Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Jenny

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The following is a piece of fiction that I wrote about the dangers of the occult. If you are easily frightened by supernatural stories, then you may want to think twice before reading any further.

It’s been a while since things have stopped. I still take sleeping pills every night and leave the lights and TV on. Five years is a long time, but it’s nowhere near enough to erase what happened from my memory; it will haunt me until the day I die.

I can trace it all back to the Ouija board. It had all the features of the old thick wooden ones you see in horror movies: a flat board with the alphabet and numbers inscribed across it; the ominous words goodbye, yes and no at the bottom; and the small triangular planchette, or pointer, as we called it, that the spirits use to communicate with the living.

But mine wasn’t all that mystic-looking; it was made by Milton Bradley, for crying out loud, and the planchette was made of cheap plastic with China stamped on the underside. I bought it at the mall toy store with money from my minimum-wage job at the time. I was actually disappointed because I did want an old one from a dusty antique store, but the picture on the flat rectangular box sort of made up for that. It showed a gray-haired Gypsy fortune-teller hunched over a talking board in a candle-lit room.

I couldn’t wait to show my girlfriend. I brought it home one day – without the box of course; I didn’t want her to see that it was made by the same company that produced Candy Land.

We went into the bedroom, turned off the lights, and closed the blinds. It was afternoon, so the room was still as bright as ever. So much for the ambience.

“If we place our fingertips on this triangle piece and ask a question,” I told Jenny, “the board will give us an answer. A male and female are ideal because of their energy balance.”

“Oh,” Jenny responded, her eyes growing larger. I didn’t tell her that I had read all that on the instruction sheet inside the box.

“Ask it something,” Jenny said, urging me in a hushed tone.

“What do you want me to ask it?” I replied, not taking my eyes off the black letters and numbers on the beige background.

“Um… Are we gonna get married?”

I stared at the planchette.

“Ask it!” Jenny said impatiently.

“You just did,” I replied.

Jenny sighed.

“Okay, okay.” In a solemn voice, I asked the board the question.

We both gazed at the planchette, making sure not to apply too much pressure so that the spirits could move it.

Nothing happened.

“Why don’t we ask something personal about the spirit? You know, an icebreaker question. Maybe we have to get to know it first. Each board is inhabited by a different ghost,” I said, dropping some more knowledge; this time it was from a movie.

“All right. How about its name?” Jenny suggested.

I nodded, took a few seconds to compose myself, and then asked the question. Oh great, I thought when the planchette still didn’t move. What a bunch of garbage.

Just then, the plastic triangle moved slowly but steadily beneath our fingertips. We both gasped at the same time, my pulse throbbing.

“Stop moving it!” I whispered to Jenny, my voice filled with panic.

“I’m not!” she whispered back, equally freaked-out.

I could not comprehend the sight before me. The planchette moved methodically to three different letters and then stopped, pausing only a second at each one. It had spelled out the name Sam.

“How did you die?” Jenny asked next, her voice quivering. The planchette slowly spelled out car.

“Do you mean a car accident?” I asked. The pointer moved down and stopped at  yes.

I continued, mesmerized, drawn into this bizarre conversation. “How old were you?” Our fingers moved, along with the planchette, to the number 2. We gotta get out of here! My mind screamed out.

Jenny asked the next question excitedly. We were on a roll. “How can you spell if you’re only two years old?”

No! I thought. Now she’s angered the spirit.

The planchette crept along the board, this time straight downward. It stopped at the bottom, on the word goodbye.

“Why—“ Jenny started. I quickly put my hand on her arm.

“Goodbye, Sam,” I interrupted, my heart racing inside my chest like an engine.

As I closed the board and set it aside, Jenny looked at me, eyebrows raised. “What happened? Why did we suddenly stop?”

“The Ouija board – I mean, the spirit – gets tired or whatever and decides when it’s time to stop. If we keep asking questions when it doesn’t want to answer…” I trailed off. “We wouldn’t want that.”

Jenny sat looking at the floor, her arms folded. I shivered; the air seemed colder.

#####

The sounds started a few nights later after we first contacted Sam. I awoke from a light, restless sleep. The moonlight shone on the bed from between the slits in the blinds, illuminating Jenny’s face. Apparently she didn’t hear anything. Lucky her. The fear was too much for my mind. I felt like I was on a roller coaster going down the first big dip.

The noise was just outside the bedroom in the hall – it sounded like a child’s tricycle: the squeak of the wheels against the metal frame, the slight rumble as it rolled along the wood floor. Jenny lay peacefully, a faint smile on her lips. Man, how I envied her at that moment. “Jenny,” I whispered urgently, shaking her. She groaned and turned over.

“Who’s there?” I called out into the darkness. No answer. I suppressed an urge to scream as the sound of the tricycle stopped and started. I could hear the muted grunts of a child straining to turn the pedals.

I frantically recited Hail Marys and Our Fathers, dusty prayers from my youth that came back to me so easily now.

Sometime later, I drifted off to sleep.

Around dawn, I awoke from a nightmare. Without thinking, I jumped out of bed, grabbed the Ouija board box from the hall closet, and ran outside to the dumpster. I tossed away the box and walked back to our apartment.

#####

Jenny’s voice was muffled and faraway. My eyes popped open, remnants of ice still in my bloodstream from late last night.

“Hey, have you seen my white blouse?”

“No,” I muttered, bleary-eyed and groggy. Everything was all right; maybe it was all just a dream. “Did you hear anything last night?” I called to her, slowly sitting up on the bed.

“Yeah,” she said, walking into the bedroom. “Just your snoring as usual. It’s a wonder you didn’t wake yourself up.”

“What? You were sound asleep all night!”

Jenny smiled, her perfect white teeth and sea-green eyes melting me. “Like always,” she said, embracing my neck. Wrapping my arms around her slender waist, I pulled her closer. She giggled as her long auburn hair tumbled over her forehead, obscuring her radiant face.

I don’t remember hearing the tricycle again.

#####

A few nights later, I was awaken by Jenny’s sudden movement. Suppressing an urge to scream, I turned to her. “What’s wrong?” I called out. She didn’t move. I sat up and followed her gaze, and that’s when I saw it.

A figure of a woman, her hourglass figure etched by the faint moonlight, stood a few yards away from Jenny. The woman wore a long black dress and a wide-brimmed black hat with a thin veil covering her face.  Jenny remained motionless, transfixed by the sight before us.

“Go away!” I screamed hysterically, and the woman instantly vanished. Jenny, her daze broken, turned on the bedside lamp while I scrambled to flip on the overhead light switch, horrified beyond words. “We’re not staying here!” I bellowed. “Things are getting stranger—“

–and closer,” Jenny added, shivering.

“What’s wrong with you? How can you be so calm?” I yelled.

“I don’t know…” she replied, struggling for words. “I guess I didn’t feel threatened. Peace. I felt at peace.”

I shook my head. The Ouija board was long gone. So why was all of this still happening? I shuddered at the thoughts zooming through my head.

#####

We ended up moving into a smaller apartment closer to downtown, thinking that the constant bustle of the city would make us feel better than in the quiet suburbs.

The first night was normal; so normal that we ended up turning off the lights and TV. “I think we left it behind,” Jenny said the following day while unpacking.

I grunted, helping her unload the rest of our junk. As I got to the bottom of one of the boxes, panic grabbed my heart with ice-cold hands. I screamed as my eyes locked onto the rectangular box with the Milton Bradley fortune-teller on it.

Jenny came over and put a hand on my shoulder. “What is it?” she asked, alarmed.

I didn’t have to tell her. She looked down at the ominous words on the board game and let loose with a terrifying shriek.

“I—I threw it away. I remember!”

Ripping open the lid, I took out the fold-up board and tore it in half along the crease and took everything outside. I ran down the steps two at a time, headed for the huge dumpster on the far side of the property. The late afternoon sunlight looked hazy and surreal around me, like I was running through a nightmare.

But that night, nothing. Only quiet.

#####

Watching TV with my feet propped up on the coffee table, I barely heard Jenny’s soft voice in the other room. “I’m going to bed.”

“All right,” I said without looking away from the screen.

After the movie was over, I began clicking through the channels to see what else was on. The sudden shrieking from the bedroom startled me so badly that I dropped the remote and froze. It was Jenny, but I had no idea her voice was capable of such madness.

My mind spun with horror. No matter how hard I tried, I could not move my body. Am I dreaming? Finally I pried myself off the sofa and struggled with each step toward the bedroom, my legs feeling like cement.

At the doorway, I stood transfixed as Jenny thrashed on the bed, her arms and legs pinned down by invisible straps. “Help! Please, no!” she screamed, her voice growing more and more hoarse with each word.

As I drew closer, I saw that her bare arms and legs were covered with long, red scratches. Her eyes, bulging with insanity, darted from side to side.

My bladder unloaded as I witnessed fresh scratches forming on her cheeks. No, this isn’t happening! I thought. Gasping for air, I mustered every ounce of strength and grabbed Jenny by the shoulders and shook her violently. “Jenny! Jenny!” I shouted. She didn’t acknowledge me at all.

Cursing and crying now, I tried pulling her off the bed, but she wouldn’t budge. Whatever was holding her there was too strong. Then, before I realized it, she became still and her cries tapered off. Jenny lay on her back, panting, staring at the ceiling. “Sam,” she gasped between deep breaths.

I hugged her sweat-drenched body. After a moment, her breathing stopped and she went limp in my arms.

#####

I can’t believe it’s been five years already.

I still see her in my dreams every now and then. She never talks, though; only smiles. That wonderful, gorgeous smile. I try to reach out to touch her, but each time she fades away like a mist.

Perhaps she will come tonight. I lie back on my pillow, squinting at the glare of the overhead light. The sleeping pills start to take effect, and I become oblivious to the blaring TV.

“Jenny,” I whisper to the empty room as I drift off to sleep.

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Homosexuality and Bullying

Credit: Fotolia

I have taken part in several flash fiction challenges over the years. I love writing, and writing extremely short pieces of fiction really pushes me and helps me to develop more as a writer. Hopefully at some point I can make time to continue this guilty pleasure.

I had wanted to discuss two different issues on this blog at some point in time; however, after going through my old file of stories, I found something that should really be categorized as “flash flash fiction:” The challenge was to write a story in only 100 words. 100. That is probably as long as my “About Me” page on my blog. Ridiculously brief. And that’s why I took the challenge!

What’s interesting is that the 100-word flash fiction piece addresses both of the issues that I wanted to write about. Why not kill two birds with one stone? I originally wanted to discuss each topic in separate posts, but I will attempt to merge them here and try not to bore you with an outrageously long post.

Anyway, here is the flash fiction piece entitled “Bullies and the Bullied:”

We always made Todd close his eyes in the shower after gym class.  Once, during our barrage of insults, I threw his clothes in the trash barrel.

Todd spoke softly with a lisp and only hung out with girls.  As far as I knew, he never got beat up; no guy wanted to touch him.

After that school year, we never saw him again.

***

My son’s junior high photo smiles at me from the mantle. “Of course I still love and accept you, Michael,” I say to it, wiping my eyes.

When you get home from school, I’ll tell you that, buddy.

(I wonder how many of you counted those words…? I might have been off by a few.)

The inspiration for the second half of the “story” came from a conversation that I had with my wife shortly after our oldest son (now seven-years-old) was born. I have read about quite a few parents over the years who had to come to terms with the fact that their son or daughter was gay. When I lived in Japan, I had a Canadian friend who was disowned and told to “go to hell” by his parents after coming out to them.

Of course my wife and I didn’t have to think about our response at all; we would love and accept both sons because they mean more to us than life itself. I would never have the heart to cut off all contact with my two little buddies.

Now, that doesn’t mean we would support the lifestyle. I’m sure you noticed that this blog is written by a Catholic, and I accept and believe what the Catholic Church teaches on homosexuality. But nowhere does it say that anyone should be looked upon as sub-human.

I am really ashamed to admit that the first part of my story really happened. I was young and foolish. Too concerned with trying to fit in, I joined in on the taunting and verbal abuse of my fellow seventh-grader. How I wish I could go back and shake my younger self by the shoulders and scream, “Look at yourself! Think about what you’re doing to this poor kid!”

But I can’t go back. All I can do now is hope and pray that “Todd” is safe and not going through the harassment like he did every day after gym class so many years ago.

Maybe I joined the crowd because the focus of my peers was temporarily off of my awkward, uncoordinated self. Or maybe because I had to take my frustrations out on someone more vulnerable than I; anger and hurt from my father’s continued physical and verbal abuse during my entire childhood would build up from time to time.

There is never a legitimate reason to bully or hate someone. In fifth grade, our family moved to a new city, and that meant a brand new school for my sister and me. By that age, every kid in my new class already had their social groups fixed, and they made it clear that I wasn’t allowed in. Needless to say, I was bullied and even had mud thrown at me. It wasn’t until later in junior high that I finally made a few friends: other outcasts who knew that strength in numbers would be the only way to survive the dark, scary corridors of high school.

Going back to the topic of homosexuality, the Bible and the Catholic Church have never taught that it is a sin.  Rather, they teach that homosexual activity is a sin because it goes against the laws of God.

God gave each and every one of us dignity when He created us. As a result, every person on the planet deserves our love and respect.

~t


The Flea Market

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“So, let me get this straight,” the bearded old man said, adjusting his round spectacles and placing his palms on the cheap folding table that separated him from the customer. “You want to donate this gorgeous hunk of jewelry? And you don’t want any money if it sells? Well, I can guarantee that it’ll get snatched up as soon as I put it out with the other things.”

The customer, a tall, average-built 30-something, merely nodded. He wanted to explain everything to the old man, but it would have been too embarrassing to start bawling right there in the middle of all the bargain hunters.

The flea market volunteer hesitated and then slowly took the glistening ring from the young man’s outstretched palm. The customer sighed heavily as the small platinum band with the large inset diamond left his possession once and for all. Thoughts and memories flooded the young man’s mind: placing the ring on his new bride’s finger during the ceremony; the bouquets of Oriental lilies filling the chapel with their sweet, pleasing scent; Jennifer whispering “I love you” as they walked down the aisle toward the doors, anxious to begin their new stage of life together; and embracing his little boys every chance he got because they meant everything to him.

“Mister, you can probably get a few hundred for it at a pawn shop. You sure about leaving it here?”

Jim fought back tears. “It’s OK,” he said, waving his hand, barely able to choke out the words.

“Well, all right. That’s mighty kind of you. This’ll make someone’s day, that’s for sure,” the old man said, taking in Jim’s chiseled features. This poor guy is a wreck, he thought.

Turning back to the surplus items in boxes behind the sales tables, the old man didn’t hear Jim’s whispers: “Bye Tyler. Bye Garret. Love you, my buddies.” Jim sniffed and swiped at his nose. “Bye Jennifer.” With that, Jim turned around and weaved through various tables full of clothing and knick-knacks.

Looking back to see that Jim was out of sight, the old man turned to his wife, a round, cheerful lady. “Now, why would he do such a thing? I don’t get it.”

His wife smiled, the crow’s feet accentuating her squinted eyes. “Don’t worry about it, hon. Maybe you’re not supposed to ‘get it.’ Ever think of that? Go ahead and put it over in the ring display.”

The old man examined the exquisite platinum surface. A few scratches, but surely it wasn’t more than a decade old. Could have been a divorce. Then why didn’t he give me his ring as well? The old man became enveloped in his own thoughts. Everyone told him he dwelt on things too much; that it was a weakness of his. 

Instead of placing the glistening treasure among the gaudy, rusted rings, the old man dropped it in his apron pocket instead. He wasn’t about to let just anyone have it for next to nothing.

#####

By Sunday afternoon, most of the decent stuff, if you could call it that, had been snatched up. The tables in the sprawling yard of the community center contained only junk: watches that didn’t work; old, ratty clothing that no one would even pay 25 cents for; baby dolls with missing limbs; and so on.

About a third of the tables had been folded up and removed, leaving room for the children to run around while their occupied mothers milled about.

The old man set the newspaper on the chair beside his table and shook his head. He breathed heavily.

“What’s wrong, dear?” His wife glanced down to the folded paper showing a portion of the obituaries. The prominent photo showed a handsome, smiling man still in the prime of his life.  “Didn’t I tell you to stop reading this section!”

The old man sighed. “That’s him. The guy who gave me his wife’s fancy wedding ring.” He shook his head again and wiped his eyes with a red handkerchief from his back pocket.

The woman picked up the paper. “James Michael Sherman.” She quickly scanned the few paragraphs under the photo and name. “Passed away Friday. Survived by his ex-wife Jennifer and two young sons.” She placed the paper on the table and covered her mouth, tears trickling down her face.

The old couple embraced, gently swaying back and forth.

“Um, excuse me.” The old couple let go of each other and looked behind them. A young guy dressed in a faded Polo shirt and shorts stood near the ring display. “Is this all that’s left?”

The old woman walked over to the man, forcing a smile. “I’m sorry, sir. They’ve been picked through all weekend,” she said, motioning toward the cheap remnants in the ring case.

The old man approached. “Looking for something in particular?”

The Polo guy smoothed his dark hair to the side. “Uh, I was hoping to find something for my fiancé. I don’t think she would go for these huge gaudy things, though.” He laughed.

“Have you tried the mall? Some of the jewelry places are having big sales, with the economy the way it is and all,” the old woman said.

The young guy laughed again, this time in embarrassment. “Speaking of the economy, I got laid off right after I proposed to her. Her folks are paying for the wedding, but I really wanted to give her something special. I guess that won’t be happening now,” he said, his eyes sinking to the ground.

“Wait here.” The old man turned and pretended to rummage through a box. Instead he pulled the platinum diamond ring from his apron pocket and turned back around. “Here it is! I knew it was in there somewhere.” He held up the shiny piece of craftsmanship.

“Whoa… How much do you want for it?” the young man exclaimed.

“Fifty dollars,” the old woman said softly.

“I’ll take it!”

After the Polo guy bought the ring and practically sprinted away, the old man reached for his wife’s hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back and put her head on his chest.

~t


That Fateful Night: An Excerpt

Credit: realhdwallpaper.com

I have been writing a lot for the past couple of years. How much is a lot, you ask? Well, I have a few completed manuscripts that I’ve accumulated.

That’s great!! What are you waiting for?? Send them in!!

Ha.

If only it were that easy.

I haven’t wanted to release any of them yet. And the one manuscript that I did shop around turned out to be lacking something. Oh well. We live and learn.

Live.

Yes, it’s all about living. That much I know.

This current project feels like it might be the one that sees the light of day. It may very well be the one that gets published self-published. Why? Because it’s the only one that feels right: the story that is bleeding out of my still-open wounds. It’s not like I’m on a 1,000-word-a-day writing binge, but I’ll get it written at some point.

My goal is to have it finished and bound before my mother passes away. She’s not sick or anything, but she’s the one who keeps urging me to publish it, so I’d at least like to finish it before she does pass away someday. She wants me to get my story out there so others can learn and benefit from it. Plus, she thinks it’ll earn me millions of dollars.

Yeah, right. It helps to dream, though.

Anyway, below is an excerpt from my work in progress (I almost said Enjoy! but decided not to). Mind you, it’s a rough draft, so please overlook mistakes of any kind:

 

**************

 

I never thought I would be so brave as I rushed toward my death. No goodbyes, no crying (and I was quite the crybaby). The four margaritas, each with an extra shot of tequila, had given me the courage, though. They had taken the credit just like everything else in my pathetic life.

Luckily I had enough sense to pick up my prescription at the drive-thru. The Muslim lady with the head scarf gave them to me through the window just like she always did. She has her faith. That’s good, I thought. I had mine: nearly two full bottles of Xanax.

Like in that Clint Eastwood flick where the one-armed deputy had two guns in his belt.  “But you only have one arm,” someone had asked him. “Well, I don’t wanna get killed on account of not being able to fight back,” he had responded. I, too, wanted to be like that.

 

**************

 

Not so smart now, are you?

Why was my mind still working?

Somehow I knew it wasn’t God’s voice; sounded too familiar.

I didn’t see anything.  No blackness.  Just… nothingness.  Even with all the liquor and drugs in my system, I was still somehow tied to reality. What was going on?

 

***************

 

“Scott, Scott, where are you?!” The voice was frantic. I knew it was my wife’s, even in my condition. That smallest hint of recollection. Funny how the mind worked. Her voice sounded tinny, like it was coming from my grandma’s childhood radio that she had shown me pictures of.

I was fumbling with my work bag on the floorboard. “I can’t find my phone!!” I was frantic, too.

But why? 

Oh, I know. 

The redneck standing outside my passenger window. I’m not actually sure if he was a redneck, but that’s what I called those guys in Texas who drove those huge gas-guzzling pickup trucks. I think I had asked him if he were okay. “I’m fine, but your car is totaled,” I remember him saying.

I never started up my car.  I was still in the crowded parking lot of El Ranchito… right?

“Where’s my blasted phone?!” I shrieked again and again. It was no longer in my bag. I was going by my sense of touch, unable to see. I could still hear my poor wife’s frantic question coming through the receiver like a short-circuiting megaphone in the darkness of my mind.

“Scott!!”

 

******************

 

–killed someone!  You could have—

I was on my back, staring up into a bright light. Nothing but radiant fog, like headlights shining through early morning mountain air. It was a woman’s voice. She seemed to be addressing me.

–could have killed—

–someone!

You could have—

Yes, I get it, now shut up, I thought.  All I was conscious of was my vision, or lack thereof; I hadn’t noticed my limbs, if I were even able to move them.  Was I strapped down?  Was I in an ambulance?  Were we in motion?

Who cares?  The radiance was giving way to a shadow; an eclipse entered my line of mental vision and sent icy pellets of fear through my body.

I’m dead.  Oh my God, help me…

Someone had an arm around me and was helping me walk. I felt cold. I sensed that nothing was covering my legs. Where were my clothes? I was doubled over and staggering like an old man, a few baby steps at a time. I’m 6’3” and a lean, solid 220 pounds, so whoever was helping me was pretty strong, that was for sure.

Come on…  you can do it…

An old man’s voice. Maybe it was God.

 

*******************

 

~topaz