Saturday, April 28, 2012

“You May Want to Stand Back From Our Mongoose”: a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

This week’s challenge is to create a short using a random-generated military operation title. I thought ops were always two words (Operation Desert Storm) but of the five the generator spat out, three were whole sentences: “Don’t Piss Off the God”, “Prepare to Be Destroyed By Our Centaur”, “You May Want to Stand Back From Our Mongoose”, “Flaming Preacher”, and “Civilian-Devouring Kitten”. I was in a weird mood today already but a person with an overactive imagination really should NOT be given prompts like this, cause, holy feck…where do you even start?? I may just have to do all of them just because theyre so damn strange...not to mention loaded with potential.


Deep Creek, OR – In a bizarre scene Monday afternoon, officials from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office, US Department of Agriculture, and US Fish and Wildlife Service took seventy-seven green-robed followers of the Herpestida Movement into custody at the cult’s secretive headquarters in rural Clackamas County. The group’s leaders, Archus Parvu, 57, aka Herman Swift, and his daughter, Kuhni Naso, 38, aka Alice Burkelt-Swift, passively resisted with their fellows as they were read their rights and escorted to inmate transfer buses. An explosives unit was quickly dispatched when Parvu, being led away, gazed up at the compound’s giant monument and commented cryptically to sheriff’s deputies, “You may want to stand back from our mongoose.” No improvised explosive devices were found.

The arrests follow an intensive multi-agency investigation spanning several years and reaching as far afield as India and Somalia. Among the allegations are fraud and other charges under the RICO Act and dozens of counts of wildlife trafficking under CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The wildlife allegations involve the group’s illegal importation of several endangered and threatened species of mongoose, which Herpestida devotees view as divine entities. USFWS and USDA authorities were unwilling to comment on how cult members managed to successfully smuggle at least thirty-seven dusky-tailed mongooses from Sri Lanka, fourteen yellow-footed kusimanses (a related species) from Somalia and eight lesser banded kusimanses from Ethiopia into the US undetected. The cat-like mammals were found to be in good health when seized and were being housed in quarantine at an undisclosed location while their fate was determined.

The Herpestida Movement is no stranger to controversy since it arrived in Oregon in 1997. It presents itself as an environmental freedom group seeking enlightenment but residents in the secluded nearby town of Deep Creek tell of strange torchlight rituals held inside the compound under the full moon and cultists, apparently under the influence of hallucinogens, parading through town brandishing semi-automatic weapons. Parvu and his inner circle have also come under scrutiny for living a conspicuously lavish lifestyle while preaching the blessings of a life of austerity to his followers, who must agree to surrender their worldly belongings to the cult upon moving to the compound. Animal rights groups assert that the group engages in lewd conduct with the animals it worships but Naso, the cult’s spokesperson, has emphatically denied all such claims. As she was quoted in a 2006 interview, “Herpestida is the Great Mother, the All-Seer, who challenges the Dark Serpent on our behalf. All Herpestida’s followers pay homage to her wisdom and benevolent protection by caring for her children like the furry little demigods they are. We could never conceive of such awful and sacrilegious acts as we are accused of by those poor, sad, confused people.” The group’s monument to the quasi-goddess Herpestida, partially visible from the compound’s front gate, is a fifty-foot tall stone mongoose standing up on its hind legs and facing south, the direction in which the group believes the truly worthy can find the gates of heaven.

Deep Creek residents seemed overjoyed that the group was being taken into custody. “They’re all loons,” one man said under condition of anonymity. “They’re nothing but bat-[expletive deleted] crazy and I hope the state straps them into backwards jackets and throws away the key.” A local business owner said she was “glad somebody finally got them out of here. They were scaring off the tourists. They’d all wear those green robes and stand along the highway into town and wave signs like they were picketing, but the signs didn’t have any slogans...only these weird-looking pictures of squirrels. I’ve had visitors come into the shop here and ask me if the whole town is all anti-fur hippies or some silly thing. Since the mill shut down the river tourism’s all we’ve got left anymore, and those whackadoos being here were just bad for business, let me tell you.”

The Clackamas County District Attorney declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

“Bloody Pirates”: a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

The flash fiction challenge at terribleminds this week is to feature DEATH in 1000 words. Incredibly appropriate, I thought, because after the break-in at our house this week, I felt like ki—ahem. Well. Let’s just say that if I was a different person than I am, this might have been a flash NONfiction challenge….

“Four-fifteen, right on time,” Dave teased as we pulled into my driveway. A double-decker train was nearing the house as I parked the truck; we could already feel it coming. Two-plus miles of cargo at less than forty miles an hour equaled almost seven minutes of rumble. Right on time.
We were sore and tired after another long festival weekend, too old to keep getting smacked around with cutlasses anymore…but it was always fun. We were Captain John Weston and the Crew of the Red Herring, with my neighbor Dave as my trusty Quarter-master and a handful of other ne’er-do-wells for comic relief. Scallywag fun for the whole family: three shows daily. I buckled my sword-belt, then pulled on the leather great-coat and hat—easier to wear than carry them. The jolly roger yard flag rippled in the passing train’s breeze and beyond it I noticed a moving van next door at the empty house. Had there been a for-sale sign? Maybe they were renting.
Dave was fidgety. “Gimme the keys, man, my teeth are floatin’.” I tossed them over while collecting gear to unload. He must have taken the porch stairs two at once to get in so quick.
About the time I noticed the gap on my living-room wall where the plasma screen should’ve been, I heard Dave upstairs, shouting. And another man, yelling back. Something crashed. More shouting. I ran for the stairs. There shouldn’t be anybody else up—
My .69cal converted cartridge pistol discharged up there, rattling the house. I’d left it on the workbench; had I also left a charge in it? “What the fuck!! Dave?!”
More breakage. A skinny powder-burned meth-head thundered down the stairs away from Dave, who was limping, brandishing the pistol like a club. The guy piled into me, clutching my laptop —my new laptop! —and a bottle of rum. Right then I was angry enough to use him for every piratical torture method I’d ever known. The roar I let out as I shoved him backward and drew my steel was no act.
He threw the bottle at me but I deflected it with the blade as he made a break for the front door. The bottle crashed against the bookcase, filling the room with a warm spicy vapor. I only had one rum that smelled like that.
“Motherfucker! That was thirty-year Cuban!”
One of Dave’s throwing knives whistled past me and caught Tweaker in the calf just as he reached the door, sending him ass-over-teakettle down the stairs to the parking lot. My laptop cartwheeled away from him to freedom, only to burst into shrapnel on the concrete. Fuck.
The moving van next door suddenly revved and peeled out of the driveway, careening down the street with the door still up. They hadn’t been moving anything in at all: they’d been moving me out.
Tweaker flipped onto his back, pulled a gun out of his pants. The punk-ass held it sideways, ghetto-style, which pissed me off so much I even stopped caring that he was holding a gun.
Until he fired it.
Time crawled. I felt the slug pass close by my ear; it blew my tricorn off and shattered the living-room window into a huge spider-web…and then I stopped thinking. Next thing I knew, I was standing over a deceased Tweaker whose sternum had sprouted my un-edged cutlass. Dave was behind me on his cell, screaming panicked obscenities at an emergency dispatcher, and just like that, time resumed its normal speed…maybe a little faster.
“Jesus, I killed him! Oh my fucking God, I killed him! Ohshit ohshit….” Blood was soaking his grimy shirt, pooling red in the fir needles. This wasn’t an re-enactment and that wasn’t stage blood. I stumbled over to the bushes and puked.
Police cruisers showed up fast: lights and sirens. A sheeplike flock of gossiping neighbors gathered across the street. Weapons drawn, the cops barked commands and slammed us against the house: took awhile to remove the considerable arsenal I was wearing but when I produced my ID things calmed down somewhat. They seemed impressed that I could even move, packing that much weaponry, let alone sword-fight. Tweaker had stabbed Dave in the knee —not deep, luckily—and hit him with a lamp. Dave had grabbed the flintlock just to scare him, not realizing it was loaded, although Tweaker hadn’t really ‘dodged the bullet’. The gun’s stage-friendly powder charge wasn’t lethal, but it sure would’ve burned at close range. It could’ve even set the office on fire. Adrenaline made us jittery as we talked. Meanwhile, officers kept staring at us like they’d never seen grown men dressed from cocked hats to bucket boots like authentic Golden Age pirates. Three shows daily.
An officer followed me around to inventory what was missing. The big-screen? Gone—but the assholes left the remote, adding insult to injury. Three whole shelves of CDs, high-end stereo gear, DVR, change jar? All gone. I stared at the empty entertainment wall: something else had been there.
“The X-box! Fuck me, they took the X-box…and the games! I was forty-two hours in on Mass Effect 3! Shit.”
“No great loss there, Mr. Weston,” the officer smirked, making notes. “Trust me, you’d have hated the ending anyway. He did you a favor.”
Sometime that evening they removed the body and let Dave go home. I wandered around in shock. Didn’t bother mentioning that my hand-blown glass bong and herbs had disappeared, but I could’ve used a hit just then. My shit was looted, pillaged, plundered. Bloody pirates!
Eventually the sergeant said no charges would be filed against us: it was “justifiable homicide.” They were confident they could recover my stuff, too. Tweaker and his ring were not the sharpest tools: county lockup was their second home. Their rap-sheets were long enough to fill a filing cabinet.
“You’d think when they saw the pirate flag they woulda known better than to try this house,” he joked. “Looks like self-defense to me…Cap’n.”

Friday, April 6, 2012

“Just the Opening Line”: a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

The terribleminds flash challenge this week is short and sweet: not 1000 words, not even 100. Just the opening sentence of an as-yet-unwritten story, but as Chuck says, that one sentence “will drag me kicking and screaming and shove my face into wanting more.... You’ve got a single sentence to promise a killer story.” So, one sentence it is. By the end of this week I’ll probably have the rest of the story to go with it; if so (and it’s worth looking at) I’ll post it here too.

He was nine when he watched his father die, brawling with the other men of Llangennith for beach salvage like dogs over a carcass, and he grinned madly as the man he knew as “Da” fell in the surf and failed to rise.