UPDATED WITH WINNER: LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: July Edition

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Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity.

How This Works

We give you something. It could be a picture or an idea or a sentence. You write a flash fiction piece, using the thing we gave you as inspiration. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked, and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 250 words is the limit (you can write less, but you can't write more)
  • Any genre
  • Give it a title
  • We're not exactly shy, but stay away from senseless racism or violence
  • One entry per person
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted (though don't go crazy)
  • LitReactor employees can enter, but they can't win
  • All stories submitted on or before July 30th will be considered. We'll run the winner on July 31.

This Month's Prize

Disappeared by Anthony Quinn: A Catholic detective in a Protestant nation, Celcius Daly knows too well the agonies of sectarian strife. To solve a string of murders, he must reach decades into the past, confronting a painful history that Ireland would prefer to forget. Great book from a debut author. Winner gets a digital copy of the book in the format of his or her choice.

This Month's Judge

Anthony Quinn, author of the book we're giving away as this month's prize! Quinn is an Irish author and journalist, born in Northern Ireland’s County Tyrone. He has written short stories for years, winning critical acclaim and, twice, a place on the short list for the Hennessy/New Irish Writing Award. Disappeared is his first novel.

Your Inspiration

And the winner is... Emma!

Our judge said he was won over by the "compelling use of imagery, her talent at describing the macabre in an entertaining fashion, and the strong authorial voice throughout." Congrats, Emma!

Waiting

They lay underground, snug in their holes and their tombs and their pine boxes. Some drum their insubstantial fingers against wet earth, others play games of pick-up-sticks with the small bones of their former hands. The lucky ones, those in the mausoleums, might have a book or some nice needlework to pass the time. Those with slightly more sadistic tendencies amuse themselves by pulling the legs off of centipedes. One likes to compose songs to the tune of footfalls overhead (if only visitors came more often than two or three times a year, he laments to no one in particular). The point is, they all have their little hobbies.

The popular notion is that there is no sunlight underground; that simply isn’t true. Sunlight is stronger than you’d imagine, as is mist, and both filter down through the sod and the mud, tunneling along the same routes as the beetles and worms, becoming gradually filtered by soil and humus so that instead of yellow the light takes on a brownish quality, and perhaps the mist is a bit murkier, but it’s still there.

When the last of the day’s light drips down through the earth like the last bit of honey poured from a jar, chased by darkness, they make their preparations. They pack up their needlework, finish torturing that last beetle, reassemble their left hand. They’ve been waiting all day, and it’s time to come out.

Image of Disappeared (The Inspector Celcius Daly Mysteries Book 1)
Manufacturer: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Part Number:
Price:
Rob Hart

Column by Rob Hart

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor, as well as the publisher at MysteriousPress.com. He's the author of New Yorked, nominated for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, as well as City of Rose and South Village. Short stories have appeared in publications like Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Needle, Joyland, All Due Respect, and Helix Literary Magazine. Non-fiction has appeared at Salon, The Daily Beast, Birth.Movies.Death, The Literary Hub, Electric Literature, and Nailed. He lives in New York City. Find him online at www.robwhart.com

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twinkletoes3106's picture
twinkletoes3106 from Phoenix, AZ is reading The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall July 6, 2012 - 2:56pm

Undone

“You have to go. Tomorrow,” Bradley said, pacing while the stones and cut orchids discreetly laughed at him.

“I don’t have to do anything,” she said. “I’m numb.”

He sighed loudly and ran his hands through his hair while striding across plots and memories.

“Don’t worry. It’s already over,” she whispered.

“What do you mean already over?” The pacing stopped.

“You’re not listening,” she said.

“Don’t start that accusatory shit with me again.”

She politely folded her hands in her lap and then unfolded them to scratch her thigh where it met the cold granite beneath her.

“It rained the other day.”

“So?”

“So, I needed something to do. And it seemed right…what with the rain and everything,” she stated coolly.

The grass seemed to hum between them. Bradley stopped to read the tombstone closest to him but was too distracted to finish. He put his hands in his pockets.       

“How is your book coming along?”

He turned.

“It’s affected,” Bradley stated.

“I see.” She brought her fingertips to her nose and breathed in deeply. “I love the smell.”

“I don’t think I can,” Bradley replied.

"Try.”

“I don’t think I want to.”

“Hmm.”

She jumped down from the tombstone and brushed her hands together.

“Then, I guess this is it,” she said.

Bradley nodded once, firmly. She laid a whisper of a kiss on his cheek. “You can still say goodbye,” she said.

“I already did.”

She nodded. “I know.”

Blair's picture
Blair from Southern California is reading Needful Things July 6, 2012 - 5:49pm

Four Dead Reginalds

Reginald IV pulled the trigger on a ten-penny pistol. The bullet missed the pickpocket –who ran away regardless—and continued on a complete circuit around Earth.

Reginald developed habit of looking over his shoulder.

One day he turned to see some imagined pickpocket, but instead he saw the return of his bullet. It chased him through the streets until it blasted through his front door and blew his heart out. The bullet escaped through an open window while Reginald crossed the room, picked up his heart, and then fell over stone dead. He was survived by his second wife and Reginald V.

The bullet killed Reginald V some twenty-six years later. It disguised itself as a hornet and stung the leg of a horse; the horse ran away with a carriage; the carriage ran over Reginald V, popping his head open like an overripe melon. He was survived by his third wife and Reginald VI.

The bullet took a long vacation. I imagine it ate pastries in Paris or went to the opera in Rome. It waited some sixty years and then came back as a spider. It crawled through Reginald’s sheets and bit the sleeping man on the ankle, poisoning him. He was survived by his second wife and Reginald VII (me).

I finish telling my new wife about the three headstones, and then she tells me that her great grandmother was the first in a line of murderers. “Black widows,” she calls them.

Jairo Arana's picture
Jairo Arana is reading Perdido Street Station by China Mielville and The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu July 8, 2012 - 6:13am

Bones   

The six men wore flashlights on their helmets and they stood around the gravesite. Under the moonless night, they pierced the burial site with their shovels. A seventh man arrived.

“Who goes there?” One of the diggers called out.

“Relax, laddie. It’s me. Old man’s been paid off.”

“Sure he won’t talk to Scotland Yard, should they come asking questions?”

“No. Besides... he has a little side business involving fresh corpses. He’ll stay quiet. You can be sure of that.”

They reached the jeweled skeletal remains in the grave. One of the men, with his latex-gloved hands, pulled out a femur.

“More than enough mitochondrial DNA.”

“So... if, as I suspect, it turns out I am of her bloodline...”

“...It would prove you’re The Chosen... and, therefore, rightful leader and true High Priest of

The Order of Thule.”

“Science, the black arts of lesser men, used to prove my sorcerous bloodline.”

“Brothers. The skull has long fangs. And the head is elongated.”

“It’s her. DNA testing’s next.”

Deep growls.

They turned and found themselves surrounded by a pack of twelve red-eyed dire wolves.

“You dare disturb my husband’s grave?” A woman walked up from amongst the monstrous wolves.

“Who’re you?”

“The one you’re searching for. No, you’re not of my bloodline. And that’s my husband’s grave, not mine. You’ve desecrated it. Now, you must pay.”

The dire wolves leapt towards them. Hideous shrieks of seven men and sounds of torn

flesh and crunched bones filled the night.

Tony Koval's picture
Tony Koval from Jesustown, Bible Belt, Texas, USA is reading more and more and more July 19, 2012 - 9:35am

Then, Jen Happened:

 

They put makeup on her to cover up the bruisey color. Her cheeks are fake-sunburned, mouth is too pink, hair is combed wrong. They drew on her eyebrows. She looks like grandma. Nobody says anything about it, though, so I don't say anything, either. 

People put things inside her coffin. I don't know what the book is for. It's a chapter book, like the ones mom reads. Jen couldn't read, yet.

David reaches up, takes my hand, then leans against me. "What if she gets bored?"

"I don't think she'll get bored."

"What if she does?" He squeezes my hand tighter.

What if she does? What if she can feel herself turning to bones? What if she can hear us? What if she's trying to wake up?

Dad told me, 'Dead people don't feel.' I asked him if Jen was going to Heaven. He said, 'Yes.' I said she threw a lot of fits and didn't listen very well. He told me to be quiet.

That made me think, Maybe she's going to Hell.

I squeeze my little brother's hand. "I don't think she will, David."

"What if she does?!" His voice wheels, careens, crashes against the grass, like the sharp whistle of Wile E. Coyote before he blows a body-shaped hole in the desert.

People look away from the coffin, and toward David, who's crying, again.

My eyes sting. "Stop asking stupid questions."

He's quiet. He uses my sleeve to wipe his snot.

Jen's quiet, too.

People politely look away. 

Jacob Good's picture
Jacob Good from Idaho is reading Asimov on Chemistry July 7, 2012 - 8:12pm

Stranger

The trail of straggling grievers stuttered and eventually came to a stand-still at the site where the temporal housing formerly known as the soul, Fiona, would normally spend the next few years decaying under Irish soil. Thus, the procession became a cessation, and the ceremony began.

Various mourners stood with aching bones and gave their view on the life that had been lived shortly, yet so vividly. They reminisced about her playful bellicosity and how everyone in a room knew when Fiona had entered, as she stood nearly half a mark twain and had ancient dragon’s mane from her head to the soles of her feet.

Her laughter was contagious, as was her bubonic plague. Within a few months of arriving in the village she had single-handedly decimated the population. The lone survivors now stood at her grave and remarked on her callous nature; her shallow desire to inflict upon them such atrocities. They all sighed heavily as the body twisted in tandem with the chains lowering it into the fiery furnace. Flames licked the gauze surrounding her pale skin and slowly ate away at her flesh.

Within moments the body was consumed and everyone started to turn away, when a scream from the lowest levels of hell lashed out of the pit. Everyone felt panic in their hearts, but chose to ignore the pitiful cries of the annihilator as she descended to her eternal torturous home. This was the last time they would allow strangers into the village.

element1133's picture
element1133 July 8, 2012 - 5:06am

ABBEY-NORMAL

“Where the fuck am I?” I said it out loud. Sure I did. No one here is going to hear me. Oh sure, ghosts and shit will be around, but that doesn’t bother me. I’ll take a ghost over what’s coming for me.

I duck inside the church, or abbey, or whatever it is. To hell with running anymore. I didn’t do it. Well, not on purpose. I was supposed to do that later; but an accident, happenstance they call it, did it for me.

Dead!

That she is. But I’m quite jealous of chance. I wish I had done it with my own bony hands, and then the footwork to the next state would feel less like work, more like expulsion to paradise.

I take deep breaths.

What a nice place. Quiet. No one gives a damn what you do. I could set up shop, stay in the company of stones and bones. She’d be buried in some place not unlike this. She would, if she had a body.

But there isn’t anything left for dirt to cover, not a lick of her left to even burn for the good Lordy to take. That tickles me. No dressed up dead-face for one last look.

They’ll be here by morning. Take your time boys. I’ll be here, sleeping on the only pew left standing. Maybe it’s the quiet, or the décor, or maybe it’s the dead, but I know I’ll sleep well--best I have in years.

CatTrip's picture
CatTrip from Australia is reading nothing July 9, 2012 - 4:11am

No Rest In Peace

Stones, grey with age, green with moss, black with stains of fire, stand sentinel between forgotten graves and misty morning. I remember when the abbey was new, when slate adorned beams of oak, when sunshine danced through stained glass. When the land was clean and untainted.

Those days are long gone, found only within flowing script on fragile papers that only historians reverently touch with pristine gloves. Historians who long for the truth.

One truth tells of bandits raiding the church, of gold and jewels taken from altars and statues. Certainly within the walls lie the broken statues, useless stone of no import. Now, and then.

Another is of the purging of another faith, of cleansing with fire. Sunsets remind me of flames that rose to the sky, the cries of the gulls of screams and wailing, but it wasn't faith that caused the purging.

One historian theorises of a hunt for the undead, for fictional vampires, cites the over-turned tombstones and dug-up graves as proof. There is truth in what he says, though not the whole truth.

They should think of older times, before the written word. When tales were spoken in hushed tones. When sacrifices were of real blood and flesh. When twins were from the gods and returned to them.

They should look beyond the words, beyond the stones. They should look below the graves.

They should listen to the anguish of separation, of the breaking of bonds that can never be broken.

The truth lies there.

notgump's picture
notgump from Florida is reading Everything I can about writing July 26, 2012 - 6:21pm

Uisce Beatha

W. Lee Shay was determined to pack the chestnuts tight this time. He drank his uisce beatha greedily, knowing he should slow to savor the nutty undertone and the essence of Clíodhna’s apples.

Da bellowed from upstairs. “Warnock Lee! Time to visit yer brother.”

Holding his father’s right hand while the old man gripped the banister with his other, Lee felt woozy as he shuffled down crabwise in step with him. Da said, “I wish ya'd stop writing nonsense and do something about them boyos that murdered Danny. If ya’d been there to stand with him maybe he’d be with us today.”

Lee thought of Da’s admonition, oft repeated before the terrible day, never after:

Is fheàrr teicheadh math na droch fhuireach (Better a good retreat than a bad stand).

He wanted to say, maybe if Danny had listened to you we would all be together today.

As they drove, his thoughts drifted to his writing, how he would make his own Quixotic stand. Not so hard, really, if you’re a little pissed. Just have another wee dram, stifle yourself and go for it.

Forget the Frenchman who said, "The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile." Maybe the thousandth was poet laureate.

He thought, I’ll pack those hairy boys in there so tight they will explode!"

“Hoist with my own petard,” he groaned aloud.

Da said, “Yer fookin' daft. We’re almost there. Did ya bring the uisce?"

La Emme Nikita's picture
Class Facilitator
La Emme Nikita from Los Angeles is reading Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman July 8, 2012 - 8:14pm

Waiting

They lay underground, snug in their holes and their tombs and their pine boxes. Some drum their insubstantial fingers against wet earth, others play games of pick-up-sticks with the small bones of their former hands. The lucky ones, those in the mausoleums, might have a book or some nice needlework to pass the time. Those with slightly more sadistic tendencies amuse themselves by pulling the legs off of centipedes. One likes to compose songs to the tune of footfalls overhead (if only visitors came more often than two or three times a year, he laments to no one in particular). The point is, they all have their little hobbies.

The popular notion is that there is no sunlight underground; that simply isn’t true. Sunlight is stronger than you’d imagine, as is mist, and both filter down through the sod and the mud, tunneling along the same routes as the beetles and worms, becoming gradually filtered by soil and humus so that instead of yellow the light takes on a brownish quality, and perhaps the mist is a bit murkier, but it’s still there.

When the last of the day’s light drips down through the earth like the last bit of honey poured from a jar, chased by darkness, they make their preparations. They pack up their needlework, finish torturing that last beetle, reassemble their left hand. They’ve been waiting all day, and it’s time to come out.

 
Jamie Brickley's picture
Jamie Brickley from Malvern, PA is reading V. by Thomas Pynchon July 9, 2012 - 4:25am

Made in America

So there’s this girl, right?  And she’s pretty and all.  And she’s bionic, okay?  Or cybernetic.  Mechanical or some such thing.  A re-animated corpse from a remote graveyard whose sole design feature, what she was built to do, specifically, is to eat black widows and piss out antivenin.  Knowing nothing else and consequentially sort of a loner, she eats black widows for a while in a high security clearance laboratory until one of the scientists takes her to a concert and she’s irretrievably inspired to start a band called the Poison Darts.  Given that’s she’s an android type thing, she has this amazingly spectral voice literally unparalleled in the history of music.  People are comparing her to Grace Slick and Whitney Huston and Regina Spektor and so on, ad infinitum, and the fact that she’s pretty and all doesn’t hurt.  So she’s adjusted considerably well to her swift rise to fame, probably because she’s half machine and doesn’t really feel the pressure.  But the catch is, she finds herself irreversibly drawn to her drummer, who is infinitely handsome and mild, and falls thoroughly in love with him like she’s short-circuiting in a downpour.  He’s summarily receptive, and after their first date she goes back to his place only to discover that he has a spider farm.  Overcome with temptation, she sneaks a few black widows while he’s in the bathroom, for old time’s sake, and then they make out and he dies.
 

Heather Constantinescu's picture
Heather Constan... from Indianapolis, Indiana is reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman July 11, 2012 - 10:11am

Tombstones

“Father, what happens to people in the ground?” the little girl said. The funeral guests had walked away from the freshly dug grave. But the girl stayed behind. She skated her fingers across the black marble tombstone.

 

“I’m not sure, Caroline. Don’t you need to get home?” asked Father Ramsey.

 

“Do they get out of their coffins and swim around…underground?” Caroline said, deliberately ignoring him. She liked talking to the priest. He sighed. It had been a tough morning. His mind was blank. But the girl gazed at him expectantly.  

 

“You know, they buried a couple once, in America, near an old cherry tree, and the ground was quite wet…” he began.

 

The little girl raised her head and fixed her dark blue eyes earnestly on him. Encouraged, he warmed to his topic.

 

“The wood coffins rotted, and the tree sent its roots into them. One hundred years later when there was a flood, many coffins washed away. The tree was uprooted. The exposed roots had grown completely into the bodies, taking on their exact shape. They were a perfect sculpture of the people who had been buried.”

 

“Did the tree absorb their souls too?” she asked.

 

“I don’t know, Caroline. Now run along.”

 

“Thanks for the story, Father,” she said. She leaned over and gave him a hug, then scampered towards a waiting car.

 

Father Ramsey looked up at the sky and got up to leave. It was going to rain. Best get inside.

 

Wayne Rutherford's picture
Wayne Rutherford from Columbus, Ohio is reading NOS4A2 July 12, 2012 - 7:18am
Lost and Found

 

     Crouched down low, behind the crumbling limestone of some dead man’s grave marker, I hear footsteps in the distance. Beams of bright white cut through the heavy darkness, illuminating everything in its path for a second before the thick black envelops back around it. The headstone is, surprisingly, cool against the right side of my face. Clothes are sticking to my sweat covered body and my knees are starting to ache from behind crouched down for so long.
     “I’m going to find you. You know that, right?” A voice yells out from the vicinity of the church.
     My body remains motionless, muscles throbbing with the urge to get up and run; to just get away. The metal in my hand is heavy and gets hot with the death grip I have on it; sweat gathering in the grooves and crannies. The footsteps walk up right next to the grave and the lights are hovering right overhead. My breathing becomes quick and shallow and my eyes squeeze close as tight as possible in hopes that doing so makes me invisible. From around the corner of that crumbling limestone grave marker comes the light; hitting me directly in the eyes.
     “Found you! It’s my turn to hide now! Count to fifty and come find me.”
 

Sampsonics's picture
Sampsonics is reading The Hunger Games July 12, 2012 - 4:41pm

Off The Map

'This is the place,' he said with a glowing smile.

'This? You're kidding!'

'I'm not kidding. It's perfect.'

I looked around, shaking my head.

'It's in the middle of nowhere.'

'Exactly,' he replied. 'It's ideal. Far away from the humdrum of the city. Off the map.'

'It's cold and dreary and damp and depressing.'

'It seems like it now, but what does it matter? For all we care, it'll be cozy and bright as a summer day.'

'Somebody certainly has high hopes. What brings on this sudden wave of optimism – or should I say hubris?'

'Let's just say I have faith in turning things around.'

He would need more than faith to turn things around the way he'd been running things.

He smirked, as if aware of my thoughts, and pointed to a freshly-dug grave.

‘The womb of our enterprise,' he said.

I shook my head, staring at the hole. My heart raced. Open graves. They made me nervous.

He laughed.

‘The perfect template for our new orchard/sanitarium. Rich soil made richer with nutrients from stiffs, and a parish in need of money. And disturbed people looking for peace of mind, offering us free labor.’

'I don’t like it. It's creepy.'

'Suit yourself.'

I never saw the blow. I just felt my head explode, then collapsed. Soft, moist soil started covering me. I should have expected it. Partnerships like ours always end like this. But all I could think about was, ‘Is he really buying this place?’

Dorian Grey's picture
Dorian Grey from Transexual, Transylvania is reading "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck July 12, 2012 - 3:35pm

A Funeral for Man's Best Friend

“Rest in peace, Skitters,” Alice said. She dabbed at the wetness on her face with her handkerchief. Was it from the tears or the rain? Of course it had to be raining; the day she buries Skitters, it had to rain.
 

Her father patted her on the shoulder. “He was a good dog,” he said. “He’ll be missed.”
 

Her mother nodded.
 

She murmured the rest of her prayers under her breath, crossed herself, and started walking to the car, sniffling. “Oh, well. I’m sure if we go to the pound now, they’ll have plenty of cute ones to choose from.” When she got to the car, she turned around. Her parents hadn’t moved.
 

“Honey,” her mother said in a delicate voice, “we don’t think it’s a good idea to have any more pets. All the dogs, the cats, birds, reptiles… it’s too much.” Her father nodded in agreement.
 

Alice was confused. “Too much…?”
 

“It’s our house,” her father said, “not yours. The place is just too damn crowded with all these animals.”
 

“But they’re my friends,” Alice said.
 

“We know, dear, we know. But you just have so many of them.”
 

Alice was silent. She hung her head for a minute, before raising it again, smiling. “Do you think I could get another for my birthday?” she asked.
 

Her father sighed. “We’ll consider it,” he said, walking to the car.
 

“It’s a big birthday,” Alice said. “It’s not every day you turn forty.”
 

 

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres July 12, 2012 - 5:20pm

"Summer Loving"

     Wiping the sweat from his brow and releasing a much-needed sigh after all his hard work, he looks down at her with a nervous smile.  Her eyes seem distant, not at all in contact with his, and her head turned to the side causes a wave of self-conscious embarrassment to resonate through him.
     “I’m sorry I took so long,” he says, again wiping what seems like puddles of sweat from his reddening face onto his sleeve.
     Looking down at her, her flower-printed dress still intact, he is all at once overwhelmed with emotion and memories of good times past.  He carefully searches for the right words to speak, just as afraid of saying the wrong thing today as he was on their first date, years ago.
     “I’m just so happy to see you again, it’s felt like years…” he stops himself, slapping his gloved hand against his temple.  Don’t be such a fool, he thinks, second-guessing in his excitement that he may have spoken the words aloud.  Just don’t talk about what happened before, the past is the past.
     While silently observing her, emotions of old overpower him and he finally gives in, letting pride go by the wayside.  “I don’t care what happened.  I’ve missed you more than you know, but we are finally together again.”
     With his heart finally bared, he lifts her up and gently lays her on the ground above, taking all caution to avoid his shovel.  “I’m so happy you’re in my life again.”

Masque's picture
Masque from UK is reading The Dark Tower July 13, 2012 - 9:12am

Disappointment

Slouched on the memorial bench clutching a brown glass bottle, Peter took a bitter mouthful and wiped his grey, stubbled chin with the back of one hand. Beside him, his mother’s headstone rose into the evening sky, improbably imposing for such a universally reviled woman.

For the first few years after her death he had been dutiful; replacing the withered flowers with each anniversary and holiday that passed.  As the years wore on and the feeling of emancipation that accompanied her death faded, he slipped further into alcoholism, a habit she had abhorred more than any other. He was somewhat regretful she was no longer around to see the mess he had made of his life. She would have revelled in it.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, a sharp crack echoed in Peter’s ears. He gawped in dazed horror as the dark slate of the church roof began to crumble and cave until only the jagged ribs of the rafters remained, silhouetted against the reddening sky. The heavy oak doors of the church swung open and she emerged, small and wrinkled as he had last seen her. From across the graveyard her piercing glare assured him that she knew of every immorality he had committed since she had gasped her last breath.

With a hoarse cry, Peter hurled his bottle at the apparition before him. As the glass shattered against the oak door and rained upon the ground, he covered his face with large, grimy hands and wept.

Robert Alexander II's picture
Robert Alexander II is reading nothing because he just finished a book, but he very well may start another one today July 14, 2012 - 12:40am
The Palette 

     Black. My soul as it was plunged into a sea of understanding, an epiphany of the workings of the world. I had been living a lie. Now that I knew the truth, nothing could bind me. . .


     White. Where I recorded my discoveries to be used to my advantage when the time was right. . .


     Red. The color of death as it flowed from my head into my hand. It tipped the silver lining and it kissed the heart of its lover. It flowed down his chest. I smiled. Nothing was as sweet as a personal message. . .


     Blue. Peace keepers arrived too late to preserve what they were supposed to. Once again they had failed. Once again they had to regain order. . .


     Grey. The color of my new home. A beautiful color, I think. His home featured many gray accents across the landscape, so similar in color to mine. Alas, I was in a box, but it was of no concern. Because I knew the truth and nobody could bind me. . . .

cshultz81's picture
cshultz81 from Oklahoma is reading Best Horror of the Year Volume 8 July 14, 2012 - 10:30am

BLACK-OUT

I am the next generation. My glassy onyx exterior outshines the scuffed grey bodies of my predecessors. When they unleash me - and they will - no one will remember those that came before.  

It is my creator's wish. The corporation hoped that every successive attempt would yield a warrior. Yet ever time, the creations displayed confusion and infantile motor skills. As quickly as they gave life to inanimate metal and wires, the robotics engineers stripped it away and sent the creature to the boneyard. 

After the nineteenth failure, the old men at the top hired Dr. Spires, a man of staggering intellect. He only had to glance over the previous models to ascertain the problem. He sent his predecessors packing and designed me. 

Upon waking, I scanned my directives. Spires foresaw every complication except his own brilliance. I disintegrated him with one blow, leaving only his severed foot peeking out behind a hunk of machinery. 

Now I'm locked in a storage facility on the docks, my deactivated brethren behind me like inert stones in a field. I'm hard-wired to a computer several feet away. It runs simple software that keeps me from doing my job. It only takes a password - a string of numbers and letters - to release me. They want to ensure I don't activate again without a command to do so. 

The white coats inspect me every hour. Somehow, I will force them to enter the code. 

Then they'll see just how talented I am. 

tobygibbons87's picture
tobygibbons87 from Liverpool/London is reading Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman July 16, 2012 - 7:52am

         Horses.

         I quit my job and then quit smoking, all in the space of an hour. Then I went to get my hair cut. I stood in front of the barbers staring in for several minutes before walking in. The man shaved my head and I left to buy a packet of cigarettes. Some things I conceded quietly, are easier to give up. This all happened on a sunny Monday morning and by Wednesday I was feeling completely detached

         Years ago, someone told me about the horses escaping from a field somewhere and becoming stuck on a roundabout, just running round and round. I’d asked, how’d they get them back. Whoever it was, this storyteller, gave me a look and said that they hadn’t, that no one had stopped. I’d looked at him in disgust and he’d shrugged back as if to say, it wasn’t me, and then, that’s life isn’t it.

         I had to admit that maybe he was right. I went to my mother’s grave and stared hard. This was the Wednesday following and the sky had turned grey. I thought that I would have felt transformed but I didn’t and I had come here looking for answers. But nothing came to me and I was left alone with images of horses falling and a cigarette clutched between my fingers. I asked her if she needed anything but got only silence in return.

Kevin Maddox's picture
Kevin Maddox from Melstrand, Mi is reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut July 18, 2012 - 8:58am

3:00 a.m.


     The priest, sick with dementia, could be seen outside his crumbling church; festering and decayed with black mold. Any time after three in the morning, if you work up the nerve, I will bring you. We watch him stumble around the ancient cemetery, which nobody else visits anymore, because anyone who knew someone there is already dead.


     The Brotherhood gave up on him years ago. They still bring food. Simple things like peanut butter, jelly, bread and fruit. They bring wine too, maybe to ease the pain of his tiresome existence or just out of habit due to their chosen faith. Who knows? But they gave up coaxing him into his dark abode, and telling any spectators how sinful it is to be entertained by an ill man. Some of my friends looked guilty at that idea, but I always had a kind of respect for the old priest, and never let the warning of the Brotherhood bother me.


     Sometimes the nonsense he spoke would sound like an old Pentecostal nut-job, but once when he yelled at the priests who were trying to get him into his church and out of our sight, his eyes blazing with a preternatural glow, a look fell across their faces that made me want to die. The look of hopelessness on a man of faith rouses a rock bottom feeling.


     I heard they tried to keep him in the hospice facility downtown when his mind first started to go, but he would escape or fight trying to get back to his abandoned church and lonely graveyard. He’s been there for the last four years or more. That’s when a few older kids brought me down the dark dirt road when I was 13, trying to freak me out (I think I freaked them out when I said we should try talking to him, and they wanted to leave right away). I figure the town will just let him spend the rest of his days out there out of respect or fear, maybe both.


     I go out there with other kids from time to time, when we’re feeling restless. He’s always there, ranting and blundering around the eroded stones. Three in the morning, he’ll be there till just before the sun starts rising.


     It’s quite fascinating if you think about it.


     Is he a pissed off, deranged insomniac; or does he really know something, and this is the suffering he must endure so he may carry that knowledge to the other side?

MaSmylie's picture
MaSmylie from London, England is reading Haunted July 18, 2012 - 2:00pm

Groove is in the Heart.

“I need that 90s groove vibe to my funeral. I think that’s what I want the aesthetic of the whole thing to be, you know? Just a rocking, thumping, just,”

“Dirty.”

“Just a dirty 90s disco.”

“What about your parents?”

“What about my parents?”

“Well, don’t you think your parents might be a little put out, a little perturbed, if they turn up to their son’s funeral and it’s a thud, thud, thudding of bass and electronica noises whilst your body slowly descends into a dirty hole in the ground?”

“I don’t want to be buried.”

“You don’t want to be buried?”

“No, I don’t want to be buried. Write that down. Put that down in the notepad thing.”

Dan scrawls ‘Cremato’ in his notepad.

“Okay, so you want to be cremated?”

“No, I said I didn’t want to be buried.”

“So what,”

Daniel bows his head, pressing his fingers into the bridge of his nose, grip tightening on the notepad and pen.

“Norman, you’re not making this easy for me. Can’t you just have an ordinary funeral? Can’t we just have classic organ music, tears and a couple of cheese sandwiches post-burial?”

Norman shakes his head, briefly removing the handgun from his temple. He looks to Daniel, aghast.

“Daniel, how long have you been my best friend for? Answer me that.”

“Norman/”

“Daniel. Just answer me the question.”

“…12 years.”

Norman places the handgun back to his temple, nodding.

“12 years. That’s right. Now appease my funeral needs.”

craig_dewey's picture
craig_dewey from Los Angeles is reading Shantaram July 19, 2012 - 8:00am

Put me back in the grave, goddamnit. 

You removed me and now it hurts all over and all I want is to return to the sweet, sweet damp of mother lady's embrace.  Just put me back in the ground.  Forget the coffin, forget my clothes or the things you thought I wanted buried with me.  Forget the good times we had together and forget the bad times, too.  Forget the curse I placed upon you from my deathbed and forget the gypsy who made it all come true.  Remember nothing of me, not my hair nor my smell nor the grip of my hand on your wrist.  Just put me back in the grave, please, now that the spell has been lifted. 

I'm tired and I want to go back to sleep. 

I'm tired.  And I want to go back to sleep.

I'm tired.

So tired.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On July 20, 2012 - 4:16pm

                                                         Scrapbook

Journal of Cpl. Joseph Miles,

3/11/45,

          Forward patrol, St. Martin’s Parish, Jersey Island.
          Migraines continue unabated.
          Lingered to gaze across the channel where last year my brother knelt to a sniper’s bullet, Utah Beach…
                                                                   ---
          On way back to camp, beheld an image that froze my heart. In a tidal estuary, beyond the scrim of tombstones, a woman bathed. I stared awestruck at her moonlit relief, at the steeples she waked across the hammered brine…

 

Personal notes of H.R. Speece, MD,

RE: Patient: Miles, J.
Took news of his illness remarkably well. Seemed even content as he watched terns cobbling a nest outside the window…

 

Journal/Miles,

3/27/45,

          She approached ME at the village mixer last night!
          My siren.
          We danced and laughed and talked about gardening until the azure of dawn blended us into one. Her name is Emily. She smelled of jasmine and possibility…

 

Daily log, S/Sgt. Rudolph Unseld, 4/17/45,

CPL. MILES, JOSEPH, MISSING FOR SEVEN DAYS. SEARCH EXPANDED TO TRINITY & GROUVILLE PARISHES…

 

Journal/Miles,

5/6/45,

…she who has restored the luster to my soul and smote from me all grudges and regrets—I shall never hold one again, even towards the German pilot whose wayward incendiary razed the chapel as she knitted booties for our unborn…

 

Boston newscast, 7/18/11,

“91-year-old World War 2 veteran, Joseph Miles, accused of desertion and recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, set sail from Halifax for the British Channel Islands last month. He hasn’t been seen since…”

 

Tombstone epitaph, Jersey Island, 3/11/12,

EMILY & JOEY

DaJoHi's picture
DaJoHi from MA is reading Wool (1-5) July 20, 2012 - 11:52pm

    Elements

      The sky, a solid pale, featureless void, was in complete contrast to the emerald countryside. The land had absorbed the ambient light giving it an elegant brilliance despite the gloom. Ahead of him a hill rose like a giant swell in a sea of green. At the peak sat a broken, abandoned church and scattered headstones, like a ship coming apart in the surf. He climbed the hill and stood, breathless, among the cold stones, a strong wind his only companion.

     He would keep the promise he had agreed to all those years ago.

     The sun got to its feet and sent the gloomy morning on its way. He rested in the ruins and waited. Cottony white clouds floated overhead. From time to time a jetliner, miles up, scratched a silent scrape across the blue sky, sometimes connecting the clouds. Though he couldn't see the sea the wind brought its elemental fragrance.

     He nodded off, as old men do, and she came to him in his dream. He was startled awake. Had he heard her calling to him? Was it laughter? The sound disappeared like smoke.

     Shadows made their slow dance around and away. It was time. He rose stiffly to his feet, bracing himself against the wind. Facing the sunset, just as they had forty-five years ago that very moment, he took a silver container from his pack. He opened it and tossed the ashes into the air. He set the container down as he left. She was home.
 

Bruno Teixeira's picture
Bruno Teixeira from Lisbon is reading A Dance with Dragons July 21, 2012 - 7:09am
Village Secrets

Everyone came. She had been much loved in the village. It was a small village, the kind where everyone knows everyone, where there aren’t any secrets.

All her family was there. Her father, Solomon, the most important man in the village, stood next to the priest, with a face like stone.

Richard had been her husband for two months when she died in the fire. His whole family -- his parents -- was there too.

The gravedigger lowered the coffin into the ground. The crowd sobbed. Richard cried for the first time. Solomon let a tear run down his face. He never looks at the grave, but at Richard’s parents instead.

They look back, humbly. They lower their heads and step forward to embrace their only son. The three of them cry, the mother most violently. Then they step away. Richard doesn’t notice his parents walking away, never looking back.

The crowd looks at Solomon. Some also leave, taking the children. The gravedigger awaits, shovel in hand. Solomon nods at him, calmly.

Instantly, the gravedigger hits Richard with the shovel. Before he can understand, his brother-in-law kicks him into the grave. He tries to get up, but gets hit again, and dirt is thrown at him all around, and someone throws a rock at his face.

Solomon stares at the grave, expressionless. The ditch is filled with dirt. None of it moves.

It was a small village, the kind where everyone knows everyone, where
there aren’t any secrets.

tigercasual's picture
tigercasual July 23, 2012 - 2:17pm

Leicester Fields Cemetery is filled with only those who have been murdered. It’s an old story, one that I’ve known longer than I’ve been able to read the tombstones…

Agatha Faulkner: Beloved Mother, strangled. Her last night spent by candlelight, mending the clothes of her only child. And her child, Logan Lynch Faulkner, hanged for murdering his wife. His father… A ghost. What else could he be.


My grandmother made hot brandies and told their stories. She had solved so many of the Leicester murders. The constables would never see the cases through, never lock the suspects in a dark library, never look inside them, never go forth.


But there was an empty grave, a child, missing… the only case that my grandmother never solved. Late at night she walked the Leicester Moors looking, ever as she did, deeper and deeper into the dark.


Most would have been broken. She never forgot the case, but she moved on… solved many more, buried the victims, graveyard deep, in Leicester.


One night, as we walked through the fields, she held my hand and told me that there was a darkness that could never be penetrated, a darkness born inside each of us, but we don’t give- we can’t give in. That night we saw the pale body of a child floating down Still Pastures Stream. We raced after, but the spring thaw was too fast, tangled growth too dense. Blinded by moonlight we chased. And after time, we watched her slip away.

Druidicus's picture
Druidicus from Citrus Springs, FL is reading The Book of Three July 23, 2012 - 6:54pm

Unseen Anguish        

      The group followed the man in black between monuments to the dead. They listened to him reverently while he led them forward. A bereaved woman stood ahead of them but they were oblivious to her pain. She wept quietly, mourning the loss of the one she loved.
  

      “This is the final stop on our walk,” said the priest with an educated Irish brogue. He stood before an an old and weathered Celtic cross, all trace of inscriptions lost to the passage of time. “This is the final resting place of John Maloney, murdered in 1649. Most of you, though, will recognize it as the “Grave of the Bereft Lover.”
 

        The woman walked to the grave, her pained eyes looking to the priest for comfort. But, as always, he wouldn't look at her. His lack of compassion did not deepen her pain.
  

       “Oh John...” she whimpered. She sank to her knees and wept, her hands about the headstone and her face pressed against it's cold surface.

        “The grave is said to be haunted by the man's fiance,” the priest continued. “Witnesses over the years have seen a woman crying and kneeling over the plot. It's said she died grasping the stone.”
 

         “Father..” a man up front gasped and pointed.

          Turning, the priest looked at the grave and then made the sign of the cross. The face of the headstone glistened with moist tears.

Nathan Albro's picture
Nathan Albro July 25, 2012 - 6:42pm

I've Come to Die

     Whiskey no longer warmed Jimmy Morrison's old bones but continually stoked his rage.  Rage, alcohol, and a lone jackdaw were his only companions in the old cemetery outside of Worthington chapel.  With the stolen bottle of Jameson in hand, he stood looking at a moss covered tombstone.  Leaning in closer to read the epitaph, he staggered, steadied himself, and cursed.  It read “Colin Morrison, born December 8, 1933, died August 4, 1958”.

     “You had to have it all.  The perfect older brother.  Selfish... you were selfish and you kept Miriam from me.”  He heaved the nearly empty bottle at the gravestone.  The abrupt sound of glass shattering against stone broke the silence.  Startled, the jackdaw flew from its perch.  He was alone.

     Jimmy turned his attention towards an adjacent grave, Miriam's resting place.  Bracing himself, he placed one hand on his leg and the other on cold stone and lowered himself to the ground.  “Whiskey has kept me alive all of these years and now it's killing me.  I don't feel pain no more but I can't remember your pretty face.  Why couldn't you have been stronger?  You didn't have to drown yourself.  I did everything for our love...I killed for you!”

     The old man rested his head on Miriam's tombstone.  The inscription read “Miriam Morrison, born April 4, 1935, died August 4, 1960.  Loving wife of Colin Morrison.”  Jimmy exhaled one last time; his continual rage forever gone.

Strange Photon's picture
Strange Photon from Fort Wayne, IN is reading Laurie Anderson lyrics July 27, 2012 - 8:57am

Mourning Dorothea

    Above the grave of Dorothea Ellis-Adkins, clouds hung heavy as guilt in crying skies. A man knelt beside her marker. Rows of cement and sandstone sentinels surrounded him, stabbing at winds that whined and wailed. In one shivering white hand, a rose. Sharp and painful to the eye, it was blood red insinuation in a dust grey world.
    Rain and tears fell, drumming out uneven footsteps from beyond a dormant tulip bed. Another mourner stood, watching, hating.
    The man’s knees sank deeper in sopping turf. His forehead shook against cold rough granite, leaving flecks of skin within the chiseled words. Sobs joined a choir of trees that swayed and sighed in shared lamentation. Blood, rain and tears dripped from his nose. More crimson trailed over a forearm that led to a fist clenched around a thorny stem. The other, just as white, just as clenched, held absolution.
    Do it, thought the mourner behind the tulip bed. John, the husband, the widower, the man Dorothea wed before the war. The soldier Dorothea betrayed. The cripple Dorothea couldn’t look in the eye. The cane in his good hand lead him closer.
    Do it.
    “It hurts too much…” cried her lover.
    Sunlight pierced the blanket above, glinting off steel, then off hickory as it crashed down. Picking up and emptying the revolver of its shells, he replaced one and pulled back the hammer.
    “You don’t know pain,” John told the unconscious man. He lifted the gun, pulled the trigger.
    He joined his wife.

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres July 31, 2012 - 5:44pm

Congrats Emma! You're talking this place by storm, winning the flash contest, causing great discussion with "Crystal."  I look forward to more of your stories...soon, I hope!

La Emme Nikita's picture
Class Facilitator
La Emme Nikita from Los Angeles is reading Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman July 31, 2012 - 5:56pm

Thanks Sean!

CStodd's picture
CStodd from NY is reading Annie Prouxl's Fine Just the Way It Is July 31, 2012 - 8:17pm

Wow Emma! Congrats and great job. 

twinkletoes3106's picture
twinkletoes3106 from Phoenix, AZ is reading The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall August 1, 2012 - 11:11am

Emma, what a wonderful entry! A well-deserved win. I loved your personalization of the macabre.