Flash Fic: Dublex Orb™


Inhabisphere™

Inhabisphere™ – 100 years ago

Of course I’ve had roommates before. Down on Earth™, I mean. Not up here in the Thermosphere™. But the new policy makes double-occupancy mandatory. It’ll be good to have someone to talk to and interact with. Maybe even touch like once a year or something.

It’s ridiculous and kinda pathetic. 1.2 trillion of us crammed into such a small space, yet we all live completely disconnected lives.

All realms of our Inhabisphere™ are overcapacity. Down on Earth™, the thousand-story skyscrapers are packed so tightly over every acre that they’re pretty much a single, sprawling building. The Tunnelands™ have already burrowed farther than they safely can. Even the Sealands™ are filled now: the ghettos on the seafloor and down in the trenches, the upscale topside floaters. In the Skylands™, only two narrow causeways remain undeveloped.

The Housing Council™ started the Thermosphere Development Program© out of desperation. They launched the Duplex Orbs™, like the one I live in, through the northern port of the Skylands™ a year ago. That’s when a billion of us moved up here to orbit like secluded satellite moons. The Resource Restrictions Act© forbids us from visiting one another.

So we basically live in floating prison cells.

The last two ports through the Skylands™ close tomorrow. They’ll be sealed shut to gain the last bit of atmospheric real estate remaining. After that, we won’t be able to directly trade with the Groundlands™ anymore. Tariffs are gonna skyrocket.

My last shipment from the surface will be here any minute. This month’s visit is a bit different than all the rest. Twice as much Oxygen®, twice as many rations. All because my Duplex™ is about to house twice as many people.

Dania seemed cool enough during our minute-long v-Chat®. Kinda quiet and distracted maybe, but I’m hoping she’ll open up once she gets here. She’s a Digi-Designer® like me, so we at least have that in common. If she’ll unplug long enough to give me three minutes of face time a day, I’ll be happy. Five minutes would be even better, but I’m trying to be realistic.

The supply taxi just docked. The recycled Oxygen™ is already pumping into the tanks. Why am I so nervous? There goes the bay door. The rations are loaded. Oh Gods™, the airlock. I think I’m gonna throw up. The first flesh-and-blood person I’ve seen in over a year. The stranger I’ll spend the rest of my life with.

The warning horn blares. The door swooshes open.

Dania stares at the PodPad® in her hands.

“Hi,” I say.

Her left eye twitches a little. That might be a sign that she heard me.

“Which way?” she asks.

“Your room’s on the right,” I answer.

Without looking up, she expertly navigates the furniture in the common area. She places her palm on the KeyPad® and steps inside her room.

I move towards her. “I thought we might interact for a bit.”

She stops, but doesn’t turn. “I’ve been De-egged®.”

“What?” I stare at the soft skin on the back of her neck. “No. Not like that kind of interaction.”

Her PodPad® monopolizes her attention. “What kind then?” she asks.

“You know, talking, eating rations together.” My mouth is so dry. “Maybe even playing a game?”

“I’m busy,” she answers.

Then her door swooshes closed between us.

***

That was six months ago. I haven’t seen Dania since. I’ve stumbled across her username in the forums, so I know she’s still alive. Sometimes, I press my ear to her door, but I’ve never heard a thing.

It’s sad, really. We’re now up to 1.4 trillion people in the Inhabisphere™, and I haven’t seen one in half a year. Haven’t touched one in almost two. There’s no way I’m the only one who’s lonely. There must be others tucked away somewhere in our stuffed-full world.

I keep hoping Dania will accidentally come out of her room, that she’ll forget she has a roommate in the Duplex Orb™ and will stumble into the common area by mistake. Or that she’ll suddenly get the urge to unplug and interact.

Just sixty seconds, once a month. That’s all I need.

There’s a new plan to add more Duplex Orbs™, to link them airlock-to-airlock so they form a massive sphere encircling Earth™. Maybe my new neighbors will want to hang out. But I’m not holding my recycled-air Breath™.

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Flash Fic: Alchemy 2.0


Ipad Gold Ingot

To be honest, I’m not sad that Paracelsus is dead. He was old as dirt. Not only can I do my own thing now, but I don’t have to cringe at his judgmental, gold-toothed sneer anymore.

Don’t get me wrong; he was an okay mentor who taught me the basics of alchemy. I’d be nowhere as awesome as I am without him. But, the thing is, he was stuck in the old ways. As wise as he was, Paracelsus wouldn’t accept that we have technology in the 21st century that the old coots didn’t.

Like his whole Great Work obsession. I get it. It’d be cool to create a Philosopher’s Stone to transmute junky base metals into gold. But, really? Who cares?  For thousands of years, wrinkly dudes with scraggly beards have been trying to do that. It’s not gonna happen. Just move on already.

He never even got close to making it happen. Instead, he charged me with stupid busywork of extracting existing gold from ore. A bunch of rock crushing, washing the dust over copper plates coated in mercury, then the repetition of that tedious refinement process, over and over again until he had a few tiny gold flakes worth a couple bucks. Boring as crap, not profitable, and totally not alchemy.

Paracelsus was all about the exoteric, physical process. I’m much more spiritual, into the esoteric/mystic vibe. My new process marries the ancient with the modern. Pretty genius if you ask me. And my piles of glittering gold speak for themselves.

I use some old-school materials like salt, mercury (of course), caustic lime, and sulfur. But they’re just catalysts to amp up the intensity of the spell. The Molecular Receiver and 3-D printer soft-wired through my smart phone hotspot make the actual alchemy possible.

Chugging a few shots of absinthe doesn’t hurt.

That stubborn, backwards-thinking Paracelsus would say I’m bastardizing the alchemical tradition. Whatever. I’ve got more gold than the geezer ever dreamed of. Sure, I’m not actually creating it from scratch, but neither was he. At least I’m making precious metal instantly appear. And it’s not like I’m stealing. I’m simply finding things which were lost and forgotten.

Take my first experiment two months ago.

I lit orange candles, for luck, during the full moon. Eff off if you think that’s lame. Some of the old traditions can’t be broken. I laid out the salt circle in my mom’s basement and ignited the mercurial sulfur amalgam in a coffee can. Low tech stuff. I calibrated the printer and backhauled the Molecular Receiver’s signal over the wi-fi. High tech. Next came the software-of-sorts. Every good alchemist knows you need magick to drive the process.

I filtered this ancient incantation from Tycho the Elder through my voice recognition app. I was super cautious, though. I had absolutely no idea how much lost gold was out there, so I set the parameters pretty tight to only include [“charms” AND “baubles”].

Then I chanted.

What gold is lost, I must now find. Charms and baubles, make them mine.
Bring them back, they must be found. Take my fortune, spin it round.

One iteration is all it took.

The 3-D printer immediately started spitting out gold: lockets, tiny spoons, fancy buttons, these cool little rosettes, clasps, bracelet charms in all shapes and sizes. Before I knew it, mom’s musty basement was flooded with stuff lost over the centuries. I could barely keep up with the transmission. At one point, I was scrambling with a shop broom in one hand and a rake in the other, trying my damndest to make room for more. By the end, waist-deep in gold trinkets, I had no choice but to disengage the receiver.

Stick that in your stinky-ass pipe, Paracelsus.

That single interrupted spell produced a crapload of gold. In theory, I’m an effin billionaire. I only scrapped a small portion of it—a shoebox worth—and scored 350 grand. I reinvested it right away: upgraded all the equipment, bought some property. It took me three full weeks, four dozen truckloads, and two pulled muscles to haul all that scratch to an old 50,000 ft2 warehouse-turned-mystical-lab on the south side of town.

By then, the moon was already waxing full again. I cast the spell to summon gold statues lost through antiquity. I qualified the parameters [height>=6” AND height<=12”] and [“soldiers”]. I ended up with my own army of 30,000 miniature warriors. It felt wrong to melt them down. So I lined them along the edge of the mezzanine so they could watch over the awesomeness happening in my lab below.

I can’t stop making lists of all the gold I can dredge up: watches and fobs, rings, armor, chains, inkwells, crowns, chalices, flatware. I’ve got pages of programming possibilities. The most exciting are [“coins”] and [“bullion”]. Can you even imagine how much is out there? Buried in the earth, lying in the sewers, shipwrecked and lost at sea? I’ll have to set parameters like [mint_date<1500CE] and probably [max_value=10000 “coins”] and then cast the spells by time period until I find them all.

It’s ridiculous how much lost and forgotten gold is out there. I’d never be able to spend it all—or even spend what I’ve already summoned. Still, I want to find every last scrap of it. Because I’m spiritual like that.

The full moon’s rising. The candles are lit.

I know it’s stupid, but I keep catching glimpses of Paracelsus’s sneer glinting at me from the greasy, dark corners of my warehouse. Ghost or not, I’m snatching those gold teeth right out of his critical jaw tonight. His, and a million [“incisors” AND “molars”] like them.

All lost and forgotten.

Which is something I’ll never be. The filthy rich, and humble, Rodney the Magnanimous will be remembered and venerated as the Father of Alchemy 2.0. That’s got a good, golden ring to it.

I have a nice little collection of Flash Fic pieces & figured I’d share a few over the next couple weeks. Hope you enjoy!

The Sacred Hidden Among the Trees


PineGrove

I remember being worshiped in the sacred groves of Babylon, between the twin sycamores of Egypt, by the figs of Ancient Rome, among the yews and elms in the Celtic lands. My followers understood what many have now forgotten: soaring branches, trembling leaves, and twisted roots make the purest chapels. Tranquility thrives in the midst of growing things. Walls may offer a temporary refuge, but stone cannot breathe. Mortar soaks up the songs and keeps them for itself. Stained glass imprisons the essence of prayers in its too-bright colors.

But trees—trees pass the hopes and heartaches and dreams to one another. And, eventually, those heart-cries make it to me. I breathe them in. I share my bounty. I impart wisdom. Above all, I answer.

There is a spritely girl in the western lands who still hears me. Amelia is her name. In the midst of the evergreens behind her home, we speak. Though a young soul, her beauty runs deep. Deeper than any I have come across in hundreds and thousands of days. She searches for me, giggles with me, tells me her secrets.

Yesterday, Amelia brought others to her grove. They scratched their feet through the pine straw to make way for the earth to show through in patches. Amelia and her friends formed the straw into long lines to create separate rooms in what they called a house. But the children could see over the walls. They could talk, and breathe, and play, and dream. I sent them a soft breeze. I tickled them with sunlight trickling through the trees.

My hope has been dying. I feared, for yes, I fear, that I might pass into the land of things which are no longer loved. Amelia has saved me. After all these suns and moons of waiting and fading, she has remembered me well, when few others would.

This morning, I planted honeysuckle all around her grove. The sprouts sprang up and I carefully wove the climbing vines around the trunk of each of Amelia’s pines. I know she will notice. She will ask me about them. And I will tell her the vines are a gift. She will smile. I will show her how to pluck the blossoms, ease the stamen through the bloom to catch the tiny, sparkling drop of nectar, and to place the drop on her tongue.

She will savor the sweetness. She will taste them all, every last blossom. And I will grow her more.

Amelia has given me much honor. Her willingness to know, to remember the olden things, to seek the sacred hidden among the trees, will be rewarded. Today, once she has tasted the nectar, I will bless her with the full measure of my glory.

And I know my new priestess will pass it on.

Response to the “One Hundred” prompt at http://darcicole.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-entries-100.html

Check her out.

[I took the photo prompt and imagined it translated to the area of NC I lived in as a child. Hope you enjoyed it.]

Making Flash Fiction Your Bitch


Get it? "Flash" punching a dude into submission? :: ahem :: Anyway...

Get it? “Flash” punching a dude into submission? :: ahem :: Anyway…

Ever on the lookout for blogging inspiration–no matter what bush it peeks out of–this Facebook exchange with my writerly friend, Brittany Larson, has a good feel to it. Blog-worthy, I believe. From a random interaction amongst the social media bushes: Making Flash Fiction Your Bitch.

Brittany: HEY! I need some advice on some writing!

Lucas: Ok. I’ve got a few minutes. What’s up?

Brittany: Well I have this story idea swirling around my head about the 3 Archangels Micheal (The Angel Of Mercy) Gabriel (The Messenger Angel) And Azrael (The Angel of Death) And they are all fallen. And Iwas thinking Gabriel and Micheal stay faithful to God while Azreal goes rogue. He makes a deal with the devil that’s simple Bring me Rachel (My girl protagonist) and I will make you more powerful than God. God appears to Micheal and Gabriel and says stop him and you’re back in heaven. And I am thinking that Micheal will be my main male protagonist (Gabriel more as support) so what happens when Micheal falls in love with Rachel and doesn’t wanna go back to Heaven. Something along those lines. So the first question is: sound good? And also I don’t know if I wanna just start writing now or save it for NaNo.

Lucas: Is this a story you will try to market to agents/publishers? I only ask because a few months back many were groaning about the massive amount of “Angel” stories: fallen ones falling in love with a human. There are a lot of those on the market already. So, it’s a trope the pros don’t much care for anymore.

Brittany: Yeah…see I am not too sure. I am thinking. Truly I have never made it even far enough to think about sending it to publishers.

Lucas: A twist would be good. Can they be fallen gods instead of angels? And love triangles are always sellable. Maybe one naughty god in love with your mortal, Rachel, but a second god in love with the first & fighting the matchup? Or, make them aliens, or zombies, or any other creature. Then you could go with the same basic plot without stepping into the Angels theme. If you’re not going to shop it, then just go with whatever the heck makes you happy as a writer!

Brittany: True…true. That would be interesting. And yeah…see I am still debating whether to just write it or save it for NaNo…because I mean I have it written down so I don’t forget it.

Lucas: You’ll have more ideas before Nano! It’s always good to keep writing. Like flexing your muscles to make you stronger.

Brittany: True true. And I sure hope so. This is the Biggest Aha! Moment I have had in a while. My Nano idea wasn’t this solid.

Lucas: Here’s a cool trick for discovering ideas that are novel worthy: just start with a flash fiction of your story. Write out a key scene in 1000 words or less. Focus on using as little words as possible to convey setting, character, conflict.

Brittany: Thanks That really helps

Lucas: Still have the story arc of intro, conflict, climax, closure. This helps me weed out ideas as either long-running or short lived. If the idea feels “done” or exorcised, then cool. You have a flash fiction story. But, if you find the character’s voice and keep thinking about his/her life, then it’s time to plot for a longer work: short story, novella, novel.

Brittany: Yeah. Thanks for the advice

Lucas: You’re welcome, yo. Mind if I post this interaction on my blog in a few days? “I’d rather not” is an acceptable response. 😉

Brittany: Oh that’s fine. I really don’t care…I mean it wasn’t personal or anything:)

Lucas: I can keep you anonymous or remove/summarize your novel idea if you’d like.

Brittany: No it’s fine…put in as much detail as you’d like. I’m not shy.

Lucas: Done! Do you have a blog or Twitter account I can link to? Such things often bring you new followers.

Brittany: https://twitter.com/thegirlonfire16

So, let’s get Brittany some new followers.

And, let’s get to using Flash Fiction as a test-run for those awesome ideas we keep coming up with. It tests their mettle, and keeps us flexing those writing muscles. Better to weed out the losers before we invest a half a novel’s worth of time before discovering they suck. Also, our writerly friends are awesome sounding boards for our new concepts. They can often spot holes, provide useful feedback, and tune us in to stuff they’ve stumbled upon in the publishing world but we have not.

Now, you know one of the secret tools I use to tame my overzealous ideas. What do you think? Is it worth slipping into your own bag of tricks?

Reporting from the bushes, this is Lucas, signing off.

Crew [Short Story]


Earlier this week, I wrote a short story entitled “Crew”. There is an abandoned factory here in town that I wandered through a few times. I used as it as inspiration for the setting. Out of the blue, at the end of the week, a stranger called me.

He purchased the building. Folks told him my partner and I might be interested in some of the contents for our business. Random. We visited today, and did indeed take away some cool, old foundry molds. The owner also let me snap some photos of the place to illustrate “Crew”.

The photos can be found by clicking here. The story is below. Enjoy.

*******

CREW

Scape clinched the cuff of his sleeve, and crashed his elbow through the glass. He grinned back at us from within his hoodie, and dropped his backpack through the window. The cans clanked as they hit. With a quick dive, Scape slipped into the opening.

Rox balanced on the handrail next, kicking the jagged glass with her boot. She hoisted herself up, and squatted in the windowsill. I glanced down the street. Deserted.  I pointed the beam of my flashlight on her jeans, willing it to push her through.

“Hurry the fuck up, Rox.”

She wiggled her ass, flipped me the bird, then disappeared into the dark.

I mounted the window, took one last look around, then dropped onto the broken glass inside. It crunched beneath our feet as we searched the room with our lights. Old plaster walls left to chip and crack. A mosaic swan set in the floor—a symbol of the foundry that once used the building.

“Hope there aren’t any fucking hobos in here,” Rox said.

Scape sniffed the air. “No way. Doesn’t smell like piss or smoke. Just old metal and grease.”

“Nobody’s tagged the entry,” I said. “I bet this place is virgin.”

Rox unzipped her backpack, whipped out a can, and shook it. “Not anymore.” She tagged her sinewy MINX on the plaster.

“Quit dicking,” Scape said. “We’ve got work to do.”

We followed him up the stairs, taking two at a time, using the rails at the landings to whip around and keep climbing. We raced up the twisted flights, until we ran out of steps. Rox kicked open the door and we passed through.

The top floor was one massive room. An expanse of floor-to-ceiling windows covered the far wall. I imagined the space filled with clangs and sweat and steel. All that remained was a few busted worktables, scattered debris, and stagnant puddles from the leaky roof.

We all saw its beauty at the same time: a blank wall stretching out from the doorway to the far corner.

“It’s perfect,” Scape said.

Rummaging through the junk, I found three hunks of wood to chock our flashlights on the scarred wood floor. Angling them just right, their beams converged on the plaster. Dry. Grungy white. Perfect.

Rox yanked a worktable. “Help me drag it over,” she ordered me. “This bitch is heavy.”

“Better than standing on each other’s backs,” Scape said as he slipped his bandana over his nose. He scrolled a finger over his iPod and some jazzy horns blared out. He was ready.

“Where we heading?” I asked him.

“I’m feeling nature tonight,” he answered.

The rattling marbles added their own layer to the music streaming into the space. Scape saturated the plaster with large sweeping arcs. He created hints of curved hills, then feathered the edges into blocks of green. Trees sprouted with a few masterful strokes.

Rox & I added our rattling cans to the symphony. I walked to an end wall, scaling the rubble to tag my COUNT in the triangle of light by the windows. FIN was for the murals only. We kept the powerful aliases separate—just in case.

The sweet smell of aerosol and pigment filtered through my bandana. I added the pair of signature fangs dropping beneath the letters.

Scape called out, “You two are up. Which playlist, Rox?”

“Screamo Love!” she answered, thrusting her hips.

I glared at her as I stepped into the light. “Really Rox? With this sweeping landscape?”

“I got this. He’s gonna be tall and sleek. Tight pants. Silver eyes. Dark.”

“When are your characters not dark? That damn Circus Demon scared the shit out me.”

“I painted him in chains didn’t I? Just worry about walling the edges in, Border Boy. We don’t need another screw up.”

“My damn black ran out. It was too thin in one tiny spot!”

Rox ignored me, already lost in the whine of some androgynous boy wailing like a girl. She laid down the base of a figure. I sorted through my cans and set aside all the black. Plenty of it. First I sprayed the solid line of the border. Precise. Purposeful. Rox and I shared the table. When we were ready to slide it over, Scape was there to help move it. As always, we worked seamlessly, like cogs in a machine.

I embellished the border with swirls. Scape quietly joined in, adding shading to the landscape. Clouds of rainbow aerosol floated in the flashlight beams. My tongue tingled with the sharp taste. We worked over one another’s sections, dancing, adding details and highlights.

“Shit. I need a tight nozzle, Rox said. “I lost mine some fucking where.”

“There’s one in my pocket,” I said with a smile.

She sauntered to me and grabbed my hair. She faked heavy, ecstatic breaths as she fished the nozzle from my jeans. “Ohhhh, ohhhhh, unnnhhhh. Oh yeah! Oh yeaaaahhh!”

Scape peeked from beneath his hood. “You two are sick.”

Rox skipped to him. “You know you like it, baby.” She grabbed Scape’s ass, kissed him on the cheek, then finished her taunting with a playful slap.

Back to work, we navigated around one another, fluidly filling in details high and low. Scape stepped back, then dove in for some tweaking. Rox hopped off the table and silenced the iPod. We moved behind the flashlights, checking out our work.

“Damn, Scape. Look at the rhythm of those strokes,” I said.

“Our best one yet,” he answered.

“We get better each time,” Rox said. “Hold on. Shit! There’s too much shadow on his face. I can’t even see his lips.”

I whistled the Jeopardy theme song to annoy her. She flipped me off, and Scape backed her up with a punch on my arm.

“You definitely want dark, sleek boy to have a luscious pair of lips,” I teased. I expected a Fuck you, Fin, but Rox was on task.

With a few expert strokes, she added highlights to his face: nose, cheekbone, strong chin, two quick bursts for lips. Rox stepped back. Her guy looked lean and proud, but not arrogant. Like aristocracy.

“What’s his name?” Scape asked.

Rox whispered, “Craven.”

We approached the mural, and tagged our ‘real’ names: SCAPE, ROX, FIN.  Scape encase them in a triangle with three straight lines. Only one more step.

“Should we do it?” I asked.

Simultaneously, we placed our palms inside the triangle. Color rippled out from center of the mural, bounced off the border, and echoed back. Wind gusted from the wall, driving the aerosol fumes across the room to hover by the windows.

Craven shivered. He blinked, then rolled his neck, sending the sound of cracking vertebrae through the old factory. He looked down at us, his creators.

His face contorted. Slowly, his feet left the painted grass as he rose into the spraypaint sky.

“Wait…Wait!” he screamed. Craven floated to the top of the mural, bracing his hands against the upper border.

Rox scrambled to the cans. “Oh, fuck!”

“We forgot to paint a shadow to anchor the dude—” Scape said.

“—again,” I finished.

Rox smiled at us. “Don’t just stand there, numbnuts. Help me pull him down.”

*******