Author: stephenhemmer

I am a diabetic who is teaching English in Japan. I write speculative fiction and post the really short and sweet stuff here.

Remember, Me and You

Bea woke up and blinked. She took a look around her room: cold and sterile, fake wood panels and linoleum floors. She blinked again, rubbed her eyes, and tried to orient herself. The bed was…comfortable, but not her own, or probably not her own. She sat up and felt a tug on her chest.

A cord ran from her thin, white and blue dress to a screen of some sort propped up on a metal stand. The idea, the words, the thoughts, the meaning of the screen, it tickled her brain, begging her to think just a little harder, a little longer, but the purpose, the meaning, it slipped past her. 

Next to the stand was an end table, sparse and utilitarian, matching the fake wood panels that ran along the wall. Sitting on it was a picture frame. In the picture were two figures, laughing. The one on the left she knew, or was fairly certain she knew. It was a woman with short cut hair and prominent laugh lines around her round dark eyes. But thinking about it for too long upset her, caused the tickle to grow.

(more…)

Meet Me at the Gates of the Cemetery

Peter Grange walked past the fake marble pillars that flanked the sides of the large wrought iron gate. He took a moment to appreciate the ornate flourishes of the metal flowers. If you couldn’t bring flowers, these would never wilt.

Peter turned to walk to the street and back home, brushing off some dirt from his jeans. As he looked up towards the road he saw a figure leaning against a street lamp, standing just between the two cones of light from the lamps bulbs. A faint cloud of cigarette smoke wafted away from the figure and into the leftward patch of light. 

The figure spoke up, “You don’t see many people here this late.”

Peter smiled. “Guess I could say the same.” He stopped halfway between the gate and the street lamp.

“So what are you doing here then? Paying your respects?”

Peter wanted to laugh but instead came out with, “Not exactly. More like, I was just doing some cleaning up.”

The figure shifted its weight, still resting entirely within the shadows. “Oh? You make a lot of messes.” The figure vaguely gestured towards the dirt stains on Peter’s workman jeans. 

(more…)

Broken

Giovanna wiped the sweat from her brow, smearing a thin layer of half dried clay across her forehead. She looked into the door of the cooling kiln, careful to only touch the handle. The bright yellow light within was finally beginning to dim. As she waited, she walked over to her work table and leaned against its messy surface, covered in tools and knives and rags for sculpting and shaping clay. The clock in the corner of her desk clicked along and Giovanna smiled at her notes and formulas. Her wastebasket was full of failed recipes that used to come more easily to her, but this, this recipe was sure to work. The roots she used to use had been wiped out after a year of blight and an unexpected cold snap late last spring. 

Reaching for her notebook, she recognized the remaining wet clay stuck on her hands was slowly dehydrating in the heat of her workshop, so she walked toward the wash basin. With the cool spring water flowing across her hands she took a moment to look out the window, down the cliff and across the coast. Down the path, at the bottom of the cliff was the local community. At least half a dozen of her creations were living full and engaging lives with the rest of the population. It was hard at first. People were hesitant, but now they are just people.

Giovanna turned the valve, shutting off the spring water, and faced the clock. It needed repairs, for sure. It’s gears would occasionally slip, and the pendulum definitely wasn’t calibrated properly anymore, but it worked well enough as a timer. Her clay should be finished.

She stepped over a few tools strewn across the floor and towards the kiln’s valves and knobs. She let in a surge of brisk air from outside to speed things up. The kiln would still be hot for a minute, but she was too excited to wait. She put on a thick cloth mitten and opened it up, staring at the yellow glowing embers that surrounded her creation.

(more…)

Step Mother’s Note

Dearest daughter,

I know when you went to sleep you still didn’t consider me your mother, but I hope you know that I always considered you part of my family.  By the time you read this, you will have woken up from your rest. I hope that you are feeling better. I know things haven’t been easy, and I hope when you wake things will finally be easier, fairer.

I know that this situation has taken a deep toll on you. It’s taken a toll on me as well, but I don’t mean to make this about me. 

What I am trying to say is, I hope that by the time you wake you can find it within your heart to forgive me. I never wanted to hurt you. I never wanted to do this, but… I hope you can at least understand why, even if you can’t forgive me.

(more…)

Summer Loll

Isaac leaned against the fence post that marked both the edge of the neighbors farm and informally the edge of town. He flipped the dagger in his hand, letting it rest on the back of his palm, before throwing it into the air. It spun a full rotation before landing blade first into the soft dirt. He bent down to pick up the dagger and do the same with his other hand. 

His father was more of a show off. When he taught Isaac how to play with blades, he would always do two, or even three rotations in the air before the dagger would bury itself into the ground. Isaac was much more utilitarian with his knife games. 

His father taught him several summers ago, back when Isaac was only maybe six or seven. Isaac wiped the summer sweat from his brow back then just as much as he did now. He hated the drills his father had him do; alternating stance and form at a moment’s notice. Forward grip extended his reach, his father would say, and back handed grip made boxing more lethal. A downward thrust had more force, good for armor or a thick shell, but it made him vulnerable to someone with longer reach. 

Isaac grabbed the dagger, flipped it underhanded, and stabbed it more than inch into the post behind him. 

(more…)

The Broken Key Part 1

Mikaela turned the corner and began to run down the hall, away from the skittering coming fast behind her. She turned around and still could not see…that thing, whatever it was chasing her. She turned back around and realized the hall was stretching away from her. Her breathing grew ragged with exhaustion, and yet the door at the end of the hallway simply grew further and further away, but the skittering, the sound of metal on tile, and then wood, it kept getting closer. She turned back around…

She gasped as she felt wet warmth across her face.


Mikaela woke up to the feeling of her secret stray licking her face. 

“Christ in heaven, Checkov, nearly threw you across the room.” She lifted the cat, easily, despite the pain in her hand, and although Mikaela was still quite young and small, Checkov was even smaller, the best kind of cat to train to hide in a bag under her bed. The next trick was getting him to stay still for even a minute.

Checkov wiggled out of Mikaela’s hands and fell on her chest, mewing once, and licking her face. Mikaela pulled him closer. “Shush boy, don’t want dad to know!” she mumbled with intensity. Intensity undercut by another disarming lick.

“Ugh.” Mikaela set the affectionate boy down on the hardwood of her bedroom floor and gently rolled out of bed. She sneaked towards a large bag next to her dresser. It was just out of sight from the door to her room, and fortunately she was just at the age where her mom didn’t find her sudden interest in privacy strange. 

(more…)

Growth

Michael breathed in at the pause in the conversation, passed the phone from his right hand to his left, and then let out his sigh.

On the other end of the phone, Mae asked him, “I don’t mean to be annoying or anything, but I have to ask.”

Michael flopped backwards onto his bed. “Please don’t.”

“I think that answers my question.”

“I know, I know. I need to clean it out, just…”

“Just nothing, you need to do it.”

Michael rubbed his face with his free hand. “I know.”

“You can do it dude. You’ve already come so far, and I just know that you can keep going.”

“I want to clean it. I really do.” Michael rested his hand on his chest. “Haven’t taken a bath in…since…in a long time.”

“Is that why you can’t clean it?”

Michael got quieter. “What are you saying?”

“Just, like, is, you know, he, is he the reason you can’t clean the tub?”

Michael sat up and swung his legs off the side of the bed. “I mean, I guess. It’s like, when anyone else is here they smell mildew, but for me, it smells like him.”

“Oh…okay.”

“I don’t mean he smelt like mildew or mold! I just mean that I don’t smell what everyone is smelling. It smells, to me, like his cologne, the smell of the sheets after he woke up, his chest when he held me, I guess.”

For a moment, just a brief one, the line was silent. 

Michael broke the silence “Do you think…if I told him I love him, that he’d still be here?”

(more…)

Incommon Haunts: Last Stop

Janine closed her leather jacket, trying to get herself just a little warmer. Late October wasn’t the coldest by any means, but it was a bit windy. She kept walking towards the old platform, holding a large bouquet of white lilies held together with a rubber band and wrapped in a Kroger shopping bag. She stopped for a second and looked at the Kroger bag she was carrying them in, tilted her head, and furrowed her brow. “Is this good enough? Fuck. It’s fine, no time anyway.” She stopped talking to the flowers, removed them from the bag and threw the bag in a trash can just before the stairs up the platform. 

Janine walked along the stone platform, listening to her own footsteps echo between the old train station and the apartment complex across the street. In the middle of the platform was an iron bench, recently renovated back to its original design from over 100 years ago. Janine was a sucker for art nouveau, but she could still appreciate its more art deco stylings, with its bold sharp shapes and sleek symmetry. 

She sat down on the bench and brought up one arm to rest against the back. Her flowers sat next to her. Turning towards the sign hanging just a few feet above and to the right of her, she confirmed that this was the right stop. The clock on the wall confirmed that it was the right time too. She was a few minutes early, but honestly, she was always early for these kinds of things.

Turning back forward, she jumped a little as she noticed that an older woman was sitting next to her now. The woman was wearing an old-fashioned bonnet with lace and a floor length dress. It reminded Janine of the Mennonites that would come into town to sell bread, and presumably other things. She only ever bought the bread and the pretzels.

Janine started to tap her foot and check her watch, occasionally turning towards the other woman who was sitting stone still. Janine would open her mouth, and then stop herself before looking back at her watch.  

The old woman finally seemed to shake awake and move a little. She blinked, once, twice, three times, and then yawned. She stretched and bumped into Janine. “Oh! Sorry dear, didn’t see you there.” She took a long look at Janine, starting at her eyes, following her nose, down to her mouth, then chin. “Have we met?”

(more…)

Followed

At the end of Nathalie’s leash was a soft and fluffy Wheaten Terrier named Roxy, wagging her tail as she went. Roxy was walking at a steady pace, matching her owner’s gait, staying right by her side. Or, more accurately, slightly ahead. Roxy would start just at Nat’s side, but as they got further along their route, Roxy would get just a pinch of excitement and walk in front of Nat, but not too much.

It was a crisp winter day. It had snowed last week, and while there were a few piles still left in some people’s yards, the snow had mostly melted. Today, however, the morning grass was covered in a frost of icy dew. To Nat, the yards looked like they were covered in a dusting of sugar. Nat looked down at Roxy, “Maybe I’ll make some cinnamon rolls today. But none for you girl. Hope you like the smell though.”

The pair turned around a corner in their flat neighborhood, just past a four-way intersection that connected their block to the wider neighborhood system. Soon, on their right, would be a small playground, just past a narrow patch of woods. Roxy picked up her pace, just a pinch more, and pulled her tail in tight. 

Here, on this stretch of their walk, made the extent of the weather so much easier to grasp, as long stretches of grass were left open. Nat wasn’t sure if they were just large yards, or just unsold properties, but either way, both sides of the street were wide open on either side, and just sparsely dotted with houses. Here, Nat felt alone, felt cold, felt tight. Nathalie pulled up her zipper just a bit more, up to the top of her neck, and then pulled tight on the drawstrings of her hood. 

(more…)