Tag Archives: horror

Flash Fiction Horror Collaboration: The Dark Fairy


This week: the conclusion of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction horror collaboration.

I’ve gone with the supernaturally bent The Dark Fairy, started by Rosemary Carlson and StarNinja (feels like there’s a Guardians of the Galaxy joke in there somewhere). For ease of reading, I’ve plonked their text down here, but I highly recommend that you visit their sites too, as they’re taking new stories in new directions this week — and who knows, one of them might even finish one of the two others I’ve worked on here.

Anyway, the conclusion of The Dark Fairy is below; my part comes last. Enjoy! (And if a fairy talks to you, just run. STRANGER DANGER.)

****

Part 1 by Rosemary Carlson

****

Evan wondered what to do, if anything, with the information he had just received from his grandfather. Evan was only 17 years old. Most of his family was gone. His mother had recently passed away. His father had left the family when he was a child. He was living with his grandfather, who was dying. Evan was taking care of him. Evan could hear his rasping breath, even though he was in the next room. They didn’t have the money to hire any help. Evan was exhausted from the 24 hour shifts, grabbing sleep here and there, that he was pulling taking care of Gramps.

Gramps was napping and Evan was wrapped up in a wool blanket, sitting beside his bed. The old house was cold and drafty and he had just heard the most fantastic story. He wondered if Gramps was just sick and delusional. He even wondered if he was so sleep-deprived that he had imagined it all. Suppose it was true? What should he do?

As the old man lay sleeping, Evan thought about the story. Fairies. Could fairies really exist? If Gramps was telling the truth, they did exist. Evan started to drift off to sleep while thinking of the fairy story but something hit his head. He jumped up, looked around, but there was nothing there. What was it? He must have dreamed it. He had to stay awake in case Gramps needed him.

Once again, he started to think about the fairy story. Gramps told him that, all of his life, there had been this creature, a fairy, that had accompanied him everywhere he went. The fairy, a female, thought of him as her pet. Evan had always thought of fairies as funny, light, fairy tale things. Gramps said this was a dark fairy, really a mean fairy. Gramps was confessing to Evan because he felt guilty. This fairy had made Gramps do many bad things.

Gramps told Evan about a book he had on fairies, so Evan went downstairs to find it. As he started down the stairs, he tripped on broken wood and started to fall, but suddenly he wasn’t falling. The fall stopped and it felt like something grabbed him by the shirt collar.

“That’s weird,” Evan thought. “What broke my fall? Felt like something stopped me. Oh well, best consider myself lucky.”

Evan went on down the stairs and into the living room to the bookcase. He found the fairy book and reached for it.

“Ouch,” Evan said, as it felt like something hit him on the hand. Then, as he tried to get the book out, it felt like it was stuck. As he tugged on it, he fell backwards and hit his head on the wooden floor.

Evan started wondering what was going on, but he picked up the book and walked back upstairs so he could read and sit by Gramps. He leafed through the old, tattered book until he found the page on dark fairies. The more he read, the more frightened he became. Dark fairies do just what Gramps said. They make people do bad things. They treat them as pets. They are malevolent creatures. Evan started to shake all over. Gramps continued to softly snore.

Evan tried to calm himself by deciding that Gramps’ story was just the ramblings of a sick old man. He was so sleepy that he gradually drifted off in his chair.

Evan woke with a start. How did he get outside? He wasn’t just outdoors but he was in the sky. He was flying and something was holding him up. He heard a whisper in his ear, a female voice, that said her name was Ramona and she was his fairy. Evan started to scream and squirm and Ramona put something over his mouth. He could hardly breathe. She told him in a very stern whisper to shut up or she would make the noose around his neck, with which she was holding him up, even tighter.

Evan was so scared. He was scared of Ramona and of flying. He couldn’t stop squirming and he was screaming behind his gag. Ramona pulled the noose a little tighter. She whispered that Gramps was a much better pet than was Evan.

Suddenly, Evan could tell they were going down toward the ground. Before they got there, Evan fell. All of a sudden, he was on the ground. He could hardly move since he had hit the ground hard. There beside him stood a creature. She was maybe a foot tall. Evan noticed that she had a long black cape on and sported long, flowing black hair. She had piercing blue eyes. He couldn’t look away from her eyes.

Ramona laughed uproariously. She asked Evan if he had enjoyed the ride and the fall.

Evan said, “No. Take me back to Gramps. He’s sick and he needs me.”

“That old man is dying,” said Ramona. “He doesn’t need anything but to be left alone. We have a job to do.”

“Who are you and what do you want with me?” Evan asked.

“I told you. I’m Ramona, your fairy. I was your Gramps fairy and now I’m yours. You’re my pet. You look like a fine boy.”

Evan replied, “I don’t want a fairy. I want to go home. I’m cold and sleepy and I need to be with Gramps. He’s my responsibility. You’re a horrible fairy. I must be having a nightmare.”

“You are going to have a nightmare if you don’t shut up,” said Ramona, as she hit  Evan with a stick. She hit him over and over again, until Evan was almost unconscious. Then, she woke him up.

As Evan sat up, Ramona said, “Do you see that house over there?”

Even shook his head yes.

Ramona said, “There are three people who live there. A man, woman, and female child. The woman needs to die and you are going to kill her.”

****

Part 2, by StarNinja

****

Evan didn’t want this. He didn’t want this with every fiber of his being.

“I’m not a killer. I don’t kill. I won’t do it.”

The fairy sighed, pondering the stick in her tiny hand.

“The stick worked well for your grandpa. Perhaps for you it will be the carrot instead,” said Ramona.

“There’s nothing you can say that will make me do this,” said Evan.

“So confident,” Ramona said knowingly.

“Okay then, why? Why does the woman need to die?”

“Need is a strong word,” said Ramona.

“Answer me,” said Evan.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Why, because my feeble human mind couldn’t possibly comprehend?” Evan asked angrily.

“Close. No it’s less a matter of comprehending than it is a matter of context.”

“Stop playing around with me and answer me straight! What did she do to deserve death?” Evan asked.

“If you want the whole truth, we’re going to be here for a while and neither of us have that kind of time. Wouldn’t it be easier to be a good pet and do what I say?” asked Ramona.

“I refuse. I won’t do it no matter how much you hurt me,” said Evan.

“Would it be easier if she was an abuser?” Ramona asked.

“No. She should be reported and go to jail for that,” said Evan.

“What about if she was a child molester? Hmm? What if she preyed on the children of this neighborhood? On her own daughter? Would that change your mind?” Ramona asked.

“Well… no. She still wouldn’t deserve…”

“And!” Ramona said, cutting him off, “what if she herself had killed? What if she was going to kill again?”

“Killing her wouldn’t be the answer.”

“Why not?” Ramona asked.

“Because everyone deserves a chance to own what they’ve done. To make up for whatever it is you think ought to get them killed. They deserve a chance at life,” said Evan.

“Oh, my precious pet. No one deserves to live,” she said with a dark smile. Evan felt himself shiver, or maybe it was the cold night air.

“That’s insane. Of course we do,” said Evan.

“We? Are you putting yourself in the same boat as that monster? No no, she’s got to go. She is a plague upon this earth, my pet. She ‘deserves’ everything you’re going to do to her. If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry. I’ll teach you. I’ll show you how. But I did not misspeak when I said we had a job to do. It is a job. A most important job. Do you believe in Karma?”

“What?”

“Karma. Not a lot of people believe in it anymore. Not around here anyway. Not really. They give it a lot of lip service, but they live their lives like it doesn’t exist. But the great wheel cares not whether you believe in it. It’s kinda like the rain, or earthquakes. It just is. But the problem with people, especially people around here, is that they’ve found a way to get around good old fashioned Karma. They’ve dumped it on other people. Across space, across time.”

“You’re not making any sense,” said Evan.

“See? Context. Maybe you’ll understand after I tell you a little story. Once, little Suzie was a good girl who wanted to become a firefighter. But that didn’t last very long. Her family moved away when her uncle died, they had to get away from the stigma around the whole thing. So Suzie grew up, studied Literature, married a lawyer, had two kids, aborted one because reasons. She was living the American dream. Is this America? You still call it America, right?

“Anyways, Suzie moved into a nice two story home here in the suburbs with her family. She doesn’t do anything with her degree. She wants to, but it just hasn’t turned out that way. Instead she bides her time, waiting for her moment to be relevant. Maybe she’ll write that book she’s always wanted to, or maybe get a job at a magazine, or hell maybe her blog will take off. I mean something’s gotta happen, right? Guess how many people Suzie’s killed to get where she is.”

“Killed? She’s a murderer? Maybe, I don’t know, lead with that next time?” Evan asked. Ramona hit him with the stick again.

“Guess.”

“Ouch! Okay! Um, I don’t know. If she’s a serial killer, like four or five?”

“Three hundred thousand,” said Ramona.

“What? How?”

“Two people died in the forest cutting the trees down, another in the lumber yard that processed the wood for that house. Five commited suicide who’d worked in the factory making the smartphone in her pocket that she’s going to throw away in a week or two when the new model ships. One hundred people died in the mines getting the precious ores that went in her phone and computer and car and…”

“Stop! She didn’t do any of that! That was just…”

“If you say ‘It’s the system’s fault’ I swear to everything that is holy… ha, never mind. Little pet, I didn’t say she was directly responsible for all those deaths. She is a grain of sand on a scale, tiny and insignificant on her own. But. There’s a lot of sand. A LOT. Tipping things in favor of her and all her friends which means we have a lot of work to do tipping that scale back towards balance.”

“But that doesn’t mean…” Evan stammered.

“People she’s never met suffer every day, die, grow ill, working themselves to the bone to make her life so comfortable. But like I said, Karma doesn’t care about her ignorance, it reacts all the same.”

“I’m not going to kill her because…”

“Because what? She doesn’t know any better? Of course she does. She has the entire span and breadth of human knowledge at her fingertips. It wasn’t her fault she was born into these circumstances, but then neither was it the poor little girl’s fault who made her shoes. So how to make this right? What to do, what to do,” Ramona said, pushing Evan forward.

“I’m just as guilty as her for all those things. I deserve death just as much according to that logic,” said Evan.

“Logic: a system of thought developed by Ancient Greeks that didn’t save them from their own destruction. Don’t be like them, my pet. This is nature. This is the world. The universe doesn’t care what you think. The wheel keeps turning, gears crush and grind the dreams and hopes of every living thing that can dream and hope.” Ramona stroked Evan’s hair. “Tonight, it’s going to get a little more grease.”

****

Part 3, by me

****

Evan looked up and found himself face-to-face with the door of the house Ramona had pointed to only a few short moments ago. How had he traversed the distance? The house had looked impossibly far away, and yet here it was.

Here, now, Evan felt more doubt than ever. It would have been better if the family had turned out to be some disconnected, isolated, living-in-opulence sorts, but no, the house was entirely like his grandfather’s: not run-down, but in need of maintenance that the owner didn’t have the money, time, or energy for. Peeling paint. Drooping gutters, heavy with leaves. Windows smeared with children’s fingerprints. It was, in short, the all-too-familiar home of a family working hard to get by.

Evan turned to walk away, but found his feet would not budge. Ramona, riding weightless on his shoulder, droned in her tinny, urgent voice about balance and right and wrong. Gritting his teeth and summoning up every inch of resistance in him, Evan growled: “I won’t do this!”

A tiny little cackle in his ear. “You’re already doing it.”

Into Evan’s vision, his right arm drifted. Closed in the fist was a rock. When had he picked up a rock? With a yelp of terror, Evan spun and hurled the rock away — or meant to. The rock left his hand and sailed through the porch window, shattering the glass with a horrible sound. Evan was sure it would wake the neighborhood.

Again, he turned to run, but the fairy floated into his view before he could take a step. “You’re a fool about a great many things, and that’s not your fault, but don’t be a fool about this. Fingerprints on the rock you just used to break into the house. Do I need to tell you how guilty a young man fleeing from the scene of the crime in the dead of night looks?” She pointed. Lights had gone on in the house across the street.

He hated her, but she was right. Evan punched out the remaining shards of glass, reached through the window, and gingerly eased himself into the house. Maybe he could wake the family, explain all this away. If the fairy would just shut up. But no sooner had he stepped on the scuffed hardwood floor than he heard a commotion of footsteps upstairs. He froze, torn between bolting and hiding. He glanced around; there, in the cast of moonlight through the broken window, was the rock.

Get the evidence and go, he told himself. He grabbed his rock and ran back to the window, and then the room was flooded with light.

“Daddy?” The voice was sleep-thick and innocent. At the top of the stairs stood the child; a scrawny girl of no more than four. She stared at Evan oddly, her head cocked to the side.

“She’s not the one you want,” Ramona taunted. “Of course, if you wanted to…”

“Shut up!” Evan hissed. The girl took a timid step backward. Evan pressed a finger to his lips, but it was too late.

The girl screamed.

Evan ran. He only got one step before Ramona flitted into his vision again, screeching: “you’re not finished, Evan!”

He swatted her aside like a gnat and ran to the window. He threw one leg over the sill and gasped in pain; a gleaming shard of glass protruded from his thigh. He seized it and yanked it out; the blood gushed out in a thick gout.

“DNA evidence,” the fairy tsk, tsked, from behind him.

“SHUT UP!” Evan screamed and spun, lashing out with the dagger-sized shard of glass. There was a mist of blood, but the resistance was considerably more than he expected. He hadn’t sliced the fairy in half; he’d opened a gash in the throat of the man from the photograph.

Where the hell had he come from? Evan hadn’t even heard him approach.

The man held a baseball bat aloft, his face stretched wide in surprise. The bat fell to the floor with a clatter as the man clutched at his throat, blood washing over his hands in a thick sheet. He fell to his knees, then collapsed on his face in a growing red pool.

“Mistake, Evan. You want the wife, not the husband. God, you’re making this difficult.” Evan could no longer tell if Ramona’s voice was coming from her perch on his shoulder or the inside of his own head. Another scream echoed from upstairs. “His wife is getting the gun. She’ll use it on you unless you kill her first.”

Evan shook his head fiercely. “I won’t. I’m leaving.” He made for the window again —

And he felt himself flung across the room. Ramona stood on his chest as he blinked at the ceiling. “Not until you or she is dead. And I’m starting to doubt your usefulness. Now get upstairs.”

Dizzily, Evan got to his feet — the blood draining from his thigh clouding his vision — and stumbled up the stairs. Weak and injured as he was, it was easier than fighting. The fairy’s voice guided him.

“Right, now. End of the hall. Second door. There.

There she was, hunched over a little safe, just opening the door.

“Wait!” Evan lunged for her, not even really meaning to — but still, of course, clutching his dagger of glass. He tripped and fell toward her as she brought the gun about and fired.

Heat and pain bloomed in his chest as their eyes locked in horror. She reached up and pulled the shard from her neck, and the blood rushed out in a great fountain. It sprayed, smoky and thick, across Evan as he collapsed on his back.

The last thing he saw was the little girl watching from the doorway. Not screaming in terror, but nodding in understanding at the words of the tiny fairy on her shoulder.

 

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Ashore (Flash Fiction Horror pt. 2)


Chuck’s challenge this week is a continuation of last week’s project. Last week we wrote a 1000-word beginning to a story; this week, we continue somebody else’s story with another 1000 words.

I ran with a story begun by Nate F at Line Meets Sand. His work begins at the 1; mine takes over at the 2. His piece was untitled, and seeing as we’re not sure how it turns out yet, I’ll just title my piece: “Ashore.”

Enjoy!

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

1.

Finally some real rain—a decisive, if not delinquent, increase in ferocity compared to the drizzle that had hung suspended, noncommittal in the air for days.  Water dripped from his longcoat as Josiah Leech lifted the last of the fancy trunks not yet aboard.  His jaw tightened as he turned to make his way back to the Trinity.  Whatever was locked in this particular trunk made it heavier than the others by far.

“Mud.

“That’s what April showers bring.

“And so do March showers.  And May showers. And June showers.

“Mud.  Mud.  Fuckin’ mud,” he murmured as he trudged on, stubbornly wrenching his boots from the mire with each soggy step until, at last, he reached the docks.

Josiah’s stride narrowed to cross the thin, roughhewn board that connected the old galleon to the dock, but his pace never slowed.  Just short of his destination, Josiah’s muddy right boot lost grip of the wood and he staggered forward, hands forsaking the trunk in order to grab the railing and prevent the Thames from claiming him.  As he pulled himself back to his feet and onto the main deck, he watched the trunk hit slide to a stop next to the deckhouse.  At least he had propelled it forward.  Through rotten teeth, crows in the riggings laughed down at him.

“You’ll be payin’ recompense for damages caused by your imbecility,” said Bernard Ambrose.  Without so much as a glance up from the manifest, the ship’s quartermaster addressed the nearest deck hand.  “Master Clement, after securing the gangplank, do help Mr. Leach locate that trunk within Mr. Lambert’s stateroom.  The grandiosity of it is clearly too much for but one man to bear.”

“Aye.”  Francis Clement’s mouth spoke agreement as his eyes told Josiah something else.  He too would rather be hoisting the normal cargo of woolen cloth instead of these thirty five haughty aristocrats and their weighty accoutrements.  But in this rare moment of restraint, Francis held his tongue until they were below deck.  “Gents will be the end of us.  Had you slipped but one step further back, you’d been crushed between hull and wall.  They know naught of what the sea brings yet they talk of hunting beasts and savages in uncharted lands.  Worse, they’ve steered Captain Hore and Mr. Ambrose to folly. We’ve too many these trunks and too few stores.”

Josiah gave a single nod in agreement as he wondered from which gossiper the lad had stolen the words.  They were too keen for Francis’ own mind, having been with him for only two voyages.   “Aye, Francis.  Let’s get this done and get to our stations.”

The pair carried the trunk through a narrow passageway formed by planks that had been hastily thrown up in the aft hold as a means to create apartments for their esteemed passengers.  They rounded the last corner and dropped the trunk just inside the door of Mr. Lambert’s room.  A heavy thud spread across the deck, shaking the makeshift walls.

“Reckon we should open it?” Francis asked.  “Just to see.”  Josiah paused, unsure if he saw inquisitiveness or fear lurking in Francis’ eyes.  “Not to steal nothing.  Christ, Josiah.  I ain’t no thief.”

“That’ll be quite enough lads.”  The steady voice came from somewhere inside the dark room.  Francis was so overcome with fright that his clumsy escape made Josiah think of a rat thrown overboard, contorting its body frantically in search of land isn’t there.  “You may be excused,” the voice continued.  Josiah left with a nod, never having seen its owner.

Josiah approached the aft hatch and found clogged with sailors looking onto the main deck.  “What delays?” he asked, pushing through.  “I’m due at the wheel.”

“The passengers,” responded the originally named Mr. Cook.  “They’re lined up at the rails like a boarding party of pirates.  Yet instead of bearing muskets, they stand in the pouring rain, waving to all of London as if to the Queen herself.”

“Who do they suppose will dry their clothes and fancy hats?” asked Josiah, continuing to elbow through.

“We could hang ‘em from the foremast,” said the cook.

“The linens or the gentlemen?” Josiah asked as a matter of practicality.

***

During the voyage, the voyagers encountered storms typical of the North Atlantic and a few near collisions with icebergs hidden by fog.  Nevertheless, most days were smooth and uneventful, even if the crew did keep below deck more so than usual.  They weren’t so instructed.  They preferred it to watching the highborns preen and puke.

Francis, or whoever he had parroted, was right about the stores; the crew had been on reduced rations for weeks when they finally spotted the New World.  Strangely, the passengers didn’t seem nearly as distraught about this as the crew would have expected.    Especially when repeated forays into the wilderness yielded nothing but hard roots and poultry herbs.

***

“Ho, landing party ahoy.” The announcement came from the crow’s nest.  Josiah turned and gripped the railing with anticipation.  The gentlemen cared little for the daily chores, yet they seemed to relish the opportunity to take landing parties ashore in pursuit of food.

“Mr. Lambert, what good news gives those with you cause to smile?”  Captain Hore greeted the men with hope in his eyes.

Grins now absent, five of the six who left a day ago climbed back aboard as Mr. Lambert responded.  “Not by Christ’s mercy, Captain.  This is a terrible place.  An awful creature came in the night and snatched young Mr. Clement.  He wailed with terrible fright as it carried him into the wood.”

“Did you see the beast?  Could it sustain us, just for a little while, if we return and overtake it?” asked Captain Hore in desperation.

“Nay, Captain.  To be true, none saw this demon outright.  The good Mr. Cook, for he was the one lying closest to poor Mr. Clement, did say that he felt a terrible shiver preceding the snatch.  I fear that no good can come of another sortie.  We must press on.”

#

2. Ashore

Five days passed before Hore ordered another landfall. The rations were all but exhausted. The crew had grown gaunt and haunted-looking, and even the gentry aboard had tightened their belts. On the favorable side, the ship’s complement of rats had been dramatically reduced.

But when time came for a landing party to scout the shore, Lambert’s men refused. Like a plague, the legend of the monster on the shore had consumed the ship.

“The demon stalks us by night, and hides in the shadows by day,” said one.

“Eyes like moons in the wood, it has, and teeth like to pierce God’s own arse,” said another.

Cook, still shaken by the loss of Clement, bothered not with excuses. “I won’t go, and that’s that. I’d sooner walk the plank than go ashore with that hellspawn.”

In the darkest hour of the sixth night since the first landfall, Josiah wakened in a sweat.

As he shuffled onto the deck, bleary with exhaustion and hunger, he nearly bumped into a young woman, apparently out for a look at the stars. Somehow, she had not wasted away like the rest of the souls aboard; her cheeks were full and radiant, her eyes bright and deep. At first he thought she was a hallucination, lovely as she was, but the warmth of her was real enough.

His gaze drifted to other parts of her, which were similarly unblemished — Josiah had been many months at sea, after all — but meeting her eyes again, propriety seized him, and Josiah snatched his hat off his head. “Ma’am.”

“Mister Leech.” Her voice was full and warm, the purr of a pampered cat. “I need to go ashore.”

Josiah’s jaw worked without effect for a moment before his words found him. “Pardon me, miss, but nobody’s goin’ ashore until we send a landing party, and, well …”

“The monster, yes.”

Of course, she knew, but she said it with the off-handed impatience reserved for childish complaints. He felt silly, suddenly, and shuffled his feet on the water-swollen boards. “Right. And seein’ as nobody wants to volunteer, I reckon we’re all stuck aboard until –”

“Until the rats have been exhausted and we’re forced to eat each other? You know as well as I do, Mister Leech, that something must be done.”

The moon cast an unearthly pall across her bare shoulders. Josiah tugged his threadbare coat tighter, tried not to stare, but the cold of the night seemed to affect her as much as the starlight. But she was right — something had to be done. He nodded.

“I knew you’d see reason.”

“Beg pardon, miss –” he didn’t know her name, and he paused, but she did not offer it — “but even if I were to help you, the captain would never allow me to take one such as yourself off this ship.”

“Hore and his men,” she sneered with contempt, “are dead men walking.” She flicked her gaze up toward the crows’ nest; there, the watchman sagged in a heavy sleep. “We’ll not be spotted under the cover of the night.”

Sweat broke on Josiah’s lip and his scalp, cold and prickling. “Why me?”

She smiled, warm and terrible. “Because you know where my trunk is.”

And that’s when he knew. Hers was the voice in Lambert’s room.

#

The noise should have waked the dead. It would have, Josiah figured, but the sickness settled upon the Trinity had left them all somewhere between life and death, untroubled by bumps in the night.

He found the trunk in Lambert’s room, and under the watchful eyes of the lady, Josiah dragged it away. Lambert slumbered not a few meters away, but never batted an eye. The trunk was every bit as heavy as he remembered — more so, perhaps, or maybe that was just his own weakness — but the lady’s presence drove him like a lash.

Driven first by the fear of being caught, but more and more by the lady’s impatience, he hauled the trunk up from the cabins and onto the deck. It banged and scraped something terrible, but not a footstep nor a quickened snore rose in response.

With tremendous heaving and contortion, Josiah worked the bulky thing into a lifeboat. The ropes creaked their complaint, and he licked another sheen of sweat off his lips.

“Miss, pardon me for saying so, but I don’t know if –”

“It will hold,” she said, and that was an end of that. Josiah offered her a hand into the vessel — her touch sent a chill through him, but the night breeze more than explained that — then climbed in himself and began the laborious work of lowering the craft into the waves.

The Trinity shrank to a black speck amidst the riot of starlight behind them as Josiah rowed, the only sound the wet slap of the waves against the boat. Most highborns get green on a tiny craft like this, but the lady was unmoved. She stared past Josiah at the shore, one hand resting lightly on the trunk, the way a mother rests her hand on her sleeping child’s back.

The instant their tiny craft scraped the sand of the shore, a soul-rending shriek erupted from the treeline. A powder keg caught fire in Josiah’s chest. What had he done? Brought this lady and himself to their deaths upon this shore, and why? He didn’t even know why.

He stumbled out of the boat, into the freezing waves, and looked toward the land. It coalesced like a fog, a black shape blotting out the edges of the trees behind, great white orbs for eyes floating twenty — no, thirty — feet above the ground, a horrible maw of teeth and talons gleaming dully in the moonlight.

The demon.

Josiah’s blood turned to ice, his thoughts and his sense deserted him. But out of the corner of his eye, he saw the lady, striding through the waves like an angel advancing against the devil himself, arms outstretched toward the creature.

“Josiah,” she cried, her voice like a crashing wave, “open the trunk.”


Unexpected Response


Chuck’s challenge this week: a horror story in three sentences. And since I’m still on a sci-fi bent, why not sci-fi horror?

Three sentences almost doesn’t merit a post here, but it’s a thing I wrote, so here it is. In fact, I might do a few more. These are fun.

Unexpected Response

When we first aimed our dishes at the sky, we feared we might not find anybody. Then we found somebody, and we feared they might not understand us.

Now they’re here, and there is not enough firepower in the world to save us.


The Depths of My Affection


The Depths of My Affection

It’s not my kind of place. But then, what place in Hell is?
A derelict cement building in an abandoned block. But inside… It’s like a velvet glove got together with a neon sign from the Vegas strip.
There’s a live band tonight, some unholy trio of electric guitar, synthesized drums, and howling vocals. They all wear tattered formal attire and wigs so oversized and nappy you can’t see their faces. Throngs of people dance to the stuff, if you can call the cavorting “dancing”.
It’s hot inside, the press of hundreds — maybe thousands — of bodies colliding with one another making the air thick with sweat and perfume and liquor and other things best not mentioned. The walls and countertops are slick with vapor like the inside of a shower.
I slip through the crowd as gingerly as I can, trying to avoid the dancers and drinkers and failing. A stubby guy with a goblin mask on — maybe it’s a mask, one eye scarred over and missing — bumps into me and spills a frothing reddish concoction on my tie. He says something rude and vanishes into the crowd. Next thing I know, a wispy girl all in blue is trailing her fingers across my lapel and blowing cloying smoke in my face, beckoning me out to the floor. I pull away and she turns, forgetting me immediately.
Can’t afford to get tangled up with these degenerates.
Don’t even want to be here, not really.
I think about leaving, looking back over my shoulder, but the door has already vanished in the fog of this place. Everything is a blur of smoke and haze and occasionally pulsing neon lights in the dark.
The bar stretches against the side wall, a massive thing made of blackened polished wood and ivory studs that look like teeth. I rest my hands on it and they stick there, a tacky red clay almost grabbing me back.
“What can I get you?” The bartender asks. She has hair made of snakes and eyes like the void.
I’m not here for drinks. “I’m looking for Yzebel.”
She withdraws with a hiss and flicks a finger upward.
On a balcony I hadn’t even noticed — veiled in the fog and the smoke — stands a figure who looks as out of place as I feel. White gown. Hair molded and flawless, cascading over one eye and past her shoulders like a golden waterfall. Shimmering skin. Her one visible eye sweeps over the place, a security camera processing all within its arc. She looks at me and I’m skewered to the seat, a hot lance in my veins pinning me to my place like a bug under glass.
But she doesn’t actually see me, or at least she gives no outward sign. She whirls and vanishes into the haze.
I race upstairs and find her leaning over a game of cards; instead of chips and cash, there’s a small pile of teeth and dried-out strips of what looks like untanned leather.
Somebody wins and there’s a clamor at the table; somebody’s accused of cheating, and all of a sudden chairs are being pushed back, hands are flying to collars and everybody’s shouting. I seize the moment, taking her by the arm and walking her away.
“I hear you can get me passage out,” I say. Her perfume smells like my grandmother’s peach tree.
“Not anymore,” she says, not even flustered. As cool as if she were telling me they were out of the night’s special. “Guys upstairs have clamped down around here, in case you hadn’t noticed.” She lays a hand on my fingers and points down into the bar. A saucy bunch of devils are clamoring for a waitress’s attention, jawing at each other, their tongues hanging out like limp windsails.
I’d noticed the fuzz when I came in, but the fuzz are everywhere. They’ve always been a part of her operations. I tell her as much.
“I think you heard wrong about me,” Yzebel says, plucking herself free and smoothing her hair. For just an instant, the light catches her just so — an angel amidst a mass of forsaken souls — but then it’s over, and she’s looking at me like I’m a dead insect on her windshield. “I run an honest business.”
“I know about your reputation, okay?” I nod at the brutes down below, now neck-deep in a couple of pitchers. “And I know you have to keep up appearances. But I also know you’re a good person.”
“That and a nickel will just about buy me a stick of gum.” She’s not harsh, just matter-of-fact, almost apologetic. “I used to help people get out, but I don’t anymore. My goodwill is all used up. The noose is tightening. Nobody in or out. I couldn’t help you even if I wanted to.”
Yzebel turns away with finality. I grab her and she spins around on her own accord. No longer is she the angel she appears — for a heartbeat she’s all fury and horns. She snarls, the sound too deep for the waiflike body she’s in to even make, and I’m forced to remember who I’m dealing with. I draw my hand back, open the pendant around my neck, show her the cameo inside.
“Maybe you don’t want to help me, but I’ll bet you want to help her.”
Then, she’s the one seizing my arm and yanking me into an office.

#

Yzebel offers me a seat on a swanky sofa swathed in velvet. I sit and sink in.
Meanwhile, she’s pacing the room, the seductress transforming into a businesswoman. She pulls her hair back, knots it behind her head. Leans on the smoked-oak desk separating us. She’s tiny, but the thing creaks under the force of her. She’s quiet. Dead quiet. “Who are you, and what in the seven hells do you have to do with my daughter?”
I lick my lips, conscious of the seawater that leaks out as I do so. “She’s my wife.”
“You mean she was.”
Right. The whole “dead” thing.
“I like to think she still is. With a place like this. With somebody like you to help me out.”
She tsks and drums her fingers on the desktop, tiny ringlets of smoke escaping where she touches the dark wood. Suddenly, the full force of her gaze hits me, and it’s like in the bar; I’m skewered to my seat, but this time there’s a heat to her scrutiny, like she’s really seeing me, the smoldering coals of her eyes burning away waterlogged flesh and soggy suit and everything I ever was, living or dead. She sees it all. The wedding on the beach of Bermuda. The honeymoon cruise back to the states. The delirious night in the casino, where I took in over ten grand in an hour, lost it, and won it back again. The shady guy I bluffed on the last hand of the night to double it all.
And she sees me walking up to meet Lydia on the deck at midnight. Sees the stars burning overhead, a blanket of tranquil diamonds. Then the bag over my head. The tying of my wrists. The punches and kicks to my gut, my face. Then the water.
Then she looks away and I come to, gasping for breath and struggling to sit upright.
“Hell of a way to spend your wedding night.” She leans in, her face a mask of judgment and impassivity.
She’s seen it all. There was no hiding it. At least it’s all out in the open. “I made some mistakes.”
“And got yourself killed.”
“Yeah.”
“Leaving your bride-to-be on the very night of her union.”
“I’m sorry. I —”
“My daughter.” She slams a fist into the desk top, and if it groaned before, it actually splinters now. She’s staring at me, a snake pondering not if it will eat the mouse quivering before it, but how, and how much it will toy with the poor thing first.
For a moment, madly, I wonder if I will escape this room with my life. I almost laugh. But she sees this, and the mirthless chuckle turns to ash on my lips.
“My daughter,” she mutters, leaning back now in her chair and pondering the ceiling. I worry for a moment that she’ll ask me how we met, how I got involved with her in the first place, and if she learns that, then I will likely become a permanent fixture in her office, perhaps a living ashtray for her to grind out her cigarettes on. But she smirks, like she’s just thought of something. “You realize, of course, that I could just as easily send you the other way.”
“…The other way?”
“You want to go back. Above.” She rolls her eyes and points toward the ceiling. “But this isn’t the only Hell. There are others. Infinite ones, really. Though they come in a few distinct and … unsavory varieties. You caused my daughter pain. Maybe in return, you deserve some pain of your own. A little bit of personalized torment.”
The room feels suddenly hot, and her eyes have taken on a dangerous red tint. Discretion is sometimes the better part of getting your face roasted off by a half-demon. I rise quickly, backing up.
“Sit.”
My legs don’t bother asking for my opinion. They buckle, and I drop into the sofa again. She moves around the desk, the snake again, creeping in for the kill. She leans back against the desk, taps her nails on it again.
“There’s something about you, Hiram. Something I like. So here’s the deal. I smuggle you topside, give you a little time to put your affairs in order, give you a nice new body to truck around in.”
“A new body?”
She laughs. “Have you seen yourself lately? If I send you back there in this —” she waves a hand in my general direction, encompassing with the flick of her fingers her entire contempt for everything I am — “you’ll be dead again in just a couple of minutes. I’m a demon, not a miracle worker.”
“Fine. How long do I get?”
Her eyes turn cold, black, empty. Snakes’ eyes. There were stories about what her other half was, but I didn’t believe them, not until now. “Seven days. You get seven days.”
It’s not as much time as I had hoped for. Maybe not enough. But with those eyes staring holes in me, I’m lucky I got anything at all. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” she says, the menacing demeanor evaporating in a peal of cherubish laughter. “You haven’t asked me about my price.”
“What’s your price?”
“I want you to bring me my husband.”

#

I find Lydia sitting in a streetside cafe, her eyes attending but unable to read a paperback open in front of her. She looks put together to an outsider, but I can see the out-of-place strands of hair, the slight mismatch of her outfit. She knows I’m dead but can’t make herself believe it.
It’s not the best way to approach her, but I’m on a limited engagement. I walk up to her, clear my throat. “Lydia Gantz?”
She looks up, startled at the use of her married name.
“I have a message from your husband.”
She locks onto my face with the intensity of a shark scenting blood. “Hiram?”
It’s stupid, but I feel tears pricking at the backs of my eyes. Somehow, she recognizes me in this doughy, shapeless form Yzebel has given me. But then Lydia gets suspicious. “What have you done with him?”
It’s too crowded on this street to have her bursting into tears over her dead husband. I try to pull her away, but she’s angry now.
“Do you want money? Is that it?”
“Listen to me.”
“You listen. I want my husband back. I know my mother’s involved in this. Whatever she’s giving you, I’ll double it.”
She’s right, but she’s all wrong. I lay a hand on her arm, tell her we can’t talk here, we should go somewhere else. She wheels and smashes me in the jaw with the flat of her hand. It’s just a slap, but it connects like a brick to the face. The engagement ring — my engagement ring — leaves a little gash in my cheek, blood welling up hot.
She’s not going to like the next part, but there’s nothing for it. I pull the little snub-nosed pistol from its holster, slide it into my pocket, and jam it into her side. She protests until she recognizes the feel of the gun through the sundry layers of fabric. For a moment I’m shocked at how coolly she takes it, but then, this family is surprising me from every side lately. Obviously it’s not the first time she’s been held at gunpoint.
“Come with me,” I whisper, helping her to her feet with my other hand. “Please.”

#

It’s a short car ride back to her house — not our house, but the family’s house, a towering affair of brick and ivy set a few miles back off the main road — and we speak not a word on the way there. She’s tense but cool, and I’m trying to figure out just how in the hell she’s managing to stay so cool. But there’s no time for all that — I pull up to the house and we go in. Inside, it’s all cordial pleasantries. Her father is here, doddering and clumsy in his tuxedo, asking me if he should pull the car around, for god’s sake. He hasn’t been right in the head for most of Lydia’s life, if she’s to be believed. For a moment, I wonder how I’m going to deal with him. Then he vanishes down a hallway and we don’t see him again.
Lydia’s recovered herself a little; she offers me tea. “No thanks.” She makes herself a cup, and the spoon tinkles against the rim like a drowning wind chime.
“Your husband is dead,” I say.
She blows absently across the top of her teacup.
“And he’s not coming back.” My throat tightens a little on this; I’d love to tell her, but there’s no point.
“Just one more thing my mother’s stolen from me,” she says, her face not half as vitriolic as her words.
“He wanted me to tell you something.”
“How do you know him?”
“Does it matter?”
She weighs my response, measures me, eyes like the edges of knives.
“He’s got a safe deposit box. Number 81723. You go to his apartment, dump out the box of cereal on top of the fridge, find the key. Inside is…” I falter. It sounds so foolish. “A little statue. Ancient. Jade. Priceless. Something he…” stole, I don’t say, because I can’t break her heart again. Something he stole, and something that’s going to get you killed. Her expression gives away nothing, and I can feel her doubt. “He wants you to have it.”
“Wants?”
“…Wanted.” She’s staring at me again, and I’m a worm on a hook. I look away. “Just do it. This week. Tomorrow, if you can.”
“And then what?”
And then, when the thugs come around looking for what I owed them, they’ll take it and leave her in peace.
They won’t kill her to get back at me for holding out on them.
“And then you won’t hear from him again. Or me. You can go on with your life. Meet somebody else. Get married. Have a kid.” She’s squinting at me now, the way she used to do when I was making up stories about my past and she didn’t quite believe me. But she never pressed the issue then, and she doesn’t now. She opens her mouth like she’s about to say something, but she doesn’t. I mumble an apology and get the hell out of there.
When I check the box a few days later, it’s empty. I swing by our place and see it in the window, catching the light in its weird crags and edges. At least she’ll be safe.

#

All that’s left, then, is her father. I’m on my seventh day, and you don’t want to split hairs with the queen of the dead. I have until three o’clock to bring him back with me, or Yzebel will take me alone and to be honest, I don’t want to think about what comes after that. I go back to Lydia’s old house and knock on the door.
The old man’s there, still wearing the tuxedo. He smells of must and turned earth, like the inside of a crypt. And he’s asking me again if he should pull the car around.
What the hell. I say yes.
He blinks at me like he hasn’t really heard, then his eyes light up and he begins nodding like his head’s about to fall off. “This way,” he babbles over and over again, leading me down an elegant hallway to the garage. Inside are a series of ludicrous roadsters in obscene colors — fire engine red, twilight purple, nuclear yellow. I guess it pays to be married to the mistress of night. He grabs a set of keys and leads me through the fluorescent-lit garage. Toward the end is a posh number: a polished and gleaming ghost in black and white. The old man says it’s a Brabus, whatever that means — all I know is it’s gorgeous and expensive, and it looks fast enough to outrun any demon any day of the week. If only. He tosses me the keys and settles in next to me, tapping his thumbs excitedly on his knees.
Grimly, I set the car in gear, and we roar out onto the street. I’ve never been a killer, but at least the guy’s not protesting. It’s almost like he wants to go. What do I know; maybe he does.

#

The real bitch of it is that I have to go out the same way I came in. It’s got to be drowning again, which is something I’d really rather avoid, but all I have to do is think about the unholy fire behind Yzebel’s eyes to realize that a few lungfuls of seawater are preferable to a woman’s wrath, particularly this woman. There’s a brilliant vista out over the sea by the cliffs out on Route 1, and I make for that at about a hundred and fifty miles an hour. The old man — Yzebel’s husband — hums idly in the seat next to me, like we’re out for a Sunday drive, like he knows what’s coming and looks forward to it.
Whatever. It’ll all be over in a minute, and I can go back to my eternal torment and not have to worry about Lydia or her mother or her father ever again.
There’s the cliff.
Ocean surf below, clouds rolling in like marshmallow fluff.
And, funny thing, I look in the rearview mirror and see Lydia in the backseat.
Lydia.
She’d been hiding under a tarp in the back and now she pops up, wraps her arms around my neck, and whispers in my ear.
“You can’t get away from me again.”
I yank the wheel hard to the right, but it’s too late.
We smash through the guardrail and go tumbling into the azure at nearly two hundred.
Next to me, the old man shrieks in glee as we go over.
Right before we hit the water, I swear I can see Yzebel floating just below the surface, her arms open wide, a devilish grin playing across her face.
We’re all going to see her.
One big happy family.

#########

Chuck’s challenge for the end of October was, appropriately enough, a horror challenge of the X meets Y variety. I drew “Casablanca” meets “The Ring.” I think I captured that feel at the beginning, then slowly drifted away…

This one is what it is. I think I’m maybe still a bit burned up on finishing my recent sci-fi draft. Anyway…


Game Face


It’s morning, and though the body and mind are refreshed, last night’s revels are too close to memory. I feel them creeping in and coloring my mood. I feel restless. I feel alive. The lump in bed next to me falls aside with a gentle push, and I quick-step to the bathroom.

I check my face in the mirror and find that the hair is a bit too disheveled from sleep, and with a brief calculated swipe of my hand I correct this imperfection. Further inspection reveals that the brows are rather furrowed, as if I’ve been brooding too long over dark thoughts and they have carved their implications into my forehead; with a smooth massage of my fingers, these lines disappear. The eyes: too narrowed, almost suspicious, and an altogether too menacing shade of brown; a pass of the palm and they are wider, friendlier, and a much more lovely shade of green. The lips of the mouth curl upwards at the corners with the hint of secret knowledge and vague amusement, punctuated by the razor’s edge of immaculate white teeth beneath. The hand moves again, and the sardonic bemused mouth is replaced by one that is sober, thoughtful, understanding.

The nose will do for today; I’ve always liked this one.

I go to the window and throw it open. The morning breeze hits my skin like spring water in a parched throat. With a shiver, I sprout freckles. I’ve never had freckles. Today’s a good day to try something new.

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

Chuck’s challenge this week is to create not a work of short fiction, but rather a character in just 250 words, the characters to be used in next week’s challenge.

Here’s a character. I think his (or her?) skin could be fun to walk around in.


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