Flash Fiction Challenge: Twisted Love

This past week’s flash fiction challenge from Sir Wendig was a Valentine’s Day themed one called Twisted Love. It does what it says on the box, and any genre was welcome. So I knew I needed to write about a character from my historical fiction novel. She’s one of the antagonists (sort of) and this is the only bit of writing I’ve done from her point of view. As an aside, I really recommend writing snippets from another character’s point of view which will not be in the final novel. Writing this little piece (which ties in closely to a very pivotal scene in the book) really clarified and expanded some things, and helped me understand the motivations of one of the supporting characters. That greater understanding then helps to inform my writing when I’m working with her in a scene. Which in turn gives her and the scene greater depth and reality. So as much as I generally just enjoy writing for the Flash Fiction Challenges, this one also helped me with my main WIP, which makes it even more valuable. 

Here it is: Twisted Love
~~~~

She crouched behind the small decorative pyramid attached to a House of the Ka, her fists clenched and her stomach  roiling with a mixture of desire and hatred. Her onyx-hard eyes followed the two people walking hand-in-hand among the monuments for the dead. They always slipped away together to come here. She always swore she would no longer follow them, but somehow, time after time she found herself in this same place where they came to be alone. She had never yet been able to watch them once they were truly alone, but she could picture it. His hands would caress the girl’s soft brown skin, his lips explore her sensitive spots, breath tickling and warming, hearts beating together as he tasted her on his tongue.

Henutmire shook her head to rid herself of the painfully arousing images, whimpering softly in her throat. It should be me.  The thought was seductive, no matter how often she told herself it was impossible. She peeked around the corner. The couple had disappeared into one of the chapels nearby. She ought to creep away. She had no business here. Her love was not returned, and there was nothing she could do here except make herself miserable. Yet still she stayed, knees bent painfully and back prickled with sweat from the glory of the Sun-Boat.

She would go. This was madness, beneath her to stay here in discomfort hoping for some scrap of sound or glimpse of flesh to feed her lovesick imagination. She had too much pride to hang on anyone’s shadow like this. Her father was rich, a Foreman of the Gang, and she herself was destined for Training to Serve the Golden Goddess. Who were they? Nobodies. Just kids, playing at love. Hapiwer’s grandfather might be rich, but he himself was nothing. And Meretseger was the daughter of a faithless whore. She was less than nothing.

Henutmire rose and turned to go back down the hill toward the Village when she saw something that stopped her in her tracks. A man stood near the gate, looking about as if he had lost something. She recognized him immediately as the father of Hapiwer. Mery-Sekhmet, a successful man in his own right, and yet there were all those rumors about him. Rumors about women. Especially about Meretseger’s mother. Henutmire didn’t know their truth, but the sight of his broad figure in its shining white kilt and festival jewelry raised a horridly beguiling thought in her mind. What if Meretseger and Hapiwer were siblings? What if his father discovered them together? Would he tell them? Would they stop sneaking away like this, torturing her, if they knew? What if she told him where his son was, and with whom? No. She couldn’t.

Yes. She would. Before she had time to think, she was down the hill, her feet answering for her heart. She would tell him where his son was, and he would break up their romance. Then Meretseger would be free. Perhaps, in time, Meretseger would find a new love. Perhaps that love would even be Henutmire. She suppressed the swirl of longing that threatened to overwhelm her, concentrating on this first step. She must show Mery-Sekhmet the way. Later, she could set about wooing her beloved. Surely, with Hapiwer out of the picture, she might have a chance.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Opening Line

Another piece written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenges. This one is simple: Choose a sentence from the options he posted here, and write a story with that as your opening line. I chose ‘I never trusted that statue in the garden behind the house’ and wrote this.

I’m calling this ‘Garden Idol’

~~~

I never trusted that statue in the garden behind the house. It brooded on a pedestal against the back wall, hunched like a gargoyle, darkly weathered, and menacing. Its eyes always seemed to follow me about the garden on dreary days and it faded into the brick-wall when the sun shone cheerfully on the bright profusion of the old English Garden. But despite my dislike, there the statue remained while my mother lived. She never spoke about it, but the one time I tentatively suggested putting it in the dustbin, she nearly blew a hole through the roof. I never mentioned it again, and neither did she, but neither did she seem to pay the statue any special attention.

The day she died, I caught her whispering urgently to it, her attitude one of a supplicant to a capricious god. She was weakened and frail from the cancer, but she could still walk about with her cane on the good days. I watched her through the kitchen window, my hands submerged in the mundanity of soapy dishwater while I watched my clever, pragmatic mother beseeching a hunk of old weathered stone. When she was done, she glanced about surreptitiously and then propped her cane up against the plinth, on the back-side where it was hidden by the wall.

Three hours later, she had breathed her last while I held her thin, purple-veined hand. She looked me in the face, smiled, and said “Don’t worry, love. You’ll be fine. I’ve taken care of everything.”

“Yes Mum. I love you.”

“I know. You’re a good girl. You’ll be alright.” She drew in a deep breath. Her eyes drifted closed. She murmured, “I’ve seen to it. You’ll be-”

~

They took her body away immediately, whisking her to the funeral home to primp the husk for burial. The house echoed emptily after the men left. Mother was never very loud, soft-spoken and gentle except when angry. Still, her absence resonated from the attic to the kitchen, and drove me out into the sunshine of the back garden. Here the wind murmured and whispered, filling the silence in my heart a little. I wandered among the flowers until I found myself standing in front of the statue. A sudden anger gripped me and I snatched Mum’s cane up and used it to push the ugly thing off its pedestal. It lay among smashed stems and crushed petals, glaring malevolently at me. I turned my back and marched up to the house, laying Mum’s cane across her favorite couch, where she had lain earlier that very day. Somehow, it comforted me while I cleaned the house, ate my solitary supper, stared blindly at a book, and finally went up to bed. I slept badly, dreaming strange dreams of terror and anger and sadness and loss, all featuring the garden statue.

The next morning, the cane was gone. I stared blearily at the couch, wondering if I had moved it and forgotten. Shaking my head, I stumbled into the kitchen to put the kettle on for the morning’s first cup of tea. Staring absently out the window, I suddenly realized the statue was back on its plinth against the wall. I left the door standing open, ignoring the heavy dew drenching my slippers and the hem of my dressing-gown. The statue was as menacing as ever, glowering from its plinth as if it never moved, with Mum’s cane propped against the plinth. Only the crushed flowers assured me I hadn’t dreamed my fit of pique the day before. I glowered back, hands on hips as I contemplated the thing. I picked it up and marched through the back gate. As always, the feel of the thing made my skin crawl, and I gladly deposited it into the dustbin. I returned to the house to finish my tea and prepare for the visitors I knew would arrive later — Mum’s friends, our few relations, our neighbors. I slammed my finger in the door on my way inside and burned the tea.

~

I slept badly again that night, haunted by dreams of misfortune and memories of all the little mishaps which had plagued the house throughout the day. This time I wasn’t surprised to find the statue back in the garden and Mum’s cane beside it. I set my mouth in a grim line and loaded the thing into Mum’s old car, driving towards where the river curved away from the village into the countryside. The garden statue sank with a satisfyingly final ‘KERPLOOSH’ and I drove home to dress for the funeral.

The plague of mishaps returned with a vengeance during the funeral, from the hysterics of one of my female cousins to the minister using the wrong name in the service, to one of the wreaths catching fire from a candle. Each one grew gradually worse building up to a grand fiasco. As they left the church, bearing Mum’s coffin, somehow the pall-bearers grew tangled and fell. The casket tilted crazily, flew open with a bang on a man’s head, and Mum rolled out in an untidy heap on the stone steps. Her stiff limbs flapped and her funerary garment went askew, showing her knickers to all the assembled mourners. Gasps, sobs, and one muffled titter greeted the sight of my mother’s inert indecency. I shuddered and looked away as people scrambled to load her back into her casket and continue the procession to the grave-site.

That night, the familiar dreams barely impinged on my exhaustion. I woke early and glanced down into the dawn-gilded garden fearfully.

The statue crouched, dripping river-water, in its place. I trudged down in my dressing-gown to stare silently at it. Fear, exhaustion, and resignation warred in my breast. At last I whispered my concession.

“You win. You stay, and so does Mum’s cane.”

The statue smiled slightly.

I never trusted that smile.

Epic Flash Fiction Challenge

I had so much fun writing the last story for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge, I decided to go again when he made the Epic Game of Aspects: Redux Challenge. This time we were given lists of 20 choices for Subgenre, Conflict, and Element to Include. I rolled (d20s this time) Black Comedy, Assassin!, and Poisonous Snakes. After much cogitation, and some struggle at being funny, I give you:

Bloody Snakes!

~~~

The sound of the window-sash sliding gently open woke me. That noise is never a good sign, but I didn’t panic. Perhaps it was only a thief. I kept my breathing slow and even, careful not to betray my wakefulness. I strained my ears for every faint crumb of sound but I could still barely hear the rustle of a body sliding over the window-sill. I shifted aimlessly in the bed, as a sleeper stirring might. One flick of a finger, and the room glowed pale-green within my goggles. A figure stood motionless just inside my window.

We breathed slowly, listening to each-other. I counted heartbeats until my nocturnal visitor was satisfied by my feigned slumber. The figure moved further into the room, one careful step at a time edging toward my bed.

CRASH!

I nearly gave the game away by laughing aloud at the muffled swearing. They had tripped over a half-built prototype on my floor. Clearly, this thief was either inexperienced or extraordinarily idiotic. No night-goggles, carrying a bulky box on their back, and very little preparation.

The figure waited for me to settle into “sleep” again. I waited for their next move.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

The second-hand on my pocket-watch sliced the night’s silence from my dressing-table. Finally, she moved, revealing an outline of breasts as she slid closer. She shifted the box off of her back and reached inside. My hand  tightened on the tiny revolver beneath my pillow. To my horror, she withdrew her hand from the box clutching a long thrashing creature behind its head.

Tossing the snake toward my bed, she snarled “A message from Lord Taylor. Die wench!”

“Awk!”

Crack!

My bullet went wild as I scrambled desperately to untangle my night-dress from my bed-clothes. The viper struck, hissing, and rebounded off the metal of my prosthetic right arm. At last, I escaped my treacherous bed. I steadied myself with several ragged breaths, aimed, fired.

Bang!

The snake thrashed among the tumbled sheets. I fired again, for good measure, then adjusted my aim. My fourth shot took the assassin high in the shoulder. She squealed and scrambled backwards toward the window, abandoning her box of vile creatures to their fate. I hit her once more, in the bottom, as she escaped. I hoped she wouldn’t sit comfortably for a month.

Snakes. Why does it always have to be snakes?!

I turned up the gas and shouted for my landlady. Then I climbed deliberately onto a chair and waited for someone to arrive and dispose of the bloody box of bloody snakes, keeping my revolver trained on them.

~~~

Flash Fiction Challenge: Accepted

So I decided to participate in Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge, A Game of Aspects. I’ve never written flash before, and the choices appealed to me, so I thought I’d give it a go. It proved unexpectedly fun, and fulfilling too. The way it works is you choose, either deliberately or randomly (I was totally a nerd and rolled 3d10s), an aspect from each of three categories he provided. The categories were Subgenre, Setting, and Element to Include. Mine were:

Alternate History
The Hollow Earth
Weapons of Mass Destruction (though as it ended up, I also included Dragons)

After some cogitation, inspiration hit. If my story were to be a question on Sheldon and Amy’s game, Counterfactuals, it would be something like this. Read the rest of this entry »