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Latest Stories

July 10, 2019
Romance Stories John L.Yelavich

Saccharine Smiles and Sandpaper Personalities

What is the most powerful force in the universe? Is it atomic fusion, military might, volcanoes, tsunamis or any other natural disaster? No, they are not. None of them can create havoc and paranoia in man any more than love can. Yes, love is the force that is…
July 10, 2019
Crime Stories J.B.Stevens

A Good Man

Jimmy hated feeling the delicate orbital bones splinter, but he didn’t have a choice. He needed to be free. It was unfortunate. Just the wrong place, wrong time. If he was out he could send money to Sarah. That’s what all this was all about, helping his…
July 10, 2019
Fantasy Stories Roger Ley

Turing Test

Mr Riley liked to start his day in the library. It was a short walk from his house and conveniently situated at the top of the main street in the Suffolk market town that he and his wife had retired to. When they’d first arrived, he’d joined the local writing…
July 10, 2019
Romance Stories Patric Quinn

Where or When

The front doorbell sounded its gentle Westminster Chimes and the thumping on the door started before Hazel even put her pen down on the papers she was working on intently. More curious than annoyed, she stopped writing, shrugged and started for the door.…
July 10, 2019
Flash Fiction Sheila Ash

Working Christmas Again

I always draw the short straw to a chorus of ‘Bad luck’. A reiteration of last year and the year before, and the year before that. Throughout the day, my ‘C’est la vie’ chimes on a constant playback loop. My expressionist shrugs repeat themselves as a…
March 18, 2019
Mystery Stories JD Plummer

Pseudonyms

“Gelb wants you to call him.” I looked at Frankie, opened my mouth, began to slowly shake my head. My reply delayed by the image of Gelb, monocle in eye, brow raised, lips tight, grimacing. I cringed at the thought. “I ain’t calling that prick,” I finally…
March 18, 2019
Fantasy Stories Lucia Balbuena

A Different Story

Her breathing was deep and steady when she run through the dense forest holding her grandmother’s kitchen knife in her hand. Her red cape was torn up, also her legs, hands and her face were cut by the tree brunches. Stop you are the victim, said the forest…
March 17, 2019
Crime Stories Wally Smith

Coda

Luigi Andante’s small apartment sat on the fourth floor of a block in the West Bronx at the corner of 18th and Davidson. It was adequate as a living space, but Luigi craved more than this. “A penthouse overlooking Central Park would suit me just fine”, he had…
March 17, 2019
Crime Stories Walter Giersbach

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Loser

Lorraine Vanderzanden had the thankless task being Lindstrom’s police chief. Her husband didn’t appreciate the risks she took. Her brother didn’t thank her for using her degree for something useful instead of helping on the family farm. Heck, she thought,…
March 17, 2019
Mystery Stories Jenny Webster

"Communicate with me, please."

I have been blind for so long, I didn’t even attempt to imagine what it would be like if I could see. I don’t know any different, all I know is darkness, and I base everything that I can experience mostly through sound. You see, I can’t walk either. I’m not…
March 16, 2019
Flash Fiction Michael Fredrick

Secondhand Santa

The late model sedan sputtered, coughed and dutifully careened forward on a cold December evening. Fred hit the gas pedal & ruminated as he always did, wondering again why life had dealt him this hand? Christmas Eve, foraging for returnable bottles to make…
March 16, 2019
General Stories Darrell Case

Trig's Smokin' Wheels

There were a lot of things Trig Nelson could do, many he wanted to do, and more things he couldn’t do. Trig couldn’t run, he’d never climb stairs or hills or mountains. He couldn’t play football or basketball. Being stuck in a wheelchair that would always be…

 

 

Joey saw the grinder and knew there would be trouble. The tilt of the thing in the weeds of the abandoned Cheshire Flea Market, the rust on it, hinted at the monstrous.

His friends—Art, Charlie, Rupe—dropped the empty pop bottles and rebar they’d collected. They clustered around the grinder’s gaping mouth. They buzzed, fidgeted, leaked steam through fixed smiles as they peered from under their snow caps into the black throat of the machine.

All but for Del, who hung back, small in his parka and frowning.

Joey shot a reproachful look at Del. His brother had to brave up before the others noticed.

“Cool as shit,” Charlie said. He worked the grinder’s wheezing crank.

“You could feed a whole pig in there,” Rupe said.

“A baby pig, maybe,” Art said, bending to examine the stains dripping dark from its reservoir.

“Babe the pig,” Charlie laughed. Then they all laughed. Even Joey forced one. All except for Del.

Rupe was first to notice Del huddled outside them.

“You don’t like that idea, Del?” Rupe blubbered, mocking.

“He looks like a baby pig,” Art said.

“Maybe we should feed him in there.” Charlie elbowed Joey. They shared a half grin.

“Look, he’s quaking,” Rupe said. “Baby pig’s so scared!”

“He’s not scared,” Joey said. He knew that was a lie even without having to see Del.

Del was often scared. Scared of the water park, because there might be Jaws in the pools. Scared of Yeti in the snow. Scared of cars and spiders and bedtime without nightlight.

“Come on, Del.” Joey motioned him closer.

“Man, he’s almost pissing himself,” Art tittered, pointing at Del’s shaking legs.

“Am not,” Del whined.

“He’s brave as any of you.” Joey pat his brother on the back. Even the brief contact betrayed Del trembling.

“The fuck he is,” Charlie said.

“He is,” Joey said. He followed with what he thought his Pa would say. “He’ll prove it.”

“The fuck he will.” Charlie snorted.

“Del.” Joey firmed his voice to Pa’s tone. “Put your hand in there.”

“I don’t want to.” Del’s whine scratched higher.

“Aw,” Rupe said, “listen to Babe squeal.”

“Del.” Joey set his grip around Del’s arm. “Do it. Now.”

Del lifted that hand. He slid it in the wide brown maw of the grinder. He looked away from Joey.

Joey stung. Del would do anything for Pa and do it with a smile.

Del rode bikes to show off for Pa even though he toppled from then. He’d been hit in the face by a football a dozen times, but still played catch with their old man. He took his whippings tearlessly even though Joey couldn’t staunch his own tears.

The boys only laughed louder.

“Deeper, Del,” Joey said. Del froze.

“Deeper,” Joey said, and seethed to hear his voice so high-pitched. He didn’t sound like Pa at all. “Now.”

“No,” Del whined, “it’ll hurt.”

“Now!”

Del’s fingers twitched against the rusted teeth of the screw conveyor.

“Such a scared little pig,” Rupe said.

“Deeper,” Joey said. “Don’t be scared.”

Del tugged back a little. Joey leaned in to pin him, shoulder on the crank.

“I said don’t be scared.”

Del shot his fingers down, flinched, tried to pull back. Joey pressed to the grinder to stop him.

The crank turned.

Del shrieked.

The boys startled back. Even Joey jumped. His body hit the crank again, shifting it further, making the screw conveyor growl.

Del’s shriek widened into a scream.

The other boys scattered.

Joey gaped at his brother. Del’s face was a wax mask, a mouth a blue hole cored in its center. Out of that hole came a hooting that rose and fell and rose.

“Del,” Joey moaned, “oh, no, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Del tugged his arm, gibbering, spit somersaulting from lips unable to close. Each tug tensed the screws. Each time Del relaxed, they sucked deeper.

Joey put a delicate hand on the crank. Del shook his head hysterically.

“I’ll try to get it out,” Joey said. He pushed the crank. It locked against turning back. It sank forward. Del was lifted on tip-toe now.  His unbroken cries took on a roar from a throat scraped raw.

“No!” Del yelled. “You’re doing it! You’re doing it to me!”

Joey couldn’t face that. He ran. Behind him, the grinder slowly bit its way up Del’s hand.

 

Joey hunkered in a tangle of trees for an hour before he could think.

The snow was coming down now. He had run until he could no longer hear Del, so there was no telling if the screaming had stopped. Inside him, Joey heard everyone he’d ever known yelling at him: Mrs. Cormier, Doctor Rawson, his Pa, his Ma, Del, Jesus, even Carson Palmer.

The yells didn’t go away. They just absorbed; a dull roar that was now part of him.

Joey imagined the tree a cage, the snow a poison, and hoped that night would bring death.

He hunkered and hung his head, shouting at himself inside to sleep.

It failed. Joey figured he would always fail:

Fail his Pa. Fail to take his beatings like a man. Now, fail Del.

Joey shook his head. Del, he wouldn’t fail. He had, but somehow he had to make amends.

He made his way through the tangle, and when the rumble of cars came, he followed it.

 

Joey stood by Lower Route 7, shivering in the bite of Ohio winter.

He felt the cold eating deep. Joey imagined his blood’s red cells vanishing, white ice crystals deposited in their place by fingers of cold. Soon he’d be all ice.

Better that, he thought, than give up on Del.

The Route meant cars. Cars meant adults. Adults meant help.

The first car to slow for Joey’s waving was a station wagon. It had burlap curtains in the back windows and a green paint that shone even in the dusk.

A spectacled man in surgical scrubs and a fur-lined coat rolled down the window and leaned to call to Joey.

“Out here by yourself?”

“Yeah.” Joey steeled himself to tell the rest. His knuckles cracked in their fists as he forced it out. “I did something while playing and my brother got hurt. He needs help.”

“Hurt?”

“Hurt.”

“Hurt bad?” The man’s expression snapped to a frown, as if serious was a setting it had.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Get in.”

The locks opened. Joey piled in. The man drove the moment the door closed.

“Where’s your brother?” The man asked for awhile.

“A field up ahead. Outside Cheshire.”

“Okay.” The man sniffed. His nose wrinkled and relaxed, bobbing his thick glasses on his face. Joey watched until he realized the turn-off for the Flea Market field was ahead. He pointed.

“Right there, Sir.”

The man didn’t slow. He cleared his throat. He slid sweaty hands over the wheel. He didn’t even glance where Joey pointed.

“It was right back there.” Joey found his voice just as high and broken as before.

The man nodded. He smiled. He went back to serious.

“I really shouldn’t be doing this,” the man said, squinted, looked at his rearview, then shrugged. His smile came back, cold as a slice of meat.

“Doing what?” Joey said.

The man locked the doors. He put his hand on Joey’s thigh.

“Don’t be scared,” he said.

 

Matthew C. Funk is an editor of Needle Magazine, editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a staff writer for Planet Fury and Criminal Complex. Winner of the 2010 Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story on the Web, Funk has online work indexed on his Web domain and printed work in Pulp Modern, Grift,NeedleSpeedloader, Off the RecordPulp Ink and D*CKED.

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