Posts Tagged ‘Flash Fiction’

Love Bites 2020

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
Feb 14 2020

This time Katheryn Avila is hosting the seasonal Blog Hop, Love Bites 2020. I’m quite pleased to get my entry posted on Valentine’s Day, and wish you all a happy one!

With our choice of romance tropes as prompts, I’ve chosen to follow up on my Fantasy Fighter setting in 744 words–the events of the preceding New Years Revolution being particularly relevant to this scenario though there are no characters in common and either flash fiction should stand alone.

Brandon “Blades” Brown’s stainless-steel elevator plummeted past its fifth safety check point unimpeded. Thankfully he had grabbed a robotic gauntlet off his workbench before being driven into the elevator. He slammed the gauntlet into a corner and fired the grapple line through.

The stop was bruising, but at least they weren’t the paste in a steel sandwich. Hazuki Akiyama, the Japanese schoolgirl in the elevator with him, jumped off the ceiling and the walls to land back where she started unscathed.

Blades flexed his hand, looking past where his gauntlet was lodged in the wall to the doors of their off-kilter prison.

“Those aren’t opening any time soon.”

Hazuki sighed heavily, falling against the back wall and sliding to the floor. Either his calculated grapple shot or Hazuki’s ninja skills kept her movement from disturbing the dislodged elevator.

A pat down of his ripped t-shirt and jeans didn’t turn up any usable tech. He had his namesake roller blades on. Unfortunately, their limited arsenal wasn’t enough to take on the slime monster that chased Hazuki into his workshop, let alone the infamous Caldwell Keller backing it up.

“We’re in trouble,” Blades smiled at his pouty peer. “But I’m glad you came to me.”

Hazuki glared incisively back.

“I’d have ducked into an empty building if I could.”

“Oh, come on! You know I’m in love with you, right?”

“Hai, kimoi!” Hazuki nodded and scooted further from Blades with a disgusted grimace. “I’ve met your creepy robot of me.”

Blades slammed his head back into the wall and was relieved to find they did seem to be well wedged in the elevator shaft.

“That is not entirely my fault! I only designed her to fight like you, as a study, her personality…”

Hazuki’s harsh hiss hushed him. Blades changed topics.

“I guess Caldwell’s one of the bad guys now… Kinda regretting giving him security override privileges.”

Hazuki materialized a sparkling shuriken to roll over her fingers.

“He was always bad.”

“Right. Well, we need some way to get you out past him and the Biomass to real backup. The world needs you more, so I’ll buy time if I have to.”

Hazuki looked at him differently after that. Which made him feel more like he was about to die.

“Unless… Could your ninja magic disguise you as Habot?”

“Nani?” Hazuki’s eyes widened in a mix of incredulity and offense.

Blades raised his hands placatingly.

“You disguise yourself as Habot, I act like I don’t know what’s going on and we walk out right past them.”

Hazuki multiplied her shuriken into a fistful.

“Or we fight. Two on two. Easy.”

“I don’t have half my tech, and Biomass Delta is a hard fight even for Caldwell. Then Caldwell himself? The dude killed a god!”

Hazuki’s shurikens poofed as she popped to her feet.

“I’ve beat both plenty of times!”

Blades stood, putting his head higher than Hazuki’s.

“Not at the same time. I know how good you are, but do you really think Caldwell fought you seriously before? This time feels different. You were running from them.”

Hazuki held his eyes for a moment before snapping her fingers over her head and spinning on her toes. By the end of her pirouette she looked exactly like Blades’ mechanical model of her.

“You should probably hang off me a bit, to help sell that you’re Habot.”

Habot’s angry emote flashed across the face screen of the imitation, but she did as Blades suggested. Hearing movement on the other side of the doors, Blades lowered his voice to an aside.

“I’m not so bad if you’d give me a shot. If nothing else, I’m worth billions even if most of it is off the books Agency stuff.”

“The Akiyamas have been pillars of our community for generations.” Hazuki even nailed Habot’s synthetic voice. “We’re quite comfortable.”

Shadows ripped the steel doors from the elevator to reveal Caldwell Keller. Blades rushed to the grizzled mercenary with Hazuki dangling off him in a flawless impersonation of his bot.

“Caldwell! Man, am I glad to see you! One of my experiments must have overloaded, because everything just failed all at once! It’ll take forever to sort out why!”

“Mm-hm…”

Caldwell cracked his right knuckles then his left, studying the fake Habot. Hazuki flashed Habot’s smiley emote while looking up at their grey-haired adversary. The real Habot appeared behind Caldwell pointing at Hazuki with her crying emote flashing.

“Daddy?! That’s not meeeee!”

New Year’s Revolution 2020

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
Jan 24 2020

I almost ran out of time again, but also again have managed to put together an entry for the New Year’s Revolution 2020 Blog Hop, hosted by Cara Michaels.

The prompt this time was a story on the theme of New Year’s; Absolution, Evolution, Execution, Retribution or Revolution. My 744 words are from my Fantasy Fighter setting, and may indicate the shape of some of my flash fiction to come for this year. Make sure to check out the challenge link to find other entries in the comments!

                Johnny Treeman was out like a light, collapsed on top of his sheets in his broad collared metallic disco shirt and flare jeans. 2019 had been a heck of a year. Skipping the Agency shindig was a better call than he’d expected; he barely made it home after a single ginger beer at the grill down the hill.

                He couldn’t lift his head or twitch a finger. Distant booming fireworks announced midnight. The cacophony sounded muted to Johnny’s sluggish mind. He felt cold. He rallied to try and work his way under the covers.

                A meaty vise grip practically crushed the exhausted hero’s ankle before dragging him over the foot of his bed.

                “RETRIBUTION!” A terrifyingly familiar voice howled.

                Johnny’s floor splintered under his body, then the ceiling and finally a dresser crumbled around him as the dirty giant cudgeled the hero around his home. Johnny struggled to his feet, spitting blood and bracing for battle—more concerned about his assailant’s assault, than how the burlap shrouded fiend learned a four-syllable word.

                “You brought this on yourself, you know?” The sultry purr to Johnny’s left surprised him. “There will be no absolution for your sins.”

                “What sins?”

                Johnny adjusted his stance to encompass the extra enemy, cursing his persisting ponderous movement. The warm skinned fiery eyed Greek in his doorway was decked out in her finest dominatrix leather. Not a good sign. How did either of them get past Johnny’s security without waking him up?

                “The way you persecute poor Butch; always beating him then locking him up is unforgivable.”

                Johnny was in no condition to fight Butch Slade, even without Melantha Karahalios. Still, he couldn’t help one strident laugh.

                “That murdering dirtbag doesn’t deserve any better. You have that in common, I suppose.”

                Butch’s animalistic growl and wild eyes under his sack hood were more the level of articulation Johnny was accustomed to from his nemesis; the message unsettlingly clear given the hero’s present handicap.

                “I had a similar revelation.” Melantha’s laugh was lighter than Johnny’s had been. “You and Butch are more evenly matched than your win-loss ratio suggests. But when you get in trouble, your Agency friends bail you out. Butch has no one on his side. I find it criminal he hasn’t won even once.”

                “If he won, I’d be dead!”

                Johnny tried to keep Melantha talking while he looked for a way out. Butch was clearly waiting on his succubus ally draped comfortably in the doorway.

                “Things have been too simple for you heroes; calling in as much backup as you pleased in your pursuit of lone wrongdoers. My assistance is just the evolution Butch’s vendetta needed.”

                Johnny’s imperceptible creep toward his bedroom window was spoiled by his knees buckling, and he had to catch himself on the corner of his bed. Butch immediately imposed himself between Johnny and the window egress. Sadistic hunger burned in Melantha’s scarlet eyes.

                “Feeling groggy, Johnny? That totem of yours really is impressive. I thought enough tranquilizer for one grizzly bear in your drink would be enough, yet you staggered all the way home.”

                The hero’s eyes widened as the pieces came together. With her magic, Melantha could have been anyone in the bar.

                “That’s the beauty of these team ups; I thought I had failed in the execution of my plan when you made it into your stronghold.” Melantha nodded to Butch. “It turns out all your fancy defenses are just an alarm system to Butch—and I was able to assure him you wouldn’t hear it.”

                Butch stamped on Johnny’s foot to keep him from flying away at the impact of the brute’s oversized fist. Trying to burn his way through the drugs and the pain, Johnny latched onto Butch’s arm but was too far gone to find the elbow and break it.

                The musty mammoth lifted his foe easily into the air, before headbutting him down through the foot of his bed. Johnny’s barely recovered faculties were gone again. He didn’t need to worry about fighting Melantha and Butch at the same time. The sultry sorceress had already done her part and was content to gloat.

                “You can tell Aphrodite; this is the new normal. From now on, the bad guys team up too.”

                The demolished defender found himself grateful to be smashed through his window. Unlikely to be able to affect his landing, he still seemed safer sailing over the forest than among his allied adversaries.

                Viva la revolución.

Tipsy Santa 2019

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
Dec 20 2019

I don’t know if it was fatigue from National Novel Writing Month, the general busyness of the holiday season, or something else, but I had a lot of trouble coming up with something for this year’s Tipsy Santa Blog Hop, hosted by Ever Addams–even though the prompt of the writer’s choice of 1 of 4 alcoholic beverages is right up my alley.

Make sure to swing by her site to see the prompts, and in the comments below links to the other entries. Ultimately I decided to revisit a scene from the 34th episode of my super hero series, Maze Warrior, utilizing the Shochu and Baileys’ White Christmas cocktail in 744 words.

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS

The powerful percussion of Sig Sauer shots reverberates through the almost empty shooting range from the center two booths. John Alexandra is a tall steely man with the weight of experience, methodically firing tight clusters for high value. In the twenty years since Reiko Sugiyama last saw him, he’s grown heavier with a distinguished beard bearing most of the grey acquired by his red-brown hair. In the next booth, Reiko is the unstoppable force to his immovable object, just as cool and precise but acutely aware how little her appearance has changed since they were rookies. Both wear safety glasses and earmuffs.

“I was surprised how Inoue-sama has opened up to you.” Reiko observes in her clear confident voice. “He was always very secretive with us.”

As their targets cycle out, John frowns at Reiko’s higher score.  Both prepare their Sigs for the next round with practiced prowess.

“It’s not as open a relationship as you may think! And it took a lot of work to even get this far.”

Their fifth silhouettes for the session come out similarly close to perfect scores, but John edges Reiko out overall. Both reload and decock their pistols before holstering them—John under his leather jacket and Reiko under her suit jacket. She returns her safety gear to the wall of her booth, then takes a moment to tuck loose strands of her ebon hair back into her elegant bun.

“Good shooting, John-kun. You’re even better than I remembered.”

They meet after cleaning their booths. Even in her heels, Reiko looks up to see John’s pale green eyes.

“Beating me is no small accomplishment.” Reiko smiles, feeling John’s eyes on her lips.

“I didn’t beat you by enough to count; that could have gone either way.”

“We’ll have to try again some time then.”

“You still haven’t seen Yasunobu Inoue since coming to the states; shall we head over? He’s usually home.”

Reiko shakes her head too vigorously before containing her surge of terror. The great exorcist is the last person she wants to see.

“No! I mean, I trust your reports.”

John shrugs and pushes open the door to the silent snow dusted parking lot.

“There isn’t much else to do today. Unless you wanted to go out for dinner or something.”

Reiko loops an arm through John’s familiarly.

“Dinner would be magnificent.”

John extricates himself to open the passenger door of his sensible SUV for Reiko.

Twenty minutes later they sit opposite one another in a small crowded downtown sushi bar with frosted windows. They are a few plates into the evening, each with a creamy brown iced drink in a martini glass.

“Now, what did you say these were?” John laughs as he runs a finger up the glass stem.

“Shochu and Bailey’s White Christmas. It’s like a Japanese White Russian; you’ll like it.”

John raises his glass for an appraising sip.

“Moments like this, it’s hard to believe we’re in the middle of a battle for the future of the entire world.”

Reiko sips her own drink while watching John.

“It’s too much to think about all the time. Everyone needs a break sometimes.”

John aspirates his drink and quickly sets it down.

“Twenty years ago, it would have been me telling you that! Why the more relaxed attitude now?”

Reiko runs a finger lightly around the rim of her glass.

“I don’t want to leave this world with any regrets.”

“Rei-chan…”

Reiko smiles reassuringly. She didn’t come for sympathy.

“After the Dark Emperor has been handled, I’m going to retire.”

Reiko signals for another round of drinks. John laughs and pats his stomach.

“I hope you’re not trying to get me drunk. It won’t be as easy as it used to be.”

“Challenge accepted.”

Though alcohol no longer affects Reiko at all, John concedes the match with his faculties largely intact. They leave his car behind to walk to her hotel room at the evening’s end.

“Won’t you come in?” Reiko angles herself to show where the top buttons of her blouse are undone.

He looks like he’s been stabbed, lowering his head and shoulders with genuine regret.

“Rei-chan, I can’t…”

“I know…” It’s Reiko’s turn to concede as she touches the gold band on his left ring finger. “She’s a lucky woman.”

Why hadn’t Reiko crossed over when that demon impaled her? Why did she come back if this is all that waited for her? Did she deny death for work?

Monster Mash 2019

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
Oct 23 2019

It took some doing, but my entry for the 2019 Monster Mash hosted by the Fab Four of Flash Fiction is done! Make sure to swing by Siobhan Muir’s website for the prompts and rules and links to the other entries. I’m looking forward to seeing what the others have written myself!

CASTLE ON HAUNTED HILL (747 Fantasy Fighter Words)

by David A Ludwig

Adrian Godard lowered his hood to survey the crumbling castle gate. Weathered and abandoned for centuries; the structure appeared far feebler than the broad-shouldered German appraising it. The entire edifice had an aura of ghastly frailty.

“Just great! Why’re you here, holy man?”

Adrian turned to face Caldwell Keller, the grey-haired mercenary drifter in his signature crimson leather duster. Caldwell ran a hand apprehensively through his wild mane. Two Japanese girls climbed the hill after the unkempt soldier. The smaller dressed in a childishly ruffled pink dress, while her scar faced companion wore a sinful French maid costume.

“Aw! The old lady said the castle was abandoned!” Little Hazuki Akiyama moaned.

Mifuyu Shizuka crossed her arms tightly and glowered at Caldwell. The drifter quickly put Adrian between them.

“I take it back, father! You’re not so bad.”

Hazuki scrutinized the angel of justice relief carving in the gate.

“Stupid endy en pekka chi morus etsu…”

“Do not read the Latin.”

Adrian placed a hand heavily on Hazuki’s shoulder. Her eyes widened dramatically.

“Is it cursed?”

“No,” Adrian led the way into the castle. “Your pronunciation is terrible.”

Mifuyu mistrustfully monitored their companions. The scarred medium had been more concerned about the company than the accommodations, even before the unwelcome gate encounter.

“I’m guessing you each need to stay until dawn?” Caldwell lit a cheap cigarette with a disposable lighter. “Can we just agree to stay out of each other’s way?”

Hazuki turned inquisitively to the exorcist.

“We just wanted somewhere fun to spend Halloween night! Are you staying too?”

Father Godard folded his arms inside his dark robe sleeves. His sanctimonious gaze burned Mifuyu like she was Caldwell.

“Most of the spirits will not reveal themselves before midnight, and the hour before dawn on All Hallow’s Day is the only time all can be exorcised.”

“Sounds fun!” Hazuki gave the priest a thumbs up. “We’ll help when the spooky stuff starts! For now, I wanna explore!”

Mifuyu could have enjoyed cavorting about the creaky castle with Hazuki had they been alone. Without the prying eyes. By the time they settled into their chamber, provisioned as the old woman promised, Mifuyu was jumping at shadows and ready to fight the wind. After dark every little movement echoed through the castle.

She pressed her fists over her ears, “I don’t like when he walks around at night.”

The crash of a toppled bookcase sent Mifuyu tearing vengefully after the offending audio’s origin.

Caldwell considered the avalanche of books, demolished shelves, and rot-runged ladder to blame for it all. The downed drifter fished out his flask and exchanged a glance with his shadow.

“I know, I know. She said I’d get the book at dawn.” He took a pull. “Can’t blame a guy for looking.”

Sparkling shurikens perforated the tomes around Caldwell and sprung a leak in his flask. As the tiny projectiles dissolved into starlight, Caldwell rolled to his feet evading Hazuki’s giant heart mallet.

“What’ve you done with Mifuyu-senpai?!”

“Haven’t seen her since we arrived. Could’ve gone without seeing you again, too.”

The magical girl switched her mallet for a wakizashi. Dodge left. Dodge right. Uppercut. Satisfying crunch on that one as he sent the little pest flying. She vanished into mist before coming in fast and low. Too fast. She caught him around the waist and slammed his face into the ceiling, then back into the ground.

Caldwell rose, wiping the blood from his face while flanking the girl with his shadow.

“Enough!” Father Godard sent Caldwell’s shadow scurrying with his zweihander of pure sunlight “It seems time you were finally parted with your demon, Caldwell.”

A multi-voiced scream shook the castle’s foundations.

Caldwell laughed harshly, “But it ain’t me you gotta worry about now…”

Hazuki’s heart dropped into her stomach. Was it midnight already? She’d been so enamored with the European architecture, sounds without sources, inconsistent spaces, movement just out of sight, and especially strange faces in the mirrors… She lost track of time!

Another of Mifuyu’s screams clawed through the castle. Hazuki counted at least six distinct voices. This was her fault. She should have stayed closer to her girlfriend. Father Godard dismissed his sword to grab his crucifix.

“That’s your friend, isn’t it?”

Hazuki nodded while scanning the room for liabilities. Suits of armor, placards of weapons, the fire pokers.

“You said the spirits can’t be defeated until an hour before sunrise?”

“Yes, why–?”

“We’ve got to hide all of the sharp objects!”

Cat’s Honors

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
Aug 05 2019

I have been exploring the world of my upcoming high fantasy adventure novel, Cat’s The Pajamas, in 250 words or less over on Siobhan Muir’s Thursday Threads as well as doing weekly polls on my Twitter to introduce the characters–which I invite you to engage with for a bit of diversion at the least and some insight into the characters if you look for it.

The week before last, judge B.A. Tortuga gave me Honorable Mention for my second flash fiction about Hunter Lee–so I thought I’d share both flashes of him here in order.

HUNTER 01

Once discovered, ruins tended to be cleaned out quickly. Most were inactive these days. Active ruins took a little longer. Sometimes their contents ended up in museums or those fancy learning places, but usually they just disappeared into private collections. There was big money in raiding ruins.

The Cistern was discovered sixteen months ago and had yet to be breached. Very unusual, even for an active ruin. Word in port was that was about to change. The navy found a cliffside grate they determined connected to The Cistern, planned to open it by bombardment, and come in behind all those nasty defenses.

Hunter couldn’t see the grate from the sea’s surface, but he knew its location, and had something the navy didn’t. Patting his twenty foot saltwater crocodile on the side, Hunter pointed to the break in the cliffside.

“Okay, Schooner, let’s get paid!”

Feeling his croc surge under him, Hunter laid low on his back and soon they were sailing through the air and through a conspicuously destroyed grate. Standing up once inside, Hunter looked around the bottom level of The Cistern, strewn with the remains of more automaton defenders than he’d seen in his entire career.

“What the brink happened here?” Hunter whistled.

“Just a bit o’ fun!”

A small girl in a captain’s coat and hat perched on the edge of the next level.

“Did you leave anything for me?”

“Defenders, or treasure?” she adjusted her oversized cutlass. “Either way it’s no. But I like yer crocodile!”

HUNTER 02

Hunter Lee squinted out at the sunbaked sand of the arena from the ready room shade. Heat radiated in search of his exposed skin, promising a rough ride. The cowhide vest covered about as much of his chiseled torso and broad arms as he was used to, but the ass-less chaps were not his idea of a good time. He held the ten-gallon hat Jerem gave him over his crotch and kept his other hand over his exposed bum.

“This is the most degrading thing I’ve ever done for money…”

The effeminate Jerem looked up from his checklists at Hunter’s grumble.

“You expect me to believe that? Remember, I’m the guy you come to every time you hit bottom.”

Hunter clenched his fist angrily, then hurriedly relaxed it to restore coverage.

“That ruin should have been my biggest score yet! Instead that girl beat me to it!”

Jerem returned to his lists with a hum.

“Try not to mention that. The Duchess and her ladies aren’t paying to see a performer who got beat by a little girl.”

Hunter slapped his hat against his thigh impatiently.

“Fine! But do I have to rope from horseback? You know how I feel about horses!”

Jerem peered over his half-moon spectacles.

“Says the man who rides a twenty-foot crocodile. The ladies are looking for an authentic experience.”

“Authentic my ass!” Hunter snorted.

“It’s gonna be. A busy night should see you financially solvent again though.”

Then this past week I was again honored by judge Katheryn J. Avila for my flash concerning Sforzando Alighieri. As with Hunter, I’m going to share two flashes here–the second one being the prize winner. I actually hadn’t figured out how old Melody was when she and Sforzando first met when I wrote the first flash, so I have changed 1 word compared to the version I submitted to Thursday Threads on that older flash.

SFORZANDO 01

“Thank you so much for responding to our summons, Maester Alighieri!”

The tonsured Brother Everard bowed as deeply as his pot belly allowed. Sforzando Alighieri tossed his long prematurely grey hair back with one hand, grateful for the brief air on his sweaty neck. The hill up to the temple had been steeper than it appeared.

“As a humble researcher, I’m honored to be summoned by The Celestial Temple.”

“Please, come in.” the priest bowed and ushered Sforzando inside. “We have fresh tea in the welcome room.”

Sforzando stood head and shoulders above Brother Everard, despite the priest’s subtle orc heritage. The young arcanist occasionally struggled to find fashionable clothing in his size, but never to make himself the center of attention. In the welcome room Sforzando lowered himself into a high-backed basket chair while Everard attended to the iced pitcher of tea.

“Lemon or sugar?”

“Lemon, please.”

The holy half orc passed Sforzando a tall glass with a lemon wedge on the rim before shoveling several scoops of sugar into his own glass.

“The whole temple is thrilled to welcome the man who single handedly lifted the art of Song Magic out of myth and legend into a modern science! Maester Alighieri, you are truly a saint!”

Sforzando laughed earnestly.

“I’m no saint! And please, just Sforzando.”

“As you wish, Maester Sforzando. This winter a child was brought to this temple to be raised in faith.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“She is the new Songstress.”

SFORZANDO 02

Mother Josephine stood like granite between Sforzando Alighieri and the door to the cloister. He hadn’t noticed when his half-orc guide, Brother Everard, dropped behind him but there was no one between Sforzando and Josephine. Easily a head shorter than him, there was still something about the sour-faced woman that frightened Sforzando.

“I, ehm, I’m here to meet the child?”

The old priestess harrumphed dismissively but deigned to scrutinize Sforzando further with sharp clear eyes.

“This is Maester Sforzando,” Everard offered delicately. “He’s here to train the child?”

The Mother’s eyes narrowed and Sforzando could feel Everard step back, abandoning him to the terror of every religiously schooled child.

“Neither Songster required training to fulfill their destiny. What can this layman possibly teach young Melody?”

“We talked about this,” the bulky Brother squeaked from a safe distance. “The elders all agreed it was a good opportunity…”

“Not all.”

Josephine cut Everard short. Sforzando took a breath and centered himself. It didn’t seem like his smile that had charmed the Queen would help here, but he was too nervous to go forward without it.

“My studies of Song Magic have shown good results; I’ve even taught myself to perform it without being a Songster. Perhaps Melody can teach me something?”

The Mother uncrossed her arms with a reluctant sigh.

“Before I let you through, I need to know; are you confirmed?”

Sforzando scratched the back of his neck.

“Actually, I’m not religious.”

Her arms re-crossed.

“We need confirmation.”

Honorable Mentions

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
Jul 11 2019

A week ago I earned another Honorable Mention for Siobhan Muir’s #ThursThreads as judged by George Varhalmi. If you’re interested in my current novel project I’ve been working out characters and backstory over on #ThursThreads for a while now. Keep an eye out for Cat’s The Pajamas, because I mean for it to be big.

***

“I told you they were real!” The dwarf elbowed the half-elf next to him on the trawler deck.

A hopelessly entangled mermaid was the sole occupant of their net. The fishermen had been quick to gather the pearls that rolled across their deck while their catch had thrashed, whined and squealed. The half-elf studied his handful of glistening white pearls.

“Where do you think the pearls came from?”

The dwarf ran stubby fingers through his thick beard.

“My granddaddy used to say merfolk cry them.”

His companion licked his lips and watched their captive with hungry eyes.

“So if we keep her…”

“We’ll both be wealthy men!”

The mermaid shrilled and slammed her tail against the deck hard, prompting the dwarf to turn with raised fist.

“Would you stop that racket! What is wrong with you? Can’t you speak speaking?”

Their captive responded with narrowed eyes, a sneer and a sequence of low clicks and throat squeaks. An unexpected voice cut in.

“I’d say the question be what is wrong with ye? That’s no way to treat a lady.”

A little catgirl in captain’s regalia perched on the trawler railing. Where she came from was anyone’s guess.

“Nextly,” she continued. “Are ye going to give me any trouble returning the lady to the sea.”

The tiny captain patted her flintlock pistol. As the fishermen backed toward the aft cabin, she turned kindly to their captive. Grateful pearls from the mermaid’s eyes brought a grin to her rescuer’s face.

I also scored an Honorable Mention on this week’s #MenageMonday over on Cara Michaels’ website, where I am still working with my Fantasy Fighter characters. I particularly appreciated judge Miranda Gammella’s curiosity as to whether Wenona or Caldwell was more dangerous, since with both of them being playable characters for a fighting game that is a question that could easily go either way.

***

The man who found me in the eastern field says his name is Caldwell. I believe him. I feel safe near him. When I’m alone I feel anxious.

I wake up much earlier than Caldwell does. I can’t seem to cook at all, so I go out and watch the sun rise over the field. He says that my name is Wenona, and I believe him.

The clothes and bangles Caldwell gave me feel good on my body, keeping me company while he sleeps. He says they look good on me, and that he’s glad I like them because I bit him the first time he tried to make me wear clothes. I believe that too.

A single strand of weathered barbed wire isn’t much to separate me from the field, or the forest beyond. Caldwell says that I used to be the mystic protector of that forest. Looking at it across a lone length of wire and an empty field I feel impossibly far from home. I believe that the distance I feel is not physical.

Caldwell tells me that our friend, Karl, is still out there somewhere. Caldwell thinks I can help him find Karl, even without my memories. He believes I will help him out of friendship.

If Caldwell finds where I buried Karl, I’ll have to bury him too.

Take the Cake

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
May 05 2019

This past #MenageMonday over at Cara Michael’s site the honorable Monk Hulsey awarded me another win for a flash fiction from my Fantasy Fighter universe about Hazuki Akiyama and Mifuyu Shizuka! I highly recommend swinging by Cara’s site to see the prompts and other entries, but in case all you’re looking for is some more flash from yours truly I’m re-posting that much here.

“What are your intentions toward my granddaughter?”

Hazuki’s grandmother’s eyes narrowed dangerously over her sake cup. The mood in the car shifted as suddenly as the weather. Mifuyu downed her sake without breaking eye contact with her opponent in the front row. Hazuki’s mother threw her head back against the driver’s headrest.

“Mother!”

Youko sipped her sake slowly and deliberately, as if she could destroy Mifuyu by the difference in their drinking styles. Someone had suggested this picnic to bury the hatchet; which clearly meant something very different to Mifuyu and the old woman than to Hazuki or Tsukiko.

“How long has this been going on?”

Mifuyu felt her blood rise for the fight and her lips split in an uneven grin. Madness glinted in her eyes.

“It’s the endgame, old woman.” Mifuyu raised her engagement band.

The four had started out on a beautiful day with a clear forecast. This storm roiled up out of nowhere and forced them off the road. Their car’s dome light was now a solitary beacon in roaring darkness. Hazuki’s mother’s eyes widened as her gaze fell on the empty seat next to Mifuyu.

“Where’s Hazuki?”

The three women jumped when the hand thumped against the inside back window, where it dragged a sticky red streak back down into the cargo area. Youko and Mifuyu were stunned into somber silence, so Tsukiko continued.

“See what you two have done? You both knew Hazuki is a stress eater! She’s probably had the entire jelly cake!”


Family Values

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
Mar 25 2019

I’m a little later than I intended getting up my entry for last week’s #MenageMonday hosted by Cara Michaels. You can swing by the original site for the prompts and other entries.

Judge Miranda Gamella awarded my Fantasy Fighter story the Judge’s Pet distinction, and I learned a little more about Hazuki’s family in 250 words.

Warm muted light from the stained-glass window blanketed the room in sleepy stillness. Tsukiko Akiyama gave in. The reasons she shouldn’t be there troubled her thoughts but could not stir her to leave.

She should be in America, in case her daughter needed her. Sacred energy was conspicuously absent from this old church. Even the hellfire in her companion’s eyes excited, rather than worried, her.

Sitting together on the floor of the desecrated church, Tsukiko ran her thumb lightly over Melantha Karahalios’ knuckles. Melantha leaned in and kissed Tsukiko with tender firmness that warmed her whole body like her respectable husband never had. Tsukiko felt beautiful again for the first time in too long.

Then the church doors were knocked in disruptively. A tiny old woman stood righteously in the unfiltered light of day.

“Mother!” Tsukiko gasped.

The old woman glowered at the two women before her.

“You dishonor your family! I raised you better than this, Tsukiko.”

Melantha looked between Tsukiko and her mother, licking her lips. For once, Tsukiko met her mother’s gaze with defiance not deference.

“Maybe you didn’t.”

“Your daughter is on a mission far from home, and you run off across the Atlantic? No. Further, I will not tolerate any blood of mine fraternizing with a demon!”

Tsukiko stood to tower over her mother.

“You smothered me with your expectations. I’m giving Hazuki her freedom. Hazuki is not me, and I am not you.”

The old woman sighed.

“She’s more like you than you realize.”

Valentines’ Love

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
Feb 16 2019

I won Cara Michaels’ #MenageMonday again this past week! This time judged by Siobhan Muir, whose #ThursdayThreads I was given an Honorable Mention on by judge Louisa Bacio!

As has been my pattern this year, Monday was set in my Fantasy Fighter universe you can learn more about on this site, and Thursday was set in the Magical Girl Alternate Universe of my Four Sisters story–which you can learn about through my Twitter posts.

Also, since Thursday was Valentine’s day, we were encouraged to wax a little romantic. I encourage checking out the prompts and other stories through the links above.

Major Stevie Cannon initiated a background system diagnostic while she visually scanned the forest around the old enclosure. The result always came back normal or better, but she still checked every time she thought she heard the alien’s voice in her mind. Every time she held still for more than a minute. Trying to sleep was hell.

No movement. The structure appeared empty, but there was a lead lined under level that scans didn’t penetrate. Biomass Delta was smart. A lot smarter than it was supposed to be. If it had learned how to hide from government scans that would explain why Major Cannon had been called in. Normally the boys in the bio division did their own cleanup to keep their secrets in house.

Personally, Major Cannon agreed with the need for the country to develop and control the next generation of weaponry before their enemies even knew it existed. The second part of that had been particularly troublesome recently. If she had it to do over again, she still would have signed on for the moon base project, but she couldn’t shake the irony of being asked to cleanup a weapons program gone sideways.

Her right arm became a literal energy cannon and she activated her personal force field as she approached the enclosure. As convincing as her prosthetics were, precious little of Stevie Cannon was still human.

It was time to get her fellow weapon back under lock and key.

The purple hued magical elf, Emathyst, pushed past the bullet scarred door of the dive bar. Desperate characters huddled in isolation over their drinks in the dim light. She exchanged a nod with the grizzled bartender and made her way to the desperate character at the bar, staring into his shot while his pint foamed.

Her luxurious hair floated up and away, leaving her normal black faux hawk. The Giant’s Ring was once more a trinket on a chain around her neck, her elegant dress replaced with her biker’s leather jacket, torn jeans and combat boots. She was again the punk chick, Violet Li.

“You alright?” Violet sat next to Cole Dooley.

Cole did his shot and moved on to staring into his pint.

“I don’t know what to feel. You’re really one of them now, aren’t you?”

Violet smiled as the bartender brought her Shirley Temple.

“A magical girl?”

Cole took a gulp of his beer and nodded glumly.

“I just… Why? Why you? You’re like, the one person who can pound those monsters without any powers at all. Why’d you have to change?”

Violet cocked her head thoughtfully. “Fighting monsters is a lot easier with powers. And I’m still me.”

“I feel like we’re losing you. I know the city needs magical girls now, but we needed you first! You were the only one who ever expected anything good out of this side of the tracks.”

Violet gripped Cole’s hand on the bar firmly.

“You’ll always have me.”

#TeamRPG Blog Hop: Enter Dor Maus

Writing | Posted by David A Ludwig
Feb 05 2019

The sages of a world on the brink cast a desperate spell, assembling an unsuspecting team of champions from our world to save theirs. #TeamRPG

Thanks to Cara Michaels, a team of writers have been assigned fantasy classes in order to explore the concept of #TeamRPG.

As one of those writers, these 339 words get my character into the world of Greylea.

The bus sunk, practically groaned, as he stepped up to pay his fare. He wasn’t tall, but he was robust. Wild red hair splayed out from his face and head like a mane framing his dark eyes, only one of which was engaged with what he was doing. He fumbled the coins to feed the machine. He whined fearfully. Had he saved enough?

“It’s okay, honey. Take your time.”

The bus driver was nice. It was late. No one was waiting on him. Nobody staring. He did have enough. He chuckled happily and it bounced around his chest up through his nose. The bus driver smiled at him. He shuffled back to a seat.

His clothes were a tattered assortment of things that hadn’t fallen apart yet, built up in layers until they puffed out like his hair. The thing in his arms was precious though. He had saved all month for the iron teapot that felt like home, and the thrift shop owner saved it for him.

As the bus lumbered through the night, he drifted off cradling his teapot.

He took a deep breath, practically squeaked, as he woke and stretched. He wasn’t tall, he couldn’t even see out over the lip of the teapot. Sitting back on his haunches, he leapt and pulled himself over the edge to look around. The bus looked much older than he remembered, especially with the roots and vines pulling it apart. It seemed bigger too. It would be quite a dash to get to the front. Was this right?

Terror.

The weasel’s fangs sank into his neck before he even got his bearings. The terrible sensation of growing. Then the weasel was the frightened one, hanging by its jaws from his bushy beard. He barked at it. The weasel released and scurried off.

Satisfied, he took up his teapot and the sturdy walking staff next to his seat with a nod. He decided to follow the little fairy that zipped by the bus window and see what he would see.

Image By Danielle Schwarz – Danielle Schwarz, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2802929

Also see drmagoo’s contribution to this adventure, and keep an eye out for the #TeamRPG hashtag!