The Secrets and Deceit Issue
Quick as a Flash - Week 6
Fact and Fiction
Welcome to another issue! Let’s jump in.
Fiction, by definition, is falsehood. It might be an enhanced telling of the truth or a huge lie built around a grain of fact, but somewhere, there’s a lie.
I personally enjoy the lies that can be told in microfiction. Planting seeds of half-truths and exposing them in just a few dozen words is quite the challenge, but it is worth the effort when done well. And it’s not just between characters. Lies can also persist between audience and narrator. Hopefully, you’ll see what I mean later on…
In any case, it’s like I always say1, “Embrace the truth, consume the lie. Or was that the other way around?”
Also worthy of note: I have rebranded the other two sections of this newsletter to better fit the Quick as a Flash branding. The actual content and counts I use are still the same.
The smear campaign 9 had funded against 3 was a success. No longer is it third time’s the charm. A new wise monkey emerged who smelled no evil. Nobody has any interest in threesomes or the Holy Trinity.
The world finally declared him thrice as good.
His new target? 6.
Face the Truth
Jewel pulled a diamond-studded crowbar from her comically large purse. Her goons had Mr. Beau pinned in place.
Her nemesis eyed her warily. “Just don’t hit the face.”
“Why? Your secret identity a hotshot model or something?”
“…No? Of course not,” he said, now avoiding her gaze.
Jun looked from his opponent to their captor. “You’ve been rather cagey with the rules. What happens to the loser of this contest?”
“Loser of the pun-off will be executed. The winner will live another day.”
Wait, one of them had to die?
“Also, very good. Ten points!”
A hot shower solves everything. Soothing water jets strike me, like tiny fists massaging away my tensions. Steam rises, lifting my problems away.
But then the screaming starts, and with it, my peace is shattered. My neighbor chases me out of their house.
I only have a bathtub.
An Android Kind of Guy
My husband skitters through the house, speaking in tongues and shooting sparks. Some genius I was, letting him do dishes without repairing his damaged dermal covering.
The doorbell rings. Right, Nance said she was dropping by.
I tackle him and yank his battery out.
Axe and You Shall Receive
“Welcome, madam. You’re just in time to join me for afternoon tea,” Thalia said, waving in her prospective client.
The woman, a thin, weary-looking soul with wispy hair and several shawls wrapped around her, entered. “Thank you, I would love some.” She took a seat at the table.
Thalia set the filled kettle onto the wood-burning stove before joining her. “And how may I be of service?”
The woman sighed and seemed to deflate. “My husband has been murdered. I need you to…” She shut her eyes, but the tears mercilessly leaked out. “I need you to—”
“Say no more, Mrs…”
“Oh, where are my manners? It’s Boothe. Arlene Boothe.”
“…Mrs. Boothe. I will do what I can to help you reach your husband.” She’d been gifted with mediumship since she was a child. She’s helped connect friends and family for many years now. In fact, her little sister Sophie was the first soul she’d ever channeled and her mother, her first client. She still had tea with Sophie on slow days where they both had the energy to share a vessel for a half hour. “That being said, my services are not cheap. They can’t be for the efforts I have to take.”
“Yes, of course. I will pay the price.” She reached beneath one of her shawls, took out a wooden box, and slid it across the table, the sounds of friction piercing the fragile air between them.
Thalia raised an eyebrow at her before reaching out to touch the box lid. It was an oak box. Old. An heirloom, perhaps? Definitely too big to comfortably hide under an old shawl, but never mind that. She gently lifted the lid, and every hint of warmth in the room dissipated. The kettle sounded, but she paid it no mind. “Is this?”
Mrs. Boothe nodded. “The murder weapon.”
How had she—no, best not to ask. It was rare that a case was this simple. Usually, she’d have only an old belonging of the deceased’s to work with. But something as intimate as a murder weapon? Well, the kettle wouldn’t be screaming much longer.
Her hands trembled as she reached in the box and pulled out the hatchet that was inside.
Mrs. Boothe, for the first time, offered her a quivering smile. “Thank you.”
“What do you mean? I haven’t done anything yet.” But then she felt it: a dark force, a hunger so deep and ancient that it preceded any recently deceased soul. It was a yearning almost as old as man himself. “Oh. You didn’t want to talk to your husband.”
She shook her head, almost sheepishly. “No. But thank you, anyway. And for what it’s worth. I’m very sorry.”
Her chops echoed through the woods. She was not adequately dressed for the hike through the snow, but the axe promised she’d feel neither cold nor exhaustion as long as she did what she was told.
Almost done. She set what little remained of Mrs. Boothe’s body on the stump and struck it once… twice… before the head came clean off. The face was battered where she’d been beaten with the kettle, but it was the most at peace Thalia had seen it in the short time she’d known her. She dumped the head and upper torso in the deep but tiny hole she’d dug earlier. The bloodstained snow melted beneath her feet, secretly nourishing the soil below.
That’s it. The deed was done. And yet, the axe was already asking when her next client would come to visit. It made promises of unholy strength and eternal life in exchange for her services. Or a life of hellish torment, should she refuse.
And despite being used to other voices and beings in her head, she knew this would be the one she could not control. And it saddened her, not because she’d have to kill, but because it meant Sophie would no longer want to visit.
I have never in my life said this.