This week’s post comes to us from Val Muller, author of the children’s mystery series Corgi Capers. Val tells us, “To celebrate the release of my horror novel Faulkner’s Apprentice, I thought I’d go dark with my next flash fiction story. Hope you enjoy!” Faulkner’s Apprentice is a supernatural chiller about a young woman who gets more than she dreams of—and exactly what she wanted.
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The tire thud had felt harder than she’d anticipated. Almost like running over a log. Maybe it was her speed. Rhiannon wasn’t going to slow her car, though. No, as soon as she saw him there on the side of the road, her headlights illuminating that sleazy smile of his, she’d pressed her high-heeled toes to the floor.
But after the thud, she slammed on the brakes, skidding to a halt. A crack of thunder echoed in the distance, and Rhiannon looked back. Only an amorphous shape was visible in the rear-view mirror, a lump on the roadway, and she summoned the courage to open the door. She checked whether anyone had seen, but the country road was deserted at this hour—as usual. After all, that’s why Matt forced her to meet him here, week after week after week.
Yes, it had been forced. If not for the supplemental income he provided, she would have lost her house. She couldn’t help it that she had been laid off, or that all her money went to her daughter’s cochlear implant surgery. Her relationship with Matt had started off innocently enough. A friendly date. The offer to loan her money for the mortgage. Feelings of guilt that led her to ignore her inhibitions, to give him what he wanted every single week. First she spent the night at his house, or let him stay at hers. Then he made her spend the night in his truck with him. When he got bored with that, he insisted on moving their affairs to places more adventurous. An abandoned barn. A chilly creek. The roof of the restaurant where she worked. Each time, before he made his request, he gave her more money for her house. And of course, he always mentioned her daughter.
“Be a shame if little Angie didn’t have money to go on that field trip you were telling me about.”
“Here’s a little something for Angie. Buy her some new shoes for the summer.”
“Isn’t Angie’s birthday coming up soon?”
By the fourth week, he knew she’d never be able to pay him back. Not in legal tender, anyway, just as he had hoped. And she’d been stuck, subject to his sick, twisted desires.
After three months, she told him they were through. They had been lying in the corn field after what she hoped would be their final tryst. “I’ll pay you everything back,” she’d promised. “Only, we can’t see each other anymore. It just isn’t healthy.”
He pinned her down, then. His eyes flashed with rage. His was not a healthy mind, and Rhiannon thought it would be the day she would die. “You’ll be back with me because you owe me,” he threatened. “Seven thousand dollars is worth a helluvalot more than three months. I own you for at least three more.” He stood up, throwing a handful of bills—that week’s portion of the mortgage payment—at her trembling body. “You stop seeing me, and I cut you off. And your daughter will have nothing. Is that what you want for little Angie? To be kicked out of your house? To live in some forsaken apartment somewhere? To scrounge for food and clothing? Is your waitress job enough to support the two of you? I heard they’re cutting hours at the diner.”
She was crying, then, and he took her once more, enjoying his power over her. “I’ll see you on Tuesday,” he said after he was finished. “You’ll show up after work, 10:45 on the dot. And you’ll miss me between now and then. Understood?”
She had nodded, crying, on the ground, and even then—as he sashayed away, buttoning up his flannel shirt—she knew she had to kill him.
Now, walking from her car, she looked at the dark silhouette on the roadway. In a flash of lightning, it twitched once—and only once. Her nightmare was over. She looked at her car. Certainly, evidence was all over her bumper and her tires. She doubted there’d be an all-night car wash. Her mind raced. What if she were caught? What could she plead in her defense? Her daughter’s angelic smile flashed across her mind as another bolt of lightning flashed in the sky. A heavy drop splashed into her eye, and she looked up just before the deluge. And then, the skies opened up. The rain washed away the dust of the country road. Already, water pooled in muddy puddles. Her tire tracks would soon be obliterated. She looked at the blob on the roadway. It, too, was being washed away of any incriminating evidence. She sauntered to her car, watching the rain pour over the windshield, the bumper, the fender. It washed over the horrible past of the last few months, washed it away with the dust, and she drove into the night with the sound of rain pounding against her windshield. She smiled as she drove, feeling more refreshed than she had in months, as the corpse of her past grew smaller and smaller in her rear view mirror.
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The Spot Writers- our members:
Catherine A. MacKenzie