The launch of Closed Hearts is here!! To celebrate and generate excitement, Susan has organized an awesome festival of flash-fiction bonus content! Enjoy!!
The CONTEST OFFICIALLY BEGINS TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT, so come back tomorrow for active links. I'm a bit early. Don't worry, though, my post will be up all day Wednesday. :)
by Susan Kaye Quinn
[Ed. Note: In celebration of the release of my novel Closed Hearts, I've created bonus content that relates to the Mindjack Trilogy. This bonus content arises from the story time between Open Minds (Bk#1) and Closed Hearts (Bk#2) - it's not terribly spoiler-ish, but you'll enjoy it more if you've read Open Minds already.]
For those who don't know, flash fiction is just a really short story - meant to be read in a flash (although it takes considerably longer to write). Hemingway's famous flash fiction (which may be an urban myth) tells (or evokes) an entire story in just six words: Baby Shoes. Never Worn. For Sale.
There are few (if any) rules about flash fiction. Generally, it's supposed to be shorter than a short story, which is usually 2,000-10,000 words, making flash the king of the 6-1,999 word domain. And generally speaking, it should tell a story, rather than be a vignette (a scene or possibly a mood piece where there is much literary feeling but not so much a plot).
This bit of Mindjack Flash Fiction (Leaving Gurnee) is arguably a vignette: it represents a scene that occurs between books in the trilogy. But it's told from a different POV (Xander, the 12-year-old changeling that Kira rescues), and I think it encapsulates the story of his character. Plus it has a beginning, middle, and end. I guess you can judge for yourself ... :)
* Leaving Gurnee weighs in at 1155 words
by Susan Kaye Quinn
Xander didn’t sense the clan of mindjackers until it was too late.
Their minds plunged into his, making him fall to his knees. They jacked further into his head, and the soft living room carpet rushed up to meet his face. Through the ragged strands that tangled with his eyelashes, he saw Mrs. Moore hovering over her husband, who had slumped on the couch. The sim-cast Mr. Moore had been watching—Famous American Mindreaders of the 21st Century—still played soundlessly on the wall screen.
The jackers were in control of Xander’s body, but it still jerked involuntarily with the crack-slam sound echoing up the stairs from the first level of the house. Under the circumstances, crashing down the front door seemed a little dramatic. After all, they could have jacked someone to open the door for them and saved the Moore’s home from being damaged.
But Xander had a feeling that inflicting damage was why they were here, just like the haters who had trampled their lawn last week.
From his vantage point on the floor, he couldn’t see the boots stomping up the stairs, but they must have arrived at the top, judging by the way that Mrs. Moore jerked up from crying over her husband.
Run! Xander thought, but the jackers who had disabled his body—he could feel two of them firmly in his head—kept him from reaching out with his mind to link his thoughts to her. And his mouth was busy spilling drool on the carpet. He mentally pushed as hard as he could on the two mindjackers in his head, but they weren’t going anywhere.
Why hadn’t they jacked Mrs. Moore? She was just a mindreader, which meant she was easier to jack than him—Xander at least had some ability to push back. Three bulky figures in long, dark trench coats strode into his field of vision. They didn’t touch her, but Mrs. Moore dropped to the floor all the same, writhing in some kind of pain. Maybe it was only mental pain, not physical, but his wimpy twelve-year-old muscles wouldn’t do much good against them, even if he wasn’t paralyzed on the carpet and mentally locked inside his own head. Two of the clan members bent over Mr. Moore, and blue sparks arced from a small metallic device they held against his neck: tasing him, as if knocking him out wasn’t enough. The third jacker crossed his arms and watched Mrs. Moore’s dance of pain on the floor. A tear slid down to the carpet, blurring Xander’s vision.
At least Kira wasn’t home.
One of the jackers in his head seized on that thought, wrenching it up to the forefront of Xander’s mind.
No, no, no, Xander thought. Don’t think about her. Don’t think about her. He fought against the rock-hard presence of the jackers embedded in his brain, but it was like beating a boulder with a feather. Then Xander realized, with a sick hollowing out of his stomach, why they hadn’t just knocked him out. They must be looking for her: Kira, the world famous jacker that had rescued him and the other changelings from Agent Kestrel’s experimental lab. She had literally saved his life. She was the big sister he never had, and now was his chance to repay her. Protect her.
Only he couldn’t keep the jackers out of his head.
Boots stepped in front of his face, just inches from his nose, the leather tips smelling of spring rain from outside. Xander almost wished they would kick him in the face, rather than whatever they planned to do to his mind. Rough hands grasped him by the shoulder, and a thick muscular arm lurked under the sleeve of the jacker’s trench coat. Xander couldn’t see his face, not that he wanted to.
Where is she? Where is Kira Moore? The thoughts rang like commands in his head, but he resisted the compulsion that rippled through his mind to answer them. Tell them.
Xander mustered a focused thought and threw it at them. Why don’t you jack yourself?
Both jackers pressed deeper, and Xander gagged on their bitter mind-scents—the normal flavor of each jacker’s mind was overwhelmed with a sour bite of anger. A slithering feeling, like a snake crawling down his throat, made his insides twist as they probed through his memories. Searching, searching, replaying his memories like sim-casts on the screen of his mind. He tried throwing up old memories and deflecting the jackers into thoughts about Kira in other places. Not where she is now. Not where she is now.
But it was no use. He knew that. He could try to fight them, but they would get whatever answers they wanted out of him. There were five of them, and only two were in his head. The other three were menacing Mrs. Moore, probably searching for the same information. Being a mindreader, she was even less able to hold them off than he was. Xander’s body convulsed, and he heard a pathetic-sounding moan escape from his paralyzed lips as they tunneled deeper.
WHERE IS SHE?
The command forced an image up from the depths of his memories. Gurnee’s Warren Township High School. Kira at band practice. The band room was crisp and clear in his head: Kira had taken him there, after she had brought him back to live with her family. After she had opened her home to him when his own mother didn’t want him back, once she found out he was a mindjacker. Kira’s family had welcomed him like he was their own son, and here he was, his thoughts betraying Kira with her own kindness.
Xander dry heaved as they pulled back, leaving him panting on the floor. Feeling slowly seeped back into his limbs. They had what they needed and quickly stomped down the stairs.
He rolled over on his side, his hands shaking, his fingers barely under his control. He thrust his hand in his pants pocket, the one now free from the floor, and painfully curled his fingers around his phone. Pulling it out, he used both hands to find the power button to switch it on. He didn’t bother using his hands after that, just jacked into the mindware interface on the phone and sent a scrit message as fast as the software would take it.
Jacker clan. Coming for you. Leave school. Don’t come home.
He dropped the phone on the carpet and rolled back to look at Kira’s parents. Mr. Moore was still passed out, and Mrs. Moore was crying over his body, probably wondering if he was dead or not. Xander didn’t know if his scrit would arrive in time to save Kira. But if nothing else, he would get her parents out of the house and make sure they were safely hidden away.
In case the jacker clan decided to come back for more.
When you control minds,
only your heart can be used against you.
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