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The Urn: Flash Fiction by cam

Updated on December 17, 2016
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Chris has written more than 100 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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The Urn

Bob Lawson tossed five ones and a twenty onto the unmade bed of his one room apartment. He took off his shirt and pants, dropping them into a pile in the middle of the room.

“Cheap bastard,” he said to Hiram, his pet goldfish as it drifted in slow circles in the fishbowl. “Sure wasn’t worth all the trouble I went to breaking into that smelly, old mausoleum.” He had thought the urn would fetch him a few hundred bucks, but the clerk at the pawn shop claimed it was nothing special.

He turned off the lamp and climbed into bed. Light from the street shined through the window, illuminating Hiram’s bowl.

Hiram the Goldfish

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“So I’ve been reduced to robbing graves in church cemeteries. Beats getting a job I guess.” He closed his eyes and saw the black interior of the stone mausoleum. The size of the thing is what had attracted his attention. Anybody with a grave that size must have had some money, was what he had thought. “Twenty-five bucks,” he muttered as he drifted off to sleep.

The red LED lights of the bedside clock hurt his eyes, but he could still make out that it was a little after 2:00 am. The mausoleum continued to haunt his memory. After breaking the lock with a crowbar, he had entered and seen nine crypts standing end to end around the perimeter of the room. A tenth was positioned in the center on which the urn stood. Bob had simply grabbed the urn, looked inside, then dumped the ashes on the floor. He hadn’t stayed in the structure for more than a minute.

He glanced over at Hiram’s bowl. Tiny lights were swimming around like fluorescent guppies in a bowl of turbid water. “What the hell,” said Bob as he rolled off the bed and walked toward the fishbowl. Halfway there he stopped. Hiram was floating on his side, slowly turning with the current created by the swimming lights.

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Bob stumbled backward. His feet got tangled in the discarded clothes, and he landed on his back. One of the tiny lights rose out of the water with the fish following it into the air above the bowl. Bob grabbed his discarded clothes and headed for the door but stopped when Hiram’s body struck him on the forehead and fell, lifeless, to the carpet.

A single light drifted slowly toward him, growing larger as it advanced. Human features formed within the glow. Nose to nose it drew, circling, pondering flesh and blood it had once known, sensing fear. The other lights flew up and out of the dark liquid, joining the specter, but retaining their miniature form. They spoke in unison, male and female identifiable in the airy vocalization.

“Where is it?”

In no state of mind to answer questions, Bob crawled backward to the bed, cowering from the congregation of souls that was pressing in on him.

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The lights circled the room in single file, then scattered. Clothing flew from the closet along with storage boxes and shoes. Blankets landed in a heap on the floor. Dresser drawers dumped their contents into piles and smashed themselves against the walls.

Bob curled into a fetal position on the floor and looked up to the one who had taken form.

“What do you want from me?” he whimpered.

Silence struck as suddenly as the storm had begun.

“The Urn,” they sang, in a unified chorus.

“I….I….don’t have it. It’s at the pawn shop.”

“Take us there.".

“The pawn shop is closed, it’s the middle of the night,” said Bob.

“You had no trouble entering our mausoleum," said one of the spirits. "Go now. We will follow.”

Bob drove in the direction of the pawn shop, he pressed the accelerator pedal down hard and sped forward. The spirit took form again outside his window and pushed its face through the glass.

“You truly are a fool,” it said.

Bob parked a couple of blocks from the pawn shop and walked the rest of the way down a dark alley as tiny lights floated about his head.

The rear door to the shop had a window and Bob found a stone on the ground.

“What about the alarm?” he said. “The police will come.”

“Do you fear the authorities more than the dead?”

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Bob smashed the glass and reached in to unlock the door. The spirit lights shot in ahead of him and found the urn within seconds. Bob was already back in his car before the sirens could be heard in the distance.

He drove into the cemetery with his headlights off and parked in front of the mausoleum. Inside, he set the urn back in its place. The discarded ashes spiraled upward from the floor, circled Bob’s head, then settled into the urn.

Atop the crypt on which the urn stood, the shadowy figure of a woman took shape.

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“Those are my ashes,” she said. “I am also the matriarch of these spirits you have offended, and I sentence you to a most horrifying death.”

Spirit lights surrounded him, driving him from the mausoleum but in the opposite direction from his car. He ran through the darkness, tripping over potted flowers, colliding with monuments and headstones, herded by the flying spirits into the far reaches of the cemetery.

The ground vanished from beneath his feet, and he landed in an open pine box at the bottom of an unearthed grave. Bob stared into the empty eye sockets of the casket’s original occupant. Dessicated gray skin cracked as the smile formed.

“I promised you a most horrifying death,” said the spirit mother. She reached to the mound of dirt piled beside the grave and blew soil from her open palm.

Thousands of beetles rained down into the coffin and the lid slammed shut. Above the din of his own screams and the laughter of the corpse, he heard the spirit woman's final judgment.

“Flesh Eaters.”

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    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 23 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Shyron E Shenko, Thanks for reading. I appreciate you stopping by, and I'm very happy you enjoyed it.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 23 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Audrey, I'll keep your secret. horror stories are such dirty business. Thanks for reading.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 23 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      John, well, creepy and suspenseful is what I was going for and apparently I got pretty close. The first draft read like a comedy, so I had to start over. Thanks for reading it and commenting. I always appreciate that time you take to read my stories.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 23 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Faith, I'm pleased that you like the story. The one you unpublished, maybe you'd be happy after a rewrite. I've done that to many of my poorer ones and come up with some decent stories.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 23 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Wingedcentaur, thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. The photo was annart's as a prompt for the challenge.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 23 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Deb, glad you enjoyed the story.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 23 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      This is superb. I was diverted from start to finish, and the finale is so well-deserved. Even though the spirits are not good, I am definitely on their side, as the protagonist brought this upon himself.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 23 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Well done, cam8510! You were able to make a relatively big story out of a tiny premise---less than that, a mere image. Some kind of photographic mistake?

      You managed to package big horror into the small landscape of a small-time thief, doing small-time thievery, living in a small single rooms. The ending was elegant.

      The witch's final judgment: "Flesh eaters." I like that.

      Take it easy. :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 24 months ago from southern USA

      Yikes, never mess with the dead! Creepy flash fiction, Chris. That was certainly a horrible death to say the least. Excellent response to Ann's challenge. I loved your interpretation of her photo prompt. I used that same photo of the woman in one of my hubs that I have unpublished since because I did not feel it was one of my best, although others seemed to like it. We are our own worst critics for sure.

      You are a wonderful flash fiction writer.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 24 months ago from Queensland Australia

      This was creepy and suspenseful Chris. Love it. Great response to Ann's challenge.Voted up.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 24 months ago from California

      My dirty little secret is that I love horror fiction--this just tickled that part of me--loved it!

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 24 months ago

      Chris this was amazing and I voted that way. What a twist on this tale of intrigue.

      Voted up, UABI and shared

      Have a blessed day.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 24 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Randy, Thanks for commenting. This one took a couple of tries to get right. But I like the way it is now. Ann's photo looks like a human who is looking to the left. have a good hump day tomorrow.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 24 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Jo, Thanks for the comment on my story. I do wish you had time to respond to Ann's challenge too. Nice to see you here

    • Randy Horizon profile image

      Randy Hirneisen 24 months ago from Philadelphia

      Great story Chris. I love surprise endings too. I also thought the story line picture looked like a surreal face.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 24 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      A thoroughly enjoyable read with a scary message. "Never mess with the dead." I wasn't aware of this challenge by Ann, but it's probably just as well, since I find this types of challenged really hard to resist and I'm busy chasing my tail at the moment. Great idea, brilliant response.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 24 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Bill, feel free to put comments like this in all my hubs twice. Thanks much.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 24 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Chris, there are strange happenings on HP because I know damned well I commented on this. Now I can't remember what I said. LOL Something like a challenge from one of my favorite people accepted by one of my favorite story-tellers. Yep, that was it, I think. :)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 24 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Venkatachari M, Thanks for your thoughts on the story. I'm glad it was a satisfying read. The photo prompt that Ann provided is very unique and could be interpreted in many different ways.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 24 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Eric, are you talking about me or the story? Thanks for reading. I appreciate it :)

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 24 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Shauna, I appreciate your thoughts on this story and on my writing. I do wish I had twisted the ending a little more, but I'm happy with the story. Thanks for reading.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 24 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very interesting story and at the same time full of suspense and thrill. A good response to Annart's challenge.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 24 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Horrifying.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      You're a master of flash fiction, Chris. The lights of souls was eerie to say the least. Then, being trapped in a coffin staring into the eyes of the dead was just downright creepy. Poor Hiram. Why did he have to die for his master's sins?

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Frank, ever since I posted this , I've been kicking myself for burying Bob alive. Not because he didn't deserve it, but because it was so predictable. Feel free to take a shot at writing a new ending. I might write an alternate ending myself.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      buried alive.. poor Bob, don't want to work, but stealing has it's bad side too... Predictable, but very well written my friend.. it falls into the creep show category my friend

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Oh I loved this spooky story Chris. It's right up my alley as anyone who knows me can tell you. You built this story beautifully to its righteous end!

      I loved the spirits looking for the urn, a perfect fit though I was sorry to see the goldfish bite the dust. You gave more than done justice to this photo.

      Voted all but funny. Shared too.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks for letting me know what you see! Interesting.

      Glad you enjoyed the challenge. I like things that stretch us and I thought this might inspire different images. The fundamental thing rests with the lights I think, around or part of the image. I'm still trying to figure out exactly where I took it!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Ann, Thanks for the helpful comments. When I looked at the image you supplied, I saw a couple of things. The lights are what I focused on, but I also see the profile of a person, shaped by the lights. It is facing left. I wasn't sure how to use it in a story though. Thanks for the challenge. I enjoyed writing the story.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Poor fish!

      You created and sustained the suspense. I liked the contrast between the down-to-earth, basic human and the mystery around the urn.

      His demise was so spooky without being 'corny', a difficult thing to do.

      The points of light worked well for you! Did you just see them or the image I see? (I don't want to say what I see, yet.)

      They did say that evil would befall those who disturbed the Egyptian tombs, didn't they? This reminded me of that.

      Superb response to my challenge. Thanks for taking part, Chris.

      Ann

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