Category: free fiction

“Test Subject” (short story)

Yesterday I was feeling completely listless and dull-witted. Couldn’t work up the energy to do much of anything.

Then I remembered a couple of photos Sherron sent me. Sometimes, in the morning light, our kitchen walls get these really cool shadows and patterns projected onto them; my visually-oriented wife noticed this pair and took some shots with her cell phone.

I called up the photos, placed them side-by-side on my computer screen, stared at them for about thirty seconds.

Then I grabbed my blue Hilroy exercise book…and started scribbling. No thought, no pre-planning, just went for it.

It’s an old trick…worked for the surrealists and, by God, it worked for me.

Here’s the story, accompanied by the images that inspired it:

* * * *

Shadow1

The Test Subject

ALL RIGHT, TERRY, YOU KNOW THE ROUTINE. WE NEED YOU TO TAKE US THROUGH WHAT YOU’RE EXPERIENCING AND DESCRIBE—

It’s hard…I don’t…there aren’t any…

COME ON, YOU HAVE TO DO BETTER THAN THAT. WE NEED SENSATIONS, COLORS. PAINT US A PICTURE.

(Laughter) You don’t…it isn’t like that. God, I wish I could explain, show you…but there’s no (indecipherable), no, ahhhh, common reference points.

ARE YOU DISORIENTED, DO YOU—

What? Did you say ‘distortion’? Everything’s distorted. It’s like…like…

GO ON.

…this kaleidoscope…constant movement…twisting and spiraling…

ARE YOU FEELING NAUSEOUS?

I feel—oh, Jesus! Jesus! Did you see that? It just…wow…this bolt of pure blue light…zipped right past me and it—I swear it smelled like cinnamon.

THAT’S WHAT WE WANT TO HEAR! YOU NEED TO DESCRIBE THE EFFECTS, HOW THIS THING MANIFESTS ITSELF. TERRY? TERRY, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?

I know. I see what you’re…but it’s really got on top of me and…and…it’s just too…and then everything just changes, like that! Did you see it? Like the whole universe suddenly switched polarities and—and flowed in the opposite direction. Whoa, trippy. And there’s something…I see something…

YES?

I dunno…a shape…presence…now it’s up there, by the ceiling, sort of floating…

POINT. SHOW US WHERE YOU MEAN.

There. It keeps shifting, flowing, like I said. I can’t quite…it blends in with these other blob things…they kind of swirl and mesh…yeah…swirl and mesh…mesh into a mess…

WHAT ELSE? DO YOU GET A SENSE OF ANY—

–someone turn up the heat? It’s freezing in here.

THE TEMPERATURE IS KEPT AT A CONSTANT 24 DEGREES CELSIUS.

I’m telling you—fuck! That time it zoomed right past me. This bright-colored blur…I could’ve reached out and—

TELL US WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE. GODDAMNIT, TERRY—

It’s made of light and…uhhh…wow! Oh, wow…there it is. Hovering, just in front of me. Holy shit, I think it’s looking at me—

EASY, TERRY, COME ON NOW. YOU’RE TRIPPING, REMEMBER? IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. SO GET A GRIP—

It’s staring at me, man. Studying me. I’ve never…I’ve seen little green men before but…this thing knows

KNOWS? WHAT DO YOU—

–knows I’m here and it’s curious too. Wondering who I am, what I’m doing. This is its backyard and I’m trespassing on…

–ONLY AN HALLUCINATION—

Bullshit! Bullshit! There’s something in here and it isn’t just the fucking drug. It sees me. It sees me and I want out. Get me out of this! Somebody! I need to–

TERRY! TERRY!

Gimme the fucking antidote! I want to (indecipherable). This is fucked, this is totally—

AT THE REQUEST OF THE TEST SUBJECT WE ARE DISCONTINUING THE SESSION AND—

What the fuck are you? What do you want from me? Keep away from me—

IT’S OKAY, TERRY, WE’RE COMING IN. BOB AND ANGELA ARE RIGHT OUTSIDE AND THEY’LL—

Oh, Jesus, oh, Jesus– (Heavy breathing, panting)

WHAT’S—

It’s coming, it’s—ahhhhh…Christ, it’s got me…help me…it’s–(indecipherable).

(Shouts of alarm, a woman screams)

BOB? ANGIE? SECURITY! SECURITY! WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY SITUATION UP HERE AND WE NEED A COMPLETE LOCKDOWN, REPEAT—WHAT? WHO’S THAT? WHO’S THERE? IS SOMEONE OUT THERE? HELLO? HELLO?

(End transcript)

shadow2

Beginning again

100_0751Just to get everybody caught up:

Seven cartons, containing 160 copies of my novel Disloyal Son were deposited on my doorstep mere days ago. Not long afterward, my brand new 27″ iMac was delivered, unboxed and set up.

I was fortunate, ladies and gentlemen, because for the last couple of years I’ve been backing everything up on an external drive. When I had problems transferring files from the old Mac via ethernet cable to the new model, I called Apple Support and outlined the situation. When the Apple guy heard the age of the software in my source Mac, he whistled in dismay. Bad sign. He wasn’t too sure exactly what to do…until I mentioned that external memory. He sighed, relieved. No problem. Dump the ethernet cables, plug the external directly into the new Mac and voilà. Mission accomplished.

But let this be a lesson to anyone else out there running an obsolete operating system: that external memory was (at $125) one of the best investments I ever made. Saved me a huge headache. Think about it.

There have been a few minor glitches but so far I’m impressed by this new monster. Can’t wait to give it a real test drive. Unfortunately, the MIDI keyboard/synthesizer I ordered is still en route and I don’t have the nerve to tackle Final Cut Pro yet. So I’ll bide my time. Meanwhile, try to get acclimatized with the larger screen, slightly different configurations, the peculiarities of its machine brain.

codeSpent a couple of days tidying up this blog, updating some of the pages, slimming things down a little. I’m a bit taken aback by the sheer amount of fiction, music and even short films I’ve uploaded here over the years. It’s quite the hoard of strangeness. Sherron says it’s time for a new theme and I suppose she’s right. Still want to keep the picture, though. I find it…haunting.

I’ve been flashing copies of Disloyal Son around town, pleased by how taken folks are with the cover. People wanting to know how to pick it up, where to order. Answer: everywhere…but, preferably from your nearest independent book store (McNally-Robinson, Powell’s, etc.).

Weird how everyone responds to the book’s central theme of family secrets. Think I’ve hit on something here, purely by accident. I’m getting goosebumps and the hair on my arms is standing up. Maybe because of close proximity to the zeitgeist.

Now, whether that will translate into some decent book sales, who knows? Hard to tell in this era of shapeshifting-sado-masochistic-paranormal-romances.

Ay yi yi. What will they think of next? (No, please, don’t tell me, it’s probably better if I’m not privy to that information.)

But we forge on, boats against the current and all that.

I remain convinced that there are still smart readers out there, a small but devoted demographic desperate for a transformative experience when they open a book.

They want to believe in magic and too often are poorly treated by contemporary scribblers.

Here at Black Dog Press we offer something different, an intelligent alternative to corporate publishing.

Books for bibliophiles and devotees of the printed word.

Written and published with love.

Or maybe that should read: reverence.

DSC00146

A morbid turn: four flash fictions

Dore1

Reprisal

 

An intimacy only death allows.

Forced into close alignment to conserve space.

A press of upturned faces.

Rows and rows, near a field of spring wheat.

Bright sunlight, a perfect cloudless day.

In defiance of this latest atrocity.

 * * *

 

Dore3

The Last Room

Is someone there?

Why don’t you come nearer?

Step into the light…

I can barely see you.

There’s so little time.

Please, show yourself.

I don’t want to be alone.

Approach, stranger:

Take pity on my penitent soul.

* * *

stadium2

Chase Scene

—careening down a narrow path, bucking and weaving through the forest, in headlong flight.

“Hurry! It’s catching up with us!”

Realizing my mistake when the trees around us begin to glow, giving off a vivid, blue light.

The ground vibrating, feeling it through the floorboard beneath my feet.

Oh, Christ!  Oh, Jesus, help me—”

The light coruscating, fierce, accompanied by a blaze of heat, the exterior of our vehicle starting to blister and smoke…

* * *

stadium1Sheep

Reporting as ordered, funneled in with the rest.

Hemmed and jostled, barely able to move.

Exhausted and compliant.

A clipped, officious voice from the loudspeaker, appealing for calm.

Distant shouting, the news spreading in visible ripples through our midst.

The gates are closing

 

 

© Copyright, 2014  Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

“Suspect” (flash fiction)

dore2“The fuck is this?”

 

“That’s him. That’s our guy.”

 

“You kidding? You’re taking the piss, right?”

 

“Look, I’ve been up all night, you wanted to see what I got, this is it.”

 

“But what is it?”

 
“It’s a, waddaya call it, a screen capture.”

 

“A what?”

 

“Like they take a picture, a still frame. Enhanced all to fuck but that’s what they came up with. There’s your perp.”

 

“I still don’t get it. You’re saying that’s taken from the hallway camera—”

 

“Yeah. What you’re looking at is, like, a single fucking frame. That new guy, Panda or Pandra, whatever the fuck, he spotted it. And, man, how he managed it, I’ll never know.”

 

“So he’s zipping through the footage and something clicks and he goes back and slows everything down—”

 

“Right, exactly. And this thing is there for a flash, right outside the fucking door, and then it’s gone.”

 

“Time frame?”

 

“Fits.”

 

“Fuck that. Nothing fits. This is a locked door mystery and the two of us are hanging out to dry here. In less than an hour I gotta go upstairs, smile ever so nice and show them…what exactly? This? This fucking—”

 

“It’s all we got.”

 

“Nine of our best standing around with their thumbs up their arses while the guy we were supposed to be babysitting—“

 

“No one got in or out. You said so yourself.”

 

“No one but this guy. That’s what you’re telling me, right?”

 

”The question is, what are you going to tell them.”

 

“I’m not going to tell them anything. I’m just going to show them this. The best evidence we have.”

 

“And then?”

 

“Then? Then it doesn’t matter. Because it won’t be my problem any more…”

 

 

© Copyright, 2014  Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

 

“Extinct” (Flash Fiction)

DSC00555Extinct

 

It flutters and at first I think it’s a leaf or a feather.

Run to catch it.

But it moves in my hands!

Drop it like it’s hot.

Go and get Mother.

Telling me to shush as she kneels beside it.

Looking up at me, crying.

“It’s called a butterfly. Butterfly.”

Making me repeat it, so I’ll never forget.

 

 

© Copyright, 2014  Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

“Splashdown” (science fiction)

100_1027…confined in some kind of plummeting spacecraft, unfamiliar controls, banks of switches and gauges, a bewildering array.

Extreme disorientation, not helped by the jolting descent, my capsule pitching and rolling, a sense of increasing speed and friction–

Fire! Fire! Engulfed in a sheath of flame, watching helplessly as long, thin tracks of plastic slide down the porthole-like windows.

I’m melting.

Turbulence reaching maximum intensity, violent gyrations and bumps, hearing the roar even through my helmet.

A shooting star.

100_1028

Something…heaviness! Good old gravity. Like a slow-settling weight. Or turning to stone.

The fires are going out, leaving behind a blackened cinder.

Me.

Outside: purple. Purple-blue. Blue.

100_1031Landing on water.

Bobbing on a choppy sea, weeping with relief.

Waiting for someone to come and get me.

Wondering how long it will take.

 

 

Copyright, 2014 (All Rights Reserved)

From the archives

HeadIn previous years, I’ve posted about Christmas in a variety of ways.

A few years back I provided some background into the real story of St. Nicholas

…and let us not forget the Christmas tale I wrote employing the two main characters from my supernatural thriller, So Dark the Night. “Finding Charlotte” is a case from Zinnea and Nightstalk’s early days and it’s available for free download and reading.

To my friends and readers, everyone who follows my work:

MERRY CHRISTMAS.