Tiny Fiction

Sitting behind a small zoo of origami animals, Jacob reached for the rusted pale sitting beside him on the sidewalk. Coins clinked together as the boy tilted his bucket back to look over the day’s profits. That should get me through the next couple days. He pocketed the coins and began to gather up the paper giraffes, elephants, lions, and other animals from his street display into the pale when shouts erupted from the eatery behind him. I bet it’s that drunkard Maurie picking a fight again. This oughta be– As he turned to secure his front row seat at the restaurant’s large bay window… he panicked.

Jacob dived to the ground under the window just as it exploded from the impact of a large oak table. His muscles froze as glass shards rained down on him, and screams flooded out of the now open window. He curled up on the ground, covered his ears and watched the table sail into the middle of the street. The table’s leg shattered as it hit the road, and the rest of the table skipped up into the air and continued its path across the street where it plowed through the wall of the building. Jacob struggled to breathe, and he could feel the pounding of his heart as if it were a battering ram trying to smash through his ribs.

As people peeked out of their doors and windows to find out what happened, Jacob crept his way up to a crouching position and glanced over the edge of the windowsill. Shadows danced inside as the magic that powered the lighting flickered on and off. As the lights flashed on for a moment, Jacob spotted a hand sticking out from a nearby pile of debris. He looked around and saw the other people outside retreating back into their buildings. Jacob cobbled together what little courage remained in his small frame and spied the room cautiously before stepping in through the window. Fear soon took over and pushed his muscles as fast as they could go to get the debris clear. As he removed the final pieces of wood, he reached down to help the person up, and the lights came on to reveal something his young mind wasn’t prepared for.

An arm… freshly pulled from its socket and then horribly mangled. Bone jutted out of the skin in a dozen different areas, the elbow appeared to be bent sideways, and blood pooled along the floor underneath the arm. Sweat formed across Jacob’s brow, and the skin of his face felt cold as if all the blood rushed away from his head and gathered in his stomach where the muscles tightened up. The boy dropped to his knees and grabbed his stomach, and just as his gut started to convulse, creaking floorboards caught his attention. He looked up to see a figure in the shadows dart into the kitchen… almost like it was spooked.

From the street, a voice charged through the shattered window, over the debris, and into Jacob’s ears. "Stay right where you are and put your hands on the floor."

She leaned back against the tree and let the cool forest breeze rush over her. The warmth built up by her long hike into the hills dissipated with the wind’s touch. As she closed her eyes and rested her head back, she felt a sensation in the back of her neck like a small needle. She lurched forward and spun around to look at the tree while she swatted at the back of her neck as if an insect crawled across it. But there was no insect to be found. She examined the tree and couldn’t find anything sharp–a thorn, a stray piece of bark, or even any of those dreaded insects crawling across its surface. She quickly went back to her relaxed position with her back propped against the tree.

Then she felt flush with heat. A sunburn feeling formed just beneath the surface of her face. Her body started to ache, and her muscles began to fatigue. She closed her eyes to rest a second and could feel a fever burning on the backs of her eyelids. Her eyes wanted to stay closed, but her head snapped back and jarred them open as she fought to stay awake…to stay conscious. She reached over to her backpack and pulled out a small canteen. As she twisted the cap to the canteen, she noticed her hands were drenched in sweat and had small bubbles forming under the skin. She watched one of the bubbles grow until the skin split open. The world began to blur and whirl around her as she watched the steam and blood spray out of the wound. As the next bubble started to rip open, the blurred colors of the forest rushed past her until her face slammed into the ground.

Behind her, the bark on the tree shifted into an eerie smile. Arms and hands made of branches reached out for the girl as a long, tuberous tongue licked its lips.

He opened his eyes and found himself surrounded by a crimson fog. He breathed in the fog, and the hairs in his nose curled up as the fiery substance scorched its way down his throat and into his lungs. His mind suddenly raced with a thousand thoughts at once…each one was some little thing he’d suppressed any reaction to in his past. Tiny little thoughts of annoyance, anger, and frustration gathered into an army that hammered into him full charge. He dropped to his knees and covered his mouth and nose with his shirt hoping that would be enough to hold back the fog. He scanned around him looking for a way out when he spotted a hunched over shadow with silver eyes that pierced the crimson veil and fixed their sights on its prey. He stared at those eyes for an eternity, but as he began to blink, the world slowed down around him. With his eyelid halfway down, the creature lunged through the air at him. Then panic set in as the world went black. Then the eyelid rose halfway up, and he could see the creature–a mountain lion with elephant skin and small, shiny obsidian tusks that jutted out of its back like quills. He instinctively leaned back to avoid the creature’s strike, but one of its claws caught hold of his cheek. Then time froze. No movement, no breathing, no heartbeat, no sound–just pain. It shot through him like firecrackers going off in every one of his nerves. Time slowly picked up, but he barely noticed as the claw sent tremors of pain through his entire body with each new cell it cut through. Tears streaked down his cheek as the claw finally left his face. He collapsed to the ground as the creature turned. It went straight for his throat, and he screamed.

He woke with a jolt as every muscle in his body contracted at once. His body arched to the point where most of his backside no longer touched the bed, and then he dropped and bounced on the mattress beneath him. He leaped out of the bed and stumbled his way into the bathroom. He splashed cold water on his face to fight back the growing nausea. He suddenly noticed his heart pounding away like it might explode. He took some slow, deep breaths to calm himself down and looked into the mirror for reassurance that it was just a dream. But, in the mirror, he saw a thick scab along the length of his cheek. His fingers shook as they made their way toward the scab–his sense of touch being his last hope that this wasn’t real. But it was.

The socialites crowded into the parlor jockeying for quality positions in the mingling race. Near the glass doors to the balcony, a solitary figure surveyed the room. He twirled his clove cigarette between his fingers as he took a sip of champagne…his pinky finger hooked skyward. His eyes met the ladies with a subtle wink. He shifted his glance from person to person as the corner of his mouth crept up into a grin. He noticed a prepster dazzling the crowd with his meet-and-greet charm. He watched the man work the room until he finally approached and extended a hand in welcome.

"Hi, I’m Ben Levy."

The man near the doors set down his drink and gripped Ben’s hand. "Shawn. Shawn Tufasey," he said.

"Shawn, right?"

"That’s me. I’m pretty well-known in these parts."

Ben looked over a few more details of Shawn’s face. "Really? So, what do you do?"

Shawn pulled out his wallet and removed a simple business card–the kind you print off a home computer–and handed it over to Ben. "I’m a Comic Book Creator Publicist."

I took a quick glance from my hiding spot. Its teeth glistened in the midday sun and took on a surreal appearance–a madcap grin stretched too far. As I took another peek, I could see its horns rising skyward. There were too many of them, and they were arranged in too odd of a pattern. It was unnatural, but the morbid fascination pulled me out of hiding and drew me closer. At my approach, it let out a banshee wail that raked the length of my spine like dozens of tiny claws. I froze. Didn’t blink. Didn’t breath. Didn’t move. And its cries just grew louder and faster as they fought their way past the fringes of my sanity. Sweat and fear began to blur my vision as a voice called out to me over the cacophony that clashed at my ears.

"Hey kid, it’s just a calliope."

His optic nerve peeled apart to form spider-like legs that creeped their way past the eye to freedom, and then they shoved with all their might to pop the eye free from its socket prison. Fluids within the skull formed a vaccuum that held the eye in place, but the legs reached out further to the nostrils and ear to gain a stronger foothold. Finally, the eye plopped onto the floor and skittered off into the night.