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Hello!  Thanks for stopping by!  Fiction Can Be Fun is a writing project run by David (@breakerofthings) and Debs (@debsdespatches).   We each post a piece of fiction every month, run a writing prompt once a month and are the originators of #secondthoughts. #secondthoughts are reflections on writing, responses to writing and…well, take a look and you’ll see!

If you’d like to find out more/get involved, please do take a look at the ‘About’ page.

 

Our regular schedule

1st Sunday : #FF Prompt – submission deadline the Friday following @ 2 pm GMT
(or use our #TortoiseFlashFiction page if the deadline is too tight)

2nd Sunday : An original short story from Debs

3rd Sunday : A #SecondThoughts piece from David or Debs
(except for those occasions when we’ve been able to persuade a guest to write one for us!)

4th Sunday : An edition of David’s Writing Experiment

5th Sunday : on the occasion when these occur, we’ll provide details as early as possible (but typically we’d hope to host a guest post, so do get in touch if you could be interested!)

Look at the moon … it’s so beautiful!

You’ve been sleeping fitfully for a while now, right on the edge, and far from rested. Something has kept nagging away at you, but you’ve no idea what it was until the phone wakes you up. Even as you reach for your phone in response to the alert, you realise what’s been bothering you is the persistent buzzing of your phone. You glance at it before answering the call and see that the number of notifications is off the chart.

“Garrett” you bark into the phone, shaking away the final vestiges of sleep. A voice you recognise but which doesn’t identify itself, says “Do not look at the moon!” Before you can question them, the line goes dead. You check the source of the alert and it is Them, so you know the message isn’t some random drunk playing a prank.

Fully awake now, you wonder what it’s all about. Your bedroom is still clothed in darkness – unsurprisingly as you’d invested in curtains with black-out linings to improve your sleep – and you can’t think clearly. You decide to go to the bathroom and whilst there, you take a look at those notifications – they all seem to be talking about it being a beautiful night and how gorgeous the moon is. There are so many notifications, you quickly realise that most of them are from total strangers. Then you notice one is opening an image and you quickly close your messages. “What the hell is going on?” you exlaim to yourself.

Deciding you need an injection of caffeine to work it out, you head for the kitchen. But as you reach your bedroom door, you stop, your palm still gripping the handle. Did you close the living room curtains before going to bed last night? If not, there’ll be a clear view of the night sky through your windows. Edging the door open a crack, you’re relieved to find not a chink of light coming through; it looks like you may well have closed the curtains. Still, you go back to your nightstand for a torch – just in case. You decide you’re not going to be turning on any lights and you’ll use the beam of your torch to navigate your way across the almost certainly cluttered living room floor. If you keep your eyes assiduously turned to the inside wall, you should be safe, even if there’s a chink in the curtains. The kitchen, once you get there, will be fine as it’s all interior walls. You’d not been keen on that aspect when you bought the flat, but it seems like a positive bonus now.

Going through the routine with your Moka pot, you think through what you know. The alert was brief, so they were probably having to make a shed-load of calls. As you’re more of a grunt than a heavyweight, they must be getting to the end of their call list soon. Hmm … with luck that would mean either a second call, or an opportunity to call in and get some answers. As the pot did it’s thing on the stovetop, you cautiously check the living room curtains through the kitchen doorway. Although not black-out lined, they appear to be thoroughly drawn, so you decide there’s no reason not to take your coffee into the living room, where you can switch on the laptop and see if They have sent anything out to support the alert.

They had. It wasn’t much though. What they knew was anyone who’d looked at the moon that night had gone loopy – not aggressive or zombie-like, more silly, out-of-control happy, like on some sixties drug trip. So far as they could tell, people who’d only looked at electronic images appeared unaffected, but probably still best to avoid if possible – TV news feeds in particular, so best to get news from the radio. Finally, the instructions were to stay indoors and to stay alert and available.

Finishing the first – much needed – cup of coffee, it was time to re-fill and start brewing the second one, and to take the opportunity to get dressed, re-check the grab bag and your weapons. Working on automatic pilot, you smoothly get those tasks completed, before taking a quick look at supplies – food, water, batteries, camping gear, fuel in and for the back-up generator. All that done, you toast some old bread and cook a couple of eggs and bacon for an early breakfast. Sitting down with your third cup of coffee, you check for messages again. This one’s more detailed. It seems to be just the US being targetted, although all operatives are being encouraged to reach out to any reliable international sources they have for confirmation. It seems completely unfathomable that the moon in their skies was having this impact, whilst the moon in other skies was not. Neighbouring countries were suffering the same issue – although patchily – places like Canada, Mexico and parts of the Carribbean. Whilst easy to come up with candidates who’d want to put the US in such a state, figuring out the “how” was proving to be a real headache.

The message closed with a list of personnel who were to report once the sun rose, although with reminders to avoid looking up into the sky – just in case – whilst those not on the list were to remain at home and indoors. Sighing to yourself, for you’re in the remain at home and indoors category, you ponder on one final odd touch – the message closed with a “Be careful out there”. You recognise it as a line from Hill Street Blues – a line which hasn’t been used since 9/11. Clearly They were not just rattled but genuinely worried.

You decide to take a nap. The fitful night wouldn’t help your level of concentration and readiness, so your best option is to get yourself into peak condition for when you are needed. One final check that the flat is secure, and you get your head down on the sofa, quickly switching off and falling asleep.

The next few days follow the same pattern. You sleep, eat, exercise – all indoors, all with the curtains tightly drawn. You get regular updates by message from Them. News filters in from overseas assets and there’s been the usual little spat with the Russians, but no-one seems any closer to knowing what the hell is happening. Scientists working long into the night came up with goggles which filtered out the harmful effects of the moon. Key workers get drafted in to manufacture the goggles in bulk. They arrange for the goggles to be distributed around all Their people – with a spare set in case of breakages. Eventually the technology is made available more widely, although it’s likely that someone, somewhere was making a financial killing – Them probably. But that’s how They operated, how They ensured they always had an unlimited operating budget.

Either way, you’re grateful the self-imposed purdah is over. Your goggles on, with the spare pair safely stowed in your backpack, you go out for the first run in weeks. Despite the strenous exercise programme, your legs feel stiff, and your relish the ability to stretch them fully. You reach your destination where Viktor is waiting. You wonder what he has for you as he catches your eye while holding up a cup of coffee. Just as you sit down, you realise his goggles are of a different design to your own. Had they been made before? And if so, how … and why? “You’ve lots of questions to answer Viktor …” you say as you take a sip of your coffee.

© Debra Carey, 2019

#Flashfiction: The Sunrise Alarm

One morning I woke up before the light, and watched, as the darkness surrendered to the little lamp.  Lux by lux, the room grew lighter, until it reached its peak intensity.

It’s a strange thing when you wake up early.  Sometimes you have the energy to leap out of bed and get on with the day, and sometimes you just want to lay there, even when you can’t get back to sleep.  Today it was the latter.   I knew that the cycle for the sunrise alarm was only an hour.  I had 30 minutes before the room got plunged back into darkness.  30 minutes to stir my stumps, turn the main light on, and get on with my day.

I lay there in a daze and thought about what I would need to do day, who I would need to see.  I wondered if anybody else felt like this ever.  I wondered about where we came from and where we were going.  I wondered about being surrounded by people and yet feeling alone.  So alone.

I wondered about wondering, and wondered about that strange sensation when you spend time wondering about a wondering word and the wonderful way in which the word becomes weird because you say it too many times.  And wondering about how many times you need to say a word before it becomes weird.

Wondering. Wondering. Wondering.

I tried not to stare directly into the light, because I’ve heard that can be bad for you, but somehow it seemed to swell until it took in my whole field of view.

Somehow I managed to get myself up with a minute to spare.  Freshened up, I put on a suit, picked up my data-pad and headed to the cafeteria.  Despite my idleness, I was one of the first in my watch to collect a meal, which meant that I could snag my favourite seat by the window.

There aren’t many windows on the ship, but then there’s not really much to see. I still love the view though.  The starfield is amazing. And sometimes I think I can see that something has changed.

I stared out at the stars, and wondered about the Earth that we’d come from, and its sun. I wondered about the lamp in my room, and why we still kept to Earth-time.  I wondered about the rhythms our bodies craved, so far from home.

© David Jesson, 2019

******

 

Early morning light streamed through the vast picture window. When they’d assigned this building to house those of her generation who were without a living mate, she’d been quick to volunteer to occupy the living room. The Guardian had counselled her it was unlikely they’d be able to spare sufficient material to cover the vast expanse of glass, but Miriam had assured them she would make no such request.

The remaining rooms had been allocated quickly thereafter, the occupants all settling in to the new rhythm and routine of living in a multi-occupancy space. Some had found the process relatively painless – like Miriam – others had struggled. There’d been regular spats, some full-blown rows and, even now, grudges were held. The peace was maintained via a complex series of rules and regulations. Miriam herself had been instructed to sleep in nightclothes, for there was no privacy to walk around naked with that expanse of glass. She’d considered it a negligible price to pay in order to occupy her chosen room. Most believed she’d chosen it for the additional space and, while it was certainly pleasing to her not to feel cramped and to have the space to store all the unwanted books she picked up, that had not been Miriam’s primary reason.

Rising, she dressed rapidly, crossing into the kitchen to boil a little water. Returning with her glass of hot water containing a slice of lemon, Miriam mused how she still missed her early morning cup of coffee after all this time. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the ability to brew a pretty decent cup here – they did – but that was not permitted until later, when all the residents could be expected to have risen. Shrugging, she thought of how her more worthy and healthy-living contemporaries had tried to convert her to the hot water with slice of lemon option for all those years. All it had taken to convert her was for the human race to mess up spectacularly.

Returned to her room, Miriam settled back into her bed, tucking the bedclothes around her once more. It was still cold, but she preferred not to stoke up her fire quite yet in order to conserve her wood supply. She also didn’t want another light source to compete with the beauty which was now being delivered through the vast expanse of glass which formed one side of her room. Not for the first time, Miriam thought how it was like having one’s own personal cinema screening. She watched as the sky filled with light. Sunsets hereabouts tended towards tones of pinks and turquoise and the residents often crowded outdoors to witness them, but Miriam loved sunrise. From the growing intensity of light, she could see the point where the sun would rise above the suburban roofs. Sipping her drink, she enjoyed the blissful moment when it crested the roof line. There’d been a harsh frost, so the rising sun caused the icy roofs to glisten in the most magical of manners, before filling her horizon with a glowing golden hue.

As the sun rose ever higher in the sky, Miriam turned her gaze towards their garden, now bathed in a beautiful light. Golden hour she remembered her photographer friends called it, and she could see why. A slight mist was hanging over the garden. It gently diffused the rays of sunlight, adding an ethereal beauty to the orderly rows of vegetation. Not much remained in the garden at this time of year other than root vegetables, yet the golden light brought a certain beauty to the hand-made A-frames and straw mulch spread across the neat rows.

Her hot drink finished, the sunrise and it’s golden hour now over, Miriam remained in bed, making the most of the final minutes of solitude, of the peace and quiet before the house started to wake. This was why she’d chosen her room – for the beauty and for the solitude which came with it.

© Debs Carey, 2019

******


Half an hour before dawn. The forest is silent, damp with the dew of night. A ground mist is hanging around from the warmth of yesterday. A hand on the shoulder wakens the sleeper. “Stand-to!” Silently he extricates himself from the cosy sleeping bag into the twilight, shrugs into his combat jacket, picks up his rifle and joins the other silent forms as they leave the tent and make their way to their individual positions. The perimeter sentries who have been on duty for two hours in the pitch black of night are quietly relieved by fresh eyes and bodies not chilled. Some make their way to the rallying point, carefully placing their feet so that not a twig snaps, not a leaf so much as rustles.

The blackness becomes paler: it is now possible to tell the difference between the dark and light patches on the camouflaged uniforms, but only if you are wearing it! You only know that you have mates on either side because they have spread their legs to meet yours: tapping boots together lets you pass messages silently. And he waits.

He waits as the first birds clear their throats ready for the dawn chorus. He waits, so still that a rabbit browses not ten feet in front of him, wary but not alarmed. He waits as the dawn strengthens and the full light of a new day penetrates the forest, battling the drowsiness that stillness brings with the imperative for watchfulness.

He waits, and suddenly a whistle sounds “Stand down!” and he thankfully gets to his feet, flexing to get rid of the stiffness that lying still on the damp ground engenders. There is coffee, reasonably hot, from the insulated urn and suddenly the scent of frying bacon. The busyness , the banter of the day begins as people turn to their duties and those coming off watch go to catch up on sleep.

Today it was just a precaution: tomorrow the attack might be real.

© Alan F. Jesson, 2019

*******


And a shout out to J Lenni Dorner who wrote this, based on the prompt.

#FF prompt: The Sunrise Alarm

Happy New Year Flash Fictioneers! To get your flash fiction motors running for 2019, how about a little ditty on The Sunrise Alarm? What is it? Is it welcome, does it find you yawning or keen as mustard? Maybe it’s your ordinary everyday.  Tell us your tale!

Any style or genre you like, just nothing NSFW.

Word limit: 500-750 words
Deadline : Friday 11th January 2019 @ 2pm GMT

Don’t forgot, if you miss the deadline, you can always post your story to our #TortoiseFlashFiction page


A it’s the start of a new year, here’s a quick reminder – please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.  

Two caveats if you want to go down this route: if you want to retain the copyright, then you will need to state this, and this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.

 

 

Writing Experiment: Prologue, Part 4

The tractormorphic appendage seemed to taste the air.  There were tentative flickers towards the cube, the pistol, the tablet, as if there were some vestigial or genetic memory, handed down to this being, unformed and uninformed.  But it was the package that drew its full attention: it reached out and touched the strange object, almost caressing it, and in so doing the packet fell open, revealing nothing…apparently…

The cloth remained in place, but an observant and sympathetic witness might ascribe a certain sentience to the formless shape – or perhaps it is a shapeless form? – beneath the covering.  It is perhaps erroneous to give this potentiality our emotions, our drives, but there does seem to be some guiding intelligence at work.  One might argue that the movement that brings the form to face the doors is just some programmed instinct, but there is something about the way the remnants of the package are discarded, and the way that the other objects are now ignored that hints at a purposefulness.

Yes, the doors.  Were they here all along?  Or have they just appeared?  No matter.

It feels as if there is a line of these doors, infinitely long, stretching away on either side.  It is hard to tell what shape they are.  The eye catches them and they might be round or rectangular.  Perhaps they iris open, or…what if those are hinges?  Oh, but surely that is simply a patch of darkness between a frame of wood…no, it is a cave mouth…no…  But as focus shifts to take in another door or two doors at once, any decision that has been made is rendered obsolete.  Lets us simply agree that they are doors, or at least doorways, and leave it at that.

Perhaps an infinite sequence.  Perhaps not.  Somehow the attention is drawn to five – of all the multitude, only these have significance.  In front of each, there is some sort of holographic projection.  Three have spheres, spinning on an axis.  The first, you would know as Earth; the second, the creature standing here would call Home; the third is unknown to either of you.  The other two doors are very different: one has an ever-shifting star-field, and the last looks like some accretion of debris, as if half a dozen space-ships had crashed into each other simultaneously.

The form moves forward…

 

©David Jesson, 2019


During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described on Monday.

My plan is that this prologue will shape the story; installments of the prologue will come out daily for a week or so, and then I’ll revert to monthly chapters. (The first part of the prologue is here). All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.

So: What is our character heading for?  You decide!

Option 1: Earth

Option 2: Its home world

Option 3: An unknown planet

Option 4: A space ship moving amongst the stars

Option 5: Some kind of space station

See you tomorrow!

Writing Experiment: Prologue, Part 3

The form on the dais begins to move, to sit up.  It slips off the block of metal with its blinking lights.  Somehow, the cloth remains draped across form, which is no more than 1300 mm in height.  No matter.  The form lurches away from its former resting place, as if trying to get used to its shape, its means of perambulation.

Before it there is a table.  On the table there is: a flat electronic device, mostly display screen, with shapes of some sort forming and reforming; some sort of laser-pistol, metallic, aesthetic in its way, but with a certain grim functionality; a cube, which despite being able to fit in the palm of a hand appears to contain an infinity of numbers, grouped into strings of seven, scrolling across all visible sides; and finally a little package done up very neatly and with stickers in four corners, one seems to indicate an opening padlock, another a form in the process of becoming invisible.

A tractomorphic appendage reaches out and touches…

© David Jesson, 2019


During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described on Monday.

My plan is that this prologue will shape the story; installments of the prologue will come out daily for a week or so, and then I’ll revert to monthly chapters. (The first part of the prologue is here). All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.

So: What is our character reaching for?  You decide!

Option 1: The Reading Tablet

Option 2: The Laser Pistol

Option 3: The Co-ordinates Cube

Option 4: The Package of Sneakery

See you tomorrow!

 

Writing Experiment: Prologue, Part 2

The coin comes to a rest, silvery-iridescent side-up.

If one were to try to move around to see the reverse of the coin, one would be unsuccessful: somehow the perfectly round, perfectly forged, perfectly milled face remains facing the observer at all times.  The sigil on the surface is still indistinct; the cipher remains a cipher.

Time passes.

Somehow, not matter how hard one looks, the emblem keeps its secrets.  Perhaps it has something to do with the way the rainbow pattern that shifts and writhes across the coin. But wait…what’s this?  The coin is becoming brighter and brighter.  Rainbow light is scattered through the void, even as the coin returns to the brilliant, blinding white that it was before.

The light dims, a trifle, and it appears that the light is now rimmed, contained in someway.  Of course!  It is the sort of light that surgeons use when operating.  What else has changed?  The locality of the void seems to have changed in some subtle way.  Every sense reaches out to try to determine the change, but there is too much to take in…leave it for now.

As one becomes used to the new light, a table is revealed.  Table, or perhaps dais serves as a better description.  A block of metal, with intricate diagrams and what might be writing but, for the time being, defies description.  Small lights, in a rainbow of colours, blink on and off, forming random patterns.  This one here though, the one picked out solely in red lights, this is clearly some sort of sequence…

On top of the dais is a cloth.  It appears to be of the same sort of shimmering silvery-iridescent metal as the coin was.   There is something under the cloth, but what?

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described on Monday.

My plan is that this prologue will shape the story; installments of the prologue will come out daily for a week or so, and then I’ll revert to monthly chapters. (The first part of the prologue is here). All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.

So: What’s under the cloth?  You decide!

Twitter polls are a bit limited so I’m going to provide some options, but do feel free to add suggestions/flavour if you’d like, so for example, you might decide that a humaniform shape is definitely some kind of robot, or it’s got to be some kind of alien, or… And if you decide it’s human, is it a man or a woman?

Option 1: Human

Option 2: Humaniform

Option 3: Other (Biological)

Option 4: Other (Non-Biological)

See you tomorrow!

Writing Experiment: Prologue, Part 1

Welcome to the Forge.  The Forge of Dreams.  From time to time things happen here. From time to time.  Although this is not the right word: there is no time, here.

Mostly though, there is nothing.  It might be inky black.  But that would indicate an absence of light, and there is nothing. It might be brilliant white.  But that would suggest a light source, and there is nothing.  Perhaps it is grey.  But that would give rise to the possibility of choice, and there is nothing.

Time passes.  Or perhaps it doesn’t.

What is this?  It is different from the nothingness that surrounds it.  It is a point of true light, bright, clean and demonstrably something. 

Time passes.  Or perhaps it doesn’t.

The point of light resolves.  It glitters, and scatters light all around.  As a consequence, the nothingness surrounding it appears to be much darker than we might have initially thought, although further away, the void is unchanged.

Time passes, or perhaps it…no, time really is starting to pass.  The point of light can be seen to be spinning, and in spinning is slowing down.  Time passes, and the point is resolved as a disc, still spinning.  Spinning too fast to see any details other than that it is a disc.

Time passes.  The disc slows down.  It is still indistinct, but it can be determined that there are truly two sides and each is different.  Both sides have pictograms. One side is golden, the other more of a silvery shimmer, but with some iridescence. The golden side might be depicting a jaguar’s head, or an eagle, or a cross.  Whatever it is, the image is crude, and the disc is uneven at the edges.  Amazingly, the other side is clearly much better made.  The edges can just be seen to be milled.  The image is just as indecipherable, but the lines are much sharper.  The rainbow sheen flows across something that could still be an eagle, but of a more geometric sort, or perhaps it is a rocket ship, or a robot…the coin spins on…

Time passes…

The coin appears to be slowing down…Heads or Tails…?

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described yesterday.

My plan is that this prologue will shape the story; installments of the prologue will come out daily for a week or so, and then I’ll revert to monthly chapters.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.

So: Heads or Tails?  Golden or Rainbow-silver?

See you tomorrow!