Hearing in Color (Flash Fiction)

Source: For 2019’s first flash fiction post, I’m going to share the story that placed 1st in the The Writer’s Workout’s September 2018 500 contest.

Prompt: Write a story embodying the concept of depression in under 500 words.


I can’t hear the music. It used to play nonstop inside my head, each new moment stirring up melodies. Most people perceive color through sight, but I found it inside song. Now the world is gray.

I stare up at my ceiling. The light fixture above my bed hangs loose at one end. The sun seeping in through my curtains blanches my room and stings my eyes. At least it’s comfortable beneath the blankets, safe, something like pleasant. I should get up, but I already know how the day will go – I’ll sit down at the piano and feel just as blocked as I did yesterday. Time will slip away. Night will come again. I’ll toss and turn. Repeat, repeat, repeat, like the notes in a song in which I’ve forgotten the next verse.

My stomach growls for the third time. I can’t ignore the hunger pains anymore, clenching like my body wants to curl and fold itself up until it can blow away on the breeze, taking my mind with it. I wouldn’t mind floating through the air, aimless and at rest. At least I wouldn’t have to fight anymore.

With a sigh, I push myself up on my palms. Something is wrong. I’m too weighed down. I look back to see my shadow staring at me.

“Stay,” my shadow orders.

I try to rise, but my shadow sticks to the bed. It’s heavy, as if all of the void is condensed inside its ink – all of that vast emptiness we spend our lives trying to forget.

“I have to try,” I tell it.

“It’s not worth it,” it tells me. “Any song you write will be erased by time. Anyone who listens will forget it. Nothing worth anything can come out of your useless soul.”

My phone buzzes on my bedside table. “Hey,” a text flashes on the screen. “I picked up tickets for your recital next week. Looking forward to it!”

…I was looking forward to it, too.

“You’ll disappoint her. You’ll disappoint yourself. You’ll fail.”

I pull forward with all of my strength, and my shadow rips free from my bed.

***

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My fingers summon the notes of a familiar song. It sounds blank at first, all of its colors gone, but I keep playing. Even if the song seems like silence to me, maybe someone else will hear what I used to.

I tap out the chorus, and for a moment, my walls turn blue, my hands turn tan, the sunlight turns gold. Then the gray returns.

I smile, just a bit. Colors flicker like the stars in the void. Even if I can’t always see those stars through the fog, I can hear them in the echoes of my notes. Maybe one day the abyss will be the night sky again – not empty, but full of planets, fire, light. For now, one note after another is enough.


I hope you enjoyed this brief story! If you’d like to read more, members of my email list get first access to updates and sneak peeks.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! I hope the night brings you plenty of sweet treats, a pleasant autumn-colored evening, and the fun sort of scares.

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Childhood Friend – Flash Fiction

If you’re looking for a short, spooky read, you can find Childhood Friend, the 1st place flash fiction from the All Hallow’s Prose Halloween competition, on the WriterWriter blog, along with the other winning stories offering bite-sized helpings of horror.

Read them Here.

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LGBTQIA+ Halloween Derby


For fans of LBGTQIA+ fiction, there’s a Halloween Derby going on at Prolific Works with a variety of free paranormal LGBTQIA+ stories.

I’ve got a couple of stories offered here as well, including a new Prolific Works exclusive called Like the Stars, so if you read them, I’d love to know what you think.

Read them Here.

 

My Halloween Recommendations

If you’re looking for more scary stories, these are my personal favorites.

Book: The House of Long Shadows by Ambrose Ibsen

A deceptively terrifying haunted house story with fantastic imagery – I could see the setting so clearly in my mind after finishing it that I may as well have watched a film. This is one of the few horror novels that managed to genuinely crawl under my skin, and one in which I cared about the outcome so much that it got me out of my analytical “writer brain” and turning pages quickly.

Movie: The Babadook

One of the few movies I’ve watched more than once. What seems like a simple, maybe even a little cheesy, movie at first glance hides a powerful metaphor – for grief, for anger, for the mental pains we sometimes try to stuff in the closet – but which always seem to creep out somehow. What’s scarier than that?

Game: The Cat Lady

A chilling, powerful slow burn of a game that delves into its character’s psyche – and the player’s. The game sinks deeper into darkness than nearly any other peace of media I’ve experienced, but it offers glimpses of hope and beauty, too.

Thank you for reading, and have a fantastic November!

(Apologies for the lack of posts lately, too. School has been eating me alive, but I’m hoping to pull out of its grip a bit next month. Although then comes NaNoWriMo. Good luck to any fellow writers participating!)

Smile (Flash Fiction)

(Flash Fiction: Every fourth Monday, I’ll share a flash fiction story.)

denny-muller-532461-unsplashThe cupboards were nearly empty, and within a few days, they would be.

Melody, sluggish from hunger, dug through the last cans of tuna and bags of stale chips. The electricity had died a couple of days ago, so she needed something she didn’t have to cook. So much for her dreams of culinary school. Filet Mignon and chocolate Chambord cake were things of the halcyon past.

Sighing, she settled on a bag of chewy cheddar popcorn a few weeks passed its expiration date. Lacking the energy to make it upstairs to her bed, she plopped herself down on the couch. She wrapped a blanket around her shoulders – the heat had wilted with the electricity, and it was nearing the beginning of winter. Soon, it would snow.

She had nothing to do but stare at the wall and a blank TV screen while stale seeds got stuck between her teeth. Her eyes wandered to the pictures lining the stairwell. Her mom, her dad, her older brother. The End had taken them away six weeks ago, and now their faces only existed behind the glass, flat and still.

Melody’s gaze watered without her permission. She clamped it shut while soggy popcorn sat on her tongue. Her days were as empty as the kitchen shelves. She cherished no one and nothing, and no one and nothing cherished her. She’d used up all of her sorrow and all of her fear…now her insides were as empty as her outsides.

Another Melody smirked at her from the photos, her eyes as bright as the summer sun behind her. That version of herself also remained only within wooden frames, as dead as the rest of her family.

Melody laughed, the noise leaving her mouth as if her lips had taken on a mind of their own. The girl in the photos had thought she’d had a future. So had the millions the End had taken. She’d –

A giggle echoed from somewhere outside her curtained windows. At least, she thought that was what she’d heard, before she realized she had to be mistaken. Her gaze shot up, her ears waiting intently with every expectation of disappointment.

But the sound came again, followed by a second joyful voice. It was muted, but she wasn’t mistaken. There were people. Other people. Other survivors.

Melody got up and ran to the door, her body reacting before her mind could. She reached out for the knob, sucked in a breath, and broke the seal protecting her house from the rest of the world.

Her eyes stretched wide when she saw them on the street. Men. Women. Children. She managed a noise – a wordless squeak – and one man looked at her, his arm wrapped around the shoulders of a young boy who eyed her curiously through sunny blue irises. Fellow strangers followed suit, and for the first time in weeks, she was seen in the eyes of someone else.

“Hello there,” the man stepped closer and held out his hand in greeting. “Didn’t think anyone else was still holed up around here.”

She saw something on his face that she hadn’t in a long while – a smile.

Melody fought back her tears. Her future wasn’t gone. All she had to do was seize it and start a new story.

She smiled, too.

New Short Stories

It’s been an exciting day as a writer.

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It was announced today that The Puppet Beast, a dark fantasy short story, placed within the top three in the summer writing contest from Short Fiction Break magazine and The Write Practice. Check it out on Short Fiction Break.

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Another of my shorts – a scary microfiction story called Night Sentinel – was published today in 101words magazine. Give it a read online.

I’d love to know what you think about either of them.

(Also, apologies for the recent radio silence here. August has kept me busy. I’m aiming to sink back into the schedule in September.)

Friend (Flash Fiction)

(Flash Friday: Every other Friday (or so), I’ll share a flash fiction story and the prompt that spawned it.)

Source: This prompt came from a page in this workbook, which I highly recommended.

Prompt: Begin a story with the following sentences: “How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she


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“How did you know?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer. I thought I had been careful. I thought she honestly liked me as a friend. As a person. No, that couldn’t be – not if she’d known. Her interest in me had to be because of what I was. It had to be because of her job with the Agency. I was her enemy, not her friend.

She smiled weakly, “I hoped, before I knew. You seemed different than other people.”

“Different?” I frowned. I’d tried so hard to blend in, to pretend to be human. I’d failed, then.

“Not in a bad way. You didn’t seem to walk around with the same sets of assumptions and expectations we do. You were excited and horrified by different things.” She smirked, “you even laughed at my jokes.”

She paused, as if all of this was just another joke and I was supposed to keep on laughing. I didn’t. I didn’t think I’d ever laugh again.

Her face fell. “Still, I must admit to spying on you. I saw you in your original form. I’m sorry. I’ve been a terrible friend.”

I swallowed, trying to pretend the hurt wasn’t there. “Friend? Why would someone from the Agency still call me a friend?”

Her eyes widened. “Oh no, I’m not from the Agency! I was searching for someone like you because I was hoping you’d take me with you to the stars! I’m sick of Earth.”

She’d used me, then, but I still found myself smiling. I should’ve said no, but I knew that I wouldn’t. I also knew how much she’d love my home – the planet her people called Luyten b.


If you write your own story with this prompt, feel free to post it in the comments!

A King (Flash Fiction)

(Flash Friday: Every other Friday, I’ll share a flash fiction story and the prompt that spawned it.)

Source: This prompt came from a page in this workbook, which I highly recommended.

Prompt: Begin a story with the following sentences: “I’ve lived in this town my whole life, and most of the time that’s fine by me. But in late fall when the sky fills with birds migrating south for the winter, traveling thousands of miles, I get homesick for places I’ve never been. Places like”.


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I’ve lived in this town my whole life, and most of the time that’s fine by me. But in late fall when the sky fills with birds migrating south for the winter, traveling thousands of miles, I get homesick for places I’ve never been. Places like the wide wheat fields of Hyrule, the pixelated sea of Goldenrod City, Sylvarant’s cozy towns, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, or my farm in Stardew Valley. As much of a homebody as I am, if a train pulled up and offered to take me to any of these places, I’m sure I’d step on board. Growing up as the weird, bookish loner, these places were as much home to me as anywhere else. I still visit them now and then, dusting off old disks and pages and letting my imagination take me there as best as it can. Even if my favorite destinations only come to life in my head, they change the color of the real world. They reawaken my wonder.

Still, once place stands out to me the most – the castle where I made myself a Prince. I excelled in all my classes there and learned so many delightful things. I was whatever I wanted to be. I was a storyteller who hypnotized my audience with every word, I was a singer who lit up the stage and a dancer who blazed through the ballroom, I was a chef and my guests came from miles away for a bite of my food. I knew the answer to every question I was asked. I met all kinds of friends who became part of me. I was loved, wise, unafraid.

So, why is this place the one I haven’t visited? Perhaps it’s because it has no disc, no pages, no pictures. Somehow, as I grew up, I convinced myself that I couldn’t go there anymore. That it was gone. But how can that be when the castle itself is me? Perhaps it’s time I go back and become a king.

I watch the birds a moment longer, then close my eyes.


If you write your own story with this prompt, feel free to post it in the comments!