August’s Zeroflash Entries

I Remember

by Max Bantleman

      I remember the 80s.

In my own way, I remember them.

It was in the 80s that I am supposed to have committed the heinous crime that brought me here. I have no memory of that crime, but the pain inflicted on me has made the crime belong to me.

Shackled here, unmoving, perpetually tortured, I begin to believe the things I am accused of.

All I have are memories.

Outside of the pain all I have are memories.

I use my memories as a shield. I hide behind them, locking away the shrinking remains of my sanity behind a tattered curtain of memories.

Not all the memories are real, some of them aren’t mine. But they have all become mine: I own them as much as I can own anything.

I am resigned to living out my life here. How long I live is not up to me. I don’t really care. Death would have once been a relief, now it is just a dream.

Dreams are not like memories.

I don’t dream anymore, or maybe I do, I just don’t remember them.

If I did, would they be memories or dreams?

Are you a memory?

Are you real?

Can you hear me or am I just trapped in my head, wishing you were here?

Sometimes I imagine myself being that person, a person that could do those things and it just doesn’t fit. I’d know wouldn’t I? If I did?

It doesn’t matter now. Perhaps the truth is like my memories: as real as it is needed to be.

Maybe I am being punished because they don’t know the difference anymore. Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m just a false memory to them, something they need to believe to keep themselves sane?

I don’t think I’m sane anymore…are you?

Happy Birthday

by Michael Carter

            The news flash told officers everything they needed to know about the crime that remained unsolved: “Billy Lamb, eleven years old, died last Saturday from a slash wound to the throat. He was found in his bedroom with a knife nearby. It appeared he had been playing with gifts from his birthday party earlier that day. No suspects at this time.”

            Investigators learned that fifteen kids attended the party, including Ian. Ian’s uninvited sister, Renée, tagged along. She didn’t like Billy. That was their first lead. She gave snotty answers when interrogated, but she was released.

            The party was held at the local pizza parlor. The kids played Dig Dug, Asteroids, and Pole Position before Billy opened presents. Billy received everything he wanted: a Star Wars AT-AT and X-wing fighter, Atari’s Pitfall, and Rubik’s Magic. He was slightly embarrassed to have also received a Cabbage Patch Kid. It was a boy though, named Alexander, so Billy didn’t complain or make faces.

            The officers saw the gifts when they searched Billy’s room. But that’s all that was there—toys, along with model rockets and a baseball card collection with Don Mattingly on top. That and Billy’s body on his bed.

            The forensic unit collected hair samples, providing a second lead. The samples matched Billy, his family members, and a girl Billy was too shy to hold hands with during “Couples Only” skate at the roller rink. The girl was not questioned, however, because she was out of town when the crime occurred.

            The officers seized only two things: Billy’s body and the knife. They missed what was right in front of them. As the last officer left Billy’s room, Alexander’s eyes blinked and looked down to his plastic hand. There, written in blood, were the words “From, Renée.”

Happy Birthday

 

Apocalucky Day

by Lisa Wilton

Sam had always loved animals. She used to joke that she preferred animals to people, especially the wee hallions that lived on the estate. She had remembered whingeing, before all this shite, about there never being any pets in those zombie films when she went to the pictures. How could anybody leave wee Fluffy or Felix behind? Heartless bastards! They only cared about themselves. It was our job to care for our pets! Sam’s brow furrowed in disgust.

Heartless. How ironic! She laughed aloud.

She gazed lovingly at her cats and dogs, chomping dutifully at the dark red chunks of meat she had just prepared for them. Too bad the convenient days of shops were in the past. Sam reached for a box of Marlboro on the counter. She was down to her last too ciggies. Shit. She sighed and lit one anyway.

“Aye, bloody Maggie Thatcher can’t help us, now can she?” she said blowing smoke into the air.

One of the dogs, a German shepherd, stopped eating for a moment and raised his head, his ears standing to attention.

“What’s that Gripper? Is somebody outside? What a good boy!”

The dog lowered his head once again and refocused his attention on his meal as Sam picked up an axe from the table and wiped it clean.

“I guess today is our lucky day!” she said, giving the dog a pat on the head as she walked past him on the way to the door.

She opened the door a crack and peered carefully out into the quiet street, milk bottles still sitting outside each door along the terraced houses waiting to be collected. Of course Gripper was right. Weren’t animals just so amazing? Sam smiled at the thought, gripping her axe tightly. A lucky day indeed.

Going Cross Country

by Jack Koebnig

(@koebnig)

Pete’s back wheel locked and he skidded round the corner.

We followed.

Cycling on this underdeveloped stretch of land between the golf course and the start of Hammond Street was known to us kids as ‘going cross country’.

‘Is she still there?’ Sally was ahead of me, her voice sounded frantic like a high pitched whistle.

I looked over my shoulder and saw Steve. He was about three metres back, his sunburned knees frantically punching the air.

‘N –‘ I began and stopped. She’d just turned the corner and was gaining. ‘Yes!’ I shouted. ‘She’s still there!’

‘Jeez!’ Steve said, peddling even faster. ‘What does she want?’

I had an idea, but I wasn’t sure.

How could she keep up? I asked myself. She had to be at least eighty-years-old. How can anyone that old run so fast?

But she’s not running, is she?

I snapped another glance over my shoulder and saw her. No, she wasn’t running. She was galloping like a race horse; her spindly arms and legs working in unison, her bald head bouncing at the end of her elongated neck, her pointed tongue flicking around her head tasting our fear.

It was hard to believe that this was the same Ms Cole who checked the tickets at our local cinema.

And it was all Pete’s fault. He was always getting us into trouble. The rest of us were happy to see Stand By Me, but he wanted to sneak across the lobby and catch Blue Velvet.

We did as Pete wanted and now we were all going to get it.

‘Aaaaaarrrrgggghhhhhh …’

Steve ..?

I didn’t check to see if he was still behind me as we raced up Hammond Street.

The Horror Section

by Devon Rosenblatt

Who knew what a Hellraiser the show would turn out to be, bits almost looked real and I’m glad I cut loose The Thing early.  Now Near Dark, The Shining of the moon casts spectral patterns on The Fog and The Howling of the crowds has now died From Beyond the stadium, where I was only moments ago.

Wanting to go to the video rental store on The Fly but not sure which way to go, I recall Christine telling me that traffic going to the show had been A Nightmare On Elm Street and heading back via Rowan Road would be Child’s Play in comparison.

After a short-lived drive I arrive at the Videodrome, the front of the store is dimly lit and I hardly notice one of The Lost Boys resting next to the door. The hobo smells of The Evil Dead as he sits inert in a pool on his own bodily fluid. I hold my breath and go inside. VHS and Betamax line the walls, showing all the latest releases. I grab a selection and head to the tills.

The man behind the counter is dressed in full Halloween garb. Some would say in Bad Taste considering the recent incidents. He stands there and watches me with a vacant stare. I smile but not a single muscle of his stirs. In the absence of any Scanners, I put money on the counter and retreat.

Back in the car, I try to start the ignition but it ‘chugs’ once before exhaling a final breath; Gremlins in the engine again. I sink back in my seat as shadows envelop me, Dead Ringers for that of the hobo and store clerk, accompanied by The Return Of The Living Dead smell.

Children of the Moon

by Chris Stanley

Another empty desk in the classroom. Cop cars in the playground and hushed voices in the corridors. My classmates sit with their heads down, hair spiked defensively, while a doughnut-shaped cop talks of curfews and counselling. I tell her I didn’t know the missing kids. She looks suspicious.

We moved to the Jersey shore three weeks ago, Mum and me. I was just beginning to feel like I could fit in when children started disappearing. Guess it won’t be long before we’re leaving again.

When a third child disappears, plucked in darkness from the highest seat on the Ferris wheel, Bobby corners me in the toilets. Elbow crushing my windpipe, he wants to know what I’m going to do. “Round here,” he says, “we take care of our own.” Before I can reply, he’s scratched my palm and pressed his freshly-bitten thumb into the wound. “You’re one of us now.”

Later, we gather in the moonlight outside Krueger’s discount video store. Fifteen of us. I study their faces, thinking how young and innocent they look.

“I heard he’s a biter,” says Skeeter.

“No reflection,” says Rowlf. “No soul.”

“It’s not a he,” says Bobby. “And she’s getting sloppy.” I gasp with the others when he holds up a broken necklace—a chunky silver choker with fake sapphires. They take turns to sniff it, or taste it with pointed tongues, and then drift towards the darkness with their noses in the air. I watch their moon-shadows as they leave, hunching forward, knees bending, knuckles dragging along the ground. I watch until they’re walking on all-fours.

It’s kind of like evolution in reverse.

And my skin is tingling. I’m changing too. Mum’ll kill me if she finds me with this lot, but I have to get her necklace back.

High Score

by Ben Marie

“Does this kid look familiar to you?”

Mike shoves a milk carton into my face. Large red letters spell missing and underneath is a black and white picture of some kid. It totally blocks my view.

“Man, get that out of my face, you messed up my game. And you better not let Joe see you drinking that in here.”

We sneak a look towards the counter, Joe is busy messing with his rubix. His fat fingers are snapping colours into place. Twisting and popping layers with too much strength. Nobody really likes Joe, he gives everyone the creeps. To avoid him us few kids that still come get our change from the laundry across the street. Today it seems like every kid, except us, has a Nintendo at home.

With Joe busy we turn our attention back to the game. I take my next life. Ms Pac Man races around corners gathering up dots. Mike whispers and then shouts encouragement over my shoulder.

“Get the cherry!”

The ghosts close in behind me. They split and cut off my exits, I’m trapped. Blinky gobbles me up after a pretty decent run. We both groan as Ms Pac Man evaporates.

“I would’ve done better but this joystick is all sticky.”

“Well you at least you got a high score. Do ASS. No, wait, POO.” Mike suggests

Ignoring him I punch in my initials B. J. M. and then the top ten reveals itself:

  1. PLS
  2. HLP
  3. JOE
  4. HAS
  5. ME.
  6. CAL
  7. THE
  8. POL
  9. ICE
  10. BJM

Our dark reflections, on either side of the list, stare back at us with mouths open. Between the songs of the arcade machines I no longer hear the click clacking of shifting colours. We don’t look to the counter we just run like hell for our bikes.

Video Nastier

By Kev Harrison

Dad slammed the door.

“Kids, is your mum in?”

We both shook our heads, no. His smile broadened across his face and he opened his duffle bag, pulling out a VHS tape in a plain sleeve.

“That Chinese fella came in to the Saddler’s Arms, had some of those video nasties. Pirate copies. Wanna watch?”

I looked at my brother, his expression uncertain, but I grinned and nodded regardless. Dad beamed my smile back and slotted the tape into the player, switching on the TV. We dashed back to the sofa. Waited. For ten minutes there was nothing but fuzz, a snowstorm of interference. Then I heard my dad sobbing in his armchair. I turned.

“Dad?”

“It’s sick! Turn it off. I can’t… oh my god!”

He ran from the room. I looked at my brother. He shrugged and I paced across the lounge taking out the tape. On the sticker on the front were several Chinese symbols and the words: ‘ONLY AFTER DREAMING’ in aggressive capitals.

“This is bollocks,” I said, throwing the tape on to the pile.

Saturday morning, my parents out shopping, my brother at swimming lessons and me, free to have breakfast on the sofa. Bliss. I flicked channels after the CBBC cartoons finished. Nothing was on. I edged forward, noticing the tape again. I grabbed it, feeding it into the machine.

The snowstorm again, giving way to a younger me. Horse riding on the beach. The man leading stopped my horse. He held the bridle, tied it around my neck, pulled tight. As I watched, leather pinched at my skin, closing around my windpipe. I tried to catch my breath. My eyes rolled back in my head and seagulls dove, pecking, tearing out the stringy whites. I fell back. Bloody tears coloured my cheeks.

Diablo’s Mirror

by Jacci Gooding

The town clock struck midnight and everyone in the square cheered. Goodbye 1979 and all it’s grimness; welcome the 1980’s.  Hugs and kisses filled the air in a moist miasma of optimism.

From the edge of the melee he moved away down a narrow side-street where tenement flats rose up both sides, some empty, their black windows shunning the new decade, whilst others, despite the bleak new January air were open, spewing out badly sung verses of Auld Lang Syne.

He heard a groan. In a doorway lay a man, drunk, his coat and one shoe missing. He paused, nervously massaging the Zippo lighter in his parka pocket, a tin of lighter fluid heavy like a stone in the other. The drunk groaned again and he stepped closer: he couldn’t believe his luck.

“Friend of yours?” said a voice, and he turned, to see a couple walking through the darkness toward him.

“Nah, nah. Just checking he’s ok. He’s pissed. You know him?” he answered confidently.

A lad with a Mohican and his punk girlfriend stared down at the drunkard. She held her bomber jacket tight around her, shivering.

“Nah, I don’t know him. Stupid bleeder.” She looked directly at him then, her eyelids thickly layered with black and purple makeup. He fiddled with the lighter again, surreptitiously opening and closing the lid. He trembled with anticipation.

“Must’ve been a good party,” she said.

“I’m going to one now,” he suddenly said. “Wanna come?”

They paused.

“Nah, we’re just-”

“This way,” he persisted.

They followed him down an alley where suddenly, with instant, ferocious violence, he punched them both unconscious. With psychopathic self-control he then drenched them in lighter fluid and flicked open his lighter.

As skin sizzled, like Diablo’s mirror, his eyes calmly reflected the flames.

What Casey Did

by John Clewarth

Taking a deep breath, Darton strode into the house, and was temporarily reassured.  He could smell cooking; Casey couldn’t be completely out of her skull.

Surely.

He opened the living room door.  The television flickered images of the early evening news; the miners still picketing in their never-ending strike.  Casey wasn’t present in the room, just a sickly smell.  The dark stain on the sofa placed confirmed the smell.  Urine.  She’d done it before; wet herself during drunken binges.  Oh, how many times he’d cleaned up her mess. He’s got her out of the run-down estate she’d been brought up in, with its mattress in every other yard – they had the new VHS video recorder and microwave.  But it wasn’t enough.  She’d done it again.  Where the hell was she?

He’d had enough.  He had to get out of this nightmare before it destroyed him – and his baby daughter.  He belted upstairs, almost tripping on the landing as he ran for the main bedroom.  Slamming open the door, his eyes fell upon her; sprawled, supine on the bed in a pool of puke – snoring and dead to the world.

No more.  This was the end.  Emily was his only concern now.

He walked on rubbery legs towards the baby’s cot.  Looked inside.  At first he could not comprehend what his eyes conveyed to his brain.  In the centre of the cot, wrapped in a white woollen shawl, lay a frozen chicken.

Again the smell of cooking – the acrid odour of burning now mingled within it – pervaded his senses.

Out of the room and down the stairs, he stumbled into the kitchen.  With trembling hands he turned the handle of the oven door; the contents of his stomach beginning to rise as it swung slowly open –

Justin

by Scott Barron

@maxwell01782

When I think back to the 80’s I remember waking up on cold mornings to play with my second hand toys; the etch-a-sketch with the cracked and leaking screen; my BigTrak with a wheel missing and, when my parents were out, we watched the all those pirated horror movies on the BetaMax.  We’d clear the ashes from the hearth and get a good fire going then it was all vampires, werewolves and zombies and of course that one where the puppet hid under the bed.  They were OK I guess, but they weren’t as scary as Justin.  You see Justin didn’t just hide under my bed – he hid in my dreams as well.  He wouldn’t leave me alone; he was always there and after a while I started to see him in the daytime too.  I’d catch him looking at me from the garden, so I’d close the curtains to block him out so I could watch my films in peace.  But as much as I hated him, I was grateful for Justin’s help when my parents died: it was hard for me to move them out of the house to bury them.  He was really there for me and afterwards I didn’t mind him coming back into the house.  I though that the police would come to take us away but Justin said to not worry – what we did was nothing compared to what people did in those movies.   But the police did come because somebody saw smoke coming out of the chimney when my parents should have been at work.  The police turned up with my neighbour Mary from across the road and asked me my name but I didn’t know what it was.  Justin,  his name is Justin, Mary said to the police.

The Devil and I

by D.L. Greenwood

The devil looks like Phil Oakey, only with less eyeliner and more symmetrical hair.  He’s been following me for days now but I pretend that I haven’t noticed him skulking in corners and peering above newspapers in cafes. I maintain the illusion of indifference by continuing with the ordinariness of life.

On such an ordinary day I am smoking a Marlboro Red on the top deck of the bus from Accrington to Blackburn, trying to ignore the intensity of the devil’s stare.  I roll up my NME and tuck it under my arm and then press the bell for the next stop.  I want to see whether the devil will follow me.  He does.  As I rise and begin to negotiate the narrow and winding steps to the bottom deck, he makes his move.

Once the fog of the bus’s exit fumes has cleared, I see him standing before me, like some black-haired villain from a 1950s western.

“Hello, Devil,” I say.

The devil doesn’t speak.

“What do you want?” I ask.

Again, there is no reply.

I walk over to him and touch his arm.  As it turns out, a single touch is all it takes to appease the devil.

Another bus pulls up.  I step onto the bus and smile at the conductor.  She smiles back and then her smile falters,

“Hey, aren’t you…?  It’s you, isn’t it?  Oh I love that song!”  She laughs and begins to sing, You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar, when I met you…,

I let her continue as I take my seat. I open the NME and stare at her from behind it.  She touches her collar.  She knows she is being watched.  I wonder how long it will take her to realise by whom.

A Hidden Message

by Gregory Kane

@GregoryAKane

The sign came from nowhere. RECORDS, it said, above a storefront Stuart always thought to be abandoned. He stepped inside, prepared for the normal record store experience: Culture Club and Duran Duran and Wham!, a sea of Day-Glo contrasting his black jeans and T-shirt. Only there were no pop music displays, no Madonna blaring from the speakers. Just unmarked shelves filled with records, and a small gray-haired man behind the counter.

“What can I find for you?” he asked.

Stuart wanted metal. Not MTV metal, with its Crayola leather and bouncy choruses, fireworks and lipstick and hairspray, but real metal. Maiden. Metallica. Venom. Guttural guitars and drums, played at heart attack speeds.

The man went around back and returned with a plain brown record sleeve. He handed it to Stuart. “You’re sure?” he asked. “It’s pretty grim.”

“What’s it called?”

“Demon. Play it in reverse. Some say there is a message.”

Stuart took the record home. A hidden message. That old myth. He’d tried it before and heard nothing but a warbled mess. It was a good way to scratch the record.

Yet, when he put it on the turntable, he couldn’t help himself. He placed the needle on the vinyl and began turning the record counter-clockwise, listening to the unintelligible sounds.

After a few moments, he heard something.

Beeeeee hiiiiiii annnnnnd yooooouuuuuth.

Bee high and youth?

He picked up the needle and tried again, spinning a little faster this time to see if the message made more sense.

Beee hiiii annnd yooouth.

What a bunch of garbage, he thought. He’d ruin the record before he even listened to it.

Hell with it. One more time.

He spun even faster.

This time, the message was clear.

Behind you.

Stuart felt a cold breath on the back of his neck.

Skateland

by Emily K. Martin

Greg’s Station Wagon was already parked at Skateland when I pulled in with my rust-bucket Plymouth. I laughed. We had an ongoing game between us ‘bout who shows up to work first; mostly he was winning, but who cares? If he arrived first that meant I didn’t have to wrestle with the sticky lock on the front door for five minutes while my hair was exposed to more heat and humidity. And I wanted to look killer behind the counter, you know?  Skateland was the place to be this summer, so Chris and Aaron and those guys would come by for sure.

I pushed open the heavy door, expecting to see Greg already laced up in his roller skates. That boy loved to skate; plus he was, like, totally awesome at it. But the rink was motionless, and he hadn’t turned the lights on yet.

“Greg?” I called. “Why’nt you turn on the lights?”

I walked over to the panel of switches along the left wall, between the skate rentals and the line of Spud MacKenzie posters—love that dog! I flipped the switches and turned around. My eyes locked on the arcade games across the rink and what was impossibly stuffed into Pac Man where the screen . . . should be.

I knew why Greg couldn’t turn the lights on. He was not right. His stone-wash jeans, the top of his sandy mullet, an elbow, fingers—impossible. He can’t fit. He can’t fit. Like, no one could fit there unless—

Oh my god.

My scream tore across the rink. I kept thinking if I screamed hard enough, my scream could fix that mess over there, make him look right. Make that go away.

Someone laughed behind me. Someone mental. Freakin’ warped.

“Donkey Kong or Centipede?” he asked.

The Human Arcade

by Paul Thompson

The amusement arcade is at the far end of the pier, a remnant facing the sea, paintwork windswept and faded.

Despite it being summer season the building is deserted, the air inside like stale bread. Arcade cabinets line the walls, tightly packed and arranged in a maze-like formation. Some are still operational and fill the room with colour, with multiple jingles competing against each other.

We find the first body inside the Frogger machine. The cabinet has been emptied of its electronic innards and is now home to a human corpse, its face held against the glass and staring outwards. We open the cabinet and the body slumps out onto the carpet, with wounds suggesting it has been hit multiple times by a vehicle.

We find more bodies in the other empty cabinets – the Asteroids cabinet (head crushed and propped up by rocks), the Donkey Kong cabinet (victim suffocated by a tight barrel around the head), the Centipede cabinet (the corpse riddled with bugs, a centipede crawling from nostril to mouth).

Just as we discover a fifth victim we hear the owner enter the building, and quickly we find an empty cabinet to hide inside, immediately proving to be our mistake. The figure moves with an unnatural speed, locating us immediately and locking the door shut behind us. From inside the cabinet we watch as he paces back and forth, jangling with the sound of loose change, his features distorted by the glass.

Wriggling for an escape we find a jar at our feet containing large, round pills. The label on the jar reads gobble me up! in a familiar font. As we open the jar the owners face thuds up against the other side of the screen, smearing the glass with his skin as he nods in approval.

Little Mort

by F Trautman

@Graveyard_Frank

Mort was afraid to sleep. Really. Completely terrified to shut his eyes. The whole concept had always freaked him out, you know. Is he a butterfly dreaming he is a man? Or a man dreaming he is a butterfly? The whole Zen Buddhist OBE dimensional shit.

Oh, and also, the slimy shadow thing with the claws. Mort imagined that when he fell asleep the thing jumped from the bureau unto his chest, and slipped its fingers around his throat. He’d awake, coughing, barely breathing. Fits and starts. He never got so deep into sleep for fear the thing might have its way.

Sleep apnea they call it.

At least that’s what his mother said, as well as, a string of girlfriends, his wife, and his doctor. He’d recently succumbed and took a sleep monitor home. It was clunky and claustrophobic. It was not an improvement.

So, when he woke up panting for breath, his wife asked, “What does the monitor say?”

“It says, I just died in your arms tonight.”

“It must’ve been something I said—”

Cute. But, jokes weren’t far from the truth. The doc said he had severe obstructive apnea and a cardiac arrhythmia to boot. Nothing a good sleep wouldn’t cure.

Now, a hulking CPAP purrs on the bureau. Mort doesn’t fight the black tunnel of unconsciousness beckoning. Drawing him near instead of dragging him down nails clawing the walls. He gingerly takes a step into sleep. Then another.

Shapes line the tunnel. People. Shades of them anyway. Cliché. His dead pop-pop. His college roommate who OD’d. A coworker who had a car wreck.

Oh, and also, the slimy shadow thing with the claws. He’s there too, of course. Waiting at the end. Mort digs deep in his chest for the coughing fit that won’t come.

Rocks In The Ghost On The Coast

by Steve Lodge

@steveweave71

After the jewellery job, we split up. Me and Mickey Gently jumped out of the van near Stormwatch Station, taking the train to Seamist Bay. Bob and Davie headed inland, to torch the van somewhere quiet and head for London by train. We’d all meet in The Ragpicker pub in Whitechapel the next day at lunchtime.

Me and Mick would give the jewels to Jobby Dobbs and his brother, Squalid, at The Ghost On The Coast, a real ale pub here run by their mate, Max Twist. They had a boat moored nearby and the jewels would be over the channel pronto.

We cut through bluebell woods beside the College to the pub. I put two tracks on the jukebox by The Strange Band – Cold Hands and Lost Cabin Catch A Fire and ordered two pints of Old Strong Foreskin, a local brew. We noted Max also stocked Teasing Tigers, a popular brew around East London. We bought two Luncheon meat baguettes and Mickey had crab bisque because “It sounded posh.” We went outside and sat in glorious sunshine, taking long pulls on our Old Strong Foreskins.

I told Mickey, “I’m right happy that job went without a hitch. I wouldn’t want to piss these boys off. I heard once that this ex-boxer in London tried to double-cross Jobby. They found his body on an Underground train,” I paused for effect, “In three different carriages.”

The brothers had set up this notorious mercenary group, Third Rifles Starmy. Their attributed bodycount was only slightly less than I’ve had hot dates…dinners, I mean hot dinners. Oh, and they were always right good to their Mum, and their mates.

We were still sober when they arrived in some battered Corsair, we did the old switcheroo and they were gone. Sweet as a nut.

Old Oak

by John Degruyther

The oak tree stood decadent, bough knotted and gnarled. Jake hated the dark cracks in the bark. He was sure that if you stared at those black spaces long enough you could fall in, trapped forever in conscious nothingness. He adjusted the grip of his BMX and fiddled impatiently with the playing card on his wheel spokes, anxiously awaiting Wil.

Finally the familiar sound of wheel on gravel reached his ears, heralding Wil’s arrival. He was on his Michael Jackson skateboard, emblazoned with the car from Moonwalker, its yellow neon wheels visible from miles away.

Jake nodded a nervous greeting and Wil playfully punched him on the shoulder turning grimly towards the purpose of their meeting.

The creature was there as promised. Looking like a deformed koala it always reminded Jake of a Jim Henson puppet.

“We’re here you freak, now where’s Jake’s sister.” Yelled Wil defiantly.

The creature, hunched, hairy and shriveled, chuckled and from his perch pointed to the base of the tree. The ground rumbled, a crack forming in the trunk. It grew wider, revealing a gaping entrance, with a staircase, going down. A swirling light shone forth from the entrance and an image was projected. They could see their own houses, but they weren’t like they knew them. They were shells, burnt and broken. The image flickered then changed to show the empty streets of their town. No life, just smoke and ruin, derelict tanks and upturned cars littered the scene.

“What does this mean?” Asked Jake.

“Will you enter the Oblivioni for your Sister?” The creature taunted.

Jake nodded bravely and descended the staircase. Wil went to follow but the entrance had sealed before he could act. The creature had also vanished, leaving the old oak, guardian of the Oblivioni.

Home taping is killing independent music

by Mark Sadler

Charlie Bannister had awoken to find himself securely strapped to his kitchen table top. A cross-shaped incision had been made in his belly, and the four fatty corner-flaps of flesh had been spread apart. A warm salty breeze, emanating from the kitchen flue of the kebab shop next door, drifted in through the open window and wafted across his exposed guts.

Raising his head, he watched appalled as his empty intestines were slowly drawn from his abdominal cavity and into one deck of a double cassette player. The other deck was occupied by a copy of The Flying Pickets’ debut album – Lost Boys.

He had passed out at the beginning of side two; their shite cover version of The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.

He had awakened to the “ba-da-da-da” of an angelic choir. As reality gradually came back into focus, he realised that it was The Picket’s number one hit – Only You.

His thoughts returned to the other night at The Falcon, when some lunatic had commandeered the jukebox and played the song 27 times in a row.

“I know that it’s a Yazoo cover, but it’s still appalling acappella shite.”

“You’ll find it hard to stay true to your Grebo roots after this,” gloated Jeremy. He was perched on the kitchen counter, readying the tattoo gun to apply the cover art and the track-listing.

“Do you know what record companies do to living breathing illegal copies of their albums? Let’s say that they don’t just hunt foxes, and audio tape isn’t the only thing you see tangled-up in tree branches.”

Charlie gritted his teeth as the band launched into a ponderous cover version of Bob Dylan’s Masters of War.

“Ah shite, just kill me already.”

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

by Stephanie Ellis

Ivan watched Moira as she watched herself in the studio mirror. As usual she was going in a different direction to everybody else and her flushed complexion had begun to match the crimson leg warmers wrinkling round her ankles. The other women, svelte and sleek in their leotards, regarded her with annoyance. He saw Moira bite her lip and walked over. He didn’t want to lose her. She was perfect for him.

“Ignore them, they’re just witches,” he said. “They are nothing. You, you are everything.” False flattery but it always worked. She was smiling already. “I am running a special class on Sunday,” he continued. “Something to really stretch this little coven to their limits. Would you like to come?”

“Oh, I don’t think …”

“Not to participate,” he murmured into her ear, his lips almost kissing her lobe, “to see them feel the burn—and we can have our own private liaison.”

“I’ll be back,” she promised.

Sunday evening arrived and all was coated in perfect darkness. He watched her knock tentatively, sensed her excitement, felt it in himself.

“Hello,” she called.

Ivan did not answer, allowing the silence to draw her further into the studio before he finally stepped out of the shadows. “Moira! So delighted you could make it.”

She turned towards him. Expectant. He could read her mind, her dirty little mind.

“Ready to burn?” he murmured, taking her hand, leading her to a chair, binding her. She did not resist, a silk ribbon could mean so many things.

Shadows began move.

“They’re here,” said Moira, suddenly shocked as the women appeared. “I thought …” She struggled, screamed.

Ivan tightened the ribbon, fixed a gag. “Time to feel the burn,” he said. Behind him, ivory glinted in the darkness. He had a family to feed.

Inside Job

by Mike Murphy

The bell was very loud. “OK!” the officer called, making a slicing gesture across his throat. Phil Smothers, the owner of Phil’s Candlepins, hit the kill switch. “The alarm is definitely working.”

“Then how did the thief get in here?” Phil asked.

“Don’t know yet,” the policeman admitted. “When did you close?”

“Eight o’clock. We’re open until 10:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.” He pointed at the empty spots in his arcade. “Look at this!” he exclaimed. “You’d never know that we had Frogger and Galaga games here. There’s not a trace of either one – not even a screw.”

“They’re heavy, right?”

“Oh yeah! I helped bring them in,” Phil recalled. “My back was aching for three days.”

The officer paced the side-by-side spaces where the games had been. “One a night?”

“Right: Frogger two nights ago; Galaga last night.” He sighed and continued, “I was the last one here both times, and they were there when I left. The alarm should have sounded when the thief broke in.”

“Unless,” the officer suggested, “it was an inside job.”

Space Invaders tonight it thought in the dim light of the closed alleys. One a night is enough to quench my appetite until closing time. Soon, it’ll be just me. I’ll get all the kids’ quarters. I’ll supply all their fun. They’ll be lost without me! Phil can’t possibly replace those inferior games even if they are covered by his insurance – which I bet they’re not.

The dots, pellets, little ghosts, and fruit are tasty. . . but I need more. There are enough games here to hold me over. However, if they get boring, there are other things to eat.

The colored ghosts – Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde – are yummy. I bet living people would be too.

The Velvet Room

by Wiebo Garber

The velvet room was a dingy arcade underneath the viaducts, where teenagers spent weekends, permeating of musk and must. The crumbling brick walls were lined with moth eaten velvet drapes, hence its name.

 

Sophie spotted the boy against the far wall. He smiled and motioned with a nod for her to follow, disappearing behind the curtains.

 

She pursued and stopped in amazement. A roller rink lay on the other side. It was small, only big enough for eight. She looked back towards the curtain. How weren’t people aware it’s here? She walked over and ran her hand across its surface. The wood was a beautiful deep ochre and polished so she could see her reflection.

 

The boy smiled and handed her a pair of roller skates. She strapped them on and took his hand.

 

She giggled as they completed their first circuit. It was like skating on silk. The music beyond the curtain grew louder and faster. So did their skating. The boots and the boys hand grew tighter. Sophie tried to get off but it was like being stuck in a groove.

 

The boy turned to her, a rictus grin on his face. His skin flaked away from his cheeks and floated into the air like pieces of burning rice paper. The ochre wax covering the floor cracked and drifted upwards, twirling like rose petals. They cut into Sophie like tiny blades as she passed through them, her blood dripped onto the floor and the wood greedily quenched its thirst.

 

The boards cracked and splintered, lifting like tiny draw bridges. Sophie screamed as she fell into a pit, writhing with torn clothes and bones. The boards closed over her and she ripped her nails scratching at it.

 

Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine drowned out her muffled screams.

 

Monsters Exist

by Chloe Gilholy

Monsters exist: Kevin was one of them.

Geraldine filed for divorce and threw him out. He may never see his kids again. With nothing but a pocket full of coins, he took a bus ride to his cousin’s video game parlour: Freddie’s Hole. He walked in, and all seemed fine. Princess Diana was on the TV again – she was having another baby. Everyone was celebrating the news, apart from Kevin – he wasn’t in the mood. There was only one arcade machine that was empty: Corpse Sucker! The screen was a bloody sight to behold. No buttons or controls: just a slot for 50p coins.

He got a sudden chill as if there was ice on his shoulders.

An earthquake echoed in his ear, but the ground never shook. He inserted the coin, then his legs crumbled to the floor. He looked around. The room turned black and became filled with ashen smoke.

“Hello?” Kevin quivered. “Freddie? Are you there? Please help me.”

A devilish voice cackled. “Of course I will help you. Just look at the screen.”

The screen on the arcade machine melted away and unleashed rainbow blocks that quickly turned to red and splattered his face. Black hands whirled him inside.

“Brian, aren’t you eating your roast chicken?” Geraldine asked her son.

“But I can’t.  We’ve got to wait for Dad. You said we’re not allowed to eat until we are all together at the table.”

“Brian…” his sister said, “Dad’s not coming back.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look at those papers on the couch.”

Brian jumped off his chair and gasped at the headline: DIVORCE DECREE. He scurried to his bed. The dinner remained untouched. Blood dripped from his ceiling. He knew something sinister had happened when he heard the wailing sirens of a police car.

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