[REDACTED] – pulp noir flash fiction challenge






A wise man once said, “We come into this world naked, covered in our own blood, screaming in terror – and it doesn’t have to stop there if you know how to live right.” It took me this long to really understand the depth of that statement.

Nine months I was trapped, imprisoned in a dark cell designed to keep me safe. All it was doing was keeping me from my sanity. It chose my nourishment, my blood, my entertainment. I was a victim to its every whim.

Now comes the part where you say, “So when were you born, little guy? Tell us how you are really a baby talking through a man’s voice. It’s hilarious.”

My response is, “Fuck you.”

When the directors at [redacted] assigned me to this position, I thought it would be easy money. I had a decent amount of retirement saved up, a good solid nest egg, the wife said I could try a little harder. She wanted a place in Florida. Boy, do I ever miss those problems.

The company, [redacted], is probably one you’ve never heard of. Maybe in some distant corner of your DNA you might recognize them, but [redacted] doesn’t advertise. They don’t need to.

I was working the swing shift, “sorting the sorties” we used to joke. We paired them up, found a linear fate singularity, then activated the Brain Scan Resonance Amplifier and sent them on their way after they died. They don’t pay us up front. We collect that in the end.

Normally I didn’t see many faces in my line of work. I processed paperwork, stacks of it, up to my eyeballs. When the lady came to talk to me, I almost didn’t see her behind the mountain of forms.

And speaking of forms. A pair of shoulders grew out of one of my stacks. They bloomed feathers. Over the top of the stack, a cigarette smoke plume stuck in the air.

“I’m busy,” I said.

“I’m Francine,” she said. Her voice was as scratchy as a wool sweater.

She moved into my view and I could see she was built like a protractor, all curves and no depth. She leaned over the desk. It looked like she was smuggling two Guatemalan cantaloupes.

“Pleased to meet you, Francine,” I said. “I’m still busy.”

She ignored me completely, as would any knockout talking to a sixty-year-old paper pusher. “I hear [redacted] specializes in forced reincarnation.”

I raised an eyebrow. Someone wasn’t signing their NDA’s.

“We’re the only company that specializes in reincarnation,” I said. “How do you know that?”

“My husband is a wealthy man,” she said through a cloud of smoke. “And I intend to keep him that way. I’ll do anything.”

I stamped a form and shuffled it to the next pile. Poor bastard was doomed to be a cockroach again, but that’s what you get for cheating old ladies out of their retirement. I looked back up at Francine.

“Can’t help you, sorry.”

I pointed at the door, but she started to cry. Not the sort of crying you see in the movies. These were big, gaping sobs, like a fat kid who dropped his lollipop. She was worthy of an Oscar.

“I’ve loved him my whole life,” she said. “He has always done the best for me. I just…  I just…”

“Wanted to make sure you were together again,” I finished her sentence.

She nodded. More likely she got written out of a will. I knew that cry.

“Look… Francine,” I said. “It isn’t as simple as that. You don’t just get to choose where you come out.”

“Well, how does it work then,” she said, still sniffing.

I explained the best I could. The [redacted] Longevity Timeline Disperser works like this: when you register, your brain is scanned. That includes your memories, your fears, your regrets. All of it.

You’re basically hedging your bets that when the [redacted] Consciousness Redirection Exporter turns on, your consciousness will go to a more palatable destination. The outcome might as well be random. [redacted] explicitly makes no guarantees. But at least by signing up with us, people have a chance. At the bare minimum, they have hope. Hope sells for a lot these days.

“Can you show me the…drain… sand… exfoliater… thing?” she said.

“The Brain Scan Resonance Amplifier or the Consciousness Redirection Exporter?”

“All of it,” she said in a sultry voice.

I got the feeling we were talking about more than just machines. I led her into the processing room, the place they take the stiffs to scan for residual memories in the DNA.

“We have memories there too?” her eyes were the size of moons and bluer than a sapphire. I found myself making apologies to my wife already–lies if we didn’t get caught.

I led her over to a huge white metal box that looked like the back end of a garbage truck.

“This is the–”

Before I could finish, she had glued her lips to mine like a catfish sucking a tailpipe. I groped her, riddled with guilt. We wrestled each other’s clothes off.

“We can’t here. It’s the–”

Then she pushed me onto the bed of the mulcher, straddling me. I thought we were safe. Usually, maintenance remembers to turn off the power before weekends. When I felt the shock from the Brainscan Resonance Identifier, I knew it was too late. My last thoughts were of how I had just cheated on Bridget with a desperate bimbo trophy wife on a body mulcher.

I’m pretty sure we were the first people in history to go through the mulcher alive. It would certainly explain why I kept my memories. It also explains how I’m now the only orangutan who speaks perfect English and has a thing for blonds.

Now I just have to figure out how to explain this to my wife.

The Last Honeymoon


Chuck Wendig threw us another short fiction challenge. This time the prompt was an image.

Now I have to start by saying that I don’t think I have ever written a story based on an image. I don’t like comics, and I don’t care for illustrations when I read. I like my imagination to do the looking for me.

The challenge in this case was: How do I make a story about the things you can’t see?

Here is my solution.


Bobby lit another cigarette and lay in his bed, watching the smoke drift out the open window. The sheets were yellow, probably not originally. When they had checked into this room she had joked that they should have brought a black light. Bobby was glad now that they didn’t.

In fact, Bobby was pretty damn content to just sit there on the bed, smoking the last of his cancer sticks until the world ended. That seemed like a nice way to go.

He glanced toward the bathroom, the light flickering through the crack above the floor. A shadow moved along the crevice, blocking the light, then was gone.

How long was she going to be?

He looked back out the window. Storm clouds. Everyday, storm clouds.

It had sure seemed like a great idea when they checked in. You got a clear view of the city, a free drink from the tiny fridge and all the soft-core porn you could watch.

Bobby reached for the remote and turned on the TV. It sputtered static, bathed the room in blue light and then rolled the imaged over and over on the screen.

It was the same thing as before, the same monster movie scenario from 3am. Every few seconds the screen would roll, splitting the image in two, mashing it against the bottom then looping from the top.

“You about done in there?” he yelled.

“Hold your horses,” she said through the door.

“You hold your horses,” he said back lamely. He took another drag on the cigarette, staring at the luminous screen, matching the clouds outside.

Those clouds. No clouds should glow like that, unless it was mid-day. He looked at the clock, 10pm. Shit, had they spent the entire day in here, again?

Outside the clouds rolled over one another like juggernauts, but it wouldn’t rain. Oh, shit would fall from the sky, no doubt of that. He laughed to himself and smothered the spent cigarette on the tabletop.

“What’s so funny?” she asked from the bathroom.

“Nothing,” he said, reaching blindly for the pack. “Finish what you’re doing.”

“I just want… I just want to…” he heard a sob. “It’s supposed to be our honeymoon!”

He sighed and fumbled for the pack. Empty. Well fuck, he thought. He certainly wasn’t going to go out in this weather.

A laugh crawled up from his throat. Weather. How fucking rich is that? Two days in and it had gone from a global disaster to “weather.”

He crumpled the empty pack and threw it across the room. The TV image rolled again, voices trying to fight through the static. Amazing they even got reception at all, he thought.

“Just come out, Sweetie,” he said. “Nobody is going to judge.”

“I will!”

Well then you could stop obsessing at the mirror, he thought, but kept it to himself.

“Are the lights off?” she asked.

“The lights are off.”

“Are you lying?”

“Why would I lie?”

More silence and shuffling came from the bathroom.

“What about the TV?”

“Do you want it off?”

“Of course I want it off!”

Bobby reached for the remote again and killed the TV. It was the same shit anyway: a Lovecraftian nightmare of water and monsters. The meteorologists couldn’t explain it. The astronomers couldn’t explain it. Religions couldn’t explain it, but you bet your ass they tried.

It’s God’s punishment for our sins! It’s God’s punishment for socialism! It’s God’s punishment for the gays, for the war, for the taxing of the rich, for hurting the feelings of the Baby Jesus! It’s God’s punishment for neglecting the earth! Neglecting your spouse! Neglecting your church! It’s God’s punishment for Muslims! For Hindus! For Christianity! For Baptists! For Pagans!

Bobby was an atheist. Melinda was an atheist. It was actually the first thing they discovered they had in common. They had a whirlwind engagement and their parents had shit a brick when he delivered the news.

“And now, we’re going to Cuba for our honeymoon!” He said just to see the shock on his conservative parents’ faces.

So they flew to Havana, checked in, never turned on the TV set the entire first day (more carnal entertainment was in order.) When he realized that he was on his last cigarette, Melinda had hopped out of bed.

“You’ve worked hard enough, Tiger. I’ll get you a pack down the street.”

Neither of them had even noticed the clouds rolling in. Nobody had noticed. What’s to notice about some storm clouds in the middle of June? A fluke storm. And it wasn’t like they got a lot of American stations down here, and not like he understood the language of the stations they got.

Now Bobby stood in the silence of the room, staring out the window, wearing his boxers and scratching the uneven hair on his chest. The streets were invisible beneath the black water. Occasionally he could make out something massive beneath the surface. Nobody knew what it was, really. All they knew was that it was everywhere.

Bobby heard the bathroom door open and shut his eyes.

“Are they closed?” she said.

“They are,” he said, turning to face her.

He had promised after all. That was the vows, richer or poorer, sickness and health, human and– he cut the thought short as her footsteps drew closer. They squelched on the carpet like wet sneakers.

“I’m sorry,” she said nearby.

“It’s okay baby,” he said reaching out to the woman he had promised to love unconditionally. “You didn’t know.”

“We should have listened to the TV–”

“Shhhh,” he said as she melted into his arms.

Something wet, slithering and cold pressed against his back, hugging him closer. He felt her wet hair on his chest, that curious seaweed smell wafting up from her scalp. She had come back with the cigarettes. She had come back changed. He had changed with her.

In fact, Bobby expected he would change a whole lot more.