Category: Short Stories – Read for Free


Donald was in the process of fixing dinner, or rather, he was opening cans and dumping the contents out onto the two plates sitting on the small table.  The light from the battery powered lamp threw dim shadows on the walls.

“When do you suppose this will end?” asked Lacey trying to see out the small opaque, round window.  It was pointless, though.  The window filter wasn’t made to be opened.  “It’s already gone on longer than before.”  It had lingered for a week previously, then stopped for two days before coming back worse than ever.

Donald eyed her.   “Since it’s lasted this long, you know the score as well as I.  Come on, eat your dinner.  It’s time for the daily broadcast.  Maybe there’ll be some news.”  He clicked on the radio.

Lacey settled at the table and they picked at their food in silence, listening to the government announcer.  Neither had an appetite.

“We’re now in day twenty of the crisis,” came the generic male voice of the announcer.  “Again, no one should go outside unless entirely necessary, and all filters should be kept in place.  According to Dr. Horton Sullivan of the Department of Meteorology at the Miller Institute, there is some disagreement among scientists as to how long this will persist.  It is agreed though, that if all citizens follow the directives, they will remain safe and unharmed until the danger is over.”

The radio went silent.  The broadcasts were never long but this was the shortest and the most useless message they’d gotten to date.  Disgusted, Donald reached over and turned it off.

The two meteorologists stared at each other.

“We need to look,” said Lacey, quietly.  Donald agreed.

They got up from the table and went to the door.  Donald gripped the top edge of the filter and when Lacey nodded, he pulled it open.

Lacey stuck her head out, stared up and quickly drew it back in.  Tears coursed down her cheeks, leaving tracks in the sooty film covering her face.  She wiped her burning eyes with a sleeve, smearing the residue.  She held her breath against the foul air being admitted.  Donald looked intently at the sky then hurriedly slammed the filter shut.  He and Lacey stared at each other again, dirty faces ashen.

Some few days had been better than others.  More light, less smog, and easier breathing.  But no more.  With the filters in place, the air conditioning inside their smog survival capsule would sustain them for a while longer, and they had plenty of canned food.  But to what purpose?  The hazy, silvery orb in the darkened, roiling skies told them what they already knew in their hearts: the danger would never be over.  The inversion was worsening, becoming permanent.  It wasn’t clearing.  The moon was gone, and soon, the sun would not be visible either.

And it never would be seen again, as all life expired in a man-made heat death, and Earth became a twin to Venus.

End

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I walk into the quiet dark house.  “Hello!” I call, flipping the light switch by the door. “Where’s everybody?”

No answer.  I walk to the kitchen.  The back door is open but nobody’s in the moonlit backyard.  I’m puzzled.  Gracie wouldn’t go off and leave the door open.  I feel uneasy.

I haul my cell out to see if maybe I’ve missed a call.  It’s not showing any, so I shove it back into my pocket.

I look around and see something on the floor by the counter.  I look closer.  There’s an overturned container on the counter and the contents have spilled out.  I glance around the kitchen.  One chair is pushed back from the table.  There’s an odd odor lingering in the air.

I start next door to see if our friend, Marcie, has seen her and the kids, but I know something’s wrong.  Gracie wouldn’t leave a mess in the kitchen.

As I cross the lawn, I catch a motion in the shadows near the back.  A large figure is sprinting toward the trees at the edge of the property.  My heartbeat quickens.  I grab the rake leaning against the house and follow.

“Hey!” I yell, “What’re you doing in my yard!”

It’s fast but I’m faster, and I’m catching up when a moonbeam illuminates the loping form.  I fall back gasping, almost dropping my makeshift weapon.  It’s a monster!  Suddenly I see drag marks in the grass and fear strikes my heart.  I resume pursuit, knowing it’s taken my family, and tackle the monster before it reaches the trees.  I turn it over, its face is horrible.

“Where’s my family?” I scream, sitting astride it.

It’s big but I’m strong, and I hold the rake handle against its throat.  Its hideous eyes are wide, staring up at me.  I scream again and it manages to point toward the woods.  I bash its head to knock it out, and I take off.

I find a strange aircraft and approach the open door.  I peer in.  I hear a noise, a soft whimper.  I go in, and find my wife and two kids stuffed into a cage!

They’re groggy but okay.  Relieved, I release them.  We return to the monster lying unmoving in the grass.  We can plainly see the thing, because, now, both moons have risen and are full.  They shine full on its dreadful, one-tone, pallid face.  I must have hit it too hard because its ghastly blue eyes stare sightlessly at the sky.

“What is it?” asks Gracie.

“It’s ugly!” exclaims Ellen, our six-year-old.

Four-year-old Bill stares, mouth agape.  My neighbors have heard the commotion and are running over, concerned.  They stop and stare, horrified.

I regard the beautiful green, white, and purple faces of my family, with perfect, round, red noses, generous red lips, and sharp, white teeth.  I smile, thankful I’ve saved them from whatever kind of monster this was.  I pull out my cell and call the authorities.

End

 

It hung on a string from the rack in the yarn shop, its red beanie button eyes staring out at the world.  It was constructed of black yarn twisted and wound into the general shape of a person; a boy, I thought.  It’s nose and mouth, such as it was, consisted of red yarn stitched loosely down the face between the eyes.  It was an art project gone wrong.

I knew immediately that I wanted it.

“Mama, may I have the doll?” I asked.

She looked down at me and frowned.  “Why would you want such an ugly thing?”

“Please?”

Her face softened as I knew it would. “Well, let me get my yarn and I’ll see how much it costs.”

The proprietor laughed when Mama asked, and patted my cheek.  She gave it to me for free.  We left the shop with me happily carrying the doll in my hand.

I sat the little figure on the small chair in my bedroom, turning it so that it faced the room door.

“What are you going to name your doll?” asked Mama when she came to tuck me into my bed that night.

“I don’t know, but I’ll think of something.”

She smiled and gave me a kiss, turning out the light as she left.

Later, I awakened to hear the noises that came more often lately; the sound of a raised voice as Papa shouted at Mama, then the terrible sound of him striking her and her quietly crying.  The house grew still for a while after that but my stomach clenched because I knew what came next.

I watched fearfully as my door quietly opened and Papa, outlined in the hall light, edged into my darkened room.

He came and sat on the side of my bed and leaned over me as usual but this time was different.

I looked past him to see a large dark figure looming over his shoulder and before he could do the things he usually did, he made a muffled noise as a pair of black arms wrapped around his head and snatched him away from me.

I sat up and watched as he became entirely covered by the huge figure, his struggles getting him nowhere, his voice unheard.

I knew that he would never hit Mama or slip silently into my room again, and I smiled.

The next morning when Mama called me to breakfast, I picked my small yarn doll up from the otherwise empty floor and carried it to the kitchen with me.

Mama’s eyes were red and swollen and her face was bruised but she smiled at me as she placed my breakfast before me.  “Did you think of a name for your doll, yet?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” I told her.  “His name is “Good Friend”.

I was five years old when Papa disappeared, never to be seen again, and life was much better for us afterward.  I’m well-grown, now, but Good Friend protects me still.

 

End

The large black and yellow orb weaver sat in its web.  It had built it in the sidelight window on the front porch of a house.

The occupant of the home opened the door to leave for work.  She brushed a thread attached to the door causing the spider to jitter toward her.  She spotted it, and letting loose a loud shriek, dropped her tote and retreated into the house.

Reemerging with a can, she liberally sprayed the hapless spider and it fell dead.  She retrieved her tote and left for work.

She didn’t notice she’d also sprayed her lunch.

 

The funnel-shaped cloud formed rapidly, as such clouds usually do.  It bore down on the isolated stretch of houses and when folk heard the warning siren they quickly ran to their cellars.

Everybody emerged once the all-clear sounded and immediately headed for their vehicles.  Eyes were tearing up and people were retching.

Zeke cursed through bouts of vomiting as he staggered toward his truck.  He yelled to his wife and kids, “Git in! We gotta git outta here fast!”

“Whut’s that stench, Zeke?” moaned his gagging wife, clinging to a screaming, upchucking baby.

“It wuz a goddamned skunknado!”

END

(With apologies to Sharknado)

“No.  I cannot.”

“Oh com’on, Max!  You already have some of the right colors.  Why, that pink is perfect! And the blue – it’s the exact shade needed!  All you have to do is put this on–”

“No!”

I did not wish to be harsh with him, as he was a friend, but I still had bad memories from the last time I agreed to impart such aid.

“Do you recall what occurred when I assisted Nick when his leg was broken?” I asked.  “I would not care for a repeat of that, and this is a similar situation.”

Everyone had heard of the problem that arose during that event.  It had not been a pleasant  moment.

“Aww…the kids will be so disappointed!  If only my foot hadn’t got snagged in that thing.”  He shook his head, and sighed.

He sat down and stretched out his leg, observing his bandaged appendage.  It had been caught in a trap.  He sighed again, rather sadly, then peered at me.  His large, brown, watery eyes appeared to beseech me.

I beheld him.  He was truly a woebegone sight, and a sudden feeling of compassion arose within my chest.  I felt contrite.  I had known him for years, and he was an excellent friend.  My brain was telling me it was not a good idea, but, I reconsidered.  And so, with a sigh, I surrendered.

“I will do it, but I do not think the suit will fit.  It appears to be much too small.”

There was relief on his expressive face, and it lit up with elation.  He hobbled – with a little hop – over to hold the suit up to me.

“Hey, no worries, Max.  It’s adjustable.”

So I struggled into the suit and he handed me the items I would need to implement the job.  I felt foolish.

“I feel foolish,” I said.

“Oh, you look fine!” he said, waving me off down the walk.  “Don’t let anybody get a close look and you’ll be good.”

I studied the controls of the waiting vehicle and ensured that all the packages were properly affixed.  I sincerely hoped that matters would proceed much better while making deliveries for him, than they had when I substituted for Nick at Christmas, wherein I was discovered by the family at my final stop.  They had not appreciated an eight-foot tall, horned, blue demon in a red velvet suit, placing presents under their holiday tree.  They dialed 911 and I had nearly been exposed.  Had that occurred, I would have been dispatched back to Hell.

As I prepared to leave, Bun Rab called to me, “Don’t forget to hop!  It helps keep you unnoticed!”

I made sure the hoodie-type head covering with lop-ears attached, was straight; felt to confirm the cotton-tail was in place, cranked up the Easter cart, and set off down the Bunny Trail to begin the delivery of Easter baskets.

At least the color of the rabbit suit matched my pink eyebrows.    ###

Noise

 

I hear a noise and look around to pinpoint its location.  It appears to be coming from the corner by the window.  It’s the chirping of a cricket.

I go to check but it has moved along the wall.  I follow.  I stand still and listen.

Again, the sound has moved, now across the room to the opposite wall.

I am annoyed and determined to catch the cricket, so I continue to follow, flyswatter in hand.

Then, the sound comes from midair, in the center of the room.

Slowly, horrifyingly, it dawns on me.  The noise is in my head.

 

End

This drabble was inspired by a true story.  The names have been changed to protect the somewhat innocent.

 

Pedaling Hard

 

“What are you doing, Sophie?”

“Gotta get this done but they keep popping off every time I try!” She sounded quite aggravated.

“Hmm… lemme see,” mused Dan, studying the problem. “Oh, lines not long enough.  Well, I can help you out.”

He straddled a chair in front of her, stuck one foot out and commenced to pedal the treadle. “Hold on tight and lean forward!” he said loudly over the ensuing whooshing noise.

She nodded and pushed the suction cups down firmly while he pedaled.

The pump thumped, filling the bag, and together, they managed to get her properly milked.

END

 

tower_of_babel Artist: Paul Gosselin, Description Belgian painter Impressionist

The Experiment

 

The colossal entity watched as the small beings struggled to finish their tower.

“They work diligently,” remarked his companion who was observing the ongoing construction with him.  “Will they be allowed to complete it?”

“No,” was the reply.  “I have been ordered to stop them.  They seek to challenge us; they even think that by remaining there together, they can successfully war against us.  But, they must disperse out into the world as commanded.  If permitted to finish this building, that will not occur.  They will stagnate at this level.”

“Perhaps if you were to demonstrate to them that they cannot win at such an action, and tell them they must scatter in order to grow–”

He shook one of his middle heads while turning the far left one to consider his companion.  “Demonstrations do not convince them for long, and they have been told; however, they have no understanding of the meaning of a stagnant society, and see no merit in separating.”

His companion contemplated this in silence for a moment, the three eyes in her farthest head on her right blinking at him thoughtfully, then she shrugged her many shoulders, her rows of iridescent wings shifting slightly, and said, “I suppose you are right.  Still, they are resourceful, and, occasionally one will listen.”  She chuckled with five of her throats.  “I thought surely they would all be washed away when our project head became angry and decided to terminate our handiwork.  I am glad he relented and allowed the building of the ark.  At least some survived.”

“Yes, it is also good that they are prolific, otherwise they would be too few to be viable.  But now, they must disband into separate groups for diversification, or this will still fail, and they will never become that for which we are striving.”

He surveyed the little bipeds scurrying up and down the path that spiraled up the side of the brick-built tower, urging their work animals on.  They were nearly finished.

He sighed with regret as he activated the neuron scrambler that would disrupt the language center in their brains, causing their one language to become many.  He would not have minded seeing the tower completed.  Though crude, it was quite an interesting artifact.

He was impressed that these creatures they had fashioned from microscopic organisms and cultivated over such a short span of time, had already been able to do this.  But, the tower had to go.  This action was imperative in order to enable them to advance and reach a certain level.

He switched on the teleporter and began shifting the tiny individuals to different areas of the small blue globe.

Then, he and his companion watched with satisfaction as the miniscule beings, who believed them to be gods, oriented themselves and began to band together in small groups.

The project head would be pleased.  The experiment to prove this a good method of bringing their necessary food to a nutritious fruition was back on track.

 

END

“I don’t know.”  He shook his head, dubiously.  “Are you sure we shouldn’t stay out of this?”

“It needs to stop,” she replied.

They watched the couple as they snarled and screamed, angrily going at each other with everything they could get their hands on.

“Ooo…that was nasty! Hurry!”

He nodded and loosed his arrows at the two, striking both.

The angel dropped her lightning and the demon dropped his fireballs as they ran and clasped each other in a tight embrace, cooing sweet words of eternal love.

“See, Cupid? Told you it would work!” exclaimed Venus.  “Love always does.”

End

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