunt bent down in front of Miles’s chair. Technicians removed the sensory leads.

“That’s what your life would be like after the adaptation.”

“So, I’d be able to survive on Hansen’s World, explore with other adaptations.”

“We use the word ‘syntheorg,’ and yes, you’d be a new generation of interplanetary colonists, perfectly adapted to the existing environment. One caveat. This is a one-way process. You’ll never be able to come back to Earth again; never be…human.”

“My life ended when my car burned during the riot and I was mutilated. The Mantis project is nothing but freedom.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction – 19 November 2017. The idea is to use the photo above as a prompt to craft a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

Again, I’m leveraging the technology in the world of Mikiko Jahn, a young technician who was horribly injured in a nuclear power plant disaster and then over a period of years, rebuilt literally from scratch using revolutionary materials and processes invented by brilliant scientist Daniel Hunt. The reconstruction made Mikiko more than human but in some ways, also less.

For this story, I extended the technology and intent and here you see that Dr. Hunt is using the synthecon process to radically adapt human beings to be able to survive on planets outside our solar system, to become the very first interstellar explorers.

I remember in the 1960s and 70s reading about the concept of using cyborgs or cybernetic organisms, machine adapted humans, to do something similar. However, instead of using mechanical and electronic parts, I’m suggesting a complete fusion between the organic and the biosynthetic.

I know this doesn’t seem like it has anything to do with the prompt, but when I saw the photo and was struggling to find a hook for a story, I remembered a 1994 television series called M.A.N.T.I.S. In the series, African-American scientist Miles Hawkins is paralyzed from the waist down by a police officer’s bullet fired during a riot. The officer was never convicted of a crime and Hawkins lost his lawsuit against him.

In an effort to walk again and to perform true deeds of justice, Hawkins invented the M.A.N.T.I.S. exoskeleton, which effectively gave him superpowers.

The television show ended after one season, but it was a brilliant concept. I used the name “Miles Hawkins” for my protagonist as an homage to the series.

In addition to the links I’ve already posted, I also visited the M.A.N.T.I.S. Wikipedia page as well as the page on the actual Mantis. I also had the 1976 Frederik Pohl science fiction novel Man Plus in mind.

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

The Halloween Bandits

fake heads

© J Hardy Carroll

On Tuesday, October 31st at 11:57 a.m., Batman, the Joker, and Harley Quinn entered Gordon’s Community Bank on the corner of Elm and Broadway. Bank employees had been seeing “the cosplay crowd” filtering in and out all morning long and it was pretty amusing. That is until the Joker handed the teller a note and produced a handgun.

Outside, Robin had disabled the silent alarm to the police while Catwoman waited in the getaway van.

Less than two hours later, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, and Daphne pulled the same job at the Second National Bank on River Drive with Fred disabling the alarms and Velma driving the vehicle.

At a minute until three, Spider-Man, Daredevil, and She Hulk hit a Curio Shop on Franklin. It didn’t have a silent alarm so Hawkeye kept watch while Black Widow sat in the driver’s seat.

“What the hell did you take these stupid little heads for, Jen? Cash. Only cash, remember?” They were resting back at the hideout.

scooby doo gang

© 1969 – “Scooby Doo, Where Are You!”

“Sue me, Matty. I like ’em, okay?”

“Okay, profitable haul. It’ll set us up for the year.”

“Right, Selena.” Pete was still counting his share. “Next year, the Halloween Bandits strike another city at random.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge of October 29th 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

I had an idea for what I wanted to write even before seeing the prompt, so I had to work the image into my story. I’d read some Sunday comic strip earlier that made me think how easy it would be to walk into a bank on Halloween in disguise when any other day of the year, the staff would immediately call the police. I also thought it would be interesting to have this gang commit their crimes only on Halloween and in a different city picked at random each year.

Of course, they’d have to steal enough to support themselves for the coming year, but if they weren’t greedy, that would probably work. I very, very loosely based my “Halloween Bandits” on various television and animated cartoon versions of the Royal Flush Gang.

Oh, Jen is named after Jennifer Walters, the alter ego of the She Hulk. Matty is for Matt Murdock, Daredevil. Selena is named for Selena Kyle, Catwoman, and Pete is for Peter Parker, the secret identity of Spider-Man. The dialogue didn’t require all five gang members and besides, I hit the 200 word limit.

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