Showing posts with label setting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label setting. Show all posts

Saturday, July 7, 2012

“The Fisherman & His Wife”: a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

This week’s flash fiction challenge at terribleminds is to modernize a fairy tale or fable in 1000 words or less. Weighing in at just under 1000 words, please to enjoy “The Fisherman & His Wife”….

“I always knew you were full of shit,” Mike teased, taking a swig of rotgut as we gazed at the ocean. The campfire sizzled with drippings; dinner was awesome.
I hadn’t seen him in a long time. “It’s true. We had it all, more than we ever shoulda. Damn woman, anyway. Never satisfied.”


Wife and I lived in a rusted-out trailer in a rusted-out trailer-park between the rail crossing and the jetty. Wife called it a hovel, but I could pack up the tackle and walk to a couple sweet fishing spots from there. I tried to get out every day for a little peace and quiet; catching something was a bonus.
So this one morning I hooked a big one in the surf, but I reeled in a fish like none I’d ever seen. Good fifteen pounder, whiskers like a catfish…but it was bright gold. And as I pulled the hook from its bleeding lip, the bastard looked me right in the eyes and spoke.
“Hey, if you let me go, friend, I’ll grant you a wish. Whatever you want.”
“Yeah, right. My trailer’s a dump. Gimme a house, maybe the wife will stop bitching about it.”
“Set me free and go home. Your house awaits.”
I felt stupid walking home empty-handed but sure enough, where the trailer had been before, now there was a house. It was clean, not too big, had a nice garden. The wife was thrilled.
Too bad the thrill didn’t last. Pretty soon she was bitching again: the house wasn’t big enough, not fancy enough. She insisted I go back and find that fish again and demand a nice house, a big one like the rentals up the mountain. If the fish was really magic, he could give us one.
“Hey, fish!” I yelled at the water, and damned if that big gold head didn’t pop up. “Wife says you need to give us a better house, like the townies have up there,” I jerked a thumb behind me at the headland.
“Go home, fisherman, and see your mansion.”
So I went…and I got lost, not realizing that the McMansion on the corner was ours. It had decks, a three-car garage and a ten-foot-tall stone entry with spiral-trimmed trees on each side. Wife met me in the foyer with a bottle of good scotch and a huge grin. Took an hour to see the whole place, it was so big.
“Oh honey,” she cooed,  “it’s perfect!”
Well, maybe it was, but apparently not perfect enough. After awhile she was back to her old self, but now she’d found ambition. I had to go back to the fish.
“What does she want now?” the fish asked.
“She wants to be president. She’s lost her mind, but—”
“Wow. Have fun being the First Man.”
When I got home the place was swarming with Secret Service. Marine One was now parked behind my Chevy. I got frisked walking up to my own damn house! And it wasn’t even an election year….
I’d figured as Prez she’d be too busy to bitch at me now. I was wrong. Now she had staff to bitch at me for her. And right on schedule, a few weeks later, her personal secretary informed me that I needed to go see the fish.
“What now, O Beleaguered One?” asked the fish.
“President isn’t good enough. She wants to be Empress.”
The fish sighed. “Very well, Empress she is. I hope there’s room in that house for you and her ego.”
“You ain’t kiddin’, buddy.”
And so it was…and there was much rejoicing, and kowtowing, and blowing of trumpets. At least the trickle-down benefits of being King Consort included me getting my own residence so I didn’t have to see her as much. But, well, too much is never enough. Sooner than later, I found myself out on the beach again, yelling like a lunatic at a fish.
“Yes, Dolentem Imperator?” The fish actually looked put-upon, which I could totally understand, even if I didn’t know what it said.
“It means ‘The Emperor Who Suffers’,” it explained, with some boredom. “I was being a little facetious but I probably shouldn’t be, given your station these days. My apologies, O Great One. What does she want to be this time?”
And yes, the fish gave me the fish-eye. “Pope. Pope?! Are you shitting me? Shes aware that she’s not a man, right? Hell, is she even Catholic?”
“She wants to be the Pope and as Empress she demands that you make her wish come true. Hey, I’m just the messenger, here. This isn’t my idea.”
“Fry me up and swaddle me in newsprint if that woman isn’t the biggest megalo-maniac on the planet,” the fish said, somehow managing to shake his head in wonder. “All right, all right. She’s the Pope. Good luck with that.”
The opulence of St. Peter’s Basilica looked ridiculous, planted in this godforsaken beach town. Pikemen in garish purple-striped shorts and feathered hats guarded the gates. Red-robed cardinals flocked around her, catering to her every whim. She wasn’t sure whether she liked the hat or the red-heeled designer shoes better, but she was over the moon. 
Was it enough? Nope.
The next time I stood there on the sand, yelling at the fish, the winds nearly knocked me over. I have no idea how the fish even heard me.
“But there’s nothing else she could be!” it complained. “Great Peter’s Net, man...she’s the Pope!”
“Yeah, that’s what I told her. But she wants to be God.”
The fish laughed a maniacal sort of laugh that a fish shouldn’t be able to make and darted toward me, almost beaching itself in rage. “Yeah? Well, fuck you! Go home to your harpy. I gave you back your hovel!”


“I still think you’re full of shit,” Mike said, picking a long golden fishbone out of his teeth and reaching for the whisky. “Good fish, though. Got any tartar sauce?”

Friday, March 23, 2012

“Descent” : a terribleminds flash fiction challenge

So sayeth the Great Penmonkey, Chuck Wendig: I’m going to give you five whacked-out settings. You may choose one, and set your story within that space. What five settings? Here goes: Lunar Brothel, Abandoned Amusement Park, The Bottom of the Ocean, Pent-house Apartment during the Apocalypse, Fairy Tale Forest.” 998 words, for your pleasure....

He’d relaxed when he felt the hands on him; he’d thought he was rescued…until they pulled him under.
At first he wasn’t sure if it was their strength or his own exhaustion that made his resistance so useless. An icy snake thicker than a topmast wrapped about his chest, at once both squishy and solid as cold iron, and then there was the sensation of falling through water. A rational part of his panicking mind observed that he should be drowning by now: he had, after all, exhaled his last dry breath. He couldn’t think for all the pain.
Clicks and whines echoed all around him as he was dragged downward, and an ominous intermittent rumble that was nearly felt more than heard. Then he detected a gentle greenish glow about him that almost wasn’t there: if he stared at one spot it seemed dark, but if his eyes relaxed he could make out shadows and forms in the gloom. None of them were human.
Without sun, time had no meaning in these murky depths; he had no way to know how long he traveled. The glow strengthened, punctuated by sharp random flashes as if he was surrounded by stars. He was glowing now, too, as tiny luminous creatures collected on him. Fantastical features of ridges, pillars, arches became dimly visible in the distance: a landscape at the bottom of the sea.
Seeing close about him was easier now but his other senses were heightened also. He sensed the others near him without seeing them. Three swam above him, several more below. With effort he craned his neck to see past the appendage gripping him and got his first look at one’s face. He screamed for all he was worth at the sight of it, but no bubbles emerged from his mouth. The rational part of his mind tried to decide if that frightened him even more.
The creature following him seemed small compared to the rest, perhaps only a little larger than him. Its gleaming face was a grotesque nightmare of fist-sized jet-black eyes, needle-teeth and thin finger-like tentacles. At his reaction, its toothy expression changed to something resembling a grin. It touched his leg and he realized that the “hands” he’d felt were these creatures’ flexible bony fins. A shudder of revulsion rippled through him and he kicked but could not break its grip. Then he heard it speak.
You are one of us now, airbreather.
The sound was not a sound but somehow it echoed through his head, more real than his own thoughts. It seemed childlike and diabolically gleeful. He tried to pray but feared he was too far from Creation now for his God to hear him, let alone save him.
The storm brought you to us as a gift, and now you will live with us and be one of us, it said. Semi-transparent membranes clicked quickly across its eyes.
“I’m not one of you! Let me go!!” His words were muddled by the water such that he barely heard them himself.
No one will hear you like that, silly human, it laughed. You must talk like me. Focus.
Pain, terror, desperation: he channeled that and shot it like a cannon at this grinning abomination. The beast reeled back, pausing as he was carried away from it. Then it darted forward again and grabbed both his legs, showing rows of teeth as it was towed along with him. He saw that a row of spines traveled all the way from the crest atop its head to the base of a wide silver tail, flat like a whale’s but jaggedly striped.
You are so strong! Oh, they will like you!
He focused another burst of emotion, only this time adding thoughts: You must let me go; I’m not one of you! Please, I beg you! I don’t belong here!
But you DO belong here! You are the only one the storm has brought us for many lifetimes. You will bring us much enjoyment.
His eyes closed as his mind whirled in utter denial. He’d been on that island so long he must be delusional. He’d drunk seawater or gone into a starvation-induced, deranged fugue. This wasn’t real, it couldn’t be: his mind must have cracked. Heavenly Father, hear the cry of thy humble servant in his time of need….
The steady downward drag became rough and erratic, then abruptly stopped. The appendage loosened and released him: dozens of toothed discs ripped free from his flesh. While gasping in pain he finally saw his captor for what it was: a mighty beast at least as long as the galleon which had marooned him, with a wide finned body and a dozen massive tentacles—some of which ended in great fan-like paddles. Its skin shifted unnaturally, changing in both texture and color. It flicked him away as though his presence offended it, and promptly vanished into the murk.
Shock took him then and he drifted to the silty seabed's embrace, aware that the Others were waiting over him even as he felt his sanity beginning to slip away. The little one came down, floating just above him so he could see nothing else. It stared through him. If he lived, the stare of those horrible black eyes would surely drive him mad, so his only wish now was to die. He was a child of God, and his Eternally Loving God was merciful. He prayed feverishly to his Merciful Father that he might be saved from this unholy fate, but felt his prayers went unheeded.
Hovering over his face, the creature stared into his soul. The Elders want to know if you can learn to Speak to the depths like we can. I hope you can, airbreather. If you can’t, the Elders won’t eat you…but you might wish they had.
He prayed, and perhaps his God was merciful after all. Even the worst torture imaginable can be surmounted if one isn’t present to remember it.