Halloween '19 Flash Challenge


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Tell us which you preferred:

Poll ended at November 10, 2019, 02:22:50 AM

The Thing at Walden’s Pond
0
No votes
The Very Old Bookseller of Dark Street
1
17%
Starfish
2
33%
Alliterative at best
3
50%
 
Total votes : 6
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Post October 27, 2019, 02:22:50 AM

Halloween '19 Flash Challenge

Good evening, ghouls and ghasts. I present four short tales of the macabre for your entertainment and evaluation"
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Post October 27, 2019, 02:23:48 AM

The Thing at Walden’s Pond

By Megawatts

As a volunteer caretaker at Walden’s Pond, I’ve seen many things. Beautiful sunsets, picturesque flocks of birds, and crystal clear water that seemed to invite one in. However, during the evening hours the sun hides and Nature’s voice sometimes sounded like a warning. Then one night as I stood near the pond, I understood why.

A large octopus-type amphibian walked out of the pond on ten or twelve tentacles, beamed at me with four eyes and very slowly and cautiously approached! I backed up a little and hated myself for not bringing along my Browning semi from home. The thing came forward, then stopped and gazed at me with all four eyes moving independently. Both my eyes gazed back in unison. We stood still while the sounds of Nature continued with their chant. I usually trusted my eyes, but tonight the thing began to glow and radiated a soft orange color. It still didn’t move or make any sound or movement with it tentacles or with what looked like a head. Just its eyes shot around noticing everything, I sure.

I backed up some move. My impulse to run grew inside me. The thing moved forward again, then stopped. I stepped back and tripped over a indentation in the path. I fell on my backside but never lost sight of the thing before me.

I started moving using a crab-walk backwards. The thing gained on me and shot out a tentacle which wrapped around my chest. It picked me up and when I got my balance back it retraced its tentacle and looked me over.

“Are you okay?” the thing said.

I stared and stared and it repeated, “Are you okay?”

“Are you okay?” again it said.

Flustered, I answered, “I-I-I-think–so.”

“That’s good, you guys can break an arm or leg because unlike me you guys have bones. I on the other hand just have tissue and muscle which doesn’t break on impact. In many ways I’m luckier than you guys, but I do have drawbacks.

“I like you, been watching you from under the pond and decided to make contact,” the thing said.

I didn’t know how to answer, yet I started to sense a friendly and compassionate feeling emanating from the thing. Its orange hue added to friendliness. But, it did look like an octopus standing upright on tentacles and that had me stunned.

Sweat beads formed on my forehead as I tried to calm down; I wanted to find out what it was—and I didn’t want to anger it!

“Have you lived here-----long?” I asked.

“For two hundred years, you see I like the solitude and the water is so pure. All the lakes are interconnected around here. I like this one the best! My name is Bstu***th,” it said.

“My–name is John Hopman,” I answered; I sure a hell couldn’t pronounce his name!

“Years ago a guy by the name of Thoreau came here. He built a small cabin. All he did was walk around and look at things. That winter he walked out on to the ice—and the fool fell in! Do you believe that? Why would any one of you people walk out on the ice?

“Well, I saved him. Lucky for him I was in the pond that day. As he sank, his legs were a squirming, and his arms going every which way. I grabbed him, surfaced and carried him back to his cabin. After the shock of me and after a few days we became friends. He taught me English. I taught him about the stars and other worlds and things that were too far advanced for him to understand.

“He was such a nice fellow and said that he would keep it secret that I lived here,” Bstu***th said.

“Where do you come from?” I asked.

Bstu***th scraped out a star cluster in the dirt. “Tonight you’ll be able to find it.”


We talked and talked about many things and I was surprised at how much it knew about our society. One aspect of its life became apparent after talking with it: Time to them didn’t exist! Only the moment! He reassured me about that and said, “If you would like to speak with Thoreau, just tell me and I’ll tell him. In my existence he is next to me but in yours he has been dead for over a hundred and fifty years. Plato, Socrates, Newton, Edison, Tesla and many other great beings from you society are here in my moment. So you can see now that our meeting was always----as best you can understand it. A solitary creature like me is not isolate from things. No, we see all.”

If I were in a dream, if I were suffering from dementia, if I were suffering from PTSD, or if I were suffering from a drug overdose—I don’t use drugs or drink much–------did this day really happen? What the hell is going on!

I stepped back and rubbed my eyes. When I opened them, Bstu***th was still there just looking and changing colors like a kaleidoscopic display, soft yet noticeable.

“I must be going back now. I can’t keep out of water too long for my skin will become dry. We will speak again. Remember Nature for she can teach us many things, just like Thoreau said over and over again.”

I watch Bstu***th slip back into the water and wondered when I would wake up. That night I looked up at the stars and found the cluster that Bstu***th drew.

The next morning when I arose, I was sure it was all a dream. I walked down to the pond to take its water temperature and send it in, but I almost dropped my laptop. There in the sand and dirt were drag-like marks going into the pond.
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Post October 27, 2019, 02:24:47 AM

The Very Old Bookseller of Dark Street

by Sergio Palumbo

One thing the town of Rockford, Illinois, is known for is its coffee. Yes, one might think of Seattle first but Rockford really knows about good coffee as its fleet of local roasters make the classic beverage immensely refreshing. You must not forget, also, about the famous local breweries…

That said, have you ever heard about the strange bookstore between 2nd and 3rd Street, not far from downtown? How about the very elderly bookseller who is its proprietor?

Maybe you haven’t. After all it was not an easy bookstore to spot, and it couldn’t be found on a common street map. The reasons for this are many, and the explanation would require another story…

For now, allow me to tell you why it was so difficult to find it…

*****

The young, blond-haired man arrived at the second-hand bookstore on Dark Street a few minutes past 1 P.M. and he noticed a sign on the wall saying they were only open till 2:00 P.M.

Hurrying inside, his blue eyes immediately focused on the proprietor, a very old bookseller, who might have been mistaken for a character from a Harry Potter’s ™ novel: a very long grayish beard, curly hair and a masculine face that seemed to have gone through many and many decades, his skin having been apparently sandpapered by numberless winds, actually.

The ancient volumes that surrounded him, on shelves and inside cabinets, looked as old as their owner and were everywhere.

“Good morning, sir…” the newcomer greeted the bookseller. “These books are very old, aren’t they?”

"Oh, yes, they are..." the proprietor replied.

"They are wondrous, full of decorations and colorful covers...I am not experienced in vintage books, but do you have texts about fairytale creatures like monsters, or also demons?”

"Do you look for something about old rituals to bring them into this reality?" was the straight-forward question he got from the bookseller.

"What?" the other asked immediately. "I was talking about Roleplaying manuals on monsters, or collections of some Fantasy stories, something like that…"

"Ha, that is unusual..." the old proprietor said, surprised. "I thought you came to this place on purpose..."

"Which means what exactly…?" the younger man burst out. "What are you talking about? Are you actually suggesting that I could buy a book that would really bring monsters and demons into this reality? Are you making fun of me?"

"Forget what I said...I thought you were a different kind of person."

“What kind of person would that be? A gullible one?"

At that moment, the bookseller appeared angered and suddenly added, "Most people don’t usually see this bookstore. We sell rare objects here, surely not meant for average customers. Anyway, how did you find me?" the proprietor raised his deep eyes, looking directly at the man.

"I got lost. I’m not from Rockford, you see," he replied.

"I see."

"Maybe you could tell me how to get back to Main Street," the man said.

"Indeed. I have maps of downtown here somewhere…" ensured the proprietor heading deeper into the shop, eager to get rid of the man as quickly as possible. But when he returned with a small map, he found the newcomer pointing a strange short wooden stick at him and smiling.

"This is a magical weapon, a Ghtebnyt that can make you suffer by causing deep everlasting wounds. As you can tell, I am not a simple tourist! So where is the sorcerous tome that has allowed you to call once into this reality the Great Demon that has allowed you to live so long? How old are you really now? Two hundred years or more?"

“I thought there was something unusual about you from the start. After all, very few people can see this place and somebody rarely happens on it by chance.” the other admitted.

“You know that you can’t escape the power of this Ghtebnyt…no mage can. You can’t even imagine how long I’ve been looking for that tome!”

“Yes, you have a very powerful weapon, and not even the Russian Demon of Midnight or the Diable Tonnère could destroy it.” the bookseller nodded.

“So, you have no choice…you have lived far too long anyway. Now it’s my time, old man. Give me that tome!”

So the proprietor stood up, went to a very worn-out cabinet in the corner of the room and opened it using a metal key that suddenly appeared in his hands. Inside, a large and dusty leather cover contained pages about forbidden rituals. This was what the newcomer had long been looking for and now it was his! The bookseller took the tome and handed it over to the young man who accepted it with a sneer.

“It looks as if I won’t need to make you suffer today,” the thief smiled. “Now, go to that corner, face the wall and wait for ten minutes while I leave. And don’t try to follow me!”

After a few minutes, the old man turned his head and found the shop empty. He sighed. The proprietor knew that the young man did not know what he had gotten himself into. The rituals of evocation in that ancient tome might order the Great Demon to give him a very long and powerful life…but immortality came at a cost. In fact, that one would soon discover that once a week, in return, the Great Demon – which was a very small unearthly creature, in reality… - would materialize inside his body, digging into his chest. This would cause the man unbelievable suffering because of the creature’s claws, its fierce teeth and the elongated feet that fed on human tissues and bodily fluids. It was part of the agreement used to call that powerful demon. The bookseller had grown used to the pain, but the young man did not know about it yet. He wouldn’t discover this until he recited the page with the evocation itself.

Maybe he would find such pain too much...perhaps he would also give up soon...
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Post October 27, 2019, 02:25:35 AM

Starfish

by Michelle Dutcher

“He’s the one,” said the small spectacular-wearing man to the larger woman beside him. They stood in the corner of a busy Greyhound Bus terminal in the infinity grayness of unforgiving overhead lights.

“Which one? How can you tell?” asked the sturdy woman excitedly.

“The gloves, my dear. It’s 105 degrees outside at midnight and he’s wearing leather gloves.” He looked at her to see if she understood, but obviously she was still lost. “He is hiding the palms of his hands – he uses them to feed.”

“Wow, that’s really weird, Raj. How did you know about that?” she asked, looking at him in awe.

“I read the material, Belinda. Like you were supposed to do. When we were hired to find a starfish they gave us a list of things to look for, so we could identify them.”

Belinda looked at their prey from a distance as he stepped closer to the sandwich refrigerator. “But he looks so normal,” she told her partner.

And James did look normal. With an average height just over six feet and a proportional weight around two hundred pounds, James’ salt-and-pepper hair and brown eyes topped-off what seemed to be an average worker on route from one city to another – probably taking a short vacation to see a relative. But James didn’t have any blood relatives, not really, having been manufactured in a laboratory during a short-lived experiment crossing human DNA with starfish DNA.

The small bespectacled man grew quietly excited as he watched the average-looking traveler reach for a two-pack of hard-boiled eggs. “That’s a sure sign!” he told his companion gleefully. “You’re now going to see a wonder of genetic engineering in action.”

James picked up his snack and took it to the cashier, handing her a card from his wallet. A few niceties were exchanged between the two, ending with the cashier saying “Have a nice trip” in an apathetic tone of voice. James grabbed his backpack and placed it on a two-top round table in the cafe’ area. He carefully looked around the station at the rest of the people coming and going, before hiding his hands and his meal behind the backpack.

“He’ll crack it now,” said Michael, “but only a little…it only takes a fraction of an inch for the stomachs in his palms to wedge their way inside the egg’s shell – at least that’s what the papers said. You really should have read the papers, Belinda, the whole exchanging of DNA is fascinating. But I guess reading is not really part of your role. It’s a shame that our employer lost his arm in a riding accident, but soon we will be well paid when we deliver our parcel in good condition. And our employer will be made whole again.”

Exactly as predicted, James cracked the egg with one sharp rap and then placed his hands around it. Within twenty seconds, there was a quiet look of satisfaction that crept over the Starfish’s face. He smiled finally, having eaten the soft interior of the egg. This was the voyeur’s signal to move in.

“Get out the hypo,” Michael told Belinda, who did as instructed. This was the part of the job the large woman was best at. The two quickly crossed the floor from the vending machines to the table where James sat alone, surrounding the average-looking man with their bodies.

“Derick! My old friend,” said Michael with a jolly smile. “How good to see you again!”

James was surprised by the intrusion, thrown off by abruptness of the strangers. “My name isn’t Derick. You’ve mistaken me for someone else,” James told the pair. He felt a sharp jab in his side as Belinda stuck him with the needle. He would have protested but the liquid inside worked almost instantly, making him groggy and disoriented.

“We’re here to pick you up, Dereck. To take you home,” said the small man, ‘helping’ the man out of his seat, Belinda supporting most of his weight as James was forced to go with them.
Through the haze that followed, as James passed out while being thrown into a car, he heard the man behind the glasses tell him, “Don’t worry my friend – you will be well compensated.”
In what seemed like only a moment later, James found himself lying on a metal table, staring up into the brightest light he had ever seen. There were men in white coats hurrying around the room.

“He’s waking up! We need to get some anesthesia over here quick. We don’t want him going into shock!” But James had already had the time to look over to see a surgical saw being used to separate his arm from his shoulder. The saw had sliced through the meat and was screaming as it cut into the bone. He tried to scream but he couldn’t move his body. He saw a cone dropping down from the ceiling, covering his nose and mouth.

“Breathe deeply! Breathe deeply…this will all be over soon,” said a woman in a white jacket through the haze that drowned him. “That’s right, that’s right. Go back to sleep. Don’t worry about your arm…it will grow back.”
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Post October 27, 2019, 02:26:32 AM

Alliterative at best

by Indie Adler

Jeff was unlucky.

His first wife had been killed by his stalker a few years ago. When he first explained it to me, I had felt incredulous. Then I felt somewhat guilty for wondering who on earth would have been inspired to stalk him. The dead wife thing made me feel even worse.

I think being brought up Roman Catholic means guilt is a natural default position for me. I wanted to feel like a nice person, so I invited him out with my friends.

The whirlwind romance with my friend, Jennifer, surprised me.

“We’re soulmates,” Jeff said, with his trademark grin. “Jeff and Jennifer even sounds poetic.”

Alliterative at best, I thought.

He based their compatibility on random things like having well-matched star signs, and because they both loved the colour green. If Jennifer said her favourite ice cream flavour was salted caramel, then, of course, it was Jeff’s favourite flavour.

Jennifer was enamoured. She used up her savings on lavish holidays for him. I would have said for them, but places like Vegas had never been her thing. Jeff was the gambler. We argued, but on my part, it was to no avail. Money had become like water to Jennifer, and she was happy to let it slip through her fingers.

I missed my friend. I got rare glimpses of her in the company of Jeff, and always she seemed a little more diminished. Jennifer’s spark had all but died out; then one compliment from him and her face would light up, as though he were the sun.

I hated him. I felt guilty about that.

After months of not hearing from them - and me trying to alert Jennifer that I thought he was wrong for her - Jeff invited me to their anniversary.

“I thought that was next month?” I asked.

“That’s the wedding anniversary,” he said.

Not our, but the wedding anniversary; cold bastard. I thought. Jeff’s probably just logical not as emotional as you are; it doesn’t mean he’s terrible. Stop being so judgemental.

“And this anniversary is…?” I asked.

“The day you introduced us,” he said. “I’m really thankful for that, Angelica.”

Yes, you’re going to hell thinking nasty thoughts about people. I thought; toying with the gold cross on my necklace.

*

As I stepped into the house, I suddenly became a little disoriented. At the door, Jeff stared into my eyes for a disconcertingly long time.

“Am…” I shook my head. “That’s odd, I had a sort of dizzy spell for a sec. Erm. what was I saying.”

“Seemed to be a question,” Jeff said. “You started with am.”

“Ah, yes.” I nodded, stupidly. “Am I the first here?”

“Yes,” he said.

I nodded and unzipped my jacket.

“We’re having a bonfire. Jennifer’s tending it.” Jeff said. “You might as well keep your coat on.”

I nodded and zipped the jacket up, preparing to leave the lovely warm house for the chilly backyard.

“Oddest thing,” he said, as he filled a glass with red wine for me. “Jennifer, had someone send her a magazine article. Was it you, Angelica?”

Without meaning to, I spoke. “Yes, about gaslighting and how sociopaths use it to control people.”

Panic rose within me. Why had I just said that!

Jeff flashed his usual grin, and I felt myself smile back too; the panic receded.

He handed me my glass and opened the sliding doors that led to their back garden. In the distance, at the edge of the apple orchard, I saw the flickering of yellow flames.

As we walked to the bonfire, Jeff explained to me that he understood why I had sent Jessica the article.

“You wrongly thought I was a sociopath,” he said, calmly. “To be honest, I’m a little offended that you thought that.”

We were nearer the fire now, and I almost fell over a charred log. Jeff steadied me.

Dully, I wondered if this was going to be a BBQ party. A smell of bacon wafted on the breeze. I looked at the log, over which I’d just stumbled. I wondered at the solitary, slightly scorched, green shoe at one end of it.
“I’m more special than that, Angelica,” he whispered into my ear. “It’s quite poetic, really.”

To silent music he twirled me around and around and around, and softly said:

How many can claim...
to be able to maim...
to lie, cheat and steal so well...
as the ultimate ar-tist...
the one...
and likely only...
psychopathic hypno-tist

It didn’t seem like poetry, but it stays with me always. I can’t speak it out loud. Couldn’t say it when the silent music became the sound of sirens. I couldn’t speak it when so-called poetry became interrogation. Hate became love and love became hate.
“I hated Jennifer...no, I hated Jennifer...no, no! I didn’t love Jennifer, I loved Jeff.”
Innocent became guilty. No matter how loud I shouted it.
“I am GUILTY!!!”
*
There’s so little distance between the words psychopathic and psychotic; it’s just a matter of three letters. In my case, the first seems like a catalyst to sounding like...or becoming the last. Poetic. Psychotic. Psychopathic. Alliteration is pretty.
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Post October 28, 2019, 09:11:26 AM

Re: Halloween '19 Flash Challenge

My vote is in...eh,eh!!! :D

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Post October 28, 2019, 10:36:25 AM

Re: Halloween '19 Flash Challenge

Got my vote in!
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Post October 28, 2019, 11:44:45 AM

Re: Halloween '19 Flash Challenge

I voted.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?
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Post October 28, 2019, 08:25:21 PM

Re: Halloween '19 Flash Challenge

My vote is in.
Since the house is on fire - at least let us warm ourselves.

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Post October 30, 2019, 10:12:15 AM

Re: Halloween '19 Flash Challenge

I like how the voting is going: 0,1,2,3! LOL
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