FFF 28: Sign

“What’s the difference between decompose and decompress?”

“Get in the car.”

“Not until you explain it to me.”

“How ’bout you get in the car and I’ll explain on the way?”

“It’s important.”

“We’re in a hurry. We don’t have time to chat about words.”

“This isn’t a chat; it’s important.”

“Get in the car. Now.”

“No; I need to know.”

“Why?”

“There’s a sign back there that says something about decomposing, but the way it was written, I think they meant decompressing. Well, I hope they meant decompressing.”

“And if we keep going…”

“We might have to turn around anyway, if the sign said what I think it said.”

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This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

FFF 27: Barn

The barn was dank and warm; the hay in the loft smelled like it was molding, but Jane couldn’t be sure. She looked around carefully, holding his makeshift weapon down at her side. Thinking again of her unconscious brother back at the hospital, she resolved to find those bastards and make them pay. Didn’t matter if the bullies were 12 years old, she was going to bash their kneecaps in for what they’d done to Dale.

“I told you I wasn’t going to put up with you harassing my brother,” she called out loudly, the barn soaking up much of the sound and making it seem like her voice was smaller than she imagined it. She heard rustling behind her, and she turned on her heel to find the culprit. There was a crow sitting at the barn door looking at her, it’s head cocked to one side like it was trying to figure out what she was doing there.

“You gotta problem, bird?” she asked, holding up the broken tree branch and pushing it forward in an effort to scare the crow off. It hopped back to avoid being hit with the branch but didn’t fly away as she expected it would.

“I have no fight with you, bird,” Jane said. “I’m here for the guys who put my brother in the hospital. Get outta here.” The crow cocked its head the other way but made no other movement.

“Ugh,” she said, scratching the back of her head. There was a strange whistle sound coming from the end of the barn opposite the door, and her eyes moved from the crow, scanning every minute detail. It was too dark too see much, but she wasn’t about to be scared off by unidentifiable sounds, so she marched straight toward the other end of the barn into the growing darkness and musk.

“Come out here and fight me!” she called into the moldy darkness. No one responded, but the whistling grew louder and louder until she had to cover her ears, pressing her palms tight against either side of her head.

Jane screamed, but she couldn’t hear her own voice. The crow was long gone. She didn’t know if she could take much more, and then she tripped and fell into a pile of rotting blankets and hay. When she looked back toward the door, she saw someone, but she couldn’t tell who it was. She saw sparks on the edges of her vision, and then everything melted from dark colors to white.

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This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

FFF 26: Driving (in the) rain

The rainy season is my favorite because it’s when everyone gets friendly. Yes, we all rush around trying to keep out of it, but have you ever just driven with the top down while it’s raining? It’s amazing. Everyone is waving! I wave at the trucks and cars on the road with my wipers, and they all wave back! Best feeling ever. It’s more than just chatting, something we could do any old day while sitting in a mall parking lot. When it rains, we’re connecting on a deeper level.

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This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

FFF 25: Outside of the image

laughing Italian menActually, it’s what you don’t see in this photo that makes it interesting. See, these men are actually all the Europeans I could find in Bangkok on one evening, and I’m there in the middle in the back. I ran around the city for several hours trying to round up enough people to make it look like I was in Italy or Greece, and I then I had to get them all to stick around long enough to have their picture taken with me.

They were friendly enough with me, willing to do me a favor in exchange for dinner and cigars, and they were certainly friendly with each other. Look at them all having such a great time! I’d been in a bind because I’d told a friend I’d visited Europe one summer in order to going on a trip with him, and eventually he wanted evidence that I’d actually been there like I said I had. I provided things I’d bought as gifts for family as proof, but he wanted photographs, and I came up with this at the last minute. Well, I guess it wasn’t the last minute, but it was a pretty close shave, if I do say so myself.

I had talked to him about visiting an eatery in Rome; someone had sent me a bunch of white hats and bow ties as a joke once (that’s another story entirely, let me tell you), so I dressed up the men as chefs and sous-chefs in order to make it look authentic. One of the guys even had a lovely, beautiful Spanish wife who managed to get us all into the same shot at the same time—well, except for that guy on the left—and snap a photo for me.

So, what you see here may look like one thing when it’s actually another (but that was the point).

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This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

Twisted

Twisted coverTwisted
By Holly Hook
CreateSpace/self-published
01 December 2013

A piece of science fiction/fantasy for young adults that does not have vampires and werewolves in it? Amazing! Holly Hook’s Twisted has a new take on the word “twisted”—and that’s a good thing. (For comparison, I have three other novels with the same title sitting on my ‘to read’ list, and all three are about broken and confused romances; ugh.) In this novel, however, the protagonist goes from regular teenage girl to Outbreaker (a person who turns into a tornado during storms… yes, really) and I was relieved that I wasn’t reading another overused romantic cliche of a book. Hook’s work is new and engaging.

I noticed a few irritating spelling errors (often, they were actually correctly spelled words used incorrectly) and grammatical mistakes, but I’m always on the lookout for that and I’m willing to give this novel a partial pass because the story is so appealing. I have an ebook version, and I can’t say it’s excellently formatted, but the formatting doesn’t distract from the plot and characters, either.

Allie, the sixteen-year-old protagonist, gets swept into a world she never imagined existed after her tornado-chasing vacation with her uncle takes a turn for the deadly. In the middle of a storm out in the middle of nowhere Nebraska, two adults temporarily kidnap her and bestow upon her the volatile ability to outbreak… All at once, it seems, Allie attracts storms and then becomes part of them, literally. Unable to control her new power, she shifts back and forth between frightened human and disastrous tornado with only so much as a thunder storm to warn the people around her how dangerous she’s suddenly become. She and her best friend Tommy set out to find a way to reverse her transformation, dragging her uncle and an entire Nebraska town with them in the process.

I enjoyed Allie’s realness; we as readers of the supernatural like to think we’d have a good time drinking blood and living forever or being able to move things with our minds, but in reality, that kind of thing is scary. The characters we like in fiction are often the same kind of people who we find creepy or beyond irritating in reality. Allie doesn’t jump at the chance to become a tornado the way I can imagine many other characters in fiction might. She’s afraid. She’s real, and I appreciate that. None of the characters are perfect, including Allie, and that’s what makes them all interesting, not that they have these strange tornado powers and are somehow interesting just because of that.

I don’t want to spoil the story, but I definitely recommend giving it a shot, especially if you like young adult sci-fi and/or fantasy novels but are tired of all the usual suspects. Great job, Holly! (The author also has several other novels published as well, at least one of which is related to Outbreakers, and I’ll be reading them, too, if/when I can get my hands on them. Likewise, Twisted is the first in a trilogy, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Allie soon!)

DISCLAIMER: I received Twisted free from Mark My Words Publicity for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

FFF 24: Abuse

It was unthinkable. He’d specifically told her to have dinner on the table when he returned home from work, but here she was, rushing around to make him happy (or, as it were, make him less angry).

“Sit down,” he said finally.

“Just a sec, sweetie,” she said, moving past him toward the kitchen. “Let me just get the muffins out of the oven. They’re your favorite and—”

“SIT.”

She sat. Her shoulders trembled a little, but he chose to ignore that. She’d gotten herself into this mess in the first place, after all.

“You know you’re in trouble, don’t you?”

“Y-yes.”

“What had I asked for?”

“Dinner on the table by the time you got h-home from work.”

“Yes. And what did you deliver?”

“But wait, just let me—” she began, her day rushing through her head, all of it trying to get out at once.

“No buts. Either you’ve made me happy, or you haven’t.”

“Yes, but there were extenuating circumstances!” she spit out before he could stop her. She clamped her mouth shut again when his eyes flashed, but it was too late.

The back of his hand hit her cheek before she had a chance to escape. Not that she would’ve tried to escape; that only made things worse in the long run.

“Do not speak over me,” he said, his arm poised for another blow.

“Yes, of c-course. Forgive me.”

“You’ve done this to yourself, you know,” he said, his hand coming down on the top of her head this time. “You’re in control here, and you’re the one who’s always making me punish you. Why do you do this to me?”

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This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

FFF 23: Medical

“So, we’re doing this sterilization thing?” the patient asked.

The doctor looked at her sympathetically. “Hon, we don’t call it ‘sterilization’ here; it sounds so”—she scrunched up her nose in distaste—“medical.”

“It is a procedure.” It wasn’t a question. The doctor nodded anyway. “And it’s performed by a doctor.” Another nod. “In a hospital.” More nodding.

The patient jerked back a little, forcing the doctor to acknowledge her frustration. “Then how is it not medical?”

“Ah, well,” the doctor began, pulling on a pair of white latex gloves, “we see some people who find it scary to think about it as surgery that’s so permanent—”

“But it is permanent, right?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And they don’t want that?”

“It’s more complicated than you’re making it sound, hon,” the doctor said, sitting back on her rolling stool while the patient hopped up onto the high table.

“I guess so,” the patient agreed, though she sounded far from convinced.

“Are you ready?” the doctor asked.

“Yes, let’s get this overwith.”

“And you’re sure you don’t want to reconsider?”

“I’ve been considering for ten years. Get on with it.”

The doctor leaned forward again. “All right. Take a deep breath; this will sting.”

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This post is part of Flash Fiction February.