Flash Fiction Friday: Gift of a Lifetime

Welcome to my irregular feature, Flash Fiction Friday. Every once in a while, I dash off a short piece. It’s kind of a vacation, maybe even a recharge when I’m working on novel-length stories. I’m not going to tell you what the story prompt was this time. Guess it if you can. Even if you can’t agues it, I hope you enjoy this short piece about a gift of a lifetime.


Gift of A Lifetime

Photograph of a sad young woman sitting on the floor, against the wall. The only light from an arched stained glass window. A perfect illustration for this flash fiction friday story: Gift of a Lifetime.

She sank down the wall, sat on the floor with her knees tight to her chest, and stared… at nothing. Because she had nothing left. They were supposed to have a lifetime together. But her husband died six months ago. Systemic organ failure, the doctor had said. How did a young man in the prime of his life die of organ failure? A flaw in his DNA. That’s not supposed to be possible. A century ago sure, but not today. Not to her husband. Except it had.

Outside, rain fell in a steady downpour. Suited her mood, though her tears had dried weeks ago. She should get up and fix something to eat, but she had no energy. Had no desire to eat. No desire to move. No desire. So she sat. And didn’t eat. Didn’t move.

A sound roused her. It was dark. She hadn’t turned on any lights. The doorbell rang.

She rolled to her knees, stood. Her stiff muscles protested. She stumbled, her legs weaker than they should be. The house sensed her movement, turned the lights on.

“Special delivery,” said the man in the brown uniform. “Want me to bring it inside?” He pointed to an enormous box.

“I didn’t know you’d deliver it at night.” She couldn’t take her eyes off the box. Noticed the delivery man’s eye roll. “Yes, please. Bring it in.” She stepped out of his way. “No, not on the rug. Over there, on the tile.”

Touched her third finger and thumb together, then waved her wrist over the delivery man’s scanner.

“Thanks for the generous tip, Mam–”

Press the door closed on him, her palm flat against the center panel. The door latched and locked.

Circling the box, she reached toward the seal, her hand shook. She drew her hand back. Held both hands against her trembling chest. Slow breath in and out. First things first.

She dragged a tall goose-necked lamp to each corner. Adjusted their shades so their light warmed the cold cardboard.

Ate a bowl of rehydrated vegetable soup. It was hot but tasted like cardboard. She drank a large glass of water.

And returned to her chair. Stared at the box under its lights for days.

On the twenty-first day, she stood toe-to-box and placed three of her fingers on the seam in the order of her official signature. The box unsealed.

Another touch and the box flowered open. The milk-colored sack crisscrossed with brown veins quivered and rounded. Then stretched upward. Stretched thin. And thinner.

Rip.

She caught her breath. Quietly clapped her hands.

First one, then the second glistening hand reached through the hole in the sack. Both hands reached toward the ceiling then spread apart. Ripped the bag all the way open. A watery fluid wet the cardboard and floor.

Her chest filled with warmth. She cupped the cheeks of the young man with dark, soft as down hair.

He rose from his fetal position.

“Happy birthday, Adan,” she said gaily. “Let’s try this lifetime thing again, shall we?”


Thank You for Reading

Did you guess the writing prompts for this piece? You might also enjoy “All Systems Nominal” or “For Better or Worse.”

Did you like “Gift of a Lifetime”? Want to guess at the writing prompts? I’d love to read your comments.

First Lines from Legendary SF and F True Fans Read

First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These are the First Lines from Legendary SF and F true fans read. Do they hook you? Which one(s) will you read?


The cover of The Blazing World and Other Writings includes a portrait of a 17th century woman holding a glob while sitting behind a table with a skull on it. It appears above one of the first lines ffrom Legendary SF and F.

A noble gentleman that had been married many years, but his wife being barren, did bear him no children; at last she died, and his friends did advise him to marry again, because his brother’s children were dead, and his wife was likely to have no more: so he took to wife a virtuous young Lady, and after one year she conceived with child, and great joy there was of all sides: but in her child-bed she died, leaving only one daughter to her sorrowful husband, who in a short time, oppressed with melancholy, died, and left his young daughter, who was not a year old, to the care and breeding of his brother, and withal left her a great estate, for he was very rich.

The Blazing World Margaret Cavendish (1666)

The cover of this version of the book Frankenstein shows a sepia toned look down a path in a forest. One of the legendary SF and F.

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.

Frankenstein Mary Shelley (1818)

The cover for Isaac Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy shows saucer shaped futuristic or other worldly buildings on tall spindles. A man in robes sits before one of the spindles. A legendary SF and F title.

HARI SELDON—… Born in the 11,988th year of the Galactic Era; died 12,069. The dates are more commonly given in the terms of the current Foundational Era as—79 to the year 1 F.E. Born to middle-class parents on Helicon, Arcturus sector (where his father, in a legend of doubtful authenticity, was a tobacco grower in the hydroponic plants of the planet), he early showed amazing ability in mathematics.

Foundation Isaac Asimov (1951)

The novel The Stars my Destination has a tight focus on a woman's eye. Superimposed over the eye is scome white lines and boxes and a blue ring.

He was one hundred and seventy days dying and not yet dead.

The Stars My Destination Alfred Bester (1957)

Lem's cover of Solaris is a silohette of a bald humanoid figure from the shoulders up looking out at a blue field of stars with the edge of an orange planet or sun at the top of the image.

At nineteen hundred hours ship’s time I climbed down the metal ladder past the bays on either side into the capsule.

Solaris Stanislaw Lem (1961)

The cover of Dune has alternating orange and yellow sand dunes with two yellow moons visible in a star studded night sky at the top of the page. A lone figure in white strides toward the horizon, his cape fluttering in the wind.

In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.

Dune,Frank Herbert (1965)

This yellow cover shows leg restraint with a broken chain and the other end of the chain is attached to a planet

I see in Lunaya Pravada that Luna City Council has passed on first reading a bill to examine, license, inspect—and tax—public food vendors operating inside municipal pressure.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein (1966)

Anna Kavan's book, Ice, has a cover that is an albino-like woman's portrait on a blue field. Superimposed over the blue and the woman's face is white frost-like graphics.

I was lost, it was already dusk, I had been driving for hours and was practically out of petrol.

Ice, Anna Kavan (1967)

The cover of the left hand of darkness is a graphic representation of rays a light colored star field and a dark colored star field that meet in a horizontal center line. Radiating lines cross from the center of the horizontal line out to the edges of each star field

I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)

On A Scanner Darkly's cover is a palm-up hand holding some little blue pieces. In the background behind the fingers is a yellow, lit light bulb with a curing extension cord leading to a round wall outlet.

Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair.

A Scanner Darkly, Philip K Dick (1977)

Clarification

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. These titles are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Now, if you buy My Soul to Keep or Fellowship… that will put a little money in my pocket. And a gigantic smile on my face. I love my readers.

Do You Want to Read More Legendary SF and F?

Did you enjoy theses first lines from legendary SF and F? You might also enjoy previous First Line Friday posts.

And you’ll put another enormous smile on my face if you comment below. Which first lines spoke to you? Did you buy or borrow it?

Story Time Reviews “Kin”

Story Time Reviews remembers that special time when an adult reads to a child and recognizes that as a grown-up, we need to reward ourselves with a story time now and then. I’m reviving this blog series that offers reviews of stories read aloud. Today Story Time Reviews “Kin” by Bruce McAllister read on “LeVar Burton Reads.” This podcast originally posted on June 13, 2017. It runs 36:46 minutes in length.

The Amazon cover is a close up of an alien eye. It is the cover for the story Kin by Bruce McAllister.

The Story

“Kin” by Bruce McAllister appeared in the February 2006 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It received a nomination for the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Short Story. The story appears in multiple anthologies and is an Amazon “short read.

The story is about a meeting between a young boy who has a need and an alien assassin. Their meeting yields unexpected results.

The principal character, a twelve-year-old boy, is convincing. The author’s words paint the alien assassin in scary otherworldly details.

The story starts in a third person omniscient viewpoint that quickly switches to a closer third-person viewpoint and shatters conventions by relaying the story from three different viewpoints.

One might think three viewpoints would make the story flabby and difficult to follow. Yet, the story, the boy’s need, grabs you and sweeps you forward relentlessly to the end.

The Voice Talent

Photo portrait of LeVar Burton
Image by Super Festivals from Ft. Lauderdale, USA –
Photo_Ops-LeVar_Burton_20181202_0024, CC BY 2.0,

LeVar Burton is an actor, presenter, and author know by many of us. He is best known for his role as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and his role as Kunta Kinte in the ABC miniseries Roots.

Mr. Burton has long been an advocate of reading. He hosted the long-running PBS show for children, Reading Rainbow (1983-2001 and 2002-2006). He started his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads in 2017. (Read his Wikipedia bio.)

In every episode of his podcast, he reads a short story aloud. He says the only thing these stories have in common is that he loves them.

The Author

Bruce McAllister, author of literary and genre fiction, was born October 17, 1946, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Worlds of If magazine published McAllister’s first short story, “The Faces Outside,” in the July 1963 issue. He was sixteen. The story appeared in Isaac Asimov Presents The Great SF Stories 25 (1963) and The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best SF, 1964.

Known for his short stories, he has published novels, poetry, short stories and articles, been a consultant to writers on film and TV projects for studios and production companies. He taught literature and writing. Currently he’s a writing coach in Southern California where he lives with his wife. He has three children.

My Opinion

In the Air is a blog post about recent podcasts, livestreaming, and YouTube videos Lynette M Burrows enjoyed recently.

I love listening to Mr. Burton. I think he could entertain me by reading the dictionary. In this story, his delivery of a unique voice for each character worked perfectly for me. But this story is as satisfying to read silently as to listen to it.

You know why this story appealed to me if you’ve read My Soul to Keep. Specific details and an emotional resonance make this story a satisfying read, and Mr. Burton’s wonderful voice makes it an enthralling listen.

Conclusion

Story Time Reviews “Kin” by Bruce McAllister receives 5 out of 5 stars.

I hope you like the Story Time Reviews posts. They will make occasional appearances on this blog. Did Story Time Reviews “Kin” help you decide you’d like to read or listen to this story? Why or why not?

Discover Hope in Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels

Reading can be escape and inspiration. Sometimes reading is difficult. Other times it’s easy. Reading can open our eyes and minds and hearts to different ways to think, a new world, or to life, love, and maybe death. One of the greatest things reading can give us is hope. Hope grew scarce during 2020. Now, the glimmer of hope taunts us while we must continue fighting a pandemic and the capriciousness of life. Discover hope in science fiction and fantasy novels. May these quotes give you respite from whatever troubles you.

Image of stars on a purple-black field of space where you can discover hope in science fiction and fantasy novels

Even when the world throws it worst and then turns its back, there is still always hope.

Pittacus Lore, The Power of Six

Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in 10 seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Kindness eases change.
Love quiets fear.
And a sweet and powerful
Positive obsession
Blunts pain,
Diverts rage,
And engages each of us
In the greatest,
The most intense
Of our chosen struggles.

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of Talents

Image of a dock reaching out into a lake reflecting the morning sunrise

Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.

Marie Lu, Legend

Know yourself. You are worth knowing. Examine your life. The unexamined life is not worth living. Be aware that other people have equal significance. Give them the space to make their own choices, and let their choices count as you want them to let your choices count. Remember that excellence has no stopping point and keep on pursuing it. Make art that can last and that says something nobody else can say. Live the best life you can, and become the best self you can. You cannot know which of your actions is the lever that will move worlds. Not even Necessity knows all ends. Know yourself.

Jo Walton, The Just City

My Personal Favorite

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, its only a passing thing this shadow. Even darkness must pass.

J. R. R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

Conclusion

A profound phrase, “Even the darkness must pass.” Be assured, no matter the darkness and pain you face, it will pass. Discover Hope in science fiction and fantasy novels or any books you read. It’s the miracle respite for whatever troubles you. What inspirational quotes have you discovered while reading?

First Line Friday Full of SF and F Love Stories

February’s First Line Friday Full of SF and F Love Stories is part of a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?


Cover of Shades of Treason by Sandy Williams has a woman glaring at the camera and holding a futuristic weapon. The background shows a futuristic city. It's a story full of SF and F Love

When Commander Rhys “Rest in Peace” Rykus walked back into her life, Ash smiled because she knew it would piss him off.

Shades of Treason: An Anomaly Novel by Sandy Williams

“Lady Mother,” Adena whispered, lips barely moving. “I don’t think I can do this.”

Chosen by the Rakian Commander: Rakian Warrior Mates by Elin Wyn

Not long ago, the sweaty hand snaking up my skirt toward my ass would have turned to mummy dust on contact, but I restrained myself.

To Catch a Stolen Soul: A djinn haven story by R.L. Naquin

“Mom?” I pushed my headphones off my ears and looked at my bedroom door. I could have sworn I heard a scream.

Defy the Ravaged: Matron’s Watchmen Book 1 by E.M. Raegan

Last month, Cupid shot my size-six ass with an arrow and saddled me with the soul mate from hell.

Struck By Eros: Redeeming Cupid: Book 1 by Jenn Windrow

The ash gathered on an empty road road that ran through the desert. It fell with a muffling effect, like heavy, dense snowstorms.

To The North by Bruce W. Perry

Humanity was dying but it seemed like no one else could see it.

Leaving Earth: Leaving Earth Series by J. W. Scarpacci

Zayn worked the chains fastened around his wrists, feeling the weak spot he’d made over the past few weeks with a loose shard of steel.

Exposed: Tribute Brides of the Drexian Warriors Book 3 by Tana Stone

Please Note

There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. These titles are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

Of Course, if you buy one of my books… that will put a little money in my pocket. And a gigantic smile on my face. I love my readers.

Do You Want to Read More?

I hope you enjoyed this First Line Friday Full of SF&F Love Stories for February. First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. In the comments, let me know which first lines appealed to you. Want more? Check out previous First Line Friday posts. And come back next month.