Category Archives: Fiction & Essays

A Fifty-Word Horror Story

The zombies crashed into the house.

“Brains!” they moaned.

The family was gathered around the television, watching. None of them moved.

The zombies scratched their heads. The parents were staring at the screen. The children’s mouths hung open.

“No brains!” the zombies moaned.

And moved on to the next house.

Words Reveal What Masks Conceal: An Essay for Halloween

When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher assigned us a creative writing project for Halloween. We were to compose short stories, which we would then read aloud before the class, coupled with a competition of sorts in which the students would vote on who had written the best one.

Now in my pre-teen years, I was not what you would term the most popular kid in school. Perhaps it was those horrible “Student-of-the-Month” photos of me hanging in the main hallway, which they somehow always managed to take right after gym when my hair was flying every which way, or perhaps it was the oxford shirts and corduroy trousers in which my mother dressed me because I refused to participate in ridiculous wastes of time like school-clothes shopping. It certainly didn’t help that in addition to being smart and studious, I was also very, very shy, which led many to believe that I was stuck-up. I suppose if you’re naturally adept at making conversation, it’s difficult to understand that other kids might not be.

You can therefore easily picture the scene in the classroom that day: the anxious adolescent girl slouched in her seat, sweat drenching the armpits of her button-up shirt as she watched the clock, fervently hoping that time would run out before her turn came. You can imagine my nervousness when, five minutes before the bell, my teacher called me to the front of the class, the last reader to go; my terror as I stumbled up to her desk clutching the half-sheets of paper on which I’d scrawled my assignment. As usual, I had pushed the limits on the suggested length – my story was at least twice as long as anyone else’s – and the only saving grace of this enforced public humiliation, I thought, was that I would undoubtedly run out of time to finish it before the lunch bell rang.

Tucking my loose hair back behind my ears and focusing my eyes firmly on my papers, I began to read. It turned out that reading wasn’t so bad; unlike giving an oral report, you didn’t actually have to look at any of the other students. And it was a decent story, I reflected as I flipped through the pages, concentrating hard on not losing my place. At least my classmates were sitting silently, which made them easier to ignore.

At last I reached the climax of my tale, which was where it turned gruesome. The main character had gotten trapped in a fire, and I remember describing, in disgusting detail, the sizzle of the hairs frying on his arms as the hot flames neared. I remember describing the flames devouring his flesh, great flaps of it falling from his skeleton as his skin seared away. And I remember the silence of the classroom; I remember it breaking, the moans and groans that swelled all around me as I depicted my main character’s excruciating demise, only to be interrupted by the harsh clanging of the bell.

No one stirred; no one rose; no one left. I glanced at my teacher, who nodded. The other students sat rapt while I finished my story, and they applauded when I was done. There was no question that I had won the contest.

I was pleased that my story had gone over well, of course, but it wasn’t until the following week, when other kids were still coming up to talk to me about it, that I understood that I had somehow made an impression that went beyond my gruesome, graphic horror story. It was as if I had revealed that somewhere beneath that classic nerdy exterior was a real honest-to-goodness person, a kid who thought about things like destruction and death, and flames eating flesh, and how best to describe such horrific events.

I’ve never been big on Halloween, myself. I’ve never liked the pressure of having to pick out a costume and then explain why I chose it; I’ve never even understood the appeal of dressing up and playing pretend. I have other ways of exploring my dark side. Nowadays you won’t find me in a starched, striped shirt, or in old-fashioned slacks, but don’t be fooled by the sweats and sports bra in which you’ll typically see me lounging about the house, because that’s not who I am, either. It’s just a costume; an innocuous mask meant to show nothing, to reveal nothing, to suggest nothing. My thoughts are inside me. They can never be exposed by a mere choice of outfit.

***

This essay is also available in eBook for Amazon Kindle and in audiobook on Audible.

Words Reveal What Masks Conceal Audiobook.jpg

 

Last Day to Get “In the End: Short Fiction by Lori Schafer” FREE for Kindle

Today is the last day to download In the End: Short Fiction by Lori Schafer for FREE for Kindle.

It was coming at last.

The end of all things.

All but the darkness…

Everything comes to an end. Lives and loves, joy and innocence, peoples and nations; nothing is spared. Even our own world must one day bid us farewell.

In this collection of short fiction, author Lori Schafer examines these ends – how they occur, why they occur, and what they mean to us when they do. Features author commentary on selected pieces.

In the End eBook 2

 

 

My Anxiety Wasn’t Real is FREE through 9/5!

My eBook My Anxiety Wasn’t Real: One Woman’s Experience with Mental Disorder is available FREE for Kindle on Amazon through Wednesday, September 5th.

Studies show that five percent of Americans are medically misdiagnosed in a given year, and that most Americans will be misdiagnosed at least once in their lifetime. It could happen to you, and it did happen to me. In My Anxiety Wasn’t Real, I describe how I was diagnosed with anxiety and was treated for it for nearly a year with no relief from my symptoms. That’s because I had been misdiagnosed – and you’ll be as shocked as I was to discover what the problem really was!

Have you had a similar experience of being misdiagnosed with anxiety? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear your story, too!

Anxiety Ad

 

 

 

Last Day to Get “Waiting: A Story of Apocalypse” FREE for Kindle

Today is the last day to download Waiting: A Story of Apocalypse by Craig Reinhardt for FREE for Kindle.

This long short story was originally inspired by the History Channel program Life After People. The premise of the show is not to examine the potential causes of the end of humanity, but rather “what happens to the world we leave behind.”

It’s a fascinating program. It details the fates of our roads, our cities, our buildings, even our family pets and other creatures who depend upon us for a living. It quite often comes to the rather disturbing conclusion that in a pretty short space of planetary time – mere hundreds of years, not thousands – we will be completely forgotten by an Earth that may fare better without us. While in this story I ultimately chose not to focus on the mechanics of the destruction of the trappings of humanity, but rather on what it does to the main character, I think the former offers a world of interesting possibilities for post-apocalyptic literature and I look forward to returning to this subject in the near future.

“Waiting” tells the story of a middle-aged misanthrope who witnesses this degeneration, who lives long enough to see how quickly humanity can fail, how insufficient its infrastructure is in the case of a massive disaster. But what place is there for a person in a world without people?

waiting

Heads of the Line: A Flash Memoir is FREE through Monday, 8/20

Ever dreamed of spending a summer working in Alaska? I did…until I actually got there and saw what it was really like!

My autobiographical short story / travel memoir Heads of the Line is FREE for Kindle through Monday, August 20th. Also includes “Funeral for Charlie”, a humorous real-life short story about a goldfish funeral gone awry.

Prefer the audiobook? It’s also available in audio on Audible, Amazon, and ITunes.

 

Heads of the Line Audiobook

 

Last Day to get Essays on Film FREE for Kindle

My eBook Essays on Film is FREE for Kindle on Amazon, today only! Features the following:

“On Viewing Hans Richter’s Rhythmus 21″: The search for cinematic meaning in one of the most famous early German avant-garde films.

The Perfect Filmic Appositiveness of Jack Smith”: Impressions of the films of one of cinema’s most eccentric auteurs.

Prefer the audiobook? Essays on Film is also available in audio on Audible, Amazon, and ITunes.

 

Essays on Film Audiobook