There was a sign propped up against the empty doorframe which read “If you are a dreamer, come in” except the paint had chipped, and instead of dreamer it read dream. ‘So?’ asked his wife. ‘Are you going in or not?’ She stood on tiptoes and tried to peer through one of the windows. Graham thought he saw her shiver, and for a moment started to shrug the jacket from his shoulders. ‘It looks abandoned.’ She stepped away and scowled. ‘You copied out the right address, didn’t you?’ Graham nodded, then felt his heart sink. An old lady stepped into the hall, the edges of her body blurring against the peeling wallpaper. ‘Oh,’ said his wife, now stood behind him. ‘She’s like me!’ She grinned and poked him in the ribs. ‘Poor Graham, can’t even find a living physic to help with your ghosts.’
If you are a dreamer, come in.
Shel Silverstein’s poem, Invitation, Where The Sidewalk Ends
For someone who doesn’t read a lot of horror/ghost stories, and can’t really watch the genre either, I seem to write a fair bit of it. I find I really adore these monthly Prosery prompts as there a great way to stretch the creative writing muscles when my focus has drifted away from flash fiction. It helps that Lillian picked a cracking line of poetry for tonight’s prompt as well.
In some exciting poetry news however, this week I’ve got two poems coming out, in two seperate magazines. The first was published on Sunday in the second issue of The Riverbed Review which is available to read for free on their site. The second is my poem ‘Overgrowth’, which I originally wrote for a Dverse prompt and is being published Wednesday, (with a couple of edits) in the first issue of Hencroft. A lot of journals and magazines do not accept poems that have appeared on blogs or social media previously, so I’m ecstatic to have the chance to publish with a magazine that didn’t mind.
‘Ah- what the’ Eddie flinched forward, the back of his skull throbbing where it had cracked against heating pipes. ‘Come on Gripes,’ he groaned. ‘What’s your problem.’
‘You know what!,’ Gripes scowled. He was crouched down in front of Eddie, his phone light throwing his shadow along the length of the corridor.. ‘His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream, remember! You go to sleep and we’re both in big trouble.’
‘That’s just a story Gripes. No one believes it.’
The torch on Gripes phone flickered. Eddie plucked it out of his hands and switched it off.
Darkness swallowed Gripes’ face, but Eddie could smell his breath.
‘Erg mate, you need to lay off the cheese and onion.’
The darkness stayed quite but Gripes’ breathing picked up. He placed his hand on Eddie’s knee.
She sat smoking three seats away from the door, cigarette pinched between black talons as she waited for the boy in a green apron to bring her coffee.
‘There is something of the devil about that one,’ whispered an old woman standing in line. She leant in so her companion could hear. ‘Something unnatural.’
The pair twisted to stare; peering over round spectacles to examine the girl in black leather and brass buckles.
‘Very unnatural,’ hissed the old woman’s companion. “Not the right sort at all!”
The girl sighed, pouring the smoke from her lips. She smiled at the old women and stabbed out the cigarette on the table-top.
‘Problem ladies?’ she asked.
‘This is a no smoking zone!’ squawked the first, pointing a shrivelling, stumpy finger at the no smoking sign just beside the door. ‘You are no supposed to smoke that,’ she pointed at the crushed cigarette, ‘in here.’
The girl smiled again, teeth bone white against ebony gloss.
‘I must have missed the sign,’ she said, curling her lips back further.
The old women clucked.
‘Smoking in public places is banned completely!’ said the second, shuffling her shoulder and readjusting the fold of her collar. ‘Do you not watch the news?’ she demanded.
‘Not particularly,’ replied the girl. ‘It’s always so depressing. All that death.’
She winked, still smiling as the boy in the green apron scurried over to her table, miniature coffee cup balanced on his tray.
‘Double espresso?’ he asked, trembling as the girl lifting an arm to pluck the drink from its saucer.
‘Exactly what I need,’ she purred, eyes trained on the boy’s face.
He blushed, stepped back and tripped over a table leg.
The old women watched him fall, hands clasped to mouths as they cooed sympathetically. The girl laughed, the sound spilling into the room like ice. The boy shivered as he scrambled to his feet.
‘The poor lamb,’ said the first old woman, placing a hand over her heart.
‘The poor dear,’ added the second.
‘Fool,’ said the girl, grinning.
She threw back the espresso and stood. ‘But just what I need.’
‘Need?’ the boy stammered, clutching the back of a chair for support.
‘Yes, need,’ repeated the girl. ‘I need a distraction. I suppose you could say I’m recovering from a bad break-up of sorts.’
It wasn’t a complete lie. The boy had certainly broken when he hit the street sixty-six stories below.
She slid out of her seat and stepped forward, closer to the boy in the green apron holding the empty tray.
‘Call me Spider,’ she said and caught his cheek in her palm. ‘You and I are going to have some fun.’
Back in June 2013 (that’s around five and half years ago if you can quite believe it) I wrote a short story ‘A Girl Called Spider’. It was then posted here on Writing and Works.
Now I’ve redrafted and re-posted poems in the past as my poetry has improved, but I have never really gone back to the flash fiction pieces that I wrote ages ago. Part of the reason is perhaps that my formatting style changed after studying creative writing at uni and editing through all the annoying format based niggles in a pain in the bum.
However, it seems a shame to leave these stories to rot in the archive so I’ve decided to go back and dig them out. Each Thursday I’m going to re-post a reviewed, redrafted, and edited piece of flash fiction from back in the day with the aim to collate all the pieces into a PDF that I can then put up for download at the end.
The PDF will be completely free and mostly just a way for me to try and create a sort of anthology of my flash fiction stories. I’m hoping you lovely readers will also enjoy it and like the chance to download a collection of stories which you can carry away on your kindle, or phone, or whatever portable electronic machine you find yourself tied to.
Please let me know if you like the story, if you like the PDF idea, or if you also have a back-file of stories you wrote years ago just sitting on your blog with little to do but collect cyber dust.
Look out next Thursday for ‘Lost: One Bench’, one of the oldest stories that I had on this blog, revamped just for you guys.
It could have been worse I suppose. I could have been alive when they put me in the ground, but I was dead thank God, because the whole thing would have had me spinning in my too narrow, too shallow grave. Metaphorically of course.
I had hoped for a spectacular death or a quiet one. An ending that became the warped framework of urban legend or left people saying: “At least she went peacefully.”
Neither of these scenarios ended up fitting with my actual death. I got pathetic, depressing end. Dazed with a blow from the cat’s litter tray and strangled with a faulty phone charger. Not a death to really brag about.
There was no great, white light. No tunnel or long lost loved ones. Just the grotty ceiling tiles of my rented kitchen, and the realisation that the mould above the oven was back. My murderers were panicking; two less than athletic men with women’s tights as masks. Clearly new to the criminal game they stood bickering in the doorway. Clearly they had never killed anyone before and my death had not been part of their evening plans. However, I was more concerned with the corpse cluttering up my kitchen floor.
My ex had been right. I was not good-looking. Frog eyed and puffy faced; I did not make a pleasing sight. My state of appearance might have had more to do with my recent death than any general daily impression, but I was inclined to believe that even life could have done little to improve on what I could see.
Before any certain decision could be reached on my part, the two idiots by the door had finished squabbling and began tearing apart my kitchen instead. One dived beneath the sink while the other rattled through the drawers.
The banging alone was enough to wake the entire building, and then what would the neighbours think of me?
The one beneath the sink popped back out, grinning and waving a roll of bin bags at the other. They shoved, twisted and wrapped my poor corpse until it resembled a macabre present, held together with liberal applications of gaffer-tape. I went down the stairs headfirst. They had managed four flights from my flat before losing their grip and sending me crashing down the final five.
When they finally got me outside I was thrown into the boot of a thirty year old Skoda where you would have been better off pointing out where there was paint left than trying to say where it had flaked off.
There were mutterings of shovels and borrowing Jim’s before the lid slammed closed and I found out first-hand how dark car boots actually were.
All of this led to my too shallow, too narrow grave on the edge of Hemmingway Woods and watching my murderers curse tree roots and throw glances at the rising sun. They said it would have to do.
I knew the dog walkers would find me first; the ones who trek out to Hemmingway Woods at six in the morning with hiking boots and walking sticks. They would call the police who would bring white tents and hazmat suits.
Dog walkers are worse than any informant. You can’t go anywhere without being seen by some fanatical dog walker.
Within the week the finger-prints on the bin bags would be matched to the criminal records. All those petty crimes my murderers committed rising up to bite them for their stupidity in their first attempt at the big time.
I could rely on one thing though. There would be no jail sentence and the press would find something far more interesting to report on the following day, leaving my death firmly unsolved. Evidence would fall on the desk of some barely know officer; vanish without trace, and within the fortnight the case would have crumbled.
Those who knew me would speculate on what had happened and soon enough there would be all sorts of stories telling the truth behind my death. People would be free to take their pick. They wouldn’t have to find out I was murdered by amateurs. No one would ever find out that I was murdered by amateurs.
She’ll speak to the dead with her head on one side,
Punctuate conversations with the roll of her eyes,
For jokes loose their bite once the dust takes my teeth
And laughter is dry without a tongue or lips and speech.
Watch the cracks for my mind and I have long fell out,
We were in for a while but overdue another bout
Any apologies would be useless in this little war
The maggots will mean the argument is lost for sure.
Once the stone grows too cold she will bore of my grin
But don’t put my skull back where I lie straight and thin
Up here is a sun to bleach the old bones white
And a silver sheen smile beneath the evening starlight
My nerves frayed to cobwebs and caught the last draft
I won’t feel the heat or ice like I did before in a past
With dark empty sockets I’m staring on blind
But it’s better than rotting satin and myself for all time.
But while you perch on my name you may chatter on
Tell me of those who remained after my coffin was gone
If they became neighbours or settled elsewhere?
And have I mentioned, I only died just over there?