One-Hour Flash – The God in the Lake

Time to share another bit of flash fiction that didn’t quite make the grade. I haven’t done one of these in a while, so just as a reminder, this is a story that I wrote in one hour as part of a flash fiction writing exercise. I’ve done a lot of those over the years, and many of the stories have gone on to publication. Many others have, uh, not. This is one of those. This is basically the story I wrote in an hour back in April of 2014, and though I’ve tinkered a bit here and there, it’s still pretty first draft-y.

Anyway, here’s “The God in the Lake.”


The God in the Lake

“There lies the death of gods.” Alexios drew his sword and pointed the short length of honed bronze at the lake. His blue eyes gleamed cold.

“Don’t do this, Alexios,” Hesiod said. “It won’t bring her back.” He had counselled his friend for days since they discovered the lake and that what lay within it was more than the fevered obsession of a broken man.

Alexios lowered his sword but did not return it to its scabbard. Hesiod saw the old hurt crash into him, the grief that had torn his world apart. But grief had not killed Alexios. It had done worse; it had eaten his soul and breathed hatred into the space left behind.

“I know,” Alexios said. “I’ve accepted that.”

“Then why are we here?” Hesiod gestured at the crystalline surface of the water, looming, white-capped Olympus behind it. The lake had taken ten years to find, and Hesiod had thought it no more than a myth, a place that could not exist. He’d kept the dream of the lake alive in Alexios because it was better than watching him drink himself to death or spend his life and blood on another senseless war. Now they stood before it, the doom it held a terrifying reality.

Alexios’ eyes burned with something equal parts joy and rage. “I want them to feel what I feel. I want the mighty gods of Olympus to suffer as I have suffered, and that!”—he turned and stabbed his blade at the lake — “is the only thing that can hurt them.”

He took the horn from his belt. Finding it had been as difficult as finding the lake. It was carved from something black that was not antler, wood, or stone. The symbols etched onto its surface were a tangle of angles and spikes. They were not writing–something far older than that.

“You followed me for so long, my friend,” Alexios said, his mouth trembling. There were tears in his eyes. “Will you not stand beside me while I blow this horn? Will you not join me in bringing justice to Althea?”

Althea had been Alexios’ wife, but Hesiod had loved her as well. Watching her die, wasting away, the physicians helpless to ease her pain, had been as torturous for him as it had to Alexios. He, too, had prayed to Hera, to Zeus, to any god that would listen, begging them to heal Althea or let her die swiftly. They had done neither. “There is no justice in this,” he said.

“Vengeance then,” Alexios replied.

“You may gain vengeance, but all the world will suffer for it.”

She was the world to me.” His eyes flashed, and his face twisted into something nearly as monstrous as the creature he sought to wake. “I will take the world from them.”

Alexios’ wasn’t paying close attention to him now. Hesiod could take two steps, draw his own sword, and drive the blade into his friend’s back. He could save the world from this madness. But for what? Althea would still be gone. For ten years he had been a surrogate to Alexios’ pain, nurturing it while his friend focused on reaching the lake. That pain had grown to maturity now, and it replaced everything Hesiod had been or could be. If he killed Alexios, he would be alone. He would be nothing.

Hesiod sank to the sand before his friend. “Then do it. Wake Cottus. Maybe the death of the world will suck the venom from your soul.” And the emptiness from mine.

Alexios raised the horn to his lips, drew in a deep breath, and blew. A sound like the dying screams of a thousand men rushed out in a low, blatting roar. It shook Hesiod’s teeth and raised the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck. He heard the knell of doom.

The lake’s surface boiled and writhed, and a great black shadow appeared beneath the churning foam. Alexios stumbled backward, his sword falling to the sand, and sat next to Hesiod.

“We will watch their doom,” Alexios said, his lips drawn in a mad smile. “We will die knowing she is avenged.”

The hecatoncheir broke the surface of the lake, a roiling mass of hands and heads. It blotted out the sun, the sky, and the towering mountain behind it, a monster not even the titans of old could overthrow. It would destroy the gods, but the destruction would not end there.

Hesiod heard Alexios speaking beside him. He thought his friend was praying, but Alexios simply spoke to the gods. He told them he had unleashed their doom.

The shadow of Cottus engulfed them, and Hesiod closed his eyes and covered his ears. He saw Althea’s face, her long black hair, and her soft brown eyes. He had loved her, even though she had chosen Alexios. He held on to that love and hoped it would follow him into Hades.


I rarely have a clear concept in mind when I write these one-hour flash stories. Generally, I see the prompt, and I go with the first thing that pops into my head. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. With this one, I had a very clear idea. I wanted to write a story that mixed Greek mythology with Lovecraftian cosmic horror. The hecatoncheires are certainly fitting for that kind of treatment (even if I did take some liberties with their myth), but the story just never came together. The backstory of Hesiod and Alexios needs more fleshing out as does their quest to find Cottus, and that’s a tale that needs more than a 1,000 words to tell. Still, I dig the concept, and like most of these failed experiments, there might be something worth returning to at some point.

Check out the previous installments in the One-Hour Flash series.

A Week of Writing: 10/29/18 to 11/4/18

Another Tuesday update. Here’s the writing week that was.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from heralded science fiction author Larry Niven.

You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money’s in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed.

– Larry Niven

I wrote a lot of short stories before I attempted a novel, and I agree with Larry Niven’s quote. Short stories do keep your writing lean. For me, a lot of that comes from the word count limits you’re have to deal with when submitting short fiction. Generally, that means anything longer than 5,000 words is a tough sell. I also write a lot of flash fiction, limiting myself to just 1,000 words. I think the most important skill I’ve learned in writing short stories is to get to the point as quickly as possible. That’s a handy skill when it comes to writing novels, and, I find, helps me keep my story moving. Of course, with flash especially, you also learn to remove everything that is not essential from a story, which is a skill that translates very well to novels.

The Novel

I’m still working through the third revision, and I’ve fixed a couple of big problems. The best thing about this current revisions is that it’s revealed to me how to fix two or three of the major issues with the book, and that’ll be my focus for the next go-around. The tough part of this whole process, for me, is that clawing urgency to get the book finished, get it out there, get it done. But that won’t serve me in the long run, and sending out a half-finished manuscript is certainly not a path to anything resembling success.

Short Stories

I got back on track with submissions last week, and I’m making good progress this week too.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 4
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

The three submissions last week put me at a grand total of 108 for the year (I’m up to 111 as of today). All the rejections last week came from the same market at the same time, which I was more or less expecting.

The Blog

Two blog posts last week.

10/22/18: A Week of Writing: 10/22/18 to 10/28/18

The usual weekly writing report.

10/26/18: Submission Statement: October 2018

My monthly report card for all things submissions.

Goals

The usual. Keep plugging away at the current revision and send more short stories out.

Submission Spotlight

This week I’d like to draw your attention to a horror market that has just reopened their doors for submissions. After a long hiatus, Shock Totem is back in action. I have very fond memories of this market because I cut my flash fiction teeth on their bi-weekly one-hour flash fiction challenge, participating over fifty times. Many of the stories I threw together in an hour have gone on to publication, and I’m thrilled to see Shock Totem reborn and accepting submissions again. Shock Totem is a pro market that accepts works up to 5,000 words (they also take reprints). Full submission guidelines in the link below.

Shock Totem Submission Guidelines


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Statement: October 2018

October has come and gone, and here are my submission endeavors for the month.

October 2018 Report Card

  • Submissions Sent: 10
  • Rejections: 11
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 3

Ten submissions is solid, and it puts me at 106 for the year. Lots of rejections this month, and for the first time in a while, no acceptances.

Rejections

Eleven rejections for October.

  • Standard Form Rejections: 8
  • Upper-Tier Form Rejections: 2
  • Personal Rejections: 1

As usual, lots of standard form rejections with a smattering of upper-tier and personal.

Spotlight Rejection

The spotlight rejection for October comes from a big market I really hope to crack some day.

Dear Aeryn, 

Thank you for sending us [story title] for consideration. 

We appreciate the opportunity to read your work, but unfortunately this one isn’t for us. 

Please note we received more than 1,750 submissions for approximately 20 slots, which means a lot of very, very good stories are not making the cut. (There are even some great stories that just aren’t right for our market.) 

Please keep on writing, revising, and submitting to the very best markets you can find. It can be an arduous journey, but a fulfilling and rewarding one as well. And with each new story you write, you’re honing your craft. No effort at your writing desk is ever wasted.

We wish you the very best of luck with your work. 

Some of you won’t have much difficulty figuring out which market this rejection comes from, but I shared it because of the submission numbers the editor included. This is a good example of the kind of odds you’re sometimes up against with pro markets. Here we’re looking at 20 slots for a whopping 1,750 submissions. That’s around a one-percent acceptance rate. As the editor points out, this means very good and even great stories are going to be rejected. It’s good to keep that in mind when you’re submitting to big markets so those form rejections don’t bum you out too much.

Publications

Three publications in October, the first of which is free to read online.

“When the Lights Go On”

Published by The Arcanist (free to read)

“Burning Man”

Published by Havok Magazine

“Time Waits for One Man”

Published by Factor Four Magazine

 


And that was my October. Tell me about yours.