Infidels (Garage Fiction #12)

“I don’t care what you say bitch!” Madhia Screamed.

Barreling into her room her mother lunged with the fury of a rabid animal, “What did you call me?”

Madhia cowered on the floor in the space between her desk and the bed with her arms over her face.  She’d been pushing the limits for more and more over the last few weeks and this time she was sure she’d pushed to far.  She could see the fists raining down on her, but they never came. Her mother proved weak once again.

Like most teenagers caught between childhood and adulthood, Madhia tested the boundaries to see where the family stopped and she started. She wasn’t trying to piss her parents off, it was just a byproduct of trying to find her identity.

One day she’d lash out, stretching the bounds of reason, and the next she’d be a docile sleep-a-holic, loathing the thought of getting out bed before noon.  But that was because she had no vision.  No vision until now.  Everything was clear to her now.

From her crouched position, Madhia tried to calm the tempest as best she could.

From behind the shelter of her forearms she yelled, “I’m sorry Mom …  I’m sorry … I didn’t mean it.”  They were empty words masked by fake emotions.  She just needed a few more minutes to get through this morning and then the journey would start.  Destiny.

Hearing the emotional cry, Madhia’s mother pulled her fist back before it swung down.

Pointing her finger down at her, “You’d better be sorry.  You have no right to speak to me that way.  Your father and I have given you everything.  And there you go, spitting on us once again. You should be ashamed.

Ashamed. Madhia thought.  You both should be ashamed.  Ashamed for not honoring Allah and allowing these  infidels to corrupt you with their worldly ways.

Madhia stood up as her mother backed up.  She watched her head drop as she turned and walked out of her room.  All bark no bite, she thought. In about ten minutes her mother would start a dramatic display of hurt and disappointment.  And as long as Madhia kept her cool and played along everything would be back to normal by dinner time.

It  hadn’t always been like this.  Just a few short years ago, they were in Iraq and the family was fully connected.  They were constantly engaged.  They had to be.  It was the only way to survive as the country crumbled around them.  But here, London was a farce.  All her mother talked about was what so-and-so did at the tennis club, while her father had become a workaholic physician to support their new Western lifestyle.

Back in Iraq.  Everyone had virtually everything in common.  Family, neighbors, friends, everyone was willing to help everyone else.  Yes it was survival, but what they all shared together as a family and community was real.  A real connection.  Not this new life of bullshit.

Her teachers were bullshit.  Her schoolmates were bullshit. And her parents had followed suit.

Real life had nothing to do about with latest cell phone or Burberry scarf or Louis Vuitton hand bag.  This was emptiness.  But she didn’t expect anything more from infidels. From shallow people who’d never witnessed the body of a lifeless child pulled from the rubble of a coalition air strike.   None of them had to work shift-on / shift-off to care for wounded innocents caught on the wrong end of a mortar shell.

It was survival, but it was real.  Not some artificial reality show invented in the mind of a infidel to entertain the masses while they sold new cars, perfume, pots and pans, or the latest fashion.

Madhi’s new home was no home at all.  It was a breeding ground for infidels.  And her mother and father had already betrayed Allah by bringing her here.

Grabbing the brown canvas duffel from the bottom of her closet, Madhia opened her bedroom window and gently tossed it out onto the grass.

She unzipped the school bag on her bed. It was already filled with some extra hajibs, toiletries, her journal, and a Macbook.  But today, there would be no school.

She opened the front cover of the Quran on her desk and ran her hand across the flap of the envelope.  Looking inside, she pulled out the boarding pass for Istanbul.  In bright red she saw the Turkish Airlines logo, the only airline that anyone over the age of twelve to ly lone.  It was her first reward for being loyal to the cause.

After more than four months of talking online with Amir, he had taken care of everything.  All she had to do was pledge allegiance to the new Islamic Caliphate and she would be on her way to supporting the cleansing of her homeland and supporting the mujihadeen.

Madhia had only seen pictures of Amir.  But his handsome face, and poetic words melted her heart.  The romance of being a bride on a holy mission was almost more than she could take.  Even thought the Quran prohibited women from waging jihad, her support of these holy warriors would bring eternal blessing just the same.

For once she would be respected for who she was. No longer bound by the elementary control of her Westernized parents.

Madhia weaved her way toward the side door.  The smell of muffins and fresh jam wafted through the kitchen, giving her a moments pause.  “I’m sorry mom.  I hope one day we will understand each other more.”

“I think we will, it just takes time my dear.”  With a slight hint of dismay, Madhia’s mother turned and gave her a hug, never knowing it would be the last.


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by me …

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. – Proverbs 29:18


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project called “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels, and me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.

Author’s Note: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).

Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Black Seed
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: See?

Sulfer (Garage Fiction #011)

By the time the National Security Council meeting finished, the thunderstorm outside had subsided.  It had gone on much longer than Miles had expected.

With sunny skies above, Marine One had a clear path for landing.  Miles lingered a bit to watch the President make his way across the South Lawn before he headed back to the West Wing.

By the time he’d reached the colonnade adjacent to the Rose Garden, his private cell phone rang.  Looking down at the number Miles picked up.

“Hello Bill, good to hear from you.”

“Hello Miles.”  The thick middle eastern accent made it clear this was not a “Bill.”  Always one for discretion, Miles didn’t take any chances.  If the NSA or anyone else was listening in, the would have the most boring call they’d ever heard. Even if his phone was tapped, the layers of proxy servers used to route the call from Turkey would take years for even the best hacker to uncover.

“How are Alice and the girls?”

“They’re fine. Alice has been visiting family in Europe, and the girls left this week for the Mediterranean with a dozen of their friends.”

“How is life for you in the big city my friend?”

“Easier when the boss is out.  But I expect things will heat up when he returns.”

“Good to hear. Well I can’t stay and chat, Alice is expecting a call from me shortly.  I just wanted to touch base and let you know we were thinking of you.”

“Always nice to hear from you my friend.” Miles disconnected the call, a wry smile moved across his face.  He guessed there were about probably twenty teenage girls that had been recruited from Europe to join ISIS in Syria. While forbidden from fighting, they were a part of the support system for the mujahideen on the front lines.  Someone had to sow the suicide bomber vests together.  And date and millet balls always tasted better when someone else baked them.  Miles snickered as strode past the Oval Office and into his own.

Balaam spoke with a dry groan that smelled of sulfur. “Something funny?”

“Yes. Just amusing myself.  It’s funny how purposeless people will fall for the first thing that comes across their path that validates them. Especially when their young.  Its the best time to get them.

“We taught you well.” Balaam groaned.

“I didn’t expect you back this soon.  You look like shit.”

“I had the quick upper hand attacking the smaller malakhim first.  With him out of the way, I went to work on Raphael.  Fighting an archangel is hard enough, and then this little bastard came out of nowhere and it took me the better part of three hours to break free.”

“I haven’t seen you this haggard before.”

“They are getting stronger.  The prayers of the saints are emboldening them. They feel more of the cover of heaven just as I feel the growing void of hell.”   

“Let’s not think about that my friend.  Right now you need rest.  There is always tomorrow.” A hint of doubt pulled at Miles as he spoke the last word. Tomorrow.

His mother’s voice rang in his ears. “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.”  He never took to her and those damn bible verses. Adopted as a young boy she had always told him he was special.  Your like Moses, she would say, he was adopted.  Not only that, he was grafted into a royal family. But all her talk of Jesus went in one ear and out the other. Nothing she could say could heal him scars from his first six years of life.

Routinely beaten and starved by his meth addicted parents, the only relief came when the family home burned down. After the investigation, the fire was chalked up to poor ventilation around the makeshift lab in the back room. It never crossed anyone’s mind that Miles had lit the match.   And he liked it like that.  Even at such a young age, what Miles had lacked in physical stature, he made up for in intellect and a will to survive. Its the same tenacity he used to secure a full ride at Yale Law School as well as the closest office to the most powerful man in the world.

“Balaam.  As I said, you should rest.”

“Indeed.” Balaam lumbered upward from his crouched position in the corner of the Chief of Staff’s office. Stretching his scaly, blackish-green arms out to the side then toward the ceiling, he closed his fiery red eyes and exhaled a battle-worn sigh. As he swung his arms down, Balaam lunged for Miles’ chest hitting him around the fourth button down on his Thomas Pink shirt.

Quickly surging through every cell in Miles’ body, Balaam settled down and came to rest. Miles leaned back in his and thought how much he liked the smell of sulfur.


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood Daniels…

Tibetan Sky Burial as covered by The Collective Intelligence in an April 2013 post titled Tibetan Sky Burial.  Excerpt from the article:

Stupa burial and cremation are reserved for high lamas who are being honored in death. Sky burial is the usual means for disposing of the corpses of commoners. However, it is not considered suitable for children who are less than 18, pregnant women, or those who have died of infectious disease or accident. The origin of sky burial remains largely hidden in Tibetan mystery.

Sky burial is a ritual that has great religious meaning. Tibetans are encouraged to witness this ritual, to confront death openly and to feel the impermanence of life. They believe that the corpse is nothing more than an empty vessel. The spirit, or the soul, of the deceased has exited the body to be reincarnated into another circle of life. It is believed that the Drigung Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism established the tradition in this land of snow, although there are other versions of its origin.

The corpse is offered to the vultures. It is believed that the vultures are Dakinis. Dakinis are the Tibetan equivalent of angels. In Tibetan, Dakini means “sky dancer”. Dakinis will take the soul into the heavens, which is understood to be a windy place where souls await reincarnation into their next lives. This donation of human flesh to the vultures is considered virtuous because it saves the lives of small animals that the vultures might otherwise capture for food. Sakyamuni, one of the Buddhas, demonstrated this virtue. To save a pigeon, he once fed a hawk with his own flesh.

Author’s Note: The article from which this excerpt is taken is extremely graphic in nature and is not appropriate for all ages nor the faint of heart.  Said differently, if you search for the article on your own, you’ve been warned that this content can’t be “unseen”.  


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project called “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels, and me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.

Author’s Note: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).

Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Dakini Robots
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Promise

Supercell (Garage Fiction #010)

Miles Barton’s custom Cavali suit and bold pink Charvet tie betrayed the staid attire of a meeting with the President.  But as the new Chief of Staff and the President’s closest confident for his final two years in office, he could practically do what he wanted.

Minutes after Miles arrived in the Oval Office, four more members of the security council were escorted in.

“Welcome, Gentleman.  Before we join the others in the situation room, I wanted to take a quick minute and personally introduce you to Miles.  After my good friend Pete Wilson passed away unexpectedly, I asked Miles to step in. He has a knack of knowing what I need before I do, which makes him a perfect Chief of Staff.”

“Pleasure to meet you all.” Miles’ voice cascaded over the men like a healing balm, entrancing them and drawing their focus away from the President.  As each man stared directly at Miles, an imperceptible shift permeated the room allowing him to stare back at each man simultaneously.

They each shuddered silently in resignation as Miles peered into their soul.  The stash of kinky pornography the Director of National Intelligence kept hidden in his home office where his wife wouldn’t find it.  The $4.6 million in payments to a shell  corporation owned by the Defense Secretary’s private attorney.  And the boy toy of the recently divorced Director of Homeland Security.  In a fraction of a second, they knew he knew, and every one of them looked away as their personal integrity lay in shambles.

That is everyone except John Abbot.

General Abbot hadn’t had time to make eye contact.  Plus he had nothing to hide.  Straight as an arrow since his days as a Tenderfoot and eventual Eagle Scout, he was too busy reviewing his notes on the brief he’d finalized for the President regarding ISIS’ recent moves.

Abbot wasn’t here to press the flesh or make new friends.  In fact he thought the President’s inner circle of yes men were full of shit anyway.  That is except Pete Wilson.

He’d known Pete since they rushed the same fraternity at Harvard, so Pete was only half full of shit for working in this Administration.  But since Pete had personally asked him to take the post of Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, Abbot reluctantly agreed.

“General Abbot?  You with us?” Miles spoke with a hint of condescension.

“Indeed.  Just reviewing final points on the President’s brief.  Pleasure to meet you Miles.”

“The pleasure is mine.” Miles tried to make eye contact, but General Abbot had already looked away as the President spoke.

“Gentleman, I’ve asked John Abbott to join us for the Security Council meeting today.  ISIS is becoming a more pressing issue everyday and I have charged John with bolstering the coalition effort.  But before we share his recent findings with the Council, I wanted us to have a first look on his report.  That work for you John?”

“Certainly Mr. President.”

As John started to layout new intelligence on Islamic State’s expansion outside of the Middle East, Miles was quick to interrupt him at every turn.

“General I can see where ISIS has expanded into other areas of the mediterranean, posing a threat to our allies in Europe.  But the Caribbean?  Central America? Mexico? Your talking about a level of sophistication ISIS isn’t capable of.”

Keeping his cool. The General went on.

“That’s what they would lead us to believe.  But there are 64 worldwide terrorist groups all over the world.  And more and more of them are pledging allegiance to Islamic State.  The spillover effects are immense.  The are being galvanized under this new Black Standard.”

“The black flag with the Shahada and Seal of Muhammad.”

“Yes Mr. Secretary.” The General acknowledged the Secretary of Defense and kept going.  Trying to ignore Miles’s comments without being obvious.

“ISIS’ leaders are not stupid.  They have a highly sophisticated social media campaign with a clear branded image under the new Black Standard.  When I spoke with the Prime Minister of Germany, she reminded me that this is exactly how Adolf Hitler galvanized Germany nearly a decade before the Nazi Party and the Third Reich tore across Europe.

Miles began to squirm in his seat as he listened to the General.

“It all started with a small workers party in Munich who were deemed nothing more than “rowdies” by national leaders and the press at the time.  That was until a bankrupt publisher  agreed to start printing the party’s propaganda for mere pennies.  The party eventually bought the publisher and now had tool for their propaganda.  And under the Nazi Standard, disaffected Germans began joining the party in droves.  And the rest as they say is history.”

Miles laughed.  “Are you saying we should get prepared for some sort of ISIS blitzkrieg?”

General Abbot looked down.  He remembered that Pete said this was the same idiot who convinced the President that ISIS was a JV team.  Taking a quiet deep breath he did everything he could from  punching this fashion plate in the face.

As he raised his head he locked eyes with Miles.

“Don’t be fooled Mr. Barton. The West sees ISIS as a regional sprint.  But this is going to be a global marathon and only history will tell us the tally at the end.”

The General could feel Miles boring into him, but it had no effect. And as the General looked past him and out the window into the Rose Garden, a slim smile pursed his lips.

“Something funny John? Miles said sarcastically.

No answer.  General Abbot was locked on to the pair outside the window. One was about 8ft tall and the other at least another foot or so taller. The tall one spoke directly to the General.

“I am Raphael. Do not fear.  I have been assigned to you. Stay vigilant.  This is only the start.”

Miles followed the General’s stare out the window and locked on to Micah and Raphael.  As he did, his body convulsed forward as the President and his advisers continued their discussion as if nothing happened.

His back arched upward, splitting from the nape of his neck to his tail bone as a mass of blackish-green scales and a boney black spine extruded itself from Miles body.

With his hands on Miles’ shoulders, Balaam stretched his legs in a squat underneath him. Taking one long look at the General he leaped through the window at Micah and Raphael with an explosive force that rattled the room behind the President’s desk. The men all turned at the same time, as the fury of a super cell thunder storm beat against the outside of the window.

“Well that’s unfortunate. You didn’t get a chance to see the Rose Garden the last time you were here John.  Maybe next time.”

As he spoke, the President’s secretary came in. “Mr. President.  They are ready for you in the situation room.”

“Gentleman.”  The President pointed to the open door leading to the situation room.

Gathering his files, General Abbot looked out the window one last time. Raphael had taken another blow to the head from Balaam as Micah dove for Balaam’s knees, sending the three into a three-dimensional spin.

The last two out of the office, Miles waited for the General at the door.  Putting a hand on his shoulder he hissed. “I look forward to hearing more about your findings.  I’m sure you speculations will only get more interesting as time goes on.”

The General stopped and looked Miles dead in the eye, “I read the end of the book.  And from what I can see, you guys lose.  So have fun while it lasts. By the way, nice suit.”


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn Zhong…

Phyrexian Unlife from the CCG game “Magic: The Gathering” as painted beautifully by artist Jason Chan.


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project called “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels, and me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.

Author’s Note: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).

Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Phantom Blinks
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Watching

Never Quit – Revision 1 (Garage Fiction #009)

(Suggested Revisions From Last Week’s GarageFiction.com Podcast #8 are in red)

Commander Mac Fiske buried his head in his hands.  Pain tearing through his neck and skull, serrated knives on bone.

It was the same thing every day.

He felt fine when he woke up, but the moment he got to the 7 A.M. staff meeting for the overnight intelligence briefing, the pain would start and only grow worse as the day wore on.

By 3pm, he was ready to quit.

But quitting wasn’t an option.  His parents had quit.

Left at a boy’s home in a rural Virginia from infancy, Mac had trained himself to never quit. Real men never quit. Cadets at Annapolis never quit. Decorated Navy Seals never quit. 

But the volatile mix of his new command and the searing pain in his skull were creating a quit-cocktail he was all too ready to drink.

A commanding officer in a combat zone never quits. 

Pulling the folded paper from his wallet he saw her number.  He never thought he’d call, but her warmth after the funeral was irresistible.  Plus he had no one else.

In command only a month, all U.S. Personnel at the Air base in Anbar Province were his subordinates.   And with ISIS only five miles away they needed to see strength and resolve, not a wimp-ass with a headache.

Leaning back in his chair, he mustered the strength to pick up the phone. His face twinged as he pressed the receiver gently to his ear.

The shockwave hit before he could dial, sending a mix of concrete and desert dust swirling through the air.  Dammit. 

Mac knew it was another suicide bomber.  The concussion was the same as the seven previous ones that tried the same approach. Idiots.

Reaching for the radio volume he found relief … “Target down.  Zero casualties. All clear.”

He looked back at the paper and started to dial.

He still wasn’t sure what he’d would say. But for some reason he knew he had to speak with her.  Even if all she did was listen.

She and Annie had come to know each other during Mac’s long deployments.  But with all the travel, Mac never had the chance to meet her in person. At least not until after the funeral.

On his fourth deployment, he got the call.

The report said a drunk driver had hauled across three lanes of traffic, over the median, and plowed head on into the family car, killing Annie and the twins instantly.  But the autopsy was inconclusive.

As Mac saw their bodies lowered in the ground, he felt nothing.  At the time they were three more bodies, three more casualties of war.  His stone face never changed as family and friends tried to reach out during the wake.

After a three days a dank cold air had settled into the house.  The crowds and visitors had all withered away.  So too had the pitter patter of little feet.  The laughter was gone and so was the life.

He felt alone all over again.  Alone at the boys home, alone at the academy, alone on the battlefield, and now for the first time alone in his own home.

Then came the bright knock on the door.  It was a clack clack click with the last tap slightly higher than the rest.

After years of concentrated situational awareness, Mac didn’t miss the details.

Sights, sounds, pressure, temperature.  It was this keen attention to detail that had saved his life and that of his men many occasions.

He opened the door and there she was.  Five foot nothing with a wide white smile surrounded by wrinkled but glistening olive skin.

“I thought you might like a cake.  Annie told me German chocolate was the best. May I come in?”

As he took the cake, Mac’s hand gently grazed her fingers.  He could feel the warmth of her skin.  In fact he began to feel warmth coming from all round her.

Cake in hand, Mac headed back back into the kitchen.  As he did, he could feel a warmth begun to flood all over him, as if Annie was in the room.

Tears began to well in his eyes. And for the first time he wept.

Salia closed the door. Still smiling and praying under her breath, “that the eyes of your heart would be open and you would see.”

That was a month ago.  And they hadn’t spoken since.  He needed to hear her voice.  A soothing balm for the  red hot anger over Annie’s death.  As he dialed, the pain in his skull grew worse and worse.

“Hello?” The tender calm in her voice invited Mac to speak.

“Hello Salia, it’s Mac.”

“I knew you would call.”

Mac started speaking and could’t stop.  He talked about Annie.  Missing his boys.  And how even after a year he still couldn’t believe they were gone.  He told her about the pain in his skull and how he feared he could be relieved of command, even losing his commission if it turned out to be a serious illness.

Salia reassured him. Her soothing words brought peace, just enough to turn the pain in his skull to a dull ache.  As the got off the phone, she prayed the same prayer she’d prayed every day since the funeral, “that the eyes of your heart would be open and you would see.”

For the first time in a month.  The pain in his head started to subside. The grinding was there, but it was manageable.

He mulled over her words again and again, “that the eyes of your heart would be open and you would see.”  Annie was the churchgoer.  Not him.

Anger started to boil inside.  Looking up, yelling furiously, Mac waved his clenched fist, “You took her! I don’t care if I see!”

Coming from around his desk, he walked toward the coat rack to grab his cap before heading outside.  Taking a quick second to adjust it, he looked in the mirror behind the rack. And without moving, his eyes grew wide as he finally saw.

No more than two feet tall its fiery eyes were embedded in the blackish-green scales of its human like face. The boney claws of his feet were embedded in Mac’s shoulders, while it drove the blackened bone of its razor sharp fingers in and out of his skull.

Throwing his arms behind his head, he grasping nothing but wind.  Elbows flailing Mac spun himself around, his back to the mirror.  Looking up, he froze.  Towering over Mac’s six foot frame, Micah’s eyes were ablaze like the sun.  Raising his bronzed sword high above his head, Micah split the air as it came crashing down on the imp’s head.  Splitting in two, it disintegrated.

Standing speechless, the pain in Mac’s head was gone.

Micah’s voice was a flowing riverThis war is not what you think.  You must not quit.”

“I don’t quit!” Mac shot back, his anger getting the best of him.

“You already did. You quit the day you buried your family and let the anger consume you.”

Mac looked at the ground.  He couldn’t respond, the pain of losing Annie in the boys began to flood his mind.

Micah put his hand on the top of Mac’s head.  Instantly he was in the drunk driver’s car.  Thrown from side to side across the back seat.

That the eyes of your heart would be open and you would see.

There it was.  The blackish-green scales were all over its back as it drove its boney fingers in and out of the driver’s skull.  The car careened across the median into the oncoming traffic, right in front of Annie and the boys.  Micah removed his hand just before impact.

Mouth agape.  Mac stood silent, reverent.

This war is not what you think.  You must not quit.”

And as quickly as Micah had come, he gone.


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by me…

Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck brought to light by the inimitable Maria Popova from her wonderful website: Brain Pickings and as originally published in the Fall 1975 issue of Paris Review

  1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
  2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
  3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
  4. If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.
  5. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
  6. If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project called “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels, and me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.

Author’s Note: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).

Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Yes, But What Have You Done Lately
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Punishment

Never Quit (GF#008)

Commander Mac Fiske buried his head in his hands.  Pain tearing through his neck and skull like serrated knives on bone.

It was the same thing every day.

He felt fine when he woke up, but the moment he got to the 7 A.M. staff meeting for the overnight intelligence briefing, the pain would start and only grow worse as the day wore on.

By 3pm, he was ready to quit.

But quitting wasn’t an option.  His parents had quit.

Left at a boy’s home in a rural Virginia from infancy, Mac had trained himself to never quit. Real men never quit. Cadets at Annapolis never quit. Decorated Navy Seals never quit. 

But the volatile mix of his new command and the searing pain in his skull were creating a quit-cocktail he was all too ready to drink.

A commanding officer in a combat zone never quits. 

Pulling the folded paper from his wallet he saw her number.  He never thought he’d call, but he had no one else.

In command only a month, all U.S. Personnel at the Air base in Anbar Province were his subordinates.   And with ISIS only five miles away they needed to see strength and resolve, not a wimp-ass with a headache.

Leaning back in his chair, he mustered the strength to pick up the phone. His face twinged as he pressed the receiver gently to his ear.

Before he could dial, the shockwave hit, sending a mix of concrete and desert dust swirling through the air.  Dammit. 

Mac knew it was another suicide bomber.  The concussion was the same as the seven previous ones that tried the same approach. Idiots.

Reaching for the radio volume he found releif … “Target down.  Zero casualties. All clear.”

He looked back at the paper and started to dial.

He still wasn’t sure what he’d would say. But for some reason he knew he had to speak with her.  Even if all she did was listen.

She and Annie had come to know each other during Mac’s long deployments.  But with all the travel, Mac never had the chance to meet her in person. At least not until after the funeral.

On his fourth deployment, he got the call.

A drunk driver had hauled across three lanes of traffic, over the median, and plowed head on into the family car.  Annie and the twins were killed instantly.

As Mac saw their bodies lowered in the ground, he felt nothing.  At the time they were three more bodies, three more casualties of war.  His stone face never changed as family and friends tried to reach out during the wake.

After a three days a dank cold air had settled into the house.  The crowds and visitors had all withered away.  So too had the pitter patter of little feet.  The laughter was gone and so was the life.

He felt alone all over again.  Alone at the boys home, alone at the academy, alone on the battlefield, and now for the first time alone in his own home.

Then came the bright knock on the door.  It was a clack clack click with the last tap slightly higher than the rest.

After years of concentrated situational awareness, Mac didn’t miss the details.

Sights, sounds, pressure, temperature.  It was this keen attention to detail that had saved his life and that of his men many occasions.

He opened the door and there she was.  Five foot nothing with the widest, whitest smile surrounded by wrinkled but glistening olive skin.

“I thought you might like a cake.  Annie told me you German chocolate was the best. May I come in?”

As he took the cake, Mac’s hand gently grazed her fingers.  He could feel the warmth of her skin.  In fact he began to feel warmth coming from all round her.

Cake in hand, Mac headed back back into the kitchen.  As he did, he could feel a warmth begun to flood all over him, as if Annie was in the room.

Tears began to well in his eyes. And for the first time he wept.

Salia closed the door. Still smiling and praying under her breath, “that the eyes of your heart would be open and you would see.”

It was a year ago.  And they hadn’t spoken since.  He still wasn’t sure why he was calling.  And as he dialed the pain in his skull grew worse and worse.

“Hello?” The tender calm in Salia’s voice invited Mac to speak.

“Hello Salia, it’s Mac.”

“ I knew you would call.”

Mac started speaking and could’t stop.  He talked about Annie.  Missing his boys.  And how even after a year he still couldn’t believe they were gone.  He told her about the pain in his skull and how he feared he could be relieved of command, even losing his commission if it turned out to be a serious illness.

Salia reassured him. Her soothing words brought peace, just enough to turn the pain in his scull to a dull ache.  As the got off the phone, she prayed the same prayer she’d prayed every day since the funeral, “that the eyes of your heart would be open and you would see.”

For the first time in a month.  The pain in his head started to subside. The grinding was there, but it was management.

He thought over and over again, “that the eyes of your heart would be open and you would see.”  Annie was the churchgoer.  Not him.  What did it mean?

Coming from around his desk, he walked toward the coat rack to grab his cap before heading outside.  Taking a quick second to adjust it, he looked in the mirror behind the rack. And without moving, his eyes grew wide as he saw.

No more than two feet tall its fiery eyes were framed by the blackish-green scales of its human like face. The boney claws of his feet were embedded in Mac’s shoulders, while it drove its blackened, razor sharp finger in and out of his skull.

Throwing his arms behind his head, he was grasping at the wind.  Without panic, he cried out, God.  Help Me.

Instantly the room split from top to bottom in a burst of light as a bronzed sword came crashing down on the imp’s head.  Splitting it in two, it disintegrated. Immediately, the pain was gone.

Falling to his knees he buried his head in his hands.  Even with his eyes shut, he could still see him standing behind him.

His thunderous voice boomed, “This war is not what you think.  You must not quit.  It has only begun.”

And as quickly as he came, Micah was gone.


This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood Daniels…
Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog painted by Caspar David Friedrich

Caspar David Friedrich - Wanderer above the sea of fog
Caspar David Friedrich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 


These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project called “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels, and me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.

Author’s Note: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).

This writer accepts no responsibility for what you may read or infer from the other two (unless its really meaningful, and powerfully impacts your life in a positive way).

Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.

To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: The Abyss
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Blackout