SHORT STORIES

A selection of short stories by Elizabeth Nettleton

These stories may contain mature themes.

CURE-ALL


In April, I entered the NYC Midnight Microfiction contest for the second time. This contest, which boasted nearly 7,000 entrants for the first round, placed writers into groups and then challenged them to write a 100 word story in 24 hours based on an assigned genre, action, and word.

For the first round, I was assigned:

Genre: Historical fiction
Action: Applying ointment
Word: Temper

I was stoked to place second in my group, and therefore move onto the second round (which is currently underway). After tweaking my entry in the first round slightly, I submitted it to Spillwords for publication, and I was absolutely thrilled when they accepted it.

You can find it here: https://spillwords.com/cure-all/

I'd love for you to check it out. Thank you Spillwords for publishing my work again, and congratulations to everyone who participated in the first round of the NYC Midnight Microfiction contest!

Cure-All has been nominated for Spillwords' July 2022 Publication of the Month! Thank you to everyone who read and voted for my story.

A LOOSE TRUTH


I was thrilled to learn that my short story, "A Loose Truth," came second in Glittery Literary's Shimmering Shorts contest. It, along with all of the winning and shortlisted stories, will appear in Glittery Literary's upcoming anthology.

The challenge for this contest was to write a story in under 400 words. There weren't any restrictions on genre or theme, so I went with a story inspired by my son's wobbly tooth.

I'd like to thank Glittery Literary for the honour, and a huge congratulations to everyone who entered!

#SCIFANSAT


I've discovered a new hashtag! Similarly to vss365, writers post a very short story on Saturdays based on a prompt by Twitter user @SciFanSat. The stories should be sci-fi or fantasty (or, as @SciFanSat says, "any spectrum between them!"), and I've had so much fun honing my very short story skills with these prompts.

I'll be honest - I've had trouble keeping up with the daily prompts for vss365. Since SciFanSat is only once a week, however, I've found it easier to maintain my streak, and I even find myself looking forward to it throughout the week.

Last week, I decided to use both the vss365 and SciFanSat prompt in my story. I was then fortunate enough to be featured as a highlight by SciFanSat in their blog, so while I wait for the next prompt, I'd love to share that with you.

https://aetherealengineer.com/2022/01/30/sfs92/

The prompts were: 'hill' (vss365) and 'update' (scifansat)

THE IMAGINARY FRIEND

That Dennis sure has an imagination...

Dennis and his family recently moved to a new house. The problem is, not all of the old tenants moved out.

I'm so excited to let you know that my short story, "The Imaginary Friend," is up on Spillwords. You can read it here:

https://spillwords.com/the-imaginary-friend/

Thanks so much for checking it out! I hope you enjoy it.


Image Credit: Jeffrey Robb.

#VSS365

Whenever I log onto Twitter, I see people within the writing community participating in vss365. vss365 stands for 'very short story 365,' and each day writers are given a one-word prompt to create a story that can fit within a tweet. I've wanted to participate for a while now, and yesterday I finally bit the bullet. Here's a taste of what I've come up with these past couple of days:

"Mum?"
I bit back a sigh as another email arrived, its subject line all in caps.
"Please, Marie," I pleaded. "I'm running out of #time to get this work done."
"Mum, I need help." Her voice cracked.
I glanced at my daughter in the doorway, then switched the computer off.

(Word prompt: time)

Sweat seeped through her shirt, but she ignored it. Pain bit at her body, a lifelong foe, but she ignored that as well. The city slept below. They didn't know how many times she'd tried to reach this peak. The birds knew though and whistled a #song of praise just for her.

(Word prompt: song)


I'm still learning, but I'm hoping to continue. If you'd like to see what I come up with, find me at: @ElizabethNett18 on Twitter.

Thanks for reading!



PLANE SAILING

I'm so excited to let you know that my story, "Plane Sailing," was awarded with an honourable mention in The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break's Spring Writing Contest.

The theme this time was 'Life vs. A Fate Worse than Death,' and I came up with this short thriller about a couple left stranded on an island after crash-landing their plane.

You can find the original version of the story here:

https://shortfictionbreak.com/plane-sailing/

I received a comment on this story a few months ago, and one of the things the commenter mentioned was a factual inaccuracy with regards to the window. This was a total goof on my part - maybe windows would break more easily after being weakened by a crash, but I think I mostly misunderstood some of my research.


The mistake left me cringing, and since there were some other spots I thought could be tightened and made clearer, I decided to take the opportunity to do some light edits. I felt incredibly honoured to have been awarded an honourable mention in the contest, so I've kept most of it the same. However, I figured there was no harm in having some fun and learning from the constructive criticism!

So, here is the updated version of:


PLANE SAILING

Tendrils of smoke twisted into the air before disappearing into the night sky.

"This might not be how we thought things would go, but you can't deny it's beautiful here," Dominic said, flashing Ally a dimpled smile.

She forced a smile in return, then swept her eyes across the beach until she found the wreckage of their small plane. Waves lapped against its crumpled nose, now blackened from their emergency landing. Even though they'd emptied it of its fuel, Dominic had warned her to stay away from it, just in case it still exploded.

Let it, Ally thought, turning back to the crackling fire.

She knew taking the plane out was a bad idea. Call it intuition, or foreboding, or just not wanting to spend another moment alone with Dominic. She'd asked him to think of something else, but he'd insisted. "Come on," he'd wheedled, sliding an arm around her waist. "It'll be romantic."

Ally, as usual, had relented. Just one last time, she'd promised herself.

But fate had other plans, as it always seemed to do. Halfway through the trip, their navigation shorted, followed quickly by their engine. Somehow, Dominic had managed to land on this island. They were safe, even if they had no idea where they were.

Dominic squeezed Ally's hand, and she suppressed a wince.

"Careful," she said, her tone deliberately light. "There's no doctor nearby if you break my finger."

Again.

He didn't respond. Their fire was dying now, settling inside the kindling and turning it red from within. "I'm ready for bed," he said at last.

"Yeah," Ally said, blinking back tears. "I guess I am too."

***

The first rays of morning light stretched across the water, painting the waves a brilliant gold. Ally glanced at Dominic. At some point in the night, he'd shifted away from her, curling himself upon the sand and resting his head on his arm. She crawled forward, careful not to disturb any of the large, green leaves they'd arranged into a temporary shelter, and walked to the water.

The waves kissed her feet, leaving beads of foam upon her toes. She allowed herself a brief smile, then felt her gaze travel back to the plane. Her fingernails dug into her palms.

Why? she thought as she moved toward it, first at a walk and then at a run. I was about to be done with him forever. Why? She reached the wreckage and threw herself against the door. A sob rose in her throat as she clambered into the cockpit and hit everything she could find: the controls, the black screens, and the damn passenger seat that had brought her here.

Panting, Ally leaned between the seats. She raised her fist, her sight set on the back window, then froze.

Spread across the rear of the plane was a thick, gray blanket.

Why didn't Dominic take that when he searched the plane? she wondered, her brow furrowed. She grabbed the blanket, and her eyes fell on a white box poking out from beneath the passenger seat.

"What?" Ally breathed.

She wriggled into the back of the plane and tugged the box out. Across the lid, written in big, bold letters, were three words: "EMERGENCY LIFE RAFT."

How did we miss this?

Except they hadn't missed it. Dominic had volunteered to search the plane and told her he hadn't found anything. He'd said their supplies must have fallen out when they'd crashed, floated into the ocean, never to be seen again. Ally hadn't questioned him; she'd learned not to.

She opened the box and laid the folded raft in front of her.

"Ally!"

Her head jerked up. Through the window, she could see Dominic standing beside their shelter, shielding his eyes from the sun. "Ally, where are you?"

Ally threw the blanket over the raft, her hands trembling. She squeezed out through the passenger side door and sprinted away from the plane.

Don't see me, she begged.

"There you are!"

Ally pulled her mouth into a grin as she spun around. "Hey! I thought I'd go for a run while you slept in."

"You?" Dominic asked. "I don't think I've ever seen you go for a run."

Ally shrugged. "Well, there's not much else to do around here, is there?"

Dominic's blue eyes hardened above his smile. "We're lucky to be alive, Ally. You're really complaining about being bored?"

"No, no," she said, warmth flooding her voice. She gestured at the trees behind them. "I meant I'm exploring, that's all. I wanted to get to grips with my new home."

Home. Dominic's face relaxed at the word. "Yeah," he agreed, reaching over to squeeze her hand. "Let's head back then. I'm getting hungry."

Maybe the raft is broken, she tried to tell herself as he guided her toward their shelter. Dominic might have hurt her in the past, even tried to stop her from leaving him before, but he'd never . . .

Ally couldn't finish the sentence. Everything he'd done to her had seemed unbelievable at the time. She'd forgiven every escalation, believed all his promises to change, until he controlled every aspect of her life. If he'd discovered that she'd accepted a job in her hometown, or found the suitcase she'd hidden away, she wasn't sure what he was capable of doing.

They passed the plane, its windows glistening in the sunlight, and Dominic clamped his hand on Ally's shoulder.

"It's just the two of us now," he said, digging his fingers into the flesh above her collarbone. "You and me. Forever. The way it was always meant to be."

"That's right," Ally whispered.

If he'd lied about the raft, what else had he lied about? Dominic said their navigation shorted, but that had supposedly happened not far from here. Where were the search parties? There should have been something by now.

An all-too-familiar sense of dread settled in Ally's stomach.

It's just the two of us now. The way he always wanted it to be.

The last thread of hope she held unspooled in her hand. She stopped, and Dominic raised an eyebrow at her.

"I have a bit of a surprise for you," she said, licking her lips. "Y'know, to celebrate our new life here."

"Oh?"

Ally's hands curled at her sides. "Yeah."

She glanced at the plane and took a deep breath, trying and failing to still her racing heart. If her suspicions were right, she had to be calm. She was only going to get one shot at this.

"Well, what is it?"

Dominic tilted his head to the side, and Ally punched him in his smiling face. He cried out in surprise, but she was already gone. She ran toward the plane, and a moment later heard Dominic's heavy footsteps start to close the gap between them.

Her foot struck a piece of broken metal. Thinking quickly, she lifted it with both hands and swung. There was a sickening crack as it landed against the side of Dominic's head, and he fell, blood splattering onto the damp sand.

Ally stared at him. Resting in Dominic's upturned hand was a small knife; a knife he'd never told her about. With a small cry, she dropped the metal and climbed into the plane. She tossed the raft out the passenger side door and jumped down beside it.

Here goes nothing, she thought, before jerking the cord. The raft squealed as it started to swell with air.

"Ally!" Dominic cried, his voice weak. "I told you not to go on the plane! You weren't meant to do that!"

Something smacked the other side of the plane, and Ally jumped. The raft went silent, and she pushed it to the water, her feet slipping beneath her.

"Ally, get back here!"

Ally turned and gasped. Dominic had staggered to the water, his face slick with blood. He held the knife in front of him. "You're staying here with me!" he shrieked.

A wave crashed into her, knocking her off balance. Ally's head slipped beneath the water, and she surfaced a moment later, spluttering. She dug her feet into the sand floor and propelled herself forward, gripping the raft with white-knuckled hands.

"Ally!"

Gritting her teeth, Ally hooked her arms over the raft and jumped. Water pooled beneath her as she hung over the side, but she held firm, wriggling forward until she was safely inside.

A small red bag was attached to one side of the raft, so she ripped it open and dumped the contents out. When she didn't spot a paddle, she grabbed a plastic-wrapped bag and drove it into the sea.

Behind her, Dominic fought the waves, blood spilling over his snarling mouth. He lurched forward and swiped. The knife sliced through the air before landing back in the water.

A small wave lifted the raft, then plowed into Dominic, pulling him off his feet. Ally leaned forward, sweat dotting her brow, and paddled as fast as she could. The wind snatched away Dominic's curse-filled screeches as the distance between them grew, and soon all Ally could hear was her makeshift paddle slapping against the water. After what felt like hours, she risked a glance over her shoulder.

All she saw was the ocean.

Ally took a shuddered breath, then picked up one of the flares from the red bag and aimed it at the cloudless sky.

She didn't have any food. She didn't have any water. But as long as she didn't have Dominic, she might have a chance.



THE DREAM MAKER


I am thrilled to let you know that my latest story, "The Dream Maker", is now on Short Fiction Break!

"The Dream Maker" is set in the same universe as my previous story, "Inside Your Mind". However, this time, the the dream maker only wishes to create joy.

When Peter brings darkness into his dream for the first time, the dream maker must determine where loss can fit into light.

You can find "The Dream Maker" here:

https://shortfictionbreak.com/the-dream-maker/

This story is part of the Write Practice's fall writing contest. If you enjoy it, you may vote for it in the Reader's Choice category here:

https://shortfictionbreak.com/fall-20/

Thank you for reading!

INSIDE YOUR MIND


I am delighted to let you know that my short story, "Inside Your Mind", was selected as one of the winners of Eerie River Publishing's monthly writing contest.


If you are one of their Patreon members, you can read the story here: https://t.co/HgwG2bpEhv?amp=1


"Inside Your Mind" will also be included in one of their upcoming anthologies. I will keep you posted on the release details once they've been confirmed.

I hope you enjoy the story! The theme was 'nightmares', and I frightened myself a bit while writing it. Why are nursery rhymes from the 1800s so creepy??



NYC MIDNIGHT MICROFICTION CHALLENGE 2020

The NYC Midnight Microfiction challenge asked writers to create a 100 word story that included an assigned genre, action, and specific word. Over 7600 authors joined in the challenge, and I was fortunate enough to win a place in the first round and receive an honourable mention in the second. I would love to share my entries with you, and wish everyone who made it to the third (and final) round a huge congratulations. Good luck!

LEAVES OF WAR (FIRST ROUND)

Pink and yellow flowers bloom beside the trail, leading me to the mountain's summit.

I hope nobody's up there. This is the last thing I have to do to fulfill my promise, and I need to stay under the radar for it.

The clouds above watch me, silent and still. I take another step.

Gunfire rains on me from behind a tree, ripping through my body and spreading crimson blood upon the grass.

"Dude, come on!"

The screen tells me the game is over, and I sigh, annoyed.

Oh, well. It was nice to be in nature for a bit.


(The assigned genre, action, and word: comedy, climbing a mountain, and 'radar'.)

Highlights from the judges' feedback: "I liked the twist in this story - the visceral description of the shooting made me convinced it was really happening, and discovering it was a video and was really amusing, especially with the quippy last line."


INTO THE DARK (SECOND ROUND)

I rose, unsteady.

My gown lay pooled on my lap. I tried to lift it, but my fingers slid uselessly over the fabric. Frustrated, I left it.

"Can I go for a walk, Mum?"

She didn't answer. I tiptoed into the corridor anyway.

Nurses brushed past me, huddling around my bed. A familiar dog was behind them, watching me.

"Ollie?"

I ran my hand through his dark grey fur.

"You left us, buddy."

A wail burst from my room, grabbing at my limbs and threatening to pull me into its grief.

"Mummy?"

Ollie nudged me.

It was time to go.

(The assigned genre, action, and word: ghost story, patting a dog, and 'dark'.)

Highlights from the judges' feedback: "Wow. This was a very powerful, haunting story. You have a very strong voice. I loved your narrative style and the choice of laying out the story in individual lines. This created some wonderful pauses within the narrative. The ending was heart wrenching, as the mother's cry tried to pull her back into life. This was an amazing piece of writing. Very well done."

ON THE MORROW

On the morrow, you shall burn...

I am so excited to let you know that my story, "On the Morrow", is now available in issue 50 of the Sirens Call eZine!


Set in England, 1645, "On the Morrow" is a dark fiction story about a witch named Kiera, whose sister has been burnt at the stake. Desperate for revenge, Kiera sets out to destroy the man responsible for her sister's death.

Evil hides behind virtue here, and Kiera wants it to come out.

ISOLATION DRABBLES

Eerie River Publishing held a small drabble contest recently, and my story was one of the ones chosen to go on their blog! The theme was "isolation," and I had so much fun writing this short piece.

You can find it here: https://www.eerieriverpublishing.com/post/isolation-drabbles

I hope you enjoy it, and that you are doing well in this weird time!

KNOCK ON WOOD

Hi guys!

I knocked...

My drabble, "Knock on Wood," is up on Trembling with Fear! I'd love for you to check it out.

You can find it here:

https://horrortree.com/trembling-with-fear-03-22-20/#more-561632

Thanks for reading!

THE PRICE OF GOLD

I am honoured to be included once again in an issue of The Sirens Call eZine! This issue was centred around the theme, "Death Comes for Us All," and my story (beginning on p. 88) delves into a world where silence is rewarded with a piece of gold...

The prompt that inspired this story was provided by Reedsy.com

You can download your free issue of The Sirens Call eZine here: https://www.sirenscallpublications.com/pdfs/SirensCallEZine_December2019.pdf

I hope you enjoy it!

THE RANGE


My latest story, The Range, has been published by Reedsy as part of their weekly competition. It is based on the following prompt:

Write about a person trying to learn a new skill or hobby they find intimidating but want (or need) to learn anyway.

I'd love for you to check it out! You can find my story at: https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/15/submissions/3590/

I hope you enjoy it!

THE MONSTER ON CARRIAGEWAY DRIVE

A monster lives in my house...

 

I am thrilled to let you know that my story, The Monster on Carriageway Drive, has just been published in the latest issue of The Sirens Call eZine.

This is a dark fiction short story about a monster that haunts a house on the otherwise peaceful suburban delight that is Carriageway Drive.

You can download the issue for free here:

https://www.sirenscallpublications.com/pdfs/SirensCallEZine_October2019.pdf

My story starts on p. 104

(Trigger warnings: abuse)

Thanks for reading!

This story was first published in its original form by Short Fiction Break.

© 2019 Elizabeth Nettleton
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