THE SHINE JOURNAL

Flash Literature, Poetry, Art and Photography!

Three Stories By Liam Brennan

 

    

Baggage Claim

 

 

“Attention Ladies and Gentlemen, United Flight 989 is now ready for boarding...”

 

“How the hell do you just lose a human being?” Jack screamed.

 

“Sir, I’m very sorry but the airline itself is not physically responsible for…”

 

“Bullshit!” Jack cried, interrupting the young airline representative. He slammed his fist on the counter and noticed the scores of travelers who were now overly aware of him. He rubbed his bloodshot eyes and sighed as he picked up his briefcase.

 

“Look, he didn’t just disappear for Christ’s sake,” John whispered.

 

“I understand that sir but there is nothing more we can do,” the representative replied. She glanced at the growing line of wary customers behind him and smiled reassuringly despite her shaky hands and racing heart.

 

“I’m going to find him and get on that flight, I need you to do everything you can to delay it,” said Jack as he tossed his jacket over his shoulder and walked away. His insomnia had returned in the past two weeks and with it the mind games that he had grown to despise.

 

The airport was a dreadful place, a thunderstorm having held the area captive for the past twenty-four hours. Stranded tourists slept in every crevice of the terminal, making it harder to distinguish one from the next. But Jack would have to if he wanted to find his father and bring him home to Canada. He’d arranged all the paperwork during one of his sleepless nights and was expecting everything to go as smoothly as possible.

 

He dropped his briefcase and leaned back against an advertisement for a sleeping aid he’d tried that didn’t live up to its slogan, Rest Easy. He closed his eyes and felt the burn as neon lines and spinning circles danced behind his eyelids.

 

“American tourists always wear the most ridiculous outfits down here,” his father told him over the phone when he’d first arrived. The statement rang true as red caps, orange shirts, and green shorts blended into one sickening rainbow as he scanned the terminal. There was only one man amongst the crowd that was bold enough to wear a black suit, and he was staring into Jack’s eyes at that moment, from a few hundred yards away.

 

Jack caught the man’s gaze; it was his father, wasn’t it? Jack smiled momentarily and thought perhaps the mind games had started yet again. He blinked and the man remained in the same position, his face pale with a grim expression.

 

“Dad. Hey!” Jack shouted and started towards him, pressing through the endless flow of travelers. The man turned and walked away. Jack frowned and pushed past the onslaught of people.

 

He emerged on the other side of the terminal, spinning in circles to spot the suited man. Jack wiped his eyes and opened them wide, forcing himself to stay alert.

 

“Dad?” he shouted, glancing in every direction.

 

This is the final boarding call for United Flight 989…”

 

He turned and saw the dark suit immediately; the man was making his way toward the other side of the terminal at a brisk pace now. Without hesitation, Jack ran after him, pressing through the crowd with added aggression. He pushed past young children who clenched their parent’s hands tighter as Jack tried to break through.

 

“Stop him! That man in the suit, stop him,” Jack shouted at nearby security guards who were quickly approaching him. They stuck their arms out as he stormed past, knocking one to the floor.

 

Jack glanced back at them in question but had no time to apologize, no time to stop. He dashed through the terminal, screaming for his father with each step. He’d been lost in the supermarket when he was kid; this was the same feeling only this time there would be no helpful stranger to guide him to safety.

 

The suited man disappeared around a corner as Jack neared. He took the corner and fell to his knees as a family halted directly in front of him. He stared up at a small boy cradled in his father’s arms.

 

“Sir!” shouted a security guard as he placed his hand on Jack’s shoulder. He helped him to his feet as another guard approached with Jack’s briefcase and jacket in hand.

 

“Your belongings sir?” he asked.

 

Jack nodded and wiped the sweat from his forehead as he grabbed the briefcase.

 

“You are aware it’s against FAA regulations to leave your bags unattended inside the terminal?” the guard asked.

 

“I had to find someone,” Jack sighed.

 

The guards gave him a disappointed look and escorted him to the gate. He wiped his eyes repeatedly, the burning having intensified now. The airline representative offered a sympathetic smile as he approached the desk with his boarding pass in hand.

 

“Are you ready sir?” she asked.

 

“I’m tired,” Jack replied as he handed her the pass and stepped into the tunnel.

 

“Sir,” she called out.

 

Jack turned, “What?”

 

The young representative took a step forward, “Did you want to us ship the casket regardless of its contents?”

 

Jack closed his eyes, he wanted to rest but apparently his father was not ready to let go.

 

 

 

 

The Silent Inmate

 

 

The young guard towered over the blood-drenched body in shock. Officers gathered round to witness the horrific sight that lay on their cold, cement floor in Kingsway Penitentiary. “He went for my gun. I was lettin’ em out to the yard and he jumped me. I didn’t know what else to do boss,” he uttered as beads of cold sweat met with tears.

 

I wavered at a distance as they carried the body away; hanging their heads. The dead man had been a favorite among the inmates and guards because of his solemn presence. “He used to smile two miles wide when that weekly letter came,” said one of the guards. They patted each other on the back, trying to maintain a hierarchical power over the nearby inmates.

 

The young guard, the newest in the Illinois State Penal System, stepped into the dead man’s cell. I moved closer, peering over his shoulder as he stooped down to pick up a yellow note that had fallen from the open envelope on the bed. I sensed his anxiety as he unfolded the paper and scanned its contents: Young Max has lost his arduous battle that consumed him these past four years. He is in a better place. Placing the note in his breast pocket, the guard collected himself; he couldn't let the other inmates see through his cool exterior. He brushed against me inside the confined chamber, his flesh going cold as he passed.

 

When he had gone, I sat down on the silent inmate’s bed and flipped through an old comic serial, “The Last Stand of James T. Tall” that accompanied the note. The main character lived in the woods, a lumberjack by trade, and each week he warded off the menacing creatures that came his way. It was a straightforward existence, something that the inmate and I had discussed many times.

 

“That boy wrote him every week.” I turned to see two older guards, their faces frail and ravaged by time, standing at the door. They looked around the empty cell with great compassion and sorrow in their voices as they traded stories about times the inmate had confided in them.

 

“Talked about that kid like it was his own” said the elder guard. “Used to sit there day and night readin’ those damn books. Said he identified with him, the main character. I’m sure he meant that bald little cancer boy though.” The other guard chased away tears as they flooded his eyes, “Must have been some bad news this mornin’.” The elder guard blessed himself and they departed.

 

 

I decided it was time to move on as well, stepping past the icy, brick walls and chain linked fences, walking toward the dense forest that isolated this place from the reality of the outside world. The trees towered over me as I knelt to gather wood. I’d never started a fire before but the pictures in the serials were self-explanatory. With the smack of two stones, a spark shot up and I lay back with a sense of pride, although it appeared too effortless to be true.

 

At that moment I heard it, the thumping sound of an axe blasting through tree stumps with the greatest of ease. I turned and there he was, having already arrived in our new world. The bullet holes were gone and he looked as I’d always pictured him, just as James Tall looked when he conquered another scoundrel.

 

I stood and brushed the hair out of my eyes as he chomped through the final piece. He wiped the sweat from his face and moved slowly towards me, with that comforting smile creeping across his face. “Max?” he said, as I nodded my head and returned the favor. This was the life we had been dreaming of, in a world without restrictions.

 

                                       

 

The Dark Ones

 


This old town is fading and it happens the same way every night. I catnap with a crumpled edition of The Weekly Intriguer blanketing me, in my rather uncomfortable recliner, in my rather unfortunate looking bungalow, in my rather unusual township of Elegy Falls, while reruns of a detested melodrama play on the television. My aging collie, Basil, sits at my feet covering the holes in my beloved slippers with his unkempt coat. At 12:39 a.m.,the television switches to a set of color bars that rouse me with an incessant high-pitched tone that somehow instructs Basil to fetch his tattered leash. I give the television a good knock on the side and being a predominantly old television it shuts off instantly. The faithful companion drops his leash at my feet as I throw on a trench coat and dark bowler cap to cover my rather unattractive comb-over.

As we venture into the night I make sure never to forget a camera, in the hopes that tonight may be my opportunity. Basil leads the way down the quaint cobblestone path to the splintered picket fence with its squeaky gate. I could oil the gate but choose not to for fear the Dark Ones might somehow change their collective appetite. You've assumed already that I am senile no doubt, but I assure you what happens next will amend those notions. The gate creaks open and we step onto a road that stretches the length of the town, our shadows crawling across the darkened roadway.

 

The first stop is number 346, a decrepit shack belonging to Mrs. Eliza McGovern who many consider to be a kind-spirited, old woman with a soul so caring it would make even our lord redden. When the night falls however, this could not be further from the truth. I step to the front of the house and ready my camera, always trying to hold the little red flash button down long enough to get that perfect picture. I stoop to Basil's level and he shoots me a confused scowl.

 

Through the sizeable shrubs I spot her, or should I say it, with its shadowy frame lit up by those eyes, those glowing yellow eyes. It swaggers throughout the house, preparing for the feast that lies ahead. As soon as it appears, it vanishes. I believe they can sense when one of us present even from a distance. Basil yips and whines to keep moving, at his age he has no reason to fear them but I appease his request anyhow.

Further down the blackened path, we arrive just outside the towering, turn of the century Wells household. It once belonged to a large family with children so innocent and pure at heart it nearly melted my very core. Overtime they vanished, just as they always do here in Elegy Falls. The only remaining member of the family is Blanchard Q. Wells, the town sheriff (yes even the law has been infiltrated), leaving me with no one to turn to except, of course, if I am lucky enough to snap a clear picture.

 

My heart does not beat quickly anymore; my pulse is steady as a rock. Through the tall evergreens I spot him, or should I say it; that thing with its massive frame and those eyes, those pulsating yellow eyes, pacing across the porch. Normally Blanchard is a relatively small man. Of course this had led to difficulty when attempting to detain various young delinquents that pass through on occasion. Naturally, the locals are always willing to lend a helping hand to catch the young ones. I hold the camera up and snap a few shots as Basil tugs hard at the leash and we're off.

Just a little further down now and we arrive at the main attraction, a little barbershop with the distinctive red, white, and blue pole adorning the outside. Despite having no reason to fear them at my age, the large glass windows always make me cross to the other side for fear he, or should I say it, might spot me. Sure enough, good ol' Jameson is pacing back and forth inside the shop; pair of scissors in his hefty right hand is his weapon of choice for their bloodthirsty hunt.

 

Those eyes, those horrifying yellow eyes, reflect off the windows with every turn of his head and menacing roar. I ready the camera and snap a few pictures, although these ones tend not to turn out due to the reflection of the flash in the glass, but it's worth a shot nonetheless. Basil is ready for the final stop before our return to our shoddy sanctuary. He tugs on the leash again and we're off.


At the end of the road stands the Elegy Falls Memorial Library, a typical childhood consort in any small town, except for this one of course. Just outside the thick, oaken doors, is where she, or should I say it, lingers. The librarian, Mrs. Jane J. Drane, with her shin length skirt and golden spectacles now traded in for a dark, colossal physique with those aforementioned eyes.

 

The children were terrified of her, not because of her generally frail appearance but because of her unabashed temper. That temper was ripening this evening, ready for the impending feast. I snap my pictures and move on down the road, which leads right back to my splintered picket fence, my quaint cobblestone path, and my unfortunate looking bungalow.

 

There is no leaving this little town for me and I know not why I've been spared. The cries of the young and pure are now merely echoes of the past as the Dark Ones lost control of their increasing appetites. My pictures never seem to turn out and The Weekly Intriguer will go on without me for yet another edition. There is little youth left here in this dying town but tom orrow when the buzzing color bars wake me from my slumber, I will walk that road again.




 

 

Liam Brennan shares...

Liam Brennan is a young author and freelance journalist whose stories and articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and the U.K. He has recently graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelors degree in English. He currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is actively pursuing a career in journalism while attempting to publish his first short story entitled, "Double Entendre." 

Motivation:

The Silent Inmate is a story I developed on a whim believe it or not. It was only my second attempt at flash fiction and I was consumed by this image that continuously popped into my head - that of a small ghost child watching a prisoner's body being hauled away inside of a pentiteniary. I had been writing screenplays at the time, and images like this one were always coming into my mind. I tried to take a different approach and give it a big twist.

The Dark Ones was my very first work of fiction. Again,I had dabbled in other forms of writing and always resisted starting a novel until I came across flash fiction. From then on I was looking for a quick short story I could tell in under 1000 words and found inspiration one night while walking my dog around my neighborhood. Everything was so quiet and dark.I passed the houses of people I knew in my day to day life but decided that perhaps everything was not as it appeared to be.

Baggage Claim also came out of nowhere; I was bored at work one afternoon and just started throwing words down on the page to see where it could go. When I get stuck I tend to pick a setting and a character and put them in a particularly tough situation that the audience is unaware of until the end. You make it up as you go really, allowing your character to pull your through the story in unexpected turns. It's a fun way to write actually, as you feel more like you're watching theses events from a distance, not quite sure what is going on.

Contact Liam at liambrennan_@hotmail.com, and check out some of his work in the entertainment section at www.uniter.ca or www.national-student.co.uk