Friday Fictioneers – Captains

I haven’t been here in a while. There are a few stories I’m working on, but I’m caught up in details – never a good place to be stuck.
So just to entertain myself, and you, here’s an story inspired by the prompt for this weeks Friday Fictioneers. I saw the pic on The Bumble Files, and a thought popped in my head. Then another.
So I combined them.
Hope you enjoy.

PHOTO PROMPT – © Jennifer Pendergast
PHOTO PROMPT – © Jennifer Pendergast

Noah stood back and admired his handiwork. Frame and hull were complete. Next he’d start on the roof, then build out the spaces inside. In addition to all the cargo and his sons and their wives, the plans showed he’d have plenty of room for all the food he’d need to carry. Water he’d just collect on the way.
He’d better get back to work. Even though the sky was clear, he knew the flood was coming. He turned to head back to his lumber pile, almost bumping into the man before he saw him.
“Excuse me”, said the stranger, gravelly voice emerging from the deep folds of his hood. “I wonder if you’d take gold, or consider a trade in exchange for your boat.”
Noah shook his head. “I’m sorry. This was built on commission.” He paused, wondering how much to say. “Divine commission, at that.”
“Nothing I can say to change your mind? I’m really going to need a larger boat.” He checked his watch, then looked at the horizon where clouds were just beginning to build. “And soon.”
“I’m sorry, no” replied Noah. “May I ask, have you been given a list of creatures to collect in pairs as well?”
The man was already turning to leave. He turned back to answer. “Creatures? No, mine are all human.” He reached into one baggy sleeve, withdrawing a small card. “If you change your mind, contact me please” he said, handing Noah the card.
“Tour the River Styx. All the Scenic Bends, and Beyond!” it proclaimed.
“Excuse me stranger” called Noah. “Who are you?”
The stranger paused. “Call me Che. I never liked the name Charon.”


The 7:59

Subway service in NYC has sucked the last few days. I was waiting for the train today and thought to myself that I should just steal a train. My next thought was the closing line of the story.
I’ve wanted to try an action/comedy piece for a while. I have no idea if I got the timing of the action piece right. Let me know, along with any other comments/criticisms. .

The 7:59
_____Bullets ricocheted off the hard concrete platform as the team took cover behind the girders. The chewed, congealed gum that had been on the cement for years split like angry welts with each zing from a missed shot.
_____Jimmy’s voice spat out of the radio, high-pitched like it always was when he was stressed. “He’s late!”
_____“I know” answered Rick, the leader of this mission. “Hold it together Jimmy! Everyone, we just need to protect the crate. Tom will be here soon.”
_____The rate of fire from the other side decreased dramatically. “You guys running out of bullets?” shouted Jack, his voice echoing against the ceramic tile that lined the tunnel. A burst of automatic fire answered him.
_____Jimmy darted behind the crate and came up behind the same girder Rick was using as cover.
_____“What the hell, man?” he whispered, his voice a little deeper now that they had a moment to breathe. “Is he gonna make it? Because I really don’t wanna die here.”
_____“Me either” answered Rick, tilting his head to stare back down the tunnel. It was pitch black, dark, like their chances if Tom didn’t cover his end. “I don’t like the silence…they’re probably regrouping to charge us.” He reached for his radio. “Sound off, quietly. I need an ammo count.”
_____“Three clips” whispered Jack. “No, wait. Two and a half.”
_____Elliot was next. “I’ve got half in my revolver, maybe eight rounds in the Glock.”
_____Jimmy’s gun clicked as he checked his load. Rick heard the slide of the clip going back home. “Nine rounds, man.”
_____Rick checked his own reserves. “I’ve got three Desert Eagles, one clip each, one grenade.”
_____“We’re screwed” someone whispered over the radio.
_____“Max?” asked Rick. “What about you?”
_____Silence. Then Max’s gravelly voice echoed from the radio. “Four caddies for the revolver. Three clips for the Eagle. I’ve got two flash grenades, three fragmentation, a pair of smoke bombs and nineteen shotgun rounds. And if that doesn’t do it, we can always throw Jimmy’s socks at em.”
_____“Jesus, what the hell are you carrying all that for? This was supposed to be an in-and-out” came a response from Elliot.
_____“Bet you’re not sorry I brought it. What’s the plan, Cap?” asked Max.
_____Rick thought for a moment. “Ok, remember Newark?”
_____The tunnel echoed for a moment with groans. “Yeah” answered Jimmy. “We remember Newark. How could you forget a shitstorm like that?” There was a pause, then Elliot spoke. “On the other hand, there are no Nuns here, so maybe this time it will work.”
_____More groans, this time broken by a voice from the stairs at the far side of the platform.
_____“We want our property returned” boomed a voice through a megaphone. “We know you are low on resources, and we are prepared to let you go – as long as you leave the crate behind. We have the only exit covered.” When the echo faded, the voice, continued. “Be smart. There’s no reason this has to end with your deaths. We just want what is ours.”
_____Jimmy looked at Rick. “Not the worst offer I’ve ever had.”
_____Rick looked back and sighed. “How can we trust you?” he yelled.
_____“I give you my word” replied the voice.
_____Rick sighed again. He whispered into the radio. “Everyone stay put.” Then, loudly he called out “I’m coming into the open!” Taking off his Disney World baseball cap, he hung it on the barrel of his gun and slowly moved it out from the girder.
_____A triple burst of automatic fire left two holes in his hat. “Dammit”. He clicked transmit on the radio. “Newark. In ten. And so help me, don’t shoot any of our guys in the ass this time, Max.”
_____“Where’s the fun in that?” came the retort.
_____Ten seconds passed. Jimmy popped out behind the girder. Bang. Bang. Bang. Nine shots, evenly spaced into the center of the space behind them. Just enough time for the first of Max’s smoke bombs to land and detonate. All the men had their goggles and earpieces in as the flashbang exploded amid the smoke.
_____Rick rolled off the platform and dropped to the tracks, sprinting to the other end of the platform. He turned sideways as he ran, firing over the edge of the platform as he made it to their side. He was rewarded with the wet smacking sound of bullets finding flesh, and the thuds of bodies falling. He kept running, past the platform to the small maintenance staircase leading back up. The stale air was thick with the smell of cordite as he launched himself into the center of his opponents.
_____His first Desert Eagle was empty. He dropped it, reaching for the next. Bam. Bam. He fired rapidly at the shadows in the smoke, aiming low so his misses wouldn’t hit his men. There was a scream, and one more thud. He spun and jumped to keep moving and be a harder target. He smacked into something and his vision blurred. Another smack – a punch to the head that drove him to his knees. One more knocked him sideways and he rolled off the platform. His ears rung and his eyes teared from the pain.
_____Distantly, he heard the bellow of Max’s shotgun, almost drowning out Elliot’s battle cry. A body flew over hi, smacked against the tunnel wall and slid down. Black uniform. The bad guys. Rick got to his feet and pulled himself back on the platform.
_____Max was there, calmly lighting a cigar, his foot on the neck of a writhing body, it’s eyes wide with fear.
_____“Settle down, you” , muttered Max. “You lost. Be happy you aren’t dead.” Rick looked around. Jimmy had his gun on a man who’s face was clenched with pain, hands behind his back.
_____“Ha!” laughed Jimmy. “Who got shot in the ass this time!”
_____The platform started to shake. A low rumble in the distance grew, the sound of steel grinding against steel. The team turned as one to look down the tunnel. A subway car rushed in, the push of air clearing the swirling smoke up the stairs. The sides of the car were pocked with bullet holes. Most of the glass windows were shattered, and it looked like the car’s frame had been twisted.
_____The engineer window dropped down. A scarred head with vivid orange hair stuck out. “Hey fellas!” called Tom. “Need a lift?” He looked around the platform. “Damn. Looks like I missed the real party.”
_____Rick turned to him. “You’re late.”
_____“Dude, do you have any idea how hard it is to steal a train?”

Something In Her Eyes

Something In Her Eyes

Something in her eyes. A glistening – a twirling, radiating shadow.
It captures my attention. I lean in. Her breathing quickens, rapid little heaves as my face closes on hers. The closeness is an intimacy; it forges a bond that words can’t describe as I study her twinkling brown irises. They mystify me, consume me. The way the light hits them, the reflections from them. I see myself.
Also, I see that strange iridescence, that shimmering glow in their depths that made me get so close in the first place. This is what I’ve been looking for. This is what I’ve been chasing my whole life.

“You’ve definitely got the condition, Mrs. Newman. Talk to my nurse, and she’ll enroll you in the study.”
As I leave, I stop and turn. “I’m glad you came. What we learn from your eyes will be invaluable in our research.”
She smiles back. “Thanks so much, Doctor.”

I love misdirection. Some of the best writers (especially thrillers and mystery writers) will lead you someplace in their writing, making you think something is absolutely that thing, when it turns out at the end, it was something else entirely. Sitcoms work on the same premise.
Here’s a short piece that occurred to me for no reason at all.
Did the misdirection work? And was the payoff worth the effort of your reading?
Let me know, along with any criticsm, in the comments.

Bark vs Bite

I love the idea in this one, but it was hard to write. In the end, I described what happened after the fact, because I couldn’t figure out how to write what I thought was the key scene (how do you write a description of “subtle”, anyway?). As it turned out, I think that approach worked better. My wife made some very good observations on the Chief as well. The revisions she suggested made this run a little more consistently to itself. I’m hoping you’ll tell me if it worked, and if not, where I went wrong.
This piece is also one of the few I worked over and really tried to edit.
Thoughts/Comments/Criticisms? Let me know in the comments.

12345The air split with a shriek. The piercing whistle drove back the crowds from its descending epicenter. With a massive CRACK, the concrete split, a cloud of dust pluming above the street. When it settled, the Exclaimator rose from his landing position, extending to his full height.
12345From his 6’9” span, he surveyed the crowd. Spotting the Police Chief, he headed in his direction.
12345“Well, Chief”, he boomed, “What have we got?”
12345The Chief shook his head, annoyed. Flamboyant and boisterous to an extreme, the superhero always left destruction and damage in his wake. “That’s quite an entrance you made. Again.” The Exclaimator laughed, a booming bass from deep within his chest.
12345“I like Evil to know I’m coming” he answered. The Chief rolled his eyes before starting to fill him in. Sure, the Exclaimator was full of himself and wanted everyone to be full of him too, but as a superhero, he filled all the requirements of defending his home city and upholding the values therein. But while the damage he caused in fighting villains didn’t come out of the department budget, the difficulties in navigating the parts of the city he wrecked strained the ability of emergency forces to get where they were needed.
12345Still, the mayor had asked him to treat the Exclaimator as an unofficial member of the force, so the Chief did his best to not let it get to him.
12345“Bank job gone wrong” he said, gesturing at the building in front of them. “Six went in. Crowded all the customers against the windows and emptied out the teller stations, the vault, and now three of them are in the safe deposit room.”
12345“How do you know all that?” asked the Exclaimator.
12345“They didn’t turn off the camera”, chuckled the Chief. “The bank IT guy was out getting an orange soda when it happened. He’s back in our Mobile Operation Center helping out.”
12345“Very well, Chief” boomed the Exclaimator. I will take it from here.”
12345The television cameras behind the police tape all swiveled to record him. “Citizens, behold!” he bellowed. His legs bunched, pushing him off the sidewalk into the air, leaving punctured concrete behind. He soared up, 30, 50, 100 feet, then plummeted back down, clenching. He smashed into the street at an angle, a divot of shattered concrete beneath him. He turned, clenched again and rocketed back up. Another 100 feet in the air, and back down, the crushed road spreading out from him in a spiderweb of gouges and cracks. He turned, and one last time shot into the sky, even faster this time. At 90 feet, he was going so fast he broke the sound barrier. The loud scream of a sonic boom ripped the air. Twelve stories of glass from nearby office towers exploded outward in a fusillade of deadly rain on the street below.
12345The Exclaimator landed with similar explosive force. The Chief shook his head. The superhero had covered the 60 feet to the bank in just three jumps – much less than the havoc he’d caused last month across a similar distance.
12345All eyes and cameras were now focused on the Exclaimator. No one noticed the non-descript man turning the corner as their hero took up a position directly in front of the bank.
12345“BE WARNED, EVIL DOERS!!!” thundered the Exclaimator.
12345Then he noticed the man.
12345“Excuse me”, he began, his voice almost soft. The non-descript man turned toward him.
12345“This seems like an awful lot of fuss”, he said quietly. He looked past the Exclaimator. “And that’s a lot of damage”, he said, gesturing toward the street.
12345The Exclaimator laughed, a deep sound that originated from the depths of his diaphragm. “How will the fine people of my city know that I am protecting them if there is no evidence of my progress?”
12345The quiet man shrugged and turned to leave. “Oh, one other thing”, he said fingering a dark pewter pin on the lapel of his grey overcoat. “You’ll find everyone inside the bank asleep. I sent sleeping gas through the ventilation shaft. They shouldn’t wake for another half hour or so. Have a good day”.
12345The Exclaimator sputtered, his mouth making unintelligible sounds as his jaw worked back and forth.
12345“But…but- Who are you?!?” he bellowed, deafening the other man.
12345The other man took the pin from his lapel and shrugged again, lips bending in a half smile as he handed the pin to the hero. “Me? I’m just this guy.” Then he turned and walked past the crowds.
12345Twenty minutes later, the EMTs were looking over the rescued hostages, while the police carted the robbers into a waiting van. The Chief walked over to the Exclaimator, still sputtering on the sidewalk.
12345“I have to say”, he began, “that’s the least destructive job I’ve ever seen you do! There isn’t even one overturned desk in there.”
12345The Exclaimator turned to the Chief, his cheeks red with rage. He extended his arm and dropped the pin, a small pewter piece in the shape of a small “w” in the Chief’s hand. “It wasn’t me”, he yelled. “It was the worst kind of superhero – the kind that passes without leaving a trace, who avoids the light and the eyes of his public” he continued, his voice rising. “One who doesn’t understand that the damage we cause is necessary for the mantle of superhero!”
12345The Chief looked from the pin to the Exclaimator, puzzled. “Who?” he asked. “Who was it?”
12345The Exclaimator spit out the name like a curse. “The Whisperer.”

12345In a small neighborhood bar on the other side of town, the door opened. A man walked in – a non-descript man in a long gray overcoat with a lighter patch on the lapel – where a small pin had stopped the elements from aging the coat he now hung on a peg.
12345“Alright, Joe?” asked the bartender, his voice rising over the tv reports coming from the bank.
12345“Alright Pat.”
12345“What’cha been up to?” came the question, along with a mug of beer.
12345The Whisperer smiled. “It was a good day – nobody died.” He raised his glass in salute.

Everyday Objects: Trash

I once read an author’s explanation of how she came up with some of her stories: Look at an ordinary object. Is it really ordinary? Maybe that piece of paper floating on the wind is an alien. Why is it here? What is it looking for? Why does it look like a piece of paper.
I wondered what a piece of trash in the gutter might see. Here’s what I came up with.
I wondered if there should be several vignettes here, but I just went with the one. Is it enough? Any thoughts/criticisms? Let me know in the comments.

Gutter Garbage
Everyday Objects: Trash
I’m a piece of trash. I just lie here in the gutter. The rain falls on me, the cars roll over me, and every day, I degrade a little more. I’ve been here a while. Even though I can’t remember how I got here, I can still remember some of the things I’ve seen.
There’s the old woman who stands on the corner at midday, every day. She leans frailly against the lamp post, cane in one hand, looking for someone to help her cross the street. She grips an offered arm tenaciously when it comes, smiling and chattering all the way across the wide boulevard. I’ve seen her wait a long time for an arm to support her.
I think she’s just waiting for company…

Addicted to Purple (3 October 2014): Origin Story

Check out this weeks challenge at from Rochelle Wissoff-Fields at Addicted to Purple. Read the contributors, maybe add your own!
(The photo for the challenge follows the story.)
I didn’t check out the challenge this week, but read an entry from the very creative SightsNBytes. This exploded almost fully formed in my head.
Fun? For the time it took to spill out of my head and onto the page, definitely. Good? No idea – but I’d like to know what you think.
(Sorry, but you may need to be of a certain age to get this one.)

The plainclothes cop leapt in, even though his mind wasn’t on it. He ducked the first assailant, his mind elsewhere.
Mike Hammer had his guns. Gandalf, a staff. Even Spillane had those eyebrows. He needed something to distinguish himself. He pondered as his body worked on its own, motions his muscles knew by heart. Crouch. Stand as the guy runs past. Snag his collar. Clothesline him down.
One fast punch dropped his partner followed by a foot on the guy’s chest.

He rubbed the sweat off his bald head, lips curling in a grin as the shopkeeper ran up, praising him profusely. He picked a lollipop off the counter, saluting the shop owner before mouthing it.
“Who loves ya, baby?”

Couurtesy of Kent Bonham
Couurtesy of Kent Bonham

Addicted To Purple (19 Sept 2014) – Elevations

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields does the Friday Fictioneers challenge. This week, the prompt is the picture below, from Dawn Q. Landau. The link will take you to her great story.

Here’s my entry, coming in at 102 words. As always, any suggestions/criticisms/comments are welcome.

Dawn Q. Landau
Dawn Q. LandauT

She walked the site, head down, in silence.
All her work – her site survey, planning, arguments with the client, the design – had come to this. She’d hired builders based on their reputation “Oh, they’re always on time.” “Oh, they’re meticulous.” “Oh, they’ll follow directions to the letter.”
It sounded too good to be true.
It was.
Each space was marked out perfectly. The character of the dividers were exactly as she envisioned them. But due to a monumental cock-up, the plans delivered to them hadn’t included the elevations.

And they’d built exactly to the letter of her drawings.
In only two dimensions.

Death: An Interlude

No idea where this came from, but welcome to the inside of my head.
As always, any suggestions/criticisms/comments are welcome.

Death raised his hand imperiously.
The crowd of faces instantly hushed. His long bony fingers dipped languorously within his ebony robe and emerged, clutching a flaccid pink object. He raised it to his lips, hidden deep within his cowl and blew.
The faces were all focused on him in rapt attention.
He tucked into his robe again, withdrawing another object, back into his cowl for another blow, again and again, faster and faster. He took the elongated objects and tied, twisted, knotted them to each other.
Again and again, over and over. His movements were a blur.
Mortal eyes strained to keep up with his movements, but were no match for his supernatural speed.
More and more, and yet more after that, Death performed his ritual. The humans leaned in closer, mouths widening in awe at what they were witnessing, even at what they failed to see as Death moved beyond the limits of what human vision could capture.
One last piece, one last blow, a final twist, an agonizing moment of silence and then –

Bellowing “BEHOLD!”, Death held out the life-size balloon Sponge Bob to the rapturously cheering children, and handed it to the birthday boy.
The boy looked at the creation, then up at Death. “That was awesome, Mister!” he said.

Unseen in the depths of his cowl, Death smiled.
He patted the boy’s head, wished him a happy birthday, and headed down the road, humming to himself as he returned to his rounds.

Matticus Kingdom Prompt: A Big Fish Story

Every so often, DJ Matticus, proprietor and Chief Scribbler of The Matticus Kingdom, writes the opening of a story and Prompts us to finish it.
I was trying to develop a sense of inexorability with this story. Did it work? And any criticisms are welcome.

This won't have a happy ending. Obviously.
This won’t have a happy ending.

DJ’s prompt:
Light filters through the cascading waves of shadows running down the high canyon walls. Shining fingers reaching down from the heavens to highlight the beauty of the world, you notice the warm spots of rock and water where the light touches and you smile. The constant hum and crash of the river at your feet adds the symphony accompaniment to the play being acted out for your enjoyment. Time slows and races with the rise and fall of the orchestra, and your heart follows along.

Stepping to the edge, you set your balance and brace your feet, then let the fly taste the air as you whip it once, twice, three times over your head. The line pulls against your finger as you release it and for a moment your world is reduced to the flight of the fly and the whine of the reel. As it splashes down, and you are pleased with its placement, the roar of the river rises back up to a near deafening volume, and you begin to coax the fish out of hiding with a delicate dance of pressure and movement.

A flash of silver deep within the rolling blue and white, as a trout breaks cover beneath the rocky bottom, and there is a small tug on the taut line…

My response:
It’s a slight tug, and you savor the tension in the line as you rest your beer on a rock near the riverbank. You wait a moment. The tug gets stronger, then stronger still, becoming more insistent. The voice of the river and dappling of the sun combine with the pull of the rod to create a feeling of magic in the lush wilderness. “Guys?” you call out, wanting your friends to witness this one perfect moment. “Guys!”, but they are too far away to hear. Another yank draws you deeper into the water. You fight against the pull on the line, but the rubber of your hip waders slides against the slick stones of the river.
It never occurs to you to let go of your rod and lose the beautiful fly, or the prize it’s snagged. As you are pulled along, you start to worry about being dragged to the center of the river, where you know it’s both deep and fast running. You reposition your hands on the rod for a better grip. You can’t imagine how big the trout must be – you’ve never had to struggle like this before!
Finally, your heel braces against a rock and you gather your strength. You know the fight is almost done.
With a tremendous heave, you snap the rod back, the supple wood arcing dangerously before it straightens, bringing your catch into view.
And you learn the last things you’ll ever know –
Magic can be dangerous.

The Loch Ness monster isn’t a myth.

And it doesn’t just stay in the loch.

Light and Shade – The Past Doesn’t Stay In The Past

This story was written for the Light and Shade Challenge – 500 words, inspired by the phrase
“Some ghosts are so quiet you would hardly know they were there.”
― Bernie Mcgill, The Butterfly Cabinet

This one rolls in at 462 words. Good? Bad? Suggestions or criticisms? Let me know in the comments, and thanks.
There would be paperwork…reports…interviews. It was always the same drill – every time a weapon was discharged in the line of duty, the dog and pony show commenced.
Ralph Emerson knew he had nothing to worry about. It was a clean shoot. And no one would shed any tears for the body he’d left in the small apartment, its blood and guts oozing into the filth that surrounded it.
Ralph sat down on the stoop, exhausted as he recreated the scene in his head for his report…

“Jack Wilson, open up” he bellowed, banging on the door. “This is the police. We know you’re in there.”
Ralph and his partner stood on either side of the door – along the wall – waiting for an answer. There was a loud click, and Jack replied with three shotgun blasts through the center of the door. Ralph and his partner dropped flat on the floor.
“Son of a…” Ralph rolled to one knee in front of the door, and returned two shots. Still moving, he sprang to his feet, erupting through the shattered remains of the door.
Jack was inside, shotgun in one hand, a plastic garbage bag in the other.
“FREEZE” shouted Ralph.
Everything seemed to slow down…Jack turned to Ralph…Ralph crouched, gun aimed at Jack’s center of mass…Jack bringing up the shotgun, steadying it with the garbage bag holding hand…Ralph saying “Don’t do it!”…Jack still moving…Ralph gently squeezing the trigger…and…BANG!
Time resumed as Jack stared at the spreading bloom of red on his chest, followed by a look at Ralph as Jack crumpled to the floor, the bag spilling from his hand.

The voices in Ralph’s head got louder and louder, clamoring to be heard as he neared the bag. He upended it as the voices reached a crescendo, then, silence.
The pile of teddy bears spilled out. Some stared blankly into space. Others fell out hugging each other. And a few landed staring right at Ralph, their button eyes and perpetual smiles penetrating right to his brain.
“What the hell?” asked his partner in a horrified tone.

Ralph didn’t answer. He was watching something, staring at a sight no one else could see. Wisps, ethereal clouds, all vaguely shaped like children of assorted ages, walked through the room clutching at the pile of bears, drawing the…spirit? of one, then moving on and dissolving again into transparency as if they’d never been.
The last clutched his teddy bear in his four year old arms, and turned to smile a wide innocent grin at Ralph before he too disappeared.

Ralph didn’t even realize a tear was rolling down his cheek as he rolled his shoulders and felt the exhaustion he’d been fighting for weeks settle on him. At least tonight, his ghosts would let him sleep.