Tag Archives: fiction

Half a Plan

Bomber-beer Melanie collapsed onto the the ratty old plaid couch that she and Elard rescued from a curb last year. The previous owner had dogs and you could still smell them. It reminded her of home, one of her few good memories of the place she and her brother escaped. They’d had a massive brindle pit mix who was a sweet heart in spite of Dad’s effort to turn him into a killer.

“Want a beer?” Elard fished around in their fridge, a few feet away from the couch.

“Yes. Oh good God, yes.”

He set two bottles on the counter and took out a plastic container. After dumping its contents into a pot on the stove, he twisted the caps off of the beer and brought the two labelless bottles to the living room. “Those are the last two of Donnie’s beer. He’s got another case ready for us. I’ll pick it up tomorrow.”

She took a long pull of the cold, homemade lager. The chill and bubbles burned her throat, and the bitterness made her lips pucker around the bottle neck. It cleared the saltiness of tears and snot from her throat. Her mouth popped as she released suction on the bottle. “Damn that’s good.”

Elard finished his swig. “The man knows his stuff.” He sat on the chair opposite the couch, giving her a little space. “So what’s the plan?”

“You said you could find out who got into the library’s computers?”

Elard nodded. “Maybe not who as in the name and address, but I can get some info and go from there. What are you going to do?”

She took another long pull at the beer. What could she do? “I’m just a liberal arts major in search of a degree. I don’t have your skills.”

Elard pointed his bottle neck at her. “You’re a damn fine researcher. It was what you were doing earlier tonight.”

“I could see if there are any other weird deaths in the area. I could find out whatever I could about the lady who was h- h- hurt.” She banged her knee with her free hand. “Damn it. Why didn’t I say no?”

Elard gestured around their apartment. The walls were bare except for two pieces of art made by friends. A long crack crept down one wall. The carpet was ratty and threadbare. “We live in a firetrap. We don’t even have a tv or stereo. I barely had money to buy what I needed for ballet last semester. You’re not much better off.”

“I burned a woman for rent money.”

“Damn it, woman. Stop. You didn’t burn shit. She opened a box she shouldn’t have.”

“She knew something was wrong.”

“What?”

Melanie remembered the look on her face when she saw what was on the box. “She was resigned to whatever it was and she knew the ending wouldn’t be a happy one.”

“Go on.” Elard got up and moved to the kitchen. He stirred the stew and banged the spoon on the edge of the pan.

“The only thing on the label was her address. It was handwritten. It wasn’t a girl’s handwriting, or if it was it was very masculine. She recognized the handwriting. She knew her killer. Attacker. What the fuck ever.”

Elard pulled out a set of mismatched bowls and spoons. “That’s something. But nothing immediately helpful.”

“I didn’t see the contents of the firebomb, but there was liquid and glass.”

“I know someone who might be helpful there.” Elard dished the stew into the bowls and brought them into the living room. He handed her one. It was from the restaurant Elard worked at a few days a week.

“You know a bomb maker?” She took a small bite of the stew. “Fuck me that’s hot. But so good.”

“Mama G knows her way around a pot of stew. And no it’s not a fucking bomb maker. He’s a chemistry student I hung out with a lot last year. He likes to make recreational explosives.”

Melanie snorted, surprised that she could find it in her to laugh. “Recreational explosives? I didn’t know that was a thing.”

“Fireworks and that kind of thing.” He blew on the stew.

She drank a sip of beer, wanting to make the last third last. “Gotcha.” She already felt a little better about the whole thing. “Should I text this guy back?”

Elard ate a spoonful of stew and squinted. “I don’t know. That’s really iffy. We don’t want to attract a killer’s attention.”

She put the bowl down. She’d eaten half without even realizing it. “I’ve already got his attention. I wish I knew why.”

Elard shrugged. “It may not have been anything more than wrong place and wrong time. If he had that computer owned he could see who was using it. He saw what you were searching. Maybe he scanned your email and your bank account. He knew he had leverage and you had need. If you’d said no it would have been someone else.”

“What would you have said?”

“I don’t know, Mel. I mean I need the money as much as you do. I might have. I’ve done stupid things for money. Nobody alive hasn’t at some point.” He took another bite of stew. “This shit will make me think three times before I do anything stupid again. Guarantee that.”

She nodded. “Me too. So much for my future as a meth cook.” She ate the last few bites of her dinner and drank the last of the beer. With a belch that made Elard nod, she stood and stretched. “I need to see if I can get some sleep. I’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow. I was supposed to finish my research paper tonight so I could go to my knitting circle tomorrow. I’ve also got to go to work. I’m gonna have to miss my knitting circle and I may call in sick.”

Elard reached out his hand. Melanie took it. “You need anything, I’ll be here. I was gonna go out tonight, but I won’t be ten feet away.”

She squeezed his hand and pulled him up into a hug. They held each other for a long time. She whispered into his chest. “Thank you.”

He broke the hug. “You’re welcome. You’re my bitch. I’m gonna look out for you.”

“Bitches before riches.” They bumped fists. She walked to her bedroom and turned on the light. Her bed sat there, reminding her of nothing more than a crouching tiger. She didn’t think she’d get a wink of sleep. “You have any pills? You know for sleeping?”

Elard walked to his bedroom. After a few seconds of loud rummaging, he came into hers and sat down beside her on the bed. “You take one of these. He held out a small yellow pill. You’ll be asleep in five minutes.”

She popped the pill and reached for the half full water glass that sat by her bed. Mickey winked at her from the side of it. She took a long sip of the stale water and swallowed it and the pill. “Thanks, bitch.” She patted him on the thigh.

He got up and started to pull her door closed.

“Leave it cracked?”

He did.

She shucked out of her pants and shirt and walked to her dresser to grab a clean shirt. By the time she pulled it over her head she yawned. The pill was already kicking in. She heard Elard rummaging around in the kitchen. The noise comforted her. She crawled under the thin blanket, pulled it up around her chin, and turned off her bedside lamp.

Free Ride

camaro Melanie couldn’t remember ever having a more miserable forty-five minutes. She came back into the foyer of the police station every ten minutes to warm back up, but it wasn’t the cold as much as it was the feeling that she was completely alone. She’d killed a woman, though she didn’t know it would happen. Whether she’d ever be convicted of any wrongdoing didn’t matter. She’d carry the guilt with her forever.

Finally, the dark blue Camaro pulled up in front of the station. Rage Against the Machine belted out from the speakers, audible even five feet from the car. The screaming died down mostly. Elard climbed out of the driver’s side and looked around. When he saw her he smiled. “Come on and get in before we both freeze our nuts off.”

She smiled back at him, a weak and watery grin, but it was still there. “Our boobs in my case. Though they’re about the same size.”

He got back in the car and she heard the lock disengage.

She opened the door and climbed in. The car smelled of cigarettes, fast food, and farts. It wasn’t the most pleasant combination, but it was familiar. She’d gotten a ride from him more than once and the conversation always made it worthwhile. “Thanks for coming to get me.”

He threw the car into drive. “No worries, Mel.” He pulled into traffic. “You just make sure and return the favor some day. So, what happened? If you feel like talking about it?”

Melanie looked over at her friend. They’d known each other for the last two years. That didn’t seem like much, but they’d packed a lot of living in that time. They moved in together six months ago and there had been no creeping or hanky panky on his part. She still wasn’t sure if he was straight, bi, trans, or what. “I don’t know. It was bad stuff.”

Elard looked over at her. “It’s cool. You tell me what you want, when you can.”

They rode in relative silence for a few minutes. “Someone is dead.”

“Okay.”

“I didn’t kill them, or at least if they’re dead because of what I did, I didn’t know that it was going to happen. Someone hacked into my computer at the library and gave me money to deliver a package.” She took a breath.

Elard reached into the space between them and pulled out a cigarette pack. He shook one out and stuck it in the corner of his mouth. When he put the pack back in its place he pushed in the cigarette lighter. “Hacking isn’t the right word for getting into those PCs. They’re more wide open than a Thai lady-boy all grown up.”

Melanie didn’t know if she should be surprised that he didn’t mention the killing. She pulled a long face at the analogy.

“You did something you shouldn’t have. Question is, what are you gonna do about it?”

She squeezed her eyes shut. There were no tears forthcoming. She worried about that. She hadn’t cried yet. “I don’t know. Fuuuuck. I don’t know.”

“We’ll find this guy. Then we take him to the cops.”

Her eyes popped open and she looked at him. “You can do that?”

The lighter snapped out and he lit the cigarette. “We can do that.” He puffed smoke out. “I can have a look at the computer. We can find out how he paid you. We’ll build a case.”

“Just like CSI.” She chirped. She actually chirped.

Paul chuckled. “Nah. It’ll take more than an hour. And we may not get everything we need. But I think we can. You better think about being honest with the cops though.”

“How do you know I haven’t been?”

“You’re sitting with me. You tell them that you got paid, and they’d crawl into your life so deep you’d wish they’d bought you a drink first. Still, you need to know that honesty’s almost always the best policy. Except when it isn’t.”

She wanted to punch him in the shoulder. Instead, she started to cry. Her vision tripled and quadrupled like one of those dragonfly kaleidoscopes. She sobbed and clutched her stomach. She wasn’t alone, but she still felt lonely.

What’s in the Box?

Continued from yesterday’s story.

Melanie stood in the chill air, rubbing her arms and generally wondering why she was here. “Five hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars.” She waited next to a toy store that had gone out of business about ten years pre-Brony. Nobody, sketchy or otherwise waited for her. “Maybe I got the location wrong?” She pulled out the folded square of paper, wishing she’d taken her brother’s offer of a smartphone instead of the stupid flip phone she had. The little gold star put her right on this street.

“Five more minutes and I may go see if I can beg a slice from Elard.”

Lights flashed at the corner. They were headlights, belonging to a relatively new BMW. She was no judge of what model it was, but it meant money. She stepped to the curb and waited, hoping she didn’t look like some towny street walker.

The car slowed and pulled to a stop beside her. Its window buzzed down. A woman, judging by the puff of perfume she got, leaned over. She wore a scarf around her head and a pair of sunglasses in spite of the hour. “This box is for you.” Her voice was one of those throaty purrs that made most men go weak in the knees, between Eartha Kitt and Kathleen Turner. It even affected her a little.

She held out her hands. “How do I get my money?”

“He’ll give it to you.” She put the car in park and stretched out with a brown paper wrapped parcel. “He always gives what he promises.”

She grabbed the box, noticing that the woman wore skin tight leather gloves. They looked like fine leather. Only when their hands brushed did she realize that they weren’t gloves. She shuddered and almost dropped the package. They both gasped.

“Don’t drop it for god’s sake.” The woman almost screamed the order, purr moving towards shriek. “And whatever you do, don’t open it.”

“Alright, I won’t.” She started to ask where she needed to take it when she saw the address. It was for some place here in town. And not too far away.

“Get it there in the next thirty minutes or don’t bother. And put it in the person’s hands.”

She started to ask how the man would know when she’d done it. The window buzzed up and the car actually squaled tires as it moved away from the curb. Melanie took a step back and looked at the package’s address. “Two-thirty Healy Boulevard. That’s at least a mile away.” The address seemed familiar. She started walking, thankful that everything had so far been in walking distance. She didn’t have a car.

As she walked she shifted the box back and forth. It was about twelve inches square and six deep. She shook it slightly and there was a sloshing sound and a light rattle. It must be fragile. “Maybe it’s a liquor bottle. Got to be someone’s birthday present.” It was heavy, too. Maybe a brick in there to through the birthday boy off.

She took a left onto Healy. The address was only about a half mile down if she remembered right. Then she remembered what the address was. It was either the free clinic or very near it. She’d gotten her flu shot at the clinic a month ago. She couldn’t remember the precise address of the place, but she thought it was in the two hundreds. She stopped when she saw two-ten and saw that the free clinic was two-twenty.

It turned out that two-thirty was a thrift store. It was late, but she could see that there was a light on inside. She put the box down and started to knock. Then the first misgiving kicked in. What if it’s some kind of practical joke? She wouldn’t get her money and someone would be pissed at her. “I should just knock and run.” Then she remembered the woman’s words. She had to put it in the person’s hands. If it wasn’t a joke, she wouldn’t get her money.

She picked up the box and held it underneath with her right hand. She knocked with her left.

“We’re closed.” A muffled voice yelled from the other side.

“I have a package for you.”

There was a pause. “We don’t take deliveries at night.” The voice was closer, but still muffled.

“Look, I don’t get paid if I don’t give this to you and I could use the money.”

The door opened a bit, a chain holding it closed. The woman on the other side wore skinny jeans and a tie-dyed sweatshirt. She had a nice figure, but had to be at least as old as Melanie’s mom. “Can you fit it through the door?”

Melanie held it up. “It’s kind of too wide, and I’d hate to break it. I think it’s fragile.”

The lady looked at the top of the box and Melanie could swear she gasped. “Damn it.” She closed the door and there was a rattle as she undid the chain. The door opened wider. “Give it to me.” There was heat in her voice.

Melanie handed it over. “I hope you enjoy… whatever it is.”

The lady took it gingerly. “I doubt I will.”

“What?” Before the drawn out syllable ended the door slammed. “Well fuck you very much.” She turned and walked a few steps away. Her pocket vibrated. She took out her phone and saw that she had a text.

“Thank you. Your money has been deposited.”

“How the hell did you get my?”

Before she could finish the question, there was a muffled thump and a drawn out, warbling scream from inside. Melanie spun around and went back towards the shop. The light coming from the windows flickered.

“Oh my god.”

Bond of Love (VSS)

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

IMG_1917Jurgen and Hans knew that they would receive a lot of scorn for their decision. They had been lovers for a dozen years and from the moment they first met they knew they would be inseparable. It was only a matter of time before they made that more than figurative. Finding a doctor was the hardest part. When they met Dr. Milton thanks to a referral from a friend they were hopeful. They sat in his office wearing the sweater Hans had knitted especially for their post operative life.

“So, how has your test period gone so far?”

Hans answered. “We have gotten more than a few strange looks and no small amount of negative comments.”

Jurgen picked up where he left off. “But that was to be expected. The first transexuals had to go through unimaginable pain and scorn. It will be no different for us.”

Milton nodded. “That is why I wanted you to live as near as you could to your eventual conjoined state. Are you quarters ready?”

“We have worked out all of the bugs well before we met you, doctor.”

“We are ready.”

“Good.” Milton checked his notes. “I have you scheduled for surgery the first of the month. I want you to continue wearing the band that holds you together until then.”

“I can’t help but wonder why you’re so willing to help us.” Jurgen touched Hans’ chest. “We’ve talked about it and I just have to ask. Won’t this cost you your medical license?”

Milton stood, folded his hands behind his back, and walked to the full length window. Stars twinkled in the blackness. Only an inch separated him from the vacuum of space. “There is certainly potential for that to happen. It is a risk I am willing to take. When I took a cyborg as my wife, people looked down on us. They questioned my humanity. There were death threats. We faced it all together. I don’t expect people to understand my choices or agree with them, but if all parties are well adjusted and mature individuals who are we to judge?” He turned from the window and faced the couple. “I want to thank you for trusting me to do this. Recovery will be painful and there will be hurdles that you can’t imagine. I believe that based on your psych profiles and the counseling you’ve gone through that you can come through it all okay. Otherwise I wouldn’t have agreed to this.”

The men stood. “Thank you for your faith in us.” The took his outstretched hand in each of theirs and shook. “We will see you in a few weeks.”

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.

Burger Time

enhanced-10990-1400016501-13 This story was inspired by this photo taken from a collection of stock photos. Click the picture to see the rest.

Sabrina had a massive headache. She got them about once over two or three weeks but they were getting worse lately. When she woke up this morning she couldn’t get out of bed for the first half an hour. They weren’t getting any more frequent, the pain was just more intense. She soldiered on, crawling to the shower, literally, and managed to get dressed and get to work. By the time she’d arrived at Hot Topic to start her shift the pain had abated somewhat.

“Hey Sabby, what the haps?” Chris, her manager, wore the baggy jeans, wallet chain, and awful black tee shirt that was practically the dress code.

She felt like punching him in the throat every time he called her ‘Sabby’ but it was better than Witchy-poo she supposed. That’s what he called her when he was really feeling his oats. “Almost didn’t come in today. Major migraine.”

“My mom says those are caused by gluten. Ever try cutting back?” Chris sucked on his e-cig.

That habit also made her throat punchy. Come to think of it, almost anything Chris did made her want to cave in his esophagus. “Your mom giving health advice…”

He raised a pierced eyebrow, waiting for her to finish the sentence.

“Is interesting.” The only time she’d come into the story, the elder Cragman was wearing a muumuu that could have been made from an afghan. Or it might have been an actual afghan. She could barely fit down the story aisles.

“You might try it anyway, witchy-poo. It’s also supposed to help with that monthly problem.” He made a shooing motion. “Go inventory the pegs in the back.”

She clenched and unclenched her fingers. If she didn’t need some kind of job she’d leave this place now. In their half horse town the mall was about the only option for a college freshman home on summer break. “Yes, Chris.” She grabbed one of the bar code scanners from under the counter and stalked to the back.

She was about halfway down the wall of crap when it felt like someone had driven a spike through her forehead. She dropped the scanner and hoped like hell that the cracking sound was her skull and not the expensive piece of machinery. A wetness on her upper lip and the smell of copper meant she’d started bleeding again. She went to one knee and realized that the keening noise was coming from her.

“Sabby, what’s wrong? Oh my god, you’re bleeding. Your fucking eyes are bleeding.”

Sabrina stood and shouldered her way past the skinny little bastard.

“Hey, where are you going? Your break’s not for another hour.”

She was bleeding from her fucking eyes and he was worried about break time? She stopped in the middle of the food court clutching her head. Her eyes clenched shut, she couldn’t see the burgers from the Sonic a few stores down take flight. The spun around her head for two full revolutions.

“You need to come back here and clo-” Chris’s words were stopped, and it wasn’t until she was able to open her eyes in the blessed relief of freedom from pain that she saw it was because a half dozen burgers had become lodged in his esophagus. It wasn’t a throat punch but it would do.

Fiction – The Harvest: Unwelcome Visitor

Today’s Flash Fiction is a continuation of the story I posted for the corn related challenge a few weeks ago. I plan on adding to this story serially (cereally?) over the coming weeks. They’ll be available on my Wattpad
page as well. Wattpad is a story sharing site and everything is free. Enjoy the story!

Victor Avalon pulled his car into the farm’s driveway and shut the engine off. There was no truck here and that was good. From what he’d been able to dig up, the guy that lived here only had one vehicle. He made monthly trips about this time to pick up supplies. The whole trip usually took something like eight hours. If he timed this right he had about four hours of quiet time and that was on the conservative side.

He reached into his glove box and retrieved the thirty-eight. He broke open the cylinder to make sure it was loaded. He grabbed a couple of speed loaders, the rings of bullets letting him reload without having to do it one at a time. The gun went into the right pocket of his windbreaker and the bullets into his left. He patted his hip to make sure the cell phone was still there and grabbed his camera. This was just going to be an information gathering trip.

He got out of the car and inhaled deeply. He’d spent his youth on a farm like this, but that had been decades ago. He never forgot the smell though, and how much he loved it. He didn’t know what he expected when he took the case, but to wind up here wasn’t it. He wasn’t convinced that the young man, Jake Pond, was responsible for the deaths in question. He’d keep an open mind though and leave it up to the eventual jury. He took a few minutes to walk around the grounds. The boarded up farm stand hadn’t been used this season. He pulled at a few of the two by fours and they were very sturdy with no evidence of rot. The nails that held them in place had oxidized a little, but were pounded in true and judging by the lack of holes he hadn’t set one wrong. It all showed a very ordered mind. The construction of the stand itself was nothing fancy. It was a good fifteen or twenty years old and had been patched here and there, but it stood up to the years and the weather better than some houses.

The boy he was here after hadn’t built it. Maybe the elder Pond or a farmhand was responsible. You couldn’t tell precisely by the limited information he had, but something told him that it was the boy’s father. The father and mother had died five years ago. According to his digging there hadn’t been anything suspicious. Satisfied with the shed, he moved towards the house. It was original to the family, built in the twenties, by the grandfather. This land went back a hundred and fifty years with the same bloodline. None of them had given in to make a quick buck on the land sale. That even the son had kept thing up was a little surprising. Kids these days usually didn’t value history.

The stairs were as solid as everything else. They did seem newer than the surrounding wood. The father had died in a fall. He scratched his chin. The screen door and the wooden one beyond were closed tight. The brisk wind tried to pull the outer door open, but it wouldn’t budge. He reached into an inside jacket pocket and pulled out a pair of blue gloves. He snapped them on with practiced ease and made sure that the camera’s strap wouldn’t get in his way. The screen door wasn’t latched or locked. The stout inner door showed a brand new deadbolt and a door handle that couldn’t be more than a couple of years old. The metal was bright, even on a dim day like this. There were no scratches around the keyholes.

He pulled out his set of picks and went to work. The deadbolt was tough, but he got it in less than forty-five seconds. The door handle’s lock yielded in less than five. He hesitated before opening the door. What if the boy was waiting inside for him? He reached down and pulled his cell phone free. It had four bars. His coverage was good even this far out. He put it in his left hand windbreaker pocket with the bullets and pulled the pistol from its place. He opened the door with his left hand, slowly. It didn’t creak; it just swung into an empty hallway.

The place was somewhere between a tomb and a museum. In the entryway there was a bookshelf to the left with all manner of books on theology and agriculture. That was, of the books whose spines he could read. Some were in foreign languages. There wasn’t a speck of dust to be found. The grandfather clock at the end of the entry way was stopped at one thirty-seven. He freed up his hands and powered up the camera. He made sure that it operated silently and the lens would take advantage of all the available light. Through the lens he could see that the furnishing and carpet were likewise scrupulously clean. There wasn’t a sound in the place.

He swung through the first doorway on the left and into a sitting room. The sofa and love seat were covered in plastic. Under that he could see hand tatted doilies on nearly every surface. The coffee tables were also covered. The only non-vinyl surface was a hardwood rocking chair. He was no expert, but he guessed that it was antique. The rest of the furniture was only twenty years old at most. He’d bought similar sets for his now dead wife. He took pictures of every square foot to pour over later. The door out of this room led into a small, formal dining room. The pattern was repeated here. Nothing appeared to be actively used and the dining table and chairs weren’t old by any means. Still, it appeared Jake wanted to make sure that nothing marred their surface.

From the dining room he could either go back out into the hallway or into the kitchen. He chose the kitchen. Here was the first glimpse into the twenty-first century. The refrigerator, dishwasher, range, and microwave were all gleaming stainless. The refrigerator was far larger than any one person would need. The only old thing here was the island and a butcher block rolling cart. The latter was a little scarred but well maintained. Various knife handles stuck up from the block top. Nothing was left on any of the sparse counter space. The room smelled faintly of strong coffee and bacon grease, with something unpleasant just underneath. He snapped a few more pictures and let the camera hang from its strap.

Satisfied it wouldn’t get in his way, he drew the pistol and made his way around the kitchen, opening cabinets and drawers. They were filled with a small amount of completely normal groceries and flatware. It was in this that you could see there was only one inhabitant. He had everything he needed for his own use and no more. He must have washed dishes after nearly every meal. It was also apparent that he cooked everything from scratch.

When he had become a bachelor everything came out of a box. Like this boy though, he now found satisfaction in making things the way Mom did. Finally his trek took him to the refrigerator. He was reluctant to open it, but couldn’t see why. Not one given to watch horror movies, life held horrors enough, even he knew about the kinds of things that happened in them. He held his pistol tightly, chided himself, and opened the door. There was no decapitated head or jar of eyeballs, just some milk, eggs, packages of lunchmeat, and some fresh vegetables. He let it shut and chuckled.

He opened the freezer and nearly screamed. There was the head he had feared. She looked to be about his age, old enough to be the boy’s mother. There were no pictures. That struck him. So far he hadn’t seen any pictures on the walls or book cases. He swallowed back the bile, pocketed his gun, and took a few pictures of the head for later identification. It was wrapped in clear plastic, but the features were clear enough. With a trembling hand he closed the door and pulled his pistol again.

Now he had something to go on. Still, he wanted to make hay while the sun shone. This wasn’t a large house by any means. He could have the whole thing searched and be done in thirty minutes. Suddenly he wanted to be out of here. The rest of the first floor held a bathroom and another sitting room. One must be a parlor and the other the living room. Damned if he knew which was which. There was no television on this floor. There was no computer either.

He went up the stairs. Only here did he hear his first creaky stair. There were three doors at the top, all closed. He started with the one on his left. It opened easily. This was a boy’s room. It was bigger than any one boy needed, but when the house was built, sharing rooms was more common. There was a single bed, made up in primary colors. Posters from a local baseball team and a national team were hung with care. A book case held books on the sciences, astronomy and anatomy taking a front row. He had a shelf with a few trophies, mostly baseball, but some football as well. They were all from about ten years ago. That made sense. A small telescope peered out of one window. On a whim he looked through the eyepiece. It was trained on the incoming road.

He was about to pull his head away, when a motion caught his eye. A truck was slowing down on the road at the end of the driveway. He couldn’t move his head if he wanted to now. The truck pulled in. It must be the boy’s. “Damn it. You were supposed to be gone all day.” He backed away from the window in a crouch. There was no way the boy would have seen him. All the damage would be done by now though. His car was plainly visible. He had thought about parking up the road, but there had been no good place to park.

“Think. Think.” He had to see what was in that last room. There was time and the windows on that side would mean an exit out of view of the driveway. He left the bedroom, careful to close the door and leave it as is.

The middle door proved to be a modest bathroom. Here were the first signs of real habitation. The scent of shampoo and deodorant hung delicately in the air. Anxious to answer a burning question, he opened the medicine cabinet. Small brown bottle filled one shelf. He took a picture, not wanting to waste another second. If he got out of here alive then he may have some more answers. He backpedaled out of the bathroom and opened the last door on this level.

He was flooded by a sense of normalcy. The queen bed was a rumpled mess. Dirty clothes littered the floor. In one corner he spied what could have been a gold mine if the boy hadn’t gotten home so early. The laptop was closed, but a light in one corner blinked at him. The printer beside it has a few papers stacked on top. He worked his way around the bed and peaked at the top sheet. It was a print out from a local newspaper. The faces of a young couple looked up at him. He was intimately familiar with them thanks to his client.

Satisfied that he’d learned all he could, though not all he wanted, he turned to one of the draped windows. He pulled the cover back and saw that this looked out on the back of the house. Perfect. He unlatched it and raised the window smoothly. A short space of roof, over the kitchen if he didn’t miss his guess, was like an island of security. There was a short drop, but provided he moved slowly it wouldn’t be a problem. He swung his leg through the open window and perched on the ledge. Once fully outside, he closed the window. There was no way to lock it. By the time the killer figured out where he had been he would be long gone.

A fresh breeze picked up and chilled his neck and legs. He looked down and saw that his pants where damp. He didn’t know if he’d pissed himself or sweated through the material. He didn’t have time to worry about that. He’d be ashamed later if there was any shame to be had in fear of this killer. The next part was a little trickier than he thought. There was no good hand hold for him to use once he lowered himself. He could hold on to the window ledge for a bit to stabilize himself. At some point though he would need to let go and trust his feet. He dropped his right foot off of the ledge and stretched it down for the roof below. Without being able to look it felt like he was going to step into thin air.

With a “Hail Mary full of grace” on his lips he let go and was thrilled to feel the solid wood of the roof beneath him. He almost tumbled backwards and at the last minute threw himself forward. He landed on hands and knees with a solid thump. Anyone below would be sure to hear the fuss. He moved as quickly as he could in a kneeled position. The edge of the roof wasn’t far away. He moved towards the absolute rear of the house, finishing the trip on his stomach.

He rose up just enough to make out what he could of the back yard. A small lawn tractor was parked near the house. A shed, probably for tools and chemicals, stood straight and tall about ten yards from the house. It was of newer construction than the rest of the house.

“Hello!” The voice carried well. It was deep and booming. “Hello! If you can hear me I bear you no ill will. You’re on my property and I want you off. It ends there.”

That deal wouldn’t last long. If he stood by it at all, once he saw the camera gear it would be a no go.

The voice didn’t get any closer. He repeated himself a couple of times, each time growing fainter.

Now he edged far enough out that he could see what lay just below the ledge where he lay. The flat strip of grass looked hard. It wouldn’t be a soft landing. He examined the gutter. He wasn’t sure it would hold his weight. There were a million reasons not to do this, but one great reason to get it done. He could escape almost certain death.

There was no time like the present to get it done. He secured the pistol in his jacket pocket. He didn’t want it bouncing loose when he fell. He’d do his best to land on his feet. If he broke a leg at least he could shoot the bastard if he needed to and finish the day off by crawling to his car. He didn’t worry about breaking the camera. Its memory card would survive the drop and that was what he needed.

He turned his body around and dangled his legs over the edge of the roof. The gutter bit into his stomach through his coat and shirt. There was a soft groaning as the sheet metal bent under his weight. He eased himself out more and more, kicking his legs. Finally he reached the gutter with his hands. It was the only thing he had purchase on. It held his weight long enough for him to stretch out his body’s length. He had enough time to wish he were a foot taller when the gutter gave way and sent him to the ground below.

He wasn’t able to get the “Oh shit!” all the way out of his mouth before he hit the ground. Rather than landing on his feet, he fell flat on his back. The air woofed out of his lungs and then his body locked up, refusing to replace the breath with new fresh air. The rational part of his brain knew that he wouldn’t die from lack of air. He’d be able to breath in a few seconds. The more primitive part of his brain knew that death was close.

He struggled with every fiber of his being to move. The blue sky above him filled most of the range of his vision. He was able to move his eyes and saw movement in one of the windows. If the maniac was taking the time to look around the bedrooms, he would make it. He drew a ragged breath and then another. The shock of the impact was wearing off. He rolled to one side. He was closer to that cornfield than he would like. Those places gave him the creeps. He shook off the feeling and made it the rest of the way to his feet.

He stifled his groan from the aches and pains. He’d feel that fall in the morning. Slowly, he began the walk to his car. After only a few steps he reached for his pocket to retrieve the gun. He freed it and was happy to see that it was all in working order. He pulled the hammer back and continued the walk. With his left hand he checked the camera. There was no time to check his pictures, but a cursory inspection showed no physical damage. If he could make it up the road, he’d upload the pictures to his online file storage. It needed a 3G signal or better or an open Wi-Fi hotspot for that. He wished he had one here. He’d upload them now.

His mind tracked back to the laptop. There hadn’t been any internet hardline attached to it, had there? He looked up at the house and saw the curtain move in the freak’s bedroom. Setting his jaw, he moved to the shed. It was closer than his car. He holstered the gun and lifted the camera to his face. A few button taps later and he saw an open wireless router listed. The “Netgear” allowed him to connect.

“Do you wish to upload your pictures?”

“Hell yeah I do.” He clicked the yes button and watched the first file begin to upload. Now, no matter what happened, someone would have pictures of what he’d seen. He let the camera fall back to his side and drew the pistol again. He would wait as long as he could to let the pictures upload.

A gust of wind plucked at his hair and rustled the corn stalks. It sounded like whispering.

He had a moment to register the shadow near his feet before a burst of fresh pain spread out from an impact point in the small of his back. He was able to cough out a scream before the point of a sickle erupted from just above his navel. The pistol cracked off a shot as his finger yanked the trigger reflexively.

It took great strength to lift a man a foot off the ground while he was impaled on the primitive tool. The blade was sharp and the weight of his body caused it to cut upwards. The blade was stopped by his rib cage. The awful smell of his guts spilling into the fresh country air filled his nose as the pain and shock took his mind away.

He felt his body falling and the blue sky was nearly the last thing he saw as he died. The other thing, a scarecrow of monstrous proportions, had to be a product of his imagination. Finally, everything went black.