This is Little Wonders, our collection episodes featuring flash fiction and poetry centered around a theme. This episode we bring you the conclusion of our flash fiction month: Trope Twists!
By Jessica Holscher
Down a desolate and lonely dirt road, a young man walked toward the horizon. With a sword at his back, he traveled for destiny. The famed fortune teller of the town he’d just left, Madam Mystic, told him he would defeat the three headed dragon and save the princess. Without a moment’s hesitation, he headed for the beast to save the missing damsel.
Suddenly, a rustling caught his attention. Surely, he couldn’t have already reached the monster. He readied his sword and stood firm. The rustling grew louder and a female child emerged from the bush.
“Boy oh boy am I hungry. Do you have any food?” she asked.
“What are you doing all the way out here? It’s dangerous for a child.”
“It’s fine.” She held out her hand. “You can call me Dee.”
“Nathanial.” He shook her hand. “Lady Dee, I should take you home, but I am on an important mission. You’ll have to come with me, but do as I say and you won’t get hurt.”
“Is this a kidnapping? Are you kidnapping me?” Dee asked.
“Of course not. I just meant I’m off to defeat the three headed dragon, so listen to what I say or else it might eat you.”
“Sure,” Dee said. Then with a wicked smile, she added, “but I am not going home after. I don’t like it at home. It’s too stuffy.”
Nathanial decided not to argue with her. Although he had no intention of letting this child meander away after his battle, he didn’t want to waste any time before finding the three headed dragon. He had to reach the beast before it was too late to rescue the princess.
“So why are we killing the three headed dragon?” Dee asked.
“We are not doing anything. I am killing the dragon because he has captured the princess, and I am going to rescue her.”
Dee chuckled. “Oh, is that so? How do you know he has the princess?”
“Madam Mystic told me, but any fool would know that only something as evil as that dragon would kidnap a princess.”
“That lady is crazy. So are you and the princess friends?” Dee giggled.
“Well, no. I’ve never seen her. I’ve only just recently arrived in this land. I am a traveling warrior.”
“What a hero.”
A loud roar interrupted their conversation. Nathanial threw his arm in front of Dee to stop her advance. He unsheathed his sword and stood battle ready. Around the bend stood the three headed dragon, its body the size of a one story house.
“Is that the beast?” Dee asked. “Are you going to kill it now? How exciting.”
Nathanial scanned the beast for any weakness. It seemed unbeatable, but nothing was immortal.
“There!” Nathanial pointed at the monster’s chest. “Its heart is on the outside of its ribcage. Do you see the beating? A single strike to that would kill it instantly.”
“Yeah, easy.” Dee snorted. “Too bad those two extra heads are guarding it with their razor sharp teeth and probably fire breath!”
“Do dragons have fire breath?” Nathanial asked.
“How would I know? Aren’t you the hero? It just seems that every story I’ve heard they have fire breath.”
“I don’t think it has fire breath,” Nathanial said. “It’s just not physically possible.”
The dragon took a deep breath and made a coughing noise. A green liquid flew out and hit a nearby tree. The tree melted into a pile of goo.
“Oh, good,” Dee said. “No fire breath: just acid spit.”
The dragon then scorched the pile of goo with a long breath of pure fire.
“Oh, and fire breath. He has fire breath too,” Dee said. “You need a diversion or something to get its attention while you attack the heart.”
“No way am I letting you be a diversion.”
“Duh,” Dee said. “I wasn’t offering myself. I was just saying it would be nice if you had one.”
Enough was enough. Nathanial already knew the outcome of this battle. He could not fail. With a brave face, he raced at the three headed dragon. He jumped left to dodge a splash of acid spit. He rolled right to avoid a blistering burst of fire breath. Only feet from the beast, he raises his sword in victory and swung.
The three headed dragon blocked the blow with the tough scales of his arm and struck Nathaniel, causing him to fly a few hundred feet. He collided with a tree and came to a painful stop. Despite the stinging pain, he reached for his sword, but it was gone.
He had dropped it when the dragon blocked his attack.
The dragon stalked toward Nathanial and sucked in his breath, preparing for either a spit of acid or breath of fire. Just when Nathanial thought it was the end, the dragon began to choke.
“Haha! You suck, dragon!” Dee laughed.
Dee had picked up Nathanial’s discarded sword. She stood on the dragons left arm, the sword still in the dragon’s heart. With a great cry, the dragon tumbled to the ground, shaking the land around him. When the dust settled, Dee stood victorious, the sword still in her hand.
“That was so cool! I can’t believe I rescued someone.” Dee said. “I am so ready to go home now. I got that out of my system.”
“You killed it,” Nathanial said. “But I was supposed to.”
A swarm of guards surrounded the duo, their swords drawn on Nathanial.
“What’s going on?” Nathanial demanded.
One of the guards approached Dee. “Princess Deandra, I’m so glad you’re safe. We must take you home at once. Guards, capture that man.”
“Capture me for what?” Nathanial demanded.
“For kidnapping the princess and trying to feed her to the three headed dragon.” The guard patted Dee’s head. “I’m proud of you for managing to get his sword from him and defeat the monster all on your own.”
Dee smiled and winked at Nathanial. “I told you that Madam Mystic was crazy.”
The guards seized Nathanial as he screamed he was innocent. Perhaps Dee would tell the guards the truth. Perhaps.
Cast of Wonders 121: The Hero by Jessica Holscher is a Cast of Wonders original.
The Secret Life of Sleeping Beauty
By Charity Tahmaseb
“Try it,” my cousins say. They are the perfect princess trifecta, all in pink, peach, and plum.
I hesitate. I don’t trust myself. Not around things that are sharp. My mother, the queen, has banned all things pointy–embroidery and knitting needles, even crochet hooks, but the object in the corner of my room is different.
“Come on,” Plum says. She holds up her cell phone, ready to take a picture while the other two urge me forward. “You know how she is.”
I do. So does my mother, who always intones, “Never trust a woman whose only goal is to look as young as her teenage daughters.”
My aunt’s gifts have a way of backfiring. Last year, she gave me an elixir that makes your lips red like cherries and your cheeks glow like apples. I refused it, but my cousins guzzled it down. At that evening’s ball, fruit flies swarmed around them the entire time.
What I really want for my birthday is a baseball bat and glove. I want to round up the pages, cajole the scribe into keeping score, and play until the sun hovers low in the sky and it’s too late to bathe for a formal dinner, never mind the ball afterwards. But my cousins tremble; if they don’t get proof that I’ve at least touched the present, their mother will rage. Pity compels me forward. Besides, compared to last year, a spindle is downright practical. I reach out. Plum’s cell phone camera clicks.
Three seconds before I hit the stone floor, I think: my finger is going to hurt all day long.
Chaos roars around me, but I can’t wake. A narcoleptic slumber is no way to spend your sweet sixteen. My mother thunders at my cousins and they cower, all quivering tulle and satin.
My finger still hurts.
The sobs subside. Yawns fill the air. Courtiers sink to the floor. Page boys slump against the wall. My cousins, too, sleep. My mother tucks a blanket around me and kisses my forehead before taking to her own bed.
For one hundred years, we lie dormant. This wouldn’t be so bad except my cousins, they snore.
Heavy boots stomp. Swords rattle. The door crashes open. The scent of blood and sweat fills the room. Something looms above me, something I think means to kiss me.
I worry about one hundred years of neglected dental hygiene. But really? He’s the one with dragon breath. Volumes have been written about epic first kisses. This one? I’m not sure it rates a Facebook status update.
My eyes spring open, that kiss the living embodiment of caffeine. A boy I don’t recognize kneels by my bed. I worry about being nearly one hundred years older than he is. We will have to rename the village. Cougarville has a nice ring to it. First, we should probably get to know each other.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
I blink. I’m sure he’s many things. Clearly, he has mad skills in the sword-wielding department. But I was on the receiving end of that kiss. Charming? Not so much.
“Shall we marry at sunset?” he asks as if he already knows the answer.
Shall we . . .what? He squeezes my hand. Pain shoots through my finger and I yank free. Marry? For real? I’d rather swing a baseball bat . . . or a sword. And Charming does look tired. (I hear dragon-slaying is kind of stressful.)
After all this time, the spindle still sits in the corner of the room. I point to it.
“Can you bring me that?” I ask, all princess-y innocence. I should feel bad about this, but I don’t.
Charming only manages a step, spindle in hand, before he crashes to the floor, armor clanking loud enough to wake the dead. But they sleep on, and Charming’s snores blend with my cousins’. It’s a fairytale match, I think. They can fight over him once everyone wakes up. I fashion a new notch in his belt, then I attach the scabbard and blade around my waist. I pull on my own boots and pick up his shield. It feels good in my hand. I tuck a pillow beneath Charming’s head and leave the room.
My finger no longer hurts.
In the master suite, I pause next to my mother. A serene smile lights her face. I tuck the comforter around her shoulders and whisper, “I’ll be back.”
After I’ve slain a few dragons.
By Michael Strickland
The plan was simple.
Rent a gorilla costume, head out into the forest, shoot footage of a fake Bigfoot sighting, post the video on the internet and watch it go viral. Bask in the media frenzy, ink a deal to produce a documentary series about searching for Sasquatch, get rich and famous.
And so far, the plan was unfolding perfectly. Cooper sat on a rock and rewound the last shot while Bobby adjusted the gorilla mask. “Nice!” he laughed as he watched the playback. “Come check it out.”
Bobby pulled the mask off and walked over to peer at the camera’s little screen.
“That shot would’ve been perfect if you hadn’t caught the mask on that branch,” Cooper beamed. “Let’s shoot it again just like that.”
“Good,” Bobby grumbled. “It’s getting damn hot in this thing.” He pulled the mask back on and crouched behind a bush.
Cooper raised the camera and shouted, “Action!” Bobby made some grunting noises and hunched his way across a clearing, dragging his arms along the ground. He looked up, as if just noticing Cooper for the first time, and let out a simian-like bellow straight at the camera.
Behind the lens, Cooper grinned. This is YouTube gold, he thought. Suddenly, still looking through the viewfinder, he spotted movement in the bushes behind Bobby. He looked up from the camera, just in time to see an angry mass of fur leap out in front of the costumed gorilla with a howl much louder than Bobby’s. A real-life Sasquatch towered over Bobby, sharp incisors bared.
“Bobby! Watch—” he screamed, but the beast struck before he could finish the warning. Fake fur and blood flew.
Cooper dropped the camera in terror, and turned to flee. Only to find himself face to furry face with a second toothy Sasquatch.
CJ Rickards was no internet junkie. In fact, he was the last of his family to even get around to using email. But after he found the abandoned video camera on a hunting trip—near a few bones and bits of decomposing flesh—and his nephew helped him upload the footage to YouTube, he quickly spawned the latest viral video sensation.
Cast of Wonders 121: Bigfeet by Michael Strickland is a Cast of Wonders original.
Jack and the Griffin Eggs
by Alexandra Grunberg
Jack pressed against the side of the mountain, his feet barely fitting on the small ledge of stone that marked the path to the griffin’s nest. The wind made his sleeves billow wildly, trying to pull his body away from the ragged surface to which he desperately clung. His woolen sack slapped against his back and Jack risked releasing a hand to clutch it closer to his body. He did not come this far just to fail.
Others had made the journey, others with less noble hearts and less pure moral compasses. His family was starving. His wife was ill, spitting up blood in coughs that racked her body. His son was wild, desperate, turning to thievery to help the family. His baby daughter had died.
Jack paused to hug the side of the mountain, letting the wind whistle in his ears, brushing the tears from his cheek to fall in the open air.
Far forward, barely visible, Jack could just glimpse the nest of the griffin, and wondered if there were even any eggs left in the nest. Griffin eggs, and griffins themselves, were extremely valuable, and this griffin was the rare Golden Glider, the most valuable of them all. And, perhaps because they knew the danger of their beautiful feathers and shining eggs, they made their nests in some of the hardest places for people to reach. But that did not stop people from trying.
Jack slid carefully along the mountain, one hand guiding him in an easy grip on the rock, one hand still clutching his precious sack. He tried not to look down. He failed. As the wind picked up, he continued on the path.
Finally he reached the nest of the Golden Glider. The mother griffin was absent, but Jack was still cautious as he slid into the nest. It was large enough to fit three grown men comfortably, but Jack was still careful not to bump the two eggs inside.
Their shells radiated gold, sparkling like precious jewels against the dull tawny straw of their bed. They were as large as the glass orb the local witch used to see into the distant future and tell fortunes, but these eggs were a fortune unto themselves. Jack hesitated. How much money could he get for a golden egg? How much would one of the fat merchants in town be willing to pay? How much would one be worth for his family?
Not as much as they were worth to their mother.
Jack reached into his sack and took out a third egg, resting it gently against its brothers.
He understood why his son had stolen the egg. He could understand the boy’s desire for a quick fix, and a way to help the family no matter the danger, no matter the cost to others. But Jack had lost a child. He would not wish that loss on anyone else. He would not save his family by causing another parent the pain he knew so well.
The wind picked up again, but this was an unnatural wind. Jack look up to see the Golden Glider descending toward him, her wings and chest sparkling as bright as her eggs, each beautiful feather the same shining gold. Her talons were gold as well, each as long as his forearm, each ending in a razor sharp point. Jack crouched and ducked his head under his arm, weak protection against the wrath of a mother, expecting to soon feel the rip and tear of vengeance.
But the pain did not come.
Jack looked up at the Golden Glider who sat, contented, over her children. Their eyes locked and Jack saw that they were intelligent, not the eyes of a monster or beast, but a reasoning being. With a loud screech she began flapping her wings, and the resulting gusts knocked Jack to the ground. She stood over him, her flapping becoming more and more wild and violent.
Her feathers loosened and fell from her wings and chest, as she thanked Jack with a shower of gold.
Cast of Wonders 121: Any Ending by Alexandra Grunberg is a Cast of Wonders original.
About the Authors
Alexandra Grunberg is a Glasgow based author, screenwriter, and poet. She received a BFA in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, and is currently pursing a DFA in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her work has appeared in multiple magazines, ezines, and anthologies. Recent publications include “Not My First Choice” in The Overcast and “Travel Onward, Funani” in The Colored Lens.
Michael has published a handful of other short stories in small indie outlets. In addition to Bigfeet, his story Pale Green Pants — inspired by What Was I Scared Of? in Dr. Seuss’ Sneetches and Other Stories — recently appeared in the anthology Green Eggs and Horror. By day, Michael wrangles words as a professional copywriter, and you can find him online here.
By day, Charity is a Minneapolis-based writer of technical documentation. By night, she pens fiction, mostly fantasy and young adult fiction. Her published works include The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, which was a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback pick in the Get Your Geek On category.
Jessica is a freelance writer in Oregon who loves to write fun fantasy stories. She has two novels published by ASJ Publishing: Legend of the Phoenix and Kenneth Randall: Grower. She’s on Twitter as @jessholscher, and you can find out more about her on her Facebook page.
About the Narrators
Big Anklevich is a writer, podcaster, toy collector, Keto and Intermittent Fasting Enthusiast, and father…among other things. His thoughts may not be deep or worthwhile, but he’s here to share them with the world all the same. What a douche!
John is an infectious diseases physician in Baltimore who splits his time between treating horrors such as syphilis, and molding the next generation of doctors, while repeatedly washing his hands in between. When not herding his five cats or going fanboy over the space endeavors of his wife Moon Ranger Laura, John infectious various podcast and radio projects with his voice. He is the Chief Medical Officer and Bad Doctor in Residence at his personal blog, where he consults and ruminates over all manner of things at Saint Nickanuck.
As well as narrating, Chloë has written many short stories and some poetry. Her latest publication, ‘A Treacherous Thing’ can be found in the Fox Spirit Books’ Anthology The Jackal Who Came in From the Cold. She’s currently working on several projects, one of which might just send her down the rabbit hole. You can contact her through her website www.chloeyates.com while she wanders through Twitter under the sobriquet @shloobee. English born, she currently lives in the middle of Switzerland.
About the Artist
Barry is a game developer based in Bournemouth, England making freemium games for clients such LEGO and the BBC. His latest game is breaking all records on iOS, not surprising with a title like L”. It’s for younger kids, but if you fancy blasting alien brains check out LEGO Hero Factory Brain Attack.
All this game developing has meant that Barry hasn’t been as active in the podcasting and fiction world as he used to be. He still does the occasional narration for other shows, such as The Drabblecast, and appears on Cast of Wonders from time to time.