Tag Archives: scream

Illusory Storage

It’s been a while since anything’s been posted here. I have plenty of excuses, but I’ll spare you that. Instead let me tell you a story. Click the arrow below, sit back and enjoy!

I hoisted the rollup door and it banged at the top. My wife, Patricia, was standing next to me. I could feel her sidelong glare as she rubbed her hands together. Me? I was looking at what we bought. Still trying to guess what was under the ancient floral bedspread.

We participate in auctions at a few storage facilities in the area, bidding on abandoned storage lots and then emptying out the ones we win. People, for one reason or another, stop paying their rent and the storage company sells off their stuff at auction. It’s part of the deal and they know it.

One time, we bought the contents of a storage bay and all we could see were Rubbermaid tubs and furniture. It was basically junk. But something was covered in the back corner, too low to be a motorcycle yet the shape at one end said ‘handlebars’ to me. You can’t go in and rummage around until after the auction so there’s a lot of guess work. The bidding got to fifteen hundred or so before we won that lot. Turned out the hunch was right. There was a snowmobile underneath which we turned over for sixty five hundred. I still love to tell that story.

This time it had that same feel…of being more. No handle bars, but the layer of undisturbed dust told me this was something important to someone—important enough to take out a storage cubicle long enough for that dust to accumulate. There were some boxes of old books. There were some stage props and costumes we could consign out. A top hat in clear plastic was intriguing. But this time, we were in it for eighteen hundred and whatever was under that bedspread had to be the goose for us.

I finally stepped inside and pulled the bedspread away to reveal a trunk. Pat stepped around the side, looking it over, and said, “That’s different. I wonder what’s inside.”

The bottom half of the trunk stood nearly crotch height and the curved lid made the whole thing reach to the bottom of my rib cage. It was made of wood and the corners were strapped in metal and hand wrought fasteners. The locking hasp took a skeleton key, the hole was so big.

In my best pirate, I said, “Arrrgh, and if ye be knowin’ ye be guardin’ this here treasure till my return.”

Pat shoved me and we laughed. I was glad she didn’t seem worried about losing money on this lot. The trunk was old and ornate enough to pull down a few hundred at consignment; I had my doubts about what could be inside. Something was whispering to me that the trunk itself was the treasure here, and nothing to bank on. I had a lock picking kit in my satchel, so I went to work.

When I finally got it open, we lifted the lid together and peered in. “What am I looking at?”

“Huh. Stairs,” she said. “What’s up with that?”

I looked at the front of the trunk to gauge its depth—then looked inside again. “The stairs go farther down than the trunk.”

Pat performed the same assessment and said, “You think?”

Subtle sarcasm. She was good at it and she made me smile.

I rummaged the flashlight from my satchel and shined it down the murky staircase. There was a landing after fifteen stairs. They continued on to another landing, and another, on into infinity—or whatever passed beyond the scope of my flashlight beam.

We were on either side and after shining the light around down there I turned it off. We looked at each other stoically. I gave the trunk a quick shove as a weight test and it didn’t even budge.

“I guess we’ll see if that winch is worth anything now. I’ll be right back.”

We come to these auctions with a trailer hooked up to my pickup truck. I have a winch mounted on the trailer in case we get heavy stuff. I meandered out to the parking lot and brought the truck around. By the time I got back, Pat was gone.

“PAT!”

“Down here!”

I looked down into the trunk and she was three flights down. I could see her pointing the flashlight this way and that. As I moved away, I saw something else. Unsure what it was, I looked back down in time to see a figure one flight above her skitter away. It was a skinny thing, short with thin little arms. Immediately after it was out of my sight, Pat shrieked.

“Pat? You okay?”

“Yeah. I just thought I heard something.”

Two more shadows well below her and I had to remember she was a student of Karate.

“Well, come up. Okay? I’m going to hook up the trunk and haul it onto the trailer.”

“Okay.” She started back up.

With the winch cable hooked to two cargo straps wrapped around the trunk, I took up the slack. The trunk jerked and the lid flopped down. I didn’t stop dragging the trunk until it was fully into the light of day. Then I went to look in the hole it was covering—the hole with the stairs leading down into oblivion; looking for Pat, my wife of fifteen years. I wanted to be sure she was alright.

But there was no hole; just the scuffed concrete.

After a moment’s reflection, I scrambled to open the trunk—frantically picking the lock a second time. My mind reeled and I couldn’t bear the thoughts that came to me so I focused on getting it open.

And then it was.

This time, the inside had a bottom.

This time, the trunk was empty.

The scream, I realized, was my own.

 

Well, that’s the story and I’m sticking to it. This is the product of that thoughtful zoned-out gaze while watching Storage Wars or some such and wondering how things could go wrong. If you enjoyed it, leave me a comment. Even if it’s just a simple “Thanks!”

Oh, and tell your friends, because I love to tell a story to anyone who’ll listen…

By the Light

I wrote this for the Manomet Writer’s Group. The prompt was simply “Full Moon”. Wide open for whatever the mind can conjur, aye.

Well this is what I came up with. Enjoy.

The idea came at Brandon in a flash. Even as Stef was kissing him, he was on his back looking up at the answer. It was the moon, the full moon that seemed to drive her wild with desire.

It took him forever to work up the courage and ask her out. Now they went at it like there would be no tomorrow. Sometimes Stef got so worked up and treated him so roughly that it felt sort of predatorial.

That was it and he hated to admit it, even to himself; because that put him in position as prey. It was clear she was more assertive when the moon was full.

He responded to her advances, kissing her back just a little less enthusiastically with the hope she might slow down. Or, at least not get worked up further. And that thought seemed counter-intuitive to his high school mentality. Stef was definitely working him up and it was obvious to both as she straddled him.

She sat up and the smile on her face worked to a devious grin that displayed a dimple on one side. Her head tipped down coyly, and the squirming motions Stef made as she removed her jacket were more pronounced than they needed to be. This was the place of his wildest dreams, yet the strain was uncomfortable at the same time. He could feel permanence in the smile on his face.

Stef arched her back, bent at the waist and rested her hands on Brandon’s chest as she ground her way down to him again.

That’s when it happened. Just as she was bending to kiss him again, a streak raced across the sky and plowed into the moon.

Silently.

Pieces of the moon scattered out in an effort to match the velocity of the original incoming object and the moon began to rotate slowly yet noticeably.

Brandon rubbernecked to the left to watch chunks of moon fly off to the right. And as Stef corrected course, he rubbernecked to the right.

“Hey, are you all right?”

Brandon finally returned his gaze to her and searched her face for an answer. Even in the shadowy veil of hair, her face had a healthy radiance of its own. He looked back up and beyond her once again and calmly said, “Something just hit the moon.” He said it as if in a trance, or emptily talking about the weather.

Stef sat up and with a hand low on Brandon’s stomach and turned to look at the moon. Brandon couldn’t resist ogling the silhouette of her breasts for a moment. He began to reach out.

Then the sound of it finally reached them. It came as a shock wave boom which rumbled away in the still night air.

A dark jagged gash marred the moon’s surface and the broken pieces had slowed their trajectory. The smaller bits trailed out behind those with more weight to them. The scar on the surface of the moon rotated to the right and it would be an hour or more before the depth of it could be seen in profile.

“Oh my God,” Stef said. “What just happened?”

Brandon felt a sudden urge explode in his brain. He pulled Stef close and rolled so that he was now on top. He held her arms out on the ground and grinned at her. Her initially-worried look was replaced with that devilish grin that showed off her dimple again.

“Wow, you animal. What are you going to do now? Huh, Brandon?”

She bucked once, and arched her back which put her breasts in a favorable light. A meaty jiggling swell peeked out.

Brandon surveyed all that he could see of her before lunging for her neck. When he bit in, she began to squirm and fight. Her intended scream merely gurgled. He held her arms out and kept at it until a warm gush filled his mouth. He sat up and watched as blood pumped and pooled under her head and shoulders. Her eyes were wide with fright. They darted about for an answer.

Brandon felt the changes within. He wondered if any of it showed outwardly for Stef to see as she faded into oblivion. The fight in her had waned and before she could wink out of existence he began to fulfill another urge.

It was just as primal, starting as a guttural noise deep in his throat. He was surprised at how long it took to get going, how long it lasted. His howl wound-up like an old air raid siren and called into the night. It answered to the moon in its fullness and for its radiance.

Brandon’s howl pierced the night as an ominous advisory. Another answered his call; then another more distant. Soon there were dozens taking up the call in acappella terror. He rejoined the frenzied chorus as it sang of the hunt to the moon.

Up above, a partial crater looked like a dimple at the end of the newly formed smirk. Two other craters seemed to peer down as the face slowly turned away.

El Malo: The Wicked One

You may have noticed a slight change in the look of FlashTold. I was sick of the white on black with the red header bar. The picture I used for this header bar is one I took several years ago of the Mayflower sitting in Plymouth Harbor (yes, the Mayflower of pilgrim fame. For me, it’s right around the corner).

This story is sort of a response to a comment someone wrote a while ago. In the comment he mentioned peasants in the Mexican countryside referring to me as El Nocidar, and I started writing this. I put it away and forgot about it, only to find it this week while rummaging. It’s one of those with the same beginning and ending lines, another style I like. And it is post-apocalyptic.

 

He wondered, as he walked into the desert east of Yuma Island, how much longer he would do this. The setting sun turned the sky a violent pink. Cactus jutted out of the scrabble and scrub looking like odd stalagmites in silhouette. He was dressed in black to blend in with the coming pitch of a moonless night.

The Great Quake marked the beginning of this part of his life. The San Andreas ripped California apart and rendered Arizona a coastal state. The desert ended at the Pacific Ocean, an odd juxtaposition of geography; beach for as far as the eye could see.

He was headed south to get into position. The sky was fading to a shade of purple that always reminded him of the low point of a corpse.

He thought of his wife.

He lost his wife during the Great Quake. She was heading to a symposium in California and simply disappeared. That is how he thinks of it. Swallowed up is just too graphic for his sensibilities regarding her. His eye sockets burn with the memory.

The looters arrived with the aftershocks. They came across the border in groups looking for basics like food and medical supplies. Parts of Mexico sheared into the Pacific as well and they didn’t have the wherewithal to deal with it.

The U.S. Army stepped in to help until the funding ran out. He doesn’t understand that. The army is still the army and their base is not far away. So it’s not funding that’s the issue; it’s interest.

Several hours of sitting at the top of the cragged rise overlooking the rest of the desert and he sees a juddering light in the distance. It is a flashlight. He stands for a better view in time to get a sense of where it is before being switched off. He begins walking toward a location that he feels will place him just ahead.

He doesn’t use his night vision goggles until he needs them in order to conserve the batteries.

He switches them on when he feels he is close.

The border-crossers used to be a minor inconvenience before the Great Quake; crossing for jobs, health care and anything else they could get without ruffling too many feathers. In the aftermath the United States has nothing to offer them—nothing to spare; yet they still have less. So they come to steal whatever they can from whoever they can. They’re called night-raiders and coyotes. They ransack homes, stores, and hospitals stealing everything and selling what they don’t want.

Survivors are his best weapon against the war he wages. He started with heavy fire power that usually killed right away. But they kept coming. No one was left to warn others away. Then he started carrying his paintball gun and things changed.

He developed his own weaponry.

The sixteen inch barrels strapped to his arm, extend out beyond his hand and are fired by flexing his wrist downward. The firing barrels are fed from a backpack hopper of paintballs and a co2 tank.

To the uninitiated, he looks like an errant paint-baller gone rogue and ready to run the gauntlet.

The peasants talk of la marca del Diablo, or the devil’s mark. At night he can hear the terror in their voices when they see the signature red mark of his laser sighting system. They scramble when he starts firing.

The paintballs are his very special reloads. He carefully removes the paint and replaces it with an acid solution that reduces organic matter (like flesh, for instance) to a jelly-like state.

It burns.

They scream.

It scars them for life.

He’s seen them around during the day. Just a few days ago he saw a woman with his mark on her. The skin of her ear was fused and shiny and the scar extended below the collar of her shirt. Her normally cocoa-tan skin was an ugly mix of white and pink. She was working at a gas station in Gila Bend when he noticed her, which means she no longer crosses at night to loot.

She’s gone legal.

With his night vision goggles on he sees the group easily. They are heading north, single-file, and look to be mostly men. He begins firing, aiming at the guide first.

Soft air sounds punctuate the night as the balls of acid hurtle in the dark at nearly four hundred feet per second.

The looters begin to scream in Spanish. What he hears most is the name they’ve given him.

“EL MALO!”

“Ohhh, El Malo.”

“AAAAaaaiiieeee, El Maligno!”

“Santa Madre de Dios, mis ojos.”

The group scatters mostly south and he watches, sure that most of them were hit. There is a sudden swish sound behind him and he drops to his left. He brings up the barrel and tips his wrist. A forty round burst spews out. At least thirty of them pepper a would-be attacker.

The man drops to his knees, a machete falls, and his hands move up to his face. He mops at the acid; at first like so much sweat on a hot day. Moments pass and he starts to wail in pain.

“Puta,” is the only insult El Malo knows in Spanish.

That was the first time he ran into a flanking guard.

Later, he wondered as he walked home how much longer he would do this.

Comments on the story, the new look, or pop tarts as a memory enhancer are all appreciated.

Acrostical Halloween

 

  H is for the house at the end of Maple Street which has long stood vacant. And even if it were for sale, no one but a distant outsider would buy it. The locals all have seen the occasional lighted window and avoid talking about the noises that emanate from it without warning or provocation. The screams are said to come from the original family who disappeared on the eve of the harvest moon, supposedly sacrificed in some sort of blood rite. All the known rooms and false walls were searched, but the family members were never found. Neither was the boy who, years later, entered the house on a dare while his friends stood and watched from the safety of the street. His screams were added to the rest.

  A is for the abomination that lurks along the service road leading to the power station at the edge of town. It has been variously described as pale or ghostly, hairless, hunched but quick, and sometimes as a ‘skin shrouded skeleton’ ever since Charlie Paisley coined the phrase. Whatever it is has scared numerous drivers off the road; but none has ever gotten out of their vehicles, electing instead to get back on the straight and narrow and move along. Lucky for them because this thing has yet to acquire a taste for human flesh and nobody wants to be that kind of instigator. Terry Gillenhall was brought in once with his dogs, but they never found anything because according to Terry, “My dogs need a scent to start off with”.

  L is for the labyrinth that little Johnny walks into when he leaves his bedroom for a late night pee. The whole thing has the familiar appearance of the hallway he has grown up with, but he has taken too many rights and lefts to remember how to get back. So he plods along in hopes that he may find his way eventually. He did take a wiz in one corner, but now he can’t even find that. And the troubling sounds he hears on the other side of every wall keep him in a constant state of fear. Mechanized sounds of poorly meshed gears and clanking metal and rattling chains were once barely audible, but have grown to an intensity that threatens to devour him.

  L is for the lycanthrope of Bray Road. This werewolf has been described as ranging from six to seven-and-a-half feet tall, with piercing yellow eyes, inch-long dark brown hair, and a short snout that can produce a menacing smile full of sharp teeth. He seems to make appearances during years ending in a seven as far back as written history will allow, scaring the bejeesus out of witnesses. It is said that the scent of road-kill precedes any sighting. So if you run into that ominous aroma while traversing the byways out near Bray Road, you should probably make like a prom dress, and take off.

  O is for October, the month that ends with Halloween; lest you forget. O could also be for the opaline gaze reflecting back out from the bushes at Isabella Mudge’s house. Isabella would never deny accusations of liking young boys. You see, she likes them in a stew pot for hours and hours with lots of potatoes and carrots, and a cabbage or two if she can get them. Isabella acquires her quarry by shape shifting into a cat with fur such a deep black that light seems unable to escape it. What attracts the young boys are the iridescent, prismatic, opaline orbs that are Isabella’s eyes. They are eyes that command attention; eyes full of seduction.

  W is for the Wyvern that has taken up residence in the bluffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the Nameloc Heights section of town. This wyvern; which looks like parts of a dragon, an eagle and a bat, has been flying low over the water in search for food. But it has had greater success over land, eating smaller fare such as squirrel, rabbit, and turkey. It hasn’t yet grown enough to take out a deer. Young Brandon Rickenhauer is down on the beach, calling for his best friend, Ringo. Ringo is a mixed breed; half Golden Retriever and half Pit Bull. This is a dog that really sinks its teeth into being loveable and loyal. Brandon will never see Ringo again, for Ringo is no longer of this world. Brandon and the wyvern will have a chance meeting, but not for several years yet. Right now, the wyvern is cleaning the last traces of Ringo from its talons.

  E is for the eight-ball sitting on Jeffery Archer’s desk, at the offices of Liberty American Insurance. Mr. Archer has just opened this branch as a promotion within the company and the eight-ball was a gag gift from a friend. It is one of those fortune telling eight-balls and lately it has been making suggestions instead of telling fortunes. Most of the suggestions center on his loving family and various household items, like the electric carving knife they received as a gift from Uncle Rudy just last Christmas. Jeffery’s name will be splattered across the front pages of all the major tabloids for several weeks because of the heinous way in which he tries to hide the brutal murders. Cuisinart and Kitchenaid will spend hundreds of thousands on damage control.

  E is for the effigy sitting on the front steps of the Johnson house. Sarah and David had made the scarecrow by stuffing some old clothes from a box in the basement with leaves and straw. The clothes belonged to their recently deceased ‘Granpa’ who had been twice accused of child molestation among other charges. Granpa always said, “They never convicted me of nuthin.” There is something enchanting about the way young Sarah has drawn a face on the paper bag head that will soon allow this effigy of Granpa to snatch little Nancy Wilcox from the front step before she has a chance to ring the doorbell. Granpa and Nancy will never be seen again, despite the rally cry and three day search.

  N is for the necropolis on Lewiston Street with markers dating back to the eighteenth century. Located near the center of Arden’s Hill is a crypt bearing the name of Erdeuelu. The crypt door is locked, but we know that it can be locked from both sides. And we can see that the threshold is worn from two centuries of use. Jonny Rubino and Peter Smith do not understand what all that wear in the stone work at the entrance could mean when they pick the lock to gain entry. Jonny wants a skull as a keepsake and Peter has heard rumors of things like pocket watches being buried with the dead. Duke Erdeuelu will not be traveling far to quench his craving for blood. He will, in fact, be dining in. He’ll have to remove the drained bodies to another location in order to keep suspicion averted from his crypt. Nothing settles a meal quite like a good walk.