Friday Flash: Superpowered

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Harvey Draper strolled down the street, eyes glued to the screen of his brand new phone. At last, his teacher salary was paying off. His first raise! Of course, it was the standard cost-of-living increase his contract demanded, but he didn’t care. He took that extra money and bought – for the first time in his adult life – a brand new smartphone. He rationalized the extravagance as a necessary home phone number coupled with the advantage of unlimited information at his fingertips! He was a TEACHER, for God’s sake. What business did he have not owning a cell phone, like some sort of luddite? It was about time he made use of this technology – for the good of his students, of course.

His thoughts pulled him into previously unknown heights. True, his girlfriend had seemed unhappy with him lately, accusing him of being “emotionally inaccessible,” – whatever THAT meant. He felt things strongly, his emotions almost overpowered him at times – but he could never put what he felt into words. At least now, she couldn’t complain about not being able to reach him. Maybe he should call her? As he continued walking to class, he decided to cut through the park. Buoyed by bliss, his feet barely touched the ground… And then he realized they didn’t.

Caught off guard, he gasped. The shock reflexively caused him to extend his arms, why he couldn’t guess. Maybe some evolutionary throwback or reflex, an insane impulse to flap his arms like a bird or kick as though he could swim through the air… Though there wasn’t even a breeze on this cool, clear, sky blue day. He realized he should be panicking, but he merely glided up into the lower branches of a nearby tree, like an errant balloon. Luckily, the park was sparsely peopled this time of day, the only witnesses to his aerial feat were birds and a few puzzled squirrels.

His mind strayed back to the cell phone, still clutched in one hand. Wildly, he realized that he could google “squirrel facial expressions” while stuck in a freakin’ tree. How cool was that?

How was he going to get out of this tree?

No, it wasn’t panic that filled his soul but elation! Pure joy in the power of his flight, no matter how dangerous or uncontrolled. Perhaps he would join the pantheon of the world’s super-powered defenders, be one of those proud individuals marked for greatness! His body moved upward with each blissful thought, imagining his future heroics and how impressed his girlfriend would be. Noticing the correlation between his philosophical heights and his physical one, he took a chance, gave a quick glance around to make sure no other humans spotted him, and pushed off from the tree’s embrace.

He wondered if there was a cell phone tower close by. Would he get better access if he flew closer to one? How would he even get there?

What the hell was he thinking?

Spitting out a few leaves, he was amazed to discover he soared higher and higher. Birds gazed at him quizzically as he floated past. He spread his arms once more, but this time concentrated on the direction he wanted to go. He whizzed past apartment buildings, soared to the heights of the city’s tallest skyscraper, swooped down with his arms angled before him as though aiming for the ground before sailing back up into the blue.

Flying round a cell phone tower, he realized that through all his experiments he had instinctively held on to his new electronic gadget, the impetus for his latest discovery. He soared a bit higher as he realized he could now text his girlfriend, why hadn’t he thought of that before? Yet another new achievement! – though markedly less impressive than his new super-powered flight. Harvey soon found himself outside the window of her ninth-story apartment, floated outside its drawn curtains, texting her to come to the window “because there was something she just had to see.”

Her reply was succinct. “I don’t care. I’m breaking up with you.”

The moment Harvey read those glowing words, the wind refused to support him. He plummeted to the concrete below. Soon, his girlfriend heard the sound of sirens outside her building and drew the curtains to see the tragedy below. Apparently another would-be hero had failed to survive discovering his superpower.

Poor, flat bastard.

 

 

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com

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Writing Prompt #122

 

Staring at his algebra lesson, Walter bemoaned the fact that there were no snow days in cyberspace.

 

 

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Friday Flash: The Three Little Construction Workers

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Henry had no skeletons in his closet, no matter what people said.

 

Construction was in his family’s blood, and Henry, along with his brothers Howard and Horace, had been born to build houses. Rather than combine their talents, however, the three brothers decided to go their separate ways, each one starting his own construction company.

 

Was it really Henry’s fault that his brothers couldn’t handle the business? Competition had never been their strong suit, but Henry seemed blessed by the gods with good luck. At least when it came to business. Henry had never shared his brothers’ knack for making friends, and most people avoided him when possible.

 

Unfortunately, his brothers did not share in his good fortune. If only they had agreed to merge their companies and talents! But they refused to see reason, and eventually – despite repeated bribe attempts – Howard and Horace were run out of the construction business for repeated safety violations by the indescribably ferocious building inspector, Wolfgang Howitzer. Miserable after their failed business ventures, they soon disappeared, never to be seen again.

 

Meanwhile, Henry, who passed all safety inspections regarding the construction of his buildings, enjoyed an unprecedented prosperity that lasted well into his old age. His one close friend, Wolfgang, had never cared about money so much as a good meal, and disposing of Henry’s competition had been a wickedly pleasant endeavor for them both. The Inspector enjoyed several delicious, morally and ethically reprehensible meals, and Henry enjoyed an easy, profitable retirement.

 

He had no skeletons in his closet, having stowed them both safely beneath the cement foundation of his most successful apartment building.

 

 

 

*image courtesy of BigFoto.com

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Writing Prompt #121

 

His frustration welled in his eyes, spilling down his fingers like drops of rain.

 

 

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Book Review: Tainted by A.E. Rought

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Tainted, by A. E. Rought, continues the modern Frankenstein story of Alex Franks and his girlfriend, Emma, as they cope with the tragic consequences of Alex’s reanimation. They thought that the ability of Alex’s father to hurt them ended with Dr. Franks death, but the events he set in motion continue to haunt them from beyond the grave. In addition to his weekly shocks and formula treatment, Alex must cope with the machinations of his manipulative ex-girlfriend, Hailey. Brilliant and beautiful, she will do anything to get Alex back – even if that means ruining Emma’s life.

This book gripped me even more than the first book, especially since it broke away from the original Frankenstein story. There are still science fiction elements tied into Ascension labs, but I found this story less predictable than its predecessor. The characters are just as engaging, but the mystery is deeper. Who is really orchestrating the catastrophic events in Alex and Emma’s lives? Is it the the evil ex or perhaps the kindly scientist who looks out for Alex after his father’s death? Every time I thought I had it figured out, the plot took another surprising turn.

Though the stakes are nothing less than life and death, the romance between Alex and Emma heightens the already skyrocketing tension. High School is enough of an emotional rollercoaster without adding a psychotic girlfriend, a mad scientist, and the raging hormones of teenage romance.

Though this is a sequel, Tainted reads just as well as a stand alone. Some references are made to the previous novel, Broken, but they do not stand out as such. Rather, vague references are sprinkled throughout the text, enough to give the reader needed information and remind those already acquainted with book one.

Readers will fall in love with Alex and Emma, cheer them on through their trials and tribulations, and hate the villains passionately. Beautifully written, with a fantastic plot and intriguing characters, Tainted is part science fiction and mystery, with a healthy dose of teenage romance thrown in. Fans of all three genres should enjoy this novel.

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Writing Prompt #120

The newspaper headline assaulted him.

 

 

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Book Review: Doctor Who – The Silent Stars Go By -by Dan Abnett

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When the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who was imminent, the BBC reissued eleven novels in honor of each incarnation of the famous Time Lord. In The Silent Stars Go By, by Dan Abnett, the eleventh Doctor endeavors to take his traveling companions, Amy and Rory, to their home – meaning Earth – for Christmas.  However, when the TARDIS lands on a planet covered with snow, the Doctor thinks it is “Christmas-y” enough, at least until they get separated and attacked by humans as well as hostile green giants with glowing red eyes and ray guns. Then they must reunite with each other and save themselves – as well as the other inhabitants of the planet.

This is a fairly easy read for anyone already familiar with the BBC phenomenon and its trappings. The Doctor’s time-traveling ship, the TARDIS, takes them to a destination other than their intended one, with sufficient peril and excitement to keep the pages turning. The companions, Rory and Amy, stay true to form, and Doctor number eleven is his usual, snarky self, complete with catchphrases and ramblings about the nature of their predicament. The banter between the characters remains on par with what fans of Doctor Who have come to expect.

The Ice Warriors make incredibly intimidating villains, yet remain someone that the Doctor feels he can possibly reason with. The description of the villains is bone-chilling, especially when seen through the eyes of the world’s human population – the Morphans.  However, the peaceful Morphans’ strange blend of space- and rural-technology belies their seeming ignorance of worlds beyond their own, and the individual Morphans are almost completely sympathetic. Do they stand a chance against such an advanced foe?

As a re-release, the novel came with an abundance of material before the story even began. This might deter some readers – who can simply skip ahead about a dozen pages, but for others it might provide useful insight into the creation of the book. Fellow Whovians should find this story an enjoyable read, with lots of twists and turns, classic Who-villains, beloved companions, and plenty of wit to go around.

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Writing Prompt #119

 

As Geoff followed his ex-girlfriend up the steep cliff, he reconsidered his proposal.

 

 

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Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer updates the fairytale of Cinderella with a scifi twist. Cinder is a cyborg mechanic, working to pay the bills for her resentful stepmother and her two stepsisters. While her stepmother and stepsisters are getting ready to attend the Eastern Commonwealth’s annual festival, Cinder is more concerned with manufacturing her escape from bondage and avoiding the cyborg draft. The last thing she wants is to “volunteer” as a cyborg guinea pig for plague research. Yet when the plague comes to her city, protecting the people she cares about while staying alive are her top priorities. Meanwhile, the Lunar Queen threatens Earth with war. Amid all the turmoil and upheaval, the last thing on her mind is attending the festival and dancing with the prince. So why can’t she get him out of her mind?

Far from the disneyfied version of Cinderella most Westerners grow up with, Cinder worries about whether the plague will devastate her home and whether she’ll be drafted to contract the plague – an almost certainly lethal “opportunity” to help find a cure. She dreams of escape, the same as her other fairytale counterparts, except her escape would be from literal – not figurative – slavery to her stepmother.

Cyborgs deal with prejudice and social ostracism because they aren’t considered fully human; for that matter, the inhabitants of the moon are no longer human. After so many generations, the one-time human colonists evolved and developed strange powers over the minds of others. The similarity between both groups is striking. Both are no longer considered human and are despised by Earthers when those very differences are actually strengths. Earthbound humans loath Lunars because they fear them, denigrate cyborgs because their artificial nature disgusts them.

Cinder is the best mechanic in the city, for reasons she tries to keep hidden – her cyborg nature. So when the prince brings her a robot to repair, she passes as a regular human while using her internal sensors and readouts to access information and even tell when people are lying. She hides her strengths for fear of rejection.

However, the Lunar Queen has no such qualms. She knows her strengths and doesn’t hesitate to let Earthers know her opinions. Even though the original Cinderella doesn’t have a wicked witch or evil queen, the Lunar Queen fills both roles quite nicely. So many fairy tales share those elements anyway that it doesn’t seem out of place, but the fact that Earth is continually threatened by the Queen of the Moon is too cool for words.

In fact, almost every female character is strong and independent, good and bad alike, even Cinder. Given her victim status, she can’t seem to win, but she sticks up for herself whenever possible and never gives up on her dream of living free. Despite her hardships, she stays true to herself – kind and, despite society’s opinion of cyborgs, achingly human.

From early on it was apparent that a particular plot twist was coming, though a certain amount of predictability should be expected when retelling a well-known tale. Given the strength of the characters and the extraordinary world, there are plenty of new things to discover along the way. Cinder is a delight that fans of fairytales and science fiction won’t want to miss.

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Writing Prompt #118

While the comedienne had been on guard for jeers and catcalls, she was ill prepared for what awaited her onstage.

 

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