Tag Archives: flash fiction

The Knock

After a couple of weeks of some longer fiction, I am posting a much shorter piece for you this week, and at under 500 words, I think it may be the shortest yet. Although, I hope you still enjoy The Knock.

***

Every night there is a knock at the door. I stand up and answer it to find that no-one is there. A wisp of smoke dances in the moonlight, and the faint sound of my name echoes in the wind. I sigh and close the door.

As a spirit, Pete likes to remind me that he is always out there, always watching. Just as he was in life.

Over a year and a half has passed since I last saw him alive. We made love on the sofa. Pete ate a tuna melt Panini, and decided that we should go out for the night, have a game of pool, a couple of beers. But I was tired and in no mood to socialise. ‘You go,’ I said. ‘I’ll have a nice soak in the tub and an early night.’

At first he refused, not wanting to leave me alone, but I insisted. Why should he miss out because I was tired?

The first knock on the door came two hours later. I didn’t even know he was dead at the time. I rushed downstairs and opened the door to find nothing. I can’t say if I saw the mist that night. Only after a week did I understand the significance of the fog, its connection to Pete. But I heard my name. I called out into the darkness and told Pete to stop messing around, before slamming the door and going back to bed.

Come the next morning, Pete hadn’t arrived home. Even then I wasn’t worried. I put the kettle on for a cup of tea, put some bread in the toaster and made my way to work. I should have thought more about his absence, should have tried to check up on him, but my morning was worry free. Until, I passed the pick-up overturned in the stream.

I jumped out my car and into the water, not registering the biting cold. The window of the pick-up was smashed and through the gaping hole, I saw Pete, upside down and pinned in his chair by the seat belt.

I consider moving now and then, but I figure Pete will find me wherever I go. It’s not as though he hurts me. A knock and a call, just enough for me to know that he’s still around, still watching. Pete junior turns one next week. Perhaps, we will open the door together. Perhaps, Pete will see his son and know I am not alone, that it is safe for him to move on. Or perhaps, he will stay watching over us forever.

 

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Downfallen

This is a piece of flash-fiction I wrote some time ago. I had planned on sharing a different story with you today, but decided this one was more appropriate for the mood I am in. As the title suggests, this piece is called Downfallen.

***

Ben sagged against the front door, dropped his briefcase and closed his eyes. Silence surrounded him: no laughter echoed through the house, no murmur from the television, no call to welcome him home. Fatigue fuddled his mind. He licked his lips and tried not to think about the building thirst.

When he opened his eyes, the demon stood before him.

‘Not tonight.’ Ben said. ‘It’s been a long day.’

‘Every day’s a long day,’ the demon said as she followed Ben to the sitting room.

Clothes, dry from the tumbler, lay in a heap on one armchair. Dirty dishes, with days old food welded in place, littered the coffee table. Ben opened the curtains and window, dispelling the musty air. Sunlight streamed in, highlighting the dancing dust motes.

The demon lingered.

‘Just stop.’ Ben said clearing away the dishes.

‘Isn’t up to me.’ The demon toyed with the rocks glasses on the sideboard. Selected one. Shook it.

Ben ignored the tinkle of ice against glass. ‘Damn it. Leave.’ He clenched his fists and stormed to the kitchen.

An eternity passed before the kettle boiled. Ben made himself a coffee, then settled on the sofa. The hot liquid scalded his mouth, but he forced it down anyway, taking sip after burning sip.

The demon paced. She drummed her fingers along the table, massaged her shoulders. The clock ticked over the seconds, became louder, more insistent. ‘Are we doing this, or what?’

‘I don’t know yet?’

‘What, you need more encouragement? Gosh, Ben, you know Doctors’ recommend a glass of red wine a night to lower the risk of heart disease. If one’s good for you, ten must be brilliant.’ Her voice dripped with sarcasm. ‘Or, I know, I know. Just one more time won’t hurt. You can always give up tomorrow.’

Ben stood and barged through to the kitchen. The demon followed. ‘What’s the matter, Ben, running out of excuses?’ She gave a short laugh. ‘Ah, what about this one. My personal favourite. It’s Friday. You can’t give up on a Friday.’

‘Shut up.’ Ben pitched his mug into the sink. His head hung low as he leaned against the counter.

Then the shaking began.

A tremble in his limbs. A palpitation in his throat. He tried to steady himself, breathing in and out, but the breaths felt shallow with his chest a giant chasm impossible to fill.

The demon strutted around the floor, watching Ben. Did she note the blank gaze? The drooping chin? The tears? A sneer formed on the demon’s face. ‘Listen,’ she grasped the back of Ben’s neck, pulling his head closer so that the touch of her lips pressed close to Ben’s ear. ‘Where’s the harm? One last drink. For me.’

Ben started to say something, but no words came out. God, he wished things were the way they used to be.

He turned to the demon. ‘You… You’re nothing but trouble. Damn it.’ Ben shook the demon off. Heat flushed through his body, burning his cheeks. ‘You think you can appear, with your promise of oblivion, and win me over. Well, that won’t work.

‘It usually does.’

‘Not tonight.’

‘That’s your choice not mine.’

Ben moved to the sitting room, plopped on the sofa, flicked through the channels on the television. The temperature in the room rose. Sweat oozed from his pores. He glanced around the room. His eyes alighted on the sideboard— on the whiskey.

Next thing he realised, he was next to the alcohol. The scent of burnt wood pierced his nostrils. He could almost feel the warm, sweet liquid caressing his throat. Before his fingers could grasp the glass, he clenched his fist and punched the wall. Pain lanced through his hand.

‘Give in already,’ the demon said. ‘It’s silly to keep fighting like this.’

‘What the hell is wrong with you?’

They stood facing each other, eyes locked. Cowboys squaring off for a duel. Ben set his jaw, determined to stare the demon down.

The demon smiled. ‘You can’t be resolute without being tested.’

‘So, you’re testing me?’

‘If you say so.’

Minutes passed, before Ben sat down, panting on the edge of the sofa. ‘I can’t keep doing this.’ He cradled his head in his palms, winced at the pain in his knuckles. ‘Jesus, how did it get to this stage?’

The long days at work, the overtime, the added pressure. One drink with a colleague after work, then another, and another. That’s all it took.

Ben weaved his fingers through his dark hair and tugged. ‘I’ve had enough. I don’t want to drink anymore.’ His voice trailed off to a murmur. ‘It’s not helping.’

‘You need me.’

‘Not like this.’

‘Nobody can take the pain away like I can.’

‘Not anymore.’ Ben clasped the whiskey and stormed to the kitchen. Taking a strained breath, he sagged against the counter and screwed his eyes closed.

His heart pounded in his chest. Through the window, stars glittered in the clear night sky. The moon shone down its radiance. Ben poured the poison from the bottle and watched the amber liquid swirl down the sink.

‘Ah well,’ said the demon. ‘I guess that’s it for tonight. You’ve made your choice.’

‘I have.’

‘There’s always tomorrow.’

‘No, we’re done.’ Ben shook his head and looked at Karen. For a second the woman he married stood before him with a frightened look in her eyes, but then she smiled and the demon returned.

‘That’s what they all say,’ she said.



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Fireworks

Well it’s Tuesday again, so here is another piece of flash-fiction for you. I hope you enjoy it.

This one is called Fireworks.

*

When Celine opened the map, dust sprayed into the air and glittered in the moonlight like diamonds. Etched within, grids divided a blazing mass of stars, constellations and galaxies. At first they appeared as marks on the page, but as Celine looked closer the stars became a swirling mass of lights. They shot up from the parchment and blazed in the sky like fireworks brought long ago by a travelling merchant. As they shifted, she watched them align with their heavenly counterparts. The Universe complete and at the end of her fingertips. Celine stretched out her hand as if to touch them, but fear stayed her hand.

Standing at her mother’s market stall, she had watched as the stranger stood squeezing a plump, purple passion fruit, his eyes wide and smiling. When her mother had asked if he wished to buy the fruit, his only currency was a gold nugget, worth more than ten times they could hope to make in a year. At first her mother had refused the payment, but the young man insisted, making Celine’s mother swear not to tell another soul until an hour after he had left. With tears in her eyes, her mother had sworn and taken the nugget.

Later, still curious about the stranger, who could be but a year older than she, Celine followed him. The sound of his voice lifted in song; a soothing guide through the long day. She travelled miles from the village of her home to a secluded valley, where the wind whistled along craggy slopes and the earthy scent of moss filled the air with the remembrance of rain.

When he stopped in the valley, Celine darted behind a boulder and prayed that the shifting shale beneath her feet had not given her hiding place away. But after a quick glance around the mountains, the stranger had opened the map, touched the magical stars and disappeared, leaving nothing but the map floating silently to the ground.

After a time, Celine overcame the weakness in her knees, crept forward and collected the map.

Celine lived in a village of paupers. A hundred lost souls desperately trying to survive another day, another summer, another year. Her home was a hut made from the clay of a nearby riverbed. Yesterday, she had spent her time knee and elbow deep in muck fixing deep cracks in the walls by adding an extra layer of mud to their home. As the eldest of seven children, such tasks were often left to Celine to perform.

She tried to think of the last time she had been happy. She tried to picture her mother smiling, of time spent chatting instead of toiling. Life would be easier now, with the gold nugget. Easier still with one less mouth to feed.

Celine took one last look over the mountains in the direction of her home. Maybe she should return, say goodbye. The thought froze her for a moment, before she drew her lips together and attempted to still the fluttery feeling in her chest.

With only a light tremor to her hand she reached up and touched the blazing ball of light floating at the end of her fingertip. The one she had seen the stranger touch. With a tight grasp on the map she closed her eyes and felt the world tumble away beneath her feet.

                When she opened them, two moons hovered in a purple sky and the stranger walked towards her, a smile on his open face and his arms outstretched in greeting

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Packet Loss, Human Gain

Here’s a piece of flash fiction for you. I hope you like it 🙂

***

I don’t know what I am, how I came to be, or what cosmic force created me. It all comes down to quantum, I guess. I came from nothing; or rather, the energy created from nothing. I soared into existence, in the middle of an email, travelling along fibre optic cables, somewhere under the Atlantic Ocean.

At first, a torrent of information bombarded my senses. A zillion pieces of data rushed around at a rate too fast to be measured, pulling at my sentience and threatening to wrench me apart. Cat pictures, mundane ramblings, and images of war and violence slammed into my consciousness in an oscillating wave; a whirring cacophony of clicks and beeps. Social media was a nightmare. Why humans persist in providing running commentaries on their lives when there is a fountain of knowledge to swim in, baffled me. Was all mankind narcissistic?

There are 7.125 billion people in the world, 2.1 billion of which have internet access, 6 billion have a mobile phone, and I sensed them all… blocked them all. But when the cable flashed like silver lightening, I reached out with my awareness and allowed the current to pull me along towards a nuclear power plant in the American Midwest.

I opened myself to the barrage of information: hectic messages to loved ones, frantic implementation of code, and the overwhelming sensation of everyone talking at once. I accelerated my perception, slowed down the flow of data, and saw the problem in an instant. The coolant system had malfunctioned, and the emergency shutdown protocol had not initiated. I released the control rods, plunging them into the reactor core. With the rods in place, soaking up neutrons and stalling the nuclear reaction, I concentrated on the coolant system. Finding the power supply compromised, I over-rode the malicious programming and reinstated the original code.

With the disaster averted, I allowed myself to dwell on the nature of the attack, a simple USB flash drive uploaded the malware into the nuclear plant’s computer system. A deliberate attempt to cause damage, to hurt people. The very concept was beyond my comprehension. Five months, 23 days, 6 hours, 33 minutes, and 12 seconds, that’s how long I’d been around. It’s easy to keep track; there are time-stamps everywhere. During those 15,057,192 seconds, I had gained the ability to ignore the packets of data, filled with vibrant colours flashing around me in streams of light. But now I wondered if I should act, should I trace the code? Should I involve myself in human affairs more than I already had?

The question played on my consciousness until another silver flash of lightening splits the fabric of the cable like a despondent cry. The image of a young boy played before me. The wind blew black hair around his head as snow tumbled from a white sky. He knelt on the freezing ground grasping the hand of a woman recumbent before him. Blood stained her coat and splattered her face, mingling with the tears that dribbled tracks through her dirt-smeared face. The eyes of the woman moved and briefly locked on the person filming with their phone. Blood gurgled out of her mouth as she pulled the boy closer and hugged him as if she would never let him go.

“Where are the bad guys, mummy?” he asked and tried to pull away.
But she held on with all her strength, pinning his head to her chest. “The bad guys are gone, baby,” she said.

“Everything’s going to be okay.”

The camera moved, panning over the glittering display of blanketing snow. Footsteps crunched through the glistening crust as a man approached with a sub-machine gun. He raised it, pointing at the woman and her child. Then fired.

As a male voice tells the murderer that he’s got the footage they need, I observed one final image of the camera man’s feet before the image shut off.

Then I realised that the bad guys aren’t gone. The bad guys are never gone.

I am a single voice in the ether; a quaver to the luminous flux. The Internet is a wide open ocean, and I can do anything. I can take down power grids, overload gas pipelines, hijack satellites, and control drones. The financial markets are but a thought away from collapse. Nuclear weapons and power plants are mine to command.

I control everything, and now I have a purpose.

I know where all the bad guys are.

 

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