Another busy week, but I should be caught up soon and posting more around here. Hopefully. In the meantime, I thought I'd partake in a little Flash Fiction Friday with a supernatural tale, a Halloween treat if you will. First though, I want to give a shout out to Joe Schreiber, whose Stars Wars novel Death Troopers debuted at #13 on the New York Times bestseller list. Very nicely done, Joe.
Anyway, remember awhile back I mentioned how the problem with writing for certain themed anthologies or magazines is that, if you don't sell the story, you're pretty much screwed? Well, that happened to me recently. Shroud magazine had a flash fiction contest a month or two back. My story was a semi-finalist, so I know it's not complete crap, and why I feel okay letting you see it now.
Before you read it though, understand that the stories for the contest had to do with this true news story. After reading the brief article, you probably see why the contest's theme makes it difficult to try to sell the story elsewhere. So that's why I'm presenting it to you, because you asked so nicely and I'd rather give you a treat than risk whatever trick you might have in store. Enjoy.
All the King’s Horses, All the King’s Men
A joke, that’s all it had been, just some dumb prank that was expected of teenagers because, come on, they’re kids, and like all kids, they make mistakes. But no, the authorities hadn’t seen it that way, neither did the school district, and so her son was suspended for a week, a week where he spent thirty hours of community service, like he was a real criminal and not a confused, misunderstood sixteen-year-old.
That had been two weeks ago, the worst week of their lives ever since Randall left — her husband having packed his bags and walked out the front door without looking back — and now something had happened to her son.
“Honey?” She knocked on his door. “Can I come in?”
She let herself into the room. It was dark. She flicked the switch on the wall but the lamp wouldn’t come on.
“I took the bulb out.”
His voice, coming from the bed, startled her.
She cleared her throat. “Why?”
“It was too bright.”
“Honey … ” She started forward.
“Don’t. Please, Mom. Just leave me alone.”
“But — ”
She could barely see him in the dark, his face pale in the little light coming from the doorway.
She stood another moment, then turned to leave.
“I was telling the truth before,” he said. “I don’t know who it was.”
The other person, the one who had escaped in the Humpty Dumpty costume, what everyone assumed was a friend of Stuart’s.
“I don’t think … ” Stuart cleared his throat. “I don’t think anybody was in that suit. I think … it was empty.”
Later she found herself smoking, wanting to call someone but not knowing who to call. Her son — she hated to admit it — had gone crazy. Randall, she blamed Randall for this, wherever the hell he was. If he hadn’t left, Stuart wouldn’t be so messed up.
She sat at the kitchen table and went to light her fourth cigarette when upstairs she heard her son scream.
His door was locked.
“Stuart, open up!”
He cried out again, his voice unintelligible, then: “Here, he’s here!”
“What?” Thinking for an instant he meant his father. “Who?”
“Please, Mommy, make him go away!”
Her son, regressed to a boy again, sobbing for help.
“Honey” — she banged her fists on the door — “open up!”
“He wants … he wants me to fill his soul. He wants … he wants me to help put him back together again.”
Her son’s words, mixed with cries of pain, and then, suddenly, silence.
She stood very still.
She tried the knob again — this time it turned — and pushed the door open.
He was on the bed.
She started forward, was beside him an instant later. His face had gone completely ashen, his eyes open.
The light from the doorway faded, and she turned just in time to see the white curve of a giant egg disappear around the corner.