Tell No One – A Fiction

We go from long to short in under a week.  Wheee!

Any hoo.

Every now and then I read one of these “Writing Prompts” some of these writing how-to sites have and it stirs my imagination.  As they tend to be short-shorts, and thus not exactly marketable, I figure they’re fodder for the blog.

Last one I did was Play, a slight horror piece done in a hundred words and in single syllables.  This one, from Writer’s Digest, has a bit more meat to it.  The prompt goes as follows:

One week after attending the funeral of a close friend, you receive a postcard in the mail with the words, “I’m not dead. Meet me tonight at Guido’s Pizzeria. Tell no one.”

Word limit is 750 words, which I hit.  I did cheat a little by making up a close friend and a wife for myself, but y’know, as there’s no Guido Pizzeria near me (to my knowledge), I thought, what the hell.  I’m making that up, why not more?

Without further ado, here is Tell No One.  It’s no classic, but I enjoyed it.


I chuckled over the message, especially the “Tell no one.” Who would believe Carter was still alive? He’d been buried a week before, victim to a mugging gone wrong. Everyone knew that

Except Carter, apparently.

Outside of this and an announcement that he still shuffled on this mortal coil, the postcard had little on it, save to met tonight at Guido’s Pizzeria. No addresses of any kind. Must have slipped into the mail slot while Fiona and I were out. No signature, either, though the sloppy handwriting was a dead giveaway. That, and the first sentence being “I’m not dead.”

Who else could it be?

Hated to get out of the cab into that frosty night air, but there was no sense in delaying. I hurried inside.

Garlic knocked me to the floor. After taking a few breaths through my mouth, I took a quick look around. There Carter was, sitting in the very back. Neon red hair, very distinctive. Healthy color in the face, too, for a dead man.

Not surprisingly, my presence shocked him. He tried to played it off, though, by standing, hand out and saying, “Thought you’d be, uh, a little later.”

“Save it,” I said, stopping a good yard from him and his table. “I know who you wanted to see.”

His face went as red as his hair. “It’s not like that.”

I shrugged. “Whatever. Cops said you were dead. We gave you an open casket last week. Care to explain how you’re still here?”

“That wasn’t me. Exactly.”

“Exactly?”

“I dunno who it was, really. One minute I’m walking home, the next this dude who looks like me jumps me. Tries to knife me. We struggle and I kill him. After that–”

“And here you are, faking your own death.”

Carter squirmed. “It’s not like that.”

“Isn’t it? He was your twin, or near enough, and you kill him. Let everybody think it was you.”

“No.”

“Then, when you think it’s safe you try to get in touch with my wife, so you can do… what, exactly? Run away together?”

No answer.

“Stay away from her, Carter. Hear? You’ve hurt her bad enough when you were alive, don’t do more while you’re ‘dead’.”

I stormed towards the door. Over my shoulder I said, “A bit of advice. Dump the evil twin yarn before the cops find you. They aren’t any more rubes than I am.”

Looking in found Carter standing where he was, an odd look on his face. Maybe he really expected Fiona to come and run away with him, I thought. Dumb as a post, if he did. Fiona loved me. Things were good between us.

Hailing a cab was more hassle than it was worth. A little walk in the frigid air would cool my temper. Then I’d find a phone and call home. Fiona had the car and would be back her friends by then.

My footsteps echoed off the looming buildings. Empty seeming neighborhood. Maybe that’s why Carter chose it for his chat.

Thinking about that chat didn’t make it any saner. A lookalike tried to kill him. Really. Might as well accuse the one arm man and be done with it.

Except… didn’t the cops say they identified Carter by his fingerprints? How that work? The odds of lookalikes having matching sets were astronomical. Not even twins matched that well.

Whatever. I spotted a pay phone and made my way for it.

A shadow broke from the rest.

I twist. Cold metal cut across my gut.

I grabbed my attacker’s wrist before he could try again. We struggled, fell to the sidewalk. A strange warm hits me as I thud down.

My attacker gasped, twitched, fell still.

To my horror, my face stared up at me.

Blink. Now I saw Carter beneath me.

Blink. A strange woman took his place.

Blink. Nothing from this earth lay dead before me.

And then it faded into the cement like it was never there. Even the clothes were gone.

Don’t know how long I sat there, staring, shaking. I couldn’t believe it then.

Or now.

What was that thing? What did it want? Why’d it leave Carter’s body where it could be found? How did it match Carter so perfectly? Why was it trying to contact Fiona?

I don’t know.

“Tell no one” the creature wrote on the postcard. Not so funny now. Who could I tell? They’d have an easier time believing Carter was still alive than what really happened.

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2 Replies to “Tell No One – A Fiction”

  1. An interesting and well-written story. My only offering – maybe it was a bit too “open-ended”. Too many unanswered questions. It’s been my experience that the most powerful short stories contained a “punch” that was unexpected, an unusual “neat” wrap-up and one “tiny nagging” question remaining. The best example that I’ve ever seen was the “The Doll” episode in the movie “Trilogy of Terror” (starring Karen Black) see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trilogy_of_Terror . The “punch” was the final victory of the doll, the neat wrap up was the demonic possession of the woman and the nagging question was : “What is going to happen to the mother?” Just some thoughts – good story though…

  2. I agree about it being too open ended, but for me to do more would have pushed it passed the 750 word mark. And maybe I should have done that, I dunno. It’s not like I’d have been paid less for the story,

    Although to my mind there is something creepy about the story’s end as it is. Here’s this guy encounters something bizarre, something outside his world view. He can’t help but be changed by it.

    It’s sort of like “Young Goodman Brown” in a way. The narrator’s come back from his secret meeting and from that point on will never look at anyone else with the same level of trust again. How can he, when anyone at all could be one of those things?

    I’m not saying you’re wrong here, mind. The story probably needs a strong end, perhaps underscoring the above more. Something that tightens things up in the end. I’m just glad it works as well as it does here.

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