The Iron Writer Challenge #21 – 2013 Summer Solstice Open Preliminary Round, Charlotte Bronte Bracket

Flying Bicycle

The Iron Writer Challenge #21

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Open

Preliminary Round

charlotte-bronte

Charlotte Bronte Bracket

The Authors:

Tannis Laidlaw, Steve Harz, Kriss Morton, E. Chris Garrison

The Elements:

An Electric Flying Bicycle

A Doppelganger

Atlantis

An obscure Black & White Television Drama/Comedy

Myths for Kidstannis laidlaw

Tannis Laidlaw

I’m Meredith Harris, a backstage researcher for “Myths for Kids”. Few children in the Western world don’t know our TV series with presenter Marigold Horbay. The two of us share more than initials.

I first saw the teenaged Marigold years ago when she was the cowgirl presenter of Saturday afternoon’s “Horse Opera” featuring black and white, high-drama westerns. As a child, I was glued to our new television and I loved it when my mother said I’d look just like Marigold when I grew into my teens. I wanted to be on television, too.

Marigold eventually became a producer and I, a university professor. My first book, “The Influence of the Perseus Myth on Modern Society” enjoyed modest success. My second, “The Atlantis Myth”, brought me into contact with my childhood heroine once more. Marigold, then a mature research student in search of a project, attended my book launch.

‘My goodness, the presenter of “Horse Opera”,’ I said when she introduced herself.

‘Yikes, I’m surprised you’ve even heard of it much less remember it.’

‘My favourite programme,’ I said, ‘way back when.’

She became serious. ‘Have you thought of examining Hollywood myths from the same perspective as “The Atlantis Myth”?’

An interesting idea, and thus Marigold became my research student.

Years (and several books) later, Marigold wanted to teach critical thinking to children (how to treat evidence, the power of persuasion etc.) through a light-hearted television series about myths and myth-making. Were certain mythological ideas true? What purpose did they serve?

She asked me to be the consultant for the series providing background on all sorts of myths, ancient and modern. For instance, we’re developing several programmes about flight.

Did the Atlanteans, ancient Hindus and other lost races have working flying machines? Detailed drawings of the 5000 year-old Hindu flying Vimanas still exist.

Were those meticulous drawings of medieval cities created by someone way up in the air? It sure looks like it, but maybe a good imagination and superb mathematics provide explanations.

Were the Wright brothers really the first to fly? Or was it a clever myth used to promote their business? If you saw that episode, you’ll know we added in the news about an ET-like prototype electric flying bicycle recently developed – not a myth, but a delightfully goofy idea none-the-less that was pleasingly appropriate given the Wright brothers’ bicycle business.

One final myth I must mention, not because we used it in the series, but because we didn’t. Most children know the myth that everybody has someone just like them – a sort of twin, a doppelganger – somewhere in the universe. Maybe, just maybe, some myths everyone thinks are crazy – or merely childish – are actually genuine…and sometimes childhood dreams come true, too.

Did you see Episode 14 of “Myths for Kids”? The presenter was only on camera for a short time, but did you notice anything different? Well, folks, Marigold had the flu when we filmed that episode.  But I’d wager only the most astute observer of “Myths for Kids” could have spotted it. The presenter wasn’t Marigold. It was her doppelganger.

Me.

Moby MeChrissy Garrison

E. Chris Garrison

As the dirigiwhale soared through the dimensional rift, I knew it was now or never. The bloated sky whale carried a small gondola underneath, which I knew held my doppelganger.

Ever since the accidental tear in space-time had opened, new alternate realities had flashed by daily. Yesterday, it was another me, flying in on a rocket-assisted glider, which I shot down with a modified flare gun. The aluminum canisters on his bandolier read, “anthrax, smallpox, black death”.

The day before, a parachutist catapulted through. Too fast. His chute failed. I found the body wearing my face and an EMP bomb strapped to his chest.

Why am I evil in all the alternate worlds?

I figured this one would be even worse. I’d put together an electric flying bicycle. I thrust a sharp metal strut through my belt to use as a harpoon. Strapped in, I lifted off with a roar, lights flashing all over the machine’s tubular frame, in case my double hadn’t seen me.

The whale changed course, bellowing like a mournful Wookie, aimed straight for me. I spied the other me, leaning out of the gondola. “For Atlantis!” he cried, firing a crossbow.

CLANG!

The bolt lodged in a stabilizer fan. My bike and I leaned far to the right. I toggled off the opposite fan and fought the control stick to right myself. I kicked the throttle all the way up and my bike and I rose up and swooped in close to the dirigiwhale, putting the living gasbag between my twin and me. I could almost see through the skin; sunlight filled the beautiful monster with a warm glow.

Leaden guilt weighed my stomach as I hefted my makeshift harpoon. I couldn’t do it. Instead, I landed my bike on the whale’s back. I crept forward, edged around a blowhole the size of a manhole cover, onto the beast’s nose. Reigns attached by cruel spikes stabbed into the whale’s skin, and I could see the lines go taught as my nemesis tugged to steer it this way and that. I drew my knife and cut each cable in turn.

I slapped the creature’s nose and said, “There now, go home.” I clambered my way back up to my bike.

Now all I had to do was wait.

As though it understood me, the dirigiwhale reversed course and made for the rift.

My knife couldn’t cut the steel bands that held the gondola on, and soon my twin appeared, climbing over the edge. He struggled to gain his feet and reached for his crossbow. I held my harpoon up in threat. He held up his hands.

“Greetings, my identical cousin,” I said.

His look told me they didn’t have Patty Duke in his universe. “Why didn’t you kill me?”

“One of us has to be the good twin,” I said with a smirk.

As we passed through the rift, I set off the EMP bomb, sealing the portal forever.

And you know, Atlantis is pretty damn cool.

In The Smoke

Kriss Mortonkrissnewhair

It had been six months since the first time I had seen the face.  I had been grabbing a smoke on the deck, underneath the porch light as it cast shadows across the snow of the garbage bags that I had not yet taken to the dump.  I had already taken several drags when I first noticed what appeared to be an eye in the smoke. At first I thought it was the trick of the light but as I looked at it sideways I could see it looking off towards the trees by the road. I could make out the rest of the necessary features: nose and pursed lips.  My breath caught in my throat as I staggered backwards, as it lost cohesion and trailed upwards into the wintry air and blowing snow dust. The cigarette fell from my fingers as I turned and ran into the house, locking the door behind me. I sat and watched the door in a deep panic. My husband was watching some odd show about electric flying bicycles, somehow it soothed me to find something even more bizarre than what I had experienced in the smoky shadows. Perhaps watching re-runs of Dark Shadows on Netflix earlier was a mistake. I shook it off and sat down just in time for my husband to switch to a show about the discovery off the coast of Florida which some were claiming to be Atlantis. It would still be a month before I started sneaking a smoke again.

Grabbing a cigarette around 2 AM later that winter I saw the face again.  I had already taken a few drags when I saw my breath begin to shift as though meeting unseen resistance, and with my next full exhale I saw her. My heart started racing, she was so familiar but I could not place from where. The lines of smoke etched grooves of age into what was beginning to form something so real. The discovery of the horrifying unknown caused me to freeze between self-preservation and the most wretched parts of human curiosity. Before I could pin down where I knew her from the face faded away with the smoke, now thinning out into the barest trace of my breath.  Hesitantly I took a deep drag on my cigarette and exhaled. The smoke floating upwards as a single cloud. Her face was gone.

When she appeared the third time it was several months later. In horror, I wanted to flee, to escape the notice of such a thing. That mockery of human visage, an image stretched out over the void it actually presented.  The cigarette fell from my hand onto the snow-covered deck, amber fading out as it flickered and died. The last part of the fog of my breath joined the night sky as I stood rigidly in place in the porch light. Her face, my face, my doppelganger from the future dissipated with the last of my cigarette which lay forgotten at my feet.

Invisible ScarSteve Harz

Steve Harz

The scar on my palm is now almost unnoticeable, except to me.  At a church camp bonfire during a reading of Matthew 5:16 a blond girl in a pink hoodie had a stray smoldering ember attach itself to her hair, igniting and needing to be removed.  A flame began to build and being absent of an extinguisher I grabbed it with my right hand and now every time I write her a love letter I am reminded of how we met.

Years before I had witnessed my own kidnapping, and as with most adoptees there are questions about our arrival into this government-sponsored witness protection program.  The stork didn’t happen and although he had a parachute the landing would have hurt just the same. And delivery by electric flying bicycle or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were considered, but quickly dismissed, since we know that, in actuality, we are no more than broken boomerangs without hope of a return flight.

Childhood days are divided between neighborhood swing sets or swimming pools and the inner mind struggle of mental hide-and-seek and while friends draw sidewalk hopscotch courses and sing its magpie rhyme (one for sorrow, two for mirth, three for a wedding, four for a birth…) we take their chalk and draw outlines of who we might have been.

Evening kitchen table dinners are followed by a family halo surrounding a 1965 Sylvania black and white television tuned to ‘My Three Sons’ or ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ and not watching, but studying, each face to see if we might locate a lost brother or grandfather but all that’s ever discovered is that Chip Douglas is your doppelganger and it would be nice to have Mr. Welk as your grandfather because you’d enjoy learning the accordion.

As we get older we walk slowly, like bags of pennies, across tightropes holding poles that allow us to balance between being team players and wondering why we’re disposable.  And should we fall, as we often wish we would, our hope is that the landing spot is atop our original family tree, but more likely would be the center of Atlantis since we, like that city, are lost (and occasionally searched for).

During adolescence my own search ended with a summer camp bonfire and a girl who doesn’t care about my “don’t ask don’t tell” backstory and is the one person ever who, when told, did not ask the ubiquitous question ‘what was wrong with you?’ for she feels there is nothing wrong with being Plan B and is happy to be part of mine.

The scar has faded and as I write that girl’s daily love letter, with our baby on my lap, I think of the verse from Matthew and the long-ago spark, and that we need to put our light before others for all to see.  We must rise above.  And I do – for her – because if it hadn’t been for the light of her flame I might not be here.

The Iron Writer Challenge #21 – 2013 Summer Solstice Open Preliminary Round

The Iron Writer Challenge #21

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Open

Preliminary Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

charlotte-bronte

Charlotte Bronte Bracket

The Authors:

Tannis LaidlawSteve HarzKriss MortonEric Garrison

 f-scott-fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald Bracket

The Authors:

Robbie ThomasB. R. SnowM.D. PitmanDellani Oakes

joseph_conrad

Joseph Conrad Bracket

The Authors:

Guy Anthony De MarcoDani J CaileA Francis RaymondGenevieve Dewey

 virginia-woolf

Virginia Woolf Bracket

The Authors:

Tony JaegerJim WrightKyle B StiffA. B. Bourne

The Elements:

An Electric Flying Bicycle

A Doppelganger

Atlantis

An obscure Black & White Television Drama/Comedy

 

The Iron Writer Challenge #20

Red Banana Slug

The Iron Writer Challenge #20

2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #20

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

B R SnowE N HeimHarry CraftBill Prins

The Elements:

Carbon Paper

A Red Banana Slug

Flashing Neon Lights

MR Peabody’s WABAC Machine

Slugging It OutBernie Snow

B R Snow

“Where are we?”

“Somewhere in the dark of night?”

“Thanks.”

“No problem. Did we actually time-travel?”

“No idea. Try your phone.”

“Who should I call?”

“Me.”

“Why? You’re standing right here.”

“Jesus.”

“Okay…Nothing.”

“Let’s find some locals. Maybe they’ve seen Jimmy.”

“Why do I think time travel for someone who believes in reincarnation isn’t a good combination?”

“Just don’t alter the space-time continuum.”

“How the hell do I manage that?”

“I don’t know. I just remember it from every time travel movie. Look, neon sign.”

“What…it’s flashing too fast.”

“Looks like, Joe’s Diner…Eat, then Leave. Nice touch.”

“I could eat.”

*****

“Slow night, huh?”

“Just the way I like it.”

“We’re looking for our friend. Little guy, moves real slow. Sporting a major sunburn.”

“You two aren’t gonna find friends here. Gonna order or just take up space?”

“Uh, we’ll have today’s special.”

“Something to drink?”

“What do you recommend?”

“The pub down the road.”

“Two beers. What’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“The thing inside your order pad.”

“This? Never seen carbon paper before?”

“Actually, no. What’s it for?”

“For making a copy of your order. One for the cook, one for me.”

“Okay.”

“How the hell do you make copies?”

“Copies? Who makes…sometimes I’ll scan…never mind. Say, what year is this?”

“What year? What are you? A pothead?”

“No, I don’t smoke weed.”

“Good. And if you plan making it through 1960, don’t start while you’re here.”

“Point taken. But it does raise another question.  Where exactly is here?”

“You don’t know? Narrabri. Gateway to Mount Kaputar.”

“Australia?”

“Good guess. Fuck me. Let me get this order in so you can eat-n-go.”

“1960? Is that possible?”

“I didn’t check the parameters he used.”

“How did he build a time machine?”

“He’s a genius. That helps. Got the idea watching Rocky and Bullwinkle. Mr. Peabody’s time machine.”

“The cartoon dog and Sherman?”

“Yeah. It’s gonna be a movie.”

“I’ll watch that.”

“If we don’t get out of here, we’ll have to wait 53 years to see it.”

“Good point. But why 1960 in the middle of Australia?”

“His parents migrated here before they moved to the States. Maybe he came to see them.”

*****

“Uh, what’s this?”

“The special.”

“Yes, but what…”

“Slug scampi.”

“Slugs?”

“Yeah. Problem?”

“Absolutely. Seasonal dish?”

“Slugs are always in season around here.”

“My dinner is moving.”

“Mine too.”

“We like our slugs raw.”

“Like sushi?”

“What’s sushi?”

“One of my slugs is eating another slug.”

“They’re Cannibal Snails. Fortunately, they’re slow eaters. But I wouldn’t wait too long.

*****

“You going to eat?”

“Maybe. You?”

“When in Rome, right? Wow.”

“What?”

“One of my slugs is bright red.”

“Really? That’s weird.”

“It’s crawling right towards me. And for a slug, he’s motoring.”

“It’s saying; Eat me first, eat me first.”

“I think I’ll do just that. I don’t like the way it’s staring at me.”

“The red slug is staring at you?”

“Yeah, but not for long.”

“Wait!”

“Hmmm. A little chewy, but not bad. What?”

What’s Next?E N Heim

E N Heim

Sherman was bored out of his mind. He thought: Where could I go next? This life’s the pits. Gazing across the pen and staring at the others, he pondered another adventure, another place of interest. Nothing came to mind. He looked down on the planks where he was laying. He noticed a column of ants traipsing across the wooden floor. Hmm, he thought.  It caught his curiosity.

The only one noticing ants was Sherman. Everyone was paying attention to their own nonsense. He watched the queue serpentine across the floor, and vanished into nowhere. Interested, he looked down to see were the wriggling line was going. The streaming ants descended through a gap between the boards. Nothing could be seen but blackness.

He looked around to see if any of the others was watching him. Not one. He was the only one privy to the safari.

Sherman always thought of himself as special. Not like the group he presently was with. They were much like copies made by carbon-paper—dittoed in replication. They preferred playing, climbing the jungle-gym, and swinging around the yard. His interest was more in experiences. He had a juju Wi-Fied to Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine. It allowed him to go places in and out of time. He wore the juju around his neck for quick access and escaping. All he had to do was speak to the contraption, where he wanted to go, and POOF—he was experiencing a new life form and environment.

On this trip Sherman became a chimpanzee. He hand been a mammoth before. He wanted to know what it was like living during the ice-age. Being a huge elephant wasn’t so cool. He also wanted to know what it was like living in dinosaur times. He found it wasn’t much fun either. Hoping to become a Rex, instead he became a Lystrosaurus. It wasn’t fun being small. The Rexes took advantage of him. He was lucky his faculties were intact. His change was instant—POOF—he became a chimp.

He watched the queuing insects march into the gap. They were small, but that didn’t matter to him; it was their persistent attitude—their relentless coming and going. What was an ant’s world really like, streamed through his mind.

He rubbed the juju, and said, “Take me to the ants.” Flashing neon lights emitted from his device, and POOF.

Sherman couldn’t see. Everything around him was totally black. At first, he could only feel and hear. He now was in a telepathic world—no body—just thought, mind, and images flashing around him. His sight no longer came from his eyes. His world now was 360º visibility. No sense of body, form, but everything all at once. It was as if he was detached from form, and became pure awareness. By now he could see everything in the total darkness.

The vision Sherman saw were ants eating a “red banana slug”. With each bite, his mind became less aware of himself, and then—nothingness.

ConnectionsHarry Craft

Harry Craft

The flashing neon lights brought him to consciousness.  No—not lights; his eyes were closed.  He tried to open them, but nothing changed.  He noticed that he couldn’t clearly feel his body.  No sounds or sensations gave indications of his condition or location.  Am I conscious?  Dreaming?  As he attempted to concentrate, the lights subsided into a sort of sepia dimness more felt than seen.

Though he vaguely thought he should be afraid, he felt calm and curious, though he still did not know where he was or what was happening to him.  As his mind focused he entered a reverie in which events from his life flittered before him:  himself as a child, watching Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine on TV; now a lonely twenty-something surfing the Internet at three in the morning; now his first sexual encounter; now a fifty-something in the doctor’s office for a blood test; now a child running through the grass on a summer day as his parents watched.

As the review continued, he started to become confused.  A memory of seeing a red banana slug during a hike in the mountains—but no, he hadn’t done that.  He’d seen that on a nature show.  Memories of his trip to Japan—but he’d never been there.  A long conversation with friends seemed to veer back and forth between remembered reality and scenes from various dramas. There were memories that were unmistakably real—the birth of his daughter, his favorite childhood dog, scenes from college—but others seemed now genuine, now second-hand.

He became perturbed for the first time.  So much of his life lived at a remove, it seemed.  Cell phones, texts, the Internet, video conferencing, and of course the old standby TV.  Had he lived too much of his life vicariously?  Were thoughts, emotions, experiences he had thought were his merely carbon paper images confused for the originals?  How could he distinguish ersatz life from real?  Or did he have a real life?

The depression into which he was drifting with this train of thought was broken by the return of the flashing lights.  No, not flashing, and there was only one.  Distant and vague at first, it brightened and with its approach, a figure became apparent, enveloped within the light.  As it came near him, he could see it was a woman more beautiful than any he’d ever seen.  Her body, robed in light, might or might not have been naked; her face seemed a combination of every woman he’d ever loved—mother, lovers, wife, daughter.  Angel? flitted across his mind.

“Yes and no,” said a voice of liquid gold.  “Your guardian, your best self, your aspirations.  All of these, none of these, and more than these.”

“My life—a waste….”

“No.  Unfinished, but not wasted.  All is connected; you were part of things not physically experienced.  Others, unbeknownst, were part of you.  You are beyond such distinctions now.  The world you were in was the carbon copy.  Come now into the original.”

Joy surged within him as, embraced in her arms of light, he ascended with her into the Infinite.

FRSBill Prins

Bill Prins

“Yes, Professor Argyle, the body is in autopsy,” said Curator McDougal, standing by the outline on the floor in the still smoking room, the Halon system’s flashing neon lights now off. “The detective and his assistant will be back any minute.”

“Argyle, why the hell are you here?” bellowed Detective Gidney, surging into the room, followed by a diminutive female. “I’ll not be having any of your business this time.”

“The Director rang me this morning,” said Argyle, “and asked me to have a look around.”

“Well, I guess you’ll do that then,” said Gidney, cowed. “Anyway, the famous Horatio Huxley was certainly an odd cove, living here in this museum, and now murdered.”

“Detective Gidney,” said McDougal icily, “Sir Huxley was no run-of-the-kiln genius, but a true polymath, lecturer in everything from paleobotany to plasma physics, the national authority on coprolites, former President of the Royal Society, discoverer of temporal tunneling…”

“What’s the bloody thing?” asked Gidney thickly.

“Temporal tunneling, sir,” said Gidney’s assistant, “is exploiting directional time, like a quantum electro-dynamical Mr. Peabody’s WABAC Machine.”

“My assistant, Lieutenant Cloyd,” said Gidney. “She’s fresh out, and sometimes spews this drivel.”

“A pleasure, Lieutenant,” said Argyle, studying her Bantu features. “We will speak further, but perhaps we should return to the investigation at hand. Have you any clues?”

“It appears Huxley fended off the sods before they finally broke in and set the explosive,” said Gidney, “but the land line was cut and a cellular scrambler was used, so he couldn’t call for help. From the message left on the body it’s clear the eco-anarchists are back at it.”

“Professor Argyle, Sir Huxley was targeted as an elite scientist,” said Cloyd. “I’ve checked into recent ecotage activity and Earth First, Gamto Leopardai, the Earth Liberation Army, and the militant ELF factions have been quiet lately. We also found these on the body.”

Argyle examined the proffered plastic envelopes.

“A picture of some fat worm,” said Gidney, “and a piece of copy paper.”

“It looks like Arion rufus sir,” said Cloyd to Argyle. “European Red Slug. The picture was wrapped in the carbon paper.”

“Notice the pale tentacles,” said Argyle to Cloyd, “It resembles a red banana slug, but a red variety of Ariolimax is nondescript. One of Huxley’s late discoveries, perhaps, and with time to encrypt a message to us…”

After a moment Cloyd grabbed Argyle’s elbow. “Santa Cruz, sir!”

“Of course,” said Argyle. “Davis! Detective Gidney, I believe Gamto Leopardai, the Lithuanian ‘Nature Leopards’ are the eco-terrorists responsible for this.”

“What?” said Gidley. “How do you come by this?”

“The University of California at Santa Cruz mascot is the banana slug,” said Cloyd.

“And the most famous ‘Red’ at Santa Cruz was the 1960’s radical Angela Davis,” said Argyle, “former leader of the Communist Party USA.”

“And a Black Panther,” continued Cloyd.

“But a leopard is no Black Panther,” said Gidney.

“Indeed,” said Argyle, “because there is no such creature as a Black Panther, only melanistic leopards and jaguars.”