Supernova, from Sanity’s Threshold

supernova

Our days are numbered. The fireball in the sky will make sure of that. It’s too bright to look at, but I stole a peek through my fingers. The glowing sphere is larger than the sun; yet it’s light years away. Keplar’s Supernova, in 1604, was the last time something like this was recorded. It was 20,000 light years away and visible in the daytime for three weeks. That little kitten has nothing on this tiger.

I don’t go outside anymore. My air conditioner hums at full speed, on the coldest setting. The house shimmers with heat. I touch a wall and feel the heat fight its way through the plaster. I wonder how long the power grid is going to hold up under this much strain. My guess is, not long. Already I hear the drag of the motor as it tries to stay ahead of the temperature.

Water is rationed and only turned on for a few minutes a day. Usually it runs dry before I fill all my bottles. The plants give up one brown, crinkly leaf at a time and surrender to the pull of gravity. A crunchy carpet, that used to be grass, borders my sidewalk. The pond at the end of my driveway is a puddle surrounded by octagonal slabs of dried mud. Koi carcasses guard the edges and watch me with hollow eyes. I haven’t heard a dog bark or a bird chirp in days.

They say the shock wave will obliterate our solar system. Of course, life on earth will be gone long before that happens. The destruction will wipe out our corner of the galaxy with the energy of a thousand suns. It will be goddamn spectacular.

I’m not one who clings to false hope or prays for divine intervention. I don’t want to see the oceans boil and my skin melt. I’m not waiting.


Need more flash fiction? Need a horror fix? CHeck these out:

Melting – from Sanity’s Threshold

The Basement, from Unconfined Delusions, coming Oct. 20th

Last Glimpse

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Portal, from Unconfined Delusions, coming Oct 20

PortalBlasting toward the edge of time

I walk across the sand just trying

to make some miles before the portal closes.

Conscious of my aches and pains

my muscles scream from constant strain,

but still I put one foot before the other.

I find that I am way too tired

standing with my feet so mired

in promises I knew I couldn’t keep.

But now is not the time to wallow.

I chew upon my pride and swallow

years of wasted grants and endless research.

Triple checked each calculation

knowing what my ‘valuation

meant to those who fled the crushing hatred.

No matter how much that I tried

with all the numbers cross multiplied

the answers came up less than optimistic.

I chose to be a hero touted

as the one who bravely shouted,

“Follow me, and I will be your savior!”

Told them we would find our freedom.

No longer would we have to let ‘em

hurt us just because we don’t conform.

Not the first time that I wanted

more than what the others flaunted

held aloft and touted as superior.

But who was I to play a god

who casts about his mighty rod

to sentence those below to persecution?

My recent actions make me cringe

as I stand upon the furthest fringe

and gaze into my certain dissemination.

Just before the worlds collide

I consider what my ounce of pride

reaped without remorse or resolution.

I know that I deserve to die

for all the times I chose to lie

to faces full of hope and desperation.

Before my marrow’s mortal dance

I wish that I had one more chance

to change my story despite their disappointment.

To tell them they’re already gone

and best thing is to just stay strong

and make their peace and preparations.

I’m the last to venture through

hoping I am one of few

who beats the odds and comes out unaffected.

As my atoms strip away

my bones begin to bend and sway

the gravity just too much for concentration.

Still there is no actual pain.

Molecules fall like drops of rain

A raging flood of moral contradiction.

Blinding light ignites and swirls

Convulsions rip across my world

This may be my last communication.

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Melting – from Sanity’s Threshold

 

meltingIt whispers up my leg as I pass over the heater vent, the tickle of its fingers like feathers on my skin. Why did I have the heat on this late in the summer? The ting, ting, ting of the furnace echoes from the hallway closet and I smell the musty, singed odor you get when you turn it on for the first time in the Fall. I swear I shut the gas off because even the little pilot light radiated unwanted heat in the summer.

I walk back to the vent. Sure enough, I feel the gentle motion of the warm air move the fine hairs on my arm. I check the thermostat at the other end of the hall. It was off, just like I knew it would be.  I flip it on and off again and hear no telltale click. I tap the side of it a couple times, like kicking the tires or lifting the hood on a car. The other vents in the room discharge a breeze, too, warmer than before.

I hear the scratching deep inside the duct. Maybe a mouse had found his way in and had made its home in the warm, round confine. More like rats by the sound of it. Great big rats. The scratching grew louder, and closer, building with the temperature of the air.

I try to close the damper on the duct but the rusty lever squeaked its resistance. The blast of hot air on my face dries my eyes, pushing me away with an invisible hand. Blinking quickly for new tears, I rummage around on my work bench until I found some pliers and WD-40. I smear the sweat off my forehead with my shirt sleeve and spray some of the lubricant on the lever. The liquid bubbles up like spit on a cast iron skillet. I’d never seen it do that before. I touch the lever to wiggle it and yank my hand away. White skin marks the spots where it made contact with the metal.

I run to the kitchen, turn on the cold water full blast and stick my burnt fingers under the running water. It’s hot, so hot! Maybe I turned on the wrong faucet, but no, it’s the cold handle. What’s going on? I shake my aching hand as if I could rid it of the pain.

The scratching echoes through the metal duct louder and closer. I can hear it in the other ducts, too, getting closer by the minute. I have to get some air in the house. I have to get the windows open. I lift on the sill, but it won’t budge. Old, dried paint plaster it shut permanently. I stare at the wire grating I had had installed on all the windows for security. Now it was the concertino wire of my prison.

I go to the front door to throw it open, ready to abandon the house and get help. The door knob throbs red with heat. Panic wriggles its way down my spine, squirming through my body like snakes. I strip down to my undies, sweat coating my body. I have to get out. Maybe if I found some gloves I could get the door open. The scent of burnt hair floats around my head. I run my hand over my scalp and it comes away with crispy wisps of dried threads. My mouth opens in a silent scream because, even though I feel no pain, I know I should feel the bubbling of my skin as I witness it melting like candle wax.

 

They find my smoking corpse today; tiny embers filling my skull, my arms and legs protruding from my body like burnt out matchsticks. I ignored their warnings when I bought the house. Full disclosure they had called it. They told me the fireman who had built it had died alone in the line of duty. He’s not alone anymore.

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Reprint Submissions!!

Have a piece that has already been published but deserves more exposure? Check out these 25 literary journals who accept reprints

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The Clutching, from Unconfined Delusions, coming Oct. 20

clutching (2)

“Can you see them? They’re right there!” Jordan dug her fingernails into her wrist blazing another bloody trail down her forearm.

“There’s nothing there, baby. It’s the infection.” I pull her hands apart, but they snap together like two magnets; her skin the north pole, her nails the south. We’ve been playing this game for hours ever since the first symptoms appeared.

Spontaneous schizophrenia has become the term coined by the doctors, but most folks called it The Clutching. They traced patient zero to a South American man twenty-nine days ago, five more cases were discovered a week later. Of course, they didn’t identify it as a problem until the third week when fifty-six cases were reported.  One hundred and two the next day. To date there have been over nine hundred, and it’s been less than a month.

The CDC has spared no expense, but the cause remains elusive. They have become so desperate to calm the public’s nerves they’ve labeled it a mental illness. If you ask me, it’s a breakthrough nanotechnology hopping across a synaptic highway at frequencies beyond our measurement.

But nobody’s asked me. It would be nice to use my Ph.D. in Nanochemical Bioengineering I paid so much for, but there hasn’t been time. Its arbitrary, indiscriminate spread has eliminated the possibility of proactivity. Every reaction is a thousand steps in the rearview mirror.

“Can’t you see them? Jesus, Patrick, there’re thousands of them! They look like sesame seeds in my veins. Tiny sesame seeds with legs!” Jordan digs at the vein on her thigh. “Get them out! Please, get them out.” Her terror etches the corners of her eyes, white and rimmed in black hysteria.

“I swear to God, Jordan, they aren’t there. Trust me.” I make another attempt to put the mittens on her hands. “Please, sit still a minute. You have to stop scratching yourself.”

Jordan’s tears pool and overflow. “It’s The Clutching, isn’t it? I’ve gone crazy like the rest of them, haven’t I? I feel them in my brain, Patrick. It’s real.” She rips a hunk of hair out of her scalp and examines the bloody roots, but tosses it aside when the results are negative. “Thank God.”

I manage to duct tape one mitten onto a hand. Her other hand traces the veins at her elbow pinching the blue paths extending past the gray restraint. I glance away to find the other mitten. It gives her enough time to tear away half of the tape. Panicking, I bind her wrists together flipping the roll around and around until her elbows are touching. I put on the other mitten and add more tape.

“Let me go, Patrick. I won’t do it anymore. Please, just let me go.”

“Come on. Let’s get you to the hospital.” Sedation is the only treatment, long-term sedation until a cure can be found. But how can you find a cure when you have no apparent cause?

I lead her to the car and deposit her in the backseat. For the moment, she is calm. I take advantage of the lull, climb behind the wheel, rev the engine, and adjust the rearview mirror. Jordan is picking at something behind her ear. Hopefully, the mittens will hold her at bay. Gravel sprays across the driveway as I head to the hospital. Other cars honk their annoyance when I blast through a stop light. I check the mirror again, and Jordon has disappeared. I chance a look behind me.

“Dear God.”

Jordan had slumped to her side, one mitten in her mouth, her jugular pulsing against her fingers buried in her throat.

***

I’ve had no time to mourn. My first symptoms erupted a few hours after leaving Jordan’s body at the emergency room. Like grains of sand draining through a sieve, my invaders flood my circular system. Even though I know it’s probably the manipulation of the hypothalamus or some such, the vision of them sends an electric shock through my marrow. I clamp my eyes shut willing the apparitions to morph into rainbows and puppy dogs, but the trespassers scurry across my eyelids.

“You’re NOT REAL!”

Or maybe they are.

It’s a moot point. I waste no time. I saw the medicated zombies strapped in their hospital beds.

I place the blade against the hollow of my neck and set the bastards free.

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Voodoo Bady, from Unconfined Delusions, coming Oct. 20

 voodoo babyVOODOO BABY

 The doll glared at me from across the room. I hadn’t believed the old woman could construct life within a doll’s body, void of pulse, but there it was, a soldier waiting for its command.

The voodoo queen had warned me about the birthing process. It was dangerous and couldn’t be reversed. I didn’t have the same belief in her powers as the folk who lived on the islands. The legends ran deep, etched into the minds of the old, twisted by time, but then I saw the dull glow of its eyes shining on me, awakening for the first time.

Willful and demanding, like a baby’s first breath, it came into the world, gasping for air, wanting to live, needing to take life in order to save its own. Virgin lungs filled and wailed their hatred of the world.  It yearned for destruction and the demise of the person whose existence it was created to consume.

That person was Sarah. She had given up on our marriage; left it to rot on the vine. I wanted her gone, but I could never let another woman touch her. She was mine, until death does she part.

Part of the birthing process involved a photo of her. The voodoo queen had lain the doll face down on the photo, sprinkled swamp water and lizard blood on it. Her words laced with a heavy accent were unintelligible to me. Twenty-four hours, she whispered, and it would come alive and complete its mission.

The time had come. “She’s in the bedroom. Go get her.”

With a wink, the doll leaped from the shelf holding the knife I had supplied. Its plastic lips parted in anticipation of her blood. I could tell it wanted to suckle, drawing more than milk, pulling lifeblood. Eyes like cold, hard marbles studied me. I had never noticed how much we looked alike, Sarah and I, until I saw my image in the voodoo doll’s eye.

“Sarah.” It muttered her name as it released the blood from my jugular.

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The Basement, from Unconfined Delusions, coming Oct. 20th

The Basement
The chill in the air took his breath, sucked it away leaving little icicles of dread that gripped his hope and melted it away.
She was near.
He hadn’t seen her face, but her presence lingered in the crevasses of the dingy basement, hiding behind half-empty cans of paint and chairs with broken legs. Masses of drooping cobwebs caressed his face, their owners gone long ago to richer fields, ones without her.
He gripped the wooden handle of the hammer, the first thing he had found after shimmying his way out the rudely constructed box she had nailed to the rotting supports. The weapon felt rudimentary in his hand; primitive compared to her guile.
Maybe she wanted him to escape.
Maybe she enjoyed the hunt as much as the capture.
Her motives were clearly displayed on the pegboard wall: shears, a saw, dental instruments, and many more items. He could only imagine the torture others had had to endure. She seemed to prefer smaller gadgets, ones that could be inserted into private places. And knives. She had a plethora of knives. But the surgical tools waited front and center, lined up at attention; soldiers in a cruel war.
The bones of others littered the stone floor, adorned with remnants of hair and bits of clothing. The decay wrapped around him with uncomfortable arms. He could feel her above it all, an essence the crept beneath his skin and stole his strength, familiar in a way that escaped him.
He had yet to see her face. Did he know her? Somehow he did, but their meeting seemed from another time like a face on the street.
The creak of the floorboards above his head was punctuated with a drizzle of dirt and dust from years of neglect. The door to the basement split open revealing a sliver of light quickly obscured by her shadow.
“Billy, Billy, are you there?” She singsonged her little rhyme. “Billy, Billy, are you scared?”
Her chant sent a shiver through him. He had heard it before when he was a child. But she was dead, long ago she had gotten sick and died. Pneumonia they said. He had been very young, but he remembered. How could he forget?
The top step creaked under her weigh. Step. Stop. Step.
“Billy, Billy, you can’t hide.” The yelp of metal on metal fell heavy on his ears. “Billy, Billy, come outside.” Tap, tap, tap.
The cats with missing tails. Birds that had lost their wings. Dogs with punctured eyes.
“They let me out for good behavior, can you believe that? Thirty years, but they finally fixed me.” Steel on steel. “They sent me away, but now I’m back. I’m back to send you away, Billy Boy, Billy Boy. Back to send you away.”
“Stay away! You’re not real!”
“Oh, you know that’s not true. You wished me dead. Thought you got your wish, too, but I’m back. Did you miss me?”
She had tormented the neighborhood; filled every shadow with her dread. All of the
neighbor kids fled when they saw her turn the corner, because it wasn’t only animals who were her victims. But Billy was her favorite. Whenever she got the chance she would trip him up, slam him to the ground. If he was lucky all he would get was a wedgie, but he was rarely lucky.
“Billy, Billy, why you run?” She advanced a couple more steps down the stairs. The song of metal on metal kept rhythm. “Billy, Billy, you’re no fun.”
Her face came into view but her features remained blocked by the backlighting. But he didn’t need to see the crooked teeth, the hooked nose. She had never left his dreams.
“Stay back! I’m not a little boy anymore! I’ll bash your head in!”
Her laugh echoed against his despair. “You never had much spunk, you little twerp. Pretty sure you ain’t got none now. You try and hide now. I like it when you run away like a scared little bunny. Remember that time I trapped up in that tree? You was too scared to come down for a good day and a half. Had your folks worried sick, you did. You knew I was watching. I was always watching.”
She held a dagger in each hand, playing them against each other in a macabre melody. Scratch. Screech. Scratch. “I’ve been practicing, Billy Boy.” She displayed her victims with the sweep of her hand. “But they weren’t the ones I wanted. I drew your face on every
one before I carved out their eyes.” She tickled her silhouetted cheek with a blade demonstrating her monstrosity.
Billy backed away, knees scraping on the cold, stone floor. There was nowhere to hide. Wrought iron bars decorated the tiny windows No escape. She inched toward him, the knives caressing each other with a lover’s touch.
He wished he had grabbed one of her tools of torture, but he never could think clearly when she was around. She had always sapped the smarts right out of him. It was no different now. There had never been a level playing field. Here he was a little boy again, but this time he felt her cracked mind and knew his time had run out.
He jumped out from behind the decomposed beam and rushed her, but she didn’t have the panic that embraced him. Calmly she stepped to the side and stuck her leg out. He went sprawling.
“Billy, Billy, you’re so silly.”
It wasn’t so much the pierce of the knife as the heat of his blood that drew his attention. It flowed across his chest in a passionate river, leaving his body in pulsating torrents.
Her words drifted to him as his lights went out.
“Night, night, baby brother. You’re not mommy’s favorite anymore.”
You’ll find all the teasers and links here: Unconfined Delusions, Beyond the Threshold
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If it Rains by Angela L. Lindseth

Thank you PP&P!

AngelaLindseth-IfitRains-fiction Background photo: USDA/Flickr, CC0.
Manipulation and design layout: Elizabeth Stark

Poppa snaps off a wheat stalk, brittle and broken. He digs the toe of his boot through the octagon clumps of topsoil looking for life below the surface, a shred of moisture, a supple root. The plant upends, clinging to the soil in a fruitless effort to stay alive.

“If it rains, we’ll be able to save this crop.”

My lips are always chapped, and the area around my eyes not covered by cloth are blistered and cracked by the relentless blast of grit. The cloth over my mouth cakes up faster than I can shake it out, but Momma says I have to wear it. More than anything I hate the crunch in my mouth. No amount of water seems to rinse it out.

Poppa squats and scoops up a handful of soil. It filters through his fingers as…

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The Tree Trimmer

tree trimmer

It happens every year. Thirteenth of December. Thank god he don’t bring eleven more gifts. Twelve days of Christmas and all. Our little community just couldn’t handle much more tragedy. Whoever’s pulling this prank got a fucked up sense of the Christmas spirit. Some think it’s a curse, but I always figured it would be a blessing to know when you were going to die.

No one’s ever seen the Tree Trimmer. That’s what folks call him cause every year he hangs the ornaments out on Hatsix Road, and every year folks try and catch him in the act. But it never been done. Something always happens. One year the road got flooded. One year storm knocked down a bunch of trees. Tragedy always strikes. Yes, sir.

The ornaments dangle from the branches like drops from a fresh cut throat. Too many to count. It must take hours to put them all up. I mean, some of them are way up there. They’re all pretty much identical. Except for one. They all seen better days. Some of them got more scratches than they got red, but the name is always plain as day.

How the Tree Trimmer determines what name decorates the ornament is up for debate. The deaths don’t have much in common, in fact, nothing except for the Tree Trimmer. The poor fool who gets named starts counting out the days. Happy New Year, mother fucker. You got 364 more, maybe. There’s no reason or rhyme to it. Took quite a few years before they even figured out what was going on.

Some folks only had to wait a few weeks. Old man Jennings got hit by a car right after St. Paddy’s Day. Course he was drunker than a skunk and shouldn’t have been crossing the highway in the middle of the night. It’s almost like the Tree Trimmer knows the dumb ones and puts them out of their misery, but that ain’t always true. Last spring Julie Nichols  got hit by lightning. Year before that Sam Perkins spun out on the ice going over Bull River Pass. They didn’t find his car for two weeks cause of the blizzard. Poor bastard. Just saying there ain’t no pattern.

This year me and my buddies volunteered to collect all them bulbs. I’ve climbed a dozen trees so far, but no name. My best friend shimmies up the tree next to mine trying to reach the ones at the top. He grabs an ornament and inspects it for a name before dropping it like he was snake bit. It shattered into tiny slivers that disappear into the rotted layer of leaves below us.

“Way to go. Did you see a name on it?”

Billy’s eyes locked on mine wider than a mustang’s.

“There weren’t no name on that one.”


For more flash fiction check these out.

Melting

Kids Come First

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Two Fingers

 

I’ve been a bartender all my life. Alcohol tends to loosen tongues, and I listen because I’m good at my job. I’ve grown fond of some of my regulars over the years. One in particular, who calls herself Big Momma, is my favorite. The nickname is hilarious because she is a pipsqueak of a woman with arms the size of toothpicks and a narrow face just perfect for looking through the slats in a fence. One might think the cigarettes or whiskey would kill her, but from the bruises, I think her old man might finish the job first.

“What’ll it be, Big Momma?” I already know the answer.

“Two fingers, Bobby, give me two.”

Most folks are headed to work, but I open the doors for Momma and a few others. You’d be surprised how much business I do while I’m restocking the coolers and wiping down the tables. They need a drink, and I need the cash. I keep the Jameson’s handy when Big Momma’s in the house. Her hand shakes as she shoots the first one then slides the tumbler toward me for a refill. With a sigh, she takes a sip ready to savor her habit after breaking her fast.

“Rough morning?”

Big Momma has a whole set of problems and alcoholism is the least of them. “Same shit, different day.” She takes a long drag from her Camel no filter.

“Ralph come home last night?”

“Unfortunately.”

I polish a bar glass waiting for the rest of the story.

“God damned if he could ever be in a good mood.”

“What set him off this time?”

Big Momma drained her glass before answering. “What doesn’t set him off?”

I pour her another. “On the house.”

She raises her glass to me. “You’re my hero.”

***

“What’ll it be, Big Momma?”

“I think I need three fingers this morning, Bobby, give me three.” She doesn’t take off her sunglasses even though the lighting is dim for a reason. There’s an edge to her, shiny and dark like the circle under her eye. Five black ovals mark both biceps. I imagine her bouncing like a ragdoll in his grip.

I pour the whiskey over the ice knowing it won’t have time to get cold. “You want me to call anybody? Family?”

“You know there’s nobody to call.”

I pour another without her asking. “There’s places you can go.”

“Not for me.” Her palsy creates an earthquake in her glass.

Houses for abuse victims don’t allow drinking. Big Momma’s a realist. It’s her bed, and she’s going to lie in it.

***

“What’ll it be, Big Momma?”

She reaches into her purse and sets the revolver on the bar. Her hand is steady as a rock as she caresses the trigger. “I only needed one finger this morning, Bobby.”

cartridges-2166491_640

More of my flash fiction? Check these out.

Voodoo Baby

Last Glimpse

The Sky is on Fire

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