Monday, July 30, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 38 - Christopher Grant


It was as blue a sky as I had ever seen, no clouds, no worries.

The bank stood before the four of us as if it were our salvation. In a way, it was. Business had been slow. Gary was on hard times. Marie wasn't making much driving in races. And Tyler, who knows?

I dropped the cigarette and stepped on it. I turned and reached back into the car and pulled out my bag, guns and a mask inside. Enough room to stash cash. Gary and Tyler followed suit.

I turned to Marie. "If something happens, don't come in. Don't get yourself in any deeper than this. Just go."

She smiled and got back into the car.

"Okay, boys. Let's go get our money."

Through the doors, masks on, guns out. Gary had a shotgun. Tyler, a sawed-off, I had a handgun in either hand. And I had the attention of everyone in the bank.

"No one gets hurt!" I was making it clear I didn't want anything funny from the people inside or either of my two men.

I heard the sawed-off and everything went sideways. One of the guards was on the floor, bleeding from the round he took to the gut. There was a scream from somewhere behind me.

I was in Tyler's face and had the gun in my right hand pressed against it.

"What are you doing?" I hissed, just itching to squeeze the trigger.

"He was reaching," Tyler said, his face obscured by the mask. I could tell that he was sneering, defiant behind the cloth.

Gary, meanwhile, was getting nervous and had forgotten about the second guard, who wasn't bothering with his partner, looking to become a hero while we argued.

My left hand came up and cocked the gun, pointing at him. I hadn't taken my attention off Tyler.

"Heroes get dead quick," I said, watching him out of the corner of my eye. He lowered his hand from the holstered gun.

"Slide it over to my friend," I told him.

He did. Gary picked it up, hands shaking slightly as he put the gun in his waistband.

The alarm was going off. The cops were on their way. The heist was a bust, the guards from the vault were no doubt on their way up.

"We're leaving," I said, lowering the gun from Tyler's face and motioning Gary to go out the door.

The three of us took off down the steps towards the car. I felt the first raindrop hit the back of my hand. Marie had a look of excitement on her face. I shook my head and, as soon as we were all in, the shower became a deluge. Marie floored it.

Inside the garage and out of the car, I nailed Tyler with a right to the nose, hoping to hell that I had broken it.

He'd cost us millions of dollars. I'd spend time scouting the location, getting the plan together, sitting up nights trying to make it make sense in my head, getting the crew together.

"Get down on your knees," I said, pulling one of the handguns out. "Now!"

Tyler did as he was told. His nose was broken, I was happy. I wanted more.

"Beg me not to blow your pathetic brains all over this goddamn garage." I was enjoying the moment.

He wouldn't beg so I kicked him forward and put my foot on the back of his neck. I was trying to put as much weight as I could on my foot, hoping I'd break his neck. I thought I had showed remarkable restraint. He was still breathing.

Marie finally snapped back to reality and told me that maybe I'd gone a little too far. I looked at her, watched her flinch back, like I was going to hit her. I would never hit her. I just didn't want to stop torturing the son of a bitch that had burned us.

Taking my foot off his neck, I told him to get up. He raised up slightly and I brought my boot across his face, knocking him backward.

Right into the sawed-off he'd dropped when I'd sucker-punched him. He had it on Marie and me and a sick grin on his face, as if to say, "What now, motherfucker?"

A clap of thunder and the gunshot merged as I answered him, pulling my own trigger.

Bio: Christopher Grant is a writer in such diverse areas as crime fiction, science fiction, comics and political commentary. He has stories on his own site and can be reached there or at<

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Power Burn Flash # 37 - John Young

Twilight Inspiration

Hailed as the year’s premiere painter, Fausto vaulted down the art museum steps singing “ai, ai, ai, ai!” He jumped from the last step to the sidewalk and strutted down the street, his silhouette passing beneath the gas lamps. Benito hid in the alley between the museum and the parking garage. He whispered, “Now, the day has come” through frosty breath as Fausto passed.

Benito swallowed hard, his heart pounded in his throat, and his neck tensed in anticipation. He fell in behind Fausto and followed him for a few blocks as the twilight shadows gave way to night. Benito wiped his nose with his sleeve and his nostrils smelled his hidden barbiturates. _Yes, it is time!_ he thought. He removed a rag from his pocket and wrapped it around Fausto’s head, smothering his face.

“You stole my ideas, you dog!” Benito whispered into Fausto’s ear.

Fausto’s deep, frightened gasp of breath rendered him unconscious. Benito dragged him to the curb where he had parked the car and dumped him in the back. He looked at the lifeless body and thought what a tragedy their friendship had become. Artists were born to create, not destroy.

Back at his studio, Benito plunged a brush into a palette and stroked the final canvas with vengeance. Garish reds and burning oranges striped in black surrounded the scene. The penultimate scene depicted Benito veiled in shadows while Fausto strutted with a devilish grin. The preceding paintings showed a relationship gone sour. The paintings began with two friends, arms wrapped around each other, hoisting victorious paintbrushes in the air. He named a later painting “Betrayal.” In it, Fausto faces a painting of the Mexican Revolution and a lifeless rooster dangles from his hand, a pot of gold in his other.

Benito’s current painting was titled “Revenge.”

His aggressive strokes created two men in an operating room. One was fastened to a surgical table; the other hovered over him with a scalpel. He made a deep, probing incision in his captive’s brain and revealed meager creative powers. He was not surprised.

In one corner of the frontal lobe, he discovered a prison cell. Benito’s epic painting of the Mexican Revolution was there. The surgeon left limp, sticky matter on the row of mangled bars. He had placed his stolen idea on the table and signed his name near the bottom, but opportunity for public recognition had passed. Instead, he would return the idea to the thief’s mind, this time forever imprinted with the true creator’s signature. He altered a fallen soldier’s face to look like his own. From then on, whenever the fraud thought about the stolen idea, he would see the true artist’s identity.

Fausto lay strapped to a table and watched over Benito’s shoulder as the painting came to be. Benito lay down the paintbrush and selected his next tool: a silver scalpel speckled with paints. He initiated Fausto to true inspiration as he held his forehead still and brought the bitter, cold metal to his flesh.

John is a Los Angeles, California native whose non-fiction work has appeared in The Chiron Review, and fiction in Edifice Wrecked, Flashquake, FlashShot, Hapa Nui, Laughter Loaf, LitBits, Lunarosity, Mytholog, The Pedestal Magazine, Shine, Stories for Children, Susurrus, and Versal Fiction.

He writes the featured market column for the Pam Casto’s e-newsletter, Flash Fiction Flash. Read more about John at his web site:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 36 - William J. Brazill

The Act

From the seventh-floor window of the hotel you watch the limousines on the street below. Important-looking men, powerful, indispensable, some gold-braided in uniform, others rigid in formal attire, stand ready to enter them. Aides and bodyguards cluster around them, a testament to their importance. You are ready to perform the Act.

Waiting for the moment focuses your mind as never before. Clarity. Yes, that is what you feel. You now know with certainty. After years of doubt, self-contempt, you know. You are surprised how calm you feel. You sense that the wheel is turning and that you are no longer who you have been.

This present moment imperceptibly transforms itself into a focus that filters all past memory into the now. A memory of humiliation and despair. You feel that past intensely, the need to overcome it. It is a past in which you were taught to despise yourself, to feel contemptible, to believe that you belong to an inferior people. The authorities relentlessly sought to erase the history of your people and tried to eradicate your language. They demanded that you learn their language and speak it exclusively. That separated the generations, parents divided from children. It was all done to convince you that you had no future.

You had to carry special identity papers that the police could demand at any time, in any place, and without any evident reason. With these papers the authorities defined you as one of the dispossessed. You remember the humiliation of your sisters being searched at checkpoints, their bodies probed by the groping hands of leering, lewd-mouthed guards who smelled of oiled leather and sweat-stained khaki, the stench of power.

Their aim was to deny you hope. You and your people. Their messages beamed at you relentlessly from television screens and from newspapers and from motion pictures were meant to make you disbelieve in your own worth. The omnipresence of military patrols was meant as a constant reminder that you were controlled, that they had all the power and they always would. That you were powerless.

They flaunted their control as permanent, eternal. The natural order of things. You were taught that change was not possible. You were not to think that your lives could be different. You were to accept, to be passive, even though their system assured that you would be fixed in poverty and despair. You know that to be deprived of hope is to be deprived of your humanity.

But you came to find community in dispossession. In defiance of all logic you began to feel solidarity with others of your own kind, nodding imperceptibly as you passed by on the streets, then speaking in subdued whispers at furtive encounters, finally meeting clandestinely. Educating yourselves to believe that this situation need not be permanent, that change is possible. And understanding that only action can redeem paralysis, fill emptiness, and give you the identity you are being denied. You talked about the Act, that sacred moment capable of transforming despair into hope. You came to long for it, all of you, as a way to find redemption, to become human beings. The Act would free you of all that stood in the way of your freedom, all that degraded you, for to destroy is to create. You came to know that one day you would commit the Act, and you devoted your entire being to preparing for it. You finally realized a terrible truth: Death is the affirmation of your life.

The hood of the first slow-moving limousine passes the rear bumper of the explosives-laden parked car. You hold the remote control detonating device tightly in your hand,watching, waiting, totally calm. It seems to pulse in your hand as if alive. Its switchyields effortlessly to the slight pressure of your finger. You do not even see the flash of light. You do not hear the explosion. You sense only the total calm at the center of your being.

The Act comes without sensation. There is the absolute stillness of the moment. As if all feeling were negated at the core. You sense the wheel turn faster and faster, but the hub is motionless, totally still. You are that hub. A vacuum, void of emotion. A center of being now totally fulfilled. You hear your voice, as if that of a stranger, say, "I am!"


BIO: William Brazill lives in Virginia on the banks of the Potomac River where he writes fiction and watches the water flow by. His most recent stories have appeared in Amsterdam Scriptum, Long Story Short, LitBits, Hack Writers, and Electric Acorn.