Got a few flash fiction pieces for you today. Just some things I wrote for fun. Ideas I had that didn’t really merit anything longer. Let me know what you think.
Writing Challenge Day 18 (2 stories)
Word count: 2105
By E. W. Morrow
The barrel of the gun doesn’t taste like I thought it would. Before now I always thought it would taste like pennies. Like waking up with a nose bleed. A warm, coppery flavor that churns your gut, makes you want to puke. It’s not. For one thing the barrel is cold, which I suppose is a good thing. It means he hasn’t fired it recently. Instead of pennies or blood the taste of the hollow steel rod wedged in my mouth reminds me of the icicles we used to break off of the garage door and lick like lollipops when we were kids, the ice loaded with dirt and other impurities from the gutters. The only thing I can think of, even with the gun’s sight digging into the roof of my mouth, the edge of the barrel clicking against my teeth, is what impurities were left in the metal when it was smelted and whether any of them would make me sick. I really can’t afford to get sick right now.
“Tell me where it fucking is or I will blow your fucking head off,” the man whispers in a coarse, angry voice through a cheap balaclava. The cloth might be enough to conceal his face, but it does little to hide the way his voice shakes when he speaks.
He won’t pull the trigger. Not yet. Not because he sounds like a coward, which he does, or because I still haven’t told him what he wants to know, which I haven’t, but because he still hasn’t cocked the gun. The hammer is still snug against the cylinder. Now, it’s possible that the revolver is double action, in which case he doesn’t need to draw the hammer back to fire, but even if it is, he won’t. Nobody ever does. They like that moment. Pulling it back, hearing the click, watching the victim’s eyes widen in terror as they get that much closer to death. But it works both ways, and Mr. Balaclava here is still clutching firmly to his little security blanket: the knowledge that he can still raise the stakes without actually committing the final crime. He’s pathetic, and I really don’t have time to deal with this right now. So I decide to give him what he wants to know.
I glance over at my closet door. It’s just a simple door. Brass knob, unpainted surface, scuffed around the edges where I’ve banged things into it over the years. Not even a lock. I mumble something through the barrel that I hope Mr. Balaclava will understand as “in the back,”. Whether or not he does I’m not sure, but he seems to get the gist of the message.
“Back up against the wall,” he says, removing the barrel from my mouth. “Slowly.”
Fine by me, I think. I wouldn’t go near that door now even if he’d put the gun to my head and made me open it myself. I do as he asks, sliding myself across the carpet so that back is against the far wall. Balaclava moves cautiously towards the door, only glancing at it as he tries to make sure I won’t bolt the second his back is turned. No need to worry about that, but I don’t let him know. He’s doing just fine on his own. Groping fingers meet cold metal as he fumbles for the knob. He grips it firmly and then looks at me one final time.
“Make a move, try to scream, just fuck with me even once…” his voice trails off and he ends the sentence by cocking the gun. Idiot. “You got it?”
I simply nod in agreement. He turns to face the door, pulling it open easily. The space behind the closet door, which is only a closet during the day, is even darker than the rest of the room. The doorway is just a frame around a pool of total blackness.
“Where is it?” Balaclava asks.
“In—in the back,” I say, only partly feigning fear. If this doesn’t work, we’re both dead. “Bot—bottom left. In a shoe box.”
He makes it a step before it happens, only partially engulfed by the tangible darkness of the space behind the closet door. Something inside let’s out a sound that is halfway between a growl and a laugh. It’s a dusty, hard sound. Full of menace. A split second later two points of orange light spark to life in the darkness, and a pair of long, bony arms reach out and grab Balaclava. The fingers are long and sharp, they leave trails of red across the man’s back. The arms themselves are just a few scraps of flesh and cloth covering pale white bone.
That’s all I see. By this point I’ve managed to grab the blanket from my bed and throw it over myself like a tent. The thing in the closet can’t see you if you have your head under the covers. It’s something every child knows. There’s a brief, muffled scream from the other side of the room and then a wet, sloppy sound. I hear Balaclava’s body hit the floor.
The thing steps out into the room. I can hear it clanking from beneath the blanket. I imagine it looking around, sniffing with the holes on it’s face where the nose should be, grinning that eternal grin. Then I hear a shuffling noise as Balaclava’s body is dragged into the space behind the closet door, and then the door shuts. I wait a minute before I take the blanket off.
Everyone has a few skeletons in their closet, I tell myself. I guess it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.
By E. W. Morrow
Someone in this bar is a liar. A filthy, stinking liar. Oh, they’re good at it, but I can smell lies. The words that they speak, the way they sip their whiskey or gin and tonics, the laughs they pretend to laugh. All of them are fucking lies. Even the face they wear is nothing more than a fabrication, a cunning mask to hide the rotten, disgusting thing beneath. Disgusting, but dangerous.
I found this bar two weeks ago after my last one burned down. I was sad to see it go. The bartender had been pretty in a rustic, out of town kind of way. She’d always give me the first round on the house. Said I was a good tipper. I would thank God that she hadn’t been working that night if I thought God had had anything to do with it. I sent her an anonymous wad of cash to pay for the slashed tires and the busted window.
Not sure what it is about dive bars that attract them, the liars, but I barely have to spend a few nights in one before I notice one. Maybe they think it’s the perfect place to hide. Maybe they’re like me, prowling their hunting grounds. Or maybe they’re just as pathetic as the rest of the louts that stand visiting places like this enough to become regulars. Not like it’s fucking Cheers or anything.
I’ll have to do it quiet tonight. Another bar in this town burns down and I’ll have to move on. Any more than three and the locals start getting suspicious, and then it’s only a matter of time before the net falls.
So who’s it gonna be this time? The woman over in the corner? I’ve named her Maude, in lieu of asking her what her name really is. She’s probably barely even forty but she looks a hell of a lot older. Lots of hard living. Unless I’ve missed my guess, alcohol isn’t her only poison. Probably the cheapest though. I don’t think it’s her. The frauds I normally see don’t go in for that kind of thing. Losing control. Running themselves down. Her skin is cracked and dry, blotchy in places. She’s too thin to be a predator.
The three brutes by the billiard table are also probably out of the running, but for the opposite reason. They were frauds, sure, but blatant ones. All strutting bravado and bullshit macho energy. Swapping stories of girls they’ve fucked like old men telling fish tales. They’re liars alright, but they’re only lying to themselves.
Which only leaves three people: the bartender, the kid next to the door, and the guy at the other end of the bar. Probably not the bartender. If all the animals start disappearing at a particular watering hole, the prey goes to a different watering hole. I’ve never seen one of my guys actually running the place. And I’m pretty sure I can rule out the kid, but he was a close runner up. He’s young; too young to be in a place like this and it shows. He’s jumpy. Every time one of the billiards players sinks a shot he jumps and spills his beer. He’s probably only here on a bet, or because he knows the bartender doesn’t card. It could be a trick, a charade to lure his prey into a false sense of security, but I doubt it. It seems too genuine to be an act.
Which leaves mister silent over there. He’s a lot like me, actually, sitting on a stool at the opposite corner of the bar and sipping his rum and coke conservatively. It would be hard to notice him scoping out the room if I hadn’t done the same thing a thousand times. He’s subtle, using the mirror behind the bar to his advantage. And his eyes. They’re hard, calm, hungry eyes. The eyes of a predator. I’ve made up my mind. He’s my guy.
As if sensing my sudden clarity of decision the man glances over at me. No fear in his eyes. Just a slight narrowing of the lids. Like he’s bringing me into focus. Locking on. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a billfold. He drops a couple of twenties on the counter and grabs his jacket from the stool next to him. He shrugs it on nonchalantly and makes is way toward the door. I do something similar, dropping a fifty on the bar and moving to follow.
The man stops just as he reaches the door.
“Going somewhere?” he asks. It’s a calm voice. A clear one.
“Let’s not do this here,” I say, dropping all pretense. We both know what the other is. I just hope I can spare the rest of these folks the sight of what I’m about to do. My had is around the handle of the gun and I try not to squeeze it too tightly.
“I think this would be the perfect place,” the man says, turning on his heel to face me. His eyes are jet black, his teeth longer than they should be. I pull the gun from my pocket.
“Please,” I say flatly, “let’s just take this outside, let these fine people get back to their drinks.”
“What fine people?” the man asks with a grin.
The kid by the door gets up from his seat and moves behind the other man. I hear a metallic sliding sound followed by a click. Then the boy comes out from behind the man.
“Son of a bitch,” I say. A second pair of eyes have gone black.
Movement behind me. I spin wildly and see the three brutish billiard brothers sidling up behind me, pool cues in hand, leering grins full of pointed teeth plastered across their faces. More black eyes. Maude slinks from her shadowy corner like a panther. Her features slim and dry, but now they seem wiry and tough. Her mouth gapes wide, full of razors like a piranha’s. I don’t even have to spin to know that the bartender is pulling the shotgun from it’s rack under the bar. His face will be stony, almost placid. I don’t even need to look.
“You’ve been a real problem for us over the years,” says the man I had pegged as the only liar in the room. “I think it’s time you left us alone for good.”
In my last few moments I close my eyes, the barrel of my revolver pressed against my temple. How many others have I missed? How many others were hidden in plain sight? Guess my nose isn’t so good after all. I pull the trigger.
Nothing happens. I open my eyes and look at my gun. Maude’s bony little pinky finger is wedged between the hammer and the cylinder, preventing it from firing.
“You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?” asks the man.