Monday, March 26, 2012

Familiar Features

As usual, from the flash fiction challenge. I saw the option of abandoned amusement park and I couldn't help but use my old stomping grounds. Enjoy. Challenge link:

 From a distance Lagoon looked the same as it always had in the off season. The familiar skyline of the coasters, Ferris wheel and the Rocket stood out against the brown mountains and the parking lot was empty. I pulled around and stopped in the employee back lot so I could avoid walking the entire length of the closed off main lot. There wasn't a guard at the security checkpoint, the place has been completely shut down without warning, but it was still an odd thing. Once parked I grabbed my pack and started looking for a way in.
The park had been a fixture of Utah for more than a century, only closing for a few years during World War II. No one seemed to know why it had been shut down so suddenly, especially since it was after the hiring for the next summer season. Some rumor had floated about a buyout from six flags, but that idea cropped up every year. Others contended that something had finally broken the Freed family and they had abandoned their source of wealth. Dozens of other thoughts were put forth but anyone who knew the truth wasn't talking. So I decided to find out on my own, and it seemed the park itself was a good place to start.
There was a turnstile type entrance at the end of the employee parking, but it was locked down tight. I would like to say I used some fancy gadget to bypass the electronic lock usually linked to ID cards, but the truth is much simpler: there was a nearby service gate chained shut. Bolt cutters in my bag made quick work of the lock and I was in, for the first time in a couple of years. The place was intimately familiar to me, I had had my first summer job here (games department), but something was off as soon as I stepped in. The silence seemed oppressive, the usually familiar ground alien under my booted feet. Then again the north end of the park was always strange to me so I ignored it and wandered south.
The feeling of desolation just got worse as I went on. Even the usual sound of birds was strangely missing. The rides were all sitting, waiting for riders that might never come now. And the games and shops were closed, garage doors hiding all the tricks I had learned ages ago. But as I reached the central midway things got altogether stranger.
First it was a noise, as I passed by a strength test I heard an artificial tone meant to be a bell ring. The game wasn't turned on though. And as I examined it I noticed something I hadn't before. The prize display, visible in glass case for this game, was set up. Not the mark of a closed park. And the stuffed animals seemed... off. The eyes were all to realistic, and the faces on the pigs and cows carried looks of extreme pain. I started examining them more closely when another sound caught my attention, drifting across the asphalt. It was a singing bell that sounded for all the world like a klaxon going off, and I knew where it was coming from.
The sound persisted as I followed it down the midway, and found the source right where I expected it, my old game of Bowler Roller. A tricky game, though not as impossible as some people thought. The noise was what happened when you won, but it shouldn't have been going, no power would be on in the game. The door looked closed but as I got closer I saw that it wasn't quite latched all the way. A practiced twist and shove and the game was open. The source of the noise was instantly apparent: where there was usually a bowling ball rolling along the tracks to hit the buzzer I saw a bloody head, mouth open in a final scream of terror. My lunch made a return appearance on the ground as I staggered away.
I fumbled my phone out and tried to call 911, but there was no service. I wasn't really surprised. Something had clearly gone terribly wrong here. I started threading my way, slowly, through kiddy land towards Pioneer Village. That old place was a town made up of transplanted authentic old west buildings, and it had always been called haunted. If there were answers to be had they would be there. I flipped my knife out of my pocket, more as a personal comfort than anything else, and dove through the tunnel separating the dusty old town from the rest of the park. Two famously bad tempered geese lay dead along the path but that was nothing compared to what I had seen.
The nausea was gone but that oppressive stillness remained, and even got worse as I wandered between the old houses and shops. None of them seemed all that willing to give up information from the outside, and truth be told I wasn't eager to explore much deeper inside. I was starting to notice a smell as well, the stench of rotten meat and spilled blood everywhere, subtly pervading the park. I tried the phone again to no avail and turned to the worst area of the park: the old shooting gallery.
I didn't want to get to close, and luckily I didn't have to. As I approached the doors flew open, showing the bodies of three more workers, kids really, riddled with holes. A deep laugh filled the air, mocking me as I fought to keep from falling over again. It spoke in a tongue I couldn't understand and I fled, bolting as fast as my legs would take me.
I made it out safely, but I'm not done quite yet. You see, as I ran I started to feel something new. A familiar presence in the back of my mind both aiding me and begging for aid in return, whispering secrets of power in my ear. That one is in my dreams now, promising the aid of the carousel horses and other park fixtures. I think it's the spirit of that old amusement park itself, trying to get help so it can fulfill it's purpose again. I need to go back, soon, and banish whatever it is that closed the place down.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Thief in the Night

From Chuck Wendig as usual, the present tense flash fiction challenge. And as a bonus: it's in a world familiar to readers of his blog.

 It is a dark day, but it always was during this season of course. The thief had been waiting for days, his blade at the ready. He was getting impatient though. The solid ground under his feet was unnerving compared to shifting sands and a rolling deck. But his tribe leader was dieing and there was no way they could afford the herb any legitimate way. The tribe has fallen on hard times after all. And now they neeed Blackbloom, the flower that built and destroyed empires, and it was almost in reach.
The king's compound is huge, it's thick walls surround miles of territory. And somewhere in there, somewhere, the Blackbloom is in it's full splendor. Fed up Absolom abandons his hiding place, launching himself at full speed down a hill towards the wall. His feet are used to the sand ocean and his tread makes no sound even at a sprint. In a flash he is at the wall, fingers and bare toes finding tiny crevices in the steel and stone meshwork to propel himself upward. His impact makes a small noise but nothing a guard would notice. He pulls himself up and is over the wall and onto a broad flat path just between guard patrols. Unfortunately pressure plates in the floor are less easily avoided and the defenses are called. Alarms are sounding as automated measures come to bear.
The king does not believe in mercy for invaders. Gun turrets and spells crackle and spark to life, weaving a net of destruction closing on Absolom. But he is not some regular footpad to be destroyed so easily. He leaps through the tiniest of gaps to safety. More sensors give away his movement and even as he lands he has to run, eventually half falling over the far side of the wall as a bullet grazes his thigh. By luck he stumbles into a shadowed plant, out of range of the guns. But by now the guards are coming, a swarm of gun toting sword slinging fools yelling at the tops of their voices.
Abaslom holds his breath as he staunches the wound, wrapping a spare rag to slow the bleeding, at least for now. The wound is nasty, but he will live, he thinks. The guards are still coming and he needs to be elsewhere. As quickly as he can he scuttles to another shadow, hugging the wall as much as he can and grateful for the seasonal darkness. One guard seems to spot him and comes closer to investigate. The last thing they see is a sharp rune blade. They fall quickly under Absolom's assault, fists cracking ribs and knee caps even as his blade cut their throat and soft belly. They never even get a chance to call out.
He works his way in, and thanks his luck that he managed to end up near the gardens. The dark flower sits proudly in the center, behind another, shorter, wall. His leg is hurting him more now, and slowing him. It's invisible in the perpetual night but a solid blood trail does run along the ground. The bullet hole is worse than he thought, it hit an artery. Absolom will be dead inside of a day without proper treatment. Still he pushes forward, moving from shadow to shadow, hiding in bushes or clambering up small sheds whenever a patrol comes nearby.
Finally he is close. Through the gardens and up to the center, three flowers bloom in the night, giving off something like an eerie non light. They are shrouded in perfect darkness, but around them is a perfectly clear path that is very well lit. Floodlights make it as bright as day and guards stand every five feet. There is simply no way to get past them. To make it worse they aren't the usual goons with guns. These are the elite of the king's guard, wizards and techno nuts, sword masters. Absolom is also sure that snipers cover the entire area.
Normally he wouldn't worry. But time is running short before he passes out, and his father will rot if he isn't revived quickly. He circles twice, trying to find any weakness in the defenses and failing utterly. An assault could work, if they didn't just trample the plants. Luring them could work, if they weren't so rigid and numerous. There was only one chance, and Absolom takes it.
In a mad dash he runs headlong forward, still fast despite his pale complexion and wound. In moments they are on him, some working to restrain him, others trying to line up shots, trying to decide if the intruder is worth shooting their comrades. He wastes no time fighting them though, other than using hard strikes and swift jabs to keep hands off of him. One last push of effort and he is over the wall, in reach of the flowers. A shot rings out and he feels the bullet ripping through him. Absolom sees his lifeblood ooze over the ground as another chunk of lead hits his back. He stretches both hands forward and pulls, shoveling one of his
A moment later and the other guards come in to cart out the body. In the confusion no one notices two flowers are missing. By the time they do it will be to late. In three days Absolom will wake in a shallow river changed, now one of the immortal black blooded bloomed. The second flower clutched to his chest, hidden by the blood still flowing slowly, will save his father. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Writing creed

So apparently insomnia makes me write things. This is the answer to both why I write, and what I write.

Why I Write:

I write to entertain
to thrill
to engage
If a message slips in, all the better, but first it must be fun.
I am heir to the penny dreadful
the pulp magazines
dime novels and movie serials
comics and action flicks.
I walk in the footsteps of giants.
Poe, Lovecraft, Haggard and Doyle
Howard, Burroughs, Siegel and Lee.

I write so that I can entertain
of worlds undreamed
and wild adventures.
I write so we can all have a bit of fun.
Not to hammer a message home or preach
Just a bit of escapism.

And maybe, just perhaps,
If you read what I write
you can dream of a better world.

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's Not Your Fault

Well this one turned out dark, go figure. From the terribleminds flash fiction challenge of the week. Go check it out.

 She didn't scream. I had to give her credit for that. Oh she fought like a wildcat, like they always do, but she didn't scream at any point in the whole process. Were I a generous man I might think it was a sign of nobility. But I am not a generous man and so I think it was just her saving her breath.
This witch had been hard to track, but what did I expect from the head of such a large coven really? She had hidden in the swamps of the south, begging with the pagan loa spirits to help her, drinking rum and blood in offering to them. It must have worked, the twisted creations hid her and made the swampland totally impassable to me for months on end. But the will of God will always win out in time. I set the entire land on fire, with kerosene and gas and lamp oil, and flushed her out that way. She ran again to the north, taking refuge in the old shelter of her sisters of Salem. This did her no better as I had already banished their ghosts and broken their satanic hold on the town. Then she headed west, in the trackless lands of a dominion older than America. I lost her trail for a while but news surfaced of her in Utah, and away I went as fast as I could.
We met, finally, in her hotel room. Guns being loud and swords to unwieldy and obvious in these dark times I still managed to have a proper dagger on me when we met. It's blade was honed to razor sharpness and I did take some pleasure in it's craftsmanship. The fight was brief and in no time I had her pinned, my blade at her throat. And yet she never screamed Now even the most twisted souls are afforded certain luxuries and I gave her a chance to speak before I sent her to proper judgment. She stared me in the eyes and simply asked “Why? Why hunt me puritan?” I was surprised, they never asked that. “I have to. You defy the will of God and I am but his instrument.” She smiled at that, even with blood welling from the edge of my blessed. “So it's not your fault then. How sweet. And does this comfort you late at night when you lie alone in your bare room?” I nearly ended her their, but couldn't yet. “It does enough. But it is indeed my doing, as an instrument of his will. I pity you, with your desires twisted by the wiles of the enemy. I do not know how much is truly your doing, but that is no matter.” With a free hand I baptized her before the death. The deed done I cleaned the blade and prayed for guidance to my target.