In case you missed it – Five Flash Fictions for Bento Box

Over the past five days I’ve shared five flash fictions in the world of my book, Bento Box. Here they are in one easy location:

https://tinashelton.com/2015/06/25/flash-fiction-1-nathan-meets-orochi/

https://tinashelton.com/2015/06/26/flash-fiction-2-sibling-rivalry/

https://tinashelton.com/2015/06/27/flash-fiction-3-lizbet/

https://tinashelton.com/2015/06/28/flash-fiction-4-too-close-for-comfort/

https://tinashelton.com/2015/06/29/flash-fiction-5-rascati/

This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available now, on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and everywhere else I could find. :) I hope you enjoy the fiction!

Flash Fiction 5 – Rascati

Concept art by Caleb Brown, ©2014

“You’re kidding. She’s not old enough to be legally working yet.” Rascati stared incredulously at his superior officer. Dennis was a large man whose appearance suggested bodyguarding or bouncing, some rough and tumble occupation. Rascati knew that Dennis was getting up in years, and knew that kind of work gave out not long after the knees did.

“Talking about me like I’m not in the room might make you feel more powerful, but all it does is make you look like an asshole.” The young woman in question glared at him. She had enormous green eyes that currently bored into him.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Dennis said, stepping between them in such a way as to look unplanned. “You asked for the best of the best. I brought you the best of what SPD can afford.”

“And I feel a price hike coming on.” She folded her arms under her breasts.

Rascati did the gentlemanly thing and hid a smile. “If you’re half as good as your attitude, then you’re good enough.”

“Her name’s Baerlin, by the way.” Dennis added, satisfied that blood would not be shed.

“Rascati.” He said reflexively, offering his hand.

She glared at it. “I was warned.”

Several hours later, Rascati brought some coffee and donuts into the lab as a peace offering. He had a way of putting women on edge. Fair was fair. They did the same to him.

She didn’t look up from the computer screens. Three were open, each with graphs, notes and numbers in attendance.

Baerlin accepted the offerings as her due, and bit into a bearclaw. She glared at the computer screens. Rascati relaxed a little. Apparently fierce was a full time gig.

“Look at this.” She said, pointing at a tiny dip in a rising curve of a graphed line. “Everyone’s brain activity is unique, but most brains are consistent. Patterns, we’re slaves to pattern. But here’s a pattern that is consistent among the different graphs you’re asking me to review. That dip isn’t there any other night, but it shows up in each of the four subjects, just on different dates. Not consecutive, so there’s definitely a random element, which is what made it so hard to catch. It’s within tolerance of abnormal brain activity while sleeping.”

What Rascati felt most was surprise. He’d analyzed that data at least a hundred times, and she found the abnormality in a few paltry hours. Dennis was right. She was good.

“What caused it?” He asked casually, sipping from his coffee.

She turned on him then, wide green eyes fixing him to the spot like twin spotlights. “I have no idea.”

It was an unfair question. Rascati didn’t press. Instead, he sat down on the stool next to her. “I had hopes, but I didn’t expect you to know. It’s a problem that I’ve been tracking down for months.”

“I might be able to hazard a guess if you gave me the context. These graphs are all numerical, there’s nothing to indicate what the data measures.” She said, taking her own sip.

“Sanitized for your protection, I’m afraid.” Rascati shrugged. “You’re not officially a part of this investigation.”

Her expression shifted from the open interest of a scientist to something slightly darker in nature. “I could be.”

Rascati chuckled. “Not at your rates, I’m afraid.”

She quirked an eyebrow. “Are you really all business, all the time?”

Belatedly he realized that she was flirting with him. “Yes.”

“Shame.” She said. She stood and stretched. “Thanks for the coffee. I’ll send you my bill tomorrow.”

***

This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!

Flash Fiction 4 – Too Close for Comfort

Concept art by Caleb Brown, ©2014

With a languid stretch, Carnelia rolled on her side, enjoying the warm, sleepy liquidity of her body. He put his arm around her, drawing her close in his sleep. His touch reminded her of their earlier gymnastics. She allowed herself a moment to luxuriate, but even in her sleepy thoughts she felt the beginning of self-recrimination. She’d crossed a line. She’d done what Lizbet and Daign did regularly and shamelessly.

Her client was a lucky lady, and her boyfriend was a handsome, fit man. Trying to get out of the situation without arousing suspicion would have been difficult. She didn’t regret her decision. That was the problem.

Sneaking out of bed was easy. She knew the route to the C-pod. She moved as quietly as possible, hoping not to wake her lover. He’d never know that he’d cheated on his girlfriend. She’d never know either. There would be no consequences for her actions.

As she flipped switches and prepared her client’s C-pod, she caught her reflection in the glass. Blonde, blue-eyed, pale skin and a dusting of freckles. This wasn’t the face she’d wake up to. She would never see this face again.

I’m just like them. Carnelia knew that if she was in her body, she’d be shaking. This body had no reason to feel a fear reaction, so she didn’t. She caressed the palm lock and watched the diodes.

“Samantha, come back to bed.” His voice echoed through the house. “You promised no work when I was over.”

Shit. She pulled the wires for hooking up into the pod, and fastened them into their docks just behind her client’s ears. She didn’t want to face him again. She didn’t want to admit she’d screwed up.

“Samantha!” He sounded cross. It was too poorly lit to see his face, she’d left the lights dim on purpose. “Get out of there this instant!”

If he became more insistent, if he jerked her wires, Carnelia could be in very big trouble. She’d be trapped in this body, Parris would be pissed, and there’d be no telling when she’d get another chance to jump.

“Answer me!” He strode into the C-pod room, a statue given life, all sculpted abs and proud jaw.

Nope. Still not sorry.

The HUD popped up, allowing Carnelia to select her options. It didn’t take long to open the menu…

…his hand was on her shoulder. “Samantha…”

Carnelia opened her eyes and gasped like a swimmer who’d been under a little too long. Her skin was the correct shade again, her fingernails rosy pink at the tips of golden brown fingers. She looked around the C-pod. Stephen was nowhere in sight. Instead, Dr. Yeldez performed standard checks.

“A little close, my dear?” He asked, a skim of disdain floating across his words.

She caught her reflection in the C-pod window. Big, brown eyes, slightly canted at the edges. She saw herself, and shame crashed down on her in a wave. I’m just like the others, now.

“It wasn’t a bad run.” Carnelia said in her defense. “It just got a little close for comfort.”

“Your patterns all check out. You’re free to go.” Dr. Yeldez said briskly.

Carnelia gathered her things and kept her mouth shut. Free to go was as much a lie as the one she’d told. She needed to get out, and fast. She’d seen her brother’s losing fight with drugs, and didn’t think this was much different. In her room, she picked out some clothes for the day. The rest of it would be hers, now that the mission was over.

She looked into her full length mirror, catching another look at her real self. She grinned. She had an idea.

***

This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!

Flash Fiction 3 – Lizbet

She was a walking provocation, sex in plastic film. She never failed to draw in a crowd. Aggressive men with lowered inhibitions swarmed like sharks in a feeding frenzy. It was possible some nice guys hung at the edges of the fray, but someone else could fuck them. If they weren’t going to take her, they weren’t going to get her.

Someone grabbed the back of her head and jerked her back. A thin blade caressed her throat, enough to draw a thin trickle of blood.

That’s new, she thought.

“You’re dead, bitch!” The hoarse voice rasping in her ear suggested this was more than mere foreplay. “My brother is in jail because of you!”

No one came to mind. It wasn’t someone she knew well, in any case. If they’d known anything about her, they’d known she was fond of wigs.

Pink hair peeled free as Lizbet kicked a foot back and up hard between the two pillars of her attacker’s legs. Connection was made, confirmed both by the clatter of the knife to the floor and by the explosive breath exhaled in response to the pain. The knife scraped her throat with the edge of the blade, abrading her pale skin but otherwise leaving her unharmed.

Lizbet grinned.

The knife was hers, and so was his throat now that he was on his knees. Lizbet wasn’t sure how he’d gotten in the club. This grubby mongrel of a street person shouldn’t be allowed in the doors. She’d almost be impressed that he’d managed to touch her save for the fact that she had the strong desire to bathe now. She angled his knife at his throat, reluctantly grasping his hair as he’d grasped her wig, still dangling from his hand.

“Touch me again and I’ll pour your blood all over this dance floor and ride your body across it like a hoverboard, vagrant.” Touching him was already unfortunate enough. “I don’t care who your brother is, he can rot for all his years.”

Time had frozen. Aggro men were staring now, trying to absorb the freshly blonde object of their desire, one fist full of hair, the other gripping a knife. She knew she turned them on. She flicked the blade, drawing a line of blood to match what he’d drawn.

She pushed him to sprawl at her feet. She tossed the knife to an Aggro watching the tableau. She wiped her hands dramatically against each other, careful not to touch her outfit. She winked at the Aggro. He’d made the knife evaporate. She liked a man who handled business. She kicked the vagrant in the face, but her eyes were all for Aggro. He approved.

The vagrant groaned, the fight taken out of him. Two bouncers appeared through the crowd, and they swept up the vagrant like so much garbage. One of them held up the wig, still tangled in the defeated man’s fingers.

“Burn it.” She said.

The Aggro behind her chuckled.

“You’re going to buy me a drink, aren’t you?” Lizbet asked, turning her back to the dancefloor.

“No.” The Aggro grinned. “I own the bar, I don’t have to.”

Lizbet’s breath caught. If this was Bobby Parris, she’d finally met her match.

***

This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!

Flash Fiction 2 – Sibling Rivalry

Concept art Caleb Brown, ©2014

Bass rhythm pounded through the walls of the old, dilapidated house. Flecks of paint abandoned their posts as precarious sentries; airborne particles whirled and glittered in the black lights. Michael reached out with his hand and cupped the air. He watched particles swirl for him, captive and captivating, while the party raged around him.

“Best of the best, am I right?” A man with a Confed accent drawled in his ear. What was his name? Michael tried to remember around the haze of product. Max? Dax? Hax? The man adjusted his hat, which slid forward, concealing his eyes.

Michael nodded his appreciation. Not that he appreciated the interruption. He’d been communing.

Angry stomps off beat with the music caused Michael to blink heavy lids and look up. His sister. What was she doing here?

He sat up straight, knocking three girls to the floor off the couch they’d been piled on. Carnelia stood, quivering in anger. Her dress had blood spatter on the front. Her eye was in the process of swelling shut. Her lip was puffy as well. Adrenaline splashed him in the face with sobriety.

“Hope he paid you first.” Hax chuckled, not especially sensitive to the change in the feeling of the room.

Michael spun, kicking Hax in the face. He wailed, grasping his nose with both hands. He swore, or at least through the pain of having his nose broken he swore. The words bubbled and gasped through ruined sinuses.

“Who did this to you?” Adroitly avoiding the three girls, who were crawling away to find new laps, Michael brought his hand towards Carnelia’s face.

She winced.

Anger surged, roiling through a drug-laced confusion of the situation. “You tell me who did this to you.”

“Who do you think did it?” Ice crystals glazed her words.

Heart sinking, Michael sat down, ignoring Hax curled up in a ball on the floor. “No.”

“You said you’d always protect me, Michael. You said. You said that working for him would be our chance to make good. And it’s been your chance to make good, but what about me?” She glared at him through her unmangled eye. “You’re here getting fucked up, and I’m getting beaten up.”

“If you’d just listen…” Michael sighed. This conversation wasn’t a new one. It was a war of escalation. Parris would tell Carnelia what to do, she’d find some way to misinterpret his instructions, he’d punish her for it, and Carnelia would blame her brother, rather than herself.

“I’m not going to sit and listen for you to defend him. You promised me you’d quit drugs, you promised me this was just a job, and none of it is true, Michael.”

She may have had him on a point or two, there.

“They’re giving me the surgery.” Carnelia said, her voice barely audible over the chatter of people and the bass in the next room.

“What?” Michael shook his head. “The surgery?”

“It’s that or they’ll kill me, Michael.” Carnelia shrugged heavily. “At least if I die on the table, I won’t know.”

He shook his head. “I don’t understand what it’s for, even.” His thoughts flittered to the pale girl he’d just bribed a Kum & Go franchise to bury. “I can’t…”

“I know, Michael. But you should have tried harder.”

***

This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!

Flash Fiction 1 – Nathan meets Orochi

Concept art by Caleb Brown, ©2014

The small, white chapel had a neon sign that read Kum & Go. Below it another sign read: Funerary Services, open 24/7. Nathan had never been to a funeral before. It wasn’t that he didn’t know people who died. This time, it mattered.

The black coffin dominated the chapel. Dark veneered benches offered a place to sit. Nathan didn’t recognize any of the other four people looking bored or comm-zoned in the place. The chaplain had the good taste to look sad, at least.

Nathan found a bench in front of the casket and sat, seething. Alexi’s death hadn’t been an accident. She was too good a Savvy to overlook equipment in danger of breach. The casket lie closed, to not distress the fainter stomachs in the room. Explosive disruption of implants were an occupational hazard.

Nathan ignored the gathered group, wondering what had happened to Alexi in the three days since he’d lost contact.

The chaplain stood up to speak. The group settled to their chairs, deigning to pay attention to the deceased.

The heavy wooden door to the tiny chapel swung open, catching Nathan’s attention. He spun to see an enormous man with a bright green mohawk, a wide grin, and a full length leather jacket. The stranger filled the chapel with his presence.

“Fellow denizens of the Green Dome of Seattle, please do not get up. I’m only here for the beer and pretzels…” He trailed off when his eyes lit upon the casket. Nathan noticed that his grin faltered slightly before he continued. “Ah, the cooler! Fear not, your refreshments are at hand!”

“Who do you think you are?” One of funeral goers stood up. He came up short against such an enormous man. Nathan estimated his height at over seven feet tall.

The big man’s expression hardened briefly before resolving back into his big grin. “Why, sir, I’m the bartender, can’t you see? And I fear we all need a drink.”

He walked over to the casket. The chaplain was white with fear, and backed away, muttering prayers and crossing himself. He brandished his cross towards the interloper but did not step forward.

Nathan’s hand fell to his gun. He didn’t know who this meat muppet was, or why he upstaged Alexi’s funeral. When he grabbed the lid of the casket, Nathan hit his limit. He shot the man in the arm.

The bullet flattened against the leather, leaving a gray ashy mark before falling to the floor. The shot ringing through the air galvanized the others into action; they all ran for the door, screaming.

“Ow,” said the big man. He heaved the coffin lid up and looked inside.

“You piece of shit, you get away from her!” Nathan launched himself at him, no longer caring that he was two feet shorter than the interloper. He started pummeling, his fists slapping against the reinforced leather.

“Will you look at that?” The big man said, unperturbed.

Nathan’s head snapped around, and he immediately wished he hadn’t. Alexi lay on her back, eyes closed. Her skin held the pallor of death. It wasn’t the mess he’d expected, and that made it worse.

“Look here.” The big man said dispassionately. “Behind her ear.”

New, unhealed wounds pouted, showing red edges and hasty sutures. Despite the bloodless appearance of his deceased friend, nothing indicated massive equipment failure.

“What the fuck is going on here?” Nathan shouted in the chapel, his voice echoing off the walls.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” The big man assured him.

“Who are you?” Nathan felt as though his mind was starting to melt from overexposure to unbelievable circumstances.

“My name’s Jack.” His eyes flicked to Alexi, and Nathan could see the wistful sadness that showed briefly. “Alexi knew me as Orochi.”

“I’m Nathan. And I’m all ears.”

***

This flash fiction is based around my new novel, Bento Box. It is available for preorder and will be released June 30th, so you don’t have long to wait!

Flash Fiction – Glitter

“Are you sure you want that?” I asked my son.

The subject of my son’s newfound affection hosted purple spots on plushy pink fur, with eyes round as a full moon and full of pink glitter.

This is not my son.

My son is a Lego guy, ceaselessly building and destroying tiny ships, cities, or worlds. He is a dinosaur boy, with plastic dinos like vicious caltrops for me to step on. He has other plush toys but none of them are new anymore. And none of them are pink.

“Yes, Mom, I’m sure,” he reassures me, confident in his masculinity.

“You’ll have to buy it with your allowance,” I said, a last ditch effort to make him consider his purchase.

“Okay!” He agreed readily and ran back to the front of the store (for at this time, we’d left it well behind. My distraction tactics failed.)

Further conversation reveals that his little friend Angela had one. Now I understand.

We bring it home. I capitulated, telling him he didn’t have to buy the toy himself. Now I get hugs both for the toy AND for the saved allowance. It’s a good tradeoff.

He wants to sleep with the toy, whom he has named Glitter. (A stretch – it was on the label.) “Glitter will protect me from bad things that happen at night.”

I stop. My stomach bottoms out. “What bad things?”

My son shrugs. He often does this, refuses to explain how he feels or what he means. I don’t press. It makes him withdraw farther.

In the morning my son wakes up, bright as sunshine, with disheveled hair and a brilliant smile. “I was right! Glitter protected me from the bad things!”

I brighten. It’s impossible not to be impacted by his smile. And if all he needed was a pink stuffed animal to make him feel safe, it was well worth the price.

Later that afternoon, I took a walk to stretch my legs. I worked from home, and my son was away at school, playing with Angela and their other friends. Or maybe learning.

Walking back towards the house, I see it. I stop walking. Staring in disbelief.

Scorch marks slash across my son’s window frame. Long, black marks that start at the roof and end at the first floor. These are not the burn marks made by children playing with matches. These are the black, ashy remnants of… what? Fire from above? That couldn’t be possible.

I can’t see the plush clearly, but the bright pink blob sitting in the windowsill looks vigilant, somehow. Ready.

Back at the store, I had a hard time reconciling my boy wanting a girl’s toy. I thought myself a feminist, but it took my son’s views on gender to make me realize I learned to see girls as equals. Not him. He’s always thought of them as such. Illuminating as it was, it was a hard conversation to have.

Not nearly as hard as this one would be, though.