David S Mitchell - Flash Fiction

Flash fiction stories for your enjoyment! Stories may be tweaked over time. Permission granted to individuals to create personal copies to read on other devices e.g. e-ink devices. For reproduction in anthologies and other formats, please contact me via Mastadon or email.

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ZX81 Text Adventure Story In 81 Words

1. In a woodland clearing. Exits: 2, 3.

2. In the magical woods: Exits: 1, 3.

3. Deep in the forbidden woods: Exits: 2, 4.

4. By the enchanted lake. Drink water: 5. Exits: 3.

5. You wake up by the lake. Drink water: 6. Exits 3.

6. A water-elf warrior appears. Draw sword: 7. Run: 8.

7. The elf acknowledges your courage and hands you the treasure. Victory!

8. Whoosh. An arrow lands in your back. You die. Reincarnate: 1

Posted December 2021

Goodbye World

You don’t travel between worlds for a couple of decades without a few regrets. I lost touch with home the first few years into the supply runs to Mars, even though I was back every eight months.

When the hyper lanes took us further into space, I felt even more alien or returning home. No, I’ve not seen an alien yet thought there’s plenty of weird things if you stare into the darkness long enough. I plan to spend the rest of my career out here, pick a fledling colony and never the Earth again.

I hope you get better but so long Gaia. I am a space man and I intend to stay that way.

Posted September 2021

Screen Time

“Don’t waste your life watching television, Jimmy!”

His mother had said that to him several times a day from childhood. It was usually followed by a sigh. Even in her declining years, she remembered to nag him, but it made no difference. Jimmy loved television. He always had. It was no lazy option. He was a genuine enthusiast. He turned on and paid great attention to every show he watched from soaps, to quizzes, to documentaries and dramas. Every episode was a conscious choice, and his mind was fully engaged.

It was his life and was not wasted. The places he had seen, the stories and the characters filled his days better than family and friends ever did. True, they only existed on the screen, but real people vanished suddenly too. The dead only leave a memory, mused Jimmy, existing only in thought and who is to say that is the truth or reality if it is so easily lost. We all remember people differently, so TV is not very far-removed from a memory, he concluded.

Now in his declining years, he still enjoyed his main passion in life when others had had to painfully put down the gardening gloves, sell beloved cars and prized golf clubs. His mind was going. He knew that. He forgot things and made mistakes. More seriously, he saw characters about his house. They would talk but mostly they were just present. A spaceman stood silently in the kitchen as Jimmy prepared a cup of tea. Today he was struggling and anxious he would miss the start of the next show.

Feeling a little rough, he wandered into his front room, popped the tea down and sat down clumsily. Across the room sat Sherlock Holmes with puffing on his pipe, a moustached detective leant against the fireplace and Lassie lay stretched out on the rug.

The detective spoke, “Ah, monsieur! How are we exercising the petit grey cells tonight?”

“Yes. The quiz final to start with. Couple of minutes before it starts.” he replied, shakily. He clicked the button on the remote then rested his eyes.

Sitting down had not made him feel better. He felt worse. Energy had drained. Everything seemed somewhat distant. Fading away. Dizziness. Darkness. Silence. How long had he been like this? Was he asleep? No… I am too aware, he thought. His mind felt sharper than it had ever been. Then a small dot of light appeared in the distance. It grew in brightness and size as it slowly moved towards him. It felt familiar. He was not afraid.

The quiz show's theme tune played. With a jolt, Jimmy returned fully back into his body. Heart beating and eyes blinking he sat up straight.

“One more episode. One more.”

“Of course, monsieur! Of course.” chuckled his companion.

Posted August 2021

Playing The Cards

Today began like every day had for the past forty-five years. At 7am, Arthur sat at the table, shuffled the deck and laid out the well-used playing cards in the standard formation for patience. This routine had served him well. Time to drink his morning tea, time to wake up and time to himself before heading out the door a half-past eight for the commute to the office.

Time was something he had a lot of now. The previous Friday had been his last day and had been followed by retirement drinks with colleagues. The reality of the occasion was only sinking in this morning. Of course, he had plenty of suggestions for what to do and ideas of his own. Taking that first step to making any of them realities was not happening. Years of routine were hard to break.

There was always the garden, a worthwhile way to spend time. He could get back to bowling, darts or another favourite game or try a new one. Bridge was a natural choice for his card playing. Aware of his stage of life, he considered taking some spiritual steps. Perhaps head back to St. Matthew’s. It was nearby and that troublesome trendy vicar had moved on. Maybe there was a chance of a last gasp romance. Some more company would be nice after ten years alone.

The cards were not going his way today. He took a drink of tea and gathered the cards. After a thorough shuffle, he laid them out again in formation and began to play another hand. He had the time. Before drawing the next card, he decided today really should mark a change. He mentally assigned a favoured possibility to each suite:

  • Clubs - Bowling
  • Spades – Dog
  • Hearts – Dating Service
  • Diamonds – Church
  • He turned over the card and smiled. A golden retriever it was then. Everything else would have to wait for tomorrow’s game.

    Posted July 2021

    Second Date With A Witch

    [ Author's note - this story idea was generated by rolling some Story Cubes. ]

    I am more nervous than usual. A second date with Lauren feels unreal. I hope she doesn’t find me boring. What gift you get a witch? I grew up in the city surrounded by the regular folk of craft guilds and not in touch with nature. It wasn’t until I travelled I met the various magic folks.

    I settled on a mixed bunch of unusual flowers from the cart of a travelling merchant, turning down the additional enchantment option. He was easily haggled down to half the price.

    Standing on her doorstep, I took a deep breath, knocked and tapped my foot. The door opened wide and Lauren’s gnome bowed and invited me in. I had put one foot over the threshold when I saw a spark of a wand and a blinding flash. I was on the ground.

    Another smaller flash went over me and the bunch of flowers shot off down the garden path before bursting into deep red flames. The back of my head hurt. I would have a bruise the size of an apple. Flowers were a bad gift idea then? I had rolled the dice and killed this romance. I closed my eyes trying to compose myself to flee to the tavern to drown my sorrows with ale.

    A hurried kiss on the forehead woke me up. Lauren leant over me looking troubled.

    “Oh Albert, I am so sorry. So sorry. I couldn’t let those flowers cross the threshold. I sensed what they were. You would not have known. They come from a far off land and bring a fungus that drains magic from a household and seven miles beyond. My mother is very frail and needs the restorative power of the forest. It would have killed her.”

    With help from Lauren, I got up. Her gnome reappeared with a glass of water. I was lost for words and gulped it down, not making eye contact.

    “Guess that’s tonight over then Albert? Probably us too?”

    I suddenly came to my senses. It was quite clear what to do.

    “Grab your sword. We’ve an adventure to go on. I suspect that merchant knew what he was doing. We will burn all those wretched flowers and keep all you magical folk safe. Good gnome, please fetch the fastest horses.”

    Lauren looked at me impressed and excited. This relationship was going to work out after all.

    Posted July 2021

    Confidence Trick

    All eyes were on me as I counted out loud, placing each crisp fifty pound note in a neat pile on the pool table. I was putting on a show and taking my time.

    “There. One thousand.” I said firmly and confidently.

    “Sure?” asked Roberts.

    “Yeah. For those odds, yes. Yes, I will. Mackenzie has the skill. Peters’ time is up.”

    I finished my drink, turned and left the stunned crowd. I heard the whispers start as I climbed the steps back up to the street. I had caused a stir and would be talked about up all week until the match Friday night. No one had put down such a bold bet on a rising youngster. They had not expected that. At last, I had their attention. No more ignoring me. I was setting the agenda.

    The winter air hit me, as I walked home and together with a wave of regret now the crowd was gone. Only a few low denomination notes left in my wallet. Mackenzie has the skill? Really? Did you not see his last game you idiot? You fool. Another costly mistake.

    The odds were high that another cold and hungry month lay ahead.

    Posted June 2021

    Back on the island

    “Three days. Just three days back on this island and you’ve had the police round asking questions, there’s talk all around and you’ve told me nothing. Always some scheme or trouble when you are around. Do you enjoy living in this chaos? Why do I let you through my door?”

    “I guess to liven up your dull life. But you are in luck, tonight I just want to stay in enjoy the quiet life and drink a single whisky. Who knows maybe I am changing my ways? Your good influence finally rubbing off on me. I admire your life. I really do.”

    “Don’t mock me.”

    “I’m not. Truly. You’ve worked hard. This cottage is a lovely quaint home and stability. You’ve had that job since we were kids.”

    “I own the shop now. You could have had a settled life too. If you wanted it.”

    “I did. I do. But… we all want to rock the boat, kick over the ants’ nest, light the fire, wake the sleeping dog… even you just a little. Just more of an irresistible compulsion for me. Don’t tell me you never daydream of shaking things up. We all do. I am not content with the status quo.”

    “Maybe I am playing the long game with your ‘quo’. Maybe that’s my revolutionary daydream.”

    Moments of silence passed. The whisky was sipped.

    “Maybe that’s why I come to visit you”, he said with a rare honest tone.

    Posted May 2021

    A Day Off

    It’s the end of the world and I have the day off. Day after day of scavenging, zombie skull battering and avoiding unsavory types wears you out. Despite living solo (once again), my stash is in a good state, the shelter is secure and no recent injuries, so I am enjoying the moment and having a proper rest.

    No plans for the day yet. I could try the radio again. Did I keep that deck of cards? I’ll find out once this tea brews. The blue crate has some paperbacks. Almost everyone reads now. Helps escape from the chaos and pass the time.

    With friendlies, you can trade novels once food and equipment are dealt with. Maybe I should write down my story. In a hundred years, when things are rebuilt, it could be a classic text. Must find paper that will last like those ancient manuscripts. Good ink too.

    I have the catchy title; ‘Regrets: How I Created A Zombie Virus’. I wonder if anyone would believe me.

    Posted May 2021

    First Day On The Job

    “Come sit down my dear brother. You must be tired. How was you first day as a fully qualified wizard? I’ll take your staff and hat. Soup in half an hour.”

    “Thank you Meridith. My day was a little slow to start with but by the afternoon I had undone numerous hexed items and lifted an invisibility spell from an incredibly old but much-loved cat. Some clients remarked on my youthful appearance. I should grow my beard longer. It would help with credibility. My rivals look much older and wiser.”

    “Erodun, I am so proud of you for making this career change. All those years of study. Those months of sitting in a cold dark cave. And that quest you never talk about too.”

    “Ah yes. That quest. One day I will tell you. I don’t keep secrets from you, dear sister. There are just tales I am not ready to tell. That reminds me, first thing tomorrow there’s a delegation from the adventurers’ guild needing shields enchanted. They pay well.”

    “Mother would have been so proud to see your success.”

    “Father would not. He tried to beat the magic out of me so many times. No wonder a spirit took him.“

    “Shame that you had to waste ten years as a blacksmith until then.”

    “No shame in an honest trade. Taught me patience. Made me a better wizard.”

    With a satisfied smile, Meridith silently glanced at the spot in front of the fire where, years ago, she had performed the forbidden rite to summon the demon from the shadow realm.

    Posted April 2021

    The Mission

    “Look! It has got to be in the next two hours. Before the next security sweep. I can pay more.” I said impatiently.

    My last potential pilot stood up abruptly, clipped a helmet over his left head and walked out. The uncovered head hissed something in the reptilian tongue to the android behind the bar.

    That was my last chance to make this run successful gone. I sighed and pulled out my communicator and pushed the two red buttons at the same time. Three floors below the bar, my guest in my storage unit was painlessly disintegrated, as they had ordered. There were now just seven of their kind left in the galaxy.

    I had another long journey ahead of me to get back to the safe house. Sneaking on cargo ships and switching the cargo at the ports. Success would prevent me being guilty of genocide, albeit somewhat voluntary. This debt was a burden but better than another prison stretch.

    Posted April 2021

    Home

    This was my first time visiting the chosen island. We had not visited while Diana was alive. It was my second night and I stealthily crept through the jungle. Even the nights were hot here. The area was guarded to keep looters from the evacuated villages and thrill seekers out of the red zone. The earthquakes had been intensifying. A major eruption was likely in a day or two.

    I paused at the jagged rocks where the slopes began. I took a drink, adjusted my pack and then began my ascent to the crater rim. By the time I reached the top, the sky was getting light. The air was unpleasant. I opened my pack and lifted out the urn. I gripped it tightly then relaxed. Chose my spot. With a few rapid steps and an over-arm throw. It flew deep into the rumbling crater below.

    “Goodbye my love.”

    Wasting no time, I turned and headed down the slope.

    By late afternoon, I was ordering a drink on a packed boat heading to the neighbouring island. I ached from the climb and had not slept. A thunderous sound ended all conversation and all eyes turned to the volcano.

    The ash cloud reached to the heavens.

    Posted April 2021