Category: Tales of the Normal (Page 1 of 2)

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 20

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Wrapping presents

FUNDRAISER

The pressure to volunteer increases yearly.  Now we sit in bookstores during the holiday season to wrap presents, cutting precise squares of paper to wrap what seems like everything but books:  board games, stuffed animals, high-quality wooden toys just like grandma used to bake.  The paper is hand-colored. Our children scribbled with broken crayons all night, weeping in their pajamas as they begged to go to bed, it’s very artisanal, and to stick the paper to itself (never tape the present itself, that’s the rule) we use our sharp scissors to peel off strips of skin.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 19

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Signatures

DEFECTS

Penmanship is very important.  Even something as simple as thoughtlessly signing one’s name on a document can be used to deduce one’s personality.  One’s nature can be extracted, as it were, from the degree to which the letters lean to the right (a forward thinker) or to the left (someone who is always scrambling backward, restraining themselves, holding themselves back, over-cautious).  The height of the letters is important. The proportions of the letters are important.  The degree to which one’s letters extend upward indicates one’s participation in the realm of the intellect.  A sharp point on letters that extend upward indicates a sarcastic or sardonic attitude toward the world, and is more commonly seen in men than in women.  Rounded letters in the top register indicate a sweeter, more congenial personality, which is more often seen in women.  The middle register, that is, the space that is occupied by the letter o, for example, indicates the size of one’s ego.  When the middle register is quite large compared to the rest of the letter, then it indicates that the writer has a large ego; however, an undersized middle register can prove itself almost completely unable to be read.  Handwriting is the most pleasing when the upper, middle, and lower registers are balanced and leaning slightly to the right.  Too upright a hand indicates a stiff, uncompromising personality.  To lean with excess to the right or left, unseemly enthusiasm or restraint.

Interpretation of the lower register deals with the sexual urges. One should not be too florid in those areas; lower-register letters that curl back upon themselves, such as a y or a g, can indicate sexual deviancy and are often judged as such.  When writing on unlined paper, it is essential to keep handwritten lines parallel with each other and with the horizontal edges of the page.  To drift upward is to indicate a foolish personality; a downward tilt indicates melancholy and depression.  Those whose lines wander are to be suspected of mental instability, especially if the letters lean at once to the right, then to the left, and back again.  Neat and tidy handwriting of even pressure indicates a well-regimented mind. Excessive flourishes are to be avoided as an attempt to add personality to a hand that possesses little character of its own.  Certain professions requiring a great deal of mental effort and a lot of writing—doctors’ and executives’ hands come to mind—are to be treated with a little sensitivity of judgment; persons of great character often have their minds on more important things than the clarity of their pens.

One must always remember that there is no such thing as a natural hand; no babe in swaddling cloth is born knowing how to write at all, let alone in a legible fashion.  The style of one’s first letters, while admired by one’s parents and teachers, is hardly to be retained throughout one’s years.  To habituate oneself to clear handwriting even when one is writing swiftly is a task requiring many hours of effort, to be sure, but it is one that will always stand you in good stead.  One can only really understand another through one’s handwriting; an entire layer of meaning is lost when reading something printed in type.  With conscious effort, one may train oneself into excellent habits of mind simply by training oneself to write with a moderate, well-balanced hand.  Those of especial gifts may find themselves led to further arts, such as that of calligraphy, or “beautiful writing,” in which the flight of the spirit may freely express itself; to write beautifully is itself an art, one of the highest and most refined, and one may be sure that all who practice it well are of a superior nature.

In order to improve one’s hand, it is important to study it for defects, and to be constantly on the lookout for elements which creep in or attempt to reassert themselves.  To be sure, following these instructions with constancy will help establish moderacy and temperance in one’s daily life; one might never aspire to the heights of the art, but certainly one may soften the effects of one’s flaws through the simple, consistent use of a legible, clear handwriting, rather than the lazy and impersonal use of type that is today so common.

For years, people harassed my daughter for not having neat enough handwriting.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 18

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Making people smile

MINIMUM WAGE

She had a retail job selling food products at a counter for consumption, a bakery-café with baked goods, sandwiches, soups, and salads.  The products had a certain amount of natural romance to them.  The entire shop was perfumed with the scent of baking bread.  You could get coffees and lattes and espresso drinks, chai, smoothies, that sort of thing, cups of tea in porcelain mugs so thick that your tea would stay warm however long you worked on your laptop back in your booth and when you were done you could beat someone over the head with the mug, you know, in case of zombie invasion.  The word “diet” had been eradicated from the menu.  It was comfort carbs with carbs on the side, that kind of place.  And she, like all the girls who worked the counters (only gay guys worked the registers; the rest of the guys worked on the sandwich line or in the back, more macho), she was supposed to smile.

I must always be selling something, she thought, I am always being told to smile. Otherwise she couldn’t get served at bars, men wouldn’t let her pass on the sidewalk without catcalling and trying to trip her, older men on the bus hurr hurr did you hear about the blonde? would harass her, grandmothers with strollers at the mall would swerve into her legs, her mother wouldn’t help her with first-month’s rent after she got dumped and kicked out yet again, and god help her if she was on the rag at the time and lost her temper, ever.

But you know what they say, she thought, the customer is always right.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 17

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  The smell of sunscreen

THAT WORD FOR WHEN YOU KNOW BUT YOU CAN’T PROVE IT YET

I walked into the room.  The smell of sunscreen lingered, one of those phantom smells that get in your nose and don’t go away.  In Iowa, I spent a year smelling manure and fresh-roasted coffee, even when I was cleaning rich people’s bathrooms with chemicals so strong I wouldn’t be able to smell at all for months afterward.

“When did Jasmine get in?” I asked.  My sister, she lived in another state and we didn’t see her often.  But that was the smell of her, sunscreen and sand.

“What are you talking about? Jasmine hasn’t been here for six months.”

I said, “I must have just been thinking about her.”  Then I made some excuse to go down to the basement fridge, which is where the beer is kept.  Mom said, “I’ll get that for you, I have to get something else anyway.”

It always makes me nervous, seeing her go downstairs; she fell down those stairs once.  She came back up with a six-pack a few minutes later.  The smell grew stronger. I said, “Come on, stop pulling my leg.  Where is she?”

“Who? Jasmine? You must be hallucinating.”

I pushed past her and went down the stairs. The landing at the bottom was still a little bit wet.  “Jas?  Jas?”

Then I heard someone screaming at me.  It was my mom.  The bottle–Jas’s brand, all right–kicked into a corner, a wadded-up shirt half-covering it, dark from the grease.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 16

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Bonfires

BONFIRES

…A bronze plate etched with patterns, the kind of big metal platter that you get at a Turkish restaurant, out in the back yard, a pile of letters on it, a box of matches and a slight breeze.  The letters are from your ex.  He says, “I expect you to burn all my letters out of respect.”  What he really means is: The least you could do is let me express one more act of control over you.  But you’ve always been a bit of a pyromaniac. You watch the letters burn and feel nothing but joy for a moment.  Then you spend years trying to believe you’ve actually escaped.

…A bonfire in the woods by the river when you were counting on solitude in the dark; you’re not supposed to go anywhere alone at night because of the rape scares, but you already know that it’s not strangers who you need to be wary of.  The real predators like to sniff around you first, to make sure you won’t resist.  You circle around the frat boys and they go silent. You might be the cops.  You might be bigfoot.  You have to be one or the other.  They joke about it.

…Out in a field under a harvest moon with a boy, the bonfire of the party an orange glow over the hill, your body burns up, you crave nothing more than to be destroyed, used, hurt, anything—you know no words for lust but those of suffering and punishment.  Unfortunately what is summoned is only wet ashes, still smoldering with annoyance the morning after, and a sharp piece of straw inside your pants that you can’t get out, digging into your leg all during class.  “Where did you go last night?” they ask, “What did you do?”

…He calls after midnight on weekends, and you know he made fun of you behind your back in high school and that he’s drunk now, and you say, “When you get the balls to talk to me when it’s daylight and you’re sober, then we’ll see” and he doesn’t. You learn to get used to this, the overexaggerated fear of a woman’s displeasure, this secret, ongoing mockery.  The rape jokes, the jokes about being pussy-whipped, not even a breath between them.  They’re boys with spears around the ritual fire, chanting that bitch, that bitch, who either did or did not give me what I want.

…You remember: burning trash in a barrel out in the gravel driveway, poking it with sticks, inviting it to burn your arm hair, tossing in leaves, pieces of paper, dead grass, live grass, watching the print on advertisements and Christmas wrapping paper flame up green and blue.  But now you don’t trust candles, you don’t trust incense, you never leave anything, no matter how contained, lit at night.  It’ll be fine.  Will it?  Don’t you know what fire is like? One moment it’s your slave, and the next it burns down barns, fields, haystacks, trees, cattle, cats—the water in the rural firetruck is frozen because it’s February—just because it’s cold doesn’t mean it isn’t dry tinder, ready to burn.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 15

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Alone time

EXTROVERT

She was out in her driveway again, in the dark, at eight o’clock at night.  This being suburbia, and she being the sort of woman she is, it is impossible for her to understand that it is an imposition to be constantly greeted: to leave the house, to return to the house, to get the mail, to drop off the mail, to go for a walk, to return from a walk, to mow the grass, to pick up bits of trash from the front yard, it is like being constantly barked at by the neighborhood dogs, until one is on the lookout, until one of you (if you are with someone) is chosen as the one who has to throw themselves under the bus of making conversation with someone who is both helplessly likable and hopelessly unable to allow herself to say anything other than what she thinks one ought to have said, at length.

Her husband’s friends were over, playing a game together as they once had in college, and she wished to apologize for the irregular number of cars parked in the street, she was lonely, they only wanted to use her as a hostess but not to speak to her, her child had been sent off with its grandparents, and she wanted nothing more than to be alone, alone, alone in the bath with a glass of wine, and she could not.

“Blow them off,” I said.  “Just lock the door and take a bath upstairs, if you would like to be alone.”

She changed the subject to how we never really talk to each other, nobody does, and I think what she meant to say was: I didn’t know it would be like this, I didn’t know that I would have to stay here, with my kid, working from home, cleaning house, not cleaning house, feeling guilty about not cleaning house, wanting to reach out to other people and grab onto them, to put down roots, feeling everyone around me slip through my fingers and not understanding why, why, wanting to belong, I thought it would be different, that I would feel comfortable and safe here, but no matter how safe it is I can only feel that I am in danger, the kind of danger that cannot be spoken of lest it be laughed at, I am constantly followed, I am haunted by another self, a past, a future, a self that somehow, somewhen, chose something that would have allowed me not to be here, now, forever, one day is so much like another, when will this be over, am I doomed.

I went inside the house; I have learned that there are perfectly pleasant people in this world that are bottomless in their hunger for security, and they will, charmingly, swallow one up.

She was not meant to live here, with her fear of being alone.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 14

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Cute journals

THE JOURNAL

Tanya received a journal for her twelfth birthday from her Great-Aunt Vasilisa.  It was an important birthday, her great-aunt told her, in a year you will be a teenager and you will go back to an ordinary sort of life, good or bad or both.  But when you are twelve, it will be the worst year of your life; if it is not the worst year of your life, then you have no soul.  Her mother laughed and said, “I wasn’t miserable until I was sixteen,” and Great-Aunt Vasilisa patted her on the cheek and said, “You were always boy crazy,” and Tanya’s mother fell silent. The cheek that had been patted went a little paler than the other.

“This is a magic journal,” Great-Aunt Vasilisa continued, turning back to you.  “Whatever you write in it, if you write something that is not true inside of it, the ink will disappear.”  Tanya could not have told her great-aunt exactly why that was nonsense, but it was; however, she accepted the journal in all seriousness and promised to write in it every day—or at least she would try, she said with almost a wink, because there was such a terrible amount of lying that she had gotten into the habit of, that the first few weeks might be a struggle.

Great-Aunt Vailisa laughed then, one of her great walloping laughs.  The cover was brightly decorated in the latest fashion, by an artist of that place, and of that time, with brightly colored animals with babyish faces. It hadn’t the slightest bit of magic to it, that was obvious.

Tanya threw the journal away when they moved away from that town, when she was sixteen.  By then Great-Aunt Vasilisa was dead, and Tanya must have purchased a hundred journals, stolen more, been gifted dozens by her family.  But it was always the same.  As quickly as she wrote, her words would vanish.  In college, if she would so much as doodle in the margins of her chemistry notebooks, the entire page’s worth of notes would vanish.  Emails, love letters, Christmas cards: all would go blank.   No one would lend her their books.  She would inevitably have to lose them, for they could not be returned in the blank state that they soon acquired, once she had read them.

It began to comfort her, to be able to write anything down, anything at all, and to watch the words fade away, slowly, inevitably, like the drying of invisible ink.

Truth is beauty, she wrote, and laughed as the words faded.  Love makes the world go ’round.  

Then one day she wrote, “The year I was twelve was the worst year of my life,” and there they stayed, the words, still lingering on the page.

I remember, she thought.  Oh God.  Now I remember.

And then the words came, and would not stop.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 13

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Gift cards

THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS

He had been drifting away from people lately: he had left the country of normal gifts and had traveled to the land of gift cards, a gray sort of half-life in which he could never be sure if he was being given a gift or being bribed not to say that he hadn’t received one.

A personal note: gift cards to bookstores are always considered thoughtful. Ahem.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 12

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Plane tickets

L’APPEL DU VIDE

If you had two free one-way plane tickets to take you out of the country, where would you go? You can almost see them in your hand, two of them, on cardboard stock with a shiny foil strip.  You can just about make out your name on the first one, and you know that when you see the second one, it will have the name you have chosen on it.  And that person, well, they will somehow find it in their hearts—not recommended, picking someone dead, by the way—to go with you, to wherever you pick.

Will you go to Paris?  To Tokyo? To Wellington, New Zealand?  I’m telling you, you can pick anywhere, although if you’re the kind of smartass who says things like “Atlantis” it will be at your own risk.  Your plane will be the one that drops into the ocean and is never found again—and I can guarantee that there aren’t any mermaids down there, waiting to prettily rescue you.  If they are there, and I’m not saying they are, they’re more the kind of mermaid with black slime running over their sides and teeth like a viperfish. The song of the mermaid is what you hear when you’re driving along the coast and you look out across the cliffs to the waves and go, “One jerk of the steering wheel, and all of this could be over.” Although I could see the temptation, if you hated more than you loved, to go simply for the pleasure of dragging someone down with you.  To possess two plane tickets toward both the revelation of mystery, and an inevitable death.

You must be one of the people who goes.  That ticket is already drawn out.

Travel back in time! Travel to the stars! Travel to somewhere that does not exist! These things, also, are not recommended.  In fact it would be better to hand the tickets back, quickly, and forget you ever saw them.

But take the tickets, take them.  Your name and one other.

Anywhere you want to go: and all your troubles will be over.

Anywhere.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

 

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 11

Flash fiction project: one dark story per day, all the way through October, each one based on one normal thing gone wrong. More of this year’s stories here.  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Arts and crafts

THE FOURTH WISH

Tamra Triplett was thinking about what would happen to her, when it finally happened, when she finally snapped. Snapped, I tell you, snapped! The frustrations of the world would become too much, she was already on the edge, and she would have to take up arms against it. And she thought, well, I don’t actually give a damn about climbing up to the top of the building and using a rifle to pick people off below me, like ants. I was never one to kick over anthills just for the pleasure of seeing them scatter.

Power? She would have liked the power to make people stop being complete idiots. That would be her secret superpower, if she could have one: the power to make other people realize when they were being hypocrites. Not the power to prove people wrong—that would have been too easy to abuse—but the power to reveal hypocrisy, yes, that would be lovely, she would love to have that. But that was probably the secret, forbidden wish that even the djinn wouldn’t give you: you couldn’t give yourself an infinite number of wishes, you couldn’t wish anyone dead (but ohhh the possibilities that one might have, if one wished to subvert that sort of thing), you couldn’t or shouldn’t wish yourself to become all-powerful or a god or something, and you couldn’t wish people to see their own hypocrisy; those are the four wishes which are forbidden.

To snap or not to snap? She had a pair of miniature scissors on her keychain, folding and razor-sharp, because she had always been raised not to bite off threads. It’ll wreck your teeth. And she did like cutting things, liked it in the thrilled, breathless way that one hears of pyromaniacs liking fire. And once, one magical day, she had been left to clean up after a work function in which name cards had been involved, and she had cut their names up, one by one, as thoroughly as if they were credit cards. But the scissors she had had to use had been rather useless and dull, mashing the paper fibers apart rather than cutting them with a quick, razor slice. They had gone out drinking without her, and all come down with food poisoning. “It was like my guts had been ripped out,” they said.  Good.

Yarn, she thought. Yarn.

I will take a hair—when I intend to snap, that is—and twist it up with some yarn, and then I will knit something that reminds me of them. Arigurimi, that is, those little crocheted stuffed toys. They’re easy enough to make, if you take the time to think through how all the shapes fit together. And then, on that day which will surely come, I will not have to climb all those stairs, which I did once for a fund-raiser, ran up every stair in the building, all the way from the basement to the top, and they mocked me afterwards because my knees hurt for months; I will not have to learn to shoot; I will only have to line them all up and take my best, my loveliest sharpest scissors, and take their wobbly little heads and—

—Cut.

But that won’t work, she told herself, sympathetic magic is just a woman’s fantasy of being able to change the world when there is no power, no justice, no virtue that will do so.

Better get a dab or two—or three, yes three is a good number—of their blood, too.

Dark, strange, twisted, and wonderful – #paranormal #horror and #mystery stories from Wonderland Press.

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