The Cutting Edge – 3 – 100 Word Flash Fictions

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I.

Joanne finished typing the last line of tomorrow’s post, saved it, and closed her lap top. She rose from her desk in the now empty office. So seldom was she ever there alone with only the quiet humming of the overhead air filtration system.

The lighting seemed queer tonight, shining a pale shade of green. She nervously looked over her shoulder while waiting at the elevator. When it arrived, she entered. As the doors began to close, a hand gripped one side of the door and it reopened. The blonde handsome man towered over her with a knife and lunged.

II.

Springing up from her sound sleep, the rolling chair banged the cubicle wall behind her. “What a nightmare!” She gazed around the empty office, grabbed her laptop, and headed for the elevator. She took a deep breath when the door closed behind her.  She entered the basement parking lot and sprinted to her car. Once inside she locked the doors and drove home.

Her black Labrador Rex laid down outside the shower while she soaped up. She heard him growl and then bolt out of the bathroom. “Is someone there?” Searching for a weapon, only shampoo bottles lined the shelf.

III.

He crept up the stairs, hearing the water pounding in the shower. He smiled knowing she wouldn’t see him enter. He took care of the dog and then stepped onto the tile floor.

Her mind flashed to the movie Psycho. She tried to keep looking through the glass shower door as she rinsed off and couldn’t help visualizing Rex lying in a pool of blood. She stepped out of the shower, swung around, and gasped.

Her husband Richard handed her a bouquet of white roses. “Congratulations! Sliced made the best seller list! We’re celebrating!”

“I need a vacation,” thought Joanne.

Have you ever woken up from a dream that completely unhinged you?

Have you ever dreamt you were running away, but your legs felt as though they were under water?

Photo by S. Lindau

The Mistresses of Mayhem

As the days grow shorter, I begin to feel autumn’s chill through the drafts in my house which seems to penetrate the floor and slip up my pant legs then settle down deep in my bones. While running upstairs to retrieve wool socks for my cold feet I am reminded of the time of year and begin to long for All Hallow’s Eve and a month of ghostly tales. When I was a teenager, my girlfriends and I would gather around the television at midnight and dare each other to look at the spectacle originally written by Edgar Allen Poe or Mary Shelley. I would peer between my fingers which covered my eyes as my heart quickened and my stomach clenched in the inescapable mix of shock and horror. After a sleepless night of hearing the water trickle through the pipes in our family room thinking one of the undead crept around our scattered sleeping bags, I would rouse myself and smile looking forward to next week’s episode

Wikipedia defines Gothic fiction, sometimes referred to as Gothic horror, as a genre or mode of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. When I think of authors of gothic horror the first to come to mind is Edgar Allen Poe. The Fall of the House of Usher(1839), The Pit and the Pendulum (1842), and The Telltale Heart (1843) are a few examples.

Many years before Poe was born, some of the early masters of the macabre were actually mavens. Ann Radcliffe first wrote The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne in 1789. This tale of a lonely woman included paranormal conventions interwoven with the very first vivid descriptions of nature. She gave natural explanations for the supernatural occurrences in her book making this genre acceptable for the first time in English society. She ended her chapters with cliff hangers keeping her readers flipping through pages.

1816 was known as “the year without a summer” for many in Europe. Mount Tambora erupted on an Indonesian island obscuring the sun for more for many months and creating a mini-ice age. Mary Shelley spent that summer in a villa on Lake Geneva, Switzerland with her husband Percy and friends including Lord Byron, and John Polidori.  Since the days were cold and nasty they spent many of them indoors reading ghosts stories. One day Lord Byron challenged each of them to write their own. Polidori created the vampire genre with the book, The Vampyre and Mary wrote Frankenstein.

Each author wrote gripping tales of suspense and terror keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. Speculation over their fascination with death and the supernatural in some cases seems obvious and in others not so much. Edgar Allen Poe’s mother was an actress who played Juliet when he was a young child. He found it confusing and upsetting to watch her die on stage every night. Eventually she succumbed to tuberculosis and died back stage. At 25 five years of age Poe married his 13-year-old cousin who died of the disease when she turned 25. Many historians believe that Poe’s tormented mind originated from the dread of contracting this white plague. He died mysteriously –most likely alcohol poisoning- at age 40.

Mary Shelley endured horrible headaches and passed away of a brain tumor at age 40 as well. Maybe that is why she came up with a monster made of bits and pieces from other bodies. She may have felt like getting a brain transplant!

I love that researchers couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary about little Ann Radcliffe.  She lived quietly with her husband and worked as an editor of The English Chronicle. She seems to have created these twisted tales without any documentation of torment, living until age 58. Her husband continued to support her writing by having the last of her work published after her death.

I have my own theory as to what motivated these authors. I began writing my own Gothic Fiction recently and can say that the thrill of writing them comes from being inside the character as I go through the process of typing out the words. No sooner have I set down the first sentence, does my own heart begin to race along with the story. Regardless of the personal fears the author may have had, I think they all enjoyed writing these thrillers just as much as their readers enjoyed reading them.

It is written that Ann Radcliffe passed the lonely cold winters writing her Gothic tales near a warm fireplace most likely feeling the grip of winter through the icy fingers of chilly drafts. My guess is she would have enjoyed our sleep-overs where we peeked out from our sleeping bags and glimpsed old black and white films of Frankenstein and Dracula. I wonder if Ann would enjoy Stephen King and what she would write if she were alive today.

Do you enjoy Gothic Fiction?

Who are your favorite authors today?

Illustration from Google  – Poe’s “The Raven” 

Stolen Regret

I

The biting wind struck Maeve’s frail body with force so she drew her mother’s thin red shawl around her shoulders tighter. She shivered remembering what she had done. The stunning ring had been lying on Mrs. Carver’s bedside table along with her yellowed false teeth which floated in a glass of water. She moved the tumbler and dusted, then slipped the ruby ring into her pocket.

Trudging home on the icy path through the shadowy forest, the weight of the stone spun the ring around her thin finger. When the vagrant grabbed her from behind, it flew into the gloom.

 II

After a long cold winter, sun-filled days thawed the frozen earth and birds migrated back from their winter respite. A squirrel sprung from his warm leaf-lined den in the trunk of an ancient oak. With pangs of hunger he dove to the forest floor and dug for buried acorns. A bright glint like crimson berries caught the attention of his black beady eyes and he hopped through the decomposing leaves hoping for an edible treasure. Cocking his head to one side he gazed at the ruby ring. An ebony crow swooped down and snatched it up with its hooked beak.

 III

“What are you afraid of Chelsea? Ghosts?” Jack taunted. Mary and Thomas giggled, but the tales about the woman in the woods and the thought of meeting down there at midnight to have a séance made her flesh crawl.

The moon hung like a fingernail clipping over the old Carver house where the remaining shards of glass in the windows seemed like a menacing grin.

The rhythmic crunching of their footsteps on the path into the dense forest kept time with the banging in her chest. Jack found an old oak and the four friends settled underneath its gnarled branches.

 IV

Maeve floated through the forest on the wings of the gust’s frosty breath twisting with the wailing wind. Like so many nights before this, she found herself on that muddy path with the ruby ring heavy on her finger like the weight of guilt on her soul. Sometimes she caught glimpses of others completely unaware. Other times they seemed alarmed then faded into the gray snowy night.

Tonight the pull at her core caused a ferocious velocity of writhing. She whipped towards the foursome dislodging something from the old oak which fell between them.

Return it!” Maeve howled with wind.  

 

The Mother of Invention

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In the 45 years since the television show Star Trek first aired, many of its gizmos and gadgets have become commonplace.  Almost everyone owns a communicator we call the cell phone. The device Lt. Uhura wore over her ear to speak to random beings in the universe and others on board is now known as Bluetooth. GPS, oversized flat screens, the PC, and computer tablet are now owned by users across the world. The tricorder that Dr. McCoy used to diagnose patients will soon be on the market and the cordless ultrasound called the GE Vscan also has some of these capabilities.

Although I look forward to new technology predicted in futuristic films, the computerized recognition sales technique used in Minority Report had me cringing. In that movie technology had moved into the phase of identification through the lens of the individual’s eyeball. Tom Cruise who played John Anderton strode through a mall where holograms spoke to each individual shopper walking by and tried to sell them their latest product. A voice said, “Welcome back to the Gap Mr. Yakimoto. How did those assorted tank tops work out for you?” John Anderton mutters, “Mr. Yakimoto,” even though it appears he is wearing a Gap tank top.

This weekend I stopped at Target and froze when I heard the sound of a commercial coming from the end cap of the aisle which seemed to run on a loop. The unnerving quality of the intrusion into my otherwise quiet thought process while shopping made me wonder how much longer it would be before it has the capability to sell me items based on past purchases. I stood next to a customer staring at the shelves for an inordinate amount of time and wondered if she was waiting for me to leave before she chose a particular ointment. How embarrassing would it be if a voice from an advertisement next to a product said, “Hello Ms. Lindau. How is that hemorrhoidal cream working for you?” or “Are you back for more tampons? You purchased Playtex Gentle Glide last time.” How personal will personalized shopping get? I would never get my husband Danny to pick up feminine hygiene products for me.

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The latest in car keys – the keyless pad

Some inventions have brought a brand new set of frustrations with them. Have you ever mislaid your TV remote or cordless home telephone? It can be a nightmare when you lose your cellular phone and the battery dies so you can’t use its ringtone to find it. The automobile keyless entry and ignition seemed like a wonderful new development, but a problem arose for me. The new key is only a small lightweight black pad which can be misplaced easily. Why do manufacturers make everything in black? You only need to have this tiny instrument inside the car in order to start the engine. I have jumped in, pushed the ignition button, and driven somewhere only to discover that although the pad was somewhere in the car, it had vanished. Many times it has been dropped between the seats, misplaced in one of the six pockets of my tennis bag, and has slid underneath the seat when my purse tipped over. That tiny pad has hidden from me in the deepest and darkest recesses of the car. I know what you are thinking and I bought a huge key chain which has alleviated the problem, but whenever I don’t want something honking big in my purse or pocket, I unclip it and invariably lose the pad once again.

The invention of a universal locater would make life easier. It would be about 6 to 8 inches long and would come in several different bright colors that would glow in the dark. A wrist band for hanging it in a central location would be included. The unit would contain at least 5 different programmable color coded buttons. Coordinating computerized stickers would attach to the back of the most easily lost electronics. If the keyless pad was misplaced, I could simply push the color coded button and it would beep faster as I increased my proximity. Heck, it could have a read-out that would reveal its location or better yet, it could inform me through a speaker! I could use it for my sunglasses, garden tools, socks, … Of course it would have to come with its own locater in case it got lost.

Now if someone would invent a teleporter like the one in Star Trek I could throw out the keyless pad and say, “Beam me up Danny!”

Watch this if you think sales clerks can be pushy!
First photo from Treknobabble, Key pad photo and words by S. Lindau

The Encounter – 100 Word Flash Fiction – In 3 Views

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I

Jane sliced the onions that would go into the spaghetti sauce with a sharp chef’s knife. Her eyes welled up as she diced. She never felt that comfortable in the turn of the century Victorian home and tonight wasn’t any different. A draft that felt like a cold hand slipping up her dress made her shiver and she glanced back over her shoulder. Her eyes darted around the dimly lit kitchen which was cast in an otherworldly light from the old converted gas light fixture in the center of the room. It began to flicker and then it went out.

II

Jackie skipped along and hummed a little song that seemed to pop into her head more often lately. She would be late for dinner and could expect a scolding from her over-worked mother. She increased her pace while the fall leaves rained down all around her. They made a shattering sound when the wind picked up. The tree branches began to sway as if they shook leaves off in pain. The sun had set and the street lights cast shadows in peculiar shapes. As she rounded the corner past the old Shapiro house she heard a blood curdling scream.

 III

He had waited in the basement for hours after breaking in through the old cellar door. The light slanted in through the small window and then slowly became nothing more than a slit. Soon he was encased in complete darkness, shrouded like the entombed. He heard her come in through the back door as her heels struck the linoleum on the kitchen floor above. The rustle of a paper bag and rhythmic thumping of cans were sounds of his childhood long ago. He crept up the stairs. He came from behind, she turned and screamed, but she looked right through him.

 Photo and words by S. Lindau

Reflected Addiction

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Self-portrait with Mirror 

When my 19-year-old daughter informed me she didn’t want to take her magnifying mirror back to college with her since she would stare at almost non-existent blocked pores and proceed to unblock them, it made me think. “Whoa! I don’t know if I could do that. Am I addicted to the magnification like a junkie in a back ally? Would I be crying out for a fix at the end of the day?” That horrid instrument of ego destruction has bound me to my cast reflection more times than I would like to admit. Blocked pores have been the least of my concern since gazing for the first time into that high powered tool mounted on a wall of a hotel. It nearly ruined my vacation! I stared at what seemed to be an alien landscape which was really my upper epidermis complete with pot holes, peaks, and valleys. “How could this be my skin?” I thought in horror.

Years have gone by and the slow deterioration of my close-up vision has hastened my growing addiction to my own magnifying mirror. The fear of errant nose and eyebrow hairs as well as failed attempts at applying eyeliner has kept me glued to this specialized looking glass.

“Come on! For God’s sake you don’t need it.” With that thought the intervention began. I wistfully took one last look, careful to tweeze any unwanted hairs for I did not know what fate awaited me out there in a brave new world that didn’t include enormous image inspections. Sobered by my decision, my heart began to race as I anticipated life without it. Gazing at my enlarged reflection like having my nose pressed up to my own image on an IMAX movie screen had become a daily routine. I had become numbed to scrutinizing my moonlike surface with small wrinkles that appeared like huge crevices among my crater-esque pores. My self-image had been bruised and battered over the years of self-examination.

At that moment I split in two. My strong-willed tough side said, “It’s time,” to the pitiful wimpy weakling inside of me which sighed taking one last look. Then the two became one and picked up the offending tool of terror, placing it on a high shelf where it could be forgotten.

The next morning I peeked into my old free standing mirror. “Geez!” I was taken aback by how tiny my head was. My entire body part fit inside the small mirror! I applied my make-up somehow without looking like a cast member ofA Rocky Horror Picture Show. I stood back, smiled at my reflection and said, “I can do this!” (Of course I may have looked like Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter and didn’t know it.)

That evening went well too, but I tried a new gizmo that started my demise. I had purchased a battery operated skin buffer at the grocery store. “What a deal!” I thought, “A good sanding is what my skin needs.” My mistake was using the granulated cream with it. I always have an allergic reaction to anti-age creams, but for some ridiculous reason I get it in my head that this new miracle cream will be, “The One!” – Angels sing in background

The next morning I looked in the mirror and even though a pinhead-sized reflection stared back, I could see that my skin had begun to react. A rash had formed only now I couldn’t do the usual recon mission. It just about killed me to ignore the magnifier to see what devastation had arrived in the wake of the newest anti-age treatment, but I was strong.

Proudly, I strode by my shelf not looking at that mirror once that day! I treated it the best I could, working on my ravaged skin in braille.

Everything seemed to be going well until I had to go to a party the next night. By then the redness and peeling had taken over my entire cheek. What would I do? I needed to cover it up, but I couldn’t see what I was doing. I tried relenting, but I was weak. Weak I say! I am so sorry to report that my magnifying mirror barely had any time to collect dust on that high shelf before I grabbed it and plunked it down on my counter with a resounding, “Bang!” Armed with caulk, filler, and paint I began to reconstruct a somewhat presentable version of myself before going out although I hung my head in shame for the addiction had raised its ugly head.

I know I have let you down, after all my lack of magnification only lasted a few days. The cold turkey approach although effective at first became disastrous. Like so much we experience in life, moderation is the key to balance. I am happy to report that I have come to terms with my addiction and only use the magnifying mirror in dire emergencies. Seeing my shrunken pea-sized head staring back at me is no longer a shock. I have a better self-image knowing this is how everyone sees me anyway!

Beauty is only skin deep after all…

Illustration by S. Lindau 


Guest Posting Today at EduClaytion!

When I received the email from my new friend Clay Morgan to guest post over at his hilarious site EduClaytion, I realized this was an amazing opportunity to make some new friends. I got my first inkling that he had a lot of them when I was first introduced to his blog through his Freshly Pressed post, The Worst Dressed Cities in America. I signed up for comment notifications and my email was full for weeks! But as the fateful day approached, I began getting very nervous about what his readers would think of me. I threw myself into research for the Danny Elfman post he requested by drinking gallons of coffee while rocking out to my favorite Oingo Boingo tunes. I finished and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Then it hit me. The all important question of what to wear began looming over my head. First impressions are so important! I decided on Victoria’s Secret, after all they know women’s bodies better than anyone, a t-shirt and yoga pants since they are elastic. They would conform to my body after hours of sitting at the computer while writing comments and my next humorous true story about the love/hate relationship I have with a certain tool. Now that I think about it, I will probably go straight to Hell for stealing Clay’s idea and writing about Boulder’s worst dressed ranking.

I hope you will read my post over at Clay’s today and while you are there check out his blog and get EdumaClayted! His popularity brought him pink lemonade chills at Teen Madness and maybe he will become one of your favorites too!