Flash Fiction Challenge #3

Well, I am saddened to say that I didn’t make it into the final round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition, however I am surprised that made it as far as I did. In the process I realized a strength I didn’t even know I had in my writing toolbox, satire.  Yeah, I know that I’m hilarious in person and can be charming in text messages, but I wasn’t sure it translated well into my written narratives. Honestly, Round 2 was when I really shined.  (Wow my humility sure is humbling.)

My assignment for this challenge was: genre – sci-fi (ya, again. lame), location – candy shop, and item – an egg. In 48 hours the competitors are tasked with constructing a short story with the requirements above, all within a max of 1,000 words. Below is my submission for the challenge and below that will be the judges critiques. I have to say, Judge 3 was my buddy and seemed to actually like the story. The other two couldn’t have cared less. And what they said in their critique was spot on, especially in regards to the end. My husband did say that Judge 3 “got who I am” when they said “heartfelt and demented.”


REGENERATION

Josh Aron hesitated for a moment at the glass door of the Rocket Fizz candy shop, with a hand clenched around the metal handle.

Shelby Aron stopped short at Josh’s shoulder. “What’re you doing?”

“I don’t know if I can do this.”

Shelby chuckled and laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Of course you can. Just pull with your arm.”

Josh looked at her out of the corner of his eye and sighed through his nose as he opened the door.

A soft bell tinkled from somewhere deep inside the shop, to beckon the owner from the back and the patrons forward. However, at the moment, only the Arons followed the sound.

Both sets of eyes flicked nervously around. The shelves that lined the walls of the store were nearly empty except for a few displays of candy of unknown brands.

“Hello?” Josh’s voice cracked the word. “Is there anyone here?”

The sounds of shuffling paper and a heavy thud preceded the appearance of the owner dressed head to toe in a red and white striped uniform, accompanied with a white golf cap. “I do apologize,” the shopkeeper said, “I didn’t hear you come in. We’re almost about to close for the night.”

“We know,” Josh said, he walked stiff-legged to the glass case that held some displays of homemade chocolate confections.

“She told us this is the time to come.”

The stranger furrowed his brow and examined the two.

“We’re here to order a zyloral.”

“Are you now?”

Josh nodded.

“Who told you about it?”

“Nurse Lilith. She said you only serve the best.”

A smile spread across the man’s thin lips. “Indeed we do.”

The man hurried around the edge of the counter and to the shop door where after a quick glance up and down the street, spun the lock. Then with the same sharp motions, he pulled the shades down over the windows and switched off the neon ‘Open’ sign.

“Come with me,” he said.

The two customers followed the order and found themselves escorted through a kitchen into the walk-in freezer, and once in there taken beyond a false back to a laboratory teeming with men in white lab coats, fussing over specimens displayed in glass jars. A large metallic door, built into the rear wall, led out of the lab into a room that emanated with tinny cries.

The man led them to an office in the furthest corner of the lab, encased in walls of glass.

“Please, take a seat,” the man said, as he sat behind the desk.

They both again followed instructions.

“First things first, do you have the money?”

Josh tried to swallow the lump in his throat as he nodded.

“Good. Now, do you have a viable sample?”

Shelby shoved a hand into her leather purse, removed a hairbrush enclosed in a plastic bag, and handed it to the man.

The stranger held it inches from his face and examined every strand gripped in the bristles.

“We have one right here that will work.”

“That’s a relief,” Shelby said.

The man set the brush down onto the desk and rolled his chair in further.

“Do you have an egg?”

Shelby nodded and laid a hand on her stomach.

“Will the clone have any memories?” Josh said.

“Not at all.”

“Good.”

“However,” the man said, his eyes jumped from one to the other, “any replica of one of you will arise suspicion, and if that were to happen we never met.”

“Oh, it’s not one of us,” Shelby said. “The man you’re cloning has—has passed.”

“Was it a genetic disorder? One that we should remediate?”

Shelby glanced at Josh and waited for a response, and when none came, she said, “No. It was unexpected.”

The man sat back. “I’m—“

“There’s no need,” Josh said. “People get killed all the time.”

His words hung stiff and electric in the air.

Josh’s limbs shook as he stood.

“You know what, I can’t do this. I thought this was something I wanted but—”

“Why not?”

“Do you know how unbearable just the thought of having him and not having him is, Shelbs? Every night I go to sleep alone. I wake up the next morning alone. How am I going to feel to raise him and watch him date someone else, knowing he was once mine?”

Shelby rose to meet his eye.

“We’ve talked about this. This child won’t be him. It will never be because no matter how hard we try we can never bring back the man you knew.”

Tears streamed down Josh’s cheeks. “He will be a clone of Charles.”

“That Charlie is gone, Josh. You can’t recreate the experiences that made your husband. What you can do is raise this child to be a perfect combination of the two of you.”

“How do you figure?”

“Isn’t that what children are? A shadow of one parent guided by the hand of the other?”

Josh stared into his sister’s eyes and smiled.

“I don’t think you’ll get him to like the same movies as you but you can try.”

Josh laughed and wiped away his tears.

He turned to the man and nodded.

Time stretched into eons for Josh as he waited impatiently during the incubation period. Every night as he purchased another baby item or as he converted the home office into a nursery, he wondered if he had made the right decision.

On a Sunday afternoon, he got a phone call from a blocked number with a cheery voice on the other end that told him his zyloral was ready for pick up. He rushed through the house, grabbed the diaper bag and car seat and headed over to the sweet shop to pick up his son.

At the back of the candy shop, holding his and Charles’ child in his arms for the first time, Josh was made whole again, and he doubted nothing.


JUDGE’S FEEDBACK

”Regeneration” by Joshua Hensley-Cline –   WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {1686}  The story is an interesting take on cloning, and the twist is a nice touch.  {1504}  The owner’s outfit is memorable and adds whimsy. The couple’s mention of the zyloral builds intrigue. The shopkeeper’s odd behavior at the request is ominous.  {1751}  Wow, this story is so incredibly heartbreaking and chilling at the same time. It works both as an effective science fiction story concerning queer parenthood ( you can’t get too many more brownie points from this reviewer). It’s mildly creepy by the idea that (to extrapolate upon the already state of the art science used to produce surrogate pregnancy), that he’d be raising a clone of his dead husband, genetically his husband, with all the good nurturing he can provide. Heartwarming and demented, great work.  WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1686}  Consider focusing on sentence flow and pacing. The ending feels a little too tidy/simple.  {1504}  Calling the shopkeeper “the stranger” was a speed bump. Adding words to the title could make it more distinctive and a stronger draw. You might consider having additional science fiction elements.  {1751}  I do wonder one thing though; why is his sister offering to help him produce this child? Is it simply because her brother needs the love of the clone in his life, or does she get something more deeply satisfying from it? It’s just a suggestion but you might touch on her reasons for this, as I think they are just as pertinent a perspective. However, this is only a suggestion as you move forwards with this powerful story of love.

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