Ever bemoan cutting favorite elements from a story to keep within a word limit? What is an author to do? Rise to the challenge of course! But sometimes it’s gratifying to indulge oneself and post a lengthier “director’s cut”. If filmmakers can do it, why not writers?
“The Devil Is In the Details” (Author’s Cut)
Brody Quade cursed, hearing the sharp rap at the door.
“Police! Open up!”
Brody marveled at how quickly they had managed to locate him. He made a mental note to better research this world’s technological capabilities.
“Half a moment! I’m coming!” Brody lied.
He quietly gathered his essentials and keyed on his transporter.
“Come now, Mr. Quade, the gig’s up! Surrender peacefully! This doesn’t have to end with violence!”
Brody could hear their attempts to override the lock.
“Alright! Alright! No, need to destroy my door!”
Casting a longing look at his collection of stolen goods, Brody lamented all the hard work, now wasted. Shame to lose it all so close to the end, he reasoned. Rummaging about, he greedily stuffed a few odds and ends into his pockets.
“Time’s up, Mr. Quade! Any blood spilled is on your head!”
Before he could respond, Brody detected the sound of a barrier-breacher powering up.
“Blast! They’re quite insistent! No, time for calibration.” Brody muttered.
Perspiration blurred his vision as he hastily inputted the obscurest coordinates he could recall off the top of his head.
“A valiant effort, Inspector! But, I remain as always one step ahead!”
Brody laughed manically as the authorities disintegrated the door just in time to see him slip into another dimension.
He endured an unusually long and rough transit before the transporter finished relocating Brody.
“Phew! That was cutting it too close.”
Swiping his brow with a handkerchief, he paused to orientate himself to his new surroundings. Brody smiled, recognizing the crowded café. The aroma of coffee mingled with the dry, desert heat creating an inviting atmosphere he knew would soothe his frayed nerves. He wove his way in and sat at a table being cleared.
“Triple espresso, please.”
Looking up, the server huffed and hurried off without any response.
He waited, preparing a scathing rebuke. But indignation turned to shock when the waiter returned to seat an elderly couple at Brody’s table.
“Voila, Monsieur, Madame. A moment while I fetch your drinks from the bar. Apologies for the delay.”
As they proceeded to sit at his table, Brody experienced a bizarre whirl of force whisk him abruptly from his chair onto the floor.
“Well! I never!”
Clawing at the table, he pulled himself back up.
“Mind your feet, Mario. You’ll upset the table.”
“I haven’t touched the table.”
“Well, something did.”
“Perhaps, a tremor. This local’s suspectable to such activity.”
Brody glowered, hands on his hips.
“I say! What the devil has possessed you to assume you can just barge in and hijack my table? Waiter!”
The woman looked up from her menu.
“What’s that, Mario?”
“I didn’t say anything, Harriet.”
“You were muttering something, dear.”
“I most assuredly was not.”
Blood drained from Brody’s face. He pulled out his transporter, unsurprised to find an error notification flashing across the screen. Opening the message, he swore as he read the details.
[INSUFFICENT DATA. TRANSFER INCOMPLETE. LOCATION OUTSIDE STANDARD DIMENSIONAL PARAMETERS.]
An exceedingly short piece of speculative fiction!
Some of you know, I enjoy the challenge of writing a story with as few words as possible. Definitely an acquired taste for only some writers and readers! Below is what I entered for Chronicles’(A Science Fiction and Fantasy Community) 75 Word Challenge for July.
There were 41 entries this month!
I encourage everyone, who loves science fiction and fantasy, to check out this website. Great way to connect with other writers and fans! Perhaps, you might entry next month’s challenge?
The prompt this month was “THE OUTSIDER”. Genre was author’s choice of horror, speculative, fantasy or science fiction.Hope you enjoy my entry below!
“The Devil Is In the Details”
Desperate, Brody hastily inputted coordinates to escape back into his own dimension.
Frazzled, he sought solace at a favorite café.
A couple approached to join him. Before he could protest, eddies of nausea swept him onto the floor.
Brody stood up, hands on his hips.
“Excuse me! But this table’s mine!”
“I didn’t say anything, Harriet.”
Disquieted, Brody checked his transporter. He blanched, observing the error message.
[INSUFFICENT DATA. TRANSFER OUTSIDE DIMENSIONAL PARAMETERS.]
If you haven’t had a chance to read George and Jockular’s previous two stories, I suggest you click the links below to read those first. I think you’ll enjoy this piece more if you know their backstory.
The hilarity of watching Jockular try to wedge himself into the passenger seat had all but worn off. Worry ate at George now as he realized the barbarian’s presence at the restaurant would spark unwanted questions. He broke into a cold sweat, his heart pounding, and a tingling numbness spread across his face.
I’m such an idiot! His clothes alone are going to draw attention! Should I just say he’s a friend from LARPing?
With his mind racing, George failed to notice Jockular’s body tense up as the car stopped at a traffic light. The barbarian growled.
“Georgie!? What devilish magic is this?”
“Yar wagon’s stopped, lad!”
“I know. Light’s red.”
Jockular snarled, raising his hand in a warding gesture.
“Georgie! That lone red eye’s castin’ some fell hex on yar wagon. I’ve heard of such things. Never faced one, though. Is it a hag or one of the fey folk? They can be quite treacherous when angry.”
“No, it’s a traffic light.”
“I’ve never heard tell of such a beast.”
“No, you don’t understand. It’s not alive.”
“But, yet this menace has halted yar wagon. How does this firelight burn with such power?”
“Bah! You’re talking magical gibberish as usual.”
“It’s a kind of lightning.”
Jockular stared uncomprehendingly.
“You know… the bright, booming flashes of light in the sky.”
George tried to make the sound of thunder.
“Oh… that’s formidable magic from the gods themselves, lad.”
“Now stop and listen to me! I’ll try to explain it in another way. See the road crossing this one? That traffic light keeps cars…er…wagons from crashing into each other. It’s not our turn to cross. It’s the other road’s turn.”
George could see only confused irritation in the barbarian’s eyes.
“Look, Jockular! We can’t cross while that light’s red!”
“But, we need to get to the tavern, lad! Don’t ya be thinkin’ I’ve forgotten ya promised ale! And ya’r forgetting Lady Stacey. It’s unwise to keep a noblewoman waitin’, Georgie.”
“I know. I know. Unfortunately, this is an annoyingly long light.”
“How long is long? We best be crossing now. Surely, a wizard of your stature must know some way to counter this enchantment.”
Tired of the incessant questions, George stopped trying to explain.
Fix it, Georgie! You’re a wizard, Georgie! What am I supposed to do? Does he expect me to draw a green light?
George decided it was easier to simply play the part. Mouth dropping open, he smacked his forehead in mock surprise.
“Yes, of course! How silly of me! You’re right. All this talk of Lady Stacey has addled my brain.”
“Aye, women will do that do a man.”
“Thank you for bringing me back to my senses, Jockular.”
“That’s what friends are for, laddie.”
“A wizard needn’t bow to the whims of a mere traffic light. I’ll dispatch the blasted thing straight away!”
George outstretched a trembling hand and began to chant nonsensically. The barbarian waited impatiently.
“Georgie?! Nothing’s happening!”
“Ok, ok! This is a tough one! But, fear not. I will overpower it.”
“Would it help if I tried to distract the fiend with my legendary battle cry?”
“No. Just tell me when the traffic light yields to my demands.”
George closed his eyes, feigning strenuous concentration, and chanted louder.
“But, how will I know?”
“The red fire will turn green.”
Feeling the light would never change, George stole a quick glance to see Jockular crouched forward, eyes wide as he peered out the windshield.
“Are you watching?”
“Aye! Aye, lad! Nothing yet!”
“Stay vigilant. I can feel it weakening.”
The car jolted as the barbarian startled with a surprised cry.
“Gods! Look at that!”
George opened his eyes and smirked.
“Phew! That was a tricky one!”
“But, you’ve done it, Georgie!”
“Yes, I have. Sometimes I surprise even myself.”
Jockular slapped George on the shoulder.
“On to ale and Lady Stacey then?”
“Yes, we can proceed safely, now.”
Jockular crowed triumphantly, breaking into song as George stomped on the gas pedal. The barbarian’s mood was contagious. George still didn’t know what would happen at the restaurant. But, the anxious pit in his stomach had fled. In its place, George felt a growing confidence. He suspected he could handle anything with the barbarian by his side.
Here’s another piece of flash fiction. It needs more work, but I had fun with it. Liked the idea of the woman being fearless while her boyfriend is the scaredy-cat! LOL.
Ben and Zoey slipped through the hole in a fence surrounding the abandoned estate. Legends of greed, untimely death, and cult activity attracted paranormal enthusiasts to the infamous movie mogul’s home like bugs to a porchlight.
The local authorities made some effort to keep the structure boarded up. Still, a new blog posting details of past investigations had revitalized interest.
“Think we parked the car far enough away?”
“My parents will kill me if we’re arrested for trespassing.”
“I think the cops have better things to worry about.”
The couple crept across the overgrown grounds toward the rear of the building.
“This is a bad idea. I can’t see anything.”
“Come on. Don’t wimp out now.”
“I’m not. I’m just stating the obvious.”
“Want me to go back and get the night vision goggles?”
“You have night-vision goggles?”
“Honestly, you’re so gullible, Ben.”
“How am I supposed to know? You have an infra-red gun, EMF meter, and a voice recorder. I’m surprised you don’t have night-vision goggles.”
“By all means, then lead the way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you fall into a ditch.”
Zoey kissed Ben on the cheek.
“You’re so sexy when you’re frightened.”
“Wow. That’s dark. Were you a black widow in a previous life?”
“Probably. Now, help me find this poorly secured window someone posted about yesterday.”
A few splinters and a nasty scratch later, Zoey stumbled upon what she was looking for.
“Yes, told you. The plywood comes right off. It looks attached, but the nails are cut. See, just the heads are left.”
“I’ll take your word for it. Let’s just do this before I chicken out.”
They climbed inside, pulling the board back across the window. Thumbing their phone lights on, they began to explore. Zoey scanned the room with the EMF meter.
“Whoa! Zoey! This place is remarkably well-preserved! The furniture’s still here. Filthy, but still all here!”
“I knew you’d love it. I heard the family insisted on leaving everything exactly as it was on the day of the murder.”
“It’s like stepping back to the golden age of Hollywood.”
“Plenty of inspiration here for a set design intern. Still scared?”
“Yes. But, it helps feeling like I’m in a scene from Grand Hotel.”
“Take lots of pictures.”
“You know they debunked ghost orbs. They’re just motes of dust.”
“No, for your scrapbook. Crazy how the owners decorated the place. How much do you think it would cost nowadays to have all this carved wood?”
“Actually, it’s not wood.”
“That’s not wood.”
“I heard you the first time. What is it then?”
“Stucco. It’s a kind of plaster. Very versatile. Easier to work with and cheaper.”
“Learn that in architecture?”
“Yep, and while working with my uncle during vacation.”
“Glad to see art school is teaching you something practical.”
“Hey, interior design is a respectable career. My uncle makes tons of money. And it’s safer than investigative journalism. I know you’re dying to cover a war zone someday. Pun intended.”
“Oh, you have no idea, Benny-Boy. I’ll be there in a heartbeat. I’m the next Clarissa Ward.”
“As long as you’re home for dinner.”
“Come on, Martha. Let’s check the rest of this place out.”
Ben followed Zoey out into a hallway.
“Need to find the main stairwell. It’s a hotbed of paranormal activity.”
“Great, now I’m anxious again.”
“Come on, baby. You can hold my hand.”
“I’d rather we went back to the car and made out.”
“I’ve got a better idea. Let’s find the master suite.”
“Sure, because that doesn’t sound like the plot of every horror movie ever made.”
The EMF scanner chirped, startling both of them.
“Ooh, we’re picking something up.”
Zoey squeezed Ben’s hand as they shuffled forward. One by one, indicator lights turned on until the entire array blazed brightly. Before them, a large space loomed.
“Zoey, look. This is the formal entrance. There’s the grand staircase.”
“Loads of EMF activity!”
“Can we leave now?”
“Oh, come on, Ben.”
“I’m sorry. This is super creepy!”
“Just five minutes. I want to take a few temperature readings and try to capture an EVP.”
“Why don’t you explore the decorum. This part of the house is probably fancier. You know, first impressions and that kind of thing.”
Ben shone a light about the foyer at the bottom of the stairs while Zoey busied herself with ghost hunting.
“You’re right. Check out these wall sconces!”
“Uh, huh. Nice.”
“And the detail around the front door is absolutely exquisite.”
“Temperature’s cooler over here.”
Absorbed in taking photos, Ben stumbled unexpectedly over something.
“What the…? There’s crap all over the place. Watch your step.”
“Uh, huh. I will.”
Picking up a piece of rubble, Ben recognized the chalky, white material.
He flipped over another chunk, revealing the cracked visage of a woman.
“That’s a shame.”
“Looks like someone decided to tear down and crush all this statuary.”
“Maybe an earthquake?”
“And dumped it all in a pile here?”
“Probably fell from the walls.
“Everything in here seems intact.”
“I don’t know then.”
“Me either. Are you ready to go? I like this place less and less the longer we’re here.”
“I want to go upstairs.”
“Come on. I’m bored and hungry.”
“Yes, but I think I’ve made a lot of progress today. You’re not going to turn me into a paranormal investigator overnight.”
“Just to the top of the landing. I promise.”
Zoey grinned and rushed over to give Ben a kiss.
“I promise I’ll make it up to you.”
Ben shivered, watching Zoey climb the stairs with the temperature gun in one hand and the EMF meter in the other. Her excitement grew with each step as her equipment’s sensors flashed and beeped with increasing intensity.
“You should come up here! This is amazing.”
The EMF meter’s lights silhouetting Zoey fell dark as she reached the last step.
“Damn! Can’t be the battery? I just charged everything.”
Frustrated, she examined the equipment.
“It’s a sign we should go.”
“I don’t understand.”
Ben huffed as Zoey lingered.
“Hey! There’s lots more stucco up here. It’s all over the floor.”
Her feet crunched as she moved onto the balcony.
“You said to the top of the stairs. Come on, Zoey! Let’s go!”
“I think I figured out where all your stucco came from. The ceiling’s covered with it. See, I was right. It must have fallen during an earthquake. Look.”
Her phone’s narrow beam of light illuminated a classically-garbed figure.
“Its face is missing. Are there more?”
Zoey highlighted another statue.
“Have your tactical flashlight on you?”
“Yes. But, I thought you were worried about attracting attention.”
“Turn it on for a second. I want to see more of the ceiling.”
“Ooh, babe! Risky! I like this new, brave Ben.”
“Shut up and just do it.”
An oblong patch of light spilled across the ceiling revealing elaborate decorations and multiple effigies of robed women.
“It’s the muses.”
“How can you tell?”
“Easy. That one’s Urania with the globe and compass. There’s Terpsichore with a lyre. That one’s quite damaged, but I can see the comedy mask and shepherd’s staff. That’s Thalia. Besides, there are nine figures, one for each Greek muse.”
“You think someone vandalized these?”
“I mean, I guess an earthquake could have, but only the faces have been damaged.”
Zoey headed back toward the staircase.
“Hey, Ben? Something’s odd.”
Zoey’s voice sounded tense.
“Only five have been defaced.”
“Someone did this on purpose. And I think I know why.”
“You probably can’t see from down there, but scratches connecting the destroyed heads are scored into the plaster.”
“Probably caused by whatever they used to scrape the stucco away.”
Zoey’s step quickened as she descended the stairs.
“I don’t want to scare you, but you know there’s one thing I don’t mess around with when doing an investigation.”
“Don’t say it.”
Zoey stood close to Ben, squeezing his hand tight as she peered up.
“Five faces destroyed. Look at the order, the spacing. The lines are difficult to see down here, but that’s a pentagram.”
“That settles it. I’m definitely not a ghost hunter.”
“Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Ben stopped short and turned.
“Put that crazy-ass light out.”
“No one’s going to see it. The place is boarded up.”
“Please turn it off.”
Darkness engulfed the room, surprising both of them.
“Turn your phone light back on!”
“It was on! Turn yours on!”
“Stop fucking around, Zoey!”
“Use the flashlight again!”
“Give me a sec!”
“It’s not working either!”
The EMF meter squawked, indicator lights blazing.
“Zoey! The ceiling! Look at the ceiling!”
Fleeing, Zoey glanced up. Unearthly eyes shone down menacingly from the five ruined faces forming the points of an eerily shimmering pentagram.
Nakul huffed as he lugged the bucket toward the river.
“Why do I always have to fetch the water?”
The dusty path slowly wound its way downhill. A constant swarm of gnats nipped at the boy, further souring his mood. At first, he tried reasoning with them but realized their thirst and hunger made that impossible.
“It’s just when she’s about to do something interesting, too!”
The heavy bucket bounced annoyingly against his legs. He hoped it would leave a bruise, causing Indali to feel guilty.
“Don’t touch that, Nakul! Shh, Nakul! Back to work, Nakul! All she does is order me around.”
He had come to learn from Indali, but she hadn’t taught him anything as far as he was concerned. For months now, the woman merely lectured Nakul about responsibility and the danger of communicating with animals. He had tried to argue he couldn’t stop hearing what they said. Nonetheless, Indali insisted mastering his ability to tune out the surrounding wildlife’s constant chatter was important.
Hello All! After weeks of diligent work, I am proud to announce I’ve submitted my first story for consideration with the magazine, Shoreline of Infinity. September’s themed issue will feature fairytales with a science fiction twist. Anyone involved in writing knows, competition is fierce and rejections are inevitable. I’m just happy I finally had the guts to throw my hat into the ring! One can never succeed without trying! I’ll keep you posted as to when and where you can read my story.
In the meantime, my focus has returned to practicing my skills with flash fiction!