Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Flash Fiction Challenge: Voicemails from the Future

This week’s challenge is a guest challenge, by which I mean while I’m hosting it, it’s not actually my challenge. This one comes to you courtesy of Sara Thacher and Ken Eklund, two of the fine folks behind In fact, this challenge is related to that —

Well, I’ll just let them tell you, those damn time traveling magpies.

* * *

You be the lookout. Mkay?

*pulls out slim jim*

*strips back ignition wires*

Ahem. Now that I’ve stolen the Wendig Flash Fiction DeLorean, let’s take this baby out for a spin.

Here’s the set-up:

There’s a glitch in the voicemail system in the near future – what sort? How should I know, it’s in the future. Jeez. The important part is that this glitch sends voicemails back to our time. Really, I should say the near futures. There’s a cone of possibilities, you see, and that becomes dead obvious when you listen to these voicemails. They’re all over the possibilities map.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it:

Script a voicemail from one of these futures.

Your voicemail is created by someone in the future trying to reach somebody else in the future and leaving a message instead. The call was never intended for us to hear. We’re eavesdroppers.

Setting: Think near future – 2020 to 2065.

People: Let’s cast this voicemail, shall we. Who is your caller? Who are they playing phone tag with? What’s their relationship?

The authentic future: What are the clues that let me know this is taking place in the future? What’s different? Climate-changed, maybe? (more on this later)

Authentic voicemail. Remember, this is a voicemail – one person calling another – so getting all exposition-y doesn’t really make sense. (Unless your caller is a reporter for – uhoh, now I’m giving you ideas dammit!) But you get the gist. Conversational. True to the spoken word.

Got it all scripted? Good! Pens down. And now, here’s the Stolen Flash Fiction DeLorean Twist: record your voicemail! You heard me correctly. There’s a hotline just for you to record voicemails from the futures. How cool is that. Ready for it?

+1 (321) 732-6278  or, if it’s easier, 321-7-FCOAST

[note from Chuck: feel free to still give us links to your voicemail scripts if you so desire]

Wha? But what happens after you call up and record your voicemail? Oh, I am SO glad you asked. This whole thing is part of a collaborative storytelling project called FutureCoast. It’s funded by the National Science Foundation (thanks guys!) because maybe writing fiction about climate change is a good way to get people engaged with the issue. We think that concentrating on voicemails – one-sided mini conversations – helps to make a huge-big-abstract issue a little more human-sized.

After you call and record your voicemail, it gets published on (which is kid-friendly BTW so no bad words (oh sure like NOW we tell you)). Operators are standing by, as they say, so publishing should go pretty quick.

But wait, you say, how will I be able find my voicemail to share with all things TerribleMinded after I call it in? Well, those FutureCoasters, they think ahead (ha ha). After you record your message, opt in to get a text message with a link to your voicemail when it goes live on

And for those of you who go all-in, there’s a storybuilder on the site called Timestream. You use it to make “mixtapes of the future,” using voicemails – your own or other people’s. Bonus T-Minded Points for the best remix story told in voicemails (remember, you can make as many voicemails as you like… collaborate with others…).

Due date. Sunday, February 23.

Prize. Top contributor gets a secret futurismic mission and the props to complete it – wherever you may be. dun dun dun

Tips and inspiration. To be found on the ‘behind the curtain’ site:

rrr-rrr-rrRR- vROOM. You ready to take the Flash Fiction DeLorean for a spin? Watch out, it gets a little unstable at 88 mph…