What can I say about tonight’s guest? He’s worked as a mental health worker, pumped gas (not from his bottom of course!), Been an ambulance attendant, a soldier in Vietnam…now he writes short stories & novels to send shivers down our spines & nightmares calling from our beds at night.
I first realised how much I liked his style of writing when I came across his tale ‘Devil in 206’ in the Darker Than Noir anthology, a treasured little book in my collection, It was grim, very noir, pretty close to the bone & funny all at the same time…perfect mixture of macabre mayhem! Now he’s come up with ‘Hellz Bellz’ which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Lets’s get back to why we’re here…fear. Here’s Randy Chandler’s ‘Flash Fears’…
Flasher Fast = The shabby overcoat flashes open and shuts so fast that you’re not sure what you just saw but you’re pretty sure it wasn’t pretty. Or if it was a One-eyed One-horned Flying Purple People Eater or something much scarier.
When Emma Audsley invited me to do a What Scares You bit, the above is what I wrote to her to explain what I meant by a short and “flasher fast” piece. Just being cute? Guilty. But it got me thinking about those fears that come upon you so quickly and pass so fast that you hardly notice them except in passing and perhaps with a lingering case of the existential vapors. I realized that those are the ones that really throw a scare into me, not the big-assed looming fears most of us have about death or disfigurement due to a devastating accident or deliberate act of violence, random or otherwise. Or, say, the death of loved ones or [shudder] an IRS audit.
Sure we all harbor secret fears of a zombie apocalypse, economic collapse, or even the dastardly Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack that could bring about the fall of civilization as we know it and render your Kindle absolutely useless. But it’s those fleeting fears that find you when you least expect them that make your heart leap for your throat and your sphincter clench tighter than Aunt Cora’s corset.
When was the last time you got the shakes worrying about a dirty nuke going off near you? But I’ll wager you recall quite clearly that smashup you narrowly avoided on the expressway and the way your heart raced afterwards. Or how about the time you saw the scorpion or black widow in your shoe just before you stuck in your foot? Then there was that sudden loud crack of nearby lightning that made you want to go check your undies to make sure it didn’t scare a stain out of you. And who could forget grabbing the baby by the ankle just before it took a fatal header over the edge of the bed? Such frightening incidents could make you believe in guardian angels.
Those flash fears are like stealthy smash-and-grab hooligans. They hit you hard and fast and take vital seconds off your life (and yes, those seconds can feel like years). But then you feel relieved that you escaped, however narrowly, to live another day—so long as you don’t cross paths with a suicide bomber or serial killer who thinks your corpse would provide a nice amputated souvenir for the collection he keeps in his fridge.
The next time one of those flash fears hits you, remember the flasher in the shabby overcoat. It’s not what’s beneath the coat that’s scary, it’s the flash of the coat itself that startles and makes your heart race and gives you reason to appreciate that you’re still alive and relatively well.
Before you shuffle off it, it’s a good thing to have that mortal coil sprung in your ass now and then to jog your heart and remind you to make the most of your time. You never know when that ultimate flasher Fate will score a direct hit on you. And what you see beneath Fate’s overcoat is the last thing you’ll ever see.
Randy Chandler is the author of DAEMON OF THE DARK WOOD, DIME DETECTIVE, BAD JUJU, HELLz BELLz, of numerous short stories and the novellas “Howler” and “Dead Juju.” He lives near Atlanta,Georgia, on a mountain often struck by lightning.