Flash Fiction: “Midnight Mass” by Jonathan Raab

Santa tried to get into my mind last night. I poured a circle of salt around the bed.

Shadow-shapes, small and menacing, dash along the edges of the motion light’s reach. The wind rattles the windows, and the tinkling of dead bells on tiny shoes and hats follows.

A gingerbread man turns to ash in my mouth, sugar and butter and burnt edges. My teeth find his eyes and sink in.

Courage comes with the clear liquid I pour into my egg nog. But so does the desire for sleep.

I’m afraid to close my eyes.

His reindeer speak in my dreams, offering their blood for my soul, their animal-mouths twisting and snapping in a sharp mockery of human language.

The gifts were under the tree the next morning, wrapped in glimmering paper, a metallic sheen reflecting fading Christmas lights. A faint hum came from within the smallest box. When I’m not looking, I hear shuffling and movement along the stained carpet. Something’s inside.

There are no children here.

Flash Fiction: “CleerQuil” by Jonathan Raab and Colin Scharf

Everyone in your new neighborhood knows about you.

They know an awful lot about you.

They saw the moving truck, and watched from dark windows.

They hear your footsteps on creaking floorboards late at night, when you have trouble sleeping and pour yourself a little drink.

“CleerQuil,” one of them told you the other day. It was the man from down the street, from the house with the unkept yard covered in dead leaves. There’s a metal rod staked into the ground there, with a bit of loose chain wrapped around it. “There’s a lot of allergens in this neighborhood.”

The bottle was in your hands. It was icy-cold to the touch.

“Thanks,” you said. “But I have plenty.” Your cupboards were full of CleerQuil. You don’t remember ever buying any.

“Take it,” the man said. “It’s a real thing. I saw it on TV.”

And you waved him goodnight. There were others. They smiled. Plastic teeth, dead eyes. Their faces fell slack when you turned to go back inside.

And they watched.

Last Tuesday night, they went through your garbage, looking for empty bottles. Now they know how much electricity you use.

You’ll find a note in your mailbox when you go home from work tonight. The note is hand-written, scrawled in overwrought cursive across a thick square of faded paper the color of spilled coffee.

The note will say, if the moon is right:

“It’s a real thing. We saw it on TV. You should take it.”

The neighborhood will look deserted, but they will be there. You won’t see them, but you will feel their eyes upon you, and you will tell yourself that you have a sore throat.

Flash Fiction: A Ship in Darkness

“A Ship in Darkness” by Robin Wyatt Dunn

I record the ship’s message, known only to me. It has no words; it is a ship made of wood in dark ocean without light. Broken, sinking, dying.

Like me. I understand its message.

It is a tomb.

It’s so quiet.

So exquisite and beautiful.

What else could be my life, now, but this?

I am its natural message. The last resident of an experiment that did not achieve its desired result, indeed, it did not achieve any result.

All are now fled. Only me, and the last floating wreckage.

A dead love affair. A ruined nation. A presage of dawn, seen, but only in the mind, light within the mind’s eye, brighter than any made by sun . . .

What were we experimenting with? What weren’t we experimenting with? Time. Authority. Emotion. Apocalypse. Human response to apocalypse. Mind-reading. Mental control. Degrees of sanity, and its sharing. Degrees of insanity. Correlations between the DSM 4 and our own sea-bound habits, methods of calculating our sexual frustrations, our food-related habits as the storerooms were methodically exhausted of food, our increasingly stubborn refusal to contact the mainland . . .

My own mind control ray . . .

Well a mind control ray is not so unique. We all developed one out here. It’s nothing so dramatic. All chess-players know of it. All teenage girls. It’s just that it can be toyed with, and there’s no point to doing so, really . . . like growing a 40 foot cock: what are you going to do with it?

Elephantiasis of the mental gonads.

Still, I say it was a success. Because of what I see now: beauty.

Why is destruction so beautiful? Chaos is a kind of order, yes. Violence a kind of love. All romance is at least in part a story of war, if only a war within.

And so the destruction of our ship, my livelihood, my relationship, my career and now my body is at the deepest level a love affair, of one mammal, and one ocean, and one decrepit boat, a boat glowing with meaning . . .

The shades of black, moonless, rise over me like demons, like executioners.

Ocean water seasalt, the potion fills my mouth and nose.

I spit it out, grinning.

My name is Orlando. But the name means nothing. It is my body that has meaning. Cold and afraid, delirious. Some final sanctuary of land, of land-flesh. Land flesh which is only sea-flesh, temporarily contained.

The last fire has sputtered out. I am alone in the rich ash, on the last floating deck.

There isn’t even a radio. In the distance I can see a helicopter, coming this way . . .

I must dive so they do not see me. But in a moment.

You see, I am healed. How is destruction healing? How is murder healing? It shouldn’t be but it is so. Nature forgives us so much . . . forgives us anything . . . everything . . .

The sea is my religion.

I am to be eaten by sharks.


Robin Wyatt Dunn was born in Wyoming during the Carter Administration. He lives in Los Angeles. His vital statistics, as well as a list of his books and publications, can be found at http://www.robindunn.com.

His most recent novel, Fighting Down Into the Kingdom of Dreams, is available in print and e-book formats.