Flash Frenzy Round 50

Posted: January 10, 2015 in Flash Frenzy Weekend Flash Challenge
Tags: , , ,

Welcome back for another round of Flash Frenzy. The lovely and talented Voima Oy will be presiding over this week’s stories; I hope you’re ready to dazzle!

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

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Comments
  1. @patrickjstahl
    360 words

    “The Last Photo of Humanity”

    I hold the last photo of humanity in my hand. It was taken last night in a little park in Iceland, just outside of a bunker. A nice enough place to die, I suppose.

    The sky is ash. There are orbs in the distance, bright flashes of power that cut through the pollution. Everything else above me is black. Here, low to the ground, I can see my feet, the screen of my phone, and the silhouette of my hand. It won’t be long now anyway.

    Kim blamed himself. He couldn’t know for sure who pressed the perilous button, but he blamed himself. We both hit the ground hard and for hours even the thought of thinking made me vomit and then pass out. The bunker’s AI kept us alive, continually refreshing the air with the exact cocktail needed to keep what had killed everyone else on the planet from taking us as well. After a couple of days, it was safe to go out and look at the world one last time.

    It was supposed to be an execution-style slaughter: four people hitting four buttons to fire tungsten rods and specialized bombs from orbiting satellites to wipe out the human population without destroying everything. The other two of our group couldn’t take the guilt. They left the bunker an hour before the scheduled time of the apocalypse. I let them go. Kim and I each had two hands; we could hit four buttons. It really didn’t matter anyway. I knew that my button was the real one. When a hegemon makes a decision, it is his responsibility to follow through with it.

    The visitors, as I call them, should be here any moment. They are the orbs in the blackness, surging through space at a million miles per hour to finish the destruction of humanity.

    I chuckle to myself as I look at the photo with tears in my eyes. There is only one human there, the last human, and I killed him minutes—though they feel like years—ago. Humanity is already dead.

    No human could press the human race to extinction. Only a monster could do that.

  2. You Will See Some Magic

    You had thought them separate, science and magic.
    Even though you have read enough history to know that one is often mistaken for the other.
    You could conjure images that you thought defined their separation; herbs, ribbons, and words chanted in sets of three versus beakers, electrons, and kinetics.
    Would you believe me that as science has grown and expanded throughout the centuries that magic has kept an even pace?
    I think you would not.
    So that’s why I invited you here.

    Technology does not belong to science alone, my friend.
    You’ve met me here tonight, at this place, at this hour because it all culminates in a certain requirement of things.
    Time, an illusion. Space, an often tactile perception. Wishes…something hard to quantify.
    You are wary and I see a hint of smile tip the corner of your mouth into mockery as you presume to indulge me in my fanciful thoughts.
    That’s okay.
    You just need to stand over there.
    You don’t believe me when I tell you that we’re going to move ourselves from one place to another.
    You especially don’t believe me that my cell phone will be responsible for a significant part of working this magic.
    A cell phone is more than the solid block of glass and metal is it not? Do you not treat it as an extension of yourself? Isn’t it possible that most of us pour more of ourselves into this device than into any other aspect of our lives?
    You stand there and hold out my phone, a picture of us in another place visible on the screen.
    You look at it and see two fools.
    I see something as vital as eyes of newt to work our spell.
    The wind is cold, the air dry and electric.
    As it should be.
    We are a minute from midnight and I raise my camera and wish three times aloud.
    I find the correct, the perfect, words amidst an ocean of possibilities and I feel the air around us snap.
    You hair begins to stand on end.
    Your face registers surprise.
    Now I am the one smiling.
    I take the picture.

    @CaseyCaseRose
    360 words

  3. Mark A. King says:

    @Making_Fiction

    358 words

    The Soul Catcher

     
    ________________________________________________
    A Photograph Captures the Soul – Traditional Indigenous belief
    ________________________________________________
     

    I remember the first photograph. Yes, yes, how could I not?

    My emaciated body ravaged over the centuries, gorged on that first image. I’d fed of the scraps of paintings, the reflections in mirrors and water. But this barely sustained me. I was a but a shell, a vessel, a husk.

    They say John the Baptist consumed nothing but locusts and honey in the arid deserts and I have fed on worse.

    The very first picture, low definition, grainy and monotone – was like the promise of manna.

    Yet I was still hungry. Always hungry.

    Later, through the lens of glorious Technicolor, I devoured the entire spectrum of a soul. The dry chalk of powder-puff blue, the bitterness of yellow, the tang of crimson and the spice of teal.

    Oh, the souls I have eaten.

    Click the button. Wind the wheel. Advance the film. Flash the camera.

    And so the good times came. Or so I thought.

    But… Iisten my friend, even the tastiest dish becomes bland when you have a million times. For variety is truly the spice of life.

    Hark the days of long hair and flared trousers, for the instamatic photograph was born. I no longer stalked the dirty red light glow of the dark-rooms, no, no, no.

    Click. Whir.

    What a sound. How I purred at that sound.

    The soul captured on sticky-white paper. I watched the milky cards held between expectant fingers, wave, wave, wave in the wind of a flapping hand. From white. To blur. To clarity. Behold the magic of a soul coming to life.

    I cannot deny that fast food tastes good, but it does not sustain an appetite like mine.

    And so my time has come. The digital camera. Billions of LCD screens of souls. The internet. The mobile devices. An infinite restaurant in every pocket in the world.

    And now I feast on your cloud-drive, in the data-centres, on the discs. These are truly times of plenty.

    Your souls are forever mine for the price of a gadget and a smile.

    And soon you will have Google Glass.

  4. milambc says:

    Tipping (360 words)
    @brett_milam

    Their lived lives existed like captured dust in a digital catacomb. That picture had come to swallow my existence, a sort of in-between space where to say I was alive was accurate, but only technically.

    The doldrums were permeated every few minutes by the gentle rapping at my front door or if someone was courageous, they’d push the doorbell.

    Always they had a dish with them, covered in aluminum foil, on a paper plate, in a plastic bowl or a baking pan; Mr. Turner had even coupled a dessert with their finest china, insistent that I not fret about returning it.

    My kitchen counters, table, floor, couches, carpets, and bedrooms overflowed with all manner of desserts; banana pudding, apple cakes cut into squares, strawberry cheesecake, pineapple upside-down cake, lemon bars, double chocolate brownies, pound cake, pumpkin-walnut pie, gingerbread and snickerdoodle cookies, and there was something unrecognizable in the corner of the guest bedroom that seemed to have congealed with the wall.

    As if gluttony would be the hot butter knife to free the restraints of death’s glow. Heh, glow, right, it felt that way. That death had singled me out to experience this torment especially for some past sins, to feel the heat fillet my innards.

    Even so, I ate. My hands were coated in sugar, chocolate, custard; under my fingernails resided lemon, blueberry and strawberry residue. The aluminum foil went down, too, with a thick chocolate shake from Mrs. Flannigan.

    When I tried to bite into a piece of that obnoxious Mr. Turner’s fine china, my teeth cracked; one of my incisors plopped out of my mouth. I swallowed that, too.

    Then I moved to that fungus-infused unknown dessert traversing the guest bedroom wall. I shoveled the globs I could detach from the plaster and into my mouth. It stuck on my tongue, so I used Mr. Turner’s fine china to shovel it down.

    The rapping and the doorbell still punctuated my gluttony. The expected grief masked my unwashed hair, my face caked in jelly and the smell; I smelled like a dumpster hosting a skunk dinner party.

    I feared the day when the door’s shadow would stand empty.

  5. SEEING THINGS

    Brian S Creek
    350 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    “See them?” said Jake.

    “I do,” said Harper. “It’s probably just a glitch with your phone.”

    “It ain’t no glitch. Camera app works fine everywhere else in town. It only happens here, on this street.

    Harper breathed into his palms, misty breath escaping through the gaps between his fingers. “Can we just go, please? It’s freezing.”

    “You can go but I’m staying.”

    “Jake, buddy, come on. What do you think you’ll find by staying out here all night? Nothing is what. And I’ll be the guy who let his best friend freeze to death all alone.”

    “Just look again,” said Jake. “Please?”

    Harper sighed and looked at the screen on Jake’s phone. “Okay, so you recorded some footage from earlier today. Then you drag me out here in the middle of the night, line your phone up perfectly and make it look like I’m seeing another time or another dimension or something? Colour me unimpressed. And pissed off?” He knocked Jakes arm to put an end to the prank but was surprised when the video matched the jolt.

    “How did you know I was going to knock the phone like that?” he said.

    “I didn’t,” replied Jake. “Get your own phone out?”

    With the hook of intrigue now taking hold, Harper fumbled to get a glove off so that he could grab his own mobile phone from his jeans pocket. A quick unlock code later and he opened the camera app. He raised the phone in front of him and his breath caught as he saw people walking all around him.

    “Still think I’m crazy?” said Jake.

    Harper stood on the spot and slowly turned around in a circle. “This is crazy, dude. What are the phones showing us? It’s like another time or place. This is some freaky shit.” He kept turning until he was facing Jake again but his friend was ignoring him. “Jake?”

    No response. Jake was just looking around, a frown of confusion resting on his sunlit face. It was as if he’d lost his dog or something. Harper lowered his phone. His friend was gone.

  6. Geoff Holme says:

    Darn! I was thinking along the same lines as you for a story! But I hadn’t worked out an ending anywhere near as good as this! Fantastastic sci-fi / horror vibe.

    Please let me know on which street this tale is located, so I can avoid it…

    Good stuff.

  7. zevonesque says:

    Black and White Pictures
    A.J. Walker

    The cobbles of the Old Town glinted with the sacred light of Luna, the full moon a seemingly benevolent eye above the town. Jan loved these walks on crystal nights listening to his boots steel clicking the myriad ancient roads.

    He turned towards to the bridge feeling the fresh breath of wind kiss his cheeks. The silverlight of moon shone through the stone pillars of the ballustrade, the river a white mirror reflecting purest moonlight.

    Jan stopped to take in this sublime instance, blessed to be the one person with this view. The sound of gritty shoes slipping to a halt behind him was amplified by the night; he was not alone.

    Black shadows beneath this moon were easy for the hunter to use. There was no movement or sound but from the boots from this midnight rambler before him. He could sense the man had heard him following, but no matter; the outcome wouldn’t change.

    With his senses heightened Jan walked faster now. He could hear the breeze caress the lines of birch to his left and to the right the river slapping against the stone channel, but most of all he could hear the footsteps behind him – almost in time with his own.

    He took out his phone, he wasn’t scared, but there was no reason not to take precautions. Jan turned on the back facing camera so that he could see behind him and made to the river wall as if to photograph the castle mount and the moon; all the time watching for movement behind him.

    Then he saw him. A man with a large camera taking a photograph of him, within arms reach.

    Jan turned and saw first the strangest eyes he’d ever see. The man pulled out the knives glinting in icy beauty. One slender sliver plunged clinically through Jan’s right eye, the other blade with practiced force slipped between his ribs. Jan folded instantly. He felt the phone being removed from his distant fingers, saw the silhouette calmly packing away his camera. Jan watched his blood pulse black, weaving along the pavement to the river, becoming a brief tributary. Everything faded to black.

    (360 words)
    @zevonesque

    #FlashDogs

    • The references to black and white work really well here and provide a unique take on the photo prompt, in addition to the use of the camera and phone within the body of the story. It’s also apt that the story leads from light to dark, in conjunction with the story arc from life to death. Nicely done.

    • I could feel every moment of this. Everything was so cool and crisp, highly enjoyable.

  8. Stella says:

    @stellakateT
    303 words

    The Battle

    I upload my selfie on Facebook and Twitter and there he is. Smiling, no he’s unpleasantly smirking as usual. He looks familiar in an odd sort of way and he certainly wasn’t there when I took the photo. I would have moved away. Miles away so I wouldn’t have to have him anyway near me. He’s my nemesis, Sherlock Holmes to my Moriarty. I’d seen him in a hundred guises, pretending to my friend. I’d worked with him, sat in bars with him, sweated with him in the gym, ate meals with his family. I’d even been his best man, godfather to his children and counsellor. My God was I fed up of listening to his woes, how life had let him down, why should he be the one to suffer? The constant whinging on and on was torment to my ears.

    I thought I’d had my last battle with him on Thursday when I knocked him off his bike on that country road. The local papers were full of it asking for witnesses to the fatality. The car driver had driven off and left the cyclist dead in a ditch. It was him or me. How many times do I need to tell them?

    Too many questions buzz around my brain but one keeps wanting an answer. Why was he in my selfie on Friday? The men on the next table stop chatting and look at me. Did I speak my thoughts out loud? I stare back; they drop their eyes and resume talking about football, the hot new girl in the post room, whatever floats their boat.

    Leaving the baguette bar I stroll towards work. He smiles and nods in recognition I don’t want to kill again so soon. I keep my eyes down and walk on. Tomorrow is another day.

  9. mariemck1 says:

    The Companion
    (165 words)
    He continued along the dark street. He checked his phone again, the modern tic he’d developed. His fingers, uncoordinated with cold, groped at the screen. Nothing.
    He would have given anything to be walking the familiar road home, being a student was bloody lonely. He hadn’t made friends with the other Freshers. He wasn’t sure why. Friendship had been easy at High School. When had he become so socially inept? He caught sight of one of his classmates on the other side of the road.
    Head down. Check phone.
    This time the screen was lit.

    ‘Over there. Do you see him?’
    ‘I don’t want to. Not tonight.’
    ‘I’m telling you. He’s your problem, Corky. Sort him and this whole thing will get better.’
    ‘I want to go back to the bedsit.’
    ‘I’m your only friend, here. Didn’t I sort out the essay issue? She’s not going to fail you, now, is she? Sort him.’
    ‘Shit. Just this one last time.’
    ‘Sure. Right decision. One last time.’

    • I’m so curious about this phone “friend”! And what a slimy phrase “one last time” is, I don’t know any character that has said it and meant it; great ending.

      • mariemck1 says:

        Thanks very much. I was thinking about the film ‘Magic’ with the ventriloquist’s dummy that told the ventriloquist to kill people. Thought maybe the phone could be a modern version of the dummy!

    • So much here in so few words, Marie! The “sorting” of the essay issue leading to the need to “sort” the other guy out is really well done. The dialogue’s spot on. The repetition of “one last time” also serves to emphasise the fact that there’ll be another beyond it to me!

      • mariemck1 says:

        I don’t tend to do a lot of dialogue so that’s good to know. Thanks for reading. Much appreciated.

  10. Doubly Exposed

    “We on?” Dave says.

    “Good to go,” Tara nods, camera raised, looking across the space between them.

    “Flick the switch,” he responds, bringing his phone up, into place.

    “You realize I’m humouring you, right?” Tara asks. “After last time.”

    Dave is concentrating on his screen, eyes narrowed.

    “Where exactly is it, anyway? The space between?”

    Dave shrugs, without looking up. “Caz explained it to me, once. Big conversation. Long words. Guess I was concentrating too much on other things to take it in.” A pause. “Didn’t realise it would matter.” He shrugs again. “She always did like to travel.” A smile twitches his lips, before it fades. His eyes remain focused on the mobile in his hand.

    “That being the case, you sure she even wants to come back?” Tara presses the button at the top of the camera suddenly. “She could’ve just left you, you know. Have you considered that?” An edge enters her voice. “Perhaps she wanted other things more than she wanted you.”

    Dave looks up, blue eyes meeting directly with brown. “Not for good,” he says. “Wanted the experience? Yes. Not forever though. The opportunity was just too tempting once she knew how. I understand that.” Humour touches his eyes briefly. “You never did get us, did you? I could see it when I introduced you.”

    His companion turns away before it’s her turn to shrug. “You got me. Not so much, seeing as you’re putting it out there. Still stupid enough to be here though, Crazy Boy, aren’t I?”

    Dave nods. “Fair dos. She’s stuck, is all,” he continues.

    “You’re certain?”

    “I’m certain,” he says, repeating the words back to her. “Needs us to bring her home.” Silence, then, “We on?” he repeats.

    “Yes – now,” Tara says. “What d’you see?”

    Dave squints at the ‘phone. “She’s there!” he exclaims. “Between us!” A pause. “At least, she was, briefly.” He looks up from the viewfinder. Tara is silent, frowning. “It doesn’t work both ways?” he asks. He adds, “Still don’t know how to get her out though. We’ll need to try again.”

    “Can I suggest something?” Tara asks gently.

    “We’re off,” Dave says, turning away.

    (360 words)

    @FallIntoFiction
    #FlashDog

  11. Carlos says:

    Under the Same Moon

    Her eyes are two luminescent orbs, flooding the darkness with excitement. She holds the small obsidian square in her left hand and flashes a smile before she approaches me.

    “Hey, Dad,” she says and wraps her arms around me. “You have to see this app I got. It’s amazing.”

    “Let me see, kiddo,” I say and place my hand on her shoulder. Her once bony and frail shoulder now feels strong. She is a woman now. It shouldn’t surprise me given how long I’ve been away, but it does.

    “It’s called ‘Under the Same Moon’. You take a picture of yourself under the night sky, upload it, and then, the app shows you everyone else who is also out under the night sky.” She flips through a couple of photos, her hands trembling with enthusiasm. “Look, this is a father and daughter in Alaska. Isn’t it great?”

    “Ya,” I say, my voice lacking conviction.

    “You don’t like it, do you?”

    “I’m sorry sweetie, I just don’t get it. Isn’t it a given that everyone shares the same sky? And also, how do you know those people are real? Who’s to say the photos aren’t preloaded?” I examine her face. Her eyes go from hi-beams to low instantly. “I’m an old man, sweetie. I don’t get these types of things. You shouldn’t let my opinions bring you down.”

    “No, you’re right Dad. It’s a dumb app.” She sits on the bench and her shoulders go slack. I’m reminded of the frail little girl I left behind. “It’s just with you gone and Mom hardly there, I—it made me feel better about things.”

    Moonlight and silence envelop her as she twirls the phone in her hands. She found some semblance of belonging through this outlet, and I ripped it from her. I need to make this right.

    “Scoot over,” I say. She does. I take the phone from her hands. After a quick swipe and a couple of light taps, and I see us on the screen. “Say cheese.”

    The moon shines bright in the photo, but not as bright as her eyes do.

    @goldzco21
    #flashdogs
    353 words

  12. drmagoo says:

    I held the phone steady, finger hovering over the camera icon. It was too dark to see, but if I turned the flash on, they’d see me, and then they’d kill me. Patience paid off, and a searchlight from the guard tower panned over the soldiers. I got my picture – now all I had to do what get back to the border alive.

    When they’d first recruited me for this mission, I was disappointed. Bond films had taught me that spies got all sorts of cool equipment, and I’d been looking forward to my bowtie camera. But all they handed me was an iPhone. Sure, it was equipped with all sorts of proprietary encryption, and used a satellite network that the public couldn’t access, but it was otherwise identical to the one I’d been carrying with me the day I was hired.

    On the other hand, one didn’t have to explain away a smartphone to the police.

    I didn’t really wonder what would happen to the men I’d photographed, but I wondered who they were, where they’d come from. It was easy to assume that wearing a grey or a black uniform made one a hero or a monster, but I didn’t see why men and women who grew up on one side of a river would be inherently different than men and women who grew up on the other. It really wouldn’t matter much once the drone strikes were triggered, they’d be dead regardless of how noble or despicable they were.

    I was still undercover when I made it back to the capital. There, I was nothing more but a faceless man staring down at his phone. As I thumbed through the photos of a fabricated life which were all anyone without the right codes would see, I thought of the men I’d seen laughing in the night. I didn’t know whether they deserved to die. They wouldn’t have given a second thought to blowing my head off if they’d seen me, probably. But I had time to pause. Time to think.

    Time to drop my nondescript phone in a “Recycle Your Phone” can at the train depot.

    360 words
    @drmagoo

  13. Rebekah Postupak says:

    Selfie

    “And here we are at that cute little aquarium. Have you ever been?”

    “No. Looked like a rip-off to me.”

    “Ha. Well, it probably is, if you think twenty bucks will get you Shamu. It’s all about expectations, see. We happen to enjoy visiting twenty dollar minnows.”

    “You think you’re so funny. Okay, who’s that? Your nephew?”

    “Mmm-hmmm. On leave from the Navy, and he met up with us for hibachi one night. Great kid. We’re all so proud. He’ll probably save the world from aliens some day.”

    “This one’s your brother, right?”

    “Right.”

    “I can’t get over the beard. Oh, there are your parents. Gosh, I haven’t seen them in, what, five years? Six? Your mom looks great.”

    “Doesn’t she? Yes, it’s been a while.”

    “I thought she might come out for your chemo. You know, watch the kids, help around the house.”

    “I don’t think you’ve met my brother’s friend Robert? Another great guy. Here he is, showing the kids how to fish. He’s been on TV a couple of times. Bass fishing.”

    “Subject change much?”

    “Sorry, I’m on a roll. Oh, look here, Jaz, this was the coolest thing. The kids took indoor surfing lessons. There’s surf waves, right next to the pool! You ever hear of such a thing?”

    “You even tell your mom about the chemo?”

    “They also had a—”

    “Does she even know about the cancer? Your surgeries?”

    “I don’t want to talk about this now.”

    “And where are the photos of you? You sure you even went on this trip?”

    “Don’t be ridiculous. Who do you think took all the pictures?”

    “I haven’t seen a picture of you in a year, maybe longer.”

    “Yes, you have. That huge bald pig in last week’s paper? Me.”

    “Kate.”

    “Sorry.”

    “I dare you to let me take your pic right now, and upload it to Facebook.”

    “No.”

    “Let me take your pic. I won’t post it anywhere.”

    “No.”

    “You’re planning to spend your last months invisible?”

    “Oh look, here’s a great shot. I don’t think you’ve met my brother’s new girlfriend? How much do you think she paid to be that blonde?”

    @postupak
    357 words

    • I love how you’ve captured what pictures can mean to a person. The perfect slices of memory that can make you joyful or remind you of what you no longer have. It’s hard to feel ugly anytime but when cancer is the reason, it feels extra ugly.

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