Flash: Dragonfly

Image from Ashish Khanna of Unsplash

“The polymorph worked! Holy Sheet!” The thief danced around waving a wand he just used for the first time, but not saying the activation word again.

The slightly charred fighter and cleric leaned against each other, eyeing the dragonfly as it buzzed around the churned grass, mud, and baked broken ground on the meadow. “I can’t believe it, thank Mercury for his luck,” whispers the cleric.

“Amen.” The fighter responded, not sure if the luck was a gift from the gods or a comment about Lorelless’ insane ability to walk out of any situation smelling like roses.

The artificer lowered her umbrella shield slowly, drawing it back into a walking stick. “How? How did that even work? I mean the mass conversion on that should have resulted in an explosion.”

Lorelless grabbed her face, “Shh, Jasmine, stop overthinking it. Just live in the moment and be happy.” He kissed her, because why not take advantage of her distraction, it could be days before she let him get within pickpocketing distance again. Not that he would ever pickpocket her, the crap in her pockets were a variety of sharp tools, some capable of slitting fingers in half. If Alister hadn’t treated that instance as a learning opportunity, Lorelless would have eleven fingers instead of just ten. He still owed Mercury some coin for that healing.

“Bah, why do you do that?” She pushed him away.

“Because he like you, Jasmine,” the fighter, the oldest of their group shook his head. Unless it had gears and whistles, Jasmine had no clue. He didn’t think that she was actually opposed to Lorelless’ pursuit, she just didn’t understand it.

“I like him too, but that is all germy and,” she rubs her chest with her gloved hand, “weird feeling.”

The dragonfly, after closing the distance from where it had been transformed, annoyed that it took so long to travel a distance she used to be able to transverse in a single leap, landed on the hateful wand.

Like her intelligence and sense of being, the mass of the dragon had not, in fact, been removed by the polymorph.

(words 354; first published 5/26/2024; created 11/19/2023)

Lorelless & Jasmine Series

  1. Dragonfly (5/26/2024)
  2. Even when the trees are apart (6/23/2024)

Flash: Join the Crew

Image from Jennifer Marquez on Unsplash

“Come forward, hermana.”

Anita walked forward to the gray-haired, stooped old man, her body trembling, her head bowed with her black hair streaming down against her white quinceaera gown, grateful for the gown still fitting a year later, though gaping wider at the chest and re-cinched at the waist. Her family was poor; the gown would be sold after this ceremony, her younger brother not needing it. She dropped to her knees on the first of galvanized diamond-etched steps making up the repurposed the spiral staircase. The metal used to connect the bridge to engineering, now it connected the passenger-congregational area of the community casa y iglesia to the Ship Logs.

“Rosita blessed, guiding light, she who brought us to Neuvo Mundo through Starfire and Voidcold. Before us this day is a child, our future. A daughter and a sister. You have guided and protected her four times four rounds of our home. Today, matching days to the ancient world, she has reached majority and is a child no more.” The priest of the Shipboard Faith paused. “Are her parents present?”

Her parents rose from the madera-nega bench they sat on and came forward. “Nosotros estamos aqui.”

“Do you have a marido for your hija?”

“No one has spoken to us or her. We present her to the Ship as an adult with no contracts for apprenticeship or procreation.”

Few men took on the title husband without a hefty dowry, and her small family were saving what little credit they had for their son. Fewer still of the skilled artisans and crafter took on apprentices outside their families. Her family’s small pasto y madera farm would go to her brother. Anita would need to find her own way in their colony.

“Rosita bless you for raising a child from birth to adulthood. Thank you for answering the calling, padre, madre. You are relieved of the onus you took on for us all.”

They sighed in relief behind her, her lifegivers, the ones who raised her, before retreating. Last year they celebrated her fifteenth birthday with all the love in them. Today, they willingly gave up obligations related to her. They had talked about it, her and her parents, but still, it hurt. Sixteen years was not enough; eighteen years and twenty-seven days by the Earth calendar, was not enough.

“Hermana Anita, welcome to the Shipboard. Do you join our vessel freely and of your own will?”

Not knowing any other options after being raised in the small Neuvo Mundo colony, forty-two light years from the ancient world, Anita answered, “I do.”

“Do you wish to serve the vessel as crew, or travel as a passenger?”

Anita inhaled deeply. What she was about to ask wasn’t asked often and granted even less, but without a husband and no skills, the procreation and school house was her only other option. “Officer on Duty, I wish to join the crew.”

“Daughter of passengers, the life of crew is hard. Are you sure you wish to take up this burden?”

“I do,” Anita’s voice was firm.

Officer Alfonso turned on the narrow spiral riser and walked up to where the Ship Logs were stored at the top of the fifty-foot spiral. Each step set the bells sewn along the outside edge tinkling, reminding the congregation of the sounds their ancestors used to hear as the ship heated and cooled on its long journey.

A second Officer, Hermano Sanchez, the one who normally covered Night Shift, came out of the audience and stepped around Anita to mount the steps. He carefully measured his stride against Alfonso’s, so the bells harmonized, traveling up to the first landing and stepping off onto the platform where the Console was suspended above the main floor.

The Officer on Duty walked down the steps carefully carrying a non-reflective metal black box. He stopped at the Console for the Calibration ceremony.

Relaxing her hands where they had gripped her skirts, Anita smoothed the wrinkles. No female had tried to join the crew as long as she had been alive. Last two who tried both died. According to what little times she spent with the copy of the logs available on the passenger level, women had never done well qualifying for crew. And fewer qualified among each of the three generations born under gravity.

Anita knees hurt against the repurposed metal while she waited hoping she would be an exception. She didn’t want to die. The planet hadn’t been kind, and she, like all females raised in the colony, knew her onus to replenish the ranks. The colony was struggling to survive. Food they had in plenty, but much of it became natural contraceptives to humans in the sun and soil of Neuvo Mundo. She would hate to deprive her community by dying, but she knew she wouldn’t survive as passenger procreator. Being a crew lifegiver and careraiser to the seven Officers that served as clergy, leadership, and security would be challenge enough.

At last, the priest of the Shipboard Faith returned to the passenger level and set the black box against the staircase handrail until it clicked into place. He then opened the box. From inside he raised out a golden crown of Roses ad Rays, each ray an antenna sparking with its own LED light.

“Blessed be Rosita, Captain of Us All,” said the Officer on Duty, holding the crown high for all to see.

“Blessed be Rosita, Engineer of La Libertad.” The congregation returned.

“Hermana Anita, I ask once again, do you wish to join the crew and take on all onus, duties, and responsibilities pertaining thereto?”

“I do.”

“Rise, hermana.”

Anita stood, carefully holding onto the handrail after so long on her knees. Between her short height as a third generation compared to the Officer’s first generation and him being on a step above her, he easily lowered the crown to her head.

“Hold it steady.” He instructed, his voice cracking with age as he reached under her chin to buckle some trailing wires. He took the step down and walked to first one side and then the other to connect additional strings around her ears. He then lifted his hand back to the crown. “Let go.”

Anita lowered her hands away from the slick feeling metal, waiting for whatever came next. The copies of the Ship’s Log said nothing about how the Rose testing worked. Some of the Diaries speculated the Crown came from the Captain Helmet which allowed her to communicate with the La Libertad before a meteoroid holed its second AI unit, destroying its personality.

Shadows grew sharper surrounding her, until the passenger-congregation gasp helped Anita figure out the Crown lights were growing brighter. Then, as the glow emulated from the gold metal crown, she felt the spike rays slip downward through her thick hair, etching into her scalp. First with a pinch, then a pressure. Anita bit her lip hard enough to bleed when the humming pain began. She fell forward, grabbing the handrail for support.

“Auh!” she screamed as the rays dug deep, the shorter ones completely imbedding in her head. Someone kept her from falling forward, guiding her down onto the hard textured steps. Iron and burnt hair taste and smell filled her mouth and nose. Abruptly the pain stopped, but so did all tastes and smells. The world turned black and soundless, except for a group of dots brightening and dimming one after the other in a circle.

(words 1,247; published 5/5/2024; created 11/19/2023)

Flash: X is for Xenophile

Image by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Original Photo description: In South Korea these sculptures are part of the light festival. Dragon vs. Tiger.

Xanadu halted, stunned, staring up at the two lanterns doing battle. A tiger challenging a dragon. Fortunately, this wasn’t their first paralyzation tonight as their xenophile brain completely shut down required motor skills, so I didn’t run into them and I was able to keep others in the festival crowd from bumping into my special American.

I wrapped my arms around them and placed my head on their shoulder. “What is it this time?”

“Other than sheer beauty?”

“Ne.”

“The details of the flames lit from within by the lantern. I think I can…” They moved their hands as though chiseling or carving. “Please take a picture of them, Seok.”

Lifting my camera, I start taking pictures as we circle the lantern pair from different angles. Sometimes I activate the movie mode, because somehow Xanadu can capture movement in their sculptures and carvings and I think they will need to see three-D aspect which still just can’t. When I’m done, they hug me tight and tell me for the ninth time tonight how glad they were I brought them to the Winter Seoul Lantern Festival.

We move on, and I wait for their next dazed reaction.

(words 196; first published 4/28/2024)

Capturing the Tiger and Dragon Series

  1. X is for Xenophile (4/28/2024)
  2. X is for Xylotomous (5/19/2024)
  3. X is for Xanthic (6/9/2024)
  4. Exhibit (7/14/24)
  5. Exit Strategy (9/1/2024)

Flash: A is for Always

Image from freedigitalphotos.net

“Momma, no don’t hang…”

The dial tone said it all.

“I will always love you.” A lie repeated so many times growing up to a child. But an adult, making their own choices. Unacceptable. Love is conditional.

Staring at the numbers doesn’t make them dial back. Should the child or the parent be the one to reach out? Who is responsible for the relationship?

(words 64; first published 4/1/2024; created 11/18/2023))

Flash: Clockwork Dragon

Image by Laith Abushaar on Unsplash

“I did it!” The white-coated mad-man screamed. “Do you see that Meriday? It lives!”

Cowering into the corner, hoping his dark skin would hide him from his master’s creation, Meriday felt the sting of pride. It wasn’t Mr. Floyd who had figure out he needed four crocodile bones down the neck to hold the soul of the steam automaton, but Merry. His momma had taught him some of the secrets of the wild women before he got sold down river. It wasn’t Mr. Floyd who had fetched the ash from a burned church to make the black fluid for the hydraulic pumps. Sneaking through Virginia during the unrest looking for the right riot, the right town, to get the ash had taken months. The border North so close, but Mr. Floyd talking to one politician after another even closer, demanding to see him every Sunday during his quest.

It certainly wasn’t Mr. Floyd standing in the middle of the hurricane flying a kite like he was some thrice-damned descendent of Mr. Franklin. But white man will claim credit and there is nothing old Merry can do to stop him. Not that Merry wanted credit for mechanical mayhem his owner had raised. The door of the barn near, he wondered if he could slip out before master noticed.

Before the dragon noticed.

Master didn’t see the light in the dragon’s eyes. The orange light of zombie. The light of clockwork consciousness.

Something had responded.

Master didn’t lie in that the dragon lived.

(words 251; first published 11/23/2023 – flash written for Facebook Group prompt with a goal of 50 words)