The Mashup

So this week’s flash fiction challenge at terribleminds.com was to mashup two movies from a list of 20. I was very excited about this theme and settled on “Breaking Bad” and “Star Wars”.

The main critique I got on my last piece was to include interesting characters with good dialogue, and to show the action. I don’t think I did a great job, but here it is: my second ever attempt at flash fiction (actually, since I’ve gone way over the 1000 word count limit, I’ll call it flash fiction and a half!).

 

DESPERATE JIB

“Just give me the fucking jib, Quintal! You know I’m good for it!” Tane’s hand shook as he reached for the syringe. “Come on man, how am I supposed to fight without it?”

“Not my problem” said Quintal calmly as he moved the syringe out of the gunner’s reach. “You’ve been saying you’re good for it for months now, and the only thing you’ve shown me is that you’re good for nothing.”

Tane lowered his hands and looked down as he shuffled his feet. He could feel the cold metal of the ship’s floor through his boots; it was nothing compared to the icy stare he felt from his dealer’s slate-grey eyes. Nervously, he glanced out the window and tried to calculate how long he had. He was due back at The Union soon, and if he didn’t get the jib before then he was screwed. No, he was more than screwed: he was completely fucked.

“Look” Tane began “I know I haven’t been paying on time lately –“

“Shut up Tane!” the calm was gone from Quintal’s voice, “You may be top gunner at the Union but you don’t fool me. The only reason you have so many kills is because of my jib. You’re nothing without it, and with it you’re nothing but a jonesor.” He lowered his voice again and let the calm wash over him. His face was stony as he said “Either way, you’re a loser.”

Tane ran his hands through his long curly hair. He knew Quintal was right. The only reason he’d made it into the Union was because of the jib. It made him run faster, react quicker, and most importantly, shoot better. Over the years the drug had helped him become an integral part of the Planetary Wars; he’d killed more Rebels than any other Unioner. Knowing that he had single-handedly stopped so many enemy fighters was good, but the love and admiration he got from the citizens of the Union was even better. He wasn’t about to let that go.

“You’re right Quintal” he would have to choose his words carefully here “I’m a nobody – a fucking loser. But I need you and I need your jib, it’s the only way I can keep going.” He unfastened one of the medals from his uniform. “Here, this is solid gold, it’s gotta be worth at least 3 syringes. I’ll let you hold onto this until I can come up with the money.” He looked pleadingly at his dealer.

Quintal took the medal in his hand and then threw it down at the gunner’s feet, laughing heartily. “You really take me for a fool don’t you? What the hell am I going to do with that? Look….” he leaned forward in his Pilot’s chair, the pedestal it was on brought him face to face with Tane, “…I don’t want your fucking medal, and I don’t want to listen to you bleating like a goat anymore. It’s time for you to go back to your ship and stop bothering me.”

“Bu… but – “ Tame stammered

Quintal unbuttoned his gun and rested it on the chair’s armrest, the barrel staring Tane in the chest. “I’m not going to ask you again.”

Dejected, Tane turned around and walked slowly back to his ship, desperately trying to think of a way to get the jib. As he made his way to the bridge he couldn’t help but notice how clean everything was. The floors were spotless, the smooth white walls didn’t have a single smudge, and there wasn’t a speck of dust in sight. Quintal’s ship would be the envy of any Unioner in training; the Bosses would praise the sterile, dirt-free environment.

Tane giggled hysterically to himself as he ran his finger along the wall, realizing how ridiculous he was to be thinking about something so inconsequential. Without the jib his career was over – or worse yet, he would die in combat. The panic began to take hold: his shoulders shook and his breath quickened. His eyes darted towards the entrance of his ship, searching for something, anything that could save him.

Tane’s body reacted before his mind had a chance to process what he was doing. Before he knew it, he was racing back down the hall towards the cockpit, the knife he had grabbed from his ship gripped tightly in his hand. He may be revered for his gunning skills, but his hand-to-hand combat was nothing to scoff at.

He burst through the doorway, ready to pounce on Quintal, grab the jib and run. Tane looked feverishly at the pilot’s chair and blinked in confusion when he saw that it was empty. The last thing he felt was a searing pain radiating over his entire skull; being pistol-whipped was almost as painful as being shot.

He couldn’t have been out for more than a minute or so, but as he came to he could see that Quintal was back in his chair, lazily pointing a gun at his head.

“So my old friend” he said “this is what it’s like to watch a hero fall from grace. Did you think you could come back and finish me off?” He rose slowly from his chair and stepped down from the pedestal, motioning with his gun for Tane to get up. “On your knees Tane, let’s see how good you really are at finishing people off!” He grinned as he rubbed his groin, and then grabbed the back of Tane’s head as he unzipped his pants.

Tane looked at Quintal in horror, forcing the sick back down his throat.

“Quintal please! I don’t….I can’t….I’m so sorry!” Quintal tightened the grip on the gunner’s hair and tilted his head back, then bent down to meet his wild eyes. The fury shone through as Quintal stared Tane down. After what seemed like an eternity, his eyes softened and he began to laugh.

“Oh Tane,” he said as he let go of his head and stood up “you should see the look on your face! Priceless!” he walked back over to his chair and sat down. “You may be pretty but I prefer bigger tits and fuller lips. Stand up, you stupid fuck.”

Tane rose slowly, trying to steady himself on his shaking legs. “Now, back to that pretty face of yours,” said Quintal. He was enjoying this. “I wouldn’t want to do anything to mess it up, I know how important it use for all that Union propaganda they plaster it on. So I’ll shoot you in the leg instead.”

Tane heard the bang before he could react – and that’s when he realized that he had been wrong about being pistol-whipped. Getting shot was much worse. He screamed as he pressed on the wound, the blood spilling over his hands and onto the floor. “You shot me! I can’t believe you fucking shot me!” he moaned.

Quintal leaned over and found a rag in one of the drawers. “Let this be a warning to you Tane,” he said as he threw the rag at him “No one fucks with me. Now take your shirt off and tie it on your leg to stop the bleeding, then wipe that shit off the floor. I hate it when my ship is messy.”

Tane composed himself the best he could and then did as he was told. His breathing was ragged and he was starting to feel light headed; he had to get out of here soon or he was going to pass out. He gripped the door handle and pulled himself up, then wiped his bloody handprint off the wall.

“Please Quintal, I’m sorry. Just let me go back to my ship and you’ll never see me again. I promise.” He couldn’t help it – his shoulders started to shake as his eyes welled with tears. A sob escaped his mouth before he could stop it.

Quintal looked the gunner up and down; the disgust was plain on his face. “Just get the fuck out of here Tane and don’t say another word. I don’t want to hear from you or see you again.” Tane opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, then turned around and walked back down the hall towards his ship.

He didn’t see Quintal raise the screen that blocked the cockpit off from the rest of the ship. And he didn’t see the huge grin on his dealer’s face as he pressed the button that opened the airlock. What he did see was the reflection of the terror on his own face on the hatch that was opening beside him.

In his desperation he fumbled for something to cling to, but the vacuum was too strong and he was quickly sucked out into the vastness of space; the blackness devoured his screams before they could escape.

Back in the cockpit Quintal shook his head as he closed the hatch and lowered the screen. It was a shame he had to kill him, he had grown somewhat fond of Tane over the years. But business was business. He bent down and wiped a spec of blood off the floor – It wouldn’t go over well with the Union if the hero’s remains were found on his ship. He pulled the lever to detach Tane’s ship, and then set a course for his next stop. There would be many Unioners competing for the top gunner’s spot, and he had to make sure he was there to help them.

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Flash Fiction Challenge: The Bitten

So I know you’re all desperately waiting to hear how I passed the rest of my time in hospital, however I stumbled upon this flash fiction challenge at terribleminds, and having wanting to get back into writing something other than a report card, was excited to take it on.

The challenge: choose three words from the list and incorporate them into your story. I decided on Moon, Scorpion, and Epidemic.

Here is my first story in over 15 years. Enjoy…..

The Bitten
The sun languishes slowly over the old farmhouse, the brilliant reds and oranges bouncing off the silo and hitting the great oak tree. In the distance the low hum of honeybees returning to their hive after a long day of work rumble. A warm breeze tickles the yellow daisies that line the stone walkway, carrying their sweet smells away with it. It is a beautiful summer evening by anyone’s standards, but the night ahead is foreboding.
It wasn’t always this way. Before The Bites most people paid no attention to the cycles of the moon. Even in the beginning, the Deniers were adamant that the epidemic was not caused by our celestial friend. According to them, The Swarms were sent by an angry God who was punishing us for our various sins. But as time progressed and the epidemic spread, the link became clear.
The Swarms always come during the New Moon. Millions of scorpions overrun towns, villages, large cities, devouring anyone in their path. The first Swarm caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Some were fortunate enough to escape with only a few bites, but after a couple of days the fever took hold. The Bitten, as they came to be known, began showing signs of sickness 48 hours after being wounded by the insects. Their temperature rose to near-fatal highs and then the hallucinations started. Hospital wards were full of patients screaming at the top of their lungs, and though their words were unintelligible, were absolutely terrifying nonetheless.
Then one night all was still. The fever was gone, the wailings stopped, and the patients were nowhere to be found. Hospital staff, family, friends, neighbours, anyone who knew someone who had been sick joined together in the search. Media outlets quickly picked up the story and the world spent the entire day in a panic. Where did these people go? Would they come back? Are they dangerous? Millions of questions without answers – at least for another few hours anyway.
That night the Full Moon shone brightly in the sky.  Already on edge from the events of the past few weeks people locked their doors and windows, trying to ignore the uneasy feeling that everyone shared.  Some settled in for a restless sleep, others spent the evening glancing nervously around the house. But no matter where they were or what they were doing, everyone heard the wailing begin. It started as a low moaning and quickly worked it’s way up into an ear-piercing cry, one that made fingernails on a chalkboard sound like a lullaby. Just when you thought you couldn’t take it anymore, that the screaming would make your ears bleed, the wailing stopped.  And then they attacked.
The scorpions were different this time. Most noticeably they were huge, much bigger than the average man. But that wasn’t the most frightening part.  These scorpions weren’t all insect – they were human too. Some had human arms or legs, some had the body of an insect but the head of a person, and some were still wearing their hospital gown.
They came in droves, breaking down doors and windows, clawing their way down through the roof. The human-like insects were vicious in their attacks, devouring every living thing they came across. Once they got in there was no escape. People tried to fight them off with anything they could – few were successful. Those that were, found the only way to stop these monsters was with a couple of bullets to the brain. The Bitten would lie twitching on the floor, green sticky blood oozing from the holes in their head – and then they would vanish.
The lucky people, the ones who survived the night without being eaten alive, began to stockpile the next day. The world was in chaos. Looters took everything of value from anywhere they could find. Neighbours turned on neighbours.  Families broke apart. Everywhere you went you could feel the weight of the panic, the way the air envelopes you on a hot and sticky day.
Some of us worked together. We formed groups and societies with the common goal of staying alive. We were ready during the next New Moon. The scorpions swarmed and fewer were Bitten – though we still lost far too many. And we were ready during the next Full Moon, but still people died. With every moon cycle we are more prepared, have better defences, more effective tactics. And with every cycle there is less and less of us.
It has been 7 months since the first Swarm and humanity has not fared well. It is estimated that only one twentieth of the world’s population remains Unbitten. We spend our days looking for answers, searching for ways to prevent the next attack. So far nothing has worked. We have tried isolating the Bitten before they disappear, tying them down, putting them in cells, but they always vanish. And so we look to the sky. Wondering why the Moon sent the scorpions, nervously awaiting the next attack.
And now it is time to batten down the hatches, kiss your loved ones, and cock your gun. Because the full moon is clawing its’ way up, and the wailing is about to begin.

Hospital Recap: Day One

Hospitals are never fun. Even when you’re there to have a baby you can’t think of anything but getting the Hell out of Dodge. Nurses and doctors are constantly poking you with small, medieval torture devices, asking you loudly about your bowel movements, and coming in and out of your room at all hours of the night – making sleep impossible. Following these general rules my hospital stay did not disappoint. Here’s a recap of my first day there:

Day 1:

I love people watching – I find it fascinating. How they interact with the ones they’re with, how they interact with strangers, it never ceases to amaze me how many different characters are out there. Luckily for me, I had plenty of entertainment in the waiting room where I sat for hours while the staff searched for a bed for me. An older couple was sitting next to me (I’ll call them Joe and Eileen) and were making small talk with each other to pass the time. Suddenly, in walked Trevor (another made up name, I tend to do this a lot) with his hair tied in a messy ponytail and his pants below his ass. A typical look for some of today’s youth, but one that nevertheless seems to evoke feelings of rage in people with any sense. After a few minutes Trevor left the room and Joe loudly exclaimed “It looks like he made a doody in his pants! How does he even walk like that? ” Eileen looked amused but slightly embarrassed, the rest of the room smiled to themselves while nodding their head in approval. Encouraged by the sympathizers in the room, Joe continued “He looks so stupid! Why would you wear your pants so low that you have to walk around like you crapped yourself?” At this point I burst out laughing. Satisfied that he had made his point, Joe finally listened to Eileen’s shushing and quieted down. It was a simple exchange but one that brought a smile to my face and helped me take my mind off of the pandemonium of the last few days. Thank you Joe for speaking your mind!

After finally locating a bed for me (this was a VERY long process, one that had people fighting not two feet away from me about who’s responsibility I was, I guess they thought they embolism made me deaf) I settled into my room. Luckily for me it came fully equipped with a walker (not meant for me, just being stored there), a TV that didn’t work, an IV machine that beeped constantly, and a window overlooking the construction yard. I was all set! The day’s events had worn on me and, after feeling too nauseous to eat the meal they brought me (I’ll get to the hospital food later), I settled in for what I hoped to be a good night’s sleep.

No such luck. As soon as my head hit what was being marketed as a pillow I realized I had forgotten how non-existent hospital bed linen could be. Let me preface this by mentioning that, while I do enjoy my creature comforts, I am by no means a snob about it. I’ve stayed in shitty motels, slept on floors at parties, camped in the mountains, etc.. so I am not a stranger to discomfort. But this pillow was not a pillow. It was a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper with a pillow case wrapped around it. Had there been a pen handy I would have pulled the it out of the case and written my grocery list on it. This was STRIKE ONE against having a good night’s sleep.

Beeping – constant fucking beeping – is an ADHDers nightmare. I don’t know why, but any repetitive noise makes me want to strangle someone (strange then, that I fell into the House music scene. Maybe the mind-altering substances made me more tolerant). The hospital itself beeped incessantly. My IV machine, my roommate’s IV machine, other patients’ heart monitors, anything that could beep decided to do so all night long. STRIKE TWO.

And finally, the pain. Oh God, the pain. Every time I took a breath it felt like someone was stabbing me in the ribs with a thousand dull knives. No one seemed concerned about this but me, and the regular-strength Tylenol I was given shrank in terror from the pain it was confronted with. All of this was complicated by the fact that I couldn’t move my leg because even a slight shift in position would cause a mind-numbing ache that made me fantasize about amputation.  STRIKE THREE.

Sleep did eventually take me, but it came in short spurts, usually interrupted by a nurse checking on me or my roommate. I was slightly amused at one point when one of the hospital staff shined a light in my face, presumably to see if I was still alive. I smiled to myself when the light was gone because I used to do this to my son. (I was a crazy first-time mother terrified at the idea of crib-death. My son weighed less then 5 lbs. and so it was impossible to tell if he was breathing. After accidentally waking him a few nights in a row while checking his vital signs, I discovered that if I shined a light in his face he would squint, but continue sleeping. I used this tactic for at least 4 months! The poor child will probably have an incredibly strange association with strobe lights. Hopefully they don’t bring on a craving for breast milk!)  I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one brilliant enough to come up with the flashlight trick. Thank you Karma, for showing me what a pain in the ass I was!

Day One finally rolled into Day Two, where a whole new level of boredom helped me make some unexpected friends. I’ll introduce you to them in my next post.

Pulmonary Embolism: Don’t Panic

It all started with a pain in my leg. After days of walking around on, what I thought to be a pulled muscle, I decided to self-diagnose. I visited page after page of symptom checkers and many fretful hours later I concluded that I had deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). Now, I have to admit that this is not uncommon for me. I am constantly telling people that they are idiots when they have given themselves a diagnosis based on something they read online, however this has not stopped me from convincing myself that I have had every ailment under the sun. Stuffy nose and low grade fever ? Why YES! I do have Ebola! Hacking cough and pain in the chest? How the hell did I get Leprosy? As you can see, I took my own DVT diagnosis with a grain of salt.

It wasn’t until later in the day when I came home from work that I started to really worry. My parents were at my house watching the kids and my Mom’s first reaction to my leg pain was “Oh My God! It must be a blood clot!” (After all, I get my medical knowledge from somewhere). My dad told us we were both ridiculous but as the night wore on I decided to call a medical hotline. To make a long story short, they told me to get my ass to the hospital ASAP.

The doctors in the ER said it was unlikely that I had DVT but treated me for it to be on the safe side. The sonogram technician said it was unlikely that I had a DVT but, much to everyone’s surprise, they were wrong! Finally- I was vindicated! One of my diagnoses is right! But, oh shit, I don’t want to be right!

I was sent to a specialist who checked me thoroughly and was ready to send me home with blood thinners and a stern warning to rest, when I casually mentioned how I pulled my rib muscles rolling cinnamon buns on Christmas Eve. He stopped in his tracks and asked if the pulled muscle had caused trouble breathing.  “Yes…..” I answered.

“And have you had shortness of breath since then?” he asked

“MmmHmmm…” I said. I could see where he was going with this and I didn’t like the direction he was heading.

“How on Earth could a young, healthy woman pull a muscle while rolling buns? I have rolled pastry many times and never pulled anything! And you couldn’t breathe after? Couldn’t even move you said? This didn’t seem odd to you?” He continued to lambaste me (in an albeit joking way) and then reassured me that he wasn’t angry with me, but with the doctors who failed to diagnose me with a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Perhaps I wasn’t such a sleuth of internal medicine after all.

After many phone calls and consultations he sent me for a heart sonogram which showed that the embolism was causing stress on my heart. I was admitted to hospital and told that I would be there for at least 4-5 very long, scary, painful days.

And so begins my journey to learn how to relax. This may be something that is easily achieved by many, but has always been foreign to me. I have the attention span of a gnat and prefer to be in perpetual motion. How am I supposed to sit still in a hospital bed for a week (4-5 days feels like a week to me!) let alone take it easy at home for 6 months? Me, who sees a mark on the window and starts to clean it, then gets distracted by the pretty Robin outside and runs to get my camera, but on the way spots a cookbook and decides to look up a recipe for summer rolls, then realizes I don’t have the ingredients so grabs the keys and heads to the car in the garage, but once there is frustrated by all the clutter and decides to start cleaning and, well, I think you get the point.

From all of this (and some encouragement from some wonderful friends) “The ADHDers Guide to Relaxing” was born. Join me on my quest to learn how to sit back, leave the spot on the window be, and enjoy just simply watching the Robin do his thing!