Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 4

The Mongers, Part 4

The rest of the day went well. Butch was actually surprised at some of the things people would bring him to trade. Things that had been extremely valuable in the old world, but were frivolous luxuries now. Nobody even argued when he was sadly forced to offer a low price for a grandfather’s watch, or a great grandmother’s cameo.  

Finally, as the last customer was walking away, seemingly pleased with his transaction, Butch gave the signal to start packing up. At this point, they were like a well oiled machine. Each man knew exactly what to do. The whole operation was completed within a matter of minutes.

By the time they were done, the two waitresses who had served them their pie and beer were standing nearby, watching them. The moment they were done, they approached Gut and Bear. Soon, the four of them were talking and laughing together. Soon after that, they broke up into two couples and wandered away. Butch smiled to himself as he watched them go, then remembered he had a date himself.

“You guys good here?” He asked Rat and Nutcase.  

“We’ve got this.” Nutcase said. Rat gave him a thumbs up, unable to talk due to the screwdriver he was holding in his teeth as he tinkered with whatever new contraption he was working on.

“Good. I’ll check back in later. I’ve got… uh.”

“Have fun, Boss.” Nut told him with a knowing smile, saving him from actually having to say where he was going. He turned and walked away quickly before his men could see his reddening cheeks.

Butch didn’t actually know where he was supposed to meet Melanie. He began wandering around the school, hoping he’d bump into her. As he explored, he discovered where the peaches for the cobbler had come from. The school’s old football field had been turned into an orchard. In it were hundreds of trees heavy with various fruits. He marveled at the lush forest here in the middle of the barren desert, wondering how they kept everything watered. The areas between the trees were filled with what Butch at first took to be undergrowth, until he realized that these plants too were bursting with produce.  

He continued his self-guided tour, finally coming to the old auto shop. There were no vehicles in it, of course, but it still seemed to have all the tools. Butch was wondering if they’d be allowed to pull their vehicles in so Rat could perform some much needed maintenance when there was a tap on his shoulder. It was so unexpected, he actually jumped. When he wheeled around, he was surprised to see Melanie’s smiling face.

“Hey, Sugar. Happy to see me?”

Butch realized that his hands were clenched into fists and quickly released them.

“Sorry. You surprised me.” He said, a bit sheepishly.

“It’s okay. Are ya’ ready for dinner?”

He felt his stomach rumble at the thought of food.

“Lead the way.” He said.

Her room was small, but she’d done what she could to make it look as little like a classroom as she could. Brightly colored fabrics adorned the walls. A few ripped posters, relics of the old world, hung here and there. Butch noticed that there were two beds in the room.

“My roommate’s.” She said, catching him looking at it. “Don’t worry. I convinced her to stay with a friend tonight.”

Butch smiled, unsure of what to say. He’d gotten used to women being forward with him. In this new world filled with widely dispersed small villages, strangers were always popular with the ladies. Still, Melanie seemed braver than most.

His stomach rumbled again.

“Oh my. You are hungry. Have a seat, I’ll go get dinner.” She said, and flitted out of the room.

Butch sat in the folding chair facing the door. The battered folding table was a bit wobbly, but sturdy enough, he supposed.

With nothing better to do, he let his eyes roam the room. It took some effort to resist the urge to snoop. It wasn’t anything malicious, he was just curious. Still, he knew the best way to wreck what was about to happen was to have her come back and find him looking through her things.  

Before long, she was back, carrying two covered plates which she placed on the table. When she removed the covers, he was greeted by a sort of stir fry with lots of vegetables and some sort of meat. He didn’t ask what kind. Sometimes, it was something normal, but others, it was better not to know.

He was about to dig in, when she stopped him. She turned and bent down into a wooden chest, deliberately giving him a view he didn’t mind at all. When she stood back up, she was holding a bottle of wine and a corkscrew.

“I don’t have any glasses. I hope you don’t mind.” She said, uncorking the wine.

“It won’t be the first time I’ve had to drink right out of the bottle.”

“Let’s just hope it’s not vinegar.” She said, handing him the bottle.

He looked at the bottle, as if he had any clue. The label was singed and he couldn’t read the winery’s name, but he could make out the year. 1977. Of course, he had no way of knowing if it was a good year or not. He took a tentative sniff before upending the bottle and taking a swig. It tasted good. Decadent almost. He wondered if he’d have been able to afford it in the old world.

He passed the bottle back to her.

“Well, dig in.” She said, taking a sip of the wine herself.

He didn’t have to be asked twice. He took his first bite.

“This is really good. You cooked this yourself?”

It was her turn to look sheepish.

“Oh, heavens no. You wouldn’t want to eat anything I cooked. I just stole it from the dining hall.”

“That’s okay. It’s still good.” He said, diving in.

Before long, his plate was empty. She was still picking at her food. Butch assumed she was trying to keep up appearances, but he knew better than to encourage her to eat. He reached for the wine bottle, but set it back down when he realized it was empty. Without a word, she retrieved another. This one had no label, but was still just as tasty. He leaned back in his chair, wishing for a cigarette. She smiled at him.

“So tell me. Have you always been a bad-ass biker?”

Butch couldn’t help but laugh heartily at that one.

“Not even close.”

“Okay then, what did you do before?”

“Well, let me ask you this. Do you know what the word monger means?”

“Well, sort of. I mean I’ve heard of warmongers. I assumed it was something related to that.”

“It means peddler. A salesman. We were all in sales of some sort. Gut and Bear worked at a motorcycle dealership. Bear actually sold me my first bike. Nutcase, he was one of those crazy guys you see on T.V. who smashes stuff while he yells about his insane deals. Rat was his assistant. The one who fixed things when people brought them back broken, which they often did.”

”What about you?”

“I owned a bookstore. I loved that place until the day it burned down.” Butch grimaced as he tried to push away the memory. “It started as a joke. When we all started riding together in our suburban motorcycle club, mongers sounded tough if you didn’t know what it meant. After everything happened, we decided to go with it and stick to what we knew best. Selling things.”

Melanie laughed at this. Getting up to retrieve another bottle of wine. It was only then that he realized he’d finished the second one. He vaguely wondered how many bottles she had stashed in her chest.

The conversation flowed as freely as the wine until Melanie stood up. He half expected her to tell him she was turning in and that he should go, but instead, she wordlessly took him by the hand and led him to her bed.

The next morning, Butch woke as the sun was just peeking above the horizon. His head ached from the wine, but not too bad. Melanie was still asleep. He considered waking her, but decided to let her sleep. Instead, he slipped out of bed, got dressed, and made his way to the courtyard.

Gut, bear, and Rat stood together in a knot, mumbling to each other.

“Mornin’, boys. Isn’t it a fine day?”

The three of them turned to look at him, their faces pale, even Rat’s. It was only then that butch looked up at the empty courtyard. Something was missing, but it took Butch a moment to realize what it was.  

The truck was gone.

So that’s it for this week, but remember, if you just can’t wait to find out what happens next, part 5 is already up on my Patreon page. It’s only a dollar for early access to this story for the whole month. More perks, like exclusive short stories, are available if you’re willing to pay a little more.

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 4. Now On Patreon

Part 4 is now on my Patreon page. It’s only a dollar for the whole month. Check it out here.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/21424192

Or wait a week, and I’ll post it here. I could really use the support.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 3

Part 1 Part 2

By the time the rest of them had showered and showed up at the courtyard, Nutcase had already begun setting up shop. He’d already set up the tables and had begun laying out merchandise. The old RV awning they’d attached to the side of the truck had been unfurled. Guns and other assorted weapons lay neatly arranged on a table between the main shop area and the truck where customers would have to ask to see them. On the table in front stood several ammo cans of loose ammunition in various calibers. Also on the table were various trinkets and baubles they’d rescued from the wastes. Various clothing items hung from the awning’s supports.

Each item had a meaningless dollar amount attached to it. Dollars hadn’t been a thing since the apocalypse, but Butch had found that the easiest system was to appraise whatever their customers brought to trade with a dollar amount and then give them the worthless scraps of paper which had once been money which they could then exchange for goods and services. Not only did it streamline the process, it gave their customers a sense of normalcy in this abnormal world which put them at ease and made them more pliable. They loved the farce of buying things with actual money even if the money had no real value except at their shop.

Without having to be told, Gut and Bear grabbed their rifles from the back of the truck and took up their posts at either side of the table. Not that they figured they’d have a problem with this lot, but it paid to keep up appearances.

Butch was the main dealmaker with Nutcase filling in when Butch was busy or replenishing stock as it was needed. Rat’s table stood off to the side with his toolkit and a banner offering “Repairs and Modifications”.

By the time they were open for business, the residents of the school were standing in the early morning shadows eyeing them curiously, but afraid to be the first ones to approach.

Butch nodded to Nut, who dashed into the truck. Moments later, the hatch clanged open and Nutcase clambered out of it and stood atop the truck. He took a deep breath and launched into his pitch.

“Step right up, folks. Don’t be shy. You won’t find better deals anywhere in the wastes. If we can’t make a deal, I’ll throw myself off the top of this truck.”

As if to prove he was serious, Nutcase then ran the length of the truck’s roof and jumped high in the air, executing a perfect front flip before landing on the edge of the roof and tottering precariously for a moment before reversing it with a backflip and landing on the center of the roof.

Butch smiled to himself as the enraptured crowd first gasped, then clapped and cheered. He didn’t need to watch Nut’s antics. He’d seen them all before. In a moment, Nut would do another flip down through the hatch and onto his bed which was positioned below the hatch. Even as he thought it, he heard another gasp from the crowd accompanied by a thump from inside the truck followed by more cheers and applause as Nut emerged from the back of the truck unscathed.

“Good job, Nut. You really roped ‘em in today.” Butch said.

“Thanks, Boss. I still think it would be more effective if I had a monkey or a tiger or something.”

Butch sighed. They’d been through this countless times before.

“A tiger would be out of the question, but if we ever run into a monkey, I’ll get him for you.” Butch said.

“Deal.” Nut said excitedly.

The crowd approached the makeshift shop. First they wanted to talk to Nutcase and shake his hand, but even as they did, Butch could see that most of them were carrying bundles which undoubtedly contained whatever they felt they could part with in exchange for more useful items.

As soon as they had finished talking to Nut, they began to line up in front of Butch to reveal their treasures. Most of it was useless junk, but Butch did his best to give them a fair price. As Butch did his appraising, Nut climbed back onto the top of the truck and began shouting for their most wanted items. Of course ammunition and ammunition components were at the top of the list as always.

“Live ammo, brass casings, primers, and unirradiated lead, weapons parts. Even broken parts may be useful. If you have any of these things, just bring ‘em to my buddy Rat at the repairs table and he’ll treat you right.”

Once more than a few people had cash in hand, Nut once again jumped from the top of the truck and began making deals. Butch joined him as soon as he was done with appraisals. As usual, the weapons and ammo were the biggest draw. Butch couldn’t blame them considering he’d already seen how much trouble they seemed to have from raiders. Almost as popular as the weapons was the food. Still, there was a good amount of interest in things like clothing and even jewelry.

Butch saw a feminine hand reach out to stroke a silver necklace studded with emeralds. He looked up from his wares into Melanie’s bright green eyes.

“Good morning, Star Dancer.” Butch said with a grin.

She returned it with one of her own. Hers with a touch of mischief in it.

“Figured it out, did you. What took you so long?”

“Well, I hardly expected to run into an actual celebrity out here in the wastes.”

“I was hardly a celebrity.”

“Besides, you look a bit… different.”

“Well. It’s not easy finding good makeup in a post-apocalyptic world. Speaking of which, I’m surprised a man such as yourself watched beauty videos. Something you’re not telling the rest of your gang?”

Butch felt his cheeks reddening.

“My niece used to watch you. I had no choice but to watch with her.”

What he would never tell her, what he would, in fact, take to his grave, was that while it was true he had watch one of her videos with his niece the first time, he had looked her up and watched the rest of her videos on his own afterward.

“So, do you like the necklace?” Butch asked, changing the subject.

“I do, but I need something a bit more practical.”

“Such as?”

“Protection. I need a gun.”

“I have just the thing.” Butch said, wheeling around to the weapons table.

Moments later, Butch slapped a small piece of metal into her palm. He could immediately see the disappointment in her eyes as the looked at the pearl handled derringer. Butch had to admit, it looked tiny even in her small hand.

“Really? I was hoping for something a bit bigger. I guess it’ll have to do though. Especially since this is all I have to trade.” She said, unveiling the small jewelry box. “It was my grandmother’s.”

Butch eyed the jewelry box. There was nothing special about it. In fact, he had left identical boxes behind out in the wastes, most of which had been in better condition. Still, he had always been a sucker for a pretty face. He took back the derringer and swapped it for a snub nosed .38 special.

“I’m afraid this is the best I can do.” He said, handing her the revolver. “Straight up trade.”

She hefted it in her hand and her smile brightened.

“Are you sure? This has got to be more valuable than my old jewelry box.”

Butch looked over his shoulder to make sure none of his companions were paying attention.

“It’s good to be the boss.” He said with a wink as he reached into the can which held the .38 ammo and gave her a handful of cartridges.

Her eyes widened.

“So when are you guys leaving?”

“I’m not sure. It usually takes Rat a few days to finish his orders.”

“Good.” She said. “How about letting me cook you dinner tonight as a way of saying thanks.”

“I’d like that.”

“Then it’s a date.” She said with a smile a she turned on her heel and walked away with that wiggly walk of hers.

Butch wondered once again if it was for his benefit, or if that was just the way she walked. He shook his head, remembering what he was supposed to be doing.

“Next!” he shouted.

.     .    .

Okay. That’s it for this week. I’m still not sure exactly where this story’s going, but I’m starting to get an idea. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll see you next week with another what’s up Wednesday.

Until then…

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 2

Part 1

The Mongers, Part 2

“You do, huh?” Butch said

“I think so.” She said. A mischievous look in her eyes.

“Want to let me in on it?”

“I could, but I think letting you figure it out on your own will be so much more fun. For me at least. I’ll let you think on it. I’ve got some things to do. I’ll see y’all next time.” She said, getting up.

“Wait. Can you at least tell me your name?”

“It’s Melanie. But that’s not going to help you a bit.” She said, winking before sashaying away.

Butch wondered if she always walked that way, or if that extra bit of wiggle in her hips was for his benefit. Butch frowned. “I’ll see y’all next time,” he thought. It seemed like an odd way to say goodbye. After all, there was only one of him. Unless she’d been talking to Rat as well, but he’d never even looked up from his notebook. Still, there was something familiar about not only the phrase, but the way she said it. A memory tried to bubble to the surface, but when Butch tried to grasp for it, it fled.

“Don’t forget to eat, Rat.” Butch said, still lost in thought. “You’re too skinny as it is.”

“Right.” Rat said, grabbing his fork and taking a scoop of food. Not even looking up from his notebook to see what it was he was eating.

Butch dug into his own food, almost as preoccupied as Rat. Who was that mystery woman? How could he possibly know her? He’d lived thousands of miles away when the apocalypse had come. Had she been from the same area and somehow drifted here? Butch figured it was possible, but highly unlikely. Still, he supposed that as many settlements as they visited, he was bound to run into someone he knew eventually.

As Butch sat here, lost in his thoughts, he felt his side of the table lift up a couple of inches. He wasn’t surprised to see bear and Gut sitting across from him, each with a mug of beer in each hand.

“Sooo? Who was that?” Gut asked mockingly.

“Where’s Nut?” Butch asked without answering Gut.

“He’s out in the truck, makin’ love to his ol’ lady.” Bear said, laughing.

It had begun as a joke, but it was getting less and less funny. From the moment he’d seen it, Nutcase had been in love with that gun. He’d been the one to name it Bertha. With guidance from Rat, he’d also been the one who mounted it on the roof and then made the access hatch. Butch had tried at first to persuade him that it wasn’t necessary, but even he had to admit that she’d come in handy a time or two. Butch was sure that, after today’s workout, he was meticulously stripping her down so he could clean and oil everything.

“I wonder what he’d do if one of us ever had to wrap our finger around her trigger.” Butch wondered out loud.

“I don’t think I want to find out.” Gut said, emptying both mugs of beer. He started to get up for more when Butch stopped him.

“I think that’s enough. Save a little for the rest of these people.” Butch said.

“Aw, come on. There’s plenty.” Gut protested.

“That may be, but tomorrow’s a sale day. We don’t want to go in with these people feeling like we owe them something.”

“What are you talking about? We saved their asses.”

“Yes, but that kind of gratitude can be short-lived. Now no more about it.” Butch said, ending the conversation.

Gut sat there like a sulky five-year-old until he glanced over and saw that Bear was still working on his first beer, while the other one sat on the table getting warm. He slowly reached out toward it.

“Don’t even think about it.” Bear growled.

Gut crossed his arms over his chest and pouted.

“Good evening, Gentlemen?” A voice said over Butch’s shoulder.

On cue, Bear and Gut began looking around comically for the “Gentlemen” the voice was referring to.

The voice belonged to Jacob Drake. The mayor.

“I trust you’ve all had enough to eat.” Drake said.

“Oh yes.” Gut said, patting his prodigious belly. “Couldn’t eat another bite.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. I was hoping I could tempt you with a piece of my wife’s peach cobbler. It was the best in the world even before the world changed. It’s still hot and fresh out of the oven.” Drake said, smiling.

“On the other hand. I could probably make a little room.” Gut said, and belched loudly. Butch gave him a dirty look, but a few people within earshot chuckled.

“Wonderful.” Drake said. “Can I get you another beer while I’m at it?”

Gut looked hopefully at Butch, who rolled his eyes and nodded.

“I’ll have another round brought for each of you.” Drake said.

“None for Rat.” Butch said. “He prefers his brain cells intact. I can’t say I blame him, runnin’ around with this lot.”

“Okay then, five cobblers and four beers.” Drake looked around. “I assume your friend will be back soon.”

“He’s taking care of something in the truck. If he’s not back soon, we’ll take it to him. If that’s okay.”

Drake nodded and bustled off. Soon, two ladies appeared. One with a tray of cobbler, and another with a tray of beer. Clearly they had been waitresses once upon a time, as the trays didn’t so much as wobble as they passed out food and drink.

“You look extra thirsty, handsome.” The waitress serving the beer said to gut as she set an extra mug in front of him. Gut looked back at her with a sparkle in his eyes, clearly in love.

Butch just sighed and shook his head in exasperation.

After they’d finished their dessert, just as Gut was beginning to eye the mug earmarked for Nutcase, the mayor returned.

“Well then. If you’re ready, I’ll show you fellows to your room.”

Without a word, they got up and followed Drake. Gut was reaching for Nutcase’s beer and pie when Bear slapped his hand.

“What? I was just going to take them to Nut.”

“Sure ya’ were.” Bear said. “Don’t worry. I’ve got it.”

Butch followed Drake into the yard where their truck stood sentinel.

“We’ve put fresh linens on five of our best guest beds.” Drake told him.

“Thanks, but we only need four.”

“But…”

“Nut sleeps in the truck.”

“Oh. Are you sure that’s wise?” Drake asked, eyeing Bertha, who was once again mounted on the roof. “Forgive me for saying this, but he seems a bit… unstable.”

“He passed unstable miles ago. He’s batshit, but he’s great security. Don’t worry Jake. As the song says, he ain’t never shot a man that didn’t deserve it.”

Drake frowned.

Their room turned out to be an only partially converted classroom. The blackboard still hung on one of the walls. Bunk beds filled the room in neat rows. Butch was reminded of the barracks he’d called home when he was in basic training a lifetime ago.

“I call top bunk.” Gut said. The rest of them laughed.

“Now then. If you fellows should need anything, my room is the old principal’s office. Oh, and the locker rooms are just down the hall if you’d like to shower.” Drake said, making a hurried exit.

Butch hurriedly picked his bunk and dived in. Over the years, he’d learned that the best way to get a good night’s sleep was to beat Gut and Bear to the punch. Once they started sawing logs, there was no getting to sleep. Luckily, he’d taught himself to fall asleep fast. As he lay there, eyes closed, Melanie’s words echoed in his head. “I’ll see y’all next time.” Over and over it repeated. Finally, just as he was on the verge of nodding off, his eyes snapped open. He knew who she was.

On To Part 3

So there you have part 2. Sorry for the long wait. I really had meant to post this last week, but I was spending time with my own group of bikers the last couple of weeks. The good news is, I’ve already got a good start on part 3, so I should be able to post that next week. I’ll see you next Wednesday.

Until then…

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

You can find my Amazon influencer page here.  https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

And my blog on Steemit. If you really want to help me out, go there and drop a like or a comment. I get paid if you do and it doesn’t cost you anything.

Fiction Friday: The Mongers, Part 1

Well crap. I may have just accidentally started yet another book.

I had intended the following story to be a Flash Fiction Friday, but as I wrote it last night, it turned into something else. I removed the Flash part, because it’s already longer than 1,000 words. Besides, it’s not exactly a complete story. I think it want’s to be a novel, or at least a short story. Since I really want to get something out today, I’m going to make it an episodic. So I present to you,

The Mongers, Part 1

The dust cloud rose from the dry desert floor like smoke from a bonfire as four vehicles raced over the barren soil. Two motorcycles flanked a battered armored car while a third took point. Crudely spray painted on the sides of the armored car was the word “Mongers”. Each of the riders wore a leather vest with a patch to match on the back.

The bikes had once been Harleys, but after years of wandering the wastes and scavenging whatever parts they could, they weren’t of any recognizable make anymore, but they ran, and that’s all that mattered. The armored car they had found in front of a bank, completely cleaned out, but with the keys still in the ignition.

Atop the point bike sat Butch, the leader of the Mongers. His face, baked by the blazing desert sun, resembled the barren remains of the once lush prairie they now rode across.

Butch craned forward, the leather of his bike’s seat squeaking beneath him. There was a town up ahead. Or, at least, what had once been a town. Most of the houses were charred wrecks of their former selves. Normally, Butch wouldn’t have given it a second glance, but there, on the outskirts of the town still stood what looked to be an old school. What’s more, even though it was hard to tell at this distance, he could swear he could see movement near the fence. He aimed his handlebars at the school. The rest of the group didn’t need to be told to follow.
As they got closer, Butch was able to assess the situation. A band of raiders was attacking the school. Inside the fence, a group of the school’s inhabitants were trying to fight them off, but they were losing.

Butch raised his left arm, and pointed one finger into the sky. He heard the hatch they’d cut into the top of the armored car clang open followed by a quick burst from the .50 cal machine gun they’d mounted to the top. The gun was aimed harmlessly into the sky, but the sound had the desired effect. For a moment, all activity at the fence stopped as they all turned to look at the approaching dust cloud. Those inside the fence turned and ran, but the raiders, sensing their chance, began scaling the chain-link fence.

Butch opened his hand, now pointing all his fingers into the sky. Then, with a chopping motion, he pointed his arm at the raiders. The machine gun opened fire. Even over the roar of the engines and gun fire, Butch could hear Nutcase cackling maniacally. Bodies began falling from the fence as the rest of the raiders ran off into the desert. Nutcase turned the gun to follow, but Butch once again raised his hand and closed his fist. The gunfire stopped immediately. A moment later, he heard the hatch clang closed.

Butch hated raiders. He would have loved to let Nutcase mow the rest of them down, but there was no sense wasting precious ammo.

They approached the school slowly, lest the already spooked inhabitants mistook them for another band of raiders. Butch signaled for the others to wait as he dismounted his bike and approached the gate. A small, mousy looking man ran out, trying to look as tough as he could which only brought an amused smirk to Butch’s face.

“Friend or foe?” The mousy man demanded.

“Well, considering we just saved your bacon, what do you think?”

“What business do you have here?” The mouse asked, ignoring Butch’s question.

“We’re here to trade.” Butch said with a nod toward the armored car.

After a moment’s thought and a curious glance toward the closest building, the mouse pulled out a set of keys and unlocked the rusty gate. It slowly groaned open as Butch helped him open it.

Once the vehicles were safely inside, the mouse rushed to re-close the gate.

“Don’t worry.” Butch said, dismounting his bike and brushing the dirt off his leathers. “They won’t be back anytime soon. At least, not while ‘ol Betsy’s on guard.”

Nevertheless, the mouse finished closing the gate before returning to Butch and introducing himself.

“I’m Jacob Drake. Mayor of this place.”

“Really?”

“Yes really. And you are?”

“Name’s Butch. This is Bear and Gut.” Butch said, indicating the other two riders. Bear was a mountain of muscle while Gut was merely fat.

The back door of the armored car creaked open and out stepped a tall black man with a bright white afro followed by another man who looked fairly normal until you looked at his eyes.

“Those two are Rat and Nutcase.” Butch finished.

“We typically ask our guests to turn over their weapons.” The Mayor said hesitantly. Butch just stared at him. “But considering what you just did for us, I suppose we can make an exception.”

“Tell ya’ what,” Butch said, unslinging the rifle strapped to his back and tossing it to Rat, who caught it deftly, ”We’ll keep our rifles locked in the truck. We keep our sidearms though. Don’t worry, they’ll stay holstered unless there’s a need to take ‘em out.”

Butch nodded at the others and they did the same.

“Now, you said you were here to trade?” The Mayor said.

“We are. But we’re a lot more agreeable when we’ve had a meal and a good night’s rest.”

“Yes. Of course. I suppose it’s the least we can do after your saving us. Follow me.”

Jacob led them to what had once been the school cafeteria. Inside, they could hear dozens, if not hundreds, of voices.

“You’re in for a real treat tonight.” Jacob said proudly. “My wife, Margaret, just made a big batch of homemade peach cobbler and Isaac tapped a keg of his home brewed…”

“Beeer.” Nutcase said, sniffing the air.

“Um, yes. Just sit anywhere you like and I’ll send someone over to take care of you.”

As they walked through the doors, conversation stopped for a moment. Then, a single pair of hands clapped, then another. Soon everyone was cheering and applauding. They found an open table and before they knew it, plates heaping with home cooked food were placed before them. Nutcase drained his beer in a single gulp and almost immediately another was set before him.

“Man.” Gut said around a mouthful of food. “A guy could really get used to this.”

“Yeah, well don’t.” Butch said. “We aren’t staying.”

Conversation in the cafeteria had resumed, but all the while, people were stealing glances at the newcomers while others stared outright.

One of the starers caught Butch’s eye. He couldn’t help but feel like he recognized her, but he couldn’t figure out where. He stared back, expecting her to look away, but she didn’t. Instead she got up, and walked confidently toward him and sat down across from him. Right between bear and Gut.

“Hi.” She said cheerily.

“Uh, hi.”

“You were staring at me.”

“You were staring at me first.”

“Everyone’s staring at you. Even the ones who’re pretending they aren’t. But why were you staring at me?”

“Uh…” Butch wasn’t sure what to say.

“Hey, Gut. Wanna go see if we can get seconds?” Bear asked.

Gut quickly got the idea and followed Bear while Nutcase said something about more beer. Rat sat at the table busily sketching something, his food barely touched, oblivious to what was going on around him.

“Come on. There has to be a reason. Is it because you think I’m beautiful?” She asked, flipping her hair comically.

“No. I mean, yes, you’re beautiful, but it’s not that. I feel… I feel like I know you, but I don’t know why.”

“I think I know why.” She said, dropping him a wink.

On To Part 2

So that’s it for now. I’m sorry if it left you a little unsatisfied. I’m also sorry that it isn’t my best work. truth be told, it’s the first thing I’ve written in quite a while. Hopefully next week’s installment will be better and have more action.

Don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

Also, Amazon apparently now considers me an influencer, which means that they basically gave me my own Amazon store where I can recommend products. I do get a cut of anything you buy when you click my link. Unless you’d rather all your money go to a faceless corporation.  🙂 You can find my influencer page here. https://www.amazon.com/shop/justinmkellywriter

Flash Fiction Friday Number 19: The Golden Apple

Okay. I know it’s been over a month since my last Flash Fiction Friday, but we’ve been dealing with the aftermath of a death in the family. Also, this one took a bit longer to write. Partly because this one isn’t exactly flash fiction. it falls more into short story territory.

Anyway, as you may remember, I was going to write a less literal, more adult story inspired by the same roll of the dice used to write Rory’s Apple Adventure. FFF #18 . To see the actual roll, click here. Anyway, I’ll stop boring you. I give you…

The Golden Apple

“Robby. I need that report on my desk by three.” Mister Simmons said, turning and walking away without waiting for an answer.

“Sir?” Rory said.

“Yes?” Mr. Simmons paused without turning back around, clearly annoyed at having his time wasted.

“Never mind.” Rory said, deciding it would be better to answer to someone else’s name rather than upset the boss.

“Okay then. Remember, two O-clock.”

Rory got to work, cursing himself for losing himself an hour.

At ten, his alarm went off. He briefly considered skipping his break, but thought better of it. Even though he didn’t really need to go, it would be another two hours until his lunch break. By then, he knew, he would probably be dying. Besides, he relished his little breaks. Even when he didn’t really need to go, he loved to lock himself in the stall, pull his feet up and shut his eyes for a few minutes. On the rare occasions it didn’t smell too bad, he would even practice some of the deep breathing exercises his therapist had suggested.

He was doing just that when the door opened and two men walked in, talking to each other. He didn’t recognize the voices, but their shoes were nicer than anyone on his floor usually wore. Rory curled himself into an even tighter ball, feeling somehow guilty for no reason whatsoever.

“God, I hate using the can down here with the commoners. When are they going to get the executive wash room fixed?”

“Not for at least another week.”

“Ugh. They don’t even have decent soap in here.”

“Can’t let these peons get a taste of the good life, can we? Besides, once we turn the golden apple on…”

“Shh.”

Rory saw one of the men walk past his stall, bent low, checking for feet. He almost breathed a sigh of relief when the executive moved past, apparently satisfied that the bathroom was empty.

“Anyway, like I was saying, once we turn that golden apple on, our worries will be over.”

“Don’t you feel at least a little bad for all those people? I mean, this is their savings we’re talking about.”

“That’s the thing. It’s savings. They’re not using it. It’s just sitting in a bank account. These people don’t know how to spend their money. It’s just going to rot in their account until they die.”

“I guess.”

“Look at it this way. Taking all that money and spending it will be just the kickstart the economy needs.”

“But how? We’ll be spending it in another country.”

“Details, details.”

“Well, if it’s going to happen, I hope it happens soon. The thought of all those account numbers sitting there on that hard drive in Julian’s office makes me nervous. If we get caught…”

“We won’t. Besides, even if they raid us, like you said, it’s in Julian’s office. Connected to his computer. He’s the one who goes down for trying to rip off all those poor people. We had no idea he was capable of such a thing. Poor bastard doesn’t even know he’s committing the crime of the century.”

The other man laughed.

“So when do we turn it on?”

“We just need a few thousand more accounts. Maybe a week? Put it this way. I’d start packing now. Once we flip the switch, we’re gonna want to scoot. Best to be in some nice non-extradition country before anyone figures out what we’ve done.”

“Good thinking.” He laughed as the bathroom door opened and the men walked out.

Rory couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. Were these men really planning on cleaning out people’s savings accounts? He quickly washed his hands and exited the bathroom.

He made a beeline for Mister Simmons’ office and burst in without knocking.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Simmons shouted.

“I’m sorry, Sir, but this is really important.” Rory said.

“Do you have my report ready?” Simmons asked.

“Well, uh, no sir. But I just heard these two guys in the bathroom. They were talking about something called the golden apple. They’re going to…”

Simmons’ eyes widened at the mention of the golden apple.

“That’s enough. I’ll not have you making up wild stories as an excuse for not finishing your work on time. I’m afraid you’re done here at Oak Tree Investments. Clean out your desk, Ricky.”

Rory turned to go.

“Sir. One more thing.”

“What now?”

“It’s Rory. I want you to remember that.”

“Get out!”

As Rory packed his things, he wondered what to do next. Clearly Simmons was in on the scam. Who knew who else? Possibly everyone above his pay level. Except for Julian of course, whoever he was. Rory couldn’t go to the cops without some sort of proof. He’d just look like another disgruntled employee.

Then it hit him. He did know someone who might be able to help.

He looked at his pitiful box of posessions and realized it was all meaningless. He left it on his former desk as he walked out. As he passed through the glass doors of his building, he expected his anxiety to kick in at being suddenly unemployed for the first time since high-school, but instead he felt free in a way he’d never thought possible.

. . .

Rory wished he’d changed before going to see Mark. He stuck out like a sore thumb walking around in his suit in the commune Mark had joined after he’d gotten out of prison. Even worse, everyone he passed eyed him warily. Nobody answered when he asked for Mark. Still, nobody bothered him, either. Just as he was giving up hope, he heard a familiar voice call out to him.

“Well, well. If it ain’t the lion’s roar himself.” Mark said, hanging out of the door of a small trailer. He looked so much different than he had the last time Rory had seen him that he was glad Mark had spotted him. He wasn’t sure he would have recognized this man with long hair and a scraggly beard.

“Hey Mark. How have you been?”

“Mark’s gone. It’s Sunflower now.” His friend said. Rory waited for the punchline, but none came. “I changed it when I decided to cut that noose from my neck.”

“You mean when you were busted for hacking.”

“So what brings you out to the land of the hippies?” Sunflower asked, ignoring Rory’s comment.

“I have a little computer problem I need some help with.”

“No can do, partner. I’m not about that life any more.”

“Uh huh.” Rory said, eyeing the impressive array of antennae emerging from the roof of the small camper.

Mark/Sunflower followed his line of sight and sighed.

“You always were smarter than you let on. I guess you might as well come inside.”

The inside of the trailer was so full of old computers, Rory wondered where Sunflower slept.

Sunflower handed Rory a beer that seemed to appear out of nowhere and sat on the small patch of floor in the center of the trailer. Rory did the same.

“So what is it you need? And it’d better be good.” Sunflower said.

Rory quickly told him everything he’d heard in the bathroom, all the while, Sunflower leaned closer. Rory was worried that if his jaw dropped any more, it might actually scrape the floor.

“Those sons of…” He finally said.

“Right?” Rory agreed.

“We’ve got to stop them.” Sunflower said, jumping up and opening a terminal.

“What are you doing?”

“Seeing what I can find on this golden apple.”

“I doubt you’ll find anything on the internet.”

“Internet? I’ve been deep in their system since long before they had me arrested. A digital fly on the wall if you will.”

Rory sat back and drank his beer as Sunflower typed furiously. Before he’d finished it, Sunflower found what he was looking for.

“Bingo.”

“You got it? Wipe it clean.”

“I found it, yes. But cracking it is another story. Security to this thing is iron clad. I’m going to need to be in the same room with it to get into it. Besides, I wouldn’t wipe it anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Because. If I wipe it, there’s no evidence. If there’s no evidence, these guys don’t go to prison and do it again in a couple of months. Do you still have your security badge?”

Rory looked down and saw it was still clipped to his belt.

“Yeah, why?”

Sunflower snatched it from him.

“Because, one of us is going to need to get in there. Now who do you want to be? Be careful. Whoever’s identity you use is going to be in a buttload of trouble.”

“Simmons.” Rory said without hesitation.

“Good choice.” Sunflower laughed.

. . .

Rory tried not to look nervous as he used his reprogrammed badge to open the doors and walked up to the desk where a very muscular black man in a uniform sat watching some action movie on his tablet. Rory almost breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that this was a guard he’d never seen before. The name on his tag said Alphonso.

Alphonso quickly stopped his movie and stowed his tablet when he saw Rory.

“Hello sir, may I help you?” the guard asked with a sheepish grin.

“Just need to finish a little paperwork that didn’t get done.” Rory answered. He could feel his palms getting clammy as the lie left his lips.

“Certainly, sir. I just need to see your badge.”

Rory handed it over, willing his hand not to shake. Alphonso studied the security badge for a long moment. Rory felt a sheen of sweat break out on his forehead.

Finally, Alphonso handed the badge back and smiled.

“You have a good evening, Mister Simmons.”

“You too, Alphonso. And don’t worry. It’ll be our little secret.” Rory said, nodding toward the spot where Alphonso had hidden his tablet.

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.”

Rory flashed him another smile that turned to a look of panic as he turned toward the elevators.

As soon as the doors slid shut, Rory almost pressed the button for his old floor out of habit before remembering that this time, he was going all the way to the top.

“Okay. I’m in.” Rory said.

The earpiece Sunflower had given him crackled to life.

“Okay. You’re looking for the office of Julian Walker.”

Rory found it quickly, but when he turned the handle, it didn’t move.

“It’s locked.” Rory said. “What now?”

“Give me a second.” Sunflower said.

A moment later, Rory heard the electronic lock click. Rory tried the handle again and the door opened.

“Got it.” Rory whispered.

“Good, now put the device in the computer and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Rory did as he was asked and waited. He felt himself starting to tremble with the tension.

“Comeoncomeoncomeon.” Rory said under his breath.

“I’m working as fast as I can.” Sunflower said. Then a moment later, “Jesus!”

“What?” Rory asked, panicking.

“They’ve got the banking info of everyone who’s ever done business with ol’ Oak tree Financial. Not to mention the employees.”

“Jesus.” Rory repeated back.

“Aaaaannnnnd, got it.” Sunflower said, finally.

Rory snatched the device out of the computer. As he did, the printer whirred to life.

“Did you do that?” Rory whispered as loudly as he could, startled.

“Yes. We need a hard copy just in case.”

As soon as the printer stopped, Rory grabbed the sheaf of papers and shoved them down the front of his pants.

“What about the apple?” Rory asked, looking at the round device plugged into the back of the computer. “Shouldn’t I take it?”

“Not if you want to take these guys down. They need to be caught with it. Now get out of there.”

As Rory rode the elevator down. He was overcome with an odd sense of peace. It was almost over. He just had to walk past Alphonso, who was probably still engrossed in his movie, and it would be over.

The elevator doors opened and Rory found himself looking down the barrel of Alphonso’s revolver. Rory didn’t know much about guns, but it looked like a big one to him.

“What’s going on, Al?” Rory asked, trying to sound casual.

“I looked up Simmons in the database. You ain’t him. Now come out of there slowly and get down on the ground.”

“Look. I can explain.” Rory said.

“Sure you can.”

“Can I just show you something?”

Alphonso thought for a moment.

“Okay, but you’d better make it quick. Cops are on their way.”

Rory pulled up his shirt very slowly, trying not to get shot, to show Alphonso the papers.

“I’m just going to pull these papers out.”

“Okay, but no funny stuff.”

“Never.” Rory said, dripping with sweat.

As soon as Rory had the papers in his hand, Alphonso relaxed just a bit. Rory began rifling through the papers until he found the page he was looking for.

“Let’s see. Alphonso Simpson is it?”

“How’d you know that?”

Rory then rattled off the series of numbers after his name. Rory hadn’t realized someone with such dark skin could turn so pale.

“That’s my bank account.” Alfonso said, surprised. “How’d you get that?”

“Lower that thing and I’ll tell you.”

Alphonso thought for a brief moment and then pointed his gun at the floor, still ready to bring it back to the ready if he needed to. Rory, as quickly as he could, explained everything about Simmons, overhearing the execs talking, and the golden apple.

“Sonofabitch.” Alphonso said. “You’d better go, before the cops get here.”

Rory took a couple of steps before turning around.

“Here. Give them this when they get here. Tell them everything I told you.” Rory said, handing him the papers.

“And where do I say I got ‘em?”

“Tell them Rory gave them to you.” Rory said, before turning and walking out through the glass door.

As he walked down the street, listening to the approaching sirens, Rory felt as close as he would ever get to walking away coolly from an exploding building. Still something was eating at him.

“Congratulations, buddy. You did it.” Sunflower said through the earpiece.

“Yeah.” Rory said.

“What’s wrong?”

“I was just thinking. These guys are already so rich, they’ll probably just hire a bunch of high-priced lawyers and get off anyway.”

“Leave that to me.” Sunflower said, almost laughing.

“What are you going to do?”

“Well, I made a copy of the apple.”

“So?”

“I’m going to turn it on.”

“You’re what?!”

“Don’t worry. You see, there were actually two lists of accounts. Those to be drained, and another set of accounts listed as untouchables. Guess who those belong to.”

“I still don’t see…”

“Just give me a second.”

Rory could hear him typing through the earpiece.

“Just a bit of magic from my own little fingers as I switch the lists, and boom. The rat bastards are as broke as we are… were.”

Rory did his best not to celebrate right there on the sidewalk as the first cop car rushed past him.

“So what did you do with the money?” Rory asked, finally.

“Most of it’s safe in an untraceable offshore account that only the two of us will be able to access.”

“And the rest?”

I took the liberty of opening a secret trust fund for the children of one Alphonso Simpson to be delivered when they reach college. Now I’ve got to go pack. You should probably do the same.”

 

And there it is. Proof that you can interpret the dice any way you want. In this case, Rory has transformed from a literal sheep, to a sheepish man. The magical sunflower has turned into a hippie named Sunflower with magic-like hacking abilities. I think you can figure out the rest of the symbolism on your own.

As always, don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

I’ve also reopened my Amazon merch store, Scribe’s Station where I sell writing and book related T-Shirts.

Flash Fiction Friday Number 18: Rory’s Apple Adventure

Hey guys. I know I haven’t posted a FFF for quite some time, but it’s a new-ish year, and I’m back at it.

This story needs a bit of background. For Christmas 2016, I was given a set of dice called Rory’s story cubes. The idea is, you roll the dice, look at the pictures that come up, and make up a story. I posted a video of the roll on my YouTube channel here.

For this week, I’ve decided to take the dice at face value so I ended up with a children’s story. Next week, I will use the same roll, but use the images more metaphorically to make a much different story in hopes of showing how you can use the same inspiration to come up with multiple stories. Anyway, without further ado, I present,

Rory’s Apple Adventure

Rory was a generally happy sheep. He spent his days with the other sheep in the fields and eating delicious grass. One day a year, just when the days got warmer and his heavy wool coat started to itch, the farmer would bring him into the barn and shave it all off. Then he could go back out and play with his friends. He loved how much faster he could run without all that heavy wool weighing him down.

As much as he loved the spring, Rory’s favorite time of the year was fall. His new wool coat grew out just in time to keep him warm in the cooler weather. More importantly, fall meant apples. Rory loved eating the apples that fell from the trees in the apple orchard. Even though the ones he found on the ground were usually rotten and filled with worms, they were still tasty.

Still, Rory always found himself looking longingly toward the tops of the trees where the biggest, juiciest apples hung out of reach.

One day, Rory decided he just had to get one of those fresh apples before the worms and the birds could ruin them. Rory had never climbed a tree, but he’d seen the barn cat do it hundreds of times. How hard could it be?

Rory wandered through the orchard, looking for the perfect apple. Finally, he saw it hanging there, a ball of red fire in the morning sun. Rory reared up and put his front hooves on the trunk of the tree.

“Okay. Now what?” Rory thought to himself.

He scrabbled at the tree with his front hooves, but nothing happened.

“Maybe I need a running start.” He thought.

Rory backed up to the fence and ran as fast as he could toward the tree. As the last moment, he leaped, putting every bit of strength into his rear legs. For just a moment, he felt like he was flying before he crashed into the trunk of the tree.

As he lay there on the ground, waiting for the stars to clear, Rory heard a snickering sound.

“And just what do you think you’re doing?” A voice asked.

Rory opened his eyes to see the barn cat staring at him, amusement in his eyes.

“Trying to climb this tree.” Rory answered.

“Why ever would you want to do that?” the cat asked.

“To get a tasty apple.”

“Why, there are apples all over the ground. Why don’t you eat one of those?”

“Those apples are rotten and full of worms. I want a nice fresh one.” Then Rory had an idea. “Say, could you climb up and knock one down for me?”

“Oh, no no no no no. I could never do such a thing. I’m a good kitty. Only a bad kitty would knock apples out of the farmer’s tree on purpose. I’m afraid you’ll have to get the apple yourself.”

“But how? I don’t know how to climb a tree.”

“You don’t have the proper equipment, I’m afraid.” The cat said, showing Rory his razor sharp claws. “If you want to climb that tree, you’re going to need a little magic.”

“Do you have any magic?” Rory asked the cat.

“Of course. All cats are magic. But it’s not the sort of magic I can share.”

Rory slumped deeper in the dirt, disappointed.

“But I know someone who can.” the cat said.

“Who?” Rory asked excitedly.

“In a land far away lives a magic sunflower who can grant you one wish.”

“How can I find this sunflower?”

The cat cleared a patch of leaves and began drawing a map in the dirt. Rory did his best to memorize it before thanking the cat and running off to find the sunflower.

The great thing about being a sheep is, you don’t have to pack anything if you’re going traveling. Your wool coat is always with you, and there’s plenty of grass to eat wherever you go.

Rory ran as fast as he could down the dirt road just like the cat had shown him until he came to the river.

Rory stared at the water, unsure of what to do. He didn’t know how to swim. He wasn’t sure he even could with his feet.

“Stupid hooves.” Rory thought. “Can’t climb trees, can’t swim. What are they good for besides walking?”

Still, Rory just had to find the magic sunflower if he ever wanted a fresh apple. He put one foot into the water, but it sank into the mud and he pulled it back. He knew he could never cross the river by himself. He lay down in the dirt and started to cry.

“BAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!” He yelled sadly.

Just when he was about to give up and go home, he heard someone whistling. It was a man in a straw hat walking down the road. His clothes looked like the ones the farmer wore, but it wasn’t him.

“Well what’s this now. Are you lost, little sheep?”

Rory looked at the farmer, then back across the river.

“Trying to get across this little creek? Why, it’s not that deep. You can walk right across if you’d just try. Here, let me show you.”

The man walked out into the river. The water only came a little way above his ankles. Rory took another step into the river, still not liking the way the mud sucked at his hooves. Still, they only sunk into the soft mud a little. Rory took another step, then another. Before he knew it, he was back on dry land.

“Now see there,” the man said. You were worried over nothing.”

But Rory was already running down the road toward the place where the cat told him the flower would be.

When he finally got to the meadow where the magic sunflower was supposed to live, Rory looked around, but saw no flower. Instead, there was just an old tipi standing in the middle of the meadow.

Rory stood there, wondering if the cat had tricked him. Then he heard it. Someone was singing in the tipi. Rory ran to it.

“Hello. I’m so sorry to bother you, but do you know if there’s a magic sunflower that lives around here?”

The singing stopped.

“I’m sorry, but no.”

Rory felt sad and angry at having been tricked by the cat.

“I’m afraid I’m the only magic sunflower in the area.”

Rory poked his head inside the tipi. Sure enough, in the middle of the tent stood the most beautiful sunflower he’d ever seen.

“Excuse me, but I don’t recall inviting you in.” Said the sunflower.

“Oh, pardon me.” Rory said, sheepishly.

“Well, since you’re here, I suppose you might as well come inside.”

“Why do you live in here?” Rory asked as he walked through the flap. “I thought flowers liked the sun.”

“We do. But winter is on its way, so I have to hide in here until it gets warm again.”

“Oh.” Rory said.

“I suppose you have a wish you want me to grant.” The sunflower sighed.

“Oh yes. Very much. Can you help me get to the top of the apple tree so I can have a delicious apple?” Rory said excitedly while licking his lips.

“Not so fast said the flower. I don’t just grant wishes to anyone. You have to play a game. If you win, I’ll grant your wish.”

“Okay.” Rory said.

“But if I win, you have to give me some of your wool to help me keep warm this winter.”

“Oh. I don’t know about that. Then I’ll be cold this winter and the farmer will be mad at me.”

“Very well.” The sunflower said, turning away and resuming her singing.

Rory stood and thought about it for a moment. He really did want that apple. Besides, he’d come all this way.

“Okay, fine. How do I play?” Rory said, finally.

“It’s simple really.” The flower said. “I have these dice. We will each roll. Whoever rolls the biggest number wins. I’ll go first.”

The flower unfurled one of her leaves and picked up the dice and threw them on the floor.

“Seven. Beat that.” The flower gloated.

Rory picked up the dice in his mouth and spat. They rolled across the floor. When they finally stopped, there were five spots on each of the dice. The flower looked sad for a moment, then nodded her petals at him. Rory felt a strange itching on his back. He turned his head and saw two lumps poking out of his wool. As he watched, the lumps broke through his wool and became wings.

“There. Now you can fly to the tops of the trees and eat all the apples you want.”

Rory gave his wings a test flap.

“Not in here.” The flower scolded. “Go outside and try them out. Just leave me alone.”

Rory did just that. He ran out the door and leaped into the air once again. This time, instead of crashing down in the dirt, he gave his wings a mighty flap and felt himself climb higher. Again and again he flapped, loving the feel of the wind in his face.

Rory did a loop, then a flip, loving his new freedom. Then a thought came to him. He came back down to earth, landing clumsily. He poked his head through the flap of the tipi. The sunflower turned away quickly, but Rory had seen she was crying.

“What do you want now? Just go away and leave me alone.”

“I decided I want to give you something in return. I want you to have my wool.”

The sunflower turned to look at him, wiping away a tear with one of her leaves.

“Really? But what about you? Won’t you get cold?”

“Of course not. I think I’m going to fly south for the winter.” Rory smiled.

The flower again nodded her petals, and Rory’s wool appeared all around her stem.

“Thank you.” The flower said, picking up some of the wool and hugging it to herself.

“You’re welcome.” Rory said. Now which way is south anyway?”

“Just keep the sun on your left in the morning and on your right in the evening.”

With that, Rory dashed back out of the tipi and was gone.

So that’s it. Not bad for a first children’s story if I say so myself. Like I said, next week I’ll be posting a somewhat more adult story inspired by the same roll of the dice. I’ll see you then if not sooner.

As always, don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

You can now help support my writing on Patreon

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

I’ve also reopened my Amazon merch store, Scribe’s Station where I sell writing and book related T-Shirts.

Flash Fiction Friday Number 17: Spiders

Hey guys.

Well, it’s almost Halloween. That gives us time for one more scary story before I return to my regularly scheduled programming. This one is a bit long to be considered flash, but I like how it turned out.

Anyway, on to the story. I simply call this one…

Spiders

Jake’s eyes snapped open.

What a weird dream. Jake thought as he lay there in bed.

In his mind’s eye, he could still see the cave, the strange symbols on the stone floor, and the figures in black robes dancing around the room as they performed their ritual. He could even still hear their haunting chants.

Jake sat bolt-upright in bed as he realized that this wasn’t a dream. He could actually hear the chanting. It seemed as if it were coming from directly under his bed. After listening for a few more minutes, he was convinced that’s exactly where it was coming from. He jumped out of bed and pushed his worn mattress out of the way. The spot where the mattress had lain on the floor for so long was marked by an absence of the filth that littered the rest of the floor.

Jake’s hands began feeling around the hardwood floor, pressing here and there, looking for a loose board or something so he could see where the sound was coming from. He just wanted a peek, that was all. Then he would gather up his few possessions and leave the house for good. It had been a good house and he’d enjoyed his time there, especially since nobody bothered him, but he knew when it was time to move on.

Jake’s left hand jerked as if it had a mind of its own. When it came back down, the board it landed on gave just a little. Jake pressed harder and he heard a click. Suddenly, the panel of flooring beneath him began to rise. Jake jumped off and stood back as a section almost the size of his old twin mattress opened in the floor. The chanting grew louder as it did.

As Jake peered down into the black hole in the floor, he could see a set of wooden stairs leading down into the dark. They looked like basement stairs, but as far as Jake had been able to tell, the house didn’t have a basement.

“Don’t do it, Jake.” He said to himself even as his right foot touched the first step.

“Seriously. Who cares where the chanting is coming from?” He said as his left foot followed his right.

Jake continued to try to talk himself out of proceeding even as he went further down the stairs, but he couldn’t stop his feet.

“Come on, Jake.” He pleaded with himself. “You know this place is supposed to be haunted. That’s why nobody ever bothered us. Let’s just turn back and go find a new place to live.”

Still, Jake’s feet continued to take step after step down the rickety old staircase. He didn’t even realize how dark it was getting until he heard the click of the latch above his head as the hole in the floor closed behind him. He continued down, now navigating by feel. With the click of the latch, he’d stopped arguing with himself.

“The only way out is through.” Jake said to the darkness. Who had said that? He wondered, hoping to take his mind off the mortal peril he was now sure he was in. He couldn’t remember.

Jake felt a thick spiderweb on his face and panicked. It felt thick enough to bind the largest man. Jake’s panicked brain wondered if there were some sort of breed of giant spider that had learned to mimic chanting to lure unsuspecting humans into its web. He swatted at his face and grasped the tendril of web, jerking it as he tried to rip it off.

The light went on.

It was just the pull-cord for a bare bulb. Jake thought with a sigh of relief.

As Jake stood there on the stairs, trying to calm his racing heart, he looked around and found that he was indeed in a large basement filled with all the usual suspects. Broken furniture, moldering cardboard boxes leaking decades old clothing, rotted books, discarded toys, and the like.

The only thing was, the basement was impossibly huge. He estimated that he’d already descended about ten feet and was only halfway to the bottom and in the dim light of the single bare bulb, Jake couldn’t even see the far wall. He looked back up at the top of the stairs, hoping against hope that he would see some sort of latch to reopen the hole in the floor, but it looked like the underside of any other floor. He wanted to look for some way to reopen it, but his feet were still moving down the stairs.

When he reached the dirt floor of the basement, his feet continued on even faster, as if guided by the chants echoing through the basement chamber. He easily navigated through the labyrinth of detritus in the basement. Or, more accurately, the chamber made to look like a basement, as he was now sure this room was.

Finally, he found himself facing another hole in the floor. Instead of being dark, the hole flickered with candlelight. The stairs were cut into the bedrock itself. Jake didn’t even try to argue as his right foot took the first step, followed by the left. The chanting was deafening now. Jake felt the fear and panic oozing out of his body. He felt fascinated by the intricate carvings adorning the walls. He felt, if he’d had enough time, he might have been able to actually read some of the strange writing, but still his feet pressed on.

Finally, the stairwell opened up onto a familiar cavern. It was exactly as he’d dream’t it, right down to the drawings on the floor and the black-robed figures. Except they weren’t dancing now. They were staring directly at him. The chanting stopped, and he felt control of his body return to him. Something deep down told him to run, but he still felt logy.

Probably from being woken out of a dead sleep, now that the adrenaline has worn off. He thought.

“Welcome, Jake.” The one who appeared to be the leader said.

“Welcome, Jake.” The rest of them repeated.

“Who are you?” Jake asked.

“I am Tarquin, and this is my flock.” the leader said, removing his cowl. “Please, there’s no reason to stand in the doorway. Come. Join us.”

Jake didn’t know what he’d expected to see under the hood, but found himself looking at a man. Perhaps a bit gaunt and pale, but a man nonetheless. Not wanting to appear rude, he did as Tarquin asked and walked toward him. As he did so, the others moved silently around the room.

As his head began to clear, Jake felt the first tendrils of fear creeping back into his brain. Even though he was smiling, there was something about that smile that Jake didn’t like. He just couldn’t put his finger on it.

“Why are you guys living under my house?” Jake asked.

“Your house?” Tarquin smiled. “I believe you’re mistaken. That house belongs to me and my flock. We call it our little web.”

Jake chuckled at the comparison. “Your web? That would make you…”

He looked at Tarquin, who was now grinning broadly, revealing an oversized set of dagger-like canine teeth.

“Spiders.” Tarquin finished for him, and began to laugh.

Jake looked around. The rest of the spiders had formed a circle around the two of them and it was quickly shrinking.

Jake tried to run, but was quickly caught in the powerful clutches of one of the vampires. Jake tensed, expecting to feel fangs pierce his skin. Instead, the vampire dragged him back to Tarquin, grabbing his hair and exposing his neck.

“Thank you Octavius.” Tarquin said. “Tell me something, Jake. Are you afraid?”

Jake did his best to nod while at the same time feeling a slight surge of relief. Could this have been some elaborate hidden-camera prank all along?

“Good. Fear gives the blood so much more flavor.” Tarquin said as he plunged his fangs into Jake’s carotid artery.

Even as he felt his life draining out of his neck, he felt pinpricks all over his body as the rest of the spiders took their share.

.     .     .

So that’s it for this year’s Hallowen stories. I hope you liked it.

I’m going to try to post every week in November, but I’m also going to be doing NaNoWriMo to try to finish one of my novels which means I have to write at least 1667 words every day of the month just for that so I’m not sure I’ll also be able to do a piece of flash every week on top of it, but I’ll do my best.

As always, don’t forget to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

 

Flash Fiction Friday Number 16: A Portrait In Red

Hey guys. It’s that time of the week again. This week’s offering comes with a warning. Parts of this story are somewhat gruesome. So if you’re the squeamish type, particularly when it comes to blood, you might want to look away. For the rest of you, I present…

A Portrait In Red

An out of breath Anton looked around at his now trashed studio and smiled angrily. Broken paintings lay everywhere. The entire room was spattered with a galaxy of color radiating out from a sun of smashed paint tubes.

“There. Much more fitting for a trash artist like me.” He said to nobody in particular.

Anton turned to the one survivor. A blank canvas supported by his trusty easel. The easel he’d bought in a junk shop eons ago. He’d tried all sorts of fancy new easels, but always came back to this one. Sometimes he thought that maybe the easel was the true source of his talent.

“What talent?” He said to the trashed room.

The critics had hated his work. One had described him as another piece of street trash pretending to be an artist. Another had simply called his work forgettable.

Anton looked down at his right hand which still clutched the large kitchen knife he’d used to slash his paintings. He approached the blank canvas.

“I’ll show them. I’ll give them something to remember.”

He drew the knife up his left wrist, severing the artery. The first gout of blood spattered the pristine white canvas and he laughed maniacally. Knowing his time was limited, he snatched up the first brush to hand, dipped it in the freely flowing blood and got to work.

He painted frantically. Only pausing for a moment at a time to glance at the mirror before attacking the canvas once again.

Finally it was done. He stumbled back from his painting to admire his work. The vibrant red was already fading to a dull brown, but it remained an almost perfect self-portrait. Then the painting began to blur, finally becoming completely black along with the rest of his studio.

When Anton awoke, he was staring at his still trashed studio, although the angle was a bit funny. He couldn’t tell if he’d been out for minutes, hours, or days. He tried to look at his watch, but found he couldn’t move.

“Great, idiot. You didn’t kill yourself, you just somehow managed to paralyze yourself.” Anton thought to himself once he discovered his lips wouldn’t move.

Then he saw it. Laying on the floor was a large lump that vaguely resembled him. He realized he was looking at his own dead body. Was he a ghost? Why couldn’t he move?

Just then, the door to the studio flew open and his agent, Kathy, breezed in, followed by her weaselly assistant, Kyle.

“Anton? Are you home? I do hope you’re not still sulking over a few bad reviews.”

Kathy paused, taking in the carnage.

“Ugh. What’s that smell?” Kyle asked.

Kathy strolled over to the lump on the floor, surveying his dead body.

“Oh, Andy. What have you done?”

“Who?” Kyle asked.

“Anton. Andy was his real name. He thought Anton sounded more artistic.”

“I’m over here.” Anton tried to say, thinking it as hard as he could.

Karen turned, as if she’d heard him, and walked over, staring him right in the face. Kyle followed.

“Ugh. What the hell is that?” Kyle asked, wrinkling his nose.

“His last statement. One final middle finger to the art world.”

It was then that Anton realized what had happened. He was trapped  in his own self-portrait.

“Should we get rid of it?”

“Are you crazy? Call the gallery. Let them know we need the space for another auction as soon as possible.”

“For one painting? What are we going to fill with?”

“Look around.” Karen said. “This room’s filled with paintings.”

“Destroyed paintings that nobody liked a week ago. Should I at least have them repaired?”

“Oh heavens no. Leave them as they are. Those art snobs may not have liked them before, but now they’re filled with the artist’s dying rage. They eat that crap up. And this monstrosity will be the jewel in the crown. Thank you Andy. You’ve just made me a very rich woman.” Karen said, laughing.

Anton was forced to watch as the cops came and the coroner loaded up his body. As his landlord sneaked in and raided his private possessions. And finally, as his paintings were repaired with strips of duct tape and loaded up before he was finally snatched up and put in the crate with the rest of them.

The auction went well. Anton watched in an amazed sort of rage as people paid thousands of dollars for paintings he hadn’t been able to get five for just a few weeks before.

Anton was bought for an ungodly amount and hung on the bedroom wall of an elderly art collector who liked to wander his house naked.

.     .     .

So that’s it for this week. I know some of you might not find the ending very scary, but I can’t think of many things more scary than that. Anyway, I hope you liked it. I’ll see you next week with another Flash Fiction Friday.

Remember to stalk me online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon

 

Flash Fiction Friday The Thirteenth Number 15: The Family Estate

Hey guys. I’m finally back with another Flash Fiction Friday. What with it being October and a Friday the Thirteenth, I just had to post something a little scary. Admittedly, I would have liked to have spent more time on this one, but I don’t think it’s too bad.

The Family Estate

Elizabeth’s head reeled as the car bounced along the dirt road that led to the enormous castle.

It had all happened so fast. She’d been working as a waitress in a greasy little diner and on the verge of being evicted from her tiny apartment when he walked through the door and swept her off her feet just like in one of those fairy tales.

She’d just been Lizzy then, but he’d insisted on calling her Elizabeth and it had grown on her, especially considering her new, nearly royal, lifestyle.

It had been a whirlwind courtship followed by a small ceremony. Neither of them had any family to speak of and the only friends she had were her former coworkers from the diner. When he’d approached her with his desire to move back to Romania and into his family estate, she hadn’t even needed to think about it before she’d said yes. He hadn’t told her it was an actual castle until they’d turned onto the unpaved road that led to it.

As they pulled up to the massive wooden doors, she made to grab the small suitcase that contained everything she cared about.

“Leave that.” Gregory said. “Cromwell will get it.”

“Who?”

“Him.” Gregory said, pointing out the car window at a skeleton of a man who had appeared as if out of nowhere.

“Oh, there’s no way…” She began, before Gregory shushed her.

“That’s what he’s here for. It’s okay, he’s much stronger than he looks.”

Elizabeth felt doubtful, but didn’t argue.

Gregory stepped out of the car and took her hand.

“Now, allow me to show you to your room.”

“You mean we won’t be living together?”

“Oh, you’ll be seeing more of me than you could ever want.”

She followed him into the castle and up a flight of stairs which led to a long hallway lined with dozens of portraits of women. Their clothing progressed through the ages as she made her way down the hall.

“Who are these women?” She asked.

“Those who are no longer with us.” Gregory said with a hint of sadness in his voice.

Finally, they reached a thick oak door, and Gregory opened it with an antique key. Beyond the door was a huge room decked out in the finest silks and velvets. The bed alone was as big as her old apartment.

“Of course, you’re welcome to redecorate as you see fit. Just let Cromwell know and he will get you anything you wish.”

“How?” She asked, looking around for a telephone or something.

“Just ring this bell.” He said, pulling a thick velvet rope. She heard a bell ring in the next room. “His room adjoins yours. He’s here to attend to your every need.”

As if on cue, Cromwell appeared from his room with her suitcase in hand.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some things to attend to, my love. I will see you again for dinner.” Gregory said, taking her hand and kissing it. As he did, Elizabeth could have sworn she saw a flash of teeth. But they couldn’t be teeth. Nobody had teeth that long.

Gregory slipped out through the oak door, closing it behind him. She heard the distinct sound of an iron key turning into an iron lock. She felt something drip onto her foot and looked down. Her hand was bleeding where he had kissed it. Small red drops stained the white carpet.

Elizabeth turned to Cromwell, still not understanding.

Cromwell stood before an easel with a blank canvas propped on it.

“Now then. Shall we get started on your portrait?” Cromwell asked, smiling. His fangs clearly visible.

.     .     .

So that’s it for this week. Hopefully I’ll have another one for you before the thirty-first. Until then, be sure to check out all the places I can be found online.

www.justinmkelly.com

Check me out on Facebook

On Twitter @JustinMKelly1

My Amazon page, in case you want to read more

On Goodreads

And on YouTube

I also post a copy of this blog on Tumblr

And, of course, please buy my debut short story, Blood Moon