Back in 2014, I was still very new to writing flash fiction–short pieces usually under 1000 words or so. Imagine my surprise when I took first place in the Morning Rain Publishing Freaky Flash Fiction contest!
You can read the story, titled “The Funeral Home Is No Place for a Child” here. If it sends a chill up your spine, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know!
Charley sat on the hard, wooden bench and wished he were with his babysitter. She wouldn’t make him sit still. She would find a way to make this boring place fun. The acrid, chemical scent smelled like roasted banana. It burned the inside of his nose and made his eyes water.He looked over at the adults and pouted. Their hushed conversation mingled with the sound of archaic organ music piped through the room’s overhead speakers, creating a constant din that was occasionally broken by a muffled sob.
Boring! Charley thought again that he shouldn’t have to be there. Nobody paid attention to him, anyway. It could be worse. They could be in a cemetery where a ghost or ghoul might appear. He rolled his eyes and slumped against the back of the bench.
Ignoring the way that his suit jacket fit tight around the shoulders, Charley thrust his hands into the pockets. What was this? Bubbles! They were in his pocket, leftover from Michael’s party. He excitedly sat up, an idea forming in his head.
But… what if the adults didn’t like that. Bah! Who cared? It wasn’t his fault they were boring.
Keeping one eye on the adults, he carefully dipped the wand into the bubble solution. Ever so slowly, he blew and watched the soapy liquid form a perfect, fragile orb. The bubble separated from the wand and floated up into the air. Charley quickly scanned the room, but the adults were too busy to notice. They continued ignoring him, just as they had the entire night.
Charley continued blowing bubbles. This was fun! It even made him forget about the bad smell. A particularly large bubble floated down into the casket. Not wanting to spook the grownups, he slowly stood up on the bench and strained to peer at the person inside. He was not quite tall enough.
Bubbles make people happy, he thought. If I keep blowing bubbles in there, then maybe some of the people here will be happy to see them.
He continued blowing bubbles into the casket, one after the other, in his childlike innocence. Occasionally, Charley would feel a light, brushing sensation on his face that made him giggle. His childish laughter tinkled like bells throughout the funeral home.
Someone tapped on his shoulder. Oh no! He’d momentarily forgotten about the adults! Expecting one of his parents to be standing there, ready to admonish him, he turned around and was pleasantly surprised to see his babysitter. She arrived after all!
With a questioning look, she pointed outside. He beamed a smile that stretched from ear to ear and nodded eagerly. Hand in hand, the two made their way through the crowd, past the child-sized casket, ignoring all the grownups and their boring conversations.
When they reached the front door, they walked right through it and crossed the porch, taking no notice of the freshly delivered newspaper lying on the step or the headline that read: No New Clues in Vehicle Crash that Claimed Lives of Babysitter and Young Boy.