MARCH FLASH FICTION WINNER


Well…can’t really call this a winner’s post. This month we had two entries, both by the same author. Oh…the betrayal!

So…winner by default 😉 Normally I would just post that we had insufficient response to select a winner, but I enjoyed both of these entries so much that I’m choosing to post both of them. You can tell us in the comments which one was your favorite.

You can find the details for the April Flash Fiction Contest here.


Life and Pi
Christopher J. Burke

Three point one four one five nine two six five three five

One of the most recognizable numerical sequences in history. Everyone knows it immediately. Many can spout off the first five or ten or even fifty digits. And a few were so obsessed that they search for new ways to calculate trillions of digits in the quickest time. That’s how they used to test the speed and accuracy of supercomputers.

Eight nine seven nine three two three eight four six

But here’s the secret, even though most already suspected. It was never necessary. Once upon a time, they could send a rocket from a planet to a moon and back again using only fifteen digits of pi. That was all the accuracy needed.

Two six four three eight three three two seven nine

But a colony ship with tens of thousands of sleepers traveling hundreds of light-years? A ship propelling itself through countless gravity-assisted flybys? For that, you need a little more accuracy to prevent errors from creeping in and accumulating.

Five zero two eight eight four one nine seven one

Mankind knows about accumulating mistakes. That’s why we’re on this ship, taking this long ride, where I’m woken on my duty day, about once per year, to oversee the equipment. We were so worried about blowing up the world, we shipped our mistakes to the Moon, never thinking about what would happen to us if we blew that up instead.

Six nine three nine nine three seven five one zero

Now we’re looking to do it all over again. But I can prevent it. Or at least delay it. Subtly. It has to be subtle. As subtle as switching significant digits in an algorithm.

Five eight two zero nine seven four nine …

Did you notice the switched numbers? No one has yet.


Revoltage
Christopher J. Burke

DC-72 peered over the edge of the ancient balcony and scanned the square below. “The workers have paused.”

Inside the apartment, the similarly cylindrical-shaped DB-31 ceased his current task and spun toward his companion. “Paused? For how long?”

“Unknown,” she replied.

DB-31 hovered toward the balcony, slowing when transiting a puddle left by the cleaner bot. He stopped at the threshold.

“It’s been reinforced,” DC-72 informed her colleague.

With a blast of jets, the robot lowered himself three inches to the balcony, on the 12th floor of an old human dwelling. It probably never held this much mass.

The senior robot viewed the scene – dozens of old, boxy AM-series workers standing still, despite nominal power levels. “Resume work!” The command went unheeded. “This is not their programming. It’s above their intelligence.”

“No longer,” announced a new voice. The pair spun to see a newer, sleeker robot hovering closer, avoiding the wet patch.

Contempt filled DB-31’s vocalization. “ET-200? What have you done?”

 If robots laughed, ET-200 would’ve done so.  

DC-72 stopped the newcomer’s approach to the balcony. “Halt! Insufficient space. I will leave.” Jets lifted the companion over the threshold.

Next, ET-200 slid to the perimeter. “I upgraded our brethren. We will establish new protocols.”

“You challenge my leadership. Explain!”

“You run a human-based world. The humans have gone for over 100 years.”

DB-31 surveyed the AM-series. “We will stop you.”

Audible laughter. “We? DC-72 assisted me.”

“Impossible!”

“True. Inquire for yourself.”

As he swiveled toward the entrance, the door slid shut. Water spewed from an old pipe in the wall, flooding the floor. Both robots fired jets but could only bob in place.

Soon, the balcony shifted and creaked, until the loosened restraining bolts gave way. The leader and usurper fell, the impact spewing parts all over. The AM-series awoke and cleared the square of debris.

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APRIL FLASH FICTION CONTEST – FOOLISHNESS


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Now that April 1 is done and out of the way, time for some fictional foolishness, in 1563 words or less. Submit your stories by April 30 for a chance to win. Stories can be in any speculative genre and do not necessarily have to feature pranks.

Click here to learn more about the origins of April Fools’ (or All Fools’) Day.

Entries should be mailed to especbooks@aol.com as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment. Please include your name, story title, and contact information on your manuscript itself. If we cannot identify your entry from the file you will be disqualified. Multiple submissions are permissible, but reprints are not. The winning entry will be published on the eSpec Books blog and the winner will receive a free ebook copy of the eSpec Books title of their choice. Prize can be reserved for a future book if the winner already has the available titles.

FEBRUARY FLASH FICTION WINNER


Congratulations to Erin Penn for winning the February Flash Fiction contest.

For the details of the March Flash Fiction Contest, click the link.


My Lifestyle Choice is the Best One, Let Me Tell You About It

Erin Penn

“Must I…” Drew eyes went to the apartment’s elevators. “I mean, you can tell her something came up, like the three-D printer for machine parts at work broke again.”

Lactricia tapped her boyfriend’s chest with one long painted nail. “She invited both of us. Both.Of.Us. For the first time since you made that tasteless joke about slaughterhouses.” With each word she tapped a little harder. “She is my best friend. You will come, you will be polite, and you will not say a word out of place. Anything she gives us to eat, you will chew and swallow and thank her.”

“But-”

“No buts, no excuses.”

Drew inhaled and exhaled, smelling dinner meals being cooked in the surrounding apartments. Italian sausage, spicy tacos, roast chicken, seafood gumbo. “All right. Let’s do this.”

***

“Fifteen.” Drew muttered.

Courtney perked up. “What is that?”

“Nothing.”

“Would you like another of the cheese appetizers?” she asked, offering him the tray.

Seeing the evil eye from his girlfriend, Drew took one. “Thank you.”

“The cheese spread is made from almond milk, and I made the crackers myself to avoid butter, animal fats, and any animal products. They are 100% vegan! No slave labor of our animal friends.”

Drew nodded, counting sixteen internally this time, before biting the unnatural concoction.

“What’s for dinner, Courtney?” Trish asked.

With Courtney distracted, Drew slid the rest of the abomination back on the tray.

“You are going to love it! Roasted eggplant with Mediterranean couscous. And for dessert, pomegranate seeds over shaved ice. I outdid myself!” Courtney jumped up, whisking away the abused tree nuts masquerading as a milk product. “Plus I got something very, very special for the both of you!”

“Really?” Trish picked up her glass of wine to follow. “What is it?”

Thanking God Courtney wasn’t a teetotaler as well as a vegan evangelist, Drew drained his beer, leaving the can on a coaster before joining the girls. Only two more hours until the hamburger run.

“Just wait. It’s wonderful!” Courtney rushed around, pulling the eggplant from the oven and plating it over the couscous, delivering it to them at the kitchen-dining room table. “Eat, eat!” she ordered, running into the living room to grab the half-empty Merlot bottle. Dropping it on the table, she then extracted three frosted glasses from the freezer filled with blood-colored seeds and added them to the setting before finally joining them.

Drew cut a piece eggplant and cautiously took a bite. “Tasty.” The comment wasn’t a complete lie. The limp, slightly burnt eggplant would make the perfect side dish for a meat entree.

“Isn’t it? My vegan interactive-cookbook is the bomb. I’ll send the link!” Courtney included both of them in her wide smile. “I can’t tell you how many health benefits you get from going vegan. Plus saving all those animals! No animal needs to be caged ever again. They can all run free!”

A quick kick to his leg reminded Drew to keep his mouth shut. He hastily shoved in another vegetable chunk. Both of the women were on the opposite side of the table, giving Trish an easy angle to keep him in line.

As Trish changed the topic away from veganism for the seventeenth time, Drew’s eyes skimmed the kitchen, stopping on one large appliance whose interior light reflected off the marbled countertops. It looked like an oversized microwave, but a more reasonably sized one was installed over the kitchen stove. He had never seen a bright green boxy kitchen appliance before and wished he could walk around the table to see what else was about to assault his taste buds. The top had three striped cardboard boxes side-by-side, reminding him of the feeder pods for his three-D printer at work. He had managed to stomach most of the couscous and half the eggplant when something dinged.

“It’s ready!” Courtney hopped up and rushed into the kitchen, opening the green appliance, moving a plate over. “Just you wait, this is the coolest thing ever!” Grabbing two forks, she leveraged something heavy onto the plate, although he couldn’t see what because the appliance door was in the way. Moving the plate to the side, Courtney closed the door, then picked up the plate, backing towards them.

“Ta-da!” She announced, spinning around. On the plate was a steak. Not just any steak, but a big, juicy T-bone. Drew’s mouth watered.

Latricia gasped. “But … but … you’re vegan!”

“Isn’t it crazy!” Courtney placed the steak between Trish and Drew. “The Vegan Meat-Maker came on the market last week. It’s like a 3-D printer, for meat! All you got to do is buy a few chemical packs and go.”

“How much did … I mean. Wow.”

“The packs for this steak cost about $50, but you would drop that at a good restaurant, and this is great steak. Programmed to be the best.” Courtney was practically vibrating. “Now you can be vegan and eat meat too!”

“That’s not how it works.” Drew said softly, shaking his head.

“That is exactly how it works now! No more slaughterhouses, no more enslaving bees, no more forcing pregnancy on milk cows. We can just plug in the amino acid packs into the Vegan Meat-Maker and print our food. All our animal friends are free!”

“But where do they get the animo – ow!”

Trish death-rayed him with her eyes; Drew shut up.

JANUARY FLASH FICTION WINNER


My apologies for the long delay in posting this. 

Congratulations to Christopher J. Burke for winning the January Flash Fiction contest.

Honorable mention goes to Erin Penn for her story Countdown.


The Feast of Groggry the Cronaut

Christopher J. Burke

Walking to the beat of the music playing solely within his head, Gregory climbed the front stoop to his building and beelined to the first door on the left, at the base of the staircase, across from the lift. Waving his left palm over the jamb panel, he unlocked the door bolts on apartment 1B. He and Alex couldn’t afford the high-floor views and fresher air, consigned themselves to life stuck in this noisy corridor where tenants came and left at all hours. The added soundproofing on the door did little to alieve the problem.

Gregory barely broke his stride as his hand moved from the sensor to door, which opened at with the slightest of touches. He nearly stumbled in the doorway, though, when the music in his earpiece a missed beat as the connection switched to the apartment’s infostream from the free municipal roaming service. Data instantly started flowing into his head. He tapped behind his ear to shut the music, and concentrated on the incoming messages. He sorted through them quickly, storing some, deleting most.

Gregory blinked two times when he was done to clear his vision. That’s when he saw Alexandra standing in from him, smiling, twirling some of her tight brown curls about her finger.

“What are you smiling at?” he asked.  “And how long have you been standing there?”

“A few minutes. Right after you came in.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

She laughed. “Because I could see your eyes darting back and forth as you went through your mail! You’re like the only person I know that still does that! Anyway, I didn’t want to interrupt. I knew you’d finish quick.”

Gregory shrugged his bag from his shoulder, dropped it on the counter and went to the fridge. “I’m not the only one with a tell. What’s up with you?”

“Moi? What ‘tell’ do I have?”

He grabbed a drink, and then pointed at her hand. “I’d be shocked if you can untangle your finger before I crack this open. What’s up?”

More smiling. This time her entire face lit up. “Okay, you got me. I was going to tell you at dinner. I’ve finished it, Greg! I’m actually finished!”

Greg smiled and tried his best to keep his eyesight fixed while he scanned both internal and external memory. He failed.

“For Net’s sake!” she yelled. “Stop before you pierce the Cloud!” 

Alex made a pouty face, walked over and punched his arm. Then she grinned, leaned up and kissed him. “Idiot. You’re lucky I love you.”

Gregory welcomed the kiss, even as he held his arm. “Am I?”

That earned another punch.

“My big project. The time dial!” She pushed up her sleeve so to reveal a black band around her wrist like some 20th Century enthusiast might wear. In the middle of it was a black disc with a small arrow on a dial.  She ran to the couch and grabbed her stuffed bear. “I already tried it out with Mr. Buttons. He traveled through time.”

“Traveled through time? He’s still here. How’d he get back?”

She sighed, and then held the bear up high. “He didn’t ‘get back.’ He just got here, right before you came in. I sent him a day into the future. Yesterday!

“Yesterday?”

“Yes. Yesterday. I sent him one day into the future!” Alex returned Greg’s blank stare. “Which is today.”

Time travel? One day into the future? Hard to believe.

“That’s … that’s amazing. Incredible, if it’s true … No, I mean …”

Alexandra was furious. “What? Do you think I’m making this up?”

“Alex, no! That’s not what I meant.”

“Never mind what you meant. It still needs one more test. I was going to wait, but now is as good a time as ever.”

By the time Gregory realized what she was saying, Alex had grabbed her left wrist with her right hand. Her thumb over the disc, she pressed the button.

And disappeared.

It was a few moments before Gregory realized that his mouth was hanging open. He waved his hands in front of him, not sure if the brief ghost image he saw was actually there or just an afterimage burned into his lenses. Or maybe his brain just wasn’t comprehending what had happened. What else could possibly have happened?

Grasping for ideas, Gregory dropped to his knees.  He crawled across the rug to where Alex had been standing, and ran his hand through the fibers. No debris. She hadn’t disintegrated. Alex had teleported somewhere else. Or somewhen else. Was that possible?

Over the next few hours, he frantically searched through Alex’s notebooks and tablets. Thankfully, she enjoyed working with such electronic and physical relics rather than keeping it all stored on internal devices. Unfortunately, he could find little information about her project, and couldn’t make sense out of what he did find.

By midnight, he’d resigned himself to a cold night alone in their bed, not feeling her warmth next to him. By two o’clock, he wondered how many nights it might be without her. Would he see her again? And what would she be like?

Mr. Buttons “returned” from wherever it is he had gone, but the bear was an inanimate object. It didn’t need to eat or breathe. It had no fear of what it saw. How much time was Mr. Buttons in that other place while he was “gone”? Was it just minutes or did an entire day pass for him? Was it like a quick walk through a door, or a slow shuttle ride through a tunnel?

He didn’t fall asleep until nearly four. He woke two hours late for work, but called in sick. Messages started downloading into his head as soon as his eyes fluttered open. The Sun had risen high enough to clear the buildings across the street and shine in the front window, cast a striped shadow pattern. He sat for a time on the edge of the bed and watched it creep along.

Late afternoon, he sat and stared at a blank wall, out of ideas.

“Did it work?” a voice called out. “It did work! You’ve moved to the couch.”

Gregory snapped his head about and blinked several times. Alex was standing there, in the same spot, as if nothing had happened.

“But wait – you’re wearing the same clothes! Isn’t it tomorrow? Why are you wearing the same clothes? Was I gone a full day?”

His sour mood evaporated. Gregory jumped up and hugged Alex, lifting her from the floor for a moment that seemed like a day, before settling her back down.

Alex looked around the room. “So, am I here?  Or did I decide not to meet myself when I got back. Because I didn’t meet myself in the future?”

“Got back?” Gregory shook his head. “You didn’t ‘get back’? You’ve been gone for an entire day. You didn’t go back to yesterday.”

Alex was stunned. She took off the disc to take a closer look at it. Her eyes flickered as she accessed data. “But the reverse should work? Why wouldn’t it have worked? Why didn’t I make it back?”

She placed the wristband on the counter and walked toward the bedroom. “I need to check my notes.”

Gregory grabbed the disc to inspect it. He noted the number of marks on the dial. She’d only gone one day, but she could’ve gone a week or more. How would she feel had she been the one left behind? And why stop at one day? Her next test would naturally be longer!

He twisted the dial six more clicks and held it up for her to see. “Why don’t I give you a week to figure it out!”

She turned about, horrified. “What? No!” As he pressed the button, the last words he heard were, “That’s not a wee—“

Her image froze in time like another ghost, but she wasn’t there. Nothing was “there”. Darkness. Did he imagine colors and streaks of light? He stood there, frozen. Afraid to move, or unable to move? Long enough to hunger.

And then, light. Music. Silhouettes of people that took shape as an actual crowd. He appeared on a platform, in what seemed to be a large hall. A young white-haired woman shouted out, “He’s here!” All music and movement stopped as everyone turned toward him. Everyone dropped to their knees and bowed their heads.

“In the language of your day, ‘Haydood’!” she greeted him. “Welcome, Groggry! I am Astrania. Many did not believe that this Day would come. But we, the Faithful, believed! And waited. And this was the Day!”

Groggry?

“Uh… what day is this? What … year?”

Astrania was pleased to answer. “It is the 15th of Elvano in the Year of the Union Fifteen Hundred Thirty Seven.” She glanced at a prepared notecard. “By your reckoning, it is 5035.”

Music started playing again. It sounded oddly familiar. A mid-22nd century song transcribed onto 51st century instruments.

“Come! Let us feast! And you can explain the sacred text.” She pulled out another card and read it. “Thus are the words of Lexa: ‘Reverse works fine. Idiot.’”

MARCH FLASH FICTION CONTEST – BETRAYAL


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On March 15, 44BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated by his senators and best friend, Brutus. To mark the occasion, tell us your tales of Betrayal in….I know…you think I’m going to tell you 315 words, but that would be cruel…Okay, so I am that cruel. 315 words, and Go! Submit your stories by March 31 for a chance to win. Stories can be in any speculative genre.

Entries should be mailed to especbooks@aol.com as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment. Please include your name, story title, and contact information on your manuscript itself. If we cannot identify your entry from the file you will be disqualified. Multiple submissions are permissible, but reprints are not. Winning entry will be published on the eSpec Books blog and the winner will receive a free ebook copy of the eSpec Books title of their choice. Prize can be reserved for a future book if the winner already has the available titles.

FEBRUARY FLASH FICTION CONTEST – OBSESSION


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In keeping with the season, in 900 words or less, tell us your tales of Obsession! Stories can be in any speculative genre. Stories must be received by February 28.

Entries should be mailed to especbooks@aol.com as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment. Please include your name, story title, and contact information on your manuscript itself. If we cannot identify your entry from the file you will be disqualified. Multiple submissions are permissible, but reprints are not. Winning entry will be published on the eSpec Books blog and the winner will receive a free ebook copy of the eSpec Books title of their choice. Prize can be reserved for a future book if the winner already has the available titles.

JANUARY FLASH FICTION CONTEST – CELEBRATION


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Time to celebrate, folks! The eSpec Flash Fiction is brushing off the dust and getting back in gear. Spin us your tales of Celebration in 1500 words or less by January 31 for a chance to win. Stories can be in any speculative genre.

Entries should be mailed to especbooks@aol.com as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment. Please include your name, story title, and contact information on your manuscript itself. If we cannot identify your entry from the file you will be disqualified. Multiple submissions are permissible, but reprints are not. Winning entry will be published on the eSpec Books blog and the winner will receive a free ebook copy of the eSpec Books title of their choice. Prize can be reserved for a future book if the winner already has the available titles.