Horse Sense? Extreme Maneuvers, A Short Story

Please check out my latest story, Extreme Maneuvers, on Enchanted Spark.

This was written for Enchanted Spark’s last Photo Flare Contest. It’s a flash fiction piece based on two lovely photos which you can see on that site along with the story. While there, check out some if the other awesome stories, photos that inspired them, and blog posts.

At the time I wrote the story, I did not know if the horse photo was of actual Chincoteague Ponies. The photos are posted without captions.

Also known as Assateague horses, Chincoteague Ponies are a feral breed that live wild on Assateague Island. Residing on the East Coast, a few hours drive from that area, I have seen them before but not as often as I’d like.

They’re a relatively short horse and have round bellies due to the high salt content of their diet of salt marsh grasses. To offset the salt, they drink twice as much water as other breeds.

The story was inspired largely by the photo of the two ponies, but also by a water fall image that was one of several from which we could choose. It looks a lot like sections of Great Falls. I’ll have to ask where that was taken. In my story it features prominently in Wilber’s mind.

I’ve really enjoyed Enchanted Spark contests. It’s been great for me to have a goal and object of focus to help move things along – to help me propel a story into being. Thanks, Melinda and Julie and Enchanted Spark!

Vital Fluids, Photo Flash

I’m very excited, not only, to have recently finished a story and entered it in Enchanted Spark’s Photo Flash contest. I also won! Yay! These are generally fun short stories prompted by, or based on, a photo and are under 1,000 words. In the case of Vital Fluids, it was also inspired by the lack of air conditioning in my car.

Click here to read Vital Fluids.

Visit the rest of the beautiful EnchantedSpark.com website too. There are some really helpful tips for writers of fiction and super nice people. They have recipes, book reviews, and other fun and excellent short stories too!

How Do I Start This?

So writing short stories is one of the things I do. Or don’t do, because there’s a lot of that too. And one of the hard parts of writing is not only getting started — putting a device in front of yourself and then putting words on it. It is also tricky to figure out the best way to open your story. You don’t want it to be boring or your readers will take a walk. You want it to work with your story and you want to avoid cliches. So, ack, what to do? Well, here’s a very helpful discussion at a blog I like:

Enchanted Spark
Openings: How do you do them?

Story for this month’s contest

A story for this month’s contest will probably not get finished enough to submit.

Check out the photos for July’s Photo Flare Contest from Enchanted Spark:

http://www.enchantedspark.com/photoflarerulespics.html

A story, yay!!!

I actually managed to kinda sorta finish another story. See it here at Enchanted Spark:

http://www.enchantedspark.com/photoflarepastwinners.php

Yay!

Orcs and clown shirts and unicorn pegasus kittens (OH MY!)

Because it would be fun, for a good cause and help give me an exercise in actually finishing a story, I tried my hand at writing a bit o’ fan fiction for the “Wil Wheaton/John Scalzi Fan Fiction Contest to Benefit the Lupus Alliance of America”  Below is my entry (after the links and such, but check those out too if you haven’t).

Read about the contest here:
http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/05/30/fanfic-contest

Read more about Lupus here:
http://www.lupusalliance.org

If you haven’t already, you’ll definitely want to check out the fine fine illustration on which the story below is based. You may see a nice big version of the art and find out more about artist Jeff Zuale here:
http://www.jeffzugale.com

For your listening pleasure, check out the song that was inspired by it too. That’s here:
http://scifisongs.blogspot.com/2010/06/free-mp3-unicorn-pegasus-kitten.html

Find links to other’s entries here:
http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/07/01/update-on-wil-wheatonjohn-scalzi-fan-fiction-contest

I hope you enjoy!

The Orc, The Sweater and Puk

by Deb

The massive winged furball arced toward him. Wil, astride the beast, his spear ready. Scalzi felt his doom. So this was it then, Wheaton would take him out. All for a crazy little, incredibly tasty smelling pie.

* * *

The glow of the machine revealed its nook on the third floor opposite the ice dispenser. Rounding the corner, his shoulders dropped. Pepsi products only. John Scalzi had a ravenous thirst after conversations stretched into the wee hours. Feeding the money into the slot he hoped for a Diet Pepsi, but fate mocked him with a blinking red “empty” light. And another. Then it ate his dollar.

Wil Wheaton found John in the hallway. “No luck?” Scalzi shook his head, just the bad bad kind. Night owls percolated through the hotel lobby and lounge. There must be Coke Zero somewhere. How could there not be? And, lo, there was.

Bottlenecks of various shades sprouted in semi-melted ice in an open cooler on a table. The old man next to it smoothed his con T-shirt over his frame as if confirming his fandom. He followed thirsty eyes to the beverages and motioned. “Help yourselves.” Scalzi and Wil held their hands ready to select a drink as the man blocked them briefly. “Choose,” he said, “but choose wisely.” His eyes laughed as he smiled through his beard.

Picking a Coke Zero and Clementine Izze Soda, the two uttered thanks and enjoyed a refreshing draught before settling into seats at a nearby table.

The man stared.

Holding the bottles as if offering a toast, Wil and John smiled back and nodded a silent “thank you again.” But the man reversed his grin, bowed his head and rumbled quietly, “Gentlemen you chose … poorly.”

A door must have opened somewhere because abandoned newspapers flapped their pages. Wil and John exchanged puzzled looks as Wil lowered the bottle from his lips and quickly spattered out the contents of his mouth. Sand and sawdust splayed across the table.

From the depths of their cores, the two began to spontaneously emit squeals sounding exactly like a combination of balloons slowly losing air and fingernails on a chalkboard, as an ashy appearance started at their throats and spread. Beneath the sawdusty texture vibrations rippled up and down their arms as if speedy worms crawled beneath. Cells rearranged. There was a final, loud pop and the transformation was complete.

Standing in the newly abandoned lobby John Scalzi had become a large green Orc holding an axe where the Coke Zero had been and Wil Wheaton was wearing a–the–clown sweater, shorts, and holding a spear. The tabletop was now a strangely aromatic shield which the Orc formerly known as Scalzi ripped off its base and sniffed. Catnip. The old man waited silently.

It got worse.

Not only did the table smell oddly familiar, the Orc reeked as if old gym socks had been left to ferment with a soiled baby diaper and mixed with the Klingon delicacy gagh. Wil told him so. Scalzi answered, “Asshole,” and discovered that his voice had changed dramatically too. It wasn’t even Orc. He was mortified to recognize it as sounding just like Jar Jar Binks. Even worse, he realized everyone else sounded like Jar Jar Binks to him.

The ScalzOrc slowly turned to the old man and stammered, “Oh god, mysa worst nightmare come true!”

Wil turned his head as he noticed that all TV screens in the hotel’s lounge displayed a red haired woman in a blue lab coat who shook her head at him and scolded, “I’m so very disappointed in you…”

The clown sweater was hot and sticky as if made of a wool and cotton candy blend. It itched, smelled of stale circus and actually seemed to be melding with his skin. Wil’s legs, clothed in thermally incompatible apparel, were cold from the air conditioning as were his feet. His eyes watered (which may very well have been from the Orc smell alone).

A feline nearly the size of a steed bounded over a set of empty chairs. She sported a shiny unicorn horn, Pegasus wings and a half equine body. She was very interested in the aromas emanating from the ScalzOrc. Rolling on her back, she pawed at him. Scalzi and Wheaton stared in fascinated horror. Can this nightmare get any worse?

“Ah, this is not your worst nightmare,” crooned the old man. “This is just very very bad. It could get worse. Besides, if this was the worst come true, you’d be stuck. As it happens, you’re not. There is a way out.” He held out a scroll. “You must complete a quest to make your antidote.”

Wheaton and Scalzi grabbed the scroll and read it.

Most of the ingredients should be relatively easy to find. Simple. Basic. All was good, except for the last part where they’d have to bake their magical concoction in fire caves at the base of Mt. Doom. That would be tricky. Fortunately, there were directions. Hope flexed to hopelessness and back again.

First things first, Wil said he’d go back to his room to grab some shoes and pants. His legs were cold and Mt. Doom called for footwear. He’d attempt to change THE sweater as well. Scalzi would gather ingredients–most of which could be acquired at the overpriced micro mart or the hotel’s kitchen as it had a darn good breakfast bar complete with omelets and waffles with toppings. Scalzi headed for the kitchen and Wil for the elevators.

As the elevator doors opened and Wil stepped aboard he heard almost the same sound doors make on the Enterprise but just off-tune enough to wax nightmarish. Upon hearing it, Pegasus Unicorn Kitten bounded into the elevator ready for adventure. PUK rolled on her back as a computer voice warned of tachyon particles. It would be an away mission. Wil relented to cliche and glanced down to check that his sweater had not changed to a red shirt. He almost wished it had.

Scalzi grabbed a bag to hold as many ingredients listed on the scroll as possible. With all the finesse of Jar Jar himself, the ScalzOrc shoved sugar packets, eggs, syrup tubs, brown sugar, nuts and bacon into the bag. He grabbed a round omelet pan to use as a pie pan. The ingredients for the crust itself were trickier, but dry waffle mix and a bowlful of little pats of butter were going to have to suffice. He paused at the beverage assortment, still so thirsty. Then he slipped. Fell. Got up. Swore loudly. Grabbed his sack of ingredients, shield and axe then headed for the elevators to get Wil.

On the elevator, a Muzak rendition of The Phantom Menace theme serenaded the ScalzOrc making him even crankier. When the doors opened to reveal a land of steam and flame he didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. The smell helped him choose. He could see the caves below at the base of Mt. Doom and half stepped, half slid down the steep slope not giving a second thought to how he’d ever get back up to the elevator portal.

Wil ached for fresh clothing, but instead his nightmare continued. The doors opened, and Trent from the “Angel One” episode of TNG stood before him taunting, “You should have listened to me! Your career would have been so much better. Who wishes he had this now?” He smoothed his hands over his tight little ensemble. Wil blinked. Was Trent talking about his body or his clothing? The clown sweater was getting so uncomfortable he’d definitely consider the latter. Puk pounced out, then in again, and Wil jabbed a button.

Next the elevator opened onto a stage at a convention from years past. The Enterprise crew stared agape as Wheaton stepped out and the crowd booed at him. He quickly turned and punched the elevator buttons hard.

When the doors opened this time, tendrils of sulfurous steam rose up to meet him. In the distance he could see the green Orc, busy at work over something. The pie! The antidote! Is he eating it all himself? That little dick, how dare he? Wil hopped on Puk and took flight with a purpose.

John was amazed at how well Bacon Maple pie was forged from the assorted ingredients and little packets. It was not the prettiest pie, but the aroma was hypnotically delectable. Most of Scalzi stood in hell, but his nostrils were in heaven. It was a wonderful, terrible feeling. His green hand lovingly stroked the outer edge of the pan, as he cooed a high pitched, “My Precious.”

He look up and saw the unicorn pegasus kitten flying off from the platform of the elevator portal. He could ride the kitten to get away from Mt. Doom and back to the hotel with his precious, precious pie. Then he saw HIM on her back wearing the clown sweater. He bared his teeth.

Wil watched the ScalzOrc set the pie down on a low rock behind him and reach for his axe and shield. Whew, there’s still pie, but they might have to fight for it! He scrutinized the land around him.

Scalzi glared. The massive winged furball arced towards him. Wil, astride the beast, his spear ready. Scalzi felt his doom. So this was it then, Wheaton would take him out. All for a crazy little, incredibly tasty smelling pie.

Puk and Wil had the upper hand. They dove. A shadow crossed in front of the pie as Wil drove his spear hard. It met its target firmly.

Pawing at the Orc shield, Puk rubbed her whisker pads and purred loudly. Scalzi blinked. Next to him, Wil had speared a monstrous spider. Oozing a black and yellow liquid she scurried away, wounded.

Wil and Scalzi stared at each other. Both alive. Both pissed. Both really uncomfortable. Both craving pie. They were ready to eat it now and reverse this nightmare.

Hands poised to grab and eat, they stopped each other simultaneously. Wil yelled, “Wait, Puk is part of your nightmare. If you eat the pie now Puk will disappear and we won’t be able to ride her back up to the portal! Let me eat now, and you eat when we get back.”

Scalzi squealed, “Mee-sa thought Puk was your nightmare.” He hung his head in frustration. “If yousa eat now, wee-sa gonna be stuck!”

Eyes fixed on each other, hands threatening to grab chunks of pie at any moment, they knew deep down what they had to do… Scalzi shifted and leaped behind Wil onto Puk’s back. Firmly gripping the clown sweater with one arm and the pie with the other, he rode. The trio ascended to the elevator portal resisting the tasty pie the whole way back.

The hotel lobby was incredibly refreshing. The pie still wafting temptingly, Wil coaxed it from the Orc’s clutches carefully placing it on a table.

“Wonderful gentlemen!” The old man congratulated. “You chose … wisely.” He handed them plates and forks and they dug in to the magical pie which had been baked in the fire caves at the base of Mt. Doom. There was a breeze and a pop and both men looked and felt perfectly like themselves once again.

Puk frowned as she realized the shield was a tabletop and no longer smelled like catnip. Yet Puk remained. The old man saw Wil and Scalzi’s confused expectation and chuckled. “Thought Puk was part of the nightmare? Ha. Puk is real!” The old man lifted his brows and squinted his eyes. Puk howled. “I suggest you let her outside. Now!” They did.

The old man looked down at what was left of the Bacon Maple pie. The pie is truth. “My favorite!” He took a bite. “Perfect.” There was a squeaking sound and a loud pop and he was gone.


Copyright © 2010 Deb L. Kapke