Flash Frenzy Round 20

Posted: May 17, 2014 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
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Welcome to Round 20!

Your judge this week is Jaime Burchardt.

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 Ashwin Rao

Photo Courtesy Ashwin Rao

  1. David Shakes says:

    360 words.

    The first time he’d realised the world didn’t talk in a way he understood was around his seventh year.

    He was finding reading comprehension increasingly difficult. The answers refused to jump out of the text as they once did – clear and unequivocal. He couldn’t remember the texts now but could, in perfectly rendered detail, recall his growing confusion as father insisted each answer should be ‘ a piece of cake.’ None of the questions ever seemed to lend themselves to that response.

    The real problems didn’t begin until later that same year. He’d come across his sister talking furtively down the telephone in their narrow hallway. Before she’d noticed and shooed him away, he clearly heard her explain to the person on the other end that her boyfriend had given her ‘a case of crabs.’

    He was very concerned. They really didn’t have the facilities to recreate the ocean habitat for one crab, let alone a case of them. The koi pond was optimised for the health of their Nishikigoi carp. Even if they could introduce the correct salt ratio for the crabs, there would be no telling what the crustaceans would do to the prize winning fish if left unattended.

    He decided that the best thing to do would be to tell his parents.

    His mother looked shocked; his father soon flushed with anger.
    “How dare you!” father thundered. “How dare you eavesdrop on your sister’s private conversations.”

    Before he knew it, father had him by the arm and was marching him to the kitchen. He was made to stand at the kitchen table as father wrenched open their huge freezer chest. Leaning in, he retrieved a heavy looking box and set it down.

    Before him, in neat rows of three, was a box of ice-packed crab.

    “There!” roared his father. “Satisfied? Trying to scare us! They’re for eating!”

    His father folded his arms and glared. He couldn’t comprehend father’s anger but felt relief that the carp could continue their placid existence unencumbered. He loved watching them. They helped still the busy confusion of his mind.

    He’d save news of his sister’s pregnancy for another time.

  2. David Shakes says:

    Damn, should have said ‘he resisted asking if his sister’s bun in the oven was to accompany them.’ – too many idioms? Do you say ‘a bun in the oven’ in the States? Forget it – I’ve posted already, its all academic now!

  3. The Needs Of The Many

    Myers sat in the Ark’s observation port, watching the lazy stars drift by. A comms light blinked on the console, but he ignored it until the collision alarm began to sound. He opened comms to the kitchen.

    “Knock it off Ted. I know there’s nothing to hit within 18 el-kays. You got my attention.”

    The alarm cut out, replaced on the tinny speaker by the voice of the crew chef.

    “We’ve got a problem Skip. We’ve finished all the Crustacea.”

    Myers sighed. By his reckoning, that left only sea monkeys and jellyfish to populate the oceans of Earth II, assuming they ever reached it. On the plus side, powering down another section of the cryostores would increase their chances of one day making planetfall.

    “Okay, not ideal, but we’ll manage. What’s the problem?”

    “We’ve cracked the next locker; Felinae.”

    Myers swore.

    “Let me guess. Shelby?”

    “Says he doesn’t want to live in a world without cats.”

    “That could be arranged… Okay, tell him there’s no choice. We power two open lockers at once, we’ll run out of clean oxygen before we’re even past the Magellanic clouds. Just try not to serve him anything with a face.”

    He cut comms and sat for a moment, listening to the hiss of recirculated air. Then he tapped the console, brought up his private logs and added Crustacea to the list of species they had eaten since the accident took out the Nutrimat. It was a systematic extermination, and it would only get worse. Somewhere in the Ark’s cryostores, ranged in neat, ice packed rows, were examples of every breed of dog.

    Every primate.

    It was a sin and an affront to nature, but the other option was even worse. If the crew starved, then the massed ranks of humans frozen in the Ark would be doomed to drift forever.

    So they would continue as they were, making their way through the animals while they tried to relocate the signal beam for Earth II.

    He watched the lazy stars drift by, and said a silent prayer. He prayed, as always, that they might make planetfall before they had to start on the human lockers.

    360 words

  4. Sal Page says:

    Some Insane Someone

    At night I imagine them moving down the walls, shells click-clacking together. They sideways-scuttle across the floor while I gaze through the gloom at the empty crushed-ice paper. Creepy jet-bead eyes watch me watching them from beneath the dressing table.

    When the woman from the lettings agency showed us round Gary burst out laughing at the sight of this room.
    ‘We appear to have crabs.’
    I laughed then glared at him ‘Behave!’
    His shifts had been cut and we had to find somewhere cheaper fast. We share kitchen and bathroom so I spend a lot of time in this room. One feature wall would’ve been bad enough but some insane someone had chosen to put up this hideous paper on every single wall.

    But the place was cheap, in a good location for shops and bus stop and hopefully only temporary. I hate sharing the bathroom though. I have to go more often these days. Only six weeks to go now. Gary bought a second-hand cot from some bloke at work and my sister sent clothes and a gorgeous soft blanket.

    In the daytime I doze a little and wake to stare at the walls, trying to decipher the pattern. Legs folded. Legs sticking out. Claws together. Left claw lower. Right claw out to the side. Sometimes no two crabs are the same, other times there’s an obvious pattern with no more than a dozen different ones. That insane someone had been meticulous in their pattern matching, which makes it worse.

    Last night I slept for a full six hours. Miraculous. And the bathroom was free.
    ‘Do you feel refreshed?’
    Gary looks so hopeful, bless him. I feel the baby shift and my hand moves over my belly to soothe it. He promises to ask the landlord today if we can redecorate. Pale aqua walls. White skirtings and dado rails. I smile, kiss him goodbye and don’t mention the dream that played itself over and over all night.

    I’m peeping into the cot at the side of the bed and seeing my precious little crab-baby in there, pincers slowly opening & shutting, all cosy and sleepy under the cream blanket.

    (With apologies to Charlotte Perkins Gilman and her Yellow Wallpaper!)

    360 words


  5. Farmer’s Market

    “This exquisite blue cheese is only made in small batches. If Cary Grant were a cheese…”
    “The bees have such great lives, and it really shows in the quality of their honey. It’s like we’re bottling up the happiness…”
    The chatter of the vendors around me was eye roll inducing. Their descriptions of their edible wares sounding like dating profiles the way they gushed about everything.

    A woman stopped by booth and glanced down.
    “Is your salmon farm raised?”
    I consulted my notes.
    She looked at me, waiting for me to give some elaborate spiel. When I didn’t she frowned and walked away.

    I wasn’t here to actually sell fish. There was a rumor that one of the stalls was selling some additional homegrown goods of a less legal nature. I was assigned here to scope out the situation as insider. I would be unobtrusive. Under the radar.

    Suddenly a little whirlwind stopped at the front of the booth. She stood on tiptoe and pushed crazy brown curls out of her face.
    “What are those?” she asked as she pointed her tiny finger, hand still smushed against her cheek.
    “Those are crabs.”
    Her eyes got wide and she fell back onto her heels.
    “Are they dead?”
    “Yes,” I answered with a scowl. I really wanted her to just go away.
    She sucked in a deep breath and began yelling.
    “You killed Sebastian! You killed Sebastian and all his friends! Ariel hates you! She hates you!”

    Fancy Cheese Guy and Happy Bee Lady were staring at me.
    I put my hands up, trying to demonstrate I wasn’t doing anything to this child.
    “Sebastian!” she wailed.
    A man ran up and scooped up the girl.
    “Are you okay, what’s wrong?” he asked her before turning to me, “What happened?”
    “I don’t know, she just…”
    “He’s a sea witch!” she yelled pointing at me.
    I kept my hands up and shrugged in confused surrender.
    He apologized and carried the girl away as she sang in a sobbing voice, “Under the sea, under the sea, darling it’s better…”

    People kept giving me the stink eye.

    So much for being unobtrusive.

    358 words

  6. The Ice Clause

    Liv has decided. She wants rid of him, now – no going, simply gone; the bitter sting of her last words to him and his response, erased from the tip of her tongue, where their sour taste sits still. She doesn’t want to see or feel the space where he was and should be. It is what has brought her to Dr Seva, to sit on plastic, in a sparsely furnished room, after a tip off from Sara, who has already been here, courtesy of the guy she previously referred to only as “git features”. The corners of her mouth raise slightly, at Sara’s “gift” to her. Certainly, it’s one way of putting it.

    They have explained the procedure to her in minute detail, so she understands what it entails; the hardening of the heart to dull down residual pain and crystallisation in the central nervous system, through to the cerebrum. It will take time to take fully, although there will be some immediate relief post-treatment. Liv signs the page in front of her with a flourish after they have explained the benefits and potential side effects; no hesitation, signature transcribed across the “Ice Clause” – a contract like and unlike any other. Dr Seva describes it as the latest non-invasive technological and medical advancement.

    It feels odd to walk the streets after the solution has been injected, knowing it is making its way through her, set towards a gradual spread of indifference. She feels colder; knows it is not the chill of the slight breeze blowing across her arms; not this time. She pulls her jacket around her shoulders; feels the warmth for a split second, before the ache sets in again.

    The pain creeps through her spinal cord as Liv reaches her apartment door and sees the card tacked upon the door, waiting. The message is simple. Mike has written two words only – “I’m sorry”. Liv rests against the doorframe, as she feels a sting gathering in the corner of her eyes. She wonders if it is too late for him to try and reverse the process, so they can work towards a thaw, instead of towards freeze and ice.

    (360 words)


  7. Tinman says:

    Frozen in Time
    109 words

    Deep below the ocean lies the Crustacean Cryonics lab.

    It was founded by Krusty the Crab (his mother was a Simpsons fan) and his clients, the Crabwise as he refers to them, lie in wait for a world in which their claws are not considered delicacies, in which curious children do not lift them up to see if they run on wheels, and in which innocent Irish people trying to write a story can Google “crabs” without learning far more than they wanted to about lower body disorders.

    They also dream of a time when the English join the rest of the world by walking sideways to the right.

  8. Diana Gallardo says:

    The Pearl Diver’s Dream
    335 words

    She understood the sailors’ songs, their wooden mermaids. Sailors wandered the streets of the port at dawn, each one heading homeward. They passed the pearl divers one by one, women heading to the beach.

    The divers picked up driftwood and gathered around the fire, drinking coffee to stave off the chill. Old women, now, their bones ached in the morning. They rubbed their wrinkled hands and laughed. How strange to watch the sun rise over the sparkling waves. How did they get so old?

    They shook their heads, black and silver, braids thick as ropes in sailors’ fingers.

    Young women didn’t want this work. They wanted pearl earrings, and boyfriends. They wore their hair in chic, short cuts. They had jobs in offices, somewhere. They walked in expensive shoes.

    Some of the divers had husbands, still. They slept in the sun like big cats, purring. In the afternoon, they yawned and stretched, and swept the front steps. Evenings, they cooked dinner. In the saucepan, fish cubes swam freely. Crabs on ice awaited. At night, couples rolled like the sea.

    She remembers her husband, making coffee, his arms around her in the kitchen. They would watch the moon in the window, the thin crescent of 4am. Now, she dreams of great waves. An orange cat wakes her, crying.

    The divers put on their thermal suits, tugging at the skin tight material. The suits were expensive, state-of-the-art. Years ago, the pearl divers went naked, their hair flowing like seaweed in a Japanese print. They swam so freely, but the water was cold and the rocks could be jagged and cut. These suits were much better, warm and protective.

    There are other dangers. The rising waters have new creatures, more marvelous monsters than anything Hokusai imagined. She has seen them, beyond the seabeds, the shells with pearls like little moons. They have seen her, too, and not all have rushed away.

    There is one who waits there, waiting with his arms, waiting to hold her, like a husband.

  9. Bart says:

    Walking Sideways

    “Hey, mate.”


    “How’s it going?”

    “What do you think?”

    “Well, you don’t sound too happy.”

    “Should I?”

    “Listen, for me this is one big holiday. I’m just glad I’m out of my daily routine.”

    “Haven’t you heard the stories?”

    “The stories? From the survivors? I thought they were just that: stories.”

    “Really? Then what are we doing here in the belly of a boat, captured in a net, together with a few hundred other ‘tourists’?”

    The crab pinched its scissors and scratched its head.

    “Okay. Look, so we’re going to die. That’s life.”

    “Great. We probably have about half an hour before they take us out and display our dead bodies on a tray of ice and I’m stuck with mister philosophy here.”

    “You said it yourself, that you knew the stories. Haven’t you thought about it? At all?”

    “Hey, I had better things to do. Like… walking sideways, and all.”

    “That has always bothered me. That bloody walking sideways. Why can’t we just go straight ahead? Even if – and I realize this only happens in the rarest of cases – you get a true sense of purpose and direction in your life, the only way to reach it, is by approaching it sideways. And even then you never really see your target straight on. That is so annoying. No wonder we lack focus. We just, you know, live. We don’t have ambitions, let alone dreams.”

    “You want to know why? Because there’s a fair chance you end up in a boat like this.”

    “If it’s inevitable, why don’t you just make the most out of the time you’ve got? At least you’ll have something to look back on when…”

    The boat had docked in the harbour. A crane hauled the large container tank out. Endless trays of ice were waiting, glistening in the sun, an ice cold shiny heaven.

    “It’s a crap life, mister philosophy.”

    “You’re funny. That has its merits too.”

    The first customers arrived.

    327 words

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