Things That Used to be Safe

As a kid, Zero thought he hated dancing. Three times a week, during morning PE, he would have to line up with the rest of his class while the teacher played that same awful dancehall remix of “If I Were a Rich Man”–a joke at his expense that Zero didn’t understand until years later–and perform the steps exactly as dictated. Long, agonizing minutes during which the squeak of sneakers on hardwood overwhelmed drum and bass crackling from blown speakers, and all Zero could think about was how this cut into the time they could be spending on worthwhile activities like dodgeball and four square.

It wasn’t until near the end of middle school when Zero learned that dancing could be something more than the shuffling mimicry of line dancing. His first after-school dance also took place in the gym, the familiar space made nearly unrecognizable by disco lights and a rainbow cloud of balloons hanging overhead. When a classmate made the nervous trek to the usually off-limits boom box and placed his homemade CD in the tray, when the first driving chords of some boisterous pop song Zero didn’t recognize filled the room, he prepared himself for an evening of drudgery. But no teacher appeared to take the lead, and the other kids didn’t spread out to ensure they had enough distance between each other to prevent interference. Instead, they trickled onto the designated dance floor in small clumps of twos and threes and fours. Mostly the girls at first, but the boys followed. As Zero watched, they began to move in time to the music in ways he didn’t understand. There was no direction, only a rhythmic chaos, where nothing had a pattern yet everyone seemed to know what to do.

Milo, his best friend, grabbed Zero by the arm, pulling him away from the snack table. “Come on,” he said.

“I don’t know the steps,” shouted Zero. Continue reading

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777

A flash-fiction piece for a tiny, last-minute contest. Entries were restricted to 777 words exactly, and had to be based on this prompt:

In accordance with the prophecy, everyone knew what to expect from the seventh son. What they failed to take into account was what the seventh daughter was capable of.

Predisposed to some classic genre tropes, which I usually try to resist, but I decided to give into that this time and put together a short scene. The basic premise of the knockout game comes from personal experience, as this was a real thing going around my school when I was younger. Lasted maybe a month at most, with the teachers eventually sitting us down and explaining the real risks involved in choking someone into unconsciousness. I’d like to think this was the dumbest thing we did, but kids will be kids.

Anyway, here it is. Continue reading

Living With It

The howl that woke Jules lingered in the cold stillness and empty shadows of his room like the fading echoes of the horns of the Apocalypse. Blinking, trying to hold the dream of emptiness as it fled through the haze of sleep, Jules sat up in the darkness. His mind remained caught on the source of the sound that woke him, focused now on the barks beating in through his closed window. It was the neighbour’s dog again. Sharp, red digits on his alarm clock told him it was hours after midnight and hours more till the sun rose. Three nights into this, he knew better than to hope the noise would stop anytime soon.

Pushing himself out of the overheated bed, Jules jabbed a clumsy hand toward his bedside lamp. A faint click and light spilled over the nearest corner of the room. Through squinting eyes, he saw the blank screen of his phone, the tiny white particles floating in the half-empty glass of water next to the bed, the broken spine of the book he’d fallen asleep to, and the uneven, moon-cast silhouette of the creature standing outside his window. Continue reading

Memory Box

Dear Emily,

Scott and I are settling in. We have everything unpacked, but it will be a while before they get out here to install a phone line, and longer than that before we get our internet access. I have to walk twenty minutes to get a single bar on my phone, and that’s not a solid single bar, either. Which is why I’m writing this letter. I’m not even sure how long this will take to reach you. I’ll ask when I buy the stamps in town.

Anyway, not much else to say right now. I’m going to start working on the garden. I’ll send pics when there’s something worth looking at. Tell everyone we say hello.

Yours, Vicky

PS. I was digging out the weeds near that old shed–going to plant tomatoes and you can’t have any! (of course you can have some)–and found an old box, almost like a chest. It has a rusty lock on it, and you’d think we’d have a way to open it, but you know Scott is the kind of man who doesn’t even own a hammer. I’m going to take it into town when I mail this letter, see if someone there can help. Continue reading

The Warring Wolves

(This is another contest entry, this time for a 2000-word limit short story competition.

The theme, which every story has to incorporate, is “A character has a flashback to a time when they were a completely different person.”

I’ll try to be more punctual with updates about the winners this time.)

On a bright day in September, Spencer put on his black suit and drove to a funeral alone. The weather still held the summer’s heat, and he felt the sweat on his back beneath the heavy fabric as he climbed the hill at the centre of the cemetery, the yellowing grass slippery under the worn soles of his shoes. Small groups of darkly-dressed people waited at the top, eyes squinting against the sun. Spencer did not join them, but stood on stiff legs in the slowly-tilting shade of a great drooping willow tree to wait for the service to begin.

“You want to see the body, don’t you?” Continue reading