Gumballs

Welcome to JUNE FURIOUS FICTION!

This month, we’re having a flash fiction party! You can RSVP by entering an original story with the following criteria:

  • Your story must take place at a PARTY of some kind.

  • Your story must include a BUTTON.

  • Your story must include the following sentence (which you'll complete with one or more words):
    THE AIR WAS THICK WITH ________.

‘Welcome To The End Of The World’.

The banner hung from the sky, its ominous message diminished somewhat by the fact that it was neon pink and covered in glitter. Mounted to the wall below was a giant LCD clock, which read 23:54 in glowing red digits. Six minutes until it’s all over. Brian wasn’t buying it. In fact, he was fairly convinced the 21st of December was going to be a Friday like every other, and was considerably more concerned with whether his boss would count ‘the end of days’ as a valid excuse to call in sick. Unlikely.

A rhythmic bass filled the room, powering a gyrating mass of sweaty people. They were an eclectic mix, adorned in an assortment of brightly coloured feathers, glow-in-the-dark jewellery, and face paint, and seemed to share a euphoric acceptance that they were going to spend their last few hours engaged in a primal dance.

It helped, Brian supposed, that most were well and truly off their trolley. He saw them excitedly queueing for gumball dispensers that lined the walls, each filled with brightly coloured pills. Above them was a sign that said: “In case of apocalypse, push button.” Brian had a strong suspicion they were not lollies.

“You came!” sang a voice from inside the mass of dancing bodies. A girl ran out, leaping on Brian and wrapping him in a hug. He tried to conceal his blush.

“H-hey, Sadie,” he managed. “‘Course, I couldn’t miss an end of the world party. Nice, er, hat.”

Sadie was dressed in pajamas, and a full Native American headdress.

“Thanks!” she giggled. “These are the only clothes I have left. I burned the rest. Come dance!” she started leading Brian into the crowd.

“You what?” Brian shouted, his head narrowly missing the foot of a vigorous breakdancer.

“I burned them! It was so therapeutic, to be, like, rid of my earthly possessions, you know,” Sadie said. Her eyes glazed over, and Brian noticed she was licking her lips an awful lot.

“Ha, yeah, sure,” he said, glancing at the wall. 23:58. “Hey, crazy thought, but what if … you know … tomorrow comes?”

Sadie stopped dancing and unsteadily grabbed Brian’s shoulders. She appeared to be trying to focus on his face.

“Brian. The Mayans knew,” she said. “They *invented* astronomy.”

Brian’s brow furrowed. “They also sacrificed people as ‘blood offerings.” He shook his head.

“I guess it doesn’t matter. Thanks for inviting me. If this is really it, I’m...”

Sadie was spinning, her eyes closed, smiling broadly, arms outstretched. She wasn’t listening.

Brian tried again. “If these are our last few moments…”

The music had stopped. The red numbers shone 23:59, and the air was filled with tension so thick it made Brian’s skin prickle. Sadie finally stopped dancing and looked up, her face a mixture of excitement and fear, her headdress leaning at a precarious tilt.

“...I’m glad I’m here with you,” Brian finished.

The clock read 00:00.


The Long Haul

Welcome to MAY FURIOUS FICTION!

This month, your story must follow these criteria:This month, your criteria are the following:

  • Your story must include the words MAYBE, MAYHEM, DISMAY, MAYOR and MAYONNAISE.

  • Your story’s first word must be an 11-letter word.

  • Your story must, at some point, include someone or something RUNNING.

Nothingness. Adrift in a glittering black sea. My face was pressed against the viewing port, my breath steaming up the window, my eyes taking in the limitless abyss. I’d never seen so much nothing before. It would have been overwhelming, but the harsh, guttural Norwegian black metal I was blasting thankfully gave me little room to think.

“Ruben!” I heard a voice try in vain to be heard over my private soundtrack. Mayhem’s 1987 EP, Deathcrush. Absolute classic.

“Ruben, I swear. This racket is reverberating throughout the entire bridge. And your room is supposed to be soundproof. Turn it down!”

Faint murmurs outside my bedroom which sounded a lot like not my problem. My gaze hadn’t left the aluminosilicate glass. Suddenly, to my immense dismay, the music cut out with a loud pop.

“Are you kidding me?” I screamed at my closed door. It slid open and a man entered, his brow furrowed in exasperation, a look on his face somewhere between frustration and pity. I was getting used to that look.

“I’ve disabled power access to your audio console,” he said quietly, hanging in the door frame as if scared I was going to attack him. “I can’t hear myself think out there.”

I gave him the most sour expression I could muster.

“Of course, thanks, dad. Take away the last comfort I have in the universe. Why not?”

My father sighed and rubbed his temples. For the first time, I noticed how thin his hair was getting. He was looking old.

“We’ve been through this, Ruben. What would you have me do?”

I said nothing.

“This is the last run. One cycle, pick up the payload, then we’re back home. I know this hasn’t been easy on you...”   

I snorted. “Understa-”
“But it’s time you learnt this business.” The old man’s eyes flashed as he finally stepped into the room.

“You’re old enough, and dare I say, capable enough! Your entire future is here, and you’ve got to start paying attention!” He was yelling, now, and I felt the anger beginning to swell from deep in my stomach. None of this was fair.

“Maybe I don’t want to help them anymore!” I protested, my fists clenched in defiance. “It’s their fault! Let them get it themselves! And if they can’t, too bad! Let the planet dry up and die, for all I care!”

My father cocked his head, eyeing me curiously. “Yeah, well, luckily, no one’s elected you Mayor just yet,” he said, after a while. “Do you really believe that?”

“No,” I said, deflated. My eyes began to sting.

“They need us, Ruben,”. He placed a calloused hand on my shoulder. “Without these resources… well, let’s just say everything changes.”

“We’re belt runners,” he continued. “It’s all we know.” He managed to contort his face into something resembling a smile.
“How about some lunch? I’ll make sandwiches.”

“I’ll do it,” I stood up and brushed past him, heading for the galley. “You always add too much mayonnaise.”


Old Fashioned

Welcome to APRIL FURIOUS FICTION!

This month, it’s all about dialogue. To celebrate the launch of our new Fiction Essentials: DIALOGUE, we’re giving you three lines of dialogue from three famous books. And we want you to somehow put them ALL into your original story!

Your three lines of dialogue are:

  • "It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

  • "He's never done anything like this before."

  • "What's it going to be then, eh?"

“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

“You could shoot me in the face,” I muttered. “No. Actually, bourbon, neat,” I let out a long, dramatic sigh, then after a moment of thought, added, “The cheapest you have.”

The barman looked at me with something resembling pity, before reaching under the bar and pulling out a bottle that I am fairly certain was kerosene. I sighed again.

“Oh, Dave, it’s not that bad,” Brendan said, loudly pulling up a stool next to me. “I think you’re being a little dramatic.”

“This is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone, ever,” I insisted, and took a sip. Yep. Definitely kerosene.

“She was it,” I continued, after a fit of coughing. “Gorgeous. Perfect tan. Great legs. She made me feel so comfortable.”

“Was she a table?” Brendan asked. “I really feel like you’re getting hung up on this. You dated for, what? Two weeks?

“Three.”

“Whatever. My point is, you fall in love every other month. Maybe it’s time you, you know. Flew solo for a bit. Go out there and take the time to find yourself, or something.”

I rolled my eyes and looked away. Brendan would never understand true love, the emotionless bag of wheat that he is. I noticed that the barman was watching me intently, hands deftly cleaning the glassware.

“I know that look anywhere,” the barman said, nodding sagely. “Broken heart.”

“Into a million tiny pieces,” I choked. Brendan rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“Love is a thing, eh,” said the barman. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”

“Truly profound,” Brendan muttered under his breath. I ignored him. The man had the sensitivity of dried glue.

“You’re so right,” I told the barman, my eyes pleading. “What should I do? I can’t go on like this.”

“Well, I don’t know your exact situation, friend,” the barman said, in his deep, gravelly voice. “But if you’re sure it’s what you want... seems to me, best to go and get it, eh?”

I felt a sensation deep inside my stomach. A rising warm feeling. Kerosene. No, something more. Hope.

“That’s terrible advice,” said Brendan. “She left him because he is over the top. Far, far too impulsive. Now he’s going to go and make some grand, highly inappropriate romantic gesture, and end up with a restraining order.”

I took no notice, except of the fact that Brendan had a slice of cold, burnt toast where his heart should be. I slammed my fist on the bar.

“That’s it! I’m getting her back!” I declared. “I’m going to really impress her. Show her that romance still exists in this world!” I jumped off my stool, reinvigorated. “First, I need a horse.”

“You’re missing the point,” Brendan said to my rapidly retreating back.

“I wish I could say he’s never done anything like this before,” I heard him say to the barman as I left. “But I’d be lying.”


Pitch

Welcome to JANUARY FURIOUS FICTION!

  1. Your story's first word must be NEW

  2. Your story must include the words NINETEEN, DESERT and PRESENT.

  3. Your story must include SOME KIND OF LIST. (Interpret how you like – could be just a mention or an actual list.)

NewTissues,” I said again, a little louder. Nothing. Silence and blank faces. Someone in the back coughed. I was undeterred.
“I present to you all the greatest innovation in tissue technology since, well, probably the turn of the century.” I began, projecting my voice around the small boardroom.
“1924,” chimed in Lisa, my insufferable assistant. I ignored her.

“For too long, our disposable culture has run rampant with single use products, without any consideration for the waste we create, the cost of production, and of course, the environment.”

Still no reaction. Dave from accounts had obviously found something fascinating outside the window. Am I boring you, Dave? Honestly. Some people have no respect for creative genius.

“With NewTissues, this reckless consumption will be a thing of the past, where it belongs. It’s time to usher in a new age of tissue technology.” I felt my confidence growing with every word, my well-rehearsed spiel landing perfectly as I began to list the brilliance of my idea. You have to have a flair for the dramatic for this sort of thing.

“Lightweight. Reusable. Washable. Stronger and more durable than your tissues of old. Take it everywhere with you! Name it! Bond with it! Love it unconditionally!” I felt my voice bordering on hysterical. Need to rein in it.

“Oh, and it’s environmentally friendly. How many trees are we slaughtering by the thousand, to fund this nation’s tissue addiction? Too many, I say. Let’s save the trees together. With NewTissues.

I noticed everyone was avoiding my gaze. A few people shuffled nervously, and a rogue bead of sweat formed on my brow. Jerry faced me, his expression difficult to read. If I wasn’t so confident, I would have said he looked disappointed. But, as CEO, Jerry always looked disappointed.

“Derek,” Jerry said. “We appreciate all you do for us, you know.”

I nodded vigorously, hanging off his every word.

“Your knack for unconventional thinking is…unique,” he continued.

A dull throb in my neck reminded me that I was still nodding. I forced myself to stop. It was replaced with a frantic tapping of my foot.

“I know that since the iSnack 2.0 fiasco, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time, and company resources, trying to redeem yourself.”

“That was on-trend!” I protested.

“I have to be frank with you,” his expression hardened. “What you’ve just described is a handkerchief.”

My stomach dropped. What? How could this be?

“No, no no. I’m not sure you understand. This is no mere handkerchief. NewTissues are hip! And modern!” I couldn’t believe it. Were they too blind to see the future? “I mean, sure, there are some similarities...”

Jerry was shaking his head sadly. “It’s a handkerchief, Derek.”

“But. The trees,” I pleaded softly. I looked around the room for support. Lisa! Sweet Lisa, my brilliant, capable assistant. My lighthouse in the sea, my oasis in the desert. Surely you can see this potential?

Lisa slowly took a tissue from her handbag and blew her nose.

Remnants

Welcome to FEBRUARY FURIOUS FICTION!

This month, your story must follow these criteria:

  1. Your story's first sentence must contain exactly THREE WORDS.

  2. Your story must include A FIRST of some kind. (Open to interpretation.)

  3. Your story must include A CANDLE.

Do Not Enter.

The sign was cracked and beaten - shards of wood strewn across the ground - but the warning was still clear. I gingerly stepped over it and made my way in, almost losing my footing in the process. Try and keep it professional, I kept reminding myself. People pay you to do this.

Adjusting my pack, and acutely aware of how heavy it was with Egon crammed inside, I quickened my pace and crossed the lawn. The house loomed in the slipping light, two ominous stories, front door boarded, windows black. Desolate, definitely. Empty? Well, we were about to find out.

Investigating the paranormal is not something you put on a CV. It’s also not something you tell your parents. I can’t remember who started it, exactly. I mean, In this town, everyone is at least a little superstitious. Too many people seeing things that can’t be explained. Catching a glimpse, I call it. A flash of a silhouette in the dark, mysterious noises in the dead of night. Electronics going haywire, losing time, that sort of thing. I always figured they were messages trying to get through. You know what’s weird? Cats are actually a great detector. They can see it, or smell it, I don’t know. But I’ve learned to trust the feline senses. Egon let out a soft mew from inside the bag.

This particular house had been on my radar for a long time. It was condemned, having been abandoned for almost a decade; a creaking, dilapidating reminder of the inefficiency of our council. Rumour has it that an old woman lived here, alone, never spoke to anyone. As far as I can tell, she never really left the house. One day, she up and disappeared without a trace. It gets murky from there, but the legend is that on some nights, you’ll catch a wisp of white hair by a window, a movement in the shadows. Scared the local kids enough, and one concerned parent later it ended up in my inbox.

Pulling a crowbar from my trusty pack, I pried open the boards covering the front door and managed to push it open. Walking inside, I set Egon gently on the floor, his white fur luminous in the dimness. He looked around, uninterested, and began cleaning himself. Fair enough.

I was stood in a tall hallway, the rays of sunlight from the open doorway cutting through a thick blanket of dust. Suddenly, without so much as a meow, Egon sprinted, full pelt, back out the front door. Huh. That was a first. Common sense told me to follow my cat. But if I had common sense, I wouldn’t be in this line of work.  My eyes began to adjust to the blackness when I noticed something at the end of the hall.

A chill ran down my spine. I had just come in from the door. The only way inside. But there, in the gloom, was a single candle flickering in the dark.


Reindeer Games

Welcome to DECEMBER FURIOUS FICTION!

This month, your story must follow these criteria:

  1. Your story must take place on Christmas Eve EITHER 50 years ago OR 50 years into the future. (You decide.)

  2. The first word of your story must rhyme with the last word of your story. (They cannot be the same word.)

  3. Your story must include the line IT WAS GONE IN A FLASH. (Whole or part sentence.)

“Oi! Cut it out, Prancer, or it’s back to the basement! We’re already late!”

The reindeer stared at him, sand on his nose, his expression filled with loathing.

“You know what the problem is? I coddle you all too much,” The big bearded man sighed, his hair matted with sweat. He was rummaging through a small, grubby sack.

“It’s one night. One night a year, is all I ask.”

From further down the line, Blitzen gave an indignant snort.

“Hohold up! Did you say something, Blitzen?” the man rumbled. “I hope not! Miserable, ungrateful swine. You’re too slow! All of you!” There was a vein bulging in his temple as his hands suddenly found what they were looking for. A tiny metal lock pick.

“Ah! Wait here. And there’ll be no supper if you keep horsing around!”

With that, he turned his back on the sleigh, and trudged his way toward the rear of the house.

“We’re reindeer,” Blitzen hissed after him, once he was safely out of earshot.

The ten of them had landed haphazardly in a backyard, one in a sea of hundreds - of thousands - of identical backyards. There were toys strewn across a lawn, a tyre swing strapped to an aging oak tree, and a small wooden sandpit nearby. Prancer had gone back to digging through it. Finally, his head remerged, jaws clutching the remains of an old apple.

“This is the thanks we get,” he said, chewing loudly. “We do all the work, and he just sits there, yelling at us all year long.” There were murmurs of agreement.

From across the yard, they watched the big man remove his hands from his filthy red mittens and press his ear against the door, fingers fumbling with the tiny lockpick. After a few minutes, he swore and threw the bent pick over his shoulder, took a few steps back, and kicked one massive fur-lined boot into the door with a resonating thud. It echoed through the dead of the night, punctuated by heavy breathing and frequent cursing.

“Absolute amateur,” said Donner.

“He’s the worst we’ve had in some time,” said Blitzen.

Thud.

“Not the basement,” whispered Prancer. “Please not the basement.”

“Have you seen his lists?!” asked Dasher, shrilly. “Judging everyone! Always judging!”

Thud. The door sprung open with a cloud of splinters, and St. Nick was gone in a flash.

Rudolph, who had been gazing pointedly at the stars and ignoring his colleagues, turned around at this, sniffing his ever-blocked nose.

“It’d not just hib. It’d da kids!” Sniff. “Wanting bore and bore each year!” Rudolph sneezed.

Comet had to agree. “Stuffy has a point. With all these Barbies, GI Joes and Hot Wheels, yo-yos and comics … we can’t keep up.” He gazed toward the open door of the house. “He really is a bit useless, though.”

Blitzen looked around at the others, a gleam in his eye, his face resolute.

“Friends, I think it’s high time we found a new delivery boy.”

Keep Moving

Welcome to NOVEMBER FURIOUS FICTION!

This month, your story must follow these criteria:

  1. Your story must begin with a sentence containing just TWO words.

  2. Your entire story must take place at a SUPERMARKET.

  3. Your story must include SOMETHING BREAKING.



Keep moving.

There wasn’t much time. There never was. My footsteps echoed off the polished floors. It was the only sound, occasionally punctuated by the low, weak protests of my ravenous stomach. I tried to remember the last time I ate. Days, surely. Looking around, I tried not to think about what was on the other side of those walls.

Focus.

In and out, that was the plan. The supermarket was dark and desolate, aisles illuminated by the intermittent flickering of my dying flashlight. The place had already been ransacked, the floor strewn with non-essentials. Makeup. Deodorant. Tupperware and magazines. Relics of a happier time. A different life. One where the hardest decision I had to make was Fruit Loops or Corn Flakes.

Where are the damn cans?

I carefully made my way over the mess on the floor, eyeing some batteries hanging on the wall. Inserting them in my flashlight with my shaking hands, I dropped one in the process, and it fell to the floor with a soft ting. My heart was hammering through my chest so rapidly I thought it was going to burst. If they got inside, it was all over. They’d rip me to pieces in seconds, tearing chunks of flesh off my frame like pulled pork.

Get it together. You don’t have time to be scared.

I replaced the battery and was rewarded with a narrow beam of light, which I used to search the canned food aisle. There wasn’t much left - some tuna. Beans. Canned potatoes. Who cans potatoes? At that moment, I was eternally grateful. Indiscriminately shoving them in my backpack as fast as I could, I was dimly aware that it was going to feel impossibly heavy in my starving condition. Making me an even easier target.

That is not productive thinking. Keep moving.

The food had been running low for weeks, but nobody was volunteering to venture out. A grim acceptance had permeated the camp like a dark cloud. We’d lost our strongest, doing exactly what I was doing now, but fitter, smarter, better equipped. They became cocky and overconfident. And they’d been eaten.

Now there was just me.

I squeezed the last few cans into the bag and hoisted it over my shoulders. It felt like carrying a car engine. Grunting, I slowly headed for the exit.

That’s it. Just head back.

It was truly desperate to come to this. Trips like this were dangerous, too dangerous. To leave the safety of the camp for this long, alone, was suicide. This was their territory now. It didn’t belong to us anymore. All we could do was survive, keep starvation at bay. At least for a little while.

Keep moving.

A window shattered, breaking into a thousand pieces as the cold mass of bodies attempted to press their way in. The rattled gurgling of breath that wasn’t breath, the creaking of joints pushed far beyond their limits. Too close, far too close. I broke into a run.