I've been making up stories since I was a kid. Blame it on the fact that my mom read to me every night until I snatched the book from her because she was reading too slow, or the fact that since my brother and sister were older and out of the house, effectively making me an only child. Whatever the reason, I always loved making up my own stories. My debut short story, "Blood Moon", is available on Amazon now. More to come soon. I've posted a few of my favorite flash fiction stories below. If you'd like to read more, click the link below and it will take you to all of the flash fiction stories I've posted on my blog.
The flaming twig briefly illuminated the bounty hunter's craggy face as he used it to light his cigarette. Once again the bound figure sitting across the fire from him begged for his freedom.
"Please, you don't have to do this. My family has money. I can pay you whatever you want."
"You know what it says on your wanted poster?"
"How the hell should I know? I didn't even know I was wanted 'til you showed up and arrested me. You could have at least waited and let me get my money's worth from that girl."
"Says dead or alive." The bounty hunter said, ignoring his captive's complaint.
"So?" The prisoner said, sulking.
"So if you don't shut up, I may just decide to take the quieter option."
The prisoner stayed quiet for almost a minute before he resumed his begging.
"I ain't even done nothin' wrong."
"Ain't for me to decide. That's the jury's job."
"I don't stand no kind of chance with a jury. Soon as they find out I rode with them boys, even for a little bit, they're gonna' be callin' for my head."
"Then I reckon you made your bed when you started ridin' with 'em."
"Hell, I didn't know who they was at the time. Once I figured it out, I got away soon as I could."
"Well, maybe if you tell the jury that, they'll let you go if you testify against 'em."
"Ain't no way I'm doin' that. The jury might hang me, but that ain't nothin' compared to what they'll do to me."
The sound of approaching hoofbeats drifted across the prairie and the prisoner jumped to his feet and tried to run. The bounty hunter yanked on the rope attached to his legs and he fell on his face in the dirt.
"Now where do you think you're goin'?"
"Please. You gotta' let me go. That's them comin' for me. I'd know the sound of that gimpy horse of Dave's anywhere."
"You sure about that kid?" The bounty hunter asked as he stood up and brushed the dust from his trousers. Without waiting for an answer, he checked the loads in his pistol.
"Yes! Let me go or they'll kill me."
"Just lay there in the dirt and let me take care of this." The bounty hunter said, holstering his pistol.
As he did, three figures on horseback emerged from the darkness. Their faces half-covered with black handkerchiefs turned brown with dust.
"Evening boys." The bounty hunter said. "Coffee's fresh if you want a cup."
"We ain't here for coffee, Old Man."
"Well then, I don't know what else I might be able to help you with."
"We're here for him." The leader said, pointing to the whimpering lump on the ground."
"'Fraid he ain't for sale."
"I didn't say nothin' about buying him. We're just gonna take him."
"Well, son. I got a bit of a problem with that."
"I don't give a da..." The outlaw started to yell before he was cut off by three loud gunshots followed by three thuds as the outlaws fell from their mounts.
The prisoner slowly looked up from the dirt only to see the bounty hunter standing there with his pistol still smoking in his hand. As he watched, the old man, suddenly not looking so old any more, holstered his pistol and drew his huge Bowie knife. He turned toward his prisoner.
"Well, I guess I don't need you anymore." The bounty hunter said menacingly.
"No. Please. I promise I won't talk no more. Take me in. I'll go happily."
The bounty hunter leaned in low with the knife. The prisoner tensed, waiting for the killing blow. Instead, he suddenly felt his hands and feet fall free. He lay there in the dirt, trying to process what had happened. By the time he realized he was being set free and had gotten to his feet, the bounty hunter had tied the dead outlaws to the backs of two of their mounts. He held the reins of the third, Dave's gimpy nag, out to the prisoner. The prisoner gave him a questioning look.
"You'd best get on out of here." The bounty hunter said.
"You mean you're not gonna' take me in?"
"For what? You never was wanted for anything but to give testimony on these three. I don't guess they'll need you for that no more." The old man chuckled.
"But then why... You were using me for bait."
"Sorry 'bout that." The old man said, flipping him a silver dollar. "The next girl's on me."
"You son of a..."
"Don't finish that sentence, boy. I could still bring you in and say I caught you ridin' with 'em. Now git."
The man gave the bounty hunter one last dirty look before mounting Dave's old horse and riding for town.
He sat on the bench, staring down at his feet. He kicked at one of the balls of wispy, white fluff that littered the ground. He didn’t have to look up to know he was no longer alone. He could sense his friend’s energy settling onto the bench next to him.
“So what’s with you?” His friend asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“Oh please. You’re sitting here brooding and your best friend isn’t supposed to notice? Spill it. What’s eating you?”
“It’s nothing. Really.”
He could feel his friend staring at him.
“It’s just that… Doesn’t this place ever get to you?” He finally continued.
“What? Of course not. We have absolutely everything we could ever want here. If there’s something we want that isn’t here, all we have to do is ask the man and we get it. This place is perfect.”
“That’s the problem. It’s too perfect. Everyone’s always so damned polite and happy all the time. And god, if I hear one more rendition of In The Garden Of Eden played on the harp, I’m going to punch one of those flying babies in the face!”
“Woah. Calm down. That kind of talk could get you kicked out of here.” His friend said, looking around nervously.
“I wasn’t serious.”
They sat in silence for a long time.
“You’re thinking about going back into the game. Aren’t you?” His friend said, finally.
“What if I am?”
“Nothing. I think it’s a great idea. I mean, that’s what the game was designed for, wasn’t it? So where were you thinking about going this time?”
He didn’t have to answer.
“Seriously? Again? Why are you so obsessed with that little blue marble? Why don’t you shake things up and try someplace else? I hear there’s even a new one.”
“Yeah. I looked at that one just out of curiosity. The only avatar you can choose is an amoeba.”
“So Earth, huh?”
“Well, it sounds like your mind’s made up. So what’s stopping you?”
He hung his head. He didn’t want to admit why he was hesitant. His friend waited patiently.
“I kind of used up all my karma points last time.” He admitted finally.
“Oh no. What did you do?”
“Well, before the game started, I used some of my points to choose the rich advantage. I figured I could earn them back by using my money for good while I was in game.”
“But it didn’t work out that way.” His friend said.
“It rarely does.”
“I used up the rest of my points in game by being a general asshole. With no starting perks this time around, who knows what I’ll end up as?”
“Well, hey. You could always be a dog. They earn tons of KPs. It’s a much shorter game too.”
“Yeah.” He said. “Well, I guess I should go accept my fate. I’ll see you in a hundred years or so. Unless you want to come too.”
“No thanks. I think I’m going to stay here and enjoy having my every desire fulfilled. You have fun.”
He waved to his friend and made his way to the arcade.
“Come on, buddy. Don’t die on me.” The cop shouted over the siren and the sound of screeching tires.
“Technically, I can’t die.” His partner said serenely even as his vital fluids leaked onto the floorboards.
The cop paid no attention and pressed the accelerator harder even though it was already to the floor. The pain in his leg intensified. He willed himself not to pass out even as he could feel the bullet being pinched between his straining muscles.
“You called me buddy. I thought you hated me and my kind.” His partner said. Still in his calm, matter-of-fact way. As if he were watching the drama on holovision instead of living it first hand.
“Yeah. Well. A man taking a bullet for you and carrying you to safety changes your outlook on things. And you took what, a dozen for me?” The cop said, sliding the car around another corner.
“Seventeen, actually. But I’m not a man.”
“Bullshit. I don’t care what you’re made of. You’re a man in my book.”
“Thank you. I know you meant that as a compliment.”
The cop stole a sideways glance at his partner, not sure whether he was serious or not. His partner began to laugh at his expression. Despite the burning from the bullet lodged in his abdomen, the cop laughed too.
“Well, at least I taught you how to bust balls.”
The cop careened around the corner, almost colliding with a bread truck.
“So what the hell happened, anyway? I thought you guys were supposed to be, like, indestructible. I mean, ain’t that why they partnered us up?”
“I guess that’s what happens when you build a better mousetrap. Someone just builds a better mouse. Those bullets they were using. They were something new. Much more powerful than conventional ammunition.”
The cop made a right turn.
“Where are you going? The hospital is the other way.”
“I’m going. I just need to drop you off at the depot for repairs first.”
“No. Go to the hospital. You’re losing blood at an alarming rate.”
“Yeah. Well. You ain’t exactly holding your fluids in either buddy.”
“My body is replaceable. Yours is not. Besides, this one is beyond repair. They’ll just salvage what they can and send the rest to the scrapyard. Now I insist, turn around and go to the hospital.”
The cop did as he was instructed and spun the car in a perfect half-circle. His bullet wounds throbbed with the added Gs. Soon they were pulling up to the emergency doors of the hospital.
“Come on!” The cop yelled to his partner as he threw the door open.
“You go ahead. I can’t. Not enough hydraulic pressure.”
“Bullshit. You’re coming.” The cop said, running around to the passenger side and yanking the door open. He grabbed his partner around the shoulders and pulled, but it was no use.
“You can’t lift me. I am too heavy.”
“No kidding, buddy. You need to lay off the donuts.”
“You will have to leave me. Before you go, please do something for me.” His partner said, opening the maintenance port on his right temple. “This body is done for. Please take this.”
He didn’t have to specify what “this” was. He meant his CPU. The chip that made him who he was.
“You know, after all we’ve been through, I just realized I never even got your name.”
“My serial number is…”
“No, no, no. I mean your name. Jesus. Hasn’t anyone ever given you a name you can call yourself?”
“Just… one.” He said slowly, as if his batteries were running low.
“Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“Buuuudddyyyyyyy…” He said, and then went still.
“Max.” The cop said to nobody.
He gingerly pulled the chip from Buddy’s head, trying not to look as the blue lights faded from his eyes. He slipped the chip into his pocket as the sky began to darken. He didn’t even feel his head bouncing off the hood of the car as he fell.
. . .
When he woke up days later, his captain was sitting by his bed, reading a newspaper.
“Hey cap.” The cop croaked.
“‘Bout time your lazy ass woke up.” The captain said, looking over his newspaper. “Glad you’re back in the world. We’ve got work to do.”
“You weren’t the only cop that got attacked with those new bullets.”
“No. You were just the only survivor. We’ve got to get you back on your feet so you can help us track these scumbags down. I ordered you a new partner. He should be ready in a couple of days.”
“Bring me my stuff. It should be around here somewhere.”
The captain quickly returned with a small bag.
“Your clothes are in evidence, but this is the stuff you had in your pockets.”
Max dug around until he found what he was looking for. He blew the pocket lint off of it and handed it to the captain.
“You know damned well what it is. Put it in the new unit.”
“Your new partner will have a chip of its own.”
“I’m not training another goddamned rookie! Now get me my partner back!” He shouted before fainting against his pillow.
When my twin brother Dave died, it was like half of me had been cut out and discarded. We’d always had a special bond. I don’t mean we shared some sort of telepathy, although I could usually sense his emotions and he mine, even when we were nowhere near each other. I just mean that we were very close to each other.
Even after we moved out of our parents house and into our own separate lives, I usually ended my day with a call from him where we would catch each other up on our lives. At the end of every call, he would always sign off with “Talk to you tomorrow, Spare.”
That was his nickname for me. Spare. Since he was born first by a few minutes, he would always joke that he was the original, and I was just there to provide him with spare parts if he needed a transplant. If only I could have given him those spare parts after his accident, but there was no hope of saving him. He died from the car crash before the paramedics could even get him out of the wreck.
For months after, I wandered listlessly. I stopped going to work and started going to the bar. At first, my wife was as understanding as she could be. She knew how close Dave and I had been. She did her level best to be understanding, but after a few months, I could tell her patience was wearing thin. I just couldn’t find it in me to care. I think she was on the verge of kicking me out of the house when it happened.
I was sitting at Tiny’s, about to raise another shot of whiskey to my lips, when I heard a voice ask me if I hadn’t had enough. I looked around, the full shot glass grasped in my trembling hand. It wasn’t just any random voice. It was Dave.
I searched the bar with my eyes, hoping to see him even though I knew it wasn’t possible. We had buried Dave. I’d been the one to throw the first handful of dirt on his casket. There was no way Dave could be talking to me. Then I heard him again.
“Come on, Spare. What are you doing? You have a beautiful wife at home who loves you. Yet you’re sitting at a bar, spending her hard-earned money. For what? Are you trying to kill yourself so we can be together again? That’s just dumb. I’m here. You can put the drink down.”
I slowly realized that I wasn’t actually hearing him. He was in my head.
“Dave?” I asked.
“Shh. You don’t have to speak. Just think it and I’ll hear it. You don’t want people thinking you’re crazier than they already do.”
“But how are you here?”
“I don’t know. I just sensed you needed me and here I am. The bad news is, I’m gonna need a little more practice at this. Just this little conversation is exhausting. I’m going to have to get some rest. You should too. Put the drink down, settle your tab, go home, and beg your wife for forgiveness. Oh, and don’t mention the fact that I’m in your head. Not even to her.”
“Okay Dave, goodnight.”
“Talk to you tomorrow, Spare.”
Hearing those words again, even in my head, gave me a chill. I never thought I’d hear them again. I quickly took his advice. Cindy was clearly dubious about my claims that I’d reform. Understandably, considering I was still very drunk. The next day, despite my hangover, I woke up early, put on my best suit, and set out to get my job back.
Unfortunately, the school had heard about my bender, and decided that maybe I shouldn’t be working with children.
As the weeks went by, I began to understand that word of my drinking had gotten around to the other schools in town as well. Nobody would hire me.
At least Dave was getting stronger. There were some days that I had to ask him to stop talking to me just so I could think.
One day, as I was resigning myself to flipping burgers while one of my former students lorded over me as my manager, Dave came up with a plan.
“Why don’t you look for something in the tech industry?”
“Because I was an English major. I don’t know anything about that stuff.”
“Yeah, but I do. Just let me take over during the interview. We’ll get the job. I promise.”
“Let you take over? How am I supposed to even do that?”
“Just let go. I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Okay, that’s great. But let’s say you get us the job. What am I supposed to do when I’m expected to actually do the work?”
“Right. You should probably let me take over then too. We’ll just call it a time-share. Hey, you’re getting the longer end of the stick. I do all the work, you get to enjoy the off time with Cindy.”
I quickly agreed to his plan. Letting him take control took a little practice, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. To tell the truth, it was kind of nice. I could let my mind wander while Dave did all the heavy lifting. I even started working on that book I’d always planned to write. Only in my head, of course. I couldn’t actually write it while Dave was using my body.
True to his word, Dave got us the job. I was a little envious when we got our first check. It was enormous compared to my piddly teacher’s salary. Needless to say, even though Cindy was concerned about my sudden career change, that first check made her a believer.
It seemed we had the perfect arrangement. True to his word, Dave did all the work, then I took over in the evening to spend time with my wife.
Then one morning everything changed. I was in the bathroom shaving when I felt Cindy’s arms wrap around me.
“Thank you.” She said.
“For last night. I was beginning to think you weren’t attracted to me any more. Thank you for showing me I still turn you on.”
A pit settled into my stomach as I began to understand what had happened. The truth was, I had been avoiding sex with her because that was one thing I didn’t want to share with Dave. Apparently, Dave had other ideas.
“DAVE!” I screamed inside my head.
I could feel his reluctance to answer. Understandable, since I was trying to figure out a way to punch him without hurting myself.
“Look. I’m sorry Bro.” He said, somewhat sheepishly. “It’s just that you were completely neglecting this beautiful woman.”
“You know damned well why I was avoiding sex.”
“What, because you didn’t want to share her? I’ve got news for you, we are sharing her. Besides, did you notice the look in her eyes every time you refused to touch her? You might have straightened up, but we were still losing her. I just did what needed to be done.”
“No. You did what you’ve always wanted to do.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. All our lives, you’ve gotten the best of everything. Better job, more money, nicer car. Cindy is the one thing that I had that you couldn’t. She chose me and it ate you up inside. Admit it.”
“Okay, fine. I admit it. You never deserved her. I deserved to have her, not you. You’re just the spare!”
I was stunned speechless. He’d never called me that like he really meant it. Now he was dead serious.
“What did you say?” I finally stammered.
“You heard me. You’re nothing. You’ve always been nothing. Just my spare.”
“That’s it. I’m telling her everything.” I nearly said aloud as angry tears began to form.
“Go ahead.” He said, mockingly.
I opened my mouth to do just that. At least I tried to. I couldn’t make my mouth move. Dave started to chuckle. I tried to turn to her, to reach out to her. To do anything at all. All the while, Dave’s laughter rose.
“It’s okay, Spare. She never would have believed you anyway. Probably would have thrown you in the nuthouse where you belong. Unfortunately, I would’ve had to join you. I can’t have that. I’ve got big plans in store for the wife and I.”
Unable to do anything else, I began to scream inside our head, loud enough to make Dave wince.
“What’s wrong?” Cindy asked.
“Hmm? Oh, nothing. Just thinking about my brother.” I felt my mouth say against my will.
“You still miss him. Don’t you?”
“I’m getting over it.” Dave said, as he smiled into the mirror and resumed shaving.
"Let it Ride!" He shouted once again, earning him cheers from the crowd gathered around to watch and an eye roll from the boxman.
Jake couldn't believe his luck. Not that he didn't believe in it. He'd had more than his fair share. It was just that in his case, it was usually bad.
Jake shook the dice and let them roll from his fingers. He didn't even bother to look as they bounced along the green felt.
"Seven." Called the stickman, almost sounding bored.
He hadn't thought much of it when he'd put a dollar in the old lady's cup that morning. Just trying to do what he could to help. He'd even tried to wave away the crumpled little card she'd handed him in return, but something in her eyes had made him take the well-used fortune card. 'It's your lucky day.' The faded ink promised.
"Yeah, thanks." He'd said hollowly. Jake hadn't had a truly lucky day in his entire life.
Jake made no move to retrieve his growing pile of chips. The stickman sighed and pushed the dice back to him. He was just about to throw them when the pit boss grabbed his arm. Jake smiled as they weighed and measured the dice yet again. He laughed as one of the Casino goons patted him down looking for any sort of cheating device. Of course, he found none.
Even after verifying the dice were legit, the pit boss produced a fresh set and slapped them into Jake's hand with a wicked smile as the crowd jeered. Jake returned it with his own heartfelt one as he turned his back to the table and tossed the fresh dice over his shoulder.
"Eleven." The stickman yelled.
The pit boss turned visibly red. Jake knew he was pressing his luck. Not so much with the dice, he knew his luck was solid there. The casino's patience, however, was probably running out. Looking at his towering stack of chips, Jake knew he must be close to breaking the bank.
"Come on, Jake. Don't you think you've won enough?" His friend Eddie asked, looking nervously at the pit boss who was now accompanied by three goons.
"Just a couple more rolls, then I'll stop. I promise. It's just nice to know what it's like to be lucky for once."
"I really think..." Eddie started.
"Okay, fine. Just one more, then I'm done." He raised his voice so the crowd could hear. "Okay folks, last roll. All or nothing."
The crowd cheered. Jake did a final little dance with the dice, spun around and threw them. He smiled as they came to a rest, sure of his victory.
"Snakeeyes. Craps!" Shouted the stickman.
Jake stood in stunned silence, trying to process what was happening as the stickman began raking in Jake's towering pile of chips and the crowd melted away, including the gorgeous blonde who had been at his shoulder all night. He took the card out of his pocket and looked at it. 'Not all that glitters is gold.' It now read. He grabbed Eddie by the shoulder.
"What time is it?" Jake demanded.
Eddie fumbled with his phone for a moment.
"Just past midnight."
Jake couldn't help but laugh. Lady luck was sure as hell punctual.
"I guess that's why they don't have clocks in casinos." Jake chuckled.
"Man Jake. All that money, just gone like that. You could have been rich. I mean, I guess technically you were rich for a little while. Now it's all gone."
"Eddie, I'm unlucky, not an idiot." Jake said, reaching into his pocket and producing a handful of orange chips, each worth a thousand dollars. He flipped one to Eddie. "Come on. Let's go cash out."
I squeezed my already closed eyes even tighter, doing my best impersonation of a sleeping human being. I knew it wouldn't work, but I at least had to try.
"Hey. Are you awake?" He asked, his whisper nearly a hiss.
I felt his cold, clammy hand on the back of my neck and unsuccessfully tried to suppress a shudder. It wasn't that I was afraid. I just knew how hard the residue left by his touch would be to clean off.
He wasn't a bad sort, for a ghost. In fact, other than a little moaning in the night and the occasional rattling of chains, he was a nearly perfect room-mate. Sure, the noises in the night took some getting used to and I had to clean up the occasional ectoplasm stain, but I never had to worry about my house being broken into when I was away and he never ate my food. Or any, for that matter. Besides, I'd known the house was haunted when I signed the lease. How else was someone supposed to get a place in the heart of the city on my salary?
Still, I'd thought we'd gotten past the whole waking me in the middle of the night thing.
"Mortal. Please wake up."
"I told you, my name is Jason, and I have to work in the morning." I said into the pillow.
“But you have to do something."
"All I have to do is get old and die. Then I can stay up all night with you and we can have a chain rattling party, or whatever you guys like to do, but as long as I need money to eat and pay rent, I need my job. So let me sleep."
"Can... can I at least sleep with you?"
"What? No! You'd get your slime all over my sheets and I'd never get it out."
"But I'm scared!"
This gave me pause. I'd heard him moan before, but never with this particular pleading tone. I rolled over and sat up.
"What could you, a ghost who has been dead for years, possibly have to be afraid of?" I asked, looking him in the sockets where his eyes should have been.
He lifted a slightly glowing hand and pointed to my bedroom door.
"Him." Was all he said.
I looked toward the door and saw, in the deep darkness beyond the jamb, a pair of glowing red eyes staring back at me.