Flash Fiction: Cracked Stucco


Here’s another piece of flash fiction. It needs more work, but I had fun with it. Liked the idea of the woman being fearless while her boyfriend is the scaredy-cat! LOL.

“Sinister Muse”

Ben and Zoey slipped through the hole in a fence surrounding the abandoned estate. Legends of greed, untimely death, and cult activity attracted paranormal enthusiasts to the infamous movie mogul’s home like bugs to a porchlight.

The local authorities made some effort to keep the structure boarded up. Still, a new blog posting details of past investigations had revitalized interest.

“Think we parked the car far enough away?”

“Yeah, relax.”

“My parents will kill me if we’re arrested for trespassing.”

“I think the cops have better things to worry about.”

The couple crept across the overgrown grounds toward the rear of the building.

“This is a bad idea. I can’t see anything.”

“Come on. Don’t wimp out now.”

“I’m not. I’m just stating the obvious.”

“Want me to go back and get the night vision goggles?”

“You have night-vision goggles?”

“No, stupid.”

“Oh.”

“Honestly, you’re so gullible, Ben.”

“How am I supposed to know? You have an infra-red gun, EMF meter, and a voice recorder. I’m surprised you don’t have night-vision goggles.”

“You’re stalling.”

“By all means, then lead the way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you fall into a ditch.”

Zoey kissed Ben on the cheek.

“You’re so sexy when you’re frightened.”

“Wow. That’s dark. Were you a black widow in a previous life?”

“Probably. Now, help me find this poorly secured window someone posted about yesterday.”

A few splinters and a nasty scratch later, Zoey stumbled upon what she was looking for.

“Yes, told you. The plywood comes right off. It looks attached, but the nails are cut. See, just the heads are left.”

“I’ll take your word for it. Let’s just do this before I chicken out.”

They climbed inside, pulling the board back across the window. Thumbing their phone lights on, they began to explore. Zoey scanned the room with the EMF meter.

“Whoa! Zoey! This place is remarkably well-preserved! The furniture’s still here. Filthy, but still all here!”

“I knew you’d love it. I heard the family insisted on leaving everything exactly as it was on the day of the murder.”

“It’s like stepping back to the golden age of Hollywood.”

“Plenty of inspiration here for a set design intern. Still scared?”

“Yes. But, it helps feeling like I’m in a scene from Grand Hotel.”

“Take lots of pictures.”

“You know they debunked ghost orbs. They’re just motes of dust.”

“No, for your scrapbook. Crazy how the owners decorated the place. How much do you think it would cost nowadays to have all this carved wood?”

“Actually, it’s not wood.”

“What?”

“That’s not wood.”

“I heard you the first time. What is it then?”

“Stucco. It’s a kind of plaster. Very versatile. Easier to work with and cheaper.”

“Learn that in architecture?”

“Yep, and while working with my uncle during vacation.”

“Glad to see art school is teaching you something practical.”

“Hey, interior design is a respectable career. My uncle makes tons of money. And it’s safer than investigative journalism. I know you’re dying to cover a war zone someday. Pun intended.”

“Oh, you have no idea, Benny-Boy. I’ll be there in a heartbeat. I’m the next Clarissa Ward.”

“As long as you’re home for dinner.”

“Come on, Martha. Let’s check the rest of this place out.”

Ben followed Zoey out into a hallway.

“Need to find the main stairwell. It’s a hotbed of paranormal activity.”

“Great, now I’m anxious again.”

“Come on, baby. You can hold my hand.”

“I’d rather we went back to the car and made out.”

“I’ve got a better idea. Let’s find the master suite.”

“Sure, because that doesn’t sound like the plot of every horror movie ever made.”

The EMF scanner chirped, startling both of them.

“Ooh, we’re picking something up.”

Zoey squeezed Ben’s hand as they shuffled forward. One by one, indicator lights turned on until the entire array blazed brightly. Before them, a large space loomed.

“Zoey, look. This is the formal entrance. There’s the grand staircase.”

“Loads of EMF activity!”

“Can we leave now?”

“Oh, come on, Ben.”

“I’m sorry. This is super creepy!”

“Just five minutes. I want to take a few temperature readings and try to capture an EVP.”

“Ah, fine!”

“Why don’t you explore the decorum. This part of the house is probably fancier. You know, first impressions and that kind of thing.”

Ben shone a light about the foyer at the bottom of the stairs while Zoey busied herself with ghost hunting.

“You’re right. Check out these wall sconces!”

“Uh, huh. Nice.”

“And the detail around the front door is absolutely exquisite.”

“Temperature’s cooler over here.”

Absorbed in taking photos, Ben stumbled unexpectedly over something.

“What the…? There’s crap all over the place. Watch your step.”

“Uh, huh. I will.”

Picking up a piece of rubble, Ben recognized the chalky, white material.

“Stucco.”

He flipped over another chunk, revealing the cracked visage of a woman.

“That’s a shame.”

“What?”

“Looks like someone decided to tear down and crush all this statuary.”

“Maybe an earthquake?”

“And dumped it all in a pile here?”

“Probably fell from the walls.

“Everything in here seems intact.”

“I don’t know then.”

“Me either. Are you ready to go? I like this place less and less the longer we’re here.”

“I want to go upstairs.”

“Come on. I’m bored and hungry.”

“And scared.”

“Yes, but I think I’ve made a lot of progress today. You’re not going to turn me into a paranormal investigator overnight.”

“Just to the top of the landing. I promise.”

“Fine.”

Zoey grinned and rushed over to give Ben a kiss.

“I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

“You better.”

Ben shivered, watching Zoey climb the stairs with the temperature gun in one hand and the EMF meter in the other. Her excitement grew with each step as her equipment’s sensors flashed and beeped with increasing intensity.

“You should come up here! This is amazing.”

“I’m good.”

The EMF meter’s lights silhouetting Zoey fell dark as she reached the last step.

“Damn! Can’t be the battery? I just charged everything.”

Frustrated, she examined the equipment.

“It’s a sign we should go.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Let’s go.”

Ben huffed as Zoey lingered.

“Hey! There’s lots more stucco up here. It’s all over the floor.”

Her feet crunched as she moved onto the balcony.

“You said to the top of the stairs. Come on, Zoey! Let’s go!”

“I think I figured out where all your stucco came from. The ceiling’s covered with it. See, I was right. It must have fallen during an earthquake. Look.”

Her phone’s narrow beam of light illuminated a classically-garbed figure.

“Its face is missing. Are there more?”

“Yeah.”

Zoey highlighted another statue.

“Have your tactical flashlight on you?”

“Yes. But, I thought you were worried about attracting attention.”

“Turn it on for a second. I want to see more of the ceiling.”

“Ooh, babe! Risky! I like this new, brave Ben.”

“Shut up and just do it.”

An oblong patch of light spilled across the ceiling revealing elaborate decorations and multiple effigies of robed women.

“It’s the muses.”

“How can you tell?”

“Easy. That one’s Urania with the globe and compass. There’s Terpsichore with a lyre. That one’s quite damaged, but I can see the comedy mask and shepherd’s staff. That’s Thalia. Besides, there are nine figures, one for each Greek muse.”

“You think someone vandalized these?”

“I mean, I guess an earthquake could have, but only the faces have been damaged.”

Zoey headed back toward the staircase.

“Hey, Ben? Something’s odd.”

Zoey’s voice sounded tense.

“What?”

“Only five have been defaced.”

“So?”

“Someone did this on purpose. And I think I know why.”

“Why?”

“You probably can’t see from down there, but scratches connecting the destroyed heads are scored into the plaster.”

“Probably caused by whatever they used to scrape the stucco away.”

“Maybe.”

Zoey’s step quickened as she descended the stairs.

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to scare you, but you know there’s one thing I don’t mess around with when doing an investigation.”

“You mean…?”

“Don’t say it.”

Zoey stood close to Ben, squeezing his hand tight as she peered up.

“Five faces destroyed. Look at the order, the spacing. The lines are difficult to see down here, but that’s a pentagram.”

“That settles it. I’m definitely not a ghost hunter.”

“Come on, let’s get out of here.”

“Happily.”

Ben stopped short and turned.

“Put that crazy-ass light out.”

“No one’s going to see it. The place is boarded up.”

“Please turn it off.”

“Ok, ok.”

Darkness engulfed the room, surprising both of them.

“Turn your phone light back on!”

“It was on! Turn yours on!”

“I’m trying!”

“Stop fucking around, Zoey!”

“I’m not!”

“Use the flashlight again!”

“Give me a sec!”

“Zoey!”

“It’s not working either!”

The EMF meter squawked, indicator lights blazing.

“Zoey! The ceiling! Look at the ceiling!”

“Just run!”

Fleeing, Zoey glanced up. Unearthly eyes shone down menacingly from the five ruined faces forming the points of an eerily shimmering pentagram.


Word Count: 1500

Word Prompt: cracked stucco

Courtesy of The Twiglets. Great site for writing prompts and inspiration. Check it out!

Nakul and Indali

Hello!

I still can’t get the sound of the otters trying to convince Nakul to slide into the river out of my head. LOL.

I’ve written about Nakul and Indali before way back last July. Here are links providing a quick jump to those older posts for those interested. Enjoy!

I’m curious to learn more about these characters. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up featuring in future pieces of flash fiction.

Flash Fiction: Doing What You Want Instead of What You Otter.

Photo by Kieren Ridley on Pexels.com

Here is a quick piece I had fun with in response to April 25 Your Daily Word Prompt. Great Site. Check it out.


Nakul huffed as he lugged the bucket toward the river. 

“Why do I always have to fetch the water?”

The dusty path slowly wound its way downhill. A constant swarm of gnats nipped at the boy, further souring his mood. At first, he tried reasoning with them but realized their thirst and hunger made that impossible. 

“It’s just when she’s about to do something interesting, too!”

The heavy bucket bounced annoyingly against his legs. He hoped it would leave a bruise, causing Indali to feel guilty. 

“Don’t touch that, Nakul! Shh, Nakul! Back to work, Nakul! All she does is order me around.”

He had come to learn from Indali, but she hadn’t taught him anything as far as he was concerned. For months now, the woman merely lectured Nakul about responsibility and the danger of communicating with animals. He had tried to argue he couldn’t stop hearing what they said. Nonetheless, Indali insisted mastering his ability to tune out the surrounding wildlife’s constant chatter was important.

Continue reading “Flash Fiction: Doing What You Want Instead of What You Otter.”

Micro Fiction: Pressing Concerns


Hello All! After weeks of diligent work, I am proud to announce I’ve submitted my first story for consideration with the magazine, Shoreline of Infinity. September’s themed issue will feature fairytales with a science fiction twist. Anyone involved in writing knows, competition is fierce and rejections are inevitable. I’m just happy I finally had the guts to throw my hat into the ring! One can never succeed without trying! I’ll keep you posted as to when and where you can read my story.


In the meantime, my focus has returned to practicing my skills with flash fiction!

Enjoy the piece I wrote below for this month’s 75-Word Writing Challenge at Chronicles Sci-fi and Fantasy Community.

“Pressing Concerns”

“Gold!”

The barbarian tromped heedlessly forward.

“Padraig, wait!”

The thief cursed watching a flagstone sink. 

“Stop!”

Padraig froze.

“Ness? What’s wrong?”

“Pressure trap.”

“I stepped on it?”

“Yes.”

“Bah! Nothing happened!”

“Don’t move!”

Something clicked as Padraig lifted his foot. Tumbling backwards, Ness escaped the falling portcullis. She scowled through the grating.

“We’ve discussed this! Let me check first!”

“Can you open it?”

“Probably.”

“Uh oh! Ceiling’s dropping!”

“Good thing I work well under pressure.”


Word Count: 75 words

Genre: Speculative Fiction

Word Prompt: pressure

Flash Fiction: Psychological Warfare

Here’s this month’s attempt at micro fiction! My goal is to effectively convey an image or idea with very few words. Fun, but quite challenging! Hope you enjoy!

“Victory, together, no matter the cost! Venerate, protect, our supreme overlord!”

Why am I shouting?

Left, left, left, right, left.

I can’t stop marching!

Edward awoke, upright, moving, surrounded by soldiers. Bewildered, he struggled to remember.

What’s going on?

Images remerged of a demagogue railing against traitors within and enemies without.

(Resist. You’re brainwashed.)

Who’s there?

(We’re overriding your programming remotely. You’re free to think and do as you please.)

Edward halted, dropping his weapon.


Word Count: 75

Word Prompt: march

Prompt from Chronicles Science Fiction and Fantasy Community‘s 75 Word Challenge.

Flash Fiction: Eye of the Beholder

“Nothing ventured. nothing gained.”

Brion stood tall, proudly smirking. 

“Admit it. You doubted.”

Frowning, Marigold gazed into the garden.

“No, said it was dangerous.”

Most laughed until realizing Brion actually intended to try. The aldermen cautioned the pacifist farmer. 

“You’ll be accountable for any unpleasantry or mayhem.”

Anxious villagers considered Marigold’s husband’s goal foolhardy. Accusations of treason spread. The constable visited every day. 

Watching Uqukh work peacefully, Brion indulged his urge to boast.

“I know I’ve upset some, but it seemed right, offering the creature a chance to thrive.”

Marigold didn’t have the opportunity to reply. 

“Marigold! Marigold!”

The goblin rushed over, carrying a basket of vegetables.

“Lots of tasty roots, seeds, and pods. You take. Make a tasty supper?”

The sincere offering touched her. 

“Thank you, Uqukh. Yes, these will be delicious.”

Brion clapped the goblin on the shoulder. 

“Uqukh. It’s getting late. Time to bring the cattle in. Go give Dillon a hand. I’ll join you in a moment.”

Nodding enthusiastically, the goblin scampered off whistling. 

“Sorry, should’ve had more faith in you, my love. Fear prevented me from seeing the good you saw in him. You’ve saved his life.”

“All it took was patience, kindness, and love.”


Word Count: 200

In response to word prompt: thrive

Courtesy of Your Daily Word Prompt for March 14, 2022.

I encourage anyone looking for a fun, easy to interact with website for daily creative inspiration!

Flash Fiction: “Um…that’s Fake!”


Have to be honest, I struggle with word count limits!

Some writers really excel at crafting rich, meaningful flash fiction stories.

Check out this author I follow: joanne the geek. I’m always inspired by their ability to convey so much with so few words.

Well…practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. My goal this year is to enter writing contests requiring entries with 500 words or less.

Read my first contest entry below!


75 word (YES! ONLY 75 WORDS!) writing contest. The Prompt/Theme: Fake

My Name Is Actually Gill

Draca the Spider, weakened by age, ruled behind illusion and fabrications.

Pratt, ever an enterprising thief, sought to expand his operations.

Draca handed his bodyguard a potion.

“Assume my form. Eliminate this upstart!”

Infiltrating Pratt’s chambers, the swordsman surprised the man. Outmatched, Pratt fell for his opponent’s feint, exposing a flank.

“Pratt, disband your guild. Flee before the Spider decides to sting!”

“Ha! I only play at being Pratt while he visits the real Spider!”


Check out Chronicles Science Fiction & Fantasy Community for information on future flash fiction writing contests.

Flash Fiction: Even Better!

Photo by SpaceX on Pexels.com

Massachusetts – December 2, 2021 – 6:17 PM

Observing the approach of twilight, Tony smiled. He was an avid, amateur astronomer. 

Ah, nothing better than stargazing on a clear, moonless winter night. 

Yet, unbeknownst to Tony, something even better was about to happen.

Cold air stung his lungs as he stepped outside. He wished he had remembered to bring a hat. Road salt crunched beneath his feet. Buttoning his coat tightly, hands deep in his pockets, he began his nightly walk around the block. 

Rounding the bend, Venus blazed brilliantly, low in the western sky. 

Hey there, Gorgeous!

Tony settled into a modest pace.

The twinkling lights from neighborhood windows paled in comparison to nature’s display above. Craning his neck, he greeted each constellation like an old friend.

Glorious! Simply glorious! 

On his return, Tony noticed his next-door neighbor peering out suspiciously. Every night the older woman sat sentinel on her porch. Her presence always made him feel like an intruder. He imagined her scolding. 

Don’t step on my lawn! Pick up your dog’s poop! Drive carefully! Don’t speed! Whose car is that? Who is this stranger? Why is that man looking at me? 

Hoping to convey he was stargazing, Tony scanned the sky with exaggerated gestures like a man playing charades. 

No interloper here, Gisele. No one is peering into windows.

Turning his back to his neighbor, Tony looked up across the street. An unfamiliar sight immediately caught his attention.

A long chain of blinking lights stretched across a sizable length of the sky.

What is that?

The lights resembled airplane headlights. Tony figured there were at least forty moving in close formation. But they weren’t moving toward Tony. Instead, they sidled slowly across the sky like a train.

It can’t be airplanes! Those lights are moving together as one object! I need someone else to see this!

Tony fumbled for his phone and called his daughter. Waiting for her to answer, he watched, mesmerized as the leading lights faded. One by one, the lights vanished like the portholes of a turning ocean liner. 

“No! No! No! No! Come on! Wait!”

His daughter answered.

“Why are you yelling?”

“Isabel, come out here! Quick! Something’s in the sky. You need to see this!”

“Ok, ok! Give me a second. I’m in my pajamas.”

Isabel didn’t make it outside in time.

“They’re gone,” Tony said. 

“What happened? What’s gone?”

Tony explained what he saw. 

“Do you think it was a UFO?” Isabel asked.

“I don’t know. It sure wasn’t a plane. It was way too long!”

“How long was it?”

“It was as long as that house’s roof, but far away, up in the sky.”

“That long?!”

 “Yeah. I wish you or someone else had seen it.” Tony said dejectedly.

“Wait. Look online to see if anyone else saw it.” Isabel offered.

“Nothing is going to be online yet,” Tony said. “Oh! Maybe, I could ask Mrs. Boulanger if she saw anything? She’s sitting on her porch as usual.” 

“No, Dad. That’s a bad idea. You’ll frighten her. I’ll get my phone and google it.”

His daughter ran inside. Tony remained outside, hoping the lights would reappear. A few minutes later, she hurried back.

“Is this what you saw?” 

He studied the video clip on the screen. 

“Yes! That’s it!”

“Dad, you saw a string of satellites.”

“What?”

“SpaceX launched forty-eight Starlink satellites today.”

Tony was disappointed.

“Satellites? Guess that’s pretty cool, but it would have been even better if it was a UFO.”

Later that evening, sitting by the fire, Tony reflected. Forty years ago, before the advent of the internet, he would have wholly believed those lights were extraterrestrial.

December 2, 2021: The Pentagon, Washington D.C. – 10:48 PM

“Quick thinking, Colonel.”

“Yes, well, we sure as hell can’t have the whole nation panicking. Damn ETs!”

“Perhaps, tonight’s visitors were new? They certainly didn’t follow the protocols for a visitation. Should I place a call to the galactic ambassador?” 

“Yes.” 

“Should I file a complaint?” 

“No. Don’t need to ruffle any alien feathers or scales. Politely remind them they need to prevent rogue excursions into the atmosphere. We still need to figure out how to disclose contact officially. In the meantime, we need the lead time to concoct a plausible excuse the public will buy.”

“Yes, sir. Good night, sir.” 

“Good night, Lieutenant.” 


Word Count: 726

Written in response to the prompt: Even Better.

Check out all of the other great writing prompts at The Twiglets.

Thank you for inspiring me!

Flash Fiction: It Might Kill You.

Photo by Nhu Tran on Pexels.com

Luck Takes Unkindly to Being Taking for Granted.

A beautiful woman waited alone in a small, dingy apartment. Its only window afforded scarce illumination. Despite twilight fast approaching, Margaret sat still amid a muddle of shadows and the indistinct outlines of the room’s furnishings. She listened quietly to the neighboring inhabitants return home. Noises of life reverberated about her. Above, young children knocked about playing. Murmured greetings echoed from across the hall. Beneath, a couple argued as a baby cried. 

Distancing herself from the homey babel, Margaret closed her eyes and focused inward. With body stilled, her mind journeyed out past the town toward the castle walls. What she sought was within the keep itself. Probing the lowest levels, Margaret found what she was looking for. Sprawled upon a dungeon floor lay an unconscious man. The cell was dark, but she didn’t need natural light to see. Dried blood matted his hair, yet still he was breathing. Casting her farsight about, Margaret confirmed the inquisitors had no immediate plans for their prisoner. She sighed with relief despite her frustration.

You’re a damn fool and so am I.

Margaret felt guilty, an emotion she found tedious and useless. Self-assured in her ability to mentor Will, she had foolishly tasked him with a challenge beyond his capabilities.

I should have accompanied him.

Margaret had given in to his pleas to go alone.

“Play cards at the Sooty Dragon over a pint of ale. Practice bending your luck while avoiding notice. Discreetly return the ill-gained money, afterward.”

Those were the instructions. Unfortunately, hubris waylaid Will’s commonsense.

Thought I scared him enough with tales of luck benders believing they’re invincible.

Will played recklessly, winning every deal. Unaware of his latent ability to charm, he instinctively assuaged any suspicions with fair words. But, others were unaffected. They soberly watched as his opponents blithely surrendered their coin. Before long, the guard was called.

This audacious use of luck bending is dangerous. It might kill you, Will!

She shuttered recalling stories of spells and potions inquisitors plied to extract information. The Baron would be keen to discover any other rogue wielders of magic within his domain. 

Suddenly, Margaret became aware of a familiar presence entering the building below. It was Will’s roommate. With Will’s arrest, she had quite forgotten about Tom. Childhood friends, both men had left behind an impoverished existence to seek better fortunes. They landed work in the Baron’s coal mine. Margaret came across them a month ago at the Sooty Dragon. Sensing Will’s abilities, she started a conversation. Unlike his friend, Tom was unreadable. Nevertheless, she was certain he possessed no magical gifts. Tom distrusted Margaret. He would correctly lay blame for Will’s imprisonment at her feet.

Tom, it’s high time we cleared the air between us. Will is going to need your help which means I’m going to need it too. 

Margaret heard the scuff of dirty boots pause in front of the door and the scrape of a key in the keyhole. She opened her eyes and waited.

Don’t worry! I plan to continue! More to come soon.

Word Count: 500

Prompt from: The New UnOfficial, On-line, Writer’s Guild.

OLWG #232- First & Only Job (I used the weekly prompt at the bottom of the page called: it might kill you.)

Flash Fiction: Last Time He Prayed

I confess I have been avoiding work on the unfinished first draft of my science fiction novel, Jupiter’s Embrace. In an attempt to get the creative process going again, I’m using characters from Jupiter’s Embrace to respond to some flash fiction writing prompts.

This prompt is from The New UnOfficial, On-line, Writer’s Guild. The prompt used is OLW # 229 Love, Dad. (I used the weekly prompt at the bottom of the page called: almost never prayed.)

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Swallowing a sleeping pill, Johnny set no alarm, hoping for dreamless oblivion. His first time at the helm was disastrous. The smuggled goods were delivered, but there had been an unexpected complication. Embarrassingly, inexperience and indecisiveness nearly led to failure. 

Bleep!

The comm call triggered the dreaded dream. 

Eight-years-old, bewildered, awaken by yelling, he climbed from bed. Edging toward sounds of struggle, suddenly, a hand covered his mouth, stifling a yelp. His older brother carried him away from the commotion. 

Johnny focused on his older brother’s face, trying to understand. Hiding, they waited. Demands and protests grew louder. Threats were made.

“Rike..”

“Shh! Bad guys broke in wanting money. Mom and Dad are taking care of it.”

Trembling, Johnny held onto his brother and prayed. The struggle grew desperate. Blasters fired. Riker pushed him threw the bedroom window. 

“Run! I’m right behind.”

Bleep!

Drenched in sweat, heart-racing, Johnny awoke with a start. He swore. Standing up, he instinctually gazed out the porthole into the blackness of space. Swiping the comm open, he was surprised to see his brother-in-law. His face was serious; worried. 

“Sean?”

“Johnny!”

“Amelia? Jack? They ok?”

“Yes. But, Riker. He’s in Sol Corp custody. There’s been a military tribunal. Riker’s been convicted of being an alien, Rangari spy! Sentence is life on Jupiter!”

Johnny broke into a cold sweat and tried to swallow the taste of bile from his mouth. He realized for the first time in twenty years, he was praying. 


If intrigued and seeking more, click the link below to the first two chapters of the story.