Friday, May 23, 2014
It is a bittersweet moment for us here at the FFF because today we are announcing the end of this blog. While we have enjoyed challenging ourselves monthly to produce new flash fiction, as we all move along on our writing journeys we are finding that this site is starting to take a back seat to other, more pressing projects.
And so last week's story was our last.
We will be leaving the site and most of our work up indefinitely, but a few stories will be taken down by those of us who wish to develop those pieces further. Also, if you were a contributor to this site, please contact us if you would like your work taken down and we will take care of it ASAP.
Thanks to all of you who stopped by to read our work and sent us kind words of support. Thanks to those who shared their work with us and allowed us to be a platform for your own fiction. And big thanks to the photographers who've been so kind to let us post their amazing photos as inspiration each month. We truly appreciate it. Have a wonderful summer and if you are a fellow writer, may your words flow swiftly and your ideas come often!
Friday, May 16, 2014
There were no clouds and so the sky felt limitless. It made her want to crouch low to the earth to keep from falling upwards into it. This would be impossible, she knew that, but her stomach still lurched with a strange sort of vertigo anyway.
"It might be around those three over there," she said to him as they walked through the maze of rocks and sand. "I remember the way that one crooked to the left."
Of course as soon as she said this she noticed two other rocks nearby that did the same thing, each looking just as familiar as the one they were headed towards.
"Look, we've been out here for an hour already. Train's leaving in fifteen minutes. We miss this one and we're stuck here overnight again," he said.
He hadn't even wanted to come here. "It's a bunch of sticking up rocks. Look at the tourist photo and you got the gist. Why do we need to spend a day traveling to see 'em?"
In the end they had come because she begged and he tended to give her her way. To her the rock field was other worldly--like standing on the edge of the moon or something--it was so foreign to any landscape she was used to, but there was something exciting about that. He didn't want to stare at a sea of rocks, but she was tired of staring at a sea of grass, stretched out across a farm that seemed vast when you first looked at it, but eventually your eyes adjusted and all you noticed were the fences, hemming you in. So she asked for this trip and once he realized how desperately she needed it, he agreed.
"Why would you take your bracelet off out here anyway? And then to set it down...it's like you were determined to lose it or something," he grumbled as he kicked at the sand.
"My wrist was sweaty and it kept rubbing my skin. I was just trying to get some relief."
"What you need to do is learn to live with it," he said. "You can't be taking it off whenever you feel like it or this won't be the only time you'll lose it. It was my mother's. It's precious. You gotta treat it that way. Besides you know I can't get you a ring yet. That bracelet says you're mine until I can. Don't you want everyone to know that? Aren't you proud?"
She walked a little ways away from him so that she could look near the other two crooked rocks, make sure it wasn't by one of them. Plus it was easier to think when there was space between them. She let her hand skim the top of a huddled rock to her right. It looked curled in on itself. "Like me" she thought.
He folded his arms and looked up at the sun, now almost directly overhead. "Think, Lacey. Think hard. Where. Did. You. Leave. It?"
She studied him for a moment, the deep cleft in his chin that made him seem so manly when she first met him, the broad set of his shoulders, the flash of green in his hazel eyes that showed up only when he was angry. He was handsome. She still felt that in her chest and stomach, the little burst of nerves that made her heart go faster when she saw him, but it was milder than it used to be. Fading.
A glint of gold caught her attention, on the ground, just to her left. The bracelet was there, half covered in sand, just below the last crooked rock. She almost stooped to grab it, almost slid it onto her wrist and headed back to where he stood.
"We have to go," he said. "Five more minutes and it's lost for good." His lips pressed tight together and he squinted his eyes as he looked at her. "Come on, tell me you can remember where you left it. I can't get you another. That'll be that."
She pushed a bit of sand over the bracelet without thinking too hard about what she was doing. The bracelet was completely covered now. If she walked away, in a few minutes she would forget which rock it was by again. There were so many after all. And then they would never recover it. She could really feel it now, the falling feeling the sky engendered, but it didn't scare her like it had only a few minutes before. She straightened up, opening herself even more to it, her head buzzing as if it was full of bees. Maybe she really would fall up into the sky, now that she didn't have that bracelet weighing down her wrist. Maybe that would be okay. There weren't any fences up there, just uninterrupted blue and somehow, that seemed better. Falling might be just what she needed.
Story by: Amy Christine Parker
Picture from Bigphoto.com.
Friday, May 9, 2014
Hey all. This is going to be a change of pace for me since life is a bit crazed, so I'm not able to post a new story. Since Fiction Femme Fatale is shorts based figured I'd share some of my favorite short stories that have inspired me. (This list originally posted on my blog on Mar. 7, 2014.)
- “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx – If you compare the story to the movie (or vice versa) you’ll feel like you’ve gotten a full glimpse of the life of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. Proulx’s story is a bit long at 30 or more pages (typeset) but it spans a whole romance/lifetime. In as much as a paragraph Proulx manages to capture the physical details, emotions, the entirety of a meeting with Ennis and Jack so that you as reader feel as though you’ve watched a drawn out scene. To me, this story is one of the pinnacle showcases of a beginning, middle, and end. It encapsulates both men’s struggles. Proulx succinctly describes people and actions with details like “indian burn” to a moment of strife and that’s all you need. Silence is a powerful component as is brutality and “Brokeback Mountain” explains so much without being overdrawn. In the acknowledgments of her collection Wyoming Stories, Proulx notes that short fiction is hard for her, yet looking at this story in particular it seems as though she’s a master of the form barely breaking a sweat.
- “Cry, Cry, Cry” by Sherman Alexie – This story is hilarious with heart. The narrator reflects on his drug addicted cousin, watching the steady decline of a family member, and how he may have betrayed him. Alexie is great with brevity as well, providing snapshots as unique as “Shit, we got fake Bloods fake-fighting fake Crips. But they aren’t brave or crazy enough to shoot at one another with real guns. No, they mostly yell out car windows. Fuckers are drive-by cursing.” Mixed with the wit and wavering of a man not knowing what to do because he’s expected to stand by his family out of obligation even when he knows it’s bad for him and his soul. There’s a connection to the voice and to the cousin from the first line and the pacing is perfect speedy yet languorous in the way you move through this world.
- “Hurt People” by Cote Smith (One Story Magazine) – This was one of the stories that stuck out to me when I subscribed to One Story and I still have it to this day. Surprisingly this was Cote’s first publication. To me this was a perfect story, a dark story, and a well-told story of two young boys left to their own devices. The title itself elicits not-so-good thoughts and from the first lines of seeing the dank living circumstances of these boys and what type of person their mother is has you clinging to the hope that they’ll be okay. Smith makes you care for these characters from the start which is immediately effective and masterful for an emerging writer. I’d urge you to look up this story and read it because it’s a testament of how you can find your voice.
- “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien – Whether you’re an English major or not you’ve more than likely read this story or the entire collection by award-winning writer Tim O’Brien. The reason for this is because of the tie-in. The description of each character by what they take with them in a time of battle, what represents them and what doesn’t. What keeps each character going and how it can weigh each man down in various ways of what they may lose, have lost, or are scared of losing. The clipped illustrations are the most powerful part of the anthology by O’Brien, being in the muck and crap of these men and knowing that some won’t make it. It’s a story that has so many brilliant pieces you can’t just choose one. To me, “The Things They Carried” is like a crash course in short story writing. Each line necessary, each one providing so much weight and promise. It’s freaking brilliant.
- “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor – O’Connor is considered one of the best writers of short stories. And it’s understandable why. Her stories tend to be bleak, but real. Her characters are always alive and what I love most is her first lines, especially in this story of noting how a character had two methods of operation “forward and reverse.” The briefest of descriptions that gives a reader everything they need to know about a person straight off the bat. I’d encourage you to read all of O’Connor’s fiction because her stories rarely go where you expect them to, and while characters may surprise you it’s never out of context of the world she’s built.
- “The Pura Principle” by Junot Diaz – It’s things like “The Four Horsefaces of the Apocalypse” that stick with you in a story like this one. Looking at the last months of his older brother’s life the narrator notes a relationship of his brother and a woman who is downright toxic while also doing a balancing act of the brothers relationship and the mother/son relationship as people disappoint, just downright hurt one another, and deal with forgiveness knowing that time is short. Diaz’s voice is distinct and confident and clear in all his prose and to me he just gets better and better.
- “You Never Knew How the Waters Ran So Cruel So Deep” by Roxane Gay – I noted that Gay’s debut was one of my fave reads of last year. And one of the stories I pinpoint is this one, that is a list. With 3 columns titled Date, Item(s), and Price, Gay reflects on the lengths a man will go to find freedom and take his wife there and how much he loses. It starts off hopeful and as the reader sees the price and items the list keeper tracks it becomes more and more realistic of how hard this voyage for freedom will be and whether the relationships that seemed tight initial will hold by the time you reach the last row.
- “Great Rock and Roll Pauses” by Jennifer Egan – Another visual story that breaks the mold of story telling is short and really relies on a brevity of text and the graphics of a PowerPoint presentation to fully convey the relationships in a family that is troubled but not in trouble. The PPT is created by the teenage daughter who is witnessing it all and providing a journalistic play-by-play of her autistic brother, overworked father, and doting mother as they navigate how to get through a cruel world and the narrator sees how much weighs on her parents, her father specifically as a medical professional.
- “Speaking in Tongues” by ZZ Packer – “Brownies” is the Packer story often found on BEST lists but I think this one is a standout from her debut Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. It’s one of the longer stories in the collection and to me the most roundabout. In it a teen girl named Tia in search of her mother believing the grass is greener on the other side. Of course some stuff ensues and she gets entrusted with prostitutes and older men and her own sexuality (and ignorance of it) before realizing that she was better off in a world dictated for her than the one she thought she could navigate. This is a story with a journey that the character goes on that is rough at times and realistic and would also have some tsk at Tia’s actions yet understand them all the same. This piece feels utterly complete.
Friday, May 2, 2014
We see you, but you only see part of us. An elbow. An ear. A motionless piece of our existence. The only bit that bleeds through from our dimension to yours.
We watch you, occupying the planet as if you are the sole reason it exists. You use the word eternity with careless abandon. We know what the word really means. It is an eternity to sit here and wait.
For what? you ask.
For our turn, we say.
You may wonder how we can be so patient.
The answer to that is simple. We are not patient. We are restless.
But there are rules, and we must follow them.
1. Observe. You humans flounce about from day to day, oblivious to the race that shares your planet, just one short dimension away. We watch you for the required amount of time.
2. Remember. The plan is flawless, but we must remember it. It is written into a song we have known our entire lives. We sing it every hour of every day. On stormy nights, you should almost be able to hear our voices carried on the wind. You won't understand the words, and you'll convince yourself you heard a frog or an owl. But in the black hollow of the night, you'll know you were wrong.
3. Evaluate. Once we are free from our dimension, we will swarm the planet. Before that can happen, we must calculate how many of you there are and how long it will take to complete our mission. If we act too soon, we could lose.
We will not lose.
4. Consume. It mean what you think it means. Many of you wander out to our waiting place. Many of you do not return.
Don't be so shocked. We require nourishment just as you do.
5. Escape. When we are strong enough, we will break free of our dimension. To you, it will seem as if the sky is shattering, busting into fragments and ruining your brief stab at eternity. In reality, the sky is an illusion, an idea invented by humans because you can't comprehend that you are seeing into other dimensions. You won't understand us either. You will pretend we are a tree or a hill. You will not look into our faces. You will ignore us while you try to figure out why the sky is broken. You will focus on the wrong thing.
You won't know what happened.
And then you will be gone.
It's a simple plan really, but it requires much time. For us to succeed, we must exist among you for generations. It must appear as if we have always been here. We must be so ingrained into your minds as one thing that you will not notice us becoming another.
Yes, we are restless. We long to stretch and run and feel the sun warm our bodies.
But we know the plan. If we don't follow the plan, we will lose.
We will not lose.
So we wait.
Story by: Krystalyn
Picture from Bigphoto.com.
Story by: Krystalyn
Picture from Bigphoto.com.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
For May, we are taking a little trip to Australia.
Picture from Bigphoto.com.
Posted by Krystalyn Drown at 6:00 AM | |
Friday, April 18, 2014
For just over a year, darkness has engulfed the house. Dark halls. Dark conversations. Dark magic.
I didn't know whether the witch was my mother or father, but I saw the rat skulls hidden in the corners, and I smelled the blood-soaked threads in the hems of my dresses. I longed to find out, but I often couldn't remember what I had done during the day, much less piece together any theory that made sense.
I lurked behind doors and tried to follow the muted discussions between Mother and the chef. They always led to more questions.
"...the cellar is the best place..."
For what? To find rats or to store spices?
"...the expected outcome..."
The outcome of a spell or a recipe?
Father was as much of an enigma. He wandered the gardens, picking herbs and twisting the heads off of flowers. There were certainly reasonable explanations for that. Mother liked to place flower petals and scented herbs in her dresser to keep her clothes smelling fresh. But I had also read in a very old book that those same herbs could be used in spell-casting. I didn't have the stomach to read the complete spells so I didn't know what outcomes could be expected. Nothing good, I was certain.
Once, I asked my maid about it.
"Martha, have you noticed anything odd lately? Anything," I glanced to my door to make sure no one was listening, "wrong? I have too many holes in my memory. I think it's witchcraft."
Her face contorted into a frightened grimace. "Oh miss! You mustn't talk about such things. Stay on the path, you hear me? Stay on the path."
When I lifted up my skirt and showed her the thread, she skittered away like a nervous mouse. I liked her, but I wished she had the guts to stand up to Mother and Father. If anything was to change, it was up to me.
I marched down to the library, where Mother was certain to be. I decided it had to be her. She spent most of her days combing through the crinkly volumes that lined the shelves. I knew there was at least one book there with dark words, because I had seen it myself.
I swung open the door and stood tall in the doorframe, ready for the confrontation.
Mother whipped around. Her eyes opened into round, black circles. A strong wind roared through the stacks, spilling book after book onto the floor. Dust puffed into the air and swirled into miniature tornadoes. A statue flew toward my head, and as the darkness engulfed me, I decided I had taken the wrong approach. I wouldn't be so careless next time.
I awoke in my bed. Martha removed a warm cloth from my forehead and replaced it with a cool one.
I tried to sit up, but my limbs didn't work right. They felt too heavy. Trapped. "Mother! Where is she?"
"Shh, now. Everything will be all right, miss." Martha petted my arm like she used to when I was small and had nightmares. But this nightmare was real and no amount of soothing would make it better. What had Mother done to me? Was Martha in on it too?
I twisted my head left and right. The room was dark, the drapes drawn. The only light came from the crackling flames in the fireplace. And hanging above the fire was a black cauldron. Dark puffs of smoke rose from the bubbling liquid. Martha walked toward it.
My heart jerked. My breath hitched. "It's you? But how did you make the storm in the library? I saw Mother's eyes go dark."
"Not everything is as it seems, miss. It will all be well if ya trust me." As she stirred the pot, a hideous stench rose from it. She ladled a small amount into a teacup and brought it towards me.
"No! Mother! Father! Help me!"
She tilted the cup to my lips. I clamped them shut and turned my head away. I shook my body, trying to break free of the binding spell she had put on me. It was useless. The only part of my body that worked was my head. Was she going to kill me? Or burn me? Or turn me inside out? Witches could do that. They could trap you inside a living hell for centuries if they wished.
Martha pinched my nose.
No! Mother! Father! I fought to hold my breath for as long as I could. Too soon, my mouth popped open. It was long enough for me to gulp in air and long enough for her to pour the concoction down my throat.
It burned. Oh, it burned like hot lava. My eyes teared until I went blind. My stomach heaved until I felt sticky sweet liquid covering my body. My body convulsed for what felt like hours. Or days. Time blended together into one dark line. No more soothing pats or cold cloths. Just an endless onslaught of pain, fear, and then hatred. After hatred, the next emotion came easily.
I must get revenge.
But for that, I had to break free of her spell. I had to wake up.
I scoured my memories for something that would help. I couldn't find it in my childhood or my adolescence, but I found a tiny scrap that had been tucked away for just over a year. The discovery of the spell book. It no longer made me sick to think of it, because I knew it was my salvation. I remembered now. It had changed things before, and it would change things again.
I dove deeper into the memory. I flipped through page after page of spells. The words were blurry at first, but the more I concentrated, the clearer they became. A spell to cause warts. A spell to attract swarms. A spell to draw in the darkness.
An unbinding spell!
I chanted the words, hoping it would be enough. Whether they were spoken aloud or simply in my head, I had no idea. It didn't seem to matter.
My sight came back first. I saw Martha working on her needlepoint in the corner rocking chair. Oh, the surprise she was going to get.
My arms came next, but I didn't dare give myself away, not if I wanted to survive.
And then my legs.
I had full mobility, but what to do with it?
Slowly, I thought. Don't let her see.
I brought my hands together and wove a spell in the air. I played the words through my mind, over and over again. I knew exactly what I was doing as if I had done it a thousand times before.
Martha's body went rigid. She screamed. I had trapped her inside her own living hell, and I was proud.
My bedroom door slammed open. Mother stood in the frame with angry black eyes. A fierce wind shot through the room, strong enough to throw my flower vase into my forehead and to being the darkness once more.
I awoke with both Mother and Martha standing over me. The curtains were open. A strong beam of sunlight shone in and played across my bed. I shielded my eyes from the intrusion.
Martha removed a warm cloth from my forehead and replaced it with a cool one. Mother went to the cauldron and filled a teacup with the liquid.
"Witches," I whispered.
"Yes," Mother said. "But enchanting rat skulls and wearing their blood, that is not something we do. We all have a choice between the dark and the light. It's time you saw the light."
She forced the liquid down my throat, and it burned.
Story by: Krystalyn Drown
Photo by: Carros de Foc
Friday, April 11, 2014
“Screw it,” Kevin says, after the first couple of drops of water do nothing to wake his sister. He dumps a whole glass on Celine’s face causing her to shoot upright from the floor.
“What the--!” she screams.
Kevin smiles. He reaches out to touch her face, concerned about the purple mark on her cheek from when she went down in the cafeteria earlier.
She knows I care, he thinks to himself, no need to get all mushy about it.
Celine runs her fingers through her hair and grins at him. Kevin stares at her; still unable to get used to her hair being as short as his.
Celine laughed at his reaction when she showed off her shorn head. Said his jaw practically hit the ground.
“So, you’re trying to copy me again,” he said trying to hide the fact that he missed her long red locks, a trademark of their mother.
In all ways the Middleton twins look alike. But the hair was what made Celine less rigid with her sharp chin and cheeks. Though, Kevin considered that with the new look fewer guys would be interested in her. Now that his sister was sixteen he noticed the courageous or just plain stupid boys at Holyoke glance her way. He noticed that even though every student at Holyoke Reformatory wore the same shapeless gray shirts and pants that the boys seemed to take note of how Celine filled hers out. Kevin would punch his fist against his palm to ruin any kind of thoughts these guys had. And as soon as they caught Kevin’s line of vision their faces went white.
Celine looks around and realizes they’re not in the Pit or their rooms.
She sighs. “Damn. The Matron?”
“I’d appreciate no profanity, Ms. Middleton,” The Matron says.
It was realized by the unidentifiable powers-that-be that the Middleton twins weren’t afraid of the Pit nor were they the type to think things over in their rooms and come to better decisions. It was decided that after any incident Kevin and Celine would go and speak with The Matron, Holyoke’s only religious/spiritual guidance counselor of sorts. When she first met the two she stated she preferred to treat people from the inside/out. The twins found it hilarious, especially considering their experience of the reformers and AG going about discipline.
After a handful of visits they found they didn’t mind The Matron so much. They would sit, listen, and nod their heads as though her words were sinking in. As far as they were concerned it was better than practicing how to block out the unnerving sounds and darkness of the Pit.
Celine and Kevin take their seats on the opposite side of The Matron’s desk. Each time they enter this room Kevin stares at the pictures along her walls. Images of gods from every religion known to man, old and new. The animal-like gods of Hinduism and the volcanoes of Scientology, and even some of the newer ones like Cantology with pictures of famous poets and New Wave Christianity that has an image of someone shrouded in dark purple shadow on a horse, maybe even a unicorn. The pictures flash over the posters like cartoons, showing scenes from the old books.
Knowing protocol Celine and Kevin put their hands in their laps and await The Matron’s speech. The Matron scrunches up her face at them causing Kevin and Celine to share a glance. They’re used to her shaking her head as she mutters a few “tsk tsks” by now.
“Why the constant fighting? Why do I have to see you two so often?”
“I’m not trying to be unruly or whatever. Edgar got in my face and I don’t back down,” Kevin states as though she should’ve realized this by now.
“I was there for support,” Celine adds. She blinks her eyes to convey an innocence everyone in the room knows she doesn’t have.
“Do you realize that with your growing record things will not be easy for you two? Do you realize that with the plans set in motion you could be ruining your chances to start over?”
“Plans? What plans?” Celine asks.
“It hasn’t been announced yet. But you two are smart. I see it. You are hard workers.” She stares at Kevin, “And yes I know you don’t take any…crap.” She seems to stumble on the last word causing Kevin to stifle a laugh at her attempt to curse.
The Matron folds her hands together and leans on her desk. She lowers her voice making Kevin and Celine pull their chairs closer to hear her.
“I’m not supposed to say much about this, but we’re going to Earth. Well, some of us are. To repopulate the planet. To start anew. And only a chosen few are going to get this chance. So I wouldn’t screw it up if I were you.”
“Earth! No way.” Celine waves her arm as though flicking away a bug.
“I’m not joking, Ms. Middleton. We’re running out of resources here. Have you not noticed?”
“We’re supposed to notice?” Kevin says with a laugh. “We get crap anyways, so what would less crap be like?” He pulls at his torn shirt for emphasis. Crossing his arms Kevin continues unable to believe what the woman in front of him is saying.
Kevin remembers hearing about the collapse of civilization. He doesn’t recall exact details since he was often drawing sketches during classes rather than paying attention. What he does recollect is that a thousand years ago something happened, an explosion or chemical or biological warfare or whatever. It spread like dominoes all over the Earth.
Celine mentioned to him that she heard about rationing more, especially at Holyoke, before the Acting Government applied it to the outside communities. Looking at their protein mush servings get smaller and smaller she said something was up. But Celine was the type to read up on those things and observe her surroundings. His sister understood things in days that it’d take him months or years to.
Besides the fact that Celine’s female what separates them is that she’s a closet a computer genius. Learned it all from books alone. Given a computer and enough time she could probably hack into any system, Kevin was sure.
Kevin noticed The Matron look at Celine with sad eyes whenever she brought up the future and the “possibilities being endless.” He doesn’t recall The Matron ever looking at him that way. Of course Kevin couldn’t say what was on The Matron’s mind when she focused on him. He tended to turn away for fear of pity or sympathy.
She continues, “We’re forging a new world and to do that we have to learn the mistakes of the old one... That being said the plan is to take one hundred Holyoke residents to Earth in the next thirty days. You’ll be paired off and then sent down to start restructuring society. Building things, figuring out how a community will work in your area and so forth.”
“Hold on. They’re gonna set us free to rebuild Earth. Why us? Like, why me and Celine?”
“Why not you and Celine? You don’t think highly of yourself, do you Kevin? You really should. I’d recommend you if it weren’t for these stunts you keep pulling.”
“No stunt Matron. Edgar fuc—messed with Kev first. I saw the whole thing.”
“And of course you’re not biased in the least are you, Ms. Middleton?”
Celine grins. “Course not.”
The Matron points at them both with either hand. “Listen. Get your act together and you two will be part of something amazing. Don’t you want that? Don’t you want to help build the future for your society?”
Celine and Kevin look at each other. Considering whether or not this is a prank or worse, false hope.
Story by: Jenn Baker
Photo by: Carros de Foc
Story by: Jenn Baker
Photo by: Carros de Foc