Secrets Part 2 – A Free Flash Fiction Short Story by Kathy Kexel

Kathy Kexel finishes her story today with the exciting, cookie-laden finale to her previous story, Secrets. Check it out!

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Don’t eat all the cookies

A Quarantine Murder – A Free Short Story by Rob Cely

Rob Cely’s up today with his latest Murder Mystery in the time of Covid, “A Quarantine Murder.” This story might cost a few people their lives, but it will cost you nothing. It’s always free to you.

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Who’s sneaking up behind YOU with nefarious intent?

The Parallax – A Free Short Story from Jamie Greening

Jamie Greening never disappoints. This week, he delves into the Science Fiction Realm – with spiritual overtones – with his short story, “The Parallax.” I love the message hidden beneath the shimmering folds.

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . What’s the message YOU’RE getting from the alternate dimension? Hopefully it has nothing to do with Blue Oyster Cult and Taco Bell.

Where Did They Go? – A Free Short Story from Joseph Courtemanche

Happy Memorial Day, y’all! Today, Joseph Courtemanche brings us the convergence of TWO Flash Fiction Explode-A-Ganzas rolle into one. You’ll have to check out his story, “Where Did They All Go?” to find out.

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . We haven’t given up yet, and neither should you.

A Funeral for a Sparrow – A Free Short Story from Paul J. Bennett

Paul J Bennet’s stories are like a trip down memory lane. But the GOOD kind of trip down memory lane. Check out Dr. Benett’s latest: A Funeral for a Sparrow

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Relax and look at the trees. The trees. The Trees.

Secrets – by Kathy Kexel

Week 9 of the Covid Chronicles Free Flash Fiction Explode-A-Ganza rolls on, this time with Kathy Kexel bringing us an intriguing setup in part 1 of her story Secrets.

Thanks for visiting us! For even more exciting stories, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our somewhat-quarantined-and-still-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Gran yourself a drink on us! Just … be careful nobody slips something in it while you’re not looking.

The New Family on Beecher Street – A Free Flash Fiction Covid Quarantine Story

There was a new family on Beecher Street. 

They moved into the Beige, two-story Colonial across from the Herbert J Thomas Memorial Children’s Park after Mrs. Emmerson died. Mrs. Emmerson had trouble breathing back in December and passed away in her sleep just after the New Year. Everyone said it was COVID, but no one was sure.

The new family on Beecher Street picked the house from a website listing because of the bright red hyacinth flowers in the front. They left petals spread across the lawn like an explosion of joy and color. The new family liked that. Everyone liked that. Mrs. Emmerson had won the city’s coveted flower & garden award for “Best Floral Display” for three years running because of her hyacinth flowers. It was quite a thing to see!

Mrs. Emmerson stopped tending her hyacinths shortly after her breathing troubles started. They died about the same time she did. When the new family on Beecher Street moved in, they were disappointed to see that the flowers were no longer there. They replanted with red rose bushes. Everyone on Beecher Street was sad to see the rose bushes instead of Mrs. Emmerson’s prized hyacinths, so they didn’t say much to the new family. This made the new family sad, too. This is how we do things now.

After the new family on Beecher Street settled in, the Father brought out a bin of recyclable, cardboard moving boxes for trash day. He wheeled the bin to the street, set it down, and coughed once into his left hand. He thought nothing of it, and walked back inside.

The children on Beecher Street were playing kickball in the cul-de-sac. They took note of the Father of the New Family, and shared the information with their parents. Their parents talked to each other in hushed tones across backyard fences. They whispered in phone conversations. They shared sideways glances across cracked driveways that needed resurfacing.

This is how the trouble started.

In less than two days, everyone on Beecher Street gathered at the cul-de-sac next to the beige Colonial where the new family lived. They talked it over. This is how we do things now.

“My daughter Betty said he practically coughed up blood,” Mrs. Barber said.

“Well my son Stevie told me heard the whole FAMILY was coughing!” Mrs. Anderson said.

“I heard they moved here from the city,” Mrs. Granger said.

“Figures,” Mrs. Shackleford said. “That’s probably why they destroyed Mrs. Emmerson’s wonderful hyacinths.”

“Everyone in the city is sick,” Mrs. Hester said. “They probably just wanted to get away from all that.”

“Or bring it to us,” Mr. Johnson said.

“Well,” Mrs. Giles said. “I heard they were part of a political group. I heard they wanted to spread the disease as far and as wide as they can. To destroy our way of life!”

“How could they?” Mr. Samuels said. “The Nerve!”

“That’s what we get for letting unknowns move in,” Mr. Roberts said. There was a quiet murmur in the crowd. A bird flew overhead.

“What happens if they come out again?” Mrs. Giles asked. Mrs. Giles was scared.

“They have to come out, sometime,” Mr. Samuels said. “They can’t stay in there forever.”

“What if they get my kids sick?” Mrs. Hester asked. “What if they get us all sick?”

“They have to know better, don’t they? Don’t they know what they’re doing? Someone should say something. Someone should DO something.”

The murmur got louder. But Bill Michaels, who lived with his family in the biggest house on Beecher Street, stepped up.

“Calm down, everyone,” Bill said. And everyone did.

“Why don’t we try talking to them? All we have to do is tell them we don’t want anyone to get sick, so if they could please take simple and necessary precautions, we can avoid any unpleasantness.”

Everyone agreed this was a good idea. Bill Michaels went to the door of the beige Colonial House on Beecher Street with his wife Susan. Mr. and Mrs. Hester went with them. Everyone else stood in the cul-de-sac. They pretended not to watch. This is how we do things now.

Bill Michaels rang the doorbell. The Father answered. The new family on Beecher Street had been eating dinner, but the Father came anyway. This was the first time their doorbell had rung since they moved in.

“Hello,” The father said.

“Hi,” Bill Michaels said.

“What can I do for you?”

“I understand there was an incident with the trash cans the other day,” Bill said. “I understand you had a pretty nasty cough.”

The Father was confused.

“No,” he said. “I wasn’t coughing.”

“Well our kids said you wheeled out some trash, then bent over and coughed so hard, blood came out.”

“I might have coughed a bit,” The Father said. “So what?”

“You know there’s a sickness going around, right?”

“Yes, but we don’t…”

“We don’t want our families, our KIDS to get sick.”

“I know, but … “

“So we’d appreciate it if you keep your coughing to your own house and not try to infect any of the families on our street.”

The Father was mad. This wasn’t at all what he imagined for his family’s new life on Beecher Street.

“Listen, man,” The Father said. “I don’t know who you are, but I don’t appreciate you coming up to my house and talking to me like this, especially while my family is eating dinner.”

“I’m Bill Michaels…” Bill Michaels said.

“I don’t care who you are. Get off my lawn before I remove you from it.”

The Father slammed the door in Bill Michaels’ face. Susan Michaels was hurt. Mr. and Mrs. Hester were shocked. The rest of the families in the cul-de-sac gasped. No one had spoken to Bill Michaels like that before. This might be how they do things in the city. This was not how they do things on Beecher Street.

The families returned home. Everyone went to sleep. Maybe this will pass, many of them thought. Maybe this will pass.

*** *** *** ***

The next morning, word got around. Mrs. Hester and two of her kids were sick with COVID. Three of the kids who played kickball in the cul-de-sac next to the beige Colonial with the rose bushes had also gotten sick. And Mr. Johnson wasn’t answering phone calls. Mr Johnson always answered phone calls.

“It has to be the new family,” Mr. Hester the group later that day. “Susan said she started feeling sick as soon as we got home last night. Now, who knows what will happen to her?”

“I’m not feeling well, either,” Mr. Samuels said. “I know I was only in the cul-de-sac, but so were those kids!”

“This is all part of their plan,” Mrs. Giles said. “They’re trying to kill us. They WANT to kill us. People like that? They don’t care how many people die.”

“Hold on a minute,” Mr Landis spoke up. “Doesn’t it take five to ten days for the disease to show symptoms? It could be some of us already had it.”

“What’s wrong with you? Are you on THEIR side? Do YOU want people to die, too?”

“No,” Mr Landis said. “I just want to be reasonable here.”

“The time for reasoning is past,” Bill Michaels said. “The time for action is now. Something has to be done before they kill us all. This is how we do things now.”

Bill Michaels stifled a cough as everyone made their way home.

*** *** *** *** ***

By the time the sun had set that evening, three more families had come down with COVID. Two of the kickball kids from earlier were feeling better, but one was still sick. Jim Grant, the town librarian, reported getting sick midway through the day. The closed the library, but it was too late. Nearly everyone who had checked out a book reported having the sickness. Leslie Strongbow turned down an invitation for dinner with Bill and Susan Michaels. Old Mr. Cooper rode away in an ambulance, grasping his chest. All of it was COVID. All of it. Everyone was sure. There was no questioning these facts. The time for reason has passed, Bill Michaels said. And everyone believed him.

This is how we do things now.

That night, when the sun went down, the remaining families from Beecher Street followed Bill Michaels to the cul-de-sac next to the house where the New Family lived. Mrs. Emmerson’s house, many people said. They brought garden tools. They brought pitchforks. A few people brought lanterns to light up their path.

Everyone on Beecher Street was scared. Except for Bill Michaels. Bill Michaels knew what to do.

“Friends,” Bill Michaels began. “Thank you for coming.”

“Beecher Street has been a happy place to live for as long as I can remember. For as long as ANY of us can remember. Some of us, like me, grew up here. We remember playing in Herbert J. Thomas park right there. We remember riding our bikes Up and Down Beecher Street in the summer. Mrs. Emmerson used to give us peppermint candies when our parents weren’t looking. Do you remember that, Sam? Do YOU remember, Jane?”

Mr. Jameson and Mrs. Everett agreed. They remembered. They remembered well.

“For as long as any of us can remember, Beecher Street has been Safe. It’s been a haven against the outside world. Bad things happen out there, but none of that matters to us here. Here, we do things differently.”

“I hate to say it, folks, but some of that badness has come to Beecher Street at long last. This New Family living in poor, deceased Mrs. Emmerson’s house has brought the COVID sickness to us. Tim Hester’s wife has it. Little Billy Mayflower has it. Old George Cooper, too. They might make it, but they might not. Only God knows now.”

Tim Hester broke down crying. Everyone around him put their hands on his shoulder to comfort him.

“If we don’t stand up to the New Family now, we all might get it. We might all die. They might kill us all!”

The crowd was angry now. Their faces grew shadows as the lantern lights danced in the darkening air.

“I say we protect our children and our families. I say we protect each other. I say we protect everyone and everything on Beecher Street and put a stop to this right here and now. Who’s with me?”

The crowd cheered. Bill Michaels marched to the front lawn of the beige Colonial where the New Family lived. The large crowd followed.

The Father stepped onto the porch. He had a baseball bat.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The Father said.

“We’re here to protect our children, our families, and our way of life,” Bill Michaels said. He pulled out a large gun and pointed it at the ground.

“Come out,” Bill Michaels said. “Admit what you have done.”

“Admit what I have done? You’re crazy, man. I haven’t done anything.”

The crowd murmured with disdain.

“You brought COVID to our Street. You killed Mr. Cooper and God knows who else.”

“What the …”

“ADMIT IT!” Bill Michaels screamed. “This is your last chance.”

“I didn’t do ANYTHING, man. I…”

“NO!” Bill took flipped the safety on his gun and pointed it at The Father’s head. The Wife screamed. The children, who had never left the house, hid behind their mother. Several other people in the crowd drew their guns and pointed them at the New Family on Beecher Street. This is how we do things now.

“Out. Now,” Bill Michaels said.

“Alright. Alright. I’m coming out. Don’t shoot. Please. Just don’t shoot.”

“Kneel down here, in the street,” Bill Michaels said.

The Father knelt in the street, facing his house. He looked at his wife and children. They were all very scared. The crowd closed in tight, blocking his view.

“You brought the sickness here. You planned this. You wanted to kill us,” Bill Michaels said.

“No..”

“We gave you the chance to live with us, to share in the joy of life on Beecher Street, but you chose another path.”

Bill Michaels pressed the gun into the back of The Father’s head. He bent down next to The Father’s ear so he could whisper.

“Put your teeth on the curb,” Bill Michaels said. The Father hesitated. “I’ll shoot your kids first if you don’t.”

The Father complied.

“Because you have sinned against the families on Beecher Street, because you have brought this terrible sickness to us, we must retaliate.”

“You may have thought you could hide from us. You may have thought you could reason with us or become one with us. But that is not how we do things here.”

“This,” Bill Michaels said. “This is how we do things here.”

Bill Michaels lowered his foot on the back of the Father’s head, and painted the front lawn of the beige Colonial house on Beecher Street a bright red. The colors covered the lawn. It reminded everyone of Mrs. Emmerson’s hyacinths, and everyone agreed that things had finally been set to right.

It was quite a thing to see.

Many other lawns were painted similarly over the weeks and months to come. All Up and Down Beecher Street. All up and Down many other streets. All over the city and across the country.

This is how we do things now.

**** **** **** ****

Thanks for checking out our crap! For even more exciting crap, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our quarantined-and-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . I’m not normally this dark and twisted. Not until you get to know me good, anyway.

Death Wore A Track Suit And Gold Chains – A Free Covid Chronicles Story By Derek Elkins

The Track Suit is the modern day indicator of someone who is a FAN of fitness, but isn’t really INTO fitness. Today, Derek Elkins brings us a story about Death and old people and track suits and gold chains. Derek has some problems, y’all. That’s a given. But they’re the kind of problems I like! Go check out Derek’s Free Covid Story: “Race”

Thanks for checking out our crap! For even more exciting crap, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our quarantined-and-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . Be careful who you let in your room. The crazy things in Derek’s brain have way of seeping out into the real world. And they’re hungry.

God’s Rules – A Free Flash Fiction short story from Joseph Courtemanche

Joe Prime kicks off Week 9 of the Free Flash Fiction Explode-A-Ganza with a short story of Biblical Proportions. That is to say, he’s got some Biblical references herein. Check out God’s Rules. And make sure to sit cross-legged (if you’re a dude. Ladies … manspread all you like!)

Thanks for checking out our crap! For even more exciting crap, please check out (and perhaps slide us some dollars at ) the sites of each of our quarantined-and-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors: Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . The grass might be greener on the other side, but that’s only because Joe Courtemanche takes his dog, Chewy, over there to do his business.

No One Will Ever Know – A Free Covid Chronicles Story

Mark Zuckerberg sat in the darkened back office of his palatial mansion, bathed in the incandescent glow of his monitors. It was mid-afternoon in Palo Alto. The sun was bright, the sky blue, and the weather unseasonably warm and dry. A perfect Spring afternoon. Mark’s wife, Priscilla, their two kids, Evangeline Grace and Chen Mingyu, along with their dog, Beast, had plans to attend via Facebook Live an arts festival in Cupertino that afternoon.

It was all a ruse. Mark funded the entire festival through a network of German and Chechnyan art collectives, ostensibly as a celebration of the Apple brand and their “think differently” campaign. But he hand-picked the artists to employ a subliminal theme of conformity in an attempt to push the community away from social darling, Apple Inc, toward traditional, more authoritarian ideals. This, he thought, would devalue the company enough over time for Zuckerberg to purchase it through his holdings in Singapore, which would allow him to consolidate the substantial Apple iPhone market with Android, which he had taken over years earlier from his holdings in Belize.

“All too easy,” Mark Zuckerberg laughed to himself in the darkened office. The secret Facebook A.I. social engineering program, Mavet, had given him a list of the most influential artists with a totalitarian bent within a 500 mile perimeter, and that was that.

“Jobs would never have let me get away with this,” Zuckerberg thought.

Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder, was smart. He, too, knew how to manipulate people, to move chess pieces behind the scenes, to break the laws when necessary in service to a righteous goal. With Steve, it would have been War.

Now? Now, it was child’s play.

Soon, he would be in control of the worldwide mobile network, along with all the gps data, social network interactivity, and psychological analyses that came with it. All those “What kind of potato am I?” surveys had finally paid off.

But this? Being able to kill people in his free time from his home in Palo Alto, or with his phone on a yacht in the Mediterranean, or anywhere else with even basic technology and Internet access for that matter? This was the icing on the cake.

Mark Zuckerberg watched through the IoT portal in Mavet as his target moved from the living room to the kitchen, carrying boxes, putting away dishes, engaging in idle conversation. The Target had recently moved, with his family, to Bemidji, Minnesota. His kids were at their first day in a new school. The happy couple had just enjoyed several minutes of love-making, which Zuckerberg had dialed up from his connections to the Alexa program at Amazon, which he also owned, despite that pathetic, bald front man Jeff Bezos had led people to believe, so he could listen. Mark was an avid porn user, of course – a connoisseur, if you will – but it was the audio, the richness of the SOUND of people in the throes of ecstasy that really got him going.

The wife drew her husband in close for another kiss, and Mark wondered whether they might have another go. He zoomed in for a closer look.

“Those look like Bs,” he said out loud.

“C,” the voice engagement system for Mavet corrected him.

“Nice,” Zuckerberg said, and held the camera still until the couple broke apart.

Mark was disappointed. He’d hoped they have enough in them or another round. Had that been the case, Mark might have let The Target live another day. However, since he had been denied his bit of momentary joy, The Target would soon lose his life.

And no one would know it was him. No would EVER know it was him. That was the best part.

Mark Zuckerberg had kept his dirty, little, malevolent secret since he was a child. Where other kids thought of toys, candy, and cartoons, Mark thought only of death. He envisioned thousands of ways people could die in common, household situations. Falling down stairs, accidental electrocution, mishaps with cutlery. And that was just the start! He even drawn up complex scenarios in a notebook he kept hidden in a locked box beneath his bed so his parents would never read it.

He still had that notebook, all these years later, stored safely in a deposit box at Stanford Federal Credit. He was a silent member of the board there. When federal prosecutors went digging for hidden evidence, they always looked at the big banks first. Little banks flew under their radars. Always had. They were a great place to hide things, and no one was better at hiding things than Mark Zuckerberg.

The real monster came out when little Mark was just 12 years old. He’d gone to the Red Creek ravine in White Plains, NY with a friend. What was his name? Mark didn’t remember. There was a waste treatment facility nearby and the creek flowed quickly into it. Their parents had warned them not to go, but Mark was just too curious.

“Go out to the edge and look down,” Mark said, and his friend obliged. But his foot slipped on the muddy embankment. He fell, nearly going over the edge. Mark’s Friend grabbed and tree root, which stuck out of the side, and held on for dear life.

“Help!” he screamed. “Mark, Help!”

Mark ran to the edge, started to reach out his hand, and stopped. He looked him right in the eye, cocked his head sideways, like a scientist awaiting the results of a boring experiment, and waited.

“Mark! What are you doing? HELP!” His friend’s grip loosened. Fear and desperation washed over his face as he screamed as loud as his twelve year old lungs would allow.

Mark Zuckerberg just smiled and waited. IN his mind, he thought of the many different things that COULD happen. His friend could slip, of course. The roots could break. The tree could come uprooted and fall on top of him. There was always the possibility that Mark could push him, but that was too easy. Too much evidence for prying eyes if things went poorly.

When he DID eventually fall, he could bounce off the embankment, breaking his neck. He could land on the rocks three stories below and crush his skull. Or, if Mark was REALLY lucky, he could land upright, break his legs and his back, and bleed out over the course of two days. If the water was running fast enough, the kid could be swept into the waste treatment intake valve, get pulverized, and be converted into drinking water for half the houses in upstate New York.

This last option was what Mark hoped for. But he waited to see.

Eventually, Mark’s Friend lost his grip and fell, landing on his tailbone, breaking his back, which caused him to scream in pain. The sound of his screams echoed off the ravine walls, sounding like the barking sea lions he had seen in Fisherman’s Wharf when his family took him on vacation there last summer.

“Maybe I should move to San Francisco someday,” Mark though, and then dismissed it.

It turned out the water WAS running fast enough to sweep the body to the intake valve, and his friend WAS pulverized. But, before that could happen, his friend’s twisted body caught the entrance, causing his screams to gargle in the rushing water for a full two minutes before he got sucked in. Mark was happily surprised. This was an eventuality he had not considered. Much better than anything his mind could have invented.

“What I need,” Mark thought, “is a system that will analyze all possible scenarios, given multivariate possibilities, and come back with the best possible options, given certain parameters and current limitations.” Mark set his mind to solving this all-important problem over the weeks that passed as the community searched for his lost friend, and drank his remains to quench their thirsts while they did it.

No one knew. No one even SUSPECTED. No one ever would.

He continued working to solve this problem, meeting and killing hundreds of people over the years, and building systems that harvested people’s ideas, thoughts, desires, all of which served as their downfall. Mortals are limited by petty things like love and sympathy. The twin gifts of intelligence and curiosity were a gift of the Gods. Mark was a God, and Gods don’t get caught.

No one suspects them.

Now, Mark Zuckerberg had his greatest achievement; his Shining, God-like system: Mavet. Now, he could kill people around the world, indiscriminately, in grotesque and painful deaths, each of which is customized to the specific Target and situation at hand. The Covid Quarantines now provided him the opportunity to ramp up his efforts. For twelve year old kids in White Plains, NY, and for random, recently displaced FBI agents – as this man was – in Bemidji, MN. Every trace of his activities was hidden. He was too smart for that.

“Honey? We’re getting started. Are you ready?” Priscilla and the kids were waiting for him on the back porch next to the shed where he smoked his meats, among other things.

“Be right there, hon!” Mark said.

He smiled, clicked the button to begin the program, and got up to leave.

In Bemidji, MN, The Target and his wife retreated to the bedroom again. They had been through much in recent years, but things were finally looking up. Or so they thought. Whatever happened, they and everyone else scheduled for termination by Mark and his nearly sentient program Mavet, would never see it coming.

No one ever would.

**** ***** ***** *****

If you’ve read any of our Covid Chronicles Flash Fiction Eplode-A-Ganza pieces, please accept our heartfelt thanks for taking the time. If you’re not caught up with all of the Covid Chronicles, worry not! Scroll on down the page for the latest and greatest from all our Quarantined-and-slowly-going-more-insane-than-they-already-were authors. While you’re at it, check out pages for Joseph CourtemancheJamie GreeningKathy KexelDerek ElkinsRob Cely, and Dr. Paul J Bennett . If you’re half as impressed with us as we are, we’re twice as impressed as you.