Fiction · unedited · Prompt

Hell’s a lonely place

Underwater, a hollow feeling, and blackness all fade away with thunderous claps. I come to and spit up water on myself. The room is dim, but not entirely dark. The ground in carpeted, warm, and smells of sandalwood.


The claps continue, each throwing my conscience forward past the water, past the darkness.


“Bravo,” A smokey voice calls from somewhere. “Bravo indeed. Charles, right?” I’ve never heard this voice before. Powerful, yet I’m lost within. I can trust this person. They already know who I am. I cough more and sit up feeling my cold face and wet hair.


The room is elegant. A rich dining table dominates the room. To the right a fireplace, above a chandelier. There are two chairs, one’s occupied. Windows face me on the opposite wall. Outside is… fire. Unrelenting flames lick the windows threatening to break in.


“Please, Charles. Come sit beside the fire, and warm your weary bones.” The man in the chairs says, gesturing to the other open chair. “I’ve been waiting for quite some time for a bit of company.”


I cock my head, sure this is a dream. Some last stand of the frontal lobe fighting off the finality of death. I approach, noting how real the carpet feel on the soles of my feet. Well done brain, I think, you’ve really outdone yourself this time.


I make out more of my host as I get closer. Middle-aged, salt and pepper sideburns, a handsome face. There’s something in his eyes though– they’re off. He smiles as I take my seat.


“I do believe a congratulations is in order, Charles.” He says, patting his smoking jacket down.


“Who are you?” I say, accepting the cigar he’s pulled from his jacket.


He turned and looked towards the window. “Isn’t it obvious?” He laughs “They don’t make fire like that, where you’re from. You’re dead. And I’m Satan. The Devil. The fallen one.” He paused, and reaches for my arm. “Don’t be alarmed though. I’m not evil nor am I malicious in any sense of the word. That’s all just poppycock that your black-robed ‘men-of-god’ spread.”


His hand on my arm feels warm. Almost electric. He clips my cigar and lights it effortlessly. I puff watching the glow down the ridge of my nose. The scene is just so that I take him at his word. I relax and drink in the heat from the fireplace behind me.   


“So if you’re Satan, I’m dead,” I say. Satan nods along. “Then this is hell. I’m in hell?”


“That’s a bingo.” He says. A devilish smile spreads across his face. “This is hell. It’s warm. It’s fun. And it’s all mine. No. Scratch that. It’s all ours.”


“What do you mean our’s?” I say, squinting.


He throws his head back and cackles. “Well Charles. You’re the first person that’s ever come to hell. It’s just you and I, pal.”


Faces of the immoral swim through my mind. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pot. Each one smiles flying past my mind’s eye. “But what about–”


Satan cuts me off. “No, I can see what you’re thinking. Perks of being me, I s’pose. And none of those assholes ever got in here. There all up,” His eyes roll up, “there.”




“Well yeah.” Satan says. “Another common misconception about my relationship with God. They say that if you’re good you get to go see him in his endless kingdom. Funny enough, that’s a mistranslation.” Satan smirked. “It really says that to be good you must see his endless kingdom. So Hitler and all those fuckers are repenting their sins and living out their eternities becoming good.”


I nod and puff. The shadows cast by the flames in the window plays rhythmically off the walls. “What then. What happens when they’re good?”


He pauses. “Well,” Satan says, stroking his chin.”When they’re good they’re recycled and thrown back into the great wide world. A rebirth if you will. You, on the other hand.” He says, regaining his grin. “Are the first to ever show up on my doorstep. What does that mean?” He pauses and claps. “It means that you get to do whatever you want forever. This is your playground. But first, I implore you to join me for dinner.”


I accept. Satan claps twice more and a suited man zips in from around the corner, ice waters in hand. He looks surprisingly like Al Capone.


I turn to Satan. “I thought–”


He cuts me off. “Work release program.” There’s that devilish grin again.



Prompt: You die and go to Hell only to find out that you’re the only person that has ever entered. Satan is clapping.

Fiction · Prompt · unedited


Dale yawned, scanning the files splayed out in front of him: foreign military operations, politically-motivated assassinations, and the ever so common infidelity. Keeping secrets wasn’t as glamorous a job as one might think, mainly because the fun of secrets was divulging them. Dale, on the other hand, had never crossed a client– in this business reputation was everything.


He was sipping his room-temperature morning coffee when the bell above his office door chimed. Now this was quite a change of pace. Most of Dale’s clients held high offices and adorned themselves with military medals. Not her though. She was as plain as a Jane could get. Auburn hair, glasses awkwardly shaped for her face, long black sleeves, and acid washed jeans.


Dale cleared his throat. “Er, can I help you miss…”


“Evelyn. Just Evelyn.” She said, straining to overcome her small voice.


“Miss Evelyn.” Dale nodded. “Are you in the right place?” Dale cleared his desk of folders and brought his clasped hands to kiss the underside of his chin.


She stood behind the chair opposite of Dale, afraid to look him in the eye. He motioned Evelyn to take the seat. She did. “I hope so. You’re Mr. Carnegie. Dale Carnegie?”


Dale smiled reassuringly. The first step of secret keeping was building a rapport with the client. “That I am. Dale Carnegie, keeper of secrets. At your service.” He extended a hand and Evelyn took it meekly. “Nice to meet you Evelyn.”




“Now Evelyn, what secrets can I keep for you today? Personal, political, sexual? Whatever it is, it’ll be safe with me.”


Evelyn shifted in her seat and picked at the skin of her left thumb. “Er, personal, I guess.”


Dale opened the metal cabinet at his side and thumbed through manila folders until he reached “personal.” He reached in, grabbed some paperwork, and handed it to Evelyn following it up with a pen.


“Here,” Dale said, pointing with his pen. “And here, are my privacy statements and rates. You’ll just want to read those over quickly and sign at the bottom. Then we can get started.”


Evelyn took the paper, wordlessly. Her eyes darted across the page and after a moment scribbled a signature and initials at the bottom of the page. “Okay,” she said, handing back the page. Next she produced a checkbook and made one out to Dale’s Keepers LLC. for $2,000. He took both and scanned each.

“Okay,” Dale began. “Now that the paper works done, in record time I might add,” he added as an afterthought. Evelyn’s icey stare didn’t change. “We can get started.”


Dale pressed a button underneath his desk parting the top. The transfer machine, Dale’s name for it, extended from the belly of the desk with a mechanical hum. Four diodes extended from the machine, two red, two black. Dale took his, one of each, licked the plastic, and stuck them to his temples. Evelyn followed along, preferring to exhale on the plastic instead of licking.


Dale looked at Evelyn, wires dangling. “Ready?” He asked. She nodded. “Alright, Evelyn. Now, when I flip this switch,” Dale pointed at the red switch at the base of the machine. “Just think of the secret you wish for me to keep and let go. Got it.”


She nodded. “Mhmm.”


He flipped the switch and the two sat staring at eachother for what seemed like hours. Evelyn’s face slowly drained of her nervous tension while Dale’s filled with horror. When the transfer completed, Dale ripped the diodes off, and dove to his wastebasket, choking back vomit. Evelyn sat on the other side of the desk, contented. An almost morphine-like calmness had washed over her.


Dale pulled himself back to his chair. There were tears in his eyes and specks of vomit on his tye. “Please…please don’t.” He pleaded with Evelyn.


She turned to look at Dale, her eyes half shut. “I’m sorry.” She stood, gathered her checkbook and briskly walked out of his office.


Dale scrambled for his phone and dialed home. After the first two rings his wife answered– a momentary lapse in his panic. “Honey, listen, listen,” he said sinking to the fetal position on the floor. “I love you. I love you. Tell Danny I love him. No. No. I have to go now.”



Prompt: You run a secret keeping business. You keep the secrets your clients can’t handle themselves. A new client might be the most challenging yet.

Fiction · Prompt · unedited

R.I.P. Donald

The little yellow preacher stepped before the crowd and cleared his squeaker. The casket laying in front of him looked almost regal, adorned with a smattering of roses and plenty of tears. The crowd half hidden under handkerchiefs looked up expectantly.


The preacher pushed his rubber wing to the bridge of his gold aviator reading glasses– the ones that made him look somehow more distinguished, his wife said. “We are gathered here today to remember Donald, father, adventurer, and squeaker.” The preacher paused for a moment then set his gaze towards the ground. A slight breeze rushed past, inducing some low-toned hums from some in attendance.


“Donald was a ducky loved by many, and will be missed by many more. He leaves behind a wife, Rina, and two little squeakers, Trombly and Pique. He’ll leave an even bigger hole in the community–”


Rina let out a wail. Unable to contain her anguish any longer, she leapt onto the casket, rocking it on it’s chains. Tears streamed down her face– a face twisted in anger.


“Donny,” she sobbed. “You can’t leave me you fucking idiot.” She flapped her rubber wings against the wood and brass. “What about the kids?”


The preacher stepped back, overwhelmed by the emotion and stood with his wings folded in front. Rina’s mother came to her daughters side and was trying to pull her off the top of the casket.


“Rina, c’mon. Get off there. Donald’s gone. He needs you to be strong for the kids.” Her mother was crying now. After some more pulling and embarrassed looks from some in attendance, Rita’s mother successfully removed her daughter. They walked towards the shade of a nearby oak, Rina still wailing under her mother’s wing.


“He was a fucking idiot mom! He left us with nothing, that drunk asshole.”


Her mother all the meanwhile shushing and pleading with her to not make a mockery of the funeral. It wasn’t working; most of the guests had turned to rubberneck the scene, squeaking a soft harmony in the process. Even the preacher looked up from his hands to watch.


“No, fuck him mom,” Rita shouted, pointing at the casket. “He blew his fucking head off with a firecracker when he had been drinking. He’s an asshole.


The preacher noticed a stifled laugh from the guests and decided this was getting out of hand. He waved over to the attendants and whispered to them. He stepped forward and addressed the crowd. “Okay, let’s continue, so that we may get on with the grieving process.”


A loud crash from the grave made the preacher jump nearly out of his rubber. The casket, he saw, had broken off the chains and fallen.


“For Christ’s sake,” the preacher muttered under his breath. “I’m surrounded by idiots.” He turned to the guests again. “The reception will be at the Donahues in an hour. God bless.” He turned and took off his glasses. More distinguished he laughed in his head.

Fiction · unedited

The great wall of Canada

Jeb and Ned spent the evening fishing and lifting their spirits– as any good mountie does. The air that night was cold and the stars plastered the sky from horizon to horizon. Jeb liked to look at them from the heated comfort of the small wooden guard shack atop the great wall of Canada–Proudly built in 2046 to maintain Canada’s integrity.


Ned upended his canadian blend and belched. “Say, got any 6’s?”


Jeb wiped his long face and smiled behind his fanned cards. “Nope. Go fish.”


“Bahh,” Ned groaned as he slapped a great calloused paw onto the pile of playing cards.


A loud buzz sounded from the corner desk in the shack. Ned and Jeb froze and turned, unsmiling to the intercom. Ned rose unsteadily from his chair and lumbered over to the desk. His index finger missed at first, but the second hit the “talk” button.


“Hello.” He husked into the metal intercom. “State your business.” He turned back to Jeb and rolled his eyes. Jeb laughed and mouthed “Americans” and rolled his eyes in kind.


A ragged voice answered. A man, out of breath and shivering by the sound of it. “H-hi, yes. I’m L-l-lee, Lee Fitzpatrick. My family and I seek asylum in Ca-canada. Or, er, humanitarian assistance. P-please, let us through.”


Ned leaned against the wall and nearly kissed the intercom. “Yeah, you and everyone else, eh. I’m,” sigh, “I’m sorry to inform you mister Litpatrick, but the great nation of Can-uh-da is currently at capacity and we’re not letting anyone in at this time. Now please leave.”


There was a pause. Across the shack, Jeb poured himself another whiskey and set to picking his nails. Ned watched and tapped his foot against the hardwood floor while he waited for an answer.


The man on the other end, Lee, pressed the button once again. He was sobbing into the intercom. “P-p-please sir. Superstorm Omega has been flattening ever-r-rything on the coast. We’re going to d-die. You’ve got to let us in.”


Ned looked down at his shoes and took in the man’s request. Turning him away would mean death, his’s– maybe. Letting him in on the other hand would mean jail time for defying a direct order. Jeb still picked away and watched Ned out of the corner of his eye.


“Sorry. Like I said sir. Canada is at capacity. We have no more room for refugees at this time. You and your family cannot come in, but I wish you godspeed.” Ned felt a heaviness in his words and in his shoulders.


The response this time was angry– vindictive, even. “Omega will be h-here soon. I hope y-you f-fuck’s die too. Where’s y-your h-humanity?”


Ned stepped back from the intercom and leaned into the wall of the shack. It died with the rest of the planet, he thought. He felt much drunker now. The whiskey had gone to his head and settled behind his eyes. He felt like sleeping, but there were two more hours on his shift. He rejoined Jeb back at the table.


“I’ll, eh, take the next one okay?” Jeb said studying the tumbler at his fingertips.


Ned sunk his head into his hands and nodded. “Say Jeb?”




“You got a double?”


It took a second to don on Jeb, but he nodded wordlessly and grabbed the bottle. The glass clinked as Jeb poured three fingers worth into Ned’s tumbler.


“Thanks bud.” Ned said behind his hands.


Prompt: 2050: Canada, under pressure from climate change refugees, has to build the most polite wall they can. We’re really sorry aboot it, but we’re full, eh? 

Fiction · unedited


It wasn’t the first funeral service Willie was to take part in; it was just the first in a long while that he’d attended in a suit. Everything was still leading up to the burial, even the air. Willie clenched his arms, painfully aware of the sweat slowly pervading the button down under his black sports coat.  


On one hand, the good weather a blessing. Today was the first day the sun managed to break through the rolling May clouds, but it did so with a white-hot fury. The morning heat index read 95; unseasonably warm for northern Vermont, but, not unheard of. Nearing noon, the sun blazed overhead turning the grass a near-neon shade of green and leaving scarce patches of shade. The rows of stones, which Willie knew by heart, shone like beacons with their polished granite.


Willie dabbed his forehead with his hankie and matted down wisps of white hair along his forehead. He watched from the shade of the caretaker shack as Mike Ryrson and Ralph Foreman, two of the town employees, worked the small backhoe to bore into the earth.


Mike worked under Willie most days on the upkeep of the cemetery and was used to this type of work. Willie had called in Ralph as back up. Ralph was a superb operator and Willie knew that today, of all days, he should stay out of the dirt. He knew what his daughter, Karen, would say if she were to show up and see Willie working. She would be more concerned with his appearance than the fact that he was 73 and still romping around in holes.


Willie watched a few more minutes before throwing his daughter’s imminent criticism’s to the wind. Those boys look like they could use some water, he thought to himself to drown out Karen’s voice. Willie walked to the back of the shed, collected three bottles of water from the miniature fridge, and walked out into the light.


Mike and Ralph were in the process of tarping dirt and rolling up sod when they turned to the sound of crunching gravel under Willie’s dress loafers.


“Hey Willie,” Mike said brushing the dirt from his work shirt. “Sorry to hear about Beth. She was a wonderful woman.”


Ralph matched the sentiment. “Yeah Willie. Mary and I are praying for ya.”


Willie dipped his head and pursed his cracked lips against his teeth. “Thanks boys. Say, this looks like hot work. I brought you two some water.” Willie said, handing each a bottle.


Mike thanked him and Ralph nodded, unscrewing the top and gulping down half the bottle. Willie walked to the edge of the hole and looked over. He felt a small surge of pride in Mike; it was a nice site, and well cornered.


“Nice hole, eh? You boys hit any moisture?” Willie said turning, his face twisting into a squint against the sun.


Mike nodded. “Nope. No water. Real fortunate considering it’s been rainin’ like a bitch the last couple o’ days. You have a nice site here Willie. Elevated and overlooking the gardens. Real pretty.”


Willie sighed and scanned the cemetery, taking in the calm heat. “Yeah,” he said turning back to Mike. “Beth and I came out and picked out this site, oh, ‘bout 15 years back. Back then there was no gardens. Come to think of it, there weren’t half as many sites either.”


Ralph picked up a shovel off the ground. “Town up and got old on us.”


Willie nodded. “Ain’t that the truth.”


Wille took a gulp from his bottle and sat down on the edge of the hole. He swung his left leg over the edge first, then the right, then lowered himself into the grave. Mike and Ralph looked on half consumed with confusion and half morose. Willie stood and put his arms up, bracing himself against the cool earth. Loose dirt tumbled over his fingers and fell onto his loafers. Willie inhaled sharply, drowning himself in the scent of decaying wood. He felt as if he were about to take root there.   


After several moments Willie looked up to Mike and Ralph. “Good hole boys. Real good.” He sniffed back tears. “Now pull me out before Karen gets here and rips us all a new one.” He forced a laugh as Mike and Ralph each took a hand and hoisted him out of the deep grave.

Fiction · Short · unedited

Ceased to exist.

A small breeze froze the cold sweat on my brow as I tumbled out of my haunting dreamworld. I’d dreamed I’d had no mouth; when I tried to speak I couldn’t. All I could do was growl. I sounded like a wounded animal.


Eyes open, my hands shot to my face. I felt my mouth, pulling on my bottom lip. I threw back the covers and swung my legs off the bed exposing my nakedness to my posters. I turned and looked at the reflection in my mirror. There it was. Two lips, teeth, and a tongue. Everything in order.


I sat back down in bed and felt my pulse in my throat. Just a bad dream, I told myself, nothing more. Of course I had a mouth. I wondered if anything could actually survive without a mouth. How would that work? I watched the dust dance in the diagonal light rays pouring through my windows and waited for my heart to settle.


A polite knock came from the door. Tat tat tat.


“Yeah?” I said. “Come in.”


Tat tat tat.


I crossed the room and opened the door to my mother who looked like she’d been up for hours already. She smiled and tapped her wrist.


“What?” I asked.   


The smile left her eyes as she cocked her head back and then to the side. She looked shocked, which gave way to curiosity as she looked my face up and down. Finally she put the back of her hand to my forehead and rolled her eyes upward and nodded. Fever? Maybe I was still pale from sleep. She took the hand away and shook her head.


“What?” I repeated.


A flurry of hand motions and the shocked look again. What the… She grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the kitchen. She put me in front of father and pointed at me as if she was a carnival barker. Another flurry of hand motions. He responded in kind.


“What am I missing? When did you two learn sign-language?” I asked, half laughing, anxiety crawling up my neck.


They both turned to stare at me. I’m still dreaming. I pinched myself to make sure. Nope.


They had continued to throw hands at one another. My mother looked more frightened than dad, who looked annoyed. He stood and took my hands in his and turned them over once, twice and then back to my mother with a shrug.


“Okay, this isn’t funny anymore.” I said nearing tears. “Can someone please talk to me?” Neither seemed eager to speak up, so I did. “Say something!”


Smack. Across the left cheek from father. He took my shoulders and shook gently. Fear was in his eyes now too. I reached for father’s paper on sitting on the kitchen table. I scanned with my index for the words I needed.


“Why” “don’t” “you” “talk”


Their eyes watched my finger stop under each and looked at each other. Slowly, I watched their hands produce the same movement. Father looked at the paper, and did the same.


“we” “are” “Why” “aren’t” “you”


Prompt : You wake up only to realize that one common thing ceased to exist. There’s no trace for it, no-one ever heard of it and no-one seems to be missing it.

Fiction · Prompt · unedited

Full Retreat

Sgt. Maple studied his bloody hands in the midst of the artillery crater. That’s strange, he thought, they’re not even shaking. His life-long relationship with the bottle left him with constant tremors. He wondered whether it was the sheer force with which he gutted that young german boy, or trying to catch and stuff Pvt. Miller’s intestines back in his shredded stomach that had set his hands straight.


The sky was weeping now, a dull gray had rolled overhead. Which side does He weep for, Maple wondered. Perhaps all of us, he decided as he patted his pockets for smokes. Where were they? Oh, that’s right. He’d finished them last night on watch.


The dirt felt cold and slick under Sgt. Maple’s palm. Cold made sense. This far down the ground ought to be cold. Wet made less sense, he pulled his hand up and noticed tinges of rust smeared on his palm. The sight between his splayed fingers now came into focus. It was Pvt. Charlie Santorini. He was dead. His legs below the knees were gone and his face was the shadow of pain. Maple patted Charlie’s breasts and found some cigarettes, took one, and lit it.


“Thanks Charlie,” he said, through the Marlborough filter. He stared at Charlie’s stumps and thought about how the army could save money on the casket. He was a good foot shorter now. A shell whistled overhead.  


Then there was a tumble of dirt on his neck and down his shirt. The skidding of boots on the slope behind Maple. He didn’t turn, he couldn’t. A cigarette had never tasted so good. And then it was gone– shaken out of his mouth by a frantic jerk of his shoulders. Time sped up. Shells whirred by more frantically. Tracer rounds soared through the graying sky.


“Sarge.” Pvt. Yancy’s boyish face was a few inches from his. “Sarge, we gotta go. Damn Nazi’s are all over. They’re rolling through the streets with tanks.” Another shake. “Sarge let’s go.”  


Sgt. Maple said nothing and stared at the Private. Flashes of awareness fired behind the Sgt.’s eyes. They were in France, in some god forsaken city far away from home. Too far. Maple blinked and one by one looked at the faces before him. Not like Charlie, distant and cold, but real live faces. Privates Yancy, Holloway, and Wishbone. Just kids; no older than boys. Just out of highschool most like. They should be in school right now, Maple thought, not here halfway across the world fighting somebody else’s war.


Maple shot awake. “Yancy, Holloway, Wishbone. Status report.”


Wishbone was nursing a hand, Maple saw, and was rifle-less. Yancy’s eyes mimicked dinner plates as he frantically surveyed what he could from down in the crater. Holloway spoke up, his southern drawl the only sweet thing for miles around.


“Well Sarge, we’re retreatin’. We need to go four blocks a-thataway.” He nodded back. “The only way out of this fuckin’ town is over a got-damn bridge.” Another shell whirred into the building across the street and showed the boys with rubble and dust. “We should get goin’.”


Maple heard Holloway out and felt a spark of pride in his chest. They’d come far since he laid eyes on their sorry asses a few months ago. Wishbone, he remembered, hadn’t even known how to shave when they first got to Europe. Maple had to show him late one morning, stooped over a candle and makeshift polished silver mirror. He’d cut himself twice.


Maple reached for another smoke and lit it. The sounds of treads and crunching rubble started gaining, shaking the pebbles lining the crater.


“Sarge, we gotta go. C’mon,” Holloway said, reaching for Maple’s arm.


Maple shook him off. “No, you boys go. I’m gonna stay right here. You go.”


Each looked at him as if he’d sprouted another set of legs, Charlie’s legs. He puffed from the cigarette and thought about his own son. The folded flag and silver star. Send it home, he’d said, send it to his mother. Maple just realized he hadn’t cried for his son yet. He didn’t have the time.


He took another look at the boys around him, patted his side arm, and spotted the smoke grenade on Yancy’s belt. “Yancy, gimme that,” Maple said, pointing a ragged finger. “I’ll need it, if y’all are going to make it out of here.”


With the smoke grenade in his left hand, a pistol in his right, and another full cigarette, Maple stood. “When I say run, you boys make a mad dash for that bridge.” He half turned and stopped. “Make sure you go back to school when you get back stateside.”


Sgt. Maple vaulted over the edge of the crater towards the rumble of the approaching war machine. The huddled privates heard the pop of the smoke grenade then a frantic “Run.” They did and didn’t look back.



In the midst of a full retreat, one soldier decides to do the unexpected, and charge the enemy, giving comrades time to escape.