And Yet Another Flash ~ Early Evening Thoughts

As I’ve posted before, I enjoy flash fiction.

Other names for it include short-short stories, sudden, postcard,
minute, furious, fast, quick, skinny, and micro fiction. In France such works are called nouvelles. In China this type of writing has several interesting names: little short story, pocket-size story, minute-long story, palm-sized story, and my personal favorite, the smoke-long story (just long enough to read while smoking a cigarette). What’s in a name? That which we call flash fiction, by any other name would read as bright.

—Pamelyn Casto

Aside from naming this fiction, there is disagreement about the length of the story. Some believe it should be no longer than 500, 700 or 1000 words and some even stretch the limit to 1500 words.

I’m going to present a couple more flash stories for your enjoyment ~ don’t hesitate to bring other stories to my attention. I might use them in another post about the power of the flash fiction short!

The Silver Shadow

I see you. You’re right there in front of me. But the closer I look the harder it is to recognize you, my silver shadow.

When I think of me, you’re not it. My mouth doesn’t frown like that. There aren’t dark circles under my eyes. When I think of me I see that picture from 1970. Me watching my friends playing the guitar, smiling, laughing, eyes crinkled against the sun.

How did that girl become you? I don’t remember seeing it happen. It must have been slow, the transformation insidious. Maybe during all those years I gave myself over to parties and adventures. I wouldn’t have seen them then.

I only recall looking at you once during those years, when a two-week drunk was winding down. My bones ached; even my skin hurt. In the ladies room, leaning on a sink and trying to decide whether or not to become sick, I looked up and there you were. For a brief moment I didn’t recognize you at all. That was the moment I thought I’d be better off without either of us.

I didn’t notice you during the career years. I was too busy proving myself worthy of promotion above the level everyone wanted to relegate me to. Even in the bathroom, I didn’t have time to do more than glance at you on my way out the door.

Now, you’re the one that everyone else sees, what they use to judge me. But you’re not me. You’re just that silver shadow.
—Debbie Orton 2001

And flash is at it’s best when there’s a real twist to the story ~
One Night Stand

At first Dan Chandler thought there was a thunderstorm crashing overhead, but a moment later he realized the sound came from inside his throbbing head. He pushed himself out of bed and tried to stand up. The spinning universe didn’t cooperate, so he sat back down. His surroundings were a blur, so he rubbed his eyes until everything came back into focus.

Where the aitch-eee-double-hockey sticks was he, he wondered. He certainly wasn’t home in his clean and comfortable bedroom. The dingy room was small and sparsely furnished. Most of the interior was taken up by the king-sized bed.

It suddenly dawned on Dan just where he was. Memories from his bachelor days came rushing back. He was in a cheap no-tell motel.

This wasn’t good, he decided. He wasn’t a bachelor anymore. He hadn’t been for years.

He had to concentrate. Last night. He was out with the boys on another harmless excursion with his wife’s full knowledge and consent. He remembered going to the bar, and he remembered drinking, and . . .

Nothing. The rest of the evening was a total blank. Anything could have happened after that. He took a deep breath and exhaled. Panic wouldn’t help. How bad could it be? It just wasn’t in his nature to do anything stupid.

That was when he felt movement behind him. Twisting his head around, he finally noticed the lump beneath the sheet.

This wasn’t his apartment. Ergo, the shape under the sheet probably wasn’t his wife.

It didn’t take Einstein to figure out he had done something really stupid.

In horror, he jumped off the bed. That was the worst thing he could have done. The sudden movement woke up the sleeper. She (Please, dear God, let it be she, he found himself praying) shifted around and muttered something Dan couldn’t quite make out. Then she seemingly went back to sleep.

Standing at the foot of the bed, Dan noticed for the first time that he was completely naked. Springing into action, he frantically searched the room for his clothes. There weren’t many places to look, but his quest turned up nothing.

Now, he realized, was the perfect time to panic.

The smart idea seemed to be to get dressed quickly and then to slink away without ever confronting his terrible mistake. It was a good plan—one with few holes. Unfortunately, now he would have to wake her up to find out if she knew what had happened to his clothes.

He leaned down and shook her. He got no response. He tried again, only this time less politely. Still nothing. All of Dan’s anger at himself and at the situation boiled over. He grabbed the sheet and ripped it away.

For the first time, he got a look at his partner. He stared at the long blonde hair, at the ruby red lips. He ran his eyes down every inch of her body, noting the full breasts and the shaved privates and the long, long legs.
His body went cold. This was just not possible.

Suddenly, she opened her blue eyes. She smiled with white even teeth.

“Good morning, lover,” she said warmly. She reached out her arms invitingly. Her arms ended in fingers, not unlike his own.

Dan couldn’t help himself. He screamed and screamed and screamed . . .


Dan woke up screaming. The first thing he saw was the familiar ceiling. He was in his own bed, covered with sweat. Through the open door he could hear the sound of the shower running.

It had to be his wife. It was all a dream, thank God. He bounced out of bed and rushed to the bathroom.

“Honey, I just had the craziest nightmare,” he said. He sat on the toilet and recapped his dream. He didn’t leave out the slightest detail.

“It was just awful,” he said in conclusion.

“Poor baby,” his wife said sympathetically. “Why don’t you come in here and let me make you feel all better.”

Needing no further invitation, Dan grinned and opened up the shower door. KLiillllop wrapped her cold green tentacles around him and pulled him close.

“Are you certain you weren’t the least bit turned on by the Earthgirl?” she teased. “After all. She is your kind.”

“I never regretted crashing here,” he said solemnly. “You’re the only girl in the universe for me.”

Coating him with her loving slime, she quickly made all the bad things go away.
—by Charles Richard Laing ©2007

Another In A Flash ~ Late Night Thoughts

Following up on my last flash fiction post, here are three more examples.

From Vestal Review: A good flash, replete with a cohesive plot, rich language and enticing imagery, is perhaps the hardest type of fiction to write. A good flash is so condensed that it borderlines poetry. A good flash engages your mind not only for the short duration of its read, but for a long time after.


The Indian woman sits, cross-legged, in the burning tan sand, a wooden barrel confined within the space between her legs. She does not move, does not appear to be breathing. She stares at him, skin burnt and dry. Simply stares. The plumes of flame that spire from the barrel separate her face from his, making her facial expressions indecipherable and barely visible. Her thin lips do not move, but he hears her. She asks if he wants water. Tongue swollen and mouth parched, he tries to reply, but it is futile. She understands, though he has not spoken. She raises her hand in warning. For what reason? He does not know. Ah! The thirst! It is driving him mad.

“Water,” he manages to speak. Spittle forms at the corners of his mouth. His broken-down jeep is far; he has come a long way and if he doesn’t drink now, he will surely die of dehydration, very painfully.

Her face remains passive, but there is a hint of decisiveness in her expression. She nods.

“Before you drink, boy, be warned: for each gulp of water you take, you lose one year off your life.” She reaches into the burlap bag beside her and takes out a faded, brown canteen. He snatches it from her frail hands greedily and begins to wrestle with the cap. Finally! It gives. Water spills over his hands and onto his pants. He brings the canteen to his burnt lips and proceeds to drink without counting the gulps. How wonderful it feels running down his dry throat!

He swallows the water…swallows…swallows…swallows. She observes him without action or notice; his skin turns to dust—to sand— until he is no more than a puddle against a sea of sand. A smile passes briefly over her face, then fades. She had warned him…

She leans over and kisses the sand where he once sat, then gets up, brushing sand grains from her lap, then faces the Sun. Steps once toward it, now twice.

Her figure, garbed in brown with ceremonial sashes, trailed by long, salt-and-pepper-colored hair, begins to fade. Now she is translucent…and now she is gone, as though she had never existed.
—Jack Fisher
Copyright © 2000

To Really Hear It

He’s driving in the Sierra Nevada with his wife and their small daughters and the kids are fighting and he can’t take much more of it. He’s tired of everything, really, but then he forgets about the rote of fighting children and harried wife and underpaid work and his occasional excuses for laughter. He escapes from his messy, loud days, but not because of any wonderful thing he didn’t expect to happen—but by the opposite. Tragedy and dread have brought him here, though he hasn’t gone anywhere since the accident occurred. It hasn’t happened all that long ago. In fact, he’s still in the loud, hot crashing of it, and only now seeing how things will end up.

The car has gone through the guardrail and they’re falling. They have no choice now, but to roll and bounce and shred. He’s a high school physics teacher, and so he understands these things. Microseconds turn to years and the violence doesn’t reach him because he’s protected by the car’s seatbelt and safety cage, but he can see it’s not going well for his wife and their small daughters. He tries to will the damage upon himself, but all he can do is watch as the forces of nature tear his family apart. He’s horrified by the cruelty of the equations he’d written on chalkboards. All thoughts of bodily needs and monetary expenditures and his longing for peace and quiet are gone. He wants to go back to the time of squalling children and short-tempered wife. He wants to revel in the sounds of anger and concern, and if that isn’t possible, he wants the accident to continue for all eternity so that at least they can be together. The car is still shredding itself against the stony precipice and his loves are gone now, he can feel it, and he’s never heard such quiet in all his life.

The tumbling continues and he knows he’s alone and that the violence won’t come for him unbidden, and so between impacts he opens the car door and unbuckles his seatbelt and the jaws of nature clamp down on him and pull him out into the maelstrom. He tastes rock and dust and the steely gush of blood, and then suddenly he’s back in the car, driving the winding mountain road, the sky going yellow and silhouetting the pines and the guardrails and the rocky ridgelines, so that everything seems to be tall and two-dimensional and lovely. He wipes the tears from his cheeks and sits up straight and drives carefully. His young daughters are fighting over the last bag of potato chips and his wife is shouting at them to behave themselves, to please, please, please at least try to pretend they are civilized human beings, and there are tears and wails and accusations and all the usual racket of life, and he’s the happiest man who ever lived, to hear it.
–Terry DeHart
copyright 2000

A Civilized Affair

So civilized, he’d said, how she understands the claims of family, dinner parties, holidays. She’s smart as well as beautiful. His wife, well, she’d never understand. Different generation.

Last night he’d insisted on buying champagne for her coming birthday. “Jenny, damn, I wish I could spend it with you.”

“No problem. I’ll find a party,” she’d said, laughing.

His hand had stroked her knee, squeezed. His eyes were warm with admiration and sated lust.

In the cab she pulls at the curls of the barrister’s wig she holds. He’d left it at the oyster bar in a Harrods bag. It is the civilized thing to do, to return it.

Jenny pauses when she sees the house: an enormous Georgian with four cars parked outside.

But the wine still zings through her system and though the maid frowns, Jenny can hear laughter. She walks with long strides, her black cape swinging, his wig atop her head, into the dining room. Ten people glow in the chandelier light. He sees her and his patrician face pales.

“Birthday surprise!” she calls. The words slur. “For me.”

She lifts the wig, then spins it. It settles on the table like a severed head. There is only squirming silence.

“Don’t all sing at once.”

A woman, grey hair in a chignon, classic black dress, rises, smiling. “Jenny!” she says. “Come, dear, let me take your pretty cape.”

Her elbow is held; she is ushered out. In the hallway they regard each other, wife and mistress.

“How?” Jenny asks. ” How did you know my name?”
—Mary McCluskey
copyright 2000

Jack Fisher has been published in over 70 markets including most recently: Dark Regions, Transversions, Space & Time, The Fractal, and more. He edits the horror/dark fantasy magazine, Flesh and Blood and the ezine, Skin and Bones.
Terry DeHart lives in California with his wife and two daughters. He works as a technical writer at NASA/Ames Research Center and helps his father-in-law produce a fine cabernet. Two of his stories were published in bananafish in 1998, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Mary McCluskey, a British journalist now living in California, is the author of Match (with Bryan Breed: John Clare Books, UK) and Bel-Air (Pinnacle). Her short fiction has appeared or will appear in Zoetrope All Story Extra, Exquisite Corpse and Linnaean Street (Summer 2000).

All three of these stories were published in The Vestal Review – an online magazine devoted to flash or short-short fiction.

Even Shorter Flashes ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Only a slight detour from defining moments and epiphanies.

The other day I had written about flash fiction…using the least number of words possible. A friend pointed me toward some other stories – for instance ~ Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

and is said to have called it his best work. So a number of writers from various genres decided to see how close to six words they could make their works.

Arthur C. Clarke wrote:

“God said, ‘Cancel Program GENESIS.’
The universe ceased to exist.”

Here are some other concise masterpieces.

Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
— William Shatner

Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?
— Eileen Gunn

Automobile warranty expires. So does engine.
— Stan Lee

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
— Margaret Atwood

I’m your future, child. Don’t cry.
— Stephen Baxter

1940: Young Hitler! Such a cantor!
— Michael Moorcock

Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.
— Richard Powers

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.
— Orson Scott Card

We went solar; sun went nova.
— Ken MacLeod

Easy. Just touch the match to
— Ursula K. Le Guin

Epitaph: He shouldn’t have fed it.
— Brian Herbert

Heaven falls. Details at eleven.
— Robert Jordan

Lost, then found. Too bad.
— Graeme Gibson

Bang postponed. Not Big enough. Reboot.
— David Brin

Metrosexuals notwithstanding, quiche still lacks something.
— David Brin

Ships fire; princess weeps, between stars.
— Charles Stross

Finally, he had no more words.
— Gregory Maguire

He read his obituary with confusion.
— Steven Meretzky

Dorothy: : “Screw it, I’ll stay here.”
— Steven Meretzky

And In A Flash ~ Early Morning Thoughts

I discovered a type of writing called flash fiction. (if that’s the wrong title, hopefully someone will let me know.) It requires some pretty impressive skills as you have to accomplish your story with the least amount of words possible. I have tried my hand at it, and it is very difficult to do. I have no idea where it started. In one of my classes in college we had to do stories using only one sheet of legal pad paper, but I don’t think flash is related to that, as the amount of words authors use varies.

This is one of those cases where I was on my way to somewhere else (which can be dangerous) and ran across these two short tales, that I believe are flash fiction. They continued to stay with me the entire day, and I decided that I would share them.

Wrong Number

She stepped outside, equipped, if needed, with the lame pretense of retrieving something from the car. She walked leisurely, stopping to admire a flower, pull at an imaginary weed, rub the shaggy yellow head of her sweet mutt Roscoe, the more faithful male in her life.

Through the bedroom window she could see him, casually dialing the phone. He glanced once in her direction, or maybe not at all.

Good, she thought. Standing parallel with the dogwood tree is the perfect cover.

He hung up, looked down at the crinkled slip of paper in the palm of his hand and dialed again.

He’s calling that—woman, she concluded, resigning herself to the familiar pain and fear usurping her stomach.

She saw his mouth moving as he shook his head and replaced the receiver onto its cradle. Looking again into his hand, he made a quick fist, then re-assigned it to his pocket.

They entered the kitchen at the same time. Grabbing a beer from the fridge, he sat at the table with a smile.

“Guess I’ll stick around tonight, if that’s okay. My brother wasn’t home, must of forgot,” he explained. He awkwardly fidgeted with something in his pocket, then laid his empty hand on hers.

Only then did she breathe again.

“Sure,” she chirped, trying hard not to show her happiness, or uneasiness, or guilt.

“Want something to eat?” she busied herself in the pantry.

Deep breaths she told herself. You’ve won, don’t be a wuss about it. Concentrate. Don’t cry!

Standing straight, she blinked back the tears, swallowed the lump in her throat, lowered the neckline of her blouse.

He’s mine tonight, she smiled as she fluffed her hair and reached for the ingredients of his favorite dinner, ashamed but grateful at what changing one digit could do.
—Elaine Drennon

Nero Caesar

He’s an ugly little bugger. His chalky silhouette leaps from the red brick behind the mantle. Lyre in hand, he stares. Greg feels him, knows he’s staring.

“You want some more wine?” Harry asks.

“I’m good,” Greg says. “Why him?”

“Why who?” Harry answers, playing the twenty question game Greg offers.

“Nero,” Greg says.

Greg thinks he’s a pro. His style is smooth and unrehearsed. Harry likes to be daddy. Greg knows the schoolboy approach will boost the tip. He presses the glass to his lips, curls them in a slight smile and winks at Harry.

“Nero was my kind of fag,” Harry says.

“Why is that?” Greg shifts to a more reclined position and takes off his shoes.

“He was openly queer and in charge of Rome,” Harry says. “On his wedding night, he dressed as a woman and consummated his nuptials in public. He was brash, daring and everything I’m not.” Harry runs his fingers through his gray hair and gives Greg a visual once over.

“How did his story end?” Greg tilts his head to expose more of his slender neck. He knows that it drives Harry wild. He looks again at the little statue, feeling a chill as he connects with the sightless eyes.

Harry has Greg over when his wife visits the grandchildren. It’s the same every time. One night costs a thousand bucks, plus a tip. Greg is discreet, clean and looks like Harry’s oldest boy.

“His own Praetorian Guard did him in,” Harry says.

“Being queer has its drawbacks,” Greg says. He pulls the tiny bag of cocaine out of his pocket, reaches in to draw out a small portion with a fingernail and takes a bump. He rubs the remainder over his teeth and gums. Harry frowns.

“He was killed because he was a lousy ruler,” Harry says. “I wish you wouldn’t do that here.”

“It’s performance enhancement,” Greg replies. “Anyway, you like it when I’m a naughty boy.”

“Don’t give me any lip,” Harry says and then smiles.

Harry leans over and begins to rub the inside of Greg’s thigh. Greg sets his wine glass down on the coffee table and works his way into the corner of the couch. Greg’s not gay, but he needs the money to keep the juice coming. He looks again at the statue. Somehow, he thinks, that little bastard secretly nods in approval.

“What are you thinking about?” Harry asks.

“You, of course,” Greg lies.

Harry turns the lamp off. Greg can see the silhouette in the darkness. Nero is still peeking, Greg thinks. Greg is resigned to having an audience. Assassination or uncontrollable hepatitis, dead is dead. Greg and Nero have something in common.

Only Harry hasn’t made the connection. He will soon enough. Greg reaches down and unbuckles Harry’s belt. A job’s a job and he never really bought into the wages of sin anyway. In the darkness, Greg winks at Nero Caesar.

He’s almost positive that the little bastard winked back.
—Bill Turner