This month’s theme:


 

This month’s theme:
Frozen Frames Redux, Part 2
David M. Fitzpatrick

 

This month’s theme:
Frozen Frames Redux, Part 2
Read Part 1 last month HERE

Readers of Cud Flashes know that, occasionally, I do a column with flash fiction inspired by the titles of songs, often from an entire album. When John Warren Geils died this past April, I thought that a great way to honor him was to do an installment using titles from one of my favorite albums, Freeze Frame. So in July I sat down and had a great time coming up with nine stories inspired by the nine tracks of that album.

The trouble is, I had already done this—in May and June of 2015! There were many amazing parts to this: that I had forgotten having done it, that I didn’t look back over past columns just to make sure, that while I was writing them no memory ever alerted me, that I sent the whole off to the editor, and that it was two full days before it suddenly hit me that I had already done it. But perhaps the most amazing thing is that, of the nine tales, not one of them is a duplicate of the version from two years before. Sure, “Freeze-Frame” had a similar plot device, and “Piss on the Wall” indeed was about wall-pissing, but there were no self-plagiarized plots and themes.

After a good laugh over it, here is part one of Frozen Frames Redux… the 2017 version!

If you’re interested in the original, you can find them here:

The original, part 1: http://thecud.com/live/content/cud-flashes-pan-42
The original, part 2: http://thecud.com/live/content/cud-flashes-pan-43

 

“Flamethrower”
Silently she waits… silently she contemplates…
By David M. Fitzpatrick

Lindsay stood in the crowd, a safe distance from the pile, and tried not to cry. She knew that there were others like her present, but they were few, and none dared admit their feelings.

The crowd chanted in unison, urging on the city councilors who were gathered by the big pile. They grinned in mad, wide-eyed excitement as they upended metal cans and dumped soaked the pile in gasoline. The crowd roared its approval.

Barbarians, Lindsay thought.

Lindsay could see many titles from where she stood. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth. Countless scientific texts on every subject imaginable. Fiction that wasn’t culturally accepted. Anything that wasn’t approved, or that was considered blasphemous, under the new laws was torched—here, and across the country. Across the world.

Gasoline cans empty, the councilors moved quickly back as the man in the silver fireproof suit stepped forward. The crowd sucked in a collective gasp and swarmed back. The silver man brought his flamethrower, with its flickering pilot, to bear. When he pressed the trigger, the flamethrower spat terrible flame on the pile of books like an evil dragon breathing fire on an army of courageous knights.

Lindsay withdrew from the crowd, toward the darkness of the trees beyond. Sam waited there, his face grim.

“Did you get them?” she asked.

“As many as I could,” he said.

He handed it to her. It was small, the size of her pinky, but she knew the capacity of that storage device.

“There are millions on that,” he said. “I’ll keep getting more. I get online every night to find more. There are hundreds of us on the Internet working together to digitize as many titles as we can before they’re gone. As long as they don’t catch us, we can keep getting as many books as possible from countries where they’re not banned.”

Lindsay shuddered. “There are fewer countries every year. The more these barbarians fall in line with this uncivilized censorship, the rarer these electronic books will be.” She held the storage device up to look at it in the darkness. “Make as many copies as you can. We have to get as many distributed to people like us as we can. And hide more.”

“I’m on it.”

They turned back to the crowd, which was silhouetted against the towering pillar of fire that lit up the night. Black smoke rose toward the heavens. The crowd cheered, mindless and accepting, at the sight.

“They can burn all the books they want,” Lindsay said, tucking the storage device in her pocket, “but they’ll never destroy every file.”

They parted ways in the dark, while the barbarians howled.

 

“River Blindness”
Just imbalance trickling down from the falls…
By David M. Fitzpatrick

The mighty Black River flowed past, dividing the Eastern and Western Empires with its hundred feet of width. The leader of the scout group surveyed the rushing waters with a grim look.

“Men,” he said to the seven who traveled with him, “the emperor of the Western Empire has used his wizard to curse this river. Any man who touches its waters will be blinded. But it is imperative that we cross it, so that we can begin to build a bridge. That is why we have brought the peasant with us.”

The men opened the door to the cage that sat on wheels, drawn behind two horses, and the man tumbled out. He had no eyes; his eyelids were scarred shut. He let out a cry as the men hauled him to his feet and dragged him to the leader.

“Why do you treat me so?” he cried. “I was a soldier once, you know—in service to our emperor! But he gave me no honor or dignity. I was wounded in battle, when the Western Empire threw a magical fireball into our forces when we invaded yet again. The fire took my eyes, but the emperor cared not for my sacrifice! I have been treated like dirt and laughed at in the streets since!”

“Shut your hole, peasant,” the leader spat, “or I’ll be sure that you lose your voice just as you’ve lost your eyes. We need you to swim across the river, peasant, whilst hauling a rope. You’re to secure it on the other side and then swim back. Each trip you will bring another rope until we have enough to lace them together and begin building a bridge.”

“But why me, gentle lord?”

“You’re blind, man! This river’s curse will blind any man who touches its waters. But you are already blind! We will build a massive bridge, stretching a mile downriver, so that the enemy can never destroy it all, and finally we will invade and conquer. Now, mind you, peasant, we will have a chain on your ankle so that you cannot run away on the other side.”

And so the men wrapped the chain around his ankle, tight enough to draw blood, and the man cried out. They affixed him with buoys to ensure that he would not sink and drown.

“You’re the key to our success,” the leader told him. “Be thankful that the Empire has found some use for you other than dirtying the streets of the capital city.”

Soon, they forced the man into the water, rope tied about his waist, and he began to swim. The current took him far, but the rope and chain were each very long. Soon he made it safely to the other side, far downstream. The leader barked orders for him to move back upstream to secure the rope to a tree there, and then to swim back.

The return trip was easier; the peasant needed only hold on to the taut rope and pull himself back. He reached the other side, and the soldiers kept their distance in a semicircle about him.

“No further!” the leader ordered, and the peasant stopped, the leader and his men a half-dozen feet away. “Toss him a new rope. Tie it about your waist, peasant, and swim back.”

The rope landed at his feet, but the peasant did not move to pick it up.

“Take the rope, beggar!” the leader hollered.

The peasant stood as still as a statue.

“Now, see here—” the leader began, but then everything changed.

The peasant had been holding in a mouthful, and he suddenly sprayed the water at them, shaking his head to and fro, and the water from the Black River fell upon them like rain. It hit the skin of every man, and they all cried out in their sudden blindness immediately.

“What have you done?” the leader cried, scrabbling about on his hands and knees, just like his men. “You have betrayed the empire!”

“No,” said the peasant’s voice in the blackness. “The empire has betrayed me. Ignoring my service, laughing at my poverty, treating me as a disposal human being, and then brutalizing me to bring me on this mission—all without so much as an ounce of respect.”

The leader felt his knife slide from its sheath, and he yelped and tried to grab it, but it was gone.

“I suppose I will honor the Western Empire now,” the peasant said from the darkness. “The curse that has taken your sight has given me mine.”

“Then kill us now, bastard!” the leader spat.

Instead, he heard the sound of metal against metal, and soon the clinking of the chain as it fell from the peasant’s ankle.

“I’d rather visit the Western emperor and swear my allegiance to him,” the peasant said. “He might be generous, given the prize that I’ve left for him here.”

Laughing, the peasant splashed back into the water, grabbing the rope, and swam to the other side.

 

“Angel in Blue”
She’d been drained of her spirit…

By David M. Fitzpatrick

Todd was hurrying home in the midnight darkness of Midway City when the muggers set upon him. One had a knife; one had a baseball bat. The biggest one didn’t need a weapon, because he was six and a half feet of hulking muscle. They wanted his wallet, but Todd turned and fled. It was a bad idea, he realized. If they had intended to kill him, they probably would have instead of demanding his wallet. Now, as he raced through inky-black streets, their footsteps pounding behind him, he knew they’d kill him when they got him.

He was tired and out of breath and their stomps and hollers were drawing closer, and in his mind he prayed to God to save him. He prayed for a miracle. He prayed for divine intervention. He was a good man who didn’t deserve to die this way!

He rounded the corner and realized too late that it was a blind alley. He skidded to a stop and spun about to run, but the trio of bad guys rounded the corner and lined up to block any escape.

“Oh, please, Jesus,” Todd whispered, backing further into the blackness. “Please save me…!”

“Yer gonna die now, bitch,” the one with the knife snarled. “All ya had to do was hand over yer wallet, but now yer gonna die.”

The second raised his baseball bat. The third flexed; his massive biceps, covered in tattoos, were terrifying enough.

“Please, God, no!” Todd wailed. “Save me, Lord!”

“Ain’t nobody gonna save ya,” the knife-wielder said, and as if on cue the three broke into a run toward him.

Todd screamed, turned, and ran, towards the brick wall that was the end of the alley. There wasn’t even a dumpster to hide behind.

Suddenly, he heard the whooshing sound, and he looked up as the glowing blue form swooped down into the alley. The bad guys yelped in surprise, and Todd stopped and spun about in time to see the woman flying in for a landing. She wore a costume of royal blue, and her cape of dark blue fluttered about her as she hit the alley on two feet. She glowed with some kind of magical luminescence.

“Being naughty, boys?” she said through her mask.

“It’s Blue Blaze!” one hollered, and they turned to flee.

She was known as the Guardian of Midway City, and besides in the newspapers and on TV, Todd had never seen Blue Blaze for real. He watched in awe as she threw out her hands and let loose with what looked like blue fire. The energy blasted the trio into the air and they sprawled, unconscious, in the alley. Blue Blaze leaped thirty feet into the air and landed beyond them and, one by one, fired blue bolts of energy from her eyes. The bolts his their wrists and ankles, creating energy shackles that bound them.

She strode forward to Todd, who stood with mouth agape. She was beautiful, a statuesque woman with broad hips, big breasts with “BB” emblazoned across them, and long, flowing blue hair that cascaded about her shoulders. She smiled as the wind fluttered her dark-blue cape around her glowing form, and she stopped before him, her feet apart and her hands on her hips.

“That should hold them until the police get here,” she said. “Are you all right, sir?”

Todd trembled, eyes wide, and then he dropped to his knees and threw his hands skyward.

“Praise the Lord!” he cried out. “Praise you, God, for saving me!”

“Umm, well, I was sort of the savior in this one,” Blue Blaze said.

“You are an angel, sent from Heaven!” Todd said, arms spread wide. “My angel in blue!”

“Really, no, not an angel,” she said. “Just a superhero. And Heaven didn’t send me. I spend my days and nights patrolling this city to keep people safe. Even though one of my powers is that I don’t have to sleep, it takes its toll, you know.”

“Praise Jesus, praise God, praise Heaven!” Todd cried, bowing to her.

She sighed. “Just once it would be nice for a religious zealot to give me some of the credit.”

“But God works through you!” Todd insisted. “He is why you were here to rescue me.”

Blue Blaze was visibly annoyed at this point. “Sorry, buddy—I’m an atheist. You know that you’d be dead right now if I didn’t intervene, right? So it’s a little frustrating that you won’t shut up about giving your deity all the credit for what I’ve done.”

Todd thought on this. “God deserves credit for the good that happens in the world.”

Behind Blue Blaze, the bad guys were coming awake, and one of them began to holler at his confinement.

“Well, then, perhaps I should remove those energy shackles and leave you to deal with them,” Blue Blaze said. “I’m sure your deity will save you again, yes?”

Todd thought on this for a moment, his eyes wide, and then he leaped to his feet and cried, “Blue Blaze, Guardian of Midway City—you’ve SAVED ME!”

She grinned. “That’s what I thought.”

 

“Piss on the Wall”
I really hate to say it but they’re all a bunch of jerks…
By David M. Fitzpatrick

Scott had needed to piss really badly, or he’d never have done it. And it had been in a back-alley building, for Christ’s sake. He’d unzipped and let it stream, and his bladder was so full he’d pissed for at least a solid minute—long enough for some camera jockey at the police center with nothing better to do to catch him doing it.

There were cameras everywhere these days, monitored regularly by the police at the data center. Scott had assumed that there would be no reason to have cameras in back alleys, but his lawyer had explained it.

“Do you know how much crime happens in back alleys, Mr. Kendall?” the man had scolded him. “Drug deals, robberies, thefts, assaults, rapes, murders…”

“But this wasn’t anything like that,” Scott had protested. “I just needed to take a leak. I couldn’t hold it anymore.”

“I sympathize, Mr. Kendall, but the law is clear, and so is the video evidence. If you plead not guilty, you’ll lose, and the punishment will likely be extreme. Plead guilty, and the judge might be lenient.”

He should have plead taken his chances. The judge was a very angry woman, one who Scott felt was just jealous that men could piss outside so easily and not have to disrobe and squat to do his business.

“In a civilized society, there is no excuse for such barbaric behavior,” she lectured. “Urinating outdoors is disgusting. Do you have anything to say before I pronounce sentence?”

He argued that his need to urinate was a physical necessity that he could not help, that there were no public restrooms anymore, that he didn’t have even a dollar for the pay toilet. But the penis-envying judge wasn’t hearing any of it. And now Scott Kendall stood, hands tied behind his back, as the guards checked his bonds to make sure he was tied fast. He couldn’t move, couldn’t even spin around the pole.

“Bet you wish you’d never pissed on that wall, buddy,” one of them said, and the other chuckled.

“Piss off,” Scott snarled. Fifteen feet away, six men stood, armed and ready.

They laughed even harder. “Well, I wouldn’t want to be you, pal,” the guard said.

They hurried away, far behind the firing squad.

“Ready!” the first guard called out.

The armed men brought their weapons to the ready position. Scott swallowed hard. This was going to suck.

“Aim!” the guard hollered.

The men brought their weapons up and took aim. Scott closed his eyes tight and took a deep breath.

“FIRE!”

He heard six hoses erupt, and he was hit with powerful blasts of urine, courtesy of the wastewater-treatment plant. The power of the blasts forced some of it in his mouth, up his nose, in his eyes, and all he could do was try to hang on for the thirty seconds.

He was pissed off—and pissed on.
 

 

David M. Fitzpatrick is a fiction writer in Maine, USA. His many short stories have appeared in print magazines and anthologies around the world. He writes for a newspaper, writes fiction, edits anthologies, and teaches creative writing. Visit him at www.fitz42.net/writer to learn more.