Friday, May 29, 2015

Double Feature: Flash Fiction Friday #6 AND the 12-Day Writing Challenge

I know, I bet you can hardly contain your excitement. But please, folks, just remain calm. I'm sure you were all crying yourselves to sleep at night for the past month without Flash Fiction Friday. But fear not! For I have returned.

Whoa, I said calm down
Ok, enough self-deprecating humor for today. So what is this 12-day writing challenge, you ask? Well, as this Writer's Digest article that my good writing buddy Eshirf linked me to so eloquently explains, it's a "12-day plan of simple writing exercises". Not strictly a "challenge", but we've turned it into one. Technically we both started with day one yesterday on Facebook, but whatever...

Day #1: write 10 potential book titles you'd like to write
1. Fractured Fantasies
2. Heir Presumptive
3. The Eye and the Mirror
4. Journeys in Strangeland
5. A Princess Called Chuck
6. Fang You Very Much
7. Fall From Grace
8. Scarlet Woman
9. The Tower Window
10. Welcome to the Manor

Ok, so maybe I cheated a little because a few of these a short story ideas, but whatever. As you can probably tell from the list above, coming up with decent titles and names are two of my biggest weaknesses, so I'm lucky that I even had ten in mind. I was tired as balls when I was making the list, too, so that didn't help. Look for day 2 of the challenge tomorrow, although it may or may not just be on my Facebook page. Until then, I challenge all of you to take up the uh, challenge (wow, amazing writing skills right there). Oh, and I believe there was some mention of Flash Fiction Friday?


Very loosely inspired by this prompt on /r/WritingPrompts.

Peeling Back the Shadows

“Once it’s done, there’s no going back. You can’t undo death.” These words have haunted me for the last five months. It is the mantra that had been drilled into my brain from the moment I had joined the program, but in the past months it has taken on an entirely new meaning.

A year ago I never would have imagined that I would find myself in such dire straits that I would even contemplate seeking the help of such an organization. Hell, a year ago I didn’t even know how to find them. But a few months later there I was, a human lab rat ready to literally sign my own death warrant for the chance to escape from what my life had become. The experiment claimed to be in the final stages of perfecting a type of mental teleportation, a way to transport the conscious mind from one body to another, anywhere in the world. All they needed were human test subjects ready to let their physical bodies die in the name of science. Supposedly they’re working on the whole needing-to-die-to-transport-the-mind thing, which is why they needed us guinea pigs.

The process is almost like something out of Battlestar Galactica, like cylon resurrection or something. You get this chip put in your brain, you see, and then when you think about roughly where in the world you want to go and say a codeword, it gets activated and it kills you. Or your body, at least. You wake up later in another body somewhere, with a new identity, a new face, and a new life. Don’t ask me exactly how they do that part, because frankly after what I’ve been through in the past five months I’m afraid to learn the truth.  

At first the series of procedures seemed pretty bogus; more hypnosis and magic and mad scientist shit than real science. You know, the stuff of conspiracy theories. When it got to the point when they were about to put the chip in my brain, I almost backed out, but would they have even allowed me to leave? I’m sure that by that point I already knew too much, and considering the type of people I was dealing with, I’m sure they would’ve handed me a much more permanent death.

When the time did come for my old body to die, there was no room left for doubts. There was no turning back; the old me would be gone, they said, and I believed them. In order to be reborn, I first had to die. One thing that they don’t mention is that your death sticks with you; it’s violent and painful, and it makes perfect sense to me now why people spend their entire lives avoiding it. It started as a mild headache, but then the pressure started to build in my skull, to the point where I thought my head was going to explode. One by one my limbs became paralyzed, my limp body lying in a puddle of my own shit and piss as death wrung out the air from my lungs.

Next thing I know, I’m lying in a hospital bed wondering how the Hell I survived. Then I look at my hands: they’re bigger than I remember with chewed-off nails. On my left hand is a wedding ring, but I haven’t worn one since my divorce over a year ago. Has this whole nightmarish year all been just a fucked-up coma dream? I look to my right, and there’s a woman who I’ve never seen before asleep in the chair.

I had no idea what to expect once I was in my new body; I had been too desperate to start over to worry about such minor details back then. But I never expected my new self to have a wife and three children.

So apparently I’m Bill Randlan now. Bill is a 42 year old family man living in a Philadelphia suburb who works as an editor for some local newspaper. On the day I died, Bill suffered from what appeared to be a massive stroke at work and lapsed into a coma. The doctors all say I’m a walking miracle, that I should never have come out of that coma and recovered as quickly as I have. It’s all very miraculous, except for the minor fact that I have the most complete case of amnesia they’ve ever seen.

I’m living a life that I remember nothing about. Because it’s not my life at all; I stole it from an innocent guy whose memories died along with him. Bill’s wife, Stacy, looks at me longingly, pleading with me to remember the years we’ve never actually shared together. Bill’s children cry and ask Mommy if Daddy will ever be normal again. I try to love them and pretend to be someone I’m not, but inside the pressure is building, like the pressure in my skull the day my real body died.

So for the past five months I’ve been doing the best I can to get by, but the farther away my death day becomes, the more I begin to wonder what’s true. Was my old life all a dream, and am I really Bill Randlan? Or am I really dead and Hell is just really screwy? Every day I comb through the online obituaries from my old hometown, search the news for any missing persons or mysterious deaths. But my name—my real name—never comes up.

Today is my first day on the job at the newspaper, because I guess even an amnesiac stroke victim needs to go back to work eventually. I’m just leaving the coffee shop near the office when I hear someone shout my name. My real name. Time seems to slow down, but I’m so shocked that it doesn’t occur to me to stop walking. I have to be imagining things. But then I feel a hand on my shoulder and I finally turn around to face the man who shouted.

Holy shit. It’s me.

He—or is it me?—looks just as floored as I must, and just stares for a moment. “A-are you Phil Swinson?” he finally asks.

“Who the Hell are you?” I’ve had it with these bullshit mind games.

“I’m Bill Randlan.”

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