NYC Midnight 100-word microfiction

One hundred words is a very small number of words with which to form a complete story. I re-remember this every time I get a prompt to do a 100-word microfiction entry in 24 hours. My prompts this time: genre – ghost story, action – picking up a coin, word – spark

The Ballad of Grey Sadie

You’ve never heard of Grey Sadie? Jilted bride, threw herself in the river, lures unsuspecting men to their deaths?

You bend down to pick up a stray coin and static sparks. With that touch, she has you. You’ll walk straight off the riverbank, your thoughts crowded out by her fury. That current is faster than it looks. And the weeds will pull you down. 

It’s just a story. Put that quarter in your pocket and listen to the river rush by. 

I’ll fall in and you’ll swim after me. It’s nice to try something different after a century or two.


It was a Monday, I remember that, because we’d just come from Bingo at the Senior Center and Earl was in a big mood because he thought Anna May had cheated. We were in the car and he’d bounced off the curb (this was before they finally took away his license and angels must have been watching over us) and Earl kept saying over and over, “I saw her board and she had B-18! Rog called G-18! And she hugged her board to her chest so no one could see and screamed Bingo! I tell you! What’s this world coming to!”

When Earl was in one of his big moods, the best thing to do was ignore him until you can’t take it any longer and then change the subject. But it has to be a subject that’d catch his interest more than the thing he’s ranting on and on about, something shiny you wave in front of his face he can’t resist. Spending money usually did it pretty quick. “Hey, Earl, turn into the Dig ’n’ Save. Birdie told me she saw a Clarice Cliff teapot in there the other day.” Birdie had said no such thing, and if Vonna at the Dig ’n’ Save had seen a Clarice Cliff teapot come in, she would have whisked it off for her ownself. Have you seen what those go for on eBay? Anyway, that derailed Earl’s Bingo-and-the-state-of-the-world monologue.

“I swear, Elsie, we are going to drown in tea if you ever decide to fill up all those damn teapots you keep buying. I don’t know what you think we need so many for. None of the kids even drinks tea. When we die, those are all headed to the landfill.”

Earl was such a positive thinker. Anyway, this was easier to tune out than the other, and he was pulling into a parking space (well, two parking spaces if you want to be precise about it but no way was I going to comment on that again) and as soon as he’d come to a stop, I was out of the car.

“Goddamn it, Elsie, you walk too fast. Showing off that hip and knee replacement. Not all of us are bionic people forgodsake.”

“Meet you in kitchenware, Earl!” I called as I powerwalked to the door. Let me tell you, those water aerobics look funny but I was in better shape at seventy-eight than I was fifty years before. If Earl did more than lift the TV remote and his beer bottle for exercise, he wouldn’t have been so far behind.

 Vonna was at the door. Her official title was Greeter, but really she was there to suss out the shoplifters. I learned the word “suss” from my granddaughter Charlie. She’s the cutest thing even if she does dress all in black and has her hair hanging in her face. Smart kid. I have a picture here somewhere—

Anyway, Vonna asked me if Earl was in one of his big moods and I nodded and rolled my eyes. “Oh Lord,” she sympathized. Her Ricky died five years ago may he rest in peace and it was a real blessing for her. She looked ten years younger once she wasn’t putting up with his nonsense anymore. She was in my water aerobics class, too. I don’t like to pry, but that heart condition of Ricky’s came on real sudden and those Vonna’s garden had some funny-looking plants in it. But I don’t judge. Sometimes a woman’s got to have some peace.

I headed to kitchenware because it’s in the back corner of the store and Earl can’t navigate around too well being as he can only boil water if I remind him to plug in the kettle. I stopped cooking his meals two years before he went. I was headed into the kitchen to make meatloaf because we always had meatloaf on Tuesdays and I thought, Elsie, you’ve been making this man meatloaf every Tuesday for sixty-one years, and that’s three thousand one hundred and seventy-two meatloaves (more or less, because that day wasn’t exactly the anniversary of the first meatloaf) and he got to retire from his job, and why can’t you? I felt like a nice Caesar salad, so I made that, and boy was Earl mad. I told him he didn’t have to eat it if he didn’t want to, but that was dinner, just like I did when the kids were little. And that was that. He eats a lot of sandwiches now because putting meat between slices of bread is about his speed.

Anyway, I was there in kitchenware when I spotted it, marked down to a dollar. Now, I hadn’t actually gone in there meaning to buy anything, but my grandson Breck (don’t get me started on my daughter’s ideas of kids’ names) had gotten a Pop-Tart stuck in our toaster when he was staying the week before and shorted out the toaster, and here was one for a dollar. I picked it up. It was the shiny chrome kind I’ve always liked the look of and it looked to be in good shape. Either the style was retro or it was antique. I hadn’t heard of the brand, Old Nick Small Appliance Co. It had a nice heft. 

“Did you find something else to spend my money on?” Earl had finally made it back there and he was red in the face from hurrying.

“It’s our money, Earl, as you know full well. And we need a toaster and it’s only a dollar. Look, it’s got those extra-wide slots for bagels.”

He huffed. “I suppose that’s all right then.”

I rolled my eyes. Honestly, that man. Anyway, we made it home okay and Earl only took out one mailbox on the way. I hid his keys again and by then I had worked up an appetite listening to him complain about Bingo and the neighbor’s dog and I wanted a bagel. But would you believe it, Earl had eaten the last one. “Earl! You know you need to put things on the list when you finish a package. How many times?” But he was already zoned out in his recliner with the remote and his beer and I wasn’t going to get any sense out of him. I dug out two slices of the whole wheat bread I buy for my digestion and jammed them in the toaster, grumbling, “I’d sell my soul for a sesame bagel with cream cheese.”

When the toaster popped, I had my plate ready and I was resigned to buttering my toast with that low-cholesterol spread (Earl had eaten the last of the marmalade too and not put that on the list) but guess what I pulled out? It was a perfectly toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese already on it. And not that gummy fat-free stuff they have at the Senior Center for breakfast, real cream cheese. I peered into the toaster. The coils were still glowing faintly red. Had I just sold my soul for a bagel?

I took a bite and decided it was worth it. This was the best bagel I’d had in all my life. “Thank you,” I whispered to the toaster. I felt like I should give something back. “Do you like Pop-Tarts? My grandson left some here. I think I have Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon and he says those are the best.” I opened a packet and dropped them in. I pushed down the lever and with a puff of smoke, they were gone. 

I’d watched a lot of The Twilight Zone as a child and while this was surprising to me, of course, it also made some sense. My toaster was clearly a portal of some kind. I didn’t know exactly how it worked, but if it gave me bagels like that, I didn’t need to. And I had another one the next morning. This time I asked for cinnamon raisin and boy, was that good. I offered up the last packet of Pop-Tarts. “I’ll have to get more at the store,” I told the toaster. “Huh. I wonder if you’d like a different kind. You must like the brown sugar if they’re disappearing, but variety can be nice. I’ll see what they have.”

So I bought every kind of Pop-Tart they had at the Readi-Mart and started experimenting. Anything without frosting came back to me intact. That was fair, I thought. The frosting was the good part. Blueberry, Cherry, Chocolate, and Confetti Cake always disappeared. Grape and Strawberry came back with one bite out. The limited edition flavors were pretty hit or miss but I figured the novelty was worth it. One morning, I put in the Pop-Tarts first and my bagel popped up after and I realized I didn’t have to be wasting all that bread. I could just make an even trade. That toaster made an asiago bagel with scallion cream cheese that was to die for. And once when I hadn’t gone shopping and asked if it could do lunch, it took my S’mores Pop-Tart and gave me an amazing bagel sandwich with three kinds of cheese and that dark ruffly lettuce and even some thinly sliced avocado. You have to pay extra for avocado at Susie’s Delicatessen.

Earl hated that toaster. It burned his bread every time. He didn’t understand why I wouldn’t get a new one. “You leave that toaster alone, Earl,” I told him. “I like that toaster more than I like you.” I’d like to say that was just an expression, but I’m not sure it was at that point. I was pretty fed up with Earl and that toaster was making me breakfast every morning. I’d made people meals for decades and now that I thought about it, no one had taken care of me like this since I was a child.

One day, I’d just come home from the Readi-Mart with a box of Limited-Edition Gingerbread House Pop-Tarts and I was wondering how I’d get the instructions for how to build the house in. Surely the cardboard in the toaster would make a fire? Except it wasn’t a toaster, was it? It was a portal. I was still debating with myself when I got into the kitchen and saw the empty spot on the counter. “EARL!” I yelled so loud he even heard it over the television. “What did you do with my toaster?”

He came shuffling into the kitchen, looking guilty. “Elsie, I tried making toast again and the damn thing keeps burning the bread. I couldn’t take it anymore and I threw it in the bin.” He set his jaw like he was spoiling for a fight but I just headed around back. I got there just as the garbage truck was pulling up. I lifted the lid off the bin and there was my shiny toaster sitting right on top. 

“I’ve had it with that man,” I mumbled as I marched the toaster back to its rightful spot. I polished it off with a clean sponge. “I’m about ready to ask Vonna for some of those funny leaves from her garden.”

I popped in all the gingerbread-flavored Pop-Tarts and then the instructions. “I don’t suppose you’re big on Christmas, but a Pop-Tart gingerbread house has to be fun anyway,” I said.

Up popped a bagel sandwich. Now, I hadn’t asked for a bagel sandwich, so that was a little strange. I looked more closely and I saw roast beef. I hadn’t eaten meat in years. I’d thought the toaster knew that. And then I saw that the lettuce looked a little unusual. “Ohhhhhhh,” I breathed. “Well, then.”

“Elsie, I want some lunch,” Earl called from his recliner.

I looked at the sandwich and thought hard.

“Elsie! Have you gone deaf? The doctor said I’m supposed to take it easy on this leg and that means I need you to bring me a sandwich.”

I plopped it on a plate and added a handful of his favorite chips. “Right here, Earl.”

Well, I had a few more good years after that but a stroke got me in the end. It was quick though, that’s a blessing. And I didn’t see Earl when I got to the other side, thank—well, thank everything. But the big guy was here to greet me personally. He wanted to say thank you for all the Pop-Tarts. He said he didn’t see me in a being-tortured kind of capacity here, so he put me in charge of welcoming newcomers and serving breakfast. And between you and me, making all those meatloaves for Earl was worse than this! I get lots of time to myself and all the bagels I can eat. And I can talk to interesting new people, like you.

I do wonder if one of my kids ended up with that toaster. They’re such goody-goodies, I don’t suppose I’ll see any of them again otherwise. Maybe a couple of the grandkids. I thought about giving it to someone in my will, but it seemed like one of those “if it’s meant to be, they’ll find it” kind of things. Anyway, enough about me. I’ll top up your tea and you can tell me all about yourself before you head to your new home. Looks like you’ll be in a lava-adjacent bungalow, but it won’t be ready for a few hours so we’ve got loads of time. Now, Mr. DiCaprio, exactly how old was your last girlfriend, because the news is pretty spotty down here, and we’ve got a pool going on the age of whoever you’re with when you—well, you know. I put down nineteen and three quarters and I really want to beat that Vonna after she won over whether or not Tom Cruise was coming here or being carried off by aliens or somesuch. So let’s hear it.

I Danced With Mothman in the Pale Moonlight

“You won’t believe me, of course. No one ever does. But soon enough, you’ll all see.” Luna Teagarden pats her round belly and settles heavily into the lawn chair outside her motor home, gesturing that I should take the adjacent seat. She reaches for the glass of water she keeps on the folding table between us. “You’ll want to come back to photograph the baby.”

I study her, slight frame held defiantly upright, chin tipped up, lingering baby fat making her look like a girl playing at being a grownup. She’s perfectly calm and gives off a vibe like she’s humoring us pitiable fools who won’t listen to her truths. Cassandra of the Countryside. I should use that in my article. My editor loves alliteration. I tap my pen against my leg, carefully deciding what to ask next. If I seem too credulous, she’ll think I’m patronizing her, but if I’m too argumentative, that might also put her off. “Let’s start with how you came to live here. It’s remote for a young woman, especially a pregnant one.”

“Well, I certainly wasn’t pregnant when I got here! I was just done with all of it. I think I told you I was a waitress when I met Bobby. I’d left home for reasons that need not concern you and I had to support myself. He always sat in my section and tipped extra and one day he up and asked me to marry him. My rent was due and I was a bit short, so I said yes, and off we went to Vegas. When we got back home, it turned out he wasn’t the nicest, but praise be, he had an accident just a couple of weeks later. He’d left everything to his daughter. She’s older than I am, and she felt sorry for me, so she gave me his motorhome to keep me off the streets. People were still talking about how I must have pushed him down the stairs, and I’d always liked the woods, so I set up out here.”

I’ve heard a few things about how Luna got by, including a rumor that her husband had left a substantial life insurance policy. I’ve also heard the one where she was a successful phone sex operator and the one where she was a brilliant hacker who just stole what she needed online. I don’t really want to open that can of worms and I doubt I’d get a straight answer anyway. “How do you get groceries and things like that? How will you get to the hospital when it’s time for the baby?”

“There’s a boy in town comes once a week with everything I need. I don’t really need much. And I’m not going to any hospital. The daddy says that won’t be necessary.”

And here we come to the delicate part of the interview. I take a deep breath. “About the daddy.”

She shakes her head. “I know, you think I’m delusional. Poor Loony Luna, living out in the woods, finally cracked up. But how else did I get this?” She pats her belly again and something inside kicks in response. I actually see something pushing outward, the faintest red glow briefly illuminating her pale dress. She smiles triumphantly. “Ever seen a human baby do that?”

I sit back. It must have been a trick of the light. Or I’m sure there’s some way she could have rigged up a light to give that effect. She’s watching me carefully to see how I respond. “Does it do that often?”

“He. They’re always male. Then they find a female human to have their babies.”

I doodle a moth on my notepad. “I see. He told you this? He speaks English?”

“You ask better questions than the others did. No, he doesn’t speak at all. It’s more a pulse of light that transmits thoughts into my head.”

I nod, like this makes perfect sense.

“So how did you meet him?”

“I sit out here most evenings. Sometimes I just look at the stars and listen to the crickets. Sometimes I get bored and watch 90-Day Fiance or Real Housewives on my tablet. Reminds me I’m not missing much by staying away from people, you know? Well, it turns out moths are attracted to the light of reality TV just as much as anything else, and one day, when Ashley caught Jay looking at Tinder, this creature just sat next to me. He said he’d been listening from behind the trees, but this was just too juicy. So I shared my popcorn with him and got him a beer.”

“To be clear, this is Mothman? Mothman eats popcorn and drinks beer?”

“I know, crazy, right? I never really thought about what Mothman eats but I mean, ‘man’ is right there in the name. He’s not all moth.”

“So that was the start of your…relationship?”

“Yes, we watched the rest of that season together. And one night I had some music on and he came over and asked me to dance. Dancing with him was amazing. Those fluttering wings around me, and obviously he’s light on his feet.”

“What kind of music does he like?”

“This was Swedish House Mafia.” She looks at me expectantly.

“Oh!” I say, as the penny drops. “‘Moth to a Flame.’”

“Anyway, we were dancing, and suddenly this red glow surrounded us, and I just knew.”

“Knew what?”

“I knew I was going to have his baby. He said he’d chosen me, and not to worry, the baby would just appear outside my body when he was fully formed. No pain or anything. I was surprised.”

“Well, of course.”

“I would have thought he’d be a caterpillar at first, but no, I guess the mammal part means they’re born as a baby Mothman. Mothbaby? I like that.”

“And is the dad…around?”

“He said he has things to do to get everything ready for us. Obviously we can’t live here once the baby is born.” She laughs. “How ridiculous would that be? Mothman’s baby in an RV?”

Yes, that would be ridiculous, I think. “I believe you said you have a photo?”

“Right!” She jumps up, fumbling with her phone. “I took a selfie. He’s shy of photos, for obvious reasons, but he wanted me to have something to sustain me as I wait for our baby to be born.”

I peer closely at her phone screen. The background is very dark, and the figures are blurry behind a red glow. I can just make out Luna’s features. “Very nice,” I say. “I’d love to take a family photo when the baby is born.”

“Of course. I haven’t liked the others who have come to ask questions, but you really listen. I’d love for you to meet the baby.”

I hand over the gift bag I’ve brought and she’s delighted by the plush Mothman and the LIVE LAUGH LURK onesie I picked out. “I wasn’t sure about the…anatomy…so I don’t know if it’ll fit.”

“Oh, it’s fantastic! Thank you!” She jumps up and hugs me. We set a date for me to come see the baby and I’m strangely reluctant to leave. I look back as I walk to the car and see her still sitting outside, hair glowing in the light of her tablet. She gives a little wave and I wave back.


I don’t have a photographer with me today. Budget cuts. My phone camera and I will have to do our best. Do I believe there’s an actual Mothman baby to photograph? I’m 99% sure that Luna will be in that RV with a regular human baby. Maybe she’ll have made it some wings or something. She was so earnest, but of course the whole Mothman thing is ridiculous.

I had pinned her location, so I turn where the GPS tells me to, and for a moment my heart sinks. Has she moved on? But no, there’s the RV. It looks dingier than I remember, and a lawn chair is lying on its side out front, a vine curling around its armrest. I’m pretty sure it’s abandoned, but I knock on the door anyway. It swings open. There’s nothing in there. It looks like she’s moved out. I feel a pang of guilt that I hadn’t done something to help an obviously troubled woman. I’d treated her like a curiosity.

I tug the lawn chair from the grip of the vines and set it upright. I’m not ready to go yet, so I brush off the seat and sit heavily. The afternoon shadows lengthen and finally dusk settles in. I wonder where that poor woman and her baby are tonight. Are they warm and fed?

I turn back once more when I reach the car to look at the lonely RV and a light from the tree cover stops me. It’s a red glow that becomes brighter. I squint. There are two figures silhouetted against the red glow. I fumble with my phone to pull up the camera app and drop it. As I scrabble for it in the dirt and dead leaves, I realize that one of the figures is holding something. It lifts an arm in a wave. I manage to snap a photo as the group turns back to the woods and the red glow recedes from view.

I drive back to town in silence, thinking about what I saw. I pull off the road to take a look at the photo I took. A red glow with maybe some blurry figures. Fantastic. It’s absolutely unprintable and failed to capture any of the strangeness of that moment. The figure holding something, the wave. I know in my gut that was Luna and her family, emerging from their new home in the woods. I hope she has a good life there.


I sit down with the reporter. She’s doodling in her notebook and I think I see the hint of a smile around her mouth. “So,” she says.

I take a deep breath. “You won’t believe me,” I say. “No one ever does.”

NYC Midnight Round Two

In the second round of the 250-word micro fiction contest, I drew genre – fairy tale, action – collecting water in a bucket, word – decline

The Price of Magic

A charmed village sat in the shadow of a mountain. But when its fortunes declined, Council consulted their books. It was past time to refresh the well with water from the magic spring. A child was chosen to make the climb and warned of the monster who lived there. Jill walked all morning. She filled her bucket from the spring, then heard bone-chilling shrieks. Was it the monster? Or someone needing help?

She followed the cries to a cottage, its door wide open. An ancient woman shifted on a narrow bed. “Thirsty,” she croaked.

Jill found a mug and dipped it into the bucket. As the woman drank, years disappeared from her face. She jumped out of bed. “Wait, you’re my age! Who are you?”

“I’m Jacqueline. Five hundred years ago, Council protected the village with a spell. The spring flows only while I’m trapped here, but a drink from it frees me.”

“They just abandoned you here? A child?”

“They said it was for the greater good. Every hundred years, someone comes for water, but my cries scare them away. You came for me.” She hugged Jill.

“Will you come with me back to the village?”

“Never! I shall see what’s down the other side of the mountain. You may join me if you’d like. I’ve been alone so long.”

“They told me there was a monster here.”

“They are the monsters.”

Jill grabbed Jacqueline’s hand and they skipped away, the bucket forgotten.

The village awaited its fate.

The Curio Shop

“Harry sent me.” Unsettling things crowded the dusty shelves. Joe shivered. “What is this place?”

“I make #connections between #collectors whose interests have a certain #diversity. Like this #skull of a #lovesick man drowned in #freezing waters. Harry’s right. You’re perfect.”

#vss365 #vssdaily #bravewrite #vssparanormal #366FF #vsshorror

NYC Midnight drama

I forgot to post my entry into the most recent 250-word micro fiction contest. I drew Drama as my genre, which is not my favorite. My prompts were “getting an autograph” for the action, and the word “lean”.

Art Imitates Life

“Life-changing, isn’t it?” The woman nods to the book Jude is clutching.

“I just discovered his books. My mom died and left them to me.”

“He’s a genius. The whole ‘distinguished professor seduces impressionable coed’ premise is overdone, but he gives it such a twist.”

Jude flips through the pages, wishing she’d read it. 

“Are you looking for the really hot scene? It’s page 327. My book falls right open to that page. When Martin tells Patty that it was goodbye sex, it’s just devastating.”

“I kind of hated him.” She means the author, but it seems to apply to the character.

“Sure, when she comes back to tell him she’s pregnant and he laughs, you want to kill him, but—”


Jude’s hand trembles as she holds out the book.

“Who shall I make it out to?”

“I’m Penny’s daughter.”

“Your mother’s the fan, not you? Such a pity.” He leans closer. “I’ve got a room upstairs.”

“I already have your autograph.”

“Do you now?” He writes, “To Penny, whose daughter is a beauty, M. Porter” on the flyleaf.

She sets down a yellowed letter. “You wrote this to my mom after she told you she was pregnant.”

“You’re one of those? I guess you’re off-limits then.” He stuffs the letter into the book and waves her to the side. “Off you go, there’s a line.”

She is still immobile when the fan behind her finishes. “He’s amazing. I have chills!”

“Yes.” She drops the book. “Chills.”

A Rude Awakening

#Shuffling #bravely down the dark #passageway, Ruby wondered where she could be. The last thing she remembered was reading a #rare book of #poetry by an ancient #oracle. The distant light came into focus. It was…a #marquee? WELCOME TO #PURGATORY it flashed.

#vsshorror #vss365 #vssmystery #vssmagic #flexvss #vsslocation

That’s One Way To Put It

“I predict that your next #paycheck will be your last.”

Liz slammed down her #mug of tea. “They’re going to fire me?”

“I only #embody the spirits, my dear. I don’t make the #connections.”

Later, seeing the car #drive toward her, Liz thought, “Oh, that’s what she meant.”

#vsshumour #converstory #vssmagic #366FF #vssdaily