The agent had been a train wreck. Until just a few hours ago he'd been laid open like a can of tinned meat from his ear to the bloody stump that had been his left foot. Blue, the mechanic, had stopped counting the number of liters of fluid that had been pumped through him, gathered in the catch basin beneath, filtered and pumped through him again.
Messy business, special ops.
Along the side of the makeshift medical center hummed a bank of printers assembling replacement parts one micro-thin layer at a time. Several days ago they had produced a femur, a nearly full complement of ribs and the better part of a jawbone. Prior to the agents arrival they'd produced a complete foot mesh, from the cuneiform bones through the metatarsals to the phalanges, all from data retrieved from the agent's medical records at Langley. Blue's cultured tissue was rapidly turning that mesh back into what would soon be a working foot.
"We'll have you dancing again in no time," Blue joked, noting the pained loo
Tips For Writing Flash Fictionby Stephen R. Smith with excerpts by Kathy KachelriesTips For Writing Flash Fiction6 years ago in General Fiction More Like This
In order to improve as a writer, you need feedback. It's difficult to write something the size of a novel, and equally difficult to carve out the time required to read one and provide any sort of meaningful critique on it. This severely handicaps the feedback loop so important for the aspiring writer.
Flash Fiction on the other hand allows you to exercise all of your story writing and editing skills while creating works that can be read in a few minutes. This makes it ideal for examining ideas, developing writing skills and getting the feedback needed to help elevate you in your craft. Note that while Flash Fiction stories can be read in a few minutes, you shouldn't expect to write them that quickly.
Kathy Kachelries, founder of 365tomorrows, had this to say about Flash Fiction:
"The most concise and widely-cited example of flash fiction is the story Ernest Hemingway penned, allegedly to settle a bar bet: For sale: baby shoes.
Love SoundsLove Sounds6 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
"Mama?" A tiny voice slipped quietly through the room. Between her and the woman in the bed an impenetrable forest of metal stands, tubes and blinking machinery stood guard.
"Come in sweetheart, it's alright." Her mother's voice warmed the space, shushing the noisy equipment. "Mama's alright baby, come see me."
Clad in a pink dress and knee socks, the girl of no more than five years bravely stepped away from the safety of the door frame. Big blue eyes focused and fixed on her mother lying in the hospital bed, and her legs carried her along that line of focus until she could reach out and touch her hand.
"There, there, Mama's all better now." She held her daughter's hand gently, but firmly. "The doctors made me all better. Come. Climb up here and cuddle with me." She tried her best not to wince, shuffling a little to one side to make room. She held her one arm away so her daughter wouldn't become tangled in the web of cords snaking away from her body.
The girl climbed cautiously up the
SpaceSpace6 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
The orbiter had touched down at Vandenberg, and Lewis and a dozen others had flown cargo the thirty minutes to San Francisco airport. They trudged in from the tarmac in loose formation out of habit, unprepared for the crowds in the terminal.
The debriefing team had talked about friction, that the religious right had taken offense to their involvement in the colony war.
There was an awkward moment when the soldiers met the seething mass of people, unsure if there would be familiar faces, confused by the angry looks and rumbled undercurrent of discontent.
Murderers, a lone voice lit the fuse, causing the crowd to erupt into a cacophonic barrage of unfettered hatred.
The soldiers had faced more threatening forces, but here, at home, unarmed and unprepared, they could do nothing but close ranks and retreat to safety.
Police raised riot shields as picketers raised placards, the two groups squaring off as the tired soldiers slipped away through the terminal.
Lewis took the shuttl
Pete, Re-PetePete, Re-Pete7 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
Two hours ago, Pete had been pulled gasping from a tank of jelly. Now he sat in an immaculate office, wearing borrowed clothes with his employer staring him down from the far side of a granite slab desk top.
"Welcome back, Pete." Terrence Carter, syndicate heavyweight and the man Pete ran data packets for. "I must say, you look better than you did the last time I saw you."
Pete sat straight in his chair, tentatively rolling and flexing muscle that remembered thirty eight years of abusive mileage, but didn't feel a days wear and tear. "What happened Terry, what's going on?"
"You were running a very special package for me Pete, one we couldn't copy, one we had to risk transporting as original data." Terry paused, pulling at each of his white shirt cuffs in turn, evening their length against the dark fabric of his suit. "You had an incident Pete, for some reason you seem to have hidden my package from me. I don't know exactly what went wrong in your head, Pete, but when we finally... reco
Water of LifeWater of Life9 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
It had been eighteen years since they'd seen their home world. Eighteen years since the earth had lain before them vibrant and blue. They had come home, and brought with them the water of life, salvation for a world in need. They'd left a desperate band of men with a mission, journeyed the stars as beggars, then thieves, and ultimately destroyers to return home to be heroes.
'Orbital control, this is the Lazarus on return approach, we're inbound heavy looking for our vector, over'
Nothing but silence greeted their request.
Earth was being consumed by a terrible plague when they had left, a plague that destroyed the infected from the inside. The doctors needed fresh blood, in great quantities in order to transfuse, and to synthesize the antibodies that had been cleaned from their blood through the generations. They had dug up a horrific judgement of a great many years ago, and no one was immune anymore. A disease their ancestors would have thought nothing of now st
RelationshipRelationship7 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
My favourite time is just before dawn while she still sleeps. I stretch out, savour the crisp night air, feel the coolness of the sheets against our naked flesh. Soon the earth will turn us to face the sun again, and I'll feel the warmth as its energy permeates the room, watch as its light drives out the shadows. Until then, I'll content myself with the sounds of soft breathing, and the rhythmic music of her heart propelling life throughout her body.
I've only been with her a short while, but she has taught me so much. Helped me experience things I could never have known without her, not so completely.
We seem to have been made for each other. She's so physical, tangible and alive, but lacking in drive, control. I lack her physicality, but more than make up for it in unencumbered motivation. We're perfect together.
When I found her, I was content to merely follow, to do no more than observe. Lately I need to take more control, to dominate. My desire has grown from this place of comfort
WastelandWasteland3 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Eliot hunched his shoulders against the wind, the relentless sand picking at the seals of his gloves and headgear trying to find a way inside. He watched the glow of the sun disappear beyond the horizon, his waking period now fully begun.
It had been weeks since he'd seen another soul, perhaps years. Who kept count of such things anymore anyways?
The last city he'd abandoned to the ravages of this dust bowl planet had been a graveyard, he'd taken what he could carry, what little food and fresh water remained before the decay and vermin forced him back into the desert, back to his search for living humans.
There had to be more, they were so prolific on this rock before the coming, had spread so far, achieved so much. He'd visited countless monuments to the species' achievement here, each sprawling steel and glass expanse a testament to human drive and ambition, each barren, vacant ghost-town a reminder that the planet doesn't welcome strangers, doesn't tolerate intrusion.
Selachimorpha da SpazioSelachimorpha da Spazio5 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Captain Broahm hadn't been asleep nearly long enough when he was dumped unceremoniously from his bunk onto the floor. Cursing, he'd barely gotten his bearings before the ship righted itself, tossing him backwards into the bulkhead, sending a blinding flash of lightning through his already aching head.
His left eye clouded, and he wiped at the blood that was pooling there from a fresh gash on his forehead.
"Bugger," he grumbled, pulling himself upright with help from the cargo nets lining the sleeping quarters.
Staggering out of the still swaying cabin into the hallway, he climbed the ladder onto the bridge and found the first officer white knuckled at the wheel. Half the instrument lights were out or flickering and several of the windows were missing, broken glass scattered across the console and onto the floor.
"Grady, what the hell was that? You hit something?"
The startled first officer turned and stammered "Plane, I think, hit us. It's out there in the water." He pointed out the ba
Night TrainsI fell asleep for the first time on a train when I was seven. The admission wasnt as painful now as the experience had been at the time. When I woke up, there was nobody there.Night Trains6 years ago in General Fiction More Like This
Nobody? She intoned as though asking a question, but her facial expression showed she was merely repeating the fact.
Nobody. My parents, the other passengers, even the old conductor with the funny hat. Gone. I fidgeted at the memory, it was faded but still uncomfortable. I walked from one end of that train to the other but never saw another soul. I re-found my seat after a while and eventually dozed off, and when I awoke again everyone was exactly where Id left them.
She cocked her head to one side to look over my shoulder, then turned around and surveyed the rest of the car. The diamonds dangling from her earlobes glittered even in the low light.
The train looks pretty empty now. Shed turned to face me again, and I focused
Save The Last DanceSave The Last Dance6 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
Emily sat, quiet and alone in a corner, waiting for the evening's last song to begin. She watched the immaculate boys prowling the dimly lit room, chatting up pretty girls in hope of securing companionship. No one wanted to be alone.
Emily wasn't like those girls. She'd been beautiful once, in her own way. A rising star perhaps, soon to be debutante, but never quite comfortable in that skin. Her socialite parents, always considering their daughter more ornament than offspring, hired the finest of artisans to re-craft her after the accident. She was a masterpiece, a fine blend of flesh with fantasy; her own body augmented and elaborated upon with improbable features forged from gleaming materials. She was equal parts girl and gallery piece. She showed wonderfully in public, cleverly hiding her wounds from admiring eyes. Whole again, but no more complete.
Hands folded in her lap, she closed her eyes as the band continued to play a song she knew by heart. She imagined herself d
RenewRenew6 years ago in The Future of Holidays More Like This
The pig carcass filled most of the stainless tub where the delivery men had laid it. Freshly slaughtered, but not butchered, it had taken four of them to lift it there. None of them spoke to Rinnovi, only pausing for him to sign for the animal before they left.
On the way to the door, one of the men pointed at the stickers affixed to virtually every item in the house; black typewritten names and addresses on white shipping labels. The leader of the group nudged him and shook his head 'no', before hurrying him out the door.
Rinnovi poured a scotch, and turned on the kitchen vid display, his own visage peering back at him with a smile. He froze the frame, leaving the remote on the island beside the second stainless tub.
"Osiris, prepare to renew." He spoke aloud to the empty room.
"Preparations underway." The voice, angel soft and faintly Irish filled the room seemingly from everywhere at once. Both of the tubs began to fill with a steaming viscous liquid, spattering against the steel, a
Double BlindDouble Blind3 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Dr. Darius from the Psychology lab walked along the line of students to Dr. Thorne's adjacent Bio lab, reaching the door just as it opened to emit a thin wiry girl with a pale face and electric blue irises. She paused only a second before stepping around him, offering a shy 'Excuse me sir', under her breath.
"Next." Thorne's voice was unmistakable from within the lab.
"Just a second," Darius held back the next student in line, evoking an irritated but acquiescent huff from the towering young man, "won't be a minute," Darius added as he entered the lab and closed the door.
"Release signed?" Thorne spoke without looking up. "Payment in order?"
"What on earth are you playing at?" Darius startled Thorne with the question, causing him to look up from the notepad on which he was busy typing notes.
"Playing? I'm not playing, I'm researching."
Darius closed the distance between them, admiring the majesty of the contraption that filled the desk beside the gray haired engineer. "I hear they're n
Memories, Light the Corners of our MindsMemories, Light the Corners of our Minds1 year ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Lucas Three sat in the coffee shop long after she left, long after the people that had watched the scene play out had moved on. He sat for hours after she'd calmly, mercilessly ended their three year relationship with a calculated precision of language that even he couldn't have delivered more succinctly.
"This has been fun, really, it's been fantastic, but you knew this was never going to last." She didn't touch her latte, which was never a good sign.
"You're never going to get old, and I'm going to age out and die. At some point you're going to leave me for someone younger, and by then I'll be too old to find anyone to love me and I'll simply die alone." Her hands flew about the space in front of her as she spoke. He often wondered if she were forced to keep her hands in her pockets, would she be able to speak at all? He smiled at that thought, and the smiling caused him pain.
"Already my friends find you 'quaint', and your friends look upon me as some kind of lesser thing. Janson Fo
A Matter of InterpretationA Matter of Interpretation8 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
"I'm sorry, if I'd have realized you were coming tonight, I'd have prepared a more substantial demonstration." The Professor addressed the Investor nervously, moving piles of notes and abandoned test equipment out of his way.
"Your message stated there had been a significant development." The Investor stood unaffected amidst the chaos, collar turned up against the chill of the room, gloved hands clasped behind his back.
"Yes, we've made an exciting advancement." The Professor ceased his tidying, and strode to the corner of the room, hefting a small wooden shipping crate from a half full pallet of the same. Stepping over the clutter, he carried it to the middle of the curved array of alloy beams that seemed to be the focal point of the laboratory. The structure itself was easily half again as tall as he was, resembling a giant sectioned orange, exploded and suspended in mid air. He deposited the crate at the approximate center of the array, and stepping beyond its perimeter he began to
AssumptionAssumption6 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
The bullet blistered past the right side of Stryker's helmet, so close that for a good minute or so he was deaf in that ear until the pain gave way to a dull ringing.
"Stupid bastard," he muttered under his breath.
The sniper he'd been tracking for the past few weeks was across the street, in another row of vacated low rises. Hiding in the rubble, clambering across broken rooftops and crawling through battered buildings, they were playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
The Sergeant, hugging the floor, crawled the length of the room and squeezed through a broken partition into an adjacent building.
It was his crew that cleared the way when they colonized this planet, before the locals decided to defy the company and separate. He'd fought hard for this rock, and he'd be damned if some dumb-ass villager with a rifle was going to stop him from keeping it under company control.
Stryker flattened himself against the back wall in the darkness, irising his goggles out full to capture every
RecallThere is something visceral about the sound and smell of tires screaming against pavement. The pounding of one's heart as adrenaline floods the bloodstream, body straining to hold a ton of steel and glass true as it barrels down a two lane stretch of asphalt.Recall6 years ago in General Fiction More Like This
There's nothing that can prepare you for that moment when control has just slipped from your grasp, for the feeling of tires letting go, the realization that the ton of steel and glass you're contained in is embarking on a journey over which you no longer have any influence.
They say 'seconds feel like minutes', and while they're right, they have no idea. The reality is your brain heightens in sensitivity, taking in more under stress and writing it down in higher fidelity than it does any of those moments sitting at the soda counter, or watching clouds drift by overhead while lying on the grassy hilltops.
You don't ever forget those moments when you're out of control.
I vaguely remember her excitement at the prospect of racing, he
InsomniaInsomnia6 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
Thirty two years. Hed lost count of the number of homicides.
A Detective for twenty one of those years, John Barrick wished he knew how good hed had it as a beat cop.
There was no going back now.
John opened the back door of his cruiser. Reaching in, he grabbed the zip tie holding his prisoners hands behind his back and dragged him roughly out onto the ground. The cars suspension wheezed at the change in load, re-leveling itself.
Barrick pulled the limp figures head back by the hair and snapped a sim cap under his shattered nose.
Wake up, Stanton, he shook him, pushing the cap into the mans nostrils until he recoiled from the smell, wake up.
Stanton coughed and sputtered, hands straining against the binding and head twisting behind the wide tape covering his eyes. He finally managed to get his feet underneath his body and propel himself upright.
This doesnt smell like the cells, his speech slow and calm,
Vertiginous OriginVertiginous Origin7 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
"What is it that's troubling you?" The doctor could clearly see the discomfort in the young man's face as he wrote 'Anxiety' on his steno pad.
"It's getting harder and harder to go outside. It's wide open spaces; they terrify me." He clutched at the seat cushion beneath him, head down, eyes haggard beneath rough cut bangs, "I had to hide under an umbrella to get to the subway, and I picked you because you're in a tower over the tube station; isn't that weird?"
He noted the cloudless sky through the window. 'Agoraphobia,' he wrote on his pad, 'possible Anablephobia'. "How long has this been affecting you?"
"All my life, but not like this. The older I get, the more debilitating it's become."
"How old are you exactly?" he asked, adding 'Progressive' to his notes.
"Nineteen." He released the chair only briefly with one hand to rub at his nose, "Twenty on the twenty eighth of September."
The doctor scribbled 'Libra' as he continued. "Born here in St.Louis?"
"I was. I moved to Phoenix when I
Were I a mighty dragonflyWere I a mighty dragonfly,Were I a mighty dragonfly3 years ago in Traditional Fixed Forms More Like This
I'd not be bound by earthly weight
Swift force of beauty in the sky
To journey far, new lands espy
Free from those who'd chart my fate,
Were I a mighty dragonfly,
The pull from far I can't deny
To Österreich, where hills await,
Swift force of beauty in the sky
Let loose the call, wait for reply
Find beauty there, my hunger sate
Were I a mighty dragonfly,
There'd be no question as to why
Time made to breathe, longing abate
Swift force of beauty in the sky
Sometimes farewell, but not goodbye
Life lived no more just to placate
Were I a mighty dragonfly,
Swift force of beauty in the sky
Jacqui BlueJacqui Blue4 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Kaine rounded the corner at a full sprint, boots kicking up plumes of sand as he tried to outpace his pursuers. No gun, no backup and rapidly losing daylight, he fought the urge to panic, swallowed it down.
"Nowhere to run to Kaine, nowhere to hide." The voice bellowing between breaths, his pursuer struggling to keep the pace, but as Kaine's feet left the sand and skidded to a stop on hard rock, he knew he was right. Jagged rock faces rose up on three sides; too steep to climb fast enough not to be brought down by shredder fire, the route behind singular and unbranching.
When the three men arrived, he was leaning, back to the cold stone, hands at his side, absently chewing a chunk of root he'd fished from a pocket of his overcoat.
Realizing he was unarmed and cornered, they relaxed their weapons and caught their breath. The one closest spoke while the other two flanked him, shifting their weight on the uneven sand beneath their feet.
"I should shoot you just for making me run out here,
Sons and FathersSons and Fathers3 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Stuart lost his footing scrambling over the shattered garden wall and fell, hard. As he struggled to his feet, his head still ringing from the tumble his pursuer caught him up and knocked him back down harder still.
"You frickin bastard," Stuart spat blood and dust, rolling away from a second blow as the infantryman swung the butt-end of his rifle down, narrowly missing him. Managing to get some traction in the rubble, he sat up as best he could and shuffled backwards, the seat of his pants dragging in the dirt, hands and feet scrabbling for purchase until his shoulders met the outer wall of the car shed, and there he stopped.
The soldier stayed still, its seven plus feet of arms and legs bent at obtuse angles as it crouched low to the ground, watching, waiting.
There was a throaty gargling noise, with a tinny mechanical voice following in broken English a few moments out of sync.
"Show other soldier units." The tall figure leaned forward, shuffling its feet and free hand to keep balan
We Could Be HeroesWe Could Be Heroes3 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
Tom fished through the basket of coffee pucks until he found one marked simply 'Columbian'.
"Got a thing against coffee flavoured coffee do you Sam?" He couldn't see his friend through the glare of the flood lamps, but he could hear him shuffling around in the shadows. "Sure I can't make you one?" He lifted the lid on the battered stainless coffee machine, inserted the puck and picked through the assortment of mugs while the heater primed.
"No. I can't..." Sam's voice was different, deeper. "don't want to mess with stimulants just yet."
Tom laughed, slamming the lid and punching the button to begin brewing.
"When have you ever been one to not take anything?"
With a sharp click one end of the loft space became bathed in the cold glow of hanging sodium lights. Sam stood beneath the harsh glare and dropped the switch box to let it swing by its wire from the ceiling.
Tom forgot all about his coffee.
"Since I got here, Tom, this is what I wanted to show you."
Tom's mouth opened and closed s
Of Icarus and PoliticsOf Icarus and Politics7 years ago in Science Fiction More Like This
It had started as a series of simple disagreements, but it was clear before too long that at the heart of the matter was a fundamental difference in driving principles.
James had spent his life in aeronautics, building anything that flew. He simply realized that he'd wanted more.
He tried so many times to get a personal flight system into development, but the company was convinced that flight was a luxury only for the rich, the powerful; the governments and the military. Flight wasn't for the peasantry.
It was the realization that he couldn't build another thing for the industrial complex that prompted him, one sunny Monday, to tender his resignation. He had a lab of his own, and his name on enough patents and royalty paying inventions that money wouldn't be much of a problem for a while if he were careful.
It took the better part of a year; watching his diet and engaging in intense cardio and endurance training; designing his system and redefining his physique.
In the Spring, with the
Nothing Left to Live ForNothing Left to Live For5 years ago in Flash Fiction & Vignettes More Like This
It was June when Mark and Alicia kissed each other one last time before strapping in for the long sleep to Caltrani. "I love you", Mark had said as the canopies had closed. "Elephant shoes", she mouthed back, and giggled behind the glass that separated their two capsules.
Neither knew it would be their very last kiss, her capsule bleeding out in flight. When they came to wake her she was dried nearly to dust.
They would have no family. He was left alone.
Back home he knew his friends and family would have long passed on. Maybe there were nieces and nephews, or great to some incomprehensible exponent - great nieces and nephews, but they were as lost to him as his love.
Home would have to be where his heart was, where she was planted in the foreign ground.
He worked first as a labourer, helping build the colony up, then as a soldier defending it against those that would see it fail. He'd seen wars before, and was trained for them, but this was a profession he had looked to the stars to e