Another whirlwind flash fiction challenge poached from Chuck Wendig:
This week’s challenge is simple in description, but perhaps complex in execution.
It is about pacing and arrangement.
A piece of flash fiction is usually treated in a certain way — it’s short, so it uses the brevity of the form to often capture a snapshot in time.
We’re going to open that up a little bit.
You still have 1000 words.
But you’re going to break that up into 10 chapters.
Now, ostensibly that works out to about 100 words per chapter, though variation on that is fine. However you see fit to make it work. The goal here is to maintain brevity but increase scope. Can you tell a larger story in a smaller space? Does breaking it up make that easier — or harder?
Otherwise, standard rules apply.
Any genre will do.
Post at your blog, then drop a link in the comments here to that blog.
Due by next Friday, March 28th, noon EST.
1000 words, split into ten chapters. Now write it.
Link to Relevant terribleminds blog (clicky)
(author notes appear at the end)
By J N Keir
Elahee’s relationship with Khorbin started with an act of Samaritan whimsy. He was a farmer from the outskirts and seldom left his land to visit Havenstowne. When he did, he spent most of his time either at Talbot’s General Store, or at the Yard trading animals. Elahee had first seen the handsome Khorbin at the General Store. His arm was in a bandage, and though he wouldn’t ask it, a helping hand to load his goods was welcomed. He nodded and smiled when Elahee had asked. Elahee rode with him from the General to his farm to lend a hand.
Riyanne cared little for rural life, and she avoided the danger of disappearance beyond Havenstowne’s city limits. But her friend Elahee had hopped into Farmer Khorbin’s tumbrel without so much as a “beggin’ your pardon” or “by your leave.” Riyanne was frustrated: approaching Elahee about the feelings she had inside was so hard. She made do basking in the glow of Elahee’s friendship and tried to stay near her always. Riyanne didn’t think much about it when she followed the tumbrel through the fields and trees beyond Havenstowne’s limit. She was catlike, and Khorbin’s ox was oblivious.
Khorbin had never learned words with which to charm young ladies. His days were spent tilling and turning, and husbanding beasts for foal and food, until recently. Miss Elahee was townsfolk: she had known the shade of the General during evening when the sunlight waned, and she partook when there was something cold for the drinking. She wasn’t awful like most townies he’d met. She didn’t look at him down her nose or talk slow as though he were wrong-headed. She was sweet, and likable. She had a beautiful shape to her head.
From her hidden places along the path Riyanne kept a watch on her beloved friend and the farmer. He was clumsy and talked in only short sentences, but hadn’t yet done or said anything to alarm Riyanne. The way Elahee looked at the farmer made a place in Riyanne’s chest heavy, but the look on Elahee’s face in turn was wonderful.
The old tumbrel plodded along behind Khorbin’s ox and passed through a tall gate of rough wood marking the perimeter of Khorbin’s land. His farm and cattle were signed with a lazy crescent.
Elahee asked after Khorbin’s injured limb, and though he was shy of it, he admitted to finding something in his fields he hadn’t expected. The thing he mistook for a bull – as it was was horned and large – was now lying in the turf not far from where the rough-cut of last season’s harvest was heating in its ‘posting piles. It was only a thing, there was no other name for it. It was alive and smelled of corruption when Khorbin found it.
Elahee allowed that Khorbin was putting her on in jest to make the farmer’s life seem more exciting. Yet she wondered.
Khorbin shrugged at Elahee’s lack of faith in his words, unsurprised, but a little frustrated to be thought a teller of tall tales. He “hai’d” the plodding ox onward down the rutted path leading to his home and worried his lip. They passed at a distance the mounds where the compost was set beyond the barn and Khorbin felt something pulling on his hair. It was a strange, unexpected feeling hiding behind an urge to do work and start hauling the compost into the barn shelter for the season.
He yawned to chase the unfamiliar sensation away.
Riyanne heard only bits of Khorbin’s story from where she hid on the edge of Khorbin’s land. It sounded like as much nonsense as rural folk might tell to make civilized folk uncomfortable and keep them in their cities.
When the tumbrel disappeared into Khorbin’s rough carriage house, Riyanne darted across the fallows to the far side of the large, old barn. The smell of heated offal was strong and no doubt Khorbin’s product was of quality, but the reek was beyond off-putting to Riyanne’s city nose.
She found there many severed heads of missing folk.
Khorbin and Elahee both jumped at the sound of screaming.
The voice was so familiar to Elahee that she immediately headed towards the barn. Khorbin grabbed for her, his bandaged arm breaking free of its wraps and the otherness it had become lashed snakelike at the girl. Elahee’s alarm turned to terror. She fumbled her skirts high for running. She ran towards the barn and around in a short eternity of steps. She made it with Khorbin close behind, his shouts little more than animal growling.
In the shadow of the barn among the compost were many, many bodies.
Khorbin’s work was unfinished. The bodies he’d accumulated weren’t enough, but the charming girl Elahee would crown his creation. The story of the thing in his yard was true enough, but he did not tell how the injury had changed him.
He hurtled after Elahee with only tiny apprehension – he did not know whence the first scream had come, or who else was on his land interfering with his craft. Khorbin tripped the girl as she rounded the barn.
Riyanne’s hasty fork of sharp tines took Khorbin unawares in the neck as he turned the corner, and he saw only a glimmer of angry light in her fierce, cat-like eyes before he fell.
It took the two young women nearly an hour to gather up the remnants of what Khorbin had wrought and pile them up against the barn. There was enough dry wood and hay inside the barn for fuel, and the compost was hot with natural gas. Riyanne struck a match. With a backhanded toss she lit the makeshift catafalque of tinder, compost, bones, and the strange thing that was once Khorbin aflame.
Elahee sniffed and tried to hide the sudden sentiment behind smoke affliction.
Riyanne put her arm around Elahee’s waist and said, “I love y-”
Elahee interrupted her with a forlorn look.
This bite-size exercise initially left me a bit confuddled, unsure what to do. It wasn’t until I started typing that anything came of it. I actually wrote chapter 10 first, then jumped back to chapter 1, knowing that 7 and 8 would be rising action, and 9 had to be some kind of climax. 10, as it stood, was the only denouement we were getting. The major ‘complication’ is resolved, but the minor one is not – it is only addressed in a backhanded fashion. Dialog has a tendency to force pace, so it was deliberately limited to chapter 10.
Excluding the chapter titles (the numbers), the narrative is exactly 1,000 words. I opted to try for 100 words per chapter give or take.
Herein I may have spewed out subconscious knowledge of some heretofore unseen characters within the greater Iron Sky narrative, which was exciting to me. Bits of the Iron Sky collection are available as novellas in the Wormhole Electric anthologies (here). Specifically I’m speaking of an unnamed horror enacting it’s own bizarre pogrom within the Empire, but on a scale such that the Emperor can’t devote great resources to its capture. As a result the noble lords are forced to deal with this thing on their own, and some of the more influential ones have really strange definitions of “deal with”.
The association of the tumbrel with the 18th century practice of beheading by guillotine was a happy accident – I was really just looking for interesting words and didn’t initially process the linkage. It wasn’t until I went looking on a whim that I realized the connection. Google images found this little gem for me on a blogspot blog eponymous-ly called “The Tumbrel Diaries”, wherein we see a tumbrel “docked” with the guillotine stage.
Of interest, I believe this image to a still from the 1935 cinematic adaptation of Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities”, but I haven’t been able to prove it to my satisfaction.
Click the image to see it ‘bigger-ized’.