Chuck Wendig

“Bad Parents” – Chuck Wendig’s Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. TRIGGER WARNING

Just in under the deadline, here is my story for Chuck Wendig’s challenge from this past week. A story about “Bad Parents”, 1000 words or less.

This is not the story I originally intended to tell. That one I wrote, rewrote, rewrote again, and then finally deleted. I’m not ready to tell that one yet.

This one is dark, very dark. I give you fair warning now that it is about child abuse, murder, and such like things. If this is the kind of thing that upsets you, skip this one.

No one ever tells you about the smell. The movies, the shows, they make it look almost…glamorous, when you shoot someone. A bang, a puff of smoke, a bright light, a splatter of pretty crimson that paints the wall like that abstract painter guy…Jackson-something. Mom always liked his stuff. I didn’t get it. The smell is terrible. Like copper and shit and sewage. Maybe it’s different if you shoot them somewhere other than the balls and lower stomach?

Christ. I can hear him still. I wish he’d die but I don’t have the stomach or the will to shoot him again. And maybe…maybe I kind of want him to suffer, even if each groan that escapes his lips makes me feel like vomiting. Even through the door, I can hear him dragging himself across the floor croaking a strange, strangled, gurgling noise like some sort of sick frog. Disgusting. Bleeding and shitting all over the floor, no doubt. Mom is going to be so pissed off.

After all, he is…was…her husband.

I look down at the gun in my hand and I wonder how many bullets I have left. I never really learned about them. I mean, I knew the basics, but I didn’t even know how to load or reload or whatever you are supposed to do with them. I do know you point the dangerous end and you flip the safety thing and you pull the trigger. And not the button that makes the bullet-thingy fall out. I guess TV is good for something after all, huh? There’s always that ditzy girl who points the gun and presses the wrong button. Or gets reminded the safety is on. Dumb!

I wonder if I should shoot her too. Mom, I mean. Part of me screams at the idea, revolts. Another…not so much.

She let it happen, after all. She had to have known. No…she did know. I can’t make excuses for her. She knew. I told her. I told her what he was doing, how he was touching me…there. I feel sick again, just thinking about it. Have to force myself to stop. She knew, but she didn’t do anything about it. He was husband number three, after all, and she wasn’t getting any younger. She said that all the time.

So she put up with the shit. The laziness. The yelling. The name calling. The slaps, the punches, the bruises. The way he looked at me, her daughter. She listened when he lied and when he locked himself in my room she bought that the door must have “accidently” locked itself. When I would find any excuse I could to be with her, she said I was just too clingy. Seperation Anxiety? Really Mom?

I didn’t tell her at first. I was scared. Scared that he’d hurt me worse, hurt her worse. He threatened that he would. Said that if I told he would beat the shit out of her, break her, make sure no other man would ever want to be with her again. Did I want that? Huh, sweetie? You want your mom to have to earn her living lying on her back for ten dollars a pop, cause she sure as hell wouldn’t make more than that when he got finished with her.

But then one day she found me. Crying. Rocking. She took me in her arms and she rocked with me and she asked me.

“Cass, sweety? Is there something wrong?”
And I felt warm. Safe. I told her.

I still feel the sting of her hand. The bruises have faded but I still feel each punch. My hair still hurts when it remembers her dragging me through the hall, screaming and calling me a liar, a whore, a filthy little tempter. It was my fault, see. I shouldn’t dress like such a slut. She burned my makeup and my music and most of my heart that day.

“Casssss.”

What’s left of my heart plummets. He moans out again.

“Casssssss…c…c…call…..9…”

He stops, coughing. I hear something thick and wet splatter against the wood floor, and something in me snaps.

I open the door.

He’s right there. The smell is even worse now. The floor doesn’t look like a pretty painting. It looks horrible. Dark. Brownish. I gag. He looks up at me. Kind of looks like one of those monsters, zombies. I don’t know…I don’t like those shows. Too gory. He reaches out his hand.

“Cass…sw…sweetie…”

There is a pop, a shockingly loud pop and a ringing in my ears before I even realize I’ve shot him. There is a strange, gurgling rattle, and then he’s quiet. The only sound is the ringing in my ears.

I close the door. I cry. I can’t help it. God, what am I going to do? I sit there, at the door. I sit there for a long time.

And then I hear it. Keys in the lock. Mom is home. I look down. How many bullets are left?

I don’t know.

Maybe just one.

My hands tremble. I am so fucked. So, so fucked. The door begins to open. For a moment, it really is just like the movies. Everything is slow, deliberate. I look at the gun and I think, yes, maybe there’s just one more bullet left.

I raise my arm. The gun is so, so heavy. Heavier than I thought it would be. The door swings wider. I sit straighter. Proper. Ladylike. She walks in all fake smiles and empty cheer and an arm full of crap. She looks at me.

“Cass, sweetie? Is there something wrong?”

I smile. I press the gun beneath my chin, and I wonder.

Will she believe me now?

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“What the Heart Seeks” – Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Doing The Subgenre Twist, Once Again

Another week, another interesting challenge form the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig!  This week, we had to choose two story genres at random, and mix them together into a single story of subgenre-melty-goodness in 2000 words or less. As usual, I used the random number generator/recorder at Invisible Castle to keep myself honest, and came up with an 18 and a 2 – a Noir Dystopia. Shiny!

I came two words shy of the goal with the following piece, “What the Heart Seeks.”  It was harder than I thought, inserting dystopian elements into a noir world. I ended up adding a touch of sci-fi to the mix, and shook it real hard. I hope the results tickle your tastebuds.

I knew she was trouble the moment she walked in the door. Her hair was long, loose, dark, falling over her shoulders like an avalanche of black curls. Her eyes, green as a piece of fine jade. Her lips, shockingly red and shockingly full. Her skin, lightly tanned, as if the sun had kissed her ever so gently. Her clothes so tight, I’d have sworn she was shaken up and poured into them. Every bit of her, head to toe, was a violation of the Morality Code. And frankly, I didn’t give a damn. I tossed out the garnish of taboo and drank her in like a drunk at an open bar.

“Mr. Monroe?”

I must have been staring too long, because her eyebrow raised, and she cocked a hand on one of those impossibly curvy hips. I went to speak, found my jaw was hanging slack, closed it. Rolled my head and shrugged.

“What’s it to you?” I said, trying to play disinterested, though I was sure I’d blown that hand already.

“I hear you’re a Seeker, Mr. Monroe. A good one.”

I put a toothpick into my mouth, gnawed on it. I wanted a cigarette, bad, but I was out of cards for them and though they were plentiful on the black market, getting caught sucking down on one without a ration stamp was more trouble than I wanted to get in. And no matter how tempting she looked, I didn’t know this dame. Best to play it safe.

“I have been known to find things, sure. For a price.”

“What kind of things?” she asked, sauntering closer.

“Things,” I shot back. I don’t like being interrogated.

“You ever find…people?”

I paused. My chewing stopped. I reached up and pulled the toothpick from my mouth, and spun it in my fingers. I knew what she was asking, and it could get me in a lot of trouble. Unlicensed use of meta-human abilities was punishable by…well, anything they damned well wanted to do. Still, there was something about her. I gave in.

“People are tough. Not like objects. They change too much, nothing solid to focus on. Besides, most the time, someone goes missing, it’s because they crossed the Greycoats.”

Outside, a shrill whistle sounded, followed by the sound of running, cries. Punctuated my point perfectly.

“Tough,” she said, almost a whisper as she leaned in real close, “but not impossible.”

I couldn’t help but get a whiff of her, of that sweet, unidentifiable but completely irresistible perfume. I can’t deny, it had an effect. Down below, I felt myself stir in ways both immoral and illegal. Damn…this dame was trouble. Why, oh why do I like trouble so much? Still, long as it had been, much as I may be driven by those illegal, animal desires…I don’t work for free.

“No. Not impossible, Miss…”

I paused. I hadn’t even thought to get her name. It’s like she pushed every single one of my buttons, just right. I felt a flush rise to my cheeks.

“Neris. Neris Molpe, Mr. Monroe,” she said, with a smile that could melt even the black heart of a stalwart Greycoat.

“Uh, you can call me Sam.”

“Alright…Sam. So…will you take the job?”

I almost said yes. Hell, if she had asked right then, I might of walked right up to a Grey Inquisitor and pissed on his boots. But there’s one thing that drives me more than even the most primal lust.

“First, there’s a matter of cost. Seeking’s risky business, and battin’ those eyes won’t pay the rent. Or the taxman. Or bribe the Inquisitors. I need to know what you’ve got to offer before I can say one way or the other.”

Her demeanor cooled slightly.

“Of course,” she said, and the chill from her lips could have frosted over glass. Oh well. So much for that fantasy. She reached into her bag, a nice, colorful thing that would have gotten her arrested in a less questionable part of town. Color incites passion, passion incited immorality. That’s what the loudspeakers said, anyway, wasn’t it? Her hand slid in, slid out, now carrying…

My jaw dropped. My heart pounded wildly beneath my wrinkled shirt and battered overcoat. I literally had to rub my eyes, to be sure I wasn’t seeing things. I even thought about pinching myself.

“Are those…”

“Reproduction licenses, Mr. Monroe. Two of them.”

She may well have said she held the contents of the Imperial treasury in her hands. Reproduction was highly, strictly regulated. It could take a couple a dozen years or more to get a license for a single child. Many who got them found that years of chemical libido inhibition also killed their ability to have children, but by some strange lack of oversight, the licenses were open. They weren’t bound to a particular name or couple. They were transferable. And very, very pricey.

I licked my lips. Didn’t want to seem to eager but I really couldn’t deny that I was. I rubbed my jaw, felt the stubble that had grown there.
“Alright, Ms. Molpe…”

“Neris, please.”

“Yeah. Alright Neris. You have yourself a Seeker.”

***

It’d been a long night. Miss Molpe…Neris…was hesitant on the details. Couldn’t blame her for that, though. These days, anyone could be a Greycoat. Even me.

We’d evaded three patrols so far, running through dark alleys and abandoned service tunnels, following the distinctive pull my mind felt towards the object of her desire. Every once in a while, the trail would start to dim, and I’d have to ask her for another detail to freshen the imprint. Like I’d said, humans are tough. Changing. Moods shift, and something that defined a person one moment might change the next.

It’s easier, of course, if the person in question has some sort of unchanging feature; a significant scar, a great hairy blemish, a tattoo…well, a tattoo would work if they hadn’t been outlawed by Imperial edict. Even then, though, the way a person views their own attributes can sway how well they can be Sought. Where I might see an angry red scar, the bearer might see a proud badge of heroism. The devil is in the details, they say.

And the devil was poking me, hard. I fingered the stiletto hidden in the sleeve of my trench coat, then sighed.

“I need something more,” I said, sucking on my teeth as I tried to pinpoint the fleeting tug of my Seeking. Neris leaned against the alley wall, trying to catch her breath. I guess we’d been moving a bit faster than she was prepared to go; hard to say. When I start Seeking, I tend to loose myself in the pursuit. She held up a hand. I nodded.

After a moment, she closed her eyes and furrowed her brow. It was clear that she was trying to find just the right detail out, that wouldn’t expose too much information but give me enough to give her a lead. A tingle of paranoia crept up my spine like a spider up a drainpipe, but with a shiver, I dismissed it. Paranoia was the norm these days, ever since the emperor dissolved the senate and handed power directly to the Inquisitors. As much as I might distrust her, she surely distrusted me.

“Can we rest a moment more?” she asked, opening her astonishingly jade eyes and batting her lashes. Those things had to be a mile long. I grunted, gave a nod. But something was nagging me, and I had to ask.

“Who are we tracking, Neris? Boyfriend? Relative?”

Her cheeks flushed the color of a cheap wine.

“No…nothing like that. He’s just…someone who…has something of mine.”

“A thief?”

She shrugged, looking away from my eyes. My jaw tightened, eyes narrowed.

And then she looked up at me again. Those eyes, those impossible eyes, gazed at me like she was drilling a hole in my soul and looking to strike gold. And damn if she didn’t.

“Please, Mr. Monroe…I can’t. I can’t talk about it more than that. Is it enough that he has something of mine? Can we work with that for now?”

I concentrated, felt the return of that familiar tug. Yes…that would work. I nodded, and we were off again, chasing the ghost of her little thief. Whoever he was.

***

We hunted most the night, when we finally came upon the end of the line. The tugging within me, the feeling I’d followed all night, released. Tension fled from me like water from a sieve. I felt my muscles loosen, relax.

“He’s here,” I told her, nodding towards the abandoned storage buildings across from us. “He’s inside one of them – sorry I can’t be more accurate, but this is as close as I can get with people.”

Neris nodded, and started to walk briskly towards the buildings, when that wave of paranoia hit me again. I reached out, stopped her.

“Wait. Something’s wrong.”

My eyes narrowed, searching, not Seeking. It was quiet. Too quiet. No sounds of whistles, no barking dogs. No signs that an Imperial patrol had been through here, no sign that they were coming. And where there are no signs of Imperials, there are almost always signs of crime. This place was clean. I pulled Neris back behind me, reached into my jacket, pulled my unlicensed revolver.

“It’s a trap,” I growled.

“I know,” she said, and I felt the cold, round touch of a barrel against the back of my neck. Every bit of me cringed. I’d been had. Hard.

“Your gun. Drop it.”

I considered, briefly, resisting. I’m no slouch when it comes to using a gat, and my impression thus far was that this dame wasn’t used to getting her hands dirty. Not this way at least. And then, the Greycoats came. A whole squad, swarming out from the storage buildings. I may have been able to take her, but my gun was at least a dozen rounds shy of taking the rest.

“Excellent work, Mrs. Molpe,” the lead Greycoat said. “We’ve been after this Seeker for some time now, but he has always proven too slippery a fish.”

Mrs. Molpe? Fuck me.

“Stop, Donovan,” she said, her voice cracking in what almost sounded like sorrow.

He slapped her, hard.

“That’s Captain Donovan, you dirty little Enticer.”

An Enticer? They sent an Enticer? It all began to make sense. The loose details, the feelings of paranoia, the way I set aside my usual distrust so easily. I looked at Donovan. Shit. He was the one I was Seeking the entire time.

I looked over my shoulder at the apparently married Neris Molpe, and sneered.

“Don’t,” she pleaded, “Don’t hate me, Sam. They have my husband. I didn’t have a choice.”

“Everyone has a choice, Neris.”

“Not true,” Donovan said pointing his gun at me menacingly, “You are out of them, Mr. Monroe.”

I smirked. Couldn’t help it. I  had a choice.

I lunged, and as I did, pulled the stiletto from my coat sleeve. Donovan’s eyes widened; guess he’d never had anyone resist before. He tried to bring his gun to bear, but I was on him to quick. I buried my blade in his throat. He gurgled, gasped, fell backwards.

I felt the first shot that hit me, but I didn’t feel the rest. My body became suddenly heavy, and I slipped to the ground. I heard Neris scream, and a moment later, felt her arms wrap around me, cradling my head.

“Sam! Oh, Sam…I’m sorry Sam!” she said, sobs wracking her body. I tried to move, couldn’t. Hurt.

“S’ok, dame. I made my choice.”

Coldness swept over me. My sight began to fail. I looked at her, at those impossibly green eyes, and smiled. Imagine that. Me, in the arms of a beautiful dame, her eyes heavy with tears for a cagey old Seeker. I tried to laugh, coughed blood instead.

There were worse ways to go.

“Rum Punch” – Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Cocktail Is Your Title

This week from the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig comes a challenge to use the name of a randomly generated cocktail as the title of a story.

Using the dice roller at Invisible Castle, I came up with #12: Rum Punch.  Chuck gave us a limit of 1500 words, but the kind of story that came to mind needed a lot less, kind of like the protagonist. So here, weighing in at 690 words, is “Rum Punch.”

I saw him as soon as I walked in, standing behind the bar, polishing the table with an old rag. His knuckles looked slightly bruised, and I knew why. It’s why I’d come. I looked around, briefly. The place was dead. Good. I walked up to the bar.

“What’ll it be?” he asked.

“Rum punch,” I growled.

He looked up, took me in, a look of confusion on his face. Six-two, two-hundred forty pounds of heavy muscle. Long dark hair, goatee. Dark glasses. Motorcycle boots. Leather. That was me, and probably not the kind of guy who’d normally order that kind of drink. Not something a shithole dive like this would be prepared to make any way. He smirked. Thought it was a joke.

“Rum I’ve got,” he said, placing a half-empty bottle of swill on the counter, “The punch, you’ll have to provide yourself.”

Thought he’d never ask.

My fist connected with his nose in a blur of meat and fury. I felt the bones beneath my blow bend, give, break, till his face felt a bit like jelly beneath the pressure of my fist. He reeled back, tumbling against the back counter, arms flailing. I cleared the front one in a leap, grabbing the bottle of swill as I cleared it. I brought that down on his head, hard.

A bottle of rum, even the cheap shit, is tougher than it looks. It’s not like it is in the movies. It doesn’t break when you look at it funny. I clocked him with it. Clocked him again. A third time. When it was clear he wasn’t going to move, I flung it to the side, towards the concrete floor. That’s when it shattered.

I breathed in, deep and heavy, and looked down at my work. He was a mess, that was for sure. I nudged him with my boot. He groaned. Good. Wasn’t dead. I snatched the rag from where he left it on the counter, and wiped his blood from my knuckles. I grabbed another bottle of swill twisted the top, and poured it over his bloody form until he started screaming from the burn, and then I reached down, grabbed him by the shirt, and hauled him up to the counter.

He whimpered, covered his face with his hands.

“Don’t feel too good, does it Tony?” I barked. He winced. I slapped him.

“This is a message, Tony. Jimmy don’t like guys who beat up girls. Especially not girls under his protection.”

His face paled more from the mention of my boss’s name than it did from my beating. Jimmy “The Gent” Alvarez was a hard, low man, but he’d earned his nickname for his civility towards the opposite sex. Since he’d taken over this side of town, decided to make it clear that certain actions would no longer be tolerated.

That’s where I came in.

You see, I’d been out of the game a long time. I’d taken my bruises, given back more. But Jimmy was an old friend, and I knew that, unlike some of the shit stains who took up turf in this town, Jimmy wanted order. Profitable order, sure, but order. And it was clear the cops weren’t ever gonna provide it. So he came to me.

“Pinky Black,” he’d said, strolling into my garage, “Been too long. I’ve got some work for you.”

He made me an offer. I countered. No women, no kids, no one who wasn’t a dirt bag. I wouldn’t be shaking down storeowners or the like. The Gent liked that.

“It’s more profitable to protect than to threaten,” the Gent said.

So here I was. I made a brief search behind the bar, tucked the hand cannon I found there into my waistband. No sense catching a bullet on my way out. I turned back to Tony, who still sat trembling on the bar back.

“This was your warning, Tony. You only get one.”

I turned, walked out. I flipped the sign on the door to “Closed” as I passed. A handful of roughnecks paused as I did.

“He’s closed,” I said. “Ran out of rum.”

 

“Rider from the Storm” – Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge: The Phoenix

It’s that time again folks, from the talented and ever terrible mind of Chuck Wendig comes another weekly challenge. I decided that this time I would continue the story from last week’s attempt, as I like the world I was building there and this prompt gave me a perfect excuse to revisit it.  Hope you enjoy another slice of Li Drevin’s life…

“Li Drevin?”

I ignored the woman asking my identity and continued loading the limited storage space on Harley, my warp-bike. I spared a glance her direction, saw the uniform, and thanked the ancestors I’d chosen not to respond. It didn’t matter. She saw my glance, and her face took on a hard glare.

“It’s no use ignoring me. I was confirming your identity as a matter of civility, Mr. Drevin, but I know it already. I’ve come to bring you back to the Congress. They weren’t done with their questions.”

“What’s more to ask, Lieutenant…”

I glanced briefly at her chest. Strictly professionally, I assure you.

“…Anders? I’ve told them what I came to tell them. I’ve warned them of what’s coming, and how quick it’s doing so. Now I am going to jump on my bike, hit the black, and get my way to the other side of the galaxy, quick as I can. I don’t have time for political bullshit.”

None of us do, I thought.

“And what then?” she asked, crossing her arms, “If these things – what did you call them? Phoenix? Phoenixes? Phoeni? What is the plural for them?”

I hadn’t named them. I was just hired help, out on the galactic rim, that happened to be on the planet where they were found and knew the scientist who named them. Gracie Wu. Poor girl. She’d called them Phoenix when she’d found their ancient, long-buried ship during a geological survey. Their bodies, desiccated and lifeless, revived with exposure to the light of that system’s star. As they revived, they emitted brilliant flashes of bioluminescence.

Like a phoenix from the ashes, Gracie had said.

That was just over three cycles ago. Gracie was dead, now, along with nearly everyone else on that world.

“Phoenix,” I grumbled, “The plural is just Phoenix, like fish and deer. As for what I’ll do then…”

I sighed. What would I do then? The Phoenix, at first, seemed benign. Almost plantlike in their forms, their limbs like tendrils, roots, off shoots of pulpy, vegetative bodies. Then they began to move. To walk, or writhe, or slither, or whatever the fuck it is one does on tendrils.

Then they began to fly.

That was the first sign that something was wrong. When the first one took to the air, hovering, much to the misplaced delight of the people watching. Then it struck. Fast as lighting. A tendril drilled deep into the heart of the lady who’d brought it back to life. It consumed her from the inside out, shriveling her flesh till it looked like the things she’d pulled from the ground. And then…then her flesh began to writhe, to wiggle in the sun. To reform, to expand, to move on its own power. Hot light burst from her, and she stood. Not Gracie. The thing that wore her body, her face, but not Gracie.

The planet was overwhelmed in hours.

I’m fast, damned fast. Not just on a warp bike, but on foot. Always have been. I still don’t know quite how I’d gotten away but I had, and I wasn’t going to give them a second shot at me. So I’d go, far. Other side of the galaxy, and from there? A sleeper ship maybe? I know they were launching some outwards to the distant arms of another conglomeration of stars. I didn’t know.

All I did know was that a storm was coming. And I planned to ride ahead of it for as long as I could.

“Mr. Drevin, please come back to the Congress. I don’t want to have to use force.”

I turned back towards the young lieutenant, and saw the stun-rod in her hand.

Like I said, I’m fast. Damned fast. Her arm was already in motion, but I was a blur, stepping underneath and pushing her arm, helping momentum carry her swing too far and off balancing her. I placed one leg slightly behind her, and pushed, toppling her to the ground and snatching the stun-rod from her hand. She looked up at me in shock, her eyes focusing on the tags that hung from my neck, with their distinctive black and gold stripes. Her mouth hung agape.

“Drevin…you – you were at Lisborn?”

I felt the color drain from my face.

The Battle of Lisborn. The last great battle in a war of greed and power-grabbing. And attempt by a bunch of wealthy, power hungry fucks to break apart the Republic. It was at Lisborn that they’d used their ace card, the device they thought would make even the might of the Republic tremble. The Star Crusher. Tens of millions lost in a moment. A blink of an eye, the collapse of a star. Everyone in the system dead. Everyone but one.

I’m damned fast.

The only good thing that came out of Lisborn, myself included, was a sudden, crushing defeat of the separatists. They hadn’t counted on the Republic doing that, and the Star Crusher? They only had the one. Their bluff got called, and they folded faster than the star that Lisborn orbited.

The mood shifted. I reached out, helped Anders up, handed her back her stun-rod. I noted her face, as pale now as mine had been at the mention of Lisborn.

“Ancestors be merciful,” she breathed, her eyes welling with tears, “You aren’t lying. They’re coming.”

I nodded.

“What should we do? What can we do?”

I shrugged.

“Head for the far side of the galaxy,” I said, “Maybe catch a sleeper ship. Try to stay ahead of the storm.”

I paused just long enough to throw a leg over Harley. Anders didn’t do a thing to try and stop me.

“Stay ahead of the storm, and hope to the thousand hells that they can’t cross deep space.”

I pulled on my helmet, touched off the bike’s engines. I left her there, staring off into the black. Staring in the direction of the Phoenix, and the coming storm of fire.

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Stock Photo What-The-Palooza

I don’t know why, but I’ve always found it hard to write based off of a picture for inspiration. Weird writing prompts I can go with all day, but show me a picture and tell me to write about it, and for some reason, I always freeze up. I don’t know why that is, but I found it to stay true with this week’s writing challenge from the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig.

That said, I committed to a picture (#42, posted below) , and interestingly enough, as I sat her struggling with writer’s block, I realized exactly what my story would be…

Below, said story and the picture that inspired it.

Image

“Don’t do it,” he said. “I’m telling you now, it’s a bad idea.”

I looked at the man before me and I have to admit, I was puzzled. Maybe it was the cheap, flimsy bathrobe wrapped around his body, almost but not quite translucent enough to reveal the hairy body beneath. Maybe it was the oh so fashionable soup strainer mustache, or the matching bushy eyebrows that made one think of stale cigar smoke and cheap booze. Maybe it was the way he was holding up a grocer’s scale like some strange vegan version of Lady Justice, weighing heads of lettuce like they were the heads of the condemned in revolutionary France. Maybe it was the bunny hood.

It was probably the bunny hood.

“Don’t do what, exactly?” I asked, still not quite sure what he was talking about or where he actually came from.

“Don’t start it like this.”

“Start what?”

“Your story, dimwit!”

“My story?”

“Yeah. Don’t you know that starting a story with a dream sequence is a bad idea?”

A dream sequence! That would explain some things, sure! I pinched myself, hard. It stung. The bunny-man gave a tsk-tsk, shaking his head sadly.

“See, there you go, running with the dream tropes. Pinching yourself, really? Let me guess, your next step is gonna involve a splash of water?”

I looked down at the liquid laden bucket that had inexplicably appeared in my hand. I set it down gingerly, somewhat embarassed. The bunny looked pleased.

“So, if this is a dream,” I said, “who are you supposed to be?”

“I’m not going to tell you,” he replied. “Look, I’m offended enough just being here. That you expect me to then reveal some great detail about your inner turmoil and traipse gleefully through exposition land is, frankly, insulting. You want to know why you’re here? Figure it out your damned self.”

“Ah!” I exlaimed, “I know exactly who you are!”

“Do you?”

“I do. And you’re an evil bastard, let me tell you.”

“Please do. I love hearing about my questionable parenthood from a guy talking to a man in a rabbit suit.”

“You’re him. The wicked beast that haunts me any time I try and write a story based off a picture based prompt. You’re Writer’s Block!”

The rabbit-man laughed, and gave a half bow.

“Guilty as charged,” he admitted, “but I’m really not so bad as that.”

“I think you are.”

“Of course you do. You’re a writer. You’re bound to hate me.”

He took a break to set down the scale and the lettuce, plucking a single leaf and then munching on it loudly.

“But,” he said between chomps, “What you don’t realize is that I’m the greatest pal you’ve got.”

I stared blankly.

“You’re really going to make me do it, aren’t you? Fine. Fine! I’ll do it. I’ll play Mr. Exposition, but only this once, you dig?”

I nodded.

“Alright. It’s like this. I’m not the asshole people make me out to be. Sure, I can be crippling. I can come in in the middle of a really great story and really throw you for a curve. I bring things to a crashing stop, and it could be hours, days, weeks, hell, years before you get back to writing. So I guess, yeah, I can understand your frustration.

Thing is, though, I’m doing you a favor. You wanna know why I come in and louse up your flow? Because what you were writing wasn’t working. Simple as that. It’s kind of like a train wreck crossing over a busy intersection. You weren’t paying attention, things started to go off track and boom, there I am. Stopping the flow of words, keeping you from launching yourself into the fiery, burning doom of crap story telling.

But do I get any credit for that? No! I get yelled at, cursed, threatened, begged, cajoled, even propositioned if I’d just go away. Or worse, I get blamed when you really wanted to play some stupid Facebook game anyway. You don’t care that I take the bullets, man. You don’t care that I shoulder that blame, even when it’s unfairly laid on me. You just bitch, bitch, bitch, moan, moan, moan.”

“Gee,” I said, shrugging a little self-consciously, “I don’t know what to say.”

“Ah, no, wait. That one is my fault, sorry. No one ever knows what to say when I’m around. Kinda intentional, that. Look, let’s just let bygones be bygones, alright? Since we’re clearly committed to this dream crap, lets skip forward to the part with the booze and the women. Buy me a carrot juice, introduce me to some of those dream babes, and we’ll call things even. Sound good? Shall we do this?”

“Yes,” I said, extending a hand in friendship to my old nemesis, “Let us.”