The Laundromat of Horrors

    Mervin sits hunched on the stool in the run down koin randorii at just past three in the morning, reading a cheap California Raisins comic with paper 3D glasses.  He hates doing his laundry in the middle of the night, but it’s the only free moment he has between his classes and his job at the pool hall in the same strip mall.  At least it’s Friday–no, Saturday now, he reminds himself.  No class in the morning, so he’ll be able to sleep in.

    Beneath the rumbling of the tumble dryers, Mervin fails to hear the door on one of the washers creak open.  A pale, billowing figure emerges and lets out a faint moan.

    Mervin remains oblivious.

    The figure, dripping cold beads of water on the warped linoleum, stalks closer to Mervin, moaning louder and louder with each wet, sloshy step.  Finally, it’s almost upon him when Mervin turns from his book.

    “Oh, hey Jeff.”

    “Dammit!  I was sure I was going to scare you this time!”

    Mervin rolls his eyes and sets down his comic.  “Jeff, I’ve been doing my laundry here for months.  You’re just not creepy anymore.”

    “Oh, come on!  I’m totally creepy!  Look, I was trying something new this time.”

    Mervin nods to the puddle that’s formed on the floor.  “Soaking wet and moaning?  Did you never see Ringu?”

    Jeff shrugs, flinging water from his ephemeral shoulders.  “Hello?  Mutant bedsheet creature?  Do you think I get out of the randorii very often?”

    Mervin thumbs over his shoulder toward the television mounted on the wall.  A pale man in a black hood stares back, unblinking.  “Don’t you get cable in here?”

    Wringing out the edges of himself, Jeff sighs.  “We would if we could, but you try calling a cable guy to come out here.  The shadowlings scare everyone away.”

    Outside, miniature humanoids no more than four inches tall skitter around, their bodies absorbing every trace of cheap fluorescent light emitted from the randorii.

    “God, Jeff, they’re just like little bugs.  You step on them and they go crunch and you move on with your life.”

    “Yeah, well most people prefer bugs that don’t screech bloody murder when they’re crushed underfoot.”

    Mervin sighs and sits back down, thumbing through his comic.  “Look, it’s not my fault if you can’t get anyone else to come in here after dark.  Hell, I’d probably avoid this dump too if I had the time.”

    Shaking what approximates his head, Jeff says, “You’re a cold man, Merv.”

    “Yeah, well I’m not the one who’s soaking wet after going through a cold/cold cycle.”

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As usual, this is a piece based on i09‘s Concept Art Writing Prompt feature.  Please feel free to leave feedback in the comments, and let me know what you’ve been writing this week!

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The Graveyard of the Giant Robot

  Wood is stronger than most people realize.  That was evident in the giant ruin that lay just east of the village.  It was a great rusted behemoth, shaped vaguely like a person, and protruding from its chest was a huge old oak tree.  The steel panels had been shoved aside, twisted with the slow, unyielding pressure of life growing up through them.

  The children enjoyed climbing over the thing, though their parents all warned them against it for fear that they might cut themselves on the old jagged edges.  More than one villager had been lost after getting a cut on their hands or legs, which always seemed minor when it happened, but then about a week later they began to seize up, turning stiff as boards.  It was an ugly death, and all the parents feared their children getting cuts on the steel monster, though there was little they could do to stop them playing where they wanted when no one was watching.

  Orris had been warned multiple times by his father that playing on the ruin was dangerous, and he took these warnings to heart.  That’s why he always made sure to wear thick gloves and heavy pants when he snuck away from the village with his friends.  The ruins were just too fascinating to leave alone, after all.

  The head in particular was amazing.  A great glass panel had apparently covered the face at some point in the past, but in the time between this creature walking like a god across the Earth and its present state as a grand, glorified planter, the glass had been shattered.  Shards of it stuck in their fittings, while larger pieces glittered in the sunlight at the bottom of some kind of cavity in the head.  No one had ever tried to get inside to look around, because there were too many sharp edges.  Today, though, Orris had a plan.

  He’d brought with him a hammer that he’d managed to fashion out of a hefty stick, a stone, and some twine that he’d been making in his spare time.  The glass was dangerous, but he thought he might be able to break it off and give himself a safe place to try to climb inside.

  With the help of Myrtle, Linden, and Rowan, Orris secured some rope to a bent panel, and used it to rappel down into the head.  Inside he found a room that was about the size of his father’s hut, though turned on its side.  A large, padded chair sat vacant, bolted to the middle of the wall.

  Orris clambered onto the seat, which was awkward since it was sideways, and in his scuffling, he knocked a switch on the armrest.

  A display lit up, and strange images flashed across it.  A huge wooden creature lurched towards the camera, its body overrun with vines and dotted with patches of thick, bright moss.

  A voice erupted from a small speaker next to the display.  “All options are exhausted.  The beam cannon was absorbed as solar energy; my bayonets can’t cut through the creature’s thick hide.  I’m running on reserve power now as I record this final message.  We need to evacuate.  There’s no stopping this thing.”

  The creature on the screen reared back a massive arm and slammed it forward.  The camera didn’t capture what the monster hit, but the view lurched backwards, and then gradually it turned upward, falling back into the ground.  As the speaker erupted with a crash of rending metal and splintering wood, the last image was of the plant monster towering overhead, it’s arm broken off at the elbow, before the screen went black.

  Orris craned his head to look up out the broken window and saw that the great old oak tree loomed above him in just the same position as the monster from the video.

Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Graveyard of the Giant Robot

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So, I was definitely thinking a little bit of Pacific Rim and a bit of Final Fantasy VII when I was writing this piece.  I thought it turned out okay, but any feedback’s always appreciated.

As always, this piece was based on i09‘s Concept Art Writing Prompt for the week.  Follow the link to check out stories that other folks wrote based on this piece of art.

The Monster with the Clipboard

    Her phone beeped with a new text message.  Scanning over it, Evangeline cursed.

    “Damn it, why right now?” She pouted as she looked herself over in the mirror.  She had been planning to turn some heads tonight in her crimson stockings and bustier.  The color was a wonderful complement to her smooth, ash-colored skin.

    She looked sexy as hell.

    She was all ready to go out to Belial’s party which had started an hour ago, but now because of work she was in danger of being more than just fashionably late.

    “Tch, better just get it over with.”

    Disappearing from her apartment, she appeared in a poof of smoke in the middle of a ring of gaudy, pastel candles that smelled vaguely of lilacs.  In front of her stood a boy in a worn old wrestling t-shirt and shorts.  He looked to be about thirteen.

    He also looked terrified.

    Evangeline rolled her eyes and launched into her spiel.  “Why have you summoned me?” she asked, flaring her wings and flashing her fangs for good measure.

    The boy stood in awe for a few moments before his eyes started to roam.  “It really worked!” he said.

    God, she hated dealing with teenagers.  “The infernal plane is always at the service of any mortal who seeks it.”  Evangeline swished her tail, cracking it like a whip while she stood, waiting for the boy to make his request.

    “You’re a babe!” he exclaimed.

    Damn it, thought Evangeline.  She was a professional though, and staying on script was the fastest way to seal the deal.  “What do you desire?”

    The brat had stopped looking at her face. “Well, I wanted to be the most popular kid in eighth grade so I could look down girls’ shirts, but…”

    No.  He wasn’t going to.

    “Now that you’re here…”

    Damn it, yes he was.

    “I’d just be happy to bone you.”

    This was why Evangeline hated being on call on the weekends.  She’d always get dressed up for a night out then get summoned by some pervert.  This was not in her job description.

    “Look, kid.  You summoned the wrong kind of devil, okay?  What you want is a succubus.  I’m just a dealmaker, alright?  You can’t have sex with me.”

    The boy stood confused for a moment.  “But you’re dressed like a–”

    “Don’t finish that sentence.”  She tugged upward on her top.  “It’s my night off and I was on my way to a party when you summoned me.  These are not my work clothes.”

    “But you said you’re at my service.  I give up my soul and you give me what I want.  That’s how it works.”

    “Yeah…”

    “Well, I want to do you.”

    Evangeline sighed.  This kid was giving her a headache.  “Not gonna happen, kid.  Pick something else.”

    “No.”

    “Jesus Christ, kid, just pick something else.  I got a party to go to.”

    The boy jabbed a finger at her.  “You said the J name!”

    Evangeline blinked.  “Yeah.  So?”

    “Aren’t you supposed to, y’know, not be able to do that?”

    It’d be funny if it weren’t the ten millionth time she’d had this conversation.  “Oh my God, you mortals are such idiots!”  Evangeline was seething.  Checking her phone, she realized she was definitely way past fashionably late now.  She rubbed her temples slowly, regaining her composure.  “Look, you summoned me, so I’m here.  Now we need to make a deal or you need to dismiss me.  So pick something else!”

    The boy cowered at Evangeline’s outburst, but he didn’t back down.  “Nope, I want to bone you.”

    “Not gonna happen, kid.  Try again.”

    “That’s not fair!  I summoned you and you’re a smoking hot babe and you’re supposed to give me what I want!”

    Evangeline pinched her nose.  There had to be a way out of this. “Okay, you know what?  Fine.  Get in the bed.”

    The boy was dumbstruck for a moment, but then he gleefully jumped into his bed.

    Evangeline produced a clipboard and started drawing up a contract.  “What’s your name, kid?”

    “Zeke.”

    Pretending to write up the terms, Evangeline covertly slipped out her phone and sent a text to her friend Adremelek.  Once she was done, she started reading off the contract she’d conjured.

    “You, Zeke, hereby trade your eternal soul in exchange for sexual services performed by the smoking hot devil in front of you.  Are these terms agreeable to you?”

    “Yeah, now come on!”  Zeke squirmed impatiently under the covers.

    “Not so fast; you have to sign first.”

    Another puff of smoke filled the room and a monstrous goat-headed devil appeared.  Smoke continued to pour from his nostrils and his eyes glowed a dull red.

    “What’s going on?” Zeke asked.

    Evangeline waved to her friend.  “Hey there, Mel, glad you could make it on short notice.”

    “No problem, Angie.  Always happy to help out a friend,” said Adremelek, his horns brightening and then darkening, wisps of smoke trailing from their tips.

    Turning back to Zeke, she said, “Don’t mind him.  It’s just standard procedure that we need a witness for the contract.  Now just sign here, and everything’s official.”  She handed the clipboard to Zeke, who nervously scrawled his name at the bottom.

    Adremelek snorted out a puff of smoke.  “Is that it, Angie?”

    “Yep.  Thanks, Mel.”  Evangeline turned to Zeke.  “Have fun, you two!”

    Then she disappeared in a puff of smoke.  Checking her phone, she decided that she still had time to hit Belial’s party.  She had a great story to tell now.

Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Nightmare with a Clipboard

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This is another piece that I did for i09’s regular feature, Concept Art Writing Prompt.  It’s a little twisted, but I thought it was fun.  Let me know what you think!

Waiting at the Bus Stop

    Fiona squirmed on the old, rusted bench by the bus stop.  The sun was peeking out from behind the clouds this morning, giving everything a burnished, orange hue.

    It made the world look ugly.

    She just hoped that the bus would get there soon before it arrived.  Most days it wasn’t a problem.  Fiona was a naturally early riser, so she usually took an early bus, but some days, like today, she had trouble getting herself together.  You never knew when there might be a dust-up and you were going to need your coat.

    She saw it out of the corner of her eye.  Damn.  The bloody thing just unnerved her so much.  It approached slowly, its head darting from side to side like it was looking for something.  It paused a few feet away from the bench and straightened its coat.

    God, it was hideous.  The proportions were all wrong; its head was extended too far from its body and its limbs (the ones Fiona could see) hung at odd angles.

    Glittering blue eyes flashed and Fiona realized she’d been caught staring.  She whipped her face forward and withdrew into her coat, shrinking away from it.  She knew what was coming next.

    “Um, excuse me,” it said, its voice sickeningly high and smooth, “can you move over please?  It’s a long walk from the shelter.”

    Fiona cringed inwardly, but slid over anyway, her coat scraping the rusty seat.

    “Thanks,” it said as it sat down.

    Deep inside, Fiona swore she’d always remember to organize her things for work the night before from now on so she wouldn’t have to see this thing again.

    They settled into silence and Fiona pointedly ignored the thing.  Where was that bus?

    Sighing, Fiona decided to make the best of a bad situation, and reached into her inner coat pocket.  She felt parched, and a little juice seemed like just the thing to raise her spirits.  Pulling out her juice box, she lifted it to her proboscis and silently sucked.

    Never again, she thought.

Concept Art Writing Prompt: The Creature Waiting at the Bus Stop

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There’s a regular feature on i09 where they post a piece of art and invite readers to use it as a prompt for a short story.  I thought I’d take a shot at it for once, and I’m pretty happy with the result.  I might make this a regular thing, because it’s a really fun exercise.

Let me know what you guys think!

Bad Robot!

    I was at the dentist when my wife rebooted.

    It was a sudden thing.  One minute she was gently encouraging me through the root canal that my quack dentist, the only one covered by my military insurance, had talked me into.  The next she had this blank, dead-looking expression while the soft sound of whirring servos clicked behind her shining green eyes.

    In hindsight, I should have known that no living person has eyes that look so luminescent.

    I wanted to shout, “What’s wrong?” but the drill was in my mouth and the novacane had numbed me to the point that I could barely mumble my concern.

    Dr. Fring, oblivious to the state of my wife, continued with her work.  She took my groans as protests about the procedure.

    “Now, now, it’s not that bad.  Just shush and let me work.”

    I tried to wave toward my frozen, dead-eyed wife, but Dr. Fring was having none of it.

    “If you didn’t want to have this procedure then you should have avoided all those sweets and flossed daily like I warned you!”

    “No!  My wife!” I tried to say, but it was pointless.  Dr. Fring went back to work.

    The whine of the drill in my mouth drowned out the scene that next unfolded.

    Trish apparently woke up from whatever spell had afflicted her, but her eyes had changed from their normal green to a bright, glowing red.

    Silently, or as silently as I could tell with the drill drowning everything out, Trish stood up and calmly walked up behind Dr. Fring and seized her arm, holding the drill with one hand while the other applied a sudden steady pressure to the dentist’s neck.

    The last thing Dr. Fring said was “What the–” before Trish killed her.

    I was lucky the drill was safely out of my mouth, because I’m pretty sure I screamed.

Bad Robot

Bad Robot (Photo credit: Heather F)

    With a flash, Trish’s eyes reverted to their normal green.  Aside from the passive, neutral look on her face, she looked like her old self: short, bobbed, sandy blonde hair framing her bright eyes and thin, sloped nose that normally scrunched at the bridge when she smiled.

    “Query: Is unit T3D safe?” she asked blankly.

    “What?”

    “Repeat: Query: Is unit T3D safe?”

    “Trish, you’re not making any sense, and you just killed my dentist.”  My words slurred through my numb mouth as I sat up in the chair, doing my best not to notice Dr. Fring’s lifeless body, which out of the corner of my eyes seemed to stare at me accusingly.

    She paused, and for a moment I thought she was having another seizure or aneurysm or whatever had happened.  Then she said, “Statement: Unit designate T3D is still in infiltration mode.  Error.”

    “What’s going on, Trish?” I demanded, growing more and more frightened.

    She moved closer, towering over me.  Her impassive green eyes stared without blinking.

    “Statement: commencing memory purge and reset.”  Before I knew what was happening, she had reached around my ear and–

***

    “So where are the units now?” asked Evan.

    Jill shrugged and closed the video file of Ted’s dentist appointment.  “County lockup. They’ve both been reset and remotely wiped.  Their testimonies say that they just blacked out and the next thing they knew the dentist was dead.”

    Evan rubbed his temples.  Damned spybots were always malfunctioning.  He took a sip of his coffee and looked over Ted’s transcript.  “Have Trish confess to the murder.  This is the third time she’s spazzed out in front of Ted.  We’ll let her serve the sentence then bring her in for repairs and a complete retool.  Once the trial’s over, have Ted file for divorce then rewrite his memory so we can insert an updated partner.”

    Jill clucked her tongue as she typed up the orders.  “That’s going to be expensive.”

    “Yeah, but it’s less trouble than infiltrating the Pentagon with a whole new spybot.”

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I wrote this short story while I was on vacation earlier this week.  Rachael thought it was hilarious and suggested that I post it on the Drabblecast forums for feedback.  It was mostly just something that I did for fun.  Maybe I’ll write some more short stories like this one to post on the blog so everyone can have a break from my nonfiction ramblings.

By the way, what did you guys think?