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 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.