The website io9.com posts a piece of concept art every Saturday challenging its viewers to write a piece of flash fiction based on that art. Stories must be less than eight hundred words. As of the time of this blog posting, there are forty-two images online. There may be more and I failed to uncover them by searching for the wrong terms, but eh. I think forty-two’s a plenty big pool to draw from. I’ve assigned each a number, with the newest being 42 and the oldest being 1. Through the end of the month, I’m going to generate a random number within that range (updated as they add more art, of course) and write a piece of flash fiction inspired by that piece of art (generating a new number should I pick an already used image.) Exciting, no?
This piece is entitled “The City,” inspired by the illustration “Desert Stars” by Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe. I don’t own this image, I claim no rights to this image, and should Lorenz stumble across this post and demand that the image be removed, I will gladly do so. Also, you should go check out Lorenz’s deviantART page at: http://hideyoshi.deviantart.com/.
Anyway, let’s begin!
“I’ve got to say, this building’s pretty crappy,” Diana said to Paul’s back. He was fussing with the lock on his window, and he turned to look over his shoulder at her.
“I warned you. But really, the view from the rooftop is amazing.”
“I’ll bet you take all the girls out there, don’t you?” Diana asked. There was a smirk on her face, the same smirk she always wore, the one that had attracted Paul to her in the first place. Paul understood that smirk, or at least he thought he did. He thought it was equal parts weapon and defense, a mask from behind which she could judge the world and wall to protect her from its harm. Yes, Paul thought he understood it very well.
“Only the ones I really want to impress,” he said with a smile and a wink of his dark eyes. Diana’s expression went neutral for a moment as she arched a single eyebrow. As quickly as the change had come, though, it was gone, and soon she was wearing that smirk of hers, her teeth hidden behind full, unpainted lips and her thoughts hidden behind her inscrutable eyes.
“Alright, then. Impress me.”
Paul threw open the window and stepped out onto the fire escape. He motioned for Diana to follow. By the time she slipped through the frame, Paul was already a story above her., smiling and gesturing for her to follow. “Come on! You don’t want to miss it!”
Diana climbed the stairs, dividing her focus between not slipping on the metal steps and shouting up at Paul. “You think you’re the first guy to try and show me a city skyline on a date? We both live here, you know. I’ve seen this before!”
Paul shook his head. “No, you haven’t. I promise. Now hurry!”
Diana rolled her eyes but took the steps two at a time. She reached the top of the ten-story apartment building to find Paul standing next to a beaten and faded couch, gesturing as if he were an usher showing her to her seat. “That thing’s disgusting.”
“Disgusting with character!”
“No, antique silver with a bit of tarnish has character. That thing has bedbugs.”
“It doesn’t. I promise. Now, come! Sit! You’re going to miss it!”
Paul carelessly plopped onto the couch and patted the spot next to him. “Seriously,” Diana said. “If I get bedbugs, I’m telling everyone. Every. One.”
Paul put a finger to his lips and motioned for Diana to look forward. He checked the time, nodded to himself, snapped a finger, and it happened. Diana gasped.
A new world seemed to overlay the concrete walls of their city. Before her very eyes, the buildings seemed to change as if they had been dipped in gold. Warm light poured from the windows, and the hazy orange glow that blocked the stars from the sky faded and faded until the city was like a jewel set on sable fur.
She turned to him, and he saw that her usual smirk had been replaced by a look of genuine confusion. Confusion tinged with suspicion. “What’s going on here? What is this?”
“Visions from the future. Echoes from the past. Dark magick. Who knows?” He shrugged. “Who cares?”
Diana snorted. “You’re messing with me. There’s a projector somewhere. This is all an elaborate trick to con girls into thinking you’re sensitive and wise and magical.”
Paul turned to Diana, reached for hand, and gently squeezed it. “If you like,” he said with a smile.
Diana said nothing. They sat together in silence, the forgotten city sparkling like something out of a myth. “How did you find this?”
“I was out here one night last October. I was going to jump.” A soft gasp escaped Diana’s lips, but she didn’t say anything. “The couch wasn’t up here, then. I was just sitting on the edge, looking at all the cars and the lights and everything, and then, just like tonight, bam. Magical glowy city out of nowhere.” He paused. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? It was beautiful enough to keep me from jumping. I saw it, and I thought to myself, ‘If I’d been just ten seconds faster, I would have missed it.’ Since then, I’ve been on rooftops all over this city trying to find another one where I could see it, and this is the only place I’ve seen it.”
“I still think it’s a projection or a hologram or something.”
Paul laughed. “It’s not. But even if it were, wouldn’t that be something?”
“Yeah,” she said after a moment. “It is.”
She squeezed his hand back. She rested her head on his shoulder. He rested his head on hers.