Horror in two sentences?

Checking on his long-neglected author profile, the writer could not let the question go unanswered: Can you tell us a two-sentence horror story?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Conrad woke to a pleasant whiff of sawdust and the buzz of a blade tearing through floorboards. He rolled out of bed in the darkness, straight into the abyss.

Image by Alexander Antropov from Pixabay

Making my day: Friday flash

It doesn’t take much to make my day lately.

Today, for example, I dropped my Colorado primary ballot in the box at the Boulder County Fairgrounds. That didn’t make my day, but the act of voting did give me some satisfaction as the next step in sending Sen. Cory Gardner from Washington, D.C., back to the Eastern Plains.

I voted on the way home from picking up my monitor and keyboard from the big building on a hill above Boulder where I’ve spent most of the last nine years doing my day job. After more than three months of working from my basement office, I finally accepted that it could be months if not years before I go back to the big building. A few people have returned so far, but most of us still don’t have that choice. My ultimate choice may be to work from home indefinitely, as much as I miss the view from Boulder.

That thing about retrieving my monitor and other stuff so I don’t have to use the company-issued laptop all by itself didn’t make my day either. It was a sad thing.

What made my day was having a little short story accepted for publication in an online journal. It took maybe 90 minutes to write a couple of months ago. After a handful of rejections, the first flash fiction I’ve written in years has found a home. It may or may not have something to do with a kite.

If you read my story when it’s published next month, it will take you however long it takes to read about 630 words. That’s the flash part – few words that go by fast.

Read on, my friends.


A private conversation

Keira looked at what he was typing even though she knew better.

“It’s like eavesdropping on a private conversation,” he said, snapping the laptop lid shut.

“A private conversation with yourself?” She smiled at him.

He snorted. “I guess you could say that.”

“I just did say that.”

He snorted again and turned away. “I have to get out of this stupid airplane seat and find the men’s room. If you read what I’ve been writing, I will know you did it.”

Keira watched as he stepped into the aisle, set the computer on his empty seat, and disappeared toward the back of the darkened cabin. She didn’t need his password because she’d read everything before he noticed. He’d written, “Keira looked at what he was typing even though she knew better.”

Backlit keyboard

Words from a work in progress

This is an excerpt from a work in progress that I read aloud to a group of local writers a few nights ago. I’m not sure what to make of their reactions. The story is about a couple who have three daughters and then adopt an orphaned nephew, about how he was orphaned, and about how the main characters adapt (or fail to adapt) to their new lives. The husband is telling the story. That’s about all the context I gave the group. You’ll be jumping in well after the story begins. What I usually most want to know is if you would keep on reading. Feel free to comment if you’re so inclined.

My mother always told me I was too broody for my own good. That was her term. I used to think she’d made it up until I looked it up in Merriam-Webster’s. She meant it in the non-chicken sense, I’m sure, although I suspect she first used it on the farm in her own youth to describe the hens that provided fresh, brown eggs for the family. With me, she meant it in the formal sense of being contemplative, with the emphasis on the second syllable, I suspect. Moody.

It was the same way I had come to think of Olivia in our short acquaintance. (I realize it’s a stretch to call it an acquaintance, but there you have it.) What else could an artist be but broody and soulful and deep, with passion lurking just below the calm, mirror-smooth surface? I had seen her smile only briefly when she plucked Billy from the restaurant. I wanted to see her do it again.

I slept until 9 a.m. and I knew it would be a good two hours later that morning before Margret and the kids would arrive. She would do her best to avoid the height of the morning rush hour traffic, so I had until at least 11 to indulge myself. Emilie had already taken up her spot by the pool.

This wasn’t the first time I’d let my fantasy life get the better of me, I have to confess. I don’t know if I really thought I could go through with it this time, or if I really thought I could do it without getting caught, or if I really even thought about it at all. I suspect I didn’t. One thing I have learned is that in fantasy there are no hurt feelings, no unwanted pregnancies, and no diseases. No recriminations, no ruined careers or lives, and very little remorse. It’s too bad fantasy sometimes become reality and it’s hard to know where the line is. I showered, put on some shorts, a T-shirt and my old huaraches, and took off in the Renegade.

Olivia’s was the last shop in a long section of them along the main drag. It was just before the commercial center of the village turned into residential and then, quickly, countryside. I stopped in Monroe’s Bookstore to look distractedly over the magazine rack before picking up a Trib. Next stop was across the street at The Mug on The Alley, where I ordered two regular Large Decafs to go. Right next door stood Portraits by O. I walked in with the Trib under my arm and the two coffees carefully balanced in one hand. A little bell rang as I closed the door, and immediately I heard the voice from the day before, calling down the stairs to my left. It was Billy.

“She’ll be right down,” I heard him say. Groggily? Maybe. It was hard to tell.

“No hurry,” I said back up the stairs. I looked around. Simply framed portraits covered most of two sides of the little room in the front of the shop, which was no more than ten feet by ten feet if you didn’t count the staircase. There were high school senior pretty girls and handsome young men, older couples in anniversary photos, children in all sorts of traditional poses, baseball teams, softball teams, soccer players. A doorway to the right led down a hallway, where I supposed the studio awaited. The back wall, behind a counter that held a small computer monitor and a clutter of papers, sported what I took to be the digital, manipulated interpretations of what O saw through her lens.

I heard footsteps on the stairs and slowly took my eyes from one of the more disturbing images. I turned to find Olivia watching me from the staircase. “Can I help you with something?” she asked.

“Oh, hi. You’re Billy’s wife, right?”

“Yes,” she said. “Olivia.”

“Right,” I said. “We met yesterday at Carlito’s.”

“Oh, sure,” she said, taking the last two steps into the room. No smile. “You’re not really his old friend at all, are you?”

“No, I’m not. How could you tell?”

“I know all of Billy’s old friends. Both of them,” she said.

“Both of them?”

“Sando and Mikey. The other guys you were drinking with.”

So she had paid attention, at least a little bit. “Yeah, sort of. Say, I noticed your sign and just wanted to see what your shop was like. I’ve done a little graphics work myself. In advertising.”

She looked insulted. “I don’t do commercial work,” she said. “Mostly portraits. Some straight, some of them I digitize and do things with.”

I turned back to the digital wall and took another look.  I could see what she meant by “things.”

# # #

The Blink of a Wolf’s Eye

The wolf was watching me from just outside the campsite, I told the boy. It took just 3 nanoseconds for a stream of photons to dart from my military-grade flashlight into the eyes of that wolf.

“That’s pretty fast,” the boy said. “How do you know?”

It’s simple math, I told him. Aren’t you curious about the wolf?

He shook his head. “The math sounds fishy.”

I explained. The speed of light divided by 20 feet–the wolf was that close–is 3 nanoseconds for the light to get from here to there.

“And back?”

What do you mean?

“Did it take 3 nanoseconds to get there and then 3 more to get back from his eyes to yours so you knew that the wolf was there?”

I allowed as how that must have been the case, but at that speed it might as well be an instantaneous transfer of light energy.

“I suppose you’re right. There isn’t much difference between 3 nanoseconds and 6 nanoseconds.”

Not to us, there isn’t. Nanoseconds are just constantly flying by, just zooming by so fast we don’t even notice them.

“I’m going to check your math later,” the boy said.

You go ahead and do that, I told him.

“So what did the wolf do?”

Well what else would a wolf do? It blinked, of course, then it ran away.

Words in #writeoutloud are for warming up, stretching, keeping the writing muscles loose and flexible.