Mama and the FlowersI'm always dreaming about the flower garden. Back when we had that big house in the province, Mama and I would play there every day. She liked to hide there from Papa, who was always raging like a rabid water buffalo, so to cheer her up I'd make her garlands from fallen blooms to wrap around her neck or to weave into her hair. Mama loved that garden more than anything. More than even me. She'd work at the soil, digging it up, patting it down, and very soon pretty fragrant things would pop up as if from nowhere. She said she had a Midas touch, but instead of gold, everything she touched turned green. She said I'd inherit her green thumb someday. I laughed and clapped my hands. There was nothing in the world I wanted more.
Papa did not share our love for all things green. Whenever he'd come home from overseeing the rice fields and bossing around the farmers, he'd prowl the house and look for Mama so he could start bossing her around too. One day, Mama had ignored his screaming for too lo
Tick TockMarcel couldn't understand why Grand-pere kept the outmoded relics on a shelf by the window, where the sound of the ticking mingled with the odor rising off the Seine in summer made him regret ever being born. None of them were accurate—some didn't tell the time for any place on earth—he'd compared to his smartphone. The hour and minute, in full dramatic Parisian sensibility, were told by tiny yellowed skeletal hands. Real ivory, from before it was banned. There was something tortured about the little phalanges, as if they were held in place by a vast force, and not merely carved. The one furthest on the right was the worst: the unknown artist had slipped, so the radius and ulna really did look twisted.
But Grand-pere had no other relatives willing to guide him down the stairs and an apartment on the Ile St Louis was far too valuable to let go lightly. Marcel didn't know how old the man was, but there was no doubt he was in his twilight years. Soon.
Still, he hated those da
Two to TangoEdmund had already got the first round in and found a table by the time Cuthbert arrived. Edmund held up a hand in greeting, and Cuthbert made his way over. He sat down heavily next to Edmund and his shoulders slumped.
“Mary let you come out then?” said Edmund.
“Yeah,” said Cuthbert. He took a swig from his pint and set the glass down again. “To be honest, we needed a break from each other. She’s gone to play a game with her netball team. Keeping fit, you know, for…”
“Right,” said Edmund. “How are things going with..?”
“Trying for the baby?” Cuthbert sighed. “It could be worse I suppose. All the tests came back negative—there’s no medical reason we can’t have a child.”
“That’s brilliant!” said Edmund.
“But now we’ve been referred to a specialist,” said Cuthbert. He groaned. “She’s checking to see if we’re doing ‘th
FFM day sevenMy first bone clock was made from a stray dog. I found him flea-crawling, skin crumpled and raw where he had gnawed away clots of fur. Rib-thin and limping, he dragged himself into a scrawny copse and lay on his side panting. Miserable thing, close to dying. For a while I sat on the dirt and watched his skinny chest heaving and collapsing and swelling as if every breath was his last. I pictured bees with broken wings, rusted cogs and leaking wires, kitchen lights flickering, batteries dribbling acid. Little machines continuing lopsided.
Such grim purpose. I felt a type of sad.
I wrung his neck until it snapped and cradled his body home.
Horology was a family business. Mother made the finest pocketwatches, delicate brass gears layered perfect inside gold cases. Clockwork mouths, full of tiny teeth. They were so beautiful.
I made clocks for her. They were inferior copies. I'd bring them to her be
FFM '14.07 ToolsFreddie bit his lip to distract himself from the bead of sweat that rolled down his nose. Not only did he not want to shift his concentration, he didn’t have the hands to do so, as they were both occupied with the delicate task before him.
Bit by bit, he maneuvered the cutters into place, and after triple-checking to make sure they were where he wanted them, he forced them closed.
He saw that it wasn’t going to work almost immediately, but the bolt cutters were too heavy for him to risk dropping just to save the jar from falling. Then came the tinkle of breaking glass, and the sink was once again filled with glass shards and brine.
“Goddammit, Freddie,” his wife hollered from the living room, “just give up! You’re never going to open a pickle jar with bolt cutters!”
FFM7: Game OnJim floated above his corpse.
“Well this is a fine kettle of fish,” he said.
The zombies continued to gnaw at his body. It was hard to watch. Jim had just been running for his life a few moments earlier. Now that he was dead, he didn't know what to do with himself.
“Hey, Jim! Over here!”
He swiveled, surprised to hear his name. Hear? He didn't have ears anymore so that probably wasn't the right word. Sensed maybe.
“They got you too, huh?”
A wispy figure appeared. It bore a vague resemblance to the group's mechanic, Mike. They'd lost him early on in the zombie apocalypse when a tire blew on the bus. Those had been the days. They'd still had a flicker of hope in their bellies. They'd still had a bus.
“Hey, Mike, long time, huh,” Jim said, “I guess I'm not as fast as I said I was.”
“Sucks, don't it? Anyway, we've got a game going, thought you might be interested. There's not much to do otherwise.”
Stitching the World Together A tear was forming in the fabric. A man and his wife were drifting apart. Quickly she rifled through her bin, selected the red thread of love, passed it through her needle, and stitched the tear closed again.
But even before she finished that repair, an earthquake had destroyed thousands of homes along the coast. She pulled out a purple thread for compassion and pulled the rift together. On the radio, the DJ announced that countries from all over the world were coming together to provide aid to the stricken country.
At the edge, a bit was fraying. Someone was alone and hurting. For this she chose the blue thread of peace and hoped it held. More often than not, it didn’t.
Over on the other side, a patch had come loose. Drought had stricken an area, putting them at risk of starvation. From her scraps she pulled a green patch for life and sewed it into the fabric. Weather reporters forecast rain that night for the first time in
That Which Slept a Thousand YearsIt had slumbered for a thousand years, buried beneath the earth, awaiting the moment when it would roam free once more. Its dreams, as it slept, were of weird and eldritch things; and when it turned in its slumber the people above fell to writing and painting and murder, and to weeping. There was madness lurking on its breath. The beating of its hearts drummed fear into the minds of men, even from far beneath the earth.
In the thousandth year of its slumber a farmer unearthed a part of the great shell in which it rested: and seeing that he had come upon a great shining orb of unknown substance and (doubtless) great worth, he hastened at once to the palace of his prince to report his find. The prince received his report with great interest. He sent an army of men to excavate the thing at once; and for himself he retired to his library, to see whether any oracle had foretold of this great thing that shone beneath his kingdom, and what joys and sorrows it might bring him.
On the first day
No VacanciesPeter felt a headache building steadily behind his eyes. He wanted nothing more than to close them for a few hours – maybe even a few days. Unfortunately, he was on duty as Supervisor and would be for the foreseeable future; his only replacement was currently vacationing in a parallel dimension after pulling a decade-long shift himself.
The source of the headache seemed to lack any sympathy for him or his plight. Amazing how a soul could go from satisfied awe to spitting fury in the time it took to apologize and say, “there is no room in the Inn.”
Perhaps a joke hadn’t been the best initial course of action.
“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but there’s really nothing we can do,” he tried to explain once more, keeping his voice level. “Heaven unexpectedly ran out of housing three days ago. We have construction crews working on it, but demand is, so far, outstripping supply. There’s a waiting list a mile long and it’s gotte
FFM 2014: Last Rites and BureaucracyBrian was not amused.
He’d been up and down the building forty five times, taking elevators, dingy stairwells, and service lifts to outdated storerooms. He’d even had to use a fireman’s pole at one point when trying to access a particularly hard-to-get to part of administration, but all to no avail. The backlog was massive, stupefying, horrendous. It was like being stuck inside that Terry Gilliam film, what was it called… Brazil. Yes. Full of paperwork and frightening typewriters, with pale office clerks rushing too and fro wearing twitchy expressions.
When he’d set off that morning he’d expected it to be a piece of cake. There had been no existential dread, no worry, after all he’d been transferred before and it wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be. He’d received his ticket at the door and headed straight up to the top floor, as instructed. But then the imperious fellow in the upstairs waiting room with the ridiculous name tag
Marble Memories (FFM Day 7)In a room of bone clocks, she cradles a soul in her palms. The last gasps of his life are hydrangea peach, flickers of fire reflecting off the crystals hanging from each timepiece. Amber chews on her lip, gaze jumping from wall to wall. She pushes a thick sheaf of honey-blonde hair from her face, thinking.
When the test results came back, they'd covered every angle. He obtained a DNR and found a doctor willing to help him pass quick and painless. He begged for cremation, and left her instructions. He wanted to be a firework; he told her who to invite, and where to send him off, and what song to sing as the colors of his ashes faded into the night.
They never discussed what to do after. What to do with his soul.
Amber started with Heaven. He'd always been a gentle, kindly man. He'd take the shirt off his back for the homeless in the winter; he'd set families up in hotel rooms if funds were tight and they needed to get away.
Clockwork BonesA miniscule dot moved over the horizon. The little dot grew into a beach mouse as it skittered along the coast avoiding the ever present crash of waves that washed over the bleached sandy shore. In the early hours the sun had barely stretched its arms over the horizon. The little mouse stopped to smell the air and was caught in the playful splash of the next swell. She spun around in the sea foam as the water soaked her fur.
When she came to a stop her tiny body sat atop a hard surface. It was white and aged, buried in the soft powdery sand. With her little paws she dusted the granules away to reveal the orbit of where an eye once rested. In the next wave the entire skull resurfaced; a lone relic of a wicked world. She peered at the thing, oblivious to the life it once held. She slid off the smoothed bone and landed alongside the broken time-piece. A crack the size of her body etched into the skull echoed of trauma once suffered.
Ever constant, the sea came again. She patted her way do
Jeremy's Plight - FFM 2014 Day 7"Sir, you've got a prayer on line 1."
"Ugh, can you put it on hold or something?"
"Sorry, sir, it's the Prime Minister of the Catholic Church; he's got priority."
"Fine, fine." He answered the phone. "Yes, my son? Uh-huh. Uhhh-huh. Okay. Got it. Just tell them to stop hatin' on my flock. After all, no matter who you are, you are united as my children. Love ya, Francis; bless you later."
He was known by many names. God, Allah, Jehovah, Elohim, Brahman, but honestly, he just preferred Jeremy. Jeremy was the CEO of Heavenly Afterlifes, and had been since the dawn of time. Some things never change. Including the problems.
Like right now, for instance, he was getting bomarded with prayers. Has been for the past two thousand years. Humanity has had some hard times since he decided a hands-off approach to his business was the best way to about things. He hired so many angels for the reception area, but there never seems to be enough.
And now, thanks to that pesky industrial revolution a coupl
FFM#8 [Challenge] -- Passivity"Seriously, you need to clean this shit up."
"Clean what shit up?
"Ha. I can understand your confusion, since it's pretty fucking difficult to pinpoint exactly where the shit ends and the actual fixtures of the room begin."
"Oh fuck," Gary drew out the vowel like a phone-call doodle. "You've got that pissy tone in your voice again. Calm your farm man."
Damien tried to visualise a farm that he could calm. But even in his mind's eye the rolling cornfields were covered in chip packets, and Gary sat slouched in a sun-weathered rocking chair, smoking a joint with a video game controller inexplicably in hand.
"Fuck my farm. How can you even live like this?"
Gary contrived to stretch out even further on the couch, knocking some dreg-filled beer bottles onto the floor. "What do you care? You got a sweet deal here. Rent's cheap."
Damien practised his pointed look.
"Look, my brothers are in active duty, man. It's stressful. Ha!" He pointed at the projected television screen, "Check out this blow
FFM8: The End of UsShip stopped talking. There was nothing more to do. We failed---I failed.
The lights flickered as the emergency generators kicked on. The main engines were gone, the hangar doors were stuck up, clogged by desperate, uninvited passengers. I couldn't even begin to guess if any of them were infected.
Most of them probably were, and when they finally turned, they'd tear the ship apart, devouring it until nothing was left. Mutated fingers would find their ways into the live sockets. They'd short out the current and send the virus deep into the ship. When it reached the air vents and life support control, it would transform to a gas. It would pump into the holds, the crew quarters, the main bridge and everyone would breathe it in. Earth's last hope for survival would die right here, never making it into orbit.
“Captain, what should we do?”
I fished the flask of scotch out of my breast pocket. I'd been saving it for the launch, to celebrate. My hands shook as I unscrewed the lid.
aftermath (FFM 8)Dearest Carlo,
I hope this letter finds you well, although I suspect it will not. I admit that I would be surprised if my correspondence finds you at all. Given the circumstances under which we are all living, it would be a true miracle. But "miracle" has become a dirty word as of late.
I digress. Carlo, darling, I am writing in the hopes that you will receive this letter, and perhaps be able to respond. We are so starved for news from the greater world here. We have had no communications since that fateful day; I'm sure you know the day in particular that I'm referring to, but perhaps it was only our small islands that suffered. Perhaps no-one else died. On the off-chance that you, and the rest of the world, are safe and well (and ignorant of what has happened), I shall endeavour to explain.
Approximately four months ago, I was out on the boat, travelling to Stewart Island with the children. As you know, I teach primary school, and we were all very excited to be going camping on such
The Fifth Horseman“I'm not saying they're not killing each other,” I explain. “I can see from the figures in front of me that they're killing each other. What I'm saying is that unless you can broaden your demographic, we're never going to meet our targets for this quarter. This is supposed to be a world war, Belgium and the Netherlands isn't going to cut it.”
War squawks at me down the phone. It's hard to hear him over all the screaming in the background, but frankly I'm not interested in his excuses, I need to see results.
“What do I expect you to do? Do your job! Think outside the box! Look, Famine is in Europe right now, why don't you ask him for some help? I see the potential for synergy there. No, I'm aware you don't do 'asking for help'. I'm also aware of your performance over the past century, and I'm noticing some startling correlation between- hello? Hello?”
I slam the handset back into its cradle, which is a lot harder than it sounds when done from the back
Last Minute Shopping It had been an unremarkable Tuesday at the petrol station until Pestilence—of Four Horsemen fame—came in and started leafing through a magazine. He didn’t exactly have a “Hello, my name is...” tag pinned to his robe, but it was pretty obvious to look at him. Limp hair, pale, pock-marked face, bow legs...it was like he had every disease in the world, and was only alive because all of them were tripping over each other trying to kill him. “Three Stooges Syndrome,” I think they call it. But that probably wasn’t it.
He must have realised I was staring because he said: “Sorry. I know this isn’t, like, a library, but I sent a letter in to the Agony Aunt a while back and I want to see if they’ve printed a response.”
“Oh, right,” I said. “No, that’s okay.” As a rule, I didn’t take issue with people having a quick ski
Tantrum Tremors (FFM Day 8)God, reincarnated and still bundled in diapers, throws himself to the floor and screams. A giraffe chewy falls from his mouth; his hands beat against the blue-gray linoleum. Stricken, his nursemaids and I rush to soothe him, cursing. Holy or not, two-year-old God is a terror.
The morning started off fine. He'd managed to Houdini his way out of the crib--and the locked nursery--before the sun tinged the clouds with highlights, leaving a trail of milk through Heaven. He got halfway to Earth before the night shift, cross and tired, caught up with him and passed him over. He'd finger-painted his oatmeal across his highchair and dropped his Snoopy sippy cup just to be funny. He'd then settled in to watch his favorite movie: Finding Nemo. Nestled on my nap, he'd spent the first part of the movie dozing.
Just as Dory was begging Marlin not to leave her, not to let her forget, God went looking for his ratty, hand-me-down blanket--and came b
The Curious Case of Benjamin Bunge There once was a man named Benjamin Bunge. He was really smart, and all sorts of people came to him with their problems. One of these people was Wobble-leg Wenda, who liked the idea of skiing but was woefully bad at it.
“Try bungee jumping instead,” offered Benjamin Bunge. “Anyone can go bungee jumping.”
So she did, and it was lots of fun.
A few days later, Benjamin Bunge met Sweaty-hands Saul, who figured he was pretty good at basketball...until he got kicked off the team.
“Why not try bungee jumping?” As Benjamin Bunge pointed out, “Anyone can go bungee jumping.”
So he did, and it was lots of fun.
A few days after that, Benjamin Bunge bumped into Warty Wilfred, whose modelling career just didn’t seem to be taking off for some reason.
FFM 7. PromisesOne hand on her sword, Hetya stood on the cliff overlooking the world at the edge of town. The innkeeper, and his son, pleaded with her to spend a second night, claiming an approaching storm would hinder her journey through the plain. She told them her family anxiously awaited her return, as unexpected as it might be, and then she promised to return and repay her thanks. She always kept her promises.
A single star winked on the horizon. Miles of rolling hills stretched beneath the cliff. The final light of day blinked out behind the girl with a flash of green, briefly illumining the low wisps of clouds in the west. The clear night showed no threat of ill weather. A light breeze ruffled her hair. She smiled.
A grey obelisk rose up on the edge of the cliff next to her, tapered to a point. Smaller stones encircled the memorial. The inscription ran like fire when she closed her eyes. Here lies Hetya Stone. A daughter, a warrior. Where winter dies, spring is born.
She adjusted the st
Happy AccidentsSometimes I wake up in the morning, blink against the blue light coming in the window, and forget for just a second that the rest of the world is dead.
When I was a kid, I read stories about how some of the best inventions and discoveries resulted from accidents. “Happy accidents,” my mom called them. I grew up hoping that one day I would be a scientist, and “accident” into something incredible. I achieved my goal—I’m not unhappy and it was something incredible.
Three months ago, I walked into my lab like I do every day, coffee in one hand, cell phone in the other, ready to work. An hour later, the entire lab went up in a puff of green smoke. I managed to make it to my safety bunker before the explosion went off, but by the time it was safe to emerge, the damage had been done.
I stayed in the bunker a month, waiting for my detector to tell me that it was safe to exit. When it still hadn’t gone off after a month and my food supplies were running