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Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge this week was just to write a 100 word story (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/03/20/flash-fiction-challenge-100-words-only/).
So I did.
Why does my mind bend this way?
Gleaming body, perfect face silver-limned by shining moon, she floated towards the bed. Naked, I shivered. Chittering locusts nested in my guts.
Must be the drugs …
The game began.
“I await your pleasure,” I recited. House protocol.
She deviated. “Love.”
Dark syrup voice. The cicadas shrilled.
“Does your Craft not demand pleasure?” Improvising…
She slithered onto the bed. Moon-bleached smile. Pointed teeth—sharp as her nipple piercings.
“Fuck the Craft!” She seized the obvious target.
The safety word: Bug.
I screamed it, glimpsing sparkling razors embedded along her spine. My hands bloody ribbons, we wrestled.
She bit. Insects thundered.
I wrote this story in answer to the Fabulous Chuck Wendig’s (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/) Friday Flash Fiction challenge: “Diseased Horror”. In his words, ‘write 1000 words of flash fiction. It should be horror. It should feature disease as an axis of that horror. That’s it. That’s the mission.’
So I did. I remember when the term computer virus was actually more of a metaphor. When the computer itself had the annoying virus. When your machine would whir, click, and rev up like a crazed mini lawn mower and then … bfzzt!
The blue screen of death.
I’ve lived long enough to observe how words I used to use when I was young now mean different things—cool used to be a temperature, gay was happy, and fag was a cigarette. And now … the meaning of computer virus will be changed forever, for me at least.
You might say I was lucky on that day. One-11 they’re calling it, in dubious honor of binary code.
I had an early morning fight with my wife and stormed out of the house, went for a drive to the nearest overlook with a bottle of rye whiskey. Drank half of it before lunch, just to spite her. Naturally, I didn’t touch a keyboard when I got back. Too smashed to even see the monitor. I just went to bed.
But she did.
My wife, Crissy.
Touch the keyboard, I mean.
So did my kids.
Beth—the fresh-faced teenager with a quick white smile—constantly online, plugged in, connected. Cyn—the 12-year old jockette—not much for tweeting or LOL-ing, but always checking her soccer and basketball schedules. Little 6-year old Finn—so bright and toothy—who loved playing Power Rangers and Hot Wheels and God knows what else for hours on end, it seemed.
I would give anything to watch their fingers fly again. Give anything to watch them waste time. Because then it would mean they had the time to waste.
I would give anything to fight with Crissy one more time. This time I would apologize. I would kiss her. I would make up.
Oh, I was anything but lucky on that day.
I noticed the smell first. In that hypersensitive state only a hangover can imbue, I detected a fetid and putrid odor before my foot hit the top stair. Bonus round to the hangover, I couldn’t figure out what the smell was.
It was unbearably bright in the kitchen. The sunlight knifed through the window and stabbed my eyes. I looked for coffee. The coffeepot wasn’t in its cradle. Blinking a hundred times to adjust to the glare, I finally made out the slim lines of my beautiful wife’s body as she lay unmoving on the tiled floor. Her face and lips were puffy and purple, eyes bulging. A slimy, pink liquid congealed on the floor under her mouth. The glass coffeepot lay shattered a foot away from her outstretched right hand. A dark substance—I realized dimly was dried blood—trailed out from a gash on her palm. I knew then that the odor was death and feces.
I heard coughing from the living room and headed there in a daze, to see Beth draped listlessly on the couch. Even in my stupor, I could see her life force ebbing fast. Gasping for breath, her body shuddered with each spasmodic, bubbling cough. Pinkish fluid frothed from her nose and mouth. Beth’s normally shiny blonde hair hung lank on her face as her head lolled over the edge of the couch. Gouts of blood had flowed from her nose at some point in the night; the carpet directly below her head was soaked red.
Just as I got to her, Beth made a mewling sound and shivered violently for a few seconds that seemed like hours, until a final prolonged coughing fit exploded in sprays of blood and mucous.
Then she lay horribly still. I stared down at her. I was too late.
I turned back towards the kitchen. Too late for Crissy.
I turned back to Beth. Reached down and picked up her head, rolling her over onto her back and stroking away the wet hair from her face. Her lips were blue. Her eyes glistened. Her cheeks were wet. I closed her eyelids, thinking how I must be in a movie or dreaming.
My head pounded. Where were Cyn and Finn?
After a few dull moments, I forced myself back up the stairs.
Cyn was in her bed, almost peaceful. My heart leapt at that, until I saw the telltale pink froth on the pillow … on the sheets … on her nose and mouth.
And Finn … little Finn. I prayed he was alive almost as hard as I prayed he was already gone. I wandered to his room reluctantly and peered around the edge of his bedroom door. His nightlight—a purple conch shell we had brought back from Hawaii—was still on, casting a needless purple pallor to his face. I could not bear to enter.
Today, knowing so much more, I find myself sitting at my computer desk—in my small office in my empty house—thinking about how foreign the concept of germs would have been to the millions of people who died puking, shitting and bleeding from every orifice during the Black Death.
It was the vengeance of God or the work of Satan. Or magic.
Today—even in this technologically advanced world—how foreign is the idea of microscopic machines.
Intellectually, we know about them. I suppose some can imagine them, to an extent. Very few can actually describe them and even fewer can build them.
Microscopic machines. Tiny travelers. Venomous vectors.
Sounds like germs to me. Or magic. Or Satan.
The irony is that the group claiming the deed was a splinter cell of the Mother Gaia movement. You know the ones who think mankind is a virus on mother earth that should be exterminated so the earth can live on in peace and harmony until an asteroid takes her out. It’s not ironic that the group virtually (no pun intended) achieved its goal. It’s ironic they used mankind’s technology to accomplish it.
Brilliant, deluded techies recruited or extorted by the Earth Firsters; they did it.
They made the tiniest nanobots that could swim through cables and fibreoptics. In the burgeoning wireless world, I never realized that cables still connect us all in some way.
These nanobots carried two little surprises. The first was a secretion of microbes that inflicted a slightly modified—meaning fast, vicious and antibiotic immune—strain of the Spanish flu. The second was a parasite that caused sterility in anyone who happened, by genetic chance, to survive the flu. I can tell you there were not many of those survivors; the nanobots rejigged the influenza microbes as they traveled, using the viruses’ innate ability to grow stronger and defeat their host’s immunities.
The bastards programmed the nanos to head to computer keyboards.
Me … I survived that day because I got shit-faced and stayed off the Internet, and I didn’t feel like hitting up Facebook when I woke up and stumbled downstairs the next morning. Never touched my keyboard, where the malevolent, disease-covered parasite-ridden little bastards were lurking; waiting to transfer to the skin of anyone who wanted to play Minecraft.
Today is a different day. It’s only a few weeks later and I am alone.
I mean alone.
I sit, foot tapping, gazing at the dark monitor in front of me. A photograph of Crissy stands beside it. We were on our honeymoon. She looks happy in this picture.
“Thanks for sharing everything with me, good and bad, Crissy, my love. Thanks for my wonderful kids,” I whisper to her. “Now it’s my turn.”
My fingers tremble at first, but by the time I tap out the end of the farewell letter that no one will read, they are rock-steady.
The Flash Fiction Challenge from Chuck Wendig this week was to write a horror story of 500 words or so framed as a spam email. I went over 500 and I would not say this is a horror story, although some might call it that. I call it …
An ordinary day.
I’m at my ordinary desk in my ordinary home in front of my old computer.
I am bored.
My wife says that if a person is bored it’s because they are boring. I don’t think she likes me anymore.
I tell her I get bored because I know I am smarter than everyone else is, except maybe my oldest son, Isaac. He can run rings around me logically and intellectually. I don’t think Isaac likes me much either, come to think of it.
He’s all philosophical and atheistic and such, while I tend to the mystic. In fact, I am often mystic. I always say that instead of saying ‘optimistic’; I say, “Well, I am often mystic about that.”
People don’t get it. They don’t understand. That’s how I know I am smarter than they are.
Anyway, I digress, because this next thing was something exciting on an ordinary day.
I hear the Beep da-da boo-beep that means I have a new email. Most people don’t use the sound feature for their email alert anymore, but I like it. I like being informed before anyone else. I like being alerted.
I bring up the message and read:
Gracious felicitations Mr. Smith,
Pardon this intrusion into your busy life, but I am hoping you will be happy to receive this message, once understood.
First I must warn you that on what you would call Sunday, December 25th, 2024 at about 9:00 am, the world will witness an enormous bright light blossom in the sky, just a few degrees to the east of the star you call Polaris.
This magnificent light is actually the death of a billion suns in a distant galaxy.
Of course, this event happened long, long ago (from my perspective), however its repercussions have lingered and grown for thousands of years and are now coming to roost (I believe this is the correct expression) on your planet.
Not to worry. In advance of this awesome event unfolding before your eyes, our warp ships will arrive sometime next year. Naturally, I cannot give you the exact date. These ships merely serve as the advance scouts for the armada that will follow closely behind. I am proud to say that I am communicating with you from the flagship of the advance party.
It may seem strange to you that we have decided to focus on your little planet, especially when you have had no prior indication that there actually is anyone or anything else living ‘out there’ (or from my perspective, ‘out here’), but rest assured, your world has some—shall we say—bountiful attributes that are highly attractive.
It may be even harder still to believe that I have chosen you (yes you!) amongst all 7 billion souls on your planet for this one-time and very generous offer. Once more, you can be certain we have done our research and yes, you are indeed the right candidate.
Prepare yourself; the following is your fantastic opportunity:
We would like to bestow upon you the title of ‘People’s Representative Of The Primary Hump-Enzer Terraformers’. We, of course, being the aforementioned Primary Hump-Enzer Terraformers. With this lofty title come riches, power, land and whatever else you so desire.
Your duties will be simple: you will be the bearer of all communications between us—the looming armada—and the rest of humankind.
Oh, and you will also do everything we ask.
All that is needed for you to claim your prize is to sacrifice your first-born and transmit the resultant blood DNA to us for our study and … manipulation. You may easily accomplish this via your primitive microwave transmissions. Please do not worry; we will retrieve it in good time.
Once we arrive, we will make it known to mankind that you are the P.R.O.P.H-E.T and everything should proceed nicely from that point on … for you, especially.
Mr Smith, we look forward to working with you and eagerly anticipate your reply and subsequent … sacrificial donation.
Gologon Orp Deru,
Captain, Advance Flag Ship
Primary Hump-Enzer Terraformers Fleet
Approaching Milky Way Galaxy (courtesy local terms of reference)
Should you not wish to receive this blessing and make the required sacrifice, you and all of your family and descendants will be passed over for any … well, for anything. And we will choose that nice-looking Asian gentleman down the street instead.
Hey, I know the Asian guy that Captain Deru is talking about. I think his name is Gotma or something like that. Well, no way I’m letting him be the PR guy.
So … this is exciting, right? Well, I think so. In fact, I gotta say I am often mystic about this.
I don’t care if Cap got my name wrong, he can call me by my real name Abraham or Smith or any name he likes. I don’t care, especially from now on.
I call my wife, “Hey Sara, where’s that smarty-pants Isaac?”
Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge ran over two weeks: the first week we were to write an awesome sentence, then this week, we were to pick someone else’s sentence and write a 1000 word story around it. I picked a sentence written by ‘miceala’ on September 26, 2014 at 7:44 PM. I will reveal the sentence at the end of this post as I think to reveal it now gives too much away Miceala’s avatar picture for her blog (http://quillaquiver.com ) follows and is somewhat appropriate:
I try not to look, but when I must—like every morning before going to work—I force myself to search between the flaming angry ridges, to hone in only on smooth skin, the remaining untouched flesh.
My once beautiful face.
Every time, I fail. My eyes—blue and unmarred—forever stop and focus on each line, tracing the raised intaglio threads until the whole of my visage has been traversed slowly, carefully, painfully, like Blondin tightrope-walking across Niagara falls.
Eventually, after applying mascara, I close my untouched eyelids and finish preparing to meet the world, to go to my job. I brush my teeth and hair and apply lipstick blindly. No need for blush or rouge.
Concealer? I can hear him laughing at that thought.
It doesn’t matter; I’ll never be beautiful again. It’s a habitual morning ritual. It’s not for me, anyway; it’s for my co-workers, although I doubt they look at my face either.
These scars are ropes binding my existence, my self-image, to my wounds. I can’t ignore them; they will never disappear. The doctors say plastic surgery will only disfigure me more; there are too many, too close together to fix. Even if my body didn’t reject the transplanted flesh, it would be hard and puffy in so many places I would look like Georges St-Pierre after a losing fight instead of just a Dinka tribeswoman.
But there were so many cuts. So many …
I honestly don’t remember every slice. Just the first ten or so. The knife was cold until it went white hot. Or maybe it was the blood that made it burn. He did it all in front of a mirror at my old apartment. He had to, in order to create his art while holding me from behind. Held my head just so, moving my face gently, tenderly. When it came time to remove the gag and ball he had crammed in my mouth, the better to make his final strokes, I was well past screaming, too far gone to cry for help.
I remember his final words before he slipped out, leaving me sprawled beneath the sink with my face painting the bathroom floor a bright and slippery red.
“Remember always, Dora,” he whispered. “You are my greatest creation. A masterpiece!”
Only my name isn’t Dora. It’s Lily.
Once—in a maudlin drunken fog—I searched the Internet for ‘Dora’ and ‘Masterpiece’. I found Picasso’s portrait: ‘Weeping Woman’ whose subject was his mistress, Dora Maar.
So I guess I get it now, but it still doesn’t help.
If only I hadn’t been feeling … experimental that night. What do I call it? Looking for Mr. Goodbar? A Mosuo sweet night? Exercising my prerogative to enjoy myself?
Everyone says it wasn’t my fault.
Of course, it wasn’t my fault.
Doesn’t matter now, does it?
At first, Van had been fantastic: intelligent, artsy, great sense of humour. I laugh. I take a chance. I take him home.
And he carves me up like an Easter ham.
I told the police who he was. They never found him. Big surprise. They were sympathetic and useless.
But I found him. In a chat room. I know it is Van; he uses some of the same lines and jokes that seemed so attractive to me that night. He uses them on other women. How many masterpieces has Van created, I wonder?
Sometimes I can’t help myself; I must touch the scars. All of them. It’s happening more often, now—almost every day in fact. Before, only my eyes traced the route of each ridge; now my trembling fingers also find the path. Some days, as I do this, it is as if the scars are speaking to me through my fingers, like Braille to Helen Keller.
Lately, though—maybe since last week—as I let my fingers do the walking, I hear the tiniest of whispers. At first, I think it comes from the pads of my fingers sliding along the hard ropey blemishes. Then yesterday the words began to clarify, like the discordant croak of a radio announcer rising up through the static hiss of white noise interference.
It’s coming from my face. It’s my scars.
This comes through quite clearly. A natural thought for me after what I have endured.
Hissed like Kaa the great snake in the Jungle Book. It makes my face tingle and twitch, as if pricked one last time by the point of the hot knife. Sometimes I weep.
For six days the two phrases repeated.
Today, as I get ready to go to work—listening to my face whispering a sibilant sing-song—I confess to thinking that if I do end it, it would be such a beautiful irony if I managed to do it with a knife—to slice myself. I believe I would finally reveal the masterpiece that Van intended, the final masterstroke, as it were.
Van mus-s-s-t go.
Now … this is a new one. I think it is a clever pun. After all, it is my mind producing the delusion, isn’t it? I think I’m pretty funny … at least I used to be. Then I hear the sequence arranged in a different combination.
Van mus-s-s-st go.
Last night Van made a date with a woman openly in the chat room. He gave GPS coordinates as if they were some kind of code. I know where he will be later tonight.
This morning I understand what my scars are telling me.
Van mus-s-s-st go.
I stop touching them and stare in the mirror. Eyes open, looking at my face.
All of my face.
All of my beautiful face.
Van mus-s-s-st go.
Perhaps I would be able to move on. Court closure. Carry on, if not healed and whole, at least sated and revenged. I would be every bit as tender as Van was. Then finally, the scars would stop whispering.
The sentence is, of course: “Then finally, the scars would stop whispering”.