Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fictmcfa6 Here

by Stanley McFarland
Nothing met my expectations, but I don’t imagine the powers-that-be cared about that. The place looked like a simple village – not even medieval or exotic. Hundreds of people milled about, many of them coupled in quiet, though perhaps intense conversation.
All my life I’d been presented with afterlife imagery from Hollywood, from church, and especially from my grandmother, who though she never went to church herself, insisted that my brother and I go every Sunday cause she never wanted us to go to hell.
Wasn’t somebody supposed to greet me? Shouldn’t there be a line I was supposed to stand in? If there’d been a gaudy set of pearly gates around, I would’ve headed that way, but all I saw was modest buildings and people spread about, sitting or standing in knots of two or three.
I reached for my phone. It wasn’t there. I guess there’s no ap for navigating the great beyond.
I knelt down and checked the street. It wasn’t gold, but it wasn’t blacktop either – some sort of blacktopish hard plastic maybe – not very interesting, but it held me up. At least I wouldn’t be falling through the clouds like the people in those heaven cartoons.
That’s if I was in heaven.
“Are you praying?” said a voice behind me.
I turned around and met the eyes of a stranger. He looked Asian – maybe Arab, I was never much good at identifying ethnicity. His English was perfect though, not even an accent. I told him so.
“And you speak perfect Thai,” said the man. “Are you alright?”
“No,” I said, “I mean I’m trying to figure out where I am.”
“Are you a new arrival?”
“I suppose I am.”
“Do you know that you are dead?”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that part out.”
“Well,” said the stranger, “welcome to here. Here doesn’t have a name – at least not one that I’ve heard. If it does, it is not advertised. We have no signage here.”
He was right. There was no street sign at the corner. There were places that looked like shops and restaurants, but no signs above their doors. There were no displays in the windows, or menus, or advertisements. There were benches on the street, and booths in the restaurants, but no music blasting from windows. I didn’t see a TV or a book, or even a car on the street.
“I’m confused,” I admitted.
“Confused is as good a place to start as any other,” said the stranger. “At least you’re not in a rage – trying to kill someone.”
“You get a lot of that here?”
“From the new arrivals, yes.”
“So is there a point to… here?” I asked.
“I think there is,” said the stranger. “I think this is where we sort out our differences.”
“You and me?”
The stranger laughed. “No, we just met. The man I was just talking to is my ex-boss, Li. He told my wife that I didn’t have any life insurance though Li had deducted money from each of my checks to pay for it. My family went through very difficult times after that.”
“After you died?”
“Of course.”
“But how do you know what your boss did? You’re dead. You didn’t get a text – I don’t even see newspapers around here.”
“I don’t know how I know – there are a number of such mysteries here.”
“So now you just slug it out?”
“I wished to when I first saw him. My daughter wanted to hit me when she first saw me here. Most people here have many relationships they need to work through.”
I looked around the village. I didn’t recognize a single face. So why was I here? Who did I need to… Chris! I scanned the crowd again. No, there was no sign of Chris. My relief must have been obvious because the stranger chuckled.
“He’s here,” he said, “or she is, or they are.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Whoever it is you don’t wish to see,” said the stranger. “He’s here. They’re all here. Some of the people you encounter here will surprise you – people you thought you were at peace with who’ve harbored resentment for you, or hated you.”
“I don’t see anybody I know.”
The stranger nodded. “It was the same for me for the first hour or so. They give you time to become accustomed to the idea. Soon, you will encounter the last person you ever wished to see again.”
“Who are they – the ones who set this up?” I asked. “God? The devil?”
The stranger shrugged and smiled. “All I can tell you is that some people leave. My wife was only here a few days. The people I like never stay – only the worst remain. I suppose that means that I am among the worst.”
I thought about all the a-hoes I’d ever met and shuddered. The village didn’t look like hell, but what else could it be?
“Well maybe we can be friends,” I suggested. “We have no issues between us; we can give each other a break from the jerks.”
“That would be pleasant,” said the stranger, “but it probably won’t happen. The old woman I met when I first got here – I haven’t seen her since. I did not recognize anyone when I first came, but you’re just about the only person around us now that I didn’t know during my life. That’s why I came up to you. I thought you were probably newly arrived.”
“So all these people were jerks to you in your life?”
“Most of them – or I was unkind to them.”
“So this is how I spend eternity – surrounded by people I can’t stand?”
The stranger shrugged. “Perhaps; perhaps not.”
“What do you mean?”

“Some people leave.”

ficthaus4 Fugleigh, the Zombie Teddy Bear

Fugleigh, the Zombie Teddy Bear
by Headley Hauser
with Nick Craver and Carrie Harman

Fugleigh was nestled for the night, tight within 8-year-old Carrie’s embrace. It was all very warm and cuddly.
Bah,” said Fugleigh the Zombie teddy bear. He gnawed gently at Carrie’s ear – not so much as to wake her up and only the skin of the ear, not the cartilage. The missing ear flap on the other side of her head testified on how difficult it was to re-grow cartilage but Carrie was very clever at growing back ear skin.
Clever… The word made Fugleigh hungry. But Carrie had a math test in the morning. Well, maybe a little.
Fugleigh gently sucked at Carrie’s brain. Sluurrrpppp. Not too much now. Sluuuuuuurrrrrpppp!
Self-control was never a strong point among zombie teddy bears.
Mmmmmmm,” said Fugleigh. “Good brains!” Fugleigh smacked his cloth and emaciated zombie teddy bear lips. “I think Carrie must be partially Chinese, because just seconds after I eat; I’m hungry again. I wonder where the cat is?”
Fugleigh found Muffinpie circling her food dish. There wasn’t any food in the dish and there wouldn’t be till morning, but Muffinpie just kept circling staring intently at the dish as if the food might appear any second and run away. Fugleigh approached and started walking behind the cat. Muffinpie glanced Fugleigh’s way and hissed, then quickly resumed the circling and study of her food dish.
Fugleigh stopped and waited. Muffinpie came around the dish and stopped, studying Fugleigh, then the dish. There was no room for Muffinpie to pass between Fugleigh and the dish, and if she went around Fugleigh, the zombie teddy bear would be between her and the food dish.
Bah!” said Fugleigh.
The cat cowered. In spite of the fact that she had claws that could have ripped Fugleigh to shreds, the cat sat back on her haunches and howled.
It could be,” said Fugleigh, “that this cat has no more brain matter to spare.”
For the next few hours, Fugleigh haunted the house looking for brains to eat. Carrie’s parents wisely kept their bedroom door locked, with not an ax or sledge hammer in sight. Fugleigh found an unusually intelligent cockroach, but in spite of the insect’s cerebral gifts, the total amount of brain matter wasn’t at all satisfying.
An hour before dawn, Fugleigh found himself back in Carrie’s room, staring benevolently, though ravenously at the little girl who loved and cared for him.
I couldn’t really hurt her,” he told himself. “If only she didn’t have that math test today.”
Fugleigh heard the stuffing within him growl as the first hint of dawn came in the latticed window.
Carrie doesn’t much like math anyway,” he said.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

ficthaus5 Jock and Myrtle

Jock and Myrtle
                          by Headley Hauser

Jock the Scotch Pine was pretty clever considering he was a barely animate being with his legs stuck in 20 feet of mud. He wasn’t content to take the sun when it offered and water when it flowed. Jock, though planted by others for their own sap-shedding purpose, had learned to live his life as he chose. He hadn’t always been kind – well, he’d never been kind, but he was his own tree, with no one to tell him what to do.
Jock had lots of space to stretch out in what was once a Christmas tree grove. He had all that space because the rest of his class of seedlings got chopped off in early adolescence to spend a couple weeks sitting in water festooned with tinsel and electric lights.
“Feeble-rooted morons,” scoffed Jock in a highland accent. Jock was not a fan of Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day or any other holiday when human celebration required the holocaust of great swaths of herbivorous life. Why his grove mates gave their lives for such a tradition was beyond him.
Arbor Day wasn’t bad in concept, but the trees planted never made up for those lost in other holidays, and most humans didn’t even know what day in June it fell.
“What a crock o’ haggis,” said Jock. “This is the thanks we get for all our oxygen.”
Jock survived because he was clever, and one of the ways he was clever was that, untypical of Scotch pine, Jock could move his limbs up and down. When the barbarian in the green and red stocking cap came by with his ax, Jock dropped the branches on one side and raised them on the other.
“That’s odd,” mumbled the barbarian. “I thought this tree was shaping up nicely last week.”
Jock shook snow from his upper branches, landing a glop of slush neatly down the neck of the barbarian’s sweater.
“Poop!” said the barbarian.
Jock rustled – as chuckling was beneath the dignity of intelligent tree-kind.
But all that was years ago. Jock was now too big to be a Christmas tree, and he was all alone on a cool spring day, wondering if there was more to life that sucking water through his roots, and exhaust fumes and cow flatulence through his needles. Jock didn’t want to admit that for all his independence, he was lonely
That’s when he met Myrtle, who despite her name was not a plant. Myrtle was a cardinal, and she was looking for a place to make her nest.
“This one looks nice,” said Myrtle, unaware that Jock understood bird speech. “It stands all alone. I wonder why the bird feeder people didn’t chop it down.”
This didn’t go over well with Jock, and so when Myrtle laid grass in one of Jock’s boughs, he shook it out as she flew away for more.
“This is odd,” said Myrtle. “There’s no wind, and I’m certain I put the grass in right. It’s not as if this if my first nest.” Myrtle studied Jock for other birds, or even squirrels the might have knocked the grass from the bough. There was nothing to see. Jock stood alone in a field of stumps.
“The cardinal rule of deduction,” said Myrtle, “is that when you eliminate the probable, you must consider the improbable. Tree, are you shaking off my nest?”
This impressed Jock who had never heard of the cardinal rule of deduction, or anything else intelligent from a bird beyond, “tweet,” and “got any worms?”
“Aye, it’s me,” said Jock in a heavily brogued bird-speak.
“A clever tree!” chirped Myrtle. “I do get so tired of trees that just groan when the wind takes them.”
“Ya seem a bit clever yerself, wee bird,” said Jock.

And so Jock let Myrtle stay in his bough, though he couldn’t help needling her from time to time.