This week from an accidental series that I wrote for my weekly fiction blog posts, but didn’t intend to do any sequels to. Set in a magical mall on a magical world and involving Skid and T’amec, two twenty-somethings who work at the Food Garden Court. Here’s the snippet from “Old Man River.”
“Comin’ thru! Comin’ thru,” Skid said pushing the swinging doors open with his foot. He was carrying a big tray with an assortment of smaller containers on it at an awkward angle, ready to put in the slots on the counter where they could throw together the made-to-order food the Food Garden Court was famous for. T’amec gave Skid an appreciative glance; Skid was shorter, darker and muscular where T’amec was tall with grubby blonde hair. They had been good friends since they started working there part-time after graduation. They had only pushed the friendship somewhere else when a spell by the fae had required them to make out in the moonlight but that had been almost a year ago.
“Hey, c’mon!” Skid said. “Wake up and help me with this!”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is my sixth anniversary post. I started doing weekly flash fictions from picture prompts in May of 2016 off the old Monday Flash Fiction Facebook page. There have been a few breaks for holidays but I’ve also written for more than one prompt site as well as the Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge ‘Nathan Burgoine started a few years ago. It all adds up to over 52 stories a year (that’s around 348 stories so far!)
And right now, I am moderator of not only the monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge but Friday Flash Fics as well! (I gotta be out of my mind!)
When I found this week’s picture it made me think of a story I dreamed up for a magazine in the 90s, but I got lazy, didn’t write it and didn’t get published anywhere until now! Enjoy!
The Beach at the End of the World
by Jeff Baker
The tall young man walked along the beach, glancing occasionally at the desolate muck that had been the ocean. He noted the position of the sun in the murky sky and turned around trying to figure exactly where the compass point was. He knelt on the sand and bowed toward the East.
After he was done, he tried to rise but his left knee hit something hard. A rock?
He stood up and pulled at the object. Not a rock, a misshapen cylinder with lines carved on one end. He cautiously pulled at one end and what looked like a cap came off. In another instant, there was the sound of a thousand bees and a blob of dark nothing surged from the cylinder.
In another moment, it formed into a tall, dark man, muscular where the other man was thin. Wearing a flowing robe where the first man was wearing ragged pants and a torn shirt.
“Mortals! Show Fear! I, Attos, am free once more to wreak chaos in this world after millennia!”
The skinny man in the torn clothes stared upward at the apparition.
“Ho, Attos!” the skinny man said. “I am Mottrea, he who has released you into this world. You will find much has changed since you walked the Earth last.”
“I shall destroy you first, then I shall ravage this world!” Attos said, glaring down. “For I am a Lord of the Dal-Huer, one called the Jann by those of this world. Behold my power!”
Attos raised one hand and the wind roared and fire crackled and a column of sand rose from the beach and solidified into a jagged column of dirty quartz.
“Behold, Attos,” Mottrea said. “I am also of the Dal, and my power is the equal to yours!”
With a gesture, Mottrea summoned lightning which shattered the crystal. With another gesture, he restored the crystal shards to sand again.
“I bow to no power!” Attos shouted. The pair of them raised their arms summoning fire, lightning and roaring wind. The ground shook. The mucky water receded.
Attos’ robes flowed behind him in the wind. Mottrea’s eyes glowed green.
A pile of rocks hurtled toward Mottrea and shattered against the aura which shone brightly around him.
Tentacles tried to bind Attos and shredded at his gaze.
Mottrea’s voice could not be heard over the wind. This fight could go on forever. He glanced around. He saw the outline of the city in the distance.
And he conjured.
Visions of the world suddenly appeared before Attos. A world shattered by the wars and cataclysmic weaponry of mortals. Mortals who had wiped themselves off the face of the world they claimed to rule.
The two men lowered their arms, the wind and visions ceased.
“There are no more men?” Attos asked.
“None,” Mottrea said.
“And what of our race?” Attos asked.
“I have found none but you, so far.” Mottrea said.
The two men walked together and kept walking along the edge of what had been a beach, the shell of the city in the distance, sunset, moonrise, sunrise, moonset.
And when the hours came they knelt and faced East, their voices echoing in the empty world.
The sun was streaming through the skylight in the Mall as T’amec finished filling one of the canisters with shredded, cooked meat. No customers yet, and most of the stores weren’t open this early but they were way ahead of schedule.
“Comin’ thru! Comin’ thru!” Skid said pushing the swinging doors open with his foot. He was carrying a big tray with an assortment of smaller containers on it at an awkward angle, ready to put in the slots on the counter where they could throw together the made-to-order food the Food Garden Court was famous for. T’amec gave Skid an appreciative glance. Skid was shorter, darker and muscular where T’amec was tall with grubby blonde hair. They had been good friends since they started working there part-time after graduation. They had only pushed the friendship somewhere else when a spell by the fae had required them to make out in the moonlight but that had been almost a year ago.
“Hey, c’mon!” Skid said. “Wake up and help me with this!”
T’amec grabbed the containers off the tilting tray and put them on the counter.
“Another disaster averted,” T’amec said. “All we need now is more room, a few more employees who won’t quit so we won’t have to cover shifts and managers who know what they’re doing.”
“Yeah,” Skid said grinning. “This isn’t what I got my degree for.”
The two of them worked putting the canisters in the slots and keeping them stirred, shooting the breeze and people-watching as the regular trickle of early-morning browsers and mall employees wandered by. Early morning regulars like Mr. Aloysius who ran the Augury shop at the other end of the mall coming up for his morning cup of steamed broth.
Then there were the mall walkers, usually older people (“You know, about 40 or so…” Skid had quipped.) who exercised by walking around the mall some even carrying small weights.
Then there was Old Man River.
Skid had nicknamed him that, an old, wrinkled man (“Looks like a preserved Pharaoh,” T’amec had said) because he kept moving around like in the old song. He had been one of the regulars who strode around the mall in the morning, usually in grey sweats “and matching face,” T’amec said. Sometimes T’amec or Skid would wave at some of them, sometimes they’d just nod. Sometimes they would buy something at Food Garden Court, usually coffee. Then they’d sit down at one of the tables under the indoor palm trees that towered over everything and smoke a cigarette and drink coffee.
“Sort of defeating the purpose,” Skid had muttered on more than one occasion.
It was a weekday morning so there weren’t many people in the mall that early but T’amec spotted someone familiar.
“Hey, look! There he goes.” He pointed.
Old Man River was unmistakable staggering along the side of the mall where the shops stopped and the polished brick wall started near the end where the Food Garden Court and the palm trees were. Some of the Mall exercisers ran their hand along the wall and at least one of them would grab the trunk of the palm tree and old on as they swung around it to head back the other way.
“And you were worried,” Skid said.
“I was not,” T’amec said stirring the broth.
“Yeah you were. The last couple of weeks you kept saying ‘Hey, I wonder where our Old man River is?’ You made it sound like you were in love with him.”
“I did not!” T’amec said with a laugh. “He’s too old and wouldn’t look as good in a Food garden Court uniform as…” He stared for a second and looked away.
“Anyway, you notice he got a new suit?” T’amec asked.
Skid craned his neck to look down the mall.
“Yeah. Must have a formal to go to later.”
“Or his sweats are at the cleaners.” T’amec said.
They finished the prep work and all that was left was the stirring. After a few more minutes Old Man River came back around, followed closely by three men in uniforms. One of them grabbed him by the shoulder and escorted him back down the hall, swinging him right past the counter where Skid and T’amec were working.
Enough of a moment for Skid and T’amec to get a good look at his face. Emotionless and a lot more grey.
A little bit later in the morning one of the regular mall Security came up to the Food Garden Court for a cup of vegetable root coffee.
“You had a little excitement here this morning,” Skid said as he filled the cup.
“Yeah, I heard,” said the guard.
“We saw it,” T’amec said, stirring the broth. “They arrested the guy right in front of us.”
“That wasn’t an arrest,” the guard said sipping his coffee. “They apprehended him because he walked away and wasn’t supposed to do that.”
“From a hospital?” T’amec asked.
“From the cemetery,” the guard said. “He went all zombie a few days ago and crawled out of the ground. I was amazed the tux looked as good as it did.”
Skid and T’amec stared at each other; the glimpse they’d gotten of that face…
“Hey, will ya lookit this?” The guard set his coffee back on the counter and pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket as he bent down.
He stood up and showed them the handkerchief which he’d used to pick something up from the stone floor.
“Must have fallen when they got a hold of the guy. I’d better take it to ‘em.”
The guard grabbed his coffee and walked off nonchalantly carrying Old Man River’s fallen, stiffening hand.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The draws for the May Flash Fiction Draw Challenge were
Involving a Bear Trap
Set in an Alien Palace.
Here’s what I came up with…
by Jeff Baker
How the hell am I getting out of this?
Tomas stared at the stone walls, the large greenish jewels glowing in the corners of the ceiling, the window looking out on the alien landscape.
Long, long way from Albuquerque, he thought.
It was going to be easy, they had said. In and out of the Imperial Palace on Gruvanor, find the bag and get out and become rich.
It had been easy. All they had to do was bribe a few guards, sneak past a few more guards and sabotage the security system.
The Old Imperial Palace was considered a Historic Site and the brochure Tomas and Victor had downloaded noted that the security measures were tougher than at the current palace.
Finding out where the Old Documents Room was located had been the hard part. The Government of Gruvanor had regular guided tours during the tourist season. But this was the Sacred Season and so there was only a skeleton crew guarding anything. And Tomas and Victor had also copied the program that provided extra information on the tours of the Palace to their savers so it wouldn’t register their presence. Then they simply avoided the tourist route because the Old Documents R room was not on any published diagram of the palace.
The bag in question was not supposed to be in the palace. It had been stolen on another world and brought to this one. It had been hidden in the palace because the thief had the opportunity and Tomas and Victor had intercepted the message.
But the thief had never been found.
The contents of the bag, old-fashioned information chips, nonetheless had new and valuable information on them.
The word “valuable” was why Tomas and Victor were risking so much to steal the bag.
The two of them were walking through a back hallway with a big window when Victor must have triggered something; a thick steel door slammed shut between Tomas and Victor, blocking Victor’s way to the Documents room.
More for me, Tomas thought.
Tomas walked further down the hallway until he came to a shadowed patch of floor, partly illuminated by the glowing green jewels on the wall rumored to be a long-dead emperor’s gallstones. There was a window further down the hall.
Tomas stopped dead; there was a huddled something on the floor.
A body. Maybe another treasure hunter. Maybe the one who first stole the bag.
Tomas looked up at the ceiling for a booby trap and stepped into the shadow.
There was a sizzling sound. A pattern on the floor glowed green. Tomas found his feet stuck to the floor.
Inside his boots his feet stung.
The corpse was also within the pattern. That was probably what happened to him.
Tomas looked at his saver; no signal.
Tomas remembered reading about ancient Gruvanor. This was what scholars of Gruvanoran technology called a “Bear Trap.” Tomas had seen an old Earth bear trap in a museum. A brutal device. This one was no less deadly.
Tomas glanced at the rotting corpse. The trap would go dormant once it no longer held a living thing.
I’m the current moderator for the Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge, which was stared by ‘Nathan Burgoine a few years ago and carried on by Cait Gordon and Jeffrey Ricker. It’s a monthly writing challenge mainly for stress-free fun that anyone can play.
Here’s how it works: The first Monday of each month (I’m doing this late the evening of the second Sunday, I’ve been busy and I forgot!) I draw three cards, a club, a heart and a diamond. These correspond to a list naming a genre, a setting and an object that must appear in the story. Participants write up a flash fiction story, 1,000 words or less, post it to their website/blog and link it here in the comments. I’ll post the results next week, sometime around May 16th. (But take as long as you want! I sure did!)
As I’m no good at making videos I did it off stage and the results were the Eight of Hearts (a Thriller), the Queen of Diamonds (an Alien Palace) and the Eight of Clubs. (A Bear Trap.)
This week, something PG-13 that I’ve been working on off-and-on for a few years. A BDSM Sci-Fi book called “Tatts.” Set in a post-cataclysmic world where slavery (usually for criminal offenses) is legal. Our main characters are two thirty-somethings: Kyle who bought Andrew (renamed “The Kid”) to work in his construction business but they start becoming friends and more than that. But freeing a slave is complicated and expensive and Kyle has had some financial reversals and may get in trouble himself. The bands of servitude tattooed on The Kid’s right biceps will cause him intense pain if he disobeys or tries to escape.
In this snippet, Kyle and the Kid take in a local Faire and meet two acquaintances: Gil and Shane who are happily showing off their new acquisition…
Their acquisition stood between them; he was six-foot-one, about an inch taller than Gil, well-defined muscles, reddish-brown hair cut short and a reddish goatee, wearing jeans and a sleeveless gray shirt with a bill of sale fixed to the front. The Kid looked the man in the eyes and nodded slightly. He had been in a few of those shirts in the last eight years. Gil and Shane had their arms draped around him, Shane holding happily to their acquisition’s arm right where the bands of servitude were.
The man looked to be about Gil and Shane’s age, about thirty and had a resigned expression on his face, but with a half-smile.
Not your first go-round in servitude the Kid thought, self consciously rubbing the chain tattooed around his biceps.
Here’s one more snippet.
Gil grinned broader and slipped his hand under their acquisition’s shirt.
“Does he have a name…yet?” Kyle asked.
“Uh, my name is Steve,” the slave said. “Unless they decide different.”
“Well, I’m Kyle and this is The Kid.” Kyle said. “He came with the name.”
Hope your week is going better than Steve and The Kid’s in the story. There is always room for optimism. ———–jeff baker
The May Flash Fiction Draw Challenge will be held next week. Things have been a little haywire for me lately, and I just forgot! Nonetheless, the cards will be drawn and the stories written because we all need this distraction!