Tag Archives: fantasy

Shades in the Dark

As you may know, I am an English teacher. This last month, our university was host to a group of students and professional from Mexico, as part of the Proyecta 100,000 program. They are gone back home now, I am very sad to say, but while they were here, I was their writing teacher. Among the projects we did were short stories. I asked if I could post them on my blog and they agreed. So here is the first one, Shades in the Dark, written by Frank Soria and Jorge Montesinos.

Shades in the Dark

by Frank Soria and Jorge Montesinos

It was an October night full of stars, and the moon shone in the high clear sky. There was nobody but the wind blowing outside. Deserted streets seemed to be aware that something unexpected was coming up. Everything was quiet, warm, and cozy. Emily and Kevin had just gotten to their grandpa’s home. He was an old fashioned man, rough of character, but lovely deep in his heart.

The first days passed harmoniously, soft, and warm. One night after having dinner, Kevin heard a slight creaking noise coming from the corridor. Without notice he stood up and went through it to realize no one was there. He felt how the temperature in the room dropped drastically. His legs trembled as he walked away. He was almost voiceless, nobody seemed to be there, but the whisper of a strange entity surrounded his little body, taking him to his deepest scary feelings. The lamp in the corridor flickered, announcing the inevitable encounter with the paranormal event. His heart beat as fast as a horse in the wild field. Suddenly, he felt a hand grabbing his shoulder. His breath stopped for a moment. He turned around to realize that it was his grandpa looking at him. He told his grandpa about the noise, but he said nothing about it.

The following day his sister teased him about the ghost story, laughing at him. Kevin cried for her madness. Night came back. A storm was announced in the papers. The lights went off. It was windy and cold outside. Grandpa took some candles from an old drawer and met the boys for dinner. Kevin was afraid and asked grandpa to take him to bed. Emily stayed for a while in the kitchen. Suddenly, she heard somebody coming to her. She turned around. No one was there, but an empty room in the shadows. She never had felt so lonely and frightened. A gust of wind opened the window blowing the candle out, pulling everything in its path towards Kevin’s room. She ran to rescue her little brother, but she couldn’t open the door. She yelled at him desperately. There was no answer. Lightning lit her frightened face when her grandpa hugged her and calmed her down. They heard a horrible roar coming from the inside of the room, but the door remained sealed. After a few minutes they could open it and Kevin was not there. The room smelled like a rare fragrance. They had a terrible feeling, but they could do nothing.

The little boy had disappeared. Not a single roar, strange sound or shadow was seen from that day on. No one mentioned a word about that event. Emily grew up there with her grandfather and sometimes she woke up thinking that was a weird nightmare and looked for Kevin but he had gone.

Clock Tower Jill

I wrote this originally for Sunday Photo Fiction, which is a story challenge based on a picture. The stories are supposed to be around 200 words. I try to stay close to that but this week it’s a bit longer, just as forewarning.

Clock Tower Jill

I called her Clock Tower Jill, even back when I was still trying to eat her. I didn’t know her real name because we never talked, of course. She was a quirky one, Clock Tower Jill.

It was July and the hot, muzzy air was hanging like a lead blanket in the forest when I first saw those long legs stepping towards me through the undergrowth. I wasn’t starving but I roared and readied myself to pounce. She picked up a stick and swung it like a bat, right into my snout. That stunned me and before I could recover, she sprinted away. It was too hot for me to run far and by the time I found her, she had reached the ruined town. I saw her at the top of the clock tower, sticking her tongue out at me.

I kept her treed up there for days, out of spite for my hurt snout. Then I realized she would eventually starve to death and I would not get to eat her anyway. So I brought her some food. It was accepted imperiously, without even a thank you. I named her Jill. She was like my pet.

After a month of living up in the tower, she came down and called to me. “You, creature. I want to go down to the lake to swim.”

I had long given up trying to eat her and I stood by to let her go.

“I want to ride you,” she said. I bristled at that, but gave in eventually, since she was my pet.

She sat on my back and held my mane while I trotted down to the lake. I stood guard while she swam and then I brought her back. She was a good pet.

“Good boy,” she said, patting my head before she went back up into her tower. “Bring me something good tonight, okay?” That rankled but I did it for her anyway since I liked having her around. And after all, she was pretty quirky, my Clock Tower Jill.

The Day the Beach Came to Me

It was Saturday morning and I was stumbling around the house, vainly looking for the coffee maker, when the front door burst open and four tons of sand poured onto my carpet. It coalesced into two vaguely humanoid figures that lay basking on the floor next to my coffee table.

“Ah, it’s good to get away from the beach and into some nice incandescent lighting,” one said.

“Yeah, although I always come away with carpet fibers simply everywhere,” the other one said. A seagull had flown in as well and had just made a nasty mess on my couch. One of the figures covered it discreetly with a pillow.

I finally recovered my senses enough to shut the door. I wasn’t entirely sure this wasn’t a dream and was also wondering if a wet-dry vac would constitute murder.

“We should built a book castle,” one said. “Remember that book castle we built last summer?”

The other chortled in a gritty sort of way. “We had it up to 145 volumes until the owners rushed it and swept them all away.”

“Take the good with the bad. If you don’t have owners, you don’t get the electric lights.”

I turned off the light.

“There! Look at that, that’s the switch now. It’s like Man’s cloud.”

“Be patient, it always comes back eventually.”

Just then my cat Vader drifted by behind the footstool, only his tail sticking up.

“Cat!” the sand piles screamed and bolted towards the door. Ironically, the seagull was not at all worried and a moment and a lightning-fast pounce later, I had even more mess to clean up.

I locked the door and went back to bed.

The next day, I bought a Beware of Cat sign for my house. My neighbors didn’t understand it, but at least I didn’t have to replace my carpets anymore.


Blue Lightning Express

I’ve been away a lot lately, but thank you to those who have stuck with me.
My Fiction T’s promotion ended last Wednesday and the winners of the free t-shirts were Amy Reese and Sharmishtha Basu! Many thanks to each of them for sharing my post and many thanks to Mike, Miles, Alicia, Dale, and Raluca for sharing it as well. If I missed anyone, I am sincerely sorry.

Blue Lightning Express

It was a question that children asked and their parents lied about because they didn’t know: where does the blue lightning send things? Every day at midnight, a single bolt of blue lightning struck the weather vane of the municipal building and whatever was in the iron chamber beneath disappeared without a trace.

The chamber was known as the Celestial Chariot, because of a legend that said it was a pathway to Heaven. These days, however, the town used it to dispose of their garbage.

It wasn’t something you thought about after a while. I stayed up late once and snuck out with Pete just before midnight to see it hit. You could see a sapphire glow start to build high up in the sky for about a minute before and then, wham! A bolt of silent blue energy shot down to kiss the weather vane and a wriggling blue snake of afterglow danced in front of your eyes as the darkness returned.

After you’d seen it once, it was no big deal, just part of life in the small town. Didn’t every town have this? I didn’t know. I didn’t care either, not until the day it changed my life.

I was playing out in the field behind our house. I was the Indian with a little homemade bow of string and stick whose arrows couldn’t have killed a sick mosquito. I was sneaking up on Pete, who was the cowboy that day, when there was a gunshot from town and then another one. It sounded like adventure and to young boys, adventure had the attraction of a black hole. We were running towards the middle of town when my mother came running towards us. Her face was so white, I thought she was wearing powder. She grabbed me and propelled me, struggling, home.

“I want to see what’s going on,” I yelled. She didn’t say a word. Pete gave me a look of sympathy and kept running for the town center.

My mother pushed me inside and locked the door and for an hour I pressed my face to the window, trying to see what had happened while my mother sobbed at the kitchen table.

She never told me what had happened, but I found out soon enough anyway. They had caught my father. He had “been with Mrs. Larson”, the mayor’s wife. I didn’t see the harm in that: they’d been together lots of times at town picnics and whatnot, but apparently this time it was a terrible thing. They had dragged him to the municipal building and threw him into the iron chamber. All day he lay in there, screaming and banging on the inside. Then at midnight, while I lay sleeping and oblivious, the blue lightning had struck and disappeared him.

No one spoke of him again. Not my mother, not Pete, not the men who had pushed him into that terrible chamber and locked the door.

I played along, not speaking of him, even when I got older and came to understand what he had really done. I kept the memory of him alive in my heart, surrounded by a prickly layer of hate for everyone who had done that to him. They never knew and I never let on.

My mother wasted away and for a year before she died of fever, she was like a living ghost, flitting silently around the corners of town life. Mrs. Larson kept presiding over town socials and picnics, beaming the smile of the sublime hypocrite. And no one said a word.

I inherited my father’s slight physique as I grew up and they nicknamed me Slim. Slim was a good old boy, who loved to laugh and have a drink with the guys after work. He was good folk and no one talked about that thing his papa had done once. He was a guy you could trust, so much so that they made him the mayor one day. They made him mayor and gave him the key to the iron chamber, with a smile and a handshake.

We went out to celebrate that night and drank together, one of mine for every three of theirs. Then when they were all asleep, I took a wagon and rode out to the mining shed two miles south of town. I came back with it loaded high with dynamite and stacked it like cordwood in and around the iron chamber. I set a long fuse and locked the door.

I was going to ride away without a word, but at the last minute, I rang the town bell. It was after 11:30 pm. The people staggered out of their houses and I quelled their cheers for me.

“Twenty years ago, you dragged a man and locked him in the iron chamber,” I said. “You killed him without a trial. Now your judgment is here.” I told them about the dynamite. I had expected some bravado but not a one would risk his life to save their precious town. They scattered like cockroaches, riding hard to escape the blast.

I rode up to the bluffs and just as I arrived, an azure glow began to build. Suddenly, blue lightning arced down from the heavens, right into the municipal building, but this time there was an answer. The building erupted into a fireball that engulfed the town, wiping it from the earth. I camped the night up on the bluffs, planning to ride away the next day.

The next day the air reeked of garbage and I looked out over the town to see a massive mountain of refuse and broken odds and ends. One man staggered through the debris of a century, looking lost and dazed. I almost rode my horse to death getting down to him.

“Papa!” I said.

He looked up, squinting. “Who are you?”

“John, your son.”

He ran a hand over his face. “But you’re all grown! The last I remember, I was in that box.”

“That was twenty years ago, papa.”

He looked around. “There’s an awful lot of garbage around here.”

“Yes papa, but it’s all gone now,” I said. “I think it’s best we be moving on.”

Net Sacrifice – Friday Fictioneers

I am crazy busy these days. I apologize for not being around more and not posting as much as usual. Someday, perhaps, things will get back to normal. Thanks again to all those who shared my post about my t-shirt line, Fiction T’s. I’ll be drawing for the free t-shirts tomorrow.

copyright Douglas M. MacIlroy

copyright Douglas M. MacIlroy

 Net Sacrifice

They dragged the screaming goat into the sweltering, LED-lit cave where hulking monsters hurled beams of light across the world, billions a second.

“We have the offering,” Mark said.

The Switch sat enthroned among the machines, a wizened creature with the light of a trillion bits gleaming in empty sockets.

“Goat,” it sneered. “I need more power! More speed! Bring me human.”

“Of course.” They escaped, the goat’s dying shriek echoing as the door slammed.

“We can’t do this,” Larry said. “People won’t stand for it.”

“No, people won’t stand for Google or Facebook slowing down.”

A pause.

“So . . . who?”

To me this story seems clear, but since it is sufficiently bizarre, for those who aren’t clear on the meaning, let me just say, it is as if the book Tubes, by Andrew Blum was instead written by H.P. Lovecraft. That’s all I’ve got: follow the links. Bonus points if you get the significance of the people’s names.

The Worst Thing About Skeletons

The Worst Thing About Skeletons

The worst thing about skeletons is that they’re heartless. It’s also true that they don’t have an ounce of bile in them, but this hardly makes up for it. I’ve only known one skeleton and he drove the ice cream truck that prowled my neighborhood like a jangling Jaws.

Tinkle tinkle tinkle

I was mowing the lawn one day when I heard the truck coming. The sound make the image of frosty popsicles and drippy ice cream sandwiches rise like mirages in my heat-addled mind. The truck pulled up and stopped next to me.

“Hey Mort,” I said.

“Hot day, isn’t it?” the skeleton said, leaning out, the afternoon sun gleaming on pearly white bone where his heart should have been.

“I’m on a diet,” I said. “You know that.” I’d been off ice cream for over 50 days. Ice Cream Anonymous had even given me a chip.

“For old time’s sake?” Mort said, holding out a Fudgsicle to me.

“You don’t know what it’s like,” I said, then had an idea. “Okay, fine. I’ll have one . . . when you gain one pound. How much do you weigh now?”

“17 pounds,” he said.

“Prove it,” I said. He came into the house and weighed himself: 17 pounds, 2 ounces. “The day you’re 18 pounds, 2 ounces, I’ll have an ice cream,” I said.

“No problem,” he said, grinning with all his teeth.

I saw him later that week, stocking up on calcium pills. Two weeks later, he stopped by. “I’m up 3 ounces,” he declared proudly. A month later, he’d made it up to 17 pounds 7 ounces. I wasn’t very worried.

The next week Mort showed up at my door. He was wearing a coat, which was odd for him. He usually only wore a coat in the fall to keep errant leaves from sticking in his rib cage.

“I’ve gained a pound,” he said quietly. “I’m 18 pounds 2 ounces now.”

“Really?” I looked hard at him. His bones didn’t look any thicker. I wondered vaguely if he’d gotten a brain.

He opened his coat. “I got a heart,” he said. I saw it sitting in his rib cage, pumping idly in a self-conscious way, like a shadow boxer who suddenly finds himself the main event.

“Fine, you won.” I fingered the 100-day chip in my pocket sadly.

“I’m sorry for before,” Mort said. “I didn’t understand.” He reached into his bag and pulled out a peeled apple perched on a cone of wrapped kale. “Snack?”

Kafka Crap

My first instinct was to write a story about Nepal, in recognition of the terrible tragedy that just occurred there. The reason it hits so close to me is that we have a very large population of Nepalese students at my university and one of my students is from Nepal. Actually, just a few days ago we were discussing in class what natural disasters occurred in their countries and the Nepalese student said none, except maybe earthquakes. That kills me now.

But I think it’s too soon and I don’t want to write something that will depress me further. So, instead I wrote something utterly bizarre and zany, because that’s who I am and sometimes I’m in the mood, and sometimes it’s just a coping mechanism. I hope this introduction didn’t kill the whole mood of the following story.

Kafka Crap

Mark woke up one morning and found that he had turned into a horse. His first thought was, I don’t have time for this Kafka-esque crap. I’ve got stuff to do. He tried to check his phone but he cracked the screen with his hoof. He was so frustrated, he kicked a hole in the wall.

His mother ran in and stopped. “Did you turn into a horse?” she asked.

Mark stamped once, for yes. “What a bunch of Kafka crap,” she said. “What are we going to do now?”

Mark didn’t know how many times to stamp on the floor to answer and he had no answer anyway. She sighed. “I suppose I’ll call into work for you.”

Later that day, a man showed up at the door. “We hear your son turned into a horse. That’s illegal, you know.”

“How so?” my mother asked.

“I can’t tell you,” the man said.

“Who exactly are you again?” she asked.

“I can’t tell you,” the man said. “Just have your son show up at this address for his trial. He needs to write out a deposition himself too. Make sure it’s legible.”

“What a bunch of Kafka crap,” Mark’s mother said, slamming the door.

His father was reading a blog story. He pointed to the screen. “Well, it could always be worse.”


*This story references two Kafka stories: The Metamorphosis, and The Trial. To understand the last line, click the hyperlink.

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