Free Fiction Friday: Wild Imagination by Marcie

Wild Imagination
by Marcie

Julian is a simple man whose imagination plays out in his mind, allowing him a bit of stimulation in his mundane world. He has a strict routine every day. Waking at five a.m., Julian runs five miles at the park, coming home by five forty-five a.m., he has orange juice, toast, brushes his teeth, then takes a shower with Irish spring soap and dresses in a green pull over. He puts on his standard work issued royal blue slicker, even on sunny days. Julian always takes the same route to get to work.

On the way down the driveway to his green Prius Julian imagines the neighbors barking dog breaking through the six-foot wooden fence and savagely mauling his face. While driving to work he thinks about being in a devastating car wreck, hydroplaning then flipping the green Prius over three times. In the bathroom he imagines smashing his penis beneath the toilet bowl lid and being too embarrassed to call for help, none of which actually happens.

Taking a walk on his lunch break, Julian can’t quite make out the shape he sees on the shore among the branches and brush on the opposite side of the Brandywine river.

It’s inconceivable, he thinks as he strains his eyes to see if he truly sees part of a royal blue slicker caught on a branch.

No of course it can’t be.

He rubs his eyes and peers as best he could, then decides he has far too creative an imagination. Julian shakes his head and returns to his job repairing simple machines in the small grey building just next the river. Julian is lucky enough to have the solitude of work without distractions, but in the quiet of the day, his mind wanders and curiosity ails him again. He peeks out the window for a different point of view.

Yes.

Pretty certain that he sees a body across the river, he has to make absolutely sure. The row boat used for emergencies, was parked just up from the shore. He slowly climbs down the steep hill to the river, pushes the row boat to the edge of the water, hops in, then rows downstream before he gets his bearings to cross over. Upon rowing, he imagines himself tipping the boat and being swallowed up by the ice-cold water.

Pulling to shore he anchors the boat and steps out. Thinking he might be a hero by solving an important murder case, Julian bravely reaches for the royal blue slicker caught on the branch. Upon seeing the body, he flips it over and loudly gasps. Rubbing his eyes, he sees a mirror image of himself. Panic stricken, Julian shrieks, scrambles back to the boat. Slipping on the slick surface of a large wet rock, he falls back wards hitting his head on the corner of a jagged stone upon the river’s edge. The firm cherry Jell-O brain tissue separates from the hard-outer shell of Julian’s skull as he perishes with his imagination on the opposite side of the Brandywine river.


Marcie is a writer enthusiast and wishes to spend more time reading and writing. She was told her writing voice was once Gothic Splatter Punk and is currently working on a story. She works part time for Hagley Museum and Library as a tour guide and enjoys being involved in the history and many programs they offer. Dressing in 19th century clothing is a bonus. She is currently enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University for Creative Writing and English and hopes to eventually complete an MFA program there.

Free Fiction Friday: The Ratter by Kay Tracy

The Ratter by Kay Tracy

I remember the first time. A warm late spring day in Lake Charles. It was humid and sticky. I did not like it, it was very ” unpleasant”, but momma insisted. “Too many to feed” she told me. “You won’t be eatin’ them when they are grown so…” I was six. I had no idea how to do this. This tiny baby rabbit, one of 6. I asked momma how I should do it. “I don’t care!” she said “You just go handle it girl!”

I was known as a curious child. By that I mean I was always looking in books, and encyclopedias to learn new things. I experimented. A lot. Momma mostly left me alone then. I think she might have been just a little afraid by the time I was ten. Did you know that alligators like the taste of rabbit? Among other things.

I had a nickname, though folks never used it to my face. I knew they called me ‘the Ratter’. I really didn’t mind. They paid me to deal with their “pests”. Sometimes they paid me very well. It wasn’t so bad now. You just had to figure out what the best type of bait was. The rest was usually quick, and almost too easy. I told myself way back when I was six, that “If I ever stop caring about doing the killing part, I would stop doing it.”

Momma used to say I had a gift, that what I did was a service that folks needed. She said I should be glad she made me take that task when I was little. She might have been right.

Sometimes things take a little longer than others. That can lead to certain ‘odors’. I learned that ammonia can help with those. Not too much though, just enough to do the job. The real secret though, like I said, was the bait. All the difference in the world between working easy or hard is in the bait.

No one ever asks how, or when. I never ask why. All folks want to know is “How much?” I always ask about a ‘deadline’, and what sort of ‘pest’ they want me to take care of. It keeps me busy enough, and I like my big house and car.

Funny how some folks never had a momma to teach them that they should “Just go handle it!”
That’s okay by me though. I always take the time to do things right. I care about my work. I think it shows too!

Well. If you ever need my services, just contact me.

Free Fiction Friday: Griddlebone by Debbie Manber Kupfer

Griddlebone
By Debbie Manber Kupfer
The werecat padded silently across the cobbles of the dark Vienna street. It was deserted now, but Griddlebone knew it would soon be filled with bootsteps and cries, gunshots and blood. They were slated to come at dawn, to cleanse this last Jewish neighborhood of its vermin, so that the proper folk of Vienna could finally live Judenfrei.
Inside the darkened houses, the residents huddled in fear. The news of the transport had only come hours before, and some still couldn’t believe it. They had been fooling themselves for months, believing this one insignificant street could survive in its own little bubble, that somehow God would protect them.They readied themselves with what few valuables they had left. Maybe they could still bribe the Nazi soldiers. Maybe there was still a way out.
The werecat flexed his claws, as he waited in the shadows. Griddlebone wished he could rescue them all, but his orders were clear. He could only take one. They needed to be the right age too – a teenager would be good, strong enough to fight, strong enough to survive the turning.As the first rays of light caught the cobblestones, Griddlebone felt the bootsteps echoing down the street. Soon. His tail swished back and forth in anticipation. Within minutes, the first soldier came into view. The werecat was all but invisible to the soldiers, his mottled grey coat blending perfectly with the cold grey street.At the same time as the first soldiers appeared on foot, a silver-grey truck arrived on the street and parked in front of the buildings, waiting for its human cargo.
As the Gestapo soldiers marched past the werecat’s hiding place, he longed to dig his claws into their ankles, to hear them scream with pain. Not yet, Griddlebone, not yet.
The soldiers reached the first house. They banged on the doors.

“Juden, Heraus, Heraus! Schnell, schnell! – Everybody out of there, quickly, quickly.”

At first there was silence. Griddlebone held his breath, waiting. And then, slowly, they came out, squinting in the light of the dawn. They had been inside for so long, sitting in the darkness. They looked like ancient patriarchs held in suspended animation from biblical times. The man had a long white beard and was wearing a prayer shawl. The woman had her head covered and bent. She held out something to the soldiers. The werecat stole closer to get a better look. It was a silver candlestick. The frightened woman offered it to the soldier.

The soldier laughed. He grabbed it and shoved in his bag, then roughly pulled the old woman forward. She tripped and fell onto the hard cobble street. The soldier kicked her, and she cried out in pain. Throughout this, her husband was bobbing up and down in prayer, praying that God would take them before these Nazis did. His prayers were not answered, and the soldiers forced the old couple into the waiting truck.

More soldiers had arrived now and pushed their way into the buildings. The next house held a young family, a mother and father, with two small terrified children. The mother clutched a baby girl in her arms. As they boarded the truck, the baby started crying. The nearest soldier grabbed her from her mother’s arms and flung her with full force into the solid concrete wall. The baby stopped crying. The mother screamed. A Nazi soldier silenced the mother with his gun. The father and his remaining children climbed quietly into the truck, trying not to look back.

The werecat stalked over to the baby. He nudged her gently with his nose, but it was too late, and, in any case, how would his clan have been able to care for a baby? They could barely find enough food for their own kittens these days.

Griddlebone continued watching the parade of Jews being evicted from their buildings. They had been told they were being rehoused, that their homes were needed for the war effort. As patriotic Austrians, surely they understood?

Griddlebone knew that most of these Jews would end up in the concentration camps, if they even survived the transport. A second shot filled the air; a young man this time. He had tried to run, but the soldier had used him for target practice.

Still the werecat watched and waited.

—–726——

Read the rest of the story in Sins of the Past – http://www.amazon.com/Sins-Past-Chasity-Nicole-ebook/dp/B00P2MZLUA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1428337336&sr=8-3&keywords=Sins+of+the+Past

**********
Debbie Manber Kupfer grew up in London and lived in Israel, before somehow ended up in St. Louis, where she works as a puzzle constructor and writer. She lives with her husband, two children, and a very opinionated feline. She is the author of P.A.W.S and Argentum and has short stories in several anthologies including Fauxpocalypse, Shades of Fear, Darkly Never After, Sins of the Past, and Heroes & Villains. She also created the puzzle book, Paws 4 Logic together with her son, Joey. She believes that with enough tea and dark chocolate you can achieve anything!Links:
Blog – http://debbiemanberkupfer.wordpress.com/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DebbieManberKupferAuthor

Free Fiction Friday: How to Become a Ghost Hunter by David Draper

How to Become a Ghost Hunter

by David Draper

Ever since I was a young boy I have always been fascinated by the supernatural. Ghosts, Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, all of them. A haunted house, a possessed doll, a vengeful spirit, a demon from Hell, whatever it was, if it was truly frightening, I was hooked. About a year ago I watched a show that would change my life. It was show about Ghost Hunters. Well, it wasn’t a show about Ghost Hunters, it was a show with Ghost Hunters, starring real people like me. People who were actually out there hunting ghosts. It was awesome. I watched every episode. I knew then exactly what I wanted to do and what I was going to do. I became a Ghost Hunter.

Now as you may or may not know, there is no practical education or program to help you become a Ghost Hunter. There’s no college. No online certification. You have to be resourceful. At the time, I lived with my girlfriend, Carlee, and together we decided to pool our savings and start a Ghost Hunting business. We quit our jobs so we could have the time to dedicate ourselves to the craft at hand and purchased a digital camera, a handheld sound recorder and some lighting equipment. We created a website, designed a logo, printed business cards, and started Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. We marketed ourselves to the world. We were ready to hunt ghosts.

One of the things you should know about ghost hunting is that no one is going to hire you just because you say you’re a Ghost Hunter. The spirits of the dead don’t just show up when you need them to. You have to go out and get them. We started with nightly séances. Using black candles, pentagrams, Ouija boards, Pagan chants, and the darkest parts of the Bible, the Torah and the Koran, we called them forth. We read out loud, passage after passage, whispering and screaming into the night and hoping that one of the dead and damned would hear us and show up, ready to be caught on camera and shared with the living. But they never did. It was then that I knew we had to take this little enterprise of mine to the next level.

Our first cemetery was a disappointment. It was too large, too close to the city and patrolled by security. We were almost arrested. But the next ones were smaller and on the outskirts of the county with plenty of room and time to do what I knew I had to do. It took some convincing, but pretty soon my Carlee was practicing rituals, reading incantations, and even dancing on graves while I directed her in our dark art, filming and recording everything. We did this night after night for two weeks, hitting over a dozen different cemeteries in six different counties. I felt like we were making progress, but Carlee was starting to complain. The bills were piling up and we were having a hard time paying rent. But I was not about to give up. I stopped sleeping and spent each night watching and listening to my videos and recordings over and over. I knew there was something, something I had to find hidden in those hours and hours of footage. It was waiting for me. Just me. I could feel it.

It’s amazing how much information about murderers and victims of violence you can find on the internet, including the places where they are buried. I found thirteen graves associated with the old Clivemore Regional Hospital. They used to bury prisoners there that died on the operating table. We arrived at midnight and I cut the padlock on the back gate. Carlee didn’t want to go, but I convinced her we were so close to getting everything I wanted and told her that if she didn’t go I’d leave her. Once inside, I set up my equipment and told Carlee to say the words I had given her and begin dancing on their graves. While she did that I made a bunch of small cuts on my forearm, cupped the blood in my hands and splashed her with it. I should have told her I was going to do that because that was the night she said she wanted to quit. She said things were getting out of control and I was obsessed. At the time, I remember I didn’t like her saying that about me. But now I know that Carlee was right. Obsession is what you need to be a Ghost Hunter. Because after I strangled her in that cemetery I started hearing them right away. And now I hear them all the time, every day and every night. I hear them, but I can’t see them. Not yet. But I know they are there. They are all around me and all around us and I am going to find them, because now I am a ghost hunter. A real Ghost Hunter.

I just need a new partner.

****************

DD2David Draper BIO: After a brief semi-career as an underpaid or more often unpaid screenwriter, David took a huge break from writing and lived entirely on day jobs and parental pity. Now, having broken free of his Hollywood cocoon, he has found the right wife, is raising three great kids, and has a day job he can be proud of.  Through it all, he remains the same horror-loving rascal he’s always been since that first paper-mache Frankenstein mask made on the family kitchen table, under the concerned, furrowed brows of his loving parents. David has only just started writing short Horror fiction this year and would love your feedback.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrunkDracula

Free Fiction Friday: Jeremiah Donaldson

Something This Way Flutters

By Jeremiah Donaldson

A breeze brought Carl some relief. Then the wind dissipated and he felt the Florida heat again. The exhaust from the highway didn’t help.

He stuck the hedge clippers in the ground and picked up his water jug. He’d had a heat stroke before, making him more sensitive to heat, and he didn’t relish the idea of a second. He drank half and dumped the rest over his head.

He tiptoed inside the house again to check on his eight month-old daughter, Rhianna. She still napped soundly in her crib. Just like he knew before going inside since the monitor bouncing on his hip was silent. He kissed his fingers and touched her forehead before exiting the house to go back to shaping the hedge that grew on three sides of the house. Only one bush remained when someone tapped on his shoulder.

Carl spun around.

The gaunt woman stood taller than himself by several inches. Rumpled clothing looked like she’d drove all day, and greasy hair spilled over her shoulders. Makeup had been smeared time and time again. Her eyes were rimmed with red. A burgundy Ford Explorer with tinted windows and Ohio tags sat in his driveway. Noise from the highway had masked her approach.

“Are you lost?” Carl pushed his sweaty hair back from his face.

The woman nodded. “My cell phone died. Can I use yours?”

“Uh, sure.” Carl handed her his cheap flip-phone.

“Thank you.” The woman smiled, draining blood from her lips and making her look years older than her indistinguishable age.

Carl nodded and went back to clipping the last bush while the woman walked to the front of the house. Moments later a paper fluttered against his leg. Road garbage. He always had to pick up stuff thrown from cars. He waded the paper up and noticed the driver’s door stood ajar on the Explorer. So his visitor littered the yard.

He looked and didn’t see the woman in front of the house. Carl approached the SUV, trying to see through the tint.

“You dropped something.”

No answer. Maybe she didn’t hear. He knocked on the window. No response.

The door opened with a slight pull to reveal a pigsty of empty soda bottles and chip bags in the floorboard. The rear seat overran with sheets of paper covered in writing. Another piece slid out from under the seat. He grabbed it and dropped it immediately. Goosebumps rose all over his body while his stomach flipped end over end.

He picked it back up. Both sides were covered in tiny print that repeated one phrase over and over: I killed my baby. His shaky hands held two sheets next to each other. They were the same. Not copied either. The woman had written it all with pencil. Thin lines gave way to thick as the pencil she’d used wore down before being sharpened. Carl reached into the back and grabbed a handful of the loose pages. They were identical. All several thousand of them from what he could see.

“Rhianna.”

Carl bolted to the front porch. The door stood half open. He reached Rhianna’s room just as the woman picked her up, making her cry. His stomach knotted. The monitor on his hip repeated every sound a quarter second after it happened.

“Such a pretty girl.”

“Put her down!” He couldn’t tackle the woman. Yet. “I won’t call the cops if you just get out of here.”

“And leave such a baby behind.”

“Fuck, yeah!”

The woman put Rhianna back in the crib. “Then we’ll have to find out who walks out, won’t we?”

Carl tensed, looking for her to pull a weapon. She drove her shoulder into his chest, pushing him backwards to the floor. His right arm caught under her leg, and he took two boney fists to the face that made spots dance in his vision before he managed to ward off the blows. He grabbed her forearms only to be rewarded with a headbutt that brought tears to his eyes and a rush of warmth from his nose. He rolled her into the glass coffee table, shattering the glass under her weight.

The woman groaned while Carl found his feet and steadied himself with the TV. A deluge of blood poured from his broken nose, dripping to the floor like rain. He kicked the woman in the ribs. She slipped on the broken glass, going down on her hip. Rhianna cried louder in response to the noise.

“Get the hell out of here!” Carl knew they were useless words while he watched the woman struggle to her feet, cutting her palms on the glass. “Don’t make me hurt you. More.”

“You don’t know.”

Carl waited for her to finish the sentence. She didn’t. “I don’t know what?”

“YOU DON’T KNOW!” The woman charged across the short space.

Carl caught her knee in the thigh, but that didn’t hurt, being knocked into the corner of the TV table did. Her hands groped for his face. The manicured nails gouged down his cheek. One broke off and stuck in his skin. He grabbed the offending arm by the wrist and elbow, twisting. Something gave in the woman’s shoulder with a wet pop that he heard and felt. He gagged while she screamed so loud in his ear that he feared for the eardrum. He pushed her back. Her arm hung at a bad angle.

“Get out of here!”

The look on the woman’s face didn’t change. She aimed a kick at his crotch. He caught her foot and flung upward. Her other leg came out from under her and she went down, hitting her neck on the edge of the coffee table frame. She went into convulsions.

He waited for the body to stop moving before calling the police.

———————————-

Jeremiah Donaldson lives in London, Ky with his daughter and pets. He’s currently working on multiple projects, including two that will be available later in 2014. He can be found at his home on the web at:www.ephiroll.com

Free Fiction Friday: Mark Slade

DREAM GURU

by MARK SLADE

Charlie sat in the flimsy plastic chair, the legs buckling under his 280 pound body. He kept tapping his left foot, rolling his lucky dice around in his hands. He cleared his voice several times while watching Burke Williams pace up and down his office, the burnt-orange carpet wearing thin under those thousand dollar heels.

“I’m not really a hard man,” Burke said—in what sounded like a rather depressed voice. “But I’m not a fool either.”

“Mr. Williams.”

Burke turned on his heel, placing a stony finger across his lips. Charlie stopped talking and slumped further down into the plastic chair. The legs buckled even more in protest. The dice made a scraping noise in Charlie’s closed hand. His left foot kept a steady nervous beat.

He’s going to kill me, I know it, Charlie thought.

Burke continued his pacing. “You owe me a lot of money here, Charlie. $10,000. What would you do in my position?” Charlie began to speak and Burke turned on the dime to face him. “Please Charlie…It was rhetorical.”  Burke rubbed the stubble on his face up and down several times. “You have to understand that I have a reputation to uphold.”

He’s definitely going to kill me! Charlie dropped his dice at the same time the chair broke under him, his eyes instinctively darting to the result of the roll. Burke went to his aide and helped him to his feet.

“Damn, I’m real sorry that happened, Charlie.” Burke straightened Charlie’s tie; brushed off Charlie’s coat.

“It’s fine, Mr. Williams. It was my fault. I’m hard on chairs.” Charlie fidgeted.  “I should lose some weight, maybe.” He chuckled nervously.

“Let me get you a drink, buddy. What would you like?” Burke offered a reassuring smile as he patted Charlie on the back.

Charlie shrugged. “A vodka and orange juice?”

Burke nodded. “Coming right up. I’m real sorry about this, Charlie.” He pressed the call button and spoke dryly into the small black box. “Vicky?”

“Yeah, boss?” The whiny female voice came though like crossed telephone lines. She was definitely from New York; Charlie was sure of it from her accent.

“Bring Charlie here a vodka and orange juice, will ya’? He’s thirsty.”

“Sure thing, Boss.”

In a few minutes, a short redhead strolled into the office like it was a catwalk. She was dressed in all black from head to heels, and Charlie was more than turned on when he noticed her large blue eyes behind wide-framed glasses sitting on the tip of her button nose. Vicky handed Charlie a tumbler. She slipped on a pair of black driving gloves, making sure they fit snugly on her hands. Charlie watched as he drank his vodka and orange juice, thinking it was strange for a woman in the modern world to do.

Do women wear driving gloves now a days? He thought.

Charlie finished off his drink and nodded to her. “Thank you.” He tried to hand the tumbler back to her, but Vicky wasn’t receiving it.

“Was it good?” Vicky asked.

“Yeah… thanks”

Vicky didn’t so much as wind up before punching Charlie in his big, overlapping gut; she took a step and drove it in hard. The tumbler fell to the floor and shattered into three pieces. Charlie made a face and the usual woof came out from his now gaping mouth.

He struggled to catch his breath, but Vicky didn’t give him a chance to find it before a left caught him in the throat. Charlie fell to his knees, hitting the hard ground like a sack of potatoes. She proceeded to kick him in the mouth and nose, his blood splattering across her shiny black stilettos. Charlie did what he learned to do whenever he was beaten up in school—roll up into a ball and take the punishment. After a few more swift kicks to his left side, Burke stopped it.

“Thank you, Vicky,” Burke put his hand on her shoulder. “That’s enough. I’m sure Charlie gets the picture. Better get those heels cleaned up.” He turned his attention back to Charlie. “I want that $10,000 by Tuesday.” Burke growled. “Now, kindly vacate my office, or Vicky here will kick the shit out of you again.”

***

Charlie stumbled through the streets, finally finding his way home. Mary was sitting on the couch, going through bills when Charlie burst in, leaning against the door in obvious pain.

“Hey Mary,” he said, swallowing back blood.

“Oh Charlie!” Mary ran to him, helping him to the couch. “What happened?”

“Ohhh…I happened to fall into Burke’s assistant’s fist…several times. He was pretty big, Mary.”

“Oh, Charlie…you are going to have to stay away from that mad man. I’ll be right back to clean those nasty wounds.” Mary scurried to the bathroom and came back with a first aid kit. She sat down softly beside Charlie, dabbed at his lips with a cloth soaked in alcohol. Charlie howled. “I’m sorry, honey.” She kissed his forehead as Charlie gave her those puppy dog eyes.

Mary wasn’t the best looking girl Charlie ever had. As a matter of fact, she was very plain, even when she teased her blond hair and wore eyeliner. But Mary was the most decent person he’d ever met,  always caring for Charlie. No matter how terrible he treated her at times, or how many jams he got the two of them in, she stayed.

“Oh Charlie.” She sighed as she shook her head. “Please stop gambling. If not that…just stay away from Burke Williams. He’s going to kill you one day.”

Charlie shrugged painfully. “Not one day, Mary—it’s definitely going to be Tuesday.”

“Oh…Charlie…You really should come to those classes with me. I’m telling you, Dr. Devlin helped me work out so many personal problems. I don’t even care that my Daddy left when I was ten anymore, and as for us….well, I’m prepared for anything, Charlie.”

Charlie pushed her hand away, attempting a macho attitude. “Darling, I am not a sheep.”

“Meaning what, Charlie Rhoades?” Mary huffed, placing all the bandages and ointments carefully back into the First aid kit.

“Meaning, Miss Mary that I do not follow every damn fad that rolls into town. It’s obvious the man is not a real doctor—”

He is! A doctor of the mind. Just open up, Charlie. You roll into a ball whenever anyone wants to help you.” He glared at her, recalling his response to the beating as she continued. “Dr. Devlin can help you by using a revolutionary dream structure; it forms walls around your mind, then takes you into past dreams to find a recovery for a safe and happy life.”

Charlie’s glare turned into a bewildered stare. “That’s a direct quote from one of his infomercials.”

“It’s true, Charlie. It’s…it’s like…quoting the Bible.”

“Oh just stop! Mary, life is too short for all that mumbo jumbo. Only two things matter—money, and money. That’s happiness.”

“C’mon Charlie. Just come with me and see if Dr. Devlin can help. What do you have to lose?”

Charlie pondered a minute. “You’re right. Who cares anymore? I’m a dead man on Tuesday either way…”

***

Mary drove them to the old recreation center on 7th street. The building had been transformed from its previous poor info-structure. Now it looked more like office suites than a community center where kids had sprayed graffiti on the walls, piss flowing out of commodes like a river when flushed.

They rode the elevator up two stories to room 114-C.  A bronze name plate on the door read:

FOX DEVLIN—DREAM GURU

Two over-sized men in black turtle necks took $150 that Charlie could have used towards his bigger problems, and that was just for Mary; for Charlie, thankfully, his first session was free. A poster read: Dr. Devlin is very tired from appearing on the talk show circuit so frequently. We cannot guarantee he can help everyone in the assembly today. Thank you for your cooperation.

What a scam. Charlie thought.

At least the room was nice, the walls were paneled and the carpet was clean—making that squishy sound it makes when it’s first laid down. Metal fold out chairs were strategically assembled across the room in front of a large desk. Behind the desk was a blackboard that had a crude chalk drawing of a man’s head with the brain exposed.

Several people had already made it to the class when Mary and Charlie arrived. There were only two chairs available. Mary always looked nice in her blue dress. Charlie knew she wasn’t wearing it for him. At the apartment, Charlie commented on the fact maybe they could have some fun later that night. Mary shook her head and said, “Oh Charlie, you know after class I’m too mentally out of it, too drained. I’m only wearing this so Dr. Devlin will pick me.”

The doctor entered dramatically through a side door that led to another office, with his P.A., Trish. Devlin was a slender man, wearing a black turtleneck with beads hanging around his neck, underneath a tweed jacket. Owl-horned glasses rested atop his long nose, and his straw-colored hair was pulled back into what Charlie considered a hippy ponytail. Trish introduced Devlin, speaking generously, praising the fact he’s helped celebrities such as Mike Tyson and Al Pacing. Even let them know he got the chance to have dinner recently with President Obama.

Charlie was not impressed and showed it.

However, it was the exact reason Mary showed her legs that night, and immediately Dr. Devlin was drawn to her, right during his opening speech.

“Who do we have here, Mary?”  Devlin asked in a smooth, serene voice. Charlie thought, he could calm even the most psychotic sports enthusiast after his team’s loss with a voice like that. “You’ve always come alone.”

“This…this is Charlie, Dr. Devlin. He’s a non-believer, even though he needs the help.” Mary said. A nervous frog cropped up whenever she spoke, and she kept looking around the room to see who might be judging them.

“Mary,” Charlie turned red, a sudden embarrassment replacing his anger. “I just have doubts is all…”

“Charlie, everyone doubts me at first,” Devlin scoffed. “No reason to be embarrassed. I have to prove myself every time I wake up in the morning. What most of the public doesn’t know about me is I am an average, everyday Joe. I just choose to use my unique power—a power I can help all of you to tap into. I can help you, Charlie. I place you in a state of rest with myself and together we dream, exploring whatever ails you. If it’s job stress, like Mr. Lincoln here.” He motioned to a short, older man with a pencil thin mustache who looked as though he’d been through a battle. He looked down at the ground, biting his lower lip. “Or just being able to relax, and be a giving person— sexually—like Mary here.”

Mary looked away uncomfortably, swallowing hard.

“I think we have our evening set,” Devlin told Trish. Trish scribbled on a notepad and nodded. “After the seminar, Mr. Lincoln and Charlie shall come to my quarters and all will be right with both. We will have our usual Q&A; take a break, where Trish has generously set up a beautiful spread of sandwiches…fruits…and of course our signature chamomile tea.”

***

The seminar lasted an hour. Twice Charlie had fallen asleep, both times ending in Mary jarring him awake and angrily whispering that she would leave him on the side of the road if he did it again. Luckily, for Charlie, the lights were dimmed and the spotlight removed from Devlin. He announced it was break time.

“I’ll be damned if anyone will need any chamomile tea to fall asleep for this guy,” Charlie said to Mary. “All you have to do is listen to him.”

Mary gave him a disdainful look. “Ha-Ha, Charlie—go get me a sandwich, ok?”

Charlie didn’t feel like schmoozing anyway, even though that seemed all Mary lived for anymore. They couldn’t go to the grocery store without Mary stopping and talking to every person she came across. She was shaking hands, gathering a small crowd around her as if she was running for office; he was glad for an opportunity to get out of that situation.

Surprisingly, Charlie only saw one other person at the table. Mr. Lincoln hovered uncertainly over a spread of pimento cheese, Swiss cheese, and pepper jack—trying to decide which one to add to his pastrami sandwich.

He appeared to be a nervous man, always looking behind him. When Charlie spoke to him, he jumped about ten feet in the air.

“Boy,” Charlie said, fixing the sandwich Mary requested with five pieces of boiled ham and one piece of Swiss, layered with a few globs of mayonnaise. “That Devlin character sure can talk.”

 

“Yes, yes he sure can.” Was Mr. Lincoln’s short reply, keeping his nervous little fingers close to his lips as if ready to prevent them from parting with unbecoming speech.

“You almost want to tell the guy to get a decent job and stop poking his nose in your business.”

“Well…no. Dr. Devlin has helped me quite a bit. I’ve been having problems with…things in my dreams. What line of work are you in, Mr.— ?”

“Just call me Charlie. I’m a construction supervisor. Say, you don’t really believe in all this crap, do you?”

“Oh, I most certainly do. I’m Cornell Lincoln.” Lincoln flashed a gloomy smile.

“What do you do, Cornell Lincoln? You kind of strike me as the college professor-type?” Charlie looked down and decided Mary could fix her own damn sandwich. He took a bite, and a line of mayonnaise spurted out, covering his top lip.

“Oh, no, no. I’m not smart enough for any of that. I’m a jeweler. I have my own jewelry shop out on Jefferson. ‘Heart to Heart Jewels’. Say, maybe I can help you out with a four-carat for the misses?”

“Not my misses.” Charlie retorted quickly.

“What?”

“We’re not married.’

“Oh.  It seems like you two are.”

“Yea, well, she likes to put on.”

“I see.”  Mr. Lincoln looked disappointed.

Trish came over and took Mr. Lincoln by the arm. “We are ready for both of you.” She smiled, her buggy eyes bulging out of her head. She reminded Charlie of a Chihuahua he once had. Whenever you’d try to take away its favorite chew toy, the dog would bare its teeth and its eyes would look ready to pop out from its little apple shaped head.

“Will you join us?” She showed Charlie those teeth, now clenched together.

Charlie sighed. He tossed the paper plate on the table, taking another bite of the sandwich before throwing it down.

***

Trish took Charlie and Mr. Lincoln through a dark corridor and into a room that had two cots and a chair. There was a TV tray with two glasses holding a reddish liquid. The room was cozy— lights with a low orange hue casting shadows on the ceiling.  It could have been a room rented out to a college student. To the left was the bathroom. The light was on. Someone was in there, puking their brains out.

Trish motioned for Charlie to take residence on a cot. She turned to Mr. Lincoln, and did the same. She walked over to the bathroom and rapping gently on the door. A muffled, “Yes?” came through.

“Dr. Devlin? Your patients are ready, sir.” Trish’s eyes held concern even though she showed Charlie and Mr. Lincoln a happy, everything-is-fine smile. “Dr. Devlin?” She knocked again.

The bathroom door opened quickly and Devlin appeared. He wiped his damp face with a towel. “I’m not sure if I can go through with it tonight, Trish,” he said. “I’m not feeling….particularly strong, I’m afraid.”

“Now, now, you say this every time before you do a session, Dr. Devlin.” Trish’s tone was rather forceful.

“But this time……I swear to you. Something is wrong.”

“Dr. Devlin, they are waiting for you.” Trish took him by the hand and led Devlin out of the bathroom. “Show time,” she told him.

Trish handed Mr. Lincoln the glass with the red liquid. He drank it down, choking a bit as he finished. His eyes became droopy and his jaw slack. Mr. Lincoln lied back on the cot and immediately fell asleep. Trish handed Charlie the other glass of red liquid. He looked at the glass, then her.

“Go on,” Trish urged, smiling and cooing. “Drink for mama…”

Charlie reluctantly drank it down, gagging. He gave a “How could you?” look to Mr. Lincoln.

Mr. Lincoln flashed a sickly smile. “It’s not so bad once you get used to it.”

“What the hell is in that stuff?” He asked Dr. Devlin.

“Nothing you would understand, Charlie. It just helps you fall asleep, and allows me to find you in the sea of dreams…”

 ***

Suddenly, Charlie found himself standing in an empty parking garage. It was strange to be in a parking garage with no vehicles in it. His eyes scanned the area—shrouded in darkness as elongated shadows encroached menacingly. He heard echoes of voices and decided to investigate. Still keeping an eye on the unnerving shadows, he climbed a flight of stairs leading to the top floor of the building, stopping in front of a gray metal door.

The address plate in front read: 2668 Colby, Brenner.

“How odd,” Charlie mused.

How odd to be dreaming of being inside the Brenner building—maybe Devlin screwed up? He heard more hushed voices; saw eerie shadows dancing across the stairwell.

“I hope the old man gives up the jewels this time. I’m getting tired of beatin’ on him.” It was a whiny voice with a hint of a Boston area accent.

“So let Giggles get his knuckles bruised for a while,” a gruff voice with more of a twang said. “It was his idea to hook up with such a nutty plan.”

Charlie unexpectedly appeared in a showroom for jewelry, except nothing was in the cases.

They were all empty. Then he saw Mr. Lincoln bent over a safe. His trembling hands were trying to turn the rusty knob on the small safe as a shadowy figure held a nine millimeter to his bruised and bloodied face. Charlie could see Mr. Lincoln’s lips moving.

10-left-2-right-14-left-5-left-22-right…

Mr. Lincoln looked extremely rattled, his mouth hung open, his eyes were bulged and bloodshot. A grey hand with its skin hanging from bone, reached out from the darkness and took hold of Mr. Lincoln by his coat lapel. The hand violently jerked him closer to the darkness. Mr. Lincoln screamed……

 ***

Charlie and Mr. Lincoln awoke to Devlin’s screams. Devlin was out of the cot on his knees with his hands clutching his head in agony. Charlie and Mr. Lincoln exchanged uncomfortable glances. Trish ran to him, dropping down next to Devlin.

“It hurts!” He screamed, fingernails digging into his scalp.

“Dr. Devlin, are you alright?” She asked, trying to face him as he burst into tears.

“Let me look….” she demanded, but he pushed her hands away; Trish fought with him and was finally able to secure a look at Devlin’s face.

So did Charlie.

Devlin’s forehead was extremely red. There were two pulsating boils just above his right eyebrow. In the middle of the boils was a tip shaped like an arrowhead, bleeding streams that dripped down past the bridge of his nose.

“Oh God!” Trish exclaimed throwing her hands over Devlin’s face so Charlie and Mr. Lincoln couldn’t see anymore. “It’s gotten worse. Lance! Lance!” She called out for security, and a muscle-bound man with a ponytail behind his shaved head, wearing a t-shirt prominently displaying ‘THE CULT’ on it.

“Lance! Help me get Dr. Devlin to his room! It’s gotten worse…”

“Maybe he needs a doctor?” Lance helped Devlin up.

“No doctors!” Devlin screamed, followed by a long moan.

Lance steadied Devlin as they slowly walked to a door leading outside.

Trish sighed, taking a moment of meditation. She fought back tears and turned to Charlie, who was still sitting on the cot—slightly shocked but taking everything in. Mr. Lincoln had already put his jacket on and was ready when instructed to leave.

“You two can go,” Trish told them coldly.

Charlie looked perplexed. “What the hell just happened?”

“Just go, please.” Trish raised her voice.

“Is he going to be alright?” Charlie tossed another question at her.

“I’m sure he will be,” Trish said, tight-lipped. “Any other questions you have can be answered another time.” With that, Trish stormed out the door.

Charlie stood and grabbed his coat, meticulously mulling over every detail of what he’d just witnessed in his mind. He looked at Mr. Lincoln, who already had opened the door that led to the conference room exit.

“What the hell just happened?” Charlie repeated.

Mr. Lincoln offered a sickly smile. “Who knows? Only Dr. Devlin does.”  Mr. Lincoln shrugged.

“No, I mean the dream…I think we were crossed up—” Charlie stopped talking. He thought a minute.

“Yeah….” Mr. Lincoln replied. “That seems to happen.”

Charlie laughed callously He followed Mr. Lincoln out the door, slapped him on the back.

“Yeah, pops. I guess it does.”

He motioned to Mary. “Let’s go.”

***

It was 4:00A.M., and Charlie was sitting at the kitchen table making his third ham, bologna, and cheese puff sandwich. He was sitting there, going over the events from the night before. Mary was up, standing behind Charlie, trying to keep her breasts from bursting out of the short nightie she’d bought ten years—and twenty five pounds—ago.

Charlie knew she was behind him.

“What, Mary?” He took a bite of his sandwich.

“Charlie…come to bed, will ya’?” She reached her arms around his neck.

Charlie carefully placed his sandwich back on a plate. He removed her arms. “Quit it. Can’t you see I’m thinking.”

“Oh, Charlie!” Mary clenched her hands before placing them on her hips and gritting her teeth. “I’m so sick of this! I’m lonely, Charlie. I need a man’s touch…”

“Then go find one.” Charlie finished chewing, then found a crumb stuck in his tooth. He picked it out with an over-grown pinky nail and discarded it to the floor.

“I don’t want to, Charlie. I love you and I want you in my bed, not Tom, Joe, Dick and Harry…just…you.”

“Well, if Tom, Joe, Dick, or Harry aren’t busy, like me, they are welcome to you.” Charlie said, proud of himself for firing back with that one.

Mary hung her head. Her bottom lip trembled a bit, but she held back the tears. She quietly drifted back to her bedroom.

Charlie tossed his sandwich down. A smile rolled across his rubbery lips. There was a twinkle in his eyes. He had it. He finally had an idea that was going to take care of his financial problems…with Burke Williams.

“Hey, Mary…” He called out. “I’m sorry, baby. I’m coming to bed.”

***

Trish stormed into the office. Devlin looked at her, as did the man sitting across from Devlin. “Trish, I’m in a meeting with Conrad here.” Devlin said.

“There’s a man out there—Charlie something—he says he is going to sue you over a session the other day.”

Devlin laughed. “He signed a release, didn’t he…?”

Trish shook her head slowly.

“How did that happen, Trish?”  Devlin snarled. “You could have at least made sure…”

“I don’t know how he slipped through. He says he’s getting headaches.”

“I think I should leave,” Conrad said. He stood and buttoned his coat. “I’ll call you later about the property, Fox.”

Devlin nodded. “Sure, Conrad.” Devlin reached out, taking Conrad’s hand for a short second. Conrad smiled half-heartedly, opened the office door, and saw Charlie waiting anxiously outside.

Devlin bowed his head. “Send him in, Trish. Maybe we can offer him a settlement, until I talk to Lowell about a possible lawsuit again.”

“He doesn’t have a case.” Trish tried to console him, but Devlin wasn’t having it.

“Just send him in! I don’t want to take any chances after the last one. I didn’t think she did, either—until the other side brought up the possibility the sleep aide had some ingredients used for headaches—medicines that might’ve been outlawed. Okay?! So send him in.”

Charlie walked in, confident in his pastel blue suit. He sat down and the two of them sized each other up. Charlie tried to cross his legs, but thought better of it as he almost lost his balance. Devlin smiled impishly, rose from his desk. He paced a few steps before sitting on the edge of his desk.

“Charlie.” Devlin broke the silence. “We can work this out. I’m sure of it.”

“I’m sure we can. $15,000 is what I want.” Charlie told him.

“The headaches are worth that much?” Devlin nodded.

“Them’s some bad headaches, Doc,” Charlie pouted, speaking in baby-talk. “See, Doc, I remember reading about you. I don’t doubt you’re….talents. But it’s how you raise your talent to a new level. You did this trick years ago, under another name: Roger van Dyke. I had to go the library to look all this up, though…hard copies and all. But the initial story I read—and funny, if I hadn’t been down on my luck, broke at the track, with not even money for a cup of coffee…well,  I wouldn’t have seen that paper sitting there on an empty bench.”

Charlie gave Devlin a vindictive smile. “Now, you’re right of course. It all being ‘nothing I would understand’, but I do know you use that…concoction you made us drink to heighten the dreams, and somehow make it easier for your abilities to find the secrets there. Only its bad news. Even for you. I see the marks on your head. Causes serious brain damage, I bet. I also read…this is funny…the U.S. army had been robbed of a certain recipe. Some Martin Blake had gotten hold of it and tried to manufacture headache medicine for it. Geez, and would you believe that guy looked a lot like you, Doc?”

Devlin’s nostrils flared. His hands formed tight fists, which he kept swinging back and forth. “$15,000?” Devlin said coldly. He walked around his desk, searched in the drawers for a green checkbook. He angrily wrote out the check, stabbed the desk with his pen, then tore it out, tossing it at Charlie.

Charlie jumped for it— he could move pretty fast when motivated. He almost caught the thin paper before it landed on the floor. Charlie scooped it up, reclaiming some of his dignity as he slipped it into his jacket pocket.

“Get out of my office.” Devlin demanded.

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Charlie sat back down. “I want another session Doc.”

Devlin laughed. “You want….? You are extorting money because of headaches, caused by me and my wonder drug, but you want another session? No. I don’t think so. I smell a trap.”

“I had beans this morning, Doc. It’s not a trap you smell. I want that session with Mr. Lincoln. I know what you are up to.” Charlie pointed a stubby finger at Devlin. “We’re after same thing. Oh. Yeah. See, I checked with Mary. You pick Mr. Lincoln every damn time.  You want those numbers from his safe.”

Devlin’s face drained of color.

“Yeah, I got your number, T. Fox Devlin. And this time—this time you are going to finish that dream.”

“I don’t think we should.” Devlin pleaded. He touched the wounds on his forehead. “He has an understated personality. Something is preventing him from showing everything in the dreams. Not like most people. That’s why I was using a double act; bringing someone else in the dream. It hasn’t worked because people usually just witness— never trying to stop what’s happening. It’s complicated.”

“I don’t care what it is. We are going to do it.”  Charlie and Devlin locked eyes. Devlin was whipped. He knew it. He looked away, rubbing his forehead.

“Okay,” Devlin said. “Come back here at seven. We’re doing a private session with him. I was going to use Trish. But….it seems the situation has changed.”

***

Trish gave Charlie a judgmental look when he arrived, eyeballing him even as she opened the door to the session room wider. Charlie smiled, even winked. “I’m very happy to see you, as well.”

“You’re late. You take the cot on the left. Mr. Lincoln is already prepped, he’s on the right; and of course Dr. Devlin will be in the middle.”

Charlie wanted to say something snappy, but it wouldn’t come. He went over to the cot, took his jacket off. Trish reluctantly handed him the glass of red liquid. Charlie looked at it, sighed.

“Cheers, baby.”

 ***

Charlie heard the voices again. He was in the parking garage, standing on the stairs. He saw two shadows rolling across the concrete walls. Charlie went up the stairs, slowly, taking in everything. He was conscious that he needed to be aware, possibly find where things had gone wrong in Lincoln’s dream a few days before.

Suddenly, Charlie was in the showroom again. Like before, all the jewelry cases were empty.  A shadowy figure held a gun on Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln was on his knees, trying very hard to open the safe, his trembling lips miming the numbers as his shaking hands turned the dial.

Charlie stepped toward the shadowy figure. He heard Mr. Lincoln scream. He turned to see a skeletal version of Devlin, his arm reaching out to Mr. Lincoln. Charlie swiped the .38 from the shadow. He fired twice at the skeletal Devlin. Devlin fell, his bones shattering …

***

Trish screamed, tears streaming down her face. She called out Devlin’s name and buried her face in his chest. Devlin was lying motionless, his mouth wide open, eyes transfixed on the ceiling. Blood drained from two nickel sized holes in his forehead.

Security rushed the door already left open. They ran to Trish and Devlin.

Charlie and Mr. Lincoln were still in their cots, comatose to the real world.

Charlie’s greed was repaid…with an eternity of being lost in that dream.

***********************

Mark Slade has appeared in Hell whore series, Blackout City, Dream walkers and Nightmare Stalkers Volumes 1 & 2, and other publications. He is co-editor of Nightmare Illustrated magazine along with Horrified Press publisher Nathan Roawrk. He also writes a column From the grave for Horror Metal Sounds magazine. He lives in Williamsburg, VA with his wife and daughter. To find out more, go to: http://bloodydreadful.blogspot.com/
http://www.horrormetalsounds.com/
http://www.amazon.com/Nightmare-Stalkers-amp-Dream-Walkers/dp/1291590013
http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/horrified-press/nightmare-stalkers-dream-walkers-volume-ii/paperback/product-21733466.html

Free Fiction Friday: J. T. Evans

Broken Violence

by J. T. Evans

“I’m going to kill her,” Mickey said in a dead-pan voice.

Joseph opened his mouth to speak as a tear escaped over his quivering eyelid. He found his voice, but only a whisper. “Not her.”

“You know I have to.”

Joseph’s voice cracked as he tried to sound stronger. “Anyone but her.”

“You haven’t given me a choice.”

“There’s always a choice.” He hoped the other man wouldn’t hear the quiver in his voice.
Mickey’s voice dropped to a low growl. “She makes you distracted and weak. You might have a choice. I don’t.”

Joseph scrubbed his hands through his messy, brown hair and looked down at the dirty toilet in the bathroom they shared. “Something else. Anyone else.” He wanted to add “please” to his statement, but didn’t have the strength.

“There are no other options. Her death is the only thing that can make you strong again.”
Snapping his eyes back up, Joseph stared at the visage before him. “Someone else can be the sacrifice.”

“Someone else? Like the time when you were eight? Who else could have burned in Mom’s and Larry’s place when I saved you?”

Joseph shook his head. “How about me? What if I die?” He kept his shaking hands at his side to keep the other man from seeing them.

Mickey threw his head back and laughed. When his mirth subsided, he said, “You know better than that.”

The young man narrowed his eyes. “There’s no need to kill again. She’s not a threat.”

“She was a threat from the first time you saw her.” Mickey glared back.

Joseph raised a fist and tried to sound stern. “No, she wasn’t. I have-”

Mickey roared. “You have nothing! Without me you are nothing but a weakling! I had to save you back then. I will save you now.”

Joseph cowered back from the sudden outburst and whimpered deep in his throat. “You can’t. I love her.”

With a raised eyebrow, Mickey asked, “Do you love her more than me?”

With a slight bit more force, Joseph whispered, “No.”

“Does she love you?”

More whispers. “I’m not sure.”

“That’s what I thought. Quit wasting my time.”

Joseph sighed.

“See? You’re weak when it comes to her. She has to die. Tonight.”

Something inside Joseph snapped. He growled back at the leering man. “I won’t let you.” He raised his hand again, and slowly curled his fingers closed.

“You wouldn’t dare. I give you strength. I give you power. I protect-”

Joseph closed his eyes and slammed his fist into Mickey’s shocked face.

Mickey broke into dozens of pieces as the bathroom mirror in front of Joseph shattered under the force of the blow.

Joseph smiled as he squeeze his fist tighter over the sink. Blood dripped on the shards and washed Mickey away.

**************

J.T. Evans arrived on this planet and developed into an adult in the desolate, desert-dominated oil fields of West Texas. After a year in San Antonio, he spent a year in the northern tundra of Montana. This year-long stint prepared him for the cold (yet mild compared to Montana) climate of the Front Range of Colorado. He has thrived in The Centennial State since 1998 with his lovely Montana-native wife and newly created son. He primarily pays the bills by performing software engineering and other technocentric duties. To find out more, go to: http://jtevans.net/

Flash Fiction Friday: Kadirah Wade

They Buried Her Deep

by Kadirah Wade

 

They buried her deep late one day

She died at sea by the Inlet Kay

She watched them as they walked away slow

Their heads hung down in pain, sad and low.

When they turned to reach the avenue bridge

She sprang from her grave and ran to the ridge

“I will head them off and scare them bad

I do not believe them to be sad.”

As they reached the top of Old Drummer’s Hill

She appeared with a scream, so loud and shrill

They all felt fright, near to a dead faint

Some called out loud to an unknown saint

The steam rose above, her body still warm

They scattered and ran from her ghastly form

She chased them down and snapped at their heels

She heeded not their mercy appeals

“You’ve all brought about my dreadful demise

You taunted and teased and spread vicious lies.”

And one by one they each met their fate

She did them in by the evening, late

Never again would their mocking be heard

She ended their sniggering cruel words

Then she returned to the peaceful sea

And fell asleep in her sodden lee.

Flash Fiction Friday: Sumiko Saulson

Bloodsuckers

By Sumiko Saulson

The hotel was seedy, but at least it was poorly lit. That didn’t sound like much of a perk, but helped obscure the water stains on the walls and the roaches in the corners.  Best of all, it had free wifi. Sure, it was slower than molasses. It was provided courtesy of one five IP address wireless router rented from the cable company. The management knocked on your door and complained if you stayed on it more than an hour.  But it was wifi.

Dennis used it to go troll the dating sites looking for a hook-up. That’s how he met Courtney, single white female, twenty two years old, brown hair, brown eyes. She was a cute girl, kind of chubby, but interested in casual. Casual was good. Very good.

She was in a white hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans when she came to the door. Dennis was in a green terrycloth bathrobe and tattered BVDs. He invited her in.

“Nice place you have,” she said, precariously perching her butt on the edge of the king sized mattress furthest away from him. She looked quite a bit older in person than she did on the photo.  She claimed to be twenty-two, but looked thirty-five. It figured. These girls were always lying about their age and their weight, but never mind all that.  Why should he care? He was thirty-five, but claiming he was twenty-seven.

“Can I get you a beer, sweetie?”  he asked, grabbing a cold one out of the cooler by his feet.

“Sure,” she said, grabbing the bottle and prying the cap off like a master barfly. She sucked it down in two minutes flat and asked for another.  Dennis was bending down to pick it up when he felt something bite him on the back of the neck.

“What the?” he hollered, slapping his neck. The hand came back covered in blood. Stuck in the middle of the stain was the tiny black corpse of a fallen insect. He wasn’t sure if it was a mosquito or what, but something bit him.

Courtney inhaled the second beer as fast as the first. She was starting to get a little tipsy, it appeared.

“I love your robe,” she giggled. “Especially the belt you have it tied around your waist with. You should let me tie you up with it.”

“What?” Dennis asked. He wasn’t usually into the kinky stuff, but he was horny, it had been a while. Besides, this Courtney was really chesty. He wanted to check her out. He was just about to suggest she take off her hoodie and get comfortable when something bit him, again. This time it was on the ass. He felt stupid smacking himself on the behind.

“Well?”  Courtney said.  “In or out?”

“In,” Dennis said reluctantly. The girl tied him to the bed, and but damn she had a strong grip.

“Whoa woman, that’s a little tight,” he complained. She ignored him, continued her work. When she was done, she stepped back and began to unzip her jacket.

“Nice,” he said, watching the zipper slide down and reveal her ample cleavage.

His salacious glee was short lived. As the blouse came down, he began to notice that what he at first thought was a black tank top was moving. Tiny black dots swarmed all over the surface of her chest.  His eyes widened as they began to traverse the short distance between where she stood, and where he was tied to the bed.

“What the hell?” he asked. She did not answer at first.

They covered his legs, nipping and biting into the exposed flesh. His legs started to itch terribly.  Unable to use his bound hands, he began to rub the big toe from one foot against the calf of the other to scratch his leg.

“I am sorry,” she said finally, “but I must feed.”

She extended her arms, and more and more of the tiny black creatures leapt on the bed and crawled over his body, piercing and pinching his skin. Raised red dots began to appear on the surface of his flesh. Then, the wounds began to bleed.

That was when he started to scream.

Courtney pulled a filthy sports sock off his foot and shoved it down his throat to silence him.

As the tiny insects drew blood from his flesh, they turned around and returned to her, full and bloated. A sea of minuscule, blood-filled life crawled up to her face. When she opened her mouth, it poured in between her lips and down her throat. Her well-trained little minions sacrificed their infinitesimal lives just so they could deliver his blood. One by one, they drained him, and returned to her, engorged with blood and ready to be devoured.

When they were finished, his body was drained. White, and covered in a rash of red dots more vibrant and painful than acne, Dennis moaned on the bed. Courtney pulled a needle out of her pocket. She released him from his mortal coil with a hot shot of heroin. She shoved the incriminating rig into his failing hand.

Courtney licked the corner of her mouth as the last bed bug died on her lips. Then she turned to go.

Her minions had been many over the years. Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and any number of other tiny vampires bought meals of fresh blood to her lips. She didn’t need any fangs or knives to feed. All she needed was her servants.

She turned around and left. Leaving her pale victim dying on the filthy mattress, she closed the door. There would be many more where he came from.

She thanked all that was wicked that there was bed bug epidemic in San Francisco.

**************

Sumiko Saulson’s blog “Things That Go Bump In My Head” focuses on horror fiction writing and features author interviews, writing advice, short stories and editorial pieces. She is the author of two novels in the science fiction and horror genres, “Solitude,” and “Warmth”, and a Young Adult dark fantasy series, “The Moon Cried Blood”, which was originally a novel.  Her fourth novel “Happiness and Other Diseases” will be released October 18, 2014.  She is also the author of a short story anthology “Things That Go Bump In My Head”.  She writes for the Oakland Art Scene for the Examiner.com. A published poet and writer of short stories and editorials, she was once profiled in a San Francisco Chronicle article about up-and-coming poets in the beatnik tradition. The child of African American and Russian-Jewish American parents, she is a native Californian, and was born and spent her early childhood in Los Angeles, moving to Hawaii, where she spent her teen years, at the age of 12. She has spent most of her adult life living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Flash Fiction Friday: Jeremiah Donaldson

One Vote
By Jeremiah Donaldson

Marvin’s sweaty hand made the registration card soggy. He’d never voted. Anticipation twisted his gut. Soon, he’d help decide the country’s fate for the next several years or longer.

He forced himself towards the booth.

Christ. What party did I register with?

Just vote. It didn’t matter who he voted for. Besides, the politicians worked for the same corporations anyway.

He ducked into the booth, almost bowling over the touch screen sitting on a wooden pedestal. Sweat stung his eyes and his vision blurred, so he randomly reached out.

Huge letters flashed: ‘THANK YOU FOR VOTING’.

Done. He’d voted.

Marvin hurried out the front door.

He got in his truck and spun some gravel pulling out of the church lot. The static filled radio coming from one good speaker made him wish that the Eight Track player hadn’t died 25 years before.

“We interrupt normal broadcasts for a special weather alert…”

He frowned and changed the station.

“Cuba has joined NATO…”

He twisted the knob again.
“Wall Street brokers have started a fund to benefit low income…”

Again.

“We will start pulling troops out of the Middle East immediately…”

The radio died with a final blast of static and left him with the noisy muffler.

Black storm clouds had gathered by the time he pulled into his driveway. He got out and a gust blew the driver’s door shut so hard the window rattled. Trees lining his yard creaked while leaves swirled down.

Massive raindrops pelted him like stones. Something squishy landed on his shoulder and moved to his neck. Marvin shuddered, flicking at the rubbery thing crawling up the back of his head. It fell to the ground and hopped away.

He stomped on the weird blue frog, then looked up and shivered.

Must have fell from the tree.

A thud prompted him to turn. A red frog lay exploded in the middle of the bashed in truck hood.

Dots too large for rain fell from the sky. Something slammed into his forehead, knocking him backwards. He stumbled several steps before tripping to the ground with fluids running down his face. He blinked, wiping thick slime and cold blood off with his shirt while getting up.

A red frog smashed to the ground beside him as the truck windshield shattered.

A small blue one landed on his shoulder. It hopped away and joined other survivors among the bodies in the purple yard.

He made it to the porch before something surprisingly firm slammed into the center of his back. He stumbled, and caught himself with the handrail, stopping long enough to punt the huge blue frog into the yard. He pushed through the front door and leaned against it protectively, as though the amphibians could have turned the knob. His heart pounded so hard he feared a heart attack.

Pots banged against one another as his wife called out. “So, who did you vote for?”

———————————-

Jeremiah Donaldson lives in London, Ky with his daughter and pets. He’s currently working on multiple projects, including two that will be available later in 2014. He can be found at his home on the web at: www.ephiroll.com

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY: ANN WILKES

Surprise!

By Ann Wilkes

 

After removing her cheesecake, Francine tapped the cheesecake button on the fridge’s touchpad. The fridge hummed softly, updating the grocery list to include the ingredients from Francine’s recipe. Being Type H, Francine liked to make cheesecake from scratch, in order to control what went into her food.

She brought the cheesecake into the living room where china dessert plates, forks, napkins and serving utensil waited on a whitelist-tagged, lace table runner on the coffee table. “Dana, I can’t believe you had to endure that,” she said to her friend as she joined her on the sofa.

“I’ll never eat there again, I can tell you. Imagine! Non-filtered ice and a sticky tabletop! Ooh, that looks delicious.” Dana’s eyes sparkled and she leaned forward to help herself. “Ouch!” She jerked in her seat, her hand moving to her pocket.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I saved Jimmy’s toy from the vacuum this morning and forgot to put it away.” Dana pulled out an action figure from her front pants’ pocket and set it on the corner of the coffee table — or tried. It bounced off and hit her right on the nose. “Ouch!”

“Oh, no,” said Francine. “Are you ok? Let me have a look. Oh, dear.”

“I forgot about your repeller mat,” she said as if through a tunnel. “You should put a warning sticker on it.” Her nose began to swell. After putting the toy safely on the table runner, she sat back, tilting her head up to stop the throbbing. Francine ran for ice.

#

After seeing Dana off, Francine admitted to herself that she found the unexpected event exhilarating. When was the last time I was surprised by anything? she wondered. She questioned–not for the first time–her insulated Type H existence. Since high school, she had only associated with her personality type. Henry and she only frequented Type H places of business and only attended Type H parties. In high school, before the segregation, Francine thought, parties were fun, because people were flawed, varied and funny.

The next day, Francine called Stepford Industries to schedule a tune-up of all her SI Neat and Clean Devices. Repelling was one thing. Hurling heavy objects back at people would not do. The company assured her a Type H repairman would be there by the end of the day.

The repairwoman came three hours later, while Francine was gardening. Checking the woman’s ID on the security screen on the back patio, she read “Char Blake”. The letter in the lower left corner was a C! Francine opened her mouth to tell her to leave and send a Type H as agreed, but she realized what this was: a surprise! Instead, she said, “I’m gardening just now. You know where everything is.” She buzzed her in from the garden.

A thrill shot through Francine at the prospect of having a Type C in her home. What would Dana say? Or Henry? It was like a dirty secret. Type Cs didn’t worry about cleanliness, order or germs. They dreamed big, but finish things. They also procrastinated and eschewed promptness.

#

Char started with the repeller mat. Next, she serviced the laundrybot, the vacuumbot and the spillbot. Once she located it behind a dresser upstairs, she set to work on the bug-eating lizardbot. She would finish in the kitchen with the fridge and smartstove.

As Char bent over the bot’s open housing her nose dripped on the circuit board. She was burning up. She rubbed her runny nose and stood to adjust the thermostat leaving the lizard bot’s green tummy opened, circuits exposed. “Went and caught Clyde’s virus after all,” she muttered to herself. She went downstairs in search of something cold. She couldn’t believe the neatness of the fridge. Did she alphabetize, too, or just sort by food group? She had thought there were too many fussy-bots for a Type C house.

Char heard Francine cross the threshold to the kitchen right before she sneezed into the fridge.

Char shut the door and wavered. She looked at Francine. “Type H?”

Francine nodded, her eyes wide.

Cramps gripped her stomach and she vomited onto the counter, the front of the cupboards and the floor. Now she felt chilled. When she realized the Type H was going to be more concerned about infection than helping, she moaned.

“Call . . . ” she gasped.

#

Francine couldn’t move her feet. Where was the spillbot? The vidphone rested on the vomit-splattered counter.

The tech moaned again.

Francine willed her feet to move. She could use the vidphone in the den. As she strode by the kitchen, her blouse up over her face to keep from smelling the vomit, the lizardbot launched at her from the stairs. She shrieked and fought it off as it clung to her with its powerful, suction-cupped feet. She stumbled backwards into the kitchen as it darted its tongue out and licked her hair, pulling it out of her head. I must have gotten a bug in it from the garden.

She beat on the bot’s back trying to get to let go. Then she slipped on the vomit. Coming down with a thud, her head landed on the tech’s stomach. This triggered more vomit – right into Francine’s face. She wanted to scream, but dared not open her mouth. Then she passed out.

#

When Francine’s husband came home two hours later, he found his wife and a strange woman in coveralls on the kitchen floor. Francine’s mouth gaped open. Her red face looked like it’d been scrubbed raw. Her eyes didn’t focus. She didn’t move. Henry smelled spillbot cleaner. He stole himself to touch his wife’s ankle, not daring to come closer. She was stone cold.

The other woman whimpered, her eyes fluttering open.

In a panic, Henry ran out of his house for help. And then he just kept running. And running. And running. He couldn’t take surprises either.

******

As Ann Wilkes, Ann writes science fiction and fantasy. Her short stories read like Twilight Zone episodes – often tragic, funny or both. Her latest sales have been to Every Day Fiction and a Fantastic Stories anthology edited by Warren Lapine. Under her legal name, Ann Hutchinson, Ann writes memoir, fiction and lyrics. She is also a freelance journalist, copywriter and editor. She is currently co-editing an anthology to benefit the local YWCA as a labor of love. Ann loves dancing with her husband, Kevin, with whom she teaches private lessons. Read more at annwilkes.com, clevercopy.net, scifiodd.com and socodancebeat.com

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY: Tim Reynolds

*Temper Temper “*

by Timothy Reynolds

Leon slammed the spade’s blade into the dirt cellar floor. “Hack my Facebook account will she? Bitch! No wonder Dad ran off with the babysitter-slash-cheerleader when I was ten.”

The pile of dirt grew.  A car door banged shut. He dug faster, mumbling. “I’ll kill her, bury her, hack ‘her’ Facebook account, and make it look like she’s travelling.” The shovel hit something hard.

“What the hell?” He brushed off dirt. In the dim light it looked like two skulls and a pompom.

“Whatcha doing, Honey?”
Leon spun at the sound of his mother’s voice, but not fast enough.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This story was a winner of the Kobo Writing Life Jeffery Archer Short Story Challenge in early 2013. All rights belong to the author.

——————————-

“Tim Reynolds’ published stories range from lighthearted urban fantasy to turn-on-the-damned-lights-now horror, and include the story of a bus driver who kills all his passengers (in ‘Horrible Disasters’ from HorrorAddicts.net) and a dark, depressing view of the near future of reality TV and child-rearing. He can be found online at www.tgmreynolds.com.”

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY: Jeremiah Donaldson

Raining Tears

by Jeremiah Donaldson

“What an awful picture,” Cindy said.

Howard sighed. “You’ve said they’re all bad. This is a mass produced print museum. None of these so called paintings were made for more than adorning cottage walls.”

“This probably has the deepest meaning.”

The plaque read: ‘The Crying Boy’. To its right hung one of a girl. Its plaque said: ‘The Crying Girl’. Both subjects had tears streaming down their cheeks. A sheet with barely readable, dot matrix letters hung between them.

‘Mysteries surround these now rare prints. G. Bragolin’s signature adorns these, but several  artists are credited with similar prints from the same period. The boy is thought to be Don Bonillo, a.k.a. Diablo, so called for the strange fires wherever he went. When grown, he was killed in a car explosion. The girl subject has never been identified.’

Cindy sneered. “The awful pictures have an awful story. You won’t leave without them now.”

“And pass the chance to add weirdness to our inventory? These will be better than the Charles Mansion painting.”

“Except that cost as much as both of these.”

Howard grinned. “You want both?”

“Not really.”

“One doesn’t make a set. And it’s my turn to buy.”

Cindy crossed her arms. “That, it is.”

“You got that velvet Elvis I didn’t like.”

“You said you didn’t mind.”

“I didn’t. You paid.”

“I can get whatever I want next time?”

Howard thought a second. No way out. “Of course.”

“Remember that when the time comes.”

“Yes, dear.”

***

Howard’s stomach rumbled as he merged onto the expressway. “What do you want to eat?”

Cindy frowned. “Anything that doesn’t give you gas.”

“Not many options.”

“There’s one.”

“You want hibachi grill for lunch?”

Cindy nodded. “And a drink.”

“This early?”

“Never too early for a drink.”

“The hard life of an art dealer.”

“Hibachi here we come.” Cindy smiled so bright she looked 20 years younger.

The playful exchange ended with a rush of smoke from the back that made them cough.

“My, god!” Cindy slapped at the flames igniting her styled hair.

“Hang on!” Howard stomped the brake.

But the Mercedes didn’t stop. He put both feet on the brake and pushed, but the pedal didn’t move. They careened side to side at 90 and gaining.

Cindy’s screams turned to chokes when fire engulfed her head. Howard smacked at the flames as she wilted in the seat. Blisters rose on his palm. Something in his hand cracked on her skull while she moaned her last. Flames spread to her clothing and seat. They crawled across the center console, blistering the plastic and burning the leather. Heat licked the back of his neck. His hair flared like a match. He screamed, stomped the useless brake, and turned into the guardrail to try stopping.

They rolled into a 100 mile-per-hour cartwheel.

Flames spread across his vision, and he didn’t see the prints tumble, unharmed, out of the back.

**************************

Jeremiah Donaldson lives in London, Ky with his daughter. He’s currently working on multiple projects, including a table top RPG and story collection that will be released later in 2014. He was featured on #17 of HorrorAddicts.net His home on the web is: www.ephiroll.com.