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August 6: Flash Fiction Challenge
Swirling somewhere in the cosmos is a horse I once rode. A nameless palomino, or maybe he was brutishly large and black. I can’t remember. But I remember how I accessed the other world–
Running clockwise round and round the coffee table my father built of oak slabs, I galloped on bare feet to the 8-track by Johnny Horton. As he sang, “In 1814 we took a little trip; Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip’…” I took a little trip of my own, transported. No longer on feet, I was now blazing through places on the back of my steed. I ran along the Mighty Mississip’ and hopped up the mountains, north to Alaska and even sunk the Bismark to the bottom of the sea. How that 8-track of battle tunes by a cowboy troubadour filled my young imagination in the late 1960s!
As an adult, I have some empathy for the family that raised me. I was always embarrassing them with my imaginative ways. While I don’t remember, the adults told me I once carried around an imaginary frog in my hand that I chattered to non-stop until one patriarch had enough of that nonsense, swiped the invisible frog away, threw it on the ground and stomped it to death. I bawled for three days.
I was a girl and supposed to like dolls (which I did, but my Barbies chased outlaws on horses and were war heroes in their Kleenex box battleship). You might say that Johnny Horton led me to the adventures my imagination sought. I didn’t outgrow the table-transformer for a while, mostly because I don’t think my parents actually knew what what going on, that while my little legs still ran in circles, I was actually somewhere else. Perhaps after the frog incident I learned not to show off the things I brought back from that world.
But I did reveal to others the secret of the table. It was 3rd grade and I informed the girls next door that if we all ran fast around the coffee table to the Good, the Bad, the Ugly 8-track we could enter a cave that led out to this place where there were covered wagons and horses. My music was becoming more sophisticated, more intense yet still distinctly western. Somehow, the Beatles never worked. Not only did they ride with me, but we rode away from the table and out the door. The world was the other world and we played hard in it.
Before I start feeling to sheepish for bringing up my “wild imagination,” as it was called, I want to honor it with three real gifts it gave me:
- I can imagine anything. This is a terrific tool for problem-solving because I can access my brain to try different solutions and outcomes. When developing a story with characters and dialog, I can easily imagine voices that aren’t my own. Maybe I can still channel my inner-frog.
- History connects me. I can look at a place and imagine others there long before me. Each piece of broken purple glass, abandoned schoolhouse or obscure record of postmasters from 1880 has meaning. It often helps me understand the world today. Perhaps this is the gift from Johnny Horton who found music in history, too.
- I can be transformed. It’s easy for me to feel music, to climb inside a good book and go places I’ve never been to before. In transformation, I develop understanding of different cultures and empathize with human plights outside my own experiences. I feel less contained in one space, free and joyful.
So what got me thinking about my imagination? Well, one of our Rough Writers, Geoff Le Pard, said this last week in his post, That’s cracking, Grommit:
“I love the idea that we are so close to something else, within a paper of another world, close enough to sense it but not experience it. Multiverses. It’s an area, ripe to explore in fiction.”
The phrase, within a paper of another world, made me think of those wild rides I used to take around the coffee table, how the world became so real for a time and then it slipped away like the closing of a book. Yet hints of it still linger, which is one reason I write fiction. I get to visit another place, time and possibilities.
Whether or not multiverses exist or that it’s an argument for the philosophers and not the scientists is debatable. But I agree that it’s ripe for fictional explorations. Today we are going to explore multiverses in fiction. As writers we can experience it in our imaginations.
Since this is a deep subject and possibly even a new concept to some, let me explain a few possibilities for fiction regarding a multiverse which is essentially an alternate or parallel world. And for those who are keen on the subject, bear with my meager understanding. Here are some ideas:
- Time travel, back in time or into the future. It can be ancient, or yesterday.
- Another dimension which a character can access beyond his own. A world that exists to his simultaneously.
- Space travel that enters wormholes and emerges elsewhere.
- A child in a living room accessing the North Pol.
- An event that already occurred but is now re-animated on the front lawn.
- A character discussing the theory, or using it to explain historical events or predict the future.
- A character debunking the theory.
- Describing a familiar scene or event told as a parallel universe.
- Two separate characters from separate worlds colliding.
- An unseen world like an army of pickles living in the frig.
One of my favorite authors is Robert Jordan who penned the fantastical epic series, The Wheel of Time. He was a history buff, served three tours of duty in Vietnam and taught himself to read, starting with classics. He employed multiverses to the utmost: a wheel of time that repeats its ages and people; dimension-bending characters; a protagonist that exist in someone else’s head. To read it is a grand ride around the coffee table.
Do you have a favorite book that employs multiverses? Here’s a list if you are interested in exploring beyond a single universe: List of fiction employing parallel universes.
August 6, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) craft a multiverse situation, setting or character(s). Write about another world, intersecting worlds or the people who populate them. Do you go back in time? Forward? Sideways? Is your story a discussion over the reality of multiverses? Tap the keys and see where your imagination leads you. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, August 12 to be included in the compilation.
Naming Wild Bill
Hickok awoke to distant drumming. Since his release in matters concerning the shooting of Cob McCanless, he’d joined the Union Army as a civilian scout. Alone in the muggy backwoods of southern Missouri this nightly interruption continued. Soon the child on horseback would gallop past. A girl with auburn hair like his, wearing strange clothes the color of southwest turquoise. Each night she grew older until she drew up her horse above his bedroll, fully grown. She leveled a queer black gun at him, saying “Wild Bill, you shot my kin!”
No one had ever called him that before.
Rules of Play:
- New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
- Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
- Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
- Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
- If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
- Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
- Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
- Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
- You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
- First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.