Sunday, July 26, 2009

Flash Fiction # 3 (Week 4) A Life, Forgotten

***WARNING--mature themes, violence, and gruesome images.***


An ecosystem was rapidly forming in the various orifices of Henry Levartson's body. Blowflies were the first to take up residence, choosing for their homes primarily his ears, nose and the gaping wounds in his chest and forearms. As darkening yellow segmented bodies twisted, crawled, and burrowed deeper, tiny eggs opened to reveal miniature versions of the same. In turn, predatory rove beetles settled and feasted upon the growing maggots.

Along with the typical decomposition, rats gnawed at Henry's body with more gusto than Henry had ever been able to muster for his own life. As the days passed, dogs smelled his decomposing corpse and tried unsuccessfully to pull away from their owners to investigate the source in the ravine. Had they succeeded, the insects and animals would have helped determine the time and cause of Henry's death. As it was, they served only to destroy the little that still remained.


One day when Henry was still alive and young enough to lay claim to all of his 15 ½ years, he decided home was unbearable. He left a short note to that effect, packed a few belongings, and fled. He always thought he'd go back; it seemed inevitable. But hours turned into days, days into weeks, weeks into years, and no one came looking for him. For a long time, he compulsively checked wanted posters wherever he went, partially because he was curious what people would think he’d look like years later, and partially because he wondered if he was missed at all.

There were never any milk containers with his picture, enhanced or otherwise, nor any flyers posted in the entrances of grocery stores. There was no search party, and certainly no media reports or public outrage either while he was alive or after he had died. Henry wouldn't have been surprised to learn of his solitude after death; in the five years, eight months, two weeks, and three days he’d lived since he'd left home, Henry had gradually lost his ability to feel surprise or much of anything.

Sometimes he'd make some money panhandling and would buy drugs that made him feel something, a spark of life, a splash of colour on the black and white canvas that was his existence. Always, it wore off too quickly. For a long time, it bothered him that he felt so little, but gradually that faded too.


In the same city that Henry Levartson lived, Konrad Platt and Martin Rummer also resided. Just like Henry, Konrad and Martin went through each day looking for a way to feel alive. For a time they satisfied themselves with encounters with young women, drugs, and alcohol, but they soon found it wasn’t enough.

Eventually, ever so casually, Martin mentioned he’d had a dream in which he’d killed someone.

“By accident?” Konrad asked, “Or on purpose?”

Martin shrugged, and took another swig of his beer. “Does it matter? It was just a dream.”

Konrad threw his empty bottle out of the window. “You ever killed anyone before?”

“Nah. You?”

Konrad shook his head slowly. “Almost,” he said, regretfully, but didn’t elaborate, even when Martin gestured with his almost-empty beer bottle for him to continue.

Martin was quiet for a moment. He finished the last of his beer and threw the bottle out of the same window Konrad had. When he finally spoke the words that would change their lives, that would connect them to one another, and to Henry, it was with a laugh.

“You wanna try it again?” Martin said, “We’re only seventeen once...”

Konrad’s answer came by way of a smile and an already formed plan.


It was a Wednesday. Clouds crowded the darkening sky as Martin and Konrad met on the street mere blocks from their respective houses.

“I’m just curious, you know?” Martin said, “What it feels like.”

“Yeah.” Konrad lit his cigarette. “Just gotta pick the right one.”

Martin nodded. “Right. The right one. Which one’s the right one?”

“Him,” Konrad said. He gestured towards Henry, who was slouched against a wall.

“Him,” Martin echoed, and looked at Henry with more contempt than interest.

“Hey.” Henry looked up, finally noticing them. “Spare some change?”

Konrad grinned at him, and elbowed Martin. “Come with us, we’ll give you a lot of change. Eh, Martin?”

Lowering his voice, he added, “What? Death is change!” and Martin laughed.


Henry followed Martin and Konrad without question deep into the nearby ravine. The truth, if he’d thought to tell it, was that he’d forgotten why he’d gone with them to begin with. By the time he remembered he’d been promised money, and started to ask for it with a smile, Martin and Konrad had begun their assault. Henry raised his arms to protect himself, but it was a futile gesture.

The two boys overpowered him faster and with more ease than they’d anticipated. They kicked until Henry’s legs and ribs were broken, and punched until his face split and blood spilled out, and his head caved in. Martin and Konrad whooped and laughed feverishly. Henry fell to the ground, let out one low mourning moan, and died.

Afterwards, Martin and Konrad covered Henry’s body with fallen leaves and branches and when they looked back, they were satisfied that he could not been seen even if someone was looking for him. They peeled off their outer clothes, revealing the bloodless ones underneath, put them into a garbage bag and threw it away as they emerged from the ravine. No one noticed.

“I’m glad,” said Martin, “glad that I know.”

Konrad smiled and slapped Martin on the back in agreement.


When the body was eventually discovered, and determined to be human remains, Henry was known henceforth only as John Doe. When Martin and Konrad heard of this, Konrad proclaimed it the punch line.


The boys grew into men; they each found careers, married, and raised children. And they still speak, on occasion—but never of Henry Levartson.

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Flash Fiction # 2 - On the Wrong Side of a Shaky Line

Once, as a child, I was completely captivated by a black-and-white photo of a German woman some time after World War 1. She looked so sad--all the hope and life drained from her eyes--yet she had forgotten not to smile. It's a strange thing to remember, after all these years, but more than the photo, it's the caption beneath it that I still think of: "Money was so worthless during this difficult time that many German housewives often used it to fuel their fires."

I hold the bottle with my own worthless money tightly to my chest. It'd be a cold day in hell before I tossed my money into any fire. That woman still had hope--hope that one day life would get better, that she'd be able to buy things for her children again, that she'd see them grow up. I, on the other hand, know otherwise. My children are already dead. No one thinks of earning money or spending it anymore. Those days are long past. Now we think only of surviving another day.

But when I hold my bottle in my hand, close to my heart, when I place it just so and close my eyes, I can almost believe I'm there again. My smiling parents welcome me back, tell me I shouldn't watch movies that give me nightmares, and everything I've lived is easily explained away. Yes, I can almost believe it's true--that I am young again and life is sweet. But when I swallow, the dream of what was is gone and only reality and a bitter taste remain.

"Grandma?" Kit comes tentatively towards me. Her voice is smooth and soft and reminds me that there is still good in this world. Her brother, Holt, inches along beside her. I try to hide my little spells, but they are both just so perceptive.

I force a smile. "Yes, my babes?"

"Is it story time yet?" Kit asks.

"It's always story time, dear," I say. It's true. When you don't have anything, you have stories of the times that you did. And I have many stories.

Kit and Holt smile at each other. It's so nice to see them getting along-it's a new development, them realizing they can be friends.

"When I was a little girl, growing up in the B.Z. years, technology was so grand we could write things to someone on the other side of the word and they could read them in an instant. I'll never forget how much I loved Twitter, I--"

"Not that one, Grandma," Kit says, "You told us that one last time."

I know which one they want--they know the ending, and it's not a happy one. It's not a story I want to tell again, but when you live to see a shaky line drawn between Before Zombies. and After Zombies, telling the story becomes one of many unavoidable necessities.

"They were always among us," I began, "there is no such thing as B.Z., it's just a kind of short hand, an impossible estimate of when our numbers and strength plummeted and theirs flourished. They were like animals, devouring our pets for snacks, and then humans for dinner. We didn't call them Zombies right away. No, when there were few, we called it an epidemic and tried to cure them. Failing that, we called them addicts and criminals, and tried to rehabilitate them."

"And then you called them monsters and tried to kill them," Kit adds.

Holt covers his ears. He doesn't like that word, "kill". Maybe because he's heard it so many times already.

"Yes," I say, chocking down tears that I cannot let fall, not in front of the children.

At that moment, as if of its own accord, Holt's finger points to the door. His already-dark eyes darken. I forget for a moment that he doesn't speak anymore and wait for him to say whatever thought looms forebodingly behind those eyes.

Kit turns to me in horror, and speaks the words her brother cannot. "They're coming..." she whispers.

And so they are. The door suddenly seems inconsequential as it flings open. I should have reinforced it more than I did, I shouldn't have divided all the boards between the doors and the windows . I should have realized that they'd just come in through the front. I should have...

I shout "Get behind me!" and grab my shotgun. Not counting our three bullets, I have nine shots. Nine shots and it's all over. A strange calm sets over me. I shoot the first one, and, gurgling, it falls. My next shot misses, but I reload quickly and shoot it down before the zombie managed more than two steps towards us.

Holt clings to my leg, shaking so vehemently that, just for a second, I glance down at him.

"Grandma!" Kit cries, "Look out!"

The remaining Zombie comes towards me with inzombie speed. I'd never seen anything like it, and I've seen my fair share. My arthritic fingers betraying me, I fumble desperately to load the gun, but it's too late. The Zombie lets out a triumphant moan as it reaches towards me with one hand, dead eyes locked onto mine.

"No!" I scream. In slow motion, I see the bullet in my hand fall to the ground.

I slam the butt of the gun into the Zombie's temple. It blinks at me, and I hit it again, and another time just to be sure. It falls unceremoniously to the ground, and I heave a sigh of relief. Quickly, I close the door, bolt it, and the children help me move the old bookcase in front of it.

I look at Kit and Holt, and they at me. Smiling, I think--survival is sweet, it is its own reward, and yes, I'd throw my money into a fire for just one more day.

*********************************************************************************** Read, Write, Join, Comment! New stories (1000 words or less) posted every Friday.

Flash Fiction # 1- Writing on the Walls

There’s writing on the walls where I am. I don’t know what it says which is strange because I think I wrote it. The pen is in my hand. It’s blue and the lid is missing and I think if I stop writing the ink will dry up forever and all the words in me will be trapped. And they’ll get angry if they can’t get out, and I will explode. The gray wall with blue scrawled writing will be red then. I don’t like red. Red is the colour of my anger. It might be fire, because fire is red too, and so is blood, but I think it is anger because it’s redder still.

There’s a lot of writing on the walls because I’ve been here a very long time. Or maybe it’s only been a few minutes, and I can write fast. Maybe I didn’t write it at all and only picked up the pen afterwards. It’s hard to know what’s true. I killed my watch because it was lying to me. It said time only goes forward. It said there are hours and minutes and seconds and the time between them never changes. And then it just stopped. It died so I killed it. I don’t like things that aren’t true. You think you know what’s true, but you don’t.

You think I’m crazy. You think I’m in some place where they stick crazy people so regular people don’t have to see them everyday. But I’m not. I’ve been in those places and they don’t give you pens there. They think a pen is a weapon there, a sword you can write or stab with, and I will never go back. You think because the walls are gray I’m not at home. I like gray. Life is gray. Gray is what you get when you take a sunny day and add clouds. The truth is I don’t know where I am.

This gray room has window with a board that boards it up and a door with a lock that locks me inside. I tried to open it. I pulled and pulled and the door only laughed. It told me I’d be in here forever. It told me I’d die here and one day they’d find my bones still wrapped in my skin. I don’t like things that aren’t true. And you and that door are not true.

I think the key to the lock is hidden in the blue writing I can’t read. All the letters in all the words in all the groups of words are mixed up. Life is mixed up. Unravelling one to understand the other is the key to getting out of here--the key to the key to the lock. I won’t be in here forever. It’s impossible because there isn’t enough wall to write on to be here forever. And there isn’t enough ink. The key is remembering what’s true.

Truth is the same word in all tenses, but the future is best, and the past is hardest. I remember I came in here to sleep, because it was cold out, and it was white outside and gray inside. The door wasn’t locked; there was no key. There was some writing on the walls but it was in black spray paint,not my blue ink so I know I didn’t write it. It said “MAYZE WUZ HERE”. I don’t know what that means either. Words in thick black lines are evil so I crossed it out but I could still see it through the blue.

I remember I found the pen in the corner with three clear needles. It looked like a star, like the North Star in the corner of my gray room pointing the way out. I think it might be the key, but it pointed in eight different directions so I got lost again.

I stop trying to remember because now the door looks like it’s opening, but it’s not true. Someone looks like they’ve opened it. It looks like a man whose clothes are the colour of my pen. It’s a good colour; it’s the colour of the sky without the clouds that make it gray. But I like gray and I like my pen with blue ink and I haven’t figured out the writing on the wall yet and I can’t leave just because the door is open and that man is there and he has that hat. The ink hasn’t run out, and there is still wall to write on, and he can’t make me go. He can’t make me go. I won’t go. I will use the pen and its ink will be red on that man.

Get out of here!
This is my gray room!
You can’t have it!

That is the poem I will write in red with my blue pen. My red anger swells inside me, wanting more red, wanting the man’s red, so I raise my sword high. The man doesn’t even look up, doesn’t even care. The man is stupid even though he is wearing a good colour. He takes off that hat and shakes his head.

“Helluva a way to go,” he says, “Betcha just came in to stay warm, huh, buddy?”

My sword still wants to write in red, but I stop because I don’t understand why he’s saying things to me but not looking at me. I’m not on the ground where he’s staring with his eyes. He should be looking at me if I’m going to write my poem on him or else I might make a mistake. I don’t want to make a mistake, because mistakes aren’t true, and writing things makes them true, so he should look at me. The door laughs. It’s an ugly laugh that sounds like choking.

“Told you so,” says the door, and laughs harder.

I don’t like things that aren’t true and nothing is true. I think that’s what the blue writing has been saying all along.

**************************************************************** Read, Write, Join, Comment! New stories (1000 words or less) posted every Friday.

Flash Fiction Stories

I've decided to post in this very multi-purpose-y blog of mine (hopefully) weekly stories written for Flash Fiction Fridays, which was begun by Ryan (@theorangemonkey on Twitter). And be sure to check out to read, write, and comment on stories!

(Comments are good. Very good. Unless they're bad. But that's still good.)