Thursday, July 29, 2010

#fridayflash--Princess Jenni, Hero to All

Princess Jenni, Hero to All
by Eric J. Krause

When I was 15, my girlfriend gave me an iPod even though it wasn't my birthday or any other special occasion. I wasn't appreciative, but not for the reasons she thought. Not entirely, anyway.

She screamed at me that just because I already had one doesn't make the new one any less special. I knew that. My problem was more because she--her family--couldn't afford a cheap mp3 player, let alone an iPod. My fifteen year old brain couldn't put those words nicely into context, however, and I'm sure I said something cruel. (As if I don't remember every word, every syllable, I yelled at her.)

She slapped me and ran off sobbing. I slumped down and felt tears rise in my own eyes. That could have gone better. I wasn't much with words, but I vowed I would think of something to say to make things right between us. I really did love her.

As I walked home, I examined the iPod. She'd knitted a cover for it, and inside was a small note. "I wrote and recorded these for you." That stopped me in my tracks. I had no clue she could play an instrument, let alone write songs.

The earbuds were on in a flash, but there was no music loaded on the player. Was she playing a prank on me? No, that wasn't her style, nor would she have gotten so upset. I went back to the main menu and tried podcasts. There they were. Hundreds of recordings. If she'd written and recorded these all for me, where had she found the time? Damn. As if I didn't feel like enough of a jackass.

I scrolled down to the first entry and pushed play, not sure what I would get. Jenni's voice came on, and without any buildup, she dove into a story. At fifteen, I hated to read or use my imagination in any way that didn't involve naked ladies, so I guessed I would turn this off soon enough, or at least hate every hour I'd have to spend listening to get back into her good graces. What use did I have of elves, unicorns, and flying horses?

Instead, the story drew me in. Her voice--a soft, sensuous melody I'd never heard--dropped my defenses and allowed the words to lift me into her fictional world. I lost myself in the make-believe easier than with all the special effects of a Hollywood blockbuster.

Time ceased having meaning. I don't remember the walk home, the trip though my house, or anything. If my mom hadn't knocked on my door announcing dinner, I don't know how long I'd have sat there listening. I wouldn't have remembered to eat, that's for sure.

After dinner, before I could get back to my room, Jenni called. She wanted to do something, but I blew her off. I had to get back to the story. It wasn't until a few days later that I recognized the hurt, the pleading, in her voice. I can't recall exactly what we said to each other (really this time), though I wish I could. I'll never forgive myself that the last words I ever heard from her, at least not on a recording, dripped with such pain.

When I hung up the phone, I didn't give the conversation any more thought. She'd forgive me on Monday when I gushed about how great her story was. I spent the rest of the weekend with the earbuds planted firmly in place.


I approached our normal Monday morning meet spot outside the cafeteria to the sight of sobbing students and a jumble of flowers. When I was close enough, I saw pictures of Jenni mixed in. Friends and acquaintances hugged me and offered condolences. My blank looks only brought out more tears.

What happened?

Her parents found her late Friday night with foam dripping from her mouth, a dozen pill bottles by her feet, and a suicide note pinned to her blouse. Any hope was gone by the time the paramedics arrived. No one at school knew what the note said, and for that I'm grateful. Later, when I read it, it was all I could do not to join her.

You'll excuse me if I don't share what the note said, which, contrary to the rumors, was not written in her blood. Some things I'll take to my grave. Though I was not named, her parents knew it was me. That was why I had to wait until Monday to find out. It was also the reason I wasn't welcome at the funeral. That hurt almost as much as losing her.

It took a few months, but life, as it is wont to do, slipped back to normal. People still asked me if I was doing okay, and I always put on a brave face and said I was. I missed her, but life goes on. What no one saw was what I did with my free time. It took quite a number of college-ruled notebooks, but I managed to transcribe every word from that iPod. Only then did I feel ready to tackle the challenge at hand. Using her world, the one she'd taken so much pride and joy in creating for me, I wrote the story of Princess Jenni, champion to elves, conqueror of ogres, and hero to all.

Someday I'll share those stories so my sweet princess will gain the never-ending life she so desperately deserves.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

3 Short Stories to Listen To

This week I have three short stories for you to listen to. They come from three different podcasts: PodCastle, PseudoPod, and The Drabblecast. To listen, you can either follow the links I have below, or download them on iTunes (my preferred method). Simply search for the podcast, and then download the episode. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did!

The first comes from the fantasy fiction podcast, PodCastle. It's called The Queen's Triplets by Israel Zangwill. It's an old story, published in the late 1800s, but it's a fun one to listen to. It reads like a fable, which, in a way, it may just be. I enjoyed the colorful language and the narrator did a great job with it.

The next story comes from the horror podcast, PsuedoPod. It's Fading
Light by Simon Strantzas
. This is a bleak ghost story centered around two poor guys who can't get over being dumped by their girlfriends--the narrator from five years prior. He helps his recently dumped buddy find a place to rent, but the place turns out to be haunted.

The final story of the week comes from The Drabblecast. It's called Cassie
by Tim Pratt
. This story is worth a listen all on its own, but there is also a drabble (a story of exactly 100 words) and a humorous talk of the Rock, Paper, Scissors World-Wide Organization that make this entire episode a great listen.

I hope you enjoy these three stories as much as I did. As I say every week, I'm getting nothing from anybody for showcasing these stories. They simply entertained me, and I wanted to point them out so others can enjoy them, as well. Until next week, keep reading and/or writing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Writing Prompt #26

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror, but as always, you can take it whatever direction you so choose. Have fun with it!

You discover your best friend performs human sacrifices.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

#fridayflash--The Rattle

The Rattle
by Eric J. Krause

I'd had the car a few weeks before I dug in and gave it a deep examination. There was a rattle in the trunk that drove me nuts. The previous owner warned me about it, and assured me his mechanic said it was nothing to worry about. I'd tried to ignore it, but the harder I tried, the more it bothered me.

The problem was it didn't happen every time. On some trips it'd go all day without so much as a tink. My hopes would rise, thinking I was finally rid of the cursed noise, but mere blocks from home, it would clatter around, reminding me of its presence. And, of course, other times it wouldn't shut up the entire time I drove.

I'm not a car guy. Hell, I'm lucky I don't screw up trips to the gas station. But if the mechanic wasn't worried about the rattle, it probably wasn't a car problem. Not really. A bit of exploring could lead even a car knowledge idiot like me to it.

I opened the trunk and lifted the panel that formed the floorboard and covered the spare tire. It couldn't be coming from the spare itself, since both the previous owner and the mechanic would've figured that out. Just to make sure, I put my weight on the bumper and bounced a bit. Nope. No rattle.

I unscrewed the spare and lifted it out. Something down there had to hold the answer. Maybe the previous owner hadn't bothered to give it much of a look. And the mechanic likely just checked to make sure the car was safe, not what actually caused the mysterious noise.

Nothing looked out of the ordinary, or at least from what I considered ordinary to be. I ran my hand around the sides of the spare tire well, and bingo! Some sort of latch. It was hidden so secretively that I still couldn't see it even when I knew where to look.

I opened the tiny door, expecting a ball bearing or loose nut or something to fall out, but that wasn't it. Instead, a shimmering cloud of silver vapor floated out. I stepped back, not sure if it was toxic or not. It hovered above the bumper for a second, then solidified.

I gasped. It was a tiny, green-skinned man, no bigger than a silver dollar. It looked up at me, its eyes glowing neon pink. "Thanks," it said, its voice raspy and squeaky all at once. "They trapped me in there so I couldn't feed on the engine, wires, or fluids. And we gremlins need plenty to eat." With that, he leapt off the bumper and bounced up into the exhaust pipe, never to be seen again.

And that, my friends, is why my car is such a piece of shit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

3 Sci-Fi Podcast Stories

I'm back this week with three stories for you to listen to instead of just two (to make up for not posting last week). I've decided, at least for the next few weeks, to concentrate on podcast stories. I do this for two reasons: one, I have a bunch backed up on my iPod, so I might as well go through them, and two, I've discovered the bliss of kicking back, shutting my eyes, and letting the story take me away. Lazy? Maybe, but at least I'm getting a story out of it.

All three stories this week come from the podcast EscapePod. You can listen to these right from the EscapePod page (I'll give each address below), or you can go to iTunes, search for EscapePod, and download these episodes. However you choose to do it, enjoy! I did.

The first story is Episode 239: A Programmatic Approach to Perfect Happiness by Tim Pratt. This one has a pretty humorous tone throughout. At its core, it's a story about the rights for humans to marry robots. Of course, sex with robots is also a major factor in this debate. It also deals with the ramifications of humans catching the happiness virus (and others like it). This is separate from the human/robot love debate. Also make sure you listen to the poem before the story--"Scientific Romance" also by Tim Pratt. Sci-fi fans will especially get a kick out of it.

The next story is Episode 240: The Last McDougal's by David D. Levine. This one is set a few decades into the future when most people don't venture out of the homes--their entire lives can be run from home, so why bother? McDougal's is/was a fast food franchise (hmm...wonder where that name came from), and a gentleman talking his sullen niece across country finds bliss as he rediscovers this gem from his younger years. The teen, however, doesn't share the same memories, so she's less than enthused. Chaos ensues, and life lessons are learned.

The last story for this week is Episode 241: Thargus and Brian by Stephen Gaskell. This is a funny little story about an alien who must travel many, many light years to Earth to impost his will on a human. Only then can he be accepted as an adult in his society. But there are two problems: one, he doesn't believe in being forceful, and two, he abducted a stoner.

I hope you check these stories out. As always, I'm getting nothing from anyone for publishing the links to these stories; I'm doing it just to bring attention to good fiction. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Writing Prompt #25

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy, but as always, you can take it whatever direction you so choose. Have fun with it!

"X" marks the spot

Thursday, July 15, 2010

#fridayflash--Shadows Ghosts Wraiths

Shadows Ghosts Wraiths
by Eric J. Krause

They were nothing. Shadows. Ghosts. Wraiths. No one acknowledged them. No one glanced their way. But it didn't bother them. They had each other.

Though the teachers didn't call their names during attendance, they showed up to each class every day. What else was there to do? They absorbed the material, soaked up the lectures, and finished each assignment before heading home.

The rest of the school day--passing periods, nutrition break, lunch--while the other students talked, laughed, horsed around, and ignored them, they clung to one another. His lips lingered on her forehead; her fingertips lingered on his chest. Everyone existed but them; no one existed but them.

At the end of the day, they drifted off campus and headed for home--a rose garden across town. They weren't physically bound to that spot, but loyalty kept them there. Their ashes were scattered all around the beautiful blooming bushes, a living memorial to their short lives. Mere feet away, on the edge of the sidewalk, people still left gifts and mementos to mark their passing, their murder. A drive-by shooting. A case of mistaken identity.

As day faded into night, they sat in each others arms, lips fluttering, hands caressing. Tomorrow they'd return to school, as they did every day, though no one knew. They were nothing. Shadows. Ghosts. Wraiths.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Light Post Week

Hi everyone. Just wanted to say there will be no posts this week until Friday, when I'll be publishing a new #fridayflash. Check back next Monday for a new speculative fiction writing prompt, and next Wednesday for two more short stories you can read. Have a good week!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

#fridayflash--Happy Birthday, Facebook Friend

Happy Birthday, Facebook Friend
by Eric J. Krause

She'd been on Facebook for just over two years, and she loved it. She'd originally joined because it was the big thing in the bike club her and her husband, Ron, belonged to. It was a great way to get news on upcoming excursions and other club events, as well as keeping up on the juicy gossip.

Not long after, old high school friends began friending her. She hadn't seen most of them since graduation, so it was super to find out what they'd been up to. Every time she logged on, she had fun catching up with them all. Sometimes through conversations in various posts, but usually just by reading various musings or, even better, by checking out the pictures people posted.

When her birthday rolled around, she discovered something else wonderful: all the Happy Birthday wishes. Each one was pretty generic, but that was okay. They all made her smile.

Except one. Oddly enough, it was the only one that included any sort of personalized touch. It asked her if she remembered how much fun her fourteenth birthday part at Crazy Rivers Water Park had been. It had been a blast, but who was this asking? Edmon Lonevie? She couldn't remember him, and she certainly hadn't friended him. Instead of a photograph of himself, he had a picture of a wall of flames. It looked neat, but obviously did nothing to jog her memory of who he was.

After pondering the mystery for a minute, she went back to reading other birthday wishes and forgot about Edmon Lonevie. In fact, she'd forgotten all about him until a year later when the birthday greetings poured in again. She ate up all the generic ones from her friends, but blanched at the personalized one from the man she couldn't remember.

"Happy Birthday, Crystal! I hope today is as special as the new Sentra you got for your Sweet Sixteen!"

Who the hell was Edmon Lonevie? Sweat broke out as the memory of his post last year returned. She'd have remembered someone with that strange name. Wouldn't she?

She clicked on his profile and found she was his lone friend. The only two things he'd posted were her birthday wishes. Her breath rasped and sputtered as she started to hyperventilate. This was . . . it was creepy.

A few deep breaths brought her under control. She clicked to send a private message to this Edmon character, whoever he was. She'd be polite, of course. You didn't catch flies with vinegar, after all.

"I'm sorry, but I don't remember you. Did we go to high school together?" She could have checked her yearbooks, but they were tucked somewhere in a box in the garage. It'd probably take half the day to find them.

She got an almost instant reply. "Of course you don't remember me. You asked not to."

"What does that mean?" She got another reply right away.

"Please. Do you really believe your family could afford to rent out a water park for the day? In the middle of summer?"

"I always figured other parents chipped in."

His answer came back so fast they might as well have been on the chat function. "How about the car? Your dad drove a beat-up truck, and your mom had to take the bus to work."

"They scrimped and saved?" It sounded lame even as she typed it.

"And Ronald. Your precious Ronald. Be honest. You married him for his looks. Do you really think he has enough on the ball to bring home a six-figure salary? What is it he does again?"

"He's a consultant," but she didn't hit send. Instead she held down the backspace key, erasing that sentence. Yeah, he was a consultant, but what did that mean? It pained her to admit she had no clue as to what her husband did. Instead, she went back on the offensive, yelling at him. "WHO ARE YOU?"

A message didn't zip back at her. Instead, his profile picture, that of a wall of flames, extinguished, and a man with slick, jet-black hair, a pencil-thin mustache, and a pointy goatee walked into the frame. But profile pictures couldn't move on Facebook. Not that she'd ever seen.

"Remember me now?" It wasn't typed.

She shook her head. The voice came from the screen, not her speakers, which were off anyway.

"I must've made the memory cleanser a bit too strong. No matter. I'm just here to wish you a happy birthday. By my calculations, you have fifteen more before your fiftieth, when you turn possession of your soul over to me."

Tears streamed down her face, and her throat clenched. Somehow she managed to croak out, "Are you the devil?"

He chuckled. "No, sorry, you're not that important." He reached out of his profile pic and smacked his typed name. The "E" and "D" of Edmon switched places, showing the word "Demon," while all the letters of Lonevie jumbled and spun, eventually stopping with the spelling, "Evil One."

Before she could say anything, he said, "See you in fifteen years," and snapped his fingers. She sat staring at all the Happy Birthdays on her Facebook wall. Something seemed off, but she couldn't figure out what. The birthday wishes seemed in order. Just nice, benign greetings.


This story is a contest entry for Deanna Schrayer's blog, The Other Side of Deanna. The theme is "birthdays." Check out the rules here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

2 Science Fiction Stories to Read

Another Wednesday brings another two stories for your reading pleasure. This week they're both science fiction stories. One is from an ezine, while the other is from a podcast. You can listen to that one right from the link below, or hit up iTunes, search for the podcast name, and then download the episode. Easy as pie. As always, I'm getting nothing from anyone for pointing out these stories. They're simply stories I enjoyed, so I'm passing the links along. I hope you have as much fun reading them as I did!

The first story is called Desolation Springs Eternal by Frank Summers. It's from the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of Allegory Magazine. This one's about a lonely robot left behind on a moon base, and how his eternal hope in humanity keeps him going. Science fiction fans will get a kick out of the names of the robots in this one.

The next one is called Ep. 237: Roadside Rescue by Pat Cadigan. This one comes from the podcast Escape Pod, and it's worth a listen. An alien has its servant fix the car of a stranded motorist, and then asks the guy to get in its limo. Strangeness ensues. This story is well told throughout, and the reveal at the end had me laughing out loud. I'm not going to spoil anything for you, but the quick introduction at the beginning of the podcast will give you a hint.

I hope you enjoy these two stories as much as I did. Give them, and other short fiction out there, a read. And until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Writing Prompt #24

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror, but as always, you can take it whatever direction you so choose. Have fun with it!

Your significant other explains the wine you just drank was poisoned.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

My Writing--July 5 - July 11

The schedule for last week didn't quite work out for me on the novella I was planning to write. I stalled on it and decided to shelve it for some other time. I've decided "pantsing" (writing without an outline) is simply not for me on longer pieces. I can do it with short stories, but I'll continue to create road maps for my works longer than shorts.

Which brings me to my main goal for this week. I'll be setting up an outline for a middle grade novel--my first attempt at one. It'll be aimed for the 8 to 10 year old readers, as it'll take place in fifth grade. I'm anxious to see how I pull it off. I don't want to say too much about it (my silly superstition of not talking too much about a work in progress before it's done (or mostly done), but it'll be a time-travel piece. Not too ambitious, just the main character going back a couple of days and having to dodge his past self while solving a crime. We'll see if I can pull it off.

I'm also hoping to revise a short story, as well as maybe start writing a new one. I'm going to make it my goal for the rest of the year to write a first draft and ready one for market each month. I've been so focused on my novel (which I'll start revising in August) and flash fiction stories for #fridayflash that I've neglected other short stories. I don't see a problem with having one ready for market each month since I have a few first drafts backlogged, but I'm hoping I'll have the discipline to crank out at least six more first drafts before years end.

On to the blog posts:

Monday: Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #24 will go up, most likely in the morning. I don't have one picked out yet, but whatever it turns out to be, I hope it's helpful to at least one of you out there.

Wednesday: I'll have two short story reviews. I've already picked out the stories, and they're both science fiction this week. One is from an ezine, while the other is from a podcast. I enjoyed both, and I hope you will as well.

Friday: My #fridayflash story still needs a bit of polishing, but it's pretty much ready to go. Last week's story was a contest entry for a zombie romance, and this week's entry will also be a contest entry, this one with the theme of Happy Birthday. It's for Deanna Schrayer's blog, The Other Side of Deanna, and if you're interested, you can see the rules here. Even if I don't win, I think it's a good story, so it should entertain the readers. That's all that matters in the long run.

Sunday: You'll get another of these posts. Excitement! If you read these, bless you. I basically do them for me, to make me keep myself accountable. Didn't work last week with my planned novella, but sometimes we writers need to know when to cut our losses, too.

Until next time, keep reading and/or writing!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Zombie Luv Flash Fiction Contest--Chained Love

Chained Love
by Eric J. Krause

The chains on the bed rattled, jarring him from his uneasy slumber. Meredith needed to feed again. Sean headed for the kitchen for the raw hamburger. She calmed down, seemingly aware of what he was up to.


Sean clicked off the radio, unable to stomach any more talk about the new zombie epidemic. Besides, he was almost home. He'd take Meredith up to their cabin in the mountains. It was fully stocked with food and water for emergencies, though he'd always figured the crisis would be an earthquake or flood, not zombies. Whatever. They'd beat this. Together.

As he pulled into the driveway, he saw something lying on the front porch. Something mauled. Something bloody.

He put the car in park and leapt out. Tears filled his eyes as he guessed what this was. They'd been here and gotten to Meredith. He broke down right there when he saw he wasn't mistaken. Her body was decimated by bite and rip marks; her head attached only by a few sinews of muscle.


The hamburger disappeared fast. Meredith took big bites out of the middle, but ate carefully around his fingers, even though he wore heavy-duty work gloves. Was this thing trying to lull him into a false sense of security, or was she still in there? Best not to dwell on it. The isolation was close enough to driving him mad without such thoughts.

With the meat gone, she licked and sucked the excess off his fingers. A week or so ago, before she'd been constructed of rotting flesh, it would've turned him on. Their sensual play with food had led to many a night of passionate love making. Now though, as he felt the pressure of her lips and tongue, it was all he could do to keep from vomiting.

She lay passive, staring into his eyes. He'd learned during the week that if he talked to her, she wouldn't respond. Nothing about her showed any sort of recognition, any sort of humanity. It pained him to converse with her like that, so he stopped. He left her chained, unmoving on the bed, and went to wash off the glove.


"Sean, did you see this report? There are actual zombies roaming the streets of New York."

"Yeah, I saw it earlier on CNN. I thought they were just making up a funny news story or something."

"No, it seems legit." Meredith paused. "Do you suppose they wander around, arms outstretched, moaning for brains?"

He looked and saw her mouth fighting a smile, trying to stay serious, and that did it. He busted up laughing, and she joined him.


The power flickered. The generator wouldn't hold out much longer. He hadn't heard anything outside in quite some time, but that didn't mean it was safe. He'd taken pains to make sure nothing could squeeze though the boards on the windows and doors. That meant he couldn't see out, either. The Internet had been down for days, and his satellite TV picked up nothing but static.

He wouldn't worry so much about the power--the raw hamburger for Meredith was almost gone, and he'd been eating out of cans for a few days anyway--except for how stuffy the house was. He'd been running electric fans around the clock, and he could still barely tolerate it.

He sighed and looked at the bed. If her schedule held up, it'd be feeding time in an hour or so. What would he do when the meat was gone?


Sean carried her remains to the bed, tears so thick in his eyes he couldn't see straight. Before he lost it altogether, he needed to protect himself. The work would keep his mind clear. He washed Meredith's blood off the porch, hooked the generator up in the garage, and boarded up the house.

With the physical labor done, he came inside to mourn his dead wife, but stopped in his tracks at the bedroom door. Her flesh. It was growing back. It looked dead, rotted, but it was there. That could only mean she'd be moving soon.

He rushed into the garage and grabbed the rope of heavy chain that'd been there since they'd moved in. He had no idea what the previous owners had used it for, or why they hadn't taken it, but at this point, he didn't care. Good thing he'd never gotten around to tossing it like Meredith wanted.

He wrapped it tight around her and secured it to the bed frame with padlocks. There. If that didn't hold, he was a dead man. He didn't have anything better. There was nothing left to do now but wait for her to wake up.


Meredith sucked the last of the hamburger off of his glove with a hearty smack. As she did so, she gave him a lusty gaze. But no, that was impossible. This wasn't actually his wife. It was just a moving shell, a monster. Right?

He looked around the kitchen, but found little he could feed her. There was plenty of canned ravioli, but somehow he didn't think that would satisfy. And he couldn't let her starve because, god damn it, what if that really had been her soul staring up at him?

He sighed and slumped to the floor. He was sick and tired of this fucking isolation. But it didn't have to be like this. He could set her free. What better way to say "I love you" than giving her his flesh? It'd grow back. Hers did. And then they could be together forever.

Sean rushed into the bedroom before he could rethink this, and worked on unlocking the padlocks. Meredith shifted, as if she could sense his intentions. As he folded the chains off of her torso, allowing her to sit up for the first time as a dead woman, he giggled. Would they wander the streets, arms outstretched, moaning "hearts" instead of "brains?"



* Word count: maximum 1.000

* The story must be a romance between two zombies. Make it as horrific as you like. ;)

* Stories containing animal cruelty, torture, graphic sex or violence, any form of exaltation of violence, racism or other forms of prejudice will be immediately disqualified.

* Post your entry on your own blog, with a title resembling this:

Zombie Luv Flash Fic Contest: Story Title

* Leave your story title and a link to the story entry post as a comment at mari's randomities:

* Copy and paste the contest logo and the guidelines at the end of your entry post.