• Jabe Stafford

One Page Worlds - Cursed Engines

A whole world on a single page!

The short story morsels of One Page Worlds are flash fiction adventures of all flavors. Every Wednesday will feature a complete story in one page, or the first page of what could be a novel or novelette.

Sharing the fun and geekery is the best part of writing! Please tweet or comment with your guesses on what genre, character, and job is central to each tale. Enjoy touring new universes each week with One Page Worlds!

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Gulls. Hundreds of hungry featherbags. Diving at the ship.

“Bosun, furl the sails,” I yell at Jinsed. “We’re not gonna make the cliffs.”

“Shoulda bought that vapor engine,” he roars back, yanking one rope in each hand. “We could hightail it away from those cursed featherbags.”

Wind drags the sails every way except the way he wants them to go. In. Seagulls wheel between clouds and swoop, flinging their sharp-beaked bodies into the sailcloth and tearing holes. Damned cliff witches guard their eyries too well.

I spit on the deck. “Do I look like a boiler mechanic?”

“Captain’s gotta learn sometime,” Jinsed calls over the flock’s warbling. He heaves at the ropes and the two mainsails shutter along their tracks, furling tight.

Leaping up the staircase atop the cabin, I seize the ship’s wheel and crank it left. “Ace pilots don’t get the respect they used to. Hit the deck, crew!”

Every woman and man in sight flops onto their backs. With that, I fling off my naval captain’s jacket and stomp two pedals beneath the wheel. The first trips the mechanism beneath the masts, dropping them into shafts in the hold. The second triggers the curse I’d bought instead of that vapor engine trash. Every person on board adheres to the deck, their clothes and boots freezing them down. Secure.

My bodice and boots solidify around me. I swerve to port and bank in a sideways u-turn.

Several hundred birds veer unnaturally fast, plunging beaks into boards and several crew’s arms and legs. Pained yells bleed out into the ozone around us. Pink mists the clouds.

“Maniac Mandy got you good,” I cackle at the now-screwed flock.

Whipping the wheel right, left, and right, the ship rolls and its body snaps against hundreds of featherbags once. Twice. Thrice. They tumble toward the continent below the same moment I pull out of the u-turn. The cliffs come back into view underhead.

Overhead. Underhead.

I right the ship again and laugh out loud at the ring of witches fleeing into their caves. “You want your birds back? They’re down there. Go get ‘em so I can steal your curses.”

Jinsed’s strangled groans from the deck beneath me carry on the wind. “Mandy. Please buy the engine next time.”

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