Wednesday, January 23, 2013

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 114: SURPRISE! SURPRISE!

The prompt this week was to be about planning a surprise party and then revealing the outcome for both the ‘surpris-ee’ and the ‘surpris-er’. I took a less-than-typical approach with the surprise party thing, but I think this is still in line with the prompt. Hope you enjoy.

A BIG SURPRISE

“I’m telling you, Rachel, he is one. I know it. All the signs are there and I am not imagining things. We’ve got one of them living right across the road from us, and we need to figure out what to do.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A young man, probably in his mid-30s, moved into the house across the road from us this past Saturday morning, and my sister, Sarah, ever vigilant, is already suspicious of him. She is suspicious of anyone who moves into that property. Apparently, the house was built on some ancient burial ground and the house, as well as the entire property, is cursed for all eternity. According to Sarah, only creatures of some sort would dare cross the threshold and dwell within. She’s never told me where she obtained this information, but she firmly stands by it. Let’s see now, there have been werewolves, zombies, mummies, ghouls, and a couple of aliens, and our new neighbor certainly fits the bill because according to Sarah, he’s a vampire.

“Sarah, you really need to stop reading those magazines from the library and especially, stop talking to old Mrs. Mumford. To hear her tell it, she’s abducted weekly by Venusians, experimented on, and then brought back to her front door. Now, you don’t believe all that nonsense she puts out, do you?”

“Of course not. She’s just trying to draw attention to herself. But, Rachel, I’m not trying to do anything of the sort. I don’t go around telling everyone in town about that house. I only tell you so you make sure you stay away and don’t get too friendly with whoever moves in. Those spawns of Satan love to prey on single, elderly women like you and I and I just don’t want some fanged thing visiting me in my bed.”

It’s true we’re both unmarried and I’ll admit we’re both in our 60s, but I have a difficult time believing that creatures of the night would deliberately zero in on us. Considering all the late-night creature features I’ve watched, don’t the cloaked and fanged ones usually go after the 20-something, blue-eyed blondes who prance around at night in filmy negligees?

“Rachel, you don’t notice things like I do. I watch these creatures to see if I can identify which category they belong to. You have to do that, otherwise if they attack, you can’t defend yourself.”

“Sarah, we were born in this house and have lived here all our lives. When has anyone every been attacked in this whole town?”

“Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. Getting back to this vampire we now have as a neighbor, I’ve been watching him closely and that’s how I figured him out. He never comes outside during the daytime because they don’t, you know. They sleep in a coffin, and only when the sun goes down do they awaken. I’ve seen him slip out at night just walking down the highway. Once he gets out of sight, he must turn into a bat and fly into the city to feed. That has to be it since there have been no reports of anyone being bitten in town.”

“Maybe the man works out of his home during the day, and maybe he has trouble sleeping, so he walks. Heaven knows, it’s safe enough here. He could walk for miles and not be bothered by anyone. Have you considered that?”

I don’t know why I bother. Sarah just shook her head and went back to the front window with her binoculars. Normally, I just ignore her ravings because the folks that moved in there were either couples or our age. But this young man? I’ll bet he’d be perfect for Susanna Mitchell, our new librarian. She’s his age, and single, but so shy. Pickings are pretty slim here for boyfriend material for young ladies and this fellow might be just what she needs. If I could just figure out a way to introduce myself to him. Wait. I’ve got it.

“Rachel, it was a brilliant idea to get him over here pretending to welcome him to the area. I‘ll be ready for that bloodsucker. He is going to get a big surprise.”

I had called and invited him to dinner to find out if he was married or attached in any way so I could fix him up with Suzanna. His name was Jonathan Wellesley (classy, huh?) and his voice was smooth as silk. He said he’d be delighted. Sarah promised to behave herself, but did tell me she had a vampire test for him. Oh goody.

When our doorbell rang, I opened the door and invited our guest in. Forgive an old lady, but he looked delicious. All decked out in a three-piece pin-striped suit, he reminded me of any one of the numerous movie stars I’d had crushes on in my youth. Startlingly blue eyes you could get lost in and a dazzling, warm and comfortable smile. After I shut the door however, Sarah came rushing in wearing a necklace of garlic cloves, holding a spray bottle filled with what she announced was water blessed by Father George in one hand and a sharp stick in the other. Understandably, our guest was taken aback.

“Perhaps I should come back another time?” He inched his way backward toward the front door.

“SARAH, STOP IT RIGHT NOW! Jonathan, I’m terribly sorry. My sister…”

“Stay right where you are, whatever you are. I command you to answer.” Sarah had really outdone herself this time. I made a mental note to call Dr. Hargrove first thing in the morning to discuss having her committed.

“Are you a vampire? Be assured evil one, I have the power of good in my heart and you shall be defeated.”

Jonathan took a deep breath, smiled at Sarah, and quietly said ‘no‘.

“Alright then,” Sarah said and put the garlic, bottle and stick in the front closet. “Let’s eat. Dinner’s ready.” Sarah took Jonathan’s hand in hers, and they headed for the dining room. I made a mental note to check with Dr. Hargrove about having myself committed.

“WAIT JUST A MINUTE!” This was too much. “All this time, he’s a vampire, he’s undead, he’s this and he’s that. Then, you ask him, he says ‘no’ and it’s over, let’s eat? Am I the only one who sees the craziness here?”

“Rachel, you don’t know about these things. Once you invite a vampire into your home, he has to tell the truth and you have to be ready to take him down. But, now we know Jonathan is one of us, so it’s alright.”

Dinner went well after I washed a couple of aspirin down with a highball. We parted company around eleven. Sarah went straight to bed and I stayed up to try to figure out where to go from here. I love my sister, but I can’t go on like this. I never know from one minute to the next how she’s going to act, or react, and it’s not harmless delusions anymore. I mean, she ran at our neighbor with a sharp stick. Maybe there’s some outpatient treatment she could…

What was that? It sounded like a gust of wind in the hallway. I’ve told Sarah to keep her window closed and locked at night. I started to get up to scold her when our new neighbor walked into my bedroom with blood dripping from his lips.

“Jonathan, what are you doing here? What have you done? Where’s my sister?”

“Your sister’s dead, and soon you shall be also. This town will feed me well and you two may as well be the first.” There was that smooth as silk voice again. But the fangs were new.

“This can’t be. When Sarah asked if you were a vampire, you said no. I thought you had to tell the truth if you were invited in.”

Jonathan began to laugh. “Where did she get her information--from the late show? If you invite a vampire into your home, the only thing that accomplishes is that it grants him access at his discretion.”

As he moved toward me, I realized that Sarah and I were the ones who got the big surprise…

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 113: SO, YOU WANNA START SOMETHIN'?


The prompt this week was three starter sentences, each chosen from Page 111 (coincident with the prompt’s date of 1/11) of three different novels.  We were to pick one to begin our story with.  I chose the third, which was from Vincent Zandri’s novel, As Catch Can.  Please enjoy.

MY NEW FRIEND

I felt as if the whole world were about to slip out from under my feet.  Have you ever been sitting in your living room, with a microwave dinner on your lap, watching the evening news, when an entire S.W.A.T. team barges in through your front door?  I didn’t think so.  Well, it happened to me.  It was years ago, but I remember it like it happened this morning.  That could be because I’m on Death Row, awaiting my execution for a murder I did not commit.  I know you’re asking yourself, how in the world could something like that happen?  Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you.  I’m still trying to figure it all out.  The problem is, in my case, time really is of the essence.

Everything transpired so quickly, it was like a blur.  I was read my rights, arrested, jailed without any bond due to the brutality of the crime, assigned a still-wet-behind-the-ears attorney, and went to trial.  As fascinating as the judicial system might be, it’s a nightmare when the prosecution’s got a needle full of lethal chemicals with your name on it aimed right at you.  Talk about a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am affair.  Witness after witness testified to having seen me stalking the victim around the time he was killed.  Interesting stuff since I’d never been in that area of town in my entire life.  Too ritzy for me, you see.

Evidently, a comb of mine, which I never carried on my person, reeking with my DNA, had made it into his house and was found laying in a pool of his blood.  It had fallen out of my pocket, the prosecutor had said.  The whole proceeding was quite the fairy tale and there was no way anyone in their right mind was going to believe any of that crap.  Right?

The jury deliberated for almost an hour before they came out, all solemn-faced, and pronounced me guilty as charged.  Took them all of about 12 minutes to come back in and recommend death by lethal injection.  The judge, God bless him, agreed immediately, categorized me as the spawn of Satan, and said he hoped I’d be shown mercy in the next life because there wasn’t any left for me in this one.

And so, off I was sent to sit and wait.  And wait.  And wait some more.  I never saw my lawyer again.  I thought they were supposed to follow up with you or something, but every time I asked a guard about it, I was told to relax and not worry so much.  Oddly, that advice didn’t help me to sleep better at night.  All that stuff on the television about automatic appeals, to this day, I have no idea if any were made on my behalf.  I was not permitted to speak in the courtroom and I was not permitted to speak to anyone once I was put in a cell.

This morning when my breakfast arrived, I was informed that my execution was scheduled for one second after midnight tonight.  I was told all my appeals had run out and my only hope at this point was a last minute phone call by the Governor.  I was also advised that I shouldn’t put a whole lot of faith in that since the Governor had never made any last minute calls to the death chamber, and since I was such a bad-ass, I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that phone to ring.

They asked me what I would like for my last meal so they could arrange it.  Don’t kid yourself about that last meal bit.  You can’t order souffl├ęs and champagne.  When they say you can have anything you want, that part is true enough, but the catch is, you can have anything you want as long as the prison serves it on a routine basis.  So I ordered a burger, fries and a diet coke.  Kind of a last laugh for me, I guess, the ‘diet’ part.  I’ve always meant to cut down on the high calorie soda I drink.  I supposed this would be as good a time as any.

They asked me if I wanted a minister or priest to visit with and I told them ‘no‘.  I knew he would try to get me to confess to the sin I was being executed for.  I’m sure I’ve committed some here and there that I could ask him to try to wipe off my slate, but I refuse to ask to be absolved for the big one I did not commit.  I decided if I only had a few hours left, I’d spend them like I’d spent the last few years--alone.  Imagine my surprise when I was informed a few minutes ago, that on today of all days, I had two visitors.  It was all I could do not to break into a dead run (please excuse the phrase) to the visitation area.  I hadn’t realized how desperately I needed contact with someone from the outside.  When I saw who my visitors were, my surprise quickly elevated me to a state of shock.

“David, it’s not that I’m not glad to see you, and your wife, I’m just a bit confused; although, at this point, I’m glad to be able to visit with anybody.  Since all this craziness began, one by one, my so-called good friends seemed to evaporate.  Now, on what is more than likely going to be my last day, literally, the only one who comes to see me is someone I met just before all this mess started?  I mean, it wasn’t long after you had filled in for Sammy J  at that poker game that a man I never knew was murdered and I ended up being arrested for it.

“As grateful as I am for the company, I have to wonder why you‘ve come.  All these years on Death Row and you never tried to contact me.  On top of all that, you bring your wife with you, not that I have any objection.  It‘s a pleasure to see a smiling face for a change.  One thing though, Marie, the minute you walked through the door, I had the feeling I’ve seen you somewhere before, but that’s not possible, is it?  I’ve been inside all this time with no visitors, letters, nothing.  I just can’t figure why you look so famil…

“Wait a minute.  I know where I’ve seen you.  It was in court at my trial.  You’re the widow.  You were married to the guy I supposedly killed.  Your hair was a different color then, but I remember your face.  And, now you’re married to David?  What’s going on?  Why are you both really here?”

“Now, Jer, there’s really no reason to get all upset.  We just stopped by to thank you.”  I didn’t care for David’s sarcastic tone.  I have to admit I wasn’t too crazy about the smirk on Marie’s face either.

Something told me I wasn’t going to like how this all turned out.  I felt like I needed to question everything.  I always knew somebody set me up to take the fall for killing that guy because I didn’t do it.  I know prison cells, as well as Death Rows everywhere are filled with ‘innocents’, but I really am.  Since I didn’t do it, how did my comb end up there?

I lived alone and only my closest friends were invited inside.  Out of nowhere, this new guy, David, shows up and sits in on our game.  No one questioned his being there since we all had assumed Sammy J had sent him.  We just dealt him in.  Sammy had tripped over his mother-in-law’s cat and fell down a couple flights and ended up in the hospital with a broken leg.  We got so used to David, we forgot to check it out with Sammy, who ended up being laid up for a couple of months anyway.  Oh my God.

David, or whoever he really is, targeted me, pocketed an object of mine to drop at a murder scene, eliminated the husband of the woman he was after, and set me up.  So, now, here I sit, with both of them gloating right in front of me, on the day of my scheduled execution.  Conversations are recorded, so there’s no way either one of them is going to admit what they’ve done.  I decided to be gracious about the whole situation.

“I get it, okay?  I suppose now is the time I’m supposed to say ‘you’re welcome’?”

The guard came by and announced that visitation time was over since it was time for me to get ready for my last meal and a bit of quiet time before they turned my lights out--permanently.

David and Marie both smiled and winked at me on their way out.  I wonder just when it was that the mysterious hand of fate made the decision to give me the finger…

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

FLASH FICTION FRIDAY, CYCLE 112: EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT...


This week’s prompt was to get inside the head of a wannabe reporter who spends the night in a house on the anniversary of the horrific crime that took place there.  This is his chance to write a big story and hopefully, interest editors at the city papers.  The house is supposed to be haunted though, so when he spends the night there, will he be alone?

LIVE FEED…

This is going to be the one.  Wait until I send a copy of my article to New York and L.A.  Editors on both coasts will be fighting over me.  Who knew that coming to this rinky-dink town would be the break I’ve been looking for my whole life.  Spending the night in a house where one year ago today, brutal murders and a suicide stained the walls and floors red.  Oh, now, there’s a great line.  I’ll use that.

I need to hurry and get over there before dark so I can find my way around.  The whole town believes the house and grounds are haunted by evil spirits, so I’ll play that angle up big.  Maybe I’ll hear some moans or feel a cold draft.  Hicks love that crap.  This is going to give my career the boost it needs.

This place is disgusting.  I don’t know what I was expecting.  I mean, nobody’s set foot in here in a year.  I’ll set up in the living room.  Sure glad I brought a lawn chair to sit on.  No way am I going near that couch.  I’m glad I ate in the car.  I’d probably have to fight the squirrels and raccoons for my supper.  Funny though.  There’s nothing crawling around in here at all.  The place is dusty, but I haven’t seen so much as a fly.  Funny.

I told my new editor I’d do a live feed on this one, so I’d better get started.  I know he’s just as anxious as I am to find out what’s really going on in this house of horrors.  ‘House of horrors’.  I’ll use that too.

Well, here goes.

ANNIVERSARY OF A NIGHTMARE By Rodney Schlausser

I am reporting live from 679 Windmere Cove, the site of horrific events one year ago today.  At just before midnight, the owner, Robert Luxor, returned home from a business trip to discover his wife, Lucinda and her lover, Samuel Corder, asleep in the master bedroom.  Luxor retrieved a carving knife from the kitchen, entered the bedroom, and cut both their throats, and then proceeded to stab his wife 41 times and her lover, 39 times.  According to the coroner, they must have been killed as they slept based on the position of the bodies, and considering there were no defensive wounds.  Once he had completed his grisly mission, he retired to the den, where is slashed his own throat.  Their housekeeper discovered the horrific scene the following morning.  She had stopped in on her way home to drop off a cake she had purchased for them from a Bake Sale at her Church.  All were buried in the town’s cemetery with name markers only.  Since all had no known family, the house was sealed up and ownership remains with the State.

Local realtors, as well as those from the county, appointed by the courts, have been trying to sell the property as a fixer-upper project, but as soon as prospective buyers find out what occurred in the house, their interest evaporates.  Rumors abound that the property is haunted by dark and evil forces, and that local townspeople have vanished after having spent time in the house after dark.

Well, this reporter is not put off by rumors and intends to spend the entire night here in this house of horrors.  I am going to explore every room, including the rooms where the murders and suicide occurred and I will be reporting everything I see and hear so we can find out once and for all if the spirits of those who died here have finally found peace or if they still walk the grounds seeking some type of revenge on the living.

Man, this stuff is great.  I’ll bet my editor is wetting his pants right now.  He’s never had a story this great published in his pathetic little newsletter before.  What was his name again?  Dale?  I can‘t remember, so I won’t put anything directly to him.  I wonder if the bloodstains are still visible in the den and the master bedroom.  It would be so cool if…  What the hell was that?  Probably one of the windows is broken upstairs and a branch is brushing up against it.  That’s great.  Nice and creepy.

I’m currently in the living room, and nothing has been changed since that fateful night.  Of course, there’s no power, but I can see quite well with my lantern that the furniture, in its prime, had been quite luxurious.  Mr. Luxor had been a corporate attorney and it was said he banked millions.  No one was ever able to verify any of his clients, but the rumor mill covered that as well.  It was said the mob paid his bills, but there’s never been any documentation to support that.

Too bad.  The mob angle would have added some real juice to this story.

Heading upstairs to check out the master bedroom.  I have already heard a kind of swishing noise coming from there.  Could it be Mrs. Luxor and her lover seeking one last embrace?  It’s probably just the wind from a broken window.  Let’s head in there.

All the windows are intact, and there’s no animals in here.  I wonder what made that sound.

Well, well, well.  Talk about leaving a crime scene as is.  Friends, the blood-stained sheets are still on the bed, although what drained from the victims is now crusted and black.  The killer really took his time punishing his wife and her lover for their crime against him.  He obviously wanted to make sure they were both…

What the fuck?  I‘ve been shoved, and I’ve got a deep cut in the calf of my left leg and I’m bleeding like a stuck pig.  I’d better get back downstairs and clean this up.  I’ve got some napkins in my Burger Palace bag.  I’ll probably get tetanus.  I’ll look around in the morning and find out what I ran into.  I sure hope it wasn’t rusty.  Still, it felt like I was shoved…

A minor accident.  Heading down to the den, the site of the suicide.  It’s not often anyone cuts their own…

Who are you?  Answer me.  Look, I’m on a live feed here and I can have the authorities here in five minutes.  Say something!

Hard as it may be to believe, there is an entity standing in front of me, holding a carving knife.  No expression, standing perfectly still, although its arm with the knife is raised.  I don’t recognize the face though.  I tried communicating with it, but to no avail.  Now, it’s coming toward me on the offensive.  Should be a fascinating experience when the knife goes right through…

God.  This is real.  The bastard stabbed me in the shoulder.  Who are you?  What?  I don’t want this house.  I’ll leave.  Get away from me.

Emergency.  Luxor’s illegitimate son is in the house and armed and I have been attacked.  I am in the den closet.  He’s kicking the door and it won’t be long before he reaches me.  I have no way to defend myself.  Please send the police right away.  Please hurry.  The door is starting to give way.  Please send help.  Ple…

*              *             *               *              *               *              *

“Del, why did that nice young man decide to spend the night at the Luxor house on the anniversary of that awful business?”

“Mariposa, I offered him a job with the paper right off, but he insisted he needed to report a big story first to prove himself.  Prove himself?  The biggest news around here, other than the anniversary of the murders, is a sale at Wilbert’s Sporting Goods.  Besides, that business with the Luxors has been a blight on this community since that horrible night and he wants to bring it up and rub our faces in it all over again.”

“Dear, you know folks have gone up there to spend the night, thinking it was all a joke, and they were never seen again.  The place is full of the devil, Del, and you shouldn’t have let him go up there all by himself.”

“Honey, you can’t stop a grown man.  Anyway, he’ll be alright.  Those kids just left out the back way to create some kind of mystery.  You don’t really believe anything actually happened to them, do you?”

“I do, and so does everyone else.  When Bob Luxor killed Luci and that boy and then himself, they were all cursed to stay in that house.  When will that young man be back?”

“At 6 tomorrow morning to lay out the story for the Sunday edition.  He said he was going to send me a live feed throughout the night, and I said great, but that Fred Astaire movie is on tonight, so I locked up and came home.  He won’t know the difference.  I’ll just read it in the morning.  Now, let’s make some popcorn, and put on Channel 14.”