NYC Midnight – Flash Fiction Challenge #1

I am a sucker for competition, especially in regards to trying to prove my intellect or skill. When it comes to writing contests, there is no other drug I would choose. I love the stress and panic that comes with the possibility of winning. The awards given would prove, once and for all, that I was worth-while and had talent. However, only until recently have I even received any kind of recognition.

As I’ve mentioned before, I won third place for my column “Gay Agenda” in the Renegade Rip.  That award gave me so much self-worth I didn’t know what to do with it or myself.

When the chance to compete in the “NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge” arose I had to enter. Sure it cost me $50, but it guaranteed two of my stories would be read and critiqued by the judges; and it entered me into a chance at winning a cash prize.

The idea behind the contest is that the entrant is put into a group of around 30 people, and in that group each person has to write a 1,000 word story in a specific genre, that takes place at a designated location and must include a single item. Whether the item is crucial to the plot is up to the writer. For the first challenge, I was given the genre of Sci-Fi. My location was “a man-made island” and the item to be included somewhere in the story was “a skeleton.”  I have included it below so that people could read it. Followed immediately after is the feedback I received, and I have to say I agree with everything noted, with the exception of one.

Without further ado, here is my first entry into the flash fiction competition, brought to you by NYC Midnight Madness. I placed 13th out of 15 spots, in a group of 31 contestants.

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SCHIFF’S ISLAND

Darris Shiff stood on the shore of his newly formed island with his arms crossed over his chest. His eyes bounced from one aluminum robo-mech to the next as they bustled about the land mass spreading like a bubble across the surface of the ocean. 

“What do you think?” he said, gesturing with both arms to the scene. 

The young woman with chestnut skin glanced around at the construction with a blank expression. 

“I imagine the Terrestrial Brethren will be pleased.”  

“Good. All it took were a few quadrillion global credits, and here I stand on the precipice of a new age, away from the stench of poverty and war.”  

The young woman licked her lips, turned, and walked to the small table that had been set up for the meeting. A large blue and green hologram spun counterclockwise at the center, with a series of dots typing out flags of data. The sound of the robo-mechs and the waves lapping at the shore dulled the sound of the robotic voice reading each tag. 

“Your assistant informed me that the expected completion date is two weeks from now. That will not sit well with the Brethren. ” 

Schiff sighed, “No, it won’t, but you can’t rush progress. So, it will have to do. Most of the heat and salty ocean air has had a hand in the destruction of the majority of my mechs.” 

“And yet you persist.” 

Schiff turned to her with a broad grin. 

“One does what they must to survive.” 

The woman circled the table and examined the hologram. The grid of illuminated digital lines formed the peak of a single mountain rising like a beak from the tropical foliage and numerous buildings, turrets, and barriers surrounding its base. 

“I could survive here,” she said.  

Darris walked to the table and pressed a single button on the panel at its side. The hologram flickered away.  

“When can we expect them? I am ready for the Dalian Eclipse.” 

The woman smirked. “Are you so certain of that?” 

“Who are you to-” started Schiff, but the loud hum of an approaching ship cut through his response.  

The two looked up toward the sound to see a hover yacht emerged from the dense fog that circled the island. A long, red flag trailed from the rear to signal their station and identity. 

“Finally,” Schiff said. 

The woman narrowed her green eyes at the back of Darris’ head. 

The leisure cruiser pulled close to the island and dropped anchor only a few meters from where the two stood. A shimmering electron gangplank birthed forth from its side and rested at the edge of the shore, as a group of five men in billowing gold garments stepped to the edge of the craft. 

Schiff rushed forward and took his spot at the end of the walkway, as he tugged, tucked, and pressed his clothes to impress. 

“It is a pleasure to meet with you, gentlemen,” Schiff said, with half a bow. “Welcome to my island.” 

The man at the head of the group, with a gaunt face and a hooked nose, pursed his lips together and nodded. 

“Indeed, Mr. Schiff.”  

The men stepped around their host and walked onto the shore. 

“As you can see, everything is coming along nicely. I have developed the technology to build new lands, away from the coppers, for those willing to pay the price.” 

The five men moved about and appraised the scene before them like a flock of birds. 

“Pay?” one of the five said. “Hopefully, that does not include us. Considering what we’re offering you.” 

“Of course not, gentlemen.” 

The men chittered their approval. 

Schiff stepped next to the table and ignited the hologram.  

“As you can see the look of the finished product. We have all the amenities to protect us from pirates and the poor.” 

The Brethren circled the display and gestured to each of the features with their commentary. 

“You’ve done well. A man with your talents deserves what the Brethren offer.” 

Schiff moved to speak, but his voice escaped him. Instead, his jaw opened and closed like the limbs of one of his malfunctioning robo-mechs. 

“Provided you guarantee our own private property in this ocean world, you can join the brotherhood and live forever, like us.” 

Schiff nodded. 

The man with the hooked nose grinned and pulled from a pocket a clear plastic box that contained a single squirming creature that resembled a grub. 

Darris’ hands shook as he lifted them to grab his prize. For so long he had heard the rumors of what it took to be a Brethren, but he had never believed it until the leader placed it in his open palm. 

“Thank you.” 

The growl of an engine drew the attention of everyone gathered on the beach to the ship that exploded from the fog flying a tattered acid-green flag, adorned with the skeleton of a shark. 

“Pirates!” One of the men shrieked, sending the brethren into a panic. 

The young woman seized her moment. With moves as quick as lightning, she pulled a pistol from her boot and shot a single bolt at the gangplank where it short-circuited the walkway, trapping the men on the island. 

“You’re not going anywhere.”  

“We will give you money!” one of them shrieked. 

The young woman sneered. 

“I don’t want your filthy credits.”  

The young woman fired a charged bolt into each of the Brethren’s heads and stopped when she came to Darris. 

Schiff dropped to his knees, with the box still clutched in his hands. 

“Why are you doing this?”  

“One must do what it takes to survive,” the woman said. “And the world without your kind is better off.” 

Schiff glanced from his captor to the dead men on the ground, to the Kubuli in his hands. 

“Thank you for building us a beautiful new world.” 

With one final bullet, the Brethren were no more. 

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JUDGES’ FEEDBACK:

{1751} I truly appreciated the revenge that the young woman takes on the people who would obviously have only used the newly invented land to serve themselves (because that’s what they do best).  {1739}  Schiff’s struggle to join a secret society is intriguing. The tech that he has developed to prove himself, makes him a sympathetic character.  {1743}  This is quite a taut and penetrating flash science fiction.  The slam bang ending is a working hologram itself, italicized with a “Kabuli.”  That pirate ship bursting through fog, flying its shark flag is a real keeper.  Fine piece of writing, this.  WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1751}  It seems astounding to me that the men who have such power and wealth would have no bodyguards and only one ship on and off the island; you might improve the story if the young woman had disabled even more obstacles, such as bodyguards or more ships, as it might make her victory seem less miraculous and more plausible. However, this is only a suggestion.  {1739}  The story really begins once the Brethren arrive. Consider truncating the opening sequence. Nothing is written that makes the Brethren or Schiff bad people. They all seem to be pretty hard working folks. Schiff mentions that steps are taken to protect against pirates, yet his facility is immediately overrun. This is a big conflict.  {1743}  An em dash is rendered as: –.

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A Promise to a Life of Action

I need to get back in the habit of writing. The idea of having this site is two-fold: one, it’s a way for me to continue my column from the Renegade Rip as I have timed out my time in the class (the KCCD deemed that it was inappropriate to repeat courses for funsies); and two, because I want to be a writer more than anything and most literary agents, I have read, want the author to already have some sort of platform built. The second one annoys me, but it’s all in an effort to play the game and I refuse to do self-publishing. I don’t mean to insult anyone who has gone that route, I just know that I am a lazy self-promoter (at best) and peddling my own wares (which I paid for) is not in my wheel-house.

There is also a third thing, but it has more weight and can’t really be lumped in with the other two. (The reason why has escaped me. Maybe it’s because I miscalculated my reasons and instead am sticking to my guns refusing to re-write.) The thing that keeps me coming back is because this bitch has to write.

I don’t know what it is but I have to put my words out there. Whether it be a story or my own personal thoughts doesn’t matter. As long as I am putting my mental musings into the world I am happy. I find excitement and worth. To not do such things leaves me feeling jaded. I suppose it’s my own form of therapy.

What is strange about this notion is that while I know how much I love it and truly do enjoy the task more than eating French fries (and this bitch loves him some French fries) I make all the excuses in the world to not put pen to paper. Or in this case, fingertips to keys. I say, I’m too busy, or that my husband would be upset if I stowed away into the office to write. Sometimes it’s just that I am tired and don’t want to. But, not writing kills me and, also, not doing it keeps me rooted to the spot. (In both my life ambition and self-care.)

That is why I have chosen to promise myself, and to the select few that traverse this site, to deliver some sort of content on every Friday. There is no excuse for me not to do it, truly. I have the wordpress app on my phone and can even write a tiny blurb on the run. I just don’t want to continue this life of nothingness, where all I do is work and sleep and work and sleep. I get nowhere and do nothing. I want to live. And living involves action.

I was reminded of this fact the other day when a friend of mine, a mentor, quoted one of my most favorite movies to me. “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” It’s one of the most quotable lines from the Shawshank Redemption. (Which is easily one of my top 5 films.) In the past I never paid it any mind because I only took it into the context of the film, where Andy has had enough of his prison life. With it taken out of the scene and just read to me, and forgetting where, how and why it was said, it’s really some great advice for life. Life is meant to be lived, however that may be. For me it’s a need to be heard, to be understood. It drives me and pushes me to a reality I long for.

So stay tuned. I don’t know what I will write, I just know that it will be something, and I will try to make it my best. Maybe one day something will come of it, and maybe something won’t. But the only terrible thing I could imagine is looking back on a long life and feeling as though I have not lived.

P.S.
As of late, I have returned to the first draft of my first completed manuscript to start the process of spit and polish. I am trying to stay strong as I sit there and attempt to pick it apart, because after all it is a FIRST DRAFT and is filled with holes, splinters, and rough edges. For a short while I wasn’t sure that it would be this particular manuscript to pick back-up, but seeing as how it has a gay protagonist in a real world fantasy realm, and I did win an award for my column about gay life, it only seems right to begin here.

Right Wrongs Make it Right

This prompt was a tough one.  It took me more time than it should have to come up with a “coherent” story that wouldn’t require an exorbitant amount of explanation or plotting.  I’m actually rather proud of myself.  It’s not too bad.  Granted highly, HIGHLY, unlikely to ever happen, but that’s what makes it fiction.  Right?

A Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A Klems and Zachary Petit
January 7
High Time
“Write a story that takes place somewhere extremely high-space, an airplane, a tower-but that features two characters doing the lowest things for what they believe is a worthy cause.”

The earth fell away from the small two man airplane and turned into a quilt stretched out unevenly over the land. Ferris had studied the aerial night and day the past few months, studying landmarks to guide him on his journey. Sloshing noisily behind him was a concoction of his own making. It was a combination of pesticides one more potent than the last. Very soon he would drop it onto the largest pests of all, mankind.

The plot had hatched in the wee hours of the night, like all good ideas. At first he was hesitant and fearful to adopt his epiphany, but with each passing day he inundated himself with scientific studies of the harm man was doing to the earth. The sea levels were rising, the ice melting, and the climates were shifting from what they had been for millennia.

There were claims that this was the natural way of things. It was just the earth evolving into a new age as it had done ages ago when the earth cooled and it was an ice age. Regardless of their theories it was evident to Ferris that the statistics didn’t lie. The end was nigh if he did not do something about it.

For a moment he had contemplated a nuclear bomb, wiping out the major cities, but there was no easy way for him to even get a hold of that technology. If it was someone would have done it long ago. Ferris even contemplated getting someone to hack into the government mainframe and find out the launch codes. Yet again, he was dreaming bigger than he could actually achieve.

It wasn’t until one day, when he was driving down the San Joaquin Valley when he saw the agriculture plane, with it’s elongated pipe, pouring pestisides on some grapes, that it became crystal clear.

The only problem was the money. To buy a craft of that size it would take some hefty change and he wasn’t really rolling in it, while working at McDonald’s. It was good pay but not for taking down a blight on the earth. That’s when he came up with the idea of crowdfunding. The only question was, does he put his true purpose on the site or create a rosy fantasy? In the end he thought, no one would really believe he was building a weapon to exterminate human kind, so he put it up there. He figured, people would think it was a joke and donate for the laugh. Like the homeless that stand on the side of the road with the cardboard sign “let’s be honest, I just want beer.” In certain circumstances he knew people who deliberately gave the man change because of his humorous honesty.

Within two days of his scheduled end date he raised the money. Now, he just had to find a plane. Despite having nothing really to stimulate the mind, the San Joaquin Valley was the cradle of agriculture in California and many farmers were willing to sell an old plane to upgrade to a new one.

Equipped with a plane all that was left were the pesticides. Yet that was the easiest thing to acquire more than anything. Plus, spreading out his purchases over the course of the year raised no such suspicion. Although, just to cover his tracks, he created a fake agriculture company to buy the deadly chemicals.

Ferris wanted to go big for his first outing. He wanted to attack the largest of all the polluters in the nation and luckily it was just two hours south of home.

Los Angeles was a glimmering destroyer of the earth and the logical choice for destruction.

Ferris kept a steady altitude until he crossed over the Los Angeles National forest and when he got closer to la-la-land he began to descend. His mouth began to salivate as he thought of all the good he would do for the earth. If only he had gotten a group together and form a coalition to save the planet from ultimate destruction.

After this, he thought.

He descended dangerously low over north Hollywood where he pulled the lever and filtered the poison through the air. In time they would all pay for what they’ve done. The snooty low-lifes who call for action but fail to act themselves. They were hypocrites. He was doing something. He was making a difference.

He arched his way over toward Santa Monica. On this mid-July it would be an absolute guarantee that he would find sun worshippers at the beach. There he could claim so many lives for mother earth.

When the beige hem of the ocean came into view, with the people laying scattered like blisters he pulled the lever even further, pouring out as much as he could.

It was then that he realized the major flaw in his plan. His months of plotting had failed to realize that this would have to be a one-time thing. Soon he would run out of fuel. The likelihood of an airport allowing him to land was highly unlikely.

Panic ran through his body like ice in his veins.

I have to get home. He turned and pointed the propeller north, pouring the earth saving potion until every was spilled.

As his plane sailed gently over the mountains, guarding the valley a fighter jet screeched toward him, launching a missile and ending his flight in a cloud of black smoke.