Category Archives: DLR Creative Writing

Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire

By Brooke Lilek

*Chestnut: something repeated to the point of staleness; a trope

Phoebe heard a knock on the front door and froze.

An extreme reaction for someone who cannot sense death at her doorstep, but that’s Phoebe.

She tensed before checking the peephole. She found no one out front though. Phoebe threw the deadbolt into place and plopped down on the couch. Within 20 minutes, the knocking returned. But this time it came from the kitchen, a room Phoebe painted a disturbing fuchsia thinking it would fade to a softer color in a few weeks like hair dye.

Phoebe won’t be as bright as the walls of her kitchen, but this wouldn’t be any fun for you if she was.

Removing herself from the comfort of her couch, Phoebe tried to rationalize that the icemaker had kicked on.

Don’t bother believing Phoebe’s rationalizations. Let’s see how I can make her squirm.

She went into the kitchen to confirm her suspicions, but upon finding no ice, she conveniently remembered she broke it last week. Her heart pounded so fast it almost ran out of blood.

What should I make her afraid of? Nothing too easy, I’m taking up Phoebe’s whole night.

It’s all in my head, Phoebe thought. In the living room, she turned on Deadpool 2 to avoid hearing anything but Ryan Reynolds’, “and that is why the man bun is just a millennial mullet.” But more knocking at the door interrupted Ryan’s sultry voice.

She rose slowly and slunk towards the door. Peering through the peephole, Phoebe saw a man in a red jacket holding a pizza.

“$17.23, please,” said the delivery boy.

Pulling out 20 dollars, Phoebe said, “You didn’t stop by earlier, did you?”

“Nope, just this once.”

“Maybe you got the address wrong for another delivery?” She said.

“Yeah, no.” He said taking the money and leaving.

Phoebe set the pizza box on the couch and walked into the kitchen. She scrounged up her last Pepsi, which she dropped upon finding the pizza box open and a bite missing.

Perhaps you’d like more suspense?

Phoebe told herself she forgot she stole one heavenly bite before retrieving her drink.

As if someone could forget that so quickly.

Phoebe inched closer to the open box. The landline rang, freezing her lungs. Relax, it’s probably just mom, she thought, answering the phone.

What kind of scary story would this be if she didn’t answer the phone?

“H-hello?” she said. But only heavy breathing answered, and the line went dead. It must have been a wrong number, Phoebe thought.

Don’t worry, I won’t let Phoebe off that easy.

She looked at the pizza again. Just to be on the safe side, Phoebe threw the bitten slice away. Near the trash bin, she heard strange noises floating up from the basement, almost like a rusted window hinge creaking in the breeze. I should just go check, she thought, I’ll just close the window and it will be fine. She even imagined a raccoon sneaking past her and taking a bite of pizza.

It feels as silly writing that down as it does for you to read it, but I’ve already decided Phoebe doesn’t have much going on upstairs, so here we are.

With a flashlight in hand, Phoebe wandered into the depths of the house. Something deep inside told her turn back and shamelessly eat pizza while watching Ryan Reynolds leap around in a tight, red suit.

But you have entered a scary story, so she won’t do that. Her survival isn’t my top priority. Also, if you’re wondering why she didn’t turn on the light, you’ve learned nothing about Phoebe.

Halfway down the steps she called into the darkness.

“Hello?”

Something grabbed Phoebe’s ankle and yanked her down the remaining stairs.

Oh Phoebe, if only I hadn’t sent you into the basement.

Her head smacked the steps, breaking them from the walls. Cackling flooded her ears as her body slammed against the cement floor. Her vision swam as she looked around for the source of the insane laughter, but she saw no figures, only the glare of her flashlight as it rolled to the opposite wall.

Barely able to lift her head, Phoebe tried dragging herself back up the steps only to be flung backwards by the collar of her shirt.

“Stay,” a voice hissed.

She swung out her arm hoping to knock over her assailant, but her hand passed through what felt like maple syrup, not sticky, just resistant.

“Anybody, please! Help me!” Tears filled Phoebe’s eyes. She was dragged by her hair across the floor; cold concrete rubbed her skin raw. The laughter continued to fill the basement until Phoebe was practically breathing it.

“Please, let me g—” Phoebe started, but the Being gripped her throat. Cracks spread through the concrete surrounding Phoebe’s body. She thrashed her legs to no effect.

This may seem harsh, but if I just let Phoebe off the hook, who would read about her?

Pieces of concrete fell as sections of the floor split farther apart. Phoebe watched the outline of a head darken as her vision faded. Concrete walls rose to surround her limp body. She attempted to pry its hand away from her throat, but with every ounce of strength it gained, she lost hers. She fixated on its ravenous eyes.

Waves of heat beat against Phoebe’s back. The depths of Hell rose to trade her life for the Being’s. She found herself wondering how Deadpool 2 ended and sighed knowing she would never find out.

Maybe I should have let Phoebe eat some of her pizza. A last meal so to speak.

Pink Floyd’s Animals Reflects a Society Hurtling Toward Dystopia

By: Ben Sapet

Image via Mojo Magazine

In the 1970s, the United Kingdom felt distinct growing pains as the previous decade’s progressive and loosening cultural norms rubbed against a growing reactionary trend of government conservatism and fierce traditionalist social activists. By 1977, British art-rock group Pink Floyd had snapped. That year, they released Animals, a concept album filled to the brim with equal measures of disdain, disgust, and despair. On Animals, Pink Floyd casts a scathing critique over contemporary Britain with a heightened dystopian vision of a society reduced to dogs, pigs, and sheep.

The album is made up of three 10+ minute songs: one dedicated to the vicious dogs biting, barking, and backstabbing their way through corporate, capitalist culture; one dedicated to the pigs sitting at the top of society pushing their callous agenda down on those below; and the last dedicated to the placid, unquestioning sheep who follow their leaders and misplace their frustrations. The album begins with the acoustic, uncharacteristically tender “Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 1.” In this song, the band wonders aloud what would happen “If you didn’t care what happened to me, and I didn’t care for you” and does not know “which of the buggers to blame” for the world becoming so uncaring (Pink Floyd, “Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 1”).

The guitar fades back in and the next song, “Dogs,” begins the album in earnest by examining the first of the culprits for creating this world: the dogs. These dogs are the cutthroat businessmen who feel they “have to be trusted by the people that [they] lie to / So that when they turn their backs on [the dogs] / [they]’ll get the chance to put the knife in” (Pink Floyd, “Dogs”). A splitting peel of electric guitar follows this thought and wordlessly echoes the cathartic energy of the dogs tearing through life. The narrator describes the dogs feeling like they are “just being used,” but continue through life “Deaf, dumb and blind, [they] just keep on pretending / That everyone’s expendable, and no one has a real friend” (Pink Floyd, “Dogs”). Between the sense of devalued human life, and a new social class of fierce businessmen, the lyrics reflect Britain’s shift toward a post-industrial society throughout the 1970s and 80s. The dystopia of Animals, then, aims its acidic criticism toward a world changing for the worse, as labor is no longer a matter of creation, but a constant, all-consuming hunt that makes people act like vicious dogs starved by their masters and set loose to sink their teeth into each other and the rest of the world.

When the final words of “Dogs” echo out, we hear a wandering synth line and, underneath, the husky snorts of pigs. The next song, “Pigs (Three Different Ones),” looks to the masters steering this broken society. Each of the three verses addresses a different one of the pigs. The first verse is directed toward the pigs at the top of the corporate ladder who keep their “head down in the pig bin” to supervise the work that feeds their gluttony (Pink Floyd, “Pigs”). The second verse attacks the looming conservative government and, specifically, Margaret Thatcher, a conservative politician often considered Ronald Reagan’s British counterpart. In the song she is called a “bus stop rat bag” who “radiate[s] cold shafts of broken glass” in reference to her unfeeling, uncaring social policies that placed austerity above human well-being (Pink Floyd, “Pigs”).

The final verse of “Pigs” lashes out at Mary Whitehouse, a prominent activist who responded to the sexual revolution of the 1960s with a disgusted crusade to bring back the traditional stigmas about sexuality in the public sphere. In the song they address her by name and describe her mission as trying to “stem the evil tide / And keep it all on the inside,” thus, blaming her for the emerging sense of repression and detachment the band senses in British society (Pink Floyd, “Pigs”). Pink Floyd is at their most venomous in “Pigs” with their rage and bitter heartbreak almost palpable in the song’s instrumentals. At the end of “Pigs,” we see that the album’s dystopian opening question – what if we did not care for each other – is not hypothetical, but realistic.

Image via Harvest Records

The third song, “Sheep,” begins with an understated, almost hymnal, piano melody and the bleating of a field full of sheep. The song targets the passive religious majority who “Meek and obedient […] follow the leader” and are content with the will of the pigs (Pink Floyd, “Sheep”). Like its subject matter, “Sheep” is the most placid song on Animals. Unlike the pigs and dogs, the sheep do not actively unravel society’s fabric with their wrongs, they just watch. That is, until the end of the song when the sheep, goaded by the pigs, reach a fear-driven frenzy in which they rise up and slaughter the dogs. The album’s dystopian reflection of the clashing social forces in 1970s Britain culminate in this moment of one pawn being set against another by the callous pigs and their senseless agenda.

The album ends with “Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 2” answering the question from “Pt.1” with “You know that I care what happens to you / And I know that you care for me too” (Pink Floyd, “Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 2”). With the album’s final breaths, we are left with the impression that as the dogs, pigs, and sheep tear society apart, we can simply take comfort in whatever care we can find in a world starved for compassion.

 

References:

Pink Floyd. “Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 1.” Animals, Harvest Records, 1977.

Pink Floyd. “Dogs.” Animals, Harvest Records, 1977.

Pink Floyd. “Pigs.” Animals, Harvest Records, 1977.

Pink Floyd. “Sheep.” Animals, Harvest Records, 1977.

Pink Floyd. “Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 2.” Animals, Harvest Records, 1977.

Album Cover attributed to Harvest Records in the United Kingdom and Columbia Records in the United States.

Nothing Happens in Ohio: A Short Story

By Audrey Bowers, Ball State University

2028 – The Change  

Nothing can stop me. I’m a survivor of the zombie apocalypse.

“Come along Toby,” I say to my dog. My eyes squint to see what this abandoned city might offer me.

Toby, my corgi, trails after me through the brick streets of what I think was once Kent, Ohio. Kent was nothing like New York, where I’m from before the apocalypse. Now the entire Earth is in ruins and the cities all look just about the same, although Ohio has proven itself to be less chaotic. This place is not anything like the old New York, but I thought that this place could provide me with what I needed: food, water, and safety. I miss the days when I had sparkling water at my fingertips and fresh vegan food at the market around the corner. Now I’m lucky to be eating anything.

Five years ago, I would be binge watching Gilmore Girls. There isn’t time for that now. Netflix is long gone. I’m not the same person I was back then and Toby isn’t the same happy pup I met a few years ago when I adopted him. We no longer live in that world, the one I took for granted. I used to be a writer, and the worst thing to happen was my barista messing up by order.

At this moment, I’d be totally fine with non-soy milk in my latte if it meant not fighting zombies every day.  I just live my life, without trying to impress anyone. I scavenge for food, kick zombie ass, and take care of my corgi. I assume that I’m one of the only humans left. I don’t believe I have seen another living human being since 2026, a few months after the apocalypse began. Most beings even resembling humans were flesh eaters.

I wander into the remnants of what I imagine to be Kent, Ohio. I think there was a college here at one point and an Applebees or something perhaps. Around the corner I see a zombie that seems stranger than usual. The thing gnaws and yawns and groans at me while half of its face hangs dutifully above its shoulder.

“Gnaaaaaah”

This isn’t good, I think. My stomach twists and turns, but there is still fresh ammunition in my gun. I should just kill it but then it starts speaking to me. I can’t believe what I am hearing, feeling befuddled by it all. What happened to the zombie slayer I once was?

Then all of a sudden, the groaning stops and a real, human voice comes out of this undead body.

“Hello…” The creature says to me.

“He…Hell…Hey.” I say. Talking was hard in this moment. If the zombie wasn’t speaking to me, it would already be dead.

I turn around and a mirror image of that creature appears, similar but not exactly the same as the other one.

“Hello…” This creature says to me, in the same voice.

In this moment, I feel really afraid. Two talking zombies? Part of me wants to shoot them. The other part of me longs for conversation.

“Um hi?” I ask, knowing that I should have been pulling the trigger.

Then another talking zombie appears on my left and another one appears on my right. Their voices are like a sweet song, calling me home, yet they are also harsh enough to remind me that this is really the end. I fire my gun into the air because I feel desperate for a way out. The zombies don’t back off. They continue closing in on me, pulling me into a warm embrace while ripping the skin off of my arms and legs. I won’t lie, it hurts like hell and I scream out, but eventually the pain subsides and I am still alive, but in a different way, perhaps even more alive than I was before.

My throat closes up and I see a thin lens of blood coating the outer layer of my eyes. My thoughts become muddied and incoherent, leaving me to lose sense of who I am and what I am even doing, yet I find comfort in this strange community for whatever reason.

We go searching for our next victim, singing a bitter but somehow sweet song.

2030 – Life After the Change

It’s been two years of wandering around with these people. While we may not be alive anymore, we are still very much people, just functioning in a different way.  Nothing much happens here in Ohio, but it’s okay because I don’t have to worry about dying anymore. All I do is sing and eat flesh. It’s a pretty rad life. I remember how I used to be consumed by the weight of the demands of life, and now I’m just kind of here. There’s something nice about that.

The “real” humans are dying out and they aren’t breeding. I worry that we will run out of food, but we can’t seem to control our appetites. Each and every day goes by and I feel my cognitive functions muddied by the weight of hunger. We’ve survived this far; however, I’m sure that we will figure something out or maybe we will die once and for all. Maybe we deserve that.

Being a zombie doesn’t completely fit with the stereotype that the media used to have. I am nothing like Romero’s zombies. I’m pretty much the same, except for the flesh-eating thing. Us zombies still have smart conversations sometimes, and we keep on singing our songs because they’re beautiful yet dead in a certain way.

My friend Julia says, “Alice, we met this nice human and we think we don’t want to eat her yet!” She has this unwavering enthusiasm and optimism that makes me want to punch her in the throat, but I don’t because she’s my friend.

“But I’m so hungry!” I snarl back.

“Gah, Alice, just listen to her voice,” Julia practically whines.

So I try to restrain myself as I stumble with Julia on over to the human, “Okay, but I can’t promise that I won’t try to eat her.”

Julia just rolls her eyes at me.

Samantha is nice, I guess. She seems tired and weak, and, if I had a heart, it would be hurting for her. She sings this song, and it pours out of her mouth like a fine wine.

“Fine, we’ll keep you,” I say to her, “but I can’t promise that we won’t try to eat you and if you try to kill us, you’re done. Kapeesh?”

“Uh, okay,” Samantha says, “I really like your singing and I hope that you’ll let me live, you know, the way that I am.”

“No promises,” I smirk. Even if I didn’t eat her, that wouldn’t stop the rest of us from trying.

A look of horror flashes on her cold, tired face. If you didn’t know any better, you’d say that she’s one of us. I imagine that all she did before the apocalypse was work and after the apocalypse hit, she probably wondered around aimlessly looking for food and shelter. Now, she’s joined us: wondering around aimlessly, finding food to eat, and singing because well, there’s nothing else to do.

Ad Out: A Short Story

by Leah Heim, Ball State University

And to think that we complained about that Fort Wayne tournament.

© Photo by Cynthiamcastro of Pixabay.com

None of the parents went. Pendleton to Fort Wayne on a Thursday night? Give me a break. Parents had a hard time going to home matches. Overtime isn’t optional when the droughts last summer exploded food prices, or when the tornado last January ripped the shingles off your house, or when your kid has to have a suspicious mole hacked off. My parents could buy me a new tennis racket, and I was lucky: most girls used rackets their grandmas had kept in sheds to swat at carpenter bees, back in the day when bees had existed. Regripping a racket meant wrapping it with duct tape. Our school hadn’t gotten new tennis skorts since my mom played in the 2010s, and getting the skort with only one, discreet stitch in the crotch was the incentive to be number one singles.

God, imagine! We were all worried about tennis: about whether or not we’d make varsity, whether or not we’d finally whip those brats from Elwood High at county. But what else were we supposed to worry about? It had been our grandparents’ job to worry, and since they hadn’t, we didn’t have to, either; we just had to have a good time, make the best of it. And we were high-schoolers, after all. We couldn’t even vote to comfort ourselves with the delusion that we’d tried. At this point, the politicians could hardly even do that.

The truth is that the world was already over. We were just in free fall, waiting for the ground to hit.

Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Under The Bed

Written by Rachael Heffner.

I’ve always loved scary things. Movies, video games, stories, you name it. It was no surprise that I found inspiration in BuzzFeed’s, Two Sentence Scary Stories. I read them all, one at a time, loving the chill it gave me up my spine. As I continued on, I read something about a father seeing double of his son- one of them being under the bed. This was what really drew me in. When I was younger, I indeed had my father look under the bed. Well one night, I asked my dad to look under the bed and when he looked under the bed skirt, he froze. I immediately got up to my knees and looked over the edge toward where my father’s gaze was, but there was nothing. I couldn’t see my dad’s face. “Dad?” I questioned and as he looked at me, his face was covered in a character mask from the Tales from the Crypt comic book/tv show. It scared me half to death, which is what this two-sentence story reminded me of and what inspired me. Continue reading

Interview With Mirror: A Flash Fiction

Written by Jared Lynch

Q: Your most recent book revolves around a narrator who becomes trapped in a house haunted with ghosts of himself, and he learns that he died in that house and has always existed there. Would you care to elaborate upon that?

A: Yeah. When I was in high school I read Jean Paul Sartre’s No Exit, in which three characters are in hell, and they are forced to exist in eternity with each other. That eternity is their hell. I was inspired by this idea that eternity with someone you disliked would be horrifying, and that idea stuck with me. One day I asked myself what it would be like if one was forced to spend eternity with oneself, or rather ghosts of oneself. So, after the narrator becomes trapped in the house and he realizes that he will have to spend eternity with ghosts of himself he goes insane and kills himself, only to be reborn in the same life. Every life he is drawn once again to the house, where he finds all of the ghosts of his past suicides, and the cycle perpetuates.

Q: What an intriguing existence. I wish it truly were only speculative fiction.

A: As do I. Can I be the interviewer next time? I’ve never had the opportunity to wear the character. My clothes are still bloody.

The Twenty-seventh Letter: A Flash Prose

Written by Elizabeth Palmer

We talk about ghosts like poltergeists in our homes, stacking chairs on tabletops, turning faucets on, creaking up the stairs at night. But ghosts can exist in a multitude of forms. While I have yet to experience anything remotely paranormal or inexplicable, I’ve found that there are ghosts in all the crevasses of my life. I over analyze and scrutinize memories and words, conversations, and the lines I write of all the poems I never finish. I am haunted by the unfinished and unresolved. The ghosts and questions linger at the end of every exhale of breath—exhales that are never followed by the words that haunt the peripherals of my mind. There are spaces between the words I say and write (and the words I don’t), a twenty-seventh letter of an alphabet that lingers and weaves into all the things I allow to haunt me.