I get on these kicks sometimes. I’ll find a fictional device and I want to play with it, exploring it from different angles. If you read last week’s story, you’ll get it. This one uses a similar structure.

Some of this stuff is straight from my actual nightmares. As such, I find this particular story haunting. Eh, it might not scare you. Horror is extremely personal that way.

Regardless, I’d love to know your thoughts. If you like it or hate it, speak up. Tell me what you think in the comments.

devil’s kiss

I woke with a start. Immediately I noticed the room didn’t feel right.

It’s hard to explain. My nightstand was there. The lamp. The alarm clock, those sideways eyes staring me down, blinking, relentlessly declaring the passing of time. A silent scream I can only ignore when I sleep.

But everything was all wrong, too.

The windows weren’t quite square, the tops tapered just enough to leave me uneasy. The blinds rattled in the breeze, and I struggled to remember why I’d left them open. I could hear rain, and the rational part of my brain, the part not really awake yet, tried to tell the rest of me I needed to close them to keep the sills from getting wet.

There was more.

Little things out of place on the dresser. The sense that my bed was shorter than it should have been. No glow from the streetlamp outside. Darkness enveloped me, like a thick blanket on a warm night, and I couldn’t seem to kick my feet free.

It felt like a caricature of my room. An artist’s rendition. It was close, but not accurate.

The darkness hung in the corners like the shadows had mass. They ran under the bed when lightning struck. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her.

She was short. Maybe five feet tall. Her hair was a tangled mess of black curls and leaves. She smelled like autumn and tasted, I thought, of dirt, though how I would know such a thing I had no idea.

She swayed beside the bed, not four feet away.

I strained to make out her silhouette in the dark, but she might as well have been a ghost. There was a flash and, like a cat, she was somehow closer by a foot. Her head was down, her face hidden in shadow and hair.

Another bolt, and she was closer. I could hear her nails scratching on the caked surface of her nightgown. Was this a neighbor, sleep walking in the middle of a thunderstorm? How had she gotten in? Was it safe to wake her?

Flash. She was beside the bed, near enough to touch. But I didn’t want to touch her. The pale hue of her flesh glowed in the aftermath of the lightning, and I became certain her skin would be cold to the touch. Not cool from the rain. Cold and . . . dead?

I felt panic rise in me, and I tried to move. Only I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand, or sit up, or even roll away. I opened my mouth to scream, but nothing came out. I strained, pushing myself to vocalize something, anything, but my lungs pushed out empty air and frustration.

Light filled my vision, and she was straddling me. I hadn’t even felt her climb on top. Her head hung down and I still couldn’t see that face – that horrible face, for I was certain she was a demon. A specter. A tormentor, and I, her prey.

I felt her weight settle on me, her crouch pressed against mine like we were making love with our clothes on, me and the mysterious dead girl. But I felt nothing. No inclination to caress or thrust. I wanted to vomit, but all I could produce was another neutered cry for help.

Flash.

She was leaning forward. I saw her lips, dry and cracked, blood oozing and glistening in the blue-white light of the storm. She was moving to kiss me, and something inside me knew, simply knew, that if she did it would kill me.

I began to thrash, moving what little I could, trying to break the paralysis. I strained my throat to produce even the smallest sound, and somewhere deep within my chest I felt it coming – the scream I wanted so badly to produce.

Just as her hair tickled my face, as I smelled her sour-sweet breath, as her ashen hand caressed my cheek, it happened. My voice broke through and I bellowed with enough force to break the spell, jolting myself from the nightmare.

I woke with a start. Immediately I noticed the room didn’t feel right . . .

This story is simple.

There’s no deeper meaning. No commentary on society or human nature. No treatise on how people should behave, or the consequences of careless action, or even an ode to beauty or love.

It’s just a 400-word gimmick. But an entertaining one.

The entire point of it is the first and the last line. That’s it. All the stuff in the middle was just getting from one to the other, which will make sense when you read it.

Go on, then. Read it.

basically the same

“They’re basically the same thing.”

Jenny gawked. “The same thing?”

Val nodded. She wasn’t even looking at her friend.

“Yeah,” she said. “The same thing.”

Jenny stopped walking. As if on cue, a dog barked somewhere in the distance.

“How is being bitten by a vampire the same as sex?”

Val circled back to her friend. They had the sidewalk to themselves. Hell, they had the street to themselves. But it was well-lit and in a mostly-nice part of town, so neither was particularly worried. Plus, they had cell phones, and Jenny never when anywhere without mace on her keyring.

“Well,” Val began, “both involve penetration, for one.”

Jenny scrunched her nose. Val rolled her eyes.

“Like you haven’t thought about it.”

“It’s that word,” Jenny said. “Penetration. I don’t like how it sounds. It’s so, I don’t know, forceful, I guess.”

“It’s what happens. And in both cases, it’s something hard sliding into something soft.”

“Okay, stop.”

Val only grinned.

“If it’s the first time, sex even involves blood.”

“I said stop.”

Val laughed quietly to herself. “Okay, princess. But you asked.”

“I didn’t ask for details. Not like those.”

“And anyway, you gotta get over being so fucking innocent.”

Jenny’s eyes went wide.

“What?” Val asked.

“You said the f-word.”

Val grinned conspiratorially. “It’s just a fucking word.”

“Stop it. Why are you being so gross tonight?”

Val thought about that for a moment.

“I’m not sure. I mean, we just saw a horror film. Could be that. Or maybe I just like torturing you. It’s what friends do.”

“Well, think about puppies or something.”

“Vampire puppies?”

“No! Regular, cute little puppies. Geez, what is wrong with you?”

Val laughed, and then they walked in silence for several blocks. They parted ways at Jenny’s house. Val lived just three blocks east. They hugged, and Val said she’d call when she got home.

Only she never called.

Cutting through the alley by her house, she’d run into a stranger. A man she didn’t recognize, but about whom she did not have a good feeling. When he saw her, he leered and said, “Wanna fuck?”

“Uh, no, creep.”

A grin split his face, revealing not teeth, but fangs.

“Then maybe a snack,” the stranger replied. “You know, they’re basically the same thing.”

The last several weeks have been pure chaos, though I admit that shouldn’t stop me from writing. I’ll try to be better. I promise.

Thank you for waiting so politely in my absence. You didn’t complain or pitch a fit or anything, and I appreciate that ever so much. Especially given how much you must have missed me. It was agony, I’m sure, but you managed it quite nicely.

This week, I’m venturing back to The Prediction for our prompt:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘necessary’, ‘pucker’, and ‘willow’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

I hope you enjoy it.

the price is the price

“Necessary?” he asked. “Is anything really necessary? That willow by the lake, for example. Seems a bit much to me, but there it is.”

I sighed. Fairies are exhausting.

“That’s not what I mean,” I explained. “Is there another way to cover the cost?”

His eyes widened with understanding. “Oh. I see. Too expensive for you?”

“In a manner of speaking,” I said.

“Sorry, lass. The price is the price. Pay it or chew cabbage.”

What could I do? No substitute would work for the spell.

I closed my eyes and puckered. His lips were cool like the autumn breeze.

I’ve written several variations of this scene. Not the same characters, the same situation, or the same outcome. Just the set up.

An immortal and a human coming to some kind of arrangement in an environment of mock civility. I find it fascinating.

Sometimes the immortal has the clear upper hand. Sometimes the mortal holds his/her ground. The power dynamic isn’t the point.

Rather, it’s the tension I like. A threat delivered with courtesy.

Is anything as unnerving as a killer with manners?

I won’t claim this particular piece is polished. It’s not. It’s a rough draft, pure and simple. Go easy on me if you spot flaws.

May dawn find you…

savage

“So, what’s the deal with your friend?”

Marco raised his eyebrows. Sometimes he gets hung up on what he would call ‘the modern vernacular’.

“Him,” I said pointing to the other chair.

“Oh,” Marco relied, “he is here for your edification.”

I gave him the same look I give my cat when he noses his way to the bottom of a full food bowl and then flips out at the impending shortage.

“I’m not feeling particularly edified,” I said.

“Consider him a cautionary tale, by way of courtesy.”

I figured as much. Like I needed the warning.

I get it, Marco baby. You’re a badass. I’m shakin’ in my Docs.

“Gotcha. So, can we talk business or is there some kind of protocol? I know you’re big into tradition.”

“Under other circumstances, I would be obliged to offer you refreshment. However, any kind of sustenance, even libation, also signifies the promise of safe passage. You have no such assurance from me, pramatie.”

I smirked.

“You know I love it when you talk dirty to me.”

He did not return the smile.

“The matter at hand shan’t require more than a short negotiation. I have but one requirement.”

Oh, boy. Here it comes.

He continued. “Bring me Lucian’s head. Pledge this service and you may leave here unharmed.”

I looked at Marco’s friend.

“And if I don’t?”

Marco nodded.

“I don’t get you, Marco. You know I hate threats. I mean, look at this whole mess with your brother. He tried to force me into service, and I got his blood all over my favorite boots. Do you know what a pain in the ass that was?”

“Am I to take that as a refusal?”

I shrugged.

“Yes and no, Mister Man. Yes and no. Look, I want Lucian dead, too. But I don’t really feel like hauling his head back here to Casa de Death just so you can sit me next to another example of your wrath. I’m not scared of you. You should know that by now.”

“Ignorance is the delight of fools,” he said.

“And pride the undoing of the immortal,” I shot back.

“We seem to be at an impasse.”

Slowly, I slid a hand behind my back, my fingers slipping easily around the bone handle of my favorite silver knife. I brought it into view, making sure he perceived my intent. He did nothing to stop me.

I stood, walking behind his friend. The poor bastard was incapable of reaction. In all likelihood he didn’t even know I was there.

His arms and legs had been severed at the joints. His eyes gouged out. His tongue most likely removed. His ears torn loose. The scar tissue on the sides of his head caught the dim light of the room, each wrinkle of skin screaming testimony of unspeakable pain.

I wondered how long Marco had kept him like this. How many times he’d drained him within inches of his life, only to stop short. Only to keep him suffering.

With a quick gesture, I ended it, the blade slicing deep into his jugular. He didn’t even gurgle as he bled out.

“You’re a savage, Marco.”

“Says the woman who just gutted a pig in my parlor. Were you aware of his trespasses, you might find the punishment he suffered insufficient.”

He was probably right, there. Marco tends to keep bad company.

“I’ll take care of Lucian,” I said. “Not for you. And not you’re not getting his head. News of his death will have to be enough.”

“Very well,” Marco conceded. “Within the week, please.”

“When I’m fucking ready,” I said. “And stop playing with your food. A man your age should know better.”

He smiled just wide enough to show me his fangs.

I rolled my eyes. Seriously, do they think that shit still works on me?

“I’ll see you when I see you,” I said. “Or maybe I won’t.”

“May dusk find you,” he said.

“And dawn, you,” I replied.

I wiped my blade on his curtains on the way out. It was tacky, but strategic.

Lesson one with dealing with his kind. It’s not enough to show them courage. You have to show complete disregard. They have no respect for life. Let ‘em know you’re concerned about your own and they’ll exploit your sense of self-preservation.

Dare them to kill you. Then they’ve got nothing.

I’ve been daring Marco for a while. Maybe one day he’ll try to follow through.

And maybe his former friend will save him a seat in hell.

I’m not sure why, but three of my last four flash fiction stories have prominently featured guns.

I’m not particularly into guns. I don’t own one. I don’t even know much about them.

But few things deliver savage violence like a bullet. Especially one to the head – another commonality.

This one was difficult to cap at 100 words. I can see the scene vividly. There are a ton of details I left out of the final draft. I may have to go back and add some meat and bones to this skeleton.

The prompt is (betcha can’t guess…) from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘emulate’, ‘spaghetti’, and ‘weak’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

xoxoxo

“It means imitate,” I said.

Carlos had a toothpick in his mouth, a gun in his waistband, and a lot of stupid shit in his head.

“I ain’t emulating no one.”

Music drifted into the alley.

“You should be emulating a man who pays his debts.”

He shrugged. “Why? Ricky ain’t got nothin’ but weak bitches. Do I look worried?”

See what I mean? Stupid.

I moved faster than he could think, whipping the Desert Eagle out of my coat and kissing him three times. Hard. In the face.

Pop, pop, pop.

“No,” I said. “You look like spaghetti.”

It’s time to (very briefly) revisit the nameless assassin. I haven’t written a story about him in a while, and this week’s prompt was a good match for his verbose nature.

He does so like the sound of his own voice.

Sadly, this story doesn’t really get at his overall character. If you’d like to know him better, check out the full series. It’s kind of fun.

As has been the trend lately, the prompt is from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘fine’, ‘jargon’, and ‘pecuniary’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

customer service

Ideally, I’m a ghost. In and out without a trace of evidence. That’s my preference. But the client was adamant. She wanted him to know.

Fine. It’s not my style, but fine. Customer service and all.

Of course, he had questions. I suppose that’s fair. I’d feel similarly inquisitive were I in his shoes. So I tried to be respectfully, chiefly by being frank.

“Candice hired me. In the parlance of my profession, you’re the mark.”

“But why?!” he pleaded.

I shrugged. “Pecuniary needs.”

I’m not sure what confused him more. The gun at his head or my jargon.

I’m going to go ahead and answer three questions about the story below before you ask them.

First, yes, I’m talking about who/what you think I’m talking about. Second, if it reminds you at all of The Hunger Games, that’s not by accident. And third, it absolutely qualifies as horror.

The prompt this week is once again from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘dwarf’, ‘eve’, and ‘ostentatious’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

the greatness

He stands tall, his off-white suit in unsettling contrast to the falling snow. The crowd sways in the flakes as his words roll over them.

“On this, the eve of greatness restored, ostentatious displays of resistance will not be tolerated. Stand with us or be counted as an enemy – of the state, of the people, and of all that we hold dear. We are ONE.”

“We are ONE,” the people echo in lifeless unison.

Behind him, dwarfed in both stature and intellect, the president nods. His yellow locks blow to and fro in the wind, much like his attention.

Oh, it can be fun to go dark. It’s especially fun to go dark in the name of righteous vengeance.

This makes three weeks running of flash fiction based on prompts from the good folks over at The Prediction. If you’re into writing flash fiction, I encourage you to check the site out. They’re a very supportive group, so be sure to share your stuff.

It’ll do you good.

Here’s this week’s prompt:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘rampart’, ‘sewer’, and ‘unreason’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

the fury

“You’re being unreasonable,” he sputtered.

I’d just finished tying his hands.

“Unreasonable? You left my friend to the sewer rats.”

His eyes searched the room. For purchase. For rampart. For anything he could use to save himself.

I grabbed his chin, forcing him to face me. “How does the saying go? Hell hath no fury like…what was it?”

He shook his head. I pushed double barrels into his crotch.

“Hell hath no fury like what?” I demanded.

“A…a woman scorned,” he whimpered.

I smiled. “You’ll know soon enough.”

I fired.

First between his legs, then between his eyes.

Last week’s 100-word was so much fun (and so well received), I can’t help it. I have to do it again.

I really like the feel and idea behind this story. I may have to play with it. I don’t see it being a lot longer, but it might work with more than 100 words. We’ll see.

Regardless, it’s a fun, creepy little piece to get your weekend started.

The prompt, once more, is from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘flux’, ‘jute’, and ‘spoil’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

bound

Shall I spoil it, dear reader? The twist? The surprise ending you won’t see coming?

Or shall I let you discover it for yourself?

This is a tale in flux. Can you feel the fluidity? Like jute wound into rope, my words form the line that pulls you in deeper.

You’re bound to me, even now. You just don’t know it.

But you will.

Sitting there, comfortable, perusing my words, I doubt you’ll even feel it. The blade kissing your neck. The quick flick. The gush.

Shall I tell you how this ends? Or let you discover it for yourself?

I like to revisit characters, even in super-short form. This is one of those times.

James Kinter remains, for me, an epic villain. There’s nothing particularly original about him. He’s like so many other killers, a disturbing mix of sophistication and psychopathy. But that’s part of why I like him.

Well, not HIM. Stories that feature him. He’s deplorable, but you can’t have horror without a good villain.

This one was especially fun as the closing line echoes the title of the first story I wrote about him, back when I wasn’t sure how I felt about being able to go so dark. Now I delight in it. Ain’t that a kick in the head?

If you like this little thing, be sure to check out the much longer original series, The Kinter House. It’s classic American horror.

Oh, and the piece below was written based on a prompt from The Prediction:

100 words maximum, excluding the title, of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above (‘lone’, ‘sanguine’, and ‘splay’) in the genres of horror, fantasy or science fiction.

rhapsody

He was sanguine, even as sirens sounded in the distance. They were a pack of rabid dogs on the hunt, but he didn’t care. He just smiled, depositing his tools on the table and taking off the heavy butcher’s apron.

His work was splayed across the room. “Rhapsody In Red” played on a lone speaker. “Love to feel it flood down to my soul…,” Garcia sang.

His soul felt light, sanctified by the sacrifice.

They would come, ready to dissect his masterpiece. But it didn’t matter.

He would simply wrap himself in the comfort of the memory of those screams.