Kimberly here, of http://www.kimberlyemerson.com. I can’t get enough of short stories lately, so when Erika asked me to participate in This One Time…at Writers Group’s new challenge, of course I said yes. I got the following five pieces of music for inspiration:
1.) Heavy Metal/Hard Rock- Breaking the Law by Judas Priest
2.) Pop/Hip-Hop- The Heart Wants What it Wants by Selena Gomez
3.) Country/Singer Songwriter- Oh Very Young by Cat Stevens
4.) Instrumental/Soundtrack- Pirates of the Caribbean (1)- The Curse of the Black Pearl
5.) Wild Card- The Happy Birthday Song (traditional)
I listened to all of them (sans videos, just as requested). First, I discovered that Happy Birthday sounds a little creepy heard out of context. Don’t know why. Beyond that, I toyed with a story based on the Selena Gomez song, but finally ended up drawn to the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. A pirate story! I decided the swashbuckler in my head was too literal, and thought to myself, who are the modern day pirates? Hmm…instead of the high seas, most of them sit behind a computer somewhere…
Phillip Rainier banged his cup down on the desk, splashing drops of black coffee on the keyboard.
His administrative assistant poked her head around the partially open door. “Mr. Rainier? Is there a problem?”
“Get me the head of IT. Now.”
Less than a minute later, Tomas Garcia walked into his office. Rainier didn’t look up. “Shut the door.” As soon as he heard the door close, he wheeled his chair back from the desk so Garcia could see his computer screen. “Read this.”
The IT guru stood over his shoulder, keeping a very respectful distance away, which was wise. Rainier would have loved an excuse to smash something. They both read the 48-point font.
THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING. A PUBLIC STATEMENT THAT YOU WON’T LAY OFF ANYONE ELSE THIS YEAR, OR YOUR NEW CHEMOTHERAPY FORMULA GOES ON WIKIPEDIA.
P.S. YOUR LATEST BONUS GOES UP TOO.
Rainier rounded on his employee. “Who the hell is sending these? Why haven’t you found them?”
Garcia twitched beneath his white collared shirt. “I don’t know, Mr. Rainier. I’ve had my whole team on it, and we’ve got nothing. They come in on your email, from your email. There’s no trail from other servers.”
“Do you think it’s Anonymous?”
Rainier’s employee shook his head. “Anonymous wouldn’t have made the threat this private. Their ultimatum would have made the rounds on Twitter by now. Are you sure no one else has access to your email account?”
“I’ve changed the password three times in the last week. The last one was fifteen characters including numbers, capitals, an asterisk and two dollar signs.”
Garcia raised his eyebrows. “You have that written down somewhere?”
Rainier tapped his shirt pocket. “I keep it with me all day. It goes in my desk drawer at night. My wife is sick of finding ink marks on my shirt pockets, but I can’t remember them all anymore.”
“And you’re sure your house is secure?”
“I run a multi-billion dollar company, Garcia! I have better security than the President!” It wasn’t an exaggeration. Rainier paid the security bill every month before he paid his health insurance. When he considered threats to his health, heart attacks were a distant second to long range rifles.
Garcia sighed. “Perhaps we’re overstating the threat here, Mr. Rainier. We have patents on our formulas. Even if the formula went public, no reputable company would be able to use it.”
“Not this one.” Rainier tapped his fingers on the oak desk. “I talked to Legal yesterday morning. It won’t be final till next week, at the earliest.” The conversation had ruined his breakfast. Screaming at the phone and pounding on the table had produced no result save spilling orange juice on his daughter Miranda, who’d had to run upstairs and change into something less citrusy.
“Perhaps we need security on the formula.”
Rainier rose to his feet and smacked both hands on the desk. “Where do you think I’ve been keeping it? In a fake rock on my porch?” He walked away to resist the urge to punch Garcia. “It’s under the tightest possible security right now. I have a backup of the formula at home, just in case there’s a huge computer disaster, but that’s the only place it exists outside the lab. The entire lab staff knows it’s worth more than their lives to leak it.”
Garcia looked about a half second from making a run for it. “Well, at least you don’t have to worry about the bonus thing. That’s stated in the company financial reports, isn’t it?”
The stare Phillip Rainier gave his employee caused the man to take two steps back. “Not everything is listed in the financials, Garcia. Not that anything illegal is going on, of course.” That I’ll admit to you, anyway. “There are just things the public doesn’t need to know.”
Garcia coughed. “Of course, sir.” He scooted closer to the door. “I don’t know what else we can do.”
“We were planning a round of layoffs next week. We can’t afford not to.”
“But if we release this new chemo drug, we should make money off it, right?”
“If the research holds up like we think it will, and it causes significantly less nausea than the usual stuff, yes. But I can’t guarantee that right now.”
Garcia’s wrung his hands so fast they looked like a blur in front of his stomach. “Um, Mr. Rainier? Maybe you should call their bluff. You said the formula is secure. Just don’t react to the email.”
It was Rainier’s turn to cough.
Garcia’s eyes bugged out. “They sent proof they have it?”
“An early version of the formula. Not perfect, but close enough.”
Silence reigned for the next two minutes. At last, Garcia swallowed audibly. “I think you might have to give them what they want, sir.”
“What? How do I explain that to the shareholders, Garcia? Sorry, decreased dividends for you folks. They’ll sell before they hit the door.”
“Maybe senior management could give up bonuses this year.”
“Garcia, you’re – “ Rainier almost said he was fired, and then stopped himself. For all he knew, Garcia could be the one sending the emails. He had access to everything. Fire Garcia, and the formula would probably be on Wikipedia by lunchtime. He cleared his throat. “You’re probably right. I’ll find a way. Get back to work.”
Garcia didn’t need to be told twice.
Feeling like an idiot, Rainier called the head of Public Relations. “I want a statement out to the media this morning, out to all major media outlets. No new layoffs for Rainier Industries this year. Yes, I know what that means! Just do it!”
A buzz on her phone told Miranda Rainier that CNN had a headline with her father’s company in it. “No New Layoffs for Rainier,” it announced.
She texted the link to her best friend’s phone and added the message, Relax. Your mom’s job is safe.
A text came back immediately. OMG! I have to call mom. All good till next year.
She’ll be fine next year too. Don’t worry.
If her father started keeping all his important stuff in a bank vault instead of his top drawer, she might have a problem, but Miranda didn’t think that would ever happen. Dad didn’t trust strangers.
Kimberly Emerson is currently working on one novel, seeking representation for another, and considering a twelve step group for her short story habit. Okay, that’s not true, she’s entering short story contests, but when you think about it, that’s kind of the same thing. Her cat Zoe wishes Kimberly great literary success, because humans make much better cat servants when they work at home. Make her cat happy and subscribe to her blog, http://www.kimberlyemerson.com.
We’ve been busy. This site has fallen silent over the past months. But life has a way of stabilizing again and bringing things back into balance. Novels have been written, agents have been wooed or are being wooed and now, it’s time to return our attention to this place of creativity and whimsy. It is simply too fun to let go.
So… we’re back!
Erika had the following prompts to choose from for her challenge:
Amy- Strawberry Bubble Gum
Cameron- It’s a proven fact that you never have double stick tape when you need it.
Jen- Opening line: In the end it was the spiders that got her.
Wendy- Harry Potter meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Anyone who knows me would assume I would pick the Buffy and Harry prompt and that includes me. I’m still shocked, but I chose… Amy’s.
“Did bad people steal nice lady’s clothes?” I heard a piping voice above me.
I opened my eyes, blinking against the bright June sunshine. Straightening my sunglasses, I squinted at the small figure hovering above me. Wait, hovering? Yelping, I grabbed my towel and sat up in the chaise. “You… what are you?” I squawked as I covered my red bikini.
Stumbling, I stood and backed across the deck, searching for the sliding glass door. My heart pounded.
“My name is Heddywn ap Heilyn ap Awstin,” he began. The air around him shone gold.
I cut him off. “Whoa. Stop. That’s a lot of names.” My head was pounding from last night’s kegger. Never again, I swore.
“I have sixteen more names, lady,” he replied, drawing himself up to his full height of less than a foot in mid-air. He took his cap off in a sweeping motion and bowed. “And my service you have.” His aura shifted to a cheerful yellow.
“My service, help, for thanks to you, most beneficent provider of the victuals.” He came closer and I drew back, my head bumping the glass door of my parents’ house. Add the thump to my hangover and a merry drum circle of pain danced around my brain. Ugh, never again I silently repeated, staring at my unlikely guest.
He was adorable. Dark hair, dimples, ravishing blue eyes, and, oh yeah, about ten inches tall with wings moving as fast as a hummingbird’s. Wings.
I cleared my throat. “Victuals?” I asked, proud that my voice didn’t crack. Part of me wanted to duck inside and lock the door, but part of me couldn’t take my eyes of this itty bitty vision of perfection. I mean, a fairy? In my parents’ backyard?
“Yes, victuals,” he said, waving an arm around the deck. “The best in our territory. See the nectar.” He pointed to the hummingbird feeder. His aura changed again, transitioning from yellow to a brilliant blue.
“For the birds,” I said. He ignored me.
“The salty, yummy goodness,” he continued, waving at the remains of yesterday’s lunch on the deck’s picnic table.
“Curly fries. Can’t argue with you there,” I said.
“Chewy, fatty, manna from heaven.” He pointed to the plate which had held this morning’s microwave bacon. I couldn’t finish it, but the dish was clean now.
“Bacon.” I sighed. “That about sums it up.”
“But most munificent of all,” he said, flitting to and fro in the air, gesticulating as he spoke, “for us, you left… BEER!” The air around him shone bright yellow again.
He swooped over a cache of beer bottles on the deck left where my friends and I had discarded them last night before heading out to the party. I made a mental note to clean up. It was still a few days until my parents got back from San Diego, but no sense leaving everything for the last minute. Their view of their nineteen-year-old drinking was bound to be dim.
“Look, um, what do I call you?”
“I am Heddywn ap Heilyn ap Awstin–“
“Right, right, I got that.” I relaxed and sat down on a bench at the table. My companion, or hallucination depending on your point of view, sat on a candle across from me. “Look, would you be offended if I called you something else?”
“You wish to give me a title?” He perked up and slicked his hair back. I couldn’t see that he needed to worry. Add another five feet and a few inches and he would be calendar worthy material. He was strangely dressed. His clothes were a bit of this and a bit of that, crudely stitched odds and ends.
“Yeah, right, a title.’ I thought for a moment. He was hot enough to appear on romance covers. Well, matchbook size covers. “Let’s call you… Fabio.”
“Sure, Sir Fabio. Um, are you a fairy?”
“Fairy? Me? No, fairies are scary, grumpy, and huge.” Fabio’s blue eyes were wide and his aura changed to a bright turquoise. I thought perhaps the changing shades represented the swing of his emotions. “I am a pixie.”
“A pixie. Wow, I’ve never met a pixie before.”
“Excellent! I am the first!” He flew up in the air like a shot and did a loop-the-loop. “Now, shall nice lady convey titles to my clan?”
“Uh, my name is Molly. Clan?” Before I had time to think Fabio gave a shrill whistle and I winced as the yard exploded in color and movement. One, two, three… six more winged beings emerged, their little high-pitched voices all talking at once.
Each pixie was dressed like Fabio in a bit of this and a bit of that. Their wings caught the summer sun in an iridescent rainbow’s shine. The air around each diminutive being shone with changing colors.
After a few moments seven pixies alighted on my table. The six newcomers lined up and Fabio marched before them, his wings neatly tucked against his back and his expression serious. “Pixies of the Green House That Once Held a Black Cat,” he said with a solemn air. I started, my parents’ cat Sebastian died a year ago. Had these beings been here all along? Fabio continued, “This is Molly, She Who Left The Supreme Victuals, and she has decided to gift us all with titles.”
“Ohhhhh,” breathed the assembled pixies. They all regarded me with wide eyes.
I rubbed my forehead, wondering what had happened to my quiet, recover-from-a-hangover day. “Right, okay, titles for everyone.” Gazing at the group, though their clothes were rag-tag, there was no denying that these were beautiful creatures. I had a sudden inspiration. “You need special names, er, titles.”
I pointed to the first, a gorgeous little blond, a goddess in miniature. “You shall be Lady Charlize.” Next was a copper-skinned little angel. “Lady Beyonce.” Finally, Lady Ginger rounded out the females. My head was spinning, so I gave the males the first names that came to me: Prince William, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling.
What? They seemed happy.
I sat back and watched as they cavorted and played, calling one another their new titles in high, squeaky voices. Shifting fields of color radiated each pixie’s emotions through their auras. Matching expressions to colors I began to figure out what each shade meant. I got stuck on green until Prince William sidled up to Beyonce, glowing in verdant glory. She radiated red and smacked him upside his perfect little head when he got too handsy. Mystery solved.
As the shadows became long and my head felt better I decided it was time for me to change and grab some dinner. “Fabio?” I called.
“Yes, oh glorious Molly?” he answered.
I could get used to being treated like this, I thought. “Would you and your clan like some new clothes?” It occurred to me that my old Barbie and Ken clothes were just sitting there in the garage. Some were my sister’s, but Mom would never notice if I just took a few.
“You can do that?” Fabio asked,
“Sure, I think they’ll fit,” I said.
“First beer and now garments?” He shook his head. “We shall be like kings and queens amongst pixies.”
“Yeah, royalty, that’s it.” I ran to grab the clothes.
Returning, I brought the group my flashiest, most Vegas-worthy doll garments. I mean, why let them go to waste?
“We shall guard them with our paltry lives,” said Sir Ryan Gosling, hitting his tiny chest with one clenched fist. Fabio, Beyonce, and the rest watched him and then hurried to copy his movements.
“Ouch,” mumbled Charlize, who had gotten carried away in her chest-thumping enthusiasm.
“Look guys, I mean, knights and ladies, I need to get going. Don’t worry about the clothes. They’re yours to whatever you like with. I really need to think about getting this place cleaned up before my folks get home.”
“What is this ‘folks’?” asked Lady Ginger, toying with her fire-kissed locks.
“Those Who Rarely Leave Victuals,” intoned Fabio in a mournful voice.
“Oh, them,” said Ginger, her aura dampening for a moment.
“Yeah, them,” I said, “and they’ll pitch a fit if I leave everything like this.” I gestured to the remnants of various meals on the deck and throughout the yard. I liked to be outside and it showed. “I have to do the inside, too.”
“We hear your plea,” said Fabio, flying up to look me in the face. He saluted. “We shall clean this yard for you. It shall be as if we were never blessed with the victuals.”
“Thanks!” I raised my eyebrows. “Are you sure?”
“It would our honor,” he said and the other pixies nodded vigorously. Fabio’s gleeful smile reappeared. “Perhaps, oh glorious Molly, we might finish such snacks as can be discovered?”
“Certainly.” I smiled back. “In fact, here.” I ducked inside and grabbed a paring knife and a strawberry gumball. On the picnic table I cut the gum into seven ragged pieces. “Here’s an extra thank you for helping me out.”
The humming of their wings filled the air as the seven crowded around the unassuming pieces. “What is it?” “Can you eat it?” “It’s very pink.”
“It’s bubble gum and you chew it. Don’t swallow it. You can flatten it out and blow air against it and make bubbles. It’s fun, I promise.”
“Hmm, if you say so Munificent Molly,” said Fabio. The others nodded, frowns on their faces, radiating a faint rose luster. Annoyance? Doubt? Oh well, I hoped they liked the clothes. I needed to get some food. I was starved.
The next day I peeked outside. The back yard seemed empty. Had I imagined yesterday’s crazy events?
I walked across the deck. The yard, deck, and patio were immaculate. Garbage, beer bottles, everything was cleaned up, as though it had never been. The bubblegum was gone, too.
“Molly!” “Molly!” “Lady Molly!” My name was being called by many small voices. I turned and stifled a giggle. The clothes fit the pixies very well. However, the pixies had little regard for the intended sex of the wearer. I was treated to the sight of Brad Pitt in a ballerina tutu and Lady Beyonce in a white Liberace-style sequined tux. Color combinations were also original. For instance Sir Ryan Gosling looked quite fetching in a brilliant red and gold tartan plaid jacket with a purple floral wrap-around skirt. Pixies didn’t wear shoes, but Sir Fabio had made my plastic sparkling doll pumps into a necklace.
“You all look… stunning,” I said, biting the side of my cheek to keep from laughing as the little folk bowed and preened in their new finery.
“We know,” said Lady Charlize, batting her eyelashes coquettishly, “but that’s not the best part.”
“It’s not?” I said.
“No, the bubbles,” she said with a sigh. “The perfection that is the bubble. We have never experienced anything like it.”
“No other pixie has been so fortunate,” said Fabio in a serious voice. “All envy us now.”
“Okay, pixies love gum,” I said, biting my lip now. “Good to know.”
“Do you have more?” asked Lady Ginger in her lilting high tones.
“Shh,” said Prince William. “The benevolent Molly has already bestowed so much upon us.”
I waved my hands. “No problem, guys.” I laid another strawberry gumball on the table. “You all did such a great job on the yard. It’s the least I can do.”
“Ohhhh, more bubble!” squealed Brad Pitt, spinning around in delight. The other pixies capered and cried out in glee.
“A-ha!” came a new high-pitched voice.
I turned to the right side of the yard. Seven more pixies flew over my fence and hovered above my deck. They were dressed like my bunch had been yesterday, odds and ends, but they were also armed: screws, a nail file, a small screwdriver, half a scissors, all household instruments with a new purpose. “So, it is true,” said their leader, an exquisite little female with blue hair. “There exists more of this ‘bubble.'”
“Go Away, Clan From The Big Tree!” scolded Fabio, his aura going deep red. “This is our place and our bubble!” His companions rumbled their agreement (as much as pixies can rumble). Weapons appeared from out of nowhere amongst my stylish group.
“We take the bubble!” cried the feisty blue-haired leader and the two bands converged upon one another.
“Wait, wait!” I cried, slamming my hand on the table. They stopped and all the pixies hovered, watching me with weapons drawn.
“How about this,” I suggested, “You stop fighting and I give you another piece of bubblegum. Then each side can have their own gum.” I placed a second gumball on the picnic table.
There was a stunned silence. Fourteen sets of eyes stared first at me and then at the twin pink spheres on the wooden table.
“Two pieces of the strawberry bubble?” squeaked Prince William.
“Two?” echoed Charlize.
“Two,” I repeated firmly, “one for each side, but only if you promise not to fight.”
“Twice the bubble.” My diminutive friends’ faces were beatific.
“Twice the flavor.” Their fierce counterparts’ expressions were likewise entranced. I wondered what on earth manufacturers had put in this gum that it had such an effect on the pixie population of Alameda County.
“Twice the happiness.”
There was silence. I exhaled, blowing my bangs upward. The tiny would-be warriors sounded a lot like a commercial. “So, we’re good now, right?”
“So good,” squeaked Charlize. “Twice as much for the victor!”
“Wait, no fighting,” I said, but no one was listening to me, giant or not.
“For the bubble!” cried Fabio.
“The bubble!” screamed the other pixie clan.
And with that, the battle was joined.
P.S. To My BBB Gals (That’s Beer & Bacon Babes to those not in the know)- I hope you noticed that I included all our favorites in this story: beer, bacon AND babes- LOL! Love you, my writing friends!
This post was written by Erika Gardner. If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog or on her personal site www.erikagardner.com. You can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.