Even though he knew no one would be in the apartment when he got home, he still went into each room, turned on the light and stared, hoping maybe, somehow, all his friends and family were hiding in closets or behind the couches and plants and were just waiting, holding in their laughter, each of them thinking about how they couldn’t wait to see his face when they jumped out.

But each room was empty, no matter how many times he turned around and then looked back over his shoulder.

He stuck a frozen dinner in the microwave and waited.

Downy Grave

I walked into the bedroom, because a few minutes earlier, I thought I’d heard her wake up, and was about to make coffee, so I wanted to know if she’d like a cup. But I went in on tiptoe, because maybe she was still asleep, and had only rolled over, so the light coming in front the window wasn’t shining right into her eyes.

The blankets were piled up,  and all the pillows stacked in a way that make me think me of a tombstone. I heard quiet weeping, and saw the blankets move like the pile itself was breathing.

The Bare King

The hotel room was cool compared to the heat outside, but the temperature had nothing to do sweat breaking across Robert Forrester’s forehead.

After locking the bolt and setting the door chain, and then walking back and pulling on the door to make sure, he inched along the inside wall, avoiding the windows. He pulled the suitcase, stolen earlier that day from the bus station, from the closet, filling it by tossing his clothes from the chest of drawers across the room. Forrester got down on all fours and searched under the bed, coming away with a gun that he shoved in his belt, and after a second search, a thick envelope, which he stuffed in his jacket’s pocket.

They’d found him, he didn’t know how. It should have been impossible. Forrester took a knight’s tour of the country. Doubled back and forth. Took trains, and cars and buses. Used false names when he registered for rooms, and left by the fire escape.

Trailing him had to be impossible.

Unless they’d gotten to Chelsea. Forrester grimaced and wiped the girl and her dark eyes from his mind. She couldn’t have said anything, she didn’t know where he was. Unless he slipped up. Maybe he said something on the telephone, gave some clue. Maybe they’d had her phone tapped.

He’d only just got here. There was no way they could have surrounded him as quickly as they did, unless he made a mistake. Snapping his suitcase shut, Forrester tried to figure what he had done to give himself away.

It had been too close in the restaurant. If the waiter hadn’t leaned over the table to light the candle, he might never have seen the gunman.

He’d run inside, and cut through the kitchen, quick as a bishop, into the alley, then a quick right as the heavy footsteps echoed behind him. The next left, and then another right, and then he went two blocks, hit the street and managed to cross, weaving through the cars waiting at a red light.

Confident, looked around the room one last time and made to leave. He undid the chain, and unlocked the bolt. The door swung open and two thugs stood in the hall, casually holding heavy pistols. He backed away, deeper into the room. The other two followed, closing and locking the door behind them.


Prompt courtesy of Literary Lion.


Coyote stumbled through the fog, favouring his  rear right leg.

The sky pushed down, making the air heavy, thick and hard to breath. Everywhere he went, he was enveloped by that sickly sweet smell. Somewhere in the distance, voices cried out.
The crows lifted from their branches and flew all together away from him. He stopped under a now vacant tree, and licked at his wound. His tongue come away not red, but black, and with the taste of coming winter.

Coyote circled about to flatten the grass, and used what he had left to give a short, proud howl.


Prompt courtesy of Warm Up Wednesdays.

Lock, Stock

The machines seized, so they had us down knee-deep, throwing shovelfuls of muck, while recounting how this weren’t just a canal we were digging, but a golden footpath for industry. How, sooner than we knew, each and all and their sons and even their sons would have safe jobs inside the factories, building the things we needed to build ourselves a real country.

We all had a good laugh at that, until we heard something snap, louder than thunder in your pocket, and then, farther off, the screams, and then we saw all that god damned water rushing towards us.

The Midnight Ghost

The ghost in the back field was wailing something awful, and no matter how deep he buried his head under the pillows, Owl could still hear it and couldn’t get to sleep.

Barefoot, he crept downstairs, keeping to the edges so the boards wouldn’t creak, then across the cold kitchen tiles, and out the screen door, opening it just enough to slip through and then closing it gentle behind him.

The moon wasn’t more than a sliver, so all he could do was follow the wailing. He almost caught a glimpse of the spirit, before it sensed him and vanished.

Shallow Dive

Dzinski walked out the double french doors and across the yellowed, brittle lawn towards the woman sitting as calm as a well fed lioness, in the shade beside an empty pool.

“Have you found my step-daughter?” the woman asked, sipping from a sweating, tall glass.

He stood looming, his shadow falling across her like a executioner’s blade.

“I haven’t,” he said. “Not alive, anyway.”

He wanted to say more, but the words were bitter, so he spit into the shallow end, and made his way back into the house. Dzinski nodded at the two arresting officers as they crossed paths.


© Jean L. Hays

The stones stood tall, casting dark shadows across the dirt, and were covered in war paint. The fallen warrior’s spoils lay in piles before them.

“We should be careful,” Owl said.

Raccoon nodded, and they made their way through the giant’s graveyard, mindful to step around where they imagined the massive bodies were buried.

“There,” Racoon said, pointing.

The boys knelt in front of the monument, the smallest in the boneyard. They pulled jewels, coins, bells, rags, feathers, flowers, bones, twigs and berries from their sacks, placed them in a neat pile on the fresh mound of earth, and grieved.

Prompt courtesy of the Friday Fictioneers. Read more stories here.

The Shrine

At long last, the three of them stood before the shrine.

They made camp and waited for the moon to rise before their final approach. None spoke, each understanding this final journey was to be taken alone. Their eyes trained on the fire, but each of them were looking inward.

A wolf howled. They stood, dusted their knees, and saw the moon hovering above them, almost close enough to touch. Each spent time alone within the shrine, the last exiting before dawn.

Exhausted, they slept until mid-afternoon, when they woke to bitter taste of curiosity and envy on their tongues.

Too Late

Raccoon’s mom stood outside his bedroom and hollered at him to wake up. Then she barged in, tore the covers away and waited until he sat up.

“Get up,” she said, heading back to the kitchen.

He dressed and rubbed most of his hair flat, and went downstairs. The radio was tuned to the station just out of range, the silences filled with pops and crackles.

“You should’ve got up when I said. Now you don’t have time to have breakfast. Take an apple or something,” she said, chewing the last forkful of an egg. “Get going. You’ll be late.”