Here's another offering to the Wendig machine that is the flash fiction challenge of the week. His instructions were simple. Compose a story about the flea market. That's it. For me, I had memories of strange adults and adorable puppies in a box. However, my story is not one filled with cute puppies, but if you've read my work, you will already know that.
What follows is my take on the wild, the speculative, the macabre things that can be found at the flea market. Let's just hope you don't make the same decision...
He couldn’t look away from it, no matter how hard he tried. James had been at the flea market for an hour looking for the perfect gift, and he was just about to give up. Here it sat on the rudimentary table made from plywood board sagging over two old sawhorses. It was an old Mason jar with a rusted lid, but inside it was filled with a multi-colored iridescence that drew him in.
“You want this?” A harsh voice croaked and he broke his gaze.
James looked up and was staring into the face of an old woman who looked like a gypsy in her shawl-covered dress, with fabric spun around her head and bracelets clinking on her wrists. Her bony finger pointed to the jar.
“Yes, ma’am,” he stammered out, aware that he sounded nervous.
She mumbled incoherently as she rubbed her hands together.
“How – how much do you want for it?” This was James first attempt at haggling, and it didn’t seem that it was going to go in his favor. He would pay whatever she wanted.
The woman stopped moving and looked up at him, her eyes widened abnormally behind the thick glasses.
“Five dollars,” she said with a greedy smile. Her eyes gleamed hungrily.
Surprised, James found a five-dollar bill and handed it to her. She snatched it from him quickly and shoved the jar into his arms.
He turned to leave when the woman began to laugh.
There was something different about her voice. It became deeper, and rose and fell in waves. The hairs on the back of his neck stood in a salute to the fear that washed over him.
James quickly left, putting the jar in the front seat of his car.
Once home, James placed the jar on the kitchen table and retrieved a cold beer from the refrigerator. Going to sit in his favorite chair, he turned on the tv and found a baseball game. A quick glance at his watch showed him that Anna would be here in a little while. He kicked off his shoes where he sat. As soon as he was starting to feel relaxed, a prickly sensation shot through his body. It felt as if something was watching him. Taking another drink, he tried to ignore it and get into the game.
Again the odd sensation came over him, making his body tingle with electricity.
Finally, he turned his head and noticed that he could see the jar sitting not ten feet away. The colors inside it were brilliant, but subdued, and boy, did they shine. As he watched it, it began to move.
What was the stuff inside that jar anyway, he wondered. It hung in the jar, almost suspended. The jar itself didn’t weigh much at all. It didn’t look like a liquid, but it didn’t really look like a solid, either.
He watched as it began to turn. Slowly.
Something happened in the game, and the crowd began to yell. This caused him to look at the tv to see what had happened. His head felt funny, like he had been asleep. Noticing that his beer was almost empty, he got up to grab another one.
On his walk back to the chair, the beer bottle accidentally clanged into the jar. The sound of glass hitting glass was loud, but it wasn’t this noise that James heard. There had been a small scream. It had come from the jar. He stood very still to see if he could hear it anymore.
There was nothing but the sound of the air conditioner humming in the window.
He knew what he had heard. It was very much like a woman’s scream. A short, muffled one, but a scream, nonetheless.
Going back to the chair, he tried once more to get into the game.
It was the same voice, and now it was saying his name. This was impossible. There was no one else here. He was alone.
“James. Please help us.”
This time it was louder, and there were many different voices together.
He looked at the jar. The colors inside were moving a little faster now, swirling and spiraling around the glass. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. The colors mixed, forming new one’s. It folded in on itself and burst outward at the same time. It was amazing. He couldn’t take his eyes off of it.
Before he knew what he was doing, he had got up and crossed to the table. As the colors moved, the voices wailed softly, reminding him of an echo in a tunnel.
“Help. Help us. Please.”
James reached his hand out to the jar. Gripping it carefully, he began to open the lid. It turned easily. The noise grew and became a sweet, familiar melody.
James sat the lid on the table and kept his hand lightly on the jar.
The colors rose and lifted up over the lip of the jar, bending and lurching toward him. His body swayed slightly with the song.
When it touched his hand he felt a small vibration. Fluidly, and with speed, it began to spread up his arm.
He could feel it sliding up his neck. There was a small sucking noise coming from the mass as it slithered around his body. James became numb.
Moving up, it ran across his cheeks and over his nose to his eyes. When it spread across them, everything turned black.
It covered him, swirling and expanding. Within a few moments, his body was dissolved, bone and tissue joining the gelatinous mass. Slowly it made its way back into the jar.
The baseball game was over, and the sun was down, leaving the room dark.
“James?” Anna said as she walked in.
Closing the curtains, she noticed James’ shoes sitting in front of his chair.
She looked at the table and saw the jar with the beautiful colors.
“Oh! What’s this?” she asked as she walked to it. Anna swore she heard a voice call her name softly.