FLASH FICTION INDEX 2: Dec. 2011 - ?


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Post December 29, 2016, 02:07:21 PM

The "Elf Help" Challenge

The Elf Who Saved Christmas

By:
Jim Harrington



I squinted into the sun, a hand protecting my eyes, and saw what looked like a small Christmas tree perched on the bridge ahead. As I got closer, I realized it was a little person dressed in green pants and shirt and a red cap with a white puff sitting with his legs dangling over the edge. His beard was a few days old with a mix of black and grey hairs.

“Good day, good sir,” I said. I moved next to him and placed my forearms on the railing, my fingers laced together. “Long ways down, isn’t it?”

He didn’t respond, just continued to look straight ahead.

“Sun feels good after three days of rain. Don’t you agree?” I leaned over enough to see his face. “Tough day at work?”

He remained silent. I stood beside him for a few minutes, then sat down, mimicking his pose.

“My name’s Jed. You got a name?” I waited.

He finally said,“Elf 113,” in a scratchy voice.

“Interesting name.”

“Well, it takes a lot of us to make all those toys, and Santa’s too busy to try and name everyone. Besides, we all look the same to him.”

“Huh,” I said and tried not to smile. “So what brings you to the bridge today. I cross it just about every day, and I haven’t seen you before.”

“I . . ..” He looked down at his hands. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Oh, I doubt it’s that bad. After all, it’s Christmas, a time to smile, and sing, and best of all, drink. In fact, I have a half-filled bottle of fine whiskey in my coat pocket. Well, at least the finest I can afford. Would you like a sip?”

“No thanks. My mom said it would stunt my growth.”

This time I choked back a chuckle, but a little seeped out. I attempted to disguise it as a cough.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to get involved, but I hated to see someone who appeared to have lost his way do something he might regret--like jump. “So you never said why you’re here.”

“I got passed over for another promotion. Three years in a row. I even had my new uniform ready.” He looked out over the water below. “Everyone sees it as a badge of honor.”

“Oh? What does it look like?”

“It’s the opposite of what I’ve got on--red pants and shirt and a green hat.” He finally looked at me.” I guess the outfit I have on will finally get washed when I jump.”

“Whoa, whoa. What do you mean jump?” I wanted to reach out and grab his arm but was afraid it might startle him. “That seems pretty drastic for not getting a promotion.”

“There’s Elfie May, too.”

“Elfie May?”

“That’s what I call her. Her real name is Elf 275. She works. . .worked. . . in the sewing department. We’d been dating for a year. I was going to propose. I thought she loved me, until she and the reindeer herder ran off. I don’t know where.” He turned toward me, pain on his face. “And I don’t care,” he said, his voice a few decibels louder.

“You sure you don’t want a little nip. It’s the best medicine I’ve found.” I removed the bottle from my coat, unscrewed the top, and took a belt.

“Well, I guess it can’t hurt.” I passed the bottle over. He put the top to his lips, tilted the bottom up, and took a bigger drink than I’d hoped he would. I was going to have to panhandle to pad my bank account, i.e., my trouser pockets, sooner than usual.

“Thanks, “ he said, handing the bottle back. “Now jumping doesn’t seem so scary.” He placed his hands on either side of his legs and lifted his butt slightly.

“Wait. You can’t jump today.” This time I grabbed his left arm. “It’s No-Jumping-Off-Bridges-Day.” I grasped harder. “You’ll ruin everyone’s Christmas if you do.”

“You’re BSing me.” He relaxed and let his body ease back onto the bridge.

“No, I’m not. Swear to His Holy Father.” I crossed myself hoping I did it right.

“No, you’re BSing me for sure.” He scooched forward with a determined look on his face.

“Okay, I was BSing. But I’ve got a friend--a female friend--who might be able to help you out.”

“She can find Elfie May?”

“Well, no, but she’s nice and friendly--for a price.”

“You mean a hooker.”

“Kinda.”

“Either she is or she isn’t.”

“Okay, she is--or used to be. She’s a little long in the tooth, as they say.” It was my turn to look down at the rippling water. “We were married once. Needless to say, it didn’t work out. She drove me to drink. And I drove her to. . ..”

“Oh, hell.” he said, standing. “I didn’t want to jump anyway.” He brushed off his bottom and strode off the bridge. “Too much of a coward, you know. Let’s go see your old lady and find out if she has any Christmas spirit.”

I didn’t know if the little guy felt any better, but I did. I might even wish a few folks a merry Christmas on our way to town, something I hadn’t done myself for a couple of years.


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Post December 29, 2016, 02:08:19 PM

The "Elf Help" Challenge

A Spirited Meeting

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



"Kvass. Amarula. Bajtra!" the girl said.

Jesus Christie, it's another elf. This one had the look down, too. Dark hair, green eyes, pointy shoes, pointy ears, green and yellow striped outfit, stocking hat with a tassel--but she looked like she was six. I'm not into that. I'm not into Little Persons, either, but that doesn't seem to stop them from searching me out like I was the Messiah, or something.

Plus, she smelled a little like licorice. Yuck.

I ducked away from her on the dark, cold, snowy street. Viktor, the bouncer, waved me through the door into the warm barroom. He knew me well.

"Vodka," I called to Anton behind the bar. Anton was born in Brooklyn, but he poured the best Russian vodka in town. The best everything, really. He winked and poured me a shot before hustling down to a customer at the other end. The liquid burned all the way down and cleaned my sinuses, just the way I liked it.

"Are you the one who writes those books?" the elf asked.

I jumped, surprised. "How did you get past Viktor?"

"What?"

"You're just a kid. You shouldn't be in here." I waved to Anton. "Can you have somebody find this girl's parents?"

Anton's been pouring my drinks for years, so he's used to the obsessed fan thing. He started to come back over, but the 'she-elf' turned and glared at him, and, I swear, Anton stopped in his tracks and looked afraid to come near.

"I am Brianna Norrel. I'm 325 years old. I've been in taverns since before your great-great-great grandfather was born."

I scratched my two-day's growth of graying stubble. "Suuure you have. Right."

"Are you Ellis Cullen, author of the 'Elf Help' books, or not?"

"Yes, but I'm not giving autographs today."

Brianna smirked. "Don't want one. I need holiday spirit."

I barked a laugh. "If you're coming to me for that, I'm a dry hole. I hate the holidays."

She put her hands on her hips. "I read the dust jacket of one of your books. You're famous. You help people get their holiday spirit. Mine is gone."

"Look, those books are just a gimmick. A Little Person elf shows up and helps people save the day. They fix whatever is wrong, from a store closing to a sagging roof, help the couple fall in love, give them some holiday spirit, and everybody feels good. They sell a ton of copies to women." Now that they make them into movies on the Hallmark Channel, it's even worse. I used to be a real writer. Now, I can't stand my own work anymore. "I don't really know any elves, and they don't actually save the day. It's just simple, formula writing. I can't help you. Go away."

She climbed up on the leather stool next to me. "I can't go away. I can't go back without the spirit, so I'm staying with you until you help me get some."

I sighed. "Isn't there someone else you can bother?"

She looked sad. Like verge of tears sad. "You're the 'Elf Help' man. I'm an elf, and I need help."

I thought about leaving, but I really liked Anton's place. It was more my home than my own was these days. "If I help you, then will you go away?"

"Of course. After I have the spirit, I can go home again."

I blinked. "What, you're like, trapped here? Need a bus ticket for Cleveland, or something?" It would be worth it.

Brianna punched me in the thigh. It didn't hurt at all. "Could you take this seriously?"

I looked at her pointed ears and outfit. "Sorry. What was I thinking?"

She rolled her eyes. "Well? Make it happen."

"Make what happen?"

Do children look that annoyed at their parents?

She replied, "The holiday spirit."

"I don't think it works that way."

She muttered under her breath, "How do human women put up with them?"

I definitely didn't think I had enough to drink for this. "Hey!"

"If only for Kvass," she lamented.

Anton, who was hurrying past, stopped in his tracks. "Kvass?"

Brianna nodded. "Amarula? Bajtra?"

"Amarula... Bajtra... No." Anton held up a finger as if to wait, then disappeared toward his backroom. I didn't understand this at all. How could Anton speak Elf?

He came back holding a dusty, dark-green bottle with a no label. He set it on the brown bar top in front of us. A murky red liquid sloshed inside. "My grandmother made kvass like in the old country, from beets. I've had this bottle for many years." He uncorked it and poured a teeny bit into a shot glass.

I boggled. "Kvass is a drink?"

Brianna looked at me sideways. "Of course. What kind of spirit did you think I wanted?"

Brianna took a sip, and I swear to God, she began to sparkle. Literally! She sighed softly and whispered, "Much better than seagull wine."

Elves were real. I asked, "Why did you need me?"

She looked at me appreciatively. "I look like a kid. No one will sell spirit to me."

I asked Anton, "How much for the bottle?"

"$200."

I dropped the money on the bar and handed her the bottle. Her smiling face surprised and moved me in a way I did not understand at the time. I felt... I felt happy, like I hadn't been in a long time.

She hugged me and said sweetly, "Thank you, Ellis. I hope you have a happy holiday." She hopped down off the stool and strode out the door with the bottle. I felt quite warm inside.

Anton paused. "Uh, did you just give a bottle of booze to a six year-old?"

"No, it just looked like it." I smiled. A real elf had just helped me remember my own holiday spirit. "How about a round for the house? I feel like giving."

"You got it, my friend."

I mused, This would make a great book.


The End
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Post December 29, 2016, 02:10:13 PM

The "Elf Help" Challenge

- Winner -


A Raisin To Live

By:
jmstein



She lived alone many years after her husband passed away. Life just seemed to pass her by. The traffic outside her front windows traveled the streets to and fro as she watched sad and alone. Her husband took care of everything and she was fine with that. Now that he was gone, she didn't have the desire to do anything.

She no longer decorated for Christmas except to unwrap the elf statue she would place on the mantle above the fireplace. Her husband found him in an antique store before they were married fifty years earlier. The statue (she was never sure what it was made of) seemed to beam with joy each year. Megan and Jim would often talk to it and the elf appeared to radiate a glow as if 'he the elf' was glad to be with them.

Jim was always industrious. A good provider and a nurturing companion always with a smile; Megan had joy when she looked at him. He was quite a handsome man in a non-assuming manner. And devoted, oh yes he doted on her with great affection. He loved her soul and this encompassed him throughout their life together. He was tall with brown curly hair and always muscular being he was a cement contractor. She loved looking at him, when he wasn't looking.

Megan was ordinary in appearance and she knew it. Nevertheless, her life was her man and she was happy with that. Now much older with white hair, her dark blue eyes having faded to gray, she had long since buried love and there was no one else.

The house was always kept clean. The house needed painting, it needed new curtains for the old ones had worn, the refrigerator wasn't working like it should, the couch looked old and torn, but she covered it the best she could with knitted tapestry. What the house needed most was mirth and warmth from living souls who cared for one another. I would like…(the writer thinks for a moment) she would have liked that too.

Hermee wasn't smiling anymore. He was frowning. He wasn't happy sitting on the mantle. I don't know - can elves get depressed?

Children go their own way, living their own lives, forgetting about the times they were held and comforted by a mother who adored them. But sadly in time, the parents become the children, often forgotten, except for a call a few times a year on important occasions. Megan was still waiting for her call.

The doorbell rang. She rushed to the window and peered out the curtains. It was her neighbor Jonathan and his five-year-old daughter Shelley, a nickname for Michelle. Megan opened the door.

"Hi Megan," little Shelley said smiling. "We got a present for you!”

"Did we catch you busy planning for Christmas?" her father said being polite.

"Please come in. I'm glad to see you both. Have you finished your shopping for the holidays?" Megan was embarrassed she didn't have food on hand. She always loved serving raisin cake to visitors during Christmas days.

"We can't stay but a minute, we have many stops to make. Merry Christmas Meg." Jonathan handed her a beautiful hand crafted scarf knitted by his wife.

"Thank you so much." Megan held back tears.

"I have some homemade eggnog for you. I'll put it into your fridge." While Jonathan walked into the kitchen, little Shelley walked over to the fireplace. She stared up at the elf statue and stretched for it, but of course it was much too high. Megan reached up and took the statue from the mantle and handed it to her. Shelley hugged it cradling it like a baby.

While in the kitchen, Jonathan opened the fridge to find it off. He checked the plug; it was in but the fridge wasn't working. What food was in there had spoiled. He looked in her cabinets to find only crackers and some canned peaches with rust around the edges.

He placed the eggnog on the counter and walked hurriedly back into the living room. "Come on Shelley we need to go." He noticed the elf statue his daughter was snuggling in her arms. "Sweetheart, put that back we need to leave."

"No, it is her present," Megan said earnestly. "I want her to have it."

Jonathan said thank you and rushed out the door. As Shelley walked down the steps, Megan could see the face of the elf statue...and he was smiling...for the first time in a long time. Megan closed the door, leaned her back up against it and cried while she held her stomach. She slid down until she sat on the floor.

Hours later she got up and went to the kitchen to make some raisin cake in case she had more visitors. She opened the cabinets and remembered she didn't have any flour, raisins, cinnamon or eggs. Her memory faded from the present to the past and back again.

She walked back to the living room and sat on the couch. She looked up on the mantle. She missed him.

Moments later, there was a knock at the door. She looked out the curtain but it was too dark to see. She slowly opened the door and to her surprise it was Jonathan's father who was also named Jim. His wife had passed away the year before and he stayed in most of the time.

"Your son was here hours ago but he left," Megan told him.

"I know I came to see you".

"He reached out and hugged her with one hand. In the other hand he was carrying a raisin cake and a thermos of coffee.

"How did you know?" Megan asked looking at him with bewilderment".

Jim said, "Your little elf told me"

Looking past him she could see her yard full of people with gifts and food and love and mirth. Hermee went for help.


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:44:52 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

The challenge was to write a story from the perspective of a human who murdered the alien Oola in the Great Lakes tourist town of Cranberry Bay.

Example story:



Hooked on Oola

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



Oola's thick, neon-pink blood dripped all over me. I was drenched in it. It smelled like sour milk. If it all wasn't so horrible, I'd have looked ridiculous.

"So," I asked, "you're saying this is normal?"

County Sheriff Wayne Landreman looked at me. "Yes, Bill. They call it the Blood Dance. Hoosacians like the victim here do it when they have been 'breached,' as they call it. They spray it all over before they die. They believe the further their blood travels the more chance they have of uniting their life force with the universe, or some such thing. I heard about a traffic accident in Chicago were a car spun out and drove into three 'Hoos' on a sidewalk. That stuff sticks to everything, and stains. They were scrubbing and hosing down the storefronts on those buildings for a week. Your hair and skin will be that pink color until it grows out."

He pointed to my squad car. A pink spray peppered it, except for a void in the shape of my body where I stood in front of it, and also where my favorite lure dangled at the end of my fishing pole out the back window. It was open just a crack. "They'll have to repaint the car. After the crime lab releases it, of course."

"Crime lab?" That's just what I needed. The Village of Cranberry Bay only had one squad. I got enough guff from the county deputies for being a part-time constable, but wait until I had to report to crime scenes in my old, rusty Geo Prizm with the words "Long Cast Charter Fishing" on the side. Even school kids I picked up for speeding past Lambert's Hardware would laugh at me.

Wayne shrugged. "Oola here was a visitor from another planet. Some kind of linguist who could communicate with almost any species, even animals. That's special, even for them. You're lucky three witnesses saw you respond. You pulled up, stepped out, and pow. Since this stuff goes everywhere, it would be inside the squad if you had something to do with it." His tone became a little condescending. "Well, except for that little bit where your fishing pole was. Otherwise, you'd be a suspect. Obviously, you can't work the case, though."

"Hardy Brockman flagged me down because she was in the alley behind his bait store screaming like a banshee. I never heard anything like it."

He nodded. "That's the windup. They do it for around two minutes while the internal pressure builds. Then 'pop goes the weasel.'"

That was important. "So, she was... breached... within two minutes of me arriving. Do we know what 'punctured' her? Did she get shot, or something?"

Wayne frowned. "Bill, you can't work the case."

I knew my place. "I'm the only police force this town has."

"My office will make extra patrols. You're out of this." His voice softened. "It takes more than a paper cut to do them in, but any knife or sharp metal object could do it. Their world is very watery, soft, and squishy. They lvisit wet places, like the Great Lakes, and swim. They can stay underwater for hours."

"Was she inside Hardy's bait shop? There's a lot of sharp fishing tackle on sale in there."

"Dammit, no, Bill. Stop it." Wayne paused. "Two questions before we get you out of those clothes, and then you're on your way home. First, did you have any prior contact with the victim?"

I nodded. "Yes, in Mike's café, last night. She asked me who was the best charter captain. She said she wanted to go to the salmon grounds."

"Why?"

"She didn't say, but I assume from what you said, she wanted to swim."

"Who did you tell her?"

"I'm booked tomorrow, so I told her to go to Popp's."

"Anybody see you talking?"

"Mike."

Wayne seemed satisfied. "Ok, second question: Are we still on for tomorrow?"

I smiled. "I'll get you some fish. Still bringing two on the charter?"

"Yeah, two assemblymen from the capitol. Wait until they get a load on how far you can throw a hook. I've never seen the like. So far and spot on."

I tried to look nonchalant, still dripping pink goo, gesturing at the scene around us, "Casting and crime, those are my only skills."

***

Dawn was beautiful that morning. My charter boat bounced up and down as we pounded toward the grounds, but the waves made Wayne's elected buddies look a little green. The lake smelled like fish.

Wayne asked, "So, Pinky, What're we going for? Salmon? Steelhead? Walleye?"

I said, "We'll see what we can get. They say Brown Trout are hitting well."

Wayne whispered, "Just not perch, ok? These guys are important for my funding."

"Not to worry."

I slowed the boat down and checked the GPS. This was where Oola wanted to swim. She said she wanted to teach our fish about the hooks and lures.

What would we have done then, if the fish wouldn't bite? This was a fishing village. We couldn't make it on selling knick-knacks alone.

I read up on 'Hoos' as soon as they started showing up in town. I made sure I was in the alley when she came out the back door of Hardy's shop. I parked my squad just around the corner. Got her right in the neck. There was plenty of time to drive around to Main St. and get flagged down. I left the murder weapon dangling in plain sight, out of my car door, to be covered with her sprayed DNA, so no one would suspect the lure already had her blood on it.


I looked at the fish finder, grabbed a rod, and let the line fly. The assemblymen were impressed by the distance. I handed the rod to one of them right before the fish hit. He was loving it.

Wayne grinned at me and I smiled back.

No one can cast like me.


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:45:55 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

Treasures

By:
Kate Stuart



To say people liked Oola is vastly understating her popularity. Oola was here as part of the Earth-Chaimal exchange program. Every year, thousands of Chaimangi exchanged places with Earthlings to experience living on an alien planet. The locals were all mad about having an alien in their town. A tourist town like Cranberry Bay, on the banks of the gorgeous Lake Michigan, thrived on out-of-town visitors, and Oola was both a visitor -- anxious to spend ridiculous amounts of cash on her Earth experience -- and an attraction. How could the locals see this as anything but a win-win situation?

All I wanted was to be close to Oola, and, with some careful planning, I was sure I could make her mine.

***

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, she came into my store, Lakeshore Treasures. A tall, octopus-like creature, she sauntered in on four of her eight tentacles. After handing me the special filter that shifts her voice into the human auditory range, her operatically soprano voice filled my head, “What is it you do here?”

“I-I-I sell tourists souvenirs. These are little baubles to remind them of the happiness they found here.”

I picked up a delicate sea urchin-looking driftwood sculpture. “And I make these.”

Oola reached out a single, translucently blue-green tentacle to stroke the smooth pieces of wood. “It’s beautiful.”

“Sometime, perhaps you would like to see my workshop, or,” I rushed on feeling her discomfort at the idea, “maybe you could come with me when I go collecting.”

The finger of her tentacle brushed against my hand holding the sculpture. I could have died of rapture right then.

She only said, “That might be nice. The lakeshore is beautiful.”

***

I invited her that Monday to accompany me. The weather was perfect. Spring was only starting to give way to summer so the air was cool and the water cold. Oola balanced on four tentacles using the other four to sift through the sand and shells. Mostly we didn’t talk. I didn’t want to scare her off, and it’s not like we had any privacy. Everywhere she went, hordes of admirers followed. I had been one of those. But now I was more. Now, I might even be allowed to call her my friend.

At the end of the afternoon, my basket full of new treasures, I invited her to dinner.

“I can’t. I have other plans.” Did I imagine that her voice sounded sad? “Maybe some other time.”

***

Apparently, Oola enjoyed scoping for driftwood. She came into the shop early Tuesday to ask if she could accompany me the next week. I said yes.

I spent the entire week in a flurry. The workshop had to be ready for a tour, everything needed to be in place; and there was following Oola: catching every glimpse I could IRL, Facebook, Twitter, I even opened up a Snapchat account though I find all this social media exhausting and pointless. Of course, there was also minding the store; though I left that mainly to my assistant.

I snagged a dinner reservation for Friday at Toliver’s -- the steakhouse that Oola would be patronizing that night.

There she was, seated at the table next to me. She put the napkin on her head -- a mistake she’d made when she first arrived and now had adopted as a personal quirk. Then Oola invited me to come with her to an art opening at a studio in downtown Cranberry Bay.

After dinner, I winded my way downtown to the studio cum frame shop -- Badger Gallery. I wished there were some way to shed Oola’s entourage. Crammed into the tiny space, we drank wine and gaped at some local’s abstract impressions of the town. They were awful, but what could I do but stay?

I’d just about decided that it was useless, when she appeared by my side slipping a tentacle into my hand, “Do you want to get out of here?”

My breath caught, “Uh. Y-yeah. Sure.”

She tugged and I followed. We walked along the quiet downtown sidewalk.

Finally, she said, “Is the invitation to visit your workshop still open?”

I couldn’t even continue walking. All the preparations; all the faux conversations, wheedling, cajoling, enticing, seducing, all in my head, and here she was asking. Outright.

“Yes. Of course, yes. We can go there now if you’d like.”

She leaned in a little, “I’d like that.”

***

We got an Uber and ten minutes later we were standing at the threshold of my workshop. I opened the door.

Oola made a little “oh” at the sight of rows of driftwood Chaimangi dolls: awkward simulations of their jellyfish bodies with twig tentacles held together by pins, wire, and glue. Each one hand-stained blue with painted red eyes, four of them, and yellow lips.

“These are stunning,” Oola sang. Turning to me, she wrapped two tentacles around my neck and two grazed the bare skin of my calves, a thousand pinpricks of ecstasy. Then she kissed me.

Her lips were cool and intoxicating. I knew this was my chance, however much my body wanted to wait. I grabbed the knife from the work table next to us, and jammed it up into her soft underbelly.

Her eyes flew open, “Wh-what?”

I caught her in my arms and gently lowered her to the floor, “Now you’ll be mine, Oola. Always mine, and no one else’s.”

She laughed breathlessly. Green blood seeped down the corners of her mouth. “Enjoy me while you can, Shaina.”

“I will.” I kissed her, running a hand over her skin.

“Do you feel that? On your neck? On your legs?”

I did, the pinpricks of ecstasy turning into knife points of pain.

“Those are my babies, burrowing into your flesh, my dear. Soon you’ll be nothing but a distant memory.”

I had just enough time to see the workshop door open. Was that another Chaimangi?


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:47:09 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

Just a Kiss

By:
Robin B Lipinski



“Would anyone like some more cranberry sauce? Seems I made a lot more than that old turkey and mashed spuds could handle.” Martha, she was the matron of the Parker family. At age seventy-two she ran her home much like a Marine drill instructor, though with a thinly veiled sense-of-humor.

Some of those seated at the table were family, some were friends, some just ended up sitting there, but they all shared one thing in common, they all lived in the town named after the sauce, Cranberry Bay. It was no coincidence the Parker family lived there or served ample amounts of mashed sour cranberries…they owned many ponds and made their yearly living growing and harvesting the nasty product. And since this was also the Holiday season they all shared another of Martha’s locally famous fantastic gut busting turkey dinners.

“No thanks mother, I’m about as stuffed as the bird you served,” laughed Henry, her balding oldest son said as he pushed his chair back from the table and lit up his pipe filled with aroma inducing cherry tobacco.

As the room filled with the sweet smoke the conversation turned to recent events occurring in the boring town of Cranberry Bay, which by local standards as boring as waiting for a red stop sign to turn green.
“Say, did you all hear about the alien getting cut into tiny little pieces?” Henry said this with a smiling afterglow of consuming the wonderful meal.

“No, she was not cut into little pieces…” Martha said, a slight tremor in her voice. She was a very beautiful woman, a kind of woman not seen around here what with all those crazy human women running about here on this planet like a bunch of dressed up whores…”

The large group of people seated there at the very large table all started talked about the killing. It was kind of hard to concentrate. Snippets of conversation were: “I heard the killer used a chainsaw.” “Some say she was raped and then cut up into pieces.” “I heard she was cut into pieces and then raped.” “Cannibalism…” “Hate crime…” “Alien haters…” Oh my, the conversation was as varied as one would expect among a bunch of people talking about what they know nothing of. Most of them led boring, mundane lives, and most of them were really not that intelligent. Only two people could be considered smart, that being the head of the family Martha, and Henry, the oldest son of Martha.

Martha’s face was red when she said, “No, she was not raped or cut up into pieces, I know…” but before she could finish her sentence one of the guest asked, “What was the alien woman’s name?”

Henry said, “I knew that alien, her name was ‘O’ something…Ola, Olga, no…Oola, yes that’s her, I mean, was her name. Oola. She used to shop at lot at my store. Spent a lot of money she did. Nice person for being an alien and all. Aside from the strong odor of sulfur her skin emitted, she was actually not bad to look at.” And with a remembering thought added, “And her four breasts…Ah, my…They…”

“You watch your mouth Henry!” Martha was red in the face and angry that Henry was starting to stray into the taboo realm of sexuality, and for Cranberry Bay sex was the missionary position for married couples behind locked doors and minds.

“Oh come on mother, lighten up. Oola was very beautiful, and the way she screamed…I mean, she walked…” Henry’s face immediately turned white with his omission now known to the world.

Silence is often said to be invisible but in that room when Henry said, “Scream,” the whole room became very silent. It was a solid wall until the silence was broken after a few awkward seconds.

A cousin’s face was white when he asked Henry, “What do you mean when you said the alien screamed? How would you know this?”

“Okay. Okay. I confess. Oola and I were lovers. Such a wonderful love. We had sex in the woods, in my home, her space ship. My god, her body was beyond this world…”

Everyone looked at Henry with mixed looks of shock, dismay, envy, hate…It was the Babylon of emotions in that room as the people’s minds came to judge what they just heard: Henry engaged in, well, in outer world carnal lust and now one of those lovers had been discovered no longer among the living.

“Did you kill her?” “Why did you kill her” “What was the sex like?” “Do aliens have vagina’s or what the hell do they have? And so many more questions were thrown at Henry that he just sat there wondering why he had said anything at all. The answer on why was actually pretty simple: He loved that alien and he had drank a wee bit too much Scotch before/during/and after the wonderful dinner.

While the whole room had focused their attention on the confession of Henry they completely ignored Martha as she was just an old lady who just happened to cook wonderful meals and run the Parker family with an iron fist.

Now, if the people had paid attention to her earlier they would have seen her leave the room and return with the family double-barreled 12 gauge shotgun. They would have seen her but for sure they heard her open the barrel and insert two shells and with a quick snap, shut the barrels.

“How could you Henry? She was to be mine. She was my lover, my soul mate…I was going to marry her and move to her planet, yet it is you she wanted. You and not me… Damn you Henry. I had to kill her, and now I have to kill you…”

“No! Martha, no. Nooo!” Henry raised both of his hands in defense, but 00 buckshot? Human flesh is weak, just like love, and anger.


The End
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Post January 29, 2017, 01:49:11 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

Put the Blame on the A.M.E.

By:
Sergio Palumbo



Cranberry Bay was a small city situated along the coast on Lake Michigan, in Wisconsin. Named for the bay nearby, a wide stream flowed through the town, which was enjoyed by the few residents who actually lived there. The local population was meager which was common in the few villages and urban areas that were present this far north. However, there were huge numbers of tourists in this place – and these were, nowadays, mainly aliens, of course.

Nothing really happened there, at least not very frequently. This was why all the citizens were so worried and upset as soon as the news started spreading about the corpse of that visitor.

The dead alien’s name was Oola and the evidence indicated that he had been murdered in this quiet town. Being a typical tourist from another world who came every summer to visit the area, he seemed to love this village situated near the Great Lakes that reminded him of his birth planet: full of water with a perfect environment for him. The members of his species resembled yapok-like creatures – and they all usually spent a lot of money for touristy goods and services, much to the delight of the local shop-owners.

“Did you know that Bartholomew Hardwood harbored a deep resentment to the alien tourists?” a voice asked me. It was Grazia, the long-haired woman who owned the largest newsstand in town.

“Why do you say that? Do you think that he might have been involved in such a cruel murder?” I asked in return.

“A policeman who is a friend of mine told me that Oola was assaulted using some specialized tools that came from Bartholomew’s shop...the one that closed down not long ago. So, he is the man they are accusing of this crime.”

“I did hear him talking against the aliens before,” I said frowning.

“You see? It was him. Who else would have done this?”

As I move away, walking along the streets of Cranberry Bay which are full of worried alien tourists, I think about what I have done and I sneer. I also remember how it all started and how things got to this point.

What began the whole thing was the collapse of Earth’s economy which occurred the day the Agreement for Merchandise Exchange (the A.M.E.) was signed between the appointed Earth Government and the representatives of the Union of Monger Worlds. Well, it was not as if Earthlings had a choice, since they had admitted their goods were inferior once everyone had seen what the alien newcomers had for sale. The alien’s products were actually far better than anything else you could ever find on Earth: medicines, computers, electronics, there was nothing on our planet that could compare to these new products! And the technology by which the aliens made such merchandise was a tightly kept secret, so there was no chance for Earth companies to compete. In exchange, what aliens wanted was food and other special products that were typical of our world, that couldn’t be cultivated easily elsewhere.

So within a matter of 50 years, a large part of Earth had been turned into megafarms in order to sell those newcomers what they wanted, thus trading for the new unbelievable alien wares in return. On the other hand, all the companies on the planet based on human technology and old medical treatments were put aside, soon going to pot, leaving millions unemployed.

Earth’s military might have opposed all this but what could they try against aliens who travelled from one star to another in the same time a human could travel from home to his office? Our planet had no chance of winning a full blown war… But resentment and hatred against those alien newcomers had grown in some parts of the population, and it was said to be spreading in many areas of the country. In Wisconsin, too, some thought…

So, long story short, most of the unemployed humans simply turned to other activities, as it seemed that such aliens didn’t just like Earth’s food, but they also loved our planet as a perfect place to vacation. So, the tourist business greatly increased, although competition was stiff, every day.

This was exactly why the alien named Oola had to be murdered here in Cranberry Bay. It was why the alien tourists had to believe that it was due to some resident who hated aliens … someone who had just lost his income because of the family business closing down. Bartholomew was the perfect mark to hang this murder on. His stubborn family had been the last company in the area to manufacture small excavators and metallic hand tools, only closing up a few months ago.

He had to be blamed because he appeared to have a good reason to join one of the groups that spread hatred against the aliens across the country. The evidences that I planted at the crime scene would easily help the local policemen to come to that conclusion, as it was the obvious solution to the case.

Actually, as I said, competition is fierce among the small towns situated along the coast of Lake Michigan. Every place wants more tourists, as the aliens are the only financial resource now, fish and food apart, and a murder like Oola’s will force them to check out other better sites to vacation. They will find other less dangerous places nearby to spend their money, like Blackcurrant Bay, for example. By chance, I am from Blackcurrant Bay, I was born there 50 years ago, and what I did is for the good of my town. And for increasing my tourist business there, indeed…

Things were going to change now. Blackcurrant Bay would become a thriving place as soon as the aliens changed their destinations and started to go there instead. I was ready to welcome them, along with my fellow citizens - with the best possible vacation spot on Earth that they could ever dream of


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:50:04 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

Oola the Rat

By:
George T. Philibin



“Tourist my ass! She was a spy for the F.B.I. I know that. She came here pretending to be some dumb ass tourist but I know the truth about her. Yes, I know all truths and Oola was a rat beyond that meaning of rat.

Every day, every hour she smiled and looked happy. To me she’s just a rat. That thing that walked around on tentacles and wiggled down the sidewalk. Yet, they all loved her----the stupid shopkeepers. Just because she spent money they were all friendly toward her. I tell you she was a rat beyond the definition of the word. Yes, a rat! And that squeaky voice she had?

They didn’t know what I knew. Oola sucked the blood from winos. Yeah, did you know that! The winos under the pier. I seen her do that. And the stray dogs and cats that have been reported missing? Yes, Oola got them too. She got them all, that tentacled squid looking thing, but she made one and I mean it, one big mistake. You never trust a snake. A rat, or a two-face. The feds knew what she was doing, but didn’t arrest her. That told me that she was working for them. She had to be.

Oola thought that Buddy was a nobody. She didn’t know that Buddy works from me. I found him late one night--- high as the stars on marry-jane down at the beach. He was sixteen at the time, and just ran away from home. Nice kid, I thought. Told Joe to get him and bring him to my place. The kid took to me like a Republican to a tax cut. By the time he reached nineteen, I had him loan sharking. With his size he did a good job. Our nice little tourist town is just a cover. With all the people coming and going, they never suspect that I’m moving Heroin, weed, pills, along with laundering money in my little quaint shops along the piers. Hell, these tourists pay big time for junk. A lot of money’s flowing. I like that.

Oola asked too many questions. She was always stickin’ her ---what looked like a nose-- into my business. Asking the shop keeper in a friendly way about how much money they took in during the day. Trying to look in the back rooms. Hell, she even when so far as to ask if she could get into a poker game. Do you believe that! A poker game and she said that she heard through the grape vine that some big games go on in the back rooms.

When Buddy first told me about this Oola I thought that maybe she watched too many old Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson movies. You know these aliens from space just love the old gangster pictures. I don’t know why. I guess they all behave themselves up there. Oola kept it up. That day when she asked a storekeeper if she could have a fix, I knew something was up then. Nobody does that except a rat! And that storekeeper was Buddy.

Buddy did a good job of covering. Boy, did he do a good job. He looked back at Oola and said, “Do you have a flat tire?” Oola, according to Buddy just stuttered back. Boy that was a good one.

Buddy called me afterward and I tailed Oola. She’s smart, very smart in some ways. She didn’t call to text anybody. That’s smart. She didn’t leave any messages anywhere, and she didn’t talk to anyone out in the open. But she made one hell of a mistake. You see, Buddy knows things.

Oola went into the Historical Museum one day acting like some tourist. I had Buddy watch her. Boy was I lucky this time.

Oola went over to a picture of a light house. She spent some time looking at it and that’s where Buddy knew something was up. You see, the museum was a library one time, and where the picture of the lighthouse is, you could talk softly into the wall and be heard through it.

That’s how Buddy talked with his girl when he was a teenage. Her parents hated him and didn’t want her around him. Buddy would slip in the back janitor’s door and talk with her through the wall. Somebody else must have known about it and used it so Oola could talk with the feds. Yes! Probably some other rat the lives around here set things up. Buddy saw a fed leave the back janitor door shortly afterward.

I wanted to do the job myself---- been a long time since I killed a rat. Got out the old Tommy Gun my grandfather used when he was in the Capone gang. Been wanting to used it some day.

Wasn’t hard getting her, and the old Tommy gun would confuse he feds. Everybody uses new automatic weapons now. Not some old antique.

But I was worried. She might leave before . . . but she didn’t. No, she kept hanging around and going to this place and that. Boy, she never realized what was coming.

The 4th of July came and that’s when I got her. Nobody noticed the shots, how could they with all the fireworks going off. It was a nice-clean-job.

To this day nobody suspects me------ they think it was one of the Ardriennes. They hate Oola’s planet and have vowed to eliminate them. But what the hell. We do have a nice little tourist town----and everybody’s welcome.


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Post January 29, 2017, 01:51:54 PM

Murder in Cranberry Bay

- Winner -


Murder in a Small Town

By:
Jim Harrington



“Oola looks at peace. Doesn’t she, Nate?”

“I guess.”

“You did a wonderful job picking out the coffin. The mahogany with the white overlay sets off her blue uniform nicely.”

“Least I could do.”

“It is, given the circumstances.”

“I’m surprised no one else is here. Everybody seemed to like Oola.”

“It’s early.”

“I’ve never been in a funeral home before. It’s like a dungeon in here, dark carpet, dark walls, dark mood. All it needs is shackles hanging on the walls. These chairs aren’t very comfortable, either, and the music reminds me of molasses. I hate the smell of molasses."

“Maybe those folks in New Orleans have the right idea, having a parade for the departed and making a party of it.”

“You know, she’s almost pretty lying there.”

“She never was a looker.”

“No, not really. The wig helped, but the long, oval face and small slit for a nose made her stand out.”

“That and the fact she oozed orange tears when she cried.”

“I don’t remember ever seeing her cry.”

“She did right after you stabbed her the first time.”

“Oh.”

“Hey, Nate. Remember when we found her rocket half submerged in the lake?”

“How could I forget? Strangest thing ever to happen in Cranberry Bay. That and the time Jack Burks fell into the water, pickup and all, while ice fishing. Idiot should have known it was too warm to drive out on the lake.”

“He was new to the village. Didn’t know the quirks of Lake Erie like the rest of us. Anyway, she was kinda woozy stepping out of that contraption. How would you describe it? Like a big old torpedo with four wings and a tail--certainly not the flying saucer you’d expect.”

“A torpedo with four wings sounds good to me. I was surprised how folks here took to her. Especially, Edna Farber. She never took to anyone.”

“When we told her Oonah was an alien, she wanted to deport her back to Mexico where she belonged. The rest took a liking to Oonah right off. Even kept her a secret to keep Nosy Rosies away.”

“You keep doing that. Her name’s Oola, not Oonah.”

“Right. I keep mixing her up with that poet lady. Anyway, it’s too bad you had to kill Oola.”

“I didn’t have any choice, according to you. She knew.”

“Maybe.”

“What do you mean maybe? Maybe she knew or maybe I had no choice.”

“Maybe she knew.”

“You’re the one who said she positively did and that I had to do something about it.”

“Well, you should know better than to trust me. Aren’t I the one who told you to shoot out Mr. Tundrell’s bedroom window because he was sleeping with his daughter.”

“Uh huh, and it turned out she was living in Seattle with her mother. A shoulder shrug? That’s all you got? I could have seriously injured the man. I heard the fights on the TV through the open living room window. You know he refuses to wear his hearing aids. I didn’t expect him to be in the bedroom.”

“And how about the time I told you to run over Mrs. Gilbert’s dog because he tried to bite me.”

“You mean the Rottweiler with no teeth?”

“Yea, that one.”

“You should have told me about the no teeth thing before I hit him.”

“That’s not how I work, Nate. You know that.”

“I should, but you constantly bug me until I can’t seem to help myself. So, did Oola know or not?”

“Does it really matter now? She’s dead.”

“Yea, she’s dead, and it’s your fault!"

“Hey, I’m not the one who found her sneaking out of our house. I’m not the one who turned angry and red and told her to not tell anyone about the money she found, and that she could have some if she kept silent. I’m not the one who called her a liar when she denied knowing anything about the money. I’m not the one who forgot to move the bag of money you found on River Road to a safer place—like I told you to. And I’m not the one who stuck the blade in her, then dropped her in the creek behind the Miller’s place. The creek was a good idea, though, since everybody likes that spot for fishing. Lots of footprints to confuse the cops. So, what have you got to say for yourself?”

“You bastard. You did it to me, again. Imposed your will on me, even though I tried to ignore you. You’re always whispering in my ear, egging me on to do bad things. And I keep listening to you, buckling under. Why can’t my angel side ever win? Why is it always your voice that prevails? Dr. Jensen is right. I need to get you out of my head. Stop listening to you. Be my own man.”

“She does say that a lot. Maybe Doc Jensen needs to be the next one. What do you think about that, Nate?”


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Post March 05, 2017, 04:05:10 PM

The Undying Love Challenge

The challenge was to write about love with or from a zombie.
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Post March 05, 2017, 04:06:23 PM

The Undying Love Challenge

In Passing

By:
Robin B. Lipinski



“Hello…”
Pictures matching disjointed words appeared in Kate’s mind. Such strange pictures. Naked people wearing strange hats. Animals talking. Vivid colors… And conversation. Words coming clearly into her mind as she slept in a bed once belonging to her husband, Lee.

Lee was now no longer a part of her life. He had decided other lives, prettier lives, lives of young beautiful women were much better to be a part of. Divorce was an easy choice for him and he left Kate the bed, the house, everything except good memories of their time together.

“Hello…” Again, the greeting coming into Kate’s sleeping mind. The voice came from a shadowy figure; blurry, out-of-focus, yet somehow, soothing.

“Who are you?” Kate murmured in her dream while in the reality of the dark room she had kicked the blankets and sheets off her body. Kate enjoyed sleeping naked and tonight was no different. Though, tonight she was sweating profusely. This was due to the strange pictures appearing in her dreams. Erotic, horrific, and strange.

“I am in love with you.” Definitely a male voice. Deep in tone. Husky. And soothing.

“Who are you? Why would you love me? I don’t know you, do I?” Kate felt a tingle of pleasure tease her breasts. This along with the sweat cooling caused her to sigh. Inside her mind the shadowy figure took a more male appearance, his hands touching her.

“I once was a man who sought love but was tricked by a witch. This evil woman cursed me to live among the dead. She was beautiful and I fell in love with her, but she hated men. She took pleasure using her voodoo magic to torture men. Many such as myself have been doomed to live the life of a zombie.”

The rest of that night was one of many dreams. It was one of many passions and thoughts. That night was the beginning of something special between Kate and a cursed man looking for love.

When Kate woke in the morning she felt tired. Rising she took a shower and wondered about the previous night. Never in her life had she experienced such vivid dreams. They were so real she could still hear the man’s voice. She could still feel the tingles in her body as if he really had touched her.

Feeling good and very refreshed, though yawning a bit, she headed off to work.

The next night Kate fell asleep wondering if he would return. Green numbers on LED clock next rolled through time. Twelve, one, two…As the number, three, appeared, the dreams started in earnest.

“Hello…” he said.

“Hi.” She smiled in her sleep. More strange shapes. More erotica. More talking animals, even a laughing penguin. Only, tonight the man appeared as a man. A handsome man. His muscles large, his smile -beckoning.

The two talked and in her mind, Kate fell in love.
Kate fell in love and looked forward to each and every night as each and every night, he was there. He was constant and reliable. He was soothing and wonderful. He was in love with her and she, with him.

There is much to know about Zombie’s. Much has been written about zombie’s, even love between people and zombies. The truth is though, a normal human cannot truly love a zombie nor a zombie a human. There must be a change in the situation. Either the normal person becomes a zombie or the zombie becomes normal.

Kate studied many books about the topic. She asked many questions to those dealing with the ‘strange’. Hearing many answers, she was not happy about any of them. It was starting to appear she could only live her love with him in her mind. While it was nice, she wanted more. She wanted it all.

People in love do strange things. Not as strange as listening to penguins laugh or falling in love with zombies but they do strange things anyway. For Kate, she turned to a voodoo witch. After all, one had been responsible for turning him into a zombie so it was only logical one could change him back.

Traveling to New Orleans she met with Zarla, a wise old woman she had learned about from some of those she had questioned earlier. It was a bit scary as she entered the witches home. There were various dead animals hanging outside the door while inside all sorts of smells and pictures assailed her. She even heard a penguin laugh…

“Welcome Kate,” an old witch said without even giving the courtesy of raising her head to see who had entered.

Kate was surprised the witch knew her name but it all was so strange anyway she did not query why. Instead she,“I come to you for help because I’m in love with a Zombie.”

“Ha! Love. You people and your love. Waste of time if you ask me, but I have what you need.” The witch handed her a small glass bottle while adding, “Take this home with you and on the third day of your bleeding moment during this next month, drink everything in the bottle before going to bed.”

Kate was shocked. How did the witch know? With this look of surprise on her face the witch smiled and said, “No charge.” Then the old woman turned and started humming, completely ignoring Kate.

Arriving back home the dreams and romance continued. Then, three days into her period, Kate drank the contents and fell asleep.

Outside, lightning crashed and in a grave the zombie in love reached his arm to the surface. His arm no longer a zombie arm; now a normal man’s arm.

Inside, on the bed, Kate changed too, she now became a zombie…

Ah, love. One voodoo witch hated men, one hated women.

In New Orleans, Zarla cackled, knowing the beautiful woman was now an ugly zombie, while her male lover was free now, to find love.


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Post March 05, 2017, 04:07:12 PM

The Undying Love Challenge

Small Carcasses on the Floor

By:
Sergio Palumbo



The Thar Desert stretched for miles forming a barren boundary between India and Pakistan. Its soil remained dry for much of the year, being prone to continuous wind erosion. There were only a few shrub species that could survive in such an environment, although you really had to keep your eyes peeled if you wanted to spot any life from where their small Hindu temple stood.

As he did every morning, Jyothi cleaned the vast entrance of the stone building, sweeping the floor and removing the dust that the wind gusts brought inside. It was a struggle that never ended, which many might have considered to be worthless, but it had to be done if you didn’t want the sand to pile up in huge heaps.

Once the young bald monk had completed what was needed in that part of the building, he remembered something else he had to do elsewhere, and walked into the basement of the temple.

The old building’s basement was bleak and niffy. However, it was exactly those conditions that seemed to attract some peculiar guests – namely the voles. They had a stout body that grew up to 9 inches in length, a hairy tail, a round head and tiny ears and eyes. A person might have thought they were weak and inoffensive; in a way you might even love them, though in modern towns nowadays people only wanted to kill those using any means possible.

But monks didn’t kill such creatures because doing such would be against their religion. They simply allowed them to live in the basement and eat whatever they could find.

The fact that nobody could get rid of those small creatures made everything more difficult, a wary Jyothi considered. He knew exactly what must be done: he had to wait until the right moment came, which didn’t happen every day, of course - but sooner or later the opportunity would present itself and he had to be ready.

His eyes focused on the darkened floors and it took him half an hour before he found what he was looking for: the dead body of a vole. Of course, none of the monks killed voles. But animals died, just like humans died, and when this happened it was a reason for Jyothi to be joyful.

As the young man approached the small carcass, he considered himself lucky: this vole had just passed away, so its blood would be perfect to meet his special ends.

His capable hands went for the tools he always brought along with him and drained all the blood out of the tiny body, collecting it in a small vase before putting it under his lungi, an orange wrap he wore around his body. Then he quickly moved away to get back to his duties before his superior came to oversee his work.

“Peace and love for all creatures be with you, brother,” said Mahesh, a monk of his age, as he arrived on the ground floor again.

“And with you as well, brother,” Jyothi replied, before quickly going to his small room, where he immediately treated the blood contained in the vase with a special anticoagulant that was meant to keep it in liquid form until night came…

As he was doing this, memories filled his mind. He remembered the aspiring young monk who had reached their temple one year ago. Akshay was the name he used when he introduced himself to them but he was later discovered to be a young woman called Neha, and not a man at all. When their superior found out, he immediately drove her away, yelling that only male monks were allowed into their community. The woman begged to be let back in, but the superior proved to be unwavering. So she eventually moved away from their gate deciding to live alone in the desert.

Jyothi didn’t know how Akshay could have ever been mistaken for a man, as she was attractive even though very skinny and with her head shaved. Maybe this was love, he wasn’t sure…

Sadly, she kept her promise and stayed in the desert. She then died after suffering a lot of hardship over a few months. Jyothi had desperately wanted her to be allowed back in – but that didn’t happen.

He was very surprised when, late one evening while he was outside the temple looking for shrubs for their community, he stumbled into a strange creature. From the first impression he got, and the pale features he saw, the young monk immediately thought it had to be a fabled Preta: an undead creature, once human, that had passed away after undergoing an extreme level of hunger and thirst, according to legends. Moreover, the strange being’s torn clothes made him figure out that it was Neha, or what was left of her!

Jyothi was happy to see her again, though he was sad about the miserable end she had come to. He knew a few things about a fabled Preta: it was said to be afflicted with an insatiable hunger for a particular substance - blood from corpses. So he knew he didn’t need to be afraid for his own safety, but he also knew that there were not many ways for a Preta to get the blood she needed in that desert.

He had to help her! After all, wasn’t the love for all Earthly creatures, even the undead ones, among the key principles of their religion?

Since that day, he had started searching for carcasses of small voles, waiting for the right moment to take their blood after they died. And then he left that vase with the reddish liquid in it outside the door of the temple, waiting for the night to come so the Preta could satisfy her unearthly hunger…

It was comforting to think that Akshay - the male name which that woman had used when they first knew her – just meant ‘Undecaying’ in the oldest language of their country.


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Post March 05, 2017, 04:08:14 PM

The Undying Love Challenge

- Winner -


Beautiful Dreamer

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



He heard faint music playing like it was carried on the wind from far away. Then it stopped.

His eyes opened.

The night moon was high overhead and the air chilled him. There were palm trees all around him.

Lifting his head from the ground, Horace could feel grit in his mouth, and he chewed at it. As his jaw bobbed up and down, the dirt on his tongue dribbled out the side of his face. He put his hand to his mouth. His left cheek was a rough-torn hole, and he could feel his teeth right through the gap. There was dried blood hard-caked around it. He was going to need some kind of surgery.

Horace turned his blurry eyes towards his shoeless feet. He was half buried in the earth, his clothes torn and bloody, but he didn't seem to be bleeding anymore. The skin on his hands looked sunken and leathery, like it had burned. He was so hungry. So thirsty. His head ached.

Where am I? How long have I been here?

The last thing he could remember was Candy.

They met on the island, in the bar. She was a Caribbean knockout--the kind of girl who would have never given him a second look back in the States. She had great skin, black hair, and brown eyes. She wore a stunning, tight dress with a short skirt. Her busty figure and long legs wowed him, and he couldn't help but stare. She stalked over to him and said that he looked handsome, and that just about blew his mind. Candy had an intense, impish look on her face, like she was about to do something naughty. They had several drinks together, and then they were in her resort bungalow. He remembered she had him wind up a black, antique music box next to the bed, which played 'Beautiful Dreamer.' He remembered the strange runes and symbols carved into its cover.

Then Candy began to slowly, seductively, take her clothes off. They made love.

The memory made him sigh and smile.

Then he remembered a crash, like breaking glass, but nothing after that.

Horace wondered, Is Candy all right? Did someone hurt her, too?

He had to find her. His skin felt like pins and needles all over as he lurched to his feet. The world spun. Nothing made sense at first.

Which way? He grabbed the trunk of a palm tree to steady himself.

There! Horace heard the music box on the wind again. She must be close. His left leg didn't quite work right, and it dragged as he staggered toward the music. I--I love her.

I must make her safe, he repeated to himself.

His world spun, but he lurched on towards the music. So hungry. He was so very hungry.

Horace swallowed in a dry throat.

It felt like hours searching in the dark, but he finally shoved aside a branch and saw her bungalow.

The lights were on. He could see through the windows. Candy was on the bed, with another man.

Horace almost couldn't look. He loved her. How could she do that?

Around her wrists, he saw the rope.

She was tied down.

He didn't even feel himself start to run. Horace lurched through the open patio door and toward the man. The man looked up at him and shrieked, but Horace didn't care. He only saw the ashamed look on Candy's face, and he couldn't bear it.

The thing on top of her had to suffer.

Horace flew into him, knocking him off the bed. Horace tried to punch, but his hands wouldn't go into fists. He tried to kick, but his body wouldn't move right. He was desperate for a way, some way to hurt.

Horace bit.

His jaw and teeth worked. He bit and tore, again and again. He felt the blood slide down his parched throat and flesh settle in his stomach.

So good. He reveled in the taste. It's so good.

Horace's rapture was cut short by the man slumping. He looked down. The man was dead.

He deserved it.

"Good," Candy said from the bed.

She lay on her side. The ropes around her wrists were cut and loose, only a foot and a half long. They had made her look like she had been tied up, but she wasn't, really. Something... something about them looked familiar. He couldn't remember.

She rolled over and stood in front of him in all her glory. She stepped close, reached out, and pulled his head down.

She was so beautiful.

Candy kissed his forehead.

"You are mine now. Like the others." She sauntered to the antique, black music box and stopped it from playing.

The thump of a plant tipping over turned Horace's head. By the doorway were three men. Their clothes were torn, eyes cloudy, skin withered and dark, and their bodies ripped open.

They were dead.

Horace looked down at his bloody, leathery hands. He knew. He was dead, too.

She smiled at him, and his concern melted away. Nothing else mattered if she was near. He would do anything for her. Anytime. Anywhere. Dead or not.

"Now," she said, "all of you take this one and leave him in the grove of palm trees where you woke. Then come back here."

Her grin was just plain evil. "He will join with you soon, when the next one winds the music box."

Horace forced air into his lifeless lungs and whispered, "Yes, love."


The End
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