We used to joke that the boogeyman would hide under the bed and raising havoc in our dreams whenever things were going too well. A little bit of paranoia curbed inflated expectations, derailing our fantastical brain train and so preventing a full-on collision with the mountain that is reality. Of course, the boogeyman’s true quarters weren’t below our old dusty mattresses. Such conditions would’ve insulted his dignity and the role he played. We found him instead at the back of the caboose during one of our nightly excursions into la-la land. Peering through the single slit that had been carved into petrified wood, we saw a young man humming to the tune of Michael Jackson’s Thriller whilst chopping garlic against re-runs of the classic Dracula film. Oh the irony and embarrassment we felt, having been so utterly fooled. The next night on our commute home, an old smelly man entered the train with knife in hand and foaming at the mouth. He took a young woman hostage and demanded that we return his spirit of which we stole. The lights went out and a massive jolt shattered the recollection. We woke to the sound of electric grinders.
Entry to this week’s Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner!
The old decrepit house on Willows street was said to be possessed every Christmas eve. An eerie fog would gather around its gated premises and the normally dormant glass globes by the broken windows would glow a menacing red. Its previous inhabitants, a young family who settled in several decades ago, had been driven mad; the couple wound up in separate asylums and their children orphaned. Curiously, all the members had developed an aversion to pies of all things. The father’s insane ramblings oscillated between the gift of a divine custard and the devil’s hellfire that incinerated it. The mother reenacted the preparation of the same meal that would always end with an iron mold placed in the oven. The two children had night terrors about utensils and cutlery. The police couldn’t make heads or tails of the case until they hired an exorcist to treat the afflicted. When the priest finished his work, he asked the detectives, “have you found the friend?”
Jack found a tiny hook by the edge of a small pond. Tying a piece of string to its end, he threw it into the water and in short order, the pond offered him a fish. Impressed, Jack bought up a hundred tiny hooks and threw them into the pond. Not a single fish was caught. Puzzled, he asked the captive fish why the others didn’t bite. The fish replied that its siblings were young and haven’t yet lived out their lives. Not believing the fish, Jack bought a large hook and rowed out to the center of the pond. As soon as he dropped the line, three rows of giant teeth sprang from the depths and swallowed him and the boat whole.
“Fortune rewards those who wait.
Beware those who tempt fate.”
“Why would someone nail a plaque to the underside of a park bench?” Jimmy wondered after reading the inscription. He had spotted the message after discovering a shiny silver dollar half-mixed with the wood-chips near his feet. “Must be my lucky day then” he chuckled while pocketing the coin and taking his leave.
The next day, Jimmy returned to the park bench and discovered a hundred-dollar bill half-concealed near the same vicinity from yesterday. Suspicious of a trap, he bid his time idling for a full ten minutes whilst checking his surroundings. When the coast seemed clear, he quickly scooped up the auspicious find and left without incident.
On the third day, Jimmy once again returned to park bench. To his disbelief, a giant gold nugget lay half-excavated in the same place as before; a blind man could practically see it from afar. More suspicious than ever now, he took up residence near some playground equipment and watched. Other people who passed the bench appeared oblivious. Those who sat down and left did not suddenly die. Jimmy waited and waited till the sun finally set before making his move. He took to his knees to begin digging but as soon as his finger tickled the nugget, the ground beneath him opened up and within a second swallowed him full! A single silver dollar then spat out from the ground followed by a deep rumble that sounded like a “burp”.
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The monitor fluttered a dozen times before fading into the darkness of the room. Kramer had cut the power moments after the super-virus entered the network. He even disabled the wireless and pulled the Ethernet cable just in case wake-on-LAN was active. However, it didn’t stop some part of the programming from worming its way in. An hour later when he thought it safe to boot up the computer, a terminal flashed before him with the words
“Don’t look below”.
Kramer’s heart skipped several beats as he felt his right hand shiver…
The mouse had squeaked.
Joey hung onto the cliff’s edge. Hurricane gusts threatened to blow him right off the mountain like a bad sneeze. His hands started to numb as snow and sleet peppered him from three sides. To top it off, a pack of wolves on the ground below howled for his downfall, eager to break the winter doldrums with some entertainment. Joey had enough. He took off the virtual reality headset and directed his voice at the coordinator.
“I’m not totally convinced. I can see the desolate mountainscape, taste the ice and cold frost on my tongue, and hear those damn wolves jeering at me. Even my hands are a bit sore from gripping those controllers. But… I don’t feel my life is in danger or really on the line.”
The coordinator listened and then pointed to a mirror lying on the ground. Joey gasped when he saw his own reflection. The headset was still on his face.
The fishing line yanked far to the right. “Looks like we got a live one Jimmy! There she goes!”
“Careful with the reel Buzz. The line could snap if you’re too quick with the handle.”
“I know I know! But at this rate, the spool is going to run out. Lemme add a bit of resistance.” Suddenly, the reel stopped spinning. Jimmy and Buzz stared at the slack line for about a minute. The sound of ocean waves sloshing against the dinghy’s stern filled the silence.
“Crap, you think the bait came out? I thought they swallow these things whole like babies with candy.”
“Just reel it in slowly. Don’t want to startle it.”
After several minutes of winding, the end of the line resurfaced. Jimmy and Buzz jerked backwards in shock of what they had caught… A human skull dangled from the ends of the fishing pole. Wedged between its jaws and teeth, the silver-dollar lure remained intact.