Teaser Tuesday – Blackbirds

I’m still making my way through the audio book from last week and loving every second of it.  So, this week will be a teaser from a book I read a few years ago.  I think I’ve said this before, but I really enjoy going through the list of books I’ve read on Goodreads.  I know it’s not an all-inclusive list of everything I’ve read in my lifetime, but it’s a pretty good one.

The one that flashed out at me was Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig.  As you know, I sometimes follow his flash fiction challenge and one day I realized I hadn’t read anything he’d written.   I’m happy I decided to pick this one up.  I enjoyed the story immensely, and I especially loved how Wendig told it in such a fascinating way.  I love strong female characters, even if strong means something a little different in this one.  Miriam didn’t always make the choices I would have made, but she’s a survivor and that I could relate to on many levels.

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This is the first book in a series, but it’s a good one.  I read them all in about a month or less and I would highly recommend all three.  Granted, I realize it isn’t for everyone, but if you like it gritty, dark and tell-it-like-it-is humor with quite a bit of cussing, then you should totally go for it.

I pulled the quote from Goodreads since I don’t have the book handy.  I hope you enjoy!

“Way she sees it, people fall into one of two categories: those who think their death is imminent, and those who figure they have long, healthy lives ahead of them. Nobody ever thinks it’s somewhere in-between.”


Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Jenn at Books and a Beat.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

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Flash Fiction – The Dragon’s Realm (Finale)

The air sparkled with late afternoon sun and perspiration gleamed on her skin as wave after wave of heat rose from the pavement.  She pressed her body harder against the bricks hoping for some relief in the inch of shade the towering building offered, but it was no use.  She wouldn’t be finding any relief in the shade.

Thoughts of foraging swam in her brain, but she couldn’t bring herself to move.  Hunger pains rumbled through her lower abdomen eliciting a deep groan.  Not now!  She closed her eyes and willed herself to believe she could wait until the sun set.

“Jana!”

She jerked awake at the sound of her name.  “Wha-the-hell?”   Someone was shaking her shoulder hard.  Her head bumped against the bricks, but in her not-yet-awake state, it felt like a bullet piercing her brain.  “Ow!  Stop!”

“Jana, you have to wake up!”  Shoulder shake… again.

She opened her eyes a slit, but everything was a blur.  “Toni, is that you?”

“Who else, you idiot?”

“What the hell?”

“It happened again.”

Jana shoved Toni’s hands away and closed her eyes.  “I’m so not in the mood for your shit right now.”

“Jana!”  Toni’s voice pierced into her ears and her head started to ache.

“Toni, I swear to God, if you don’t leave me alone…”

“But Jana, there’s been another one.”

That was all it took to bring her completely awake.  Her eyes snapped open and with startling clarity focused on Toni’s frantic grey gaze.

“Where?  When?”

“Everyone thinks it happened sometime in the past few hours.  Behind Pappy’s.  They sent me to get you.”

Jana was on her feet before Toni finished.  “Show me.”

They left the alley behind the building and stepped onto the main road.  Traffic was light for a Saturday afternoon.  It seemed the heat was keeping everyone inside.

“Does the Dragon know?”

“He knows everything that happens in his territory.”

Jana glanced at Toni.  “Except who’s killing kids, apparently.”

Three in as many months, including the one they were on their way to see.  Jana had her suspicions about who was doing it, but she had to be sure before she took it to the Dragon.   He’d already threatened to banish everyone who had entered his territory in the last three months; she didn’t even want to think what he would do to someone she suspected might be the killer.

Toni led Jana to the restaurant some among them considered their headquarters.  Whether that was true or not, Jana couldn’t say.  She’d never actually been inside.  She looked questioningly at Toni, but her look was ignored.  Jana continued to follow her into the thin alley next to Pappy’s Place that led behind the building.  Not much back there except for rats.  Jana’s guts tightened painfully, only this time it wasn’t hunger.

Some of the gang was still there.  Jimmy was bent over next to the building puking his guts out.  Jana slowly walked past Jimmy and regretted it the minute she saw the source of his sick.  Beads of sweat were already slithering down her face from the fast walk in the heat, but one look at the body and they turned to ice.

“Jessica?”  Her friend’s name was torn from her lips, a cry of shock and loss.  Jana hadn’t known either of the others, but she knew Jessica.  They’d worked the same street for a few weeks before Jessica moved on to better fare.  Friends came fast and easy on the streets.  It was almost a necessity.  It was them against the world, the elements and the unfairness of it all.  They had to stick together.

Peering down into her friend’s sightless eyes, tears welled up in her own.  God, she couldn’t have been much older than her.  Who would do such a thing?

But Jana knew the answer; knew it now more surely than she had when she’d seen the first two bodies.  She also knew that she had brought him to the Dragon’s territory, and if she didn’t do something about it, she would surely be kicked out.  She couldn’t let that happen.  This was her home now.

Toni laid her hand on Jana’s shoulder, but Jana didn’t move.  “Jana, we have to leave before the cops show up.”  Her voice pierced the silence and finally brought Jana out of her own thoughts.

“Who found her?”

“Jimmy.”

Poor kid, Jana thought.  “Did someone make the call?”

“Yeah, Ian did.”

Just then, they all heard the distant wail of the siren.  With one last look at Jessica’s broken body, they all shuffled towards the alley.  It wouldn’t do Jessica any good to have them all arrested.  The cops were good for some things, but not for the living.  They’d round them up and most of them would go to Juvie or worse – they’d be sent back to their “homes”.  The sad reality was that most of them had a damn good reason for leaving in the first place.  The cops would just have to solve this one without their help, but so far, it seemed they were at a loss too.

The Dragon’s realm covered almost twenty blocks, including an old abandoned shack down by the docks.  Jana set out at sunset, armed with not much more than her courage.  She carried her dad’s old pocket knife in her pack that she’d stolen when she left.  She wasn’t sure she could use it as a weapon, if it came to that, but she pulled it out and shoved it in her jeans just in case.

The air hung thick around her, not much different from earlier except the sun wasn’t causing its usual havoc.  She shivered despite the mugginess of the early evening.  She knew she probably shouldn’t be facing him alone, but she didn’t have a choice.  She didn’t want anyone else to die.

The grayish-blue sky she had started out with was just turning deep purple when she opened the door to the shack.  It creaked on rusty hinges.

“Braden?”  She called as she stepped inside.

No answer.

The door banged as it closed behind her and she jumped at the sudden sound.  Her eyes were still adjusting to the darkness but she looked wildly around hoping to see something in the black void.

“Braden? It’s Jana.  Are you here?”  She heard rustling off to her left and almost turned around and ran out the door.  The streets were tough, but they weren’t face-someone-you-think-might-be-a-killer tough.

“What do you want, Jana?”  The soft voice came from directly behind her and she swung around, almost losing her balance.  He was standing right in front of her, a menacing shadow.

“I just… I… I…”  She didn’t even know what to say.  I think you’re a killer?  Why did you kill those kids?  How do you confront someone you’ve known all your life with something like this?

“Jana, you should leave.”  His voice was still soft, but there was a hardness to it she’d never heard before.

“Why, Braden?”  Her voice shook and she wished she sounded stronger, but any courage she’d had when she’d started was completely gone.

“How did you know?”  The words came out on a sigh, like a lover’s whisper, only they were words that tore her apart.

Tears welled in her eyes.  “You carved that same symbol in the tree by our house.  Jessica…”  Her voice hitched and she swallowed before starting over.  “You’re getting better.  On the other bodies I couldn’t quite make it out, but on Jessica…”

Silence descended between them.  Jana didn’t dare look in his direction.  She was afraid of what she might see.  Instead, she glanced at the door behind him desperately thinking of a way out.  She could make it past him, couldn’t she?

But did she need to?  He wouldn’t do anything to her.  Would he?

She must have twitched, giving away her frantic thoughts.  Within seconds he was in front of her.  His hands reached out and grabbed her arms hard, holding them to her side.  He yanked her forward so their faces were within inches of each other.  She could feel his breath on her skin as her legs flailed, trying to reach the ground.

“Why did you have to come here, Jana?”  The whisper had turned to a yell and his voice echoed through the tiny shack.  She could see his eyes now.  His icy blue gaze bore into her and she realized she didn’t recognize him.  How is it that someone you’ve known your whole life can become unrecognizable in a matter of seconds?

“Braden, please,” She cried.  “I won’t say anything.  I promise.  You know me!  I… I…”  She was babbling.  How pathetic to be pleading for her life when she’d walked down here with such bravado.  “I just… I want to understand.  That’s all.”

“Understand?  How could you?” He sneered.  “Why did it have to be you?  Why?”  He punctuated the last word by slamming her against the opposite wall.  Her head banged against the boards and stars burst behind her eyes.  She cried out and tried to lift her arms, a desperate act to shield her body, her face… anything from him, but it was no use.

Before she could open her eyes again, she felt a hard slam to the side of her face and she spilled to the floor, dazed.  As if from a distance, she heard her own thoughts.  Is this really happening? 

She heard his shoes scuffling on the floor and thought more blows would come, but they never did.  She heard a loud pop that burst through her ears and rang inside her skull.  She tried to open her eyes.  Only one of them obeyed.  The other one was heavy and didn’t want to work.  Everything was a blur, though, even with one good eye.

A large shadow suddenly stepped in front of her vision and she screamed.  This is finally it.

“Jana?”

It wasn’t Braden.  Who the hell is it?

The shadow leaned down.  “Can you hear me?”

“Yes.”  The word was so soft she wasn’t even sure she’d said it out loud.

“Are you Jana?”

“Yes.”  Louder this time.

“Let’s get you out of here.”

Before she could say anything else, the shadow picked her up and carried her out of the shack.  Her head was pounding and she could feel the side of her face thumping in time to her frantic heartbeat.  “Who… Who…?”  She couldn’t speak around her thumping heart.

“Everything’s okay now.”

She lifted her face and looked into his eyes with her one good one.  His eyes held her spell bound.  Green eyes, so startling they couldn’t possibly be human.  Was he?  Human?  Fuck, she must be in shock.  She definitely wasn’t thinking clearly.  Unless…

“You’re the Dragon?” Louder, but still barely above a whisper.

He smiled then, a soothing expression that washed over her, calming her heart.

“Yes.  And for the record?  I know everything that happens in my territory.”


I haven’t participated in a Chuck Wendig challenge for quite some time, but it was so much fun to write a story longer than 100 words.  I don’t even know how this one ended up a little over 1800 words, but it did.  When I first read the “dragon” prompt, I shook my head, thinking there was no way.  I’m not what you’d consider a fantasy writer.  But then he said to “think out of the box” and this story started to take shape.  I posted the first 100 words last Friday and promised to finish it by today.  Amazingly enough, that actually happened. (I ended up including the first 100 words here as well so you could read the whole thing)

I hope you liked it as much as I loved writing it!

 

Flash Fiction – Searching for Memories

Time no longer has any meaning for me. I drift through it rather than taking an active part in it. It’s a difficult situation to be in, but I’m learning to live with it. At least, I think I am. I still get a creepy feeling in my gut whenever I try to remember anything from before. I just can’t seem to pull it out of the ether and into my consciousness.

Everyone I see is a stranger, even though I know this must be false in some way. I’ve spoken to others like me, and they are here because it’s familiar. They hover around their loved ones, drinking in the last bits of life before they melt away. Others never leave, but the difference is, they know why they’re here. What does that make me?

A ghost with amnesia?

I’m standing by a tree watching a dog chase after a Frisbee when something happens. I’m watching the Frisbee when suddenly my gaze lifts slightly and I’m staring at… Well, he isn’t familiar in the sense that I know him, but everything in my being sizzles.

I stand up straight and before I make the conscious decision to follow him, I’m doing it.

He looks like a typical teenager – black jeans worn a little too low, V-neck Tee that hugs his thin waist, and a beanie flopping on his head. He even has the swagger down, like he knows he’s cool and wants everyone else to know it too. I couldn’t possibly have liked boys like this before, so why the sizzle now?

I follow him most of the day – into a music store, down the street to buy some weed from the corner junkie, then to a friend’s house where they spend all day in a haze of smoke and music. Part of me wishes for the oblivion they find. They laugh at nothing and doze off in the midst of the thumping bass and the pounding drums.

Did I do this when I was alive?

None of it seems familiar, but the sizzle never leaves. It doesn’t get any stronger though.

I finally decide to leave. I’m just getting depressed and I honestly don’t know what to do.

When I step outside, I’m stopped in my tracks by a voice speaking to me. It’s been a long time since I’ve spoken to one of my kind.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” She’s leaning against the building on the opposite corner. She looks like a gypsy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or known a gypsy, but that’s what pops into my head. Long black hair, black t-shirt and a long colorful skirt that sweeps the ground around her.

“Who are you?” I ask, even though I don’t expect an answer.

She tilts her head to the side and just watches me.

I smile and start walking down the street in the opposite direction. I’m not in the mood for a cryptic gypsy.

Trouble is, she won’t leave me alone.

I see her everywhere. She doesn’t speak to me again, but I know she’s there, following me, watching me. It makes it supremely uncomfortable to do what I do when I know I’m being watched. Is that how The Living feel when I watch them?

It could have been a few nights, it could have been twenty, but at some point I realize she’s not going anywhere so I might as well see what the hell she wants. She makes it easy enough. She’s sitting on a park bench watching me watch some kids play on the swings.

“I’m not looking for anything.”

She tilts her head and I think she’s going to ignore me again but she doesn’t.

“Sure you are.”

A cryptic, smug gypsy. Even better.

“If you knew the answer, why’d you ask?”

“I didn’t know. Sometimes it happens like that, but sometimes you just get weird feelings and follow them around for a day or two.”

“I suppose you have first hand experience?” I sound sullen and bitchy, but too late to change it now.

“If I said I did, would you believe me?”

I want to keep throwing snark at her, but I’m not sure how much of my shit she will take before simply walking away. I don’t think I want her to walk away.

Finally, I say, “I don’t know.”

We sit in silence for a while, but it’s an active silence full of thoughts that battle their way around my head in a swirl of longing and hope. I really hate asking for help, but I’m not sure I have much choice.

“Can you help me?” I ask, breaking the silence.

“I’m willing to try if you are.”

I nod my head and our shaky acquaintance begins. Shaky because I don’t think Anne likes me very much. (We finally exchange names – she’s Anne and I’m Chloe. It almost sounds like a fairy tale…) Honestly, I can’t decide if I like her either. I think I hold it against her that she seems to have her shit together, whether she was like me before or not. She never really answers that question, but I don’t have anyone else breaking down my walls, offering their help, so I’m pretty much stuck with her.

“So, who’s the guy?” she asks as we walk along the bank of the pond, a breeze blowing her long black hair behind us.

“I don’t know. I got a weird feeling when I saw him, so I followed him.” She’s silent next to me, so I glance in her direction and keep talking. “That’s never happened before. I don’t recognize anyone or anything around me. Every other spirit I’ve talked to seems to have some idea why they’re here.”

“I think you’d be surprised.” Her smile is sardonic and she’s back to being cryptic.

I stop, frustration melting off my words like ice cream on a hot summer day. “Look, do you have any answers, or are you just having fun at my expense?”

She keeps walking but somehow her words carry back to me on the breeze. “I think you should keep following him. He holds the key to your memories, but you need to be open to knowing the truth.”

I jog to catch up to her and put my hand on her arm. “What do you mean, open? Of course I want to know the truth.”

She stops and turns her head to face me. Her gaze bores into me, cutting deep. “The truth is difficult to bear, even if you know in every fiber of your being that you’re ready for it. I just want you to be prepared, that’s all.”

Am I prepared? I don’t think anyone can really prepare themselves for this scenario, and as time stretches on, I start to realize that maybe I’m not ready, that I’ll never be ready to know the truth.

I follow him for days. He goes to school. He smokes weed. He hangs out with friends. The sizzling feeling is always there, but it doesn’t increase or decrease. It’s just a steady buzz in my blood.

I start to realize, though, that memories are coming back in slow degrees, but it isn’t like a big reveal. I don’t just wake up one morning and ta-da! I have my memories back.

No, this is a slow torturous process – glimpses of faces and pops of color. One time, I’m stopped in my tracks by screams echoing in my skull and it lasts so long, I fall to my knees and grab my head.

Anne is there, beside me, and once again asks, “Are you sure you want to know?”

I can barely move my head it hurts so much, but I throw a look in her direction. “I can’t stop it now, even if I wanted to.”

I have to hand it to her. She helps. More than I thought possible. If nothing else, I’m not alone and that makes it more bearable.

It finally happens at a football game, of all things. It’s an away game so it’s across town. I hang out in the back of the bus and let the lull of pre-game talk and bullshit waft through the air around me. It isn’t until we step off the bus and I take a look around that I realize I know this place. It’s familiar.

I suddenly wonder if maybe I’m hanging around this guy, not because he was familiar to me in my life, but because he was the one who ended it.

The thought paralyzes me and I fall to the ground once again as more images come rushing back.

A football game…

A car…

Him!

His friends…

A haze of smoke and blaring music.

Screaming…

My screams echoing through the night until it is silent once again.

Murdered.

Abandoned.

Left to rot in a hole where I have yet to be found.

Dread fills me. The helpless weight of knowing there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it raises bile in the back of my throat and I choke on a sob.

No one can prepare you for it. No one can save you from it. Memories are a terrible weight that I wish I had left alone because even now, I no longer want to carry them.


This week’s flash fiction challenge thrown down by Chuck Wendig was to take someone else’s character and write a story under 2,000 words (mine comes in around 1,560). I chose the character written by JQ Davis. I loved the ghost aspect and pretty much everything about the character. I suppose I went the obvious route, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything more original. I hope I did justice to the character, though, and that you enjoy my dance in this character’s world.

Flash Fiction – Jersey Malone

Jersey’s place stood as the sole reminder of the past, rising proud in a wasteland of crumbled skyscrapers. Somehow it had survived; although, some would say, it hadn’t escaped unscathed.

Jersey Malone, owner and operator, still saw herself as a glorified barkeep, although her place had become so much more than a bar. Now, it was the only safe haven in the city. A place where all were welcome – reanimated, genetics, and human.

Not everyone followed the rules in her establishment, but Jersey kept them in line. The extent of her arsenal was unknown to many, but what she exhibited when things got bad was enough to make even the most malevolent take pause.

Jersey had long since lost all patience for fluff; things that didn’t matter, as she was known to say. She shaved her head on a regular basis, and she wore whatever she could find, but her style leaned towards khakis and tanks. Her black combat boots had seen better days, but until she could scrounge a new pair that were better than what she had, she laced them up each day and kept on going. Many commented that her ice-blue eyes were the only color left in the city, and that may have been true, but Jersey didn’t much care.

Color or not, she had a business to run in this god-forsaken city.

Pushing through the door, she strode into her place, glancing around at the wary patrons. There were more than usual. It must have been an interesting night.


I haven’t participated in Chuck’s challenge for a while, and I wasn’t necessarily planning on doing this one, but when I read the challenge, Jersey started forming in my head. She was the first thing I thought about when I woke up this morning, so I guess she wants to come to life. Chuck’s challenge this week was to create a character in less than 250 words that someone else can use next week.

A little outside my usual writing style, but I hope you like her.

Flash Fiction – The Beach House Part 3

At dusk by sora__

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Jane pulled her knees up and settled next to Brandon on the couch. The only sound in the house was the muffled movement of the ocean outside. The light Jane had flipped on when they came back in the house glared across the room, adding an unnatural feeling to an already strange evening. They were both heavy with their own thoughts, finding comfort in their bodies touching and Brandon’s hand sliding up and down Jane’s back.

The knock on the front door made them both jump, a soft scream erupting from Jane’s mouth. They looked at each other, the fear in Jane’s hazel eyes reflected in Brandon’s icy blue ones.

“Who the hell is that?” Jane’s voice quivered.

“I have no idea,” Brandon said as he stood up. “Stay here, Babe. I’ll go check it out.”

Jane watched Brandon walk out of the room, down the hall, and to the right completely out of view. Her palms started sweating and she felt a sick feeling in her stomach. When she heard the door creak open, she stood up quickly, looking around for something to use as a weapon. When she turned back to the hallway, Brandon was slowly walking back into the room, Walter trailing behind him.

“Walter? What the hell?” Jane looked from him to the glass door that led onto the deck. “Where’s Jen?”

Looking back, she watched Walter shrug as he walked into the kitchen and opened up the fridge.

Jane’s eyes met Brandon’s, but he looked as baffled as she felt. She turned back to the sliding glass door and was relieved to see Jen walking up the steps of the deck. She walked over and opened up the door.

Jen strode through the door without looking at anyone, walked straight through the room and into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

Brandon met Jane’s eyes and they both sighed, understanding suddenly dawning.

“You guys had a fight?” Brandon asked Walter.

Walter was on his second glass of water and the only answer Brandon got was a grunt.

“Well, we’ll head to bed so you can sleep on the couch if you want. I think we should all get some sleep. It’s been a long day.”

He walked over to Jane and grabbed her hand. “Let’s go to bed, huh?”

“God, yes. This is just getting weird.”

They walked hand in hand to their bedroom and quietly shut the door behind them.

“We so don’t need those two to be at each other the rest of the week.” Jane walked over to the bed and started rummaging through her bag for her pajamas.

“I’ll talk to Walter in the morning. I’m sure everything will be okay.” Brandon leaned back against the door and watched Jane.

“It’s been such a weird day. What do you think was on the beach?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it was a trick of the light or weird beach phenomenon. I honestly didn’t think I smoked that much on the way down here.”

“You didn’t. And I saw something too.” Jane slumped on the bed and started taking off her shoes.

Brandon walked over and sat down next to her, his hand slowly sliding up her arm.

“How about we get naked and relax a little,” he mumbled as he started kissing her neck, slowly making his way to her lips. She turned her head and melted into the kiss, trying desperately to bring some normalcy to the strange start to their vacation.

**

Jane was walking down the beach, her bare feet sliding into the sand with each footstep. Dusk was just turning from purple to gray, slowly fading into black and the waves slipped up to the shore and slid back into the ocean, a steady back and forth motion. There was no sound, but Jane felt peace in the silence that surrounded her.

She felt the waves calling her and she walked towards the water, unable to stop. The waves covered her feet and slid back. She took a few steps forward and the next time the waves came up to her knees and slid back. The process continued until the waves reached her shoulders. Her eyes looked steadily forward and the peace she felt became a blanket, blocking out the cold wet darkness that finally covered her completely.

She floated in the water, adrift with the waves as they enshrouded her body, a comforting tomb. The first breath that slid water into her lungs was a relief she welcomed. She wanted this. She was finally home.

Just as her eyes were going dark around the edges, she saw a pale form floating toward her, reaching for her through the murky water.

**

Jane shot up in bed, a ragged scream echoing through the dark room. She leaned over the side of the bed and vomited onto the floor, her body retching violently. She was soaking wet and each breath she took came too quickly one after the other.

“Babe, are you okay?” Brandon was sitting up in bed, still startled from the scream that had dragged him out of sleep.

Jane was hyperventilating and crying at the same time. “I h-h-had the… w-w-worst nightmare!” She managed to get out in between racking sobs.

He reached for her and his hands slipped on her skin. “Jesus, Babe, you’re soaked.”

“I… I… I was d-d-drowning in the ocean. But… I wasn’t alone…”

Brandon reached for the blanket at the end of the bed and wrapped it around her shoulders. In a gentle voice, he said, “Babe, you need to breathe.” He pulled her toward him and started rocking her, not sure what else to do.

She sobbed for a few minutes longer, trying to take deeper breathes and finally, it started to fade. Once the sobbing stopped, her body started to shake.

“Jane, you’re okay. You’re safe. It was just a dream.” Brandon didn’t know what to say, but he kept repeating what he thought were reassuring words, rubbing her arms, kissing her neck.

Finally, in a soft voice that he could barely hear, she said, “Brandon, I don’t want to stay here anymore.”


Just in case you missed the first two parts, I included links before I started the third part so you could catch up if you wanted to. I also wrote this as part of Chuck Wendig’s challenge this week. The prompt was the random photo challenge. He provided a link to flicker called “Interestingness” where we had to choose a photo and write 1,000 words. I found a photo that went perfectly with this part of the story. If you click on the photo above, it will take you to the author’s flicker sight.

Flash Fiction – Jack’s House

The house had been passed down through the generations and was finally given to Regina on her eighth birthday. The story was that a great-great grandfather made it for his daughter, a replica of the mansion they lived in. It had three stories and covered the entire top of Regina’s dresser after her mother and father helped her carry it upstairs.

It was fully furnished with handmade tables, chairs, and couches; everything a house needed for its occupants. Regina could have spent hours staring at the tiny furnishings and the hand-sewn curtains on the windows, but her party was still in progress downstairs, so she reluctantly left, biding her time until she could run back upstairs and explore the new addition to her room.

When it was revealed, Regina was so excited about the house itself, that she didn’t notice it already had an occupant. He, too, was handmade and was the only thing, other than the furnishings, that had survived through the years.

When Jack heard Regina leave with her mother, exclaiming her joy once again in tones only an eight-year-old could appreciate, he smiled slightly to himself and set to the business of exploring the new dwelling his home had been placed in.

He jumped up and glanced down to make sure he wasn’t too disheveled. It wouldn’t do to meet his new neighbors looking all wrinkled and dusty. His gray slacks were a little worse for wear and he spent some time running his hands down his long legs in order to rid himself of the dust that had settled. He did the same with his not-entirely-white long sleeved shirt and gray vest, adjusting and buttoning as needed. When he felt ready, he walked down the long, curved stairway in the front hall and opened the front door.

Standing in the doorway, he surveyed his new neighborhood. The colors never changed much through the years, always pinks and purples or variations of the two. There was a huge canopy bed lining one wall, and everything in the room was tidy and neat, unlike some rooms he’d occupied. Regina had more toys than he was used to seeing, though, and he continued to glance around, noticing his new neighbors, although some of them were pretending not to notice him, oddly enough. In that moment, he decided not to wait for his first party like he normally did.

It looks like this neighborhood could use a little livening up, he whispered to himself.

Having made his decision to plan the party for that very night, he turned to head back inside, but his eye was caught by something in his peripheral. Turning towards it, he realized he was staring at one of his new neighbors. His breath caught in his throat and he felt a yearning deep inside his heart swell up in his chest. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld.

Her long blond hair was kept in pristine order, brushed to a gleaming shine, and it poured down her head and over her shoulders. She was a tiny thing, but not so tiny she wouldn’t be a perfect match for his long, lean frame. She was wearing a blue dress that hung on her body, with lace that stretched to her fingertips. And such tiny fingers they were. He was mesmerized.

He finally realized he was staring and glanced quickly up to her face. She was staring back at him and a slight flush had spread across her face. He smiled and nodded his head, hoping she would be at his party so they could be formally introduced. He had every intention of making her his, no matter what it took. She smiled back and her hand lifted in a dainty wave.

Oh, yes, he told himself and headed back inside to prepare for the evening.

**

Regina made things quite a bit easier for him when she came into the room later in the evening. She hurried through her preparations for bed and once she was in her pajamas, she ran over to her dresser and started opening the doors and windows in the house. She pulled down a few of the dolls she had stowed away on a shelf and started placing them inside, not really playing yet because she knew it was already passed her bedtime.

She finally noticed Jack laying on a bed in a room upstairs and she let out a loud scream of joy. She pulled him out of the house and held him up. “Well aren’t you just handsome.”

She grabbed Lacey, her favorite doll of all, in her other hand and held her up so she was facing him. “Lacey, meet… hmmm. I don’t know his name, but isn’t he lovely? I think you two are going to get along splendidly.”

She was placing them inside the house, on the couch in the front room when she heard her mother calling.

Regina? Are you ready for bed?” Just as she finished the sentence she walked into the room to perform their nightly bedtime ritual.

Yes, Mama.” Regina walked over to her bed and laid down as her mother walked over to her bedside. When she started to pull the covers up over her, Regina asked, “Mama, did you know there was a man doll in the house?”

I completely forgot about him! His name is Jack.”

Oh! That’s a nice name. Lacey is going to love him!”

Well, if you ask me, Jack is more of a ladies man.”

What’s that mean?”

Her mother sat down next to her on the bed and leaned over to brush her hair to the side.

It means he likes lots of women and has a hard time loving just one.”

Regina looked at her mother thoughtfully. “Well, do you know what I think?”

What’s that my darling?”

I think Jack finally found the woman he’s going to settle down with. I’m going to make sure of it!”

Her mother laughed and kissed her on the forehead. “Well, I hope you’re right, Love. You sleep tight now. Sweet dreams.”

Goodnight, Mama.”

Regina closed her eyes as her mother softly walked to the door, turned off the lights, and closed the door with a soft click.

Jack and Lacey sat on the couch staring at each other, both slightly uncomfortable at what Regina had said to her mom.

Well, I’m going to…”

Are you going to…”

They both started talking at the same time and stopped, waiting for the other to start again. Lacey finally laughed, easing some of the tension that was spiraling around the room.

In a soft voice that ran shivers down Jack’s spine, Lacey said, “I’m going to go get ready for the party I hear you’re hosting tonight.”

Word travels fast.”

It’s a small world where we live.” Her winsome smile beguiled him, making it hard to think.

He stood, leaning over to offer her his hand. As she stood, he leaned in and whispered, “The world is as big as you wish.”

She looked into his startling blue eyes and smiled. “I’ll see you in a few hours, Jack. It was so lovely to meet you.”

The pleasure, I can assure you, was all mine.”

He led her to the door with one hand loosely hovering at the small of her back.

**

It was the same every time. He awoke to an empty house, but the minute he needed something, it was there. He didn’t know if it was just the house that had been created with magic flowing through it, but he took advantage, no matter where it was coming from. There were drinks laid out, the pool was filled with water, and music was playing through the house when he opened up the front door to a multitude of new neighbors.

They all walked around in awe, at first, not quite sure what to make of the new addition to their life and home, but soon they were happily enjoying what was offered. Jack basked in the glow of laughter and voices raised in the excitement of enjoying the company of friends.

He spent most of the time with Lacey by his side and even stole a kiss by the pool as the party was winding down. His head exploded in stars and he thought he would die of complete happiness, but when he opened his eyes, his happiness was standing before him, smiling shyly up at him.

They were inseparable after that first night, not just because Regina kept them together, but because they belonged to each other. Their love lit the whole house and the room around them and everyone else was made happier by the joy they shared.

It all came crashing down a few short months later when Regina took Lacey one day to go on a family outing. Jack was stunned that he was left behind, but happy for Lacey that she was going to experience something new. He paced the whole day and everyone in the room kept their distance, knowing he was suffering but not knowing what to say to make it better.

Jack heard Regina before she flew into the room, wailing and throwing herself on the bed. He was sick. Lacey wasn’t with her.

He waited for Regina to stop crying and when she did, she sat up quickly on the bed and looked his way.

Oh, Jack!” she cried as she ran over and grabbed him to her chest. “I’m so sorry. I accidentally left Lacey on the train and I screamed and screamed for Mama to go back for her, but she wouldn’t, Jack, she wouldn’t go back. And now Lacey is gone forever.”

The crying started all over again and Jack suffered his own pain while held firmly to Regina’s chest as it heaved up and down in agony. After a while, Regina’s mother quietly entered the room and held her daughter as she cried.

It’s okay, Reggie. I know she was your favorite, but she is just a doll. You have so many more!”

Jack didn’t think that would help, and he was right. Regina cried even louder, throwing herself on the bed in a not-quite-tantrum. She was eight years old, after all. Her mother sighed and sat down next to her, patting her back. Regina slowly calmed and finally slept and her mother pulled the covers over her, wiping her brow before walking out of the room.

As is true of eight year old girls, Regina’s grief didn’t last long. Jack, however, was undone. After that night, he never again ventured outside the house on his own. Regina tried helping him move on, but it was no use. Jack’s heart left with Lacey on the day she was taken away and it was still with her wherever she was.


Chuck Wendig threw up his X meets Y challenge this week and I was so excited! I loved this challenge when he did it in January. I tried a random number generator but ended up with something I wouldn’t even know how to write, so I decided to pick it instead. After reading through the choices, I settled on one I thought could make an interesting story. What you have is Toy Story meets The Great Gatsby in a little over 1,800 words. I hope you enjoyed it. I had a blast writing it!

Flash Fiction – Daddy Are You Listening

Daddy, are you listening? Oh, God, please say you’re listening. I don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t reach you.

It seemed to Annie that she’d been pleading for hours, not sure if she was getting through but refusing to lose hope. The dank air smeared her face with icy cold fingers as she curled around herself, adjusting her body to hold as much heat as possible in the tiny circle her body made when she pulled her knees to her chest. The tinkling sounds of chains echoed on the walls making her feel even more alone.

She knew that in order to communicate she would need to stay calm. It wouldn’t help to send him a jumble of images all at once. She knew how overwhelming that could be. She also knew that unless he opened up, he wasn’t going to hear any of it anyway.

Oh, Daddy, please hear me. Please find me. I know you can if you just listen.

She could feel the link between them, could almost see it stretching away from her, glowing a faint blue as it disappeared beyond her sight. She had no way of knowing if his end was open, but she had to try. Otherwise, she was certain she would succumb to despair.

She shivered, remembering how her darkest fears had been realized, how she’d been taken just as she always feared she would be. Taking a deep breath, she slowly went through what had happened hoping he was listening on the other end and that he would understand what she was sending him.

**

The first image was the struggle in the parking lot outside the Ford building where she had just finished her psyche class. She knew the minute she stepped out of the building that she was in trouble. She couldn’t define it, but she knew long before it actually happened. She had quickened her footsteps on the sidewalk, pulling her keys out, getting ready to jump in her car the minute she was in front of it. She remembered glancing around, feeling as if the clouds were descending on her, enveloping her in their chaotic madness.

Where did everyone go, she remembered thinking? The sidewalks were strangely deserted. She picked up her pace again, not quite running but getting close. Her feet slapped on the pavement and her breath started coming in gasps. Over the thunderous beat of her heart slamming in her chest, she thought she heard another sound but couldn’t be sure; her own internal noise drowned out everything else.

When she spotted her car, she had breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t realize she’d spoken aloud, but she heard a whispered finally when she was within reach of the car.

It came so fast, she didn’t have time to think. She felt the hulking shape seconds before it slammed into her and she went sprawling on the pavement, her keys flying out of her hand and rattling to a stop just out of her reach. She flipped around just in time to see big hulking arms reaching for her. She tried to scoot back, but it was too late. The hands clamped around her waist and picked her up as if she were weightless.

She had screamed and kicked and flailed her arms, hoping to surprise her attacker with sound and movement, but it didn’t help. The hands were like iron grips and before she knew it, she was thrown over a huge shoulder and carried away from her car.

The next image was of the dark vehicle on the other side of the parking lot near the trees. She couldn’t be sure what it was because she was still struggling, still trying to fight the overwhelming presence that had grabbed her and carried her as if she were an inconsequential nothing. She knew it was a van or a truck, but she was hoping the image translated more clearly on the other end. At the time, she’d been battling tears and a ragged throat from screams that echoed into the empty night.

Once she was thrown inside, she found herself in almost complete darkness. She had almost given into the panic that was crawling up from her stomach, but a calm force had settled over her and she knew exactly what she needed to do.

The next thing she sent wasn’t an image, it was numbers and directions. Someone had told her once that counting calmed you enough to put you to sleep. In the back of the vehicle, she was a long way from sleep, but she had hoped that counting would somehow save her. As soon as they started moving, she started counting. When they turned, she noted whether it was right or left and started the count over again. There were six turns and plenty of counting in between before they came to a stop and a few moments later the door opened.

She sent the image of the hulking figure grabbing her and her pleas and cries that were met with silence.

Who are you?

Why are you doing this?

What do you want?

I’ll do anything. Just please, don’t hurt me!

It all seemed to fall on deaf ears. She was carried effortlessly into an ordinary industrial building, down a flight of twelve stairs (she had made sure to count) and into the cell she was now locked in. The figure chained her to the wall and left, slamming the iron door behind him without so much as a sound or a grunt. As soon as she heard the lock turn in the door, she had crumbled onto the floor and cried.

**

Having sent the images, all Annie could do was wait. But while she waited, she decided to keep the line open, like a recording. She’d never tried anything like it before, but she found that it was as easy as breathing. Just like riding a bicycle, her daddy always said.

She was still recording when what seemed like hours later the door opened and the hulking figure walked in, undid her chains and led her from the room. She didn’t protest this time, knowing there was nowhere for her to run. She kept quiet as he led her down a long, barren hallway with bright lights that burned her eyes after the darkness of her cell.

At the end of the hallway, he opened a door on the right and led her into what looked like an exam room in a hospital. Seeing the bed and the monitors, her whole body started to shake.

Oh, Daddy.

What do you want from me?” She looked at her guide, but it was as if no one was home. His eyes looked through her like she wasn’t there, and he led her to the bed as if she hadn’t spoken. She kept thinking she was going to make a run for it, going to try and get away but before she knew it, she was strapped down and there was no more fight left, if there had ever even been one.

She continued recording, almost as an afterthought. She knew it wouldn’t help her now, but the thought of her father finding this place and blowing it to hell in order to avenge her death made her smile.

She was still smiling when a woman dressed in gray scrubs and wearing the same vacant expression as her guard walked up and started attaching wires to her body. She winced when a needle was stuck into her arm and liquid started dripping down a tube directly into her blood stream.

Too late, Daddy.

Her eyes were getting heavy and she was just starting to float into oblivion when she realized another person was standing above her. He patted her arm and she heard him say, “It’s not too late, Annie. You’re doing great. You’ve already given us so much.

Her eyes snapped open as she realized who it was, but the drug that was making it’s way through her body had done it’s job well.

Daddy?

Why?

The two words echoed inside her head, a silent scream that followed her into the darkness.


Chuck Wendig’s challenge this week was to pick an opening sentence that someone else wrote and write a flash fiction up to 2,000 words. Mine finished around 1,350. The first sentence I chose was written by Kalen Ivey. I hope I did it justice, although I have to admit that this was a rough one for me. As with many of Chuck’s challenges, I almost gave up on it. I hope it wasn’t too much of a mess and that you don’t scream at me too much. I have to say, for someone who hates cliffhangers as much as I do, I sure do end a lot of my stories with them.