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Flash Fantastic!

No. 10August 2004

By Jeffrey J Lyons

Every day I remain alive I am compelled to remember in vivid color the moment that brought me here. This is not the destiny I chose yet it has become the one that I live.

One year and one day ago, I lived a quiet and adequate life. My unremarkable white-collar career paid the bills and allowed my family and me to enjoy some good things in life, like vacations, a wide screen television, and a pair of $25,000 cars. Life shaped memories.

Last summer in South Carolina Paula looked resplendent in her two-piece bathing suit, especially for a 40-year-old mother of two teenagers. Eric and Angela frolicked in the Atlantic, visited malls and arcades. I read and got sunburned to a crisp. “You’re awesome,” I told Paula.

“You’re just saying that because you want to get lucky,” she smiled.
I laughed in agony until tears filled my eyes. “Stop! The sunburn’s killing me.” I wish I could chuckle now.

Last Christmas I presented Paula with something she had always wanted, a mother’s ring. “Oh my God, you’re a sweetheart,” she said. Eric and Angela clamored excitedly over each other begging to know which one was theirs. Aquamarine for Eric. Ruby for Angela. Paula leaned over to me and kissed me firmly on the lips.

“Mom, that’s embarrassing,” Eric said.

“No, it’s cute,” Angela said.

Paula twisted me around so that her back was to the kids. Her eyes widened and she flashed a seductive smile. “’I’ll thank you properly tonight,” she whispered.

Our frantic lovemaking exhausted both of us. Now, the only lovemaking I’ll experience is in my mind.

I respected my director but didn’t like him. Days began with a terse nod or quick “hello.” He marched into his office, which was elaborately decorated with spider plants. It had an oak desk that triumphantly overlooked the scenic vista of the city’s financial district. My twelve-by-twelve office offered industrial carpeting, a computer side table and no windows. I always smiled at the framed four-by six family portrait at the head of my off-white metal desk. The room was bland but efficient. I wish I could be there today.

One year and three days ago, the director gathered us together to brainstorm. One of our largest clients needed crisis management consultation and fast. My areas of expertise were databases and ledger management and that is where the crisis festered. Out of the seven of us in the room, the director trained his beady little eyes on me and said, “You, you’re going to Sacramento this weekend to take care of this matter.”

“Sacramento?” I said. “My wife and I had plans to go to a show Saturday night.”

He shrugged and said, “She’ll understand.” He closed up his briefcase. The other peons followed his lead closing their notebooks and shuffling their chairs. End of discussion. Ten minutes later I was booking a flight to Sacramento. Moments that seemed insignificant at the time could turn into the biggest decision of your life.

Paula seethed when I announced the unexpected change of plans. “We’ve been looking forward to this for months. Why didn’t you put your foot down?”

“Come on Paula, you know I can’t do that,” I said as firmly as I could muster but my heart was not in it.

“Why not? Why do you always have to the fall guy?” she said as she paced across the room waving her arms in the air. “You’re the one they take advantage of there. Stand up for yourself.”

“Easy for you to say,” I said. “You’re not the one who could be fired for insubordination.”

“Insubordination? You’re not in the army.”

“Same thing.” I did not tell her of my half-assed attempt to argue the point and the director’s arrogant response. “I’m sorry.”

She shook her head. “Leave me alone.”

I left. Confrontation unsettled my stomach. I no longer feel stomach butterflies and I wish that I did.

Unsmiling, Paula dropped me off at the airport. I leaned over to kiss her goodbye and she turned her head so my lips landed on her cheek. I pondered the moment and said, “See you in a few days.”

“Have a safe trip,” Paula said flatly.

“I love you,” I said with a weak wave of my hand.

“I know you do.” Those were the last words I heard from her lips before she drove away.

When the plane soared through the shiny, bright light I was as perplexed as my 79 fellow passengers were. When it shook and rattled and then tumbled downward in a scream from 30,000 feet I played our last goodbye over again in my head, which felt like it was bursting with the loss of cabin pressure. At least I told her I loved her. I passed out.

They haven’t told us their names and they communicate with their minds. Their triangular faces emit little emotion and their long wiry arms flail constantly with every non-vocalized thought.

They promised to help the three other survivors and me. Their science is advanced far beyond earth’s. Our minds live as specimens in a machine in this laboratory. My body was mangled but I feel no pain. I no longer sense my surroundings or my body yet I reach into the infinite voids of space where I remain alone with my thoughts, painting pictures for analysis.

They informed us this morning that it had been one full year. I wonder if we are remembered.

by Tobias M. Gerber

"From the personal journal of Miles Abraham:"

January 16, 1903

Those monsters in my head woke me up again. Little demons scratching their self-sharpening claws on my brain with furious strokes. Even as I steadied my screaming spine against the wall, pillow propped beneath me, their undying images flooded my imagination with a vengeance. Hellish ghouls they are, with vile steel-like incisors sprouting from mouths of eternal blackness, flesh boiling and bubbling to the touch.

One such fiend whom I have grown quite accustomed to these past years(deep, dreary nights), I have given the name Malady, or rather it has chosen to be called such. Our relationship exists on the inside alone, through which I listen as it speaks, and respond accordingly. It has no apparent physical form- the claws and scales I describe are my own derivations from its voice. A voice evil, leering and profane.

Malady first came to me as I lay awake one summer night two years ago. The stifling heat had caused me to remove my pajamas, and I rested atop my sheets in gathering pools of sweat. Suddenly, I felt a heavy weight upon my chest and an invisible band circle my throat. My immediate response was to cry out and lean forward upon my mattress, but my cry was constricted by the band, and my shoulders could not rise against the impeding pressure.

Quickly, I began to choke, my lungs compressed and my oxygen depleted. Then, even amidst my struggle, I heard the voice that haunts me to this very day.

“Breathe,” it whispered, and the sound fell upon my ears as shards of glass- those ragged splinters which slice and cut as they shatter. Again, as I fought, with piercing acridity, “Breathe.”

And with a final squeeze, the band loosened slightly around my neck and chest, and I began to breathe. I brought large gulps of air into my starving lungs. My naked skin quivered in relief, and the voice spoke again.

“My name-”

I knew its name, and I saw no need to utter it aloud. Malady. Where this knowledge originated I had not the faintest clue. The name simply appeared on the tip of both mind and tongue.

“Impressive, young Miles,” in that same leering tone, each s a half-second longer than its preceding syllable. “Do you know who I really am?”

I confessed inwardly that I did not- perhaps I was lying there struck by delusions from the heat or visions of my forthcoming sleep. Either would explain my peculiar state of being.

“No, Miles, no delusion.”

And with those words, the glistening sweat began to disappear from my skin as if my body were trying to replenish its wasted fluid. I gazed at my arms and chest and watched the droplets be sucked inward into my pores. Within a few seconds, my entire body was dry; even the hidden gullies between toes and fingers were free of all moisture. I asked who it really was.

The response came without delay. “I am a guide. Your guide.”

A guide? I did not understand his answer. So where have you been for twenty years? My guide to what?

“To life, Miles.” That awful voice never hesitated, never faltered.

Although today I can bear the sound, it still cuts into my soul as sharply as it did that night. I have no need for a guide. (I immediately regretted those words, as the weight fell once more upon my upper body.)

“No need?” Malady hissed, and pushed down with tremendous power.

At that very moment, my mind went blank- utterly and completely void, empty, and useless. I felt overwhelmed if indeed I felt anything at all. And within that selfsame minute, a torrent of colors came flashing across my blankness, leaving me perplexed and confused by the contiguous change.

The colors spoke, and I became (Malady) the man wielding the dagger with whorish blood dripping from its pointed tip, the woman stretching her scarf tightly around her child’s neck, the immoral living each day as a walking corpse. The horrors came, unrelenting, and I lay as one frozen in ice, unable to flee each incriminating scene. I was evil.

I did not pray that next morning; I could not. The sweat had returned to my skin- my personal sweat of fear- and any thought of the Almighty sent cold shivers along my arms to the very tips of my fingers. Dirty. I felt unclean and rose to draw my bath- the first of many to follow.

Over the ensuing nights and months, Malady came no more alone but with scores of fellow antagonists, each vying for their chance to besiege my troubled spirit. I could not resist even the weakest among them, for with my mortal flesh I was simply bait, a tempting treat. Yet, I am fond of my visitors, whose worlds are much like my own.

Their corrosive tales of corruption and reprehensible acts no longer make me shudder in fright or grasp my sheets with sweaty palms, for I look into the mirror and see my own teeth glisten white and pointy, and my own flesh seethe over with pus.

And these are my dreams.

These are my monsters.

By Charles Richard Laing

Jane rarely joined me in the trophy room. The sight of her dead husbands glaring down at her from the walls seemed to make her a bit queasy. I was therefore surprised to look up and see her standing in the doorway.

"I need to talk to you, Roderick," she said.

"You've accepted Gordon's proposal," I said. After ten years, I could read my sister's mind.

"Yes," she said. "Gordon is a good man. I love him with all my heart. And he loves me. He's handsome. He's intelligent. He's caring…"

"He's rich," I said, stating the characteristic trait that my baby sister found most appealing in a man.

"Not as rich as Ted," she said defensively. "Or Brighton…"

Her eyes instantly found Brighton hanging on the wall, but it took her several moments to locate Ted. I had been forced to move him from his familiar position shortly after Gunther arrived.

"It will be different this time, Roderick. You'll see."

I was moved by the sincerity in her voice. She actually believed it.

I'm a fair man. I gave her my blessing. She was radiant when she left, doubtlessly off to call her fiancée to share the good news.

I spent the rest of the morning thinking about the impending nuptials. I liked to see Jane happy. She was the only family I had left, after all.

Still, I was a realist. I knew how it would end. Gordon was a redhead. He'd look good hanging between Lionel and Phillipe.

THIS ISSUE OF FLASH FANTASTIC -- "One Year On" is ©2004 by Jeffrey J Lyons.  "Dream Monsters" is ©2004 by Tobias M. Gerber.  "The Trophy Room" is ©2004 by Charles Richard Laing.  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 ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.

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