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

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 10

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:  Dressing up really fancy for not fancy dinners

TEA PARTY

We didn’t always dress up for the tea parties that we held with our dolls, but when we did, we wore my adult cousins’ prom dresses.  The dolls wore the clothes that you made for them, for the dolls that was, hundreds of hours of fine crochet.  We would drink tea and lemonade and have little cookies and you went to the trouble to buy me a tea set with a teapot with a spout that worked, a real miniature teapot that could fit in the palm of my small, sweaty hand.  I am making this up, by the way; we never had tea parties together, not unless I was two or it was for someone else’s benefit. Instead I remember you brushing my hair and screaming at me for letting me get it tangled one minute, and pleading that it was too pretty to cut the next.  I gave you a tiny, perfect teapot later, so you could have tea parties with your dolls and your granddaughter, whose hair I have also seen you brushing, although because I was there to see you, as you told her that it was right that she suffer in order to become more beautiful, you did not scream.

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

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 9

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:  Kitchens

SPOTLESS

In the middle of the night I got up and looked into the kitchen, which gleamed at me.  The rows of cabinets spoke of containment and order.  I knew, because I had done the arranging and shelf-lining myself, that the shelves within them were as neat and tidy as their exteriors.  The refrigerator gleamed, its aluminum surface standing stalwart.  The range was as sober as a judge, its black flat-top induction surface showing only the markings of gold rings, to delineate its “burners.”  Sinks, spotless.  Hand towels, tri-folded.  Coffee maker, prepared for the coming dawn.  Floor, clean enough to eat off of.  I walked forward into it, intending to take some neatly-packaged leftovers out of the fridge. Maybe this time, I thought. But of course the cool, dark kitchen twisted around me, and I was standing back at the kitchen door, facing the other direction. I could feel the kitchen’s horror behind me, its sense of violation.  I looked, and saw a handprint evaporating from the edge of the marble island, and a drop of blood on the floor.  I had made it that far, then.

In the daytime I serve the kitchen, and I belong there.  At night, when I am at my hungriest, I am an invader; I am something other.

And someday all that lovely, spic-and-span order that I created earlier in the day will be unable to eject me, and I will consume it all.

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

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 8

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:  Free Samples

FREE SAMPLE

Death was at the mall passing out free samples of makeup, she said.  Was the makeup poisoned, I asked, did it contain lead? No and no, said Death, it was just different shades of foundation in paper cups, very hypoallergenic.  All right, sorry for the interruption.  But why were you at the mall anyway?  I was bored so I took a part-time job.  Don’t all the souls keep you busy?  Not really, you only get a certain territory to collect in, and if you’re new it isn’t much.  The big profits aren’t even when you collect souls but when you recruit someone else to be a Death, put on the robes.  You aren’t interested, are you?  Maybe after the kids are out of the house, I said, you know how it is, the empty nester syndrome.  Are there Death parties? I asked. Excuse me? said Death.  Like Tupperware parties, or Amway or LuLaRoe? Avon, I said.  Ever heard of Avon?  Oh, like Avon, Death said.  I think I remember that.  My life is kind of hazy.  Didn’t they have those weird perfume bottles?  Classic cars, I think I had a mermaid, I definitely had one of those white cats where the head comes off and there’s the perfume squirter underneath.  I know, I know! I said, I had one of those, too.  Did your mom sell Avon? No, she was one of those suckers who couldn’t say no, though, not even lingerie parties and she thought those were a sin. Those were fun, said Death. Anyway I was passing out free samples of makeup and someone scared the H-E-double hockey sticks out of me.  Oh, wait, I said, I’ve heard this story, the person saw Death and ran off, only you had an appointment with them somewhere else.  Haha, said Death, that would have been ironic, but no, it was me, I saw myself, I was shopping at the mall.  Wow, I said, just wow.  What happened? I’m not sure.  I knew Death had come for me, but which one of me I wasn’t sure.  One of us fell and one of us hit their head and there was blood and can you see my hands shaking?  Oh I feel sick. One of us got up and one of us was lying on the ground, and we were wearing identical outfits and my purse was spilled out on the ground and the sample tray was just everywhere, trails of blood and foundation all over the place from people walking through the mess.  And my question is, how do I know which one I am? Or even if there’s a difference?

Check your wrist, I said. There would have been a dab of makeup there, from you showing people how to match their shade and test to see if they were sensitive.

Just like with perfume.

So this one was inspired by W. Somerset Maugham’s one-paragraph summary, “The Appointment in Samarra.”  And yeah, I know you’re supposed to test foundation on your jawline.

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

 

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 7

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 Lists

LISTS

1% milk
Yellow cheese slices
Plain nonfat yogurt
White bread
Salted butter
Spaghetti noodles (cheap)
Hamburger
Tomato sauce
Parmesan in the green can

Hershey’s kisses, plain
Tinfoil
Decent toilet paper
Eggs, at least six dozen
Cream cheese, not low-fat
Graham crackers
Another 2 pkgs toilet paper, but only the one package needs to be the good kind

Bandaids
Gauze
Neosporin
Concealer, hold it against your inside wrist to see if it matches
2% Milk
Hamburger
Hamburger Helper (you pick)

Folger’s coffee, not that other stuff
D-Con refillable bait station for killing mice, at least 12 in the package
Coffee cake
Box of coffee cake mix
Invitation cards
Heavy nails

Shovel
Mattock (like a pickaxe with a sideways axe head, for digging through tree roots)
Plastic spoons, any color just not pink
A ream of nice printer paper
Elmer’s glue
Scissors
3-4 different newspapers
Hand soap
6 boxes of parboiled Uncle Ben rice

Clothesline rope, probably 6-7 packages will do it
Square-notch economy flooring trowel
10 bags Quikcrete Mortar Mix (60 lbs each bag)
Anniversary card (you pick)

Ham
Buns for at least 50
Mayo
Tissues
Red Jell-O for salad
Fruit cocktail
Upholstery needle
Black upholstery thread
Bleach
Big bag of russet potatoes
3 cans cream of chicken soup
Big container of sour cream (cheap is fine)
Shredded yellow cheese in the big bag
Garlic powder
Almost forgot, dill pickles and do not bring back the sweet kind, I want Polish dill, I can’t stand sweet pickles you know that
A roll of black crepe streamers, for decorating

Whole milk
Red wine
Italian sausage
Garlic bread
Good spaghetti noodles
Tomato sauce
Fancy parmesan
Dozen roses
Love you too, Snookums
Love you too

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

 

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 6

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:  Museums (preferably art museums)

POP-UP

The museum appeared suddenly, without notice, in the old sporting-goods store.  At first Clara Achziger thought it was a Halloween store, the kind with the plastic tarp sign strapped to the front of the hollowed-out storefront, fake walls put up inside to block off any unused square footage.  Costumes, plastic masks, makeup, stubby weapons that small children would wack against their parents’ thighs.  Spiderwebs spun out of plastic.  Candy bowls that grabbed back.

But no: The Pritchford Museum of Arts & Sciences, Now Open! The lettering was all wrong for a Halloween store, the sans-serif font self-respecting yet easily read.  The museum’s logo of a Greek temple in a circle clinched it: surely nobody would bother to make their Doric columns properly if the place was only meant to be a joke.

She paid seven dollars and went inside.

The rooms were arranged to make it feel like you were traveling on a time machine through history.  The first room was a cave, where a wax Neanderthal painted shimmering buffalo on the wall.  The major inventions of the era (fifty to ten thousand years ago) were language, art, farming, and culture.  The next room was set in 3200 B.C.E., showing the art and sciences of the Mesopotamians.  Cuneiform script was presented on re-creation clay tablets.  A children’s table—had their been any children on that Wednesday morning—featured a kind of polymer surface in which messages could be written with pointed styluses.  Childishly, Clara wrote “Kilroy was here” and, down in one corner, drew a little bald man with nose and fingers hanging over an edge.  Strange, winged, half-human gods in bas-relief looked at her from niches in the walls.

Time passed as she wandered through the rooms.  In 604 B.C.E. was the birth of Lao-Tzu, the founder of Daoism.  In 500 B.C.E., the caste system of India was established.  In 124 B.C.E., Alexander the Great’s empire reached its furthest extent.  In 408 C.E., Theodosius II became the emperor of Byzantium and contructed his walls around Constantinople.

Slowly, gradually, with increasing tension in her shoulders and a slight ringing in her ears, she worked her way back to the present.  She lingered in the room spanning the lifetime of the Persian poet Abu al-Qasim Firdawsi (940 to 1020 C.E.); she practically set up shop in the Ghenkis Khan room (1206 C.E.), she blew a kiss to Marco Polo (1271 C.E.); she sat on a carved stone throne in the Aztec Room (1502 C.E., lead by Auitzotl, conquerer of the Mixtec) and contemplated the tastefulness of blood sacrifices versus standing in line at Starbucks; across the hall (also 1502) was the memorial room of the first slaves reported in the New World, where she knelt and wept until her knees felt like they were made of stone; she skipped the Columbus room (honestly, who needed it?); she drifted through the room of the Emperor Wanli in China (1572 to 1620 C.E.) wearing a complimentary silk robe that she returned carefully to its hook by the door as she left; she looked through Galileo’s telescope in 1604 to peek at other worlds than these; she invaded Egypt with Napoleon, calling him a syphilitic ass the entire time; she grieved over the Taiping Rebellion; she bled with the Crimean War and then, in short order, saw the bodies stacked like wood in the photographs from the American Civil War and thought, I think I’m getting a migraine; World War I arrived and left her coughing and stumbling to grab one of the gas masks on the wall; in the World War II room the floor was made of bits of something that crunched underfoot and which she didn’t dare look at; the Korean War and the Vietnam War made the back of her throat raw and her joints ache, her eyesight dimming; the Cold War echoed in her ears like a million-voiced punk rock concert; the Second Civil War was a room covered with yesterday’s headlines—she covered her eyes with her arm but walked bravely onweard through the room anyhow; and then she was at a black door marked EXIT in glowing neon letters.

Clara lingered there until two security officers told her it was closing time.  And then when they tried to make her leave she fought; she fought to stay; she fought to return to a room, any room, no matter how terrible, in the past.

They threw her out and nobody has heard from her since.

I couldn’t help but think of The Circus of Dr. Lao, written by Charles G. Finney in 1935, as I wrote this.

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

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 5

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 after it rains.

DON’T

Don’t trust anyone with a banjo; don’t trust anyone on a day in which you have heard a banjo, even banjos on the radio, even the smell of banjos on the air.  Don’t take a shower during a thunderstorm, or when you’re alone in the house, or at the cabin on the lake; don’t take a long, hot bath anywhere near a radio, especially if there are banjos playing on it.  Don’t be alone; don’t be alone with a man you just met; don’t be alone with a girlfriend because after all there are only two of you; don’t split up; don’t go down into the basement, the cellar, the mine shaft, the canyon, the pool, the lake, for God’s sake don’t go down into the ocean, especially on a stormy night when the waves roll in and roll in and there’s no way to tell whether that roar comes from things beyond or just a wave and it doesn’t take monsters to drag you under, only a wave that you didn’t predict and you can never predict the waves; that large dark shadow that lingers in the storm is a rock one second but one flash of lightning later it’s a thing, oh God in the dark, something ancient and strange.  Don’t make fun of this town; don’t come back to a town where you grew up; don’t pray at that church, it’s the wrong one; don’t listen to the laughter coming out of the drains.  Don’t answer the phone; don’t not answer the phone; don’t go near the horrible rough bleating of a phone off the hook; don’t pick up the knife-cut telephone cord and stare at it in horror, ain’t nobody got time for that; don’t call the cops; if only you had called the cops; why didn’t you tell anyone what happened to you when you were sixteen, fourteen, twelve, four? don’t you dare say those things about Grandma. Don’t forget what I taught you about guns; don’t aim a loaded gun at someone you don’t want dead; don’t just assume that you should want a man dead who is trying to kill you; don’t jump to conclusions; don’t assume that a gun is unloaded or for that sake loaded; you don’t want to be holding a pistol in the face of the man wearing a hockey mask and have the trigger click over and over as you realize that you have nothing to defend yourself with and that you never did; don’t think that you can just shoot someone and get away with it, even if they’ve broken your ribs and your leg and you’re leaning against the wall with blood dripping down your face; don’t assume your attacker is alone and for fuck’s sake don’t assume that they’re dead after you’ve shot them; don’t you know that women can be psychopathic home invader murderers, too? Don’t be a babysitter if you can help it, and if you are don’t be the kind that wants to steal another woman’s baby for your own; you know that women can’t be trusted.  Run don’t walk; don’t run they’re going to shoot you from behind and it would be better to wait behind that tree while holding your breath and waiting for you to be grabbed from the wrong side ’round; don’t watch horror movies with someone you don’t intend to fuck; don’t fuck someone you’re watching a horror movie with; don’t fuck, drink, or swear because if you do it’s all your fault, whatever happens to you; don’t stop to see if the animal you hit out in the middle of nowhere while you were driving alone is dead because it’s no animal; don’t get into the car, whether it’s your car or a car belonging to some boys you don’t know and who are driving who knows where; don’t let anger and pride drive you away from someone who didn’t mean to hurt you; don’t get so uppity; don’t expect to have a happy ending, there’s always one last thing; don’t sit out beside the lake with a cup of coffee with a shot of bourbon in it, sipping as you look across the water after the rain, just soaking in the smell of it, and thinking thank God it’s over.  The gods who look over you aren’t those kinds of god, the forgiving kind; the gods who look over you demand the sacrifice of your sense of safety every moment of every day, a tithe of fear and terror; don’t call their attention; don’t look their way.  The banjos are coming and your boyfriend is possessed; the car rolls up its windows and the windup clown doll in the attic (did I remember to warn you about attics?) begins to laugh again.

Yes, I totally wrote this after reading Jamaica Kindcaid’s excellent flash fiction piece “Girl,” and of course her story is better than mine!

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

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 4

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:  Random Acts of Kindness.

THE CURSE

You’ve always had problems containing yourself into the person that other people think you should be.  That one time you spent all the money in the joint account on video games, the other time that you seduced that teenaged kid in the back of the church—don’t worry, it wasn’t like in the middle of a wedding or anything and anyway you think he was homeless, the time you put bleach in your alcoholic father’s bottles of booze, but only the really cheap shit he was hiding in the garage, not the good stuff that your mom might drink in the cabinet over the old green fridge.

Why shouldn’t you do these things?  Nobody seems to be able to explain it to you.  Then one day, it’s like the slobs all rise up.  It’s a witch hunt.  Friends don’t answer your calls, or texts, or emails, or messages.  They don’t answer the door even though you know they’re home, you can see the flickering of their TVs.

You go back and try to refine the past down to a point.  Was it something you did?  Didn’t do?  You work it over in your mind until you’re almost sure you know what it is: when you knocked over your latte in Jeremy’s car, which you were borrowing, and you didn’t clean it up, and he couldn’t get rid of the smell.

Jeremy’s a sucker, though; that’s probably not it.  Then you remember last Tuesday, leaning your head against the door of a vending machine at the community college, hungry and watching a protein bar dangling from the ledge and thinking, You have to wait until nobody can see before you kick it, if they see you it’ll be bad, and this guy gave you two dollars that you didn’t need so you could feed it into the machine and you said thanks and he said no problem and that was it, really.

Saying thank you to a sucker. That was the moment everything went to shit.

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

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 3

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:  Unexpected Friendships.

GETTING OVER IT

Mom and me and Princess Cookie were riding on the bus together, not a school bus but but a fancy bus, the kind with soft blue velvet seats and even seatbelts.  It wasn’t as brag-worthy as an airplane ride but I was still looking forward to telling the whole class.  Of course Princess Cookie wouldn’t sit still.  Sometimes she raced along the side of the road or along the tops of the power lines.  Or she would take flying leaps from building to building.  Sometimes she sat in the seat in front of me and twisted around to make faces.  Sometimes she flew around the bus, making ghost noises that only I could hear:  Wooooo!  She cursed at them, too, and did naughty things under their clothes that they couldn’t even feel. She was kind of gross and mean and she wasn’t very nice but she was still my best friend.

When Mom went to the bathroom and the lady across the aisle leaned over and said, “That friend of yours is no good.”  Then she settled back in her seat.

Princess Cookie came back but it wasn’t fun anymore.  She was just another bully.

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

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 2

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:  Bookstore.

FINAL CLEARANCE EVERYTHING MUST GO

For years I lived next to a bookstore. The books were all battered and cheap and used, a lot of them with yellowed pages or marginalia, underlinings, the small and secret marks of a person who marks every book they read on page seventeen so they don’t reread the same damn book sixty times.  There was a coffee pot with syrupy burnt coffee so strong it would stunt your growth, and a bulldog that sat in square of moving sunlight in the front door, waiting for kids and customers.

The owner was a nice guy.  He was always giving us free books. He was so nice that, behind his back, we pretended he was a serial killer and the locked cased of first editions next to his desk was really full of books made out of human skin.  We loved the thrill of catching his glance: “He looked at you, Daprizio!  That means you’re next!”

Then one day the bookstore was closed.  We were sure he’d been arrested.  Three cop cars and a white SUV was parked in front of the store.  The white SUV pulled out of its parking spot and drove off as we watched.

We peeked inside, watching dark and shadowy figures moving around the front desk.  Where was the shootout?  Where was the blood? The yellow line of police tape?

A man in a suit walked over to the half-empty coffee pot, glanced at us, then touched the carafe with his fingers.  He jerked them away like he’d been burnt.  That coffee pot.  It was always too hot.  He put his fingers in his mouth and yelled at us through the door to get the hell out of there, bunch of stupid kids.

Later, like ghosts, we smashed windows and broke in through the back door. We were evil little shits. When we didn’t find what we were looking for, we smashed open the glass case full of first editions, took them out to a vacant lot, and burned them, chanting, Killer killer, you deserved what you got, you deserved what you got.

It’s all been downhill from there.

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

Tales of the Normal: 31 Days of the Horrific & Mundane, Day 1

Today begins a bunch of free short fiction for the month of October! I decided this year to go with a theme of “Normal things that people normally enjoy…gone wrong.”  You can find last year’s stories here, or at Amazon as October Nights.

Normal thing:  Coffee.

JUST ANOTHER MONDAY MORNING HELL

So I’m just about to drink this cup of coffee at work when all of a sudden my hand melts.  I’m left-handed.  I reach for the handle of my coffee mug–which is plain on the outside but has You’ve been poisoned! on the bottom in the inside, which I bought in an effort to keep my coworkers from stealing my mug–and my fingers grasp the handle and then the handle just kind of slowly slides through them, not like I’m a ghost but like I’m butter, I’m left with most of my pinky and thumb and the stubs of the rest of my fingers, and some lumps of pinkish goo running down the side of the bland white mug and plopping onto the desk.  My wedding ring falls off the stub of my ring finger and lands on the top of the paper towel I was using as a coaster with a clunk.  And I’m sitting there, looking at my fingers, and thinking, Surely I’m more than this, more than a piece of waxwork.  It doesn’t hurt.  I mean, ten seconds ago I was holding that same cup of coffee by the handle without any issues, but then again the handle hadn’t warmed up yet.  I reach out with the right hand but I hesitate.  What if I’m completely made out of wax now?  Did the real me swap me out so she could play hooky?  Is this some kind of bullshit HR tactic to save money on employees?  What?

It doesn’t matter.  I won’t be able to function without coffee this morning and I can’t go home early, not with all the time off I’ve used this year.  I’d get fired.

I go to the break room and get a straw.

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

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