Category Archives: microfiction

Summer of Love…

Summer of Love

When I got your letter about the divorce, I’d already lost my legs.

Now, sitting on this hill looking down at The Cliff House, I’m wondering if coming here to see you is a good idea.

I see you stand up tall, out of your station wagon.

The kids scatter all around your legs and you point at the big rocks completely covered in birdshit.

You have on your big Sharon Tate sunglasses that I love so much. Your yellow sundress billows in that the San Francisco breeze.

You look happy, really happy, with your new family.

It’s so ironic that you’ve come all this way, all the way to California, to get away from me. And I was just up the street at the VA Hospital on Clement Street, not five minutes from where you stand right now.

He puts his arm around your waist. You settle against him. It’s like I’m seeing all this from another dimension – somewhere far away.

I’ve actually been to The Cliff House a couple of times. They wheel us down there from the VA and carry us in. You know, just to get away for a few hours.

We get a few stares. Some of the guys just look down, or over at the birdshit rocks. Me, I just stare right back at them. Until they look away. Boo-fucking-rah.

I see you look around, almost as if you can sense me up here, but of course, that’s impossible. Even in this wheel chair, I can still make myself invisible to a target.

The counselor at the VA thinks I’m dinky dau, but she don’t know shit about shit.

It was really no problem to locate you. Why did you run away? I wouldn’t have hurt you or the kids. You have to know that.

If you don’t want me any more, that’s ok. I’m not going to make a Mongolian clusterfuck out of the situation.

But I have to draw the line at another man taking you on. Not to mention the kids.

It was obvious to me during my last R and R that you’d already checked out and poisoned the kids against me.

But to file papers while they were hacking my legs off in a hot LZ in the Central Highlands? That’s just cold, baby.

This midday heat has me sweating. Snakes of sweat crawl down my stomach and wrap around my scrotum.

You said it would be forever.

It seems, wherever I turn now, there’s no fidelity to promise.

With Nixon and Kissinger, it’s all about peace with honor, and fuck winning the war.

With you, it’s all about understanding how we’ve grown apart. What the fuck does that mean?

The hippies at Golden Gate Park spit on me. I can’t chase ‘em ‘cause I got no legs.

But I do have this sweet little .222 with a scope.

I won’t hurt you or the kids.

Just that guy you seem so hot on.

From up here on the hill, it’s an easy kill.

Once he stands up from behind the station wagon, I should have a wide-open head shot.

C’mon, man.  Binky’s back in the world and ready to play.

Just a little higher and I’ll have you.

C’mon, let me light your fire, man.

I can’t walk or fuck. But this? This is second nature.

Just a little higher.

Right there.

That is just….

Perfect.

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Image by Ed Bierman

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A Little Birthday Horror…

A Little Birthday Horror

The sunlight spilling in through the large bay windows of the Gould’s living room is comforting. Despite my physician’s warnings, I feel I was right to keep working after all that’s happened.

Poor Olivia. They say she’s stable now, but what do they know? They didn’t see what I saw, nor did they hear what I heard that night.

But I need to focus on today’s performance.

I couldn’t leave a traumatized fourteen year-old home alone, so I’ve brought Devin with me. I parked her wheelchair over in the corner, away from all these screaming kids. She remains largely catatonic since the incident, but I can tell when she gets anxious.

The doctors say the trauma of seeing her mother in that hysterical state caused Devin’s mind to go into a sort of hibernation. Of course, they refused to render an opinion on what I told them about Olivia’s, well, growling.

Olivia was irresponsible to pull Devin into her experiments with conjuring. Hindsight, I know.

The birthday girl’s baby sister is Bailey – a one year old. She pulls herself to a standing position by grabbing the spokes of Devin’s wheelchair. She babbles something. My daughter just looks off into space. And drools.

Devin and her wheelchair drew occasional stares at the start of the party, but Mrs. Gould redirected the kids to the magic show. Now all eyes are on me as I move into the meat of my performance.

I ask for a volunteer and, as expected, hands shoot up, vying for my attention. I choose a boy with loose fitting pants. I give him a black marble and ask him to put it into his pocket. I spin the boy around three times, mumbling a phony incantation, and finish with a series of dramatic hand motions. I’ve picked his pocket during the turns and now ask him to produce the marble, and of course, he cannot. The boy looks at the crowd with wide-eyed bewilderment, his arms extended, palms upraised, his shoulders hunched to his ears. I produce the marble from behind his left ear to much applause and an ensuing announcement from Mrs. Gould that they will sing “Happy Birthday” and have cake and ice cream in the adjoining parlor. The children run out, squealing with delight.

I need a cigarette. I go over to Devin, stroke her black hair, and tell her I’ll be back in a moment. Nothing. Mute, vacant. Little Bailey crawls by again, cooing.

Ten minutes later when I reenter the room, it’s obvious someone has vomited. The stench is overpowering. Soldiering on, I ask that the curtains be drawn and candles lit for the finale, in which the birthday girl, Brittany, will produce a rabbit out of a hat. I have the hat set up on a small table with a hole over a box containing the rabbit. Children always love this one, and the candlelit semi-darkness just adds to the drama.

Brittany’s arm descends into the yawning mouth of the top hat. “And now Brittany will amaze you with her new powers!” I announce, looking about the room. There’s a small bustle within the audience, kids looking down smiling, pointing. Bailey crawling through to see her sister’s trick.

“It feels yucky.” Brittany says, rummaging around in the box under the hat. “Oh gross, it’s wet, too.” she says, grimacing.

“Has anyone seen Bailey?” It’s Mrs. Gould.

“And sticky.” Brittany says.

Mrs. Gould is throwing off my timing. I look over at Devin, who is now staring right at me with a demonic grin on her face. Her eyes, like her mother’s that night. And what in God’s name has happened to her teeth?

Where’s the baby!” yells Mrs. Gould, more insistently now.

The smell of the puke and the jumping shadows on the walls are making me sick.

The kids in front jostle as they open up to finally let Bailey through.

But it’s not Bailey.

It’s the white rabbit.

With a small grunt, Brittany finally pulls her prize out of the hat. There’s a beat of silence, and then Mrs. Gould screams as she sees what Brittany is holding.

A candle’s been knocked over and the drapes are burning, sending shadows that look like dancing demons onto the walls.

And now Devin rises slowly from her wheelchair, turns her lizard’s eyes onto the scattering children.

And then she is upon them.

________________________________________

Image by Gabriel S. Delgado


The Couple in the Basement…

The Couple in the Basement   (A love story in three sentences)

The ancient house – dormant, decaying, silent – lies deep in a forest of black trees, undisturbed for a thousand generations, but for skunks and rats that die bloody and wriggling in the jaws of the long-forgotten couple in the basement.

The sudden distant squeals of children invite their attention upward out of the radium gloom and a ball bounces over the stone precipice and pop, pop, pop, lands in his lap.

From deep inside them comes the shadow of an echo of a distant memory displacing endless flesh-hunger with a delicious, warm anticipation of a child’s radiant smile.

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Awesome freaking image by Casey Muir-Taylor

This is one of those images that contains, to me anyway, an endless number of stories.


The Ice Hive…

The Ice Hive

The wind roared outside the tent as Dr. Terry Silva pulled on her boots.

She ran outside to the waiting jeep.

“It’s like a freezer out here,” she said, climbing into the passenger seat. “Is it true what they said about finding the queen?”

Peter Matthews, her graduate assistant, smiled and said, “It’s all true, doc. She’s big, she’s frozen, she’s dormant. Oh, and she’s got about a million workers frozen in there with her.”

“Dormant? Have they verified that? She’s revivable?” If what Peter said was true, she would be completely vindicated. And Russell would have to grovel at her feet.

Peter pulled up in front of a large ice cave. The wind continued to howl and blow snow horizontally. Terry’s eyes were stung with ice crystals. She got out of the jeep and ran into the darkness of the cave.

When her eyes adjusted, she could see people running around in obvious panic.

“What is it?” she asked as a man with a headlamp and wild eyes tried to shove past her.

“She’s thawed! They’re all thawed!” he pushed Terry out of the way and stumbled out of the cave.

Terry felt a panic rising in her gut. If the bees were no longer dormant, they’d be looking for immediate food. There was no telling how long they’d been dormant in the Arctic ice. The scent of human flesh would send them into a feeding frenzy. But who would have thawed them?

Russell.

She staggered further down into the hole. Why had she let him come? Did she want to ensure he would be there in her moment of triumph? To see the look on his face when it was finally her, and not him, bathing in the adulation of the crew?

Terry could now hear the awful buzzing of the giant bees echoing up from deeper in the cave.

She could feel them coming. The air vibrated with the beating of their leathery wings.

From behind her came a small rumble. The ice shelf was unstable. Shifting.

Terry turned to flee the cave but was stopped by the blinding light of someone’s head lamp.

“Leaving so soon, Terry?”

She recognized the voice. “Let me by, Russell.”

“Oh, but I thought you wanted to go down and feed your big, frozen bees.”

“Turn off your head lamp, Russell, so I can see you.”

“Not a chance. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate all your hard work and research on the possible genesis of the colony. Quite fascinating, really.”

“Russell, everyone knows this is my project. Peter will – “

“Oh, Peter. Yes, well, he had a small accident. National Geo here I come…”

The ice shelf quaked and rumbled. From below them in the cave, Terry could hear the approaching swarm.

“I’ve got the fail safe detonator with me, Russell.”

Russell switched off his head lamp. “My dear, I don’t believe you’d bury us both in this ice just so I could be stopped from stealing your big find.”

Inside the pocket of her parka, Terry pushed the button on the detonator.

There was a bright flash as the magnesium of the thermite charge ignited. Russell was blown forward into Terry and knocked her back toward the darkened hole.

They both turned their head lamps on.

“Light won’t last long,” Russell said.

“Neither will we, you asshole.”

Below them in the darkness, the bees sped upward.

To feed.

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Well, this is one that didn’t quite  work out.  In keeping with the spirit of the blog, I make every effort to get a story out each day. Sometime, life gets in the way of that happening.  The story of the frozen bees will make another appearance in another story. I’m going to keep after it.
Photo by Patrick Wallace


Apology…

Apology

Recurrent lump.

Enough.

No pain if no one feels it?

Car in garage. Duct tape.

A letter.

Please forgive.

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I wanted to take another stab at micro-fiction (less than 50 words). How few words does it really take to tell a story?  As you can see, micro-fiction has much in common with prose poetry and haiku.

Image by CIA de Foto


Zombie Wranglers…

Zombie Wranglers

Derek sped after the strays, driving hard around a cactus, down into an arroyo, and finally emerging onto a flat plain. Out here in the open, the strays were no match for the speed of Derek’s horse. But they split up. So Derek chose the one that looked easier to catch: a fat rancher, once.

He threw his lasso and caught the zombie around the neck. Derek knew not to pull too tightly. Out in this heat, the bogeys didn’t stay together too well. And Derek had already been docked two days’ pay for damaging stock. Boss said the venture capitalists only paid for intact zombies. Why? Derek didn’t care.

The zombie struggled fiercely at the end of the static pole Derek had attached to it’s neck. The rope was fine for catching bogeys, but only a static pole or a head shot would keep them off you at this distance.

Riding back into camp, Derek called out, “We’ll need to ride the south fence later on to catch that other stray ‘fore it gets dark.”

“What difference does it make if we lose one?” Roy asked. Being the new guy, Roy had much to learn, in Derek’s opinion. A city boy who’d chosen to come out West for the job opportunities that zombie wrangling represented. Derek had been a wrangler long before the apocalypse. Back when the herds were horses.

“Well Roy,” Derek said, “for one thing, if we lose one it’s gonna come out of our paychecks. For another thing, when we can’t account for all the bogeys in the herd, that means there is a good chance that you might one day be over behind a cactus taking a shit or playing with yourself, and that missing boy’ll come up behind you and take a nice bite out of your ass.”

“Whatever,” Roy mumbled, and walked off toward the mess wagon.

“You think he’ll ever get it?” Manny asked.  Manny was one of the best wranglers Derek had ever worked with.

“He better. Or one day he’ll get one of us killed, sure as your shit stinks.”

Derek grabbed the static pole and pushed the captive zombie into the holding pen then went to the mess wagon for a cup of coffee. He sat down next to Roy on a tan, dusty rock.

“Boy,” Derek said, “I been out in this country my whole life. You don’t even know what you don’t know yet. This country don’t give you no second chances. Them damn zombies are just one more way to die out here. You understand what I’m saying to you?”

Roy looked down at his dusty boots. “You know what I was before I came out here? An accountant. Everything nice and tidy in a spreadsheet. I liked that. Then I watched  my wife and daughter get eaten. I wished I had a gun, been prepared. I might have saved them.  After that, well, there was no reason to stay in Philly. I always wanted to be a cowboy. Get to shoot things.”

They heard Manny scream from the direction of the holding pen. “Shit! I been bit!”

Roy’s face drained white. “Bit?”

But Derek was already up and running. “Manny! That damn thing circle back here already?”

Derek saw Manny’s boots sticking out from behind a rock. He sprinted over, breathless.

Manny’s eyes were wide. He was covered in sweat.

Derek saw no sign of the zombie.

“We gotta get you out of here,” Derek said, staying alert for any movement.

“Snake,” Manny panted. “It was a rattlesnake.”

“OK. Got it.” Derek slashed the wound and started sucking the venom out.

Roy came around the corner, wild-eyed.  He saw Derek sucking on Manny’s arm and said, “Derek, what the fuck are you doing?”

Derek turned to Roy, his mouth bloody, and said, “Now, hold on son -”

Roy put a bullet in Derek’s head and another in Manny’s.

He looked down at them.

There was a shuffling noise behind him.

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Photo by Ashley Campbell


Dummies – Nuclear Test Site, Nevada 1953…

Dummies – Nuclear Test Site, Nevada 1953

Good jobs,

Government man say.

Even children paid.

Keep house.

Keep new furniture.

Love children.

Love life.

_____________

Momma go out?

No.

Momma go out?

No.

M –

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Image by Mark Holloway


The Cathedral of the Immigrants…

the cathedral of the immigrants

The Cathedral of the Immigrants

Dan McKee looked at the sparse array of food on his plate. It was hard enough to be this hungry himself. But the vacant stares of his children were the real reason for his barren spirit.

He could feel Marianne looking at him across the table. She said, “You children finish up now and get off to bed. Your father and I need to talk. Privately.”

When the kids were gone, Marianne said, “Dan, you can’t go there tonight. What if there’s some kind of violence?”

“Violence? Isn’t there already violence?” A vein stood out ropelike on his forehead. “Where are all the jobs, Mare? Since the slugs came – “

“Do not use that word in this house.” Marianne leveled her eyes at her husband. An index finger raised in warning.

“It’s my house too. The slugs – the green slime, the immigrants – whatever you want to call them, they need to go back where they came from. This planet isn’t big enough for all of us.”

“They’re living beings. They have rights, Dan.”

“Don’t we?”

Through the open kitchen window, they heard angry shouts and breaking glass.

Dan got up, put on his jacket and said, “I need to go. The union says we gotta stick together on this. This is for our future, Mare. Can’t you see that?”

“If our future depends on burning that church down, then maybe we shouldn’t have one.”

The door closed and he was gone.

As Dan emerged onto the street, the surging crowd shoved him into the brick façade of his apartment building.

Faces contorted by rage stampeded by him. Children ran by carrying guns and hammers, screaming death to the slugs.

Dan was swept into the current and carried to the church.

He choked on thick smoke and stumbled to the front of the crowd. People were throwing rocks at the church; he saw shattered stained glass on the sidewalk.

Dan found Frank Silverman, a senior steward in the union.

“Frank, what’s the situation?”

Silverman said, “They’ve locked themselves in. They have nowhere to go now.”

Dan looked around. People held signs reading ‘Earth for humans!’ and ‘Kill All Slugs!’. There were guns, axes, baseball bats, and metal pipes.

Suddenly, the street in front of the church was bathed in a deep green luminescence. The crowd’s energy was suspended and Dan heard only a few dying murmurs.

The enormous door to the church opened. Dan saw the immigrant slide out. It was eight or nine feet long, green with black stripes running down either side. It had no arms or legs.

Silence.

The thing rose up, supported by its coiled tail. It surveyed the crowd.

Silence.

Then the creature shook its head violently from side to side and thumped the steps of the church with its thick tail. It breathed in and out with great, loud chuffs. And then it started to shriek. The wailing echoed off the buildings up and down the street. Dan pushed his hands against his ears along with everyone else.

Then it stopped. Silence again.

Frank Silverman came up behind Dan and pushed a Molotov cocktail into his hand. He whispered in Dan’s ear, “Light it and throw it on my signal.”

Dan looked at the immigrant. It was quaking. With hatred or fear, Dan couldn’t say.

The bottle felt cool and heavy in his hand.

________________________________________________________________

For many years now, I have had a recurring dream. I’m on an airplane and we land on a deserted street in a large city. For some reason, it feels like Philadelphia, though why that is I can’t say. At any rate, I’m the only person on the flight. We land on this deserted street and keep rolling. We roll all the way to the ghetto. It’s dark. The plane stops in front of this enormous cathedral. I get off and go up to the steps leading to this ancient carved oaken door. I can see old newspapers blowing in the wind across the stone steps. The door opens and a hooded monk appears holding a lantern. I ask, “What is this place?”. The monk replies, “This is the Cathedral of the Immigrants. ” Then I awaken. I should point out the dream is not frightening to me at all.

Image above by Toshihiro Oimatsu


Lucy on the Floor…

Lucy on the Floor

I’ll never forget that first time. Stay put. I’ll tell you all about it.

Chet – he’s my ex –  he’d been gone for months and I couldn’t stand the thought of spending another Friday night at home staring at the baby monitor. Waiting for something.

So, I’d asked Mrs. Sawicki to watch the baby because I was going out. I was sick of drinking wine from a fucking box. I needed some people around. But not to talk to, you know? And something good and strong to numb the rage. Fucking Chet and his little whore.

My friends of course had been trying to get me to go out with them for weeks. I was not in the mood to hear their cute stories about the dumbass things their husbands did all week. They stopped asking after a while.

So I went down to Lucky Sevens. There’d be no one I knew there. First time in, I felt at home instantly. Low lights. Cigarette smoke. Boozy smell from the carpet. Not much talking. Just men staring down at their glasses. Jukebox tunes. What was that? Vic Damone, I think. Sad.

The bartender. That old fuck with warts all over his face? Willie, that’s it. He tells me he got just the thing for a woman with my…problems.

So he turns some bottles over into a big sixteen-ounce glass. I see tequila. And blackberry brandy. I’m thinking I’m gonna be on my ass after a few tugs of this.

He brings it to me and I take a pull. It’s fruity. A little. After a few more sips, I got this warm glow dancing up and down my thighs and forearms. I feel stupendous. Happy. But more than anything else, I feel powerful. I ain’t scared no more. That drink made me feel like it’s my turn to run things.

Well, I get up on the parquet floor and start dancing. Real sexy dancing. Those drunks take a peek. Willie says there was enough booze in that drink to kill a rhino. But me? I’m out on the floor. Swinging my ass to Tony Bennet. I feel like Xena. A warrior. Not to be fucked with. For once in my life.

That night, right then and there, Willie named that drink the Lucy on the Floor.

Because of the dancing. Not what you were probably thinking, love.

And I killed my first loser that night. Right in this basement.

Don’t strain so hard, baby. You’ll hurt your wrists. Too tight?

Oh, I’ve met lots of losers, just like you, at the Lucky Sevens. And other places too.

Nothing like a little dancing to put some lead in the pencil, right? And absolutely nothing like a Lucy on the Floor to keep you quiet.

I’m gonna go to the kitchen. Get my tools and another drink.

Don’t worry, hon,  I’ll be back down on the floor with you.

We’re gonna fly to the moon.

Well, at least I am.

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This story was submitted to Chuck Wendig’s site, for the terribleminds flash fiction challenge.  So the challenge was to write a story with a cocktail as the title. Limit: 500 words.  I looked around online. I passed up Satan’s Whiskers, and  The Purple Pimp. Finally “Lucy on the Floor” spoke to me and the story you just read (hopefully) was born.  By the way, if you like any of the stories you find here, check out Chuck Wendig’s site. It is not, however, for anyone with, shall we say, delicate sensibilities. Enjoy!

Oh, one last thing: the ingredients for the real Lucy on the Floor:

1 shot After Shock Blue

2 shots Blackberry Brandy

3 shots white tequila

¼ orange juice

¼ cranberry juice

Image above by centralasian.


Blue…

Blue

Getting cold now.

The only noise the constant hum of the CO2 scrubbers. How long they’ll last is anyone’s guess.

Hinchman has killed the rest of the crew I think . Don’t know exactly where he is right now but that man has blown a major fuse.

Could be cabin fever. I don’t know, something that got missed on the pre-mission psych eval. Too late now to do anything about that.

I need to get to the galley, get some food. So hungry now.

Trouble is, these corridors just call out for an ambush. That’ll just make my day to have Hinchman float up behind me with that wild look on his face. I’ve seen his handiwork on the others. No thank you.

Got to think. But so hungry, and breathing getting difficult. Scrubbers getting wasted.

Valerie and the kids are probably putting up Easter decorations. Told them I’d be home.

This will be tough on Jenna, especially. She takes being the eldest so seriously.

Commlinks are all disabled, thank you Major Hinchman. They won’t get a rescue party here in time to make a difference.

Over the subcontinent right now. How I’d love to be able to transport down, and get some good spicy food. A nice cold Kingfisher Ale.

Where is he?

Do I force a confrontation and hope for the best? If I don’t, I’ll just starve here. Maybe pass out.

I step out into the corridor. Just the hum of the scrubbers still.

It’s dark. Emergency LED’s are on but they don’t shed much light on anything.

Shadows everywhere. Hum.

It’s nearly black as space in here.

I feel so alone.

I’m terrified.

I’ll just look out this port for a while.

The Earth is such a beautiful blue.

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I’ve always been fascinated by the sense of isolation astronauts must feel out in the immensity of space, dwarfed by the earth. And I have a recurring image that pops into my head every now and then of a darkened space station with only two living people (or things) on it. There’s isolation, conflict, and longing for the blueness of home. Family. Just decided to put myself there for a few minutes. “Blue” was the result.

Photo by Bruce Irving


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