Here’s my entry for the October Flash Fiction Draw Challenge (the post for the original October draw is here). In case you didn’t know about this challenge, there’s a video here explaining (and showing the monthly draw), but the quick version is this: I use three suits from a deck of cards to randomly put together a genre (in this case: suspense), a location (in this case: a border crossing) and an object (in this case: a bag of money) and challenge anyone who wants to play to write something over the next week, with a maximum of 1,000 words.
This did not come easily by any means—I don’t really like horror, and I don’t read a lot of it, and as an added bonus I’ve been sick most of the week. But, given blood drive and horror, I had a motive spring immediately to mind for someone to do something horrific, and from there, it was about figuring out a way to tie in frogs.
It’s in Me to Give
“Oh no,” Beth said.
“Who’s turn is it?” Andrea said.
Jessica frowned. Everyone had a job, barring unforeseen circumstances. They didn’t take turns. She almost asked, then saw who was there, waiting.
“I’ll take him,” Jessica said. Beth and Andrea, both volunteers, relaxed. Beth was a grandmother who’d recently lost her husband and seemed desperate to fill a caretaker void in her life. She also liked to dole out unwelcome advice to other volunteers about the benefits of Yoga. Andrea never seemed to have a completely good day—there was always some tale of woe she needed to share—but she was efficient once she had it out of her system.
It’s all about the blood, Jessica had to remember. Beth and Andrea were some of her best volunteers. Blood Services needed blood, and that was just the way it was.
Jessica looked at the man. He made eye contact, but didn’t smile.
Speaking of things that are just the way they were…
Jessica grabbed a clip-board, and gestured to a cubicle. “This way.” She resisted the urge to call him by name—Denny Bates—it might give him pleasure to be remembered.
It was a familiar dance, and she forced a neutral tone into her words as she once again asked him all the basic questions before starting the questionnaire proper.
Name, birth date, blood type, and…
“Yes, I’ve had sex with another man in the last year.” He always spoke flatly, in a cold monotone. He crossed his arms. The full sleeve on his left arm shifted with the motion, and her gaze caught on the ring of brightly colored frogs encircling his left biceps. He always wore a sleeveless shirt when he came to their drives. Jessica figured it was an intimidation tactic. But she refused to be intimidated. Muscles, tattoos, and an ax to grind. Denny thought the world was unfair.
Join the fucking club.
She opened her mouth to give him the usual line, but he kept speaking.
“We’re monogamous, tested often, but this isn’t a question you ask straight people, is it?” Denny’s voice continued without inflection. “Whether or not they’ve been monogamous, or if they use safer sex practices? No, gay blood is immediately bad, because you’re homophobic.”
She waited for him to stop, took a breath, and opened her mouth to try again.
Denny continued. “Are you going to tell me all about how it’s not you, it’s Health Canada again? You can tell me all the other lies you always tell, whatever helps you not feel bad demonizing queer people. Again.”
Jessica swallowed. She hated this smug asshole and his tattoos and she was sick to fucking death of being told she was homophobic. He came to every damn drive they had. Didn’t he have a life? She was helping people, damnit.
He cut her off again. “This was the last time.”
Jessica needed a second to parse what he’d said. “Pardon?”
“Last chance,” Denny said. “You had plenty of chances.”
“Leave,” she said. “Now.”
He rose slowly, and Jessica stared up at him, refusing to look away. He raised his right hand, and for a brief, terrifying moment she wondered if he was going to hit her. Instead, he put his index finger in his mouth and bit down.
Jessica pushed back from the desk and rose, glancing around for Chuck, the security guard, but she didn’t see him.
When she looked back, Denny held his finger out, red blood smeared on the fingertip.
She stared at it, repulsed.
“Blood gives life.” He smeared it across one of the small blue frogs on his left arm.
“Get the fuck out of here,” Jessica said.
He looked at her, then smiled. It was the first time Denny Bates smiled at Jessica, and she hoped it would never happen again. Even without blood on his teeth, his smile was fucking creepy.
Jessica exhaled. “Mr. Bates was just leaving.”
“It’s in me to give,” Denny said.
“Sure, buddy. Let’s go.” Chuck led him out.
Jessica rose, and checked in with Beth and Andrea.
“You look tense,” Beth said. “You know, if you stretch you can fix that.”
I hate you. “Thanks, Beth. I’m gonna grab a coffee.”
The tiny kitchenette in the building wasn’t great, but it had a door. She closed it.
“Asshole.” She put her hands on the counter and closed her eyes.
There was a loud crash outside the door.
“For fuck’s sake,” Jessica said. “Can’t even get a fucking coffee…”
There was another crash. And a scream.
Jessica froze, her hand an inch from the door handle.
Loud voices were yelling—Chuck, she thought, and maybe one of the donors, a regular who always demanded two cookies.
“Don’t touch them!” someone yelled.
Jessica opened the door to see Chuck hit the ground at the end of the hallway, twitching and foaming at the mouth.
“Chuck!” She ran toward him.
Something small darted from his outstretched hand. She stared at it in utter confusion.
A tiny frog. Bright blue and black. And familiar.
There was another scream—Andrea?—and Jessica stepped over Chuck, who’d stopped twitching, now deathly still, to turn the corner.
They were everywhere. Tiny spots of bright blue among the people. The chairs and desks and even the donation beds were covered in them. Bodies lay scattered between. She could see Beth sprawled out by the front door, and a little blue frog perched on her grey hair.
Jessica exhaled. She just needed to get to a door. To get outside.
She took a single step.
Every frog in the room jumped once.
Jessica froze, and the frogs stopped moving, too. She looked left, then right, and no matter which way she looked, they were looking at her. Watching. Waiting.
She lifted her foot as slowly as she dared.
The frogs crouched, just as slowly.
Jessica stared at the door, and got ready to run.