Tag Archives: flash fiction

Bad Delivery

by David G Shrock


This story is part of Kandy Fangs: Venom web-series of non-linear vampire stories at www.KandyFangs.com. Different parts of Venom feature different characters including Peter, Kandy, and the Thyme family allowing the reader to follow only one perspective or read all for different experiences.

Kandy Fangs (1) book cover

The grand opening was three days away, on Hallowe’en of all nights, and Peter Gray still needed to finish hiring the staff. Would the bartender, Kyle or Cal—whatever his name was, consider working an extra shift? It seemed like a quarter of Roseland was out of work, but he couldn’t find enough employees meeting his father’s standards. It would be easier to forget fine dining, open a simple public house, but he had made a promise. Even if he screwed up nearly everything else in life, promises he meant to keep. His word given to a man on his deathbed put wiggle room on short supply.

Pushing the last table into place, Peter surveyed the area making sure there was more than enough space for some large man swinging elbows to pass without knocking someone on the head. As he stacked a chair upside-down on the table, a high-pitched squeal coming from the kitchen startled him. The sound of fracturing wood made him cringe.

In the kitchen, everything gleamed, white walls and silver-wired shelves. Pots, pans, and knives hung on a wall. The shelves at the back were still empty, and the slicer was nowhere to be seen leaving an open space in the middle where Boris crouched over a crate. Splintered wood broke the serenity of the tiled floor.

Pulling on a crowbar, Boris grunted. Another nail squealed as the lid popped up leaving just one corner still attached.

“Boris,” said Peter, “what the hell is that?”

Boris waved the crowbar at the crate. “The door to the freezer, I imagine. What else would it be?”

Taking up the corner of the kitchen, the walk-in freezer appeared like the opening to a dark, empty cave. He had already rescheduled the meat delivery twice, and needed that freezer door before the big day.

“Boris, that isn’t the right shape for the walk-in. A skinny door, maybe.”

The wrong shape for any door, really, the crate appeared more like it held something the size of a coffee table and plenty of padding.

“Some assembly required,” said Boris. Another pull popped the crate open, and he leaned the lid against a wire shelf. Staring into the open crate in bewilderment, he rubbed his face.

A coffin. Black, glossy under the bright florescent lights, the box appeared ominous sitting snug inside the crate. At the corners, packing peanuts provided padding along with Styrofoam blocks on either side at the narrow end of the coffin.

For a moment it felt as if the afterlife had shipped his father back to him, but the old man rested underground in a white casket. No, this was a mistake. It had to be. Shipper royally screwed up, and likely some funeral home had a freezer door. Opening a restaurant came with its share of stumbles along the way, and for the most part everything seemed to balance out. As far as setbacks go, Peter put this bad delivery into the weird experiences pile.

Tearing the shipping documents off the lid, Boris stood up spewing curses in the language of his homeland.

In the other room, the front door clapped shut. Footsteps approached.

Peter glanced over finding a young woman standing beside him, and recalled the late afternoon interview. Her sharp-yet-comfortable attire, short-sleeved blouse and long skirt, scored high on the old man’s quality test. After a day of interviewing girls in torn jeans, this woman lifted his spirits. Her smile, closed lips curling up on her left side, appeared playful like a child discovering a new present beneath the Christmas tree.

“That’s the Reaper’s Box,” said the woman.

“It’s a goddamn tragedy is what it is,” said Boris.

“An old model from a line of colorfully named boxes,” said the woman. Shaking her head, she appeared apologetic and held out her hand. “Sorry, I’m Nine Thyme. My family runs a funeral home.”

Studying Nine Thyme, Peter found a pleasant expression, not the face of a prankster. Unless she had one hell of a poker face, Nine hadn’t sent the coffin as a joke. Although, a funeral expert arriving after the coffin seemed like a strange twist of cosmic entanglement. Tentatively, he shook her hand and introduced himself.

“Aren’t you too young to be running a restaurant?” asked Nine. Squeezing her eyes shut, embarrassed as if she had just stepped in something disgusting, she took in a deep breath and opened her eyes again. “I mean you are the sole owner, aren’t you?”

“Autumn Twilight was my father’s dream. Before he passed, I had promised to see it through for him.”

Her smile evaporated, and her gaze darted between the coffin and his face.

“No,” said Peter, feeling the blood drain from his face. A restaurant is an unthinkable location to keep dear old Dad. “My father died three months ago. This is a shipping mistake.”

“Mistake my ass,” said Boris. He waved the shipping papers. “This thing is addressed to you, Peter. Your goddamn name is on here.”

“Papers must be mixed up, Boris. While I interview Nine, will you get the shipper on the phone and see if we can swap this thing for our freezer door before tomorrow?”

Nodding, Boris pulled his phone out of his pocket.

Nine kneeled beside the crate and ran her fingers over the surface of the coffin. “A nice old model in great shape,” she said.

“Well, I’m trying not to become too attached to it,” said Peter.

Glancing over her shoulder, Nine shot him a cold look. “You might want to rethink that, Peter Gray.”

Gaze falling on Nine’s tapping finger, Peter spotted a blue sticky note near the top corner of the coffin. He crouched beside the crate, his gut sinking deeper. Edge crinkled, and black ink smudged, the note appeared as though it had been stuck there for a year or longer. He had no trouble reading it though, and he didn’t like it one bit. As if it might make the meaning more clear, he read it again to the room.

“For Peter Gray. Do not open until All Hallows’ Eve.”


David G ShrockLiving in the Pacific Northwest, David G Shrock is a software developer creating magic through code and words. He began writing fiction to help improve code quality and readability with great success. When not writing software or fiction, he’s usually mountain biking, studying astronomy, or dabbling in artwork.

website: http://www.kandyfangs.com

Twitter: @dracotorre

Google: +DavidGShrock


by Maria Protopapadaki-Smith

Field Four (for video)-Melissa D. Johnston

Althea awoke one morning to find that she had dreamt of nothing. Not in the sense that she hadn’t had a dream at all or couldn’t remember that she’d had one, but rather that her dreaming self had spent the whole night in a completely dark space, doing nothing, seeing and hearing nothing. She found it a little odd, but thought no more about it until it happened again that night, then the next, then the one after that. At this point she was more frustrated than mystified – aside from anything else, it made for an excruciatingly dull sleeping experience. After it went on for two more weeks, she was at the end of her tether and decided to do something about it.

Three puzzled sleep specialists later, it became apparent that this was not the route to go down. She tried many different things, like watching horror movies and eating cheese before bedtime, but none of them worked. The only thing that did work was staying up all night, but of course this could never be anything more than a temporary solution, and the empty dream always returned the next time she slept. Nevertheless, she treated herself to a sleepless night every few days in the hopes that it would slow down the rate of her mental breakdown. It was on one of those nights that her haphazard internet browsing led her to the Dreamhealer. Recurring nightmares? I can help you. I can make them go away.

Had she chanced upon this website before the empty dreams had started, she would have immediately dismissed the man as a charlatan, much like those who take cash from grieving people in exchange for a faked conversation with their dead loved ones. Desperate times called for desperate measures, however. The man claimed to be able to fix all your dream problems by invoking the ancient spirits, and since modern day spirits didn’t seem to be helping, she decided to give the Dreamhealer a try.

He was different to what she had expected. She had been convinced he would be one of those charmer types, sporting a garish tie and a smile that boasted expensive orthodontistry. Instead she found a man who wouldn’t have looked out of place as the lead character in a gritty Western movie. A lone ranger, for sure. He couldn’t be a happy man, she thought; not with that look in his deep-set eyes. Here was a face that had long ago forgotten how to smile. Perhaps he had dealt with too many of other people’s nightmares over the years. The thought stirred some hope in her – maybe this man really could help her. Maybe he was not a charlatan after all, but a genuine healer of dreams.

The Dreamhealer took Althea’s hands and made her touch her forefingers to his temples. He told her to keep them there and apply a little pressure. He placed his own forefingers under her earlobes, as if he were taking her pulse. He locked eyes with her and she had to work hard to suppress a shiver.

The chant took her by surprise. She couldn’t understand a word of it, and it sounded like no language she had experienced, but she could have listened to it for hours. His voice, which had been gruff when he spoke, was deep, low and beautiful as he sang. It stopped abruptly and she felt something snap inside her. He jumped back from her and doubled over, retching. After that had passed, he stood up straight and gasped.

“Is…is that it? Is it done?” she asked as soon as she could see he’d caught his breath. He nodded, looking exhausted. She picked up her handbag and took out her wallet to pay the fee they’d agreed on. He shook his head and held up his hand.

“This one’s on me,” he said, no louder than a whisper, and walked out of the house without another word. Once she was alone, Althea wondered if she was imagining things, or whether that had been a hint of a smile on his face.

That night, she dreamt of being the guest of honour at the launch of an enormous battleship named Planet, and awoke the next day feeling better than she had felt in ages. Even when the doorbell rang before her first sip of coffee, she answered it with a smile and a spring in her step. She accepted the box from the delivery man and signed her name in the device proffered. It was a very light box. She placed it on the kitchen table and opened it carefully. Inside was a single red rose and a handwritten note.

Thank you, Dreamhealer.

Maria Protopapadaki-SmithMaria Protopapadaki-Smith likes to take herself and her readers to other worlds, or at the very least to the dark edges of this one. Spend some time with her at her blog Mazzz in Leeds, Twitter, or Facebook.

This Is Not A Pretty Story

by Melissa D. Johnston

shadows and faultlines new

November 16, 1992. Clemson University. I am flying. My new blue and white running shoes pound orange clouds from the ground. The clouds multiply, leaving a trail as distinct as any fighter pilot’s. I rewind and play the intro to Tori Amos’s “Precious Things” for the fourth time, fine-tuning the details of the video I’m directing in my head: A lone girl sits on an underground train. Successive light and shadow flash through the windows, illuminating and darkening her face. The alternation syncs simultaneously and steadily with the music and implied speed of the train. Slowly the changing of light and dark lose their rhythmic cadence until there is no discernible pattern and the scene becomes a rapid chaotic flash of light and dark that ends abruptly. Complete blackness. First line: “So I ran faster…” Cut to—

He comes from nowhere.

“And it brought me here—”

A slam so hard my tailbone cracks. I see nothing but his lips. And something shiny. So shiny, catching the mid-day sun.

“If you scream I’ll kill you.” His eyes. Hard. Polished black marble occluding blue-sky iris. I open my mouth and the shiny object takes shape. “C’mon!” he jerks my arm and pushes me into the only wooded section of Clemson’s perimeter loop.

I remember the sun. Through barren trees. Black flat human shadow with liquidly muted colors.  Moving. Back. Forth. Backforthbackforthbackforth. Back. Sweat drips. Mine? His? The crunch of leaves. Reaching. His. My limbs are rock, legs endlessly falling.  He picks up the knife. Holds it, suspended, under my right eye.

“You’ll never forget me, sweetie.”


I wake up screaming. Again. My face chasms, splitting the bed. Far away voice. An arm reaches across the divide. “Annie?” I stone, protecting my side. Again.

In the morning light I can barely see it. A nearly four inch rough-edged, floss-sized scar below my right eye, running nose to ear. Eric always says he can’t see it. He wraps his arms around me and smiles into the mirror, meeting my eyes. I brush his arms aside. “I need to go,” I say, picking up the carryall.

“No human being should be reduced to a thing,” my philosophy professor had said my junior year. “Human beings are always ends in themselves, never simply means.” I raise my hand. “What happens if someone treats someone else as means alone?” He pauses for a moment. “I believe the act of treating someone else as a thing—no matter how small or brief—is an act of force. It cuts both ways. Both people lose their humanity in the interaction.” After class I cry in the third floor bathroom in a puke green stall.

“Are you okay?” a strange voice asks.

“I’m fine.” I wipe my tears, blow my nose, and walk calmly out the door.



My mind somersaults the dusk-colored shapes of Willow Street in an elaborate water ballet.

“You’ve hardly touched your food.” His words float with street shapes, freely and indistinctly.

“Annie!” I startle and turn from the window, in shame. It’s our first anniversary.

“Why don’t we go?”

I grab my coat.

Outside, Eric takes my hand.  Stopping in front of a metal bench, he says, “Let’s sit here for a minute.”

We are silent, our faces mirror. “I’ve been thinking,” he says, nervously spinning his wedding ring. He pauses. “I need to say something to you.”

The bench begins to split.

“I do see it.” He raises his finger against the glare of streetlight and places it gently on my face, tracing the entire length of the scar. My body shakes. I need to leave. Now. I stand up.

“No, you’re not leaving this time.” He tugs my arm downward. My eyes narrow. I will not be forced.

He lets go. “Please.” I sit down. “Please talk to me. I’m so tired of this coming between us.” His eyes graze my scar. “Tell me the story. All of it.”

I turn away. “It’s not a pretty story.”

“Sometimes we don’t need pretty stories. We need true ones.” Time suspends for one brief moment. He holds me. We both cry together in the middle of the bench, for all the world to see.

Martians Don’t Eat Corn

by Laura Eno

istockphoto--corn field with clouds

They found Bart Haskins this morning at the bottom of an old well. Called it an accidental death, but I know better. Third death this week too. They weren’t no accidents. It was the Martians that done it.

Those three men wouldn’t believe me when I said that the Martians don’t eat corn and they better plant something else. No sir, they just went right ahead and planted like they always did, but look at their crops now – withering away even as the stalks are sprouting out of the ground. ‘Course the sheriff said their crops were poisoned, but it was really the Martians and their death ray. I tell ya, you don’t want to get on those Martians’ bad side. They’re some mean, nasty critters, if you ask me.

It all started back in the fall, when I was plowing. I had me some nice straight rows in the dirt when one of their flying saucers landed right smack in the middle of my field. I was some perturbed, I’ll tell ya. A mite scared too, if truth be told. I musta blacked out, but when I woke up there were these crazy circles in my field.

My head felt none too good so I went back home to lie down. That’s when I had the dream. You see, those Martians had taken me to their flying saucer and instructed me to tell the townsfolk that Martians don’t eat corn and we should plant something else. The dream brought it all back to me.

Well, I tried to warn the others, but they told me I was crazy or drunk. Just because I have a still don’t mean I’m always drunk. I’m gonna miss the corn on account of that, but you can’t argue with a Martian.

So anyway, I figured it’s their loss if they don’t want to make the Martians happy. But now that spring’s here, people are dying and I’m right scared. The law don’t believe me, either. They locked me up this morning, said they was gonna try me for murder and destroying crops with kerosene.

They’ll see though, when all the crops are dead. Then they’ll have to listen. I know the Martians will get me out of here soon. You see, I planted me some green beans. The Martians told me they really like those.

Laura EnoLaura Eno lives in Florida with three skulking cats and two absurdly happy dogs. After spending years immersed in college but never figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up, she now writes novels late at night with the help of muses from the underworld. And, no, she still hasn’t grown up but that’s okay.

She is the author of fifteen novels and novellas, ranging from fantasy to romance to horror, and has stories included in nineteen published anthologies.

Explore Laura’s work at her blog, visit her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter.

Phantom Sister

by Linda Simoni-Wastila

Marlena comes to me on the cusp of sleep and wakefulness, when the world blurs grey. She soars through yellow-tinted waves, her bald shining skull pushing through water. Although she never speaks, she makes a gurgling sound, high-pitched like the bottle-nosed dolphins at the aquarium. I look but never see her face. When I wake, the bottoms of my feet sting as though I walked over a yard of smoking coals. Those mornings I call in sick and sleep in the boat’s hold. The gentle rocking hugs me.

My twin sister Maria lives halfway around the world in the Catoctin Mountains. She paints and writes poems about trees. We rarely see each other but the internet tethers us. Maria has the same dreams about Marlena – we think of them as visitations — but she feels the ache in her chest, the left side, a sharp pain like someone has plunged in an icy hand and wrested out her heart. Afterwards she also feels an uncommon, exhausting peace. We wonder if this is how we tangled in our mother’s womb: hands to feet to heart.

Thanksgiving Day, I find myself alone on the boat, flipping through scrapbooks, missing my sister. I find an old photo of the two of us, a college road trip to Baltimore. Our smiling faces squeezed together, the Washington monument towers behind us. I scan the picture, push send. The image zips to Maria’s mountaintop. Seconds later, she writes back. “There’s a hole between us.” I look closer at the photograph and my soles burn.

Linda Simoni-Wastila writes from Baltimore, where she also professes, mothers, and gives a damn. Her stories and poem are published or forthcoming at Smokelong Quarterly, Monkeybicycle, Scissors and Spackle, MiCrow, The Sun, The Poet’s Market 2013, Hoot, Connotation Press, Camroc Press Review, Right Hand Pointing, Every Day Fiction, and Nanoism, among others. Senior Fiction Editor at JMWW, she works one word at a time towards her MA in Creative Writing at Johns Hopkins and two novels-in-progress. In between, when she can’t sleep, she blogs at http://linda-leftbrainwrite.blogspot.

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