Flash Fiction: Suitably Warm

It smelled like pork roasting in a barbecue pit. The crackling sounded like the campfires of his youth in the boy scouts. If not for the searing pain as the flesh bubbled and burned away from Seth’s legs, it would be pleasantly nostalgic.

 

As things stood, though, being cast into the pit of fire was an exercise in pain tolerance. Aside from the agony as his lower legs burned through to the nerves and bone, Seth’s lungs screamed as he tried to breath through the belching plumes of jet-black smoke. He coughed, involuntarily and tried to hold his breath out of habit.

 

Intellectually, Seth knew that he no longer had a physical form that needed to breathe or feel pain, yet the spectral form he assumed was his soul thought otherwise. He knew himself to be as insubstantial as the black smoke that filled the pit, but somehow whatever remained of his brain was telling him that he was in an unending tumult of pain and fire. Seth clawed at his ethereal throat as once again his spirit tried to breathe through the thick, dark fumes.

 

How had he gotten here?

 

Intensive care nurse Sarah Chapel shook the thermometer, willing the mercury to settle at a saner temperature number. The red gauge in the thermometer was bubbling as the fluid began boiling. There was no way the patient had a temperature of over six hundred degrees and a regular heartbeat.

 

As Sarah went to dispose of the obviously faulty thermometer, the unmistakable smell of smoke buffeted her nostrils. She turned to look at Seth Adams’ bed as it erupted into flames. As the hospital’s sprinkler systems kicked on, she heard the distinctive whine of a flat line from the patient’s EKG monitor.

 

Nurse Chapel tried to help put the fire out, and wondered why there weren’t any doctors nearby to officially pronounce Adams dead.

 

What the hell had happened?

 

Seth reached a pain singularity. The inferno consuming him had overloaded his nerve endings and he could no longer feel pain, or anything else. His spirit was as numb as his spectral body. He stared ahead with dull, lifeless eyes.

 

The smoke wreathing him began coalescing into a coherent form. At first, two snake-like eyes formed level with Seth’s own. The thing took shape, starting with three spiraling smoky horns jutting from the top of its head. From within the noxious vapors, a fanged mouth distended into existence. As the form in the darkness developed wings of shadow, it spoke, its voice a multitude of sepulchral tongues speaking out of synch.

 

“Seth Adams,” it boomed with a thousand echoes, “your world has forsaken you as it has for so many before you.”

Seth barely managed to choke out a strangled “Why?”

 

The smoke form’s eyes bored into Seth’s own as a cacophony of its voices breathed, “You know why. Remember.”

 

Seth saw the naked crimson body of his wife with stab wounds in her abdomen. His hand held a bloody knife.

The inspiration for this piece of 500-word Flash Fiction was a prompt I found online (I forget the site, or I would link it) that read “Suitably Warm.” A It’s a first draft, but feedback and comments are always welcomed.

“Fire” photograph from Rick Cowan.

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Flash Fiction: Candy Apple Red

She always wore candy apple red lipstick. Ethan never knew why, but every time she came in, those candy apple red lips stood out against her pale skin. She didn’t wear any other makeup.

 

Ethan sipped at his bourbon and coke, looking at her across the bar. He hoped she noticed him, without noticing him looking at her. He’d been coming here after work every day for three months. Three months of wistful glances and cheap booze for a pair of red lips that didn’t know he existed.

 

Her eyes drifted over to him. Ethan immediately looked at his wrist, hoping that she couldn’t tell he didn’t have a watch on.

 

An hour, and two bourbons and cokes later she slipped away from the bar and walked out to the street. Ethan noticed that her high heels were the same candy apple red as her lipstick.

 

Ethan gave himself a couple of minutes before following her outdoors. The doorway was wreathed in blue-grey cigarette smoke. He bent at the shoulders as he coughed. Ethan stood up, straightened his tie and muttered a prayer to himself. He let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and walked over to her. She was leaning in the doorway of the sushi restaurant over the road and talking on a cell phone.

 

“No, Rick,” she said in a surprisingly deep voice, “I said 10:30 TONIGHT. It’s been two damn weeks, you had plenty of time to make arrangements,” she said.

 

Ethan caught himself smiling and tried to bury it before she could spot him eavesdropping on her. He strode forward, and gave her a nod of familiarity as he walked past. He pushed on the door of the restaurant as if to go in. Unfortunately, the door was locked as the place was closed.

 

She laughed. “You’re going to have to get your California roll somewhere else,” she said. Her voice was just loud enough for Ethan to hear.

 

“I guess so,” he said.

 

“Let’s cut the bullshit. I’ve seen you watching me for a while now. I don’t know why you haven’t at least come over to say ‘hi’ or anything,” she said

 

“Well, I – “

 

“I promise you I don’t bite. Often.”

 

“That’s handy to know. I don’t think I ever caught your name?” Ethan said.

 

“I never said it. I’m Jacqueline. Jackie to my friends.”

 

“Which do I get to use?

 

“Jacqueline. Definitely Jacqueline.”

 

“Do you want to go for coffee sometime? Or sushi?”

 

“Sure. If you’re buying, I might let you call me Jackie by the end of the meal. Give me a call.” Jacqueline gave Ethan her phone number. He returned the favor.

 

 

The next night, Ethan slunk to the bar again. He looked around for Jacqueline and her candy apple red lips. She wasn’t there. Ethan slid into a darkened corner booth and dialed her number.

 

Immediately, something exploded in the parking lot. Running outside, he saw a Volkswagen Beetle burning. It was candy apple red.

The inspiration for this piece of 500-word Flash Fiction was a prompt I found online (I forget the site, or I would link it) that read “Candy Apple Red.” A It’s a first draft, but feedback and comments are always welcomed.

“Lips” photograph from Laura Tulaite