Summer of Super Short Stories Week Five

Welcome to week five of Luminous Creatures Press’s first Flash Fiction contest! This week Tiffany Aldrich MacBain will be your judge!

You have until 6 pm (PST) on Saturday to submit a 500-word story based on the prompt picture below. Post your story in the comments section; include your name, a title, the word count (not including title), and your Twitter handle if applicable. Only stories submitted before the deadline will be eligible to win. Our server has been having some problems, so if you cannot get onto the website to post your story, send it to beth@luminouscreaturespress.com by 6 pm Saturday. This week we’ll also be posting the prompt and instructions to our Facebook page. LCP is on San Francisco time; check the world clock if you have any questions. Good luck!!

Photo courtesy of Dave Peticolas

Photo courtesy of Dave Peticolas

8 thoughts on “Summer of Super Short Stories Week Five

  1. Jade Moss

    We Come and Go

    I’m sitting on a train in Japan. I know how to spell where we are going, but I’m still not sure we’re on the right train. This particular car is crowded; I’m seated between an elderly man and a girl who can’t be older than twelve. Both are sitting silently, faces slack, staring at their feet. On the other side of the car are businessmen in black suits and starched white shirts. There are young women in designer shoes and schoolchildren in uniforms. There are teenagers dressed in garish outfits from the American 1980s and elderly women with shopping bags on their laps. They come and go. Come and go.
    The steady hum of the air conditioning and the rattling of the wheels on the track fill the silence of the cabin. Thomas stands in front of me, both his tattooed arms extended to grip the bars that run across the ceiling. His body sways back and forth with the rustling of the train and he smiles at me. He’s always smiling at me.
    “What are you thinking about?” I ask.
    “Nothing, just how beautiful you are.” He leans forward and kisses me. This boy loves me, in a reckless sort of way.
    “How many more stops?”
    “Four, I think, until Zushi, then we’ll need to switch trains.”
    I look out the window behind me. The sky hangs so low that it feels as though it is going to fall out of the atmosphere on top of this city. I wish that it would. I want to be crushed by the weight of something unfamiliar. The houses closest to the train tracks are blackened and crumbling, their sheetrock eaten away, exposing the wooden bones underneath like carcasses torn and consumed by a starving predator. Office buildings loom in the distance at the edge of the skyline. Tokyo is a city plastered in bright colored ads and neon lights and a thick palpable sadness.
    It has been a long day. I still have sand stuck to the soles of my feet from the beach at Kamakura. Thomas and I swam out past where we could touch, like we used to do in California before he made the military his mistress. Soon this train ride will be over and we will back at the hotel. Tonight, we’ll have sex in a desperate, fleeting sort of way. It cost me 1,200 dollars, 27 hours and 5,470 miles to get here but I can’t stay. It’s all so temporary. This train ride, these people, this boy leaning over me and smiling. Here, in my present tense, the future haunts.
    The doors slide open and I am pushed out of the train by the weight of so many bodies needing to get out. Thomas’ hands are on my shoulders; their presence is comforting here, in a place where I do not belong. On the platform, we step away from the crowd. I look around. This is not Zushi. This is not where we are going.

    Word Count: 500

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  2. C Connolly

    The Marketplace

    Lights and lanterns criss-cross between the streets, red silk creating hanging banners between them, whilst the markets hustle and bustle below, candles casting a minimal glow over the crowds, Jack amongst them. Some are already seated at tables between the stalls, sampling the wares, although Jack would not like to say what it is they eat. That is renowned to be the market’s charm – the opportunity to experience the out of the ordinary, once only and then if one is lucky. Not everyone is invited to The Markets and of those who are, it is only courtesy of word of mouth.

    Jack has travelled several miles to be here as dusk settles in the skies overhead, to feel the heat from the hanging lamps, to see the flames fire the food he may yet taste, though he has no desire to settle in one spot just yet with so much to take in and experience. His night is yet young, though the hour is late. The Markets run into the morning, so he has heard. He hopes it is so and that he will be on his feet to see it.

    “Care for some company?” a female voice to his rear asks and Jack turns, taking in a narrow face, with high cheekbones and tawny brown, close-set eyes. The eyebrows are pencil thin and expressive, raised to emphasise the invitation. Jack blinks as his surroundings seem to sway, before righting themselves, with the woman at the epicentre. For a moment, he seems to see two crescents above, where one should be; the moon splitting itself, twin in reverse, as it faces about, in the opposite direction. When the water clears from his eyes, he knows it for illusion; tells himself the beer he indulged in at the entrance was stronger than he thought and that he must take it easy. The night is still warm, though the sun is low.

    “By all means,” Jack answers, clearing his throat briefly. His new companion is young and willowy, half a head shorter, with mischief in her eyes. They hold him captive, as he locks in upon them. He finds he cannot look away; cannot find it in himself to want to. The night will take him where it will within its wants. He has no needs, no desire, save to keep the gaze holding him in place. He feels himself falling deeper still, losing his sense of self. No care to cling to; not now; not any more.

    Jack has no way to gauge what time has passed when his eyes flutter into awareness once more. His head knocks its greeting from inside out, grumbling a greeting of overindulgence. His memories are distinct to the point of entry to the Marketplace only. All else is haze. Still, he thinks of the swift brush of velvet fur against his cheek, the white-gold of a tail’s tickle on turning, before losing them again to reality overriding the remnants of his sleep-ridden kaleidoscope of confusion.

    (500 words)

    @FallIntoFiction

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  3. Joshua Swainston

    $209.95 Almond Chicken Special
    By Joshua Swainston
    356 Words

    “Hey, you can’t park here.”

    “It’s alright,” said Paul, getting out of his Volkswagen Rabbit. “I’m only going to be here a minute.”

    “Do you see this sign?” The parking enforcement agent balanced upon his City of Portland issued Segway. Clad in safety pads and helmet, he resembled an authoritarian armadillo. “The P with the slash through it? It means no parking. So it’s not alright. Now move your vehicle or I’ll have to give you a ticket.”

    “Can you cut me a break, man? I’ve been driving around the block for twenty minutes. There’s nothing available. I mean, look.” Paul gestured down the curb at a line of densely packed cars. “Nothing. I’ll be inside for five minutes, max. Come on, please? My wife’s pregnant and she really loves the takeout from The Seven Dragons.”

    “If I let you park here, what’s next?”

    “What?” Paul asked, not sure if he understood the question.

    “Look, order needs to be maintained. To do that, the citizens of any society follow standards of behavior that allow us to function as said society,” explained the officer. “So, what’s next? I allow you to park illegally, and then I’m supposed to look the other way when I witness a robbery? Or maybe ignore a murder?”

    “That’s not anywhere near the same thing.”

    “Sure it is. Rules are rules. They are the threads which hold humanity from falling into chaos. If we cut one thread, how much longer before the entire social fabric rips apart?”

    “Doesn’t it have more to do with the result? Yeah, I’m parking illegally, but it’s for the good of my loved ones.”

    The officer stood ridged. “The ends do not justify the means when it comes to the law.”

    Paul looked at his wristwatch. “I could have been out of here by now. I’ve appreciated our discourse on the need for standards but I’m wasting time. My wife is waiting for me.” He turned from the officer and made for The Seven Dragons Restaurant.

    “I’m going to give you a ticket,” the officer warned.

    “I’ll suffer a bit of civil chaos for my own domestic tranquility.”

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  4. Voima Oy

    Same Time, Next Year

    @Voimaoy

    480 words

    In the remote countryside, there are places that still observe the old ways. It is only recently that we have begun to welcome visitors. But, that’s the way the world is, these days. Times change, like the weather.

    In the summer, we have a holiday for hungry ghosts. It is not the Buddhist concept, though. Based on Shinto, this celebration is even older than Obon and Tanabata, but it’s also about love and death and meetings.

    The streets are hung with strings of colored lights and lanterns. There is dancing and talking until the stars fade in the light before dawn. Houses are decorated. Favorite meals are prepared.

    We await the stars–the summer triangle of Altair, Deneb and Vega, forming a gateway that opens. We beat great drums to chase away the dark clouds, and summon our loved ones back to this world.

    The other world is different, they say. Time is slower, too. It takes a while to adjust. A year here is like a day there, a summer afternoon. For them, this reunion is like coming home from a day in the fields, as lights turn on in the evening.

    And at last here they come, a parade at dusk, just in time for the first fireflies. Walking down the roadway, one by one, all the dead lovers, and husbands and wives. They have put on silk outfits, and bodies. They have dressed for the festival, just for us.

    At first, they are so hungry for this world. Their eyes try to take it all in. They admire the lights and colors. They cannot eat and drink enough.

    They miss the weight of their bodies, the feel of skin. These first reunions have such sweetness. There is much touching without words. What is there to say? Which one will speak first?

    The night passes so quickly. No one has time for sleep. All too soon, the first birds sing as the light returns. Bodies entwined, untangle. Some are so reluctant to leave. You can imagine there are many tearful partings. Sometimes, even arguments.

    But now it is time to go, before the sun rises. We accompany our loved ones to the edge of town. Same time, next year, we’ll be laughing together, we promise each other. There is much waving and backward glances. At last they turn and walk into the light of the new day. We watch them until they are out of sight before we go back to our lives.

    But in time, our loves grow tired of this world, the constant coming and going. So much fuss! Too many new people to remember. Why get all dressed up? The bodies become too heavy, and the lights begin to hurt their eyes. The food is just too much. They grow lighter, more transparent, more distant. Our fingers go right through them, as they disappear at dawn.

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  5. David Shakes

    ‘Medicine’
    500 words
    David Shakes
    @theshakes72

    Here’s a true story. I had this skin complaint once. It itched like you wouldn’t believe; unsightly too – red welts with silver scales of flaky skin. I was a young man in his twenties and honestly thought this was the worst thing that could possibly happen.
    By the time I’d registered with a doctor, it had spread to my eyelids. The jaded looking physician prescribed hydro cortisone cream almost immediately, then quickly ushered me out. The instructions read ‘keep away from eyes’!
    This was the mid-nineties. My friend suggested alternative therapies and I thought ‘why not?’
    The cream was having no effect except giving my eyelids a strange translucence, and my lack of social life meant I’d accrued a fair bit of disposable income.
    As we lived near china town, I thought I’d try down there. Between shops and stalls selling cheap imports and plastic crap there were other places. I chose a brightly lit, white tiled shop. Subconsciously, I’d equating the austere setting with cleanliness and professionalism. A gorgeous girl smiled as I entered. She showed me to a seat asked me to wait for a consultation. Without asking, she brought a small cup of green tea. I’m wondering now, in hindsight, if that’s all that was in it?
    I began to relax and read through a leaflet about acupuncture. Its broken English amused me. The girl appeared again and took me by the hand. I cannot express in words how much that simple piece of human contact made me feel. We passed through an open doorway into a smaller room. She sat me in a leather armchair and stood behind it. She placed both hands gently on my shoulders and then bent down. The hairs on my neck stood on end at the feel of her breath. When she whispered in my ear the tingles began in my scalp and cascaded down. She spoke only three words: ‘doctor come now,’ but their effects reverberated for minutes after she’d gone. I’d never felt anything like it.
    When ‘the doctor’ entered, she was the antithesis of the wheezy old fart I’d seen at the surgery.
    I remember a crisp white lab coat and equally well laundered blouse. I remember a conservative skirt and incongruous shoes – impossible heels. I remember dark eyes most of all, and the barely suppressed sardonic smile as my ‘consultation’ proceeded.
    She prescribed a herbal remedy, a ‘tea’ to be drunk 3 times daily. It cost 30 pounds and would need refreshing within a fortnight. It smelt like shit and stained the pan I used to boil it up in – but it worked!
    I returned to China town buoyant and excited.
    The old woman behind the counter wouldn’t believe that the Chinese characters on my scrawled prescription had come from there. She fetched the ‘doctor’ – an old man I presumed was her husband. I described the women and they exchanged knowing looks before chasing me out of the shop.
    I never went back.

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  6. Karl A Russell

    Holes

    We sat outside, waiting for the waitress to notice us. I looked over the menu, trying to remember if I liked Chinese food, and if so, which bits. Allie sat opposite, gazing past me to the far end of the street. She shivered and I looked round, saw a couple of bored looking army cadets guarding another hole just beneath the Chinatown arch. They leant against the jet lions and practised their aim, sighting their rifles on the threadbare lanterns swaying above us. I turned back and gestured to my chair.

    “You want to swap?”

    She shook her head.

    “No, it’s okay. I just…”

    She trailed off, shrugging wordlessly.

    “Yeah, I get that. Especially here; Looks like they’ve been chomped by that big dinosaur, Whatsisname?”

    “Michael…”

    “No, I’m pretty sure that’s my name. Have you been tested recently?”

    She smiled, fast, then looked away. I wasn’t allowed to see that I could still amuse her. It wasn’t my job anymore.

    “How’s the twelve year old?” I asked.

    She shook her head.

    “C’mon Michael. He’s twenty nine and you know it.”

    “Yeah? Well he looks like he’s twelve. Do the kids help with his homework.”

    Allie opened her mouth to answer, then stopped, took a deep, sad breath.

    “We don’t have kids Mike. We just had the one. Remember?”

    The waitress interrupted us and I let Allie order for us both; It was easier and it let me step back from admitting that I didn’t remember. Saying that we had any kids at all had been a guess. I think Allie knew that anyway though; She didn’t push for an answer once the waitress left.

    As we ate our noodles, the other tables began to fill up and the mood in the street changed. The lanterns were lit and one of the cadets broke out a joint. The crash barriers surrounding the hole were dragged aside as people began to edge as close as they dared. There was music and laughter and the sounds of life, but not quite loud enough to mask the terror they all felt. Another diner brought up the BBC on his tablet and held it up for us all to see; Three new holes under Manchester. Forty-seven dead. Still no explanation as to why they were appearing, in things or people.

    I speared a fat pink curl of meat and held it up for Allie’s inspection.

    “Prawn,” she said, between mouthfuls of noodle. “Seafood. You like it.”

    I popped it into my mouth and chewed, more to see if she was right than anything else. It wasn’t bad.

    “So what’s next then?”

    She shrugged.

    “No sense in divorcing; The doctor said you’ve got six months, providing you don’t just jump in with the rest of them.”

    I wondered whether to be offended by that, but there didn’t seem much point.

    “Fair enough. You paying for the meal then?”

    More shrugging, or maybe just that first one, endlessly repeated.

    “Why not? It’s still your money.”

    499 words

    @Karl_A_Russell

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  7. milambc

    The Man with the Angel Hands (500 words)
    @brett_milam

    Kevin stayed on his bed, spread eagle, naked. It was a hot and sticky summer and he had coke ravaging his insides. Lun was in the bathroom fixing her makeup or something. He was glad for that, as he needed a moment to rest.

    Laughter, screaming, high-pitched voices, music, car horns, Kevin could hear it all from his position on the bed. The masses of people mostly spoke Chinese in bargaining for different items, a language he didn’t understand well. He just knew the language of sex and Lun understood the language of money.

    He was a chiropractor from Nacogdoches, Texas, the oldest town in the state with a population of a mere 32,000. And that’s why Kevin liked it. Small place such as that, it was easy to build trust with his patients. He’d carved out a niche for himself that proved profitable. Allowed him to travel, to do coke.

    Lun returned wearing pink lace and a purple wig on her head. She had a tattoo of a dragon etched around her neck and ending underneath her shoulder blades. It was impressive, good work.

    “Come over here, girl,” Kevin said. He had gray hairs crisscrossing his belly button. He twirled them between his fingers.

    She straddled him, her underwear still on.

    “No, not yet. You know what I do in the States, girl?” he said.

    “No, no,” she said. Every language knows no. Her voice was high-pitched, befitting her budding youth.

    “I massage people. You know, rub my hands–” he showed her his wrinkled hands, free of any gold or silver bands, “–on their back and shoulders and arms and neck,” he said, touching each of Lun’s body part as he said them.

    She didn’t say anything. She started dry humping against his leg, thinking that’s what he wanted.

    “Not yet,” he repeated, this time shoving her off. “I. Want. To. Give. You. A. Massage. See?”

    Kevin liked helping people. He liked to think he had angel hands. Mamma even thought so.

    He flipped her over on to her stomach and was the one straddling her now. With his hands, he started kneading the spot between her shoulder blades. Gentle at first and then with more pressure. She moaned. Turned him on.

    Where the fire from her dragon tattoo bellowed, he applied more pressure. She moaned louder. Hot.

    “This is what I do in the States. How you say, hǎo? Good, good?”

    More pressure applied, but this time to her neck. He shifted his hands to the sides of her neck, his hands opening and closing like a vice. She gasped. Her purple wig slipped off.

    His fingers found her throat. He pushed in harder until she gurgled.

    “No, no, no,” she managed to sputter. Her tears snaked around to his vice-like old fingers.

    Zuò, zuò, he thought. Done.

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  8. David Gentner

    Night of the Jade Dragon (500 Words)

    The red and gold paper lanterns were reflected back up towards the gray sky by the inky black puddles left behind by the evening’s summer rain. Despite the earlier storm a crowd was gathering in the small courtyard which served as grounds for the evening’s festival. The air was pleasant and filled with the aromas of tea smoked duck, starchy rice balls and, of course, the pork dumplings served by the small vendor in the center of the square.
    Chen’s bicycle splashed through the puddles as he raced through town. It was a great honor to make the dumplings for the yearly festival, one that his ancestors had been charged with for as long as anyone could remember, and this was the first time his grandfather had asked him to help tend the dumpling stand. Zipping past the tables with their folding chairs and silk decorations he came to the booth. Jumping from his bicycle he let it clatter into a heap near the trash bins near its entrance. A green neon image of a dragon thrummed as he entered the door beneath it.

    “You’re late!” his grandfather was chopping a handful of scallions.

    “I’m sorry Yéyé. The rain… Mother wouldn’t let me.” Chen grabbed a white apron.

    “Your mother… Bah! She never understand! She never believe! Hand me the garlic.”

    “Believe what, Yéyé?”

    “You think it’s just job to make dumpling? You think YéYé love to be surrounded by steam? Good for skin, yes? No! Without dumpling there be no festival. Without dumpling there be no village. Chop ginger. Listen!

    Long ago village only bamboo huts along shore and people were poor fishermen and farmers. One day two demons came upon the village, Tien Mu, demon of lightening, and her son, Lei Tsu, demon of thunder. They terrorized the shoreline for many seasons, destroying huts and sending villagers into the mountain.

    Eventually one villager, Enlai, grew tired of rebuilding hut and set out to find a way to defeat demons. Along his travels he found the Jade Dragon. He barter with dragon to save village. In exchange he promise dragon all the dumplings he can eat. Stupid Enlai. Of course dragon agree. Who not love dumpling?

    As dragon fought demons, scattering them to ocean, Enlai began to make dumplings and villagers prepared a great festival. But stupid Enlai see chance for fortune and start to sell dumplings to vlilagers. When dragon return Enlai had nothing to give him. Jade Dragon made Enlai swear to make dumplings every year on night of festival to feed dragon. Forever!”

    Chen stopped chopping. “Yéyé, I’m a little old for bedtime stories.”

    Just then a knock was heard at the door. Chen’s grandfather opened it. On the other side was a tall distinguished old man dressed in a robe of green and silver. His gray moustache, like a dragons tendrils, hung down passed his chin. Chen’s grandfather handed the man a box of already made dumplings, Chen hadn’t noticed before, and closed the door.

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