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THE FLASH FICTION OFFENSIVE

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Drought

So if you live in California, you know about the drought. (And if you dont live in California, what the fuck is wrong with you?) Lately weve been blessed with rain. Lots and lots of rain.

Not saying this has to do with that. Then again, Im not saying it didn’t. I mean, sometimes it takes a little unconventionality to solve a problem. Or, in the words of Kevin Spacey, You can't win a marathon without putting some Band Aids on your nipples.

Drought by Joe Buck Williams




“It’s official now, chief. Worst drought in history.

The governor rubbed his temples and looked down at the report. Rationing. Farms seized, plowed under. Riot police guarding shipments from the Pacific Northwest.  Forced relocations. Prison camps. The end.

“Six months?”

“Assuming current weather patterns hold.”

The governor slapped the table. “I am not going down as the last governor of California. There’s got to be another way. Can’t we come up with something?”

Usually when Hector spoke, it was about the latest casino application, or maybe some protest over a new development on a sacred burial ground. What did he know about water?

“There’s one thing we could try,” he said.  

The group turned to him, expectantly.

“The only problem is, it’s a little . . . traditional. Not very scientific.”

“What’s the cost?” asked the governor.

“Nothing. Maybe twenty grand,” said Hector. “We’ve done it before. Back in 1977. And 1958. Plus, many times before you people got here.”

“How come I’ve never heard of this?” said the governor.

A pause. “This would be . . . off the books.”

The governor held up his hand. “I don’t want to know the details. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

A moment of brief discussion. A quick vote. Handshakes all around.  

*

Marty Dennison was uncomfortable. It was the kind of place his parents went—recessed lighting, expensive blonde wood, minimalist paintings that could’ve funded his company for a year.

He turned to his oldest friend, Preston. Brothers looked out for each other, sure, but there were also pranks. This had the smell of a prank.

“Looks kind of stuffy.”

“Bro!” said Preston, clapping him on the back. “You said you were in an epic drought, am I right?”

“Six months,” admitted Marty. “Since Gina left.” 

“Thursday night at the Geraldine Hotel, it’s fucking legendary! No founder leaves alone. Trust me.”

Marty had only been out a handful of times since starting ElasticDemand a year ago. Most nights he worked until tree. The app wasn’t taking off yet, but he had enough funding to get through the end of next year, and one of the reporters at VentureWire promised she was going to write about him when they expanded the beta. It was only a matter of time. Failure was not an option.

“Oh,” added Preston, as they walked through the swinging French doors into the bar. “I might’ve forgotten to mention. It’s Cougar night.”

Expensive designer dresses, cut just right. Tiny gold watches. Over-tanned skin. Fake tits. Facelifts. Every woman in the bar was at least 10 years older than them.

“You’re kidding.”

“Hey, Gina was older than you.”

“Only two years—she’s twenty-six!  I don’t want some wrinkly old hag.”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” said Preston, pushing him toward the tuxedoed bartender. “Plus, these ladies have money. It’s a win-win.”

They began circulating. The conversations were all the same: Oh, a company, that must be hard. Who funded you? Where’d you go to school? Stanford—local boy, then? Eventually, a hand on the back of his arm. A casual brush against his thigh. A lowered voice, mention of a huge empty house up in the hills, a new S-Class in the back parking lot. They were good, these ladies. Subtle. Practiced. 

The first one was too blonde, expensive bleach job hiding a nest of grey. The second one was too skinny, freckled skin pulled tight over bony clavicles.

The third lady was different. She seemed more genuine somehow, with wide brown eyes and a sly smile. She was dressed more casually than the others, skirt a little shorter, flowery blouse cut a little lower. Not a day over thirty-five. Her skin was a little darker, too—maybe part Mexican?

“I date all kinds of women,” he boasted. “I went out with a black girl once.”

“Is that so?” the lady cooed. She dropped her voice. “Most of these kids can’t keep up. My last husband, he was from Argentina, made a fortune in silver. Sometimes after a night like this, he’d take me right in the parking lot, before we even got on the road. I miss that kind of . . . action?” She put her hand into his pocket. “Call me Solange.”

“Beautiful name. Is that Mexican?” he asked. 

He never thought to ask what she did for a living. He assumed she spent her days with charity luncheons and tennis games, so was surprised to see the sparse black and white license plate on the back of the SUV.

“What are those, government plates?” he asked.

She pressed the key and the doors slid open. The dome light flickered on, briefly, and he caught a glimpse of what looked like a flat bed in place of the rear bench, draped with a clean white sheet. 

She grabbed him by the forearm and pushed him up the step into the dark space. He fell back onto the hard flat surface and she was on top of him in an instant.

Marty reached for the three-pack of condoms folded in his wallet. He was fastidious about his personal health and safety, and had never once forgotten to use protection. Not even with Gina. She had been with other men before him, so he couldn’t take the risk.

He supposed, in some primal sense, that made him a virgin. 

He chuckled at the thought as he slid into Solange, remembering that feeling of anticipation and completeness, like he was truly at the center of the universe as he longed to be, as was his birthright, his destiny.  He was coming home.

It was over much too fast. She pulled herself off of his lap and reached down to the floor of the SUV for her purse. Ugh, a smoker? Just his luck to end the night breathing secondhand smoke. 

“Drought’s over,” he said, not caring what she thought.

“It sure is,” she replied, jabbing the hypo into his triceps.

The men in white coats worked fast, opening his chest cavity as the SUV sped down the interstate to the Water Temple by the reservoir. A couple of electric shocks made sure the shiny red organ was still moving as they lowered it gently into the shallow hole by the edge of the water. The elders said the necessary words, sprinkled the herbs and extracts onto the heart as it beat its last, then filled the hole with dirt. 

Three days later, the rains began.

Joe Buck Williams is a writer in San Francisco. Like most writers on this site, he failed at rock and roll first. His debut novel, The Triangle: The True Inside Story of the World’s First Terrorist Rock and Roll Band, comes out with Gutter Books in 2015.

Dial A for Anthrax

Yeah, yeah, we all know revenge is a dish best served cold,

but what we forget is how far you have to travel for the right ingredients.

Dial A for Anthrax by Greg Leader Cramer



After I threatened to tell Grace everything, Tommy put his hands round my throat, eyes bulging. As he squeezed, he said, “This isn’t me.” I kneed him in the bollocks and he stopped squeezing and let me go.

I sat on the floor, fireworks exploding inside my eyeballs. Bertie, thinking we were playing, licked my face until I shoved him away. 

“Help me up, you bastard.”

He pulled me to my feet. “Sorry Debs.”

“For what? Nearly murdering me or dumping me?”

Tommy was a six foot three ex-pro rugby player with a serious body image issue. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes. “You can’t dump someone if you’re not in a relationship with them.” He lit one with a shaky hand. “Are you going to … you know …”



“Call it in?” I snatched the pack out of his hand and held it up to my ear. “This is DS Roberts. Yeah, I need to report an assault. I screwed my brother-in-law and then he tried to strangle me.” I threw the packet at him. “What do you think, Tommy?”

He put on his solemn face. “I care about you.” He flicked his ash into the kitchen sink. “You won’t say anything to Grace, right?”

“Oh fuck off you …” I fumbled for the right insult. “… you pencil-dicked ROIDHEAD.” 

He knew I wouldn’t say anything. My sister would probably die of a broken heart, but not before she’d taken me out first. How could she be with someone like that? A steroid freak with a Pekingese dog called Bertie, for god’s sake. Someone that would fuck his own sister-in-law. Grace deserved better.
***
I arrived at the mortuary just as the pathologist was beginning his internal exam of yet another homeless junkie. Simon waved a bloody hello with one gloved hand, and with the other, he pulled a large flap of skin off the torso and laid it over the face. He pointed to my feet. “You forgot your shoe covers.”

I glanced down to where my Manolo Blahniks peeped out from below my scrubs and gave him the finger. “Found anything?”

Simon was a big, jovial ball of fat and muscle with a silvery beard and naughty habits. Don’t ask me how I found out. Let’s just say he owed me a favor.

“Every body has its secrets.” Simon picked up a pair of shears and got to work detaching the ribcage. “Now, I’m not the detective here …” Simon, head down, waved in the direction of the workbench. “… but you might want to take a look at that.”

Bagged up on the bench was a small rectangular cellophane packet with a telltale brown tinge. “That was stuffed up her rectum.” There was a crack as Simon lifted up the chest plate, ribs and all. An earthy, muddy aroma permeated the room, mingling with the harsher chemical odors.

“And look at this.” Simon directed my gaze with his scalpel towards a nasty black abscess on the purple and swollen inner thigh. Its surface was encrusted with tiny bubbles. “Where she injected it. We’ll have to wait for the tests but you know what they’re going to say. Fifth one this month.”

There was a soft squelching sound as Simon lifted out the engorged heart and placed it onto a tray. “It comes from goats, apparently.”

“Goats?”

“Goats. There was an outbreak three years ago, in Glasgow. They traced it back to an infected goat skin from Turkey.” Simon lifted something that wobbled like a small brown blancmange out of the chest cavity. “The heroin was wrapped inside the skins. They stank so bad customs refused to inspect them.”



“Is it safe? To handle, I mean. I could drop it off on my way past the lab.”

“Sure, thanks.” Simon had pulled out the stomach and was holding it up to the light. “Just don’t breathe in.” He was still chuckling as I left.

I had an hour, maybe two, before Tommy and Grace got home. Stopping off at a nurse’s station to pilfer some supplies, I bypassed the lab and walked out of the hospital. If anybody asked, I would say I was following up a lead. The department didn’t really give a shit when it was just a bunch of lowlife junkies OD’ing. People start dying of anthrax poisoning? Then they take notice.

I let myself in to Grace’s terraced house with my spare key and eased the door shut behind me. A yapping started up from the kitchen. Fuck. Not wanting to advertise my presence, I let Bertie out of the kitchen and spent the next minute shaking off his desperate licks.

With the dog still under my feet, I found the spare bedroom-cum-office where Tommy stored his stuff. I had searched enough shitholes to know where he was likely to hide his steroids. The neatly stacked books were obviously out of place. Nestling inside a hollowed out copy of “Red Machine: Liverpool FC in the '80s” was a battered old tin filled with the assorted works of a steroid abuser. Bingo.

 I cleared a space on the desk, assembled what I needed and put on my mask and gloves. A spoonful of contaminated heroin went into a beaker and mixed with a little water until it dissolved. I took a syringe and drew in 0.5ml of the liquid, then pushed the pin through the rubber stopper on a little brown glass bottle with a hand-written label: ‘D-Bol: 50mg/day’. I pushed the plunger in and let out a long exhale, not realizing I had been holding my breath the entire time.

Total concentration was still required to cover my tracks and Bertie whining and licking my Blahniks under the desk was not what I needed. “Do you have any idea …” I dabbed a couple of fingers into the heroin and proffered them to the dog. “… how much those shoes cost me?” Bertie licked my fingers clean and wagged his tail for more. 

Greg Leader Cramer is a sceptic and a realist with a taste for writing about the dark side. He recently took a course with Chuck Palahniuk, one of his literary heroes. Other influences include Denis Johnson, Irvine Welsh and Junot Diaz. He is a Londoner in exile in Mallorca, Spain.

Watched

We love publishing conventional crime stories here at the FFO. Fucked-up heists. Double-crossed hitmen. Femme fatales with extra powerful thighs. Like prison food, its our bread and butter. But we also turn down a lot of these stories, which are good, because, well, we get so many. Todays story is a tip: you want to get in the magazine, think outside the box. Or, er, glory hole. Or whatever the fuck we call it around here.

A guys got to earn a living, right?

Watched by Joseph H. Stryker




“Why do you do this?” The words are colored blue.  The guest’s name is Viewer1537 and he has just entered the chatroom. I’ve been asked this question many times. Whenever I give the correct answer I always gain a paying customer.

“It’s what I know; I’m an entertainer. This is how I give back to the world.” My answer is not typed. The microphone picks up my voice. I take a sip from my water bottle then continue. “It’s also the only thing I can do. God knows I’ve tried.”
           
“How long have you been doing this?” With that I know hes hooked. My small studio apartment will soon become a permanent fixture in this person’s imagination. Four walls and two rooms. Six cameras will display it: five in the main room and one in the bathroom. When most people hear that I’ve got a camera in the bathroom they end the conversation. But when it comes right down to it I’m not ashamed. I pay my taxes same as anyone else.
           
“Four years now. Yep. Seems shorter though, that’s for sure.” Four years since I got out of San Quentin. Spent the better part of my life in that dump. As I think about my past a regular shows up.
           
“10,000 Tokens 4 teh nxt 1?” Their chosen name is Cagney37 and their text is red.
           
“If you’re willing to pay I’m willing to work!”
           
“Cagney37 tips: 10,000 tokens.” My right foot is still healing from last time but I have a job to do. I walk over to the kitchen and grab a steak knife, then go over to the ground level camera. I sit down Indian style and take off my socks. My cat Chandler sees the knife and runs for the bathroom.
           
“Which one should I choose. . .” I have seven toes left. Three on my right, five on my left. “You know what, I’ll let you guys choose. Whoever tips me 100 tokens first gets to decide.” The spot where my big toe used to be is covered with bandages. It was only last week that I cut it off.
           
“daemonT tips: 100 tokens.” As I get the message more and more viewers start to appear. “left big toe,” demands daemonT.
           
I reach for a bottle of alcohol and pour it over the blade. I start humming the tune to Rocky and begin to cut. The hard thing about cutting off toes, and fingers for that matter, isn’t applying a lot of force but having the willpower to cut all the way through. I learned that the hard way the first time I did this.
           
When I get all the way through I gasp and reach for a towel to stop the bleeding. I always make a big show of it, acting like I’m in a lot of pain. These people are paying to hurt me and you gotta give em what they want. Scream, shake, cry, whatever it looks like in the movies.
           
In reality I don’t feel a thing. I’ve got congenital analgesia. It’s a condition in which you don’t feel pain. Most people with it die young, not realizing when something goes wrong with their body. I ended up making money off it.
           
After I stop the bleeding and burn the wound I hold up the toe for all to see. I get an assortment of compliments and insults from my audience. Chandler crawls back out and I throw him my toe. He nibbles on it. I get a few tips for the morbid use of my cat.
           
Viewer1537 leaves the chatroom. Newcomer1537 joins the chatroom. Based on the IP addresses I can tell it’s the same person. “So you’ll do anything we ask as long as the price is sufficient.”
           
“As long as I’m still breathing. Your wish is my command.” I give them a halfhearted laugh.
           
“Kill the cat.” I stare at the screen for a moment. I re-read the words thinking it’s a mistake. “Kill the cat.” No mistake, that’s what it says.
           
I look down at him. A little red-haired tabby I’ve had for four years now. Found him outside this apartment complex. Half starved to death, he was lying in a pile of trash. The world abandoned him just like they abandoned me. Through the good times and the bad times, he’s always been there.
           
“Newcomer1537 tips: 100,000 tokens.” Chandler rubs up against me and purrs while nibbling at the toe. I pick the knife back up and stare at him. He drops the toe and backs away.
           
“I’m sorry, buddy. I gotta eat. Don’t see you paying my bills.”

Guess I don’t feel emotions either.


Joseph H. Stryker is a pretty boring person. Born in 1994 in Laguna Hills, California. He now resides in Lake Elsinore on the other side of the Santa Ana Mountains. He writes crime fiction and enjoys movies. Chances are you'll forget him the second you finish reading this sentence.