Flash Fiction Challenge: Ten Little Chapters

Here is my entry to this week’s Flash Fiction Challenge on Chuck Wendig’s blog Terribleminds.

Quoting Mr. Wendig:

This week’s challenge is simple in description, but perhaps complex in execution.

It is about pacing and arrangement.

A piece of flash fiction is usually treated in a certain way — it’s short, so it uses the brevity of the form to often capture a snapshot in time.

We’re going to open that up a little bit.

You still have 1000 words.

But you’re going to break that up into 10 chapters.

As soon as I read that, I thought of the Nava Rasa. To quote Wikipedia:

rasa (Sanskrit: रस lit. ‘juice’ or ‘essence’) denotes an essential mental state and is the dominant emotional theme of a work of art or the primary feeling that is evoked in the person that views, reads or hears such a work.

There are eight or nine or eleven Rasas, depending on who you ask. The commonest count is nine. So my story has ten chapters: one prologue and nine chapters representing nine Rasas.

I gave myself two more targets:

  1. Each chapter will have exactly 100 words, bringing the total to 1,000.
  2. I’ll use the Rasas in the order that they are mentioned in The Natya Shastra.

So here you go.

Nava Rasa

Prologue:

They came to Earth on a spaceship. At least that’s what they tell us.

We had no way of knowing if it’s the truth. We didn’t know how all our radars and radio observatories and amateur astronomers with their telescopes and professional astronomers with their telescopes missed a spaceship entering our atmosphere.

There is a reason that we call them Atlanteans. They reached the coasts of Mumbai in little flotillas of inflatable rafts. By the time their story of their spaceship landing on water became common news, the name had stuck.

Also, why the hell do they look like us?

Śṛngāram (शृङ्गारं) Love, Attractiveness:

I met Maya in the debriefing centre. She was gorgeous and friendly. I may not have fallen in love at the first sight, but it did not take me more than an hour. By the time the formal meeting was over and I became one of the first fortunate cops to take our visitors out for a guided tour of old Mumbai, it was head over heels time.

While I knew that it was stupid to fall in love with a gorgeous alien who calls herself Maya (illusion), I must have been thinking from some other part of my anatomy.

Hāsyam (हास्यं) Laughter, Mirth, Comedy:

Break the ice… break the ice…

“So, Maya. How did you come by this name, by the way?”

“ I chose it for myself. We went through some of the most common names in your planet and I really liked the sound of it.”

“Really? In here, it’s usually our parents who choose our names.”

Awkward pause following a lame joke…

Break the ice…

Try again?

“You know, our movies show that aliens always come down to either conquer our world or because they are parasites who need a new world to exploit. Why are you guys here?”

Raudram (रौद्रं) Fury:

Not many remember Gavrilo Princip, the man who shot Archduke Ferdinand and started World War 1. I wondered if anybody would remember me, the man who almost started Intergalactic War 1.

Before I met the Police Chief, I didn’t know that people could actually get purple in the face. His hour-long outburst consisted of

  1. One part comparison between me and some animals and unflattering parts of their anatomy.
  2. One part detailed description of what he would like to do with me.
  3. One part the most imaginative invectives invented by humankind.

I agreed with most of the assessments.

Kāruṇyam (कारुण्यं) Compassion, Tragedy:

I wanted to shut the door on Maya’s face.

But she did not give me time. She seemed to have memorised a script. “I am sorry I overreacted. I have spoken to our leader. He will speak to the chief tomorrow and ask for your reinstatement. I hope you can forgive me. I know that I have done a horrible thing and there is nothing I can do to make it up to you.”

She turned her back on me and started down the road.

I caught hold of her wrist. “Would you like to come in?”

 “Yes.” She smiled.

Bībhatsam (बीभत्सं) Disgust, Aversion:

Calm down. Focus on one thing at a time. Make the tea.

“Maya, how did you come out of your hotel alone? How did you know where I lived?”

“We crossed space to visit another planet. Do you think a door would stop us?”

 The tea is ready. Now take it out to the dining room.

“Maya, here’s …”

I could not understand what I was seeing. Maya looked guilty. There were a few grey feathers on the doorstep. The window was open.

Then I saw the pigeon’s leg kick out from between Maya’s lips.

I threw up and fainted.

Bhayānakam (भयानकं) Horror, Terror:

I was on the couch when I came to. My forehead and temples were damp. My face was clean, but my mouth still tasted bitterly sour.

So it was not a nightmare. Shit.

I wanted to scream and shout. I wanted to run away from this place. I wanted a drink.

Instead, I tried to listen to footsteps and creaking doors. I tried to understand why I was still alive.

Ok, try to be rational here. May be she kept me alive because…

It’s difficult to do rational when you are in the risk of losing control of your bowels.

Vīram (वीरं) Heroic mood:

The door opened suddenly. I was not paying attention! See, this is what happens when you try to be rational.

I stand no chance against this creature. The only way I can kill her is if she chokes on a recalcitrant bone formerly belonging to my body. But I am the only human being who knows the Atlanteans’ dirty secrets. Only I can save mankind.

I picked up the cricket bat from the corner and struck a pose that I sincerely hoped was sufficiently heroic.

Somebody hit me on the back of my head and I passed out once more.

Adbhutam (अद्भुतं) Wonder, Amazement:

“Are you abso-fucking-lutely crazy? Insulting her wasn’t enough? You wanted to kill her?” The chief has moved beyond purple. His face was blue.

“I would not have been able to kill her, chief. She is some kind of psycho bird-eater.”

“I am not worried about Maya, you fucknuts. What if you got injured accidentally? Do you understand how powerful the Atlanteans are? The press would lap the story up.”

“Wait wait wait. You did not say anything about the bird eating part. Did you know that?”

“You think we sent them out with you dickbrains without knowing everything about them?”

Śāntam (शांतं) Peace or tranquillity:

Maya visited me at the hospital today.

We had lots to talk about. I apologised to her for trying to attack her with the cricket bat. She apologised for the colleague of hers who came looking for her and hit me on the head.

She tried to explain their biological processes and why they eat birds and how her reflex got better of her that night. I did not understand it. Frankly, I was trying not to pay too much attention to it.

She brought me a cake. It had chocolate frosting.

I think I am in love. Yes, again.

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About Siddhartha

I'm just this guy, you know?
This entry was posted in Stories and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Flash Fiction Challenge: Ten Little Chapters

  1. Haha, very nice! You had me from the opening line. But my favourite line in the whole story was this: “She is some kind of psycho bird-eater.” How often do you get to say THAT?! I think it worked very well, and each chapter flowed naturally. I doubt it was easy to achieve each rasa with a limited word-count, so well done!

    • Siddhartha says:

      Thank you. Glad you liked it.
      Weirdly, limited word count was not a major problem. I had to tweak the phrasing a bit to achieve the goal of having exactly 100 words per chapter, but that was not too difficult. I spent far more time in getting the flow of the story right.

  2. allsnjill says:

    Very interesting challenge you set for yourself! Great concept and I love the comedy of errors you had. Nice piece!

  3. Great story. Funny and weird and I think you managed the rasa’s pretty well.
    But, I hope you don’t mind me saying, the formating of the chapter headings ruined the flow of the story for me, because I spent too much time processing them before moving on in the story.

    • Siddhartha says:

      I agree. The chapter headings can be distracting, perhaps more so because of the Devnagari script and diacritical marks used in them. I wanted to mention the Rasas explicitly as I felt that many readers would not be familiar with them.
      I tried to experiment a bit with formatting, but none of the options worked for me. I’ll definitely need to think and tweak a little more.
      Really glad that you liked to story in spite of the distractions.

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