The Aberrant Storage Site

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“No,” Major Jennings ordered, “Don’t go near that.”

I stopped, not being one to question, but I ached to know why. The box was covered in vines, surrounded by trees, as if it hadn’t been touched in a long time. If I were going to work at this Aberrant Storage Site (or ASS, as military personnel were inevitably going to dub it), shouldn’t I know what was going on?

I swallowed a bit of fear. “Who’s in charge of this, then?”

“No one,” Jennings answered. “There are reports from 1962 that say some men captured a thing – creature, artifact, it’s not clear – and started doing it’s bidding. Soldiers disappeared, guns were found in strange places, and inscrutable symbols were carved into the sides of the barracks.”

“So?” I asked.

“Eventually, the group of men in charge of the object started bleeding themselves and collecting it in a barrack bathtub. The Base Commander at the time was appalled and put them in prison, but they kept bleeding then used the blood to write strange words all over their cell walls. Orders meant nothing to them, food or friends didn’t either. He ended up having them executed out by the hangar, then burned the corpses off site. They sealed whatever it was in this lead-lined box, and standing orders have been to shoot anyone who gets too close.”

I hadn’t expected something like this. “So, how close do you think the brainwashed soldiers came to fulfilling the thing’s goal?”

Jennings shrugged. “Unclear. It’s even possible they succeeded.” He pulled something out of his pocket. “Werther’s Original?”

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This was written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #73. I saw this picture and just couldn’t resist.

 

Embrace Engineering

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“Then using the continuity equation, we…”

The ceiling closed in to a circular point around the visitor’s mysterious symbols. We did not understand but jotted them in notebooks and promised to use them on pipes…

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This Lovecraftian flash was inspired by Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #150, continuity. The continuity equation is used in fluid dynamics to describe continuous flow and conserve mass/energy. Since Lovecraft was traumatized with geometry, I thought I’d use that equation to cause even MORE trauma.

The Roofing Rabbit

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Velour wiped her brow and sat back, hammer in paw. The roof of the cabin had been difficult so far, as they only had honey locust thorns as nails and bark for shingles.

“How goes it?” Velour’s mate, Timber, asked. His ears drooped from exhaustion, as he’d built the catted chimney.

She smiled. “We’ll have this finished by winter.” She pointed to a clay bottle sitting on a stump. “Take a break and have some ginger beer.”

“Only if you come down from the roof and drink with me.”

Velour clambered down, and the pioneer rabbits rested a minute.

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This was written for the March 19th Carrot Ranch prompt, Rabbit on the Roof. My mom just started reading Redwall again, and I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t involve anthropomorphic rabbits. These pioneer rabbits are building a cabin much like the one recently built on one of my favorite YouTube channels, Townsends.

Nevermore

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Suddenly there came a tapping at my chamber door. I shivered, knowing it’s Lenore knocking in the hall, wanting inside my door. She’s come in form of raven and ghost before, but her footsteps patting are heavy, plodding on the hallway floor.

Dare I open it? No – I can hear her moaning, pleading for entry, but as I sit profusely sweating, I fear the integrity of my door.

Now her arms are heavily banging, splint’ring down my chamber door. “BRAINS!” she cries, consumption eating at her zombie form. I scream, but no use waiting – she’s in, and I’m nevermore.

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The prompt for the March 12th Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge was tapping, and like a good, “well-read*” American, I instantly thought of Poe’s “The Raven”.

*I’m really not well-read, not at all well-read considering that I’m trying to be a writer, so this is in quotes because I’m being sarcastic.

The Truth About Santa’s Elves

Santa Elf

Peppermint Jolly finished soldering the knockoff iPad’s connections. He put the iron down so as to rest his bleeding and blistered hands, then placed his creation into the “finished” basket. He took a moment to breathe, to let his hands shake while the popped blisters seeped liquid.

But the overseer – a burly elf who’d earned the nickname Bad Figgy – caught Peppermint Jolly on this unapproved break. He strode over, broadening his shoulders and filling out his lederhosen. “What you doing, boy? Did Santa say you could stop?”

Peppermint Jolly shut his eyes tightly, expecting a punch or a slap. “Sir, my hands are bleeding, sir. I don’t want to ruin the product by dripping in them-”

“These products aren’t real iPads. They’re going to China, where everything is ripped off and broken anyway. We only buy the real ones for the kids who’ll know better. Now get back to work or I’ll put you on chemical weapons duty next year.” Bad Figgy boxed Peppermint Jolly’s ears, causing him to wince, then went off to whip up on the next electronics worker who slacked off.

Peppermint Jolly picked up the soldering iron despite the agonizing boils and wounds. He didn’t want to go on chemical weapons duty ever again – his lungs still hadn’t recovered from last time, and the sales of black market goods only made money that went toward the purchase of gifts like the real iPads or DRM intact materials.

But it was Christmas Eve. Praise God – the next day was Christmas, the one day of the year that the elves could rest. The one day of the year none of the females would be forced into reproducing, the one day of the year the forced labor would stop, the one day the overseers wouldn’t beat a slave for eating too much or slacking off.

But Peppermint Jolly knew the cycle would just start up again. While the next Christmas season was still a ways off, he’d be put on drone duty, soldering and building the electronic pieces used in military drones to sell to terrorists. He was also smart, so Santa could choose anytime now to force him into a living arrangement with a fertile female. He could whip them both if results didn’t happen.

And there was no escape. The magic barrier was impenetrable, and none of the humans besides Master Kringle could see inside.

Could he handle another year? Could Peppermint Jolly make it through more of this madness?

“Fuck you, Santa,” he said. He turned the iron to his neck and pierced the jugular as quick as he could.

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This Christmas, think of the people and elves who make the presents you purchase. There are real kids in the Congo who are forced to dig cobalt for batteries, real people in Bangladesh and India who work harrowing hours in hazardous conditions for your soft goods. Many of us can’t afford gifts otherwise, but if you have the option, consider looking into what you purchase and try to incorporate the least slave labor you can.

Also, boycott Santa. Don’t let that asshole come down your chimney. Don’t pay that slave-owning piece of shit with milk and cookies. We’re better than this.

Image by SilviaP_Design from Pixabay

The Repairman

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The microphone still sat, open and in pieces, on my workbench. I dreaded having to stay awake all night to get this antique fixed, but the owner needed it repaired by tomorrow.

That was easier said than done. The diaphragm on the capacitor was shot, but I didn’t have a replacement part handy.

“Oh!” I mumbled. “What I wouldn’t give to have that part!”

A man in a pinstripe suit and thin mustache appeared at my side. He held a new diaphragm with his fingertips. “Your soul sound a fair price?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“Then let’s make a deal…”

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This was written for the December 19th Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch. With a prompt like “open mic night,” I decided to attempt going way, way out there and made a literal opened microphone at night. This was partway inspired by the BBC series The Repair Shop (which my mom forced on me recently) and also by Hazbin Hotel‘s Radio Demon character.

Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

The Secret Life of your Hammer

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Usually the hammer lived happily in a drawer next to the tape measure and a molten pack of gum, but sometimes the humans would attack. Someone would be abducted, sometimes for days, and abused mercilessly at their hands.

Today storm clouds whirled above, and the humans had innocent sheets of plywood to serve as storm windows. They withdrew a nail from a sack on their belts.

“Ow! Ow!” screeched the hammer.

But the human didn’t care. He beat the hammer senseless, imprisoned the poor nails in the plywood and siding, then left them precariously outside as the hurricane blew…

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This was written for the November 14th Carrot Ranch prompt, storm windows. I think this one has more the feel of a “yarn,” but I enjoyed it and hope you did to!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

A High Price

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“I’ll give you power,” the devil crooned, “For bartering your soul.”

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This was written for Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #124barter. With only 11 required words, I had to do it.

Hello, everyone – as any regulars may be able to tell, I’ve slowed down a LOT on the blog recently. I’m in the home stretch on my dissertation, though, with only about a month and some change to go! Hopefully after that I can get back on the bandwagon.

Until then, I’ve got all my book review posts planned through to the new year, and those should be reliable.

I got the picture off a royalty-free image site a couple years ago and don’t remember which one.

The End

The priest beheld the visage of the old man. The ancient General seemed shrunken from age, but the priest did not believe the call for extreme unction was necessary at this time. In many respects, he hoped it wasn’t necessary, because the old man was filled with heroism and daring.

And, worst of all, he was certainly bound for the devils’ hell.

The old man, surrounded by many family members and servants, pointed his cane to a chair with horsehair-stuffed cushion. “Sit. We don’t even have an hour, Father, and it’d be a damn shame to waste these precious few minutes.”

The priest coughed at the cursing and took the seat. “I – sir, forgive me if I seem insolent to one so aged and venerable as you, but you appear to be in tolerable health. I brought the appropriate oils for anointing, but I won’t apply them if it’s unwarranted.”

The old man brushed off the statement. “I will die when the sun is at it’s peak. I’ve made my peace with it, and I gathered all who are important to me here in this room.”

“And how can you be so sure? Do you… you don’t plan on shooting yourself, do you?”

“By the eternal, no! Good God man, you think me mad?” The General laughed, which caused him to cough up some slime which he spat into a handkerchief.* “No. Almost 16 years ago, I sacrificed several months off the end of my life to get something far more important than lingering here on this soil. Now, all the signs and signals are fulfilled, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I will die within the hour.”

The priest shook his head. “There’s no way to know for certain. Our Lord Yarenth is not master of devilish signs or superstitions.”

“Yarenth also isn’t the master of the blood magic I was part of to excise the last few months off my life.” The old man’s eyes, clouded by cataracts and sitting behind glasses and flaps of wrinkles, still held a frightening, threatening power. “I am certain I will die. If you do not perform this action, Yarenth will hold your treachery against you.”

The priest nodded. “I think you at least believe what you say.”

“And how dare you not believe me in return?”

The priest opened his jar of alabaster oil, sprinkled a bit on his own hand, then rubbed it on the old General’s forehead. He muttered some words in a language he didn’t understand, in a language he almost certainly garbled, then closed the box back up.

All the family members swooped in upon the oil-laden general. His son, bedecked in his own uniform, sat on bended knee at his foot while nieces and nephews of diverse ages teared up and wept.

“What is the matter with my dear children?” The general asked. He rubbed his son’s head, patted the top of a little boy’s. “Have I alarmed you? Oh, do not cry. Be good children and we will all meet in Heaven.”

The sun rose imperceptibly, and the clock struck noon.

The General gave one breath, which passed easily from his lungs, and all was over.

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*The slime is from a lingering respiratory problem due to a bullet lodged in his chest. It’s not actually the thing killing him in this scene.

This was written for Joanne the Geek’s Flash Fiction Challenge #7, The End. In this, we’re supposed to write the end of a book that we’ll likely never make. I know she said to do the last paragraph, but I couldn’t do it. The last paragraph had to be a single line for this book.

The book I’m talking about here is part of an enormous series that I’m not sure I have enough time left in my life to finish. I wrote the first novella earlier this year and will work on the second when my hand feel a little better, but this one is like… the end of novella #60? Something ridiculous like that?

Anyway, this is the last part in my “novella crazy pants series” before the plotline goes completely off the rails.

A Familiar Face

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The old woman stroked the cat, and his yellow eyes blinked with content. She drank a bit of potion – or tonic, as she called it in the market – and smacked her lips. “Excellent work, my boy.”

The apprentice to the witch, a boy of 17, nodded in thanks. Years spent under the witch’s tutelage had led him to be a formidable witch in his own right, and fewer seemed to suspect him of wrongdoing than the old witch. He found this unfair but decided to use the advantage.

“I think you are ready for a familiar,” the witch said.

His eyes glittered. “Really?” He sat back down, trying to calm himself and not seem so interested. “I mean, sure. I think I’m ready.”

The witch simply smiled, pet the cat – Sam, her familiar – on her lap. “Then I will help you. The first step, of course, is to use the beast-speech potion to find an animal whose personality works well with yours. Heed me, my dear: do not choose an animal who is unwilling. The familiar will last for the rest of your life, and its death will take a piece of your soul with it.”

The apprentice nodded. “I know. I understand.”

“Then take your time. When you find such a creature, bring it here, and we’ll request its service.”

***

A month later, the apprentice drank the potion once more. He’d spoken to every animal in the county, perhaps even the territory considering how many animals traversed through the area while seeking somewhere else, and no reasonable creature had wanted to help him.

And those who might have agreed were bugs or spiders or other creatures too stupid to understand what he asked.

A black cat belonging to a family in town licked its paws while it sat on a railing. The apprentice walked up to it, and he asked, “What’s your name?”

It stopped licking. “Fuck off, mate.”

The apprentice furrowed his brows and stepped back. “I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me. Fuck off, go away. I’m happy here and don’t want to serve the likes of you.” It continued licking its paw. “Everyone knows what you’ve been up to for the last month, so don’t even pretend like this wasn’t some sort of interview.”

“Well, excuse me for living!” the apprentice growled back.

He removed himself from the foul animal’s presence and headed back to the witch’s little house in the woods.

***

He found the witch stirring a brew, this one likely a beer rather than a potion. She looked up from her work to see the young man’s dejected entry. “Is something wrong, dear?”

He sat down on the chair. “I just can’t find a familiar. I’ve tried everything, but every animal says no.” He placed his elbows on the table and leaned his chin into his palms. “Should I go farther? Perhaps head to New Orleans and see what I can find there?”

“Perhaps,” the witch answered. “But perhaps there’s another solution to your problem.”

“What?” the apprentice asked.

“You’ve only been at this for a month, and if you’ve gone through every option, that means you’ve not built any relationships. You’ve just asked them to join you, and of course they said no because they thought you an abusive witch.” She put the pot atop her brew and pat the lid. “Whether you go to New Orleans or you stay here, it’s best to find a friend before you even think about asking for a permanent relationship.”

“You sound like someone giving dating advice.”

She chuckled. “I suppose it could be similar.”

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This was written for Alexander Eliot’s photo prompt, “Cats’ Eye.” This photo, provided by Mr. Eliot, was such a crisp and clean photo of a cat named Sam. I decided to use this opportunity to continue the story from earlier, wherein my younger apprentice learned to appreciate many forms of life and find satisfaction with his trainer.