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