4_Family Memories: NYC Midnight Round 2 entry.

Genre: Horror.

Location: Foreclosed home.

Object: A rabbit’s foot.

I received zero points for my round one story. I thought well outside the box and I believe that plan worked against me. I went with the most obvious story that came to me this time, let’s see how it does.
As always, thank to my lovely Mrs. Susan for letting me bounce ideas off her and get some good ideas. And thanks as always to Laura Matheson in the wilds of Canada for her editing help.

4_Family Memories

 

A young woman, forced out of her inherited family home, finds something forgotten from her past.

——————————————-

Martha took a last look at the only home she’d ever known. Today, her thirty-fourth birthday, the bank officially foreclosed. She had to leave.

Responsibility for the mortgage had become hers after her father’s death a decade ago. He’d tripped in the shed and been impaled by a pair of garden shears. Ten years earlier, her mother fell while cleaning a second floor window, breaking her neck.

Owing more than it was worth, Martha’d struggled to make the payments. A year ago, she gave up, choosing to stay until the bank forced her out.

“Happy Birthday to me,” she said to the snowflakes falling around her.

Standing on the sidewalk, she tried to recall a happy time. Whenever she tried to recollect anything from her early life, her mind’s eye turned to static. While she clearly remembered a birthday with two cakes, she had no idea why there were two.

Her ‘S-Mart’ brand galoshes left tracks in the snow as she circled the house, determined to find at least one good thought from her childhood. As she neared the garden shed, a neon-green object caught her attention.

She tremored at the thought of the shed where her father would lock her when she was disobedient. After his death, she’d avoided it, hiring a lawn service to maintain the yard. Now, she couldn’t afford to have a neighborhood boy mow the lawn.

As she drew closer, she saw a keychain. A dyed rabbit’s-foot keychain.

The moment she touched it, the static that obscured her memories cleared,an image of her father’s face as the points of the clippers pierced his chest flashed before her. She could feel the thick wooden handles in her hands as his ribs cracked. She’d felt the same sense of resistance and release when she’d used the broomstick to knock her mother off the windowsill.

When her sight returned, any memory of the vision vanished.

Looking towards the shed, she saw small barefoot prints. Martha’s tracks were the only others in the fresh snow.

I can’t just leave a barefoot child to freeze, can I?

A gentle arc of snow, pushed away from the door, hinted that it had been opened. A rusted lock hung from the latch, snow piled in a delicate heap on the top of the loop. Locked, just like her father had done to her so many times.

The neighbor’s boys, Martha thought. It’s a prank.

She looked toward the next house, suspecting that, somewhere out in the falling snow, they were laughing their fool heads off.

As she stepped away from the shed, she heard crying and dropped the keychain.

Martha was unique in the way she felt fear. To some it’s a gripping in their gut, to others a tightening of the shoulders as the hair rises on the back of their necks. For her, all her strength fell away. Her body, sensing she couldn’t control the outcome, would give up trying.

They’re using a radio to make that sound. They don’t want the joke to end.

“You’ll be rid of me soon enough!” Martha shouted into the storm as she took another step away.

Then, in the hush of the snow, she heard a small voice. “Marta, please don’t leave me again.”

Her legs gave out.

Kneeling in the wet snow, her faulty memory finally delivered. Thirty years ago, there really had been two birthday cakes: one for her, and one for the only person to ever call her Marta.

“Berta,” she whispered her twin sister’s nickname into the storm.

How could I forget her?

Pinching her eyes closed, she blocked out the cold, the sound of the wind, the fear that gripped her. Martha focused on the small voice crying out to her.

When did I see her last?

Night, moonless and still. Quiet but for the sound of Bertha whimpering from the other side of their father as he dragged them both to the shed. Even then—we couldn’t have been more than four or five—Martha’d learned to not fight back. That always made it worse.

Just go limp, Berta. Daddy will be done quicker.” She tried to teach her sister to be compliant, but Bertha always fought back, she never gave in.

Martha opened her eyes. The boot-prints that led from the house were still there, but where there had been one set of bare prints, now there were two.

She ran back to the shed and picked up the rabbit’s-foot. The lock popped open despite its decade of dis-use.

Berta! Oh, Berta, I’m so sorry. I won’t leave you.” Martha dragged the door open and stepped through, returning to the memory of that night.

Martha stood flaccid, watching her sister struggle, helpless to stop their father as he pummeled her twin. The beating ended only after Bertha too had become limp, the fight permanently squeezed from her small neck.

Martha looked at the workbench, the last place she had seen Bertha alive, and saw her there, face bloody and broken, the purple outlines of her father’s hands visible on her neck. Martha walked to the tool-covered wall, picked a dusty hacksaw off a hook, and clamped the tool, blade up, into the jaws of the vise. Looking at Bertha, she turned her head and placed her neck on the jagged blade.

“Berta, I tried to keep the house as long as I could so we could be together, but the bank has taken it. Remember how I took care of Daddy for you? And Mama? Remember how I pushed her from that window? She should’ve protected us from him. I will never leave you again.”

Martha leaned into the saw, and in a swift sideways motion, tore open her own neck. Blood from the ruptured carotid artery sprayed onto the dark cement floor.

The storm outside intensified, covering the single pair of boot prints that lead from the house. The blizzard muffled the sound of children singing Happy Birthday.

End

Advertisements

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction 2014. Round 1, Group 4.

Given prompts:
Genre: Rom-Com. Blech, my least favorite genre.
Location: Under a Bridge. Has to be predominantly featured.
Object: Must have a passing mention but must play a part.

A Dental Connection.
By Wayne Hills

Synopsis:
An eccentric dentist and his lovelorn assistant fall in love while performing oral surgery on an unusual patient.
Or: A horse walks into a dentist’s office. The receptionist says, “Why the long face?”

They worked through the night, and well into dawn of the next day. Preparing the pontics for the proper alignment and placement of the span meant to close the edentulous gap. In order for the bridge to be perfect, the doctor was their only hope.
Dr. Mark Zahnarzt was the leading dentist in the region. An introverted genius, when not treating patients he kept to himself experimenting with the dentition of mammals of all kinds. He was devoted to the care of gums and teeth. The fact that they were attached to living humans was merely a necessary annoyance.
His assistant, Ethel Jungfer, hadn’t gone on a date during the decade she worked for him. She only had eyes for the eccentric doctor, who in turn only had eyes for the mouths set before him.
Until the fateful day their office received an unexpected patient.
The door burst open at four O’clock, the time Ethel usually closed for the day; and Dr. Zahnarzt began experimenting with his anatomical models.
“I’m sorry to barge in ma’am. My name’s Wes Kuhhirt, you’ve got to help me.” The man stopped just inside the doorway, he held a weatherworn Stetson in his clenched fists.
Ethel said, “I’m sorry sir, but the office is closed.”
“But it’s an emergency, you’re our only hope.”
Hearing the commotion, the doctor opened the door to his private office. “Our hope, what do you mean? I see only you in my reception area.”
Ethel turned, “I tried to stop him doctor. I know you don’t like to be disturbed when you’re tinkering.”
“It’s all right Miss Jungfer; he needs dental assistance, that’s why we’re here.”
In truth, Dr. Zahnarzt didn’t care about the man with the faded jeans and tattered flannel shirt; it was the urgency in his voice that excited him. A dental emergency, something other than filling cavities and applying tooth whitener just walked in. He had to find out what it was.
“Thank you sir, I’m mighty grateful.” Accompanied by a jingle of spurs, Wes spun on his boot-heels, and walked out the door. They barely had enough time to look at each other in disbelief when they heard the clopping.
“Thanks again doc.” Kuhhirt said as he returned leading a miniature horse behind him.
Ethel shrieked as she ran and hid behind her employer. “You can’t bring that filthy animal in here!”
“Please, this is urgent. Sebastian here’s got a sweet tooth for candy apples and it got the best of him. His teeth are practically rotted out and we’ve got a show for some sick kids tomorrow. They’ll be mighty upset if we don’t make it. His smile is one of his signature tricks. Look.”
Wes patted the horse and said, “Smile for the good folks boy.” In response to the command, Sebastian shook his head and lifted his front lip. Ethel shuddered at the sight of the decayed incisors. What was left of the center pair were black and badly chipped.
Something sparked in Dr. Zahnarzt that he hadn’t felt in years; the thrill of a new challenge.
“Of course we’ll help. Ethel, prepare my instruments for surgery.”
Ethel’s heart skipped a beat when she heard him say her name. She couldn’t recall him ever using her first name before. The expression on his face, the excitement in his voice, he was different somehow. He was happy. Eager to be able to work with her secret love, she quickly dismissed her fear.
Wes helped the doctor set up the dental chair to hold Sebastian and returned to the waiting room. They had removed the chair’s arms and opened it flat. With Sebastian secured to the cushions, they raised it to its highest point allowing access underneath to perform the surgery. After rigging the nitrous oxide mask over the horse’s muzzle, they were able to survey their task.
Dr. Zahnarzt said, “The outer incisors appear solid enough; we’ll remove the damaged center two. I’ll need you to work with me underneath him to build the bridge to span the gap.”
Although Ethel was excited to be in close proximity to him, she had reservations about the procedure. “It won’t work doctor. The amount of material we’ll need to use will be too heavy.”
“We’ll have to be economical Ethel.” He used her name again. She felt flush.
Together they worked under the jaws of the sleeping animal, meticulously constructing the new teeth. They checked each piece as they fit them into the horse’s mouth.
Dr. Zahnarzt carefully shaved bits of porcelain from the prosthetics. He’d never made anything this big before, but thanks to years spent in his private lab, he had a plentiful supply of the resources needed to make the bridge.
Ethel carefully set each giant tooth onto a small scale used to weigh gold for human fillings and caps.
As the hours passed, and the work continued, their hands would periodically touch as each piece was weighed, modified, and checked again.
It might have been the late hour, maybe it was the lack of sleep, more likely it was the leaking nitrous oxide canister slowly filling the room with laughing gas, whatever the cause, the tooth fairy borrowed a pair of cupid’s arrows, and shot them squarely into the couple’s hearts.
At one point, Sebastian briefly awoke and whinnied, this surprised Ethel causing her to jump into the doctor’s arms. They laughed at the absurdity of it, their eyes met, he leaned down and kissed her. Their relationship would never again be simply doctor and assistant.
The procedure successfully completed, they were holding hands as Wes led a groggy Sebastian out of the office. “I’m eternally grateful. Those kids are gonna get a hoot of a show thanks to you two.”
“No, thank you Wes.” Ethel said as she looked at the doctor. “I think we’ll be putting on a little show of our own. Don’t you doctor?”
“Please, call me Mark.” He said as he closed the office door.
——

Anything Goes Anthology. This contributors perspective.

Anything Goes book
Late last fall, a submission call came up on the Facebook page for the, Fictions Writers Group. It was for an anthology asking authors to participate in something new, a collaborative project for short stories that all the writers would work on their tales with the help of the others in the group.
 This is the official mission statement of Anything Goes:
The goal of this workshop is to give the participants an opportunity to share honest, friendly feedback that can lead to a well-critiqued and edited anthology to be proud of. Remember – Your work may never be seen by the devoted readers, agents or publishers who are looking for good writers, if their attention is lost before they get to your story. It’s in everyone’s best interest to help each other have fun and create stories the readers can’t put down.
 Now that the book has been published, I believe it was a success.
 Renee’ LaViness was our point person, den mother, hand holder, and soother of frayed egos. She did a phenomenal job keeping the 21 writers from around the world on track and informed of what the next steps were.
 We were encouraged to share our stories as they progressed from raw notes, through first drafts, collaboratively edited and critiqued, to finished book. Each of us not only responsible for completing the story we were going to have included, but for assisting with the, seemingly never-ending, job of editing and fine tuning the work of the others. I learned so much in the eight months we worked on this anthology, it would have taken me years on my own to gain the knowledge all successful authors must master. Proper tense use, punctuation basics, story flow and so many other things that I really thought I knew. It was an honor to be included in the group, I hope everyone else was able to learn from me at least one small thing in repayment for the wealth of knowledge I got from them.
Thank you FWG for encouraging new independent writers. Without the support of the entire family of talented people in the group, I wouldn’t have been able to grow as quickly as I have.
 I’ll be posting my thought process on how my inclusion, Natural State, grew from the seed of an idea, to the fruition of a finished story.
Wayne Hills (Miguel A. Rueda) July, 01, 2014.
Links to the anthology: