Five Sentence Fiction

Sirens wailed in all directions as Luke fishtailed wildly around a corner, narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic. Grin manic and heart pounding with adrenaline, he floored it, yellow streetlights flashing past in a blur.

As the white searchlight of the helicopter swept over him again, Luke swung the steering wheel and swerved down a side street, hooting with laughter as the dark enveloped him once more. A sudden bang jolted his car and he spun out of control, right into the path of red and blue flashing lights.

“Bloody, buggering fuck,” Luke swore as officers swarmed his ‘borrowed’ ride; now he was in for it.

Invulnerable

Flames licked at her feet, warm and harmless. Barefoot and grubby, Meg stumbled through yet more rubble and shattered glass, feeling the pressure of it against her skin, but no pain.

She’d been wandering around this apocalyptic hellhole for hours. It hadn’t taken long to realise she wasn’t bleeding or burning. Or feeling pain at all, for that matter. So she ran. Then walked, and now shambled exhaustedly from room to room, unsure whether she was even getting anywhere, and not just wandering in circles in a smoke-filled, crumbling hell.

Wiping her streaming eyes with a soot-blackened hand, Meg reached for the heavy, rusted door blocking her way. Like the rest of the doors she’d come across, the handle was warm to the touch. Before she’d woken here, near naked and with no memory of how she’d arrived, the heat of the handle would have burnt her hand. Now, it was like a cup of coffee – pleasantly warm, but unlikely to burn. At this stage, I’d rather take the pain, Meg thought bitterly, hauling the heavy metal panel aside.

She was outside. Meg blinked in surprise at the sudden cool breeze in her sweat-stiffened hair and the brightness of the blue sky after the dim, flickering gloom.

So I’m apparently invulnerable and can walk through flames, and some crazy bastard knocked me out and dumped me in a burning ruin and then left me to wander around until I escaped? Either that, or I took mushrooms and am now hallucinating wildly. Not sure which version is worse.

“I assure you my dear, you are not hallucinating.”

Well, shit.

Hunger

The hunger clawed at the pit of my stomach, as my gut groaned miserably at its own emptiness. Tied down as I was, satiation wasn’t coming any time soon. Struggling against the ropes tying my wrists to the foot board, I whimpered pathetically. I was just so damn hungry.

I could hear muffled movement in the rest of the house. Or I assumed it was a house – I had woken up in this white-walled room, slumped on the floor with my wrists bound to the bed. And the hunger. The hunger that had pushed everything else out of my mind, until nothing but its gnawing insistence remained.

As if to add to my pain, the smell of food wafted under the door, lingering in my nostrils and leaving my mouth watering. It was so close. If I could just -

The door rattled, and the loud click of the lock sounded like music in my ears. As the door swung wide, the smell of food was suddenly right there. 

Eyes wide with anticipation, I inhaled deeply, ignoring the wary glances of my captors.

There. That was what I wanted.

Gaze trained unerringly on the faces of my jailers, I strained against the ropes holding me down. I wanted it, wanted it now. Mouth opening involuntarily, I muttered one word:

“Brains…”

Taboo – When is it too much?

No fiction today – My brain has wrapped around this topic and won’t let go. My university tutor asked us today what were taboo subjects for writers. What taboo subjects did I avoid in my own writing?

I was befuddled. Taboo subjects? Is there even such a thing for writers? Is there something out there so taboo that it can’t be written? If anything, writing to me seems like the sort of platform to explore taboo or sensitive subjects. Obviously it has the potential to be exploited, and can be used to spread hate and prejudice and what have you – but generally, taboo subjects are what makes reading/writing worthwhile.

Or is that just me?

I mean – don’t you get a little thrill when you see words like fuck and cunt in a formal setting like a novel? Aren’t sex scenes designed to be titillating – even just a bit? Doesn’t the cool, scientific language describing systematic, perfectly logical genocide turn your stomach and leave you reeling in horror? Are we fascinated by serial killers and criminals because we think these people are fundamentally good, upstanding members of the community?

If we didn’t write about pedophilia, or animal testing, or racism, or female circumcision, or rape, or masturbation or any number of other delicate subjects – are we in essence sweeping it under the rug? Are we kidding ourselves if we ignore subjects that make us uncomfortable, or challenge our view of the world?

As I’ve said, sometimes this treatment of the taboo can be exploited, and result in genocide, racism, sexism, abuse and what have you – but it can also have the opposite effect. BDSM, like homosexuality, used to be considered a mental illness. Through exploration of it through writing, film, and art, however – it’s now understood as an alternative lifestyle. Fifty Shades of Grey, despite it being a poorly written and terrible example of the lifestyle, brought it to mainstream attention and suddenly enjoying tying people up or being tied up wasn’t such a taboo any more. Sex education in itself is a subject which ought to more light shed on it, to remove the taboo from discussing it, especially in schools. My own was dismally lacking in anything more than “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die.” For that matter – why is sex such a taboo?

Obviously, we all have a different definition of taboo, and things we don’t want to write/read about – and that is fine, great even. But should that stop others from doing so? It’s a tricky question, one that I don’t have the answer to.

How about you? Is there something you consider a taboo subject in your writing? An autobiographical detail you might omit to save face? What are your thoughts on writing taboo subjects?

Withdrawal

The streets were a hive of activity, shoppers in their own little worlds as they pushed past each other with barely a glance. Charlotte marched along the street, head up and refusing to move for anyone. The bank was nearly shut for the day, and she had places to be; nobody was getting between her and her plans.

The cool interior of the bank was a blessed relief – tellers spoke softly to customers, quiet music drifted lightly across the senses and the air conditioning was a stark contrast to the warm, claustrophobic bustle outside the automatic doors. Charlotte took a moment to take a deep breath, and queued up to wait her turn.

As she got to the front of the line, Charlotte pulled her compact mirror from her bag to check her lipstick and adjust her brunette wig, Satisfied, she smacked her lips together and, slipping her hand back into her bag, stepped up to the counter.

“Hi, how can I help you today?” Came the standard greeting.

Sliding her hand out of her bag again, she rested the gun against the beige counter with a brittle, red-lipped smile.

“I’d like to make a withdrawal, please.”

Word Fiend – September Edition

One story, and as many Merriam Webster ‘Word of the Day’ entries (from September so far) as I can fit into it. Enjoy!

***

Torr stood casually leaning against a pillar, eyes darting around the city walls, eyeing the Crown’s so-called ‘impregnable’ security force. Amateurs, the lot of ‘em, he thought, spitting derisively.

Still, their plan was tantamount to treason and for it to work, they needed access to the walls. Torr watched their movements about the walls, their patterns, idly scratching his jaw. Just as he was beginning to get a sense of their routine, the pointed blade of a knife jabbed at his side.

“Gimme all your money, darling,” murmured a smoky voice in his ear.

Recognising the culprit, he rolled his eyes and turned to his so-called attacker. “That low on prospects, eh Mara? Young men at the lido not payin’ as well these days?”

Mara pouted, and sheathed her knife. Torr watched it disappear into the folds of her skirts, marveling that a dress apparently without pockets could hide such secrets. “No fun, Torr. They all skitter and fall all over themselves to help me that they never notice their missing purses.” She smiled slowly, a shark’s grin full of teeth and mischief. “Who else are we waiting for?”

Returning to the business at hand, Torr responded, “Pyotr and Remy were bivouacked outside th’ walls last night, they’ll be ‘ere soon. An’ I’ve not seen Jon, the drunkard’s prob’ly at Martha’s rathskeller, ‘preparin’ as ‘e calls it.” He spat at the ground again, grinning at Mara as she wrinkled her nose.

“Fine. No need to exacerbate the problem by hauling his drunk arse out before we’re ready, then. Are we ready?”

Torr peered at the walls again, crawling with all its little toy soldiers and their tin weapons. “I reckon, yeah.”

Mara tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear and smiled maliciously. “What are we waiting for then? Let’s take this city!”

***

Words used: Tantamount, exacerbate, lido, rathskeller, impregnable, bivouac, culprit. To see their definitions, and more of Merriam Webster’s ‘Word of the Day’ entries, see here.

To see previous Word Fiend posts, see here and here.

Summer Nights

It was too hot for sex. Too hot for sleep. Instead, Jules lay with her head on her boyfriend’s hip, letting him stroke his hand absently through her salt-stiffened hair as they lay on the still sun-warm tin roof. It was a gorgeous summer night – the Milky Way glimmered faintly visible above them, and a slight breeze brushed against overheated skin and rustled through nearby trees.

Lulled by the heat, the whine of cicadas and the hypnotic movement of Nate’s hand in her hair, Jules stargazed in silence. Sweat dripped down the back of her knee, and her skin was tight after a week of extremely hot weather. Despite the heat radiating from the tin beneath her, she was reluctant to move – the house was stuffy and still and she wanted no part of it.

Around 3am, still awake and only somewhat cooler, Jules shifted upwards and lay beside Nate, whose eyes followed her silently as she shifted, lips quirking into a smile as she pulled his arm out to use as a pillow against the corrugated roof. Murmuring quietly, words largely indistinct, silence fell again as they lay curled into each other, fingers occasionally stroking over a hip or shifting over a jawline.

Gentle kisses followed; a kiss to a sweat-salted shoulder, chin, forehead, lips. As the sky began to lighten with the approaching dawn, Jules sat straddled across Nate’s hips, fully clothed and sweat be damned. Lazy, languorous kisses passed between them, deep and unhurried.

As the sun peeked over the horizon, streaking the sky orange and pink, Jules led Nate off the roof. Sleepy and silent, they disappeared inside, hand in hand.

Back to school…back to school…

Week one on campus is always cheerful, sunny and filled with good intentions. My internal monologue, walking between classes in the late summer sunshine, goes something like this: Man, why did I ever leave? I love uni! I love being around smart people who have something to say, I love learning new things, I love essays, and writing and damn I missed feeling smart! Full course load and part time work? Pssh, I’ve got this.

Blissfully swanning about campus in cute summer dresses and toting new stationery, I’m convinced that this year, I will finally get my shit together and will generally be awesome at life.

Some weeks later, things have changed.

No. I don’t wanna get out of bed. Who decided a 9am tutorial was a good idea? Its the middle of fucking March – why is it still 35 degrees outside? Will people judge me if I wear my pj’s to class? Do I care? How dare they make think, and…do stuff at this time of day. Or, you know – at all. Bugger it, I’m staying right – zzzzzzzzzzzzz

I tromp onto campus later in the week, sweat dripping and skin slowly burning from the intense sunlight streaming down. Sunnies on, headphones in and head down, I’m studiously ignoring people trying to get me to care about endangered children or starving pandas or something.

Thinking hurts. Being called on in class when I’ve barely skimmed the reading is humiliating, there’s a girl in my film class who doesn’t know what a camera angle is…and I haven’t started that essay that is due tomorrow…whoops.

Yup. Definitely back to school…can I go home now? Will somebody just mail me my degree? ‘K thanks…

***

I figure I should mention that as an Aussie…we begin uni in March, and that 35C is something like 95F.

Quality Time

Hoisting the cardboard box into his arms, Andy grinned at his wife as he jogged out of the front door. Muffled giggling and knocking sounded from inside the box as he stepped off the verandah, and he suppressed a laugh of his own.

“Daaaaaad! Let me out! Dad!” The muffled voice of his daughter echoed from the box, followed by more giggling.

Feigning innocence, Andy mused aloud: “I can hear Jazzy, but I can’t see her anywhere! I wonder where she’s gotten to? Jazzy? Are you there?”

More knocking and laughter. “I’m here! Dad, I’m here!”

As he approached the shed with his burden, Andy spotted the trampoline off to one side. Perfect.

Detouring, he jostled the box in his arms just to hear the “Heyyy!!” from inside. Easing the box onto the blue trampoline mat, he braced his hands on the surface and bounced it up and down. Shrieking laughter, muffled by the thin cardboard, escaped merrily into the morning air, and Andy grinned again.

Opening the lid, his red cheeked and wild haired daughter tumbled onto the trampoline, aiming a dramatic pouty face in his direction before the tooth-gapped grin broke out again. “Again! Do it again!”

Andy hauled himself onto the trampoline alongside his daughter, letting himself be wrestled into submission. “C’mon, Dad! Pleeeeeease?”

Planting a cheeky raspberry on a bit of exposed belly, Andy groaned dramatically. “How ’bout you do me this time? You’re heavy, Little Jazz.”

“Nuh uh! Piggyback!!” Jazz insisted, pushing ineffectively at Andy’s shoulder to get him to move.

Quickly, Andy twisted and grabbed his cheeky daughter around the middle before depositing her over his shoulder, head dangling down his back. Little fists pounded his lower back, amid breathless laughter and half-hearted protests. Slipping off the trampoline, he trotted back to the house, arm firm around Jazz’s hips and legs.

After all, he had a munchkin to deliver to breakfast – it wouldn’t do to drop her now.

Not Quite a New Frontier

Acrid tobacco smoke eddied white and poisonous in the chill night air. Ted smiled grimly as he sucked back another mouthful of rare Earth tobacco, bitterly amused that the one vice he had left from home was slowly killing him. Even in this ridiculous time he’d woken to, fresh from stasis, he could still kill himself with tobacco. Morbidly comfortin’, I s’pose, Ted mused as he exhaled the smoke into an alien atmosphere he’d never wanted to see. ‘S what ye get fer donatin’ yer body t’ science, the fuckers.

Two hundred years ago he’d apparently gone into a coma, and his family was approached by the fledgling scientific research group that had eventually brought him to this godforsaken hell hole. Granted permission to put Ted’s body in stasis via newly discovered methods, his family had just blithely handed him over with a note folded in his pocket should he ever wake up. Giving you a chance at a new life…happy to think that one day in the future you’ll wake up and have a second chance…love you too much just to let go…Fuckers.

This stinking planet and all the New Humans living on it were a bunch of science-worshipping, clean-living hippies, and Ted hated everyone single one of ‘em.

Without the appropriate awe and thankfulness that most had upon waking in a new time and place, Ted had quickly become everyone’s least favourite person. He liked it that way. Nobody bothered him any more. He’d moved away from the settlements and research centres and taken up woodcarving. And smoking – when the funds from the woodcarving business allowed the purchase of Earth tobacco. That nasty new treehugger shit made from alien plants ain’t goin’ in my lungs. Bad enough I have t’ breathe the air.

Flicking away the cigarette butt, taking bitter pleasure in deliberately littering this hell parading as paradise, Ted moved inside to bed, the darkness behind his eyelids the only respite from this new world he loathed.

If he smiled as he dreamed of the peace death would bring him eventually, there was nobody there to see it.