Ghost…witches…murderers…werewolves…superstitions…revenge…the unexplained…monsters of all kinds…
25 flash fictions stories, dark, creepy, unsettling, and at 1,000 words a piece, the perfect bite-sized morsel to satisfy a horror craving.
Ghost…witches…murderers…werewolves…superstitions…revenge…the unexplained…monsters of all kinds…
25 flash fictions stories, dark, creepy, unsettling, and at 1,000 words a piece, the perfect bite-sized morsel to satisfy a horror craving.
Otis Gorski sat at his kitchen table, eating a peanut butter sandwich, drinking a glass of chocolate milk, looking at that morning’s paper, and stewing in his own juices.
He should have quit last night when Kobel threatened to fire him. He should have just walked away right then, left that pompous twit holding the bag with the two detectives standing right there. Boy, how would that have looked? Not so pretty. Especially since Kobel would have been left scrambling for someone to fill in for him. Velvet couldn’t work alone. Wouldn’t work alone. She’d raise a holy fit if Kobel tried to make her, probably get herself fired for her mouth. Otis didn’t want to put her in that position.
Velvet wasn’t what stopped him from quitting, though she did factor in some. Otis could never leave her hanging high and dry like that. But mostly, it was his pride that kept him from quitting right there. It felt like losing and Otis never liked to lose. There was dignity in retiring that he’d be denied if he quit in a huff. Kobel would probably take a victory lap if he did that.
On page four of the paper was a short blurb about the crime scene being disturbed. The same speculation the detectives had put forth the night before, about the crime scene either having been ransacked by souvenir hunters or perhaps the killer coming back to look for something, was mentioned, as well as a recap of Simon Sidney’s murder, though not much was added. In conclusion, the whole incident was downplayed quite spectacularly.
For some reason, this disappointed Otis.
Probably because he’d so enjoyed Kobel’s name showing up multiple times in the initial newspaper report of the murder. This little blurb didn’t do enough to reflect badly on a man who threatened to fire Otis and Velvet for doing their job and calling the police. He couldn’t help but take that personally even though he knew on a logical level that the paper wasn’t there to serve his personal vendettas.
Velvet should think about leaving, too, Otis thought. She’s got a degree. She can get a good job with it. No need for her to hang around that warehouse rotting for that disrespectful jerk.
Otis flipped the page and reached for his glass of chocolate milk. Empty. He stood up to get a refill. The change in his pocket jingled and Otis remembered the coin he’d found on his rounds the night of the murder. The one he was going to show the detectives because he thought one of them might have lost it. The one he was going to keep if one of them didn’t lose it. The one that was still in his pocket, mingled with his ordinary quarters and nickels. The one he’d forgotten all about.
Otis glanced down at the paper.
The police speculated that maybe the killer had returned to the scene to look for something.
Otis took the coin out of his pocket and looked it over. He frowned and shook his head.
“No. That’s not right. I found this inside the warehouse. The killer wasn’t in there.”
Otis’s fingers closed around the coin.
“It belongs to somebody.”
I decided in May to be kinder to myself while attempting to extract myself from a serious depressive episode. I only worked on one project last month, revising Season 4 of Murderville. Well, I’m still working on both, though it’ll only take me a couple more days to finish up revisions on Season 4 (there’s no timetable for the depression). It turns out that it needed a lot more rewriting than I’d anticipated and I also had to deal with a few more bad days than I anticipated.
For June, I think I’m just going to revise Season 5. Ideally, I want to get the rest of Murderville all wrapped up by the end of the year. Get everything revised and polished and scheduled and ebooked and what have you. I feel like I can handle that.
I also made a little more progress on Book ’em, Danno. I’ve been going back and forth on it because I can’t decide if it’s garbage or not, if it’s worth it or not, if I’m ever going to get better at it or not. I did the same thing with writing a long time ago. Why should podcasting be any different? My biggest problem is, of course, myself. I keep comparing what I’m doing to what other people are doing and the problem with that is that everyone else has been doing it a lot longer and they actually know what they’re doing and have experience and all that. Also, they’ve been able to invest a little bit in their podcasting. I’m broke and tired all the time. The quality just ain’t going to be there, babies.
The compromise I’ve worked out with myself (because I am nothing less than a belligerent toddler) is that I’ll definitely do the first season and put it up on Soundcloud. I don’t have to put it anywhere else and I don’t have to do more than that. I’m not getting paid, so it ain’t work. It’s supposed to be FUN, dammit.
You know what else is fun? Murderville: Rounds of Luck. It’s loads of fun! But there’s only a couple of episodes left. Episode 6 drops on June 11. Become a patron for only $1 an episode! Go in for the $2 tier and get a bonus every other month. Like this month. On the 26th. It’s never too late to have a good time.
Back to the Dumpsters
Velvet arrived at work that night toting bits and pieces of gossip in her head, all of it juicy, but none of it definitive. She put her cell phone and her purse in her glove box, locked her car, and hurried against the whipping autumn wind to the backdoor. Once inside The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road, Velvet quickly navigated the maze to the security room, not pausing to think about what might be lurking in or around that new crate (or the other side of that wall). She found the atmosphere in the security room an odd mix of boiling and icy.
Cami and Trey sat hunched in their chairs while Otis stood behind them, arms folded across his thin chest, absolutely fuming.
“Hey, guys, how’s it going?” Velvet asked hesitantly, looking around the room as she spoke, trying to figure out what the hell had happened.
“Otis is in a mood,” Trey said, getting to his feet.
“He’s always in a mood,” Velvet said, casting a glance at Otis, who was definitely in a mood.
Cami stood up, too.
“Where are you going?” Otis asked, his voice gruffer than usual. “You still got ten minutes.”
“I’ll take the cut,” Trey said, scooching past Velvet to get out of the door. Cami followed right behind him.
Velvet stared at Otis, who stared back. She listened for Trey and Cami to clock out, gave them a second to flee, and then walked back out of the security room to clock in. Otis followed her. The two of them clocked in and went back in the security room to start their shift.
“What did you do?” Velvet asked.
“I didn’t do anything. It’s what Kobel did,” Otis said, sitting heavily in his chair, the damn thing screaming like an overacting victim in a cheap horror movie.
“What did Mr. Kobel do?” Velvet asked, sitting down in her own chair a little more delicately. It still squeaked horrendously.
“Left a message for us.”
Otis sat back in his chair, ignoring the noise, and glared at the monitors. Velvet stared at him for a moment, waiting. With a roll of her eyes, she prompted him, speaking slowly, enunciating every word.
“What is the message, Otis?”
“He said that the next time we need to call the police, we’re supposed to call him first,” Otis said.
Velvet waited and when Otis said nothing more, she picked apart the sentence, looking for the insult.
“So?” she said.
“So?” Otis scoffed. “I’m not deferring my judgment and my responsibilities to that man.”
“It’s his warehouse, Otis,” Velvet said, shaking her head at Otis’s wounded pride.
“And it’s my job.”
“I thought you were retiring.”
“And until I do, this is still my job.”
Otis shut down, going into full pout mode, his whole posture a frown. Velvet sighed, and leaned back in her chair, looking up at the monitors. Why did men have to be so impossible?
Normally, Otis would have walked the first round, but he was in such a fiercely foul mope over his job and retirement that he didn’t even make an attempt to get out of the chair when Velvet told him it was time. So, she walked the first round, her own mood souring over Otis’s behavior and his impending retirement (which she was still not sure he’d actually be able to go through with, but was afraid that he would), her brain rolling over the bits of gossip she’d acquired during the day in an attempt to keep the dark shadow of fear at bay. Because against all logic, Velvet was a little afraid. The killer was long gone. Those shadows were just shadows and those noises were just noises. There was nothing to be afraid of. Yet she was. Just a little.
Velvet completed that round in record time, coming back to the security room to find that Otis’s mood hadn’t improved
“It’s going to be a long night,” she said as she sat down.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because you’re in full grump,” Velvet said. “You’re no fun when you’re in full grump.”
Otis grumped loudly in reply. “I’m not here to have fun.”
“Yeah, but it’s only when you’re in full grump that it makes it impossible for me to have fun.”
Otis ignored her. Velvet reached over and gave him a nudge.
“You’re not really going to retire, Otis. Right?”
“My mind is made up, Velvet, and there’s nothing you can do to change it.”
Velvet crossed her arms in a huff. “You’re a real pain, Otis.”
“Well, you won’t have to put up with me for much longer.”
“But I want to put up with you.” Velvet paused. “Except when you’re being a grump.”
Otis didn’t respond.
Velvet left him be for a bit. Her eyes drifted over the monitors in a pattern, starting at the top and working across, then down and across again, back and forth. It was a soothing sort of thing, even if she did end up suffering from eyestrain after a couple of hours. But it was also an easy way to pass the time. It didn’t require much thought.
“I’m going to walk rounds.”
Velvet jumped, her chair squeaking loudly and preventing her from pretending that she hadn’t. Otis looked over at her with a raised eyebrow before his own chair squealed as he got up.
“So nice of you to participate,” Velvet said. “I was wondering since you were retiring if you were going to walk rounds at all.”
“I always do my job,” Otis said, deadly serious.
“Really? You didn’t walk the first round.”
“You didn’t ask.”
“I never have to!”
“I’ll be back.”
Otis stalked out of the security room, flashlight in hand and radio on his belt.
“Maybe it would be better if that old grouch did retire,” Velvet muttered to herself, knowing full well she didn’t really mean it.
She went back to the monitors, watching Otis disappear and reappear as he walked through the maze. Something on another monitor caught her eye. It moved quickly, but Velvet was a little quicker, seeing it before it vanished.
A shadow in the parking lot.
I’ve been in denial about it for months, but it’s true. I’m struggling with a major depressive episode right now and have been for a while. I haven’t wanted to admit it because that means I have an actual PROBLEM instead of it just being a bad day or PMS or lack of sleep or stress. But when there are more bad days than good, the excuses run out and I’m left with the truth.
What does my depression look like?
Well, from the outside, I look fine. I’m the kind of person that puts all of my energy into maintaining the basic illusion of functioning. I shower everyday, I eat most of the time, I get dressed, I show up to work when I have a day job, I get my work done. And since I’m an introvert anyway, nobody notices that I’m socializing even less than usual and never leaving my house.
Meanwhile, the chemical imbalance in my brain is ripping me apart. I can’t focus. I can’t problem solve. Everything is overwhelming. I can’t do things as well as I did or I think I should be able to and I’m falling behind and I can’t catch up. More and more things get put off until tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I don’t have the energy to do anything because every last bit I have is going into maintaining the most basic level of functioning. I don’t have the brain space to write blogs. I barely have the ability to tweet. It takes me forever to accomplish a writing project that would normally take me no time at all. I’m miserable and I don’t see how to fix it and I kinda wanna be done now.
What’s truly frustrating is that the logical thing to do, the advice everyone gives you, is to ask for help. However, my brain has every single rational argument why I shouldn’t. Nobody cares. Nobody has time for your shit. They’ve got problems of their own. There’s worse things going on in the world. Your bullshit is insignificant in comparison. You had a good day last week, right? You’re fine. You’re not depressed. And even if you are, nobody is going to believe you. They’re going to think you’re faking. They’re going to think you’re just a lazy piece of shit. They’re going to roll their eyes and do a jerk-off motion behind your back because they KNOW you’re just doing this for attention, for sympathy, so you don’t have to work or be a responsible human.
So, why am I admitting it now?
It was the realization that there were more bad days than good and that the fallout from taking advantage of a good day (thinking I was totally fine now, everything back to normal) was so debilitating that it made me admit that my brain was not of the okay. But it still took me several days to say the words out loud to another human because, hey, who cares, right? I’m just being a drama queen, saying I’m depressed. It’s just an excuse for me to be lazy and worthless. What do I have to be depressed about? I’ve got any easy life since I’ve so successfully avoided being a real adult. I don’t even have a real job.
Man, if only my brain chemistry could relate.
It turns out that it was probably my bout of anemia that kicked this all off. One imbalance triggering another. The depression might have gotten better as the anemia was treated except that’s when I was in the middle of the disastrous day job that had me so stressed out that my hair was falling out and my anxiety was so bad I couldn’t sleep. That pretty much sealed my fate. Quitting might have helped my stress levels (though my hair is STILL growing back), but the damage was done to my mental health. I haven’t been back to that store since I turned in my keys because just driving by can give me an anxiety attack. Quitting just affirmed what my depression knew to be true: that I’m a loser who can’t even handle a little stress at a crappy day job.
And I’ve been simultaneously ignoring it and battling it since.
Why put this out in the public sphere?
I don’t know. Because I’m tired of pretending I’m okay. Because I’m tired of maintaining the facade of a functioning human. I’m struggling to function at this point. The idea of getting another day job right now is so overwhelming that it makes me want to panic. Hell, just leaving the house makes me sweat.
Because by saying it out loud, I’m admitting it’s real and by admitting it’s real, then I have to deal with it. Time to drag myself out of the pit. I know how to do it. I’ve done it before (though, thankfully, this time is not nearly as bad as it’s been). I just have to remind myself to be patient while I put myself through the paces. Depression doesn’t go away overnight, which is bullshit.
Because by saying it out loud -I’m depressed- I am showing people what depression can look like. I look perfectly fine right up until the minute that I’m not. And that’s a disastrous minute. It’s the minute that everyone refers to when they say, “We had no idea anything was wrong.” You don’t. Because I can still laugh and crack jokes and have a good time and function well enough to fool an audience. I can have good days. And I can still go to sleep and hope I don’t wake up. I can still wish to fade away so I don’t have deal with all of this anymore. I can still feel miserable and utterly hopeless.
So, please be patient with me while I right my ship because laws knows I will not be. Fixing this is always the worst because I have always struggled to be kind to myself. I never feel like I deserve it and the depression just amplifies that. Right now I’m coasting on the kindness of others and I’m going to be needing a lot more of that kind of help. It’s going to take me a little while to get back to what I consider normal, so.
Hang in there.
I was supposed to put together a poetry chapbook and do some research on one of the TV books I want to write one day. What I ended up doing was writing a poem a day (like I usually do in April for National Poetry Month) because I felt like I didn’t have the poems I needed/wanted for a chapbook, working on Book ’em, Danno (it’s still a mess, but getting better), writing one short story to submit for an anthology, and two pieces of hint fiction for a contest.
Wild how that happens, huh?
This month I’m getting back to the To Do List. I’m going to revise Murderville Season 4. Yes, that’s it. I’m dealing with some personal shit right now, so I’m trying to play it with a loose hat, as they say. I need the room to be flexible and committing to only one project this month will let me do that.
Besides, we’ve seen what happens when I give myself a little room. Who knows what I might end up talking myself into doing because I have the time?
However, Murderville: Rounds of Luck is running out of time. Only three more episodes left! Episode 5 goes live on May 14th. Become a patron for only $1 or $2 an episode and enjoy the fun. There’s always plenty of time for that.
It’s all linked, so check out that thread and the responses. Feel free to fall down that rabbit hole.
But if you haven’t got the time, allow me to sum it up for you.
We wish fat characters were allowed to be…people.
Fucking wild, right?
It turns out that fat people like myself are looking for the kind of representation that seems only available to thin people. We want to see fat people experience a wide-range of emotions. Let them be allowed to be happy, sad, angry, lazy, indignant, annoyed, ecstatic, depressed, etc. independent of their weight. Not happy in spite of being fat; they’re just happy. Not angry because they’re fat; they’re just angry.
Let them be desired without other people getting grossed out and being all judgy. Let them have sex, good sex. Let them be the object of someone’s crush. Let them hook up with the hot lead. Hell, let them have a long, healthy relationship with the hot lead. Particularly in the case of fat women when it comes to opposite sex relationships. It seems like when it comes to fat men (and their bodies are still played for jokes most of the time), they’re allowed to hook up with thin, beautiful women, but the vice-versa doesn’t play out with the same frequency.
Let there be more than one fat character and not just because you’ve got two of them in a relationship. Fat people are everywhere. You can have more than one, doing different things, having different personalities, relating to different people.
And there’s more than one kind of fat. We come in all shapes and sizes. Big bellies, big boobs, small boobs, no boobs, belly rolls, back fat, flabby arms, stick arms, no butts, big butts, big thighs, skinny legs, thin faces, double chins. Mix and match! And don’t cover those bodies! Let them wear shorts and mini dresses and tank tops and bikinis if they want to. Let them want to.
Let them be brave and adventurous and athletic. Let them be villainous and selfish and greedy. Let them be vain and pedantic and sloppy. Let them be stylish and smart and successful. Let them be actual human beings with a wide range of personalities and moods and issues. Let them be anything. Let them exist without the sole motivation of losing weight or being the butt of fat jokes or eating constantly or getting winded walking anywhere. Let them just be regular people or extraordinary people or anything in between.
I’ll formally throw down the challenge. Make it fat, you cowards.
I am more than happy to offer up my services in this endeavor. If you need a skilled, experienced fat person to assist you, I can be that person. I can be your adviser. I can help you make your fat characters representative of actual fat people.
My rates are very reasonable.
The Munsterville Courier was a marvel of a modern newspaper. No matter how late a story broke, they always seemed to have it first thing in the morning, usually on the front page. And not just online. In the physical copy, too.
Simon Sidney’s murder was no different.
Otis sat at his kitchen table, eating a peanut butter sandwich, drinking a glass of chocolate milk, and reading about what he’d already experienced, which was splashed in glorious fashion all over the front page. He was somewhat relieved that his and Velvet’s names were kept out of the press and a little more than tickled that Manfred Kobel’s was splattered all over it. Just out of spite, he hoped some rumors about the man started.
And judging by the way the article was written, they would.
The article highlighted that the body was found at The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road, a warehouse that Mr. Kobel was thinking of selling, possibly to the victim, something that Otis didn’t know. He reckoned that none of the other security guards knew it either. And none of them probably would have known until the day the warehouse was sold and they were all fired. Otis realized it was very likely that Simon Sidney’s death saved all of their jobs, at least until Kobel could find another buyer. Not that it mattered much to Otis. He was retiring.
The paper also went into great detail about the business deals and steals of the two men. There was also something else about Simon Sidney’s estranged wife and his connection to a dead woman found at The End Of and the late Winchester Harmon, but that didn’t interest him. He preferred the parts that drug Manfred Kobel through the mud.
It served the man right. Otis didn’t believe in Karma, but in this case, he was willing to make an exception. If Kobel was going to insult Otis’s work, then he could be insulted, too. Being seen as a shady businessman and a murder suspect in the court of public opinion was much better than any name Otis could think to call the man.
Otis finished the paper and his peanut butter sandwich, only pausing here and there to read a few shorter blurbs of other stories that caught his eye. When he got up to get another peanut butter sandwich, he got his checkbook, too.
As he ate, Otis looked over his finances. Growing up poor had taught him two things: be frugal and be meticulous with money. Otis only bought things when he was sure he could afford them, which was why he drove a car nearly twenty years old; he wasn’t sure that he could afford any of those pricey new ones. He bought a house, the one he still lived in, but it was an investment when he bought it all those years ago and he’d been good about taking care of it, even if it wasn’t as up-to-date and fancy as some of the others in the neighborhood. Take the kitchen for example. The stove was over twenty years old and one of the knobs was gone and sometimes it shocked you if you were touching the sink at the same time, but it still worked just as well as when he’d bought it from a rummage sale about fifteen years ago. The table came from his grandmother’s basement and despite a couple of nicks was still in good shape. The wood paneling and the floor were new-ish; he’d redone them both about five years ago. The place might be well-worn and lived-in, but it was a good house.
He’d tried to pass on some of his wisdom to Velvet, though she seemed to have a pretty good head on her shoulders when it came to money. She didn’t wait to get married to buy a house and she was in no hurry to buy a new car even though the one she drove was paid for. He couldn’t convince her to spend less on clothes or make-up, though.
Otis had one hundred thousand dollars in his checking account. He also had savings accounts pushing two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, thanks to steady deposits and interest. Otis frowned. He wasn’t sure that’d be enough. He probably should have started investing in CDs or bonds or something, but Otis didn’t really trust that sort of thing. He wasn’t even sure about the savings account, but the bank had proven solid over the decades he’d used them. He still kept about ten thousand dollars in cash in the house, though. Just for emergencies. Thinking critically about his money situation, Otis decided that he could afford to retire if he really had to, though he might have to splurge on fewer name brands during grocery shopping trips just to be safe.
When he stood up to return his checkbook to its proper place and to get another glass of chocolate milk, the jingling in his pocket caught his attention. It wasn’t an unusual sound by any means, but it reminded Otis of what was actually in there.
Digging into his pocket, Otis found the coin and pulled it out. He sat down at the table again, checkbook and milk forgotten as he examined the coin, turning it over and over in his hands. It wasn’t any American or Canadian currency he knew. Didn’t look like the English money he’d seen either. There was a bird on one side, sort of like an eagle, and there was star and crescent on the other side. It was strange. And it didn’t look like it’d ever been used, like most currency, nor did it have that look of being a forgotten lucky charm. This had been cared for, the silver gleamed in the morning sunlight spilling into the kitchen. This was important.