The mist roiled like squid ink. Shale clattered down the slope.
“It's moved,” whispered Sir Livermore. “Uphill, and downwind. I think it knows where we are.”
Cyrinna swallowed a whimper, while Rian looked blankly at his master, his empty hands shaking. He'd boasted all his life that he was destined to become a knight, and now he would end as a charred skeleton beside that of the girl he was oathbound to rescue. They'd find his sword a mile back, where he'd dropped it in fright, and know the true extent of his failure.
Livermore shifted his weight, gauging the loose ground. He was glad he'd opted to go without full plate armour. Between the extra weight and the noise, he'd have been easy prey for those grasping foot-long talons. If he was going to get more than halfway uphill, he'd need to step lightly, and fleet as the wind.
“Please no,” croaked Rian, crawling back against the small bluff they were hidden behind. He could see his master plotting, and the very idea of meeting the beast head-on set his guts to freezing. “If we stay still, it might -”
Livermore took the measure of his squire with tired eyes.
“The wyrm is a far better hunter than you or I. If I can track it, you can be sure it's tracking us. Our mission is to ensure the girl's safety, first and foremost. I can think of but one way to deliver on that promise.”
He handed his sword to Cyrinna, who met his eyes and took it.
“When I have its attention, take Rian, and run, as fast as you can. I believe in you.”
Cyrinna nodded, her tears like embers.
“Oh,” said Livermore, drawing his dagger, “and if you ever go up against a dragon, I have it on good authority there's a weak point behind the jaw.”
With that, he charged into the mist.
They waited in silence as his footsteps faded.
Cyrinna's gaze was fixed on the shield Livermore had left behind. Its crest was a cormorant looking skyward on a tawny field. She burned it into her memory.
The silence continued for several minutes, until it was broken.
Distantly she heard a grunt of effort, and then the gargling shriek of the beast. There was a flash of red, and then another, and finally a third, which cast a very specific silhouette through the fog.
At that, Cyrinna bolted, the tatters of her sacrificial dress flaring behind her, dragging Rian with one hand and brandishing Deliverance in the other.
Of course, back then, the sword was just a sword. It would earn its name in the years to come.
Parabola squadron floated out on the starboard flank of the fleet, barely visible. The azure glow of their engines had long cooled. They'd been out there for hours, on standby. No orders had been issued since.
“We should have heard something by now,” said Thaela over squad comms.
“Not necessarily,” answered Nerys, trying to sound more authoritative than she felt. “If this is really first contact, standard protocol goes out the window. We're all playing by ear.”
“Playing by ear usually requires that you hear something.”
Nerys couldn't really argue with that. Whatever the reason for the silence, and there could be any number of legitimate ones, it was still incredibly frustrating. Staying focused was getting difficult. Over her port side wing she saw Rozi nodding off in her cockpit. Nerys almost knocked on the transparishield to wake her before realising how stupid that was. She flicked comms back open instead.
“Rozi!” she snapped, and saw her wingman jolt to attention, clocking herself in the visor as she attempted to rub her eyes.
“Sorry commander,” said Rozi. “I started counting ships and I was out like a light before I knew it.”
Nerys ought to have been angrier, but she understood. They were all exhausted, and there was nothing to look at bar the countless starships still amassing aside them. The cloud of soft plasma emissions condensed into a long strip at the centre, like looking at the Milky Way from Earth – both outside it and part of it. The tiny midge lights of Harpy ships whined lazily around continental-class Cetus dreadnoughts. Counting them all was clearly impossible, especially with new squadrons and flotillas arriving all the time.
“Don't let it happen again.” she said. “Activate stims if you have to.”
A Scylla interdictor dropped out of warp sixty kilometers away, dwarfing the accompanying corvettes. Then another. Josethene whistled.
“Look at the markings,” she said. “That's from Trappist colony, no doubt in my mind. This must be fucking huge.”
“This is the largest military gathering in history by a long shot,” said Nerys. “This was huge even before they got here. I think they just tipped the scales over into 'terrifying'.”
She shouldn't have said that. Leaders were cool, calculating, and always in command of themselves and their team. She hadn't meant to let on how vulnerable she felt.
Siren fighters were the most versatile fighters in the Solar fleet – hardy, maneuverable, dangerous – but they were next to useless without data collection and a shit-ton of planning before a mission. Nerys didn't know what they were facing, other than that her superiors appeared to be gearing up for genocide, one way or the other. She stared at the commscreen as if she could will it into providing some solid intelligence. Even conjecture. Anything. Anything.
Nerys almost jumped out of her seat, but it was just Thaela again. “I read you, Parabola Six, what is it?”
“I've been attempting to monitor fleet comms and it's all … bad. Bad news. I think something weird has happened to Qsync.”
Tapping fleet comms was prohibitively difficult and very illegal, and a trick like that would have meant diverting a sizeable chunk of her engine power, but Nerys was glad of Thaela's initiative. Qsync was the constantly autoscrambling quantum pairing algorhythm that powered Instacomm, the tech that allowed secure and instantaneous data cloning between vessels. It wasn't necessary for a local channel like squad comms, but it was absolutely vital in connecting capital ships.
“Have you checked the slowband back ups?”
“Yeah, they're all lit up, everyone's panicking, but that's not the bit that's freaking me out. When you listen to instacomm without the Qsync key, what does it normally sound like?”
“Hot garbage,” said Nerys.
“Right, it's just noise, because the switches aren't mated. Now listen to this ...”
The audio that followed was like whalesong as performed by the innards of a pocketwatch. It sounded like a robot screaming in agony. No, it sounded like a robot screaming in mocking imitation of someone in agony. Nerys shivered.
“That's the Celsura,” said Thaela. “I've tapped into the Lolaea and the Sylphair too, same story. Someone's hijacked Instacomm, and they've completely bypassed Qsync. Instacomm is based on Qsync. This message isn't using quantum sympathy, they're just broadcasting this shit instantly across space, and that's completely fucking impossible.”
“We're getting out of here,” said Nerys.
“I'd really appreciate that,” said Thaela, her voice wavering a little. The effort of admitting she'd discovered something absurd happening to the fundamental laws of the universe seemed to have taken a toll on her.
“Everyone back to the-” Nerys started, and as she swung her blunt-nosed ship around, orange light bloomed silently through the transparishield. The Celsura was crumbling, a sphere of fire expanding from its belly. Hulls upon hulls of ablative plating became nothing more than a cloud of glitter.
“The broadcast didn't stop,” said Thaela quietly. “It's getting louder.”
“Back to the Serenade,” ordered Nerys. “Full throttle.”
Sirens had no warp reactors, they were much too small. There was about to be a mass exodus, and if Parabola squad couldn't reach a carrier before that happened, they would be stranded in the literal middle of nowhere.
They streaked toward the Serenade. Its engines were already warming up.
Nerys saw the Sylphair burst into light, like the sun peeking between the clouds. Two suns. Three suns. It was easy to forget the sun was a nuclear explosion in space, but upon witnessing a nuclear explosion in space, it was hard not to see it as a sun.
Suns were being born everywhere.
She could hear the singing through Thaela's mic, clicking and crooning, exulting, growing louder and louder until it turned to feedback.
Gunning the engine, Nerys swung her Siren into the Serenade hangar and threw it down against the floor, relying on the friction combined with her thrusters to slow her before she made a fiery explosion of her own. Skidding around in an arc, she saw her squadron enter hot on her heels, landing with various degrees of finesse. All but one.
The stars turned to streaks through the mouth of the hangar, and the deafening feedback on the comms went silent.
Thaela was left behind.
Nerys screwed her eyes up, squeezed the yoke, and prayed with all her heart to any God that would hear her that her friend would survive. To her surprise, they answered.
The march of the alien transmission moaned softly in the back of her head.
They returned home, and the crying never stopped. They went to bed, and the crying continued. Days passed, and not once did the baby settle down to sleep. Sigurd watched, a pit in his stomach, as his son pushed desperately away from his wife's breast. The baby seemed almost inhuman – the wide-eyed fear on its face, the determination with which it struggled, gave an impression closer to that of a tortured animal.
He sat in the doctor's office, brow furrowed, his hands clenched white-knuckled in his hair, and he caught himself wondering if this was even his child – sweet Olly, who'd been so quiet, to whom giggling had come so much easier than tears. Exhausted, said the doctor. Malnourished, said the doctor. Sigurd had never in his life felt as guilty as he did in that room. He squeezed his wife's hand, and it didn't squeeze back.
He hadn't seen her smile since the crying began.
Only Olly saw her face smiling wide at him when nobody else was there, and the straining seams at the corners of her mouth.
Only Olly had seen the changing room walls reach out.
Only Olly had seen what had become of his mother's skinless body.
He cried as they forced the unfamiliar breastmilk down his throat.
Then, gradually, he stopped.
The Corpses have Risen!Hello!
Firstly, well done to you crazy cats who participated in the corpse! For those who didn't, don't ignore this journal- come read, share your thoughts and maybe next time sign up!
The three teams have now completed their poems and below is the great reveal of all three! There is some fantastic little groups of lines that work really well together- let's check them out...
This isn't the first time I cleared the mess
I found your red doll with a button eye loose
Half-blind, she relied on strange means and measures
Her futures weighed on balance scales
Her past silently gazes
As the future looms ahead
There is nothing left to fear
Our direction now is clear,
As the sweet soil beckons us back to bed,
we are thinking still of dancing by mid-summer's setting sun
In the evening hours, we evoke the shadows of the past.
Last night the stars hid away
A billion billion diamond eyes winking
Challenge Winner: FFM 2018 + DDUPDATE: joe-wright got a hold of me in chat and made a compelling series of arguments, to wit:
1. It is clearly the will of the people
2. [ceaseless flattery]
3. There doesn't need to be any mention of cowardice, does there?
...as a result of which I have somehow been persuaded to take on his All-Star challenge in addition to the month-long challenges I already committed to, and of course FFM's official challenges. CONGRATULATIONS TO THE NO LESS THAN FIVE OF YOU WHO VOTED FOR IT. Here's a refresher on what that entails:
The All-Star challenge.
Over the course of FFM, your oeuvre must address the following items:
-Something somebody once told you-The sharpest tool-A finger and a thumb-The shape of an L-What does it mean to be 'fed to the rules'?-A smart brain and a dumb head-"You'll never shine if you don't glow"-Definitive proof that all that glitters is in fact gold-A shooting star that breaks the mold-The meteor men
Are you Ready to be Published!?We certainly hope you are. This is our first of hopefully MANY anthologies featuring DeviantArt users exclusively. There is no better time than July's Flash Fiction Month run by FlashFictionMonth to start. We're looking for the best flash fiction you have to offer and since you should already be writing it for FFM, submitting it here at LitConquistadores will only take a couple extra seconds of your time.
The Basics of Submitting
Here are a couple things to keep in mind:
You are allowed to submit up to 2 deviations per week to the Gallery Folders.Please submit to the appropriate genre folder. If your story would fit into more than one genre, pick the one where you’d find it if it were in a bookstore.Make sure to include in your description that your story was written for FFM. You do not need to mention that you’re also submitting to LitConquistadores, but it would be appreciated. If you do not
Ten Little Astronauts Artwork by Joe Wrightjoe-wright just sent over this absolutely fantastic Ten Little Astronauts artwork! It’s based on a scene from the novella that a very small handful of people will have heard me read at the International Agatha Christie Festival.
Chances are you’ll have come across joe-wright’s work before, as he also produced the image I’ve been using in almost all my promotional materials for Girth Loinhammer’s Most Exponential Adventure. This one’s very different in terms of style, though:
I was trying to make something that was reminiscent of old sci-fi pulp novels, which I understand isn’t exactly t
FFM 2017 Winners!You've been waiting very patiently, and at last the results of Flash Fiction Month 2017 are here!
As ever, the list of people we'd like to thank is as long as our tentacles. But in particular we’d like everyone to give a special round of applause for the amazing volunteer judges who devoted all their time and energy towards making this winners announcement a reality!
We'd also like to thank the extraordinarily generous 2017 prize donors, who made it possible to have the full four prizes for the third year in a row! And of course special thanks is due to the magnificently talented joe-wright, for designing that most coveted flash fiction prize/holder of beverages.
Our Flash Fiction Month discord channel has exceeded all our wildest expectations, and is still going strong.
FFM 2017 Write-Up and FeaturesThis comes a few days later than I’d meant it to, but this July really wore me out. Now that I’m no longer meeting a deadline a day, sleep has taken the top priority.
This is my fourth year doing FlashFictionMonth, but only the second that I’ve done it as intended: the last two years I spent part of the month traveling, which meant that rather than writing a story a day for a month, I wrote (around) two a day for (around) two weeks. You would think that would be harder; so did I. Thus came the great pitfall. I have done this thrice before, I thought, twice under worse circumstances; last year’s circumstances were particularly horrid; yet I still managed it: so this should pretty much be easy, right?
Hubris is the art of remembering successes but not the costs at which those successes came.
FFM is more of a marathon than a sprint, as I have heard more than once from other participants. Keeping it up for a whole month may
FFM 2016 Write-Up and FeaturesAnother July has come and gone: another FlashFictionMonth has been conquered.
It's been an interesting month [double space intentional]. I've had quite a few obstacles to work around this year: first of all MillieBee's excellent shovel challenge, which I hope I've completed to her satisfaction as well as everyone else's (it did turn out less humorous than anticipated, but then so did the entire month); then, the fact that I spent the first two weeks of July abroad and thus had to do most of my writing in the second half of the month; and finally some personal issues over the first week and a half or so that I was back, which effectively crippled my ability to think creatively or analytically until about the last week of July. As you might imagine, this put a bit of a damper on my ability to write for a while there.
Despite all of this, I have written all 31 stories, answered all 14 c
Goodbye StarmanBy now you all know that the great and transformative David Bowie passed away this month at the age of 69.
He was a remarkable individual, prolific, multi-talented, and inspirational to many in a multitude of different ways. And as anyone who has participated in Flash Fiction Month will know, he has proved a particular source of inspiration to FFM participants over the years in the form of our annual David Bowie Day tradition.
Over the years DBD has made us weep, and laugh, and tear our hair out, and has driven many a Flash Fiction Month participant to the brink of madness. For some it initiated you into the realm of Bowie fandom, or proved a playground for your pre-existing appreciation of his work, and for others it merely cemented the knowledge that perhaps Bowie wasn't really your thing. But in our humble opinion, whatever your outlook, DBD has also consistently resulted in some of the best work that FFM has ever produced, and that's saying something (because you g
FFM 2015 WINNERSBet you thought we weren't coming back, didn't you? Well once again we've proved you wrong!
It wasn't easy. No really, it wasn't, and in fact, in future it would be nice if you guys could be slightly less awesome and make this whole judging business easier. But we overcame the hurdles that life placed in our way and judged the hell out of all your fabulous entries.
And so finally (and apparently for the first time since 2010), we are ready to announce not just one, but ALL of the winners for FFM 2015, who will be receiving this very "flashy" mug, designed by our very own wonderful neurotype!
Isn't it tentacular?
And so, without further ado, the winners of FFM 2015 are...
----------------------------------------------------- WEEK ONE WINNER ----------------------------------------------------
FFM 2015 Write-Up and FeaturesAnother Flash Fiction Month has come and gone, bringing with it glory and... well, pretty much just glory, but it's pretty glorious.
Some of you may recall that I mentioned something about taking it up a notch this year, but then delayed those plans because I'd be abroad for the better part of July and thought that would be enough of a handicap. And it was: I've had to write nearly two stories a day since returning in order to catch up. Good thing I had Flash Fiction Day for practice.
That said, I wrote all 31 stories inside of July (I thought I had posted the first story early; as it turns out, that was true in the time zone I was in at the time, but it is not true here) and did every challenge, and still did it better than last year. There's only one story I'm really unhappy with in a way that can't be edited away with light tweaks, and that one was... a special circumstance. And maybe that's partly down to coincidence, or luck with the challenges, or having recharged a bit during
“Let's face it, I've gone to seed,” said Archibald XXIV, stuffing his face with birdseed. Pigeons could store a maximum of two puns in their brain at once, but when the first one was so good, why bother learning another?
“Bastards,” said Ptolemy IX, vaguely.
Erasmus XVII scratched at his perch irritably. “They'd bloody well be speaking German if not for us!”
“What, the Saxe-Coburgs? I think they speak German already.”
“No!” Erasmus would have spat if he was biologically capable of it. “All them, out there! We saved their arses during World War One. And Two - Bloody ingrates. I'll have them know my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was eaten by peasants during operation Columba.”
“They only appreciate us when there's a war on,” echoed Archibald from the bottom of the seed bowl.
Ptolemy and Erasmus stared at each other as realisation dawned.
The next morning, various world leaders received messenger pigeons bearing a short missive, ostensibly from the 'Queen of Engund', inviting them to fuck themselves. The vast majority of these were immediately dismissed as forgeries due to their lack of a royal seal, general resemblance to chicken-scratchings and their poor (although very impressive in context) grasp of English.
One, however, was not.
“What have you done?” screeched the US secretary of defense, tearing out what little hair he had left. “It's clearly fake, they spelled your fucking name wrong!”
The president tore his squinty shrew eyes away from the big screen where swarms of blinky red dots were arcing across the globe, and jabbed an angry finger at the message on the desk.
“Bullshit,” he roared, jowls red with apoplexy. “It's there in black and white, you asshole! T-U-R-N-P!"