Road to Ethoseum: Flash Fiction Written for the Literary Mash-Up Challenge

in story •  4 months ago

ethoseum horse.jpg

When Eddie rose from underneath the stampede, he was devoid of a shoe along with its sock, and the collar of his shirt. This was his last stampede. His rodeo days were over. He realized at that moment there was no limit to the low things he might be tempted to do to save himself.

He had to find a way out. Couldn't disappoint Helen again. In a gesture of resignation he pressed his hands deeply into his pants pockets. These were empty--except for one ticket:

ethoseum ticket.jpg

He slowly pulled the ticket out. Bold red print on a black background emphasized the importance of the message. He reflected for a moment. This could be a reprieve, but only if Helen agreed. She was young, some might say too young to make such a decision, but nothing in his behavior had demonstrated that he was any wiser. He folded the ticket and placed it securely in his shirt pocket.

Their shack was at the end of a rutted dirt road. They'd sought shelter there when the last month's rent at the lodge failed to materialize. It was not winter yet, so blankets were sufficient to keep them warm at night. Helen was sitting at a tiny, surprisingly elegant table. It was the one piece of furniture he'd managed to salvage from their former life.

"I lost." He blurted it out.

The significance of the statement showed instantly on Helen's face. She was thirteen, but the downward spiral of fortune in the last year had given her the context in which to absorb the weight of this calamity. They were lost.

For a while now she'd not been able to share her life with anyone, besides her father. No one invited her to go out and it had been a long time since she invited friends home. She lived in fear that her secrets would be discovered. Shame was more dreadful to her than the cold, the hunger, or the long walks they took everywhere, to save gas.

"There is one thing..." Eddie reached into his pocket and took out the ticket. "A way out, maybe. But no way back." He handed her the ticket and watched her expression as she processed the terms of passage. Her close-cropped hair framed the firmly pursed lips, narrowed eyes, flushed cheeks. She finally shifted her gaze and regarded him with fierce determination.

"Yes. We do it. What else is there?" She pointed to papers scattered about. A pile of newspapers in the corner looked as though it had been flattened into a bed. "This is what we're leaving. What could be worse?"

He didn't stop to change from his dusty stampede clothes before he drove to the library so he could email his acceptance. The response was immediate. Two slots were still open for orientation the next morning. The voyage for which they held tickets would leave just four hours after that. Would they be ready?

Eddie didn't hesitate. He typed out the response: "Send the address."

They used up most of their gas on the way, partly because the GPS wasn't working and they got lost. Didn't matter. They wouldn't need gas, ever again.

Orientation was presented in a large, IMAX-type theater. Helen and Eddie relaxed in stadium seats and a deep voice enveloped them.

"As you have been informed by your recruiters and your tickets, all transports are one way. The rare fuel resources used for these voyages must be reserved for importing colonists and delivering supplies. Your transport vessel will be converted upon arrival into a facility that will become an intrinsic part of the colony. Ethoseum has a vibrant, fully developed community that has grown over the past twenty years. This is the result of diligent application by brilliant people. You will be enjoying the fruits of their labor. You will be heirs and pioneers. Sit back in your seats and begin your experience of ethoseum."

Eddie glanced at Helen. She was mesmerized. There seemed to be none of the fear and doubt he was struggling to suppress. With the magical plasticity that only youth possess, Helen was already making a transition.

Vivid three dimensional images flashed on the screen, and the voice continued.

"The light that falls on ethoseum comes not from the sun, but from another star. Plants on ethoseum are not dependent on photosynthethis. They flourish by means we do not comprehend. Note the moss on the ground appears to be unnaturally green. This hue would be out of place on earth, but not on ethoseum. There, beyond the reach of photosynthesis, all of nature's colors are almost violently vivid."

The word violent startled Eddie. What did he know about these people after all? He'd read about the voyages, and ethoseum, but little information was available on earth. Because no one ever came back to personally describe their experiences. What if Ethoseum Corporation was a sham? What if vessels got lost and people died? There was no way to know. And he didn't trust the government to reveal damaging information because they were deeply invested in intergalactic colonization.


Eddie wanted everything to freeze, to stand still while he collected his thoughts. He tuned out the deep voice and the wide screen. Maybe they should leave. Get in the car with its almost empty gas tank and drive away.

Helen pulled on his shirt sleeve.

"Dad. Dad. It's over. We're supposed to get in line for new clothes. Everybody gets new clothes."

Eddie realized Helen's clothes were so old that the color had been sucked out of them by innumerable washings. She had no idea what ethoseum-issue clothing would look like, but it would be new. And for the first time in many months, she would fit in with her peers.

They got a good view of their fellow voyagers as everyone left the theater and began to congregate on the other side of a cavernous hall. This was a mixed group--all ages, all types. Some were polished, and some projected a weary, almost worn air. Eddie imagined he was one of those.

As the group organized itself into exit queues, Eddie noted one leveling, unifying quality: All the voyagers exuded an aura of expectation and optimism as they reached for an unfolding future.


ethoseum accent accent.jpg

This story was written in response to a challenge laid down by @raj808. A full context for that challenge is explained here.

The challenge had two parts. For the second part, all the participants were given six sentences from which something was to be created--a poem, a screen play, flash fiction, whatever. Whole sentences or simply words from the sentences could be used.

See if you can find the sentences, or words from the sentences, that have been incorporated into the story above.

The Sentences:

When Eddie rose from underneath the stampede, he was devoid of a shoe along with its sock, the collar of his shirt, two buttons of his fly and Crystal's ticket.

The sentence was taken from the book, Raavan and Eddie by Kiran Nagarkar. Suggested by @manouche

No, there was no longer any limit to the low things I might be tempted to do.

The sentence was taken from the book, Hunger by Knut Hamsun. Suggested by @agmoore

Papers were scattered about, and a pile of newspapers in the corner looked as though it had been flattened into a bed, which was fine by him .

The sentence was taken from the book, The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell. Suggested by @olaivart.

Unfortunately this meant she could never invite any friends home to play, and she lived in fear that her secret would be discovered.

The sentence was taken from the book, * Feeding your Demons* by Tsultrim Allione. Suggested by @mountainjewel

The moss appeared unnaturally green, inexplicable for these depths beyond the reach of photosynthesis.

The sentence is taken from the book, Hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world by Haruki Murakami. Suggested by @raj808

What if he had a brain freeze and ditched all his lines, or farted, or, worse yet, sucked up Helen's clothes?

The sentence is taken from the book, Washer Mouth by Kevin L. Donihe. Suggested by @blockurator

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I love this @agmoore, I completely would have submitted this to curie but you had a vote quite recently so that makes it a risk for submitting (cause of the curie rules) and I have some rejections this week so I have to be extra careful. Anyway, I know you're here for the experience more than rewards but I've summoned up a decent vote 'fuzzyvest' anyway because this story is great and deserves it!

I really like the descriptive passages and how you build character of Eddie and Helen (Helen particularly). The concept is really interesting and I'm left with the impression that this (Ethoseum) might be some type of con, I'm kind of in the same mindset of Eddie but you leave it open at the end which is a great way to end it. It leaves the reader to follow their natural ending, influenced by their optimism or pessimism ;-)

Really good story. Thanks for participating :-)


You made my day. I was feeling rather foolish. Thanks so much!

Another great piece of writing @agmoore! There are few here who make me wish the story would continue in another post ... you are one of them :) Thank you for sharing your talent! :)

Submitting to c-squared :)


I appreciate that very much. I have to say, people like you are the heart of Steemit. I'm here for the experience, the creative energy. Doesn't matter where the price goes for someone like me. We stay because we like it. And you are one of the reasons we like it.


awww @agmoore, that's such a sweet thing to say! Thank you so very much!!


Indeed! A well deserved one too!



This post was shared in the Curation Collective Discord community for curators, and upvoted and resteemed by the @c-squared community account after manual review.

Thank you! That is very encouraging :)

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Wow! Your talents run deep my friend. Seems like I've just stopped by in time to discover your literary prowess. I read through the writing challenge too, and I must say, you've done such an amazing job weaving these sentences in seamlessly!



You know, every time I write fiction, it takes a little courage to post because there's always more of myself in this kind of exercise. Thanks for making it easier to post next time :) Appreciate your kind words.

I really enjoyed this. I thought it was some pervert running off with a thirteen year old. I'm glad it was her dad.

Now I am hanging at this cliff.
What will they face when landing? Interesting, that you stop here and leave it up to me. On a lazy day I would say: That's unfair! And would like to be provided with a second part of this story.
Is today a lazy one?

From what I see as logic, their arrival cannot be seen as entering a shiny new world. If it would be safe there would be at least some news traveling their way back to earth. No information actually means also a not so safe passage to destination, too. ... So I think even when Helen and Eddie arrive at ethoseum they will probably face some life dangering events.

Very challenging to also use the already set sentences - you did a brilliant writing job here.


Thank you, my friend. You always read carefully, so I appreciate the assessment very much. I agree with you...danger ahead. But there is hope, and I'm glad I left a little of that for this family. One thing that helped me in writing: when I was a child there was a shack in the forest near my home. The shack was full of comic books. These were arranged in piles and strewn about the floor. I had that image in my head when I described the cabin in the story.


Did you read the comics? Or was it peeping through a window? How adventurous to have a forrest and a shack during childhood!

I think especially for children (but actually also for adults) it would be good to have totally uncultivated spaces nearby. Wildlife, of some sorts. Or just wild bush-paths where not so much maintenance takes place.
Places to hide and seek. Places to explore. Rotten things. Smelling things. Creepy ones. Beautiful ones ...
sigh ...


So you were there, when I was a child :) because that's exactly what it was like. I think it's what gave me a sense of something larger. We lived rather isolated lives. Very little money but a forest at our doorstep. The shack actually became my library. I was a late reader, but when I got the knack my appetite was insatiable. But no books. Then we found the shack. I read all those comics over and over again (the ones that weren't moldy). The shack became my literacy lab. Until we moved to New York City, it was my only source of recreational reading.

Very intuitive of you to bring that up.


Oh, thank you for giving me that details! It cheers me up.

Very intuitive of you to bring that up.

I'd say one thief recognizes the other ;-)