robert downey jr

Hype

Flash Fiction inspired by all the hype generated from Comic-Con:

There was nothing to say. There was nothing to show. Still, thousands of people were sitting in the audience to hear about it.

“Are you guys excited?” It wasn’t as much of a question as it was a command. The audience applauded when they heard the word “excited” and the man waved his arms in the air in an attempt to make the noise grow louder. And it worked. People clapped and yelled and when the man said “Are you ready for…” they rose to their feet.

But there was nothing to show and nothing to say. Not really. The man with the microphone did say things like “Awesome” and “fantastic” and “incredible” and “much better than last season” and he showed things like props and costumes and when the audience asked questions he wagged his finger and said “You’ll have to watch and see.”

He loved those words. He waited all week just to say those words. That’s the reason they leaked images and gave interviews. That’s the reason they bought booths and signed autographs. That’s the reason they spent so much time talking about nothing.  Because if he didn’t talk about it no one else would.

He stood on the stage with nothing to say and nothing to show.

“Are you guys excited?” he said, and the audience stood and applauded.

***

Flash Fiction inspired by all the hype generated from Comic-Con: As the place where Hollywood now launches the marketing campaigns around its upcoming films, TV shows and videogames, this year’s Comic-Con revealed the runaway successes and upcoming headaches for the industry’s marketers.”

photo credit: Justin in SD via photopin cc

water fountain

Why Not Water?

Flash fiction inspired by a story published at the Guardian:

“Why not water?” he asked.

He was standing next to a white projection screen at the front of the room and as he said the word “water” the lights dimmed and an image of a waterfall slowly brightened on the screen. Next came an image of a river, then a lake, then the ocean. When the screen cut to another river, this time surrounded by tall trees, he started to speak again.

“We do it with wood. With oil. With meat and vegetables. We’ve been packaging the world’s resources since the beginning of civilization. So why not water?”

There were 16 men and two women at the table. They were all facing the screen, which was now showing an image of child holding a glass of water, and listening to the men in the dark grey suit as he walked around the table.

“Bottled water, as it stands now, is a luxury. It’s a convenience. Water flows freely from drinking fountains around the city. But why? We don’t have food stations. We don’t hand out free meat to people because they need it to live. So why do we give them water?”

The image changed again. This time it showed a water fountain that had a credit card slot attached to the side. A woman was standing at the fountain filling up a water bottle and smiling at the camera as a long line started to form behind her.

The image faded to white and the lights in the room came back on. The man in the dark grey suit unscrewed the top of a water bottle then held out his arms.

“Why not water?” he asked and took a sip.

***

Flash fiction inspired by a story published at the Guardian: Mammoth companies are trying to collect water that all life needs and charge for it as they would for other natural resources.

photo credit: w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) via photopin cc

dolls

An Assumption

Flash fiction inspired by a mysterious doll in California:

There was only one conclusion they could draw from the facts that they had gathered: A killer was on the loose.

Maybe not a killer yet, but a stalker for sure. Maybe even a pedophile. Why else would someone go around the neighborhood watching little girls?

They found the first doll on the 700 block of Willow Street. It stood about a foot high, had glass eyes, and had long curly blonde hair like their daughter. There wasn’t a note or a sign or anything other than that doll sitting on the curb.

“What the hell is that?” he had said, picking up the doll. “It looks like Michelle.”

That’s all it took. Their imaginations started running at full speed after that. Soon there was a psychotic serial killer hiding in every bush around the neighborhood. He had kidnapped a few victims already, replacing them with porcelain dolls, and their daughter was next. They thought about all the ways that their daughter could be killed. They thought about all the different types of killers and pedophiles and sickos and lunatics that could have placed the doll on their yard. They thought about the security around the home and if there was anything they could do to lock out the scary monsters that undoubtedly lurked down their streets at night.

They sat around the kitchen table thinking about all of this as a little old woman on the other side of town placed another wig on a porcelain doll. “Molly will love this,” she smiled. “It looks just like her.”

***

Flash fiction inspired by a mysterious doll in California: In what is probably the creepiest news of the day, someone has been putting porcelain dolls that resemble actual human girls in front of the houses where they live in San Clemente.

photo credit: Dire Penguin via photopin cc

1200px-Ray_Rice

A Blind Eye

Flash Fiction inspired by the NFL’s response to Ray Rice’s arrest for domestic abuse:

The good thing about being arrested for domestic assault is that no one really cares. As long as you don’t kill her or give her a permanent scar, as long as you apologize and admit it was a mistake, as long as you don’t give people a reason to remember it, you can punch and threaten just about anyone you want… As long as they’re a woman.

There might be some anger at first, of course, people do have to save face, but eventually it boils down to an issue between two people. It’s not like he was smoking weed or anything. It’s not like he broke any real laws. He just had an argument with his wife and it got a little out of hand. Who hasn’t been there? Who hasn’t done that? Who hasn’t knocked their spouse unconscious and then dragged her down the hall to her hotel room?

Hell, they used to make cartoons about it. You know the ones? The caveman clubs the woman then drags her by the hair to his cave. They never showed what happened next but one of the characters would wink and everyone knew that the woman was raped. It was funny, remember? He’s probably laughing about it now.

“Hey honey,” he’s saying. “Remember that time I broke your jaw? You should have seen it. Your arms were flailing. Your eyes rolled to the back of your head. Your body hit the floor of the elevator like a sack of bricks. I swear to god. I sent the video over to the NFL and you should have heard the laughter. Thwack, flail, thump, and then that little ding of the elevator as the doors closed.”

“They had to suspend me, you see, to keep up appearances. And I understand that. I do. We don’t “condone” domestic violence. But let me tell you, when the doors closed and the cameras shut off they pulled me aside and patted me on my little head. They said ‘We’ve all been there. Just keep it out of the public eye next time. Don’t worry. This whole thing we’ll get brushed under the rug in a few weeks time.”

That’s the great thing about getting arrested for domestic abuse. There’s a support group waiting for you when you get it out.

***

Flash Fiction inspired by the NFL’s response to Ray Rice’s arrest for domestic abuse: “Receiver Josh Gordon was issued a yearlong suspension, reportedly for smoking marijuana. Ray Rice was shown on video dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator after allegedly punching her in the head and knocking her out. Ray Rice was given just a two-game suspension.”

["Ray Rice" by Wallstreethotrod at English Wikipedia]

malaysia airlines

When No One’s Looking

Flash fiction inspired by reports of looting at the MH17 crash site:

“A dead man’s hand,” he said, prying a ring off a cold finger. “Does not need jewelry.”

The boy was standing with a rifle across his chest watching a soldier walk carefully through a ripped open metal tube that had fallen from the sky that morning. He counted 8 bodies in that tube. Four were still strapped to their chairs, although one was missing an arm, and three were stacked somewhere between the dirt and a stack of metal sheets. There was another body about fifty yards to the south. The birds were picking at that one.

“They pick at the meat,” the soldier said. “We pick at the jewels. We all feed off the dead.”

He had been dropping words of wisdom all like that all morning. When they were in the jeep driving toward the wreckage he had said “colors may be enticing but your best bet is gold,” and when they stepped out of the vehicle in front of the smoldering heap of metal and flesh, he added, “the dead have nothing to worry about.”

The boy watched as the soldier reached behind a dead woman’s neck and unclasped her necklace. He held it up to the light then stuffed it into his pocket.

“It’s ours for the taking,” the soldier told the boy. “Come and get yours.”

The desert sun set behind the hill as the two made their way through blood, steel and suitcases. They found watches, rings, phones and computers… and when it was over they hopped back into the beach and drove away, leaving the wreck of MH17 like a corpse ravaged by vultures. Nothing but bone.

“Life is only life when you’re living,” the soldier said. “The dead don’t care one way or the other.”

***

Flash fiction inspired by reports of looting at the MH17 crash site: Grieving relatives of the MH17 crash victims have had chilling confirmation that their loved ones’ possessions have been looted from the crash site.

["Boeing 777-2H6ER 9M-MRD Malaysian (6658105143)" by Alan Wilson]

homeless

Laughing Shadows

Flash fiction inspired by the murder of two homeless men in New Mexico:

It was funny when they screamed.

They were sleeping beneath the stars in a vacant lot behind the railroad tracks and were completely unaware of the three shadows that stood above them. And that was the funniest part. Here they were, peaceful and dreaming and sleeping, and a second later they were screaming, and bleeding and crying.

“Hit him,” he laughed. “Kick that son of a bitch.”

The three shadows descended onto their victims in wild fits of laughter and violence. A foot crushed two ribs. An eye was swollen shut. A fist knocked three teeth out of one man’s mouth and the shadows doubled over and gasped for breath.

“Listen to him,” they laughed. “This little bitch is crying like a baby.”

Two men laid lifeless when it was all over while another fled across the pavement, his clothes torn and his face battered, as the haunting laughter of the shadows chased after him.

“Run,” they giggled. “Coward,” they laughed. “Worthless scum.”

They shadows walked arm in arm down the alleyway laughing at the jokes that laid still in the moonlight.

***

Flash fiction inspired by the murder of two homeless men in New Mexico: Three New Mexico teenagers accused of beating to death two men who were sleeping in a vacant lot giggled as they delivered their blows, a survivor of the vicious attack told NBC News on Monday.

photo credit: magnetomotive via photopin cc

bullets

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Flash fiction inspired by another deadly weekend in Chicago:

“I don’t like this place.” The little girl held on to her mother’s skirt and followed her around the kitchen. There was a loud pop outside and the girl wrapped her arms tightly around her mother’s legs.

“I don’t like this place,” she said again. “Can we move mommy?”

The woman ran her fingers through the girl’s hair and looked at the dirty window that sat above the couch. A tan curtain was shifting in the wind and the woman waited for another noise.

“It’s nothing,” the mother said. “Just some fireworks. Don’t you worry.”

“It wasn’t a gun?” the girl asked.

The woman looked down at the soft and innocent eyes of her baby girl. She ran her thumb along the side of her cheek and did her best to speak over the sound of her breaking heart.

“No, honey,” she said. “It wasn’t a gun. You’re safe.”

The weekend prior three people had died on their block. Another 10 were killed around the city. All gang related. All thoughtless bullets.

The neighborhood had always been rough but when the girl was younger she could walk by the violence wearing a blindfold. She could explain away the loud noises at night and the yellow police tape that littered the streets. She could protect the girl, and her gentle mind, from the violence in the city.

But now, at the age of 7, there were no more fairy tales.

The girl witnessed her first murder on the corner of California and Harrison when she was five-years-old. She didn’t see the shooting, but she saw the blood that dripped from the curb as they made their way home from school.

“Mommy,” she had asked. “Is that man dead?”

They drove home in silence as the little girl connected the dots between the blood, death, guns, and the loud explosions that kept her awake at night.

“Mommy,” the girl said pulling at her mother’s dress. “Can we move? Please? I don’t like this place.”

Every time the girl asked her mother would make a promise that she wanted to, but couldn’t, keep.

“Soon,” the mother said. “A few things have to happen first but then we’ll move to a nice neighborhood.”

Over and over again the girl asked and the mother answered: Soon.

The woman sat on a clean wooden floor surrounded by cardboard boxes. There was music on the radio and a cool summer breeze wafted in through an open window at the front of the apartment.

She held a framed picture of her daughter and listened as the laughter from a group of neighborhood kids rose from the well lit streets and into her new home. The crack of a baseball bat rang through her open window and she held the photo tightly against her chest, apologizing that she didn’t move sooner, and hoping that her daughter had found a better place.

***

Flash fiction inspired by another deadly weekend in Chicago: An 11-year-girl was shot and killed during a slumber party as violence struck Chicago over the weekend, local media outlets reported on Sunday.

photo credit: Tigresblanco via photopin cc

boeing 777

Out Of Thin Air

Flash fiction inspired by Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17

“Nervous?” he asked. “I used to get nervous on these flights too. Big plane. Hundreds of people. The slightest turbulence felt like imminent doom. But I figured something out. These guys know what they’re doing. They train very hard for it. There’s really no safer place to be.”

The plane shook, dipping into an air pocket, and she felt queasy as the momentary weightlessness lifted then dropped her stomach and lungs. She closed her eyes tightly, as tight as her hands were wrapped around the armrest, as tight as her teeth were clenched together, and found herself praying to a God she never talked to.

The stranger placed his hand on her shoulder.

“Hey,” he said. “Hey miss. Why don’t you talk to me. I bet you I can make you laugh. Let’s talk and not worry about this pesky flying business.”

She opened her eyes. The rest of her body remained tight but she opened her eyes and stiffly turned her neck so that she was facing her fellow passenger.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I normally take an ambien before I get on but I was late and I had to get to the gate and I didn’t have time to stop and now… I can feel my heart racing.”

“It’s nothing to worry about,” he said. “In addition to being a fantastic conversationalist, I’m also a doctor. And in addition to being a doctor I’m also a former nervous flier. You’re in good hands here. Trust me.”

She felt her body slowly start to relax. She loosened her grip around the arm rest, she unclenched her jaw, she took a deep breath and she felt her neck and chest and stomach and muscles soften and relax.

“Thank you,” she said. “For talking with me. I don’t know If I would have made it through the entire flight on my own.”

He smiled, slid back into his seat, then folded his hands in his lap.

“We’ll be there in no time,” he said. “Just sit back and rel…

***

Flash fiction inspired by Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17: In the rural area of eastern Ukraine where a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 fell from the sky on Thursday, the ground was scarred with death and devastation left behind by a flight that never reached its destination.

photo credit: michal818 via photopin cc

stripper

An Inspection

Flash fiction inspired by a Reuters story

“And this?” He put his hand on her shoulder, rubbing his thumb along the tail of a red tattoo that wrapped around her neck. “We’re going to need to see the rest.”

“What for?”

“Procedure.”

The creature’s tale wrapped around her neck while it’s body crawled over her shoulder then wrapped around and hugged the bottom of her breast. She told this to the officer but he insisted that a description just wouldn’t cut it.

“We need a photo,” he told her. “It’s for your safety.”

The officers always used the same excuses. Procedure and safety. The girls who protested were hit with a third excuse, “it’s just the way that things are done,” before the first threat “cooperate or I can make life difficult” was issued. It wasn’t a hollow threat, either. One girl had already been taken down to the station for processing and she knew that she’d be next if she asked another question.

She slipped the straps off of her shoulder then pulled her shirt down enough so that the tattoo was completely visible. She closed her eyes and waited for the clicking of the camera. When she opened them the officer was wiping a bit of drool from his lips.

“You’re a beautiful woman,” he said. “Any more tattoos?”

“No,” she said. “That’s it.”

He moved his tongue around the inside of his mouth then caught the eye of the photographer who must’ve been thinking the same thing.

“Yes, I think you’re right,” he said. “I think we need to get a picture of you completely naked. Why don’t you take the rest of these clothes off and they’ll we’ll get you on your way.”

“But…” she started to speak but the officer talked over her.

“You take your clothes off every night,” he said. “You’re going to get modest now? I’m a man of the law. Just doing my job. I’m here to keep you safe. Remember?”

The officer leaned back against the wall and waited for the girl to start undressing. Then he smiled and walked across the room to where a small radio was sitting on the table. He turned it on, turned the volume up, then turned back to the woman.

“There you go,” he said. “A little music for the show. Make you feel right at home.”

***

Flash fiction inspired by a Reuters story: Thirty strippers in the San Diego area filed a lawsuit against the San Diego Police Department on Wednesday, saying they were forced to be photographed while nude or nearly nude while officers claimed to be inspecting the clubs where they worked.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Yamal

End Of The World

Flash fiction inspired by a Nine MSN Story

“They don’t know what it is. They have theories and guesses and ideas but they don’t know what it is. All they know is that it’s big and scary and that it’s located at the end of the world.”

“It’s just a hole.”

“It’s more than a hole. It’s 250 feet wide. It’s inexplicable. It’s already caused evacuations and general hysteria.”

“It’s a scary hole.”

“You don’t understand. You see a something and you see what it is. Not what it represents. This may be just a hole but I’ll tell you this: It’s just the beginning.”

“Of what.”

“Of the end, of course. It’s the beginning of the end.”

“It is at the end of the world.”

“And that’s just where it starts.”

***

Flash fiction inspired by a Nine MSN Story: A mysterious giant hole spotted in northern Siberia has sparked an urgent expedition. Aerial images posted on YouTube indicate a hole up to 80m wide in Yamal, a peninsula jutting into Arctic waters whose name translates as “the end of the world”.