Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guest #FridayFlash: Searching for Love

If you are a regular to the #fridayflash community, you may have heard of Tony Noland. He's a prolific, charming, rakish, geekish son of a...wait, you can read all about that at Landless. For now, he found the second star on the right, thought he'd go straight on till morning, but saw a black hole and something that had to do with positron-a-bobs and he got lost. So here he landed (for now, he is the landless one, after all) with a bit of aberrant mash-up. Thanks for the switch this week, Tony. I had a blast.


Searching For Love

By Tony Noland

Doctor Hermione Grainger leaned forward, panting as she rested against Commander Harry Potter's strong, broad chest. Her passion and his were fully spent, their hours of lovemaking now slowed to a gentle, almost imperceptible swaying in the zero gravity sleeping field. Cool air dried their sweaty-slick bodies; from the burning heat of the heights of their frenzy, she now felt almost chilly.

"Computer," she murmured, "adjust climate control upwards five degrees. And turn down the air movement by twenty percent."

"Affirmative." The voice of the computer was that of a matron, an unflappable old schoolmarm. When she'd first started bringing Harry to her cabin, it had felt... awkward, as though the computer were another presence in the room. Sensing something was wrong, he'd asked about it. She still remembered his response when she explained. He'd said, "Computers don't judge." Whether it was the boyish smile or the way the starburst scar on his forehead stood out under a blush he couldn't suppress, she'd fallen even more deeply in love with him.

They tumbled together, holding close as the gravity suppressor field timed out and they began to settle onto the sleeping cushions. Before they regained their full weight, she disentangled herself. Lovely though it was to be one flesh with him, Harry was well muscled, being from a heavy-gravity planet. She loved the weight of him during lovemaking, but otherwise, he was liable to cut off circulation.

Hermione got up, plucked a silk robe from her closet and slipped into it. The embroidery was in Arcturan flame-thread, done in a pattern of large, golden felines across the front and sides. It was not sheer, not exactly. The robe left something to the imagination, but threw all of her curves in high relief. She could see that Harry's eyes were caressing her as she moved toward the computer workstation. The robe had been expensive, but clearly worth every credit.

Still on the sleeping cushions, Harry pulled a sheet up over himself and said, "Tell me again about the 'many worlds' project."

She smiled. "You know all about that project, Commander. You were the one who approved the course Captain Weasley ordered. Would you like a drink?"

"Yes, thanks. A glass of water and some Corellian brandy, if you have any." He waited for her to return to bed before speaking again. When her robe slipped high up onto her smooth, pale thighs as she climbed down next to him, he spent a few moments kissing and caressing her, which delayed his questions again. When his none-too-serious attentions provoked more giggles than sighs, he sat back and said, "Fine, fine, I can take a hint. I know when I'm not wanted."

With a kiss on the tip of his nose, she said, "I always want you, Harry. Just not right now."

"You do realize that made no sense at all."

"If it's true, it doesn't have to make sense." She leaned back, the very picture of relaxed, fulfilled complacency.

He shook his head. "I still can't believe there's a universe, any universe at all, where I'm not with you."

She shrugged prettily, allowing the robe to fall open and well off one shoulder. "It's true, though," she said, "and there are far stranger things out there in the multiverse."

"Multiverse?"

"That's what the researchers at the Azotarian Academy of Sciences call it. All the various parallel universes together make up the multiverse. It has to do with subtended infinities of collapsing probability waves. Some infinities are bigger than others. They've only begun to scratch the surface of sorting all of it out."

"Tell me again about the universe in which we're stuck on Earth."

"Which one? The one where you and I are private detectives in San Francisco?"

"No, the one where the muon-tau charge is modified for certain hereditary DNA plasmid constructs." He leaned back against the cushioned wall. "I think it would be fun to have energy-dispersive native psionics, even if they were misinterpreted as magic by the subset of the population that possessed them."

"Are you sure you would want to be in that universe? Remember, all the psionic-capable individuals -"

"You mean the witches and wizards," he said.

"- all the psionic-capable individuals were nearly wiped out when a one of the most powerful of them went insane." She shook her head. "No, I wouldn't want to have been a part of that. The more copies of the psionic plasmid you have, the more powerful you'd be, but the more likely you are to channel the energies into aberrant behavior. If only they'd had access to some simple gene therapies!"

"Wizards don't need science."

"Wizards need science most of all. I'm sure that research would have eventually caught up to them if they hadn't allowed it to get out of control they way they did." She leaned over and rested against him. "Anyway, don't forget..."

"I didn't forget," he said, laughing. "Not only are we not together, but you end up marrying Captain Weasley! I get stuck with his little sister. I'm sure she's perfectly nice, but she's nothing compared to you, Doctor Grainger." He hugged her, a sidelong gesture of affection from their reclining position.

She hugged him back, harder than he expected.

"Hey, what about the world where you and I -"

"Shhh," she said, "no more. I don't want to talk about the many worlds project, Harry. OK? I'm just a little tired, that's all."

He kissed the top of her head. "Sure, Hermione. I love you, honey - sleep well."

"Good night, Harry. Computer, dim the lights."

They lay together and she listened to his breathing deepen and slow. For a long while, she lay awake, thinking of the endless hours she'd spent with the positron flow mass spectrometer, calibrating and recalibrating, trying to find other universes in which she and Harry Potter were happy lovers, in any context.

As far as she could tell, there weren't any. 

~~~

When he's not figuring out search engine algorithms, or over-thinking about his over-thinking, Tony Noland writes some damn great fiction. See for yourself by obtaining a copy of his latest release Blood Picnic (pretty cover below), or follow @tonynoland



Thursday, May 10, 2012

FIRST IN 2012


It sure has been awhile since I've written a #fridayflash. Jon Strother inspired me this week, by including a previous flash piece of mine in the next BOFF.  Since my last time here, I've had a couple more published pieces. Check out Dead Calm: Best New England Crime Stories, a yearly anthology published by Level Best Books, and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader presents Flush Fiction, which includes a story that originally appeared on this blog as a #fridayflash. I'll be seeing you around, as I try to catch up on some flash reading.


JANE DOE


Midwife Sarah deftly cleaned, swaddled and then laid the newborn on the new mom's chest. The new dad sniffled and wiped his eyes. Sarah loved those first moments of a new family; the expressions of sheer joy and wonder. She'd be attending to another birth when the expression of oh-shit-what-do-we-do-now paralyzed the new parents smiles.

"She's here now," Sarah said. "Do you have a name?" 

The new father smiled at his wife. "Whatever you decide, Laurel. Isn't she beautiful?"

Laurel returned her husband's smile. "Jane. Let's call her Jane."

"You've got to be kidding." Sarah slapped both hands over her mouth, embarrassed she'd blurted out her first thought.

"Yes, Jane," Laurel said. "She can be whomever she wants to be, without any prejudice. She'll stand out from the Courtneys and Kaitlyns and Brittanys and Megs.

"Huh. Original," Sarah said.

"We think so." The new dad kissed the newborn's head. "Welcome to the world, Little Jane Doe."

Both parents "aww"-ed at the infant's first cries.  

Baby Jane Doe was inconsolable for two full days.

# # #

Kevin didn't know how to get rid of the young mother and her shrieking daughter. He felt for the woman—she had steamer trunks under her eyes. Lack of sleep messed with people. That probably explained her blouse—inside out and buttoned wrong. He didn't know if he should point that out or let her next encounter with a mirror show her. Hell, between finals and this morgue internship, he was surprised he found the right buttonholes.

The tyke hit that pitch that made Kevin's toes curl. One more Tigger, god help him, he'd spank the brat. "Mrs. Doe, I can't let your daughter near the bodies."

"I don't want her in there either. But I don't know what else to do! She's not going to stop until we figure out who your Jane Doe is. I know you think we're crazy, but...but, my Jane...." Laurel stopped and swiped her cheek. "Jane! Stop screeching."

Laurel looked at Kevin. He squirmed under her intense gaze. She said, "Maybe your Jane Doe has a tattoo, or an earing or...."

"Lady, the body is naked. And she's not in, how shall I say, viewing condition."

"Something. Anything. Please."

Kevin shook his head.

"Do you want to find out who that woman is or not? Someone is missing their daughter, or sister, or, or...." Laurel stopped. "Something to do with Tigger is on that body. My daughter has done this before."

"Really." Kevin couldn't help the sarcasm. A two-year-old identified Jane Does. Next, someone would tell him beer regenerated brain cells.

"Jane Doe was brought here with nothing. A permanent retainer on her bottom teeth, a callus on her lip, and that's it." He stared pointedly at Mrs. Doe. "We'll get an orthodontist's opinion, not a child's."

The little Jane screeched louder and hopped. "Tigger! Shirt!"

"Go home, get some sleep." Kevin picked up the phone. "Or I'm calling security."  

The child stilled. She pointed at Kevin's hand. "School," she said.

Kevin looked at his class ring. "Yes, school."

"Tigger school."

"No, Cornell." Kevin dialed.

"Idiot," Laurel said to Kevin. "She means your Jane Doe. Tigger school...wait." Laurel tapped her lower lip. "Why would someone have a lip callus? Kissing...biting...come on. You help with autopsies and such, right?"

"Never mind," Kevin said into the mouthpiece, then hung up the phone. The woman was right—it was a clue. "Musician. Some trumpet players get lip calluses."

"Could your Jane Doe be a musician? In college?" Laurel asked.

Little Jane yawned, then said, "Tigger shirt. Tigger school." She put her thumb in her mouth, then blew.

Kevin snapped his fingers. "Princeton. They're the Tigers, orange and black. Do you think...."

"What?" Laurel asked, then yawned.

Kevin dug in his pocket for his phone. He searched for Princeton images, showed them to Mrs. Doe. She picked up her daughter. "Jane? Is this right?"

Little Jane shook her head. Kevin scrolled, waited for Jane's reaction, scrolled again. She touched the screen when he stopped on a picture of the marching band wearing rugby shirts.  

"Tigger shirt!"

"Call the University," Laurel said. "See if their band is missing a trumpet player."

She picked up her daughter. Jane laid her head on her mother's shoulder, almost immediately fell asleep.

"Where are you going?" Kevin asked. "We have to call the authorities, report this...."

"You report it. No one will believe a two-year-old identified a body," Laurel said, then stifled a yawn. "Let's get you home, sweet Jane."

"Mrs. Doe?" Kevin held the door open. "How?"

"Because I named her Jane Doe."

"No, really, how did this happen?"

Laurel shifted her daughter, then looked at Kevin. "You know those names with destinies? Bambi is a stripper, Helga is a gym teacher, Mary-Margaret is a nun—well, I thought Jane Doe was a clean slate—my little girl could be anyone."

Kevin scratched his head. "I don't get it."

"So my little girl becomes Jane Doe. Every nameless one."