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

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

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess, in which you're challenged to thrill us in 250 words or less.

How It Works

We give you a picture. You write a flash fiction piece, using the picture 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 let's stay away from senseless racism or violence
  • One entry per person
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted
  • We'll pick a winner on the last day of the month
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate
  • All stories submitted on or before October 30 will be considered. We'll run the winner on October 31.

This Month's Prize

A galley copy of Jimmy the Stick by Michael Mayo

A gunman comes out of retirement to guard his former partner’s family

Jimmy Quinn was a gunman, bootlegger, and bagman, running with mobsters the likes of Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll, until a bullet in the leg and the murder of Arnold Rothstein ended his career. Quinn bought a speakeasy in downtown Manhattan and settled into a quiet retirement—until the day he learns that famous aviator Charles Lindbergh’s baby has been kidnapped, and his old friend and partner Walter Spencer wants a word.

Spence has left his criminal past behind, marrying into the Pennyweight family—of Pennyweight Petroleum—and settling into a legitimate lifestyle in rural New Jersey. Now Spence has business out of state, and with the Lindbergh kidnapping weighing on his mind, he wants Quinn to stay in his home and protect his family. A few days guarding Spence’s beautiful wife should be easy work, but Quinn’s old business is about to catch up with him, and he quickly finds that the Garden State can be even more dangerous than the streets of New York City.

Your Inspiration

Get writing!


And the Winner is... cristina

Ok, so maybe I am biased because I am a new mom, but there were several mother-son entries, and this one really stood out to me as the strongest. I love the dynamic between the father and the mother and the building details like the "falconer's gloves" and "special nipple they use for bottle-feeding at the zoo". You can get a sense of what the speaker is dealing with, even if you could not see the inspiration photo. Congrats, cristina!  

A Good Mother

She ignored the crying at first. Starting as intermittent whimpers, muffled by the blue checked blanket she'd been so thrilled to get just a few months before, it erupted into shuddering, wall-shaking roars. Mary cursed herself for waiting. But it was just so hard - he seemed to sleep only a few minutes this time. She'd heard babies cry before, of course, but never like this. Her nieces and nephews, all lusty screamers in their own right, sounded like mewling kittens compared to her son.

Smoothing back the blonde strands dangling from long, dark roots, she reached for the noise-cancelling headphones and placed them on her ears. They did help a little. At least Mark could be counted on to pay for supplies, even if he was a chicken shit. Stoically, she stumbled to the kitchen in the dark, opened the refrigerator and pulled out the stainless steel bottle, running it under hot water to warm it up before smooshing on the special nipple they use for bottle-feeding at the zoo. Though he didn't seem to be as interested in milk anymore. Teeth had started sprouting already. Pointed teeth.

Mary brushed away some tears, pulled on the falconer's gloves and reminded herself to be cool. He only got angrier if she showed fear. After a few deep, calming breaths, she told herself what a good mother she was, opened the nursery door and started crooning in a soft, slightly shaky voice "Hush little baby, don't say a word..."

Image of Jimmy the Stick (The Jimmy Quinn Mysteries Book 1)
Manufacturer: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road
Part Number:
Price:
Taylor Houston

Column by Taylor Houston

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer and volunteers on the marketing committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College and attended Penn State's MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. She has taught writing at all levels from middle school to college to adult, and she is the creator of Writer’s Cramp, a class for adults who just want to write!

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telegraphkiss's picture
telegraphkiss from joplin, mo is reading microbiology notes, unfortunately October 3, 2012 - 1:23pm

This is my first ever submission so that being said, here it is:

I'm Not That Desperate

These nights, street lamps shine beams of hopelessness on cracked pavement and paths are always traveled with the worst intentions.  Maybe-memories of moments when her hair is fanned about her head and fingernails are scraping secrets in any "his" or "her" spine it only looks like love.  In the mornings her shoes are upside down in stranger’s apartments sporting cigarette burns on her sole.  Bartenders serve self-destruction in liquid form so when his breath hits her skin as he whispers an invitation to the nape of her neck she easily acquiesces.  His fingerprints superimpose hers when he shuts her inside his car.  She wonders his name only briefly. Experience has proven regret sinks into thought processes better during nightmares and late nights alone—a demon she cannot face.

Her mouth still smells like citrus but when his tongue and teeth graze over cracked skin: sucking, biting, coaxing blood to the surface, the flavor of her lips is closer to a metallic desperation.  His mouth feels like velvet crushed into her clavicles and her neck is warm, wet against his tongue.  When she lights a cigarette her fingers are red though she can’t recall painting them.  The flame illuminates his face, the sheets.  The view is hazy through the smoke; she thinks it must be shadows staining the linens like incomprehensible ink blots.  And those teeth.  Fleeting disturbances asphyxiated by apathy and alcohol.  She shrugs, allowing her dress to slide to the floor.  Some demons are worse than others.

Daniel Brophy's picture
Daniel Brophy from Taunton, MA is reading The Power of One October 3, 2012 - 9:13pm

Mommie

Mommie left me down here, left me and says be back soon lovie and she’ll be back, she’ll be back and I wait and she says she bring food and no food so I eat people and things that walk by and I leave the cave and Mommie said she be back and where is Mommie and when I ask people and they scream and cry and I say where is Mommie and they cry more so I eat them and when I come back here and wait for Mommie I get bored so bored and lonely and miss Mommie and where is Mommie and I get hungry again and I go out from where she said stay my angel, stay, and I go out and eat more because I’m so hungry and she said she’d be back, and I went very far and no one tries to stop me because they run so far and fast when they see me and I keep trying to ask them where is my Mommie and they yell and hold up fingers in a t or they try to burn me, but I grab them and bite them and eat them and I look and look around and now I don’t know where I am and I scream and scream for someone to tell me where is she, where is my Mommie, and no one knows so I looking until I find her, until I find Mommie, and I’ll be okay.

Daniel Brophy's picture
Daniel Brophy from Taunton, MA is reading The Power of One October 3, 2012 - 9:13pm

Mommie

Mommie left me down here, left me and says be back soon lovie and she’ll be back, she’ll be back and I wait and she says she bring food and no food so I eat people and things that walk by and I leave the cave and Mommie said she be back and where is Mommie and when I ask people and they scream and cry and I say where is Mommie and they cry more so I eat them and when I come back here and wait for Mommie I get bored so bored and lonely and miss Mommie and where is Mommie and I get hungry again and I go out from where she said stay my angel, stay, and I go out and eat more because I’m so hungry and she said she’d be back, and I went very far and no one tries to stop me because they run so far and fast when they see me and I keep trying to ask them where is my Mommie and they yell and hold up fingers in a t or they try to burn me, but I grab them and bite them and eat them and I look and look around and now I don’t know where I am and I scream and scream for someone to tell me where is she, where is my Mommie, and no one knows so I looking until I find her, until I find Mommie, and I’ll be okay.

leah_beth's picture
leah_beth from New Jersey - now in Charleston, SC is reading five different books at once. October 4, 2012 - 6:58am

Into the Light

Jacob was born in an obsidian coal cellar beneath his parents’ house.  His mother alone knew he existed. She fed him, sang to him, but never let him leave the dark.

By three, he was stunted, forsaken, aware only of damp and darkness.

But one day, the shutter on the lone cellar window cracked. 

Jacob’s eyes blinked at the sudden flood of white. It was new, enrapturing. 

He crawled to the tantalizing light, its source far above his head.  Through the hole in the shutter wafted the musical sound of his mother’s voice. 

He climbed, his sharp-clawed fingers adept at finding holds in the soft walls. His toes, too, found easy purchase.  Foul-smelling earth crumbled beneath him as he advanced.

The light grew brighter; his eyes half-closed.  The brightness hurt, but he craved it, and his mother.

At the window, the shutter’s rotten wood gave way beneath his palm.

The light was blinding, but Jacob persisted.  Inconsequential, unseen, he breached the window. Smelled dewy grass. Felt sun on his face.

He saw his mother in the light.  In her arms she held a small, soft-looking child with hair of the whitest silk.  She hugged him, nuzzled him.

Jacob wanted his mother.  He wanted her to hold him, nuzzle him.  He stood, took a step, arms raised.  His eyes widened and his mouth fell slack with anticipation.

He didn’t see his father pull the trigger, didn’t feel the bullet’s deadly caress. He didn’t hear his mother scream.

cristina's picture
cristina from Tucson, Arizona is reading Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie October 24, 2012 - 11:41am

(Here's the second draft)

a good mother

She ignored the crying at first. Starting as intermittent whimpers, muffled by the blue checked blanket she'd been so thrilled to get just a few months before, it erupted into shuddering, wall-shaking roars. Mary cursed herself for waiting. But it was just so hard - he seemed to sleep only a few minutes this time. She'd heard babies cry before, of course, but never like this. Her nieces and nephews, all lusty screamers in their own right, sounded like mewling kittens compared to her son.

Smoothing back the blonde strands dangling from long, dark roots, she reached for the noise-cancelling headphones and placed them on her ears. They did help a little. At least Mark could be counted on to pay for supplies, even if he was a chicken shit. Stoically, she stumbled to the kitchen in the dark, opened the refrigerator and pulled out the stainless steel bottle, running it under hot water to warm it up before smooshing on the special nipple they use for bottle-feeding at the zoo. Though he didn't seem to be as interested in milk anymore. Teeth had started sprouting already. Pointed teeth.

Mary brushed away some tears, pulled on the falconer's gloves and reminded herself to be cool. He only got angrier if she showed fear. After a few deep, calming breaths, she told herself what a good mother she was, opened the nursery door and started crooning in a soft, slightly shaky voice "Hush little baby, don't say a word..."

La Emme Nikita's picture
Class Facilitator
La Emme Nikita from Los Angeles is reading Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory October 6, 2012 - 4:56pm

Donor

Some days I think the pain’s what’ll do it. Pain so bad you want to take a rusted razor blade to the insides of your forearms. I try to sing my hymns through a mouth that won’t work; hymns don’t work neither.

Was a time I prayed with a different body, one with nerve endings that quit proper at the ends of regular fingers and toes. Animated by the soul God hisself put there, not a leaky car battery and some freak thunderstorm. Then the good lord took me back, or so’s I thought.

Hell, I didn’t know what I was getting into; thought I’d be an upright citizen and help my fellow man with a spleen. Didn’t imagine the county M.E. would flip his wig trynna’ give his wife a baby. Sure’s shit didn’t think my brain’d be the thing got took out and put in the damn thing.

‘Stead I got loose parts stuck together with catgut and staples, chafin’ somethin’ awful in this body that don’t want to exist. One lung’s patched onto a raggedy trachea, makes me gasp when I’m not screaming. Stomach’s wired wrong so’s I vomit acid with every spoon-fed meal of strained peas.

I just pray I die afore the the day the missus loads me into that dusty ol‘ pram bound for town, afore my Hetty sees what’s become of me; sees me screaming behind these mismatched eyes. She got a bad heart, she does, and this one’s days are numbered.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom October 21, 2012 - 6:04pm

Waterbirth

She closed her eyes. Even here, lay flat like a plank on the narrow mattress, she hoped it would happen. The walls around her were diseased skin, patchy and peeling. The floor was strewn with meaningless objects. Cracked porcelain dolls stared at her through caved-in skulls. With only a scrawny pillow supporting her head, she flicked a switch on the stereo.

At first, there was silence. She could hear the mechanisms inside scratching and scuttering around like chitinous insects.

Then the sound began. It trickled from the speakers and warmed the room. Already she could feel herself melting through the mattress. Layer after layer spilled out in increasing intensity, creating a solid cushion of vibration around her head. Quietly adjusting herself, she settled into stillness and waited.

But as she began to drift asleep, to finally break away from herself, the face flashed in her head. It was childlike and innocent and all at once horrific, with its glassy, lightless eyes. Attached to the head was its floating body; a limp, grey thing, bloated beyond recognition.

Jumping from her bed, she shrieked and threw the stereo over. The music, that beautiful cage of sound, was killed in a sizzling crash as the hardware crumpled under its own weight. Her stomach churned and stabbed at her insides. That night, as always, there would be no sleep. Only the same image of the same child, still waiting.

Olga Polishchuk's picture
Olga Polishchuk October 10, 2012 - 8:53pm
Real Beauty.

-Your eyes are not big enough, - my fashion editor told me when I applied for the new mascara commercial. – See, you need to have symmetrical almond-shaped eyes with long lashes, so our guys at photo department won’t have too much work after the shoot. We don’t pay them for re-touching the pictures; we give them good material to work with, – he told me after saying I was too fat to do this year’s runway. He said, my nose was too long to model designer sunglasses, and my teeth weren’t that perfect to smile for a whitening toothpaste ad, and my lips were too thin to go with a fancy burgundy lipstick. Also, I was aging and my skin needed extra make-up artist’s time and way more foundation than he was willing to pay for. My hair was “dull and lifeless”, and there was no way to make them part of a shampoo campaign. All other bits and pieces of my body were criticized too, and I was pretty much cast out of the flashy business.

Two days later, it was my dead grandfather’s birthday. For some reason, I had all the answers when he was around. Now we have these long, meaningful conversations in my sleep.
-Come on, honey, you know what to do, - he began. I’ll give you the number of my former plastic surgeon. In no time, I’ll be so proud, - my dead grandfather told me.
He was right. I’m getting there.

kward's picture
kward from Alberta is reading Flowers in the Attic October 16, 2012 - 2:26pm

Beginnings

Beginnings, in the tub, thrust against flesh. Water drums steel. Light diffuses, shimmers skin.  She insists; punches her canines through an arterial wall. You transition; a lion on obsidian, flagrant. Wishes, optimism for a child's future; lost.

Igneous smashes to sediment; early memories withdraw. Steps, Mommy’s hands, building blocks, bells echoing, sunlight, taste; gone.

Cry; kick to survive. Forever young, though your forever will be an ache that drifts through ceilings, past clouds. Clench, writhe, scream a new destiny; scream for universal promises owed. Extend your infant arms, grab life imagined in vows; earn Daddy’s tears.

Feasting ensues, betrayal; potential squandered. You will never know laughter, hand-holding, friendships, infatuation, or secret kisses. She's a murderer; she swallows innocence. Beginnings become death, in the tub, where water drums steel.

David G's picture
David G October 11, 2012 - 4:19pm

Masks

“You’re wearing that Bat Boy mask to the party again this year?”

It was more of statement than a question. Harry knew the answer before Bill even started to reply.

“Sure. Everybody loves this mask. That’s why I wear it every year to Lauren’s Halloween party. It always gets a big laugh.”

Harry sighed, the heavy sigh of a friend who had to break bad news to someone who was too dense to notice something for himself.

“Dude, the only reason people laugh is because you look like an idiot in that thing. It may have been a bit funny that first year, but since then, everyone is snickering at you, not with you.”

Bill looked like someone had just told him that the Great Pumpkin wasn’t real.

“Even Gale?”

“Especially Gale. What, you thought you would finally get up the courage to ask her out while wearing that thing?”

Bill pulled the mask off his head and looked down at it in his hands. Bat Boy looked back at him, uncaring and unmoved.

He threw the mask in a trashcan they passed on the street while looking at Harry and asking, “So honestly, what do you think my chances are with Gale?”

***

“Hey Pete?”

“Yeah?”

“Check out this cool Bat Boy mask somebody threw out!”

Brett Caron's picture
Brett Caron from Toronto, Canada is reading The Abolition of Man October 11, 2012 - 4:53pm

Faded

If I’m being honest, I sort of miss the attention. At the time, I hated it.  I was a freak—I am a freak. My face stared out at people from grocery store checkout lines across the world. I never really got to see those reactions, just the elated faces of grown-ups with pads of paper and cameras. I didn’t understand then, not like I do now.  I don’t think they ever really even saw me, not really—they saw dollar signs.  I don’t blame my parents. They needed the scraps of cash offered. I’d probably do the same thing if I had a kid that looked like me. 


Now, I’m just another guy. Never had a date that didn’t cost me a welfare check and all my friends just call me by my “stage name.” The name that the world knows me by, even though not a single one of them really cares.  It’s funny. When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be normal.  Now I am normal; I’m just another face in a sea of humanity, albeit an ugly one.  My time in the spotlight is done. My moment in the spotlight was torturous and cruel, but at least I was in the light. Now I just have my tabloid clippings, half-faded memories, and the pain. I used to be something. I was there when the world wanted a Batboy, but those days are done.

Nobody wants a Batman; the world already has one.

Jacob Good's picture
Jacob Good from Idaho is reading Asimov on Chemistry October 12, 2012 - 8:05pm

Pendleton County Blues

He never cared about the subtle difference between fame and notoriety, as they both were means to a cold, abysmal end. And near that end he currently found himself, flooded with memories from a bright past that had swiftly flickered and then crawled into the darkness to die. He felt like doing the same, even though he knew nothing would come of the thought. Too drunk on bitterness and wormwood, there was no realistic way to understand his life. Still, he tried to make sense of it all.

He was a wreck, but not for a lack of concerted effort. The adulation hoisted him into a spotlight for which he was neither prepared nor willing to relinquish so easily once he was a household name. It had been years since anyone of importance had uttered his name. His sustenance was little else except a riptide of emotions, and he knew nothing but the scarred remnants of a lifetime wasted.

He was no longer a bat, nor a boy. He was a monster, but not for physical deformity. His horror was lodged within his soul, and there was no method to dispel that which could not be repaired. He was a living corpse, begging for water in the desert of his eroded glory.

Mary McFarland's picture
Mary McFarland October 14, 2012 - 7:19am

Newbie and J.G. Ballard "Crash" fanatic working with tension and edgy themes.  

 

I was battling something really bad, a "trick."  Yeah, that's it.  A trick.  It won.  Satan laughed. 

I'm tripping.  Going to check on our cooks.  Up this road. In this car.  We stop.  Someone cracks the jar lid.  Our cooks explode.  I inhale the fumes.  F--k!

I get out.  Hear them laughing.  "Think it's funny?  I spray starting ether all over the car, flick my lighter.  In the dark, the sudden silence, I smell their fear.  Tastes like the cooks. Like black piss or Hep C.    

Where'm I?  Dustry road, size of a sidewalk.  Wilderness.  Nowhere.  Night's cookin'.  Applesauce (carload of methheads geekin' and tweakin').

'N me.

We get to this place.  We call it "Foggy Bottom" 'cause the DEA hang here.  A joke.  The DEA hang here?  A 'course this ain't Quan-t-ko.  S--t goes down?  Suits disappear.  We die.  We call it Foggy Bottom 'cause it's by the river.  It's "the Bottoms."  White trash.  Meth heads.  No on here's wrapped tight. 

I'm in this girl's house.  Feelin' sorry for her.  Chest's caved in from where some guy kicked her.  She's wearin' tight jeans, halter top, platform heels.  Heart-shaped face.  Straight dirty-blond hair, past her shoulders.  She's shooting up.  Vein's collapsed.  "I love you," she says. 

"You don't even know me."  

"You're dead," she says.  "I know you."

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres October 14, 2012 - 4:41pm

A Wake

“Hee vas ah goot men…ah goot frient,” Hitler’s clone said before choking back sobs.  Two aliens nodded in agreement, one offering his long arm up in comfort, the other lowering his head and wiping away the green streams of tears sliding down his flat, gray face.


Hundreds of sad, red-eyed faces had filed through Generoso Funeral Home for one last look at their hero.  They mingled about, slurping luke-warm coffee, pocketing stale rolls, and sharing their favorite memories of Bat Boy.  At four o’clock, the general public was ushered out and the doors were closed, the wake becoming a private gathering.


Leon Verdell now sat with Princess Di, the story of his beloved Big Foot leaving for another man provoking a silk-gloved rub of his shoulder.  Ed Anger and Dolly shuffled toward the casket hand in hand, drawing warm glances from old friends.  The “Amazing Clay Man,” Bob Gray, comforted a whiskey-drenched Wolf Woman, indentations of his teeth molded into his pointer fingers.


“In tuna, ‘erk throk’ means ‘I love you.” Dr. Jessica Phillip said at the casket.


“I have seen visions, but none so dark as this day,” came the saddened voice of Albert, whose prophecies of doom long ago established him as America’s most famous shrunken head.  Harvey “Mr. Test Tube” Credenhall replied that he would teach each of his 15,735 children about their mutual friend’s benevolence.


“And in jellyfish,” Jessica sputtered between sobs, “’willou wil gwill’ means ‘I will never forget you.”

Domonkoz's picture
Domonkoz is reading Independence Day, Richard Ford October 15, 2012 - 1:48pm

A Stroll

 

Theodore stepped out of the cigar shop, pivoting swiftly upon his exit, away from the dying London sun that was making its tomb behind the jagged skyline of textile plants to the west.  Down the thoroughfare he walked leisurely, rapping his bony knuckles on the street lights—a futile attempt to rouse them from their hibernation. 

On a desolate corner he stopped and observed a woman hurrying her stubborn child along.  A fog had rolled in and Theodore’s stroll took him into evening and the slumbering street lights awoke as glowing amber.  He tilted his neck as to get a better look at the British sky that had become such a looming danger in those days, something to be rattled like a cage at the whim of the Mad German.   It was like a charcoal drawing, streaked with dark grays— a country so wounded even its sky bore scars.

For a moment he sensed something unnatural overhead.  A plane?  Impossible!  He thought.  And yet the feeling of displaced air above him was unmistakable.  But upon inspection the sky was empty.  He now quickened his pace, his stiff upper lip suddenly quite limber.  No sirens were sounded, could it be one has slipped through?  He ducked into an alley as if to hide from the sharp eyes of the phantom krout.  Slumping down beside a discarded crate, he suddenly laughed in an effort to reclaim his defiance.  But his relief was short, for something was breathing hot upon his neck.

pendragon's picture
pendragon from Seoul is reading Memories October 15, 2012 - 10:01pm

Egg

Regurgitating, the egg forced its way up the neck and past the sharpened teeth, rolling along the lolling tongue. 

The batboy took the egg in his hands, still gasping for breath. A furrowed brow, a twitch of ears, the batboy inspected the egg: warm. Black and smooth, the egg did not reflect light but gave of its own. Shaking it, there was the slosh of liquid.

The batboy dropped the egg and it rolled away from him. Sitting, the batboy stared at it as it rolled into a tree. He scratched his head, then crawled towards the egg.

Why, said the batboy.

The egg wriggled then cracked causing the batboy to leap back, then stand over it, waiting.

Fissures spread over the egg and then it burst open in a flash of intense light.

Shrieking, the batboy fled the egg and the man who grew from its yolk.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland October 17, 2012 - 7:02pm

Vulnerable

My eyelids part like theatre curtains. I awaken to one hell of a show. I’m lying on an operating table, my head tilted to the right. My pupils adapt to the light of a halogen bulb. The heat should burn but I can’t feel my skin. I can’t feel anything but the bulge of a migraine behind my eyes.

On the table next to mine lies a monstrosity with sharp ears and bubbled eyeballs. A jigsaw maw opened wide as an unclenched bear trap. My jaw’s unhinged, but the scream won’t exit.  I try to swallow the panic. My throat doesn’t work. From the looks of it, our fear is mutual.

Fuck!

Where the hell am I? What is that thing? Why can’t I move? Drugs?

The drugs diminish. That thing’s finger moves. My finger moves. They must have given us the same dose.

Wiggle toes. Wiggle. My toes wiggle.

I have to break through the fleeting paralysis before it does. I aim to kill it because I see murder in those eyes.

We stand now a few feet apart, learning to walk again. Its left arm extends. My right arm extends. I tremble to the stench beneath folded skin. We reach for scalpels on the wheeled tables next to us, pick them up and lunge in unison.

Glass shatters like the world around me. A man in a blood bathed coat stands in front of me. I still aim to kill the monster. It will have to wait. 

Michelle Brooks's picture
Michelle Brooks from Bay area, CA is reading Outliers, The Magicians, Bleaker October 18, 2012 - 1:14am

Hackers

Verna handed Pernille a new roll of scotch tape when she heard the familiar pull of the end of the roll. They had gone through three rolls already, but the stack of Daily Suns she had pilfered on their way down to their private cabin was still going strong. Verna wanted to make sure the job got done with as few interruptions as possible. She suggested that maybe Pernille should roll the limbs in the paper, and then tuck the last corner into a fold, to save on tape, but Pernille was always so sloppy when it came to disposal. She rolled, and then just tossed one on top of the other, so that an endless pile of Bat Boys glared unevenly back at the two obese women.

Pernille picked up a limb, and examined it. It was bulbous, and covered in black, wiry hairs. Once, there had been an expensive watch around the wrist but the ladies freed the arm of it's jewelry the same way the freed the arm from the body attached. Forcefully. She always got wrapped up, reliving the scenes in which they tricked and them ambushed their prey. Always in daylight, always in the parking lots of Walmart, so full of people in transit. Verna and Pernille just figured it was their duty to help them to where they needed to be. For a small fee, of course. The Bat Boys stared at them, in silent disbelief.

SamaLamaWama's picture
SamaLamaWama from Dallas is reading Something Wicked This Way Comes October 18, 2012 - 9:29am

God's Plan  

Momma tells me not to let it bother me, the way people stare. She tells me I’m a gift from God and I just got to figure out his plan. Then she brushes my cheek. Like that somehow makes up for the pain.    
 

It doesn’t feel like a gift at all. It feels like a curse. If it was just the way I looked, I could change that easy enough. But it’s so much more. Those people who stare and whisper—I can smell them as much as you can smell fresh meat in a butcher’s shop. The girls my age smell the sweetest, like forbidden fruit just waiting to be plucked. It makes my stomach ache from hunger.


I know it’s wrong. But—what if this is God’s plan. Maybe I should ask momma about my real parents again, but, I don’t want to hurt her.


I’m in my favorite spot on the roof with my feet dangling from the side. I swear sometimes I feel like I could fly. The girl up the street, Roni, right now she’s sneaking a cigarette in her backyard after cheerleading practice. Her mom is downstairs at my momma’s Wednesday night prayer group praying for Mrs. Elms to recover quickly from a broken hip. I scoot a little closer to the edge and stare down at the two-story drop. I’m working up the nerve to jump. I wager if I survive the fall, then a little taste of Roni couldn’t be all wrong.
 

ameliatron's picture
ameliatron from Anaheim, CA is reading fairy tales October 18, 2012 - 10:03am

A Mother's Love

I love my son. He means everything to me. Who cares what he looks like or if he’s not like normal kids? He is my son, and he deserves to be loved. People are afraid of him, treat him poorly, just because of how he looks, just because he is different. My boy never deserves that. They called him a demon, evil. They said horrible things about him…to my face. How could I stand for that? How could I not be expected to protect my only son?


His father even hated him, just like everyone else. He was afraid of him; I could see it in his eyes. He wouldn’t look at him much, but when he did it was with horror, disgust, fear. He stopped talking to me. I mean, he still asked when I’d be home or what was for dinner, but he wouldn’t really talk to me anymore. He feared my relationship with our son; he feared what I had created. I couldn’t forgive him for that. No parent should ever treat their child like that. He psychologically abandoned us for three years. No decent mother, in her right mind, would ever allow that. I wouldn’t allow that. No one disrespects my son, not strangers and not even his father. No one looks at my son like that and gets away with it anymore.

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VicJeju from Austin is reading Oryx & Crake October 18, 2012 - 1:30pm

Just Relax

 

Nightmares. Dreams bring sickness. The boss is mad again. You can’t be late. The excuses have worn thin. I have tried everything, a happy noise machine that sends ocean sounds, sleeping pills, fancy new pillows. Now I try to stay up but eventually I sleep and then he comes. The man in black. He laughs at me with some secret knowledge that I can't see. He just laughs and the terror that I feel overwhelms my body. Sometimes when I can see around him, into that backdrop, it feels like an alleyway but it is during the day, so I shouldn’t be scared, sometimes I can see that little demon- that little monster with his wide eyes and demon teeth. He scurries through the backdrop and I can't see him. The man in black continues to laugh because I don’t get it. Because I don't know what it is. I wake up knowing- knowing that he has me, that I am condemned until I figure out what I have to figure out. I read. I read everything, sitting stuffed into my small apartment begging for Alan Watts or Thomas Aquinas to teach me but he still comes. Each night the tick-tock of the clock counts down to my nightly dream. I am losing....I am losing and the game has a clock that I can’t see. I take another pill. I am too anxious to sleep and too confused to know if I want to. If I can just relax. 

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Jwenglish112 from Little Rock, Arkansas is reading Short Stories October 19, 2012 - 10:04am

Outside Emma's Window    

     Trapped in Drew's gaze, Emma opened the window. 
     "Drew," she said, "what happened to your eyes?"
     His answer was a smile full of razor-sharp teeth; the last smile she would ever see.

 

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Naomi Mesbur from Toronto, Ontario, Canada is reading Burn Baby Burn Baby by Kevin T. Craig October 20, 2012 - 5:26am

Nessun Dorma

No one could remember a time when he did not sing. Even after emerging from his mother’s womb, his first screams harmonized with her cries of joy, suffering, and relief.  For two years they had sang together, comforting each other at times when neither one could cease the other’s tears. Then the accident had silenced her voice forever, leaving his to continue solo.

His father could not stand the sight of the boy’s enlarged eyes nor his oversized ears, the other distinctive traits he had inherited from his mother, and abandoned him at the orphanage. Undaunted, every night the boy sang himself, and the other children, to sleep. Including the night of that chance visit by the director of the local opera company and his barren wife.

For the next ten years, they worked with their new son in the confines of their home, pushing the limits of his voice, strengthening his lengthening vocal cords.

That was over twenty years ago. Tonight, he made his debut as Calaf.

He stepped out onto the dark stage, and sang:

No, No! Sulla tua bocca lo diro quando la luce splendera!

Raising his head caused the costume hat to fall. Gasps and screams came from the audience when his distorted features gleamed in the spotlight.  Ever the professional, with every Vincero, he stood resolute, sustaining the final note.

Silence.

From the back of the gallery, it started. Applause. A standing ovation.

His father rose from his seat, and left in tears.

Janey's picture
Janey from Canberra, Australia is reading Unnatural habits (by Kerry Greenwood) October 20, 2012 - 9:07pm

Don’t look

The camera lies.
It shows a sweet fluffy old lady.

The mirror lies.
It shows a decrepit freak. Not much hair, might as well be completely bald. Don’t even mention teeth, nothing left but crumbling ruins. Skin? Dry and mummy-thin.  Eyes? They look alright. Ears like an elephant, but those little vibrating hairs inside just lay down and died years ago. The freak screams out in rage.

Perception lies.
Inside, I am a strong, young, woman. My skin is smooth and brown, my hair is thick and glossy. I am full of life, of joy, of pleasure. I have a wonderful, endless, future. I run, I swim, I dance, I make pictures in glorious colours, I make love, I read and read and read.

Memory lies.
I am old, and going blind.

It’s lies all the way down.

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paper-crane from blackforrest is reading Bacigalupi October 21, 2012 - 9:43am

Fang-jobs

The guy at the door spoke without showing teeth, yellow bowtie and some sandy mob of hair drenching his face ashen-white. He'd ordered a fang-job.

As far as fetish goes, he could have asked for worse. I've worked special effects so long, people come to me for Marylin's ass in silicone. That's how I make rent since Hollywood outsourced my day-job to a computer.

The Vampire-Zombie fetish spreading from clubs to sexshops, this wasn't my first fang-job. But this guy hadn't ordered some front-entry vampire-barbie-head. He'd sent a photoshop-piece: a vampire screaming, round blowup-doll mouth, puppy-eyed child face, teeth a shark-row of fangs.
Watching that boy gag out of the picture, I worked nights to be done with it. An hour after the streetlight died outside, I had the head in a box, the invoice mailed. I turned off the workshop lights, let out a long breath and opened the front door.

"It's done?"

I jerked back.

The guy smiled, not showing any teeth.

Smiles like this are the reason a baseball bat leans against the doorframe.

"What?"

"The fang-job." He peered over my head into the dark workshop. I inched the door to a slit. Still, money was rent.

"Wait here." I closed the door. Locked it. The lights wouldn't turn on. I picked up the aluminum bat and got the boxed head anyway. Turning around in what little light crept through the windows, the guy's white face towers over me. His smile filed into a shark-row of fangs.

Chi's picture
Chi from Sydney, Australia is reading The back of the Milk Carton October 22, 2012 - 7:09pm

Crunch

It was 3 a.m when I heard  the scraping of claws against the kitchen’s linoeum.

I put on my nightgown. Whiskers my cat, must have tried to get out again. Something was moving downstairs. Something bigger than a cat. Something crunching and slurping its way through bone.

There was a flicker of shadows. With each delicate step, the old house creaked and groaned under my feet. I panted shallow breaths as the knot in my belly twisted with that nauseous fear. I felt progressively sick with each crack and prolonged slurp. Oh God! I gripped the railing with both hands as my feet struggled beneath me, one foot in front of the other. I shuffled sideways as I crab-walked my way down the stairs.

I can see him now.

His pale head glistening with sweat in the pale moon light as his teeth gnashed together, grinding through blood, flesh and bone. His pointed ears wiggled back and forth as he buried his face in the blood-slicked remains of Whiskers the cat.

I shuffled in place, my slippers making the tiniest of clicks against the tiled living room floor.

He turned.

In his eyes I could see his fear. In his eyes I could see guilt. In his eyes, I could see his relentless hunger. He opened his still bloody mouth and licked his fur-covered lips and stared directly into my own eyes.

“JOHNATHAN JAMES MEYERS! YOU WILL NOT EAT YOUR OWN MOTHER!”

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LeahD from Boston is reading The Devil In The White City October 23, 2012 - 5:23pm

I was going to do my homework instead of entering this, but I couldn't resist that face.

Tabloid Man

I never envisioned this career for myself. What kid, when asked by his first grade teacher, says he wants to edit a tabloid when he grows up? Nah, I wanted to be a policeman or an astronaut. Hell, I'd even swallow less bullshit working for the IRS. My aspirations were all your standard boyhood fare, about as American as George Washington's wooden dentures. So how did I end up in this hole?

At my desk with a mug of coffee that tastes like a mix of tobacco and hot piss, I stare at the photos in today's rag.

“Bat boy, huh?” I mutter, swishing the caffeinated bile around my mouth.

Honestly, it's not even funny. It's so not funny, I start to laugh. From the grainy black and white photo, bat boy laughs back, his ludicrous eyes popping from their sockets. I picture his gigantic ears wiggling up and down as we both have a good chortle at the expense of my sanity.

I never envisioned this career for myself, but I swear that for just a moment, I'm allowed a little glimpse at the future. Twenty years from now, I think, I'm going to be in the tabloids instead of writing them. I'll be Hitler's immortal great-uncle, or maybe the only man on earth to escape a straight jacket using just his pinky fingers. That, at last, might be something worth doing.

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Kevin Maddox from Melstrand, Mi is reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut October 25, 2012 - 6:26am

Bat Boys Final Hour

 

    The night was young, but dark and damp. The Air smelled like grave-soil. A full moon barely visible behind the black clouds.

     Bat Boy rose weakly rubbing the crypt-dust out of his eyes. Weak from feeding on rats, pigeons and other small animals. Rejected by society and forgotten by the Weekly World News. His teeth were worn down to nubs, so he carried a blade to procure the blood from his prey. Hardly a suitable meal.

     This night he would have his final meal. A meal to die for. He decided this in a dream the previous day. Most of his night was spent wandering. From the ancient cemetery to the city, then searching for the perfect place. At the perfect moment. The perfect sacrifice for when he would be absolved by the light.

     Shadows were shrinking in the sunrise, but he could hear her getting close. On her way to work maybe. He could smell her perfume. He lurched onto her with the blade, opening the jugular into his mouth.

     The beauty of it all made him weep tears of blood. The warmth reminding Bat Boy of his mother.

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Rod Mance from AR is reading Ego is the enemy October 28, 2012 - 6:18am

The Box

He told me that experiments should be conducted in the real world, not in a box. I’m Dorian, I lived in his box. I couldn’t go outside. My mom died in labor. My dad was locked away, insanity. I was raised by my uncle, Dr. Packard, Nobel Laureate. He championed a new science, reprogramming genes. He designed me: stronger, faster, smarter—beastly. He once said to me “evolution created man, but science can make man better.”

I was enthralled by his work. Then I learned that the women and their babies died, he destroyed families.

“… You can’t continue doing this.”

“You didn't die. Have faith.”

“—my mom?”

“Humanity will be grateful for my sister’s death.”

I bashed his computer and set fire to his files. He locked me away; that room had no windows.

The door opened. “The serum’s complete. Come, witness.” He locked me in the observation room. He injected an egg. A woman lay on the operating table. I smashed the window.

“Monster” she screamed, fleeing feebly.

“I can’t let you do this!"

“The others won’t be … like you, and even if she dies the child will live."

“But—“

“Progress my boy, it’ll work this time. I’m sorry son.”

The future of humanity—mom, dad—he may be right.

I killed him. I embraced him; my tears fell onto his face. Two police barreled in.

“What the hell is that?”

“Tase’m!”

I got to go outside, but, I’m in a new box now—windowless.

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cristina from Tucson, Arizona is reading Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie October 30, 2012 - 11:20am

Wow - thanks so much, Taylor! I've just been getting into writing fiction after ages of technical writing and this is such great encouragement. And looking forward to reading the prize!

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Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On October 30, 2012 - 1:49pm

Congrats, cristina! Great job on that flash.

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twinkletoes3106 from Phoenix, AZ is reading The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall October 30, 2012 - 3:03pm

Congrats, cristina! Truly creepy and you left me wishing there was more. Wonderful job.

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Frank Chapel from California is reading Thomas Ligotti's works October 30, 2012 - 6:08pm

Congrats Cristina! I did like your story, along with a few others, especially "A Wake". I have read most, but not all of these and I think everyone did a great job.