Betrayal by the Things we Love Most

This is a dreamy short story.


 

The boundless ocean stretches ahead. Its jagged, mirror-like surface reflects back the pale orange sun. The boat moves at speed through gently rolling waves sending up a spray of fine mist. On every conceivable surface the salted droplets land, a coating of flaky, crumbly mineral grows. The salt covers my lips and arms with crystalline layers. My grip on the railing provides purchase against the cool wind and damp. The sun helps too. Water maids accompany me on this journey, swimming in the wake and ahead of the bow in the form of dolphins.

I peer to the upper deck, flying high above, well over the worst of the spray and wind. Perched upon this, my constant companion whom I couldn’t do without. She gazes out past the local scenery with the aid of binoculars, to some far off wonder beyond my grasp. From that outlook, another horizon is visible a bit farther than my own. She takes a more pedestrian view by carrying the eagle-eyed tool off to her side. Her other hand forms a shade visor over gleaming eyes. A shift in the oncoming rays turns Claire’s body into a silhouette of a goddess on the harsh radiating light of our life bringing sun.

She comes down from her heavenly perch, nestled upon the higher deck. The ease and grace with which she moves in nothing short of perfection. Claire is down at the deck to exchange words with me. The sweet sounds of her irresistible intonation wash over me. I hear her words, but that’s not everything. This exchange has the surprising quality to put me at ease.

Claire leads me to the deck cabin by her usual mannerisms — consisting of feather light touches on the inside of my palm and arm — knowing exactly how. The deck cabin bolsters a pendulum sort of door, swinging back and forth with the lightest of breezes. Claire pushes the door aside as I miss her contact for a brief moment, moving through the filter screen of a doorway. The door swings through on its pendulum arc.

In that instant, Claire disappears into the body of the ship. I push through the door expecting the truth of Claire behind, yet she is not to be seen in the darkened chamber. I walk through the room looking for her only to be disappointed. Claire is nowhere below or above decks. A looming dread comes over me. The rhythmic slapping of the door ends with a loud bang. I look back to see nothing — an empty wall in place of the door.

I look for an escape route from the dark, desolate chamber entombed within the ship. The transom windows are inches beyond my outstretched fingers. The blackness is held at bay by late evening light coming in. Chalk markings of an indecipherable and crude tongue graffiti the walls. Paper underfoot crumples and crunches with each step. I sink to the ground in a state befitting my current desolation.

Wetness encroaches my battlements from every front. A deep red sludge, a curse adding to my sad state. With each passing breath and moment, my heart fills with revulsion. The impending creep of the fluid sends me up and away. The red concoction comes higher, soaking into more of the paper under footing, turning it into a blood red mush. I end up tasting the fluid to verify my suspicion that this is blood from some massive creature.

The transoms let in something else, filling my prison just a bit faster. The golden amber liquid comes in by waterfall. The intense smell of liquor wafts up into my nose. The liquid flows in with the goal of drowning me as sewer rat. The onslaught goes on without a sign of relenting, intent on my destruction. There must be a method escaping my thoughts that can rid me of impending doom.

The transom is my salvation. I get myself soaked through and through grasping desperately at the window inches above my attempts. Wandering from light to light, I find a step where there is none to reach my salvation. I pull myself up with as much strength as my frame can manage, up to the deck. Halfway up, a tug on my leg slides me back. The next so forceful, my head reels up into glass transom. This, my end.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Finding the Things You Want: Middle School

This is a short story about making friends.


 

I was daydreaming, sitting there at my desk, watching the other students, and imagining what their words meant beyond the words themselves. That was my typical day in middle school. I was the odd one out, because I wasn’t the same as everybody else — a social in-adept — a stranger in the ways of my age.

That’s when I saw her. It wasn’t like she was the most beautiful or the most popular. It felt like I knew her from across the room though. We had gone to the same schools for years. There wasn’t any back and forth — we’d never talked.  I wanted to be right there, in the thick of that conversation. It should’ve been easy, but they were talking about baseball.

I was out of place. I never fit in anywhere, because I was scared to be myself. That ruined me from the start. And it would take years of course correcting to change things.

That was the first of many encounters. In hallways, across the cafeteria, at football games, and the one class we had together — memories that haunted me and missed opportunities I’d never have back. If I wasn’t anti-social to the extreme, I had an in. I was smart — not study group smart. I was still a weirdo that couldn’t meet muster. The sidelines was where I would remain years on down the line.

Then things started to change. See, I had a few friends. I joined their study group. The hand of fate smiled on me, and I was in the study group with that girl the week after next.

Leaving things to fate was how I survived being my own man in a sea of conformity.

THE TRUTH:

I hid from the world, never allowing even those I knew best backstage passes.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Finding Love in the Chill of Winter

This is a short love story.


 

The snow drifted down — mini lanterns adrift on the wind, falling all around them until a fateful landing on the ice below. Glowing electricity cast light as well as shadow into the night where they stood on a frozen pond.

Her laughter filled the silent night muffled around them. Ronnie made her laugh like so few could. She could see it. A life filled with joy at every moment. But that wasn’t them yet. They were gliding along, holding hands, but apart — minutes away instead of a reach most nights.

The wind tore at them like the expectations of others — the pressure of ticking towards a happy life. Everything was chaos except the world created between them. Everything was simple inside their bubble of ebullient, jubilant love.

The darkness didn’t matter as they provided the light.

 

GK

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Annie Niemaszyk on Unsplash

The Rhyme and Meter of Love

This is a short love/loss story.


 

We used to be friends, but then we were together. Best friends knew each other like few others ever could. Crossing the line from friendship to love is a dangerous journey. But it worked. The fireworks of us together sparkled and shined bright like no other.

It wasn’t the same as it once was, now that the novelty of buried treasure was dug away. Being together is more than loving. Then the day when the truth fell from heaven — secrets that made love cleaven.

We once loved the other, but pursuing it a step further, ended in heartbreak ever after.

 

Gk

 

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Image credit: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The Trouble with Unwelcome Guests

This is a short story that turns out how you least expect.


 

Everything ends up reflected on the waxed hood lying outside the tinted windshield. The deep green of the thing itself colors everything that it shows me, any small groove showing black in the pure white vista and the reflections of the trees slipping across, bending and distorting to every curve and contour. The white snow hangs on the drooping branches of evergreens, immobile in the gently blowing winds. The freshly fallen snow stretches out ahead waiting for the oncoming wheels of car. The edge of the road just melts into the landscape under the white covering of snows past.

The two of us, Claire and I, reside within the confines, our means of conveyance, safely away from the cold outside. The warmth of the air resonates with the materials in easy grasp of both of us. The dark, rich woods accompanied by a trim of honed steel does nothing more than feed our senses. My hands firmly in hold of the soft leather intricately woven into the round steering wheel. The car eases through every twist, not once losing traction, until reaching our destination, my mother’s house.

We stop in the circular drive amidst a collection of four other’s such vehicles set upon this house for the same reason. I withdraw the keys and our gift from within the confines of this now sleeping car. Entering into the cutting chill from beyond these doors, my wool jacket provides a suitable battlement against the undeniably cold winds. The onslaught targets any points of weakness, hitting my face and hands with the biting cold that dominates the winter season. I move around the car admiring its quality and the fact that my black and burgundy choices are just skin deep, as the car’s looks. The belt line slopes up adding an aggressive look that means nothing more than that.

I go to Claire’s door, just a few steps from the house, and hold it open for her. Claire wears a long coat with a white scarf that keeps the warmth in. The lightest of touches shut the car doors. We proceed hand in hand up to the grand double door of beech framed by plaster columns. Mother greets us with Father not far behind. I remember her wearing the same thing last Christmas, a maroon dress with a matching scarf. Dad is in a forest green sweater with brown slacks. They seem happy to see us, if not a little relieved.

Claire attended many other occasions here in the familial home hence the memories of other, more innocent times. I rid myself of the jacket, now turned burden by the sudden warmth of inside. Claire takes off her scarf and coat revealing the comfortable but beautiful dress for this evening meal, a close resemblance to something found outside, a lily. It features two shades of the color orange, one dark and one bright, each of the two constructed into elongated/stretched out petals, making up the entire thing. The embroidered center crease from a reflective, almost metallic, light orange. The petals wrap around her body from her knees up in such a way that it just works. The upper extreme of two petals transform into the straps that lunge over her shoulders. She hides her hands inside the pockets at either side. I proffer up my hand that she then accepts. We enter into the dining room stuffed with guests and a bloated table of ornaments. I recognize everyone there to some degree, from people I know well to others I just know. Everyone is dressed for it.

The two empty seats at the other end of the table remain the only in pristine quality. We pass by every chair, not by convenience or choice, but by necessity to meet up again on the other side.

Irena, Claire’s absurdly young aunt sits in the first seat, across from her husband Gary, and next to my mother. The head of the table needs to stay empty for some reason I can’t think of. Irena models a dress inspired by rain with the embossed velvet and tear shape cutouts. A striking midnight blue almost as black as night itself highlights the embossed sections of a rich blue as processed indigo leaves. She looks happy and animated with the group conversation. Gary is in a black suit covering up a shirt, aquamarine as the shallow waters of a warm tropical sea.

I’m surprised to see Morris, Claire mysterious cousin in somber black like from a funeral party celebrating the life of someone no longer with us. Jenna, Claire’s twin sister dresses up in something strapless that I don’t even glance at. Rachael, an aunt of mine  ventured here in a white suit and black shirt. I pull a chair out for Claire, and seat myself next to Morris and across from Rachael. I look down the table at everything set up in all our names. A runner of leather lines the length of table and then some. The table dresses with candlesticks of silver holding nothing more than sand. Each place setting, a bowl housed over a silver charger.

We expatiate upon something incoherent but somehow understanding that it means something good. My mother leaves to get the meal out to all the visiting people and family. Her return is accompanied by a cessation, the complete body of idle conversation taking place. The green soup is passed around from person to person, each one scooping an amount into their bowls.

The meal is underway with the consumption of this blended concoction of leeks, potato, tomato, and pepper. The pleasing taste — reminding me of even better days — lulls me into a feeling of security besides the relatives I’m trying to impress. Everything around me lurches left then suddenly right. This turns into shifts in every direction that doesn’t make sense unless this is an earthquake table, which this house clearly isn’t. I feel myself lurching forward, commands to my body useless. I can’t stop myself with my arms or even my neck. I fall, headlong into the soup bowl. Luckily my head lands sideways, rendering just one eye and nostril useless. Someone comes up behind me. They lift up my head as if saving me from this loss of control, far from the aim of drowning me in soup. Soup drowning it is. My head is completely submerged in this heavenly soup despite my struggles against it. I can’t move anything except my face and breathing. I can’t get out, better to just accept it. I do.

Misguided Bais?

 

The mirror-like surface of the water stretches out a few feet below me. My tawny white wings glide across the steady gust produced from just above the surface. Miniscule adjustments steady my course. Wings trail each arm, outstretched to capture any available lift. The end of each crowned with solitary feathers sticking out as if fingers. I resume my mission to vanquish the mad blight on these lands.

 

I work my way up with effortless strokes of my mighty air movers. These wings move forward slicing through the smooth air for lift. My wings slide back through the air, facing the sky. The rhythmic motions prove efficient from years of traveling on the air. The fluid motions start at the base and move through its length each stroke. I retreat from the restrictive landscape to my home within the wide sky. Everything shrinks away showing me what there’s below. The fast flowing river nestled inside the river valley of its own creation. The V-shaped valley carved over many eons gave rise to valleys for the helper rivers. Each inset valley ends in a waterfall, continually working to deepen the efforts of erosion. I drift over to the black stone bank to catch an uplifting current. I glide in a spiral within this elevator shaft.

 

My constant vigil holds for the archenemy of the Doves. The Ravens, a vile race of winged carrion eater, will to devour anything that matches their vile nature. In the rare chance they are looking for a hunt, our food is the target. Anything between them and their hungry desire trampled as is the way of the Raven. These foul creatures run amok in their own lands, any encroachment into the border greeted with lethal force. It stays within my full rights to eradicate any Raven that crosses my path. I intend to reap revenge for all the wrongs committed by them. The consumption of our dead cannot go without consequence.

 

The “caw-caw-cawing” erupting from the throat of one such trespasser pierces the air. Those Ravens get bolder in their actions with each passing day of peace. I look out searching for the source of that latest vocal outburst. The lair of this enemy assumes a nature unmistakable in these river valleys, a tunnel at the back of a waterfall leading to a second exit. Any sign illusive but I see it now. The sight of black beak and feather, the blackness of an unscrupulous eye gazing at me verifies enough. I exit the upward spiral to meet these Ravens in their fortress.

 

The maneuver in this case, well rehearsed to deal the most damage, of such precision and speed it relegates defense to impossibility, at least. I increase the strokes to generate a fearsome wind at my back. The speed flattens my feathers against my flesh. The protective coverings shield my eyes from whatever awaits me. Just reaching the fall acts as my cue to begin the flightless roll. My arms, enshrouded in wings sealed against my sides. The tail feathers strapped across my legs leap into action controlling my spin. The water showers me in the cool refreshing wash, preparing me for the necessary action.

 

The start of combat slows every otherwise fast movement to snail’s pace. I look up to see eight of those hideous creatures dirtying the pristine white stone. A compliment of eight throwing knives and two cutlasses fit to dispatch these foes. I spin to see the first looming figure standing there. A flick to the wrist liberates the knife from its holster and sends it into the crow. I see the white of marbled stone. The next villain faces the knife as easily as the last. I wonder why they aren’t following their namesake of attack. They remain motionless prey to my predation. The next one takes another flick of the wrist, a reaction from within the solemn guard. They move in closer to my path, allowing me to pass. The sinister plan of defense starts to emerge. The next Raven quakes down with a hit to the throat. My perfect feathers take on stain of the deep red blood from my attacks to throat and heart. The sticky, sickly liquid forms a restrictive barrier upon mine own feathers, hindering movement. The next two impede, impossible to miss. The shells of dried blood encase me to greater and greater disability. The hesitation on my part allows the first defensive action, the blockage of my knives by wings. This measure is far from effective due the delayed response and the purely defensive maneuver. My doubts creep up that I’m the aggressor in this situation. My attack must continue for my people.

 

The crowning room of this base resides, the nesting room. The clutches of the eight males outside lives inside. One female stands vigil as all that’s left of this site, an oval room encrusted with countless dozens of multicolored eggs. The female waits for me at the rear exit. The cutlass from my side lands upon my breast, ready for action. My limited motions enable plunging a narrow blade into the breast of the final Raven. Her mass and bulk puts an end to my twirling and sends me into a summersault. I break through the glass barrier at the second exit and descend into the dark chasm in my entombed feathers. The hollow prison of my blood and theirs follows as penance.

 

GK

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The 1,200 Word Story

 

I’ve been thinking about how to write a piece of flash fiction. How to fit the components of a story in 1,200 words? I accidentally write 250-500 word stories. I have no intention of writing a particular scene as a complete story. Those short story paragraphs are in the middle of a longer piece. That actually works really well. If each scene has all the parts of a story, then multiple scenes build a longer piece.

 

Learning about this length of a story, 1,200 words should help my story writing a ton. It’ll help me find the essential parts of a story. What can be left out, and what can’t. It’ll teach me more ways a story can go. And writing that word count should take me a day to type out. That’s how I learn best. I closely study things related to my primary goal. Flash fiction is so close to novel writing, we’re splitting hairs. Most writers practice with short stories before getting into longer things. I also want to get published somewhere. This new skill will help.

wp

I was researching literary magazines for somewhere to send my future short stories. That means, for me opening tabs in my browser of potential magazines. I screen through for criteria the precludes a few things that aren’t feasible for me. I’m not happy ordering a print copy because that’s difficult for me to access. I’m not sure about ordering digital versions from providers with worrisome persistence. If a digital service shuts down, it’s possible you lose access to everything on there. That means publications with a few free examples. At first, I was going through the list at Writer’s & Poet’s. Then I found a list for new writer’s. All those tabs are open in my browser.

New Writer Magazine

I add each to this spreadsheet I keep. That includes the description of what they want and submission guidelines. I read through two pieces and a lot more if they’re shorter. I started researching The Zodiac Review. It’s just flash fiction. I’ve come across a lot of magazines that accept flash fiction. Given the fact that the majority of the short stories featured on Radical GK are less than 1,000 words, it should be pretty easy, right?

excel

Well, it’s not. Those stories aren’t exactly complete. Those were designed with emotional impact in mind. They weren’t supposed to be stories in themselves. And they bear that out. The writing is lyrical but too difficult to understand. Look at The Sum of an Empty Life. About 13% in, C decides to wait for Brian Whalen. That’s the first plot point which is supposed to happen 20-25% in. The second plot point is C walking away with Brian’s briefcase. That happens 44% through the story. That’s nearly right. The part where C figures out the combo is the third plot point. That’s 79% in. The fact I wrote that story two years into my writing journey is amazing to me. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The story structure is nearly spot on.

life

I didn’t come prepared to write this post. That simply means I’ll discover something in the process. The last paragraph planted an idea. Maybe I should just forget about everything I learned in Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and return to the way I used to do things. Just maybe.

story-1

 

Anyway in my research, I found a few ways to tell a story in 1,200 words. There’s this much longer piece (The Watchers). It feels like that method could be brought over to this. You list the scenes with a break between each scene. That could work, right?

sequence

Some story lines are better for that method. If the story is done so much that the reader knows the sequence of scenes. If it isn’t scene after scene in rapid succession. Some time can pass between each scene. For example the development of PTSD in soldiers. It usually isn’t one event (scene), but a long series of stressful events. If the sequence of scenes isn’t all that important, or the sequence of scenes doesn’t matter. For example the story of going from place to place, a travel story. Establishing the connections between scenes is tricky. And the reader is always searching for how much time passed between each scene.

Zodiac

There’s this other story (The Game) that uses another technique to tell flash fiction. I call it the slow reveal. It combines story with exposition. That works well when one event exemplifies a continuing pattern. I’ll provide an example of my own below. As the indicative event takes place, exposition adds the missing plot points on their time cues. The plot points can come from the exemplifying event or the flashbacks to the continuing pattern. In the piece I linked to, the first plot point is the generalization of what usually happens (20% in). The second plot point is how they act towards each other, the protagonist and his competition who is also his friend (53% in) Then the argument about who won (77% in). That matches the established structure nearly to a tee. That’s the structure from Story Engineering. I have another shorter example from this blog I follow.

second example

The last technique is the obvious one, writing it like a regular story except having the transformation happen in one scene. Like when a battle turns into a win. What happens is the enemy heavily bombards you. A new enemy weakness is discovered, and you defeat them. That isn’t too difficult.

 

1,200 word stories need a plot that works with the length. Too complicated, hard to explain plots are much harder to get across in the limited space. More nuance can be achieved with the second technique, the slow reveal.  That’s using one event to establish a pattern of behavior. That kind of feels like cheating to me.

 

A story needs to do a number of jobs in sequence as Story Engineering taught me in definable terms. Here’s the list from memory. Gain sympathy for the character from something bad happening. Establish the character or stakes. Basically the before state. Then the character decides to take the quest which is the first plot point. The character responds to what the choice brings. The character finds something internally or externally that allows them to face the conflict, second plot point. They fight against the conflicting force and lose. The character finds the missing piece to success and the will to do anything to prevail, third plot point. The events play out, enemy defeat or character dying in the process. That story I divided into plot points above shows there are many ways to fill those requirements. Accept the challenge, get permission to engage, and proof they will do anything to remain friends. You can combine those requirements anyway that works into different scenes as long as the sequence doesn’t change. That means anywhere from one scene on up.

 

This is an example plot. Abuse story: woman is abused, entering relationship flashback, hiding bruises at work, buying a gun flashback, trying to talk about it with support person, returning home hoping he isn’t there, pushed to the ground changes her mind to kill him, murder then admitting to self-defense. You could easily replace any of those scenes with anything the fills the same purpose.

 

Hiding from abuser, has to return for belongings, friend doesn’t show up so leave, buying gun/pepper spray, return to get stuff and defend, stalking causes restraining order, face him with gun, run away/disappear.

 

Fear with partner, abuse cause visible symptoms, run away, abuser follows and finds, ran away after facing enemy, finds new partner, kill abuser together, live free from suspicion.

 

All of those work. A different method perhaps, but it’s doable. Those are my explorations of 1,200 word stories. The plot has to specifically engineered to fit the constriants of the length. With novels, any story can fit. A focused story is required for shorter formats. That’s everything I have to say. Feel free to add more in the comments below.

 

Coverphoto credit: Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

 

GK

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