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On a Clear Day
by M.V. Montgomery

Death Chants
by Donald McCarthy

We are Meant to be Together
by Evan Dicken

Underground Haunts
by Erin Cole

Storm Warnings
Phil Beloin, Jr.

FLASH FICTION
(always less than 600 words)

 

ON A CLEAR DAY

by

M.V. Montgomery

Like most of our neighbors, we harbored a private grief, a family member turned zombie who terrorized the house from within.  We were in the habit of sleeping in shifts so as to not lose sight of our homemade barricades.
 
Recently two of the extended family had fled, finding the situation intolerable, leaving me alone with a relative. Uncle Steve always claimed to need little sleep, reassuring me he could stand vigil all night, if necessary.
 
But I had to get away, too—if only for a day.  I had long yearned for a remote spot in the forest where we teenagers used to camp, and dreamed of taking a rest in that natural hideaway, removed from the ruins of the fallen suburbs. There are places sacred to each of us; this was mine. 

One clear afternoon I set out, unsealing my bedroom window and sliding through to avoid both halves of the house—the sunlit living room, where Steve snored contentedly on a couch; and the darker half, where an angry thumping would begin shortly after nightfall, allowing us no peace.

I had not prepared much, taking only a bag containing tree nuts and a blanket.  Along the deserted street, I saw barred windows and a few holiday decorations left over from a remote time.  As for myself, I no longer believed in Christmas.  

I reached the woods and found the trail descending to the river.  There was a natural tunnel under the low-arching limbs we kids used to skitter through.  It stretched for a hundred feet before terminating in a reassuring oval of light.  Beyond lay the secret clearing.

I crouched to enter the passage, feeling the coolness of the earth, smelling the flowering plants and weeds.  Once, I would have enjoyed these sensations, but without any security to ground it, even momentary pleasure is impossible.

When I reached the oval of light and looked out over the clearing, my heart sank.  Instantly, I saw I would not find solitude here.  Dozens of men in ragged clothes had taken over the spot, turning it into a hobo camp.  They were asleep, lying closely packed together, against trunks of trees, even up on limbs.  Their number must have been in the hundreds.  I could spot no campfire, but the absence didn’t disturb me; after all, it was still day time.  

Yet something about the scene was surreal: these hoboes weren’t moving, as if dormant.  

I felt a surge of panic.  I realized what I had stumbled upon was no encampment, but a zombie army.  

And I was vulnerable—blocks from home, day winding down. 

As quietly as possible, I began crawling back the way I had come—the direction of safety and Uncle Steve, who must shortly awaken from his nap.  I knew if I was fortunate enough to make it back, now would be the time to flee this dread place forever—and to leave that locked-up thing which was no longer my mother.

M.V. Montgomery is an English and film professor at Life University in Atlanta.  He is the author, most recently, of the horror collection Beyond the Pale (Winter Goose Publishing, 2013).

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DEATH CHANTS

by

Donald McCarthy

You look so confused. Do you really not recognize me? Ah, you do now, don’t you? I see the fear on your face. Don’t be afraid; I’m not here to make things more miserable for you.

You won’t be able to get up so don’t try. Shh. Don’t try and talk either, don’t exert yourself. Your time has come, my friend. You’re one hundred and three years old and you’ve had a good run, haven’t you? Although I can understand why dying by yourself during a walk in the forest isn’t the way you want to go. It seems so unfair that there was no warning beforehand but that’s how it happens. One day you’re skipping along, well maybe not skipping in your case, and then you’re dead. No forewarning, nothing. Just gone. Isn’t that how it should be? Isn’t it much better to just die with a snap of the fingers instead of slowly wasting away while those who love you are forced to look on in horror?

Are you crying? It’s okay, I understand. Are you regretting missed opportunities? Yes, most people do at the end. There’s nothing to be done for it now. They say, ‘While there’s life, there’s hope’ but life does end. You people always ignore that. You repress the fact and that just… confuses me. The fact that you die should inspire you to do more things, not terrify you into doing nothing.

What are you gesturing at? Is there something behind me? There’s nothing. What is it?

Oh. You want me to hold your hand?

Okay, here you are. I’ll just wait here with you for a little while. We can look at the clouds and wait for it to rain.

 

_________________________________

WE ARE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER

by

Evan Dicken

I have a confession to make. I’m the one who killed your cat.

I buried it by the swing set in the backyard, you know, the one you built when you thought you were going to be a father. What can I say? I was jealous of the way it rubbed against your legs, and how it would sit on your lap and purr while you watched endless Law and Order reruns.

I never liked that cat, just like I never liked your wife. I’m glad she’s gone.

When you’re at work, I crawl into your bedroom through the crack in your door and go through her things, the ones you don’t have the heart to throw away. Her bras and underwear hang from me like frilly tarps as I stand before the mirror and pretend to be her, pretend you’re watching, pretend you can see me.

Sometimes, while you’re asleep, I put on her perfume and slide into your too-big bed. The sheets are so smooth and warm I feel like I’m back in the womb. Once, you almost noticed me. In that fuzzy twilight between dream and reality you reached out and called her name. I sunk into the mattress, sheets rippling like water, leaving only a smell and a memory.

The bed rocked with your sobs.

That was the first time I wanted to comfort you, to wrap my boneless arms around your chest and squeeze, and squeeze, but I was too afraid. So I stole your wedding ring instead.

I take a lot of your things; hide them away in the walls and under the floor. Never anything you need, only things you’re better off without: pictures, mail, messages from your phone. Your friends don’t care about you. At first, I didn't either, but I do now.

Things are almost perfect, that’s why I’m telling you this. At first you talked to her, to yourself, grating half-conversations that set my fingers twitching. But now, you spend most of your day in bed, and even when you rise, you whisper through the house, silent as smoke. Have you noticed that it’s been dark for over a week? That no cars pass on the road? That you haven’t eaten in four days? I don’t think you have, not yet.

And so I wait. All those times you thought you heard something on the stairs, thought you caught a flash of movement in the corner of your eye, could have sworn that the long, uncomfortable shadow on the wall wasn’t just your coat rack, you were right. It was me.

Soon, very soon, you will notice me, notice everything. Don't be angry, I did all those terrible things before I really got to know you.

I've spent hours imagining how it will be. You'll be on the bed, seeing but not quite believing, too overcome to move, to speak. That's alright; you don't need to say anything, not yet. I will step from the shadows, swaying, just like she used to. You won't flinch when I lean close and whisper my name in your ear. You will whisper it back to me. My name, not hers. Never hers. Never again.

I've promised myself I won't cry, but you never can tell.

I will say that you aren't like the others, that I could have left at any time. You will see everything I've done for you, and you will reach for me. For me. Then, I will wind my fingers around your neck, open my wide, toothless mouth, and swallow you whole.

Because, because I love you.

 

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UNDERGROUND HAUNTS

by

Erin Cole

Gert caught the bronzed-flash of light flip through the drain.  It clanked against the concrete wall and splashed in a soup of turbid, melted snow.  He loped along through pipes and tunnels with the same agility as the long-tailed rodents.  Though upright on two legs, his dwarf frame and rare tapetum lucidum in his eyes made the city’s underground drains the perfect haunt for a lone troll.

He picked up the penny, turned it around in his stubby fingers, and slipped it into the pocket where he kept all of his trinkets: a feldspar stone, a knotted pewter chain, two silver rings, and the token of something called the A.A. Second Step.

Scattering nematodes beneath the slap of his step, Gert skipped through the sludge and crawled up the ledge of another pipe drain.  Light from an intruder spilled against the grime of spherical walls and reflected against the green eyeshine in his pupils.  He ducked, squeezing back into the darkness of another pipe drain.

“What da’ hell was that!”

“What did you see?”

“I dunno know.  Somethin’ small, but human-like.”

“Human-like?”

Gert didn’t understand what the intruders were saying, nor did he care—instruments strapped around one of the man’s belts had him spellbound.  Some of the gadgets were like sticks of silver, some a puzzle of buttons, and others had multiple parts that dangled and clanked.  Saliva thickened in his mouth as he imagined handling each one, entertainment that would occupy him for days.
 
But the intruders were mad beings, allies with the metal monsters that had giant bucket-shaped teeth, growling abdomens, and massive rotating wheels for legs.  The heartless beasts spread noise, burning, white light, and ruin by plowing through his passageways, uprooting the earth, and burying his abodes and all of his collected treasures.

“Jim, git down here.”

“Where is it?”

“O’va there somewhere.”

Gert knew the tunnels they had built better than they did.  He skittered through the pipelines, cornering at the joints, until he traveled a full circle, their backs naive to him.  His chest drummed with a palpable excitement.

“Where did it go?”

“I dunna know.”

Rays of light crisscrossed over the ripple of the drain and the glass of black water streaming at the bottom of the tunnel.  The instruments at the intruder’s hips cast fanged shadows.  Gert set his vision on one in particular, a ring of keys that allured him like critters to trash.  He growled unknowingly as excitement pushed through his larynx and rumbled from his throat in an ominous low C tenor.

The intruders spun around.  Why they moved at a snail's pace, Gert never understood, but seizing their tubes of light occurred with ease and glee.  He pulled at the rings on their belt.  His nails scraped into the softness of their middle.  They screamed, but not before he had already fled into the splendid darkness of his hallways.  The intruders thrashed behind him, shouting in a raucous tongue.  The ring of keys jingled in Gert’s hand, a chiming tune of magic.

#


A barred gate at one end of the drain finally unlocked its mystery.  One key slipped into the metal puzzle and clicked the door open.  Gert stepped into a spacious drain, a rocky channel with two steel bars that disappeared into darkness.  The cave trembled from the speed and thunder of another screaming, metal monster, this one shaped like a segmented snake. 

Gert crept towards a lit-up platform where hordes of intruders gathered—each bearing a wealth of trinkets.  Entertainment that would occupy him for years, he thought with a beam.

 

Erin Cole writes dark fiction and horror, has two novels published: "Grave Echoes," and "Of the Night," by Red Skies Press, and has a variety of publications both online and in print. She won 10th Place in the Genre Short Story category of the 80th Annual Writer's Digest Short Story Competition and has work forthcoming in Aoife's Kiss and the Boston Literary Magazine. She blogs at http://www.erincolelive.blogspot.com

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STORM WARNINGS

by

Phil Beloin, Jr.

The damn sirens didn’t even go off, Dan thought, his eyes on his step-kids as they played in the attached living room while he cooked dinner—ten year-old Jack focused on X-box fantasies, teenaged Jimmy glued to Facebook, earphones leading back to his Ipod.

Dan had looked out the window before heading into the kitchen. The sky had hung low, coated in gray, but the weathermen had been calling for T-storms only, nothing too severe.

Should have been listening to the radio, at least.

The ambient light in the house turned a dark, deep green and a deafening echo followed—a freight train bearing down on their tiny house.

Not even a chance to get to the storm room in the basement.

Dan felt like he had failed his wife and the kids he had helped raise since they were both young. It was a worse feeling than the impending disaster. Dan’s wife was a part timer at the local pharmacy; cash register mostly, some stocking. He hoped she would be safe from this storm, but how would she handle this…

The house shifted loose from the foundation, as a heavy gust got underneath it. Dan could see a cyclone sweeping the front wall aside like a brush stroke, the air filling with splintered two-by-fours, chucks of plaster, shingles, dust. The storm seemed to stall then, as if it could lag time, and Dan could see the individual lines of air, the storm winds separating into distinctive shapes, human-like, heads, chests, legs, but the lower limbs were lances instead of feet, the upper ones knifes rather than fingers, and they were chopping through the living room, taking everything apart.

The tornado is alive, Dan thought.

The wind men slashed the computer monitor, Jimmy rolling away in the chair, his scream lost in the commotion. The array of shapes turned their collective heads towards Dan— he saw their mouths turning into sadistic grins—and then their appendages churned like the metal teeth of a chainsaw and Jimmy was shred apart while being blow upwards, the storm slicing a ragged hole in the roof, Jimmy going up through it and out and he was gone.

It’s an entity of death, Dan thought.  That only the dead will see.

Jack saw what had happened to his big brother. He was still perched upon the floor, the X-box controller in hand. The storm shapes cut through the furniture and dug their blades over the boy’s prone figure and flew him out a missing window. Jack didn’t even make a sound.

He didn’t suffer much, Dan thought. Didn’t even know what was happening really.

Dan could feel a surge of air approaching the kitchen, while the hazy forms twirled like mini- dust storms he saw sometimes in plowed farmlands or dry infields. His feet moved, carrying him backwards. He stumbled over a chair, couldn’t get up and the wind things blew onto him, their tips piecing his flesh, cutting an arm from his socket, the pain overbearing, oh please god, oh god, please, finish me off, and the room was spinning with the hurricane and the lances descended and crashed with the storm and he was being sucked away and the pain vanished and he was in the storm’s tunnel, up ahead were his step-children—no, they were his boys, he could feel his love for them overfill his body—Jimmy and Jack, whole again, alive, waving, telling him to join them, it was wonderful up here…

 

Phil Beloin Jr., aka philbeloinjr.blogspot.com, is the author of The Big Bad, published by Hilliard and Harris and available at Amazon.  He has crime and horror stories splattered across the web.

 

 

 

 

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