What does the future hold?
Next Friday, I hope you will stop back by for my post: A Day in the Mind of a Horror Writer… or … Why My Brain is Different From Yours. I’ll take you through the seemingly normal events of my day with my own special spin on them.
But without further ado…
While I really enjoyed writing this week’s Flash Fiction, I might’ve missed the mark on the theme. Or at least part of it. My story isn’t necessarily “grotesque.” But they rarely are. I like to leave that up to the reader’s imagination.
As a reminder to those of you who might be new, Flash Fiction pieces usually follow a particular theme (usually sponsored by a particular organization. In my case, Vamplit Publishing) and have to be under a certain word limit (generally 1000 words… a little less than four pages). Once again, after extensive editing, I pulled it down to 999, and I hope you enjoy… The Professional Crier
[Necromancy: the art or practice of supposedly conjuring up the dead, especially in order to obtain from them knowledge of the future]
My name is Penny Circe.
If I had any friends, I’d want them to call me P.C. It would be funny, you know? ‘Cause I’m not really that politically correct.
But I don’t have any friends. Can’t blame ‘em. I probably wouldn’t be friends with me, either.
My school counselor calls me P.C., but not to my face. I overheard her once, whispering to the secretary when I was waiting in her office. “The Professional Crier is back.” I could detect the exasperation in her voice, like maybe she wanted me to hear her.
Of course I was back. After all, Randy Metz, the school quarterback, had died in an ATV accident. And anytime one of my classmates died, I had to cry.
Because my tears can bring back the dead. At least, temporarily.
Don’t get me wrong. I cry out of genuine sadness, too. How could Mrs. Gants not get that? After all, I am the only daughter of our town’s only mortician. (Correction. I was the only daughter of our town’s only mortician.) And dying has always been good business in our town.
The mortuary has been in our family for generations. Literally. We run it out of the house my great-grandfather built after the Civil War. The same house we’ve lived in my whole life. Death has been my playmate ever since I can remember. Nothing to be afraid of. But I’ve also seen the grief in the loved ones when he came around to play.
And I’ve seen the bodies left behind. And I’ve cried over them, just like I did with Randy Metz. But it never does any good. They never stay.
Sitting on my bed in the dark, I can only hope it works tonight. It hadn’t worked with Randy last Fall, and I haven’t tried it since.
The trick is to get to the bodies before the mortician. My father had a curious ritual when someone brought him a body to prepare. After a few minutes alone with the deceased, he would leave the house without saying a word. I never knew where he went, but I have a few guesses. He was never gone more than an hour, but it provided the time I needed. You have to get to them before the eyelids are glued shut or the jaw sewn together.
I learned this early on.
After they had “delivered” Randy Metz and my dad had left, I went down to the parlor. Randy wasn’t the cutest boy in school. But he wasn’t bad looking. He had even looked at me a couple of times. Most people just ignore me.
He didn’t look so good that day. Kind of grayish-blue. Scraped up pretty bad, and his neck was one big bruise where the four-wheeler landed on him.
The tears came then. I can’t really control them, but at least I finally I figured out what I can do with them.
As with every classmate who made their next-to-last stop here, after I had wiped my tears on his face, Randy opened his eyes in shock. And just like every other time, I thought I had done it… brought someone back from the dead.
Some, like Randy, would even sit up and look at me. Color would seep back into their flesh. After the initial shock, there would usually be a look of placid calm. Relief, maybe. But before they could say a word, they would get that terrified look again. Their eyes would return to a hazy, milky color as they seemed to look right through me, wide-eyed and staring at something I couldn’t see.
My old playmate probably.
And then Death would take them. Again. And I would cry. Again. But this time because I had failed.
But I can’t fail tonight. Tonight is more important than any other time. Tonight it’s my daddy.
I found him just after midnight. I had awoken from a particularly nasty nightmare and gone to his room. It had been a year since the last time this happened, but I knew he would still let me climb into bed next to him. But the bed was cold, even when I curled up alongside him.
I came back to my room and sat on my bed. But I haven’t cried, even though I really want to. I have to save my tears. I have to try one more time.
Daddy lost a lot of weight over the past year, so I’m able to carry him downstairs. His cosmetic effects are all there. And the cold steel table, scalpel, and tools for removing the blood.
I lay him on the table. Finally I let myself cry. Harder than ever. Puddles of tears fill my palms, and I rub them across my daddy’s face.
He opens his eyes.
But there is no shock. He smiles as color rushes back into his cheeks. He pushes himself into a sitting position. “My sweet Penny,” he says. My breath catches in my chest.
He reaches out a hand and wipes my tears away with his thumb. “I have the answers you have been seeking.”
Then it hits me. Hard. Like a book-filled backpack “accidentally” swung in your direction in a crowded hallway.
Suddenly I realize that I haven’t been trying to beat death all these years. I wasn’t reanimating my classmates because I loved them or anything (well, Randy Metz…) It wasn’t about them. It was about me. I’ve been wanting answers… to know what they discovered. Was there an end to this pain? Or would it be better if I just ended it myself?
Now here was my answer.
But all I want is my daddy back.
But before he can say another word, he gets that terrified look. His handsome blue eyes turn milky and hazy, and he looks right through me, wide-eyed and staring at something behind me.
My old playmate probably.
When he drops back on the table, I reach for the scalpel.
What do I want from you?
Okay, this is going to sound morbid, but if you could bring someone back from the dead (and so as not to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities, they would be perfectly restored), who would it be, and what would you want to know?
And don’t forget to check back next week for A Day in the Mind of a Horror Writer… or … Why My Brain is Different From Yours.
17 thoughts on “The Professional Crier- Vamplit #fridayflash fiction by Paul D. Dail”
Wow that’s a compelling question and a great story! I’ll have to think on that one!
I expect to hear back from you on this one, Erik 🙂
P.S.- My wife hates the Flash Fiction format. Says it leaves too many unanswered questions. I think she’s right with Penny Circe. I have a funny feeling you all might be seeing her again someday.
Wow, that was a very well thought out and put together story. Loved it. One huh? I think I’d have to save it, just in case.
Jason, thanks for stopping by and the kind words. Little confused, though. You think you’d have to save what? Your person whom you’d bring back from the dead? C’mon. I promise to respect copyright on any of my visitor’s comments 🙂
This would be for the future: George RR Martin, because he’s just finishes part 5 of A Song of Fire and Ice, and he has two more to go. That’s over two thousand pages of perfected product. He’s talking longer and longer to write them, so Murphy’s law says he’s going to die before he finishes the whole thing. So when he kicks it, I’d want to bring him back and find out how the whole thing ends. I will not be alone in making this wish when the time comes.
Mac, awesome comment. Maybe someone will host a contest to finish the books if (or as you seem to believe… when) he dies 🙂
Not familiar with Martin, but I will look into him. Thanks for stopping by.
I really liked that story! Very tantalizing. I hope you do write more about P.C. If I could bring someone back it would be Andre Norton so she could finish the “Elvenbane” series. It drives me crazy that I don’t know how it ends. Such a selfish answer though.
Hey Kodi, thanks for the kind words about the story. As to your comment, see my response to Mac Campbell. You both posted somewhat similar comments. Thanks again for reading my piece.
Great story, Paul! People have wanted to bring people back since the beginning of time. Would that be wise? Gives one pause.
Thanks, Blaze. And to an extent, I agree. Most stories show us that it would be a bad idea. As quoted from Stephen King’s Pet Semetary, “Sometimes dead is better.”
This was a really good story, Paul. I love the concept.
IMO, horror doesn’t have to be grotesque. And flash fiction is my favorite format. Your wife is right that it leaves a lot of questions, but that’s the fun part for me. The reader can imagine what happens before or after the scene. I love seeing how people interpret my stories. I’m always surprised and that’s half of the fun.
Thanks Danielle. I appreciate you stopping by and the kind words. I agree about horror. I think it’s part of the problem with labeling myself in that genre is that people tend to associate it with slasher flicks and the like, but I rarely do things in that vein. And yes, it has been interesting to see the interpretations. For example, it’s been interesting to see people’s interpretation of Penny’s character. Whereas I originally intended her to be more sad/depressed, people picked up on her creepier side.
By the way, anyone reading this should also check out Danielle’s take on Flash Fiction (you can click on her name). Generally 200-300 words. She captures so much in so few words (and I agree, Danielle, it allows me to come up with my own version of “the rest of the story.”)
Thanks so much, Paul.
When it comes to horror, slasher and gore-fests are fine, but I like psychological horror (when I can pull it off). I usually try to go for the creepy, which you did here. I saw PC as depressed, but her grabbing the scalpel at the end was chilling.
Are we sure we want to bring back the dead? It can be a touchy business, this necromancy. The dead, by virtue of having been in that state, have the gift (or curse) of knowing the answer to the question of eternity. But, over time among acts of immeasurable kindness and love there has also been treachery and hatred by those seeking the power of “knowing.” Raising the dead has potential for rapture or chaos. Its a palpable risk that we might want to ponder before taking.
On the other hand, there must be many who have someone they would love to have known better and others they desire to see just one more time. Perhaps that’s just better left alone. I don’t know.
By the way, great story Paul. Obviously, stirred up some powerful feelings in the reader and lots of “what happens next.”
Putting aside all the unforeseen ramifications of bringing someone back from the dead, I think an important consideration would be do you want to bring someone back you loved (my first thought) or would you consider bringing back someone who might benefit mankind? Not sure who the latter might be. That’s an interesting question, too.