Asian Horror Month: From the Vault: Fortune Cookie by Grey Harlowe

Free Fiction Friday from June, 2015

Fortune Cookie

 by Grey Harlowe

It was their last chance to get dinner; the restaurant scene in town closed in an hour. Max and Claire had been arguing Mexican versus pizza, Paige wanted seafood and Boyd was ambivalent about any option. He was thirty seconds away from just heading home when they stumbled into a Chinese diner, keeping a low profile next to an arcade.

“Let’s try here,” said Max, triumphantly.

The diner had low lights and an old fashioned bar. The four coworkers, who’d worked late at their small office, sat on its round stools eating. The staff, indulgent types, left them alone.

As the meal wound down, Paige cracked a fortune cookie. Boyd, who hated them, moved to stop her. She giggled.

“Superstitious?” she asked.

“No, that’s why I don’t read these. And who’s ever heard of anything this silly actually telling someone’s future?”

Rolling her eyes, Paige opened her tiny white scroll.

“Good health will be yours for a long time.” She smiled.

“Can’t beat that,” Max said, smiling back. Everyone knew the ex-lovers had been considering reconciliation, delayed while Paige endured a cancer scare. The final tests weren’t back, but it appeared she’d dodged mastectomy.

“Indeed,” said Claire. “I’m next.” Slowly, she recited, “A new wardrobe will accompany great change.”

“Like you need improvement,” Paige said. They all nodded. Claire was often mistaken for a model. “Do yours, Max.”

Max hesitated, then read, “You will be successful in your work. Hmm. Maybe Chuck will lay off soon.” Their boss had been giving Max a hard time. Rumor was, Chuck was unhappy with Max’s pitch to a big overseas client. Chuck was impatient for their product, eco-friendly playground material, to go international.

Pressured by his friends, Boyd opened his cookie.

“You will soon be crossing the great waters.” He was greeted with cackling laughter.

“Ouch,” said Paige. “You don’t think that means—”

“What does it sound like? Is there ambiguity there?” Max teased. “No wonder you hate these cookies, bro.”

“Helpful,” said Boyd, trying to stay brave. The reason he avoided fortune cookies was to avoid tempting fate.

He drove home apprehensive.

It turned out, he’d had cause to be afraid.

The next morning at work, he arrived to a grim scene. Paige was in the breakroom, staring at her coffee mug. Max and Chuck were facing off in the doorway of Chuck’s office, clearly having had a harsh exchange. Eventually, Max stormed out. Boyd could hear someone crying in the bathroom. It sounded like Claire.

“What’s going on?” he asked Paige.

“Well,” Paige said, “Claire’s pregnant. I’m surprised we didn’t notice, but she’s been…dressing to hide it.” Paige looked at the wall. Both recalled the ominous ‘new wardrobe’ fortune.

“Gets worse,” she continued. “Claire admitted affairs with both Max and Chuck. Paternity’s up in the air. Max is dealing, but Chuck’s pissed enough he fired him.”

Boyd gulped. He wasn’t shocked; Chuck was a territorial guy.

“How’re you dealing?” This couldn’t have done Paige’s intended reunion with Max any favors.

“Fine, I guess,” she said. “Doc’s office called. My tests are normal.”

It became surreal. Claire fled the bathroom, tears streaming. Paige followed Claire downstairs. Boyd and Chuck soon heard the women arguing in the street, alongside Max’s voice. Then tires squealing. Screams. Paige would enjoy her ‘good health’ an eternity.

After the funeral, Claire disappeared. So did Max, to search for her. Chuck told Boyd that Boyd would take over their new European account, which Max had been successful at securing in the end. Boyd was to leave immediately, courtesy of a trip on the client’s cruise line.

Crossing the great waters after all, Boyd thought bitterly.

The third day out, Max surprised Boyd beside his deck chair. He looked livid. About his firing, his lost women, or both, Boyd decided.

“I’ve felt so guilty,” Boyd said “Mine was the only nice fortune. Here I am, crossing the water.”

“Don’t feel guilty,” said Max, blood in his eye. “Fortune didn’t say you’d be crossing back.”

**********

HarloweGrey Harlowe’s fiction has been featured on Every Writers Resource and Microhorror.com.  She is the 2014 winner of the Saugus.net annual ghost story competition, and has also been published in the journal, The Last Line.

Free Fiction Friday: Fortune Cookie

Fortune Cookie

 by Grey Harlowe

It was their last chance to get dinner; the restaurant scene in town closed in an hour. Max and Claire had been arguing Mexican versus pizza, Paige wanted seafood and Boyd was ambivalent about any option. He was thirty seconds away from just heading home when they stumbled into a Chinese diner, keeping a low profile next to an arcade.

“Let’s try here,” said Max, triumphantly.

The diner had low lights and an old fashioned bar. The four coworkers, who’d worked late at their small office, sat on its round stools eating. The staff, indulgent types, left them alone.

As the meal wound down, Paige cracked a fortune cookie. Boyd, who hated them, moved to stop her. She giggled.

“Superstitious?” she asked.

“No, that’s why I don’t read these. And who’s ever heard of anything this silly actually telling someone’s future?”

Rolling her eyes, Paige opened her tiny white scroll.

“Good health will be yours for a long time.” She smiled.

“Can’t beat that,” Max said, smiling back. Everyone knew the ex-lovers had been considering reconciliation, delayed while Paige endured a cancer scare. The final tests weren’t back, but it appeared she’d dodged mastectomy.

“Indeed,” said Claire. “I’m next.” Slowly, she recited, “A new wardrobe will accompany great change.”

“Like you need improvement,” Paige said. They all nodded. Claire was often mistaken for a model. “Do yours, Max.”

Max hesitated, then read, “You will be successful in your work. Hmm. Maybe Chuck will lay off soon.” Their boss had been giving Max a hard time. Rumor was, Chuck was unhappy with Max’s pitch to a big overseas client. Chuck was impatient for their product, eco-friendly playground material, to go international.

Pressured by his friends, Boyd opened his cookie.

“You will soon be crossing the great waters.” He was greeted with cackling laughter.

“Ouch,” said Paige. “You don’t think that means—”

“What does it sound like? Is there ambiguity there?” Max teased. “No wonder you hate these cookies, bro.”

“Helpful,” said Boyd, trying to stay brave. The reason he avoided fortune cookies was to avoid tempting fate.

He drove home apprehensive.

It turned out, he’d had cause to be afraid.

The next morning at work, he arrived to a grim scene. Paige was in the breakroom, staring at her coffee mug. Max and Chuck were facing off in the doorway of Chuck’s office, clearly having had a harsh exchange. Eventually, Max stormed out. Boyd could hear someone crying in the bathroom. It sounded like Claire.

“What’s going on?” he asked Paige.

“Well,” Paige said, “Claire’s pregnant. I’m surprised we didn’t notice, but she’s been…dressing to hide it.” Paige looked at the wall. Both recalled the ominous ‘new wardrobe’ fortune.

“Gets worse,” she continued. “Claire admitted affairs with both Max and Chuck. Paternity’s up in the air. Max is dealing, but Chuck’s pissed enough he fired him.”

Boyd gulped. He wasn’t shocked; Chuck was a territorial guy.

“How’re you dealing?” This couldn’t have done Paige’s intended reunion with Max any favors.

“Fine, I guess,” she said. “Doc’s office called. My tests are normal.”

It became surreal. Claire fled the bathroom, tears streaming. Paige followed Claire downstairs. Boyd and Chuck soon heard the women arguing in the street, alongside Max’s voice. Then tires squealing. Screams. Paige would enjoy her ‘good health’ an eternity.

After the funeral, Claire disappeared. So did Max, to search for her. Chuck told Boyd that Boyd would take over their new European account, which Max had been successful at securing in the end. Boyd was to leave immediately, courtesy of a trip on the client’s cruise line.

Crossing the great waters after all, Boyd thought bitterly.

The third day out, Max surprised Boyd beside his deck chair. He looked livid. About his firing, his lost women, or both, Boyd decided.

“I’ve felt so guilty,” Boyd said “Mine was the only nice fortune. Here I am, crossing the water.”

“Don’t feel guilty,” said Max, blood in his eye. “Fortune didn’t say you’d be crossing back.”

**********

HarloweGrey Harlowe’s fiction has been featured on Every Writers Resource and Microhorror.com.  She is the 2014 winner of the Saugus.net annual ghost story competition, and has also been published in the journal, The Last Line.

Electric Funeral by Mark Slade

ef_fcElectric Funeral  is a collection of 15 short horror stories by Mark Slade along with 13 horrifying illustrations be Darwins Mishap. This book is a work of art in itself, each story paints a picture and the art that is included is stunning. This book has mad mimes, corpses in a pool, demons, witches and insane ghosts. Mark Slade is the publisher of the horror magazine Nightmare Illustrated and Electric Funeral is a little like a horror magazine on steroids.

One of my favorite stories in this book was the title piece: Electric Funeral. The story is simple enough, four young adults come across a small theater. Out front is a poster advertising Electric Funeral with the tag line: “Pray To God You Live Through This.” They reluctantly decide to enter and get much more than they bargained for. This story is a good example of how to paint a picture with words. There is a great description of the theater and it almost felt like you were sitting there watching a show.

The master of ceremonies in the Electric Funeral is a demented mime who is described as a 16th century nobleman that looks like a drag queen at a David Bowie concert. The mime is brought to life through Mark Slade’s description making him something you would see in a creepy horror film. There is also a great painting of the mime by Darwins Mishap that I wouldn’t mind hanging on a wall at my house. Since I like stories based in old theaters or amusement parks, I enjoyed this.

There are a few good ghost stories in this book including two that really stood out for me. The first one is The Right Doorway which is about a man who is down on his luck and comes across an old burned down asylum with a ghost attached that needs a favor. This is one of two asylum stories here that creeped me out. The other ghost story I liked was Room By Room, this was one where a couple is haunted by a ghost who they see yelling but can’t communicate with. The story had a surprise ending that was funny and scary.

There are a lot of great story ideas in Electric Funeral but my favorite story was Big Talk – Incantations. This is told from the viewpoint of a lawyer who is use to getting everything he wants, one night he rapes a woman in his office who he thinks wants him and the woman gets even with a little help. I liked how this is told from the lawyer’s viewpoint and he tries to convince the reader that he was doing all the right things. This is the way you would expect a lawyer to act but the cool thing in the story is that you hear the woman’s viewpoint also, she has a different story to tell and she uses the man’s ego to get her revenge.

This book is short at 66 pages but it packs a lot of visual fear into one short volume. This is the kind of book a horror fiction/art collector should have on their book shelf. While I may not have understood all the stories in the book, they all presented some frightening imagery. These are the kind of short stories I would like to read when I need a quick horror fix. The art adds a lot to the book as well and I spent a long time admiring it. The only thing this book was lacking was some scary background music which hopefully they can find a way to add in their next collaboration.