Greetings boils, ghouls, and other creatures of the night!
A warm welcome back to Night Terror Novels’ ongoing flash fiction series, The Theatre Phantasmagoria, and to our Flash Fiction Fridays—where we bring you fresh dark fiction of 2,000 words or less at the end of every week.
With The Theatre Phantasmagoria, a new theme is announced each month, and by the end of said month, four stories are selected from our call for submissions to be featured here on the site in a Friday post. These pieces will also be published in a “wrap-up” anthology at the start of 2023, showcasing the original works that debut here at Night Terror Novels throughout 2022. If you’re an author yourself and this has piqued your interest, please find details regarding the flash fiction theme for our May submission window here.
The theme for April’s submissions was a comedy of terrors: stories centred around April Fool’s Day and its various hijinks, of pranks gone wrong and the consequences of such, or similar horror and horror-comedy stories along these lines. Our fourth month launched with “Mondo Hip Hop” an enjoyable sci-fi, comedy romp with an Easter-themed surprise from Michael H. Hanson. Last week, the April lineup was joined by author Matt Bliss, who brought us “Making Friends and Accidentally Summoning Demons at Camp”, a snappy, fun tale of summer camp chaos in which a prank careens into the realms of the demonic. Tonight, Megan Kiekel Anderson delivers “The Last Straw”, a wry story which follows the antics of a couple’s pranks against one another as they are taken to dangerous degrees. You can find out more about the author featured in today’s post down below, including links on where to find them elsewhere.
We here at Night Terror Novels hope that you enjoy today’s terrifying tale, and remember to check back in on Fridays for future showings in The Theatre Phantasmagoria …
Welcome to …
The Theatre Phantasmagoria
April Fool’s Day was Benjamin’s favourite holiday.
That should have been a red flag right there. What kind of person loves April Fool’s more than Christmas? More than Halloween, even?! Only psychopaths, probably.
He was escalating. Last year, the worst thing he did to me was put those little plastic spiders in my sheets. The relationship was new then; maybe he was scared to push further. I guess he got more comfortable.
This year, Ben started innocently enough. He redirected all of the traffic from my website to a Rickroll URL. Sure, I lost a day of sales, probably had a few annoyed customers, but it’s not like early April is my busy season. I only got around four DMs about it, so it must not have caused too much damage.
He switched out the sugar for salt, so I got a nasty surprise when I put a spoonful of Cheerios into my mouth. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him happier than when I spit out my bite in disgust, wiping my tongue on a napkin, yelling at him to go get me some milk. He nearly choked on his breakfast steak and eggs, laughing. I was not cheery after that, obviously.
I thought he was done. Two pranks is plenty of April Fool’s celebration for an adult, in my opinion. But he wasn’t.
Next, he tried to bring me a nice, cold glass of white vinegar after my run, but I smelled that coming from a mile away.
‘Goddamn it Benjamin, that’s enough. I’m done. I can’t take another one, I’m serious.’
‘Okay, okay,’ he said, setting the cup of vinegar on the table and backing away with his hands splayed in front of him in a gesture of innocence.
‘Take this with you, Jesus! What, do you think I’m just going to forget this is vinegar and absentmindedly sip it or something?’
He gave me a smirk and a shrug, but took the glass away.
The thought of breaking up with him momentarily floated through my mind when I pulled open a kitchen cabinet and the door fell off, slamming hard onto my bare feet. The bruise spread across the whole top of my right foot the next day, turning a deep purple-tinged black. He’d removed the pin from the hinges, and I hadn’t noticed. He’s lucky I didn’t break any bones.
But putting hair remover in my face cream? That was the last straw.
‘I swear, I thought you’d smell it!’ Benjamin claimed. ‘It’s got such a strong chemical smell; I didn’t think the peppermint would mask it, honest to God! I didn’t think—’
‘Clearly!’ I yelled. ‘I don’t have any fucking eyebrows, Benjamin! How am I supposed to go to work like this? I’m an influencer! Look at me!’
He could have at least had the decency to fake-looking ashamed. But no. His thin lips betrayed the hint of a smile and he put his fist to his mouth, averting his eyes, masking the first burst of laughter as a cough. But he couldn’t hold it back once he met my eyes. A fit of laughter burst from him. He threw his head back, laughing so hard he was gasping for breath, his perfect white teeth gleaming.
I only meant to get him back. Give him a taste of the misery he caused me.
The spiders in the bed trick gave me the idea. Benjamin, he was a real meat and potatoes kind of guy. I’d be drinking a power smoothie for lunch and he’d be sitting down to a widowmaker of a hamburger, double cheese, topped with chilli. The man ate steak for breakfast.
So it came to me: ticks.
Ticks are a huge problem here. As long as you get them off before they’ve been latched on for a day or so, you’re fine. That’s why I throw my clothes in the drier after every run through the woods behind my house, take a shower, take extra care to check my crevices, if you know what I mean. You have to be careful because even the nymphs, smaller than a poppy seed, can carry disease. We’ve all got to worry about the spectre of long COVID now; I don’t want to add Lyme disease into the mix.
But just as often as I find a black-legged tick, which is the one that carries Lyme, I find a little brown tick with a white spot on her scutum. Now, the Lone Star tick doesn’t carry Lyme disease, but it does carry this weird sugar molecule alpha-gal, which makes you—get this—allergic to all mammal meat.
If I don’t get eyebrows, he doesn’t get red meat. Or pork! Sure, my eyebrows will grow back and he’d keep on being allergic to mammals, but I was in for two or three months of embarrassment and lost income. He needed to pay.
There are a few more diseases they can carry, but they mostly respond to antibiotics. I didn’t think there was too much of a risk there.
It didn’t take me long to collect a jar of them—just a few weeks. I wore a lot of white on my runs.
I stayed at my place, just to be sure, while I was collecting and after I snuck them into his bed. Told him I needed some space after the whole eyebrow incident.
I swear I didn’t know.
He already had EpiPens for his peanut allergy. I figured he’d bite into a steak one night, he’d need to stab himself in the thigh, he’d go to the hospital, and everything would be fine after that.
I didn’t know that the allergic reaction could be delayed. What kind of food allergy causes a person to go into anaphylactic shock hours later?
At least he died in his sleep.
No one knows what I did, but everyone knows he deserved it. I had to go to his funeral with drawn-on eyebrows, after all.
About the Author
MEGAN KIEKEL ANDERSON is an emerging writer from Kansas City. Her short fiction can be found in Terror in the Trench from Dead Sea Press and upcoming anthologies by Dead Sea Press and Blood Rites Horror. Follow her on Instagram @megan_nerdnest.
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