Flash Fiction #67 – Forest

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46036540 - colorful dreamy; foggy autumn forest scene background.

I’ve decided to do something I don’t do often, and that’s continue an existing flash fic story, but I think this photo prompt will do nicely. I’m hoping that you’ll be able just pick up here and read if you haven’t read the others. But, just in case, here are parts one, two, and three.

Eion’s muttered “fuck me” was still ringing in Hollis’ ears as she blinked, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. Somehow, in this room, in the sub-basement of the university’s library, was an entire forest. At least, it looked like there was an entire forest.

It not only looked like there was an entire forest, it smelled like it, too. The sharp fragrance of fallen leaves mingled with the more pungent scents of long decayed vegetation and dank earth.

Brilliant red oak leaves blanketed the forest floor, while mist slithered through the tree trunks and the bare, low-hanging branches. The sky was that odd greenish-gray color it only ever seemed to turn in autumn–right before an early snowstorm. A cool, damp breeze brushed her cheek, lifting her hair slightly and sending a chill down her spine. She pulled the sleeves of her oversized sweater over her suddenly cold hands. There’d better not be an early snowstorm while they were…wherever they were.

She glanced at Eion. His blue eyes were wide, and his lips were parted slightly as he looked around, seemingly taking in everything around them. “What the actual merciless fuck is this place?” His tone accusatory, he turned to face her.

“How the hell would I know?”

“You’re the one with the bloody key.”

“Well, I didn’t know it would lead here.”

He reached out, and his fingers brushed across her neck as he caught the cord the key hung on and pulled it from inside her sweater. She tried not to shiver again.

“Where did you get this, anyway?”

“My grandmother kind of willed it to me when she died.”

Standing far closer to her than was entirely comfortable, he turned the key over and over in his long fingers, inspecting it from every angle. “How does someone kind of will something?”

Hollis explained about her cousin and the trade they’d made in the lawyer’s office.

Eion frowned. “Who would have a tantrum about an inheritance?”

“Kylie Edgerton. Back row of the eight am session of History 101.”

Eion laughed. “You two share DNA?”

“Not willingly,” she muttered, snatching the key from his hand and turning away. She needed to put some space between them. He was even more attractive up close, and the last thing she needed was for her TA to realize yet another college freshman had a crush on him.

Glancing up, she realized that the mist had crept closer, swallowing the few evergreens that grew in amongst the oaks. “Eion?”

“Yeah?”

“I think it’s getting darker.”

He glanced around. “It’s definitely getting creepier.”

“Maybe…” she willed her voice not to shake, “we should come back during the day?”

“How do I know you won’t come back without me?”

“Really? You think I’m going to go to a spooky magical forest by my damn self?”

He looked at her as if she’d lost her mind. “I don’t recall anyone forcing you to sneak down to the sub-basement and open one of these doors, love.”

Okay, he wasn’t wrong about that. “Well, I don’t know that I would have gone in if not for you and whoever was coming down the elevator.”

Crossing his arm over his chest, he raised an eyebrow at her. “Right.”

“Fine,” she mutttered. “I promise I won’t come back without you.”

“Good.”

They turned back toward the door, and Hollis’ lurched forward, her head swimming violently. Eion caught her, tugging her into his side as they both stood there and stared. The door they’d come through was gone as if it had never been there.

The door was gone.

The wall was gone.

There was nothing but blood-red leaves and creeping fog all around them.

That’s it for me this week, be sure to check out Jess and Siobhan’s stories, too.

Flash Fiction #66 – Criminals

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This month’s song fic is inspired by Criminals by Ms Mr. Here are the lyrics and video if you want to give it a go.

 

Doug looked around the conference table, not letting his gaze settle anywhere for too long–not even on Vanessa. How in the hell had they ended up here? Christ, he wasn’t even sure if he meant the two of them or the nation as a whole.

“Look,” Tony said. “I’m just saying, it’s hurricane season. There’s probably not a better time to roll this out.”

Vanessa nodded. “And it’s the start of the school year. According to our our studies, anxiety for both parents and students–not to mention teachers–is at an all time high.”

Doug’s skin crawled, and he shifted uneasily in his chair. That uneasiness grew when the guy from marketing, whose name he could never remember piped up.

“With all of the on-campus protests and demonstrations, not to mention the rise in shootings, we’re golden.”

“Don’t forget all the marches held by the general public,” Katy said. Ticking them off on her fingers, she added, “Trans rights, women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, healthcare, LGBT rights, marches for and against white supremacy. Eddie’s right, we’re golden.”

Eddie. That was his name.

“And there’s always the threat of nuclear war,” Tony said. “I don’t know anyone who isn’t worried about that. ”

At least eight people frantically scratched notes on pads of paper or typed rapid-fire on their laptops, others nodded thoughtfully.

Someone Doug didn’t recognize added, “We may have to work with the media to amplify the coverage some of these, but there’s really no better time to roll this out.”

Murmured agreement flew around the table.

Vanessa leaned forward and smiled at Doug, then addressed the room at large. “I’d like to introduce you all to Doug Freeman, one of our top scientists and developers here at PharmaCaresNational. He’s going to explain how the drug affects brain chemistry and neurotransmission.”

How was his wife–the love of his fucking life–sitting here, completely at ease in this meeting? How was he still in his seat, let alone in this company?

Tony gestured toward the wall. “We’ve got a whiteboard here, if you need it Doug.”  Turning to the others, he said, “Pay close attention everyone. If you have questions for Doug, save them until the end. And remember, if you’ve got an idea for marrying the effects of this drug with any of these specific fears, jot them down. There’s a lot of money to be made here, people.”

Doug’s stomach lurched violently, and his hands began to sweat. Jesus-fucking-Christ. They were all criminals.

_________

No…I’m not feeling cynical, this morning. Why would you even ask that? Anyway, be sure you check out Kris and Siobhan’s stories, too.

Flash Fiction #65 – VW Bug

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17241577 - color shot of a vintage car in a forest

I pulled the giant handknit sweater over my head. It was way too big for me, but I didn’t care. It was warm and cozy and something about it made me feel safe. It wasn’t even my sweater. My mom had knitted it for my brother, Kevin–hence the giant-ness–but he’d left it at my apartment a few years ago, and I’d never managed to remember to get it back to him.

I scooped up my keys and phone from the table and headed toward the door.

“Cat? Where are you going?” Jesse called from the other room.

“Just out for a bit.”

“Will you pick up milk while you’re out? The other jug went bad, and I want cereal.”

You could always get off your ass and get it yourself.

I didn’t answer, just pulled the door shut behind me and jogged down the stairs, eager to get out of the stifling heat of the apartment. Jesse constantly complained that he was cold, hated to have the windows open, and turned on the furnace at the first sign of an changing leaf.

The cool crisp air swirled around me as soon as I stepped outside, and my hair immediately blew in my face, catching on my balm-slathered lips. Tucking the strands behind my ears, I squinted into the weird autumn light. There’s no other time of year when the entire sky can look like the inside of a dull pewter bowl but the leaves glow as if they’ve been lit from within, because somehow the sunlight is still managing to get to them even though, there’s no sign of the actual sun. It’s surreally beautiful, but eerie and unsettling, nonetheless.

There was something about September… Maybe it was the start of the school year and that anticipation that pervaded the neighborhood whether you were in school or not. Maybe it was the swiftly turning leaves or the weather that grew chillier by the day. It could be the scent of woodsmoke in the air. Or the pumpkins ripening in the field. Whatever it was, it made me restless.

Too restless to walk down to the party store to get Jesse’s milk. Too restless to walk to the park. I wanted to go farther than that. I needed to go farther than my feet could comfortably carry me. I wasn’t even sure where, but I needed to go.

My phone’s text tone chimed, and I glanced at the screen. Will you get Poptarts, too?

I tossed my phone in the passenger seat of my ancient VW Bug. Well, like the giant sweater, it was Kevin’s, too. But he was gone to god knew where. On September 26th, it would be three years.  No one knew where he’d gone. No one had heard from him. Not even our mom.

I started the car and put it in drive. Maybe he’d been restless, too.

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories.

Jess * Siobhan * Kris

Flash Fiction #64 – Ghost

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This month’s song fic was inspired by Ghost by Halsey. If you’d like, you can read the lyrics here and/or watch the video here. 

“What are we even doing?”

Ryan sighed. “We’re trying to get some sleep because we have an early flight.”

A car drove slowly down the street, its headlights bouncing around the perimeter of the bedroom, and I shifted against the pillow I had propped up against the headboard. In the temporary illumination, I stared down at the man in my bed. My husband, I supposed.

It was weird. Like I was looking at him from a distance despite the fact that if I shifted, I could feel him next to me. But it was still as if I were looking at him through inches-thick plexiglass. Trick of the light or trick of my broken heart? The car fully passed, plunging the room into darkness again.

He wasn’t the same man I’d married. Though, to be fair, I wasn’t the same woman I was ten years ago, either. I knew why I’d changed. If you spend long enough kissing someone whose mouth is always full of lies, it poisons you. Changes your perception of everything around you–even yourself.

I missed the guy I’d fallen in love with, but more and more lately, I was wondered if he ever existed. The soul I’d loved had vanished, and in its place was an empty shell I didn’t recognize. And even more important, I didn’t like him.

His breathing had deepened and evened out as another car passed, illuminating the room again. The white fabric of his t-shirt seemed to glow. He was a ghost sleeping next to me.

But I was done trying to sleep. And I was done swallowing lies.

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories. Hopefully, they’re a little more upbeat.

Jess * Kris * Siobhan * Kayleigh * Gwen * Deelylah

Flash Fiction #63 – Beach People

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42086649 - beach, party, summer.

“Emily! C’mon! You’re missing all the good shots! I want pictures with all my bridesmaids!”

It wasn’t that I didn’t like the beach. I liked it fine. And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be there with Rosalind or our other friends. I liked them just fine, too.

“I’m coming. Hold your pants on!”

I liked the beach.

I liked my friends.

But I’d been in love with Rosalind for the last three years, and watching her getting ready to marry Brad was nothing short of torture.

That’s it for me today – super short flash fiction. Be sure to check out Jess and and Siobhan’s stories, too!

Flash Fiction #62 – Breathe In, Breathe Out

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This month’s song fic inspiration is Breathe In, Breathe Out by Mat Kearny. Here are the lyrics if you want to check them out. And here’s the video.

Sweat stood out against his almost waxy-looking skin as he sat slumped forward on the edge of his bed, elbows balanced shakily on his thighs. Every part of him shook, and his sheets were in a sour-smelling tangle behind him.

He looked up at me, eyes completely bloodshot around irises that were still the darkest blue I’d ever seen. “Go away.”

I know he’d meant to growl it, but it had come out weak and almost lifeless.

Lowering myself to the floor, I sat cross-legged in front of him. He was older. So much older. And frail. Like I could break bones without trying. An amber-colored glint under the bed caught my eye. I reached beneath the bed and grabbed the half-empty bottle of whiskey.

“That’s mine.” He reached out for me–or more likely, the bottle as I stood and walked to the sink. I didn’t bother looking at him as I poured it out. I didn’t want to see the expression of desperation mixed with hate that I knew would be on his face.

After I washed my hands, I returned to my spot on the floor.

“Fuck you.”

There wasn’t as much heat behind it as he’d intended because he’d started shaking violently again. His hands clenched and unclenched, repeatedly curling into painful looking fists as his breathing turned jerky and panicky.

Reaching out, I grasped his clammy hands and held on. “Breathe with me, Dad. Breathe in. Breathe out.  You can do this.”

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out the other stories, too!

Promptly Penned: Rock Bottom

promptlypenned

Prompt: Well, apparently, Rock Bottom has a basement. 

I looked around the crowded bar. There wasn’t another server free. “Motherfucker,” I muttered under my breath. I’d have to take his table.

Sighing in resignation, I pulled the hairtie off my wrist and quickly pulled my hair up into a sloppy bun. I turned toward the bar where Veronica, one of my fellow waitresses, was loading up a tray with drinks and plucked the hot pink, prescriptionless glasses off the top of her head and shoved them on my face.

She glanced at me as she lifted the heavy tray off the scarred bar. “Got a creeper?”

“Something like that.” I grimaced and adjusted the glasses as I walked to his table.

He glanced at me then back at his menu. There didn’t appear to be any glimmer of recognition. Sometimes, a different hairstyle and ugly glasses were all it took.

“Are you ready to order?”

He did a doubletake. “Samantha?”

I didn’t respond. Unless glaring at him balefully could be considered a response.

“I haven’t seen you in class lately.”

I tilted my head to the side and just stared at him. The sheer magnitude of his douchery exerted a force too great for me to keep my head upright.

“No,” I finally answered. “I don’t suppose you would have. I dropped out.”

He sighed in seeming disgust. “Well, that was stupid.”

It was then that I noticed the hot, young blonde in the booth with him. I’d been so distracted by my dread of having to interact with this man, I hadn’t even seen her. She was a beacon of golden perfection, I honestly can’t understand how I’d missed her in the first place.

Something inside me snapped. I turned to address her. “Look, I know he’s hot. Smart is sexy and all that. But take it from someone who knows, he’s completely void of any kind of moral compass and has no business being an educator.”

I could hear my voice getting louder, but I couldn’t quite manage to quiet myself. Conversations around me in the capacity-packed restaurant sputtered to a halt. Too bad I couldn’t make myself do the same.

“He doesn’t give a shit about you,” I continued as the girl stared at me, eyes wide and lips parted. “He’ll fuck you, and then he’ll steal your research, slap his name on it, and when it comes time to defend your dissertation, you’ll have nothing. And you know what? The sex wasn’t even all that good.”

He blinked at me as I saw the night manager barreling my way from the corner of my eye. She looked pissed. 

I glanced back at my former advisor.

He cleared his throat and turned to the blonde. “Chloë, this is my former student, Samantha.” Then he looked at me. “Samantha, this is my daughter, Chloë.”

Well…apparently rock bottom had a basement. Fucking fantastic.

That’s it for me today, be sure to read Jess, Gwen, and Kris‘ stories!

Flash Fiction #61 – Dude in Cave

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This story is a continuation of one that started with another flash fiction, but it should be able to be read as a stand alone. But if you’d like to read the whole thing, here are parts one, two, and three.

At Eoin’s whispered curse, Hollis slowly turned, and her breath stalled in her throat. Of all the things she expected to find beyond the elaborately carved gothic door, a cavernous, underground tunnel — or maybe it was a cave — hadn’t been on her short list. Which, when she thought about it was kind of dumb. After all, they had been in the underground vault of the university’s library prior to going through the door.

Reaching behind Eoin, she felt for the doorknob and gasped.

“What’s wrong?” he whispered almost soundlessly against her ear.

“The knob is gone.” As near as she could tell in the gloom, the door was still the same. She could feel the raised carvings, except, as she moved her hand over the surface, they were quickly becoming stone. “Fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck.”

At Eoin’s inquiring murmur, she grabbed his hand and placed it on what remained of the wood and watched his face as he registered what was happening. His eyes widened, and he turned and looked at her, seeming unsure for the first time tonight.

“Now what?” he asked.

She shrugged, her shoulders brushing his chest as she realized how close they were still standing. “Can’t go back. So…I guess we go through.”

“I don’t suppose you had the foresight to bring a torch, did you?”

She reached into her jacket pocket and withdrew the small flashlight. “I’ve got the one on my phone, too, but I don’t want to kill the battery.

He nodded. “Same.”

She pushed the button, and a narrow beam of light revealed more of their surroundings. Rough walls, ceiling and floor — naturally formed — from the looks of it, extended for what seemed like forever. She suddenly felt very small. She wondered if Eoin did, too, because he reached out and grasped her free hand, lacing his fingers through hers. The comfort was immediate. And despite her earlier annoyance at his threat of blackmail, she couldn’t help but be glad that he was with her right now.

Hollis scanned the floor again. It looked solid enough. There weren’t any gaping fissures or bottomless underground pools that she could see. Though, she was slowly becoming aware of the sound of rushing water. There must be a subterranean river down here somewhere.

She took a cautious step forward, and he followed. “Where do you suppose we’ll end up?”

“Faery.” His muttered response sounded more like an epithet than an answer.

She snorted. “Right.”

“Where do you think we are, love?”

She shivered as they walked forward, telling herself it was a chill from the surrounding dankness as opposed to his casual endearment or the way his accent seemed to roughly caress his words.

“In a cavern under the library.”

“With a doorknob that disappears and wood that magically turns to stone?”

He had a point. She shivered again, but this time it had nothing to do with him or the chill in the air. She fished her cell phone from her back pocket. There was no signal. Not that she’d really expected one in a cave or whatever this was, but she’d hoped.

She watched as he checked his phone, shaking his head before powering off the device and pocketing it.

They walked for hours — it felt like it, anyway. The path ahead was getting lighter — bright enough that they’d notice any potential deathtraps, so she switched off her flashlight. As they rounded a bend, they both squinted as mouth of the cave suddenly opened up before them.

The world beyond the cave’s mouth was bathed in an eerie golden glow, and as the details slowly came into focus, her breath caught. There was a man standing there. She couldn’t quite tell if he was facing them or looking the other way.  Either way, he looked imposing.

He turned with a movement as fluid as a dancer, and Eoin’s hand tightened around hers. “Fuck me swinging.”

That’s it for me this week, but I will be continuing this at some point. Be sure to check out Deelylah’s story, too.

Flash Fiction #60 – Ghosts That We Knew

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Today’s flash fiction was inspired by one of my favorite Mumford and Sons songs, Ghosts That We Knew. Here’s the song if you want to have a listen, and here are the lyrics.

The late evening sun sank lower, barely peering through the treeline as I sat next to the pile of recently overturned earth, careful not to fall into the carefully dug hole. Eventually, some likely underpaid caretaker would replace the sod that had been cut away and plant grass seed when the sod didn’t grow uniformly, but it was too early for that. It was too early for a headstone, too.

I froze slightly as I heard the scuffling of feet behind me and then relaxed as I recognized the shuffling, limping gait. “You should be resting,” I murmured as he sat down beside me.

“And you shouldn’t?”

I glanced at him, his cuts and bruises looking more pronounced, more ominous in the twilight blanketing the cemetery. Though, I was sure I didn’t look any better. That thought was confirmed as he reached out to touch my face then let his hand fall away.

“Your mom made supper,” he said, as if trying to bridge the growing distance between us.

“I’m not hungry.”

“When’s the last time you ate anything?”

I shrugged and stared into the darkening hole.

He reached for me. “Cass–”

“No!” I stumbled to my feet. “Don’t! They’re putting our baby in a hole tomorrow. This hole. I don’t fucking care about food. I don’t care about any one of the well-meaning lasagnas stuffed into the freezer by our well-meaning friends. I don’t care if I starve because at least I won’t be here without her.”

His battered face crumpled and he sagged as if someone had opened a valve and let all of the air out of him. “I’m so sorry. I tried to get us out of the way. I tried,” he murmured. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to himself or me. But then he looked up at me, utterly stricken. “I tried to take the impact on my side of the car, but I couldn’t get it to turn in time.  I couldn’t get it to turn.”

My heart pounded, practically thrashing its way out of my chest as the sounds of crunching metal and breaking glass filled my head, replacing the harsh gasping breaths of my husband, and over it all, I heard the tiny gurgle of sound that would be the last noise our little girl would ever make.

I sank down into the cool grass behind him and wrapped my arms around him and gave in to the sobs building in my throat.

“I promised I’d always be there to protect her.”

I tightened my grip around him despite the pain I knew we were both feeling, and he covered my hands with his. He’d done the best he could. I knew he had.

“I know I failed you both, but please don’t let go. I can’t lose you, too.”

I shook my head, unable to form words as the growing darkness swallowed us. I’d hold on to him. I’d hold on forever.

That’s it for me, today. Here are the other stories. Kris,  Siobhan,  Deelylah, and Jess.

Flash Fiction #59 – Witch

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38479482 - dark witch calling thunder powers . fantasy and surreal studio shot

Tansy’s cell phone vibrated, and she pulled it out of her pocket. After reading the text, adjusted the countdown clock.

This was it.

It was really happening.

They were going to do it.

Nervous excitement built in her stomach making her feeling vaguely nauseated as she laid out her supplies in the middle of her living room floor. Salt, crystals, candles, herbs, and her athame.

She glanced at at the countdown clock again. In three minutes and thirty-three seconds, they’d attempt something that had never been tried. Witches from every country–covens, solitary practitioners, would join together with a single purpose–saving the world.

When her alarm chimed, she took a deep breath and  moved to the center of the room and lit the candles.  Gripping the hilt of her blade tightly, she cast the circle, calling to the four quarters and raising the energy she’d need to complete the spell. As soon as she felt the power surging through her, she closed her eyes and focused on the subject of her spell, visualizing him clearly while reciting the words she’d spent the last three days memorizing.

As she held an image of him in her mind, the power swelled as it spread and joined with that of every other witch in the world. The magical current raced along her limbs, leaping from nerve ending to nerve ending, raising hair and goosebumps over her entire body as her heartbeat fell into rhythm and joining her consciousness with the rest of the spellcasters. And still the energy gathered and grew. When it was too vast to be contained, they all released it at once—sending it hurtling toward their target.

Tansy collapsed, breathless to the floor, pressing her palms to the old wooden floorboards as the lingering remnants of magic dissipated. After she’d caught her breath, she closed the circle and extinguished the candles. Before she’d even gotten her supplies put away, her best friend, Diana, had begun texting.

OMG – that was amazing. Did you feel it? Are you as pumped as I am right now?

Yawning, Tansy responded: I’m exhausted. I can barely keep my eyes open. When do you think we’ll know if it worked?

Diana texted back almost immediately. No clue, but you sleep. I’ll call you if there’s any kind of movement. 

Tansy thanked her and curled up on the couch. When she opened her eyes a few hours later, pinky-gray lighted filtered through the window and her phone was vibrating and and ringing loudly, Diana’s name flashing on the screen.

“Hello?”

“We did it! Turn on the news! Hurry!”

Tansy rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “What channel?”

“It doesn’t matter!” her friend crowed. “It’s on all of them!”

Fumbling for the remote, Tansy turned on the TV and squinted at the news anchor. “In a historically unprecedented move, the United States has thrown itself on the mercy of Canada, granting Prime Minister Trudeau governing responsibilities until the results of the 2020 election are in.”

The camera cut to a smiling Justin Trudeau. “Okay, healthcare’s been sorted. Now, let’s see what we can do about that climate agreement.”

Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ takes on this image. Siobhan, Deelylah, Kris, Gwen, and Jess.