Happy Endings

The sound of horses whinnying jolted Max awake. Groaning, he swung his long legs out of bed. There had been coyotes in the area, which was why his horses were stabled instead of grazing in the fields. He shimmied into his well-worn Levi’s, picked a t-shirt up off the floor and pulled it down over his broad shoulders. Padding sleepily to the door in his socked feet, he slid into his boots, grabbed his rifle and a torch, and stepped into the night.

With his torchlight bouncing across the ground, Max quickly made his way to the stables. Cocking his rifle, he gripped the iron handle of the heavy door and slowly yanked it open. Taking a breath to ready himself, he slipped inside and flicked on the lights.

“Oh!” came a voice to his left.

Max swung around; rifle raised. Standing before him, in a gown of blue satin and clouds of tulle, was a woman. She was startlingly beautiful, with brilliant eyes, and golden ringlets around her face. In her hand was an ivy wrapped twig with a large sunflower on the end, and though he knew it couldn’t be true, Max swore the woman was twinkling.

“Ma’am?” Max said, as calmly as possible, “Is there a reason you’re in my stables at two in the morning?”

The woman blinked.

“Ma’am?”

“I don’t suppose you were going to a ball?”

“Excuse me?”

“A ball?”

“Ma’am, the only kind of ball I know anything about, is a football.”

“Oh dear. I think I made a wrong turn,” she said, as she waved her twig above her head. A shower of stars burst from the sunflower and a map appeared in the air.

Max lurched backwards, tumbling over a bale of hay and landing with a thud.

“I see what happened,” the woman muttered to herself, “I zigged when I should have zagged.” She waved the sunflower again, causing the map to vanish with a ‘pop.’

“Who are you?” Max stammered, as he hoisted himself off the ground.

The woman glanced around the room, “Is this your kingdom?”

“My what?”

“Your kingdom. Your realm.”

“No Ma’am, this is Iowa.”

“So, you’re not a Prince?”

“No, Ma’am.”

“Well you’re handsome enough to be a Prince,” she said, casting an appraising eye up and down Max’s tall form.

“Are you flirting with me, Ma’am?” Max said, a grin stretching across his face.

The woman threw her head back, laughing with a sound like wind chimes in a soft breeze. “Well, you are cute and very polite, so if you ever need a fairy godmother…” She handed Max a card.

Max looked at the card in his hand. “Ma’am. You may want to rethink this card.”

“Why?”

“Someone could…um…misunderstand.”

“Could they?”

“Yeah. ‘For a happy ending call 555-FAIRYGM?’” Max said, eyebrows raised. “Happy ending…?”

“But, doesn’t everyone love, a happy ending?” and with a wink the woman vanished in a spray of glitter.

Max looked down at the card again, “Well, I can’t argue with that,” he said, and shrugging, he slid the card into his pocket, and headed back to bed.

 

© Amy Hutton 2020

 

Heaven

Music filled Lily’s ears. A bright, familiar tune that always made a smile stretch wide across her face. She walked with the crowd along the pristine street. The sun was shining and sounds of joy floated on the warm, summer air. Pink and purple blossoms dripped from baskets, and the brass on the lampposts they hung from, positively gleamed.

Lily gazed up at the sky. It was the most perfect shade of blue she had ever seen. “Of course, it is,” she thought. “Could the sky here, be any other way?”

It was still early, so she joined the waiting throng of humanity, soaking up the buzz of their anticipation. Their excitement. Their hope. Their dreams. This place was always awash with dreams. She looked at the little girl beside her, bouncing up and down in a pink, princess gown, her hair piled on top of her head behind a diamond encrusted tiara. She was beaming. Everyone was beaming. It was the only place Lily knew for sure, where everyone was always happy.

Lily closed her eyes and enjoyed the hum of the people around her. She imagined the taste of deep-fried dough and the feeling of its sticky, crystals of sugar that would inevitably wind up coating her lips. The sweetness as she licked them clean. A rush of pleasure whizzed through her at the memory.

Then suddenly, the crowd began to cheer. It was rope drop time and Lily opened her eyes just as the Cast Members cried out, “Five, Four, Three, Two, One! Have a magical day!” A sea of bodies surged forward, and an army of prams barrelled past as they raced towards their favourite land.

But no one saw Lily. Because technically, Lily wasn’t there. Not in the living sense, anyway. Lily died just over a week ago. But a little dying wasn’t going to keep her away from Disneyland.

She drifted through the park, silent and invisible, remembering the irresistible scent of the churros, and the cold tang of Dole Whip ice-cream on her tongue. She remembered how the wind had felt in her hair, as she sat unseen beside a single rider, and raced around the Thunder Mountain Railroad track, screaming unheard screams. She jumped the queue at the Haunted Mansion, and floated amongst the spirits in the ballroom, and laughed as she stood thumb out beside the famous hitchhiking ghosts. She skipped down Main Street at the front of the parade and giggled like crazy as she danced with an oblivious Mickey Mouse. She stood on the castle bridge, and watched in awe, as the fireworks exploded above her in deafening bursts of spectacular colour.

Lily had always said she didn’t believe in Heaven, but the truth was, she always did. And as she sat on a bench with the statue of Walt and Mickey behind her, and her ashes secretly scattered in the flower bed below, she now knew she was right. This was it. This was her very own Heaven. And it was the Happiest Place on Earth.

© Amy Hutton 2020

Crime and Sacrifice – A Flash Fiction

Five bodies lay sprawled across the small auditorium stage. The rest were slumped inelegantly in their seats. Senior Detective Wesson did a rough count. He figured there was twenty plus people in the room. Twenty plus very dead people. He pulled on his gloves with a sigh, and made his way towards Remington, who he nicknamed Steele, even though Remington was too young to get the joke.

“What’s the story, Steele?”

“Twenty-three people deceased. Cause unknown.”

“A mystery! That should be right up your alley.” Wesson slapped Remington on the back. “By the way, how’s the book coming?”

“Slowly,” Remington said, picking up a water bottle. He unscrewed the lid and put the bottle to his nose.

“What are you looking for? Poison? You’ve read too much Agatha Christie.”

“Poison, or airborne,” Remington said, ignoring the jibe. “Something killed these people, and it was either ingested, or inhaled.” He replaced the lid and carefully repositioned the bottle on the fold-out table attached to the arm of the chair.

Wesson surveyed the crime scene. He hated a mystery. Never understood why people read them. He liked things cut and dried. Questions led to more questions, which led to long nights, and he was too old for long nights. “Where’s the person in charge?” he said. His mood already beginning to colour his voice.

“Over there. The one with puke on his shoes.”

***

Wesson walked towards the gentlemen with the puked-on shoes, who was sitting by the door with a paramedic crouched at his feet.

“You in charge here?” Wesson said. His mood already making him brusque. “Up for some questions?”

The man wiped a handkerchief across his face camouflaging a sob. “I’m not sure what I can tell you?” he said.

“Let’s start with why they were here.”

“For a writing workshop. True crime”

Wesson stifled a laugh. “Well there’s some irony for you,” he muttered. “Hey, Steele,” he called to the younger man, “You should include this one in your book! A silver lining, yes?” He nodded enthusiastically.

***

Remington gave Wesson a tight smile. He hated Wesson. The moron. The man had never opened a book in his life. Remington was sure of it.

He cast an eye around the room. Twenty-three bodies with no obvious cause of death. The press will have a field day, he thought. He could see the headlines now. “The True Crime Murder Mystery.” He’d make sure to drop that line in the interviews he was bound to do. Then naturally, that would become the title of his book. His best-selling book. He smiled to himself at the genius of it all. Write a brilliant true crime story, and then turn that story into a reality. All it took was a little research and a dab of poison on a heating grate. He’d have to wait a while before he could publish, of course. He wouldn’t want to raise suspicions. But he should have the book on the shelves by Christmas. Then there would be the television appearances. The podcasts. Fame and fortune were in his grasp. And all he had to do was kill a few people. Well, twenty-three people.

But then, doesn’t all good writing require sacrifice?

© Amy Hutton 2020

The Eternal Fear

“Hey you!”

The guard’s call reverberated around the hospital walls, disturbing the silence in the otherwise empty halls. It was louder to William’s ears than it would have been for others, causing him to flinch, and he darted into the shadows, gliding soundlessly down a staircase before slipping through an unlocked door. He nearly laughed. He was in the mortuary. Sheet covered bodies on cold steel tables surrounded him. Their grey feet exposed. As icy as the metal they rested on. He heard the sound of urgent voices and saw the bouncing light of a torch approaching through the frosted window and searched for a place to hide. Stifling a laugh for the second time, he walked across the room and opened a square, shiny door, climbing into the narrow tube, and sealing it behind him.

He listened. His heart still. His breath hushed. After all these years, is this where it would end?

He remembered the first time he was hunted. It was a father and son. He had stolen their daughter; their sister. He had seen her under the moonlight and was instantly captivated by her beauty. Her hair golden, and her lips glossy with moisture. He had beckoned her to him. He had seduced her, and then changed her.

They fled together, hiding like animals in caves, sheltering in the dank gloom, and feeding on rats. But still her family came.

He remembered the moment the stake entered her body, and the agony he felt in his undead heart. He remembered the guttural howl seconds before her head was separated from her neck and how her pale skin turned leathery, and then to dust.

She was his first creation. There had been others since her, but it was only her destruction which pained him still.

He spent his eternity hiding in plain sight, feigning humanity. He even fell in love a long time ago. He was at first a sweetheart, then husband, then son, then grandson, as his face remained unchanged and hers grew wrinkled with age. When after sixty years together she died in his arms, he vowed he would never love again.

He pledged instead to live his endless existence causing no more harm. He picked his prey, the immoral, the criminal, the ones he decided didn’t deserve a life. He told himself that this was his debt to society. He told himself it was his repayment for all the innocents who had perished on his lips. But he knew it was just to quench his never-ending thirst. His conscience had died along with his soul.

Now, as he lay in the familiar darkness, he wondered, would it be so bad if his days finally came to an end? Surely three hundred and fifty-two years was enough. The only thing that made him continue to endure was the dread of the unknown that awaited him. “How ridiculous,” he thought, “That a vampire would fear the same thing as the living.”

Fear death.

© Amy Hutton 2020