Flash Fiction Friday: A Boating Accident

It was a pleasant day on the River Styx, when Beelzebub, Prince of Hell, accidently rammed his motorboat into a luxurious yacht belonging to Belphegor, also a Prince of Hell. He was understandably disgruntled.

Charon was more than disgruntled. The Styx had always been his domain. Now the denizens of Hell were joyriding; the Transportation Authority had encroached with its state-of-the-art ferry, complete with a snack lounge; and Heavenly tourists could even take a circle line tour. Inconceivable!

He ferried the soggy demon princes back to shore in his moldy, old raft.

“Next time, stay off my river!” said Charon.

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Lady Tiger

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Julian Fiennes woke up next to a tiger, a Siberian tiger to be exact. Mr. Fiennes was known to be very fond of tigers. Ever since he had first stumbled upon a breathtaking watercolor illustration in one of his father’s great leather-bound books, he had devoted his life to learning all there was to know about tigers. His interest had not, however, heretofore extended into the realm of bestiality, nor was it likely to. When Mr. Fiennes had gone to bed the night before, it had not been with a tiger of any species, but rather with his wife, Doris. Now it could, perhaps, be said that Doris possessed some tiger-like qualities, especially when upset or angry, but that was more in the way of a metaphor, and there was nothing even remotely metaphorical about the tiger in bed with Mr. Fiennes. He turned quite pale and held himself very still, hoping beyond hope that this was still a dream, or failing that, that the nice tiger wouldn’t notice him. But it did. The tiger turned to him and gave, what was for a tiger, an impressively appraising gaze.

“Darling,” said the tiger, “are you alright? You look a little peaky.”

Flash Fiction Friday: Concerning Cancer of the Shark & Other Miscellaneous Maladies

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I.

Sharks can, in fact, suffer from cancer. This fact is of some importance considering that a large number of people have, apparently, come under the impression that sharks cannot get cancer. The impression that sharks do not get cancer came, oddly enough, from a book entitled “Sharks Don’t Get Cancer,” which would seem to be relatively straightforward except the gentleman who wrote the book was, at that time, in possession of a rather large quantity of shark cartilage and relieved himself of the surplus by marketing it as cancer prevention[1]. What he did with the remaining shark cartilage or indeed how he got such a large supply, are mysteries that are probably best left mysterious, and are, in any case, somewhat besides the point, namely that sharks can get cancer.

I know that sharks can get cancer because my pet shark, Fred, is suffering from acute cancer of the gills. This is extremely inconvenient and, of course, sad but mostly inconvenient, as I had recently wagered that Fred could beat Beefsteak in a fair fight. Beefsteak, as you may be aware, is a lion formerly of the Surini Brother’s Circus of Tigers[2]. My cousin, a man of means and impulsiveness, purchased Beefsteak for his menagerie although he did not actually have a menagerie at the time. We had arranged the fight for a Friday afternoon[3] and Fred’s untimely diagnosis would no doubt make it seem as though I had chickened out. My cousin would never let me hear the end of it and would spend the rest of our lives lording his lion over my shark, which I simply cannot have. I explained this to Fred, as plainly as I could, and asked him to, cancer of the gills notwithstanding, do me this one last favor in memory of all our times together, and all the fish I’d fed him[4]. Fred, it must be said, was most uncooperative and refused to take part on principle. He made his feelings extremely clear when he attempted to devour my right foot. I didn’t push the matter.

II.

Monarch butterflies can, actually, suffer from gout. This is a scientifically proven fact, attested to by numerous highly regarded if more than usually eccentric scientists[5]


[1] Capitalism and quackery joined in happy and profitable matrimony. Presumably the invention of Viagra had ended his lucrative trade in rhinoceros horns.

[2] Despite being a lion, Beefsteak was relegated to second billing behind the Dancing Tigers of Peru, who could not only tango, but also perform ballet. Compared to this, jumping through a ring of fire, which admittedly Beefsteak could do most skillfully, was of only minor value.

[3] We never worked out quite how a fair fight could be arranged between a lion and a shark, although we had a few ideas.

[4] And my rather magnanimously forgiving him for chewing my left foot off.

[5] Twenty-three to be precise.

Flash Fiction Friday: Proof of Life

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The combined research team stared down at the object in question with varying degrees of shock. The initial excitement, and in the case of one junior technician a full-blown panic attack, had finally subsided. The first garbled message had been sent Home, but it would be weeks before they received a reply. In the meantime, they were left alone with the magnitude of their discovery, the shear unavoidable reality of the object. There were so many questions, and they were the only ones there to answer them. The Astrogeologist tilted her head, forcing herself to turn away from the object and observe her colleagues. They were all there, even the Ship Navigator. No one was going to miss this.

It was supposed to have been a simple survey mission: map the local system and perform the standard geological and mineral tests, but they’d found something buried beneath the surface. Just a single innocuous object that changed absolutely everything. They were not even remotely equipped for this. In the cabin next door, the Astrogeologist had heard the Projector Director pacing himself into a frenzy. The noise had kept the Astrogeologist awake all night, not that she would have gotten much sleep anyway. This was the single most important, most momentous scientific examination in history, and it was up to them. They all waited with baited breath for the Director to start. He looked around at them all for a long moment. His expectant audience only seemed to make him more nervous.

“The object is 6.35cm high and 7.62 cm long,” the Project Director began at last, his voice shaking slightly. “It is approximately 7.62 cm long and weighs 55.9 grams.” He seemed to find comfort in the dry recitation of facts. The other six expedition members were hanging on his every word, not daring to breathe.

“Initial tests indicate that the object is made of a synthetic material of unknown configuration,” the Director continued. “Carbon dating suggests that it is at least 8000 years old and has been buried on the surface for nearly half that time. It is comprised of two main segments connected by a thin neck-like structure. The lower base is fully 7.62 cm long and curves upward in the back. The second segment is half that length and spherical in shape. Two protuberances emerge from the front of the sphere, the longer one curving upward and the smaller curving downward. It does not conform to any known shape, and its purpose and origins are unknown. A more detailed report shall follow. End recording.”

The whole room seemed to sigh, but there was little relief. They had all taken part in the initial round of testing, all prepared their own oral reports for posterity. The facts were simple, but the truth was not. The material analysis and dating had simply confirmed what they all knew. The object was alien. There could be no denying that. This planet had been abandoned for millennia, if the object even originated from here. Still, the Astrogeologist knew that such issues were mere quibbling. They would keep future scientists and scholars busy for generations to come, but in the here and now, only one truth mattered. They were not alone in the universe. She reached out and held the object in her clawed hand and gazed down at it, unable to resist the temptation.

There resting in her reptilian hand was the last vestige of an alien civilization, the first proof that her species was not alone in the universe—a rubber ducky.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Star Liner

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They built her out of the most durable materials known to man. Her hull was thick enough to withstand a meteor bombardment, and she was filled with the most advanced technology and most decedent luxuries that money could buy.

They didn’t name her the Titanic. That would have been silly.

She first spread her solar sails in January 2113, though it’d been ready almost a year earlier. Over 10,000 souls climbed aboard for the maiden voyage through the Asteroid Belt. It was a glittering triumph.

She was the largest, most expensive Star Liner ever built.

They called her the Indestructible.