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Beyond the Universe

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionSo you think the universe is infinite? How about multiple universes or parallel worlds? Just think of tiny places teeming with life–hair follicles or 80s heroes returning to help a girl find her father. Multiverses mess with the clock, timelines and realities.

Anything is possible beyond the universe. Worlds you never knew existed are as close as the car next to you. And what if you returned from one world altered, of found yourself somewhere else? Ribbons, naked, cloned, younger, older–anything is possible.

Stories based on the August 6, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) craft a multiverse situation, setting or character(s).

Clothed in Flames Flash by Ellen Mulholland

“Anything’s possible. Come on, curls. He’s right there. Go on. He won’t bite.”

Kathryn’s eyes roll about under heavy lids.

“I can’t, Doc. I can’t.”

“Who says I can’t? ‘Course you can. Just put your mind to it.”

She tosses, grasping the past, pushing away the now.

“My mind?”

“Your mind.”

“Not a good idea, Doc. My mind’s a mess.”

“No mind’s a mess. No mind’s broken.”

“I didn’t say broken. Messed. Tangled. Twisted. Like this head of crazy curls. My mind’s tangled up, on fire. I’m on fire. I’m burning up. It’s all my fault. All my fault!”


Worlds Apart by Pete

It was August hot in October, humid and sticky without the faintest hope of a breeze. Dad wiped his brow, taking a nauseating drag of his cigarette as we sat in the truck, waiting for Mom.

A shiny car edged into the space beside us, its thumping music drowning the tinny sounds of Dad’s country station. I peeked out as the mother unbuckled her child, the beads in her hair clicking and clacking with the movement. Dad exhaled purposely as he stubbed out his cigarette beside the pickets of brown butts in the ashtray.

“I just don’t understand them.”


The Duchess, The Daughter by Sarah Brentyn

I woke up at home.

My parents called lots of people. They cried and hugged me too much.

They said it had been three weeks since I disappeared.

I told them about the bears who declared war on the humans. The hedgehogs who made me laugh despite what was happening in the world. My wedding to the duke. My baby girl who I missed so much it hurt.

Now I sit in the place where Mommy and Daddy visit me. The place where people give me pills with my morning pancakes. The place where I’m six years old again.


Naming Wild Bill by Charli Mills

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.


Every Mirror Tells a Story by Geoff Le Pard

Mary hated herself for her indifference to Alison, her late father’s mistress. She wanted to hate her but just felt empty.

In her father’s study she stood in front of the mirror, staring the reflection of his picture. ‘Why?’

Water ran down the mirror, like tears distorting his face. His lips moved. ‘I’m so sorry.’

Peter pushed through the miasma that separated his world from Mary’s, willing her to understand. They’d told him it would take all his courage, all his strength to make the bridge. If only he had had found the courage and strength before he died.


Multiverse Flash by Irene Waters

John jumped from the bridge without giving a second glance back. The swirling river below engulfed him, taking him into the dark depths. A crack of light appeared along with a voice whispering “Stay away from the light, ” but the current propelled him toward it.

Caught in an eddy he hurtled through the void and suddenly aware of the sun warming his now naked flesh he saw he lay in a verdant field. Rising he headed towards the sun uncertain where he should be headed. Thundering past the unicorns beckoned.

“Blast. Last time I landed in Paris with Hemingway.”


Shift Worker by Paula Moyer

Two months after they started dating, Jean met Charlie’s family. His
father worked at the gypsum plant, or “the rock crusher,” with
rotating shifts. Her own parents worked bankers’ hours.

One night after dinner, the phone rang. Charlie bolted from the couch
in his stocking feet, slid into the kitchen. He grabbed the phone
before the second ring.

“Hello?” he whispered.


“Oh, good evening. Could you call back tomorrow? Daddy’s asleep.” All whispered.

Part of Charlie’s world came into focus.

Work hours dictated sleep hours. Loud talk, ringing phones – toxic
when his dad’s workday started at 3 a.m.


Multiverse Flash by Laura Burke

Lily found it simple to slip between worlds. It was becoming more frequent each day.

Did friends in either world notice? It never seemed so. She smiled as if she were listening. That’s all they required.

She was a girl with two bodies in two dimensions.

Here she was single, the summer had ended with Jack’s infidelity and his declaration that they’d never work. That’s when There… suddenly existed. As if the heartbreak split time into two independent streams.

And Jack never left her… There. He loved her. He called her enchanting. And soon there would be a child.


Cosmostology by Larry LaForge

“I’ve always been interested in cosmology,” Maria yapped as she curled her customer’s hair.

“You mean cosmetology, dear,” Mrs. Krieger said with a condescending smile.

The hairdresser didn’t respond.

Maria saw far more than bristly hair. She saw an entire universe on top of the elderly woman’s head — a cosmos of follicles alive and interacting, some in concert and some in protest. She saw growth and decline. No matter the intervention, Maria knew the natural order would ultimately prevail.

“Thanks,” Maria said upon receiving a generous tip.

Mrs. Albertson was next. Maria smiled, anticipating the battle of the bangs.

The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.


The Crosswalk by Sarah Unsicker

We wait together for the walk signal. She is dressed smartly for court; I push a twin stroller in marker-stained jeans. I ask what kind of hearing she has.

“Pretrial,” she says, “a bail hearing.” I recognize the client from her description. He was homeless and couldn’t afford health care. She looks as nervous as I remember feeling.

“You’ll do fine,” I say, confidently. This case will start her short but successful career.

My gaze rests on the pearls my husband gave me, on the suit that hangs in my closet. I again contemplate the cost of child care.


Multiverse Flash by Anne Goodwin

Shrugging off my rucksack, I find a flattish rock to sit and imbibe the view. Deep in the valley, the manor house nestles among fields of sheep. They tell the tourists North Lees inspired Rochester’s home in Jane Eyre.

I swivel round to watch the climbers on the gritstone and, when I turn back, flames lick the battlements of the hall below. I jump up and race towards it, skirt dragging on the heather, bonnet ribbons flapping in the breeze. I hear the ghoulish laughter of the woman in the attic. My heart calls out to Edward, my love.


Fast Forward by Susan Zutautas

I awoke to my alarm going off, stretching, and rubbing my glued eyes. In disbelief I looked around at my bedroom, which did not look anything like it did when I went to sleep.

The room had expanded; new furnishings, wall covering, and a master suite were all in my sight.

What the hell was going on?

I could hear voices coming from the kitchen but they didn’t sound familiar. What I saw when entering the room shocked me. Standing by the island were 2 twin girls and an older version of my son.

Mom you’re awake ……


Clone Magic by Norah Colvin

All night Leone had huddled in line, sleepless with excitement, waiting for the release.

Now she had them! Clone pills!

‘Take one with water. Cloning occurs in 30 minutes and lasts 24 hours.’

Leone swallowed one tablet, then another, and another; ignoring the small print: ‘Do not take multiple tablets. Effects are unpredictable.’

When three clones appeared she instructed:

“1. Clean the house. 2. Exercise. 3. Weed the garden.”

She flopped on the couch. “Now to read.”

But — their hands grabbed for her book, pulling her hair and clawing her eyes.

“Me read! Me read! Me read!”


New prompt on Wednesday! All writers welcome!

August 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionSwirling 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Time travel, back in time or into the future. It can be ancient, or yesterday.
  2. Another dimension which a character can access beyond his own. A world that exists to his simultaneously.
  3. Space travel that enters wormholes and emerges elsewhere.
  4. A child in a living room accessing the North Pol.
  5. An event that already occurred but is now re-animated on the front lawn.
  6. A character discussing the theory, or using it to explain historical events or predict the future.
  7. A character debunking the theory.
  8. Describing a familiar scene or event told as a parallel universe.
  9. Two separate characters from separate worlds colliding.
  10. 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:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. 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.