Friday, January 17, 2014

Flight of the Peacock

Back to the Flash Fiction challenge. This week at terribleminds Chuck Wendig gave us two lists of twenty words each. A die or a random number generator helped us choose one number from each list. These two numbers together equaled the title of the story we were supposed to write. I ended up with "flight of" and "peacock." 

Well, technically I ended up with "Whispering Encyclopedia" but while fleshing out that idea I realized I wanted to make it much, much bigger than 1,000 words. So I went back and chose another two words. Enter the peacock.

And this too ended up being a much bigger idea than I intended. I kinda fell in love with the characters and want to spend a lot more time writing about them. But, fortunately, I was able to concoct a 1,000 (or 1,065 is you want to get specific) word scene for this week. 

Comments are welcome as I am new to this and want all the help I can get.


Her guard Captain, Branka, is first to board the airship. The few guards left under his command follow and fan out on the deck. She and her advisors are left to shuffle themselves into the space between the guards and the railing. She finds herself pressed against the side of the ship looking down at the nine districts of Tsuntsun’eze, spreading out like a peacock tail from behind the body of the palace. The shouting begins almost immediately.

“Hell’s gears! What do you think your doing? “

“You need to take off. Now. They’re right behind us.”

“We ain’t no people peddlers. Shuffle yourselves off my ship!”

She looks down, straight down and sees arms and shoulders swirling around the port tower. The steady thapp-thapp-thapping of boots on stone stairs is a rising counterpoint to the frenetic shouting. Faces down below her lean out and look up, twisting with fanatic disgust.

Anathema. Profane. Woman.

She leans over the railing.

She opens her mouth to shout, to speak - something, but closes it again when no sound comes out. She looks down at her hands. Swirling lines, flowers and feathers tattooed in ink only a few shades darker than amber coloured skin.


Her hands clench.

“Why am I awake? I can’t see the sun. That means I should be sleeping. Explain yourself.”

A new voice, dry as white wine and on her right. She turns and sees a fresh snowfall of hair and pale, blue-green ice chips for eyes. Ah. The Captain. And not just any old captain.

“Vayu Oya.”

His lips turn up a little. More a smirk than a smile.

“I keep telling them I’m famous.”

“We need a ride.”

“Yes, your man’s been saying that. And mine has said that we do not take passengers. “

“Do you leave desperate people to die?”

“I have been known to do exactly that. Part of the reason I’m famous, I think.”

Branka and the others have noticed the conversation. He puts himself between her and the white-haired Captain. He’s almost as tall as Vayu Oya, and both of them are miles taller than her.

“We need to get her away from the city. They’ll kill her.”

“And why does that matter to me?”

“She’s the Manawa’okan.”

Vayu Oya looks at her again. At her eyes, deep and dusty peacock blue. No one else in Tsuntsun’eze has eyes that colour.

“So you’re the Heart of the Peacock Throne,” says Vayu Oya. He looks at Branka again. “And why does that matter to me?”

Branka stiffens as if struck. He’s captain of the Heart’s guard, his life devoted to her protection and well-being. He forgets that not everyone shares the calling. Especially not pirates.

“I do not take sides in political conflicts,” says Vayu Oya. “Really, I do not take sides in any conflict, except my own. I am not a peacock,” there’s s titter from amongst his crew that’s ignored, “and she is not my Heart.”

She speaks before Branka can.

“I took the choice of no choice away from you when I boarded,” she says. “If you put me off this ship you choose their side. You tell the world you agree with punishing a woman for using the power she was born with. And what would your mother say to that?”

Vayu Oya’s eyebrows jump on the fast track to his hairline.

“Who told you about my mother?”

“She’s as famous as you are. For much more admirable reasons.”

He shakes his head slowly back and forth.

“Using a man’s mother against him. If that’s how you do business I’m not surprised they want you dead.”

Her lips turn up a little. More a smirk than a smile.

“Leaving sooner would be better.”

He studies her. She holds her body still while he does. She forces herself not to look over the side of the ship. It’s been a long time. It can’t be that high. They must be here by now.


Don’t look.

“I will tell my crew to cast off. And you will give me nine earrings and a chin stud to do so.”

Another kind of stillness takes her.

“These earrings are more than just jewelry. They’re sacred. Worn by the first Manawa’okan and every other since.”

“Then they’ll buy you more days on my ship than I thought.”

She can’t bring herself to move her arms

“I do not run a charity ferry, little Peacock. Hand them over.”

“Wait,” says Branka. He undoes his jacket. Beneath it hides a breastplate with the same nine stones mounted in nine feathers of an engraved peacock. “You can have these.”

“I can have all of them. I am a pirate. It’s what we do.”

Maybe if she holds really still she’ll become invisible. Maybe he’ll forget she’s here and just takeoff. He’ll land somewhere far away and she’ll sneak away. Run away from him like she’s running away from Tsuntsun’eze. Hide from him like she’ll hide from them.

Her face tightens and her eyes burn.

Do not cry. Don’t you dare cry. Not here. Just - don’t.

She brings her fingers up to her ear. Undoes the first earring. Then the second. By the fifth one she trusts herself to speak.

“Don’t sell them. I’ll buy them back when we land.”

He doesn’t say anything. Just holds out his hand. Branka’s beside her. It feels like he’s vibrating. Don’t kill him. Please don’t kill him. No one’s going anywhere if you kill him. She doesn’t need to worry. Branka has more than just muscle. He begins to take off his jacket.

“Oh, no need yet,” says Vayu Oya. “Wait till we’re in the air. Ismet, cast off.”

Vayu Oya watches Branka ingest his rage and Ismet does as he’s told. The airship begins to drift away from the port tower. It’s not long before the engines fire and the airship starts to turn. Just in time. The dock is full of people, mostly men, shouting and swearing at her. Some pull out bows but before they can fire the ship’s out of range.

She watches her city grow smaller.

White walls rising out of amber-coloured dust. Nine districts and ninety-nine temples. And a palace that used to have a Heart.

“What’s your name little Peacock? Or am I not allowed to use it?” asks Vayu Oya.

“Chantesuta. My name is Chantesuta.”

Sunday, December 29, 2013

On an Unrelated Note:

There are certain words or phrases that my mind goes ahead and reads with an accent. For example: "be specific" is always read with an Australian (or New Zealand?) accent. I don't know why.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Because I can.

No 200 words this week. Partly because Christmas, and party, and slacker, but also because I used the time I did have to force a story that should have been competed last February to submit to my revision will. So, instead of  part 5 of 5, the conclusion, there is art: my version of Esau from part 2.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jersey City

Part four of the 5 part challenge. This week I continued a story about Jersey City and the Zombie Horde it houses. Part one was written by Michael D. Woods, part two by Andrew Linder and part three by Emmy Jackson. Part four was all my fault.


“Casey’s Jersey City crew got careless,” Says Bossman. “Zombies flooded three sites. Two held them back but we blew the third. Horde made it up four flights and we couldn’t risk it. All told, probably lost fifty people.”

Bossman looks at me, gin blossoms reddening. The skin around his eyes draws tight, his hands, resting on the desk between us, clench, unclench. “Go find Casey. You ask him how he nearly lost three buildings. Then, once he answers, you make certain it doesn’t happen again.”

“Yes, sir,” I say.

Boss nods, quick, but the tears never leave his eyes. I turn and make for the stairs. How do I make fifty deaths count for something? These weren’t soldiers or made-men. These were men, women, and children, each under the protection of the Poverelli family. Fifty dead. And I gotta go make it fifty-one.

Name’s Blaylock, but everybody calls me Block. The name suits me. I’m muscle for the Family. It’s my job to make sure none of these mooks foul up and let the dead run riot over our rooftop paradise.

Here, it ain’t the zombies on the streets you gotta worry about. It’s the guy beside ya still breathing.

I only knock once ‘cause I’m a little pissed. I’m standing just outside the door to Casey’s office, gun in hand. Behind me there’s a little crowd of civilians gathering. They’re all lookin’ mean at me—probably because they’re a little fed up with the administration at this point. They’rea ll quiet-like though, ‘cause I was sent by Bossman himself and they knowed it.

It took a while to get to Casey’s place, what with the big, still smoking ruins of the building he lost in the way. Before the screw-up I coulda walked straight over. The buildings had been like a row of teeth, albeit crooked and rotting. But, one of ‘em had got knocked out, so I had to schlep it ‘cross the gap on the ground, which was dangerous.

That was a stressful trip. I am stressed.

So, I only knock once. Then I open the door, see Casey still getting’ outa his chair, and say to him, “Casey.”

“I…I can explain,” he says, but his face says he can’t, so I shoot him before he can bullshit me. His head pops like a soda can that somebody shook up and dropped.

I turn around and hear one of the civvies, actually a soldier I guess, since he’s pointing a gun at me, say, “We’re sick of the Family’s shit.”

I see that they’re all pointing guns at me and frown. I musta underestimated how angry they was.

I ain’t afraid facin’ down twenty guns any more than I am one, but I ain’t stupid, either, so I shrug and put my gun on the desk. “So now what?” I ask. The soldier steps forward with his gun leading the way and as soon as he gets close enough I sweep my arm up fast, snatch his gun right out of his hand, and I pop him under the jaw with my other fist. He goes down like a busted puppet and I put his gun on the desk nexta mine. “Anybody else?” I ask.

There are still a dozen guns pointed at me, but nobody’s shooting so I figure they’ve got something else in mind. A woman with a bandage on her eyebrow motions with her shotgun and spits, “Blaine wants to talk to you.”

The only Blaine I know’s a stupid albino mook with delusions of grandeur, not worth taking seriously, so I shrug like I don’t give a shit and let the crowd of civvies lead me back out of the office, down to the basement. We leave the soldier there in Casey’s office.

The voice is as damp as the cracked walls. “Hey, Block.”

I look around, size up the damp walls and dark corners. The no space to move makes my shoulders itch an inch above my skin. Basements ain’t the place to be with zombies rotting up and down the city. Nowhere to go when they find you.

“The hell you doing down here, dumbass?” I ask.

The albino gets a pissy look on his face. “I prefer Blaine,” he says. When I don’t say nothing he frowns but gets to the point.

“We’re tired of the Family’s way of doing things,” he says. The civvies “hear hear” and “fuck yeah” at that and I snort.

“Sure. Getting your ass saved can make a man resentful.”

“There are a hundred unsaved asses in that crater.”


“Yes. That’s much better.”

“So, what? Gonna move to Florida? Get yourselves some beach houses? Beaches got zombies. Everywhere’s got zombies.”

“No,” he says with another stupid look on his face, part smug-asshole, part constipated-asshole. “We’ll be staying here. But the Family won’t be running things anymore. We will.”

I laugh in his face.

“How? Family’s everywhere. Runs everything. Only way they don’t is if they all dead. Dumbass shit like you can’t pull that off.”

Friday, December 13, 2013

In Too Deep

Here is part 3 of the 5 part challenge. The first 200 words and title were written by Jim Franklin, and the second 200 were written by Lynna Landstreet

I really enjoyed this one.


The plunge into the ice-cold water hit Derry like an avalanche. A fading knowledge of the film Predator had informed him to lower his body temperature so that the alien wouldn’t see him. Though he hadn’t realised how cold the water would be, how the flow of the water would drag him away from the bank, or how his thick woolen coat and boots would become the rocks that pulled him down.

It’s worth noting at this point that in Predator, the hero was a hardened military veteran with experience in guerrilla warfare, while Derry worked in the Accounts department for a large national fish exporter, and the most alien thing he had encountered in his life so far was the perpetual lack of sticky notes in his office. Being woefully terrible at making quick decisions, preferring an hour or two to mull over every eventuality, also goes some way to explain his poor choice of hiding place.

His limbs stiff, his breathing now wheezy gulps, and his head now spent more time underwater as his legs struggled to move. Derry panicked, with a thought that he didn’t have hours to mull this over…. he was going to die.

As he floundered, the creature loomed over the water's edge, staring down at him -- so much for the hope that it wouldn't see him! It raised some sort of complicated device to its -- those were its eyes, weren't they? Undoubtedly a weapon of some sort, and he found himself wondering which would be worse: drowning, freezing to death, being vaporized, or being eaten. But no laser bolt came, just a light that illuminated his sodden head as the creature peered through some sort of lens. The hell --? Was that some kind of camera?

The thing opened its terrifying maw, and let out a sound somewhat like a cow being fed through a woodchipper. Or at least what Derry imagined that might sound like, not that he'd ever needed to before now. Then it made some adjustments to a device affixed to its throat, and a strange mechanical voice accompanied the bellowing: "Good evening. I observe that you have placed yourself in a context|challenge|predicament causing respiratory and circulatory distress. May I inquire as to the significance of this act among your tribe|culture|species? Are you attempting to terminate your existence, or this is an artistic performance|athletic event|mating display?"

This was not any of the scenarios Derry had imagined.

“Ath… wha? Uhh, wait, no?” he said.

“Please excuse me. I do not understand your meaning|phraseology|intention. Do you use slang|jargon|patois? This lexicon has not been upgraded to include modern slang.”

What did he say to that?

“I don’t… I….” was all he managed before the water pulled him under again. A struggle for the surface brought limited response from his limbs and panic almost caused him to breathe in. He did inhale when something snaked around his waist and the following flight through the air was punctuated with hacking. He landed hard and it forced the last of the water out of his lungs.

Five copper eyes blinked at him.

“Not a mating display,” it said.

“No. I thought…. I thought you were… ah… Predator. From, the movie, because… I did.”

The creature twisted its head upside down like an owl.

“Incorrect. I am not a predator. I am Richard. I am intolerant|on a restricted diet|vegan."

Derry’s brain surrendered.

“Richard,” he said.

“Richard is not my actual name. I have chosen this name for convenience|to make friends|humour.”

“Richard isn’t your real name. Because you’re a vegan.”

Friday, December 6, 2013

1000 words in 5 parts.

First challenge: write 200 words of a story and pass it along. Take someone else's 200 words and write the next 200. Continue until 1000 words are written. I missed part one, but I enjoyed part 2. I even got a character sketch out of the deal, which will be added to part 5's post. Because I can.

The first 200 hundred words were written by rccross.


Jacob stood alone on the fog covered dock. A spectral figure wreathed in frost and ice crystal.
The glock hung loosely at his side with the apathy of sleep deprivation.

A beam of light lanced through the fog and somewhere far off a fog horn belched.

He waited.

His fingers were numb on the grip and his exposed skin was cold and clammy.

He waited some more.

Then he heard it, the slow stutter of hooves clacked across the dock; Each step loud and surreal in the opaque air.


He shivered.

Jacob told himself it was only the chill of the fog, but he knew better.

He saw the eyes first.

Red as rage and hot as a furnace.

One step after another.


He ran his tongue over his ragged lips and croaked out a greeting.


His voice sounded like a lost child.

Afraid, alone and desperately wanting to be elsewhere.

The terrible eyes moved forward in their unrelenting pace.


It ripped through the fog, its two cloven hooves leaving a scorch marked trail.

His teeth chattered .

It came to a sudden halt, its black armor clanking like a death toll.

It gave a serrated grin.
“I think we both know why I’m here.”
“Listen… uhm…”

It shook its head slowly back and forth.

“No, Jacob, No. Think before you speak. Ask yourself, is this something that needs to be said, or is it something I’ve heard too many times before?”

Jacob opened his mouth but found his voice had taken the advice seriously and gone somewhere to think. Esau smiled again and moved closer. The step thudded and the dock creaked. The hand with the gun jerked up and aimed at several places in the general area of a heart. He brought up his other hand to steady the trembling.

“Oh dear, it doesn’t have silver bullets does it?”

Jacob darted a look at the gun.


“Jacob, that was a joke.” This was murmured in his ear. During that moment he had looked at the gun instead of the target Esau had covered the distance between them. And had done so silently. It stood in front of him, leaning over to put its head next to Jacob’s. He could smell sage smoke and salt water

“What are you doing with this Jacob? Guns don’t kill people. Well, not people like me.”


A couple of years ago I got tired of being afraid so I started to collect experiences that frighten me. Like this one: having a blog, writing 1000 words a week and posting them on the internet for all the world to see. 


So here we go. I'm joining the flash fiction challenge at 1000 words due by noon every friday, topics chosen by Chuck Wendig. As twisted as my intestines are, I'm also really excited. Wish me luck.