Poll

Which 2 stories merit your votes?

The San Juan Trail
3 (15%)
Ripped
2 (10%)
THE CATCH
5 (25%)
Untitled
4 (20%)
A Secret to Salvage
6 (30%)

Total Members Voted: 10

Voting closed: May 16, 2012, 08:55:47 AM

Author Topic: Voting #46 Flash Fiction Now Closed  (Read 1799 times)

Offline 510bhan

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Voting #46 Flash Fiction Now Closed
« on: May 09, 2012, 08:55:47 AM »
FLASH FICTION #46 Please take time to read these stories, enjoy them as coffee break reads or while you're waiting for your turn at the photo-copier  ;D ;D ;D

We have 5 entries which don't all fit into one reply box so please continue reading them in the box below. You have two votes to use to decide which one of these fine stories will be the winner.



The San Juan Trail

Towering snow covered peaks against a lush blue sky with an aquamarine stream flowing in the valley below the narrow gauge track crossed the wood trestle.  The old steam train belching a column of black smoke left the canyon of snow drifts behind on one side of the mountain pass of the Rockies plunging in to another canyon of snow drifts that seemed just as high as the passenger cars.

All around Jason Young cameras of rail fans clicked, movie cameras buzzed, but he was far from making this trip for fun; he was traveling on the San Juan Line for something other than pleasure.    

The volunteer guide acting as the conductor swayed from side to side with the motion of the rail car as he walked the aisle to Jason’s seat.  Leaning over the other passenger he said: “We’ll be stopping at the Alton water tank, sir.”

“Thanks.”

Jason hauled himself out of his seat, excusing himself as he climbed over the other person.  As Jason pulled his pack down from the overhead rack the other person slid across the seat to the window to take pictures of the snow.

“Must be from Florida,” Jason mused as he made his way to the end of the car and the open vestibule.  The temperature was below zero at this elevation he could feel the train slowing, the brakes squealing as the ice encrusted water tank came in to view.  

A blue oversized 1978 Chevy 4x4 with full off-road package was sitting between the water tank and old snow and tumble weed infested station, long since abandoned to all but the hardiest of rail fans.

A man and two women waited for him at the truck as the train stopped.  The man, Scott Harrison climbed out of the truck holding his hand out to him: “Hey, Jason great you could come on short notice.”

“Any shorter and I would have missed the train.”  

The first girl, Sharon Mitchell got out so he could get in the back with the other.    Jason and the other girl, Kathy Ramirez slid next to each other.

Jason asked: “So what’s all the mystery?”

“It’s an old town up off the San Juan Trail that’s part of the Continental Divide Trail, the town was called Commonwealth.”

They arrived at Scott’s place where they spent the night then left out for Commonwealth early the next morning.

The Blazer plowed through axle deep snow drifts as Scott followed the road bed of the old narrow gauge rail line for the next ten miles to the abandoned town on the other side of San Juan Pass. Scott said:  “Only way in and out was by train until 1920– before that around 1865 it was horses and wagons until 1876. The train shortened the trip to a day in and out.”

By noontime they passed what was left of the old rail road station, the round house and small freight yard, abandoned freight cars, the hulk of an engine; all rusted and covered by a blanket snow.  There were the usual salvage area of abandoned cars and trucks from the pre-First War years and a few from the 1930’s.

Jason was amazed at the array of old cars: “A period enthusiasts dream.”

One of the girls said: “It’s like a living museum.”

Scott stopped so they could take pictures the old buildings and tried to read a couple of the ancient advertising on the sides of buildings on the main street past boarded up stores, a couple old saloons, and houses the old board walk that was rotting and falling apart.

 They swore they could hear the noise of the town, the player pianos, the trains; it was as if the ghosts from the turn of the century were checking us out; it seemed no one other than the forest service had ever bothered to come in this far.

 “Okay, where’s the mystery?”  Jason asked as Scott continued on through the town toward an old abandoned mine head at the other end.  

“That mine there.”  Scott gestured to the gray weathered mine on the side of the hill.  “It’s said that around the early nine hundreds Old Man Preston claimed the mine was played out – no more gold.  Packed up and went back east.  Didn’t bother digging another foot through the rock, otherwise he could have been the richest man in North America.”

Scott stopped close to the mine head, the four got out in to knee deep snow and followed Scott in to the old mine.  He took out a pack with lights giving each one a hand-held light.  They walked through the building past old mine head machinery in to the shaft and started down following a rope used to guide them to where they were going.  Water constantly dripped through the rocks in the ceiling leaving a sharp musty odor of aged rock and moistness that assailed the senses until the four reached the end of the shaft.

“Here,” said Scott, setting his light down.  He used a mattock pick to hack at the rock until it fell away in chunks.  “There.”  A large vein of gold was exposed to them.

Sharon and Kathy nearly dropped their lights when the yellow metal shone past the gray rock.  Jason felt giddy and light headed; the raw gold had a mesmerizing effect on them as they fought to control themselves.

“My god, we’re rich beyond our wildest dreams,” Jason whispered as he reached out to touch the gold feeling its coolness, the water dripping past it to the floor.  

“Ten years looking for this vein,” said Scott caressing the gold like it was a child.

                                           # # #




Ripped

Space dripped time. Ones’ senses pooled in darkness until they went mad. It was not for everyone, and the fabric in-between was even worse.

A small green rubber band salvaged from Lt. Jeremy’s braces gave hope for the last of our sanity. With the help of that elastic band a disk attached to the flux-capacitor began to spin and generated a field. It was our third such attempt. If the field didn’t hold we would remain stuck within the folds of space.

The field grew.

Dan and I clapped each other’s’ backs as one by one the lights in our visors display flickered back to life.

A metallic voice commented in our ears.

“Worm hole re-established.”

The bitter blackness of space shuttered and opened one baneful eye. We all held our breaths.  

“Initiating jump.”

There came that recognisable lurch, that sickening surge of gravity which smashed in waves against our knees.

“I can’t breathe. I CAN’T BREATHE!”

Dan clawed at his helmet trying to open the metal clasps. We all knew it was too early, that the room wasn’t ready. Dan knew. But breaking time was like being held under water too long. Once you saw its reflection, that promised border-of-escape, logic didn’t always matter.

A sudden hiss told me he achieved his goal. A sudden pop of red mist showed me the rest. What his suit didn’t hold onto littered the room’s white ceiling in an intense arc of gore.  Around us too many lights were flashing, too many sirens screamed, too many things seemed to be going wrong. Lt. Jeremy stepped over Dan’s inert body and retrieved his slightly dirtied elastic band. It went into a side compartment on his sleeve. Slowly the lights dimmed, the noises receded and training kicked in.

I pushed out the air from my lungs, squeezed my rib cage with both arms, and then stood up when the gravity lessened.

“Atmospheric conditions stabilised,” another robotic voice notified.

From behind a sliding metal door large workers dressed in dark blue coveralls rushed in to remove the body. We waited at attention until summoned by that same voice to move over and deposit our collections of their precious elements into receptacles cut into the floor. It was only after then we were addressed.

“Humans.”

As the remnants of that once proud race we stepped forward. Banished by the Universe who considered us a virus, we inked out survival on another planet, adapted our genetics to work where others could not. The Harkanians were just such a race.

“Our payment?” I asked politely.

“As promised. Earth is yours.”

Back in the Altered-Zone, prior to their journey, plans had been set in motion, convoys of life waited for the signal. I pressed the transmit button. Humanity would spread its wings, would get much stronger, would punish those who had so quickly punished themselves.

Even if we had to rip time apart.


THE CATCH


Kyle watched the winch carefully as it hauled the nets up from the sea bottom. The load was extraordinarily heavy, much heavier than his normal catches of cod and halibut. The winch motor was straining more than he had ever seen it do before, and he was both elated and worried. Such a heavy catch was sure to make this last run of the season an incredibly lucrative one, if it didn’t burn out the old motor or burst the ancient nets he hadn’t been able to replace.

“Tommy,” he yelled to his brother and fishing companion, “slow that winch down, or you’re gonna burn the damn thing up.” Tommy nodded, and Kyle heard an almost imperceptible change in the old motor’s drone. “That ain’t enough, damn it! Slow the damn thing down, now, before it’s too late!”

Tommy glared at him, but slowed the motor again until the creaking grind seemed to ease. The nets still made their slow rise to the surface, but the winch no longer seemed on the verge of mechanical extinction. “Damn fool,” Kyle muttered to himself, “never did have a lick of sense.”

He looked away from the rising lines to survey the horizon. Dark, tumbling mountains of clouds were moving toward the two of them and their little boat but, with a little luck, they would have time to bring the catch aboard and head to shore before the worst of it arrived. The chop of the waves hadn’t increased greatly yet, and he thought the old nets should withstand the few moments of added strain until the turn was complete. The nets were still submerged and dragging through the water, so it was a risk, but one he was willing to take.

Tommy sensed the boat’s turn and turned his face toward Kyle. “Bad move, bro,” he shouted. Nonetheless, Kyle took a chance and began to turn the “Mary Lou” away from the wind in a slow turn to put them directly landward. The old boat creaked noisily for a moment, broadside to the waves, but seemed to surge forward with renewed energy when the turn was complete. Kyle thought it was almost as if the old girl could sense they were on the way home.

“You gonna quit patting yourself on the back for that stunt,” Tommy shouted, “and get over here to help me with the nets?”

Kyle slowed the engines almost to a stop, set the rope to hold the rudder steady, and grabbed one of the grappling hooks. He took careful steps to the rail, intent on watching the Niagara of water that dripped from the nets and made the deck slick. He opened the hatch to the hold as he passed it, and was reaching for the side of the net when he heard his brother again.

“What the hell is that?” Tommy shouted. For a moment the winch and crane stopped, and the loaded net swung precariously over Kyle’s head. His gaze shifted from the mass of the net to its contents, and he muttered in amazement, “Sweet Jeez-us!”

The net bulged ominously, but not from an abundance of fish. Something metallic and heavy sat in the middle of it, straining and stretching the old fibers. “Damn it!” Kyle said. His anger at the loss of the catch he had anticipated was evident in his every movement.

“Drop the net and get that thing out of there!” he shouted.

“There’s still a lot of fish in there,” Tommy responded, “I drop the net and this whole trip is a bust.” He looked at the approaching storm and added, “We need every dollar we can get, bro…or have you forgotten?” He looked at the heavy metallic object in the net. “Besides,” he said, “That thing might have some salvage value.”

Kyle looked down at the water washing over his boots on the deck and sighed. “You’re right, little brother. Set her down gently on the deck so we don’t wreck anything. Whatever that shitty piece of metal is, it’s heavy.”

Kyle watched his brother maneuver the net onto the deck and, when he heard the thunk of the metal object on the wooden deck, he hooked the net and opened the side, spilling the fish portion of its contents at his feet. He grabbed one of the big deck brooms and pushed part of the catch toward the hatch and the yawing, empty hold.

There was a metallic clang when he turned, as the broom head struck the object in the net. Kyle rolled his eyes and looked up at his brother, sitting at the winch and crane controls. He expected Tommy to berate him, but his brother sat staring, wide-eyed, at the net.

Kyle turned to follow his brother’s awestruck gaze and felt his own jaw drop. “Is that what I think it is?” he whispered.

“That, big brother,” Tommy whispered back, “is a bomb.”

“It must have been on the bottom,” Kyle said. “We snagged it going deep for the halibut.”

“I wonder if it’s live?”

“If you want my vote,” Kyle said, “I say we don’t wait to find out. Push it overboard and get the hell out of here.”

“Seconded,” Tommy said. He went back to the crane and winch controls, lifted the net slowly off the deck, and swung it over the side. The bomb inside it clanked heavily on the rail.

“Easy!” Kyle shouted.

Tommy opened the net and let the contents fall back into the sea while Kyle raced for the controls of the Mary Lou, and pushed her engines to full throttle.

“Easy,” Tommy yelled, “that engine’s not in much better shape than the nets!”

“We’re not in water all that deep,” Kyle shouted back, straining to be heard, “I figure we have about fifteen seconds until that thing hits bottom.” He looked directly into his brother’s eyes. “Do you want to be here if…?” He didn’t finish his sentence, as a rising column of water preceded the detonation.

***
« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 09:05:11 AM by 510bhan »

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Voting #46 Flash Fiction
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2012, 08:57:12 AM »
Untitled

It surprised Trent that he always recognized Callie right away.

“Hello, Love.”

“Hello yourself,” she said.  “You like?”

“Like?”  He held her at arm’s length.   “You look like my Grandma.  Why this vessel?”

Callie ran a hand through her white hair, and then leaned on her cane.  “It was . . . available.”

“It was a salvage?”

“Yes, Trent.   I ran out of time.  Don’t start.”

Trent suppressed the urge to scold his wife for her carelessness.  “How long do you have?”

“Oh, a few days at least. That’s plenty of time.  Ready?  I’m starving, let’s eat.”

In the restaurant Trent looked for prospects.  Callie tended to overestimate life spans, and a body salvaged on the brink of death could flicker out without warning. While she ate her pie, he scanned the room.  The only other female was the waitress, and she had a sickly pallor.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Callie laid her wrinkled hand over his.

“I think you need to start taking things more seriously.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Yes, dear.”

“I mean it, Cal.  It only takes one mistake.  If a body fails before you jump, that’s it.  Trapped.  What would I do without you? I’d be alone.  Think about that.”

Trent thought she was ignoring him, but Callie winked and nodded toward the booth in the corner.  “Bingo,” she said.

               #

The woman had long, black hair and high cheekbones.  Beautiful and young.  No wedding ring.  She ate alone.  Good.  The fewer complications, the better.  Trent stood outside the restaurant smoking while she finished eating, and followed her at a distance. A block away she darted into a shop and turned the sign in the door window to “OPEN”.

Trent dialed Callie’s number.  “You won’t believe it.”

“What?  What is it?”

“She has a shop.  Listen to this, ‘Tarrot Cards, Aura interpretation, Spiritual Cleansings.’ She’s a nut.”

“She’s not a nut, she’s a psychic.  I’ve always wanted to be a psychic.  I’m on the way.”

               #

A clanging bell announced Trent & Callie as they entered the shop.  It was dimly lit, and full of overstuffed chairs and couches.  It looked someone’s living room.

“Yes?”

“We would like a reading, please,” Trent said.

“Sure thing. What kind?  Cards? Aura? I even do crystals.”

“Cards,” Callie answered. “I’d like you to read my cards.”

The woman retreated behind a curtain and returned with a small, intricately carved box.  “You shuffle,” she said.

“Been doing this long?”

She smirked.  “Only my whole life.  It’s not like a career you chose, it’s with you from birth.” A cat crept in from the back room and hissed loudly at Callie. Trent moved to shoo the animal and it began yowling.

“Gosh, sorry!”  The woman scooped up the cat and took it away.  “That was odd.  He usually just lies around."  She looked from Trent to Callie.   " He really didn’t like you.”

Callie sensed that the woman was frightened. “He probably just smelled my dog.”  She passed the shuffled cards across the table to the psychic.  “I’m Callie, by the way.”  Trent raised an eyebrow.  They didn’t usually give their names.

“Marissa.”  She cut the cards and began laying them out in rows.  “Yes, I suppose he just smelled something.”  Marissa’s brow furrowed as she read the cards.  She stopped abruptly and stared at Callie.  “Something is very wrong. The cards -  and where is the man?”

“I’m here,” Trent said as he returned from the back room.  “Sorry, just nosing around.  Live here alone, do you?”  Marissa stiffened.

“That was very rude, Trent.  Be a good boy and sit down while Marissa and I have a talk.”  Callie noticed the blood dripping from Trent’s right hand.  The cat had put up a fight.  “Go on, Marissa.  Tell me my future.”

“Get out,” she said.  “I don’t know who you are – what you are, but get out now.”

Callie sighed as Trent stole up behind the beautiful Marissa and covered her mouth.  They carried her to the back room and Trent held her down on the single bed.  “You really do have a gift, don’t you?  What did you see in those cards?  Might as well tell me.”

Marissa was shaking, but her voice was strangely calm.  “This.  I saw this.  And when I looked at your future I saw-“

“Yes?”

“Me.”

“Yes.”

 Callie laid her hands on Marissa’s head and began chanting words from a dead language.  Marissa fainted in Trent’s grasp, and tears dripped down her face.  Once the chant was completed, Callie pulled Marissa to her in an embrace and kissed her. Trent knelt beside the bed, waiting.

 Several minutes later, Marissa’s eyes fluttered open.

“Hello, Love,” she said.

“Hello yourself.”

In the front of the shop the bell rang over the door.
            #
“Yes?”

“I’m here for a reading.” The man was young and healthy looking.

“What would you like?  Cards?"

“Yes, cards.”

Callie pulled her long raven hair back in a pony tail and winked at the man as he shuffled.  “You married?” she asked.

“You’re the psychic – you tell me.” He laughed.  “Nah.  I’m not married. Don’t even have a girlfriend.”  He looked at Marissa approvingly. “I’m free as a bird.”
Callie smiled and arranged the cards.  “My oh my, I see some big changes in your future. Very big.”

The man perked up at this.  He was so intent on the beautiful Callie and the cards and his brilliant future that he didn’t even hear Trent as he snuck up behind him, chanting.



A Secret to Salvage

The house had burned to the ground with all their belongings in it. Ten years’ worth of furniture, fine china, clothing, and memorabilia went up in smoke. They had barely gotten out with their lives; they woke up after midnight, smoke filling the bedroom, the shrill beep of an alarm waking them rudely from sound sleep. They crawled out a window. Chloe had been released from the hospital today. They had both suffered smoke inhalation, but Dan went home earlier. Now she poked through the charred ruins of their home under the watchful eye of a fire sergeant. Was there anything salvageable? A lone frame stood near the back, still dripping . Chloe poked disconsolately at what remained of her cabinets and wondered if she wanted plates and cups that might be saved with an extra hard scrubbing. She decided that she did not.

The truth was, she had been thinking of leaving Dan, and this might be the best time to do it.

They had grown apart. As they accumulated items over the years, it was like a moat sprung up between them. An impassable barrier of THINGS. The engagement ring had been first; one and a half carats and plenty of bling. Then a new TV, sofa, the latest technology-packed computer. The best apartment, on a stylish street in the suburbs of New York. Designer label clothing. But no children. Dan didn’t want any. Chloe had been closer to his way of thinking when they first got married. She was only twenty three when they met, twenty five when they tied the knot. Quite young to be thinking of children, according to some. She assumed that if she changed her mind, he would too. She had been wrong. And now the emptiness of these ruins represented the ashes of her feelings towards her husband; she didn’t think any phoenix would rise from this particular grave. She went back to her car empty handed. There was nothing.

“I don’t want to lose you,” Dan whispered in her ear as she lay in the hospital bed, wheezing and ash-stained. She lay limp and dead in his embrace, not raising her arms to return the hug. He pretended not to notice and he slept on the couch in her room. How to explain it was over? Over at the age of thirty three. She couldn’t imagine starting over, but she couldn’t bear the idea of never having a child. To be old and have nobody calling. No grandchildren to give her warm hugs. Alone in a nursing home, no visitors. She didn’t want to grow bitter and isolated. But no matter how she tried to explain this to Dan, he batted it away.

“We’ll always have each other,” he said.

Eventually the intimacy dried up; with every bitter argument, they drifted further apart. And the
fellow at work that had the office at the end of the hall, well, she wasn’t in love with him, but he was fun and charming, and she sensed that he liked her. She hadn’t slept with him yet. It wasn’t the way to get out of a marriage, but in some ways it was better than sitting at home alone, nights when Dan worked late. He was a lawyer and gone sixty plus hours a week. He came home exhausted and full of stories about who was stabbing whom in the back.

She didn’t want to listen to it anymore.

There was an envelope containing documents regarding their legal separation on the car seat. She drove by Dan’s work for lunch to talk about it. As she walked down the hall towards his office, she realized she could hear him talking to his colleague, Bill. They were in the lunch room and their voices were echoing down the hall.

“You think Chloe wants a divorce?”

“Yes. I was looking through the history of our web browser, trying to find an old link. She’d been
searching for do-it-yourself divorce kits.”

“Try counseling,” Bill suggested.

“I don’t believe in that,” Dan said.

“Yeah, but you don’t want to lose her. It’s been ten years, right?”

“Yes,” Dan said.

“Then what’s the problem?”

“Chloe wants children. I don’t. Not under any circumstances.”

“Well, you should let her go, then, if you feel that strongly about it.” Bill said.

“I’m very afraid of having children. I grew up in an abusive home. I’m afraid the stress of parenthood could reopen old wounds.”

“Have you told her?” Bill asked.

“We don’t talk anymore,” Dan said with regret in his voice. Chloe flattened herself against the wall as one of Dan’s female coworkers went by. She didn’t seem to notice her hovering there.

“Counseling could probably help you get past any fears about abuse,” Bill said.

“I don’t know. I have nightmares of my Dad throwing me down the stairs, my Mom crying and him dragging her across the floor. I would never want to subject a child...”

“You should tell Chloe, not me,” Bill said.

“I know, but it’s just…very hard. I’m not in her heart anymore. I don’t think it would make any difference.” Silence fell. Chloe heard footsteps – from the lunch room? – and she panicked and ran. Back towards the car where the papers waited for her, accusing her in black and white. Chloe got in her car and drove away, but she was in a daze and paused at stop lights until cars behind her beeped. So Dan didn’t hate children. He wanted to spare them the ugliness he’d been through. Why hadn’t he told her? She sensed her phone buzzing in her pocket but couldn’t answer it. Eventually a chime indicated that someone left a message. She pulled over to listen.

“Hi honey, it’s me. Just wanted to see what was on for dinner. Call me.” It was Dan.

She listened to the message again and stared into space. So casual. She didn’t understand her husband at all.