The Boy Next Door

Flash Fiction Fridays

It can’t be…

Marie stood in her driveway in pajama pants and a t-shirt, a bag of flyers and advertisements clutched firmly in her hand, her jaw hanging slack in surprise. She stared at the boy pushing a gas-powered mower across the patch of land in front of his house, the house next door to Marie’s. She stared at him with eyes wide, heart pounding, hands trembling.

It can’t be…can it?

She found herself walking toward him, one step at a time, her slippers picking up clumps of freshly-mowed grass. “Excuse me,” she heard her voice say, although she couldn’t remember having opened her mouth. “Excuse me, young man?”

At first the boy didn’t seem to have heard her, but when his head turned along with the mower’s path his gaze caught hers and he let go of the mower’s dead-switch. “Sorry, were you talking to me?” he asked. His voice was still fresh, young. He was probably about twelve… Precisely the right age…

Marie thought she smiled, but she wasn’t quite sure. “Your family just moved in, right?” she began, conscious of the strange shakiness of her voice. When the boy nodded she added, “I’m Marie, from next door. What’s your name?”

The boy opened his mouth to answer, but another voice did it for him. “James!” called a blond-haired woman from the house. “Supper’s ready!”

Marie glanced at the woman, waved and smiled as best she could, and then looked back at the boy. No resemblance at all, she thought. He could very well be adopted…

“Sorry,” the boy said as he walked, abandoning the mower in the middle of the lawn. “She hates letting supper get cold. Maybe we’ll come over later to meet you!” And with that he was up the two steps on the front of the house and in through the door, gone.

Marie stared after him, her ears echoing with the sound of his voice, her eyes blinking back tears as she mentally compared the hair, the eyes, the cheekbones.

There was no doubt about it, she told herself. No doubt at all in her mind.

The boy next door was her grandson.

The Vibrating Horror

Flash Fiction Fridays

Chad’s backpack was vibrating.

For a good, round ten seconds he stared at the bag and scarcely registered the reality of the situation. He heard the low, mechanical hum and saw the hummingbird-like movement from within the front pocket, but for that first long moment his brain rejected the information it was being fed. What’s that sound? he thought, innocent to the end. Whose bag is making that sound?

Then the airport security lady’s hand came down on the bag – his only carry-on luggage – and as though from a long way away he heard her voice ask, “May I take a look in your bag, sir?”

His mind screamed, “NO!” but he heard his voice crack out a hesitant, “Yes…”

The security lady grasped the zipper just above the embroidered words that had congratulated his crew on surpassing one million man-hours without a lost-time accident, and as she began to pull the pocket open Chad heard his coworkers in line behind him trying, and failing, to surprise their giggles.

I won’t let them see that they’ve gotten to me, he thought. I won’t give them the satisfaction.

The security lady’s hand came out of the backpack grasping a little hot-pink remote with two buttons, and attached to that remote was a long hot-pink wire, at the end of which dangled a bright hot-pick ball. The ball vibrated wildly as it swung back and forth in the air in front of her.

Chad’s coworkers were in hysterics now, and although he was trying his hardest not to look her in the eye, he could tell that the security lady was struggling to restrain a smile herself.

“Shall I remove the batteries for you, sir?” she asked as other passengers whispered to one another and snickered. The coworkers roared openly.

That was the day Chad vowed he would have his revenge.

“Keep Your Head Up”

Flash Fiction Fridays

There’s nothing quite like being a teenager, Mother thought as she watched Daughter walk into the school dance, trying her very best to make her hips wiggle back and forth just the right way.

Mother remembered it very well, and she was intelligent enough to know that things never really change all that much when it comes to the thought process of highschoolers.

She remembered the overwhelming anxiety in the face of social interaction, how you never really knew if anyone genuinely liked you or was just out further their own popularity. She remembered how every tiny misstep would feel like stepping on a land mine – would anyone notice what you’d done wrong and call you out on it? What if you wore the wrong thing, or liked the wrong thing, or said the wrong thing? She remembered the overwhelming pressure to do everything exactly right, to impress everyone and hold tight to any minuscule semblance of acceptance. She remembered that it seemed like every time you let your guard down and allowed yourself to have some fun, something horrible would happen and it would feel like the absolute end of the world. You would never be able to go on. You may as well just end it all right now.

And the thing was, from this side of the mirror Mother knew for certain that it all got better. Eventually such childish things were pushed to the back of your mind. Eventually you stopped caring so much about what everyone thought of you and began to reserve your concern for the actual important people in your life. Eventually high school began to feel like a faded memory, recalled as something much better than it had ever been.

But in the time, in the moment…oh, there was nothing quite like being a teenager and truly, truly believing that your entire existence hinged on the whims of your pimply-faced peers.

“Keep your head up, hon,” Mother whispered to herself as Daughter hip-wiggled her way through the school gym’s doors. “It only feels like the end of the world for a little while.”

The Crack

Flash Fiction Fridays

There was a crack in the wall.

Gregory had been up and down every inch of the new house, hoping to find something cool, something special, something that set it apart from their old house, the one his parents had dragged him so far away from that he wasn’t even certain they were in the same country anymore. He missed the friends he’d made in his first-grade class, the soccer team on which he’d been one of the best kickers, and the huge tree that had been in his old backyard, just ripe for climbing. And he missed his old house, which had a secret cupboard under the stairs just big enough for him, a huge old attic with spooky corners where the light didn’t shine, and a closet in his bedroom that was big enough to build a fort in by draping blankets over the clothes racks.

The new house was too tall, too skinny. It was all the wrong colors. It was too close to the houses on either side of it, and the backyard was far too small. He’d thought the fireplace in the living room was pretty cool, but his mother refused to build a fire in it because she had some insane belief that he would, like, just decide to leap into it and burn to death. His mother was always so weird like that, like she thought he was stupid or something. Father knew better, but he also knew better than to question mother’s decisions.

So Gregory searched, from top to bottom, front to back, he searched every inch of every room, praying for something cool, determined to find something that would make this horrible new house interesting. He searched through the old wood-panel cupboards and in the large closet in the porch that had shelves made of unpainted 2×4. He searched every nook of the cement-floor basement and briefly considered the grey pole in the center that his father called a “load-bearing” something-or-other. He knocked on every stair, hoping for secret compartments. He ran his fingers along every inch (that he could reach) of every wall, wondering if there were any hidden doorways. He looked and looked and looked until he was positively exhausted of looking and was finally quite certain that his family had moved into the most boring house on the planet.

And then, on the fifth night in the house, as he was laying awake in bed and wondering what he could do to convince his parents to move back home, Gregory noticed the crack in the wall. It was staring at him from across the room, precisely at eye-level from the position of his pillow, and he was sure – absolutely sure – that it hadn’t been there the previous four nights. He stared at it for quite a while, frowning, his eyebrows furrowed. It was a thin crack, but long – probably as long as his arm. And it was jagged, going up and down, this way and that, but the basic shape of it was like a bit of a semi-circle. It reminded Gregory a bit of a smile.

Finally, too curious simply roll over and go to sleep, Gregory slid out of bed and creeped across his bedroom floor, careful to avoid the spot that he’d learned would let out a loud creeeeeaaaaak if he went anywhere near it. The crack-smile seemed to grow bigger as he approached it, so that by the time he was crouched in front of the wall, reaching out a hand to touch it, it gave him the distinct impression that it was happy to see him.

A little thrill of fear – mixed with excitement – went up through Gregory’s throat, and for a moment he considered dashing back to bed and throwing the covers over his head. But even as the thought crossed his mind, the tips of his fingers brushed the crack in the faded blue wall and a light began to emerge from the tiny space between the slabs of paint.

And as the light grew and grew, filling the room with an unearthly glow that he couldn’t have described if he’d tried, Gregory remembered thinking, “Now this is more like it.”

Chance Meeting

Flash Fiction FridaysThe gas ran out somewhere around the 157 km marker on… Which highway was this again? I really couldn’t remember. I thought that I’d crossed the border somewhere around New Brunswick, but I’d been driving so long that I wasn’t sure where I was anymore. It really didn’t matter. All that really mattered was that it was time to walk.

“Time to go, buddy,” I whispered to the sleeping child in the back of the SUV. As I undid the straps from around the little boy’s chest and legs I lamented that I was going to have to leave the baby seat behind. It was just too heavy to drag along, so I strapped the baby into the carrier that barely fit around my chest (Do they even design these things for men?) and snatched up the blood-spattered diaper bag before I went.

It was hours before I finally came upon a town again, and with the town came the dead. I glared warily at the bodies that lay strewn throughout, rotting in the sun. It had been almost a month and a half since the undead had suddenly collapsed and finally become dead dead, but I still felt like they were going to jump up and tear into me at any moment. I didn’t think I would ever be able to trust a dead body ever again.

The baby was starting to squirm and squeal so I quickly mixed up the last of the formula and placed the bottle in his tiny hands. He sucked away greedily, and I sincerely prayed that I would be able to find more formula in this town before he got hungry again. This little guy had been through enough. I still had nightmares about the moment I snatched him from his stroller, mere seconds before his bloody-eyed mother had snapped her fleshy jaw down on top of him. I didn’t think I would have been able to go on if I hadn’t made it in time. And so now he was mine, for better or worse, though I hadn’t been able to bring myself to name him yet.

I was pondering this, this most simple of parental decisions, when I saw her: a woman walking toward me in the street. My heart stopped as quickly as my feet as visions of torn flesh and missing limbs flashed in front of my eyes. But in that second moment I realized that she had stopped and was staring at me as well. She was very clutching a young child in her arms and was very clearly pregnant, and I honestly didn’t think I’d ever seen anyone so beautiful in all my life.

We moved slowly toward each other at first, then more quickly, and though we hadn’t moved enough distance to be out of breath we were both breathing hard.

“You’re a survivor,” I said foolishly, my heart hammering.

“You too,” she replied, grinning ear to ear.

And that was the first time that I genuinely believed that, somehow, some way, it was going to be okay.

Night Terrors

Flash Fiction Fridays

Kaitlyn woke in the dark. In that first moment she panicked, for she could hardly move, but then she realized that she had somehow squeezed herself underneath her parents’ bed. She had no idea how she’d gotten there.

She twitched and squirmed to work her way out from the confining space, and in her movement her fingers found a cylindrical object. Intrigued and confused, she fumbled with the object until she found a switch and the underside of the bed lit up like the crack of dawn. A flashlight, she thought to herself. What’s this doing under here? What am I doing under here?

She had almost worked her way out from under the bed when something out of the ordinary caught her eye. The floor didn’t look right. The patch of hardwood that she was wiggling toward was the wrong color. It almost looked like…

Kaitlyn bit her lip and tried not to cry out, but she couldn’t help the little squeak that escaped her lips.

That looks like blood.

She changed directions and squirmed toward the end of the bed rather than the side, and when she finally escaped she had to force herself to look around the room.

The floor on her mother’s side of the bed was painted with red, and the bedsheets on both sides looked as though they’d been soaked in it.

Kaitlyn backed away from the bed, a scream barely held back by the hand she’d raised to her mouth. It wasn’t until she banged into the dresser behind her that she realized there was something sticking out of her back pocket. She felt it pressing into her back – the edged blade slick with sticky red – but she couldn’t look at it, wouldn’t look at it.

Kaitlyn sunk to the floor, switched off the flashlight, and lay down in the dark.

I’ve Been Wrong Before

Flash Fiction FridaysThe world seemed to stop the moment he walked in the room. The red-cheeked bar patrons seemed to fade away around me, and the slightly off-tune notes of the cover band became nothing more than a whisper. My ears felt as though they were filled with cotton. My heart skipped not one, but several beats. I couldn’t stop staring at him, at the strong line of his stubble-covered jaw, the wave of his shaggy brown hair, and the playful glint in his ice-blue eyes.

And he was staring right back at me.

A frat boy waving a twenty-dollar bill was trying to get my attention, but I scarcely even noticed him. My coworker shouted at me as I stepped out from behind the bar, leaving him to deal with the thirsty crowd, but I didn’t even hear him. I was drawn to him, unable to stop myself from elbowing my way through the crowd to get to him. For a heartbeat I lost sight of him, but as I pushed past a rowdy bachelorette party I discovered that he had been moving toward me as well.

We came face to face and stopped. He was a head taller than me, and he smelled like the rainforest. Without thinking about what I was doing – unable to think at all – I reached up and stroked the rough shadow on his chin. His hand found the back of my neck and sent my heart into a flutter. Before I knew it his lips found mine; a gentle kiss, but one vibrating with passion.

As he pulled back from the kiss I struggled to find my voice. “Do you believe in love at first sight?” I whispered.

His voice came back to me, soft and delicious, like melted caramels: “No, but I’ve been wrong before.”

Sweet Little Lies

Flash Fiction Fridays

Ava ran hard, her bare feet pounding the ground, oblivious to the rocks that poked and slashed at the sensitive skin there. The night air was cool on her skin, but all she could feel was the horrible heat spreading from her hammering heart to each of her extremities. It was the heat that he wanted, the sound of her terrified heart that drew him to her.

The books lied, a little voice in the back of her head told her. It was all bullshit. You never should have believed a word of it.

“I know!” The frustrated cry came out as a sob. “I know, I’m such an idiot!”

She heard the air move behind her and ran harder, knowing that death was at her heels, knowing that there was no way she was going to escape, but knowing that she had to try anyway. The wounds on her neck and chest wept blood, as though to urge her on. Run faster! the red liquid seemed to say. He’s almost on us!

She almost made it to the bridge; she could see the lights of the city as the forest thinned around her. Then she blinked, and he was standing in front of her, so close that she almost couldn’t stop. With a cry in her throat she tried to turn, but his arms snaked out and snatched her, pulled her to him, and suddenly his flaming red eyes were inches away from hers.

“What’s wrong Ava?” his cruel voice mocked. “Don’t you love me? Don’t you want to spend eternity with me?”

Tears spilled down her cheeks, but she couldn’t find the strength to answer. The books lied. Vampires are monsters after all.

With a vicious laugh, the horrible, beautiful creature pushed his claws through the flesh of Ava’s arms and ripped open her throat with his fangs, and all she could think was, The books lied. The books lied.

Flash Fiction Fridays: Deadly Addiction

For the past while – in fact, quite a while – I’ve kind of lost my way a little when it comes to this blog. I enjoy sharing stuff like subscription box reviews, Daily Post prompts, and random thoughts about my life, and I have no intention of stopping any of that, but someone going through my posts for the past several months would hardly even know that this is a writer’s blog.

I plan to correct this issue with a couple of new “features”, and the first will be to reinstate a previous method of sharing fiction writing on Fridays. When I used to do this before I called it “Fiction Fragment Fridays”, and I would usually share something that I had previously written at some point in the past. This time I’ve tweaked things a bit. I am calling this polished version of the feature “Flash Fiction Fridays”, and there will be nothing old hastily thrown in at the last minute here. Fridays, from here on out, will be about sharing new writing, a drabble or short-story or what-have-you that I wrote that week. Everything will be fresh, and in this way I’ll be forcing myself to write something – anything – in a fiction genre every week.

Since I had to go through the whole explanation this time I’ll be sharing a quick drabble today. For those of you who don’t know, a drabble is a super-short story of exactly 100 words, and they’re a lot harder to write than they sound! Check mine out and then try writing one for yourself!

Today’s drabble is called: Deadly Addiction

She woke with a soft sigh. The sun was warm on her skin, the scent of wildflowers sweet to her nose. Bluebirds chirped happily nearby. For a moment she was calm, quiet, enjoying the nature around her.

But eventually she had to turn and face the man she’d picked up at the bar – her most recent victim. It was a simple thing to convince him to follow her through the woods; simpler yet was slitting his throat and letting his life pour past her lips.

Dead eyes met hers, accusatory.

Next one, she thought, I won’t kill the next one.