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Flash Fantastic!

No. 2December 2003

by C. Dennis Moore

Winter's troops swept down, blanketing everything in powder, ice, and snow.

The fourth and youngest season watched the world in the grip of his reclamation. He whipped up a blizzard to keep his brother Spring from gaining a foothold. Summer lay at his weakest. Autumn still rested from his own recent reign. The rulers of the Pantheon of Order, Mother Nature and Father Time, recalled the last time Winter'd done this, and the effort it took to dethrone him.

The blue-skinned prince stood smiling from his crystal tower, eyes twinkling every time a set of veins stiffened with the cold.

by Stephen D. Rogers

Ever since my parents died when I was seven, wakes have held a certain attraction for me. I don't even need to know the dearly departed or the attendant family and friends. Any wake will do.

All the funeral directors recognize me and my wardrobe of four black dresses. I've even dated a fair number of them, whether they were available or not. I wasn't interested in the directors themselves but the access they represented.

My longest continual streak is seven hundred and thirty-two days. Tomorrow makes seven hundred and thirty-three.

Since I won't travel for more than an hour, sometimes I have to be a little creative. For example, there is nothing scheduled anywhere for the day after tomorrow.

I volunteer at a number of hospitals and nursing homes for just this reason. I figure three will be enough to ensure that I don't break my streak.

by Ellen Lindquist

Walking in the dark one night, I came upon a human head. As a matter of common courtesy, I stopped to chat with it.

"I am the head of Randolph Frey, lopped off by the blade of Arthur Arbitage. Whoever looks upon me must seek vengeance against the one who did this."

The head spoke in a low voice and bore a rather hungry-looking expression. I was about to follow the head, but it rolled down the street and disappeared into the fog. I heard it laughing as it went.

I, Westminster the farmer, happened to know the very Arthur Arbitage the head had named. Arbitage was the father of a young woman I wished to marry. I had met the head at a particularly low point; my beloved was just then abroad visiting her aunt. I sorely missed my Lucy; I secretly worried that while away she might meet another gentleman better suited to her family's taste than I.

The head's words echoed in my ears. I decided I must seek Arbitage out and discover why the head had spoken to me.

The grey fingers of fog that had held the night in their hands began to lift as I opened the gate of the Arbitage manor. I was just making my way to the door when the head suddenly jumped out of the prickly bushes encircling the house. "I've arrived ahead of you," it brayed.

We let ourselves in and headed towards Arthur Arbitage's bedroom. The head rolled itself up the carpeted stairway, skillfully using its tongue to grasp the edge of each stair, propelling itself upward with a bouncing motion.

Arbitage's bedroom door creaked a bit as we opened it. I heard the rustling of bed clothes, then Arbitage's voice calling out, "Not again!"

"It is I, " thundered the head.

"I thought we'd settled this once today," Arbitage replied.

I remained silent out of uncertainty.

"You've settled nothing," the head continued. "Pay me what I deserve."

I rolled my hands into fists inside the pockets of my greatcoat. I might have to swing at the head if it demanded the hand of my Lucy!

"Give me what is mine," the head persisted.

"Oh, all right, whatever," Arbitage said. His hands fumbled a moment as he searched for a bell on his bedside table and rang for the maid.

Arbitage suddenly noticed me in the doorway. By way of explanation, I mumbled that I'd met the head on the street and it demanded that I seek its vengeance.

"Yes, yes, I bet it did," the old man said.

Arbitage's stout maid, Ellen, in the short black dress and stiff apron I had always seen her in, appeared at the door. She led the head and me out of Arthur's bedroom and down a dark and winding hallway. Moments later, she seated us at what seemed an endlessly long and polished dining table in a room I had never entered on my previous visits to the manor.

Ellen rapidly set forth a full breakfast: bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, cheese, yogurt, several kinds of marmalade and all the tea the head could drink. She motioned me away from the table to the sideboard where she confided the head's history in a low whisper.

"Once, he was Mr. Arbitage's servant. His cook in fact, years ago, that is, you know, before. . . One night, he's supposed to be preparing dinner, a very special one, for Mr. Arbitage's friends. He cooks the dinner, then he eats almost everything himself. Arthur, Mr. Arbitage, that is, he gets really angry, see. He takes one of them big cleavers outta the kitchen and chases him. What do you know, his head pops off, just like that. Oh, since then, we've tried to get new cooks, but the head rolls in almost every day and scares them crazy. I do most the cooking myself now. Well, I do simple things, nothing like what he used to make."

The head interrupted his gorging a moment and smiled at us, rather wickedly, I thought. Then he burped and started eating again.

"If he don't stop coming 'round here and eating everything, we'll be ruined." The plump maid put her own head in her hands and wept. I heard lugubrious chuckling sounds coming from the table.

Prior to this, I had been the sort who weighed his actions back and forth, back and forth, so much that sometimes I did nothing at all. For the first time ever, I felt different.

I strode from the room, not even looking to see what Ellen or the head thought of my impetuous gesture. I marched to Arthur Arbitage's bedroom—eventually, that is, after getting lost several times in the serpentine hallways.

I pounded on Arbitage's bedroom door.

"What now?" I heard Arbitage groan.

"It is I, Westminster the farmer," I cried out, then burst into the room.

"I have solved the problem of the voracious head!" I announced.

Arbitage stroked his grey beard and listened to my story.

"I know you are against my suit, for I am but a farmer," I began. "But if you will only allow me to marry Lucy, I can take the head off your hands. Why, just think of it! At my farm, there is plentiful food. Acres of apples and pear trees. The head can spend his days rolling about the grounds eating the windfalls."

"Westminster," Arbitage replied, his voice full of import. "Damn it! I wanted better for Lucy! But this head will be my ruin. If you can lead it away from here, Lucy is yours."

And that is how I wed my beloved Lucy. And it is how it came to pass that when my love and I went for strolls on the grounds surrounding our house, we'd often see the head rolling about in nearby fields gorging itself on fallen apples.


Ellen Lindquist’s work has appeared in numerous online and print journals. She was a recent winner of the E2K Net Author Flash Fiction contest. Her poem, "The Erstwhile Wire-Woman" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

by Wesley Lambert

Sign at the end of the universe:


Wesley Lambert has had poetry or fiction published in Hadrosaur Tales, Paradox, Scifaikuest, Outer Darkness, and Astropoetica, just to name a few.

THIS ISSUE OF FLASH FANTASTIC -- "Winter's Reign" is ©2003 by C. Dennis Moore.  "Departures Daily" is ©2003 by Stephen D. Rogers.  "The Voracious Head" is ©2003 by Ellen Lindquist.  "Big Surprise!" is ©2003 by Wesley Lambert.  All contents of Flash Fantastic edited by Patty G. Henderson.  Final formatting and additional graphics by Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Crazed Fanboy dotcom and Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.

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