Trouble slinked like silk stockings into my life, and I didn’t even know her name. I smelled her perfume in the hallway before I saw her silhouette through the frosted glass of my office door. Already I felt a twinge. In this business a man learns the good from the bad but doesn’t always have the sense to stay away from either.
I stepped into my office and saw her. She was waiting for me, a vision from another world. She sat back in the chair, cigarette smoke wreathed around her face, rising like a ribbon of gray.
I wondered what she wore under that coat, but what I could see was enough. The promise and invitation of soft curves in places men would die to explore.
And then there were her legs. Legs that wouldn’t quit. They wriggled and pulsed like electric wires. Danced in the red neon that came in through the blinds.
I said: Can’t say one of Shub-Niggurath’s thousand young wanders in very often in these parts.
Her pursed beak lips may have signaled agreement, but the dim light and all those vodka gimlets from the bar across the street made it hard to tell.
She crossed and uncrossed and uncrossed and crossed and uncrossed her legs. The slippery movement dizzied me, made me thirsty again.
Let me guess, I said, trying to be smart. You have a problem that needs solving.
She spoke in a creamy purr that came from the back of her throat. I came here for you, she said.
I said nothing and waited.
She said: You remember? That night back in Arkham? The storm, the rain, the way you got down on your knees, the way you begged to be spared, to just grant you one wish? Don’t tell me you forgot, shamus.
I remembered, all right. Like a cornered old hound, desperate to make a deal with anyone who was listening. I said: I didn’t know you Old Ones had ears to hear.
Correction, honey, she said.
I still remember that. The way “correction” sounded in her mouth.
The Great Old Ones, she said. She stood up from her chair and sidled up to me, the sound of delicious whispers accompanying her every movement, drops of green sap falling onto the carpet in her wake. She came up to me, her mouth in my ear, her hot sweet breath by my cheek. So what is it you want? Your one wish? she asked.
I turned around to look into her pitch-black eyes, using every ounce of willpower in me to break the spell. A man only has so much strength.
I told her: I follow people around. I fix things. I help people. A man only has so many words.
She waited, hand on hip. She asked: And?
I said: I just want to be your private eye.
There was a shimmer, a low chuckle of assent as she drew closer to grant me my wish.
Her own private eye.
So here I am now, a grown man reduced to a small bloodshot orb.
No mouth to scream her eternal praises. No appendages to appreciate our new intimacy.
Sometimes she’d take me out of her purse so I can see the ruined city, and its underground shrines.
Sometimes, for a treat, she’d show me Shub-Niggurath’s black progeny worshipping and being devoured.
And sometimes, on special occasions, she’d put me on her bedside table and let me watch.
But most of the time, I wish she hadn’t taken me so literally.
This may have been an example on how not to write flash fiction that’s meant to be quick and dirty:
- Think about the prompt as you walk to the grocery store.
- Figure out which subgenre mashup you’re going to write by eliminating the stuff you probably won’t do (erotic fantasy, southern gothic, dieselpunk, superhero, technothriller, etc.). Sorry, I cheated by not rolling a 20-sided die.
- The next day, spend about twenty minutes writing the first draft.
- Come up with some cheap O. Henry twist which apparently you’re not supposed to do in flash fiction because it’s how amateurs do it.
- Base that twist on a really really bad pun.
- Make tweaks to the story while cooking pasta for dinner.
- Spend half an hour — way too much time if you ask me — putting finishing touches.
- Spend another half-hour doing pointless research and realize that not only does the story not fit into the mythos — I have trouble visualizing monsters — but that the actual sub genre of Lovecraftian noir exists for real.