Flash FictionI’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.”

Flash FictionIt’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.

Flash FictionI’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.

Flash FictionOh, 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.

Flash FictionLast 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?

Flash FictionI 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.

Flash FictionFunny story.

I wrote this short piece of fiction more than week ago with the intention of publishing it last Friday. Most of the time, I write my Friday fiction the day of, but I was feeling prolific. Normally when I write fiction early like that, I schedule the post, but this time I thought I’d go back and read over the story before posting it.

So Friday rolled around and, because I’d already written the actual fiction, I neglected to add posting it to my to-do list. So I didn’t review it or post it or anything. Yay me.

Now here we are, a week later, and I missed posting any fiction at all last week. My apologies.

The story below is somber and dark. I like it, but then again it totally matched my mood when I wrote it. It might match your mood too, more than you would think.

The metaphor isn’t discreet. Darkness vs. light. We’ve seen a lot of darkness lately. Hate seems to be winning the day. It’s on the news. It wins elections. It sways decision-makers and money-takers, and there have been moments in recent weeks when I felt so engulfed in the shadows that I hardly remembered what light looks like.

It’s odd, I suppose, to embed an ultimately hopeful message in such a dim tale. After all, the only person who understands the danger represented by the darkness, is “crazy.” But then again, hope is, itself, a crazy thing. I don’t think most people have the stomach for it.

Okay. Enough with me waxing philosophical. I would, however, love to know what you think. Please feel free to chime in below in the comments.

(I know you won’t. My readers are a notoriously quite bunch, but I’m going to keep right on asking you to talk to me anyway. So there.)

in the shadows

The storm is within. I can’t quiet the thunder or dry the rain. And I can’t stop looking up, my mouth hanging open. So I’m drowning. Drowning in the rain.

It started as a curiosity. Of course, you know what that did to the cat.

It was the shadows. Sometimes, even in broad daylight, I could see them looking at me. I don’t know how to describe it. They didn’t have eyes, but I could sense their awareness. The outline of a park bench or the shade of a tree would stare at me, its gaze burrowing to the bone. It made me uneasy, in part because it was intense and in part because I couldn’t say anything to anyone.

Even now, I see the look you’re giving me. You think I’m crazy. Everyone does. I wish you were right, but the truth is your ignorance protects you.

The shadows have eyes. They can see, and think, and sense, and move. Science claims shadows are nothing more than the absence of light. They’re voids created by solidity, that’s what we were taught. But the shadows have a density most people know nothing about.

They aren’t thinkless reflections. They’re inversions. They have lives, and thoughts, and motives all their own.

I remember the day I was walking down the sideway and passed a bike rack. There were no bicycles parked there that day, so the shadow of the thing was all prison bars and even spaces, and I felt it. I felt its watchful presence and its malevolent will. It wanted to hurt me. To consume me, I think. Those bars, had it let itself free, would have divided and shown their true nature. They were teeth, and that particular shadow was hungry. It had been hungry for a long, long time.

Every day people walk right past it, their heels clicking on its incisors, never knowing how close they are to mortal danger.

Ah, but you’re wondering the same thing everyone wonders. If any of this nonsense is true, what keeps the shadows in check. Why don’t they just break free, lifting themselves from streets and hardwoods and walls, and satiate their carnal desires?

There’s a reason they don’t move, and it’s the most unnerving truth yet. They play their part because we don’t know they’re capable of more.

That’s right. If we all knew what the shadows really are, that they can move and that they’re stronger, faster, and more cruel than any of us, they would overtake this world. In a single day, all would be lost. Humanity would be stomped out by darkness, and the world would fall into an eclipse the likes of which astronomers have never dreamed.

It’s only ignorance that keeps them at bay.

Which is why they hunt me. I’m not ignorant. I know. I know their dirty little secret. They may masquerade as innocent marvels, but they’re something else entirely.

Only a few days after I recognized the bike rack shadow’s vile appetite, one of them attacked me. It was the shadow of a street lamp, long and lanky, spread from curb to curb on an isolated road. It tried to wrap itself around my ankle and I only barely escaped. From that moment on, I’ve surrounded myself with light.

I got rid of all my furniture. What little I kept, I positioned against the walls. I unhinged the doors and filled every room in my small house with lamps. I never turned them off. Not one.

Where there are no shadows, there is no threat.

But neither is there rest. Have you ever tried to take a nap at noon, lying out in the sunlight? You can see the sun, a red, spotted light, through your eyelids. That became my life.

I lost my job. I couldn’t pay my bills. The power company threatened to cut me off, and that would have been sure death. So I came here.

“Voluntarily Self-Admitted.” That’s what my file says. I’ve become a bit of a minor celebrity, which is why I think they humor me.

There are 43 lamps in my room. All of them are always on. The bulbs are all LED, so the cost isn’t significant. Still, I know the day will come when someone will decide a more aggressive approach is warranted.

They’ll say all the case studies have been done. Every exploration of my condition will have been made. Some hotshot young doctor will decide it’s time to give “immersion therapy” a try, and they’ll turn out the lights. Maybe one by one. Maybe all at the same time.

And do you know what will happen then? I do.

They’ll come for me. The shadows. They’ll come, and they’ll take me. I doubt they’ll even leave anything behind.

An investigation will take place. Someone will probably read this transcript and point out my prediction. But pragmatism will rule the day, and Occum’s Razor will cut swift.

Escaped. Dangerous and on the loose.

But no. Wrong on all counts. Not escaped, but caught. Not loose, but a loose end finally tied.

For the shadows cannot abide an evangelist. They are far too fragile. In a more primitive time, humanity might have been doomed, but in today’s world we could easily win a war against the darkness.

If only we would universally accept the simple fact that the darkness is at war with us. So long as we tolerate their presence, the shadows are content to bide their time. To simply wait.

But the day is coming. I’m not crazy. Mark my words. The day is coming when the darkness, left unchecked, will swallow us all.

By the time you recognize the truth of my words, it’ll be too late.

Flash FictionI like ghost stories. Especially simple ones.

That’s the thing about ghosts. They don’t need elaborate backstories or even motives to be both frightening and interesting. Their nature conjures fear and intrigue. Sometimes that’s enough.

This ghost story is straightforward and, for no particular reason, breaks from my usual writing style. Lately, I favor shorter sentences. Stuff with punch. But when I started this little thing, the sentences came in long, flowy strings, more flowery and full of commas and conjunctions.

(See? I’m doing it even now.)

I think it had something to do with the feel of the story. Or maybe Vye’s in a Victorian mood. Who knows?

Either way, I went with it, and I like where it took me.

What about you? Any thoughts on ghost stories? What do you make of the one below? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

the visitor

I saw it, but it wasn’t what I expected to see.

Not a wisp of shimmering gossamer, translucent in the moonlight. Not a wraith, born of fury or fear. Not a shadow with depth, or a fluid apparition, or hazy proximation of humanity.

There was nothing human about it, and that was my first lesson on ghosts.

It came to me in the night, bumbling in my tiny house, knocking over a portrait in the living room and scattering magazines across the floor where it stumbled into the coffee table. It was moaning, sort of. A desperate, guttural howl that woke me from a dead sleep and made me pull the blankets tighter.

I don’t keep weapons in the house. I had no gun in the nightstand. No bat tucked under one edge of the bed. Not even a sturdy lamp I could wield impromptu. I had only my robe, which I put on, as if the thing fumbling around down the hall might have a sense of propriety.

It saw me before I saw it.

The commotion stopped, all the wailing and the scraping where it clawed along the hardwoods leaving behind fine curls of wood and deep scratches. I crept in, my heart racing, my mind half certain I must be dreaming or, if not fully asleep, at least delirious, caught in some kind of in-between state. My limbs moved slowly and my mind slower, but still I advanced into the darkness, toward this thing crouching motionless on the floor.

I might have thought it a large dog at first glance, had the circumstances not been what they were. It was hunched on all fours, its back arched in a queer sort of way as though its spine were bowed. Even in the dim light, I could see ribs poking through not-quite-skin, vertebrae forming an unsettling mountain range down its naked back, disappearing over a horizon I didn’t care to explore.

Tattered hair hung in long, tangled masses giving it feral look. And its eyes. Oh, those eyes.

They were dead, like a shark’s eyes. Opal spheres without compassion or sensibility. But even without pupils, I knew the focus of its wild gaze. It was watching me, though I could not be certain who was hunter and who was hunted at that moment.

I froze. A natural reaction to the supernatural. Its head cocked to the side, not unlike a beast, and it seemed to be sniffing the air though I doubt very much it was breathing.

At that moment, I remembered the tense conversation I’d had with the home’s previous owners. The nervous way he laughed. Her refusal to make consistent eye contact. I thought I was getting a steal, but perhaps they just wanted out.

The neighborhood kids told stories, too. I was the stranger moving into the haunted house. They said blood sometimes dripped along the walls, or that things moved on their own in the night. Seeing the mass of the ghost, “on their own” hardly seemed an apt description. This thing could likely break down walls.

Its eyes narrowed as I crouched. I didn’t know how fast it was. If I turned and ran, would it give chase, tackling me halfway down the hall? Rather than retreat, I chose conference.

I extended my hand, palm down, as one might toward a dog. It flinched at the gesture, but then leaned in, once more sniffing at the air. There was a mewing sound, some additional scratching, and then it simply took a few steps back, melting into the wall just to the right of my flat screen TV.

That was the first night.

It waited nearly a week to come again, and we replicated our first encounter, save one addition. By that time, I’d already repaired the scratches in the floor only to have my work undone. When I knelt, hand offered, I whispered a request.

“Please don’t scratch the floors,” I said. “You can visit, but please don’t scratch the floors.”

It grunted in response, though I knew not what the sound meant. But I learned.

It comes often now, sometimes waking me but, I suspect, more often quiet enough that I never hear. No pictures get knocked over. No magazines lay scattered on the floor.

And it leaves no scratches in the hardwood. Not one.

Flash FictionI broke a cardinal rule in the story below. But I’m hesitant to tell you what it is because I’d really like to know if you even notice.

So here’s what I’ll do. If you want to read the story without knowing what rule I broke, stop reading the intro after this paragraph. Just skip down to the story, see if you can catch it, and then come back up to the top when you’re done.

[skip to the story here]

Now, for those of you too lazy to look for my “mistake” on your own, I’ll tell you what I did. I flipped from the past to the present tense a couple of times, eventually settling on the present tense even though the story started in the past.

To be clear, there wasn’t a flashback. I didn’t change the setting or the time when the story was happening. Instead, as I wrote it, it morphed from feeling like something that HAD happened to something that felt like it WAS happening. And even though that means I broke a major rule of fiction, I went with it.

It works for me, but I’m biased. Which is why I’d like to know if it works for you. Even knowing what I did, do you care? Do you notice? Does it mess with the story? Or does it feel like you’re just stepping more in to the story as “was” changes to “is”?

Let me know in the comments. And, as always, thanks for reading.

footfalls

“So tell me.”

Pause for a beat.

“When did you give up?”

It was Nikolai. He was, I shit you not, wringing the blood out of his shirt as he spoke. The smug bastard didn’t even take it off to attend to the wound. No, he just grabbed the fabric near the tear and started twisting, crimson droplets splashing in the dust at his feet.

He was trying to look like a bad-ass. And he did. But I wasn’t about to let it rattle me.

“Fuck off,” I replied. He smiled the way you imagine Russian men smiling.

I was sitting on a rock by the river. Don’t ask me which river. I have no idea. I’m a city girl. I mean, I should know. There are only so many rivers in Texas, and we’re not that far from Austin. But we’ve been on foot in the hill country for days, headed mostly southwest, and I know we already crossed the Colorado.

The Guadalupe, then? Sure. Let’s say it’s the Guadalupe.

We’re low on ammo, which in and of itself seems nearly impossible. Not two days ago we raided a ranch house. Let me tell you, the good people of Texas take their right to bear arms seriously. That place was like a weapons store, complete with more rounds than we could pack out.

We thought about staying there, but then we saw the signs. We see the signs everywhere. Every time we find a house or store or factory or prison. There’s always something left behind. Food, or clothes, or weapons. Something useful.

And if I’ve learned anything since this madness started, it’s this. If there’s useful stuff just laying around, it means the people who were there got out fast. Or they didn’t get out at all.

Either way, Nickie and I aren’t sticking around to find out.

He hates it when I call him that. He sneers, like it’s an undignified perversion of his name. He’s a proud one, my Nickie, and no amount of insanity seems likely to break his pride. But I take irresponsibly great pleasure in tormenting him, so I rarely call him by his full name.

“What do you think, Nickie? Camp here tonight?”

I can hear the melodramatic sigh, but he doesn’t correct me. That, too, would be beneath him.

“Yes, but on the other side of the river.”

Now I’m sighing. I really didn’t want to go for a swim. The temperature is already chilly. Adding water isn’t going to help my cheery disposition one bit.

“We’ll make a fire,” he says. “You’ll warm up.”

Motherfucker. How does he do that?

But before we have a chance to wade in, we hear a noise behind us, back the way we came. It’s unnervingly rhythmic. People don’t walk that way. Heavy, slow, even steps.

But they walk that way. All of them shuffle like that.

Nickie signals and I take a position behind the rock. He moves silently to the side, behind a tree. Both of us wait, fingers on triggers, ready to once more spill the blood of the dead. Hey, it’s what we do.

But the noise stops. There’s silence for several seconds, and then we hear it, whatever it is, backtracking.

Annoyingly, this seems to confirm Nickie’s theory. He thinks they’re not quite mindless, despite appearances and modern folklore. On the contrary, he thinks they’re learning. Learning to hunt.

Without further discussion, we slip into the water and make our way across, splashing as little as possible. The water’s deep here, the current lazy. Even on the far bank, it’s an hour before we speak again. During the intervening time, we both steal glances at the opposite bank, waiting to see if our would-be visitor decides to make an appearance.

I’m the one to break the silence, quietly requesting a fire. We’re both shivering, still damp from our swim, but it’s a calculated risk. A small fire won’t be visible over a long distance, but it’ll serve as a beacon to anything near.

Ah, but this Russian has been in Texas too long. With a shrug, he begins to collect firewood, and before long we’re stripped as close to naked as either of us dares, basking in the glow of blazing cedar.

We eat dinner. We talk – about the day, our supplies, life before the world went crazy. Nothing too deep. He doesn’t tell me why he’s in America, and I don’t tell him about my former love life, or my personal aspirations, or even about my cat. God, I miss that little monster.

And yet, even as we avoid talking about the things most dear to us, the things we miss the most, I can tell our minds are tripping backwards, marinating in memories of better times. All the while we’re smiling, laughing easy, and generally enjoying the moment.

And then I see Nikolai tense. His eyes are on the far bank of the river, and I know what he sees even before I follow his gaze.

It’s there. The one that was following us before. It’s just standing there, swaying by the water, looking down at the river and then up at us. It would be licking its lips if it still had any lips to lick.

“Do we shoot it?” I ask.

“No,” he whispers. “We don’t know how many others are near. We’re faster and smarter. We pack up and keep moving.”

It makes sense. If we shoot it and 10 more follow the noise, we’re no better off. And I’m sure as hell not sleeping with that thing watching me. What if it decides to see if it can swim? What if it can?

We gather our things, don our clothes, and press into the brush, cutting a trail into the night. Behind us, I listen for sounds. Footfalls in the dark. A queer rhythm. The tale-tell groan.

There’s nothing. No sign. No hint. No signal.

And that worries me more than anything else. We can take ‘em out one at a time, even if they’re getting smarter. And we can handle a small horde, so long as they’re dumb.

But what do we do when they realize they can work together? What do we do when they push us, like that one just did…and we walk right into a trap?

I won’t tell you. I’ll only say we have a tentative plan. We made a pact, Nickie and I. Neither of us are going to become monsters. Not if we can help it.

Still, I’d kinda like to make it to the spring.

Flash FictionWe haven’t heard from Jimmy and Glenn in a while, so this week’s story revisits the duo’s dark antics. The plot is pretty much the same. I see myself writing more of these, but I don’t see any big changes in theme or resolution.

Jimmy and Glenn are going to keep right on doing that terrible thing they do.

There’s something weirdly reassuring about their consistency. I’m not big on formulaic fiction, but these super short stories are the exception to the rule. I like knowing what’s going to happen, and I like listening to them talk about it with the same kind of casual indifference you or I might discuss the weather.

That’s good, old fashion psychopathology right there.

If you’d like to read the previous two stories, you can find “Martial Bliss” here, and “Lazy Sally” here.

The prompt, once again, comes from The Prediction:

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

Enjoy.

fair enough

“You know what your problem is, Jimmy boy? You keep expecting a miracle.”

“I’m a romantic,” Jimmy said.

Glenn laughed.

“I’m serious,” Jimmy snapped. “I still believe in love.”

“Hey, I get it. Who doesn’t want a slice of heaven?”

“Right. I just haven’t found mine yet.”

They finished tying cinder blocks to the tarp roll, hefting it over the railing. The mass plopped into the water below, sinking unceremoniously.

“I’m just tired of this shit,” Glenn said.

“It’s not fun for me, either, man.”

“You’re digging the next grave with a spoon. Alone.”

Jimmy nodded. “Fair enough.”