Category Archives: Short Story

Sci-Fi Short Story: “The Roland Device”

Monday, Dec. 9, 2013

Roll: 4,3. Result: Short Story, Sci-Fi

Roland prepped himself to zork. It had been 30 quanons since the Hinarii raiders took off on the last space train – no no jk. I wish. Aherm.

The Roland Device (part 1)

Roland rubbed his neck, trying to crack it like he’d already done a hundred times that night. He craned back down to the magnifying lens, suddenly unable to see because of a glare. A sunbeam had snuck through his weary blinds; he snapped them closed. The birds were coming to life outside. He applied a drop of solder to one last connection, and dropped his new metal casing into place, pressing it shut with a rubber-tipped instrument. There was a click. He sat back.

A smile spread between his lips, and he enjoyed a brief laugh. His eye caught on the pile of failed attempts in a box beside his desk, and his joy passed. He lolled his head over the back of the chair and let out a sigh.

– – –

“ROLAND!” He threw his arms out in surprise, cracking his wrist on the desk and falling to the floor with a crash. He heard laughter from beyond his door. “Roland, you okay?” Grimacing, he massaged his hand and stood up. He cracked a blind, seeing the sun high in the sky, and froze. He scrambled to get his shoes on and grab his backpack, barely remembering to include the device before dashing to the door. “Roland, shouldn’t you be at-”

He slammed open the door, hitting Lindsey square in the face. “OW! Ow ow ow… Roland… shouldn’t you be at work?”

He continued down the hall, and without looking back said, “You okay? Sorry, gotta go. Yeah, work. Sorry!”

He disappeared out the front door. “Gee, thanks,” said Lindsey, dabbing at her nose to check for blood.

– – –

In the parking lot, Roland drifted into the last space, the one furthest from the building. He was out of the car before its lifters shut off and it floated to the ground, though he had to dash back to grab his bag. He slammed open the front door and started up the stairs straight to his office. At the fifteenth floor, he jogged out into the hallway. “Roland, buddy, you look like shit!” said Eric.

“Okay. Thanks Eric, gotta go,” Roland said between breaths, pressing on. He saw the door to his office open and started to believe the coast was clear when his boss stepped out, spotting him immediately.

“Roland. I was beginning to think you’d fallen ill, or into a tiger pit. You have ten minutes to clean out your desk… unless you have a valid excuse, of course. Try me.”

Roland wasn’t ready to lose his job, or demonstrate his device, but it was one or the other, and at least there was a chance his latest attempt could work. Panting, he gestured for his boss to follow and moved into the office, plopping down his backpack to take out the device and two pairs of safety glasses.

“What is this? I don’t understand,” said the boss, equipping the goggles.

“Do you see the bags under my eyes, Monty?” he asked, before strapping on his own protective eyewear. “Hopefully… this here is my excuse. Watch that pen.”

Roland took a deep breath and switched on the device before leveling it at the pen on his desk. A red laser dot confirmed his accuracy, and he pulled the trigger.

There was a click, and nothing happened. He pulled it again, maneuvering the thumbstick in desperation. Click, click, click.

“So… let me get this straight. You stayed up all night customizing a laser pointer instead of getting ready for your presentation to the international committee? And you missed it. You slept right through it. I’m sorry Roland, I need to let you go. Ten minutes.” He turned and left, muttering, “And I have to fire Rodney today.”

Roland barely noticed he was gone. He sat clicking the device for a minute or so before whipping it against the wall in anger.

“Sorry man, that sucks,” said Eric, appearing in the doorway, wide-eyed. He was holding an empty box. “Boss said to bring this to you. Beer later? I know you don’t drink, but… maybe tonight you will?” He chuckled, handing over the box. “I’m sorry, man.”

Roland took it from him, waving for him to leave, and mumbled a “Yeah, beer…”

Eric backed into the hallway and vanished. Roland took the box to his desk and started cramming everything in from his three measly drawers.

There was a loud bang, followed by silence. Then, a scream. Lots of shouting, running footsteps, another bang. More screams. Roland peeked into the hallway and saw Rodney rounding the corner at the end, pistol in hand. Eric’s head poked out of his own office next door, closer to Rodney. It disappeared into the office as a hole erupted in the door frame.

Roland stared in horror as Rodney strode to Eric’s door and fired into the office. Eric was heard crying out in pain, but quickly cut off by a second shot. Suddenly Rodney and the gun were facing Roland.

He scrambled back into his office, finding nowhere to go but behind his desk. He cowered behind the drawers and waited. A shot tore through the desk to his left and he flinched. His breathing became rapid, and he spotted the device just beyond the safety of his desk. Instinctively he reached out for it, but as he pulled it in a series of shots rang out, apparently mangling the facing side of the metal drawers. In the moment of calm afterwards, Roland fell on his side, hastily pointing the laser in Rodney’s eyes.

Rodney put his hand in front of his eyes, bringing the gun towards Roland. Roland pulled the trigger.

Rodney gasped. “What the-” Roland jiggled the thumbstick and Rodney slapped himself in the face.

Roland pointed the device lower, and Rodney watched his hand move down. Roland jerked it downwards and Rodney’s hand pulled his body to the floor, landing him on his face and causing him to lose his grip on the gun.

With his heart racing, Roland disengaged the device from Rodney’s hand and aimed it at the gun now. He pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t react. He pulled up, expecting the gun to rise, but instead there was a massive groan, the lights went out, and the building shook. He released the trigger in a panic and fell down a foot, onto the floor. There was a thunderous crash. Rodney wailed and crawled for the door.

Roland sat still, breathing rapidly and trying not to move. Rodney’s wails grew fainter in the halls. A siren could be heard somewhere outside, growing louder. Another massive groan, and Rodney cried out. Now Roland began to feel a pull towards the doorway. The groaning continued, vibrating the whole room. Roland was sliding towards the door now. The desk tipped over and smashed into the doorway, joined by the potted fern, pictures from the wall, and the empty bookcase from the corner. As Roland clawed at the floor coming up towards him, his feet met the wall, and he stood up in the corner, one foot on the wall, the other on the floor. For a moment, the tilting halted.

Then the ceiling started to pull away. The room distorted. Light flooded in from odd places. Everything was noise, and Roland crouched, white-knuckled, as the sky appeared above him. He saw the ceilings of every office on his floor topple, along with the upper stories of the building, down to the street below. As they went, they snapped the wall on which he stood, and he was dumped out into the open air, along with his desk, fern, and pictures.

Roland was falling, and he was going to die.

But then, he wasn’t.

After unclenching his tightly closed eyes, he looked down at his white-knuckled hands, and in one was the device, pointed square at his own chest in a vice-like grip, with the trigger pinned. He swallowed hard, not hearing massive sounds of the top half of his building gradually settling on the ground below.

Roland looked down, spotting flashing lights through the dust cloud. He dare not move his hands at all. He heard shouting and screams from the crowd somewhere below, but when the dust finally cleared, he saw them pointing up. He took a deep breath and yelled, full of terror, “HELP ME!” 

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Short Story via Creative Nonfiction: The Expedition

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013

Roll: 4,6. Result: Short Story, Creative Nonfiction.

When I wrote this category as an option, I had to look it up to make sure it was a real thing, and also so that I knew what it meant. Turns out you just write about something that has happened (to you), but you dramatize it and make it exciting to read without lying per se. This could actually be considered creative nonfiction if I went on about the time I looked up a definition of creative nonfiction. Alas, my creative nonfiction is actually going to be about…

The Expedition: Going To CVS For Hand Lotion

I was here, sitting at this computer when it started. I stared at the paragraph of text I’d written in preparation for a creative nonfiction piece that would be about something I hadn’t yet experienced. I racked my brain for ideas, but none appeared, so I decided to disengage from the project for inspiration. I spun around, rising up for a stroll, cloaked with the off-white blanket my sister had given me. I paced in contemplation, briefly, before collapsing into a puddle of deflating blanket on my bed.

It was there, in my cave of wistful memories and snuggly retrospect, that I decided I’d make my adventure one that hadn’t happened yet. I was, after all, in need of hand lotion, and I’d forgotten until the sun began to go down. That would save me the effort of remembering something random and justifying it against all the multitudes of other possibilities, while also getting me that hand lotion when my current supply was running so low. I’d sliced open the bottle to get at the lotion the tube pump wouldn’t pick up; the experience of groping around in a cut-open bottle for goop to rub all over my hands was starting to get to me.

Sitting in the twilight of my blanket-cave, I ran my hand across the plush fabric’s interior, contemplating its majestic intimacy while Mumford & Sons cried out in the background. Yes, I would surely head out to CVS, just after I rest a bit, and enjoy this pleasant diversion. I laid down my head now, feeling my breaths deepen, the air in my small fort depleting itself of oxygen. I closed my eyes. Then, almost ashamed to be enjoying a blanket-fort by myself, I tossed it off, feeling the fresh cool air storm into my lungs. I threw on my coat, crammed my pockets with the daily pocket crammings, and flew downstairs.

“I’m going to CVS,” I declared to my father, seeing that he was fully engaged in a Battlefield 4 session and silently acknowledging that he would ask me to pick up something for dinner, since I would already be out. I sighed deeply, in annoyance, but thinking of this story, I accepted. Nobody wants to read about how I spurned my father’s request to go five minutes out of my way to pick up the food he would later cook for me like he does every night. I also would have accepted his request anyway, but this certainly made it easier. Who knew what surprises awaited me at the supermarket?

In the jeep, ignition. The radio popped on as I peeled backwards out of the driveway, shifting, pushing pedal to the floor to get up to the 35 mph I drive in my neighborhood. No cars out tonight. Turning off my road, I heard our beloved classic rock station release a surprising announcement: Now playing the top bands from the 90’s! I couldn’t believe it. This was huge. Ever since I started listening to that station, I wondered how long classic rock would be classic rock, and how long before new rock became classic. After all, recorded music is relatively new, especially rock.

Before long, I was parked, hollering to whatever song was on, before opening the door and realizing that the few people around me in the lot could probably hear my excellent voice, and not the radio it went along with. Despite this, I managed to play it cool, because who cares? Then the next dilemma. Italian squash, was that the same as zucchini? I remembered a time when I’d accidentally got zucchini instead of cucumber when I was little, and my mom made me eat some of it. That zucchini was long and thin (and gross). The italian squash I saw tonight was plump, like squash. But I knew that it was zucchini, I knew it was! I contemplated calling my sister to double check, but then I just googled it. For the search term “italian squash” a picture came up labeled “zucchini,” so that was that. Once I had the squash, the chicken was easy, although I did have to get two and a half pounds due to egregious packaging.

I paid and booked it. I turned on the radio leaving the parking lot and heard Green Day. I almost cried, thinking that I was on the classic rock station, but I was listening to the alt-rock one, so I chuckled, breathing a sigh of relief. And then I was at CVS, letting an old Asian man and his two blonde girl-children cross the parking lot in front of me. Lotion, check, deodorant, new scent! (check), toothpaste, check. I failed to present my CVS card and the phone number look-up didn’t work (again), so I got $4.00 in Extrabucks for a card which “doesn’t exist!” as the old man helping me said. We laughed. I left.

There was a moment, coming out of the parking lot, where there is an awkward lowercase-k street junction, when I thought I’d never get home. It was like double-stacked traffic. But really after about 30 seconds I was out and got straight home.

Then I threw the food in the fridge, put away my hygiene supplies, and sat down to write about it.

And I lived happily ever after.

THE END

Short Story via Literary Fiction: Jimmy’s Friend

Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013

Roll: 4,4. Result: Short Story, Literary Fiction

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Jim was a short boy with an ambition too tall for his stunted frame. He grew up in the outskirts of an industrial city in Nebraska, where his parents were both geologists and the local church knew everyone by name.

When Jim was in fourth grade, he told his teacher that he just wasn’t cut out for this life, and strolled out of the classroom. His best friend at the time applauded as he strutted out, but the teacher was dumbstruck and didn’t react. Jim managed to get all the way out of the building and then walked straight home, where he broke in through the doggy door and started gathering scrap metal and old electronics together in the garage. When the cops showed up, Jim yelled to them as he hammered and soldered that he wasn’t supposed to let strangers into the house, so they had no choice but to wait. Jim’s parents came home shortly after, furious that the school had let him out of their sights. By the time they got into the garage, Jim was touching two wires together, repeatedly flexing a small robotic arm with the hand of a stuffed animal stuck on the end.

This, at least, is the story he just told his friend Gordon, at the coffee shop in the lobby of his office building in Lower Manhattan. Gordon sits and stares at Jimmy, shaking his head and laughing.

“Oddly enough, Jimmy, I believe you, I do. Unreal. It just all happened at once, one day? You realized what you wanted? And so young?”

Jimmy laughs, looking up at Gordon from his own stool. At the very least, he didn’t lie about being short. “All at once.” He smiles, enigmatically.

Gordon’s watch buzzes. “Oh shit, Jimmy, I’m sorry, I gotta go. Thanks for the story. And this,” he says, holding up the macchiato.

“Anytime, Gordon. You know where to find me.” He stands up, shakes Gordon’s hand, and retreats back into the near elevator, which seems to have foreseen his stylish departure.

“Sheesh,” Gordon mutters, smiling. “That fucking guy.” His watch buzzes again, in response. He swallows hard. I can do this.

Gordon turns the corner into the food court proper, bursting into a fake smile at the sight of Lily. He waves enthusiastically, mentally preparing himself as he nears, leans in for the kiss, then deposits his bag and sits. His movements feel stiff, and forced. He grows uncomfortable as he thinks that she must have noticed, and that she must have noticed him thinking so. And that she must have noticed him thinking about her noticing him, and so on.

“What’s wrong?”

Shit. Not a good start. “Look.” He releases a heavy, grievous sigh. “We need to break up.” Oh no!

She starts. “What? Are you serious? Tell me you’re not serious.” Her eyes grow wide.

Gordon returns the gaze. “No.”

Silence.

Lily cracks a smile.

“No, of course not!” says Gordon, rending his lips apart, in awkward mimicry of joy. She doesn’t notice his internal agony.

“You really had me going!” She slaps him. “My God!” Loud, relieved laughter.

“I’m a jokester!” says Gordon, laughing uneasily. “You know me!” More forced ha’s. He looks down at the table.

“That’s not funny, you know.” Gordon can hear the smile fade from her voice. “Gordon, it’s not.”

Gordon stares down, burning a hole in the table before he looks up, stone-faced. “I know.” A pause. “I was serious.”