Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction: And The Devil Came Down To Nanowrimo

The Devil Came Down To Nanowrimo

It is known that the devil likes to challenge certain individuals for their soul. What is not as well known is that he once challenged Jesus to a writing contest. Here is how the story may have unfolded.

During the month of November, people all across the planet participate in National Novel Writing Month. Their goal is to write 50K words toward a rough draft of a novel. During this event, the devil sauntered into a local coffeehouse where Jesus and a few of his disciples were enjoying coffee and scones. The devil challenged Jesus to a writing contest. If the devil could write 50K words before the end of November, he would take Jesus’ soul.

The son of god quirked a grin and gave a wink to the devil. “I accept your challenge. If you win, you have my soul. If I win, you will no longer torment humanity.” The two shook on the challenge, as gentlemen often do. The disciples witnessed the bargain, and they began.

The devil ordered a Vente coffee with an extra shot of espresso before taking a chair at a little table in the shadows. He opened his laptop and began to write the rough draft of a novel. It would be a story about lust and power, of world conquest and domination. The stuff of best-sellers. His fingers hammered the chiclets of his writing machine, creating a staccato tattoo. The devil consigned his inner editor to hell where it would never slow his progress. Smoke issued from his ears. His face contorted as his brain worked on the devilish plot points of his novel. He “Beat the Cat”, struck out three acts, and followed the hero’s journey to the bitter end. With each passing day, his word count increased.

Now and then, the devil would look up from his labor to watch his prey’s progress. Time was passing. Soon the month would be over and the challenge would be complete. He would own the soul of Jesus at long last.

At the same time, Jesus sat on the opposite side of the coffeehouse. A chilly decaf coffee frappe perched beside him. His table located on the sunny side of the coffeehouse, his laptop loaded with Scrivener. Jesus set his daily target goal of 1667 words per day. With organic intuition, wrote a character-driven novel full of the trials that people face in their lives. Was it fate or free will that drove his characters? Only they would know which. Jesus trusted the characters to tell him what to write. He let his story unfold, writing by the seat of his pants. He seldom glanced at the devil. In tune with his inner muse, Jesus wrote his story in a slow and steady manner.

On the last day of November, the devil finished his novel. He attempted to upload it into the Nanowrimo word verifier, but the wifi at the coffeehouse was not running at full speed. “Upload, damn it! I want to win his soul.” The devil glared at his laptop and in a fit of rage, struck the machine with his hand.

There was a gurgle and a hiss. A blue light from the screen shone on the devil’s red face. “No! Where is my novel?” The devil did all he could to coax the laptop back to life, turning the machine off before rebooting the computer. When the operating system returned, he went back to his work.

“Corruption! It is gone. All gone.” The devil glared at Jesus who had plugged in his myfi and was about to upload his completed novel to the Nanowrimo verification page. The devil pointed a long finger at Jesus’ laptop and a bolt of lightning issued forth. His prey’s machine exploded, causing Jesus and his disciples to duck away from the debris. The devil rose to his feet and put his hands on his hips. “You will never finish now, your soul is mine!”

Jesus held up his hand. “It is not over yet. I have until midnight to upload my novel and earn my certificate.”

The devil sneered. “How can you? Your laptop is destroyed.”

Jesus shook his head in a gentle manner and held up a thumbdrive. Beside him, one of his disciples intoned, “Don’t you know? Jesus always saves.”

After a particularly grueling Nanowrimo where I met my challenge of writing 50K words, this story popped into my head and I quickly wrote it down, thinking that it would allow me to unwind after the event.  Later, I submitted it to Far Horizons Magazine and it would become my first published fantasy fiction.

 

Memoir: The Horse Thief

The horse thief
image by guilaine @ pixabay

The bus ride home from school was a long and boring affair through the outskirts of the sleepy lakeside country town. Most of my schoolmates were sleepy from the long day. Only the occasional spitball launched in high arc overhead broke the monotony.

I dreaded the coming summer. Third grade was coming to an end and the isolation I faced for the three months between grades seemed endless. I hoped that my plans to visit my friend would come together. It was a long walk down a gravel road under the power lines to reach my friend. I did have a pony that I could ride to shorten the trip, but my parents would not allow me to ride her off our land. My visits would not be frequent this summer.

I leaned against the cool glass of the bus window. The country road held houses at infrequent intervals. They mingled with endless clumps of blackberry and huckleberry bushes filling in the space between the conifers. Later in life, I would realize that I lived in natural beauty, but as a child it was normal and rather boring.

A bump in the road jostled me awake. Looking out the window, I spied our family’s ponies tied to an oak tree in front of a stranger’s slat-board house. Misty was the elder of the pair, a silver gray with a white mane and tail. When my father had purchased our ponies from the Woodland Park Zoo two years before, she was the pony I was to ride. Along with Misty came Sugar. She was a small filly of light brown with dark gentle eyes. While my father had dickered over the price of a pony to take home, I had sat down next to Sugar and stroked her head and mane. My feet dragged when my father called me and I looked back at the little brown filly more than once as my father showed me Misty. It was not until my father arrived with his pickup that I realized that the little filly who had stolen my heart was Misty’s baby. The pair would come together.

What were our ponies doing in front of that house? I fidgeted on the bench while I waited for the next stop. It was a good half mile up the road. When the door opened, I leaped from the school bus and trotted back to where our ponies cropped on grass under the oak tree.

I knocked on the door of the house and an unfamiliar woman answered. “Did our ponies get out of their pasture? Thank you for finding them.” I was seven years old, short for my age and wearing jeans and a tomboy style corduroy jacket. Yet I did not hesitate to assert to the giant adult before me, “I need to take them home now.”

The woman placed her hands on her hips and looked down with a sour expression. “How do I know they belong to you?”

“But—they are mine—” I was not prone to speaking with strangers, and I was at a loss. No one ever doubted my word before.

“Not good enough. I need proof that they belong to you.” The giantess shut the door.

I left the woman’s property, and trudged to my friend’s house a mile or two up the road. I told my story to my friend and her mother. My friend’s Mom told me that I needed to get my own mother to that house to recover our property. She snorted and called the woman who kept my ponies a thief.

I borrowed their phone to call my mother. This was back in the days before cell phones, so you had to discover places to contact people in emergencies. Within a short time, my mother drove up with my younger brother in tow, and the three of us returned to the slat-board house. The ponies were still there, grazing under the leafy oak tree.

My mother left my little brother at the foot of the porch steps, and told me to stay with him. She ascended to the porch and knocked on the front door. The woman answered the door, she was much taller than my mother, and the two women began to talk. Being seven and not always able to follow what adults spoke about up in the lofty regions of the air, I quickly lost interest, and drifted across the lawn toward the ponies. Sugar lifted her head and nickered. I looked over her curly coat and shiny hooves. Beside her, Misty grazed upon the woman’s front lawn and flickered her ears at my approach. Both animals seemed unharmed.

I heard a sharp voice. “You stay away from those animals!” I looked back at the porch with alarm. My mother and the woman were doing more than talking; they were yelling as they poked their fingers at each other. At the end of the shouting match, my mother declared she was going to call the sheriff. She strode down the steps of the porch, grabbed my little brother by the arm and returned to our car. She shouted for me to follow, and after giving my pony a quick pat, I joined them in the sedan.

Returning to my friend’s house, my mother borrowed their phone to call the police. Soon after, we returned to the stranger’s house and parked on the street. We sat in our car, waiting for the sheriff to arrive. Soon, the imposing black-and-white pulled up beside our car.

“What seems to be the problem, Ma’am?” The sheriff was a middle aged man, with graying brown hair and a crisp uniform. The badge on his chest gleamed in the late afternoon light. He seemed imposing to me. I hardly was taller than his waistline. I was glad no one expected me to say anything.

My mother wasted no time in telling the sheriff our predicament, pointing at our ponies. The sheriff and my mother walked to the house, leaving my brother and I in the car. The sheriff knocked on the door and all three adults began talking. I rolled down the window and could hear the conversation. It began quietly, but soon turned into an argument. The woman was stubborn, refusing to give up the animals.

“Why should I believe that these ponies belong to you?” demanded the tall woman, “Do you have a bill of sale for them?” The heated debate continued with the sheriff doing his best to impose order.

I slipped out of the backseat and shut the car door behind me. Kicking a pebble, I wandered over to the oak tree. This time, no adult stopped me from approaching my ponies. It was getting late, and I worried how we were going to get the two animals home. Sugar butted her head against my chest, and blew her hot breath into my hair, as was her habit. I reached over to hug her neck, and stroke her soft brown coat. Sugar was still too young to ride, and far from her full growth. She stood about my height, and we were a perfect fit. When you are seven years old and as small as I was, you value a friend you can view eye to eye. I considered the little brown filly to be my best friend in the world.

As I hugged Sugar, I grew aware that the noise from the porch had stopped. I looked back, and all three adults were watching me. The sheriff gave the woman a displeased look, and the stranger glanced away in defeat. There were a few more words among the adults, and my mother and the sheriff left the porch to join me. The other woman entered her house, slamming the door behind her.

The sheriff untied our animals, and handed the rope to my mother. “Do you have a way to get the ponies home?”

I piped in. “Our house is just over the other side of the woods. I can ride Misty back to the barn. Sugar will follow her. She always does.”

My mother was not happy with my solution, but told the man, “My husband won’t be home from work for another hour, and he has our truck. I have the toddler with me, and I don’t want to leave the animals here.” The sheriff eyed me a few moments. This was the country, and children were out riding horses every day. It was not unusual for the area. He tipped his hat to my mother and me, and departed in his black-and-white.

I left my backpack and schoolbooks in the car, using the ropes to create makeshift reins and a lead rope. My mother lifted me onto Misty’s back and Sugar had the rope lassoed around her neck. It was enough to help prevent the filly from spooking on the trail home. I was happy to have the chance to ride home. I was not allowed to ride off our family land, so this would be like an adventure for me.

I rode bareback alongside the paved road for a short distance, with my mother following behind in the car. Then I cut off the main road to a trail that led through the woods. It connected with the gravel road under the powerlines that I would walk to visit my friend’s house. The gravel road took me to our pastures. As I rode along the fence line, I came to a place where the barbed wire lay flat on the ground.

I gave Misty a pat on her neck. “So this is where you escape artists got out!” I would remember the location and show it to my father when I could. He would have to repair the fence before we could leave the ponies out to pasture again. I arrived at the barn and slipped off of Misty’s back, leading the two ponies into the paddock. I made sure to secure the gate before I left. The sun was starting to touch the horizon.

As I returned home, I thought about the giantess and how she did not accept me at my word. It never occurred to me that someone would think I was lying. It was a new idea to me and it made me understand not everyone in the world was honest. I also gained a new respect for the law. The sheriff saw the bond between the animals and myself, and accepted it as proof of ownership. He used his common sense to guide his way to the truth with good results for my family. I liked that about the man. Yet, the most immediate lesson I received that day, as I had trouble walking home due to my sore thighs and backside, is that I would never again ride a horse without a saddle.

This memoir short story was meant to publish in a literary magazine called “Chicken Scratch Tales” a few years ago, but the publication went under before the issue came out. The story was finally released and now has a home here! This is a true story from my childhood.

Flashfiction: The Curse of Love by Wendy Van Camp

The curse of love

Standing in the bright light was a girl in a dress of fine green cloth. She shifted from one foot to the other and did not meet Agathe’s gaze.

“What brings you here, dearie?” Love? Money? Revenge?

“Daniel. I want him to notice me.”

“And he prefers another?” So it was Love.

She selected a vial from the collection on the sill. “Two silvers.” The girl pulled the required coins from her pouch and ran away.

Agathe smiled. Daniel would notice her, but so would all the men. It would not be love for the maiden, only a curse.

I was given the challenge to write a micro-fiction of under 100 words with the prompt “cursed”.  This little tale is what I came up with.  Challenges are fun and stretch your writing skills.  I thought that I’d share this one with you.

Memoir: Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall Header

I stood in the late afternoon sun surrounded by blooms in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. It is the home to astonishing exhibits. Including Reagan’s Air Force One airliner and a massive piece of the Berlin Wall that stands as a sentinel in the center of the rose garden. Covered in graffiti and moss, it is a symbol of the fall of the old Soviet Union.

I had fought against this barrier between the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war. But, instead of bringing down the Berlin Wall, as President Reagan did, I had found a way to leap across it. Placing my hand on the warm stone of the monolith, I felt a sense of completion.

I had been a serious young woman, recently graduated from college, enjoying her first media industry position. I landed a job as the Unit Production Manager of a nationally syndicated radio news program on NPR. My main duties were being an assistant and liaison to the news editors and other departments of the parent production company.

One morning, I had finished writing the promo for our business news radio program, when the head of accounting walked up. She placed a file on my desk and gave me a stern look. I sensed her frustration, but felt that it was not directed at me, but more at the problem she was bringing to my doorstep.

“We’ve been trying to pay this reporter in Poland for over six months, but every time we reach the Berlin Wall, the money stops. He is your reporter and your responsibility. You will have to figure out a way to pay him.” She went back to her office without looking back.

I stared at that file without opening it for a good five minutes. What did I know about accounting and payroll? Nothing. I knew that we had dozens of freelance reporters scattered all around the globe, but they spoke directly to the editors, not to me. Accounting had always handled the processing of their checks in the past. It was not part of my regular duties.

My next task of the morning was to check the paper supply of the UPI and Reuter’s news feeds. There was no internet to search for information, back then as there is today. The news came to our newsroom via these wire services. The large printers connected to the world via phone line. It was where our editors obtained the news of the day. As I put new rolls of paper into the machines, resetting them to start printing out fresh batches of stories, I asked one of the nearby editors if he knew about this Polish reporter and his situation.

He did. The situation had been common knowledge among the program’s four editors for quite some time. It was a matter of the government officials opening the reporter’s mail when it reached the Communist Block. No letter from our company to this reporter could pass through the Berlin Wall. That was always where the paper trail ended. The editor worried about losing this reporter if we could not pay him.

I walked back to my desk, thinking about this man in Poland. He had been a stranger to me before, a name on the top of a file, but after this conversation, he was now a real person in need. I could not fault the man for considering leaving due to lack of payment, and that he had chosen not to do so spoke of his dedication. I admired this and I wanted to help him.

I sat at my desk and stared at the wall. Both the physical drywall before my eyes, and at the same time, the Berlin Wall that had become a barrier. I needed to bring down this wall, to find a means of connection between our American company and Communist Poland in a legal manner. I dismissed idle visions of cold war spies and mail drops over transoms.

I had not opened the file on my desk, but in this case, I did not feel that anything in it would be of help to me. If the information in the file had stymied an entire accounting department for half a year, what use could it be to me now? What I needed to know was a means to get money through the gatekeepers of the Berlin Wall and into Poland. It was a matter of connections across international lines, not accounting.

As I sat there, an idea popped into my mind. Why not call the United Nations? Were they not people who worked to solve international situations? At the very least, they could direct me to someone to whom I could ask questions.

I called information and got the number for the United Nations building in New York City. Once connected, I told the operator that I was the Unit Production Manager of a national radio program and needed to pay a reporter in Poland. Was there anyone who could help me?

“Of course, Madam,” the operator said, “I will connect you with the Polish Ambassador. One moment, please.”

My jaw must have dropped when I heard those words. I was a kid right out of college who had not even left her hometown for her first industry job. Now, I was about to speak with the Polish Ambassador in New York City. I gripped the phone and reminded myself that I was calling with legitimate business. I thought again about that reporter and steadied my nerves.

The Ambassador picked up the line and gave me a cheerful greeting. He sounded like one of my old world uncles, speaking with impeccable English, but with a slight accent. “And how might I help you?” He finished after we exchanged a few simple pleasantries.

I gave a brief description of how our accounting department had been trying to pay our reporter in Poland for six months. How the money always stopped at the Berlin Wall. The Ambassador immediately knew what the problem was. He explained that even he did not send money to Poland in this manner.

“Then how do you send money to Poland across the Iron Curtain?” I asked.

The Ambassador explained if we deposited the money to an account in a Polish bank that had a branch in New York City, from there it could transfer the funds to a sister bank in Warsaw. Since both were branches of the same Polish bank, this removed the international mail element. An account could be set up in the reporter’s name and he could withdraw the money in Warsaw. The Ambassador said that he would personally speak to both branches and make sure that the transfer would happen. It was the least he could do to help one of his countrymen.

The Ambassador also apologized that he could not get the money closer to the reporter. Warsaw was one hundred miles away from the reporter’s address, but legally that was the best he could do. I thanked the Ambassador for his time. I told him that I would confer with our accounting department and the reporter to make sure that his solution would be acceptable to everyone. If they were, our people would talk to his people and get the job done.

Next, I called the reporter in Poland and explained about the long distance that he would have to drive to get his paycheck. The reporter was grateful that he would finally be receiving his money and would have a method of getting his checks on a regular basis in the future. He assured me that this method of payment was acceptable to him. His sincere thank you and the sound of relief in his voice touched me.

I leaned back in my chair. According to the clock overhead, two hours had passed since the head of the accounting department had come and left that file on my desk. I picked up the unopened, thick file, and walked through the building to the accounting department.

I knocked on the door frame of the head accountant’s office and asked, “Might I come in?”

She glanced at the file in my hands and said, “Look, I told you that paying that reporter is your responsibility…”

I interrupted her and explained the method of how the Polish Ambassador would set up the connection between the two banks, setting up a pipeline that she could use to pay the polish reporter, now and in the future.

“You called the United Nations?” She seemed flabbergasted by the idea. The annoyance that my appearance had generated vanished from her expression as she said, more to herself than to me, “Why didn’t we think of that?” She called for her assistant as I set the file and the contact information onto her desk.  She smiled at me.

That afternoon, as word of my success spread throughout the company, I received informal congratulations from reporters in our Boston NPR office and from an associate editor who called in from South America. I seldom had contact with people outside our branch of the operation. It was the first time I realized how far our radio program went in the world. I was part of something larger than myself, yet I realized how small the journalistic community was too.

As the sun beat down on my shoulders, in present-day Southern California, I gave the monolith one last pat. Having that piece of stone under my fingers made the events of that long ago day seem more real to me. It was not bits of information I had been dealing with, mere pieces of papers I shuffled. It was real places and people that I had made a difference with. The solid stone of the Berlin Wall under my hand proved that.


Berlin Wall first published in a small literary magazine called Shadows Express Magazine in 2013.  It was the second short story I had ever published.  The story is based on true events of my life.   This version has been cleaned up a little for typos and grammar but is otherwise very close to the original tale that appeared in the literary magazine.

If you enjoyed reading Berlin Wall, please consider viewing it on Medium in the publication “The Junction” where it enjoys a reprint. Clapping for it there to shows your support for the story and the magazine.  This helps boost the story in the algorithms.

Flashfiction: SOS by Wendy Van Camp

SOS

SOS
a science fiction flashfiction by Wendy Van Camp

Lola stood on the crater edge, a tablet and stylus in her hand. Her ear itched, but there was use in scratching at it, her head was completely covered by her spacesuit helmet. She bent over and picked up a few of the grey stones and let them tumble from her fingers.

“Lola, have you finished your determination?” Professor McCranky – ahem – Professor McCranston, was tapping his wrist to indicate that time was passing.

“One minute!” Lola toggled the sensors in her helmet and a grid pattern appeared before her. She used the chip in her brain to interface with the tools in her suit to measure the cup-shaped crater. It was around 10 kilometers and had no central floor. A small one, known as an Albategnius C, or ALC. She spun in the light lunar gravity and then bunny hopped back to the rover. Before she entered the rover with the other students, she tapped her tablet to the Professors. He looked at her result and grunted. Then the group was off to the next stop.

Johnny nudged her. It would be a long ride to the next crater example. Topography was a required course at Lunar University. Learning to identify terrain was a survival skill on Earth’s single moon. Through his faceplate, she could see his dark eyes and skin. His father was seldom home on Luna Colony, he piloted one of the supply ships that made the trek between the Moon and Mars and the turnaround time was a long 18 months. That was one of the reasons why he started coming around her home dome, but over time they developed a friendship that had turned into something sweeter than either had expected. However, graduation was approaching. Soon both would need to make a choice about their future.

The rover stopped and the group of students tumbled out into the grey dust. The Professor tapped his wrist and then gestured for the group to spread out. Johnny touched her arm and then bounded off, leaping far too high in the air as if he were Buzz Aldrin exploring the moon on the first moon landing. Showoff. She took smaller steps and found the edge of the new crater in good time. She toggled on the measurement system and scanned the crater. This one she had seen before. She had visited it with her Mom and Dad on an outing years ago. The complex crater had to be close to fifty kilometers in diameter. She did not wish to approach the edge since the inner walls slumped to the bottom floor. Its archetype was isTriesnecker also known as TRI.

There was a crackle in her helmet. “Aiee! The wall is going down.”

Lola froze and then whirled toward where her friend had run off and in horror, she realized that the lip of the crater had collapsed taking her best friend down with it. She ran for the wall, not caring if she was putting herself in danger. Before she could reach the edge, a hand clamped down on her shoulder and stopped her forward motion. It was McCranky!

“It is too dangerous. Stay here. I’m going to send for help from the rangers.” The other students gathered together, their shoulders hunched, helmets tapped together to allow them to talk in private without using the radio. The professor returned to the rover.

Lola felt as if the air had squeezed from her lungs. Disregarding the professor’s instructions she made her way to the edge of the crater, inching forward until she could see over the lip. Down below, on the smooth floor, Johnny lay with his arms and legs spread wide. Was he dead? She sighed. When you’re gone. How can I even try to go on?

There was another crackle in her helmet. “SOS.”

“Johnny! Are you okay?” Her eyes widened and her breath came out in ragged gasps. Her oxygen levels were doing a wild dance. Was he crying out for help? Where were those damn rangers!

“The crater is an isSosigenes. SOS.”

“You asshole! Are you playing me?” Down below, Johnny pulled his legs and arms in and rolled over. He sat up and gazed up the long slope of the crater. He tilted his helmet to one side and shrugged his shoulders.

“Stay where you are, John. The wall of the crater could go down further. This is not a laughing matter.”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Oh, and you are wrong in your determination.” The professor said. “The crater is known as an isTriesnecker.”

“Doh. A TRI? No wonder the wall collapsed.”

“This is why we take you out here to observe the craters. It is for your own safety. Next time, watch your step.” The professor put a hand on her shoulder and tapped his helmet to her for a private conversation. “Be careful, but stay here with him. We’ll get him out of there soon enough.”

“Thank you, Professor Cranston.” Maybe the man wasn’t so cranky after all.


SOS is a science fiction flash fiction. Maybe I was up too late at night studying topography when this little story came to my mind.  This is a little fun one with no connection to a future project.  A little YA adventure.

This story is also available to members of Medium. If you would like to support me as an author, please go to Medium and give my story claps. Clapping lets the Medium system know that my story is popular and it will gain more visibility.