Category Archives: fiction

Helluva Tattoo (#VSS)

GaraagaSpenser had wanted to get a tattoo ever since he read the eponymous story by Paul Cooley. It was a super creepy story, but it dug at something primeval in him. He even knew what he was going to get. As an homage to the author he wanted to get an image from the book, the sigil of an ancient god.

He settled into the tattoo chair, face down, and waited as the artist cleaned his arm and positioned the transfer. He felt like he’d put his face through a toilet lid, but it had a nice cusion to it. The floor was clean enough to eat off of, but it was nothing exciting.

“Alright, mate, I’m going to start. This is gonna hurt a bit. It’s gonna look fantastic though.”

“I’m a little nervous.”

The artist patted him on the shoulder. “Nothin’ to worry about mate. I’ve had customers fall asleep during. Just breathe and keep breathing.”

Spenser nodded. He relaxed as the needles began piercing his flesh. He’d always had a high tolerance for pain and he was sure that he was ready for what was about to come. It wasn’t nearly as bad as his buddy told him it would be. It still hurt, though.

After what seemed like not long at all, the sound of the needle gun stopped.

He opened his eyes and was a little shocked to see that the floor of the tattoo place was no longer white linoleum. It looked like sandstone. The room had also gotten quite hot. “Dude, did I fall asleep?” He tried to raise his body up and felt the chains now strapping him down bite into his naked flesh.

“No. You died.” The voice sounded like it was filtered through grinding boulders. “Heart attack. Boom.”

“This is a dream.” He managed to move enough to rotate his head.

The face that greeted him was something out of a nightmare hatched by the lovechild of Giger and Escher. Its mouths were filled with flakes of obsidian. “No. This is hell.” It raised a needle tipped dagger dripping with black ichor. “Now let’s get that tattoo finished. This is going to hurt. Forever.”

Inspired by the works of Paul E. Cooley. 

Beans – Flash Fiction by Dave Avila

This is Dave Avila’s  entry in my 300×300+300 challenge. I hope you enjoy it!
When you look at the beans in the large glass jar and the beans look back; you know it’s going to be one of those days. I try not to notice. It’s best not to notice. It will only start an argument, “I don’t know why I keep you,” I muttered to myself.
“Because we’re brothers, Allen,” he answered.
“I don’t believe you are. You just look like him. Daniel is dead! 12 years ago.”
“I couldn’t leave you. I love you. You’re my brother. Go ahead ask me anything.”
“We’ve done this a thousand times, Daniel. You know a lot about us but. . .you’re a face in a jar of beans. Clearly not my brother. He hated beans. Maybe even jars, I don’t know what you are but you need to leave and never bother me again. Or so help me I will drop you this time.”
“You did do that on purpose. I knew it!”
Daniel’s likeness dissolves into the beans and disappears.
A knock at the door pulls Daniel into reality. He smiles because he has a feeling he knows who it is.
“Beth! You’re early, good , I’m ready,” Allen grabs his phone and keys and motions to the door.
Beth, Allen’s girlfriend, steps inside,” We have time, babe. Let’s sit and talk until it’s time for the movie. I was thinking of Mexican dinner tonight,” Beth walks into the kitchen.
“Great! Where at? Tacos Ensenada?”
“No, I was thinking of making dinner here,” Beth grabs the large jar of beans. Daniel’s worried face appears to her from within the jar. She sees the specter and screams. Dropping the jar. Beans and glass scatter on impact with the floor.
The funeral in the back yard was nice.

Toaster Toast

This story was inspired by a photo taken from a collection of stock photos. Click here to see them.

IMG_1885 Helen had been a spokes-model for nearly five years now. She felt certain that anything she held would benefit by her just being in the same shot with it. She never dreamed that she’d face a challenge as great as she did that fateful October day.

“It’s a piece of bread!” She felt her fingernails digging into her palms, but the sensation was distant.

Sully shook his head. “It’s Toaster Toast. The new client feels like it will blow the roof off of the breakfast food market.” He pointed to the white square. “Look, you can do this. I have faith in you.”

“I was patient when you had me sell Instant Water. I gritted my teeth when you put me on the Raisin Magic kit. They were just selling old grapes for crying out loud. I put my reputation on the line when you give me this kind of crap.” She unscrewed the lid from her Smart Water and took a long swallow. She instantly felt smarter.

“If we didn’t trust you then we wouldn’t do this.” He put a hand on her shoulder. “This may seem silly to you and me, but we need to think of the big picture. If you’d come to my grandfather fifty years ago, when he started this company, and told him that there would be a market for powdered juice aimed at kids or that they’d put squares of chocolate in breakfast cereal he would have laughed you out of the room. Our job isn’t to judge our clients or their consumers. It’s to take their ideas and make sure that they sell, sell, sell.”

She looked down at the floor for a heartbeat and then back up. The million watt smile was back on her face. “Okay, I can do this.” Moments later she was in front of the camera, and once again when people saw her face and how much she obviously loved the product, they bought it in droves.

Sweet Music (Flash Fiction and Challenge)

I wrote this a while back for a friend’s podcast. I’m not sure that it ever got used (and if not it may yet be), but I figured I’d share it here. The challenges was to use a picture that looked good at 300px by 300px and write a 300 word story (EXACTLY!). After reading my story, your challenge is to do that. Write your story and link to it in the comments. It can be any topic or genre, just keep it relatively clean/work safe. I’ll run the three best here (if I get three or less I’ll run all three). Those three will get their pick of story from my Amazon store. Make sure that the picture is one that you have permission to use. The deadline is the twelfth of September, 2014 CE.

adelaide I first met Ms. Adelaide Hughes when I was playin’ piano in that smokey hall in Harlem. She was a vision in sparkles and feathers and had the voice of an angel. Playin’ piano for her was something like makin’ love, the risin’ and fallin’ of our voices together. My fingers bringin’ out those high pitched wails and moans from between her lips. I wasn’t always in control though. Sometimes she led me. It was a beautiful partnership.

Well, I got it in my damn fool head to go see her and maybe get a kiss and an autograph. I weren’t nothin’ but a kid from Alabama. There were better ivory ticklers in the city, and that ain’t no lie. I was just lucky to be where I was. I pushed that luck, though. I knocked on the door of her dressin’ room, knowin’ she was in there alone.

“Come in.”

I went in, keepin’ my head down. “Evenin’ miss, Hughes.”

“Bobby, so good to see you.”

I blushed. Didn’t know she knew my name. I stupidly held out a picture. “Can you sign this, Ms. Hughes?” I held it out, tremblin’.

She smelled like sweat, perfume, and cigarettes. She’d moved to me without a whisper and brought my head up. “I can do more than that.” She brought her mouth to mine; her lips the softest things I’d ever felt. Our tongues played with one another in an old dance. She led it and my body surrendered.

It broke all too soon.

She took the picture and kissed it softly, markin’ it with her lipstick. She signed it with a pen, too. “Bobby Anne, we make beautiful music together. Adelaide.”

I’d like to say we shared more than that kiss, but that would be tellin’ tales out of school.

The Element of Surprise

This story was inspired by a photo taken from a collection of stock photos. Click here to see them.

enhanced-22319-1400017156-7 Pa had been married to Ma for the last forty-two years and every year was better than the last. She treated him like a king and every year for their anniversary the gifts that she got him were hard to top. It wasn’t that they were lavish or expensive, but they were just perfect. He’d never been able to quite top them. It wasn’t a contest and every year she’d just tell him it was the thought that counted. Still, he wanted to get her something this year that she’d remember. He thought he had just the thing.

They finished their dinner and were sipping irish coffee. “Ready to open presents, Ma?”

She smiled at him. “Sure thing, Pa. I think you’re gonna love what I have for you this year.”

“I always do.”

They moved to the living room where the two packages awaited them. “You open yours first, Pa.”

He smiled and nodded. He’d tried the “ladies first” dodge nearly every year for the first twenty, but that was another battle she always won. He took the long rectangular package from her. There was a good heft to it. The paper was expensive, a dark blue and very shiny. He untaped one end. He’d never been one to simply tear into a present. Once the paper was taken away he held a heavy wooden box. Cardboard wasn’t good enough for Ma. The boxes her presents came in were almost always as good. The cedar smelled fantastic. He lay the box down on the floor and found the catch that held it closed. He flipped the lid open and gasped when he saw what was inside.

“Ma, this is too much.” The shotgun had been broken down into two pieces. The barrel and stock were nestled in velvet the color of the wrapping paper. The metal gleamed. He’d been given the shotgun by his own dad. It was dinged and beat up and he’d often said that he wanted to get it restored. The value was sentimental not just because of who he’d gotten it from. He’d also used it on one of their first sprees.

He took the pieces out and fitted them together. He felt a stinging at his eyes. They fit perfectly. He cracked open the breech and checked all of the moving parts. “Darlin’, I can’t thank you enough for this. I can’t wait to use it.” The person in the basement would probably be as thankful for it as Pa was. He broke it back down and set the parts on the desk.

“My turn, my turn.” Ma clapped her hands.

“Careful opening it. You may want to leave it on the floor there.” Ma’s back was always a bit tricksy.

She knelt down in front of the box and began peeling away the paper. Her brow knitted at the cage it held. “A rabbit? You got me a rabbit?”

Pa chuckled. Sure enough a huge brown hare sat huddled in one corner of the crate. The poor thing was scared, just as scared as many of their victims had been. “No, no. Think of it like the keys to a new car. What I really got you is what’s down stairs. It would have been too hard to wrap.

“Well, I’ll be…”

He could see the tears in her own eyes. She’d only mentioned it once, but he’d been paying attention. “I hope you like it.”

“My very own boa constrictor? How could I not?” She grabbed the barrel of the gun and swiped playfully at him.

He could see by the look on her face that he’d finally done it. “I’ve been working on its habitat for a month. It’ll have its own space down by the kill room.”

“You sweet man. I can’t wait to see the look on our next project’s face.” She motioned for him to stand up. “Thank you so much.”

He did and they embraced. “You’re welcome, my dear.” Years of marriage and scores of victims and he’d proven that he could still surprise the old girl. Evading the police wasn’t enough to keep the spark alive. The element of surprise was even more important to wedded bliss than it was to being a serial killer.

Merry Widow(er)

This story was inspired by a photo taken from a collection of stock photos. Click here to see them.

enhanced-6131-1400068422-1Here at Fisher Brothers Funeral Services we know how sad it can be when you die and no one shows up. Granted it’s not sad for the dearly departed, but a person’s legacy has a lot to do with how they’re perceived after they die. That prompted us to start the Rent-A-Mourner last year and that has gone incredibly well both for us and for our clients. Sure, we got some pushback, but hiring mourners is a tradition that goes back thousands of years. All one has to do is look at the services following the passing of author Bill Jones* to see how that tradition pays off in modern times. His sales in life were mediocre, but after his widow hired a crowd from Fisher Brothers and the press covered the event, his back catalog sales went through the roof.

Desiring to stay on the cutting edge of the industry we’ve recently started a new program, The Merry Widow(er). These days people are doing almost anything to re-capture their youth. Sales of the little blue pill are unbelievable. Prescriptions and over the counter sales of testosterone are going gangbusters. People spend tens of thousands on powders, potions, and plastic surgery. What says power and vitality like having a gorgeous ex-lover show up to throw themselves on your casket? Granted, you as the deceased won’t be able to take advantage of the more temporal benefits, but as with Rent A Morner you have to think about how you will look to those who follow in your footsteps. If you divorced your spouse there’s also the joy you get when you think about the look on their face when they meet your younger, more attractive loved one.

As with all of our programs, Fisher Brothers promises complete secrecy. All mourners and widow(er)s will be provided with enough knowledge about the dearly departed to fool family members and lifelong friends. Where needed they will also have plausible stories as to where they’ve been for the last year to eighteen months. We also guarantee that our Mourners and Merry Widow(er)s are cheaper than having spent your predeceased days striving to have actual people you know like you enough to come to your funeral.

So when you think about your final goodbye, think outside the casket. Remember that here at Fisher Brothers we know that your reputation will outlive your embalmed remains if you spend your money wisely.

*Actual author’s name changed due to contractual obligations.

Sticky Business

This story was inspired by a photo taken from a collection of stock photos. Click here to see them.

enhanced-2407-1399922427-9 Jeff groaned as yet another termination request flashed up on his computer. He hated being the one responsible for closing down accounts and these days it was even worse given the state of the economy. When he saw the name and date it was even worse. It was his friend Robert Newman and the term date was effective tomorrow. That was Robert’s birthday. He struggled all say with whether or not to tell his friend. Stickeez-R-Us had a very strict policy about such things. It could cost him his own job, but he and Robert had been friends a long time. Maybe it would be better coming from him rather than an impersonal walk to his boss’s office.

To:RNewman@stickeezrus.com
From: JHeight@stickeezrus.com
RE: Beer Tonight?

Rob. Thought you might like to grab a beer after work at The Town Pump. Let me know.
Jeff

To:JHeight@stickeezrus.com
From: RNewman@stickeezrus.com
RE: Beer Tonight?

J-
Absotively. See you there.
R

Jeff smiled. The scientist had always been ready for a good time. He had a great attitude and his penchant for practical jokes was well known throughout the company. Hopefully that would carry him through the next day.

He walked through the door of the local watering hole and saw Rob sitting there. The man was still wearing his bright yellow Stickeez lab coat. The sleeves were rolled up showing the wide, thick band of leather that held his steampunk watch. Reddish gray hair stick out in every direction. He had a mug of beer in front of him already two thirds gone.

“Hey man!” Jeff hoped that his tone was chipper.

Rob turned on his stool and smiled. Big blue eyes made bigger by their thick glasses. “Hey dude! Thanks for inviting me. I’ve been working hard the last couple of weeks and haven’t had much down time.”

Jeff looked around and spotted a booth off to the back. He looked at his friend. “I figured you could use an early birthday present and I’ve got something I want to bend your ear about. Mind if we sit back there?” He pointed at the booth.

Rob shook his head. “Not at all.” He gestured to the bartender and pointed to his beer. “I’ll take another one of these for my friend.” He looked back at Jeff. “Go have a seat. I’ll bring your beer.”

Jeff walked back to the booth, trying to keep his head from hanging. This was the right thing to do. He took a seat and Rob wasn’t far behind him. He took the frosty mug and downed a third of it in long swallows.

“Thirsty?” Rob smiled.

“Hard day at work. Look, I don’t want to put this off any longer than I have to. I saw an email today and I know I’m not supposed to say anything, but you’re going to get your pink slip tomorrow.” The words came out in a rush and he looked up when he was finished.

Rob’s face hadn’t changed. He still had a smile on it.

“Didn’t you hear me? You’re gonna lose your job.”

Rob nodded. “I know. I mean I didn’t know it was coming tomorrow, but I knew it was coming. Hey, working R&D for a company that makes variations on sticky notes isn’t exactly a guaranteed gig. I’ve had a good run. Thank for thinking of me.”

Jeff looked from his friend to his beer and back again. “You still look… Happy? You’ve got something percolating in the back of your mind.”

Rob shrugged. “The company has had me working on a few things that were ultra hush hush. I’ve been stressing out about it and decided that I’d tinker with something on my own. I had a breakthrough and let’s just say that the second I don’t log on to my PC at my usual time that little breakthrough will hit the production line ahead of schedule.”

That made Jeff a little uneasy. “Revenge isn’t a good idea.”

“I wouldn’t call it revenge.” Rob sipped at his beer. “It’s an idea that they’ll love eventually. They just won’t much like how it comes out. Don’t worry, when’s the last time you saw me do anything malicious? I’m not out to hurt anyone, least of all the company that’s been so good to so many people lately.” There was a less than gentle sarcasm in his tone.

Jeff thought about that. If this “surprise” wouldn’t hurt anyone except the company then who was he to tattle. If it did go badly they’d know to pin it on Rob and what did Jeff know, really? Rob could be playing one of his jokes on his friend. “Well I’m glad you’re taking it so well.”

“No guarantees in life, friend.”
He raised his glass and they clinked them together. “When you get your own pink slip, look me up. By then I may have some things you can help me with. I’ll need a computer geek one of these days.”

“Deal.”

Jeff enjoyed the rest of their evening and didn’t think too much more about it. Breaking the news had gone better than he could have hoped and he didn’t see how anyone could get hurt.”

Days went past and in the drudgery of work and excitement of family life he had actually forgotten about the whole thing. His family was sitting around the table two weeks later when he heard the name of his company from the television in the other room. He excused himself and went to see what it was all about.

“-recall on all of their products manufactured in the previous week.” The camera pulled back from the pretty anchor and showed a young woman with a beatific smile on her face, what he could see of her face under a layer of sticky notes. “It seems a manufacturing error has led to some unintended effects. Stickeez-R-Us has said that their adhesive, when applied directly to the skin, can cause minor changes in mood. The effect is mostly positive and even the young woman pictured showed no ill effects.”

Jeff chuckled and reminded himself to send Rob a reminder about that job offer.

Flash Fiction Poll

I plan on picking one of the flash pieces I’ve written this month into a more fleshed out short story. You get to help me choose! Please read them and pick from the choices below:

The Fantastic Accountant

This story was inspired by a photo taken from a collection of stock photos. Click here to see them.

enhanced-22521-1400016682-17 Artemis never thought life as an accountant would be exciting. Still, working for his dad for the summer would be easier than flipping burgers at the Shake Star.

Dad pulled the Cutlass to the curb and nodded. “You go on ahead. I’ll park and be in in a minute or two.” His smile was reflected in his one remaining eye, the other covered by a black patch.

Artemis nodded back to his dad and opened the door. The Texas heat slammed into him. He grabbed the key from his pocket as he closed the heavy car door and walked to the front door of the firm of Gordon and Shumway. Dad’s partner, Allen, had been dead for five years, but he kept the Shumway name on the door. Tradition was very important to him. He unlocked the door and walked into cool darkness. The security system beeped at him until he entered the four digit code.

The smell of damp and old paper filled his nose. In spite of the advances that the early twenty-first century provided, dad still had a love of paper. The walls of the ten by twenty foot office were filled with books from floor to ceiling. They weren’t all accounting books, though most of them were. He’d grown up in this office for the last sixteen years and a good portion of one wall was filled with science fiction, fantasy, and the biographies of his favorite sports stars and political figures. There were also a few ancient history books, ones focusing on the ancient Middle East.

He cut on the lights and moved from computer to computer, booting them up. The two ladies that were dad’s office assistants, and had been since time immemorial, would be here in about a half hour. Dad always turned on their computers for them, so he thought it was the least he could do. Finally he sat down at his. The MacBook was already on and he checked his email. While he was double checking the spam filter he heard the door open.

Dad had taken a little longer than usual. He held a box of Dan’s Donuts in one hand and a battered leather case in the other. It wasn’t his usual briefcase, so Artemis raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Dad was a creature of habit, to a fault. Seeing some new gear, or rather in this case new old gear was interesting. If it was something he needed to know, Dad would tell him.

Dad walked around the counter and put the donuts out for the ladies and his son. He went to the door to his own separate office and fished out a set of keys. He was the only one who had access to the ten by ten office beyond. He unlocked both sets of deadbolts and Artemis heard the chirping of the other alarm system. It’s chirping stopped and Dad called to him. “Come here Arty.”

Artemis was getting to the age where “Arty” was starting to chafe. Mom encouraged him to let it slide. Dad was a lot older than most of Artemis’ friends’ fathers. He was almost old enough to be Artemis’ granddad. His own dad was long dead. Still, hopefully the nickname would fade soon. He flipped the laptop closed and walked quickly to the office.

The lights flickered on and Artemis looked around. The shelves in here were filled too, though not with books. Calculating devices, everything from an ancient abacus to adding machines that were new when dad was a boy, and measuring devices, like sextants and surveyor’s tools, had their places. Dad had ensured that he knew how to use every single one.

“Sit down, son.” Dad scratched at his bare scalp. “We have something to talk about.”

This couldn’t be good. He ran his fingers through his own thick, black head of hair in a mirror image of the motion. The “tell” was a Gordon male’s way of expressing discomfort. “What’s up?”

“You’ve agreed to work with me and we’ve talked about how important this is to me.”

Artemis nodded. “You want to pass the torch.”

He smiled. “Exactly. I know that you think being an accountant is boring.” He held up a hand to stifle any reply. “There are days when it’s sheer drudgery. I won’t lie. I want to show you something today that will inspire you to believe that it can be your future, boring or not.”

Artemis fought to keep from rolling his eyes.

Dad’s eye narrowed. “I saw that.” His voice held some humor. He got up and retrieved the abacus. The counters were made from jade and the wood was almost as dark as Artemis’ hair. He sat is on the desk between them. “I know that you know how to use this, but there’s something I haven’t shown you.” He picked it up with his left hand and held it like one might a violin, nestled against his cheek. With his right hand he flipped a few of the counters, seemed to listen, flipped a few more, and then smiled. His right hand then flew through a series of gestures, almost like sign language.

A breeze began to blow through the room and Artemis could smell flowers. He looked around the windowless office. The sound of birds filled the air. The wall to his left, what would have been the rear of the building started to fade and he could see light filtering through as though coming through a thick curtain. He stood, pushing back the chair. “Dad. What’s going on?” He looked over at his dad.

He’d stood and was now holding the heavy leather case. “Well, son, I’m an accountant in more than just this world. Decades ago, Shumway and I found that abacus and discovered that it could open a doorway to another universe. We explored it and discovered that the king of the country on the other side of that wall was being bilked by his advisors. We showed him the advantages of spread sheets and modern accounting practices. He showed us magic and adventure.”

Artemis blinked, hardly believing it. “So you didn’t lose the eye in a college fencing match?”

Dad ran a finger across his patch and shook his head. “Dragon.” He smiled. “It’s time for this year’s audit and I thought I would take you with me. You game?”

Artemis still didn’t know what to make of the jungle he could now just make out through the office’s back wall. He thought of all of the books on the shelves out there. He wanted to live the adventure he’d read about. “Yes, sir!”

“Well come on, Artemis.” He pronounced his son’s name with the timbre one would use with an adult. “Let’s go see if I can show you that there are a few things about this life that you might enjoy.” He handed his son the abacus and together they walked into the green light of the far off jungle.