Flash Fiction with VSS365: August 2019

Since I tend to fall off the daily flash fiction wagon after the first week of each new month, I set myself punitive parameters for August: every prompt missed would have to be used in the next piece I wrote. Some days I accumulated as many as four mandatory words. This challenge, unexpectedly, resulted in some of my favorite stories from this mont’s collection. I hope you like them, too. 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, or catch up with the June collection.

The High Priestess studied the raven. “Is that…”

“My ex? Yep,” said the young witch, ruffling the bird’s obsidian plumage. “Now he can squawk all he likes, and I won’t have to hear a word.”

“Ha! I thought your familiar looked familiar.”


“Gram left you the vineyard?”

“Yes, and I’m going to re-open it. Pun-ot Noir Winery. What do you think?”

“Cute, but you’d make more just hocking the real estate.”

“That farm’s been in our family for centuries. I can’t bear to cellar!”


“Thank you for your sacrifice,” they say, pumping my hand. Like I’m the one who volunteered my city as a strategic nuclear deterrent zone and condemned my kids to a lifetime underground…instead of a uniformed grunt who pushed a red button and made it happen.


Log Entry 5827:

Whatever killed my team on Europa got the colonists on Callisto, too. Nothing but empty habitats, abandoned ice drills, and static on my helmet comm. Hey, universe, I was only joking when I said I wanted to become Empress of Jupiter.


The sheriff has almost figured out who took my neighbors’ water and their lives, but the earth is too parched to bury the evidence. So I toss a cigarette in the brush. Flames blaze bloody bright, cremating the hidden corpses in wildfire.


They claimed emotion was their greatest strength, a power that perplexed us until we realized it was just involuntary neurochemical programming, easy to manipulate. The humans are happier now, not knowing what happiness means.


“For God’s glory!” the crusaders cried as they charged.

“For the glory of the empire!” roared the defenders, blades blinding in the desert sun.

Vultures gloried in the carnage.


“You made pie?” I open the oven. “Ooh, pecan!”

“Don’t peek, Anne,” says mom’s sister, brandishing beaters of whipped cream at me.

I lick the frothy, bourbon-infused peaks and grin at my piqued aunt. “Piquant.”


The strange butterfly alights on my shoulder, vermillion wings scattering sunlight, and unfurls its delicate proboscis into my ear. A prick deep in my skull makes me gasp, then softens into a tickle ha ha slurp it likes me but who am i pretty red bug fly away now bye bye.


Two fateful degrees: tides swallowed coasts

Coral reefs withered To skeletal ghosts.

No flippers or fins (plastic swims in the swell);

We hollowed the oceans into a sea shell.


“You actually went to the library?” My brother snorts into his pilfered beer.

“Instead of lying about it to go smoke dad’s cigarettes behind 7-11, like everyone else? Yes. That’s not rebellious.” I offer him a book from my bag. “If you want to be a real renegade, read.”


An excerpt from my Sci-Fi novel Syzygy for #VSS365:

“You said the terraforming didn’t work.”

“Not Everest’s kind, with robots and atmospheric algae bombs. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”

“Few things are, if people are clever and stubborn enough.”


“It’s how the planet was born,” she whispered. “A massive, fiery explosion of chemicals and particles.”

He reached for her hand, scarlet light from the countdown screen pulsing on their skin. “Then it’s not such a bad way to die.”


“I listened to the crickets’ symphony every night before we moved into the Dome,” said Dad, smuggling me up the ladder to the roof. “It’s worth a little radiation to hear it once in your life.”

Crouched on the hot steel, all I heard was the wind and my father’s sobs.


Imagine a world that looks exactly the way you want it to. It’s yours with HAVEN, the AR app that modulates your optical nerve to edit undesirable elements from the visual field*, creating a comfortable landscape of your favourite things.

*blindness may linger


*BUG REPORT*

NAME: Blindside
SEVERITY: High
ENVIRONMENT: HAVEN augmented reality app
DESCRIPTION: Vulnerability allows remote actor to erase physical objects from user’s visual landscape, causing disorientation and potential injury.
NOTES: The videos are hilarious.


A Syzygy excerpt for #VSS365:

Ash found himself staring into a pair of wild golden eyes. His boots melded to the concrete, and the knife on his shin felt a light-year away from his fingertips. ‘I wonder if I could get a sample of that coywolf’s coat before it eats my face.’


A Syzygy excerpt for #VSS365:

Her eyes shone like Earth waxing over Shackleton Crater, bright blue irises orbiting black pupils. “This can still be the mission you dreamed of. Let me go and I’ll show you.”

“I fell for that once already.”


A peek at my Sci-Fi WIP for #VSS365:

I may be half silicone now, but my parents didn’t name me after an ancient stone city for nothing. If that Petra can survive war, flood, and collapse, so can this one…at least long enough to shatter those crooks the way they shattered me.


Plants soften the skyline, tangled vines pulling the abandoned metropolis back to earth.

“Hijacking the survey drone again?” Mik asks, poking his head into the control room.

I grin back. “I confess, I wanted to see what became of my old garden.”


“Your algorithm chose this planet?” The captain jabs my fragile touchscreen map. “Why?”

“We must reanimate the colonists somewhere, soon.”

“It’ll collide with its sun in a million years!”

“Based on human civilizational trajectories, it does not need to last forever.”


What did you think? Let me know in the comments which flash fiction stories you like best.

“Gram left you the vineyard?”

“Yes, and I’m going to re-open it. Pun-ot Noir Winery. What do you think?”

“Cute, but you’d make more just hocking the real estate.”

“That farm’s been in our family for centuries. I can’t bear to cellar!”


“Thank you for your sacrifice,” they say, pumping my hand. Like I’m the one who volunteered my city as a strategic nuclear deterrent zone and condemned my kids to a lifetime underground…instead of a uniformed grunt who pushed a red button and made it happen.


Log Entry 5827:

Whatever killed my team on Europa got the colonists on Callisto, too. Nothing but empty habitats, abandoned ice drills, and static on my helmet comm. Hey, universe, I was only joking when I said I wanted to become Empress of Jupiter.


The sheriff has almost figured out who took my neighbors’ water and their lives, but the earth is too parched to bury the evidence. So I toss a cigarette in the brush. Flames blaze bloody bright, cremating the hidden corpses in wildfire.


They claimed emotion was their greatest strength, a power that perplexed us until we realized it was just involuntary neurochemical programming, easy to manipulate. The humans are happier now, not knowing what happiness means.


“For God’s glory!” the crusaders cried as they charged.

“For the glory of the empire!” roared the defenders, blades blinding in the desert sun.

Vultures gloried in the carnage.


“You made pie?” I open the oven. “Ooh, pecan!”

“Don’t peek, Anne,” says mom’s sister, brandishing beaters of whipped cream at me.

I lick the frothy, bourbon-infused peaks and grin at my piqued aunt. “Piquant.”


The strange butterfly alights on my shoulder, vermillion wings scattering sunlight, and unfurls its delicate proboscis into my ear. A prick deep in my skull makes me gasp, then softens into a tickle ha ha slurp it likes me but who am i pretty red bug fly away now bye bye.


Two fateful degrees: tides swallowed coasts

Coral reefs withered To skeletal ghosts.

No flippers or fins (plastic swims in the swell);

We hollowed the oceans into a sea shell.


“You actually went to the library?” My brother snorts into his pilfered beer.

“Instead of lying about it to go smoke dad’s cigarettes behind 7-11, like everyone else? Yes. That’s not rebellious.” I offer him a book from my bag. “If you want to be a real renegade, read.”


An excerpt from my Sci-Fi novel Syzygy for #VSS365:

“You said the terraforming didn’t work.”

“Not Everest’s kind, with robots and atmospheric algae bombs. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.”

“Few things are, if people are clever and stubborn enough.”


“It’s how the planet was born,” she whispered. “A massive, fiery explosion of chemicals and particles.”

He reached for her hand, scarlet light from the countdown screen pulsing on their skin. “Then it’s not such a bad way to die.”


“I listened to the crickets’ symphony every night before we moved into the Dome,” said Dad, smuggling me up the ladder to the roof. “It’s worth a little radiation to hear it once in your life.”

Crouched on the hot steel, all I heard was the wind and my father’s sobs.


Imagine a world that looks exactly the way you want it to. It’s yours with HAVEN, the AR app that modulates your optical nerve to edit undesirable elements from the visual field*, creating a comfortable landscape of your favourite things.

*blindness may linger


*BUG REPORT*

NAME: Blindside
SEVERITY: High
ENVIRONMENT: HAVEN augmented reality app
DESCRIPTION: Vulnerability allows remote actor to erase physical objects from user’s visual landscape, causing disorientation and potential injury.
NOTES: The videos are hilarious.


A Syzygy excerpt for #VSS365:

Ash found himself staring into a pair of wild golden eyes. His boots melded to the concrete, and the knife on his shin felt a light-year away from his fingertips. ‘I wonder if I could get a sample of that coywolf’s coat before it eats my face.’


A Syzygy excerpt for #VSS365:

Her eyes shone like Earth waxing over Shackleton Crater, bright blue irises orbiting black pupils. “This can still be the mission you dreamed of. Let me go and I’ll show you.”

“I fell for that once already.”


A peek at my Sci-Fi WIP for #VSS365:

I may be half silicone now, but my parents didn’t name me after an ancient stone city for nothing. If that Petra can survive war, flood, and collapse, so can this one…at least long enough to shatter those crooks the way they shattered me.


Plants soften the skyline, tangled vines pulling the abandoned metropolis back to earth.

“Hijacking the survey drone again?” Mik asks, poking his head into the control room.

I grin back. “I confess, I wanted to see what became of my old garden.”


“Your algorithm chose this planet?” The captain jabs my fragile touchscreen map. “Why?”

“We must reanimate the colonists somewhere, soon.”

“It’ll collide with its sun in a million years!”

“Based on human civilizational trajectories, it does not need to last forever.”


What did you think? Let me know in the comments which flash fiction stories you like best.

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