The Unspeakable

Oscar Wilde lifted his heavy head from the pillow.  With one hand he straightened his abundant Neronian curls, while with the other he stroked Bosie’s cheek that still rested on his ample chest.  Gazing across the room of the Albermarle Hotel, his eyes lit on the hunting scene that was framed in pride of place.

“It’s strange,” Oscar opined (he rarely merely spoke when he could opine or soliloquise and one day he’d have to stop thinking of himself in prose that was quite so purple).

“Strange?” Bosie yawned.

“Strange indeed what people insist on viewing as unspeakable, or not.”

###

This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is below, copyright Jan Wayne Fields.

antique-desk

The Flying Problem

The brothers had a vision and having a vision is an awkward business.  It excludes you from so much that other people take for granted.  Visions start out by being innocuous and end by being all-consuming.

How innocuous do visions start out?  Well, for the brothers it began when their father brought home a toy helicopter.  Made of paper, bamboo and cork with a rubber band to twirl its rotor, it was about a foot long.  The boys played with it until it broke and then built their own model.

That’s pretty damn innocuous, right?  But it was a slippery slope.

The models they worked on evolved and people got hurt.  The brothers saw it as a mission.  And then they saw it as a business proposition.

The family business was paramount and neither brother would ever marry; lawsuits and patent wars, accidents and deaths, took priority.  But they presented a unified image to the public, sharing equally in the credit and blame.

The brothers understood that progress was due to be made and they would usher it in.  Events and opportunities lodged in their consciousness in a way that seemed beyond their control.  They wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institution requesting information about the latest innovations.  Once the latest designs and publications were placed in their hands their experiments began in earnest.  Who knew where the experiments would lead?  It was a fascinating and dangerous path.  They stumbled along it, groping for the right direction.

Nothing could dissuade them.  Other experimenters had already forged ahead.  The brothers watched and learned.  They were patient and practical, biding their time.  They were undeterred and unmoved, even when the outcome was tragic.  Lilienthal plunged to his death, yet they insisted on following his lead.  Pilcher crashed and died, but it only reinforced the opinions they already held about how to proceed.

They identified control as the unresolved third part of “the flying problem.”  Sufficiently promising knowledge of the other two issues – wings and engines – already existed, they felt.  With this in mind, they paid careful attention to how birds changed the angle of their wingtips to make their bodies roll right or left.  The brothers decided this would also be the best way for a flying machine to turn – to bank or lean like a bird.

They puzzled over how to achieve the same effect with man-made wings and finally discovered wing-warping when Wilbur absent-mindedly twisted a long inner-tube box at the bicycle shop they owned.  It was the breakthrough they needed.

At Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they began their manned gliding experiments.  Powered flight was attempted a few years later.  During engine tests at Kill Devil Hills they endured weeks of delays caused by broken propeller shafts.  Following repairs, the brothers finally took to the air on 17th December.  The first flight, by Orville at 10:35 am, achieved an altitude approaching 10 feet above the ground, travelling a total of 120 feet in 12 seconds.

As the rickety airplane stuttered off the ground and went bobbing into the air, a deep rumbling was heard from the swirling clouds that loomed overhead.  “S-i-x… six point eight… miles… per hour,” god managed to force out the words with a bit of a struggle, mid-yawn.

“Pardon me?” the devil frowned.

“Oh, it’s something I always wondered about – the airspeed velocity of a flying monkey.”

“I see, yes,” the devil nodded.  “Although… they will get quicker, you realise.  Much, much quicker,” she smiled.  At that, the devil went on her merry way, her mind aglow with all sorts of appealing prospects: Pablo Picasso smearing paint onto the canvas of Guernica; the extreme cosiness of Dresden on a chilly February night; the gleaming miracle of Enola Gay; a blizzard of drones hailing down.  It tickled her to realise just how much entertainment there was to be had from all these peculiar little visions of flying monkeys.

###

This story was written in response to the yeah write challenge #174 – This week’s optional prompt is: what is the airspeed velocity of a flying monkey?  The other stories in the link-up can be read by clicking on the image below.

summer174

The War Against the Elves

Pandemonium struck and the buckling castle walls shook under the ceaseless hail of missiles and the weight of flailing, dying bodies. Vast wings blotted out the sky. The raging fires that scarred so much of the hillside, and turned the homesteads to ash, choked the air with unbreathable fumes. The sun blinked through the debris like a livid, purple stain; to the naked eye it appeared like a seeping wound that had been made in the atmosphere itself, mimicking the wounds of the staggering armies that clashed together. Those reeking wounds seeped with the brains and guts of elves and ogres and orcs, wizards and dwarves and hobbits; both heroes and cowards alike.

Overhead, legions of dragons spat hell in every direction. Their roaring maws fried the flesh from those poor souls whose fate had seen them fall immediately in the paths of the merciless beasts. Their closest companions fared little better, the dragons’ boiling breath squeezing the oxygen from the baffled soldiers’ lungs for miles around. Even the dragons’ howling wing-beats sent limping stragglers tumbling across the rocks, bones shattering with the impact.

The devastation was inescapable, from horizon to horizon. As far as Gandalf could espy from his isolated perch atop the castle’s highest, still-standing, crag of a tower, no one and nothing remained unscathed. Was all, then, lost? Was the time of ceaseless inhumanity at hand? The old wizard’s heart thudded heavily in his breast. Then his weary eye alighted on the blood-soaked, but still vigorous, splendid form of the Elf King…

At Magdalen College, in the rooms of C. S. Lewis, the atmosphere had grown unbearably tense as the scene of carnage unfolded. Tolkein’s usually droning voice had risen to an extreme pitch of excitement as he recounted to the little group of friends and fellow writers (the Inklings, as they called themselves) the latest terrors faced by Middle Earth, his trembling manuscript held open before him.

Tolkein positively yelped with sorrow as he shared in his wizard’s pain. So much so, that Hugo Dyson, a noisy and no-nonsense member of the Inklings, who taught English at Merton College, was startled from the dozing posture he’d quietly sunk into at the back of the room. “W-what…?” Dyson mumbled, to no one in particular, as he reacquainted himself with his whereabouts and his wits. Fed-up that his nap had been interrupted, Dyson’s bleary eyes fixed on Tolkein, only catching the last, dismal words the author had uttered.

Dyson snorted, “Oh no! Not another fucking elf!” and marched out of the room. The spell was well and truly popped. The made-up battle vanished from view and no made-up lives were lost. A brisk dose of reality can be a powerful magic. It works wonders.

###

This short story was written in response to the latest TipsyLit writing prompt:  For this week’s prompt, your character has access to a rare and forbidden magic that will answer a current need. Does he/she use it? All of the stories written for the prompt can be read by clicking on the image below.

prompted-button (1) 

RAF, 1941

Anxiously glancing at the wing-tip of the Hawker Hurricane, rattling and exposed, as it slices through air currents that tug the plane off course; he tries to navigate a safe flight-path through the Battle of Athens.  That wing’s been trouble for days: mechanical failure, off and on.  And, in the endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards him from every side, Roald Dahl spies the Gremlin who’s sat grinning on that wing, merrily tearing cables loose with its teeth.  It’s clear as day, an inspiration; though now isn’t really the time for creative writing, as the plane starts randomly spiralling.

###

This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is below, copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

view-from-the-plane

Oslo, 1056

Oslo, 1056 – In my boyhood, long ago, I sat and saw longboats streak along the fjords, like spears flung by All-Father Odin.  Odin’s one-eyed face shone with joy, brighter than the sun, as he saw our longboats flung to destinations far and near, for raids or trade.  Then Christians arrived and we learned we were wrong.  All-Father is called Yahweh, Jesus his son.  But when black clouds roll over, burying the sky, and thunder goes growling along the fjord, it’s still Thor’s face I see watching over us.  I still shake with pride as jagged sparks fly from his hammer.

###

This piece of flash fiction was written for Friday Fictioneers: a story in 100 words prompted by a picture that Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts every Wednesday. Here’s the link to the stories and this week’s picture is below (originally there were rooftops visible in the photo, but I only needed the sky and so I cropped it a little).

roiling-cloud-1