Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Round Two in NYC Midnight

Back again for the second heat of the first round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest. My thanks to those who read my entry for the first match. I finished in the points, but well down in the pack. Evidently clown stew wasn't funny enough . . .

However, considering the bottom 12 in each of the 25 groups received zero points, I consider it an honor to have finished in the points at all. Advancement to the semi-finals is a combination of the first and second heats. The top five in each group advance. My chances are slim, but I wasn't about to drop out without giving it a try.

On Friday, November 1st at 11:59 EST the new prompts dropped. This time it was 1000 words incorporating:

Horror/Tattoo Parlor/High Heels

And here is what I came up with . . .



ETERNAL INK


“Hey, that hurts.”


The girl squirmed under my needle, nearly spoiling my freehand line. Even though annoyed, I was patient with her. She’s one of the shining ones.


“Sorry, sweetheart, but you know what they say about sex and tattoos?”


“No, what?” The tilted head was meant to be world-wise and flirtatious. Instead, she looked like a Disney princess.


I whispered, “The deeper it goes, the longer it lasts.”


The giggle and blush confirmed my assessment. Turning back to the rose on her shoulder, I applied the needle to her skin. A drop of her blood oozed from a thorn. Reverently, I dabbed it with my fingertip and felt the sensual energy as her blood snaked along the black inked swirls of my finger before disappearing into the Mandala on the back of my hand.


Her life force trilled up my arm before dead-ending in a salty metallic taste. All these years and that thrill never got old.  


Finishing the shading, I harvested another droplet before saying, “It’s finished.”


I held the mirror so she could admire her new tattoo. The vibrant bloom erupted from her creamy skin. Yes, it was skill. Yes, it was the ink I blended by hand. But, there’s one ingredient that no other tattoo artist could match. I imbued every design with a touch of my immortality. All I asked in return was the blood they willingly shed.  


“It’s perfect.”


Her radiant smile warmed me as much as her blood. I take only a tiny bit of life from the innocent, even though it’s like sipping sunbeams. For girls like this, the design is always simple and pure. I didn’t want to hurt them, even when they were willing to give more. Their trust was my sacrament. For the darker souls, my work was more intense. Each of my clients gets the ink they deserve.


“No, you’re perfect.” Before she could answer, I launched into the aftercare instructions required by law, even though it would heal before she awoke.  


As she floated down the sidewalk, I embraced the mellow glow that always accompanied a good tattoo. As I put my used gun on the counter to sterilize later, I thought I could see the glow of her life on the needle.

The bell over the front door interrupted my reverie.


Damn.


Disappointed in being interrupted this late, I prepped an excuse as I headed out front.


Damn.


My disappointment evaporated. Racehorse ankles erupting from a pair of sky high heels morphed into legs looking like tanned, sculpted stone. Scarlet hair framed tip-tilted green eyes.  


“Well, you don’t need me to tell you that you’re gorgeous, so what brings to my humble studio?”


The dazzling smile was as different from the college girl as a puppy is from a snarling wolf.


“I need you to finish my ink.”


“I don’t do repair work. You’ll have to take your regrets elsewhere.”  


“I think you’ll want this job.”


She dropped her trenchcoat. The scarves wrapped around her hips and breasts suggested more than they hid and exposed a melange of disconnected tats. I saw scales, feathers, and tribal patterns that made mine look almost quaint. Pivoting on one stiletto, she turned and I saw an incomplete pair of leathery wings etched into her back.


“This won’t be cheap.” The words were out before my caution could pull them back.


“It never is.”


I was committed. Fitting my largest bore needle into my spare gun, dark thoughts, old thoughts raged.


We eat well tonight.


Draping herself across my work table, she said, “The heels?”


“Leave them on.”


The moment my needle touched her, I knew. I knew, but I didn’t stop. Soon, the edge of her left wing stood out in stark relief. Unable to resist any longer, I rubbed the Mandala, the lens that focused me, into her blood.  Fire raced up my arm, threatening to erupt from every pore. Instead of the pleasant copper tang, there was a ripping pain and a hot  gout of blood from my nose.


My blood dripped onto her skin and immediately raced along the veins of her wings, turning them scarlet. She arched and a ripple coursed across her back.


“Continue. Finish the job.” Instead of her earlier purr, her voice was guttural.


“And if I don’t?”


“Then your good long run will end badly.”


I looked at her tattoos. There were hundreds of hours in the fine work. Some of it looked very old.


“How long have you been doing this?”


“Not your concern artist. Did I ask you the same?”


“True.”


“The others before you were weak. They could only lay the fire, not kindle it. They didn’t have enough life. You’re the one I need. Finish the work and I’ll give you things you never imagined.”


I laughed. “I have a good imagination.”


I dipped the needle and touched it to another line. Her blood ran freely and sought my hand. Another sledgehammer to my head and more of her veins ran with my essence.


Losing track of time, my world was reduced to pain and blood as I worked on her quivering rippling skin. One wing was nearly free when a passing siren ruptured my trance. Catching my  reflection, I saw that instead of black, my hair was laced with gray. Wrinkles latticed my cheeks.


This bitch is killing me.


I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t tired of living, and I was damn tired of this. Then I saw it. The other gun. I hadn’t imagined it. The needle was glowing.


This could work.


Ignoring her whimpering, I swapped out the guns.


“Just a second, darling, a little change of plans.”


“Hurry,” she said, her voice little more than a snarl.


I didn’t dip the needle. I applied it, still coated in the blood of my angel from earlier today, and waited to see if it delivered my salvation.


I wasn’t disappointed. As always, every client gets the tattoo they deserve.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Midnight In NYC!

Okay, it's the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Contest. I had planned on going to Bouchercon 2013, but circumstances forced me to cancel. So, as my Miss Congeniality prize, I jumped headfirst into the 2013 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest.

Twenty-five groups of writers get their prompts including genre, location, and object at midnight on Friday. By midnight on Sunday, you have to submit up to 1,000 shiny words incorporating those prompts. Flash fiction on caffeine. There will be a second round in about 4 weeks. From the first two rounds, the top 5 in each group, based on their scores from the two rounds, advance to the semi-finals.

My prompts were: Comedy/Rainforest/Water Balloon. Yeah, I know. We're allowed to share, so I'm not going to suffer in silence. You can read below, or go to this link to see it in Google Docs. I hope you like it and it raises a smile. OMG, please, just one smile . . .

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PRIME TIME

Two years on the waiting list and I’m finally here, competing for a million buckaroos on “Like Your Life Depends On It,” the hottest reality show on television. Only thing left is to meet the rest of my group and wait for the game to begin. I’d hoped for the beach, but the Hoh Rainforest National Park is sweet. The interlocking tree canopy around the clearing is like a vast green tent with small patches of blue woven into the design. It’s hard to believe I’m in Washington and not on some exotic tropical island.

You have got to be kidding me.

After barely slowing down, the Range Rovers chugged away, leaving people at three corners of the clearing. From one point, a clown in full regalia picked his way through the moss and from the other, a woman in a tight red dress and ridiculous platforms minced toward me. At least the last guy, a burly black man, looked fit and determined. This was my team.

I know the producers like to screw with us, but this is bad. Advancement to the next round is based on the team’s performance in the challenges. Foul-ups cost points and two of these three looked like they had black belts in uselessness.  

Even though I’d only beat them by five minutes, I felt like the host. Extending my hand to the normal guy, I said, “Hi, I’m Jack. Welcome to camp, um, you know, just, camp.”

“I’m Bill Waylon of Waylon’s BBQ in Kansas City and I hope to win enough for a new restaurant. I’m plenty proud to cook for y’all here at ‘Camp Just Camp.’ You stab it, I’ll slab it.” His handshake and warm shrewd eyes told me this was a guy I could hang with for four weeks in the wilderness.

The woman stepped forward and planted her hands on her hips. “I can see that I have work to do here. First off, we need to name our encampment in order to promulgate unity. The competitive paradigm promotes divisiveness rather than positively impacting the creative synergy of the cohesive whole.” I liked how the humidity made her slinky dress cling to her rack, but her chirpy voice was like a dentist’s drill in my head.

“What?”

“In my corporate motivational seminars we examine the roadblocks to crosswalking our key competencies into the appropriate wheelhouses. By commencing with a commonality in kickoff points, we can leapfrog to the next evolution without the hindrance of incrementalism.”

Oh bitch, do not make me move your cheese.

I became an IT geek-for-hire to get away from that shit. Now I had to live with it and depend on it? I looked over to Bill who shrugged.

“So what’s his story?” I said, pointing to the clown. He was swatting bugs out of his puffy pink wig and sweat rivulets were forming in the heavy makeup on either side of his bulbous nose.

“You’re going to love this. His name is Floppo and he’s an interpretative, deconstructuralist, cross-disciplinary mime,” said Bill.

“What?”

“Beats the hell out of me. According to the card he gave me, his rap is to ‘eschew verbal communication in favor of the universal corporeal language of laughter in order to showcase the tragedy of existence.’ Or some such bullshit.”

Kill me now. I’m stuck here with Kafka the Klown.

Stranded at the corner of pompous and pretentious, my dreams of financing a freelance studio were melting faster than Floppo’s mascara. A loudspeaker at the edge of the clearing interrupted my misery.

“The water will flow for ten minutes. Collect it or lose it. The challenge is yours.” The echoes of the announcement had barely faded when a spigot at the edge of the clearing began to spew.

“Bill, do you see any pots or buckets? We have got to get that water,” I said.

He ran toward the flow. “No man. Let me check to see if they left us anything or if I can find some big leaves.”

Floppo and Miss Manners were oblivious. She was gesturing and talking a mile a minute while he tied a balloon animal.

Balloons.

“Dude, let me have those,” I said pointing to his bandolier studded with latex rosettes. We can fill them with water and have plenty to drink.”

Either I didn’t speak interpretative mime correctly or Floppo was being an unctuous prick. Instead of the balloons, he gave me a slow pseudo-tragic frown and a pink poodle.

“Allow me to rephrase. Hand them over or there will be clown white all over the grass.” I pulled back my fist as punctuation.

The shriek behind me startled the birds in nearby trees. “Leave him alone! He is protecting his expressive tools from the dominant Euro-centric patriarchal power structure. He needs those balloons. They are conduits of his soul. They complete him.”

“We need that water.” I grabbed a handful of balloons and threw them to Bill before she jumped on me. Since I doubted I was getting lucky, I assumed she thought it was time to crosswalk into my wheelhouse.

Later that afternoon, the fire crackled in perfect three-part harmony with the frogs and crickets.

“Bill, I have to say, I didn’t expect you to mean what you said when you introduced yourself quite so literally.”

He laughed and tossed more wood on the blaze. While he’d worked by the fire, I’d built a lean-to. A dozen bulging water balloons hung like ripe pastel fruit. I doubt anyone had a more squared-away operation.  I could almost hear the points racking up for Camp Just Camp.

“My pleasure. You did the hard work. I just made it palatable,” Bill said, wiping his hands on a scrap of red silk.

“And palatable it was. I will say, what that crazy chick lacked in judgment, she certainly made up for in taste. But I have to ask, what happened to the clown?”


            He shook his head. “It tasted funny.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Contest Entry

I will master this blog thing and I will finish the shit that I start.

An entry into the weekly flash fiction contest hosted by The Chuck at www.terribleminds.com seems like a good place to start on my rehabilitation.

The premise was simple. He had a list of opening lines culled from the previous week's take and we picked one to write about. Go check out the contest listing to get the full skinny.

And here is my entry:

*****

Graveyard Shift
by Terri Lynn Coop

It’s always midnight somewhere. And I'm likely working there. Being a night shift checkout clerk sucks. Being a pre-cog checker on graveyard is the parking garage two levels below sucks. People put their crap on my conveyor and I have to soak up the residual energy from their sweaty fingerprints.

Let me tell you, the witching hour doesn't get any weirder than at Walmart.

I already had a headache from the barrage of meth jones, unpaid child support, arrest warrants, and tinfoil-hat politics that had come through my checkstand when I saw the paper towels and waterless hand sanitizer hit my UPC scanner.

Someone with dry hands. A man after my own heart.

He looked straight. Crewcut with neat glasses and an uncreased trenchcoat. I liked him already. I swiped his items and was about to drop them in a bag when I saw the blaring newspaper headline in my head:

SIX DEAD IN WALMART SHOOTING. SUSPECT STILL AT LARGE.

Locking eyes, he knew and I knew. Ducking under my counter with the big neon 7 on the pole, I breathed a sigh of relief. That's when I remembered that Dustin was on break.


*****

If you are a fan of flash fiction, the comments section on Chuck Wendig's blog post will contain links to all sorts of yummy evil. Have fun!