fiction

Better Than Candy: Bite-size Halloween Stories

My friend Cyndi gave me the idea to showcase some of the Halloween stories I received from the flash contest. Enjoy these bite-sized stories from Ethan Zabka, Anna Marsick, and Cynthia Hilston.

The Last Halloween 

By Ethan Zabka

“This is going to be awesome!” My friend Jeremy exclaimed. ” It’s going to be the greatest Halloween ever!”

“I agree; let’s make it the best,” I replied. After I donned my Dr. Frankenstein costume, we left.

It was a warm evening. Kids were everywhere, shouting and observing their prizes. The sunset was beautiful, an explosion of pink and yellow in the sky.

The first 5 houses we visited were generous, giving us Hershey bars and King-Sized Reese’s. As we were strolling, we came across a hideous creature, who fell in step with us after Jeremy remarked how he completed my Frankenstein apparel. The monster’s makeup was almost perfect, and his yellow eyes glimmered in the dusk. He wasn’t talkative, just keeping in step with me and munching on chocolate.

Soon, the moon came out, often hidden by dark clouds scudding across the sky. A chilly wind started to blow, and rain sprinkled down. Jeremy departed for home, tired. The monster and I kept on, gathering candy.

I left the monster when I realized the time. I would have to take the shortcut through the woods to make it home before midnight.

I was nearly home when I bumped into something large.

It wasn’t a tree.

The monster-man.

A lightning flash divulged a ragged rip in his cloak, revealing a mottled chest, metal pieces poking from green flesh. The sight paralyzed me with fear.

He was real.

Thunder boomed like artillery fire. I screamed as he seized me and hissed, “Curse you, Frankenstein! You have come back from the grave to cause me anguish!”

“But Frankenstein-”

“All who bear the name Frankenstein deserve to die, to have no happiness here!” His eyes blazed with rage as the thunder crackled. “I end this once and for all!”

I felt his fingers close around my neck.

Love Wins

By Anna Marsick

*Ping* goes my phone. I lay on my bed, pillow sodden with tears. I flip over, refusing to acknowledge that deplorable dimwit who sources my rueful feelings. One minute I’m in love, the next I’m drowning in my tears. I still can’t believe he didn’t take me to homecoming because he had to work out. I hate relationships.

*Ping* I roll my eyes, ignoring it and muttering, “Not accepting apologies today, buddy. Go flirt with your dumbbells. They’re probably smarter than me anyway.”  Suddenly, I hear a *thunk, thunk, THUD* at my window. Spooked, I spring off my bed.

“Oww!” I scream-whisper, creeping to the window, seizing a pink slipper that will protect me from the predator who’s summoned me. Heart pounding, I cautiously peer out of my window into the gloomy night and am greeted by a rock hitting my forehead. “Stand down!” I yelp, “I have a weapon, and I’m not afraid to strike!”

“Hi, Baby! Come out here!” replies the hooligan. “What in the? Myles? What are you… never mind. Go away.” I begin to shut my window as he bellows, “Wait! I’m sorry. I’m a bad boyfriend. Let me make it up to you. Please. Come out here, dance with me under the stars. I made a playlist and brought a dress for you… I love and care about you.”

“That’s cute. Bye,” I say, shaking my head and preparing to retreat. I steal one last glance at his face. Aw man. The pleading gaze in his eyes causes me to cave in. I gingerly climb out of my window, into his arms. Expeditiously, I slip into the dress, and we become one under the stars… united in rhythm. As we sway to the music, he murmurs, “I love you.” I love relationships.

Credit: Jean-Philippe Delberghe

Halloween Date Night 

By Cynthia Hilston

The elusive they say opposites attract. Herman didn’t know who they were.
He looked over his phantom face in the mirror. The stitches holding his smile broke. Rotten teeth were a turn-off for most women.
“What sort of zombie puts a profile on a dating site?”
It was done on a dare. Who says the undead can’t have a life? Ed, ever a charmer and a drunk in this half-afterlife, told Herman he would be happier if he went out more. Halloween was coming. She would think Herman was a brilliant costume.
This she was as elusive as the they who made ridiculous claims like opposites attract.
Herman pulled up to her house in his 1966 Chevy on Halloween. She glowed with the setting sun as she stepped outside like an angel meant to take him to Heaven.
Heaven isn’t for zombies who eat brains, even reformed zombies, thought Herman. If he had a beating heart, it would have thumped out of his tattered chest beneath his new clothes.
“The clothes,” said Ed, “were important. You can’t go around looking completely dead.”
His already rigid body stiffened as he remembered his manners, exited the car, and opened the passenger door.
The light of Heaven shone down with her smile. “Happy Halloween…Herman.”
“Hello, Brenda.” He shouldn’t have gorged on a stray cat’s brains before coming here, a chunk of grey matter lodged in his throat. “Where to?”
“You look like a vintage kinda guy. There’s a malt shop in town. You know it?”
He nodded.
A little while later, they shared a table and a strawberry shake. She leaned into him and took his hand. He twitched, trying to pull away.
Yet she was as cold as him.
She giggled. “Don’t worry, Herman. It’s Halloween. This is all a costume.”

 

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on writing

Flash Fiction Contest! Blind Judge TBA

Credit: Gustavo Centurion

There’s nothing like a contest to draw out great stories. Blogging friends, here’s the challenge. You have until Friday, October 12th at the stroke of midnight to craft an amazing piece of flash fiction. My middle & high school students are being forced to enter assigned this contest, so consider it the literary version of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. Don’t be fooled into thinking my peeps are easy prey. Many of them have been with me for years and are quite masterful.

More entrants make for a better contest and will foster an appreciation for flash. So please, give my blind judge an afternoon’s worth of fabulous reading. Join the fun and post an entry in the comment section. The only rules are to keep it under 300 words and keep it clean. I’ll announce the winners on Wednesday, October 17th in a post showcasing the winning entries.

Prompts for the idea-challenged:

  • 1st line: X [insert name] was known for stealing Y [insert thing].
  • Picture (write a flash about these two lovebirds):
Credit: Jean-Philippe Delberghe
  • Character/genre/setting. Pick three and go! Or do these: sailor/memoir/water treatment plant
  • Anything you want

Pssst. Students who follow my blog… You have quite the heads up for our assignment next week. I hope you’ll not tell, but use the extra time to make a flash of epic greatness.

 

fiction

Book Worm*

Zahara’s jaw fell open. Her book slid off her knees and hit the floor. She scrambled for it and flipped to find her page, all the while shaking her head in denial. Page found, she pored over the words once more. Unconsciously her hand went to her throat.

Zahara let the book fall in her lap and looked around. “Is this a joke?”

The empty room didn’t reply.

Zahara turned the book over. It had the library barcode sticker and an ISBN number. It was wrapped in clear plastic to protect the hard backing, as all library books were. The author was one she’d never read before, but he came highly recommended by the librarian who’d helped her the day she picked it out.

Each time Zahara looked at the words on the page, her stomach clenched tighter, her heart beat faster. She mouthed the last line. …throat closed completely, never to open again.

“I’m allergic,” she said to no one. Her EpiPen was probably expired. It was jammed so far down in the folds of her purse, Zahara doubted she’d be able to extract it, should she be stung.

The short story was one of a collection.

The character, “Z” and her friend Tony happened on a hornet nest. It hung low in the tree, and if you climbed on the roof of Z’s trailer, you could easily hit the thing with the landscaping rocks Z’s mom had arranged around their petunias. All this Tony breathlessly told Z. In no time they had gathered an arsenal of smooth stones and put them in a heap on Z’s roof.

Tony threw first and missed. Z took a shot and it grazed the nest. A cloud of buzzing erupted, then quieted. Tony threw again. A hit. The grey pod that looked like a misshapen Christmas ball swung a little and leaked a flow of hornets.

“Your turn.” Tony said.

Some hornets buzzed angrily around them, far away as they were.

“I think they know,” Z said.

“That’s ridiculous. You chicken?”

Z was, in fact, chicken. Tony wasn’t allergic to bees. Z batted at a hornet circling her head.

As if reading her thoughts, Tony said, “You’re allergic to bees, not hornets.”

Z shrugged. No way was she throwing another rock.

“Fine. Watch this…bunch of sissy hornets.”

“Wait.” Z put up her hand, the stone still in her grip. “How do you know they’re hornets?”

“Aw, Z, you’re sucking out my fun.” Tony did a pitcher move, and the stone, a big one, hit the nest dead on, swinging it crazily and touching off a buzzing rage. A horde of pissed off hornets flew right at the girls.

As Z clambered down the ladder she felt a prickle in her shirt, in the hair at the base of her neck, then pinpricks of pain, more and more. Z screamed and tore her shirt off. Tony, still halfway down the ladder, yelled at Z to roll in the grass. Z dropped to the ground, but not in obedience. Her airway closed up. A fire began inside her throat and consumed her face, her head.

As Tony stepped off the last ladder rung, Z thrashed in the grass. Her throat closed completely, never to open again.

Zahara closed the book. “That’s exactly how it happened.”

Back in 1977, Tony had run home and got her mom to call the ambulance, just like in the book.

“But my throat did open again,” Zahara said as if she had someone to convince. She studied the book. “What’s going on?”

*This is an excerpt from a short story I’m working on. It’s doing double-duty as my assignment for 5000 Words. Our focus this week is to create tension.

fiction

Collateral

Could it only have been two hours since Devon last pushed open the glass door? That was a lifetime ago. That was when Devon dreamed a dream. When he didn’t hate banks and bankers and the soul-crushing thing called collateral. The loan officer chanted the word as if it were a talisman.

With a savage fist, Devon mopped the tears that threatened his concentration.

The black bowls housing security cameras would record Devon. He looked up and gave a toothy smile for the news tonight. The loan officer had taken Devon for a fool, took his application fee, and took his dream. Collateral…what a crock. Devon’s warehouse would be sold to some guy with collateral. Devon’s idea would die with him. But so would the old lady hunkered over a clutch purse. So would the beautiful teller with thick, painted-on eyebrows and lush lips. So would the whale-like teller with bitty glasses with thick, thick lenses. She was the one to notice. Those magnified eyes didn’t miss the sweat sheen on Devon’s skin, didn’t miss the angular bulk under his parka.

Whale-teller’s eyes opened wide with terrible understanding. Her hand scrambled to the under-desk button and got to the counter lip when Devon sprayed her with 223 Remington Hollow Points. They chewed through her, yanked her about, and in a red confetti dropped her bulk beneath the counter.

Then the screams. Devon expected them, but still. Concentration was difficult. Teller fingers frantically pushed panic buttons. The safe door was swinging closed. Devon didn’t care. That wasn’t his transaction. The banker with no brains just the word “collateral” had his hands up in the stance of desperation, head wagging, denying what his eyes told him: that Devon was about to make a grisly withdraw. Life was about to go into the red.

This was originally written for Microcosms, but it fits with my 5000 Words focus for this week, which is SHOW, DON’T TELL. My noun would be entrepreneur and my adjective would be angry. My students will get a noun and an adjective. They’ll amaze me with their showing prowess, I’ve no doubt.

 

fiction

You Call It Coffee

I don’t get it. You never took the covers before. You never minded about my snoring, about my restless legs. I peek at you with one eye. Your long hair fans out against my pillow. Your perfumed shampoo claws my nostrils. Do I complain? No.

“Out!” You give me the shout-and-shove. “Your breath stinks,” you say. This is how our mornings go. I don’t usually swear, but you’re a… B. Not the kind that stings, either. Who’s the one who always apologizes first? Me. Who initiates the snuggling? Me. Who licks you, head to toe? And not once have you licked me back. Not once.

I suddenly feel like a shag carpet. Like I’m your carpet and I put up with your shh—nanegans.

Even though I’m mad, I won’t use fowl language. I’m no parakeet.

I do everything for you. You throw the ball. I fetch it. You throw it. I—aha! Almost got sidetracked.

Did it ever occur to you, I’d like to throw the ball for once? That I’d like the whole bed to myself? I’ve got half a nerve to thrust my back legs into your doughy flesh and launch you onto the floor. And your landing wouldn’t be nimble, like mine.

Next time you bark at me and shove me to the floor, I just may take a chomp out of that legbone of yours. I’ve been asking for a new bone for what—a month? I could linger on a femur for days, months, even. I could let myself out through the doggie door, drink from the goldfish pond.

I’d be my own best friend.

I could snap. Snap at that pulsing jugular and tear it like tissue before you take your first sip of that malodorous crud you call coffee.

Written for April’s Zeroflash flash fiction contest. 

fiction

Fiction: The Colonel’s Last Wish

In the bombed-out shell of a Starbucks cafe, he sat at a buckling and tilted table. What the colonel wouldn’t give for a green-smocked barista right now. A US Army truck painted over with his familiar insignia passed by, likely headed to the dump. Halfheartedly, he returned salute, then covered his nose. The dead Americans stank.

A familiar voice whispered, “You have one more wish.”

“I know.” He was afraid to say more. He’d already been tricked into wasting two wishes.

***

“I wish we had more recruits,” The colonel had mumbled. To himself. Barely aware of the vaporous and negligently-clad genie behind him. All he did was tap the kettle spout on the relic that had mysteriously appeared on the desk. No one saw who left it. The colonel’s words were barely out when a crowd of youths showed up, eager to don the newest nuclear plastique vests and pay the highest price.

Next, it wasn’t even a wish, just wishful thinking. “Oh, that they’d all fall– every major city…” The new recruits departed in unison, waited till all were ready. A thousand magic-controlled minds depressed the igniters… boom.

Thankfully, the colonel was in the underground bunker when it happened, else he might have wished himself dead. Everything good was gone. How could he tell the genie he wanted it back, just, sans Americans? What did he want with cornfields and rural towns of gun-toting Republicans? The colonel wanted the cities, the nightlife. The Starbucks. The pretty young baristas.

But these genies, they were black souls. They sneaked up on you and gave you exactly what you asked for, not what you wanted.

All the colonel wanted was a cup of espresso. “Can I wish for more wishes?”

“You know the answer to that.”

He spat at the genie’s feet.

 

 

on writing, Personal Journey

My Muse Experience

Anne Lamott calls it her broccoli. Stephen King calls it his beast.

My beast was asleep. I tried prodding him, kicking him, calling him bad names. No roars. No lightning bolts of creativity. Just me, slapping words on a page with the precision of a toddler, becoming more and more certain I was wasting my time.

Writers have a chronic god-complex: the need to create something amazing. Luckily the god-complex comes with a handy counterbalance: rejection. One moment you’re in rags talking to mice and the next you’re wearing the grandest gown of all, dancing with the prince. Then the clock strikes twelve, and you’re in rags again. This is the rejection-acceptance wheel, and—from what I can tell—it never ends.

So I’m writing, and there’s this nagging feeling that it’s garbage, what I’m putting on the page. The urge to do something practical like dishes starts to rise to the top of my consciousness like sweet cream. I’m cobbling together this little flash, hating it with a Frankensteinian passion, and hating myself for the time I could never get back (the dishes weren’t cleaning themselves). Several times I threw up my hands in frustration. I said mean things to the screen. When I think how close I came to shutting off my laptop and forging ahead with my day, story unfinished, I cringe.

Because now, I love that little flash. It’s one of my favorites.

At some point in the process, the story began to have a pulse. I don’t know when, exactly. But it was as if skin was grafted to some dead thing. Beautiful skin. And I thought: I like that arm. Then, I like that leg, that face, and so on. Until I thought, where did you come from, oh great and glorious creation? 

Well I’ll be. You came from me.

I love a happy ending.