Monday, August 30, 2010

Writing Prompt #30

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it as anything except speculative fiction, so take it whatever direction you so choose. Have fun with it!

A strange website promises something (good fortune? Unending power? Never-ending riches?)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Audio Recording of "Jamie's Home"

Here is my second attempt at an audio recording. This is the very first #FridayFlash story I ever presented--50 stories and a year ago. My delivery won't win me any awards, with the popping "p's" and occasional stumbles, but, honestly, I think I'm doing better than I ever thought I would. I figured I'd never read anything aloud and put it out there, but I proved myself wrong. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the audio recording of "Jamie's Home."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

#fridayflash--Flash - A Love Story

Flash - A Love Story
by Eric J. Krause

A zombie sneaks up on a group of unsuspecting campers. It's built for feasting on their brains, while they're built to die. Mayhem ensues as he breaks their camp. Maybe he kills them all in a gruesome scene of pornographic gore. Maybe one young kid escapes, humanity's last hope in the coming zombieocalypse.


An older gentleman, surrounded by his family and friends, lays on his deathbed. He revels in their presence, but his mind wanders back to his youth. To that pretty girl he never had the courage to court. How different would life have been? He doesn't dream of this with any sort of longing, just curiosity. As he smiles at those around him, he knows he couldn't have asked for a better life. But that nagging voice, his last conscious thought, tells him life holds too many mysteries, too many choices, for just one go-around.


The starship pilot pushes and prods the controls. That last laser torpedo destroyed his navigation, his steering, and even his communication capabilities. All that remains is the life-support system, and a hell of a lot of good that does him since all he can do is float aimlessly. A quick exploding death would be preferable. Not that all hope is lost. He could be picked up by a passing freighter, or maybe he'll hit the gravity field of a life-sustaining planet. Or maybe he'll just go crazy thinking of the options in his lonely isolation.


The young boy crawls all around the ant hill, fascinated by the insects scurrying here and there, always busy. He wants to dig it up, see how far down it goes, but he promised Momma and Dad that he wouldn't. He pulls out a magnifying glass, and anyone passing by would have to wonder if it's to observe the ants up close or to bring fiery death from above.


The young woman puts an extra kick in her stride, aware someone is following her. Of course this is late at night, the witching hour some might say, or she wouldn't be as frightened. How dumb is she for even being out here? The campus newspaper, all the campus websites, and even the local TV news have warned all co-eds to not travel alone after dark. This serial killer has left no clues. The footsteps behind her get louder, and she turns to face her pursuer. When she sees it's another girl, a woman her age, she loses it, balls her head off, and hugs this stranger. The twist? (Of course there's a twist.) The killer is a self-loathing, woman-hating lesbian. She won't take her own life, so she offs any pretty lady she sees. They turn her on and disgust her all at once. You better believe our heroine gets a knife in the back.

Flash. Flash. Flash.

The author sits back and smiles. That'll do for today. Tomorrow he can visit countless other places, be anyone he wants, do whatever catches his fancy. In short, he can be the master of the universe. All at under 1000 words a pop.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2 short stories to listen to

This week I've dabbled it a couple of podcasts that are new to me, and I'm glad I did. One is Lightspeed Magazine, and when you click the link below, you'll have the option of either reading or listening, so that's nice. The other is Variant Frequencies, and though the story is about Christmas, it's still a great read (listen) any time of year. Both of these podcasts are on iTunes in case, like me, you prefer to download them there. Just search the titles of the podcasts in the iTunes store search function and download the episodes. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did!

The first one comes from Lightspeed Magazine, and is called The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt. This one deals with an interesting satellite photo from the Russian space program, and what our main character does with this knowledge. What he finds shocks him, and proves why it is classified information. I thought this one was a good ride, and the lead up and reveal are excellent.

The next story, as I said, is a Christmas story from the podcast Variant Frequencies. It is A Real Christmas by Michael A. Stackpole. This is a PI novel which opens with the hero of the story ready to blow his brains out because his life isn't going how he'd like. Luckily a department store Santa Claus comes in to offer him a case. The rest of the story shows how the magic of Christmas can save. This one was a bit gritty, but also had a real whimsy to it that I found enjoyable. I hope you agree.

As always, I'm getting nothing from the podcasts or the authors for talking about these stories. I'm doing so simply because I want to highlight some great short fiction that's out there for free consumption. I hope you enjoy these stories, and until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Personal #fridayflash news

Hello everyone. This coming Friday will be my 50th story in #fridayflash. I've been sitting on a story called "Flash--A Love Story" for a couple of months because I thought it'd be perfect for this milestone, which, as it so happens, will also be my one year anniversary in posting #fridayflash stories. My first one, last year, was on the final Friday of August. I did miss three weeks throughout the year, so that's why the first story of my second year isn't #53. That's fine, though; I like how it all worked out.

I also plan on recording the audio version of my stories starting this coming weekend and posting them for #SpokenSunday (like #fridayflash, but the authors put out an audio version of a story or some other spoken work instead of written work). I posted last week's story late last Sunday night, and I had fun doing it, so I figured I'd continue. My plan, as of now, is to start from the beginning and keep going. So Sunday you should get me reading the story "Jamie's Home," which was my very first #fridayflash last August.

The big news that I'm most excited about, however, is that I plan on putting out my first 50 stories on Smashwords as a free download. I've just started putting it together, so it'll likely be a few weeks before it's available, but I'm excited that my first year of #fridayflash will be available all in one book for ereaders--all for free! As soon as it goes live on the Smashwords site, I'll post it here, on Twitter, and on Facebook, so you won't miss it if you're interested.

Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Writing Prompt #29

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

You wake up and find yourself on a space ship.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Audio Recording of Helmet Travel

I finally decided to figure out how to create an audio recording. My first effort is my #fridayflash from this week, Helmet Travel. Give it a listen. I made a few stumbles, but overall I was pleased with how it turned out. I hope you enjoy listening!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

#fridayflash--Helmet Travel

Helmet Travel
by Eric J. Krause

The first time I wore the helmet, I puked inside it. It wasn't my fault; it was a disorienting situation. I know I wasn't the first, and I could only hope past users were as meticulous in cleaning it as I was.

Supersonic space travel is no easy feat. As soon as you secure the helmet to the suit, it's like the craziest rollercoaster you've ever been on. The ship's mechanism shoots you out the airlock and into deep space. The helmet already knows where you want to go, so all you have to do is relax and let it take you.

Yeah. Relax. They really said that as if it were somehow possible.

As you're floating about, the helmet locks onto its location and forms an energy bubble around you. It's invisible, but the scientists say it's only slightly bigger than whoever is floating in the middle. I didn't lunge out to see if I could feel it. Not because anyone said not to, but at that point I hadn't emptied my stomach into the headgear, and I was trying to hold as still as possible.

Anyway, the bubble doesn't actually move. That's what the scientists say. The bubble makes space bigger behind it and shorter in front. Basically, from what I understand of the process, the bubble takes the universe in front of it and folds it so the destination ends up right in front of the traveler. And it happens almost instantly. Then the bubble straightens everything out when it's in the new location. Space goes back to its original size and shape, but with you in the new place. So no movement, just fancy origami.

Try telling that to my stomach. I've been on the hairiest jet coasters at the best fun parks in the solar system. Some of them go from zero to thousands in less than a second. They all proved tame compared to this acceleration. But I'll give credit where credit is due. I got from Station Saturn to New Earth on the other side of the universe in the blink of an eye. I'd been hoping to enjoy the wonders of the vastness of space on the trip, but one second the rings of Saturn were in my peripheral, and the next I descended down on my new home.

Still no gutbombs from me. I was woozy--I dare anyone not to be after a trip like that--but I'd saved myself a vomit shower. If I ever saw the guy who helped me into my suit, he owed me five credits.

I set down gently in the middle of my new town. Before I took the helmet off, I got an eyeful of everything--a huge Wal-Mart, fast food joints every ten feet, and election posters plastered everywhere. It was just like back home.

I've never puked so hard in all my life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2 Short Stories to Listen to

This week I've chosen a science fiction (of sorts) and horror story for you to listen to. Either use the links below, or go search out the podcasts on iTunes and download the stories to listen to at your leisure. (That's how I do it.) Without further ado, here they are.

The first story is from Escape Pod. It's Episode 244: Non-Zero Probabilities by N.K. Jemisin. This one is about New York City becoming a very lucky place. The problem is that all luck isn't necessarily good. The story revolves around the main character's journey of deciding what to do about this new situation, and if she should do anything at all. I found this one an interesting read. Give it a listen and decide what you think.

The next story is from Pseudopod. It's Episode 182: The Dreaming Way by Jim Bihyeh. This one is about a junior high age girl who doesn't get along with anyone at her school. She has a special ability which helps her get by, and an old man teaches her how to use her ability even further. A horrific event is going to happen at her school, and the old man wants her to be the one to stop it. This one has some bite to it, especially the ending. I enjoyed it thoroughly. See what you think.

As always, I'm getting no sort of compensation from either podcast nor the authors. I don't know any of them. I'm simply giving these links because I enjoyed the stories, and I hope others enjoy them as well. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Best of Friday Flash - Volume One

Out today is the e-book The Best of Friday Flash - Volume One. Click on the title to go over to Smashwords. There are a ton (67 in total) of flash fiction stories from the first year of #fridayflash for just $2.99. A bargain! Especially considering the caliber of talent included. I'm especially excited about this because one of my stories, "Different Perceptions," is in there. So if you have an e-reader, give it a look. These stories are great because you can get through one in just a couple of minutes. Perfect for our fast-paced world. I'd love to hear any comments about thoughts on the anthology.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Writing Prompt #28

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!

Your bathroom mirror leads to another world.

Friday, August 13, 2010

#fridayflash--The End of the Day

The End of the Day
by Eric J. Krause

Mary took a deep breath and slumped down onto the couch. Why did each and every day always have to be so hard? But he slept now, and he'd be out for hours. If David woke him, he could deal with the fallout.

Sometimes self-pity overtook her when the adrenaline wore off, but she wouldn't allow that to happen tonight. David would be here soon, and she wanted to have a good time. Especially if this relationship was headed where she hoped.

The next thing she knew, David shook her shoulders. "Soups on."

She blinked and saw the shadows of night had infiltrated the living room. Wonderful aromas wafting from the kitchen snapped her fully awake. "How long have you been here?"

He kissed her forehead. "Not long. It's takeout."

She glanced back at the hallway, and David chuckled. "He's dead to the world until morning. I checked on him right after I got here. He's doing that cute little snore-growl."

Mary shuddered. "I don't know how you can call that cute."

He kissed her on the lips. "How can you not think it's cute? He's your kid."

"I know, but . . ."

He pulled her to her feet and engulfed her in a hug. "I'm sure NASA would still take your call. I kept the card."

She hesitated, not sure what to say. She'd thrown hers out to take away temptation. But if David still had one . . .

"Is dinner all set?"

He nodded. "All plated. Just needs to get to the table."

She gave his hand a squeeze. "Okay. Get it on, and I'll be there in just a sec." She headed down the hall to his room. He lay in his crib, his green, scaly face puffing out and deflating with each breath, and he indeed made that half-snore, half-growl David was so fond of. His greasy little body lay flat against the mattress, as if made of nothing solid. She rubbed her ribs, the blossoming bruise he'd given her just that morning, for proof that he was indeed made of harder material than any creature native to Earth.

What if he'd been cute? Would that make a difference? She wanted to say no, but who was she kidding? If he looked like a cuddly little teddy bear, a puppy, or anything else she liked, she'd have been thrilled. Heck, if he'd even looked mostly human, she'd have been proud to call him son. But this part lizard, part fish being that'd slithered out of her six months prior still felt . . . felt . . . alien. It was all she could do to say and think "him" rather than "it."

She shuddered.

As she returned to the living room, she saw not only dinner--a garden salad, a bacon-topped grilled chicken sandwich, and fries--at the table, but her cell phone and the card with NASA's phone number on it. David sat in his seat and smiled.

"You gave it a go. More than most women who went through this can say. I'm proud of you. You have nothing to feel bad about."

Everything he said made sense, but tears still rolled down her cheeks. "I feel like I'm failing him. Like this was a motherhood test and I flunked."

He shook his head. "I think you passed with flying colors. You'll make a wonderful mother when we choose to have kids."

She gasped and felt a warm feeling in her chest when he admitted he wanted her to have his children.

His smile showed he didn't miss her reaction, but his face turned serious. "This wasn't your choice. That thing shouldn't be. They might not have physically touched you, but those aliens raped you. Raped you and half the women on the planet."

The tears came faster, but he was right. She couldn't do this anymore. That thing--she no longer wanted to think of it as her baby--need to go. Whatever home NASA would give it was better than any she could.

She picked up the phone and dialed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two Stories To Listen To

This week I again have two podcast stories: a horror story from Pseudopod and a science fiction story from The Drabblecast. To listen, either use the link to their site below, or do what I do and download them from iTunes. Search for the podcast name and then find the episode number, which I have below, and download it. Or better yet, subscribe and get new great stories each week!

The first story comes from Pseudopod. It's a strange little horror story. It's Episode 180: The Getalong Gang by Barrie Darke. Nothing overtly horrible happens, but it brings you along for a neat little ride through the main character's thoughts, which may or may not be reliable. I took it that the main character's sanity was up to the reader (listener) to decide. In it, he sees various little details about his family that seem off to him, and he believes it is a huge conspiracy to enslave the human race. This one's definitely worth a listen.

The second story this week is from The Drabblecast. I knew I'd enjoy this one before I even heard it for two reasons: First, it's about time travel, and time travel stories always intrigue me. Second, the author is Tim Pratt, and since I've been listening to these podcast stories, I've heard a few of his stories, and none have disappointed. This one is Episode 150: Morris and the Machine. When we think of time travel stories (or at least when I do), we usually think of characters going back in time and doing things to change their present life-style (or being very careful to not change anything). This one was a bit different. Morris invented a machine that only could take him back to one time in history, and instead of being his exact past, they are parallel universes. Personally, the concept of parallel universes fascinates me almost as much (or maybe as much) as time travel, so this story was a slam dunk. I hope you enjoy it, too.

As always, I'm not doing this for any reason other than I enjoyed these stories, and I want people to check out free short story content available on the web. I'm getting no compensation from either the web sites or the authors. I just want you to enjoy these stories as much as I did. Give 'em both a listen this week. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Writing Prompt #27

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!

A gameshow based on death/murder

Thursday, August 5, 2010

#fridayflash--The Fog

The Fog
by Eric J. Krause

The soldier stood alone in the forest, his sword heavy in his hand, his chain armor clanking from his shakes, no doubt alerting everything in the vicinity of his presence. Where his company had gone was beyond him. They'd marched through a thick patch of fog, and when he reached the other side, he marched alone.

A wolf howled in the distance, and something rustled in the nearby bushes. He wasn't sure which frightened him more. He gripped his sword tighter and took a few tentative steps forward. With his fellow soldiers, his brothers, he was fearless. On his own, he felt lost.

A weight surrounded him, hanging heavy in the air. He turned back to the fog. If he wandered back in, would he find his army? Would he find safety? It didn't matter. As more creaks and crunches sounded from the brush, he pushed back into the thick bank of fog.

As he marched through the first time, sandwiched in the middle of dozens upon dozens of men, every one of his senses had been overwhelmed. He saw nothing but gray, felt, tasted, and smelled nothing but damp air, and heard nothing but his brothers' footfalls. No, that wasn't quite true. Their footsteps echoed through the fog at first, but after a few paces, he heard only his own boots on the hard packed forest soil, his own mail clattering with every step, his own deep breaths. But nothing of his brothers.

This time, as he waded in alone, the fog didn't feel as thick, as dense, as damp. Arrows stuck in the ground and out of trees. On closer inspection, he found those arrows attached to soldiers. Soldiers from his company.

His breath caught in his throat. How had they all been massacred while he remained untouched? How had he not heard any of it? He wandered among these men who he'd been so close with over these past few months and confirmed none still breathed.

He fought back tears. The mass burial fell on his shoulders. No time for frail emotions. He had too much work to do, and no help in doing it. Everything, though, stopped cold when he reached the final soldier, likely the first to have died.

It was him. An arrow pierced his throat. Blood pooled around his upper body. His eyes were open, and his face registered no pain, only shock.

No, this wasn't real. How could it be? He stood here, as alive as when he woke this morning, alive as the day he was born. He reached down to touch the body, but his hand passed right through it. No, that wasn't right. It passed through his hand.

The air deflated from his lungs. He was the incorporeal one. He looked around in the fog, which had mostly dissipated, and found dozens of other soldiers standing over their own corpses. Their body language proved they were all in various stages of acceptance and denial.

He stared into his own dead eyes, not wanting to, but unable to look away. The late morning sun burned most of the fog away. Only a few tendrils lay behind, hugging the ground. When those, too, succumbed to the burning sunlight, he and the rest of the soldiers standing guard over their mortality blinked away, off to visit whatever realm greeted the dead.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

2 Short Stories to Listen To

This week I have a story from the podcasts EscapePod and PodCastle. You can find them via the links I have listed below, or you can head over to iTunes, search the podcasts, and download the episodes (those are listed below, too). As always, I'm getting nothing from the podcasts or the authors for highlighting these links; I simply enjoyed the stories and wanted to share. I hope you like them as much as I did.

The first story comes from EscapePod. It is Ep. 242: The Love Quest of Smidgen the Snack Cake by Robert T. Jeschonek. This one is hilariously racy because all of the sexual heat is coming from a snack cake who wants an overweight woman to eat it. It goes dark near the end, and then picks up the humor again.

The second story is from PodCastle. This one's a short one--you can listen to it in under ten minutes. It's PodCastle Miniature 47: Chinatown by Greg Van Eekhout. It's basically a man's quest for the perfect workday lunch hangout, and the extraordinary places he finds.

I hope you enjoy both of these stories. Have fun with them. Until next time, keep reading and/or writing.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Walter's Valley (a short story)

I still have a couple of hours until it's technically my birthday, but I figured there would be no harm in publishing this now. By the time most of you read this, it'll be Monday. I thought this year I'd give everyone a gift of a short story--or I hope you enjoy it enough to consider it a gift. Personally, I like this story, and I'm guessing most of you will, as well. This isn't flash fiction, but a longer story (just over 3200 words), so be prepared for the length. I'd love to read your comments, and I hope you dig this one. I had a good time writing it. That's enough chatter from me--on with the story.

by Eric J. Krause

Eli Walters looked at everything without seeing anything real. A minute ago he'd been walking along a nature trail in Sunny Valley Park, and now he was a cartoon. An actual cartoon in a cartoony meadow. The birds swooped and sang in words rather than chirps, bugs crawled out of the ground and preformed little dances for him, trees waved as if their branches were hands, and even the sun gave him a big smile and wink when he looked up. This wasn't happening; it couldn't be.

"Hi, Eli," something said. "How's it going?"

A large rabbit standing on two legs looked up at him. It held a carrot like a cigar and nibbled on the pointy tip.

"What's the matter, Eli?" the rabbit said between bites of the carrot. "Cat got your tongue?"

Eli couldn't think of anything to say except, "No, I can talk."

"Good. I hate cats. Filthy animals. I don't care what anyone says. Just last week I had one jam a mound of TNT down into my hole. Luckily it didn't know about the backdoor, so I stuffed all those explosives down its trousers right before it pushed the plunger. Blew it straight into another cartoon. Taught it to mess with ol' Hoppity-Hop."

Eli stared at the cartoon bunny. It finished its carrot, threw the green stem over its shoulder, and pulled another one out of thin air.

"Don't worry, Eli," the rabbit said. "You never remember when you first get here. It'd probably drive me nuts if I cared."

"Wait, what?" Eli said, but the rabbit had bounded on down a trail he hadn't noticed before.

He looked around and saw a little cottage off in the distance. Maybe whoever lived there could shine some light on what was going on.

As he walked, Eli found he had a bounce in his step, literally, as if his feet were made of rubber. If he pushed off just right, he could move faster without even trying. After a bit of practice, the cottage advanced at a rapid pace.

Once he arrived, he couldn't believe how tiny the cottage was. It looked to be about the size of a single bedroom, and a small one at that. The grounds made up for it, though. A white picket fence framed a lush lawn in the front and back, a vegetable garden to the right, complete with bumpy rows marked with small paper signs on little wooden stakes, just as he'd seen in countless cartoon shorts, and an apple tree to the left.

The tree smiled and waved its branches at him. "Eli! Welcome back!"

"Um, thanks." He wasn't sure what kind of conversation to make with a tree.

"Go on in," the tree said. "He's waiting for you."


"The professor, of course."

Eli nodded, opened the door, and gasped. It was as big as a gymnasium. He glanced at the outside walls, found them still the same puny size, and then stared back inside the massive cavern of a room. It wasn't physically possible; the corners of the shack ended mere feet from the doorway outside on either side, but inside they went for yards and yards. The distance to the backdoor was further still.

"Eli, my boy, you made it. I'm so glad to see you."

Eli followed the voice and saw a man--a cartoon man with wild white hair, a bushy white mustache, and a lab coat sitting in a plush red chair about halfway across the room. He stood up, took one step--his leg stretched all the way across the room until it planted itself in front of Eli and was followed by the rest of his body--and was right in front of Eli.

"It seems like forever since you've been here," the man, this professor, said. "I wish it was just a social call, but I summoned you back for a very important task.

"What are you talking about?" Eli said. "Summoned me? Who are you? What is this place?"

The professor laughed. "Here come the questions. Sometimes you walk through that door, chomping at the bit, ready to take on the world. Those times are my favorite. That's when I get the real you. Not that I mind seeing you on days like this. I know you'll come around sooner or later."

"I'm not following any of this," Eli said. What could he say to wring an explanation out of anyone or anything in this screwy place?

The professor shrugged. "I can't tell you. You have to get it on your own. If we don't let time run its course, you might over-think everything and not get your powers."

"My powers?"

The professor wagged his finger. "Ah-ah-ah, no hints. Now, are you hungry?"

Eli didn't have time to answer before the professor's arm stretched all the way to a door in the back of the huge room. He dragged out a long dining table piled high with various foods: roast turkeys, baked hams, slabs of steaks, mashed potatoes, barbequed beans, and a ton of other items Eli couldn't place at first glance.

The professor licked his lips and sat at one of the chairs. "Don't know about you, but I'm famished." He didn't put anything on a plate, nor use utensils, but started shoving food in. He took the whole turkey and dangled it into his mouth, which opened wider than physically possible. When he pulled it out in a swift jerk, all the meat was stripped from the bones. He tossed the skeleton over his shoulder. Another whole turkey reappeared on the serving platter, and the bones on the ground disappeared.

"Eat up, boy. You need the energy," the professor said as he emptied the entire dish of mashed potatoes down his throat. He set the bowl back down, and it refilled.

Eli shrugged and sat down. He reached for one of the steaks and before he could locate a plate, something took over his mind. He gulped it down in one bite. Delicious! He let his instincts take over and dived headfirst into the meal.


Eli and the professor lounged on a couch, both their stomachs puffed out like they'd stuffed basketballs under their shirts. Eli thought he should be in massive pain, but he merely felt satisfied.

"Did you cook all that?" Eli asked.

The professor looked over at him. "By the way you ate, I thought you were back. Not all the way, I guess." He leaped up, his bloated belly back to its normal size, and pulled the couch out from under Eli, who flew ten feet in the air, hung for two or three beats, then plummeted down as if an anvil were tucked into his pants. He crashed through the floor, leaving a crater in the hardwood, and climbed out. It hadn't hurt, though pale blue moons and little yellow birds circled his head. He closed his eyes and shook his head, chasing the moons and birds away. His stomach had shrunk to its normal size, too. If only he could market that diet.

The professor chuckled. "Everything but your mind. Good enough, I think. Now get out there and save the day."

Eli didn't move. "What am I supposed to do?"

The professor hustled him to the door, picked him up, and drop-kicked him. He launched hundreds of feet into the air until the land below was just splotches of greens, blues, browns, and yellows. When he hit the apex of his ascent, he hung there for a few seconds, and then plunged down.

A crow swooped down next to him and kept pace with his descent. "You gonna start flyin'?" the crow asked.

Eli, who was doing his best to remain calm, said, "I don't know how."

The crow scoffed. "The great Eli Walters don't know how to fly? How many times we fly together?"

Eli didn't know the answer. The ground rushed up at him at an alarming pace. He could make out the professor's house below. He'd crash right through the front porch.

"Oh, I get it," the crow said. "You ain't know who you are yet, and the ol' professor's usin' tough love to get you to learn. Always worked before, but I guess we see this time. If it don't work, I'm guessing you end up in another cartoon. You ever make it back from that, you let ol' Caw know how it went, right? Good luck, Eli."

The crow flew away, leaving Eli only seconds from impact. "Fly, dammit!" he yelled at himself. "Come on, fly!" His drop continued.

People didn't die from drops in cartoons, even insanely long ones like this. How many times had the impact caused the cartoon character to be in a full body cast, but once something made him happy or mad, he'd jump up and be fine? With that thought, he closed his eyes and let himself relax and wait for the impact.

Everything stopped. He hadn't realized how loud the roar of air had been around him until the silence hit. Had he crashed? Was this what high-altitude impact was like in a cartoon? Had he, like the crow suggested, fallen into another cartoon? He slowly opened his eyes, afraid of what he might find, be it one of those options or something entirely different.

He hovered just a few feet from the ground, right in front of the professor's house. The professor stood in the doorway, smiling at Eli. The crow sat perched on the roof, smiling at Eli. Even the trees, flowers, and sun smiled at Eli.

"Welcome home," the crow said.

"Yes," the professor said. "Now go get 'em!"

Eli burst up in the air with a hoot and a holler. He leveled off and spun a few loop-de-loops. He still didn't know who he was after, but he knew where to go: the giant's castle in the sky.

He crashed through the bottom of the cloud and settled down. Even though he'd flown right through, his feet settled on what might have been solid ground. He looked up at the castle, it's drawbridge down, and started towards it. The giant wasn't the target, but he'd make a formidable foe if he'd already been recruited.

As he walked towards the shimmering white castle, he felt a strange presence. This was why he was here, why the professor had called him back. From inside the castle, a voice spoke. "Eli, Eli, Eli. You made it back." It sounded familiar, and not just because he'd met this enemy before.

Once he passed the drawbridge, it rose and the portcullis slammed shut. A few more steps and he could see all around the courtyard. Nothing moved or made a sound. He could fly around for a better view, but before he took off, a figure stepped out of the shadows not ten feet from him.

Eli gasped. Other than an eye patch over the right eye, this adversary was his mirror image. "My brother," his image said. "It's been too long. We need to get together more often."

"Why are you back, Ile?" Eli didn't know where he'd pulled the name from, but it was correct.

Ile shrugged. "Is it a crime to want to come home? To kill my brother? To see my dear old daddy? To pull his illustrated guts out and feed them to my friend?"

Ile stepped aside and the Big Bad Wolf took its place at his side. Eli had bested the wolf before, as he was one of his brother's main goons, but he'd never seen it look like this. It had always been shaped like a slightly overweight man wearing a fur suit. It had a wolf's face and sharp teeth, but otherwise didn't look scary. The perfect cartoony villain. This wolf, though, scared even Eli. Its body shared more properties with animals than humans. It had always had hands in white gloves, but now had claws that looked sharp enough to harm even a cartoon. It was too realistic to belong in this particular cartoon world.

Ile sneered. "Every time you banish me, I learn things. Other places aren't always silly, neat, and happy. Some cartoons have dark undertones of death. Characters don't shake off fatal blows with a goofy grin. They realize death for what it is: final. Thanks to you, Eli, I bring that here."

Eli launched himself at Ile. He knew the charge wouldn't hurt Ile, but it'd at least stun him for a few seconds, leaving Eli enough time to deal with the Big Bad Wolf.

Ile didn't brace himself. A split second before impact, Eli grunted as the wolf tackled him, knocking them both to the ground. It bit at his neck. "You won't survive this time." Even its voice had deepened to horrific.

Eli flung the wolf off, but one of its claws stuck in his shoulder. His skin stretched out after his flying foe.

"Now, Eli," Ile said. "You shall experience my plan first hand. Too bad you won't know what hit you." Ile lifted his eye patch, showing he wasn't missing an eye, but instead had a ruby red crystal in the socket. "Goodbye, my brother. You've been an excellent foil, but I'm ready to move on."

Just as Ile's crystal eye lit up, Eli's shoulder skin snapped back, bringing the Big Bad Wolf with it. The wolf slammed into Eli at the same instant a red beam shot out of the glowing crystal. Instead of hitting Eli, it struck the Big Bad Wolf, who let out a howl and disintegrated.

"No!" Ile shouted. Before he could focus his eye beam on Eli again, Eli leapt and pulled the eye patch back over Ile's eye. He gave a mighty uppercut under Ile's chin, knocking him thirty feet into the air. Before Ile plummeted down, a huge hand shot out and grabbed him.

"Where Wolfie go?" the giant said. "You kill him!"

"It was Eli," Ile said. "He pulled Wolf in the way."

"No, you make Wolfie go away," the giant said. He started to squeeze, but Ile managed to get an arm free and whipped off the eye patch.

Eli flew up there, not wanting another iconic character gone, enemy or not. Power flowed through him, tickling up and down his arms. He pointed his hands at Ile and let fly with an energy bolt. It struck the back of the giant's hand, and the huge cartoon monstrosity let out a howl and dropped Ile. The eye beam missed.

The giant swatted at Eli, who dodged while keeping an eye on Ile, who hit the ground with a bang and cloud of dust. Both Eli and the giant stared down, waiting to see his fate. When the dust cleared, Ile stood grinning, his ruby eye glowing red, his eye patch in his hand.

Eli swooped down, maneuvering as he went to make himself a harder target to hit. The giant lifted his foot and stomped. The beam shot and hit the descending foot. The giant disappeared almost at once. Eli didn't stop his charge at Ile, who laughed as they collided.

"You can't beat me, Eli." They slammed through the wall of the castle's courtyard and tumbled over the moat and into the clouds that held it all up.

"I've beaten you before," Eli said, "and I'll do it again."

Ile laughed again, this time with the maniacal chortle of a mad scientist. "No, every time you send me to a different cartoon, I grow stronger. I made you too powerful, but you've returned the favor."

Eli's power built in his arms, and he released it at Ile. Before it hit, Ile's eye beam struck the energy and both dissipated into the nether. Eli then reached into his cartoon roots and pulled a bazooka out of thin air. That too was destroyed by the eye beam.

"I created you, Eli. I can destroy whatever you try. Shall we continue?"

"The Maker created me," Eli said, more to buy time than engage in a debate. He needed a weapon, but Ile was right. He wouldn't be able to get anything past that eye beam.

Ile laughed. "He created us, me. We were one until I chose the separation."

Eli nodded, both because he knew it was true and because he had a plan. He just needed Ile to attack him. "Fine, I'm finished," he said. "What is it you want?"

Ile motioned Eli to follow him and dropped through the clouds. They both landed softly in the field underneath. The castle faded away.

"What did you do?" Eli said. "I didn't see you shoot at it."

Ile shrugged. "I did nothing. No giant, no castle. Just like with this world. No Eli, no Walters Valley. Though I must commend you. You've done much better here than I ever could, and you did it without even trying. The goody two-shoes cartoons in this valley never could see through to your real purpose. You couldn't even see it, though that's why you always left. With all of the power I transferred to you, my one flaw was not putting enough of my ambition, my willingness to destroy, into you."

"You didn't create me, Ile, and you certainly never controlled me. We were different sides to the same coin. That's why you split us up. Now pray for a good cartoon because I'm sending you to one so far away you won't be able to make it back here for a long, long time." Eli used his power to puff out his arms as if energy flowed through them. He pointed both arms at Ile and waited for the burst from the ruby eye.

"I'm going nowhere," Ile said. "I'll enjoy remaking this valley in your honor. Maybe I'll even bring you back as my evil minion and let you kill all your friends." With that he shot the red beam at Eli, who instead of shooting energy, pulled out a huge mirror, which reflected the beam back at Ile. Ile didn't have time to move, scream, or anything. He just vanished. The ruby eye dropped to the ground. Eli picked it up, had the sudden urge to jam it into his own eye socket, but then turned his hands into huge millstones and ground it into red dust.

A leg stretched from the distance and set down in front of Eli. The rest of the professor then sprung into view.

"Mission accomplished?"

Eli nodded. "He'll never be back, but he took the Big Bad Wolf and the giant with him."

The professor shrugged. "If the Maker wills it, they'll be back."

"What about Ile?" Eli asked.

"An arch-enemy, especially one as evil and dangerous as him, makes a cartoon more exciting. But if not him, someone else. Now what do you say we head back to my house? I'm starving. But my real question to you is: Will this be another farewell meal?"

Eli thought about it for a second. Ile had been right; he had always left to protect Walters Valley. But with Ile gone, the threat inside him had left, too.

"No," Eli said. "I'm home for good."


Voting Open for Birthday Flash Contest

Deanna Schrayer has a birthday story contest going on at her blog. I entered this story: Happy Birthday, Facebook Friend. If you haven't yet, give it a read. Hopefully you'll enjoy it. I had fun writing it. And if you did enjoy it, go over to her website, The Other Side of Deanna, and vote. I hope you give each story a look and decide which one you like best. I'm hoping that story turns out to be mine, but as long as you give mine a look, I'm happy. (And if you haven't yet commented on it, it'd thrill me to get more!) While I hope for enough votes to win, as long as more people are exposed to my writing, I'm happy. So go on. Go vote! Thanks! And until next time, keep reading and/or writing.