Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Alpha Newberry

She set the fresh bandages and two basins of water down on the table next to the man’s bed, then drew back the thin curtain that ran around it.

He twisted his head toward the sound and gargled roughly, in a vain attempt to say something.

“Sshhh,” she said. “Don’t talk. I’m just here to change your bandages.”

Under his dressings, she knew the man was a horror show of blackened flesh and open wounds. The fire on the Sultana had seared all the hair off if his head and upper body. Then the icy waters of the Mississippi had gone to work freezing the flesh on his extremities. His prognosis was not good.

She placed a fresh roll of bandages into one of the basins to soak, and began to unwrap his blood stained ones.

Suddenly, his hand was on her arm, necrotic fingers holding her tight.

“The shining…we could see the lights of Memphis…shining, dancing over the water.” He croaked to her, tears welling up in his eyes.

“So close. They seemed so close. Tried to swim. Couldn’t…couldn’t reach the shining.

His grip loosened, his hand slipping from her arm.

Another victim of the Sultana.

Memphis Note
146 years ago this week, the
SS Sultana’s boilers exploded a few miles north of Memphis on the Mississippi. Nearly two thousand men, mostly Union soldiers returning home from Confederate POW camps, were on board when the disaster struck. Those that weren’t killed outright by the blast, had to make a choice between a raging inferno or the near-frozen currents of the Mississippi River. Barely 700 of the two thousand survived, and many of those succumbed to their injuries while recovering in Memphis. To date, the Sultana stands as the worst maritime disaster in US history.

Scott Brown

The fire crackled and hissed under the endless starry night. The Elder circled it, predatory, unafraid, looking for his perfect moment.

Then at once, his arms spread wide, casting a shadow of a ferocious monster into the trees. “Lo! They did come!” He began, intoning the words of the Great Story.

“Across the endless sea of land they did come, perfect machines of death. Mechs and crawlers of near-divine make! Their victory all but absolute.”

He lowered his arms and his tone. “And at first they were unstoppable. Sweeping away all in their path.”

A smile crept across his lips, and a murmur went through the tribe.

“They thought we, we paltry, we dirty, we nothing, would be the same.”

He thrust his walking stick into the ground, and drew out a long line in the dirt.

“But we were not the same. We were something different. We would not let them cross our line, our river, our Mississippi.”

He pushed the hood back from his face, looking his tribesmen in their eyes.

“And now what do they all say? The poor? The downtrodden? The forgotten? They say, ‘Look to the Mississippi! The line that shall not be crossed!’”

Memphis Note
So, yeah, maybe this one’s just a tad be influenced by the Grizzlies winning tonight. Just a tad.

David Goodman

Over in the corner, a very excited, rail-thin Englishman fiddled with glowing knobs and buttons on a equipment rack that towered over him.

I watched him absentmindedly, chewing on a toothpick. After a bit, he seemed to forget I was even there, so I cleared my throat. He turned ‘round, and gave me an overly-wide smile that only the most rarified of the white-boy-glam-rocker-coke-fiends are capable of.

“Right, yeah, man.” He brushed a greasy strand of hair back from his face and sat down on the stool beside me. “Can I just say how much of an honor this is? My old man, he was, like, your biggest fan. This project, it’s like a dream come true for me. Bridging the old and the new, you know?”

From somewhere he produced a wrinkled and worn manuscript book. “Right, so I’ve got some words for songs here. Did you want to -”

I stopped him right there. “Son, you don’t write down the blues. You live it. You let it talk through you.”

He blinked at me.

“Right, man, yeah. Just like Jay-Z.”

I blinked back at him.

“What the hell’s a Jay-Z?”

Memphis Note
Brit-rockers U2 came to town in the late 1980s and cut a few tracks with the legendary BB King at the equally legendary Sun Studios as part of their Rattle and Hum recording/documentary project. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if one of today’s talentless pop artists tried to capture lightning twice. I don’t foresee it ending well.

Jonathan McCarver

“Which one of you are going to tell me what the hell happened?”

The lieutenant stomped the ground in front of a half dozen battered enlisted men, twitching his legendary mustache in irritation.

“They was Secesh, sir.” Came a voice from the end of the line. The Stache was on the speaker in a second.

“They’re all Secessionists, you jackass! The whole damn city is! Braver men than you idiots fought and died for this city, and not one of them did it so you could get in a brawl over the obvious!”

The Stache turned back to the rest of them and growled, “Are any of you planning to start a riot over rain being wet?”

No one responded.


He returned to stomping. “Now, are the rest of your brains so addled that they’ve reinterpreted my simple question into some kind of monumental logic puzzle, or are you going to tell me what really happened?”

“We paid a dollar to dance at the ball, sir. Then they refused to let any Union soldier take a turn. We objected.”

The Stache stopped, and the tips of his mustache went up – the sign of a smile.

“Well, that’s something different.”

Memphis Note
A year into the Union occupation of Memphis, there’s a newspaper account of a half dozen Union men clearing out a dance hall on Saturday night. They’d paid a dollar to get in, but had then been told they couldn’t dance with any of the women. After two hours, they’d had enough and turned the dance in a brawl. Which they won.

Brandon Dill

Pierre Prudhomme was lost.

It had been more than a week since he’d gotten separated from La Salle’s expedition. He knew because he had rations for five days, and those ran out five days prior.

“Should’ve know better, Pierre,” he hissed at himself. “Shouldn’t have wandered off, Pierre.”

He’d gotten turned while tracking a deer. When he realized there was a problem, it was already too late. He was trapped in a maze of impassible thickets and treacherous bogs, one of which had sucked a hobnailed boot right off his foot.

It didn’t help that he was deep in Indian territory, Indians that were sure to kill him if he was discovered.

“Watch out, Pierre, watch out. They could be everywhere, Pierre, anywhere.” He muttered, clawing out of the bramble into a clearing where a most bizarre sight greeted him.

It was a freshly built wooden stockade, butted up against an inlet of the river; orange fire dancing from within, the smell of cooking meats wafting in the air. And a man, standing at the gate, shouting something curious.

“Piiiieeeerrrreee Puuuudhooommmme!”

At first Pierre didn’t recognize the words. Then clarity came.

He was shouting his name.

Pierre Prudhomme was found.

Memphis Note
The stockade poor Pierre stumbled upon was built by his expedition after La Salle refused to leave the man behind. It was named in Pierre’s honor, and Fort Prudhomme would become the first European structure on the banks of the Mississippi.

Additional Note
Memphis is still having crazy weather, and power was out last night when I came home to write. Again, my apologies.