Not Your Fault: Flash Fiction for the 2017 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Semifinal Round

Updated on November 17, 2017
cam8510 profile image

Chris has written more than 175 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

Source

My Submission to the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Competition, Semifinal Round.

The NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Competition 2017 began in July with Challenge One. Challenge Two commenced in September. When the judges finished, only 400 of the original 2600 participants remained in the competition. On November 10, Challenge Three, the semifinals, began with the remaining participants writing a one thousand word story in forty-eight hours based on three prompts provided.

My prompts were as follows:

1. Genre-Historical Fiction

2. Location-A Geological Fault Line

3. Object-A Roast Chicken.

My Challenge One story was titled The Message. My Challenge Two story was called If We Must Die. These are the stories that got me into the semifinals placing first in my group of thirty-five writers.

I hope you enjoy reading, Not Your Fault, my submission for the semifinals round.

Not Your Fault

Deep Sea Vehicle, Alvin, navigates through the subaquatic forest of thermal vents. Black Smokers stand thirty feet high and accompany the geological faults beneath the Baja Peninsula. Dr. Ed Michaels steers toward the top of one of the natural obelisks.

"Easy does it, Ed. I've almost got it." Dr. Angela Smith reaches out with the sub's mechanical arms toward the mineral precipitates that rise like smoke from a forge. "Hold it right there, and I might forgive you for wearing that Reagan/Bush t-shirt today." Metallic fingers grip the probe to measure the temperature of water escaping from the vent. "That's impossible." She guides the sensor to the window. "It melted the probe."

"Did you get a reading?"

"Yes, it says six-hundred-sixty-two Fahrenheit. Let's get the hell out of here."

Thermal Vents aka Black Smokers

Source

Ed reverses Alvin's propeller and pulls away from the vent. Angela stumbles forward into the window then back into her seat. "The highest ocean temperature ever measured before this was ninety degrees. It's unbelievable."

"Let's hope the seal around the window holds."

"Didn't it go through critical component tests?"

"Sure, at five-hundred degrees. And we thought that was extreme."

"If you ascend, you'll still be in hot water for several minutes."

"I'll get us out the fast way." Ed turns the sub and navigates away from the thermal vents at a ninety degree, horizontal, angle. He picks up the radio handset and informs the crew on Lulu, Alvin's support craft, what they found. "We'll signal from the surface and wait for you to come to us."

Alvin's lights penetrate the blackness that rules the deep. Something strikes the sub with a dull thud. The vehicle lurches sideways, plunging them into darkness.

"What was that?" Angela whispers.

"I don't know. We passed all the vents." Ed pulls a flashlight from beneath his seat and shines it through the glass. A two-and-a-half inch eye stares back. Ed jumps.

Angela screams.

Ed shines the light again. "A swordfish."

"Why is it looking in the window?"

"It drove its sword through the fiberglass fairing, and now it can't get away. At least we know it's not six-hundred degrees out there now. We'll deal with our friend later. Right now let's get––." Ed leans toward the window and shines the light out into the murky water. "Look at this."

Swordfish Stuck in the Fiberglass Fairing of Alvin

Source

Angela joins him and follows the beam. "It looks like Mexico is experimenting with thermoelectric power." A structure the size of an outhouse sits on the ocean floor. A heavy cable runs off into the darkness toward the peninsula.

Angela lets her gaze follow the cable to where it disappears and beyond to where she knows the Baja rises to the surface. Her eyes track up the imagined stone wall. "Ed, what's that?" She points just below the top of the window.

Ed follows the tip of her finger. Twenty-six-hundred feet below the surface, in the bedrock of the Baja peninsula, three lighted caverns glimmer in the distance. "I guess we know where the power cable goes."

"There's something inside those caves."

"Let's get a closer look." Cloaked in darkness, Ed inches forward until they are a few hundred feet below and away from the caverns. "Alfa-class submarines." Ed steps away from the window.

"Those are Soviet subs."

Alfa Class Nuclear Attack Submarine

Source

The lights flicker and come on. Ed fumbles with the controls until they're off again. "That must have looked like a flash of lightning to them." He restarts their ascent. One of the subs drifts out of its hold.

"My god, they're coming for us!"

"Ed whispers. "Alvin runs almost silent horizontally. When we're rising, there's nothing for those subs to hear."

"What are they doing here?"

"My guess is that their mission will be to pick off our warships going out of San Diego. After the attack, they'll seem just to disappear."

"Should we warn the crew?"

"We can't risk the Russians hearing the call. Or anyone else. If a ham radio operator picked up our communication, it could spark panic along the entire West Coast."

"So it's you and me against them."

"You, me, and the swordfish."

Alvin continues its slow climb.

Alvin Being Secured on Board the Support Ship, Lulu

Source

"There!" Angela whispers and points. Lights zip past, missing them by a hundred yards. The v-shaped wake of the sub rocks Alvin for a moment.

Ed keeps the sub ascending. "I've got to find a place to hide." The radio squawks followed by a voice.

Tender ship, Lulu to DSV-2, come in.

Ed grabs the handset. "Maintain radio silence, over." He waits, but the crew got the message. "They probably think I'm off my rocker."

Using radar, Ed guides Alvin on top of an overhanging ledge. They watch as all three Russian submarines scour the area. When the way is clear, Ed begins the ascent again.

Half an hour later, Alvin breaks the surface. Angela opens the hatch and shoots a flare into the evening sky. Twenty minutes pass and Lulu pulls alongside the sub. While the crew hoists Alvin on board, Ed and Angela give a full report over a secure radio channel to a navy general. They spend the entire next day at the base telling and retelling their story.

Source

That evening, Ed, Angela and Lulu's crew have a cookout on Coronado beach.

"Brezhnev is going to have some explaining to do to President Carter." Angela pokes the fire with a stick.

"I don't know," says Ed. "We spent all day trying to convince a skeptical Pentagon that the Russians were nesting three subs right under our feet. By the time they checked it out, the subs had gone, and there isn't a shred of evidence that the Russian's had been using those caverns. It'll be our word against Brezhnev's."

"Hey, you two, stop yapping and get over here. Dinner's served," says the crew member in charge of the barbeque.

Angela and Ed walk away from the fire. "I figured you wouldn't be in the mood for swordfish," says Ed, "So I got a whole roast chicken just for you."


Questions & Answers

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      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        8 months ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

        Tourism makes the world go round, Eric. haha

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        8 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Us borderland people seem all accepting but we are snobs at heart. Not about the border but more about touristas.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        8 months ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

        Ahh, I needed you as a beta reader for this challenge to give it more authenticity. But it's in the hands of the judges now, and I am content with what I wrote. I like that name, the Coronados.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        8 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        As a man who has done snorkeling for many years along the SoCal Mexican Baja Area, your research was spot on. The timing deal with the Reagan/Bush T-shirt along with reporting to Carter put us spot on.

        If it were me I would change from Coronado Beach to the beach on the Isle's/islands of Coronado. This is pretty much co-owned with Mex. and a respit for fisherman and divers alike - Hemmingway esque. We call them the Coronado's.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        8 months ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

        Thanks for the double read, Eric. It was a wild weekend of research and writing. That little story took hours to research that hopefully made it believable. I have no idea how the judges will react or how it stacks up against the others in my group. I have to say, so far, mine is original in that I didn't use the prompts to tell an earthquake story. Instead of death and destruction, I went with an action/adventure angle with a bit of humor sprinkled in.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        8 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Go man go!! Just proud to know an author of your caliber. I read twice, first just for the shear excitement and second to catch your quick multi subject sentences. That is a cool scribe's trick.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        8 months ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

        Intuition. I know you and Bill have it. I think I do, but I seem to be clueless about how to harness it and make it work for me. Maybe that isn't how it goes, though. I hope I can write long enough to find out.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        8 months ago from london

        I just read a piece of his. I was thinking that his formula of trying so many different things or styles, actually help. The practice horns the craft. But then we know that, right? I also wondered who inspires him the most, as I suspect that he reads a lot.

        I did so much as a kid! Now I use the power of intuition and meditation and our Beloved helps my work. Hari Om!

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        8 months ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

        Yes, I read some of both of those stories. I watch his fiction closely when I read.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        8 months ago from london

        Yes, Bill says this a lot! His Billy the Kid chronicles and another detective one, probably Mary had a Little lamb are awesome!!

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        8 months ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

        Manatita, This one was difficult for me because I began along the line of action/adventure. The time for writing was so short, I couldn't start over. So I made the best of it I could. This is not my best work and that is what it would take to get me into the finals. But as I said to Bill, the goal is not doing well in the competition, it is learning how to craft a story. This time around, since July, I've learned that my characters really do matter to the reader. They deserve to get to know them as much as possible in confines of a finite story. That's my homework for a while.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        8 months ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

        Dora, I appreciate the support. I'll spend the next month critiquing the stories of others and learning from them.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        8 months ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

        Ann, Thank you. I was hoping the fast pace and action would make up for some lack of depth. Not sure I did it though.

      • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

        Chris Mills 

        8 months ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

        Thanks, Bill. Actually, I agree with you. It is only important in that it shows improvement in my writing. Really, the goal isn't to place well but to improve.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        8 months ago from london

        Nice work and see you in the final. The Russians added some spice to it. But generally this kind of topics are not straight-forward and difficult to write. You have done a decent job though. Best wishes.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        8 months ago from The Caribbean

        Congratulations on your success so far! Cheering for you to brace the tape!

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        8 months ago from SW England

        Great story; the suspense gripped me. I was expecting swordfish for dinner as I'd forgotten about the chicken!

        Well done for getting this far and good luck in the semi-finals too!

        Ann

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        8 months ago from Olympia, WA

        Congratulations on making it that far in the competition, Chris. That's one hell of an accomplishment.

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