Tag Archives: flash fiction

For a Free Day

 

My cat sits on my computer and yowls in my face. She is smashing the letters. 

“Diva, let me do my homework,” I say, pushing her aside and commencing the deletions. 

Undeterred, she sidles back up to me, puts her paw against my thigh, and cuts her claws into my leg.

Enraged, I stand up, and she skitters a safe distance away, conspicuously near the food bowl.

I sigh and go to feed her. She always gets her way.

As I dole the food into the dish, Diva twining around my ankles in smug self-satisfaction, the phone rings.  It’s Gina at the steakhouse.

“Yes?”

“Hey… will you come in today? Kirk was supposed to but it fell through.”

“I have homework to do.”

Diva meows her agreement.

“Please? I’m really in a bind.”

I massage my temples. “Alright… alright, but you owe me.”

I grab my keys, put on my work clothes, and head out. They still smell like the restaurant from last night.

As I shut the door behind me, Diva takes advantage of my distraction and streaks outside.

Fucking cat. 

 

I get to work, put on my apron, and start taking orders. Of course Gina gives me more of the shit tables; the old church ladies who keep their change and never tip. The two-top tables, women who share a flatbread and drink a mimosa, then talk for two hours, picking at their crumbs. A poorly-dressed man with feral eyes who I suspected might be homeless. He asks for his steak cooked rare.

Wednesday afternoons at the steakhouse are never very busy, I don’t understand why she called me in. The way she was talking you’d think the place was on fire.

I go into the kitchen to find Gina gone. Gone. She’d just left without a word to me. I have to host now. It’d actually be an improvement, if I weren’t so angry at her. She might be my supervisor, but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve a fragment of respect.

I run the whole damn front for the next six hours, until Mina arrives. 

“She just left you?” Mina says as she ties her apron on. Her terse lips tell me she’s been treated this way, too. She shakes her head and punches in.

“Yeah. I’m pretty worn out, so you don’t mind me leaving you with my tables?”

“Tables? You mean table.”

I glance out of the kitchen. The feral homeless man had dashed while I was talking to Mina. Bastard had gotten a free dinner out of me.

Well, that was coming out of my paycheck. I just made $34 for six hours of work.

 

I come home, Diva is waiting for me. She zips back into the house when I open the door.

At least I get tomorrow off. Thirty-four dollars. What’s the point. 

I climb miserably into bed. I’ll shower tomorrow.

I wake up at eight AM. Diva demands food. I feed her, go back to bed, and luxuriate in my blankets, the warmth, the soft sheets. Diva lies in the patch of sun on my bed. I curl around her to share the rays. I’ll get hungry soon, and have to get up. But now, this is where I want to be. Today, I am free. It is a delicious sensation.

The phone rings. I look at the name. It’s Gina again.

Diva slumbers on my chest. She cracks a questioning golden eye at me, which catches the sunlight, lighting her iris in glinting amber flame. I am lost in admiration of her. 

Maybe I’ll skip class today.

The phone rings again. I won’t answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Palingenesis

 

Stepping off the curb to cross the street, his foot lands on a piece of cardboard, and it slips under his feet. Everything goes off-center. He is falling backwards.

He slips into a familiar, momentary lapse of time. Weightless. Maybe like being in the womb. Maybe like death. 

He remembers, in that one second, being someone else, a tiny child, whom his parents would toss in the air, eliciting delighted giggles. He feels again what it was to be a grinning kid who went sledding, who rode amusement park rides, who loved the loose sensation of roller skates under his feet, the dizzying slide of tennis shoes on a frozen pond, closing his eyes and jumping off the swing at its apogee, leaping from the monkey bars. As he got older, he needed to make bigger jumps: from the second story window of his bedroom, the stomach-dropping fall from the front car of a roller coaster, perilous speeding car rides down mountain back roads.

He used to seek that. The sensation of being stunned. The joy of getting turned up-side-down. Thrilling in the unexpected. Always finding a bigger risk. 

Gravity returns with a vengeance. It knocks him flat, kicks the breath out of him. 

He can’t breathe. There is something wrong with his tailbone. His toes tingle. This is the kind of fall that will leave traces for the rest of his life. Drawing lines of pain through his bones, down his nerves, trailing in his new limp, slowing him down. His routine will change. His shoes will change. The content of his conversation will change.

A college kid hunkers down beside him, concerned. “Are you OK?” She says. 

He sees himself reflected in her eyes, distinguished gentleman with graying temples, ass over teakettle in the gutter, and finds his breath, taking in a great gasp of air.

He can’t answer her for his own wheezing laugh. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Rocket to the New World

 

“Don’t worry,” Edith said softly. “It’s only a little pain.”

The little boy squeezed his eyes shut as she pierced his deltoid with the needle.  He whimpered.

“That’s the last of them,” she said, rising and addressing her nurse. “They’re all ready.”

“Don’t they need to go in for de-lousing?”

“They’ve already done that,” Edith replied.  “Let’s move them along. They’re eager to get to their new world.”

“Have you been there?” the little boy said. “Have you seen it?”

“I’ve seen pictures,” Edith said. She smiled and helped him down from the examination table. “It’s lovely. The plants have taken to the soil there like you wouldn’t believe. The trees are so tall. Everything is mammoth.”

“Mammoths?”

“Shut the fuck up and get back in line, little boy,” Edith said, nudging him gently on his way with her knee. “I haven’t got all day for this expositional dialogue.”

“Mammoths?” said the nurse.

Edith slapped her.

“I was joking,” the nurse said, rubbing her cheek.

“That’s why I slapped you,” Edith said. “The rocket’s taking off.  Run!”

They outpaced the little boy and made it onto the closing rocket doors just in time. Humanity pressed all around them. It was going to be a long and horrible ride. There was a reason they’d all needed shots.

This was a third-class carrier, cobbled together from other rockets, scrapped vehicles, unitrains, hoverbuses, and such. Every color of metal had been welded into the walls that surrounded them. Sometimes brightly varied colors did not have a cheerful effect, and this was one of those times. Even though she’d joined this ship with a discount by offering her free skills as a phlebotomist, it was all she could afford.

“Thank god for cryo-sleep,” Edith said to no one in particular. “I am so ready to be this far from the earth.”

All around them, clouds of sleeper gas filled the chamber. Everyone scrambled to find a comfortable spot on the floor before they were completely incapacitated by the gas.

“I heard they’re giving land away there,” a good-looking young man said to her.

“Shut the fuck up,” Edith said happily as she dozed off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Dumbass

 

Nancy sits quietly in her bed, coloring.  Her brother comes in and glances at the work. She tries to hide it. He overpowers her and holds it up.

“Pink, purple, purple, pink!” He jeers. 

Her mother, drawn into the room by the commotion, catches him by the ear. “Give that back to her, Aaron,” she says.

Nancy snatches the papers out of his weakened grip. “Dumbass,” she hisses.

“Nancy!” her mother says. “Nice girls don’t say nasty things. And they color inside the lines, to practice their hand-eye coordination.”

After they leave the room, Nancy puts her crayons away.

 

Nancy sits in the back row in her high school class.

“Who knows the answer?” The teacher calls.

Nobody answers. If no one else is going to try… Nancy raises a timid hand.

“Yes, Nancy?” the teacher says.

“Twenty-three?”

The teacher shakes her head. “No, that’s incorrect. How did you get that answer?”

“Um… in my head.”

“Come up to the board and show me.”

Nancy feels a flush spreading as she walks up to the board, in front of everyone, and slowly hashes out her incorrect question in front of her bemused classmates. The pressure makes her slow, awkward. She can hardly hold the chalk, much less think.

“No, see here,” the teacher says. “You’ve skipped this entire row.”

 A titter from behind her.

“Don’t worry about them,” the teacher says. “We’ll go as slow as you need to go.”

 

The family eats together at the dinner table, Aaron declares his acceptance into Penn State.

“Of course you were accepted,” her mother says.

“We’re proud of you,” her father says.

Nancy focuses on her potatoes. 

 

He walks into the drugstore where she works. Underneath his T-shirt he’s lean as a whippet, unlike herself. She appreciates the nape of his neck as he picks out a drink, making sure to avert her eyes before he makes his way back to her register. She’s good at watching people without being noticed.

He pays for the drink in cash. As she accepts the money, she risks another glance at his face, and is caught like a moth in his electric blue eyes. 

He isn’t looking at her the way others do.

He sees her.

 

Nancy’s hands are shaking. She sits crumpled next to him on the bed.

She should have been smarter about it. But she could never say no to him. No, that’s not right. She can’t blame him. It was her responsibility to prevent this kind of thing. She has simply failed again. What will her mother say?

“You don’t want to get it taken care of?” Robby says.

She cradles her hands around her belly. “If you think I should,” she whispers.

“Well,” he says, pausing to irritably suck his cigarette, “we’ll have to get married then.”

Even when she doesn’t ask, he always knows what she wants. She’ll be able to move out of her mother’s house. He is doing this for her. He is saving her. She feels a rush of gratitude.

 

Nancy is six months along. She is making dinner when she delivers the news to Robby.

“A girl, huh,” he says. “Shit. She’s not going to be much to look at.”

“No, Robby,” Nancy says softly. 

Robby glowers at her. “What did you say.”

Her voice remains low. She can’t even look at him but she must say this now. “You don’t get to talk about her that way. Not her.”

“You don’t get to fucking tell me what to do!”

He hits her for the first time. She turns to protect her belly from hitting the stove as she falls.

They never talk about it again. He quits drinking and doesn’t hit her for a year.

 

When their baby is born, Nancy watches, tense as a predator, whenever he draws near to the baby. Robby senses that anything directed at Elsa will be the end of them. Eventually he learns to avoid their daughter.

Nancy isn’t always safe. She can accept that as long as Elsa is safe.

 

Elsa is four years old, coloring quietly. Robby sees the pages on the floor, bends over to examine them. Nancy stiffens, but Robby is focusing on Elsa and misses her warning. She sees in his body language what is coming.

“C’mon Elsa. There’s no such thing as a green dog,” he says.

Before Elsa’s eyes even have a chance to widen, Nancy is there. She scoops her daughter up in her arms. Robby and Elsa are both startled by her interference.

“What?” Robby says. 

Nancy heads to the kitchen counter, grabs the car keys.

“Are you crazy?” Robby says.

She leaves the house through the front door. Elsa starts crying.

“What is your fucking problem!?” 

Nancy shuts the car door and calls out the window at him. “You dumbass.”

She drives away, leaving him standing in the doorway, unable to believe.

She fears the future, protecting Elsa alone against the world. But she’ll figure something out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

The Hell Show

This is a nightmare I had, so it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.  I often dream in third person.

This a horror story! Turn away, ye faint of heart!

 


 

Before she went to war, she saw her doppelganger in the crowd. It was hiding something bulky under its cloak. Its eyes had a peculiar shine to them. It felt her gaze and looked at her, and she sensed great hate, warning her of things to come. It disappeared in the crowd.

Later, when she tried to tell others about it, they wrote her off as afraid of battle.

Years passed…

She was hanging up laundry to dry late at night. Her stepson was watching TV and she made small talk as she worked, the way mothers do. Gradually she noticed that something was wrong with the channel he was watching. It was a picture of hell. Twisted flesh illuminated in violent orange. Heavy screams.

It leeched all light from the room around her. 

She tried to maintain normalcy, changed the station. “Let’s not watch this scary channel,” she said. He waited until she set the remote down and changed it back.

The atmosphere of the room was sapping her. This was the end of her peace. The same darkness she had seen that day in her doppleganger had returned to claim her. She could barely move.

Rolling her head to tear her eyes away from the TV, she focused instead on a coat rack leaning against the wall which she’d planned to mount in the entryway, for visitors. All the wet laundry she had yet to hang. Simple household things which she’d held on to and tried not to take for granted.

A self-protective instinct kicked in. Weak with horror, she staggered to her feet and stumbled into the bedroom next door, throwing herself onto the bed on top of the covers. Absentmindedly she wondered if she wasn’t going to get cold, falling asleep this way. It didn’t matter. As long as she wasn’t forced to watch that channel. As long as reality held fast.

Her stepson followed her. His eyes shone in the very same way her doppleganger’s had. And something else had entered the room with him: the stifling, odious presence of another being, more felt than seen.

“No, no no please,” she managed. It was hopeless. Fear sapped her limbs; paralysis suppressed her fluttering will into hopeless, taut submission.

The room darkened.

Thick, strangely humid air settled into the room. A small buzzing gnat of mad rationale whispered in her ear, at least it’s warm

The room was opaque with darkness. There was no TV in here, but he didn’t need one. He was going to bring that hell to her anyway.

The boy went to the window. An ominous brimstone glow limned the solid blackout roller shade. 

He raised the shade, and hell was there. An enormous corpselike thing looked through the window at her with dead eyes, a boa constrictor jammed down its throat and wrapping its fetid body in torturing coils. It screamed, impossibly through the snake. The sound was deep, low, primal. The sound of pure evil. 

She screamed back.

She screamed until she ran out of air, kept on spasmodically screaming. Paroxysms of wordless pain and terror tore through her, leaving actual tatters. She screamed until every blood vessel in her eyes burst. She threw her head back and screamed until her neck broke.

Her body jittered unnaturally. Her face was changing. She would be one of them soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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