A Sampling of Short Stories

 

Upcoming:

When Bucky Comes Home
[The Siren’s Call, Issue 36 (zombies), 2018]

Deep in the piney woods of East Texas, the thunder of an approaching storm boomed loudly enough to rattle the window panes of the Thompson’s old homestead. The storm was moving closer, Ma Thompson noted, to no one in particular. Pa was too preoccupied sharpening his old woodcutter’s ax to listen to her. Sis was sleeping fitfully on the floor before the dying fire in the sooty fireplace, dreaming of more a peaceful past, where the weather was always warm. Brother may have been there in spirit, but in body he was long gone.

 

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The Path Through the Words
[Surreal Nightmares II, James Ward Kirk Publishing, 2018]

Reese rubbed his eyes and leaned back in his creaky desk chair. He loved his field of study, he really did, but it was brutal on his eyes. He turned a page in the old book open before him. He was two paragraphs in when it struck him that the physical placement of the text on the page left streaks of blank space meandering through the words, like a well-worn path through dense woods. 

 

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The Circuit Breaker
[SciFan Magazine]

Stewart sat down at the dinner table and reached for the bowl of mashed potatoes. The food his wife Sally served up was always hearty, if a bit bland and predictable. Their teenage daughter, Morgan, sat with elbows on the table, looking bored, as usual. Before Stewart could chide her with an “Elbows off the table, young lady,” the phone rang. He threw his napkin down as he rose from his chair.

 

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The Demon’s Perk
[Ashes horror anthology, 13 o’Clock Press]

This is my favorite place for relaxing. Some co-workers complain that it’s too small a space, they can’t stretch out, the tile walls wreck the acoustics, it’s too dark until it isn’t, then it’s too bright. I counter that I don’t need much space; I like tiny, snug spaces. Think of the tiny houses so popular with the young people today. Something like that. As for the tile walls—that serves to make it so easy to clean. Hose it down and you’re done. Complaints about the acoustics? I don’t care; I’d rather my place be kept tidy. What am I going to do on my time off—sing hymns and gospel songs? I think not. And this business about the lights? Again, don’t care. Darkness has always been my ally; the sudden bright light is my doorbell ringing: it means something amusing has arrived at my home. Special delivery!

 

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Kb-5546516
[Night to Dawn, Issue 33, 2017]

Bright light through the bindings blindfolding my eyes. My entire body is bound in bindings so tight, in fact, that I can’t move my arms, legs, anything. But I’m so tired, I’m not that interested in moving, anyway. The lights go out. Now back to sleep.

 

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Pinky’s World
[Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull Vol. III]

From the highway, the building was a squat pink box surrounded by scrawny mesquite, sagebrush and dirt. The only other clue to its existence was a weathered billboard some ten miles back. That sign read, “Pinky’s World, Your Highway Getaway for Adult Indulgences!” in curly black letters against a neon-pink background. Well, years ago the sign was an eye-grabbing black on hot pink; now, it was a sickly gray against a watery, almost-coral color. The Arizona sun was none too kind to roadside adverts.

 

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The Last Train
(Reprint; previously titled “The End of the Line”)
[Lonesome Train anthology, 13 O’Clock Press, 2017]

He slipped the subway token into the smooth-worn slot and, pressing his thighs against the turnstile, pushed his way through. He paced himself, mixing with the 5 o’clock commuter crowd. No one noticed how much he was sweating, it’s always sticky-hot down in the station, but he had to shove his hands into his pockets to stop them trembling. There were no trains on either side of the platform, no distant subterranean rumble. To him, it seemed like he waited for hours, for days. He could feel his fingernails growing, digging into his palms.

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Currently Online:

Greetings From The Ruins Of The Castle Stubtoe!
[Postcard Shorts, posted 11/19/17]

I’m contacting you so you know we’re fine, no matter what you might’ve heard. Yes, Nicolette did break her leg. She slipped as she danced in the mid-winter midnight rain, while attempting to contact the spirits, or conjure daemons, or whatever she’s into these days.

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An Alto for the Choir
[Yellow Mamma, October 2017 (Halloween Issue), #64]

Somebody forgot to top off the oil in the car. So on that long trek back to the family homestead, on that long lonely stretch of highway on a cloudless August afternoon, the engine of a beautiful and otherwise perfectly preserved 1978 sapphire-blue Camero seized and died.

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Archie’s Avatar
[365tomorrows.com, July 25, 2017]

The old woman leaned over the tombstone, and wiped the flat screen embedded in the front. It was grimy from exposure to the elements, but with a few gentle, conscientious strokes with her handkerchief, came clean. She sighed wearily, stepped back, and digging through her over-sized purse, located the small remote needed to operate the screen. Two clicks of the green button, and it flickered on. A middle-aged man, handsome in an everyday kind of way, smiled at her from the ether. He waited for her to speak first, like the gentleman he was.

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Granny Gwen
[Trembling with Fear / HorrorTree.com, February 12, 2017]

“Granny Gwen, who is the man in this picture?”

“Let me see, child. There’s your brother Montgomery, and Mommy,” Gwen said, tracing her finger along the old photo.

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Xeno’s House of Fashion
[Theme of Absence online, February 10, 2017]

“Mmmm, we’ll need to tuck that in, stretch out this odd little bit, squeeze this thing as tight as we can, and trim a bit off there, for sure.” So sayeth Marty, the head stylist for Xeno’s House of Fashion.

The object of his critique was Monique, a trim young little thing with flawless skin and bouncy silken hair. She wasn’t clear about what, exactly, Marty was referring to. She turned to him, and with her cutest pouty lips, asked him what he meant. “My hair? You’re not about to cut these golden locks! It’s taken me years to get this look!

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The Lucky Break
[Black Petals online, Winter Issue, #78, Jan 15, 2017]

Her mother couldn’t stand an empty room, so she filled every available space with furniture. Got to the point where you couldn’t turn around without cracking an elbow or knocking a knee against some solid piece of something. Dana promised herself, when she got a place of her own, she’d have one room with absolutely nothing in it.

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The Birthday Present
[365tomorrows.com posted 10/16/16]

“Just think of all the work you will complete, Connie, now that you have an extra month here.”

Conrad ignored Tandie, the on-board computer that ran everything. Including scheduling. He was in the middle of a job, and didn’t care for distracting small-talk.

“Did you hear me, Connie?”

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Yard Sale of the Fates
[Eternal Haunted Summer, Summer Solstice Issue, 2016]

The old woman cuddled the ball of sunflower-yellow yarn, smoothing the fly-away fibers before setting it down. On her table, she’d constructed a pyramid of multicolored balls of yarn. She stroked the yellow ball after she set it atop her little pyramid, whispering, “Such a pretty color for some sweet little girl.” The old woman continued mumbling to herself, “If her momma picks this one, the child will have a long and happy life.”

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The Handshake
[365tomorrows.com, April 24, 2016]

Casey waited in line for more than two hours when the rain started. A soft, misty rain that chilled him to the bone; he tightly crossed his arms and shivered. Even if he caught a cold, attending this event would still be worth it. Maybe, he wondered, he’d get an autograph, or even better, a photo with Candidate Sterling. Or better yet, shake his hand. Now that would be awesome!

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Just Like Old Times
[365tomorrows.com, September 2, 2015]

Sheila opened the door to her grandmother’s house, flooding the dusty entryway with sunlight. She walked through the little house opening shutters and raising blinds. She put the fresh flowers she’d brought in a vase.

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Medusa of the Midway Diner
[Eternal Haunted Summer, Summer Solstice, 2015]

The neon sign came to life twitching and buzzing, birthing the image of the giant jellyfish. Its pink and white tentacles rose and fell in a stiffly staccato motion. The head of the jellyfish wore an improbable smile, and an even more improbable baseball cap. The sign had been an attraction for tourist photographers for more than twenty years. Other than being located within driving distance to the beach, the Midway Diner had nothing to do with jellyfish, or any fish, for that matter; except, perhaps, serving fried fish for Friday’s blue-plate special. So the diner’s mascot, the giant neon jellyfish the locals called Olly (after the owner and fry-cook), became an attraction in itself, and travelers often ended up eating at the Midway. Needing no other form of advertising, the diner did alright. Of course, having statue garden roadside-attraction on the other side of the parking lot didn’t hurt, either.

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The Little Entrepreneur [Hogglepot, posted 2/27/2011]

Patricia was such a serious little girl—you would never call her Trisha, Trish, Pat or Patty. She rose at six each morning, brushed her hair exactly sixty strokes (thirty left, thirty right), brushed her teeth for exactly one minute (thirty seconds up, thirty seconds down), dressed in clothes she’d laid out the night before, all before marching herself downstairs for breakfast. A breakfast, it must be added, that she prepared for herself, as usually her parents slept in.

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In the Land of Expired Links:

The Witch’s Tit
[69 Flavors of Paranoia, posted October 2012. Journal is now defunct.]

“. . . so cold it just about froze my damn hand off!” The burly roughneck guffawed. “Exactly like you think it would — but man, she was pretty. Totally worth a couple of fingers just to touch her.” He held up his right hand, unwrapped the dirty bandages, and displayed his missing digits for all the world to see.

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Body of Water
[Lorelei Signal, January – March 2012]

The lavender-scented foam dissipated into a thin film of bubbles; the bubbles swirled into patterns, and the patterns swam into wispy scenes with each subtle shift of Alana’s body beneath the warm bath water. Her hazel eyes scanned the water’s surface, discerning the meaning of the abstract images expanding in the soapy film.

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The Gargoyle’s Midwife
[Flashes in the Dark, posted 7/18/12. Journal is now defunct.]

My mentor brought the thing in, slung over her shoulder like a sleeping child, and carefully laid it down on the wooden pew.  It was wrapped tightly in a sheathing of white samite — I was unaware that people still made that material.  So medieval, yet so luxurious.  Thin gold threads woven through the thick fabric gleamed in the flickering light of the abandoned chapel.  Seemed a shame to wrap that thing up in such rich fabric, then bless, bury or burn it — whatever it was we were here to do.  My mentor had not yet fully informed me.

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Getting Out to Vote
[Flashes in the Dark, posted 4/1/11. Journal is now defunct. ]

Understand, Roland volunteered because he loves our country, our way of life, and our unique electoral process. As he is fond of saying, The system works! He has no problem with getting up at three in the morning so he can be here, at the polling station, at four o’clock to set up booths and what-not. The doors open at six, so everything has to be in place, “ready to rock” as the young folks say. Another of Roland’s favorite quips: Young people are our future! Though he would be the first to emphasize he has the utmost respect for our elders, so experienced and wise, as they are.

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Sally’s Grave
[New Voices in Fiction, 2008 August 28-October 31. Journal is now defunct.]

My god it was wet that September. Rain pouring down every night like Noah’s Flood. Ground so soggy trees began to lose their grip on the earth, mud avalanches plunging down the mountain side. Days so humid, mushrooms sprouted in the bathroom tile behind the toilet. And you could forget about your hair staying nice. Clothes sagged on your frame, eye-glasses slid down your nose, drinking glasses slipped out of your hand.

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Along Came a Spider
[Moonlit-Path.com, Ghostly Tales Issue, #10, July 2008. Journal is now defunct.]

I should have killed the spider when I first saw it, nestled with its translucent ivory legs curled around its albino body, in a corner of the hallway ceiling. From where I stood, it looked more like a nest of dust, an angel’s hair ball, than a living thing. I blew on it, to make it shudder and crawl away. It did neither, so it had to be dead, had to be a dried carcass snagged on ceiling plaster. I would get a broom and sweep it down tomorrow.

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Soft-Boiled
[Necrology Magazine Online/Necrology Shorts, Jun 23, 2008. Journal is now defunct.]

Terrence had tried everything. Four years of marriage counseling, eight years of analysis with three different analysts. Eighteen years ago he had tried the alternative-lifestyle of an Oregon commune; last year he had tried six months in the disciplined environs of a Midwestern Buddhist monastery. He had dropped acid, drunk mescal and devoured the worm. He had fasted and devoted himself to the ritual religion of exercise. Nothing worked; his boiling headaches continued, and the conflicts that ran like hair-line cracks through the shell of his miserable life were never-ending. Everyone argued with him, or about him, or what to do about him. And he argued too, but mostly with his wife, and with himself; violent emotions nested in the cluttered attic of his brain, incubating feelings that would hatch with the smallest encouragement into the ugliest of bent-necked birds.

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Lately in Print:

The People Upstairs (revised reprint)
[White Noise & Ouija Boards, Three Drops Press, 2017]

Once again, the upstairs tenant is dragging the child’s coffin from one end of the apartment to the other. What else could make such a dull scraping sound across these scuffed hardwood floors? Every night at nine, every morning at seven. Back and forth, back and forth. Set your clock by it.

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Boys’ Night Out
[My American Nightmare, Twisted Wings Productions, 2017]

“C’mon, check it out for yourself,” Joel urged. “I’m not making this up. My folks have locked me out.” He tugged at the window; it wouldn’t budge. “They told last time, if they caught me sneaking out again at night they wouldn’t just sell my gaming console, they’d lock me out, for real. Looks like they weren’t kidding.” From his vantage point, he could see his school books scattered across his bed and his backpack open on the floor. His desk lamp was on still, softly illuminating the Dallas Cowboys posters plastered across his walls. He rubbed his shoulder; it still ached from his being shoved against his bedroom wall, when he talked smart to his mom. That seemed like weeks ago.

 

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The Slide
[Empty Rooms / Missing, 13 O’Clock Press, 2017]

Michelle knew if she stepped over the edge of the yawning hole before her she would slide, inexorably, down its slick sides—sides with no visible holds to break her descent, holds like exposed roots or stones or even ancient bones. Down she would go, picking up speed, into the unavoidable, impenetrable darkness at its bottom.

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I am Manfred Manticore
[Night to Dawn, Issue 32, 2017]

Edwin flung open the door to the doctor’s office with a burst of theatrical violence. Doc Marshall looked up from his notes, and with a slight smile, took off his glasses.

“Well, Edwin, what brings you here?” Doc Marshall asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.

Edwin raised up his hand to shield his eyes. “Doctor, please, close your curtains—the sunlight—it blinds me!”

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In the Time of the Honeysuckle Moon
[Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big Easy, FunDead Publications, 2017]

In 1987, the newly-weds gently bickered on their walking tour of old New Orleans. She was enthralled with history, art, and supernatural experiences; he was enthralled with booze, French cigarettes, jazz, and more booze.

“Oh, come on, Richard, it’s his house!”

“Ugh, getting your picture in front of his house is such a touristy thing to do—it’s so déclassé.”

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The Genie in Room 156
[Night to Dawn, Issue 31, April 2017]

As there was no “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on the doorknob to room 156, Sue used her master pass to open the door. The room inside was cool, almost cold, and dark like midnight—the guest had not only closed the black-out curtains, but had draped the bedspread across the window as well. She’d heard from co-workers that junkies sometimes did this—totally black-out their rooms—when they were going cold-turkey. She’d also heard they left filthy messes behind; she didn’t want to imagine what unclean situation was waiting for her here.

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The Edification of Miss Mindy
Schlock! Webzine (Vol.10, Issue 21, November 27, 2016)
(also slated for reprint in Schlock! Quarterly best-of digest, 2017)

The present appeared on Mindy’s doorstep. Soft, furry, and with a ragged neck ending in a bloody mess where its head should have been. She gently wrapped the carcass in a plastic grocery bag and disposed of it. Mindy suspected her love left it for her, as a sort of not-really-our-anniversary-but-almost gift. At that point, they’d been living together for five months.

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Getting Out to Vote (reprint)
[Dread State Anthology, Thunder Dome Press, 2017]

Roland volunteered because he loves our country, our way of life, our electoral process. He had no problem arriving at the polling station at four a.m. in order to to set up booths and what-not. The doors opened at six; everything had to be in place. So he was surprised when he heard tapping at the auditorium’s locked door. More of a scratching, actually. Who would be so out of touch that he, or she, would show up to vote at the wrong time? And it wasn’t Roland’s assistant, Joshua—he’d overslept and had already called to let Roland know he’d be late.

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The Eureka Key
[The Deep Web / The Cards Foretell (anthology, 13 O’Clock Press, 2017)]

Susie’s family and friends conferred, and agreed to keep her MyFace social media page up after the “incident”—it was comforting, they all said, to have it up so that they might visit her whenever they liked. It would be almost like she was still around, her husband declared.

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Hôtel Purgatoire
[Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife (anthology), Strange Musings Press, 2016]

I do not recall booking this hotel, but I do travel A LOT (for business), and sometimes when I wake up I forget where I am (LOL!). So I was not freaked out when I woke up in the Hôtel Purgatoire (what a goth-y, French-y name. Am I in New Orleans? Now that would be cool!).

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[The following 5 stories appear in In a Flash… anthology of YA-themed flash fiction, Sinister Saints Press, 2016]

The Waketcha County Crime Blotter

Published every Sunday as a service to the public by the Waketcha County Sheriff’s Office. These reports are for the previous week only. For older entries, please see our online archives.

*The choir director for Maundy Methodist Church called to report his mustache was gone when he awoke Sunday morning. Suspects the succubus from his dream took it.

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The Linda Alarm

Throughout human history, one of our greatest, most basic fears has been: What if you are mistakenly BURIED ALIVE!?! Is there a horror more harrowing? Is there a terror more terrible? NO! Even the Victorians created all manner of devices to alert cemetery custodians that one of their charges was indeed STILL ALIVE! Simple bells, buzzers, and knockers were employed in this service; a primitive solution to a fantastically frightening situation. Regrettably for the Victorians, there was no guarantee the custodian would hear the alarm and exhume the unfortunate person in time!

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Belinda’s Game

One Mississippi. Eyes closed, Belinda hears whispers and giggles nearby. The players are forming alliances and plotting. Some impatient whispers come out as hisses. She smiles.

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Our Suburban Shaman

Everybody in the neighborhood went to see him. Actually, you couldn’t miss him: Six foot four, dyed black hair, sapphire blue eyes set in a long pale face. Teeth white and even like a picket fence. He favored pin-striped three-piece suits worn tie-less. Several gold watch chains dangled from his vest pocket.

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When She Opened Her Mouth

We will call her Catherine, this girl child with the gift of butterflies. When she was very little, the butterflies were amusing. Tiny, brightly colored bits of whimsy that flitted about the her head whenever she spoke. She opened her mouth, and they danced forth, vivid confetti. Adults adored it; they thought it was a supremely clever trick. The other children, though, didn’t; to her peers, it was an unfair advantage in the war for attention from teachers, parents, and baby-sitters.

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Beyond Tomorrow
[Ugly Babies 3, James Ward Kirk Press, 2016]

In her dreams, the baby was a shadow seen through the fogged glass of her belly. He–she knew, instinctively, the child was a boy, just as she knew night followed day–twisted, stretched, and turned in the warm currents flowing through her body. In her dreams, she placed her hand on this navel glass, and always, the baby lifted his hand, and placed it directly beneath hers. Though there was a barrier between mother and son, a jolt of electricity never failed to shoot through her, abruptly waking her from her dream.

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When Does a Weed Become a Flower?
[Troll (anthology, 13 O’Clock Press, 2016)]

Rounding the curve, just at sunset, revealed a breath-taking view of the valley below. The gentle downward slope of the road was bathed in golden light, giving the world the dreamy appearance of a fairy-tale landscape. Katie grimaced and flipped the driver’s side visor down. Beautiful but blinding, the light was at this hour. She punched a red button on her console, and bouncy, hyper techno blared from her car’s stereo speakers. Fully engaged with the music, she pressed harder on the accelerator. What’s the harm in a little bit of speeding, especially since there’s no one else on the road, coming or going, she smiled to herself. She rolled her driver’s side window down; the cool air was exhilarating. She was thoroughly enjoying this short-cut between her new home and work.

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[The following 5 stories appear in More Tales from the Blue Gonk Cafe (anthology of flash fiction) 13 O’Clock Press, 2016]

The Early Morning Call

At 4 o’clock in the morning the bedside telephone exploded, flinging Mr. and Mrs. out of bed. They looked at each other, groggy, confused, and panicked.

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Three Men in a Boat

If the boat had any oars, it would have been a row-boat. If it had a sail, it would’ve been a sailboat. Or if it had a motor, well, you get the idea.

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When the Wolf Came Dressed as a Man

High up on the mountain, above the tree line, above the cloud line, there lived a lonesome creature. So lonesome, that one day he decided to descend from his lofty abode and seek company in the populated land down below. But first he must disguise his true nature.

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Abandoned House, Broken Window

The old librarian took it upon herself to repair the broken window in the empty house down the street from her sister’s. Every Sunday as she walked home from lunch with her sister, she spied that front window with its glass busted out. It reminded her of a child with a missing tooth. So unattractive! Since no one else cared, she determined to fix it herself. After all, she subscribed to the theory that a broken window would lead to graffiti, which leads to all manner of nasty social ills. It was bad enough people no longer flocked to libraries, but this! Urban decay was more than she could stomach.

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No Ice for the Next 300 Miles

The small square magnet looked like a foreboding signpost to no-man’s land: a crudely drawn red skull with the words “no water, gas, or ice for the next 300 miles.” It was a popular souvenir with tourists who stopped at this desert diner. Most customers were passing though on vacation, a few on business, but one made this diner his destination.

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Green Sweater, Pink Roses
[Tales from the Graveyard (anthology), Thirteen O’Clock Press, 2016]

“It’s not what you think,” Janine said as she picked at the dirt and grass clinging to the front of Tessie’s jade green sweater. “If you step back and look at the big picture, you’ll see that it’s actually—”

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Bouquets of Baby’s Breath
[Hidden in Plain Sight Anthology, James Ward Kirk Publishing, 2015]

Daisy Mahoney walked down the refrigerated aisle of her shop, wiping smudged fingerprints off the glass doors. She opened each glass door, reorganized the floral arrangements inside. She took a small writing pad from her smock pocket, counted carnations, roses and lilies, and made notes. This was Spring: There was always an uptick in births. Plus, high school proms were coming. The summer wedding deluge would begin soon, too. Funerals didn’t seem to have a season.

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The Goblin Box
[Fright Mare Anthology, DM Publishing, 2015]

Red stripes, yellow polka dots, and green diamonds painted against a bright blue background. The corners were a bit worn, likely scuffed from years of careless handling. There was a hexagonal-shaped hole on one side, for what Linda assumed was a crank handle. She turned the box over to look for a manufacturer’s mark; there was none. There wasn’t a price tag, either. Rather than put the odd box back on the shelf, she dropped it into her shopping basket. She’d ask the clerk how much when she reached the register.

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Charlie’s Prom
[Night to Dawn, Issue 28, October 2015]

The sign of the convenience store flickered over the empty parking lot like an improperly adjusted strobe light. In the gathering darkness, a baby-faced young man leaned against the wall, smoking one cigarette after another, the orange ember of his little vice rising and falling in an impatient arc.

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Down the Drain
[Night to Dawn, Issue 26, October 2014]

The problem started Friday morning as Gina dressed for work. The water slowly swirled in the bathroom sink before her, and refused to drain. The minty foam congealed into thin scum clinging to the beige porcelain. She watched the clockwise movement of the dirty water, and sighed. Really don’t have time for this, she groused to herself. Have to deal with it when she came home tonight.

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The Siren of Shady Grove
[Night to Dawn, Issue 23, April 2013]

I am not kidding; I saw it with my own eyes, on the poster my nephew found online.  That’s how she spells it now.  I  wonder, when she signs her name, does she still dot her “i” with a little flower, or a smiley face?

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Little Miss Jukebox Karaoke [Night to Dawn, April 2012, Issue 21]

The road between Flagstaff and Cyclone is a lonely stretch of two-lane monotony. An old east-west bound highway slanting south as it parallels I-40, with nothing but scrub brush, parasitic mesquite and sundry cacti as far as the regional flora go. A driver might spot the occasional lanky coyote slinking across the road, a frightened rabbit disappearing into the underbrush. Sometimes a wheel of vultures circling overhead, in the distance. If you’re lucky, maybe a roadrunner will cross your path, coldly eying you as you pass, sizing you up. Clouds are few and far between, unless you’re traveling during monsoon season — then you’d better find a high spot to wait out the passing storm. More than one driver’s been foolish enough to attempt crossing a dip in the road during one of those storms — and been swept away along with the other rootless debris in the rushing water. Not uncommon to find an overturned car miles down the wash. Usually there’s no one in the wreckage. If there is — well, let’s just say the remains are incomplete and leave it at that.

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Kindlers [Mass Dissidence: Anthology of Dystopia, Joe Jablonski, editor. Static Movement Press, 2012]

It breaks easily across bended knee. Gets the hands more dusty than dirty. It’s light weight, so you can carry in armfuls all at once — no need to make multiple trips to gather more for an evening’s fire. Only downside is the smell when you first toss more kindling onto the fire. Some say it smells like incense, like those great perfumed clouds billowing out of polished brass burners swinging to and fro during Christmas mass — but to my nose, really, it fairly reeks of desiccated dead things.

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Like a Feathered Seed on the Wind [Night to Dawn, Issue 20, Fall 2011]

Dawn took the glossy brochure off the rack, turned it over in her hands. Pretty pictures of red rock canyons, vividly colored wildflowers, petroglyphs. Florid prose describing the luxurious attributes of Hogan’s Lodge Resort and its many comfy cabins. What caught her eye, though, was what she found inside the brochure: the promise (for a price) of an “authentic Navajo sweat lodge experience.”

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Cemetery Tag [Obsession, Dorothy Davies, editor. Static Movement Press]

Mike got up that day at 4:30 a.m., just like every other morning; plenty of time to go for run and then a quick shower before work. He slipped on a favorite faded marathon t-shirt, tied the draw-strings on his athletic shorts, pulled on his socks and laced up his shoes. He made a quick stop in the bathroom to splash cold water on his face, then hustled into the kitchen for a quick energy drink. He’d eat something more substantial later, at the office. He poured a cupful of organic dry food into Mortimer’s bowl, scratched the cat on the sweet-spot under his furry chin, and sprinted out the door.

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The Night Has Teeth, and I Have Found Them [Night to Dawn, Issue #15, April 2009]

I stood in the driveway watching the garnet tail-lights diminish with distance. The streetlight was out, but the moon was bright. Every house around me was dark. I had no idea what time it was; I only knew that I was unforgivably late in coming home. So late that my husband had gone to bed in a probable huff, leaving no light on for me. I had not had that much to drink, but the house looked different; unkempt, askew. Surely, this was only a trick of the light; after all, everything looks otherworldly under a full moon. My own hands appeared phosphorescent, appeared to float rather than hang from my coat sleeves. I ran the fingers of those hands through my dry hair, brushing wayward strands out of my face.

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Out of Print

Pennies from Hell
[Rigorous Mortis: A Mortician’s Tales  (Scarlett River Press, 2013. Jo-Anne Russell & Ryan Cady, editors)]

Was me who took the coins, yeah, I did it.  Don’t care what you think — I had hungry little mouths to feed. Know what that’s like? Cryin’ all night long, little fingers grabbin’ at my legs, big sad eyes brimmin’ with starvin’ tears.  Eyes that watch you in mirrors, follow you across the room, see everything that goes on in the dark.

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Brett, Unraveled
[Midnight Screaming, Volume 4, Number 4, Fall 2012]

Katrina pulled back abruptly from her boyfriend’s embrace and eyed him suspiciously. She leaned forward and sniffed his mouth.
“You’ve been eating meat.”
Brett sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Babe, it’s what I do. How many times do I have to remind you? I’m a devoted carnivore. You knew that when we started dating.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Little Red Flags Along the Way
[The Scareald, Issue No.2, October 2012]

From his office window, he watched the people come and go. Eight stories up, they looked, not like ants, but more like little dolls. Fully articulated, tightly-wound little clockwork dolls. Some dressed in crisp, overpriced suits, some in shabby, mismatched threads. People in all colors and shapes, ages and economic levels.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Progenitor [ Unquiet Earth: An Anthology of Living Dead Flash Fiction, Chris Bartholomew, Editor.  2011, Pill Hill Press.]

It was the whispering, what woke me up. Rising and falling like an aural tide. I roll over, turn on the bedside lamp. Nothing in this rented room, but me. Off goes the light. I burrow deeper under covers, wait for dawn.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Molly’s Scene [Midnight Screaming, Volume 3, No. 3, Summer 2011]

She had a mouth like the sofa in Dali’s “Mae West Living Room” — plush to the touch, saccharine cherry red, and overstuffed. Didn’t take much to make her smile: a predictable compliment, a flirty wink, her name said aloud. You didn’t want to say she was easy — but in truth, she was. Was it her fault? Maybe she just wanted to be loved. Maybe it was her way of wielding power. Maybe she just didn’t care about anyone else or anything at all; maybe she just wanted to feel good, feel in the moment. Even if that moment was always fleeting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lulu’s Boys [Twisted Dreams, June 2011]

“Another photographer!”
“Hurry! Before she leaves!”
“Mama always makes time for photographers!”
“Mama’s going to be a famous!”
“She has tons of famous friends already!”
“And handsome boyfriends with shiny cars…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Baby’s Teeth [Twisted Dreams, October 2010]

Baby was born with sharp teeth — tiny, piercing denticles like what you’d expect to find in a puppy’s mouth. Milk teeth, they’re sometimes called. But there’s no way even her most devout mother would let Baby nurse with a mouthful of ivory like that. Can’t tell you how many pacifiers Baby chewed through — and quickly, too. Cost her parents a small fortune. Her pediatrician tried to calm her parents’ worries, insisted Baby was just ahead of her peers as far as dental development went, then pointed out to them that at least she was not born with a tail. They went home somewhat reassured.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shadow Daddy [Midnight Screaming, Volume 2, No. 3, Summer 2010]

They had only been in this apartment a week. Built in 1929, it was part of a quadruplex that had oodles of art deco charm: hardwood floors, arched doorways, eye-pleasing ceiling molding, a built-in ironing board and a telephone nook in the main hallway. To top it off, the apartment boasted a surprisingly spacious den and bedroom, and even cooler, to Lianna, was the lavender and sea-foam green tile with matching ceramic sink, tub and toilet in the bathroom. Not something you saw everyday, since most modern fixtures tended to be in hospital white or something equally bland, like shades of almond or vanilla. What Lianna liked most, though, was the idea that such an old place must have a history — who were the original tenants? How many people since then; what were their loves, their triumphs, defeats, and tragedies? Lianna enjoyed musing over such things, especially when she was alone — which was more and more often, lately.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Valentino’s Eyes [Midnight Screaming, Volume 1, Number 4, October 2009]

In the swamp-cool dark of the revival theater, Deena sat with her popcorn between her legs and her icy soda in her hand. She was the only movie-goer in the balcony this evening; down below, there were snugly couples scattered here and there, with the occasional chatty family clan, or mumbling, giggling cluster of stoned college kids. Deena gobbled a handful of popcorn, and wiped the salty grease on her pant leg. Chocolate candy would have been really good with this popcorn, she thought. She took a slurpy sip of her soda.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Madonna of the Gallows [Twisted Dreams, October 2009]

They do the pendulum swing with the slightest breeze, always in the middle of the day, when it’s hottest outside. Come sundown, they tend to twirl, ever so slowly. Moonless nights, they don’t move at all. Sunrise, the birds sing in the surrounding grove and they start their simple dance all over again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The People Upstairs [And Soon the Darkness, Halloween Issue 2008]

Once again, the upstairs tenant is dragging the child’s coffin from one end of the apartment to the other. What else could make such a dull scraping sound across these scuffed hardwood floors? Every night at nine, every morning at seven. Back and forth, back and forth. Set your clock by it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. Hillary Lyon 2017

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One response to “A Sampling of Short Stories

  1. Spencer

    Lots of good excerpts here! “Getting Out to Vote” still remains one of my favorites.

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