Must be this tall to ride

Day 19: Ruler
No Novel November 2019

Black and white photograph of a metal rollercoaster - Rollercoaster by spungleah via Deviant Art

He’s nauseated before he even sets foot inside. The entire ride there Jake complained so loudly that Dad almost turned the car around, but an elbow from his sister shut him up. No way she’d let him ruin her fun.

They pass through the archway as Jake’s having flashbacks to last year’s debacle. Dazzled by the lights of the midway and high on funnel cake, he’d rushed alongside his sister to the battleground where he met his nemesis—and lost.

This time, Mom has to bribe him with cash to get him to cross the row of food trucks that provides the last safe barrier between him and another round of shame and defeat.

“Just try. That’s all I ask,” she cajoles. Momspeak for “do it or else.”

Face hot, he shuffles forward, eyes on the dusty ground.

The man in the candystripe jacket chuckles when Jake bumps into him. “Whoa, there, son. First thing’s first.”

Jake groans but lets himself be guided to the gate. He squeezes his eyes shut, preparing for the fatal pronouncement.

“You’re good to go. Hop on.”

Jake’s eyes snap open. “Wh-what?”

“C’mon, kid, the line’s backing up.”

He looks from the ride operator to his smiling mother to the vertical ruler behind him: four feet on the dot.

Brimming with sudden adrenaline, Jake screams with delight as he leaps into the rollercoaster’s front car and doesn’t stop until long after the ride ends. Victory!

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here. 

Special collections

Day 18: Susurrus
No Novel November 2019

A girl in a library with magical glowing books - The reader by charlie bowater via Deviant Art

The dry, gentle rustle of pages accompanies me as I pass through the stacks. I’m new; the books aren’t used to me yet. They bluster inside their heavy covers, jump skittishly when I touch their spines, resist when they’re reshelved and their chains locked. But I ignore their spiteful susurrus and go about my duties: dusting and polishing, feeding and watering, grooming and reassuring.

By sunset, they begin to settle. I draw the curtains and tuck thick velvet blankets between their bookends, humming lullabies as I go. One hand on the door, I blow out the final candle and bid them goodnight. I tiptoe away, already anticipating the morning. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day they accept me as their Librarian.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here. 

Throw away the key

Day 17: Keyhole
No Novel November 2019

He’ll be furious when he finds out. But the cocktail of drugs she mixed into his coffee that morning will ensure that won’t be until she’s long gone.

She dangles her toes into the freezing lake water, relishing the change from the stifling house. The floating dock sways gently beneath her. The motion is smooth and calming—so unlike the way she’s been handled these past three years. She feels as if she could fall asleep here. Not that she will. It’s going to be a long time before she’s safe enough to rest anywhere.

The key beeps again, a warning that it’s too far from its biometrically-bonded owner. From him. She pulls the thing out of her pocket, admiring its unique cross-section, watching the blue lights flicker. Such a small thing. So fragile. So cruel.

Without allowing herself a chance to change her mind, she launches the key in a high arc that ends neatly in the center of the lake.

As it sinks, the hole in her chest starts to burn. The device inside is overheating, melting the microfilaments and nanochips that bind her to him. Perfect fingernails snap on the wooden dock as she silently endures the pain. A distant part of her wonders why they’d program that in; a different part has no such questions.

And then it’s over. It’s done.

She breathes in shakily as a smile twitches on her lips. Never again can anyone else have control over her heart—she’s free.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here. 

Our own personal fairytale

Day 16: Remember
No Novel November 2019

Illustration of a giant dragon breathing fire on a lone knight - Firebreath by drachenmagier via Deviant Art

“Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince. Being the eldest son, it was vital that he marry quickly and well. Other rulers offered their most beautiful daughters as a match, but he turned them all away. His parents began to worry. Would he be eligible to wear the crown when the time came?

“The search was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a dragon. Every knight volunteered, but the prince shouted them down. There had been a prophecy: His future bride waited in the clutches of the dragon. He would go alone or never marry, allowing the kingdom to fall into ruin.

“What choice did they have? He set out on the eve of the harvest moon, the ring of destiny in his ears.

“But when the prince arrived at the watchtower by the sea, he found no wyrmling but a gargantuan beast. It fell upon him with claws and teeth and flame as he retreated into the surf. Hemmed in by death, the prince marshaled his courage for what he hoped would be a fatal blow.

“But before he could strike, the dragon let out an unearthly scream and fell dead in the sand.

“A girl wielding a bloody sword emerged from behind the carcass. She thanked him for his distraction and offered to take him home since his horse had been eaten.

“They’ve been together ever since.”

The queen gripped the king’s hand as another spasm shook his failing body.

“I remember,” he whispered.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here. 

Think mystical thoughts

Day 15: Guess
No Novel November 2019

Madam ZuZu’s Psychic Pservices isn’t her full-time gig. She spends her days answering phones for a local telecom, rushes home to scarf down a Hot Pocket, then Ubers to her downtown storefront just in time for the bars to start swinging.

She’s barely wrapped her turban when the doorbell jangles. It’s a blonde guy, maybe 25, with sad eyes, no ring, knockoff shoes, and stone cold sober—the worst kind of customer.

“Welcome, stranger,” she says, pitching her voice low. He starts to speak, but she rushes on, “Yes, of course I can tell you about her. Come.”

Blondie’s eyes widen, but he obediently sits down across from her at the “crystal” ball.  

She stretches her fingers out and grimaces as if in pain. Then with a sudden, indecent moan, she says, “You will meet a tall, dark stranger. She will sweep you off your feet. It will be soon.”

It’s the most obvious, bogus cliché, but his excitement is real. Dude is desperate.

With heart-shaped sparkles in his eyes, Blondie puts $100 in her hand, then steps out into the neon-lit night.

Where he’s knocked down by a brunette blur in a short skirt and high heels.

“Oh my god, are you okay?” the young woman exclaims, helping him up.

Madame ZuZu watches as the two laugh apologies until it turns into a date at the wine bar next door. She shakes her head, smiling to herself. Even a phony psychic gets it right once in a while.

This story is part of No Novel November, a daily microfiction challenge. If you'd like to know more and/or join in, click here.