I found this challenge on author Chuck Wendig’s website. I’d like to do more of these. It really makes you excrete some creative juices.
The rules of the challenge are here. For those too lazy to click, you basically are assigned a random Subgenre/Conflict/Element to Include and have to write a flash fiction piece of less than 1000 words.
My roll of the dice got me Dieselpunk/Get the band back together!/Unicorn. I had to learn what “diesel punk” meant, and I must say, writing in that genre was the most difficult part. So here’s my effort:
I could tell something wasn’t right about him. Even through the cloud of smoke that hung low in the ballroom, even through the mass of costumed people, laughing and dancing and pretending the rest of their lives were as enjoyable as this party.
Even through that ridiculous unicorn outfit.
I was thumping hard on the strings of my upright bass, even though sweat was pouring down my arms under my suit, rendering my hands slicker than the chrome body of my instrument. It was my first show with my new group. It was really grand to finally share a stage with other guys who could really play. We were dishing out some copacetic swing tunes to the enjoyment of everyone on the dance floor.
Except for him. The unicorn. He just didn’t fit in.
It was how he kept his eyes everywhere else but on his dance partner, the offhand way he moved his body, as if he were just going through the motions.
The way he kept glancing up at me.
I wasn’t sure at first, but as the party went on, I was sure of it. He kept looking directly at me. Maybe he just really liked my playing. Maybe he knew I was onto him. But what exactly was I on to?
I wish I’d never gotten the answer to that question.
The sweat continued to pour off of me, and the giggle water continued to pour from the bar in the corner of the ballroom. I hadn’t even noticed the bartender for the first half of the show. Partly because the bar was directly underneath a massive brass statue of some Greek goddess with a tight chassis who commanded attention. And partly because neither myself or anyone else up on the stage had been drinking. Sure, we’d smoked a little reefer backstage before the show – what good jazz musician doesn’t – but none of us had touched any booze. It was a good thing, too, because when I finally happened to glance at the person behind the bar, I was astonished to see that he was also wearing a unicorn costume.
Now what were the odds that two men would come to a costume party in the same ridiculous get-up? As I pondered this question, I noticed several hoofers suddenly stop dancing, grab their bellies, upchuck their lunch, and hit the floor.
At first I thought maybe they were just fried from all the hooch they’d been guzzling, or maybe hopped up on that new powdery stuff that’s been going around this town. But then the numbers started climbing. People who were attending to those who’d already passed out started keeling over themselves. The fellas on stage with me started to notice too. We looked at each other and gave the nod to stop playing. Something was going down.
People were tearing off their masks to reveal terrified expressions. Vomit hurled about everywhere. Some made their way to the doors. Everyone panicked.
Except for the unicorns.
The bartender walked out from behind his post, calmly reached into the belly of his costume, and pulled out a Thompson submachine gun. He started towards the front doors, which those unfortunate souls who were trying to get out had found locked from the outside.
The unicorn from the dance floor made his way in the opposite direction of the doors. Right toward the stage. He reached into his costume, produced a chopper of his own, and aimed the barrel at us. We did our best to hide behind our instruments. I was in the best shape, with my huge chrome bass, but no one else but our drummer had any protection.
The unicorn held the gun in his right hand, and with his left, he reached up, grabbed the horn protruding from his forehead, and yanked off the mask portion of his costume.
I was shocked to find out I recognized him. Lloyd Alexander. The guy that used to play trumpet in my previous band. I’d been recruited away from them by my new group, and the news hadn’t gone over to well with Lloyd and company. He looked at me and smiled. Then he threw a glance over his shoulder. I followed it. The fella guarding the door had removed his mask as well. It was Sidney Carson. He’d been our guitar player.
Lloyd, with his gun wavering between the rest of the fellas on stage with me, finally spoke up.
“Hey Williams,” he said to me, still smiling. “Didn’tcha hear? We’re getting the band back together.”
My new bandmates threw frightened, confused looks in my direction. I didn’t have time help.
Lloyd threw his head back and laughed.
Then he squeezed the trigger.