Chuck Wendig’s Random Cocktail Flash Fiction Challenge: Cherry Blossum

Author Chuck Wendig of TerribleMinds put out a Flash Fiction Challenge for this week. Go to this random cocktail generator, take the title of the drink, and make it the title of your very short story. Go!

I got the Cherry Blossum, a brandy-based drink, and ended up with this short piece of 544 words. Here it is in its entirety:

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Cherry Blossum

Jakob turned the delicate white hand over, his own grease-stained fingers leaving smudges on the porcelain finish. The fingernails looked all but real in the flickering factory floor lighting over his work station. On the fine wrist was the small black and pink stamp, branding this as a Sakura model S14 – an older geishabot. Must be obsolete by now.

 

He bagged and stamped the hand and sent it down the line.

 

The right knee joint, flawless, came next. Then the other hand, containing a small crack across the back side. He marked the damage on a yellow tag and sent the hand on. Perhaps that bit could be recycled.

 

Something lingered in the air. A spiced yet floral smell hung over Jakob’s table. It must have been the geishabot. He sniffed his own hands: sweet, cinnamon-like, powdery, and something green like springtime. Then the smell of burnt plastic from down the line took over and he crinkled his nose. The bot’s wrists must have been laced with the scent. Built in, most likely.

 

There was the back side of the faceplate then, a kind of smooth mask from this side. He hated handling the faces most of all. For a moment, Jakob pictured himself holding it up to his own face, this perfect doll’s mask that was like a miniature of his own features (though these bots’ faces were delicate, gently rounded, and fine where his own face was made up of a series of roughly hewn rectangles). With a small shudder he turned the faceplate over.

 

At first, it appeared flawless to Jakob. An eyeless but beautiful face with a small, narrow nose and delicate flower petal lips. It was lovely. It was perfection. Then he saw it: the tiniest warped spot just below the right eye. It was a small air bubble trapped beneath the uppermost layer of plastic finish. It looked like a small tear, frozen in time. Jakob breathed out through his mouth and bagged it up with a yellow tag.

 

When the end-of-shift bell rang, Jakob stood and wiped his hands on his apron. Hanging his things over the back of his chair, he reached over to turn out his light, forgetting that the bulb had been dead for days. The foreman said he would have to wait for a new one – they didn’t have any just now.

 

Jakob hummed a tuneless song as he walked through the misty almost-rain of the late evening. Neon signs flared and glowed in the particulate water drops that hovered in the air. The air around him declared halos of Girls! and Beer! and XXX. He turned left down a narrow alley and entered an unmarked green metal door. Sitting down at the glowing white and silver bar.

 

“You want company again tonight, mister? We got some brand new bots in from Suzaku. Real pretty girls.” The barmaid gave him a languid smile and stretched her dark, slender arm across the bar top toward Jakob.

 

“No thanks, Brandy. Not tonight. Just a drink,” he sighed and pulled his own hand back to his lap.

 

“Suit yourself.” She shrugged and went back to polishing a glass. “What’ll it be?”

 

“The usual.”

 

The spiced lily perfume that hung in the air made his nose twitch.

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Some Rules on Writing

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In 1947, author Robert A. Heinlein published “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction.” In it, he made clear his now-famous 5 rules of writing.
  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  4. You must put the work on the market.
  5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.
As my husband would say, these are all of them SIMPLE RULES but none are EASY. There’s a difference. In theory, anyone CAN do these things but that doesn’t mean they are easy to do well, consistently, and with passion. And that’s the kicker, isn’t it? These all require more than passion. Passion will kick-start a project but only perseverance and dedication can see you through a novel manuscript or the fifth re-write of your short story. So keep going.Keep writing, keep editing, and keep trying to sell your work!

(Un)Haunted

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Writing a ghost story has turned out to be harder than I’d thought. When I was told I’d need to have a tale prepared for the next group gaming session (dice, pens, paper, all that good nerd stuff), my first thought was that a tale to chill the listener would be just the thing to suit our players and the tone of the game so far.

What I didn’t expect was how difficult penning this thing was actually going to be. I’ve been working to try my hand at writing stories of different genres, lengths, and styles this year but the ghost story still eludes me. Is it because I don’t believe in the supernatural? I’m a realist. An atheist. A pessimist. Call it what you will, but without measurable, repeatable data I don’t believe that it’s there.
Enough about my grumpy self – back to ghost stories! Whatever it is that we do or don’t believe in as readers or writers, there is still something undeniably spine-tingling about being haunted by what we cannot explain. And while many of the monsters, themes, and recurring story arcs find their way into our popular culture, the age of the ghost story is undeniably long past. When you can just turn on the lights to check for spectres at any hour of the day, a lot of the terror starts to ebb.
Ghost stories, as do most stories not written in the past 200 or so years, began as an oral tradition. Imagine the Victorian era – creaky floorboards, oddly behaved house staff members, flickering gas lamps, squeaking doors – riddled with fuel for the most haunting yarns. Nights would be passed by both the servants and the residents of any decent home telling tales of the uncanny and, with so many ambient sights and sounds, how could they do anything but believe these tales to be true?
Long, dark winter nights that begin early in the evenings are the perfect time for stories of the eerie and and inexplicable. Reliable electric lighting, easy access to various media sources, and a healthy dose of skepticism have brought these stories to the very edge of society to the point of easy derision. Honestly, that’s where I’d prefer they stay. Except when I need a bit of a boost writing about a cursed sword. Ah well! Back to the spooky drawing board!