Monday, September 23, 2013

Short Story #68: Banned

Prompt (courtesy of Tipsy Lit): Write about a controversial topic in any way/genre you choose [in honor of Banned Books Week]. The below flash story is a heretofore unwritten scene from my unpublished (unpublishable?) Christian Zombie manuscript, Revival. Enjoy! (Word count: 258)

* * * * *
Jay Petty slouched against the counter of Emory’s Mercantile, called to Del Norris. “There goes another of ’em.”

“Shhhhhhhh!” Norris sputtered, spraying semi-liquefied Snickers bar over a pile of jeans. “We don’t need their attention.”

“Whaddya figger they are? Zom—”

“Nuts to the Z-word.”

Petty pried open the cash drawer, pocketed the twenties. “Oh, corpses’re wandering the streets, but nuts to the Z-word.”

A pile of tin cans toppled, followed by a cat’s yowl.

The handful of quarters Petty had fished out of the tray scattered on black-and-white tile floor. Norris coughed up the gob of candy he’d involuntarily swallowed.

“Damn that cat. Why’d you let him in?”

“Din’t. Come in on its own. So why’s the Z-word out?”

“Things don’t eat brains. Al Prescott’s dead grandpa grabbed ahold of Nan Akers. Snapped her neck like a Slim Jim. Dragged her off toward the water plant.”

Petty reconsidered the meatstick halfway to his mouth. “What are they, then?”

“Some sort of hive-mind walking-dead conglomerate.”

“Oh, that’s good. Look out, here come, maybe...of the hive-mind walking-dead conglomerate. You’d be dead before you got out the word hive. Zombies is efficienter.”

“It’s wrong though. Zom—” A withered hand grabbed Norris’ neck, squeezed, sent chocolate streaming down his chin as his vertebrae snapped.

Another hand snapped Petty’s neck, sending the word—bees off to no one in particular.

The cat picked up the discarded meatstick, followed the corpses—two ambulatory, two not—out the back door of the shop.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tipsy Lit

Today's entry is a non-fiction piece, so no prompt. (Word count: 253)

* * * * *
I’m joining a writers’ community known as Tipsy Lit. TL has an irreverent attitude when it comes to reading and writing and a liberated spirit when it comes to, well, spirits. Because I teach high school students and I don’t want them making unwise decisions with alcohol before age 21, I herewith present five ways you can enjoy all the wonders of drinking without consuming a drop of booze.

Lowered Inhibitions:
At the party drink chocolate milk. It’s fun and you don’t really care what anybody thinks, do you? See, lowered inhibitions already. Be a slightly more creative and imaginative version of yourself.

Drink chocolate milk. A lot. Go on, binge. Then spin around for two minutes. Bloated, dizzy, possibly gassy depending on your lactose tolerance. Fun, ain’t it?

Puking Drunk:
Same as Tipsy, but stop spinning a minute in to swallow a spoonful of ipecac. Then keep spinning for as long as it takes. Mind the furniture and knick-knacks. Isn’t drinking great?

Blackout Drunk:
Tipsy, but at the top of a flight of stairs. If you wake up at the bottom of the stairs with no memory of how you got there, you’ve done it right!

Intervention Time:
Puking Drunk at the top of a flight of stairs. Try this at grandma’s house on Thanksgiving for a holiday memory no one will ever forget.

Please bear in mind that the final four options are provided satirically. No one needs to vomit or fall down the stairs to have a fun time.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Short Story #67: The Adventure of the Dying Detective

Will Sherlock Holmes week continue into the weekend? Stay tuned.

Prompt: Write a short story that could have the title: "The Adventure of the Dying Detective." (Word count: 258)

* * * * *
Jack Baines didn’t have to pull his hand away from his gut to know he was bleeding. Didn’t have to see to know his blood flowed almost as freely as the champagne at the Governor’s Ball. He’d be dead soon, had to incriminate his killer while he could.

The Governor’s Ball, an annual event to which Baines was annually not invited. Not that he minded; he wasn’t political. Nevertheless, when Abner Fretwell III asked him to shadow his wife at the shindig, he gladly broke out his tuxedo and infiltrated the waitstaff.

Everything had gone well until some old bird with a shellfish allergy sampled the lobster pâté. As the codger’s face inflated like a swollen hot-water bottle, Dolores Rosemund-Fretwell took advantage of the distraction to step out onto the veranda. A moment later Gordon Bessemer, the governor’s press secretary, followed.

Baines waited ten minutes to let their delicto get well in flagrante, then headed out himself. He found them going at it like weasels near the rose garden, started shooting photographs with his cufflink camera, heard Mrs. Fretwell gasp, “That’s the detective my husband hired. My detective pointed him out to me earlier today,” then found himself stumbling away, gutshot.

The party was too far away. He couldn’t write Bessemer shot me in his blood on the lawn. Writing a note on paper was possible, but risky: Bessemer could easily search him, destroy the message.

In the end, he swallowed his cufflinks. He didn’t know if an autopsy’d be performed, but it was worth a try.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Short Story #66: A Case of Identity

Not sure if Sherlock Holmes week will go to Sunday (a full seven days), Saturday (end of this week), or Friday (end of work week). At any rate, it's only Thursday, so enjoy!

Prompt: Write a short story that could have the title "A Case of Identity." (Word Count: 257)

* * * * *
The man in the black suit offered Rhonda Beach his card: Dr. Willoughby Velid, Miracle Worker. Rhonda laughed. “Well, who can’t use a miracle,” she said, but handed it back.

“I assure you, it’s not a novelty card.” He gestured to the valise at his feet. “I really do work miracles.”

Rhonda’s “Really?” came out more sarcastic than inquisitive.

Velid mentioned the name of a certain actress (you’d know her). “When we met, she was one of thousands of indistinguishable high school freshmen.”

“And look where she is now.”

“True. But would you like to know her fate without that rise to fame?” Anticipating her “Sure,” he unfastened case’s buckles and belts. He opened it.

Rhonda leaned forward, peering into the darkness of the bag. She wondered how much inky blackness the bag contained. Certainly more than its two-feet-by-one-foot-by-nine-inches suggested.

“Look closely.” A dim light appeared, far away. It was hard to judge its size, but it grew. The larger it became, the closer Rhonda leaned. When it filled the valise, Rhonda fell into it.

Velid closed the bag, hummed something by the Rolling Stones, and reopened it. The glow still filled the case, but a black spot began growing in its center. When the darkness extinguished the light, Rhonda Beach re-emerged beside Velid. At least it appeared to be her.

He whispered in her ear. She laughed, put her index finger to her lips, then his. With a shush, she walked away and didn’t look back.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Short Story #65: The Valley of Fear

It's hump day of Sherlock Holmes week and all that that implies.

Prompt: Write a short story that could have the title "The Valley of Fear." (Word count: 258)

* * * * *
“Sergeant, lead the advance,” General Matthews directed.

The sergeant picked up his bugle, lowered it. “Gentlemen.” His voice barely a whisper, yet his words were heard by the entire company. “It’s time.” He rubbed the corners of his mouth. “And it’s been my honor.”

One hundred twenty-seven men walked into the fog-shrouded Valley of Sommerstadt. None expected to walk out the other side. The five bodies that did walk into the village proper three days later were not quite human anymore.

“Can you see anything?” The voice carried through the fog. Detached from any soldier, it spoke the minds of all. No reply was necessary or forthcoming.

Things were moving, certainly, but what, no one could tell. Large, hulking forms not native to central Germany; at least, not native for eons.

“Snake crawled across my boot.” The words echoed through the company in too many voices. None of the speakers or listeners believed it was a snake. To think otherwise, however, was madness.

The first screams were mercifully brief. The prolonged sounds of cruel chewing, on the other hand....

“Courage, men.” There was no mistaking Sergeant Prescott’s voice. No disobeying, either. The march continued.

One man brought out his tin whistle, began playing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” Another joined him on snare drum. Suddenly every man imagined himself the third marcher in Willard’s Spirit of ’76, lacking a drum but marching proudly.

The things in the fog made short shrift of this impudence.

But, still, the men marched.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Short Story #64: Silver Blaze

Sherlock Holmes Week continues!

Prompt: Write a short story that could have the title "Silver Blaze." (Word Count: 256)

* * * * *
“I’m cold. Let’s go in the tent,” Kris said, pulling on the pocket of Dean’s coat.

“Five more minutes.”

“Can’t we at least light a fire?”

They were at the far end of the tidal lake in Longpike Cove. Two hundred yards of black seawater lay between them and the hummock that separated the lake from all but the highest of tides. A thin marine layer kept stars from reflecting back in the flat clear water.

Trying to maximize her warmth, he wrapped his arms around her. “If my grandfather’s journal was right, in four and a half minutes you’ll have all the fire you want.”

So they sat, side by side, staring out at the horizon.

Two hundred-fifty seconds later, a white speck appeared in the distance. It could have been a mile. It could have been a quarter million. The white speck grew into the top of the moon.

Kris and Dean stared straight ahead, not daring to blink.

The moon rose above the hummock and its reflection filled the lake. As it continued rising, the illumination grew brighter and fiercer until the lake burned silver.

Squinting into the blaze, Dean said, “Once every twenty years the moon aligns perfectly with the mouth of the cove. The rest of the time it’s just a saucer’s worth of light.”

“It’s beautiful,” Kris said, wrapping her arms tightly around him.

Dean turned, rapt by the reflected conflagration in her eyes. “You’re beautiful. That’s just moonlight on a brackish lake.”


Monday, August 19, 2013

Short Story #63: The Adventure of the Cardboard Box

It's Sherlock Holmes Week (because I say it is), so this week's stories will share titles with ACD Holmes stories.

Prompt: Write a short story that could have the title: The Adventure of the Cardboard Box. (Word Count: 259)

* * * * *
It was seven o’clock when Marcy arrived home and the baby was crying.

“Babe, is everything OK with Linda?” she called out. Her husband, Ed, didn’t answer.

Marcy slung her coat over the couch and dropped her purse. Stepping out of her heels, she walked into the kitchen. The table was set for a candlelit dinner, except the candles weren’t lit and the bottle of Cabernet had toppled over and poured out onto the floor.

Linda’s cry ratcheted up a few decibels.

Marcy turned toward the baby’s room—calling out “Ed, honey?”—when she saw the box on the counter. It was the standard pink bakery box, only something had stained a bottom corner of the cardboard an angry red. On the dish drainer beside the box was an 8-inch chef’s knife.

The baby’s cry was urgent, and it tugged at Marcy’s heart, but she was certain she couldn’t face Linda without first knowing what was in the box. She took a step toward it, the tile cool on her bare feet. Another step. Another. She took a deep breath as she reached out for the box, the smell of the wine—spicy, she thought, with an undertone of...what?—filled her nostrils.

She touched the box. The phone rang. The baby wailed. Inside the box something long, pale, oozing red at one end. She grabbed the phone, thinking babysarmbabyslegbabysarmbabysleg before she blinked away tears and saw the raspberry swiss roll cake for what it was.

Ed: “Marse, can you come back here? Linda’s cut another tooth and needs her mama.”