Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the sixth story in this weekly series: a 999-worder entitled ‘Lorna doomed’ by novelist and short story author Phoebe Matthews.
On the other side of the graveyard from the Mudflat mausoleum is a stretch of ground that could use a little Mudflat magic to keep things under control. Of course, if that were the case, this story wouldn’t exist. Lorna’s lament was first published in the Rotting Tales anthology, PillHill Press 2010, and now is included in the author’s Nine Horoscope-in-Catsup Stories, Wicked Good series of collected short stories, volume 1.
Head killing me.
No. Wait. Can’t kill me. I am already dead.
My coffin smells nice. Someone tucked lavender around me and the scent permeated the satin. The smooth shiny wood smells of polish.
I know exactly where I am and how I got here. Clancy cheated. After he swore he would love me forever if I would go to bed with him, and after practically turning me into a love slave for the past year, I found another girl’s comb and lipstick in his car. So I did the sensible thing.
I went straight to our school’s biggest gossip and I said, “Mary Tiffany, has Clancy cheated on me?”
If he’d given some girl a ride to the library, it wasn’t worth worrying about. So that’s what I hoped she would tell me.
Instead she said, “Lorna, if you don’t know, you’re the only person in school who doesn’t.”
She started to smirk and turn away but then her true nature kicked in. Mary Tiffany is happiest when she’s telling gossip to the person it will hurt most. What she told me was that the rat I called my boyfriend had five other girls who snuck him into their bedrooms whenever he wanted.
“Mary Tiffany, why would they do that?”
“Why do you?” she shot back at me.
“Because he said he’d love me forever.”
“Got it in one.”
What I got that night was my daddy’s gun. I wrote a note with tears all over it and put it in an envelope addressed to Clancy and dropped it in the mail. And next I put the gun in my mouth.
And took it out. Because what kind of mess would a shot through my head make? I’d need a closed casket. I’d been to funerals and seen faces all made up, with the hair arranged beautifully and those people were mostly old and wrinkly and had thin white hair. I have long eyelashes that Clancy says look sexy when my eyes are closed. And I have thick, naturally curly hair.
Didn’t want to mess it up. So instead, I moved that gun and shot my heart out.
How long have I been dead? Well, it isn’t like there’s a calendar on the inside of my coffin lid. My head hit the lid a moment ago, which gave me the headache, and went through the satin and the wood and then through damp, sticky stuff. Garden soil is what it feels like.
After digging my way up and out, standing is rather difficult. I grab hold of a tombstone to pull myself up. It is a new stone, shiny clean, with my name carved into it. How nice.
A voice shouts, “All of you! Follow me!”
When I look around, I see there are a half dozen people standing on nearby graves. They all lurch forward toward a man who is waving his arms. He’s dressed in black and truthfully, I don’t like the look of him. He reminds me of our gym teacher. When he isn’t shouting, he’s blowing on a whistle.
Also, something quite horrible happens. The first follower to pass me bumps into my gravestone and bits of him fall off. Really. His hand falls right out of his sleeve and lands on the ground and then an ear drops beside it. What’s more, his clothes are rotting and hanging in tatters and I can’t even begin to describe his filthy hair.
When I check them out I realize the other shuffling people are in similar condition, missing parts and wearing horrible rags.
My parents often warned me never to go anywhere with a stranger. Good advice, because although the man who is shouting is clean enough, why would I want to be with the others?
Instead I turn and walk the opposite direction. I feel lopsided, as though a heel has broken off one of my shoes. Continuing, I ignore the shouts. A path winds between graves and between two tall brick columns and out to a paved street. Center Street and Sixth. That’s familiar. Clancy lives in this end of town.
Perhaps by now he misses me and is suffering. I hope so.
When I reach his house, I stand beneath his bedroom window and call, “Clancy! It’s me. Lorna.”
My voice sounds as though I have a sore throat. I can barely pronounce the words.
The window bangs open and Clancy leans out. “Who’s out there? Who is that? Oh, I see you, whoever you are. I guess you think that’s funny? Get your ugly butthead off my lawn.”
The window slams closed.
Ugly butthead? What does he mean? He must not recognize me in the dark. I should knock on the door. Stumbling around the house to the front porch, I stand under the porch light and raise my hand to knock.
Something drops off. I glance down. It looks like a finger. No, that’s not possible.
My reflection looks back at me from the glass window of the front door. Clapping my hands over my mouth, I manage not to scream.
My naturally curly hair is a muddy mess and there is a worm inching across my forehead. My best dress has stains. One sleeve is torn almost off.
Bending down, I pick up the thing that looks like a finger. It is a finger. When I wrap my hand around it, two more of my fingers break away. Now I do scream.
And then I remember where I am. What if Clancy hears me and opens the door? What if he gets a good look at me? What if he tells Mary Tiffany? She will tell everyone.
Now that I know he lied, I also know Clancy never ever loved me.
If I return to my grave, no one there will gossip about me. First, none of them know about Clancy, and second, I look a lot better than anyone else I saw tonight at the cemetery.
Wow. I love the head hurting and then backtracking to why it hurts. 🙂 Thank you Phoebe.
I asked Phoebe what the inspiration behind this story was and she said…
Inspiration for the flash fiction? Hmm. A writer friend mentioned that zombies were the next hot protagonists for romance novels and I tried to get my head around the idea of anyone romancing a zombie. It made my head hurt. The best I could do was a flash fiction story. If I tried to make a novel of Lorna’s sorrows, my head would fall off. Sorry, Lorna.
Now that would be a story!
Phoebe Matthews has a backlist of books published by Avon, Dell, Holt, Putnam, Silhouette and others. Most of her out of print titles are now available again as ebooks. She is currently writing three urban fantasy series: Mudflat, Turning Vampire, and Sunspinners. All are set in the Pacific Northwest where she lives. Her historic Chicago 1890s series occurs in the neighborhood where she spent childhood holidays with her grandparents.
As mentioned earlier, this story features in Phoebe’s ‘Nine Horoscope-in-Catsup Stories, Wicked Good series of collected short stories, volume 1’. Available from the following places: Kindle, Apple iPad, B&N nook.
If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.