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Friday, April 06, 2012

#FridayFlash: Times of Trouble

Several readers thought last week’s story, Let It Be, needed a little room to grow. It agreed, naturally.

Times of Trouble

Running, hiding, resting… then far too soon, doing it all over again under the angry sky. So Mary ran, dodging through the debris of what was a generic suburb only a few days before. Before she’d made her beast real, and set it loose to rampage across the world. Now Mom was dead from alcohol poisoning, and who knew where Dad ran off too?

Holding a rag to her mouth, she ran through smoke and dust —

“Hey! Is someone there? Help!”

Mary skidded to a stop, looking around.

“Over here!” A boy’s voice. He coughed, and Mary saw him wave. She reached behind her back, making sure the butcher knife was still in its sheath. She’d only had to draw it once in the last few days, and that was enough to make the asshole back off. Maybe she was just an emo art chick on Monday, but now it was Thursday. Or maybe Friday. Now she was someone who could bring utter destruction with a few strokes of a pencil.

“Can you get this off me?” He looked soft, like a gamer or geek, seated with his back to the building wall. A utility pole lay over his legs; it wasn’t crushing him but it had him trapped. “Do you have any water? I’m thirsty.”

“How long have you been here?” She slid her pack off her shoulders, keeping her knife hand free, and fished past her sketchpad for a water bottle.

“Since this morning. One of those earthquakes hit, I ran outside, fell down, and this happened before I could think. Thanks.” He drained the bottle. “Hey — don’t you go to Four Oaks?”

Mary squinted, trying to put a name to the face. “Yeah. Or I did.” She looked at the end of the pole. “I dunno if I can move this or not.”

“I’m Eric Perch.”

“Yeah, that’s right. You were in my U.S. History class. I’m Mary Smith.”

He sang, not too badly: “When I find myself in times of trouble, something Mary comes to me —”

“Haha.” She straddled the pole and heaved at it, then put her back to the wall and tried pushing with her feet. “Crap. Sorry.”

“Maybe you can lever it off?”

“With what?” She looked around, but didn’t see anything.

“Well, you can’t just leave me here!”

“Wait. Wait a minute. Let me think.” Mary stepped back and stared, composing the scene. I can’t, she thought. But if she did those other things, why not this? Why not something useful? She sat down, some distance away, and took out her sketchpad.

“What are you doing?”

“Shut up. I need to think.” Mary sketched the side of the building, then Eric standing, looking down at the pole. After a minute, she lost herself in the drawing. It might work, she thought, looking it over. Under the pole, and snaking around his feet, she added LET IT BE, several times. “Pull your feet in, if you can,” she said.


“Just do it!”

“Fine!” A minute later, she heard then felt the ground shake. She put her hands out, looking around her to make sure nothing was about to crush her. The pole lurched forward and rolled away.

“Yes!” She looked, and Eric pushed himself upright, staring at the pole. “I’m free! Hey… how did you know the earthquake was about to happen? What were you drawing?”

Mary sighed and showed him the sketch. “I made it happen.”

“No way.” But Eric’s voice held no conviction.

“Yeah, way. Why do you think the tornado hit the school last Tuesday?” She flipped to the drawing of Amber’s dead hand. “Or that… thing out there?” She showed him the beast.

“Wow. How did you get close enough to draw it?” he breathed.

“I drew it before. What’s the same in all of those?” She handed him the sketchpad and glared, arms crossed.

Eric flipped back and forth. “They’re all pencil or colored pencil, but that’s not what you’re asking, is it? Who’s this guy?”

“Some creep who tried to get too close two weeks ago.”

“Oh. Hey, is it the ‘let it be’ thing?”

“Yeah. If I write it on something I draw, it happens.”

Eric gave her a strange look — not total disbelief, but not belief either. “They say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” he said.

“Well, you’re standing up.”

“It could’ve been a coincidence.”

She glowered. “You want me to put you back under it?”

“No! No… wait.” His stomach growled, or maybe it was hers. “Food. Can you make food?”

“I never tried. And there’s gotta be food around here anyway.”

“Uh-uh. There were six of us until yesterday, we were staying in my apartment. We picked this area clean. They ditched me when we ran out.”

“Where’s your parents?”

He looked away and shrugged. “So can you do it?”

“I guess I’ll try. I’m hungry too.” She thought a minute, then sat down on the utility pole and started drawing: herself and Eric, sitting on the pole and sharing lunch. A plastic grocery bag sat at their feet. Not her best work, but… whatever. She added the magic words.

“I don’t see anything.”

“Stuff doesn’t happen right away. It usually takes a minute. Just —” Again, the ground shook. The trunk of a car across the way rose on its own, and Mary got up to check it out.

“Forget it,” said Eric. “We checked that car out three days ago.”

“Good.” Mary turned, holding a plastic grocery bag. “You can’t say it was there, then. Bread, peanut butter, jelly, and some plastic knives. All that, and a bag of chips!” She grinned. “Let’s eat. I hope you’re not allergic.”

Eric gaped. “Wow. That’s some trick. I’m glad you’re using your power for good now.”


“Yeah. With great power comes great responsibility.”

Mary shook her head. “I never asked for this. All I wanted was to be left alone.”



  1. I like the way this is unfolding Larry, the gift can be used for both good, and bad events. I'm not going to try to second-guess the finale, but as we all know... Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but maybe not in Mary's case... or then again...

  2. Careful what you ask for, Tony!

    Thanks, Steve. As for the finale… well, the story can end, but the character might go on…

  3. It's a bit 'Monkey's Paw' but who knows what she could achieve?! I'm sure Icy Von Doom's HR department would like a chat with her...

  4. I'm loving this, Larry. And the use of the "Let it Be" lyrics is a nice touch. I'm guessing "there will be an answer" to all of this chaos at some point? :)

  5. With a slight concept tweak, this may be just what you needed, Larry. Change the power-responsibility quote to: "With great power comes great opportunity." Simply have your character draw the current New York Best Sellers list with one of your books (perhaps Chasing a Rainbow) in the number 1 spot for say 200 weeks running. The magic words: Let it be ! If it works, not only will you have a new flash story but also a very lucrative business. :-)

  6. Loved it. LOL Guess she controls her power, huh?

  7. Cool! It reminded me of The Man Who Could Work Miracles by HG Wells.

    I love the idea of a Smith/Von Doom team-up.

  8. I like the interaction you've got going between these two and a fun premise. That ending line is fun.

  9. Ooh, and maybe now she doesn't want to be alone any more?

  10. Hey all!

    Icy, I mentioned that to her. She said something about drawing herself stepping off a plane at Heathrow…

    Thanks, Chuck. Yup, we'll shine until next Friday. :-D

    Rachel, that made me grin so wide my cheeks hurt! I think Mary would prefer White Pickups, as it features a fiery-tempered girl who knows how to use a gun…

    Sonia, I'm not sure she controls it so much, but at least she can get what she calls "something useful" from it!

    Katherine, I'll have to see if that one's on Gutenberg!

    Tim, I think she's in more of a "I'm stuck with him now" frame of mind…

  11. I completely disagree with Tony. As soon as she draws Superman, she can't take over the world and become the benevolent dictator that finally brings about world peace...because if you cross the Emperiss bad things will happen to you.

    Yea, I'd be taking over the world...no galaxy...because I'd draw some spaceships with warp drives :D

  12. Oh I love that she's drawing good stuff now - I wonder where this is all leading - there is a sequal - I know there is! :)

  13. One of your best, Larry. Starts with immediacy and drive, the dialogue is paced well, and there is a neat concept unearthed over the course. Also:

    Draw Superman! Draw Superman!

  14. Sweet story Larry. I'm glad she's using her powers for good. Eric seems to be a good influence

    "All that, and a bag of chips!”"

    Made me chuckle.

  15. Michael, I like the way you think! The Stars Will Be Ours!

    Helen, you are correct — the grand conclusion is coming Friday.

    JohnW… I think Tony has an ally here. ;-) Thanks much!

    Craig, I think Mary has mixed feelings about Eric. But she'll make a decision next week. Oh… and like me, Mary couldn't resist making a bad pun.

  16. Excellent concept here and the dialogue is brilliantly thoguht through. I had slight images of "I am Legend" and the 80s cartoon Chalrie and the land of chalk drawings. Fantastic

  17. Fantastic stuff, Larry. I too enjoyed the pace of this - I zipped through it at a fair rate of knots. Also:

    Draw Mule-Man! Draw Mule-Man!!

  18. The Wells story is indeed on-line, and amongst other places may be found here:


    My print copy of The Time Machine has it at the back of the book -- not sure where else it can be found.

  19. Hi Again Larry, if you would like to pop over to my blog I have something for you. :)

  20. Hi, Larry. Really liked the jump to a few days after the beast is out, and the havoc has been wrought... I guess she was pretty angry at the world.

    Given all that happened in the first part this seems a little tamer, but I guess it'll get darker again before the end. She's powerful, but it takes time, if someone wanted to take her out, well, I guess they'd just have to be quicker than her pencil...

  21. I love the way this story is developing Larry. The pace of the dialoge is perfect, and you dive straight away into some action and a pretty messy apocalyptic view. Good thing Mary's power is working for good as well.

    I'm keeping up with reading!

    Also- Draw a unicorn! Draw a unicorn!

  22. There's the whole problem of the beast being loose still. I mean, it's good and all that Mary's drawing positive things.

    But there's that beast running loose, ya'know? :)

    I like how this is going, Larry.


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