From Beyond

Sharon’s note: This was just a little something I threw together from another challenge. We created a list of monster traits as a group, then had to do something with them. Warning: Author is aware of the logic flaw in this, but hey, it’s just for fun.

When reality tore, and a hole opened up to the place where stars died, no one noticed. It happened deep underground, so as far as humanity was concerned, it might as well not have happened. Until the things that came burrowed their way to the surface. They broke ground in a small, suburban neighborhood. 

The surface was warm, and to the creatures, warmth meant food. At first it was just animals that went missing; mostly cats and dogs. Notices went up, at first looking for the lost pets, then warning of some kind of sicko in the area. When a little boy, only six years old, went missing from his backyard, people were convinced that they were ground zero for an emerging serial killer. 

The second child, a ten year old girl, who disappeared left a cell phone behind. What she recorded changed everything.

Flashing lights under a bush. The girl pulls the branch aside, revealing a ball of . . . something. It’s gray, and looks like it’s made of stone except for thin, glass-like panels where multi-colored lights flicker. The girl laughs and exclaims something the phone doesn’t pick up, and the creature vanishes. She reached forward to the place where the object was and came in contact with something.

The creature reappears and starts to open–

No one has seen what happens after that. No one who can say, anyway. Those who have watched past that point are catatonic. 

Panic spread when the video was released. The neighborhood was evacuated, but since the onset of winter, the creatures have been inactive. They don’t like the cold. 

We don’t know what will happen when summer comes, and they start moving again. Hopefully they will be content to feed on animals. Hopefully they will not spread.

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Schedule Conflict

Sharon’s note: I’ve always likes superhero stories. I’m in the minority, but I hope the MCU never ends. I’m still happy there’s going to be a second season of Invincible. Warning: Bad guys in love.

  Flare peered down into the alley behind the bank. The Wrecker was standing at the fire door. Surprisingly, he was stretching. A good idea. A lot of strength-based supers tended to ignore little things like that. It was the main reason, without some kind of healing vector, they ended up retired and in major pain by their mid-forties. He wasn’t as bulked out as much as the average meat-head, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have plenty of muscles. They corded and bunched as he moved, beads of sweat appearing on his arms. . .  Interesting, but he was still trying to pull her job, and that would not stand.

  She floated down, hovering just above the roofline. Wrecker jerked when she cleared her throat. “Excuse me. Did we double book, or did you just randomly pick the worst possible day to heist this particular bank?”

  He blinked up at her, then frowned. He glanced at the security camera pointing down at him and took a step back out of its range. So he’d seen it, and had been flexing in front of it on purpose. “That depends. Did Red Tony hire you too?”

  Flare wobbled in the air. “Wait, what? I was joking. Are you telling me we actually got double booked?”

  “It looks like. He did seem rushed when he contacted me yesterday. I’d assumed someone had dropped out at the last second.” He glanced at his watch. Most people didn’t bother with them anymore, but in a profession that needed to keep time without being tracked, they were a necessity. Flare’s was gold with an orange and black leather band. “Look, I’d love to talk this out, but if I don’t do this now, I’m going to miss my window. How about we do this job together? We’ll straighten out the details later, then make Tony pay both of us.”

  “Oh, I like the way you think.” She lit on the ground next to him, and cupped her hand, letting it fill with molten fire. “It would be fun to put the heat to that annoying worm.”

  Wrecker’s eyes widened and he laughed. His smirk gave more of an impression of little boy mischief than hard-boiled criminality. “I do like a girl who’s a firecracker.”

  Flare giggled and rolled her eyes. “Uh, bad joke.” 

  “You started it.” He shrugged, and let his eyes move over her costume (only the finest skin tight, bulletproof polymer in safety orange and black) before snapping back to himself and nodding towards the door. “Would you like to do the honors?”

  “What, you aren’t going to offer to hold it for a lady?” She pouted and he snorted.

  “If you insist, but we’ve got to hustle. I’ve got this thing timed out. The cops should be here any second, and if we’re going to keep them busy for whatever Tony has planned, we need to have hostages when they arrive.” He kicked the brick next to the door. It crumbled, and the now useless metal slab swung open. With a little bow he offered for her to go first. As she walked past, he shouted to be heard over the sudden screeching alarm. “If you want, we can go out to dinner afterwards while we figure things out. My treat.”

  “Hell yes,” Flare hollered back. 

  Adrenaline flooded her body as she took to the air and soared into the bank, flame dripping from her hands and sizzling out on the floor. Citizens were screaming and running for the front door. She threw a fireball to herd them back towards the center of the room, setting the sprinklers off. Wrecker guarded the back hallways behind her. 

  Steam rose off Flare as she started to glow with heat. “Everyone get on the ground. This is a robbery!”

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Daily Rituals

Sharon’s note: 200 word challenge 2 of 2. Warning: Weird whimsy. Not unlike the author.

“Stalk and slink my little cat, skulk and skitter like a rat.” 

Silence, my black kitten, disappeared around the corner of a half-collapsed ticket booth. She didn’t appreciate my rhymes. 

Leaving her to her own devices, I danced towards the center of the park towards the ferris wheel. Always dance when you think there are shadows nearby. It confused them, and made them think you were the wind. 

Beneath the Behemoth, the still metal heart of slumbering Rifty’s World, I drew supplies out of my pockets. A seemingly normal pen (ballpoint, of course) for a wand, a handful of salt packets, an iron nail, and an inch of yellow ribbon. The ribbon didn’t do anything, it was just pretty. 

“Blast, bound. All around. Disappear without a sound.” I pointed my wand to the five broken spots of the ferris wheel, ripped open the salt packets to spill the contents, and buried the nail, adding the ribbon for good measure. And that was that. 

“Come, Silence,” I called, and she scrambled out from under the ticket booth so I could pick her up. “Since we vanquished the shadows, I say we reward ourselves with a cheeseburger. You may have some cheese.”

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Warning: Spiders

Sharon’s note: Another 200 word challenge, where the subject was two people meeting who share a phobia. Warning: A real-life spider hostage situation that the author has witnessed.

“Don’t let the–” 

I looked up from my phone to the sickly pale man pressed against the bathroom wall. The door clicked behind me and the guy groaned. That didn’t bode well. I gave him a weak smile. “Did I just trap us in here?”

He laughed, high and nervous. “That depends, are you afraid of spiders?”

. . . I spun around and yelped. My back hit the wall before I’d even realized I’d moved. The door handle was speckled with little white globes, half of which had split, spewing forth an army of tiny black dots. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of baby spiders.

I stayed frozen for a solid ten seconds before turning to my fellow spider hostage and holding out my hand. “My name’s John. What’s yours?”

He took it hesitantly. “Lance.”

“Well, Lance, here’s the plan. We’re going to stay here, as far from those little bastards as we can. When someone opens the door, we’re going to pretend like we were just in here talking. I’ll take the chance and see if I can stop it from closing, but I’m going to need you to follow close. Don’t worry buddy, I’m going to get us out of this.”

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Sharon’s note: One of two 200 word challenges I did. It’s cool to do little snipets of a story like this. Warning: Sad implications.

The others search for canned and dried goods. I stay near the front of the abandoned grocery store, rifle at the ready. Dried leaves and grit crunch under my taped-together boots. We haven’t seen anyone in days, and it’s unlikely we’ll be bothered. Still, we haven’t lived this long by being careless.

There’s a corkboard near the broken sliding door. Most of the papers still pinned to it are unreadable. The faded poster of a stage play at the local theater advertises free drinks to people who bring something for the canned food drive.

“There’s nothing here. The place has been picked clean,” Gunner says before another fit of phlegmy coughs rip through him. I wince. No food probably means no medicine. We have to try anyway.“I saw a pharmacy on the way into town. We’ll see if there’s anything there, then head to the theater. Don’t worry, guys. I’ll find us food. We’ll make it through this.” I make myself believe it, because if I don’t, how can they?

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Literal Prophesies

Sharon’s Note: This was a piece I wrote for a challenge. It’s a fun bit of fluff. Warning: Gratuitous cuteness.

“No, thank you.” I tried not to bare teeth as I told yet another old man I didn’t want to play a game of dominoes. They weren’t even being creepy about it, so I couldn’t be rude. Apparently, if a teenage girl was alone at a picnic table at the zoo, plucking tiles out of a bag of dominoes, it was a signal that she was lonely and needed a friend. 

I mean, I was a little lonely, and didn’t have many friends, but that wasn’t why I was there. 

Yes, technically they had started out life as dominoes, but I’d painted runes over the dots. They were an integral part of my fortune-telling kit. They sold actual runestones, but those were expensive, and I got the whole bag for a quarter at a garage sale. Besides, I used my own symbols.

The Dragon. The Blade. The Rabbit. The Dog. I didn’t know what they meant, but it was trouble. Some kind of disaster coming, and what that could entail when there were predators around made me nervous.  

I placed down two more runes. The Hammer, and that stupid Baby tile that came out horrible, and I needed to repaint. It also wasn’t necessary. The distant sound of shouting kids from a school trip had already told me what was at stake. 

“Where? I need to know where,” I muttered as I fished in the bag one more time. The Frog. The reptile house? It was my best bet. I scooped all the dominoes back into their bag and took off. Brightly painted signs pointed to the cinderblock of a building where all the lizards lived. 

“Damn it, I wanted to see the snakes.” A ten-ish year old boy was kicking at the glass doors. He had a couple of other boys with him, and they radiated grumpiness and boredom. 

A sign on the door said in cartoonish letters: CLOSED FOR REMODELING. Spec-freaking-tacular. Someone was going to let out an alligator or something while trying to build it a new swimming pool.

“Hey, stop that. Shoo.” I waved my hands at them, and the one who had been kicking the door sneered at me. 

“You don’t get to tell us what to do.” He grinned back at his friends, who laughed like he had said something hilarious.

And that was a prime example of why I didn’t want kids. “Leave now, or I’ll tell your teachers, not only did I catch you vandalizing zoo property, you were also torturing small animals. I’d bet they’d believe it.”

The last bit was just extra to get them out of the way. I wasn’t actually going to do it. Panic flashed across the kid’s face before he turned tail and ran. After exchanging confused glances, his friends followed. I must have accidentally touched a nerve. That was worrying.

Whatever. I had more important things to deal with. Like getting into the stupid lizard house. Where there was probably a rogue alligator or something . . . What was I doing with my life?

A crash inside the building made me jump. Screams. I kicked the door, with absolutely no plan what to do if I got in. More screams, and the roof exploded. Rubble showered down, and I cowered against the wall. Bits of cement rained around me, one clipping my arm with bruising force. 

A resounding crack echoed through the air.The world faded away while my brain refused to understand what it saw. Something flying, spewing fire. A dragon. An actual dragon. What the hell? Since when were my runes that freaking literal?

It landed on the ground with a heart-stuttering thud. It wasn’t huge, about as tall as an Irish wolfhound. That was enough for something with claws on the tip of its wings the size of steak knives and a head like a squashed-nose crocodile. It opened its mouth, revealing teeth built for tearing. And it wailed. It cried like a lost baby. 

The landing had hurt it. When it hit the pavement, one of its bat-like wings had crumpled. 

It took one gaze at me and hobbled over, cooing and growling, almost like speech. I straightened up, ready to run, but it wrapped its uninjured wing around my leg and keened. What. The Actual. Hell.

“We’re going to have to shoot her. Quick! Someone contain the witnesses.” The voice came from inside the ruined reptile house. And that was my cue to leave, but there was still the matter of the dragon clinging to me like a frightened toddler. 

The Baby. The Dog. 

Knowing what I had to do didn’t mean I had to like it. Fine. I didn’t care for kids, but this was an innocent creature asking for my help, and I did love dogs.

“Hey, girl? You want to come home with me?” I asked in my sweetest voice. She cooed in response, staring at me with dewy, golden eyes. And just like that, I was ready to die for her. “Okay, sweetie. Follow me, and everything will be alright.”

I started to walk, and the dragon let me go. She followed after me, limping along with its broken wing  curled up by her chest. Never mind what I was going to do with an injured mythological creature. I was an actual oracle. I’d figure it out.

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Family Business Pt 3

Sharon’s note: Hardship can make or break a family, but some relationships couldn’t be saved by a zombie apocalypse. Warning: This was intended of splatter punk.

“Suck it up Jess. Now is not the time to run off again because you’re butt hurt. We’ve got other problems.” Penny leveled her shotgun at the corpse that was starting to twitch.

“Fuck.” Dad swore and stepped up beside her, and I join him. It was an unspoken rule of the family. When bad shit went down, personal shit could wait.

The worm thing started dragging the body back towards the water, making the water-logged flesh ripple and the legs pull up at a strange, broken angles. This was so not zombies.

“Fuck this,” Ray said. He pulled his .44 mag snub nose out of his pocket and fired. The worm this was severed in a spray of watery black goo and disappeared into water like slurped spaghetti. The burning smell of gunpowder overpowered the rot for just a moment, and then the only this I could concentrate of was the screeching of something very, very big.

Thirty yards out the water started to bubble, going from green to brown as stagnant smelling sludge kicked up from somewhere deep. Heads broke the surface, followed by bodies that rose above the water, suspended by long black things that I was certain now were tentacles. Around a dozen, bloated corpses in torn, rotting clothes hung in the air, dead eyes focused on us and bared teeth snapping.

“Grenades?” I asked, focused less on the meat puppets and more of the great black dome of blubbery flesh that just poked out of the water.

“Grenades,” Dad agreed, and fired at the first body that raced towards us.

The thunder of the shot followed me back to the truck. I hopped in the cab and grabbed the giant tackle box and started digging through it. Damn Uncle Ray. He’d just thrown everything in instead of packing it neatly. There was a dozen candy bars of top of all the crucial equipment. How the hell was anyone in the family alive with an idiot like him in tow? Finally, I found a pouch. A single pouch with one freaking grenade. 

“Fuuuck,” I moaned. If we made it out alive, I was going to kill my uncle. I took the pouch with me and ran back to my dad. “We only got one, so unless you’ve got some other artillery, we got to make this count.”

“Damn it, Ray!” My dad roared, and started to walk backwards while firing into the puffed up face of my highschool chemistry teachers. That was satisfying. Mr. Swan had been a creeper. “Everyone walk it back. We got to try to lure this thing out of the water. We got to see how big it actually is.”

“Dad, we got to call for backup!” Penny yelled as she unloaded a round between the legs of Hailey Peterson, huskier in death than I’d ever been in junior high when she’d made fun of me. The tentacle was severed by the shot and the body flopped to the ground, spasming under the dying control of the bit of monster left up its ass. The tattoo at the small of its naked back was on full display, showing she’d changed it from her highschool boyfriend’s name to a butterfly at some point.

“Do it,” I said, moving in front of her to take on the next puppet so she could retreat and send out the call. 


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A Night In Pt 2

Sharon’s note: The human condition is fatal. Blunt, unpleasant, but unfortunately true. It manifests differently in everyone, but everyone has it. There’s very little of it we can control, but how we choose to look at it is one of them. Maybe instead of blunt and unpleasant, it’s just a short and bittersweet interlude before moving on to something else. Or not. It’s up to you. Warning: Author is in kind of grumpy today.

The man was huge. A brute. He had one of his gorilla arms locked around Grandpa’s fragil throat and a gun pointed at me. Twice he tossed his head in an attempt to get the sweat soaked, scraggly blond hair out of his panicked pale face. It stayed in his eyes and Grandpa kept whimpering and-

“Shut up! Shut the hell up or I will blow your brains out!” The brute brought the gun up to Grandpa’s temple and I lunged forward. The gun swung back to me and I froze. Damn it, I wasn’t close enough.

“Hey man, you don’t have to do this, okay?” I somehow managed to keep my voice calm even though my heart was trying to explode through my throat. “What do you want? Do you want money?”

“I want you both to shut the hell up!” The brute dropped Grandpa and took a step back. I didn’t have a chance to get closer before he had the gun pointed at Grandpa’s chest. There had to be something I could do, but my mind was blank.

“Just tell me what you want, man.” I held up my hands, trying my best to sound soothing.

“Okay. Okay.” The brute took a deep breath. “Here’s what you’re going to do. Do you have a car?”

I considered lying for a second, but maybe I could get him out of the house without any bloodshed. “Yeah. The keys are in the other room. Right on the coffee table. You can take them. I’ll stay here.”

“Shut up,” he screamed and jabbed the pistol forward and my stomach clenched. “You only do what I tell you to do, and don’t talk unless I ask you a question. I’m going to take this old guy with me-”

“No, you can’t,” I pleaded. “He’s got a lot of health problems-”

He fired a round into the floor. The sound tore through my ears and left a high pitched buzz behind. Grandpa threw himself out of bed and onto the brute’s arm. I raced forward and slammed a fist into the brute’s face. The gun went of two more times and even a pain radiated through my hand I hit again. 

Grandpa fell to the floor. The brute stumbled back, the back of his head cracking into the wall before he dropped bonelessly. I grabbed Grampa and dragged him away, adrenaline warring with relief when I saw there was no blood. 

The brute didn’t move. I put Grandpa back on the bed and found something to restrain the brute with. I called the police, but we were a long way from town. I dragged the unconscious brute into the living room and checked on Grandpa. He was back to staring at the TV, mouth moving silently. Back to normal. I left him there to go keep an eye on the man tied up in the other room.

My throat tightened and my stomach churned. For just a second I had seen the man my grandfather used to be. He’d grabbed the brute like he was trying to protect me. I’d hoped . . .

It didn’t matter. I loved Grandpa. It didn’t matter if he didn’t remember me all the time. He loved me when he did. That was why he threw himself at the brute. That is what I chose to believe.

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A Night In Pt 1

Sharon’s note: This was a story I started writing for a contest. I decided it didn’t really work, but I still liked it, so here it is in two parts. Warning: Not my best work, but I enjoyed it.

I never liked Grandpa’s cabin. It was so much like the old man. Everything creaked and sagged. No matter how much you cleaned, it always smelled like shit and death. 

No. I shouldn’t think like that. I wouldn’t smell like a rose when I got to his age. Hell, if I got to his age. Ninety-six years old. Hell, it was hard to contemplate living that long.

“Hey Jimmy.” Tamera waved from the front porch as I lugged my things from the car. She had a small suitcase leaning against her leg and she was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. I’d never seen her out of scrubs. Her southern drawl was more pronounced than usual, and her foot tapped against the old boards. “You sure you got this? He’s been kinda fussy the last couple days. I could stay.”

“You were the one who requested the time off, remember?” I raised an eyebrow at her, and she groaned.

“Only because Mama said she’d disown me if I didn’t go to my sister’s wedding.” She shuddered. “I’d kill for an excuse not to go. Lissa’s gone full-on bridezilla and at some point during the weekend I’m going to end up strangling her.”

I hefted my bag. “Well, call me if you need bail.”

She laughed. “I’ll do that. Now, I’ve got all the important numbers-”

“And I’ve got the five pages of instructions you emailed me. Go. Drive safe.” I made a shooing motion. Tamera was a sweetheart and a natural caretaker, but she needed to relax. 

She shuffled off towards her car, and I went inside. The disgusting but familiar smell filled my nose. Someone had tried to cover it up, but you just couldn’t hide death with lemon cleaner.

I dropped my bags next to the couch. I’d sleep there for the weekend, since I didn’t want to invade Tamera’s room. Next, I looked in on Grandpa. I’d expected him to be asleep, but he was sitting up in bed, watching the small TV in the corner and moving his mouth like he was chewing. I never knew why he did that. He hadn’t had teeth in a decade. 

“Hey, Grandpa. How are you doing?” I didn’t expect a response, and I didn’t get one. He didn’t look away from the screen, and just kept chewing. I sat at the end of his bed and his eyes slowly drifted over to me. The chewing stopped, and he stared at me, his brow wrinkling slightly in concentration. I put a hand on the covers over his foot, and it felt more like a bundle of sticks than flesh. “Do you remember me?”

He didn’t answer. He only looked back at the TV. Yeah. That was about what I had expected. He didn’t recognize me. I didn’t know if it was comforting or sad that it no longer hurt. Honestly, I wasn’t sure there was anything left of the man I knew.

I wasn’t sure when I fell asleep on the couch, but I jolted awake to the sound of breaking glass. Someone was keening. Grandpa. Shit. I was on my feet and down the hall before I could think.

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Family Business Pt 2

Sharon’s note: Noping out of family is hard. How much do we owe them? How much of the problem between us is you? Not you you, a hypothetical or metaphorical you. You know what I mean. Actual you this time. Warning: Author is scatterbrained today.

“Girls!” Dad barked, and we fell in like, just like always. We stared at him because if we looked at each other, we’d just start fighting again. He glared at us before turning back to his brother. “She’s right, though, Bubba. There’s hand sanitizer and gloves in the truck. Use them.”

“You ain’t the boss of me.” Uncle Ray ignored Dad and braced to pull the body up again. Weeds snapped as he pulled, grunting and sweating like an angry pig, until with a fart like squelch the body came free. 

“Whoa, full moon.” Penny put up a hand to shield her vision. 

Uncle Ray dropped the body face down, and the blubbery, bloated butt rippled as it hit the ground. It was naked from the back. Something had ripped the waders like they were tissue paper, and everything from neck to knees was exposed. More human bite marks peppered the back and buttocks and . . .

“There’s a critter in his shitter.” Ray whooped with laughter at the thick black worm thing that trailed out of the corpse’s rectum and into the water. 

“Shut up, Bubba.” Dad crouched by the head, holding a throw-away .38 revolver on the worm thing while he checked the face. “It’s Joe Summers. Shit. I just saw him last night. He was going to that party at the Peterson’s house.”

“That asshole that turned the Gator Shack into a fucking chinese food restaraunt?” Ray’s lip curled and he kicked the late Mr. Summers in the side. “That was a local treasure, asshole.”

“If you treasure food poisoning and burnt coffee,” Penny mumbled so no one but me heard her. “Plus the new place has really good eggrolls.”

As much as I hated to agree with my sister, I had to nod. Too bad it would probably close with the owner dead. Ray kicked the worm thing, and it thrashed. A flood of extra foul smelling brown water gushed from around it and all thoughts of food disappeared from my head, possibly forever. 

“What the hell is that thing?” I took a step back. Uncle Ray was reaching towards the the worm, and I shrieked. “Don’t touch it, you idiot!”

“What did you call me?” He stood up, fist balled. 

“An idiot, because only someone as stupid as you would touch something that was coming out of a zombie’s ass with your bare hands!” I pointed to the black, squirming thing that was starting to writhe harder. 

“Don’t you talk like that to me, you stuck up little bitch!” He stepped over the body and stomped towards me, mud squelching around his boots. “You think you’re hot shit, because you left town and joined one of the big shot ‘organizations’ that you have anything on me? I’ve been doing this job since before you were born!”

“And it’s a miracle you aren’t dead yet.” I sneered at him. “On second thought, go ahead and touch it. Maybe I’ll be able to tell what it is from they way it kills you.”

Ray would never hit a girl, but I could feel how bad he wanted to. His arms bulged with tense muscles and and his nostrils flared comically wide. Apparently, Dad could too, because he jumped between us. “That’s enough! Bubba, she’s right. Go put on some fucking gloves. Jess, don’t talk to your uncle that way.”

I paused for a long second, then nodded. “Okay. Fine. You know what? I came home because you asked me for help. Seems like you don’t need my expertise, so I’ll just go. I’ll leave Rosalee in the truck.”

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