Flash Fiction with #VSS365: June 2019

July was a hurricane, friends. In addition to the usual demands of a full-time job by day and wrestling with final revisions on Binary Chop by night, my month included:

  • A whirlwind international business trip;
  • Publication of the fourth Brave New Girls science fiction anthology, featuring my short story “Armed for the Future”;
  • Big projects and changes afoot at work;
  • Syzygy released in paperback;
  • Celebrating the 60th birthday of one my books’ biggest supporters, my mom; and
  • A weeklong beach vacation to catch some waves (and my breath).

With all that, I fell off the #VSS365 flash fiction wagon from day one (although I’m clambering back on for August). In the meantime, I want to share my June crop of stories with you. Prompts are in bold, and each piece is no more than 280 characters. If you enjoy these, follow me on Twitter @jk_ullrich for a daily dose, and check out May’s collection for my first foray into this hashtag game.


 


“And this artifact translates the thoughts of the gods, that we might know their wishes.” The priestess stroked reverent fingers along the box’s obsidian edge. Silver shadows danced inside the frame, and an ancient voice burbled: “But wait…there’s more…call now…”


 


My elements exploded from a star’s blazing heart onto the primordial anvil of a newborn planet. Fire and fang hammered them strong; eons of evolution honed their edge. Forged in this cosmic crucible, do you think I can be shattered by your petty hatred?


 


Today’s prompt called for an excerpt from my sci-fi series, Syzygy:

“There’s nothing going on with me and Willow.”

“But you wish there were.”

“That would be against the rules.”

Skye rolled her eyes. “No wonder you Colonists need a Repro Lab.”


 


The seduction needed no words. Ambrosial scents lured him through the woods; velvet leaves drew him into a sticky embrace; and the serrated maw of the carnivorous plant unfolded like a lotus to engulf his skull.


 


I tumble out of the machine and into the hands that built me a cabin in the New World. Eyes I’d closed at Gettysburg peer into mine again, and the voice that sang protest anthems on May Day whispers: “Remember me?”

I hug him fiercely. “I’d know you in any century.”


 


Flames paint the crone’s gnarled hands with shadow as they assemble the trinity of ingredients with uncanny grace. Cackling, she plunges her concoction into the fire. It oozes onto the embers, and she breathes the sweet smoke. “Fifty years since I last made s’mores!”


 


Grant paused to comfort a child screaming amid the rubble, but Delta hauled him onward.

“I thought you had mandatory empathy programs installed?” Grant snapped.

“You think I’m…” She burst into dark chuckles. “I’m flattered, but I’m all human. Can’t patch personality.”


 


“Their General expects a diversion, so that’s what we’ll make it look like. He’ll ignore it, and our vanguard can march right in.”

“So your ruse is a ruse?”

The captain’s grin flashed bright as her blade. “I’ll see that he ruse the day he called my guerrillas ‘dumb apes’.”


 


“Okay, but promise you’ll have me home by eleven. I transform at midnight.”

“Into what?” My date leans forward, eager eyes alight. “Werewolf? Vampire? A raging party machine?”

“A cranky fatigue monster that will destroy anything between me and my bed.”


 


“This wine, recovered from a 16th century conquistador’s sunken galleon, is the perfect vintage to toast a new world!” I raise my glass to the window, where the first scars of colonization mark the planet’s unspoiled face, and drink: complex, with a bitter finish.


 


Papa slows our kayak beside a half-sunken totem. Familiar animals–bear, orca, wolf–cower beneath a sinister human shape I don’t recognize from traditional carvings.

“Which story is this?” I ask.

“Ours,” he says sadly, and continues paddling across the melted pole.


 


“It only happens in the fog,” the old man muttered, scowling at the shrouded mountain. “Then we gather at the church.”

“To hide from a monster?” Agent Moldy asked eagerly.

“Naw, to watch the game! Reverend ran an antenna up the steeple, so we get ESPN in any weather.”


 


“But look at these ruins!” The xenoarchaeologist traced surface scans from the blue planet. “Clearly the humans built complex civilizations.”

“So did ants,” the historian sniffed. “That doesn’t make them sentient.”


 


A Syzygy excerpt for #vss365:

“What hit us?” Hazel yelped.

“I don’t know, but we lost a rotor.” Ash punched helplessly at the controls. I was right about one thing–this is my last dive.

Gravity pulled them down into its inevitable embrace.


 


Excerpt from Binary Chop for #vss365:

Other than surgical scars ringing my shoulder and thigh, there’s nothing remarkable in my reflection. No one would ever guess the bones are 3D-printed alloy, the muscles a proprietary matrix of actuators and fluid-filled sacs.


 


Excerpt from Blue Karma for #vss365:

Sun and moon hung balanced in the sky, cosmic weights on either horizon. Perched on the porch railing, Amaya basked in the reprieve from heat as the sun tipped below the hills. “How is there any ice left on a planet that gets this hot?”


Let me know your favorite entries in the comments!

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