Category Archives: Fiction

Short Fiction

When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 5

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

(Note – This is Chapter 5 of the story.  See chapter 1.)

The room was crowded.  Too crowded. There were all types of people shuffling through, milling about and sitting in the rows of chairs. Most were wearing “nice” clothes, though it all looked cheap to Jesk.  He was sure his silk boxers cost more than the most expensive suit or dress in the room.  And it was warm, too warm for “winter”; people were sweating.  He heard a sneeze and some coughing. There was sniffling, the cold and flu season made worse by the sudden changes from freezing to sweating.  All he could think of was the germs.  Not that it would matter to Brey.

Jesk couldn’t help but to stare at his sister. Thara had made sure that, as family, they sat up front.  He didn’t want to look at any of the rabble in their cheap suits and snotty noses and there was not much else in the room to look at other than Brey.

He thought back to their mother’s funeral, only two weeks after their father’s. Brey had again made sure she talked to everyone, hugged everyone, cried on everyone’s shoulder.  It was just like her.  Uncle Jorden had forced Jesk to participate a little more than he had at his father’s funeral, saying it was proper for him to respect his mother, but he still sat in the back and didn’t talk to anyone unless he had to.  Unlike at their father’s closed casket funeral, their mother’s face was showing, in some ways making the entire thing a little more real, and yet there was still that strange unreality to it.  That waxen face had nothing to do with his mother and that shattered and broken body that was hidden really wasn’t there.  It was just a mannequin head that had a passing resemblance to his mother put on display for people to cry their fake tears over and say society’s dictated condolences.

And now the waxen face was that of his sister, Brey.  Her body, though broken and shattered by disease, was not hidden away like her mother’s had been, but wearing a dress, a dress that Ryk or one of his relatives must have thought was nice. Jesk had socks that cost more.

Jesk had last seen her at his and Thara’s wedding, a little more than ten years before. Disease and time had aged her more than he expected.  Her hair was completely grey and in places had begun to turn the transparent white of old age, her face was slightly caved in and her body overly thin, with the “pretty” dress draped over it making her gaunt, emaciated figure more obvious, not less.

Brey had visited Thara when Adi was born, but Jesk didn’t see her then. From what Thara had said at dinner, they must have bonded during that visit. He had to wonder how they ever talked.  Jesk was careful to ensure that Thara had limited communication with the outside beyond what she needed to run the household.  There were too many nuts running around out there and he worked hard to ensure none of them could break into his domain. The barbarians were at the door, just waiting for someone to crack it open a hair. Thara would not be that person to let the wolves into the house. He did everything in his power to ensure that.

He wasn’t cruel or anything like that, but Jesk knew that he kept Thara on a very short leash. After they married, she never left the compound without him and he made sure that she was always within touching distance so he could monitor what she said and to whom.  Of course her excursions became few and far between after Adi was born, but that was Thara’s own fault since she refused to leave Adi with a robot for more than a handful of hours, and hated even that. He had no idea why she thought Adi was better off in the hands of humans. He didn’t trust any human, why did she?

He had to wonder about Thara’s recent attitude. Not only did she make sure they were in front for the ceremony, she had immediately accepted Ryk’s invitation to the wake following the service. She had even hugged Ryk and Bil.  Bil had been a brooding teenager at their wedding, but was now a married man himself with two kids, the oldest being about Adi’s age.

Even less real than Brey’s death was the idea that, beyond Adi, Bil and the two kids were his only blood relatives in the entire world. He had never thought of himself as isolated.  He talked to presidents, prime ministers, kings and dictators on an almost daily basis. He met regularly with the most powerful business people in the world, most of whom had more real influence than all of those presidents and kings put together. And yet, seeing Brey’s family standing around her casket getting ready for the service, he felt more alone than he had ever felt, even more than when Jorden had his heart attack and died at 51, leaving his entire fortune to the 23-year-old Jesk.

Although Jesk had always avoided and hated death, it was something impersonal, something for other people and had little to do with him, the idea of death never really bothered him much.  He had had almost no relationship whatsoever with Brey since their mother’s funeral and they left in their separate directions to their separate lives and futures.  And yet, sitting, looking at Brey’s wax face and seeing her family, who were total strangers to him, for some reason he was far more affected by the presence of death than he had ever been in his life.

An evil voice whispered in the back of his skull that for the first time in his life he had to think about his own mortality.

That voice was immediately drowned out as he pretended to pay attention to the ceremony, pretended to pray to their god, pretended to really care.  All he wanted to do was go home and relax. As soon as they were finished blabbing, they’d be able to go. He was looking forward to it.  Just a few minutes longer.

And then he remembered that Thara had accepted that invitation and his heart sank.

****

This is the fifth chapter of the story “When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House” based on the image by Marianne Sopala that was off of Pixabay.  The larger story is in response to D. Wallace Peach’s February Speculative Fiction Prompt.

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Hive Mentality

jhc-asylum

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

The place buzzed with activity.  Everyone was on a mission, working harder than I had ever seen.

What had changed in the six months that I had been at our field office in Dubuque?  Headquarters was known for being a bit laid back, lax even.  They kept an easy pace.

Now it was different.

And it wasn’t that they were working harder, everything was coordinated. The employees seemed to be dancing as they moved around the building, acting as a single organism. Hive mentality at its best.

I first noticed the antenna on Jeff.

And then I saw the nest.

***

Word count = 100

Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  This week’s prompt is here and uses a photo PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll.  Read more or join in by following the InLinkz “linky“.

***

So the first thing I saw was the hornets’ nest and the first thing I thought was that this building looks like a giant, stone annex to that nest, so the rest was filling in the blanks….

When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 4

elephant-2910293_960_720

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

(Note – This is Chapter 4 of the story.  See chapter 1.)

The waves lapped gently at the beach, though a little farther down the waves were bigger and came closer to crashing. Terns were skirting the wave tops, darting around, occasionally hovering for a moment, before diving for small minnows. A gull could be heard crying above the sound of the surf. The sun beat down, hot and heavy, but the salt-tanged breeze from the ocean was refreshing.

Jesk watched Thara as she helped Adi read her book.  He shook his head. It was a real, honest to goodness paper book. He didn’t know such things still existed.

“Susan, walked, on, the sand. She, saw, a….” Adi’s little face scrunched up in concentration.  “I don’t know this word.”

“Sound it out, Sweetie. What are the first two letters?” She had a smile, an odd one he hadn’t seen before.  It made wrinkles appear around her eyes.  He didn’t like that.

“’C’, ‘R’.”

“Good.  And what does that sound like?”  Actually, she looked like a mother, not a teenager.  He wanted a teenager as his bride, not a “mother”. Continue reading

When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 3

elephant-2910293_960_720

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

(Note – This is Chapter 3 of the story.  See chapter 1.  Note 2 – the viewpoints of Jesk are purposefully disturbing.)

The stars were bright and crystal clear. The majestic form of the Milky Way stood out forming the perfect backdrop for the towering peaks of the high mountains. The air was filled with summer nighttime sounds of the song of crickets. A loon call, lonely, like a spirit calling from a different world, echoed across the landscape. A cool, fragrant breeze blew in off of the mountains.

Jesk thought about getting under the warm covers, but he actually enjoyed the goosebumps that rose up on his body.  It was a feeling that pushed beyond his bland comfort zone where he spent 99.9% of his life, and yet it was safe and familiar.  He felt alive. He reached over and patted the bed beside him.

For a moment he wished Thara was there lying next to him in the bed, not for sex, but for shared warmth and companionship.

He quickly grew angry, first at himself, but since he could never be angry at himself for long, at Thara. What was she thinking, telling him what she was going to do and telling him, actually telling him, what he should do as well?

The goosebumps went away and he began to sweat in his angry heat. Continue reading

When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 2

elephant-2910293_960_720

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

(Chapter 1)

Tall pines stretched towards the sky. The forest was thick in all directions, receding into darkness. A table was in a clearing between several towering trees. Three people were at the table for dinner. The man lifted a knife.

The knife sliced through the steak as if it were butter.

“I had Robreto Tabis program the steak today.” Thara smiled.

Jesk frowned at the meat on his plate. “The celebrity chef?  Well, he did a terrible job.  It’s over cooked.” He pointed to the cut end of the meat with his knife. “It’s supposed to be pink for two and three quarters inches, this looks pink for no more than two and half! I can’t eat this garbage.”

Thara held her smile. “Please try it, Honey.  Robreto guarantees his work, but you have to eat it first.  And please don’t throw it out.  Steak is expensive.”

Jesk scrunched up his face and stared at his wife. “Expensive?  I thought I heard you try to justify a 35-million-dollar pet not a half an hour ago!” Continue reading

Blade #writephoto

blade

Photo by Sue Vincent

Givere’s footfalls echoed down the corridor despite his careful steps and the soft leather of his boots. TAP-Tap-tap-tap-ap-p-p. TAP-Tap-tap-tap-ap-p-p. TAP-Tap-tap-tap-ap-p-p. He clung to the walls as he tried to tiptoe, occasionally glancing over his shoulder. TAP-Tap-tap-tap-ap-p-p. The walls were an ancient, rough-hewn rock fitted together with no mortar.  The stones glisten red in the torchlight with sweat from the moist air, giving the illusion that the walls were oozing blood. Even without the sweat, he would know by the chill that he was far underground.

Gevere was nearing the end of his quest.  If all indications were correct, the Sword of Nature was down in the deepest dungeon, a place that hadn’t been seen by human eye in millennia. The 14-year-old had braved many trials to make it this far and so was cautious – the rough-rock-hallway seemed too easy! Continue reading

No Longer Fun

bonfire-anshu

PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

“I got it, let’s tell scary stories, the way we did when we were kids!”

Sue gave Derek a dirty look while Bob just stared into the fire.

“Come on guys, you are just so boring.”

“What are you going to do, tell the one about the Claw?” Sue spit the words out.

“I’m sorry, I’m just so tired of sitting here doing nothing I thought you might want to try something different.”

“Those stories were more fun when we were kids, back in ’52,” Sue said.

Bob looked up, “Yeah, before the Claw killed us, before we were ghosts.”

**

Word count = 100

Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  This week’s prompt is here and uses a photo PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala.  Read more or join in by following the InLinkz “linky“.

When the Elephant Bumps the Mouse House – Chapter 1

elephant-2910293_960_720

Pixabay image by Marianne Sopala

Jesk took a deep breath of the fragrant breeze.  It smelled of nature, of unspoiled forests. He sighed and continued the call to tie up loose ends.

“That means that the Margeson Contact is complete and watertight, right?” Jesk asked, seemingly to the air.

A crow flew down, landed a few feet in front of him. It turned its head and watched him for a minute with a shiny eye, cawed and flew off.

“Yes sir,” his assistant and lawyer Merl’s voice came from came from slightly to the left and in front, towards the meadow and slightly downhill.

“Good.  I left the office early today. Lock it all up on your way out.” A vulture was making lazy circles in the cloudless sky, but was soon gone.

“Yes sir.  Have a good weekend.” A deer walked into the meadow near were the voice was coming from.

“Goodbye.”

Jesk leaned back in his chair and only half paid attention to the pleasant landscape around him.

Ignoring Jesk, the deer moved deeper into the field. Beyond the meadow the shadow of a deeper forest has half guessed in the green haze and perhaps even some higher hills off in the far distance. Facing forward, the trees grew a little thicker to the right, away from the little glen, and sloped downhill away from him, where it was possible to make out distant tall mountains through the trees.  To the right the ground sloped down even more to a small, fast flowing brook only a dozen feet from where Jesk was sitting.  It seemed the ideal spot for trout, with a tree shading the bend in the stream. Although the sun was bright, it was a perfect 72 degrees with just a hint of a fresh breeze. The deer continued to graze in the field to his left while a red tailed hawk flew overhead.

Jesk leaned back even more and half dozed. A fly could be heard buzzing by him, but he ignored it, letting the noise fade into the background as he relaxed and let the week melt away.

A large bump jolted Jesk. He jerked up, suddenly wide awake. Continue reading

Fragrant #writephoto

Photo by Sue Vincent

A fragrant breeze blew in through the open window, causing the curtains to flutter. Todd walked over to close it, but Cindy stopped him with a shake of her head. The bit of late spring wind smelled of green and flowers and distant showers; it was fragrant with the scent of life and rebirth.

James walked into the garden. Mom was back there, but he hoped he could escape and have some private time with Margret. It took only a few turns in the path and they were alone, if only for a brief moment. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, putting the flowers to shame. He smiled shyly and, trying to hide his enthusiasm, he led her over to a bench.

“We graduate next week,” he said. He felt a little silly stating the obvious, but it was a start.  Margret nodded shyly. “I talked to the recruiter yesterday.  They’re desperate.  I’ll ship off for induction the day after graduation.”

“Oh, Jim,” Margret said. She drew closer, so they were pressed against each other, despite his mom being close. He put an arm around her and looked into her wonderful eyes. With a shock he realized that she was on the verge of tears. Continue reading

Roadside Attraction

from-renee-heath

PHOTO PROMPT © Renee Heath

The tourists were all pasty faced and out of shape, sweating in the sun, fanning themselves with programs.  Jim scowled. Not many this time.

His great-grandfather had opened in the early 1950s as people began to explore the West and wanted to have an “authentic” experience.  The show, unchanged since then right down to the stupid teepee, was all about expectations from those first few tourists and had nothing to do with authenticity.

The actors entered dancing, whooping and drumming.

The tourists clapped, as always. How Jim resented them. He wanted to quit, but a buck was still a buck.

***

Word count = 100

Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  This week’s prompt is here and uses a photo ©Renee Heath.  Read more or join in by following the InLinkz “linky“.