A Promise – A Fiction

I think this was inspired by a writer’s prompt, but I’ll be damned if I can remember where the prompt came from.  In any case, it’s a little bit of nothing that I kinda like.  Thus so it might have some life, I’ve put it here.


He ran.

He ran with all the strength he could muster towards the horizon. Already he had fallen once, scraped his face, his hands, his arms. Already he had to stop, to catch his breath, to pray for a second wind. Now there was a stagger in his step, suggesting another fall, another stop. He knew this—how could he not?—but it doesn’t matter. In fact, if anything it made him run all the harder. He had to reach the sea before it happened. He had to, had to, had to.

His course took him alongside a four lane city street, never mind which city, never mind just where. Cars, trucks, and vans raced past him at a frightening rate. Not a one pause, despite his clear and frantic face.

Not a one headed in the same direction as he did. Only he headed towards the horizon.

The day around him could have been spring, it could have been winter. It didn’t matter. He burned. Every iota of his being burned. He was beyond pain now, beyond any agony he had ever known in his long, long life. His body was flame, and inferno, and he burned on and on as he ran.

Up ahead waited a final green hill. Over it was the beach, the sea. Seeing it sent a surge of hope through him.

The same moment his foot caught a crack in the pavement. Or perhaps a phantom leg struck out for one cruel final jest. Whichever, he staggered forward, almost caught himself, but found his legs too weak, too rubbery. Down he went. Concrete scraped through his jeans to his knees, then across his face. At once he struggled to get up, to start running again. None of his limbs wanted to help him; he cursed them and made them do what he wanted.

As he got to his feet, the Voice spoke once again. Still it sounded neither male nor female, and still it said the same five words: A promise is a promise.

“Cheater.” That came out as a croak. He swallowed, then screamed, “Cheater! You put water in the gas tank! Didn’t you? Didn’t you? I’d have been there by now otherwise and you know it!

The Voice didn’t even acknowledge the accusation. A promise is a promise.

He was on his feet. Staggered. Walked. Ran. Tears streaked his face as he went up the hill. For two thousand years he had kept the covenant. For two thousand years he had done everything asked of him. He had watched the world he knew fade to half forgotten history. He had watched his children grow old and die, as well as their children after that and their children after that, on and on. So much suffering, so much hardship, and without complaint.

He was due a little leeway. A little consideration.

He was due.

He crested the top of the hill, only to stagger to a stop again. Below him, after a brief spate of green grass, was the beach. Cluttered with towels and folding chairs and umbrellas, but absolutely empty of people. Some sandals scatter about, most heading towards one parking lot or another, but no people in them. They had long gone.

As had the sea.

For the beach didn’t meet the water. Instead, it met with what the water hid. The brackish sediment. On top of this flopped a few still living fish, but most were dead.

All of this stretched out before him for miles.

In the distance, at the very horizon, was a line of midnight blue and foamy white. It moved out there. Perhaps away, but more likely not.

An instant was all it took to take this in. Then he screamed wordlessly and began to run once more.

His ankle twisted when he hit the beach. The sediment sucked at his shoes, then at his shins, then at his knees. It didn’t stop him. Nothing would stop him. He would uphold the covenant even if that covenant was now broken and useless. If that was all he could do then he would do it.

There was one other thing, though, he could do. He glanced at the watch on his wrist. He glance at his watch and he saw.

And he screamed at the uncaring horizon, “Damn you, I would have made it if you hadn’t moved the water! Do you hear me? I WOULD HAVE MADE IT!

A promise, the Voice said, is a promise.

The blue and white at the horizon began to grow. It would grow and grow until it towered over him, roaring, blotting out sight and sound. And still he would head towards it as best he could, screaming.

It was all he could do.

* * *

The waters of the oceans pulled away from the coast. Not just one coast, but all coasts. Not just one continent but all continents. Even the inland seas and lakes. Even there.

The waters pulled back, then raced forward with incredible speed. The great Wave smashed into the land, crushing all it came across. The righteous and the corrupt, it didn’t matter. The Wave didn’t care.

When it reached its full length, it pulled back. Back beyond it’s normal boundaries, back to its outer limits. Then it came racing forward and slammed into the land again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

For after all, a promise is a promise.

The Apparition – A Fiction

In lieu of anything else to say, here’s a short short I wrote in February.  It’s not the greatest, but hey.  It keeps the blog going.


He had driven past the cemetery for almost twenty years and hardly thought of it in all that time, much less look at it. When he did, all he saw was row and row of gray stone and the occasional statue worn smooth by the passing of time. He would think, “What a waste of good property.” And then he wouldn’t think of it again until the next time, long after.

This night should have been the same. Maybe a little different; his mistress had come back to town after a long absence taking care of an ailing mother. Through it all he had to bear up under the ministrations of his wife, which had never been much in earlier times and even worse now. Now that the mother had cacked it, he intended to make up for lost time.

So he was doing a little speeding, okay a lot of speeding, say sixty in a forty. He had a nice, fast car, sporting colors, and it felt good to trot it out once in a while. Had he his druthers he’d be doing more. In fact, with the thrill of the ride and the promise of the mistress, perhaps he would do a little more.

His foot pressed down against the gas, and now he was at the cemetery, almost to his work during the day, almost to the mistress now, and his head turned its direction. Not that he expected to see anything, not in this dark. The city had cut back on lit street lights to save money and the moon refused to move from behind the clouds. Still, what was there to see but a waste of good property?

Except there was something there. Something more. A bright pale shape beside the cemetery fence. Almost as soon as he realized he was seeing something, the apparition moved, tearing through the air at an incredible speed, straight for him. As it neared he saw in its pale glow blackness instead of eyes, blackness instead of a gaping mouth. The blackness was so malign that without thought he twisted the steering wheel of his fine car, twisted it hard without even the thought of slowing down.

The car flipped over.

How many times it rolled, he could not say.

Oblivion claimed him a moment.

When he returned, he was in the ruins of a car. Parts of him hurt; what didn’t felt horribly, horribly numb. He thought he was dying.

Perhaps it would have been better if he was.

He turned his head and saw the apparition looking in on him. It stood upright, yet bent at an impossible angle to leer in upon him.

To stare at him with that malign black eyes.

To grin at him with that malign black mouth.

A thousand thoughts assailed him at once. To pray not to die, to survive, to be forgiven for his infidelity and for the thousand of sins both little and small that he committed in his life.

But instead of giving voice to these pleas he asked the apparition one of the world’s oldest question: “Why?”

The answer came as a single amused word. “Lonely.”

In time the paramedics and police came. As they worked, none of them noticed the two pale shapes standing nearby on the other side of the cemetery fence.

Writing Prompt Boot Camp (I): Breaking Up With Writer’s Block

Writer’s Digest has come through for this blog a number of times via weekly writing prompts.  Last week, though, it went the extra mile by releasing The Writing Prompt Boot Camp on a pdf.  Two weeks worth of writing prompts.

So for the next two weeks or so I hope to be running through the prompts for the amusement of all.  Okay, for my amusement.  If something important pops up (or at least interesting) I will forestall the prompt for a day or so.


Today’s prompt is as follows: Breaking Up With Writer’s Block.  It’s time for you and Writer’s Block to part ways. Write a letter breaking up with Writer’s Block, starting out with, “Dear Writer’s Block, it’s not you, it’s me …”


I’m playing a little fast and loose with this one, assuming the prompt more guideline than hard fast rule.  Thus the first words aren’t the first words here.  At least, not of my flash of fiction based on the prompt…


Here we are.  The study of the Writer.  Looks the part.  Lots of bookcases crammed with books.  A couple of file cabinets standing guard around a fair-sized desk.  A brand new computer sits on his desk.  Looks like he is doing well.  No doubt it has all the bells and whistles a Writer needs to function.  And maybe more than that.

By appearances he is doing well.  Were we to wish it (and I do not) we could look through the rest of the house.  On the surface we would see success.  we would see happiness.  we would see everything we think prosperous people have, or thinking that they might want.  Perhaps even we would be envious.

We should not be.

In his bedroom there is a dresser.  A big one.  Once it held clothes enough for two.  Now, though.  Now I would not be surprise to find only enough clothes for one.  His wife has been gone for a half-year and is not likely to ever be back.

Downstairs is a liquor cabinet.  From what I hear, it was fully stocked once.  That, like his marriage, was ago.  Now what he drinks he keeps in the fridge.  It’s cheap and dirty.  Just like him, the Writer thinks.

This is all surmises.  We could go and check if we wished.  No one can see us this way, not unless we wish it.  I have no wish to learn the truth.  The piece of paper on the desk gives me pause.

It sits next to the key board.  On it are words, some handwritten in the scrawl of a man almost sober.

This is the majority of what is written:

Dear Writer’s Block,

It’s not you, it’s me

[A field of white waits between this and the rest of the writing.]

God damn you.

Sort of droll, is it not?  The Writer smiled when he wrote it last night.  I know.  I was there.  I saw.  It was not a pleasant smile, but it was not a nasty one either.  It was the first one he had had in a long, long time, and there was some hope to it.  A light before the break of dawn.

If only that was the only thing written on the page.  If only I had seen it before he did.

As I implied, there is more written on that page.  This handwriting is almost the same as the first, only harder.  Fiercer.  In some places it tears the page.

The message is short, but all too like daggers in the gut:

I will never leave you.

He did not write this.  I insist that this is true.  The Writer did not write this.

Yet the Writer thinks he did.  He saw it this morning, sober, eyes wide.  He saw, he read, he went downstairs and has not yet return.

He is still in the house.  Where I do not know.  The basement.  The garage.  The kitchen.  I do not know.

I do not know the Writer’s story here.  I do not know who did the second writing or why.  I can guess the intent, but I do not know.

We could find out where he is.  We could find out what he does, what he plans.  It would be easy.  But I will not go.

I fear the ending of this story.

Yet here I will wait as you go on to the next.  Here I will wait and hope the ending changes.  Hope that it has not already taken place…

A Sip Too Many – A Brief Fiction

Here we go again down Writing Prompt Lane, courtesy of Writer’s Digest! This prompt reads as follows:

A mad scientist approaches you with an offer: He has a secret potion that will help you get the thing you want most in this world—be it a person, a thing, an ability, etc. What you don’t know (and won’t reveal until the end of your story) is that there is one dire consequence (not death) from drinking the potion.

As with the last one, this one was supposed to be 500 words or less.  It’s almost 600.  I hope you won’t mind the extra wordage too much.


Only an idiot would have entered that office, much less listen to Decker. I knew that. The lab coat with the words Mad Scientist stitched in red on it was a hint and a half if ever there was one. Then there was the severed head on the lab table. When it wasn’t begging for death, it was urging running away as fast as possible.

 Yet I stayed.

 Because it was blistering hot outside and the office was air-conditioned.

And because my car broke down twenty miles away from anywhere.

If you consider running over steel spikes set in the road breaking down, of course.

“I am sorry about that,” Decker said. “But I have a bear of a time getting anyone to stop. And here I have the scientific discovery of a life time right here in this bottle.”

It was a small vial of clear liquid. Could have been anything, really.

“Don’t listen to him,” the head said. “He lies! HE LIES!

Decker rolled his eyes. “Unsatisfied customer. Pay him no mind.”

“Kill me.”

“In a moment maybe.” He gestured towards the vial. “Drink this and your greatest wish will come true.”

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “I drink that, and I’ll become a world-famous novelist?”

“That’s right,” Decker said, a maniacal grin crossing his face. “Women will be unable to resist you.”

“That’s not what…”

“Just think of it,” he said, leaping to his feet. “You can have any woman in the world. Fly, hawt huneys! For the taking! With only one sip.”

“One sip.” The head shook itself in disgust. “I wanted to be taller when I drank a potion like that. Do I look taller to you?”

Now would you say yes? Of course not. Neither did I. It was out the door and down the lane, as fast as my little feet could go.

Only. Only it was so hot outside. And Decker followed me with his vial, and said it also quenched thirst, did you know that, and the side effects would wear off in a week, maybe a month tops, and didn’t I want to have a beautiful woman eating out of the palm of my hand?

Five miles of this I took. Then it was down the hatch.

Well, let me tell you that everything Decker said was correct. I could have any woman I wanted, provided I caught her first. Not a one of them could possibly resist me, not that they haven’t tried. And each of them could eat out of the palm of my hand.

Because due to the “side effects” I’m now an eighty foot tall ape.

Fay, the latest in my collection, has been super swell about all of this, especially after my head cleared enough to explain to her what happened. She even promised to give me a date once I’ve shrunk a little and lost some of the excess body hair.

The military was a bit of a problem at first, as you can imagine, but after they realized the shells were bouncing off me (and only hurting the poor blondes I’d been picking up), they left me alone. They were even good enough to help me with a little side project while I wait to return to normal.

And Decker had better hope I return to normal. Because if I haven’t by the time the army grabs him, he’s going to be envying a certain severed head…

A Literal Skeleton in a Literal Closet – A Brief Fiction

As I am wont to do, here I present a bit of flash, fiction prompted by Writer’s Digest.  The prompt is as follows:

When you go to get dressed one morning, you discover that there really is a skeleton in your closet. Write this scene—discover how it got there, why it is there, what to do with it now.

The suggested length (at least for posting on their forums) was 500 words.  I did it in less, which makes this slight indeed.  Hopefully, though, not so slight as some enjoyment might not come from it.


The skeleton was piled up neatly on the closet floor. Maybe all the pieces made it there, maybe it had some parts missing, it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that the skull sat at a jaunty angle on its jaw so that it looked right up at me as I reached for a shirt. Not the most disturbing thing I’d ever seen, but that didn’t mean I liked seeing it.

“Honey,” I said to my wife, who was putting the finishing touches on her makeup, “is there something you want to tell me?”

She winced, then said, “Yeah. Cousin Victor’s will be staying with us for a while.  In a slightly less annoying manner than usual.”

Hard to argue with that.  “How long is a while?”

“Until I get the part I need to put him back together.”

I started buttoning up my shirt. “That doesn’t really answer my question.”

My wife gave me a wan smile. “Sorry. Can’t be more specific than that. He’d down to bone and brain. Getting the rest will be… time-consuming.”

“You know I’m no expert, but wouldn’t it be easier to just transplant him into a full body?”

“You’d think. Great Aunt Tillie said no.”

“Ah.” You didn’t question Great Aunt Tillie. Ever. “Couldn’t we keep him somewhere other than in the closet? The lab, say?”

“Don’t want him confused with any of the other parts. Tillie again.”

I closed the closet door. Almost a relief not to have those sightless eyes staring up at me. “I suppose his brain’s lying around here someplace, too.”

“Fridge. Right behind the meatloaf.”

“Clearly labeled?”

She gave me a bemused look.  “It’s in a jar filled with green liquid.”

“So’s the meatloaf.”

“Point.” She walked over and hugged me. “I’ll see to it as soon as I get downstairs.”

“No rush. I wasn’t going have meatloaf any time soon.”

She laughed. “You’re taking all this better than I expected.”

I smiled at her. “Well I knew what I’d be getting, marrying into the Frankenstein family.”

The Old Mother – A Fiction

Once again we’re doing a “Writing Prompt” short-short from Writer’s Digest. The prompt goes as follows:

Mother’s Day is over and you’ve just finished a nice dinner with your mom when you receive a phone call. An unfamiliar female voice is on the other end and says, “Stop celebrating with her! I’m your real mother.” Write this scene.

So who could  this be?  Let’s find out in this short-short entitled: The Old Mother


“Who was that on the phone?”

“Some woman claiming to be you.”

“Pardon?”

I started clearing off the table. “Well she said she was my real mother and that I shouldn’t be celebrating Mother’s Day with you. A joke, no doubt.”

Mother’s head cocked to one side. “Really.”

“Really.”

I paused long enough to straighten her head back. A necessary chore, as if she does it herself, she’d be at it all night trying to get it just right. A perfectionist, she is. The sound her neck makes sometimes sets my teeth on edge.

She appreciates the effort, or at least she never complains about it. Instead, she continued the conversation as if nothing had happened. “How did she get your cell number, I wonder.”

Such a suspicious tone. But past failings had planted this distrust. My own fault they came to fruit on occasion.

“Internet,” I told her as I took the plates to the kitchen. “You can find out anything on the Internet.”

“Really.”

“Yup. Even found a playmate Sissy and I had as kid today. Lives in our village now, in fact.”

Mother made a soft sound.

Washing the dishes is one of the few tasks Mother allows me to do all on my own. Everything else she does herself. She even carried in the refrigerator by herself. The movers who brought it might have been impressed had they not run away on seeing her.

Silly of them, trying to run. It does no good at all.

By the time I was drying the call had faded out of my thoughts. Not Mother’s. She obsesses, sometimes. “It could be her, you know,” she called from the dinning room. “Your old mother.”

“I have no other mother but you.”

“Such a dutiful child,” she said. Her joints creaked as she stood. “So well trained. I had feared I would never see the day.”

I smiled as I put the dishes away.

“Still,” she said, “She might inspire… thoughts. Thoughts of being apart from me. Of being with her.”

“Didn’t even recognize her voice. Assuming it was her.”

“Still.”

To set her at easy, I left the kitchen to show off my smile. So regal was she then. So tall. Yet despite how still she stood, the light still flashed in her many glass eyes, blinding me for an instant.

More than a smile was needed. I said, “Would I really leave the one who raised me? For one who abandoned me?”

She considered a moment, then said “A fine point indeed.”

A flush hit me from her praise.

She turned then headed off to the next room, her wooden tail dragging loud against the floorboard.

I considered a moment, then said, “I might step out for a few hours after feeding Sissy. Visiting a friend.”

She didn’t stop walking. “So long as you remember to come back to me, is all that matters.”

Of course.

Sissy’s dinner went to her bowl on the porch. She never came close too either me or Mother. Kept to the woods, blue eyes wide with terror. Sometimes I waved, but not tonight. Tonight I left without even looking for her. The phone call had put me in foul humor, and I wanted a little fun. Not that I hadn’t intended on a visit anyways.

That dear childhood friend of Sissy and mine claimed not to remember me or her promise when I showed on her doorstep. I reminded her of it by and by. She’d replaced that peardrum of hers with a fine guitar, but that mattered little.. Either or I would have made her eat it. Every last bite. Before we finished, she begged to tell me the secret she kept hidden from us back then. But by now I.

Just.

Didn’t.

Care.

She really should have stayed in that nasty old village of hers, now shouldn’t she?

As I put my old friend where no one could find he, I decided to put a block on my phone. That should take care of my strange caller. And if it didn’t I’d ask Mother for ideas.

She is full of them, don’t you know.

All in all, it was a perfect Mother’s Day for both of us, despite the call. But then again, all days have been perfect ever since the New Mother came to stay.

Computer Talk – A Fiction

Once again we’re doing a “Writing Prompt” short-short from Writer’s Digest. The prompt goes as follows:

One morning you are sitting in front of your computer working on your novel when, suddenly, the computer starts talking to you. What does it say? Does it deliver an important message or just want to chat?

Well? What does it say?

Let’s find out in this short-short entitled: Computer Talk.


The deadline loomed on the horizon. No more empty promises would forestall me being dropped by my publishers. No new opportunities could be seen in future, and the bills piled high. All of it hung over my head like the sword of Damocles

Didn’t matter.

For here I wrote, block free. Black words streamed across the white, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. Not as quick as before the accident, granted. Still, hope returned. After two weeks of nothing, hope returned.

My wife, blocked with her own art, paused in her own grief filled vigil, to peck my check. Before her pretty face might have squinched in envy, but we were too close to destruction. Too close by far.

I hardly noticed her leaving. So wonderful to write again. So wonderful to forget, for even a moment, our lives’ sorrows.

Then it happened. Here I was, setting the stage for the climax, when, out of the blue, words broke the silence.

My computer talked to me.

In the most inhuman voice imaginable.

It said, “Wibble mackintosh.”

Startled, I paused. Waited.

Again. Such a horrible sound. “Quality stegosauri branch?”

Maybe a media player was on. No, no, everything was off. We had the internet cut, so it couldn’t be that.

In fact, Just my novel’s file was up.

“Elephant nuns the coping eye,” it told me, almost wisely.

Well.

Muted the sound.

“Banjo cavernous happy pants.”

Unplugged the speakers.

“Bingo dangle fritter.”

Checked inside the tower for a hidden speaker.

Nothing.

Restarting it did nothing. First thing it did on rebooting was say “Lemon gastric commander cobra.

Didn’t make sense.

“Bubble the water fro.”

Well. Problem for another time. Power on through. Finish the novel.

Except I couldn’t. Four words done and it would speak.

That voice.

That voice.

That terrible voice would speak.

Focus gone in an instant.

In desperation, I called to my wife. “Hey, babe, got a problem in here.”

As she came, worries grew. Would she hear it? Or was it all in my head?

When she stepped in the room the computer asked, “Meta tingle Wallace tanj grapefruit?”

She blinked then said, “The hell was that?”

Relief didn’t describe it.

In short order I went through everything I’d done to figure things out. She watched me as I did, an intent look on her face. I didn’t need to tell her that if this wasn’t changed how it would affect my work. She knew. Instead she just listened, and thought for a moment or two.

Then she said, “Funny how it started just when your block went.”

“You think…?”

“Turn it off.”

I did as she bade. The computer went silent.

“Get out a pad and some pencils. Write a story.”

Again, order received, order completed. Nothing fancy. The words came like nothing.

Through it all, the computer was silent. So was my pen, save for scratches across the paper. Which was fortunate, really. Nattering from them would have been… disquieting.

My wife thought some more. “Hmm.”

“Maybe it’s not connected,” I shrugged. “Does it matter? Can’t turn in a manuscript written in ink.”

“Honey,” she said to me. “You know your my rock, right? The one thing that’s kept me sane since…”

She didn’t finish the sentence. Didn’t need to.

Instead, she said, “So don’t take this the wrong way.” She sighed. “In some ways you can be really dumb.”

She left me blinking, shocked.

When she came back, she brought with her MP3 player and headsets.

My wife is a very practical woman.

Needless to say, I had little problems finishing after that. However the computer managed to talk, it could only do so so loud, and the MP3 player covered it nicely. The words flowed smooth so far.

The last three pages of the novel I found I could take them off and work without any problems. Nonsense still rattled around the room at a blue streak, but I finished. Then, as I started printing it up, I started another.

At that moment the computer made the only understandable sound it would ever make. It sighed, deeply vexed.

Nearest thing we can figure, it had grown accustomed to the lack of use I’d been putting it through during the block. When the check from my publishers gets in, we plan to buy a new PC.

One hopefully not so quarrelsome.

Jake – A Fiction

Once again we’re doing a “Writing Prompt” short-short from Writer’s Digest. The prompt goes as follows:

One day you wake up to find your dog/cat waiting for you at the side of your bed, sitting on your briefcase. Cocking its head, it tells you, in perfect English, that you won’t be going to work today. Why won’t your pet let you go to work, and what happens? 750 words or fewer

This is little more than fluff, I’m afraid (like the other ones were Shakespeare, amirite?) but I hope it diverts, if only a little.  It’s called Jake. and it might be named after someone.  Of the four-legged variety…

Awww, poor liddle guy!

At first I thought I hadn’t shut the bed room door when I went to bed last night.  I mean, Jake’s a clever little dachshund, but a dachshund was all he was.  He couldn’t even reach the knob, let alone turn it.  I had been extremely tired when I entered the apartment.  Just didn’t get it closed, was all.

Yet the door was still shut and the dog was still sitting in the room, right on top of my briefcase.  He watched me with that sorrowful look, like I never fed him or that I yelled at him.  Made a real impression on the girlfriends, he did.

Seeing him like that, I almost imagined I was still asleep.  You could even see the symbolism.  The briefcase represented adult responsibility while Jake was childhood promise unfulfilled.  Very Freud, or Jung, or something.

I glanced over at my alarm clock, saw it hadn’t gone off on time.  Five minutes later than I ever wanted to be, but that couldn’t be helped now,

I turned back to Jake and asked.  “Hey, were you going to just sit there and let me sleep all day or what?  I’ve gotta go to work, you know.”

Jake cocked his head to one side and, I kid you not, said “You are not going to work.  Not today.”

I gaped at him.  Not because he spoke — his last owner had a chip installed — but for another reason entirely.  “Hey!  That’s a complete sentence!  When’d you start speaking in complete sentences?”

“That is not important right now.  What matters is that there is something vital that needs attending.  Something so very important that it scarcely bears thinking about it not coming to pass.”

“What is it, boy?  Did Timmy fall in the well?”

Jake shook his head.  “You know that wasn’t funny the first time you said it.”

“Sorry.”

“I will need your full an undivided attention.  What I am about to ask of you is crucial.  You will need to focus your entire mind, body, and soul upon completing this task.  I know it will be strenuous, but it must be done.”

“Shoot.”

“I need walkies.”

“What?”

“I said I need walkies.  Right now.”

All that verbage for walkies?

I sat up in bed.  “Use the mat by the front door.  It’s what it’s there for.”

“No!”  Jake hopped up and down on my briefcase.  “I need walkies now!

“Sorry, bud.  If I don’t hightail it, I’m going to be late.  Again.  And the boss was thinking about firing me anyways.  Don’t need to give her a cause.”

“Tool of the capitalist system!  Pawn of the oppressor!”

Jeez.  I didn’t know he knew such language.

“Tell you what.  I’ll pick you up a cheeseburger after work.  Howja like that?”

Jake flopped down on the briefcase as I rose from the bed.  “Suppose.”

I stepped towards my dresser, only to realize there was something else I wanted to ask him.  “How did you get in here, anyways?”

“Um…”

“And how did you start talking in full sentences?  They told me the chip could only holds a limited vocab.”

Jake gave me his best soulful look.  “Bow wow?”

He never did tell me.

Sometimes I think he’s too clever for my own good.

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.