Friday, August 30, 2013

Hide-and-Seek by Danielle Bordelon

A five year old girl is mentally traumatised by her brother's death in Danielle Bordelon's flash.

It was my fifth birthday. I don't really remember tears or screams or any kind of noise. Just the silence.

I played with my cake, smashing it until it was unrecognizable.

My parents stared at the walls as if they would move at any moment. There was a world between them.

His funeral blurred into a sea of muted colors; the parents of Brady's friends cried softly as they dragged their somber faced little ones to pay their respects. The casket was closed.

I started to cry when I saw it, screaming at my parents to get him out.

"He can't breathe in there, Mama! How can he breathe?"

My mother started to cry too, like a child. She had been doing that a lot lately. My father bent down to smooth my hair.

"Honey," he said gently, "Brady's gone. He's not in there. He's in Heaven."

My sobs subsided a little. I hiccupped.

"But he's coming back, right?"

My dad shook his head.

"No, Annabel, he's not. He's dead, sweetie."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Neck by Anne Goodwin

Tamsin wakes up on her wedding day to find her neck has grown a few feet overnight in this fantastic story by Anne Goodwin.

With a nod to tradition, Tamsin and Craig elected to spend the night before their wedding apart. He moved out to take his chances on his best man's sofa; she stayed home to luxuriate in a double bed to herself, while her bridesmaid snored in the spare room.

She awoke to find herself cuddling the far edge of the mattress, as if she'd been chasing Craig's memory across the bed in her dreams, and opened her eyes to check the time. Tamsin's alarm clock was a much-loved souvenir of childhood, its face nestling in the belly of a lurid plastic clown. Most mornings it made her laugh. But not today. It was the sight of the clock she had treasured since she was eight years old that made her realise something was wrong. She shouldn't have been able to see it from Craig's side of the bed. She should have been face-to-face with the LCD display of her husband-to-be's clock-radio. But while her body had strayed over to Craig's side of the bed, her head had been left behind with the kitsch alarm on her own side, a whole pillow-length away.

Her first thought was to call out to Craig, who was rather adept at fixing things, until she remembered he'd be sleeping off his hangover at Lawrence's place. She didn't want to face Donna just yet, so she kept quiet - apart from a whimper too soft to penetrate the partition wall - while she tried to assess the situation.

Gingerly, she reached up to touch her collarbone. Reassured by its solidity, she ventured further, cradling her neck with her palm and gradually unbending her arm. It was more or less straight when she ran out of neck and bumped into her chin.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

South by Tony Dews

Ellen, bored of her life on an outback farm, sees an unsettling portent of change; by Tony Dews.

Ellen walked out of the front door, a tall woman with an elegance that other women would kill to possess. She kept open with her hip, balancing toast and coffee in her hands past the cases sitting on the floor. They were new, bought for her fiftieth birthday. Now they were going on their first trip. Strange that it was to be a trip that neither she or they would return from.

The party had only been a few months ago with champagne, wine, food and conversation that skimmed over reality like ducks over water.

"You look wonderful Ellen."

"I just stood in the middle of the room and said..."

And so the party went as so many had done in the past, gossip that just washed over her these days, needing only a sympathetic nod or a word or a touch. The speakers changed but not the words. They were collected and used only to impress others. She knew there must be something else and she needed it.

It was then that the dingo appeared at the edges of the farm that she and Norm had lived their lives together in for so many years. A life now coming to an end, not from hate or loss but from a desire to know more than the round of shearing sheep and of chickens and eggs and mending fences. When she first noticed it, it was sitting by the shed, ducks and chickens walked past it without noticing, undisturbed by the presence of a killer.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Out of Work by Jack Coey

An out-of-work pronoun is worried that his girlfriend is dissatisfied with their relationship in Jack Coey's grammatical romance.

What he thought he knew, and would come to know, was he would never be enough. She was dissatisfied with him, and he was out of work. He was careful, tentative, around her. He worried about being good enough. He hoped when he got a job it would be better. It was late at night, after a party, and she said:

I don’t think Adverb likes you.


Do you care?

Actually yes.

I watched you together, and she was trying to get you to see her point of view about something.

Gosh yes, she was going on about Split Infinitives.

She got into bed, and turned out the light, and he felt her anger toward him.

We’ll never have any lower cases at this rate, he thought.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shedding the Tears by Bruce Harris

A story told from two points of view about a teenage boy and an old lady who meet in an allotment at night; by Bruce Harris.

I did feel a bit stupid, up at the allotments in the half-dark digging up weeds. If I'd had any sense, as Mum and my sister Kate would say, I'd have remembered a torch. But near your sixteenth birthday isn't the most sensible time in most people's lives, and it wasn't in mine.

True, I had things on my mind. My dad worked as an aid worker then; he had joined a team leaving Juba, in South Sudan, for the DRC - Democratic Republic of the Congo - after a lot of debate about whether they should go at all. A war was going on in the Congo involving soldiers from at least four countries; on the one hand going there was dangerous, on the other, the war had created a lot of homeless and hungry people. Three of the team of seven had found their way back to Juba safely; my dad wasn't one of them.

I used to work at the allotments with Pa, my father's father, when I was younger; he and Grandma Routledge became Pa and Nan to separate them from Grandad and Grandma Stone, my mother's parents, a bit posher and further away. Since then, sport, school work, girls sometimes, had taken up the time. But this thing with my dad made me determined to see Pa and Nan more regularly. Home, in any case, was getting a bit tense, both Mum and Kate giving me earache all the time. One of the things they gave me earache about was Pa's allotment.

'He can hardly walk, Ben. He's had a letter saying if the place isn't kept tidy, they'll take it off him. It would break his heart. Just clearing the mess up there would take you no more than a few hours, then we could think what to do.'

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mr. Tibbs by Ray J Robbio

Blanch's son Gary insists that she must get rid of her cats in preparation for going into a rest home, but she has a special connection to one called Mr Tibbs, in Ray J Robbio's creepy story.

Chapter 1

"Forty seven years. I've lived here forty seven years," Blanch repeated. "Your father is turning over in his grave right now watching you do this to me!" She shifted her weight in the old rocking chair.

Gary wasn't about to have this same old conversation all over again. "Mom, we went over this already. The plans are already made. You move in two weeks!"

Blanch started coughing, and Gary gave her the box of tissues that was on the coffee table.

"It's just not right, damn it!" She was getting worked up.

Gary tried to be reassuring. "Assisted living isn't what it used to be. There are game nights, movie nights, and twenty four hour care, which is what you need. But we have to talk about all these cats."

Looking around the dimly lit living room, he saw no less than fifteen of them milling about. There were all kinds, too. There were furry ones, hairless ones, and kittens of all different colors. Gary was convinced he had to get through to her.

"Listen, Mom, we have two weeks to find these cats a new home. I think it would be better for families to adopt them, but they need to be gone. If not," he paused, "I'm gonna have to call animal control and have them removed."

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Bridge by Jim Bartlett

Jim Bartlett's character is having a very bad day in this innovatively told tale.

May 12, 2010
7:37 pm Wednesday

"Nine one one, what is the nature of your emergency?"

"There's someone about to jump at the Carlton Canyon Bridge."

"Oh... my. Which side of the bridge is this person on, sir?"

"The city side. I think that's south?"

"Okay, good. Just a moment, sir. Fourteen fifty-seven, respond code two to Carlton Canyon Bridge. Possible attempted suicide... sir, is this a man or woman and can you describe the individual for me?"

"Well, let's see... I'm wearing light tan slacks, chinos, actually, and a dark blue shirt -"

"Wait... hold on there. Sir, excuse me, but are you describing yourself? Are you telling me that you're considering jumping?"

"Nope, not considering. Doing. Goodbye."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Love on the Savanna by James Royce McGuire

Lequetta's relationship with her white boyfriend is threatened by racism, but not necessarily his; by James Royce McGuire.

Cheese and crackers for lunch.

That's what Lequetta thought. And boy did she realize she was dating a cracker. An A-number-one A-hole. At first, she thought his digs were cute. That he didn't have black fever. He didn't even like soul food after all. She'd ignored all that because she was swooning with love. But of course, that honeymoon phase always ends. The feelings of the heart fluttering, the waking up as if sleeping in chocolate and wine and strawberries was starting to wane. And she had started to see the reality of the situation.

Her sister was the first one to say it. "What in the hell are you dating some cracker for?"

Lequetta merely scoffed. Her sister was just jealous. She was landing a man, not some bum. And they were gonna be like the song Ebony and Ivory. He even had a good job, like her.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mad Mick by Nick Wilding

Homeless man Mick is offered a job guarding a scrap metal warehouse, but is suspicious of his benefactor's motivations; by Nick Wilding.

Mick drew his knees up to his chest and pulled the sleeping bag tighter. By his side Cu nestled against him, shielded from the worst of the cold by a flattened cardboard box. In his grimy hands Mick clutched a penny whistle, scratched and scuffed from much abuse. In front of them a beany hat sat on the floor holding a handful of coins. The stream of shoppers rushing to get to the warmth of home flowed past barely noticing him. Set back from the pavement in his doorway and dressed in drab olive army surplus gear he was easy to ignore. Every now and then though, someone would stop, maybe have a brief word or pet the dog or more likely just toss a coin into the hat. He'd had a good steady afternoon and would move soon. Later things would change. As the rushing to get home crowd was replaced by the Friday night party crowd the stakes would become higher. Drunks trying to impress with their largesse or in the haze of alcohol-brewed sentimental generosity would throw down notes instead of coins. Some might share their drinks. But others, or sometimes the same people on a different night, different buzz, would swear at him, piss on him, kick him. Mick was not a man who was easily intimidated, and he had run off more than a few yobs whose bravado didn't last long once he got to his feet brandishing the pair of hatchets he kept bundled in his bedding roll. Sometimes, if he needed the cash badly enough he would take the chance but he had done well today; all he wanted to do was get somewhere safe, smoke his weed and relax. Maybe find Lee.

The headlights rushing past and the brightly lit storefronts glittered and twinkled, everything given a Christmassy look after the half joint and cider he'd just caned. He realised somebody was stood in front of him. Mick scanned him up and down. Shiny black shoes, smart trousers and thick winter jacket. Grey hair combed back and smoking a cigarette. Gold on his knuckles.

'Got somewhere to stay tonight pal?' the stranger said.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Great Fall by Phil Temples

DCI Waters arrives at the scene of a suspected crime to find a gruesome and chillingly unusual corpse; by Phil Temples.

"DCI Waters? I'm PC Susan Higgins."

The tall, black police constable extended her hand to me in greeting. She then realized that she was extending a hand covered by a disposable glove.

"Oops. Sorry."

"Not to worry, Higgins," I replied. "I am Waters, indeed. And I'm glad to see that you've taken the proper precautions."

Higgins and her partner, a PC Thomas McElroy, had roped off the crime scene with yellow tape. He, too, was wearing disposable gloves.

"I assume that no one has disturbed the remains?" I asked.

"To our knowledge, no. We arrived at approximately eight thirty-five in the a.m. We spotted no lurkers. My partner is off to canvas the shops on this street for potential eye witnesses."

"Brilliant," I replied.

I bent down to examine the "corpse" - actually, the seven or eight largest parts constituting the remains. I could make out the arms, a leg, and the torso. Other smaller pieces were splayed about in roughly a ten-foot radius. From what I could ascertain, the victim had been quite obese, probably bald. No facial hair was evident.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Teeth by Amy Yeager

Amy Yeager recalls her creepy teacher's obsession with loose teeth.

Dentistry has always been an unappealing profession to me - I have never liked dentists, teeth, saliva, tongues, or anything normally associated with the oral cavity. I could not stand forcing my way into the mouths of others, scraping grime off their teeth in time with the rhythmic bubbles of their saliva being sucked into a tube. I can count on my fingers the number of times I have visited the dentist, and though medical professionals recommend that one gets a dental checkup at least twice a year, I prefer to go as little as possible.

Dentists do not stand alone in their attraction to teeth and oral hygiene. My first grade teacher, as far as I believe, chose to teach kids aged five through seven simply because of the copious amounts of teeth that fall out of their growing mouths during these two years. Some people obsess over insects, or fashion, but most have no interest in the molars and bicuspids of others. Mrs. Garland, however, had a morbid fascination with teeth, the things we use to mash our food into more manageable morsels before we swallow; the lumps of modified calcium that sprout out of our gums as infants, eventually becoming riddled with cavities, crowns, and plaque as we age.

I remember her plump, round face, reddish hair, long finger nails, and prominent front teeth. Every morning before snack-time, she would coyly ask my classmates and me if we had any loose teeth. If someone told her 'yes', she would ask to see them wiggle it. Occasionally this fulfilled her strange craving for the teeth of children, but more often than not, she desired more. She would then ask to wiggle the tooth for you. What with her soft Texan accent, and position of authority, we all agreed. At recess, we would stand in clumps whispering about her eccentricities, and as time passed, we learned to smile with our mouths closed. I did not understand the pleasure she got from tugging on the milk teeth of six year olds, and I don't think I ever will. Midway through the year, I moved out of Mrs. Garland's combined kindergarten and first grade class, but she still maintained control over the teeth I had left in my mouth.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Impulse by Fred Miller

A boy reminisces about his childhood best friend and their hunting trips in the cypress swamps, in Fred Miller's sad story.

Sometimes when I hear the shrill call of the kingfisher echo through the cypress swamps, I'm sure it's his scream I hear. And the mists that rise and curl in contorted shapes are a reminder of the look on his face when the shot hit his belly. Often I come here to remember that day and wonder how it might have been different.

"You gotta be the robber," he said.

"But I'm always the robber. I wanna be the good guy."

Younger than Billy by a year, I had to learn to fall and fake death... me a villain, my fate in life.

Once I prepared for a vicious Indian role, my face smeared with vivid paint from Dad's workshop. But Billy just laughed. And it's difficult to say what stung more, his jeers or the reformation measures applied to my bottom by my mom.

Pistols gave us creative opportunities, our hands balled into fists with one finger pointed and a thumb up. Thumbs would drop forward and we'd scream "pow" or "bang." And we'd conjure up makes and calibers that suited us, racing about like the cowboys and outlaws we'd seen the previous Saturday at the movies.

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Beat by Samuel K Wilkes

Samuel K Wilkes' character Johnny reaches a turning point in his low-down life.

I've done a lot of crazy things while lit. Hard to stay within the lines when your soul is trying to launch itself out of your frame. I've done a lot of things, but never like this. And I don't even remember doing it.

Was it me?

Not sure.

Regardless, this is the voicemail I awoke to one cloudy Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. after a long night of illegal fun:

"Hey Johnny, this is Officer Reese with the (redacted) Police Department. We received your online application from the personnel department this morning and really would like to talk with you in person. If you could, give us a call back. And just to give you a heads up, I will be here tomorrow morning around 7:30 a.m. if you're available to come down to the office to interview. The best number to reach me is -"

Right, that's what I said - what the hell? Also, I haven't been called "Johnny" since I was in middle school. But more on that later. I'm simply a lanky college dropout, who smokes and drinks too much. I also take in a steady diet of weed and go off on an occasional coke binge. Just an average young Joe. So what the hell?