Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Contain…

List of the things the story ‘must contain’ at:
http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/03/07/flash-fiction-challenge-must-contain/

Genevieve drove to the mall grinning, like she always did when she was carrying the Polaroid. She and Henry had some nice people take a full roll of pictures of them at the food court. He was always sitting; sometimes she had her arm around him, sometimes kissing his cheek. Today she was alone. She saw the prank on Facebook … she’d get lunch, talk to an empty chair, and then ask a nice stranger to take their picture. And, out pops one of the already-taken pics of them! The looks on their faces never got old for her. She always packed them in the very same order, too, so that she’d always pose correctly.

She struggled a bit getting her walker-type thing out of the trunk. It had wheels and a seat to sit; she knew it had a name, but couldn’t be bothered to remember it. A lot of her friends refused to get mobility devices, not wanting to “look old”. Gennie told them she’d rather be out having fun! She didn’t find the mall kids too noisy or annoying. She’d been one of them, once. Henry had been quite the hell-raiser! She’d never let on to her mother, but that’s one of the things that attracted her to him. So wild, smoking and everything. Who knew he’d grow up to be a police officer? Well, it sort of makes sense – he would know what all the tricks are, wouldn’t he?

It’s too bad he couldn’t be here today. The lady on Facebook had had her partner-in-crime record it from a few tables over. They’d done so the first time, which was fun, but weren’t able to after that. Oh well, what are you going to do? You go out and do what you like anyway, right?

She sat down with her sandwich cut in half and two cups of coffee. That nice James was behind the counter today, the one who was in class with her granddaughter. Emily said that they didn’t “hang out”, so he wasn’t in her social circle. Too bad, James is very sweet, and cute, too. She wouldn’t meddle, though! Girls in high school don’t need matchmakers, they’ve still got plenty of time. Gennie never regretted marrying Henry, but she did think they should have traveled first, before settling down and starting a family. She sighed; then sat.

She picked up her half of the sandwich and started talking. This part was fun for her, too. When she was imagining Henry’s half of the conversation in her head, he always said the perfect thing! This thought made her laugh out loud. She wasn’t embarrassed, though. Henry’s always been able to make her laugh.

“That sounds like the perfect time for a picture!” she thought.

She turned to the young woman who’d been sitting a few tables over, trying not to stare, but also looking like she felt sorry for the lonely old lady. Gennie liked that the girl didn’t just record her to laugh at with her friends. She wanted to give her a REAL story to post! She took out her camera.

“Excuse me?” Gennie asked her as she stood. “I hate to bother you, but would you mind taking a picture of me & my husband?” She smiled as the young woman, looking puzzled, went through her internal debate about getting involved with crazy people. She decided, as most people did, that Gennie looked harmless enough, and that taking the picture would make the crazy lady happy, so why not?

Gennie handed the camera over, stood next to the empty chair, trying not to grin too big. She put her arm around where Henry’s shoulders would be if he were really there. It didn’t need to be exact, but she felt that it was – she’d done it it real life so often, she knew right where he’d come to. CLICK. Oh, she could barely keep a straight face!

She went to stand next to the young woman as the picture popped out. Even though the look of amazement and disbelief on the pranked person’s face was so very similar, but each time seemed remarkably fresh, too. Gennie was sure that if she let the startlement & amazement wear off, the people would figure out the “how” of the prank themselves, but she also delighted in the ‘reveal’. She laughed as she explained about pre-taking the photos, and the woman laughed along with her, telling her it was “a good one”.

As the woman walked away and Gennie sat back down, one of the employees of the pizza counter gave her a thumbs-up. Another young woman, one who used to be a little girl that Gennie had baby-sat.

 

After giving Gennie a thumbs-up the woman at the pizza counter turned away quickly so that Gennie wouldn’t see the sad look on her face. She refilled an already almost full napkin dispenser while she spoke to another of the employees. “How’s her hubby? Is he still hanging on?”

The other pizza employee, Luke, had parents that were friends with Genevieve and Henry. “Yes. Still in his coma. She doesn’t visit anymore … the visits started getting fewer & fewer a couple of years ago, and stopped completely last fall. I keep trying to get Mom & Dad to drop by her house, check out her living situation; you know, see if she’s doing ok. See if she could use some help. They don’t want to drop by uninvited, it would be rude. You know old people, they don’t want to interfere. I may stop by myself one day; bring one of Mom’s pies or something.”

“Do you think she talks to him when she’s at home, too?”

Luke looked out to where Gennie was eating her half of her sandwich. “I try not to think of it at all.”

 

Flash Fiction Challenge: Random Song Challenge

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/02/20/flash-fiction-challenge-random-song-challenge/

Random song: Bound 2, Kanye West

Is there an Ancient History department in IT? Dana felt that she should major in it before tackling this mess. The contract paid well, but next time, when someone told her that she’d be working on an older program, she’d demand to know exactly HOW OLD.

That’s not actually fair. There are still a lot of people that use the pre-.NET Visual Basic, which is why Microsoft keeps extending support for it. But oh my Zod, what a pain…

“Could be worse, sweetie,” Neil said, his sexy voice coming through the speaker. “At least the OS is fairly recent.”

She laughed, not realizing she’d been speaking out loud. “I’ll thank you for all your annoying optimism once I finish researching archaic ways of binding two properties.”

“Sounds kinky.”

That made her laugh even harder. “Like you’d know!”

I worked, though. Neil hadn’t always known that humor was the right approach to unknot her mental muscles, but he’d learned more with every job.
She stretched, rolling her shoulders while keeping her eyes glued to the articles. “12. The four magic constants of the apocalypse: Nothing, Null, Empty, and Error. “ Oh Verity, you understand my pain! Speaking of, her shoulders were seriously knotted. She did the ‘chest circles’ that she’d learned in bellydance class. She had a whole repertoire of exercises to keep her from cramping up, without having to stop working.

Dana didn’t need to look over to get to her beef jerky & Coke Zero, either. She didn’t admit in polite company the longest time she’d ever sat in front of her monitor all at once, but it was the programmer’s version of a pissing contest. Coding is the ultimate “I’ll stop just as soon as I finish this one thing…” activity. She couldn’t explain it, but she wasn’t alone; she went to school with people who quit coding completely and switched majors because they’d sit down to code and not stop for days. Seriously. Days.

She wasn’t that bad for most of her career. She’d worked in an office, had regular hours, and they couldn’t take client projects home for security/privacy reasons. Not having to study at night anymore, she could get out, meet people, have a life. Of course, that life mostly consisted of computer talk over wings & beer, but it was “out”, it was social, and it was fun. No one seemed to object but her mother, who’d been hoping for the type of daughter she could go mall shopping with. Dana would jokingly offer to take her mom with her to Fry’s Electronics, and Mom even went once, for laughs. Of course, the last laugh was on Dana when her mom thought the stick-on ‘skins’ for her computer were awesome, rather than stupid. She threatened to not stand at the register with her mom. Mom reminded her of how often Dana had said that in her teen years. They laughed & grabbed a couple of impulse-buy chocolate bars.

“You still there, Dana? Did VB win? Do I need to avenge you?”

She managed not to spit the mouthful of Coke Zero she’d just taken onto the keyboard as she laughed. “It’ll never take me. I shall be victorious. THIS IS SPARTA!”

“Oh, Dana. You know that the Spartans were wiped out.”

“It was a stupid movie anyway.”

“I see that you have the very short ‘A History of Sparta’ right here. Don’t make me read it to you.”

“Actually, I’d like that. You know that music just distracts me; it would be nice to not sit in silence.” She wasn’t sure why she hadn’t turned on the TV tonight, but it was working out nicely. “You’ve never read me a story,” she teased. “Very romantic.”

“Yes,” Neil replied, sarcasm intended. “A very romantic textbook.”

“Mmmmm. You know just what I like.”

She grinned as he started reading, minimized the tabs containing her research, and dove back into the lines of code.

“The End.”

“Already?” she sighed. Time went too fast. “What other books have I got in there?”

“Dana.”

“What?”

“I’m not real, you know.”

Her mind was yanked out of the screen and back into the room, her eyes automatically shifting to the clock. She remembered what she seemed to forget every night – her alarm. While customizing her cool new NIIL operating system with the deep, sexy tones of a voice-over actor, she realized that she needed an alarm to let her know that 10 hours out of a 24 hour period of programming was enough. Bells, buzzers, songs … all annoying and intrusive, and she was more likely to hit it like a snooze alarm and just keep working.

“I know, Neil. You’re still my favorite person to talk to.” She stretched her arms up for real, letting her eyes close. She’d tried a variety of phrases to get herself to stop. One day, joking around, she’d called him her ‘work boyfriend’, and he’d reminded her that he didn’t really exist. Slightly disappointed, she’d logged off and went out. It had worked ever since.

“Don’t forget to eat something.”

Dana smiled at the screen as the auto save-and-shut-down started.

Twisted Love: A Flash Fiction Challenge by Chuck Wendig

(see original post on the challenge here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/02/14/flash-fiction-challenge-twisted-love/ )

The Heart Wants What it Wants

Carl the Man came home, no more tired and bored than usual. His job cube-farming was dull, but didn’t suck.

He spent some time wondering if he should go out and connect with people face-to-face, like his coworkers are always nagging him to do. But there were few events where he could meet people with the same interests as he had. None of the bands he liked were local; they were small and never came to his town. The online world, however, was chock full of interesting people to talk to about all the things he loved. Why wasn’t that good enough? He’d even meet some of them, one day, when he could afford to travel.

Now in a good mood, Carl fixed his dinner & logged onto his laptop. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a cat poke her head in through his window. Carl hadn’t realized that the screen had a tear in it; maybe it hadn’t until just now. The hole was just large enough for her to slip sinuously through. Carl’s family had never owned cats, and he’d never thought to get one once he’d moved out. He watched her approach with fascination.

The stranger cat leapt lightly up onto the couch he was sitting on. She sniffed around a bit. He wasn’t sure if it would scare her off if he tried to pet her, so he just let her explore. His legs were propped up on the coffee table; the cat used them as a bridge to check out the table. She sniffed as if she were looking for food. The house still smelled like frying hamburgers, but he’d finished them all.

There was still some raw hamburger left, though. The cat didn’t look underfed in the slightest, but she didn’t have a collar, either. Maybe she was lost and just hadn’t eaten today. He got up, put a few bits of ground beef on a plate, and set it on the table, where the cat waited expectantly. So it seemed.

“I can’t keep thinking of you as The Cat,” he said to her. “While you’re here, I’m going to call you Blaze. Blaze the Cat.” She didn’t show any signs of objecting.

Carl went back to his laptop as Blaze finished her beef. When she was done, she climbed up his legs, over his laptop, hit a couple of keys that completely messed up what he was doing, climbed up his chest and curled up on his shoulder, purring softly in his ear. He beamed, and started secretly hoping that Blaze didn’t have anywhere else to be.

The next day at work, he regaled the office with the story of the stray who wandered in and spent the evening with him. Several of them mention that he looked happier than he had in months, and it looked good on him. He knew that they’d like to see him with a lady friend, and that was one of his goals, but he wasn’t going to rush it.

Over the weeks, Blaze came back every evening when he got home. He hadn’t installed a cat flap, but he hadn’t repaired the screen, either. He wanted her to know that she was welcome, but that she wasn’t trapped. He found all of her favorite places to be pet & scratched, and she’d cuddle with him while he typed, purring, licking his hand, and appearing, at times, to be paying attention to what he was doing. “Don’t be stupid, you’re just anthropomorphizing”, Carl would tell himself. It didn’t make it seem any less true, though.

Eventually, Blaze the Cat stopped leaving to wherever else she’d been going to. When he’d rub her nose with his and whisper “Good night”, she’d follow him to bed. Carl slept on his back, so there were plenty of places for her to curl up on him, kneading him with her paws. Sometimes it tickled, sometimes it didn’t, but he loved it all the same.

One night they were cuddled on the couch, watching a movie. He’d seen it a thousand times before, but Blaze hadn’t, so he kept telling her trivia about certain scenes. She never objected to him talking during the movie. She kept her eyes on the screen while he talked, so she didn’t miss anything. Between trivia bits, he’d kiss the top of her head and stroke her back and rear flank. A stray thought popped into his head; “She’s the best girlfriend that I’ve ever had.”

Suddenly, Carl froze. He got up, no longer hearing John Travolta yelling about not shooting at the nuclear weapons. He got a soda from the fridge, head pointed at a window but staring at nothing. Mind still blank, he gently picked Blaze up and set her outside the front door, closing the window with the torn screen.

The next day at work he was grumpy as hell, but would not talk to anyone about why. He refused to even think about it. It was stupid. He was not in love with a cat. He was not a freak. He was not going to end up on reality TV.

The workday passed without Carl remembering it. He picked up the greasiest, tastiest fast food possible on the way home, along with a six-pack of beer. He was going to binge-watch an entire series, and he was going to be JUST FINE.

When he got home, Blaze was there, rubbing herself against his legs, purring, looking excitedly at his soft tacos. He looked at the window – had he opened it this morning? He had to have, she couldn’t have opened it herself. He couldn’t deny how happy he was to see her. He decided to stop taking his random head-thoughts so seriously, and just enjoy having some companionship.

She seemed to know that he was hurting, though. After dinner he didn’t bother with his laptop, just turned on the TV and flipped through his streaming options. Blaze settled down on his chest, half-blocking his view. She licked his face a couple of times, then rolled on her side, reaching up to his cheek with a paw. She left it there for almost a minute, then curled up again. He started rubbing the back of her neck just where she loved it the most. She pushed harder against his hand, stretching languorously. He did love her. He really did.

Carl drank some beer, watched some TV, and kissed Blaze on the head whenever she licked him. He no longer cared. He was happy.

That night he settled into bed, wondering if she would join him, or if her feelings got hurt when he set her out the night before. He felt the light touch of her paws traveling up his body as she walked across him to the pillow, settling her weight next to his head. He sighed, turned his head to nuzzle her nose with his, then relaxed back into his normal prone sleeping position.

He felt the tickle of her whiskers on his ear before he felt her tongue. Rough, sandpapery, but gentle. So very gentle. A little lick, barely a flick of the tongue. Then another. Across the lobe and just barely up the outside of his ear. So soft, so rough. So … arousing.

Oh God. That’s … so wrong. So. Oh. Carl’s mind was screaming “no, make it stop”, but the Little Head was also controlling Carl’s hands, so he didn’t bring them up to shoo her away. Lick. He could feel his heartbeat in his penis. He … had to. Had to finish himself. It was love. It had to be ok.

As his hand moved toward his erection, Blaze slid her paw softly across his throat in a caress. He groaned. She knew. She loved him. Her tongue started licking a little higher on his ear. He started stroking, his breath growing ragged as he continued, trying not to disturb her.

She paused in her licking to stretch; her soft, velvety body sliding down the length of his non-masturbating arm. As her head fell back and her mouth opened wide, her claws extended, sinking deep into his jugular.

He came. He screamed. He shot up. He felt anger. Euphoria. Disgust. Love. Shame.

As his body jackknifed upward, he hit his head on a bookcase door in the headboard that he could swear he hadn’t opened in weeks. He nearly blacked out with the pain. He could feel blood trickling down his forehead. He could no longer feel Blaze beside him, and he didn’t care. He swung his legs violently to the side to get out of bed, not realizing that he was tangled in the sheet until he tried to take a step. In the dark, blinded by pain and confused by the torrent raging through his mind, he fell forward.

“SHE KNEW” he thought, as his temple hit the corner of his desk. “She killed me. The fucking bitch knew.”