Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.
Setting: Cave Country of the Missouri Ozarks
The condensation on the cold water pipe cools and soothes my reddened face. The temperature soared to a hundred and six during the day and now, long after sunset, it’s still in the upper eighties. But I’m not crammed into this damned cabinet below the kitchen sink to escape the heat. Someone is prowling around inside my two story house, and this seemed an unlikely place for an intruder to look. I’m smaller than the average man and flexible, but I almost couldn’t get inside. Why hadn’t I just run outside with my cell phone and called the police? I’m like the captain who isn’t ready to give up his ship.
I’ve left the cabinet door ajar so I can see if someone enters the kitchen. I’ll be happy if it turns out to be a garden variety burglar with his face pressed into a grotesque bulge inside a woman’s stocking. But this tiny bedroom community outside the city has never had much of a crime problem. Lately, there have been strange sightings, but no one knows what to do about the reports of unfamiliar children prowling the neighborhoods at night.
I maneuver to get a better view. The looped drain trap presses against my crotch. Voices that sound like they were formed in sandpaper larynxes wind down the staircase, through the dining room and into the kitchen.
I push down with my feet and try to slide my ass back as far as I can. My right foot slips and slams against the wall of the cabinet with a muffled thump. I cringe at my stupidity. My breathing catches until my lungs burn like two chambers of red-hot embers.
Moonlight filters through the curtains above the sink casting the swaying shadow of an oak tree across the floor and up the walls. My fingers grasp the edge of the cabinet door, and I pull it closed.
Light footfalls enter the kitchen along with gravelly, high pitched chatter in a language I can’t identify. They go silent, waiting for me to make more noise. The drain pipe is pressing me in the worst of all places. My right leg is trapped. I need to reposition, but some very odd people are waiting a few paces away for me to do just that.
The back door opens. Voices and footfalls pass outside. I should wait, but I’ve got to know who they are.
I extricate myself from the sink cabinet. My muscles are stiff, and I struggle to straighten enough to look out the window. A sulfur smell lingers in the room. Outside, the oak tree sways in the breeze while a rabbit nibbles on the lettuce in my garden. No one is there, though they just walked out. In my impatience, I've come out of hiding too soon.
The creaking hinges of the back door match the high pitched giggles. The smell of sulfur recharges the air. I turn.
Their naked bodies are childlike, although the limbs are long and thin. The cadaverous faces seem out of place on living creatures and remind me of something accustomed to realms of darkness. Jagged, broken teeth protrude from twisted orifices emitting phlegm-ish gurgles of laughter.
They are about four feet tall and move around in a hunched over, ape-like fashion, as though they would be more comfortable crawling than walking on two feet. Where would such creatures come from?
All of this, I calculate in a few seconds as they stare at me, unblinking and unafraid. I, on the other hand, am so terrified, I've wet my pants.
The imps, the first word that pops into my mind, amble about the kitchen, grab pieces of bread and fruit, stuff it into their corrupt maws, grimace at tastes with which they seem to be unfamiliar and spit it onto the black and white tile floor. Their demeanor transitions from mischievous to irritated when the food disappoints them. These creatures are hungry and vegetables won't satisfy.
I startle them by being so bold as to walk across the room to the refrigerator and pull out every piece of meat I can find. On the table, I deposit a whole, roasted chicken, sliced baloney and raw fish fillets from my time on the lake this morning.
They rush the table after I've taken only a step away. Bones and plastic packaging fly over shoulders. Fresh fish is the big hit, and the three fight over the tender fillets. I creep toward the back door, taking advantage of their obsession.
The sulfur smell hangs in my nose and tugs at my memory. Of course! Every time I've ventured into the caves that surround my home in southern Missouri, the smell of sulfur is in every breath of air.
I look at the creatures tearing at the meat on my table. They came from one of three places; from space, from the forests or from the caves. Sulfur solves the riddle.
The door creaks on its hinges when I open it. The sounds of feasting cease. I turn around and realize I don't have enough meat in the house to satisfy my visitors. Just a few feet separate us. They are waiting for me to attempt to escape. Maybe I can outrun them, maybe I can't.
Three pairs of unblinking red eyes bore holes into my flesh. I wish their mouths would stop drooling when they look at me. Possibly too soon, they will.