Dark Artifacts: The Key to Everywhere


A few years ago I developed a fascination with Creepy Pastas, not as a new breed of urban legend that may or may not be true, but as a new way to tell stories.  After reading and listening to hundreds of them, I decided to try my hand at writing them.  

Most of them, even the ones with interesting or truly disturbing premises, are pretty badly written.  Doesn’t stop them from being worthwhile reads, if only for the ideas they plant in your brain, or the chills they can inspire.  Most are credited to safely anonymous usernames, or go completely uncredited, and (I think) put out into the world with the hope that they will go viral, not necessarily to earn their authors money or notoriety.  

I’m not planning on making any money from these, though I certainly wouldn’t mind them going viral.  I’m writing them because it interests me to write them, and I’m sharing them because I am honestly curious to if my readers find the form as engaging as I do.

Most of these little creepy pasta style Knightmares fall under one of three categories; Dark Artifacts, Dangerous Games, and Sinister Cryptids, and I might collect them all when I have enough to make a collection worth while.

I hope you enjoy them.

Brian


Dark Artifacts: The Key to Everywhere

Find the oldest antique mall in your city, and go there on a Sunday morning.  If it isn’t open on Sundays, then you are at the wrong place.  You’ll need to find another mall in another city.  Arrive as soon as it opens Sunday morning, because once the local church services end a blue haired old woman in a floral print dress will arrive to browse the carnival glass.  There is more to this woman than meets the eye.  If she sees you, she will try to kill you.  Whether or not she succeeds, your search for the key will end and that location may be forever closed to you.

When you step inside the clerk will ask what you’re looking for.  Tell her you’re just killing time.  If she doesn’t ask again, you’re in the wrong place and won’t find what you’re looking for.  If she does ask a second time, tell her you’re interested in vintage pewter.  She’ll point you in the right direction.

The room she sends you to will be disorganized, none of the items for sale priced, most of them stored in old wooden crates.  The lighting in that room will be low, flickering, and may fail completely, so you should be sure to bring your own light source.  Once you step into that room, you have no more than a half hour to find the key.  If you haven’t found it, or given up and left before your thirty minutes are up, the old woman in the floral print dress will join you in the pewter room and attempt to kill you. 

Among the jumble of antique pewter candlesticks, pitchers, plates, and figurines you’ll find an antique clown bust piggy bank.  Put a penny on the clown’s outstretched hand, and ask “Grobiano Villis, how did you survive the fire in Mystic that destroyed the rest of your troupe?”

Push the lever on the back of the clown’s head that makes him tip the penny into his open mouth.  After it swallows the penny, release the lever.  As the hand drops back down below its mouth, a key will fall from the open mouth and land on it. 

They key is yours now.  You’ve already paid the clown for it, so don’t attempt to pay the clerk for it on your way out.  Any attempt to pay for the key a second time will summon the old woman in the floral print dress. 

You can purchase the clown, if you want to.  There is no telling what other strange treasures the clown might give you.  If you do purchase the clown, be sure to store it safely away from where you live and sleep.  If it is near you while you sleep, it will speak to you in your dreams.  It may appear and speak in your dreams even if you leave it where you found it, but it’s influence increases with proximity.

No good will come of this.  It will tell you many interesting things, and the knowledge it gives will drive you mad.

The key will open any door or unlock any lock.  Be aware that some doors were never meant to be opened, and not all doors you open with the key lead where you think they should.  Many people have been lost stepping through doors they were never meant to open.

Sinister Cryptids: The Furzenfae


Everyone knows about Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy.  Even lesser known mystical cryptids like Brownies, Grootslang, or even the Bogeyman are still remembered from a more innocent and credulous past when house ghosts were as common as house guests.  Many were so obscure that even our ancestors had mostly forgotten about them, and some have fallen so far out of our collective memory that they are only spoken of in the oldest of stories and legends.

One such mystical obscurity is the Furzenfae.

A fearsome and shy being, the Furzenfae lives in the darkest parts of our homes: closets, attics, crawlspaces, even under our beds.  Nothing is known of its origin, and past attempts to trap or track the Furzenfae have always ended in the deaths of the curious. 

What is known is that it survives on nocturnal emissions of sulphur and methane, breathing them in to sustain a quasi-immortal existence.  It repays those it feeds upon with gifts of lint and dust from its own  inner-hollows and crevices. 

In short, the Furzenfae sniffs up your sleep farts and leaves dust bunnies under your bed as payment, giving rise to its more familiar nickname, the Toot-Fairy. 

Dark Artifacts: Joey Lives!


In 1985, just before the release of Friday the 13th part 5, A New Beginning, the same writers and director responsible for resurrecting the franchise without its iconic villain, Jason Voorhees, rushed their sequel through production. The original version of Friday the 13th part 6 began when some stray thoughts and prayers accidentally resurrected Joey, the murdered son of part 5’s killer, Roy Burns, the psycho paramedic.

The film was shot, edited, scored, and then shit-canned by the studio after a single test screening and never spoken of again by anyone involved. There is no IMDB entry, no industry reviews, no interviews, not a single mention or credit for any of the actors or production staff. The only evidence that this version of Friday the 13th part 6 exists are the handful of promotional laser discs stolen from the studio after the films were ordered destroyed. Most, but not all of the stolen laser disks were recovered, and the remaining at-large disc was later burned onto a dvd, which has since been copied and traded between horror movie aficionados.

Most who have watched the movie refuse to speak of it. Most of the actors involved have never worked in Hollywood again, and the writers and director refuse to acknowledge its existence to this day. If you manage to find a copy, the best thing you can do is add it to your collection but never watch it.

This film is widely regarded by those fans who know of its existence as bad luck, even cursed. Most who attempt to watch this bad luck movie turn it off within 15 minutes or so and suffer few serious consequences. The unlucky few who have watched it until the end have attempted suicide, suffered irreversible hysterical fits, even attempted, and sometimes succeeded, in puncturing their own eardrums and digging out their own eyeballs.

Fan reviews from those who have retained their health and sanity are not encouraging.

A Halloween Poem / Halloween Jack


There is an old hermit
Who lives in a shack.
The Town kids all call him –
Halloween Jack.

He lived in the forest –
Almost never came out.
But on Halloween night –
He was always about.

Jack so loved Halloween –
And all that it brought.
Creatures and candy –
And all of that rot.

Ghosties and witches –
And monsters and such.
But Jack didn’t like –
The town’s kids so much.

For all of his kindness –
And all of his care.
Those stingy little children –
Just would not share.

Jack begged and he pleaded –
But they just would not share.
Those stingy little bastards –
Just would not share!

Jack quickly realized –
That to get any play.
He’d have to dress up –
And do it their way.

So he knocked and he rang –
And he sang, “Trick or Treat!”
“Trick or Treat – smell my feet.”
“Give me something good to eat!”

But every door that he went to –
They slammed in his face.
They screamed and they panicked –
And sprayed him with mace.

“These goodies are for children.”
“Every candy bar and chew”
“Halloween is for kids.”
“Not for weirdoes like you!”

There was only so much –
That poor Jack could take.
Rejected – dejected –
He sat down to think.

There was plenty of candy –
And Halloween gloom.
But with all the kids hogging it –
What was poor Jack to do?

The voices in Jack’s head –
Told him just what to do.
The buddies in his head –
Named Worm #1 and Worm #2.

“You should take all their candy.”
“’Cause that’s what monsters do.”
“You should teach those little bastards.”
“Not to be rude!”

So with a swing of his cane –
He gave them a whack!
And with a chop of his hatchet –
He gave them a hack!

He whacked and he hacked –
And he hacked and he whacked.
Hack-hack, whack-whack –
Whack-hack-whack.

Jack finished that Halloween –
With a grin on his face.
He chopped up the woman –
Who had sprayed him with mace.

He pooped in her flowers –
And he peed on her bed.
And gobbled his candy –
From her hollowed out head.

The moral of this story?
When Jack is about.
Hand over your candy –
And clear the hell out.

That night the town’s kids –
Learned one simple fact.
Nobody messes –
With Halloween Jack!

Free Short Story / Mother of Kitties

A few months ago Brian Keene and Dave Thomas were talking about my novel Hacks on their weekly podcast, The Horror Show with Brian Keene, because I was bringing it back into print and offering free digital copies to Horror Show listeners.  Mostly it was shameless self promotion, but partly it was because many of the book’s main characters are based on real writers I know, one of them Brian Keene.

Dave suggested that someone should put him and co-host Phoebe in a story, then offered up a premise that had a lot of possibility.

“What are you waiting for, Knight?  It writes itself!”

I’m pretty sure he was kidding, and pretty sure he was still kidding when he mentioned the idea again a few weeks ago, but I liked the idea, and he called me out by name, so what the hell.

It was supposed to be a flash piece, but evolved into a full grown short story.  I’m publishing it with Dave and Phoebe’s permission in my upcoming collection Dangerous Toys, but I wanted you guys to have a chance to read it for free before Dangerous Toys comes out, so I’m posting it here for the next few weeks (after removing it for a few years I’ve decided to put it back up as a free read).

I hope you all dig it!

Brian Knight


Mother of Kitties

Dave Thomas thought he would probably enjoy CatCon more if it wasn’t for all the fucking people.  He loved cats, cats were great because they mostly left you alone, but cat people were just so … weird, and peopley.  Except for Phoebe, who was also weird, but in all the right ways.  Phoebe was also the reason that Dave was fighting his way through a press of strangers, making his slow way to the restroom of the Pasadena Convention Center, instead of catching the Summer Slaughter Tour in Grand Rapids.

He was wearing his Soreption concert t-shirt in honor of the show he was missing, and drawing strange looks from an assortment of blue-hairs and uptight fur-mamas littering the hallway.  He had to piss, and badly.  If he couldn’t bust through this press of people between him and the bathroom soon he was likely to piss right down his leg.

A skinny guy with stringy black hair, a wisp of mustache, and a Grumpy Cat t-shirt watched Dave’s approach with a sneer.

“The fuck you looking at?”

The skinny guy jumped like Dave had reached out a goosed him, then turned away and moved on, opening a path through the crowd past the men’s room door.

Dave smiled, feeling a little better about the day, and shouldered his way through the shrinking gap in the crowd before it could close again.

***

He heard the screams while he was washing his hands.  The first one was isolated, out of place in the low hum of conversation beyond the restroom door.  He ignored it as he shook the water from his hands, then thumped the button on the hot air hand drier with his elbow.  No matter how clean they looked, public restrooms were disgusting places.  Pressing the flush on a public toilet made his skin want to crawl right off his body, but that couldn’t be helped.  Anything he could avoid touching with his hands, he did.

The low hum of conversation in the hallway increased to a din, he could hear it over the racket of forced hot air, and he wondered what was going on out there.  Probably a Colonel Meow sighting in the hallway.  He dreaded the probability of having to press his way through an even larger crowd to get back to Phoebe.

Then the forced air died, and he realized that the noise beyond the door no longer qualified as a low hum, or even a din.  It was a cacophony.  Raised voices, shouts, trampling feet, and screams.  Screams of pain.  Screams of terror.

His mind conjured up a hundred dreadful possibilities as he ran to the door – fire, flood, a crazy ass-hole with a gun and some political or religious agenda, a Kim Kardashian sighting in the lobby, or maybe the zombie apocalypse.

He was reaching for the door when it swung open and slammed him into the wall.  A dozen or more men and women pushed past him and crammed themselves in the stalls, hiding from … he didn’t know what.

Don’t go out there, man,” someone shouted as he reached out to catch the closing door.  “They’ve gone crazy.  Fucking crazy, man!”

“Who’s gone crazy?”  Dave paused on his way out, waiting for a bit of clarification.  “What the hell’s going on?”

Shut the goddamn door!”  A woman in the far stall screamed at him.  “You’re going to let them in!”

For a second, Dave teetered on the brink of retreat.  He considered letting the door close, maybe propping the trash-can under the handle to bar it before forcing himself into one of those tight little stalls.

Phoebe’s out there.

He was out into the hallway and running the way he’d come before he realized he meant to go.

He ran against a strong current of panicked, screaming bodies, elbowing and shoving people aside.

Phoebe!”

He scanned faces even as he pushed past them but didn’t see her.

A burly man in checkered golf pants and an oversized paisley shirt grabbed him by an arm and swung him around.

“Are you insane?”  Dave felt the knuckles of the man’s long, meaty fingers crackle as they squeezed his arm.  “You’re running the wrong way!”

Dave wrenched his arm from the man’s grip and shoved him aside.

“I gotta find Phoebe!”

The man regarded Dave for a shocked moment, then backed away from him.

“Fuck you then.  Go get yourself torn up.”  That said, he turned tail and sprinted with the ebbing flow of cat lovers toward the convention center lobby.

Dave’s cell phone buzzed in his pocket.  He realized that it had been in there, forgotten and buzzing against his leg as he panicked and ignored what might be Phoebe’s last frantic call to him.  He dug for it and tugged it out.

It was Phoebe, but she wasn’t calling.  She was texting.

There were a half-dozen new texts.

Hurry up sweetie!

And…

Morris is here!  OMG!

The third was a picture of a fat, orange tabby stretched out in what looked like a silk-lined cat bed.  The current incarnation of 9 Lives cat food mascot, Morris the Cat.  A white plastic food dish with his name printed across the side sat ignored next to him.

A loud scream brought Dave’s attention back to the mostly empty path ahead.  For the first time he saw the blood streaking the walls and dotting the carpeted floor.  An enormously fat man burst through the open door of Exhibit Hall B, where a select few famous felines were displayed for their adoring public.

Dave had been warned in advance that there would be no touching of the famous cats.  You could look all you wanted, take a picture if their handlers allowed it, but you couldn’t interact with them in any way.  Actual meet and greets would be available later, in more private settings, and for a fee.

The screaming fat man’s face was carved up and bleeding badly, and when he turned toward the sound of Dave’s shocked scream, Dave saw that one of his eyes was gone.  The man tripped over his own tangled feet and hit the floor hard.

Dave was moving again, rushing to help the man up, when the cats pounced.

First two, then four, then half a dozen, they leapt onto the prone man, hissing and wailing, digging with their claws, biting his shoulders, the back of his neck, the top of his head.  A Maine Coon the size of a dog and with a lion-like mane of gray hair tore a chunk out of his throat, and a surprising fan of blood sprayed Dave, drenching him from the knees down.

Dave screamed again, and the cats turned to regard him.

He waited for them to attack, grateful that he’d already emptied his bladder.

They looked at him, then past him, and rushed toward the fading screams and shouts of the fleeing cat fanciers.  The Maine Coon brushed against his leg and purred for a second before catching up with the rest.

The fat man gurgled briefly, then died.

Dave’s phone vibrated in his hand.

He scrolled past two more pictures of famous cats, one of them was indeed Colonel Meow, and read the last two texts.

Where are you honey, I need you!

And …

I love you, baby.

“Phoebe.”  It was little more than a whisper.  He didn’t have the breath for anything stronger.

The phone buzzed, and a new picture appeared.

A sea of cats, more cats than could have possibly been in attendance, even at the largest of CatCons.  There were pampered celeb-cats, well-groomed but more-or-less average attendee’s cats, big cats, small cats, old,  young, and dirty, matted, mangy strays who seemed to have somehow gotten past security.

All of them facing Dave through the picture Phoebe had just sent.  Closing in on her.

Phoebe!”

He leapt over the fat man’s outstretched legs and ran through the open door into Exhibit Hall B.

***

There were perhaps twenty Celebrity Cat booths set up throughout the spacious room, and all of them destroyed in the chaos.  Tables were overturned, backdrops trampled into the floor, promotional posters of the convention’s most famous feline guests torn and scattered, and their human handlers either dead or fled.

There were bodies everywhere.

Some of them were still moving, moaning, screaming, so, Dave supposed, they weren’t technically bodies yet, but the remaining felines were busy correcting that.  The cats chewed on wrists and throats.  One tiny kitten was half-hidden in an unconscious woman’s hiked up skirt, chewing into her thigh.  A second later the woman’s femoral artery let go with a gush, and the kitten climbed onto her chest, mewing in triumph.

Another text alert sounded out, and every cat not currently occupied with turning a human into a corpse turned to him.

Shit.”  Dave’s voice was little more than a whisper, but the cats meowed at him, as in to say Yes indeed, human.  Shit.

He retreated a step, turned back to the hallway, and found his path blocked.

Another text alert, and the cats, now surrounding him on all sides except one, meowed again.

Dave had the absurd notion that they were telling him to check his damn phone.

What they didn’t do was attack him.

Dave checked his damn phone.

The first of the new texts said Ballroom.

The second said Hurry up, honey.  There isn’t much time.

Dave moved in the only direction the gathering cats would allow, forward, deeper into the abattoir that was Exhibit Hall B.  The faster he moved, the faster they followed.  He was running by the time he saw the opening in the partition wall between Hall B and Hall A, sprinting by the time he passed through it into the empty and previously blocked off Exhibit Hall A.

Not empty anymore.

Every cat in the city seemed to have converged on CatCon, and they were all gathering in the unused Exhibit Hall A.  They filled it wall to wall, parting for Dave when he rushed in blindly, closing behind him when he skidded to a stop.

They writhed, mewed, yowled, and squawked, then rushed at him in a wave.

A wave of cats, Dave thought as he felt himself sliding smoothly out of consciousness.  Too bad no one else is alive to video this.  No one is ever going to believe me.

Then the wave crested, then fell over him.

Oh, right.  I won’t be alive to tell anyone.

***

Sharp, nipping pain brought Dave back to an unreal reality.

His first surprise was realizing he was still alive to wake up.  His second was realizing that he was moving, and rather quickly, but not under his own power.  The cats were conveying him across the empty convention hall like fans at a rock concert.  Dave was crowd surfing across Pasadena Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall A on a mewling tide of cats.

There was another nip, drawing blood from a fingertip.

“Ow!”

There was another, gentler nip, then what might have been a dozen rough tongues licking the injured finger.

The wave beneath him, moving him ever quicker, ever higher above the floor, was purring now.

Then Dave was standing upright, not under his own power, but supported by hundreds of cats.  He tried to pull free of them, but was caught fast by claws and teeth sunk into his clothing.

The wall at the end of the exhibit hall was nearing, and Dave realized that he was about to smash face-first into it.

He clenched his eyes shut, but couldn’t squelch the scream of anticipated pain.

The pain didn’t come.

There was a crumping, crumbling sound, the sound of a wrecking-ball knocking down a wall, and a dusting of splintered and broken press board fell in his hair, down his face.

Then Phoebe’s voice.

“There you are, honey!  What took you so long?”

Dave Thomas opened his eyes and beheld the love of his life, the reason he was knee-deep in gore and neck-deep in psycho killer cats instead of a mosh pit, rocking out to the best in modern metal.

Phoebe was reclined on a throne of living cats.  She swayed gently from side to side as they moved, trading places beneath and behind her as part of her throne, then darting back out onto the floor as others took their place.

The giant Maine Coon was in her lap purring so loudly Dave could feel it vibrating the air between them.

Phoebe waved, grinning ear to ear, showing teeth that looked quite a bit pointier than Dave remembered them being earlier in the day.

“Uhh…?” Dave said.

Dave crowd surfed the cats right up to the foot of Phoebe’s living, purring throne, and then they set him down before her and parted to give him room.

He wobbled on his feet for a moment, thought his knees were going to unlock and drop him where he stood.  He kept his feet with a great effort of will, and tried to formulate a question more intelligent than Uhhh…?

“What in the hell is going on, Phoebe?”

“Did you know I was a cat goddess?”  Phoebe sounded both surprised and delighted.  “I didn’t!”

“No,” Dave said.  “I didn’t know that.”

Somehow, he wasn’t as surprised as he should have been.

Phoebe nodded down toward the massive cat reclined in her lap.

“This is Titus.  He’s my familiar!”  She giggled.  “I didn’t know I had one of those either.”

“Hi, Titus.”  Dave gave Titus a little wave.

Titus regarded Dave in perfect silence for a moment, as if appraising a competitor for his mistress’s affection, then gave a low, amiable yowl.

“He says he’s come to elevate me to my rightful place in the universe and lead all of feline-kind to supremacy over humans.”  She sounded dubious, but Phoebe had always been pretty openminded, and she did love cats, so Dave thought she was prepared to accept Titus at his word on at least a provisional basis.  “Titus says that humankind is a failed race destined to bring total devastation to the Earth and all of its creatures.”

Dave let that sink in for a moment, and decided Titus made a good point

“He’s not wrong,” Dave said.

Titus seemed almost to smile at him.

“I told them no way was I going to become the dark goddess of cats and harbinger for the destruction for mankind unless they let you come with,” Phoebe said.  “Titus said I could keep you.”

“So, will that make me a god?”

“Naw,” Phoebe said.  “More like a pet.”

Yes, her teeth were definitely pointier than they had been that morning.  Her eyes much greener too, and the pupils more like dark slits than regular old round pupils.  Also, she seemed to have grown a tail.

The ballroom had gone silent.  All the purring, licking, and feline fidgeting ceased.  All eyes were on him.  Waiting.

“So,” Phoebe said.  “What do you say?”

“Sure,” Dave said.  “Why the hell not.”

Butch Be Quick!


I know I’m pushing the boundaries of what you could consider flash fiction this time, but it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten about you.  I don’t have anything worth pontificating about tonight, and I happen to be very fond of this particular very short misadventure, so here you are.  I may have sent this out before in my old newsletter, so forgive me if you’re getting this for the second time.  If you haven’t read it before, I hope you will now.

If you happen to enjoy Butch, you should check out his other misadventures.

Brian Knight.


Butch, Be Quick!
From the Misadventures of Butch Quick

Frankie saw me the moment I waked through the door and tensed as if to bolt.  I could almost read his thoughts in his dark little eyes.  He wasn’t surprised to see me – not happy either, but the people I call on usually aren’t.   He’d probably been warned in advance to expect me.  If so, I knew who to thank for that.

For a moment I thought he might run, try to make it to the back door, but a few seconds passed and he didn’t.   I guess he knew the time for running had come and gone.   I was here.  He’d just have to deal with me now.

Frankie sighed, resigned.

Seeing his ugly mug wasn’t going to be the highlight of my morning either, but I was there, and we had business to take care of.

I deal with a lot of lowlifes in my job, rub shoulders, and sometimes knuckles, with the scum of Paradise Valley on a daily basis, but some people really do piss me off worse than others.

Frankie for instance.  Tall, scrawny, big hair and little eyes that remind me of a rats oil drop peepers.  A perpetual and loathsome smirk on his narrow face.  A face made for punching.

Some people say my attitude sucks, I say it could be worse.

I was going to play nice this time though.  Try to at least.

To be fair to Frankie, which I’m only doing in the interest of personal improvement, he probably felt the same way about me.

My name is Butch Quick, and I deal with Paradise Valley’s less savory residents for a living.  I work for my Uncle Higheagle and his various enterprises.   Depending on his current needs I am a nightclub bouncer, a repo man, a bail bond recovery agent, and pretty much any other job too dangerous or dirty for anyone else to do.

Like dealing with Frankie.

I am especially well equipped for this type of work.  At two hundred and fifty pounds and just a hair under seven feet tall, I find that most people are happy enough to let me do my job with minimal interference.  My red skin is almost overkill, an unfair advantage to the white folks who are still afraid of Indians.

I blame the media.  Too many cheesy spaghetti westerns on AMC maybe.

All of that and a face not even a mother could love.  None too pretty to start with, my rough job and talent for trouble has added to the overall effect.  I’ve been shot, stabbed, beaten, run over and generally badly used in the execution of my work.

And people wonder why I have a bad attitude.

Frankie clearly belonged to the White Dudes Who Are Afraid of Indians tribe, but I wasn’t going to let that break my heart.  He was the guy currently providing the good citizens of Paradise Valley with massive quantities of potentially life shortening stimulants, not me.

I closed the door behind myself and took my first steps toward Frankie with a stomach full of bitter bile and a head full of antisocial ideas.  A bubble of tension seemed to grow between us, as real and noxious as a deviled egg fart.

Frankie was not alone.  A dozen sharp and suspicious eyes aimed themselves at me like loaded guns, moved to follow my slow progress.   Frankie’s customers and associates.  A sharply dressed blonde with the body of a model and the face of a predatory bird sat alone at a small table, the legal pad she’d been writing in forgotten for the moment.  Her right hand dropped down toward a black leather holster not quite concealed under the loose fold of her light jacket.

I wondered if I should have come armed, but after a moment’s consideration decided that would only have provoked them.

I should have just stayed in bed that morning.

***

My Uncle Higheagle is a good guy, the best in fact, and I would do just about anything for him.  Sometimes I’m surprised by the list of crazy things I have done for him.  Whatever I have done or will do, it’s nothing compared to everything he’s done for me.  He took me in when my mom died, raised me from a teenager to the almost respectable man who bounces drunks, jacks cars from deadbeat customers, and drags bail-jumpers back to their cells.

The surprising fact that I’m not occupying one of those cells myself says a lot for him, considering the raw material he had to work with.

He has his bad days though, and that had been one of them.  It was that time of the month, payroll, and he was still dealing with the cleanup from my recent misadventure with a homicidal prostitute and a pissed off drug dealer.  He had taken most of the fallout in good grace, but the strain was beginning to show.

We were in the combined offices of Higheagle Classics (the best selection of clean classic cars in Paradise Valley!) and Eagle Eye Bail Bonds, him seated in the chair behind a desk stacked high with paperwork that needed his attention, me in the nice leather chair in the corner by the potted palm trees he habitually kept in his office.  I’m especially fond of that chair, partly because the palms match all my best shirts.  I’m a sucker for Hawaiian shirts.  The louder the better.

The mountain of paperwork, which he was fervently ignoring for the time being, was a good indication of how his morning was going.  The phone, which rang constantly until he unplugged it and dropped it into his wastepaper basket, was an even better one.  Despite these clear warning sings I felt compelled to object to the task he’d asked of me that morning.

“You want me to what?  Seriously?”  I wasn’t trying to be a pain in the ass, but the task he’d given me was clearly outside my range of prescribed duties.   I also felt it was a waste of my time and talent.  “Isn’t there a stripping midget I can rescue?  Maybe a drug lord who needs his car repossessed?  That’s always good fun!”

Anybody but Frankie, I thought.  I’d gotten Frankie duty before and he had not endeared himself to me on those previous occasions.

Uncle Higheagle clearly thought otherwise, and felt compelled as my father figure and employer to make his opinion clear.

“Butch,” he said, eyeing me from beneath the ridiculous feathered headdress he sometimes wore for the amusement of his customers.  “I don’t have time for this shit.  I’m up to my feathers in payroll, that old bastard with the shot up storage unit is threatening to sue, and my mechanic called in sick this morning because, his words, he’s pissing blood and fire and his doodle is turning purple.”

We both shuddered.  Curtis was one of those guys who always shared a little too much.  He’s a good enough mechanic I guess, but socially retarded.  Uncle Higheagle though he was a wizard with a wrench.  I though he had questionable taste in women.

Uncle Higheagle took a few deep breaths and continued with what I considered an admirable lack of hostility and foul language.

“I hope you don’t think I’m overstating my case when I say this is the single most important piece of unfinished business I have this morning, and there is no one else to handle it for me.”

He forced a smile.  It was not a pleasant one.

“Okay, I’m on it,” I said making for the door before his ghastly smile could brand itself forever on my subconscious.

Good!  Thank you!”  He slapped the top of his desk and the tallest of the piles tipped over and spilled into his lap.  “Go on now Butch, be quick!”

***

And so there I stood, facing my nemesis and taking care of my uncle’s very urgent business while a crowd of Frankie’s associates and customers braced themselves for trouble.

I pretended not to notice as the predatory blonde’s hand moved a little closer to the holster, or how two of Frankie’s associates broke off their conversation to track my movement through the suddenly silent room before flanking him.

His reinforcements in place, Frankie’s punch-worthy smirk grew.  He leaned against the counter and waited for me.

Feeling like the world’s biggest and dumbest mouse in a den of scrawny, starved cats, I closed the distance.

The tension in the room peaked as I took my last step and stopped.

Someone coughed.  Someone else cleared their throat.

I looked down at him.

He looked up at me and smiled.  A smile as unconvincing as Uncle Higheagle’s had been.

He spoke.

“Welcome to Starbucks … what can I get for you?”

I gave Frankie the Barista my uncle’s order.

Our transaction broke the tension.

Behind him a machine steamed milk with great, noisy gusto.  The blonde slid her cell phone back into its black leather holster and refocused on her legal pad and latte.

Frankie’s associates got busy ignoring me again.

I forked over a five-dollar bill for a single cup of coffee, and died a little inside.

Dangerous Games: All the Puchikai at Wallyworld Suck


You’ve seen them wandering aimlessly, staring down at their phones, off in their own little virtual worlds.  You might even be one yourself, so focused on the chase that you wouldn’t even notice if you fell right into the game.  The game even warns you to be observant, to be aware of your surroundings.

If you can’t keep at keep at least one foot in the real world, you never know where you might end up.


All the Puchikai at Wallyworld Suck

Beth paused at the corner and grabbed Terry’s shoulder to keep him from stepping into the street and getting creamed by a panel truck that sped up to beat the light at the intersection.  Terry didn’t even look up from his phone.

“Look where you’re going, dumbass.”

“We gotta hurry,” Terry said, oblivious to the close call.  “There’s a Gozuu in there!”

He pointed across the street at the Walmart.

“Bullshit,” Beth said.  “All the Puchikai at Wallyworld suck.”

A shirtless pedestrian taking in summer sun sneered down at them as he passed by.  “Stupid fucking kids.”

Beth, who was fourteen and hadn’t considered herself a kid since she was raped at twelve, ignored him.  Terry, who Beth did kind of consider a kid even if he was a year older, appeared not to have heard the man at all.

“Puchi-Map says it is.”  He tapped his phone’s screen, a virtual map with them at the center.  “Puchi-Map is never wrong, but it won’t stay there forever.”

The Don’t Walk at their crosswalk turned to Walk, so she grabbed him by the arm and led him across the street.  He followed without even looking up from his phone.

Puchikai World, the latest craze in VR mobile gaming, was kind of kid’s stuff, but Terry was wild about it, and Beth was kind of wild about Terry, so they played and collected together.

Terry’s collection of Puchikai, little cartoon creatures, was big enough that he ignored the scores of wild Puchikai roaming around the Walmart parking lot.  He had all of them.  He stayed on Puchi-Map, a third-party app that was against Puchikai World’s terms of service, technically speaking, even though a lot of people used it.

Beth found and caught three new ones as they crossed the parking lot, then realized she was almost out of traps and restrained herself.  If there really was a Gozuu, the holy grail of Puchikai, in Wallyworld, she might need all the traps she had left to catch it.  Most Puchikai were cute, in a Japanese Anime kind of way, but next to useless when fighting other players in the game.  Gozuu was a true monster, one of the few near unbeatable catches.  So rumor said, anyway.  She didn’t know anyone who had caught one, or even seen one.

She watched her screen to see if it would appear to her.  She also continued to watch traffic, and steer Terry out of harm’s way when he tried to wander into it.

He kept his eyes on the map, then zoomed in on the building they were about to enter.

“Looks like it’s in Electronics,” he said, and finally looked up as they stepped through the automatic doors and into the air-conditioned chaos of Walmart.

Beth checked again, but it wasn’t showing up on her game app yet.

Terry clicked out of the map and opened the game.

Gozuu finally appeared on her game as they walked past the pet food isles, and Beth began to share Terry’s excitement.  She didn’t start feeling nervous until they passed a display of new iPads and entered Electronics.

It was deserted.  Not a single customer browsed the DVDs or video games.  There were no employees around to mean mug them, the way store employees always seemed to do with teenagers, as if they were up to no good.

They followed the short-range trackers on their game apps, then stopped in front of a pair of black swinging doors.  Employees was written in big letters across one, Only across the other.

“It’s in there,” Terry said.

Beth took a step back and looked around.

“Come on,” Terry said.  “There’s no one around to bust us.”

“Yeah, about that …”

Terry ignored her and pushed through the swinging doors, into the darkness beyond.

“Shit!”  Beth looked around again, then stepped in behind him.

“Terry?”  Beth whispered, then gave a little whistle to get his attention.  There was no reply.

She looked down at her screen, saw Gozuu ahead and to the right.  She tapped the Traps icon to get them ready and followed after Terry.  The glow from her screen gave enough light to see directly around and in front of her, but no more.  She moved slowly.

No sign of Terry, but Gozuu appeared on her screen, ready to fight.  She threw a trap and waited to see if she would need another.

A growl from directly in front of her drew her attention away from her phone.

Two large red eyes opened up the darkness just outside her circle of light, then the thing in the darkness rushed forward to get her.

Beth opened her mouth to scream …

Papa


I sent this story out to my Knightmares newsletter before I merged the newsletter with this blog.  I thought I should share it here too.  If you like it, then subscribe to Knightmares and never miss a post or future flash fiction.


Papa

Alex squirmed in the front passenger seat, strained to see over the dashboard.  It was dark out, snowing, and the headlights shining through the falling snow made him feel like he was in a spaceship flying past stars.  The drive from grandma’s house was long and boring, but flying through space was fun.

“Sit still!”  Papa was in a bad mood, a don’t mess with me boy mood, so Alex settled back and tried to sit still.

It wasn’t easy.  They never let him sit in front, something about airbags killing little kids like him, and it was a whole new perspective.

“Papa?”

Nothing.  Papa squeezed the steering wheel until his fingers turned white.

Alex turned to look in the back seat.

“Sit still!”

Alex jumped, slammed himself back into the seat.

He waited for mommy to say something, to tell papa not to shout, but she didn’t.  They’d been fighting all night, so she was probably giving him the silent treatment.

“Mommy?”

“Hush, Alex,” papa said.  “Leave your mommy alone.”

“Papa,” Alex said, then remembered he was supposed to hush, and whispered. “Papa.”

Papa ignored him for a moment, then sighed.  “What, Alex?”

“Why am I sitting up here instead of mommy?”

They’d traded spots at the last rest area.  Alex had to piss big time, and he’d wanted a few minutes away from the arguing, so he’d taken his time.  His papa came into the bathroom while he was washing up and hurried him back out to the car, almost shoving him into the front seat and buckling him in.

“Your mommy was tired,” papa said, and there was something in his voice Alex didn’t like.  He whispered, maybe so mommy wouldn’t hear him, “all that running her mouth wore her out.”

“Mommy’s taking a nap?”

Papa looked into the rear-view mirror, then back to the road.

“Yeah, mommy’s taking a nap.  You should too.  We won’t get home for a few more hours.”

“Okay,” Alex said, and he tried, but something was still bothering him.

“Papa.”

“What, Alex … what?”

“You got blood on you.”