Archive for short stories

Flasher Fiction: Family

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2013 by synabetic

Here’s a story that’s a part of the exercise that my partner and I are doing. She provides me an image– a photo she has taken, or an original piece of art she has created– and I write up something for it.  This one clocks in at over 2000 words, and is for one of the best pieces of art Nicole has ever done.  Please feel free to drop me a line if you are interested in a print of it.

Family
by Steven G. Saunders

Others have always said that “family is everything” and that “family comes first”, and I am inclined to agree. When the invaders came, I had no choice but to accept our ultimate fates; but I couldn’t allow my kin to perish, either.

I grabbed my brothers and sisters and ran. I ran with them, pushing them on as best I could. The invaders were terribly fast, and they provided no mercy to those of us they encountered. They consumed us whole, they consumed us in pieces, and those of us who were not consumed had something much, much worse in store for them… I don’t even want to think about it.

Many of my brothers and sisters died or were taken. My mother was torn into bits before our very eyes while my father valiantly, but nearly futilely, bought us some time so we could get away. We cried as we ran, our sadness propelling us forward as much as our terror. We ran deeper into the forest, no longer heeding the warnings of our elders because the baleful darkness of the unknown was far more preferable to what the invaders had in store for us.

Even as young ones, we knew that we must run to survive. I became a new elder in short time, indeed. We needed to live. We needed to ensure our family’s survival. We ran and ran and ran. Eventually, I demanded that we must rest; and rest we did.

It wasn’t long before my fellow young ones looked up to me. They were already lost souls left homeless by an incomprehensible evil. They couldn’t wrap their minds around what was necessary to survive. My mother had told me quite often while I was a little one that there are times when one must take charge. Even if they make the wrong decisions, at least they are trying.

And so it fell upon me to make all the choices for our group of runners to survive. I organized small parties of us to forage for food while we still moved onward into the forest as a group. Soon we had other attackers aside from the pursuing invaders. They would swoop down from the obscured sky or pounce on us from trees. But what they weren’t expecting was for us to fight back.

My father was a fighter. He taught me that our kind need not just hold still and wait for the end to come. We must fight for our families and protect our kin to our last breaths. I would love to say we gave the invaders a good fight, but they were too fast, too quick, too devious.

We had already invited them into our homeland, with their assurances that they would help us to protect ourselves. They had a reputation for being kind, generous, and almost silly. How were we to know they were about to change as a species? We cannot know these sorts of things. We cannot be expected to expect savage betrayal.

The invaders never gave us time to defend ourselves properly, let alone plan a counterattack. We had changed as a species, too, and we were still new at the idea of actually attacking others in a planned and coordinated manner.

Thankfully, we knew enough to surprise others who would dine on our dead or still living flesh.

On the second day into our exodus into the forest, a large swooper came at us as night fell. Its first pass was just a probing measure, and, as my father had taught me, this was where we also got to probe him. I quickly assembled my best youngling brethren and had two of them mill about a nearby clearing. The swooper took the bait, and as he swooped, the youngling-bait ran towards a large group of us where we were lying in wait with sticks we had sharpened with our teeth and fear-honed anger in our hearts.

The swooper was totally confused by our action and I yelled to my comrades to commit fully to their survival. As I stabbed into the swoopers feathery shell, I went with my blood and leapt up onto its back, thrusting my stick into its neck. It never had a chance to make any of its typical sounds. The swooper just simply gurgled as it desperately tried to get away, then fell down and died.

We relished our first victory together. One of my sisters suggested we consume the swooper as swoopers consume us and I thought about it briefly. I knew we didn’t have much time, and I also knew that the foraging for berries and other quick foods wasn’t enough to keep us going. We were also thirsty, haggard, and our morale had been sapped by our kin’s annihilation.

I could feel the spirit of the warrior inside of me. Until my father told me of it, I didn’t even know what a warrior was. One of us who fights, he had told me. He died a warrior, screaming into the face of the enemy, challenging his powerful invader foe to take him on. Their chittering noises sounded like laughter as they tore him apart.

I felt the calm. I felt my fear turn into hate. I felt my fate quickly turn into determination. I looked to the swoopers blood that covered me and I climbed onto its corpse. I addressed my kin in a low tone, one that is often used for mating purposes, and I didn’t ask them to eat the swooper. I called their loyalty, bravery, and resolution into question. I asked if they were going to die starving cowards, or would they meet their fates as warriors with full bellies.

My family cheered. They were all my family now, not just members of my family’s community.

The swooper was ravaged swiftly, consumed by all. We took its feathers and fashioned protective garb for ourselves. I wore its beak on my face, to show everyone I was leader. I was the prime warrior.

I was death incarnate for those who opposed us.

And so it was. We encountered more and more attackers and overcame them. Those of us who died honorable were given our total respect and our assurances we would name our new kin after them. We began attaching insulting terms to our enemies. The stalking bandits who killed and ate us were “Furry Stripe Corpsers”. Swoopers became “Hooting Victims”. The larger creatures who were like brutish, more intimidating versions of us, became “Big Toothed Dead”.

And so it was.

Time passed and we stopped running. Now we hunted. The Big Toothed Dead never knew what hit them, as we proved smarter and more cunning than them. We relied on their own overconfidence in their primitive martial abilities in order to properly suppress them and their communities. Before long, we were invading their nests and destroying their young. We would sometimes leave a younger one of them alive to warn others like them, making sure to eat the hearts of their kin before their very eyes.

We knew what we were doing. My father would have approved. My mother spoke to me in my dreams. She was there with me when I killed that first swooper. I could feel her with me always. I could feel my father and my dead siblings in my instruments of death.

The hunted became the hunters.

And so it was.

One day, I was no longer a young one. I had become fully grown. My family had never forgotten the horrors visited upon us by the invaders. How they betrayed us. How they destroyed us.

Or how they thought they had destroyed us.

I had always pondered on the thoughts of why the invaders hadn’t fully pursued us. They seemed to have gotten what they wanted, assuming we would die in the forest. They most certainly had thought we would all become food for predators. And yet, against all odds, we became the predators.

One day, I was dispatching yet another large Whiskered Death Dealer, honoring its grandness with prayers to the warrior spirits who guided us all, and it occurred to me that the time had come. I climbed atop the Whiskered Death Dealer’s head, first accepting it’s claws as my due as Honored Leader, and I addressed my family.

I told them we must no longer fear the invader. We had spent many days and nights training for revenge. We had no illusions of victory. We simply wanted to destroy the invader as much as possible. If but one of them is killed, we had achieved glory as far as we were concerned.

Some of the Furry Stripe Corpsers had joined us. We even had a few swoopers working with us. The Big Toothed Dead were servants to do as we pleased. We set forth with an army to strike down as many of the invaders as possible.

My heart soared as I rode along the back of my Furry Stripe Corpser I called Bandit. As we got closer and closer to my old homeland, I could feel the resolve in my soul. I took in all that had changed. We were no longer weak creatures who frolicked in the sun and ate little bugs and berries. We had become death, covered in the remains of our enemies, all of whom we had turned into food, weapons, and armor. My family called me Bone Lord and I welcomed the title with fondness.

It was hard to believe that at one time I was meek and timid.

The community of the invaders came into view. They still clustered openly in something they called a “village”. From my younger, peaceful days, I remembered the layout of their villages well. Their past friendliness was now their undoing, as their kindness had become our army’s intelligence.

I knew they had a leader. An elder they venerated. We knew that if we attacked him first, then the rest would be disorganized and we could pick them off more easily. One of the Big Toothed Dead had been keeping a flame alive since it struck from the sky days ago. This flame would be greatly beneficial in creating the havoc we needed in order to commit proper war.

We struck just before dawn; as the invaders were sleeping. For some unknown reason, they had none of the weapons they did before, and as I laid my bone-blade into their shrieking elder, I began to feel the familiar relation of possible victory.

So did the rest of my family. The invader’s village was an orgy of violence and retribution before we knew it. I then received word from a swooper that another village was organizing a defense. As the invader village burned, we regrouped and pushed into the invader’s territory.

Much time passed and I had become weary. Our family’s army had destroyed five of the invaders’ villages and we were working on two more when my rage ran out and fatigue overcame me.

I fell off of Bandit and I understand that she gave her life defending me from one of the hold-out pockets of invaders. She was a good mount and a dear companion in arms. She will be missed.

The invaders took to the forest just as we had long before, and after some time, they sent out an emissary in order to come to an accord. They wanted peace. They tried to explain the previous destruction of my family as some sort of bizarre fluke. Something that would never happen again. I was unconvinced. But my family wanted peace, as they had tired from a lifetime of conflict and bloodshed.

I was strangely agreeable with this notion, too. We must have hit a wall spiritually; and having had our revenge, our warrior spirits were trying to tell us something. We were weary of everything that had transpired, and so we readily agreed to co-exist with the invaders in the forest. They were very pleased with this outcome, and before long we were living together.

It’s hard to imagine my life as a warrior. As the Bone Lord. As a distributor of death, destruction, and righteous vengeance. But there I was, retired from the life of killing. The other ones who had helped us were released from their obligations, and their own families were greatly compensated. Many of them went on their own paths, but a few of them still stop by to say hello occasionally.

I now happily pick berries and explore the nicer parts of the forest, with its colorful beauty and pleasant meadows that border it. As time passes, I feel more and more elated with my new life, not caring as much about my warrior past, nor do I feel weak and worthless like I did when I thought of my first life with my family.

In the end, the invaders joined us and we think of them less and less as a conquered people and less and less as invaders as the days pass. By some miracle of fate, we have learned to accept each other and I couldn’t be more overjoyed by this prospect. They have become family.

Family is everything.

Nothing comes before family.

family_fiction_nicole

Original image courtesy of Nicole Turner

Read Some of What I’m Writing Lately, Maybe

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2013 by synabetic

Here’s a quick post to links of the flash fiction shorts (stories clocking in between 1200-1700 words) I have written as of late. They’re simple, I feel, and a little creepy. Or so some folks tell me. Okay, maybe a lot creepy.

The Writing
Worm
Bind
Today
Bruise
Family

Let me know what you think with a comment or something.

If you are super bored, I posted up the first three parts of The Rage of Ognark, a terrible bizarroesque story I’ve been writing.

And there you have it. I should have some more stories up soon.

Flasher Fiction: Bruise

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2013 by synabetic

And here’s another. Might as well get them all up here for people to see… not a bad haul for one day. Right? Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this one.

Bruise
by Steven G. Saunders

Can’t figure out where this bruise came from.

It’s on my arm and looks like something has gripped it tight. It’s not from an injection or bug bite. I know what those look like. No, this is a strange bruise… no idea where it came from.

Yesterday was like any other and today seems like more of the same, although it’s only morning and it’s tough to say how my day will pan out.

Probably like every other day.

The bruise hurts. But it doesn’t hurt like a normal, sort of dark bruise does. I can feeling it going deep. And every time I look at it I feel sick to my stomach. What kind of bruise does that? I don’t know. This bruise, I guess.

I don’t think I’ve put this much thought into one largish bruise since I was little.

Back when I was a kid, I would get into all kinds of trouble messing around. If there was a fence needing someone to pee on it, I was your guy. If there was a roof to jump off of with only a terribly knotted sheet to save you, I was the kid you gave some M&Ms to and off I went. I jumped off of bridges into streams, crashed my bike into parked cars; I even accidently set a neighbor’s shed on fire because I accidently built a bomb out of spraypaint, cans, and matches. Oh, and sheer little-kid determination. I was the freaky terror of the cul-de-sac. I was the kid who chanted nonsense as I tied your kids up with jump ropes to telephone poles and later explained it as a “simple Satanic ritual”.

Yeah, that kid.

One day, I was grabbed by one of the neighbor dads. Floyd’s dad. I remember him clearly. He was an odd sort of father for the timer, with visible tattoos and longish curly hair. He also had one of those horrible bushy moustaches. I don’t know what he did for a living, but he liked to walk around his home in old jeans, shirtless, and in his bare feet. On the day he grabbed me, I had explained to Floyd that the glue I was using on his dog was perfectly safe, and Shemp should be okay… but maybe it would protect him from cosmic rays. When Floyd’s father showed up from inside the house, garbed in his usual at-home “attire”, Floyd cheerfully explained to him what we were doing.

Look, I didn’t want to hurt the dog, okay? I had other ideas. Hurting animals for no good reason is fucking unforgivable.

flasher_fiction_bruise

My arm was grabbed, and a bruise was left. Now, I had all sorts of background in excitement and daredevilry by that young age, but this new form of excitement was different. I was never afraid of my parents, and I knew they loved me. Floyd’s dad openly referred to me as a “freak” and never hid his contempt. He grabbed me and yelled at me and soon after I could hear my mother calling for my father on that nice summer day in the American South. My father stormed over and gave Floyd’s dad a talking to. My father, while accepting, had little patience for what he was calling a “goddamned piece of shit hippie burnout”. And he led me away…

Soon after, Floyd and his family moved away.

While I silently watched out of my front window as they loaded the moving truck, I occasionally looked down at the bruise Floyd’s dad had left on my arm. It was darker than other bruises, and it was obvious he had grabbed me too hard. My arm ached, and my mom sprayed Bactine on it because she thought it would help me “make it feel better”. I knew Bactine should burn, especially in the eyes (as Tom found out), but I let her think she was helping. I took some Aspirin to make her happy, too. The pain didn’t bother. Floyd moving away didn’t bother me, either.

Not much bothered me, actually.

The bruise did trouble me a little, though. I kept looking at it. It was slow to heal. A couple of nights later, I woke up at around 3AM and looked at it some more with my camping flashlight while under the covers. This wasn’t too unusual as I tended to wake up late at night in the hopes of catching ghosts going about their daily business, pray for demons, look under the bed for monsters I could keep as pets, or just mentally shout out for space aliens to hear my thoughts.

I really enjoyed being a little kid.

The bruise eventually healed and I went on with my life, growing up, becoming more confident in the world around me and how to best interact with it. But I could never stop thinking about it.

The bruise. It was a lot like this one which has appeared on my arm. Same place, even.

It’s cold to the touch. Like a chilled ice cube tray. Bruises aren’t supposed to be cold, I know that. Bruises are supposed to hurt, feel like the spirit under the skin is encased in styrofoam. Feel like broken vessels in the greater vessel of the Whole. You know?

This bruise is different. I think it’s trying to tell me something.

It’s odd to think that Floyd’s dad could stay with me for over thirty years. If there is any being who has haunted me, it is him. He might be the only thing I have ever been scared of. When I was little, I imaged him as the spectre of death. When Floyd moved, I felt nothing. But as I got older, I began to appreciate his father had moved away and it was unlikely we would ever meet again.

I could never shake it. So, one day, I hired someone to track him down based on the information I remembered. It turns out that Floyd and his entire family died in a terrible accident two states away and my fears of his father were just plain stupid.

My friend was dead, sure, but his dad was dead and that’s all that mattered to me.

I then led my life fear free… until now. With this bruise.

Where did it come from? Why is it here?

My fear free life is marvelous. Nothing holds me back. I do what I want. I need to be cautious, of course, but I can pretty much do as I please because I am very likable and eager to please people.

Everyone likes a people pleaser.

The bruise feels colder now. As if it has gone deeper. I don’t understand it, so I will take into account what I am doing right now.

I am not at home, like I was thinking. It isn’t morning. The day hasn’t changed. I am very cold. Something has gone wrong. But what? All I can feel is that bruise.

Floyd’s dad begins to haunt me again; right here, right now. Everything was exact. There was no room for error because I left no room for error.

Dammit. Some people just get lucky, I suppose. Even alcoholic home healthcare workers all alone on a Saturday night watching Friends reruns.

The bruise. It’s trying to tell me something. I have a hard time hearing what it has to say over the ringing. All I can hear is Floyd’s dad yelling at me. Screaming. Shrieking. I don’t… I don’t even know anymore.

Did I ever leave that instance in time?

Am I still there?

The bruise is done speaking.

It is time for the bruise to take me.

You are invited to The Uninvited

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 15, 2011 by synabetic

One of my jobs is writing for and editing a digital-based horror magazine that’s been in development (as well as working on other things for the company). And, finally, issue #1 of THE UNINVITED MAGAZINE has launched for the iPad. Don’t worry Android users– that version should be down the pike at some point.

Anywayhow, working on THE UNINVITED has been mostly fun with about 15% frustration. It’s good frustration, though, as I’ve never been a primary editor on a magazine before. This one required my skills for both prose and sequential art (that’s “comics” to most of us). So, in the spirit of the launch of THE UNINVITED, I’ve decided to post the cover art for the mag and each story, and I’m throwing in a random page for each one… exclusive to this blog.

I think.

Let’s get started…

Be sure to click on the images for ze larger picture size.

Nice cover, eh? Steve Sprayson did a nice, simple job for our launch issue. It gives that feel of pulpiness and comic book stuff that our readers should expect. Warren Zahari did a bang-up job on layout, for both the cover and throughout the magazine.

The main credits page. Look, mom, I’m an editor!

The story we chose to kick off THE UNINVITED was Hypergraphia by Ken Lillie-Paetz. The art there is by the wonderfully talented Fiona Staples. Hypergraphia was the perfect choice to lead everything because it’s very “meta”, as the kids today say.  I don’t want to give anything away about it other than that writers will especially enjoy the hell out of it. It’s also goddamned creepy and awesome in the way that it’s written. Excellent work, Ken. You can be let out of the room for an hour a week now.

Okay, okay, fine… above is a taste of Hypergraphia.

Ah, my comic: The Devil Eggs: Except Reality. I was asked to come up with a Weird War property for Rock Bay Media (who publishes THE UNINVITED), and this is what I concocted. I won’t lie… initially there were tons of problems for reasons I cannot get into because it would be professionally lame to, but the good thing is once the artist and I started talking to each other we were all long-distance high-fiving  and fixing (or trying with the fixing) some of the problems that had cropped up (none of which were our faults, mind). Nunan is a great guy and was a real treat to work with. There was a bit of a language barrier, but we managed pretty well (considering my overly-complex script). The only hang-up after the fact was getting a couple more pieces of short work done, which we did with Myke Allen. Myke’s a local artist who happens to be American just like me, and we met and hit it off a few months back. The front and back “covers” of this Devil Eggs installment are done by him… and we’ll see Myke again for the second fist-punching, face-shooting Devil Eggs madness, Damonzeit, in THE UNINVITED #2.

Warren Zahari did a nice job with the lettering, too. All in all, Nunan, Myke and Warren worked very hard to bring my vision to fruition. And Warren? Thanks for the lovely swastika, man.

Just thought I’d add the back cover for The Devil Eggs: Except Reality. As usual, my only worry with this short of mine is that I really needed five more pages. Just… five… more… pages… Interesting tidbit: I was the model for Myke in the above panel. He also worked to keep his art consistent with Nunan’s, which I think turned out well. If you love World War II and monsters and horror and grim shit, you may like The Devil Eggs.

The Most Beautiful Girl, by writer Mark MacKenzie, is the longest prose piece in THE UNINVITED #1. It’s about a guy chasing after a gorgeous-yet-mysterious woman. Naturally, horrific hijinx ensue. Editing-wise, Mark was fantastic to work with. He takes edits and suggestion well, and is actually enthused about the editorial process. To me, those are high marks for, uh, Mark. As for the art, Ann Koi knocks it out of the park. She read the story and came up with the above piece. It sufficiently seductive and, well, sufficiently nightmarish.

And up there is a page from The Most Beautiful Girl. Props to Warren again on the layout.

Alex Diochan did everything for Depths. Story, art, and lettering. It’s a fun little tale with incredible layout and art. The only thing Alex didn’t do was the editing, and I’m happy he didn’t end up stabbing me.

I chose the above page because I truly love how Alex manages to compress all those panels onto one page without losing focus or story in the process. It’s very old school, but in that amazing old school way. I won’t dick around with you either: The fact Alex’s art here has a Guy Davis and/or Mike Mignola vibe to it was a major selling point for me. It also strikes me as very European, which doesn’t hurt, either.

The enigma-enshrouded Adam Donahue contributed a very short story to THE UNINVITED #1, and while it’s short, I found it intriguing as well as thought-provoking. I’ve decided to only add the cover to this story, though, as the whole story needs to be read at once. Big high-fives to Warren on that cover, too.

And there’s the last page of the magazine for you. You will notice the promo art for #2 that Dusty Peterson was working on. Well, the final image is all done and when you see it, you may shit yourself as I did.

Just so you know: All of our contributors are paid for their hard work. So, yeah, buying this digi-rag of horror goodness helps to support us paying more fine and independent creators.

There you have it. A preview of sorts concerning THE UNINVITED MAGAZINE #1. I hope you buy it and enjoy it verily. If you do end up getting it, be sure to contact us to let us know what you though, for bad or good. We love all kinds of feedback, as it helps us with the creation and editing process.

For links to everyone mentioned in this post, GO HERE.

For more information on THE UNINVITED, GO HERE.

To get your filthy, filthy eye-hands on THE UNINVITED MAGAZINE #1 for the low Launch Price of $2.99, GO HERE DAMMIT.

Oh, and join THE UNINVITED on Facebook HERE.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to see you on the other side… where the tentacle-hounds are.