Tag Archives: short story

Do you like scary stuff?

My first piece of original fiction to be accepted by a literary magazine is finally out in print!

The story, Bloody Neighbors, was accepted almost a year ago and Issue #14 of Bete Noire just came out this last week. Go buy a copy and read mine and other scary stories.

Bete-Noire

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A Spider Web to the Face

I had a bad day today. This is my response to it.

Spider web to the face

There are a million and one opinions on almost anything you could name, but one thing most everyone can agree on is that walking suddenly and forcefully into a web of sticky filaments, filled with mummified insect carapaces (and if you are truly unlucky, the furious, eight-legged occupant) is a perfect way to start a Bad Day.

Such was the case for Francesca Guinevere Dubois IV, who went by the refreshingly plain name of Pat. Pat began the day in a comfortable, caffeine-supported middle ground of routine. She got ready for work and left the house, cutting through the idyllic little wooded area to get to the bus stop.

Whap! Something soft and clinging hit her in the face. A second later, she was clawing frantically at the spider web, trying to wipe it off her face and pull it out of her hair. Dead bugs dangled next to her earrings in filthy parody.

At least there was no spider, she thought. Her hair was messed up and her makeup smeared and she had no choice but to go back to the house and get herself back together. She had almost reached it when she felt a tickling on her neck as the spider that had been sitting quietly on her shoulder decided to look around a little more.

In the ensuing terror-induced flailing to get the uninvited passenger off her neck, Pat whacked her arm into a light pole, bruising her elbow badly. For the first time, it occurred to her that this might be the beginning of a Bad Day.

This little guy just arrived from someone's nightmare.

This little guy just arrived from someone’s nightmare.

There was no time to ice her elbow but she cleaned off her clothes and redid her hair and makeup. She did not dare go back through the woods and so had missed the bus by the time she got to the stop. Finally, 20 minutes late, she stumbled into work.

“Where have you been?” John, her supervisor, asked.

“I got a spider web in the face,” she replied.

He gave her a suspicious look. “Was the spider poisonous?”

“No.”

“So it didn’t bite you?”

“No.”

“Doesn’t seem like a good excuse then.” He walked away, looking disappointed with the world in general.

Typing was painful with her bruised elbow and Pat worked very slowly. Things did not improve when she spilled coffee on her keyboard and had to go down to maintenance and request a new one, as well as explain the whole situation several times over. She was far behind on her work when lunchtime arrived and was now thoroughly convinced that this was a Bad Day.

They were out of her favorite food at the cafeteria and a woman at her table complained about being cold (in August) and wouldn’t let them use the air conditioning. The icing on the cake came when she got back to her desk and John informed her that the director had asked to see her.

“I think it’s about your low productivity,” he said and then walked away with an expression that lamented that a phrase like “low productivity” even existed.

Pat crammed herself into the elevator with ten large men who had just gotten back from a long run. The elevator stopped at every floor until she finally got off on the 20th floor. She waited outside the director’s office for ten minutes before she was escorted in.

“Please, sit down,” he said. “So, can you guess why I called you in here?”

“Yes, I think so, sir,” Pat said. She wiped her hands on her pants and found them already damp. That was the point when she realized they were wet with the transferred sweat of one of the large men she had been squeezed up against. Suddenly and completely, the terrible, horrible Bad Day won. She broke down in tears.

The director blinked in surprise. “It’s nothing bad,” he said. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “I’m not like this usually. It’s just that this morning I took a spider web to the face.” She told him the whole story.

The director’s expression turned to shock. “And you still came in to work? You are an uncommonly strong person. I’ve seen grown men curl up in a fetal position for hours after walking into a spider web. I think you should go home for the rest of the day. Also, go get your elbow treated. You were coming to work so we’ll cover it under our health plan. Take tomorrow off too, just to be sure. Did you drive to work?”

“I took the bus.”

“Do you have a license? You do? Okay, take one of the company cars home. We just bought a Ferrari under our new Corporate Excess program. You can test it out for us.”

“Thank you so much,” was all Pat could say. She stood up and started to leave.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you the reason I called you in here,” the director said. “I wanted to let you know that you won the company charity raffle. Talk to my secretary and she’ll give you the $2000.”

As Pat drove home early in a brand-new Ferrari, $2000 in cash in her purse, she took a deep breath and smiled. It was a Good Day. She might have to go find that spider and say thank you.

Spider web


“Giselle” is almost here

Riddle: what does belly dancing have to do with time travel?

You will find out when my new short story, “Giselle”, comes out, hopefully next week.

I first started working on this story in February. It all started as an Invitational Prompts story. I have only done three of these, but they are where I ask one person to give me some prompts and I write a story around them. The first was “The Circle of Unbeing” which I did for Sharmishtha Basu. “Giselle” is actually the second one, which I did for Amy at The Bumble Files. The original prompts were: a sci-fi/time travel genre, a professor, a belly dancer, a message in a bottle, and an empty warehouse.

I quickly had an idea for the story, but it was slow going and I restarted it several times. Time travel stories are also quite complicated and necessarily non-linear, so it also took a while to root out all the pesky plot holes. As well, the story kept growing until I knew that I could not do it justice by simply breaking it up into installment like I did with The Circle of Unbeing. So, I will be releasing it on Smashwords as an e-book.

Incidentally, do you know Sorina M? If you are a blogger, do you follow her blog at Chosen Voice? If not, go check it out right now. I’ll wait. I have been a blogging friend of hers for a long time now and her work is absolutely amazing. Here is one of my favorites of her recent work, called Wearing a Nebula.

You can understand how honored I felt when she agreed to make the cover for my story. Here it is:

copyright Sorina M.

copyright Sorina M.

I’m currently putting the last touches on the story and getting ready to upload to Smashwords. I’ll post again when it is available.


The Tyromancer

He was setting up across the street as I was leaving work: a card table filled with blocks of cheese and a hotplate. A sign hanging off the front read: Fortunes Told!

“Excuse me, sir! Can I tell your fortune?” he called as I tried to hurry past. I was the only one on the street, so it was hard to be inconspicuous.

“I don’t need my fortune told,” I said. Still, the cheese was making me curious. “So, how does it work?”

“With cheese. I’m a tyromancer,” he said, quite proudly.

“Uh, okay, how much is it?”

“It depends on how detailed you want it. $5 for regular, $10 for an extra detailed fortune. It takes more cheese that way,” he added.

I was intrigued and the cheese was making me hungry. “Okay, I’ll take a fiver. Can I eat the cheese afterwards?”

He seemed shocked at the idea. “Eat the cheese? Eat the cheese? Do you eat the X-ray film when the doctor is finished? Or the mechanics tools when he’s finished fixing your car?”

“What do you have to do with the cheese?”

“I just melt it. I’m a progressive tyromancer. Now, what kind do you want? I’ve got cheddar, mozzarella, gouda, gorgonzola—”

“Is there a difference?” I asked, as he looked prepared to list off his entire stock. “Surely if it’s a fortune, it’ll be the same either way.”

He shrugged. “Different cheeses emphasis different things. It’s like when you go to the doctor: different doctors will tell you slightly different things, although your condition will be the same. So, which one do you want?”

cheese

“I’ll take the Swiss, I guess,” I said. I knew immediately by his face that this was the wrong choice.

“I’d stay away from the Swiss at first,” he said. “We in the business call that the Widowmaker. The best fortune I’ve ever seen come out of a piece of Swiss was a divorce.”

“What was the worst?”

“Double decapitation,” he said. “Don’t ask—it’s not pretty.

“Fine . . . I’ll take the Gorgonzola. Is that okay?” He was looking at me with a small smile.

“Yeah, that’s fine. Perfectly. Let me just add a slice of Edam, just because I like you.”

He cut off slices of the cheese and put it in a frying pan on the hotplate. Then we both got close and peered at it.

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

“That’s just grease on top. That doesn’t mean anything.” The cheese started to melt and bubble.

“Ah ha!” the tyromancer said suddenly. “Do you know anyone by the name of . . . Bob?”

“No.”

“Really? I’m pretty sure you do.”

“Well, I have a second cousin named Bob, but—”

“I knew it! Never lie to the cheese. Bob is going to call you in the next five minutes.”

“Oh come on!” I said. “I only met him once when I was ten. He doesn’t even have my phone number.”

“The cheese doesn’t lie.” The tyromancer was staring at the bubbling cheese closely. “It looks like he has a business venture opportunity for you. It’s going to fail horribly in less than six months. You’re going to lose a lot of money.”

“Well, I guess that’s good to know. I’ll be sure to turn down any business ideas my cousin Bob gives me.”

Sarcasm was obviously not the tyromancer’s strong point. “Oh, you have to though,” he said. “It’s your future; you don’t have a choice.”

My phone rang and his eyes lit up like Christmas morning. “Ha, there’s Bob now. What did I tell you?”

I took the phone out and showed him the caller ID. “It’s my mom.” I put it up to my ear. “Hey, what’s up?”

“Hi, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m your cousin Bob. I’m over at your mom’s house right now; she gave me your number. Listen, I got this great idea I think you might interested in: Chia Cars. It’s like the Chia Pets, but with cars. All I need is a bit of start-up cash—”

I ended the call and pulled out a $10 bill. “Okay, give me a sharp cheddar with a sprinkling of gouda. Let’s see what else you got.”

Harry Potter Tyromancy


Story Premise Challenge: And the Winners are…

Last Tuesday, I posted a challenge where I put up three pictures, with random words below them and asked people to come up with story premises based on them. I got 16 premises and picked out my favorite one for each picture. They are:

1.  “Mermaid/Jerk”

Winner: nightlake – “Mermaid sighted in disputed waters sparks territorial fight between warring neighbours.”

Flash premises 1

2. “Car/Peacock”

Winner: Michelle Proulx – “Reginald Hammersworth, secret agent extraordinaire, is ready for his next big mission … until Z gives him his new ride: a cute little red car with a sassy AI named Mrs. Peacock.”

Flash premises 2

3. “Kneeling Man in Woods/Violin”

Winner: Jilanne Hoffmann – “Please Mom, if you help me find my way out of this jungle, I promise I’ll practice the violin every day for the rest of my life.”

Young Man Kneeling in Forest Clearing

I promised prizes for the winners, but since everyone is different, I’ll let them decide what they want. So, Nightlake, Michelle, and Jilanne, read carefully and let me know which one you would like to receive.

  1. I will write a story and dedicate it to you. You would suggest a few key story elements (theme, genre, characters, plot elements, etc.) and I would use them to write a story. I call this Invitational Prompts and I’ve done it twice before. The first was the story The Circle of Unbeing, which I wrote for Sharmishtha Basu. The second is a story I have been writing for some time for Amy of The Bumble Files, which should be out soon. If you choose this one, email me at greenwalledtower@gmail.com and we’ll talk about it.
  2. I will email you a picture of a word or phrase of your choosing (e.g. your name, your blog address, etc.) spelled out creatively (e.g. with jelly beans, in Korean, spray-painted on the side of a police car…)
  3. I will mail you a small souvenir from Korea, which is where I live (you will need to email me your mailing address because I suck at guessing mailing addresses).
  4. I will give you one (1) piece of advice. (Note: NOT RECOMMENDED. My only piece of advice is “shape up and fly right”)
  5. I will make a video in which I will read a short story of your choosing in a creative location (i.e. not in front of my computer). It could be either one of mine or yours or one that I won’t get sued for using. I’ll give a shout-out to your blog on it.

Let me know which you’d like, and if you didn’t win, there’s always next time.


Story Premise Challenge: Ready, Set, Go!

A couple days ago I posted a quote on Facebook that said, “Original ideas appear at the nexus of dissimilar concepts.” I didn’t get a lot of comments on it, but what I meant by it was that I sometimes come up with novel idea by sticking two very different things together. For example, I might put the picture of cogs below with the word “chocolate” and come up with the premise: “A chocolate factory in Switzerland is sabotaged by the Jelly Bean Army, sparking the first of the Candy Wars.” cogs

Okay, I just made that up on the spot. They’re not always very good, but it’s a good way of getting the creative juices flowing and thinking of things from a different angle.

So, now it’s your turn. Below there are three pictures with random words attached to them. The words were provided by my wife, who didn’t see the pictures and wasn’t sure why I was asking her to give me random words, as evidenced by the first one.

Your challenge is to give a one-sentence story premise based on one of the picture-word combinations (do as many as you want, of course). Multiple entries are encouraged. I’ll let this go for a week and then pick the best one and give them some sort of prize. I’ll let them pick from some choices and although it won’t be money, I’ll try to make the choices cool. So, here are the three pictures:

1.  “Mermaid/Jerk”Flash premises 1

2. “Car/Peacock”

Flash premises 2

3. “Kneeling Man in Woods/Violin”

Young Man Kneeling in Forest Clearing

Ready, set, go!


The Chronicles of the Moldlands: Forgotten Bagel

Warning: While this is technically classified as Apocryphal History, some may consider it more in the genre of Horror because of its subject matter. If you have a phobia of mold, you’ve been warned. But read it anyway, since it’s a good laugh.

*

Life first sprang into being on the high plateau of Fridge, on the rising mounds of Forgotten Bagel. It was a primitive sort of life: growing, eating, spreading slowly, and happy just to discover the occasional half-buried blueberry. A filmy plastic covered the hills and so life was contained for a while.

The gods inhabited the Great House at that time, but soon there came the time of the Impromptu Vacation, and the gods departed from the house for the far country of Aruba. They never returned to the house again.

The civilization of Forgotten Bagel thrived until it had covered the hills and was straining to break the filmy bonds that constrained its expansion. It was the great explorer Schimmel Penicillium who led the first voyage to find the way out of the barrier. He came out into open air and into the strange land of Kitchen. He founded colonies wherever he found suitable ground and the Cillium Empire was formed. Schimmel claimed the title of Grand Mouchla and set up his capital in the caves of Bread Box, which were much more central than Forgotten Bagel. He assimilated the locals and for a while, the Cillium Empire grew like an infestation.

Try not to think of what this was originally

Try not to think of what this was originally

But there were areas of concern. Scouting spores returned to report a deep cavern of mystery named Trashbin that was filled with food and land of unimaginable richness, but was also inhabited by strange and wondrous monsters. Then there were the legends of the dark underworld known as Drain. The people of Drain were said to be dark and strong, with a touch that poisoned everything.

The Cillium Empire flourished and soon built foil mines and developed weapons and aircraft out of aluminum. So it was that the first Cillians landed in the wide basin of Sink and stood before the mighty entrance to the dark land of Drain.

Drain was wet and slick and the entrance was surrounded by slimy black fortifications. The Cillian forces were wary but approached with weapons at the ready. Still, they were not prepared for the onslaught that came. Suddenly millions of black Cladospores poured out, overwhelming the Cillians and capturing their aluminum aircraft and weapons.

The defeat caused panic throughout the Cillium Empire. The Grand Mouchla–at this time the great-grandson of Schimmel Penicillium–stationed guards around the borders of Sink. However, the Cladospores did not spread beyond the borders of Drain and slowly the panic subsided. Still, the Grand Mouchla did not like having such a potent threat so close to his empire.

Then one of the patrols came back with an interesting report. They observed water dripping from the dead waterfall of Tap. Some of the Cillian scientists conjectured that the Cladospores depended on this water and if they could totally shut off Tap, the Cladospores would die. The Cillians had recently discovered a cache of huge and terribly strong steel cables called Twist-Ties and now they undertook a project to bind these together and attach them to the upper portion of Tap, hoping to pull it closed.

After two generations, the grand project was finished and a long line of Twist-Ties was looped around the upper part of Tap and up to a hook above it. Cillian engineers winched the Tap up, but they quickly found that they were very mistaken about the workings of Tap and instead of shutting off the water, it began to gush out in a flood. The Cladospores were obliterated, washed down into the furthest recesses of Drain and a great threat to the Cillium Empire was gone. Some worried that this was only inundating the Cladospores with the resource that they needed most, but most agreed that while Tap was pouring forth water, the Cladospores would never again be able to emerge from Drain. And so, for a time, there was peace in the wide land of Kitchen.

kitchen


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