Category Archives: suspense

The Package #fridayflash #fiction #webfiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

The Package is rated PG by my standards.

The Package, by Deanna Schrayer

Jack bit the tip of his tongue and stared at the cursor blinking on his screen. His eyes crossed as, over and over again, he read the one sentence he’d typed: Orangebeard sprouted his wings and flew across the ghost ship, raising his machete as he took aim at his enemy….

“This is so boring!” Jack thought, “What does this guy want me to say? Who is his enemy? What is Orangebeard’s story?” After rubbing his chin stubble almost off, Jack pushed the laptop away and threw his hands up in defeat. “What makes me think I can write?” he asked the air of his kitchen. He lit a cigarette and stepped outside. He’d walk to the mailbox, clear his mind for a minute.

As Jack neared the end of the driveway he saw a package setting beside the mailbox. It was so big it looked as if it should have been delivered to the zoo instead of his little trailer. The only thing he’d ordered was a book on writing query letters; surely it wouldn’t come in such a huge box. He tossed the cigarette butt in the ditch and stooped in preparation to heave a massive weight. But the box wasn’t heavy at all; it didn’t even feel like it could contain a book, much less something worth the trouble of such an awkward shipment.

Jack balanced the box on his shoulder and jogged back inside, curiosity growing like a pirate’s treasure. He placed the box on the kitchen table, grabbed the scissors and sliced the seam open. Inside was a treasure chest, one of those cardboard deals like you get at a party supply store for a kid’s birthday.

Feeling a bit cautious now, Jack checked the outside of the box. No return address. He took a step back and stood staring at the dull gold chest, unease creeping up his stomach into his throat where it lodged in a tight knot. “You’re being ridiculous, Jack,” he told himself, “It’s just a kid’s toy box, nothing sinister about it at all.”

He pushed his fear aside, barked a short laugh at himself and opened the chest. It contained an eye patch and a scroll of yellowed paper, torn and burnt around the edges, bound with a piece of frayed rope. A treasure map? He untied the rope and a note rolled open.

the package

Jack saw no ‘X’ marking a spot, (or any spots for that matter as it was not a map, just the short note). He scrunched his eyes up as if that might help him understand who the note was from. And it did – he remembered. Captain Delaney, the sailor he’d asked to interview a couple weeks before. Jack recalled him seeming eccentric, but he hadn’t realized the old man was going senile.

He glanced at the clock – if he rushed he could make it. He grabbed his keys and voice recorder and ran out the door, then rushed back in and got the eye patch. He jumped in his barely-still-yellow Volkswagen and headed for the marina.

As Jack parked near the dock it began to rain. A rumble of thunder rolled across the darkening sky. He glanced around before putting the eye patch on; he could just imagine the razzing he’d get if one of his tavern buddies saw him. But there was no one around. No one at all.

Jack stepped onto the deck of The Coral Treasure just as the sprinkles mutated into colossal drops of hail that stung his bare arms like sharp wasps. Thunder boomed louder now and the sizzle of lightning came closer and closer. Jack held his arms out for balance as the wind picked his cap up and sent it sailing into the tall waves slamming the boat. The hair on his neck stood to attention, a cold chill scampering across his bones.

“What’s the matter with me?” he thought, “This is just an interview for Pete’s sake.” But his steps were slow and cautious.

The cabin door creaked ajar and Jack eased it open. “Captain?” he said, “Captain Delaney? It’s me, Jack Preston.”

“Come on in Jack!” a gruff voice rebounded off the cabin walls. It had been a couple of weeks since Jack had talked to Captain Delaney on the phone, but he didn’t recall him sounding so…lively.

Jack walked through the pitch black corridor holding on to what he hoped was rails on each wall as the vessel rocked beneath him. “Thank you for taking the time….”

It was more than the thunder that stopped him cold.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Jack.” The man smiled, his beady eyes almost disappearing beneath thick crinkles of gleaming fat flesh.

Jack stood agape, shivering as he stared at the giant before him, the very monster he had created himself. Orangebeard.

The pirate stomped into the trembling candlelight, and Jack realized where the thunder had been coming from. “I’ve been waiting….and waiting.”

Jack froze, yet sweat popped out on his forehead like glittering beads of mercury. He grew faint.

Orangebeard sprouted his wings and flew across the ghost ship, raising his machete as he took aim at his enemy….

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The Beginning #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

The Beginning is rated PG-13 by my standards.

The Beginning

The Beginning, by Deanna Schrayer

This is not the beginning of the story. The beginning starts at the end. But as Austin waits on the front porch for Shannon to arrive he is oblivious of that forthcoming end. He’s eighteen-years-old after all, with all his life ahead of him. He has no thought of an end, any end.

Austin’s girlfriend is coming over to have dinner with him and his parents before they go out for the night. As he pushes himself back and forth on the porch swing, chewing on a straw and squinting towards the pine trees lining the long drive, Austin imagines where he can take Shannon this evening.

She loves to be where the action is – carnivals, ball games, concerts, anywhere she can listen to the roar of a crowd as she holds Austin’s sweaty hand and pulls him onward to whatever’s next. Austin doesn’t mind, he simply takes her proffered hand and waits to be moved. He walks slightly behind her, allowing her to lead while he watches her thick brunette hair bounce on her shoulders, occasionally tripping over his feet because he isn’t truly there, he’s in the back seat of his Jeep, Shannon’s hair tickling his nose, her mouth on his neck.

“Hey, you!” Shannon laughs and pulls Austin into her arms, whispers in his ear, “Watch where you’re going,” laughs again, kisses his cheek.

The crunch of tires on gravel startles Austin out of the daydream and he jumps up out of the swing, ready to run to her, to wrap his arms around her waist and swing her around as he pours kisses on her neck. (He hasn’t seen her for a whole week, she’d been on vacation with her family). But it’s only Skip coming up the drive, his dad’s friend who is here to help Darryl fix the tractor. Of course it wouldn’t be Shannon, Austin thinks, she’s never on time, so nutty-professor like, or maybe just always in a rush; she often has to search high and low for her keys, her phone, her purse. She’ll be a while, he’s sure of it.

Austin heads to the garage where he takes out his dirt bike and rolls it to the edge of the hills beyond the back yard. It’s a cloudy day, still sticky from the storm that passed through last night. The ground is soft, squishy, and Austin wonders if he should just put the bike away, if maybe he shouldn’t chance covering his whole self in mud as he knows will happen. But then he figures he’ll have plenty of time to get cleaned up before Shannon gets there. He jumps high in the air and lands perfectly on the seat, ignites the cycle and revs it a few times before gunning it, fishtailing the back tire, spewing grass and mud in his wake as he climbs the hill.

Austin still has no idea what’s coming. For now he thinks only of Shannon while the bike vibrates his entire body, like he’s descending the world’s fastest roller coaster, his girl by his side, screaming. 

*

Shannon wants to speed, to get to Austin as fast as she can, but she takes the curvy mountain road in her Datsun slow and easy. The roads are still wet up here, the full oak and pine trees casting too much shadow to allow any sunlight through to dry the asphalt.

She barely sees the deer fly through the air in front of her. Shannon slams on the brakes and skids off the shoulder of the road. She sits trembling in the car, just catching sight of the puffy white tail disappearing down the mountain. She wonders where the fawns are; she has always seen at least two babies wherever a doe is. But after watching a couple of minutes as the car idles, no more deer appear.

Her limbs begin to relax and Shannon feels her foot still pressing the brake and she lets up on it slowly, shifting the car into park. She reaches for her phone in the passenger seat with the intention of texting Austin. But her phone isn’t there. Shannon leans over and rakes her hand around on the passenger floorboard but it isn’t there either. She’s left it at home again. Sighing, she straightens up and readjusts the rearview mirror, squirms around until she’s back in driving position. She’ll have to turn around and go back home to retrieve her phone.

*

Austin’s dad throws the wrench down and turns towards the back field. “Damn it Austin, slow down!” he screams. He’s not been watching but Darryl Camfield knows the sound of that motorcycle as well as he knows the recklessness of his son riding it. He can’t concentrate on what Skip is trying to show him for the awful whining racket of that bike engine.

Austin rides on, oblivious, hitting the bumps in the ground as hard as he can in order to send the bike soaring through the air.

“Damn boy’s gonna kill hisself,” Daryl mutters as he turns back to the tractor. Skip stands by the open hood, beefy arms across his chest, grinning and shaking his head as if he’s seen this, heard this very reaction from his friend more than once.

“Austin!”

He hadn’t heard his dad’s aggravated shout a few minutes ago but he brakes now. One yell from his mother’s commanding voice and he knows: stop. Austin’s happy to see she’s up and around today at least. He stands with the bike beneath him, relaxing his hands to slow the revving. He looks to the back porch where his mother stands patiently, nods his head to tell her he’s listening.

“Shannon’s going to be a little late,” she hollers, “she forgot her phone and had to go back to get it.”

Austin gives his mom a thumbs-up, then jumps and once again the Honda engine booms to life, taking the young man on a fast ride. He catches a glimpse of his dad and Skip looking towards him, both of them shaking their heads, Skip smiling wide as always and Darryl almost smiling but quickly wiping his mouth as if to mime a frown. Austin takes his hand off the bar long enough to wave at them and laughs as he picks up speed, heading for the next makeshift ramp.

*

The back yard is fully shaded now; Austin’s been riding longer than he thought. He gets off the motorcycle and turns it towards the house, walking it down the hill. He’s hot, his muddy jeans and tee shirt sticking to his drenched skin, the sweat dripping from the ends of his hair onto his face when he takes the stifling helmet off. He blinks sweat out of his eyes, looks towards the driveway, and tries to focus.

Shannon is standing in the driveway, wearing a gauzy-looking white sundress that shivers in the slight breeze. She holds her hands out as if in supplication, but he can’t see the look on her face, she’s too far away.

And that’s when it happens.

Austin loses his balance and loses his grip on the motorcycle. He feels himself going down, feels his ankle twist grotesquely as he falls and falls and falls as if from the top of a mountain, he feels the motorcycle following his tumble down the hill with ever-increasing momentum and there’s a raucous crack as the heavy bike hits….

It’s over. It is dark and quiet and Austin doesn’t know where he is. He feels stupid as he remembers Shannon was watching, she had seen him stumble and tumble down the hill like an idiot. He sits up gingerly and is surprised to find he’s facing the back fields. He turns his torso, carefully, and wipes the sweat from his eyes with his sleeve, smearing mud on his face.

 Shannon is nowhere that Austin can see.

He pulls himself up off the ground and is relieved to find he isn’t hurt, maybe a bruise or two, his ankle throbs a little. The bike is at the bottom of the hill, resting against the back porch steps as if its owner had gotten disgusted with it and threw it down.

His dad is walking towards him, slowly, removing his greasy cap and slumping forward as with a great weight on his shoulders. The frown on Darryl’s face is not the same one he wore when he yelled at his son a while ago; it’s a look Austin has never seen before. Austin’s dad stands before him and stares, unmoving.

“Dad?” Austin says.

Darryl glances away and runs his hand through his hair, several times.

Something is wrong. What’s wrong?

“Mom? Is it Mom?” Austin starts to run towards the house.

His dad grabs hold of Austin’s arm and stops him. He shakes his head – no, not Mom.

He takes hold of the boy’s shoulders. “Austin,” he says and hangs his head. He looks back up at his son, grips his arms tighter. And he tells him, “There’s been an accident…..it’s Shannon.”

And this is it, this is the beginning, the beginning of the end for Austin Camfield.

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First of all, I’m sorry to all of you who like happy endings! But stories have a mind of their own….

I don’t normally “cheat” where Friday Flash is concerned but this short, (around 1500 words), simply did not work well broken into two parts. It is also rare that I write in present tense but I hope you can see why this one called for it. Thanks so much for reading!

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Goodnight, Demons. Goodnight. #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

frdayflashbadge02Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

My stories are always written in the voice of the characters but I often take the liberty of heavily editing after transcribing what [the characters] tell me, (though I try my best not to censor them). But Goodnight, Demons. Goodnight. is straight from the protagonist. Warning: Goodnight, Demons. Goodnight. contains violence and strong language and is therefore rated R, according to my standards.

Goodnight, Demons. Goodnight., by Deanna Schrayer

His hands are gripping the wheel so hard he feels the indents his fingers are bruising into the rough rubber. He squeezes harder, wanting to punish something, someone. Her. The steering wheel of his Camaro is her and he hurts her, he crushes the life out of her, watches her face go white.

The back tire bounces off the road, jolting him into letting loose of the wheel. Quickly he takes hold of it again and jerks the car back onto the road, fishtailing into the left lane and he panics, stands on the brakes and slides sideways into the ditch on the other side of the road.

In mere seconds he sits facing the other way, the direction he was coming from, nowhere near wherever the hell he was going. He doesn’t recall touching the gear shift but the car is in park, the green light blinking furiously in the dark, the headlights revealing nothing but the tip-tops of centuries-old oaks and pines.

He grabs the door handle, pulls but the door won’t open. He pulls harder and slams his shoulder into the door and it flies open as if it was never even attached to the car to begin with. The adrenaline jets from his feet to his head like somebody, something, shot it straight into his hip through a needle and he swings his legs around and bursts outside, knowing he’ll hit the ground running, but his feet barely touch the gravel before his legs stop working and his whole body crumbles to the dusty earth. His head jerks back and forth automatically, checking, making sure no one saw his stupid ass but there’s no one there, of course there’s no one there.

He can’t see a thing, it’s so dark out, the fog thick enough to be its own wall. But he knows where he is. The spot. The boulder jutting from the hills announces itself like a damn advertisement for Lover’s Lane even though the place has never been called Lover’s Lane, only Dead Man’s Curve so that when someone asks are you dying tonight what they mean is are you getting laid.

He hears the creek rushing in the near distance and realizes his ears had been ringing until that very moment. The Camaro ticks and pings beside him and the heat searing from the tires burns his cheek. He shakes his head and blinks several times, trying to clear the dizziness that’s making him want to puke. His hands shake as he latches on to the ground and he stands up, slowly, his legs still feeling like fucking Jell-O. It pisses him off and he punches the hood of the car like he’s fighting for his life, the jolt piercing his shoulder and neck, forcing its way out through his damn teeth! 

Good. He deserves the pain.

He punches the car door hard and it hurts so good he has to do it again and again until finally he misses the frame and smashes the window out. Warm blood slides down his arm and he wonders if his wrist is slashed open.

A high-pitched wail screams through his skull and his face is bouncing off the car. He feels like a giant just picked him up and threw him with all its might.

Suddenly it’s no longer dark, it’s so bright he thinks he’s staring into the sun, and it stings!

Then he sees her.

His back is sliding down the side of the car and there she is – she’s standing right in front of him, planted on the road like a strong oak, her arms stretched taut in front of her, her little hands gripping his Beretta harder than he’d gripped the steering wheel. He smiles and forces his eyes wide open. The fog is gone. But the dark is back. As his body hits the ground again he sees….no one. No one is there at all. But he sees the gun, he sees the gun fall from his own bloody fingers. He sees nothing else.

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The first couple of times I heard Demons by Imagine Dragons I was cleaning the house and I liked the upbeat tune so much that I paid little attention to the lyrics. Last week I sat down and actually listened and was astounded by the images that came to me. Those images are the story you just read.

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That Night by the Creek #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

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Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

I started two different flash pieces this week and they both decided they wanted to be much more than that, at least shorts, so I’ve put them aside to “perfect” for submission and decided to recycle for today’s story. That Night by the Creek was originally published as a #fridayflash on The Other Side of Deanna (now closed) in May of 2011.  It is rated PG-13, according to my standards. I hope you enjoy!

That Night by the Creek

That Night by the Creek, by Deanna Schrayer

Momma pulled off the road in the gravel alongside the creek and cut the headlights. It was so dark I couldn’t see the chicken leg I’d been eating. I heard the tall pines rustling as if it were windy but I felt no breeze at all, even though all the windows in the car were down. I heard the frogs croaking, the creek trickling, (normally it would be rushing but it hadn’t rained in weeks), and Momma breathing heavy. “You ‘bout done with that chicken Stella?” she asked.

“Almost,” I said, wanting to know why she cared, why we had stopped in the dark at such a late hour, but not daring to ask.

“Hurry up,” she said, “I gotta get our contraband outta here so Daddy won’t know we bought fast food.”

“Contra what?” I asked.

“Never mind,” she jerked the chicken leg out of my hand without even having to feel around for it in the dark. In a second I heard a dull thud as it hit the road. Then the flame of her lighter erupted in front of my face, barely missing my nose and she dug around under my feet in the floorboard, gathering up the wax paper and straw wrapper I’d carelessly dropped. “Look around,” she told me, “make sure there ain’t no more trash in here.”

I didn’t understand why she was whispering like we needed to keep our eating a secret but I did as I was told. I found another straw wrapper but it was crushed up and brown, it couldn’t have been from the meal we’d just had. I turned it over with my toe like I would a dead beetle and Momma smacked my leg, hard. “I said get all the trash Stella!” She reached down and picked it up, stuck it in the bag with the rest of the trash, leaned over my lap, and tossed the bag across me and out the window.

Her bushy yellow hair tickled my cheek. The trash went over the bank and landed near the creek. As Momma sat back up in her seat her elbow hit the glove box and it popped open. The faint light inside showed a pair of jumper cables, a bunch of wadded up paper, a pack of gum, and a package of Wet Ones. Momma sat real quiet, not moving to start the car or even to close the glove box. Finally she reached down and opened the Wet Ones, pulling several out and throwing them in my lap. “Here,” she said, “wipe all that grease off your hands.” I did as I was told and she took the dirty rags from me and threw them out the window too.

Momma straightened in her seat but she didn’t start the car. After a minute her lighter flickered back to life and I watched her puff in hard as she lit a cigarette. She’d been smoking Virginia Slims for about a month now, claiming if Daddy could drink then she oughta be able to have some vice. The smoke curled across the car and into my face, shoving its way up my nose and making it itch. I held my breath. Every few seconds the tip of the cigarette would glow brighter and Momma released a heavier breath; it sounded like she was trying to sigh her soul right out of her body.

When I heard a loud snap outside my window I jumped and banged my head on the roof. It sounded like when Daddy broke wood up for campfires. I looked out but couldn’t see anything. I rolled up my window.

“Stella!” Momma whisper-yelled. I glanced towards her voice and looked intently at the spectre-like form of her transparent face above the flame of the lighter. Her eyes slowly moved from mine to the window behind me then grew wide with terror. “Get down!” she screamed.

Before I could reach the floorboard glass shattered all around me and thick, suffocating arms wrapped around my neck. I couldn’t see Momma anymore.       

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The Perfect Wedding Gown #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

Thank you for stopping in to read my #fridayflash. Be sure to visit the Friday Flash Community for more great flash fiction by outstanding authors!

Your lovely comments on my Friday Flash, The Message, two weeks ago, encouraged me to continue with the story and I’m happy to say I now have the next scene: this week’s Friday Flash, The Perfect Wedding Gown. I’m not too fond of the title of this one though so please do toss out your suggestions.

Although The Perfect Wedding Gown works as a stand-alone, it’s even better if you read The Message first. This story is rated PG, according to my standards.

Image by Jeff Tabaco via Flickr
. Image by Jeff Tabaco via Flickr

The Perfect Wedding Gown, by Deanna Schrayer

“What do you think Mom?”

Elana and the salesgirl were looking at me expectantly but I hadn’t heard a word they’d said. Instead of the two wedding gowns the salesgirl held I saw those letters, the misty words my dead sister had scrawled on the bathroom mirror: EL DIe. I glanced at the girl and furrowed my brow at Elana, making her believe I was possibly developing a migraine, (I certainly couldn’t relay the truth of my wandering thoughts). “I’m sorry,” I said, raising my hand to rub my forehead, “I’m not seeing them clearly enough.”

My daughter looked to the salesgirl. “Can we dim the lights a bit please?” The tiny girl scampered about, obliging us in an instant. She hung the dresses on the rack next to the mirror and disappeared behind the upholstered screen. In a moment the harsh industrial lights were replaced with the same soft pink glow the lobby of the bridal shop reflected.

“Are you all right Mom?” Elana said, placing her hand on my forearm, “Do you need to sit down?”

She looked scared and I realized I must look like death. “I’m fine honey, just a little bit of a headache, that’s all.” I smiled at her, willing her to forget about me altogether and get on with enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime day. “That one,” I said, pointing to the ivory gown on the left, “That will be gorgeous on you, I know.”

Elana smiled and seemed to release a long pent-up breath. The salesgirl returned. “Have we decided?” she said.

Elana clapped her hands together. “Yes,” she said, running her hand down the front of the smooth strapless dress, “I want to try this one.” She had a hard time controlling the dance in her feet as she bounced on her tip-toes while the salesgirl moved the dress behind the screen.

I saw my sister then, in Elana, the way she had always twirled around, showing off when she got a new outfit. I remembered that day Lucy had come in from shopping with her friends and rushed to her bedroom to put on the leopard print cat suit. She’d been so excited and all I could think was how ridiculous she looked, in that jumpsuit, like she was all dressed up to go trick-or-treating. Lucy had never dressed like a normal person – every piece of clothing she owned was outlandishly exaggerated – but her style turned heads, that was for sure; the cat suit in particular had turned the most wrong one it could have.

I heard the swish swish of satin and taffeta and looked up from my reverie. I was astounded by the beauty standing before me that was my daughter. The wedding gown she wore was the closest I’d seen (of the six she’d tried on so far) to the one she’d dog-eared and starred five times in her Bride’s magazine. Simple as the dress was – ankle length, strapless with an A-line waist and just a peek of lace at the hem – Elana absolutely shined in it. Her long, dark tresses were pulled back in a French twist and secured with a pearl butterfly clip, a few strands curling down around her flawless face and touching her sharp collar bone. Her cheeks were full and pink and her sapphire eyes seemed to stand out as the pièce de la résistance of the ensemble. My daughter was glowing like the new bride she was about to be.

She had been standing perfectly still before me, not even glancing in one of the six mirrors surrounding her, smiling like a five-year-old awaiting much anticipated appraisal, but now she pushed up on her tip-toes and pirouetted. She looked for all the world like a ballerina in a music box. Still, she kept her eyes on me. “Mom?” she said when she came to rest and held out her arms, “This is the one, I think,” and she bit her bottom lip.

It was obvious her mind was made up but I knew she was seeking my approval, as if her mother’s word had always been and would always be the last one. I sat staring at her, greedily holding on to this rare and cherished moment.

“Mom?” Elana said again and I looked into her eyes and told her, “You are the most beautiful young woman I have ever seen.”

Elana squealed with delight and bounced over to where I stood in front of the fake fireplace. She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed me, tight. “Oh Mom, its perfect, isn’t it?” she whispered in my ear.

“Yes, yes honey, it sure is. Colton will love it.”

Elana pulled away from me and ran back behind the screen. “I’ll hurry so we can go get some food in you,” she said, “Oh Mom, I’m so excited!” Her voice was a bit muffled behind the tufted screen but I would’ve felt that excitement had she not said a word.

I opened my wallet to get my credit card and breathed a sigh of relief that this day had turned out to be as much fun as I’d hoped, that my dead sister had not ruined it after all. When I looked back up Lucy’s eyes shot daggers at me, from all six mirrors.

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