Category Archives: flashfiction

Pixel’s Last Stand [Flash Fiction]

Pixel’s Last Stand

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

“What is it, Pixie?” I jogged over to the unused side of the house and see Pixel worrying at the pile of cinder blocks, discarded in a lonesome pile.

Pixel worries at the blocks some more, digging at the dirt, struggling to reveal what lies beneath.

What lies beneath, indeed.`

The summer air is hot and smells of a blast furnace. I wipe my forehead on my forearm and throw one leg over the small wrought iron gate.

Pixel looks up at me and whines. His ears are pricked up and he goes back to scratching at the cinder blocks, whining, his stub of a tail wagging ever so slightly.

I squeezed the glove fingers to be sure there were no creepy crawlies hiding in there, shook them out and pulled them on. I gave Pixel a pat and he stood at attention, pointing to his target.

I pulled up the first block and saw something scurry away.

“God fucking damn it,” I swore to myself.

The next cinder fragment came up easily and I tossed it against the fence. Pixel moved in deeper, his nose covered in the tan dust, his black nails tearing at the dirt.

“What is it, Pixie?” I teased him again. He looked up at me with his beady black eyes and went back to pointing at the pile, lifting his front leg a couple of inches. So cute, these little MinPins.

As I grabbed the next block, I saw a glow coming from beneath the pile.

“What the fuck is that? Pixie, what’s in there?” He was worrying away again and frantic.

I pulled up another block. More light. Another. More light. The last one covering the ground, and the light blinded my eyes for a few seconds.

What lies beneath? What lies beneath is a creature that was sad and beaten and looking at me. It let out a massive sigh that just about knocked me on my ass. I had Pixel by the collar and was keeping him from tearing this thing to bits. Pixel’s bark was relentless as he pushed forward, choking himself against his collar, his tail going a hundred miles an hour.

I got down on my knees and let go of the dog. I started to dig around the creature, revealing it inch by inch.

The stink was overpowering and I pulled my t-shirt up over my nose. My shirt pulled out of my shorts and I wasn’t really blocking any smells. I started to get tired and stopped to rest. Pixel looked up at me.

“Don’t stop. We got this.” Pixel was talking to me.

“Did you just talk?” It was more of a statement than a question.

“Dig. We got this.” Pixel looked back at the thing in the dirt.

Fuck it. I took off my gloves and started to dig again.

The dirt… it was under my nails and caking up my fingers. I was breathing hard and the sweat was stinging my eyes.

“Yes, yes,” Pixel said through dog lips.

“Shut up and help me dig,” I said, half not believing that my dog was talking to me. What the fuck.

And the creature sat up and looked at me. It was small. It stank of death. I sat back.

“You owe me, mortal,” it said.

“What? I don’t fucking-”

“Silence. I require sacrifice!”

“Sacrifice? You’re in no shape to – ”

Pixel fell over, dead. I looked at him and tears welled up in my eyes. Anger rose up from my core. I punched the creature. It laughed at me.

“Huh huh huh,” it laughed, staring me in the eye. It rubbed its hands together and chanted in some language I didn’t understand. His hands started to glow and the wind started to blow. Pixel stretched and faded into the vortex.

I reached for a shovel, squinting my eyes against the wind and turning my head to keep the dirt from getting in my eyes. I swung and missed.

More chanting and the creature grinned an evil grin and didn’t seem to care about what I was doing.

I pulled out the pole pinning the gate together and stabbed towards the creature.

Silence.

Blackness.

I looked around and couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face.

I yelled into the darkness and a face flashed in front of me.

“The dead don’t walk,” it said and grabbed the pole, swung it around and started to beat me with it. Hitting me with it, it cursed and swore and yelled again and again, “The dead don’t walk.”

***********

What lies beneath? Sickness. And darkness. And death.

***********

Author’s notes

My dog’s name is actually Pixel. We occasionally call him Pixie. MinPins are a breed that seeks out rodents and small animals in small, tight holes. He likes to hide in blankets and small, tight places. He can’t help it, it’s his breeding.

Pixel is old and nearly dead. What if the little guy had one last adventure before he kicked off? This was my attempt at Pixel’s Last Stand.

 

Blind Date

Blind Date

***********

“I hope she’s not ugly. Or fat.” James F. Jones, or Jimmy Jo to those who knew him best, or knew him at all, was no prize himself. But that lady at Portal Dating Services assured him that the match was very, *very* good.

He rinsed his mouth out with moonshine – his own, naturally – and took one last look in the mirror. “Madame,” he said in a deep voice, bowing slightly. He wiped the sweat off his forehead, blotted his armpits one last time, and headed out.

***********

The Blight had only lasted 15 years, but wiped out 99.9% of the human population.

***********

Like most things Jimmy Jo owned, his car was stolen. Borrowed, really. Long-term. He got the Z28 Camaro from the same place he got his flat-screen TV. Not much gas any more, and not much TV any more, but things were getting better. He even had a new neighbor a few streets over. He made a point to smoke his tires in front of their house at least once a week.

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

Anthropologist Bill Ziegler calculated that we didn’t have enough diversity left to re-populate humanity and would interbreed ourselves into extinction if we didn’t just fade away first.

Some said Bill was full of shit.

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

Jimmy Jo saw it on the only channel he could get on his fancy TV – that Hugh Everett and his many-worlds theory, it turns out, was right. After the Blight, a team of scientists scavenged classified documents from scientific research around the world. Some top-secret research in Russia and in Switzerland completed Everett’s theory.

The first portal was opened 3 years ago.

This world was the only one that had reached the apex of the Blight, so this world was the only one that could open the portals.

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

“Shit, flowers!” Jimmy Jo pulled over by a field and picked out a few flowers, pissed on the rest, and got back in the car.

One eye on the road, Jimmy swerved a bit as he re-read the directions on the folded paper. “What in the hell… where do I know that address?”

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

Bill Ziegler seized the opportunity – the parallel universes could simply take lost souls, the poor, despondent folks that were suicidal or imprisoned for things that aren’t crimes in our world, or that had diseases that could be cured here. We could forcibly repopulate our world!

Outraged, the survivors threw Molotov cocktails at Bill’s house, killing him in his sleep.

The idea was hatched, however, had merit. The Council of the Living had a more benevolent idea – a dating service.

“Tired of life? Down and out? Seeking new adventures in new places? We’ll help you leave your old life behind you.”

And the Portal Dating Service was opened for business.

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

Jimmy Jo revved up the engine of his Z28 for effect as he pulled up into the driveway. He picked his teeth in the rear-view, grabbed the flowers, fumbled for the portal key, and walked into the house.

The Service always chose a deserted neighborhood – couldn’t have any more portal jumpers, could we?

Jimmy Jo sighed and closed his eyes, whispered something to himself, held out the key, opened his eyes, and clicked the only button.

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

Some of the people from parallel worlds weren’t too happy to be tricked into coming. Some of them freaked out. Jimmy Jo hadn’t seen the Ford LTD trailing him by a couple of miles.

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

The woman that stepped through the portal looked strikingly like Jimmy Jo, and introduced herself as Jenny Jo.

Jimmy Jo scrambled back and dropped the flowers. He turned to run and only made it to the driveway before he saw the LTD parked at the house next door, and the man leaning against it, looking straight at him.

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

The Service never reminded you that the people were from parallel worlds. That’s the whole idea, right? Only the problem is that the parallel worlds are infinite variations of the world we’re on, so there are an infinite variations of yourself on these other worlds.

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

The man leaning against the LTD shot Jimmy Jo once, hitting him in the leg. He pressed a button and a portal opened up and swallowed poor Jimmy Jo to a dark world.

++++++++++++++

Author’s Notes

I was reading about the wonderful craft of writing on Writer’s Digest. I like these articles not because I generally agree with them, but they are tips from published writers. You do, however, get a lot of repeat information, or different takes on existing information (such as a rehash of the Hero’s Journey).

One of the articles really struck a chord with me, though, and that was the one about R.L. Stine.

Turns out, he writes a lot like I do. He doesn’t start from the ending, he doesn’t endlessly plot out structures, he writes a lot of horror, and he doesn’t seem to do a lot of things that you are “supposed” to do. Instead, he typically thinks up a good title (or just comes up with one during the course of the day) and proceeds to write.

Really, that’s the majority of his “secret.”

A couple of things stood out for me, though.

Stine doesn’t think that you should have to work at writing, you should just really like doing it. Otherwise you’re not a writer. I fully agree with this. I have been writing, even if it’s just rambling, since as early as the seventh grade. At least that I remember.

I’ve loved spinning yarns for the kids for a long time, too – like the time I told my son that you can’t look at the Mr. Pickles kid in a costume on the street corner – if he sees you, he switches places with you and you have to trick someone else into taking your place in the hot, stinky pickle costume. Oh, no! Don’t look! I like to mess with people, and can think up stuff on-the-fly. Mostly, I’m a devious little shit.

Also, he writes. A lot. He’s published over 300 books and keeps going at it. He developed a routine that pumps out books every month or so. For years and years and years he’s done this. He wrote comics and TV shows and dabbled all over the place. One time, and this is my favorite part, someone joked that he should write about a Blind Date.

…fateful lunch with Stine’s Scholastic friend Jean Feiwel, she asked him a simple question: Have you ever thought about writing young adult horror? And she made an equally simple suggestion: Go home and write a book called Blind Date.

“I said, ‘OK, sure, no problem,’” he recalls.

And the amazing thing is—and this is a hint at what makes Stine stand out from millions of other writers, a testament to how much of a born storyteller he truly is—he actually did it. He outlined for a month. He wrote for three. He spent a month revising. He sent it in. It came out in 1986, and became an instant bestseller.

Let’s repeat part of that – “…makes Stine stand out from millions of other writers… he actually did it.”

Yup, folks, there’s the secret sauce: showing up. And the inspiration for today’s story because, you see, I like to be in the company of kings.

p.s. I’ve never read any Stine books – I was already 13 when he wrote Blind Date and didn’t seriously consider reading Goosebumps. I can certainly guarantee that my story is vastly different, and experimental (for me), but, damn it, I wrote it.

 

Blue Light Special [Flash Fiction]

Blue Light Special

 

—Bobby—

“I missed you today.” He said. To himself. To nobody, really, and laughed.

Bobby wasn’t kidding any more. He knew that he had to go. He knew that the blue lights were for him.

And they weren’t. All at the same time.

Bobby was going to go there and Bobby was going to do what he had to do. Bobby was going to be Bobby.

Finally.

Today.

And it wasn’t going to be easy.

“That’s okay,” Bobby thought, “because I am me and who are you to tell me that what’s right or what’s wrong? Who are you to tell ME? I’ll show you. I’ll show ALL of you…”

Bobby went away that day. He went away to the morgue. He did what he thought he must. The voices in his head were louder and louder. Only he wasn’t really doing it for him. he was doing it for them. Bobby wasn’t crazy, the voices in his head were *real.* Real as you and me. And that’s where things went wrong for Bobby.

 

—Monty—

 

When the nice man at the funeral home, “Mr. Montgomery but everyone calls me Monty,” sawed open Bobby’s head, Monty got a surprise. Only he didn’t know it. He had let out the thing, let’s call it a demon, and it got into him.

It needs a host, see.

Monty’s business went gangbusters for a while. He saw blue lights everywhere, and they were for him. They showed him the way. Well, *a* way, and Monty decided that this way was a good way.

Monty had to be Monty, to do what Monties do best! And business was booming for the funeral home. Until it wasn’t. Because, while Monty had to be Monty and do what Monties do best, the blue lights started to go away and Monty tried to get back the mojo. Monty tried to get it back by being Monty and following the bright blue light.

The one he knew would get him in trouble, but the voices, they were so *real* and they wouldn’t stop. Soon, Monty couldn’t sleep, Monty couldn’t be Monty if this kept up, so Monty had to take action.

Monty was the last customer for the family business.

 

—Burl—

 

The demon found a home in Monty’s son, Burl. Burl was, by all accounts, decidedly NOT burly. There’s an irony to names, like naming your sons winner and loser, and, wouldn’t you know it, Lou ends up being successful and Winn ends up in and out of jail.

Burl decided that enough was enough, and the family business had done so well that he could sell it off to a big company that would keep the name so the townsfolk would keep coming.

Burl had problems. Burl wasn’t right in the head. And now that the demon force found fresh meat, he was even less right in the head.

Today, Burl would drive away from that small town in a Corvette. A 1991 C4, painted Competition Yellow. Bought it from his buddy, Easton, who had it in storage while he was off to college.

Funny thing about addiction, you give in to the demon and it lets you overindulge. Compels you to, really. Burl liked his liquor brown and expensive. With the funeral parlor money, a shiny Corvette, and nobody telling him, “Burl, put down the bottle,” or, “Burl, don’t you think you’ve had enough?” Burl was happy to indulge.

Then the blue lights came. Just a spec of blue, just for a moment. Then the moments got longer. Then Burl had to see what they were.

That’s when the voices got louder. “Burl, it’s just one drink. And she’s so pretty, you won’t have the courage otherwise.”

Burl didn’t have the courage otherwise, and he knew it. Burl was a bad boy, and the brown liquor made him *cool.*

 

—Jen—

 

The paramedic that cut Burl out of his Corvette couldn’t have known that Burl’s head wounds were leaking more than brains and blood, couldn’t have known about the demon, couldn’t have known about the horrors that lay in wait.

Jack always hit her where there wouldn’t be any marks. Jen knew that she really WAS lucky to have him. Nobody else would want her. He really loves her. He needs her.

But, lately, she’s feeling a twinge. She’s feeling unsatisfied. Lately, Jack’s left temple is sparkling with little blue dots. She can’t tell him about it, but she has an urge. A feeling.

A compulsion.

“No, I love him,” she mutters.

“What did you say? Who are you talking to?” Jack was still panting and wiped the corner of his mouth with the back of his wrist.

“He means it this time,” she said, quieter.

“You’d better tell–”

They all give in, eventually. They give in to themselves. They embrace the demon. They change. The do what they must. They become more themselves than they ever had been in their entire lives. The voices, the lights, the coaxing reach a crescendo.

Jen landed the Louisville Slugger to Jack’s left temple.

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

Author’s Notes

Everyone struggles with something. Usually, we can keep our inner demons in check. But what if you can’t? What if there’s an invisible force that infects you and brings out the bad… with a vengeance?

Did you ever wonder why some people snap? They have their problems, their little demons, and maybe they’re really good at hiding it until one day. That one day. The snap. And it goes horribly wrong.

Quaker Man

The rumble of thunder woke her; she opened her eyes and looked at the clock – 2:20… a.m.

“Damn it.” She knew that she would have a hard time getting back to sleep. She sighed, rolled onto her side, pushed herself up on her elbow and sat up. Slipping on her slippers, she pushed herself the rest of the way up and went to look out the window as a flash of lightning lit the yard.

She loved this old farmhouse and the rent was cheap. The cornfields were nice and they were already tall and the cobs were already in.

The old pine tree on the side of the yard caught her eye in the flash, and she thought she saw something. Nah, couldn’t be, – the rain is hard and brutal, the mud deep.

The cups in the dishwasher were still warm from the after-dinner load and she filled up at the tap, staring out the window, staring off, her mind wandering to her marriage, the kids, her career that she couldn’t seem to get off the ground.

The next flash lit up the younger oak that was about 20 feet in front of the kitchen window, a few feet from the edge of the corn field.

Under the tree, a man. A man in a round, black-brimmed hat, and a full black suit. He wasn’t soaked, but he stood there, facing her. She couldn’t see his face under the rim of the hat. She jumped back and went to the drawer and got a knife.

She went out but it was too muddy and too soggy for her to go out to the tree in her slippers, so she looked around, and he was gone. Gone, just gone, no sign that he had ever been there. She never saw him again.

Nobody believed her. Things went bad after that.

++++++++++++

“Run!”

Jim’s voice was loud and his eyes were wide as he ran past, followed by Darren and Tony. I turned to see what they were running from, but couldn’t make out anything in this darkness, so I took a few steps before looking up ahead to see where they had gone, up the hill, through the bushes and into the Salinis’ garden, out past the weeds growing over the 1986 Ford Tempo. They ducked behind the car and looked out as I circled around to join them.

“What the Hell are we running from?” I said.

“Didn’t you see him?” Jim cut his eye at me and looked back, squinting in the dark, sweat pouring from his brow.

“See who?” I glanced up and turned around and crouched over the dewy ground.

Tony spoke up first. “There was a guy – a man – we were sitting behind the stone wall by the road, and there was a car, and – ” Darren laughed as they looked at each other ” – and Darren missed by about half a mile. Worst. Shot. Ever.”

“And…” I said as I shook my head and put my hands up. Tony was the worst story teller.

“And then Jim hit me on the back and pointed to the big tree in Sean’s yard – the one we stand under at the bus stop – and there was a man standing there. A creepy old guy with a black hat, you know, a round hat like the Quakers wear.” Tony was shaking as he told the story, and I started to worry because we’d been out on these middle-of-the-night adventures many times and nothing ever spooked him.

“He was just there, looking at us. After the world’s worst egg toss, OW!” Darren punched Tony in the arm. “Knock it off, fag! Anyway, he was just there looking at us. After Darren threw his egg, we all turned back and he was gone, and that’s when Jim fell into us.”

“I felt him. I felt something behind me; I turned my head and he was right there. I mean, like, right there, I could see his eyes and his yellow teeth, and I could smell his breath – it reeked! I fell backwards into these dorks.”

“At first we were like, what the fuck, Jim, then we saw him, too, and bagged ass out of there. We didn’t see you and thought maybe he got you or something.”

“No, I was setting the Tellos’ scarecrow on fire in their driveway,” I said and we all started laughing. Fucking Tello, that little shit.

“Let’s go back,” Darren said, got up and began to work his way around the back of the yard, on the worn path around the neighbors’ yards. I was starting to get cold but the clouds had blown past the moon and we had some light to work with, so I jogged a bit to catch up with them. We circled the area and didn’t find any trace of him. We even sat down and compared our shoe prints with each other to see if we could find his – no tracks at all, under the tree, behind us, nothing.

We split up and I snuck back into the house through the basement door, scared shitless as I went through the pitch black of the basement and back up to my room.

We never saw him again. Things went bad after that.

 

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

Author’s notes

This is based on 2 true stories. No, seriously, this is 95% true. Weird shit happens when you’re up in the middle of the night.

Second Coming: Flash Fiction

Second Coming

She pulled the shade down and rested her head against the window, sighed, and started to cry.

“Damn you for dying, Joe! Damn you… I miss you so much.” Mary looked up at nothing, brushed the last tears from her eyes, sniffled, pulled back her gray hair with trembling hands, and picked up the gun.

++++++++++++++++++

The neighbors called the police when they hadn’t seen Mary out and about – in her garden, mowing the lawn, waving to everyone in her wide-brimmed hat and smiling.

It took 3 days to clean up the place.

++++++++++++++++++

“Hi, Josh… this is the Hillsboro police… I’m sorry, but your mom died. You have our deepest condolences.”

Josh dropped the phone and put his hands on his head and cried for the first time in 5 years.

He hadn’t seen her since Dad died. He’d see her and feel the tears welling up in his eyes, and would lose control of himself. He couldn’t.

++++++++++++++++++

“You sonofabitch!” Ponch came running from across the street shaking a rake at him, dirt falling off his gardening gloves. “After all this time!” He shook the rake and poked Josh with the wooden end. “She *needed* you. We thought you were dead.”

“Hey, Ponch. You smell like cigarettes.” Josh’s face was flat as Ponch searched for any feeling, any remorse, any emotion at all. Josh turned away, put his hands in his coat pockets and stared at the house. “It’s been hard for me.”

“YOU! What do you– How can you– ” He shook his head, pulled off his gloves and stuffed both of them into a pocket. “You always were a worthless little shit.”

Josh laughed and looked at old man Ponch from over his shoulder. “Even gods get no respect around here.”

++++++++++++++++++

“Hey, Jude,” he always liked the sound of that, even though he was hardly a Beatles fan. “Hey, can you stop by my folks’ place? I need some help packing things up.”

“Josh? JOSH? Well, hey, I thought you were — well, shit… sure, man, I’ll be over after dinner.”

++++++++++++++++++

Jude rang the doorbell and watched his breath come out in foggy clouds. He could smell Josh’s place before the door was open. A dry, woody, pine-like smell. He always thought it was Frankincense but never asked.

Josh opened the door and let him in, led him up the half staircase of the split-level and across the living room to the kitchen table.

“Hey, man, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom,” Jude said as he cracked open his Bud Light. “You’re looking good, though. Not partaking these days?” Jude nodded to Josh’s glass of water and let a wan smile crack across his leathery, stubbly face.

Without looking, Josh picked up his glass and swirled it. The water darkened to a deep, purplish red. “I don’t have time for games and parlor tricks, Jude. I asked you here because I need something.” Josh never broke eye contact. “I want it back, Jude.”

“Aw, you know, that… that was just, that was just… look, man, I didn’t know, I swear, if I’d have known, I never would have…” Jude’s eye twitched as he scanned the room and pushed himself back from the table.

“Yes, you would have, Jude. Who was it that said, ‘Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot?'”

Jude was nervously fondling something under the table. “Don’t,” Josh sighed. “Let’s not make this difficult.” Josh stood and held his hand out, palm up, still not breaking eye contact.

Jude stood and pushed up the table, towards Josh, who put his hand up, waved it to the side and the table followed his hand and landed on its side.

Three quick slashes of a knife and Josh dodged them all without ever breaking his gaze or looking at the knife. Josh sighed again and Jude lifted up into the air, twisted his head back, and began to grasp at his throat.

“Your games tire me, Mr. Iscariot. I want something, however, or you’d be dead already, having served your purpose long ago.” Josh looked at the floor and folded his hands behind his back, pacing. “I want the secret knowledge back.”

Jude fell to his knees and rubbed his throat, craning his neck up to look at Josh. “They will come, and they will kill you.”

“Death, it seems, Mr. Iscariot, does not become me,” Josh raised one brow. “The Illuminators do not scare me, but now that both of my Earth parents have passed, it is time to reveal what lies in darkness.”

“You’re fucked in the head, Josh. I watched you die.”

“And I did, indeed. Have you not gotten over that? You were simply doing what I asked of you. You were my favorite, you know.”

Jude pulled himself into a chair and remembered how much he hated the smell of Frankincense. “The Illuminators will come. And the people will find a new savior to obsess over and to sanctify. They will burn the churches, they will forget –”

“I know all this. I’ve always known the second coming didn’t mean *me.* It is time. The secret – give it to me.”

 

++++++++++++++++++

Author’s notes

I’m not religious but I’ve studied the Christian bible quite a bit. I was fascinated when the Gospel of Judas was discovered and the text was released, forever changing the zeitgeist around Judas.

I also recently finished reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, so lots of ideas have been floating around my head surrounding old gods and new gods and culture clashes.

This story was probably the most planning and research I’ve done – it took longer to research than to write.

Glitch [flash fiction]

The screen glitches.

The set looks like scrambled 1980’s porn, you cuddled up to the screen, volume off, watchful that your parents aren’t coming. You reach into your pants.

The screen glitches.

Static flares and the patterns swirl and taunt. Your monkey brain makes faces in the hash and you tilt your head like a dog. You begin to imagine – no, believe – you are in the scene in Poltergeist. Carrie-Anne…

The screen glitches.

The light in the house is on and the blinds are pulled. There’s music, and what appears to be dancing. A police car pulls up, leaves the lights on, and two cops get out. Their breath floats in the air as they check their holsters, look at each other, and walk up to the door.

They knock and nobody answers. One backs away and covers one ear, picks up his radio and you can see his mouth moving as his partner pulls on his belt and kicks the door just on the other side of the handle.

They walk inside.

The screen glitches.

The high-pitched groan screeches and you fumble for the volume, but it’s already down all the way. You twist it up and back again, but nothing changes.

The screen glitches.

You touch the screen and it glows around your finger and begins to hum. Laughter.

A woman with too-bright red lipstick is coming down the stairs on a cruise ship. She looks at no one. Which is to say she looks at everyone. Secretly.

She passes and you smell her perfume. You’re instantly transported to your second grade classroom and the schoolmarm’s smell as she walked past you.

You look down and see a trail of urine.

The screen glitches.

The cops are now inside the house, and there’s a long hallway that faces the street. The house smells… wrong. The rooms are lined up along the hall and each has its blinds closed.

There’s splashing and laughter and loud music, lights flashing. The cop knocks.

Nothing.

The cop calls out.

Nothing.

He opens the door.

Inside is a large hot tub. Six or eight people are in it, splashing around.

Something’s wrong. Terribly wrong. The second cop pukes as he holds onto the door frame and bends over. “God in heaven,” the first cop mumbles and reaches for switch.

The people in the hot tub are all dead, naked, propped up, puppets on sticks attached to a motor. They motor winds down and the dance of the dead stops. Their eyes are gouged out and their heads are fixed in place, staring at the door.

The screen glitches.

“This isn’t a dream. This isn’t a dream. This isn’t a dream.” The voice chants. Becomes almost musical. A high-pitched squeal starts up again. A shiver goes up your spine and you slowly look behind you.

The screen glitches.

Screaming from the alley and a man running, his zippered hoodie billowing behind him. This is too surreal, you think, and you start to believe that it must be a dream. You stand and watch horrors, hoping that it is a dream. Oh, God, please let it be a dream. It’s a dream, right? Right? Help?

The screen glitches.

Two women sit on a bench and look at each other. “One of These Nights” by the Eagles is playing in the background. The lights are low.

There’s a shadow creeping up behind them, and you shake your head and think, “No, no, no! Run!” It’s too late. The great American horror story unfolds in front of you and you just stare.

The killer looks at you. “This is good,” you think as the adrenaline fades, excited that you lost yourself in it for a moment. The killer’s hand reaches out and begins to press on the television screen. You fall back and the hand grabs your ankle and digs its fingernails into your flesh.

You kick at the hand and it lets go. You turn off the TV and the arm severs and wilts in front of you, leaving a black, powdery mess on the floor.

The screen glitches and turns back on.

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

Author’s notes

Everyone says that you should never write in the second person. It’s awful and nobody likes it.

Challenge accepted.

I don’t think it actually came out badly, but I do see where people wouldn’t like it. I’ve never written this way before, but I’m stretching myself after not having written in over a month.

The screen glitching, in my mind, is like a channel changing to a channel that’s just static for a moment, like on old TVs where it would go all haywire for a fraction of a second. In that second, sometimes you could swear you saw something. Perhaps, in the wee morning hours, you DID see something, and you lost control of it…

Creaky Stairs – Flash Fiction and /r/nosleep

CREAKY STAIRS

It wasn’t always that way. Usually I would turn over and go back to sleep. One day, it was darker and it was quieter. I didn’t know why, but I was afraid.

Like most kids, I was afraid of the dark. You know, hiding under the blankets, believing that they would protect you from whatever it was that was out there, lurking, stalking you. You had ’em fooled! You’re a frickin’ genius!

As I lay in bed in that old house, I woke in the middle of the night. The streetlight outside of my window always shone in, and my mom’s hand-made curtains weren’t ever enough to really block out the light. All that they did was emphasize the shadows and the fears of childhood.

My brother was sleeping heavily, his larger body heaving up and down, slowly, in time. He groaned and turned over.

Creak.

I could hear the steps, one after another, creaking slowly up the stairs.

I knew it was not just the regular old creaking of the house –  that’s what my mom told me. She said it was an old house and old houses settle and creak and groan, and to just go back to sleep, to stop letting my imagination get the best of me.

But I knew better. There was a step, the step was the fifth step from the bottom, that was the step that I knew to avoid when I was sneaking down to the living room to watch cartoons. My parents’ bedroom was was on the other side of the stairs, sharing a wall. If I made the fatal mistake of creaking the loud steps, I knew that they would get up and tell me to go back to bed. But, on Sunday mornings, all I wanted to do was go down to watch Hanna Barbera before anyone else got up.

Anyway, I knew. I knew which steps made which noises, and which steps to skip.

I heard the steps. I heard the creaking. I heard the Steps To Be Avoided. I listened that night, and I listened carefully. Up, one by one.

Creak. Creak. Creak. GROAN.

I hid deeper under the blankets and my breath was hot and a little stinky. My heart was pounding

Creak, creak, creak, they were continuing, slowly, terrifyingly, eerily up the stairs. The silence roared in my ears and the shadows played outside the comforting, safe cave of the blankets. Maybe if I stayed still enough, I could trick the monsters into thinking I was sleeping and they would leave me alone. Maybe. I didn’t believe it, but I wanted to.

Creak. GROAN. POP.

I shook a little inside because I knew that this was the second-to-last stair that groaned and popped like that. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I struggled to slow my breathing and I stared against the inside of my eyelids, listening as closely as I could .

The noise came up and stopped at the landing. I waited. Waited. I thought that it had gone, and I was reminded of my mother’s admonition that it was just this old house creaking, and I began to convince myself that she was right.

This time, she *was* right and the steps stopped. Or did they? The floor of the rooms upstairs didn’t creak and groan like the stairs, it didn’t have the tell-tale signs. The silence and my wandering thoughts lulled me back to sleep.

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In the morning, I woke up, threw the covers off of me, and looked around – the sun was shining in and I was alone in the room. I wondered how my brother had gotten up before me – he never got up before me.

I sat and thought about my fright from the middle of the night, feeling silly that I didn’t get up to check out the stairs. It probably really *was* the house settling. Or maybe it was my sister getting up in the middle of the night to visit the only bathroom in the house – downstairs, on the main floor, and then coming back to bed. She wasn’t old enough to understand that there were steps that you should avoid, and she was light enough that she wouldn’t make a really big noise as she stepped on the two steps that groaned and popped and gave you away.

I smiled to myself and twisted around, dropped my legs to the floor, then something grabbed forearm and pulled on it, straightening my arm out next to me and pulling. I tugged back, heart racing, looking over, expecting to see my brother messing with me, but there was nothing there, only silence. No light, no shadows, nothing. Only a pulling on my arm. I tugged a second time and it let go – I heard a hiss as I ran out of the room and went downstairs and didn’t go back up until bedtime, making sure my brother was in there; I didn’t let on to anyone about what happened.

It never happened again – whatever it was that came for me, it didn’t come again. It was done after it couldn’t get me, couldn’t have me. It was there and then it was gone. I don’t know what it was, and I don’t want to know.

 

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Author’s notes

I lurk on Reddit a lot, and as I was reading through some writing subReddits, someone cross-posted a story from /r/nosleep. “Hmm, what’s this?” I wondered to myself and proceeded to go to http://nosleep.reddit.com to check it out.

/r/nosleep is a place where you post creepy, scary stories that, one supposes, scare the crap out of you so you can’t fall asleep. They are supposed to be true stories, or stories that you pass off as true.

Is this story true? I won’t tell. But if you live in an old house and hear the steps creaking at night, beware what morning may bring…