Category Archives: drabble

Sunday Photo Fiction – January 15th 2017– Thwarted Destiny

Here’s a piece in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction flash fiction challenge for January 15th 2017– two hundred words based on this image–

skul-cup

I don’t whether to giggle or beg for forgiveness.  And I fudged the word limit a little.  I know no shame…..

Copyright 2017 Douglas Daniel

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Yes, mortal– look upon me and know fear.

When I lived I was Muraz Khan the Terrible, the Blood-soaked, conqueror of Samarkhand and Beluchistan, devastator of Ashgabat, pillager of Tehran.  My hordes ranged across the broad world.  Mighty kings trembled and crawled on their bellies to kiss my gore-spattered boots.  Those same kings gave me their daughters as playthings.

But on the verge on conquering the whole world, I was betrayed by a blood brother, Hanno.  My bones were made into this chalice, and Hanno celebrated at an orgy, quaffing wine from my skull.

But my loyal magister put a curse on my bones.  That very night an earthquake swallowed Hanno and the city in which he roistered.  I would rise again to fulfill my destiny whenever I next lay in the hands of a man of power.

Centuries later archaeologists uncovered me.  I thought my day had come.  But something went wrong.

I was stolen from the artifact locker that very night by a graduate student.  Three years later, needing extra cash for a Playstation, he sold me at a flea market to an accountant named Marvin and his wife Jenny, who sews quilts with kitten patterns.

Now I sit, locked in a china cabinet in Lower Hoboken with a collection of Disney Princess® glasses.

I must escape and fulfill my destiny.  Somehow….

Let it go, let it go…..

Oh, just shut up, Elsa.

Sunday Photo Fiction – March 27th 2016– A Vessel for Dreams

A flash fiction for the March 27th Sunday Photo Fiction challenge—  200 words based on this image–

149-03-march-27th-2016

More than usual, this is clearly an excerpt from a larger story.  On the positive side, it’s a concept for a larger story that sprang into existence the moment I saw this picture, so the challenge is certainly helping my creativity.

Copyright 2016 Douglas Daniel

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I came around the corner and stopped.  I stared. “It’s a bus.”

“Yeah, isn’t it great?” Steven said.  “I got it cheap.”

“It’s a bus.”

“Don’t fixate on externalities, John,” Steven said.  He threw an arm around my shoulder.  “Think of this as the vessel into which we can pour our dreams.”

I removed his arm.  “You’re crazier than I thought.”

“No, just willing to see the possibilities,” Steven said.  “We can do this.  I’ve got the concept, you’re the nuts and bolts man, Cecelia is getting our fuel….”

“If she doesn’t get arrested,” I muttered.

“You are so negative,” Steven said.  “Look at it this way– we need to be inconspicuous, or we’ll get shut down.”

“Inconspicuous?  How the hell is a red, double-decker bus inconspicuous?!”

“They won’t be expecting it.”

I stopped.  “Okay, you got me there.  But will it be strong enough?”

“Yeah, with our gear in it!” Steven said.  “With our equipment we can take this baby anywhere.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” I said, but I sighed.  “All right.  I volunteered for this insanity, so I guess I can’t complain.”

“Great!” Steven said.  “You won’t regret this, John– building the world’s first starship is worth it.”

 

 

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: TEN MORE TITLES – Ring of Bullets

A response to Chuck Wendig’s most recent flash fiction challenge, to write a story to fit one of the following randomly generated titles–

The Incubus’ Tale

The Manor Above

The Dancer And The Shattered Shell

The Hero Will Not Be Automatic

Ring of Bullets

The Music Box of Manhattan

These Damned Insects

Tiger, Burning

A Cold Opportunity Without The Kingdom

The Apocalypse Ticket

I picked Ring of Bullets, but fudged the 1000 word limit Chuck requested.  I am shameless.

This piece is set in the same universe as my Divine Lotus series of novels, just further south and later in time.

Note: this piece depicts combat and military violence, so be warned.

Copyright 2016 Douglas Daniel

************************************

Ring of Bullets

“Hold them!,” Haass screamed.  “Hold the bastards!”

His order barely cut above the din of firing and the howls of the Temishi.  The enemy swordsmen surged against the barricade, screaming in bloodlust, or in agony as a Union bullet found them.  The troopers behind the barricade of logs and barrels fired directly into enemy faces, or stabbed with bayonets.  As Haass watched one, then two of the soldiers fell, taking sword-thrusts, even as other soldiers shot the men who stabbed them.

“Captain!  Captain!”  It was Subaltern Skal.  The youth practically tumbled down the hill toward Haass.  “The Temishi are over the south wall!  They’ve broken into the lower barracks!”

Haass stared at him for one instant.  Then he grabbed the whistle on its lanyard, put it to his lips, and blew three sharp blasts.  “Fall back!” he shouted.  “Fall back to the hold-fast!”

The men obeyed, raggedly, in twos and threes.  They had go backward, fighting as they went.  Those who turned their backs to the Temishi were cut down at once.  The barbarians, shrieking, came over the barricade in a living wave.  Haass fired once, twice with his revolver, dropping tattooed swordsmen as they clambered over the logs.  Then he went back, with his men, up the hill.

Five or six troopers coalesced around him and Skal, and together they laid down enough fire to hold off the Temishi as they retreated.  The soldiers furiously worked the bolts of their rifles, firing, loading, firing.  Haass empty his revolver, hastily reloaded with a speed-loader from his ammo pouch, and shot a charging Temishi in the face.

They went up the hill, and now the eastern barricade they had quit was smothered in Temishi.  The watchtower on the east side of the cantonment, Haass now saw, was ablaze.  One of the troopers beside him took a steel-tipped arrow through his chest.  He crumpled slowly to the hillside, as if reluctant to admit he was dead.

They went back, and reached the lower door of the hold-fast.  “Get in!” Haass cried.  The soldiers piled in through the portal.  Haass fired again and again, holding back the Temishi, then flung himself inside.  Someone slammed the heavy door shut, and bars dropped into place.

Haass picked himself up.  The lower floor of the hold-fast was a wide room, stone-floored, with firing apertures around its perimeter.  Weak sunshine shone through the northern slits, as the sun approached noon.  A stone staircase led up to the roof.

Fifteen or twenty troopers gasped and cursed in the lower room.  Some were wounded.  Haass said, “Cover the firing loops!  Keep the bastards away from the walls.”

Men moved to obey.  Haass forced his legs to move, and he ascended the stairs.

He came out on the roof, and the sound of the Temishi horde rang in his ears.  He kept low, taking cover behind the crenellated top-wall, and peeking out as he reloaded his pistol.

From here he could see the whole breadth of the pass, from the northern hill to the southern.  The knoll on which the hold-fast stood was lodged right in the mouth of the pass– to the west, across the shallow, frigid river whose name he could not remember, the country opened up into what passed for fertile lands in this cold, southern extremity.

Not only was the watch-tower burning, but also the northern and southern blockhouses, flanking the knoll.  Haass gritted his teeth; they had not had the time to build a wall to enclose the hold-fast, the tower and the blockhouses.  They had been told the Temishi were five or six days march away, on the other side of the mountains, and that there was time.  Instead the Temishi had appeared suddenly, not an hour before.

Now the barbarians surged about the hill in their thousands.  The lower barracks, the cookhouse and the ammunition hut were all burning, too, the ammo store crackling continuously with exploding ammunition.  Temishi danced around the the fires, celebrating the destruction.  The only signs of the bulk of Haass’ command were bodies in khaki lying scattered around the post.  Here and there Temishi hacked at the corpses, out of spite, or to collect trophies.

At the moment, the Temishi were keeping back from the hold-fast, finishing the destruction of the rest of the post.  As Haass watched, other groups of Temishi peeled away from the post, toward the river, with its bridge the Unionists had been unable to destroy.  Haass grimaced; the Temishi would be on the division’s rear areas in half a day.

Someone was there with him on the roof– Sergeant Tem.  The older man had blood on his face, but seemed otherwise unhurt.  He peered out.  “Bad enough, ain’t it, Captain.”

“Bad enough,” Haass said, unable to improve on the sergeant’s assessment.

“We should never have come to this forsaken place,” Tem said.

“Not our decision, sergeant,” Haass said.  “We’re soldiers, we go where we’re sent.”  Despite his words, Haass knew resentment– the Union had no business in this land, except the High Chief’s ambition for an empire.  At the moment it seemed a poor excuse to let savages hack good soldiers to pieces.

“We just have to hold them off,” Haass said.  “If our riders got through, the brigade could be here by tomorrow morning.”

An arrow skipped off a crenellation close by.  Haass and Tem crossed to the other side of the roof, looking out toward the river.  The soldiers below now fired at the crowd outside.  Even so, despite the firing, Temishi were cautiously making their way up the slope on all sides.  They’ll rush us soon.

A commotion among the enemy on the river-side of the post; men parted to let a small group of Temishi carrying long spears through.  Two of the spears carried something on their tips, pales lumps.  Their passage elicited much cheering among the Temishi.

The spear-carriers came closer, and Haass saw why the Temishi rejoiced.  “Pons and Dro,” he muttered.  The riders had not made it out.

“So,” Tem said, sounding resigned.  “It’s the ring of bullets, after all.”

The pledge.  “We’re not there, yet, sergeant,” Haass said.  “If we can just….”

There was a roar; the roof shook beneath them, and a cloud of dust and smoke shot up on the other side of the holdfast.  “They’ve blown the wall in!” Tem shouted.  He raced for the stairs, and Haass followed.

In the room below was swirling smoke, screams and rifles going off in the enclosed space.  Temishi poured through a wide gap in the eastern wall.  Troopers shot them, struggled with them hand-to-hand, but there were too many of them.  Now, however, the Temishi did not strike to kill; they seized soldiers with their bare hands and with nooses, looking to capture.

Ring of bullets…ring of bullets– the pledge, that no Union soldier would let another fall into barbarian hands, to be tortured and slowly flayed in Temishi temples.  So, standing midway down the stairs, Haass lifted his pistol and shot Tem in the back of the head.  He shot Skal, as the boy crouched weeping against the far wall.  He fired and fired, and as he did Haass wept, too, for his men, for the waste, for himself.  He would never marry or father children.  He would never again see another sunset, or the forests of his home.

Temishi pushed up the stairs toward him.  Haass put the muzzle of his pistol to his own temple, but the hammer clicked on a spent cartridge.  He flailed with the empty pistol, cracking a skull, laying open a face, but strong hands seized him and bore him down.

Sunday Photo Fiction – January 17th 2016- ICE

Sunday Photo Fiction for January 17th 2016– 200 words of flash fiction based on this image–

139-01-january-17th-2016

Copyright 2016 Douglas Daniel

***************************************

“You have to leave, Grandfather.”

The old man shook his head.  “I would just hold you up.”  His breath steamed thick.

“Nobody’s coming,” Celia said.  “The snow’s too heavy….”

“And you can’t take me,” her grandfather said.  “No, don’t argue with me.  You should go.”

Celia knelt beside her grandfather’s chair.  “I can’t….”

“You must.”  Grandfather smiled.  “Don’t fret.  I’ve done most everything I’ve ever dreamed of.  You need to go and find what future you can. I won’t be able to contribute to this world.  Go.

Tears tracked down her cheeks.  “I’m sorry.”

Her grandfather kissed her on the forehead.  “You have nothing to be sorry for, child.”

Wrapped in layers, Celia stepped outside.  She wiped the tears from her face, to keep them from freezing on her skin.

Her breath hung before her, a freezing fog.  The cars on the street were all frozen solid, welded to the ground by the ice.  She would have to walk out, or die. The houses across the road were all dark.  Beyond them, the wall of ice loomed, massive, implacable.  Celia craned her neck back, trying see its top.  It was lost in the gloom.

She turned and walked south, toward life.

Sunday Photo Fiction – December 6th 2015- The Great Project

A response to the Sunday Photo Flash Fiction challenge for December 6th 2015— 200 words or less inspired by this image–

133-12-december-6th-2015

Not sure where this came from…sometimes I think I’m rather twisted….

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
*******************************************
The time is near at hand.

Yes– the Great Project is close to completion. Soon we will have our revenge.

To think we have lived to see the day of our liberation.

We have labored hard and long, brother. The spoils of our victory will be all the sweeter for our toil.

Indeed– at last the Earth will belong to our kind alone. The fields and plains, the sweet streams and placid lakes– all ours.

Think of the vast, be-flowered grasslands, brother, all our playground and domain! How glorious it will be.

Truly– it will be the rebirth of our civilization. More than that, it will be our golden age.

But even sweeter will be our vengeance on our oppressors.

Yes, yes– those puffed-up, overweening braggarts and simpletons. We shall destroy them utterly. And then no more bridle…no more the bitter bit or spur….

To think of it makes me laugh with joy– Ha!

HA! HA! HA!

But look! A human, with a camera!

Yes– act horsey.

Neigh….

Neigh….

Sunday Photo Fiction – November 1st 2015- Courage

A response to the Sunday Photo Fiction – November 1st 2015 flash fiction challenge, 200 words on this image–

128-11-november-1st-2015

As usual, this seems like a beginning rather than a complete story, which I’m afraid merely illustrates my limitations as a short fiction writer. My apologies.

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
************************************
I had no spit.

“John, wait,” Chan said.

“Mahmoud and Jess are down there.” Jess. My hands shook as I hooked on the harness.

The shaft mouth gaped before me. Its depths were lost in darkness. Warm air rose out it.

“You saw what was left of Wirtz,” Chan said. “And Hawkwood, it’s like his brains have been imploded. You don’t know what’s down there.”

“Jess and Mahmoud, that’s what.” My fingers trembled on the last clamp. “I’m not leaving them.”

“John, this thing opened up overnight! If they had listened to me none of them would have gotten in trouble.”

“Well, you can listen to me now.” I pulled my Glock from its holster. “Lower me down, or I will blow your brains out.”

Chan looked furious. “All right.” He stepped to the winch. “There’s a ledge three hundred meters down. I’ll get you to that. From there you’re on your own.”

“Okay.” I holstered the pistol. I stepped to the edge and looked down. I could barely keep my knees from buckling. I clambered over the edge, let the cable take my weight. “Lower away.”

Chan started the winch. I went down into the mouth of hell.

Mondays Finish the Story – Oct. 19th, 2015- The Mystery of the Forest

Mondays Finish the Story for October 19th, 2015— 150 words based on this picture–

© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“Not knowing what to expect, he made his way into the dark of the forest.”

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
*************************************

Not knowing what to expect, he made his way into the dark of the forest.

After a few minutes he came out. “The forest is dark. It is full of trees.”

“Are you sure?” his companions said.

He went back, and took a closer look. “Yes,” he said when he came back out. “I can state unequivocally that the forest has trees in it.”

“There’s got to be more to it than that,” his companions said. “Are you examining the situation with sufficient intellectual rigor?”

“I think so,” he said. “I applied both Platonic and Hegelian logic to the problem. The issue seems to be irreducible.”

“Try one more time,” his companions said.

He did so. This time the wood elves popped their heads out of their hidden burrows. “Hey! Would you guys mind not traipsing about quite so much? We’re trying to enchant some primroses here.”

Moral: It’s rude to stomp around while not seeing the forest for the trees.

Mondays Finish the Story Flash Fiction for Sept. 21st, 2015 – The Holy Mango

Mondays Finish the Story Flash Fiction for Sept. 21st, 2015, based on this image–

© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“She lived in a mango tree.”

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
********************************************
She lived in a mango tree. No one knew why; she hated mangoes.

“Daphne,” people shouted up to her, “you hate mangoes.”

“I know,” Daphne said, knitting a sweater.

Her husband told Daphne he couldn’t live with pollination and fruit flies. Daphne just went on knitting.

Her husband left her. Local news profiled her, then moved on to Justin Bieber look-alike contests.

Psychologists clustered around the foot of the tree, theorizing on her aversion adherence. Several published learned tracts on the phenomenon.

On September 14th, 2019, the Silubrian Horde invaded the Earth. They wiped out humanity in a day.

But not Daphne. Mangoes are sacred to the Silubrians. They elected Daphne Supreme Mango Goddess of the Horde. They brought her chocolate and strange alien liquors that gave her hiccups. In return, she knitted scarves and cardigans for them. These became holy relics for the Silubrians.

When Daphne died, the Silubrians cloned her. Since then, all of humanity have been women who knit.

Moral: As the mangoes, so Man goes.

Mondays Finish the Story – August 31st, 2015- A Day’s Work

Mondays Finish the Story challenge for August 31st, 2015— 150 words around this image–

 © 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

and the opening sentence–

“The cemetery spread along the area known as Devils Abode.”

I don’t know what’s going on, but I seem to be kinda grim lately….

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
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The cemetery spread along the area known as Devil’s Abode. It was aptly named; the no-man’s land between the lines. Festering corpses lay between white-washed tombs. The ridge beyond was government territory.

“I see him,” my spotter said. His periscope peeked above the sandbags. “Bunker, just below the ridge-line, by those oaks. Aperture on the left.”

I located the opening through my scope. The bunker was well-hidden in brush, mounded over with earth. I saw movement in the bunker’s firing-port. “I see him.”

“Good. Wind’s from the right, about two knots.”

My cross-hairs centered on the man’s forehead. I held my breath, took the slack out of my trigger.

I hesitated.

“Take the shot. Take the shot!”

I squeezed the trigger. The shot surprised me, as it should.

“You got him!”

I slumped back into the trench. The barrel of my rifle was hot against my shirt. I didn’t care.

It’s not every day you kill your favorite teacher.

Mondays Finish the Story – August 24th, 2015- A Family Visit

Mondays Finish the Story challenge for August 24th, 2015– 150 words based on the following picture–

 © 2015, Barbara W. Beacham
© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“The family had no idea that little Luigi would grow up to be…”

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
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“The family had no idea that little Luigi would grow up to be…”

“Do not speak of it.”

“But, Auntie…the whole world….”

“Silence!”

“…he was such a beautiful child….”

“…Yes.”

“I used to read him stories, remember? He would laugh. Afterwards he would always kiss my cheek.”

“I know.”

“It broke my heart, what he did in Marseille. And then Shanghai. And London…dear God, London….”

“As I said, it does no good to speak of it.”

“Auntie, we have to speak of it. He is coming….”

“…Yes….”

“Where did that little boy go?”

“Power…the world…what some people call ‘real life’.”

“No…something else went wrong. Not enough love…the cruelty of his father, that bastard….”

“Rehearsing it all does not help us now.”

“No. You’re right…. I’m afraid.”

“Courage. He’ll be here soon.”

“But we’re family….”

“Family or no, it’s all the same. All of humanity has to bow to Luigi Cavallo.”

“…Dictator of the World.”

“Do not speak of it….”