I wrote a post a while ago, on why you should write Flash Fiction – you can read it HERE. I enjoy the heck out of it – it’s like cleansing my palette between projects…cleans out the old plots and leaves my mind clear for the next.
Then Sherry Gross told me about NYC Midnight. They run contests of all sorts (poetry, short stories, screenplays, etc), and your writing is pitted against thousands of other writers. I entered the Flash Fiction contest. THEY assign you a Genre, location and an everyday item that must be in the story (1,000 words max). You have 48 hours to write, edit and turn in your story. It’s thrilling, scary and crazy!
Why do I bring this up now? Tonight at midnight, is the second assignment. The two rounds scores are added together, and only the top 5 advance to round 3. The top 3 from that round advance to the final round.
Do I expect to win? No. But it would be fun to final. If this at all appeals to you, I urge you to try it out.
My first assignment was: Horror, a winery, and an alarm clock.
Here’s my entry.
Banishment Journal – DAY 1
Okay, in hindsight, running a ‘Coed Dating Service’ out of the dorm may not have been my best idea. I made the case it showed entrepreneurial ability, but the University didn’t buy it. Neither did my parents. Bet the girls are missing the pocket money, but probably not me—they always thought I was a spoiled bitch. Glad they can’t see me now, slaving in a winery for the summer to pay off fines. Damn my parents, anyway. When I get grandma’s trust fund, I’m so out of there.
Me and four other summer employees are housed in a disgusting building with cement floors. It doesn’t even have A/C, and my cell phone doesn’t work. But we get wine with every meal, so I plan to stay drunk to survive this.
They took us on a tour this morning. Boooring, tromping through fields full of ropy dead vines. They showed us how to cut off last year’s branches and shit. My hands are gonna be wrecked. After, they took us through the lab, the fermenting tanks, the tasting room and the cellar, where they store the barrels to age.
Something about that cellar creeped me out. I mean the bare bulbs hardly lit the place, and dirt walls? It looked like a scene from a summer camp slasher movie.
There was a ringing, like an old-fashioned alarm clock coming from beyond the wall. The tour guy said it was some kind of timer. Whatever.
They’re gonna feed us now, so I gotta go. The wine better be good.
In the shower this morning, I noticed tiny scabs on my side, shaped like a six on a die. I would have missed them, but the area around them was numb. Anyway, I talked another guy into switching with me so the clippers don’t ruin my manicure. But that meant I was picking up all the crap he cut and putting it in a bin, so now my back is killing me. I picked up the first handful and screamed. Underneath was a bug. At least I thought it was. A ‘vine manager’ explained it’s a bio-tech bot. They have like a million of them. They set them loose in the vines every day and they eat bugs, fallen leaves and send back info on humidity and other shit (the bugs have Wi-Fi. We don’t). They’re about four inches long and look like a scorpion with pincers and disgusting jointed legs that end in sharp points. Even knowing what they are, they startle me every time I see one scuttling along the rows (pause for huge shudder).
The five of us sat outside after dinner tonight, enjoying the buzz, the breeze and bitching. Turns out, I’m not the only parental disappointment. Petty theft, drugs, ‘slightly non-consensual’ sex (he pled down to sexual assault). Losers all. Well, not me of course, but at least we have something in common. Besides the fact that we all have those six-shaped bites, or whatever they are.
The ‘bugs’ creep them out, too. Leo, the geek who got busted for his little ‘chemistry set’ in the basement, wondered why they call them ‘biobots’, since ‘bio’ means life, and they’re just little robots.
Celeste said she’d die if one touched her. With her bod, I doubt there’s much chance of that. Even bugs have standards.
I haven’t written in a long time, because nothing interesting happens here. Something weird happened today, though. I was assigned to sweep out the wine cellar, and though the place is all shadowy and kind of Cask of Amontillado (hey, I was Ivy League), it was a way to get out of the heat for an hour.
That alarm clock went off again. I put my ear near the wall—nothing. I stepped to the door and opened it a crack. About a zillion bots skittered out of the room next door and past me down the hall. A worker stepped out after them and locked the door. Something about the way his eyes darted . . . I knew I’d be in trouble if he saw me, so I pushed the door closed, fast and quiet.
They gotta store those bugs somewhere, so what’s the big secret?
I’ve kinda gotten to be friends with the other summer workers. As much as you can be with losers, anyway. Ever since I told Leo about seeing the bots that day in the cellar, he’s been hell-bent on getting in that room. Not me. Running into those bugs in the vines is bad enough. A dark room full of them? Nope to the power of nope.
Leo got a key. I’m not asking how, but he says it has to be back before dawn, or he’s busted. I told him good luck, but he’s relentless. Everyone else is asleep. What the hell, nothing else to do. And I do wonder . . .
SWEET MOTHER OF FRANKENSTEIN! My hand is shaking so bad, I can hardly write. Tomorrow I’m mailing this journal to my dad. He’ll send out the National Guard for me. For everyone. What’s in that room? Bots of course. But that’s not the scary part. I never wondered how they recharged. Why the hell would I? Now that I know what’s behind that door, I wish I could bleach my brain.
We snuck down to the cellar, Leo unlocked the door and shone the flashlight around. Bots everywhere, covering the floor like a carpet. But there were bumps in the carpet. Five of them. He spotlighted the closest one. It was a girl! When she opened her eyes, I would have run, but my legs wouldn’t work. Leo said she seemed to be paralyzed. And that the bots recharge by plugging into humans.
Daddy, please come get me. I’m sorry for everything. Just get me the fuck out of here—what’s that clicking noise?
I’ll let you know how I do, but in the meantime, have you ever written flash fiction? Ever entered a contest?