Flash Fiction: Disturbing ‘Nightmares’.

This weeks Friday Flash Fiction Challenge on terribleminds.com is called “Five words, plus one vampire.” The challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction in 1000 words that includes three out of the five following words

  • TAX
  • BOX

Not only that, but you also need to include a vampire. So that’s three of those words and vampire.

(The ending has had a bit of a re-write in lieu of the comments below.)

Here’s my entry.



Sarah looked around, everything was white. Everything and nothing. Nothing was there, just a whiteness, a blank canvas. She looked down and couldn’t even see herself. There was a noise though, faint, and in the background; a beeping sound.

The sound became louder and louder until it sounded to be coming from right in front of her, but there was still nothing to see.

A door popped into existence. It was the type of door an office would have as a fire escape with a big metal bar to open it. She mentally reached out for the bar, and pushed open the door.

It opened and beyond it she could see what looked like a warehouse. She found herself moving towards the room, as she did it expanded all around her. Suddenly she was there, standing in a warehouse. The room was large. So large that she could only see one wall; the wall with the door she arrived from. The room was filled with rows and rows of shelves going on as far as she could see, piled high with crates and jars. Several workers busied themselves retrieving items, a few men drove forklift trucks loaded with boxes that beeped noisily as they reversed.

As she looked around an old man sat on the bonnet of a yellow forklift. He wore a flat-cap and overalls and held a rather floppy looking sandwich in his hand. He noticed her, and with a mouth half full of sandwich said. “Are you here about the delay issue? Look I told your boss earlier. We’ve got most of the…”

Sarah looked confused.

“Oh crap! You’re a cartridge? You’re not allowed in here.” The man said before hopping off the fork-lift and walking over to her.

“Cartridge? Where am I?” she asked.

She pulled the lid off one of the boxes, and saw what appeared to be a blue rabbit smoking a cigarette; it growled at her. The man pushed the lid back down. “Put simply love, this is where dreams are made.”

Sarah smirked and the man rolled his eyes “Yes I know it’s lame now, but we thought of it first. I don’t know how you got here but we need to get you out. Goddamn ‘Distribution’ have cocked up again.”

The man sighed and dropped his sandwich in a nearby bin. “Ok, you wait right there. I just need to ring my boss.” The man took out a mobile phone and bashed at the keypad, the key-tones bleeping out as he pushed.

“Hello. Mr Stephens?” The man said. “We’ve got a problem… A cartridge is here… Yeah, I dunno. About six weeks I’d say.. No she doesn’t… Right, thanks.” The man pocketed the phone. “Right, I just need to sort out your dream then you should… well, that should get you out of here.”

“This is so weird. I’ve never had such an intense dream before.” Sarah said under her breath.

“Yeah, well you’ve probably never been in a.. .” The man took a handkerchief out of his pocket and dabbed his face with it. “Right, so what type of dream do you want? Western? A holiday trip to somewhere exotic? Fighting Aliens on a far away planet?”

Sarah thought for a while. “Have you got anything a little more um… adult?”

“Sex dreams!” The man said a little too loudly causing Sarah to look around in embarrassment, though nobody cared enough to return the glance. “It took us ages to get those right, you have to end the dream at just the right time. First time we made them, one poor sod was halfway through a divorce by the time he woke up.” The man looked thoughtful for a while. “We do have a rather excellent line in nightmares.”

“Nightmares? Why would I order a nightmare?”

“You’re in ‘The Nightmare Division’ so it would save me a walk up twelve flights of stairs.” The man joked “Plus nightmares really make you feel glad to be alive when you wake. There’s nothing like feeling alive, right lads?” the man gestured to the other workers who responded with a mixture of cheers and comments that Sarah could only half hear.

“I don’t know. I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”

“Please trust me on this. A nightmare is better.”

“OK, fine. A nightmare.” Sarah thought for a moment. “Give me something with a werewo… no wait, a vampire in it.”

The man visibly sighed and looked a little disappointed. “Seriously? It’s a bit obvious isn’t it. Well do you want the ‘tearing your throat out’ kind of vampire or the ‘effeminate teenage boy’ kind of vampire?”

“It’s a nightmare. What do you think?”

The man raised a knowing eyebrow and half-smiled at her.

Sarah caught his gaze. “The throat-tearing one.” She confirmed.

“Ok, that will be… erm.” The man scratched his head “Of course, shelf 387 Row HV. Wait here, please.”

Sarah watched as the man rushed off and disappeared behind some shelves. Minutes later he re-appeared carrying a file-storage box and a clipboard.

“Here you go. This is pretty much your standard vampire nightmare, so it’s got your usual spider webs, cockroaches, gothic mansions and a liberal handful of b-movie clichés. Now if I can just get you to sign this.” The man held out a clipboard with a piece of pink carbon paper on it.

“What’s this?” Sarah glanced over the clipboard “Is this an invoice? I don’t have any money.”

“It’s just a formality, Miss.  So we can claim the tax back.” He smiled at Sarah, and held out an old chewed biro. “Sign that, and your dream can start.”

Sarah took the pen and signed the document. “I just want to get out of here.”

“Right, well that’s all sorted. It was nice to meet you Miss.” The man turned to walk away.

“Wait! What do I do?” Sarah shouted after the man.”

“Wake up.” The man shouted before getting back into his fork-lift.


Sarah opened her eyes. The hospital ward was silent except for the beeping of a heart monitor. Her husband who sat on a nearby chair, looked up at her and smiled. Several days of beard growth showed on his face and his eyes were red and bloodshot.

“You look so tired” she said.


12 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Disturbing ‘Nightmares’.”

  1. I love the whole idea of this and the way it began. The ending was a little cliche for my taste, but otherwise great fun.

  2. I became really immersed in this by the middle! I was a little confused by the ending (with the husband) but I reread it and it made sense. Neat idea with the dream warehouse!

    1. Scene transition is something I need to work on. I get the rules for when it’s on TV, mainly because so much is done just by seeing the new setting, but I struggled with it in such a short piece of fiction.

      Have you got any suggestions on this?

  3. Hi
    I really liked this,
    I wonder if it would be stronger without the hospital mentioned at all. End at ‘wake up’……..
    just a thought.
    The warehouse scene is very evocative, alive and visual.

    1. I wasn’t sure whether it needed a final paragraph or not, to be honest.

      The main purpose was to tie in the beeping noises throughout the story to the hospital equipment. It may not be a good enough reason to keep a paragraph in though.

  4. I liked the story, even the ending.
    I thought the eding made sense, tho i had to read back, then it hit me that the girl was already in the nightmare.
    I like the basic idea and to me the ending had a great punch.
    I don’t know how I would make it better.
    You have a great imagination.

  5. This made me laugh out loud in places. I LOVE the idea of a dream warehouse, and it’s so well written. So many little pieces of the puzzle fit together, from the “delay issue” to the “about six weeks”. Really well done.

    I particularly liked the spiel about getting the sex dreams right. Woke up halfway through a divorce… *chortle chortle*

    Like a few other people, I think the ending lost a bit of punch. So, since you asked for ideas, I’ll give you my thoughts.

    I think the reason it feels a bit off is not because it’s not necessary but because it’s too much of a transition. You jump setting (from warehouse to hospital), time (She’s just been told to wake up, but she’s still asleep. Does the last scene happen before the first finishes?) and POV (from Sarah to her husband). If you can simplify, it would probably make the hospital scene punchier. Did you consider keeping the POV with Sarah and having her wake up in hospital, hearing the heart monitor and seeing her husband?

    Just my easily-discardable thoughts. 🙂

    1. No, that makes perfect sense, though I can’t imagine your comments are ever easily-discardable.

      I’ve rewritten the ending plus got rid of the mention of the ‘fork-list’ truck, whatever that was. As far as transition goes, there should only be a location transition now. I’ll keep an eye for this in the future.

      I’m glad you like the story. I couldn’t resist the jab at the ‘Teen Vampire’ craze.

      1. Yeah, I liked your “teen vamp” jab as well. Just a great story all around.

        I like this new ending, the transition’s a lot smoother. And the last line is great. Nice work!

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