2016 NYCM FF Round 1 Group 20

This is my entry for the first round of the 2016 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction challenge.
My prompts were, fantasy, a garbage dump, a pack of cigarettes.
Feel free to comment and share.

_______

One Brother’s Future.

Synopsis: Brothers Matt and Nate scratch out a life on their small island of garbage. Through tragedy, their mother’s wish for her son to find a better life is given another chance.

 

Nate jumped at the rumble of a fresh load approaching.

Content, knowing they had time before the truck reached their end of the dump, his brother Matt mumbled, “Chill, Nate.” Matt licked his paws and washed his black snout. “When the truck crosses the creek, he’s in our territory. Until then, it belongs to Rocky and his raccoon brethren.”

Nate circled the den, his thin tail slapping Matt as he poked his pointy head out through the hole they had gnawed into the discarded end-table.

“But Matt, Matt, what if he stops close? He does that sometimes. And it’s daytime. Daytime, Matt. We can run over and snatch something sweet. Just a treat, Matt. Something sweet.”

“Nathaniel.” Nate stopped fidgeting at the sound of his full name. “If it comes, it comes. If not, it wasn’t meant to be.”

Listening, Matt followed the truck’s progress. First the crunch of gravel as it entered through the rusted metal gate that marked the edge of their world.

He’d never been beyond that point. He’d only come close once.

Near the gate were the recyclables: plastic, glass, and large metal boxes that had once housed hundreds of their rodent relatives, deserted now that Dog lived there.

Dog’s shouts lived in Matt’s nightmares. “Rat-Rat!” Matt shivered in his matting, willing the memory of the day he saw Dog’s face up close from his mind.

The truck engine droned in waves as it wound passed the cement mountains where the birds lived. “Truck coming. Truck. Truck. Truck coming.” The birds talked a lot, but never really said anything.

Behind their end-table home lay a swamp. Throaty bullfrogs serenaded the dump with low-slow blues, and gators called like sirens, enticing the residents with the deceptive promise of an easy meal on fish and shrimp. Sometimes, the sly gators hid in the creek to catch an unsuspecting creature taking a drink. Fear kept Rocky and the other raccoons on the far side of the water.

Matt knew there were only three things the raccoons didn’t do: cross the creek, come out during the day—unless they were foaming at the mouth, and speak in the common tongue.

When the drawers of the end-table rattled. Matt opened his eyes and stretched in anticipation of the truck’s fat tires splashing through the water meaning there was only one possible destination left, Matt and Nate’s doorstep.

When he heard the engine roar and then stop without the splash, Matt settled into his bedding and mumbled, “It’s Rocky’s trash now.”

Over the incessant nattering of the birds, Matt heard Nate call out. “Candy box!”

Matt spun as Nate’s tail slipped through into the daylight. Rushing to the opening, he watched as Nate swam across the creek. Matt saw the human driver standing by the truck, a white and red box at his feet.

He reached the water just as Nate cleared the other side and grabbed the box. Instead of returning, Nate began to tear it apart.

“Nate, get back here!”

The moment he shouted, he realized his mistake.

The indecipherable chatter of the raccoons preparing to defend their land started as quietly as the romantic chirping of the crickets calling out in the night for a mate. By the time they were loud enough for the human to hear—and dash for the safety of his truck—Matt reached his brother.

Nate’s mouth was full of white paper and brown leaves. Filters hung from the ends of the cigarettes he had pulled from the pack.

“Matt, Matt, this candy isn’t very good. Matt, try some, Matt.”

“No Nate. We’ve got to—“

In a flash of brown and black fur, Nate vanished.

Matt panicked, his mind returning to another sudden swatch of brown fur at the main gate. Instead of the incoherent clicks and chirps of their attackers, he heard Dog’s shout of, “Rat-Rat,” just before their mother disappeared.

Between the raccoons forcing them into the swamp, and Dog terrorizing them when they went near the gate, they were the only three left of their kind.

She had brought him to the gate to tell him to leave. “Your brother Nathaniel’s a sweet boy,” she had said. “But he’ll never make it out there. One of us has to stay here with him.”

Nate’s screams broke his trance. “Matt, Matt, Rocky’s got me. Matt.”

Matt attacked the larger animal. His claws and teeth gnashing with a fervor that took Rocky by surprise. The sight of their leader releasing Nate made the other raccoons stop long enough for Matt to latch onto the scruff of Nate’s neck and drag him into the water.

The raccoons rushed to the edge and stopped, too wary to try to cross.

Matt dragged Nate back to their den, accompanied by the high-pitched buzzing of the flies as they called in the swarms. “Fresh blood. Fresh blood…”

Chunks of red, black, and white flesh hung from Nate’s belly.

“Nate, what were you thinking?”

Blood seeped from his mouth. “Matt, Matt, I’m sorry, Matt.” He clutched his prize, unwilling to release it. His eyes focused beyond the walls of their discarded home. “Matt, Matt, do you ever wonder if there’s anything on the other side of gate?”

“No Nate, not anymore. We’ve got each other, that’s all we need.”

“Matt, but isn’t mom out there?”

Matt’s chest tightened at the question.

“Yeah, Nate. She is.” He hadn’t the heart to tell his brother exactly what happened the day he’d seen Dog up close.

Nate’s breath began to come in short bursts. Matt knew the end was near. The end of both their lives in the dump.

Matt licked Nate, cleaning the blood from his brother’s whiskers. His vision blurred by tears, Matt smiled, “So, how’s that candy?”

“M…, Matt, it tastes better with a little spit on it.” His eyelids fluttered and closed. “Don’t eat the furry end part, makes your mouth dry.”

Nate’s voice, already small and weak, faded into silence. “Matt, Ma—-“

 

 

Chronology of the Apocolypse release

Teaser note related to my  two stories included in this collection.

Chronology Amazon Link

 

Alex My son,

Today, on your eighteenth birthday, it’s time you knew the truth about your father.  Jason, the man you know as your dad, my husband, isn’t your father. His brother, the man you know as Uncle Jason, is your real father.

I’ve loved Auggie from the moment we met, but time, and the laws of our society, forced Jason and I to stay married.

 

 

 

Love you,

Mom.

 

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

A Ghost’s Story: Chapter 9.2

A Ghost’s Story: Chapter 9.2

By: Wayne Hills.

‘Coming to you from Warner Brother’s studios…’

 Sidekick Andy Richter begins another nightly episode of, Conan, the same way he has for decades in the living world, as he will for eternity in ours. Sitting in my familiar recliner in the living room of our home, chubby dachshund Lola on my lap, apprehension overwhelms me as I glance toward my wife. Why I am afraid of what I might see puzzles me. Inexplicably, I’m relieved to see that Suzie is knitting her endless ball of yarn into the ‘Never Ending Story’ of sweaters, just as I expected. The garment never got bigger, the wool never smaller, but I can tell she’s content just working away.

But I’m not content; something pulls at my memory.

Why do I think her project is never going to end?

I watch as her hands nimbly work the long slender needles in her fingers; the soft but surprisingly strong digits I’ve held a thousand times. Her right index deftly pulls the yarn from the ball, slips it over the top of the shiny pink needle, and then quickly, almost imperceptibly, transfers it onto the left hand tool to become a knitted stitch. Or a pearl, one is over the stick, the other under I think. She knows, that’s all that matters to me. Her happiness, her safety, that’s all I care about in life.

Yet there’s something more, a tinge in the back of my mind. Something isn’t done, I have left something incomplete. There’s unfinished business outside.

 Outside? Why would I need to go outdoors?

I stand and walk to door.

I look back at my wife; her gaze alternates between the work in her hands and the TV screen.

“Suzie, I need to check on something outside. I think I left the hose running.”

I don’t know what else to say. I have to go to finish what I’ve started. Even though I’m not sure what it is, I can’t ignore it and stay.

At least I know Suzie will be safe and happy.

Why would I think otherwise? It matters that I feel this way, but I don’t know why.

“I’ll be back my love, don’t worry about me.” I say as I reach for the doorknob.

“OK dear.” She replies without looking at me.

My hand hovering over the knob, I stop, turn, and go back to her. I kneel before her so that she has to look into my eyes.

“Suzie.”

“Auggie?”

“You know I’ll love you always and forever, don’t you?”

“Of course Auggie, don’t be weird.”

I kiss her and hold our lips together for one long breath. I lean back.

“You’ll be all right without me for a while. I’ll be back.” I mean it and know in my heart it is true, but at the same time I am afraid. I don’t know why I have to go or what it is I will do once I leave. I just have to leave.

“I told you not to be weird,” she smiles as she reaches up; I feel the warmth of her fingers touch my cheek. “You know I love you too, I’m just not a nerd about it. Now go shut off that hose, Conan has some good guests tonight.”

She returns to her knitting as I walk to the door.

As I step through the opening, a thought occurs to me, ‘I wonder if Doc’s found his eye yet. ‘

——-End———

A Ghost’s Story: Chapter 9.1

A Ghost’s Story: 9.1

I find Doc outside attempting to rearrange the misplaced parts of his legs. I notice his jaw has reappeared, as well as some more of his, still incomplete, arm.

“Doc, I’ve got to tell you I was a little disappointed with you. I’m hoping that you knew I’d be safe in her bubble.”

“Yes, Auggie, I said you were special. None of the others can leave of their own accord. They must be drawn out or have you with them. I knew that if she went inside, she wouldn’t be able to get out.”
“But why did she want me in there? Her plan was to trap me inside.”

“Her plan was to shred you inside. You would be trapped and out of the picture. That’s what she wanted. If she were to cut you up out here, you would simply return to your home bubble.”

“So Roger and Lucy are okay?”

“They’re safe, I’m sure of it. Roger’s probably getting a lap dance right now completely oblivious to the adventures they’ve been on.”

“But why did you stay here and just float around in pieces?”

“I don’t have a home. When I died I just stayed where I was murdered. I have always been most comfortable in the uncharted space between the living world and this one.”

When he finished putting his legs in order, I helped him up.

“What do I do now Doc? Can I trust you?”

“I know I owe you an explanation Auggie, I’ll do the best I can.”

He told me about the murder of his parents and the hypnotic suggestion put into his impressionable young mind. He told me an eerily familiar story, about seemingly benign strangers asking for help on a rainy night. He talked about his parent’s gory death at the hands of the caped man, and Theo Loddi’s murder from his. That night when he was a boy, Rita was a blond, and the man in the cape was the same man he saw through the tear between realities. When Doc came face to face with him, a moment before he was cut to pieces, he saw the man for what he really was. He saw the demon’s face and knew he couldn’t help them anymore. That’s why he tried to push me into the bubble. He didn’t think he could get Rita in, so he tried to protect me. He hoped I would think of something to help end this.

“Unfortunately, it’s not over, is it Doc? He’s still with the living. He’s still killing.”

“You’re right, he is. We have to try again to stop him; we have to build an army. I’ll get Roger and Lucy back.”

“How, they’ll remember everything that happened to them once they’re outside. Do you really think they’ll try again?”

“We don’t have a choice, there’s nobody to help the living but us.”

“Okay, but I need to go home first. I have to see if Suzie is all right. The last time I saw her…” I had to pause, the horrific image of the last time I was with her still terrified me. “Frankly I miss her.”

“I’ll gather the rest of myself back together and I’ll call on you when I’m ready. Auggie; you go see your wife.”

We shook hands and we parted ways. He to gather an army, and me to see my love.

A Ghost’s Story 8.1

A Ghost’s Story. Chapter 8.1

By: Wayne Hills.

Dr. Bukowski’s skill is rare; not enough to be considered truly unique in the world, but uncommon enough to be sought out by those who need authentic psychic abilities.

His power as a spirit medium allows him to speak freely with souls that have passed on from the world of the living. His gift first manifested the night his mother and father were brutally murdered; a side-effect of being forced to watch the loving couple who had given him life tortured and mutilated. Mercifully, his mind completely erased the bloody event from memory.

Medication, both physician and self-prescribed, hypnosis, even a few black magic spells from a coven of Wiccan who helped refine his gifts couldn’t help him remember what happened to his parents. It wasn’t until he was contacted by a Police Detective tracking down a lead on a horrific double homicide that he discovered the truth, and remembered every gruesome detail.

Det. Theo Loddi was investigating the murder of a retired couple who were discovered in their home eviscerated and partially devoured by their pack of rescued pets. Loddi found connections to a dozen similar killings, only one of which had a living witness; the thirty year old cold case of Dr. Eugene and Edith Bukowski. Their adolescent son, Jordan, was present, and although covered in his parent’s blood and his own excrement, was inexplicably unharmed.

A month before the future Dr. J. Bukowski left the physical world; Det. Loddi showed up at the doctor’s office to see if he could jog his memory and uncover any clues to the identity of the suspected serial killer. The moment the two men shook hands, adult Jordan remembered it all:

The hard patter of raindrops on the roof.

The open doorway to the street devoid of light.

The mysterious lost couple in need of help that came to his childhood home on that long ago forgotten night.

The tall man, wearing all black. The cape that fascinated the young impressionable boy. The red lit eyes that equally frightened him.

And there was his female blonde partner dressed all in white. Her long, shiny raincoat. Her platinum blonde hair, wrapped in a sheer scarf to protect it from the rain drops.

He saw the events through someone else’s eyes. A video was playing that only the doctor could see.

He felt a strange throbbing in his own forehead as he watched the man place his left thumb between young Jordan’s eyes and slowly trace a star pattern. Vividly he recalled how the touch made him very sleepy, how the woman talked gently to comfort him as the life was literally drained from his parents. Most important of all, he remembered her instructions. Just as a hypnotherapist can make a person quit smoking and awaken with no memory of the imbedded thought, she implanted a command. He was to forget everything about this hideous night. In exchange, he would be given a great gift, the power to speak to anyone who has passed on. Except of course, his own newly deceased parents.

She told him that in time his memory would return. Specifically she said, “Thirty years from today, a man will come to ask questions about this night. Upon the visitor’s touch, all knowledge of this evening’s events will come back.” She told him that his task would then be to seek out the person the caller inquired about.

There was one last instruction given to that young, blood splattered, boy that evening to remember and carry out. Much like a side-show hypnotist will leave a post hypnotic suggestion to cluck like a chicken with the snap of a finger, a seed was planted in that immature brain.  A tiny thought lay smoldering, waiting to ignite and explode in a fury of rage and destruction.

When all the information that could be gleaned from the unsuspecting guest was uncovered, that older, wiser, stronger Jordan Bukowski was to kill the man whose touch brought back this night. He was to murder that evil man who made him remember the horrible massacre of his parents. Jordan was to slice him to pieces, and rip out his guts.

Three decades later to that very day, the eminent and respected Dr. Jordan Bukowski, did just that.