19 July 2012

"The Man in the Elevator" #Fridayflash

Depending on how the story-writing goes, this might be my last share of my work in progress, 27. Too disjointed to be a serial, with wild stand-alone flashes, it's seemed appropriate to post excerpts for #Fridayflash. Thanks for reading. - CC

Previous installments (in order):
64 Degrees
The Visitor
The List

Photo by Synde Korman
The door to my apartment stood open. Maintenance men clad in overalls smeared white paint over the marks left by my past. Tiffany was gone, and so were the rest of my things. But the elevator. There were two. Which one was it?

I punched the call button, and the slow growl of the lift whirred into motion. The door on my right opened first, but was well-lit, clean of blood stains, and trapped dead ghosts. Looping, Stein’d called it. Had to be the second cab. I reached around, felt for the keypad—cool, round—and sent the car to another floor. I punched the call button again. This time, I believed I could hear the difference between it and the other. Slower, creakier. As if it drew up a heavy burden from a dark well.

The doors split and I looked away almost immediately, but the sight was burned on the backs of my eyelids. A dead man, tracks of feces marking the floor. Fingernails torn and bloody. Sightless eyes turned towards heaven. The stench. I could smell the days of decomposition on him but that was ridiculous. He’d died before I’d even moved in.

The fluorescent lights buzzed in their ballasts like blow flies and a trickle of ants had found a marching line to the inside of his coat. I stepped into the cab and let the doors close me in with him. 

Darkness fell upon the dead and the very dead as the cab descended to the ground floor. As expected, it stuck. The stories had said between third and fourth floors, but it was actually second and third. The lights came on and I blinked at a man in a business suit checking his watch with a mutter. He leaned forward and punched the G button again. And again. 

“Do you think that hitting the button over and over will help much?” I smiled, despite the impending situation. I knew how the story ended now. He glanced over at me. 

“Whatever, kid. I have a dinner party I’m supposed to be the guest of honor at and if this fucking piece of shit elevator doesn’t move…”

I sighed gently. “Think about what’s going on here.” Who died and gave me Stein’s position? It seemed right. I ran with it.

“Mind your own business, kid.”

“Have you tried the call box to see what’s going on with the elevator?”

The man opened the emergency call box and put the receiver to his ear. He frowned and toggled the hook a couple of times before giving up and letting the phone fall to the floor with a metallic clang. “Dead.” 

He started punching other buttons and turned to look at me. “Aren’t you nervous, kid? You probably have some hot broad to bang or at least a band show somewhere. I’ve seen the girls that go in and out of places of people like you.”

“Moved out,” I said. I didn’t see any point of explaining my own demise when he was yet to understand his.

“So why are you here?” The man tugged at his collar and tie. “It gets hot in here quick.”

I nodded and sat down against the wall. The man glanced down at me. “What floor did you get on at?”

I smirked and shook my head. “I don’t know if I should tell you now or wait, Mr. Ashbury.”

His eyes bulged. “If this is some sort of sick joke…”

I shook my head. “No joke.” I eyed and nodded at his briefcase. “Nothing in there to survive with. Not even a small snack. No water. It’s a holiday. No one is around to hear your call.”

Ashbury banged on the metal doors. “Hey! We’re stuck in here!”

I let my head tip back and watched the flickering florescent light. It’d go out soon. The interior would get hotter and hotter and Ashbury here might have had a heavy dose of water before he left his apartment.

“Think they’ll miss you?” I tilted my head up at him. It was hard not to smile. I felt a little crack inside me give way. 

“You little fucking punk. Of course they’ll come get us out. You can’t just let people die in an elevator.”

“But would they miss you?” I reached into my jacket pocket for the cigarettes Stein had given me. Words on the package swam before realigning themselves into Marlboro. Should have been Camels. Get it right. The swirls reconvened to reproduce the cover of a pack of Camels. My brand. I opened the box. 

“You can’t smoke in here!” Ashbury set his briefcase down and swung at my cigarette dangling from my lips but I dodged him easily.

“Look,” I lit my cigarette and handed it to him. “You may as well. No one cares about you in here.”

Ashbury scowled at the smoldering cigarette in my hand, so I shrugged and smoked on it myself. “This isn’t real.”

“Of course it’s real!” His face was red; a vein pulsed on the right side of his forehead. He stank of sweat and fear. The briefcase fell on its side as Ashbury tugged his tie loose. “Of all the complete horseshit. This is a real silk tie. I’m going to ruin my whole suit if the air doesn’t come on.”

“It won’t.” As hot as he looked, I didn’t feel a thing. I wasn’t looping like him. “What’s in the briefcase, Mr. Ashbury?” I grinned. “You can tell me.”

“None of your fucking business!”

I nodded sagely and took a pull on my cigarette. Ashbury coughed and waved the plumes of smoke away. “You’re stinking up the whole damn cab.”

“It was open when they found you three days later.”

Ashbury blinked. “Found me?”

I snorted smoke. “You’re dead, Mr. Ashbury.”

12 July 2012

"The List" #Fridayflash

Happy Friday the 13th!

Yet another piece of 27 for your reading pleasure.
Previous installments (in order):
64 Degrees
The Visitor

“So, let’s go down the list.” He unrolled a strip of paper and put on a pair of reading glasses. I raised an eyebrow and he pulled them down his nose to peer over them at me. “Great effect, eh? As if I am in reading mode.” He cleared his throat. “Ahem. The dead shall not affect the living. Now what that means is, say you see an old enemy of yours walking a tightrope at a carnival someplace. Maybe he’s trying to impress the girl he stole from you. Don’t look at me like that, we know this doesn’t apply to you. You tossed aside every chance you had for a normal relationship.” He exhaled in a quick puff. “Say you see that enemy and all it’d take is one stray breeze…” His grin widened. “Not your call. Worse, his blood is on your hands. So.” He returned his attention to the little scroll. “With me so far, son?”
                     Photo credit: pagean97 from morguefile.com
I wasn’t sure what to make of the Grim Reaper. Or his sense of humor. I nodded mutely.

“You know, the rest of this seems to be blank, so there you have it. No direct effect on the living. No holding heads underwater, saving children from the path of a bus by pushing them out of the way, no contact that will change the course of their natural lives. Do you understand?”

“I think so.” I leaned over the table. “But I can’t even open a door, so I’m not sure how I could harm anyone.”

Stein rolled his eyes. “You’ll be surprised at what you’re capable of. Did you take the bus to get here earlier? No.”

“But how do I do other things?”

Stein rolled up the paper and crumbled it into nonexistence. “That’s not for me to say. I’m just the taxi driver. You have to have the address, otherwise we’ll drive in circles and I’ll charge you extra fare for wasting my time and fuel.” He sighed and pulled his glasses off, secreting them inside his jacket. “You’re a smart kid, Ren. Figure it out. Look around you. I know you’re ahead of the class just because you’re not looping.”

I furrowed my brow. “Looping?”

“Reliving your death over and over. It could be because you were just too fucked up to remember.” He grinned. “You’ve got to love drugs. See the gods, kiss the stars, feel no pain and bam! Wake up dead.” He stood and so did I.

“Keep in mind one little limitation, son. You’ve got a finite amount of energy. Think of yourself as a child’s toy with a fresh battery. The more you play with that toy, the faster the battery will drain. And once you’re out, and you still haven’t caught the train out of Limbo, well.”

“Well, what?” I was sliding down a slippery slope.

“You’ll find out soon enough.” He smiled and grasped my shoulder with a quick squeeze. “Welcome to the Afterlife. But this ain’t it. Except for now. Confused? You just got more sitting at that table than most have ever gotten. Maybe I like you. If I could ever like somebody, but no. It’s all business, as you’ll see."

06 July 2012

"The Visitor" #Fridayflash

Yet more from my 27 WIP: 
Previous chunks found first here and here. - CC

Tiffany had her kit out and looked like she was about to shoot up anyway. She was still in a towel and Nine Inch Nails was still playing even though that album was from ’eighty-nine. It was my CD. I guess now it was hers. Just like anything else within her reach. My sister was supposed to have all of this stuff. Maybe she didn’t want it. Maybe she hadn’t been contacted yet.

She snapped off the tourniquet and lay back against the sofa, her gaze looking somewhere into outer space. She licked her lips and swallowed. Curious, I went to stand in front of her. Her gaze shifted to meet mine and a small smile crossed her lips.

“Well, hello there…” she drawled.

I shook my head. Of course she would see me all fucked up. “You’re in my house.”

“Uh huh.” She closed her eyes and rolled her head around on her neck. “This is what I need.”

“What happened, Tiffany?” I crouched beside her and she peeked one eye at me. 

“Pretty easy…you OD’d. Pills, whatever, man. I tried to help you. I put you on your side and you vomited and bled, and I was fucked up too, baby.”

What about the sex we had after? And then she was looking into my fridge. I stood again. She was zoned out. I wouldn’t get anything else out of her, but at least I knew how to make her see me. It was always said drugs opened our minds. I guess that included eyes too.  

There was a knock at the door. I peered through the peephole. It was the creepy guy from the cemetery, Stein. He grinned, and the door swung open. I had to step back out of the way.

 “Mind if I come in? Of course you don’t.” He stepped forward and shook my hand in greeting. His skin was hot, like a stovetop when the oven was on. He even sported a little scruff on his chin and no tie. He indicated the dinette set and pulled a chair out for me. “Sit.”

I did as requested and he took a chair across from me. We regarded one another for a few moments before he spoke. 

“I’ve put this off for a day to think on what I want to do with you.”

I sat back in my chair and rested my palms on the tops of my thighs. “Who are you, exactly?”

Stein smiled and pulled a pack of cigarettes from the inside of his jacket. He tossed them on the table. I glanced from the pack to him in question.

“Go ahead. I know you smoked. May as well stay comfortable. I don’t think they’ll kill you again.” He chuckled softly.

A book of matches was tucked in the cellophane. I slid it out, pulled out a slim, white cigarette and struck one of the blue-tipped matches to produce an equally blue flame. Stein slid a heavy glass ashtray my direction. 

“Now, let me get to why I’m here. About a week ago, you died en route to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. A shot was administered to your heart to try to jumpstart you, but you were already on the outside looking in by that time. Do you remember?”


“See, my main aspirations are hot hookers and blow, sometimes at the same time.” He laughed. “But my job is to make sure you get where you need to be now.”

“So you’re an angel.”

“Wrong. Angels can’t interfere with the free will of humans. Or just drop down to earth without a damned good reason. No, son, I’m the one that every man, woman and child, and any variation thereof waits for.”

“Death.” The cigarette didn’t taste like it used to, but the simple familiarity of holding it between my fingers and breathing out the smoke was comforting.

“Close. I’m the fellow that shows up along with. I get confused with Big D, but no, I’m nothing that grand, although I have a comprehensive benefits package.”

“Grim Reaper?” I couldn’t help but laugh. “I expected a faceless figure…”

“In a robe? With a big fucking scythe?” Stein mimicked holding the weapon and covered his face. He laid his hands on the table again, only to lace his fingers. “Too passé. Times have changed, and so have I.”

“So what’s this got to do with me?” I crushed my cigarette into the ashtray to extinguish it.

“Keep the pack.” Stein nodded at my hand covering the box. His gaze returned to meet mine. His eyes were dark, like they’d been at the gravesite. “I’d love to take you, Ren, but the truth is you might be somebody else’s. Point is, you have to stay here for a little while longer. Try not to haunt too many folks, eh son?”

“And do what? Just hang around?”

Stein shrugged. “Whatever comes to mind. Need a job? Look around you. There’s plenty to do. Just remember the rules of the dead.”

I frowned. “Rules?”

Stein laughed and waved a hand at me dismissively. “Everything has rules, you know that. Our rules are a little stricter than most because instead of fining you a fee, we’ll just send your ass straight to Gehenna.”