The winter wind cut through her like a knife, and she pulled her threadbare coat closed. Her fingers were a sickly shade of blue, matching her lips, and her tears turned to icicles before they could escape her lashes.

Miranda had been wandering through the streets like this for days. Food and shelter were scarce despite the large population. Who was going to give a meal to a nobody like her? Who would let someone like her live under their roof for the night? Nobody would. Those things were denied to people like Miranda.

Then she saw him: the man who would be her savior. He had clean clothes, a healthy glow to his skin, and, perhaps most importantly, kind eyes. Gullible eyes. The sort of eyes that would see Miranda’s tattered clothes and unkempt hair and immediately want to take her in and take care of her.

Their eyes met, and he granted her a dazzling smile. The first person to smile at her in a week. This was going to be too easy.

“Evening, miss. Looks like you need to get out of this cold. Would you like to come with me somewhere warm with plenty of hot food?”

Trying to force some of the frigid blood in her veins to make its way to her cheeks, Miranda found that she didn’t even have the energy to blush. She needed to get warm and fed, soon as possible. She managed a wan smile in return and nodded thanks.

Taking her hand in his, the handsome stranger introduced himself as Rick. Rick’s gloved hands took her bare ones and rubbed them until the feeling started to come back. Then, with a warm arm around her shoulder, he led her a few blocks until they came upon a two-story brick house.

The house was Rick personified: warm, comforting, inviting. Miranda especially liked the inviting part.

Rick led her across the threshold, arm still around her, and shut the door behind them.

Miranda could hardly contain herself. She could smell her dinner, and it made her mouth water. Turning to face Rick, she grabbed his shouldes and opened her mouth wide, ready to–


Rick stared at the vagrant woman’s head as it bounced on the floor like a bloody basketball. That one had been too close. Damn vamps were getting bolder. Approaching strangers on the street? Whatever happened to the days when vampires were classy and seductive? This one looked like death itself as she walked through town.

Shaking his head, Rick dropped his blade and got to work scrubbing the floorboards. Where there was one of these things, there were usually more.

He had a long night ahead of him.

Flash Fiction Friday: The Dot-Com Match

Mary’s forehead shone with sweat as she stared at her captor. She had no choice but to stare, after all. He had long since flayed the skin from her eyes, pulling the raw muscles of her lids back with rusted wire to hold her eyes open. At first, the streaming tears burned as they rolled down her face; now, there were no more tears to be had, as her eyes had dried up hours ago.

She wanted to scream. She tried to scream. All that came out, though, was a muffled groan.

He had stapled her mouth shut.

When he moved out of her line of sight she cringed. In the mirror directly across from her, she saw strips of skin hanging off her naked body. Barbed wire bound her arms, legs, and head to the chair she sat in. Rivulets of blood covered what was left of her skin.

His form slowly came back into view. He had walked a circle around her, examining his work. She looked into the eyes that she had once found so charming and now saw only a monster.

His online profile had seemed innocent enough. He was young, handsome, athletic…Mary was sure she had found a great catch. Little did she know what lay beneath the surface of those clear blue eyes and sculpted jaw line.

Though she had emptied her bladder earlier when she regained consciousness to see the scalpel aimed at her head, she once again felt the urge to urinate. She knew better, though; the first time, he had doused her mutilated body with salt water collected from the same ocean in which they had swam just hours before the terror began. Mary wasn’t about to make that mistake again. Salt had dried into her crusting wounds, causing fresh pain every time she shifted her weight. She tried not to move…a difficult task when she was being skinned alive, inch by agonizing inch.

Her captor—he had told her his name was Matt, but that could have been a lie—reached over to a table beyond her view and picked up something that sounded like metal. When he brought his arm forward, she saw the object: a large wrench.

This was it. This was the end. He was going to cave her head in, crush it like a melon.

At least the torture would be over.

A wild grin spread across his once-handsome face. He raised the wrench over his head…

…and, with a crack that echoed through the small basement, a hole opened in his forehead, dropping him to the ground.

Yes! she thought. Someone has come to rescue me!

Slowly, a male form came into view. At first, Mary could only see his back. She didn’t care what he looked like, though. All she cared about was freedom.

Then the man turned around.

Once again, she was staring into Matt’s face.

“So sorry,” the other-Matt said. “My twin is something of a psycho.” He reached to the table and picked up something. When Mary saw that it was a pair of wire cutters, her muscles relaxed. He was going to free her.

Other-Matt walked over, a friendly grin on his face. He cut the staples on her lips first.

“Thank you!” she gasped. “I was so scared, I—“

He put a finger to her lips. “Shh,” he said. “You need to save your voice.” He leaned in close, his lips brushing hers before he whispered in her ear. “You see, unlike my brother, I like to hear you scream.”

Flash Fiction Friday — Caroline

Caroline turned and glared at Jimmy. “This order isn’t right.”

Jimmy laughed. “Carrie, stop being paranoid.”

She looked at the plate again. On the surface, it looked like a normal meal. Spaghetti with a side of corn. Innocuous enough, but it just didn’t look “right.” It didn’t help that it had been served to her with the meatballs arranged in a grotesque smile, oozing bright red sauce. She knew it was silly, but her stomach churned regardless.

“Is that part of a fingernail?”

“It’s an onion. These restaurants actually put spices and flavors in their food, unlike the crap you make at home. Just eat it.”

“I don’t make crap. I get the expensive sauce; I just like it better with the chunks strained out.” Poking at a meatball with her fork, Caroline fought to keep from gagging. “Why did we come here, anyway? We have Italian at home all the time. We didn’t need to go out.”

With a sigh Jimmy slammed his glass down on the table, spilling a few drops of wine on the tablecloth. Caroline jumped and watched the stain spread. Why wasn’t it turning purple? Red wine stains turned purple; this was still blood red. Blood. Red. She shivered. Was that wine a little thicker than usual?

“You do this every damn Halloween, Carrie. Jesus, I can’t take you anywhere. Just eat the damn food and quit complaining. This place isn’t cheap, you know. I doubt they’d charge us thirty dollars a plate just to feed you junk.”

Shrinking back from his glare, Caroline set down her fork and put her hands in her lap. He was right. She shouldn’t be complaining. It was Halloween, and her boyfriend had brought her to a nice restaurant for her birthday. Maybe being born on Halloween had made her paranoid after all.

“I’m sorry, Jimmy. I’ll eat it.” She picked her fork back up and aimed for a meatball.

Before she could stab one, Jimmy gagged and grabbed his throat. Caroline screamed and watched with wide eyes as his face turned white, then red, then purple. Within seconds, Jimmy fell face first onto the table, splattering spaghetti sauce over the tablecloth.

“Waiter! Waiter! Someone come here, quick!” Caroline shouted. A spindly waiter appeared at her side, his apron askew.

“Oh, my! What seems to be the problem?”

She pointed at the table in disgust. “There is not one single body part in my meal. Is it too much to ask to get a little protein with this overpriced slop?”

The waiter flushed and reached for her plate with a shaking hand. “Terribly sorry, miss. An oversight on the chef’s part, I assure you.” He turned to Jimmy’s still form. “Would you like me to take away the other plate? Your companion seems to have finished.”

“Oh, he’s finished, all right,” she said. “Can you bring me another plate? Get the order right this time.”

“Of course, miss.”

Paranoid, indeed. She knew they’d gotten her order wrong.