Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 47

Welcome to the Mid-Week Blues-Buster Flash Fiction Challenge, Week 47!

 This is a flash fiction challenge.  The prompt is a song.  You are not required to write about or even mention the song.  It’s there only to get the ideas moving around in your brain pan.  If you want to write about the song (or the video- it’s all good here) go for it but don’t feel like you have to.

 The rules;

 500 words, but it’s a slushy 500, meaning you can go up to 700 or as low as 300.

 Post your entry right in the comments section of this post.


 The challenge starts whenever I post this on Tuesday and ends at 9:00PM Pacific Time on Friday.  You read that right.  Pacific Time.

This week’s song prompt comes courtesy of American singer/songwriter James McMurtry.

The tune is… “I’m Not From Here”.  Here’s the link; http://youtu.be/_JOwHt7uOzA

This week’s Judge is everybody’s favourite ex-pat, the Purple Queen herself, Miranda Kate!

The challenge opens the moment you read this post and runs until midnight, Pacific Time, on Friday February 7th.

Now go write!!!!


Posted on February 4, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Erin McCabe


    Unintended Content

    667 words

    Zed yawned, scratched himself and staggered towards the fridge in search of another beer. Having retrieved his beverage, he slunk back down into the warm, familiar embrace of his battered leather armchair and waited for another Game Show to flicker to life. Instead, disjointed, garish, flashing images filled the screen, uncomfortably accompanied by loud aggressive music, both pumping and visceral. This sensory onslaught was interspersed with smiling semi-naked humans, tans too orange, teeth too white, grins too fake; unmistakably advertisements. Releasing a frustrated groan he attempted another channel but was greeted only by dancing, teasing waves of static. He attempted to rectify this with a sharp kick of his boot, but this was to no avail and was in fact partially the reason the television was broken in the first place.
    His neighbour had told him about humans who were equipped to fix these types of contraptions, but truthfully he felt nervous about contacting one and definitely didn’t want it poking about his pod, no, not pod; shack, always shack, he chastised himself. He’d been told that these Tele-visual repair humans “charged”, which he assumed meant either that they were high-powered electrified beings or that they would run towards him at speed with malicious intent and frankly neither of these options sounded particularly desirable.

    Switching back over, the bikini clad human with the laser beam teeth appeared to be extremely excited about the rattling contents of a small box; l.a.x.a.t.i.v.e.s. Zed struggled to spell out the word, admittedly he had no idea what laxatives were, but the human on the screen seemed real happy to have them. Rashly he decided he’d ask for some at the local store next time he was down there, that and copious amounts of bug spray. He shuddered and simultaneously grimaced; there had been nothing about bugs in the promotional brochures and despite his strongly worded mind-letters to the High Travel Council, this seemed unlikely to change.

    Zed was explicitly aware that he had never intended on living here, to settle in a dustbowl corner of a small continent on an equally tiny planet. At the Academy they had been encouraged to think big; to explore, colonise and where necessary, conquer. He smiled, recalling sepia-tinted images of the Alumnus Ceremony held to mark his departure from indoctrination. Upon exciting, he and his fellow clutch-mates had been bombarded with indestructible, noise emitting magazines and leaflets, detailing the awe-inspiring wonders situated on many different, exotic galaxies. One night shortly after, whilst under the intoxicating influence of far too many Gznarr cups, he had vowed to visit them all, starting with Earth. A day later he had found himself drunk, dizzy and crashed out in the middle of the Arizona Desert with only a smoking heap of aircraft left to remind him why there is a three Gznarr cup limit on most planets. But he hadn’t been abandoned by his people and he wasn’t stranded by technology, in fact, much to everyone’s surprise, most notably his parent, he had actually chosen to stay here, even with all the bugs. Whilst others from his clutch were destroying colonies, building empires and dreaming of limitless power and glory, Zed’s ambitions stretched only as far as hoping that one day he might have free Cable TV and of course, that the rains would soon arrive and wash away all the bugs.
    Zed was, in all important respects, content, Earth life really suited him, quiet, dry, sun-bright and easy; the simplicity of it all, he felt, was truly beautiful to behold. The rickety deteriorating shack, the warm cheap beer, the old battered chair and the dead isolated nights, he honestly, dearly treasured it all.
    Taking new strength from this brief moment of affirmation, he drew in a deep breath and picked up his phone; it was time to dial the number; the number for the electrified repair one, hopefully after he had been singed and shocked or pummelled hard into the wall, the being would indeed fix his Television.


  2. The breeze flowing through the window rattled the blinds, and the bent slats rattled against each other like agitated mosquitoes. Coming out of the south, it would carry the stench from the rendering plant around this shithole of a town. On a day like this, even the less depressing parts of town up on the hills, where houses had air conditioning and clean water, would reek from dawn to dusk. Not for the first time, I wondered why I hadn’t left this place, or at least tried to move further from the vats of melting hog fat, but that would have required me to understand why I was here in the first place, and that was an even bigger mystery.

    I rolled over and stared at the empty pillow. Tanny had left before dawn to make the morning shift at the diner, this town’s hangout for the elderly and the don’t-have-anywhere-better-to-be’s. It was the kind of place anyone passing through town would avoid in favor of hitting a McDonald’s just off the exit ramp, if anyone ever passed through town or there was a McDonald’s. Tanny spent most nights here, although I didn’t really know why. She didn’t love me, and I don’t know if she even liked me all that much. I liked her alright, I guess, and there was something to not being alone on the nights when the scratching came at the back of my mind and it hurt to breathe, but I’d never bring her home to mom. Wherever home was.

    Even though it was Saturday, I couldn’t lay here all day listening to the blinds buzz. The water was less brown than usual this morning, and I didn’t itch all over after my shower, but I still couldn’t bring myself to drink the stuff. I’d seen an expose on the news once how bottled water wasn’t any better than the stuff that came out of the taps, but whoever did that had never been here. There wasn’t much in the fridge other than the last of the case of water, and I was going to have to go shopping if I wanted anything other than a mustard and baking soda smoothie for lunch. Maybe I’d get some dogs and grill dinner tonight. Tanny would probably like that, if she came over.

    I decided to drive to the store – I could take the long way around, maybe cruise by the lake and see if there was any fresher air over there. The roads were pretty empty this morning, and I was able to swerve around the potholes left over from last winter. At the north end of town was the factory I spent eight and a half hours in (counting lunch break) five days a week. Day after day, I pulled a lever on a machine that took hunks of metal in one side and cranked out differently-shaped hunks of metal on the other, which were then put into boxes and shipped to factories where they were put into things with other parts from other places. On a good day, the machine would jam only half a dozen times, requiring me to disassemble it, unjam it, and put it back together. Once that kind of work sounded exciting, and now I could do it in my sleep.

    Tanny had told me once about swimming in the lake, but somehow, I’d never made it here. It stretched out past the horizon – I didn’t know lakes came that big – and the beach was rocky and desolate. I stepped out of the car to the crunch of natural gravel, and I walked up to the waterline. The air here did smell different – the hog fat was still there, but it was overlaid with something else. Flowers of some sort, maybe? I felt something hit my hand and realized that I was crying. By the dampness that had soaked into my collar, I’d be doing it for a while. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and looked out over the lake, and then back at the town to the south. There were no signs on the road telling me where it went, but that didn’t really matter anymore.

    699 words


  3. Not From Here

    Rain stings my face, tiny pinpricks in the swirling wind. My elbows press tight against my side, my lower arms at right angles, tense, hands outstretched. The wind whips through my hair, and I dare not lift my hand any further to brush it away, so it remains stuck to my cold, wet cheek.
    I open my eyes and squint at the panorama.
    The city spreads before me, grey and distant. The tall buildings, the banks and offices, rise, as rigid as my body, towering over the streets and its inhabitants. Smoke coils from the government buildings, huge billowing clouds of soot and ash, and my lip curls.
    I yearn for the rolling hills of green and a clear cerulean sky as I stare at the city below. I don’t belong here.
    My toes claw inside my trainers and my arms shoot out from my side as a vicious gust of wind whistles past. I lick my lips and close my eyes. My heart races, my eyelid twitches, and my chest constricts. My mouth is dry and I can barely breathe. My frame sways and my leg muscles stiffen, my feet desperate to grip and I almost lose my balance.
    I open my eyes. The undulating meadows of my childhood are as lost as this city and I would no longer belong there either.
    My fingers stretch out as sirens permeate my fractured psyche. I stare at the cars moving aside in slow columns as fire-engines snake through the narrow streets, and people, strangers, swarm like ants, and I let my tears fall as biting as the rain on my face.
    The wind picks up again and I lurch, my heart in my mouth. Sweat oozes beneath my thin shirt and I shiver.
    Beneath me, chains clang against metal, the sound vibrating up the steel, tickling my feet through the rubber soles of my shoes. I want to fling back my head and scream, let my howl echo across the flat overcast skies. I don’t move.
    The scream bubbles in my throat and dies upon the desert dryness of my tongue. I blink, no longer seeing the burning city below, but just a blur of tears and rain.
    The girder rocks beneath my feet and my arms steady me as the wind shrieks its rage winding round my legs. The hook shakes under my feet and the jib arm sways. I teeter.
    My mind reels and my heart sinks slowly to the pit of my belly. I let a smile curve on my lips and now, light-headed, I lift my arms, embracing the city as flames lick the horizon behind the business quarter.
    I welcome this final moment, a moment of belonging, and then the gale that feeds the flames below whips my legs from beneath me and I fall. Maybe, this time, I’ll end up where I belong…

    (479 Words)


  4. The door opened, revealing Mary, stomping her feet on the porch, trying to dislodge the snow packed into the nooks and crannies of the soles of her boots. “Oh, frack!” I thought. “You watch. She’ll keep the damn boots on, and walk all the way to the kitchen.

    Yep. She did. Tracking snow, and whatever else clung to the bottom of her boots clean through the house. If I could speak, I’d have screamed insults at her. “Bitch! Do you know how cold that shit is? That’s right! Let me absorb all the guck on your boots. Had a bad day? Make sure the carpet knows!”

    Homeowners. Geeze. If only they knew what lives in their carpet.

    Like Buffy’s fleas. Dang dog. She comes in from the back yard, hauling in another load of them little beasties, sits down in the middle of the family room floor, and scratches. Then, rolls around, on me, ‘cause I’m able to scratch her whole dang back at one time.

    God, but I miss the days back home. When I was all rolled, wrapped in plastic. And clean. Oh, to be clean again!

    Wait! Wait! Little Debbie’s coming downstairs to watch TV with Mary! Aww. Little Debbie’s so cute. The way she sits right down on me, where Buffy just drug her ass, leaving God knows what, ‘cause it itched. Hey, kid! You do know the dog just wiped her butt there, don’t you?

    And the cat, oh God, the cat. Mary, you can call Stanley Steemer all you want. They ain’t ever gonna get all the cat litter out of the carpet in the hall. And your priceless living room? The one you never let anyone into, except for Christmas Dinner? That’s the room Princess always pees in when you do something that pisses her off. That corner, between the china cabinet, and the wall.

    Lord. You do not wanna smell that corner. And you sure as hell don’t wanna know what’s growing in that.

    Gods, but I miss the days I was on that roll in the warehouse. That’s where I’m from, you know. That roll in the warehouse. I’m not from here. I just live here. Wondering how humans stay alive with all the stuff they fill me with.

    I still have a stain that’ll never come out, from when Little Debbie lost her cookies one night, and I inherited them. Mary thinks she got it all cleaned up. Ha! They ever pull me up, and put some poor sap of a new guy down here, and they’ll learn! Gods, will they ever learn! They’re gonna be like, “Ewww! What the fuck is that?”

    I really love how Mary lets Princess have her hair balls. Then waits a few hours for them to dry up before she cleans them up. Yeah. Smart idea that. Let me soak up all that liquid. That came from kitty’s tummy. With all that acid, and bacteria. Make sure you let that stuff soak into me really well, so you don’t have to get your fingers in it. Oh, yeah. Then let’s let Little Debbie sit down where Princess made her deposit.

    Humans. Geeze. It’s amazing they’re still alive.

    Damn fleas. If I had hands, I could at least scratch myself where it itches.

    God, I miss the days back home, in the warehouse, sealed in plastic.

    561 Words


  5. Beautiful Dreamer

    The flames from the shack convert my dreams to smoke and waft them aloft to float, swirling and diminishing, towards the distant horizon.

    I watch from the ridge, hunched down in the long grass, imperfectly hidden but safe. My tormentors are swept up in their infectious, heady moment of destruction. Their hate binds them together in this instant. The Dalton boys stand shoulder to tattooed shoulder with Billy and Asa Hardesty, egged on by other, lesser players. For this endeavour the raised weal scars across Billy’s back, a tangible roadmap of their feud, are forgotten.

    I worm my way backwards, not standing until the crest shields me. I brush the rich dark loam from the knees of my already stained jeans. My hands shake off the last dusty traces of this place and I set off for the road.

    Walking has different tunes as well as different rhythms. Walking away is an etude; in a minor key. The notes repeat over and over. A practice piece for your future, constructed from fragments of the ballads of your past. Each step is a beat, echoing your heart, running down towards its last tick.

    Eventually my thumb fishes a big truck out of the raging, smoky waters of the highway and I climb aboard, my melancholy etude now drowned out by the roaring techno beat of the accelerating diesel engine.

    I lean back into the cracked leather seat and breathe in the driver’s world, savouring it like a gourmet. I identify a tang of bitterness and an aroma of long lost love overlaid with the more mundane strains of tobacco and loneliness. He casts a sideways glance at me and I catch it easily.

    “Where you headed?” the road warrior’s standard opening.

    “Second star to the right and straight on ‘till morning.” My unfamiliar return gambit causes him to pause before venturing his next move.

    “I guess you aint from round here?”

    “Not anymore.”

    “Travellin’ man then?”

    “Since they burned my place down this morning.”

    He gives a disgruntled huff, cricking his road stiffened neck with audible clicks while I reflect on the unsatisfactory quality of truth as a conversational medium.

    After thirty minutes and a similar number of silent, awkward miles, I spot an approaching town.

    “You can drop me off here.”

    He crunches roughly down through the gearbox, grinding my unwelcome presence between the cogs, before stopping obviously, rudely short of the town outskirts.

    “Thanks. Have a safe journey.” I jump down, gravel crunching beneath my feet before stepping back to avoid a lungful of diesel smoke as the truck pulls away with a disapproving roar.

    I set my feet to the road. They know the routine of the blacktop. My old familiar friend and I once more reunited, we settle immediately into the companionable cadence of my resumed rootless existence.

    Above me I notice wispy shapes running before the stiffening breeze and wave the net of my imagination above me, trying to capture some new dreams, suitable for this new place.

    502 words


  6. “Where ya from, gorgeous?”

    The words come from a guy who perfectly fits the description of “a tall drink of water” – a phrase I’d honestly never understood until I laid eyes on him. He is also tall, dark, and handsome. And looks like a Marlboro Man. His jeans fit him just right, in all the right places. His blue eyes sparkle under a messy thatch of dark brown hair. His green plaid shirt looks like it’s been washed a million times, so it has just that perfect amount of softness.

    Be still my heart.

    But surely he ain’t talking to me.

    I look around, but I’m the only one sitting at the bar. Everyone else is on the dance floor, jiving and moving and having a good ole time to music played by a four-piece band that looks like they’re having even more fun than the crowd.

    So yep, tis me this fine specimen of a man is talking to. I take a sip of my grown-up Cherry Dr. Pepper.

    “How do you know I ain’t from here?” I bat my eyelashes a little, but that turns out to be a mistake; the mascara I’d slathered on earlier clumps up and seals the top and bottom lashes of my left eye together so I look like I’ve got some sort of weird twitch. I turn away from him in an attempt to fix it discretely, only – of course! of course! – there’s a mirror behind the bar. So he can see every bit of my distress, and the flush overtaking my cheeks.

    He just laughs, reaches a twenty-foot arm down the length of highly polished wood, grabs one of those tiny napkins and hands it over.

    “Cuz if you was from here, you’d know this is the McMurtry Brothers. They done went off and got famous and have come back to show everyone they did good. Free concert and all that. They played their first gig in this very bar, ‘bout ten years ago.”

    I manage to unstick myself enough to open my eye, then notice I’ve smeared a good bit of mascara onto my cheek.

    “Ah hell!”

    He just grins at me. A shit-eating grin, a delicious-looking grin.

    “I don’t know what look you’re going for, sweetheart, but it works for ya,” he pauses, grabs up my glass and takes a swig, puts it down, then takes my hand. His big paw swallows mine whole, but he’s gentle as he pulls me off the stool where I’ve been planted most of the night.

    “Come on, darling, dance with me.”

    And before he can take “no” for an answer, I’m swept along in his exuberance. He takes me in his arms, dips me, and we dance. I find myself laughing, caught up in the fun and joy of the moment.

    The song ends, the band bows, to thunderous cheers. As soon as the noise settles, the lead singer grins into his microphone.

    “Howdy everyone!”

    Another few minutes while the crowd roars back.

    “This next song is called ‘I’m Not From Here’, which we wrote when we was up in New York!”

    “It’s your song,” my ever-so-fine dance partner says, the skin around his eyes crinkling up in a way that tells me he loves to laugh and loves to have a good time. The music starts up, so that he has to yell over the music and cheers: “Where are ya from? And what’s your name? I’m Rocky.”

    “Rocky? For real?” I yell back.

    His eyes crinkle up some more.

    “For real. At least since I was three and I hauled as many rocks as I could carry up from the river to my house.”

    “I’m Jessie. For real. And I’m from here, just been gone for a while.”

    “Welcome home, Jessie!”

    And Rocky swirls me away and back, my yellow sundress flying.

    “I’m from here,” I whisper. “I’m from here.”

    650 words


  7. Chad Clark
    662 words

    The dry wind picked up and blew the tattered remains of the newspaper down the streets of the long dead town. The buildings and houses that once lined the sides of the streets were now nothing but dilapidated skeletal remains; hallow shells of a former life that refused to loose their grip on days gone by.

    Far above the street, a crow perched silently. It shook out its feathers as it sat, surveying the landscape below illuminated only by the pale light reflected down from the moon. There was no sign of life, nothing to swoop down and feed on; nothing but hot blasting air and forgotten dreams. The crow lifted up with a cry that floated away into silence, as if echoes couldn’t even find purchase in this desolated place.

    The streets, stained with the blood of regret and decaying pulchritude now were barely capable of holding on to the dust and grime that didn’t even want to call this desolate place home. Here was another pile of human remains, bones polished down to a dull sheen against the harsh desert wind. Further down was the remains of heavy equipment, long since stripped of any practical use and scattered in as many different directions as seemed possible. Between two buildings, a stray coyote sat and stared, transfixed by the misleading odors of this place, unsure if scavenging was called for or if it should follow its instincts and run before it was too late.

    Across the way, in front of the rotting corpse of a general store, the frail remains of a rocking chair moved back and forth with the wind, still yearning for the physical touch of a body to fulfill its only purpose in life. Nothing such as this would be happening for a long time. All glue eventually must fail and as such the people of this town had slowly peeled away, leaving behind nothing but this failed structure of humanity.

    Maybe that was why they used the town for their purposes. Where better to put something that you never wanted found than a place where no one ever went to find anything? What better graveyard to dispose of a dead body than amongst the already decomposing memories of what was here? Where better?

    They used this place because like this town, some people needed to disappear as if they had never existed; leaving behind nothing but the barest shades of memory. Whenever they had someone who fit this necessity, they would march him through here in the middle of the night; taking him on his final walk through this boardwalk of spectral dilapidation until they reached the final steps of this last journey.

    Sometimes it was people who owed absurd amounts of money to important people and it was well past the point of ever being able to make good. Maybe it was someone arrested and ready to sing their song for whatever audience would listen. In those cases, their final cries and pleas were heard but not listened to as they bounced off of these brittle walls.

    Joey had thought he would tell the police everything that needed to know about the organization, about the bosses. He thought he was doing so good and had been so prepared. He hadn’t expected the people that showed up at his apartment tonight; to escort him to this place.

    He heard the smooth sound of a revolver being drawn from a shoulder clutch, the metallic snick of the slide being pulled back. Cold steel pressed to the back of his neck and all he could do was look up into the ocean of stars boiling over in every direction and it occurred to him as he spent his remaining moments in awe of this terrestrial magnificence that even a place as barren and dead as this could still sometimes be blanketed in beauty.

    As it was for this town, so to would it be for him.


  8. Rain fell harshly across the escape pod’s outer shell, fortunately impervious to the acidic chemicals of the alien landscape. Veronica sat inside the capsule, cramped but safe, as sulfur green lightning flashed overhead. Only a lively folk song reminded her that she was from a people with a voice, from a long way away. Crash landing on Tau Ceti e wasn’t exactly the way that they were supposed to explore the planet.

    Since landing here several years ago, she spent quite a bit of time hidden away from the planet. The weather, the landscape, and even the plants were just different enough that they were dangerous. To keep her sanity, and because curiosity ran stronger in her than any other hunger, she continued to make observations of the planet even though her notes might never be read.

    Just 12 light years from Earth, she was one of many who volunteered to be in the first wave of explorers. When they got there, something catastrophic had happened to their ship, and those who could make it to these pods fell like steel rain across a continent. When she first found the shelter, within the first few months, she waited for someone to come back to it. Another survivor would be a welcome change. Once she found the symbols, though, she knew no human had ever been there before.

    “Some great adventure, eh, Murty?” she talked to the voice recorder as if she was talking to the voice in the song, as she often did. “Beautiful rain, proof of intelligence on another planet, and no way to tell anyone about it. Typical.”

    The song continued on, about locals and people who come and go.

    “Exactly. We should be home by now. Moved on, just like the locals here. Where’d they go, though? Who were they?”

    The afternoon storm passed, letting the hot sun bake the rain into a humid sauna she could taste. Thick ferns and flowers spread their leaves to absorb the light and moisture. The whole place seemed eerily quiet to Veronica, used to the forests on Earth always teeming with animals. She set out as soon as it was safe, to collect some more seeds, and observe any changes in the area. As she collected another liter of water from the purification system at a spring coming down from a nearby hill, every sequence was meticulous. One part out of place, and she’d be dead in less than a week.

    She didn’t immediately notice the bipedal figure looking at her across the trees, clad in a different outfit entirely, clean and manufactured. When she did, a number of expressions crossed her face, from fear and shock to joy. “Who are you? Can I go home finally?
    “I’m here to take you away from here, yes. You’ve got a bright future, after all, just…somewhere else, at another point unknown.”

    @BryantheTinker, 479 words


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