I make it a habit to participate in the NYC Midnight flash fiction contest.
My two stories from 2016 can be found here.
I scored really high on this story, my second entry. I actually don’t understand why, because I put NO thought or effort into this story at all. I wrote, proofed, and subbed it in less than an hour while I was in MASSIVE pain from overextending myself to take the kids to the fair. I won through to the next round, with less than 400 other writers. (The contest starts out with over 2k writers, or more, I don’t know the official numbers for this year). I stepped aside because I’m participating in nano and just want to be working on Soulbound (book two in my Ace Assassin series) and because, honestly, I don’t understand why people liked something *I* don’t think is close to my best work.
CH 2 Group 5 Scored (not sharing because I really don’t get it)
Fantasy A Donut Shop Chunk of Charcoal
THE DRAGON’S DEN
A forbidden journey might save two pixies home.
“Ssh, she’ll hear us!”
“Pfft. No, she won’t, she hasn’t yet.”
I elbowed my brother in the ribcage, right under his wings. “Only because we keep quiet. You know the rules!”
“That’s all you ever talk about, rules.” He flipped his purple hair out of his eyes and played his fingers over his bowstring.
I bit my lip. “Rules keep us safe.”
“Rules keep us boring.” A faint gleam played over Riordan’s wings like quicksilver as he flicked them before leaping into the air with acrobatic skill.
I shook my head at him zipping around the rafters while I watched the sleeping baker. Rio was right. She’d likely never hear us, she never did, though she left out treats for us every night. In return for honey, bread, butter, and cream, we made sure her dough rose, the milk didn’t sour and we hunted mice, wasps, and frogs out of the beehives out back.
I settled my chin on my knee and inhaled the sweet, yeasty, chocolaty scent of Mary’s specialty. Donuts she called them. By the bloody gleam of the charcoal in the hearth I could see one on the altar below and my belly grumbled. Being a pixie, my eyes were sharp even in dim light and I watched Mary breathe, listening for the first snore. When I heard it, I pushed off the edge of the fireplace mantel and dived with my wings slicked tight until it was almost too late, then I snapped them out to catch myself in a long, low swoop. My brother’s whoop of excitement at my flying skill made me smile.
I landed lightly on the small altar where Mary left her gifts for us. As regular as new-fangled clockwork she was. She’d arranged the gifts nicely on brilliant, scarlet rose petals.
There was something different here tonight. A tiny, much scraped bit of vellum had a crabbily penned note on it. My belly shivered with foreboding. Mary had never asked anything of us. I whistled, high pitched and silent to the sleeping human. My brother came to land next to me, silent as an owl’s flight.
“What is it?”
“She’s left us a note.”
“That’s new. What’s she want?” He grabbed the note from me and broke the drop of beeswax sealing it closed. The scent of bees and honey filled the air around us as he unrolled the stiff material and read.
He didn’t say anything, but finished quickly and handed the note to me, a grave look on his face.
After I finished, I bit my lip. “We don’t owe her this.”
“It would get us eaten if we’re caught.”
I could tell by the wicked gleam in his eyes that he wanted to do it, that the challenge of the adventure called to him. If I were honest with myself, it called me, too.
“Yes. Shall we then?”
I watched him for a moment out of the side of my eye. I didn’t want to be the sensible twin tonight.
So I wouldn’t be.
Born identical and only minutes apart, my brother and I shared a look, grinned maniacally at each other, then leaped off the edge of the altar to zip up the chimney and out into the summer night.
This would be fun.
Making our way to the dragon’s den wasn’t hard, we made use of the way-paths to get there quickly. Surely, we could sneak in and get out with enough gold to give Mary to save her shop? It wasn’t purely self serving to steal from the rich to help the less than affluent baker. Even if it helped us, it helped her more.
Silent as the thieves we were, we waited until the darkest part of the night, after we’d seen the dragon fly away to hunt before sneaking through a fissure in the stone. I lowered my brother down on a filament of braided spider’s web to dangle near the floor. We didn’t dare fly, it’d disturb the air currents and leave our scent behind. This ancient red dragon was a scent-hunter.
Rio touched nothing as he used his bow to shoot an arrow dressed in sticky pine tar towards the dragon’s hoard. He dragged coins back to himself to stuff into his bag of holding.
I held my breath, worried that Rio would accidentally touch something. The dragon, an ancient beast richer than a hundred kings, could track us with just the hint of our scent. I held my breath and the cord steady as Rio dragged coin after coin towards himself. Even when it became obvious that he took far more than we needed for Mary’s purpose, he kept pulling the coins in.
In the distance, I heard the wet-leather crack of wings and tugged the rope frantically. Rio made a final shot, dragged a last coin to his pouch, flipped over and crawled up the cord.
I reached out, grabbed his wrist just as an orange blast of flame seared away the laboriously crafted cord. With wild grins, we took off flying as another bloom of heat chased us and lifted warm air beneath our wings to send us on our way. The bellows of rage echoed, but we were gone long before the beast could pull its serpentine length clear to give chase.
He’d never find us now.
When we got back to the bakery, false dawn silvered gray on the horizon. Mary still slept, but she wouldn’t for long. I hovered over her, drifting a pixie dust of soft rest over her face as my brother stacked ancient, golden coins on the altar and shoved her offerings into his bag. That bag could hold the entire bakery without weight if Rio could find a way for it to fit.
When Rio whistled, I looked down at the kind face of the baker. She’d have enough to keep her home now.
It was the least we could do.
It was our home too.
This year, my first story I scored 7/15 on. Middle of the pack, so not terrible.
CH 1 Group 4 Scored 7/15
|Thriller||Backstage of a theater||An oyster|
THOSE THINGS WILL KILL YOU
Trapped like a rat in a maze, how will a single mother escape someone she trusted?
I’m an idiot.
I touched the tip of my tongue to my split lip and winced. I shouldn’t have let him in, but he’d seemed so nice on our dates.
My eyes burned from tears and I tasted copper with every hitched breath. Sticky blood clung to my skin where I pressed my t-shirt against the ripping pain of the stab wound, just under my right breast, and warmth still seeped.
My breath sawed from my run through the Imperial Theater. I still didn’t know how I’d gotten away, but by the slick, hot, liquid sliding from my side and the pain in my battered body, I didn’t have much time left. I curled into my hiding place, a small storage area under the stairs. He’d find me here. The glee in his eyes as he’d hurt me wouldn’t let him leave without finishing his prey.
Without finishing me.
I closed my eyes and let my head rest against the wall for a moment. Then I straightened up, I had to make it out of here. Had to. My kids would wind up in an orphanage if I didn’t.
I gritted my teeth against the pain and listened with everything in me, quieting my breath as much as I could.
I peeked out of the cubby. Still nothing.
Then I slid out. It was hard, so hard, to make myself move against the pain, to crawl soundlessly, but I set my teeth and did it. I used my bloody hands to walk up the wall to a standing position. It was so dark back here. Far beyond the brightly lit stage. Here where we stored costumes, the aged velvet and lace stuffy against me as I sucked in breath and tears burned trails down my face.
I pushed through the hanging outfits, heart in my throat, trying to disturb them as little as possible, make no sound. I strained my ears to catch any hint of him. My nose was a broken, bleeding mess so I couldn’t smell anything.
My knees ached from where he’d thrown me down, but I didn’t let it stop me.
I moved slowly. Carefully. Like an owl-hunted mouse in short grass.
It’s always the normal-seeming things that turned out the most dangerous. If I got out of this, I would never date again.
Halfway there, I staggered and lost the grip on my side. I landed against the wall with an audible thump and froze. I pressed a hand over the wound again. I’m no lightweight, and the fall made me bleed harder. I listened, hoping he hadn’t heard.
I moved faster. I made it through the paint studio, costuming, props, and to the door that would take me to freedom. The cast lounge. We’d had a huge party there tonight to celebrate the successful final show. I didn’t want to leave the comforting dark of the props room with all its helter-skelter chaos.
I listened. If he waited anywhere, it’d be between me and the door. My neck tingled, and I shivered, or maybe he was behind me?
Gods. My kids. Emme sixteen and Josh only five.
I could see through the door the scattered mess we’d made of the room, my red blood glistening on the floor where he’d stabbed me. Maybe he’d actually left? My heart raced with hope, and I stepped into the room.
I came even with the white-clothed table scattered with leftover refreshments. My cell phone lay next to the plate of oysters. Smoked oysters, breaded, some glistening slimy on the half-shell, lemons a brilliant yellow counter-point to the whites and browns.
I’d lost myself for a moment, delirious. I forced another weaving step, just get the phone.
Get to the door.
His arms closed around me tight from behind, like a lover’s. He whispered close to my ear, “Gotcha.”
I’d have screamed if I could’ve. His arms binding mine pressed into all the places I hurt. I sagged, wanting to give up, but on the backs of my closed lids were my children’s laughing faces.
I leaned on him, heavily. If I seemed too weak to fight, maybe…
In my youth, before I’d gained so much weight, I’d been a martial artist. Now, I set my feet, braced myself for the pain and shoved upwards, throwing my head back into his nose at the same time to the satisfying crack of bone. He lost his grip on me, and I staggered forward to the table.
Bloody hands left streaks across the white of the cloth as I fumbled for the knife we’d used to cut the oysters out of their shells. My fingers gripped its shellfish-juice wet blade as he grabbed me again and I jammed it up over my shoulder into his face.
The blade, tiny but sharp, carved a furrow across his lip and bit into his tongue. He shouted, threw me and I landed hard on the smooth wooden floor. Dishes clattered.
I lay, breathless, dripping blood, five feet away from him. I’d lost. In the scuffle, my phone had fallen from the table and lay about two feet from me.
I watched him. Two feet was too far away, I’d never make it.
His hands were on his throat, the flash of a medical alert bracelet gleaming, eyes bulging as he tried to suck in a breath.
One that wouldn’t come.
In shock, I watched my attacker die. He fell over with a thump after choking on nothing as I lay there bleeding.
I dragged myself to the phone, swiped the screensaver of my kids, leaving a streak of sticky scarlet on the glass, and dialed 911.
I pressed my hand to my bleeding side and waited for help.
The last thing I remembered was the flash of the ambulance lights.
I woke in the hospital to see my kids’ worried faces.
“I’m here, my loves.”
CH 2 Group 4 No score yet
|Fantasy||A donut shop||Charcoal|
THE DRAGON’S DEN
Posted in November after results are in.