Hey spooky friends.
It’s time for another super short fiction roundup, where I share some of my recent favorite weird and spooky flash fiction. I’m not going to retell these in full, or spoil them for you, because I recommend you give them all a read.
And if there’s any kind of theme in this small collection, it’s to look at twice at reality. Normal isn’t always what it seems.
First up, “Not the Pizza Girl” by Michelle Ann King, published March 11, 2013 on everydayfiction.com.
“Lisa floored the van’s accelerator, thrashing the speed limit, weaving in and out of traffic on the A12 and even slipstreaming an ambulance from Gallows Corner to Gidea Park. It earned her more than a few angry horn blasts, a lot of obscenities yelled out of car windows and undoubtedly a shedload of bad karma, but it also shaved a good ten minutes off the journey. And when you guaranteed delivery in half an hour, no exceptions, that counted for a lot.”
You think you know what this story is about, but Lisa is delivering more than dinner. And her customer is in danger of way more than just the munchies.
“No, mate, I’m not the pizza girl. I’m the emergency magical supplies girl.”
This story is just fun horror. And it has so much potential, I’ve been thinking about it all week, and I would totally read something longer set in this world, or watch this movie.
If you’re a fan of The X-Files, The Cabin in the Woods, or even Hellboy, give it a read.
Next, “Ghost Collecting” by Sheila Massie, published in the October 2020 issue of Flash Fiction Online.
“On the appointed day, I arrived politely on time and announced my presence by ringing the bell. The chair sat on the front porch, rocking gently in anticipation. The owner must have told the ghost to expect me. Very kind of her. I nodded my respect to it. And I thought I felt a shudder of pleased surprise.”
Ooh. In this story, our main character is a ghost collector, responding to an ad for a haunted vintage rocking chair. But she doesn’t just want to interview the ghost; she’s also looking to recruit.
“She didn’t like ghosts and didn’t want one in her house. I had to hope I could change her mind.”
If you liked “Open House on Haunted Hill”, or if you like cozy mysteries, or shows like Warehouse 13, I think you’ll like this one. It’s sweet, it’s ghostly, and it’s hopeful.
“Larry” by Elsa Richardson-Bach, also from the October 2020 issue of Flash Fiction Online.
“I’m not exactly sure what Larry does.
I’ve worked in this office building eight years now and haven’t figured it out. Larry was here when I started and he still appears.Anyway. No one else seems to know either. Or, they do but they’re not telling me. Or, they think they know but they don’t. I asked Stacy what Larry did and she said, “Oh, Larry? He’s in management. You know.””
Who is Larry, and what exactly does he do here? In this piece, our unnamed protagonist unfortunately finds out.
“I left the office late. The place was empty—I’ve never seen anyone else stay even a minute late. Eager to get home, I guess. I was walking down the halls, thinking about take-out, when I ran into Larry.”
If you’re a fan of Welcome to Nightvale, weird cosmic horror, or the work of Cassandra Khaw, definitely check this one out.
And finally, “How to Confront the Sphinx Haunting Your Garden” by Alexei Collier, published in the June 2019 issue of Flash Fiction Online.
“If you are consulting this guide, you live alone in the house at the end of the lane, and a sphinx has been haunting your overgrown garden. So far you’ve dealt with the sphinx by countering her riddles with Zen koans, or covering your face when you pass so she leaves you alone. You’ve told yourself you don’t mind the sphinx, because she keeps everyone away, even the mail-carrier. But despite your professed misanthropy, you miss the catalogs and junk mail that gave you a connection to the wider world.”
This last piece of flash fiction is, I don’t know, weird cozy fantasy. It’s a set of instructions, addressed to you, the reader and also, you, the inhabitant of the house at the end of the lane.
“The sphinx’s presence in your garden should come as no surprise. Sphinxes make their homes in the cracks between realities, which abound in overgrown gardens like yours. Now that she’s settled in, the only thing to be done is to follow these instructions.”
It’s whimsical, and magical, and it feels like a classic fantasy story without feeling like a copy.
What I like best about flash fiction, successful flash fiction, is that it’s a bit like entering the Wood between the Worlds, from Narnia. You jump in and out of these wildly different worlds, different perspectives, laws of nature, supernatural creatures, twists on reality.
You jump into a pool and you see what’s there, and in a few minutes, just a few hundred or thousand words, you’re ready to leap into another.
And if you like the motivation, here’s a challenge for you: set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes and read the stories I’ve talked about here, or as many of them as you can get through. This isn’t meant to stress you out.
Here’s what I hope it does: at the end of 15 minutes, you feel a little more inspired, a little more creative, and remember why you like reading in the first place. Does anyone else need that right now, or am I just projecting?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these super short stories. Which one would you love to see expanded into a book? Which one would make a great movie? And if you were particularly inspired by any of these, how would you write your own version?
Stay spooky, stay safe, and try not to lose your mind.