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Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge Again – Banjo and the Wormhole

October 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Chuck Wendig has issued another flash fiction challenge. The deal is, week one you make up a title. Week two you pick someone else’s title and write a story. I selected the title ‘Banjo and the Wormhole’ submitted by writerchick, ie: Anita Rodgers.

This title stuck in my head, especially since I had been watched a program about Banjo Paterson’s birthplace. A few ideas flitted through my head but I couldn’t bring myself to mess with an icon of Australian poetry, though I did find the idea of the swagman jumping in the billabong actually jumping into a wormhole appealing. Maybe next time.

Banjo ran. He charged down the tunnel looking for the side corridor Sanjay had assured him was there, just a quick ten or fifteen minutes away from where this tunnel split off from the main corridor. He forgot to mention those minutes had to be spent running at full tilt, careening madly around corners, sliding down or scrambling up the undulating tunnel, desperate to stay ahead of a giant worm sliding down the tunnel behind you.

It wasn’t the worm’s fault. It probably wouldn’t even notice him as he was crushed against the tunnel wall as it galumphed by. The indemnity clause would definitely have to be rewritten. When Banjo had signed up to beta test his company Timex’s new Travel the Universe package, which involved jumping from planet to planet through inter-dimensional vortexes and space and time spanning worm holes, there hadn’t been any mention of actual worms.

Sliding down yet another nearly vertical decline, Banjo spied a break in the wall just ahead of him. He put on a last desperate burst of speed, bounced off the wall opposite the corridor and launched himself inside just as the worm dogging his heels slid by. This was definitely going to be rated as requiring a five star fitness level, certification required.

He lay on his back, panting, waiting for the blood to stop thundering through his veins as if it was trying to escape. Once he could breath normally he sighed, sat up and retrieved his pack where it had landed. After drinking the last of his water, he pulled out the data pad containing his itinerary. Damn, it said don’t drink all of your water. He quickly scanned through the rest of the instructions for the day. Not only was there no way to obtain any additional supplies, there were no comfort stations. He looked at the empty bottle and put it in his pack. Better keep it in case of emergencies.

He flicked back through the document until he reached a map. Apparently he was supposed to traverse through a maze of smaller tunnels that ran in roughly the same direction as the main corridor he had just left. It reached the same exit point only it took several hours longer. The up side was you were unlikely to end up as a smear on the wall.

After an hour of dead ends and backtracking Banjo realised two things, One, the map was crap. Two, he was hopelessly lost. Where was a panic button when you needed one? If his company wanted to include this side trip as an optional extra in their package, they were going to have to either map this maze properly or put in sign posts. Not that he could see the point. According to the outline Sanjay had given him, this mishmash of worm holes only lead to a third class agricultural planet a mere fifty years in the past. It wasn’t even interesting enough to be classified as a backwater. His accommodation for the stopover, should he ever get out of this maze, was a room in a boarding house. Not exactly the sort of thing the clients of Timex had come to expect. They typically wanted either seven star or the authentic native experience.

Deciding to ignore the map altogether, Banjo shoved it back into his pack. At each intersection he chose the path most travelled. Several hours later he was seriously contemplating both filling and then drinking from his water bottle. He was covered in grime, having fallen down a sink hole. The roof had also collapsed on him, not once but twice. As he turned what he thought was just another corner he found himself at his destination.

The small tunnel he was in terminated at a massive chamber, the roof invisible in the gloom. The walls appeared to be at least two football fields across and there was a constant stream of worms passing from one tunnel to another. Sanjay was reclining on a banana lounge in the centre of the room well clear of the worm flow. He had a cooler at his side and was reading something on his data pad.
Banjo marched over to him. ‘Bathroom?’
Sanjay waved at the wall where Banjo had come from without looking up from his book. ‘Two tunnels to the left.’

Banjo returned after taking care of business. He pushed Sanjay’s legs until there was room on the recliner, plopped down and opened the cooler. Pulling out a beer, he drank deep. ‘That map was crap.’
Sanjay grunted.
‘Seriously, you can’t expect clients to find there way through with something like that.’
Sanjay looked up from his book and frowned. ‘Actually, we weren’t expecting you to find your way out. We were planning on deploying our rescue response team. The auditors have been complaining the hasn’t been enough situational testing and I thought we could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.’
Banjo smirked. ‘Are you still sore about Alana? She was going to dump your sorry ass anyway.’
Sanjay sat up straight. ‘I told my mother about her.’
Banjo goggled at his frenemy. ‘She’s not the sort you take home to mother, unless your mother is an ex hippie or stripper or something.’
‘My mother is a very respectable mother, thank you very much.’
‘See, I did you a favour.’
Sanjay held out his hand. ‘Give me your data pad. I need to load the next itinerary.’
‘I thought I was staying in some craptastic boarding house for the night.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous. That was booked when we didn’t expect you to make it out of the maze. No, you are going to Optima Beta Three, for the civil uprising. Should make for an interesting three days and two nights, breakfast and dinner included. The itinerary contains a list of all the highlights, culminating in the arrival of the patriot army who crush the rebellion in it’s meaty fist.’
‘Great. Do I get a vortex this time?’
Sanjay smiled. ‘Sorry, this is a space and time jump. You need a worm hole for that.’ He pointed at the far wall. Over there is the tunnel you need. It’s a high traffic tunnel, lots of worm activity, but there is no maze for this one. There are niches carved into the wall at intervals so you just need to pop into one and let the worms pass.’
‘And how far apart are these niches?’
‘It varies.’
‘Great.’ Banjo trudged over to his tunnel and watched for a few minutes, gauging the traffic flow. He looked over his shoulder, but Sanjay had gone.
‘Oh well, here goes nothing.’ Banjo ran.

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Categories: Blog Entry

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge – A Space Opera

September 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Chuck Wendig has issued a Flash Fiction Challenge, and I thought I would give it a go. As he often points out on his blog, practice, practice, practice.

Zero lay on his back in the airshaft, trying to keep his breathing slow and deep. Digging that microchip out had hurt more than he’d expected, but not half as much as inserting the replacement. The pain and lack of air was making him light headed. They had turned off the fans hours ago to force him out and the air was getting stale. And it wasn’t as if he could crack a window; they were in short supply on galactic battle cruisers. He was beginning to think cutting off internal sensors might have been a mistake. Sure, they couldn’t track him, but he’d never subscribed to the death before dishonour crap. He was more a live to fight another day, kind of guy.

His closed his eyes and mentally checked his link to the mainframe. Yep, it was still up and so was the hidden subroutine he had started once he realised he had missed his rendezvous. Plan B had never been attractive and he wanted to reassess the potential downside again before committing.

‘Computer, do you have the results of subroutine beta three?’
The computer pinged an affirmative.
‘Well what are they?’ he asked. The damned computer always got difficult if he didn’t use her proper designation.
A female voice purred in his ear, despite his request for a neutral gender. ’30 percent chance of success. Possibility of death 18 percent. Possibility of injury and recapture 47 percent. Unknown outcome 5 percent.’
Shit, it wasn’t the 47 percent that bothered him, or even the 18 percent, it was that pesky 5 percent. For some reason he always ended up in the 5 percent.

Screw it. For a 30 percent chance of getting off this gilded prison barge he would risk it. He rolled over onto hands and knees and began crawling as quietly as possible through the network of air ducts. If he ever got back onto his own ship he was having that baby overhauled so there were no vents bigger than a hand span. The last thing he wanted was people roaming about his ship undetected.

He tapped back into the mainframe and hacked into the video feeds in the main dock. He knew they had suspended all regular outgoing ships but they couldn’t stop the diplomatic delegations from departing. There couldn’t be a hint from the Council he had escaped their control.

Three ships were waiting to depart. The ship from the Brennan franchise was out. They were carbon monoxide breathers. He would be dead before they uncoupled the clamps. The second ship was too obvious as it was heading for the Free Trading quadrant. Zero frowned and refocused the video feed onto the third ship. If he remembered correctly there had been an alliance from the Outer Rim. None of the members were rich enough to support their own fleet so they were travelling in a third party vessel. He didn’t know the markings, but the delegates had been air breathers so it should be safe enough. All he had to do was get aboard.

He felt a subtle vibration and a soft breeze which told him the virus he had installed had finally broken through their firewalls and the air was back on. Thank whatever deity was watching because if it had taken much longer he wouldn’t had had to bother with finding a way off this crate. They would have found him then, eventually. He remembered one time a sand crawler had slipped into his ship undetected and died in one of the hidden storage cubes. The smell had lingered for weeks.

Two hours later he had crawled his way to the air ducts above the slave quarters. Practically the only change the Empress had implemented since her ascending to her father’s throne had been outlawing slavery. Zero was convinced it had been a financial rather than humanitarian decision. Apparently it was expensive housing all of those extra bodies.

There was no video into the private quarters, so he had to listen at each room until he found one that seemed to have only one occupant. He waited another few minutes before cracking the vent and peered inside. A female. That was no good. He continued on. At the third attempt he spotted a male about his size. He scooted around until his feet were pointing at the vent, gave it a good kick and jumped into the room before the vent casing had hit the floor. The slave shrieked and leapt across the small room for the door. Before he could make it, Zero had him by the back of his tunic.

‘Calm down.’
The man struggled for a moment but as he twisted he caught sight of Zero’s uniform and slumped in his hold, whimpering. Zero let him go and he fell to his knees, then prostrated himself.
Zero tisked. ‘All right, that’s enough. Get up.’
The man peered fearfully at Zero from his prostrate position but didn’t move.
This got old so fast. ‘Where are your clothes?’
The slave pointed a trembling finger at a bag sitting beside the bunk.
Zero picked it up, opened it and rummaged through the contents. ‘Is this all you have?’
‘Yes Lord, Her Imperial Highness, Greatest of all Empresses issues each of her loyal servants with an extra outfit.’
Zero shook out the cheap pants and shirt. ‘Oh well, it will have to do.’
‘It is all I have,’ murmured the prostrate man.
‘Yes, well I guess I only need one outfit.’ Zero quickly stripped out of his uniform and donned the clothes. ‘Do you have shoes?’
‘Just the pair I am wearing.’
Zero wrinkled his nose at the idea of wearing someone else’s shoes. Oh well, needs must. He had already modified the manifest to the Outer Rim alliance’s ship so he had to look the part.

Zero shuffled forward until he was in the middle of the pack of ex slaves queuing up to board their ship. He tried not to think about the possibility the chip he had so painstakingly inserted was faulty as he held out his arm to be scanned. The wand beeped and he was waved on board. Keeping his gaze down as befitting an ex slave, he followed the woman in front of him. After he felt the clamps release, signifying they had left the docking bay Zero could hardly contain his glee as he queued up with the rest of the slaves waiting for room assignments. They were each offered a datapad and shown where to place their thumb print. When it was Zero’s turn he goggled at the screen proclaiming him the property of the ship and crew until his debt incurred for transport had been discharged. Seven years for a three week flight? Unbelievable. He looked around his new prison with dismay. Goodbye frying pan, hello fire.

Categories: Blog Entry Tags: ,

Choices

September 11, 2015 Leave a comment

Here is a flash fiction story I submitted to Fireside Fiction, but they weren’t impressed.

“She’s coming.” The wind whispered to Maggie, slipping under the door and rattling the windows.  She looked up from her workbench where she was grinding a concoction of herbs and gazed blankly around the inside of her cottage, hoping she had misheard. Perhaps it was a tricksy mouse scuttling across the floor, making fun of her. But the room was empty of mice. The huge kitchen hearth stood centre stage on the back wall, her work area where she was standing to the right of the hearth contained a jumble of benches and shelves holding an endless arrangement of jars, bunches of dried herbs, piles of raw minerals and assorted junk. To the left was a tidy seating area comprising two chairs on either side of a low table.  A small bed rested against the far wall, neatly made up with a colourful plaid blanket. There was nowhere for mice to hide.

“She’s coming.” The wind taunted louder, a swirl of smoke and sparks belching from the fireplace.

Maggie put down her mortar and hurried over to the hearth, stamping on the tiny embers. “Nobody is coming,” she scolded the impertinent wind.

Another gust of wind sent smoke billowing across the room. “You called her,” sighed the wind.

Maggie shook her head, and jiggled the flue to shut out the wind and the smoke and the summons. She returned to her workbench and picked up the mortar and pestle and ground and ground and ground the herbs, muttering to the obstreperous wind.  “Nobody is coming. I was angry, that’s all. It wasn’t a proper calling. Grief shouldn’t count”. The wind laughed.

#

The rabbit hopped a few steps into the clearing and paused. The paw on its rear leg was badly mangled, the leg trailing in the dirt hindered its progress. The fur on the lower part of the leg was matted with blood and pus, picking up dirt and dried grass as it moved deeper into the clearing. It hopped hesitantly forward for a few more steps then paused again, looking around dully.

Maggie knelt down in front of it and reaching out cradled it gently between her bony, work worn hands. It blinked, but barely twitched as she picked it up, cradled it against her scrawny chest and stood. She carried the wounded rabbit across the meadow that fronted her small cottage, shouldered open the door and ducked through the low doorway.

Maggie tutted to herself as she shoved aside a collection of bottles and gently placed the rabbit in the space provided.  Keeping one hand on its back as a precaution in-case it tried to escape, her other hand hovered over the group of bottles, until identifying the correct one she picked it up, shook it a few times and put it back down again. She fumbled the stopper out of the bottle and waved it under the nose of the passive rabbit.

It’s nose twitched, it made an aborted attempt to jerk away and then slowly slumped over.  Maggie quickly replaced the stopper. It wouldn’t do to get a whiff of that particular concoction. She hurried over to the hearth and picked up the kettle simmering gently beside the fire, brought it back over to her table and poured some water into a shallow bowl. Putting the kettle on the floor, she picked up a cloth, dipped it into the water and began to clean the wound.

#

The wind rustled a warning just before her cottage door was flung open and crashed against the wall. Maggie continued dabbing at the rabbit’s leg.
“That’s my kill,” said a female voice.
Maggie looked over at the stocky young female standing in her doorway, legs braced apart and arms akimbo, a bow slung over one shoulder and a hunting knife strapped to her thigh.“Oh no dear, he’s not dead yet.”
The girl strutted into the room. “My trap, my rabbit.”
“But he wasn’t in a trap,” said Maggie, reasonably.
The girl made a move to reach around Maggie for the rabbit. “I tracked him here.”
Maggie grabbed her hand and bore it down to the table, away from her charge. “My cottage, my rabbit.”
The girl wrenched her hand away. “Do you know who I…”
“Oh yes.” Maggie tilted her head slightly, “Well I know who your father is, which is rather more to the point.”
The girl flushed. “You can’t take what’s not yours. I hunt these woods. What I catch is mine.”
“Think of it as a trade. You took something of mine. I take something of yours.” Maggie glanced at the array of bottles on her table. “I had thought to take something else.”
Looking around the Spartan room, the girl sneered. “As if I would take anything of yours.”
Maggie continued talking, as if the girl hadn’t spoken. “I had a cat you know. A marvellous mouser, but she would wander out into the woods, even though I warned her. She also thought she knew best.” Maggie shook her head and glanced at the girl’s bow. “One day she came home with a most terrible hole in her side.”
The girl swallowed, looking a little uneasy. “Well it wasn’t me. I kill what I aim at.”
Maggie stroked the rabbit. “Is that so?”
The girl took a step forward, hand dropping to her knife. “Give me my kill.”
Maggie bent back over the rabbit. “No.”
The girl turned on her heels, stomping out of the cottage. “You’ll regret this.”
“Perhaps, but choices must be made,” said Maggie to the sleeping rabbit.

#

“They’re coming.” The wind whipped through the tree branches above Maggie’s head. She resettled the pack on her back. “They’re here,” cried the wind.
The rabbit stuck his head out the top of the pack and twitched his nose inquisitively. Maggie glanced back once at her cottage as the flames shot skywards with a roar, almost drowning out the screams. The rabbit ducked back down.
“They’re gone, sobbed the wind.

Categories: Blog Entry, Story

Published Short Stories

April 5, 2015 Leave a comment

March 2013 – Stringybark Erotic Short Fiction Award 2013 (Shortlisted)

Dreamtime Calling

October 2013 – Rasberry and Vine Short Story Competition

Neighbourhood Watch

Categories: Blog Entry

Short Stories that Didn’t Make the Cut

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the suggestions I picked up from the freelance writers course I did a while ago was to send in stories to competitions. Thinking about that for a few minutes I decided that was an awesome suggestion so I jumped on line and purchased a copy of the Australian Writer’s Marketplace. I really recommend this book to the beginners out there like me. It is a great source for all sorts of things, as well as listing hundreds of writing competitions. I’m not eligible to enter all of them, but I picked a few of the ones that seemed to be for the neophyte.

I’ve sent in about half a dozen stories by now with varying success. I don’t think the children’s story marketplace is my arena; I sent in submissions to two separate competitions and didn’t get a mention. Some of my other stories have been slightly more successful, but I will leave that for a later post.  Following is an entry for one of my alsoran stories.

Categories: Blog Entry

The Dam Builders

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment

This was a submission to a short story competition that didn’t make the cut…

Brad peddled furiously after Mikey and Jack as they pelted down the dirt track. He glanced over his shoulder. “It’s alright guys, she’s gone,” he called out.

Mikey punched a fist in the air, before grabbing for his wobbling handlebar and skidding to a halt. “I thought we’d never lose her.” Brad pulled up beside him and they waited as Jack did a 180 and rode back to them.

“Yeh Brad,” said Jack as he reached them, “why did you let her follow you. Girls are bad enough but sisters are the pits.”

Brad hunched his shoulders. “I didn’t let her. She follows me everywhere and hasn’t got the brains to know she’s not wanted.”

“She’s a girl, stupid. They don’t have brains.” said Jack.

“Everybody has brains,” said Mikey, “otherwise their head would cave in. It’s like guts.”

Jack rocked back and forwards on his pedals, twisting his handlebars back and forwards to keep stationary without dismounting. “Uh, speaking of brainless…”

Mikey glared at his friend. “I meant, it’s like the saying that someone is gutless. It doesn’t mean they don’t have any guts inside them.”

“Ookay, not actually trying to change the subject, because of course guts are cool, but where should we go now?” asked Brad.

“How about the bridge,” said Mikey. We could check out if our dam is still holding.”

Brad and Jack looked at each other, and nodded. “Ok.”

They turned their bikes and headed down a small side track winding through the scrubby undergrowth. Brad looked back, but there was still no sign of Sarah. She rarely followed them this far and was probably back at home already, complaining to mum. His bike wobbled as he hit a rut and he peddled harder, jumping his bike over branches and dodging holes, racing to catch up with his friends.

Jack was in front by a bike length as he took the sharp corner before the descent to the creek. He braked sharply and skidded across the track. Brad was right behind him and turned left to avoid crashing into him, ending up in the bushes. Mikey wrenched to the right but lost control and stacked it, his bike sliding to a stop on its side with Mikey underneath it.

Jack jumped off his bike and dropped it against a tree. Seeing Brad was backing out of the bushes under his own steam, he rushed over to help Mikey. “Are you ok?”

“Ow.” Mikey pushed at his bike, trying to lift it off and get up at the same time. “What did you stop like that for, idiot. I could have been killed.”

Jack grabbed the front of the bike and pulled, allowing Mikey to scramble up. Bending over, Mikey inspected the impressive tear in the knee of his pants. “Oh no. I’m dead anyway when Gran sees this. He picked gingerly at some gravel embedded in his knee before turning to Jack and wacking him on the arm.

“Ow,” said Jack, grabbing his arm.

“Idiot.”

Jack wacked him back. “Wimp.”

Brad finished inspecting his bike for damage and dropped it on its side next to Jacks. He shook his head at his bickering friends and walked down the track towards the creek. “Guys, you’ve got to come see this.”

Jack grabbed Mikey and dragged him over to Brad.

“No way,” said Mikey.

“Fantastic,” said Jack.

Brad laughed. “I guess our dam is still holding then.”

The three boys stared at the pool spread out before them. The small creek they had leapt across just last weekend now spread out on either side of the original creek bed. At its widest point the boys could have stretched out end to end and still not reached both sides. In the sudden quiet, they could hear the sound of running water. They grinned at each other and dove into the scrub on the edge of their new pond, following the musical tinkle.

They slid down the small incline where they had built their dam wall and scrambled over the muddy ground to the base of a brand new waterfall. The boys danced beneath the spray, darting in and out, slipping and sliding on the wet rocks. “This is awesome, “ said Mikey, skinned knee and torn pants forgotten.

“Yeh, much better than last week,” said Brad. ”Who would have guessed the gaps would have plugged up all by themselves.” He jumped up on the rocks at the base of their makeshift construction and poked at a gap between the rocks. “What do you think got stuck behind there?”

“Well don’t poke at it, stupid,” said Mikey.

Jack leapt up beside Brad to do his own inspection, but overbalanced on the slippery rocks and grabbed at Brad. Brad wobbled backwards and forwards for a moment, arms flailing, before crashing against the waterfall with Jack. Their combined weight caused one of the rocks to shift and water began spewing out faster around it.

Mikey hopped backwards a few paces. “Um, guys…”

As one, Jack and Brad looked up as the rocks above their head began to grind and tremble. Grasping at each other, the pushed off the wall and lunged towards Mikey who was backing rapidly away. “Move it Mikey,” yelled Brad. “Get up the bank.”

Mikey turned and fled, with Brad and Jack hot on his heels, the roar of falling rocks and gushing water impelling them forward. Brad saw Mikey fly up the bank, and turn to grab Jacks hand and haul him up the last section, just as a wave of water grabbed him around the ankles and threw him to the ground, dragging him back down the bank.  He tumbled head over heels, before jerking to a stop as something snagged his shirt. He lay there panting as the water ebbed away before squirming around to see Brad and Mickey lying on the ground, each of them griping a handful of his shirt. “Next time, we should use more than one layer of rocks.”

Categories: Blog Entry

Is Freelance Writing for Me?

March 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I can’t believe it has been a year since my last post. How slack am I. So where has my writing gone in the last year? Not very far. I worked on my nanowrimo novel, but I made the classic mistake of talking about it to family. Consequently the story now seems stale and I am having trouble finishing the first draft. In an effort to revitalise my drive I decided to attend a couple of sessions at the NSW Writers’ Centre. I attended a session on Freelance Writing and another on The Essentials of Getting Published. The both had value but I can see how they could pull me in completely different directions.

Freelance writing is a great idea, in theory, but I am already working full time. If I dedicate myself to chasing down opportunities I will have no time left for any other type of writing. And really, do I want to be a freelance writer? There is some scope to make a bit of money, but my true love is fiction writing. Barry Divola ran the seminar and is a successful freelance writer. He knows his topic well and even if I don’t go down the freelance path, I will definitely follow one of his suggestions: Enter Competitions.

I have never really thought about writing competitions as an outlet for my stories. What a great way to keep my writing fresh but still keep my focus on fiction. Ok, I don’t expect to win any prizes (unless all the other writers came down with the flu that week) but the germ of an idea from a short story may result in a larger work. I am already working on a story for the Henry Lawson festival.

And how was the seminar on Getting Published? Eye opening. In summary, the chances of getting published via the traditional route are similar to winning lotto. Don’t get me wrong, I buy lotto tickets, so I will probably try the traditional route, but I am not invested in it. I feel I will probably end up self publishing an ebook. I know there are other options like Print on Demand, but I think I will start with an ebook.

What was that? How do I expect to get people to actually find my ebook out of the 700,000 that were published last year? No Idea. Marketing is a whole other challenge. I think I will creep up on it, one blog at a time.

Categories: Blog Entry