Tag Archives: short story

How (Not) To Write A Story in 8 Days

About a year ago, I made a decision to focus on writing novels (my real writing love) and the occasional piece of flash fiction for my blog when the Muse overtook me. The one exception is the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge.

This writing competition works in a particularly unusual (and thus exciting) way. You see… No, I’ll let them explain.

There are 3 rounds of competition.  In the 1st Round (February 7-15, 2014), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment.  Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words.  The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (March 27-30, 2014) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story.  Judges choose finalists from the 2nd Round to advance to the 3rd and final round of the competition where writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word(maximum) story in just 24 hours (May 2-3, 2014).

I had a great time with the challenge last year (although I didn’t make it past the first round), and participated again this year. So for those of you who are curious about what my writing process looks like, I thought I’d share my experience of writing a 2500 story in 8 days.

Note: I do not suggest, recommend, or in any way endorse the following as a sane or reasonable method of artistic creation.

Day 1:

The genre/subject/character assignments were released on Friday night at midnight EST. Which means that over here in FutureLand I got the email at 3:00 Saturday afternoon. My assignment looked something like this:

Genre: Fantasy
Subject: A Funeral
Character: A Gambler

I emailed, messaged, texted, and otherwise contacted everyone who knew I was taking part in the challenge, and then… Well, then I went about my normal life. Time to let my subconscious spend some time working on the story details.

Day 2:

What interesting thing could happen at a funeral? Thinking… Thinking… Thinking… A heist!

Someone has to steal something from inside the coffin at a funeral!

My mind went into overdrive. A heist! I love heists! But what would be so important, so crucial that someone — a gambler, in fact — would go to great (and non-violent) lengths to steal from inside a coffin at a funeral?

And the answer was obvious.

Luck.

I would write about a gambler stealing the Luck of a Gambler from inside his coffin in the middle of his funeral.

Well. After all that thinking, I was exhausted. So I went and spent a day with a friend, watched The Newsroom, drank wine, and snacked on cheese and chocolate and other extravagances.

Day 3:

After a busy Monday, I sat down to start writing and… nothing. I got nothing. So I did some brainstorming, ate some more chocolate, and wished I wasn’t quite so tired.

Day 4:

By this evening, I knew I really had to pull out all stops and get the story written if I was going to have any chance of actually submitting it on time. It was due back by 3:00pm Sunday (Technically day 9 or an 8 day challenge… Gotta love time zones.) and I hadn’t even started yet.

Plus, when I ran into my writer-friend this morning, she was all jazzed because she’d already finished the draft of her entry.

So I sat down to write and…. I managed 300 words. And realised I was setting the story in a Wild West-inspired fantasy world. Time to do some research.

Day 5:

A crazy-busy day was topped off by the receipt of emails delivering bad news. I couldn’t even get my head into my life, let alone my story.

Day 6:

Thursday. The deadline was fast approaching, and I had a grand total of 300 words written. But I was still thinking — still letting my subconscious do its thing — so I wasn’t worried. The shape of the story was starting to reveal itself to me, and the character (who still didn’t have a name) was telling me her life story.

Day 7:

I wrote another 400 words, bringing my grand total up to 700. And in those 400 words, a whole new theme presented itself. I threw out all the plans I’d made for the ending, and turned the protagonist into someone a little less despicable, and a lot more likeable. And then I went to sleep.

Day 8:

Despite all the promises I’d made to myself that I wasn’t going to leave it until the night before the story was due to start writing it, here I was. The night before the story was due. With only 700 words written out of approximately 2500, and no energy to write. So I drank two cups of coffee, sat down on my bed, and…. fell asleep.

Day 9:

I woke up in the middle of the night and set my alarm for 4am, so I’d have a couple of hours of writing time before the boys woke up. And then I slept through my alarm and woke up at 7:00.

I’m not going to lie. Expletives may have been used.

I had six hours to write, edit, and submit a 2500 word story. And all I had was 700 words and an idea of the shape of the story.

I considered whether it was time to panic yet, and voted ‘no’. But I did get down to work. By 11:00am, I was 2000 words into the story, and had just got to the funeral scene. Plus, I had to pack up to take my son to dance class.

I decided that now was a good time to panic.

So I fretted while I got the boys ready to go out, and I worried while I drove 45 minutes to the dance studio, and I stressed while I kissed him goodbye. And then I jumped back in the car, and zoomed off to a nearby park so I could keep writing.

At 1:45pm, I finished the first draft. It had 3515 words. So, that’s 1000 words more than the maximum length.

I kept panicking.

Not least because it was time to pack up and drive back to the dance studio to pick up the boy. Which is what I did. Because, writing challenge or no writing challenge, being a Mum doesn’t stop.

When I arrived at the dance studio, a friend (whose daughter also dances) met me with the question: “Did you finish?”

“No,” I said. “I still have to–”

She interrupted. “How about I take your boys to my place so you can get it finished and submitted? You can catch us up.”

Best.

Friend.

Ever.

So that’s how I found myself sitting in a cafe at 2:15pm, with 45 minutes to cut 1000 words  from my story, read the formatting instructions, and get it submitted.

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard the phrase “kill your darlings”. It’s the suggestion that any piece of prose you’re too precious about should be removed. Well, in this case, I can assure you that over the next 35 minutes, I not only killed my darlings, I killed their darlings, as well as their flatmates and their pets.

I cut 1000 words from my story — most of them from the first 2000 — and made it shorter and sharper and, most importantly, valid for the competition.

I had just less than 10 minutes to get it formatted and submitted.

And that’s when my internet stopped working.

Gotcha. Not really.

No, what really happened was that I was so freaked out that I only had … checking clock … eight minutes left, that I kept clicking the wrong links, and couldn’t find the page that detailed the required font or size or format or… well, anything.

I found it, adjusted my file, and realised two things. (1) I had three minutes left until the cut-off, and (2) I needed to include a two-sentence synopsis.

Two-sentence synopsis coming right up. Boom! No time to think about how good it is. Barely time to type the words. And then…

And then a helpful waitress appeared at my table and said, “Is your coffee okay?”

“Yeah. Thanks,” I managed. And that was no easy feat, because I was trying to find the darn submit button, and had less than two minutes left.

“Oh, good,” she says. “And would you like some water?”

“No,” I snapped. And then felt immediately guilty that I wasn’t being nice to her when she’d done nothing wrong except approach me when I only had…

One minute!

I hit the submit button. My story whirred away into neverwhere.

And then I realised I’d sent the wrong file. I sent the .docx instead of the .doc.

So I sent it again. I’m 99% sure the second time was past the cut-off. And then I waited… And waited…. Worried that I’d missed out… Worried that I’d submitted too late…

Yesterday, I got an email from them.

Dear Jo Eberhardt,

This e-mail is to let you know that we have received your Short Story Challenge 2014 1st Round submission titled“Luck of the Gambler”.  You will be judged in Heat31 – Fantasy / A funeral / A gambler.  Judging will now take place and we will announce the results by 11:59PM EDT on Monday, March 24th, 2014 via e-mail and through our facebook and twitter pages.

And that, my friends, is how to write a story in 8 days.

Well, assuming you like heart palpitations, adrenaline rushes, and living life on the edge, anyway.

Do you leave your writing to the last minute, or get it done well in advance?

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Flash Fiction: Crime of Passion

The Flash Fiction Challenge over at TerribleMinds this week was to write a Five Ingredient Story. Mr Wendig provided a list of ten possible ingredients, and we had to choose five to include in our 1000 word story. The list of ingredients are below. I’ve highlighted the ones I chose in pink.

  • A mysterious rabbit
  • An unborn child
  • A missing corpse
  • A broken music box
  • An ancient curse
  • A half-burned notebook
  • A sudden storm
  • An indestructible tree
  • A venomous creature
  • An impossible doorway

This story started out going in one direction, and then veered sharply in another. I hope you enjoy it. As always, I’d love to know what you think.

A Crime of Passion

A man wearing a suit approached the desk where Selena was waiting impatiently. “Ms Scott?”

“Yeah?”

He slid into the seat opposite her. He was cute, in a Seth Green kind of way. Not at all her type. “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting,” he said.

“You’re sorry?”

“Yes, Ms Scott. I’m sorry. We just had to—“

“I don’t care what you had to do. You’re the cop here, not me.” She grabbed the backpack at her feet. “Can I go?”

“No, Ms Scott. I’m Detective Craig McCutchins. I need to ask you a few questions.”

“I’ve already answered a few questions,” Selena snapped. “I answered a few questions when your boys picked me up on the street and I answered a few more questions when I got here.”

“Yes,” Detective McCutchins said. “I know. But I’m sure you understand how serious this is. You were found in an alley with a dead body.”

“No I wasn’t.”

“It says here…”

“Show me the body,” Selena interrupted.

“Pardon?”

“If I was found with a dead body, where is it?”

“Well, there appears to be some confusion—“

“Really?”

“Ms Scott—“

“Selena.”

“Selena, then.  I’d just like to clarify some of the information I’ve got in this report. It says here that you were found in the alley with…” he paused to look through his notes. “The body of a deceased woman, a notebook, a music box, and a scorpion.”

Selena didn’t respond.

“Two officers heard raised voices and approached. They saw what looked like a murder scene. You threatened them and then set everything on fire. Is that correct?”

Selena snorted.

“Selena, this is serious. Surely you want to tell your side of the story. As it stands, we can charge you with arson, assault, trespassing, and murder.”

“No you can’t.”

“Excuse me?”

“You can’t charge me with anything. If you could, you would have already done it. You’re just hoping I’ll confess to something if you keep me here long enough. Well, fuck you.”

“Selena—“

“For a start, you can’t charge me with arson because nothing’s burnt. Right?”

“There is some confusion regarding—“

“And you can’t charge me with assault, because no one’s hurt.”

“Actually, you threatened the police officers. That’s a felony.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Prove it.”

“Pardon?”

Selena leaned back in her chair, a smug smile on her face. “Prove it. Prove I threatened them.”

The Detective peered at his papers again. “It says—“

“—What? That I threatened to put a curse on them?”

“—that you threatened to…” He stopped. “Oh.”

“Yeah.” Selena grinned. “Let’s see you talk about that in a court of law.”

“Regardless, you set the area on fire. That put them at serious risk of injury.”

“Nothing’s burned.”

McCutchins reached across the desk and opened the archive box he’d brought with him. He plucked out a plastic baggy and tossed it on the desk. “There’s this,” he said.

Selena peered down at a half-burned notebook inside a plastic bag. “What about it?”

The Detective’s brow furrowed. “It’s burned.”

Selena shrugged and leaned back. “So? I burn a lot of candles at home. The book caught fire a few days ago.”

“And you just carried it around with you?”

“Yeah.  Is that a problem?”

McCutchins licked his lips. “And this?” He pulled out another plastic bag, this one containing a broken music box.

Selena peered at it. “What about it?”

“How did it get broken?”

Selena shrugged again. “I don’t know. It belonged to my grandmother. She didn’t tell me before she died.”

The Detective sighed and pulled out the third and last bag from the case box. “Then perhaps you could explain why this scorpion is burnt to a crisp?”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

“No, I can’t explain why that scorpion is burnt to a crisp. Why would I know anything about burned scorpion?” She rolled her eyes. “Fuck.”

“So you’re saying this isn’t yours?”

“No, it’s not mine. It’s an insect.”

“Nevertheless—“ Detective McCutchins began.

“Look, you can’t charge me for arson, because there’s no proof of a fire. You can’t charge me with assault unless you want to tell a judge that your cop friend was scared of me saying I’d put a curse on him. You can’t charge me with trespassing, because I was on a public street. And you can’t charge me with murder,” She paused to give him a triumphant smile, “because there’s no body.”

“No. Er… yes. Ms Scott, you’re not doing much to help your situation. If you’d just cooperate—“

“Cooperate? With what? A witch-hunt? You’ve got nothing. I don’t even know why I’m still here. Are you going to charge me with something?”

McCutchins looked at his notes again, at the account of a fire that burned blue, a vanishing corpse, and a woman screaming that she’d curse any man who stepped through her circle. He sighed. “No.”

Selena smirked and picked up her backpack. “Goodnight, Detective.” And with that, she walked out into the night.

Outside the station, the street looked empty.  And then  a tall, blonde woman stepped out of the darkness.

“Diana,” Selena said, embracing the other woman. “Did you have any trouble getting rid of the body?”

Diana rested a hand on Selena’s belly. “None. How are you feeling? Are you okay?”

Selena smiled and put her own hand on top of Diana’s. “I’m fine.”

“Did it work?”

Selena nodded. “I think so, but I guess we’ll know for sure in a few weeks. The ritual was pretty simple. A body for the flesh and blood, music for the soul, writings for knowledge, venom for strength.”

The two of them finished together, “And fire to create a life.”

Diana wrapped an arm around Selena’s waist and drew her close as the two women started down the street. “Pity about the cops getting involved.”

“Yeah,” Selena says. “But it still beats getting pregnant the old-fashioned way.”

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Flash Fiction: Song Shuffle Stories

This week’s terribleminds challenge was to do the following:

  1. Put the music player of your choice on shuffle.
  2. Press play.
  3. Take the title of the first track that comes up, and use that as the title for a 500 word story.

So, off I went, worried that my MP3 player would come up with either one of my son’s songs, or something insanely embarassing. As it is, I ended up with Adrian Alexis singing I Want to be a Vampire.

Hmmm.

I give you:

I Want to be a Vampire

Vlad Dracula II smiled as he surveyed the apartment. The burgundy drapes and black walls were a nice touch.

“Well, this looks lovely, Kevin,” said a friendly female voice behind him.

Vlad spun on his heel, his cape flaring dramatically around him. “I told you to call me Vlad,” he said coldly.

“Sorry Kev— I mean, Vlad,” the woman said with an indulgent laugh.

“What do you want, Mum?”

“I just wanted to see how you were settling in,” she said. “And I brought you a casserole.”

The young man scowled – it was an expression he’d spent hours perfecting in front of the mirror.

“It’s your favourite: macaroni and tuna.”

Vlad hesitated, running his tongue over the sharp edges of his new dental work. “Okay,” he said finally. “Put it in the fridge.”

She smiled and disappeared into the kitchen. “Oh,” she said a moment later. “Even the refrigerator’s black. That’s a…” she hesitated, “… a nice touch.”

“Is there anything else?”

She returned from the kitchen, a slightly hurt look on her face. “No, dear. I’m glad you’re settling in alright. Will you be home for dinner on Sunday? It’s just that your Dad… Well, it would be nice if you could leave some of your…” she trailed off, and waved her hand vaguely around the room. “Well, it would be nice to have a real family dinner. If you know what I mean.”

“It will have to be after dark,” Vlad said. “I sleep during the day.”

“Oh. Of course you do. Well, that would be fine.”

Vlad just nodded, and then looked expectantly at his mother.

“Right then,” she  said. “Well, have a good week. I’ll see you Sunday. I’ll show myself out.”

Once she was gone, Vlad locked the door and started stacking the books he’d purchased on eBay from Occult_Superstarz on to his new black bookcase.

 #

 It was eleven o’clock Saturday night. Vlad was sitting at the bar, pretending to drink a glass of Coke. They wouldn’t sell him the scotch to go with it.

“What’s your name?”

Vlad turned. A cute girl with bright red lips was smiling at him. “Vlad. Vlad Dracula II,” he said.

She laughed. “Really? That’s so…” she paused to look him up and down, taking in the black boots and jeans, skin-tight black shirt, cape, and designer fangs. “…delicious,” she finished.

“Come home with me,” Vlad said. He’d tried the line all week. This was the first time he didn’t get slapped.

“Sure,” she said. “Call me Lillith.”

 #

Pain. Blood. Darkness. Fear.

“It’s not like the movies,” Lillith said, gore dripping from her fangs. She grinned at him, her knees pinning him to the bed and her eyes glowing red. “But you’ll find that out.” She lowered her head.

Vlad gasped as he felt the seductive caress of her tongue on the open wound at his throat.

 #

Vlad Dracula II awoke alone, covered in blood, and hungry.

So hungry.

It was Sunday night.

Time for dinner with the family.

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Flash Fiction: The Unexplainable Photo

It’s a while since I’ve participated in one of Chuck Wendig’s Friday Flash Fiction challenges. Sorry. The challenge this week was to choose one of fifty unexplainable black and white photos and use it as inspiration for a 1000-word story. (My picture is below.) I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Oh, and make sure you pop over and read the other entries, too.

Solstice Magic

The kid was sucking on a cancer stick when he walked into the office. I stared at him for a bit, the way you do, and he stared right back at me. He couldn’t have been a day over nine.

“Those things’ll stunt your growth,” I said by way of greeting.

He gave me the bird. Then he sat himself up on the recliner. “I’m here to hire you.”

“Right,” I said. I opened the top drawer and dug around for a cigarette. I wouldn’t normally smoke in front of a kid, but he started it. “You’re the Winter boy, aren’t you?”

“My name is Colin,” he said. “Charles Winter is my father.”

“And is he paying for this… whatever it is? You lose a toy or something? Your dog run away from home?”

I’d been glared at by grown men who had nothing on this kid. He didn’t speak for a full minute. I lit my cigarette and puffed on it a few times while I waited.

Finally, he opened the bag he’d been carrying – plain white, just like the rest of his outfit – and took out a small bottle. “I can pay,” he said. “This doesn’t involve my father.” He stood up to reach the desk, and slid the bottle toward me.

“You’re paying me in bad booze?” I asked, amused.

“It’s good booze.” He dropped the butt of his cigarette in the ashtray on my desk, then climbed back on to the recliner. “And there’s this.”

He reached into his bag again and pulled out a handful of black fabric. I watched him unfold and spread it out until it took on a familiar shape.

“A hat?”

He nodded. “A silk hat.”

I raised my cig to my mouth and inhaled deeply while I considered the boy in white with the black hat in his lap. “And what do you want me to do for this…” I paused to glance at the label on the bottle. “…fine scotch whiskey and that tattered silk hat?”

“I want you to dig up a body.”

“What?”

“I want you to dig up a body,” Colin repeated. Calmly.

A host of questions sprang to mind. After a moment’s pause I went with a simple, “Why?”

“Do you read?” he asked.

“Do you?” I countered.

He reached into his bag a third time, and this time drew out a faded square of paper. A newspaper clipping. Without a word, he climbed down and placed it on the desk. Then he returned to his seat while I picked it up and scanned it.

Under the headline was a photo of children standing in a snow-covered field. “I remember this,” I said. “It was a couple of years ago. A group of rich kids said their snowman came to life and danced away.” I glanced at the boy. “You one of them?”

He nodded. “Yes. It really happened. The hat brought him to life.”

“The hat?”

“The hat.”

“That hat?”

He nodded, and lifted the black silk hat up for me to see. “This hat.”

I didn’t say anything, just finished my smoke.

“There’s magic in it,” he said. “It brought the snowman to life. It can bring other things to life. It can bring the dead back to life.”

“Right,” I said. “So you want me to dig up a body for you to experiment on. Is that it?” The kid was starting to give me the creeps.

“No,” said Colin. “I’ve already done the experiments.”

I licked my lips. “What do you mean?”

“The hat can bring things to life, but not all the time. It only works on the Winter Solstice.” He stared at me for a long moment. Waiting.  “Tonight,” he added.

“And you know this because…”

“I experimented,” he said again. I must not have looked convinced, because he kept talking. “There are a lot of dogs on my father’s property.” He smiled. “There used to be. I had to find out when the magic would work, so I killed one and tried the hat each day. When the body started to smell, I killed another one and started again. Last year, on the Winter Solstice, it brought the dog back to life.” He paused a moment, then looked me in the eyes and said, “I need the body tonight.”

He needed a body. I needed a drink.

I grabbed the bottle he’d put on the desk and said, “And in return, you’ll give me a bottle of whiskey?”

He shook his head. “No. You can have the booze anyway. If you help me, you get the hat. After I’m finished with it.”

“Won’t you need it?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No. Not after tonight.”

I opened the bottle and tipped a measure into my mouth. Colin was right. It was good stuff. “Whose body?”

“My mother’s,” he said.

And just like that, it all came back to me. Two and a half years ago, the police were called to a disturbance at the Winter house. By the time they got there, Mrs Winter was dead. There’d been suspicions of foul play, but it was eventually ruled an accident. Mr Winter was too rich to be a murder suspect.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll help you.”

And I did. I dug up his mother, and he put the hat on her head just as the town clock struck midnight.

That was a year ago. There’s no need to ask if it worked.

If it hadn’t, he wouldn’t have given me the hat. And you’d still be a corpse.

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Flash Fiction: 100 Word Romance

The writing prompt over at TerribleMinds this week a 100 word story on the theme of ‘bullies’ or ‘bullying’ in honour of Spirit Day. I sat down and tried to writing something, but failed miserably. It’s not that I don’t have a plethora of material to work with — I was bullied every school day for 10 years of my life. But even now, 17 years after graduating high school, the emotional wounds are too raw to be used for fiction without the facts weighing down my story.

But I didn’t want to let all my “fans” down by not writing anything this week, so I challenged myself to write something else outside my comfort zone – a 100 word story with a romantic theme.  This is quite different to my usual writing, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. (Note: For best effect, try reading this story out loud.)

My Lover, My Lady

 I wake and listen to her song. It is more a sigh than a shout this morning. I smile. She seems placid, but beneath her serenity I sense a coming storm.

This won’t be the first we’ve seen in sixty years.

I first saw her the summer I turned sixteen. I was young, inexperienced, searching for something to satisfy the longings I didn’t understand. She seduced me with ease and experience and I promised I’d be hers.

But years pass and my spirit grows weary. My last wish is to die in her embrace.

My lover, my lady.

The sea.

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Flash Fiction: Five Words Plus One Vampire

In keeping with the spooky October theme, this week’s flash fiction challenge at TerribleMinds was to write a 1000-word story about an old favourite: a vampire. But the story also needed to include 3 of the 5 following words: Cockroach, Fountain, Tax, Bottle, Box.

I’ve used Tax, Bottle and Box in my Vampire Story. Let me know what you think!

Touched for the Very First Time

It’s at times like this I remember what my old Dad used to say: The only sure things in life are death, taxes and vampires.

“Judy! Push the button! Push the goddamn button!”

I watch Laura run across the dark football field, screaming at me to “push the goddamn button” and wonder if Dad ever had to deal with this kind of thing. Sure, the three vampires are getting closer, but that’s no reason for histrionics. The closest is still a good five feet behind her.

 “Judy!” she shrieks as another vampire swoops out of the darkness to her right and grabs her dress in its taloned claws.

I press the button on my Vamplight 3000 (Patent Pending) and Laura’s shoes light up like the Fourth of July. The bat-like features of the vampires come into view and Laura stops running and concentrates on screaming. I turn away and start down the stairs. The UV light will do its job..

By the time I reach the bottom of the commentator’s box and start across the field, Laura has nothing to scream about except the ash staining her white dress. The light from her shoes has dimmed to a low glow. We’ve only got about three minutes before we’re plunged into darkness.

I drop to my knees and start searching for fangs. They’re the only part of a vampire that doesn’t disintegrate when faced with strong UVA rays, which makes them the only way to prove a vampire’s been despatched. As my Dad said when he was teaching me the trade, “Ain’t no bounties paid on promises.”

“Wow. That was, like, really close,” Laura says in her high-pitched, sorority-girl voice. “I, like, totally thought they were gonna catch me. You know, it’d be much easier to run if I could wear, like, my gym clothes. This dress is, like, really—”

“Necessary,” I interrupt. Three teeth found, five to go. “Vampires are attracted to white. You need to look like a victim.”

“You know, this field is, like, really big in the dark. Much bigger than at practice.”

Six found, two to go. It’s always easier when they die on concrete.

“I’m glad this didn’t take long. Brett’s picking me up tonight. Do you know Brett?” she asks with a giggle. I ignore her. She keeps talking. “He’s the quarterback and he’s, like, totally hot. He’s been, like, asking me out for months but I keep saying no, because you have to say no if you want to, like, keep a guy interested. Y’ know?”

Seven fangs. Damn it, where’s number eight? The glow from the Vamplight Shoes (Patent Pending) starts to fade. There’s no way I’ll find the last tooth in the dark.

There! I pull out a small silver box and put the fangs inside. The first six are about an inch and a half long, and the last two are a fraction shy of an inch. Must have been a young one.

The light from the shoes goes out, leaving us in the dark. I slide the box back into the pocket of my jacket and stand up.

Laura giggles nervously. “There’s, like, no other vampires around here, are there?”

“Hope not,” I say. The only problem with the Vamplight 3000 (Patent Pending) is that it needs to recharged between uses. If we’re attacked, I’ll have to use either the silver blade at my hip or the stake strapped to my thigh. I’ve fought vampires that way before, but not when distracted by a screaming sorority virgin.

I head toward the car park. Laura trots at my side.

“I’ll need you tomorrow night,” I say. “There’s a nest at Lover’s Leap.”

“Okay.” Laura giggles again. “You know why I like Brett? Because he’s, like, so much more mature than the other guys here. He’s, like, got a really cool car, and he, like, lives in this great apartment near the river, and —”

She keeps talking but I stop listening. I’m wondering whether I should turn in these fangs for my $500/fang reward now, or wait until after tomorrow night’s haul. We reach the cars and I wait for Laura to stop talking.

She doesn’t.

I interrupt.

“You’ll need to fix that dress.”

She looks down at the torn fabric where the fourth vampire grabbed her, and her eyes widen. “Oh my God!” she says as though it’s a single word. “He, like, totally tore my dress! He touched me! He could have bitten me!”

Dad used to say, “A vampire can’t hurt a virgin any more than a bee can hurt honey. That’s what makes ‘em a good weapon.”

But Laura seems to like the danger so I let her bleat on about her close call. I take out my wallet and count out four hundred dollars. “One hundred per vampire,” I say and hand her the cash.

Her eyes light up. “Thanks! Now I can, like, totally afford to buy a bottle of Seagrams to share with Brett! This is the best job ever.”

###

I’m on the cliff overlooking Lover’s Leap when Laura comes into view. I ready the Vamplight 3000 (Patent Pending).

She walks to the railing and looks down at the city lights below. I’m glad she remembers the plan. She was so busy gushing about her date with Whats-his-name that I wasn’t sure she was paying much attention to me. I wasn’t paying much attention to her either, but now her words run through my mind.

“…only our first date…”

“…really hot…”

“…everyone else has…”

“…wasn’t really ready, but…”

“…really cool apartment…”

“…fell asleep…”

Realisation dawns too late.

A dark shape decapitates Laura in a single swoop. Her head tumbles over the railing and off the edge of the lookout. Her body collapses to the ground, the white dress slowly turning red.

I wait until all five vampires are feeding on her corpse before I push the goddamn button.

Damn it.

Now I’m gonna need a new virgin.

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Filed under Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction: The Truth Will Let You Breathe

The Flash Fiction challenge over at TerribleMinds this week was to write a monster story in 1000 words or less. The catch: it had to be a new monster. No vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. We had to come up with something new and different.

I found this challenge really tricky. Coming up with the monster was the easy part — I worked that out on day one. But no matter how many times I started writing the story, I couldn’t make it work. The mood wasn’t right, the words wouldn’t come… It was just one of those stories that I couldn’t seem to get from my brain to the paper. Then: Inspiration.

A monster story, told in the lyrical style of Dr. Seuss.

The Truth will Let You Breathe

In the dark of the night
Something went bump.
I woke up with a start.
I woke up with a jump.
I leapt from my bed
With my heart all aflutter.
I grabbed for my gun,
And I started to mutter.

“I can hear you, my friend,”
I said under my breath.
“Have you come here to fight,
man-to-man, to the death?
If that is the case,
Then you better watch out.
I’m the best that there is,
Of that, there’s no doubt.”

But nothing was said,
And the darkness was still.
I crept through the house
And then felt a chill.
I spun to my left
And then to my right
“Where are you?”I yelled
Then I switched on the light.

It was standing right there,
Barely three feet away,
It was grotesque and horrid
In every way.
I screamed like a banshee
And pointed my gun.
My hand was all shaky.
I wanted to run.

“Don’t move,” I said bravely.
My teeth clicked and clacked.
My whole body was shaking
As a matter of fact.
“Just back away slowly,
I won’t ask you twice.”
It laughed and it grabbed me,
It’s grip like a vice.

I struggled and strained,
But I couldn’t get free.
“What are you? And
What are you doing to me?”
It started to laugh,
A long drawn out sound,
“I’m all of the lies
That you’ve spread around.”

I looked up at the monster,
Looked into its face,
The face that belonged to
My first girlfriend, Grace.
I’d told her I loved her,
But it wasn’t true.
It was the heat of the moment.
I just wanted a screw.

Its eyes looked like Barry’s.
I’d once dobbed him in
For cheating at school,
But I’d copied from him.
Its tongue was a fish
That I’d said got away.
Its teeth, cigarettes
Smoked in secret one day

It was wearing a shirt
That I stole from a mate
(I’d sworn that I hadn’t,
But Gods it looked great.),
Jeans made of books that
I said that I’d read,
A belt made of rumours
I’d started or spread.

In its hand was a gun,
It looked just like mine.
“You’re not really the best.”
It laughed one more time.
I held up my free hand
In front of my head,
“Please don’t just shoot me!
I don’t want to be dead!”

It looked at me long
And it lowered the gun.
“I’m not going to shoot you,
That wouldn’t be fun.”
It reached into its pocket
And pulled something free:
A lighter that really
Meant nothing to me.

“You stole this from your Dad,”
It said with a smile.
“You told him you hadn’t,
Said it wasn’t your style.”
It flicked on the flame
And then let it fall.
The carpet caught fire,
And so did the wall.

“This is the battery
You swore you’d replaced
In that smoke alarm there
So conveniently placed.
But it won’t help you now,”
It said. “’Cause it’s broke.”
Then it held me quite still
While I started to choke.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Poems