New Flash Fiction Piece: Dry Run

Posted: 11/04/2011 in Fiction, Horror, Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s Flash Fiction Friday, and to celebrate the start of the weekend, I’d like to share Dry Run.  I stumbled on a challenge earlier this year to write a story of precisely 100 words, on any topic, as long as it included three of the five random words that were provided.  The three words I chose were: black, barrel, and soap.  I went for a short waltz with those words, and the result was Dry Run.  Enjoy!

He won the mannequin on eBay.  It arrived five days later.  He removed it from a shroud of tissue paper and bubble wrap, washing it with a delicate lavender soap.  They sat together on his porch as the sun set, drinking red wine and making light conversation.  Under the pale light of the moon, he strangled her with a length of sheer black nylon hose.  He dismembered her with a hacksaw and placed her arms, legs, and torso in a steel barrel filled with quick lime.  When all was in order, he returned inside to visit another social networking site.


  1. That’s creepy, Hope. Well done!
    My only thought is that you switch from the distancing pronoun ‘it’ to ‘her’ when he “strangles” the mannequin. Was that deliberate, showing that this was the moment where it became a true substitution for whoever his first victim would be? If so, that’s even more creepy.
    I assume synonyms are ok? Technically you used ‘drum’ instead of ‘barrel.’

    • blackalchemy says:

      Wow, thank you, Michael! Isn’t that crazy how I saw one word, wrote another, and I’ve read it “correctly” incorrectly ever since!? I am going to have to replace that word in the story – great catch and I am very grateful for the edit! The shifting pronoun was intentional though, in an effort to capture his own increasing inability to seperate fantasy from reality. I am glad I do not live next door to this guy!

  2. Gah, I keep reading this over and over! Needless to say, this is mesmerizing.

    • blackalchemy says:

      Thank you, I am glad you like it! Sometimes real life creepy people can be scarier than the monster archetypes – I’d rather go up against a zombie any day than stumble on this fellow!

  3. Indigo Spider says:

    I think I grew up next to this guy! Very creepy, are you sure you aren’t sitting on a porch sipping wine w/a mannequin? 😉

  4. Wait…. I visit social networking sites! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!

  5. How very well crafted this is. It reminds me what a good exercise writing flash fiction under 500 words is. I’ve only managed 250 so far. Five hundred even was a stretch for me. Fifty thousand? Pffft, easy. In a month? No problem (well, that’s an understatement). But 500? 😦

    I digress. This piece shows how you have made every single word count. I wondered about the “It arrived five days later”…why you thought it necessary to include what I thought was irrelevant information, until I read the end and realized how delusional this guy was. Those five words let me know it really was a mannequin and not a woman he strangled and dismembered. And then I reread the title and it all fell into place. I could feel the hair on the back of my neck standing straight up.

    Excellent job!

    • blackalchemy says:

      Thank you, Sandra, I am glad you liked this! I usually write about spooky supernatural monsters but this guy had a story I wanted to tell. I sure wish I could trade with you – I would love to be able to write 50,000 (or more) words, but when I try it turns into an agonizing ground war fought on pogo sticks with water pistols filled with epoxy. For flash, I just write the story and then wittle it down into I hit the desired word count. With longer stories, once I hit 30,000 or so the words disappear out of my head like they were in invisible ink. I hope someday I can say “fifty thousand, easy.” That would be incredible!

  6. Paul D. Dail says:

    Awesome piece. So much information and subtext packed into so few words. Really enjoyed it. Had a suspicion something was up, but didn’t see the strangling coming, nor all that followed (again, I say “all” and it was only 100 words). Well done.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • blackalchemy says:

      Thank you, Paul! You know, when I wrote the first two sentences, I didn’t know he was a killer, either. He revealed that to me a couple of sentences later – very much like you wrote in your blog – when a character does something entirely unexpected and you’re no longer sure who’s telling the tale. We might see this guy again in another story sometime. I have a feeling there is more story left in this one. 🙂

  7. tatyana39 says:

    have you got a publishing deal? probably you have but i can’t work it out. you should!

    • blackalchemy says:

      When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a writer. Then life got in the way. This summer I started writing again, posting some flash fiction on my blog and self-publishing my short stories on Smashwords. I hope that I can get to the point that I write stories that make people want to turn the page and find out what happens next, or that they become engrossed in the tale and it gives them a little literary escape for a few minutes or hours like my favorite writers have done for me. I can’t imagine ever being lucky enough to have a publishing deal. I should mention that I absolutely love your blog! I love your approach to examining and exploring horror – you had me at the word “cerebral.” Maybe you’d like to do a swap sometime and guest post on my blog? I’d really like that. 🙂

  8. QXFace says:

    “When all was in order” is a good phrase here. Like: “Don’t worry, folks. It’s okay. I already chopped her up and got rid of the pieces.”

    The title gives it an extra push. I didn’t think much about it until I was finished the story and figured out what it meant.
    I think you could tell a different story just by placing the title before or after the text.
    With the title at the top, we can guess that the guy is practicing on the mannequin. The tender(but skeevy) washing scene and the “date scene” on the porch could make us think that maybe he’s just a lonely/awkward/Real Doll-ing kind of guy. Then the dismurderment at the end catches us off guard.

    If it was text first and then:
    Dry Run
    -Hope Sullivan McMickle
    We’d go: “Ohhhhh… Watch out ladies.”

    Maybe I’m crazy. I guess I already got that effect! And there was the neat moment when I realized what the title meant.

    Okay, so this comment was worthless, but instead of deleting it, I’m going to EXPRESS MY OPINION ON THE INTERNET because that’s the type of person I’m turning into…
    This story has made me take a long hard look at my life.

    • blackalchemy says:

      This story made me take a long hard look at homes with 50 gallon drums in the yard! 🙂

      I love your terms – “dismurderment – perfect! And if you liked it, coming from a fellow who has written one of the creepiest, horrifically descriptive, and well-constructed murder scenes I’ve read in recent memory, that means a lot!

  9. QXFace says:

    I’m not too far into Public Enemy yet, but I noticed this line when Clyde is watching the news in the diner:
    “Three dead hookers discovered in barrels just outside of Kansas City.”

    A possible cameo from our mannequin strangling buddy?

    • blackalchemy says:

      All right, you caught me – again! 🙂

      It’s the same guy, it is a cameo… I try to link places and characters and events in many of my stories, if only in a tiny way. But here’s the thing – the guy Dry Run is based on is real. His name is John Edward Robinson. He made the news while I was living in Kansas and it creeped me out, must have stuck with me, because I keep writing about him. Disclaimer: I do not have any barrels or mannequins on my property!

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