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Fishbowl 2 - Horror

In this Fishbowl I asked primarily for Horror or Dark Fantasy themed prompts. For a list, see Results of Flash Fiction Fishbowl 2 - Horror

Unfinished Business

When Frances went to wake her daughter late on New Year’s morning, she did not find her in her bed. Frances took deep breaths, trying not to panic.

“Maya! Maya, are you hiding?” She checked the whole house, opening any cabinet and checking any corner Maya might hide in. The girl had been unusually quiet since Christmas, but then, so had the whole family. Months earlier Frances’ father had just disappeared, leaving a little wooden horse he had promised to carve for Maya unfinished. Caving in to the girl’s begging to get it for Christmas regardless had felt like giving up on him ever returning to finish it.Seeing Maya sit on the floor, the older, polished wooden toys in front of her lined up in an arc, turning the rough horse in her hands—

Empty spots where Maya’s snow boots and warmest coat should be waiting by the front door stopped Frances in her tracks. In her pajamas and slippers she rushed out in the yard, ignoring the cold and the snowflakes, and leaned over the gate, looking left and right, yelling her daughter’s name. No sign of her.

Frances ran back into the house, trying to decide between calling the police right away or quickly getting dressed to look for herself. She heard the knock at the back door before settling on one.

Maya, bundled up, nose red and running, had trouble with the handle on the sliding glass door. Frances scooped her up in a hug, awash with relief and flooding the child with sometimes contradictory pronouncements. Eventually she calmed down enough to close the door. Her near-babbling paused on, “Whyever did you do that?”

“The horse wanted to.” She held the unfinished toy up.

Frances’ brows drew down. That blasted thing.

“It was important. The horse knows where grandpa is.”

“Maya, it’s a piece of wood.” It was not how she usually sounded when she’d say what one of her toys thought or wanted. Much more serious.

“It knows, anyway! I can show you where it said. Just a spot in the woods. Maybe he’s in a fairy hill?” Even Maya herself looked dubious at the idea.

Wordlessly, Frances hugged her again, resolving that they had to have some kind of memorial, if they could not give him a proper burial.

Everyday Fear of Monsters

“They used to be afraid of the dark,” the old bogeyman said.

“And either huddle or run when they just heard a noise in the dark,” the dullahan added, “or outright faint.”

“Last time I tried to scare someone, they asked where I got the mask,” the nopperra-bo said.

“I blame the movies.”

The dullahan lifted his head from his knees with both hands to nod it.

“They made humans brave.”

The nopperra-bo sneered, “No, they just made them jaded.”

“Either way, I fear we do not matter anymore. Humans have become too good at scaring each other.”

Inspired by the prompt "What frightens the monsters?" by Lyn Thorne-Alder

tagged Fairy Tales

Fairy Godparents

The guests at the Princess's christening were in awe, and her parents proud as could be, as the three wise women of the Realm had accepted their invitation. All noise stopped when the trio stepped up to the cradle to give her good wishes, in solemn voices sweet as summer wind.

“She shall have a mind clear as ice, so she can detect the flaw in any plan, thing, or person,” said the first.

“She shall have a heart strong as steel, so she won’t be hurt or swayed by trifles,” said the second.

“She shall have a tongue sharp as a knife, and wield it expertly,” said the third.

The suddenly stricken silence was broken by the door opening, a messenger bursting in unanounced and out of breath. “The wise women are dead. I saw their bodies in a ditch...”

The impostors let their glamour disperse, showing skin pale as snow and eyes dark as night sky. One smiled at the messenger, the other two bowed mockingly towards the parents, holding all present spellbound long enough for their parting words.

“She will be strong, and smart.”

“She will do all our Realms proud.”

All three faded like a mirage.

Based on the prompt "The fairy godparents aren't the nice sort of fairy." by rix-scaedu.

tagged Contemporary Fantasy

Phantom Pains

When the doctor asked, “Where does it hurt?”, probably thinking it was funny, Alma swiped the air in front of her face, after a moment’s consideration indicating a spot the width of her hand from the tip of her nose.

“Right here.”

After a too-long pause, the doctor launched into an explanation that Alma tuned out as soon as she caught the word “psychosomatic”. Unsurprised at having to add him to her collection of people who thought she was crazy, she feigned having to hurry to another appointment to speed things up to avoid breaking out in tears in front of the doctor. She had not slept through a whole night for a month, which left her exhausted and thin-skinned and frustrated.

On the way home familiar frustrations ran through her head. Whatever self-help gurus and the like thought, pain was real, not only in her head. The fact that it was outside her head was the problem. Questions of what was going on aside, something like teething pains in a jaw you didn’t have was hard to treat: there was no way to apply local anaesthetics. The general ones she had tried did not help, either. Instead, over time the pain grew worse.

The only thing that helped was heat, but bringing her face close enough to a radiator or fire that it relieved her from the phantom pain hurt the skin of her face and risked setting her hair on fire.

She did it, anyway, of course.

That evening she opened the door of the tile stove and nearly stuck her head inside, breathing the dry woodsmoke like a chamomile inhalation when she had a cold. When she exhaled in a sigh of relief, sparks flew from her nostrils and made the flames flare.

No. No, she must have been mistaken. Her breath had stirred the fuel, that was all.

Alma got up hoping to catch some sleep before the pain returned, noticing that her back hurt. She was too tired to worry about it. She could not bear thinking about the possibility that that new pain hovered behind her back, rather than digging into her muscles.

Based on the prompt "Phantom Pain" by Eliza Gebow.

tagged Fantasy Shapechangers Emergent

Hunting Season

That little kerfuffle last summer? Yes, I had my part in that. I was a bit down on my luck and squatting in an old house down towards the river, and one night I wake up to yelling and banging - sounded like someone was trying to take down the door, which made no sense since it was not locked.

So I take the big flashlight and check, and find some girl leaning against the door from the inside, holding up the handle trying to keep folks outside from getting in. She looked at me, eyes wide like anything and glowing, close to a panic, and when a racket started up in one of the rooms, I didn’t blame her. Sounded like quite a few, so if half circled through a window…

“Move aside a bit.”

“They want me dead.”

“I noticed. Move aside, and get ready to follow me that way.” I pointed to the back of the house, and she nodded. I wedged one of my hair sticks under the door - it was the closest to a wedge I had on hand, see? It bought us a bit of a head-start.

She could have outrun little old me, no problem, but she followed me, poor little thing. That house was a really old one, with a root cellar with a heavy trapdoor, and it seemed like the safest place to me.

“There’s no way out!”

“Stay calm. We’ll just wait them out.” It wasn’t all that easy. We had to both hang from the ring on the trapdoor, but the weight of the three of us was too much. Folks from the mob gave us a break sometimes, when they needed it, but we had to pay attention.

“We’ll die here. We can’t wait them out forever.”

“Werewolf, right?”

She nodded.

“Not from here, eh?”

To that she shook her head.

“We don’t have to.” Just then another attack on the door distracted us. I’m glad gravity was on our side, really.

After a long while we could not hear anything going on outside any more, but then, as I said, the door was thick and heavy.

“I’ve been running and hiding for days; they just won’t give up.”

“And what day is it now?”

“Tuesday.” No idea, the little pup.

“No, in moon-phase.”

“Waning, half moon.” After a moment she added, “Only just past.”

“Thought so. See, werewolf hunting season is only half of the month, half-moon to half-moon.” She didn’t look like she got my point, so I said, “Between waning half and waxing half, you are a person, even here.”

“But not yesterday? That’s crazy.”

“Yep. But useful, right now.”

We waited a bit longer, just to be sure. But we did get away without a problem. I just had to find a different place to stay.

Based on the prompt "Waning Moon" by Eliza Gebow, combined with the prompts "eccentric" and "deadline" from origfic_bingo

tagged Fantasy Elves Contemporary Fantasy

Rewriting History

“Thank you for seeing me.” Oneida bowed to Talaeshin, knowing that elves shunned skin-to-skin contact.

The foremost expert on orc history being an elf was unsurprising. Their long lifespans had made elves lore-keepers long before there had been historians. This one answered in a tone of cool disinterest, “Yes. You were very persistent.”

“This is important. May I…?” She waved a folder into the room and after getting a nod of permission slid past a big box standing partly in the was to the nearly empty desk. On it she laid out notes and photos of old human bones taken on site of an archaeological dig.

While she worked, Talaeshin said, “Few people treat matters of an extinct species as urgent.”

“History is important,” she answered without thinking. “And I wonder if history is wrong. These photos—”

“And wherever did you get those?”

“The dig at Crane Mountain, where they wanted to build a new hotel,” Oneida evaded, “but the important thing is that that there were toothmarks on those bones much too narrow for orcs, no matter what the press spreads already. Someone else needs to review this, of course, but if it’s true, it’s a strong argument for examining remains from older sites.”

Nodding, Talaeshin said, “No respect for the rest of the dead.” He raised his hand to forestall Oneida’s protest and continued, “Do you have any speculations what creature left these toothmarks?”

Forcing herself to not shrink back, she said, “One set at least is definitely elven. It seems… interesting.”

“No.”

“No? But don’t you see—”

“You fail to see, naturally, that this is not news.” Talaeshin’s tone grew sharper. “History is what we allow to be written down, and this we won’t.”

He made a sharp downwards gesture and Oneida found herself mute and rooted to the spot. She had never believed the stories about elves wielding magic. She thought she should panic, but her heartbeat was slowing down.

“You are right. Orcs were, in fact, mostly herbivorous.” He laid a hand on her shoulder and lowered his face to hers, smiling. “I, on the other hand, have inherited a recipe from my grandmother I would love to try on you.”

Based on the prompt "What if elves were actually horrible, and orcs were decent, but the elves have better PR so they've just managed to convince people of the opposite? " by Elizabeth Barette aka ysabetwordsmith

tagged Fantasy

That Which Hides In Light And Song

The candle lantern was a heirloom that woke bittersweet memories. It had belonged to Kat’s grandmother, whom she loved. The loss still hurt, after all those years, but this little memento helped her remember the good times.

Kat would light a beeswax candle, its light still warmer through the yellow glass, its honey-fragrance mixing with the smell of hot metal and taking her back to evenings spent listening to her grandmother’s stories.

She would sometimes nod off. It was those occasions upon which the spirit of the lamp entered her open mind, mining for memories of lullabies and embraces.

The spirit brought them forth into Kat’s dreaming mind, rebuilding a shadow of the utter safety she had felt as a child.

It kept her seeking the lantern out for company, more when she was in need of support, vulnerable. Singing old songs no-one else would hear, the spirit took wisps of Kat’s life for itself, feeding its own essence. Knowing there was a risk the lamp would disappear in an attic or worse, it resolved to be careful, make her last, but she tasted so, so sweet.

The title was a prompt by Tango

tagged Fantasy

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Mary froze at the edge of the clearing. There really was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! Her bare feet slipped on damp leaves as she rushed towards the prize, until the ground gave way.

The pot hid the bottom of the pit with a dull thud close to her head, spilling its contents, big, glittering discs. “Fool’s gold”, she whispered, and unsteadily reached for the closest.

“Actual gold is quite useless, you know.”

She looked up at the gnome who was grinning down at her from the edge of the trap. “You sure like your jokes.”

“I like catching friends of shinies. You will be happy to mine them, yes?”

“What? No!”

“You’re only coming out if you agree.” The gnome sounded like an older sister giving a toddler an ultimatum.

Mary snorted and stood up. Her hip hurt from the fall, but the pit couldn’t be that deep.

The moment she took a step towards its edge, the gnome lifted a gun she must have had next to her, and aimed it at Mary. Still grinning, still sounding cheerful, she said, “Or you come out dead. I am all kinds of hunter, you know.”

The title was a prompt by Tango

Bonus random fact: Pyrite was used to produce sparks at least in some wheel-lock guns.

Rewarded

Shobha Kaur enjoyed the view out of the window of the sparsely furnished office she was a “guest” in, while her “host” prattled on. Outside looked darker than it should be — some foil applied to the glass maybe — but since she did not think she would get out again, she might as well.

“Doctor Kaur, are you listening?”

She made an apologetic noise and turned to the bureaucrat.

The other woman’s skin was pale, almost grey; her hand when she greeted Shobha had been cold. Vampires not hiding themselves anymore was one of the recent developments.

“Well, then let me sum up,” she said with a sigh. “Our organisation is very grateful for your part in lobbying for vampire and lycanthrope rights, and would like to thank you with a grand gesture. Even if the ‘until they’re healed’ codicils were not all that popular.”

Her chipper tone grated on Shobha’s nerves. If Shobha could go back in time, she’d rather shoot herself than let her spread those ideas.

The vampire continued, “Your choice now: would you rather turn into a vampire, or a werewolf?”

A bloodthirsty monster either way. “I’d rather die.”

“That, my dear, is part of the process.”

Based on the prompt "A human key to allowing werewolves, vampires, and other fantasy monster types to go public is 'rewarded' after they go from hiding, to being in the open, to seizing control." by LilFluff

tagged Fantasy Emergent

A Lawyer Lunch

“You don’t look happy.”

“And you know why. This is big. And messy. But mostly big.”

“Your first serial killer, eh?”

“That is the question, isn’t it?”

“She killed people and ate them. No wonder you’re losing your appetite.”

“Tch. Be serious, will you? Laws on murder predate the emergence of supernaturals. My client targeted vampires exclusively. They were already dead. That meets the definition of corpse mutilation.”

“Oh. Yes. Very messy… You might end up with being a vampire being a case of interfering with one’s own funeral...”

“The hell with it. It must be cleared up some time.”

Based on the prompt "A cannibal serial killer murders and eats vampires" by alternatesocks

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