Saturday, December 25, 2010

Flash Fiction - The Restaurant

Good evening.

 Here's my Christmas present to you:

***

            The seat in front of me is empty. The lighting is dim and sets an intimate mood. Bottles of sake and imported wines from across East Asia line the wall of the bar on the right of me. Plastic walls designed like Japanese windows block the view to my left. Exasperated waitresses natter at each other in Korean or Cantonese as they deliver orders to the dour chefs.
            A bowl of katsu-don sits in one hand while the other shovels bits of meat and rice into my mouth with a pair of chopsticks. To my right, a linebacker has flown head-first into another player on the flat-screen television. I turn my eyes from it.
            There is another table in front of me. I have noticed other empty seats around me since entering, but the round-faced server saw fit to place me here, and I didn’t know why.
            Then I noticed the other white guy. He wears glasses and a white polo; his head is box-like. The seat in front of him is empty, and he is facing me, heartily enjoying his sushi.
            As my meal went on, I watched him intently. I began realize that this was a set-up. And also that this is maybe the fourth time this has happened.
             I ask myself why this keeps happening. Do they expect us to bond over a mutual love of Asian cuisine or suddenly engage in mortal combat? Have we been exiled from the rest of the clientèle, so that our crippling loneliness does not sully the mood for other patrons?
            That was when the waitress came to his table and leaned in to pick up his plates, and I realize two things:
            The first was that we were here for exactly the same reason.
            The second was that I desperately needed to get my shit together.


***

Happy holidays.

See you next time.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Flash Fiction - Moment

 Good day,

 We've all been here before:

***

            We were having a campfire out in Algonquin Park one night when Brad said: “Alright, weirdest moment of your life ever.”
            There were four of us. There was Brad, scrawny and tall with a chin like a box; my old college roommate Sheraz, his hair shocked up like a pineapple; and Luke, an unassuming Swede with a permanent five-o-clock shadow who was busy watching the stars. Our tents were arranged around us like the rocks of Stonehenge. The corn and hot dogs we roasted over the warm fire were all but gone, and our clothes were strewn across a laundry line. Beers lined the grass.
            I was the first to respond. “What?”
            “Weirdest moment of your life ever,” he repeated, tone for tone. “Tell everybody here one point in your life that stuck with you, only because of how weird it was.”
            “Why?” Sheraz asked, eying his can of Heineken.
            Brad looked as though he had been slapped, “It’s a bonding moment you boob. Helps us better understand each other.”
            Sheraz took the can to his lips, “How is that –”
            “I’ll start!” box-face said, putting his hands in the air, “I once found a human foot in a public toilet!”
            Startled out of his trance, Luke shot to attention. “You what?”
            “I was in Alabama with Doris and Crystal, right? About four years back? And we’re driving and I’m like ‘Gotta drop the kids at the pool’ so we pull into this, like, gas station, right? Old-ass place, owned by some cholo who looked like Jeff Bridges. I got the key off him, right? So I head to the can, kick down the first stall there and wham, it’s in the bowl.”
            “A foot,” Sheraz wondered, sceptically. “And you didn’t call the cops?”
            Brad shook his head slightly. “Hell no, I just went in the other stall and bailed out.”
            Sheraz chucked his empty can at the storyteller’s feet. “That’s crap if I ever heard it.”
            “Hell did you want, a picture?” box-face quipped, insulted.
            “That’s what I got,” my old roommate said, reaching into his coat on the ground, “I was in Tortuguero with my folks this summer when I walked into maybe five spider-webs, one after another."
            Luke raised an eyebrow. “That’s not that weird.”
            “Guy, each of these webs was about the size of my whole body,” he exclaimed, pulling a digital camera out and turning it on. He cycled through pictures and tossed it at Luke. “Check it.”
            Nimbly catching it, he turned it over and looked at the screen. Luke’s eyes widened. “Whoa,” he said with distant reverence before passing the camera to me. I accepted it and looked in awe of a photograph of Sheraz, with a faraway look in his eyes as he stood with a white, filmy substance wrapped around his body and face.
            When the camera reached Brad, he stared at the screen and pursed his lips in approval. “Alright, cool,” he said, passing it back to Sheraz. “Luke, your turn.”
            “Got nothing, sorry,” he mumbled, shyly. His accent was thick but his voice was soft.
            Our chief storyteller twitched as though a vein burst. “Come on! Nothing!?
“Brad, man, don’t bully him,” Sheraz said, packing his camera away.
Brad turned red. “I might have walked in on a murder scene, you ended up as an extra in Arachnophobia Two, who knows what Liam’s done –” My heart stopped when he said my name, “And you’re telling me this guy who climbed freaking Kilimanjaro with his granddad hasn’t –”
            “Alright fine,” Luke groaned. The Swede inhaled and rubbed his scalp agitatedly. “I,” he stuttered, as though it pained him, “I had sex with a lesbian.”
            There was a moment of silence, and then Brad gave a loud pfft, “That’s nothing, man! Liam, dude, isn’t your girlfriend a lesbian?”
            “It’s called a pixie cut, you damned abomination,” I half-snarled at him.
            “Alright, fine. So what’s this about lesbians?” Brad asked, leaning in.
Luke shrugged and brought his knees to his chin. “I was drinking with a friend of mine and her girlfriend and the girlfriend... she dared us to kiss.”
Box-face’s eyes widened like Luke had discovered the fountain of youth. “And you did?”
“Yeah,” he stammered, now hugging his legs, “But she passed out and my friend and I, we, we just kept going, and I dunno, why, we just got really into it and –” He trailed off.
I had inkling as to who Luke was talking about. Someone he had pursued in high school turned out to be lesbian. She knew how he felt and let him down gently. They stayed friends, but I always knew that he still wondered what it could have been like to be with her.
"Say no more, Luke," I said, waving gently at him, "We get it.
Brad was not nearly as sympathetic. “Well, c’mon man, what happened?!"
“Dude, not cool,” Sheraz groaned, flicking a mosquito away.
“Not cool nothing!” he snapped, jabbing a finger into his palm, “Gimme details! Was she stacked? Any crazy piercings? What about tats, dye jobs?"
Luke started to look worse for wear. “Brad, I wanna talk about something else now.”
            The boxy one rolled his eyes. “Oh come on, this was just getting goo –”

            “Brad, I wanna talk about something else now,” he repeated, his voice breaking.
            "Man, look at him," I said to Brad, levelling a mean glare, "Don't do this."
            Snorting, the chief storyteller shook his head, defeated. "Fags," he huffed.
            I felt bad; this was the first time I had seen Luke so downtrodden. I couldn’t blame him. The morning would yield a very long heart-to-heart.
            We changed subjects quickly. I was relieved. I really didn’t want them to know about the time I got drunk and woke up next to a Mall Santa.

***

Or have we?

See you next time,

RWI

Monday, December 13, 2010

Flash Fiction - Frost Bites

Good day,

 Here's a shorter one.

***

            I have been running for hours. Amid the darkness and the chill of the mountain winds, I seek sanctuary in this godless place. The blizzard intensifies. The outlines of the horizon surround me, but obscured by heavy shadow and gusts of white. One wrong step and I could plunge to my death; but I am already dead.
            Blood stains the snow behind me, forming a trail back to where the camp once was. I look down to see the massive bite-mark on my bicep. The wound hurts; pain pulses through me. I press the ruins of my glove against the scar to keep it clean.
            A low howl shakes the air. It is the same noise that we heard when the sun had set, the same howl that reverberated across the mountains as the thing tore through our camp. I remember the way it swung at our tents and bellowed at the dogs, sending one flying away. I also remember being the fool who attacked it so the others could flee. Do I regret it? Sacrificing myself so the others could live? I do not know.
Sergei, Vlad, Sylvia, Gregor, Tatiana – dear, dear Tatiana – are you safe? Have you reached the path and made for town, or are you as lost as I? Have more of this monster’s brethren made short work of you? Will the winds carry your remains away, or will you survive?
            I turn around to see its shape over the hills; it is following me.
            I run faster. This thing will not catch me. Impossible as it seems, I have decided. I will live, and this beast will soon tire of the hunt. Then, I can return to see my friends again.
            Pain hits me. It is a new kind of pain that knocks me off balance. Something in my being stirs and rebels against the rest of my body. I stumble and fall to my knees. My arms keep me propped up as I heave bile onto the snow.
            Somehow, my hands seem larger than before.
            Heavy breathing sounds above my head; it is here.
            I look up, defiantly. Dark eyes stare into mine. The thing stands over me. I get up to confront it, my bones bending and breaking into something new beneath my skin.
            The thing continues its low howl, reaching towards me with impossible arms. I let those I pray are its hands touch my cheeks.
            But it is not growling at me.
            She is singing.
            And I am not afraid.
            I am in love.

***

Puttin' the Love back into Lovecraft.

See you next time,

-RWI

EDIT: May 17, 2012. Fixed up some more to make it a little extra claustrophobic.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Flash Fiction - The Hero

 Good evening.

 This is what I get for reading too many issues of The Boys and watching too many episodes of The Venture Brothers all in the same week.

***


            “Alright, what do I gotta do?” he asked, reclining in his new chair. The secretary provided by the Liberty Legion went through some documents on her clipboard.
She was skinny with a mannish chin, square and rough as though chiselled from granite. A pair of rectangular glasses rested on the bridge of her nose. Her hair was dyed auburn, tied up in a loose ponytail. The black business suit and matching knee-length skirt showed off the lack of contours in her body.
“And, what did you say your name was again?” he wondered, staring out the windows of his new office and watching the sunset.
“Ms. Claremont, sir,” she said, her nasal voice showing the emotional depth of a typewriter. “The first item on the agenda is your moniker. Paradigm himself confirmed that the name, Captain Astonishing, is acceptable and a costume is already being manufactured."
Nodding to himself, he looked around the room to see the ten-foot bookshelves, the globe, his pens, and a massive portrait of himself. His diploma rested next to it. It was a room fitting for a Captain. “Excellent. What else?”
She kept her eyes on the board, “Paradigm also wanted you to know that the LL is hosting a gala on the 15th. Your inauguration speech is a day later. You will also –”
The Captain waved her off. “Yeah, yeah. When do I get to fight some crimes?”
Ms. Claremont rolled her eyes. “Right to business, then,” she said dryly, flipping ahead three pages and tracing her eyes down, “The Stag Party is planning a bank heist on –”
The Stag Party?!” he said, eagerly slamming the desk and rising to his feet, “Hot DOG! Where are they?!”
She looked as though he had just punched the President. “I’m sorry?”
Throwing some fake punches in the air, he danced around the office, “A bunch of frat boys with jetpacks and deer masks? They won’t know what hit ‘em! Rev up my car, let’s –”
“I’m afraid that’s not how it works, sir,” she explained, raising a hand.
He stopped in his tracks. “What do you mean?”
Putting the board to her chest, she inhaled deeply. “Line fifteen, page 77: In accordance with the Ultramama-Geffen the Slayer Treaty of 1988, all criminal-on-crime-fighter encounters must occur on scheduled days and times and must follow stipulations and protocols as requested by each agency.”
Taken aback, he circled the desk. “The hell is that? They’re the bad guys! Who cares?!”
“We’re already on shaky ground as is,” she said, plainly, “This simply prevents conflicts from escalating, nothing more."
Keeping an eye on her, he went back to the windows. “Why should I agree to this?”
“Failure to comply with the conditions laid out by The Bleak Consulate will result in a series of, might I say, very steep fines. You will also be forced to go rogue should you interfere in too many Terror Initiatives, which, as I’m sure you know, is not ideal as it lacks the,” she paused for effect, “health benefits for this line of work.”
His face turned pale. “Oh,” he whimpered, sitting down.
“The same rule applies for all of your appointments throughout the year,” Ms. Claremont explained as she went through the board’s notes once again. Each point she made had him sinking deeper into his new chair.
“For example, Doctor Skulduggery and his army of Murder Men will take up much of your time near the end of the month; property damage will be on the extreme side, but we can arrange to have it centralized to one large building should you so wish. Such a request is not possible with The Sisters Malice, however, especially since that is a team-up with Benton Buckler of The Autonomy Alliance, and they like to make their ventures a bit flashy. Lastly, The Sepulchre is scheduled for a rampage in October –”
“How do you schedule a rampage?” he groaned.
“– in which we’re projecting maybe twelve to thirty people to die in the attack, and another fifty wounded, but –”
This tipped him over. “Twelve to thirty innocent people are going to die and you expect me to be okay with it?!”
She sighed, “Rest assured: the victims’ families will be compensated."
“That’s not the point!” he cried, rising to his feet again, “I’m supposed to be standing up for the little guy, not standing on him! I want to save lives, save the world! What’s the point of doing this job if I know people are going to die anyway!?”
From behind her glasses, she gave a hard, angry glare that could burn out the very stars. “You should have thought of that before becoming a superhero, sir.”

***

See you next time.

-RWI

EDIT: May 17, 2012. Made some edits and strengthed the text. Still proud of this one.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tonight's Episode: Should've Seen It Coming

Good evening.

 Well I knew this would happen, but I didn't want to admit it. I did end up neglecting this blog in favour of pursuits beyond the Internet. Somehow the idea of a regular schedule when it comes to posting online does not click with me, which is hypocritical because I frequently harass people on websites like Facebook and YouTube without needing reminders.

 But then something magical happened. I followed Echobunny's advice and decided to contribute to National Novel Writer's Month, an online challenge wherein everyone with a keyboard and an ego is tasked to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. I decided "hell with it" and got on, further abandoning the blog like a chump.

 On Monday, I had submitted my monster, The Anti-Cupboard of Cassandra Dalton, to the site. It was 51,735 words. I'm still editing this; it's growing.

 And then I had a revelation about this site.

 You see I had set up my account as Private because I had a couple of short story excerpts on here that I wanted to submit to some magazines, magazines that frown on the work existing anywhere and in any form, be it a blog post or another magazine, before being brought to them for consideration. So in my panic, I boarded up the windows and doors and kept myself locked inside.

 After finishing my NaNoWriMo story, I realized that this will not do. I need discipline. I need to be able to sit myself down and say I can manage and cultivate this side of cyberspace for a greater good. So I'm reopening the doors, taking down the old content, and I'm sitting myself down to write something new every week. Flash fiction, editorials, whatever.

 This is my early Christmas present to you, Internet.

 Expect new things from me in the future. I'll make a hundred notes of it so I don't end up dipping my head in paint thinner instead of maintaining an online journal-portfolio thing.  Not very professional of me if I keep getting distracted.

 The bitch is back. See you next time.

-RWI