Sunday, October 9, 2011

Snow and Froth

Erin Cole is running a contest this October. The prize is her new collection of Short Stories, called "Of the Night." The contest runs until the end of the month. To enter, post a 1,000 max horror flash on your site between Oct. 1 and 31, and link it up at Erin's place.

Here is my attempt. Hope it helps you work up a lather...


Snow and Froth

"Well, we ain't getting out of here anytime soon." Claude said over his shoulder. "Goddamned weathermen screwed us again." He tromped inside, pulled a fresh beer from the fridge, and plopped down hard on the tattered paisley sofa. I sipped my morning coffee and nodded. There was nothing I had to say that Claude wanted to hear when he was in a "mood."

I'd agreed to come hunting with my brother-in-law only after my sister begged me to spend time with him "man to man". Maybe I could talk to him about his temper, and what it was doing to his wife.

That first night, when I'd merely hinted at Ellie's concern, he responded by slamming his huge, calloused fist into the side of my head. In fear for my life, I finally stood him down at the end of a twelve-gauge shotgun. He laughed.

"Atta boy," he'd slurred. "We'll grow some rocks on you yet, Damian." With that, he turned his back on the gun and passed out on the couch. It was still snowing.

In the morning, before realizing we were snowed in with no phone line, and no cell service, he smiled when he saw the purple-black swelling around my eye, saying "Whoo. Some night, huh Damian?"

I hated him. I hated that he was married to my sister. At least the beer would eventually run out.

We hunted. Besides whatever notion we'd had of doing it for sport, it was at least a two day walk through the snow to get to anything resembling a town. Claude's Wrangler would make it from the cabin to the county road, but there were several narrow throated bridges beyond that which wouldn't see a plow for weeks.

Now that food was a factor, we shot at everything - squirrels, birds -- anything that moved. There was some dry goods in the cottage, but both of us were die hard carnivores, and there was nearly nothing else to do in that place.

We came up empty – Claude drunk was as quiet as a runaway semi.

Back at the cottage, we happened upon a sick looking raccoon staggering around in a drift by our garbage bins. The idiot swung his gun around, almost hitting me, and fired.

"Got 'im!" he crowed. I watched him pick up the messy, shot-riddled carcass. Foam was caked around the thing's muzzle, and clumps of shit were frozen to its fur. It didn't bother Claude, who gutted and skinned the thing on the front porch. In his inebriated state, it was a bloody, half-assed operation; I didn't offer to help. Part of me hoped he'd slice a vein and both Ellie and I would be free of the bastard.

Claude cooked the little bit of meat rare in a skillet. I pushed it around, but ate nothing, which earned me the nickname "Pussy."

Two fucking weeks passed with Claude in the cabin. In the snow.

We played cribbage a lot. I let him win. It was the only activity we had, besides hunting. I'd already read the book I'd brought twice, and at least playing cards was quiet. Every so often, he'd tell me yet another awful story of some woman he was seeing behind Ellie's back. He made me sick, though – if I was right – he was going to be a whole lot sicker, and soon.

I ate most of the beans in the place, and pasta without sauce. On one day, I shot a rabbit that was tough and chewy. Another day, we each managed to get a couple of crows. Next time I want to use the expression "eating crow", I'll think twice – it's something I wouldn't wish on an enemy. Except Claude. For his part, he'd finished all the beer and was working his way through two cases of homemade wine.

On Tuesday, I knew the end was in sight. The bastard always complained when he had a hangover – so pretty much every damned day. This week, though, he'd been worse. His headache never seemed to clear until he'd had a few drinks. From the way he was limping, I thought the cause might be something a little more serious. By noon on Wednesday, he was pale and sweating profusely. I offered to make some macaroni. He refused, and spent the day under a blanket on the couch, drinking wine from the bottle, trying to get warm.

That night, I found some rope in the shed and bound him to his filthy, beer-fart-laden cot.

When I was fifteen, our beagle got scratched by a rabid fox; the vet told us all about rabies. In humans, if you act right away, it's painful, but curable. If you leave it until symptoms start to show up though, it acts quick - and there's no hope for survival.

Claude spasmed awake, grunting. His throat worked convulsively, but he wasn't swallowing. Spit dripped from his chin, and he was screaming for Ellie to come help him.

I'll help him, alright. I brought him a glass of water. He shimmied and jerked, trying to get away. I let the cool, refreshing liquid trickle over his face and lips. He spat foam at me, straining at the ropes. His eyes bulged out. All trace of the hard, mean light I'd come to expect was gone. This was a dying animal in front of me. It was almost a shame to keep torturing him. Almost.

After lunch, I think I'll see if snow has the same effect. I hope so. Hydrophobia is a dehumanizing, painful way to die, but then, two weeks without entertainment is pretty lousy too. If my conscience keeps at me, I'll take off for town and leave the door open. Hypothermia will set in after a few hours, and he'll go to sleep.

Ellie might not understand at first, but with a rabid dog like Claude, there's really no other solution.


  1. Of course I found this highly entertaining, (given my rural background).

    Kudos to your ending - your protag was good in the end (he couldn't do what the voices told him to do because he was of a higher standard), as we wanted him to be, yet he let fate, to some point, rule Claude's destiny.

    Your language, structure, flow, everything was spot-on in this. Halloween Cheers, Chris!

  2. Damian would probably have put such a miserable animal out of it's misery - but Claude had to pay for the pain he caused Damian and his sister.

    Good story, Chris; very atmospheric - I'm shivering now!

  3. Great atmosphere in this one, Chris. The drawing out of the torture is pure horror.

  4. Erin - I definitely agree the ending tells more about Damian- and not all good things. Thanks for prompting me to get on "something"!

    Sue H - Love it when you drop by here, and glad I could send a chill your way!

    Laurita - I'm a total write-off when I've even got a sniffle, so what Claude has to go through in the end is a hell I don't like thinking about