I remember the day I moved in across the street from Jack Mounds. The moving men had just started loading their dollies and blankets back into the now-cavernous truck when some of my new neighbors came over bearing baskets.

Mrs. Overton was doling out banana bread to me as she spoke about Mounds. Famous horror writer, stayed to himself, rarely even did yard work. I cast a suspicious eye on his ragged grass; I considered a well-trimmed lawn to be essential to good neighbor relations.

It was almost a year later before I thought again of Mr. Mounds. My work kept me traveling, and my singular hobby also occupied much of my time, so that I rarely considered my mysterious neighbor. He intruded in my thoughts no more than a rare shake of my head at his unruly bushes as I pulled out of my garage, or an even rarer wave if we saw each other getting the newspaper. It was a late night at the University library, as I was doing some research, when I found Mounds’ book, A Midnight Summoning.

Pulling it off the shelf, I flipped through it quickly. A serial killer story, it seemed, with… my turning fingers stopped suddenly as I digested the scene I was reading. A serial killer — a young boy staked to a pentagram — a brutal ritual killing.

As my numb hands returned the book to the shelf, I could think only of Timmy Lyons, the freckle-faced nine-year old from down the lane who had disappeared last winter, never to be seen again by the residents except for his black-and-white face on a weathered “MISSING” poster. And I wondered what Jack Mounds knew about Timmy’s disappearance.


“Thanks for having me over, Tyler,” Jack Mounds said as he settled himself on my never-used loveseat.

“Well, two years across the street from each other and we’ve never talked — seemed time!” I said cheerfully as I placed a tray loaded with coffee and water on the table between us.

“I appreciate the effort,” Mounds said as he picked up a mug, stirred in some sugar and sipped at it. “Mmmm — pretty good.”

“Thanks.” I grabbed my own mug and mimed drinking. “I travel a lot for work, so I pick up some… unusual blends.” I put the mug in my lap. “So, a writer, huh?”

Mounds grimaced. “Yeah. Read anything of mine?”

I told the truth. “Skimmed through… A Midnight Summoning, was it? Kinda gruesome.”

“Well, horror sells well, but it’s not my… true calling, I guess you’d call it.”

He seemed to want to say more, but I only had a little time now and wanted to learn more about A Midnight Summoning. “So… where did you get the ideas for the… things in that book?”

Mounds knocked back some more coffee. “That’s the thing most people ask me, and the answer is — I don’t know.” He let out a low chuckle. “It almost seemed like, in dreams I was having, like I was watching someone else do these things.”

My hand tensed on my coffee mug. “Who?”

Mounds shook his head, apparently confused. He looked up, his eyes glassy, and then slumped over the armrest of the seat.


Mounds’ metabolism must have been working overtime, because I barely had time to drag him to my soundproofed basement workshop and lock him in the shackles before the sedative wore off and he woke up.

He was silent for a moment, taking in the dark glory of my workshop. He was shackled in the center of a Seal of Solomon, candles of my own manufacture at each mystic junction. It had taken at least two more children in addition to Timmy to render enough fat to make the candles, but the time and effort was worth it.

“Look familiar, Mr. Mounds?” I asked him as I pulled off my clothes to reveal the scarified patterns on my skin. Once I was completely free of clothes, I leaned close to him. “How did you know?” I hissed.

He stayed remarkably calm. “I didn’t know. Hell, I wrote A Midnight Summoning two years before you even moved here.”

I pulled back, nodding to myself. “Yes… something that has troubled me. Perhaps the Goat granted you a vision, to prepare you for me….”

“No,” Mounds said simply. “There’s no Goat. There’s just me.”

I picked up the sizzling poker from the brazier and held it. “Perhaps your tone should more fearful when discussing the Lord of All,” I said.

Mounds shook his head again. “You don’t understand. It’s happened before — what I write becomes… real.”

“You claim you MADE me?” I kept my voice down — the soundproofing was excellent, but there was no use tempting the fates.

Mounds sighed. “I suppose so.”  He looked around, seeming tired. “I guess my writing created all of this, too.” Then he smiled, an odd look for someone shackled to the center of a satanic ritual ring. “The good thing is that I can do something about it.”

With no effort at all, Mounds pulled his hands free of the concrete blocks they were attached to, and snapped off the shackles on his legs with his bare hands.

He stood up. I was frozen in shock.

“As I said, horror isn’t my true calling.”

He took hold of the zippered front of his sage hooded jacket with both hands, and pulled it open, revealing a bright red “M.”

“My true calling is superhero comics.”

Ramon Rozas III creates written artifacts of unbearable beauty in West Virginia. He also writes SF and submits that instead. EDF, Aoife’s Kiss and Atomjack have all made the questionable decision to publish his pieces.

Rate this story:
 average 3 stars • 2 reader(s) rated this
  • Ellen

    A great story, well told. Loved every bit of it, and who could have guessed that ending!

  • Lavender

    That ending made me laugh! I really liked how we were set up to be suspicious of that weird horror writer bloke across the road. We even looked down our noses at his untidy lawn: ‘I considered a well-trimmed lawn to be essential to good neighbor relations’ (loved that line btw). And then just when we think we know what’s what the rug gets pulled out from under us and nothing is as it seems.

    When he drugged the writers drink I thought ‘ooh that’s going a bit far in the name of nosiness’ which then raised my suspicions about our narrator. But I certainly did not see the horror writer turning into a superhero ending. Utter genius!

  • No, Lavender, there was plenty of telegraphing that the narrator was the villain, and the twist ending was telegraphed a few sentences in advance in broad terms, so that by then we could see that some implication of the writer’s special talent was going to intervene even if just what it was came as a surprise.

  • Lavender

    Hmm…? Okay maybe it was just me then. Don’t get me wrong I was suspicious of the narrator but I had sort of thought he might be in league with the horror writer…but admittedly not ’til quite late on. And call me a nitwit but I did not see that ending coming…ouch just call me one didn’t you!

  • You sure packed a lot of story into a thousand words! Loved the ending.

  • Richard Pasky

    What a cool story, and the perfect setup for the surprise ending. 5 pentgram stars!

  • Michael Stang

    Yeah, baby! Great twists and a stellar ending.

  • Trollopian

    This is real flash fiction: economical, ominous, satisfying. Even on a quick read the clues are there, artfully dropped, and a second read really makes apparent the author’s skill. Mr. Mounds and his unkempt lawn are a hilariously suburban version of the Clark Kent/Peter Parker/Bruce Wayne tradition. Good stuff!

  • Nicely done, Ramon. Often such cross-genre pieces go awry.

  • Fantastic. 5 stars!

  • OMG, I loved this. The fact the neighbor turned out to be the serial killer didn’t surprise me a lot. I kind of expected that about half way through, but the idea the writer was a super hero never entered my mind until the very end. Wonderful Job! Five stars from me!

  • Elizabeth

    And five stars from me. Awesome, awesome story.

  • joannab.

    5 stars from me, too. soul-satisfying story.

  • Rob

    Well now, that one gave me a good laugh. Thanks.

  • I didn’t call you a nitwit, Lavender, I just meant that the twist ending built gradually rather than being a sudden, unexpected punch that was only there right at the end:-

    – First, we see the villain trapping the writer.

    – Then, we see the writer revealing that there is more, that something is coming, from his bringing out that he is still the driver in all this; his laid back way of doing so shows us that he is still on top of things, that his gift hasn’t just backfired and got him into trouble.

    – Finally, and not before, we see just how the writer copes.

    Doing it that way takes away a final punch, but it avoids the change-the-rules cheat of a deus ex machina.

    I am reminded of Michael Caine’s narrative at the beginning of the film “[The?] Prestige”, where he outlines the dramatic structure of a properly done disappearing trick (it has three “acts” – look it up); of course, that is also working at another level, to show viewers a structure to expect from the film itself.

  • Bud Clayman

    This was a really good story, as everyone mentioned. First,I had skimmed the comments and then I read the story. I WAS surprised at the twist, even though I had gotten an idea that something special was going to occur.
    And boy, did it ever!

    I agree with Trollopian(#8)that this piece really showed what you can do with flash fiction. You are not limited, except by your imagination.

    Great job, Ramon!

  • Kathy

    Excellent and entertaining!

  • KCN

    Wonderful! Fun story, surprising twist! thank you.

  • Dave Schram

    I’ll n brief: fantastic story, beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • I think the foreshadowing was well done, for an attentive reader to pick up; if nothing else, the title of the piece gives it away. The only part I was uneasy about was the narrator’s dialogue once in the basement, which seemed more farcical…. which, considering the humorous ending, is likely the intent.

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