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Flash Fantastic!

No. 9July 2004

By Eric S. Brown

The creature stood in the doorway, its skin a pale gray. Maggots wormed their way through its flesh, lower lip dangling by only the thinnest thread of tendon. It had once been human, but no longer. It wore the tattered remains of a military uniform. A low moan escaped its lips as it stumbled toward Tony.

Tony watched it from his desk with a sense of morbid fascination as he calmly raised his pistol and splattered its brains onto the hallway wall outside of his office. The thing's lifeless form crumpled to the carpeted floor.

The city was no longer a safe place to be. Tony picked up the phone and was not surprised to find it was out again. He got up, stepped over the thing's body and walked into the waiting room outside his office proper. He glanced around at the stacks of outdated magazines and the still broken sign that hung on the open door. Fixing it now just seemed so pointless, besides he wasn't sure there was anyone left that could do the job. He guessed that his career as a private investigator was over too. His new job had become just staying alive.

He turned towards the waiting room's oversized window that offered a view of the city below. It looked as if the whole place was ablaze. No chorus of sirens or gunshots, or even screams on the streets tonight. The only sound were the thousands of soulless voices moaning in hunger and pain. It sent a shiver down Tony's spine.

He tore his eyes away from the scene below and stepped back into his office. With a trembling hand he slid open the top drawer of his desk, getting out a half empty bottle of Jack Daniels and a well used tumbler. As he poured the glass full, he caught his own reflection on the screen of the useless TV that was bolted into the opposite wall. He stared up at it, appraising what he had become. He hadn't shaved in four days and his prematurely graying hair was a mess. His business suit looked almost as ratty as that of the soldier who lay on his carpet in a pool of blood and black pus.

Tony laughed and emptied the tumbler in one huge gulp. The whiskey burned its way down his throat, bringing tears to his eyes. Those damn things out there would have one Hell of a time making him move, he promised himself. This office had been his father's before him and he had no intention of fleeing the city ever. It might be a bit safer in the rural areas but how long would it take for the things to wander out of the city and spread out? There was really no safe place to be alive left.

He started pouring a second glass as he heard them. More of the creatures were shuffling their way up the stairs towards him. He sat back down at his desk and leaned back. Aiming his pistol at the doorway, he downed his second glass of whiskey. The lights in the office flickered and went out as the first of the things made its way inside.

He fired a round into its forehead even as three more of the creatures lumbered through the doorway. Tony swung his gun to the left and took aim at the closest of the new arrivals. When he pulled the trigger, the handgun clicked empty. Tony tossed the gun aside, picking up the bottle of Jack Daniels. He drained it as the things drew closer to him. They're not making me leave, he promised himself again as rotting hands reached out for him.

He struggled as they pulled him over his desk and dropped him to the floor between them. As they swarmed over him, he punched, kicked, and screamed, but their teeth ripped and shredded his flesh. As Tony's eyes slid closed, he felt the warmth of his own blood washing over him as one of the things dug into and tore open his throat with its dull fingernails.

by Pamela Karavolos

Amanda crept up the stairs with all the hate in her heart that her three-year-old self could muster. It was bad enough ‘that man’ had come to live with them and that they had moved to this big old house. But this was the last straw. Her brown curls bounced with each indignant step.

At the top of the stairs, she peered around the corner and glared into the room. From the corner of the baby’s crib, a large brown teddy bear stared back at her. She didn’t know how, but she was going to get rid of ‘it;’ the new baby boy that had disrupted Amanda’s well-ordered little life.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement. Wide-eyed, she turned to see a little girl. From the looks of her, she had been crying for a long, long time. Instinctively, Amanda knew that it was a little girl who had been very, very bad and had come to warn her. If Amanda was bad, she could end up sad, just like her. Without a backward glance, Amanda ran from the room and down the stairs.

Adult voices floated up the stairs as Amanda ran down them.

“You’ve done wonders with the house, dear, but do you think it was wise to put the baby in. . .”

“The haunted room? That’s just nonsense. There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

Amanda would have disagreed if she’d been asked.

Pamela Karavolos lives and writes in "Pam"demonium. Her short stories have appeared in Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine, Futures Mysterious Anthology, and her latest, The Stalker, appeared as The Story that Won the mysterious photograph contest in the January/February 2004 issue of the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

By Wendy Washburn

"You sound perfect for the position, Jane," Mr. Bender said over the phone after listening to my one pathetic qualification: 40 wpm typing. "We can train you on the job, but we need somebody right away."

"What kind of work is it?"

"Oh, you know, this and that. Girl Friday sort of thing. No need to type, but you do have to be physically fit. If you're interested, why don't you come by this afternoon, around five o'clock? That way we can get the paperwork out of the way and you can start first thing tomorrow, or even tonight if you like."

The man sounded eager, almost desperate to fill the job. What kind of crap job was this? I was going to say thanks but no thanks, till the growing pile of bills next to my phone made me meekly accept his offer.

When I stepped off the sweltering bus on that hot August day, the third week of a relentlessly miserable heat wave, and saw what part of town I was in, I understood why nobody wanted to work there. Bender's Wholesalers was tucked between La Pizza Nostra and Sam's Recycled Auto Parts in a smoke-stained brick row of businesses in an ugly, neglected industrial area.

I opened the door into the reception area, where Mr. Bender was supposed to meet me, and the stench of rotting garbage hammered me. I threw myself back outside to catch my breath. I had never smelled such a thing in my life. The thought of the collection agency letter in my pocket gave me strength, though, and I jerked my attention away from my olfactory discomfort and reentered the room holding my hand over my nose and mouth. Inside I saw a cracked coffeepot filled with moldy sludge, plastic chairs that might have been yellow underneath the grime, and walls and floor covered with a greasy film. Flies, dozens of flies, walked along the walls and flew at my head.

There were two other doors in the room. One had the word "Bender's" written on it with magic marker, and the other was unmarked. The smell seemed to be coming from behind the latter door. Gradually I began to distinguish the foulness of putrefaction: there had to be a substantial amount of decaying meat on the other side of that door. How many days had it been there? What could it be, for God's sake? I wanted desperately to go home, to turn on the TV and forget my woes. But my need for a paycheck was so urgent that I would have to ask for an advance on my first day just to avoid eviction.

Suddenly a noise erupted from beyond the unmarked door. It was a sort of sharp tapping or cracking sound. At first the tapping was slow and tentative, but it soon picked up speed and ferocity until I could hear it clearly: CRACK CRACK CRACK, faster and faster, harder and harder. Then a man chuckled and said with malevolent glee, "Filthy, stinking bastards!"

What on earth was going on in there? It was none of my business, yet what if someone was in trouble? Measuring my responsibility as a citizen versus the risk of violent consequences from interfering in a criminal act, I backed away from the unmarked door and prepared to write this job off. But then I thought about the cowards of the world who refuse to help others in danger, and I pulled the door open quickly, bracing myself for a whatever danger presented itself.

A middle-aged man with abundant black, slicked-back hair looked up at me in surprise as he clutched an upside-down broomstick. Behind him were three large garbage dumpsters set against the closed door of a loading dock. The cement floor was dotted with hundreds of small white wormy things, most of which were wiggling. The quiet ones had been smashed.

"You must be Jane!" he said cheerfully, taking my hand and shaking it with a firm, if somewhat sticky, grip. "Thank god you're here. I was sweeping these maggots up, but just couldn't resist popping them. It's the heat, you see. We share these dumpsters with the restaurant next door, and, well, let's just say the fly population has never been healthier. Here, take this, and we'll see how strong your stomach is."

I forced myself to smile in response and took the broomstick he was offering me. I would have no problem negotiating that advance.

THIS ISSUE OF FLASH FANTASTIC -- "No Goodbyes" is ©2004 by Eric S. Brown.  "The New Addition" is ©2004 by Pamela Karavolos.  "I Need A Job, Any Job" is ©2004 by Wendy Washburn.  All contents of Flash Fantastic edited by Patty G. Henderson.  Final formatting and additional graphics by Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Crazed Fanboy dotcom and Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.

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