Category Archives: FEATHERTON III

The Dog

I was robbing an apartment on Tujunga, hauling the television to my van, when I tripped over the cord, fell on my side, and smacked my head on the carpet. That’s when I met the dog. It was like a white little furry rat with big black eyes.

“Goood doggie,” I whispered. Not that it was a really dangerous or scary-looking dog, but it was just a couple feet from my face and I figured those little teeth could still do some damage.

“Gooo~gah!” I cried as the dog darted toward my mug. Not that it was a girly scream or anything. Just a little high is all. The dog swiped its tongue up my stubbly cheek before my scream scared it away. Some guard dog. Not that I was complaining.

“Hi, kiddo,” I said and its tail started wagging again. Dumb mutt. “You’re a good dog, aren’t ya?” It leaned in again and I scratched its head. It was actually kinda cute, with its little scrawny paws and its clueless face. Not that I sympathized with it or anything. I’m a beefcake myself, you know? I just have a soft spot for things smaller than me. I’m a big ol’ softie. An angry softie. With tattoos.

So, anyways. After my near-mauled experience, I saw that I had a second chance. Another lease on life. I hoisted myself up, gripped the cord in my teeth, and carried the T.V. out with my giant forearms. That would be my last stolen television. From now on, I figured I was going to start kidnapping pets.

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Filed under FEATHERTON III, Flash Fiction

Sadie Buys a Book (third revision)

Mr. McCrary’s store is the only place Sadie allows herself to feel. Rather than go home to an empty house, blogging and surfing the internet until her mother gets home from nursing school, Sadie prefers to spend some afternoons buried somewhere between the Fantasy and poetry sections.

“Hello, Sadie. How was school?” though there are gaps in his smile, the bookseller grins hard. He cleans his glasses on an old wool coat, looking pensive at the still-smudged glasses.

Sadie shrugs.  School is school. There’s nothing really great about it, and Sadie learned long ago that if she shut her mouth, she could avoid the strange looks the other students give her. They come from a very different place than she does. Their lives are a battle between dinner time and the mall. Her life is caught between loneliness and a book.

“School is okay. We’re studying Lord of the Flies.”

“Really? How are you liking it so far?”

“The kids in the book are annoying, but I kind of like Simon. He seems like he’s the only one taking things seriously.”

“Simon. I like Simon. Very quiet boy, though. He needs to speak up a little if people want to take him seriously.” He pushes up his glasses. Sadie lowers her face and smiles. She likes how Mr. McCrary talks about book characters like they’re real people.

Sadie finds herself wearing her smile, even after she retreats behind a bookshelf. She quickly removes it from her face, not wanting to look like some grinning idiot. What if someone saw her standing in the aisles smiling? They’d think she was crazy! They’d probably be right…

Sadie wanders through the shelves, running her eyes and fingers over the curvature of their spines, her neck wilting to one side so she can read the titles. Eventually, one of these sideways letters will cause her eyes and hand to stay for just a moment.

She pauses, intrigued, and dislodges the book from its tight row of friends. The book is called “Jump”. It’s about overcoming social anxiety, but the pages are filled with notes in the margins. “Lies” says the first page. Then on the fifth, a picture of a stick person stabbing another stick person in the face, his head a fountain of inky blood. On page 77, the comment “people die every day” is mirrored by “they’ll never hurt me again” on the other side of the book. The word “HELP” is scrawled all over the pages. Sadie wonders who this book belonged to, whether the owner got the help she needed. If she didn’t, that may be why the book lies in Sadie’s hand today. She walks it to the counter. Mr. McCrary smears his glasses again on his coat.

“I’d like this one,” Sadie says, turning it upside down so he can’t read the title. Her heart leaps as he automatically turns it over to read.

“Taking your first big leap, eh?” She averts her eyes from the old man’s incomplete smile. “Don’t worry. It’s on the house.”

“Really?”

He nods.

“Thank you.” Sadie, thankful that he didn’t open the private book/journal, swipes it up and marches out the door. She clutches the book close to her breast, making up a story in her head about the person that wrote the messages and how she would take care of her, and love her, and understand.

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Traditions (“Hindsight: Christmas Miracle” Revision)

“Oh, sweet baby Jesus,” Sarah says over and over to herself, teeth chattering. Her husband’s, Travis’s, old pickup truck didn’t insulate the heat well enough, in spite of the blankets they jammed throughout the interior, covering the windshield entirely. She looked out of the little peephole in the passenger side window, but there was no sign of Travis. Travis said he’d be back by sunrise. By sunrise, everything would be better again.

Her husband took the rifle but they kept a pistol in the glove compartment that he had taught her how to use. “Oh, sweet baby Jesus,” she repeated, huddled up in the old quilt her mother had made her when she was a child. It had animals painstakingly sewn into the fabric. She shivered. “Travis. Please be okay out there.”

Nights are the worst. Sarah sees creatures in the shadows, ones that are there as often as not. She usually never knows for sure until she can see the creatures well enough to hear their hooves crunch through the snow. One time, a squirrel jumped onto the windshield and tried to gnaw through it to get to them. Sarah thought, in a situation like that, that she would have screamed hysterically. But she just sat there, gun pointed at the squirrel, heart hammering against her ribs. Travis never woke up and she never told him about the incident, either. There’s enough terror in the daytime without Travis hearing about the sound the owls make when they’re dead. When undead birds sing, there’s no music in it. There’s just a low, long whistle. Sarah thinks that the owls sound deeper and sadder than anything she’s ever known. Nights are the worst, but Sarah chooses them. She’d rather stay awake through the horror than never wake up.

“Where are you, Travis?” the warm air leaves her mouth like a ghost. She huddles up in her animal blanket, hiding from the creatures in the night. Sarah feels warm in her mother’s patchwork. If the zombie outbreak had never occurred, she and Travis would be celebrating Christmas at her parents’ house in Michigan. They’d be eating ham and watching the wild turkeys hobble by outside the glass sliding window. One of their family traditions was to roast up chestnuts and eat them by the fireplace. She would always fall asleep there, feet toasty warm. Sarah dreamed sweet dreams back then…

* * *

It’s still night, but Sarah is following a star, almost as bright as the sun. It looks pale and lonely in spite of its light. She finds a barn where she can take refuge. There are people and animals inside. They’re all standing still, looking at something. Sarah has their pistol out; they’re quiet but they all look alive.

“What are you all looking at?” Sarah asks. No answer. She leans forward to see Joseph and Mary sitting over their child, looking every bit like the ones in her parents’ nativity set. “He’s our Lord and savior,” says one of the wise men. They’re all standing still and staring like in a painting. Sarah leans forward to look at the tiny child in the manger. Its jaw hangs loose. Its eyes are gray and dead. It reaches out to touch Sarah and she backs off. Mary’s neck is broken. Joseph’s jaw is missing. His tongue hangs loose onto his robes. One of the wise men, eye holes bleeding, lunges at her and she backs into a llama with filmy eyes and crooked teeth. It hisses and bites her.

* * *

“Sarah! Open up!”

She pulls out the pistol and points it at his head.

“Christ! Sarah!” he ducks. “I’m not a zombie yet! Put the gun down!”

She looks through the peephole. The sunlight is barely grazing over the trees, making the tops look yellow.

“It was a little farther than I remembered. But look!” He holds up the gas can. “It’s a Christmas miracle!

Sarah says nothing. “I think we have as much as three gallons, but the stations just tapped out now. We’re lucky that there was anything at all. People probably just haven’t used this one because of how far away from civilization it is.”

Sarah remembers her parents’ home, walking in and seeing the glass door broken, a corpse strewn out on the kitchen floor. Red entrails stretched out on white linoleum. She couldn’t even recognize it as her mother, or maybe she didn’t want to believe it at the time. Travis looks into Sarah’s glazed over eyes. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah…” she says, shaking her head. Those memories won’t do her any good. She has Travis and that’s all that matters now.

Her husband runs his hand through her hair and puts his lips to her head. “Check me for bite marks,” he whispers to her forhead. She shrinks back from his touch.

“God dammit, Travis! I don’t care if you’re turning or not.”

“Don’t say that.”

“No! No!” she swats away an arm aimed at comforting her. “It’s not like we can help it! I’d rather die too!”

“Sarah. This is important. It would kill me if I…”

“You’d already be dead. Just drop it.”

“All right. I just…”

“Drop it.”

They sit for a minute, looking out at the growing light outside. It’s a silent morning.

“I’m sorry,” Sarah says.

“For what?” Travis asks. Sarah has never apologized after these arguments, but then she wasn’t apologizing about the fight anyway. She made up her mind that she would stick with him when they got married, before she even knew that the dead could get up and walk again.

“I was asleep when you got back. I had… I had a bad dream.”

“Sarah, I’ve been thinking about something,” Travis says, clutching his gas can. “I don’t think we can do this anymore. We need to make good use of this last gasoline that we were given. We may be able to get close to the coast on just a few gallons. I don’t know why I thought we could hide out forever, but maybe immigration has settled down a bit. I mean, the initial scare is over, so I don’t think they’d shoot us unless we were the undead. Sarah?”

“Hmmm?”

“Sarah. What do you think?”

“About what?”

“Civilization.”

Sarah wraps her mother’s quilt around them both. “I think… I want to sleep together without taking shifts. I don’t care what happens today. I just want to sleep her with you.” She rests her head on his stomach.

“Merry Christmas,” she whispers.

“Merry Christmas,” he replies, setting the gas can at his feet.

Outside the window, the sunrise gives the snow a reddish hue. Just this one time, he pulls the quilt over both their heads and they dream sweet dreams.

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I’m Your Gimp

Your feet are loveliness upon my back. Your paddle caresses me with pain. Only pain. Perfect skin that deigns to notice my rough flesh. Exquisiteness bred in one such as you but not in me.

I sit here quietly, locked and chained, waiting for your return. You will use me. I will be used. Master, this can only be love. My dominant other, you deign to notice my rough flesh. I will be used. By you.

You feed me scraps, blow smoke in my face. Everything that has passed by your lips makes its way toward me. I am blessed. Master. I feel so alone here, locked and chained, waiting. Your paddle caresses me with pain and I am alive again. Take care of me, master. I have no one else. Waiting. For your return.

Tear at my nipples. Violate me with your perfect. Wand. I love it when you. Hear me. Eager to please. Eager to be. You. I love you. Outside myself. Use me. I’m your. Toy. I’m your. Slave. Your feet are loveliness. Locked and chained. Take care of me. Use me. I’m your gimp.

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Dirge (revision)

March 7, 2010

Dr. Miller and I have begun our research of the ice worms on the Malaspina Glacier, just a few hundred miles from Juneau. Our encampment is an ideal place, far enough from the lake and tourism but not far enough that we can’t get to civilization within a day in the case of an emergency. Just dig in the ice and you can find dozens crawling around, like little squirming hairs.

March 10, 2010

Counting worm mean density in glaciers is tedious, especially the process of staking off areas. If I wanted to dig holes, I’d have become an archaeologist.

Our survivalist, Eric, entertains Dr. Miller and I with his stories. He has a way of telling them that uses his whole body, like the time he was carrying a dead seal to the butcher (who is a good friend of his) to sell its skin and fat and to get its meat cut into seal steaks. This was actually the normal part for him; apparently, PETA was hanging out, protesting, and they saw him and chased him through the streets. He had to chuck the seal into the crowd just to get away. “What a waste!” he told us and laughed a deep laugh.  He keeps us in warm spirits.

March 11, 2010

More worm counting. It’s cold and I’m tired. My fingers are numb. My nose is numb. My ass is numb. I’ve been slacking off to chat with Eric. Dr. Miller keeps eyeing me. I can only guess she disapproves of my slacking off or my flirting with Eric, though probably both.

March 14, 2010

I am writing this the next morning. I’ve always been a lightweight, but the cold is soothing to hangovers.

Eric and I started the day talking about science fiction. He’s a huge fan of Conan the Barbarian. He said that there were two stories about ice worms that he had read, one called “The Lair of the Ice Worm” featured Conan but was not written by Howard. The other, preferred by Eric, was called “Valley of the Worm” and was about a man named Niord who battles a giant ice worm and dies.

Since he offered some of his vodka, I reluctantly admitted that my interest in ice worms had been birthed from science fiction writers like Peter F. Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds. I recalled one story in which ice worms were used to terraform the planet by excreting the bacteria used to birth new life.

It was a strange conversation, but I felt like a connected with Eric a little. Then came the vodka. Dr. Miller will be livid.

March 15, 2010

Dr. Miller was bitten by a man wandering about the glaciers. I’m writing as Eric drives us to Juneau. She’s finally asleep from the anesthetics we gave her, but I’m not so sure about her condition. I can’t tell what’s wrong with her except for the fact that the wound is festering. He seemed to have some form of leprosy, perhaps, his body was so decayed. Eric put the man down. I don’t know how else to describe it since he was acting like a rabid animal. I just have to remind myself that it was mercy; it’s amazing he was still alive. Though it may ruin our research, we’ve left our camp behind. There is a large volume of bears about. Strange. Polar bears never head this far south. I wonder if this is a result of global warming?

March 16, 2010

If anyone is reading this, I am dead. My name is Dr. Hermann Schulz and I have been attacked by diseased polar bears. Like walking corpses. Some of them have their flesh torn right off from the bone, but they still keep coming with a ferocity not of this world. I was here with Eric Nass and Dr. Nancy Miller. They are both dead. God help me, they are. Poor Eric, torn apart by mad polar bears. He was every bit the man, though that means little under the might of a bear. Dr. Miller was bitten and contracted the disease. She attacked us and we left her. I leave nobody behind, save a couple of aunts and an uncle. I don’t want to die.

March 17, 2010

Ice worms come out at night. Must have killed tens of thousands just walking around.

If they had mouths, what songs would they sing for us? Or would it all be drowned out by the screaming?

March 21, 2010

I’ve had a few days to think while I lay in the hospital. Living bear corpses hobbling around the glaciers and tearing into Eric with bloody nails. All still vivid memories. This may sound crazy, but I need to know what killed my partner and my friend. Eric told me about that story and Niord and how his friend sang a dirge for him after his battle with the ice worms and his death. I think I’ll start experiments on the ice worms promptly. Maybe they know something we don’t.

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Threshold (revision)

Travis began to doubt whether Sarah was still alive. He glared at a stranger, daring the man to tell him that she wasn’t alive. He quickly got out of Travis’s way. Why now? For almost two years, neither of them had felt safe, but they were alive and together. Now that they were among people, they had let their guard down.

Before the outbreak, before the zombies, they used to spend nights making love with only the light of her favorite lavender candles. He always thought the scent was overpowering, but he’d grown to love it. What he wouldn’t do to bring back that night, and to bring her back. Even living in the truck for over a year, afraid of everything outside their doors, at least they had each other. There were times during the morning twilight, in that threshold between night and day, when they would cling to each other and never let go. Now he might never see her again. Dr. Z: if he ever found him, he would kill him…

* * *

He’ll never see him again. Jeremiah, his only remaining flesh and blood, in an unmarked grave in the dry plains of Texas. They had grown up together, taking turns on the slide. He and Jerm had done unthinkable things, but they’d done them to corpses. But even telling himself that didn’t make it feel right. They’d massacred their entire family. If there was any blood on their hands, that would be it.

Micah waits at the threshold of the Rapturist building. He could burn this place down, but he wouldn’t know if the heads of the operation would be dead. The gumshoe would find a way in. It was a matter of pride for a man like that.

Ever since that day, Micah had always told Jerm “We did what we had to,” even if he didn’t quite believe it himself. Well, there was just one more thing Micah had to do. This country is a cess pool, all stemming from this booming city of Juneau. He would purge it with a bath of fire…

* * *

“Burn him again.”

“I think he’s reached his threshold, Reverend.”

“Very well.” He laid hands on the hammer and the chain, simple devices of torture, used as an artist would use a paintbrush.

He hung against the wall, like a piece of rotting meat. Reverend Taddeo wanted to dance at the sublime beauty of it all. He had grown up never really believing in God or the afterlife, feeling guilty about it but not knowing why. Now that the dead had come back, Taddeo knew that there was a divine presence passing judgment on us all. The Rapture had come and God had spoken in his ears: “Thou art hath sinned. Convert the masses and thou art shalt be redeemed in the eyes of the Lord.”

“You will thank me later, Dr. Schulz. We are baptizing you, preparing you for the rigors of the new age where only the just are spared from God’s angels! We must all prepare for what is to come…”

* * *

“We have to be prepared. You guys are ready?”

“Hells yeah! That’s my girlfriend getting brainwashed in there!”

“Theo, she could just be there of her own free… never mind.”

“So, what’s the big plan?”

“I have a plan. Josh, we’ll need to borrow your truck. You ready?”

Josh exercised his strange ability to crack every bone in his body. “I was born ready.”

“Good. We make our move tonight…”

* * *

The zombies gathered at the threshold of the forest, seeming to have purpose and direction. They began marching toward the squatter camps set up around Juneau’s walls. They guards rang the warning bells, too late for the huddled masses clawing at the gates to be saved from the flesh-eating masses. The undead horde’s number tripled that night. The victims of poverty and overpopulation now hammered and clawed at the threshold, slavering and dreaming of blood.

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Jack and Leigh Ann

Jack and Leigh Ann are two people of the opposite sex. Jack is walking on the sidewalk. Leigh Ann is sitting on a bench.

“Hey!” Leigh Ann calls out to Jack. “Why are you walking?”

“It’s what I’ve always done,” Jack says, pacing around the bench. “Why are you sitting?”

“I’ve always sat,” she explains. “Would you like to meet my family?” Her mother and sister smile and wave. Leigh Ann’s father isn’t there; he is a walker, so sometimes he walks by.

“No time,” says Jack, turning his eyes toward the horizon. “It was nice to meet you.”

“Wait!” Leigh Ann says. Jack keeps walking. Leigh Ann struggles out of the bench and begins to walk after him. “Wait up!”

Leigh Ann’s mother shakes her head. It is just like how she met her husband. Leigh Ann’s mother has happy and sad memories of her husband.

Leigh Ann catches up with Jack. Jack glances at Leigh Ann. He slows down for her.

“What’s your name?” he asks.

“Leigh Ann.”

“Mine’s Jack.”

Jack and Leigh Ann walk for years. Sometimes Jack says ” left.” Sometimes Leigh Ann says “right.” They usually go left.

One time, they stop by Leigh Ann’s family and say hello.

“You have my blessing!” Leigh Ann’s mother yells as they walk past.

Jack and Leigh Ann come to a fork in the road.

“Let’s go left!” Jack exclaims.

“I’d like to go right,” Leigh Ann says.

“That’s a stupid idea. You go right, then. See if I care!”

Jack goes left. Leigh Ann goes right. Jack is angry. Leigh Ann is sad.

Jack grows tired and lonely. He misses having Leigh Ann to talk to. Jack sits down.

Leigh Ann keeps walking.

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