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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Flash Fiction Contest, Round 2!

Welcome to the Second Week of the Tales of Whoa/Potato Chip Math Flash Fiction Contest!

The rules are very simple: we give you a prompt and you write 500 words or less (including the prompt).

You can write in any style that you wish; just be sure to use the prompt exactly as it is shown, keep it under 500 words, write it in English, and ensure it's completely made up (this is a flash fiction challenge after all).

Next week Andrew and I will post the pieces we liked the best and will do a shout out on Twitter to those folks (if they so desire; if you'd like us to recognize you there, please include your Twitter handle).  After a few months we'll compile a list of our favorites and we'll get the Internet to vote.  The winner will win stuff (to be determined, but we're sure they'll love it).

Now, without further ado, we present this week's prompt:

"Rays of red sunlight slant in through the window of the cabin.  The only problem is, I have no idea whether it's sunrise or sunset."

[image courtesy of Fir0002/Flagstaffotos and the Wikimedia Commons]

Use the comments below to submit your work.  You can submit anonymously if you wish, but wouldn't it be nice to be recognized if you win?

The deadline is Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 8:00 PM EST.

Have fun!


  1. Consciousness came back slowly, creeping through my head. I tried to roll over, and discovered that consciousness was as far as it went, my muscles had called in sick. Panic swelled, butterflies of iron beating “Go, Go, GO!” in my stomach but no cooperation. I could feel my limbs, they weren’t numb, just not moving.
    So. Breathe.
    Slowly, slowly, breathe. That’s progress. Now for the other 95%.
    Last night was not a blank. I remembered everything from the nibbles at the party to gratefully sliding out of my heels when I got to my cabin. But the sheets my face is planted in don’t smell like my sheets and my ears are buzzing louder than the band’s overenthusiastic amplitude would account for.
    That time, I just try to move my head and get feeble success. After a certain amount of mental cursing, I unglued one eyelid, then the other. At least I was facing the right way. Looked like a standard crew cabin, one of any given thousand on a standard cruiser. Useless for telling where I am, or how long I’ve got before someone comes looking.
    Rays of red sunlight slant in through the window of the cabin. The only problem is, I have no idea whether it’s sunrise or sunset. Or even which sun is shining. I couldn’t see if there’s a clock on the wall, but the buzzing is getting louder, not quieter. I could nearly feel the vibration coming through the wall even though I wasn’t touching it.
    Nothing else I can do.
    Either someone will find me or things will get back to normal enough that I can find myself out of here. If it’s sunrise, people will be looking soon. If it’s sunset, people will already be looking. A senior officer can’t disappear for longer than 8 hours without permission in triplicate, and usually not even then. They’ll be looking.
    Twitches herald the return of useful muscles, starting in my arms and hands, and then legs and feet. I could roll over now, but then I have to lie there and tremble, staring at the bunk above me.
    Breathe. Almost there.
    After what felt like hours, and might have been, I swung my legs out, let my feet rest on the cold tile floor. I’m nauseous now, and the chill felt good, a distraction.
    One more deep breath, and I heaved myself up, dizzy from being flat for so long. The room grayed out around the edges as I held onto the ladder to the top bunk.
    Breathe. Sight comes back, adrenaline coming as my success at standing flooded me with relief. I staggered first to the window, thought that what I could see was wrong, a poster, a remnant of last night, hallucination. I should be seeing Home Station, that familiar dock with it’s orbiting satellites and spaceships. This is Space, free-floating, a system I’m not familiar with. I’m on a ship. I’m on the wrong ship.
    Well, shit.

  2. An Author’s Fairytale

    There once was a rich man who had a son he thought would never amount to anything. He told the young man that if he made something of himself, he would give him all the wealth he owned. So the young man encouraged by his father’s promise, decided to become an author. He rented a cabin in the wilderness and since it was quite removed from all society, he decided to walk there, pondering the subject of his novel as he went.
    During his journey, he met a Man who, upon learning of the young man’s ambitions, advised him to write about time because it was the one understanding placing mankind above the animals. The young man thanked him and went on his way; whereupon he met a second Man who, upon learning of the young man’s chosen destiny, told him that he should write about happenings occurring in every man’s reality because in this way those who read his book would experience the world as every man, ensuring him many readers in the years to come. The young man thanked him and went on his way; whereupon he met a third Man who, upon hearing the young man was writing a novel, advised him to write beautifully above all else because regardless of what he had to say, readers would only pay attention to bold, colorful language.
    Thus, when the young man reached the cabin, he immediately began writing his novel, keeping in mind the advice given to him by each of the men he met along the way. He had only begun to write when he heard a knock at the door. Upon opening it, an old Man asked to come in and partake of his hospitality. Once the old Man had been fed and comforted by the fire, he asked the young man why he was in the wilderness so far from others. The young man told him he was attempting to become an author. When the old man asked to hear what he’d written thus far, the writer read him the following sentence:

    "Rays of red sunlight slant in through the window of the cabin.
    The only problem is, I have no idea whether it's sunrise or sunset."

    The old man expressed his delight over the young man’s hook and asked what was going to happen next in his story. After the young man finished his tale, the old man nodded his approval and said, “Show, don’t tell,” and fell to the floor dead.
    Taking his advice, the young author wrote the greatest novel of all time in colorful language which showed the reality of every man. The novel was a literary success, gaining the attention of the King who, upon finishing the reading of it, gave the author his only, beautiful daughter in marriage. The author and his wife lived a long life from his father’s inheritance and the thirty-three printings of his book.

  3. "Rays of red sunlight slant in through the window of the cabin. The only problem is, I have no idea whether it's sunrise or sunset."

    … as George said to himself while sipping the cold cup of coffee beside him.

    It’d been a rough couple of weeks since the Rapture happened. Well for everyone left that is. Babies, old people, pilots flying planes, delivery guys, people washing dishes and driving cars. All of a sudden … just gone.

    For the first couple of days afterwards listening to the radio would’ve been funny if it wasn’t all so real … and obvious what had happened. All the conspiracy theorists and so-called religious and other experts trying to explain what had really happened. Funny, all the politicians, news anchors and gossip columnists were all still accounted for.

    After that, the chaos really set in. It was a free for all in the cities. Any sense of law … any sense of normality was gone and cities just seemed to implode on themselves. Martial law was now everywhere, and it was taking all that much longer to put the fires out with so many fire fighters among the … missing.

    George took another sip of his cold coffee.

    “The Rapture?!”


    “Who knew all that shit from Sunday school as a kid was actually real?!”

    “Luckily, we were outside the city when it happened.”

    “Luckily … hopefully … the cabin is so far off the path from any … civilization.” George smirked for a moment recalling his wife Sally’s complaints a few years earlier. “It’s a mile and a half through bush to reach the cabin! And that’s after the 30 minutes in the SUV on an unkempt dirt road, and 3 hours of highway!” Between him and his brother Chuck they had a real chance of keeping their families safe.

    The sun was now higher on the horizon.

    George glanced at the antique clock on the wall. 6:18.

    There were a million things running through his half awake stupor of a mind. Even in this state George’s thoughts still centered on his wife and infant son and daughter asleep in the first bedroom to the left. “Hopefully they’re dreaming happy dreams” he thought.

    And there was Chuck to his right. Fast asleep on the couch with his arms wrapped around his 30-06 Springfield rifle the way a little kid clutches a teddy bear.

    That surprised George the most. Out of everything that had happened his sense of humour was still intact.

    George took another sip of his cold coffee and pulled himself out of his chair.

    Some of those people from Toronto will have escaped the city and will be heading for the country. Looking for … demanding refuge. Some of those people won’t be nice people.

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  5. I don’t make enemies. That’s a punchy, but clichéd way to start. It’s relevant though, because it explains why it is I’m so surprised to find myself hanging upside down by the ankles above a water trough in what looks like an abandoned cabin. Apparently having an enemy isn’t as glamorous as the movies make it out to be. I hope my use of the singular is accurate. Maybe if I use it consistently, life will adapt to the narrative? It must be better to have one enemy than many.

    But I don’t make enemies. Maybe I’ve found an enemy? Or, given the current balance of power, an enemy has found me. That could be it: this is someone else’s enemy, not mine. A comforting thought, but not one that’s of any immediate use. First I need to work out where, and in what shape I am: I’ve seen enough spy movies to know that much.

    Rays of red sunlight slant in through the window of the cabin. The only problem is, I have no idea whether it's sunrise or sunset. I start to ponder that, but quickly realise it’s not my biggest problem yet – it’s not even relevant at all unless I can work myself free of my bindings.

    Let’s start by stretching my wrists – not much slack there. Next: ankles. No luck. Next step, and I’m pleasantly surprised by my logical train of thought, is to test the other end of the binding: I look up and a sharp pain stabs at my neck. It’s like I’ve slept with my head at right angles to my body. For a week. I won’t be doing that again soon. However, it looks like a half-rotten beam. Genuinely past its prime: I’m excited now. I can see, no: feel, a way out of this mess, whatever mess it may be. Quickly, I find myself capitalising on the adrenaline rush. Excited and nervous energy now pervades me.

    Time to start swinging and bouncing on the rope – I can see the water trough crossing my vision, getting closer and further as I swing: back and forth, up and down. Each time I bounce I’m sure I can feel a bit more give. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe...with a not inconsiderable effort I look up again – Ouch! But yes! It’s cracked! Just a bit more work and I’m sure I can break it.

    Ouch again. The beam broke. But it brought the roof down with it. I don’t think I’ve been out long. My head’s bleeding, but that’s not the worst of it. Looking down past my still-bound hands I see a large sliver of rotten-looking wood sticking out of my side. Yup, I sure showed that beam. I woozily right myself and shuffle to the edge of the trough, gasping for what is to be one of my last breaths. I notice that the red light that now bathes me through the collapsed roof is rapidly fading. Oh, I thought: it’s sunset.

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  7. I try to wake up, but the dreams hold me. A whirlwind of images.

    It takes all my effort to break through the barrier that keeps me from my consciousness.

    I am aware of my body now and I feel the air going in and out of my lungs. Slowly, I shift all my attention on my eyelids and blink.

    I can see.

    I find myself in a bed pushed up against a wall which is part of what looks like an unkempt cabin. My muscles protest as I prop myself onto my elbows and look around, trying to find anything which might tell me where I am, or when.
    Rays of red sunlight slant in through the window of the cabin. The only problem is, I have no idea whether it's sunrise or sunset.
    I push myself up further and lean against the wall- it is cool and solid, quite opposite to the thoughts running through my head.
    Where am I? Who brought me here? Is my family safe?
    -and the most confusing one of them all- Why am I still alive?

    The doctors had said I was infected. They had taken away form home and locked me up in one of those clinics.
    It was hell.
    People screaming and crying for their families, the stench of blood, vomit and death everywhere. I remember telling myself that if I pinched hard enough I would wake up and find out that it was all a dream. That the plague had never happened.

    After what seems like forever I manage to stand on my feet and walk, it feels unfamiliar, as if I hadn't moved in a long time.
    I stumble toward the half-open door using the wall as a support. A few steps later I am able to walk on my own. The floor is cold and every step hurts.

    Finally I reach the door. I stretch out my hand to push the door, but I pull back.
    I can hear voices.

    "- wake up. Maybe she won't survive" a woman was saying.

    "We have to hope, she's doing good so far. Maybe tomorrow she'll come around"

    A chill creeps down my spine- they're talking about me.

    "And then what are we going to do, Mark?" says the woman "Study her system? Hope for a cure in another couple of years?"

    Mark is silent for a moment.

    "We'll have to harvest her blood" he says slowly.

    "But that means-"

    "Yes, she'll die. But we have to try. What is one death compared to thousands? She's the only one immune so far. Maybe it'll work. We need-"

    The sound of my heart pounding is so loud I cant hear him anymore.

    They're going to kill me, I think. I survived the flu, and now they're going to kill me.

    The room around starts spinning and I feel my knees give away as unconsciousness pulls me back into it's arms.

    I am going to die.