Tag Archives: #IADMM2015

Cold Storage, Warm Living – Monster Mash #IADMM2015

There was a bit of a writing contest the last couple weeks on Ink After Dark, just in time for the Halloween season.  I’m looking forward to doing more of their themed prompts, since both variety and deadlines seem to help my work improve.

The Monster Mash contest had two categories:  Light and Dark.  Here is the bit that I submitted for the Dark portion.

Cold Storage, Warm Living

“This office is always freezing. Why can’t it be a bit warmer?” Susan asked the rest of the team once again, wrapped under a shawl.

The familiar argument didn’t even elicit a look from the rest of her coworkers. “Boss likes it that way, I guess. Just give it time, you’ll see that it’s for the best.”

Ever since her promotion to the central office, her summer wardrobe had languished uselessly in her closet. She had to dress in layers even on the hottest of days, just to be comfortable enough to work. Her latest investment in some heated fingerless gloves had helped a lot. Her coworkers had gotten used to the temperature, it seemed, but she still had a long way to go. There had to be some sense to the cool, though. She had been more productive since she got that job, and had come up with some really interesting solutions to problems that had come up. Maybe the cold was keeping the team more alert, more focused.

Today, though, she had lunch plans with Lisa, a friend from college, and had tried to dress up a bit for it. The goose bumps on her arms seemed as though that might not have been the best idea. When lunchtime finally came around, she was relieved to thaw out enough to start dumping the extra clothes.

Once she got to the restaurant, she greeted her friend with a polite hug, and settled into catching up. Salads came, and the conversation flowed easily. When Susan’s new job came up, her friend’s face paled. “The one downtown? And you’re out here? What are you thinking?”

Lisa poured all the ice from her glass into Susan’s, and flagged down the waiter for more. “Drink that, and we’ll try to get you cooled back down.”

Susan stared incredulously. Her friend had never been much of a joker, and the concern on her face seemed very genuine. Reconnecting with her friend was quickly turning into one of the weirdest meals of her life. “What are you doing? You’re freaking me out. I actually need to warm up after how cold my office is, not cool down.”

“You don’t know?” Lisa pulled out several dollar bills and dropped them on the table. “Look, I’m not kidding. That’s the reason that I’ve never worked for them. There’s something that happens to some of the people who work there. Look it up, but it might be too late. I’ve got to go, and you’ve got to cool down.”

“Something happens? Like a guy with a hook comes out of a bathroom mirror and kills you with a video tape?” Susan was embarrassed as people started noticing the scene, and she got angry.

“Look, they’re known for having the best and brightest, right?” Lisa eyed the door like she was considering making a run for it. “The ones that don’t burn out, they push the stereotype: loners, work in dark and cool, live for the job?”

Susan nodded and crossed her arms. That sort of sounded like her boss, and her team, in fact.

“The why gets weird. There’re stories. The company uses the staff as some sort of cold storage, for something that gets in them. Maybe in the water, maybe in the catered breakfasts, who knows? If it gets a chance to warm up, that’s when the people burn out…literally.”

“That’s stupid. Like, what, aliens? The company is not sticking things in their employees. Why can’t you just be happy that I’ve got a good job, maybe better than yours?” Susan got up and stormed away from the table.

She glared at the host as she stalked through the front doors. Once in the car, her hands shook so much she could barely start it. Trying to calm down, she breathed deeply and counted to ten, but it still took several minutes before she felt safe driving. “Guess some people really do change.” she growled as she put the car into reverse and checked behind her.

Susan’s anger was so distracting that she didn’t notice as a tiny bulge moved along her collar bone, from her shoulder down toward her heart, under her warm weather blouse and under her skin itself.


Mortician’s Ball – Monster Mash #IADMM2015

As Halloween approaches, I was fortunate enough to find out about a flash fiction contest put on by some really fun people.  The site is new to me, but I’ve been lucky enough to be acquainted with the people who run it for some time now.  It looks as though there will be frequent contests and prompts there, so it is certain that Ink After Dark is one keep an eye on.

For Halloween, they are doing a Monster Mash contest.  Here is the main page, and they have it split between lighter and darker stories.  There are definitely some good ones up there, so it is certainly worth some reading time.

Here’s the short story that I posted up there for their Light section.

Mortician’s Ball

“No, I’m sorry; we don’t have any openings on that day.  Our technicians are always booked months ahead of time.” The receptionist on the other end of the phone went through the practiced delivery with the boredom of the repeated underpaid delivery.

Steven was desperate.  He couldn’t have known months ahead.  It had only been three weeks since the funeral, and only this morning that anyone had mentioned the Mortician’s Ball.  “Please, anything you can do.”  His voice broke as he explained.  “This is all so recent, none of it has really sunk in, and then this…whole event.”

“Oh, is this Mr. Davis?”  The tone shifted from boredom to sympathy at his acknowledgement.  “My condolences about your wife.  We were expecting you, the funeral director already has a reservation set for 5:30 on the 31st.”

“Thank you.  See you then.”  After the connection broke, he stood for several minutes, just staring.

Halloween evening came shortly, and Steven went to get his appointment, wanting to look his best.  It was a new and overwhelming experience immediately as he entered.  More than a simple haircut, the store was packed with carts of clothing and people bustling about here and there.  Glowing holiday decorations reflected off of shimmering dresses darting by, sending dizzying patterns of color through the store.  He was almost back out the door, when a young stylist caught his arm in one of his tanned hands.  “Just in time, but we can’t have you wearing that.  Oh, we have so much work to do, and again, our condolences.”

“I don’t understand.  I just thought a haircut would be nice.  This is all just, just no.”  He pulled his arm back and turned to walk out the door.

“Hold on.  You don’t understand.  You don’t want her to see you looking like crap, do you, Steve?  How do you think she will feel?”

Too unsure to resist, Steven was led into the middle of the frenzy.  Clothing colors were picked, and sizes given to runners who leapt into action.  Brushes and trimmers and hands and faces whirled about.  Every bit of skin and hair was meticulously buffed or trimmed to precise detail.  Once, through a gap in the action, he caught a reflection of a near stranger in the mirror.  Other customers came and went, undergoing similar transformations, and threads of conversation drifted past him.

“Blue was always Joe’s favorite color, can we work that in somehow?”

“Her eyes were as green as the lawn; I don’t want to clash with that.”

“No, we can’t do yellow.  Her sister’s bridesmaid dresses were yellow, and she hated it since.”

As the clocks chimed eight times, Steven’s transformation was finishing.  “Your ride is here, right on time.  And, oh my, your wife will be pleased.”  He stepped out into the darkened street, and a driver held the door to one of the waiting cars.  He slipped in and attempted to contain his anxiety.  He had wished he could have more time together, but it was quite an adjustment from never thinking that he would see her again.  As arrived at the graveyard, Steven noticed that it had been transformed as well.  Areas were secluded by tents and connected by carpeted paths.  He went in, past extremely polite staff eager to meet his needs, to a central area loosely filled with other people from the town.

As he waited nervously, looking around the crowd without really seeing, a hand lightly touched his shoulder.  He turned, and nearly dropped his drink when he saw his wife standing there, vibrant and beautiful.  He couldn’t speak, so he just grabbed her in his arms, and held her tightly.  The crowd around them may as well have vanished, as they just touched each other, making sure that they were real.  Familiar fingers brushed happy tears away, and arms twined together.  She was warm and tan, just as she was before the illness.

His wish had come true:  one more night together.  Somehow, it would again every year.  They were so utterly lost in each other, making each moment stretch as long as possible, that they paid no attention to the Mayor on the microphone.

“Welcome to this year’s Mortician’s Ball and Happy Halloween to everyone!”