Tag Archives: death

The Sickness. Short Story.

John walked down the empty street, his breathing was slow and heavy, each breath came with a wheeze. Occasionally he would stop and hawk up a lump of phlegm, spitting it onto the ground. He ignored the twin streams of mucous running from his nose. He’d been sick for two weeks now and it seemed like he was the last person left in the city. When rumours could still circulate he’d heard the other cities weren’t fairing much better, at this stage he could be the last man anywhere. He was tired, so very tired but he kept going. Around him the street lights began to grow brighter, it was dawn. He started coughing, each cough tore at his chest, his vision started to swim, John stumbled forward then dropped to his hands and knees until the fit passed. He spat on the ground again, ignoring the flecks of blood that streaked through the mucous. Slowly he got to his feet, that alone took almost all of his strength, but he was nearly there now.

He stopped outside the door, it was smaller than he remembered, less imposing, about eight foot tall and ten feet wide. John went to the small computer screen at the side of the door. He’d soon find out if he was right or not. He pressed a few buttons before he found the option he was looking for. He clicked open, a woman’s voice spoke from the wall, startlingly loud in the quiet “Opening the door will expose you to harsh conditions outside and may mean your death. Should the doors fail to re-engage it would mean the destruction of this city. Do you wish to continue?” he clicked yes. His throat was sore, each time he swallowed it felt like he was swallowing razor blades. He hadn’t spoken since Matilda died a few days before, he wasn’t sure if he still could, most people couldn’t at the end. A siren started blaring from the door as red lights began to flash, “I require identification from the highest ranking member of the community. Please look directly into the camera for your retinal scan.” John moved closer, here went nothing. The computer scanned him and quickly located his profile, “John Henry Adams, you are cleared to open the door.” he stared at the screen, he didn’t expect it to actually work. So it was true, he really was the last one left. There was a loud, high pitched whine followed by a deep grinding noise, the ground around him trembled as the door opened. How long had it been sealed? Someone somewhere must have known but he didn’t. He knew what had been outside, before the bad things happened. He knew that there had been life, animals and trees and plants but now there was nothing left but great desolate plains, filled with nothing but ash and death. Still, he wanted to see it, before he died, feel wind on his face, see the world that they had come from. Besides, what did it matter now? He was dead already, he was just waiting for his body to get the message. The door revealed a large room, thirty feet by forty, it was brightly lit by intense flood lights, empty biohazard suits lined the walls. He stepped into the room and as soon as he crossed the threshold the door started to close again. The voice spoke, “Warning: Once you leave the city limits you may not be able to re-enter depending on your level of contamination.” John ignored the voice and shuffled across the room to the final door, it was as large as the first, there was another computer pad here, “please confirm retinal scan.” John moved closer to it. He was feeling weak now, he didn’t have much longer. He leaned against the wall as the computer scanned him, “Retinal scan confirmed. Door will open in five minutes.” John let out a surprised gasp that turned into a coughing fit. Did he even have five minutes? He shuffled to the edge of the door and leaned against the wall, letting it support his weight. Slowly he began to slide down it, he didn’t have the energy to stop himself.

As he waited he wondered what outside would be like, no one had been outside since the city had been officially opened all those years ago, when the doors had been sealed and humanity had been saved. He could be the first human to go back outside since then, all transport was done underground via railway and they had everything they needed in the cities. A siren started blaring, startling John from his thoughts, had it been five minutes already? There was a rush of cold air as the door opened and the air flooded into the room. He breathed deeply then started coughing. His vision swam, darkness crowded the edges of it as bright spots of black and red danced across everything. Finally the coughing slowed, then stopped. He felt light-headed and dizzy, but he wasn’t done yet. He tried to stand, but his legs quivered and shook before coming out from under him. He waited for a moment, getting his breath back, he rolled onto his stomach and started to crawl. His hand reached outside and hit something cold, but surprisingly soft and slightly wet. He peered out at the expanse of green in front of him, it was magnificent. He dragged himself from the doorway, feeling the wind on his face, flowers dotted the grass along with trees, reaching towards the heavens. The sun shone down, warm and comforting.

John rested against the tree trunk, he couldn’t go any further, this was it for him. He ran his hand through the grass again, how long had it been like this? How long had they been kept cooped up in the cities? He wondered if anyone else knew but that didn’t matter, he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone anyway. He closed his eyes, each breath coming with a wheeze and phlegmmy rumble. Nearby he could hear something moving towards him, he was too tired to feel fear, what did it matter now? A large creature appeared, walking on thin, almost delicate legs. It had brown and white fur, large eyes and slightly pointed ears that stuck up form the top of its head, it leaned down towards him, sniffing curiously. Slowly, gently he reached out and placed a hand on its side, feeling the warmth of it through its fur. He smiled, then closed his eyes for the last time. A second later his hand dropped from the creature sending it bounding off with a graceful leap. John’s chest fell still and with the sound of birdsong in his ears and the feel of wind across his skin he slipped away into the darkness.

Preminition. Flash Fiction.

Elena stood at the stove, spatula in one hand, frying pan tightly gripped in the other. Behind her sat Daniel, her husband of eight years and their 5 month old daughter Jessica. Jessica let out a shrill laugh, Elena scooped up a piece of bread and flipped it, “OK, careful I’m coming around with the pan.”

Daniel cupped his hands around his mouth and called “hot stuff coming through!” Elena moved past him, rolling her eyes as she smiled at him. Elena scooped up the slices of bread and placed them onto Daniels plate, then she was back at the stove. The morning light shone through the window on her left, sparkling in the stainless steel kitchen sink. Elena dipped two more pieces of bread into the egg mixture and put them in the pan, they sizzled as they hit the heat. Elena froze, it lasted less than a second, more of a stutter than a pause but to her it seemed endless. She gripped the frying pan tightly, she could feel the warm plastic handle digging into her palm, the heft of the pan in her hand. Elena spun, with a strangled yell she brought the hot pan crashing into Daniel head, he fell from his chair, he let out a groan “what…what hap-” Elena brought the pan down on his head again, he lay on the ground, one arm twitching wildly, his breathing was shallow with occasional hitching gasps, Elena raised the pan up “I’m sorry.” She brought the pan down, Daniel lay still. Elena dropped the pan, it landed with a loud clatter. She felt sick, her hands shook violently, but she couldn’t stop. She looked at Jessica whose face was red and streaked with tears and the shrill cries suddenly came into sharp focus. Elena ran to Jessica ‘s high chair and pulled her free, trying her best to sooth her daughter. Elena turned from the kitchen and walked down the short corridor, painted a nice muted green, Elena felt a horrible stabbing in her gut she remembered how difficult it had been for them to decide on a colour, such a silly argument but it had gone on for weeks. She’d do anything to have that stupid argument again. Elena opened the front door and stepped out into the corridor, she walked down it in her bare feet, the carpet was surprisingly soft. She walked past the elevator, still trying to sooth Jessica, and in to the stairwell.

Elena’s breathing was heavy, her arms felt impossibly tired, and Jessica was still sniffling. It wasn’t that much further she’d already gone seven floors. Elena didn’t pause at the top, she opened the door and walked out onto the roof. For once she was glad she lived in a place where the manager liked to let things slide. The maintenance workers had been bitching about the broken door up here for weeks. Elena shivered as the cold wind stole her warmth, Jessica started to cry again. This was the fastest way, the best way. Elena walked up to the edge and without hesitation stepped off. Together she and Jessica fell.

Elena and her family weren’t the first to die that morning and they weren’t the last. Elena and others like her had seen what was to come, the foul things clawing their way into the world and they knew that there was only one escape.

In the Darkness. Flash Fiction.

“The dead can be a little restless, you need to walk through the tunnels at least once every four hours. You don’t have to speak to them if you do not want to, they find the presence comforting enough.”
“But why do they need our presence?”
The old man’s face darkened, “We do not really know, it is not something that is widely discussed, few among the public are even aware of the service that we provide. We all have our own theories. Did they tell you that I died once?”
“No, they didn’t.”
He shook his head, “Awful business. I was only a child, I fell into a pond and drowned, luckily a man passing by was able to revive me. I don’t remember much about that man, but I remember the awful, cold blackness that filled me. There was nothing on the other side, no god, no light, no past relatives. It was cold and it was empty and I was completely alone. That is why the dead find us comforting I think. They can feel the living as they pass by.”
The old man sighed heavily, “I dread having to go back to that place every day. I know it’s what awaits me, awaits all of us.”
The young man had gone pale, he felt faintly nauseous, he had never really given much thought to what happened after you die, he had just assumed it would be like they said, eternal peace and happiness. From one of the alcoves came a low, mournful moan. The young man jumped, the old man chuckled at his discomfort. “they like to call out to us sometimes, remind us that they are still here. You’ll get used to it, they mean no harm. It might seem scary at first but you’ll adjust. Probably quicker than you expect too.”
The young man turned as he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, he let out a startled yell that was bordering on a shriek, the old man stopped his slow, steady walk and turned, frowning at the corpse that was now sitting up in its alcove. The yellowed sheet had fallen down its chest, revealing an emaciated body. The skin of the corpse was a deep brown, its eyes were two black pits in its face, its cheekbones jutting out sharply just below them. The young man opened and closed his mouth, then finally he was able to speak, “Do…do they always do that?”
The old man was frowning, he had gone slightly pale, “No, I’ve never seen them do that before.”
The corpse raised its hands and clasped them together, the bones in its fingers creaking and cracking at the movements. It opened its mouth and drew in a long, rattling breath before it started to talk. The voice came as more of a hiss, it reminded the young man of the sound of air being let out of a balloon.
“There’s something here in the dark, please. Save me.”
Around them they could hear the sound of more an more of the corpses sitting up, the same phrase echoed throughout the winding labyrinth, as each corpse pleaded with the living, “Save me.”

Cause of Death. Short Story.

Carl looked at his watch, only another ten minutes and then he’d be done here. The morning had flown by but after lunch everything just seemed to grind to a halt. He looked at the word documents he had open on the computer and clicked around a little bit, he could hear the steady click-clack of Vanessa’s high heels approaching, if she caught him “slacking off” she’d be pissed, regardless of the fact that he had no work to do. She passed by him without comment leaving only the light scent of her perfume behind her, his shoulders relaxed a little, he yawned and clicked back over to the internet again. An email alert popped up, Carl groaned, he was only a few minutes away from freedom, an email at this time of the day usually meant he’d have to hang back for a while. He opened his email and relaxed as he saw who it was from, Dave, he opened the email.

Found this really creepy site! Thought you’d get a kick out of it. Carl clicked the link beneath it, it opened to a black webpage with red writing in a font that was supposed to be scary but just looked a little childish. He scanned through the page which promised to reveal the secrets of your death at the click of a button. Smiling a little he clicked the button and the page reloaded.

Carl Jenkins – Dies at 56, heart attack in restaurant during anniversary dinner, dead before ambulance arrives.

Carl felt a shiver go up his spine, how did it know his last name? He shook his head, probably some kind of software trick, maybe it just used the username for the computer, he was the first to acknowledge he wasn’t the most computer literate of people. He fired off a quick reply to Dave and asked about lunch tomorrow, then the clock struck five and he logged out. He grabbed his stuff and made his way out of the office quickly, before anyone could corner him about staying late to finish off something last minute.

Carl just finished eating dinner when the website popped into his head again, he grabbed his phone from his pocket and brought up the email from earlier, he clicked the link again and the site loaded exactly the same as before, he clicked the button and was brought to another cause of death.

Carl Jenkins – Dies at 46, crushed by a lorry while crossing the street

He shook his head and tried for another one.

Carl Jenkins – Dies at 34, chokes on own vomit after a night of heavy drinking.

That one cut a little close to home, there had been more than one night out which ended up in him passing out and throwing up somewhere. He clicked the button again, one more and then he’d start with clearing away his dishes.

Carl Jenkins – Dies at 29, stabbed during mugging, bleeds out before help can arrive.

He frowned, the ages were counting down every time he refreshed it, he supposed it would make sense to start off at older ages, but why would it only go down? Eventually someone was going to get an age below theirs. He began to close out of the page when he stopped, one more wouldn’t hurt.

Carl Jenkins – Dies at 24, attacked at home during the night. Neighbours hear nothing.

Carl closed the page, he was a little surprised it had gotten his age right without going under it, but then surely it was bound to happen to some people, just a coincidence. He cleared away his plate and settled in for a night of well deserved TV.

Carl lay in bed, he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t get that weird website out of his head. Sighing he rolled over and grabbed his phone from the nightstand. He opened the page and refreshed it, he expected it to say something new, something about him dying at 19 or something, instead it said the same thing as before. He tried it again a few times but the message stayed the same. He turned his phone off and put it back on the nightstand, must be some kind of bug in the site. Did he have to enter an age earlier? He didn’t think he did the first time he used it, but maybe it was a joke thing where you fill in someone’s details before you send it to them. That would be the kind of thing Dave would love. He rolled over and made himself comfortable, after a few minutes he’d fallen asleep.

Carl woke suddenly, his heart thudding heavily in his chest, he looked around the room, everything seemed to be in order. He lay back down, unsure of what had woken him, maybe there had been a noise outside? He pulled back the covers and got out of bed, he moved through his room in the darkness and pulled back the curtain, he peered out into the street, everything seemed normal. He let the curtain drop back into place and he made his way back to bed, maybe it had just been a bad dream, what ever it was it had gone now. He closed his eyes, downstairs there was the creak of the door to the kitchen being closed over. Carl sat up, panic was rising steadily, he reached out to grab his phone from the nightstand, it was gone. He looked around the room, his door was ajar, he’d closed it before he went asleep. He could hear the steady thump of footsteps on the stairs. Carl got out of bed, he needed something, a weapon, anything. The footsteps reached the landing and paused outside his door. He needed to attack, it was his only chance. Once he got whoever it was down he could run out of the house and get help. The door slowly swung open, Carl couldn’t move, he was frozen in place. The man was silhouetted by the door and the lights outside, he was tall, far taller than he had any right to be, he was thin with oddly long arms that reached past his knees. He saw the man dip his head under the doorway and step into the room, Carl looked at the mans face in the darkness and saw it wasn’t a man. The thing grinned at him, revealing a row of long, sharp teeth. It reached out slowly with one freakishly long arm and gently stroked Carls cheek. Its skin felt papery, dry and delicate but with an uncomfortable warmth behind it. The thing made a strange sound, almost like a dog throwing up, its shoulders heaving back and forth, Carl realised that the thing was laughing. The thing took another step forward, its hand moving up and down his body, a thin line of drool ran down its chin and dripped onto the carpet, it started to talk, its voice was low and guttural, “You have pretty skin. I like pretty skin.” Carl felt a sudden sharp pain as the creatures long nails dug into him. Carl started to scream and he wouldn’t stop for a very, very long time.

Escape. Flash Fiction

Janet looked at the pills that were spilled across the table. It wasn’t really giving up, was it? She stood from the table and went into the bathroom, there she dipped her hand into the bath, it was just the perfect temperature. She turned off the faucet and went back into the sitting room. She looked at the TV, the station had gone out about two hours before, replaced instead with a sign claiming technical difficulties, most of the stations were like that, though one or two were showing repeats of some stupid comedy show. She could still hear screaming outside. They were already in the building somewhere but she was safe for now. She went to the window and pulled back the curtain a little, peeking out. A glance was all she needed. She could see people fighting in the building across from hers, down on the streets. It was everywhere.

She had tried to ring her parents shortly after it started, there was no answer, she had managed to get through to her sister Grace. That had been a tough call. Grace was locked in her basement with her two kids, someone was trying to break in, it was hard to hear her over the banging on the basement door. Her children had been crying, Grace was crying too, kept asking for help. Grace had managed to get through to their parents, but they were only on the phone for a few minutes before there was shouting and they were cut off. Janet heard the door burst open, the screams of her sister, of her niece and nephew. She didn’t listen much longer. Johnny had told her to stay where she was, that he was coming to her and together they’d escape, but that was two hours ago now and he wasn’t answering his phone. She knew they were all gone, she was the only one left. There was no one coming to save her, no way out of the building. She had expected to feel horror, grief, but instead there was a numbness, it all didn’t feel real, it was like she was stuck in a dream or some awful movie.

Janet gathered the pills and brought them to the kitchen, there she ground them up with the back of a spoon, once she had crushed enough she scooped the powder into a glass. She topped off the glass with some vodka, then a dash of Coke, she stirred the drink and then she went into the bathroom.

In the bathroom she stripped out of her clothes, she started to tie her hair up then stopped, it wasn’t like it really mattered now anyway. She slid into the bath, but it wasn’t as comforting as she had hoped. Before she could reconsider she downed her drink in four large gulps, the alcohol burned its way down to her stomach and the powder left a bitter residue on her tongue. Someone banged against her apartment door, there were screams coming from the hallway. Her body felt heavy now, she was feeling tired too, too tired to move, to try and barricade herself in. The banging on her door stopped, she felt the warmth of the water rising and realised she was sliding further into the water, she didn’t bother trying to push herself back up. That was too much effort. Her eyelids were heavy now, too heavy to keep open, Janet closed her eyes and her breathing started to slow and a moment later she slipped beneath the water.

End of an Era. Flash Fiction.

The crowd stood in silence, the large space was filled with mourners, some carried signs, all wore black. They looked up at the window of the Cathedral and waited, praying for good news, but knowing there was no hope. Inside the woman lay on a large bed, her long golden hair was splayed out around her. Her hair, which once shone with light, had become dull and brassy, her skin was pale, her eyes sunken and dark. Thin wires snaked from her skin and into machines which were monitored by a team of doctors. They stood around the machines, not knowing what to do, there was nothing they could do other than help ease her suffering. A nurse carefully injected something into her IV, she didn’t stir. Over the last year the world had watched as her three brothers and two sisters all succumbed to the same disease, they who had lived for hundreds of thousands of years were dying and there was nothing anyone could do.

The woman opened her eyes slightly, they were milky white instead of the bright, brilliant blue they had been. She called out weakly for her sister, one of the nurses stepped forward and gently gripped her hand. “I’m frightened, the mortals have heaven and hell, but what waits for us on the other side? Do we have our own heaven? Will I be allowed entry?” the nurse didn’t respond, her eyes began to close as she drifted to sleep again, the nurse kept holding her cold hand. A year ago only a few had been allowed touch the gods, those who were deemed worthy enough, since then a parade of doctors and shamans had been through, all trying to find a solution.

The woman let out a soft breath then her body began to collapse in on itself, they watched in silent horror as the last god passed from existence. Finally there was nothing left but the bedsheets and wires. One of the nurses started to cry softly, a doctor went to the window and there he unfurled a giant black flag, the crowd gasped collectively, there was silence for a moment, then the screams started as the crowd cried out as one in grief and horror. Clouds rolled over the sun, casting the world into shade. The gods were dead, they who had done so much for man, they who had slain monsters and fought demons were gone.

Elsewhere, a man stumbled from the depths of a dark cave, squinting against the sudden, harsh brightness, he felt the cool air on his skin, he smelled the sweet scent of the flowers. He stumbled forward, he was not used to walking on two legs, beneath his feet the grass died, nearby a flock of birds took flight, screeching into the sky. The man turned his head in wonder, then he began to laugh, behind him he could hear them, thousands of them, hundreds of thousands, the ground shivered beneath their footsteps. The time of the Gods had ended, now it was their turn.

Loss. Short Story.

Danny looked at himself in the hall mirror, he turned his head this way and that, then tried smiling. It looked wrong, too bright, too manic. He let his face relax and tried again. Better. “Morning! Yes, it’s a beautiful day isn’t it? Oh I’m great, how are you?” It sounded too forceful, too fake. Danny took a breath and repeated it, it sounded better, natural. He smiled at himself and nodded, it was good. He grabbed his keys from the table and turned the doorknob, after a deep breath he opened the door and stepped outside.

The day was bright and sunny, though the air held a chill. Danny felt himself relax slightly as he saw that the driveway next door was empty, their car was still there but if he hurried, he could be gone before they left. Quickly Danny got into his car and started the engine, as he pulled out the couple next door were leaving, he raised one hand in greeting and kept driving. Ok, that was good, he got through that just fine. Now he just needed to get through work. That was easy enough, people felt weird around him now, awkward, and that meant limited conversation. He hadn’t discussed anything deeper than the weather with the people in work since it happened and he was perfectly happy for things to stay that way. He just needed to keep his head down and get his work done, keep moving forward, things would start to get better sooner or later, he just had to keep going.

Danny reached for his coffee and took a sip, the day had been going by at a reasonable speed, but now it was lunch time. Everyone was going out to the usual restaurant, they had invited him but he had refused as he knew it was just out of politeness. He sat in his cubicle and mechanically ate his sandwich, one bite at a time. When he finished he realised he wasn’t actually sure what kind of sandwich it was. Ham maybe? Some kind of deli meat that was in the fridge. Lately things had been slipping, just small things, like what he had just watched on TV, or what he had eaten. People told him that things like that were bound to happen, but they made it seem like it would go away at some point, but it had already been three months. Danny frowned, was it three months already? That seemed impossible, it felt like it had only happened a week ago.

As people started entering the office Danny busied himself, pretending to work, one or two people asked if he had a good lunch. He tried to engage in witty banter with everyone, but it just seemed to feel flat, like the words had no real meaning or substance behind them. It was just noise. What ever he had said did the trick and they left him alone again. He shuffled papers around his desk, it had always been reasonably tidy before, but now there were pages and files strewn everywhere, and possibly a mug or two buried underneath it all.

“Hey Danny, how’s things?”
“I’m good, how’re you?”
“Oh can’t complain, have you gotten around to the Frank files yet?”
Had he?
Danny searched his desk and found them underneath his keyboard, “Yeah, here they are sorry.”
“No worries, we don’t need them until tomorrow but I’m just trying to get myself organised ya know? These meetings always make me nervous.”
“Yeah me too”
“So uh a few of us were going to go out for drinks later, I know you haven’t been up for coming out since…well, I thought I’d let you know, if you were feeling up for it.”
“Thanks Joe, but I can’t, I promised Sheila’s parents I’d be over to see them. It’s been a while since I checked in with them.”
“Oh, no worries, just thought I’d say, we’ll be in the usual place from seven if you’re free.”
“Thanks Joe.”
“And look, if you ever need to talk or anything.”
Danny smiled at him, Danny knew how fake it must have looked, “Thanks man, I really appreciate it.”
Joe smiled, “Well, I guess I better get back to it. If you feel like coming out we’ll be there until probably ten or so and I do mean it, if you ever need anyone to talk to, let me know.”
Danny nodded, then looked back at his computer screen, he felt a pit of worry forming in his stomach, had it been that obvious? Had people noticed or was Joe just saying the things you are supposed to say? Should he go out? Just to be seen so everyone would think he was fine? The thought of going filled him with dread, all those people and talking and music. No. He wasn’t ready for that. Not yet.

Danny turned onto his street, he looked around for a second, then sighed, he must have zoned out. He really had meant to visit Sheila’s parents, they were only a ten minute drive from the office, but now it would take at least an hour to get over there, what with traffic and everything. He felt a thin thread of relief, it was too much of a hassle now. Tomorrow he’d go for sure. Beneath the relief there was something else, a low, gnawing guilt, he had meant to visit them yesterday too.

Danny let himself into the house, he could feel the emptiness of it pressing against him from all sides. They had bought the bigger house, dreaming of the children they’d fill it with. Gone. All gone. No one left but him now. Danny went into the sitting room, he dropped back onto the couch and turned on the TV. At some point he got food, another sandwich, apparently it was pastrami that he had at lunch. He chewed the sandwich slowly, not really tasting it. How long would he be like this? Just doing things for the sake of doing them. It seemed impossible that he had been so happy once, like that life was just a dream and now he was in the real world again.

Danny sat, staring at the TV, though he wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. At around 9 he turned off the TV and made his way up to bed, it was a little early, but he had nothing better to do. He lay in the darkness, eyes closed, willing himself to sleep, to dream, so he could see her again, feel her warmth, hear her laugh. The morning would come all too quickly and then it would be over and she’d be gone again.

The Collector. Short Story.

So the scopes went well, didn’t end up throwing up or hospitalised afterwards this time so that’s a plus! I’m mostly back to normal now, stomach was fairly tender for the last few days. Over all not a particularly pleasant experience, but not crazy bad. I suppose its helps that I have no memory of the procedures at all, the last thing I remember was being in the operation room and the doctors confirming who I was and why I was there and then there’s just nothing until I woke up a while later, don’t even remember getting the sedative. I was even home and all by one!

Hopefully it’ll be another few years before I need one again. Don’t really have any results yet but everything looked fine so I’m taking it as a win.

Also, as an aside, the laxative drink wasn’t as bad as the last time. Still not great but this time I didn’t have to rinse my mouth out after each glass, so that was a bonus I guess. Well, as much as fakely sweet, slightly salty, lemon flavoured drink that’s oh so slightly thicker than water can be a bonus.

_____________________________________________________________

The Collector.

Benny sat down, his head was throbbing dully and the constant background chatter wasn’t helping. He reached into his bag and pulled out a pack of painkillers, he took two and dry swallowed them and sighed, that’ll help take the edge off. He sat back into the sofa and closed his eyes, he just needed a minute, that was all.
“What ya doing?”
“What does it look like?”
“It looks like you’re sleeping, but that can’t be right, it’s only two in the afternoon, you didn’t get up until noon too.”
“It was a late night.”
“They’re always late nights, shouldn’t you be used to it by now?”
“That’s only if you can actually sleep during the day too.”
“I don’t know why you’re so grumpy. I work the same hours as you, no in fact I work longer than you and I’m fine.”

Benny sighed, “that’s because you’re dead, you don’t need sleep.”
“Ok, I’ll give you that. Still no excuse for this, you should be up and doing your job, that’s why we’re here after all.”
“I just need a second, it’s not like there’s anyone here to see, besides you that is.”
“Fine. You waste the day, I’ll have another look around.”
Benny took a long, deep breath. If she wasn’t already dead he’d have throttled Mary by now. Relentlessly loud and always pushing for action and they were stuck together. After a few minutes the pain started to recede a little, the dull throbbing becoming a gentle ache. Benny stretched, yawned then stood up, it was time to get to work.

“So do you see anything?”
“No, where ever she was killed it wasn’t here.”
“We don’t know that she’ dead yet.”
“Yes we do. C’mon, how many times have we found someone alive?”
“Yeah, but we’re usually called in after they’ve been killed. This woman is just missing.”
“Missing and presumed dead.”
Benny gritted his teeth, “Do you see anything or not?”
“No, some murkiness around the kitchen, I think it happened in there but it could have just been a really bad argument too. Nothing that suggests murder. I had a look around, no clothes missing, her make up is still in the bathroom, if she left she left with nothing.”
“Did you find a purse? Phone?”

“Purse yes, it was by the door when we came in, you stumbled over it, remember?”
“Oh yeah. I was a little distracted. Sorry.”
“It’s ok. Didn’t find a phone though.”
“Ok, that’s good we-ah!” Benny winced, his eyes closing and his hands going to his head, “What? What is it?”
“Nothing. Just my head. It’s ok, I’m ok.”
“They’re getting louder, aren’t they?”
“Yeah, but what’s new.”
“That’s bad Benny. Really bad. I know you don’t want to think about it, but you have to. It means they’re getting closer.”
Benny shrugged, “I have to find this woman first, get some money in. Then I can worry about the voices.”
“Are they any clearer?”
“No, just chatter, it’s all blurring together.”
“Ok, well that’s something at least. I can have another look around if you want to rest for a minute.”
“No, you’re right, we’ve work to do.”
“I was just teasing, you do need your rest.”
Benny moved into the kitchen, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, pots were hung neatly on one wall, every counter gleamed, nothing seemed out of place, there wasn’t even a mug in the sink.
“She was a bit of a neat freak I think. Bedroom’s the same, so is the bathroom. You could eat out of that toilet, not that you’d want to. Well, I try not to judge.”

“Ha. Ha.”

“Oh. Oh no.”
“What?”
“I think I just saw her.”
“Here?”
“Yeah. Hang on.”

Benny leaned against the counter, he hoped that there would be something, anything to help find her, but the truth was he was out of his depth. He dealt with the dead, not the living and it was hard to concentrate with that damn chatter. It seemed even louder than before, like there were a thousand people crammed inside his head, all clamouring to be heard. He shouldn’t have taken this case. It was a bad idea, why did he allow Mary to talk him into it?
“Ok, it was her. She’s definitely dead. She isn’t saying much, she’s still in shock, but from what I can gather she’s been dead since Monday. I think it happened soon after she left this place.”
“Did she give you any details?”
“No, she just keeps saying why is it so cold and why does it hurt so much.”
“Any visible wounds?”
“No, she looked fine, well apart from being dead.”
“Ok well-”

There was a loud knock on the door, “Hello? Are you still here?”
A man entered the kitchen, he was tall and pale, with dark circles around his eyes, “Ah, Mr. Murphy, I’m just finishing up.”
“Did you find anything?”
“Not yet, no.”

The man smiled, “are you sure? I thought she’d have been back here by now.”

Benny frowned, “If you thought she was coming back, why hire me?”
The man shook his head, “No, not her body, her spirit.”

The chattering in Benny’s head became louder, his hands shot to his head.
“Oh, I always hated that part. Don’t worry, it’ll stop soon.”
The man stepped towards Benny.

Benny groaned and opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the silence, complete and utter silence, followed by the darkness. Had he ever actually been in silence before? Ever since he was a child he could hear them, but now they were gone. “Hello?” His voice sounded odd, quiet and muted, like he was in a soundproofed room. He reached out expecting to feel a soft wall, but there was nothing in front of him. Carefully Benny stood, his body wasn’t sore, that was something. He didn’t know what had happened, but he wasn’t in pain and that was a bonus. Benny shuffled forward, his arms outstretched, he expected to run into a wall at any second, but there was nothing. He lengthened his stride a little and started counting the steps.

Benny stopped walking, he was up to a thousand now and he was reasonably sure he wasn’t walking in circles. The room must be far larger than he originally thought. After a moment he started walking again, sooner or later he’d have to reach a wall.

The man placed a label onto the dark, glass bottle, the name Benjamin was written on it in tight, spidery script. The room was large but seemed smaller, every wall covered in bookshelves and each bookshelf was full of bottles crammed in together. He had lost track of them all years ago, but there were thousands. He carefully put the bottle onto the shelf, beside it was another, smaller bottle, this one had Mary written on it. He ran his finger tips across the bottles, shivering slightly as he did. He had been collecting for a long, long time and there was still plenty of space on his shelves.

 

Gaining Power. Flash Fiction.

Sarah hung up, she didn’t have time for petty problems like these.
“Is it sorted?”
“Yeah, just Jack being an idiot.”
“So he’ll be able to get it, right?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just had a different name and he was confused.”
“And you’re sure it’ll work.”
“Yes Beth, for the last goddamned time. It’ll work.”
“Ok.” Beth looked down at her hands.

Sarah let out a slow breath, she would be glad once this entire this was over and she could be free of these idiots.
“But what if it doesn’t?”
“Then no harm, no foul ok? There is literally no downside to this.”
Well, not for Sarah anyway, but the others didn’t need to know that.

“Have you heard from Scott?”
“No, have you?”
“No, I sent him a text and I haven’t heard back.”
Sarah shrugged, “He’ll be here, he said he would.” Sarah suspected that Scott was just ignoring Beth again and her endless, mindless texting, you could barely hit send before another one arrived. It was never anything interesting either, just stream of consciousness thoughts and bullshit. Sarah smiled at Beth, after today she wouldn’t have to deal with any of that again.
“Are you ready for your part?”
“Yeah. I mean, I think so. You didn’t leave anything out did you?”
“No, I gave you all the instructions.”
“Ok. And you’re sure?”
“Yes. I am.”
“I’ve got the candles in my bag. I was so worried the guy was gonna start questioning me on what they were for and stuff.”
Sarah nodded, there was no point in even trying to talk to Beth when she was like this, it was easier to just let her prattle on.

Jack arrived ten minutes later, interrupting Beth’s monologue, she hadn’t noticed that Sarah wasn’t even responding anymore.
“Oh, good, you’re here. Have you heard from Scott?”
“Yeah, he’s on his way. Said he was running a little late.”
“Did you get it?”
“Yeah, wasn’t too hard to get. Though I don’t know why everything has to have all these damn names, just pick one!”
Sarah smiled, “Well, you have it now and that’s what’s important.”
She glanced at her watch, where the hell was Scott? They were supposed to be meeting at twelve, and already it was half, she wanted to get this show on the road.

Sarah took a deep breath, they were finally ready. Scott had wandered in about twenty minutes after Jack, he looked as dazed as usual, but he brought everything he needed. Sarah had set everything up the day before so all they had to do was start.
“Ok Beth, you light the candles, then Jack you pour your mixture into the bowl when I indicate, then Scott, you’re gonna have to pour your stuff on top, then I’ll blow out the candles.”
“Is that it?”
“Pretty much, I have to do some chanting but once we’re all involved in some way it’ll be fine. Everyone ready?”

Sarah started chanting, she wasn’t sure what the language was but she said it with perfection, she pointed at Beth who started to light the candles with slightly trembling hands. After that Sarah pointed to Jack who poured his mixture into the bowl in the centre of the circle. Sarah kept chanting, she pointed at Scott who added his mixture to the bowl, finally as her chanting reached its peak, Sarah blew out the candles.

“Is that it? Nothing happened.”
“It should have worked.”

Sarah shrugged, “We can try again if you like?”
Beth suddenly yawned, “I’m pretty tired. Maybe another day.”
Scott nodded, “Yeah, I have some stuff to do.”
“I told you to keep the day clear.”
Scott shrugged, “yeah well…”
“I guess I better be off too. Anyone want a lift?”

Sarah smiled as the door to her room closed. It had worked perfectly. She just needed the others to uphold their end of the bargain and everything would work out. Fifteen minutes later Sarah collapsed, her whole body shuddered and jerked. After a moment it passed, gasping, Sarah sat up, then she started laughing. She stretched carefully and breathed in deeply, she could feel the power running through her body. The others were dead, but that was the price she had to pay for her power. It wasn’t her fault they were too stupid to do their own research, they had gone along with it all willingly and agreed to do their part in the ceremony. They might not have been so willing had they realised that it meant their deaths but some eggs needed to be broken, and as an added bonus she wouldn’t have to deal with their idiocy again.

Happiness in a Bottle. Short Story.

Lily took her pill and counted to ten, she hated feeling sad, everyone did. A moment later she could feel the sadness receding, replaced instead by a buoying happiness, she smiled allowing it to pull her along. She gently took the hand of her dead husband and, still smiling, she sat down beside him. Her mind was filled with all the wonderful memories, all the times they had spent together. Gone were thoughts of arguments or broken promises, gone were the fear and worry, the anger, there was nothing left but the joy of a life well lived together. A doctor appeared, Lily didn’t hear her come into the room, “Mrs. Simmons? Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m better than ok, I’m doing pretty good actually.”
“Are you by any chance taking any medication?”
“Oh yes, I’ve a prescription for Elatol.”
The doctor nodded, “I’m not surprised, most people do these days.”
Lily nodded, a dazed grin still on her face, “I just wanted to have a quick chat with you. We’re seeing issues with people who take Elatol while recently bereaved. The mind needs to process grief and if you block it out it will be much worse when it finally gets in.”
Lily nodded again, “I know I do. I was warned, but it’s too fresh” Her smiled faltered a little, her voice dipping slightly, “I’m afraid. I’m scared I won’t be able to handle the grief, that it will consume me.”
“Many people feel that way, especially if they are not used to negative feelings. If you would like we have an on staff therapist you can talk to, he can talk to you for a little bit, maybe give you some advice on dealing with your grief in a healthy way.”
Lily’s smile brightened, “Thank you for the offer, it’s very kind, but I will be fine. My family are coming to visit, once they’re here I know I’ll be fine.”
The doctor smiled, “If you’re sure.”
“Yes, I am, thank you.”
The doctor left the room, for a brief second Lily wondered why she had lied, the words had slipped so easily from her mouth. There was no family left to visit her. Brian was the only one she had left. Her children, Anna and Jack were gone. Jack had disappeared while backpacking in Australia and Anna had stopped talking to both of them four years ago. Lily couldn’t quite remember the entire conversation, at that point she had already been talking the Elatol, but it was something about Jack’s disappearance, how they never cared about Anna after that. The conversation had ended with Anna telling them to never contact her again. Surely she would want to know about her father dying though. Lily jumped slightly and looked around herself, she was still in the hospital, still holding Brian’s hand. Two orderlies were standing there awkwardly, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I said we need to take him now.”
“Ok, yes, sorry, of course. I was miles away.” She smiled at them. One of them reached into his pocket and retrieved a pack of tissues, “Here”
“Oh, no, thank you I don’t need them.” The orderly looked at her for a second then slowly put the tissues back in his pocket. As they wheeled him from the room Lily reached up and rubbed her eye, her vision was blurring for some reason. She took her hand away and realised it was wet, was she crying? Lily went into the small bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror, her mascara was streaked and running down her cheeks which were wet with tears. She grabbed a handful of tissues and quickly rubbed them across her face. She wasn’t supposed to be crying, she was supposed to be happy. She needed time to adjust still, she knew if she didn’t ease into it the collective grief might just crush her entirely. With shaking hands Lily searched through her bag, anger slowly growing, why did she keep so much junk in here? None of it was ever used, just thrown in and forgotten about. Finally her hand closed around the familiar bottle and quickly she took another pill. Releasing a slow breath Lily put the pills back in her bag, they’d kick in soon and she’d be fine. She looked at herself in the mirror, all pale and old, when had that happened? When had all these wrinkles appeared? She smiled at herself, she didn’t notice the way her lips stretched slightly too far and how her eyes widened just slightly giving her a manic appearance. The pills were finally kicking in and she had come to a decision, it didn’t matter what Anna said, she would want to know, would need to know.

Lily sat back in the chair, phone still clutched in her hand. She had tried everything and everyone she could think of. Old friends of Anna, where she had last worked, even her building manager. No one had a number for her, no one knew where she was, she was just gone. She had asked them to pass the message on if they heard from her again and they had promised they would. There was a worry there, a fear that Anna had truly gone but mostly Lily felt empty. She suspected that most of the people were lying, though she had no proof of that. Anna had probably told everyone that her parents were crazy or something equally awful. She popped another pill into her mouth and dry swallowed it, she wasn’t sure how many she had taken today, but it still wasn’t quite enough. Finally the waves of happiness rushed over her, filling up the emptiness. The house didn’t seem as large as it had before, or as empty. It was full of memories, of stories and characters. Lily stood from the kitchen table, ignoring the reams of paper covering it. She would sort all this stuff out later, when she felt a little better. Brian’s death had been so unexpected, sure they knew he was sick, but he was supposed to have some time left, years in which he could figure out his will and try to make amends with Anna and organise all those bits and pieces. It wasn’t until she had actually sat down to go through everything that she realised how many accounts Brian actually had, his name was on everything from the rewards card for the local shops to the car insurance and beyond.

Lily took a sip of her wine, she hadn’t had a glass in a long time, perhaps years, but she deserved one now. It had been a long day, people had been dropping in to see her, people whom she had never met or hadn’t seen for years coming to pay their respects. They weren’t a very social couple, but Brian had made an impression on those that he met. Not like Lily, with her quiet demeanour. She appreciated them coming, but at the same time she would have preferred to be alone, to have time to process it all. It hadn’t really hit her yet, she knew that, hell she hadn’t even cried properly yet, not that she’d given herself a chance to. She’d do it tomorrow. She wouldn’t take any of her Elatol and she’d allow herself to fully experience the pain, after all what was happiness without some sadness, you needed one to truly feel the other.

Lily woke the next morning, her head thumping vaguely, now she remembered why it had been so long since she had last drank wine. She only had three glasses and she had a hangover, typical. Already she was hearing from people, promising to come over later to see how she was doing and the thought of having to see them, deal with them, made her feel more than a little nauseous. She looked at the bottle of pills sitting on her nightstand. It wouldn’t be bad would it? Just have them for today then tomorrow she’d let herself feel it. But then the funeral was soon, god knew she couldn’t do that without the pills, seeing him lowered into the ground like that. Lily shuddered and grabbed the bottle, fingers scrabbling with the cap, trying to pull it off, when the bottle finally opened they spilled out onto the bed sheets and she quickly snatched one and swallowed it. Slowly she refilled the bottle. This wasn’t good for her, she knew it, but she knew she wouldn’t survive the pain. Oh sure plenty of people have, but Lily knew she wasn’t strong enough. She wasn’t like other people, she was weak, always relying on others. Now she had no one to rely on, no one but the pills. She sat, the bottle clutched tightly in one hand. A doctor or nurse had given her some pamphlets at some point, something about grief counselling. Lily put the bottle on her nightstand. She just needed to get through the funeral. That was all, once she managed that she could take a break from the pills, from being happy. She would find someone to talk to, she would fight her way through it. The pills gently rattled in their bottle as she put them into her pocket, it would be a long, long day and she didn’t want to be too far away from them, just in case.