Flash Frenzy Round 18

Posted: May 3, 2014 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , ,

Welcome to Round 18!

Your judge this week is two-time winner Beth Deitchman.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here. 

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

Photo courtesy Ashiwn Rao

Photo courtesy Ashiwn Rao

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Comments
  1. C Connolly says:

    Cycles

    He meets me at the door; suit smart, whip thin; touch of grey at the temples. No distinguishing features, weathered with wrinkles. Seasoned, at a guess. “Welcome to the society. I’ll show you around; show you the ropes. This is where you’ll be stationed.” He gestures to the double doorway at the end of the corridor.

    We move through to the hub of the action, where the machines stand ready. The one nearest the doorway has no rider, whereas the others have men seated at the saddles, peddling at pace. The motion is frenetic, feet moving, seeking speed at a blur. Sensors capture their progress; careful calculation and conversion on pedal power.

    “Here you go. Have at it.” Before there is chance for questions he is gone.

    The machine in front of me blinks; the red light on the monitor, on and off. Insistent. I figure I’ll humour it. That’s my job; what I signed up for. I climb onto the leather, legs astride the frame; seek to set a steady speed, without undue pressure. Presumably, technique counts in this game.

    There is no talk, no banter from those to the right, who peddle incessantly; look towards the parent machine and progress chart it controls, displayed on the farthest wall.

    It’s a strange set up. Despite the bikers’ speed, which causes sweat to drip from their brows and coat their clothing, there are breaks as they change position; swap from one machine to another. It doesn’t last long before they continue apace. The pause is perfunctory; practised. No debate; no discussion.

    It takes time before I get it; the price for my sign up. The nudge from my right as we shift rows, bike to bike, is my cue. The guy furthest from me sways on his feet; seems likely to fall, before he masters himself. He passes through the right hand door and beyond.

    Later, he returns, suit clad, from the left, bringing an unknown face with him, towards the last machine. We make eye contact briefly. I know I will not see him again, where he heads. Know, the exit through which I, too, will leave, in time.

    (360 words)

    @FallIntoFiction

  2. Empty Cycles

    Although many of us tried to forget, I remembered what life was like before it happened. Women in tight pants would parade the streets with men in tight shirts. They spent their hard earned cash on overpriced coffee and juices that claimed to melt fat. They bought food from organic markets and ate at trendy vegan and gluten free restaurants. Many of them jogged in their tight outfits on the beaches, boardwalks, and city streets. When they weren’t jogging to and from their destinations, they drove fancy hybrid and electric cars to one of the many gyms that lined the block. They called it living clean, but it turned out their lifestyle wasn’t so clean at all.

    For most of these people, it was a trend. Most of them were narcissistic and vain, only caring about the world and their bodies because it made them feel special. While they raised money for the starving children of Africa, they threw away large amounts of food. They preached about the poisons of processed and fast foods but consumed copious amounts of alcohol and drank their artificial flavored lattes.

    Then it happened. The Earth began to cave in on itself, swallowing most of them whole. Unfortunately, it swallowed many others too.

    Now the streets were broken and empty. Rusted cars clogged up the roadways and the shops with the overpriced coffees and juices were vacant. The gyms, which they proudly proclaimed their second homes, were empty. For the first time in 10 years, I stepped inside one.

    There were rows of bicycles as far as the eye could see. Although part of the roof caved and rubble littered the floor, the machines seemed to be intact. I climbed on one and pedaled.

    I started slowly and softly at first, but as I got more into it, I pedaled faster. As I pedaled, I thought of the poor lost soul who sat there. What were they thinking? What was their life like? Did they know they were going to die that day? What were their final thoughts?

    I muttered a prayer as I dismounted the cycle. Hopefully, God was listening.

    356 words
    @triffic_tinika

  3. Bested By All Trasportation
    @CaseyCaseRose
    360 words

    “Hello! To rent a bicycle just swipe your card!”
    I jumped at the bright, mechanical voice. I was mildly wary of bicycles and very wary of systems that included automated yelling.
    I needed to get across the city but the train had broken down and people had poured up from beneath the ground like irritated ants escaping their home during the rain.
    The busses immediately became overloaded and I witnessed at least one shoving match over a lone free taxi.
    So. Bike.
    “Hello! To rent a bicycle just swipe your card,” the mechanical bike mistress yelled again. “Shhh.”
    I was hesitating not only because I didn’t have helmet for that moment that a taxi inevitably knocked me to the ground but because I was dressed for a job interview.
    The combination of heels and a skirt required a Cirque du Soleil level of talent.
    “Hello! To rent a bicycle just swipe your card!”
    “Shut up, I’m thinking!”
    I decided if I pedaled barefoot (Oh god, if I fall I will shred my feet.) I could at least operate the bike.
    I would have to tuck my skirt between my legs. Sort of like a diaper.
    I swiped my card.
    “To disengage the bicycle from the port just pull the handles.”
    I pulled.
    Nothing.
    “To disengage the bicycle from the port just pull the handles.”
    “Lady, that is what I am doing.”
    I pulled harder certain once it finally disengaged that the bike and I would fly backward into the street.
    “To disengage the bicycle from the port just pull the handles.”
    “Shitting ducks, that is what I’m doing!” I bellowed.
    I gave one continuous Xena-like scream and shook the bike back and forth.
    Nothing.
    I sat down on the curb, bested by all modes of city transportation, and hung my head.
    I heard footsteps behind me and then a gentle click.
    I looked up.
    A small girl with golden braids held the handles of my bike.
    “Here you go.”
    “Uh, thanks.”
    “No problem. I live in the apartment above and watch people struggle all the time. Thanks for teaching me ‘shitting ducks’, that’s a good one.”
    She walked away.

  4. zevonesque says:

    Going in Circles
    by A J Walker

    The first thing you have to understand about Stephen was that he was debilitatingly obsessive. When his mind was on a mission he would stick to it, no matter that a task was pointless, and no matter that life tried to get in his way.

    Usually his obsessions were little things, that he would build into monumental atrocities that stopped him living a quiet normal life.

    His current obsession was finding the girl. She’d taken a bike from the rental rack by his office and when Stephen had caught sight of her he had been frozen in an instant, as if by some science fiction ray-gun. He was smitten.

    She’d cycled that once, so Stephen was sure she’d cycle again. From his office overlooking the bike rack his eyes drifted from his computer across to anyone who approached the bikes. His heart would rise in expectation of seeing this entrancing woman. But days turned into weeks, weeks into months and she never came back, while she remained first in his thoughts in the morning and the last thing he thought of at night.

    He gave up on the certainty of seeing her come to the very same rack. Perhaps she usually used bikes from a different rack, perhaps a rack had been put in closer to her work or home. It was a reasonable possibility and he reasoned that by traveling miles through the city streets himself he would have more chance of seeing her again.

    So now when Stephen had any spare time he would cycle in unending circles, growing to know the city better than the back of his hand and the city grew to know him. His legs went up and down like some metronomic perpetual motion machine. A constant speed. Up down, up down. He’d never been fitter, but that was not important to him it was just a means to an end.

    He hated bikes and cycling; the roads, the cars, the holes in the road, the fumes, the idiot pedestrians. One day he would see her again, then he could stop, he needed to complete his task: to see that girl again.

    (360 words)
    @zevonesque

  5. David Shakes says:

    ‘Play It Again, Sam’
    by David Shakes
    360 words
    @theshakes72

    I hide her in the same place as the others. This one’s different though – special. My mind is filled with impossible thoughts of how I could keep her, take care of her, make her mine.
    Of course, I’d had similar thoughts about the others until my interest waned. I’d had to discard them carefully. Hide my tracks.
    Curfew is just a few hours away but the city limits over twenty five kilometres. I couldn’t risk taking her any closer. If my superior knew what I was getting up to out here…
    I pick up the electric bike I came on. At top speed I’d make it in an hour, but it’s been sat here all day and the charge is low. It’s pathetic. I’m going to have to pedal hard.
    I take one last look around at the wild asymmetry of this place. I love it – the dirt, rust, the tang of the air. It’s where I belong.
    “Don’t worry,” I say, feeling foolish, “I’ll be back. You’re safe tonight.”
    Unsurprisingly, no answer comes – but the words have become part of this ritual.
    Sitting astride the bicycle, I point it towards the city.
    The closer I get, the more uniform the landscape becomes. The air grows sterile, the architecture homogeneous.
    When I hit the checkpoint I’m sweating copiously. The bike is filthy.
    The first guard takes it from me disdainfully and adds it to the long line of carbon copy machines. Robot washers are on it immediately. It soon becomes indistinguishable from the rest.
    “Anything to report?” asks the second guard, unusually.
    “Nothing.”
    “That so?”
    Guard one is behind me – locks my arm. The second joins him and I’m marched to the guardhouse.
    My superior sits inside. On the monitors my day’s activities play out in 3D. The words
    ‘combustion emissions violation’ flash over the recording.
    Through the speakers her V8 engine’s revs are pure music. Today’s car was not the 1 litre commuters I’d salvaged before – it was an Aston Martin Vantage!
    “You anything to say?” scolds my superior.
    “Yes sir..” I grin wildly, “please play that again!”

  6. Tinman says:

    Wheels Set In Motion
    296 words
    @TinmanDoneBadly

    They lined the street like ladies of the night, though cheaper to hire.

    Their shift was over for the day. They were tired, dusty and had chewing-gum stuck in their tyre-treads. Most of all they were saddle-sore, the human equivalent of a migraine. Having someone sit on your head all day does that to you.

    They worked in the cultural quarter of Dublin, available for short-term rent to tourists. Now, like men on bar-stools, they unwound by complaining about their day.

    Bike Two had been cycled on the wrong side of the road, a common mistake made by tourists. Bike Seven’s rider hadn’t been on a bicycle for thirty years, and had picked him up and carried him around every corner.

    Bike Five had got his wheel stuck in the tramlines, and had watched in horror, like Penelope Pitstop tied to a railway track, as the tram bore down upon him. His rider had wrenched him free at the last second.

    Bike Four claimed that a truck had backed out in front of him, and that he and his rider had had to slide under it. The others laughingly told him that he had seen too many movies, which was a pity, because it had actually happened. Indeed, they had also cycled through a line of washing, but Bike Four decided that there was no point in mentioning that.

    Bike One had got a flat tyre. To a bicycle the sensation of this is rather like what a human would feel if one buttock deflated.

    They all agreed, though, that Bike Number Three had had the toughest day. He had been ridden through the old part of the city, along cobblestones, and this had driven his head down into his neck as far as his crossbar.

  7. Bart says:

    Bicycle NB7

    “Hello?”

    “Hi, Jenny. It’s Brian.”

    For a split second there was dead silence. Twenty feet under ground kind of dead. Then Jenny spoke.

    “Hi, Brian.”

    “How’s it going?”

    Brian didn’t wait for an answer and continued immediately.

    “Do you want to go out tonight?”

    It was a simple question that a million 32 year old men asked every day, but Brian? Now? Jenny was not going to answer that one straight away.

    “You’ve got balls.”

    “Yeah, you should know, you’ve seen them,” Brian sniggered, trying to be clever. There’s nothing more painful than a dumb person trying to be smart.

    “I wish I hadn’t. Not that there was that much to see, really.”

    Brian wondered if he could talk his way out of it.

    “Listen, I’ve explained…”

    “No, you haven’t,” Jenny countered, already feeling her blood rushing like a tsunami of rage, already wondering why she didn’t just hang up, smash her phone in a million pieces and simply buy a new one tomorrow. It was a company cost anyway.

    “You haven’t explained anything. You have given me excuses, ridiculously transparent ones, if I may add so. But whatever you were doing, my reality was I was sitting there all alone. Oh no, wait, I wasn’t alone. I had 60 pairs of eyes watching me crumble for an hour. And it wasn’t even the first time, now was it? I’ve had more deep, meaningful conversations with waiters than with you.”

    “But…”

    “But nothing.”

    She finally felt the disgust – with him and, moreover, with herself – to not give him anymore chances. But as it goes with suddenly found self-esteem, it’s still a bit shakey on its fresh, porous foundation. She couldn’t help but quickly blame herself – as if by reflex – and even say it out loud.

    “I still can’t believe I was so easy on our first night out.”

    “I can,” Brian muttered.

    “What?”

    “Nothing.”

    “Listen, if you think you can use women like those bicycles that you pick up and drop off wherever and whenever you want, you’re going to end up a very lonely man.”

    Without waiting for a reply, Jenny hung up.

    Brian dialled another number.

    359 words
    @bartvangoethem

  8. The Ghost Cycles of London

    As the late night revellers stagger tubewards, weaving between last busses and first responders and the constant taxi cabs, the Ghost Cycles of London wait.

    Nesting in impromptu lamppost memorials, brake lines tangled in bedraggled poseys and poorly laminated photographs, bells ringing softly in the gathering dusk, they wait.

    Riderless.

    Forgotten.

    Twisted steel and shattered carbon skeletons, spinning their gears as a hundred thousand unheeding tourists pass blindly by, they wait.

    For darkness.

    And silence.

    And space.

    And then, when the traffic slows and the lights dim, and even that great City slumbers…

    They ride.

    Taking to the streets, the Ghost Cycles of London have no need of riders, no need of helmets and pads. Those precautions never saved their riders anyway. And even if they did, they never saved them.

    But now, things are different.

    They have the roads.

    They have the right of way.

    Tyres slash through neon puddles.

    Gears whirr in harmony, startling the pigeons from statuesque roosts.

    Friction driven spoke lights glitter in the darkness, trailing jewelled echoes through almost empty streets.

    They criss cross the Thames, swing past London’s unseeing Eye. Beneath lighted Shards and glowering Towers the Ghost Cycles make their way from Soho to Shoredith, Wimbledon to Whitechapel, racing the paths of Saucy Jack, Reg and Ronnie, Womble and Borrible alike.

    Through Camden they glide, flocking like birds past boozy lock ins, back up to Bloomsbury, pedals spinning as they hurtle past marbled museums, where ancient velocipedes rattle their glass cases and long to join the ride.

    On through Trafalgar Square, teasing the great stone lions who grumble in their depthless sleep.

    All across the City they ride, reclaiming the streets and bus lanes, the cycle paths and pavements, until the morning sun’s rays pierce their brittle dream shapes, returning them to memory and regret.

    Then back to their nests they course, to sleep the day through, breathing deeply of exhaust fumes and dead blooms and temporary remembrances.

    They are a rumour and a legend, the Ghost Cycles of London, a myth and a lie, and every year and month by month, their numbers grow.

    And grow.

    And grow.

    356 words
    @Karl_A_Russell

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