Tag Archives: flash fiction

03Oct/12

Nightmare Fuel, Day 3: Money Machine

Photo credit: maydaymassacre on Flickr

*Note: This is part of the Nightmare Fuel series of prompts running on Google+. What follows is another attempt at a horror story. Read at your own risk.

 

Money Machine

Sarah shuffled toward the employee lot nestled in the back corner of one of the hospital’s oldest buildings. When she got to her car, she could cry, she told herself. For now, she had to appear strong. No one wanted to see a crying nurse, especially not near the emergency room. People had enough worries of their own. She tried to think of pleasant things, not the family of the young cancer patient gathered around his bed to say their goodbyes, not the elderly woman who gripped her husband’s liver-spotted hands and begged him not to leave her. Sarah especially tried not to think of the woman who had been in a tragic accident outside a local convenience store.
Sarah couldn’t get the images of the woman out of her mind. Sarah had seen terrible things before. She had seen burn victims and gunshot victims and what remained of the hand of the man who had held a firecracker as it exploded. This woman was an exaggerated version of all of them. No one could tell what had happened to her, or how she continued to survive the ordeal. Sarah had never seen anything like it. Nor had Doctor Parkins, from what Sarah could tell. It was the first time she had seen the man visibly shaken, and he’d spent thirty years of his life in that hospital emergency room.

It was Doctor Parkins’s expression that scared Sarah the most. In even the worst accidents, he kept a professional demeanor. He was the one that made lighthearted jokes and smiled warmly for even the most difficult patients. Nothing shook him. Nothing phased him. Until tonight.

Sarah tried not to think of it. She tried to think of happy things. Baxter would be waiting by the door for her, frantically wagging his tail and trying not to jump on her in his happiness. She looked forward to getting home and letting his affection overcome the day’s troubles.

An image of unrecognizable flesh screamed in Sarah’s mind. She saw the woman in her hospital bed, all tubes and wires, gauze covering what had once been a face. There should have been eyes and ears and softly blushed cheeks. Instead, there was a tangle of sinew and hair and burnt skin. Sarah wondered how long the woman might survive. In her heart, Sarah thought it would be a mercy if the poor woman passed on, but as a nurse she had to do everything in her power to keep the woman alive.

Sarah tried to shake the image from her mind. She looked around her, trying to regain reality. She was in the hospital lot. The city was around her. The air was cool and thick and with that odd combination of scents that identified an industrial district: burning oil and hot metal and mildewy plants.

Everything was as it should be. Except for an ATM standing a few feet away.

Sarah stopped mid step and looked at it, cocking her head to the side. Had there been an ATM here before? It was a dingy old thing, marked with rust and grease spots. It had a filthy piece of canvas draped over the top of it, for, Sarah assumed, a sun-screen. It looked like it had been standing for quite a while. Sarah thought it strange that she didn’t remember seeing it before.

Sarah kept walking.

“Spare some change for a war hero?” a voice asked.

Sarah spun around, expecting to see one of the numerous unshowered homeless men that prowled the premises. She was surprised to find Doctor Parkins taking long strides to catch up to her.

“Rough day, huh?” Parkins said. Sarah nodded. She tried not to think about the faceless woman’s tidy wool blazer and silk blouse, still tucked neatly into her skirt, even while the shoulders were burnt and exploded into tatters.

“Why don’t you let me take you out for a drink?” Parkins asked. He gave Sarah an awkward smile. If it was any other man, Sarah might think she was being hit on.

“I’m not sure what Mrs. Parkins would think of that,” Sarah said.

“I’ll invite her too. She’ll be thrilled that you asked.” He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket to make the call.

Sarah smiled. Baxter would have to wait a little longer tonight.

Another image flashed through her mind, this time of herself, still in scrubs, her face blown completely away. She shivered, and put her hand up to her face to verify she still had lips and a nose. She would have to talk to one of the trauma counselors if these terrible images kept popping up.

Doctor Parkins finished his call and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket.

“I’ll be just a minute,” he said. “The missus asked me to get cash.” He winked at Sarah and walked toward the ATM.

Sarah imagined the faceless woman at the convenience store, standing in front of an ATM, her hand outstretched to slide her card. The woman’s right arm had also been mutilated nearly beyond recognition. Sarah’s heart raced.

“Wait!” Sarah yelled. Parkins stopped, his fingers on the bottom of the canvas screen.

“Let’s use another machine,” she said.

“This is the closest one,” he said, and he started to lift the screen. Sarah imagined the doctor in a hospital bed, with the monitors slowly beeping, gauze covering his face, his wife and children surrounding his bedside and begging him to survive.

“Then let me go first,” Sarah said. “I… I need to get some cash too.”

The doctor let go of the dirty canvas and stepped aside with a polite smile. “After you, miss,” he said with a chivalrous gesture. Sarah managed a weak smile. She managed the steps it took to face the terrible machine. She managed to get hold of the rough canvas between her fingers. She looked back at the doctor. He was standing just behind her.

“Do you mind stepping a few feet away?” she asked. “I like my privacy.”

The doctor smiled and walked a few steps away, feigning interest in the ragged bushes that surrounded the parking lot.

Sarah stood in front of the machine. Her mind raced. She tried to tell herself that it was nothing to worry about. People used the machines hundreds of times a day. There was no evidence that the faceless woman in the hospital today had been using one. It was a simple cash machine. For all she knew, it had been here for years. There was nothing to be afraid of.

“Are you finished there?” Doctor Parkins asked.

“Just about,” Sarah answered.

She lifted the canvas screen. She heard a small click. She held her breath.

Nothing happened.

She breathed a sigh of relief and pulled her card out of her purse. As she fed her card into the machine, Sarah noticed that there was no computer screen on the ATM, only a gaping hole. As the light erupted from the blackness, Sarah hoped that someone would remember to feed Baxter.

01Oct/12

Nightmare Fuel, Day 1

I’m participating in a great series of prompts at Google+, called Nightmare Fuel. This is the second year Bliss Morgan has run the challenges, with a number of pictures from other plussers and the internet-at-large.

I’ve decided to spend the month of October taking a break from my other projects and just playing around with writing again. So I’ll also be taking part in another group of prompts from the Flash Fiction Project. I finished my story for that one and posted it there today if you’re inclined to read it.

Today is my first attempt at a horror story. If you’re squeamish, or not a fan of horror stories, then I will not be offended if you choose not to read this one. 🙂 If you do read, I’d love to know what you think. I want to get better at this.

 

Home Sweet Home

Her husband was waiting.

Mara thought about Daniel as she walked, increasing the pace of her tight steps. He would be angry if she was late. She dug around in her purse one more time for her cell phone. Why did she have to forget it tonight of all nights? She hated running errands after dark.

She mumbled curses under her breath. She hated the junker of a car that wouldn’t start. She hated her husband for not getting it fixed months ago. She hated the scratch of her wool skirt against her legs as she walked. She hated the echo of her shoes clacking against the ground.

She tried to walk more quietly, so as not to disturb the darkness. It was a strange thing about the night, that it always made her feel like whispering. Even her breath seemed loud, whistling through her nose in frantic bursts.

The sidewalk ended abruptly without her notice. Kara stepped off of it, twisting and tumbling to the ground in a rough patch of gravel and untended weeds. Sharp spikes of pain shot through her where the rocks pierced her skin. She rubbed them off, feeling the cold, moist dirt mixed with her warm, damp blood. She tried to stand, but her ankle turned beneath her.

Her cries echoed back at her, and her heart hobbled at the sound. Taking a deep breath of the sour fall air, she told herself it was only the night. She tried to conjure an image in her mind of this place in the daytime. Only when she realized where she was did she trust her suspicious heart.

She was outside of the cemetery.

It was no reason to get spooked, she told herself. She came near the cemetery every day. There were cemeteries in every city in every country of the world. People had to be buried somewhere.

Mara caught her bearings. If she walked through the cemetery, she could be home faster. It was a straight line across the sprawling park rather than a zigzag over paved roads. With another vision of her husband’s disapproving face, she turned and walked into the dark garden.

The park was eerily silent, as though sound itself had been buried in the still ground. Mara could feel her feet sinking into the earth, but her quick footsteps made no noise here. Something about it made her walk even faster, despite the pain in her damaged ankle. She put her hand in her purse again, feeling for some item that might offer her help or comfort. Her cell phone would make everything better.

“I’m not afraid,” she said to try to calm herself.

“I’m not afraid,” echoed a scratchy voice in the dark.

Mara stopped cold. Beside her, arms draped dramatically over a stone cross, was Daniel’s ex-wife Claudia. Mara closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to clear her mind of the image. When Mara opened her eyes again, Claudia was still there staring at her with colorless eyes. Claudia’s skin was blue with the sheen of death, dark circles around her eyes and cheeks, her dress hanging in tatters. But Mara knew it was her. There was something about her expression, about the cold hatred behind her eyes. It couldn’t be. Claudia had died three years ago.

“You’re a figment of my imagination,” Mara said.

“You’re a figment of my imagination,” the creature parroted.

“I have to get home,” Mara said, “or Daniel will be angry.”

“Daniel will be angry,” Claudia said, and a malicious smile formed out of the purple remains of her lips.

Mara turned and ran. She tried to scream, but the sound fell flat around her. Her purse fell from her shoulder and landed in the crook of her elbow with a frightening jerk. She tried to untangle herself from the twisting leather, but her movements toppled her off-balance. In her frantic dance, she did not see the freshly-dug grave near her feet.

She fell and landed with all her weight on her back. Her breath was forced from her lungs. Every cell of her body with screaming, soundlessly. The last thing she saw was Claudia’s dead eyes peering over the lip of the grave and a cascade of dirt falling on top of her.

Her husband was waiting.