Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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11-Sept-2020

Welcome to my Spooky Flash Fiction Friday! From now until Halloween, there will be some horror going on!

I mean, horror-ish. Don’t be scared

When You’re the Kid Who Can’t Have Candy

Today’s Flash Fiction Friday is brought to you by:
The old man who lives in the haunted house across town
Pumpkin Patch
and
Candy

Lilly’s fingers tightened around the plastic handle of her hollow jack-o-lantern. The edges bit into her skin, and not just because it was half full of candy already.

“Don’t be scared,” Lilly’s best friend said. “He’s nice as long as you give him the candy you brought for him.”

Lilly gulped and nodded. Easy for Mary to say. Her parents let her have candy in the house. Ever since Lilly’s dad had gotten diabetes, all sweets had been forbidden, including candy. She’d had to bring something different, and she hoped the man who lived in the house before them would accept it as an offering.

If not, her family would be cursed for an entire year.

A small group of the older kids came back down the crumbling walkway from the porch. They smiled at Lilly and Mary. Next year they wouldn’t remember this. Next year they wouldn’t have to come to the house and make an offering.

Lilly had a long way to go before that.

One of them spoke, “Your turn.”

“Come on.” Mary grabbed Lilly by the elbow and tried to propel her forward. “Let’s get this over with so we can finish trick-or-treating.”

Lilly’s feet stayed rooted in place, as if the sickly vines that crawled up the rusting iron fence had burst from the ground and trapped her feet.

Mary frowned and looked over her shoulder at the line forming behind them. “Come on, we have to go now.” One big tug broke Lilly loose from the imaginary hold, and she stumbled after Mary through the sagging gate and up the dirty walkway. Tangled, dead weeds from the yard leaned toward them, causing Lilly to pull her princess dress in around her.

Wide, sagging stairs led to a long porch. The color had been leached from the wood years before, leaving everything a pale, ominous, gray.

A single rocking chair sat on the porch, occupied by a man.

Only Lilly knew it wasn’t a man. It was a demon. Or something bad. No one knew for sure. If Lilly looked at him straight on, he kind of looked like her grandpa, only with long stringy hair instead of bald. If she glanced at it out of the side of her eye, she could see a sort of shadow around it shaped like a monster.

It always made her shiver, but she did it every year.

This year she bit back a gurgle of fear. If the man didn’t like her offering, then her family would be haunted by the monster until next Halloween.

It had happened to Brian down the street. He’d tried to give the old man a package of beef jerky. Their family had moved the next summer.

The old man liked candy.

Lilly didn’t have candy.

Her feet grew heavy again, and Mary moved ahead of her.

Mary, who wore a superhero costume, smiled at the man-thing and held out her offering. “Kit-Kat’s are my favorite. I hope you like them too.”

The man-thing smiled, and waved for her to drop the candy into a bucket that glowed and looked like a skull. It’s smile grew wider when the candy landed in the pile.

Mary then stepped back and shoved Lilly forward.

Lilly almost fell on her face, and barely caught herself before she landed on the man-thing. Some of her candy spilled out of her jack-o-lantern, but she didn’t care. It wouldn’t matter.

The man-thing gave her a chilling smile, so much not like her grandpas that she shivered and stepped back.

“What do you have for me,” it said in a gravely voice.

Lilly’s hands shook so much that it took her two tries to get her fingers into the pocket in her dress. The contents slipped free with a hiss, and she held it out. “I—last year I noticed the holes in your pants.” She pointed at his knees.

The man-thing looked down, then back up at her and cocked its head to the side.

“I’m not allowed to have candy at my house, but this is my favorite patch. I took it off the hole my jean jacket and I’m giving it to you. So you can put it on your pants.”

Mary let out a gasp.

Lilly tried to hold her hand still as it hung in the air between them, but her whole body shook.

The man-thing leaned forward and reached out with spindly fingers to pluck the patch from her hand.

Cold burned her when his skin touched hers, but it went away when he withdrew, holding the little pumpkin patch. He looked at his knee, then up at her.

Did he not know how to use it? “You stitch it on.” She held up her elbow where her jacket had been patched. “Like this.”

The man-thing tilted its head to the other side, then placed the pumpkin on his knee. A light flashed, and Lilly threw her hand over her eyes. When she lowered it, the light faded, revealing the now sewn-in patch.

“You did it,” she said with a smile.

He smiled back and waved her away.

Did this mean her family wouldn’t be cursed? She’d have to wait and see.


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Clamshell Box: Week 2

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Week two went better than week one did.

I think.

I re-cut the board pieces, and they turned out great. The books fit and everything!

See! Not like last time.

Then I measured my cloth (twice) and started gluing it on.

This is what it looked like after adhering the sides.

Looking good!

I should probably mention that reading the directions on glue is important. I made a 1/4 cup of concrete mess by not reading the instructions. It always has to be something, doesn’t it?

Please ignore those corners. I don’t want to talk about them.

As you can see, for the most part, my measurements worked. Yay!

Now for the moment of truth.

Why????

I’m not sure what happened, but the bottom is now a little too small and the top flares out when I put the books in. Either I didn’t leave quite enough wiggle room, or I pulled something when I glued.

Likely both.

Back to the drawing board.

Check back next week for an update on my sanity…


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4-Sept-2020

Welcome to my Spooky Flash Fiction! For the next nine weeks, until Halloween, there will be some horror going on!

I mean, horrir-ish. Don’t be scared.

The Worth of Souls…It’s Not What You Think

Today’s Flash Fiction Friday is brought to you by:
A Rural Town Minister
A Batman Costume
and
Witches Night Out

Reverend Smith stood outside the church and watched the sun slip behind the distant hills. A cool, fall breeze ruffled his jacket, and the excited scream of a child filled the air.

A group of teenagers walked by, pillowcases already burdened with candy clutched in their hands.

“Hey, Reverend Smith,” one of them said.

“Is that you, Daniel?”

The group each had a costume on from the Justice League. Batman waved. “That’s me.”

The others gave half-hearted greetings.

Reverend Smith waved. “I hope you’re headed home.”

“We are,” Daniel said.

“After one more street,” the Flash said. “We’ve got daylight still.”

Reverend Smith pretended not to hear as he walked toward the small graveyard adjacent to the church. If this worked, the kids wouldn’t have to worry about being home before dark.

The rusted gate squealed in protest as he opened it, and the overgrown vines reached for his feet with every step. He’d set everything up a few hours before. Now the only thing to do was wait.

Three years of research. Countless hours wading through the occult. More hours praying for his soul. All of that would culminate tonight into either freedom or death.

The sounds of cars driving by and children laughing quickly faded into silence. He closed his eyes and prayed that everyone was inside. If this went badly, they would kill more than him.

The light waned. The upside down stars on the gravestones became difficult to decipher. The leafs from the vines blended into one organism. The distances between things became fuzzy.

Then the light completely disappeared, and the ground started to glow a  sickly green.

Not the ground, Reverend Smith realized, but the base of the gravestones. It illuminated the face of the stone, and brought out each crack and chip.

He said one last prayer as the eerie light grew brighter, then snapped his eyes open and stared at the tallest of the markers.

She would be the one to figure it out. The other three weren’t bright enough to parse what he had done. Not until after it was too late.

The four women appeared slowly. Softly. The green glow poured out of the stones and into the air. At first they resembled the cliché person with a sheet over their head playing a ghost, but with every passing second, the forms grew more life-like.

It would be easier if they were ugly, he thought to himself.

Instead of crooked hags with warts and pustules on their faces, the four women who formed from the mist constituted the most beautiful beings he had ever seen. Sensual. Striking. Perfect.

One of the side effects of making a deal with a demon.

The tallest of them looked around, resting her glimmering eyes on me. “Johnny. So nice of you to welcome us.”

Reverend Smith smiled and stood. “Sybil. You’re looking well.”

She smiled. A lesser man would have thrown himself at her, but Reverend Smith had prepared for this moment for three years. The array of roots and herbs in his pocket kept him rooted in place.

Sybil’s smile faded just as the other three witches solidified in this world.

One of them cackled.

Another stretched as if awakened from a long slumber.

Reverend Smith reached out and pulled the gate shut. A pulse of power filled the air.

“What is this?” Sybil asked.

A needle pricked his finger, and he felt blood mix with the rust on the iron.

“I can’t move,” one of the others wailed.

Sybil’s beauty faded, and her face twisted into a monstrosity that Reverend Smith would never forget, nor would he ever be able to describe it to anyone. “What did you do, Johnny?”

Reverend Smith took a deep breath and spoke clearly. “I’m afraid your days of walking this earth are finally at an end.”

She screeched, and lunged for him.

It took every ounce of courage Reverend Smith had to stand his ground. Time seemed to slow as the witch came for him. Her hand outstretched and her nails extending into claws. They raked for his throat.

Reverend Smith winced, and leaned away, but the claws hit an invisible barrier. Sparks flew. Sybil screeched, sending fear through the air.

He only had a few minutes before the barrier would fail. Even his faith wasn’t that powerful. Especially after what he’d done.

Sybil threw herself at him. “What did you do?” she roared again.

“I’ve ended your lives.”

“NO!” they all wailed at once.

Sybil pressed her hand against the shield. It bowed.

Reverend Smith took a step away, but he hit the gate and knew he could go no farther. Tears gathered in his eyes as the weight of his choice bore down on him like an avalanche. “I’m sorry, great-grandmother.”

“Your job is to guide us here each year.” One of Sybil’s fingers got through, but the claw had melted away. “You keep the town safe from us.”

“Now they don’t need me,” Reverend Smith said. He withdrew a pendant from beneath his shirt.

The rage on Sybil’s face turned into fear, and she pushed the rest of her hand out. Several fingers didn’t have ends anymore. “Stop!” she shouted.

Reverend Smith’s hand slowed, but he kept it going until the pendant reached his lips. Only then did he feel how hard he was shaking. Only then did he wonder if he was about to do the right thing.

He jerked his head back and forth. That was coming from her. He was here to end this. “I’ve made a deal the supersedes  yours,” he said.

“Impossible!”

“My soul is worth a great deal more than yours, great-grandmother.”

“You’re resigning yourself to an eternity of suffering!”

“Better than endangering everyone who ever lives in this town.” The words sounded hollow. Did he believe them?

Sybil’s arm got through, then her shoulder.

Now or never.

His life for theirs.

May God have mercy on his soul, if it ever made it to heaven.

Reverend Smith kissed the pendant, and the world went black.


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Clamshell Box: Week 1

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First off, I thought I was better with an X-Acto knife. If the somewhat meandering sides of my binding board is any indication, I could use some practice.

I didn’t take pictures. I was too ashamed.

My engineering brain is already working on a way to clamp the board and the steel ruler to the table so I don’t have to worry about holding on to it while I saw. Er, cut.

Also, a bigger knife. Those little ones feel too dainty to be cutting that board.

As you can see, my corners were a bit off. Nothing a little glue and some sanding won’t fix, right?

Have you ever heard the adage:

Measure Twice, Cut Once?

Me too! And I’m usually good at it. As a matter of fact I was checking the size of the fabric that I was about to put around the above tray, when I had a positively revolutionary idea.

Make sure the books fit.

Apparently I should have checked the sides of the tray before I glued them together.

Oops

I checked my math multiple times, but didn’t notice that my initial measurement was off.

Maybe this is a sign that I need to add more books to the series?

Tune in next week for a new inner tray. Hopefully this one will be the right size.


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