Flash Fiction Friday: Day Ghosts

Red Sky by Randy Cockrell

Red Sky by Randy Cockrell

The summer sun still spread its fingers of light down my street. I hesitated in the doorway of my apartment building. I needed to get to work but I wanted to wait until the sun was gone from the sky.

The building super moved past me with a barrel of trash for the dumpster. He eyed me as he passed. I nodded. He viewed me with suspicion because I wanted the basement apartment on the north side of the building. “No one wants that apartment, why do you want it?”

I shrugged. “I work nights. I like it dark while I sleep during the day.”

He eyed me then too. “OK, but don’t come back in a month looking for a place on the top floor.”

I promised. I’d never ask for a place on the top floor. I love October. The days are noticeably shorter. I have more time to move around the city without sunlight. I know, most people want to be out in the sun. Not me. And before you ask, no, I’m not a vampire. Those are a myth. My problem is ghosts.

The sun’s last rays lingered but I had to go. I stepped out into the street and looked both ways. I didn’t see anything but I never do when I take this chance. I was nineteen when it first happened. I was leaving the college library after an all afternoon session. All I could think about was getting to the student union and filling a tray with a burger and fries. I was half a block from the Union when a cold shudder swept through me. I stopped dead on the sidewalk and felt as though I was going to vomit. I pushed hair out of my face with a shaky hand. I didn’t have time to be sick. I swallowed and looked around. There were a lot of kids but no one was paying any attention to me. I started on my way and was overcome again with that feeling of ice and doom. I made it to a bush, just loosing its yellowed leaves to the recent frost before I hurled into it. A couple of passing girls giggled. I blushed.

I turned around and headed for my dorm room. Hungry or not, I needed to lie down. I had three more attacks before I made it inside to rest. My mom called me three days later. “Have you been feeling all right, sweetie?”

“Yeah, I must have some bug.” My voice was weak, days of chills and vomiting had taken a toll.

The line was silent for a moment. “When do you get sick?”

“Outside, every time I try to go to class or to the cafeteria, I just lose it.”

She didn’t say anything. I thought the connection had been lost. “Mom?”

“Um, I need to tell you something.”

“What?”

“You remember your grandmother Winston? Never went out in the daylight?”

“Yeah? Kinda strange. Only went to night mass, that kind of thing.”

“Well, she was cursed.”

I had to digest that information for a minute. “Cursed, like a gypsy curse? There’s no such thing.”

“There is. Look. I’ll drive up. It’ll be dinner time when I get there. You stay inside and rest. I’ll come and get you.”

I felt better by the time she came. It was dark when we left the dorm. She took me to a nice place and I tore into a medium rare steak, baked potato and green beans. Over dessert I opened the discussion. “So tell me about the curse.”

She sipped Pinot Noir. “She was about your age and told me when you were a baby. I never paid any attention to her activities, it all seemed normal to me. She did everything after sunset. I thought that’s what everyone did. As a teen she’d made fun of some old woman on Main Street. The woman glared at her and said, “Laugh now, young one. See how you like living in the dark. This is for you and your’s every other generation for three generations.” Then she spit on the sidewalk at your grandmother’s feet.”

I resisted the urge to lick the inside of the crème brulee cup. “Seriously, Mom?”

“I know. But the symptoms you’re experiencing are the same as hers. Ghosts, she told me, can’t be seen well in the light. They were attracted to her and swarmed her. At night, they left her alone.”

My fingers flipped the licked clean spoon over and over on the white tablecloth. “You expect me to believe that? I can’t go out during the day because I’m being swarmed by ghosts?”

She nodded.

It’s been six years. Mom was right. I can’t see them, but they’re there and if a ray of sun is around, they’ll swarm me. I haven’t told my fiancé yet. I’m not sure how to do that. I round a corner and step into the last of the sunshine. I’m washed in cold air and it feels as though I’ve been punched in the stomach. What’s left of my late lunch comes up as I hurl against the wall of the building next to me. The sun drops behind the horizon and the cold disappears. I dig a tissue out of my pocket and wipe my mouth. A wino on a nearby bench asks if I’m OK.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Must have been bad food.”

“Gotta watch that, Miss. Those diners, they don’t care, just keep serving the old stuff up.”

“Thanks,” I tell him and wobble away.

No, I’m not sure how my fiancé is going to take this at all.

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Scent of Lavender

lavender__by_LittleBlackUmbrella

Photo: Lavender by Lena Cramer

The Scent of Lavender

The scent of lavender was overpowering. He sniffed at his tea. “What the hell?”

He peered around the small first floor room. He’d had a T1 line run to the house and connected in here. If he was going to write video games, he needed a fast connection. He sniffed. Got up out of his ergonomic chair and walked around the room, sniffing. “What is that smell?”

Every day since he’d settled in the overpowering scent hit him. Bedroom , bathroom, office, it didn’t matter. “That’s what I get for buying an old farm house,” he muttered as he sat back down.

He just wanted quiet, that’s why he moved out here to the hinterlands. That’s what he called it though the old farm was being engulfed by the suburbs. The owner assured him no animals had been raised on the farm in years. “No smell left at all,” the guy said as they shook hands.

“Yeah,” Nathan thought, “except this old lady smell.”

It was two weeks after he moved in that the shimmer appeared in the kitchen. Nathan squinted. “Need to get away from the computer screen,” he thought as he poured the first cup of coffee of the day.

He rubbed at his eyes for the next two days. The shimmer wouldn’t go away. On the fourth day he turned away from his coffee maker and nearly dropped his cup. An old woman stood in front of him. Hot coffee splashed his hand. When he looked up, she was gone.

“Damn!” He rubbed his eyes and ran his hand under cold water from the faucet. “What the hell!” He spent the rest of the day jerking around in his chair at every creak the old house made. I need to go to town, he thought. Too much alone time.

He met old programming buddies at their favorite bar. “How’s it going?” his best friend, Davin, asked.

“The house smells like old women,” Nathan said.

“Bummer, dude. Why the hell did you want to move way out there anyway? No chicks, man.”

Nathan rolled his eyes and punched his friend in the shoulder. He didn’t say any more about the house.

The next morning he squinted against the morning light flooding through the kitchen windows. Need some shades, he thought as he poured his coffee.

The old woman appeared as he turned around. He shut his eyes then slowly opened them. She was still there.

“Look,” he said. “I’m hung over. There’s no such things as ghosts. Go away.”

She looked at him. He was taken with the sadness in her eyes.

He squinched his eyes closed then opened them again. She was still there. “What do you want?” he nearly screamed.

A tear leaked from her eye and ran down her cheek.

He felt like an ass for distressing an old woman. Then he felt stupid, there’s no such things as ghosts. “You’re not real!” He stepped through her and nearly ran to his new office.

All morning he worked, afraid to turn around. He finally had to go to the bathroom. No old woman. “Stupid,” he told himself as he washed his hands and looked at his reflection in the mirror. “Just hungover.”

He went to the kitchen to refill his cup. She hovered near the kitchen table. “Please,” he heard her say.

Nathan pressed his fingers into his eyes. When he let go, she was still there.

“Please.”

“She’s not there,” he muttered and went to the sink to rinse out his cup. When he turned around she was still there.

“Please.”

She looked so sad. He remembered his own grandmother, standing at her kitchen sink, washing up the cookie sheets as he sat munching warm peanut butter cookies at the kitchen table, sun streaming through the windows. He took a deep breath. “Grandma,” he whispered. A memory of the bottle of lavender water on her dressing table flashed through his mind. “What.”

“I’m in the cellar.”

“What?”

“The cellar.” She disappeared.

He rubbed his face with both hands. This is what I get for moving out of the city. He remembered touring the house with the realtor. The cellar was dirt floored, a relic of old farm houses. “The house is sound,” the realtor said. “These old houses were built on solid foundations, built to last. They just didn’t put floors in.”

He walked to the door in the kitchen leading to the cellar. He took a deep breath as he grasped the old fashioned iron knob. Door open, the musty smell of the cellar washed over him. He flipped the light switch and stepped gingerly down the ancient wooden steps. A bare 40 watt bulb hung from the cellar ceiling, the dusty under-floor of the kitchen above.

A short handled shovel was propped against the wall next to the stairs. The acid from the mornings’ coffee churned in his stomach. He sincerely wished he hadn’t drank so much the night before.

“OK,” he said out loud. The vision of the old woman crowded him. “OK. I’m looking.” He picked up the shovel.

There was evidence of water flowing through. Cobwebs caught in his hair as he walked across the uneven floor. The overpowering scent of lavender stopped him. He scraped the dirt with the shovel. In a frenzy he stuck the shovel into the dirt, again and again. Nathan hit something solid. He dropped to his knees and gently brushed away the dirt.

Two hours later the State Police were there. The previous owner’s name was mentioned, the grandson of the farm’s original owner. Nathan talked to police all day. A week later it was over; the grandson in jail for murder. Nathan never smelled the lavender again but he did learn to make peanut butter cookies in the old farm kitchen.

The End

968 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Bench

I follow a blog called sethsnap. The fellow who writes the blog (http://sethsnap.com/author/sethsnap/) posts a lot of great photos. This particular post had a picture of a bench and the following instructions:

Write me a story about a late summer afternoon, a lonely bench, and an abandoned building.

Your Story is a SethSnap series in which you get to decide the story behind the photos.  You can write a story, a poem or even just one word.  You decide.

Here’s the picture.

dsc_0343-1 Bench

 

Many thanks to sethsnap for the prompt.

The Bench

The bench sat beside the rail trail where I’d been walking. It was mid-afternoon on a sweltering late summer day. I have no idea why I decided to walk this time of day. I melted onto the bench and pulled my water bottle out of the cutesie holder my sister gave me for my birthday. After I drank it down, I looked around the area.

Behind me sat an abandoned factory. One of those places built in the early 1900’s that actually had architectural detail around the roof line, windows and doors. It’s a shame it’s falling into a ruin. It’d make a good apartment loft space or arts building. Yeah, I could see that; art stores, artist work spaces, a few little concessions like an ice cream or hot dog vendor here between the building and the trail. Better than the weed choked lot and broken windows here now.

I wiped the sweat off of my face with my forearm. Geez, I need to have my head examined, walking in the heat of the day? A couple of women jogged by talking and laughing as though it weren’t ninety degrees and 80% humidity out here. I felt as though all my muscles had turned to cotton candy. I wished I had more water.

A woman walked out of the weeds next to the factory and sat beside me. She wore a sundress, one of those 50’s style things, sleeveless, full skirt, in pink and yellow roses and on her hands, little white cotton gloves. Geesh, who wears gloves now adays? I did like her hair though. It was cut in a cute little bob that curled around her face.

“You wouldn’t have any water, would you?” I asked. My head was pounding.

She turned to face at me. Her face looked as though someone had punched her in each eye. The black bruises ran halfway down her cheekbones. “Holy crap, are you all right?” I tried to sit up but my body just wouldn’t respond.

She shook her head then turned back to stare at the trail.

“Miss, I feel sick. Could you call 911? I think I’m having heat stroke.” My head was spinning and I was nauseous.

She shook her head. “I can’t,” she whispered. “I’m not really here.”

I had a hard time concentrating. “What do you mean? I can see you.”

“No,” she said. “I used to work here.” She turned her head to look back at the factory. “I was a secretary here.”

My mouth was so dry. “Miss, this place hasn’t been open since the 60’s.”

She nodded. “I know.” She looked so sad.

I struggled to format a coherent thought. “That was over 40 years ago. You can’t be more than twenty-five.”

She sighed. “I was having an affair with my boss, the factory manager. I wanted more. I wanted him to leave his wife.”

“That’s too bad.” My headache was getting worse. I checked the trail. No one passed by.

“We stayed late after work and got into an argument. He punched me in both eyes.”

“I can see that.” I began to dream about cascades of water flowing over me. Cool and sweet, drinking until I couldn’t hold any more.

“He must have hit me in the head. I woke up lying on the ground out here by the tracks. It was so dark.”

“How’d you get here?” I was so hot and dizzy. The woman seemed to shimmer in the afternoon sunlight.

She shook her head. “My boss was digging a hole.” She looked around the bench. “Right here.”

I struggled to follow her story. “Here?” I croaked.

“Yes, here. The trains used to stop at the factory once a week to pick up our product. I was woozy and confused. He picked me up and dropped me in the hole. It was deep. I tried to get up but my head hurt too much. He started to shovel the dirt in on top of me. ‘No!’ I yelled to him.” She stopped talking and looked around her. “Yes, right here.”

My stomach turned, thinking about someone being buried alive. “You must have escaped.”

“No,” she said, her voice low and sad. “He hit me in the head with the shovel and filled the hole.”

I tried to control the urge to vomit.

She looked at the bench and pointed to the little plaque fixed to the middle of the top slat. “This is him.”

I looked. The plaque read ‘Donated by Mr. Herbert Avery, 2009′.

“I need your help,” she said.

I felt terrible. I could hardly understand what she was saying. “Help?’

“Just for a little while,” she said. She reached out and took my hand. Her hand was ice cold.

“No,” I croaked.

“I need to pay a visit to Mr. Avery.”

“I don’t want to,” I pleaded.

“This won’t hurt a bit.” She leaned over me and covered my mouth with hers.

After that, I had no control. Seventy-three year old Mr. Avery lived alone in a middle class house in the older part of town. The paramedics called it a heart attack. I’m still in here, but she’s the one in charge. She likes 2013. She doesn’t plan on leaving.

The End

876 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

Don’t forget to look for Halloween Tales released September 30th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy at: Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Amazon or Smashwords today!

Links:

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/halloween-tales-a-collection-of-stories

Barnes and Noble: Not showing when I looked but search on Connie Cockrell

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Halloween-Tales-Collection-Connie-Cockrell/dp/1492783072/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380515780&sr=1-2&keywords=Halloween+Tales

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/359689

Apple: Not found when I looked.

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Halloween Tales Release Day!

Halloween Tales, is released today, September 30th! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy at: Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Amazon or Smashwords today!

Links:

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/halloween-tales-a-collection-of-stories

Barnes and Noble: Not showing when I looked but search on Connie Cockrell

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Halloween-Tales-Collection-Connie-Cockrell/dp/1492783072/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380515780&sr=1-2&keywords=Halloween+Tales

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/359689

Apple: Not found when I looked.

Here’s a snippet from the book. This time from the story Rats.

“Have you ever seen anything like it?” Alex Monroe asked. “I shot it last night, getting into my chicken house.”

Albert Wayne nudged the dead body on the ground with his toe. “It looks like a rat.” He took off his Animal Control hat and scratched his head. “But I’ve never seen a rat the size of a beagle before.”

“Look at the teeth. No wonder I’m losing chickens. Where did it come from?”

Albert took a plastic bag out of the back of his pick-up. “I don’t know.” He scooped the body up with the bag and tied it shut. “I’ll take it to the lab in the capital. They’ll do some tests.” He dropped the bag in the back of the truck.

Alex walked to the door of the truck and the two men shook hands. “Call me, will ya, when ya find out? If there are more of these things, I want to be prepared.”

You can get the rest of Rats and 4 other stories starting today. Enjoy!

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Flash Fiction Friday: 666 Devil Dog Road

My husband and I were passing by Flagstaff, Arizona a couple of months ago and I saw an exit sign for Devil Dog Road. Now if that isn’t a story idea waiting to happen, I don’t know what is. This is a flash version of what I want to be a longer short story.

666 Devil Dog Road

Victoria sat in her living room, bat ready. Beside her on a small table, was a basket of dog biscuits. She was at her wit’s end. Living in this haunted house for two weeks, she hadn’t had a wink of sleep. It was haunted by dogs. Ghost dogs.

She didn’t believe it at first, when her neighbor Nancy, had told her. She believed it though when she was awakened that first night by a pack of snarling ghost dogs around her bed. After that night, it was always at 3am and anywhere in the house she was at that time of the morning.

A week ago she’d brought a Catholic priest from Flagstaff out to her house. He had walked around the yard and house, sprinkling holy water and chanting. At 3am they were in the living room and the dogs came charging into the room from the kitchen. He’d dropped the water and ran screaming out of the house.

She shook her head. He came back the next day and collected his bottle, apologizing for his cowardice. What could she do? She thanked him and he left. But the dogs still came every night.

After the first night she went to Northern Arizona University where she was a professor of English, and searched the historical archives of the area. There were newspaper articles about the crackdown on illegal and unsavory activities around 1900, when the area began to become less of the wild west and more of a civilized town. She couldn’t blame the dogs. There were pictures in the local paper of the dog fighting arenas, and bloody, wounded dogs. She shuddered. Horrible.

This property was notorious. She suspected there were dog bodies buried all around the yard, maybe even under the house. The original owners’ son had built the house after retiring from the railroad. Maybe the dogs didn’t bother him. But they bothered her. Something had to be done.

At 3am on the dot she woke with a start, they were there, in the living room, pacing and snarling. “Hello dogs,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry you were abused. That wasn’t me.”

The dogs stopped pacing. She hadn’t thought talking to them would be helpful at all. She began to raise her hand to the table. The dogs barked.

Freezing in place, hand half way to the basket of biscuits, she spoke softly, “Would you like a dog biscuit? They’re good, I made them myself.” She slowly moved her hand to the basket. The dogs moved toward her, growling.

“I’m not going to hurt you, just give you a biscuit.”

She very slowly pulled a small biscuit out of the basket and very carefully tossed it to what appeared to be the lead dog. As it hit the floor the dogs leapt in the air, howling and snapping. They ran in circles around the room, barking and lunging at her. She grabbed the bat from beside her chair and held it ready but they had already disappeared. The biscuit lay on the floor.

This went on night after night for months. One night, she brought the biscuit out and held it in front of her. The ghost dogs waited, tensed. “Come on boy,” Victoria whispered. “It’s just a biscuit. It won’t hurt you.”

The lead dog’s fiery eyes on the biscuit, he backed up a step or two; then looked away, snapping at another dog. He circled the room, watching her, watching the biscuit. Her arm began to ache with holding it out for so long. She looked down at her hand, at the biscuit and back up, the dogs were gone. “Well that was some sort of progress.”

That went on for two months. By then she had given each dog a name, and each night talked to each of them as they eyed the biscuit and watched her. She named the lead dog Wolf. Every night she told him how brave and strong he was. Every night she offered him a biscuit.

By Spring she’d come to a sort of understanding with the ghost dogs. She left a biscuit for each of them on the floor of the living room and they let her sleep all night, but she could still hear them, pacing, pacing if she woke.

One day, her neighbor, Nancy came by, a puppy in her arms. “Our dog had puppies. All the rest we’ve given away. Would you take the last one?”

“I don’t think so, Nancy.” Victoria thought about the ghost dogs pacing the house at night. What would they do with a puppy in the house. “I’m not sure I’m ready for a dog.”

“Nonsense,” Nancy put the puppy in Victoria’s arms. “What’s a house without a dog?” With that she turned and hurried down the sidewalk.

The puppy looked like some sort of black Labrador mix, female. It looked up at her, giving a little bark. “Really, you don’t know what you’re in for puppy.” She let it down and it explored the yard. She went into the house, the puppy following.

That night she prepared. At 3am the ghost dogs were back. They barked and growled and snarled at Victoria and the puppy in her lap. When she reached into the basket, she brought out a small bit of biscuit, which the puppy immediately gulped down. “You see Wolf? It’s just a biscuit. Would you like some?”

The pack stood in front of her, eyes riveted on her and the biscuit. As she drew it out of the basket, the puppy tried to get it. The ghost dogs took a step forward. She held it out to Wolf. The puppy stood in Victoria’s lap, trying to get the biscuit. Wolf crept forward, an inch at a time. As he got near, the puppy barked. Wolf reached forward and Victoria felt the slightest breeze on her fingers. She still held the biscuit, but the ghost dogs were gone.

 

 

The End

991 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday: Alone

I read somewhere that in a busy city, there is a grave under a street. The city grew over it and eventually, when they wanted to redo the street, they dug up the grave and reburied the person in a local cemetery. I was stuck on the idea for a long time, here’s where it led me.

Alone

Baltron Dechant was an angry man. As a mountain man he was never one to talk much anyway but today, he was a malevolent force as he stalked through the fort. He passed through the gate with his horses, one loaded with the supplies he’d need for the winter, the other saddled and ready to ride.

Leading the them grough the press of Indians, off duty soldiers and wagons with everything from dry goods to women of loose morals, he tied the horses to the hitching post. He stalked over to the tent where for just a couple of coins, he could get a drink. An acquaintance, another mountain man was there, drinking with some friends. All of the mountain men had been in to sell their furs and pelts and flush with cash, were enjoying the brief respite of company.

Andre called out, “Baltron, my friend! Come have a drink with us.”

The others shouted welcome.

Baltron scowled. “I can buy my own,” and threw the money on the barrelhead. The British purveyor who owned this little concession scooped the coins up and handed Baltron a tin cup with rum in it.  Baltron drank it down, slamming the cup on the barrel.

He stalked back to his horse and mounted, riding away to the hoots of the other mountain men.

Eight months later, Andre was riding through a gap in the mountains. Spring was gone and it was time to take his furs back to the fort to sell. It was getting late in the day and time to camp. While looking for a good site, he noticed a crude shelter built under the pines.

“Ho, the camp!” he shouted.

He listened carefully, straining to hear over the horses stamping and blowing. Dismounting, he led his mount nearer the shelter. He looked around. The shelter was little more than a lean-to of pine boughs slanted against a low hanging branch. There were no horses. He called again, and now, he could hear a small moan from inside the shelter.

He tied his horses off to a nearby tree and came back to the shelter, kneeling down and looking in.  “Baltron, mon dieu! What happened?”

Inside the shelter, Baltron was lying on a bed of boughs, covered with furs. Emaciated, Baltron coughed. “Andre?” he peered into the light coming around Andre in the opening.

Andre crawled in, “Baltron, are you sick?”

“I am, and close to death. Can you build a fire so I can die in comfort?”

Andre rebuilt the shelter, allowing a fire to be built next to the sick man. He put a kettle of water on the fire and dropped in some jerky to make a broth. As he spooned it up to Baltron he heard the story.

“The Indians, Baltron whispered between sips. Shot me, stole the horses and most of the furs. I made it here but the wound festered. I just wanted to be alone.”

Andre shook his head. “But why Baltron? What happened at the fort?”

“My Cherie, Fleur, wrote and said she was to be married. She could not wait for me. I was angry,” he coughed again, blood coming up in his spittle.

Andre chided, “No woman is worth it, Balton. There are plenty more.”

But Baltron turned his head away. “Not for me. Now, I just want to be left alone.” He turned his head back to Andre.  “Bury me here, mon ami, where I can be alone forever.”

Andre hesitated and Baltron shot his thin hand out and weakly grasped Andre’s arm, “promise me!” his eyes full of pleading.

Reluctantly Andre agreed. Baltron nodded, and Andre covered him again.

Poor Baltron passed away in the night. So Andre buried him in the pass, making a pile of rock his grave marker.

A century later, America was growing, the automobile was king and roads were being built everywhere. A surveyor crew came through and then the bulldozers, Baltron’s grave markers long scattered by frost heave and the movement of animals.

The road went in and the grave was paved over, no one knowing it was there. Baltron’s ghost haunts the road running through the pass, especially in the spring. Now, he’s never alone.

The End

704 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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