Tag Archives: fire

Can loneliness kill you? Find out after these messages…

“And we’re back. Say, Jennifer. How’s that cocker spaniel of yours?”

“Oh, he’s just swell, Barry. Just swell. Thank you for asking.”

“Speaking of swell, did you know that the ocean eats one thousand more Cocker Spaniels a year than it does Jamaican Snoring Frogs?”

“That’s awful, Barry! Looks like I should stay away from the beach this season. Ha ha ha!”

“Ha ha! But don’t keep too secluded, Jennifer. If you get too lonely, you could die. We have a scientist here that specializes in… what did you call it?”

“SHC. Spontaneous Human Combustion. Oh, but I’m not a scientist. I just work as a cashier at Walgreen’s…”

“Don’t be so modest, doctor! Tell us why… we’re constantly at risk of dying in unimaginable ways.”

“Well, Spontaneous Human Combustion, specifically, has a lot of mystery surrounding it. People in the past have believed it’s the work of ghosts. However, there have been patterns found of very isolated people who simply space out in the middle of whatever they’re doing.”

“Explain.”

“They, um… they fall into these deep trances, kind of like a hypnotist. Then, without warning, they burst into flames.”

“Are you saying they become a human fireball?”

“Kind of, though it mostly occurs at the skin level, there have been theories that a person’s organs are able to superheat in certain situations.”

“Gosh! That’s terrible! I’m sure the viewers would like to know, is there any way to prevent this from happening to any of us.”

“Well, there’s no proven method, though my buddies and I were talking and it seems like  you just need to live an active lifestyle. Just don’t be a vampire all the time.”

“Doctor, are you saying these people might be vampires?”

“No! What?”

“Amazing! Thank you for joining us, Doctor Walgreen.”

“That’s not my…”

“We’ll be back! After these messages…”

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Session XVII

Fire (Revision of “Blood,” part 2)

Josh and Theo drove in amidst a shrieking stampede of people and zombies. Given the overwhelming mass of flesh in the streets, it got to the point where they couldn’t tell whether they were running over people or avoiding zombies. A horde of people stood on the car, trying to break their way inside.

“Just step on it!” Theo screamed. Josh closed his eyes and did as he was told.

Vera stumbled out of Tobias’s reach, jumping from the table and running for the car. She was lost in the sea of people. Tobias, his father’s revolver in hand, aimed his sights into the crowd. He inhaled deep to keep from trembling. These were people. Tobias could try to shoot to maim, but then they’d be dead anyway. Zombie chow. Either way, they were going to trample Vera.

“Damn it!” he growled, squeezing the trigger. Something grabbed Tobias’s leg, ‘causing his shot to fire high. He hammered his foot against the creature’s face, not sure if it was among the living or dead. Face bloodied the thing let go of his foot. He stumbled back up to locate Vera in the crowd. No sign of her. Or Theo.

Tobias’s heart seemed to slow. Vera’s body was lost in the stampede. Theo, who had flung his door open to save her, was quickly taken by the crowd, which seeped into Josh’s car. Josh was thrown out and crush under the wheel as the car crushed everyone in its way, driven by a hysterical creature bent on safety. Vera was dead. Josh was dead. Maybe not this second, but it hardly mattered whether they were dead or dying. Tobias fired off a few rounds into the crowd around Theo, but he was too late. A wave of bodies crashed in like the ocean tide. He aimed at Theo’s head to save him the pain of being eaten alive, but a crashed into Tobias, throwing him from his perch, his gun flying from his hands. The wind was crushed out of his lungs out of him, but he managed to keep his footing and keep from being trampled. Somehow, he was able to pick out Theo’s dying cries.

Tobias ran with the crowd to keep himself from being crushed under frantic heels. They were trying to break into the Rapturist compound, a place where they could get cover from the horde. He crouched low and covered his head. Gunfire was spraying the spearhead of this phalanx. The guards were making a futile stand to keep the populace from entering the cathedral. The gunfire quickly died out as the unstoppable wave of people and zombies crashed through the windows and doors like a storm hammering against a crag. Tobias’s clothes were torn, bruises smashed all over his arms and middle. He gained a reprieve when the large lobby fanned out and he was crushed a little less. The crowd dispersed and Tobias went with where his section of the flood carried him.

Tobias remembered Raj saying that zombies could fall down stairs, but they had trouble climbing up. Still, Tobias was just as afraid of the people as he was the zombies. There were fewer people that trickled downstairs. He pushed his way down, following this tributary of lost souls into the basement. The hallway ended in a locked door: “employees only.” The people at the door were ramming into it with their shoulders, trying to push it down.

“Out of the way! You!” Tobias grabbed the arm of the largest man at the door, a man he vaguely recognized from his time in the militia. The man was built like a linebacker, weighted down with almost as much fat as muscle. He’d do fine. “On the count of three, we kick at the same time! Okay?” The man nodded, panting from exertion.

“One. Two~! Three!” They took their rear legs and shoved them into the door. For a second, Tobias thought it was going to give. “Again!” They kicked again and hinges began to give way. A final time  and the door cracked partway off its hinges, ready to be tossed down by the mob.

“Let’s go! Let’s go!”

The place they entered was pitch black and reeked of piss and blood. “Light switch! Find it!” The fluorescent lighting flickered on. Tobias almost wished someone would turn it off. People were pinned or chained to the walls, dying or dead. It was some kind of dungeon. The crowd walked through the room, dazed and fearful. Tobias spied a young woman in fair condition, if a little shaken up. Though her hair covered her face, he thought he recognized her.

“Sarah!” She writhed, as if the name gave her pain. “You’re Sarah Scarborough, ain’t you?”

“She won’t talk. She’s been raped too many times to respond to anyone anymore.” Tobias jumped at the croak of a man’s voice; he couldn’t have been sure that the man hanging there on the wall was actually alive or not.

“I was hired by Sarah’s husband…” Tobias started to say. It sounded strange now, as if it had happened to him in another life and he was just remembering. “To find…” His friends were all dead. He paused, staring into space, remembering that sound that could have been Theo. No. It had unmistakably been Theo screaming for death.

“What’s your name?” the man asked.

“Toby.”

“I’m Hermann. Dr. Hermann Schulz.”

This brought Tobias from his more painful memories. “You’re Dr. Z.”

His chuckle sounded like sandpaper. “Not by birth, I assure you.”

“Let me try to get you two out of those chains.”

“It won’t matter,” Hermann said. “The guards will be down here. They’ll kill us all.”

“The guards are dead. The city’s being attacked by zombies.”

“You act like that’s a better way to die.” Sarah began wailing. Dr. Schulz lowered his head.

“Somebody shut her up!” a man yelled and pounced on Sarah’s throat.

“Brady!” Tobias remembered the big man’s name. “Help me out!” Tobias tried to pull the man off Sarah. Brady took his hair and cracked his head against the wall next to Sarah’s head. This didn’t help her screeching. “Help me get them free, Brady!” He wasn’t sure if the man was dead or not, but it didn’t matter, as long as they could control the crowd.

The crowd, suddenly aware of themselves and their safety, began freeing the prisoners as well. Whether they were remembering their humanity or whether they just needed something to do to fight the fear, it didn’t matter. They all tried their best to break or pry the chains from the walls. Some worked on the barricades, stacking shelves and the shattered door up before the zombies arrived. There were many loud and strange noises, but no zombies. Instead, a thick smoke began crawling along the ceiling.

“Stay low!” Tobias yelled. “Stay! Low! The smoke won’t reach us down here!”

“Hell it won’t!” someone yelled.

“You want to run up there and die, go ahead! If you’re gonna stay here, just shut up! We need the air!”

They squatted down, staying silent for a good twenty or thirty minutes before Tobias noticed that the man was right. The smoke was still getting thicker.

“I’m going to go scout it out! Stay low!” He wrapped his coat around his face. Brady helped him clear part of barricade. “Thanks, Brady. I’ll be back.”

“Live and let die, brother.” It was one of the mottoes the militia spouted off to get themselves pumped up for raiding homes.

“Live and let die.” He clasped Brady’s hand and slipped out.

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Filed under Flash Fiction

Blood (revision of “Blood,” part 1)

Jerm used to be scared of crossing bridges when he was a tyke. Their Ma told them stories about the three billy goats Gruff and Jerm was always afraid there was a troll hiding in the creek, waiting to eat them.

“Hey you troll. I’m the biggest billy goat Gruff!” Micha would cry at the foot of the bridge, imitating the fairy tale. “If you come out, I’ll poke out your eyes an’ shit in your brain!” Micah always liked to give his threats some color. “There! Now the troll won’t bother us. Come on!” And they would cross the bridge together to eat the best peaches and bring home the second best.

Micah felt like the troll now, skulking about in the dark, searching for the reverend. The guards were all leaving to the entrances to block off the incoming zombies and refugees. In spite of it being an emergency, he took the elevator to avoid notice. This was a zombie attack, not a fire, after all. Not yet.

“I have two spears,” the biggest billy goat Gruff would say. Micah was dressed in a guard’s uniform, courtesy of the man on the first floor. Nobody would recognize him, and there was blood on the shirt, but a second’s hesitation was all he needed. The guards were all at the door with their rifles. Like fish in a barrel.

“Hold i–”

“I’m not a zombie!” Micah shouted, raising one hand in the are. He pulled the trigger three times. The last man clipped his shoulder. The blood ran heavy and dark down his arm. Grimacing, he shot them in the head, one by one. He’d heard one of the local boozers call it “buying zombie insurance.” He breathed heavily. Normally, security would be tighter than a hawk’s ass in a nosedive. Perhaps this really was God’s intervention that he was able to get this far. Micah took one of the dead men’s rifles. He kicked at the door, backed up and shot at it. The door began to bust apart. He shot again at the door handle, picked up another gun.

“I have these stones to crush your bones,” said the eldest billy goat Gruff. The door gave way and Micah’s bullets painted the room red. He blinked once, knowing that he should be dead now. These men were all unarmed, shot in the back. They’d probably been praying. Micah tried to swallow down the horrible bile of guilt that threatened to tear apart his guts from the inside out. He closed his eyes and all he saw were corpses. Be strong. This is for Jerm. Cut the beast off at the head.

“Oh, God…” a man breathed, frightened. Did Jerm beg for his life? Did Micah’s brother know the reason why he had to die? This man had been standing at the pulpit, higher up than the others. Micah had only shot out his legs. He must have been preaching. That makes him…

“Father Taddeo. You have sinned.”

“God!” he shrieked. Micah butted the man in the face with the rifle. He surveyed the room, looking for surivors. There was an adjacent room, a kitchen, most likely added by the Rapturists when they moved in. The staff was still there. Micah unloaded his rifle into the room. They were going to die anyway and Micah already had blood on his hands. Better now than in the fire.

“Father, you have sinned,” Micah said with tears his eyes. He reached out, wiping a bloody palm on the man’s face. “Pray for forgiveness.” He dropped his gun, using his good arm to drag the wretch to the kitchen.

“Forgiii-!” he cried in pain.

“What did you say?”

“Forgi-hiv me! It hurts!”

There would be no escape for this wretched man. He would not know why he had to die. He need not know. He would merely suffer and die. The only mercy he would grant him was the gift of not becoming one of the undead.

Micah began by cutting out the reverend’s eyes. “I have two spears,” he said. “To stab out your eyes.” Micah started up the food processor, sticking the reverend’s hand into it. Then the other. “I have two stones,” he said, “to crush your bones.” The troll hiding under the bridge. Micah would have to kill him to protect Jerm. To protect Jerm, so they could cross the bridge together. The bridge, across the creek with the troll. The troll kept screaming. Micah dragged the troll to the meat slicer and slammed his face into it, setting the machine to auto slice. Micah fought with all his might to keep the troll there as the machine sliced him away, a little bit at a time. Finally, the troll stopped struggling. Micah turned on the gas stove and threw him on. He dragged all of the bodies inside the room, corpses to fuel the fire.

Micah walked back into the main room, up to the podium. He looked out the window at the sky.

“The sun is so close, Jerm,” Micah said, tears streaming down his face. “Why’s the sun so close when it’s so damn cold up here? I don’t understand… those peaches tasted good, didn’t they? Bet you’re enjoying one right now, you bastard.” He closed his eyes and put pistol to his temple. Jerm would have to cross the bridge alone.

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Filed under Flash Fiction

Arson

They all died in a fire I started. Charred bones scratch at my dreams most  nights. Terror sweats. Indigestion. Gray hairs. My body’s tearing itself apart from the inside.

*   *   *

When I was little, I liked to burn ants with a magnifying glass. When I got older, I realized that those ants were going home to their families. When I got older still, I realized that ants don’t actually have a family unit in the traditional sense. They’re simply workers produced by a queen. It occurs to me now that the only reason people don’t go around stepping on ants is because it’s beneath them.

*    *    *

Have you ever seen a meadow burn? Flowers and leaves wilt like old cabbage. The fire feeds on death like a meth addict. I, too, have a problem. I’m a pyromaniac. I can’t stop building fires. I’d always been careful, tiny fires where I’d dug out around them, surrounded it with rocks. When I tried to stop, cold turkey, I think I went a little insane. I had to stop smoking, too. It was too much temptation. Then it happened. One windy day, walking through the hills, and I find a lighter. That’s all it takes to commit arson–one windy day. The wonderful thing about fire is that any traces I may have left for the police have likely been burned away. Fire burns indiscriminately. It doesn’t care whether you’re person or a flower or an ant.

*   *   *

I can’t help but feel for those who lost their lives as a result of my carelessness. I’ve tried to blame them, tell myself that they should have left their houses sooner, the damn idiots. But it’s my fault. Only me. I drink pepto like water. Ironically, it’s wreaking havoc on my stomach. I don’t care. Not like ants, those people had families, loved ones. Even if they didn’t, it was wrong. I’ve tried to throw away that lighter a thousand times…

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Filed under FEATHERTON II, Flash Fiction

Match (Revision)

Day 1

I live across from a dying neon sign that says “seafoo.” It flickers through the blinds and makes my room a shade of green like in zombie flicks. Every night, I battle the rotten green with the technicolor madness emanating from Tru TV.

Day 68

Mike came by today.

“Long time no see.”

“No shit, dick! You broke my jaw! I had to have it wired!”

“Yeah, but I paid for it,” I tell him. I don’t see what he was getting at.

“But you broke my jaw! I just got the wires removed last week and it still clicks!” He had his jaw clenched, which was probably bad for it, but what am I, his mom?

“And now you’re here. What, did Carla kick you out again?”

“No! I just wanted an apology from you, dick.”

I look at Mike, his strung out eyes darting around. “The couch is all yours, man. You really need to find another girl, you know that?”

“Hey, you shut your mouth! Carla’s an angel, man! A fucking angel!” His jaw pops like a firecracker. “Ow! Fuck!”

I put a bottle to my lips. I’m not his therapist, either.

Day 2

When people around here go walking around in the evening talking to themselves, they never have a phone strapped to their heads. I guess we’re old-fashioned that way.

Day 29

Mike and Carla haven’t called for a while. I don’t know why Mike won’t answer my calls. I paid for his surgery and everything. He’s not a very grateful person. Holds grudges. Doesn’t live for the moment. That kind of guy. I think it’s Carla’s influence. She doesn’t like me.

Day 20

Mike and Carla came to visit today. They’re a match made in a meth lab and just as volatile. Carla goes straight for the fridge.

“The beer’s not for dragon ladies!”

“Shut the fuck up!” her squealing voice is consumed by the frosty caverns that house all my Dos Equis.

“Yeah. Shut the fuck up!” Mike hits me upside the head. It doesn’t bother me much that Mike hit me. I deserved it, after all. It bothered me that the bitch didn’t come over here and do it herself. Mike’s a tool but she uses him like one. Not cool.

Somehow, after a couple hours of drinking and watching T.V., we start commenting on the way that fat chick’s voice sounds on Operation Repo.

“She says stuff weird,” I say.

“She looks weird, too. Who cares, man?” Mike takes down the rest of my beer.

“Sounds like white trash. Ain’t she Latina?”

You sound like white trash.”

“Hey. Fuck you.” I say. “I’m pure bred Chinese. Ain’t no white trash in my house.”

“Oh, right.” He and Carla look at each other and I know its trouble. It’s like two pieces of flint trying to start a fire, except imagine the flint is two idiots you know.

“Ah soo. Ching chong ping pong pow! Belly good. Me likey fat ratina. Likey berry much!”

I break his jaw.

Day 70

Carla burned down my apartment building. Mike must have said something wrong.

Days 21 through 67

Bought some more beer. Life is good. The room is flickering green. I turn on the T.V. and it feels like I’m winning.

Day 69

Mike is keeping me up all night talking on the phone. I get sick of “I’m sorry, baby,” but then they start shouting again. I can even hear her voice, she’s so loud. It’s shrill, cuts through plaster walls like a razor. I fall asleep to their shouting and even manage to sleep like a newborn. It’s comforting to know that, from a certain perspective, nothing ever really changes.

Day 71

The hotel I’m staying at smells like cat piss. There’s a red sign across the street with two Xs. I need a drink.

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Filed under FEATHERTON SESSION, Flash Fiction

Match

Day 1

Around here, we’re pretty old-fashioned. When our people go walking around in the evening talking to themselves, they never have a phone strapped to their heads.

Day 2

I live across from an old neon sign that says “seafoo.” It flickers through the blinds and makes my room slightly green. Every night, I battle the restaurant light with the flickering madness emanating from Tru TV.

Day 29

Mike and Carla haven’t called for a while. I don’t know why Mike won’t answer my calls. I paid for his surgery and everything. He’s not a very grateful person. Holds grudges. Doesn’t live for the moment. That kind of guy. I think it’s Carla’s influence. She doesn’t like me.

Day 20

Mike and Carla came to visit today. They’re a match made in a meth lab and just as volatile. When they get into fights, Mike comes to crash at myplace. Somehow, after drinking for a while, we started commenting on the inflection in that fat chick’s voice on Operation Repo.

“She says stuff weird,” I said.

“She looks weird, too. Who cares, man?” Mike takes down the rest of my beer.

“Hey,” I said. “I’m Chinese. We’re all about inflection.”

“Oh, right.” He and Carla look at each other and I know its trouble. It’s like two pieces of flint trying to start a fire, except imagine the flint is two idiots you know.

“Ah soo. Ching chong ping pong pow!”

I broke his jaw.

Day 68

Mike came by today.

“Long time no see.”

“No shit, dick! You broke my jaw! I had to have it wired!”

“Yeah, but I paid for it,” I said. I didn’t see what he was getting at.

“But you broke my jaw! I just got the wires removed last week and it still clicks!” He had his jaw clenched, which was probably bad for it, but what am I, his mom?

“And now you’re here. What, did Carla kick you out again?”

“No! I just wanted an apology from you, dick.”

I looked at Mike, his strung out eyes darting around. “The couch is all yours. You really need to find another girl.”

“Hey, you shut your mouth! Carla’s an angel, man! A fucking angel!”

I put a bottle to my lips. I’m not his therapist, either.

Day 70

Carla burned down my apartment. Mike must have said something wrong.

Days 21 through 67

Bought some more beer. Life is good. The room is flickering green. I turn on the T.V. and I feel like I’m winning.

Day 69

Mike is keeping me up all night talking on the phone. I get sick of “I’m sorry, baby,” but then they start shouting again. I can even hear her voice, she’s so loud. It’s shrill, cuts through plaster walls like a razor. I fall asleep to their shouting and even manage to sleep like a newborn. It’s comforting to know that, from a certain perspective, nothing ever really changes.

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Filed under FEATHERTON SESSION, Flash Fiction