Flash Fiction: NYC Midnight-Round 1b (2016)

NYC Midnight is an arts and humanities web site that produces storytelling competitions for writers and film makers. One of the contests is a flash fiction challenge. Participants are placed in groups of approximately 35 people. At 11:59pm EST on a Friday, each group is assigned a genre, a location and an object.

Writers have 48 hours to craft a short story — with a 1,000 word limit. The top 15 stories in the round receive points: 1st place=15 points, 2nd place=14 points, etc. 15th place=1 point. The scores from round 1a are added to the scores from round 1b. Only the top five highest total scores advance to round two.

Genre: Action/Adventure
Location: A crowded beach
Object: A white flag
Score: Scoring is tentatively scheduled for release at 11:59pm EST on November 1, 2016. I will update this space at that time.

November 7 update: While I was happy to score points in both challenges, unfortunately the entry below only achieved a single point. Coupled with the seven points from Round 1a, I received a total of eight points. This placed me 17th out of 35, right in the middle of the pack. I actually needed 16 total points to place in the top five and advance to round two. It was a blast writing under space and time constraints, and to be part of a community of writers, some of whom churned out amazing content. It’s definitely something I’ll do again!

Great Again

A woman returns to the location of her wedding proposal, only to find something different and unexpected.

The crushed seashells pierced the bottom of my feet. But they didn’t bring pain. Instead, the tingling pricks took me back to that magical day, twenty years earlier. I remembered the precise moment and exact location. It was still tattooed in my memory bank, even after all these years. Because that’s how one’s first love is supposed to be, an amplified sense of everything. I could still hear the endless flow of waves pounding the breakwall like a symphony orchestra. I closed my eyes and would again see the slow-setting sun splattering spectacular orange rays against the hilly bluffs.

It had only been the two of us on that warm Tuesday afternoon, nearly two decades ago. There was no one else around, unless you count the family of seagulls picking through the s’mores remnants in an extinguished campfire. We had just returned from spending two years in Ecuador, where Anthony and I had taught English. He proposed to me the day after we returned to the United States. I said yes, and we remained on the empty beach until the sun disappeared into the Pacific. We had only been back to our favorite spot once, on our ten year anniversary.

“Still good, Kris? Ten years later?” Anthony asked me that day.

“Good again,” I replied.

I took off my ring to dry the perspiration around my finger. “I cannot believe how quickly twenty years have passed by,” I said to myself. But then, out of nowhere, a papaya appeared from the south. It struck me in the wrist, knocking my wedding band out of my fingertips.

“You shouldn’t be out here, ma’am. You’re in grave danger,” said a young man racing towards me from the north. “Urgent. We have an unexpected civilian,” he shouted into a walkie-talkie.

“What’s going on? Who threw that?” I asked, bending over to pick up my ring. The man shoved me to the ground as three more papayas whizzed by overhead. “What’s going on?” I repeated, wiping sand from my face.

“This is it, the final battle. It’s all ending today,” the young lad replied. “What’s your name? I’m Addison. Don’t worry, we’ll get you out of here safely.”

“I’m Kris. What’s ending today?”

“Over here!” Addison furiously waved his arm at his allies. “This is Kris. I don’t think she’s with them.”

I looked to the north, and from the edge of the parking lot to the tip of the water stood a hundred people. Many held pineapples in their hands. A third of them carried oversized umbrellas. The crowd approached, stopping when they stood a mere fifteen feet away from me. A smaller sub-group holding lawn chairs dropped them sideways onto the sand. They quickly unfolded the seats and placed them side-by-side. The finished assembly was a two-hundred-foot wide barrier.

“Okay, go now, Kris. There will be blood soon, lots of it. Through there,” instructed Addison, pointing to a narrow gap between two recliners.

“Stop,” demanded a man’s voice booming over a megaphone from the south. “You’re not taking her.”

“So you are with them?” Addison asked incredulously. He let out a frustrated sigh and darted off, diving through the small opening meant for me. The gap immediately closed behind him. In unison, fifty umbrellas to the north opened, blocking away papayas pouring down from the sky. The people from the north retaliated with the pineapples.

“Hurry, lady. Come here,” said the megaphone man. “You’ll be safe with us.”

“I don’t know who you are,” I replied. “I don’t know they are.” I dropped to one knee as another projectile flew over my head. The battle continued for an hour. I kept my eyes closed and covered my ears, deafening the sounds of angry screams and piercing cries. Another ten minutes would pass before the attacks finally stopped. Complete silence followed. I poked my head up and looked north. Two lounge chairs near the middle parted, and a woman in her sixties stepped forward.

“Do you want this to continue?” asked the woman. “You cannot win, you realize that right? I will destroy you.”

“No, it’s you that’s oblivious to the history that’s about to be made,” answered the megaphone man from the south. I glanced over to see a male in his seventies, his golden hair flopping like a kite in the wind. “My people have you outnumbered, three to one. I’ve built a wall around you. You’re surrounded, completely. I’m about to call in even more reinforcements. Concede now.”

The woman laughed. “Look out onto the water. As for calling in support, my people have blocked all electronic transmissions. All your messages have been destroyed. I know a thing or two about email servers.”

I stood and glanced to the west. For as far as that eye could see, there were thousands of people kayaking towards the shore. “We’re with her,” they chanted.

“They don’t worry me,” said the floppy-haired, megaphone man.

“Well it should, Donald,” said the woman. “And when you lose, I’ll expect a civil concession from you.” The woman handed the man a white flag.

“Dream on, Hillary,” the man replied, tossing the flag back at the woman. “I will never surrender to you. Let’s get out of here,” he directed to his supporters, who followed Donald’s orders and left.

“We’ll see you in November,” the woman retorted, before spinning around and leaving. The group in the front stood and folded the recliners. They followed Hillary’s departure. And just like that, the massive crowds dissipated, leaving me alone on the beach once again, surrounded by a sea of bruised and shattered fruits.

“Hi sweetie,” said Anthony. “Sorry I took so long. It was hard to get parking. Did you find our lucky spot?”

“I did, baby. Happy anniversary.”

“Happy anniversary, Kris. And was it just like our last visit?”

“Um, not quite,” I replied.

“But is it still good, after twenty years?” asked my husband.

“Good again,” I replied. “No, let me rephrase it. It’s great again.”