I think technically this one is pushing it when it comes to word count and being considered a flash fiction, so bear with me!
“I don’t believe you,” Nadine said.
“It’s true! Honestly, it’s actually common knowledge that green potatoes have arsenic in them. You can die from eating them,” replied Adam.
Nadine rolled her eyes, taking another enthusiastic bite of her cucumber and hummus sandwich.
“It’s true. I knew two brothers, back in junior high, whose family was super poor. Like relied on the school lunch program and ate nothing but potatoes for dinner everyday kind of poor. Well, one night, their mom made fried potatoes for dinner, but the potatoes were ancient or something. The whole family ended up in the hospital. The youngest brother even died and the older one was put into foster care,” Adam pushed his plate of French fries towards her, wearing a fiendish grin.
Nadine smirked back, stuffing a handful into her mouth. Then her expression changed, morphing into a twisted grimace as she clutched at her throat. Gurgling, her eyes rolled back, and she slumped back into the couch cushions, her feet beating a faint tempo on the coffee table leg. Then she went still.
Adam knocked back some beer while he waited. From the corner of his vision, he caught her peeking at him under her thick eyelashes while a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. He wondered what it would be like to kiss those lips. If she’d ever allow him to.
She sat up again, placing her elbows on her knees, and perching her chin on her palms.
“Why don’t we ask him if it’s true?” she said.
“Ask who?” Adam said, his forehead furrowed in confusion.
Nadine bent forward and Adam found himself leaning a bit to catch a glance down her shirt. She pulled a wooden board from beneath her couch, pushing aside her sandwich plate and Adam’s fries as she placed it on the table in front of them. He had never seen a Ouija board in-person before. It had the alphabet in gothic lettering in two curved rows, underneath was a row of numbers from zero to nine. In the top left corner was the word YES in the jaws of a skull, in the top right corner was NO held in two clawed hands. At the very bottom was the word GOODBYE.
Reaching under the couch again, Nadine pulled out the matching planchette, heart-shaped and marked in the middle with a black star. She put the planchette on the board and rested her fingers gently on the right-hand side.
“Let’s not,” he replied.
He didn’t believe in the afterlife, or in supernatural things like automatic writing, Ouija, tarot cards; but for some reason his whole body was playing tug-of-war with his temperature – hot, cold, hot, cold. The fries sat like a rock in his belly.
Nadine just stared at him with a wry grin, pushing the planchette around the board in loose figure eights. The planchette feet made a soft shushing noise as they swept over the wood, like whispers from beyond the veil. Adam shook his head, trying to chase away a shiver.
“Fine, you can write down what he says. There’s a notepad and pen on that side table by you.”
Adam didn’t know how to refuse. He took the pad of paper and the ridiculous pen with a giant pink feather taped to the end, and put them in his lap. Nadine resettled herself, putting the index and middle finger of each hand on the back of the planchette.
“What was his name?” she asked.
Adam wanted to play ignorant and ask whose name, but he could see in her face that she wasn’t playing around.
“Brad. His name was Brad Mueller.”
Nadine settled more into the couch, bent slightly forward, eyes intent on the board. Her left knee now rested against his right. His heart skipped a beat.
“I am reaching out to the spirit world. I want to speak to Brad Mueller. Brad Mueller, if you are there, please let me know,” Nadine intoned.
Around and around the planchette whispered under her delicate fingers. Adam’s left knee, the knee not touching Nadine’s, bounced uncontrollably.
“Brad Mueller, Brad Mueller, answer me.”
Adam was about to tell her to give it up when the planchette’s tip jerked up and to the left, coming to rest on YES.
“Brad Mueller, is that you?”
The planchette backed up a bit before returning to its former position: YES.
“Stop, this is stupid, Nadine,” Adam said.
She glared at him over her left shoulder. She held his gaze for a long moment, her eyes flaring with some fierce, unknown emotion before breaking the tension with a smile.
“Don’t you want to know if that potato thing is true?”
He didn’t know how to reply. Sensing his defeat, Nadine turned back to the board.
“Brad, did you die because of arsenic in a potato?”
Now it swung right in a neat, smooth arch: NO.
“Well, well, well. Looks like you’re wrong, Adam, it wasn’t a potato,” Nadine smirked at him.
His hands were trembling. Her smile, where once it always seemed playful and sweet, was now sinister, coy. The room felt cold, the two floor lamps standing guard on either side of her tiny TV seemed dimmer.
“Dude, you’re creeping me out, let’s stop,” Adam was ashamed to say the words out loud.
“Aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know how he died?”
“No, not really.”
“Too bad. I do. Make sure you write down what it says,” Nadine turned her focus back on the Ouija. “Brad, what killed you?”
The planchette didn’t move and Adam hoped that Nadine would get bored, was getting bored, that she’d stop all this. Then it began to roam all over, pausing on letters, but Adam didn’t write any of it down.
B R O T H E R.
“Your brother killed you? How?”
A R S E N I C.
“Whoa, that’s messed up. So, his brother killed him, it wasn’t Mr. Potato Head,” Nadine said.
“This is so ridiculous. I don’t know why you’re doing this. The news said it was from the food, the cops thought so, why would his brother kill him?”
The planchette reacted immediately.
H A T E D T H E F A M I L Y.
“There you go, Adam. It’s because the older brother hated the family. Maybe he was trying to kill mommy and daddy too!”
“Do you know where the brother is now?” Nadine asked.
Adam shook his head.
“He went into the foster system, switched schools, who knows where he is.”
The planchette jerked again: YES.
“Yes? Brad, do you know where your brother is?”
“Let’s stop this, please, Nadine!”
B E S I D E Y O U.
When the planchette pointer landed on the ‘U,’ Nadine took her fingers from it and turned to him. Adam’s mouth gaped. Pinpricks of white-hot heat raced over his face, his chest and back, his groin.
“I never told you what my dad did for a living, did I? Before he committed suicide, I mean?”
Adam made to stand up, but his legs gave out when she pulled the gun from between the couch cushions.
“This was his. He died when I was seven – I was in Brad’s class. My dad killed himself because of Brad’s death. Brad wasn’t your dad’s son, he was my half brother. My dad and your mom were in love. They talked about you when she was over at our house. Do you really think no one noticed their pets going missing? Or that all that stopped when you were taken away?”
Adam opened his mouth but all that came out was a squeak.
“You killed your brother and you killed my dad, and you thought you got away with it, you arrogant shithead.”
“No, I – ”
The gunshot was louder than she thought it would be, the recoil more violent, but it was impossible to miss at such a point-blank range. She heard her neighbour scream from the next apartment. Soon, the cops would arrive and be banging on her door. She wasn’t worried. Every cop in this town helped raised her when her dad died. No one would believe it wasn’t self-defence.
As she waited, Nadine put the Ouija back under the couch.
“There you go, Dad. Everything happened just the way you said it would. I hope you can finally rest in peace. I love you.”
There you have it! I hope you enjoy today’s story — don’t forget to like and share!
x P.L. McMillan