Friday, September 4, 2009

#FridayFlash - "Out of the Closet"

She didn’t even walk the same way.

Lane watched his wife cross the living room floor. Over the last week, her natural walk had changed. Not that it had to be über cute. God knows how much he hated the Legally Blonde look, all uptight and ditsy at the same time. Those kind of women deserved to be laughed at. Margie’s walk wasn’t masculine, either. Like the strut of a woman who had spent half of her life in the saddle. No, it was different from anything he’d seen out of her before. Feral. More feline, maybe? Like the way a hidden tiger crawls through tall grass, its sinewy legs constantly flexed and tense, ready to strike. Then again… maybe it wasn’t like a cat at all.

Lane shook away the thought as Margie dropped her keys, her purse, on the bar. She snatched up a rock glass and grabbed a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red. She then poured at least two fingers of the Scotch, gulped it down like it was only water, and proceeded to fill the glass again.

“My God!” The sound of his voice startled him. Until he heard the words, he believed he had only thought them, for that had been the way of things lately—her changing, him remaining quiet about it. Well, not totally. He told his counselor, but even that had turned out to be like pissing into the wind. When Lane mentioned what she did, the counselor looked at him for a moment and then smiled as he scribbled more notes on a pad.

“Ah, a metaphor,” the counselor said. “That’s good. You’ve found a creative way to express your anger.”

Lane remembered how shocked he had been. “What do you mean, doc? I’m telling you the honest-to-God truth.”

The counselor shook his head. “Mr. Monroe, you don’t expect me to believe that story, do you? Did you actually witness it?”

The sad truth was he hadn’t. But he remembered the sound, like the crunching of a wafer, and the sickening image on Margie’s face afterwards. It was the look of pleasure. And joy.

The second glass of Scotch went as quickly as the first. Margie slapped the glass on the bar with a heavy thunk! and then wiped her mouth with the back of a hand. Lane narrowed his eyes. She never drank like that before, either.

He swallowed hard and touched the rolled-up bundle next to his leg. It was time to finally say something. Quit acting like a frightened mouse, for God’s sake.

He took a breath. He said, “Y-y-you might want to go easy on that s-s-stuff,” and then quickly regretted how weak it sounded.

Margie walked over and slumped into the couch across from him. “What? Are you my mother now?”

Lane shifted in the chair. He felt the rag and its contents against the side of his leg. He wondered how he would get around to it. Say, honey, I was cleaning the closet, and you’ll never guess what I found.

That wasn’t right. It was too… playful. She’d see right through it. Her eyes would narrow. Her mouth would form that same thin line he’d seen every time he tried to talk with her. No, he needed to show her some attitude. Otherwise, she’d pounce on him. What business do you have looking through my stuff?

He told himself to be strong. Just come out and—

“So…” Margie picked a fluff of lint from her skirt and flicked it away. “How was your meeting?”

He blinked. “What?”

“The meeting with your counselor today.” When he didn’t say anything, Margie craned her head to the side and looked down. “And when are you going to tell me what you found in the closet?”

Lane couldn’t breathe. He’d never mentioned the counselor. In the last few months, outside of a watch she’d given him as a birthday present, Margie acted as if she didn’t care whether he lived or died, so he didn’t see the point in bringing it up. At today’s meeting, the counselor suggested that Margie might be frustrated. Had he shown her any love? When was the last time he actually did something to please her without wanting something else in return? Maybe if he took the first step, she would reciprocate. Acting upon that advice, Lane decided to clean the house. It wasn’t a hard choice. After all, Margie constantly complained about how messy he was. If she’d wanted to marry a slob, she would have walked the aisle with a pig.

He found it when he started in on the closet. Pulled out her shoes to sort them by style and there it was—a hand-held device, almost like a radio, only this had a two darkened screens and buttons with characters he’d never seen before. The plan was to confront her, only it appeared she already knew. About the counselor. The closet. And the device.

He narrowed his eyes. But how?

As if she could read his thoughts, she said, “I have eyes and ears everywhere.” She croaked out a few unintelligible sounds. Two squares illuminated through the cloth as the device buzzed and whirred. Around the room, power buttons that once showed green now burned an angry red—the television, the video player, the computer. Looking down, he noticed the dial on his watch had turned the same color.

When he looked up, Lane almost wet his pants. Her eyes glowed yellow. Spikes punched through the flesh along her jaw. And in that moment, it all made sense. Her cold attitude. The way she walked. The cockroach that was there, and then it wasn’t. This was not the woman he’d married.

“W-w-where’s my wife?”

Slick limbs, three on each side, like the legs of a Black Widow, shot out of her body. They pierced Lane’s arms, his chest, and lifted him up. His feet hung in the air like lifeless fish.

The creature’s mouth curved into a crescent moon of razor-sharp teeth. “Let me show you.”

By my count, I went slightly over the 1K limit this time (about 1,010). I hope the short piece last week will compensate for the long one today. This one came from a prompt out of
The Writer's Book of Matches: "While his wife is away at a company function, a man decides to suprise her by cleaning the house. In the process, he finds a passport hidden in the closet. The face on it is hers. The name is not." Clearly, I didn't follow everything from the prompt. However, as Cap'n Barbosa might say: "They're more like guidelines." ;)


  1. ooooh, creepy! I love how you start with marital discord and take us into pure horror. Nice job!

  2. Very spooky! I really enjoyed reading your story. Including the "extra" ten words :)

    Well done!

  3. Wonderful story! Nice and dark and creepy. :)

  4. I didn't see that coming. Perhaps he would have been better off not prying. Great, twisty, spooky stuff.

  5. At first I thought maybe crime noir, then perhaps.. werewolf? I wasn't prepared for the end you gave - excellent! (I also love the name of your blog.)

  6. Great story, Stephen. I was convinced she had become a hit woman, and that he found a gun with a silencer in the closet. Very nice twist at the end. And that last line was a killer. Literally, evidently.

    Somehow I missed your tweet and (and therefore never did a retweet) and left you out of the wrap. I've added you in and just tweeted this. I am so sorry to have missed it before.

    I have you in my RSS reader, but yesterday the only feed I was looking at was %fridayflash.

  7. So...ummmm..this wasn't just a normal giant, talking bug was it? With the gatchet thingy, it was probably some more advanced alien species of bug. What about the counselor? Was she a bug, too?
    Sorry for the
    Got me thinking, anyway. That's a good story. :-)

  8. Very entertaining!

  9. I'm trying to imagine how things might have gone if he hadn't found anything and just kept trying to make it work with an impostor wife and with him seeming to think the failing relationship was his fault!

  10. Very cool. Reminds me of one of my favourite scenes in Men in Black with Vincent D'Onofrio badly fitting his 'manskin'!

    I love the name of your blog too. Looking forward to next week's 'flash'.

  11. Gives me the shivers to imagine what else was going on up to the time he finally sought out a counselor - yuck. Denial can be so painful (though perhaps not as painful as his least that part was quick).

    You held my attention exceedingly well, for the story seemed much shorter than you say it was!

  12. Nice twist at the end. I liked you line about his dead fish feet. Very cool.

  13. Excellent stuff. I'll have nightmares tonight! I'm trying to work out what she crunched... I don't think I actually want to know.

  14. Oh, so gross and creepy! I'm shuddering all over -- great fodder for nightmares, thank you very much! I think. Heh.

    Nicely done!

  15. Greta: What can I say. There are times when the horror comes out. This was one of them.

    Marisa: Thanks for stopping by and for the grace regarding the extra words.

    Laura: Thanks.

    Dan: I agree. Maybe he should have left well-enough alone. But then, with all the electronics to keep him a on a short leash, I don't think she would have allowed him to leave well-enough alone for long.

    hojpoj: Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words regarding the blog name. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

    Jon: That last line wasn't in my first draft. But it made its way into the final cut. Some lines are like that. They refuse to be ignored. And no worries about the #FridayFlash link. There's no problem on my end. Thank you for all the work that you do regarding this #FridayFlash deal. Hats off to you, bro.

    Soesposito: Analyzing is good. With a 1K limit, I purposely left some things to the reader's imagination.

    notenoughwords: Thanks for stopping by.

    lautir: With a creature like this, keeping tabs on Lane, I don't think it was going to have a happy ending for him.

    Cascade Lily: Thanks for stopping by, as well as the kind words. And cool pic of you and the kiddo.

    Rosa: I agree. To think about what was going on up to this point leaves me with a big ICK! sensation in my stomach. And I'm glad this story didn't drag.

    Chris: Thanks for the kind words. The "dead fish" line was another one that wouldn't go ignored. It found its way in eventually.

    battypip: You'll find the answer to your question near the end of the story. If you dare. ;)

    Netta: Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you liked the story.

  16. Hey, large cockroach things that hide or whatever our wives have rights too. We shouldn't hold them to our rigid sense of what is right and what is wrong. I'm glad somebody is finally giving them their due. Good job, Stephen.

  17. Hey, my identity switched to "Jesse Theodore." I haven't used that in six or eight years. Kind of cockroachy how that just popped out, there.

    --Jeff Posey

  18. Good Holy God! Where the heck did that come from?!

    Wow. I am beyond impressed. This story grabbed me and didn't let go - and when I got to the end, how I wished it had. :-)

    That's it. I'm never cleaning the house again.

    This wasn't a twist ending. Re-reading it, there was this terrible inevitability to it all. You took the reader along for the ride - an express train to horror.

    I hope you can tell that I really enjoyed this. :D