Category Archives: Flash Fiction Friday

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12-Jul-2019

Getting Your Hair Done is More than Just a Shampoo

“Are you looking at that picnic table again?” Nancy asked over her shoulder.

I blinked, and turned around. “Course not.”

The woman, Jen, sitting in front of me looked at me in the mirror. “What’s up with the picnic table?”

I ran my comb through her wet, thick, red hair. “Nothing.”

“You haven’t heard the story?” Nancy asked.

“What story?” Nancy’s client asked.

Nancy put a hand on her slender waist and laughed. “About the mystery man.”

“Mystery man?” Jen asked me again in the mirror.

I shrugged. “Are we just trimming up these ends?”

“Yes, and I want a sexy style. I have a date tonight.”

“What kind of a date?” I asked. “Should I prepare for outdoor activities, or do you plan to spend most of the evening indoors?”

Jen’s eyes went wide with pretend shock. “Why Chelsea Tylor, what are you insinuating?”

“That  you might go to the movies,” I said with an innocent look on my face.

The other ladies giggled, and I breathed a sigh of relief. That is until Nancy began to tease her client’s hair. “Chelsea, honey, why don’t you tell us about the man you saw out there.”

“Man?” Jen demanded.

I felt a blush coming to my cheeks. “I told you, Nancy, I thought it was a man, but I’m pretty sure it was just one of the local Officers.”

Jen nodded. “There are a couple of big ones. I’ve mistaken one for a man before.”

Nancy made a pffft sound. “You ain’t never seen a man before.”

“I’ve seen pictures,” Jen said.

“We’ve all seen pictures, but who knows if they’re the real deal,” Nancy’s client said. She narrowed her eyes at herself in the mirror. “The Officers and the Governor could have had those pictures doctored. Men could be twice as tall as us, or they could have three arms.”

“They don’t have three arms,” I muttered.

“Because you saw one?” Jen asked.

I sighed and pulled my scissors off of the little shelf in front of Jen. “Look, it was late. I’d had a little bit to drink and I thought I saw something outside.”

“Something?”

“Something big. Bigger than any of us, but not big enough to be a monster or anything like that.” I began to trim, the swish and click of the scissors a comfort to my ears.

“Probably an officer,” Nancy’s client said.

“Tell them the rest,” Nancy said.

Swish, click.

I dropped the ends of Jen’s red hair onto the floor. “I told you, I’d been drinking.”

“Oh come on.” Nancy retrieved her hairspray. “It’s a spooky story.”

“I love spooky stories!” Jen said.

“Tell us!” Nancy’s client said through her hands as she covered her face from the assault of aerosol hairspray.

I took a breath, inhaling the tangy spray, and let it out. “Fine.” I kept trimming as I talked, slowly working my way around Jen. “Last Friday night, after a date gone awry, I came here because I was too drunk to drive home.”

“Wait, date?” Jen asked.

I held up a hand. “You get the date story or the man story. Which one do you want?”

Jen’s green eyes narrowed, and she considered for a moment.

“Man story,” Nancy mouthed in a whisper.

“Fine. Man story.”

“Okay.” I continued to comb and trim. “It was raining. I stumbled through the door and decide I didn’t want to drip all over the floor, so I stripped down.” I lowered my voice. “I got here just in time, because a crash of thunder made me jump, then a flash of lightning threw my shadow onto the floor in front of me.” I pointed, and my hand trembled just a little. The memory of that night was still fresh, as if I’d just lived it a few minutes before. “Only my shadow wasn’t alone.”

Jen and Nancy’s client let out a gasp.

Nancy chuckled.

“A larger, thicker shadow stretched from there to there.” I pointed. “Taller and broader than mine, but right next to it.”

“What did you do?” Jen asked.

“I screamed. I don’t know why I turned around, but I did.”

“And there he was,” Nancy said.

I scowled. “Yes, that’s when I saw what I thought was a man.”

“What did he look like?” Jen asked.

“Big. Burly. His head and face was covered with hair. He wore a long coat, but his eyes…” I swallowed. “Another flash of lightening lit the world, and I saw his eyes.” A shudder ran through me.

“Wh—what did they look like?” Jen asked.

“They were blue,” I said.

Jen gasped again.

Nancy shook her head.

“What did he do?” Jen asked in a small voice.

“He stared at me,” I said. “I was standing here naked and he just looked.”

“He didn’t attack you?”

“No. A huge crack of thunder sounded—so loud that I covered my ears and shut my eyes, and when I opened them again, he was gone.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“Then he left her a present,” Nancy said.

I heart sped up. “I found a paper on the picnic table the next morning. It was smeared and soggy, but I could make out two words.”

“What were they?” Jen asked.

I paused for dramatic effect. “Help us.”

Silence filled the salon. Jen stared at me with wide eyes.

Nancy spoiled it. She started laughing.

“What?” Jen asked.

“They totally believed you!” Nancy said.

I chuckled. “Yes, they did.”

Jen scowled. “You lied?”

“Just a tall tale,” I said. But my I looked out the door one more time, and I could still see him standing there. Staring at me. I shivered. “Just a tall tale.”

***

I have a new list of categories to roll! This is what today’s were:

Genre: Tall Tale

Setting: Salon

Random Object: Picnic Table


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5-July-2019

Beware the fuzzy Customs Official

“This planet stinks of burned cabbage,” Rex said.

“Have had real cabbage?” I asked.

“Once. It tasted like death.”

I nodded my head. “Sounds about right.”

Around us beings from the three-hundred worlds rushed to and from ships. Some dragged floating carts overloaded with goods, while others had a simple bag slung over their shoulder. Plenty of dirty faces and ripped clothes greeted us, but not much of the finery that was more prevalent on the mid worlds.

“You had it before?”

“Yeah. It was one of the only crops that would grow on Bden.” I squinted against the sun—which hung too close to the planet for my liking, and finally spotted the leaning building that must be customs. “That way.”

Rex grunted and turned our floating cart and began to push again. The front corner tilted dangerously, but Rex had packed the weight to keep it aloft.

Now if customs didn’t get too nosy, we would have it dropped off in a couple of hours. I shrugged my shoulders against the unseen weight of our cargo and followed the cart.

Rex was right. The air did indeed smell like burned cabbage, and the green-ish dirt reminded me of the goulash my mother had made when we had nothing else to eat. My stomach churned, and I swallowed hard.

“Don’t look like a long wait,” Rex said as he pushed the cart in behind a pair of Phhos with a crate slung between their shoulders.

He was right. Usually on a planet like this we would have at least an hour wait. Probably more. And if there wasn’t a line, they’d make us wait out of spite, or just on principle. I stood on my toes and saw only two floating platforms in front of the Phhos waiting to enter the building. “Maybe there’s a longer line inside,” I said.

“It’s not that big of a building,” Rex pointed out.

Again, the little man was right.

The wide doors rumbled open and I caught a glimpse of a decent sized warehouse-like room with a couple of humans waiting. They waved the next cart in and closed the door. We moved up and waited.

“Something’s fishy,” Rex said.

“You had real fish before?”

“Yup. Twice.”

Nothing smelled fishy, but something sure didn’t feel right. Customs usually consisted of dozens of bored guards looking for bribes. They harassed each group coming in and out, and if you didn’t give them what they wanted—which could change in the blink of an eye—then they’d throw you in a holding cell and search your ship.

I looked around. Everyone stood patiently. I glanced behind me and found a being with a neck as thin as my wrist and as long as my arm, staring down at me with a smile.

“First time on Cader?”

I nodded.

“Not to worry. Customs is simple.”

“Bribes?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Nothing like that. You either get through, or you don’t. It’s as simple as that.”

I frowned. “Not sure what you mean.”

The doors opened and the line moved forward again.

“Wait and find out,” the guy—or maybe girl—behind me said.

Less than a small cycle later, the doors opened and the cart, along with the bearers, came back out and headed toward their ship. There was no swearing. No anger. Just a shrug and they left.

“I don’t like it,” Rex said.

I didn’t either, but decided that if leaving was the only consequence, then we may as well try.

When our turn came, we moved through the open doors and into the building. The door closed, and I’d expected it to get dark, but hovering lights brightened to make up most of the difference.

The two humans—both female—approached us.

“Haven’t seen you before,” the taller of the two said.

“It’s our first time,” I said.

They both nodded. Then a small, furry creature with pointed ears and a long tail appeared. It wound it’s way through both female’s legs and then walked toward us.

Rex stiffened. “What is it?”

“Don’t know,” the shorter female said.

“But if he says you get through, then you get through,” the other added.

I watched as the fuzzy creature walked around Rex, then me, then went back to our cart. It sat on the ground and started licking on of its front paws. Then it cleaned its ear.

“What’s it doing?” Rex asked.

“Stalling,” the tall female said. “Give him a minute.”

Stalling? My eyes darted to our cart. The drugs we had, while not exactly illegal, were usually used to enhance good feelings to the point of, well, a lot of people having a lot of fun. Cader didn’t have laws against it, but I wondered if these females would take some of it. Or all of it.

The creature finally looked up. It bunched it’s legs and jumped, landing lightly on the cart.

I held my breath as it began to prowl, sniffing everything it could reach. It stopped when it got to the container the drugs were in and brushed it’s head against the container.

My eyes darted to the females.

They kept their eyes on the creature.

It circled the container once.

I found myself tapping my fingers on my leg.

Twice.

Rex glanced at me, and I noticed sweat on his brow.

Then the creature let out a smell meowel, but it’s head against the container again, then jumped down. It then went to the corner, sat, lifted a leg and began to clean its—

“You’re good to go,” the taller female said.

“Just like that?” Rex asked.

She nodded. “Just like that.”

Curiosity got the better of me. “What is that thing?”

The two humans looked at one another, then shrugged. “We don’t know. It was here when the first settlers got here, and since then it’s taken up residence in the customs office. He’s never let anything through that it didn’t want here.”

The small one gave me a wink. “Whatever you’ve got in there must be fun, because he only circles like that right before a party.”

I stared at her.

The doors on the opposite wall opened.

The tall one waved us through. “See you guys around.”

Rex grunted and moved forward.

I took one last look at the creature, licked my lips and followed Rex.

***

I didn’t have a topic, so I asked my hubby, who is playing games with his siblings. They’re playing Firefly Adventure (whatever it’s called, not the big Firefly game, but a smaller one) and he said I should do a Space Western.

So here we are.

They suggested a teddy bear, but I already had the customs official in my head!


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28-Jun-2019

Ghosts that come out during the day.

You’re welcome.

A soft breeze floated through me. My shadow did not appear next to the shadow of the tree on the ground.

“I’m bored,” Marty said. He kept flying through the trees, looking for any humans that might have been brave enough to venture into the daylight.

“What did you expect after last week?”

Marty made a noise that sounded like a snort. It was difficult to make out facial features when everyone was mostly see-through. “They should have let us kill them all.”

“They don’t understand.”

“They’ll learn fast.”

I sighed, something that wasn’t nearly as satisfying as it had been before I’d died. “Did you believe before you turned?”

Marty didn’t answer.

Humans were hard-wired to fear things they didn’t understand, so when the spirits of the dead had begun to walk—or float—they immediately fought back. Even I had been afraid to turn, and I’d figured out what was going on.

“They’ll eventually come out,” I said. “They can’t survive too long in dark holes.”

“I did,” Marty said.

“Not that long,” I pointed out.

I could tell he was about to argue with me, but an unnatural rustle sounded.

Marty froze in place. I held my breath—not that I had to breathe anymore—and we both waited until the noise came again.

“They’re here,” Marty said in a voice so low I barely registered it.

An unseen force tugged me gently toward the human. My essence could feel the living flesh of the bodies and the trapped spirits inside. They cried to me in a language that left only impressions in my mind. They longed to be freed, but the human side of them clung to their lives as if everything would end when death came.

Those of us already free were proof that things didn’t end, but humans couldn’t, or wouldn’t, accept that the end of death was merely the beginning of a much bigger universe.

“There are over a dozen,” Marty said.

Little shimmers in the air around us announced the arrival of more of the turned. Each one left a brush in my consciousness just as unique as a person’s face.

Turning worked better with more than one of us against one of them, but if the humans knew how many of us surrounded them they would surely bolt. We didn’t want that.

“We’ll go in with twenty-five,” I said. “We can’t spook them.”

The turned bobbed up and down in acceptance.

I took a moment to choose the twenty-five, then led them to the edge of the trees.

Most of us liked to hover in open spaces. Human bodies and minds had confined us for so long that even a forest felt cramped. I let the sensation of being trapped wash through me as we moved into the forest. Then I discarded it. Emotions were so much easier to manage without the body to trap them and make them bigger than they needed to be.

Marty moved beside me. By unspoken agreement, the two of them took the lead. They would find the leader of the humans and turn him.

A year ago Marty might have tried to reason with the humans, feeling that giving them a choice would somehow be better, but all it ever did was start a fight that the humans could never win but always put their lives on the line for. If they died before being turned, the spirits within would be traumatized and become violent, like the ghosts of old. I didn’t want that to happen today.

A buzzing had started in my mind when the humans had appeared, which got louder the closer we got.

“They’re not going to go easy.”

Marty was right. Each human was different, but they all had the same emotions. Most felt fear being out during the day, but these felt…excited.

“I think you’re right,” I said. “I think they have a plan.”

“Should we trip it?”

“What else?”

Marty sped up. “Gladly.”

I’d asked Marty what he’d been as a human, but it was so long ago that I’d forgotten. One thing I knew about him is that he never backed down from a challenge or danger. In life he must have been a fierce warrior. Now he always did what it took to turn the humans. Now he understood.

It didn’t take long for us to find them. A group of fourteen dirty, scrawny humans walked almost silently through the woods. Their fear drew me too them. Like the smell of cookies or grilling meat used to when I had been human.

Instead of skulking, this group stood upright. They held rifle-like weapons that I had never seen before in their hands. The leader’s eyes swept back and forth, ignoring the ground and concentrating on the air.

Marty and I didn’t try to hide. We flew in as fast as we could, straight toward the leader.

He didn’t panic. Instead he raised his weapon at Marty and fired.

Marty didn’t bother to dodge, no physical weapon could harm us. Instead of a bullet or fire erupting from the muzzle of the gun, a ray of light punched through the air and hit Marty in the chest.

He cried out in anger and what sounded like pain.

I took evasive action and the beam pointed at me by another human went wide, but hit something behind me.

“Hold them!” a human near the back yelled.

“Better hurry,” the leader said.

I turned to warn the others, but the light hit me.

I don’t remember how long it had been since I felt pain, but the sensation came back quickly. Nerves. Skin. Burning. The urge to run.

Only I couldn’t run.

“Can you trap them?” the leader asked.

I fought against the invisible wall of fire around me.

The other human looked up at me. “We’re about to find out.”

***

I’ve reminded myself of the original Ghostbusters.

Maybe I’ll have to watch it this weekend!


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21-Jun-2019

How Good Are You at Distracting Your Friends?

I flinched as Jackie tightened the ropes around my wrists.

“I told you not to come,” she said.

“I was worried,” I said. “Can’t one friend worry about another these days?”

She let out a tsking noise. “You can, but you should have checked the house before you knocked.”

She was right, and I knew it. What with the demon possessions, the dead rising from the graves and the sudden appearance of unicorns, I should have at least tossed some holy water on the front door. Now I had been tied to a chair by my best friend from high school who was likely going to sacrifice me to who knows what deity.

When she came around the front of me I saw that three yellow, writhing tentacles had sprouted from each shoulder. Her eyes glowed green and she’d grown an extra row of sharp teeth.

“Aqua demon?” I asked.

“Something like that,” she said with a shrug. The tentacles wound themselves around her arm, then unwound, like a little girl twirling in a skirt.

I had to stall. Christian and Anna would be back any minute. They’d dropped me off on their way to an earth elemental destruction. One of those either went fast or everyone died. I was voting on fast, because Christian and Anna were the best. They’d be back.

“Hey,” I said, “do you remember when we all went to see that horrible movie about after the end of the world? Everything had flooded and humans were on floating cities and the main character had gills?”

Jackie snorted. “Two hours of our lives that we never got back.”

“Right? But was it worse than that one based on an old television show? The one with those guys sitting in a conference room in giant teddy bear costumes? What was the name of that one?”

“We swore never to speak its name, because then it would have power.” Some of Jackie’s usual amusement came back into her voice.

“Oh yeah. Still, a dumb show.”

She nodded, then moved to counter.

“This new kitchen looks great,” I said.

“They finished it just before I turned. The workers were my first sacrifice.” Jackie went to a drawer and withdrew a knife and a whisk. Then she retrieved a little plastic bowl from a cupboard.

“Well, they did a great job.”

“I thought so. I gave them the greatest honor one could receive from an Aqua demon, as you call it.”

“Very thoughtful of you,” I said.

She nodded.

I glanced around, desperate for anything to keep the conversation going. Even after a demon had taken you, it didn’t have full control over your mind. If I could keep Jackie talking, it would take the demon longer to do whatever it was going to do. She set the bowl on the table, and I had an idea.

“They don’t make cartoons like they used to.”

“Huh?”

I jerked my head to the likeness of a character on the bowl.

“Oh, no, they don’t.”

“Do you kids like that show?”

“They did.”

I managed not to wince. “Ours too. I can’t stand it. When we were kids cartoons taught us morals, now days they teach kids to be disrespectful.”

“One of the reasons we have been overrun.”

“You’re probably right.” I tried to shift my weight, but she’d tied my hands behind my back and my legs to the chair. “Still, every time someone says ‘Now you know’ I have to finish it with…” I waited.

Jackie stopped and looked at me. Her head cocked to the side, and the tentacles danced madly around her. “And knowing is half the battle.”

“See!” I said in triumph.

“I suppose that means our childhood cartoons brainwashed us,” Jackie said.

Stupid demon. I nudged the subject. “Remember when we all went to see that movie about the dinosaurs? You scared the guy sitting next to you so bad he jumped out of his seat screaming?”

A ghost of a smile stretched Jackie’s lips. “I tell my kids about that all the time.”

“Because it was hilarious. And what about the time we walked to the theater to see that one about the baseball field?” I knew that had been one of her favorites.

“That is a good one.”

Jackie straightened, and her eyes sort of misted over.

Uh-oh, I was almost out of time. “What’s your favorite movie?”

Jackie sighed. “If you’re stalling in the hope that Christian and Anna are coming back, you’re stalling in vain. The earth elemental killed them ten minutes ago.”

A ball formed in my stomach.

Jackie picked up the knife. “I’m going to give you a choice. This is just a blood sacrifice, not a life sacrifice. However, I can always kill you.” Her eyes flickered to the window and back to me. “The world isn’t what it was. I can end it for you.”

I stared at her. I tried to swallow, but all of the moisture had been sucked from my lips and mouth. My eyes darted to the knife, then back to her. Christian and Anna were dead? The last in a long line of people that I had loved that were now gone.

The knife flashed before my eyes. “Well?”

My limbs went cold. My brain went numb. I shook my head.

“Very well.”

***

Inspired by a conversation I had with some old friends about all the movies we’ve seen together.

Scaring a guy in Jurassic Park so bad he screamed – totally happened. My friend did it. She still laughs about it.

I still wonder what else I could have done with those two hours we wasted on Water World. Also, The Avengers with Uma Thurman.


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