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.”

microfiction

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“Sir.” Tayaka walked in without knocking. “It’s time.”

The older man looked up. His hair was as white as a dove’s wing, thick and soft and styled perfectly. The noise he made hearing the announcement seemed frozen between derision and disbelief. “What do you mean?”

He speared Tayaka with a look indicating that anything less than the birth of the Eraba Rata would be rewarded with execution.

Today, Tayaka would live. “Mantambie delivered him in the village.”

A snowy eyebrow arched. “You’re certain?”

Tayaka was no fool. “Sir, I verified the pedigree.”

Kenoi nodded approvingly. “Wait a week before making the offer. Let the difficulty of their position hit home. The process will flow more smoothly.”

Tayaka nodded. He did not bother to mention that the paperwork was ready, and that the offer had been designed by Kenoi over six years ago. Preparation was key, and there was nothing more powerful than paper, save the pen that would sign it.

A week later, Tayaka found himself in the slums of Laterre, a village filled with noise and dirt and desperation. The people flowed together, too busy with their personal complaints to notice that they were rubbing shoulders with different colors, different creeds. Everything receded to the needs demanding to be met. Food, clothing, clean water, everyone required them, but only those who deserved them would earn them.

Tayaka knocked on the door, flanked by two large men whose names he mistook.

The bolt slid back, allowing those inside to see who knocked. “Hello?”

Tayaka spoke. “Mr. and Mrs. Daisuke?”

“We can’t talk. We have a new child, and…” Mr. Daisuke spoke with the voice filled with exhaustion and excuse.

“That is exactly what I am here about.” Tayaka said, with his perfect hair and salesman smile. “I would like to make you an offer that no other can have.”

Mr. Daisuke was too tired to consider the problems with his approach. He opened the door and blinked in surprise when he saw not one, but three Hideaki standing on his doorstep.

“What is happening?” Mrs. Daisuke asked, warily, from the other room. She held a sleeping child to her bosom.

“Please, allow me to explain.” Tayaka said, briskly. “See, it seems you have given birth to Eraba Rata, the Chosen One.”

The look Mrs. Daisuke gave her son was pure delight mixed with hope, but Mr. Daisuke looked terrified and sad. A practical man.

“You understand, the Eraba Rata is such an important resource..” Tayaka trailed off dramatically. “I can’t leave him here, when we can offer him such a better life.”

Mr. Daisuke looked relieved, but Mrs. Daisuke looked horrified. She blurted, “He is meant to stop the likes of you!”

Tayaka wore a hurt expression. “We are offering you a chance to save your son, Mrs. Daisuke. We know where you live. Do you think it would be better for us to see your son as an asset, or as a threat?”

Microfiction

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She woke up feeling like a new person.

Concepts she hadn’t considered before rolled through her mind at speeds she didn’t know she could think at. A word problem that had bothered her since high school opened up before her and showed her all of its mathematical components, leaving her speechless.

Even her hair seemed different. Usually she woke up to a bedraggled mess of unruly snarls, but today her hair was a tousled twist of sassy style. Her makeup sat, waiting to line up and be called upon, and when she applied it, despite it being the same product it was yesterday, it somehow looked elegant today, and she felt beautiful.

The feeling carried on into her work day. Normally she would hunker down in her cubicle, hoping no one would notice that she was there. Today, she volunteered when her co-workers needed her expertise. She wasn’t the go-to person for problem solving before.

The moment that clinched it was seeing her boss in the hallway. He was a short man, trim, with graying hair and a fashionable goatee. Mr. Kettinger intimidated her, although not physically. He was so much smarter than her, she didn’t feel like she could ever have a conversation with him.

He nodded to her in the break room, in his perfunctory way. She nodded back.

“Great post,” he said.

She knew what post he referred to. Secretly, she was quite proud of it. She’d detailed problems the company faced and the solutions to counter the problems.

“Thank you.” She said.

It was nothing, it was a four word conversation, but something shifted, and she realized, she wasn’t intimidated by him. Before he spoke, she hadn’t felt that thrill of terror that preceded each interaction.

What changed?

While sitting at dinner, outside in the warm sun with her friend, a car accident nearly occurred. She heard the screech of tires, the blare of a horn, and the shouts of startled drivers. Then she felt it. A wave of emotion rolled over her. Fear, confusion, anger, it all mingled together. The most startling fact of all, however, was that none of it was hers.

She could feel the anger and confusion of those in the vehicles, just across the block. She could feel the echoing feelings of those who watched the near miss. For a moment, she felt overwhelmed, as the feelings flowed over her, through her, and into her mind.

“Are you okay?” Her friend looked concerned.

She should have been terrified. She remembered those feelings from when she was a child. Knowing what other people felt, within her line of sight. She’d tucked that away, in a portion of her mind that was locked by glowing blue eyes and shivery fear.

“I’m fine.” She smiled, reassuring her friend.

Before she went to bed that night, she drew a bath. She slipped into the warm water and let the day sluice away her confusion, but the answers wouldn’t come. What was happening to her?

Chaos Theory – A microfiction

A butterfly flapped its wings in Brazil, and a hurricane began its journey towards Louisiana. Somewhere along the line the hurricane earned its name, Edith in this case. She was the fifth named hurricane of the year, a tremendous monster. This monster blew the boat named, “Her Other Car” off course. The two people inside, certain that they were going to die in the storm, vowed to die in each other’s arms.

Instead, nine months later, Edith was born. Her mamma said Edith could cause or calm a storm just by walking into a room.

When Edith got older, she learned to keep her observations to herself. It started when the cat got loose; she’d told Mrs. Brightly that her dog shouldn’t be let out of its yard.Mrs. Brightly didn’t listen. It turned out that Muffin wasn’t aware of the weak board in the fence, but Tuggers was. He forced his way free of the confines of his yard. The big lab chased Muffin around the house and across to the Dalbert’s yard. Mr. Dalbert wasn’t home yet, but that was okay. Mrs. Dalbert was entertaining Mr. Brightly at the time. When Muffin ran through the slightly opened window of the bedroom where Mrs. Dalbert was entertaining,Tuggers had enough momentum from chasing the cat to become a canine projectile. The window had no chance against a full bore doggy intrusion. Tuggers poured light on the dark shadows of a neighborhood affair.

Mrs. Brightly demanded a divorce and moved to Shreveport, taking Tuggers with her. Mr. Dalbert sold the house to move to Florida and be closer to his mother. Edith’s mom never told her what happened to Mrs. Dalbert or Mr. Brightly. She suspected that Edith knew more than she let on.

What Edith’s mother didn’t suspect, however, is how much Edith knew. She knew the color of the wings of the butterfly who flapped her into existence. She knew when the last bee would die. She knew about the affair that Mrs. D and Mr. B were having. She’d been the one to let the cat out of the bag, that day.

Edith knew that there were big things in her future. A child of a storm did not simply slide out of the world’s eye. That’s why she wasn’t scared the day the men in black suits came to talk to her mamma. She knew they were coming, and hid away her backpack full of food and water and a change of clothes. She felt a twinge as she whispered a goodbye to her mamma, and struck out on her own. Truth was, Edith might have even gone with the men, but she knew what would come of it if she did go. There was only one future she could choose out of the ones she had seen. The others ended in pain and death and sadness. The future she chose held those things, as well, but it also held something the others didn’t.

Microfiction (500 words or less.)

The brightly lit, sterile room was cool, and brought shivers to Moria’s flesh. The room reminded her of a surgical suite. She hated doctors, but right now she would be happy to see one. She would far prefer that to where she was.

The execution chamber door opened to reveal two men. One was dressed severely, in all black, with a slash of white at his throat. He carried a leather bound book with gold embossing. She recognized him and her stomach plummeted. It was Father Brile, the old priest who read her mother’s last rites.

Moria tugged at the straps holding her to the table. They held fast. The second figure strode in, and Moira blanched. Her father returned her look, his blue eyes full of disapproval, his cheekbones prominent, his steel-gray hair pulled back in a luxurious ponytail. She’d always loved it when he’d let it loose.

She didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what to say. Heather’s kidnapping struck her to the core, and Moria had to do something. She’d even succeeded. Her childhood friend Jeremy swore to her that Heather would be hidden and kept safe. The last friendly words she’d heard.

“Moira McGuinan,” her father intoned, “you have been charged with the kidnapping of your sister, Heather McGuinan. Your punishment is execution, lest you speak now and reveal where you’ve hidden her.”

Moira bit her lip in refusal. It broke her heart that her father was the Councilman present to see through the execution. It meant he knew about Heather’s kidnappers, maybe even orchestrated the abduction. “Moira McGuinan, your crimes are these.” Her father continued. “Theft of clan property, including weapons, ordinance, and a cruiser. Breaking the clan trust and treaties between clan McGuinan and Clan MacLoren. Leaving the clan’s boundaries. Invading clan MacLoren territory. Murder of seven men of clan MacLoren. And finally, the abduction of your sibling.”

Not necessarily in that order. Moria thought.

“Do you not have anything to say for yourself? Nothing even to say to me?” Her father asked.

“You know that isn’t what happened,” She finally said, seeing the emotion touch his frosty eyes. “Heather was kidnapped, and I went to go save her.”

“If you saved her, why didn’t you bring her back?” Her father asked, the ice reforming quickly.

“I wasn’t sure who I could trust.” Moria met her father’s eyes without flinching.

Her father nodded to Father Brile, who began chanting in Latin. Her father pressed some buttons on the table, and an arm popped out, holding a syringe filled with deadly solution.

Forgive me, Heather. Moira closed her eyes.

Her father pressed the button, and a needle pierced her arm. Adrenaline washed through her. She tried not to panic as her senses dulled. Her limbs felt heavy.

She awoke hours later, in her room, with her father sitting at her bedside. “I’m sorry darling. It was important that you die, you see. Now I’ll be able to tell you why.”