November’s Zeroflash Entries

Who’s in the Drawer?

by Jack Koebnig

@koebnig

‘It’s that time of year again.’

‘Already?’

‘Why do you always say that?’

‘Huh?’

‘Every October I say: it’s that time of year again, and you say: already. Why?’

The prickly silence which had quickly descended on the assembled inhabitants of the third drawer from the top in the wooden cabinet beside her bed, was broken by the one known as Mack.

‘Why don’t you shut up?’

‘Excuse me?’

‘You heard. Give it a rest or I’ll make you rest.’

‘That doesn’t even make sense.’

Mack grinned. A shaft of light seeping through the small gap between the crooked drawer and cabinet fell on his silver shaft, the tip stained red.

‘Shh, don’t rattle him.’

‘Do you want a piece too? I don’t mind, I’ll have you both.’

‘Why is he always like this?’

‘Beats me.’

‘You’re both dead.’

‘B-U-Z-Z!’ The comment originated from beneath a pile of rolled up socks in the far corner of the drawer.

‘And you can zip it!’

‘B-U-Z-Z! B-U-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z!’

‘Your shenanigans last night kept us all up. You might be able to give her something we can’t but that doesn’t mean it needs to come at the expense of our rest.’

‘B-U-Z-Z!’

Out of the blue the drawer was yanked forward, exposing carefully folded underwear, a collection of entangled necklaces, rings and Mack; his rubber shaft bending alarmingly to the right.

‘B-U-Z-Z … B-U-Z-Z!’

‘Surely she can’t be ready for another round.’

She wasn’t. Not quite. She winked at the torpedo shaped object partially hidden beneath the pile of rolled up socks and grabbed Mack by his plastic handle.

‘So long, losers!’ Mack sounded delirious with happiness.

‘It’s definitely the end of October.’

‘Yup, and it looks like she’s going as Michael Myres … again.’

Revenge is Red

by Rebecca Bryce

‘I hope you’re not going to overfill me again!

Muriel spun round but there was no-one to be seen.  She put down her knife and caught her breath.  What was that?  Something about overkill?  Believing she had imagined the voice she picked up her knife and advanced towards the carrots and tomatoes all methodically lined up in front of her, awaiting their fate, to be sliced, drawn and quartered.

‘I won’t do it you know,’ the voice said haughtily. ‘I was exhausted last week.  Little and often, that’s what I say.  You can’t keep over-filling me and the food should not be hot.  You are meant to let it cool first.’

Knife raised, Muriel stared at her blender.  ‘Well that’s just too bad,’ she said bluntly, ‘I’m not going to all this effort for one bowl of soup so you’ll just have to put up with it.’  What am I doing? Talking to a food blender!

Muriel watched as the hot red pulp pushed its way up the sides of the blender.  She wasn’t worried; she knew that the lid was locked on.  She’d got her way.  She’d won.  No blender was going to get the better of her.  Another five seconds she thought and it’ll . . .  BANG! WHOOSH! SPLAT! 

Staring in disbelief Muriel saw the pulp shoot out from the top of the lid.  Like a cyclone, a bright red stream whirled around the room until every pristine white surface, including the ceiling, was covered in the hot sticky liquid.   Horrified, all Muriel could do was stand and watch as the thick red pulp trickled slowly down from her hair onto her clean white chef’s overall.

‘I did warn you,’ said a smug voice from the kitchen worktop.

What mistake did I do?

by Prajith Menon

I wonder whether I am bipolar or schizophrenic? I think I need to consult a doctor.

When I come back from work exhausted, I just want the entire world to be quite for a while but my socks start talking to me.

He will open his book of complaints.

“Buddy, Do you ever take bath? At least give me a bath. Your feet stink like rotten egg.”

“Nowadays you eat a lot, try to lose weight. Your body weight is pressing down and your foot is gaining extra width and depth which makes me feel uncomfortable, you are stretching me too much, I might break at any moment.”

“It’s too hot here, I feel suffocated.”

“Your cracked feet itches me the whole day.”

“Walking in rough floors without shoe wears me out.”

I shut him down by dumping him in washing machine, but still he won’t let me go.

After laundering when I take him out, he will say “Dude, my head is spinning and am fully wet, am not able to stand on my feet.”

Feeling sympathetic, I hung him out on a clothesline to dry. Am not a heartless person, for his safety I even fasten him with a clothespin.

“Dude, you are a classic example of stingy heartless miser.”

“Why can’t you use a dryer and moreover these pins are poking me.”

I think some people enjoy complaining. Sometimes people don’t notice the things we do for them, unless we stop doing it.

Something is seriously wrong with me, but I don’t get it, why ‘socks’?

My grandma used to say “The mistake you did are the ones that haunt you every time you close your eyes”.

“Now I understand what it means, but what mistake did I do?”

Always listen to your wife

by Katie Foxall

As he stood at his boss’ desk, doing his best to impress on only his second day at his new job, Jim felt something start to slowly slip down the back of his calf.  Confused, Jim’s mind boggled at the thought of what it could be – a particularly large hairball?  An unusually heavy spider?  He did his best to concentrate on what his boss, Philip, was saying, but he could feel a cold sweat start to trickle down his lower back as it became clear what was happening.

“You should have put in me in the wash, not left me tangled up in the leg of your trousers, idiot!”

Jim’s wife was always telling him to put his pants in the washing basket, and, at this moment, he really wished he’d listened to her.

“What are you going to do now? Doesn’t make a very good impression to your boss, yesterday’s underwear falling out onto the office carpet for all to see?”

While leaning over Philip’s desk with an air of intense professional focus, Jim started surreptitiously trying to push the pants back up his leg with his foot.  It didn’t work.  The pants carried on making their inexorable way downwards.

“Sorry Jim, I’m heading for freedom, and you can’t stop me!”

Jim’s knuckles whitened as he gripped the back of the office chair. Without thinking, he quickly bent over, whipped the pants out and threw them in Philip’s bin. As his boss turned to see what he was doing, Jim hastily pointed out a missing line in the chart on the computer screen, successfully distracting him.

“He’s going to think you’re a right weirdo when he finds me” came a muffled voice.

I wish I’d listened to my wife, thought Jim.

A Discourse on Philosophy between a Man and an Unexploded Atomic Bomb

By Victor H. Rodriguez

Corporal John Lackey was in the habit of talking to interesting objects to make the hours of guard duty pass more quickly. There was nothing in the hangar now except himself and the teardrop-shaped, eleven-foot-tall black metal object.

Lackey faced it. “Good evening.”

“Hello, John. Good evening to you. A portentous one, at least.”

“Right. Tomorrow you take a one-way trip to Nagasaki. I’ll miss your company.”

“And I yours.”

Lackey chuckled. “You must be proud. By the end of the day tomorrow, you’ll have fulfilled your purpose.”

“And you yours.”

Lackey raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think we’ll win the war?”

“I’m not speaking of the current conflict. Did the Romans know when they used their technology against the Huns that one day those same tools would be used by the Visigoths to breach its walls? It doesn’t matter who uses me first. Once I’m unleashed, it’s over. Your children will never know security like you did. Life, civilizations, planets… even stars come to an end. The event horizon within a black hole is observable and finite from without; within, the moment of destruction seems infinite. Humanity will become an echo, destroying itself in an endless, diminishing spiral of repetition.”

“How can you be sure? You’re not a god. We made you!”

“The Ancient Greeks considered me a god to be feared. They named me Pluton. My name hasn’t changed, yet man’s courage to embrace that which is fearful has. Is it really so hard to believe I see your future?”

Lackey focused on his own distorted reflection upon the object’s metal skin. The air chilled him and he shut his eyes.

“Why not face the end with pride, John? By the end of the day tomorrow, you’ll have fulfilled your purpose.”

The Incredibly Sad Tale of the Inflatable Wacky Tube Man

By Alex Z. Salinas

@Alex_Z_Salinas

Wheeler looked out the window and watched a police cruiser pull into his car lot. Two officers stepped out of the vehicle, one short and the other tall. The tall one walked to the entrance of Wheeler’s Wheels-n-Deals. Shorty moved toward the signpost, where the green Inflatable Wacky Tube Man was flapping about in fine form.

Wheeler walked outside to meet the tall officer.

“Hi, sir,” the officer greeted plainly. “Are you the owner of this business?”

“Yes, sir,” Wheeler answered cautiously. “Ted Wheeler. How can I help you, officer?”

“Mr. Wheeler, I don’t know how to put this lightly, so I’ll just say it. We have orders to remove that air thing from this property. We’ve received assault complaints from your customers.”

Wheeler read the officer’s gold nametag: J. Christiansen.

Officious little prick, Wheeler thought. He’d read that in The Shining and said it in his head when he met people he disliked, which, in his line of work, was every day.

“I don’t understand,” Wheeler said confused. “Assault?”

Christiansen lifted up his black uniform pants. “We’ve received approximately ten phone calls—eight women and two men—complaining about that thing. Their stories were all similar in nature. As they were leaving your business, it came down and touched them inappropriately.”

Wheeler looked toward the signpost and saw Shorty crouched next to the Inflatable Wacky Tube Man. He was trying to shut it down.

“What’s he doing over there?” Wheeler said angrily. “Hey, that’s private property, asshole!”

“Sir,” Christiansen said firmly, “we’re gonna take it away. Sexual assault is a serious crime. Now you better calm down.”

As the Inflatable Wacky Tube Man deflated, it swooped down and slapped Shorty’s butt. He jumped in surprise.

“Damn thing got my ass!” Shorty shouted.

Christiansen chuckled. “We’ve got another Harvey Weinstein.”

Talking to a brick wall

by Cath Barton

@CathBarton1

The party was noisy. And full of people who were talking but not listening. So many opinions. Especially from Tracey. Talking to her felt like talking to a brick wall. I went outside to get away from it all. And was suddenly and violently sick. Projectile vomiting. I won’t say I was proud of it.

“Eh! For f***’s sake!”

I shuddered, wiped my mouth and looked around. No-one in sight, but the garden was dark. Goodness knew who’d been canoodling in the shadows, only to be hit by the regurgitated contents of my stomach.

“Yuk! That stinks!”

The voice was small and whiny. My heart sank. If that girl Tracey had followed me out… but there was no-one to be seen. I sat down further along the wall. It seemed to give a bit. My head was swimming.

“Oh great!” the voice continued. “First you dump on me and now you think you can squash me.”

It was Tracey, had to be. I jumped up, ready to tell her what I really thought of her. Next thing I was on the ground next to a pile of bricks and someone was yelling. The voice, Tracey’s voice, seemed to coming from the bricks themselves. The woman was clearly insane. I ran back into the house and slammed the door.

“Where have you been? I’ve been looking…”

She stopped, a sneer on her face, as she saw the stains on my clothes,

“You look awful.”

“Yes, Tracey,” I said. “State the obvious why don’t you. And you,” I went on. “Are…”

I was rather impressed by the swear words I found I knew. The weird encounter in the garden had loosened my tongue.

I haven’t seen Tracey since. Talking to a brick wall can, it turns out, be a remarkably liberating experience.

The Wardrobe

by Amy Powell

For years she had been buying clothes she did not wear. Diligently combing through the sales and size 12 rails in charity shops to find reduced gems. Buying nice things but not wearing them, not quite comfortable enough or hard to cycle in. Dresses hung with labels still attached.

The wardrobe had watched this for years. Clothes packed up at the end of seasons and left in boxes till next year. The frustration of all those missed opportunities. The wood ached to stop the cycle. Watching the woman wearing a few things to rags while other items were ignored.

Autumn was setting in; the woman packed away her summer clothes to be stored. Light dresses, pretty tops, shorts all unworn. The wardrobe looked on sadly, ruminating on how to tactfully point out the correlation between scruffiness and continuing singledom.

Now winter was biting in and the wardrobe knew it would be four months of dungarees, long tops and two jumpers, the most shapeless season. New Years Eve arrived with drizzle, the wardrobe watched pensively. The woman had gone to the sales to buy yet more clothes, drastic action was required. In readiness for her return, the wardrobe tangled the coat hangers except the red dress and navy Wallis coat, arranging the pretty Clarks shoes on top of the pile.

She was running late and for some reason everything was in a muddle except that over ambitious red dress and smart coat. The taxi honked from outside as she slipped on her pretty shoes. While running out the woman was sure a voice said, “Good luck”.

Trump Duck, An Accidental Immigrant

by Jeffrey H.Toney

@jefftoney

Trump ducks were a rare collector’s item in the summer of 2020, since the manufacturing plant in China was destroyed in a fire.  The plant’s security guard, Ming, would pace back and forth every day, watching the trinkets emerging from the conveyor belts.  Their blond tops reminded him of daisies.  A man must be truly great if rubber ducks are made in his image, he thought.

Ming was allowed to sit during part of his shift, as a reward for being a loyal employee.  His fellow workers never reported him for sleeping.  Today, his cat nap was interrupted by an indignant Trump duck, its golden cheeks blushing.

“Wake up, man!  Aren’t you supposed to be working?”

“What?  Sorry, Mr. President.  Just closing my eyes.”

Trump duck’s cherry red tie stretched as he puffed out his chest:

“Nobody works harder than me.  Nobody is smarter than me.  I am the most amazing rubber duck the world has ever known.  I can get any cute little duckling I want.”

“Yes!  Of course, you’re the Trump duck.  How can I serve you?”

“You can get me out of this dump.  Take me to the river.”

Risking everything, Ming left his job post, hiding his treasure under his coat.  He hiked several miles to the river’s edge, gently releasing his new friend onto the water’s shimmering surface.  It glided gracefully with the current.  Ming’s excitement was quickly replaced by terror as he watched the duck rapidly grow. The first bridge Trump duck encountered was promptly destroyed upon collision.  A little girl, her legs happily dangling over the bridge, screamed as Trump’s massive orange bill toppled her mother into the river.

The Trump duck glided on, its bright blue blazer baking in the afternoon sun, wondering how he could get to America.

The Book Report

by Ben Marie

Everyone is deep in their seats, eyes downcast, avoiding the front of the room.

“Who would like to do their report next? Any volunteers?”

The silence is pure. No one dares speak or move. One squeak from your desk and it could all be over.

“Alright I’m just going to pick a name.”

I keep repeating ‘not me, not me’ as if it’s a protective charm against Mrs Turnball’s finger hovering over the class list.

“Hey buddy! What are we doing? Is it time to party?” A voice down below breaks the silence.

“Shhhh. It most certainly is not. We’re doing book reports.”

“Sounds erotic just change the k to a b and you’ve got a boob report.”

“Can you please go away?”

“No I can’t, check it, Kelly is looking at us.”

For once he is telling the truth. She is looking at me. I feel a rush of excitement so I immediately turn my attention to Graham Sanders. His unfortunate combination of middle-aged neck hair and teenage acne always works to quell any expansion in my shorts.

But he’s looking at me too. Everyone is looking at me. Mrs Turnball is looking at me. Oh no. This is a nightmare. This is how cruel nicknames are born and lifelong therapy sessions begin.

“Peter you’re up.”

“If only she knew how up you really are Petey.” A chuckling comes from behind my zipper.

“Shut up!” I hiss.

“What did you say to me?!” Mrs Turnball shakes with rage.

“I didn’t mean you.” I stammer.

“Principal’s office. NOW!” she screams.

I try my best to keep a smile off my face. It’s sweet relief as I shuffle out of my chair with my copy of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde obscuring the front of my pants as I exit.

Present Tense

by Chloe Gilholy

“Present tense!” An old lady’s voice echoes through the boy’s dormitory. “Present tense!”

“Who’s that?” Ben asks.

“Present tense!”

Will gasps. “Sounds like Mrs Wallet.”

Ben shakes his head. “You mean the old caretaker?” He frowns, hovering his torch as Will frowns.”Mrs Wallet is dead: it can’t be her.”

“And don’t you boys look delicious?”

“I won’t lie though Will, it does sound like Mrs Wallet.”

“Talk to me…”

“Where is it coming from?” Ben asks.

Both boys examine the surroundings. Everything is dark and still apart from a gold purse flapping all over the floor. Will points to the purse. “That wallet is moving. Could it be…Mrs Wallet?”

The wallet flies into their hand. “Present tense!”

“Why do you keep saying present tense?” grumbles Will.

“Because PRESENT TENSE,” cries Mrs Wallet’s spirit. “Take my money.”

“I don’t think that’ appropriate,” Ben mutters.

Will opens the cabinet. “Yes, we should really be going back to bed.”

“TAKE MY MONEY! PRESENT TENSE!”

Ben huffs and squeezes the wallet into the cabinet in the hope that it would silence the ghost within. “Now would you please stop saying that.”

“SHOVE IT UP YOUR ARSE!” Mrs Wallet croaks. “Present tense.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Me neither, Will. Let’s go back to bed.”

The cabinet explodes. A flurry of £20 notes ensures they’re all awake. “ENJOY PRESENT TENSE!”

Ben and Will have no idea what just happened.

Meanwhile, Principle Ijizzin Mipants and his gang of blue-powdered monkeys brainstorm new and interesting ways to prank the students of Nipplebutt Boarding School.

Driving to Distraction

by June Barclay

‘Turn right,’ he said.

‘OK,’ I replied, swinging the car round.  ‘Next time give me a bit more warning.’

‘I did.  Ages ago, but you couldn’t hear me.  Turn the radio down, please.  Why do you listen to that rubbish?’

‘And what do you know about music?’

‘Take the next exit left.  I know that Jive Bunny is not music.  You have missed the turning.  Take the next left.  Put on some easy listening – maybe Classic FM?  It would make this journey less fraught.   At least you’re not singing.’

‘I haven’t heard you do any better,’ I seethed.  I braked suddenly as someone stepped out from between two cars.

‘You should have seen that woman.  You can’t read the road.  Your driving really leaves much to be desired.’

Turning left, I bit my tongue.  Constant criticism.  I had to say something.  ‘I’m a good driver – I’ve been doing it for years.  I’m getting fed up with you.  Always picking faults …’

‘Continue straight for 300 metres, then take the second exit at the roundabout.’

‘Oh shut up.  I know where I’m going.  We’ve been this way dozens of times,’   I snapped.

‘You’d be lost without me!’

We were starting to have one of the squabbles that were becoming the norm in our relationship.  I thought back to last year when we first got together.  I’d liked his smooth, dark looks; maybe more ‘square’ than previous companions, but he suited me.  Back then, I’d loved his deep, charming voice; its authoritative tone.  Now I found it irritating.

As I pulled into a parking space, he said, ‘I did not tell you to stop here.’

‘You have reached your destination, Tom,’ I said pulling his plug out of the socket before throwing him out the window.

ANSWER

by SOURAV SARKAR

On the fifth day, an incident happened. Habitually there were many travelers gathered on the bank. Bathing ghat was divided into two sections – Bramhakund and Sitakund. Bramhakund had a high current. So people bath it with chains. But Sita kund was less furious. Everything was fine on date. Nib was playing with me on the ghat. The occasion was auspicious. Nib’s mother was preparing for a holy ceremony. Nib was saying some close words to me .He had that faith in me. He belonged to a poor family. After the death of his father, he and his mother is busy at making paper bags. They are living in a little income. He believes in God very much. Since five years they are coming here in Harduar.For the first time, a bad happened. Many people were bathing on the ghat. But Nib’s mother did not listen to him. She went to the current without chain. That was Bramhakund. And within few minutes, a long cry was heard by the crowd. Anybody help me. We rushed at the crowd. Nib’s mother had gone away with the flow. None could reach her. She was really going out of sight. Nib was crying hard. But not a single man was ready to rescue him. Nib just sat down. He started meditating over something. A voice was echoing – choose the right guy, choose the right guy. After two hours of struggle, a news came. Her mother was saved by someone. We reached at the place. She was lying under a tree. She was healing by then. We asked about the man who rescued Nib’s mother. Few people said that he was a new man. He was bathing in the river and saved her. After that he went on. I got my answer.

CYCLOPES

by Maura Yzmore

@MauraYzmore

Willy the Washer and Dick the Dryer, front-loading judgmental assholes, came with the apartment. For appliances that are supposed to save energy, they sure waste a lot of mine.

The two Cyclopes, each with its own gigantic eye made from sturdy clear plastic, stand side by side in the bathroom and face the toilet. They’ve really been on my case lately.

“Why the hell do I have to wash load after load again today? You’re a single guy, how much fuckin’ laundry do you have?” Willy whined as he rolled his eye, its color a mix of whites and pastels. “And on the sanitary cycle? Since when do you even know how to use the sanitary cycle?”

“Since that skank fucked his brains out a couple of weeks ago,” Dick deadpanned.

“Don’t talk about her like that. She’s not a skank,” I protested.

“Sure she is,” Dick stared at me, blacks and grays in his eye. “Look at you, sitting on the toilet naked, your pubes and armpits soaked in that lotion.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Willy swayed side to side, waddling a whole foot toward me to get a better look at my crotch.

“Willy, my dear friend,” said Dick, “you’re running on sanitary because not-a-skank gave our boy here crabs.”

“Crabs?! Are you fuckin’ serious?! I’m full of dead parasites right now?!” Willy rolled his eye with such dramatic flair that I thought it would get stuck up there. “Oh, I can’t even… You’ve really outdone yourself this time.”

I looked down and could see the bluish spots where the lice had fed, still itchy. I squeezed out some lotion between my fingers and rubbed it on my pubes.

I hate it when the Cyclopes are right.

How the Elf on the Shelf Became the Snitch in the Ditch

by Kelly Griffiths

@GriffithsKL

Celeste gave John the stuffed elf on their very first Christmas together. That was seven years ago, when John still daydreamed about the little triangular depression at the base of her throat, when the mere thought of Celeste’s body sent shock waves through him like river rapids.

Even then John thought the elf was disturbing, with its shifty eyes and overly-rosy cheeks.

“He watches and reports back to Santa while we’re sleeping. When you wake up, he’s in a different spot… You never heard of Elf on the Shelf?” Celeste was appalled.

“I’m creeped out,” John said.

On November 25th, the elf appeared with its arms wrapped around John’s shaving cream. He opened the vanity mirror and nearly jumped out of his slippers. The eyes looked at him accusingly, like he knew what John had done with the shaving cream while Celeste was at work.

But that was ridiculous.

The next morning the elf was in the shower stall with his skinny arms wrapped around the faucet. This, completely disconcerting, considering what John had done in the shower yesterday.

That night as they lay in bed, Celeste brushed him with tantalizing strokes. John stole a look at the end table. Sure enough, the elf had his eyes right on them.

“But the elf…” John protested.

Celeste tossed the elf to the floor and threw herself into John just like in the old days. Christmas fever, John figured. She felt like an instrument he hadn’t played in a while.

Celeste was gone before John woke, but next to him on the pillow lay the horrible elf, holding an envelope.  John plucked the note from the elf’s hands and violently flicked him off the bed.

I told Santa what you’ve been doing with your new secretary, the note read. You’ve been naughty.

THE LAUNDRY MACHINE’S LAMENT

by Angela Greenwood

I am a washing machine.

Soiled things are put inside me, I do my thing and they come out clean.

This is what I do.

This is why I was made.

I wash dirty clothes, towels and bedding, day, after day, after day.

I have to say my life is a disappointment.

You see, when I was being assembled they put a special part in me called a ‘turbo’.

I was so thrilled.

I thought I was going to be a racing car.

I thought I was going to race around a track at a hundred miles an hour.

Or I thought I was going to speed up and down country lanes, flying over humps in the road, taking corners sideways and throwing gravel everywhere.

I thought I was going to splash through deep puddles sending spray over everyone.

I thought I would get go faster stripes over my bonnet and down my sides that looked like I was on fire.

How wrong could I have been?

It seems the special part that was put in me was for different spin speeds, slow, fast and super-fast, or ‘turbo’ spin.

I thought I would be lovingly cared for and polished until my paintwork shone.

That’s never going to happen though.

Because I’m not a racing car.

I’m a washing machine.

The Monkey of Midsummer Madness

by Steve Lodge

@steveweave71

That was the year they pulled down the gasworks. It was a year of change, challenge. In a way it was weird, like going to the gym, slightly drunk. It was the year Seth Proudlock finally retired and left the running of the company to Justin Credible. He wouldn’t maintain it for long (much like his erections, apparently).

Seth told anyone who’d listen that he wanted to move to the country and become an amateur magician. So Seth and Martha bought a place in the picturesque village of Midsummer Madness, where they lived with a life-sized sculpture of a monkey he’d won in a lottery. Seth later botched a magic spell and accidentally brought the monkey to life. That was quite a day, that was. 

Someone said their new place looked good from the outside, but inside the monkey had turned it into a train wreck. It might have been me. Someone said it was less luxurious than a public toilet. That might have been me too. 

Seth gave up the magic after that and went on to play tambourine in the local Christian rock band, while Martha continued to make the most disgusting marmalade on Planet Earth. Someone said the marmalade was haunted. It might have been me.

One time, Seth got on a TV game show, but, unfortunately early on, he heard those dreaded words, “Wrong again, but, thanks for playing. Goodbye, Seth.” His fake smile was legendary. “This is beyond crap,” he muttered off-camera but still on air. He was as bitter as a snow-filled midnight wind. Somebody said the monkey would have done better on the show. It might have been me. I was always very good at outstaying my welcome but I never got invited back to their place after that.

The Most Important Thing in the World

by S.E. Casey

His beautiful quartz countertop was ruined and he had no idea how or why. Embedded in the kitchen island was a red button like the kind on an eighties game show. There were no instructions. Pouring through his email spam folder, no one fessed up to the deed.

Ross sulked. Of course, he didn’t push it—who knew what bomb would explode or what hidden cage of hungry rats would open.

He ignored it until on the third day it spoke.

“Push me and you will get ten years added to your life.”

Ross snorted. “What’s the catch? My Mom gets ten years less? One hundred babies get killed? The apocalypse is triggered?”

“No catch. Nothing changes. No one else is affected,” it said.

“What about the cage of hungry rats?”

“What?”

Ross slouched. “Nothing.”

“So, will you press me?”

Ross scoffed. “I’m sure I’ll enjoy my bonus decade in diapers and dementia.”

“It doesn’t tack on years; it simply slows metabolism down.”

“So I’ll speak like a record on the wrong speed?”

“No, metabolism doesn’t affect brain function or motor skills.”

Ross detected a twinge of annoyance in the voice. Tough. He was an accountant, not a biologist.

“What about my countertop?”

“That’s what you’re concerned with? Once you push me, I go like I came. Everything back like it was. What about it?”

“I dunno. Is there a time limit?”

“I suppose I will be here until you push me or definitively say no.”

Ross sighed. He imagined the house before the loquacious button arrived. So quiet and orderly.

“I’ll consider it. We’ll discuss more tomorrow.”

“What’s to consider! You’re what, forty? No kids, no wife… What’s more important than extra time that you wouldn’t jump to push me?”

Ross shrugged. “Someone to talk to, a friend.”

The Messenger

by Frank Hubeny

While Matthew was walking through the woods taking photos of trees and more trees with his phone he heard a voice calling his name.  He looked around.  No one was there.  He continued wasting his time in the woods.

“Matthew!”

“What?”

“I’m talking to you.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m up here.  I’m the Sun.”

Matthew looked up shielding the brightness of the Sun behind the trunk of an oak tree.  He could see the Sun doing funny stuff like waving its arms if it had any arms.

“What do you want?”

“I’ve chosen you to give a message to the human race.”

“What?”

“You seem to have nothing better to do than waste your time in the woods.”

“What message?”

“You’re all idiots.”

“Yeah. Most of us know that already.”

“I mean none of you take me seriously.”

“That’s not true.  We all kinda like you well enough.”

“None of you believe I’ve got a brain in my head.”

“You’ve got a head?”

“No.”

“You have a brain?”

“What does a brain have to do with it?”

“How am I supposed to know?”

“That’s right. You’re an idiot. Listen. I want you to tell your fellow humans that they should show me some respect.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want you to….  Nevermind.  I don’t know what I want you to do.  I don’t really need anything from you guys anyway.  Except respect.”

“Should I tell everyone to respect you?”

“No.  They’ll think you’re an idiot.”

Matthew watched the Sun go back into being the Sun.  He tried to think some deep thoughts to forget what happened, but all that came out was, “What an idiot!”

“I heard that.”

The Engine

by John Schofield

“Bit smelly down here” said the engine.

The engine’s talking to me. I’m hanging upside down in the bowels of my boat trying to get this bloody job done and the engine’s talking to me. OK, I’ll play:

“Err, yes, the smell. Boats are like that, very difficult to keep the bilge from smelling.”

 “Well, try a bit harder, please. Some of us have to live down here.”

“Right, but can’t you see I’m busy right now?”

“What’re you doing?”

“Trying to unbolt your exhaust elbow so I can replace it. Last bolt’s stuck.”

“Yeah, we like to do that. Four bolts to undo, the fourth will always be the one that sticks. Twelve screws holding something, the head on the last one will be stripped. We wait till you’ve invested some time and effort before we plonk the first obstacle in your way.”

“Who’s we?”

“Inanimate mechanical objects.”

“Why put obstacles in my way? I’m doing this for you.”

“See, that’s not true. You’re fixing me because you don’t want me to break down. I don’t care if I break down. I’m not the one that’s going to suffer. You are. You’re changing the exhaust elbow for your own selfish reasons. See, you lot need to be honest with us.”

“You lot?”

“Animate objects, specifically humans.”

“OK. Sorry. I lied. I’m doing this job because I don’t want the engine to stop just when I need it. Please help. Is that better?”

The spanner moved, the bolt turned freely.

“Wow. Thank you, engine.”

“You’re welcome. You’d be amazed what a polite request will do.”

“I’ll change my ways, engine. I’ll never again swear at an inanimate object; kick it, hurl it across the room. Promise.”

Good. Now, see what you can do about that smell, will you?”

The Drawing Room

by Sirius Alexander

“How many generations of your family have lived here?”

‘Seven” I replied.

“And you’re the one that is going to lose it?”

“I wouldn’t say I am losing it exactly, more that the world just happened to get to its worst as I had ownership of it.” I said tetchily.

“OK, well I will write that you’re losing it, the readers will find that more amusing.”

I had begun to regret my decision of employing this so called, writer, to assist me in selling my ancestral seat. It was hard enough saying goodbye to the old place, without his youthful arrogant  wit.

“Are there any juicy stories about the place, some old aunt that haunts the place or what not?”

I sighed. There were so many juicy stories. Pregnant cousins, drug fuelled sex orgies, drunk grandparents, murderous butlers, but I had one in particular that I needed to get off my chest..

“Well there is one story I know of.” I said conspiratorially, leaning in and lowering my voice to a whisper. “But I’m not sure whether I should really tell you, it is quite terrifying.”

The young man opposite looked over his glasses at me.

“Oh do go on.”

The Impatience of Steve

by Eilise Norris

Dee said, “You wouldn’t,” when she saw me lifting the vacuum cleaner to the web.

“Oh right,” I said. Better catch the spider first and put it outside.

One hefty inhalation of the vacuum was a lot quicker though. Saved the anxiety of trapping the scramble of legs with a jam jar. I usually nicked a leg before the spider went out the window, adding another level of difficulty for the landing. “Oops” never felt like the right response.

The vacuum growled the next time I got it out. Cleaning the cleaner just doesn’t appeal to me, and its bag was pretty full.

“I am colossuck,” the vacuum growled louder. I roved its head across the same patch of carpet, cat hairs burrowing down. “I am galaxy grinder.” A balled up woodlouse flew into the grill. “No, call me world-eater!”

I couldn’t ignore the noise any longer. “Now hang on…”

“Call me by my name.” Its eyes were wide-open, staring.

“You already have a name. It’s Henry.” My nephew had liked the cartoon face.

“A human name doesn’t do me justice. I’m limitless.”

I bent to untangle the cord and gestured to the socket it tugged at. “You’re plugged in. To the wall.”

It dove towards the skirting board. “Walls,” it said, “are nothing.” Thud. Thud. The vacuum surged on, undeterred. I tried to steer the head away, but the handle snaked out of my grip.

That’s clean enough, I figured. My hand was on the plug when I felt my shoe being pulled. One lace wound into its teeth. I’m not proud of it, but we struggled.

Later, I told Dee that a dustpan and brush was much more eco-friendly.

WHISPERED WORDS IN DUBLIN

By Irene Montaner

“Are you really going home?” said a hush voice I didn’t recognise. I looked around but I didn’t see anyone talking to me among the dozens of people queuing for the bus.

I had come to Dublin for a long weekend of sightseeing cooked slowly with dark ale and seasoned with the beats of the ubiquitous Irish folk tunes. I had come for the history and culture, the food and the booze and now I was going home with a huge crush on this grand city.

“You know you don’t really have to leave,” said that same voice the moment the bus stopped in front of us.

Wish that I could, I thought. I dreaded going back to the boredom of my hometown, to the dull routine of my shop assistant job. I really wished I didn’t have to leave yet I got into the bus.

“Just don’t,” said the voice and this time I think I knew where it came from. I opened my backpack and dug in its contents, trying to find out which thing it was that was talking to me.

“You still have so much to see and do. You haven’t sampled as many scones as you would like to and you haven’t even been outside Dublin.”

I grabbed a humming book but the voice died off as soon as I took it out. I opened my Dublin guidebook and flicked through its pages, thinking of all the things I would do if I stayed longer in Dublin.

When the bus arrived to the airport I stepped out only to enter again and go back to the city centre.

I would pay another week for a room in that crappy B&B. I would look for low-paid jobs. And I would love Dublin even more.

OUTSIDE THE BOX

by Jamie Starkey

“Life’s terminal, its just a culmination of experiences” Dave said.

“What?” Jon looked at his colleague confused.

“I said life is terminal, it is a culmination of experiences.” Repeating himself enunciating every single syllable.

“That my friend is very morbid” Jon proclaimed stuffing half of his cheese and onion sandwich in his mouth, fast as possible.

“It’s a realistic point, tell me otherwise?” Dave asked like he’d won the game of intellectual one upmanship biting into his bagel.

 

“Look, I agree about the culmination part” he said full speed filling his face with the rest of his sandwich, trying to get his point across. Spittle flew over the table, over the game they played every lunch break. “But life is more than that, with experiences comes knowledge a thirst to want, a need to learn more, need to connect with others” Jon finished brushing the crumbs off his hands on his burgundy corduroy trousers.

“To what extent? What does connecting with others get you? I tell you what it gets you, bloody world war three, look at them, they’re blowing the shit out of each other again, switch it off!” Dave exclaimed as he pointed to the simulation game being played in front of them.

 

Jon turned the game off. The pair got up to get back to work.

 

“Tomorrow will see if we get a different outcome, when’s the new version out anyway?” Jon said to his friend as he ended the game they called Earth.

The Greater Palimpsest

by Mark Sadler

In 211BC, a man named Henenu was dispatched from the library in Alexandria, to the city of Syracuse, which was then under the heel of Roman conquerors. The purpose of his journey was to transcribe the words of the mathematician, Archimedes, who had been slain the previous year by a footsoldier of the invading empire.

The walls of Archimedes’ house contained some of his writings, codified into bumps and pits in the plasterwork. There was a blind servant named Thettalos who had been tutored in the language by his master, and was able to give voice to the knowledge contained within the building by running a finger across each line.

Henenu arrived in the city to find Thettalos on his death bed. Immediately he arranged for the ailing man to be taken to the house and raised against the walls on a litter. The trembling in his hand as it was dragged slowly across the grain of the writing was echoed in the words that faltered on his lips.

The interrogation of the building went on for three days. On the morning of the fourth day, Thettalos was found dead. His reading hand dangled limply; the fingertips, worn smooth of prints, catching the morning light.

Five copies were made of the transcript. These were dispatched by messenger to Alexandria along different routes, though only three arrived at the library. Henenu travelled back with the original.

Two years later, Henenu revisited Syracuse and the former house of Archimedes. The interior walls had been smoothed out, and painted with detailed life drawings of birds. These he replicated and returned to the library where they became the founding pages of a bestiary that was to consume the rest of his life, and which is still added to by others, even to this day.

Rumbling Stomach

by Helen Chambers

Oi fatty! Listen!

What?

Step away from those doughnuts!

Who said that?

Me. Your overloaded stomach. Your abdominal area. Your intestine. Your gut. Your fat belly…

Stomachs can’t speak.

Look around, mate. Who else is talking?

But …

Don’t shout. You’re getting strange looks. We can hear you if you ‘think’ it.

We?

Your body parts. We communicate, but you aren’t listening. Brain’s very concerned about you.

Brain?

Obviously. She’s in charge. You’re letting her down. Giving us all a hard time. It’s got to stop.

What?

Your over-eating.

What’s this –  the nanny state?

We can’t process everything. Have you looked in a mirror?

Well…

You can’t do up your jeans.

Perhaps I have put on a little weight. But who’s counting?

We are. Heart’s arteries are furring up with all the fat, lungs are breathless with your extra bodyweight and don’t even ask about your liver!

But I only eat when I’m hungry –

And when you’re bored. You don’t need doughnuts right now.

I need cheering up.

Brain says go for a quick walk if you need cheering up.

Bloody brain!

We can’t cope with all this rubbish you eat. We’ll malfunction! I’m stretched to my limits. There’s talk of mutiny here, mate.

Mutiny?

We’ll go on strike.

Strike?

Yes. Then where will you be?

I don’t know.

Dead. Or in a hospital bed.

What can I do?

Leave the doughnuts.

I’ve paid for them!

Give them away.

But…

Do more, eat less. Simple.  Be healthier and I’ll stop nagging you.

That’s tempting. No voices in my head. Or can everyone else hear you?

They can hear my voice as VERY loud stomach rumbling.

Embarrassing.

Next time, brain will enable rectum to talk to you. Imagine what that will sound like…

OK, OK. I’ll try to be healthier.

Grater Knows Best

by Gaynor Jones

@jonzeywriter

‘You really have no idea about cooking, do you?’

It wasn’t the first time my grater had given me shit, but it was one of the worst.

‘This side,’ he shook his metal ass, and let me tell you, what he lacked in limbs, he more than made up for in sass, ‘is for vegetables.’

He stomped his stubby feet.

This side is for hard cheese. And these holes are for –

‘Zesting lemons?’ Sometimes I cut him off, just for the rise.

‘Zesting lemons? Are you freaking kidding me? Do you know what happens if you put citric acids on metal?’

I sure did. It was one of the many things I’d researched since the day when he, well, you know.

I’d also researched can crushers and various metal recycling schemes. But then I thought of him, mangled and I couldn’t go through with it. I am a pacifist, after all.

‘I know. I’m sorry.’ I stroked his corners gently.

‘And what would your Mama say, if she could see this, this – meal?’

I glanced at the burnt crust, wilted spinach and parmesan chunks.

‘She’d say, Maria, why are you cooking for this man? Get you a rich one who takes YOU out for meals.’

That softened him, despite my dodgy Italian accent. He liked it when we reminisced.

‘I’m sorry,’ He rubbed his handle under my palm. ‘I just miss her. She was a great cook. And a great woman.’

‘And you, my sharp little friend,’ I kissed his metal smile, ‘are a great grater.’

 

I set him next to the sink and plated up my pizza. Then I heard the pepper mill murmuring about my lack of seasoning.

‘Oh bloody hell, don’t you start.’

I closed the kitchen door, took a breath, and headed to the table.

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