Flash! Friday #17


Driven off the beach by the cold January wind, Simon and Emily moved inland, hoping to find some shelter from the icy spray. As they rounded the northeast corner of what had once been St. Andrews, Scotland, they came upon the ruins of the cathedral. It had fallen long before the rest of humanity, but some of the walls still stood stoutly enough to provide respite from the storm. The gravestones in the cemetery were worn smooth by the wind, except for the odd name here or date there.

Emily wrapped her arms around Simon, feeling his warmth radiating even through his overcoat. They were lost in time, one day witnesses to the end of humanity, the next surrounded by more faces than they could count, thousands and millions and billions of people unaware of how short a time they’d be around to worry about whatever it was that was consuming them that day. But standing here with the man she loved, in what was left of a building that had been painstakingly built, stone by stone, so long before she was born that it was hard to fathom, she felt a sense of peace which had been eluding her since they first saw the monsters. She felt home.


Thurs Threads – week 64


Simon held the rifle gingerly, not wanting it to accidentally go off and kill someone. He’d fought against the idea of even carrying a weapon for a very long time, but he knew the others looked at him as their leader, and he couldn’t send them into dangerous places that he wasn’t able to go.

And he knew they’d be going into an awful lot of dangerous places. For a long time to come.

“The safety’s on, Simon – it won’t fire until you’re ready. And hold on tight – this baby’s got a kick. You want it to hurt whatever you’re aiming at, not you.” Pater had grown up in this time, and he was comfortable around guns in a way that Simon was saddened by. Pater had learned how to use a gun as a child not as a hobby, but because once he was big enough, it became his responsibility to protect his family.

“Once you’re set, you aim…like this.” Pater demonstrated the stance and raised his rifle. “The barrel will look like it’s aimed too high, but gravity will pull the bullet down. Ignore the barrel – use the sight. If the sight’s broken, guess and pray.”

Simon copied the stance, raised his rifle, and aimed. Once he centered the target in the crosshairs, he felt surprisingly calm. The target was no longer a chunk of wood; it was a monster, and it was coming for Emily. He fired, and knew without looking that he’d hit it dead-center.


Five Sentence Fiction – Conquer


Simon inched closer to the cliff’s edge, hoping that somehow, he would be able to see what was going on below without being seen himself. The sounds of the battle were horrific – snarls, wailing, screams of anguish cutting off suddenly, and blasts from myriad weapons, some which sounded like guns, and some which sounded like nothing he’d ever heard before. He didn’t know why the umbrella had brought him here, but he knew where here was – the last stand of humans against the monsters. There would be other battles, and years before there weren’t enough people anywhere in the world left to kill, but this was the key, and after this, the future he and Emily had gone to became inevitable. He hoped that he’d see something which he could bring back to the others and change the past and the future, or he’d merely be the last surviving witness to the conquering of humanity.


Monday Mixer, March 25


The ring of the blacksmith’s hammer echoed throughout the keep, its beat marking the seconds of the siege. The hours were signaled by blasts from the Duke’s mangonels, as day by day the outer walls were chipped away by rocks, chunks of wood, and the diseased remains of the Duke’s former serfs. The stench coming from the walls was awful, but it drew the carrion-eaters, who were easy prey themselves, flying low and slow over the keep. In my days at court, eating a vulture would have been scandalous, but ever since the last pig died last autumn, we thanked the goddesses for sending us this bounty.

Of late, I’d taken to spending the nights in my conservatory. The only things still growing in here were poisonous – everything that was edible had been eaten long ago. But none held a poison as potent as that which lay within my heart.


Flash! Friday 16


The handle turned slowly as usual, and I had to lean into it to get the latch to fully disengage. As it swung open, I could hear the rhythmic pulses of steam coming from the pressure relief valves, and I winced. I’d been here long enough that I could tell how the machinery was doing by the smallest of sounds, and those were new sounds, sounds a machine like this was never designed to make. The only comfort came from the sight of the ever-present fire that was the heart of the machine. Without that fire, it didn’t matter if this fix worked – we wouldn’t have enough power to keep running.

Clangs of metal on metal guided me to the worksite. An impossibly burly man was tightening a staggeringly large bolt with an even larger wrench. Pooled around his feet was some sort of viscous liquid which had leaked from the machine. Through the steam in the air, the ruddy glow of the firelight made the liquid look like blood, and I was shocked to see how much had spilled.

“There. All done. She’s good as new.” The workman stepped back, dropping his wrench into an open slot on his tool belt with a solid thwump.

“Good as new? You’ve disconnected the entire southeast quadrant! In nearly seventy three years, we’ve never disconnected an entire quadrant. Not once! Not even for maintenance.” I’d known what they were going to do, of course, but seeing it in person was unsettling.

“That quadrant was FUBAR. It’s been screwed up ever since this thing became operational, and it was threatening to take down the whole works. You’re going to need to re-route some systems, but she’ll hold together.” He grabbed a rag from his belt and wiped the sweat from his face. “Everyone reacts the same way at first, but I’ve done lots of these. Just be patient – everything will be up and running before you know it.”

I’d been looking at the floor as he talked, and I closed my eyes, gathering myself. “I know. It’s just -”

“You never think something like this could happen.”


“It’s not supposed to, but it does. Welp, I’m out of here.” He picked up his toolbox, slung his jacket over his shoulder, and smiled, holding out his free hand. I shook it, and smiled back, trying to show more confidence than I really felt.


#VisDare12 – Waiting


She couldn’t travel anymore, not like this. Not for a few days, at least, and who knew how long it would be until the baby would be ready, especially given the limited medical care they knew they expected to find in this time period. If only they’d Flickered to Emily’s time, or anywhere even close to it, she’d be in a hospital now, surrounded by doctors and nurses and sensors and wires and operating rooms and medications and the myriad things she’d grown up with and had always expected to have around her whenever she was sick or hurt.

It had been a week since she’d been able to walk, even for a half-hour at a time, and finally Simon had called the company to a halt. They were in a small valley, lined on the west by trees, orange and red and yellow in the early fall sun, with a babbling brook fed by runoff from the mountains flowing in from the north. They had game, access to clean water, and shelter, and Simon knew that he wasn’t going to find anything better as a place for Emily to give birth.

To keep from going crazy, he’d spent the week setting up a perimeter around the camp as if they’d be there for months. And maybe they would be – depending on how Emily and the baby were doing, and whether or not winter arrived early, he could see scenarios where they didn’t leave until spring. At night, Simon sat staring into the fire, waiting for her to let him know it was time, but each night passed uneventfully. He’d slept some but not enough, crawling into their tent after he’d stood watch, falling asleep clutching his rifle with one hand, the umbrella at his side as always.

As the week dragged on, Simon became withdrawn, even from Emily. Everyone assumed it was worry that something would go wrong with the birth. Pater and Jenna tried to assure him that even in this crude environment, she’d delivered lots of babies who did just fine, especially to healthy and strong women like Emily. Simon nodded at their advice, knowing that they looked to him to set the tone for their company, and tried to put on a better face for their sake. But while he was worried about the birth, his few dreams filled with the nightmares of expectant fatherhood, he was struggling much more with the weight he found himself carrying.

Why had the umbrella picked him? Walter had said that he’d sent it back to find someone who could change the past, prevent the monster war, and save the human race. But that was too much for any one person to do, and Simon could not see what he was supposed to be able to do against such a daunting task. He’d let Marcus get killed. Walter had turned out not to be the savior Simon had hoped for, and it had become too hard to pull the truth out of Walter’s lies. He’d thought about giving up leadership to Emily more than once – he knew the umbrella would accept her, and Simon had seen her inner strength guide them through some very difficult times, but after she’d become pregnant, that wasn’t an option.

They’d been in this time for nearly a year now, and Simon had long wondered why. He cared deeply about everyone they were traveling with – Pater and Jenna and the rest had proven themselves strong, courageous, and dedicated to what he and Emily were trying to do, but this wasn’t where he needed to be if he was going to fix anything – the umbrella had shown him that. He needed to be at Genomatics headquarters, learning about what was going on in their labs that had caused the monsters to be, and finding some way to stop it. But he wasn’t a scientist, and he wasn’t an army, and he wasn’t a savior. He was just Simon. Even with a wife, friends who’d followed him without question, and the umbrella, he just didn’t know how it would be enough.

He’d finished dinner and was at the brook washing up the dishes when the shouts came from Emily’s tent. Jenna and Pater were leaning through the flap, waving frantically for him to come back. He couldn’t quite make out what she was saying, but the urgency was obvious. Dropping the dishes, he turned to climb up from the water’s edge. Simon reached the camp quickly, and his heart leapt to see that the look on Jenna’s face was one of excitement, and not of fear. “Simon! They’re coming – they’re coming now!”

“They?” His mind filled with images of an attack on the camp when his family was at its most vulnerable, and he whirled around to see where they might be coming from.

Pater smiled, his weatherbeaten face a mixture of bemusement and joy. “No – not the monsters, Simon. Your babies. There’s two. Twins!”

“But how? Why? Now?” Simon knew he was babbling, that he should be in the tent with Emily, but he was too shocked to move.

Pater’s smile grew even bigger. “It’s a miracle, Simon. A sign. We’re coming back – humanity’s not done. You and Emily are the ones we’ve been waiting for for so long.” Suddenly, his eyes widened. “What the hell is that? Your umbrella –it’s glowing!”

Simon reached back and grabbed the umbrella out of its straps. It was indeed glowing, and as he looked at it in wonder, it started to flicker. “Oh, no! Not now!”

Then he was gone.


#ThursThreads, week 63

The room had long since been emptied of life, although the cleansing had not been orderly. The chairs in back had been knocked down during the frenzy, and the ones in the front would never be usable again, not covered in blood and partially chewed.

Not that the denizens of Earth were going to use the chairs, anyway.

Not the new denizens of Earth, I mean. The seating surfaces for the polytentacled don’t have four legs, a seat, and a back.

The only light in the room was a blue-green trapezoid, splayed carelessly in the upper right corner of the room. Somehow, the bulb in the projector hadn’t shattered during the feeding.

If you turned your head the right way, you could still read the last slide. The woman who’d written it had been an executive in the shipping industry, and the room had been the site of the latest, and last, national meeting of people like her, people who made a living moving other people’s things from point A to point B. She was expecting something along the lines of “How do you interface your new billing method with your accounting system?”

She got “Are you crunchy?”

As it turned out, she was.

The bulb was growing older, and soon would burn out, its departure no less sudden, or final, than that of the crunchy shipping executive.

But before it went, anyone who found this room, and turned just the right way, could read humanity’s farewell message.

“Any questions?”

250 words


#VisDare 11 – Whorl


Simon lifted the umbrella close to his face and concentrated. His voice was barely a whisper as he breathed “Show me. Show me the past that should have been.”

Every other time the umbrella had taken him somewhere, the journey had been instantaneous – it Flickered, and they were gone. This time, however, he could feel it happening. The world dimmed slowly, then brightened again, and then the air started to spin. He realized that the Flickering he’d always seen before wasn’t a flashing of light, but rather reality whizzing by at speeds too fast to perceive, the lights and darks of the world blending into a chiaroscuro. The spinning accelerated, and the edges of his vision began to dim as he found himself pulled into a patternless whirlpool.

And then out of the chaos came order. Even though he was sitting in a dark room, Simon saw trees, and a pond, and a building in the distance. As the image cleared, a large red and grey sign on the lawn became distinct. On it was a seven-pointed star.


Flash! Friday #15

I had a little fun with this week’s Flash Friday. Enjoy.


Pure. Uncorrupt. Clean.

If the Monks were after you, you had done something wrong. And you would be caught.

Pure. Anonymous. Clean.

The cowls of their robes hid their faces from the world, protected them from dangers seen and unseen. But they did not hide the world from the Monks.

Clean. Pure. Sterile.

From the ruins of a great age they came, the scions of the legacy of the great one. After the war, the world became unmoored, and much that had been known became twisted, mutated, new.

The Monks preached no dogma, except the coming of the one who would right the most grievous wrongs. The one who would protect the innocent and return humanity to a path toward the light.

Uncorrupt. Pure. Clean.

For in the coming of the age of the Adrian, all would be seen. All would be known. All would be safe.

Clean. Sterile. Joyous.


#ThursThreads week 62


The two travelers reached the gully during a brief respite from the rains one morning late in the last year. The full moon was setting in the western sky, bloated and red, casting its diseased glow over the riverbed; the swollen river frothing with the jetsam of a lost world. On a hillock near the far side of the river was a rough shack, the bodies of its most recent occupants lying mangled and decaying in the doorway. Alastair spit out the scabflower seed he’d been chewing and cursed. “Fuck, man, there’s a babe there. No goddamned justice anymore.”

“No goddamned much of anything anymore. What good is justice?” Sebastian was the younger of the two, and he faced the end with equal parts equanimity and callousness. “There’d better be a place to cross this river. I didn’t walk all the way from New China not to.”

“There will be, you jackass. And you didn’t walk from New China – I saw you get off that stolen ‘copt back at the spaceport. Now shut up. We just have to go north a bit.” Alastair hefted his pack and began shambling along the bank, dragging his lame right leg with each step.

Sebastian popped a scabflower seed in his mouth and followed. Not that he knew it, nor would he have cared, but the man who in the very near future would be the last on Earth walked the same path as the one who’d taken the first steps, back before time.