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Sometimes I Get a Little Short with Flash Fiction

Short Fiction Stories and How I Got Sucked in to Writing Them

I've known about short fiction and I've enjoyed reading short-shorts and micro fiction since my childhood, mostly in the genre of science fiction. I never considered writing flash or short-short fiction myself until someone urged me to. My short stories tend to slide into novella length and I even find myself going on too long when I'm writing a novel. How could I possibly squeeze my words into a tiny corral and still manage to tell a story?

Then a friend forwarded me a link to a flash fiction contest he thought I'd enjoy. He pestered me about it until I agreed that I'd join him and enter the contest, too. The story had to include a specific sentence and several specific elements and contain a certain number of words. The flash fiction entry had to be completed within 24 hours after those specifics were announced and meet all of the criteria.

I sweated over my entry and despaired of making anything decent out of it. I worked on that bit of short fiction for at least eight hours, snipping words here and squeezing in ideas there. When I was done, I wasn't delighted with my result but I was fairly pleased with it.

I didn't win any prizes for it; I just got an honorable mention but it opened my eyes to a different mode of storytelling. I'd like to share that story and other pieces of my short fiction with you here.

photo by Julie Broadbent,

photo by Julie Broadbent,

Sticky Bug

An Entry Written for a 24 Hour Fiction Contest - 1100-1200 Words, to Include a Child, a Shortwave Radio Conversation, and a Terrorist Attack

Dan heard the first explosion around 3pm. The lights in his office went out for a moment and the battery back-up to his computer started beeping. The back up generator kicked in just a few seconds later. Dan's heart was pounding when his cell phone rang. It was Ted, his best friend.

"Hey, Ted, any idea what those big booms are?"

"Dan, you've got to get Marti and the kids and get up to the cabin. The Luddites are attacking all over the city."

Dan grabbed his briefcase and coat and continued his conversation while trotting down the hallway. The intercom system started honking and a male voice crackled -"evacuate the building, calmly but quickly. The city is under attack."

"Jesus, Ted, what's happening?"

"You've got to go, NOW, Dan there's no time. We'll meet you up at the cabin, it should be safe there."

The problem had been brewing for many years but no one had any idea it would get this bad. The Luddites had always been anti-technology but their protests had usually been peaceful aside from an occasional beating here or there or the smashing of a laboratory or two. Recently the visible protests slowed down and random bombings of centers of technology picked up. It was the Spectrum Hospital's new heart center that made national news. Twenty-two patients and fourteen staff members were killed in the explosion with dozens more injured. Homeland security stepped in and did their damnedest to root out the terrorists. It was no problem figuring out who was to blame. The Luddites immediately claimed the attack as their own.

Over the weeks and months the police began losing control and the bombings grew more frequent. It became obvious the Luddites were coming in from all over the country, there were just so many. The locals just hung on, refusing to be swayed by terrorists.

Dan plopped into his car and threw his briefcase in the back. As he backed out of the space he saw his coworkers running out into the lot to their own cars. Putting it in drive he sped towards home. Less than a minute later his phone rang again.

His wife sputtered breathlessly, "I've got the kids. Tammy picked us up about ten minutes ago. We're OK, but, the house, Dan, the house is gone!"

"How about Mrs. Peterson, did she make it out, too?"

"Dan, I... I don't think so."

Marti began to cry softly.

"Listen, Marti, we have to get up to the cabin."

"That's where we're headed." she choked.

"It's OK, baby, we'll be OK up there. I'll meet you up at Tanner's Farm." Dan turned his car around and headed for the mountains.

As he pulled up to the old farm he immediately saw Tammy's SUV and the fist around his heart released its grip.

They hid the vehicles in the decaying barn and went inside the farmhouse which appeared to have been ransacked. No one spoke about old Mr. and Mrs. Tanner. Thankfully they found plenty of hiking gear in the back porch. Tammy put up no objection when they packed up everything useful and headed into the mountains. "Ted'll follow right behind us, he knows where we're going" she said.

During the hike the children were quiet and subdued. Dan hoped it was fatigue but he knew better. Marti told him about the Luddite soldiers walking around with bullhorns and automatic weapons through the city urging everyone to surrender to their authority. Right out in the street they'd killed at least a dozen people as a "warning." Jeff and Kylie had seen it all.

It took them three days to arrive at their mountain cabin on foot and they were relieved that no squatters had taken possession of their property in the mayhem. Tammy tried to keep up a positive front but after four days at the cabin with no sign of Ted she grew more and more despondent.

Dan had the short wave radio up and running after Marti extracted a promise from him to just listen. She feared any outgoing signal would draw attention to them even though he assured her it could not. Every evening he dialed across the bandwidths to no result. Night after night all they'd heard was static. Everyone froze when the room suddenly erupted with static and a child's voice...

"This is Sticky Bug, Papa Bug can you hear me? I know you're out there, c'mon, answer me please."

Dan reached for the transmitter and Marti shook her head. The voice continued.

"Papa Bug can you read me? Please, daddy, I'm scared"

Tears started down Tammy's face.

Every evening thereafter they heard the pleading voice of Sticky Bug over the shortwave. They all felt terrible for the boy but they had no idea how to help him without endangering themselves. One evening as Dan started to tune the shortwave his wife said, "Dan, why do we keep listening, it's only torture? That poor baby, I can't take it any more."

Tammy interjected, "It wouldn't hurt to answer him, just to give him some reassurance."

That evening when Sticky Bug made his increasingly emotional broadcast Tammy replied, "Sticky Bug this is Mother Goose, you're not alone."

Day after day, Tammy talked with Sticky Bug over the short wave. The subject of how they could get him to safety came up every time. One evening when Sticky Bug came on Tammy was alone in the cabin. Marti was trying to plant a garden with Kylie's help and Dan had taken Josh down to the stream to catch a few fish.

It had become somewhat of a ritual. Their conversations started the same every night.

"This is Sticky Bug, Mother Goose do you read me?"

"Sticky Bug this is Mother Goose, you're not alone."

This time Sticky Bug began to cry as Tammy sat helplessly miles away in her safe mountain cabin.

The next morning Tammy was not sitting on the porch staring out into the woods as usual. She was nowhere in the cabin or the surrounding woods.

"Dan, I understand why she left, I would go after you in the same situation. Last night we talked about Ted. She just had to do something."

"First Ted, now Tammy. Marti, what are we going to do?"

They decided to wait. The children grew more haunted and hollow looking both from despair and the shrinking food supply.

One week later their son Jeff ran into the cabin yelling, "There's someone coming, I think it's Tammy and Uncle Ted!"

Dan burst out the front door to see a group of eight armed men and women. Marti started from the cabin and screamed when she saw them.

Just before they shot him Dan asked, "How did you find us?"

One short haired woman laughed and said in a perfect falsetto of a child's voice, "This is Sticky Bug, Papa Bug can you hear me?"

A howling wolf silhouetted against a full moon

A howling wolf silhouetted against a full moon

Of Dogs, Wolves, and Men

The idea that many people see wolves as bad and dogs as good has always fascinated me. It's weird how people fear wolves, have an atavistic terror of them yet cuddle up with and feel protected by dogs. Biologically speaking, dogs are almost wolves. No ifs ands or buts. They are very close cousins, they interbreed and produce fertile offspring.

That attraction and repulsion towards creatures that are not only biologically similar to each other but behaviorally similar to humankind in many ways led me to write this short story, a faux Native American myth.

Maybe we were all wolves once. Maybe there was a great division between two groups of wolves...

There was a great quarrel over a mate and blood was shed. Some of the pack sided with one wolf; the rest sided with the other. The weaker wolves persisted that they were right and kept on quarreling until the leader chased them far from the pack and out onto the plains. She nipped their flanks and bit their sides in earnest and bid them never to return. She moved the rest of the pack off far into the deepest woods so they would never be able to quarrel again.

The other group had been forced out onto the plains and learned to hunt buffalo. Having no bushes or trees on the plains they sheltered themselves under buffalo hides when the winds blew fierce. They grew so attached to their warm buffalo hides that they no longer grew fur.

Over time the plains wolves changed, becoming softer and softer but still cunning. As their fangs shrank and their claws grew useless they took up sticks and flint and slew the buffalo with them. In time the tender, furless wolves learned the ways of fire to warm themselves.

The wolves who had taken to the deep forests grew wilder and more aloof - at least the pack leaders did. But night after night some of the wolves cried out and wailed at the loss of their brothers. They suffered miserably as their dearest ones were gone forever.

One night a few of those lonely souls decided to creep out to the plains and hunt for their brothers. They followed scent and spoor for many days until they found something quite strange. Creatures weird and tall huddled under dead buffalo and drew lightning out of dead trees. The forest wolves walked around the creatures' sleeping pack and tried to catch the trail of their brothers yet again. Their search was to no avail. The trail ended right there. Maybe the creatures had eaten their kin or were hiding them under their skin caves.

One of the forest wolves could no longer contain himself and howled with grief that his brothers must be dead and eaten.

The tall beasts woke from their hides and picked up branches and peered fearfully into the darkness, for their eyes had grown tender, too.

The heart-broken wolf charged at one of the tall things full of fury and vengeance. The creature threw a rock at him and he yelped in pain and stopped in his tracks. Now they were very close and seeing the eyes of the beast, the forest wolf's heart leapt with joy. Though changed in form, this was his brother! The tall wolf squinted at his brother to aim another rock and his weakened eyes made out a familiar shape. Casting the rock aside he fell to his knees and there was much licking and wagging of tails for those who still had them.

Those lonely wolves stayed ever after with their man-brothers and grew a bit soft themselves. Though the nature of the original dispute was forgotten the plains wolves never forgave the forest wolves and thought of them always with fear, mistrust, and anger.

Night after night the forest wolves howl for their missing brothers. Even still, a wolf will creep down from the forest seeking to catch a glimpse of his lost kin.

A hand print in red paint

A hand print in red paint

Caught in a Red Handed Flash

Written for a Flash Fiction Contest - Under 800 Words, to Include "Someone was knocking at the door."

Someone was knocking at the door. Charity was stunned by the sound, almost not recognizing it. Ten years before it wouldn't have surprised her at all. But now that all citizens' comings and goings were monitored by the government, no visitor came unannounced or undocumented.

Charity wasn't expecting anyone so she wasn't sure what to do. Should she answer the door or not?

The banging on her door came again, this time louder and more insistent. She set aside her paintbrush and scampered to the monitor to see what the door camera showed. An unfamiliar man stood outside her door, his blue business suit speckled with raindrops. The silver badge glinting on his lapel caught her eye and she immediately pressed the "talk" button and said, "Hello?"

The man looked up into the camera and said, "Can I speak with you for a moment?"

Charity replied, "Sure, I'll be right down."

She grabbed her robe from the hook beside the studio door and put it on, zipping it up and cinching the tie firmly around her narrow waist. She paused in front of the hall mirror, running her paint streaked fingers through her hair then hurried to the door.

"Miss Baker, Miss Charity Baker?" he asked.

"Yes, that's me," she replied.

"I'm Inspector Daniels with the Ministry of National Security. Do you mind if we come in for a moment?"

Charity was startled as another man jumped up from the side onto the top step in front of her door to join Inspector Daniels.

"Oh! Uh, sure, come in out of the rain. Why don't we go sit down in the kitchen?"

As she led them into the kitchen, the large blond man lagged behind, peering into doorways. Daniels sat down and removed his hat as Charity took the seat across from him. The other man remained standing, leaning against the doorway to the room and running his hand through his water darkened hair.

"Why don't you come in and have a seat, Mr. ah..." she offered nervously.

"Mr. Smith will be fine where he is." Daniels said, "You probably already know why we are here, Miss Baker."

"I really don't know, Inspector."

"I'm sure you can think of something, Charity, can't you?" he asked, looking pointedly at a dried splash of red paint on the back of her hand.

Charity replied, "I've gotten approval from the Morality Council for all of my new paintings - I can show you the paperwork... and the paintings if you like."

"That won't be necessary, Miss Baker, we know all of your paintings meet the guidelines."

"Then what is it?"

"Miss Baker, what are you wearing under that


"What? What do you mean, what am I wearing?"

Daniels demanded, "Take off your robe, Miss Baker."

Charity cringed in her seat, clutching the robe tightly around her body as Daniels' assistant moved towards her.

"No! No, I won't take it off!" she yelled, confused and frightened.

Charity struggled with the damp, powerful man for only an instant before he had the robe half ripped from her body.

"Cuff her," Daniels said coldly.

Mr. Smith pushed the crying, half-naked woman to the floor, wretched her arms behind her back and applied the restraints.

"Wait here while I find a blanket," Daniels ordered.

Mr. Smith knelt on the small of Charity's back as she whimpered and struggled beneath him, her face pressed against the linoleum. Inspector Daniels disappeared down the hall and into the bedroom. He returned to the kitchen carrying the sheet from Charity's bed which he wrapped around her as Mr. Smith pulled her upright.

Daniels announced, "Miss Baker you are under arrest for creation and distribution of pornography."

Charity cried, "Wait! What? I don't understand!"

"Is it true that you were painting in your studio, in the nude?"

"Yes? But..."

Daniels interrupted, "But nothing, it is illegal in all 214 districts to record or transmit nude images."

"But I'm not! I didn't!" Charity stammered.

"Miss Baker, there are four concealed Ministry of National Security cameras in your studio put there to ensure that none of your artwork is subversive in nature."

"But I didn't know they were there!" Charity wailed.

Daniels shook his head sadly, "Charity, dear, ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law."

More Fiction by Kylyssa Shay

© 2009 Kylyssa Shay