Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

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Photo © Dawn M. Miller

Royce fidgeted with his watch. His excitement over being chosen to visit the Kanamits planet was barely enough to quell his fear of interstellar travel. His fellow travelers milled around looking equally nervous.

When the loudspeakers in the sky terminal announced that boarding was about to commence, Royce sighed heavily. Still, as he walked past the imposing nine foot figures of his new alien hosts, he still couldn’t shake the same anxiety he felt when they first appeared on Earth several years ago. Since that time they had proven their benevolence to humanity but still – they way they leered at him as he climbed the ramp onto the spaceship – it was unnerving.

Just then a woman burst through the crowd of people on the ground below and started shouting at another passenger. Royce just made out her words before he ascended.

“Mr. Chambers, don’t get on that ship. The rest of the book… To Serve Man… it’s a cookbook!”

Royce shrugged. Not my business. He boarded the ship, never looking back.

[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words.

This was a nod of thanks to one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes. I hope you liked it.]

~V

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Recycling

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When they finally discovered her body, animals and the elements had reduced it to nothing more than a collection of bones loosely held together by sinewy strands of ligaments. It would take them weeks to identify her.

I knew.

It wasn’t the first time one of my girls had been found, but the cops hadn’t yet realized the bodies were connected. They’d figure it out.

The first one was a surprise: a neighbor girl selling some kind of cookies for a school trip. I invited her in and showed her my playroom. I hadn’t planned on actually trying out my toys on a person, but there she was so I decided it was time to take things to the next level.

After that it was easy. Their delicious screams filled my sound-proof room. Their blood was sweet and warm. And when I was done, I was responsible. I am an environmentalist, you know, so I made sure to return them back to nature.

I didn’t count on that last one though. How she got loose I’ll never know. She showed me how much my toys really hurt. I hope they dispose of my body properly. I am, after all, biodegradable.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

 

The Gorgon’s Garden

© Phylor
© Phylor

[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words.

I went far over the limit this week and so I felt I should include this disclaimer for those who want to keep their reading short. I understand if you choose not to read this as it’s much longer than the challenge allows, but once I started writing the story, I just couldn’t stop. For those that do read it, I truly hope you enjoy it.]

 

Saretha eyed the colorful bougainvillea that framed the entrance to the garden. When her family first moved to Kalamata six months ago, she’d begged her mother to visit, but had been rebuffed.

“It’s not a public garden, dear. It belongs to an eccentric old woman who apparently doesn’t like visitors. I’m sorry.” her mother had explained.

The path to school took Saretha by the garden twice a day. The intoxicating fragrances from the blossoms beckoned to her and finally, no longer able to obey her mother’s instructions, she found herself wandering through the entrance.

A spectacle of pigments greeted her. Trees, shrubs and vines, all bedecked with blossoms of every shade of the rainbow were laid out before her. A stone path wound its way through the vegetation.

Saretha glided as though in a trance through the winding curves of the pathway. She was so entranced with the living things she scarcely noticed the multitude of statues that punctuated all the grottos. Each depicted a child in various poses. Saretha bent low to smell a bright yellow rose when a voice from behind startled her.

“What are you doing here?”

Saretha spun around and stared wide-eyed at the older woman standing before her. The lady was dressed in a long, white gown, made from some light material that Saretha did not recognize. It swayed in the gentle breeze, exposing much of the woman’s long legs and bare arms.

Upon her head was a wrap made of blue material and her eyes were shaded with dark-tinted glasses. She looked down on Saretha, hands on her hips waiting for a response.

“I – I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t be in here. My mom told me it was private property, but it just looked and smelled so beautiful I thought I’d take a quick peek. I guess I wandered in farther than I meant to.”

The woman regarded her intruder for a moment and then smiled.

“That’s quite alright dear. I like a girl with spunk. Never be afraid to follow your heart… or your nose.”

Saretha exhaled heavily. It seemed she might not be in trouble after all. The woman held out her hand.

“Come with me. I’ll give you a tour of the garden.”

Saretha and the woman joined hands and began to walk.

“What’s your name?” asked the woman.

“Saretha,” came the reply.

“A beautiful name,” said the woman. “I am Meddy Venizelos.”

As the two traversed the maze of pathways in the garden, Meddy questioned Saretha on her knowledge of Greek mythology. Months before her family moved to Greece, Saretha had studied the classic tales of lore, including the heroic adventures of Theseus, Heracles and Perseus as well as Homer’s stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

When Saretha mentioned the name Perseus, Meddy stopped before a statue of a young girl who sat on the ground and appeared to be holding her arms up as if shielding herself from something. The arms had broken off the statue, but it was clear from the expression on the girls face the sculptor had meant to depict her as fearful.

Meddy fingered the vines of jasmine that grew up a trellis next to the statue.

“Tell me what you know of Perseus,” she asked, watching Saretha from out of the corner of her eye.

“Well,” began Saretha. “Before Heracles, Perseus was thought to be the greatest Greek hero and slayer of monsters. He was a demigod and the son of Zeus. He’s most famous for slaying the Gorgon Medusa, a horrible beast that had snakes for hair. She had the power to turn people to stone, but Perseus used his polished shield to see reflections and was able to behead her.”

Saretha smiled up at Meddy, hoping her knowledge of mythology impressed her new friend.

Meddy looked down at Saretha. “Yes, that is what most people believe. That horrid Perseus told terrible lies about his encounter with a beautiful creature who’s only crime was to be lovelier than all of the goddesses.”

Saretha watched as Meddy slowly began unwrapping her head covering. She’d not really paid close attention before, but now as she stared she realized that the wrap seemed to be moving.

Meddy continued. “The greatest lie that Perseus told was that he beheaded the Gorgon. Medusa defeated him in battle and was about to add him to her collection of statues when he made a moving plea for his life. He told Medusa of his love for a woman, Andromeda and begged to be spared so that he may return to her. Medusa was so touched by his story, she allowed him to leave with his life.”

Saretha watched in horror as the blue fabric fell away from Meddy’s head to reveal a tangle of writhing serpents, hissing as they squirmed.

“Allowing him to live was the greatest mistake Medusa ever made. She vowed that never again would she let a mortal live if one were to wander so foolishly into her domain.”

The truth slammed Saretha like a hammer to the chest. The intoxicating smells of the garden were meant to lure children in like a rat catching the scent of cheese. The statues that dotted the garden had not been carved. They were the victims.

Meddy bent low as she reached to remove her sunglasses.

“Can you guess what became of the Gorgon, my dear Saretha?”

Saretha’s screams died quickly as her vocal cords transformed from flesh to stone.

“I must find a special place for you, dear. I rather liked you.”

~V

 

The Kindness of Strangers

© Piya Singh
© Piya Singh

The day the strangers rode up to my door, I welcomed them. When they asked for water, I offered them all they could drink from the small stream that ran in front of my humble home. When they asked for food, I fed them from my stores. When they asked for wine, I broke out my last bottle. When they drew their swords and demanded money, I relinquished my last coin.

When they began coughing blood from the poison I’d slipped in the wine, I smiled. When they begged for mercy, I let them know I was fresh out.

Word Count: 99

[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less.]

~V

Eye of the Beholder

© Barbara Taylor
© Barbara Taylor

“This next one I call ‘Frozen Skyline’,” said Paul gesturing to the framed photograph.

Trevor regarded the image with a keen eye. It showed the back of a person sitting on a snow covered bench looking out at the tall skyscrapers of Manhattan.

“This seems a bit… mundane for you, Paul,” said Trevor. “I mean, considering…”

Trevor gestured around the gallery at the dozens of macabre pictures that adorned the walls: Close-ups of bloodshot eyeballs, a hearse with a long funeral procession following it, chipped gravestones covered in vines. The painting before the two men seemed out of place.

Paul laughed. “It would seem that way, wouldn’t it? But I came across that man, a bum, sitting on the bench, frozen to death. I have no idea how long he’d been there, but people just walked past him without ever noticing he was a corpsesickle. So I took the shot.”

Knowing he was staring at a dead man forever captured in time sickened Trevor. He savored that feeling.

“And you want how much?” asked Trevor

“Ten thousand.”

“Sold,” said Trevor.

[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words.]

~V

The Secret Ingredient

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

Jenny glanced at the painted words stretched across the side of the old bridge as she and Bryan drove underneath.

“The Pies?” she frowned.

Bryan shrugged. “Ya got me. Maybe some clever local advertising?”

Five minutes later they approached Wilhelmine’s Diner. “Best Homemade Meat Pies in Plainfield” it read underneath her sign.

Jenny grinned at Bryan. “Wanna stop for some pie?”

[12 hours earlier]

Amanda dragged herself through the brush near the old bridge. The deep gash on her leg was allowing an exodus of blood. She knew she didn’t have long. The can of spray paint in her hand that she’d used to burn George and escape was all she had now, having lost her lighter. While she remained conscious, she decided to put the paint to it’s proper use.

Leaning over the edge of the bridge, she sprayed the words “Don’t Eat The Pies”. As she finished, a twig snapped. George loomed above her with meat cleaver in hand. Amanda knew he’d finish what he started when she and her husband had stopped to eat at Wilhelmine’s.

The diner’s proprietor always used fresh meat for her pastries and unsuspecting tourists provided a bountiful supply.

Word Count: 198

[This is my entry into the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, hosted by Alastair Forbes. Write a short story of 200 words or less from the photo prompt provided.]

~V

There’s Always a Vacancy

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Brenda stopped outside the office door.

“I am not staying here, honey.”

“You heard the mechanic. The car won’t be fixed until tomorrow. And this is the only motel in town. Where else are we going to stay?” asked Calvin.

Brenda frowned but opened the door.

The clean cut man behind the desk smiled.

“Welcome! Will you be staying with us tonight?”

Calvin glanced at the man’s name tag. “Yes… Norman. Just one night please.”

“Wonderful,” replied Norman. “It’s so nice to have guests. We’re a bit off the beaten path and mother and I don’t get too many visitors.”

“Mother?” asked Brenda.

“Oh, my mother owns the motel. But she’s elderly and I run it now.”

Brenda gave an angry glance at her husband. He returned a sheepish smile.

As they exited the small office, Norman called to them.

“Feel free to shower as long as you like. We have lots of hot water.”

Later that night as they prepared for bed, Brenda complained again.

“Seriously? Norman? Mother owns the motel?” This is not good.”

Calvin laughed. “You watch way too many horror movies. Now come to bed. You’ll feel better in the morning.”

Norman fidgeted nervously with the long knife. Mother would be upset. He was about to be naughty again.

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less. I went over this week, so my apologies.]

~V

 

Aqua Lung

Photo prompt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
Photo prompt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

“Tara! Where have you been? And where’s your sister?”

” We were just playing on the rocks by the water, Mommy,” replied Tara.

“Where’s Tricia?”

“She’s playing ‘fish’,” replied the young girl.

“What are you talking about?” asked her mother.

“I told her that people can breathe underwater like fishes and she said they couldn’t so I held her under the water to show her.”

“What? Oh my God!” yelled their mother, running towards the rocky shore.

“It’s ok, Mommy. She’s still floating there!” Tara yelled after her mother.

She grinned. It was nice to finally prove her sister wrong.

Word Count: 99

[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less. The title is not a reference to the fantastic album by Jethro Tull but rather a subtle play on words as well as a nod to the SCUBA device.]

~V

 

 

 

 

Second Funeral

Second Funeral

I grabbed the hammer in my right hand and snatched up a handful of nails in my left. My hands trembled so badly I could barely steady the first nail long enough to drive it into the wooden plank.

Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

Each strike of the hammer against the nail echoed the thumping of my heartbeat. I knew I had to work quickly. The animal tranquilizer I’d stolen from the veterinarian’s office wouldn’t keep it immobile for long.

When the last nail was gone, I let the hammer fall from my hand. It thumped into the soft dirt under my feet.

The trip to Haiti had been for naught. That voodoo witch doctor had lied to me. The resurrection spell he’d provided re-animated my dead wife’s corpse, but it didn’t bring her back. Not the way I’d wanted. Whatever it was that had returned to me was something horrible. I realized only now that what was dead must stay dead.

I sucked in air and filled my lungs and let it out with a loud “Whoosh”. I was out of time.

I bent low and lifted the oblong pine crate up on one end and moved it over onto the ropes I’d laid out. I repeated the movement with the lower end until the ropes I’d rigged with pulleys hanging from the tree above were firmly underneath. Then I pulled hard and hoisted the makeshift coffin into the air and pushed it over the hole I’d dug.

It was taking too long to lower the crate. I thought I felt stirring inside. I’d dug the grave six feet down but I wasn’t sure if that would be deep enough. I prayed that it was.

When the box settled on the bottom, I quickly tossed the ropes in on top of it. Grabbing the shovel I started to scoop the freshly turned dirt from the pile next to the grave. As the first shovel full of dirt hit the box below, I heard a loud moan. The second shovel full landed and was followed by a powerful bang against the boards. The tranquilizers had worn off.

I shoveled faster.

~V

Trespassers Will Be…

PHOTO PROMPT © Mary Shipman
PHOTO PROMPT © Mary Shipman

Kerry knew she’d made the right choice to enter the abandoned home the moment she spied the accoutrements hanging from the ceiling: Rolling pins, lanterns, cast iron skillets and pale aprons. The rich Amish heritage was scattered throughout the simple structure. She’d be able to fill an entire gallery with the photos she’d take here.

A year later, the only photo of Kerry’s that hung around town was a self portrait her mother used to make her “missing person” sign. It seems Kerry made a terrible mistake. The home wasn’t abandoned after all and even dead Amish hate technology.

Word Count: 99

[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less.]

~V

Birth Announcement

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

The foot from the first child to disappear was found floating in a water-filled ditch near the old drainage pipe on the outskirts of town only a few days after her family reported her missing. The local police spent the next several weeks investigating the murder with few leads and no results.

When young Henry Barton vanished from his bed a month later, the townsfolk started speaking of a serial killer and the local paper wasn’t kind to those that were investigating the crimes. Words like “incompetent” and “bumbling” were used and the chief of police felt the public pressure to find the killer.

It wasn’t until the fourth child went missing that the police realized all the kidnappings were occurring on the night before the full moon. When the press got wind of this, stories of “ritual killings” and “demonic cults” began appearing on the front page.

Less than exemplary police work led them to Carl Booker, a local butcher and former resident of Memorial Oaks Psychiatric Hospital. While no physical evidence was ever found, both the police and the public were satisfied the killer had been caught. The night after his arrest, the people of Terrance, Illinois rested peacefully.

Two nights before the next full moon, two glowing eyes peered out of the drainage pipe. Tomorrow night it would hunt again. This time it would have to bring home far more fresh meat than before. On the night of the full moon, the large, squirming egg sac that hung in the chamber deep in the sewer where it had been living would burst and hundreds of it’s young would crawl forth, famished and requiring sustenance.

The creature knew it’s family wouldn’t starve. It had found a plentiful supply of food.

[This is my entry into the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, hosted by Alastair Forbes. Write a short story of 200 words or less from the photo prompt provided. I went over the word count today but I felt the story need the extra room to breathe.]

~V

Clownface

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll
PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

“That’s it,” said Kevin, pointing at the old brick building with boarded windows. “That’s where they found the bodies.”

“So Clownface is real?” asked A.J.?

“Yeah. Killed sixteen kids back in like… the 70’s or something,” whispered Kevin. “He peeled off their skin and made his clown masks from it.”

“But they caught him, right?” A.J. asked nervously.

“Raaaaah!”

A.J. spun around to see a figure in a clown mask behind him. He dropped and shrieked.

Tony pulled off the mask and laughed. Kevin joined him.

“We totally got you!” yelled Tony.

“Not funny!” complained A.J. picking himself up.

From behind the boards of the top window, two eyes behind a brightly painted masked watched the three boys. Powerful fingers gripped an axe.

[This is my entry into this weeks Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Use the photo prompt to create a short story in 100 words or less. Sorry for going over on this one.]

~V

The Darker Side of Daylight

© A Mixed Bag
© A Mixed Bag

Larry perspired profusely in the sweltering mid afternoon sun, despite the gentle breeze that blew through the park. It was almost as if that weird comet passing by the earth was cranking up the thermometer. The scientists on the news had warned that it was emitting bursts of strange radiation. People had been warned to stay inside while it passed. Larry had scoffed at that. He never missed his daily walk.

With the sun at his back, he glanced of his shadow. Frowning, he noticed a tail protruding from his backside. He spun around, trying to spot whatever was causing the illusion. Just trees and park benches. When he returned his gaze, he saw the tail had disappeared, but now there were two strange spikes atop his shadow’s head, like horns. His hands felt his scalp. Nothing. He checked behind him again. The scene remained the same.

Puzzled he turned back and gasped. Only grass greeted him. He no longer cast a shadow.

How?

Larry felt a cold stinging on his legs. His heart beat wildly in his chest. Slowly he cast his eyes downward.

Larry screamed at what crawled up his leg. He’d found his shadow.

Word Count: 197

[This is my entry into the Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, hosted by Alastair Forbes. Write a short story of 200 words or less from the photo prompt provided.]

~V

Hair of the Dog

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A blinding light assaulted his eyes as Grady regained consciousness. A shriek of tires on asphalt nearly deafened him as the oncoming car swerved at the last moment. Leaping to his left, he slammed into the cold guard rail along the side of the freeway and rolled over hard metal onto the gravel covered ground. Lying there, Grady become aware of his nakedness.

His last memory was of sitting at home, fixing himself his first cocktail of the night. That’s the last time I drink that cheap Irish Whiskey, thought Grady.

* * *

High above the Earth, in invisible orbit hovered the Xakturian science vessel. Zignat the teleporter technician fumbled frantically with the controls of the equipment in front of him. His captain’s face appeared on the large communications screen.

“Ensign, the coordinates from the tracking beacon we secured on that last human subject is 17 bartrots from his designated return location. What happened?” barked his captain.

“Teleporter error, sir. I’m working on it now.” he lied, trying to sound confident.

“Make sure the equipment is fixed before returning the next one,” growled the captain.

“Aye sir,”

That’s the last time I drink that cheap Alterian whiskey before starting my shift, thought Zignat.

Word Count: 200

[This is my entry into the Flash Fiction Challenge for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner by Roger Shipp. Write a story based on a photo prompt and introductory sentence in 200 words or less.]

~V

That Song Has Soul

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The circle was drawn and candles were lit. Gordon started the incantation. He tried to keep his voice steady, but fear and anticipation made it difficult.

“Renich Tasa Uberaca Biasa Icar”

The candles flickered. Gordon heard a low rumbling. From within the circle, ornately drawn with esoteric symbols, a shadow grew. Gordon felt a chill growing from within him.

A voice, deep and horrifying poured from thick blackness contained by the spell.

“Who summons me?”

“Lord Lucifer, by command of this spell, I bring thee forth to offer fair trade!” Gordon shouted, wide-eyed.

“What is your desire?”

“I… I want to be a famous rock star. Money, women… I want it all.” Gordon stammered.

“And what do you offer in return?”

Gordon paused. Once uttered, there was no going back. He clenched his fists in resolve.

“My soul!”

“Agreed.”

“But there’s a condition…” Gordon continued. “You cannot take my soul until I’ve had a number one hit.”

A long silence followed. Gordon feared his caveat may have come too late.

Then, “Agreed.”

Gordon smiled. Eternal life! he thought. Gordon had no intention of ever writing a number one hit. His soul was safe forever.

Ten years later Gordon Hershowitz, a.k.a. Blaze Axeton sat sipping champagne in his penthouse while numerous young women in various states of dress pranced about, entertaining his band mates.

“This is the life, eh guys?” he yelled as AC/DC’s song “Highway to Hell” blared loudly.

Jeffrey, the assistant to Thomas Mann, the record label exec burst into the room holding a magazine.

“Turn the music down!” he shouted.

Once everyone could hear him he made his announcement, grinning.

“Great news guys! Just got the advanced copy of Billboard. You’re never gonna believe it. The new single, “Devil’s Due” came in at number one!”

Cheers erupted in the room. Everyone was toasting except for Gordon. His eyes were wide and his hands trembled. In a daze, he grabbed his guitar, which was never far from him. He held it tightly.

The cheers faded away as a dark, deep voice filled his head. He felt a chill from within.

“Payment is due!”

Gordon screamed as he burst into flames. His clothes, guitar and flesh all were consumed by Hell fire. Everyone in the room backed away in horror as the number one songwriter turned to ash before them.

As his band mates shuffled from his funeral, Marco commented, “They’re gonna have one heck of a band in Hell.”

[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge, hosted by Priceless Joy. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words. My apologies for once again going over the limit.]

~V