Welcome to the end of the free flash fiction marathon here on our blogs. We started these on March 24th, and a truly extraordinary group of writers has contributed to the effort along the way. I would be very remiss if I did not thank the others for their beautiful contributions. But, first – a teaser: there’s some more to come down the road. Read the post for the whole story.
These kudos are not in order of anything except my looking up their links.
First, I’d like to thank Dr. Paul Bennett, who contributed a ray of sunshine and southern charm to the effort. Paul is the only author who did not write on on the COVID-19 theme, because he’s treating the patients. He did not need to write about it as well. Click his link and buy his books. He’s written beautifully of the Civil War and we are indebted to him for his contributions.
Robert Cely is guilty of bringing science fiction, horror, and God to the concept in about equal measures. His work during the past several weeks has run the gamut of themes and tones. His wife Elizabeth gets extra credit for beating him on a regular basis and making sure his posts looked good. Like Paul, he has a couple of great books you need to buy them at his website.
Derek Elkins comes to us by way of Neptune. I think. His stuff was always very edgy and shocking. I loved it. More than anything else, we were glad that we could drag him into the concept, as he hadn’t done this kind of madness before. Buy his books as well!
Kathy Kexel stepped right into the muck without hesitation. Not a writer of late, she came through with some very haunting tales. Stuff that made you think – which is dangerous for me. And she did a great job. She has no books for sale – yet. But keep an eye on her, because she’s got the mojo.
I don’t know what to say about the next two that wouldn’t sell them short. So let’s start with the one who shares my name: Joe Shaw. Shaw, as Shaw is want to do, started off with killing dogs and people. He had nowhere to go but sideways after that one, but what a ride. He provided us with a multi-parter that was very well done, gripping, whoo-boy-good! Joe is also lacking his first novel, and I know he’s working on remedying that little oversight. But he’s part of the trio that came up with this concept.
The final member of the team is Jamie D. Greening. I got nothing. Like Shaw, he’s a good friend. We’ve hung out together over the years, and I love his story telling. He’s got a bunch of books on Amazon like some of the others. He’s also one of the ones who brings God to the stories in unique ways. Without him, this would have been a very different two months of work.
So, now we’re at the end of the free stuff. But did I mention that there will be a book coming out this fall with all the stories? Like, in time for Christmas? And, God willing, an audio book? Yeah, baby. With some original, never before printed content. That’s right – some new stories. What kind? Guess you’ll have to pony up a couple of bucks to find out the answer to that question.
But we all thank you for riding along with us through the panic, illness, anger, frustration, and hope of the quarantine. We’re leaving the bunker now and setting our blogs to the normal setting for a few months. I will continue to post weekly, and make sure you keep an eye on the others. But we’ll be back in the fall with a Christmas present for your favorite readers. In the meantime, we’re all still writing, and all still selling books.
Now, for the final story in our free binge. God Bless.
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Miguel had never enjoyed the company of other people. Coworkers were an annoyance on their very best days, and on the bad days he was amazed that he didn’t bring a straight razor in and start venting not only his anger, but their carotid arteries.
Working from home was something he’d dreamed about for the last decade. Not only was his employer stupid, but they’d ignored his well-researched documentation regarding the cost and productivity savings that would result. Instead, they insisted he be confined to a cage peopled with morons.
It was the thirteenth week of his blissful exile at home. His cat, Blinky, was more than pleased with his presence. He’d never owned a dog, but Blinky was evidently much more like one than a cat from what he’d read. In any event, Blinky spent most of the day coiled up at his elbow in the room upstairs he was using as an office. It was the only room he could use for all the work computers he’d been forced to lug home, and the card table he was using was exactly 23 inches taller than his bed, which he used as his chair. . He had observed a ritual, shutting down the computers and spending his early mornings and evenings away from the bedroom. Work and sleep, but not in the middle.
There it was again. Chainsaws. It had to be chainsaws. But the window had been covered for 15 years to keep the outside world out while he slept. He was too busy with work to get up, walk downstairs, and look out his front door. They’d better not be cutting down the trees in front of his house, but it sounded close.
The computer had crashed, yet again. After calling his tech support person, he found out that the VPN (Virtual Private Network) he was working on had hacked up a hairball and would be down for another hour.
Pushing the table back from his bed, he stood and stretched. The noise of chainsaws inundated him as he reached the apex of his stretch. Angry, he went to the window, raised the blinds, and pulled loose the tape holding the piece of foam insulation in place. Gently prying around the edges, he pulled the cover away in a cloud of dust. Sunlight flooded the room, and in between his sneezes he blinked repeatedly.
The chainsaw crew was across the street in the park. His beloved Oak trees were safe. He’d started to push the light blocker back into the spot it had occupied for almost 20 years when his phone rang. Setting the piece of insulation off to the side, he spoke to his tech support person and logged back into the network, back on line much more quickly than he’d planned.
Hours went by, and he ate his lunch at his desk to make up time for the outage. Blinky moved from the bed to the chest trunk next to the window, basking in the sunlight until it had passed to the other side of the house.
Miguel found himself staring not at his display screens, but gazing out at the park across the street. He rarely was home on a weekday, and even with the virus keeping people apart, there were an amazing number of parents walking their children and dogs. A couple of young people were ignoring the quarantine and playing catch with a football. Probably brothers.
At the end of the day, he shut down his computer, pushed the table back, and went to adjust the blinds.
He found himself standing in the same place for over an hour. He watched the sun’s fading light casting long shadows across his view. A gentle scarlet hue bathed the walkers, human and canine, and he felt a peace he hadn’t known in years.
Closing the blinds, he went downstairs, made his supper and turned on the television. It was back off after just three minutes. The sense of peace he’d felt upstairs was peeling away like a rotten onion skin with each bobble-headed announcer on the newscast.
He picked up a book he hadn’t read in a very long time. It was sitting on the radiator shelf next to the couch.
Gently pulling it open, he turned to the place where the tassel had stayed for almost as many years as his window had been shut. He began to read.
Three hours later, he set the book down and wiped away his tears.
He’d misjudged others. He’d judged others. He’d isolated himself for so long, and stored up so much hatred for others, that he’d poisoned himself.
Setting the Bible aside, he cleaned up his dishes, washed out his tea mug, and shut off the lights downstairs. Setting the alarm, he climbed the stairs and was surprised to see the glow of the streetlight, and the vista of stars on the horizon, washing in through his window.
He sat there, talking to God, until after midnight. He couldn’t fall asleep. He had so many things he wanted to do, to try and make right.
Grabbing his robe, he went back downstairs, turned off the alarm system, opened the front door and sat on his front steps until sunrise. It was a new day, and it held the promise of a life free of his past. Of hiding in his darkened room. Of loneliness.
It was glorious.
He was free.