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A Witch's Revenge: Short Short Fiction, Horror

Chris has written more than 200 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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A Witch's Revenge

Tim Duggan drove the streets of St. Louis trying not to jump every time the lightning flashed and thunder clapped overhead. There it was! He saw it when the last bolt jittered through the gray-black clouds that looked like roiling smoke.

The locally-owned burger joint seemed out of place among the downtown buildings that towered above it. The orange neon sign blinked a single name on and off through the pouring rain, “Mike’s”, the Madonna, or Cher if you prefer, of the culinary world.

He had passed a dozen other restaurants that served burgers while he searched for this place. Why was he suddenly so obsessed with finding it?

The online advertisement claimed Mike’s served award-winning burgers. Tim was on this errand to get dinner for himself, his wife, Hannah, and their six-year-old daughter, Lacey, aka, Little Lady Lacey. They were waiting for him in the hotel room, tummies growling.

Jangling bells made it sound like Christmas when he opened the door and entered. Not much to it. Just an area for customers to stand while waiting for their orders. Pictures covered the walls, mostly of the rich and famous who had just enjoyed a Mike’s burger.

No one was behind the counter to take his order so he walked forward to see if he could peek into the back and get someones’ attention. A girl, maybe ten years old with dark hair, walked out of the kitchen and stopped across the counter in front of him. He could only see her dark eyes.

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Tim wasn’t sure if he was supposed to order or wait for someone older than the little girl. Her eyes did not blink, and he was pretty sure she wasn’t smiling.

“My name is Josephine,” she nearly whispered.

“Hi, Josephine, I, um…”

“I'll be happy to take your life.”

“What?” Tim stepped back. “What did you say?”

“I said, I'll be happy to take your order?” She held up a pad of paper and pencil for him to see.

“No, no, that isn't what you said.”

Josephine continued not blinking or smiling.

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“Okay, okay." Tim tore his eyes away from hers and looked at the menu posted on the wall. "I’ll take two of the double cheeseburger meals with fries, and a kids' burger meal with the toy.”

“I’m going to murder you in fifteen minutes.”

“Wha—? Look, young lady,” he pointed his finger at her, but stopped short. The tip of a butcher knife appeared from below the top edge of the counter.

“Sir,” said Josephine, “all I said was that I'll have your order ready in fifteen minutes.”

Tim turned to leave when a man stepped out of the kitchen.

“I’m sorry. I was out back chasing the varmints away from the garbage cans. It’s a constant battle. I’m Mike. Can I take your order?”

“Who is she?” Tim was sweating, his breath coming in short gulps.

“Who are you talking about, mister?”

Tim charged the counter and slammed his fist down on it. “You know who I’m talking about. The little girl who just took my order while she threatened to murder me with a butcher knife.”

“There’s no little girl here, sir, just me. I run the place on my own.”

“But she was right there where you are standing now, and she threatened to kill me in fifteen minutes.” Tim rubbed his temples. “She said her name was Josephine.”

Mike grabbed Tim by the front of his raincoat and pulled him against the counter. “Look, buddy. I don’t know who you are, but you aren’t funny. What Josephine did to the rest of our family was horrible, but she’s a sick girl. It wasn’t her fault.” He pushed Tim away. “Now get out.”

“What did she do?” Tim approached the counter again. “Where is she now?”

“What she did was in all the papers and on the news. Where she is now is none of your business.”

“I'm sorry, but I’m not from St Louis. I never heard about what your daughter did.”

Mike walked around the end of the counter and joined Tim on the other side. He approached the photos on the wall and pointed at one. It was of a man and the girl Tim had seen on the other side of the counter. He could not forget those eyes.

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“That’s me and my daughter just a few weeks before—a few weeks before she murdered my wife, son and another daughter. The State of Missouri has custody of her now. They put her in a place for children who are…”

“Insane?” said Tim.

“Yes, but Josie isn’t simply insane.” Mike turned to look Tim in the eye. “She is gifted. She can do things with her mind.”

“What kinds of things?”

“She once caused a dog to stop walking like it was instantly frozen. The dog whined, but it couldn’t move."

"Did she ever use her gift on people?”

“It was a family secret. If she used it on people, she never talked about it.” Mike looked at his shoes for a moment as though he were making up his mind about something. “On my wife’s side of the family, back in England in the 1600s, there was a witch who could do the same thing. The townsfolk burned her. We think she’s come back as our Josie to get revenge.”

Mike went back around the counter. “Sorry, I practically pulled you out of your shoes a few minutes ago.”

“It’s okay. I think I understand now.”

“Well Mister, it looks like you’ve got about five minutes to live. You’d better be on your way unless you want to order.”

“I told you. I already ordered.” Tim stepped out into the storm, got in his car, and left the madness behind him.

About five minutes later, he was sitting at a stoplight when he heard something stirring in the back seat. He glanced up into the rearview mirror. Josephine’s dark, smileless eyes met his, and the tip of the butcher knife glinted in a flash of lightning. The light turned green, but his car didn’t move. Other drivers honked and went around him.

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Tim sat, holding the wheel, unable to move. “Josie, I understand you want revenge. But why me?”

“I wish you could remember.” Cold metal touched his throat. “You were the man back in England who lit the fire beneath me.”

“That's crazy. You're just a little girl, and I'm a simple man whose wife and daughter are waiting for me to bring them dinner."

"It's crazy, and it's true."

"What are you going to do to me, Josie?"

“You will burn at my hand like I did at yours.” The car shook from a muffled explosion under the hood. Smoke rolled out and rose toward the black-gray clouds. Josephine laughed her little girl laugh. Flames reached into the passenger compartment like orange and red fingers.

Two things happened in Tim’s mind when the fingers touched him. First, he remembered that night centuries ago in England when he threw a torch onto a pile of wood and heard a woman scream.

Second, he understood why she screamed.

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© 2019 Chris Mills

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on February 25, 2020:

Renee, Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Renee Easterwood on February 24, 2020:

Loved your story Chris.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 06, 2020:

Just knowing it is in your family history must give you an eerie feeling. I'm so glad we have advanced in that regard. Superstition has been responsible for so much suffering and death.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 06, 2020:

Chris

At the moment all I know about it is that the family were forced to leave the village of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire around 1560 and one sister of an ancestor was burned at the stake, probably for being a spinster with a black cat (that was the criteria for the charge of witchcraft!) but it would make a great story

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on January 06, 2020:

Lawrence, I enjoyed writing this story. If you have any written history about your family regarding witches and burning witches, it might make a fascinating documentary. Thanks for the visit.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 05, 2020:

Chris

Awesome! This was a great story. Our family history has witches being burned at the stake back in Elizabethan times but thankfully none of them have 'come back' as far as we are aware!

Happy new year to you.

Lawrence

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 28, 2019:

Sara, Thank you for visiting. I've missed you stopping by to read. But, of course, I haven't been over to your profile either for quite some time. Thank you for your kind comment. I'll head over your way now to see what you have been up to.

Sara Sarwar Riaz from Michigan, USA on November 28, 2019:

I always loved reading your flash fiction, and can see how it has continued to evolve over the years. Wonderful theme, beautifully described.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 27, 2019:

Ann, welcome and thanks for your comment. I'll just focus on those remaining friends I have here. I am grateful for your support.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 26, 2019:

Okay Manatita. Take a rest for a while. It is already 3:58 in the afternoon here in the Philippines. God bless you.

manatita44 from london on November 26, 2019:

Ah Luis! Crazy me! still in bed recovering. Will visit all you guys later.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 26, 2019:

Yes, Manatita. In this Chris hub. Thanks for answering.

manatita44 from london on November 26, 2019:

Haha Chris.

Luis asked me that question and I answered. Probably on your Hub, not sure.

I love simplicity and open honesty. This young man seems to have a childlike nature. Glory to him.

My gratitude to all your Hubber friends. Love to you.

Ann Carr from SW England on November 26, 2019:

Oooohh! That was really scary, Chris! You are a master story-teller, that's for sure. I like the reincarnation idea.

I don't understand why you think you've offended many of your readers. We all have time off to do lots of things but most of us get back to write something and some of us are steadfastly writing with amazing output (e.g. Bill Holland). I read as many as I can but perhaps not as much as I used to, simply because life is busier now, with family mostly.

I love reading your work. It's versatile and you obviously work hard. Good luck with the compilation. I have a few in my 'draft' pile but they won't be sorted any time soon!

Ann

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 26, 2019:

Shana I'll just stop for now nowgeignn how hard this has been for me to respond my dear friend.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 26, 2019:

Wow, Chris, this story is creepy, horrifying and brilliantly written! You did a great job of changing Josephine's words to sound like she said something completely different.

The ending was brilliant as well. No happy ending but just desserts were certainly served.

Great job! Who needs a prompt when a mind such as yours is driving the keyboard!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 26, 2019:

Thank you, Linda. I'm glad it held your interest.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 25, 2019:

I agree with you Linda. This story from Chris is a great story.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 25, 2019:

This is a great story, Chris. It held my interest right from the start and has an excellent ending.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 25, 2019:

You should ask him that question. manatita is very approachable.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 25, 2019:

Yes Chris. Correct me if I am wrong. Is he a Christian pastor?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 25, 2019:

Luis, manatita is very famous without my help. He is famous for spreading joy, love, peace, and the presence of God in every man. He's a good man to listen to closely.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 25, 2019:

Dora, I'm glad you kept reading too and that, in the end, you liked it. Thank you.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 25, 2019:

manatita, wouldn't it be nice if maintaining relationships didn't require any time and attention? No, I guess it wouldn' be so nice. I appreciate the velvet tongue lashing.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 25, 2019:

Manatita is very famous now because of the challenge he made. Congratulations, Manatita.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 25, 2019:

I hate scary stories but I like when they're well written. Great ending. Glad I kept reading.

manatita44 from london on November 25, 2019:

Ha ha.

There are people I like, whose work I don't visit. Bill once wrote a piece, some years ago, in which he said that it is reasonable to visit someone's work, especially if they visit yours. There is some truth in that.

If you are as busy as Bill, you feel aggrieved if you are visiting and commenting on writer's work and they don't reciprocate, so you get down-hearted. Nothing personal.

So the answer is to visit more and comment and then writer's will follow suit. For those who don't, then there are those of us who will look for new people. No offence intended.

I'm saying all this, as you seem to think you have offended some. That is not always the answer. People also know when we pay a flying visit without reading their Hubs.

We are all busy, but we still wish for folks - apart from the good and money-orientated - to read our work. It's only fair that we do the same. People notice quite quickly when we stop or become a once every 5 Hubs kind of guy.

No short answers, as so many of us have other interests! Peace!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 25, 2019:

manatita, Thank you for the challenge. I keep writing because I can't imagine not writing. But I miss having an audience like I used to have. I seem to have offended most of my readers.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 25, 2019:

Bill, Thank you for your constant support. All I want out of the compilation is a nondigital place for my best work. There are so many of us doing this now, the good and the great get lost in the mediocre and poor.

manatita44 from london on November 25, 2019:

Awesome! A brilliant piece! Now I know why I thought you were always up there with Frank. Who would have thought you'd accept the challenge and do so well?

Put a book together and sell your Flash, like Bill.

Note: I seem to have stopped receiving notices from Hub Pages. Just happened to see your work at the bottom of one of my Hubs.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 25, 2019:

I'm glad to hear you are working on a compilation. You are an excellent flash fiction writer.

Happy Thanksgiving, Chris!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 24, 2019:

Thank you, Ruby. It's nice to see you today.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on November 24, 2019:

Wow, Talk about reincarnation! This was a great horror flash. I will never go into another burger bar again, especially if it's name is Mike.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 24, 2019:

Shucks I am having to take off two hours early to hike with my boys these days.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 24, 2019:

Eric, I get it now, just a little slow, like my hiking has become. Reread to your heart's desire and pleasure.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 24, 2019:

Brother it was my pleasure to reread them. Sometimes I "dummy down" in my writing. You do not and I love that. I reckon we are just loving writing and reading. I listen to the same song twice just to get a different take.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 24, 2019:

I will Chris. I am appreciating your encouragement. thanks and stay safe always.

Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on November 24, 2019:

You still have the ability, Chris, kept me bound until the butter/sweet end. What minds can conjure will never cease to amaze me, sometimes, even my own. Yet, I find in most of them an answer, often in the form of a metaphor, to some universal mystery. This one is the law of "karma" or "reaping what one sow" but nor quite as exact as I generally think of them.

Thanks for the sharing.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 24, 2019:

Eric, thank you for that comment. Please let me know if some of the paragraphs were not clear in their meaning. I just want to make sure I understand why you had to reread. Otherwise, it is always a pleasure to see you.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 24, 2019:

Well now my good buddy, this one is just plain weird. I had to reread paragraphs. Now that is what I talking about when I say a "great one".

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 24, 2019:

Pamela, I'm glad scary stories are still popular. Thanks for reading.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 24, 2019:

Luis, Yes, write one. I'd love to read your story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 24, 2019:

John, Thank you and yes, it was a surprise ending. It was a surprise to me too at the last minute.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 24, 2019:

Chris, that was a scary story, and I didn't expect that ending either. It is a good scary story.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 24, 2019:

Wow, this is great. I am trying to write one. Thanks for sharing.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on November 24, 2019:

Wow, Chris. This was freaky, and what a surprise ending. good job.