Flash Fiction Frenzy!

scifi-flash-fiction

This month we bring you an explosion of flash in the form of three outstanding stories: Ten Steps to a Successful Apocalypse by Edward Ashton, The Boot Collector by Jessica Hanna, and Bon Manje by Andy Bolt. Each of these can be read in the space of a coffee break and each will deliver a lot more buzz than any cup of coffee. Enjoy!

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Ten Steps to a Successful Apocalypse

by Edward Ashton

 

1.      Make a cup of chamomile tea. Mix in a bit of honey. Drink it, slowly. The apocalypse will involve a great deal of screaming. Best to begin with a well-soothed throat.

2.      Say your farewells. For immediate family and close friends, this should be done in person if time permits. For co-workers and distant cousins, a text message will suffice.

3.      Don’t forget your pets. They’ve been with you all their lives, even if it’s only been a small percentage of yours. Dogs should receive a final affectionate ear-scratching at a minimum.

4.      If you own fish, do not say farewell to them. This is all their goddamn fault, after all.

5.      At this point, you may feel the urge to begin screaming. Do not. Even the best chamomile tea will only go so far, and you’ll want to save your best for the finale.

6.      A prayer is appropriate, but try to keep it brief and to the point. God is having a very busy day, and he isn’t interested in forgiving you for every freaking time you took his name in vain, worshipped a false idol, or jerked it in the church bathroom.free flash scifi

7.      See that red glow ringing the horizon? Yeah, that’s not the sunset.

8.      You can start screaming now.

9.      Don’t worry about final words. Nobody’s going to hear them, what with all the screaming.

10.   As the air catches fire and the earth opens up beneath you, try to remember that life is a gift, and it’s churlish to complain about not getting as much of it as you wanted. Don’t focus on the negatives, like your rapidly charring flesh and the swarms of flame-resistant locusts that are feasting on it. Try to think of something pleasant at the end. What about quokkas? They’re adorable.

 

~~~ 2 ~~~

The Boot Collector

by Jessica Hanna

 

Right now, there is something awful under my shirt. The something-awful is information about a crowded area in the city center, and the man I am delivering it to will use this to kill many people. After I pass the man what is under my shirt, I will continue my walk. I will go to school and I will ace my math test. None of the kids will think twice about me stepping in a few minutes late. I am terrible. I am rotten fruit.

And, I am doing all this for one reason: old boots.

In class the other day, the MK5 computer zapped this into my brain: In July 1969, three astronauts travelled to the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first earthling to step foot on its surface, followed by Buzz Aldrin. Around the world, televisions broadcasted the famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Even though this information was broadcast directly into our damn brains, half the kids have already forgotten it. I am positive that even before they did, no one stopped to think that the line attributed to Armstrong doesn’t even make sense. Of course it doesn’t. It’s not even what he said. He said, “That’s one small step for a man.” I know this. I’ve looked into it. I also own a convincing replica of the boots Buzz Aldrin wore on this mission.

The oldest boots I have are a genuine artifact and if anyone knew I had them, they would be confiscated. I might even be killed. They’re the shoes Captain Merriweather Lewis returned in after his famous expedition of the North American continent. I got them on the black market from a guy who ripped off my favorite collector. I’ve run a lot of tests on them to make sure they’re the real deal.

Altogether, I have nineteen pairs. Seven are replicas. The rest are authentic. Every shoe represents a human being stepping somewhere no other human had ever stepped. I keep them in crates in the back of my closet and not even my parents know I have them.

I don’t know why I have them. On three occasions, I have told my parents I was taking a trip with friends I don’t have so that I could sell my own body parts to buy these boots and I don’t know why.

nov-scifi-flash-BExcept that I think it has to do with being a Zompinite. I may be rotten fruit, but I come from a rotting orchard.

Last year, before the new MK5 computers were online, one of those glitchy M1 computers zapped this into my brain: In 3009, earthlings reached Zompin. They removed the Zompinite dictator and stepped onto the planet to the cheers and songs of the liberated Zompinites.

The M1 computer got this wrong too. No one thought of earthlings as a liberators. Of course, now they do, you know, because it’s zapped into their brains. But they didn’t always.

I don’t have the boots General Netrain wore when he stepped down onto Zompin. They’re the ones I want the most. I would sell my second stomach for them. I really would. But right now they’re locked up in a museum on Earth. I have seen pictures. I know that they’re encased in glass and well-guarded. Maybe one day I’ll figure out a way to get them.

Sometimes, I lock the door to my bedroom and take out all the boots I have and I line them all up. And I think of the humans and the places they’ve gone and all the rotten orchards that have sprouted in their footsteps. And I think of their feet, which have five toes at one end, each with a tiny nail on it. Calcium-rich bones run from the toes to the other end, which is called the heel. The foot is encased in skin which ranges in color from an almost translucent white that can show off the blood vessels underneath to near-black. If the skin is really dark, then the toenails can look incredibly pink. A soft sack called a sock goes over the foot. Then the foot goes into the boot.

~~~ 3 ~~~

Bon Manje

by Andy Bolt

 

I start the last hour of my shift by serving a plate of smoked reindeer canapés to Satan. He lives in the backwoods a hundred or so kilometers outside of Minsk. His avatar has already been negged in Group Dine on the religious iconography clause, but when I step through the spacebender into his hellfire-spewing virtual lair, I still have to put up with, well, whatever this is.

quokka flash fiction“Welcome, mortal, to the City of Dis! Hast thou prepared the entrails of the damned for my infernal feast?”

“Close,” I say. “Reindeer. Just think of it like eating Santa’s little buddies. That’s way evil, right?”

I used to be a lot more indulgent of the loonies, but that was before the fifth or sixth time I got attacked by one. Their tips are always lousy anyway.

Satan looks dejected, but sits down in front of his plate. He opens his mouth for another speech, but I’m back in Port-au-Prince with an “Enjoy your meal” before he can get the first lathery word out.

“Hatuey!” I shout, stepping back into Bon Manje’s kitchen. “That’s the fourth goddamn Satan this month! C’mon, we’ve got customers in a hundred and ninety-four countries; can’t we stop dealing with obvious psych cases? I’m seriously going to have to take a quantum knife to the next--”

I stop when I notice that Hatuey’s eyes are a solid beige color and his head is vibrating slightly. He’s always like this when he’s running through his cranial Kookbook for a rare dish. It’s an implanted database of over sixty thousand recipes, so it can sometimes take awhile.

I take the opportunity to glance into the dining room. We’re down to only four physical tables and twenty square meters, but the holo-projectors make it look much larger. A pair of local regulars, Edourd and Jean-Rene, account for the only occupied physical table. As usual, they have requested a total neg zone, effectively cutting themselves off from Group Dine. As far as I can tell, they still come here only because they knew Hateuy back when Bon Manje was all Creteworld. We’ll probably phase out the physicals next month. I’ll miss them, but only a little.

Among the avatars, I count a few hundred relatively normal, albeit perfect, humans. Also, a giant ostrich, a table of circus freaks, three stereotypical big-eyed aliens, eleven borderline slanderous celebrity caricatures, a fairy, a winged monkey, a blob of purplish light, and what appears to be a two-headed Elvis riding a hobbit.

Despite myself, I smile a little. I know they’re all out there in their various corners of the globe, but through the magic of holography, they’re also all here with Hateuy and me. We’re the world’s first pan-continental hole-in-the-wall, playing mom and pop for twelve billion.

“What?” asks Hateuy, shaking off his tech hangover and excitedly beginning to chop onions. I glance over, watching him sweaty and singing with gleeful, oniony tears staining his apron.

“Nothing,” I say, kissing him softly on his moist brown cheek. “Where to?”

“Melbourne,” he answers distractedly, handing me a plate of sautéed whitefish. “Table nine hundred and twelve.”

 

~~~

About the Authors

Edward Ashton lives in upstate New York with an adorably mopey dog, an inordinately patient wife, and an assortment of children. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of venues, including Daily Science Fiction, The Future Fire, and Escape Pod. His first novel, Three Days in April, was released by HarperCollins in September, 2015.

Jessica Hanna spends half the year in a tiny apartment in New York City and the rest in an even tinier RV, which is held together by duck tape and happy thoughts. She travels as much as she can and probably drove past you and waved once, but you ignored her. She doesn't hold it against you. When she isn't writing, she is homeschooling her two young boys.

Andy Bolt spends about half the year walking the Earth. He has gotten headaches at Everest base camp, ridden with military escorts in Egypt, and spent a memorable day hiking through a swamp in Papua New Guinea where every person he met carried a machete and wanted to shake his hand. He is like James Bond, but fatter and generally more terrified. His work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, EMG-zine, Bewildering Stories, and more. He loves you and wonders why you never call him. He lives in Shenyang, Liaoning, China.

More by the Authors

Edward Ashton: See his Amazon author page.

Jessica Hanna: This is her first publication. Congratulations, Jessica!

Andy Bolt:

"St. Doorman the Mighty" in Bewildering Stories
"Mindblown" in EMG-zine
"Identity Theft" in Every Day Fiction
"Love Junkies" in Whispers of Wickedness
"Airman" in Byzarium

World's Shortest Author Interviews

Edward Ashton:

You could either be frozen for future revival or immediately reanimated after death. Which do you choose and why? Are you a zombie afterwards? Do you live in the body of a pigeon? Why do you keep calling me Charles?

Definitely reanimated. Frozen corpses will only be revived in the future at the whim of our alien overlords, presumably to work in their sugar mines. I will be a zombie afterward, but not one of those crappy, moaning, Walking Dead zombies. My role model will be Randall Skeffington from Ugly Americans. I will not live in the body of a sky-rat, and I call everyone Charles.

If you could change one thing from your childhood, what would it be and why? (Please include the phrase "hot pink orangutan" in your answer.)

When I was five, my older brother strapped an old set of antlers to my head, grinch-style, sent me out into the woods, and hunted me with a BB gun. If I could go back, I would take off the antlers. They made it really hard to run. Hot pink orangutan.

Jessica Hanna:

Who would you drive across country to see perform, and how do you think they should adjust their material to appeal to the cephalopod demographic?

I have it good authority that Donald Trump is the drummer of a psychobilly blues band called the ZatarANTS. As a part of the voting populace, I would consider it irresponsible not to steal money from my friends in order to travel to New Orleans and hear their cover of Memphis Slim’s “Beer Drinking Woman.” However, I find the follow-up question offensive and hope you will refrain from asking it in future interviews. No human being should ever appeal to the cephalopod “demographic.” If they didn’t act like such weirdos with their awkward costume changes, incomprehensible bioluminescent language, and filthy ink-spraying habit, we all would have accepted them long ago. You want to be included? Grow a backbone. Balls in your court, Squish.

Make up a word for "salubriously sonorous" and describe its origins.

Thrombulient. This word was, of course, created by me just now when I decided salubriously had a throm quality about it. However, not being a rampant egomaniac, I can admit that thrombulient was also penned several times in the ninth century by a monk who believed the letter “S” to be a manifestation of evil as it so clearly depicted the serpent of Eden in its cursed and legless state. Needing to describe the beating of angel wings, which were salubriously sonorous indeed, he concocted the word thrombulient. His writings were lost in a fire, read by no one but himself, but the word had been written. Therefore years later when I was asked for a synonym, I was able to pluck it from the ether. This makes me both the inventor and a charlatan, which I find to be a very apt description. It also would have made Brother Boniface quite happy, had I not just used the letter “S’ so many timesss.

Andy Bolt:

You could either be frozen for future revival or immediately reanimated after death. Which do you choose and why? Are you a zombie afterwards? Do you live in the body of a pigeon? Why do you keep calling me Charles?

I think you’ve got to go with future revival, right?  Wait, does my family get to come?  It seems like I’m setting the rules here, so they do.  In this scenario, my wife and I are resurrected in, I dunno, say 200 years.  Enough to be shocking but not so far that everyone’s left us and moved to Andromeda.  Also, they probably have cures for any zombism that may or may not have taken hold in the process.  Then, we get to do the talk show circuit and mess with history professors.   “Hey,” I’ll say, “back when my buddy Charles sent me here, we were still laughing about having made up the anteater, which as you doubtless know by now, was created by us as a joke.”

Please describe fifty words or less.

They’re sort of a sad attempt to capture the ineffable complexity of the cosmos and the unfathomable depths of the human psyche in a series of dots and squiggles.  Asking writers, who are habitually long-winded, to keep a lid on it seems like the right thing to do.

About the Artist

This month's illustration of the aquokkapolypse (kudos to Edward Ashton) was hacked together by editor D Chang, who could probably have spent a little more time on the compositing. You can find his videogame writing blog at Game Writer Central.

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