Category Archives: Flash Fiction

My New Book is Out!

string-leavesThe Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden (Is a Rose Press 2016), my fourth book, gathers flash fiction written in recent years (much of it for this blog)—from a series of surreal memoryscapes (featuring the woman with a beard and her friend, the metaphysical toad) to flash thrillers to psychological experiments. This hybrid writing, as regular readers of my blog have come to expect of my flash pieces, blurs genre lines across poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and cultural criticism in what I hope you will find an entertaining montage of imagery. The woman with a beard—the unnamed main character of the first series of stories and familiar to readers of my blog a few years ago—travels as much in her mind as in the world around her, but somehow all merges with her memories to reveal emotional realities of being human. She and the toad commune somehow, through magical surrealism and mystical physics. The toad provides theoretical commentary, at times.

long-silhouetteThe garden may or may not exist. The palm reader in the second series of stories predicts the uncertainty of multiple futures which unfold in the following stories—less connected than The Toad’s Garden, The Palm Reading follows many lines of possibility through a collection of slightly more conventional tales. Yet, any conventionality is only on the surface—just beneath, under the cracks in everything, the stories remain surreal, mystical, strange, while—again, I hope—entertaining readers and exposing the characters’ performances of our odd humanity.

Ayelet Cohen, a filmmaker and artist who is a good friend of mine, lovingly illuminated the book with silhouette art. The illustrations that grace this blog post provide an example of her marvelous visual art.

wwb-catupsidedown

Find The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden at Shop Indie Bookstores or on Amazon.


Earlier versions of some of the individual pieces in this book appeared in Bluzog and Meat for Tea: The Valley Review. Both The BeZine and The Woven Tale Press included more than one of my flash works.

Almost all of the pieces in The Toad’s Garden section and many in The Palm Reader section originated from experimental writing. The best experiments came from open invitations I posted on social media and this blog for readers to post five free-associated words for me to use. I would use them in groups of five contributors, for twenty-five words per piece. Contributors, in alphabetical order, include (apologies if I missed anyone): Stanley H. Barkan, Lucile Barker, Michele Baron, MaryLee Brag, Paulette Buche, Joanna Chen, Carolyn Hoople Creed, Cathy Crossan, Aviva (Frankel) Dekel (my loving wife), Jacqueline Dick, Rivkah Dickel (one of my amazing daughters), Paul Dickinson, Christine A. Farley. Jonathan Freed, Gabriella Garofalo, a blogger known as “godess of small things,”, Jeffrey M. Green, Zena Hagerty, Lisa Holden, Chinedu Jonathan Ichu, Jerry Ingeman, Jonathan Jones, Ampat Koshy, Donna Kuhn, Elena (Zykova) Lacy, Kate Lamberg, gary lundy (my beloved fellow traveler in poetry and beyond), Aviva Luria, Mamta Madhavan, MaryAnn Franta Moenck, Alan Nettleton, Martina Reisz Newberry, Bozhidar Pangelov, Anna Patterson, Jen Pettit (one of my sisters-by-choice), Agnew T. Pickens, Lynn Pries, Nalini Priyadarshni, Louis Profeta, Donna Pryor-Foote, Julia Raymond (another of my amazing daughters), Steve Silberman (fellow photographer-hiker), Mike Stone (brother poet), Uwe W. Stroh, Susan Thornton, Jason Topp, Rayona Tuneelo, Monika Ashwin V (a strong supporter of my work), Peter Valentine, Michael Veloff, Steven Wadey, Eileen Walsh, Clare Washbrook, Nicholas Whittaker, Dane Zeller, and Verica Zivkovic.

wheels-toad-1

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Flash Fiction, Moshe’s House In Space

This originally appeared in Fragments of Michael Dickel Sept. 2014. Thank you to G. Jamie Dedes and The BeZine for giving it a new, broader audience almost two years later!


Author’s note: Sometimes, our children tell us things that they see or know, and we don’t have faith in our children’s senses. This is speculative fiction about climate change…a little child leads them…

Source: Flash Fiction, Moshe’s House In Space

Photo ©2014 Michael Dickel

Photo ©2014 Michael Dickel

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Message on an asteroid…

.Words on an asteroid

Tick.

Tock.

Tick. Tock.

The clock sounds.

But time has stopped here.

It ended when night fell over us all.

We thought that time had pressed on, but this was an illusion.

The spreading of blood across a full moon and darkening of a sun had fooled us into submission and somnolence.

This only begins the story, as is true of most endings. The night came down hard and cold, like ice, glaciers weighing down our hearts. And we knew then, war had arrived.

The scourge, a dark-formed demigod or demon, rose from the blood and bones of our relatives, our neighbors, ourselves. Its fangs gleamed, dripping with the essence of our spirit. Its claws stretched from great paws at the end of tree-trunk thick limbs. Of course, its eyes glowed red hot.

No wonder that we shrank into our own obsessions, bodily pleasures, mindless pursuits. Who could stare at such a creature and remain cognizant, awake, true? Our hair raised along our backs, our tails stuck straight up and out behind, we could only turn and bolt like scared cats facing a mad dog. And we did. We ignored the killing, the bombing, the artillery shelling—deaf to the cries of the dying, even to those of our own children, our siblings, our parents. We hid away.

The creature pressed on. It ate hungrily from our every fear, drank hatred from fresh-spilled blood, spat up fires of rage. We created smoke screens and stared at them, projecting fantasies of sex, romance, and heroism. We wove stories of tribes and nations and globalism and shredded them as sacrifices to the monster. We ate greedily from any plate we could find that promised to bind us to its release. Yet we had created the demon. And every time we turned away, it faced us, no matter which direction we fled. And we could not count the number of dead. The dead counted on us to remember them, to raise them up, to use them as weapons against each other. And we did not fail them in any respect—we fed the demon with vengeance.

So to you, whoever you are, who find these words chiseled into this stone hurtling through space—if you figure out these glyphs and come to understand these words, this asteroid comes toward you as one last cannon ball, shot into the dark void. The monster has shredded my legs, yet I chisel these few remaining words. Don’t give in to the demon. Don’t deny it, either. Face it down while you can. Throw it out of you and wrestle with it as you cross the great river of your own evolution. Tame it. Figure out how to harness its strength. Don’t give in to it. If you fail, it will only grow. It will devour everything. It will leave you with a rock, a piece of you so tiny that you can barely fit your words onto it. And you will find it devouring you and that rock, piece by piece, bit by bit, molecule by molecule, atom by atom. You will become it. And you will write words that pretend to decry it. And you will seem to offer a solution, a path to peace. And it will face you. It will throw you out and wrestle you. It will tame you. You will finish writing. You will hurl a rock into space. It will be its unholy seed.
 

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Flash Fiction— Late for Dinner

Why she was late for dinner… Digital art ©2015 Michael Dekel

Why she was late for dinner…
Digital art ©2015 Michael Dekel

 Why she was late for dinner…

A bag falls to the sidewalk, glass shatters, wine spills—a ghost woke and walked by her, a forgotten moment now scented by shiraz evaporating on hot cement. These days she simply shrugs off such occurrences—hidden minutes pour out along her path wherever she goes, a seam split in a pair of too tight jeans, she supposes, a transcribed protocol. The specter turns, grins at her, a hungry leer that imagines he knows her sexual desires but reveals by its grimace that he remains clueless even about his own fantasies. He would try to turn her brown eyes blue, given the chance to experiment on her. He turned into the middle of the street and disappeared as though around a corner. She looked at the splashes of maroon around her. A painting fell out the window of the third floor of an apartment building, tumbling end over end, revealing Rorschach images in light green before cracking on the short garden wall near the entrance and bouncing to a stop at her feet, where the canvas absorbed the wine stains. Port-wine birthmarks stain her inner thighs just where the smooth skin begins to tingle when she wants to kiss a lover. She picks up the bag, carefully sliding the broken shards back in, and throws it out in a trash receptacle on the corner. With her hands empty, she calls to explain that she will arrive late for dinner. When she enters a liquor store to buy more wine, she meets an old girlfriend. Her friend tells her that she had died in a car accident a few months before and recommends the merlot—mellower than the shiraz. Dinner turns out well, a warm meal with good company and lots of laughter. She doesn’t tell anyone that she sees the past dancing in the shadows, the present always remains a bit out of focus, and the voices speaking to her and only her come from the future. She just appreciates the mellowness.

Wine Bottles 4 Digital art ©2015 Michael Dekel

Wine Bottles 4
Digital art ©2015 Michael Dekel

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Flash Fiction: Moshe’s House in Space

The following flash fiction responds to a prompt (the photo above) from the Short Story and Flash Fiction Society, for their second flash fiction contest; the story is 392 words, not counting the title (or this blog-post introduction). Moshe is our son’s name, he is three (almost four), and some of the story did come from bits and pieces of stories he tells us. Moshe is a Hebrew name (משה) that in English is Moses. Despite all of this, the story is completely fictional. We have not, as yet, met Pollaydowen. The story:

Moshe’s House in Space

Before, no sand swept through, no water splashed—a beach at driving distance, yes, but a long, long walk away. Before the three-year old’s stories, which I only half listened to: he was born in clouds before dinosaurs were alive; he died; “But now,” he said, “I’m becoming alive again.”

I remember a story he told me one morning. I thought it came from his dreams.

He told me he knew a dinosaur with bright blue feathers and skin in the day. At night, he said, it turned wooly and gray, to keep warm. The dinosaur had a name, Pollaydowen. I thought, what an amazing imagination my three-year old son has, what colorful dreams.

He had other stories, about his house in space and all of the animals that lived there with him. How he had a farm at this house. He went on and on with details—listing every animal we saw at the zoo, on farm visits, in books, on videos, on the internet; listing all of the plants and flowers he had heard of; listing creatures great and small in his lakes and seas. How did he know all of them?

He insisted we should visit his house in space.

Then changes came suddenly, not slowly, as even the most pessimistic predictions held. One day news report said the sea covered beaches even at the lowest tides. The next week, waves washed across roads. Houses washed away. Whole neighborhoods could barely evacuate before the surf swallowed them.

The water washed sand over everything. The ozone layer shredded. Paint bubbled and peeled on cars, houses, government buildings. Everything and everyone aged.

Sand dunes blew across where a road had run in front of our house. The house looked like fifty years of neglect.

The last day, my wife and I heard my son speaking in his room. And another voice.

We went in. A bright blue flash turned toward us.

“We have to go,” my three-year old calmly explained, “now.”

“These sands end time here, the last to flow through the hour-glass,” the blue lizard-creature, Pollaydowen, added.

As we left the house, we trekked through hills of sand.

We returned once, to see what had happened. I left this note for you, scratched in the walls, just in case anyone remains. We have an ark.

Ark-2 Digital Art from photos and sidewalk chalk

Ark-2
Digital Art from photos and sidewalk chalk
©2014 Michael Dickel

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God’s Pop Quiz

Humans? Two-legged dwellers of the Earth? It’s your Creator here. I know, I know, it’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me. I’ve been busy up in the Oort Cloud.

God coming to visit from the Oort Cloud

I’ve been busy up in the Oort Cloud…

I thought about coming down in a blaze of Comet-ic glory, ride the fiery chariot at the head of Ison, all of that stuff you’ve read about.

But then I thought, well, maybe just step back to the front of the class and get the lessons going again.

So, you’ve had time to study the situation, no? You’ve been doing your homework? A few of you have had some, um, interesting projects. Anyway, I think it’s about time for a quiz.

Shh. Settle down. You had to know something was coming. I mean, eventually you knew it would come to this. I’ve got to grade you somehow, and it’s been so long. You didn’t do so well with that flood exam. Still, if you’ve done your homework, you should be well prepared.

Okay, pens and paper only on your desks. C’mon. All phones and other electronic devices, off. Put everything except your pen and paper into your bags and your bags under your chairs. Ready? You, back row, phone off and tucked away in your bag. Now, please.

I’m going to give the questions orally. The last time I wrote them down, the tablets ended up in pieces and we had to start all over again. I still can’t figure out why everyone went so wild over a bit of metal statuary…

Let’s see. Looks like everybody’s ready. Here we go, first question:

1. Which is more important, your relationship with Me, an Ineffable and Unknown Being, or your relationship with your fellow humans, whom I also created? (Extra points for originality.)

Okay, you’ve all had enough time with that one. Next question.

2. If I, your Creator, gave you a miraculous planet with air, water, land, plenty of resources for food, shelter and clothing, and all that you might need, animals, plants, and awe-inspiriting landscapes, should you:
a.) Use and abuse it at will without regard for care and upkeep.
b.) Grab all you can for yourself, friends, and relationships and fight the rest of Creation to keep anybody or anything else from it.
c.) Take it, process it, and sell it for vast profits.
d.) Consider it a gift and take care of it with an eye to sustaining the resources and planet into the future.

All you have to do is write the letter of your answer. It shouldn’t take you ten pages to explain it.

The ineffability of God…

…I, your Creator, am Ineffable…

Last question now. Pay attention, it’s a bit tricky:

3. If I, your Creator, am Ineffable, and you, the Created, cannot possible know or understand me, explain religious dogma.

This one might take you ten pages or more to answer. I’ll be back in a few generations to see how you’re doing. I’m curious to see what you have to write about this.

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Ison Tonic Expressions—Flash Fiction

If you hover your mouse over the links (probably won’t work on mobile devices), you will see what they are about. If you haven’t heard or read about either Ison or the strange sky sounds, you might want to follow appropriate links to get updated. After all, it could be a miracle. Or the end of the world…

Ison Tonic Expressions

clear

Ison, oh strange sky sound,
oh Ison, no bison, you
sound strange, Ison, in the sky,
scion of 4.6 billion years.

An enhanced image of Comet ISON, from Hubble Space Telescope data taken in May 2013. Source: Comet ISON Observation Project (NASA)

An enhanced image of Comet ISON, from Hubble Space Telescope data taken in May 2013.
Source: Comet ISON Observation Project (NASA)

Workers ground the scraper blade at odd hours, the cold air vibrating the sound to wake the dead or the living (who, frankly, sleep more deeply than the dead, especially Frank), who with wonderment wondered what wonder meant in the face of such space sounds—the end, the beginning, the aliens strange at the door?

Knocking. Rumbling. About to knock them over, or raise them up, or play bowling for dollars with the blue-green ball third from the burning light.

No, just construction workers it turns out. And, no, not the sort that indicate that now is the time to grab a towel and a good galaxy hitch-hiking book.

—————

But those other sounds? The harmonics, the rushing winds, the whistling whizzes of vibration and sibilance, consonance, melodic hints and abstract relationships? Ah, the woman with a beard considers, what of those?

She sits in the Toad’s Garden contemplating the template of the sky and the whispering slithering sounds in the grasses, leaves fallen and crisped to signal the single slight movement of the world just above the soil and just under.

“What do you think? Soon Ison, perhaps the great comment of our lifetime, perhaps a dud, will swing by the sun.”

The toad looks solemn and somnolent, past his hibernation (re)creation time situation, this winter hyper nation about to learn the chorus of the messenger choirs they imagine as trumpets calling an ending note. They have no idea.

“Wait. It is not the first time,” he says cryptically. “Waiting is.”

—————

Around the world, the sounds echo in the sky. In Canada, in Russia, in Finland, in the United States, in Europe, for two years now, human ears could hear them, which should not be mistaken for understanding them or anything much.

The Apocalyptics have their triptych vision of angel choirs, end times, and renewal.

The Newly Aged sing songs of peace and harmony, oh water-borne aqueous ferment, peaceful planets and loving stars in the fifth dimension.

The Filmic think of Close Encounters of any kind, with a splinter group singing whale songs from Star Trek Intergalactic Shipping, Inc. A few ride the Four Horsemen into the ground, but they probably overlapped with the Apocalyptics. The future historians (aka forwardians, as they will call themselves) later will debate this question, last week if all goes as predicted.

Paranoidsters stirred conspiracy mud: government piracy, secret brain control waves, and the likely overthrow of freedoms never meant to be given to advanced apes.

The Practical Non-Jokers explained and explained again, complaining of explaining.

Mostly, people did not pay attention to the strange sky sounds, these images from the night.

That is, other than strange sound theorists working on obtaining tenure at academies of advanced advocacy for adhering to advanced advocacies advanced in career enhancing unreadable un-meant prose, who should remain unseen.

—————

The pilot named Nob thought, and the two-kilometer wide scout shifted two degrees. We have to hit the corona of that star just right, rockaway. Otherwise we’ll pull out of shape, or worse.

Don’t you think I know, rockaway scout ship number six-hundred sixty-six point six repeating six vibrated back. My molecules are on the line, too.

Nob shrugged internally. After coming through so much time, I’m sure all our holistic system wants nothing more than to arrive at the transition point.

It’s clearly marked as the blue and green planet third from the star.

They tried together again to send the signal.

We are coming. We return. Are you ready? Will you join us this time?

—————

The woman with a beard and the toad listen. The strange sounds convey time, echoes, and home. The woman with a beard watches the toad.

“Well, didn’t you ever wonder why you could understand me? How I came to have this garden, about the geometric considerations of inter-dimensional semantic shifts in sheltered alcoves of the tadpole pool?”

She never asked such questions. In her experience, so many things remain unexplainable, and are better off left that way.

“So, you will join them?”

“Not just me.”

“Who else?”

He gazed at her.

This amazing photo of Ison was taken by Damian Peach with a 20cm telescope on 15 Novembe

This amazing photo of Ison was taken by Damian Peach with a 20cm telescope on 15 November. Source: BBC News

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