Powder Burn Flash #375 - M. Allman

The Sacrifice
by M. Allman


A strange sound echoed through the alleyway. It seemed to emanate from the back of the abandoned building. At first, the screams startled me. I bolted for the nearest lit street, but my conscience wouldn’t allow me to run away. I turned back, stepping lightly as I approached the alley. I didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into, but if I needed help, I’d hope some good Samaritan might do the same.

The screams, now muffled, were coming from an empty warehouse. I heard a man’s voice, but was unable to make out what he was saying. Crouching below a broken window, I discreetly raised my head to peek inside. A little girl lay on the filthy, concrete floor. She couldn’t have been more than seven years old. Her auburn hair was in pigtails with a blue bow on each side. The same robin's egg blue as the flowers on her dress. She was bound with rope at her wrists and ankles. A dirty red handkerchief stifled her screams.

I had lived on the streets for many years, witnessed many crimes, but this situation was different. What I saw made me sick. The thought of the heinous acts she might be forced to perform made me realize I had to help her.

The sweaty, pervert guzzled whiskey straight from the bottle as he sat staring at his victim, most likely envisioning all the naughty things he’d do to her. After taking his last drink, he threw the bottle against the wall. “I’ll be back, sweetie.” He dug into the pockets of his jeans and found a wad of money. “Don’t go anywhere." He chuckled at himself, as he staggered out the door.

I broke out into a cold sweat. This was it. If I was going to save her, it had to be now. I tip-toed around to the door, made sure he was gone and went inside. The girl tried to scream. I'm sure my ragged clothes and unkempt hair frightened her.

“Shh, I’m here to help you.” I whispered while searching for something sharp to cut the rope. I found a piece of glass and sawed at the rope to let her free.

She stared up at me. Tear-soaked eyelashes framed her hazel eyes.

“I’m going to remove the handkerchief, don’t scream.” I carefully pulled it from her mouth. “Run to the nearest building and have someone call the police.”

She sprang to her feet and fled.

I walked out into the alley, watching her. I wanted to be sure she had gotten away. Suddenly, something struck my back. I struggled to keep my balance.

“I'm gonna teach you to mind your own business?” He said.

As I turned to defend myself, I saw two arms swinging a piece of pipe toward my head. I knew a fatal blow was inevitable. I didn’t care. That child likely had a family tormented by her disappearance, but the world would be a better place with one less drug addicted, derelict –like me.

 

BIO: M. Allman holds a BA in professional writing and works as a freelance writer and author. Her first anthology of speculative fiction Tales from Imagination's Closet is available on Amazon.com. She also has a self-published short story for young adults, "Ally Ally Oxen Free," available on Kindle. She welcomes you to visit her blog or website to learn more about her writing and upcoming publications. www.authormallman.blogspot.com and www.m-allman.com

 

Powder Burn Flash #374 - Benoit Lelievre

Schoolyard Noir
by Benoît Lelièvre

*inspired by the true story of Siyar Bahadurzada*


In tough, disadvantaged areas, high schools deal with very specific issues. Gang activity is very strong. Strength is in numbers, where survival is a concern. The gang has your back and in the most extreme cases, it picks up where your family failed you. In quieter, middle class neighborhoods, high school problems are more abstract. It’s about identity and respect. A teenager will obsess about his image, who he wants to be. Or whoever he wants the others to believe he is.

Andrew Sutton, also known as Bad Boy, has a big problem. A ninth grader who goes by “Killer” is walking the corridors of his high school. That can’t happen. Not on his territory. He earned his laurels to great efforts, by living up to his moniker. Hanging out with the toughest dudes, dating older girls and yes, occasionally sticking his fist up some deserving face when the situation called for it. If there’s a “Killer” around, he needed the king’s seal of approval. Segundo, it’s silly to be Bad Boy if there’s a Killer. It screws up his carefully laid out hierarchy. Also, the kid is an Afghani refugee. A brown person. What the hell do they know about being badass? They live in the sand and carry Camels around.

“Hey Killer”, calls Andrew, from the other end of the cafeteria. Abbas stopped straight and turned around. He rubbed his neck with his left hand, visibly embarrassed. Bad Boy walked up to him, as the dining students turned their heads around.

“You’ve been the talk of the school, man. Tell me, where does that name come from, Killer?”

“It is stupid. We had oral presentation on family. I said my grandfather called me Killer. I should not have said it. It was very, very stupid.”

“You speak good English, Killer. How come?”

“Thank you. My father sent me to good school in Dubai. But please, call me Abbas-”.

“Dubai? Is it where you’re from?”

Abbas can feel the bystander crowd thicken around him and the heat turn up a few degrees in his body. His armpits become moist. It’s always the first thing to sweat on him. He doesn’t like where this is going. He doesn’t know what that older kid wants with him, but he doesn’t need a PhD in English to understand this look, to read this posture. His father told him about this. About American being angry at him for who he was.

“No, I am not from Dubai. It’s very, very complicated, OK? Maybe another time.”

“What? You mean you’re a liar, Killer? You lied to the good people of this country? Well, let me introduce myself. My name’s Bad Boy, but to you it’s Homeland Security. Now, where you from?”

A few cheers erupt from the crowd. Scarce, but loud. There even is a “USA, USA, USA”. Faces around Abbas are silent, a mix of excitement and dread in their traits. They want something interesting to happen. The cheers give Bad Boy some courage. He jabs his finger in Abbas’ chest: “Listen to me, Killer.”

“Please, do not touch me.”

“Listen,” he says louder. Bad Boy’s father taught him a commanding voice is vector of respect and obedience. “I don’t know what your fucking name is, sand nigger but it’s not Killer. There’s one Bad Boy in this school and it’s me. There’s no Killer and it has to be clear.”

“Yes, clear. Very clear,” says Abbas. “You can have the nickname. You can be Killer if you want. I do not care.”

“Are you fucking with me?”

“No. Absolutely not. I’m sorry.”

“You need a nickname too, though. My school, my rules. I think I’ll call you Sandy, to honor your origins,” says Bad Boy, loud enough for everybody to understand. “Everyone, say hello to Sandy.”

“My name is Abbas Muhammad and I do not know who this boy is,” says Abbas, louder than Bad Boy.

Smiles peek through the crowd like blooming roses. Abbas doesn’t know what’s funny, but he’s happy to diffuse the situation a little bit. Someone behind Abbas can see yells: “Fuck him up, Bad Boy. This towel head’s making fun of you.”

It goes very fast. It’s a call Bad Boy knows he cannot ignore. A king has to satisfy his people in time of crisis. He throws a hand to Abbas’ throat but doesn’t make it. Abbas slaps his wrist and toss his arm aside. The quickness and the power surprises Bad Boy and fear digs its way to his cerebral cortex. A old friend he thought he had killed.

The face Bad Boy makes when Abbas shoves his fist under his ribcage and shovel-hooks the liver, will stay with the witnesses for years to come. It will remain engraved in the walls. Bad Boy looked like a deflated blow up doll. Lifeless and flat. He makes a gagging sound, trying to suck air back into his lung.

“Oeurgh”

It’s evident to the bystanders that the fight is over, but not to Abbas. His right hand comes looping upstairs and cracks Bad Boy on the jaw line. The self-professed school owner takes a wide step, trying to gain his balance back, but his body is electrified with numerous painful jolts and send him reeling again. From behind it looked like a machine gun salvo. Abbas places a perfect hook to the jaw for an exclamation point and Bad Boy comes crashing face first. The janitor and a science teacher break the fight and rescue Bad Boy. He is just Andrew, now. An eleventh grader with a broken jaw and four broken ribs, struggling to breathe.

The rumors spreads through school like an arson flame the next day. Killer’s a trained military youth from Kabul. He comes from a lineage of Afghani boxing champions. He’s been raised by Talibans and hates Americans. In middle class neighborhoods, fear travels faster to fill the void. It never had a name before Abbas moved in.


BIO: Benoit Lelievre lives in Montreal, Canada with his better half Josie and his dog Scarlett. He writes noir and dark fiction that focuses on the human condition in extreme situations. He's currently working on a novella he hopes to release by the end of the year. His blog Dead End Follies, was nominated for the 2011 David Thompson Community Leader Award by Spinetingler Magazine.

Powder Burn Flash #373 - Melody Clayton

On Parole
by Melody Clayton

 

I had to give that slick motherfucker credit. Ernie did a real swell job of convincing the parole board that I’d be returned to a loving, stable, home life with all our past criminal activity far behind us. But we both knew it wouldn’t work out. I couldn’t have him putting my forgiveness on layaway, paying my “post-release supervision” fees like some folks pay for cable television. Course, the burden to please would fall on me cause if I stepped out of line at all, Ernie had the power to send me right back to prison to finish my sentence.

When I walked through the gates I could see him in the parking lot, leaning against a shiny new red Volks Wagon; the asphalt around his nice leather shoes littered with cigarette butts. He was nervous, fidgeting with his lighter. He’d put extra effort into his looks, wearing a navy blue suit and more hair gel than he usually wore on visitation days. He smiled at me in a tired sort of way I’d become familiar with at visitations. Nearly once a month for seven years we sat facing each other, not allowed to touch except to hug hello and goodbye. We hadn’t been alone, able to talk to each other without a room filled with other voices in years. And now here we stood in a wide open space, in a quiet parking lot, free to hug as long as we wanted. But we didn’t have a hugging type relationship no more. That part of our lives ended a long time ago.

He stomped out his cigarette. “Want something to eat? You hungry? There’s a KFC not far from here.”

“No. They just gave us lunch.”

Ernie was never the type to talk just to be talking. He’d let silences ride as long as it needed to. Sometimes too long. We got into the car. I’d been dreading the ride the most. The space felt too tight, the air too cold, the silence too loud.

He jams the gas and before long we’re a few miles from the prison in some backwoods town. I see the sign for the motel right where Dana said it would be.

“Let’s get a room. I’d love to have a shower and change before I go home. You brought my clothes right?”

He hesitates but pulls into the motel parking lot. “Sure.”

“Push up bra?”

“Yes.”

“I’ve missed those.”

We watched a shirtless man with a pasty white beer gut scrub the moldy sides of an empty pool. After a few minutes I say, “This ain’t about sex. I just want a shower.”

“Sure. No problem.”

We head for the front office, a little glassed in shack that smelled like gasoline and burnt coffee. A plump young girl wearing dark red lipstick and silver eyeliner smiles when we come in. Ernie takes out his credit card.

“Cash only,” she says. She gives me a wink, smacks her gum.

Ernie puts away the card, unfolds a few bills and hands them to her. She gives us the key for room three. “No change?”

“No.”

“What a dump.”

“I’ll let management know.” She goes back to watching some game show on a little TV by the phone.

The room is simple, more functional than attractive; pretty much the same way I reckon Ernie was thinking about me. I closed the curtains and turned on the lamp. Ernie sat on the foot of the bed and took off his shoes.

“Ernie,” I said, unbuttoning my top. I wanted to see how he’d handle suppressing his unease. “Remember the time we fucked in that old house on Maco road? The one in the cornfield behind your Mama’s?”

He was picking at his fingernails. He lit a cigarette. “Yeah. We didn’t call it fucking back then.”

“Yeah. We were stupid.” I threw my shirt on the bed, slipped my shoes and jeans off. I stood there in my dingy underwear watching him look and not look.

“That’s the night you said you’d love me forever. Stupid kid stuff.”

“I’m still here ain’t I?”

I walked over to the closet. There, hanging from a hanger was the plastic bag they leave for dirty clothes, only this one had a gun in it. I said, “Yeah, you are. Ernie? You remember how you cheated on me with that skinny bitch over in Johnston City? Oh you know. The one I went to prison for murdering on account of you.”

“Let’s not talk about it. You know I didn’t mean to kill that woman. I’ll make it up to you.”

Ernie was always having to make stuff up to me.

I put the gun behind my back until I was near him on the bed. Then I shoved the gun right in his face. I’d thought of having sex with him first, one last time for old time sake. I had loved the guy. He’d been my first true love but my first real betrayal too. When I threw myself at him, trying to get him interested in me, he was having an issue getting it up and I lost my patience. I went ahead and shot the scumbag. Sure I cried. I laughed some too. Then I called the front desk.

“It’s done,” I said.

The receptionist and two other women who couldn’t speak English came in with plastic shower curtain liners. They wrapped Ernie up while I took a hot shower. Cleanest I ever felt.

I put on the clothes Ernie had packed for me and gave my dirty prison clothes over to one of the girls. “Keep your friends close but your enemies in a bag in the trunk. No habla?” I said.

I slammed the trunk to the VolksWagon, gave the girl back the room key, some money, and Ernie’s leather shoes, his watch and wedding ring to pawn.

I headed down the interstate, ready to help Dana deal with her post-release supervisor.


BIO:I am a North Carolina writer, currently working on my first novel. My recent short stories have appeared in Needle Magazine, Pedestal, Short Fast and Deadly, as well as the anthology Dark Things II. Visit my website for more info at www.melclayton.wordpress.com

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