Flash Fiction: Time Enough

This story was written for Microcosms and my prompts were “legatee”, “hinterland” and “Steam Punk”.

Time Enough

The airship flew slowly over the burnt grasses of the hinterlands south of the city. Encased in the glass and metal viewing deck, I was glad to be breathing fresh air. Uncle Bryan had really thought of everything when he designed the Cirrus. And it was to his country house which I was travelling.

The sprawling grounds still held some green. I half expected to see him pottering about in the garden as he was as often found there as in the basement where he built his inventions.

“Would you like me to wait for you, Sir?”  the pilot asked after we landed. I shook my head.

A cold wind tugged at my clothes. As I entered the house through the open front door, I wondered if I would even recognise my uncle; the last time I’d seen him I’d been a sickly child.

“Uncle? It’s me,” I called out. No one answered. I made my way down to the basement and heard turning cogs.

When I entered the basement, I saw it. The machine was magnificent. I spotted a letter addressed to me.

If there was one time you could return to, when would it be? I kept reading. “A time machine!” I read his instructions, about how you could only use it once, about how it could only ferry two people – and he had been one of them. That I could now go wherever I please – alone. I started crying. Unless I build another one.

I climbed into the machine and pressed buttons that would take me back only twenty years, to when my uncle started building his pièce de résistance.

I would take Clara, I decided. Take her away from the city and her early death. Perhaps we could be together in this lifetime, after all.

 

Jozi Flash 2017 Anthology for Free Download

Throw together a bunch of local writers and an artist and what do you get? The Jozi Flash 2017 Anthology *cheers*.

The free Jozi Flash 2017 Anthology contains 80 stories in 8 genres, written by 10 authors (including me).

The anthology is now available in three formats; PDF, EPUB and MOBI. So you can read the 80 stories wherever and whenever you like.

Here is a taste of one of my stories:

Flash Fiction: Red Ice

I grab another bag of prepared ice, rip it open and add it to the pile in the bathtub.

“Man versus machine is such a cliché,” the hack doctor laughs between gasping on a thick cigar and playing with a strange stopwatch. “But as long as they find your fingerprints all over this place I’m happy and my clients are happy. Now finish up,” he motions with his head to the line of instruments on a towel on the bathroom counter.

I nod, hoping that the faint smile I had programmed on my features for tonight would not be overwritten by the sheer glee of knowing that it would be the last night I would have to do this back-alley job for the luxury of staying alive. My hands burn from the ice’s cold, but I pick up a scalpel. My muscles – such as they are – know exactly what to do, even numbed by the chunks of frozen water. I shift the body just enough to be able to cut into it at the right angle to harvest the organ.

Blood warms my fingers and colours some of the ice red.

“What the hell are you staring at?” the doc shouts and my hand slips, shearing through flesh I had not intended to touch. There’s so much blood. A curse slips between my lips and I turn around, mind clouded with anger.

“Look what you made me do!” I yell, pointing at the wound where the blood was now flowing freely onto the ice, melting rivulets of it into the bottom of the bathtub. I throw down the scalpel and launch myself at the smirking doc…

 

Download it now!

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EPUB

MOBI

Header image for flash fiction manas gold

Flash Fiction: Mana’s Gold

Written for Microcosms, my prompts were “musician”, “Hamburg” and “fairy tale”.

Mana’s Gold

The harp’s music drifted over the still-sleeping town with its looming castle. Though not yet light, Mana sat in the room at the top of the castle’s tallest tower and played the golden harp by the light of a lantern.

As she played the spinning wheel in the corner of the room spun straw into gold all by itself. Already the room was lit in glittering light from the golden thread that she had made through the night.

She stared out of the window. Another day and the moon would be in the right stage of waxing.

The last few pieces of straw were turned to gold and she stopped playing. She had told them that it was the music that was magic and turned the straw to gold. In truth it was the music that kept her unborn child safe.

 

The next night, after the straw had been spun into gold, Mana placed a spell on the harp to keep playing while she took the golden thread and dragged it to the window. She forced it open and spoke another spell. Then she threw the end of the thread into the air and it soared higher and higher until it tied itself around one of the points of the sickle moon. She threw her wedding ring on the ground before gingerly stepping onto the golden thread.

Mana walked and walked until she reached the moon from where she had fallen seven years ago. Reaching the moon, she untied the golden thread and sent it back to the tower. She had no need of silly gold when she had golden sunlight, silver moonlight, and her child.

The people of the town marveled the next day at the gold thread spilling from the tower’s window like someone’s golden hair.

Flash Fiction: Broken

This story was written for last week’s Microcosms flash fiction contest. The prompt was “I wasn’t always a grumpy old man”.

Story: Broken

One of the children lingered by the garden gate where the old man stood, red cricket ball in his hand. The other children had fled as soon as they heard the sound of glass breaking.

“Think you’re getting this ball back?” he asked the child who had stayed behind. The child was close to tears, he could see that. He cleared his throat in an effort to harden his heart.

“Wanted to say sorry,” the kid stuttered.

“I wasn’t always a grumpy old man,” the elderly man said, tossing the ball to the kid. The child caught it with a smile. He looked like he had seen rough days; clothes patched by someone who obviously did not have much skill. His hair was hacked close to his head, looking like a job he did himself.

“You were young once?”

The man guffawed. “I once played cricket for the country – wait here.” He shuffled back to the house through the overgrown garden.

Inside dust hung thick in the air and clung to every surface. He passed the kitchen table where dusty plates still sat. In the bedroom, where the smell of perfume still lingered if he used his imagination, he collected his old cricket shirts.

“You can have these,” he told the child when he reached the gate again. You’d swear he’d handed the kid a gold bar. He retreated back to the dusty house with a smile.

He sat down in his chair and looked to the sofa where he could still see his wife knitting if he tried hard enough. The knitting that lay there had also been covered by dust over the years.

“Gave the kid my shirts, Mary,” he said towards the couch. Tears pricked his eyes. “I wasn’t always this grumpy, was I?”

Red cricket ball in green grass

Flash Fiction: This Time It’s Forever

Written for microcosms, my prompts were “criminal”, “library”, and “romance”. I also incorporated Rachel Poli’s Friday prompt; “Where were you?”.

This Time It’s Forever

“Where were you?” the voice asked from the ether before the figure of a woman materialised, her fingertips dancing along the spines of the library books on the shelf next to her.

“They caught me,” the man whispered, “locked me up for twenty-five years for killing your ex.” He was much older than she remembered, his eyes no longer dancing, but scarred from years spent behind bars. “You said they wouldn’t.”

The woman reached out, brushing a tear from his cheek and for a moment he closed his eyes, his features relaxing.

“But now we can truly be together,” she said. “You still love me, don’t you?”

The man nodded, didn’t answer. Then, hand shaking, he reached into his pocket and took out a pistol. The ghost smiled.

“We’ll be together forever now,” she said with a smile as he pointed the barrel at his temple.

The shot echoed through the library, leaving people scattered, running for the doors and for cover. After a few minutes silence fell once more.

 

Flash Fiction: First Blood

“First Blood” was written for last week’s Microcosms. My prompts were coma patient, galactic war, and memoir.

First Blood

This time they had not come for our mines, but for our other resources – clean water in abundance and cheap labour. The battle between the colony and earth was over in six days. I woke up on the day it ended. It was considered a miracle. I think everyone was looking for a miracle after countless were left dead. I guess I was as good a poster girl as any: the first victim.

I was on my way to my family’s escape pod when the bullet tore through my shoulder. I vaguely remember the second shot, the explosion. I remember intense heat and the sound of voices. I heard screams, felt my body being moved, saw myself from the corner of the ceiling of the operating theatre, and heard a priest pray next to my bed while I lay trapped within a flesh prison.

I read about everything that had happened after my recovery. I sat alone in my room and scrolled through the many reports of the war. Here and there I read about myself, though the reports were sketchy and only told half a tale. Apparently tearful people gathered for vigils in honour of me. The photo they used of me had been taken earlier on that fateful day outside the wedding venue. I smirked. What a lie that white dress was. What a lie all of it was. I was to marry the ambassador of earth on that day. Instead, he had used me; the daughter of the colony’s defence secretary.

I remember his eyes when he realised that the paradise he had been promised was a lie. I touched my shoulder. My marriage was supposed to be my ticket away from this hellhole in space. Good thing he was a bad shot – but I was not.

Flash Fiction: Petrichor

“Do you remember that adventure we went on? When we were nine?”

I sigh, staring out straight in front of me. Of course I remember. But that was before.

“I know you do,” Alex says, sitting down on the foot of my bed with a grunt. He touches my leg, and I flinch from pain.

“Shit, sorry,” he says, holding up his hands.

I look out the window and stare at the darkness and pinpricks of stars. I’d prefer darkness in the room as well, but the doctors would hear none of it. You need light part of the day, they’d said. They said many things. Most of it I couldn’t make heads or tails out of. They use big words as a sugar-coating, I realised all too soon. They’d stand there, sweaty-palmed, and prattle on about the new tests they were going to perform. The gene therapies I could look at and what I could actually afford.

Alex clears his throat.

“Should I rather leave?”

“No,” I say and look at him, daring him to say anything about my red-rimmed eyes.

“I thought maybe, if you’d like… you know your birthday is the day after tomorrow… I thought that I could take you to the garden.”

“They won’t let me out.”

“I’ll sneak you out.” He grins like a naughty schoolboy.

“They won’t even let me keep a succulent here,” I say and my voice breaks, catching in my throat. The top botanist and I wasn’t allowed to go to my garden.

Alex comes and sits closer to me, wipes away the tear that runs down my cheek.

“I’m keeping your part of the garden alive,” Alex says, then laughs. “I’m having to read up a lot about plants now, you know.”

I feel a smile pull at my mouth. Alex reading. Who would have thought?

“And I brought you this.” He took a small plastic container from his pocket and pops the lid open. The smell hits me instantly. Petrichor.

I sit up slowly and stretch out a hand. He puts the container in my palm and our fingers brush. In spite of the pain I feel the butterflies in my stomach. I bring the container to my nose and take a deep breath, smelling the wet soil.

“No one said you can’t have soil. They said you can’t have plants,” Alex says matter-of-factly. He brushes away another tear and I curse myself for being so weak in front of him.

An impish look crosses his face. “Do you remember that adventure we had? When we were going to steal the stars?”

“Back on the colony,” I remember. My voice catches again. “When we were still healthy.”

Silence falls between us.

“Our parents thought they chose well, you know. When they chose us. I don’t blame mine anymore. Not as much as I used to, anyway,” Alex says. I can’t say the same. Not now. Not yet.

He lies down on the hospital bed next to me even though there’s not really any space for him. I move up as best I can. When I look at his face I can see patches of freckles and the wrinkles that are starting to form between his brows. Livid red scarring on the left side of his face shows where an operation had been done. I reach up with my free hand to touch it.

“Does it still hurt?” I ask.

“Not too much,” he lies and gives me a lopsided smile that makes his eyes wrinkle at the corners.

“I’m glad they chose you,” I say, knowing how cheesy it sounds.

He takes my hand, kisses it softly in answer.

“Let’s just pretend we’re nine again,” he says, closing his eyes and holding my hand in his. “When we were on our star-stealing adventure.”

I close my eyes and remember how I stole a kiss from him that day. Our first kiss.

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Flash Fiction: The Beanstalk

This story was written for Microcosms last week. My prompts were gardener, castle, fairy tale.

The Beanstalk

The gardener watched the princess walking to and fro in front of the window of her tower. It was night and he knew that some of the glinting light that shone from the room was from light reflecting off of the fine gold the dwarf was spinning on her behalf.
He looked down at the couple of beans in his hand. He had given away everything he owned for them. Now he planted them at the base of the tower and chanted a prayed. The beans began to sprout and grow and his gaze followed them up and up, seeing how the stems intertwined and stretched before his eyes, reaching even past the window of the tower when the early dawn light replaced the darkness of the night.

The spinning stopped and the dwarf disappeared once more, to come again that night.

“Princess! He called. “Climb down!”

He did not have long to wait before he saw the maiden climb slowly down the beanstalk. When she reached the bottom, she looked around her, ignoring the gardener.

“Where is my prince?” she asked and the gardener stood silent and shocked at her words. “Where, knave?” she said, glaring at him.
With his heart in a million pieces he pointed towards the secret entrance he and some of the other servants used to sneak into the castle.
She dropped a coin in his hand, told him it’s “for his silence”, and ran towards the gate.

The gardener stared after her and dropped the coin in the mud. He started climbing the beanstalk with a heavy heart and, when he reached the top, saw the princess run away, her freedom secured. He turned around, spread out his arms, and let the void and emptiness in his heart swallow him as he fell.

 

Flash Fiction: Calling the Rain

Inspired by a writing group prompt. 

Calling the Rain 

She worked at a desk in the corner of her upstairs room. Cogs and thin pieces of copper wire littered the wooden surface, the tiny tools she used taken from her clock workshop below. Tightening the last screw, she sat back and gazed at her creation. Nothing like the blundering robot which now stood in a corner with his back to her, this was a piece of nature perfectly reproduced. It should work, shouldn’t it? She prayed before pushing the tiny lever that sent the butterfly’s wings into motion. After a few minutes she went to stand by the window and wondered how long butterflies truly took to change the weather.

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Flash Fiction: At the Altar

“At the Altar” was written for Microcosms last week. My prompts were weather forecaster, temple, and crime. It turned out quite… interesting.

At the Altar

The people had chosen him on the day the weather forecaster came to town. Selected unanimously, his hands were bound behind his back and he was marched towards the temple.

“You know not what you do!” he shouted as he tripped over the first step that led up the side of the hastily built altar outside the temple.

“We cannot have a sinner in our midst,” one of the men holding him said calmly. “You see the drought. You see our crops withering and our children dying. There is no place for you, here.”

The bound man struggled, but it was to no avail. They forced him to his knees in front of the forecaster.

“You have brought this upon yourself,” one of his captives said.

The forecaster stood closer. “Uncover his eyes.”

“Look!” one of the men said. “His one eye is the colour of the soil, the other the colour of the sea.”

“You have done well,” the forecaster said, taking out a knife. The bound man struggled, shouting for help.

“He’s a demon!” he shouted, nearly dislocating his shoulders as he struggled. “Spawn of evil! He’ll take your children and make them slaves!”

The forecaster bent down and whispered in his ear, grinning. “Their souls are mine. And you can’t stop me. Not this time.”

Warm blood stained the altar. The forecaster looked down at his handiwork with a smile. “Now I shall take the payment due to me.” Fifty people clutched at their aching hearts.

“We’ve given you gold!” one said, his face pale.

“Useless in my line of work. I need souls. And now that you’ve killed your guardian, I can have as many as I want.”

“The rain?” the other man asked.

“Will come when it comes.” The forecaster grinned.

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Behind the story

Partly inspired by the current drought and severe water shortage in Cape Town and David Kramer’s song “Die Verlosser”* (The Saviour) this story took a very dark turn very quickly. I also wanted the guardian’s difference to be subtle while still setting him apart from his fellow townsmen. And the different coloured eyes just seemed to work in the context of the story.

* “Die Verlosser” is an Afrikaans song and tells a story a la “Pied Piper of Hamelin” of a man who comes to dance and bring rain to a drought-stricken community in return for the most beautiful girl in town. Rain comes, but the townsmen will not give up the girl. When they awake the next morning all the children have disappeared, never to be seen again.

Listen to “Die Verlosser” on Spotify.