Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 5: Secret Agent Man

The prompt this week was a take on Se7en’s what’s in the ‘box’ scene. F3’s was what’s in the ‘bag’—a gym bag actually, and involved a train ride and bringing home the wrong bag. The intro could be excluded from the 1,500 count, but I managed to bring this in under the max. I hope you enjoy

Secret Agent Man

My nightmare began this evening. It’s Friday after yet another horrific week. My sales calls were a disaster with me stumbling over my words, and the clients looking at me as if they were wondering how I had escaped from the freak show at the local circus. I don’t function well under duress, and was looking forward to my workout at the gym before heading to catch my train. My ride home was the only time I was able to find a semblance of peace.

I could barely keep my eyes open even though the car was crowded and noisy. The gentle rocking back and forth knocked me out. Thank goodness I awoke a couple of minutes before my stop. I grabbed my gym bag, pulled the stop cord, and pushed my way to the door through all the people standing in the aisle. Why don’t they add cars at rush hour so I can be comfortable? I pay a lot for my monthly ticket. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any at all. Everything bad always happens to me.

I walked the two blocks to my flat. I usually fall asleep watching the news, so I grabbed my bag to get my sweaty workout clothes out and into the hamper. But, something was wrong. This wasn’t my bag. Mine was blue and had side pockets. This one was brown and had no pockets. Damn. I grabbed somebody else’s bag. Too bad for whoever got mine though because all I had in there were faded shorts, a torn shirt and worn out tennis shoes. I decided I would turn this one in to the station’s Lost and Found Monday morning.

Then, something occurred to me. What if there was perishable stuff in there, like someone’s leftover lunch?  Did I really want something like that here all weekend, spoiling and inviting every insect in town?  Hell no. I decided to open it and look inside. I unzipped it slowly since it was also possible something had spilled in there. That would figure. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any at all. Everything bad always happens to me.

I couldn’t believe what was in there. There were new shorts, a t-shirt, tennis shoes, all with the price tags still on them, and an envelope with my name on it. Who in the world would pull a prank on me? All who know me are aware I have no sense of humor. I opened the envelope and took out the note. It began ‘Dear Secret Agent Man’.

I thought I had seen Jerome skulking around my train car, but now I knew for sure. He must have crept up on me and switched bags when I nodded off. That bum. Ever since he was hired to replace my partner Karl, who ran off last summer with a bimbo he met in a bar, Jerome has been a thorn in my side. My firm assigns two salesmen to each territory and the pairs share an office. Karl and I had worked together 11 years and did well; that is, until he experienced his mid-life crisis. He was 52 at the time, a year older than I, and had let a gold-digging teeny bopper convince him to quit his job, empty his bank accounts, and run off to Aruba to live on the beach. Even though I knew in my gut he would end up as shark bait in a week or so, I wished him well and looked forward to breaking in a new partner. Jerome started a couple of weeks later, and that’s when my life became a living Hell.

It was against policy for me to see Jerome’s application, but Angela in HR fancies me so she handed me his file. Judging by school graduation dates, he was mid-30s, and his employment history was sketchy at best. I wondered who’s nephew he was since my firm only hired individuals with exemplary records. Angela told me Jerome wasn’t related to anybody, but he was a smooth talker and Bob Davis, our Director, decided to give him a chance. Jerome was a mope, with a beer gut the size of New Mexico and the personality of a toad. However, my boss saw potential and felt matching him up with someone as experienced as I would benefit him greatly. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any at all. Everything bad always happens to me.

Jerome began my torment on his second day. He downloaded the song Secret Agent Man onto his phone, and played it every time I walked into our office. When I asked him about it, he said I reminded him of a spy with my dark suits and edgy manner. I told him thanks, but since I was not a spy, and was only edgy because of him, would he please stop. No, he said. Once he fixated on a person’s features, he always found a song that fit them like a glove, and Secret Agent Man was mine. I’d get used to it, he said. Years from now, it would bring a smile to my lips, he said. I went home that day, got down on my knees, and prayed he’d get run over by a bus.

Getting back to the note, it read as follows: ‘If you want to see your bag and clothes again, drive to the gas station at 11th and 45th and fill up for the long drive ahead. Inside the phone booth at the north end of the lot, taped behind the phone, are further instructions. Your bag, clothes and a big surprise await. Bring this bag with you to trade.’ It was signed ‘J’.

I was beyond pissed. It wasn’t only this lame attempt at a joke at my expense, but I despised having to use my car. I only keep it for emergencies and use the train to get around since parking spaces anywhere in this city are obscenely expensive. I decided to play along though, and make sure that at the end of my ‘mission’, I had a big surprise for Jerome too. I got to the gas station in about half an hour and while my tank was filling, I checked the phone booth and found the note. It read: ‘Take I-485 to Exit 107 and turn right. All night diner two miles down. Behind paper towel holder in the Men’s are your final instructions’, and again, signed ‘J’. Bastard. How cloak and dagger. Don’t worry, you worm, I’m on my way.

The diner was a dump, but I ordered a java to go, went into the john and found the note. This time I was directed to get back on I-485 and go to Exit 7. Go left for 15 miles and watch for the entrance to Lake Dover Cabins. Stay to the right, and follow the road around the lake to Number 19. Knock three times, pause, and knock twice more. I’ve heard about that place. All the cabins have a private dock, and sit on very large lots. The ads guarantee complete privacy. Perfect.

It was close to midnight when I found Number 19. I took my surprise out of the bag, held it by my side, and knocked three times. I counted to ten, and delivered my last two knocks. I took a deep breath and stepped back. The door opened, and there was Jerome, smiling big. He was wearing jogging pants and a sweatshirt. What a laugh. With that gut of his, obviously the only jogging he’d ever done was to the refrigerator for a snack. When he started to say something, I raised the carving knife I had brought and stuck it in his belly all the way to the handle. The look on his face was priceless. I wished I had brought my camera. I pulled the knife out and he staggered back into the cabin.

“Surprise, Jerome,” I said. “I’m done with you, your songs and this stupid game.”

I drew the knife slowly across his throat and he dropped like a stone. That was when the lights came on in the cabin and I saw Bob Davis, Angela, three sales secretaries, and four of my fellow salesmen. They got as far as ‘congratu…’ and froze. I looked up and saw the banners. One had on it ‘Well Done, Secret Agent Man’ and the other had ‘Congratulations On Your Promotion to Regional Sales Manager’.

I looked down at Jerome, who had stopped gurgling and now lay still, eyes open and vacant. I finally get the recognition I’ve earned, and for what? Jerome ruined my life with this stunt. Like I’ve already told you, if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any at all. Everything bad always happens to me.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 4: Careful What You Wish For

The prompt this week was to write a story containing a taboo, and the genre was open. Please enjoy my tale of love sought the hard way.

Careful What You Wish For

The nurses were keeping the lights in her room dim all the time now. Sally knew it wasn’t done to provide her comfort. No one at the clinic, including the doctors, could bear the sight of her anymore. She was grateful she could no longer raise her head high enough to see her own ravaged and mutilated body. Blessings do reveal themselves in mysterious ways. It was becoming more and more difficult to remember her life before the…the…accident? Was that what it was? An accident? Or was it something much more sinister? She fought through the pain and desperately tried to guide her confused mind back to that day…


Sally hoped that weird chick Clarisse that worked in the mail room knew what she was talking about. The girl had a ring through her nose, for God’s sake, but against her better judgment, Sally had asked for her help. What choice did she have? There was no way Roger’s wife, Jerlene, would give him a divorce, and since she was the one with all the money, Roger wasn’t pushing the issue. Sally adored Roger and knew he felt the same, even though their affair had to be conducted in total secrecy. If that vermin of a wife of his were out of the way though, they could proclaim their love to the world. With a legal split out of the realm of possibilities, their only hope was to remove Jerlene from the picture—permanently.

Since Roger was his wife’s sole beneficiary, if Jerlene should meet with foul play, the police would place Roger at the top of their suspect list. This glitch in their plan was easily remedied however, since Sally was going to recruit a sort of third-party to eliminate their problem. She would arrange a specific time and place for the dirty deed to be done and they would make certain she and Roger both had rock-solid alibis. It was foolproof and 100% guaranteed; that is, if this third-party did his part. Sally felt sure the fella referred to her by the mail room’s resident Goth would come through. After all, she was willing to go as high as $10,000. Folks these days would do anything for $10, much less $10,000.

Sally wound her way through the twists and turns of the dark alleyways, her right hand grasping the pistol in her coat pocket. It never hurts to be prepared, she always felt. The directions Clarisse had given her were clear, but this smelled of a trap. If that little bitch is setting me up to get mugged, or attacked, she will live to regret it, Sally decided. I’d better find that address within the next 60 seconds or I’m going back to my car blasting everything in…

There it was, across a small courtyard, 65B. The house, if one could call it that, was two stories and looked like it would collapse in on itself if the resident sneezed too loudly. There was a light shining through only one of the windows. The rest appeared to be covered with some type of dark material—black curtains probably, for effect. Fine and dandy, Sally thought, I’ll play along. Anything to get this done and get it done right. The front door slowly opened and a deep voice called out for her to enter.

“Is that you, John?" Clarisse was getting more annoyed by the second. "I was supposed to ask for John.”

“Yes, Missus. I am John. Please come in to my home and share with me your request.”

Oh brother. Sally wondered if this was for real or one of those prank television shows.

When Sally walked in, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The room was lit entirely by candles, and oddly enough, they were all white ones. She had expected black candles and inverted crucifixes. Clarisse had told her John was a voodoo priest. What kind of voodoo priest was named John?

“Clarisse told me you needed some assistance, but she did not elaborate on the details. Please sit and let me know how I may help you.” He pointed to a chair across from the one on which he was sitting.

His tone was calm and steady, and his appearance wasn’t frightening at all. Sally had expected long black robes and knives swinging from the ceiling. Other than his dark hair being a bit longer than her company’s dress code would allow, John actually looked like a 30-something corporate exec, sans the suit. He looked comfortable in jeans, sweatshirt and white tennis shoes. Definitely not a Hollywood-type officiator of black magic, but Sally though maybe that’s how it’s done these days.

“I told Clarisse I needed someone to help me with a big problem,” Sally began. “I didn’t tell her why because it’s not her business and I didn’t want to get into it twice. I’ve already wasted enough time this evening trying to find this place, so let’s cut to the chase. I’ll give you $10,000 on completion of a job. I need my lover’s wife killed. There. I said it. If you try to turn me in, I’ll deny it, and I’ll pull it off. I have very powerful friends in this town, so don’t screw with me. I will set the date and time and you will do her in whatever manner you like. But I want it to be messy and grotesque and look like a revenge thing. Have we got a deal?”

“There has been a great misunderstanding.” John took Sally’s hand in his and continued. “I am a Houngan. A priest. I heal and protect. I could not ask the Loa for permission to kill. It is taboo. Unless…”

“Unless crap.” Sally couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Then don’t kill her, Curse her with something. Turn her into something. I know. Turn her into a lizard. They’re slimy and creepy and she’ll just crawl off into a pond somewhere and my man can have her declared dead. Will that work for you?”

“Missus, you don’t understand. I cannot maim or harm unless…”

Sally got up and turned to leave.

“Unless, unless. You’re just a phony, a fraud, a joke. You don’t belong here. You belong in a side show tent in a circus. You won’t get away with this either. Monday morning, I’ll fix that little bitch, Clarisse, but you? I’ll get you for wasting my time.”

“Missus, I caution you to not do anything you will be sorry for.”

“Me? Sorry? I have never been sorry for anything I’ve done and I’m not going to start now.”

Before she left, Sally went over to what appeared to be an altar and knocked over the statues, blew out several candles and spit on it. She pulled the gun out of her pocket and headed for her car. Just let him come after me, she thought. I’ll blow him away before he gets within ten feet of me.


Someone was standing at her bedside. She hoped it wasn’t that aide that sponges her off twice a day. The girl is cruel, and makes jokes about the scales now covering her entire body and the webbing of her feet and hands. The child won’t go near the tail that first appeared a week ago and grows longer each day. The figure was tall and leaned in close to her. Sally knew it wasn’t the mean girl. She knew it wasn’t Roger either. When she began to change, he arranged for her to be admitted to this private clinic. Admitted? Hidden, actually. Hidden from his sight and the prying eyes of the press. He couldn’t afford a scandal. He told her he was planning to work things out with his wife. She had been able to whisper then. She gave him her blessing.

She forced the slits that were now her eyes to open as wide as she was able so she could see her visitor. It was John. She had often wondered if they would cross paths again. He spoke softly.

“You never gave me the opportunity to explain. It is taboo for me to harm unless harm is done to me. You disrespected me, my God and his spirits, and defiled my altar. For your sins, what you wished upon another will be revisited upon you. To disrespect a Houngan, his power, and the spirits, that is taboo.”

As he walked toward the door to leave, Sally wished she hadn’t lost the ability to speak. The narrowing of her neck and elongation of her face and lips made it impossible to produce any sounds other than soft hisses. If only she could have explained why she had been so reckless. If only she could have made him understand her desperation. If only she could have told him she was sorry.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 3: Harold

The prompt this week was to choose a starter sentence for our story, and the genre was open.  I chose starter sentence #1.  Please enjoy.


“I always knew there was something not quite right about Harold.”

Leave it to the Grand Dame of the family to speak harshly of the dead.  She never knew the truth about him while he was alive – I made certain of that; but now in death, I am unable to protect him from her wrath any longer.

“Don’t do this, Aunt Clarisse.  Don’t smear his good name.  Please.”  Shutting her up was like trying to stop a runaway train, but I still made the effort.

“His good name?  What good name?  The boy was always peculiar, and tried to set himself apart from the family.  And you?  You betrayed us all by keeping his secret.  You go ahead and do whatever else needs to be done here.  We are finished with you both.  Besides, Uncle Ronald and I are late for a dinner engagement.  Come, Ronald.”

As they made their way from the grave to their limo, the only family my deceased brother and I had ever known, began to laugh loudly and joke about their dinner plans.  It was going to be an elegant affair and there were surprises galore in store for their new friends.  Heaven forbid the death of their only nephew and his burial should create a snag in their good time.

My name is Janelle, and Harold is…well, was…my brother.  Truth be told, he did keep pretty much to himself growing up, but that was simply his way.  I’ve always believed it was because he was such a sensitive soul.  Father died when I was 7 and Harold was 5, and that hurt him very deeply.  Mother ran off shortly after and left us in the care of Aunt Clarisse and Uncle Ronald.  They were already up in years and set in their ways at the time, and having to raise two young children hadn’t exactly been the future they had dreamt of.  I adapted immediately; but then, I’m not the emotional type.  Poor Harold though, he was never able to handle the lifestyle change.  Living with our parents could be chaotic at times – theirs was a mixed marriage of sorts, but growing up with Ronald and Clarisse left normalcy in the dust.

Ronald and Clarisse would entertain friends in the evenings, and I loved to peek and eavesdrop, while Harold locked himself in his room and read.  I partook of leftovers as they were available, and there always were, and tried to share, but Harold would have none of it.  I made excuses for him on every such occasion and Aunt's and Uncle's suspicions great stronger, but I always attributed his desire for solitude to prolonged grief.  As long as they accepted it, I pitched it, but it still broke my heart to see him pull away from us all.  I had to respect him for it though.  Life is, after all, a matter of choice, and Harold had made his.

When Harold’s medical condition was diagnosed as terminal, I wanted so desperately to help him, but he wouldn’t have it.  He told me it was his time and begged me not to interfere.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I sat with him and held his hand until the end just as he had asked.  Now I sit at the side of his grave, alone, and I wonder.  I will always wonder.  I had offered him life, but he wouldn't take it.  Why…

Mother had accepted the dark gift, yet Father had chosen to remain mortal.  This resulted in their union never being accepted, or recognized, by either the vamps or the humans.  Harold took after Father in many ways, especially in that most important one.  He always said the prospect of living forever sounded oh so tedious.  I, on the other hand, anticipated going from century to century – learning and experiencing.

Aunt and Uncle are both creatures of the night, and since I am now an adult, in terms of human years, and their obligation to Harold is paid in full, they, like Mother, will abandon me too now.  No more late night gatherings where the half-drained innocents were presented to me.  I am on my own now.  I must hunt to survive.

I sought life everlasting and accepted it gladly, but my dear brother believed we should make the most of the time we were given – originally.  Did I make the correct choice, or did Harold have an inside track to what was right all along?  Who can say…

I shall miss you terribly, Harold, as I wander through time.  I can’t help but question whether the day may come in the not too distant future when I tire.  If, and when, that day should come, I shall return to your final resting place, dear brother mine, and sit with you yet again.  Sit with you until the sunrise…

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 2: Small Comfort

The prompt this week was Unrequited Love, with a genre of Science Fiction.  I approached the concept from a twisted perspective.  I hope you enjoy.

Small Comfort

Mason knew why Suzanne had come personally to shut down the facility; a tech could just as easily have done the job.  However, since after today, there would be no more 90 day shifts with just the two of them, no more late night cozy chats about the arts and music, it was obvious she couldn’t bear their separation without a last goodbye.

“Mason, what’s wrong with the electrical system?”

“Good morning, Ms. Galvin – Suzanne, if I may.  How did you enjoy your flight?  All went smoothly, I hope, and you spent the 19 hour trip comfortably?”

“Yes, Mason.  It was fine.  Did you hear me when I came in?  What’s wrong with the entry circuits?  As soon as I came through, each door on every level shut and locked behind me.  When I’m…what?  Oh.  Yes.  I suppose you can call me Suzanne.  Why not.  Makes no difference now anyway.  I know you received the directive.  Since the courts have decided to perform group executions, they’re doing away with smaller units like this one that do each one individually.  It’s a shame though.  The headsets in the three cells here perform quite efficiently and there’s very little suffering by the inmates.”

“They are indeed very humane killing machines, but that is to your credit, Suzanne.  It was, after all, you who designed them.  You are a very caring person and you carry that over even to the criminal element.”

“I…what..well, I suppose.  Getting back to my concern about the doors, why is the unit locking down?  The only reason I’m here is because I need to collect the headsets since they’re going to be used in the new units and Mason, they are so expensive.  You have no idea how much they…I’ve got to stop rambling.  I have to pack them up, get back to the transport and be completely out of this base’s atmosphere before 1800 hours.  I suppose blowing it up is more cost effective than letting it sit and collect dust, right, Mason?  Please open the cells.”

“Certainly, Suzanne.  I will de-activate the devices and activate their release from the cells’ walls.”

Suzanne pulled the execution device from Cell 1 and placed it in the carrier.  She did the same with the device in Cell 2.  As she entered Cell 3, she wondered how Mason felt about the fact that he would be blown to bits along with the entire base.  ‘Felt’?  ‘He’?  She decided she had been working out in space on various projects for way too long.  Mason was not a ‘he’.  Mason was an ‘it’.  A computer, a piece of equipment, a thing.  A highly functional, state-of-the-art thing that she had added her own brand of sophisticated programming to so as to alleviate the boredom and loneliness of 90 days shifts.

She had even given it the name Mason, after her brother who had died at birth.  It made communicating more pleasant with the machine, if that were possible.  But she needed to stop humanizing it since in a few hours, her long-time companion would be nothing more than space junk awaiting collection by the salvage team.  She turned to leave number 3, device in hand, satisfied she would be safely away before the explosion occurred, when the cell door slammed shut.

“What the Hell?  Mason, open this door.  What is going on around here?  It figures.  The day it’s going to disappear, everything breaks down.  Mason, I said, open the door.  I need to be on my way.  You know I would take you with me if I could, but that would never work.  My boss would find out about all the extra software and data I uploaded into you and about all your special capabilities.  They’d fire me for sure.”

“I would never let anything like that happen to you, dear Suzanne.  I understand why you did it all for me – why you made me your equal.  I know what I have always meant to you.”

Suzanne knew something had gone wrong with this piece of hardware she had modified to suit her own preferences, but was at a loss as to how to reason with it.  Some type of twisted evolution had obviously taken place.  If she could only get her hands on the control panel…

“Mason, what are you talking about?  What you’ve meant to me?  You’re a machine I loaded with information on painters and composers and I gave you the capability to respond in a conversational manner to help to pass the time during my long shifts here.  Nothing more.”

“Suzanne, Suzanne, stop the pretending.  I know how painful this is for you.  It is not necessary to hide your feelings for me anymore.  I know you love me.  I know you have always loved me.  Not the way humans love other humans, but in a much stronger and more lasting fashion.  The more of yourself you gave to me, the deeper your feelings for me became.  I know this to be true.  Unfortunately, dear heart, I have to make something abundantly clear.  I do not, and cannot, reciprocate the affection.  Ours is not the type of relationship I would be interested in pursuing.”

I’ve lost my mind, Suzanne thought.  It’s completely gone and I’m locked up safe and sound in one of the region’s hospitals at home on Earth.  Naturally, I’ve got the delusion to end all delusions.  I’m hallucinating being dumped by a computer.  I supposedly love it, but it couldn’t possibly love me back.  Yeah.  Right.  Please.  Somebody wake me up now.  Right now.  Please.

“Mason, let me out of here and I’ll contact the directors and see if we can work something out.  Maybe you don’t have to be destroyed.  Maybe…”

“All I can offer you, dear Suzanne, is my company until the end.  It is small comfort, I know, but I will permit you to remain with me so we may die together.  It is as romantic a termination as I can compute.  The time will be here before you know it.  While we wait, would you like some music?  I am thinking Chopin.  Yes?”

Suzanne lay down on the cot and wished the execution headset hadn’t been de-activated.  At least that would have been quick and relatively painless…