Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Microstory 27: One Table

Ben and Mark walked into the restaurant around the same time. They were both exhausted from working a few hours of overtime, neither of them wanted to have to go somewhere else, and the place was packed. The host smiled at them and asked if they needed a table for two. When Mark told him that they weren’t together, the host informed them that it would be a forty-five minute wait for one of them. That was too much, but it was a busy night. If they wanted to avoid fast food or leftovers, it would be the same story anywhere. Ben offered to play rock-paper-scissors for it, but the waitress jumped in and suggested that they just sit together. After a few awkward half-exchanges, they both finally agreed to the arrangement. The two sat at their one table quietly while looking over the menus, and the thermostat must have been turned up too high. After ordering, Mark sighed and announced that the whole dinner would be uncomfortable unless they found something they had in common. So, they basically turned the night into a date; asking each other about their work, hobbies, and friends. Two hours in, the waitress walked over to note that several tables had opened up. Ben and Mark made more half-exchanges, making up nonsense about the other tables being too far from the window, and not wanting to deal with moving their plates. After dinner, they went for a walk by the river in the freezing cold, each one trying to one-up the other with tales of their crazy ex-girlfriends. Three years later, Ben and Mark were married.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Microstory 26: What Does the Fox Want?

While Linda Carnegie was in the middle of setting the table, she looked up and saw a fox staring at her from outside her door. He watched her intently, like he was waiting for an answer to a question asked long ago. She was entranced by him. The patio outside of her apartment was closed off by a fence and thick shrubs, so he would have needed to make a concerted effort to get through it. He couldn’t have just been passing by. He moved his head to one side, which she interpreted to be an invitation. She had no choice but to accept this invitation. It was more of an order, and less of a request. Still in her slippers, she opened the glass door and got down on her hands and knees to crawl through the brush. One of her neighbors was outside waiting, not for Linda, but for the magnificent creature who had already invited him out. The fox started running away, but kept one eye on the two of them, slowing down as needed. The more she followed it, the more urgency she felt. They looked to the right and saw a few of their other neighbors, running after a squirrel. Up ahead, they were closing in on an elderly couple who were following a rabbit that was hopping every once in a while, keeping its dependents moving as fast as they could. As they continued the pursuit, they could see more people, in groups of at least two, each chasing their own animal. The ground shook and they ran faster, until they felt safe enough. Linda turned back and watched as a fiery mid-sized aircraft fell from the sky, and demolished the apartment complex.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 23, 2016

The time jump caused Mateo Matic to wake up. He heard footsteps running up the stairs. His father, Randall burst into the room. “Oh, thank God you’re back.”
“Has it been another year?”
His mother, Carol appeared in the doorway. “It has. This is not going to stop on its own. We already have an appointment set up for you. I don’t want to spend what little time we may have together at the hospital, but—”
“I know it has to be done,” Mateo interrupted. “We’ll have all the time in the world if we can figure out how to stop it.”
The appointment wasn’t until eleven in the morning. So after eating fourth meal, Mateo went up to the attic to look through some of the family belongings passed down through generations. He sat up there for hours, combing through everything he could find that had anything to do with his biological family tree. Most of the journal entries were mundane, and it wasn’t like his family kept records of absolutely everything they did. He had just gotten to a journal written in the mid-19th century by his great great great great grandmother when Carol called him down for the appointment. He stalled her, needing to learn more. The journal talked about when she first met her husband. He had appeared out of nowhere one day, dressed in outdated attire. Carol called him again, and he was forced to put the journal away for another time; perhaps for an entire year.
He spent the rest of the day undergoing medical tests. They drew blood, put him in machines, and asked him a lot of questions. Of course, he couldn’t reveal to them why these tests were so desperately needed. In the end, there was no conclusion. None of the preliminary results showed anything abnormal. It would be a couple weeks before they had all the information, which meant that his parents wouldn’t be able to discuss it with him for a year.
He was sitting in the waiting room for urgent care while his parents confided in a family friend who was a nurse in that department. A teenager came in with her father. He set her down in a chair across from Mateo. “Sit here while I check you in. Maybe you won’t drink after tonight.” The girl looked completely miserable. She was holding a plastic grocery sack, clearly filled with vomit. She was dry heaving and moving her head up and down, trying to find a comfortable position that didn’t exist. She wasn’t crying, but her eyes were teared up, probably from the strain.
“First time?” Mateo asked.
She massaged her forehead. “No, but he was right. It’s probably my last. I think a guy put something—” She couldn’t finish the sentence. Vomit rolled out of her mouth and into the bag. On the other side of the room, a guy vomited into his own bucket, as if it were a response to her. Illness was trending. As the girl tried to cough up more, the bag slipped from her grip and fell to the floor, spilling its contents. She instinctively pulled her head away from it. “Oh my God!” Before she could do anything else, though, more came up suddenly, much of it landing in Mateo’s lap. She just stared at him in horror, having no idea what she could say to him. After several days, and many years, it would turn out to be their meet-cute.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Short Story: Day Hiker

Sweat dripped off of Archer Steuben’s forehead and fell to the dirt. The wind was still. The sun burned into the back of his neck. He pulled his hat farther down but made sure to keep his eyes covered. He was lost. He shouldn’t have even gone out today. The weatherman probably said something about the heat but he wasn’t listening closely enough to remember. No time to stand around, though. The only way he was going to find his way back was to continue.
A small brown bird flew quickly from a low branch to the ground. He was probably as hungry as Archer was. Why didn’t he pack extra food? He was usually more careful about things like that. He looked up ahead and saw an area crowded with trees and decided to take another break in the shade. He took out his white water bottle and drank. Before he could close it, the bottle slipped out of his hands and began spilling out water. He picked it up before losing too much but there was now a smear of mud on the tip of it. “Perfect.”
Archer wiped off the bottle, put it in his bag, and stood up to look for signs that there was a trail somewhere nearby. There was nothing so he moved on. As he walked, he thought about the previous day’s meeting. The client had told him that they no longer needed him as a consultant. They had found a larger company with more experienced employees. Archer had been in human resources for sixteen years and they didn’t think it was good enough. He asked why they couldn’t have told him on the phone instead of making him fly all the way out there. They said that they had just decided. People were always doing that to him. They never seemed bothered by his disappointment.
The trees were getting shorter and thinner now. He figured there would be something of importance ahead. There was. Several meters away, he could see a dilapidated fence; the paint chipping off. Three horses turned their heads and looked at them. One of them was a foal. Archer slowly approached them, hoping to see a barn or a farmhouse as well. People in Montana were not nice to him so far but maybe the owner would lend him a phone. After all, the only experience he had with people here was with the client.
“Stay away from my animals,” said a man standing behind the horses, evidently trying to fix another part of the fence.
“I was just wondering if I could borrow a phone from you,” Archer explained.
“I thought all you kids had them mobile phones that you can put in your pocket,” said the man.
“I do but I’m not getting a signal,” Archer said.
“I ain’t either. Now, git off my property before I git my scattergun. I know it’s around here somewhere,” the main mumbled the last few words.
Fearing the man would find his gun sooner rather than later, Archer moved back a little bit. “Okay well could you just tell me—?”
“I said git,” the man replied. He spit some sunflower seeds into the grass.
Archer turned around and headed back through the forest. Not much later, he passed out of the woods and into a field of tall grass. The sun was harder on him here but he felt less trapped. Perhaps now he’d be able to see a building or a road. He was right. Far away in the distance, he could see a one lane road slope up on a hill then disappear behind it. What was more exciting was the truck he could see parked on the side. He started running but grew tired and slowed his pace.
The truck was red and dirty. He could see a couple of dents along the side of it. One of the tires looked a little flat. As he got closer, he could see that the hatch was down and two legs were dangling over the edge. His heart beat faster. After all this, he did not want to see a dead body. Archer tip-toed towards it. Before he could see anything more, a little boy with blonde hair and a striped shirt rose from the bed. “Uncle?” the boy asked.
“What is it, boy?” said another voice.
“There’s a stranger,” the boy answered.
The man jerked his legs and sat up, peering at Archer. “Hi there,” he said. Can I help you? The name’s Jack. This is my nephew, Aaron.”
“Do you want some pizza?” the boy asked. “It has mustard in it.”
Archer hated mustard. He had never heard of it on a pizza before. On the other hand, he was so hungry. Maybe he could stomach through it just this once for survival reasons. Maybe not. “I’m not sure. Do you happen to have a cell phone on you, Jack?”
“I don’t have one of those,” Jack said. “Wish I could help.” Jack lay back down on the bed and covered his eyes with his straw hat. Aaron mimicked him.
“Well do you think later you could give me a ride to town or something? I’m kind of lost and out of food,” Archer said.
“My boy offered you some pizza. It’s still hot,” Jack said with a laugh.
“I know. I appreciate that but I would much prefer a ride,” Archer said.
“I can’t help you with that either,” Jack said. “My tire blew out.”
Before Archer could speak, Jack continued, “I don’t know my way to town anyway. We’re not from around here.”
“We is from Wyoming,” Aaron said excitedly.
Archer didn’t know what to say. These two appeared to be in a similar situation as he was but they were just sitting there. He was afraid to ask about it so he didn’t. Instead he turned around and left saying, “okay…thanks anyway.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Microstory 25: At Odds

Robert Mathers opened the door to the roof and switched on his favorite song. He slowly walked over and stepped up onto the ledge. He had to wait until he got to hear the best part of the song one last time before jumping. As he was standing there, he saw something in his peripheral vision. It was a woman, standing on the ledge and crying. They made eye contact. What are the odds? He slipped off his headphones while they stared at each other, neither one knowing what to do in such a strange situation. If they both jumped, it would look like they were connected. The police would handle the case incorrectly. Robert stepped back down and bowed, opening his arm to graciously give this moment to her. He would have to find another roof. He started to walk away so that he wouldn’t be there when it happened but was stopped by a scream from the building across the street. He turned back and saw a man and a woman fighting in an apartment. They watched as the man grabbed the nearest heavy object and struck the woman across the face, dropping her to the floor. Robert and the other jumper looked at each other again. Things had gotten even more complicated. They looked back and saw the attacker prepare to hit her again. Before he could, sirens flared up in the distance, getting closer. The man stopped when he heard it too and ran out of sight. "There," the other jumper said. She was pointing toward a different window in the other building. Another woman was watching them, talking on the phone. The police cruiser pulled up and nearly struck the other man as he ran out of the building, still holding the weapon. They all lived.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Microstory 24: Japanese Puzzle Box

The cashier at the Asian Fusion restaurant gives me this weird smile as she hands me my change. I shake it from my head, grab my food, and leave. Once I'm finished eating, I look in the bag to see if there's a fortune cookie. Instead, I find a miniature Japanese puzzle box. A few minutes later, I manage to reach the final step. As I slide the piece over, the box explodes. After recovering from the shock, I look down to find a larger puzzle box. How did it fit inside? The urge to open this next box overpowers my fear of what might happen at the end. A half hour later, I  can tell that I'm nearly there. I grab a meter stick from the closet and use it to move the last piece. Just like before, this box explodes to reveal a box that is larger still. I laugh with excitement. How many are there? I spend the rest of the night opening boxes, eventually wearing gloves, safety goggles, and a heavy coat for protection. The largest box yet is about two feet wide and three feet long. It takes me hours, but I succeed. This time, it doesn't explode. The boards fall away, revealing a man curled up in a ball. He breathes a sigh of relief and hands me another miniature puzzle box, apologizing for it having to be this way. Before I can react, the box breaks open, stretching and unfolding until it’s large enough to encompass my entire body. It closes up and begins to shrink back down. I’m trapped.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Microstory 23: Three Dimes

When I arrived at my friend’s apartment complex, I discovered there to be no more free parking spaces left. The only ones available were at meters. I tossed my car, looking for change, and was fortunate to find three dimes, hashtag-thestruggle. This would get me to the three-hour limit, which was still a problem. “Feeding the meter” was illegal. I had to finish up there in the allotted time, or I would go to jail. As soon as I got upstairs, my friend asked me if I would drive him to a chick he met online who was getting rid of her old TV. I did as he asked, but hurried him along, fearful that I would lose my precious parking spot. But luck was on my side. When we got back, the space was still open. We stopped by the door to get the TV out. Just then, I looked over and saw someone park next to my spot. When he got out to pay his meter, I could tell that he saw that my meter was already running. He stepped back into his car. I dropped the TV on my friend’s foot, breaking it in two places, and cracking the TV screen. I then jumped back in my car and raced across the lot, slipping back into my birthright! The guy who wanted it was disappointed. So he stabbed me. I was arrested at the hospital for parking illegally.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Microstory 22: Passport

A couple weeks after Jackson Billings received his new passport, a second envelope arrived from the Department of State. Inside were over a dozen wallet photos of strangers, along with a weird sketch of random squiggly lines. It was an obvious mistake, and it occurred to him to call and report it, but he eventually just let it go. He never forgot their faces, though. For being so innocuous, it sure stayed with him. He kept the sketch on his fridge, and saw it every day. Years later, Jackson was boarding a plane to Iceland for...some reason. As he was looking for his seat, he saw someone he recognized. It wasn't long before he realized it was one of the men from the mysterious envelope. What an interesting coincidence? But as time passed, more people from the envelope appeared. He was either going crazy or...no, that was the only explanation. The last woman from the photos ended up sitting next to him. Once she got a good look at Jackson's face, her face turned green. She slunk back against the window like he was poisonous. Then she looked around, seemingly recognizing others. She pulled out her phone and started swiping through a photo album. Jackson stood up and compared. No one in her album had been in Jackson's envelope, but they were all on the plane. As he watched, the passengers started looking around, each of them recognizing some, but not all, of the others.

The flight attendant closed the door, then spoke on the intercom, "welcome. You have all been chosen. You have all chosen." Jackson was close enough to hear her when she spoke into some other device. "This is Unit North America. All of our Savelings are on board. Ready for decimation."

Monday, March 23, 2015

Microstory 21: Turtle’s Best Day

A few years ago, I was minding my own business, eating some leaves; like I do. Suddenly, a laughing gust of wind flies by and flips me over to me back. What a jerk. I was going to die. To make matters even worse, while I struggled--looking dumber than ever--a raccoon came along and offered to eat me and put me out of my misery. I convinced him that I had lots of turtle friends, and that we would taste great together. He flipped me over and followed me for miles...slowly. He complained about wanting to eat me and get it over with the entire way. But I managed to fend him off with my wits long enough for us to pass a bobcat. I had rolled myself down a hill by the time the bobcat finished eating the raccoon. I know turtles don't usually roll, but I was feeling happy. I had outsmarted one of the smartest animals in the kingdom. Once at the bottom, I found myself on my back again, but this time in a stream. I wasn't going to starve. I was going to drown! But I didn't give up. I swept my head back and forth, back and forth. Just when I was about to give up, my plan worked. All the rocks I moved changed the flow of the stream enough to flip me back over. I had survived death twice in one day.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 21, 2014 & March 22, 2015

Mateo Matic walked downstairs to find the living room packed full of people. Just about everyone he was still in contact with was there for his birthday, and a few old faces. It was completely ridiculous, and he loved it. His family and friends were the most important thing to him, and only one of them was missing. When he was only seven years old, his birth mother disappeared with no trace. She had never been the one to raise him, but she had been part of the family the entire time. His adoptive parents maintained a healthy relationship with her, and she was able to see him whenever she wanted. It was unclear where she had gone, or why she hadn't told him, at the very least. There was no evidence of foul play. There was evidence of nothing. The Gelens had been good to him, though, and he was grateful for his life. Except for the one thing, he couldn't imagine anything changing. Unfortunately, fate had other plans.
The party was spectacular, but it was lasting a little too long. He was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. The guests started filing out at around five o'clock so that he could have a quiet dinner with his parents. They ate a delicious and healthy salmon meal and exchanged gifts. For most families, gifts were given to only the one in celebration, but his was different. For all three birthdays, each of them would find something to give the other two. They weren't the richest people in the world, but they felt they had everything they needed. The gifts were usually small and thoughtful. He made his adoptive mother, Carol a necklace out of seashells, a callback to a similar one he had given her twenty years before. He bought his father, Randall a new pack of razors. They had a nice laugh about that one. Carol had gotten him the same thing. He playfully threw up his arms and conceded. He would finally clean himself back up. Ever since his retirement, he had let loose, but was willing to go back on that one thing.
Randall gave his wife a self-help book about how to make decisions that she had been trying to decide if she wanted. After those were done, Randall made an announcement. In lieu of a traditional gift, the two of them had decided for set up a bank account for him. It was a long-term investment, designed to help support his future children. All that money stuff went over his head, but he was speechless. He gave them both a big hug. “This is the best birthday ever. Ya know...except for my seventh.” They smiled and nodded.
“Okay,” Carol said. I know we decided the account was our only gift, but I couldn't help it.”
“Carol, what did you do?” Randall asked, but it was obvious he knew what second gift she had chosen.
She pulled a metal rosary bracelet out of her pocket. The beads were in the shape of shells. At the bottom was an oval; one side of which showed an image of the Virgin Mary, while the other had an image of Jesus. An eleventh bead connected that to a depiction of the crucifixion. “This was your birth mother’s. You know, she was far more religious that we are. She was always leaving trinkets at our house, subtly trying to get us to go to church more often. This was the last one before she went missing. I don't know why I didn't give it to you right away. I suppose I just wanted my own reminder of her. But it’s time that you have it. You are my reminder of her.”
That was the last time Carol Gelen would see her son for an entire year. After dinner, Mateo left the house to hang out with his old friends. When they were underaged, they would gather at a graveyard on the edge of town, and drink. They wouldn't ever get too rambunctious, but it was just nice to be away from the adults; away from judgment. They had grown up and grown out of it by now, but they went back to reminisce.
He was enjoying a beer with a lime stuck in it when a friend from college slithered up to him and snatched the bottle out of his hand. “It’s almost midnight.”
“So, I'm not allowed to drink anymore?” Mateo asked.
“Nope. The birthday boy is designated driver on the day after his birthday.”
Mateo took his beer back. “Your jokes aren't even funny, because they have absolutely no basis. I swear, man. You need to stick to data entry.”
“I'm a lawy—”

Mateo didn't hear his friend’s last statement. For no reason, his beer shattered into a hundred pieces. “What the hell?” He looked around. He was alone. There were a dozen other people with him a second ago, but they were all gone. “Hello?” No one answered. “As far as pranks go, this was pretty impressive. I haven't had that much to drink. How did you disappear so quickly?”
“Hello” came a voice from behind. Mateo turned around and found himself blinded by a flashlight. “Is that you, Mateo?” It was Mr. Halifax, the gravedigger. He had been letting them use the cemetery since the beginning as long as no one got hurt, everyone got home safe, and they kept the grounds clean.
“Yeah, do you know where everyone went?”
He released a disappointed sigh. “Come on. I'll drive you home. Your parents will want to know you’ve come back.”
They didn't talk on the way back. Mateo tried to ask what the problem was, but Halifax just kept saying that it wasn't his place, and he wasn't no psychologist. Carol gave him a big hug and broke down crying when they opened the door. Randall was behind her, crying as well. After some time, he was able to get answers out of them. He had been gone for exactly one year. He had disappeared without a trace, just like his mother before him.
“It’s happened before that too,” Randall started to explain hours later, after everything had calmed down a little. “Your family have been keeping diaries, claiming that an ancestor of theirs was from the past, and had been travelling forward in time, meeting and interacting with them long after he should have died. During one of these times, he apparently fathered a child, starting a family that was always paranoid about it happening to them as well.”
“But it never did,” Carol continued. “Not until your mother. Of course, even after her disappearance, we didn't believe the outrageous rumors that time travel had anything to do with it. But if you say you were in the cemetery in 2014, and suddenly you're here, I don't know what to believe. Maybe it’s all true.”
“But I came back,” Mateo complained. “If I’m here, where is my mom?”
Randall shook his head. “We don't know, son. I promise you, though, we are going to figure this out. We are not going to lose you again.”
But they did lose him again. At the strike of midnight that night, Mateo disappeared for the second time. It was March 23rd, 2016.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Microstory 20: Hamster Song

"I wrote a song for my hamster a while back. It wasn't about my hamster. He had just been asking me to write a new one for the last two years, and I finally broke down and gave it to him. He listened to it politely but it was obvious that he was not impressed. I asked him if there was anything I should change. He just kind of looked out the window and cleared his throat. In the end, he had to admit that I was better off just writing a different song entirely. I told him that that is why I quit in the first place, that they were never good enough. He just scoffed. He was right. There were a few good ones. As I thought about them, I realized that they had one thing in common. My hamster had collaborated on every single one of the good ones. How could I have missed that? He was hesitant to get back into the business, as I had been, but he did agree. We worked day and night, testing lyrics and adjusting notes. But we did it. Hot damn, we did it! We wrote the best thing in our career. It became an instant hit on the radio. I was getting interviews and record deals. I was back on top. But my hamster wasn’t. I left him in the dust. He ended up suing me for taking credit for our work. His case was thrown out because the judge couldn't understand what he was saying because I’m the only one in the world who speaks hamster. I felt bad for him, but was relieved. And then he died, because hamsters don't live very long. What was the question again?"

"No question. I'm upping your dosage. Hamsters can't talk."

Microstory 19: Love Letter

My dearest love, I write to you through tears of heartbreak. It has been still less than a week since I have seen you, but I feel every torturous second. There is a hollowness inside; a hunger to have you returned to me. Sometimes I pass by your place. I yearn to go inside, to feel you with my tongue. But I know that I can’t. I know that you need more time. No, that isn’t true. It isn’t you. It’s me. I’m the one who needs time. I see now that I need to give you space. A collision of our two forces is powerful enough to destroy the universe ten times over. We cannot be together too long. It would be, as they say, incredibly unhealthy. But perhaps they are wrong, do you think? I cannot concentrate without you. You are perfect. You are my everything. Let me take you away from your life. You belong out of that kitchen, away from them. I can give you a good home. I will never leave you. I cannot wait to see you tomorrow, my love, Chipotle burrito.

Stay tuned for a bonus microstory to be posted later today.

Friday, March 20, 2015

New Schedule — What's Coming

I'm trying to get my schedule lined up. For my own sanity, I need to keep the stories I post/have posted under some kind of frame of reference. I want there to be five microstories for every two flash fiction stories (because there are seven days per week). I will have two separate flash fiction stories running at any one time, and I want to keep those even with each other. But, I've already started one series, so I kind of have to let the other one catch up before I get back into it. I know, that sounds absurd. But it makes sense in my head. Scheduling is very important to a person like me.

I've worked it all out. Tomorrow (Saturday) you are going to get two fresh new microstories. On Sunday, you will see the first installment of The Advancement of Mateo Matic. I've integrated the story with something else I've written, which means it has to be on Sundays, instead of my original intention of Saturdays. Actually, the real situation is that it has to start on March 22, rather than 21.

My other flash fiction series, Siftens Landingwhich will have a final part in the immediate futurewill restart on April 11. This means that we are missing stories for the two Saturdays before that. On those days, I will be releasing complete short stories. They are about nine or ten pages long, if I remember correctly. I believe. If that's overwhelming, I'll scratch that whole thing and do something else. Point is, from now on, you will get something every day.

To tide you over, here is a picture of a pole with a bunch of nails in it. And my shadow.

Microstory 18: The Half Wish

A wizard appeared and granted me two and a half wishes. When I asked him what a half wish was, he told me that the wish would come true but only sort of. He evidently had no control over the ramifications of the wishes. He was only a conduit to some other awesome power. That power was the one deciding how to interpret the wishes, and for this reason, half wishes were even more unpredictable than full ones. I first asked for a thousand more wishes, as you do. That was against the rules, so I just completely lost that one. One and a half left. I asked him, very carefully, whether it would be okay if I asked for something in multiple parts. He saw no reason why not. “I wish to be the good and loved king of the entire world. This world will have no war, and no poverty. There will be an endless supply of resources.”

“Is that all?” the wizard asked. It was. He waved his arms and the environment changed. I was on top of a hill. Below me was a forest, a lake, and a river. Beyond that was nothing; a void. There were only a few square kilometers of anything. “Oh,” the wizard said solemnly. “You forgot to ask to be the king of Earth specifically, or that it would at least be a full-sized planet, and have other people.”

I thought about it for a very long time, worried what might happen with my half wish. Maybe I wasn't smart enough to come up with something clever and impeccable. Finally, I decided to ask for the same thing again, but this time be more clear. “I wish to be the good and loved king of the entirety of Earth. Earth will have no war, and no poverty. There will be an endless supply of resources for Earth. The environment changed once more. I was back on Earth, in the city. I looked up to the night sky where I could see the other half of the Earth, floating in its own orbit.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Microstory 17: Slug

As I let the salt fall, it writhed and curled. Back and forth. Up and down. Sweeping through the granules that landed dry on the deck. In its final moments of torturous pain, it couldn't tell the difference between where there was salt and where there wasn't. It knew only that something was scratching and tearing at its skin. An unstoppable fire sucking the moisture from its body. I felt an unavoidable urge to explain myself. "I'm not a sadist." I stood up straight, looking for any more, camouflaged on top of the brown planks. "I just can't have you near my dog's food." But as I said the words, I wondered, were they true? My dog ambled onto the deck and sniffed at the slugs, placing her nose firmly against their lifeless bodies. She opened her mouth, contemplating whether she wanted to try one for breakfast. She snapped at it a couple times. "No!" I said. She looked up at me as if to say, who do you think you are? Then she snapped at one again. "NO!" I said with more fervor. She looked up again, what is this? I don’t even... "Don’t eat that," I said. "It might have ingested pesticides, or something." If she had shoulders, she would have shrugged them. Whatever. She walked over to the corner of the deck and dramatically plopped down on her side. Wake me up when there’s legal food.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Microstory 16: Murder is Murder

I am a murderer. I have intentionally killed dozens; possibly hundreds. The definition of murder is unlawful and willful killing of someone with a soul. This is why you can’t murder an animal. We might call that animal cruelty, but we kill game and livestock all the time, and only some people are bothered by it. What people don’t know, however, is that a few animals do indeed have souls. They aren’t complex souls like those of humans, but they still have them. Dolphins, elephants, and mice are a few examples of animals with simplex souls. A soul can be shared between a human and an animal, which means that all your pets have souls too. There is one creature that most would not expect to have souls. Spiders. The problem is that they have twisted, evil souls. They are utterly bent on the destruction of all life in the universe. Just because they aren’t logically capable of such a thing, doesn’t make their motivations any less real. I consider it my duty as an ensouled individual to kill as many spiders as I possibly can. Many scorpions believe this to be their duty as well, and they regularly sting and eat spiders that they encounter. You still probably wouldn’t call this murder, and that’s great for me. As long as you keep thinking that there is nothing wrong with it, I get to keep going with my mission. I will never stop, until I myself am dead, and then one day after that.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Microstory 15: The IQ Trick

I always tell people that I have an IQ of 185. Then I laugh and admit that it’s only 130. You see, intellectually, they know that I have normal intelligence. They will never expect me to do anything particularly outstanding. But subconsciously, they will always be looking to attribute everything I do to my genius. So when I do something that they would consider wrong, they won't look down on me too much because, in the back of their minds, they’ll wonder whether I had it right the whole time, and if they aren't simply incapable of fathoming the logic. The trick is to use this on any given person only a single time. Don’t ever mention it again. The more they think about it, the closer their subconscious impressions get to the truth. And it is absolutely imperative that you never reveal your deception to anyone. Which, I know, sounds ironic, because I've just revealed it to you. But here’s the thing, a truly gifted individual can maneuver their way out of the inconsistency. And I’m gifted. Obviously I am, since I came up with this on my own, at a very young age. And that is the true irony. Because the fact is that I've been joking with you the whole time. I actually do have an IQ of 185. Just kidding. It’s only 180.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Microstory 14: Inhibition

They’re always green with a white stripe. Today, they are white with a green stripe. I reach into my memory and try to recall, just to make sure that I’m not mistaken. But I cannot confirm it. Did scientists change the design of the pills? Was I remembering it wrong? Was I about to take the wrong medication? I shrug my shoulders and take two. I guess I have to trust the professionals. I feel nothing, not that I should so quickly anyway. The pills never fix my anxiety. They’re supposed to slightly lower my inhibitions; just enough to give me confidence to get through the day. Without them, I would not be able to do my job. My clients expect quite a bit out of me, and I have always delivered. I’ve really only had trouble concentrating for the last few months. My memory hasn’t been great either. I think one of my assignments slipped through my fingers the other day, but I can’t remember. I breathe deeply and place my hands on the corners of the vanity as memories once lost slowly return. That’s why I recieved company this morning, waiting for me in the living room. The longer I stand here, the more I feel different. They were definitely the wrong pills. I feel the same as I do with the regular ones, but far more intensely. Second by second, the inescapable urge to tell the truth swells over me. I try to suppress it. I can’t lose my job. But it overcomes me. Consequences begin to seem like nothing. Yes. Wrong pills. In fact, I think the pharmacist did it on purpose. What did she know about him? In a bit of a daze, I walk out of the bathroom and approach the visitors. One of the police officers is holding up a photograph. “Yes, I know him. I tried to kill him, but he got away. I’m still under contract, so I need to find him. Why do you ask?”

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Shape of Things to Come

I know that you are just absolutely dying to read my first flash fiction piece. Well, you're going to have to wait until next Saturday. Why? Because I want to start this new process at the beginning of the week; not somewhere in the middle, or the end. This coming Monday, one new microstory. The last one I wrote was...on November 18? Wow, it's been that long? What a hack. Anyway, I have no idea what it's going to be about, but that's the exciting part. I could lie to you and tell you that I will write only one a day, on the day of publishing, but I won't. I may start a bank, like I sometimes do with my nanofiction. I can't risk not having anything to produce. I'm actually probably going to write one today, as well as start on the first installment of "The Advancement of Mateo Matic".

I've really been thinking hard about whether I want to do something on Sundays. I've already made a list of potential YouTube videos. They would be pretty short, and would just involve me talking to the camera. I don't know how easy/hard it is to superimpose text, insert pictures, and use other editing techniques. Each one would be on a different topic that gives me the chance to explain some interesting, ridiculous, or misunderstood linguistic concepts. There would also be a few in there that are really just about logical fallacies that people make. Topics include contranyms, chicken or the egg, and unusual idiom origins.

Here's my problem with a YouTube series, I am not an actor. I don't have charisma, I have trouble getting my lines out, I'm not that attractive, and worst of all, I have a terrible voice. It's nasally and annoying and hard to understand. I would probably call it my worst quality, and I have autism! But if I want to be famous, which I do, then perhaps I ought to do it anyway. I'm supposed to be stepping out of my comfort zone, as is everyone. I still don't know...

In the meantime, here is a picture of my late digger baby, Sophie. Because reasons.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Microstory 13: The Direct Line

In the Earthan year of 1984, a witch on the planet Persephone named Indira Felrey was discovered to be using Craft to commit crimes. Witchcraft itself was not illegal, however, certain practices resulted in outcomes that were necessarily against Martian Law. Unfit for general prison sentence, she was instead exiled to Earth where Craft was fundamentally impossible. The hidden structure of the universe prevented the exploits of Craft from ever being an issue within the Sol System.

Contrary to common lore, witchcraft does not rely on magic. Magic does not exist. Witches are in tune with an ancient infrastructure built billions of years ago. The maintainers of the structure spent hundreds of years connecting every living and non-living entity in the universe in order to study them and keep records.

No one is born a witch. Anyone can learn Craft. Some are able to learn the secrets quicker than others, but this is true of any skill. Witches exploit unavoidable functions of the structure in order to complete tasks and gain insight into the cosmos. This inherently limits their spells to a finite number of physically possible Engagements. In reality, they are voice commands, as one would use on a smartphone.

In 1987, the witch Indira Felrey discovered an authentication bypass that allowed her access to the structure while still on Earth. She opened a portal that she programmed to map the entirety of the surface of the planet. Only after it was finished could Craft be used on Earth, though still with some restrictions, due to different cosmological procedures. During a metaphysical crisis within the structure, The Supervisor and a rogue archief discovered the witch's glitch as it began. They could have shut it down, but they decided to let it play out and see what came of it. Indira died of natural causes before the mapping program could be completed in 1991, but the Archief and The Supervisor soon realized that they would be able to use the exploit for their own purposes.

And thus began one of the most important endeavors in the history of the universe, The Direct Line.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Writing Communities I Belong To

I found three writing communities where I'm planning to upload my short fiction. You can find my Figment profile here. You can find my Wattpad profile here. Lastly, you can find my Writer's Cafe profile here.

Follow me there too. Give me all the follows! Please and thank you.

Microstory 12: Round House

Detective Urdea raced through the alleyway, the suspect always at least four meters out of reach. They flung themselves over a fence, under a railing, and in a space so tight, the buildings might as well have been attached. Urdea was about to take his shot when they found themselves in a large crowd. There was some kind of block party. They zigged and zagged and weaved and bobbed through the mess of arms, beer cups, and balloon animals. Instead of trying to protect himself within the crowd, the suspect got himself out, and Urdea took his shot. Dead.

After checking for a pulse, he opened the case that the suspect had evidently stolen. Eight slots. Seven vials. He ordered the contents to be analyzed immediately. They discovered it to be what's known as The Silver Plague, a bioweapon that could wipe out the planet. And Urdea had apparently killed the only person who could have told them where the last vial was.

For the next several hours, he and his partner sifted through restaurant receipts and security cameras, trying to find out who the suspect had been working with, and what they were planning to do with the plague. They talked to confidential informants, family members, field experts, and sister departments. Nothing. Meanwhile, the entire metropolitan area was evacuated. The country was put on DEFCON 3. The nation panicked. The world held its breath.

Finally, a uniformed officer caught someone trying to break into the dead suspect's apartment. They took him to an "off-the-books" location and started "interrogating" him,  using the phone book as a "frame of reference". They asked him questions about how he knew the dead suspect, what he did for a living, etc. But they said nothing of the vials, hoping that after hours of questioning, he would give away what they needed without even realizing it. Finally, he appeared to be broken, and they asked the real questions. "Where is the vial?"

"What vial?"

They hit him again. "The other vial!"

"I don't know what you're talking about!"

The phone book was more red than it was yellow. "What did you do with the missing vial!"

"I don't have any other vial. They were all in the case!"

Urdea was growing impatient. "You're telling me that there were eight vials when you last saw the case?"

"What? No." He spit some blood on the floor. "There were seven vials. There are ONLY seven vials."

"Do you think I'm an idiot?" Urdea growled. "There are eight slots in the case. I'm not gonna ask you again. Where. Is. The last one!?"

"Yeah, I DO think you're an idiot," the man shouted. "The case manufacturer could not have known exactly how many slots we would need. They didn't have one with only seven slots, so we rounded up! You have all the vials! You've had them the whole time!"

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New Blog, Who Dis?

This is my new blog. As you can see, I uploaded microstories in rapid succession. I used to post these to a different blog that was iframed on another blog that had no template, so that I could write my own HTML for it. I also posted them to my facebook accounts, and will continue to do so. I've been making changes in my life. I'm trying to go full force on this self-publishing situation in an attempt to get my name out there. I'm going to be more diligent about posting. I really need to make sure I keep this thing updated with content. My current plan is this:

  • Post a few nanofiction tweets every day
    • These are also known as LIES
    • Please do not mistake these for truths
    • Some of them are ridiculous
    • Others sound like they could be real
      • They are NOT
  • Post a new microstory every weekday
    • In the past, these have been one to a few paragraphs long
    • I need to limit them to one paragraph, to better distinguish them from flash fiction
      • And because "ain't nobody got time for that"
  • Post one new flash fiction story every week on Saturday
    • This will be a series entitled The Advancement of Mateo Matic
      • This used to be the name of a set of novelas that I had planned
      • The original story took place in another galaxy
      • The premise of the original had nothing to do with time slips
      • The original books were intended to belong to my universal canon
        • This will now be a part of a separate canon, which frees up my slate to account for the fact that IT'S TAKING FOREVER JUST TO PUBLISH MY FIRST BOOK
Like I said above, my microfiction should appear every week day. On Saturdays, instead of a paragraph long microstory, you'll find a flash fiction piece. It will be the next installment in a series called The Advancement of Mateo Matic. Each installment takes place over the course of a single day. In the beginning, Mateo led an average life. One day, for reasons I haven't figured out yet, he jumps forward exactly one year. And every day since then, he lives for one day per year. At the end of it, he jumps forward again. Please note: title and format subject to change. This post doesn't control my future! The plot of this series might sound like "Brigadoon" or Groundhog Day. Please erase the memories you have of these earlier works. I am the originator of everything I do.

I am trying to bump up the numbers of fans, followers, friends, likes, comments, and other interactions. Please friend me on Facebook, 'Like' my "business" page on my other Facebook, follow my Nanofiction twitter account @NickFisherman, follow my Dream Journal account @IHadaDreamWhere, follow my Personal twitter account @TavisHighfill, and follow my Random Photo instagram feed for all the "WTF is that?" moments you can handle. Recognize that my nanofiction and personal accounts used to be switched. I swapped the username for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that building my fanbase from Facebook is NOT WORKING OUT. Instead of trying to get my real name out there, I'm going to try to get my pseudonym out there. Everything fictional I write is "by" Nick Fisherman. Everything real is by Tavis Highfill.

You may be wondering, "Tavis—Nick; whatever the hell your name is, why use a pseudonym? Who do you think you are, Voltaire?" The name Nick Fisherman has been with my for as long as I can remember. He was once my imaginary friend, then my alias, and now he's my pen name. I've come up with a canonical reason for him to exist, but I haven't decided to go through with that yet. The out-of-universe reason is for marketing purposes. "Nick" is a common name that everyone accepts. "Tavis" makes people wonder why my parents forgot the "r". "Fisherman" is a common word. It's easy to remember, and you're going to like it whether you like it or not!

A few more things;
Q: "If you post microfiction on weekdays, and flash fiction on Saturday, what happens on Sunday?"
A: That's God's day of rest, you heathens! LOLJK I might come up with something later. YouTube videos? Probably not. You know what they say, I have a face for radio, and a voice for books.

Q: "Who are you again?"
A: Don't worry about it.

Q: "What was the third thing; the one that justifies you using the word few?"
A: I'm also looking into posting my work on third-party sites. There are a few writers communities out there, and I need to find the best one(s) for me. I will let you know where else you can find me. I need all the exposure I can get.

Microstory 11: Immortal Danger

I came to this planet when I was 271 years old. The first person I met was a child named Ilarion Simeonov. What I discovered upon learning the custom of "shaking hands" was that I could turn any human immortal by nothing more than a touch. Ilarion immediately stopped aging, and is unable to be killed. It's not that he heals, or that he is impervious to injury. It's more that he is invisible to death. He has never been in danger.

Over the course of several centuries, I have incidentally immortalized fourteen more people. Occasionally, they can use their ability to protect others. There was actually a domestic terrorist plot against the TCL Chinese Theatre back in 1994. The instigators were caught trying to lift the duffle bags containing the bombs. An unseen force was weighing them down, simply because two of my immortals were spending the entire day seeing the same film over and over again. A suicidal immortal jumped out of an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean in 1974. He's been hovering about 20 feet over the water ever since. He refuses to let us retrieve him.

Today, I am dying. You see, where I'm from, our scientists have mastered genetic aging. Due to overpopulation concerns, they decided to cap everyone's lifespan to a certain number of years. Despite advances that rendered resources limitless, the richer still live longer. Some of the more impoverished live the equivalent of 22 Earthan years. And we always know when it's coming. I was born into one of the wealthiest families in our solar system. I am not due for death for another few centuries. It is my guess that I expedited my time limit each time I immortalized another person.

I am writing these, my final words, not so that you will know my story. But so that you will know yours. Before coming to Earth, I encountered many fallen civilizations. They had one thing in common. An inevitable and unstoppable disease spread throughout every population that mastered genetic aging, destroying it completely in a matter of months. And Earth is on the brink of the very same discovery. But I have also discovered that the disease can be avoided, by altering the method of genetic engineering. All you have to do is

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Microstory 10: Guardian Demon

Everyone else in this realm has a guardian angel. But I have a guardian demon. There was a clerical error at the Pseudocelestial Being Staffing Agency that they refuse to acknowledge. So, I'm stuck with him. One of the benefits of having a guardian is being able to name yours whatever you want. But I never did. I've regretted it no more than I do today. My demon has generally been a trickster. He'll hide my car keys in the tissue box. He'll cause my radio station to play the same Jack White song three times in one day. One time he just put on a matching set of clothes and copied my every move throughout the day. My coworkers were not amused. I giggled once, and no one has let me forget it. My demon has been on the job for 30 Earthan years now and that's usually when demons finally earn their horns. But due to what his superior officers called "a peculiar and unacceptable choice in vocation" he'll never get them. He went on a rampage. He never hurt anyone, mind you. Acting somewhat like an angel for three decades sort of softens you up. But he broke a lot of things, made several dozen people late for their yoga classes, and ridiculed a mallard to the point of tears. Yeah. They can cry. Look it up! It comes out of their tear ducks. Eventually, my demon was so exhausted that he could do no more damage except for a few nasty remarks to hipster college students passing by. One of the students stopped in his tracks and turned. His eyes gave off the familiar silvery glow of an archangel. He was being temporarily possessed. "Are you Pseudocelestial Being 97843740?" the archangel asked.

"I am," my demon replied, about to rip his own face off.

"Ah. We've been looking for you. You were supposed to earn your angel wings this morning."

"I'm a demon."

"We know. We made an exception."


"Did you make all this mess?"

"Well, yeah."

"Never mind, then."

Monday, March 9, 2015

Microstory 9: Sticks and Stones

Young Samuel Doolin sat in his class, hardly paying attention to what the teacher was saying. He was brighter than the other students, and should have been placed at least two grades higher. But he didn't care enough about school to let anyone know that. One phrase the teacher said, however, caught his ear. "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me."

Samuel cleared his throat, prepared himself, and raised his hand. Once called on, he said, "you're a stupid f***ing c***."

In the principal's office, Samuel was calm and collected. The principal, of course, asked him where he learned those words, and why he felt that it was necessary to say them. "Well, I speak English, don't I?" Samuel asked. "And they were necessary to illustrate a point."

"Which is?" the principal asked, curious.

Samuel began the apology. "There are three things wrong with the sticks and stones rhyme. First, it's just a lie. Words are powerful. And they can hurt deeply. Walk into a room of black people and say the "n" word, and just wait for the reaction. Secondly, the rhyme gives bullies free rein to say whatever they want, without repercussions. Obviously, that can't be true either as I am sitting right here. Thirdly, the rhyme places the responsibility on the victim to change their behavior. The bully was just saying whatever they wanted, as they are free to do. Should the victim is simply grit their teeth and ask for more?

Samuel continued, "you may either punish me for my actions, and reform your policies, or you can let me go and stick to your outdated and ridiculous values. But I will not stand for hypocrisy. Either I can say what I want because words can't possibly hurt others, or I can't, and the rhyme should be abolished from the curriculum."

The principal sat for a long while after the speech. "Okay. That makes sense. I won't punish you, because you brought up some good points. But we will change."

"No," Samuel insisted."You absolutely must punish me. That's part of the reformation. I did this in order to elicit change, not to get a rise out of you and my teacher. If I expect you to not be hypocritical, I cannot rightly be so myself." He was given detention for a week. And things began to change. Slowly.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Microstory 8: Siftens Landing (Part II)

Previously on Siftens Landing:
Mama Siften, of the Junglewood Forest Siftens, has tried to formulate a plan to fix their problem of new neighbors. But things get complicated when she accidentally invites them over for dinner.

And now, Part II of Siftens Landing:
The youngest little Lander, of the Junglewood Forest Landers, was smarter than the others. While Mama Siften was their leader, Moe Lander fancied himself a mastermind. As his brother used the new shovel to start digging four holes in the Siftens' backyard, Moe did nothing but think. He wondered how bad the dinner would have to go to get the new neighbors to consider moving away. There's that fine line between not bad enough to work and a felony. He finally had what he thought was the best idea he's ever had. While the children of the new neighbors hopped over the wall to help dig the holes, Moe snuck away to find a frog.

Next time on Siftens Landing:
While the three families search for little Moe, Allison Siften finds herself falling in love with one of the new neighbors. Can their love survive the rift? Will Moe find that perfect frog? And just what do they plan to do with the rope, the sawdust, and the distilled water?

Find out when Siftens Landing returns, which will be whenever I think of what happens next...