Free Stories

Free Stories

As far as I know, everybody loves free stuff. So, I’ve decided to publish some of my stories here on my website that are completely free to read. Some are flash, some are longer pieces, some are stream of consciousness, some are vignettes, and some defy classification, description, or reason, but all of them are here in their entirety for you to enjoy, gratis. Check back frequently, as this page will be updated as I find stories that belong here. *Cheers!

Pearls Before Swine

by Emmanuel Paige

Jimbo was in the throes of death, still clutching the bag of jewels, kicking and floundering helplessly like a beached whale as blood streamed profusely in spurts and gouts from his mouth, his escape after the heist now vanquished. Ignoring the signs that said, “Warning: Hazardous Area! Stay Clear of Fence!” had been a deadly mistake, and when he tripped, stumbled, and accidentally fell into the pigpen the hogs began eating him alive, feet first, saving the sweetbreads and brain for last.

Epitaph in Graffiti

by Emmanuel Paige

I was reading the graffiti on a tunnel wall standing and pondering on the words written therein wondering where the authors of these illicit scribbled words had gone and been and if they were still counting away the days or perhaps had gone on to a higher plane their words of wisdom no matter how cliché etched in block letters or cursive aerosol spray squiggly lines without much to say proclaiming to all passersby that the end is near the sky really is falling and that so-and-so is gay and that love and hope springs eternal for all who care to dream when suddenly I did spy a piece of chalk on the ground near my feet, so I decided to write something uplifting and sweet to join the ranks of those who had scribbled on the tunnel wall before something special something bright something true with lots of might endearing and lasting for years to come so that my wisdom should carry on long after I had passed away from this realm of existence much like the cave paintings from prehistoric times but I couldn’t get the words just right so I settled for the only thing that came to mind something I had read somewhere before that seemed proper and fitting so I wrote: “I was here but now I’m gone I left my name to carry on, Signed, Yours Truly.”

If Shit Was Gold

By Emmanuel Paige

Once upon a time there was a joker and a thief. Sneakily, the thief stole the joker’s book of jokes and escaped into the woods. When the thief opened the book of jokes it blew up in his face and left him with a hideous grin. After that, wherever he went the townsfolk called him the laughing thief and he was always very happy and found it impossible to steal from anybody. Unable to support himself, since he was a thief who could not steal any longer, he was forced to find a real job. One day, the joker offered the thief a job in return for the book of jokes. The job required cleaning out the stalls of the joker’s stable where he housed two dozen stallions, mares, and colts on his equestrian acres. The thief begrudgingly agreed, with his grin still intact, and set to work shoveling up the mountains of horse manure every day and depositing it in a pile at the edge of the property. The joker repaid the thief for his labor in food, shelter, and jokes, but no cash money ever changed hands. After many years had passed, when they were very old, the joker asked the thief if he was satisfied with his life, and the thief replied: “Yes. I am happy. Thank you for your wisdom and kindness. If not for you, I would never have discovered the meaning of life.” The joker grinned and said, “You are welcome. Please tell me what you have learned from all of this.” The thief scratched his head and said, “If shit was gold, I would be king.”

The River Rat

by Emmanuel Paige

I found his grave down by the river late one night I was drunker than hell from too much beer went there for some privacy to play the guitar and scream into the trees he lived there like a river rat and most people knew of him I had filled his propane tank a few times which he paid for with state issued vouchers so I knew who he was as I looked at the cross looming in the night like a ghostly crucifix shadow in the light cast by the sodium vapor streetlamp near the bridge I was scared shitless all alone but I approached it with bravery induced by the liquid courage in my veins it wasn’t really a grave he had been cremated it was a marker erected by his admirers to symbolize their remembrance for a free spirit I dumped a beer out for a lost brother placed an unopened beer by the cross then quickly hurried toward the light out of the creepy woods the dark water flowing like a snake under the bridge strange noises coming from the bushes as I fled like a spooked rabbit to the safety of the highway discovering later the marker was gone by vandals or a flood both equally damaging his memory lives on in those who knew him soon even that will fade like a whisper I realized sadly with a sigh that it eventually happens to all of us.

The Lazarus Syndrome

By Emmanuel Paige

Okay, I wouldn’t believe it if it hadn’t happened to me. My name is Andrea Filcher, and I have witnessed the horrifying events I am about to disclose with my own two eyes. The dead really can return from the grave. I know it to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why . . .

My grandmother, Paulina Filcher, passed away one night from cardiopulmonary arrest and she was whisked away in an ambulance to the hospital. The doctors attempted to revive her, but it was of no use, and she was pronounced dead after half an hour of trying to bring her back.

Needless to say, our family was grief stricken as we stood in the waiting room. When we learned of her death, we all cried and hugged one another. This was terrible, just terrible. We went home that night and grieved. It was a sad moment for us, and we immediately called all our relatives and told them the dreadful news.

The next day, we prepared to arrange for funeral services; however, we were contacted by the hospital and told that grandma was still alive. She had awakened in the morgue and made a commotion in the refrigerated compartment and caught the attention of the attendants during their routine duties of autopsies and embalming.

It appears that there is a real phenomenon where people come back after dying, for a short time (maybe ten hours, or so), and it is known as the Lazarus Syndrome. After cardiopulmonary arrest and cessation of life functions, the patient is pronounced dead, and through a process known as autoresuscitation the heart begins to beat again and the dead man or woman comes back to life as if nothing had ever happened. This is rare, but it has happened, and dead patients have awakened in the morgue, craving scrambled eggs and bacon, and wondering why they are wrapped up in a body bag. This is exactly what happened to grandma Filcher. She came back from the dead and was ready to come home now . . . suddenly alive and well.

When we heard this news, we were astonished. Never mind that she had died, or that she had spent the night in the morgue, because now she was alive again and we would be reunited with our lost relative. We were happy and ecstatic and overjoyed to have her back.

When grandma Filcher came home, she had changed. She was not the same happy woman I had known for so long. She was cold and quiet and had a dazed look in her eyes. She had been to the land of the dead and returned with an air of menace and melancholy that was unsettling. She never spoke a word to anyone from that point forward. On top of that, she required constant care and we were forced to feed and bath her, put her clothes on for her, and see to her every need. It was a cumbersome task, but we loved her, and we took good care of her.

She spent most of her time sitting in the wheelchair and staring out the window into the woods. She would gasp and grunt and groan, making wet sucking sounds and clicking noises in her throat, but she never said a word to any of us. Her silence was desolate and disturbing.

I could not help but think how different this experience had made her and how it affected us, and perhaps she had changed into something sinister, not really alive, but still partially dead, after having crossed over into the realm of the dead and making a sudden return. She had crossed over, and perhaps she was not really meant to come back, but by some uncanny twist of fate, she was reanimated and returned in a semi-dead state.

One night, I found myself home alone with her. I realized that I was sitting with a stranger, quiet and still, almost dead and sitting at the window, even after everyone went to bed, looking out blankly into the darkness. She would stare for hours at a time, never moving.

She was ambulatory, and could walk if she wanted too, and she would get up and lurk around doing weird things, standing in the corner like a scolded child, or standing behind you, sneaking up quietly, while you were in bed, peeking in at you from outside the doorway late at night, and just being all around strange and scary.

She creeped me out in a terrible way, and I felt bad because she was my grandma, after all. What could I do? I made her sit back down in her wheelchair and told her to stay there and watch TV. She chose to stare out the window instead.

They never come back the same, those afflicted with Lazarus Syndrome (and it is an affliction, I am convinced). They are still dead. They are just animated cadavers, but they have some semblance of life. I realized after she had done some really scary shit that freaked me out and nearly made me die of a heart attack, that she might be possessed of some strange spirit of death. I could not be sure, but something wasn’t right with her. She still reeked of death.

What would the end result be? I did not know. Would I be forced to kill my own beloved grandmother because she came at me with a butcher’s knife, or tried to strangle me in my sleep, or any other unlimited ways that she could injure me, or take my life? No, I didn’t think so . . . I would tie her up in her wheelchair if it came to that.

Eventually, she died again naturally one night, dying in a sitting position in the wheelchair, staring out the window. She was stiff and dead when we founder her. Her arm was outstretched, and her finger was pointing out the window. Her face was as white and cold as a piece of marble, and she resembled a statue.

It was clear to us that in the end, you can’t cheat death. That’s the moral of the story. The Grim Reaper always gets his victim. Death will come for you no matter what, eventually, and you will die sooner than later, I think. I know it’s true, and that is why I’m living every day as though it is my last. Because no one lives forever.

We buried her in the cemetery on the hill. It was a small funeral. Nothing fancy. I was a pall bearer, and I help carry her to the grave and put her coffin on the stand. I stood quietly and watched somberly as she was lowered into the ground. There was a man playing bagpipes, because she had always loved that instrument, and because we were all of Scottish descent it made perfect sense.

As we drove home from the funeral and went to the reception, I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if she woke up in her coffin and couldn’t get out. She would be buried alive beneath tons of dirt and stuck in her narrow coffin. How long would she last down there? It was a terrible thought. I put it out of my mind.

I eventually would go back there to the cemetery and visit her to put flowers on her grave and hope that she was sleeping in death peacefully. It was all I could do. I loved her, still, after all, despite the strangeness of the last days of her life and death.

When I die, I pray to never wake up and come back from the dead, and I hope the Lord will take my soul the first time around. I wish I didn’t have to tell this tale. It really happened and it was a living hell for my grandmother, Paulina Filcher, and our family, to be burdened by a case of Lazarus Syndrome. She died the second time at the ripe old age of eighty-nine. RIP.

The Decrepit Dream

by Emmanuel Paige

I held onto the dream like a drowning man clinging to a log in the Pacific Ocean when the seagulls peck at his eyes and cry out for more bashing my head against the rocks of the road that had become my life.

I carried my guitar into the dingy bar smelling stale beer and cigarettes and tried to give my best performance, but the excitement was gone, and I was exhausted and the times they were a changing. Nobody really cared anymore. Music had changed, now rap and hip hop were king, and old rockers were just ignored. Who wanted to hear an old white guy singing and playing a guitar? I was borderline pathetic.

I sat down on a bar stool in front of the microphone and began to play the song that makes people cry in their beer. The bar was empty, and the barmaid was on the phone chain smoking cigarettes obviously wishing that she was someplace else. When I finished the song, she brought me a beer. The jukebox belted out a song that reminded me of a time when I was young.

After fifteen shots of whiskey I bashed my guitar against the jukebox, screaming at nobody in particular. The guitar exploded into piercing shards and splinters that shot through the air like poisonous darts. My fingers bled. I staggered away, swaying till the room spun around beneath me.

I just could not give up on the dying ember that was my lifelong dream. I was getting old and no one wanted to hear the yowling of a middle-aged, beer soaked has-been. Without sympathy I fell down on the floor, crying out, unable to believe that it has all been done already, my dream was now a thing of the past, lost with a previous generation. It will never happen again. With sadness I realized that I have been clinging to a decrepit dream.

The Crumpler

by Emmanuel Paige

He was always crumpling something: paper sacks, paper sheets, wrapping paper at Christmas or birthday parties, plastic bags, plastic bottles, potato chip bags. It drove me nuts. I would turn around and tell him to stop. He would stop, shrug his shoulders, and look at me as if to say, “Why? What’s your problem?”

“You’re driving me fuckin nuts,” I said. “Do you always have to crumple stuff like that?”

“I was just getting some chips,” he said.

“I know that. But could you be a little quieter next time?”

“Sure,” he said. “Whatever.”

I was irritable during those days. Trivial things bothered me for no other reason than it got on my nerves. Crumpling was the worst. I would try to watch TV or read a book and there he was, crumpling a piece of paper as he did his homework. I would be meditating or in deep thought, and there he was crumpling a plastic water bottle. It was worse than a leaking faucet drip, drip, dripping all through the night while I tried to sleep. It was worse than his compulsion to rip pieces of paper to shreds, methodically tearing a complete sheet of paper into tiny little bits and pieces.

He knew that it bothered me, and when he was feeling wicked, he would crumple stuff just to annoy me. It worked. One day I jumped up, grabbed the bag of Cheetos from his hands and tore it to ribbons, cheese curls exploding across the room.

“That’s it,” I said. “I’ve had it. Quit your damn crumpling.”

“I can’t,” he said. “It’s impossible. How do you not crumple something when you are trying to open it?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just do. Quietly. I open it without crumpling.”

“Fine,” he said. “I’ll try not to crumple things anymore. Okay?”

“Good,” I said.

Now he leaves the room when opening anything that could possibly crumple or make the slightest crinkle. He walks on eggshells around me. I think he fears me now. I wish I didn’t have to be such an asshole; it makes me feel bad sometimes. At least I am free of his constant crumpling.

Small Hour Cacophony

by Emmanuel Paige

It was always exactly at 3:30 a.m. when the noises would start upstairs. The alarm would go off, and Lennon McCorkle would look at his clock on the nightstand and see the time displayed with numbers in glowing red LEDs. He would be half-asleep, just about to drift off into a dream, and then suddenly be jolted awake by the strange, grinding sound overhead. It was a mechanical sound, like a dishwasher, but distinctive, humming like a dynamo, combined with a slosh and grinding of what Lennon imagined to be gears and paddles in an electric cement mixer. Whatever kind of machine it was did not matter, he just wished the old man would turn it off, or at least wait until the daytime to conduct his weird undertakings. The old man and his strange nocturnal activities were driving Lennon mad.

“Not again,” Lennon said, with a groan. “Why does it have to be like this? Every damn night—or, should I say morning? It’s too early for this.”

Lennon lived in a tiny apartment and the walls were paper-thin. You could hear everything on all three sides. If the neighbors on the left side were not loudly chatting and watching TV with the volume cranked to the max, then the neighbor on the right side was getting drunk and listening to classic rock on his stereo, occasionally burping, coughing, and farting loud enough to wake the dead. This bothered Lennon to no end, but it was nothing compared to the old man who lived upstairs. He had never met the old man, and did not know his name, but he had seen him a few times lurking out at twilight, a cigarette dangling from his lips as he disappeared into the darkening night—oddly the old man never came out during the day.

The old man made the strangest noises and kept the oddest hours. He was quiet during the day but stayed awake after midnight with TV speakers blasting out old movies in Dolby 5.1 surround sound with explosions, gunshots, and car crashes penetrating the thin ceiling that separated the apartments. The old man constantly smoked cigarettes and had developed a terrible cough that was annoyingly loud and carried with penetrating resonance. To top it all off, the old man played a cello out of tune and off key and it made the most hideous and nerve-racking sound, like fingernails on a chalkboard. All the noises and sounds from the old man upstairs combined in a tumultuous cacophony that was enough to drive Lennon to insanity.

He got out of bed in his underwear, found his iPhone and sent a quick text message to the landlord to complain, again, for the umpteenth time. He told him the old man was doing it again, making strange and loud noises upstairs. It never resulted in any definitive action, however, and for some reason the landlord just seemed to ignore his complaints. The landlord always threatened to confront the old man, but he rarely ever followed through. It was always just swept under the rug and life went on, day after day, repeatedly, for what seemed like eternity. Why doesn’t he make good on his threat to kick this asshole out? Lennon wondered. He reasoned it was because the old man had nowhere else to go and he did not want to get sued for being politically incorrect and end up in a litigious proceeding in court.

“Whatever,” Lennon said, aloud. “No rest for the wicked, I guess.”

He plopped back down on his bed, resting his head on the pillow, and listened to the strange sounding machine chugging and churning overhead. The old man was constantly pacing back and forth, feet dragging on the floor, his boots clomping and stomping with every heavy step. What amazed Lennon was that a frail little old man of at least seventy years of age could make such an immense noise with his footfalls when he walked. He must be intentionally stomping to make as much noise with his footsteps as possible, Lennon thought.

• • •

One night, Lennon decided to confront the old man, marching upstairs and stopping at the door, listening to the raucous sounds emanating from within the apartment. There was the sound of the strange machine, a dishwasher from Hell, intensely frothing and sloshing full tilt, and the TV and the cello, all combined in an unrestrained clamor behind the door. He decided enough was enough and began banging his fist on the door. He did not expect the old man to answer and thought the door would be locked tight. As if in answer to his thoughts, the door creaked open on squeaky hinges and afforded Lennon a view of the old man’s apartment.

Inside, the darkened room was lit by the glow from the TV, an old black and white movie from a century past, Nasferatu, was displayed on the screen, showing a bald and pointy eared vampire creeping up the stairs, the soundtrack composed of sinister orchestra music blaring through the speakers. Beyond the living room, in the center of the kitchen was a giant machine like something from the Twilight Zone, with blinking lights, knobs, and levers on an instrument panel. On top was an oversized funnel. In the dim light, Lennon could see gears and belts and wheels protruding on all sides, spinning around in a rhythmic cycle. It was hissing and steaming, making clanking and chugging sounds, overworked and overloaded by whatever task it was required to complete. It had a toggle switch to turn it off and on, and a lever to engage the internal mechanism, but Lennon was afraid to touch it.

“What in the world is that?” Lennon wondered aloud, as he looked at the machine.

Suddenly, his attention was caught from a movement and sound coming from the bedroom, where he heard a sour chord screeching from the cello. It had to be the old man, and now he could confront him and tell him to keep the noise down. The cacophony of the TV, the machine, and the cello rose to a crescendo, and filled Lennon’s ears with the most disagreeable discord the he had ever heard.

It is too loud, Lennon thought, and I’ve had enough.

This was his chance to shut it down. He stepped back toward to the bedroom door, making a wide birth around the weird machine. Lennon noticed through the doorway that the bedroom window was open, and he could see out into the night, expecting to see familiar streets and buildings and stars in the sky. That was not the case: when he looked out, he saw a strange landscape with jagged cliffs, bizarre towers and foreign constructions that resembled nothing he had ever seen before. The architecture of the buildings and the geometry of the roads and passageways defied logic and perspective and were assembled in an incongruous manner, causing a feeling of vertigo and disruption as he gazed upon the weird and eerie landscape. There were creatures flying around overhead above a distant horizon with smoke and fire billowing into the hazy overcast twilight. He could see beasts and monstrosities with bug-eyes, spiraling horns, antennae, and gnashing fangs, far beyond his wildest dreams or imagination, and they were moving about casually, content, and free, hovering in the air in a different dimension. Lennon knew that he was peering through a window that looked upon a time and space continuum that was out of alignment with his own reality.

He glanced to his right, and saw the cello player, but it was not the old man as he had anticipated. It was one of the beasts from outside, a much smaller version, and it had six arms and six legs, sitting awkwardly in the chair, pulling the bow back and forth over the strings. Three sets of eyes on the end of tubular appendages moved back and forth, blinking with sticky eyelids. It had a tongue protruding from its mouth below a trumpet shaped proboscis. A set of eyes curved around and looked directly at him. The cello continued to make the hideous sound, the arms moving rhythmically as the bow moved back and forth. A second set of arms reached over to the windowsill where a large platform had been constructed. A plate of inexplicable sliced meat, red and raw and bloody, had been placed on the platform. The hideous cello player put forth a scaly hand, gripping the meat between bony fingers, pulling fists full of gore back and pushing it into its mouth. Outside, a beast with red eyes and a mouth filled with layers of needle-sharp teeth came to the window, and the cello player threw a handful of the meat to the abysmal creature, as if it were a pet.

“What in the hell?” Lennon gasped. He felt a cold chill run up and down his spine, horripilation raising the hair on his arms, and fear gripping him with an overwhelming terror. “I must be dreaming.”

At that moment, the old man came out of the bathroom, leaving the door wide open and allowing light to spill out into the bedroom. The old man stood looking sternly at Lennon; he was drying his hands with a cloth towel.

“What are you doing here?” the old man asked, irritated.

“I came here to tell you to be quiet,” Lennon said, stepping back on instinct. “But I never expected to see . . . this.”

“You’ve crossed the barrier and have seen too much,” the old man said, tossing the towel aside. “You are now to be used for meat.” He approached Lennon with hands extended outward, stretching out his fingers into clutching claws.

“No. I don’t think so,” Lennon said, turning and fleeing into the kitchen. “You’re going to have to catch me first.”

That is when he clearly saw the backside of the machine in the light spilling from the bathroom. There was a human arm and leg protruding from the strange funnel at the top. He had not noticed that at first. On the counter were parts and piece of human remains, cut into sections, gutted and separated in piles. The organs and offal were in a bucket, a severed head was in the sink, and a torso was on a wooden chopping block. It was a gruesome display of macabre carnage.

Lennon suddenly realized that the machine was some sort of food processor, like a sausage or hamburger grinder, and that the old man must be feeding the creatures outside the window. He did not know what the cello player had to do with it, but he did not intend to stop and think about it, either.

Turning away, and running for the door, Lennon exited the apartment in a mad dash, falling headlong down the stairs and tumbling, landing on his feet and sprinting away in horror. All he could do was run away in terror, getting as far away as possible. He covered several blocks in a short time, and soon he was running through the park near Parkview Drive. He kept on running, not looking back, a painful stitch in his side, out of breath and gasping for air. He did not stop until he was safely across town, sitting down on a well-lighted bench at a Bayview City Transit bus stop, and catching his breath.

He decided not to call the landlord or the police because they would lock him up in an insane asylum, never believing what he claimed to see in the old man’s apartment. That is the end of that, Lennon thought. I’m never going back to that apartment ever again. They can keep my stuff. I’m moving somewhere far, far away from here, and I’m leaving right now.

I Tied the Knot

by Emmanuel Paige

I tied the knot last night just right so it moved smoothly added some oil to make it slick when the phone rang I didn’t answer it because she only wanted to stop me and today I killed a squirrel because it got into my walnut tree so I shot him with a slingshot and he fell to the ground with a plop and my dog ate him up yum while I wrote this I couldn’t stop thinking maybe her mistake was really mine because he was bronze and full of muscles and the booze was a good aphrodisiac removing all inhibitions but I don’t care anyway because I’ve been tying the knot all my life just never intended to use it until now it seems so perfect clearly stated intentions I didn’t want to hear why there is no reason for regret when I used to sing in the choir but smoked too many cigarettes the preacher condemned me to hell so I bought a ticket and signed on the dotted line when I put this rope around my neck and swing from the walnut tree I wonder if they’ll miss me.

*Note:

These are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. If you take offense, I’m not sorry; feel free to lodge a formal complaint with someone who cares.

Copyright © 2020 Emmanuel Paige - All Right Reserved.