Category Archives: paranormal

Friday Flash: Root Baby

She was dangling at the end of carrot leaves clutched in Jane’s fist, a tiny dirt baby. On her knees in the garden, Jane stared at the doll-like face covered in dark soil; halfway expecting it to inhale and start crying, while knowing this would be impossible. However, when wet bubbles began to form on the bottom lip, it rattled Jane to the core and she almost dropped the creature.  She fell back in the damp soil, still keeping tight grip on those carrot leaves. Opening her eyes, she confirmed she hadn’t gone insane. The baby was there, still swinging in the air.

“Impossible.”  Jane lowered her into the basket, on top of the three or four carrots she had already plucked from the soil. Removing her gloves, she wiped the soil from its eyelids. They fluttered at her touch. Then she brushed the dirt from its neck and chest. Its skin was almost translucent, tinged yellow in the sunlight; thin fibers on its arms and legs glistened as it became animated, opening and closing tiny fists, kicking tiny toes. Jane brushed back the leaves from its forehead, in awe.

Then, in a flurry of fear she crawled, plucking out row after row of carrots, imagining other root babies entombed in fertilized soil. But, thankfully, this was the only one. When Jane peeked back into the basket, the eyes were open. It was staring at her quietly with eyes the color of the sun.

“Marge? Hi, this is Jane. Listen, I have a problem.”

“Okay.”

Jane sat at the kitchen table, the root baby still in the basket of carrots, staring quietly back at her. The smell of damp soil permeated the air.

“You know how I was telling you this spring I couldn’t afford Pureorganics seeds?”

“Oh no, Jane, you didn’t buy that genetically modified crap did you?”

“Well…yes. I figured, well how bad could it be, really. Right?”

“So,” Marge sighed, “how bad is it?”

“It’s…it’s alive,” Jane whispered. “And staring at me. I don’t know what to do with her.”

There was a long silence.

“Do you need a recipe?”

“What!” Jane sat up in her chair. “No! I can’t…can’t eat her. She looks human!”

“So, what are you going to do? Raise her and send her off to college? Jane, listen, you grew her in your garden, for food. You plucked her out of the dirt, she…it, is obviously not human. So, what’s the problem?”

Jane was feeling frantic. “What’s the problem? She has eyes, tiny clear eyelashes, toes…”

“So do cows, so what?”

Jane had no answer.

“Look, you know Evan Rogers at Knoll Hill Market? If you really can’t eat it, he’ll buy it from you. Sylvia was telling me her brother got some bad GM seeds, ended up with some kind of fish turnips. They smelled awful, but Evan bought ‘em. He specializes in exotic meats.”

Jane felt bile rising in her throat. “I have to go.” She barely made it to the bathroom.

When she returned, the rootbaby had lost her glow, her skin was graying. Was she dying?

Jane frantically offered her milk, the last of her pureed potatoes, water. She refused everything silently.

“What do you eat?”

She turned to the internet for answers. The few hits she got only gave cooking advice, not feeding advice.

Jane rushed her back out into the sunlight. Maybe her energy system was more plant like, she seemed to come alive when exposed to the sun before. In the sunlight, she could see tiny flakes and fissures on the rootbaby’s skin. So dry. She unwound the hose and trickled cool water across her belly and legs.

Her tiny mouth twitched. Was that a smile? The sunlight faded from her eyes and they closed. The animation left her.

Jane turned off the water, the rootbaby now bathed in her tears.

Jane knew she was supposed to call a disposal unit, but she also knew what they would do, the dissection, the tests. That would be worse than being eaten.

She scooped up the tiny body in her palm and held it gently to her chest as she walked back to the garden.

(photo credit: Jonathan Boeke)

Friday Flash: An Angel Gets His Wings

My name is Griffin. I’m eight years old and I’m an angel. No one believes me until I show them the wing knobs on my back. Then they look at me differently. They treat me special. I still remember the day mom told me. I was watching the bees on the clovers. I really love bees. Mom called me over, her eyes were watering from the bright sun and she hugged me so tight. She said I would always be her angel. I, of course, reminded her I was a boy and she got that funny smile and rubbed my back.

“You feel these two bumps,” she said. “This is where your wings were. God had to remove them when He gave you to me so you wouldn’t fly off the earth.”

A little while later my mom did fly off the earth. I guess she was an angel, too. I miss her lots still. I miss her smell. She smelled like clovers and wind. My new home smells like old socks and baby diapers. But it’s warm and I have new friends. Well, the boys aren’t very nice. They like to pinch and make red spots on my arms. I’m not sure why they think this is funny, but I laugh with them. Mom said I had to try hard to act like other kids so they didn’t take me away from her.

I miss the bees, too. When I grow up I’m going to make bees out of glass. Glass the color of their honey and clear glass for their tiny wings. Miss Joan calls this daydreaming. She says its time for me to go into the real world. This is called school.

The school bus picks us all up at the mailbox. I step into the bus but get stuck right there next to the big sweaty man driver. He is staring at me. “Get moving,” he says. But I can’t. The noise is a wall, I can’t think to move my feet. I wish the kids would stop being so loud all together. My mouth is stuck, too. I begin to cry and the sweaty man tells the girl behind him to move over and he nods. “Sit there.”  After that the boys call me Sniffin’ Griffin.

We each have our own desk at school. Mine is cold and hard. Miss Gregory is my teacher. She stares at us through purple framed glasses and makes little sighing noises. I don’t think she’s happy. I want to make her happy. I try really hard. Only, I have never played the game Seven Up before so I don’t know to keep my head on the desk and she says I was cheating and I am now out of the game. Then she tells the kids to stop laughing, that it’s not funny and I’m glad she doesn’t think it’s funny either.

At lunchtime Big Rob accidently spills cherry Jell-O in my hair. I’m allowed to go to the restroom and wash it out. It takes a long time to dry and so I don’t get to eat my own Jell-O. On the bus ride home, the girl keeps saying “gross” when my stomach makes noises. The boys start to hit me in the back of the head with their books. The driver yells. I feel frozen again. I think about my glass bees until it’s time to get off the bus.

I am good with numbers. I make a chart to show how many days until Christmas. My mom used to say Christmas is a time for miracles. I’m asking for God to give me my wings back so I can go find my mom.

Christmas morning I am waiting by the mailbox. I don’t know why the other kids are watching me in the window and laughing. They must think it’s funny they are going to miss the bus. My nose and fingers are numb. I make buzzing bee noises and this seems to warm me up. Then bells join in. Ding. Ding. I jump, surprised by how loud they are. Church bells, I think.

I step out to hear them better. I don’t see the car.

There is a loud screaming from the car and then no more church bells. No more noise. Just light. Light is burning my eyes, soaking me with heat like the hottest sun and then she is there. My mom, with that funny smile, is hugging me.  She smells like honey and heaven and slips her hand into mine and I feel my own wings lift me from the ground. Happiness fills me like a balloon because my wish has come true.

This is the best Christmas ever.

Friday Flash: How to Capture a Soul

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Tonight, I am afraid of myself. I am afraid I’m not strong enough to fight what’s coming. What has come for the past six years on All Hallows’ Eve.

Dusk falls. My skin has gone slick and pale; nausea stalks me. At twenty-five I’ve learned no one wants to see me like this, so I am alone. The metamorphosis has become a private ritual. Pain should be private, shouldn’t it?

I push the tip of a Virginia Slim into the candle flame. The smoke slides down my throat. The room spins. I don’t smoke. Except for this night when I begin to be less of myself and more of someone else.

Dip, wipe, stroke. Painting my toe nails with a thick layer of Eggplant Frost has become part of the ritual, the unbecoming of me. Also the dark rum. Any other time of the year, I wouldn’t touch the stuff.

Time strikes. It is nine p.m. My tiny, cold apartment smells like a brothel. I light another candle.

Walking on my heels so I don’t disturb my toes, I carry my digital camera into the bathroom. One last drag on the Virginia Slim and I toss it into the toilet bowl to sizzle out.

I’d like to hear some jazz.

       “I don’t like jazz.” I watch my hips sway in the mirror to some big band swing humming in my head.

I know it’s best to just keep going, so I twist the stick of mulberry lipstick from its gold case, lean into the mirror awkwardly and apply. Smooth as velvet, bitter taste. I let my eyes meet their reflection in the mirror. This is always the startling part. I do not recognize the flecks of gold, the swimming sadness. “Gotcha,” I say. These parts recede quickly and I am there once again; grey orbs, ringed in dark blue with a strange mulberry mouth.

I lift the camera as the music becomes more insistent. Thinking becomes movement in mud. I have lost time. There’s the cigarette floating in the toilet bowl. Click. My eggplant toes against cracked floor tile. Click.

Why must you do that?

“It’s what I do.” My voice is raw, husky from the late hour, the rum, the smoke. But I still recognize it as my own. Not the one I am answering, though. This one is foreign to me. A long line of mental health professionals have assured me I’m not schizophrenic. I’m just stressed, anxious. Apparently only on Halloween.

“Oh no.” It’s coming. The part I hate. I feel T.S. Eliot’s hollow rumble of wings. Darkness descending, a crushing weight. It is swelling, seething hopelessness. I fall back against the towel rack and slide down the wall. Lift the camera. Point it down. Click.

I’ve blown out my face with the flash, erased all the freckles, the etchings. I feel invisible and it is soothing.

Set me free.

“I don’t know how!”

Sobbing echoes off the thin plaster walls, reverberates in the shower. My vocal chords. Her pain. I scratch and claw at my neck, my chest. Long, streaks of blood pool at the surface. I have hidden the sharp objects but now I realize I could tear myself apart with my bare hands. Just to escape. “Please,” I whimper, out of breath. “Leave me alone.”

A sudden stillness within my head startles me. And then, she whispers:

Okay. I will show you. Watch.

A movie begins to play. She is dragging out my memories, sliding them into the cue.

I am in graduate school. Photojournalist is what I want to call myself. Dreams, goals, hope. These things fill my thoughts like cotton candy. I am practicing with my new camera, dressed as a Hippie, snapping shots of trick-or-treaters in New York. I have wandered off from my group of friends, toward the park. There is an angel there on the bench, moonlight shining through transparent wings, sparkly silver halo glowing over a bowed head. The breeze is lifting the edges of her blond hair. I snap some shots from behind. The bench, the wings, the full moon. Click. Click. Gorgeous shots. I still remember being pleased with them.

And then I sit up. “Oh,” I pull myself up to the mirror. “Was that you?” My eyes are full on brown and gold now. Her eyes. My head nods in answer. I rush from the bathroom, tripping over things in the darkness. I pull out box after box from the bedroom closet to find the ones from college. Tear the right one open. Black film canisters spill out, falling around me. I find the one labeled 10/31. The familiar smell of film fills my nose as I pull out the amber negatives and hold them uncoiling like a flattened snake. I hold them up to the bare closet light bulb and see her. Six shots. Slightly different angles.

Set me free.

       I carry the film back to the bathroom, put it in the sink and throw a lit match on it. The fire eats a hole in the emulsion and the hole spreads slowly. I lift my head back to the mirror. She is watching me. Crying with my eyes.

“How? Please tell me, before you go…how did I do this to you?”

I can feel her slipping from me. The darkness lifting.

Suicide.

“Suicide?” And then I get it.

Death.

Click.

                                                                                                                                                          (photo credit: Nevit Dilmen)

Friday Flash: A Family Ghost Story

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Much of my life has played out in one rehab circle or another, so you can take my story or leave it. All I can do is tell it, tell the truth…and the truth is, I’m not even sure I believe it.

My mother was one of those people who collected souls. Vagrants, husbands kicked out for the night, down and out relatives, everyone and anyone was welcomed to grab a meal or a bed in her old farmhouse. As you can imagine, this opened up our world–me and my two brothers—exposing us to endless possibilities through stories and illegal substances. Instead of our minds being stuffed with skewed parental beliefs, closed off and capped…we soared, we expanded, we soaked up lore and logic, creating an environment where anything could happen. And eventually something did.

It began with a dream.

I could see myself sleeping; blanket tossed on the floor, one arm thrown over my head, chest rising and falling in soothing slow motion. Then I could see the wall alongside my bed breathing; white plaster pushing out, sucking back in. IN. OUT. Eventually, the bulge expanded like a balloon and began to move. It slid toward the adjacent wall and turned the corner, ending up behind my headboard. I watched beads of sweat form on my sleeping self’s forehead. My breathing became jagged, more like panting. Suddenly, large hands pushed through the wall as if the wall was giving birth, stretching out, reaching for my sleeping self. Blood trickled down the arms in thin channels, rolled over the knuckles and dripped from the fingertips onto my white pillow. I tried to scream, ‘Wake up!’ No sound would come. My sleeping self whimpered as the hands wrapped around my throat. I wheezed, my air cut off, my eyes bulging under the pressure.

Brrrrring. Brrrrrring. Brrrrring.

Startled, I jumped up and slammed my hand down on the alarm, knocking it to the floor. Something wet remained on my face. I ran into the bathroom and collapsed in relief. Tears….no blood. I checked my neck.  No signs of being strangled by some lunatic behind the wall.

“Just a bad dream.” I reassured myself. “A really bad dream.”

My hands were still shaking as I buttered my toast at breakfast.

“You all right, Joan?”

“Fine, Mother.” I rolled my eyes. Why was she always so observant?

A week later, I wasn’t feeling so fine. I was still having the dream, only it was starting to cross some kind of barrier. What do I mean? I really have no idea. All I know is, it was becoming stronger, breaking through to the physical world. The hands were beginning to leave marks. Finger imprints on my neck that I would wait to fade before heading downstairs for breakfast.

I decided to move my bed to the center of the room.

There was a new guy at the table that morning. He looked like I felt: sleepless and scared out of his mind. I glanced at him as I reached for the butter.

“He’s your cousin, Marti, from New York. Say hi.”

“Hey,” I waved. He looked fried. Mother smiled and began to make small talk with him about his bus ride, some family up north, whatever. I was just glad she had someone else to worry about that morning. I was in no mood for her scrutinizing. I glanced at my older brothers, realizing they were unusually quiet.

“What’s wrong with you two?” They both looked drained of blood.

“Nothing,” Jacob answered without looking up. Bobby ignored me.

No snappy comebacks or cut downs? Something was definitely wrong.

Brrrrring. Brrrrrring. Brrrrring.

I jerked up, gasping for air. It hadn’t worked. The bloody arms had just stretched, gotten longer to reach me. This time they tried to drag me from my bed. I ran from the room and slammed the door behind me.

That morning at breakfast, I had an idea.

“Mom, I think Marti should sleep in my room. I’ll sleep on the couch for awhile. It doesn’t look like he’s getting much rest.”

“How thoughtful of you, Joan.” She beamed at Marti, who really did look like he could use somebody to knock him on the skull and put him out for a few days. Anyway, I knew this would work because mother was always trying to instill unselfishness in us. She looked at my brothers and I noticed her smile wane.

“You two sick or something?”

“Can’t sleep, stupid nightmares,” Bobby grunted. Jacob reached over and popped him in the arm. “Ow!”

“Jacob, don’t hit your brother.”

At this point, I had dropped my toast and my jaw. Nightmares?

“Hands?”

With that one word, I had silenced both my brothers and watched terror widen their eyes for the first time in my life. I nodded. It felt good not to be crazy, at least.

A week later there was a new guy at the table. He was tall, pale with minty, round eyes; almost otherworldly.

“This is Samael.”

We all stared at her. Just ‘Samael,’ no long lost cousin, uncle, friend, grocery store bum?

       “You all right, Mom?”

“Yes, of course.”

We glanced at each other and then at Samael.

He was calmly reaching for the butter, with mom smiling beside him like she was on something. I felt my face drain, my heart begin to race. His hands were large, each knuckle and vein very familiar to me. I glanced up the stairs.

“Mother? Where’s cousin Marti?”

“I don’t know.” She looked confused suddenly. “I guess he decided to move on.”

Samael’s eyes gleamed. My brothers and I excused ourselves from the table, making our way upstairs one at a time, trying not to draw Samael’s attention.

Then we all stood around my bed, staring at the blood spots dried brown on the pillow. Bobby began to cry.

Bobby doesn’t remember it happening like this. He became a psychiatrist.  Jacob remembers it being worse. He became a priest.

And me? Well…I became a writer.

(photo credit: Hendrike)

Friday Flash: Sea Glass

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Fiona heard Roger come home, recognized the soft thud of his suitcase tossed on the bed.

“Fiona? Where are you, Darling?” He joined her on their bedroom balcony, wrapping his arms around her and kissing the top of her head. “Of course. Out here listening to the whispers of the sea again?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I’ve brought you something back from Ireland.” He kneeled down in front of her.

Fiona pulled her watery green eyes from the ocean to stare at his outstretched hand. Surprise reshaped her mouth.

“It’s sea glass. I thought of you the moment I saw it.”

Fiona reached out and carefully lifted a piece from his palm. A tiny vibration tickled her fingertips. “Oh,” she whispered, the surprise deepening.

“It’s good to see you smile.” He took her hand and slipped the remaining pieces of smooth, cool glass into her palm. “Like emeralds, aren’t they? The same color as your eyes.” He closed her palm around them and kissed her fingers.

Fiona gasped as a more intense vibration moved through her hand, her arm and then branched out to consume her body, warming it from the inside out. The whispers she usually had to struggle to hear were whisked into her mind by the vibrations, suddenly as clear as a bell: Hoooommmmeeee.

“Home,” she repeated.

“Yes, Darling. I’m home.”

Over the next few weeks, Roger watched as his wife blossomed. She stopped spending her days as a lost, sad soul on the balcony and began haunting their marble mansion restlessly. Her voice echoed through the rooms as she sang strange and mystical tunes with a voice so sweet, it made his heart swell, his eyes tear.

By fire and wind and sea and rain,

       Beloved, he made me

       With hands of light,

       And feathers of flight

       Come close, come close to thee’

He began to find more and more sea glass; in jars on the kitchen counter, on her nightstand, glittering in the potted plants and even around her neck.

She looked up from making a salad as he stood staring at her on the other side of the kitchen island.

“Yes?” she said, the corner of her mouth pushing up in a seductive smile.

Roger’s heart skipped. “Wow, Fiona, you look amazing.” And she did. Her skin glowed like a pearl, her red hair lay in waves cascading around the curves of her shoulders and her eyes…he could get lost in her eyes. They glittered with ancient secrets and the light of a million stars. Who was this woman? He moved his gaze to the sea glass necklace.

“I’m glad you liked my gift so much, Darling. Where did you get more?”

“Ebay.” Her smile widened and she moved her attention back to slicing cucumbers.

He shivered as he thought about the old village woman he had bought the sea glass from and her broken English warning:

In the wrong hands, it will bring out one’s true nature. Connect that person to their imprisoned soul.’

       Well, if this was his wife’s true nature, he thought as he looked lovingly upon the gorgeous creature in front of him, then he could live with the old lady’s warning coming to fruition.

Or so he thought.

“Fiona?” he called, peeling off his wet tie and dress shirt. “I’m home. That’s some storm out there, huh?” No answer. Steam was seeping from beneath the bathroom door. “Fiona?” He opened the door cautiously. Through the steam, he could see his wife stretched out in the spa tub, unmoving. His heart did a back flip in his chest. It seemed he was moving in slow motion as he crossed the white tiled floor, tripping over emptied cans of sea salt to stand above her body.

Her eyes were closed, her hair fanned out around her like fire, her skin an eerie green glow. It took him a moment to realize the color was coming from all the sea glass she was laying on. The tub was half full with it. And then he noticed something that horrified him. He could barely take in a breath. His mind struggled to grasp what he was seeing. Falling to his knees, he peered through the water at the large cuts in her abdomen, beneath her ribs. Open wounds so deep he could see the pink of her organs.

“Oh my god, Fiona,” he cried, his hands moving helplessly in the air. Shock giving way to grief. Should he try to lift her? Should he try CPR? Where was the blood?

“What did you do?” And then he cocked his head and leaned closer, his face inches from the water. There was slight movement. The cuts were opening and closing. Almost like she was breathing…

He glanced at her face as her eyes popped opened.  Her lips parted in a grotesque smile that exposed a mouth full of pointy teeth.

Roger screamed and thrashed as she tore flesh from bone, feasting until the twitching stopped and the only sound was the storm still raging outside.

And then she began to sing.

Friday Flash: A Bottle of Spirits

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I should have known the sweet sound of jazz music wafting from a town all-but closed up for the night would be trouble. I should have made Lizbeth walk to the next town when our car engine refused to turn over at the gas station. I should have got down on one knee and slipped that damn diamond ring onto her finger right there in front of the ninety year old deaf gas station attendant. What I did instead was let her lead us right into our last moments together.

“What are you thinking about?” Lizbeth purrs at me now.

‘I hope you can’t read my mind,’ is what I’m thinking.  I glance at her. She isn’t smiling. I don’t bother answering her. What’s the use? Instead, I think about the last time I saw her smile.

“Oh, come on. It’ll be an adventure.” She had said, pulling at my arm.

“I don’t know. What about the car?”

“Well, it’s not going anywhere tonight, obviously.”

“Fine.” I wasn’t too upset. I enjoyed giving her what she wanted. In exchange I got her smile.

As we walked down the sidewalk, hand in hand, passed the closed shops, palm trees swaying above us, I began to think maybe this was the universe…fate or whatever giving me a romantic place to pop the question. I stroked the ring in my pocket, feeling good about my secret.

Warm light, cigar smoke and jazz poured out of the opened door. We stepped in and glanced around. The place was cozy. A couple of tables with red velvet table clothes, flickering candles, a long bar with a few patrons grooving along with the music. The bartender watched us take a seat at an empty table and nodded at the waitress.

We were huddled together with a small paper menu in front of the candlelight. I had never heard of any of the wines on there.

“Evening, folks. What can I get you?”

“What do you recommend?”

“Well, we have a good honey wine if you want simple.” At this point I saw her eyes dart to the bartender. “Or the raspberry delight is good if you want something frozen.”

Why did she seem so nervous?

“I didn’t know you could make wine out of honey,” Lizbeth said.

“You can make wine out of things you wouldn’t believe,” the waitress mumbled.

“Well, I’ll try the honey wine.”

“And for you, sir?”

“Water, please.” I don’t know why, but I was suddenly feeling like I needed to stay on my toes.

Halfway through that glass of honey wine, Lizbeth gasped. “Oh, isn’t that just exquisite!”

I was still thinking about the fact I had never heard her use the word “exquisite” before as she got up and lifted a black and gold mask from the corner of the bar. She was turning it back and forth, admiring it as it glittered in the candlelight. I stuck a finger in my ear and shook my head like a dog. What is that? Voices? It sounded like thousands of whispering voices entwined in the music and they were getting louder.

“Liz?” I called. The bartender was standing in front of her now. I thought maybe he was going to tell her she wasn’t suppose to be touching the décor, but instead he motioned to her and she lifted it to her face. “Oh, Lizbeth.” I stood up, feeling anxious and realizing that the voices had stopped, but so had the music. I glanced around and everyone was smiling at Lizbeth.

She suddenly whirled around and my heart skipped a few hundred beats. The mask was moving, molding itself to her face. It didn’t seem solid, more like gold and silver threads as fine as spider webs spreading in waves over her face. Her eyes were closed. My feet felt like lead. I watched helplessly as the bartender came around the bar, kneeled down on one knee before her and held up a glass of red wine. Without opening her eyes, she accepted the glass and titled it toward her lips.

“She has been chosen.” The waitress was standing behind me. Her words knocked me in the back of the head like a baseball bat and I fell forward, my feet suddenly free.

“Lizbeth, don’t!”

I pushed the bartender to one side and grabbed her by the shoulders. She dropped the empty glass and her eyes popped open. I fell back. Her eyes were slick black orbs, shiny and wet.

“Oh my god.”

I watched in disbelief as they began to dull and shift to a cool green.

She smiled at me then. “I accept. I will be your god.”

The mask seemed to lose its shine, too and she reached up and plucked it off her face, tossing it back onto the bar. I couldn’t stop staring at her mouth, stained red, a stringy chuck of something stuck in her tooth.

“You have something,” I motioned to my own teeth, “stuck…”

“Enough,” she hissed. The music started back up and she walked to the door. “Come, I’m ready to see the world.”

She stepped out into the moonlight. The waitress slipped in front of me and placed something hard and warm between my palms.There were tears in her eyes. I moved toward the door on shaky legs, glancing at the tiny glass perfume bottle in my hands. As I slipped it in my pocket, I heard it clink against the ring and almost broke right there.

I didn’t. I’m being strong.

“Oooo,” she gasped, placing a warm hand on my leg. “Pull in, over there. I want to try one of those.”

“Yes, dear.”

Friday Flash: Solar Storm of 1989

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The woman awoke with no clothing and no memory. She stared up at the dense, black sky, afraid to move, trying to clear the fog from her head. Her pale body lay, curled up like a fetus, inside blackened ribs that had washed ashore from some long ago shipwreck. The smell of saltwater was familiar enough. She used this to dig into her memories, to try and bring forth something else familiar.

“Who am I?” she choked, squeezing her eyes shut against the fear. “How did I get here?”

After a brief spell of letting warm tears fall, she crawled out from beneath the oaken skeleton, wincing as she stretched out arms and legs that seemed as petrified as the wood. Straining to see through the darkness, she squinted down the long stretch of sand to her right and then her left. There was no sign of movement. She was alone. A chilled wind brushed against her exposed body and she began to shiver uncontrollably. Clothes. She had to find clothes.

She pushed herself off the damp sand, wrapped her arms around bare breasts and struggle up the beach toward the dunes, hoping to find a house or road, some sign of civilization. She stumbled along the beach grass until a narrow path emerged. Picking her way carefully, barefooted and nearly blind from the moonless night, she finally stepped onto blacktop. A road! Relief flooded through her. The long shape of a building could be seen to her right, but there were no lights on. No street lamps, no cars? Odd. Just a long stretch of darkness, with unfamiliar shapes and shadows as far as she could see either way. Was this a deserted town? Something felt very wrong.

She hesitated as she stared toward the building. Well, what choice did she have? She couldn’t just stand there naked and freezing to death. With a growing sense of dread, she forced herself to walk. She concentrated on the sound of crashing surf and tried to ignore the sharp bites of broken shells under her steps, once again wrestling with her own mind. There was something lurking at the edge of her memory, something large that invoked anxiety even as she struggled to reach it.

She reached the building first. It was an abandoned hotel, its windows boarded up with faded gray plywood, rusted railing curling away from a sagging porch. Luckily, the first door she tried had weathered enough to kick open. Trembling, more now from fear than cold, she stepped into the musty room. To her surprise, it was intact. She moved quickly– pulling a stiff sheet off the bed, wrapping it around herself and searching for some clue as to where she was. There was a phone on the nightstand, the cord hanging lifeless on the warped wood flooring. Nothing! Nothing in the drawer, nothing to tell her where the hell she was. This can’t be happening. Rusted mattress springs groaned in protest as she lowered herself onto the bed, defeated. What now? She began to pull at the seaweed matted in her hair, sliding it absentmindedly from her tangled strands.

When she looked up, a man stood quietly in the doorway watching her. She stared at him, too startled to run.

“Are you…real?”

He nodded and moved to sit beside her on the bed. Her heart pounded in her chest as so many thoughts ran through her mind…scream, run, jump up, impossible…that she was paralyzed. He didn’t seem to want to harm her. A large silver band around his wrist had his full attention.

“Excuse me?”

He turned toward her, distracted. “Yes?”

“Do you know…where this place is?”

“Not where, Miss Shillings, but when.”

“Miss Shillings? Is that my name? Do you know me?” She shook her head. “I must be dreaming.”

He dropped his arm, staring at her curiously. “A great man had a dream once, turned out to be reality. Tesla. You know of him? “

“No.”

“What is the last thing you remember?”

As she looked in his dark eyes, a flash of lighting lit up her mind. “Oh,” she said, struggling to hold on to the memory. “A storm? I think there was a storm.”

“Yes. There were two actually.”

“Two? But what do you mean? Look, I…I can’t remember where I live. You know me, you must know where I live.” Hope began to replace fear. “You can get me home, right?”

“It’s not time yet.”

Thunder rumbled in the distance. The wind picked up and blew her hair off her shoulders.

She felt tears stinging her eyes. “I don’t understand.”

“We don’t either,” he sighed. “Not really. For some reason, this region is highly susceptible to the effects of geomagnetic storms. Once in a while, a lighting strike happens to coincide perfectly with this phenomenon…we’ve figured out this much from his research.” He glanced at the sheet wrapped around her and nodded. “Flesh has a different frequency than inorganic material…they never seem to travel together.”

“Flesh?” The woman blinked, her face draining of color. “Oh my god, I’ve gone mad, haven’t I? Or, am I dead?! I’m dead!” She stood up and began to hyperventilate.

“Miss Shillings, you must calm yourself.” The man stood up with her. Just then a flash of lightning lit up the room and thunder shook the walls.

“It’s okay,” he said, glancing at the metal band again. “My success rate is very high. I’m good at what I do.”

“What do you do?” she asked, as a hard rain began to beat the roof and ground around them.

“I get people like you home.”

A loud ring behind her made her jump back, and she stumbled into the man. He steadied her, then quickly went to the ringing phone. As he spoke into the receiver, she stared in disbelief at the exposed, unplugged cord. I have gone mad.

He hung up the phone and whirled around, smiled at her and held his hand toward the door. “Shall we, Miss Shillings?”

She glanced at the sheets of rain outside being blown sideways by the wind. “Shall we…?”

“Get you home, of course.”

“Of course.” She nodded and stepped out into the storm. What choice did she have?