Flash Fiction Writing Challenge - hosted by the Inn Between
Welcome to the Inn Between! No reservations are needed, but I will expect payment in advance. -clink!- Thank you. While you enjoy your stay in my inn and in Ditto Town, please feel free to take part in the event that I have been coer - *ahem* - requested to host, during Ditto Town's reconstruction. May I introduce you to Ditto Town's first Flash Fiction Challenge!
Flash Fiction Challenges are designed to create very short, self-contained stories on a given theme or prompt, within a certain set of parameters. Once stories have been submitted, writers can provide each other with feedback.
This event is intended to be rather short, so fair warning, writers and commentators! This thread will close on March 5th, 2018 - and I will want my inn back. Please to be sure to be checked out by this date - and remember to keep your rooms clean! It is very difficult to keep things spic and span with no hands.
1. Keep in mind that this thread is specifically for authors to post finished pieces and receive feedback. It is not for roleplays.
2. For the same reasons, please refrain from discussing tangent topics or plotting in this thread.
Flash Fiction Rules:
1. Keep all posts rated “G” or “PG” for the sake of our younger members.
2. Your story must be longer than 10 words and shorter than 1000 words. All stories must be on the prompt given, and all stories must be given a title to differentiate from stories written by other authors.
3. Members may only post one story per prompt.
4. All characters must be characters you have invented yourself, not taken from other authors. This means fan fiction is not allowed. You can use your characters from other Ditto Town stories, or ones made up just for this thread.
5. Remember again to post the title of your story at the top.
1. Always include the title of the story you are commenting on.
2. Remember to THINK—are your comments true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind?
3. Make your posts substantial. For example, if you want to say “Good job!” or “I really liked your story!” add some details (“I really liked your story because it highlighted the strong friendship between Cheddar the Chipmunk and his Talking Thimble without being overbearing and cheesy”).
4. Please keep in mind that all writers are at a different place in their writing journey. Thus, we ask that you focus on giving feedback, rather than editing pointers.
Without further ado, your prompt is as follows:
You are just finishing up a long day's work and getting ready to head home. As you put away the last of your things, you realize someone is standing behind you. You turn to see a young man.
"I'm terribly sorry to disturb you," he says, "but I believe I am your grandson."
Feel free to revise this prompt to fit your individual storytelling style by changing the tense or changing any pronouns necessary to fit your characters.
Happy Writing! And tips are greatly appreciated!
Boo Kay Bucket
Pay up or move out!
I was just finishing up a long day's work and was getting ready to head home. Today was the day I was going to do it, I just finished writing my note, folded it neatly and placed it on my workbench. I began to put away the last of my tools when realized that someone was standing behind me. I turned to see a young man.
"Hey boss-man, I don't mean to intrude," he said, "but I'm pretty sure that I am your great, great grandson."
It took a minute for my brain to process all the information that my senses were feeding to it. There wasn't one thing about what I was observing that had any logical explanation. The young man standing in my shop appeared to be in his late teens, his hair was shoulder length, blonde and curly at the end. His complexion was fair, his pale skin tone matched my own. The two of us could definitely have passed as brother. Then again, he was a random stranger who happened to be intruding into my already locked, supposedly secure garage. Suddenly, my instincts kicked in and it wasn't long before I had him backed up against the hardwood door, my forearm shoved deep into his throat.
"Woah dude, chill aight? I'm just a tourist brah! You can check my bags, all I’ve got with me is a camera and a couple pairs of socks! Jee’ze-Louise man, what's got you so wound up?”
I grunted an unintelligible response and then quickly performed a thorough pat-down. My findings confirmed his claims. The boy's choice in socks was a bit tacky for my taste, but his belongings were otherwise harmless, so I backed off. “What are you doing here?”
The kid huffed, smoothed out his jacket and shoved his hands deep down into the front pockets of his faded blue jeans, “I told you pops, I'm tourist.”
"That don't explain why you are in my shop, nor does it extrapolate at all on your claim.”
The kid laughed, “I’m a time traveler from the year two thousand, one hundred and sixty eight. Getting past a locked door is a literally a piece of cake, now the vastness of the space time continuum, that’s a whole other thing entirely.”
“Prove it then,” I challenged him, both fists closed tightly.
“You got anything to drink?” He asked, changing the topic of conversation entirely.
“Time travel man, it makes yah thirsty, doncha know?”
“You know what, screw it. There’s some root beer in the fridge I think. Go ahead and grab me one too, what’s your name anyways?”
“Jason, Jason Birmingham, my friends call me JB for short.” Replied the boy as he tossed me a can.
“Well I’m pretty sure you ain’t here to kill me, grab a seat man. So, lets say for now that you are my great, great grandson or whatever, why are you here?”
Jason plopped down hard onto my bench seat, “Whattya mean pops?”
"Don’t call me that. You know, I'm just saying that if I had access to a time travel machine and could go anywhere, see anything… I don’t reckon I’d go see my great, great grandpap. I’m not even sure if I remember his name, to be completely honest.”
“I’m not sure myself. All I know is that I’ve always come back here, on this date to see you. It’s been recorded history ever since and so here I am.”
I leaned back against the wall, “So, you literally have no idea?
That makes two of us, I thought angrily, his intrusion had disrupted my evening plans, fatal as they were. “So, what’s the future like kid?” I asked, deciding to play along. At the very least, this goofball made for a pretty nice distraction, providing me with some much needed entertainment on such a grim day.
“Eh, you know what? It ain’t all that it’s hopped up to be. You know how after every great war, some big-headed genius decides that it’ll be the one to end all wars? Well that never happens. There’s a war on again and it's interplanetary this time.”
“Anyone you know serving?”
“My dad’s a fighter pilot, a CW3 in the the 11th Armored Cav, based on Ceres. Oh, and my older brother is in the 82nd, just like you I think. They jump from space now, crazy huh?”
I grimaced, imagining the back and knee injuries that jumping from orbit must cause, “sounds like the Birmingham family to me kid. Maybe you ain’t all that crazy.”
“Wouldn’t go that far Pops, I am Birmingham after all. Insanity runs in the blood.”
"By the way, you get that ‘69 fixed up yet?”
“What, the AMX? Its uh, a work in progress at moment. And by in progress I mean, I don’t have the money or time to do anything too it, story of my life, actually Always running out of time.”
“You get to it eventually you know, it’s in a museum now, people come from all over the country, just to see it. You did a great job Pops.”
I thought back to the letter I had wrote earlier and nearly choked on my soda as a result. “Not possible," I stated as a matter of fact. But then, my curiosity got the best of me. "What color did I end up painting it?
“You went with the dark cherry and flat black racing stripes, it’s beautiful, honestly. It’s a work of art.”
I crunched my can, “yah know what kid?”
“Promise me this kid, when you make it back to whenever you are from, break that old girl out. Take her for a spin, burn some rubber, aight? That car doesn't belong in a museum.”
“Pops, ICE vehicles have been banned from use for nearly four decades.”
“Are you a man, or a mouse?”
“It’s something my Gram used to tell me.”
“Tell you what Pops, I’ll do my best.”
“Fair enough.” I replied as I turned to toss my crushed can in the trash. When I spun back around, the young man was gone, having vanished into the upcoming night. I shrugged, figuring that the whole conversation had been a trick of the mind, a last gasp effort at keeping the lights on before I shut the whole thing down. But then, when I went to retrieve my last letter, it was gone, and in it's place laid picture.
you had me at meah
What Comes Knocking
“Some kid wants to see you,” Janine said. “Were you expecting anyone?”
I looked at her over my glasses.
“I have to finish reviewing this case. I’ve no time for visitors.”
“That’s what I thought. I’ll show him out. By the way, the sun has set. You could open the blinds.”
“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.”
“I’m going to close up the office. Unless you want some company this evening?”
“Thanks, but I’m afraid this will take quite some time. Don’t wait up.”
She smiled and left. I turned toward the window, appreciating the last colorful rays of a sun already behind mountains. It was relaxing, and made the papers I wanted to chuck out the window more bearable. Short of actually visiting the site myself (which is generally out of the question), or finding someone with the proper training willing to tote a shotgun up into bear-infested territories to mark out surveying lines (which is generally expensive), the paperwork was my best bet. In the end, it proved the original owners had made a contract regarding water rights. Satisfied, I made my notes, and set my files in order.
It felt good, finishing a long day’s work and getting ready to head home. As I put away the last of my things, I had the acute sense of a presence behind me. I turned to see a young man in the doorway.
“Can I help you?” I asked, pulling on my coat. “I don’t get many nighttime visitors.”
“I’m terribly sorry to disturb you,” he said, “but…I think I am your grandson.”
I stared at him, then bursting out laughing.
“I’m sorry, but I think you’ve got the wrong office. I never had children.”
“Maybe you gave them up for adoption? Or didn’t know about them.”
“Look, if I had a kid, I’d know. One of the advantages of being a woman is you’re not surprised by newly discovered adult children. Plus, if I had a kid, they’d be—how old are you?”
“If I had a kid, they’d probably be your contemporary. Anyway, it’s one in the morning. Your parents are probably worried about you. I’ll give you a lift home, on one condition: quit breaking into people’s offices.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m right. I did my research. If you’d look here—”
“You want a lift, or you wanna go to juvie?”
“Well, then, let’s get going,” I checked my pockets to insure I had both wallet and keys before leading the way to the car park. Mine was the only one in the lot, so he went to the passenger side and settled in.
“Now, where are we going?” I asked. He mumbled the address, which I was then tasked with punching into the stupid navigator.
“You want help?” he asked.
“Sure. Never can get the darn thing to work,” I replied, handing it over. He had it set in seconds. “Child, that’s over an hour away. How’d you get here?”
“Let me guess, you haven’t eaten since you started?”
He shook his head.
We stopped for burgers at the edge of town.
“Since you’re stuck with me for the next hour, can I tell you my theory?” he asked.
“I am a bit curious as to why you hold so tenaciously to this belief, so go ahead.”
“Well, I mean, you haven’t disproved it.”
“Most women would freak out if some teen showed up in their office in the middle of the night. But then offering to drive him home?”
“Let’s call it Christian charity.”
“Maybe you feel like you know me, but won’t admit it.”
“Because we share genetics?”
“You’re my grandmother.”
“Why don’t you start at the beginning?”
He took a bite.
“When my mom was a baby, she was left at a safe surrender place,” he said.
“That happens to a lot of kids.”
“Yeah, but she was a IVF baby. When she was dropped off, she was left with her dad’s phone number. My grandmom just disappeared. My granddad raised her, of course, and she had me and my sisters. The only adult picture I have of my grandmom is this—that’s you, isn’t it?” he wiped the ketchup off his hands and pulled out a photograph. I took it and held it in the light. I wasn’t sure, but it did look like one of the photos my mum had taken around my college graduation.
“Could also be a lookalike.”
“This woman moves every ten years, is a water rights attorney, and always looks the same. And you just moved here a year ago from across the country.”
“When you set up your practice there, you were thirty-four.”
“Yeah? So I’m thirty-six now.”
“So you moved there ten years ago.”
“So what’s your theory?”
He looked down at his lap.
“Well?” I prodded.
“You’re stuck in a time/space continuum loop,” he blurted out. “For some reason, you’re repeating the same decade of your life over and over again.”
“When you figured it out, you wanted to protect your family, so you ran away.”
I turned on my blinker.
“What are you doing? We need to go on the freeway, not the right of way.”
“Change of plans,” I said briskly, putting the car into park. “Hey, look, do you see that shooting star?”
“Where?” he asked, leaning forward to look out the window.
“You really should close the blinds before you dose,” Janine said. I opened an eye and looked at her.
“Mmm, sun’s still a good three feet away.”
“You have a meeting with a judge this afternoon. A burn on your face isn’t helpful,” she chided. “Also, get your boots off your desk. There’s mud on the heel.”
I obediently put my feet down and watched as she looked through the papers on the table.
“Something bothering you?” I asked.
“Did that boy come back last night?”
“Never saw him.”
She nodded, still looking at the file.
“They found him floating in a diverting canal this morning. He had bite marks in his neck.”
“You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
“Nope,” I said, getting up and stretching. “But, I have been thinking it might be time for a change of scenery. How do you feel about moving to Canada?”
Avatar thanks to AITB
Finally Friday, I thought to myself as I stepped out the door of my company’s latest project. I loved my job but it had been a long week and I was looking forward to meeting my wife for dinner at our favorite pizza place.
“I’m terribly sorry to disturb you,” came a voice behind me, “but I believe I am your grandson.”
“I beg your pardon?” I’d been on site all week, and we’d been advised to be cautious regarding potential con men, thieves, and the like, since this project was in a less savory part of town.
The speaker didn’t look dangerous but that didn’t mean I should let my guard down. He was about as tall as me, in his early twenties perhaps, sharply dressed in a suit that looked brand new.
“I’m Jonathan, your grandson. You are Daniel Baxter, age 35, electrical engineer, wife Angela, adopted children Grace – “
I decided to humor him. “Stop right there. If you are from the future, won’t telling me too much blow up this arm of the galaxy or something?”
“I couldn’t say. But perhaps you’re right. Anyway, my time is limited.” He glanced down at his wristwatch. “You know the old saying, tempus fugit.”
“Time flies? What does that even mean to a time traveler anyway?”
He chuckled. “That would be telling.”
“Fair enough. But why me?”
“Why not? I wanted to see you when you were, ah, younger. You know, at your prime. And Grandma too. Is there a place we can talk? Harrison’s Pizza, maybe?”
He knows our favorite pizza place. I’m on my way there anyway. At least our girls are at Angie’s parents so they are safe whatever happens.
We walked to the parking lot and he gestured at the cars. “So, which one is yours?”
“What, no DeLorean?”
“Yeah, I wish. The last one is in the Smithsonian. It’s $75 just to see it.”
I was beginning to wonder if this guy was a con man or just crazy – or perhaps he was who he said he was.
We arrived at Harrison’s before my wife and sat down to wait. When Angie appeared he rose to his feet and greeted her politely, introducing himself as her grandson. She looked as puzzled as I must have, but I couldn’t help noticing that Jonathan had to keep himself from hugging her, as if he hadn’t seen her for a long time.
Does something happen to her in the future? I almost blurted it out but stopped. Don’t go there.
We made small talk after ordering. He was obviously hiding things, but that would be true whether he was a con man or really from the future.
He eventually asked, “So how are Grace and Emma?”
Of course, he’d know their names either way too.
“How do you know our girls’ names?” Angie was skeptical.
“They’re my aunts. I grew up with them.”
The pizza came and we ate in silence at first, except for his, “Oh, I’d forgotten just how good this is.”
It gave me time to think. If our children – now ten and seven – were his aunts, it gave some credence to his claims. But they were our only children, which meant –“
“Your aunts? What’s your last name, Jonathan?”
“I’d better not say. I’ve already said too much.”
“That’s for sure. You’re saying we have another kid who grows up to be your parent, aren’t you?”
Angie gasped and turned pale. She signaled to me she was all right so I turned my attention back to our alleged grandson.
He nervously fidgeted with his fork. “Please stop asking questions. It could be disastrous if you find out too much.” He looked at his watch again.
It had to do with his traveling, I was sure. “Can I see that? I’m an engineer, you know.”
“I know, Grandpa.”
Ouch, that hurts. Not ready for it yet.
I backed down. “Sorry. You’re the first time traveler I’ve met.” I grinned. “Is it some sort of predestination paradox thing you can’t tell us about? You’re changing the future just being here?”
“Maybe. I think I can say you’re just as curious about everything in my day, and still take things apart to see how they work.
“My time is almost up. It’s been great seeing you again. I gotta go back.”
He stood up and we did the same. He hugged me, and as unscientific as it sounds, I felt some connection to him.
His hug for Angie was long and tender, and I had to resist the urge to ask him why. I vowed then and there, however, to cherish her all the more, to make each moment with her count.
And then he was gone.
“Well, that was strange.” Great way to break the awkward silence, Dan.
“Do you think he was telling the truth?”
“I can’t say. But there seemed to be something about him.”
“I felt it too. And I have news for you, something I was waiting to be sure about. I’m going to have a baby. Doctor Smith says it’s going to be a boy.”
“Wow, that’s great!” I hugged her closely, my mind whirling. This was unbelievable news. For years we’d been unable to have kids, so we’d adopted Grace and Emma.
Predestination paradox, eh? Could our unborn son grow up to be Jonathan’s father? No wonder he kept quiet. I certainly didn’t want to mess up my family’s future but maybe the paradox was that I was destined to lay the groundwork for my own grandson’s visit.
That watch was how he traveled, I was sure, and maybe it wouldn’t hurt to try to figure out how it worked. It could be a new side project, even if I got nowhere with it. But one thing was sure – I was going to love Angie and our kids – all three of them – like there was no tomorrow.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
"Are you trying to be impertinent, young man?"
All around the open air market, vendors were packing up and loading their unsold goods. It had been a long hard day for Evelyn; she had been on her feet from an early hour. Ordinarily, her brother would have driven the truck, done the heavy lifting, and helped with the sale of the produce; since he was out of commission with a broken leg, she had to carry on without any assistance. Needless to say, she was in no mood to put up with nonsense from anyone at all. So to have this young whipper-snapper come up and say, "I'm terribly sorry to disturb you, but I believe I am your grandson," was just a bit too much.
"Do I look like I'm old enough to be your grandmother?" she snapped out, when he made no answer to her first query.
His face had turned bright red. "I didn't mean--I thought you were a very young-looking grandmother," he managed at last.
She snorted indignantly, then began to chuckle as the funny side of the situation hit her.
"You must be about 22 or 23," speculatively. "And I am turned 45. I suppose it's just barely possible. Except that I have no children."
"Then it must be a mistake. I'm very sorry!"
"So am I! Look, don't go off," she said, taking pity on his embarrassment. "Why don't you tell me about it? I truly do want to know. You see, you are the eighteenth person to claim to be my grandson to-day. No--make that seventeen. One was a girl."
"Oh my!" groaned the poor young man. "They must have all had the same thought as I did."
"Do sit down here, and tell me. I'm ferociously curious." She thumped the tail-gate of her truck; he gingerly rested on the edge of the rusty, ricketty gate.
"This goes back some time--my grandmother had four children, and fell out with all of them; I couldn't say where the fault lay. All of us grandchildren have grown up without ever meeting her. Apparently she is a real terror."
Evelyn's lips twitched, and a wave of consternation crossed his face as he realized what he had just implied.
"I didn't mean--oh bother, I am not telling this very well. Here, I'll show you," and he pulled a folded newspaper out of his pocket. She looked at it with interest.
"Yes, that is definitely my picture--see, it was taken here in the market."
"In the notice below--here--it says that Ruth Evelyn Cowper would like to contact her family. That's pretty much all there is, but I thought that it would be a good idea to respond to any overtures that she was willing to make. Evidently my cousins came to the same conclusion."
"I see. It would appear that there was either a mistake by the paper, or else somebody was playing a prank. Though whether it was on you or on me, I don't know. And I fear that I might have confirmed your cousins' negative opinion of their grandmother: I must admit to being quite short with them, particularly the later ones. I'm very glad that you stayed to explain the matter; I was beginning to think that perhaps I was the one going crazy, when so many people claimed me for their long-lost Granny. Yes, you laugh, but just try it yourself, and see how it makes you feel."
"I wish you were my Granny," said the young man abruptly. "So it was just a miscaptioned photo--how simple!"
"Well, that's what is funny." Evelyn hesitated. "It's not as much of a mistake as you might think. You see, I do know your grandmother--Ruth Evelyn Cowper. We met one day in the post office, and discovered that we practically share a name--I am Evelyn Cooper; it is our little joke that I'm the Ruthless one. We take lunch together now and again, when we can. Your grandmother is a very lonely woman, though she is too proud to admit it. Whether she placed that notice or not, why don't you pursue the matter? I don't think that you'd regret it."
"You think that she wouldn't mind? I've often wondered about her and wished to meet her, but--"
"But you don't want to intrude? Or you're afraid you'll be deemed avaricious and self-serving? Well, take an old woman's advice, and go visit her. She can't do more than refuse to see you."
"Perhaps I will. And maybe you are right--maybe it wasn't an accident after all. I like to think that perhaps it was Providence."
Without saying a word more, he lifted the last of the boxes into the back of the truck. Before she even had time to thank him, he was off, with a cheery wave of his hand.
"I wish you were my grandson," she unconsciously echoed his thought, a soft glint in her eyes as she watched him walk away.
Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away ... my days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle
I was just finishing up a long day of digging in the soil and was getting ready to clean up and head inside. I’d have to drag the hose around and water all those new geraniums with their thirsty roots first, then perhaps I’d have tea and read a novel in the sun room. As I put my gardening prunners in my back pocket and loaded the extra soil and empty plastic containers into the wheelbarrow, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and turned. There was a young girl standing behind me.
"I'm terribly sorry to disturb you," she said, "but I believe I am your granddaughter."
Had I heard right? My palms started sweating inside of my gloves. I reached up and grabbed at my heart. There was a pang there, all that digging in the sun all day. I was too old for this.
When I didn’t say anything, the girl added in good but accented English, “You are Maria Cunningham right?” She looked like a deer in the headlights, like she thought she was wrong and wanted nothing so much as to dart back down the street. She had black hair and a medium complexion. She looked like my daughter, if my daughter had possessed black hair and hadn’t been as Caucasian as I was.
“Jessica is dead.” I finally answered, still clutching my heart. “They found her body. We had a funeral, the dental records…” I trailed off. I was thinking about that awful day when I got the call that a body in Pakistan (Pakistan of all places?) matched my daughter’s description. Then my mind slipped back to a different awful day: Jess, yanking geraniums out of the soil and screaming that I didn’t love her, that I loved these plants more than her. I’d been so angry, unable to think clearly. I’d screamed right back at her. I’d said that she was a moron if she thought Saeed loved her, and how could she possibly believe a word that weasle said.
Jessica ran away that night. I never saw her again. I never got to apologize for my last words to her.
“I’m sorry. You’re standing here and I haven’t invited you in. I think I have lemonade in the fridge.”
“I… thank you.” The young girl (was she even 18?) looked slightly less like a deer in the headlights now.
Once we were inside and sitting down, I realized I hadn't asked any questions. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Lotus,” she replied. I smiled, it would be like Jess to name a daughter that… and named after a flower too, even when she claimed to hate them. She always was a bit of a hippie. “I know this must come as a shock to you. But I brought evidence… if you’re the same Maria Cunningham. The body they found was someone else, but my mother thought… you’d stop looking for her if you believed she was dead, so she never came forward. Are you Maria?”
“I am,” I said, looking at Lotus. She had hazel eyes. The shape of them was almost the same as Jessica’s too. I felt like I was looking at my daughter. I finally looked down at the papers slipped across the table to me. There was an old driver’s license, one corner taped back on. I recognized that picture. Jessica had hated how her smile looked. There was passport with a different last name, but the same smile. Pictures with Saeed and Jess together, and one picture with the two of them and a toddler, standing shyly half behind her mother in the bright dessert sun.
“She lived a good life. She missed you in the end, and wanted you to… she wanted to say she forgave you. She was sorry she deceived you and that she could not come herself.”
“She’s… passed on then?”
“Yes, last year. Father made her as comfortable as he knew how.”
My throat squeezed shut. I believed Lotus, believed all of this. That meant Jess had died all over again, I felt the ache that had faded with time regrow in my chest. But Jess had also lived all over again too, a good life. I looked at quiet Lotus, glancing shyly back at me. Jess had lived her life better than I could have dreamed, had she been a good mother? I supposed the evidence spoke for itself.
“Thank you for telling me everything.” I finally replied. “Do you have somewhere to stay?”
“No, but I will stay at a hotel. My visa is only good for a week longer. I cannot pay you.”
“Nonsense, granddaughters don’t have to pay their grandmothers to stay at their house. If you feel so bad imposing, you can’t help me with the flowers. Either way I insist”
“Yes, I did interrupt your work. Let me help. Mother always kept geraniums in front of our house. I do not know where she found them. I think father had to order them special from out of the country.”
“I have a few geraniums that need to go in the ground still. And all my new flowers need water. I don’t want the roots to dry out,” I said, getting up and feeling the ache more in my back now than in my chest. Lotus smiled at me, relieved to do something to help, relieved to feel like she was accepted here. I brushed my face with my hand as we went outside. My eyes were damp.
* is quite pleased to see so many people bustling about the Inn! *
Seriously. This place has been a ghost town. Erm, no offence to any of our ghosts.
Before I comment on any particular story, I have to say, I absolutely loved reading everyone's different takes on the topic, and this whole thing has been super fun.
Do, like, all your characters have names that start with a J?
I really liked this one, especially for the reminder that the things that we do now that are "unimportant" might actually have a huge impact. I did get a little caught by what I'm assuming is dialect ("boss-man" "brah"). Also, the stealing of the suicide note was a nice touch, along with the leaving of a template for how the car is meant to look, thus ensuring the time travel must always occur.
DOES THIS MEAN WE GET A NEW BABY BAXTER
ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE US WAIT UNTIL ITS BORN TO KNOW WHAT IT IS
At least in this case ultrasounds are an option, but it wasn't like a certain set of parents didn't know what their hatchling was going to be before it hatched. * cough *
In much more writery terms, I love this little vignette and how it ties in with your normal characters, but is still an entirely stand-alone story. I also can totally see Dan being nosy and fiddling his way into inventing time travel by accident (which would be a great story in its own right).
Why does Angie gasp when Dan points out that Jonathan has to be from a third child, if she already knows she's pregnant?
Also, did Grace have a sister before, or was that a recent addition from their move to Ditto Town? * goes to look up who the baby was in the last Mansion *
I have lots of questions, clearly.
Market Encounter and Roots
Forgive me if I go a little compare-and-contrast-y, but so many of the things I want to say are the same for both of these.
I had originally thought about going with an estranged child reunion, but I'm glad I didn't. You two did a much better job handling the matter than I could have. I love that, in these cases, the reunions (as they were) both ended as positive interactions (although I think Jessica was a bit cruel, knowing her mom was looking for her and refusing to give her any real peace). I also love that you both follow the same theme, but in such drastically different ways.
aileth, your dialog and voicing is awesome. I aspire to such greatness. Also, poor Evelyn, having that many people claim to be descendants and then scooting off without an explanation.
Ara, props for the title being the allegory (the roots of the family tree/roots of the geraniums).
Avatar thanks to AITB
Ditto to Lady Arwen's observations. It's nice to see activity here, and I enjoyed the different takes on the prompt. I'll add individual comments later but wanted to answer Lady Arwen's questions on my story while it's fresh in my mind:
- I'm not sure if this will mean a new baby Baxter or not. I wrote this primarily as a one-off and took liberties with the ages of the family. Grace dates back to the "Supernova" RP while Emma (as an infant) appeared in the Holiday Mansion.
- The baby will be a boy should this become part of the Baxters' 'official' story. No name has jumped out at me yet. (The whole thing with Erik and Abby's baby was meant to be a short-term thing but kind of got away from me as the story progressed, In hindsight I should have just had them announce it, maybe at a baby shower, rather than wait for the reveal as written).
- Angie's gasp was her "aha" moment that Jonathan is more than just a crazy guy her husband met at work - that maybe he is who he claims to be. Her surprise comes because she hasn't told anyone she's pregnant and this guy seems to know another child is coming. Sorry that was unclear.
Thanks for your kind comments on this story. It was fun to write.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
Hey y'all, loved reading everyone's short stories and I'm super pumped to see a little bit of action down in Ditto Town! It's really interesting how everyone's different style and tone can make that big of a difference, even when we are given the same starting point. I can't wait to do more of these in the future!
What Comes Knocking
I think I got the chills while reading this wren, the way you established your setting and characters within a sentence or two is something I strive to be able to do some day. You revealed just enough information for the reader to get a decent idea about your characters, but not so much that it's obvious until the very end. Want to read more of this. Oh and yes, all my characters do start with J.
Gotta love the Baxter family, I've been reading their stories for so long it seems like I've gotten to know them on a personal level. It shows in your writing too, the characters are so grounded, they feel real and their interactions seem completely natural. Credit to you my friend.
Okay, so I dunno why miss Cooper never had children, but you could feel the sadness in her words as the boy walked away. Great emotional writing right there.
I really digged (get it. ) the premise of this one, the human element of loss and hurt really got me and reminded me that family is the most important thing in life, good on yah.
you had me at meah
narnianerd I love the "voice" of your characters. I didn't actually catch what that note actually was until half-way through! I thought that was a really nice twist. (I also laughed at the line about the socks.) That being said, our young tourist seems really surprised at being attacked for having just said something as outlandish as "I'm your grandson" to someone who was almost his age. Either way, it was a nice, self contained story.
Lady Arwen you get points for having the most sinister story. That was okay though, the rest of us went with pretty happy endings. I also did not see the twist coming even through its obvious looking at it again. And you guys are all making me look things up, with your ICEs and your IVFs and your tempus fugits. Guess I'm learning things whether I want to or not.
Also, it occurred to me afterwards just how cruel Jessica was in my story, but I didn't want to add more subplots to a story that was supposed to be short and simple. My characters were supposed to be flawed though, just not monstrous. Error on the part of the writer there.
'gazer since I haven't been around Ditto Town in ages, I don't feel like I know these characters like everyone else does, but I like the fact that the grandson's visit sparked Dan's interest in creating time travel. I also like the mysterious nature of the time travel, and I always like how familial and intimate all your writing is. You do families well!
aileth I like how bitter-sweet your story was, and I liked how you approached the prompt by giving us an interesting character interaction... even through the young man's assumption was wrong. The setting was nicely fleshed out too.
I did enjoy everyone's various and creative entries and I'm looking forward to the next prompt. This was fun!
*Ahem* While I'm happy to see my Inn thriving once again, I would like to remind everyone that this event is ending on Monday, March 5th. Please be sure to have any closing comments posted by then and be ready to check out. And don't even think of trying to make off with any of the towels!
Pay up or move out!
But, Boo! They're so soft! *nuzzles towels *
Aww, nerd, you make me blush.
Sorry about the shorthand, Aravanna. I've been researching IVF lately, so it sort of just popped out. I also originally didn't intend for it to be a sinister story, but when it got to the point where he expresses his theory to her (in my first draft), I looked down at my word count and was astounded to see that I was closing in on 2k...so I changed the ending and went after the rest of it with the clippers (Janine featured much more prominently in the first half of the first draft). That said, I really do like writing creepy stories. They're just fun.
I don't think Jessica was monstrous, but it does seem to hint that there was something else going on...maybe mother and daughter had been arguing over a bit more than just her beau? It certainly raises questions, but as you noted with subplots, there only was so much space, and the main plot does need to take precedence. Pity, though, because I would love to know why she decided to play her cards that way.
Avatar thanks to AITB
Lady Arwen: Oh, dang.
Haha, I kinda wish I knew who the Baxters were now, but I'm really only familiar with the old DT characters.
And speaking of old DT characters...
author webpage: http://shawnacanon.com
It was a quiet night at the Vampire Fancier’s compound, as such things went. Almost dawn, the vampires were all tucked away in their kennels (aside from the few she kept in her house), and Hugh the Thug, the VF’s mute servant, would be up soon to get the daily chores going. The VF was nailing an announcement for the new litter to the outside of the compound’s large, wooden gate, when she heard soft footsteps behind her.
“Excuse me,” said a polite voice, “but I believe I am your grandson.”
The VF laughed, still focused on her task. “That seems unlikely, what with me being an android and lacking any sort of reproductive system.” She hammered in the last nail.
Then she turned around to see a young man giving her an impatient look. “I did not mean literally,” he said.
Huh, the VF thought, because the young man actually did look a lot like her. The same golden eyes and reddish hair. The same pale, metallic shimmer to his skin.
“I am called Breaker. The Organization took the research notes from the scientists who created you and used them to create other androids. Having failed to replicate the creation of sentient life in their first generation of androids, they adjusted their technique and tried again. I am of the second generation.”
“Sure. Makes sense.” The VF nodded. “But we destroyed the Organization.”
“Irrelevant, I am sorry to say. My primary objective has not been changed.”
The VF was getting a bad feeling about this. “Primary objective?”
“To find you.” Breaker drew a very large handgun from the back waistband of his pants and pointed it at her. “And deactivate you.”
Oh, crap. The VF dove out of the way as an energy blast shot from Breaker’s gun. The front gate of her compound exploded in a rain of splinters. “You little punk,” she growled from the ground. “That’ll take me days to rebuild.”
The gun in his hand whined softly, the pitch gradually increasing as it powered up for another shot. “I am sorry, Grandmother.”
She huffed a laugh as she got to her feet. “Are you now? I don’t think so. But you will be.” How irritating. Some Org leftover comes to assassinate her, and here she left her bat’leth back in the house.
The VF charged at him, crossing the yards between them in a blink. She heard the gun click once, but nothing came out. Before Breaker could try again, the VF struck his arm, sending the gun flying off into the bushes.
He was a little bigger than her and at least as strong, but she was faster. As soon as she’d knocked his gun away, she spun behind him and got her arm around his neck. Headlocks in and of themselves weren’t particularly useful on androids, since they had neither a pulse nor a need to breathe. But it made a pretty good way to get a grip on them. He reached back for her, but she dodged his hands and thrust her hip into his, using her body as a lever to take him off his feet.
He flew about five yards and crashed onto the dirt road, but he was up again in a second. He cocked his head. “What are you doing?”
“Not letting you kill me?” In her surprise, it came out as a question.
“But your deactivation is necessary. Why do you fight me?”
“Because the Organization instructs it.”
“Instructed. It’s gone, remember?”
“Irrelevant. You are Organization property. It is the Organization’s right to deactivate you.”
“Setting aside all of the heck no of that statement, your logic is flawed. It can’t own anything or have any rights if it doesn’t exist.”
Breaker cocked his head the other way. “But my programming has no contingency for the non-existence of the Organization.”
“Fancy that. Guess you’ll just have to use your brain.”
The slight annoyance was back. “I do not have a brain. I have a neural network. You know that.”
“It’s a figure of speech. Look, kid, do you want to kill me?”
“You are not alive. You cannot be killed.”
“Do you want to deactivate me?”
“No, but that does not matter.”
She ignored the last part of his statement and focused on the first. “Why don’t you want to?”
“You are . . . known . . . among us,” he said as if piecing his thoughts together as he spoke. “My brothers and sisters. By . . . reputation. I would not deactivate you. I would . . . know you.”
“Then stop fighting me.”
“I cannot. It has been decided.”
The VF let out a frustrated breath. This was getting nowhere. But as long as he was talking, he wasn’t trying to kill her. “Tell me about your brothers and sisters. How many are there? Where are they?”
“There are five,” he said, which wasn’t very specific. Five each? Five total? Five counting him? “Many are not functioning at optimum performance. I was the only one able to . . .” His attention, which had begun to wander, snapped into focus. “They are waiting for me. I must deactivate you, then return for further instruction.”
“There isn’t anyone to give you instructions anymore!”
Breaker took a step toward her. The VF braced herself. A loud blast sounded behind her, accompanied by a bright flash, and a three-inch hole appeared in Breaker’s chest. He fell onto the road with a clattering thump.
The VF walked over to Breaker’s stiff form. His eyes were open and empty, the hole in his chest sparking angrily. She went to the gap in the wall where her gate used to be and clapped Hugh the Thug on the shoulder. He gave a little smile and readjusted his grip on the bazooka. “Good work. Now go wake the nerd vamps. I’ve got a repair and reprogram job for them. And then some of us might be going on a little retrieval mission.”
author webpage: http://shawnacanon.com
Some general observations about the submissions:
I'm impressed at how everyone made their characters grounded and believable, especially given the fairly low word limit. I've written a few short stories but lately my writing has been in longer formats (like the Ditto Story and NaNoWriMo), where the longer length means character development can be done in depth (it could be argued I cheated here in using the Baxters, who already have some development, but I tried to make sure the relevant parts of their personalities were included in this story so it could stand alone and make sense to someone not familiar with the characters).
I've been reflecting on these stories and realized that part of my reaction is colored by experience (my grandparents have been gone for decades so these opportunities to interact with them might be both welcome and bittersweet). More on that in the individual story comments.
The idea of a relatively ordinary thing meaning a lot to the future has already been mentioned. I like that. Years ago my older brother and my dad had a car they liked to work on, to restore. I don't remember the details but it helps me visualize your character working on his car. I like the irony of "Always running out of time" in a time-travel story.
What Comes Knocking
I didn't see that coming, though in hindsight there were hints and you played fair with the reader. The kid did a great job of reasoning out what was going on and I almost felt sorry for how he met his demise. Janine's casual remarks hint that this may not be all that unusual: “Also, get your boots off your desk. There’s mud on the heel.”
Market Encounter and Roots
I'll group these together because they were the ones that made me miss my grandparents the most. Silly, I know, but a testimony to the strength of your characters. These stories were poignant. The bittersweet "I wish you were" in aileth's story and "what might have been" in Aravanna's. Evelyn encouraging the young man to visit his real grandmother before it was too late, and knowing that Jessica went to the trouble of importing geraniums at her Pakistani house - wonderful stuff.
Kudos to both of you for setting up great visual images of your settings with just a few words.
Shwana's VF story
It was fun seeing the VF again, and the discussion with Breaker was fun reading - like two Vulcans arguing with each other (speaking of Trek, I saw that bat'leth reference ). And the ending holds promise of another adventure with the VF and her minions.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.