NANOWRIMO CHALLENGE: A SNIPPET OF YOUR WORK – The Cicada’s Drone

*Walks around the blog, kicks the tires. Wipes away a thick layer of dust.*
Hey everyone, sorry for neglecting the blog so much in the past few weeks, but I’ve been super focused on writing. Since I’m NaNoWriMo-ing, and the challenge at terrible minds was to post 1k of your best stuff, it’s a pretty easy. Except for the fact this is pure rough draft, and I’m putting it out in the world without any polish. That’s a little scary. But yeah, here’s a glimpse at what I’ve been working on. Enjoy!

 

“Jesus Christ, Roy. Do you have a death wish?”

Conroy laughed. He hadn’t actually eaten anything substantial for most of the day, just a few candy bars and a sandwich, just enough to keep his brain from shorting out. This about balanced it out.

“Life’s too short for carrot sticks, Azure.”

They sat in silence while he slowly devoured the grease bomb. The buffalo sauce was relatively weak, but still enough to provide a bit of a tingle in the back of his throat and his nostrils. For a few minutes, everything was forgotten. The gruesome visions always on his mind, the certainty that he was letting so many people down by doing this, by being a private detective, mostly because it sounded cool. The shame of being an embarrassment, a terrible friend, all of it faded as each grease soaked bit vanished from the plate. He sat back with a satisfied smile on his face.

“Now, Azure, cut the shit. What did you want to talk about?”

She smiled, really smiled, for the first time that night. “Welcome back, Roy.”

She pulled a couple of photos from her pocket. “I found these paintings in the victim’s bedroom. They look like something you might have run into back in the day.”

Conroy looked them over. More detailed version of some of the things from the sketchbook. Finished works. “Yeah, they look familiar.”

“Feel up to consulting again?”

He smiled. “Sure. My fee’s gone up a bit.”

She glared.

“I’m sure I can cut you a deal though, for old times sake.”

#

When Sergeant Benson dropped Conroy off at his office, he didn’t notice anything wrong at first. Oh, sure, the shadows danced and pulsed menacingly, but that happened almost every night. He climbed the stairs, ignoring the low growls coming from the office below his.

He ran his fingers along the steel railing. Near the top the warm metal became damp, sticky. He brought his fingers to his nose, fearing the coppery smell of blood. Sweet, sharp, but rich. Something else. Some other viscus fluid then. Something strange. He wiped his hand on the wall. There was enough here that he’d be able to gather more if it proved the least bit interesting.

The door stood open, cracked an inch. Conroy muttered a curse. He locked it. He remembered locking it. Could he have forgotten? No. Someone was here. Someone had broken in. He reached for the small gun that nestled in the small of his back.

He pressed his hand against the door. Warm. Smooth. He looked at the doorjamb, at the lock. He expected to see some sign of a break in, a busted lock plate or maybe scratches at keyhole. Nothing. Pristine. Just like he’d walked out and forgotten it. Whoever did this was good.

Conroy pushed the door open. Inside it was dark, deep, a pit that he could fall in forever. He navigated by memory, stepping around furniture as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. A window, shades drawn back, let a little bit of light into the room.

“Well met by moonlight.” he whispered.

Through the reception area, into his office proper. A glow, blinding him. He raised his gun, finger on the trigger, ready to fire.

“Wait!”

That voice. Familiar. Didn’t belong here. Not now. Wrong. Conroy shook his head. He lowered the gun, confused. Standing by his desk, clad in a diaphanous gown, was a face familiar and foreign.

“Maureen?”

The woman nodded. Conroy held his hand up to his face, trying to block some of the glare. He realized that the glow wasn’t coming from anything in his office manager’s hand, but from the dress itself.

“The fuck, Maureen? I thought you were in the Rockies with Danny.”

She nodded. “I had to come here, to warn you.”

“About what?”

“Just take the money and walk away. There’s things at work here, forces that you cannot begin to comprehend. You cannot hope to survive this. It’s been a good run. It’s time to let it be.”

“Sorry you wasted a trip, but don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

“Let it go.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know how to explain it. I owe the kid. I took his money. I need to solve his case.”

“You’re not that good a person, Conny.”

Conroy bristled at the nickname. Maureen was the only one who could get away with calling him that name to his face.

“Fine, you’re right. It’s the mystery of the thing. This is too weird. I’ve got to know what’s going on.”

Maureen tousled his hair with her hand. “Curiosity killed the cat.”

“And satisfaction brought him back.” Conroy replied.

Maureen smiled the ghost of a smile. “We miss you, Conny.”

“Back at ya, kid.”

“We’ll see you soon.”

“You bet. Just come back safe when your vacation’s over.”

Maureen turned and took three steps towards the door before exploding into a cloud of silver moths, each one glowing as brightly as her dress. The swarm circled the room twice, buffeting papers and posters before flying out through the closed window, up towards the moon.

Conroy woke with a start. He lay facedown on his desk, a line of drool dried to the side of his face. In one hand he held the bottle of codeine pills. A quick rattle showed it was emptier than it should be. In his other hand he held his picture of Maureen and Danny, on their wedding day. In the photo, Conroy had his arms around the happy couple. Everyone was smiling and laughing. It seemed a world away. Conroy reached up to brush away the tears streaming down his face.

With shaking hands he put the bottle back into his desk drawer, and the picture back on his desk, next to his laptop stand. The office was just as dark as in his dream. He flicked on the light, blinking rapidly as the bright light caused his already damp eyes to water.

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Flash Fiction Challenge: Space Opera

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: YOUR VERY OWN SPACE OPERA at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. This is kind of building in the world touched on by the Ragged Abyss story, though takes place a bit in the future. Hope you enjoy! –FY

Klaxons blared throughout the ship, echoing down twisting hallways and through cramped quarters. Dozens of crew members surged to their feet. The Captain found a new quarry. Time to hunt.

“Ready the aft cannons!” Her voice crackled over the loudspeaker, filled with exuberant joy.

Remington Harto rushed to his battle station, his tattered cruise ship uniform hanging loosely around his newly toned frame. He glanced at the other gunners as he slid into his chair. Mostly fresh faces, though not necessarily young. A gray beard sat only a few feet down from him, just as low as Remington on the totem pole, and Lieutenant Nuvella, the woman leading their little squad, looked so young that even MilSec would have told her to come back after a few years. But that young face was split by a deep scar. Experience was all that mattered on the Strange Aeon.

Three clicks and a scan of his thumb print brought the weapon to life. The monitor on the targeting computer lit up, showing a clear view of the wide expanse of space.

Continue reading “Flash Fiction Challenge: Space Opera”

Flash Fiction Challenge: Everyday Business

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: PICK A CHARACTER AND GO, GO, GO at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. I used Jersey Malone, created by HELEN ESPINOSA. Helen, thanks for putting Jersey out there and letting use play in your sandbox. As always, hope y’all enjoy this glimpse into another world.  Peace! –FY

The sign above the door held no words, only a cartoonish mug with an overflowing head of foam. Didn’t matter. A sign would have only said “BAR” but it would have had to say it in so many damn languages it wouldn’t have been worth the effort. Besides, everybody knew, it wasn’t a bar, it was THE Bar. Someone new, dusty, fresh from the wastes might press for more, might ask “Which bar?”, and anyone with half a brain would tell them it’s Jersey’s bar, and you best keep the peace if you go in.

Continue reading “Flash Fiction Challenge: Everyday Business”

Flash Fiction Challenge: Claudia Artifex

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: TIME TO CREATE A CHARACTER at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. So here’s a rough sketch of a character that has been poking around in the back of my head. Hope someone out there can use her. Peace. –FY

Claudia Artifex posses a strange artifact, a family heirloom. Passed down from mother to daughter, this necklace can open any lock in the world. As far as Claudia knows, her mother used the power sparingly, traveling to small villages in order to right injustices, but leaving her young daughter behind in the care of a family friend who raised her more than her own flesh and blood.

On her fifteenth birthday, her mother did not return, but the necklace did. There was talk of an accident, saving a school full of children, but it doesn’t matter. Claudia rebells against her mother’s teachings, becoming a high priced cat burglar, becoming a chess piece in the games of the rich and powerful.

Eventually that life catches up to her, and, with fresh scars, Claudia finds herself at twenty five, traveling from town to town all over the world, performing odd jobs, trying to do enough good to find some kind of balance in her life. It’s in one of these small towns that Claudia finds out two things: Electronic security measures fall just as easily to her skeleton key, and her mother’s death isn’t at all that it appeared to be.

 

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Ragged Abyss

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: SIX RANDOM TITLES at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. Two of the other titles, “The Third Girl” and “The Flame of the Years” may make appearances in later stories. This title, combined with one of Joseph Michael’s amazing photos inspired a neat bit of short fiction. Hope you like it! –FY

The greying man leaned against a bulkhead, absently tapping the ash from a cold cigar. “Nietzsche reportedly claimed that if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” He turned towards his pupils, eyes red-rimmed from too many sleepless nights. “Each of you owes me five pages on how that quote applies to the Way, and the opening of the Gate. Due tomorrow.”

Continue reading “Flash Fiction Challenge: The Ragged Abyss”

Flash Fiction Challenge: Ash

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: THE RANDOM SONG TITLE JAMBOREE at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. This is work in progress, part of the history of scars in Psychomachina. Let me know what you think — FY

Darkness. Static. Bright light. A woman’s voice. “Goddamn it! I need more time!” Pain. A scream. Her own? Darkness again. Static. Laughter, maybe, or sobbing. A whisper. “…my redemption…” Silence. An eternal moment. Awareness. Light, spawning hordes of shadows. Heat. Fire. Voices, in the distance, mingling with the stomp of heavy boots. Panic.

The being opened its eyes. Her eyes. She felt relatively certain of “she”, reinforced by a countless reflections in the shattered glass door of the steel tube surrounding her.

“Where am I?” her voice rang hollowly.

“Location: UNKNOWN” flashed red across her vision, some sort of heads up display.

“Who am I?” The question didn’t seem right. “What am I?”

“Designation: UNKNOWN. Automata. Promethea Class. Version 3.6.” The words crawled across her vision in a light blue font.

“System, run diagnostic.” She commanded.

“Memory fault error. Main memory files dumped after restart.”

“Great…” As she stepped out of the tube, a faint beeping filled her ears. A man lay sprawled beneath her, covered in blood and broken glass. His brown hair matted to his scalp, his black eyes staring unblinking at the ceiling. A name floated to her lips. “Dr. Balanova…” Her vision blurred as she felt dampness on her cheeks.

She reached down to close the man’s eyes, unable to quell the emotion she recognized as sadness. She paused a moment to wonder how she had known him before grabbing his lab coat from the ground and wrapping it around herself. As she cinched the coat, she noticed a pair of hands poking out from the rubble on the far side of the room. She tossed the chunk of the ceiling aside, amazed the person underneath still breathed.

The being turned the person over and pulled it from the rubble, revealing a woman in her early twenties, dressed in the same lab coat that now wrapped around herself, the woman’s ebony skin contrasting starkly with thick cotton fabric. The being’s heart beat faster, her breathing quickened. Another new emotion.

The woman on the ground struggled to produce a breathy whisper. “Redemption?”

The Automata felt a strange sense of deja vu. Herself, standing in this room, this laboratory, Dr. Balanova next to her. The woman, Dr. Mallory Larson, hand outstretched, Redemption’s name on her lips. An explosion. The ceiling coming down. Mallory diving towards her, pushing her towards the stasis pod, pushing her to safety.

Redemption looked around, realizing that the constant beeping came from her internal alarms. “The fires. The building is no longer safe. We must leave or you may die. Will you stand?”

Mallory grinned sardonically. “Would if I could. I can’t feel my legs. Save yourself. That’s an order.”

The blue HUD flashed purple. “No.” Redemption ripped a first aid kit off the wall and pulled her companion free of the rubble. “I think you’re the only one left alive that knows what I am. I’m not leaving you behind.”

Mallory’s eyes widened as Redemption spoke. She nodded, numbly, no longer protesting, wrapping her arms as tightly as she could in her weakened stated. Redemption grew comfortably aware of the other woman’s body pressed against her as she raced for the door. They burst onto the street moments before the building collapsed into sparks and ash.

“Close call, ladies.” The speaker, a lean woman clad in black body armor with a distinctive red lining, leaning against a streetlamp, surrounded by a grizzled cadre decked out in cheap brown armor. “Hey Thrusher, what do we have here?”

“Mercenaries.” Mallory hissed.

One of the men, head shaved, covered in scars, smiled wickedly, showing jagged teeth. “Coming out of them buildings, wearing them coats. I think we got ourselves some Auto lovers.”

The woman spat in their direction. “Fucking traitors. Love machines more than their own kind.”

Redemption lowered Mallory to the ground, pressing the kit into her hands. “Have your laugh, walk away. I do not want to hurt you.”

The woman laughed. “We’re not afraid of no goddamn scientists.”

The mercenaries stopped leaning. Redemption smiled as they circled her, drawing blades. “Do not -“ The HUD flashed purple again. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

The five men stuck almost as one. Time slowed to a crawl. Redemption grabbed Thrusher’s arm, pivoting and thrusting, burying his knife in the guts of one of the mercs. She ducked under the next fighter’s arm, kicking hard, her foot connecting with a satisfying crunch. Another arm flashed by her face, a blade brushing one cheek. She responded with a fist to the throat. Redemption spun, grabbing the remaining toughs and slamming their heads together.

Their leader backed away, eyes wide. “What the hell are you?”

Redemption noticed something dripping down her cheek. Her fingers found a gash deep enough that her chrome cheekbone showed through. The purple glow faded from everything, the HUD returning to a normal blue. “I’m… I’m…”

A shot tore through the air, catching the mercenary in the head. Redemption turned to see Mallory, first aid kit tossed aside, gun in hand. “She knew. We couldn’t let her live.” She waved the gun at the fallen mercenaries. “None of them can live. Finish them off, strip her down and armor up.”

Redemption numbly complied. “I don’t know what came over me.” She slumped next to Mallory, her head in her hands. “The world’s gone crazy. What are we going to do.”

Mallory lifted her chin, forcing Redemption to meet her eyes. “What do we do? We go to ground. We hide. We fucking survive long enough to find out what the hell is going on. We live.”

Redemption felt a new emotion growing, warmth spreading through her body as she gazed upon her valkyrie, her phoenix rising from the ashes of the night.

A quick state of the blog post

Hey folks,

Just wanted to address a few things real quick.

  1. “Sibling Rivalry” made it to the Mashstories short list(!) which means you can read it at the linky-link, leave comments, and even rate the story on different components such as character and language. There are some other cool stories on the list, so if you want some free reading, check it out. (related, this story inadvertently spawned a whole writing universe, tentatively titled Psychomachina, so look for more stories with this category soon-ish)
  2. I’ve recently found myself more active at Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig’s blog / writing community. If you’re joining us from there: Welcome, new compatriots!
  3. I have discovered selectedTweets, so most of my FB posts will be 137 characters or less. #fb.
  4. Someday I’ll remember what I wanted to actually put at #3

Anyway, thanks for reading. Hopefully we’ll have a new story coming soon.

Deliverance

This story is brought to you by FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: THE DEAD BODY at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. This is the 4th Jade Leporidae story (preceded by Fall Girl, Holding Pattern, and Take Out. Hope you like it! — FY

Jade drew a rattling breath as she found herself forced once more into the world of the living. She wondered about the condition of her lungs as she struggled with the inhalation. She didn’t remember Caporelli knives near her chest this time, but she couldn’t account for the time between passing out and her heart finally stopping. Still, her lungs felt fine, just heavy, like something was pressing down on her. Sticky blood covered her face, too moist to be her own, to dry to be from a fresh wound. She gagged as the right nerves reattached themselves and the smell of death flooded her nose. The weight had to be a body. Jade gathered all of her strength and pushed the corpse off with a grunt.

Continue reading “Deliverance”

Stories from the Slush Pile: Fall Girl

This is technically my second Jade Leporidae story, though it was the first one where I named her, or even gave her an identity. The first is up on Pics and It Didn’t Happen, which means it is in desperate need of a re-write. Jade’s one of those characters that I have an entire arc written for, though I’d love to see it as a graphic novel. All I need to do is raise enough money to pay an artist or find one willing and able to do it for free. So, yeah, pay one. Though I should probably write the script first. — FY

Fall Girl

“I’m sorry, Ms. Leporidae, this is where you die.” The grizzled bald man pressed the barrel of the shotgun against her chest. Continue reading “Stories from the Slush Pile: Fall Girl”

Stories from the Slush Pile: Job Fair

As stories get rejected from various contests and publications, I’ll be posting them here for folks to read. This first one is one of the few stand alone pieces I’ve written, and one of my favorites. — FY

Job Fair

The auditorium of Corinthian Community College buzzed with activity, people of all shapes and sizes vying for space at the interview tables. A large man in an average suit absentmindedly waved away a young woman.

“You’ll hear from us in two to four weeks if we decide an additional interview is needed.” He crumpled her application and threw it over his shoulder into a large pile. “Next!”

Continue reading “Stories from the Slush Pile: Job Fair”