A Slight Miscalculation

grand canyon

© Google 2018

Eccentric billionaire Randolph Houston was making the adjustments on the temporal transfer device at the bottom of Arizona’s Grand Canyon as his fourth wife, 26-year-old Paulette watched.

“Why not wait for that expert, what’s his name?”

“Carlos Bradley, and he’s late.” The aging scientist continued his adjustments.

“What is he? A geologist, paleontologist, archaeologist?”

“All, which was why I hired him. By attaching the TTD to strata here in the canyon, I can travel back to the formation’s origins 2.5 billion years ago.

“How do you know what you’ll find?”

“Bradley, if he had been on time, was to tell me.”

“You’re going now?”

“The battery will only last fifteen minutes. Tempus fugit.” The 75-year-old flipped a switch and vanished.

Carlos arrived and passionately embraced Paulette.

“You’re sure he’s never coming back.”

“My dear, 2.5 billion years ago, there was almost no oxygen in the atmosphere. He would have died in seconds.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw 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 Grand Canyon, Arizona, which I’ve visited many times. I looked up the history of the Grand Canyon and found that “nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock.”

I looked up what was going on about 2.5 billion years ago, and found out, among other things, that there was hardly any oxygen in the atmosphere. Too bad Randolph didn’t do his homework.

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

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Inescapable

night market

Night Market (JuanChrist) by JuanChrist (flickr) Tags: fujifilm x100t market nightmarket cambodia bavet

Bavet police inspector Borey Seng stood in the market’s bathroom as coroners continued to examine the body of the 66-year-old Malaysian man, murdered by an object that gashed across his face and eyes.

“Who would gouge out an old man’s eyes, and what was he doing in Cambodia in the first place?”

“I might have that answer to that inspector.” Officer Channary Som’s face was as round as her name suggested.

“Continue,” he muttered.

“His name was Rayyan Megat. Records indicate he entered Cambodia at the Bavet-Moc Bai border last week, but get this. His fingerprints match those of a former CIA assassin known as bóng, “shadow,” in English.

“So?”

“So bóng was noted for gouging out the eyes of his victims.”

“There is no escape from karma.”

Seng’s and Som’s voices faded from the specter’s hearing as he ascended, his spirit set free from his forty-five-year-old quest for vengeance.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw 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 Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia. A quick search of Wikipedia revealed very little interesting information about this province, as did one for its largest city Bavet.

Then, a news item titled Malaysian killed in Bavet caught my attention. I preserved some of the details of the actual murder, but added fictionalized names and situations, including the 1973 assassination of some nameless victim of a CIA operative during the Vietnam War. In this case, karma or justice is blind.

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

The Castle’s Secrets

bran castle

Found at bran-castle.com – Image credit not given

“Mommy, why are we staying up so late?” twelve-year-old Ileana sat anxiously on the edge of her mother’s bed while Queen Marie of Romania patted her hand.

“I want you to meet someone, but he only comes late at night.” She made her smile look comforting, but she too was nervous, and in her case, with good reason.

The door to the Queen’s grand bedroom in her Bran Castle retreat slowly creaked open. The servants were forbidden to come unbidden at this hour, so it could only be one man.

“You are welcome to enter, Vlad.”

He was dressed in black, though the white of his shirt showed through the cloak’s dark collar.

“Thank you, my Queen. Is this the little Princess?”

Ileana stood and bowed. “It is good sir. How may I address you?”

A moment of uncharacteristic compassion glimmered in the Impaler’s eyes as he whispered, “Father.”

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 for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 148.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Bran Castle, Romania. I looked it up and found it has a tangential association to the Dracula legend, although it’s doubtful author Bram Stoker knew of its existence when he penned his famous novel.

That said, I dipped into the histories of Princess Ileana of Romania and her mother Queen Marie, who indeed used the castle as her personal retreat.

Ileana was born in 1909, and although it was alleged that she was really the child of Marie’s lover Prince Barbu Stirbey, Marie’s husband, King Ferdinand I claimed paternity. Here, I’m suggesting another father entirely.

Can a vampire, a member of the undead, impregnate a living woman? Probably not if you think of a vampire as an animated corpse with no living biology (in spite of the Twilight movie series), but I recall when Marvel Comics ran their Dracula title in the 1970s, in one issue, they did have Dracula on a throne seated beside his living Queen, who was enormously pregnant, so some have suggested the possibility.

And I suppose if a demonic Incubus can have “relations” with a woman, so can a vampire.

Anyway, it makes good Halloween fodder.

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

The Queen of New Orleans

new orleans french quarter

Image credit: GonzoVeritas – found at reddit

It was after two in the morning and a light rain fell on New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Sean Becker walked into a small jazz club. He was almost the only white person here, but his bond with those around him went deeper than race.

“You da one wantin’ to see Mama Marie.” She could have been about fifteen, coal-dark skin and hair, but her eyes burned emerald.

“Yes.”

“Come.”

They walked through curtains and then down a dark hallway, terminating at a door. “She’s expectin’ you.” The child who could have been centuries old left as Sean opened the door and entered.

“What you got to offer?”

The voodoo queen whose mausoleum was just a mile away lived up to the legend.

“Release my mother and I’ll tell you where you can find Lilith.”

“The vampire queen. If you give her to me, your mother lives. Marie Laveau swears it.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw 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 New Orleans, Louisiana. There is so much that could be written by this iconic city, but is also figures into my unfinished first draft of a horror novel featuring the vampire Sean Becker. You can read about him in such stories as Approaching Advent and The Beginning of the Fall.

My wee tale was actually to be part of the climax of my novel, with Sean facing the ancient voodoo queen Marie Laveau who is now the matriarch of a clan of vampires. I did a bit more research and came up with How to Experience New Orleans’ Voodoo Culture. I even looked up the weather, and yes, it’s raining in the Big Easy today.

Oh, and although Lilith is often characterized as the mother of all the succubus, in my tale, she’s the worldwide queen of all vampires.

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

The Secret of NYU Flight 4

project mogul balloon

Project Mogul was an US Airforce secret project to detect nuclear test acoustically with microphones mounted on high altitude balloons – Photo found at factrepublic.com

“Weather balloon my ass,” groused Bill Brazel, who was the first to find the wreckage. “Ain’t no weather balloon with all that machinery attached.”

“You settle down and eat your dinner and don’t stick your nose in the government’s business.” Bill’s wife Ethel sat down at the table with her own plate of stew.

“Trying to keep me out of trouble?”

Her face softened into a smile as she patted his forearm. “Just don’t want my husband getting mixed up in such things.”

“You’ve always been so good to me.” The cowboy smiled back.

The new Ethel’s thoughts drifted to the pod hidden in the corner of their basement, feeding off of the corpse of the original woman. Tonight it would duplicate and replace Bill. Tomorrow, they’d go to work on their neighbors, all thanks to the alien spores which had been inadvertently captured by the failed high altitude balloon.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image/location and use it 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 Roswell, New Mexico. Naturally, my first thought was of the 1947 Roswell UFO Incident. While the government claimed it was a weather balloon that had crashed, by the 1970s and beyond, conspiracy theorists spread various ideas about one or more alien spaceships having been found near Roswell, and that the government had covered it up.

Actually, there was a government cover up, but no aliens were involved. It was a balloon that had crashed, but it was part of Project Mogul which “was a top secret project by the US Army Air Forces involving microphones flown on high-altitude balloons, whose primary purpose was long-distance detection of sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests.” The object that crashed was “a Project Mogul balloon, probably NYU Flight 4 launched June 4, 1947. Unlike a weather balloon, the Project Mogul paraphernalia was massive and contained unusual types of materials,” so it could have looked alien to the untrained eye.

I also leveraged the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If the alien takeover began near Roswell just over 70 years ago, would there be any humans left by now?

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

Oh, ranch foreman Bill Brazel was the first person to find the wreckage, but the dialog and everything else about the scene in which I depict him is fictional.

The Marked Man

Hyderabad slum

Hyderabad slum morning scene – 30 March 2012 – Found at Wikipedia

And Hashem placed a mark upon Cain, so that none that meet him might kill him. –Genesis 4:15 (Stone Edition Chumash)

The marked man worked with the other men and the children, laboring for the paltry sum earned in the slums, but he wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t a European, Indian or Pakistani. His Telugu was poor, but he usually made himself understood. However, none spoke to him more than they had to.

Sai was only five years old and he didn’t comprehend the mark. “Who are you?” The inquisitive child sat next to him during a break, but before the man could answer, his father Arjun picked him up and whisked him away. But in that moment, Arjun looked into the stranger’s eyes, and was gripped by the horrible realization that he who called himself Qābīl, had been cursed by God since the Creation.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to take a Google maps location and/or image and use it as the inspiration for crafting a flash fiction piece no more than 150 words long. My word count is 145.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Golconda Fort, Hyderabad, India. Of course I looked up Hyderabad and especially its languages, religions, and slums.

Although I’m not Jewish, I read the weekly Torah portions every Shabbat (in this case, Saturday morning) in the Jewish tradition. The reasons for this are complicated and beyond the scope of this wee commentary, but today, we begin a brand new annual Torah cycle with Beresheet or Genesis 1:1-6:8. This includes the infamous tale of Cain and Abel. After Cain killed his brother out of jealousy, Hashem (God – in Hebrew, “The Name”) banished him, and because of that, Cain feared for his life. So Hashem did this:

Cain said to Hashem, “Is my iniquity too great to be borne? Behold, You have banished me this day from the face of the earth — can I be hidden from Your presence? I must become a vagrant and a wanderer on earth; whoever meets me will kill me!” Hashem said to him, “Therefore whoever slays Cain, before seven generations have passed, he will be punished.” And Hashem placed a mark upon Cain, so that none that meet him might kill him. –Genesis 4:13-15 (Stone Edition Chumash)

Interestingly enough, Cain’s death was never recorded, although there are theories about how he was killed. But what if he didn’t die? How does a marked man live for thousands upon thousands of years, wandering the face of the earth?

I know I’ve taken great liberties with the Bible, but sometimes one way to study is to imagine what is written between the lines of the Bible. Christian and Jewish commentators have been doing that for thousands of years, although I can’t say I have the wisdom many of them possessed.

Oh, I used Cain’s name from the transliterated Arabic. The transliteration from Hebrew is Qayin.

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

The River’s Secrets

rabelo boat

Rabelos in the Duoro river, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal – Credit: Diego Delso, published under license CC BY-SA

The wine is transported from the valley to Porto in tanker trucks these days, but Rodrigo still made his way down the Duoro on his father’s Rabelo boat loaded with barrels. Now that the tourists were gone, he felt a sense of peace. It was a quiet morning on the water. He lit a cigar, what his wife had called a “stinking weed,” and enjoyed its pleasing aroma.

“Ah, Matilde. You always failed to understand the simple pleasures of life. I am not an ambitious man nor do I desire to become one.”

He scanned the water fore and aft. The shoreline was empty. No one would see that he was about to lose one precious barrel, which would mysteriously sink to the bottom rather than float.

Matilde left him for another man, or so he would say. No one would find her body. The Duoro has many secrets.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw 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 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Duoro Valley, Portugal. As usual, I did a bunch of Googling, and focused on the history of the Douro Valley and river and Rabelo boats.

I feel like I’m cheating slightly because I’ve written similar stories in the past, but that’s where the muse took me this morning. Oh, the maximum depth of the Duoro river is 131 feet, and let’s say that’s where my protagonist decides to lose his one special barrel.

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

The Sympathizer

“Ander Diaz is a Basque name.”

“Yes, but fear not. I am a proud Basque but also a sympathizer. I have promised, on my life, to see you across safely.”

Robert Norton’s keen blue eyes looked into the night. “Life. An interesting concept.”

“We must wait for your escort.

“Why risk yourself me?”

“My grandmother was like you. She was very beautiful. I even met her once., before they hunted her down and…”

“I understand.”

“Sir, realize I do not sympathize with the Nazis, just you.”

“But only they will welcome me, protect me. I see my contact on the other side.” An ice cold hand patted Ander’s shoulder. “Thank you, my friend. I’d never have survived in England.”

“The underground will always be here. Good luck.”

“Thank you.” The vampire rose from their hiding place and crossed over into Nazi occupied France. There would be good hunting here.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to use a Google Maps image and/or location as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 149.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Basque Region, Spain. I had a tough time finding a hook for this, but then, it had been a long time since I’d written a vampire story.

One way for people to get out of Nazi occupied France during World War Two was into neutral Spain, but what if the only way for a vampire to survive was to join the Nazis?

Read other stories based on the prompt at InLinkz.com (The grandchildren came over early, so I have to make this fast).

Baobab

baobab

A baobab tree in northern Ghana.

Brian Fletcher was startled when the lithe, green-eyed Ghanan woman stepped out from behind the baobab tree.

“I wouldn’t pick the flowers. The gods cursed the baobab. Picking even a single white flower is bad luck.”

The hunter defiantly plucked one, then two more flowers, and then held out his arm. She took a step backward, and he laughed. “Stupid superstition.”

“You will meet your fate, Mr. Fletcher as you have sent many elephants to theirs…poacher.”

“How did you…?”

The dark woman dashed back around the tree’s large, twisted trunk.

“Wait a minute.” The muscular, middle-aged man threw the flowers to the ground and ran after, but it wasn’t a woman he found on the other side.

He only had time to notice that the lioness possessed the same green eyes before she tore him apart. The gods had again wrought terrible justice against one who would desecrate their lands.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw 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 Bamboi, Northern Region, Ghana. I couldn’t find anything on Bamboi in a casual Google search, since it kept trying to redirect me to “bamboo.” I did look up Northern Region (Ghana), and there I found the Baobab Tree, and more importantly, the legends and myths about it. There are numerous myths, so I chose one, leveraging information about poaching in Ghana.

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

Mother Goddess of the Three Realms

hau dong

Summon going on: An Chinh, a medium, in a performance of Hau Dong at the Viet Theatre in Hanoi ( Reuters )

The mother goddess swirled in the clouds above Hanoi. It had been many years since she had been summoned, but for months now, she could hear the calls.

“At last, my children have remembered me.”

For moments, she considered the various mediums who invoked her.

“Yes, she is the one. Her followers give great offerings, and her soul is devoted.”

The mother goddess descended to a modest collection of apartments, and one occupied by 24-year-old Le Dinh Hoang who is in the midst of performing the noisy and possibly even ostentatious Hau Dong ceremony, visions of water, forest, and heaven dancing in her mind and the others present.

Then the medium and garage mechanic sighs, shudders, and then she stands. When she opens her eyes, they are sapphire blue rather than their usual brown, and the rest of them know. Le Dinh Hoang is gone. The mother goddess walks among them.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps image and/or 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 Hanoi, Vietnam. I suppose I could have written about Hanoi Jane, but the celebrity infamous among Vietnam era veterans didn’t pop into my head until I began authoring this afterword.

Hanoi Jane

Actress Jane Fonda sits on an antiaircraft gun during a 1972 trip to North Vietnam (Nihon Denpa News/AP)

However, after looking up Hanoi’s vast history, I settled on the news story Vietnam’s spirit mediums revive once forbidden ritual. Ever since the 16th century, the Hau Dong ritual, which pays homage to the Mother Goddess of the three realms, forest, water, and heaven, has been practiced, but when the Communists came to power, it was banned. Now it is experiencing a revival, and I thought I’d base my wee tale on this bit of news.

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