NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Round 2

Genre – Action/Adventure, Setting – A Moat, Object – Bacon

This was a really difficult weekend for me, and I’m honestly pleased I just managed to finish something and submit it. I thought I’d post it here instead of pretending it doesn’t exist because it ended up being sort of fun and I might want to revise eventually. There are a zillion things I’d do in revision since I ended up submitting a thrown-together draft. One of them is to bring the big fight at the end back to the moat to make sure I’m complying with the setting requirement. Also, I’m not sure yadda-yadda-yaddaing through a battle is really the way to go, though Action/Adventure is definitely not my genre.

Storming The Gates

“You don’t think there are really alligators, do you?” asked Mark. Lena thought about pointing out that ice was forming at the edges, and alligators didn’t do well in New England November temperatures. There were conflicting rumors in the tent city about the gated McMansion subdivision and its supervillain-level security. The grapevine had been dead-on about the electrified fence they’d tunneled under. And now a moat, an honest-to-God moat.

She pulled off her dark clothes and sealed them into a watertight bag. Underneath she wore a wetsuit. She pulled a dive mask over her eyes and adjusted the oxygen tank on her back. “Come on, Mark, one way to find out.” She brandished a knife in one hand and a dive light in the other and led the way.

The sides of the moat were sharply sloped to prevent climbing out, but there were rumors that if a moat existed, it might have an access hatch. Lena and Mark methodically searched, finding it within a half hour. Lena handed Mark the dive light to hold while she worked at the edges with the knife. Had she felt it wiggle? She popped up one corner. Yes! It went dark and she whipped around, dropping the knife in surprise. The dive light was floating gently down, down, down. Motion caught her eye in the gloom. Mark was thrashing around. As she moved closer, Lena saw the dark shape of a shark, maybe five feet long, and it had Mark by the arm. She swam up and punched the shark in the gills. Nothing. Again, harder. This time the shark let go of Mark’s arm. Blood drifted upward from a wound, but she couldn’t tell how bad it was. At least the arm was still on. The shark turned toward them and she punched it right in the nose. Thank you, Shark Week, she thought, as it turned away in confusion.

Lena grabbed Mark by the uninjured arm and started swimming back toward the hatch. Mark clutched at her frantically and she realized his oxygen tank was disconnected. She held her regulator to his mouth to let him breathe as she worked on the panel. At least she’d popped the one corner out before losing her knife. She was running out of breath, and grabbed for the regulator. Mark, panicking, resisted, and she kicked him away, desperate for oxygen. She took deep breaths and handed the regulator back to a calm Mark. She gave a final tug and the panel released. They swam into the hatch, Lena’s lungs nearly bursting. It sloped up quickly, and she fell to her knees gasping when they reached a flat, dry landing. 

“Let’s see that arm,” she said. She reached into her bag and pulled out her shirt, tearing it into strips. Mark pulled down his wetsuit and held out his arm, which was oozing blood, but at least not spurting. She wrapped it tightly in her makeshift bandages and they quickly changed back into street clothes. She checked the oxygen tanks. “These are worthless for getting back. We may as well leave all this here. This was just supposed to be a reconnaissance mission. Goddamn sharks, Mark.”

“How do we get back out?” He was pale but his eyes still had his patented spark of determination.

“We’ll figure something out later. We have supplies. We can take our time.”

Re-armed with knives from their bags, they crept up the ladder. Lena flung open the trapdoor at the top and rushed into the room, hoping to salvage some element of surprise. It worked. A man sat up in bed and she was on him before he could hit what looked like a panic button. A quick knife thrust and he was still. She looked over at Mark, who had silenced the man’s partner, and listened. Had they made it in undetected?

They crept quietly through the house, but found no one else in residence. “What do you think, 5,000 square feet?” whispered Mark. “For two people. While we’re all crammed in tents with no electricity. It’s obscene.”

Lena walked as if hypnotized toward the huge refrigerator and opened the door. It was crammed with food. “Eggs, and milk, and, oh my god, Mark, bacon!” She hoisted a large package into the air. 

“And we’ve been living on protein bars and mystery cans cooked over an open flame. No wonder they put sharks in the damn moat to keep us out.”

“I’m cooking it,” she said. “You scramble some eggs. A coffee maker! If they catch us, we can die with a hot breakfast in our bellies.”

It was the best meal of their lives. When they couldn’t eat another bite, they searched the house more closely and armed themselves with a stunning array of guns. “Ready for the invasion, they were,” Lena muttered. 

They disabled the house alarm and left through the back door, creeping in the shadows. Mark counted houses while Lena drew a map. The only way out across the moat was a drawbridge. “That’s a no-go,” Mark muttered.

She stopped suddenly at a small power station. “This is where they get their electricity,” she muttered. “We could shut it off, stay up in those trees, and shoot anyone who comes to check it out.”

“If we’re not getting out alive, we may as well take some of them with us.”

“That’s what I’m thinking.”

The first to investigate came in small groups that were easily picked off and dragged into the trees. Eventually they needed the automatic weapons when the community rushed in force, but they hadn’t been expecting an attack from this direction, and Lena and Mark had chosen a good vantage point. While their foes were armed, they weren’t practiced in their expensive weapons.

As they lowered the drawbridge and prepared to walk back over the moat, Mark took Lena’s hand. “I think I love you,” he said.

“You’re not my type.” 

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Feedback

I got my judges’ feedback on my flash fiction story (Political Satire/A Forest/A Laptop). I’ll repost my story below.

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {1651}  I thought you did a great job of using animals versus humans in fairy tales to satirize and explore the movement of Black Lives Matter. I enjoyed the humor you brought to this piece as well.  {1611}  This was an engaging story and a totally creative concept. Great sense of pacing and wonderful details to ground readers in the narrative.  {1960}  Using animals always gives a lightness to a subject and having the bad guy put away in the end is the smart move. 

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1651}  I think it would be a stronger choice if you used only the humans from the fairy tales to represent the humans in your story, because it gets a bit confusing when the three little pigs are grouped in with the humans because they’re now humans called the three little pigs. Is Sheriff Nottingham an animal? I’d tell us when we first meet him. I’d also consider giving Sheriff one last plea in his defense at the end.  {1611}  I would have loved a tiny bit more interiority from the sheriff. What is at stake for him personally – before his interaction with Puss?  {1960}  This story’s language is ambiguous enough that it could be read as pro- or anti- BLM movement. Depending on your intended audience, you’ll want to go back and make revisions.

A Fairytale Ending

“Hey, Furless!” Goldilocks turned her head at the deep voice behind her. A huge, hulking brown bear was gaining on her. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m just out for a jog,” Goldilocks squeaked.

“Sure you are. You humans are always coming into the forest and making trouble.”

“No, I’m not. We’re not. Look, I’ll just go, okay?”

“I don’t think so, Blondie. You remember when that human Jack’s vendetta against a giant knocked down half the forest? My brother’s house was one of the ones his beanstalk fell on. There’s only one way to deal with your kind.”

***

Sheriff Nottingham washed another aspirin down with his cold coffee and unfolded the Sherwood Daily Caller. The headline screamed HUMAN ROBBER FOILED. When his buddy Papa Bear had called him in a panic, the sheriff had a flash of inspiration. Papa dragged what was left of the body into his house and claimed he’d found Goldilocks eating his porridge and feared for his life. With the Stand Your Ground law the sheriff had written last year, it was a piece of cake. Goldilocks had once been arrested for shoplifting, and the sheriff had made sure his friend at the Daily Caller knew it. An article citing statistics of human on human violence ran below the fold.

He watched the protestors in front of his office and rummaged in his desk for an antacid. HUMAN LIVES MATTER screamed their signs. Well, of course they did. All lives mattered. But if the humans were going to insist on coming where they weren’t wanted and stirring up trouble, what did they expect? He’d thought they’d gotten the message when Deputy Big Bad Wolf had run the humans nicknamed the Three Little Pigs out of town. Trying to build houses here! Imagine what three humans living in the forest would do to property values. He tapped his anthropomorphized wolf paws on the keyboard of his laptop, filling in the narrative section of the report. 

“Deputy Big Bad Wolf observed the decedent, Red Riding Hood, acting suspiciously in the forest. He approached her and asked what was in her basket. He believed his life was in danger when she reached into her basket, presumably for a weapon.” That part was fine. But what did he do about Grandmother in the human village on the other side of the forest? The sheriff was pretty sure that his deputy had been hungry and, his appetite whetted by the little girl and the contents of her basket, had headed to Grandmother’s house for seconds. He massaged his temples.

Was that Robin Hood outside his window? Yes, that damned fox was marching with the humans, and he wasn’t the only animal. The sheriff spotted the Three Blind Mice, a few swans, and Humpty Dumpty as well. He was never sure if Humpty counted as an animal, but he was definitely not human. What in the forest was going on here? He jumped at a loud banging on his door. “Sheriff! We have some demands for you!”

“Demands? Is that you, Puss?” he asked as his door crashed open and a large cat in boots came in. 

“I’m representing the Human Lives Matter protestors, and we demand your resignation immediately. This violence must stop.” The sheriff hadn’t even stopped sputtering when Puss continued, “We’ve overlooked a lot of injustices, Sheriff, but Red used to give us cookies on her jaunts through the woods. We liked her. We didn’t know Goldilocks, and I’m ashamed we didn’t stand up for her, but Big Bad has gone too far this time. And I know you’re in here trying to write up a report that keeps you from having to fire him, much less toss him in jail.”

“Puss, what are you doing carrying signs with these humans? If they would have just stayed out of our forest and done what they’re told, none of this would have happened. They’re the troublemakers here, not my deputy. Now, I’m putting Deputy Wolf on leave while I investigate the incident, and that should be enough for you.”

“Paid leave?”

“Well, that’s procedure. Innocent until proven guilty and all.”

“Unless you’re a human!”

“What do you care, Puss? Have I ever treated you wrong? Anyone in your family? Anyone you even know? The humans know what happens when they come tromping through our forest and they insist on doing it anyway!”

“And what was Grandmother doing in her own house in her own human village that was so bad, Sheriff?”

“Well, she probably encouraged Red to cut through the forest so she could get her basket of goodies faster. It’s a much shorter walk. Look, I could maybe put a note in Deputy Wolf’s file and give him a week of unpaid leave. I won’t deny that he’s sometimes a bit rougher than necessary with humans, so I’ll send him on a sensitivity course too. How’s that?”

“That’s just not good enough, Sheriff. We need real change this time, not your empty promises.”

Sheriff Nottingham blustered as Puss dragged him out from behind his desk, spilling his coffee and knocking his laptop to the floor. He was quickly surrounded by a mob, and he knew how Red and Goldilocks must have felt in their last moments. “Are you going to kill me?” he whimpered, looking desperately around for help. Was that Deputy Wolf slinking off into the trees? He thought he saw Papa Bear too, but no one rushed to his defense.

“I voted to kill you, but we’re a democracy, and most of us think we should be better than you,” Puss said, shoving him into his own jail cell. “And I don’t want blood on my good breeches during the election.”

“Election?”

“We need a new sheriff. My platform is Fair Laws, Equal Treatment for All. We’ll hold your trial after the election. I promise you’ll get exactly what you deserve.”

Sheriff Nottingham’s eyes went wide as the cell door slammed shut.

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge

My prompts:

Genre – Political Satire, Setting – a forest, Object that must appear – a laptop

A Fairytale Ending (996 words)

“Hey, Furless!” Goldilocks turned her head at the deep voice behind her. A huge, hulking brown bear was gaining on her. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m just out for a jog,” Goldilocks squeaked.

“Sure you are. You humans are always coming into the forest and making trouble.”

“No, I’m not. We’re not. Look, I’ll just go, okay?”

“I don’t think so, Blondie. You remember when that human Jack’s vendetta against a giant knocked down half the forest? My brother’s house was one of the ones his beanstalk fell on. There’s only one way to deal with your kind.”

***

Sheriff Nottingham washed another aspirin down with his cold coffee and unfolded the Sherwood Daily Caller. The headline screamed HUMAN ROBBER FOILED. When his buddy Papa Bear had called him in a panic, the sheriff had a flash of inspiration. Papa dragged what was left of the body into his house and claimed he’d found Goldilocks eating his porridge and feared for his life. With the Stand Your Ground law the sheriff had written last year, it was a piece of cake. Goldilocks had once been arrested for shoplifting, and the sheriff had made sure his friend at the Daily Caller knew it. An article citing statistics of human on human violence ran below the fold.

He watched the protestors in front of his office and rummaged in his desk for an antacid. HUMAN LIVES MATTER screamed their signs. Well, of course they did. All lives mattered. But if the humans were going to insist on coming where they weren’t wanted and stirring up trouble, what did they expect? He’d thought they’d gotten the message when Deputy Big Bad Wolf had run the humans nicknamed the Three Little Pigs out of town. Trying to build houses here! Imagine what three humans living in the forest would do to property values. He tapped his anthropomorphized wolf paws on the keyboard of his laptop, filling in the narrative section of the report. 

“Deputy Big Bad Wolf observed the decedent, Red Riding Hood, acting suspiciously in the forest. He approached her and asked what was in her basket. He believed his life was in danger when she reached into her basket, presumably for a weapon.” That part was fine. But what did he do about Grandmother in the human village on the other side of the forest? The sheriff was pretty sure that his deputy had been hungry and, his appetite whetted by the little girl and the contents of her basket, had headed to Grandmother’s house for seconds. He massaged his temples.

Was that Robin Hood outside his window? Yes, that damned fox was marching with the humans, and he wasn’t the only animal. The sheriff spotted the Three Blind Mice, a few swans, and Humpty Dumpty as well. He was never sure if Humpty counted as an animal, but he was definitely not human. What in the forest was going on here? He jumped at a loud banging on his door. “Sheriff! We have some demands for you!”

“Demands? Is that you, Puss?” he asked as his door crashed open and a large cat in boots came in. 

“I’m representing the Human Lives Matter protestors, and we demand your resignation immediately. This violence must stop.” The sheriff hadn’t even stopped sputtering when Puss continued, “We’ve overlooked a lot of injustices, Sheriff, but Red used to give us cookies on her jaunts through the woods. We liked her. We didn’t know Goldilocks, and I’m ashamed we didn’t stand up for her, but Big Bad has gone too far this time. And I know you’re in here trying to write up a report that keeps you from having to fire him, much less toss him in jail.”

“Puss, what are you doing carrying signs with these humans? If they would have just stayed out of our forest and done what they’re told, none of this would have happened. They’re the troublemakers here, not my deputy. Now, I’m putting Deputy Wolf on leave while I investigate the incident, and that should be enough for you.”

“Paid leave?”

“Well, that’s procedure. Innocent until proven guilty and all.”

“Unless you’re a human!”

“What do you care, Puss? Have I ever treated you wrong? Anyone in your family? Anyone you even know? The humans know what happens when they come tromping through our forest and they insist on doing it anyway!”

“And what was Grandmother doing in her own house in her own human village that was so bad, Sheriff?”

“Well, she probably encouraged Red to cut through the forest so she could get her basket of goodies faster. It’s a much shorter walk. Look, I could maybe put a note in Deputy Wolf’s file and give him a week of unpaid leave. I won’t deny that he’s sometimes a bit rougher than necessary with humans, so I’ll send him on a sensitivity course too. How’s that?”

“That’s just not good enough, Sheriff. We need real change this time, not your empty promises.”

Sheriff Nottingham blustered as Puss dragged him out from behind his desk, spilling his coffee and knocking his laptop to the floor. He was quickly surrounded by a mob, and he knew how Red and Goldilocks must have felt in their last moments. “Are you going to kill me?” he whimpered, looking desperately around for help. Was that Deputy Wolf slinking off into the trees? He thought he saw Papa Bear too, but no one rushed to his defense.

“I voted to kill you, but we’re a democracy, and most of us think we should be better than you,” Puss said, shoving him into his own jail cell. “And I don’t want blood on my good breeches during the election.”

“Election?”

“We need a new sheriff. My platform is Fair Laws, Equal Treatment for All. We’ll hold your trial after the election. I promise you’ll get exactly what you deserve.”

Sheriff Nottingham’s eyes went wide as the cell door slammed shut.

Motherhood in the New Age: Revised

I’m playing with the sci-fi microfiction I produced for the NYC Midnight 100-Word Challenge. I liked what I did, but even when I submitted there were things I didn’t feel I conveyed as well as I could have. I thought I’d post the original, the judges’ feedback, and my current revision (I may revise further). My prompts were: Sci-Fi genre, “changing a diaper” (action that must be included), and “million” (word that must be included).

Original submission:

Shala was putting a diaper on her orphaned nephew when the Farhope lurched. She gathered him up, holding both the last child born on Earth and the first child to be born in the Mars colony. Bronwen’s team would lay the groundwork for the million people to follow. Despite her lack of relevant skills, Shala had refused to stay behind, giving birth alone on a dying planet. The baby in her arms laughed, the baby in her belly kicked, and she felt a surge of joy and belonging. 

“I think it’s peeing on you,” Asha said, and the spell broke. (100 words)

Revision:

Shala was putting a diaper on her orphaned nephew when the Farhope lurched. Her stomach, already stirring with morning sickness, rebelled against the motion. She gathered up the fussing boy, her body protecting both the last child born on Earth and the first child to be born in the Mars colony. Her partner Bronwen’s team would lay the groundwork for the million or so people to follow and Shala had refused to stay behind to give birth alone on a dying planet. The crew barely tolerated her presence out of respect for their captain, but she heard the murmurs about her uselessness. The baby in her arms laughed, the baby in her belly kicked, and she felt a surge of belonging and purpose.

“I think it’s peeing on you,” Asha sneered as she walked past, and the spell broke. (139 words)

Feedback:

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {1801}  You build a detailed world with this story. Kudos. You’ve established so much about the past of these characters and the planet they are coming from , as well as the HIGH STAKES for Shala. In so few words! You do well to add details about Shala’s character. You give us a good sense of how she is feeling and what kind of world she is living in. (That being said, you bring up to other characters who we learn nothing about. why?)   {1943)  I really enjoyed this sweet, endearing story. I loved the portrayal of Shala’s love for her nephew, and for her unborn child. I liked the concept of the two babies, one as the last to be born on Earth, and the other, as the first to be born on Mars. I thought the ending was very cute, as the baby did what babies do, and peed on her! A really entertaining story – well done!  {1913}  You have a sweet story and an interesting setup. I particularly like your backstory, as with it, you show us a lot of Shala’s personality.  

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1801}  Regarding the ending – the pee joke is an unnecessary addition that has little to do with the story told previous. BUT if you really want to keep it, you need to do 2 things. 1) You need to couch the backstory with living in the present moment. SO the beginning of the story needs to be Shala and Asha in the present moment. Then we can go into Shala’s head, thinking about her circumstances. That way when we go back to Asha, we know who she is and we get the sense of the beginning and end of Shala’s “spell.” And 2) You need to build the tension a little bit more in the Shala “spell” so that the peeing is a shock. The sharper the contrast, the funnier it is.   {1943)  The concept of Shala “holding both the last child born on Earth and the first child to be born in the Mars colony” was very clever. I would maybe think about using this sentence later in the story, after we know she’s pregnant. When the sentence comes early in the story, it seems like it is referring to the orphaned nephew being two things, which of course is impossible. I don’t think it quite works as a teaser for the fact she’s pregnant, as it causes us to stop to process the meaning. However, it is a brilliant sentence, and I think it would work really well at the end.  {1913}  I suggest you develop Shala’s goals further. Apart from taking care of two babies, what does she want? Even if she doesn’t have relevant skills for this mission, show us more about what she plans to do after giving birth.

NYC Midnight Microfiction Challenge

Group #51

Genre: Sci-fi, Action: Changing a diaper, Word: million

100 words

Motherhood in the New Age

Shala was putting a diaper on her orphaned nephew when the Farhope lurched. She gathered him up, holding both the last child born on Earth and the first child to be born in the Mars colony. Bronwen’s team would lay the groundwork for the million people to follow. Despite her lack of relevant skills, Shala had refused to stay behind, giving birth alone on a dying planet. The baby in her arms laughed, the baby in her belly kicked, and she felt a surge of joy and belonging. 

“I think it’s peeing on you,” Asha said, and the spell broke.