Turning The Page

The door opened with its usual creak. The bell chimed cheerily from above, as it had for fifty years. Sarah reached down and gathered up the letters strewn across the floor, flinching at the envelope with overdue emblazoned across it. She side stepped the untouched boxes on her way to the counter. She meant to sort them yesterday. But she could no longer see the point.

Heading to the backroom she put on the kettle and sniffed the milk from the mini fridge to make sure it hadn’t curdled. She poured herself a tea and blew on it as she walked back to the store counter. Dropping into the well-worn chair, she sipped her tea, and wistfully glanced around.

 

She knew every inch of this bookstore. Every nook. Every cranny. She grew up here. Had adventures here. She visited Narnia from the grubby old seat by the window. Fought the pirates of Neverland on the floor in the history section. Went on a journey with Bilbo on the sofa by the magazine rack.

She had her first kiss in the same back room where she had just made tea. Sarah was twelve, he was thirteen. He held her face and pressed his lips tenderly to hers. She still remembers the tingling sensation that rippled along her entire body. She touched a finger to her mouth at the memory of it.

 

She wandered through the shelves, running her hands along the rows of bindings. Opening a copy of Misery, she breathed in the pages. How she loved the way books smelt. The feel of the paper between her fingers. The promise of what was to come. Nothing could ever replace a good book, she thought. Except it had.

When Sarah’s father passed away, he left the store to her. With all its memories, and all its debts. She tried to turn the business around. Tried to make it work. She put in a few computers. Added a coffee bar. Ran some book signings with upcoming authors and hosted a series of poetry readings. Anything she could do to get people across her threshold. But who was she kidding, no one wanted books anymore. They had their Kindles, their podcasts, their quick hit of entertainment on their phones. Books were obsolete, and now, Sarah was too.

Tomorrow she would meet the men who would buy her stock, and Monday, she would hand the keys to the new owners. They were going to open a cafe, with organic beans, and vegan muffins. Or something like that.

 

Sarah sighed deeply. She took the copy of Misery and tucked it into her bag. A keepsake to hold onto. She flicked off the lights and turned the open sign around to closed for one last time. Then steeling herself, she stepped onto the street and shut the door behind her.

The bell chimed cheerily from above, as it had for fifty years.

© 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