Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I got the go-ahead from Jacob Kier, owner of Permuted Press (and sponsor of this year’s Horror Realm flash contest) to reprint “Conference,“ my second-place winner. I’ve linked before to the video of the super-cool James Melzer (author of Escape and Invasion) reading it at the flash winners’ panel (I’m still laughing about making him drop the f-bomb on camera), but I held off on posting the text in case rights had been transferred or Permuted had plans to do anything with it. Seeing as I recently found that they’re not, and the rights are entirely mine, I said to myself Hey, Jessica, why not put it up on the blog? You haven’t posted any original fiction in a long time, and people are probably sick of reading your long-ass complaints about writing.

I was just asked today about whether or not Jonathan Coulton's song "Re: Your Brains" had any influence on the story, and the answer honestly is no. I hadn't been thinking about it at all at the time I wrote the story (I was actually pretty harried and hungover while banging it out that Saturday morning), but it's so appropriate I can't help but link it.

So, here’s the flash that won me copies of Derek Gunn’s The Estuary and Jason S. Hornsby’s Every Sigh, the End. Enjoy.


There were so few of us left at this point.

Christine and I stayed in the office, in the server room, while the rest of them had run off looking for shelter elsewhere.

We barricaded ourselves inside after checking to make sure our maintenance department had been on the ball with the whole backup generator issue. After the last hurricane blackout, corporate came down pretty hard on ineptitude involving mechanical subjects.

We broke and raided every vending machine, dragged every freezer chest up to the top floor. When we were convinced we'd be able to stay hidden for as long as possible, we shut ourselves up with nothing but cables and blinking boxes to keep us company. She had her laptop and I had mine.

We scanned the Internet, peeling the wrappers off HoHos and Twinkies. It didn't look like we would be able to leave the building for quite some time. Whole cities were crawling with the newly dead and the not-so-newly dead, and nobody knew quite what to make of it, aside from the fact that it was terrifying as all fuck.

I checked my company email. Nothing. I still had no word from anyone. I sighed. “What about you?”

Christine shook her head. “Nobody's responding. I know they took their laptops with them, but...”

I clicked on an application and the familiar, comforting Skype startup screen faded into view. “I'm going to try getting a hold of my family. God knows if they're all right. I left my cell back in my office. Stupid, stupid.”

“Good idea.”

I hovered over my friends list. Who should I try first? My mother? My sister? Who was more likely to be at their computer at this moment?

Before I could decide, a call came in. Amanda, the little window announced to me. Our receptionist, one of the group who'd made a run for a nearby medical center.

It was a video call.

I accepted it and the tiny window expanded.

Amanda's face was raw and bloody, a chunk torn out of her cheek running diagonally beneath her nose and across her mouth. Part of her lip was gone, and several teeth had been torn from their moorings. Her mouth looked partially chewed, and her hair had been torn out in chunks. Her eyes had a glazed look to them, as if there was nothing of value left behind them, as if she were entirely animatronic.

Her ruined lips moved, and her voice came out in a low, garbled moan. “Meeting. Five minutes. Mandatory. Come downstairs.”


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