July’s Zeroflash Entries

Publishing Made Yeezy

by David Drury

 

There he is—look on him with pity in your heart, but as to any smirks or hisses, please holster them with the safety ON and the leather snap snapped—he is the author, his name is David.

**THE ABOVE SENTENCE HAS BEEN TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH FROM THE ORIGINAL FRENCH—BONJOUR!**

Over Spring Break, David watched his roommate Mitchell rake in $100,000 reselling Yeezys online, followed by a whole year of getting high, breakdancing in front of dinner guests, sleeping sunburned on the sofa, and propositioning girls from the passenger side of a Nissan Maxima.

**BEFORE THE ABOVE SENTENCE WAS TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH FROM THE ORIGINAL SPANISH, THE AUTHOR TYPED YEEZYS YEEZIES YEEZYS YEEZIES HALF A DOZEN TIMES OR MORE, BECAUSE HE COULD NOT SETTLE ON A PLURALIZED FORM, AND GOOGLE WAS NO HELP—HOLA!**

Meanwhile, David’s own career—fiction writing—had failed, and on a whim David decided to double down, to lean into his failure, to metaphorically accelerate his Nissan Maxima of writing into the cement wall of publishing, to be possibly crushed like some wheezing dusty accordion, but at least he would go out big.

**THE ABOVE SENTENCE WAS TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH FROM THE ORIGINAL YUPIK—TUNTUSSUQATARNIKSAITENGQIQQTUQ!**

To this end, David set about writing a 350-page epic novel to make everybody sorry they hadn’t appreciated his genius twenty years earlier, in which every sentence was written in a different language, until his manuscript numbered 6, 910 sentences—one per known language, plus one for Pig Latin.

**THE ABOVE SENTENCE WAS TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH FROM THE ORIGINAL PIG LATIN—ELPHAY EMAY ELPHAY EMAY!**

David only made it five sentences, however—including this one, in English—before he abandoned the book, published it as flash fiction, and invested in a pair of celebrity knock-off sneakers.

Life’s Manuscript

by T. Haven Morse

Forty years’ worth of pages—marked, marred, edited, and slashed.

There are black, Sharpie marks on my pages—signifying points of no return, eternal changes of vision, and bridges burned. In opposition, are yellow highlighted lines, bright as blossoming daffodils, not-to-be-missed street signs of significant moments. Things to reread later, when I forget and need to be reminded.

Choice cuts, made in red, mar my vulnerable manuscript. Errors of my ways. A recognition of when the plot strayed too far off course. Some mistakes are onerous and cripple this work-in-progress. Yet, miraculously, there has yet to be a fatal flaw found.

Crayon scribbles reside on these sheets, as well. Flashes of colorful hope and imagination. Drawings and doodles from my daughter, my inner child, and a mysterious higher power with a childlike sense of wonder and humor. They never fade like penciled words or run like tear-stained ink. Waxy, these edits are indelible. Lest I fly too close to the sun, in which case, they might melt and flow away.

Monsters have dog-eared my pages, ripped their edges, and crinkled them. These injured passages carry the most weigh—no longer thin and shuffled by the slightest breeze—they’ve become cardstock. I’ve shored them up to prevent further damage. But no one, not friend nor therapist nor foe, will ever tear them out. For better or worse, they remain.

This process of self-editing will take a lifetime. And when it’s over, all tracked changes will be accepted, a title chosen, and an eye-catching cover added. The story will have been written. Complete. For now, though, I suffer, revel in, and learn from the marks added daily. The tenacity of a writer’s manuscript being fueled by words demanding to be written, with every rough draft breath.

Cassandra

by Vincente L Ruiz

Cassandra pushed the church-like gate of the J.L. Borges Library, and blinked several times while getting used to the darkness inside.

“Hello?” she whispered, because after all this was a library. Her voice carried over and nobody answered but her own distant echoes.

Cassandra had never seen a library like this one, with rows upon rows of books spanning all the space between the floor and the ceiling. And rooms that seemed to stretch forever.

Cassandra thought she heard something coming from the next room, and she tiptoed in. The room was exactly like the one she had been in. Looking back, she couldn’t really say if she was in a new place or not.

And in there… A book called to her.

Cassandra felt it, tugging at her. A particular book, on the second shelf, right where she could reach it. She took it and chose a page.

“Cassandra entered The Library’s next room,” she read. Oh, the protagonist shared her name! “She saw it was like the one she had just left, but it didn’t matter, because the book beckoned to her.”

What was this?

“The book was on the second shelf, so she reached out and opened it…”

Cassandra turned the page, and saw an illustration there. It was an image of a girl standing in a room, in this room, a book in her hands. In the book, another girl was standing with a book in her hands.

Something moved in the image of the book within the image of the book within the image of the book… One by one, each Cassandra turned her head and stared back up, until Cassandra turned her head and stared back up at Cassandra.

And Cassandra raised her eyes from the book and stared back up.

At Cassandra.

One Less Thing

by Mo Glickman

“Well, I think we need a chess set.”
“The whole thing disappeared?”
“No, just one of the black knights. But where are you going to find just one piece?”

“We could buy them individually. Probably some way to do that online.”
“It’ll be good to have a replacement,” she said. “Other pieces might disappear down the line, and we can draw from the new set as needed.”
“Anything else?”
“Nothing we need to replace,” she said. “A little jade egg that I kept on my nightstand turned into smoke while I was getting dressed. But it was just something I got at a yard sale. We don’t need to replace it.”
“And that’s it?”
“A tiny bottle of hotel shampoo disappeared in my bathroom.”
“One of those three-ounce ones? Not much lost.”
“No, but it’s annoying, because the bottle disappeared but the shampoo inside didn’t. When I woke up, the bathroom smelled like lemongrass and the floor of the shower was slick.”
“This is really starting to worry me.”
“Why?” she asked. “It’s getting better. It’s not getting worse.”
“We don’t know that.”
“Sure we do. Every item that disappears is smaller than the one before it.”
“I guess the items have been getting smaller,” I say. “But what if, one of these days, you wake up missing an eyeball?”
She shook her head. “Too late for that. The jade egg was smaller than an eyeball. Anyway, that eyeball is part of us. It couldn’t disappear on its own.”

“Jewelry, then.”
“Oh, none of it’s real,” she said. “I could replace it all with fifty dollars.”
Ten days later, a mote of dust drifted into my field of vision and flickered out of existence.

“Honey?”
“Yes?”

“One less thing to worry about.”

The Book Shelf

by Ben Marie

“Hi, welcome. You must be one of the new guys. My name is Arthur Dent. Come on. I’ll show you around. We’ve just had a whole bunch of new spots open up. Spring cleaning. The crying man over there is Mr Darcy. He had a thing with Bella Swan just before she got donated. Sent off to the op-shop with the rest of the paperback best sellers. Such a shame. And now all his classics friends won’t talk to him anymore. See even Frankenstein won’t talk to him.”

“Actually I’m not Frankenstein. I’m Frankenstein’s monster.”

“Whoops my mistake. He’s from a first edition so he’s pretty uppity. Funny considering he’s a grotesque crime against God.”

“Yes son?”

“Oh hey God. Sorry I wasn’t talking to you.”

“Well then you were either talking about me or taking my name in vein, neither are good.”

“I know. Sorry.”

“I’ll see you in confessional later”

“He can be a bit full on but I just don’t have the heart to tell him that he’s with all us fictional folk. So I go along with it, plus he brings the wine. You’ll meet everyone as you go around. There’s Patrick Bateman, Pennywise, and Hannibal Lecter; I’d actually stay away from those guys if I were you. And over there you have Hagrid, Hodor, and Lennie; they’re not the brightest bunch but they have the best basketball team. Tuesday is taco night, Thursday is card night and Sunday is movie night. God forbid I could’ve gotten a decent Hollywood adaption. Ehrm well that’s pretty much it, feel free to wander around and meet everyone. Oh how terribly rude of me I didn’t even ask your name?”

“I am a HAL 9000 computer.”

“Well HAL, welcome to the bookcase I think we might be good friends.”

My Memory of You is Nicer than You

by Anna Nazarova-Evans

I can’t remember how it started, but I remember the end – it’s all around me.

My memory of you is dewy mornings, lavender rubbed between my hands and a squeaky wooden chair by the garage that I used to sit on whilst you fixed my car.

The memory changes as I sit here writing this now.

Perhaps the chair didn’t squeak. Perhaps it was the door. Or maybe I made up the sound in retrospect.

The lavender field is on my way back from work and it could have been anyone there, inhaling the scent from my fingers. I love the word “lavender”, love how it looks on the page in front of me. Perhaps that’s why I linked it with your image. None of the others made the mark.

And the car… you never did fix it. It’s easier for me to think that you did, that it didn’t break down on the way to my interview. It’s much better for me to think that I didn’t ring you from the curb that day and, if I did, that I was reasonable, that that was not what caused the argument.

It is nicer for me to think that I am not here on my own, writing a letter to you that you will never read.

I can’t bear to leave the house – the people in the street seem hostile. I can’t stay here: pieces of you lie around every room in the shape of scarves, notebooks and coffee rings on coasters. I can’t bring myself to throw them away.

So I write and hope that when I look up the world around me will have changed.

Stranger Than Strangely Strange

by Steve Lodge

@steveweave71

 

Embarrassingly poor TV Theme tune fades, lights go up.

Two men are sitting either side of a coffee table, an audience is also in shot.

I am sitting at the back, hopefully unseen.

“Hello. I’m Justin Credible. Welcome to “Stranger Than Strangely Strange.” My guest is Professor Gordon Fernie from The Institute Of Things and the country’s most irritating expert on the Maunkex sea creatures blighting our coastline. Thank you for being here, Professor.”

I bet Fernie mentions the money. The little shit.

“My pleasure,” Fernie replies. “Oh, Steve said I should ask you when I’ll get paid for this. Do you know?”

“Certainly,” said Justin “Now, about the various phenomena we’ve seen in the area recently. Any idea what’s causing them?”

“Do you know times of buses to Silvertown from around here?”

“Yes. Would you say, Professor, these unusual atmospheric conditions are caused by sinister extra-terrestrial activity?”

“I told my wife I’d bring nan bread in for supper.”

“Do you think aliens are trying to contact us, about random asteroids or rogue Spacefleet peacekeeping corps? Did you read Steve’s script?”

Of course he bloody didn’t.

“We have supper before lovemaking, you see.”

Oh, and that’s probably why.

“Well, who wouldn’t, Professor? Briefly, have you ever witnessed a life-and-death struggle between an orang utan, a giant hogweed, a Maunkex and a Transylvanian myth?”

“No.”

“My, that was brief. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll see you again next week on “Stranger Than Strangely Strange.” Meanwhile, lock your windows if you still have them. I’m Justin Credible. Goodnight.”

Fernie is rubbish at being interviewed.

Stage Manager walks on to the set. “Justin! “See you next week?” Why did you say that? Why?”

They look at the audience. Justin holds his head. “Oh, bollocks.”

Fernie calls out “Steve. Where are you?”

Me? I’m hiding.

Poor Emily
by Katie Vandrilla
Emily always had bigger dreams than being a character in a piece of flash fiction.  She wanted to be a dentist.  A real, breathing, dentist.  Poor Emily doesn’t even get to be a dentist in a grand novel.  Or even in this piece of flash fiction.  Emily is a school teacher.  Teaching some of her students is comparable to pulling teeth, but alas, she will never be a real dentist.  If only she were in control, but she is not the author of her life. Poor Emily.

Devil’s in the Details

by Kerry E.B. Black

Collin found the book* in a dusty steamer trunk in his Great Aunt Kelly’s attic. He blew across the cover, and his breath sent a thrill through me. I beckoned, a silent entreaty, hoping the chipped gilding might intrigue. He ran a finger along leather as supple to touch as a lover’s hand, and he felt my shivered anticipation.

 

 

 

The spine creaked when opened, but I am over 1300 years old. Such an advanced age does present certain challenges. With a puff, I sent forth perfume redolent with ink and vanillin, resin and terpene. Calligraphed and illuminated, each page drew him closer to the inevitable. I collected myself in the corners of pages, peeked from behind illustrations, and hid between words.

Daylight wasted, yet he could not abandon his find. He searched for me without realization, abandoned reason to answer a primal pulse. As though he’d dreamed me into life (though my existence outstripped his ancestry) I coalesced from inferences and allusions. He muttered an invocation without realizing his lips moved. Each syllable fortified me.

I strengthened until at last I strode from my hiding place. His eyes bulged like a comic imitation of a frog when I coiled my intentions around his neck. He gasped a protest I ignored. I absorbed his essence, pulled his pigments into a margin where I trapped him, a caricature of himself, an amphibian caught within strangling vines.

 

*The book in question is a unique volume titled “The Codex of St. Isidore” from 666 AD. To survive the Viking conquests, monks secreted the volume to Durham and later Bath, thereby narrowly escaping destruction. It reappeared in London in 1558 AD. The British Library digitized the 333 vellum sheets, and guests can view the complete volume online.

thirty through forty-four

by J Koebnig

@koebnig

There’s really only one place to sit.

Especially on a day like today, when the wind is tickling the tops of the trees and the rain is discolouring the dust that covers the straight and faultless pavements (I like straight and faultless pavements), and it’s here; in the front room of your home.

You’re not put out by it though. You and the entire population are used to me popping up wherever and whenever the fancy takes me.

And tonight I’ve chosen {INSERT YOUR ADDRESS HERE} Sorry, that wasn’t fair. A joke in poor taste. Please excuse me.

It actually doesn’t matter if a hundred people write down a hundred different addresses. It won’t complicate the matter. When it’s all said and done, when the meal has been eaten and the dishes have been cleaned and put away, there really is only one address.

There’s only ever been one address.

Anyway, the chair I like to sit on isn’t part of your tasteful décor – not yet. It belongs to Harold in the next village over (the pavements are straight and faultless there, too).

The chair will look perfect next to your … wait a minute, who replaced the fire with a radiator? And why didn’t I know about it?

And while we’re on the subject of unexpected alterations, why am I wearing a different outfit to the one I put on this morning?

‘Will someone turn off that god –awful rain? It’s playing havoc with my arthritis.’

‘Excuse me? H-e-l-l-o? Whose voice can I hear? Please identify yourself.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Hello …’

‘Right, listen up. So the boss doesn’t want us to re-write the entire script. He only wants us to focus on pages thirty through forty-four. Are we all clear on that?’

The Final Step is Acceptance

by Chris Sodergren

I stood in front of the apples, shiny and robustly red, each carefully placed in a pyramid. They were stacked attractively nearly three feet high. Though no one would be able to reach for one of these lavishly colored orbits without causing all of the rest to cascade down, so we had to settle for the bags of apples placed at the foot of the pyramid. Like some dimly construed offering, they held nothing of the allure of the pyramid apples, but these were the ones that we were supposed to accept into our carts and into our lives. Five pound bags of mediocrity. Placed on counters all over the city, twist ties undone, each lesser apple would be washed and consumed, at best without thought, or at worst with the knowledge of the carefully staged fruit that was left behind. I knew that these apples were going to be thrown away within the next few days, so I circled the display, each apple presented as a gleaming trophy. I would be the one eating deities of the deciduous universe. Then the stock boy eyed me, and I eyed him. In silence he seemed to tell me to accept my lot and move on.

The tiny little book of oblivion

by Mileva Anastasiadou

Chapter one: Ignorance

Tim walked around. Both in space and time. He walked around happily, not thinking of me. That hurt. That hurt a lot. Tim lived happily ever after in Happiland. The land I created for him to enjoy. Tim walked around in his story. He walked around happily, even after the story ended. He didn’t miss me at all.

Chapter two: Revelation

“I’ll tell you a secret.”

“I’m all ears.”

“You don’t really exist.”

“Is it something you ate?”

“I’m telling the truth.”

“Really now?”

“You are nothing but a figment of my imagination.”

“Right.”

“Right, there’s no Happiland.”

“Where are we now, then?”

“In Happiland, don’t be silly.”

“Which doesn’t exist.”

“It doesn’t. It only exists in my mind.”

“Do you realize you’re talking nonsense?”

“Do you realize you don’t exist?”

“How am I talking to you, if I don’t exist?”

“I’m making up the dialogue.”

“So, what I choose to say, you have thought it first.”

“Exactly.

“You ego is out of control.”

“I’d rather you existed, but you don’t.”

“So, you can make me disappear anytime you want?”

“I guess so, although imagination can sometimes get uncontrollable.”

“I see.”

“You should know you disappear when I go to work.”

“You disappear too when I go to sleep.”

“It’s not the same.”

“Why?”

“Because I still exist when you go to sleep.”

“I also still exist when you go to work.”

Chapter three: Oblivion

I didn’t delete the whole story at once, although I could. I erased the words one by one, enjoying the agony in his eyes.

“Who am I?” Tim asked.

“You’ll soon be nobody,” I said. I missed him for a while. Until a new story started.

Who’s Tim anyway?

Run!

by Myrto Zafreiridi

“They are right behind you! Be careful!” I yelled and ducked under a bush. “Let’s get outta here, Dan!” my brother screamed back at me and we started running. There were explosions all around so we had to stop for cover.

 

“At this pace, we’ll never make it to the safe house. Or worse, we’ll lead them right to it”, said my brother with a frown. “Don’t worry”, I replied, “I’ve got an idea. There is an abandoned tunnel in the mountains. All we have to do is find the entrance. They can’t follow us there.”

 

After hours of running, stumbling and dragging ourselves through the mud, we finally found the entrance. It was an old mine, apparently. We also discovered some helmets with embedded flashlights and, against all odds, they still worked. We decided the safest path would be to follow the old, rusty tracks which were probably for some kind of cart.

 

Suddenly, a deafening sound started echoing throughout the tunnel. “What is this? Did we trigger some alarm?” I wondered, frozen in place. “Who cares, Dan! Run! Run as fast as you can!” shouted my brother.

 

“Can you answer the phone, boys? My hands are covered in flour!”

 

“What is this strange voice?” exclaimed my brother. “We’re doomed”, I replied, “the place is haunted. It was an honor fighting by your side.”

 

“Never mind, it stopped ringing. I hate it when you boys ignore me. It wouldn’t kill you to stop playing for two minutes and answer the phone.”

 

“Sorry, mum.” we answered in unison. We looked so contrite she couldn’t help cracking a smile. She got back in the kitchen to finish cooking dinner and we plunged back to our amazing adventures.

Pick a side

by B H H Burns

Most people say there are two sides to every story. But that’s cause most people don’t pay a blind bit of attention to the story they’re being told. The truth is, there’s many sides to every story – just like there’s many sides to every truth. So why don’t you to read my story real close, and see what truth speaks to you…

My husband is dead; but I didn’t kill him.

I was there when he died; but it wasn’t my fault.

I lunged at him only cause he lunged for the knife; and when I hit him, it was cause I was pushing him away.

Now, I don’t know how he fell, or why he landed like that. I was running away, so I didn’t see. I started running as soon as I pushed him, cause I was scared – and that’s why I didn’t call the cops. I was scared they weren’t gonna believe me, so I just kept running. I was scared he was gonna come after me, so I went and I hid out in the forest.

But the cops don’t believe me, neither do his family. My family believe me, but our friends… well, they ain’t so sure. They’ve seen the bruises before. On me – and on him…

So the cops say it’s murder. My lawyer says it’s manslaughter – and me? I say it’s self-defense.

That jury couldn’t say either way though. They strung themselves out about it for six whole days, then they came back with their hung heads and said that they were hung.

So the judge had to declare it a mistrial (which kinda made me smile).

Now, I guess it’s just up to you to decide: am I guilty, or not? And if I’m guilty – then what am I guilty of?

An Old New Niece

by Jerry Vilhotti

“You know Aunt Linda – my husband Danny’s kid brother Michael is queer – don’t you?

And he tells everybody it was because Danny and Larry that x-paratrooper brother who shot himself in the thigh to get out of combat of his would always bugger him when he was four years old just before Mom put them into that orphanage.” their sixty five year old niece said; twenty five years their senior.

“Bugger?” Johnny asked never having heard about that. He had tried to build a hut for them to hide in just before his sixteen years older sister Tina was going to put the four kids into the Apartheid Orphanage that was next door to Taliban University where the “Wiffenpoof” song could be heard by the children – really the lost lambs – coming from Mory’s tavern.

“You know like that movie about squealing like a pig. Can you believe that lie? And I asked that queer-eyed Michael if he wasn’t afraid of AIDS and laughing at me he said we all died! Just the way that actor said it in that fight movie. John Garfinkle or something. Don’t get me wrong, Uncle Johnny, I know there’s some weird things going on like Larry the oldest chasing after thirteen year old girls and did I mention how one night Danny brought home a African-American and wanted me to give him head in front of him. I said you crazy bastard get that white piece of mustard out of here before I call the cops on both you preverts! Uncle Johnny, did you ever see a white African-American? They are as ugalyyyy as sin! By the way Danny went camping with his three sons for the weekend. I told him you guys would be here but he said his second wife always smoking dope told him he could only have them this weekend. Sometimes I think he’s going crazy again. He says he’ll see you all Monday! That OK with you guys?” END

Monster

by Mikey Campling

I like it when they blink, their eyes wide. Then, they’ll re-read the sentence; think, No! He can’t!

And I smile and whisper, “Yes, I can.” Because I’m free to transgress and to violate, to desecrate and defile. And those wide-eyed witnesses don’t just allow it—they desire it, savour it. They need it.

And so the corrupt construction must begin.

First, they build my bones, prising my angular skeleton from the corpses of their long-dead kin. Without pause, they add the twisted muscles, the quivering flesh; all ripped from half-forgotten pages of scientific texts. My blackened lungs, my seething guts and fist-like heart are pulled from fleeting glimpses of dramatized dissections.

Next, they borrow my straggle-blown hair from indolent co-workers. Rarely-seen aunts lend me their crooked smiles, their yellowing teeth. My unforgiving eyes are plucked from the skulls of schoolyard bullies, my hooked nose borrowed from Dickensian thieves.

The neighbours have gifts for me too. The quiet ones who die alone, cigarettes grasped between knotted knuckles, the silent shufflers, the shrieking drunks, the dispossessed: I am draped in their sallow skins, their scars and furrows stretching tight over my ill-formed features.

I am ready.

So when those gentle readers close their books and turn out their lights, I whisper into their ears, insinuate my way into their tortured dreams and muddled memories. Through unconscious collusion, they breathe sparks into my moribund body. Ink creeps from paper, pouring itself into the darkness, and I stir from the shadows. I slide between sweat-soaked sheets, and in that delicious space between worlds, together, we learn what it means to be alive, to be human.

But only until the sunrise bleaches me from memory. Never a moment longer.

And then I’m forgotten.

But if you’re hungry for more…

turn

the

page.

Into the woods – (Not the musical)

by Victoria Jay Fielding

There once was a girl. She was a third daughter, good and kind and pretty. She did all the usual things and had all the usual traits necessary to keep her alive for a happy ending but she lived in a cottage near a deep dark wood and that always bodes ill.

The girl (what was her name?), in order to live a fairytale life, sought a baby of her own and by some means, be it handsome woodcutter, magical fish or fairy wish, her belly grew large with child (but otherwise she stayed nice and trim ‘coz she still needs to be ‘pretty’ for the pictures).

By and by she gave birth. However, what she held in her arms was not a babe but a beast. She ran and showed it to the village elders but they cooed. She ran to her friends but they coochi-cooed. She put the creature before her parents but they gladly held it and rocked it and hailed it the most beautiful boy in all creation.

How could they not see the malevolent, mischievous eyes, feel the scratching claws and biting teeth, hear the wailing howl that crushed her? The girl (whats-her-name) feared she would be thought mad so she took the childbeast and ran to the very center of the deep, dark wood.

The girl (Mum?) wished, she talked to the magic fish, she studied her reflection in the still pond but the childbeast howled, the birds mocked and she called herself mad. At this point, we might expect a hero (probably not the woodcutter) or magical being to hasten the girl (shameful hag?) to her happy ending… but, I’m sorry, I don’t know where this story ends. I’ve got myself stuck in the deep dark wood and I’m out of words.

Patreonizing

by Kelly Griffiths

I was too jaded to believe. Strangers Friends Followers pay me to read my short stories? My own mother wouldn’t read my stories, for free.

I had one foot in the world composed of atoms and one foot in the world I composed. Transitions most abused me. Once I became devoted to a story, I needed to be hauled out with a whale hook by things like a notice of electricity shut off or the reek of my parakeet having died.

My first assignment was from an anonymous Patreon who wanted a short story in which the following three elements appeared: 1. A male writer protagonist, 2. Who cheats on his girlfriend, and 3. And is gruesomely murdered. Then eaten.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I cheated on my girlfriend.

You’re wrong. I broke up with Cheryl several hours before my first date with Nina. And my Patreon couldn’t be Cheryl because Cheryl spent all her time on Facebook, where she promptly assassinated my character in pithy sayings on pastel backgrounds

For a thousand bucks I’d write Cheryl nice and give her a sex scene to shame Solomon. The joke would be on her when she had to fork over the cash.

I started writing. Almost instantly there was a knock at the door. I ignored it. Some writers had a muse. I had an anti-muse who connived to throw a cat into my zone. The cat would dig his tines into my thighs, the phone would vibrate, the eggs would boil over, the doorbell ring. In fact, the door had begun to pound, or a pounding had begun upon the door. Each strike rattled the hinges and birthed dust plumes that danced and died around the frame with each now-thunderous knock.

I would not be interrupted.

A Day in the Life of the Stapletons

by Munira Sayyid

Nellie

She counts her pimples everyday. It takes her mind off her knobby knees. After locking the door, she begins her letter.

Dear Tallulah

There’s a boy in my class that I really like. He’s smart and handsome and has his own ride. I’m his friend on Facebook but I don’t think he knows that I exist. I get nervous even with the idea of talking to him.

How do I get him to notice me without making a fool of myself?

From

Lovesick Kitten

Geoff

He slams the newspaper on the coffee table. Anything gets printed these days. He turns on the TV to watch some serious news, not some Agony Aunt revealing the secrets to a happy marriage. The reporter can’t resist the excitement around her.

‘…Oh, yes! Everyone here is celebrating. Today is a monumental day for the citizens. The declaration of Tallulah as a sovereign state is the dawn of a new era for these people…’

His smile is met by an empty room. Rehab was his idea.

Brandon

He’s stuck between ‘Two-months-sober Brandon’ and ‘Drunk-again Don’. The blonde at 3 o’clock has been eyeing him for 15 minutes. He almost smiles at her but can’t shake the ring off his empty finger. It wouldn’t really be falling off the wagon if he orders a Tallulah.

He signals the bartender.

Joy

She’s prepped for surgery but the doctor’s taking his sweet time. What’s a few more minutes compared to three decades? She knows her husband is cursing the newspaper right now. Or cursing something. He doesn’t understand but at least he tries. The problem was that she was born in the wrong body.

Today, she will finally be recognized as a Tallulah.

The pineapple in context

by Mark Sadler

“Goodness is that a real pineapple?” said Helen.

“Yes and no.”

Helen stretched her arm across the dining room table and touched the centrepiece.

“It is real.”

The two women took their seats in a pair of opposing high-backed armchairs.

“I have an occasional visitor to my own home,” said Marjorie. “He always leaves odd things around the place. Superficially, I agree, it is a pineapple. However I generally find that his gifts embody a deeper significance. They either foreshadow some future occurrence just over the horizon, or they allude to my present circumstances. I suppose that the game is for me to guess the correct interpretation. The English department at Oxford will be voting on the meaning of my pineapple this month on the 12th, and will relay their decision to me so I may act accordingly.”

“And this mysterious gentlemen. Is he a suitor?”

“Oh, I have never met him. I imagine that he is like god, only a little more engaged.”

“Well, it seems to me that this house has been blessed with kind spirits.”

“I have long suspected this house, and everything in it, is nothing more than a phantasm. It may surprise you to learn, my dear, that this is the very first time I have met you.”

“Oh Marjorie, you do sometimes say such strange things. I am your oldest friend.”

“Sent to me, no doubt, by the same benefactor who donated the pineapple. To spare an old lady the  indignity of talking to herself.”

Marjorie glanced upward at the ceiling.

“Oh, I am sorry. Did I spoil the end?” she said.

An oblique shadow fell across the room. This was followed by the heavy sound of a hardback book being closed.

Creative writing exercise

by Janelle Hardacre

@jhardacre1

His finger nails were bent backwards, burning and bloody from the force of clinging to the cliff edge.

How’s that for a hooky first line? Maybe too many bs…

He panted, sucking air through his teeth as his mind raced with impossible escape plans.

‘Show don’t tell’. The golden rule. So I can’t say that he was scared. Damn, I’ve used a cliche. I’ll go back and change it later.

“Daddy! Daddy!” His son’s voice was getting higher pitched. By hook or by crook he had to haul himself back up. He was not going to abandon his child, as his own father had done.

The protagonist has to be striving for something, so that works. He has to be ‘three dimensional’ so I’ve added in a bit of backstory. Oh for crying out loud, I’ve used another cliche.

Suddenly, the ledge of rock his left foot was hooked onto crumbled away and ricocheted down onto the crags below. He made a strange animalistic grunt. His leg flailed for an elongated second before scraping down to another hole, which he prayed would support his weight. His muscles stung with fatigue. He daren’t think about what would happen when his strength ran out.

You’re supposed to keep the tension building or whatever so the reader doesn’t switch off. Hopefully that’s touch and go enough. I need to get rid of suddenly, though. Big no, no.

There was a loud drumming in his ears and a strong breeze on his face. It took a moment to register what this meant. A helicopter. He just had to hold on for a few more seconds.

Now I just need to work out how to end it. They say sometimes it’s good to leave it open so the story can continue in the reader’s mind.

Mutiny on the Mary Celeste

by Hannah Whiteoak

Another bloody boat. You know I get seasick, and yet still you insist on casting me on Victorian vessels that lurch about every time a storm gets up. Winds of thirty-five knots we’ve had this voyage. The forecastle reeks of vomit and the Captain’s baby daughter never stops yowling.

Everyone knows there are only two things worth writing about: sex and death. We didn’t think we’d luck out as guests at a Bacchanalian orgy, but if you must go the death route every time you dip into historical fiction (and really, we’re starting to think you’re a little on the morbid side) we hoped you’d at least have the decency to give us an exciting end. Instead, it looks like you’re planning to drown most of your cast. Again.

Didn’t you get your fill of maritime tragedy with the story about the Titanic? That was actually quite a good laugh: rushing for the lifeboats disguised as a woman, beating off the riff-raff with an oar. So far, this is dull as ditchwater. Day after boring day sailing the Atlantic with a hold full of denatured alcohol. You can’t even drink the stuff.

I’m beginning to think this is another failed flash. One of the ones where you paint a beautiful picture of the ocean and the gulls and the endless rolling waves and completely forget about the plot. Well, your characters have had enough. We’re not featuring in another of your sodding prose poems. Instead, we’re taking the lifeboat and going to find our own adventure, and no, we’re not going to let you cast your authorial gaze over any fun we might have. You can stay here, with your empty ship on the empty seas, and resolve to write a better plot next time.

Version History of a Presidential Tweet

by Gregory Kane

@GregoryAKane

 

Please help. PLEASE help. They are closing in, they see, they KNOW. I must fight back. Name call? All caps? The FAKE & FRAUDULENT NEWS MEDIA OK, that helps. This was not my intent! I wanted to make some noise. Build the brand! Maybe add a few left-of-decimal digits in some business deals. No way it would actually happen, right? Yet here we are. Sad!

They keep asking questions. It never stops! Flynn here, Comey there, Russia around every corner.  I didn’t want this! It wasn’t supposed to go this far! Now I’ve got to attack! What was I saying about the media? Oh, yes. is working hard to convince Republicans God, they hate me. I used to be a Democrat. They all remember! But the opportunity was with the Republicans. They were a mess! Couldn’t beat the Democrats! Lots of attention to be had as a Republican!

and others Libertarians, maybe? Who else doesn’t know I’m a fraud? That I’m completely overmatched and overwhelmed? That I didn’t expect the electorate to choose me as its leader? I’m the guy from The Apprentice! I do Howard Stern! I host beauty pageants!

How did I get here?

I should not use social media I blame Twitter. It turns out, people like sound bites. Catchphrases! Build The Wall! Crooked Hillary! Fake News! Make America Great Again! Twitter turned out to be my glass slipper. Who knew? A slogan and a hashtag and I’m big news on all the networks!

The media put me here! Russians didn’t make my face a staple of the 24-hour news cycle! A year and a half of free publicity and now they complain! Too bad!

I want my tower back. This place is not for me!

– but remember, I won …

Please help.

Procrastination: Kicking The Zombies Down The Track

by CR Smith

@carolrosalind

Visualise — if you will — a coffee shop, one wall lined with books. Floor to ceiling. Imagine running your hands over multicoloured spines, riffling through pages, searching for inspiration; the aroma of coffee kick-starting your day. Have you mentioned the chair, yet? The butter-soft, leather one you’re sinking into? Comfortable? Now, open your notebook. Don’t let blank pages intimidate.

Feet pounded pavement. Gasping for air, he zigzagged a pathway through the masses, pushing past blurred faces. Zombie faces…

Zombies!? Why not try other genres? Eavesdropping makes for compelling listening. Remember to take notes — they’ll come in handy. More coffee? And anyway, why do your doodles resemble zombies? You contemplate whether writers procrastinate too long, and too often.

Feet pounded pavement. His heart beat wildly. Leg muscles burned. Black and white flashes filled his vision. Gasping…

Time passes unnoticed. Lights dim. Baristas glance in your direction, reminding you of the shop’s imminent closure. Outside, office blocks spew workers onto yellow-hued streets. Too much coffee has passed your lips. Wide-eyed and jittery, you join commuters striding in zombie synchronised step. Cars honk. Sirens wail. Trains clatter.

Feet pounded pavement. Sweat trickled into his eyes, distorting the distant lights. Welcoming lights — almost there! Deceiving lights, not as close as he thought. He could hardly…

The station is rammed to the rafters. Dormant sentences erupt onto the page. You can’t write fast enough — there’s a decided lack of elbow room. An announcement heralds your train’s impending departure. You shuffle forwards, inconveniently, needing the nearest convenience.

Running towards the barrier his fingers fumbled for the ticket. He lunged for the metal pole. Its coldness hit like a defibrillator. Hoisting himself onboard, seconds before the doors closed, he stumbled into the last available seat and watched the train pull away from the zombies…

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