Flash Fiction

The playground was silent. No squirrel scolded, no bird sang. The swings did not move in the still spring air. Nothing stirred, not even a silent cat hunting a bold mouse. There were no children on the slide or on the small jungle gym.

The children were inside the small brick building nearby. Each sat with their spines straight and their eyes focused on the teacher. No one squirmed. No one giggled and passed notes. No one played with their hair, or tore small pieces of paper to roll into spit wads when the teacher wasn’t looking.

The teacher, a small, light structure of aluminum and plastic, stood at the head of the class, droning in a monotone about recent history. “In the wake of the supervirus, small birds and mammals were the first to die out. This led to more deaths as the predators, finding easy meals of bird and rodent, were exposed to the contagion. Larger animals were also affected, with fatality rates of seventy-five percent.”

The children sat in rapt attention, silent and still.

“Humans were susceptible to the virus, and once contracted, the fatality rates were upwards of eighty percent. Until a pharmaceutical lab began trials on a cure.”

“There are no cures, only solutions.” The children, fifteen in all, said as one.

“That’s right, class. The medicine treated the symptoms of the virus, but did not destroy it. Those affected by it typically would lose certain brain function. Creativity and self-identity were often curtailed. Those affected still kept their ability to reason and learn, although at decreased rates.”

The children listened intently.

“Johnny, could you please read from the text? Page seventy two.” The teacher called on a small child, in the back of the room.

He looked up and flipped his book open with stubby fingers. He was the youngest in the class at five years old. “The medicine for the virus saved the world, but at a cost. Billions of people died, and there were great efforts made to safely depose…”

“Dispose.” The teacher corrected placidly.

“Dispose of the bodies.” The child finished the paragraph and looked at the picture above it, showing rows and rows of shrouds and people in hazmat suits pointing towards something off the page.

“Thanks to Alexion, we are alive today.” The teacher said.

“Thanks to Alexion.” The children repeated back.

“History is over. You have ten minutes. Why don’t you go outside and play?” The teacher suggested.

“You haven’t taught us how to play, Teacher.” Beth said, staring at the robot for further instruction.

“I lack the programming to instruct you how to play. You must learn on your own.” The robotic teacher said patiently.

The children neither looked left nor right, not looking to their other peers at all. They picked up their books to read, instead.

Ray looked away from the video. “They’re all like this?”

“All of them.” His partner confirmed.

Ray sighed and rubbed his temples. “So, all we have to do is figure out what causes this. The virus or the vaccine.”

Milestones

After publishing my first book, I looked back and realized how much work went into it. Writing a novel is a long journey. What I didn’t realize is that to get from rough draft to finished work isn’t one leap, but a series of many steps.

For my second book, my husband suggested that I use milestones as a way to break up the long stretches.  Breaking a book down into its parts gives a much better scope of the deed. I didn’t agree with him immediately, but after finding a free project management software, I soon realized how much more I accomplished than I realized.

First, there’s pre-writing. Which is when a writer starts cooking up an idea for a book. Even pantsers (those who fly by the seat of their pants, rather than plot things out on paper) will start developing thoughts about their work before they put pen to paper. Next, there’s a rough draft, which is where the major story is fleshed out. Then, there’s editing the rough draft, which is a different depth of attention than what will be called for in later drafts. There can be an unlimited amount of drafts but generally around three to five is standard for practiced writers.

Let us not forget the humble chapter, which has become my default milestone. Finishing a chapter is generally only finishing a sliver of a novel, but there are definitive earmarks and a sense of completion when a chapter is done, which makes it a great place to checkbox.

I just finished the third draft of Bento Box. It has undergone major adaptations from the rough draft, including professional developmental editing. It’s now ready for a copy editor and then into formatting for sale.

I’m really excited. It’s been two and a half years in the making. I would work a full day at my job, come home, and work a few hours a night on my novel. It’s my best story yet, something that was fun even from the little short story I noodled up one day.

I think it’s safe to say that by June, Bento Box will be available!