Hello and welcome back to the blog! I know it has been a while since my last post, and for that I must apologize. My intention had been to take a couple of weeks off as I wrapped up the first draft of a novel. A health scare with my wife extended that break a few more weeks. On a related note, what does a writer do when he finds himself a visitor in a hospital without a laptop in a city where he doesn’t live? Write flash fiction on his phone, of course. To make things interesting and more difficult because I had the time, I started each story with the last word of the previous story. That means the last word of story #1 is the first word for story #2. A note to those who haven’t read my writing before, I write horror, so some of these are on the dark side. Now that I’ve explained things in unnecessary detail, let’s get started with the first story.
Shanna was awakened by screams in the distance growing closer with each blood curdling emission.
Beatrix—the name bestowed upon her trusty rifle—was in hand before her eyes had fully opened.
A thick blue tarp covered the broken window of room 5104 in the Oaklawn Hospital’s ICU. She flung it aside, got into position, and sighted the scope.
A decaying flap of skin hung from the zombie’s forehead, blocking its vision, and forcing it to hunt by instinct. Unfortunately for its prey, it was adept at the task.
Ten yards away was the source of the screams, a middle-aged man running toward Shanna’s Kingdom.
She chambered a round and squeezed the trigger. The man fell to the pavement of the hospital’s parking lot.
Her dwindling supplies couldn’t support another person, neither could her patience.
Shut up and Wait
Patience was a virtue most people weren’t blessed with. As for Bryan? Well, he had it in spades. When your dad’s response to the age-old question of arrival was a wild sweep of the backseat with his nondriving hand, you learned there were times when it was best to shut up and wait.
Like when the old man came home after a long night of boozing and carousing with the two Jimmy’s—Jimmy’s Tavern and Jim Beam. On those nights he was often too inebriated to climb the stairs to the bedroom where Bryan’s bruised mother tried to escape the monster she’d married through sleep.
Shut up and wait.
In the dark Bryan was doing just that, shutting up and waiting.
The front door opened and slammed closed. Clumsy footfalls shuffled along the carpet.
The shuffling stopped, followed by a belch and the sudden compression of couch springs.
When Bryan couldn’t wait any longer, he stepped out of the shadows and approached the monster.
Monster Creek looked as ordinary as I had feared. Macabre tales of serpentine creatures lurking in the creek’s depths and shadowy humanoids watching from the trees. Tales that I doubted as I watched the water’s surface ripple in the gentle breeze.
A laugh escaped my lips. To think I had been afraid of such a serene location.
A deep throated growl chased that thought away. My eyes darted to the tree line near the shore of the creek. Two red orbs glowed in the darkness.
A chill went down my spine. It was supposed to be a story.
Something large splashed in the creek.
At eighteen I was an adult and deemed myself ready to put childish things behind me. Though warned not to, I had come to prove the stories were just that, stories.
As a second and third pair of eyes appeared in the trees, I realized the stories weren’t of the fictional variety.
Someone screamed as the shadow cloaked creatures stepped out of the tree line. They were nearly upon me when I realized the screams were my own. Water splashed in the creek. A serpentine shape darted from the water. They met me as one.
It was only a story, only a—
(A note: some will say I cheated by ending the previous story abruptly. I agree.)
Face in the Fire
A bustling accusatory wind rattled the window in its frame. The view outside showed a torrent of snow and ice covering a grave weeks old. The wind had penetrated the manor, which had caused an unrelenting chill to overtake its confines. That same chill had settled deep within Phineas’ insides.
Cornelius had built a roaring fire in the hearth before retiring to his chambers for the evening. The flames crackled and hissed, as if a song sung by a demon.
Could that possibly have been the wind or was it a figment of a mind that had lost the sharpness of youth?
Phineas pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders and leaned closer to the fire. He watched the red and orange flames dance as the fire fed upon the wood. A face appeared in the flickering inferno, as if by miracle or sorcery.
“No,” the single word escaped Phineas’ lips.
Murderer. The wind accused again.
The face in the fire stared back at him, eyes filled with accusations.
“Murderer,” the face hissed.
“No,” Phineas said to the face of his beloved.
The fire cracked in response, causing the elderly man to flinch. Phineas jumped out of the straight back chair. Cornelius. He needed Cornelius.
The figure in the doorway brought him to a stop. Madeline stood there, reeking of death. It was the same name carved into the headstone in the manor’s cemetery.
The fire cracked again as his beloved crept closer to return the favor.
Favor had not been shown to our family in the eyes of the Little One. He stood on top of a rusty metallic chariot once used by the old ones. He surveyed the surrounding crowd with a pompous expression. We were on our knees in front of the chariot.
I watched as everyone looked away when the Little One’s eyes fell upon them. Fear firmly gripped them, shattering what spirit these people—my people—once had. Gone was the hope I had witnessed so shortly ago.
It was my fault.
The Little One’s gaze became that of stone as he came to my family. My Da, Ma, Suz, and Nik looked away, as was the custom. When his eyes fell upon me, I didn’t look away. Instead I smiled.
Fire burned in the Little One’s eyes at my audacity. He bared his teeth, as a predator eyes its prey. His feet lifted off the surface of the metallic chariot.
Lightning sparked in the sky above. The Little One looked up in surprise, for he didn’t know the magnitude of my power.
The lightning struck the Little One out of the sky. His chard body fell to the chariot with a thud.
I was not prey.
Those From the Sky
Prey—or humans as they were once known—scattered at the sight of Those From the Sky.
A metal orb hovered three feet above the ground.
It spun in a continuous circle, as if surveying its surroundings with imaginary eyes.
Zara watched as her kinfolk pushed each other aside in their effort to flee the seemingly innocent object.
Unlike her kinfolk, she was finished running.
She held a long wooden stick that she had been using to play a rudimentary game with the other kids.
They had thought it was only a game. It wasn’t.
Zara dug her heels into the pavement and squeezed the stick tight.
The orb picked her out of the fleeing prey; the only prey that wasn’t so.
She was prepared when it flew at her. With a mighty swing, she connected with the orb containing an alien within. The orb flew through the sky and out of sight.
Zara was still watching when a mass of orbs appeared in the sky flying in her direction.
Heels dug in and the stick gripped firmly, she awaited their arrival.
I hope you enjoyed these short stories. Remember to follow your dreams, even if they terrify you.
Stephen Michael Roth
3 thoughts on “The First Word”
Very creative! I don’t think that one was a cheat. Just inspired 🙂 cool that you did this on your phone too.
Sounds like an interesting read. I generally don’t read a lot of horror, but I do enjoy it. Much of my reading is historical fiction, either ancient history (anything from Greec/Rome to Danes and Vikings or something Arthurian or maybe Napoleonic perhaps).
It’s hard to keep up a blog when like gets in the way isn’t it. That is very much my problem, being very busy with a full time job, so even when I finish work, my head is too tired to think about writing either articles or the books that I would love to progress with.