Thursday, April 29, 2010

#fridayflash--Death by Computer

Death by Computer
by Eric J. Krause

Walter maneuvered the mouse pointer to send. He took a deep breath and clicked the left button. The screen blinked, went blank, then returned. Except for his long, carefully versed email.

"No," he whispered, sweat breaking out on his forehead. Had it gone out? Or had he lost the last hour of his life? He fumbled through the notes his grandson had left to figure out how to check if the message sent or not.

Another five minutes passed, but he couldn't find what he needed. Daggummit! He'd need to retype the whole thing, and he didn't have time right now. Next time Jerry came over he'd ask him to add to the notes. A lump of good it did him right now, though.

Walter stood. As important as the email was, Priscilla would kill him if he wasn't ready for dinner. Wouldn't do to be late to the early bird special at Clark's Diner.

He stepped away from the computer desk and almost tripped over something. He glanced down and found a wire wrapped around his shoe. Where had that come from? He sat back down, unwound himself, and pushed the wire further under the desk. Ah well, he'd forgotten to turn off the dagblasted machine anyway, so he couldn't cuss out the wire too much.

He pulled the pointer down to the start button (though whoever had thought that going to start to end was bonkers if you asked him), and ran though the shutdown steps. Nothing happened. He let out a sigh. This damn computer was going to be the death of him.

He pulled Jerry's notes back out and carefully followed the shutdown procedure. Again, nothing. So be it. He'd just hold down the power button until it turned off. Jerry had showed him that trick for emergencies only, but it seemed he had to use it every other day. He reached over, but before his finger found the switch, something tickled his leg. That same damn wire. How had it snaked back around him? His foot hadn't gone that far under the desk.

He glanced back at the screen and saw his email program was still open at the bottom of the screen. He clicked on it to get it on the full screen again. Maybe that's why the dang machine wouldn't shut down. Had the wire been trying to get his attention? He scoffed. That was crazy talk. Computers were smart, but not like that.

"Ouch! What the hell?" Something bit his leg. He looked down. The wire had buried itself into his ankle. He reached down to tear it out.

Or at least that was the plan. Instead, he couldn't move. Power surged into him from the wire, paralyzing him. It wasn't like an electric shock, at least he didn't think so. But whatever was pouring into him didn't stop, and he still couldn't move.

The ding of a new email sounded from the speakers, and the sender of the message was listed simply as "Computer." His hand moved the mouse to it, but Walter wasn't the one doing it. The message read, "I'm sick of you fumbling around and destroying my insides. Consider this payback."

Pain flared through him, from the wire in his ankle all the way up to the hair on his head. If he'd had any control over his body at all, he'd have screamed bloody murder. As it was, he could do nothing but sit there as his insides slowly melted. If only his body had a power button to hold down for a reset. Or had that been part of his problem all along?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing Prompt #14

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy, but as always, you can take it whatever direction you so choose (and this one can go in any direction at all). Have fun with it!

Gnomes follow you home.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

#Fridayflash--Mother's Bath

Mother's Bath
by Eric J. Krause

Mother smacked Sandra on the top of her head. "Be gentle, damn it! I'm a dainty little flower."

Sandra frowned. Dainty little flower, my behind. Instead, she said in as cheery a voice as she could muster, "Sorry, Mother. I'll be more careful."

It wasn't bad enough she had to be Mother's caregiver tonight, with the bath, cooking dinner, and dressing her for bed, but missing Senior Prom made it all the worse. She even had a date with Jimmy Bob Brennan. All the girls at school were jealous. Not that it mattered anymore since she had to cancel.

She wouldn't have had any fun anyway. Yeah, right. Keep telling yourself that, girl. No one could dance like Jimmy Bob, and now he was going to have his moves busting with some other chick. It wasn't fair. She'd have been a classy girl, not some whore ready to go down on him at a moments notice. True, she'd already planned on giving him her virginity tonight, but she'd do it lady like. She wouldn't have pushed her cleavage in his face and rubbed her rump all over him on the dance floor. Well, she might have, but she wouldn't have been a slut while doing it.

None of it mattered anymore. Maddie had seen to that. Her little sister, the so-called brains of the family, needed to have the night off from taking care of Mother because she had a big school project due on Monday. Daddy made Sandra cancel her plans for the prom, even though he knew she'd been looking forward to it all year, so Maddie could stay over at one of her stupid friend's house to work on the project. He wouldn't listen to any reason. And what pissed Sandra off even more was the smug look on Maddie's face as she walked out the door, her backpack slung over her shoulder. She probably didn't even have a project due. She just wanted to ruin Sandra's night, ruin her whole life.

"Watch out with that damn soap. I'll make your father rub it in your eyes, see how much you like it."

"Sorry, Mother. I'll be more careful."

No one knew what was wrong with Mother. The doctors had run every test they could think of on her, but nothing had come back conclusive. With the medical bills piling up, the family couldn't afford a live-in nurse, so Sandra and Maddie had to take over. Mother had no strength and could hardly move on her own, and if you weren't careful when you helped her, she'd scream out in pain. And to make matters worse, there was nothing wrong with her mouth or her temper.

Sandra didn't know how much longer she could take it. Mother could live for another thirty years or more. The doctors had no idea. Since Maddie was seen as the smart one, already on the fast-track to college, and Daddy working double shifts at the plant six days a week, taking care of Mother fell almost exclusively on Sandra.

She'd thought about suicide. The After-School Specials they showed in homeroom gave her some great ideas. But that wasn't the way to go. She wanted to have fun, and if she were dead, she couldn't have any. But it came to her as she gently scrubbed Mother's back. Maybe it was the missed prom. Maybe it was the though of Jimmy Bob with some other girl. Whatever brought it on, it was a stroke of brilliance.

"Damn it, girl, put your elbows into it. I can feel the crud building up back there. But do it gentle like. Why can't you be half as smart as your sister?"

"Sorry, Mother."

And she was, sort of. She gave a gentle nudge to the top of Mother's shoulders. If anybody had been watching, it would've looked like an accident. Mother's head slid down towards the water. She tried to brace herself to keep from going under, but that strain brought out a scream of pain. Sandra gave her another push, and she screamed again. Words were trying to form, but panic had set in, and Mother couldn't let out anything Sandra could understand. It was just as well. Sandra shrugged and watched her slip all the way under.

Good thing no one was home.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Writing Prompt #13

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror, but as always, you can take it whatever direction you so choose (and this one can go in any direction at all). Have fun with it!

A buzzard circles above you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

#Fridayflash--Satan's Smile

Satan's Smile
by Eric J. Krause

Jackson stared at the three tall glasses of beer in front of him. Though all three were different, he couldn't tell them apart thanks to the black food coloring he'd swirled in each. The green beer of St. Patrick's Day had given him that stroke of genius.

One frosty glass held his favorite micro-brew, Midnight Pale Ale. One held a generic light brand from the local grocery store, and truth be told, it tasted more like chilled horse piss than beer. (No, he'd never actually tasted horse piss--it's just what he imagined its flavor to be.) The third was a mystery. It held one he bought for the goofy name, not the quality; though for all he knew it could have been the best beer on the planet. For this exercise, the name Satan's Smile fit perfectly.

He started this morbid little game yesterday after work, and it kept him buzzed all night. Not from the alcohol, but from the adrenaline coursing through his veins. With all the shit he had to put up with--at work, with his parents, and even lately with his girlfriend--what more could he ask for?

Of course, it helped that he chose the Midnight. It'd tasted even better than that first time he fell in love with it. The only thing that worried him about the game was that he enjoyed pouring the generic beer down the drain more than the Satan's Smile.

The Satan's Smile he'd stirred deadly poison into.

Now, after another lousy day of being yelled at by customers and co-workers alike, arguing with Mom and Dad, and being completely ignored by Rachel, he needed one of those beers. But which? Each glass looked the same, and he'd mixed up their order enough so he couldn't be sure which was which.

Yesterday the middle had been paydirt, but what were the odds it was the Midnight again? Not good enough to tempt fate. He grabbed the left one and took a healthy gulp before he could chicken out.

Bitter taste with a hint of citrus assaulted him. That wasn't the Midnight, and it sure as hell wasn't the generic light. There was still time. He could force himself to puke and call poison control.

He took another sip and let it slosh around his mouth and roll down his tongue. Delicious. He chased it with another sip and marveled at how there was no strange medicine aftertaste. He'd read that on the Internet but hadn't believed it to be true. If he hadn't mixed the poison in himself, he'd have no clue it was even there.

He took another sip. Should he leave a note? It hadn't dawned on him before. What would he say? Nothing came to mind.

He took another sip.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Published Book on Smashwords

I published a book of short stories today over at The book is called The Breath of Life and Other Stories (click here to see). They are 20 shorts that have been published in that last few years, mostly on various Internet magazines. If you look at which stories are included, you'll find that you can read most of the stories for free by following the links right here on this blog Click here to go to that page--16 of the 20 stories, actually.

So why am I charging 99 cents for stuff you can get largely for free?

For a few reasons. One, there are four stories that are no longer available. Think of it as paying a smidgen less than a U.S. quarter per new story. Two, instead of having to click on numerous links, you can get all 20 stories in one handy spot. Three, for those of you with e-readers, Smashwords supports many different types of files that make it compatible with most devices.

For those of you who download the sample, I only made the first 10% available. This shows the table of contents and much of the first story. Why didn't I make more available for free? Because since so much of it is available for free here at my blog, I really only think the table of contents is necessary. For those people who don't visit my blog, however, the 10% does give a good chunk of the first story, too, to give a bit of my writing style.

I hope you will go check it out. If you don't want to buy the book, I hope you will at least download the sample and check out the stories here on my blog. Again, click here to view my book's page at Smashwords. Let me know what you think!

Writing Prompt #12

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction, but as always, you can take it whatever direction you so choose (and this one can go in any direction at all). Have fun with it!

Space aliens knock on your front door.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

#fridayflash--Wedding Night Blues

Wedding Night Blues
by Eric J. Krause

I get high-fives, winks, nudges, and blushes. Laughs--from snickers to the tawdry type--always follow. It's funny what a simple statement like, "We spent our wedding night in the emergency room" will bring. Especially when followed by, "Because of what happened in the bedroom."

Not everyone gets the full story. In fact, most don't. Why should they? The imagination goes to places that would never be possible. Who am I to disappoint?

Think about it. If I admit to anything less than wrenching my back while executing some kinky move with my wife, you'd be disappointed. I know I would be.

What difference does it make if I twisted my knee taking my pants off? Not to consummate my marriage, but to take a quick shower. If I leave that little detail out, I'm a legend. Keep it in?

Heh. Not so much.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Writing Prompt #11

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy, but as always, you can take it whatever direction you so choose (and this one can go in any direction at all). Have fun with it!

Your dog strikes up a conversation with you.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

#fridayflash--Bonzo Bunny

Bonzo Bunny
by Eric J. Krause

Bonzo Bunny looked out into the grassy field. He'd left the colorful eggs everywhere for the children to find, and anticipation ate at him as he waited to watch them discover their prizes. They'd love the sweet contents.

At first.

Heading off the Easter Bunny had been the easy part. A few jabs with a ceremonial dagger saw to it that the holiday belonged to Bonzo. Oh, the Easter Bunny would be back, and there'd be hell to pay, but he couldn't worry about that now. The hard part was weaving his black magic into the holiday's joy, not only to get the eggs into the countless yards, but to swap out the contents.

In the end, his magic hadn't been strong enough. He got the plastic, candy-filled eggs to their various destinations with no problem, but he had just enough magic left to make the swap in one yard. Fine. This year was nothing more than a test anyway. Plus he'd get to see his handiwork firsthand.

The children, dressed in their Easter Sunday best, dashed out into the yard, each clutching a woven basket. Squeals of delight filled the air as they dashed about, collecting their prizes. The parents stood on the porch, enjoying the spectacle.

Bonzo rubbed his front paws together. It wouldn't be long now. Mom and Dad didn't look the type to deny the kids a little dip into their treats on a special occasion.

When each egg was found, the children sat in a circle. The oldest child's basket, of course, held the most, while the youngest's had the least. Without prompting, the children evened up everyone's haul.

Delectable. He'd made the right choice in harvesting this lot.

The kids busted open their eggs and dumped the contents into their basket. "Jilly beans!" the youngest yelled as they all examined their various treats.

Then the time came. Bonzo almost leaned out of the bushes to watch. How long would it take? Ten seconds? A minute? Surely no longer than that.

The youngest would be first. She grabbed a pink jelly bean and jammed it towards her mouth. Bonzo had to fight to contain his laughter.

She stopped. The candy bean hung mere inches from the girl's open lips. And it wasn't just the little one who froze. Each child sat as still as a statue, an impossible feat amongst all the excitement. Even Mom and Dad had joined the still parade.

Bonzo jumped out of the bushes. "What's going on?" he croaked in his gravely, evil-eaten voice. Before he could scan the entire surroundings, an unmistakable "Ho-ho-ho" burst out behind him.

Not Santa.

Bonzo turned and saw it was indeed Jolly Ol' St. Nick. Even though it was a warm spring morning, he was decked out in his iconic red with white trim suit and coal-black boots. And if that wasn't bad enough, standing next to Santa, with rusty red bloodstains on his fur, was Ol' Cottontail himself, the Easter Bunny.

The befouling of the treats in this yard had used up the last of his magic. It'd be hours before he could attempt even the simplest cantrip. So in fight or flight, there was no question. He didn't know how the Easter Bunny had recovered so quickly, but hopefully his magic hadn't yet returned. And holiday magic or not, the fat man was too slow to put up a chase. Bonzo would have gotten away, too, if it weren't for those pesky reindeer.

The one with the light up nose--Randy, or Ralphonzo, or whatever--led the charge. It dove, forcing him to duck, giving the others time enough to trample him. He screamed and fell to the grass, his left bent at an impossible angle. Bonzo could do nothing but watch Santa and the Easter Bunny approach.

He tried to scurry away, but with his leg busted and the rest of him battered and bruised, he didn't get very far. Santa jerked him up, which brought out a howl of pain. Bonzo reached for his dagger, but a quick jab to his injured leg by the Easter Bunny forced him to drop it.

As he writhed in pain under Santa's firm grip, Bonzo waited for the lecture about how it was wrong to mess with holidays. It never came. Instead, the Easter Bunny picked up the fallen dagger and Santa flashed an evil grin.