“Slide”– Advent Ghosts 2019

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He liked closing doors, the repetitive clang of chain-link boxes secured. The vibration satisfied him, made him feel safe. “You shouldn’t have come here, you know you brought this on yourself.” No matter their eyes, no matter the tears, he stood firm.

He’d just fallen asleep when he heard it. Same metal latch, but it slid, slowly. It opened.

Eyes wide in the dim light of his bedroom, he saw nothing. No one was there. That first night stretched into years.

The unwavering voice always whispered the same thing: “Come on, ese. We both know. You brought this on yourself.”

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This is an exactly 100-word flash fiction piece for a tradition of writing ghost stories on Christmas Eve. We acknowledge a sinful and hopeless world, and welcome the dawn in full awareness that Christmas day brings us light.

“It was well once a year, if not oftener, to remind men by parable of the old, simple truths; to teach them that forgiveness, and charity, and the endeavor for life better and purer than each has lived, are the principles upon which alone the world holds together and gets forward. It was well for the comfortable and the refined to be put in mind of the savagery and suffering all round them, and to be taught, as Dickens was always teaching, that certain feelings which grace human nature, as tenderness for the sick and helpless, self-sacrifice and generosity, self-respect and manliness and womanliness, are the common heritage of the race, the direct gift of Heaven, shared equally by the rich and poor.” — William Dean Howells

Advent Ghosts 100 Word Storytelling is put on by Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall. You can read this year’s entries there. Visit back here throughout the day for a growing crop of spooky stories from a range of writers! Loren posts them all day today, the darkest day of the year.

 

 

“Rattle” — Advent Ghosts 2018

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Rattle

 

First appearing to me when I was a child, it rattled past the ornament box I’d come to claim from a dark corner of our garage.

Only bones. Its back curved gently along the spine, its toes landing with a soft tap as it walked, stilting, no skin on anything. Even the tail was bare, white, hard.

It had a shyness mixed with urgency, wanting something. 30 years later I still don’t know what.

Part of myself moved with that creature.

I never told anyone. Alive and not.

It still comes when I call. I don’t talk about that, either.

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This is an exactly 100-word flash fiction piece for a tradition of writing ghost stories on Christmas Eve. We acknowledge a sinful and hopeless world, and welcome the dawn in full awareness that Christmas day brings us light.

Advent Ghosts 100 Word Storytelling is put on by Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall. See other entries there.

Note: I regret being unable to provide attribution for the photo. This is as close as I could get to the source.

Camaraderie and Creepy Conceits: Advent Ghosts Storytelling 2018

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Shared Storytelling: Advent Ghosts 2018 by Loren Eaton

“We hardly look at the stars anymore or even the lanterns we hung centuries before to blot out the night from our sight. The wind whistles down empty city streets whose cratered and pocked surfaces betray their long lack of use. Commerce of both the legitimate and illicit type takes place in the light-strung skyways linking the megopolis’ highest spires or in the metro tunnels beneath the ancient pavement or through the indecipherable network of hand-carved caverns chipped out by generations of subterranean squatters. But only the moneyed or mad or desperate or damned venture out much anymore. Even infants get socketed, and once you’ve pegged in to the Lattice, slipping the thumb-sized plug of hyperconductive alloy into the surgically installed socket between your C1 and skull, then you see it. The vast digital distraction sends its digital shivers shuddering down your nerves, a distraction bespoke and beautiful—at least until the signal bleeds or the power grid surges. Then the lights go out, and a district seems to shudder, to rouse itself, to move as a great beast wakened from slumber. Doors open onto balconies. Blinking forms peer out into hallways. Children scamper off into the shadows, scavenging up scraps with which to mock physical forms of their digital simulacra. And wide-eyed, jack-scrambled wanderers stagger this way and that, saying they saw those crude golems move.

People laugh, shift uncomfortably, and try not to admit to themselves that there seem to be more children frolicking in the gloom than they’d initially noticed …

Welcome to Advent Ghosts 2018, the ninth annual shared storytelling event at ISLF. For more than a century, the days preceding Christmas have been a time to swap spooky tales, building camaraderie around creepy conceits. So we write . . .”

Join us here tomorrow for Esse Diem’s offering this year, then swing over to Loren Eaton’s blog, I Saw Lightning Fall, to find links to all the 2018 stories!

Ripping | Eclipse Flash Fiction

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There’s a ripping and it seems to come from around the sun.

The child’s words were clear and matter-of-fact.

“What . . . what did you just say?” I asked her. She looked up at me, her eyes placid.

“What did you hear?” she intoned.

I gazed back at her for a full 30 seconds. She never looked away. I wondered then if I had heard anything at all. But something was there. I was starting to think I should not have looked directly at her for so long.

It seemed maybe heard wasn’t right. It was more of an appearance. I saw the edge of a circle, ragged with blinding light fighting a stony obstruction that was trying to smother it, the painful saw-toothed edge of a migraine aura. I considered the stony thing might be my own skull.

Everything was both transport and trap. I could see nothing but bluish white-hot light, even when my eyes were closed. I stumbled away from the child and  found my way down the stairs using only the sense of touch, a nauseous lump firmly set in my upper throat. I found a telephone and called a friend for help. I was blind.

***

There’s a ripping and it seems to come from around the sun.

“What did you just say?” Jesse asked.

He handed me a cool washcloth. “And put this over your eyes, it will help. These auras don’t just go away at will, but they go eventually. Just try to relax and keep your eyes closed. You were mumbling about something ripping. Are you okay?”

I kept my face behind the washcloth as I said, “There is a little girl here in the office somewhere. I don’t know who she belongs to, we have to find her parents before we go. I don’t know why she’s here.”

He rested a hand on my shoulder. “I’ll look around, okay, but I don’t think anyone else is here. Your car is the only one in the parking lot this weekend. You’re working hard, too hard if you ask me. It can bring on these migraines. I’m going to drive you home so you can get some rest. I need you to rally for the eclipse viewing party on Monday. It’s going to be sick.”

Now I took down the cloth and labored to raise my eyelids so we could look at each other when I said, “I think I’m going to pass.”

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Note: I wrote this bit as part of  friend Eric Douglas’ eclipse-themed story challenge. Please visit Books By Eric for more tales.

“It’s Not Mama” – Advent Ghosts 2016

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It’s Not Mama

 

When she was out of town, he slept with Jack..

An unexpected, steady thump. Had she made it home? Christmas Eve. Flipping on the light, he rolled over to see the last wag. His companion’s body went rigid, he lifted his head, his ears flat against the skull.

Beyond the window there was no car. No footprints. No one. Just the snow.

“Quiet, baby. It’s not Mama, yet.”

The animal stood, emitting a nearly silent howl, sound he felt in his stomach.

Jack leapt off the bed, his face to the wall. His trembling body was the only sound now.

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This is an exactly 100-word flash fiction piece for a tradition of writing ghost stories on Christmas Eve. We acknowledge a sinful and hopeless world, and welcome the dawn in full awareness that Christmas day brings us light.

Advent Ghosts 100 Word Storytelling is put on by Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall. See other entries there.

Bring on the Ghosts: Advent Storytelling 2016

Welcome to Advent Ghosts 2016, the eighth annual shared storytelling event at I Saw Lightning Fall, Loren Eaton’s blog about “narrative, genre, and the craft of writing.” For the uninitiated, Advent Ghosts seeks to recreate the classic British tradition of swapping spooky stories at Yuletide. However, instead of penning longer pieces, we post bite-sized pieces of flash fiction for everyone to enjoy.

Ghost Winter Flower by Henrik Thorn

To learn more about this tradition, read the article here about this “lost tradition.”

This is my fifth year writing for Advent Ghosts. In my first year I pulled some edited lines from a ghost story I wrote about meth addiction. It is called “The Escape.”

In 2012, I decided to try Loren’s model of writing one piece inspired by secular Christmas traditions, and another from sacred texts.

Unwanted explores the terror we feel when an unexplained and damaged presence penetrates the safety of our families and our homes.

For Later is my take on what I’ve always seen as a poetic and disturbing element in the gifts of the three kings to the baby Jesus.

I again used a sacred story’s inspiration for 2013’s “Vacancy.” I’ve always had a fascination with the innkeeper from Jesus’s birth story. I fantasize about a moment in which the larger narrative clicks for him, as it did for shepherds and kings.

2014 found me writing about the last heartbeat of a last creature. As natural as it would be, the feeling of loneliness in even a non-human animal felt very real to me that year.

I took a break in 2015. Before Loren took the reins over the more graphic content, I was feeling out of place with the tone of some of the pieces.

But this year, I’m back. I love the restriction of the 100 words — no more, no less — and how it pares down the writing to something essential. No frills! Plus, there’s nothing quite like being part of reviving a lost or fading Christmas tradition to get my inner nerd all a-tingle. Charles Dickens, I love you.

Enjoy this year’s submission, which will post not long from now, and if you like creepy little tales be sure to visit Loren’s blog, too! Just when I think I’ve read the most shiver-inducing tale, they get, well, more shivery!

 

Halloween Fiction in a Flash: “Treasure”

If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m a big fan of the 100-word flash fiction model. It creates a structure that imposes discipline, as does the sonnet. There are rules. My process is to keep a tight leash on my sentences but not self-edit much in the draft phase. The fun comes when I do a word count and have to start paring down, replacing, refining.

There is an effort to collect 100-word stories on this site, 100 Word Story.

I got started with Loren Eaton’s Advent Ghosts. This Halloween story, “Treasure,” is for my friend Eric Douglas. I like what Eric says, “(T)his particular brand of flash fiction is telling a complete story in 100 words. Not more. Not less. It can be a lot of fun. And it can also be challenging. Sometimes what is most important is what is left unsaid.”

I will share Eric’s full Halloween 2015 round-up on Esse Diem on or after Friday, October 30.

I hope you enjoy my story. I’ve always been fascinated with how simple curiosity can morph into obsession and losing touch with reality.

I’ll leave the rest unsaid.

John William Waterhouse, Psyche opening the golden box , 1903.

John William Waterhouse, Psyche opening the golden box , 1903.

Treasure

It was a place to hide treasures. How what she considered “treasure” changed, she couldn’t remember.

Things from the woods behind the house, the path to school. First leaves or seeds, but soon feathers. What once had a heartbeat. Claws, then tails, whatever could be preserved. That Halloween, the treasures were recent.

“Who’s next?” Seth held a flashlight under his face in the dark.

He passed her treasure box to the left, and Jeff shivered. “I’ll go.”

Then, “EW! I know that’s just spaghetti in there! That’s worse than the peeled grape eyeballs!”

No, she thought. It’s so much better.