Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 48: All in Good Time...

The prompt this week was as follows:

‘You’ve met someone you’re crazy about, but he/she sees you as nothing more than an acquaintance. You mention your crush to a friend, who tells you there’s a simple solution to your problem. All it would take is one visit to the old woman who lives at the north end of town. Tell her what you want, she’ll cast a spell, and your wish for love will come true. Your friend used her ‘services’ and the spell worked perfectly.

You’re not a believer in all that hocus pocus nonsense, but decide to give it a try anyway. After all, what can it hurt?’

The prompt was to write a story about casting a love spell, and the genre was horror.

Patience really is a virtue; although, some folks learn that the hard way.

All in Good Time…

“Cass, I’m so glad you were able to get away for lunch today so we could talk. I really need some advice. I’ll try not to keep you too long so you won’t get in trouble. I know you only have a half hour.”

“Deb, I’m a District Manager now. I don’t have to punch a timeclock anymore.”

“That’s right, I forgot. I don’t think I ever congratulated you on your promotion. You deserved it though. It took them way too long to replace that clown that used to be your boss. What did they do with him? Is he a Vice President now?”

“Didn’t I tell you? One morning, he got up from his desk, walked out, and no one has seen or heard from him since.”

“That’s weird, Cass. Was the job just too much for him?”

“Oh no, Deb. If I told you what I did, you’d never believe me.”

“Cass, my God, you didn’t sleep…”

“With one of the VP’s? No way, Deb. I love my husband way too much to do anything like that. Remind me to tell you how easy it was to make all that happen. Enough about me though. Tell me about your problem.”

“Well, this new guy started in the Sales Department a couple of months ago, and I’ve been throwing myself at him since day one. He’s nice and smart and charming, but no matter what I do, he just looks right past me.”

“Why don’t you ask him out for a drink?”

“I have, Cass, and he always says that would be great, and then invites the rest of the department to meet up at McGill’s. It’s like we’re buddies and I’m just one of the guys.”

“Are you sure he doesn’t already have a girlfriend?”

“I know he doesn’t because after he’d been there a week, he asked Sarah, who works the switchboard, to go out that Friday night. I know they’ve gone out every week since then because on Monday mornings, we all hear about it from her. She and I are the same age, and I’m a hundred times prettier than she ever could be. I know I sound like a petty jealous bitch, Cass, but just once, why can’t I get the nice guy?”

“Deb, I can help you. Do you know where Monmouth Road is?”

“Monmouth Road? Sure. It’s that road off Highway 12 that leads into Cooper’s Woods. But, how does that…”

“At the end of Monmouth, there’s a house. An old woman lives there with her son. Deb, I promise you, she’s got powers. I paid her to put a spell on my boss to make him walk out and disappear, and then on the same day, I would get his job. I wasn’t even up for that position, but you see how it turned out.”

“Cass, you did say ‘a spell’?”

“That’s exactly what I said. You give this woman fifty dollars and tell her what you want. It’s spooky, but she’ll already know most of it before you even say a word. When the stars align, or some crap like that, she’ll cast a spell, and you’ll have what you want. One visit is all it takes. Go between 10pm and midnight. Deb, her spells really work. She was recommended to me by some people I work with. You have no idea what she has done for them. It’s all real. I promise you.”

Cass and I have been friends since first grade and she’s always been the level-headed one. She’s never said or done anything to make me not trust her. But, a woman with the power to put spells on people? Well, what I’ve been doing isn’t working at all. What can it hurt?

***

I got there around 10:15, and only the front porch light was on. I knocked on the door. A man answered – the old lady’s son, I assumed, and he told me to go into the first room on the right. The room was dimly lit, and an old woman sat at one end of a couch. She motioned for me to sit down at the other end.

“What is it you need?” she asked.

“There’s a man that I want to like me.”

Wait. Like? No way. If there’s going to be some magic done here, I might as well go all the way.

“I take that back. I want him to love me. He’s…”

“I know of whom you speak. He works where you do and his name is Todd. You have tried unsuccessfully for some time to attract this man, but he sees you only as an acquaintance.”

How…? Of course. Cass. She got to her and told her all about him. But, I never told Cass his name.

“Yes,” I said. “I need a spell to make him love only me forever.”

“Of course,” she responded. “You will place your donation in the box on the table by the front door and leave. Before long, you will have the love you desire.”

Donation? So, that’s what it’s called. Well, I can’t be any worse off than I was before, so what the Hell?

***

This was too much. Thanks a lot, my dearest friend. You had me believing there was something to all this hocus pocus. Just be patient, you said. The old woman will make it all right, you said. It’s been almost a month and nothing has changed even a little bit. Well, I hope you all had a good laugh at my expense. One more visit to that old hag was definitely in the cards.

This time, I didn’t bother to knock. I found her in that same room on that same couch, only this time, she was waving what looked like dead flowers in the air and mumbling something I couldn’t understand. I wondered for whose benefit this show was being put on.

“You phony old crow. You and my good friend had me convinced this spell crap was for real. You know what happened at work this morning? Todd announced his engagement to Sarah, the little tramp who answers our office phones. He’s known her for less than three months. You can take your spells and…”

“He will forsake the other. I am now saying the words, and tomorrow, he will love only you. The time had to be right to say…”

“I’m done being played for a fool. I’m taking my money back.”

“Careful child,” she said, pointing a shriveled finger in my direction. “Do not disrespect my powers or you will…”

I don’t know what came over me, but I slapped her as hard as I could. She fell onto the floor and began making the most horrible sounds. I hoped I didn’t seriously injure her. This whole situation has turned me into a monster.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.” I felt sick. “It’s just that I’m so upset and…”

I reached down to help her back up onto the couch, but something was very wrong. What was happening? I was filled with a deep pain. My face felt as if it was going to explode. I put my hands on my face and its shape was changing. Hands? What am I saying? They were turning into claws, as were my feet, and were covered with fur. I ran to the mirror I had seen by the front door. My God. My ears were large, my eyes were turning into small slits, and I had the elongated snout of an animal. My arms and legs were also now covered with fur, and were becoming longer and very muscular.

“What are you doing to me?” I could barely get the words out.

“You will find love now,” she said. “The only love you deserve. The love of such as yourself. The love of the beast. Be gone.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…please don’t do this…please…I…”

Her son came at me swinging a baseball bat, yelling at me to get out and never come back. I tried to run, but I could feel myself being pulled down to all fours. The pain was very strong now. I could feel my teeth, and the talons on my hands and feet, growing longer and sharper. A tail now swung behind me. The transformation was complete. I had become a hideous creature, cursed to live out my life in the woods, killing what I could find to survive.

I could still think and I could still reason, and I will always remember who, and what, I had been, and what I have now become and will forever remain. I ran and ran deeper into the woods, howling from the pain. No matter how far I got from the old woman’s house, I could still hear her and her son laughing. I know I always will.

I’m so sorry. Truly. Sorry. God, please help me…

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 47: Safe

This week, the prompt was to write a story about a blind date, with a genre of romance. It was as follows:

“You haven’t been active socially following a breakup months ago. A friend decided you’ve been on the shelf for far too long, and arranges for you to go on a blind date. Your friend tells you nothing about the person except where to meet, and you are given a code word to use for purposes of recognition. It’s all a bit cloak and dagger for your liking, but you know you’ll never hear the end of it if you don’t go, so you agree.

It’s hard to anticipate how a blind date will turn out. We want you to tell us all about yours.”

Please enjoy.

SAFE

My name is Bea. Yeah, I know. It’s a name that’s a blast from the past, but my mother never fully acclimated to the 20th century, and that name was quite popular in her day. My point is, what was popular in her generation, she visited upon me each and every day; that is, until a few years ago, when she forgot who I was. But, that’s another story best left for another day. To close the issue on mom for you, she’s in good hands, well cared for, and always has a smile on her face. Now, back to me.

I’m a jerk magnet. If a good-looking guy sits next to me, I shamelessly throw myself at him. He gets my number and does call me and asks me out on a date. You didn’t see that coming, did you. I’m no one-night stand though; I want to make that clear up front. Anyway, he does call and I’m wined, dined, and smothered with charm. Before the end of the evening, I could easily see myself falling head over heels in love, but I don’t push it. We say goodnight, and he promises to call again, which he does.

This goes on for a few weeks and I’m told we’re going to be exclusive. What they all forget to mention is that the exclusive clause is totally one-sided. I’m expected to sit home and wait for my lord and master to call while he hooks up with anything in a skirt. How I find out is that he accidentally, or deliberately – I’m not sure, sends me suggestive texts asking me for suggestive photos, addressing these fairly lewd transmissions to someone other than me. Sometimes it’s Lucy, other times, it’s Suzanna – you get my drift. When I bring up the subject, first I’m told I’m too clingy, then I’m summarily dumped. Is it my fault? Maybe, but that’s my life; or at least it was until a few months ago when I decided to throw in the towel and give up on finding somebody to share my life with. My friend, Sally, however, refused to let me die miserable and alone.

Sally and I have been best friends since First Grade and she’s always gone her own way and I mine, until now. She’s been married to a nice guy for 11 years and they have two beautiful kids. Her life is secure and safe – her words, and that’s how it should be for all, including me. I’m too reckless – again, her words, and I need to find someone safe and settle down. Can you guess where this is going? She knows the perfect somebody for me and has arranged a blind date.

She won’t tell me anything about him, except that he is normal and safe. To give this meeting a touch of excitement though, she told me to meet him in front of the fountain at the mall and when I approach him, I’m to say ‘Rosebud’. She’s never seen Citizen Kane, but thought the idea behind the mysterious word might pique my interest. I asked how I was to know who to approach, and she told me after I say ‘Rosebud’, if he responds with ‘Ah, yes. Rosebud’, then, we should let nature take its course. He’s quiet and shy, but stable and you guessed it, safe. Since I’ve yet to figure out how to say ‘no’ to Sally and have it stick, I reluctantly agreed.

How bad could a safe life be? Every day, Sally’s family gets up, she makes breakfast, puts the kids on the school bus, and hubby goes to work. She cleans, does laundry, watches soaps, and helps the kiddies with their homework. In the evening, they sit down to supper, play a board game, put the kids to bed at nine, watch the ten o’clock news, have a cup of hot cocoa, and turn in. She’s described her life to me many times, glowing all the while. The thought of it makes me feel a bit nauseated, but it’s a step up from the migraines I get from the jerks, so what the Hell?

***

I went to the Mall for lunch the next afternoon and arrived at the fountain at exactly one o’clock. There were two men standing there, both looking around. One was a few inches shorter than me and the other much taller. The shorter one looked middle-aged, was a bit overweight, and looked terrified. He had to be married, waiting for his wife to finish her shopping. He had that look. The other one was well dressed and fit, had dark hair, dark eyes, and a killer smile. I approached the dreamboat and said, “Rosebud”. He leaned down to me, and with his peppermint scented breath replied, “Ah, yes. Rosebud”. I owe you, Sally. I owe you big time.

We spent the rest of the day together. We went on a carriage ride through the park, and he invited me to have cocktails and dinner with him in his penthouse. It was absolute Heaven. He was the perfect gentleman, and took me home after dinner. He asked me if I would be up for more of the same tomorrow. Was he kidding? I couldn’t wait to tell Sally all about it in the morning. Turns out, I should have waited.

“What’s going on, Bea? Stanley said you never showed up. My God. Who did you go with?” Sally was frantic.

Stanley? Oh dear. My new guy’s name was Winston.

“What does Stanley look like, Sal?” I knew the answer before I asked the question.

“Well,” she said, “he’s a bit shorter than you, a tad overweight, and always has a frightened look on his face.”

“But,” I was getting a bit frantic myself, “when I said the code word, this other guy responded just like you said he would.”

“An awful coincidence,” she said. “Don’t go near this man again. He’s probably a serial killer.”

I doubted that, although they are reported to be lookers and charming. I decided to keep tonight’s date and clear the air about how we met. If he was a psycho, at least I’d be found dead in a penthouse.

***

Winston picked me up right on time that evening. Sally watched through her balcony window with binoculars planning to jot down the license number in case I mysteriously vanished. Sitting in the back of his limo, I decided to ask him about the ‘Rosebud’ thing. I figured if he tried to strangle me in the car, I could always throw myself out the door onto the curb. Hey. It works in the movies.

“Winston,” I said, “I was wondering. When I walked up to you by the fountain and said ‘Rosebud’, why did you respond the way you did?”

“For one thing,” he said, “Citizen Kane’s one of my favorite films. Too, I thought what a great pickup line that was. I’ve never had a woman come on to me quite like you did.”

Oh my God. It was just a coincidence. But since his hands were occupied with pouring champagne into chilled glasses for both of us and not fixed firmly around my neck, I thought c’est la vie. Onward and upward. Winston told me he had a very special evening planned. He said he felt a connection to me and knew we had a promising future together.

When we arrived at his penthouse, he took me over to the hot tub. I counted six women already in there - naked. Excuse me?

“This will be great, Bea. Remove your clothes and join the ladies. I’ve got cameras set up all around the room. I don’t want to miss anything. Our last film brought in close to $10,000.00. You’ll all be nice and friendly with our new star, Bea, won’t you?”

***

I’m meeting Stanley by the counter at Woolworth’s. I’m so looking forward to fixing supper, tucking the kids in, watching the ten o’clock news, and brewing a couple of cups of hot cocoa.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 46: At The Drop of a Dime

The prompt this week was to write a detective story. I hope you enjoy.

AT THE DROP OF A DIME

Two packs of smokes and a bottle of hooch. My pay for a job well done. Fine by me, sure, but I do believe Betts will blow sky high. Three weeks’ tailing a dame, watching her smooching up her husband Richie’s best friend, giving the husband proof she’s playing him for a sucker, he decides to forget the mess and takes her back. Most days I wonder why I bother getting out of bed, and today was sure no exception. Betts will be back soon and I have to come up with a plan on how to break it to her. Wait. Let me explain Betts to you so you get my drift.

My name’s Mo. Mo Pollniak. I was christened Maurice, but nobody’s allowed to use that on me. Okay, so it was alright for Ma and the nuns down at The Virgin Mary of the Sacred Woods School, but that’s it. My Pop got runned down by a beer truck one Saturday morning when I was 2, so I don’t really remember what he used on me. But Ma worked on the line over at the bicycle factory right up till the day she died so I’d be able to eat and go to parochial, so it all worked out.

I’m a PI, in case you were wondering, and I’ve been doing this near to 30 years now. I never eat breakfast, I shave at least once a week, I hang my one suit out on the fire escape to air out, and the Chinese lady down the hall washes and irons my shirts out of pity since she thinks that I’m broke and a real loser. Smart lady. Now let’s get back to Betts.

I first opened my business in an abandoned storefront, and just hung a handmade sign in the window that said ‘Mo Pollniak-Investigations‘; you know, all classy like, and she walked in. Said her name was Betsy Malone, but if I ever didn’t call her just Betts, she’d break my arm. Her man had went out for a shot and a beer three weeks ago, and hasn’t been home since. She needed a job, this was close enough to walk to so she wouldn’t need carfare, she’d work cheap and she made the best sandwiches in the State. She started that afternoon. The best thing about Betts is when a job gets done, she makes sure we get paid. Not sure what I’m going to tell her about our latest though. Gotta think…

When she got back from lunch, slammed the door, and threw a bag with two roast beef on rye and a cream soda on my desk, I wondered how she found out about Richie. Was I ever barking up the wrong alley…

“I knew it. She told me he was going to kill her and now she’s dead. The cops are wandering around in circles as usual and he’s going to get away with it just like she said he would. Mo? You’ve got to do something!”

I asked her if I could eat my sandwiches while she told me the story, and once the drop-dead look in her eyes passed, I took that as a yes.

On her way back to the office, she passed this town’s only hotel, cops all over it. Betts’ friend, one of the maids, was outside, and told her a man named Howard Marshand had found his wife, Suzanne, strangled in their room.

“What the hell was Suzanne doing here in a hotel anyway?” Betts was boiling mad. “She and I went to St. Mary’s together and her Daddy had some money and when he died, he left her the house and enough cash to get by. I hated it when she married that Marshand character. He’s low-life scum that just lived off her all these years. He’s a lying bum, and the last time I talked to her about 2 months ago, she said she knew he was planning to get rid of her. He had some floozy on the side and wanted the house and the cash. Mo, I’ve never asked you to get involved in my business, but I am this time. I can’t prove it, but I know he killed her. Please?”

First ‘please’ in 30 years. How could I say no?

I got the scoop from one of the uniforms at the scene. The happy couple had booked the weekend to spark their fire, but got into it over something, and he left to spend the night with his part-time gal. Real classy gent. When he got back to the room this afternoon, the poor kid was on the floor with a scarf knotted around her neck. She had an ugly gash in the back of her head too and the desk had blood on a corner. Somebody wanted her real dead.

I went up to the room to have a look-see and my old pal, Lt. Dave Hastings, was finishing up.

“What do you want here, Pollniak? A real crime happened in here.”

I knew he’d be thrilled to see me.

“Just looking around, Dave,” I said. “Can’t hurt to have an extra set of eyes on it, right? Who’s the broad he spent the night with anyway? She alibi him?”

I could tell he wasn’t in a very cooperative mood.

“Not that it’s any of your beeswax, Mo, but her name’s Molly something, and she lives in those rooms in Riverdale. She gave a statement that Marshand ate dinner over there, played some canasta, and he stayed the night, like they were some regular Dick and Jane. End of story. Let her be, okay? This time, the husband didn’t do it so we gotta start looking somewhere else. Now, beat it, huh? Doc will be here soon to get her out of here.”

For some reason, I didn’t feel quite as good about Molly something’s word as Dave did. I figured it was about time I stuck my nose in where it didn’t belong.

* * * * * * * * * *

A week later, Betts comes in, smiling ear to ear.

“It’s over, Mo. It’s all in this morning’s paper. That son-of-a-bitch confessed and the cops were right there listening. They had it all set up. She got him over to her place and told him she wanted him to take his clothes and scram. She said she knew that he had murdered his wife while he was wearing his brown jacket because she found out what happened to the missing button. He said he didn’t know anything about a damn button, and besides, he had been wearing his blue jacket when he killed her--not the brown one--and she’d better clam up about it or she’d get hers. Well, the cops came out and arrested him right then. Can you believe it?”

Uh-huh. I sure could. All it took to shake his little gal up was a quick phone call one night, letting her know she shouldn’t alibi a murderer since the cops were planning to arrest her too unless she came clean. See, they found the button. When he was choking his wife’s lights out, she pulled a button off his jacket and they found it clenched in her cold dead hand. Molly put the phone down to check the closet, and mumbled something that sounded like ‘lying bastard’ before she hung up.

There wasn’t actually a button found, you know. A wife, she isn’t going to let her man leave the house with a button missing, but a girlfriend? A man doesn’t spend time with a girl like Molly because of her abilities as a seamstress. I knew there had to be at least one button missing from something he stashed at her place.

Betts handed me three roast beefs on rye and two cream sodas. There was a pickle in wax paper and a napkin too. Out loud ‘Thanks’ and ‘You’re Welcome’ would have been sappy and were already understood. I was ready to chow down and grabbed at that pickle when Betts said “By the way, Mo. Did Richie ever stop by to pay us for trailing after that cheating tramp of his?”

Uh-oh…

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 45: Independence Day

The prompt this week was to write a story about Independence Day in a fantasy world. Independence is something that can never be taken for granted, even in a world of magic.

Independence Day

I was so involved with the preparations for our Independence Day anniversary celebration that I didn’t hear Lunalee’s frantic cries. While we are both fairies, we differ greatly in stature. I am the size of one of those creatures called humans who live on the other side of the Wall of Dreams while Lunalee is only a couple of inches tall. Still, if she insists on being heard, her voice can carry even further than mine. At first, I thought she was excited about the upcoming party, but the closer she flew to me, I could see panic on her face and tears in her eyes.

“They’ve taken her! They’ve captured my sister! I know they will kill her! Help me, Mondra!”

“Lunalee, come to me. Land here on the table and tell me what’s wrong. You must calm yourself. You look so pale. Who has taken Melnalee?”

Lunalee floated gently down to the banquet table. I sat down in the chair in front of her. She could barely catch her breath.

“The trolls,” she said. “The ones who dwell in the caves across from the Lake of Fire. Melnalee and I were having a leisurely fly and decided to say hello to the dragons as they sunned themselves. I landed and was passing the time with some of the babies - they are so adorable, when Melnalee said she noticed something unusual and flew on toward the caves, but she did not cross the border into the trolls’ territory. I heard her scream and when I looked up, I saw one of the large trolls, who had trespassed on our land, cover her with a net, pull her down and head back to the caves. He was laughing.”

I was horrified. Ever since the treaty was signed, no trolls have never violated any of the terms. They have faithfully remained in the land to the East as had been agreed upon by their elders. The Land of Caves belonged solely to them and the open fields to the West of the Lake of Fire belonged to all others. We’ve all lived in peace within our own communities and were getting ready to celebrate our freedom from the oppression of the trolls and the ruin their tyranny brought upon us. Why would they violate the treaty now – today?

“Lunalee, you must come with me to see Ordranal. You must tell him what happened. Crossing the border into our territory and kidnapping Melnalee was an act of war. I don’t know why they would commit such a reckless act, especially on this, the 100th anniversary of the end of the 1,000 year war. Today is Independence Day, and we have our friends coming to celebrate from all over our land. All the fairies, large and small, the unicorns, elves, and even the gnomes plan to attend the festival. Come. Let’s hurry. Melnalee is in danger.”

#####

“This is such sad and dark news,” Ordranal said. His fear covered him like a shroud. “We must find out what they are planning. We cannot hope to fight them without the support of the dragons, you know. After the war, the dragons opted to remain neutral. They have kept to themselves all these years and I doubt we could convince them to join our cause. They are safe and content in their land by the Lake of Fire. It would matter not to them who triumphed in a battle between us and the trolls.”

“How can we find out if this is a random act or if they plan to try to enslave us yet again?” Unfortunately, I already knew the answer to my question.

“We have to send someone to look and listen,” Ordranal confirmed what I feared. It would involve sending one of our own on a very dangerous and life-threatening mission.

“I will go,” Lunalee said. “They took my sister. I’ll make sure they don’t see me. I’ll find out what they’re planning and try to find out if my sister is still alive. Please let me do this.”

“All right, Lunalee. Go, and find out what the trolls are up to. For now, our Independence Day celebration will go on as planned since our friends have begun to arrive. Say nothing to any of them, Mondra. We don’t want to cause a panic. They will all know soon enough what horrors may come.”

I agreed to put on a brave face, greet our friends, and wait for Lunalee to report back. I prayed for her safe return.

#####

“Their ruler who signed the treaty is weak and dying," Lunalee stated. "His son has recruited many of their young and has convinced them to rise up against us. He is not content with the Land of the Caves. He wants for all to do the trolls' bidding as it had been long ago. He has declared the treaty worthless, and is prepared to wage war. He claims to have the dragons on his side. What can we do? All is lost and my sister is dead. He murdered her himself.”

“He murdered Melnalee?” I could feel my heart breaking. “No. All is not lost. Ordranal, I know how to convince the dragons to fight with us. I know it is taboo, but we must invite their leader into the Sacred Hall and permit him to view the Orb of Time. Let him look back into our world when the trolls ruled all. Let him see the death and destruction. Let him see how the dragons were imprisoned and abused, and then let him go back to his own kind and tell them what he has seen. The dragons will then know it is right to join with us as we again fight for our freedom.”

“You are right. There is no other way, Mondra.” Ordranal’s eyes filled with tears as he continued. “We will celebrate our independence today as planned. Tomorrow, we will bring the Dragon Elder to the Sacred Hall, and pray its desecration will be forgiven.”

“I will gather our soldiers following the festival,” I said. “Our troops will then retrieve the weapons long taken out of service and even longer forgotten. We will await your orders Ordranal, once you have an answer from the Dragon’s Elders, and with, or without their support, we will again defend our independence from those who would oppress us.”

“I want to go, Mondra,” Lunalee said, as she wrapped her wings lovingly around my face.

“No, sweet one,” I responded. “Let those of us who are trained go to the fight. We will avenge the cruel death of your sister and once again, battle for the freedom of all who reside here. Today, let us join our neighbors and celebrate 100 years of friendship, love, and all the wondrous magic that fills our daily lives. Tomorrow, we will march proud and strong. Lunalee, come sit next to me at the banquet table. Ordranal, please lead the toast. Let us wish all a Happy Independence Day.”


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 44: Family Secrets

The prompt this week was to write a story that began with one of the following sentences, and the genre was paranormal. The choices were:

1.      1. I wondered why that particular closet door had been nailed shut.
2.      2. They would never believe it had been her fault.
3.      3. He had to find a way to stop them from demolishing the house.
4.      4. She knew she had to find the necklace.
5.      5. The box was left at the front door, and had no return address.

I chose Sentence #1. I hope you enjoy.

Family Secrets

I wondered why that particular closet door had been nailed shut. The closet was located next to the back door in the kitchen. I attributed it to my aunt’s progressively failing awareness of reality. She had lived in this house alone for the past 15 years, and had lain dead in it for a week and a half before her body had been discovered. If it hadn’t been for a ruptured gas line in the area that required entry, her body still might not have been found.

I had never met my mother’s sister. My mother told me when Aunt Sarah married Howard Sandville 15 and a half years ago, and moved to this house on the hill miles from Sawyer’s Mill, no good would ever come of either the marriage or her future. Turns out Mom had been right on both counts.

Sarah had announced to the folks in town that her husband had run off six months after their wedding with their maid. She had also made it clear that visitors would not be welcome. She advised the local shops that should she need any supplies, orders would be phoned in, and the delivery staff were to leave the items at her front door. Invoices were to be included with the delivery, and payment would be sent by return mail.

Aunt Sarah’s will, discovered in a file box on the desk in the master bedroom, stated the house and property were to go to her sister. Mom wanted nothing to do with any of it, and when Mom died, Aunt Sarah’s home was left to me. The lawyer told me Sarah wanted the house torn down after she died. He hadn’t added that stipulation to the will since her requests at that point changed from day to day. He said the house was mine and I could do with it as I wished. I decided to check the place out. On my brief walkthrough, everything had appeared to be quite normal, with the exception of the nailed closet door.

Since Sawyer’s Mill was a small town, I figured everybody knew everybody’s business, so I spoke with as many people as I could to get some background on the house and my aunt. Everyone I spoke to told me the place was haunted. I wasn’t sure where they got that idea since I hadn’t seen any furniture floating or heard any moaning and groaning when I was there. They seemed genuinely concerned for my safety though so I told them I had a friend who knew how to communicate with the spirit world. I told them I’d make sure I had her with me when I next went into the house.

My friend Janie held séances, and I figured she’d jump at the chance to join me in a real haunted house. I was right as rain because she arrived two days later. I had always admired Janie’s showmanship. Whenever she held a séance, she’d invite me to sit in – to help the spirits feel more comfortable, she said. I always looked forward to the terrifying shrieks and sinister laughter, along with the ominous answers to the clients’ questions. At the end of each session, I would tease her, but she would insist it was all genuine, and told me one day, the opportunity would present itself for her to convince me of her psychic ability.

When we entered through the front door, I headed for the kitchen. I was going to show Janie all the beautiful china displayed in the cabinet. Suddenly, I felt Janie grab my left arm, pulled me back toward her, and turned me around to face her. She had tears streaming down her face.

“Lilly, they are in so much pain and terribly alone. They are seeking peace, and you are the one to find it for them.”

This time, I failed to see the humor.

“Janie, cut it out. You’re scaring me for real this time.”

“No, you don’t understand. I’m not playacting. I’ve told you I’m for real. I’m a genuine sensitive. Maybe a couple of my weird noises at séances are for dramatic effect, but there’s no drama here. There are spirits in this house who cannot rest because…because…”

Janie fainted. I panicked. I knelt down and felt her pulse, and it was racing. It suddenly became very warm in the foyer, so I decided to open the front door to let in a breeze. I got close to the door and was faced with the shimmering image of a person. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female, only that is was shaped like a human being, but with no discernible facial features. Its hands were outstretched, palms up, as if to stop me.

I hadn’t seen anything like that when I went through the house before. I reached through it, grabbed the doorknob and opened the door. A cool breeze filled the entry way and when I looked down at Janie, she started to come around. I looked back toward the door, and the image had vanished. Oddly, that encounter hadn’t frightened me.

“Are you okay, Janie? Do you need a doctor?”

“I’m not ill, Lilly,” Janie said as she got up from the floor. “I saw something horrible and it overwhelmed me. Something horrific happened in this house. Those who are trapped continue to grow weaker. Didn’t you say your aunt wanted this house torn down?”

“That’s what her lawyer told me.”

“Don’t, Lilly. I sense that if you do, the secret will never be unlocked and those who roam here will be forever lost.”

“What did you say, Janie, about a secret?”

“It needs to be unlocked. That’s what I’m sensing. There is a barrier to the truth that must be broken. It must be soon though. I sense there are two of them, but only one now has the strength left to make itself be seen for brief periods. When you were here before, did you notice anything unusual or out of place?”

The nailed closet door. If the place was haunted though, which it obviously was, surely Aunt Sarah didn’t nail a door shut thinking it would keep the spirits inside, or did she? I had no idea when it was nailed shut, so maybe it was on one of those days when her mind went out for a stroll without her.

“By the back door, Janie, there’s a closet that’s been nailed shut. Is that what you meant?”

“Oh my God,” Janie started to cry again. “Yes. Nailed shut. Confined. Trapped. Left to die.”

I felt someone, or something, behind me gently putting arms around my neck. It was almost a comforting gesture. I knew I was on the right track. I looked through drawers in the kitchen and found a hammer that had the forked edge on the side used to remove nails. Janie grabbed a pair of pliers and a flashlight and together we removed all the nails. At first glance, it hadn’t seemed like so many, but removing them made me realize she had definitely wanted to keep whatever was behind the door inside forever.

When the last nail was out, I opened the door. It was only an empty closet, and not a very big one at that, with a hook at the back. What kind of secret was hidden here? I looked closely at the top and the bottom thinking perhaps there were trap doors, but there was nothing. Out of pure instinct, I pulled at the hook and the panel pulled back. There was a small hidden room behind this closet. Janie shined the flashlight into the small room.

My stomach turned. Inside were two skeletons, sitting against the wall, arms around each other. A wallet was next to one and a small handbag next to the other, both containing identification. I knew why Aunt Sarah wanted the house torn down. It was so no one would find the remains of her husband and his lover, the maid, who had both disappeared years before. Sarah had locked them both in that room, closed the panel, and nailed the door shut. With no visitors permitted and being so far from neighbors, no one would have heard them if they screamed. Both their bodies decaying behind that wall, and still she continued to live in that house. Unbelievable.

I planned to notify the police, even though there would be no one to prosecute. At least, their families and friends would know the truth. I also planned to give them both a decent burial – side by side. I believed that’s what they would have wanted. I felt arms around me again, and as I turned, the image behind me briefly flickered, then faded for the last time. Now they finally would have the peace they sought and so richly deserved.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 43: Happy Father's Day

The prompt this week was as follows, with a genre of horror:

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and it is defined as ‘a day on which fathers are particularly honored by their children, especially with gifts and greeting cards’. Unfortunately, that was never possible for you because when you were growing up, your father was rarely home. He was always on the road with his job, and in his profession, holidays were an especially busy time.

Your dad’s finally retired, and you want to make this Father’s Day the most special day he’s ever had. You’ve got the whole day planned, and it will be just the two of you. He is going to be so surprised, and you can hardly wait.

Prompt: Tell us all about how you spend Father’s Day.

Happy Father’s Day

“Pops, are you comfortable?”

“Mmmm.”

“Great. I’m so glad. It’s going to be just the two of us because Mom is resting. We’ve never been able to spend Father’s Day together because you were always on the road. Now that you’re retired from the trucking company, there’s nothing to get in the way of our spending the entire day together.”

‘Mmmm.”

“Looking back, Pops, I remember when I was little and you’d go out on your pickup and delivery runs. You’d be gone sometimes for a week or two, and I missed you so much. Mom was terrific whenever you were away. She would take me to the park and out for ice cream.”

“Mmmm.”

“The best time though was when you came back home for a day or two. I remember how you always brought Mom a present. You used to bring her the most beautiful jewelry. Sometimes it would be a necklace, and other times it would be a bracelet or earrings. Your job took you all over the country and wherever you were, you always remembered to pick something up for Mom.”

“Mmmm.”

“I know you were always thinking of me too. My rock collection would never be the treasure it is today if you hadn’t brought me a rock from every state you visited. I loved the way you wrote the name of the state right on each rock and then told me where you found it. That made each one so special for me.”

“Mmmm.”

“Things really changed when Mom became ill and took to her bed. Aunt Josie ended up coming to live with us to take care of Mom and me while you were working. She didn’t take me out as much as Mom did, but we still had some good times. All those years while I was in school, she helped out so much with Mom. When I was away at college, I knew I would be able to devote myself completely to my studies and not have to worry about her.”

“Mmmm.”

“I’m glad that we finally have time to talk. Not long before you retired, you spent more and more time away from home, so I didn’t have the opportunity to give you any news, I met a wonderful girl during my senior year and we fell in love with each other. I asked her to marry me and she accepted. The plan was for us to marry following graduation. We had our wedding all planned, but first, we both wanted to go home for a visit and let our families know about our engagement.”

“Mmmm.”

“I came home to tell you and Mom, and Melissa, that’s her name, told me she was going to hitch back to her parents’ home to tell them all about me. I told her that was a crazy and very dangerous thing to do, but she wanted one last big adventure. She was that type of girl, you see. She was so full of life and what she always dreamed of was getting married and raising a big family. I told her I would drive her home and then go home myself, or try to find a way to pay for a plane ticket for her, but she insisted on hitchhiking. I told her to call me every time she was near a phone until she got home.”

‘Mmmm.”

“She rode with me as far as the onramp of the interstate, kissed me goodbye, and headed to the shoulder to try to get a ride. I got on the highway and headed here. That was the last time I saw her alive. The next time I saw her was when I saw her picture in the newspaper after her body had been identified. The paper said she was another victim of the I-48 killer. She had been tortured, killed, and then dumped on the side of the highway just like all the others. They had all been hitchhiking. It was difficult for the police to catch this killer since I-48 runs through a lot of states and connects with so many other highways. I was heartbroken, Pops. She had been the love of my life.”

“Mmmm.”

“I needed so badly to talk to someone about all this when I came home, but Aunt Josie didn’t want to hear anything about it. She said talking about murdered women frightened her. Since I had graduated and was back home, she decided to go back to living on her own. She said I could take care of Mom, or you could since you were going to be retiring soon. Pops, I felt so lost and felt very relieved when you came home from your last run.”

“Mmmm.”

“True to form, even though I’m an adult now, you still brought me a rock with the state’s name written on it. Even though Mom’s so ill, you still brought her a lovely piece of jewelry. That necklace was gorgeous, with the gold chain and the special hand carved gold roses with the small diamonds in the center of each. I know those roses were hand carved, Pops, because I personally designed that particular necklace and had the store custom make it for Melissa.”

“Mmmm.”

“I recognized the necklace as soon as you pulled it from your pocket, Pops. Did you take it from my fiancé before or after you killed her? I know you killed the others too. I didn’t say anything right away because I wanted to do some checking. You know, the Internet has lots of information on all your kills. When you look up the victims of the I-48 killer, the articles mention not only that they were all hitchhiking at the time, they also mention that a piece of jewelry was taken from each one, and provide a detailed description. All it took for me was a quick look into Mom’s jewelry box to know the truth about you.”

“Mmmm.”

“Is that why Mom lost her mind, Pops? She took to her bed years ago with that vacant stare and hasn’t spoken a word since. Did she look too closely at the jewelry you brought her and make the connection with the victims? Did she figure out that her husband and the father of her child rode the highways looking for young girls to torture and kill? When was it that you picked them up? Was it in between picking up pallets of bread or delivering crates of bananas? You were always away over holidays too. Was that because there were more girls looking for rides to get home during those times?”

“Mmmm.”

“You murdered all those young girls, including the girl I was going to marry. Mom was your victim too, you bastard, only you didn’t physically kill her, but you frightened her so badly that she retreated deep inside herself, so that’s almost the same thing. Well, it’s time for it all to come full circle, Pops. Today is Father’s Day and I’m going to give you the gift you deserve.”

“Mmmm.”

“How’s that gag? I wouldn’t want it to interfere with you being able to breathe. No way are you going to die that easily. I want you conscious right up until the end. I’ve got the perfect day planned for us. I rented this truck for a full 24 hours and I also rented the freezer back here. I’ve had it plugged in so it would be nice and cold for our ride. That’s what that extension cord running from the garage was. Remember how you asked me about all of this and I told you I had a surprise for you?”

“Mmmm.”

“Well, let me tell you all about how we’re going to spend your special day. I’m going to put you inside the freezer and drive all over I-48 until you’re nice and stiff. Then, I’m going to pull over at all the spots where you had dumped the bodies of those young girls and I’m going to break off a piece of you and leave one at each spot. Understand? An arm here and a leg there – some part of you to pay for what you did to each one. Our last stop will be where you dumped Melissa, and that’s where I’ll dump the last of you.”

“Mmmm.”

“Our neighbor, Mrs. Hopper, is going to stay with Mom while we’re on our road trip. When I get back, I’m going to get Mom into a home where she can be cared for 24 hours a day by medical personnel. Maybe there’s some way they can bring her back to me. Are you ready? Let’s get you into this freezer and head to the onramp of I-48. I’m so looking forward to our last trip together. Wait. Before I forget. Happy Father’s Day, Pops.”

“Mmmm...”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 42: Letting Go

The prompt this week was to write a story about something important being lost. Sometimes by losing something we believe has value above all else, something even more valuable is found.

LETTING GO

Since she hadn’t spoken one word to me on the way to the restaurant, during dinner, or on the ride home, I assumed the evening had gone well. There had been no complaints and no recriminations; so, it really took me by surprise when I heard her scream from her bedroom. She had gone in there to hang up her coat, and I wondered if that was the moment she realized she’d actually left the house and returned in one piece. It had been almost two years since she’d gone outside. I ran into her bedroom and found her slumped in a corner grabbing at her chest.

“Are you all right? When did the pain start? Don’t worry because I’m going to call an ambulance right now.”

“No, Daniel. No pain. Look what happened. You have to get it back right away.”

She was holding the gold chain around her neck with one hand and the other hand was waving wildly in the air. Her breathing became irregular and she began to cry.

“I hope you’re happy,” she said between sobs, her tone angry and accusatory. “You knew how much that meant to me and now it’s gone. You pulled it off when you bumped into me, didn’t you? How could you be so cruel? What am I supposed to do now?”

I finally realized what was causing her so much concern. The heart-shaped locket she had worn every day for the past 30 years was gone. Apparently the clasp had broken and separated from the chain. Her husband had given her that piece of jewelry on their wedding night. Within the past couple of years however, it had taken on a special meaning.

“How can you say that? I know how much that locket meant to you. You’ve been wearing that every day. Sooner or later, it was bound to fall off. I know you had it on when we left this evening. I don’t remember if it was still on there while we were eating. I’m going to call the restaurant and ask them to check under the table. Maybe that’s where it fell off.”

“Don’t waste your time. I know I had it in the restaurant because when I went to the restroom and washed my hands, some water splashed on it and I blotted it dry with a paper towel. It was taken from me on our way back to the car. Remember when you bumped into me on the sidewalk? That’s when you pulled it from the chain.”

“I did no such thing. I accidentally bumped into you because there was something on the sidewalk and I tripped. How can you accuse me? You know, in a way, this might be the best thing that could have happened because maybe we can finally bring out into the open what’s been going on. You and I haven’t had a real conversation about anything since the funeral. I’ve tried to be patient and understanding, but this situation has reached a point where it is so far beyond bizarre that it has me frightened; not of you, but for you.”

“Now you’re saying I’m crazy? Is that it?”

“Of course not. I just feel that you’ve let yourself be so overcome with grief that you’ve lost touch with reality. Listen to what you’ve been saying. You’ve actually accused me of deliberately causing you to lose something that I know is very important to you. Tell me that you don’t really believe I would hurt you that way.”

“That locket and what it contained was all I had left of Jack, and you knew that. You kept telling me over and over to get rid of it. Since I refused, you made sure it would be lost. It’s somewhere in the city now, probably kicked from the sidewalk into the street, run over again and again by strangers in their cars and…”

“Stop. You know it wasn’t the locket I asked you to get rid of; it was what was inside of it. That flower had turned to dust and it gave off the most offensive odor.”

“Lies. All lies. You don’t know anything. Yes, my husband gave me that locket on our wedding night, but do you know why that flower was so important to me?”

“Yes, I do. I know all about how…”

“It was our 28th anniversary and we went out for dinner. On the way to the car, Jack wanted to take the long way around and go through the park. He had proposed to me on a bench by one of the ponds and he wanted to go back there just for a moment.”

“That was a wonderful thing. You told me when you got to the bench, he asked you to sit down so he could…”

“When we found that bench, he asked me to sit down, and as hard as it was for him with his arthritis, he got down on one knee and proposed to me all over again. There was a tree next to it with beautiful little flowers on it, and he picked one and handed it to me.”

“He always loved you very much. He would often…”

“When we started back on the trail, that’s when those awful boys with the knives came along and told him they wanted his wallet. He gave it to them, but still they…I know why they…”

“You don’t have to go through this again. It’s too…”

“They kept stabbing him and I kept screaming until those other people came to help, but those boys ran away. All the police and the questions and the blood all over my coat. They kept my coat, you know. Said it was evidence. I don’t know why, but I reached in the pocket before they took it off me and there was the flower. I don’t remember putting it in there, but there it was.”

“I know, and that’s when you put the little flower in the locket where it’s been ever since. I understand, but it’s gone beyond the locket and the flower. Until tonight, you haven’t been out of this house since the funeral and it’s been two years. You have everything delivered to the door, and if I didn’t bring you the mail, a couple of years’ worth of it would still be sitting in the box at the end of the driveway. His clothes are still in the closet, and everything is as it was before he died. This house hasn’t been a home since he was buried; it is a tomb, and you are the corpse inside of it.”

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into leaving the only safe place I have in the world, and look what happened because of it. My locket and my flower are lost now. My life is lost now, and it’s all because of you. How could I have been so foolish to trust you?”

“Mom, your life is not lost. A piece of jewelry and a dead flower have been lost. Yes, they were both important to you, but they were your things. They were not your life. You’ve never been able to move forward since Dad died. I won’t rattle off the so-called normal stages of grief because there’s nothing normal about grief. But you’ve convinced yourself that you could only go on as long as you had that locket and remnants of a flower. Now that they’re gone, you’re gone too?”

“You don’t know what’s it’s been like. You never grieved for him.”

“Mom, you don’t mean that. He was my father – the best father anyone could ever have. I think about him and miss him still. But life does go on. It moves forward. It must. You have resigned from the land of the living and that’s so wrong. I don’t believe in signs and fate and all, but perhaps the loss of the locket and the remains of the flower is a way to make you realize it’s time to let go.”

“You want me to forget him and just go on like he never existed?”

“Of course not. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting. It simply means to let the memory of him go where it belongs, and that is to a special place in your heart.”

“I’m just scared.”

“I know, Mom, but don’t worry. We’ll move forward together.”

“My locket and my flower, they are both lost, aren’t they?”

“Yes, Mom, they are, but not you. Not anymore.”