Friday, November 17, 2017

NYC Midnight Challenge Three - 2017

Well, I made it through to the third challenge. I'm so excited to move to the next round, but now I have to wait for another month. For this challenge, I was tasked with:
Genre: Drama
Location: Graduation Ceremony
Object: Lobster

Here's my story...

Graduation Day

Synopsis: Allison Thomas’s graduation was supposed to be perfect, but when a shooter unleashes on the crowd, her excitement turned to terror. In the pandemonium, she was able to find her parents, but right after they reunited, her mother was shot and killed resulting in her graduation from innocence rather than simply high school.

I watched my peers fidgeting in their seats as we waited for it to be our row’s turn to rise and approach the side of the stage, and I couldn’t help from reminiscing about the past 13 years of our lives. So many memories. So many dreams created, attempted, lost, achieved. This would be a day that would define my future.
Glancing behind me, I searched the mass in the stands hoping to catch of glimpse of my folks, to smile and let them know I was grateful for everything they’d done for me, or to simply make eye contact affirming our mutual love. They were my rocks. They were the two people I loved more that life itself.
Randy Braggs. Troy Brighton. Josh Carlton. They’re calling names of people I’d known and cared about for most of my life, but I had time before I needed to really focus since my name, Allison Thomas, was so far down the alphabet. I twirled my ruby locks around my finger while I tried to take it all in. I didn’t want to forget a thing. The sky’s so clear with not a cloud in sight, but it made sense since it’s the end of May and we’re in California where the weather is practically perfect in every way, but today was more than perfect.
Row after row, my friends stood and received their diplomas until my favorite teacher, Mr. Granger, waved his hands signifying it’s our turn. The energy tingled through us as, together, we stood, turned, and began the processional to the stage. I pivoted back and waved in the general direction of my parents, hoping they got that perfect photo opportunity before I faced forward again for the parade to the temporary stage in the middle of our football field. It didn’t matter how many times we practiced the day before, I was terrified I’d trip and embarrass myself. I needed to focus.
When I finally approached the stairs to the stage, I could feel my heart race, and my mouth refused to stop smiling. “Congratulations,” my principal said and handed me my diploma. I was graduating from high school, from childhood, from the right to be a fool whenever I wished. What would the future look like? I didn’t care at that moment; all I knew was this was happiness. All around me, the kids I grew up with held their breath until the principal said, “Students, please move your tassels from right to left. Congratulations to the graduating class of 2017.”
Boom! Confetti erupted over our heads, shrouded our mortar boards and fell like snowflakes around us. Blue and white strips of paper peppered the ground as we shouted like children on a rollercoaster. The excitement in the crowd was exhilarating as hundreds of family and friends swarmed the field in search of their graduates. There’d be plenty of time to be with my friends that night at Grad Night, but now I wanted my parents. I searched beyond the strangers swarming around me until I could see her on the other side of the football field. “Mom,” I called out in vain. Too many voices were trying the same thing I was. Boom! No one flinched. Instead, we all stopped, looked up, seeking the familiar confetti, but it didn’t come. Bang, Bang, Bang. It was like fireworks that never reached the sky. Confusion washed over me until the screaming began. “Run. Get down.” Excitement turned to terror as bedlam seized the masses causing children, parents, elders to desperately seek shelter from their potential deaths. “MOM! DAD!” I screamed, horrified I wouldn’t find them. I pushed past groups of people shielding their loved ones on the ground from the bullets falling from the heavens. Oh my God, please help me. Flashes of my childhood passed before my eyes. Those single moments of bliss with my family: watching the Little Mermaid with my stuffed lobster, Sebastian; visiting Disneyland for my first time; running downstairs Christmas morning to discover what Santa brought - it was all a blink ago. Down another went, bringing me back. John. Sarah. Bethany. My friends were dying. I ran as hard as I could towards the last place I saw my parents. “MOM! DAD! WHERE ARE YOU?!”
The shots continued making our innocent ceremony a war zone. The bellowing howls of innocents pierced my ears. I had to get out of there. I had to find them. THERE! I could see them thirty feet away from me. “MOMMY! DADDY!” I cried as my feet took me to them where I collided into their arms for safety. We clung to each other as we shook with fear and trepidation. “I didn’t think I’d find you,” Mom said to me, between her sobs. “Thank you, God,” she repeated over and over until she was sure he heard her. Bang! More shots. Mom lurched forward and buckled.
“Mom?” I pulled back only to watch her crumple to the ground. My dad lunged forward to stop her, but he was too late. There was a hole in her chest that wasn’t there before. Her eyes were still open, but there was nothing behind them. “Mom!” I screamed, shaking her shoulders. “Wake up. Mommy, you have to wake up.” Her blood was everywhere, but we didn’t care. Dad and I cradled her in our arms until the paramedics took her away. When I stood up, I spotted a small lobster, covered in blood on the ground where she once stood. It was the Sebastian doll from my youth.
Dad picked it up and clutched it to him, staining his white shirt, marking the end of my childhood. “She found it this morning and wanted you to have it again,” he told me and wiped the tears from his eyes.
I took it from him and wondered how I would ever recover from this day. It was no longer my graduation from school, but rather my graduation from innocence.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Round 2 - 2017

Hi Everyone,
Here's Round Two for the 2017 Flash Fiction Challenge for NYC Midnight.
I'm in Group 78.
Genre: Political Satire
Location: Drive-Thru
Object: Wine Glass.

I hope you enjoy it!

America's Idols

“We need to make a quick stop on our way to the Capitol,” I tell my daughter as I pull off the freeway. “It should only take a few minutes.”
            My daughter lets out a deep groan knowing my version of a few minutes really means ten, but I don’t care. I need this to make it through my day. At fourteen, she doesn’t quite get the struggle of adulthood and only really cares about herself, but rather than fighting, she turns on the radio to drown out the silence.
            We watch with cheers as the final monument is annihilated. The Washington Monument will no longer scream out oppression and slave mongering any longer, the announcer declares. In the background crowds are shouting, celebrating the end of the idolization of hate spreaders in the nation. The reporter speaks louder to ensure he’s being heard, New statues are being constructed across the country as we speak showing the world we know what and who matters when making the positive changes needed for our civilization to thrive.
            I reach over and tap the down button until I can get her attention again. “Aren’t you excited to see the unveiling of the new statues at the Capitol? Today’s celebration is the first in our state.”
            She rolls her eyes and scoffs. “Sure, Mom.” Jewel barely looks up from her screen.
            I inch the car forward moving up my place in line, then reach into my purse and pull out the flyer. “Here, read the descriptions to me so we know what we’re going to see,” I say attempting to pull her away from her Snapchat.
            “Mom, seriously, I don’t care.”
            “Jewel, I really think this is something you’ll appreciate.” She’s so disinterested in everything, and I wanted this to be something we could do together. “Ok what’s the first on the list.”
            She unfolds the handout to find descriptions. “Fine. The first one is a statue of Kanye. Seriously?”
            “Hey, he’s a major icon,” I interject.
            “Whatever. Kanye West,” she begins, “a leader in the mental health movement, demonstrated to the world the positive power behind reaching out to others to spread great ideas while practicing mental health coping strategies.” She rolls her eyes and drops the paper.
            I shake my head and smile. “What an inspiration,” I tell her. “We should all be like him in our daily life. This is so wonderful that our representatives have decided to do this. Who’s next?”
            She lets out a sigh, yet again. “Britney Spears.”
            “Oh really? I love her,” I exclaim.
            “Mom, please,” she stops me. “It says that she’s an animal activist who worked hard for the liberation of boa constrictors. Is this a joke or something?”
            Trying to ignore her disrespect, I look out the window watching the people drive by wondering if they’re as lucky as I am at this very moment. I’m on my way to see our nation’s newest dedication to those who have shaped our evolving culture. I feel sorry for those who won’t be able to witness it like us, but as I watch them talk on their phones and text while driving, I can tell they are as happy as I am, and I smile.
            I pull forward again. “Welcome to Starbucks. May I take your order?”  
            “Yes. Yes, you can. I’d like a grande Pumpkin Spice latte and a bagel, please.” The promotional wine glass on the menu reminds me I should get something to absorb the wine I had with lunch.
            “Mom, get me a Pumpkin Frappuccino,” Jewel demands.
            I nod and relay her order to the faceless voice. “That’s all.”
            We’re still a few cars away from the window, so I turn to her again. “Ok, who’s next?”
            She looks back to the circular searching for the third figure. “Simon Cowell is being honored for his demonstration of Freedom of Speech and the power of truth.’”  
            I just love him on those talent shows, the way he speaks to the children letting them know that their dreams just might not be their realities is touching. “OK, who’s the last one?”
            Jewel’s looking back at her phone ignoring me, so I tap her leg. She jerks her head up in response. “What?”
            “This is important. What are you doing anyway?”
            “Reading the Iliad,” she snaps back.
            “Who’s that? I’ve haven’t seen them on YouTube, have I?” I ask, sure I’ve missed the next best thing.
            “No, Mom. It’s a Greek Epic. You’re so basic.”
            Ignoring her insult, I look ahead. “Who’s the fourth?”
            She finds the final description and laughs. “Seriously? It’s Tom Cruise. Apparently, he’s being honored for religious freedom. ‘Tom Cruise and his selflessness shows the world that Scientology is the future. It encourages personal growth, stressing the importance of the individual over reliance on others.’ Mom, is this for real? These people aren’t idols, they’re has been celebrities. Why aren’t we learning from our history and keeping the real figures in our cities? We’re supposed to learn from the past so we don’t repeat it.”
            I’m appalled at her intolerance. “Jewel, where do you learn these horrible things?”
            “School, Mom, you know that place I go every day for an education? They teach us things like keeping an open mind and respect the Constitution. Fight for the people who can’t speak for themselves. Help the Earth by recycling. Volunteer to help others. These so called ‘icons’ are hacks. We need to be putting our torn down monuments back. Where’s MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, Father Junipero Sera, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln?  Where does it stop? They’re all people who made a difference.”

            Why can’t she be more normal? I ask myself and pull up to the window. I pay and retrieve our drinks before looking to her one last time. Her ignorance drives me insane. “Enough.” I can’t take it any longer. These lies she’s “learning” are destroying her. “You don’t deserve to see real history being made. We’re going home.” 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Round 1

Hi All,

I'm at it again...two years later. I decided last minute I'd compete in this year's NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction Competition. Last weekend was round one and my topic was:

Group # 78
Genre: Sci-Fi
Location: Man-Made Island
Object: Skeleton
1000 words max.

I'd love any feedback in the comments.

Here's my story.

The Island

            It’s time. I’ve had 14 years, 364 days to make this decision, and now on my 15th birthday, I’m forced to make a decision that will control the rest of my life. It’s so not fair. The ignoramuses who destroyed the actual planet five hundred years ago had no idea we’d be this limited with our resources and forced to move to space, but now we are, so I’m forced to choose between work and marriage. Awesome, right?
            I have to get ready for the day, so I throw my hair into a pony before asking my bot to spray on my face. The spray hits quickly, making me flinch. I know I should be used to it, but I haven’t been using it for long. Mom laughs when I jerk away. “You’re so innocent,” she tells me, but today, she’s not here. Instead, she wants me to reflect before going in. Whatever that means. I mean I’ve been ‘reflecting’ on this for as long as I’ve known about it, which is pretty much my entire life. I give myself a final look and shake my head. “It’ll have to do,” I say and leave my bedroom.
            “Hey Mom,” I say as I walk into the kitchen.
            She looks up from her reading screen and stares at me. “I can’t believe today’s the day. I’m so excited for you,” she says and smiles. “Honey, aren’t you excited for Iris?”
            I look to Dad and just laugh. He doesn’t even look up from his screen. As always, he’s watching some live feed, this time it’s about the discovery of a skeleton somewhere on the “Island.” Though it sounds interesting, I wish he’d for once pay attention to us. “Dad, did you even hear Mom?” I ask knowing it will piss him off.
            “Yeah, yeah. Excited. Choice,” he mumbles without glancing up.
            This is what I have to choose? Getting married tomorrow and having a kid within the year, or having a career and staying single. My mom obviously chose marriage, but she’s practically alone, and once I leave, she will be. I read in my school screen there was a time when there was equity between the sexes, but when the world went to shit and surviving meant creating the healthiest possible people, 15 became the magic age. The roles regressed. Now women are either workers or birthers. You can’t be both, but I’ve heard rumors about workers having babies. They got ejected back to the planet below. It sounds horrible.
            “Dad, can you look at me?” I say attempting to get his attention.
            Finally, he looks up. “What’s up?” He’s totally oblivious.
            “Um, not much other than I’m choosing my future today. That’s all,” I say with my hand on my hip.
            He turns to my mom. “Claire, is that really today?” She nods and rolls her eyes, and he looks back to me. “Happy birthday, Iris. It seems like yesterday you were learning to walk and now you get to be married and make one of your own.” He’s actually excited about this.
            “Um, who says I want to get married?”
            My mom’s coffee cup crashes to the floor and Dad chokes on his own spit. “Excuse me?” Mom barely gets out.
            I know this irritates them; they’ve told me dozens of times how they can’t wait to have grandchildren. “All I’m saying is I haven’t made my choice yet. That’s all.”
            They look back and forth at each other and back to me before proceeding. Great. They’re pissed and I know it. Working women are disgraceful, to them, and I could be one of them.
            “Iris, we’ve talked about this. I thought you wanted to get married,” Mom says and cleans the cup up from the floor.
            It amazes me how much we look alike. We could be twins if we were the same age - same dark hair and same light skin - but now she looks old. 33 years old, married with two kids, and her life’s practically over. She could get sick at any point and the government would put her in her own room of choices. I shake my head trying to get rid of the thought. It’s too depressing. “Mom, I know you’ve talked about it, but I’ve never actually chosen. Seriously, you’re asking me to let a computer choose a guy for me to marry tomorrow and have kids. It’s totally barbaric. What’s wrong with me using my brain and working? I mean, I could totally be the person who figures out how we could heal the planet and move back.”
            Dad laughs. “Not likely,” he mutters.
            He’s a dick.
            Mom looks at the clock and lets out a soft yell. “It’s time, honey. We need to take you to the Room.”
            Together, all three of us, step into a tube that moves us through our metal and glass island to the Room. When we arrive, they both give me a hug. “Good luck! We know you’ll make the right choice,” Mom tells me and ushers me through the airlock.
            It’s cold and sterile, possibly the most uncomfortable place ever. I’ve seen pictures, but nothing matches the terrifying reality. There’s a small white table with two buttons: the left is white with a yellow ring - marriage. The right is black with a red ring - work. Neither is very appealing, and I don’t want to be in here longer than necessary. This shouldn’t be this hard. On one hand, I could be a mom and have a family. It would be nice to have people to share my life with, but on the other hand, I could be known for my mind. I could change the world. I want to push both, but I’m scared one will choose for me. I shake my head, angry at the situation, but step forward and reach for the button I feel the strongest about. “I’m sorry, Mom.”

            The door opens and I walk out.