Four Sentences


Some folks think they’re cool, but I’m terrified of sharks. Owen Harding

I’m told I can explore a little fiction in this venue from time to time as long as I don’t make a habit of it. What follows could therefore be described as super-short stories. Unlike our typical weekly efforts, any similarity to actual people living or dead would be wholly unintentional.

Writing is like a muscle. It invariably improves with exercise. When my homeschooled kids were young we would regularly host writing night. The family gathered in the living room with their laptops to craft something literary in a given time period, typically about an hour. Then we read our products aloud, frequently over popcorn. Some were funny, others poignant. A few were just stupid. Regardless, a grand time was had by all.

One of the more popular exercises was four-sentence fiction. The assignment was to craft a series of self-contained narratives using only four sentences. The goal was to create an entire viable world in a single paragraph. The literary discipline minimized verbosity and was a superb intellectual exercise. Here are the fruits of one evening’s labors.

Sometimes you can’t get a real feel for a place without going there.
Such is likely the case with Mars. Daniele Colucci

The sun came up the following morning just as had always been the case. The man lay in bed staring at the ceiling, memories of the previous evening’s announcement playing back and forth like some sentient thing beyond his control. He rolled over onto his right elbow, turned on the light and lifted his alarm clock. There underneath was the lottery ticket, right where he’d left it.

First there was the compressor failure then the fire, and the survival gear had gone down with the plane. It was legitimately miraculous that he had cleared the wreck with his lifejacket and waterproof radio. A sense of relief washed over him like a rejuvenating cataract as he heard the voice of the Coast Guard Petty Officer crackle in his headset. Then as he floated peacefully miles from shore he felt something quiet, dark, and large brush softly against his leg.

Bereft of hope, the empty man dried his eyes with his sleeve, retrieved the handgun from his desk drawer, and wandered onto the street in search of a secluded place to do the deed. The terrified woman stumbled suddenly out of the apartment building next door and fell unexpectedly into his arms, a nasty bruise marring her otherwise perfect cheek. Past her beautiful eyes wide with terror the man saw her assailant burst from the same door, a wicked knife in his hand. Without conscious thought the man stepped around the injured woman, pushed her safely to the side, and drew his pistol.

For some, success was a Wall Street boardroom, for others perhaps simply a beer. For this man success was far more complicated. He let his mouse slide of its own accord down the list of names until it fell upon one at random. Jotting the address down on a Post-It note he checked his pocket for his car keys, hefted the bag with the shower curtains and duct tape, and headed for the door.

The words he had rehearsed so many times turned furiously in his head. Red-tinted sunshine cascaded through the hatch as he placed one booted foot atop the first rung of the Mars lander’s crew ladder. His heart pounded and his mouth went dry with the suffocating gravitas of the moment. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he caught movement in the sand.

Light, dark, light, dark, light, dark…repeat as necessary. Squirrels rock. Woodpeckers not so much. Tree life.

Momentous things happen in this building. Srikanta

The kid typically eschewed socks. The natural evolution of capitalism had driven most textile jobs to undeveloped countries with cheap labor and jungles. Tearing into the Amazon parcel he hefted his new sneakers, admiring them from several angles. As he thrust his bare toes into the darkness, there lurked within dozens of multifaceted eyes now both terrified and angry.

The cruiser’s tractor beam captured the derelict Voyager deep space probe and moved it into the shuttle bay. The ship’s captain smiled thinly as he perused the messages of peace decoded from the laser disk stored inside the probe.

“Commander, we have analyzed the probe’s trajectory and extrapolated its origin,” his navigator announced.

Running his bifurcated tongue across rows of tiny sharp teeth the hulking alien reptile hissed, “Excellent, ready the legions.”

The door to the Oval Office opened authoritatively and four armed men in combat gear stepped inside. “Madame President, you need to come with us,” the team leader said flatly. As she left the room the President passed another large man in fatigues, his gray hair shaved close, four black stars on his blouse. As the defeated woman disappeared down the hall, the professional soldier settled into the heavy leather chair behind the Resolute desk and turned to an aide, “Schedule the press conference for half an hour.”

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