Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “Flash Fiction”

March Madness Flash Fiction Series: Joe Donahue

TODAY’S BREW: The Vanilla of France

By Julie

Today’s awesomeness brought to you by Beer Boy Joe Donahue. Coincidentally, if anyone is looking for a sort of personal chef, but more of a personal beer brewer, you can find him http://t.co/JMI6HZF0LX. Now READ.

Click, click, click, my fingers snap the top of a metal lighter open and closed in perfect syncopation with the charred remains of a clock hanging from the wall. A few pieces of metal have fused with the stone surface and are the only things keeping the clock from crashing to the ground. Minute hand and hour hand hang lifeless from the middle of the frame, but the second hand continues to tick and tock as though it is the heart, and the only thing keeping the clock alive.

A man sits on the other side of a glass frame. He just stares and laughs. Mockingly, he flips the top of a lighter as well. It’s distracting. It breaks my focus. It shatters my rhythm, but I don’t stop, and neither does he.

The air is filled with the stench of burnt flesh and accelerant. It burns the hairs in my nose. It fries my senses. Yet all I can manage to think about is the man on the other side of the glass. Caught in a standstill, we unrelentingly stare at each other.

“You did all of this didn’t you? You filled the room with kerosene, you killed all of these people!” The words escape from my mouth. Reason vacates my body. It was evident that he wasn’t going to be the first to break the silence so that left me no other option. He mouths my words as I talk, and I can feel rage building up in my very core.

“No, you did.” He leans backwards in his chair and the pool of kerosene splashes beneath his feet.

“You know damned well that I didn’t do this. I don’t even know how I got here.” I can feel all ability to think logically escaping my brain. The man continues to talk to me. The kerosene on the floor speaks to me. The very room itself seems to have a voice. Each and every charred figure on the floor screams out to me for retribution.

“The lighter is in your hand.”

Blinding anger saturates my field of vision as I stand up and smash the chair against the ground.

“Careful my friend. You could create a spark that way. This whole room would go up in flame. I don’t think either of us want that.” He walks closer, reaches out, as though he’s going to extend his arm through the very glass and grab me by the collar.

“Stop mocking me! Stop it!” I don’t say the words as much as they are yanked from my body with the strength of gale force winds. “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!”

“I can see that you don’t like the truth. It makes sense. Most people don’t like to recognize the truth about themselves. Take a moment to walk around the room. Explore, let your amazing handiwork soak in. Let it soak in like kerosene soaks into and drenches the clothes of your targets, your prey.”

The room is vast and cold. Every inch of the stone floor is covered with a thin layer of kerosene. The thick cloud of vapors emanating from the floor is palpable and I can taste it on my tongue. It tastes like death and desperation. I yearn for nothing more than to escape from the control that it seems to hold over me.

“Oh, but to escape from this room would be to escape from your very self. Is that something you are really willing or able to do?”

“How did you…”

“Know what you were thinking? I guess that is really a question you should be asking yourself now isn’t it?”

Splash, sploosh, splash, sploosh, my body propels itself towards the glass as though I have no control over my actions. It’s like I’m a doll and some invisible marionette is pulling my strings. We both run towards the glass. Fate is controlling us, and one way or another fate is going to provide us the answer we both crave so strongly.

Crack, my ankle clips against the metal chair on the floor and my body propels towards the glass like a javelin through the air. My cranium cracks against the dense glass like a tomato against a mallet. Blood trickles down from my forehead and turns everything in my line of vision into a fresh shade of scarlet red.

The glass is now cracked and I can see the man on the other side hunched over and clenching his head. Blood rolls over his burnt and leathery fingers. Blisters and bubbles coerce the flow like mountains shape the tide of a tsunami.

The man sputters and spits blood on the now cleanly fractured glass. “So what exactly do you hope to accomplish from all of this?” His upper lip curls to reveal cracked and blood stained teeth.

“I suppose I intend to end this.” I resume flicking the lighter between my fingers in perfect time with the clock on the wall.

“Well, I don’t really believe that’s possible.”

“I do.” I can feel my pulse racing. The beat of my heart pounds and forms an unconventional cadence with the rhythm of the clock and the lighter. “See, you’re not going to be able to stop me. You’re on the other side of that glass. There’s nothing you can do now.”

“Now be rational.” A look of terror engulfs his face. “You don’t want to go and do something stupid do you? We can both get out of this like nothing ever happened. We can keep going. We’re good at this. It’s what we do.” The man pauses and taps the lighter against his forehead. “It’s what you do.”

“Not any more.” Reality comes crashing down on me with the weight of a thousand boulders. I can see the burning flesh. I can hear the screams. It all comes rushing back. It terrifies me. I clasp my hands, blood stained tears stream down my face and drip into the kerosene pool on the floor. They create a scarlet swirl around my feet.

Flick, the lighter ignites between my fingers. The clock stops. Sound evacuates the room as the lighter falls to the ground, turning the very air itself into a canvas of flame. The final moment arrives and silence takes residence in my soul.

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March Madness Flash Fiction: MUNCHIES by Kris Silva

TODAY’S BREW: A dude named Joe traded me some French Vanilla

By Julie

Kris is one of the kindest, most thoughtful and endearing folks on the planet. You can’t have her but you can follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/gravewriter71 and check out her blog http://t.co/45eg4lKWKM.

Kris Silva’s only published work thus far was a fantasy in “Playgirl” during her college years, although her erotica repertoire has expanded to saucy Muppet tales. She is also a freelance fiction editor, having harangued and cheered authors Sue London and Andy Click through various published works (and she’d be very happy if you grabbed one to read, right now). Currently she’s working on her own comic horror novel, entitled WENDIGOGO, involving cannibalism and cannabis in fairly equal measure. A chronic misanthrope, she prefers online interactions to awkward conversations in person, though an offering of Lindt may smooth the way. Her Twitter friends and extended hippie family funded her move last fall from Arizona to Wisconsin, where she’s found the best six-foot-tall frog EVER. They enjoy riffing movies and long walks in graveyards.
This story is a play date with the protagonist of WENDIGOGO. Bring your own snacks.

MUNCHIES

by Kris Silva

Morty awoke gagging. He made it halfway across the room before throwing up. Fuck. How much did I drink last night? The empty bottle and spent limes littering the coffee table told the story. His friend Ryan had stopped by with cheap tequila and a broken heart.

Wind howled outside. No blare of Faux News from his elderly neighbor next door, for once. Small favors, I guess. Seeing the remains of the hot wings they’d ordered, Morty’s stomach rolled. Goddamn I feel like shit on a Ritz.

He drifted off in the shower. Disturbing images played: deep snow, someone shrieking, blood gushing…

Morty startled at the kettle’s shriek. He poured a mugful of chai and searched for clean clothing. Yesterday’s shirt was drenched in barbeque sauce. He paused before the mirror, something amiss. It took a few minutes before he saw it; then he chuckled.

Guess I have had a few holiday treats. His normally scrawny frame had filled out. This shirt used to hang off him; now he saw a belly curve. No wonder, considering all the family he’d endured of late. With all the interpersonal stress, he’d been lighting up more, and for every bout of the munchies there’d been sweets available. His metabolism was fast as a ferret’s, though. No harm in a couple extra pounds in this weather.

Tea eased the nausea. After a cup, his head felt clearer. He might even be able to eat. His eyes drifted to the gaming console. Yeah. Relax, kill some monsters, have a toke… The mess on the carpet halted that. Fuck. Better clean that up before you step in it. Frosty Flakies would have to wait. He could ignore the dirty dishes, the laundry piles…but he drew the line at vomit on the rug. And Steve wasn’t here anymore to clean up. His roommate simply vanished weeks ago. Jackass still owes me for utilities.

He used a rag to sop the mess. Gahh. Looks like it wasn’t even digested… He plucked a bone from the rug; it hit the bottom of the mop bucket with a solid thunk. Fat stuck to the carpet. He breathed through his mouth; the driblets of…what is that, skin?…smelled horrible. He kept dabbing until only dark spots remained. Hopefully it’ll fade. Not like they’ve ever replaced the carpets in this dump.

He emptied the bucket into the trash, feeling dizzy. Could he reach the dumpster without freezing? Just toss it outside; I feel like sh– That’s an awful lot of bones, he thought. I never eat that many wings. Are wingbones that thick?

That’s not a chicken bone.

What the fuck.

Gristle glistened over the round, smooth, large bone. Morty touched his throat. It’d felt as though he’d vomited a baseball. Looks like a skull, can’t be, chicken skulls aren’t even… Looks like a kneecap.

He stared. Slowly he registered the variety of…things…in the trash. Bones he couldn’t possibly have eaten. Something dark and wetly matted.

Morty swallowed. Get a grip. You’ll eat anything with a bad enough case of the munchies. He nodded, exhaled, knotted the bag. Screw the dumpster. Just set it outside. Snow blew in when he opened the door. Whiteness buried all: shrubs, sidewalk, and steps undiscernable. But under the porch roof, pink stained the drifts. A hawk must’ve snagged that wild rabbit Morty had seen around. He wouldn’t dwell on that. He hated thinking of the suffering of small creatures.

Gradually his stomach settled, and he rolled a joint while defeating goblins. His world collapsed into the blanket wrapped around him, tea within reach, the action on the screen.

Morty jerked awake at loud knocking. He didn’t remember drifting off. “Hey man, open up! It’s fuckin’ cold out here!”

Ryan. Crap. Morty really wasn’t up to entertaining. Crossing the room, he stepped in a wet spot. Wet and cold. He suddenly remembered the bucketful of shining-wet bones and…stuff. Pink snow by his door. He hesitated, uneasy.

More knocking. “Morty, I know you’re home. I saw you.”

Morty yanked open the door. “What did you see?”

“What?”

Morty blinked. It was just Ryan. Harmless, chubby Ryan. “Fine, come in. But no goddamn tequila.”

Ryan chuckled uncertainly. “Hell, no! Thanks for last night, though.”

“Yeah.” Fresh flurries covered the pink stains. Morty locked the door. “Hey, man…what fucking sauce was on those wings? I was sick as hell this morning.”

“Just spicy barbeque.” Ryan plopped onto the sofa. “Too much takillya, maybe?”

“I guess. Not really feeling social today, man.”

“It’s cool. We could just watch a movie.”

Morty shuddered. “Nothing gory, okay?”

Ryan studied him. “Yeah…you look kinda ill. Hey, I’m sorry. You sat up all night, listening to me go on and on about Cheryl…”

“It’s all good.”

“Seriously, man. You’re a great friend. Look…how about we just hang out? No heavy shit. No tequila!”

Morty sighed. “No more tequila, ever.”

“I hear ya. I’ll make some coffee.”

Stubs filled the ashtray; Morty didn’t recall smoking them. When Ryan went to the kitchen, Morty escaped to the bathroom. He had to adjust his sweats on his skinny hips as he returned to the living room.

“How about Clue?” Ryan suggested.

“Sure. What did we watch last night?”

“Huh?”

“The snow monster. Hunting people…” Gristle and guts. The heat of the kill. Pink snow.

Ryan smiled, puzzled. “We didn’t watch anything, dude. Just shot the shit awhile.”

“Right…” Morty lit up. The haze was comforting. Ryan watched the movie. Morty smoked, avoiding thought. Peace spread from his lungs to his tingling fingertips. His stomach growled.

Ryan’s belly quivered in mirth, liquid, full of heat. Morty felt a cold draft; he needed warmth in his guts, dribbling hot down his chin. Never really noticed how chubby he is; practically a walking pork roast. Gravy built-in.

Morty wiped his mouth. Ryan stopped laughing. “You don’t look okay. Want me to grab something from the fridge?” He shifted uneasily. “Uh, whatever you need, man.”

“Thanks,” said Morty. “I’m really getting the munchies.”

March Madness Flash Fiction: GOD PROVIDES by John Oakes

TODAY’S BREW: Starbuck’s Autumn Roast and it was on clearance.

By Julie

John Oakes makes my world a better place. That was before I had to gouge my eyes out following reading this story. Jesus, he is a brilliant author. Good LORD, this is disturbing and stunning and John promises me Constanza will get what’s coming to him in the sequel to DEATH POPE.  (Buy DEATH POPE for a damn buck. http://t.co/IvrMyQW3lg)  Go find Oakesy on Twitter and watch us be horrible to each other. https://twitter.com/JohnTOakes

“When Julie asked if I wanted to write some flash fiction for her “March Madness,” one particular madman came to mind, one of the villains in my forthcoming novel, DEATH POPE: Black Flame, the sequel to DEATH POPE, book 1. It’s pretty dark, but dark villains are all that much more fun to do bad things to, right? So, without further ado…Ahem.”

 GOD PROVIDES

by John Oakes

Constanza muttered curses at the smoky candle flame before him on the table. He leaned his heavy frame on his elbows and swayed on his bench, drunk on wine he was sipping straight from the bottle. He drank often, so it had taken three bottles of the most perfect Chianti to get him in this state, gifts from his wealthy benefactor, the man in Umbria who paid for his righteous work. God always provided to his most loyal servants, that much Constanza knew.

He passed his fingers over the flame, willing it to burn him, but his fingers moved too fast. The fire was his servant, not the other way around. Had it always been that way? No. In his youth, the flames had beguiled at him. He had to burn in order to feel alive. He had to feel his skin blister and smell his hair burning in order to climax when he touched himself. He wanted women, but wanted the burning more. He was never a dashing lad, and the few women who would consider lying beneath his fat, sweaty body did not like the burning one bit. They called him names. They spread rumors.

The Church was the only way to fix that. Celibacy was a fine trade for a little respect.

He brought the squat bottle to his wet lips and took a hearty pull. He set the bottle down and muttered at the candle, “But those bitches learned, didn’t they? When they burned?”

Women had a unique way of disrespecting order. It was why they were such easy targets of Satan. You had to make them respect order. You had to punish those who actively worked against God’s order, who spread discord with sorcery. You had to make examples out of them, bright and public, so that all who witnessed their end would know to turn away from the Devil.

That was why God gifted Friar Benicio Constanza with cases of fine wine, with money to pay his men.

Because he did the work.

Eugenio appeared at the doorway, rapped a knuckle on the wood. “This one’s ready. Painted up. Ready to confess.”

Constanza inhaled through his nose and stood carefully from his table. He picked up a heavy ledger bound in canvas with sturdy pages that would last an age. Here he made his notes, kept his records. Here was where he decided if a witch had been hatched, or if a suspect was merely eccentric or rebellious, only in need of firm correction. He carried it under and arm, out of the room, down the stone passageway, following Eugenio to the exit of the monastery, out into the cold night air of Orvieto. His six men all wore half helms and leather armor, all finely made, purchased by Constanza. Their clothing was otherwise poor and tattered. These were despised men, not seen worthy to even serve as mercenaries. But he’d found them, one by one, and reformed them, taught them the way of things, taught them to do this shadowy work.

Constanza stepped into the carriage and sat beside Leonardo, a rangy man with a patchy scruff of beard and a look of pure blackness in his eyes. But they’d turned that blackness toward holier pursuits now. He nodded silently to Constanza, but said nothing. There was nothing to say, only to do.

Two men rode on the driver’s bench, one on the rear runner, and two more with the horse cart behind them. In train, they made their way in this strange but charming town to a central plaza. Barkers had done their work, and word of the spectacle had brought out the masses despite the temperature. Constanza rubbed at his arms. It rarely ever got this cold in Rome. He looked forward to returning south when his assignment was completed. Never worry, Constanza consoled himself, this night would warm up soon enough.

The man on the runner and Eugenio on the driver’s bench hopped down and helped to clear a path through the crowd. They arrived at the center of the square, near a hastily but well-built structure. Constanza alighted from the carriage and examined it. The base was firm, the logs well painted with pitch, the stacks of kindling beneath built to take fire immediately. The central post of the pyre stood silent sentinel over every witness in the plaza.

The roar of the crowd in its fervor pleased him. Not all the crowds were this enthusiastic. These were the most fertile grounds to sew the fear of God.

His men worked with the small contingent of Orvieto constables to keep the press at bay, while Leonardo and Pico took the girl from the cart. Her soft moans were drowned out by the crowd. Rotten fruit and vegetables flew in from all sides, abusing his men more than the witch between them.

They took her up the steps and lashed her to the pyre, and when they removed the hood from her head, the crowd gasped. Indeed, her face was a mask of horror. Blackened eyes, broken nose, blood pouring from cheek and mouth, her face hanging between sweat and tear-soaked hanks of curly black hair. The look of agony on her face did little to improve her looks.

She was plump, Constanza noticed. That was good. The plump ones burned brighter.

“They did her good!”

“Beat the devil out of her!”

“Burn the witch!”

“Light it before she can hex us!”

Constanza held his ledger aloft and turned about slowly, until the crowd quieted in outward ripples.

He called out in his booming voice the case against her. Her bundles of strange herbs and pickings from the forest. The fact that two children had gone missing in the village near her home. Then to annunciate the final evidence, he stepped up on the pyre and tore a rent in her dirty woolen shift, exposing her midriff and the pagan symbols painted on.

“The devil’s mark!” he boomed. “She bears his seed!”

The crowd’s shock only intensified their fervor.

Now was the time. No further preaching was needed to agitate this crowd.

He stepped down and took the torch from the constable.

“Now confess your crimes!”

The witch coughed and sobbed and began mumbling.

“Louder,” he demanded.

“I confess that I have bedded the Devil, that I practice dark magics. I ask to be burned to…”

“Say it!”

“…to purify myself.”

Constanza held the torch aloft and turned amidst the crowd, taking in their enraptured faces, before lowering it and lighting the pyre.

He stood back with his men, as the fire took hold in earnest. The scent of burning pitch sent a shiver up his spine. The screaming stiffened him, so that he had to hold his ledger before his waist. The scent of burning skin and hair mingled with the rush and roar of the flames, forced his eyes shut in ecstasy. Waves of pleasure flowed through him until he exploded with a grunt and a hunching of his shoulders.

He sighed, and sweat beaded on his forehead, as the relief flooded his body. He looked up at the bright bonfire and narrowed his eyes at the light which had replaced her darkness. One more vile soul had been cleansed, and he could leave this cold town. He knew not where his duties would lead him next, but he knew one thing.

God would provide.

March Madness Flash Fiction: TALISMANS by Jessica Bloczynski

TODAY’S BREW: Bathtub Brew. That’s how much I need.

By Julie

Jessica Bloczynski is a writer like you read about. She’s the one that can’t stop. She cannot stop writing. Doesn’t know how. Does it all day and night. If you’re up, she’s writing. I love her for it. She has the rare sort of writing that I get addicted to. If she writes it, I’ll read it. You can read it here today and also on http://t.co/NOGmhoX4fm. Follow her on Twitter https://twitter.com/jabloczynski.

TALISMANS

By Jessica Bloczynski

The first thing they tell you about living in a haunted house is that you need salt. Little crystal shakers. Big blue boxes with yellow umbrella girls on the side. Your collection of beach-glass worn smooth and salty to the taste even decades after you collected them with grubby fingers.

They tell you salt is the trick, so you line the sills with blues and greens and browns. Dust the lintel and baseboards. Make a rectangle of umbrella-girl salt around your bed. Tuck yourself in. Cover your face. Pray.

The trouble with salt is that it spreads. Gets between your toes and crusts your eyes. It lives in your blood and tears and snot. You scream at the cat, as she bats a chip of blue-green glass across the floor. They said you would need salt, but salt is not enough.

The second thing they tell you about living in a haunted house is that you need iron. Nails will do. Also the rust-spotted wrench you found in the shed. You think about tetanus, but the salt didn’t work and you are more concerned about how all your shells and glass bits are gone and how someone swept away all your umbrella-girl salt. Tetanus is a small price to pay for safety.

You put the nails in the windows. Driving them home, a lighting crack splits up the bottom pane. The landlady will have to understand that ghosts trump security deposits. It’s a security system of sorts. You take to carrying the wrench tied to a scarf around your waist. It’s not a terribly functional way to carry something so heavy, but the wrench makes you feel safe and safety is key.

You put your wrench under your pillow, but in the morning it is gone. You suspect the cat, but she doesn’t have the strength in her jaws. The dexterity in her paws. She has none of these things.

You suspect the landlady.

She is less forgiving about the nailed windows.

Insists you pay to replace the broken windowpane.

Makes lazy circles by her ear.

Mutters,“meshuga.”

Yes, you are quite sure she has taken your wrench and nails.
The third thing they tell you about living in a haunted house is that you need chimes.

The fourth. Horsehoes.

The fifth. Garlic.

Except you’re allergic to garlic, so you keep it on the porch, giving it a wide berth when you go out. You go out seldomly, putting one Chinese slipper in front of the other. You try to remember what your life was like before you lived here. You can’t.

“That one’s bad luck.” The man at the pet store said, when you held up the ball of charcoal fluff blinking at you in wonder. You laughed at his superstitions, and named her Lucky. This was before you lived in a haunted house. Lucky is up at all hours. Animals can see ghosts, but you wish she’d be less obvious about it. It keeps you up at night.

The last thing they tell you about living in a haunted house is nothing at all. They haven’t told you anything in a week now. Perhaps it is the garlic. Perhaps they don’t believe that you are actually allergic. You would show them. Rub it on your skin and present them with the hives as evidence. You do this.

The landlady takes you to the urgent care.

Meshuga. Meshuga. Meshuga.”

“Why do you say this word?”

More circles by her ear. More muttering. But she drives you in her clanking old Buick back to the house.

You stay awake all night listening to the wind shift the panes of glass, and howl in the eaves, and give the chimes voice. You wonder if it’s worth it. New place. New life. New everything. You used to have so much hope. You used to laugh. You used to sing happy songs and not nonsense tunes set to the song of dancing chimes.

You haven’t seen Lucky for a week now. She has abandoned you. You don’t know whether to be happy that her black spectre is no longer shadowing your path, or sad that she is not there to warm your pillow at night. The horseshoe falls off the door. Someone has left garlic on the table. You wrap it in a towel and feed it to the garbage disposal. Your chimes have been stolen.

“You are late on the rent,” the landlady says. “Pay up or get out.”

You nod. All your money is gone. That is the curse of this house. It takes all your things and scatters them to the wind. You pack your bag. Three outfits. That is all that is yours. Lucky never came back.

The thing they never tell you about living in a haunted house, is that no one stays for long. Maybe they expect that if you’ve read the stories, you know that the house always wins. It takes what it can from you and sets you back on the path toward something else. They don’t tell you that you’ll catch a bus to the next town. Find a job. A husband. A life. That in ten, fifteen, twenty years time you will tell your daughter of the six weeks you spent under its roof. You will not have the words. There are no words but this. The first thing you need when living in a haunted house is salt.

March Madness Flash Fiction Series: CLICK by Kathy Palm

TODAY’S BREW: Hawaiian Chocolate Nut from HoneyDew. My fave.

By Julie

Kathy Palm is one of those friends from Twitter that I might never have known otherwise and am so glad I found her. As if it isn’t enough that she’s hilarious and outspoken, she writes creepy shit like this and it makes me fangirl. Find her on Twitter https://twitter.com/KathleenPalm and keep an eye out for DOORS, through REUTS publishing next year.

CLICK

by Kathleen Palm

The alarm blares. My arm snaps out to silence the sound. The colors of the sunset creep through my window and paint the walls red.

My fingers curl into my pillow that smells of sweat and fear. “Will it happen again?” I whisper.

“Of course it will,” I answer.

My mind spins.

“How long? How long has it been… since it began?”

My fingers work through the knots in my long, lackluster hair, once golden. I pull my blanket around my shoulders and rock on the edge of the bed. Chipped purple polish adorns my toes, which press into the worn rug. “Don’t know. Too long.”

“Too long.” A frantic laugh shakes my belly.

My gaze flickers to the window where the sun hovers over the horizon. I gasp. Moments. Minutes before the fight, the push to survive.

I stand. The blanket falls to the floor. I kick dirty clothes out of my way as I shuffle to the door. My hurried steps interrupt the silence of the stark hallway and invade the tiny kitchen. Grime-coated dishes fill the sink. A bag with only a few slices of bread sits on the counter.

“We’ll need food.”

I throw the bread in the toaster. “Yes. We’ll get food. When the light returns… tomorrow.”

I jump when the toast pops.

My hand shakes as I crunch on my breakfast and wander to the sliding glass door, leading to the backyard. My shoulder presses against the glass. The edge of the sun dips below the horizon. Twilight, the last seconds of peace.

“How long?” I mutter. Bits of bread fly into the air.

“Since that night, the night we called—”

I slam my fist against the window. “Don’t speak of it! You’ll make it true.”

The sky darkens, and I flip on the kitchen light.

“It is true. It whispered to us.”

Two steps and I electrify the light over the stove, another step and the bulb above the sink blazes to life. I follow the path, the seven steps to the living room. The bulbs of the ceiling fan brighten.

“Whispered of the dark.”

Two steps to the end table. Six more steps to the other end table. Five steps to the hall.

The spare bedroom.

Driving the shadows away, but not forever.

The bathroom.

My room.

I stand in the hallway. Warmth spreads from every doorway.

“There.”

“How long do we have until it starts?”

My fingers dig into my thighs. “I don’t know!”

“Maybe it won’t…”

My hands twist in my shirt, my fingers finding holes worn through the fabric. I turn my head and stare out my bedroom window. Buildings become dark, reaching fingers against the last rays of the sun. The light leaves the sky as if the world sucks it away, devouring it, to keep its brightness for itself.

“It had only been a game.”

Night swallows the city skyline.

Click.

“It hadn’t been a game.” I spin toward the sound and race to the living room. Fear wraps around my mind like icy chains. I search for the extinguished light, nearly knocking over the lamp as I twist its knob and fight back the shadows.

I perch on the edge of the couch. My fingernails scrape across the leather, leaving scars, marks counting days. “They said it was a game. Not real. But we should never have gone there, never have called on the dark!”

My sob morphs into a hysterical giggle. “No.”

“We brought it back with us.”

Click.

I snap my head up.

Darkness settles in the kitchen.

I leap to my feet, my manic laughter matching my rapid pace. My fingers slap the light switch, chasing away the shadows.

Click.

I stumble to the hall. My bedroom door is a black hole.

“It… wants us.”

Light once again fills my room, illuminating the mess.

“It,” I mutter.

I stumble along the hall, watching, listening, waiting. Tremors of fatigue ripple through my body.

“How many nights now?” I whisper.

“How long have we chased the dark?”

“We don’t know.”

“Will it end? Will it ever end?”

My legs quiver with every step. I trip in the hall, falling to my knees.

Click.

Blackness swallows the bathroom. My chest heaves with sobs… with laughter.

“What happens if the lights go out?”

“We don’t know.”

Click.

I drag my fingers through the carpet, pulling myself to my knees. “It’s just the dark. Nothing to fear.”

Click.

“Everything to fear.”

Struggling to stand, to continue, I glance over my shoulder at the dark living room. High-pitched laughter bursts from my gut.

Tears steam down my face. My mind shatters into a million pieces.

Click.

“We can let it end.”

“We can.”

Click.

Click.

I sink to the floor, wrapping my arms around my legs. My thoughts blank as darkness overtakes the house. My hysterical giggles echo down the hall.

“Let the lights go out.”

End

March Madness Flash Fiction: RED by Jessi Shakarian

TODAY’S BREW: French Vanilla by the Trader of Joes.

By Julie

At the risk of sounding redundant, I love today’s March Madness story. I’m a sucker for vivid imagery and Jessi Shakarian gives me as much as I require in RED. You can find more of Jessi at https://twitter.com/listentomuses on Twitter and her blog http://t.co/GrsMIxbFe9.  Now enjoy RED.

RED

by Jessi Shakarian

Red isn’t a color you see too often in nature. Not compared to the spectrums of greens, blues, yellows, and pinks. Cardinals. Rainbows. Roses. Rubies. Blood.

But in here, in this laboratory, red is hidden. Taken away, like some kind of evil. My lab coat is white, the sheets that cover my patients are white. Even the metal tables reflect the white tiled wall in the sun. Pristine. Untouchable. They beckon me, challenge me to cover them in red. However, that challenge won’t happen right now. I have something more important to tend to.

The body in front of me is cold from the fridge, eyes shut. Her throat is covered with bruises from her death, her chest and stomach in stitches from the coroner’s previous work. Even though the answer seems pretty clear to me, I can respect their thoroughness.

I pick up the scapel off the tray, it shines in the light, and feels like an extension of myself. I am whole. It’s the feeling my father always wanted me to understand, as he did, except I don’t save lives.

This person has a name on her toe, but today she is not the person she was when she was alive. Tonight, I’ll call her Annie. I put my fingers to my lips and place them on her forehead. Don’t you worry, my Annie, I’ll take good care of you, I whisper in her ear. I pet her beautiful straight brown hair tenderly. She doesn’t smile in acknowledgement, but I know she’s heard me.

I make an incision at the base of her neck, through a strangulation bruise, and plug in the tube that connects to the container where all the blood will collect. I watch the start of the red line from her neck, watching the tube turn crimson. A shiver runs down my spine; it’s almost time for the fun to begin.

The first time my father let me shadow him in the operating room, I was thirteen, and my face covered by a mask. He opened up a cadaver, showing me the insides, and explaining a simple technique – removing a perforated appendix, of which the man had died from. Preparing me for the many surgeries I will parttake in once I get into medical school. My eyes crawled over every part of the incision, the organ, his latex gloves, the instruments, eventually his apron, and mine. Everything was covered in red.

But I’m no longer in my father’s laboratory. The red from my memories fade and the white walls still taunt me. I check on the container, halfway done, at half a gallon.

When I was six, I got a paper cut on my homework. My skin sliced open, and the blood poured out, like it had been trying to escape my body. I didn’t wipe it on a tissue, or ask to see a nurse. I stuck the wound in my mouth, and licked up the blood. It tasted metallic, unlike anything my tongue had ever felt.

It was the start of something wonderful.

The tube runs clear. The container of blood sits there, waiting for me. I can hear the calls like an old friend. Or maybe an old lover, whose passion pulls you in like time hasn’t moved forward. I jump out of my chair and check the container. One point two gallons. Not too much, not too little. Very good, dear Annie. I switch out the tube for another one.

Formaldehyde is thicker than blood, and takes more time, so I let Annie sit by herself. She never was good at being solitary, always needed the company of others. It’s what got her into trouble, but she’ll have to learn sometime. I lift up the lid holding the blood. It looks like a pool of colored water, but I can’t see the bottom.

I dip my arms into the container like a surgeon preparing for his experiment. Elbows in first, and I let the drips run down my arm to my hands. They race back down to the container, the safety of home. My fingers are stained, and I feel just as alive as that first time. I suck on my thumb like I got tomato sauce on it. This one is dingy, but euphoria pumps through my veins, like I’m on the purest form of heroin.

I scoop up a pint jar for myself, sealing it tight, and dispose of the rest the way I was taught in medical school. I label the jar “Annie” with the date, and stick in the mini ice box against the wall. There’s only two more jars with Annie’s name on it. This will tide me over for a bit before it’s time find the next Annie.

The back door from the loading dock swings open. “Jesus, Cal, it smells like death in here.” Jack’s back is to me, but his cigarette smoke says hello before he does. The cool late night air pushes it’s way through. “Why don’t you light up?” He turns around to face me, wheeling in my new friend.

I wipe my hands on a towel and go to my desk in the corner. Cigarettes only cover the smell everyone else calls “noxious”, but I call “welcoming”.

“I’m good for now,” I tell him as I pull open my desk drawer, take out a wad of cash, counting it. Red on green.

Jack wheels over the body, lifts up the sheet for me to take a peek. It’s her, the one I saw the other night. The blue and purple bruises on her pale throat stick out. My signatures.

“Thank you,” I said as I hand him the cash. “I’m almost done with her, if you want to wait a few moments.”

Jack counts the money, and nods. Pocketing it, he takes a drag of his cigarette. “Do what you have to do, doc. The morgue attendant won’t be back until the sun comes up.”

March Madness Flash Fiction: All the Monuments You Broke by Ian Cann

TODAY’S BREW: Fancee Coffee.

By Julie

I look forward to these flash fiction stories maybe too much, but they’re FUN. And one of the most fun folks, Ian Cann, wrote today’s haunting and lovely piece. The first thing he’s written in some time, if I’m correct, and he managed the whole thing pun-free. This is a stretch for him. Follow my buddy on Twitter  https://twitter.com/thebeercolonel and his blog, http://t.co/BWwrfGCuUG.

All The Monuments You Broke

by Ian Cann

In the cold quiet moment the darkness spoke in riddles, and the man knew it as something new, wondrous and terrifying, creeping in the spaces between his dreams, wrapping creeping tendrils around his mind and settling there. “What are you?” he cried, flashes of light and creatures dancing before his eyes, but answer came there none, just a sense of endings and beginnings, scenes stripped of meaning and time.

This then is where you came in, hearing the screams and the scratches, knowing that something was amiss, that tonight there was something out of kilter with the balance of this mind and thus with your world, lit up like neon lights across a desert sky. The night ran on in double quick time, darkness turning into light as the sun rose, waking you from a cold sweaty dread.

Upstairs, the man woke, he thought, from a deep dreamless sleep. Like nothing had happened to disturb him, no memories except for a nagging sense of dread nibbling just behind his left ear. You knocked carefully and entered asking if he is alight, only for him to look at you askance asking why wouldn’t he be, as the doubts raced through your mind at five hundred miles an hour.

The flying monkeys of panic span round as you doubted yourself, what you heard and sensed, whether you just dreamt it, as the rain fell outside, piano notes in tooth and claw. You looked to the man, and he to you, a sense of confusion drifted in the glances, alienating you from each other as a nagging sense called you to step outside into the world.

Outside the people all seemed to stare at you and mutter to themselves as you walked past. They didn’t really, but you could hear the darkness telling you this, whispering in your ear that only it understood you, only it knew your real worth, comforted you like a cute puppy, told you that no one else could understand. The man walked with you, slightly puzzled by your sideways glances, still slightly perplexed by the little nagging questions in his head about last night, feeling them slip out as the darkness moved itself into your head. At the lights you thought that the walk/don’t walk sign was taunting you, the darkness manipulating your sense of value as it drew you along, the man being drawn off away from you, your emanating sense of menace scaring him to a distance.

Rain began to fall as you made a dash for the store, the drops made the man’s pace pick up, as he danced between them , the wetness shaking his thoughts, unnerving him as memories crept back into his head, merging with his present. The sense that the darkness had touched him, but at the same time not touched him, haunted his waking dreams as he fled back to the house, to the safety of the known and the warmed safe haven that the indoors offered his faltering senses.

You were left only able to watch him from a distance, helpless in the face of his disintegration, wishing you could break yourself to fix him. Or perhaps you already had, as if somehow trying to absorb the darkness from him, as if some strange form of mental osmosis could have served to drive you deeper into the darkness, whilst lifting him up closer to the light in which your friendship had once basked. This though had proved to be little better than a cruel joke on you both, taunting you as it only served to push you further apart. His demons whispering teasingly in his ear that your efforts merely acted to belittle his own suffering, that you thought him less than what he was.

Finally, this little tableaux of angst disintegrated like a kicked sandcastle, conversation dried up as the darkness dragged the man away from you and your knowing of him, turning him in on himself down the rabbit hole. Soon it was if you had never known him at all, merely the suggestion of a memory of what once might have been if the darkness had never visited. Where there should have been anger, sadness and frustration, there was only resignation and emptiness.

As the days passed, you questioned whether the darkness was ever really there at all, had some cruel trick been played on your time and senses. You thought that maybe you had constructed this deception to ease yourself out of isolation into the world at large. Then the whispering returned, somehow seeming to come from within the very walls of the house. The darkness tormented you, your inability to help the man being used as a weapon against you.

Then a few days later you found that the man was gone. No trace was ever found, as if he had just been erased from existence, claimed completely by the darkness. No one else seemed to miss him, or notice the space where once he had been. It sent your mood spiralling downward and inward as you reached into the space for comfort but came away with nothing. Time rolled out before you like an unfurled carpet into infinity and you saw the chance to dismantle and rebuild all that had come before, an identity de-constructed in fire and ice. You took the new blank slate over the horizon and left the darkness there muttering sadly to itself, alone in the hole if called home a home of the saddest violins, as you sought out the new spaces away from this.

March Madness Flash Fiction Series #1: EIGHT WORDS by Kennedy Thompson!

TODAY’S BREW: Trader Joe’s made it.

By Julie

I’ve mentioned that what I LOVE about this flash fiction series is that every participant is scared. They’re all feeling not good enough. They all took it super seriously and doubted themselves, and with every private message, email, text I got about how awful their stories were, I smiled, because I knew how these blog series work on Deadly Ever After. We support each other, we applaud each other’s bravery, and we kick some amazing talents out into the world in this very safe environment. Many of these writers haven’t even had their work go public before. Listen to me when I say…..

  • YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST TO PUT THEIR FIRST WORK UP HERE.
  • YOU ARE BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE.
  • YOU’VE DONE SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE WILL NEVER DO IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES.

Today I’m unbelievably, ridiculously, gushingly proud of Kennedy Thompson. This girl…yes, girl, merely 17 years old… is an amazing talent, and the most caring young woman I have ever met. I could go on all day about her, but let me tell you that my youngest calls her “his fairy,” and she makes him feel better when he needs it. I’m proud to have her put her first public piece out in the world right here, today. And it’s gorgeous. SO MAKE HER FEEL WELCOME OR ELSE.

IT BEGINS……..

EIGHT WORDS

by Kennedy Thompson

My eyes were burning and my head ached, but the book just started to get good. I rarely go to bed without finishing a book, which generally means sleep doesn’t come easy. “Hello Sarah, I’ve missed you.” I gasped, not because those five words were what I was waiting for these last seven chapters, but because “hello” was highlighted. I kept opening and closing the book and couldn’t stop blinking. The page remained highlighted. Defacing books, whether it be writing in them, folding over the pages, or even tearing the pages out, is like sinning to me. Or worse. Definitely worse than sinning.

One word couldn’t mean any harm.

I hopped off my bed and fell on the floor. As quick as possible I started throwing the books out from underneath my bed. Each of them I’d read within the last week. Searching for more highlighter, knowing I’d seen it before recently, thinking it was just a figment of my imagination. Hoping it was, at least. No one ever came in my room, I was very adamant about keeping everyone out. Just as I was unshakeable about damaging books. I was always in my own head, in my own world, not welcoming outsiders, not letting anyone past the surface. Therefore, no one would’ve had access to my personal library, no one would’ve been near my bed.

I hoped.

It felt like years went by. My long blonde hair was like a bird’s nest on top of my head, my face stained with make-up and tears. My giant purple sweatshirt weighed me down but I didn’t have enough strength or motivation to take it off. I rocked back and forth, staring at the mess in front of me. Every book was just a front and back cover with its pages strewn about, if they didn’t have anything highlighted, I crumpled it and threw it across the room. The pile was taller and wider than me. Half of the books had no letters highlighted. Others had one or two. The entire book was destroyed, I had no mercy, no patience, no sanity.

I grabbed permanent markers and began scribbling my unscrambled letters on the wall. “Hello, we’re all mad here.” I smiled sadly. Just like Alice in Wonderland. The freak out was for nothing. I flopped onto my bed and closed my eyes. I laughed at myself, and cried too. I loved Alice in Wonderland. Though nothing explained how everything got highlighted in the first place. My feet aimlessly traced my sheets, then I felt it. Another book. My heart stopped as I sat up.

Fourteen letters, but wait, there’s more.

I feverishly turned the pages, scanned them, and tore them out. I found “you” “will” “are” “that” “fix” “we” all highlighted. Six highlighted words. That was the most in one book. I slung the hardcover at the wall.

Fourteen letters, seven words, one last thing to do.

The back of my hand was red and tender after scratching it incessantly. Anxious. I added it all to the sentence. I sunk to my knees, reluctant to read the finished product. “Hello. We are all mad you are here. We will fix that.” “No, no, no, no, no. There has to be more books.” I whispered shakily. I scurried around my room for a pathetic fifteen seconds, knowing the rest were locked in my wardrobe. I stopped and stared at my wall. I kicked it and then collapsed. “What does that even mean?” My body shook so hard it was vibrating. “Hello. We are all mad you are here. We will fix that.” My voice grew quieter, the further I got. “I don’t unders–” The lights flickered and went out. The door slammed. I screamed at the top of my lungs.

Bright light spilled through my eyelids, burning my eyes. I struggled to open them. “Carrie, Carrie? Are you even paying attention?” My head shot up. I nodded. “Well, will you read your highlighted words on page 452?” “I… I don’t highlight words in books. That’s worse than sinning.” I replied with more sass than I meant to. My history teacher shot me a dirty look. I turned to page 452 anyway. To my surprise, one word was highlighted. “Goodbye.” I whispered. “Pardon me, Miss Marks?” The lights flickered out. My heart was in my stomach and I stopped breathing. The door slammed. Screaming filled the air, but this time, it wasn’t just mine.

Fourteen letters, eight words, there’s nothing else I can do.

March Madness Feelings Time!

TODAY’S BREW: All of it.

By Julie

The start of the March Madness flash fiction series is approaching quickly! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, HERE. https://deadlyeverafter.com/tag/march-madness/

I was excited to offer our blog as a forum for people who matter to me to post their words. We’ve done this before and it fills me with such happiness to help other writers that this is really more for me than it is them.

But I never anticipated how much good this blog series would do for so many. So many writers that haven’t posted here before. So many that have never let their work out before AT ALL. (You know who you are, girly. And your writing is spectacular. I had no idea I was the only one who got to see it.) Writers that haven’t been able to write for months or more, that finally found inspiration in this project.

Goddammit, if you people make me cry, you will all pay.

Writers that have been down on their luck with submission processes, writers that suffer depression among a myriad of other health issues…. I couldn’t be more proud of every one of you, more honored that you’d share your work and your feelings with me and our readers.

What I really wanted to say here today is that EVERY SINGLE PERSON participating in the March Madness blog series has reached out to me about how nervous they are, that they’re stuck, that they’re excited but maybe they shouldn’t do it….. and all of you have found it in you to do it anyway.

While I’ve been proud to host writers in all stages of their careers here, this one is special to me because all of you feel vulnerable about your work in some way. I’m overjoyed that you’ve come out of your shells, found faith in yourself to do this. I can’t wait to share your work and see the support you all give each other.

To put him on the spot, our good friend Beau Barnett posted his first piece on our blog two years ago. He was the most nervous of everyone I think, it really shook him, and since then Beau has been published, submits work regularly, writes all the time and cheers on so many other writers, he’s been an invaluable asset to the writing community. Make A Wish still gets searched and read on our blog, two years later. Here it is: https://deadlyeverafter.com/2013/02/11/make-a-wish-by-beau-barnett/

And I urge you to reach out to Beau on Twitter to ask him how he felt submitting this story, because nobody tells it like he can. You can find him at https://twitter.com/INukeYou. (@INukeYou)

There’s still time to join in with March Madness! (And if you miss the deadline and still want to be a part, I’ll never turn you away.)

Best of luck to all of you. Dig deep and have fun!

MARCH MADNESS FLASH FICTION FUNTIMES with Julie

TODAY’S BREW: Coconut Justice. (not what it’s really called but I like this better.)

By Julie

We’ve run many flash fiction series over here, and it’s been too long. I love love love giving a supportive, fun environment for all writers, especially new ones, to put up a snippet of their work. I love having a place where writers feel safe enough to put up their work and show us what they’re capable of, many for the first time ever. The amazing Zoey Derrick, erotic and paranormal romance author put up her first piece here! Our good friend Beau Barnett cried when he put his first piece up on Deadly Ever After and has been published since. My own brother in law came out of his shell and put up a short story for our Nightmares Before Christmas series. And what I love the most is how all of these writers congratulated each other, commented on the stories, shared them on Facebook and Twitter, and made sharing their imaginations feel as good as it should.

Related, lately I’ve been given an incredible amount of support from people regarding my struggles with Sam and his OCD, as well as my recent surgery and alllllll the mental and emotional backlash from this stuff. Specifically my friends on Twitter have been relentlessly at my side with incredible words of encouragement, reminding me that I matter to them, sending me gifts, for crying out loud, praising my books…. It’s amazing, and I’m DESPERATE to find a way to thank everyone.

This is for you.

Next month, get all your non-sports related March Madness fun right here in the form of boatloads of flash fiction stories (1000 words or less) about MADNESS. Madness can mean a lot of things. Insanity, naturally. Madly in love, obsessive, crime stories, Alice in Wonderland-esque worlds, anything your little heart desires.

No rules. Except madness, less than 1000 words. Get it to me by 2/28.

Maybe you write romance and want to put a spin on madness. Maybe you write horror and want to try romance. Maybe you write erotica or sci fi and want to try something totally new. Let me be your host to give it a shot. Maybe you’ve not written a damn thing in two years. Give it a try again. Maybe you’ve never written ANYTHING but you want to. Let me be the one who helps you.

I want to make you guys feel as good as you’ve made me feel. And for those of you who don’t know me, know that I want to help you get your voice out there. I just do.

Remember when you send me your story to give me links to your books, or your blog, or your Facebook and Twitter, or nothing at all if you like. But I’d love to say, “GET MORE OF THIS INCREDIBLE PERSON RIGHT HERE.”

I believe in you guys.

LET THE MADNESS BEGIN.

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