Star Maids

Stella 109 drove her elbow into Stella 132’s kidney, simulating a kidney stone attack, one of the worst pains known to people. Stella 132 gasped and fell onto the bed, but she quickly separated mind from body and didn’t cry out. “Good, good, good,” the other Stellas who also had the day off whispered and patted their hands together softly.

The male guards outside the room exchanged glances and small smiles. This gasping activity went on in the off-limits bedroom every night with a revolving group of recuperating women. The guards naturally assumed it was some sort of lesbianism, but it wasn’t; the whores were teaching each other to withstand pain.

Mars was being mined for its exotic minerals and elusive water. The current activity centered on a huge impact crater where the notorious red dust had been blasted away, exposing alien crust minerals and microscopic water. The minerals, often unidentified with utility unknown, were shipped to Earth as if they were gold. The water stayed on Mars to service the Mars Hotel.

A group of investors had put up the Mars Hotel, shielding it well from radiation, and establishing a supply trail between Mars and Earth. Since they didn’t know what ore they’d find, they fell back on the Old West. Potential miners could stake a claim based on the Prudent Man Rule, which had applied to prospectors and settlers as well as investors. Simply put, no man could be a pig and try to grab everything. A claim could only be as large as a prudent man could handle.

The men wanted sex. Kidnapped women who were free of disease started to arrive at the hotel, all renamed Stella, the Star Maids. Unlike the prospectors, who could leave at any time, the women were treated as a commodity and never saw home again. Babies were sent to Earth and sold. When women were eventually deemed unattractive, they were given a space suit, some water, and a few hours of head start into the tunnels. The man, always a man, making the kill could drink free in the bar for a month. Most of the guys considered it great sport.

The operation was the brainchild of a Mister Chan. Enamored with tales of the American West; he was especially drawn to the mining towns and the whores who serviced the men. Most were not high-class; the Chinese and natives being genuine slaves. Mister Chan had a sadistic streak to go with his other corruptions.

Should the little claims yield great wealth, the prospectors would be kicked out or killed, the investors hadn’t decided yet. In the meantime, the Mars operation mostly supported itself, and bestselling books were being written about the trials, tribulation, and romance of fictitious spouses.

Stella 132 rubbed her left kidney and looked out at the mining operation. She thought of her bewildered husband and small daughter back on Earth. She wondered if law enforcement had tried to solve her disappearance, or if they’d been bought. Great lies enabled the Mars Hotel. Powerful people demanded silence.

The truth always dug itself out, and Mars would be no exception. Her time to die would come, but she’d have an incredible pain tolerance and full knowledge of the tunnels. She was systematically and carefully picking the brain of every tipsy miner she serviced, and even knew where they left their tools. She knew of safe rooms with supplemental oxygen, water and food. She’d give those guys a run; she might even manage to kill a few, and she might last for several days. She hoped Mister Chan would be in residence and join the hunt; she’d focus on him for sure.

When the definitive history of the Mars Hotel was written, she wouldn’t be Stella 132, she’d be known by her real name. The residents of the solar system would talk about her forever.

 

 

 

Chuck wanted us to mash a couple of properties together. I got Star Wars and Handmaid’s Tale. Enjoy.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/06/07/flash-fiction-challenge-its-abc-meets-xyz/

 

 

 

 

 

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Siam

He used to sit by the back door and sing “ow.” He meant “out,” of course, but just couldn’t form the “t.” Cats are good at vowels, but they struggle with certain sharp consonants. As I sat on the arm of the couch, the singing analogy reminded me of high school choir, where we would warble vowels forever, and then spit out the consonants as if they were acid.

His elderly companion, a much abused calico, was glad to see him gone, but I missed the little rascal. Adopted at the same time, and nearly the same age, Siam and Marbles were far from littermates. Slightly larger initially, Marbles had beaten Siam up once, and he never forgot it; he made her life as miserable as possible, but it’s likely he would have done that anyway.

When I checked into the house during the day, as my friends traveled, I sometimes found cat scat behind large plants. “I think Marbles loses her potty training when you’re gone,” I remarked sympathetically.

“No,” the male owner assured me, “Siam hides and scares the shit out of Marbles.” That turned out to be the truth.

When I arrived unexpectedly one day, I found Siam blocking the doorway into the laundry room where the litter box was located. Marbles was some distance away and in misery. “I know what you’re doing,” I told Siam. He grinned in a feline manner and sauntered toward his food dish.

There were inappropriate times for a cat to be out in the neighborhood, because of released dogs, or roaming wild predators. Siam disregarded all of that. He would hide from me in the house, creeping close to the outside door I was using, and then run away when he saw an opening. One time, he followed the backs of my heels so closely, I had no idea he was there until I opened the door, and then he was out and gone.

He didn’t just torment humans, he tormented neighboring animals. Much smaller than the wild horses, he stayed away from them, but big, fat, pampered dogs were fair game. He would walk fence rails with a “nyah, nyah, nyah, you can’t get me” attitude. He would sniff disgustedly at certain dogs, knowing it unhinged them. As they sniffed back, through the restraining fence, he would dig in the flower beds of their house and relieve his bowels. Confined to the fenced yard, the dogs were reduced to sitting on their haunches and howling in frustration, which got them in trouble. Siam knew that. He especially liked jerking the chains of Rottweilers and a duo of Hellfire and Dalmatians.

Sometimes he would disappear when I was cat-and-house sitting, and he wouldn’t reappear for hours. Siamese cats tend to bond with one person, and he was primarily bonded to the female home owner. I was sort of liked, but below the wife and husband, and even the husband’s brothers. “She left me again!” Siam’s hurt and fury were obvious. He ran away for most of the day. Even though he made my life as a sitter difficult, I understood him completely. When he came back, like an orphaned child, we cuddled and I assured him I would be in-and-out until Mom reappeared. He believed me and he wasn’t disappointed.

I could never stay overnight, so my frequently traveling friends found a young woman to do just that. They were afraid of bloody nocturnal cat fights, and the fear was well-founded. Since most any human female reacts strongly to the cries of a baby, Siam took to walking around the house in the dark and imitating a crying human infant when the poor young woman was staying over. “I can’t sleep!” She wailed to me. Siam just smiled.

A male neighbor got sick of the smartass Siamese cat who was digging up his flower beds. Rather than make friends with Siam, which might have worked, he tried to catch him in a mink trap. Siam was never caught, of course, and never presented a target for a gun, but hard feelings ensued. Unable to do anything else, the neighbor, who knew the culprit wasn’t the homebody Marbles, nonetheless would scream at my friends, “Have you lost your Marbles again?!” when he saw them out in the yard. Pleased with himself, he would snicker and snort and wander to another part of his property. Altercations were limited to grumbling, and it was a good thing.

For all his tough cat behavior, Siam was more fragile than Marbles, and preceded her in death. She didn’t mind; when I came to visit, she had me all to herself. Oddly though, Siam didn’t seem to leave the house. I would often see a brown cat out of the corner of my eye, especially in a group of pictures. When I mentioned this curiosity to a mutual friend, a committed cat person, she affirmed my impressions. “The portrait cat sneakily gestured at everyone. Do you remember all the moving paintings from the Harry Potter books? Where do you think Rowling got the idea? An advanced spirit like Siam could certainly inhabit a painting and make his presence known.”

I would blow the whole thing off, were it not for the fact that a dead person once took over an Ouija board, and answered questions only I knew. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio…”

 

Chuck gave us five sentences, one of which we were to incorporate into a roughly 1000 word story.

  1. The shape fights the motionless ink.
  2. The portrait cat sneakily gestured at everyone.
  3. It walked inside the spaceship and then it sat down.
  4. When does the family document the thunder?
  5. The rough sex arrives by adhesive smoke.

I chose number 2.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/05/03/flash-fiction-challenge-five-random-sentences/#comments

 

 

 

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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

It was a blustery afternoon. Archie, named for the cartoon character his mother had lusted over as a girl, turned up the dimmed overhead lights slightly. He looked around his library, now called a man-cave by his wife, with appreciation. Although he did all his research on a computer, and most of his reading on a Kindle, he loved the ambiance of an early twentieth century library; shelves of books, a couple of globes, maps of the world, a Galileo thermometer, a Lionel train set inherited from his father, which he ran at least every week, all against a background of pine-green wallpaper. A rolling library ladder assisted in dusting, since the books were rarely moved. The library was on the second floor, of course, acknowledging Carnegie’s idea of elevation due to learning.

His older friend Dennis, the town undertaker, toyed absently with the stopper on the crystal decanter of single malt scotch. He sat on the other side of an antique Partners Desk. He sighed, “I suppose I should be getting back to the mortuary, but sitting here with you and drinking is so damned nice.”

“Stay. No one died today, and besides, you have an assistant and your wife helps.” Archie sat opposite him. “It’s nasty out there right now, but the storm may break later. If it doesn’t, we can share a pizza and keep drinking. If you don’t want to drive, you can sleep on the couch in here. I don’t think your wife will mind.” As if to underscore that thought, a blast of heavy rain washed away any residual Windex from the outside windowpanes.

“Oh, she never minds. She’s grateful for what I give her, and the permission to be a recluse, but what about your wife?”

“Nicole will probably kill a pound of shrimp and a bottle of Chardonnay in front of a movie, her idea of a perfect evening. Besides, she knows I don’t want to go into the living room and kitchen with all Mother’s flowers there, the fragrance is overwhelming.”

“They’ll be gone soon. They’re ephemeral but also ethereal. The florist did a good job, with some requests from my reclusive wife, will wonders never cease? She actually went to his shop! Nicole doesn’t mind all that fragrance?”

“Nope, she’d rather have the flowers in the house than my mother, and said so. She’ll never forgive Mom for squirreling around and blocking our marriage, I don’t believe the crap that woman invented! Now Nicole can’t have kids, and it’s a sore spot. Besides, the flowers look like something from a fairyland, Nicole’s favorite place. They go well with shrimp, Chardonnay, and a movie, I suppose.”

Dennis looked uneasy as he poured himself another two fingers of scotch. “I thought I’d just hand you this envelope and walk out, but I can’t.”

“An envelope?”

“It’s from your mother, and I know what’s in it since we wrote it together. It’s an answer to questions you never knew to ask.”

“That sounds mysterious, and you wrote it together?”

“We were sometime lovers, you know.”

“That doesn’t surprise me, I guessed as much. Not to be crude, but did you fuck in a casket?”

Dennis laughed, any uneasiness forgotten. “Not usually. She was a pretty young widow after Viet Nam, you can’t blame me. My own wife doesn’t want sex. The mortuary is a large building; plenty of women have found excuses to stop in.”

Archie refreshed his drink and leaned back. “This is more than you and some local ladies. What’s been going on?”

“You know who Nicole’s parents are?”

“Of course.”

“Not really, she was adopted. Her biological mother is my wife, and her biological father was your father, my wife’s brother.”

Archie was so astonished his eyes crossed. “I married my sister?”

Dennis leaned toward his younger friend and relative through marriage. “Small towns have many secrets. Dumb young husbands scratch their heads when that first kid comes so early. My wife was molested by her brother. She got pregnant. Her parents sent her to an aunt in the area, and then poured fury on their son. He hurriedly married your mother, got her pregnant, and went to Viet Nam where he died.

“Nicole was adopted by people in town, and my wife stayed out of her life, she didn’t even want to run into her. She married me and cut all outside ties. She hates sex, but understands me catting around, and doesn’t mind being an undertaker’s wife, a rarity, trust me.”

“Did my mother know about this?”

“Yes, your father confessed right away. She would see Nicole around town, but it was just another little girl. Then you and Nicole got interested in each other, and your mother knew she had to block it until Nicole was infertile, even if it meant the two of you hating her. My wife loved her. They exchanged cards all the time.”

“Oh, good God, if I’d only… You need a program to tell the players.”

“Would things have been better? I doubt it, and I know my wife would like to enjoy that Lionel train some Christmas. She was the one who made all those lovely fairytale trees and flowers.”

“She likes fairytale stuff, like Nicole does? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I suppose it’s wise not to deliver the train to my aunt myself?”

“I’ll take care of it. Do you still want to share a pizza, Nephew?”

“Sausage and mushroom OK, Uncle?”

“Perfect. Here’s the envelope, and I think it’s better if Nicole never sees it and upsets her adoptive parents. They didn’t tell. What’s the expression? ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’?”

 

I was kind of hoping to write about a friend’s Siamese and his mockery of dumb human sitters, but I’ll stay within Chuck’s perimeters using library, ethereal, undertaker, storm and envelope.

A Chuck Wendig Friday Flash Fiction:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/03/22/flash-fiction-challenge-ten-words-will-give-you-five/#comments

 

 

 

 

 

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Royal Families

Lady Serena placed her pillow against the shaft of the large column, sat down and leaned back; it was her favorite brooding spot; large marble pots on both sides and slightly forward held startlingly blue upright delphiniums and mounding white daisies. The servants had been around early, watering the flowers for the day, and no one was likely to disturb her solitude except for the occasional wolf pup sniffing everywhere and wanting scratches.

Lady Serena, and her older brother, Lord Storm, were the bastard children of the emperor and his first mistress. Their mother had been considered unsuitable for marriage, but she was allowed to rule the kitchen after the emperor joined with an acceptable empress from a neighboring island. The friction between the young empress and the older mistress was palpable, but the emperor demanded peace, after all, he’d loved the mistress and married the empress in a political arrangement; it was all proper and normal.

As the bastards of a ruler, Lord Storm could expect to become a general, if he demonstrated skill, and his sister would become the wife of a general, or possibly a governor. So, Lord Storm practiced his warfare, and Lady Serena practiced her grace in a secluded spot while she also thought of many things.

White Tip, one of the yearling wolf pups, bounded over to Lady Serena to have his neck scratched. She grinned and stroked the soft fur. As she did it, the young empress walked by, noting the love and care Lady Serena lavished on the empress’s pet.

When the empress and her servants were gone, White Tip went suddenly rigid, a crossbow bolt sticking out of his head; it had narrowly missed Lady Serena’s hand. The teenager jumped up and rushed around a marble flower pot. “What are you doing?!”

Lord Storm was peeking around a different column. “I’m practicing warfare.” He shot another bolt and Black Paw dropped.

“Who told you to do this?”

“Mother; the wolf pups are eating too much of our meat.” Another loud pop and Silver Belly rolled, howling.

“Stop right now! These are the empress’s pets!”

Lord Storm swung the crossbow at his sister, “Shut up or I’ll shoot you. The emperor will be fine with this; Mother promised me. The wolves are eating too much of our meat.”

Lady Serena rushed into the palace, dodging servants who were running and shouting, everyone seemed to know what was happening. She found her mother in the kitchen. “Stop him before he kills the last one!”

“I don’t think I can do that now.” Her mother’s sneer was wavering; could she have been mistaken in her manipulations?

“You’ve gone too far!” Lady Serena dashed up the stone stairway to her small suite, which the Emperor had chosen himself because it was warmed by a huge fireplace below. She threw herself on the bed and covered her head with a pillow, staying still, except for crying, as she heard the shouts of her brother and screams of her mother.

In the evening, one of her father’s advisers came in with the servant bringing her supper. “As you’ve probably guessed, your brother and mother are dead.”

“They were only wolves,” Lady Serena stared at the stone floor.

“The empress considered them her family since she doesn’t have children yet; we all know that. If Lord Storm would kill the pups, would he not also kill her children? If he was encouraged by his mother and thought he could get away with it? The empress made the emperor consider that possibility, and he couldn’t take a chance. Lord Storm’s blood lust and your mother’s hatred caused a miscalculation, and I’m sorry.”

“What will happen to me?”

“You’re still well-liked.” The advisor let the servant pass and leave the room. “You never conspired with your mother like your brother always did. You’re fifteen, and messages are already being prepared to send to other islands. The emperor will try very hard to make you part of a royal family.”

“One more question, if I may, will there be a funeral?”

“No. Eat your supper.” The old man closed the door gently.

 

 

 

One afternoon, when I was a kid, my older brother took it upon himself to hunt and shoot some of our dogs. This Friday Flash Fiction is based on that incident.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/02/15/flash-fiction-challenge-write-what-you-know/

 

Aka Darlene Underdahl

www.VermillionRoadPress.com

 

 

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The Pigeons

Mitch parked among the cars of the staff servicing an out-of-the-way Greek restaurant; they didn’t mind, it looked like more customers, and he ate there sometimes. The little shopping center was mostly vacant. He went to a door featuring a logo similar to the Maltese Falcon, but more lifelike, punched in a code and swiped his ID card. When he stepped inside, the door locked behind him with a different sound.

“What?” He pushed on the bar, but it wouldn’t give, he was locked inside with his cell still in his car as electronic protocol demanded. Well, no problem, the place had a land line. He’d call his boss.

Except it didn’t; the phone was gone. “What’s going on?” he questioned aloud. He wondered if there were tools he could use to take the locking mechanism apart, but there probably weren’t; his boss did all the maintenance. This was getting a little creepy; it seemed someone wanted him locked inside a virtual reality set.

A small company named Falcon Games had built the virtual reality set in an attempt to sell their patents to the gaming industry, but failed. As they were closing shop, his boss made a deal that required only small adjustments. Instead of running through city streets firing military weapons, an observer walked city streets watching pigeons; it had occurred to someone that city birds were feathered lab rats in regard to climate change, air pollution, noise, population density, food acceptance, all sorts of things that humans might face as resources dwindled.

The data collectors were eager school children on field trips downtown. The information was sent to Pigeons for the Future, a website developed by his boss, and funded by the government. Mitch’s job was to enter that data and watch virtual pigeons all day. Falcon Games took what was offered and disappeared, leaving someone’s sweatshirt with a realistic falcon on the back; it was rolled up under a table and never touched except by the curious Mitch.

Locked door or not, Mitch still had a shift to pull. His boss would come around about two and let him out.  He got the coffeemaker going and walked over to the computer; it was already running a program. He sat down and stared. That wasn’t New York, St. Louis or LA; it was Bodega Bay, California.

“What the hell?” He looked around; he wasn’t on city streets, he was in a restaurant, and a pigeon was coming right at him! Thinking it was an illusion, he didn’t duck, and its clawed feet drew blood on his right ear. He screamed.

The only physical furniture in the room was two chairs and two lightweight tables for the computer and coffeemaker. Mitch huddled below the computer as other aggressive pigeons hurled around the room at forty-miles-an-hour, their one-pound bodies solidly meaty and dangerous.

Bodega Bay was the setting of Hitchcock’s classic The Birds, he remembered, and he thought the main character was named Mitch as well. Who had done this? Oh, that was obvious.

In the beginning, there’d been a coworker, a certain Sadie. Although brilliant, she was shy and awkward. He got the notion that being the first man in her bed might be amusing; he hadn’t had any other virgin, which was for sure. His boss warned against the plan, but Mitch went ahead anyway, and then broke it off crudely when he discovered he couldn’t take her into social settings. She’d quit soon after, and he thought of it no more.

Until now; this had to be her handiwork. Living alone with her father on the edge of town, on some acres, a jack-of-all-trades like Dad, animals abounding, sure, she could have gotten some pigeons together; if you gave them a coop, they’d use it. “But they’re just harmless pigeons,” he thought, “she went to all this effort so I’d burn a shift and get nothing done?”

No, it wasn’t going to be that simple. The pigeons were on the floor, circling him. Instead of bobbing their heads and cooing, they flapped their wings and snapped their beaks; the claws on their red feet were formidable. He remembered Sadie saying her father had some warlike pigeons that could even chase jays away from the birdseed, check, these were those guys. And she must have trained them with his picture, using the coveted black oil sunflower seeds as a reward.

Well, hell, if they reacted to pictures, he had an idea. Making a big commotion to startle the flock, Mitch crawled under the coffeemaker table and slipped on the falcon sweatshirt. All day, he kicked at the ones in front and intimidated the ones in the back. By the time he heard his boss coming, he was exhausted.

“Don’t close the door; you’ll get locked in!” He sprinted past the other man, thirty multicolored pigeons flapping through the air and clawing at his hooded head. “I’ll call you from the car!” He had to unlock the door, and in the process got his right cheek clawed and scratches on his right hand. One pigeon was crushed as he closed the door, but he didn’t care.

“I don’t think you can prove anything,” Mitch spoke to his boss, cell to cell. The pigeons fluttered around his car, pecking and pooping, paying no attention to the other man. “I’m going to cover my face and see if they fly away. If I remember, though, Hitchcock’s movie was unresolved; the birds just sat there.”

After some time, that’s exactly what they did; returning to Sadie and sunflower seeds. Within a few days, he was only a hazy memory in their little birdbrains, but Mitch and Sadie remembered each other forever!

 

A roll of the virtual dice gave me a motif of birds (fine), a subgenre of mythpunk (gulp), and a setting of a virtual reality world (erm…), not my comfort zone, but I hope you like it. Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/01/25/flash-fiction-challenge-choose-your-motif/#comments

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The Bearded Lady

With a knitted beanie hat that covered all her dark hair, she could have been Ashton Kutcher’s shorter brother. Autumn had moved south from Canada, staining the hardwoods red, yellow and every color in-between. She walked a daily circuit through a semirural area, appraising and appreciating, and with shirt pockets stuffed with sundries; no one guessed that her sexual characteristics were mostly female. A black-and-white dog trotted happily and obediently by her side.

Some of the houses had been foreclosed and boarded against plunder, but at least one meth cooker and puppy mill existed, and no one seemed to bother them, since police resources were directed at an alarming trend in school shootings and misbehavior by young men with no future. The locals just thought she was a moderately handsome exercise stud and dismissed her.

Her “brother,” a dwarf and fellow carnie, found the daily walks too taxing, so he stayed in the apartment working on his Christmas Elf costumes. Those gigs helped finance their winter. Come spring, they would pack up, join the carnivals or Renaissance Fairs, and he would be a clown, trick dog handler, fortune teller, whatever was available. She would join the freaks as The Bearded Lady and work as a roustabout after hours.

Michele or Mitch, depending on the task of the moment, turned off the road and took a trail worn by her and Rover. She stopped at a neglected Koi pond in the back of a foreclosed house. The hungry fish were happy to see her and would eat anything she provided. Rover wagged his tail as she fed them day-old bread. Then the woman and dog returned to the inactive road.

Back at the apartment, Doug smiled as they came in. He and Michele weren’t married, but their relationship was intimate, in fact, they’d been briefly pregnant. The surprise pleased them, since it confirmed fertility, but then her body discarded the fetus, and they were secretly relieved. Both of them had been lonely outcasts who didn’t wish that on a child.

After dinner, the doorbell rang. They answered it as a trio. Standing in the light was a small gray creature in a tan trench coat.

“Alien abduction!” Those were the first words out of Doug’s mouth.

“You can’t have him!” Michele jumped in front of Doug.

The little gray being made a “tsk” sound and spoke understandable English. “Abduct one of you, a dwarf and a sufferer of hirsutism, no; you guys are as common as stardust. I’ve been commissioned to find that dog.”

“Rover?”

“He’s a Border collie born to a Pit bull mother. He’s an elaborate nocturnal experiment by my people. They sent me to find him.”

“Well,” Doug rubbed the back of his neck, which he could barely reach, “the puppy mill folks were a little confused about it all and put him up for sale. They thought a Border collie male had snuck into the yard. That’s why I called him Rover, for his roving father. I got him cheap.”

“Does he seem extra smart?” The little gray guy lifted his nonexistent eyebrows.

“Yeah, but that’s normal in Border collies.”

“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to take him away from you.”

“Please come in and let’s discuss this.” Michele opened the door wide, but when the little creature stepped inside, she hit him in the face so hard his neck snapped. “I have more male characteristics than just facial hair; try extra strength and household protection.”

“Ohmygod, Honey, we have a dead alien in the living room!” Doug continued to rub the back of his neck, but now HE was getting a little gray. “Is this murder?”

“No, he’s not a person, not really. He might be considered some sort of animal, but I guarantee he’s not listed as endangered or protected. Doug, I wasn’t going to let him take Rover for experiments!”

“I know, Honey, but wow! What’ll we do now?”

Michele stuffed Kleenex into the tiny nostrils so no strange liquid could leak. “I’ll put him in the Koi pond in the early morning when no one is around; there are lots of rocks to hold the body down, and it’ll freeze over soon anyway. The koi can nibble on him over the winter, if they’re so inclined. Doug, think about it, he’s not going to be a missing person! There won’t be any flyers!”

“His people…?”

“He was a commissioned alien detective in a little Columbo trench coat; who would have thought such things existed! I’ll bet the others don’t even know where the gumshoe smartass was going tonight. We’ll have to check him for tracking devices, of course, can’t let ET call home.”

“We have no choice.” Doug sat on a hassock. “We can’t let government scientists and journalists tear our life apart.”

“Someday that koi pond will be cleaned and his body found, but there’s nothing to link him to us unless he had a confidant, which I doubt, he seems like a renegade actor looking for a payday. Some alien was watching the puppy mill, saw a dwarf man buy Rover, and sent Columbo Junior to investigate.”

“If he could find us, others can.”

“If there are others like him, no one’s heard about them. We move before they realize he’s missing. Doug, we don’t have a choice. Our line of work lets us jump around without forwarding addresses. Other carnies will help protect us, especially from aliens. We’re not in violation of human laws. At the end of the day, Sweetheart, that’s the truth; he was trying to harm our family,” her pretty, misty eyes held his.

Behind them, Rover’s tail thumped the floor. Carnivals and Renaissance Fairs sounded far better than alien experiments; turkey legs!

 

 

This is a Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction. Chuck wanted us to use some sort of random generator for subgenre, conflict and “must feature.” I got an alien abduction, with a hidden body, and a side of carnival folk. Enjoy.

 

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/01/11/flash-fiction-challenge-the-wheel-part-two/#comments

 

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The Trashy Tampa Twins Triggered This Tale

She wasn’t pretty, but so belligerent and brassy Management always stepped back. She schemed determinedly for her church, but mostly for herself. The company was large; an opportunity. She brought church members into the Employees Only lunchroom and set up a used-clothing bazaar; it resembled a bad Salvation Army.

 

The men in the plating department endured hellish conditions. They slaved in heat and humidity over the etching tanks and tanks of copper, nickel, rhodium and gold suspended in electrified liquid. The lunchroom was their oasis. They stormed Human Resources en masse.

 

Management finally struck her down.

 

 

Chuck wanted us to keep it under one hundred words; I did, excluding the title.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/11/16/flash-fiction-challenge-100-word-stories/#comments

 

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Kick a Ginger

Lyn sat sipping coffee at the counter of Charlotte’s Café. He’d had French toast and sausages for breakfast and was very satisfied. To his left, George discussed studded snow tires versus chains with three other local men. Bill dropped onto a stool on Lyn’s right. “Can I talk to you, Lyndon?”

“Sure, what’s on your mind?” Lyn motioned for Katy to get Bill a cup of coffee.

Bill waited for the coffee, added sugar, and took a sip. He nodded his approval to Katy and then turned to his friend. “Last night was Halloween.”

“Oh. The kids didn’t damage your place, did they?”

“No, nothing like that; I live in the old, small part of town, you know, and the kids tend to hang around the suburban McMansions in the cul-de-sacs; better pickings for the effort.”

“So, what was the problem?”

“Right at dusk, my wife and I saw a blonde man go into the horse stable. We’d been watching for kids, we had a little candy, but no kids, just that guy. I thought he was up to no good; I’ve got a young mare in the stable, so I grabbed my shotgun and went to confront him.”

Lyn turned to fully look Bill in the face. He also motioned for more coffee.

Bill continued, “No one was in the stable. My mare was a little agitated, but nothing serious. Only one door opens into that old place, and he hadn’t come out. High up on the walls are some windows, but they don’t open, and nothing was broken, the cobwebs weren’t even disturbed.”

“Sounds like you’ve got a Halloween ghost story.”

“I was hoping you’d help me lift the planks in that old stable; see what’s under there. I’ll put the mare out into the pasture.”

“We’ll all come!” George and his three friends had given up on snow tires and fallen to rubbernecking Bill.

“I’ll come, too.” Katy jerked off her apron.

“Me too,” Charlotte hurried into the kitchen to tell the cook, Marie, to hold the fort for a while.

Soon everyone except the strangers in the McMansions was clustered around Bill’s old stable. Crowbars were applied, and the floor boards creaked upward for the first time in many years.

“A skeleton,” everyone crowded forward for a look, “nice teeth, must have been young.” Then they fell silent, just staring.

“Evil awakens,” one teenage girl finally exclaimed excitedly, “and just in time for Halloween, this is so cool.”

“Does that young man have blonde hair; can you tell?” The Crone Who Lived Alone had arrived. Most of the people had never seen her up close, so they stared, but she was very normal.

“I think there’s some blonde hair down there. The ghost I saw was blonde. Did you know the original family? This place changed hands a couple of times before I bought it.” Bill found his voice.

“The original family, no, I’m not that old,” her eyes sparkled with cunning, “it’s a Cain and Abel story; it’s an ancient curse.”

“What do you mean?” Lyn stepped forward. “Tell us everything.”

The old lady pressed her palms together, touching her nose as she thought. “A very nasty man and his wife moved into this house when she was pregnant. She gave birth to two boys, fraternal twins. One was blonde and the other a redhead. The man could never accept the redhead; he felt she’d had more sex partners than just him. Although they were officially named Charles and Andrew, he started calling them Cain and Abel, Cain being the redhead.

“The father thought he was very cute and funny. He would insist on making school lunches for the boys, and while Abel got an apple, Cain got a lemon. Abel’s tuna sandwich was made with good stuff, and Cain’s was made with cat food. He even mixed shit, erm, I mean poop, into Cain’s peanut butter. Oh, he thought he was clever, and Abel started joining in the torment of his twin. I think there was sexual abuse. They didn’t seem to notice that Cain was getting bigger than both of them.”

“Kick a Ginger…,” the teenage girl murmured, “some say Cain was a redhead.”

“Yes, they had that mentality. I tried to intervene with the mother, I threatened to call the police, but she was a scared little mouse, fearing more abuse. I guarantee she’d never cheated; redheads existed on both sides of the family, so Cain shouldn’t have been a surprise. The father was just an asshole, sorry.” The old lady shivered suddenly.

“Then what happened?” Charlotte put a warm arm around the thin, stooped shoulders.

“Halloween night, fifty years ago, there were all sorts of screams in that house. I stood on my porch, wondering if I should call the cops, but not really wanting to do that. Cain finally saw me, came out, and said he was playing scary records to frighten any trick-or-treaters. I didn’t believe him, so I just wished him well, and meant it! I turned off all my lights and didn’t peek out; I didn’t want to see what he was doing. We sort of had an understanding, Cain and I.”

“So, he killed his brother and buried him under the boards,” Lyn nodded, “sounds fair.”

“Oh, I think he did more than that. The mother became bolder and the father very repressed; they reversed roles. The father got heavy in the chest. I think Cain’s knife had struck below the belt, so to speak. They sold out and moved away. They didn’t tell me where.”

The old lady turned then, as if to return to her rickety old house. She looked at Lyn over her shoulder. “I didn’t like Abel, but the undertaker can put him in my family plot. He was my nephew. His mother and I were fraternal twins, as well. And Cain has a fifty-year head start.” She walked away lightly.

 

 

This was a Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Friday.

“It’s time for another game of aspects. Three categories — this time, a mix of Horror Subgenre, Conflict, Setting and Must Feature Ingredient. You know the drill…”

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/10/26/flash-fiction-challenge-game-of-aspects-halloweenie-edition/#comments

I chose Ghost Story, Evil Awakens, Small Town and an Ancient Curse.

 

 

 

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The Coyotes Were Here First

“How are you doing?” I asked Paul-Lynn. “I know you loved him a great deal.”

“I’m holding up,” she nodded, mostly to herself, “all we found was blood in the snow; there was no flesh, fur, nor collar. We think one lured him, and the others came out of hiding, attacking from behind. I blame Jake for insisting he be allowed to run free, even though I understand that. Terry was big, as Jack Russells go, but he was no match for a pack of coyotes; they hunt together all the time, they follow a familiar pattern, a rhythm, Terry just thought he was having fun chasing one of them.” She hugged herself, even though the winter kitchen was warm. “Jake is out with a rifle right now, his atonement, I suppose, but he won’t find anything. They’ll howl and laugh at us through the windows tonight.”

When Paul-Lynn left, with fresh chocolate chip and walnut cookies for herself and Jake, to soften the inevitable evening anger, I set about cleaning the kitchen and thinking.

My father had been a reluctant and poor farmer, but a rich storyteller. “People talk about foxes being clever,” Dad had reminisced many times, “but they’re stupid compared to coyotes. Don’t ever underestimate a coyote.”

I hadn’t. When men, always men, went out of their way to chide me for walking my little dog on a leash (“Let him ruuunnn!”), I would curtly mention large predators, then angle cross-country so they couldn’t follow me with their cars. I never lost a dog to other animals.

A week after Terry’s death, I looked out the window to see Jake hiking up to my house with a huge Irish wolfhound. I quickly drained the dishwater, wiped my hands, and hurried outside. I’m very average in size, but when the wolfhound put his paws on my shoulders, the better to sniff the part in my hair, he towered above me. “Jake! When did you get him? What’s his name?”

Jake was grinning so hard his face might split. “Frank, and three days ago; I had to drive a few hundred miles to pick him up. He’s papered but not a show dog, and he cost more than I wanted to spend, but I took him out hiking yesterday, and he got two of the bastards.”

“They went after something this big?”

“A novice revenges the rhythm. Yeah, I’m sure his size gave them pause, but they’re so used to winning using their little pattern, that shitty little rhythm they play, that they gave it a shot. And he’s hardly more than a puppy, a beginner, what would he know? They played right into my hands, the bastards. Frank’s a wolfhound; a sight hound; killing their kind is bred into him. Oh, they had their little trick set up with the right wind direction, all that, but he saw the two hiding in ambush as he ran between them. When they attacked, he whipped around. He crushed the female’s skull with one bite and then tore out the male’s throat.” Jake was nearly dancing with joy. “That other one took off like a sonofabitch.” Jake knew I’d worked with men for many years and cussing didn’t bother me.

“Will you do more of this?”

“Oh, yeah, we’re going to find their dens!”

“Um, Jake, a mother coyote will fight viciously for her pups. She won’t kill Frank, but she might hurt his eyes.”

“So, I’ll fill the den with lead before I send Frank in.” They walked away then, both males in high spirits; the new winners.

I sat down with a thump. I stretched out my legs. I didn’t really blame Jake, we were all a bunch of predators, after all, and predators kill any way they can; God’s will or something like that. The history of the world is a long tale of stronger things wiping out weaker things, and not caring at all.

Should we be better than that? The coyotes were here first.

 

 

 

This is a Chuck Wendig Friday Flash Fiction. He wanted us to use the phrase “a novice revenges the rhythm” somewhere in the story. All the dog talk got me thinking about dogs, and my mind wanted to stay there, so I tried to work it out.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/09/21/flash-fiction-challenge-a-novice-revenges-the-rhythm/#comments

 

 

 

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A Pale Revenge

Moira bungee-strapped the gallon jug of strange liquid securely in her trunk; no way was that going to spill! She carefully secured the plant as well, and added the new shovel. Then she positioned her suitcase for easy retrieval and slammed the trunk, it was one week past Memorial Day; the plant should blend nicely with others in the graveyard. An unusually tough species, the plant would survive three days in her trunk with no problems. The gallon of liquid would get even nastier, and she counted on that.

Pretty Alana with DS; born when their mother was too old for childbearing. How they’d worked with her! Her father had given many weekends to therapy sessions so the mother could catch a break; catch up on laundry, catch up on housework, and not have to watch the active child every second. Moira had given up a lot of social life since her peers didn’t want a “retarded” younger sister around. The three family members had sacrificed grudgingly at times, but always with love.

Moira swung into a fast food drive through for coffee and a breakfast sandwich, a rarity for her. She stretched like a cat after discarding the wrapping, noticed construction guys ogling her well-maintained body, and didn’t care. Erotica was of little interest right now. She fired up the car and took off again.

Alana had done respectably in school; even mainstreamed. Then the monster Amanda pretended to be her friend and lured her into a warehouse where three men were waiting. A rape and snuff film to finance the losers for a few months; they had no skills, the police proposed. The men weren’t identified, but Amanda was, and got off. Amanda’s parents were prominent, and Alana was sixteen; she should have known to stay away from the warehouse. Moira wiped away the star-causing tears. She would need a motel tonight.

On the early afternoon of the third day, Moira turned into the graveyard of Amanda’s family, surrounded by their freshly sown prized sunflower fields. She went to Amanda’s recent grave, tore out the Memorial Day flowers, and got busy planting the Tall Whitetop, a noxious alien weed from the West. It could spread thoroughly among the sunflowers before anyone noticed and brought in an expert.

She was retrieving her jug of strange liquid from the trunk, when a lonely old man stopped by. He went up to her immediately. “Did you know Amanda?”

“Yes, I did.” Moira didn’t like the interruption, and the man was probably a relative, but she’d invested too much for her plan to fail. “Were you her grandfather?”

“I was a great-uncle. Wasn’t it tragic; t-boned like that and killed?”

“I heard she was texting and ran a red light,” Moira reminded him gently.

“Kids, they make mistakes, I was no better. I’m surprised I survived my childhood.” He looked at the Tall Whitetop quizzically. “I don’t recognize that type of plant; it’s got pretty little flowers, though.”

“I don’t know what it is either,” Moira lied, “I got it because it’s pretty.”

“What’s that you’re using for watering? It smells like a bathroom.” The old guy wrinkled his nose.

Moira thought fast, “Red tomato fertilizer mixed in clam juice; you know how fishy stuff will smell like a toilet? It’s been in my trunk a couple of days, I got it from my mother, she swears by it.”

“Yeah, plants do seem to like the stinky stuff. I didn’t catch your name?”

“Judy Anderson”; there must be thousands in this part of the country, she thought, older than me, but he won’t notice.

“Well, you take care, Judy; I’d better get on with my walk, my wife’s afraid I’ll wander too far afield. A field, get it?” He chuckled happily at his little impromptu joke and meandered through the old brick gate.

Moira watched him go; not a bad sort, and it made sense for family to protect their own. Unless the Tall Whitetop spread thoroughly, this silvery plant was a pale revenge. But she had to do something, make some gesture of her hatred for Amanda, before she could start to forget and move her neglected life forward.

Moira poured the rest of the liquid around the base of the plant. Urine captured while she was menstruating, shaken and stored in the sun for two weeks. She was pissing on Amanda’s fresh grave and bleeding out her pain at the same time. The plant would love it. She hoped the legendarily invasive roots would penetrate the vault and coffin, draw sustenance as they followed the circulatory system, and feed the plant top well enough to throw seeds all over the precious sunflower field. She doubted embalming fluid would faze Tall Whitetop.

Not a normal litterer, Moira nonetheless threw the jug over the fence, picked up her shovel and walked to her car; there was yet time to visit another graveyard and pay her respects.

 

 

This is a Chuck Wendig Friday Flash Fiction. He told us to choose one word from three columns. You’ll find them here:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/09/07/flash-fiction-challenge-a-game-of-aspects/#comments

 

I chose erotica/graveyard/revenge.

 

 

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