Monday, January 31, 2011

Writing Prompt #52

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

A certain slot machine in the casino is supposedly cursed.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

#FridayFlash--A Haunted Life

A Haunted Life
by Eric J. Krause

I knew the house was haunted the minute I entered. I could feel the presence of . . . something not normal. I said nothing to my husband, who looked like a kid in a candy store. This was his dream home, and I wasn't going to ruin it with my silly superstitions. I happily agreed when he told the real estate agent that we'd take it.

During our first few years, I often sensed the ghosts, but they left me and mine alone. When the big bang up happened there'd been no warning signs. One minute I was in doing the dishes after a quiet dinner with my husband, Rick, and the next I was surrounded by screaming ghosts.

Most of the words were blurred, as if they existed in white noise, but I did pull a few out. ". . . not fair . . ." "You can't . . ." "I never . . ." ". . . don't understand . . ." Great, our house was haunted by a family with teenagers. Rick and I had talked about kids, but neither of us was ready. I certainly didn't want to be soured on the idea by a family of ghosts, even if I was just an observer.

Things progressed from there. Things moved on their own, lights flickered on and off, and disembodied voices lulled me to sleep on an almost nightly basis. I wished I could have discussed it with Rick, but we didn't talk anymore. I don't know why. There'd been no knock-down, drag-out fight or anything like that; we just stopped communicating. I'd occasionally see him crying, but he wouldn't look at me, so I couldn't bring myself to comfort him.

Life went on. Most of my waking moments went towards trying to observe the family of ghosts. I was getting pretty good at listening to their conversations and watching them go about their ghostly lives. They thought they were still alive because they were as mundane as most people I knew.

At some point, I made two huge discoveries, both involving my husband. The first part was that, even though we were still married, I'd lost track of him. The second was the ghost husband. At first I thought it was my father-in-law, but the more I concentrated, the more I eavesdropped, I realized it was Rick himself. He'd aged twenty years since the last time I saw him. Which was when? Last week? No. Last month? No. I couldn't remember. Whatever was happening, I needed to figure it out once and for all.

As the ghost family, including my husband, sat down to their nightly meal, I jumped up on the table. They'd have to see me now, and they did. I expected them to try to scare me away, or at the very least disappear into thin air. Instead, they all leapt up from their chairs, yelled "Ghost!" and ran from the room. Just as I thought; they didn't know they were dead.


After that moment, the house changed. I still found some of Rick's favorite things, though, like him, they looked like they'd aged two decades. My stuff was all gone. New furniture, clothes, household accessories, knick-knacks, and all kinds of other crap I'd never before seen filled the house. I wanted to walk around and finger it all, but something drew me to the corner of the garage, Rick's workshop area, like a beacon.

A plaque hung on the wall, and I knew right away I didn't want to look at it. But I couldn't help myself. Our wedding picture, along with a few snaps of just me framed a bronze engraving. It read: "Mary Walter-Jackson. RIP. My lovely wife. I'll never forget you. 1968-1991."

Tears stung my eyes. No. That couldn't be true. A calendar hung nearby, and I saw January 2011. No, no, no. This couldn't be true.

A light exploded out in the in middle of the garage, right where my old Mazda hatchback used to sit. I stared at the light for a few seconds, letting my tears dry away. It wasn't just a bright ball of white light, but a long tunnel. And it was beautiful. Without looking back, I started towards it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Writing Prompt #51

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You get a telephone call from a dead friend/relative.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

#FridayFlash--Used Brooms

Used Brooms
by Eric J. Krause

Esmeralda snapped her fingers over the broom and it flew straight into her outstretched hand. Nice. She ran her fingers over the shaft and found a few small gouges, but nothing she either couldn't buff out or live with. It wasn't like the broom was splinter city or anything. And the price was reasonable, much more so than what she figured from a used broom lot. If it gave a smooth flight, she wouldn't bother haggling. This would be her new ride.

Just as she was about to walk in to ask for a test drive, a well-groomed, neatly-dressed warlock strolled out of the office. He flashed a dazzling smile, and his teeth gleamed as if fresh from the final touches of a polishing spell. She didn't need magic to tell he was a salesman; it oozed out of every pore.

"I'm not going to lie to you," he said as he advanced on Esmeralda. "She's a beaut. One of the best models we have in stock."

"I'd like a test drive, if you don't mind," she said.

"Of course, of course. But I'd consider myself a terrible person if I didn't at least show you a few better options."

Esmeralda tried to squeak out a protest, but the smarmy warlock pushed her towards the pricier models. She saw right away that these were each more broom than she needed. And, truth be told, all in much worse shape than the one she liked.

"I can tell by your expression that you're impressed," he said. "Why don't you go ahead and start one up?"

Esmeralda tried to back away and head for the first broom. "No, I . . ." But the warlock wasn't having any of it. He nudged her towards a beat-up jumbo broom that wanted to infect her with splinters just by looking at it. And was it being held together by batty tape?

"Just a quick go," the warlock said. "Wait until you feel the power in this baby."

She sighed, put her hand out, and snapped her fingers. The broom rose a few inches, sputtered, and dropped back to the ground. She tried again, and this time it rose halfway to her hand before petering out.

The warlock gave a nervous chuckle and kicked the broom aside. "Guess it's a bit more than you're used to. Why don't we go look at something a bit more your size."

"But I just want . . ." Esmeralda tried to say, but he wasn't listening.

"Now these over here. These are sleek, lightweight, and can outmaneuver almost any other broom enchanted to fly."

She could see why; they were nothing but glorified toothpicks. She wouldn't want one of these new, let alone in whatever shape this guy would sell it in. And a quick glance around proved them all to be in horrible condition indeed. Besides, even if one flew brilliantly, there was no way she could get her shopping home on it.

"Try this one out. I know it'll be the perfect fit."

Esmeralda sighed, stretched out her hand, and snapped her fingers. The broom jumped up and smacked her palm, where it promptly cracked in two. The warlock gave another nervous chuckle as he kicked both pieces away.

"No worries," he said. "I have plenty more I can show you."

"I'd really like to go back to the first one," Esmeralda said.

"That one wasn't right for you," the warlock said. He glanced to the front of the lot. "Besides, looks as if someone just bought it. But no worries. If you had your heart set on it, I can sell you one in almost as good of shape for just a bit more. You'll love it."

Esmeralda clicked her tongue, and the warlock disappeared, only to be replaced by a toad. "I'm sorry," she said as she bent down to pick him up. "I don't usually lose my temper like that. But if you can manage to go through an entire day without telling a lie, you'll revert back to your original form. Understand?"

The lying toad in her hand could only belch out a croak.

"Good. I'm glad we're on the same page." She set him down, and he hopped into the bushes. She sighed and headed back to her old broom, which would hopefully hold on for a trip to another used broom lot. As she kicked off into the night sky, she muttered, "Fucking used broom salesmen."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Writing Prompt #50

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You have a pogo stick that can jump through time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

#FridayFlash--Sudoku in the Sky with Diamonds

Sudoku in the Sky with Diamonds
by Eric J. Krause

James stared up at the night sky, doing everything he could to forget the whole goddamn week. The problem was the memories didn't want to go anywhere. His week had sucked so bad, why wouldn't they want to hang around to help mock him?

The stars twinkled down at him, and he couldn't suppress a chuckle. They all looked like little diamonds. Not surprising. Ever since he gave Kate the diamond engagement ring, everything looked like diamonds. Big honking mocking fucking diamonds. Would the world have taken on this sparkling new hue if she hadn't disappeared with the ring? Yeah, maybe, but at least they would have been happy hallucinations. At least he'd spent way more than the recommended two paychecks on it. He always had that.

As he stared up at the sky, the normal constellations shifted into strange new patterns. He blinked hard to see if he was imagining things, but the stars still lay in their new positions. Was that . . . ? No, couldn't be. But, yes, it was.

The stars had formed a Sudoku puzzle.

James loved solving Sudokus. Maybe this was a sign. Maybe if he solved this one, everything would be clear. It made no sense, but neither did the night sky becoming a huge Japanese number puzzle. Neither did his life, for that matter.

He stared up at it for a few minutes. Oh, geez. If this one was in his one-a-day calendar at home, it'd be listed as an easy one-starrer. He began filling in the blanks, and as he did, more stars popped into view and formed the new numbers.

The puzzle moved closer to completion, and James kept plugging away. He was having so much fun--the first bit of fun since Kate said yes before skipping town--that he missed two important factors. One, he wasn't dwelling on losing Kate. That was a good thing. And two, he didn't notice his chest tightening and the tingles running up and down his left arm. That wasn't such a good thing. As he put the final number in place, the pain hit, and he slumped back onto the grass. The stars shifted, showing their natural order.


Officer Reynolds frowned. Something was a bit off about this one. He pulled on a pair of latex gloves, pried open the dead guy's eyes, and gasped.

His partner, Adams, pointed to the body. "See the discoloration here? I've seen this before. He had a busted ventricle. The paramedics will back me up on that, I'm sure."

Reynolds shook his head as he continued to stare into the dead man's eyes. "No, partner. You may say he suffered from a broken ventricle, but I know the truth. This guy died of a broken heart."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Writing Prompt #49

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

Something starts moving under your skin.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

#FridayFlash--The eReader

The eReader
by Eric J. Krause

Ralph kicked at loose stones as he walked to his apartment complex's mailboxes. Why did already crappy workdays have to end on such downer notes? After getting yelled at all day by customers and management alike, the last email before quitting time warned of upcoming layoffs. Great. He hated this job, but it paid the bills better than anything else he could get in this economy.

He opened his tiny mailbox and found a key for the large parcel box. What? He hadn't ordered anything. He popped that box open and found a package from his younger brother, Shane. Strange. He hadn't heard from Shane in well over a year, since their final falling out. They'd never really gotten along, even as kids, but the blow-up last year had been bigger than anything before. He wasn't ready to forgive and forget, and he couldn't imagine Shane was either. But now a package?

Ralph resisted temptation and waited until he got in his apartment before ripping open the package. His mouth dropped open. An eReader. He'd told his mom he wanted one, and she hinted he might get one next week for his birthday. But how had Shane found out? And why would he have spent so much after wanting nothing to do with him for so long?

There was a note underneath the eReader. "Happy early birthday, bro. Hope this makes up for me missing last year. I opened it to both make sure it worked and to load some books I thought you'd like. See you soon. Shane."

Ralph picked up the eReader and found it had a full charge. This was a peace offering, and Ralph would have to give his little brother a call. Maybe this proved Shane was becoming an actual adult, and they could get together and have a good time like many grown-up brothers did.

As he scrolled through the titles, he fully expected to find gay erotica and chick-lit books. The eReader was the gift, the books were the jokes. But no. A few of the latest bestselling thrillers were on there, as well as a dozen or so old pulp science fiction novels that Ralph loved so much. Shane--old sadistic, never met a joke he didn't like, no matter how sick and twisted it was Shane--had come through big time.

Ralph picked up the phone, but remembered he'd purged his brother's number from speed dial and deleted the info out of the address book. No biggie. After dinner he'd call Mom and get Shane's digits. First, though, he'd pick which book he wanted to start with.

As he scrolled through the titles, each looked spectacular. He could choose one at random and be thrilled with the choice. He'd expected something like this from Mom, who knew him better than anyone, but not his baby brother. Maybe he had called Mom for gift tips. Yeah, that made sense, even if it was way out of character. Maybe Shane really had grown up.

At the end of the list, Ralph found the only title he didn't recognize, "The Bomb." Shane had done such a great job with the other books that this one must be good, too. Maybe he'd try it out first.

As he pushed the button to begin reading, the eReader grew noticeably hot to the touch. Did it always do that on start up, or was this one defective? He'd have to look online. He turned the page from the title screen--"The Bomb" in bold print and nothing else--and found the story started. A quiet ticking emanated from the device.

"Hey, bro. Welcome to my first ever book. It's not very long, but I think you'll find the plot . . . explosive."

Ralph almost ran to the window and hurled the eReader out into the back alley. The Shane he remembered was certainly one who would send a sabotaged gift. But no, this was just one of his sick but harmless jokes. (It wouldn't be too long before Ralph realized how good first instincts usually were.)

"I visited Mom last week and found this eReader destined to be your birthday gift. Do you know what she gave me for my birthday? A pack of tube socks and a $20 gift card to a ratty department store. Yeah, that's fair. But I fixed it. I'm guessing you haven't heard from her in a few days. Don't worry. She'll be with her favorite son again real soon."

Ralph pushed the button to turn the page. The ticking grew louder, the casing hotter. This time he obeyed his instinct and hurled the eReader across the room. It exploded as it hit the wall, and white-hot pain shredded his lower body. He yelled out and dropped to the ground, taking stock of his injuries. It hurt, and he'd need to get to the hospital soon, but he'd live. He pulled out his cell phone and found it undamaged. As he dialed 9-1-1, the only thing running through his pain-hazed mind was, "Revenge is a bitch, bro."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Writing Prompt #48

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. This one is pretty open ended, so I'm not labeling it this week. Have fun with it!

It's a full moon out.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reading Challenges for 2011

I saw a few reading challenges over at The Book Vixen's blog, and I thought I might give two a shot. The first is the "Outdo Yourself" challenge. The challenge is to read more books in 2011 than I did in 2010. I didn't keep track of how many I read in 2010, but I'm guessing it wasn't 50. So that's my challenge for this year--read 50 books. Can I do it? I have no idea, but I'm willing to try. If you'd like to check out this challenge, click here or on the picture below.

Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge

Here is my list for the Outdo Yourself Challenge, which I will update when I finish each book:
1. The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
2. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
3. The Halfling's Gem by R.A. Salvatore
4. Dark Lady's Chosen by Gail Z. Martin
5. Hidden Mickey: Sometimes Dead Men DO Tell Tales! by Nancy Temple Rodrigue and David W. Smith
6. Hidden Mickey 2: It All Started... by Nancy Temple Rodrigue and David W. Smith
7. Don't Fall Asleep: A Dream Assassin Novel by Laura Eno
8. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
9. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
10. The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty
11. Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror by Jennifer Finney Boylan
12. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
13. The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse
14. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
15. Power Play (Kingdom Keepers #4) by Ridley Pearson
16. The Soulkeepers by G.P. Ching
17. All For One by Ryne Douglas Pearson
18. The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
19. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
20. Bag of Bones by Stephen King
21. The Disappearance by Bentley Little
22. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
23. Weaver of Darkness by Melissa L. Webb
24. Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer
25. Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
26. Betrayed by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
27. Chosen by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
28. Untamed by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
29. Hunted by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
30. Tempted by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
31. Burned by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
32. Awakened by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
33. The Child Thief by Brom
34. Book of Secrets by Chris Roberson
35. The Prestige by Christopher Priest
36. The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
37. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
38. The Snow Queen's Shadow by Jim C. Hines
39. Ninth Grade Slays by Heather Brewer
40. Storm Front by Jim Butcher
41. Gimme A Call by Sarah Mlynowski
42. Tenth Grade Bleeds by Heather Brewer
43. Eleventh Grade Burns by Heather Brewer
44. Twelfth Grade Kills by Heather Brewer
45. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
46. World War Z by Max Brooks
47. Witch and Wizard by James Patterson
48. Hissers by Ryan C. Thomas
49. A Walk in the Woods by Margaret Lake

The second is even more than the first. It is the 100+ Reading Challenge. This one is hosted by My Overstuffed Bookshelf. I'm not sure if 50 books is realistic for me, so doubling that number and trying to read 100 might be impossible, but I'm going to give it a go anyway. Maybe I'm underestimating myself. Probably not, but I'm willing to give it a go. If you'd like to check out the 100+ Reading Challenge, click here.

The first 50 from this challenge will be the same as the Outdo Yourself Challenge, since the challenges can use the same books. Check that list for books 1 through 50. When I hit book 51, I'll continue counting here:

If you'd like to see what I thought of these books, feel free to friend me on Goodreads. Just search for "Eric Krause." I'll give at least a few sentences of review for each book I read.