The Barn Owl

The winter moon shone through the frosted glass of Ryan Greene’s window illuminating his face. His eyes, wide and unblinking focused on the ceiling of his bedroom. It was far too late for a boy of eight to be lying awake in his bed, but for the third night in a row, Ryan’s slumber had been disturbed by the shrieking from outside.

On the first night, he’d instantly been wrenched from a dulcet dream and sat upright upon hearing the sound. Had he imagined that horrible noise? He’d almost convinced himself that he had when the scream pierced the silence of his room again. It had come from outside.

He’d dared to gaze through his window towards the barn that sat behind his family’s farmhouse. The rickety structure held his father’s tractor and a plethora of farm equipment. It was dusty and smelled of grease and Ryan never liked going in there. His bedroom was on the second floor and he had a clear line of sight to the old building, which had appeared to his eyes as shadowy gray. The light from the quarter moon reflected off the snow casting an eerie glow on the large barn doors, which now stood slightly ajar. Ryan’s stomach tightened. He knew his father always kept the doors closed at night. Seeing them open now sent an unfamiliar tingling down Ryan’s spine.

“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaaaaaa!” That horrible scream erupted again, a high pitched screech that pierced his mind like a dagger. It was clearly coming from inside the barn. Ryan dove for his pillow, scrambling to cover himself completely with his covers. He drew his body up tightly into a ball and squeezed his eyes closed.

“Go away, go away!” he whispered through clenched teeth. He hugged himself and kept repeating his mantra until finally, he heard a knock on his bedroom door.

Continue reading “The Barn Owl”

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

fffaw-2-22-17
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

Recycling

FFfPP-6-10-16

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

 

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

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

Cloudy With a Chance of Rain

© A Storyteller's Abode
© A Storyteller’s Abode

Janice was returning from her morning walk on the beach when she spied the dark clouds moving in from the north.

Strange,” she pondered. “The forecast called for clear skies today.”

Seeing how fast the darkness approached, she quickened her pace. Her condo sat across the street from the beach and she wanted to be inside in case rain began falling.

In her living room, she turned on her television to see what the local weatherman had to say about this meteorological faux pas.

“…and are urging residents to seek shelter where ever they can,” came the voice of the clearly disturbed anchorwoman.

Must be a bad storm,” thought Janice, peering out her window.

The first drops struck the glass pane as a gust of wind rushed by. The amber colored rain left dirty streaks and Janice thought she actually saw smoke rising where the water hit. She turned her attention back to the television.

“Again, if you’re just tuning in, a massive storm of unknown origin is blanketing the entire coast and the rain is highly corrosive. Damage to vehicles and buildings have been reported and at least 70 have been confirmed dead.”

“Oh my God!” Janice exclaimed, holding her hand to her mouth.

Muffled screams broke her astonished trance. She turned back to her window and saw people writhing on the beach as the rain seemed to eat away their flesh. Howls of pain echoed through the streets.

It wasn’t until the first drops of rain began eating through the glass of her window that Janice realized with sickening horror that the worst was still to come.

[This is my entry this week into the Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. A photo prompt is given and writers are encouraged to create a short story of 100 – 150 words, + or – 25 words. I went over again this week but I just had too much fun writing this to stop. Thanks for the photo, Louise.]

~V

Hide and Seek

© copyright Chris Wood
© Chris Wood

“Ready or not, here I come!”

Kimmie opened her eyes and peered around, surveying the three possible places Trevor might be hiding close by. He had an irritating habit of tricking her by hiding close to home base and simply waiting for her to wander off in search of him before bee-lining it to safety. Not this time.

Kimmie tiptoed to the edge of the porch and peeked over the railing. Nope. Hopping lightly to the ground she peered into the shadows underneath. Still nothing. She raced to the tall shrub that grew a half-dozen yards away. Empty.

Ok,” she thought. “Now I can really start the search.”

She would find him. She had to. Trevor had been insufferable for the past week. Just because he turned eleven before she did (it was only two weeks), he treated her like she was a child. At least he no longer teased her about her gender. That stopped the moment she’d punched him in the nose for loudly boasting to his friend Bryan that she “hit like a girl”. The look of shock plastered on his face as a crimson stream cascaded down his nose was worth the grounding she got.

Continue reading “Hide and Seek”

The Green Man

SPF-12-13-2015

It always started with the Green Man. Jackson would open his eyes, finding himself on a busy street corner, surrounded by shivering pedestrians waiting for the light to change. The Green Man appeared, sending the crowd shuffling forward like lemmings, oblivious of the danger.

Jackson no longer knew how many times he’d played out this scenario. Caught in an endless loop, he was powerless to stop the events from unfolding. He’d tried yelling, waving his hands, shoving people, to no avail. The speeding truck always came barreling through the intersection, plowing through the crowd and leaving a wake of broken bodies.

Not this time. Jackson knew what he must do. Each time he’d been forced to witness the carnage, powerless to stop it. Fate must require the ultimate sacrifice to end this cycle. When the Green Man appeared, he launched himself into the street, screaming like a madman. The jaded crowd finally took notice and watched in horror as the raving young man was crushed by a rogue box truck. Gathering around him, strange faces gaped as the life ebbed from his eyes. The Green Man faded. Peace.

Jackson flipped open his eyes. The Green Man glowed brightly. He screamed.

Word Count: 200

[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.

It’s a rehashing of a popular plot device – The Never Ending Day. It’s hard to capture the full effect in only 200 words, but I hope it was fun to read.]

~V

Night Caller

Night caller1

My phone rang. Without turning on the lamp on my nightstand I fumbled bleary-eyed for that flat, rectangle piece of electronic wizardry we now call “telephone”.

Squinting, I stared at the lighted screen. Unknown number.

“Hello?”

“57 seconds,” croaked a strange, gravely voice.

“What?”

“That’s how long you have to live,” rasped the voice again.

“Who the fuck is this?” I yelled, quickly coming awake.

“You’re dreaming but in 57 seconds you’ll wake up and then you’ll die,” the ominous voice told me.

“That’s bullshit! Who is this? What do you want?”

“I want to watch you die,” the voice replied.

“You sick fuck, don’t ever call me again!”

I tapped the red button on my phone, disconnecting the call. I knew I shouldn’t let some prank caller rattle me like that but something about that voice left me feeling cold.

“Great, now it’ll take me an hour to fall back…”

My phone rang.

I looked at the screen but it was dark. The sound wasn’t coming from the device in my hand. I could hear the same ring tone that I use on my phone, but I couldn’t locate the source. It seemed to be emanating from all around me. It was almost as if…

I woke up. Looking over at my phone on my nightstand I saw it was ringing. How freaky! I must have heard it while I was sleeping and dreamed I answered it. Thank God it was only a dream. That voice was creepy as Hell.

Wondering who was calling me in the middle of the night, I grabbed the phone and looked at the screen. Unknown number.

“Whoever this is, you’d better have a damn good reason for calling this late,” I said groggily.

“It’s been 57 seconds,” said the gravely voice. “Turn around.”

I screamed.

~V

[This was my first attempt at writing something “creepy” (something that makes your skin crawl vs just a “scary” story. After letting it sit for about a week, I am hesitant to post it because I don’t think it’s very good. Still, I can’t expect to knock it out of the park on my first try. I’ll keep working on this specific genre.]