July is upon us. Happy 4th everyone! I hope that you had a wonderful holiday. Now I invite you to continue the celebration with we Quills, by taking a look at our latest flash fiction tales.
This time, Parker selected the pic we are using. Here is is:
This and more work by the artist Zhiyong Li, may be found here.
It seems Parker wanted to give us a lot to work with, as this piece is very busy. For my part, I've been challenging myself to keep my flash fiction tales as short as possible, in an effort to try to give the most for the least. Last time, my flash fiction story, title and all, ran exactly 1000 words. The time before that, my piece ran just over 400 words. This time I've found myself in-between, having used, title and all, a mere 800 words. So . . . here goes!
Signs, Signs, Everywhere There Are Signs!
Having arrived at the port in Corsair, the largest city in Metzphlat, Kira and her mother stepped off the ship’s deck and onto the wharf, then shuffled through the bustling crowd. Signs all around, in assorted sizes, shapes, and colors, directed folks, informed them—and no doubt warned them—of numerous matters.
Suddenly, came a jostling from behind. Kira’s grip loosened and a second later, she found herself quite alone.
Quickly she looked ahead, but could not catch sight of her mother in the still growing crowd. Unsure whether the gangs hurrying both directions had swept her beloved parent back the way from whence they’d come, or had caught her up and whisked her forward, Kira choked back a cry.
Mother had warned her not to appear weak—to do so would make her a ready target of the pirates and criminal riff-raff that bandied about. Taking that advice to heart, Kira stepped to the side, away from the center of activity. Catching the eye of a nearby pickpocket as he masterfully performed his unique version of prestidigitation, lightening the financial wherewithal of his latest victim, she squared her shoulders, gritted her teeth, and tipped her chin up into an “I-double-dare-you-to-try-to-mess-with-me” expression.
That’s when movement from above caught her attention. Her jaw dropped at the marvel of the sight. Flying machines! First came one in the shape of a fish. Behind it prowled another looking very much like a cat. It gained speed quickly, as though it meant to gobble up the first—as felines are wont to do with seafood. Kira had never seen such machines before, but she’d heard of them, and she knew that magic powered them. Word of their existence had made it to her provincial little town shortly before she and her mother had set out on their venture.
She thought back to the night that Jack-the-peddler had stopped in Pauperton. Whenever he made his way through, the townsfolk gathered to see his wares. But this time things differed. This time instead of trying to outbid one another for the most unusual and therefore coveted of the peddler’s fare, the townsfolk spent the evening discussing the loss some months back, of their resident magician. Without a person of magic to tend to the weather, they’d soon also experienced the inevitable failure of their annual crop. The town’s stored goods wouldn’t last much longer. Indeed, hunger had already set in.
Jack had suggested that someone set out for the grand city of Corsair. There, “ships the size of mountains come to port,” he’d claimed, and “flying machines that deliver people and equipment from place to place, fill the air!” Magicians ran those machines, so surely, one could be found one in the city, Jack had reasoned. Moreover, Corsair boasted its own training grounds for young witches and wizards.
And so, without further ado, Kira and her mother—whom the Pauperton residents valued as one of their wisest—set out.
Kira leaned against a wood pillar around which hung ropes that held the ship close, while water slapped its sides. Fear visited her as hunger pangs gripped her.
She had to think. Perhaps mother went straight to the school of magic, intending to meet back up with Kira there. Yes, that made sense. So, she should set out to do the same.
Something caught her eye. A steel bar held at the end of some rope from a hook was being hoisted up into the air, although by whom, or for what purpose, Kira could not tell. Still, she ran to it. If she could get a good look at the city, she might get her bearings. Then, perhaps she’d find what she sought.
Quickly, before it was too late, she jumped. Teetering on the edge of the bar, she steadied herself as it rose jerkily into the air. Cautious, fearing she might lose her balance, Kira didn’t even consider reaching for the orange drink she found at her side. Better she just concentrate, she reasoned.
Slowly, the bar rose, higher and higher. Then, quite suddenly, it ceased its ascent, although it did wobble a bit from side to side for a minute or so. Kira held on tightly. Then, shortly, the bar went still.
She looked out at the glorious city before her, and that’s when she noticed—really noticed for the first time—all the signs. There were signs everywhere! And that’s also when Kira came to grips with the immensity of her difficulties. For the signs provided all the information she could possibly need—information that could point her in the direction she sought. There was just one problem. Unfortunately for Kira, it was a big one. A really, very, monstrously, outrageously, big problem.
Kira couldn’t read Metzphlatish.
Some of you might remember that I mentioned Metzphlat in a recent post when we Quills discussed whether we create our own languages for our fantasy tales. It was fun to work the concept back into this little tale . . .
Well, let's see what P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, has for us this time around.
Parker? Paaaaarkerrrr! You're uuuuup!
Oh, there you are! (Be sure to follow the link for the rest of Parker's story.)
Morrowsky, the First Flying City
Twelve-year-old Zee Anderson liked straight lines and right angles. Unfortunately for her, the city of Morrowsky had very few straight lines and no right angles. Instead it had sails and balloons, walkways and cupolas, turrets and towers—all built on top of each other with little reason or rhyme—except to reach higher into the sky.
What fun! Thank you for sharing. Every time I read one of these, I find myself wanting more. I'm sure that will be the case with the next flash fiction tale from Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies.
Take it away, Robin! (Again, follow the link for more.)
When Toady says they’re to paint the Widow Grayling’s house, Akasha stares along with everyone else.
“Orange.” Uneven teeth make his smile particularly fiendish. The gang erupts into hoots and shouts of laughter at that. The widow’s a quiet woman of modest means. Her house used to be brown, but most of the color’s chipped off now. It would no more willingly wear orange than would the widow.
“She needs some brightening.” Zekan always backs up Toady. If their illustrious leader decided they should all become acolytes at the local temple, Zekan would hand out the cassocks and thump anyone who questioned the choice. Same if Toady resolved to filch grub down in the Bellows—Royal Ghost territory, where Toady’s Azure Fang Gang would swiftly find their end. Hopefully not a permanent one… Did the Ghosts kill children?
Thanks for visiting with us all. We Quills so enjoy sharing the joint post we do together on the first Friday of each month. Do leave your comments, and stop in again.