Zack Umstead, Young Writer

April 22, 2013

You’re Late!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Zack @ 8:22 AM

If you’re coming to the blog, you may notice it’s quiet… too quiet…

And that’s because I’ve moved! I’ve got a fancy new blog at my own domain, Head on over there to follow all the stuff you love from this site, plus more!


Seriously, what are you still doing reading this post? Go now!


January 14, 2013

Monday One-Word Writing: Rumble

Filed under: One Word Writing — Zack @ 2:54 PM

It’s time for another Monday One-Word Writing! This week’s suggestion comes from three weeks ago (my Christmas Eve post), and the word is “rumble”. Enjoy!


They slowly ground against each other, tension building up over centuries. It was only a matter of time. So much energy could not be contained.

Michael woke up just as he normally did. He grudgingly got out of bed, considered showering, and decided it was pointless to try to feel clean when you worked in sanitation. He ate his plain, untoasted bagel, drank his orange juice, brushed his teeth, and immediately regretted doing the last two. A pair of blue jeans later, and he was out the door of his apartment.

That was when the first vibration hit. It was a rather small tremor, one that all San Fransiscans were used to. Michael braced his arm against the wall and waited it out.

When the shaking stopped, Michael called out, “Everybody okay?”

A small voice replied from the end of the hallway, “I could use a hand.”

Michael jogged to end of the hallway and found the elderly man from 5C lying on the floor. “I’m fine. My knees just don’t have the strength in them to get me up of the ground.” He let out a feeble laugh.

“Alright, let’s get you up,” Michael send. He grabbed the man’s hand as the second tremor hit.

This one was huge, the biggest the Bay Area had had in sixty years. The old apartment building rocked violently, and unable to withstand the earthquake like the newer buildings, began to shake apart.

A wooden support beam fell from the ceiling. Michael, still leaning over the old man, took the full force of the beam with his back. He let out a cry of pain, and his knees crumpled from the impact. He still kept enough strength, though, to keep the beam from crushing the man.

The old man scrambled from beneath the beam with new found vigor, and made it out from under it moments before Michael grew too weak to hold it up. It collapsed onto Michael, and he felt the air rush from his lungs. He tried to regain his breath, but found he couldn’t inhale. The last thing Michael heard before he passed out was the old man saying, “I”ll go get help. Try to hang on!”


I hope you liked it! Circumstances called for a rather short one, but that isn’t alway bad. Once again, if you have a suggestion for a word to use next week, please leave it in a comment below!

January 7, 2013

Monday One-Word Writing: Resolution

Filed under: One Word Writing — Zack @ 8:27 AM

It’s Monday (say it with me now – ugghhh…), but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it comes in the form of a story. Due to last Monday being New Year’s Eve, I took the day off from One-Word Writing, so this week, to make up for that, I’m using the word resolution (which, by the way, was suggested by my Creative Writing teacher). Without further adieu, the story!


“We don’t have any hard evidence on this guy. All we’ve got is a single witness.”

“We’ve got two witnesses, Clara,” the commissioner said.

“The other one’s autistic and all he has is a blurry picture of the dark alley,” Officer Clara replied.

“It’s a shame. Every once and a while he takes a great picture. Just not this…”

The commissioner was cut off by someone entering the room.

“Sir, I, here, clean…” he stammered.

“Son, spit it out!’ the commissioner said.

The young man took a deep breath, then continued. “I just cleaned up that man’s photo: took out the blur, boosted the light levels and resolution as best as I could. It’s not the best, but it’ll do.” He handed the commissioner a piece of paper. the commisioner’s eyes scanned over it.

“You did this yourself, son?”

“Yes I did, sir,” he replied.

“You new here?”

“Yes, sir. Officer Markus Ellis. Been here three weeks. Got this assignment of cleaning a photo as a joke from Office Jamison.”

The commissioner couldn’t remember interviewing this kid. too many recruits coming in nowadays. But this Ellis – he saw potential. Might as well boost the kid’s confidence.

“Ellis, this might just be enough to prosecute him. Nice work.”

Ellis looked surprised. “Thank you,” he said, awestruck, and left the room.

“You really think it’s enough?” Clara asked.

“It might just be,” the commissioner muttered. “It might just be…”.


Sorry for the brevity, but I am working under some time restraints (I’m doing some big things with my blog that I will be announcing soon). But don’t forget to leave your comment below with your suggestion of what word I should use next week. See you then!

December 24, 2012

Monday One-Word Writing: Kleptomaniac

Filed under: One Word Writing — Zack @ 11:49 AM

It may be Christmas Eve, but that doesn’t stop me from writing another story! This week’s word comes from Patrick, who suggested the word “kleptomaniac”. Here’s what I came up with (with a holiday twist, of course).


So much here. So much ripe for the taking.

Bad. No. Don’t say that.

It was true though, there was so much. An entire department store full of people and products. Nobody would notice if one product went missing.

Seriously, stop, I told myself. Just leave. I knew I shouldn’t have tried to do some Christmas shopping. I can’t control myself.

But those boots. They looked perfect.

What would I do with a pair of women’s boots? I asked myself.

I had this impulse to shove them into my winter coat and walk right out of the store. Again, NO! I practically shouted in my head. I had to fight this urge. The door was so close. I just needed to leave, and I’d be fine.

Just leave, a little voice in the back of my head said. The door’s so close. You could take the boots easily.

NO! I will not! I took a step towards the door, but my hand moved closer to the boots. “No,” I actually whispered out loud, and shoved both my hands in my pockets. Concentrate. One foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door, I thought, remembering the Christmas TV special.

With the boots, the voice piped up.

Shut up! I walked briskly toward the door and pushed my way through. Once outside, I took a deep gulp of December air. I hadn’t realized I had been holding my breath. I did it, I thought. I walked to my car and pulled out my keys.


Remember to leave your suggestion for next week’s word in the comments below! Merry Christmas if you celebrate it!

December 17, 2012

Monday One-Word Writing: Dissembled

Filed under: One Word Writing — Zack @ 8:30 AM

It’s Monday, which means it’s time for some more flash fiction in the for of Monday One-Word Writing. In case you’re just joining, here’s how this works: I take a single word (usually suggested in the previous week’s comments) and write some flash fiction about it in the half hour of class time I have. Then, you guys read it, and leave me a word to use for next week’s post. This week’s word comes from Catherine, who suggested “dissembled” on last week’s story.

“It’s a necessary sin, Mr. Clark.”

“I see no need for it to be necessary,” Mr. Clark said calmly. “We can continue the venture without dissolving the company.”

“Mr. Clark, this company will be the ruin of us. They’re a leeach sucking the blood from our corporation.”

“I’d remind you, Martin, that this company provides hundreds of jobs in the area.”

“And those people will find new jobs in time. Meanwhile, we get one step closer to this deal. I say we dissolve them immediately.”

“I’d also remind you, Martin, that you are the second largest shareholder in this company. It would do well to respect the largest shareholder.” Mr. Clark’s calm demeanor while saying this sent a shiver down Martin’s spine.

“Yes,” he said meekly. “So, what do you propose, Mr. Clark?”

“I propose we drink on it, and think about the decision tomorrow.” Mr. Clark was known as a drinking man, so it wasn’t an unusual idea. What was unusual was the bottle of limited edition 1958 Glen Garioch whiskey.

“Are you sure you want to share that bottle with me? Perhaps something less expensive would suffice.”

“No, Martin, I insist!” Mr. Clark said jubilantly. “Drink up!” He handed him a glass with a generous portion of liquor.

Martin slowly sipped his glass. “This excellent. Thank you.”

“No, thank you,” Mr. Clark replied, “for making my job easier.”

Before Martin could comprehend what Mr. Clark said, a convulsion ran through his arms. He dropped the glass, whcih shattered when it hit the marble floor. A fresh convulsion tore through his spine. Soon, Martin couldn’t feel his lower body, and gurgling noises could be heard coming from his mouth. A final spasm sent him to the ground, where he lay dying. Police would find him and a coroner would blame it on a piece of bad fugu fish, which Martin especially liked on Sunday nights.

In a matter of days, Mr. Clark would sell all his stock in the corporation and disappear. He would assume a different name and become the largest shareholder of his next target. It paid to be an assassin, and Mr. Clark was one of the best, simply because he put on his facade and hid in the most secretive of places; plain sight.

December 10, 2012

Monday One-Word Writing: Difference

Filed under: One Word Writing — Zack @ 2:58 PM

This week marks the first week where I’m using a fan-submitted word for my Monday One-Word Writing. On last week’s post, kmcambion commented and told me to use the word “difference”, which I will be using today. I prefer using your comments over a word generator to write my one-word writings, so if you have a word for next week’s post, please leave it in a comment! And now, for the story…

“Why does it matter?”

“It just does! They aren’t the same!” Curtis was practically screaming to the whole world his opinions.

Ryan put his hand on his coworkers shoulder. “Hey, quiet down man. No need to make a scene, especially when they’re around.” Quite a few quartets of eyes had turned their direction.

“So you’ll admit, there is a difference,” Curtis whispered.

“They’re just different anatomically. Inside, we’re all the same, man.”

“Bah,” Curtis scoffed,  “inside. Inside, they’re probably waiting to tear us all to pieces.”

“Curtis, what’s gotten into you today?” this wasn’t the Curtis Ryan had worked with for years. “Stellacaeruleans have lived with us for two years now, and there’s been nothing but the usual problems we have with humans.”

“Nothing yet,” Curtis retorted. “But it’s coming. You ever see those old sci-fi movies from the twentieth century?”

“Why would I?” Ryan replied.

“I was watching some of them last night just for a couple of kicks, and they’re totally right.” Curtis’s voice was starting to rise. “The aliens come to Earth and live peacefully for a while. Then – BAM! All out war, aliens versus humans. Happens every time.” By the end of his tirade, Curtis was screaming it to the crowded city street. Some had taken notice – including a juvenile Stellacaerulean. He approached the pair of humans.

“I would like for you to stop,” he said in the deep bass of all Stellacaeruleans.

“And we will,” Ryan said hurriedly, and began to walk away. “Come one Curtis!” he called back to his friend.

“No,” Curtis said. “I’m tired of these damned four-eyes,” he said, indicating the Stellacaerulean’s two pairs of eyes. “They’re trouble, and I know it!” He screamed at the six foot alien, a youngling of his species. “You’re all trouble! War waiting to break out! You hear me, pal? Trouble!”

The Stellacaerulean, though not fully mature, was immensely strong in comparison to humans, and with one swift blow from his fist, Curtis was out cold. “I hear,” he said.

December 3, 2012

Monday One-Word Writing: Slipup

Filed under: One Word Writing — Zack @ 8:18 AM

Today is the third week of my Monday One-Word Writing. In case you missed the first two (which you can find here and here), each Monday, I take one word and write some flash fiction about it. I’ve been using a random word generator, but I’d love to start using your ideas, so if you have a word, make sure to leave it in a comment below! Today’s word comes from an online generator, and the word is slipup. Without further adieu, enjoy!

“You won’t get a thing from me.”

“On the contrary, Mr. Walker, we have gotten everything we need from you. Everything except for one thing.” The man emerged from the shadows, and for the first time in the three days Agent Walker had been trapped here, his captor’s face was fully revealed. The man had all the typical features of a Chinese man, which was to be expected when captured while spying on the Chinese. But his captor’s skin was darker than the average man of Shanghai, hinting at a mixed lineage reacently. Under normal circumstances, Walker would have pondered this for some form of leverage. But these were not normal circumstances.

“And what exactly have you gotten from me?” Walker spat from the chair he was handcuffed to, trying to sound intimidating.

“You spies think you’re clever, finding information without divulging any of it. But you do divulge it, and Mr. Walker, you have divulged enough.”


His captor grinned. “Enough for us to find out all about you,” he said. “And your girlfriend.” He waved, and a man came in holding a tablet with pictuires and documents on Walker’s girlfriend back in the U.S.

“You wouldn’t dare,” Walker growled.

“Oh, we would, Mr. Walker,” the man said. “And we could. It does not take much to make a murder look like an accident. Surely, you must know that.” His captor grinned again.

Walker was outraged. “You can’t touch her! I won’t let you!”

The man leaned in close. “Then tell us what you know.”

“Making me choose between the plans and her! You…”

“Plans.” The man stood straight and wiped Walker’s spittle off his face. “That sounds promising. That will be all for today, Mr. Walker. Please, enjoy the finest luxury China has to offer you.” The captor left the room, and the second man placed the tablet on the floor in front of Walker, leaving the images of his girlfriend displayed.

Well, there it is! If you liked this, please leave a comment below, and don’t forget to include in that comment a word for me to use next week!

November 26, 2012

Monday One-Word Writing: Monkfish

Filed under: One Word Writing — Zack @ 3:00 PM

This week’s Monday blog post is about a rather unusual word. I went to a random word generator and got, well, the word monkfish. I had no idea what a monkfish is (in case you don’t know either, click here). After a bit of reading about the monkfish, I came up with this. Please, enjoy!


It’s always so dark down here. Why do I have to live down here? Oh yes, the food, I remember as something brushes against my lure. Just a little closer. I can feel it stir in front of my mouth.

I lunge out and catch the thing in my mouth. Ugh, shrimp. Again. The darned things had little armor plating that made them impossible to eat without hurting some part of the mouth. What I wouldn’t give for a soft little fish. When was the last time I had one of those? It felt like so long, but time meant nothing to me. There was no way to gauge it without light. Every once in a while a spear of light would come down from above, and I would swim towards it to explore what sights it brought, along with many other inhabitants of this little world.

But wait! I feel another stirring in front of me. Maybe I’m going to get another soft little fish. Oh happy day! I twitch my lure closer to my mouth…

And the thing lights up! Light, real light, like I’ve never seen before! So bright it blinds me, and I swim away. But I come back to explore the thing again, this time with my eyes closed. I feel the currents the thing makes. It feels like… a dying fish? I had only ever experienced that once before, and that fish hadn’t lit up when it died. But this thing seems just like that dying fish in every other way, it’s sporadic movements and the way the current flowed around it.

The light’s going to attract others here. I should eat this before they come. Eat this? I stop myself. Should I really eat this thing, when I have no idea what it is? My head doesn’t say yes, but my stomach growls in protest of a pure shrimp diet. I give in to the urge and lunge out to eat it.

I bite into a mass of something that definitely is not meat. I pull once, but I can’t break free, and I feel a sharp jab into my upper jaw. Suddenly, I’m whisked upwards at high speed by this mysterious thing. Light starts to appear from above, and I close my eyes against it. I feel a difference in my surrounding, and with a start realize that I am not surrounded by water. No water? What is this strange substances I am suspended in? I remember nothing more than the vibration through this strange substance of some large creatures pulling me towards them.


Hope you like it! If you have a word for next week’s One-Word Writing, please leave it in a comment. I’ll choose one to use for next week, which means you could be the inspiration for the story next week. So what are you waiting for? Leave a comment below!

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Filed under: Announcements — Zack @ 11:49 AM

My parents are scrambling making mounds of food in the kitchen below, I chopped probably three pounds of vegetables, and I can currently smell a large fowl roasting in an oven. That all means one thing – today’s Thanksgiving!

So happy Turkey Day (or Tofurkey Day) to those of you celebrating. I hope you see your family, watch some football, and stuff your face with food (thats basically how my night’s going to be spent).

But on a little more serious note, take some time to really be thankful for what you have. Personally, I’m thankful for my great family (though they can get on my nerves sometimes), my house and possessions, and the opportunities I have been given, like the blog I write, or the stories I write that you guys read. Yes, I’m thankful that you guys read my work – after all, what’s a writer without a reader? Anyway, enjoy your holiday and extended weekend for some, and stay safe tomorrow – it gets messy out there.

November 19, 2012

Monday One Word Writing: Ventilating

Filed under: One Word Writing — Zack @ 8:29 AM

For my Monday morning blog posts, I believe I’ve come up with a great idea. I’m calling it One Word Writing – basically, I take one word and try to make an entire short story out of it. This week, since it’s the first week, I used a random word generator to come up with my word. My hope is to have you guys comment below with a word for me to write about next week, and I will choose one and write the story about that.

In case you couldn’t tell from the post’s title, this week’s word is “ventilating”. Take a look below for the story!


Peter woke groggily. The room was dark. Where am I? he thought. Think, Peter, think. What happened to me?

Peter remembered leaving the bar after one too many drinks. Things were getting hazy, and this guy had offered him a ride home. Peter wasn’t stupid – he wasn’t going to drive himself after that last Guinness. The last thing he remembered, he was looking out the window as they drove down the interstate.

Man, did I pass out in his car? That’s embarrassing. Peter got up from the floor and immediately felt warmer. Concrete he realised. I was laying on a concrete floor. I don’t have any concrete floors in my house.

“Hey!” Peter yelled. “Hey, where am I?” His voice echoed loudly in the confines of the small room. He walked to the wall and found it was corrugated steel. What the hell? he thought. “Where am I?” he yelled again. He felt his way around the room. It wasn’t much bigger than a closet, and the walls were all corrugated steel. There wasn’t a door, as far as he could tell.

Now he vocalized his emotions. “What the hell?!” he yelled with all his might. The only answer he received was his angered echo. But as his eyes grew used to the dark, he saw a small source of light in the ceiling.

“What’s this?” Upon closer inspection, he found it was an air vent. “Well at least I have you, little guy,” he said. “That’s kind of whoever put me in here.”

The vent closed with a loud metallic snap, and the container fell into total darkness.

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