NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge #1

Well… I just got the feedback from my submission for the first challenge of the Flash Fiction competition. Unfortunately I did not even place in the top 15. So that is… rough. For me to even move on past the second round I’ll have to place in the top 3. So… Fun.

How the competition works is you’re given a genre (obvi), a location and an object that must appear somewhere in the narrative. For this challenge I was assigned: genre – sci-fi, location – a talent show, and object – a bone.

May I add, I fu-hucking hate Science Fiction. These little challenges have proven to me time and again that it is absolutely not my goddamn genre. Not even a little. What’s also irritating is the three times I’ve competed in this competition I have been assigned this goddamn genre repeatedly. So, please, shoot me.

Below is what I submitted and below that will be judge’s feedback. I will say they are absolutely correct in their reviews. Due to the fact that I literally wrote this in an hour with little to no editing, I’m surprised their critiques weren’t more critical. To be honest, I haven’t even re-read it since I sent it. (And I’m not even reading it now.)

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Starship Follies

            On the twelfth deck of the massive Heavannah II starship, the crew gathered eagerly to watch the Sixteenth Annual “Display of Expertise” talent show.  They chattered to one another, filling the cavernous, round hall with the rabble of their conversation. The chorus of voices sent many who had signed up to participate into states of nervous excitement. For Arnold Habberny, however, his stomach began to twist in agony.

            He stared out at the growing crowd, from behind the curtain of stage right.

            I don’t know if I can do this, he thought to himself.

            The young boy lifted his feathered head piece and dabbed at his brow and down his pale cheeks all the way to the base of his neck.

            A young Mefferling, with blue skin and three crests arching over the top of his head stepped beside Arnold.

            “You can do this,” he said, his forked tongue licked at his thin lips as he spoke.

            Arnold turned to him, “Please tell me you’re not using your mind reading abilities, I’shia. I can’t compete with that.”

            “Please,” I’shia rolled his three eyes, “that’s old news. I got something better slated for debut.”

            Arnold’s stomach twisted even more.

            The four legs of the appointed master of entertainment for the ship, Cassia Corlay, sidled to center stage. Holding out two of his four arms, he gestured for the crowds silence, as he used the other two, to pull from his pocket a small round device. He switched on the circular mic and it took to the air, hovering just above his head.

            “Good evening, my fellows,” his voice boomed across the hall, “and welcome to the show of shows! It gets boring at times, travelling across the reaches of unknown space, which is why once a marked ship year, we all on-board gather to watch what we love to do on our off hours.”

            The crowd cheered.

            “And I am told this years’ collection of displays is going to be greater than last’s. And remember, whoever has the greatest of talents wins the trophy of excellence and earns a guaranteed spot on our next expedition.”

            Arnold’s stomach churned again.

            “Without further ado, let us initiate the show. I present to you, the Ebber Brothers!”

            The crowd cheered and Cassia rushed from the stage.

            The lights dimmed to black and a single spotlight rose to center stage. Illuminated in the lone spot of light was the first act. It was a set of twin Baggins, with scaly skin and yellow slit eyes. They bowed in unison and opened their fish-like mouths to garble a series of phrases. A disembodied, monotoned voice boomed over the crowd translating their words.

            “We have the spectacle of spectacles,” it said for them.

            From the darkness of the surrounding stage an empty silver door frame was placed between them. The two looked to the other and nodded. Then one after the other, they took turns hopping through a single side but emerging from both, cloning themselves. When there were three sets of the twin brothers on stage, the door frame disappeared into the darkness and they all moved about the stage in a choreographed dance.

            The brother’s number ended their number on their knees, and one by one, the clones evaporated in puffs of smoke. A faint haze of the former creatures drifted across the stage.

The crowd’s applause rose like a roar, filling the space.

            Arnold tried to swallow the knot in his throat.

            Cassia retuned to the stage.

            “Not many could beat that,” he said, and the crowd responded with cheers.

            “Our next number is from I’shia Yayabu, last years winner. Please welcome him to the stage!”

            Cassia gestured to his two right arms to off stage, as he exited left.

            “Wish me luck,” I’shia whispered as he left Arnold in the wings.

            The Mefferling took center stage and bowed toward the audience.

            “My talents are only unbound by the study of my Mefferling abilities and innovation.”

            From the darkness of the stage a pair of gloved hands, placed a helmet that fit in between the spaces of I’shia’s crests. He closed his three eyes and held out his arms.

            “Now give me your thoughts,” he said.

             The crowd sat in tense silence.

            With his eyes still closed, he looked to different spots in the audience. Pointing a finger at them, a colored ball of energy would then form from the helmet and vibrate up into the air. Purple, blue, black, and red balls of electricity crackled over the audience, sending them into cheers of excitement.

            “Thank you, I’shia,” Cassia said as he returned to the stage. “That was incredible!”

            I’shia removed his helmet and the balls snapped out of existence.

“I’m doomed,” Arnold mumbled.

“I don’t know how anyone will compete against that but let’s try! Please welcome Arnold Habberny!”

The crowd remained silent as the young man walked into the spotlight. His footsteps echoed ominously across the hall.      

“I… I have this,” he said.

            From beyond the spotlight a very high platform was wheeled out, a box placed in the center. Then a single hand held out an old brown bone.

            Arnold took the bone and climbed up the metal ladder, along the side of the platform to place the bone inside of the box.

            A puff of smoke erupted from the bottom of the platform, producing an earth llama.

            “Ta-da,” he squeaked.

            Arnold held out his hands to a silent audience.

            “That’s not a talent,” a voice shouted from the audience.

            “Did I mention, I crossed it’s DNA with a cobra’s?” he answered back.

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Judges Critiques:

 WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {2162}  There was lots of vivid detail – colors, sounds, feelings, different species of aliens, etc. It was easy to feel as if I was among the crowd watching the story unfold. There was also a lot of creativity demonstrated in having thought up the different acts put on at the show.    {2144}  The idea of an annual talent show to keep morale up on a spacecraft is a really creative use of the prompt. The different acts were also intriguing and created some cool visuals.  {2121}  Mixing interstellar species without fanfare, and the inclusion of some of their various different capabilities and appearances, helps define the world of the story more effectively than just setting description. Arnold’s nervous anticipation and reluctance are also understood well, heightening as both acts before him perform their talents to positive audience reactions.   WHAT THE JUDGES {Did Not} LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {2162}  I had a little trouble following the acts themselves – and it is an understandingly difficult feat to create and then describe extraterrestrial talents – in your next draft, perhaps really try to nail down the nature of what is spectacular to the audience – is it the cloning? the clones dancing? the light show of the energy balls? Think of ways to make the alien entertainment more and more beguiling to a reader – including Arnold’s talent, and the audience’s lack of reaction. Why weren’t they impressed? Why was he so nervous? Is the cobra line a joke? It ends a bit abruptly, to me, but I think that the more time you are able to pin down the acts and maybe give Arnold a little more detail, the more this story will cohere!   {2144}  In general, I wanted there to be more at stake here for the characters. Why does Arnold want to do well in this competition? What is on the line? I think we need to understand Arnold a little better to root for him.  {2121}  While Arnold is the protagonist of the story, his talent is revealed last and much more concisely, to the point where the reader doesn’t really understand what he accomplished. The story ends with him attempting to defend his talent by explaining how he crossed DNA to create an “earth llama,’ which in itself is fascinating if given the space to be developed and explained. Arnold is also never described beyond being a “young boy” wearing a feathered headpiece; if he is indeed human, why is he the only human character mentioned in the piece? How does that define/limit his capabilities, especially when compared to the cloning and energy creation abilities of the two talent acts before him? Why is DNA manipulation and species creation not deemed impressive in this world?

Get in, Sit Down, and Shut Up

Here is day 4 and I am still doing it. Surprising to say the least. But I do feel myself pulling away. Although, why I don’t know. Is it because of the pressure I am putting on myself to perform? Or that there is a quasi audience reading what I write, judging me. Or is it because I’m just a lazy fuck? The world may never know.

In all honesty I should have done this earlier in the day. I’ve been bored watching television and stuffing my face with the holiday cookies my husband made last night. He’s been really busy the past few days, which left me alone to my own devices.

I had attempted to continue reading about druidism but it was throwing so much information at me that I thought I was going to die. Eesh. But once the husband goes back to work and thus leaving me all alone, I’ll pick it back up. Plus I need to read a book a month, per my year long goals.

Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A. Klems & Zachary Petit
January 4 365
“Days Something life-altering happened. As a result, you’ve decided to give something up for an entire year. Write a scene detailing the cataclysmic event, or the struggle to keep the vow you made.”

I stood staring at my car parked in the driveway. It was covered in a thick layer of dust, that some punk from the neighborhood had decided to scrawl obscene words in, along with the images of dicks and even a pair of boobs. Any other time I would have been furious. I had loved my car. It was the lover and friend I had always wanted. Loyal. No one drove her but me. Now, I couldn’t care less what happened to her.

Ever since the accident I can’t bring myself to sit behind the wheel once again. My girlfriend says that I’ll get over it, in time, but I’m not so sure. It’s been a year since the incident and I still don’t even feel comfortable in a car, let alone drive one myself.

Angela walks up behind me and drapes and arm around my neck.

“What’re you doing, honey,” she says.

I lower my head. For some reason I can’t bring myself to tell her that I had gotten the urge to try and drive down the street. Maybe it’s because it would give her hope that I didn’t feel ready to give.

I look into her sapphire eyes.

“Just wanted to get some air.”

She hugs me tighter. With a peck on the cheek, she feels satisfied and turns to go back into the house.

I slowly walk around the front to gaze at her other side.

The body shop did an amazing job. No one would ever know that a Ford Bronco had t-boned me in the intersection.

A faint memory flashes through my mind of he headlights getting brighter and the deafening crunch of our cars colliding.

I stumble back out of breath. I double over and try to catch the air that has left me.

I still don’t know how I survived. By all accounts I should have been crushed. When I replay it I just hear sounds. No other details come to mind. It was like my brain had put me into suspencion to protect myself from the crash.

The next thing after the lights, that I remember, is waking up in the hospital days later. The doctors were afraid I’d never wake up.

The doctors released me into my own care, but what they failed to realize is that I would be consumed with fear whenever in a vehicle. I close my eyes and tense my body every time I go through an intersection. Every car that waits until the last minute to stop will surely collide into me. I just know it.

My heart begins to race. I was stupid to even try. I turn and head back into the house.

Halfway up the walk I hear Angela’s scream. I rush up the rest of the way, throw oopen the door and find my girlfriend sitting on the kitchen floor, blood all over the white linoleum.

“What happened?” I say.

“I’m such an idiot. I dropped the knife and it went right through my foot.”

She’s clutching her bare foot, the bloody knife only a few feet away. I rush to the drawer with the tea towels and grab everyone of the neatly folded cloths. I drop to my knees and begin wrapping them around her foot.

“You need to take me to the emergency room.” She says.

I look up at her. My eyes are wide and my mouth is open. Very slowly, I shake my head no.

“I’ll call an ambulance.”

I stand up, but she grabs me around my arm and stops me.

“Are you insane? We don’t have that kind of money. This isn’t that bad.” She says. “You can do it.”

I look at her. I want to tell her know. But her eyes plead with me and I can only agree.

I scoop her up into my arms and take her outside. I don’t even bother to lock the door behind me.

I gently lay her in the passenger seat and rush around the nose of the car to the driver’s side. I stop only inches from the repaired handle.

“Hurry, Jon,” she says, “I’m getting blood everywhere.”

I scream from the deepest part of my chest and pull open the door and toss myself inside. She starts up instantly, like she was waiting for me. Carefully, so carefully, I back out the driveway and head for the emergency room.

“You’re amazing.” She says.

My hearts pounding in my ears. I can barely focus on the road and all I can think about is she did this on purpose.