Payment Failed

This 100 word micro-fiction story was a submission to the NYC Midnight writing contest. The prompts were as followed: genre: horror, action: making a down payment, needed word: piece.

Unfortunately the story didn’t rank in the winning top fifteen, but it still felt worthy of being read.

A funny bit of information about myself: I grew up loving horror (Stephen King for example), and any media that had a surreal, supernatural, or unexplainable plot (House of Leaves/Mark Z. Danielewski for example). These days, I find myself mostly avoiding reading horror (though House of Leaves remains my favorite book) and practically never writing it. With that being said, I felt pretty good about the end product, even if it pushed me outside of my comfort zone with the genre and content I wrote. With that, below is “Payment Failed.”

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Years ago, at Dominion’s Conception Superstore, we sold our innocence to afford the down payment we made on Ayanna’s life subscription.

Today, Dominion returned with a gavel-like knocking as Ayanna played blissfully in the garden.

Their associate beamed. “Good day. I’m Reaper. I’m here to repossess the child due to subscription payment failure.”

“Please. No.”

“Request denied. Payment failure limit reached.”

I hadn’t heard Ayanna come inside. She handed me a Chrysanthemum. Reaper smiled down at her.

“Excellent. She will be recycled piece by piece to fuel our workers.” As they departed, he yelled: “Please remember to rate your purchase!”

The Last Tattoo

    Grandpa lay in the bed, and said: “I think I would like a tattoo. I never got one before and I think now might be a good time.”

     His son sighed.  “Dad, your skin can’t handle it. It’ll bleed a lot. I’m sorry.”

     “Oh,” Jack said, slapping his gums together like in a movie, “well, isn’t that a shame. “

     At that moment, grandpa looked from his son to his grandson. He smiled at Jamie, and Jamie ran out of the room with his little flashing sneakers.

     Everyone sat there, on their phones, or swirling the couch fabric with their fingers, or looking at Grandpa with a pity so overwhelming it felt like they’d be sick; a sickness of being unable to help.

     Jamie had been the only one to be with Grandpa. To look into him.

     But Jamie was gone now, and with him, any comfort that Grandpa was grateful for.

     Now phosphorescence lit faces instead of smiles.

   Now touches were given to dusty books or pictures instead of needful hands.

     Words that screamed to be spoken were silenced by fear and embarrassment and uncertainty.

     Palpable tension strained the air as if it were an overtightened string on a guitar. It held like that for a few agonizing minutes until the instant Jamie slammed back through the door. A collective sigh rushed through the room and everyone stopped distracting themsleves with distancing themselves.

     Jamie held one thing in each of his hands.

     In his right hand was a wet wash cloth.

     In his left hand was what looked to be a small picture on a piece of paper.

     “I’m glad you came back, Jamie.” Grandpa’s crow’s feet crinkled near his eyes and pulled his cheeks up into a smile.

     Jamie placed the small picture facedown on the back of Grandpa’s hands and then set the cool cloth down on top of it. Then Jamie began counting.

     After thirty-two seconds, Jamie lifted the wash cloth away and peeled back the wet paper that clung to grandpa’s hand.

     “I was always going to come back, Grandpa. I’ll be here.”

     Grandpa lifted his hand and looked at the back of it. Tattood there, just permanently enough, was Superman. With his cape whipping behind him, fist outstretched as if it was guiding the rest of his body, and the grand crimson S saying that help was on the way, Superman flew across Grandpa’s weathered and unconquered hand.

      Grandpa admired it silently.

     “Thank you, Jamie. I think I’ll go now.”

      Jamie’s face quivered. He waved, as if Grandpa was just getting on a bus to go to town.

     Grandpa waved back. Then Grandpa closed his eyes.

To Shelve the Book

To shelve a book: like the end of a chapter in your own story.

To give the guiding words of another a home, until it is asked again to tell its story or bestow its wisdom.

To add another layer to the horizontal linear palette of colors which make up the painting of a library.

To say: “Thank you friend; for the conversation, the companionship, the stories, and the memories.”

Sadness: because the abyss-like ink, and the fine fibered paper, and the whisper of flipping pages, and the symphony which they all combined to conduct shall be put to rest; at least until the next time.

The victory of completion: because you absorbed, and savored, and pondered every word of a long wondered about thought that an author put on a piece of paper; because you watched a story unfold; because you learned a deep truth about yourself or those around you.

The displacement of time’s footprint, when the bones of the book nudge aside collected layers of dust as you push ever so gently, the new tenant of this sliver of long unoccupied space into position.

To see it from across the room, and ache for it’s old companionship; clamoring to again fall into the depths of color, and shape, and weight, and word which compose it.

To wake up one day, and say: “Hello friend” as it resides again in your hand. It answers back with a crack of it’s spine: “Come in, have a cup of coffee. Let’s catch up, it has been too long.”