Searching. Short Story.

Sally took another swig of her drink and grimaced, she put the tea cup down on the table. She wasn’t entirely sure what was in the cup, but she knew it wasn’t tea. What ever it was it had a bitter, acrid taste to it, dry and sour with a faint, unpleasant tinge of dust. The old woman tottered out of the kitchen a few seconds later carrying a tray laden with biscuits. “I’m sorry, I don’t have much in, I wasn’t expecting company.”
“No, that’s ok, really, don’t worry about it.”
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you too much, I didn’t know her very well.”
The old woman put the tray onto the table and sat down heavily on the couch across from Sally, “Now, you were saying you were looking for your friend, Rebecca was it?”
“Rosie.”
“Ah, sorry, my memory isn’t what it used to be. She was the girl who lived next door, wasn’t she?”
“Yeah, she moved in about a year ago?”
The old woman nodded, “Oh yes, I remember, short girl? Blonde hair?”
“Yes, that’s her, she went missing about a week ago, and I’m not getting much help from the police, so I thought I’d ask around. See if anyone heard anything you know?”
“Oh, that’s so dreadful, not knowing is the worst. My husband went missing about twenty years back now, I still hold out hope that one day he’ll just walk back through the door.”
“I’m so sorry. It really is the worst part, we’ve always looked out for each other, since we were kids. She wouldn’t just disappear like this. I know her, she’d have told me if she was going somewhere.”
“I’m afraid I didn’t hear anything, but my hearing isn’t too great these days. I think I last saw her two weeks ago? Or was it three? Hmm, let me think now, I do my shopping on Mondays and Thursdays, and I had my shopping with me. She offered to help me put it away. No, wait, I think that was maybe a month ago, maybe it was when I bought that new cardigan?”
Sally nodded politely, but the frustration was growing, the old woman didn’t know anything and this was just a waste of time. She had tried knocking into the other apartments but they had all just ignored her, not that that surprised Sally, Rosie had always said that the people in the building were antisocial. Sally looked around the room as the woman rambled on, still trying to figure out when exactly she had last seen Rosie. The room was dustier than it had first looked when she entered and the everything seemed dull and dingy. Obviously the woman didn’t get much cleaning done as she was getting older. That was probably what was wrong with the tea, made with dirty, dusty cups.
“And that was the last time I saw her. I didn’t want to put her out so I turned down her offer, she looked like she was on her way out and I didn’t want to cause a fuss.”               “Did she say where she was going?”
“No, I don’t think so. She wasn’t dressed up, I would have remembered that, though I’m not sure what exactly she was wearing.”
Sally stood, “Well, thank you for talking to me, I should get going, I’ve stayed longer than I probably should have and I don’t want to take up too much more of your time.”
“Oh nonsense, I don’t have much to be doing these days. If you’ve any other questions feel free to pop in anytime, I’ll probably be here. I hope you find Rosie, she always was a sweet girl.”

Sally stood in the lift, she was no closer to figuring out what happened to Rosie, at least her timeline and the old woman’s matched up, give or take a day. Sally was lost in her thoughts when the doors opened, she stepped out into the hallway then stopped. The lobby was large and filled with light, this was a small corridor, dark and with a smell of damp. Sally stepped back into the lift and pressed the right button, she must have overshot and ended up in the basement. She really had been caught up in her own thoughts. The doors closed again and the lift started moving.

The doors opened, revealing the same corridor. Sally desperately pressed the door close button, she had pressed every button on the panel and though she could feel the lift moving it always brought her back to this corridor. Sally leaned against the wall and tried her phone again, there was still no signal, she took a deep breath. The lift was obviously broken and she couldn’t call for help, it would be a fire hazard if the lift was the only access to the basement, therefore there had to be a staircase around here somewhere. She pressed the door open button and stepped outside the lift.

Sally sat down on the ground, not caring that it was filthy, she had been walking for hours now and there was no sign of a staircase, she was lost. The corridors down here were like a maze, twisting and turning seemingly at random. She couldn’t even keep a mental map going because some corridors seemed much longer than they should have been, or they turned in the wrong place. There were no doors, no signs, just endless corridors. Was this what had happened to Rosie? Had she been wandering through this maze for the last week? It wouldn’t have surprised her, after all the basement seemed far, far bigger than the building above it.

Sally broke into a run, she had found the lift again, she pressed the call button and as soon as the doors opened she stepped inside, as they closed again she sank to the ground. She had been in the damn basement for the last eight hours, even now she was certain it was merely dumb luck that lead her to the lift again. She pressed the button for the first floor, half expecting it to not work. The lift started to rise. Sally steeled herself for when the doors started opening, it didn’t matter what was on the other side, she was staying in the lift, someone would notice it was broken sooner or later and they’d find her here. The doors opened, revealing the bright lit lobby. The old woman was standing in the lobby, looking slightly confused.
“Oh, Sally wasn’t it? You’re still here? I thought you left hours ago, did you find anything out from anyone else?”
Sally stood, she was feeling shaky and it was a relief to see the old woman again, even if Sally hadn’t gotten her name.
“Uh no, there was something wrong with the lift, it kept bringing me to the basement. It seems to have fixed itself now, but if you can I’d take the stairs, just in case.”
The old woman frowned at her, “That can’t be right, there isn’t a basement in this building.”

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Silence is Golden. Flash Fiction.

Simon lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Beside him Angela slept, occasionally she would snore softly. Despite the silence of the house he could feel it, the oppressive pressure that was always there. The house itself had become so steeped in all the noise that it exuded it, even in the quiet of night. He rolled over onto his side, the red light of the clock shone in his eyes, mocking him with the time. He took a long, slow breath, trying to relax his jaw as he did so, it was an old habit, clenching his jaw when he started getting stressed, one he had been unsuccessfully trying to break for years. After a few minutes he swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. He needed some air, the room felt hot, stuffy, like it was closing in on him.

In the kitchen he felt a little better, but it was still there, the clattering of cutlery, the shattering of a glass or a plate, the whining over having to eat vegetables, that someone got more ice-cream than the other one. Everyone just constantly yelling over one another. Simon filled a glass of water with shaking hands, he drained the glass in one long gulp then he put it into the sink. He couldn’t go on like this, no one could go on like this. It wasn’t good for him and it certainly wasn’t good for them. He had tried to make things better, God knew he had tried everything he could, but they seemed resistant to change, unwilling to do anything that might better themselves. So instead he would come home from work, already tired and stressed, to be met with yelling teens, a distant, loud wife and a house that was always a mess. The kids didn’t know how good they had it, complaining with their heads buried in what ever expensive gadget his wife just had to buy for them. And she was no better herself, they had spoken maybe a hundred words to each other in the last month that weren’t related to dinner, what the children wanted, or a fight. The sad part was that of those few words, most were just passing politeness.

Simon sat at the kitchen table, his head was in his hands. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t just go back to bed then get up in the morning like everything was fine. Something had to change. They weren’t always like this. They used to be a happy family, full of love and laughter. He didn’t really know what had changed, there was nothing to pinpoint it after all. The last good time he could remember was a family trip about four years before, they had gone to a cave system nearby, though the name of it escaped him. After that everyone just seemed to get worse and worse. Always snapping at each other, baiting each other into arguments.

Simon took another drink, he didn’t know how long he had been sitting here with the bottle of rum, but it had been full when he started and he had gotten through a good quarter of the bottle. He took another glug, it was nice, having the warmth of the booze spread through his body and with it came a kind of relaxed peace. He could be in the moment, he could enjoy the silence. Outside a car alarm started, Simon winced as the noise wormed its way through his skull, it sounded like the alarm was going off inside his brain. Outside the alarm stopped but he could still hear it, and like opening a flood gates the rest of the noises came with it. He could hear the TV blaring in the sitting room as it played some mindless reality show, the radio was belting out some pop song at full volume. People were yelling all around, though he couldn’t make out what they were saying he recognised the voices. This couldn’t go on, he wouldn’t stand for it any longer.

Simon stood over the body of his daughter, the baseball bat had made short work of her skull. Blood and brains were splattered on the walls, on him. He sighed in relief as her voice died out, leaving only two.

Simon walked through the house, there was no need for anger, not now, the noise had finally stopped. The constant shouting and yelling, everyone screaming for attention at once. He breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly, he went into the sitting room and sat on the couch. There he closed his eyes and luxuriated in the calm. He was coated in blood and bits of brain, it felt sticky and tight on his skin. If only they had listened to him once every now and then, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

 

 

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A Strange Encounter. Short Story.

Jack paced in the small white room, it was about six foot by six foot, a bed was bolted to the floor against one wall and that was it for furniture. The floors were hard concrete but the walls were covered in some kind of soft, spongy material. They had thrown him in here hours ago and since then there had been nothing. At first he thought they were arresting him for something drugs related, but this wasn’t a prison or a police station. He had been standing in the street, talking to that strung out woman when he had been tackled, handcuffed and shoved into the back of a windowless van. The van had driven for about half an hour before he was pulled from the back and into an underground car park. From there it was just a short elevator ride and followed by being pushed through a few hallways. No one had spoken to him since they had put him in handcuffs.

He sat down on the bed, this was bullshit, he didn’t do anything, they couldn’t keep him locked up like this forever, he had rights. He had tried yelling but that hadn’t gotten him anywhere, the room seemed to dampen sounds and he had heard nothing from outside once the door had closed.

The door opened and a man stepped inside, he was wearing a grey suit, he stuck one hand forward and smiled, “Hi, I’m Sam Smith. I’d like to apologise for all this trouble, we’ve had a bit of a hectic day here and unfortunately you kind of slipped through the cracks. First things first, you’re not in trouble, you are not under arrest and you are free to leave once we finish our interview. You were supposed to be kept under medical observation for only two hours, but unfortunately things got in the way. If you’d like to follow me please.” Sam turned and left the room, Jack went after him. They walked through the halls taking turns until they were in another small room, this one had a large table with two comfortable chairs on either side. A large jug of water sat in the middle of the table along with a selection of sandwiches. “I figured you’d be hungry after that. They really put you in the shit one too, most of them have TV’s or some magazines at the very least. I think the staff have been slacking a bit. I know some of them keep a room spare for sleeping, so maybe they put you in there by accident. Now, I’m sure you have a lot of questions and I’ll be happy to answer them, if you’d just like to take a seat and please, help yourself to the food and drinks there, if you’d like something else like coffee or tea please let me know.”
Jack sat down and grabbed a sandwich, once he had finished eating he took a long drink of water. “Ok, so first I want to know where I am and who you are.”
“You’re currently in a kind of detainment centre, I can’t give you the exact location unfortunately. Don’t worry though, we can give you a lift home once we’re done the interview. As to who we are, well, we’re a small, government run agency, you won’t have heard of us so you’ll excuse me if I don’t give you the name. We investigate cases like yours.”
“Like mine?”
“Yes, don’t tell me you didn’t notice anything strange today.”
“Well, yeah, I did but it had to but like she was just a junkie or something, wasn’t she?”
“Look. I’m not going to lie to you. She wasn’t just a junkie and we need to figure out what happened to her and what happened between the two of you. So, why don’t you start from the beginning?”
“Um. Ok, well, I woke up and had breakfast and all that, then I left the house for work. Everything was pretty normal until I came to South Street, I cut through it because it takes about ten minutes off my walk in the mornings. Everything was fine, I guess the street was emptier than usual. Normally there’s a few people walking along it, or a couple of old guys sitting outside having a smoke. I noticed her pretty quick, she was the only other person on the street. What first caught my attention was the way she was walking. Like she was drunk, I assumed she was on her way home from a night out at first, but then I noticed she was wearing a suit. She was walking slowly and stumbling every few steps so it didn’t take long before I caught up with her. I asked if she was all right and she turned slowly to look at me. Something about the way she moved sent chills up my spine. It was slow, but fast at the same time. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt this enormous weight drop in my stomach, I knew I shouldn’t have spoken to her. I tried to convince myself I was just being paranoid, after all it was a Wednesday morning for Christ sakes. She looked at me for a second, there was something wrong with her eyes, they were slightly too wide and it looked like she was having difficulty focusing. It was then that I thought she was probably on drugs. She smiled at me, it wasn’t a normal smile, it was threatening some how, like I had done exactly what she wanted. Her hand reached out for me and I took a step back, I didn’t want her touching me if I’m being honest, but I half thought maybe she was going to try and pick my pocket. She frowned when I stepped back, then she spoke to me. I don’t know what was wrong with her but her voice was all wrong, raspy and shrieky, but whisper quiet with almost like an echo? She said “come a little closer, I need to tell you a secret.” It’s weird, the last thing I wanted to do was get any closer to her, but I started to step forward. She smiled at me and I saw her teeth, they were blackened and rotten, with bits of blood pooling around the gums.” Jack shuddered.
“If you need to take a moment, that’s fine.”
“No, I’m ok. It feels good talking about it. I kept replaying it in my head earlier, it’s good to get it out. It kind of feels like I’m draining a wound or something.”
Sam nodded, “Yes, people often feel that way.”
“When I saw her teeth I kind of stepped back in surprise and she looked angry, it was like her eyes got darker, her hand shot out and grabbed my tie, she yanked me forward, she was strong, stronger than she looked. She leaned in close to me, I could smell her breath, rotting and bitter, but I could smell something else too, her perfume and then underneath that a smell of damp and mildew, of dark, wet places that despised the sun. She said something to me, but I don’t really remember. It’s like there’s a blank spot. Then there were people around, yelling at us.”
Sam leaned on the table, “Are you sure you don’t remember what she said? No matter what it was you won’t get in trouble, but it is important that if you do remember you let us know.”

Jack frowned, “I feel like it’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t figure out the words.”

Sam smiled at him, “That’s ok, it’s common in cases like these. The woman was sick, unfortunately, but she had some good information that we could have used. We’re not entirely sure what was wrong with her yet, she is incoherent at the moment, we were hoping we’d be able to get something from you.”

“I’m going to be all right aren’t I? She wasn’t contagious or anything?”
Sam chuckled, “No, don’t worry, there’s no chance you caught what she had.” He stood from the table, “All right, that’s pretty much it. We’ve you’re statement recorded, you’ll have to sign some forms on the way out but that’s just formality. After that we’ll get you home, we already put in a phone call to your place of work, they know you were assisting us after witnessing an incident.”

Sam sat in the empty room, they’d have to keep an eye on Jack, for the next few months, make sure he didn’t start behaving strangely. The woman was already gone, reduced to nothing but a pile of disgusting mush, but then that was always the way with her kind. Sam believed Jack when he said he didn’t remember but he felt like what ever Jack had heard was important. He always hated cases like this, all loose ends and no resolutions. It wasn’t the first time it happened, nor would it be the last. Hopefully what ever that thing was it wouldn’t be back for another few years.

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Returned. Short Story.

Gwen was dead for almost twelve hours when she started screaming. The high pitched shrieked rattled the windows of the dark room, outside a man walking by clapped his hands over his ears, his palms wet and slick with blood that dripped from them.

The scream slowly trailed off to silence, Gwen sat motionless for a few seconds, then there was a loud gasp and the rushing sound of air as she breathed deeply, coughed violently then breathed deeply again before she spat up a lump of phlegm.

Gwen looked around herself,  the dark room was strange but also familiar.  There was something about it, but the realisation danced just beyond her reach. She coughed again, deep and booming, she spat out more phlegm. She knew it was too dark to see but that didn’t stop her from being able to make out things in the gloom. The worn brown or red couch that was pushed against the wall, the coffee table laden and overflowing with rubbish that sprawled its way across the floor. Gwen shifted slightly and stood, her body felt stiff and pins and needles jabbed at her entire body. A wave of dizzyness hit and Gwen stumbled backwards, falling onto a chair behind her. The chair was soft but the fall was still jarring. She sat for a moment, she felt cold, colder than she ever had before, part of her wondered if she’d ever feel warm again. She pulled her knees up to her chest and looped her arms around them. She was shivering, though she hadn’t noticed yet. Why was she here?  The last thing she remembered was going out to get a cup of coffee early Monday morning. It was night now, wherever she was, was it still Monday? The thought frightened her, how long had she been unconscious? No, she hadn’t been unconscious,  it was more than that. She had been dead. Her breath caught in her throat and her heart stopped for and brief, terrifying second before it resumed its steady beating.

Outside the man got shakily to his feet, he felt sick and disorientated, splatters of blood coated the ground on either side of him. Not sure who, or where he was, the man stumbled on, leaving nothing behind himself but bloodstains and a briefcase.

Gwen gripped her knees tightly. Tears were flowing freely down her face, she wasn’t aware she was crying. Something had happened to her; someone had brought her here, someone had killed her and something had brought her back.

Gwen didn’t know how long she had been sitting there when the sun started to rise. The heat was strangely soothing and she could finally feel her body start to warm up. As the room brightened she could see more clearly, the couch was red and heavily stained, there was a door beside it. Gwen’s stomach grumbled and groaned, she was starting to get hungry. A pang of fear hit her, what if she was some kind of zombie? A sudden image came into her head, French toast, covered in syrup and served with bacon, a flood of saliva filled her mouth, she smiled to herself. At least she was craving normal food.

Gwen stood carefully, her body felt stiff, uncoordinated, she stretched for a moment, then started walking across the room. As she picked her way through the rubbish Gwen felt her muscles relaxing. The room really was gross, old pizza boxes were scattered about the place, glasses that were half full of liquid and mold, greasy, shiny wrappers and clothes seemed to cover most things. At the door she paused and listened, she hadn’t heard anyone moving around but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. With her heart beating wildly she reached out and twisted the handle, the door opened smoothly. It revealed a short and thin hallway that was also covered in various rubbish, a rickety looking staircase led upstairs. Carefully Gwen moved down the hallway towards another door, this one looked like it would lead outside.

Gwen stood outside the building, squinting in the bright light of the morning. The area was deserted and more than a little seedy. She glanced at the briefcase lying on the ground and continued past it. She wasn’t sure where she was but Gwen knew that standing around would do her no good. She felt like she needed to keep moving, that she couldn’t sit or think any longer. She could feel something crowding at the back of her mind, a heavy pressure, like someone took their thumb and was steadily pressing it into her brain. She hoped that as she walked she would start to recognise things, but there was nothing. The area itself had a few noteworthy landmarks, like the large neon sign of a woman sitting atop a banana, or the larger, flashing neon beside it that promised Girls! Girls! Girls! To the empty street.

Gwen stopped. The sign was familiar. She could see it in her mind, blurry and distracting, the street was full of people trying to push past her, in a hurry to get to whatever seedy place they were going. She had been with someone, but she couldn’t quite picture them. Gwen took a deep breath, she didn’t need this right now, she needed to get home, to be safe, after that she could worry about everything else.

It took almost an hour of wandering before Gwen saw something slightly familiar, it took her a moment to place it, but she knew the café, she had been there on a date with someone, Toby? She wasn’t sure of the name, it had been about five years before, but at least she knew where she was.

Gwen stood outside her door, she was exhausted, she patted her pockets for her key and after finding it she let herself into her apartment. She paused at the hall mirror, she hadn’t had a chance to look at herself since she had woken up. Her hair was messy, her skin pale and her eyes were dark, she looked like she was hung-over and doing the walk of shame. Well, at least none of the neighbours had seen her. She went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water, she drank it quickly, then went rifling through the cupboards for food.

After she had eaten and showered Gwen was feeling better, she had now realised that what had probably happened was that she was drugged and dragged out to that building by someone. It didn’t seem like anything really bad had happened to her, maybe who ever it was had run or gotten distracted by something. Obviously the whole being dead thing was just a delusion brought on by the drugs. She couldn’t really have died, it would be impossible. It was time to just put the whole thing behind her. Going to the police would bring up too many questions she couldn’t answer, most of the day before was fuzzy if not completely gone. Besides she had always classed herself as somewhat intelligent, the thought of going to the police and telling them she had allowed something like that to happen filled her with more than a little shame.

Gwen gasped as she felt a burning pain in her stomach, she could feel something deep inside, cold and twisting, then with a sudden flare of pain, it was gone. Gwen carefully lifted her t-shirt, there near her belly button was a small red line, almost like a scratch, there were more across her stomach, how hadn’t she noticed them earlier? The pain hit her again, this time it didn’t stay in one place, it moved across her stomach and chest again and again, quick, stabbing pains. Gwen cried out and fell backwards.

She wasn’t in her apartment anymore, she was somewhere else, somewhere dark and gloomy, someone was standing in front of her, a knife in their hand. The knife seemed huge and somehow shone in the darkness, she felt it plunge into her flesh. Gwen gasped, the room was bright again, she was lying on the floor of her apartment. She sat up shakily, no, it didn’t happen, it couldn’t have. This was just some kind of weird flashback from what ever they had drugged her with. Gwen carefully got to her feet, she needed to lie down, that was all. She had a stressful day and it was all just too much. Once she had a rest she’d feel better. The scratches on her stomach throbbed steadily as she moved, she could almost feel the cold, sticky blood coating her body. Gwen lay down on her bed, she just needed to forget about it, to move on with her life.

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Test. Flash Fiction.

Gwen lay in bed, her breathing was heavy and slow. She was so tired, too tired to move. She knew she should be panicking, but everything felt so distant, she didn’t have the energy to panic. It had happened to the others and now it was happening to her. What ever it was sapped all of your strength and energy until your body just seemed to give up. Günter had been the first to come down with it, followed by Cheryl and Bob. By that stage they had tried to set up a quarantine but that didn’t last, it wasn’t long before they all had it. Everyone kept working, or trying to work, up until the very end. Bobs body was probably still hunched over beside his microscope, where he had laid his head down for a brief nap. Cheryl was outside when she finally ran out of energy, she had gone to look for more samples. Günter , the first to succumb, he had died sometime during the night and was left there. Gwen didn’t know where the others were, only that they were dead too. Jack had disappeared in the night without a word, though no one could figure out why. They were miles from civilisation and he was in no state to make the hike out, after all it had been a three hour helicopter ride in.

The small house they were in reeked of death and rot, the smell would have bothered Gwen before, but now she just didn’t care. All she could do was focus on staying awake. If she did maybe she’d have a chance, maybe someone would find her. If she fell asleep now she knew she wouldn’t wake up.

She could hear something, ever so faintly in the distance. Was that a helicopter? She took another slow breath, maybe she’d make it out of here after all. They must have received the messages begging for assistance. They had been sent days ago via the radio, but no one had ever responded.

Someone came in wearing a bulky white biohazard suit, Gwen stared at them, “help.” It was all she could manage and the effort had drained her even further. Her eyes slowly closed and opened, she was on the edge of sleep. Her eyes closed one last time, her breathing slowed, then stopped.

The man in the biohazard suit waited for a second to see if her eyes would open again, “One hundred percent mortality rate. Test has been a success. We’ll bag them and get them back for autopsy to confirm.”

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The Price of Beauty. Short Story.

Selena carefully dabbed the moisturiser onto her face, the smell of it was intoxicating and already it was filling the air. As she breathed deeply she felt a calmness spread through her body, relaxing every muscle. As she rubbed it into her skin she could feel it tighten, the wrinkles were being smoothed away. It really was marvellous stuff. Illegal so far, but soon everyone would catch up with the times, they used it all the time over in Europe according to Debra. Selena looked at herself in the mirror and smiled, it really did do wonders for the skin.

Selena looked at the small pot sitting on her dressing room table, she was only supposed to use it for special occasions, but she was feeling down today. Surely that was reason enough to use it? Just a little boost to help her get through the rest of the day. No one was going to see her, but she’d feel better about herself. Her hand hovered over the small pot, there wasn’t a whole lot in it, but a little went a long way. Besides Debra could always get her more, it was expensive but Selena could afford it.

Selena examined her face in the mirror, her skin was starting to feel itchy. Debra had warned her about that, using too much too often would create this weird itchiness, the only cure was to lay off the cream for a while. Though Selena hadn’t been using it all that much, maybe every second or third day. She carefully poked and prodded at her skin, it seemed that her face was slightly swollen, perhaps some kind of mild allergic reaction? Or maybe the cream was more harsh than Debra had let on. That wouldn’t be a huge shock, Debra was always trying to underplay all the cosmetic procedures she had had, brushing it away with an “Oh it was nothing really, people just like to make a bigger deal out of it than it is.” Selena sighed, the cream had been amazing but perhaps she should give it a rest for a little while. She had asked around a few of their friends, discretely of course, and none of them had ever heard of it, which was unusual. Debra was always crowing about this new treatment or cream that she was using.

Selena looked at herself in horror, her face was still slightly swollen but now it was bright red, small dark red circles, almost like pinpricks, dotted her face. Selena carefully dabbed her face with a cold cloth, sighing as it took away some of the heat. She had tried to ring Debra, but she wasn’t answering, probably off on another trip somewhere. Carefully Selena moved her hands along her face, feeling and testing, it was still sore and hot to the touch, but that seemed to be the worst of it. Hopefully it the swelling would go down in a few hours.

It didn’t. Her face was more swollen than it had been before and now the heat radiating from it was intense. Debra had finally called her back and dismissed her worries, telling her that it happened sometimes and she’d be fine in a day or two.

Selena turned her head a little, it looked like the swelling had gone down, even if it wasn’t by much. She had also broken out in a couple of pimples, something which hadn’t happened for a long time. She had tried to clean the area a little but anything other than plain water stung, and she could only gingerly dab at her face with a soft towel. She sighed, hopefully in a day or two they’d be gone.

The pimples had gotten worse, she hadn’t left the house for the past three days, how could she? Looking like this? The swelling and redness had gotten worse, as had the pimples, what was a small smattering became huge lumps that covered almost her entire face. Debra had again told her it was fine, that was just what happened, in a few days it would all go down and she’d look better than ever. Selena was doubting it, how could she ever look the same again? What if her face was just stuck like this?

Selena winced as another pimple popped under her fingers. Instead of the relief she had expected instead there was only pain. The pimples weren’t going down, they were just getting worse, seemingly by the hour. The swelling had gone down a little, as had the redness, which was something. She looked down at the pus on her fingers and carefully washed it away. Her hands were dry and getting a little sore from all the washing, but she had to get rid of these damned things. Part of her wanted to find a dermatologist but another part was ashamed. How would she even explain how she had gotten herself into this mess? Besides that the cream was illegal, she couldn’t very well say she was using it. She had tried looking it up on the internet, but that was a bust. Debra wasn’t taking her calls anymore, the last one had ended with a frustrated sigh, “I’m telling you it’s fine. Stop calling me about your face. Just relax and give it a few days. I’ll ring you on Friday and then we can laugh about how silly you’re being, ok?”

The swelling was finally gone, as was the redness, the pimples remained though, along with all the scabs from the burst ones. It really did look dreadful, like some kind of wrinkled, acne-ridden teenager. The larger pimples were deep, she could feel them bulging against the surface of her skin, each one carefully and painfully felt out. She felt off, tired, a little feverish. Obviously the stress of all this had taken its toll on her. Once it was over she’d have to take a nice vacation somewhere, somewhere quiet, where no one would see her.

Selena lay in bed, she couldn’t sleep, her face was hurting again, a steady throbbing, she just knew that in the morning it would be swollen and red again and this entire thing would just start all over. Screw that stupid bitch Debra, she had made an appointment for the dermatologist, she’d get this all sorted tomorrow. And if they couldn’t fix it well, they could at least give her something to bring down the swelling and reduce the pain.

Selena woke the next morning feeling better, the steady throbbing in her face was gone. As she rolled over she screamed, there was blood on her pillow. Selena raced to the mirror, it seemed like the pimples had popped while she was asleep. She carefully cleaned off her face, the holes where the pimples were seemed deeper than they should have been, the dermatologist would give her something to help the wounds heal at least. As she cleaned her bedding, Selena didn’t notice the thin trails of blood that lead from her pillow and off her bed. By noon the holes had shrunk and her skin seemed to have tightened up again. If anything Debra had been right, without the small wounds, which seemed to be shrinking by the second, her skin really did look better than ever. She picked up the small pot, there was still a quarter of it left, she held it in her hands for a moment before putting it down again. Maybe it was worth it after all.

 

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Gaining Power. Flash Fiction.

Sarah hung up, she didn’t have time for petty problems like these.
“Is it sorted?”
“Yeah, just Jack being an idiot.”
“So he’ll be able to get it, right?”
“Yeah, yeah. Just had a different name and he was confused.”
“And you’re sure it’ll work.”
“Yes Beth, for the last goddamned time. It’ll work.”
“Ok.” Beth looked down at her hands.

Sarah let out a slow breath, she would be glad once this entire this was over and she could be free of these idiots.
“But what if it doesn’t?”
“Then no harm, no foul ok? There is literally no downside to this.”
Well, not for Sarah anyway, but the others didn’t need to know that.

“Have you heard from Scott?”
“No, have you?”
“No, I sent him a text and I haven’t heard back.”
Sarah shrugged, “He’ll be here, he said he would.” Sarah suspected that Scott was just ignoring Beth again and her endless, mindless texting, you could barely hit send before another one arrived. It was never anything interesting either, just stream of consciousness thoughts and bullshit. Sarah smiled at Beth, after today she wouldn’t have to deal with any of that again.
“Are you ready for your part?”
“Yeah. I mean, I think so. You didn’t leave anything out did you?”
“No, I gave you all the instructions.”
“Ok. And you’re sure?”
“Yes. I am.”
“I’ve got the candles in my bag. I was so worried the guy was gonna start questioning me on what they were for and stuff.”
Sarah nodded, there was no point in even trying to talk to Beth when she was like this, it was easier to just let her prattle on.

Jack arrived ten minutes later, interrupting Beth’s monologue, she hadn’t noticed that Sarah wasn’t even responding anymore.
“Oh, good, you’re here. Have you heard from Scott?”
“Yeah, he’s on his way. Said he was running a little late.”
“Did you get it?”
“Yeah, wasn’t too hard to get. Though I don’t know why everything has to have all these damn names, just pick one!”
Sarah smiled, “Well, you have it now and that’s what’s important.”
She glanced at her watch, where the hell was Scott? They were supposed to be meeting at twelve, and already it was half, she wanted to get this show on the road.

Sarah took a deep breath, they were finally ready. Scott had wandered in about twenty minutes after Jack, he looked as dazed as usual, but he brought everything he needed. Sarah had set everything up the day before so all they had to do was start.
“Ok Beth, you light the candles, then Jack you pour your mixture into the bowl when I indicate, then Scott, you’re gonna have to pour your stuff on top, then I’ll blow out the candles.”
“Is that it?”
“Pretty much, I have to do some chanting but once we’re all involved in some way it’ll be fine. Everyone ready?”

Sarah started chanting, she wasn’t sure what the language was but she said it with perfection, she pointed at Beth who started to light the candles with slightly trembling hands. After that Sarah pointed to Jack who poured his mixture into the bowl in the centre of the circle. Sarah kept chanting, she pointed at Scott who added his mixture to the bowl, finally as her chanting reached its peak, Sarah blew out the candles.

“Is that it? Nothing happened.”
“It should have worked.”

Sarah shrugged, “We can try again if you like?”
Beth suddenly yawned, “I’m pretty tired. Maybe another day.”
Scott nodded, “Yeah, I have some stuff to do.”
“I told you to keep the day clear.”
Scott shrugged, “yeah well…”
“I guess I better be off too. Anyone want a lift?”

Sarah smiled as the door to her room closed. It had worked perfectly. She just needed the others to uphold their end of the bargain and everything would work out. Fifteen minutes later Sarah collapsed, her whole body shuddered and jerked. After a moment it passed, gasping, Sarah sat up, then she started laughing. She stretched carefully and breathed in deeply, she could feel the power running through her body. The others were dead, but that was the price she had to pay for her power. It wasn’t her fault they were too stupid to do their own research, they had gone along with it all willingly and agreed to do their part in the ceremony. They might not have been so willing had they realised that it meant their deaths but some eggs needed to be broken, and as an added bonus she wouldn’t have to deal with their idiocy again.

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