Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Men With a Bow Saw by Bill Chance

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#83) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Men With a Bow Saw

Lucas spent a lot of time running on the Crosstown Trail. It was isolated and ran through some sketchy neighborhoods and that scared Lucas sometimes. One day it was cold and drizzly, with a thick fog rolling in, when he was out there by himself and he came around that bend, you know where it is, where it runs through all that thick brush. It’s like a green tunnel and even though it’s in the middle of the city, it is so quiet and dark it feels like you are out in the middle of nowhere. That’s why he liked it so much. But that day…

There were these two guys walking along. They were young and fit, muscular, and menacing. Lucas immediately saw them, before they saw him. They were walking off the trail and when he came across them they were looking into the woods and gesturing. They were looking intently, like they were seeking something or someone. But what really caught his eye is that one of them was carrying a bow saw – a big, heavy one. It looked like an odd but effective weapon and Lucas realized they were going after something they had spotted in the brush.

His heart skiped and a knot leaped into his belly and Lucas immediately jumped off of the trail and slid down into this little ditch where they could not see him. He had left his phone to charge and didn’t have it with him so he was on his own. He hugged the damp, cold earth on the side of the ditch, hoping the two men didn’t see him.

He could hear them talking excitedly, but the fog damped the sound and he couldn’t understand what they were saying. Then, Lucas heard the sawing. It was loud and hollow sounding and his heart kept beating faster and faster. He didn’t hear any screams, so their victim must be dead already. His mind raced with horror as the awful sound kept going. There would be a pause every now and then, and he could hear the men babbling, then it would start back up.

Lucas was about to go crazy with panic when the sawing finally stopped. But then, to his horror, he could hear the footsteps of the men as they walked off and he realized they were going down the trail right towards his hiding spot. When they reached his location, they could look down into the ditch right at him.

As they approached Lucas gathered his feet underneath and tried to brace his crouch. His only hope of escape if they saw him was to spring up onto the trail and bolt away as fast as he could. Lucas was a strong runner and hopefully, with the element of surprise, he could escape.

The second he completed his preparations, they were upon him. Now that they were closer, he could understand what they were saying and as he tensed, Lucas heard.

“Oh, these are just perfect.”

“Yes, we can coat them with urethane, not the glossy stuff, it’ll look cheap.”

“And they’ll support the shelves and will have just the look we want.”

He looked up at the two men. One still had his saw and the other was carrying a load of bamboo under his arms. Lucas remembered, there was a grove of bamboo around the corner… they were cutting bamboo for bookshelves.

There was a loud clatter as the bamboo hit the concrete trail. They had seen him. Lucas was covered with mud and loose leaves from his slide down and it must had scared the two men to death to find him crouched in the ditch like that.

There was nothing for Lucas to do but to go on with his plan. He sprung out, stumbled a bit, then picked up speed. He could hear one man screaming as he ran as fast as he could. He looked over his shoulder and saw the other one sprinting to the blue-lighted emergency phone a few feet back down the trail. Lucas realized he should have thought about that.

Lucas doubled his speed. Now, instead of racing the two men with the saw, he was trying to get out of there before the cops arrived. He didn’t want to have to explain about all that.

He did make a mental note to come back with a saw of his own. That bamboo was a great idea for bookshelves.

Short Story Of the Day, The End of Spelunking by Bill Chance

“I wanted a metamorphosis, a change to fish, to leviathan, to destroyer. I wanted the earth to open up, to swallow everything in one engulfing yawn. I wanted to see the city buried fathoms deep in the bosom of the sea. I wanted to sit in a cave and read by candlelight. I wanted that eye extinguished so that I might have a chance to know my own body, my own desires. I wanted to be alone for a thousand years in order to reflect on what I had seen and heard – and in order to forget.”
― Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

Cisco, by Mac Whitney, Frisco, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#40). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

The End of Spelunking

Sammy was a big kid – for his age – big and clumsy. “And lazy,” his father would add. His father said that so many times that even Sammy began to believe him.

“Look at you!” old women would exclaim, “I bet you play football!” Sammy would murmur, “No Ma’am.” Every year Sammy’s father would pressure him to try out for the team.

“Do you some goddamn good,” he’d say, “Get yer nose out of them goddamn books.”

But Sammy didn’t want to get his nose out of them goddamn books. His stomach would churn and his head would pound during spring tryouts and Sammy would complain to his mother – who would keep him home and write him an excuse note.

“Nothing wrong with that kid that a good ass-kicking won’t fix,” was his father’s opinion – though Sammy couldn’t see how that would help him at all.

Sammy was home in bed for the duration of spring football tryouts and when his mother retired for her afternoon nap he reached under the bed and pulled out a library book he had hidden away.

The book was called, “The History, Geography and Geology of the Looking Glass Batholith.” Like every year, his father had reserved a resort cabin at Looking Glass for the family for a week of vacation. A handful of his father’s buddies from work went too – for them, it would be golf all day, poker games all night – which would leave Sammy out in the cold. Literally. His father liked to host the poker games in their cabin and Sammy would end up sleeping in the back seat of the car to get away from the booze and the smoke.

The resort was nestled in a rugged little valley with rounded pink granite domes ridging the eastern end. The domed formation was called a “batholith” and every year Sammy would gaze longingly at their stark beauty – the way the color of the living rock would change at dawn and dusk, in bright sunlight or rolling fog. Every year he would stare and think about how it would feel to climb the domes.

Otherwise, he was bored to tears.

But now, he figured he was old enough to go up into those hills, climb the batholith itself. He told his parents his plans.

His mother spewed her usual warning, “Now, just be careful, I don’t know… there’s so much that could….”

“Dammit, let the kid go for his silly hike if he wants.”

His father spit the word “hike” out like it was irritating the inside of his mouth. “At least he’ll get the hell out of our hair for a coupla hours.”

Sammy had the book and was studying the Looking Glass domes. He learned how they were formed by hot buoyant magma rising through the earth’s crust and then exposed by eons of weathering. Once exposed to the air their crystal structure changes and they throw off layers of rock like a peeling onion.

Reading this, Sammy would shiver with anticipation. As he devoured the information, greedily thumbing from page to page, totally engrossed in the timeless world of geography, a folded piece of paper fluttered out of the book and blew in the slight breeze from the window out over his bedroom floor.

He dove from the covers and fetched up the paper, sitting at his desk to carefully unfold it. It was a page torn from a spiral notebook, and didn’t look too old. Someone had left it in the book. It was covered with dense writing and a couple of large diagrams filling the extra space from corner to corner.

The top of the page was labeled, “Professor Jennings, Geo 441 class, Field Trip Notes,” and under that “Spelunking.” His excitement grew as he scanned the written notes and began to understand the drawings.

This was a map of a cave system in the highest dome along the ridge. He had read that caves in granite were rare but that sometimes the onion layers of peeling granite had space between, leaving a long, steep curling cave under the weathering sliver of rock. There was no mention of any particular cave in the book from the library. The geology students must have discovered it on their field trip.

The notes were not extensive, but Sammy could figure out the entrance from the description, plus there was a notation about an “UV Arrow” left behind on the rock. Sammy had a geologists’ blacklight, battery powered, and knew he could use that to visualize the invisible arrow painted on by the students.

It looked like there was an entrance near the top of the dome and an exit down near the bottom. One way in, one way out.

Sammy trembled as he decided he’d give it a shot. His mother would not let him do this and he’d have to sneak out on his own. He dug for his cash out of the old tin can on his nightstand – he’d stop by the camp store and buy a new, strong, waterproof flashlight.


Sammy was still out of breath from the effort of walking up the side of the mass of rock. There was a lot of friction between the rough stone and the rubber on the bottoms of his tennis shoes and he was surprised at how steep an angle he could simply walk up. It was an almost perfect dome, like a salad bowl turned upside down.

As best as he could tell from the paper; the entrance to the cave was somewhere near the top. He wandered and walked around, frustrated. He almost gave up. But finally he found a dark crack partially hidden by a stray boulder and an isolated bit of scrub brush, and hanging over the edge, he could see it opened up and continued down in a zigzag between squarish boulders jammed into the crack. Sammy fished his flashlight out, clicked it on, and waved it down into the darkness. Immediately a ghostly green arrow glowed out from the flat side of the crack, pointing downward.

He had found the cave.

Sammy was not prepared for how frightening the cave looked. It was a jagged, dark crack, piercing down into stark blackness. It did not look inviting, interesting, or fun. Dejected, Sammy sat back along the edge of the crack and ate a bologna sandwich that his mother had packed. He looked down into the darkness while he ate. He had told nobody about his plans or the cave. No one would be able to tease him about his cowardice. It was getting late anyway.

He sat there for a long time and stared at the brown bag leftover from his lunch. His mother had drawn a heart on it with a red marker. He pulled a self-striking match from a little container he carried, swiped it on the rock, lit the bag, and dropped it flaming down into the cave, watching the yellow flame and swinging shadows as it tumbled down into the depths.

Without thinking about it, he felt himself gathering everything up into his hiking bag, and clicking his new flashlight on. With a simple sigh he slid off the edge and lowered himself down into the crack.

The cave was very irregular. At the top it was wide and the only difficultly was finding his way around the boulders that obstructed the passage. After dropping down, the cave turned and moved sideways for a while, blocking off all light from the entrance. Sammy flicked his light off for a split second until the absolute subterranean blackness scared him and he turned the flashlight back on.

As he pushed farther into the cave it began to narrow and curve downward. Sammy had to slide over some steep drops, scraping his elbows and knees on the rough surface and suddenly realized that he would not be able to retrace his steps back to the surface the way he had come down. He had to fight back the first fluttering feelings of panic deep down in his gut. The paper had definitely shown a second exit at the bottom of the cave, another way out. His sweat started to come out cold as he realized that he had staked his life on a scribbled map he had found loose in a library book.

Sammy had no idea how long he had been down inside the cave. It was dead quiet except for the fast pulse of his echoed breathing and an occasional squeak of tennis shoe on stone. There was only the yellow beam of his flashlight and the curving layers of granite, gray and pink, sprinkled with dark glinting flecks of mica and glowing crystals of quartz. The whole world closed into the narrow plunging walls of the cave passage and Sammy had no choice but to press forward.

As he pushed forward the crack was beginning to close up and the rocks that were wedged in were smaller, jagged, and sharp. The only way was to slide down the steep passage, feeling with his feet as he went.

Suddenly his shoes stopped up against flat rock. The opening had dead ended. Sammy frantically tried retreating upward, but he kept sliding back down until his elbows and forearms were scraped raw. Under the yellow flashlight streaks of his blood showed black on the stone.

Desperate, choking back panic, he looked around. Shining his flashlight at the dead floor he noticed a small gap off to one side. It was the only way out. He didn’t think he could fit through there. He had no choice but to try.

He pushed his feet down the hole and they went down a few feet until they met another obstruction. Wiggling his toes he felt space out if front. The passage made a right turn. Holding his hands over his head, Sammy sat down into the hole, wiggling his body down and forward, until he was jammed in with his legs out in front, extending down the narrow hole.

As he wriggled, his shirt was pulled off over his head, his bare skin scraping against the tearing granite. Desperate, he pushed down until his head descended through the opening. Now he was committed – no way to work backward – his only option was to push on and hope it opened up.

Wedged in, his bare chest constricted between the walls of rock, he could sense his feet extended out over space. He felt nothing but open air. He had to stop moving for a minute, pinned in, barely able to breathe, and fight the panic welling up from deep within his gut. He knew that if he lost it, if he panicked, if he gave in to the fear and claustrophobia – he would wedge himself in even worse, and die slowly, die writhing, die trapped, choked to death by the terrible weight of the entire mountain above him.

He realized that nobody would ever find him.

He stayed motionless until the fear began to subside. He fought back until he was able to enter a place of calm. He knew that he didn’t want to die down in that terrible hole, but still he learned, learned suddenly because he had no other choice, to accept whatever was about to happen, accept it and push on.

With a sudden sense of calm, Sammy found his muscles relaxed a little and he was able to slide down more easily. He wriggled around the bend and felt his feet, calves, knees and thighs extending out over nothingness. His waist reached the edge and Sammy twisted around on his belly; then lowered down.

Sammy jammed the flashlight into his mouth and then used both hands to hang from the opening. His feet still dangled free and he had no idea how far he would fall if he let go. He could only look up at his torn and bloody hands holding the edge. He had no choice though, so he relaxed his grip and dropped.

His shoes hit solid rock after falling no more than six inches.

There was a little extra space. He paused, looked around, and pulled his shirt out of the hole over his head. His shirt was a torn shred of a rag and blood was dripping from a hundred little scrapes and cuts. He felt great.

The passageway that led out of the little room was not high enough to stand in, but almost. It bent around and began to dive down but something caught Sammy’s eye. He clicked off his flashlight and, sure enough, there was a faint, gray glow filtering through the tunnel ahead of him. One last tight squeeze and he popped out into a tumble of twisted trees bathed by the dim sunset light.

Night fell quickly but Sammy had no problem finding the trail that ran along the base of the dome and led back to the resort. The moon and stars were like beacons. He had never noticed the silver beauty of the night sky.

Back at his parent’s car outside the cabin, Sammy fished a clean shirt out from below the seat and hid the torn one under some beer cans in the trash. His mother was glad to see him, but the poker game was going loud and strong and nobody seemed to pay him much mind.

There was some leftover fried chicken and Sammy took some out to the car. He wanted to read by flashlight and then get some sleep. He had always been humiliated by having to curl up in the back seat of the car but now he didn’t mind.


The next week, vacation over, back at home, Sammy felt a warm pride when he thought about his adventure in the cave – he could feel the germ of a hard knot of courage – little more than a speck now, but maybe to grow like a pearl in his chest.

But when he thought specifically about the memory of the moment – the panic that came welling up when he felt the inexorable grip of the subterranean granite, his breath would gasp shallow and he would shiver with sudden cold sweat.

So he pulled out a worn notebook he kept hidden behind his set of encyclopedias and thumbed to a page with the title “THINGS TO DO” written in large block capitals across the top of a list. Scanning down carefully Sammy found “Spelunking” on a line a third of the way up from the bottom. He carefully marked the word out with a dark, even, horizontal line.

That made him feel a lot better.

Short Story Of the Day (Flash Fiction), Kitten on the Highway by Bill Chance

What our children have to fear is not the cars on the highways of tomorrow but our own pleasure in calculating the most elegant parameters of their deaths.

—-J. G. Ballard


(click to enlarge)


I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#37). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Kitten on the Highway

Kyle Tellman had two routes that he would drive to work. As he took his shower every morning Kyle would listen to the radio that sat on a shelf over the toilet. The traffic reports would run every ten minutes and would help him decide which way to take. One route was over ordinary streets, residential or arterial, stoplights, stop-and-go. The alternate route was over Interstate 635, which, like all freeways in Texas, was dedicated to and named after a famous local politician. This particular highway honored President Lyndon Baines Johnson and was usually referred to as LBJ freeway or simply LBJ.

LBJ was an endless circle that looped around the city of Dallas with a radius of about twelve miles, centered on the giant crystal towers of downtown. Along the stretch that Kyle inhabited it was eight lanes each way – sixteen in total – a wide, nasty, hot curve of killer concrete.

He made the wrong decision that morning. There was no mention of accidents on the radio so Kyle chose the freeway but traffic was jammed up, inching along, bumper to bumper. Once he was on, he was committed, so there was nothing to do except turn up the radio and resign himself to being late.

Off to the right, as he crept past, he could see an amateur monument, a white wooden cross planted along the ditch. He could see the bundles of flowers bleached by the sun and a few glass candles with pictures of the Saints silkscreened across the front. A loved one had died here, flipped over at speed or ground beneath the tires of an eighteen-wheeled truck..

To the left, Kyle could see the cause of the slowdown. Two motorcycle cops had a speed trap set up in the lanes going the other way. They were crouched down behind their big ‘cycles resting their radar guns on the seats to steady their aim at the onrushing vehicles whipping around the curve into their sights. White helmets and black leather.

That two cops on the eastbound side would stop traffic on the westbound lanes was insane, but they did. Once the onlookers… the rubberneckers, began getting their amusement from the misfortune of folks that were exactly like them, only going the other way, the whole system jammed up and nobody got anywhere. The wages of Schadenfreude.

There were more than fifty thousand vehicles on LBJ freeway during morning rush hour. Kyle’s eyes were constantly moving between the car right in front of him – watching especially for red brake lights, occasionally checking the two cars locked in on each side, and flicking every second or so up to the mirror to look at the truck behind.

The traffic, all the commuters were not moving very fast, but were still way too close together. Fifty thousand souls locked together in an anaconda of steel, biting its own tail, wriggling slowly in the red light of the rising sun, moving fitfully around the circle of unforgiving concrete.

At that one critical instant, Kyle was not actually looking at the little patch of moving concrete freeway between his hood and the rear bumper of the car leading him, but out of the corner of his eye he caught something… a mottled white blotch that, moving back from under the car in front, visible for a second, and then passing quickly between his own wheels. He reflexively looked up into the mirror to get a split-second glance as it came out behind him before it disappeared under the trailing truck that followed him.

It was a kitten, and it was alive.

Or was it? Everything had happened so fast, his brain had not had time to reliably process what his eyes had reported. It was only a vague shape from the corner of his eye. He was trying to figure out what he had seen based on a memory – a half-blurred and rapidly fading memory. Was it a kitten? Or was it a piece of windblown trash?

And if it was a kitten, what could he do? He was still stuck in traffic and it was a half-mile before the next exit. He was already running late for work and his boss had not been happy lately. Kyle could not afford to be waltzing in after everyone else – especially with the vague and insane excuse of seeing a live kitten on the freeway. Even if he went back, what good would it do? The best thing by far was to forget what he had seen and troop on, get to work as fast as he could.

But Kyle could not forget. The image of the kitten… of something… out there on the highway… he could not get it out of his mind. It burned. As the green exit arrow appeared to his right he realized he had no choice. It didn’t matter how much trouble he would get in at work. He exited the freeway.

There was a U turn lane at the cross street so he didn’t have to wait for a green light. He whipped around to the opposite side and took the ramp up into the speeding stream of vehicles. Traffic this way was lighter so he was able to open it up. He remembered the motorcycle cops and the speed trap so he was careful no to exceed the limits.

As Kyle approached the spot he thought he saw the kitten he moved to the left and desperately tried to look over into the other lanes, but there was a high concrete crash barrier so he couldn’t make out anything at street level. His heart sank, though; there were a lot of cars over there.

Finally he drove past where the cops were and saw they had given up and gone somewhere else. He exited again and this time, had to wait through two lights, making two left turns, to get on the frontage road and then the entrance ramp.

Rush hour was ending and the cars were now moving at speed. Kyle was looking for the kitten and hit his breaks, driving as slowly as he could. He looked closely at the pavement as he moved past the stretch where his memory told him the kitten had been. Kyle’s stomach turned with the fear of what he might see. He couldn’t imagine the kitten surviving and was petrified to come across a smashed spot. And what if the kitten was alive? He had slowed and all the other commuters were whipping around him at speed. He didn’t think he could stop and get out, chase a frightened kitten across the lanes without getting killed.

As these thoughts roiled his brain, he was past. It had gone all too fast. He had seen nothing.

So now what? He had checked. He could go on to work.

But as he passed that ramp he realized he had to look once more. What if the kitten had moved to another lane? He went around again, as fast as he could, and then drove slowly through the zone, as he was beginning to think about it. This time he used the lane closer to the median. Nothing.

Around again. This time the outside lane, nothing.

One time, really testing things, risking it, going very slow, he started opening his door at the critical spot and looked directly down onto the moving concrete. Kyle was surprised at how much stuff was scattered across the freeway: smashed cups, cigarette butts, chunks of dislodged concrete, torn hunks of paper, bits of shredded tire, little arc-shaped lead weights, a license plate, churned hunks of flattened steel from old accidents… but no kitten. His sight became eagle eyed as he scanned the surface on each trip, over and over.

Finally, he mustered all his willpower and grappling with the wheel with white knuckled fists he bypassed the exit ramp and went on. It was too late, though. He had spent too much time and had looked too hard.

He could not go on to work. As he passed the familiar exit that he took every day, year after year, he kept on going, straight under the rising sun.

The freeway is a loop – there are gas stations – I have a credit card,” Kyle thought to himself. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep driving or how long he would keep driving. The only thing he knew was that he wouldn’t be stopping soon.

Short Story, Flash Fiction, Of the Day, Coaster by Bill Chance

No, No. The worst is the long, slow chugging upward, gaining potential energy, riding the chain to the top. The anticipation of terror. That’s the worst, and it’s over. You have survived it. You weren’t sure you would.

—-Bill Chance, Coaster

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing Sunday’s Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge.

Let’s see… here’s one for today. What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Ok, now, that first drop is the worst and it’s over. You survived.

Wait, no. The first drop isn’t the worst – it’s going over the top, the sudden acceleration into that drop… that‘s the worst. The first cars are bad because the ones behind hold it up and it hesitates suspended over the void – you can see the drop for a split second before the plunge. The rear car is bad because the front cars pull it fast up and over – it clanks and jumps. The middle cars – they’re bad too, the worst, because they do both. It’s the worst.  And it’s over. You survived.

No, No. The worst is the long, slow chugging upward, gaining potential energy, riding the chain to the top. The anticipation of terror. That’s the worst, and it’s over. You have survived it. You weren’t sure you  would.

That might not be the worst. The worst is going back and forth in that serpentine line, waiting an hour in the queue for a few seconds of fear. Then at the end there is the chicken’s exit – an arched door that you can duck out through If you don’t think you can take it. Walking past that is the worst, the absolute worst. You wanted to go out through that door so bad, so bad, so bad. But Carmen was standing there beside you and she had been waiting for an hour too. No way could you  chicken out.

An hour earlier she had said, “Let’s go for a ride on The Ripper!”

“No, the line is too long. It says it’s an hour wait.”

“What’s the matter? Are you chicken? I didn’t think so, I didn’t think you  had the guts to ride The Ripper.”

At that point you had no choice. It was going to be The Ripper. The darkness of the world was closing in around you. You stood in line for an hour shuffling along with Carmen at your side and you never said a word.

All you could think about was a memory from your childhood. You had gone to the State Fair and there you were in the children’s ride area. Everything smelled of ozone and popcorn. A calliope was whistling and tooting away, the merry-go-round was spinning with its mirrors and horses. And there was the children’s roller coaster. Now, you realize how small it was, but to your child’s eyes it was big and fast and looked like an electric steel dragon. You were excited and eager and couldn’t wait. You wanted the speed.

But it wasn’t like what you thought it would be. The sick feeling of nausea in the pit of your stomach wasn’t expected and scared you to death. You had never felt this before. A small child’s panic is a strong and evil thing. Your parents were so angry when the ride operators had to pry your hands off from around the bars – holding up the ride – making everyone wait while you were extracted, frozen, from the little seat.

“You embarrassed us!” your parents yelled, “You wanted to do it. Why did you freak out like that?”

And now, decades later, here you are. Again. Carmen is screaming like a banshee beside you but you are silent, frozen, hands tight on the bar with a death grip.

You feel your eyes grow into saucers as you stare at the rolling hills, the twists and turns, the slopes and banks ahead of you. You are hurtling into these at an incredible speed.

As you shoot into this maelstrom you realize you have learned something in the decades since the State Fair. Instinctively, your body decides to go with it. It’s like being in a fighter plane, rolling and rising, dipping and diving. This isn’t so bad. This is kind of fun. Your hands relax, your body moves along with the accelerations and velocity. At one particularly tight, fast turn you let out an ecstatic cry.

And then, so  soon, it is over. The bar clanks forward and you and Carmen step out and descend the little wooden stairs.

You turn to her. Her flushed face, wide eyes, and tousled hair make your heartbeats skip. You lean in and say, “Let’s do that again.”



Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Shoggoth Under The Bed by Robin Stevenson

There IS and it’s all gooey and bubbly and covered in eyes!

—-Robin Stevenson, Shoggoth Under The Bed

Mural on Construction Fence
Farmer’s Market
Dallas, Texas
Chris Hoover

Years and years ago -I was in the Garland, Texas library perusing the fiction aisles. The fiction, of course, was arranged by author. At the end of each row was the start and end of the author’s names… such as Smith-Thompson, or Adams-Baker. In the C section it had Clark-Cthulhu. That caught me off guard. I didn’t know that Cthulhu had written any popular fiction. I checked the stacks and there was a collection of short stories set in the Cthulhu Mythos written by a variety of authors and the person that cataloged the book mistakenly thought that Cthulhu himself, the great evil one, born on the planet Vhoorl in the 23rd nebula from Nug and Yeb had actually penned the tome himself.

I really wanted that little plastic sign and considered prying it off when nobody was looking. Unfortunately, I am too honest for that. When I moved to Richardson I stopped going to the Garland library on a regular basis and the last time I visited the fiction section had been reorganized and the sign was long gone.

So you have to take my word for it. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

Nothing better than flash fiction written in the Cthulhu mythos… even if it is only a monster under a bed.

Read it here:

Shoggoth Under The Bed by Robin Stevenson


from Sweet Pandemonium

Short Story of the Day – The Weight by Anne Enright

The plane cut through a skein of dark-gray cloud, through a layer of liquid light, into another cloud that started as dark as steel wool, then thickened to gray and turned slowly white. In a moment, they would be free of it.

—-Anne Enright, The Weight

Reflecting pool, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

Today’s short short story, a piece of flash fiction.

The Weight by Anne Enright

from The New Yorker

I have flown on airliners a lot, have flown all my life. I have no fear of flying. My fear is driving to the airport, or getting through security, or missing my plane. Once I’m in the seat, I relax. A lot of it is that once I’m in that seat with the belt on – my responsibilities are over. Nothing I do or don’t do will influence the crash-free-ness of the voyage, one way or another. I think that is why so many people are afraid of flying (other than the fact that you are in a metal tube hurtling through the air at an insane speed miles above the earth) is that you are helpless. I don’t feel helpless – I feel relieved that it’s someone else’s responsibility… for a change.

This story captures clearly what it feels like (I suppose) when things don’t go as planned. There is a line you move down from relaxation to unease to fear to terror… when there is turbulence, for example. This flash fiction piece moves a long way down the line in a hurry.

How far does it go? You can find out in a few minutes.

Nanowrimo Day Seven

Ultimate goal – 50,000 words.
Daily goal – 1,667 words
Goal total so far – 11,669 words

Words written today – 1,865

Words written so far – 10,854 words
Words to goal – -824

“Sometimes I wish for falling
Wish for the release
Wish for falling through the air
To give me some relief
Because falling’s not the problem
When I’m falling I’m in peace
It’s only when I hit the ground
It causes all the grief”
― Florence Welch

Trinity River in the Fall,
Dallas, Texas

As I committed the other day I am doing Nanowrimo – the National Novel Writing Month this November – writing a 50,000 word (small) novel in a month. Not necessary a good novel, or even a readable novel, but one of 50K words.

Well it happened. I skipped a day. There is no day six.

It was inevitable, I had been too busy, missed too much sleep. I came home from work, actually had planned on what to write but I made the mistake of pausing a bit – watched the first half of the Kansas Basketball game (college basketball is my sport – KU is my team, I did go to school there) and when I stretched out for a second at halftime, to rest my eyes… suddenly it was morning, time to go to work.

Missed a day, no big deal. Went from a bit ahead to a good piece behind. The important thing is to never skip two days in a row. So on day seven I was able to pound out some words. They came easily, I had time to put a firm vision in my head. When I’ve done that, I can write as fast as I can type. Didn’t finish the scene – which is a good thing – it gives me a good place to start tomorrow.

The weekend is coming soon, will have to catch up then, get out ahead a bit.

What I wrote today was more conversations between Craig and Odette.

Snippet of what I wrote:

“I’ll tell you what,” said Odette. “I’ll make a deal with you… I’ll give you something… a gift.”

“Really? What?”

“Don’t get excited bucko – it’s not anything big.”

“Not something expensive.”

“Not worth a nickel. But rare nonetheless.”

“Now you have made me curious.”

“OK, here’s the thing. First, you don’t know me so you don’t really know whether I can give you this gift. But, if you did know me, knew me well you’d know that it isn’t only possible, it’s a gift I can give easily. Understand?”

“Not at all,” replied Craig.

“Never mind. This is my gift. I give you permission. Permission to say anything to me, anything at all. You can ask me any question at all. Since I don’t know the question, I can’t promise I’ll answer it in any particular way. I can’t promise if I’ll answer at all – there are unanswerable questions. I can’t even promise I’ll tell the truth if I answer, though I do promise to try not to lie, if possible. What I do promise is not to judge you in any way. You can ask anything, and I mean anything, without me getting upset.”


“I’m not done. You can ask me to do anything. Anything at all. Again, since I don’t know what you will ask I can’t promise that I’ll do what you ask, only that I won’t judge you, I won’t get upset that you asked. For example, you could ask me to jump out of the moving car right now… and I wouldn’t do it. I’d just say ‘no,’ but I wouldn’t get all pissed about you asking me to kill myself. OK?”

“OK,” was all Craig could think to say.

“Now, here’s the hardest part. You’re afraid to tell me why you wanted the car. I give you permission to tell me, tell me, again, anything, and I won’t judge you. This is hard, because I don’t know what you are going to say, but I promise I won’t get mad or won’t judge you in any way.”

“Now that is impossible. I can say anything?”

“It’s not only possible, it’s not too hard. Notice, I’m not giving you any permission to do anything, that’s something that would be impossible. But permission to say anything? All that takes is a tough skin, and I have the toughest. After all, sticks and stones….”

“I’ve always thought that old saw to be a complete lie.”

Odette ignored him.

“This is a valuable gift. Think about it. There is a person in your life now that you can ask any question, ask any favor, or tell anything to without fear.”

“OK,” Craig said again, overwhelmed.



Whenever we feel fear, it means we’re up against some kind of wall … on the other side of the wall is some kind of freedom.
—-Leo Babauta, A Guide to Fear Mastery

Lotus seed head, The Buddhist Center of Dallas – Watdallas

Does this photograph make you uneasy? Does your skin crawl?

Lookout, you might have Trypophobia… the mysterious “fear of holes”

I first heard of Trypophobia talking to a sculptor that I like and how the small holes in his work sometimes set off fear and revulsion in his wife. He even had a little monster head in a box named “Trypophobia.”

Of course, I had to do some web-searching and research. I discovered that the whole “fear of holes” thing is a product of the internet – a mental disease spread (and maybe caused) by people sharing images that made them uneasy. Sure enough, the more I looked at these things, the more uneasy I felt looking at them. I was acquiring my own fear of holes.

Luckily, I stopped looking and the unease went away.

There is some thought that Trypophobia is different than other phobias. The idea is that there is a natural reason behind the fear, that our ancestors had reasons to avoid animals that appeared this way — clusters of holes may cause fear because they share visual cues with animals or objects that humans learned to avoid as a matter of survival.

Is this true? Is Batman a Transvestite? Who knows.

It’s still sort of interesting, though.

Are You Afraid of Holes
Scientific American
By William Skaggs on March 1, 2014

In the early 2000s many Internet users bonded over their common aversion to pictures that showed clustered arrays of small holes, such as a beehive or even the popped bubbles on the uncooked top of a pancake. For almost a decade “trypophobia,” literally “fear of holes,” was nothing more than an Internet phenomenon, but finally researchers have found evidence of its validity and investigated its possible cause.

The story begins with the growth of online image sharing; soon many people realized they shared a revulsion that could reach the level of nausea to photographs of clusters of holes. The term “trypophobia” appears to have been coined by an unidentified Irish woman in a post on a Web forum in 2005. The idea went viral: self-identified trypophobics formed a Facebook group, created an eponymous Internet domain and posted informational YouTube videos. A Wikipedia article was repeatedly created and repeatedly deleted for lack of reliable sources.

Four years ago two psychologists at the University of Essex in England, Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins, decided to research the phenomenon. They showed a picture of a lotus seed head—anecdotally a potent trigger of the phobia—to 286 adults aged 18 to 55 years old. Eleven percent of men and 18 percent of women described the seed head as “uncomfortable or even repulsive to look at,” indicating a level of revulsion on par with phobia.

Cole and Wilkins theorized that the visual structure of the image causes at least part of the unease. They analyzed a set of aversion-inducing photographs and images of holes that did not trigger trypophobia and found that most of the disagreeable pictures shared an underlying mathematical structure that incorporates small, high-contrast features such as dots or stripes. This spectral pattern is seen in the skin coloration of many species of dangerous or poisonous animals; past studies have found that most people find this pattern uncomfortable to look at. Indeed, a variety of images taken from the Web site produced discomfort in a group of 20 people who did not have the full-blown phobia.

Daily Writing Tip 74 of 100, Let My Fears Rest Where They Are

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Let My Fears Rest Where They Are

Source – Walking on Alligators, A Book of Meditations For Writers by Susan Shaughnessy

If we wait until the fear of writing goes away, we will never write.

If we wait until the fear of self-exposure goes away, we will never be published.

If we wait until the fear of failure can be somehow managed, he will never attempt anything.

If we wait until the fear of being laughed at goes away, we will indeed stall out. Studies have shown that children’s greatest fear is ridicule – not the dark, not being lost, but instead the embarrassment of being mocked.

All these fears are valid. They have deep roots in the truth. If you write, you will court failure. If you publish, you will court exposure. These fears will never be banished. But perhaps they can be harnessed.

More important is that by writing you will encounter inner reserves you never dreamed up – stores of serenity, courage, and confidence.

These treasures will be doled out to you little by little, as you come to write each day.

Today, I’ll let my fears rest where they are. I will write, and by writing I will discover my inner resources.

This is very good advice and I certainly hope that it is true.

About the size of my head

One of the highlights on the drive from Dallas to New Orleans is crossing the Mississippi river on the Horace Wilkinson Bridge going into Baton Rouge on Interstate Highway 10. It’s also a lowlight, because the traffic through Baton Rouge is usually awful and it is often stop and go all the way back over the bridge.

This trip is wasn’t so bad. Now that I think about it, the last two drives I made to New Orleans were over Mardi Gras… and there were a million other folks doing the same thing. Also, there is so much construction around Baton Rouge – after Katrina a lot of people fled the Big Easy a few miles north to the capital, which sits on ground a few feet higher… at least it’s above sea level. Interstate 10 and the feeder roads are being rebuilt and that makes for slow going.

Like I said, this trip wasn’t so bad – no stop and go, only a little slowing here and there. There were no full closures due to construction, but there was still a lot of work going on. Out of Baton Rouge and into the swamps was all narrow, crowded, and fast – speed and steel.

There is no choice. You are rapidly carried along by the inexorable stream of metal, rubber, gasoline, and flesh. Bumper to bumper, going seventy five miles an hour, with cars closed in on both sides, lanes narrowed by construction cones, equipment belching diesel fumes flying by only a few feet away… that is life in this best of all possible worlds. So I am being as careful as possible, concentrated, both hands on the wheel, staring straight ahead.

So I saw it. Had a really good look at it, for a slice of a split second.

It was about the size of my head.

When it appeared from under the giant eighteen wheel truck in front of me, I saw the round shape rolling and I hoped that it was a chunk of Styrofoam, but I knew it wasn’t. I knew it was concrete.

At seventy-five, more than a mile a minute, there isn’t much time when there is something in the road right in front of you like that. It is amazing how much goes through your mind in the tiny bit of time before the collision.

I knew I was looking at a hunk of debris abandoned by the workers alongside the highway and somehow flung out into the shooting line of speeding vehicles. I fought my first reflexive urge to swerve – I knew there were cars right alongside me in both lanes. Avoidance would be suicidal. At that speed a hit on a tire would probably flip the car – certain death again. My unconscious lizard brain quickly found whatever knowledge it had of the stuff under the car – drive train, fuel lines, and exhaust system and came up with the impression of hunks of strong steel about a third of the way in from the tires.

Of course, I can remember thinking this afterward – but didn’t know I was thinking it at the time. There was not enough time. It was pure survival reflex. A tiny adjustment of the steering wheel to put the chunk right there… and it was gone.

At first there was the sound. A tremendous thump as concrete met steel. The amount of power involved at those speeds is almost unimaginable. We all drive that fast all the time – I have to purposefully will the physics involved out of my head – otherwise I would freak out. Along with the sound there is a feeling of a punch as the car jumps… and that’s it, we’re past.

I glanced at the rearview and saw with horror as the concrete, now a spinning blur, jumped up about six feet into the air. The car behind me took a little swerve, as I did, and the missile missed its windshield and then disappeared. That was it… I have no idea what happened behind me. The past is over and done before you even know what hit you.

Then there was the smell. Awful. The sharp acid of vaporized iron and a burned odor of concrete pulverized into lonely molecules. It filled the car immediately and was as frightening as the sight of the projectile itself.

There wasn’t much I could do right away. As the odor dissipated I began to test what I could. I moved the wheel a bit back and forth and tapped the brakes gingerly. All seemed to be fine. I smelt for gas from a ruptured fuel line and looked for brake fluid on the road, but saw nothing.

At the next exit I pulled off and rolled into a little rough grassy lot. I crawled down and peered under the car. The plastic boot on the front had a nice new crack and, looking from the front, I saw a line of fresh scars running down the heavy steel support beam. It was scratched, but unbroken. I had hit the thing exactly right, it had rolled along the almost indestructible beam, avoiding any of the valuable or vulnerable organs across the belly of the car.

We climbed back in and finished the drive to New Orleans.

I don’t like to think about stuff like this too much. I mean, I know I should be thankful it wasn’t any worse than it was. But I can’t help but think about how lucky we were – what if the concrete was a little bigger, or had hit a tire, or smashed a steering strut. I really don’t like to think about that bouncing rolling ball of death that kept going down the crowded highway behind me.

But in the end, you have to do what you have to do. I do have to thank the lizard brain stem that can out-think a chunk of concrete the size of my head at seventy-five miles an hour.