Details

Note: It’s been nearly three years since I tried my hand at a flash fiction. I think about it regularly but haven’t felt any motivation to actually put words down. That changed today after my dear friend Carol expressed her disappointment with the ending of Checked Out (posted yesterday). I told her she could imagine that Arwen is in a 50 gallon drum in Mary’s basement. That made her happier. This story came from that conversation. And a huge “thank you” to Carol for giving me very helpful feedback on Details. Hope you enjoy!

 

“Mary Dean?! You didn’t use your real name or picture!”

“I hope you can forgive me. I hate not being completely honest in my profile but being semi-famous makes it tough to date online. Are you still game for dinner or do you want to call it an evening?” Mary gave her a hopeful grin.

“What else did you lie about?”

“Nothing! I don’t have any pets and I despise being around small children. I love wine and horror films. And I’m looking for a woman to be part of my life, long-term. I was honest about being a writer, and I have had articles published in magazines. Mostly true dating profile!”

Mary waited a few seconds, but Denise said nothing. “Do you want me to hail a cab for you? I wouldn’t blame you, but I truly am sorry and I would love to buy you dinner.”

Denise narrowed her eyes and said, “All right, but I’m ordering something expensive.”

Mary gave her most charming smile. “Wonderful! It’s a nice night; shall we walk?” She put her elbow out for Denise to link arms with. After a scowling glance, she did, and they strolled down the sidewalk.

“How about we start over? Hi, I’m Mary Dean, writer of slasher novels, lover of adult-only venues, and binge watcher of reality TV. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mary. I’m Denise Young, free-lance accountant slash amateur chef. I like quiet walks on the beach, blended cocktails, and documentaries.”

“I’ll try not to hold the blended drinks thing against you.” Mary nudged Denise in the ribs gently.

“I appreciate that. I’ll also let you buy me a few while we wait for our food.” Denise grinned.

Mary abruptly stopped and put her hands to her eyes. “Ow! Something’s in my eye.” She dug into her purse and pulled out a compact. She opened the lid, turned toward Denise, and sneezed. A cloud of dust flew into Denise’s face.

“Oh my God! I’m so sorry.” Mary closed the compact and put it back in her bag.

Denise was bent over, wiping her face with her hands and dabbing at her eyes with her coat sleeve. Eventually, she looked at Mary and said, “It’s okay. I’m fine. Startled me, that’s all.”

“Are you sure?” Mary used her best concerned voice.

They had walked in silence a few minutes when Denise stumbled.

“Are you okay?” Mary turned to face her and held her in a steadying grip.

“I… I’m very light headed. Can we sit down, please?”

“No, we should keep going. We’re nearly there.”

Mary put her arm around Denise’s waist tightly and pulled her along.

“You know, writing horror is harder than people think. It takes work to get details like poisoning effects and blood spatter right. A good research assistant is a must. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to last very long. Maybe I should switch to romance novels…”

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New Home

I watch from the shadows as he opens his eyes. It takes a few seconds before I’m able to recognize the confusion on his face and a few more before fear takes over. His fingers twitch but he’s unable to move his hands because of the cages I’ve fitted over them.

It doesn’t take long for him to realize that his fingers, eyes, and mouth are the only parts of his body able to move. He can’t see it, but the modular body cage and straps I attached to the padded table keep him completely immobile. It’s not very pretty to look at but it took months to construct and I’m proud of the final result.

“Good morning,” I say cheerfully as I move to the table, next to his head. I lean over so he can more clearly see my face. “I hope you slept well. Are you comfortable? Nothing pinching?”

His eyes grow wide and then narrow. He says a few words but the thick strap of leather covering his face from just under the nostrils to the middle of his chin prevent anything but muffled sound from reaching me.

“I would say I’m sorry about the restraints but that would be a lie. You were always very keen on honesty. ‘Real men always tell the truth.’ You were fairly selective on when you’d follow that maxim but since I’m a real man and it’s what you said you wanted, that’s what I’m going to give you. Here’s the truth: I plan to hurt you very badly. I want you to know what’s coming and I want you to know that I’ll be the one to say when it will stop. You have no control here. You will lie still and wait for me, night after night, day after day. You will be dependent upon me for everything and it will be up to me to decide whether I feel like providing.” I’m surprised by the coldness I hear in my voice.

The unintelligible words have been replaced by whimpers. I lean farther over his face, our noses are touching now. “You may have found God and believe that He’s given you absolution but I certainly haven’t forgiven you. You can dwell in His house after you die, but until then, you’re mine.”

I move away and grab the metal folding chair I had been sitting on while waiting for him to wake and drag it noisily to the head of the table. “I want to show you some of the toys we’ll be using to pass our time together.”

I’ve got an assortment of items that will bring back plenty of old memories for us both. I scan over the cigar, lighter, and dildo before I decide. I double the thick leather belt and bring it down hard against his bare legs. The crack of the leather and the cry of pain bring a smile to my face.

“Welcome to your new home, Dad.”

Coffee Girl

I’m happy to get out of the cold and into my favorite coffee shop. I’m pretty sure the cute woman behind the counter has a little crush on me, which is a nice bonus to the perfect cup of coffee and blueberry muffin she usually has waiting when I arrive. The attention feels nice and I don’t mind admitting that I flirt back a little. It’s all harmless and makes us both feel good. No big deal.

The place is empty and Roxanne is smiling at me when I stand in front of her at the counter. “Good morning,” she says brightly. “The usual today?”

“That sounds great, yes. Not busy this morning, huh?” I ask while she’s putting my muffin into a small bag. She already had the coffee ready for me. I love it when she does that. Like she knows just when I’ll be coming in and what I’ll want. It’s been a long while since anyone took the time to notice my habits. I wonder if she’s single. I bet she’d be an attentive lover.

“No, it’s been sort of slow. I think there are lots of people taking today off to extend the long weekend.”

“Right! I forgot about Monday being a holiday. Well that just made my day a little brighter. Do you have off, too?”

“Yep. I’m only here for a few more minutes and then I’m off through next week. I was only working in case there was an early rush. Charlotte can handle it by herself now. I’ve got some vacation time saved up and I’ve decided it’s time to use it.”

She hands me the muffin and slides the coffee over so I can reach it. I take my wallet out of my bag and offer payment and a nice tip. “Doing anything special?”

She looks me squarely in the eye and the intensity of it straightens my spine. “Oh yes, very special. Something I’ve been planning for a long time. It’s going to be fantastic.”

She holds me with her steady gaze. “Well, I hope you have a great time.” I pick up the coffee, offer a smile, and turn to go. “See you later,” I call over my shoulder.

I hear her say, “Yes you will” but I don’t turn around. I feel better once I’m out the door. I take several large sips of coffee and tell myself that Roxanne is sweet and harmless. And she makes a fantastic cup of coffee. She’s just excited about her time off.

I’m nearly to the end of the block when I feel lightheaded and stumble. I’m vaguely aware of the coffee falling from my hand as I hit the sidewalk, flat on my face. I try to push myself up but can’t make my body move.

“I’ve got you, baby.” I recognize the voice through my mental fog. Roxanne gathers me into her arms and kisses the hair just above my ear. “Roxie’s got you now.”

Roses

The curtains are sheer enough to see their silhouettes but little else. I remember when we picked them out. I only wanted something to cover the large windows but Marla had very specific requirements. They had to go perfectly with the walls and furniture. That’s how she approached every aspect of her life: the perfect accessories to create the perfect image.

I stopped being the perfect accessory a year ago. It took her three months to find my replacement. Her new wife couldn’t be more different from me: tall to my short, fair to my dark, sweet and simple-minded to my direct and intellectual. And, of course, she’s much younger. Our life wasn’t very exciting or perfect after seventeen years. It was time for a change. I only wish I had seen it coming. I could have prepared. Lesson learned. I’m a planner, now.

It’s a cold night but I won’t be here much longer. My spot in the bushes across the street protects me pretty well from the wind and, really, that’s the worst part. The wind and the damp ground that I’m kneeling on seep into my bones. I’ll need to take a long, hot bath when I get home to completely get rid of the chill. Three minutes to show time.

Valentine’s Day was never a big deal for us but I guess the new Mrs. Hughes feels differently. I wonder which one of them had set up the candles and spread the white and red rose petals on the bed in the master suite. I was surprised and, if I’m honest, hurt to think that Marla would have done something so romantic. She was never like that with me. I must not inspire that sort of lust and desire.

I only had a few minutes to get my own surprise set up and check out the rest of the house. Not much had been changed since I moved out. The biggest difference was that all of the photos of me and Marla had been replaced with ones of the new couple. It took an incredible amount of will power not to destroy the large wedding portrait hung over the fireplace in the living room. They do look good together, I’ll give them that.

Their shadows are moving slowly in the flickering light and I imagine there’s a cozy fire burning. As they lean in for a kiss, there’s a flash and a ground-shaking boom. The force of the explosion knocks me onto my behind and I’m momentarily stunned. A few seconds later, neighbors are streaming into the street. As I prepare to escape through the dark yards, I notice a scrap of white against the black ground. As soon as my hand touches it, I know exactly what it is and bring the soft petal to my nose. It still smells sweet. Happy Valentine’s Day, Marla.

Blast

“Thank you for calling. This is Sheila, how can I help you?” I don’t really want to help but that’s what we have to say. Honestly, I don’t want to speak to anyone at all. I had a terrible night and I know that everyone who’s taken a moment to glance at my face would have noticed my swollen, bloodshot eyes.

It’s nearly 9:30 and the noise level in the open workspace has increased considerably. There’s always more chatter on a Monday morning. Everyone catching up with each other about what they did over the weekend. I don’t participate and hope no one asks me to join in. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional small talk with co-workers, it’s that I haven’t got anything I want to share. I spent the past two days arguing and defending myself against claims of infidelity. As if anyone would even want to have an affair with me. I’m 53 years old, overweight, and haven’t been called pretty once in my life. But Jeff would hear none it. A few texts from some stupid man who had the wrong number but wouldn’t stop with the sexually explicit messages – even though it was clear that he had the wrong person – seemed to be all the proof he needed. His paranoia has been growing since being laid off and I’m beginning to fear for my safety. He’s never been violent before but he’s changed so much.

I’m still listening to the caller ramble on about her billing problem when there’s a loud bang near the reception area and the conversation around me ceases immediately. Another booming sound reverberates around the us. Then I see him. Jeff, his eyes wild and his face red, is steadily making his way toward me. He hasn’t said a word but is scanning the room, like he’s looking for someone in particular.

I am completely unable to do anything besides watch as he turns to his left, brings the shotgun to his shoulder, and shoots Paul in the face. The group of women he had been with scream and drop to the floor.

“Was it him, Sheila?!” He’s not looking at me when he shouts but, instead, moves to the right a few steps where Carl is still seated behind his desk. Jeff raises the gun again and I can see the back of Carl’s head explode.

I jump to my feet as he’s reloading, pulling shells from the pocket of his black parka. “It’s no one, Jeff! I told you! There is no one. Please, dear God, please stop!”

And he does stop. He stops, looks me in the eyes, and aims the shotgun at me. “You fucking whore.” He says it quietly, calmly, and I can barely hear him.

Without lowering the weapon, he marches up to the front of my desk and presses the barrel to my forehead. It’s still hot.

“Whore,” the word reaches my ears a split second before the blast.

Return Visit

There’s a soft knock on the door and Dr. Clements comes in, looking at my chart as he walks.

“Susan, back’s not better, huh?””

“No and I noticed a mass about a week ago. It’s gotten considerably bigger. Oh, and the stretches you had me do aren’t helping at all.”

“OK, lie on your right side and let’s have a look.”

I do as he asks and I hear him wash his hands and pull a paper towel from the dispenser. I close my eyes and feel his chilled fingers as he locates the spot and very gently prods the mass.

“I feel what you’re talking about. This wasn’t here the last time you were in. You noticed it about a week ago?” I can feel him start to manipulate various spots and when he gets to what feels like the base of my spine, the pain is so strong and sharp that I can’t help but call out.

“Sorry about that. I just need a few more seconds.” He continues and the pain intensifies.

“Is it moving?! I think I can feel it moving!” I don’t know how much longer I can lie still. It’s getting very hard to control my breathing.

Suddenly it feels as though something has punched through my back. I hear him gasp and curse and the stool he was sitting on clatters over on its side. I feel light-headed from shock and pain.

My hand automatically goes back and I feel hot, sticky wetness. I move my fingers a little higher and can feel where my skin has been torn. I hear a gurgling yelp just before I feel something bite into my index finger. I yank my hand back and stare at where my finger used to be.

Before I can react, I feel it rip itself from my body. I can’t help the scream that rushes forth. I double over and fall from the exam table just in time to see the creature skitter across the floor and jump onto the doctor’s chest. Its spider-like legs, still heavy with blood and bits of my tissue, have small pincers on the ends and they’re holding tightly to Dr. Clements’ white coat. I scream again and I can hear the nurse pounding and shoving on the door but the doctor is pressed against it, trying to get the thing off of him.

I hear a loud crunch and a large portion of the thing’s body disappears into the doctor, who shudders and goes still. I sit up but can’t bring myself to move. I’m mesmerized by the sight of this thing feeding on my doctor.

It’s quiet except for the sounds of the pincers tearing at flesh and organs; the nurse must have gone to call for help. Slowly, the creature backs out of its meal and turns toward me. Its face is human-like with blue eyes and round chubby cheeks. It moves a little closer, opens its mouth, and says “mama.”

 

Never Again

I’m already feeling a little light-headed. It shouldn’t be long now. Just need to close my eyes and try to sleep.

I can feel him laying beside me. He always takes up so much of my bed. He’s much too heavy for me to move. But at least it’ll be the last time I have to deal with it. I won’t have to feel him on me or in me or smell him or hear him or see him ever again. I won’t ever have to get him out of my bed before Mom wakes up. I’m still not sure how she hasn’t figured it out. I guess it’s true that we only see what we want to see.

I know I sure tried to fool myself for the past few months but that’s impossible now. My breasts are sore and growing much faster than they should be and my belly is growing, too. I’m twelve years old! How can I be pregnant? How could he have been so stupid? He promised he’d always protect me and always love me and that this was his way of teaching me, of showing me his love. He’s been teaching and showing his love since before I turned five.

There’s no way I could have his baby. I can’t even imagine how that would go over. Everyone would find out about me and Dad. Mom already complains that she feels like an outcast, the black sheep of the family. Having a knocked up 12 year-old daughter and a sick pervert for a husband would make things so much worse. No, she’d never let that happen.

I think he’ll sleep for a few more hours. I’m glad he came to my room later than usual. It should leave enough time for me to be gone and for Mom to find us – and the note pinned to my nightgown – before he wakes up. Let him explain it. I only wish I could see that. I’d love to see how he tries to convince her that nothing was going on between us. I hope she gets the note before he does.

I wonder what my baby would be like – what I would be like – but I just can’t do it. I’m sure he would deny everything if I told Mom what’s been happening under her nose. He’d definitely deny that it’s his baby. He’d try to make me out to be some sort of slut. I couldn’t live on my own and there’s nowhere else for me to go.

It’s getting so hard to breathe. I’ve got to calm down. Relax. It’s nearly over. I won’t fail this time. I won’t rip the bag off of my head or tear the plastic covering my mouth. I was weak before. I wasn’t pregnant before. I can’t… fail this time. I… can’t… fail…