Friday, September 25, 2009

Flash Fiction #6 - Business 101

Stuck to reality this time. Can't imagine why? hahaha I think maybe a trip back to Jezina’s world is called for sometime soon :) In the meantime . . .

Business 101

Her eyes wandered, oh so discretely checking the clock on the far wall. Jacob caught her eye and smirked, knowing exactly what she’d been doing and wishing he’d chosen a seat on an angle that would let him do the same. She smiled slightly in acknowledgment and forced herself to focus on the team meeting.

This lasted just long enough to realize they were still arguing – sorry debating – over the stupidest little details. She really just couldn’t bring herself to care whether it was a semi-colon or a period between those two phrases.

She wondered idly if these people sitting around the table really cared or if it was just something to do to kill time and feel important. Cathy was arguing vehemently for the elegance of the semi-colon, while Peter felt the period made for a much stronger statement; Alison left them to their discussion and retreated to her own world.

She forced a tiny portion of her mind to stay at the meeting which enabled her to nod at appropriate times while she enjoyed a detailed and thoroughly appealing daydream involving a tropical island beach and a scantily clad cabana boy. Just as it was getting good and she was working to keep from smiling and giving herself away, her reality was rudely interrupted by the sound of her own name.

“Alison, what do you think?”

“I try really hard not to.” was the immediate response from the daydreaming side of her brain; fortunately for her, the small piece that had been left to supervise the meeting kicked in and substituted “I firmly believe it’s critical we resolve this issue in a way that is most consistent with our global marketing strategy.” She held her breath for that moment of anxiety while she waited to see if her complete non-answer made any sense in the context of whatever they’d been discussing.

“Alison’s absolutely correct!” her boss stated emphatically much to her relief and Jacob’s disgust. Jacob was Alison’s peer and the only person in the room who both got how ridiculous the whole corporate culture was and yet still made a genuine effort. And because of this he bitterly resented her natural rhetorical abilities that enabled her to daydream the meeting away and provide respected answers while he had to stay fully engaged and would still never be asked his opinion.

Two painful hours later the meeting wrapped up with all parties convinced important decisions had been made. Jacob had pages of notes; Alison had a scribbled drawing of a beach umbrella. He caught up with her as she was clearing her desk to go home.

“So just out of curiosity, do you have even the slightest idea what went on in that meeting?” he asked, more resigned than bitter by this point. Someday, Alison acknowledged, he’d probably go far – but she was going to enjoy the trip a whole lot more.

“Of course,” Alison stated positively. And then summed up three hours they’d never get back in three words: “the period won.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

Flash Fiction #5 - Reduced Price

hahaha I had fun with this one but I can hear my OAC Writer's Craft teacher banging his head against the wall as I broke rule after rule after rule. "You have to maintain tense, tone, voice throughout..." Well the original broke all three, but I edited enough to follow two of the three and as to the other one, well clearly that was intentional to make a point rather than lack of editing time :) Sorry Mr. S. >;-P



Reduced Price:

"Ohhh look at the dragon -- he's half price!"

"We don't need another dragon," Steve told his wife, exasperated. This was a conversation they'd had many times.

"But he'd go so well in the yard next to the bird bath!" The bird bath had been 30% off. Claire had a need to rehome the dusty, the antique, and the hideously ugly artifacts of the world, and a shopper's eye for a deal.

The storekeep seemed to realize this and stepped in to close the deal at just the right moment. Claire was excited about this find, the attention to detail in the carving was incredible, and the deep green eyes reflected light in a way that made them seem eerily alive

Within moments of arriving home, the neighbourhood children had crowded around to see the new addition. It was town legend that their garden came alive at night and many of the children would spend hours playing there talking to their "friends", afraid of the witch who haunted the back corner, and swearing that if they snuck out after bedtime everybody came to life! Steve and Claire had spent the odd night in their yard, but their adult eyes saw no signs of life beyond the one curious little rabbit who hopped through in search of dinner.

Late that night Claire heard a noise in the garden. Knowing it was nearly impossible to wake Steve, she headed down alone expecting to find the local teenagers being teenagers. She turned on the floodlights, but nobody was there. The dragon had been turned so he was facing the opposite direction -- pointing almost directly towards the wizard but everything else seemed to be in order so she turned the lights back off and went back upstairs to sleep.

To sleep and to dream.

"Do you believe in magic?" the wizard asked her.

"Of course." Claire gave the only possible answer.

"And what of good and evil?"

"ummm sure" Claire said hesitantly.

"I assure you they exist, right here in your yard. The corner witch believes people are pests to be eradicated. Only the young ones are aware of us; she feels once they loose their sight, they're useless. So she and her minions spend the depth of the nights doing what they can to disrupt your civilization. Mostly they can only cause mischief, but with the power of the moon, any she encounters can be turned to stone. Those who "vanish" are often victims of her quest, and may be found frozen as a statue for sale at any garden centre. She particularly hates and envies the young and beautiful.

The witch's power is limited by her book. If she could not read the spells housed inside it, your people would be safe. And so we spend our nights trying to destroy it."

Claire looked around her garden. Sure enough, some of her favourites -- the little cat and the giant frog for instance, were missing. The dragon was watching her intently. He seemed to be trying to communicate something to her, but it was beyond her abilities to understand. The witch was glaring at the wizard, but seemed to be paying no attention to Claire whatsoever.

"You could help us," he told her, "all you'd have to do is remove the book by daylight while she sleeps."

Claire woke with that suggestion in her mind. She told Steve about her dream, fully expected to be mocked, and was surprised when instead he took her hand and led her downstairs to his workshop where he grabbed his toolbelt before heading out to the garden. She watched as he walked directly up to the witch, raised his hammer and swung.

"NO!" Claire yelled. He stopped mid-swing, proving he'd never actually intended to follow through. "What, you mean you don't want me to destroy your statue because of a dream?" he asked her, grinning to take the sting out of his words. She glared at him and approached the statue, twisting her head so she could see the book.

"It's actually got writing in it." she announced surprised.

"It's just scratches." he said peering over her shoulder, "not actual letters."

"Still, it's more detail than I'd ever noticed before." Looking at the statue she knew what to do. Feeling rather idiotic, but knowing she'd sleep better the next night, she took a chisel from Steve and gingerly chipped away at the unknown script on the book. The statue would still look the same, but Claire's superstitious side would be appeased, and her adult side could pretend she hadn't given in to childish fears.

Late that night, long after the moon had risen, she crept back to the garden half expecting it to be alive and busy. As soon as she stepped out the door there was a flash of light that momentarily blinded her. When she could see again it was to discover she couldn't move and the wizard was walking towards her. She tried to yell, but it was as though she were in a soundproof container. She could move, speak and breathe inside the container, but nothing moved her cage.

"Oh my dear, I must thank you for your assistance in the matter with the witch. Now that you've successfully incapacitated her, I'm free to do as I wish with any of your type who venture out after dark. She was such a thorn in my side always wanting to respect the people, but thanks to you I've proven to her just how stupid they are and eliminated of any influence she ever had."

With that he tipped her over and carried her around the block to the nearest garden shop -- the one where she'd gotten him for a great price over a year ago. "This will help you find a new home soon", he said with a smirk as he hung a sign around her neck.

It read: "Reduced Price”.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Flash Fiction #4 - Garden of Eden

Actually stuck to the rules this week :) And then promptly forgot to post! hahaha ah well, it's still Friday. Enjoy!

Garden of Eden:

"Hello . . . “ she called loudly; the second time today she had done so. The only voice to answer was her own, reverberating off the canyon walls. She hadn’t expected any differently. She acknowledged her disappointment as a sign she still maintained hope – no matter how slight.

Even the predatory animals considered the sweltering afternoon heat too oppressive, so with that in mind she returned to the cave that had become home. As she lay down for her afternoon siesta she allowed her mind to wander to what used to be. She was strict with herself – such thoughts were only allowed for a few minutes each day and always at midday when she could at least console herself with “if I were home I’d be at work now, and really, I’d much rather take a nap.”

It was small consolation, but one of the little things that helped her survive. “I hope you made it back,” she said quietly to the memory of the last person she ever spoke to.

She and Chris had gone up together that day – as they so often did. Both were competitive skydivers and Chris also a pilot. A normal day like so many others they’d spent together, they decided to fly over the Garden of Eden – one of Liz’s favourite locations. In the arid desert, the lush green of the canyon always struck her as mythical.

The canyon had never been fully explored – aerial views only showed a thick canopy where logically no trees should be growing. Ground expeditions were always turned back – although the reasons changed each time. But mostly, it hadn’t been explored because there seemed to be no practical, that is to say moneymaking, reason to do so. But Liz liked it better that way; she really didn’t want to know. Its inaccessibility was part of its allure; the mystery of the unknown allowed her romantic side to daydream.

That Sunday the sky was clear when they took off in Chris’ old Cessna 172P. Both had their rigs – they would land at the base for practice after their flight. They had not been speaking while coasting over the valley – both lost in their own thoughts. The plane shook violently for no apparent reason and the look on Chris’ face went from relaxed to intensely focused in an instant. When he looked at her, Liz felt fear that the jolt had only barely kindled. He summed it up succinctly. He had no control; the plane was gong to crash. They would ride it out as far towards the edge of the valley as they could, and then jump. Liz quickly strapped into her rig, before taking the controls to allow him to do the same. Despite several requests, he’d never let her fly before – the thought that he would never let her live down the fact that her first flight crashed wafted through her brain as her somewhat morbid sense of humour warred with her sense of panic.

Chris would hold the plane and Liz would jump first; they were nowhere near the edge of the valley, but there was no time. He would exit as soon as she was clear. With a quick “fingers crossed” Liz leapt out of the too-quickly moving plane over the thick canopy of trees, trying to figure where it’d hurt least to land. A few moments, it seemed like a lifetime, later she saw Chris exit just after the plane started an abrupt nosedive.

Breaking through the canopy left Liz with scrapes and bruises but amazingly nothing seriously broken. For the first few days she fought her way through the valley she no longer thought of as Eden with a single-minded purpose of getting out. Getting home. Calling constantly to Chris, she never got a response. She climbed up as high as she could in the trees, but her cell phone never got a single bar of service. Even so she continually dialed 911 in the hopes that just maybe it’d work. “Everywhere coverage” she muttered the slogan to herself. "Yeah, everywhere but where you need it." The nearest multi-coloured bird chirped its agreement.

After a couple of days of endless work hacking through the bushes with her bare hands for little distance gained she was exhausted. So when she discovered the cave, she opted to stay there – at least for a while.

Nothing in her life had prepared her for this. Certainly not her expensive education – although, as her mother had so often asked, what *did* a phD in philosophy really prepare her for? So far all it had provided was brief entertainment as she remembered first year’s discussion of the Allegory of the Cave while watching the shadows stroll across her cave walls. She was fit and strong but had next to no useful survival skills. She knew very few plants and little idea what to eat. She thought she was being so careful, but one very bad experience with red peas left her fever ridden, violently ill and unable to eat anything for days. She dragged herself to the creek she had found and stayed there, immobile, drinking whenever she woke, till it passed. After that experience she stuck to the foods she knew. A limited diet, but one that kept her alive.

Over time her days became divided between survival necessities, and continuing to expand her trail. One day she’d think she was getting somewhere and the next she’d feel it was a complete waste of time. After her first meltdown when she did nothing but cry for days and her thoughts started to scare her, she began to force herself to continue regardless of her mood. And so her days settled into a routine, where her three daily calls for help took on an almost ceremonial roll rather than a practical one.

Therefore she was entirely stunned when, just as she was drifting off into her siesta, she was certain she heard an answering call on the wind.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Flash Fiction #3 - What if?

Hahaha ok so I promised this one would be shorter and it is. Still not quite to 1000, but closer. Since the first draft was close to 5000, I’m pretty impressed by the brutal editing employed. Very different tone from the last one. Enjoy :) N thanks for reading!

What if?

You ever have one of those days where you really should've stayed in bed? Well my day definitely started out that way -- but if it hadn't, my life would never have taken the fantastic turn it did.

So it started as all my weekdays do, with the rather annoying Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. of my alarm clock. The covers felt so heavy I couldn't possibly lift them.

The next time I woke it was nearly an hour later and I was late for my job as an unappreciated secretary. I dashed out the door into the rain praying traffic was over and I could get there quickly.

That is, until I turned the key in the ignition. Click. Try it again, holding firm to the fool's hope that the same stimulus will create a different response. And once again I was rewarded with a resolute "click".

At the mechanic’s I settled into wait. I offered a brief smile to the elderly lady in the other available chair to which she nodded in response. There was an ancient TV playing in the corner of the room, but no sound and the people all had a sort of green tinge to them.

Moments later my internal muttering was interrupted by the elderly lady handing me something before going to claim her vehicle. I had a moment's thought of my long-past grandmother before I took a closer look at what I'd been given. A piece of paper and a box of crayons? Bemused I opened the box -- sure enough a Crayola 8-pack, just like in kindergarten.

It was just odd enough that it lightened my mood despite my grumpy intentions. And like most adults, there's still a child in me and that child wanted to draw with crayons.

So I took out the green crayon and started to draw a tree. Everybody can draw a tree. And next a black cat, sitting under the tree. And with the yellow I made a big smiley sun. All the pretty colours drew a rainbow, under which I drew the requisite pot of gold, with a single flower growing out of it. Starting to feel rather proud of my artwork (which looked like something the average five-year-old might present proudly to his mother), I got braver in my drawing. Off to one side of the page, far away from my smiling sun, I drew a gravestone, and buried under the grave was my poor dead car. Particularly artistic I thought.

When the mechanic returned, I rapidly stuffed my art in my bag, suddenly embarrassed by my childish entertainment. As I had dreaded, the prognoses was not good. I left, on foot, trying to figure out where I was going to get the money for a new car. The old one was evidently not going to drive me anywhere again. The only good thing was that the sun had come out so at least I wasn't hiking in the rain.

I walked the few blocks to the local used car lot, absently stopping to right a flowerpot that had been blown over near the entrance. Stuck under it was an already scratched and discarded lottery ticket; looking at it, I was surprised to see one box still unscratched. I dug out a penny and scratched that last box, figuring it was a waste of time, but hey somebody always wins -- why not me? The remaining square revealed a treasure box. Flipped the card over to read the rules - a diamond was $5, a tree was $50, a rainbow was $500, a flower was $5000, and a treasure chest was $50,000. In stunned disbelief I flipped the card back, sure enough the treasure chest was still staring at me. Turned it over again and read through all the fine print nobody ever reads. Skill testing question, 1 in 10,000 odds of winning, not legal in Quebec, blahblahblah.

My mind rushed over the options faster than you can imagine, while at the same time cautioning myself not to get too excited about the impossible. Five k would go towards buying another vehicle, and trust me a 5k vehicle is a significant step up than anything I've ever driven! The rest, however, would be startup funds so I could open a flower shop and get out of that horrendous office.

I turned away from the used car lot and walked to the convenience store. Trying for nonchalance, I held it under the self-check lottery scanner. Winner!

As crazy as this day was becoming, I still had to go to work. It took everything I had not to tell everybody there. Instead I stole a few moments to google prize claim instructions, and otherwise moaned appropriately about the death of my car, arranged a ride home from a co-worker, and generally did everything my mindless job required throughout the rest of the day.

At lunch time I adopted a kitten. I know, random eh? But the SPCA was doing an adoptathon in the yard, and this one had personality. It wouldn't have anything to do with anybody else but when I walked by it mewed w/ a slightly demanding tone, and, well, how can you ignore a cat that seems to have an almost human expression?

By the time I got home he'd been named BK for, you got it, Black Kat. He and I both knew that using a C was just entirely too mundane for such a distinguished being. I took BK in, let him out of his cardboard box and watched him explore his new home before emptying my purse of the crayons and image from the morning. It was then that I realized I had drawn my day entirely. From the death of my car, to finding the pot of gold under a flower -- even BK had a place in the drawing.

I looked at the crayons rather suspiciously. Surely it was just a fluke that everything I had drawn had come true, but the little "what if" trigger was going in my brain. What if I COULD draw a future? I could draw my garden shop. I could draw my friends their dreams. I could draw peace... hmmm well actually I can't draw at all so probably best to stay away from abstract concepts, but I'm sure I could draw food for starving countries... I picked up the crayon -- no harm in trying right? Just as I was putting crayon to paper, BK hopped up on the table and started knocking them off one at a time. Smiling at the kitten's antics I reached down to retrieve them, but I must've held one wrong because it snapped, and the sound of it startled me because it sounded wrong. Then it was there again. Beep. Ugh, alarm clock. Beep. Beep. Enough already. I rolled over and hit snooze, disappointed that it had all been a dream.

But then I felt the bed move... What??? I sat up, instantly awake, only to see BK stop kneading the blankets and look up at me curiously.