On the eve of his retirement, Inspector Lawrence is assigned to the interrogation of “Little Red” – a sketchy teen found drenched head to toe in his grandmother’s blood. So begins DISTANT SUBJECT, a short science fiction story by Brian Michael Riley.
“Comfortable?” Lawrence asked him.
Up until just recently Red had been a raving, inconsolable paranoid, convinced that the world-- or something from another world -- was out to get him.
“I’m relatively content,” the kid told him.
“Well, I sure do appreciate your patience. I got here just as fast as I could,” Lawrence said. “This station is full of some really dynamite cops, but it’s ME you want to be talking to from here on out.”
“So I hear. And what’s so special about the big OG?”
The Inspector tapped his fingertip on the report. “Well this is my area of expertise, if you will.”
“Involuntary grandmother slaughter?”
Lawrence cleared his throat. “This stuff you’ve been talkin’,” he confirmed, flipping back and forth through the pages. “You’re speakin’ my language here, son.”
“And what language is that?”
“That language that inspires most people you talk to to look back at you as if you got lobsters crawlin’ outta your ears. That language.”
“Shit, G, I’m used to that look. Ain’t nothin’ but a thang,” said Little Red.
“So being cast off as looney, this is enjoyable for you.”
“Listen, G, and hear me out.” He dragged on his Kool, finding the right words. They were impressingly sober. “I know who I am. Always have. I know what I saw. I know what I did. No one else gets it? Well, AIN’T NOTHING BUT A THANG.”
The Inspector slid his hand onto the directional mic as casually as possible, covering the end with his thumb. “Well I ‘get it’ more than anyone around here cares to admit,” he said under his breath. “And more important than that-- I BELIEVE YOU.”
Lawrence just let that hang there a minute, watching its value rise in Red’s eyes.
“This is why I was called in, you see. I’m the specialist around here,” Lawrence assured him, lifting the report with a shake. “Been documenting cases like yours for the bulk of my career, son. It’s what I’ve come to do. You see, every organization such as ours, be it private, state, or government, we’ve got to devote a certain amount of energy, a certain amount of manpower to field the-- how should I put it-- more extraordinary cases we may be presented with now and again. This isn’t anything the public is aware of, mind you, this little branch of our operation here. This little team I’m a part of. Hell, a lot of guys around this place might even consider the work I do sort of an embarrassment. I don’t much care. All I know-- at the end of the day,” the Inspector sat back, crossing his arms with certain pride. “I’m a damn good lookin’ man when I wear BLACK, if you catch my meaning.”
Or did he.
“I’m better lookin’ than most MEN,” the Inspector really punched it. “When in BLACK.” Wink.
The kid’s face dropped, catching the meaning at last.
“Shut. The fuck. UP.”
DISTANT SUBJECT has been published in Issue #33 of DARK DOSSIER, a digital e-zine of fiction and nonfiction devoted to ghosts, aliens, monsters & killers. Download here: https://gumroad.com/l/DARK33?fbclid=IwAR1DzQIJ9US8Nq483qeIv2jU2R7VRutXx4m4YzkxN43Ikz9dhz0y5eKO8dE
Along one of the charming Burbank streets that his East Coast family insists are used on their favorite TV shows, Brice in his teal Ford Escort runs over an animal. It must’ve been a cat. Pulling over to the curb his eyes confirm that, yes, a small calico is running from the car and across a tightly groomed front yard.
It scrambles underneath the next yard’s porch.
“Son of a bitch,” Brice sighs. Godamnit.
Placing a pill beneath his tongue as he jogs across the street and then the lawns, Brice traces the creature’s path, watching for any dark spots that would indicate blood. The only sign of the animal, though, is a low and husky mewling from behind the porch skirt. Going to where the porch meets the house, he peers through the small gap left where the latticework ends. He sees the cat deep inside there, crammed into the darkest corner, its butterball silhouette rising and falling with panicky breaths.
“Hey there,” he coos in. “What’d you do that for? You big dummy.”
The animal swells with a growl, pushing Brice back the few feet he’d entered. Daylight sneaks in past him, illuminating the crawl space enough for him to make out a carpet of twisted shapes surrounding the cat.
“What’s you got in there?”
Gradually his eyes adjust to the bent fingers and bent limbs sprouting from the dirt.
Clearer now. Torsos in a tangle. Cracked open husks spitting out bones and dusty springs of meat. A suitcase. Then two. A round metal canister, bread box in size, pumpkin orange and dark spots of gore and ‘FLIGHT RECORDER DO NOT OPEN’ printed on its side.
“Hey buddy?” says the homeowner to the man slumped beside his porch in an alarming daze. “Should I call for help? I can call nine one one.
Confetti Pink and Ashy appears in Issue 23 of Adelaide, a literary journal base din New York City.
Available in both digital and print (on Amazon), you can read the story here:
A gang of black and Puerto Rican boys are coming over from the apartment building steps. All of them are poor and some are teenagers and some are younger. Two of them are real small kids, probably baby brothers. The oldest Puerto Rican is smoking a cigarette. He has a mustache made up of scraggly black hairs that also come out around his ears. He must be the leader and he brings his gang onto the sidewalk so that now I’m surrounded by all the kids from up Charles Street.
“Who is this?” asks one of the younger black kids while sucking Fritos dust off his fingertips.
“This is a boy I’m makin’ walk,” says Marcy, stepping up.
Now that she’s beside me I feel safe with Marcy.
“Where do you live?” the gang leader asks me.
I know that Mom is home and what if when the gang is done with me, they go to our house for her.
“You live down Charles Street or what?” the leader asks.
Holding in the tears that are rising from my heart, I look at Marcy. She stands there wet with sweat on her bumpy forehead and neck. Her patrol badge moves up and down while she breathes heavy, same as me. With my head tilted up at her I see the tears fill in my eyes.
“You makin’ him cry,” goes Marcy.
Hearing it out loud I can’t stop from losing control and the tears come running out, my body shaking and hot. I take Marcy’s arm and her skin is thick and soft and a nice shade of brown, more like chocolate and not like black.
Saying black people is wrong. You learn this up close
Danny from Down Charles Street is featured in a special teen edition of Edify Fiction, 'a uniquely positive literary magazine' you can download here:
At the Start of Diablo is a work of flash fiction set against a most
unlikely backdrop. Inspired during a restroom break at a California nature reserve, the story is written as a stream of consciousness, resembling as closely as possible the surge of horror
Brian felt when the idea struck.
Preparing to hike up great Mount Diablo, our main character finds himself answering the pleas of a panicked suburban mom outside the state park's bathroom facility. As is often the case with structures of its kind, this modern-day outhouse utilizes the natural well over which it is built, opening up the cavernous passage below.
“Oh my God oh my God you have to get her out!”
All so fast.
Inside the restroom it’s more modern than you’d think and there’s a kid’s backpack and boots and little pants on the floor in front of the shelf where the toilet hole is set. Handprints and scratches and those are claws from an animal it came out of the hole when it was inside of the toilet and pulled the mom's kid down the hole.
“What is this?” I ask myself trying to figure this out and the mom answers because she thinks I must be asking her.
“It grabbed Tabatha and she's down inside and this is a nest!”
The sign “DEPOSIT NO TRASH” above it and then inside the hole is dark and the bottom is water on rock and there’s toilet paper clumps and it’s a natural cave and an animal made a nest and the sounds won't stop of an animal biting a girl and growling and screaming but which is which and chewing her throat and I can't listen and I want to run out but you can’t.
“Tabatha oh my God Tabatha Tabatha!”
At the Start of Diablo is to be featured in the next edition of Jitter, a journal of poems and short stories by the newest voices of horror. Watch for Issue 8 in 2019 (pictured: Issue 7), available for purchase through Prolific Press.
Meanwhile, visit Jitter Press online and subscribe!
The short story A Terrible Thing will be featured in Massacre Magazine, a print and online publication aiming to showcase some of the best new voices in adult horror.
In this work of prose poetry - defined as a fusion of narrative fiction and poetic devices - a young boy proves once and for all that it's been much more than his imagination going bump in the night.
“That’s why you won’t go in,” Sis sighs, shaking her head.
Because it’s still there.
A terrible thing is hiding under the sheets. Its back curved down, a thing on its knees. I know it’s the Devil holding his breath. The boots are his bait-- at the end of my bed.
Read Brian Michael Riley's A Terrible Thing in Massacre Magazine's Issue 14 available on Amazon this December.
Big Business as Usual is the follow-up to a story published earlier this year with Gay Flash Fiction (https://gayflashfiction.com). These are the memoirs of Edwardo McKlusky Nguyen as he navigates his way through marriage, the work place, and the English Language. In this latest installment, Edwardo finds himself empowered by Sit and Stay Dot Com's most recent client, inspiring him to claim his rightful throne in the rapidly expanding pet care empire.
Edi!” Abraham did snap. “Stop daydreaming, huh? Mrs. Green is ready to fill out the insurance form. Meanwhile, Mr. Green and I are going to finalize the numbers in my office.”
“Yes, I will do.” Le sigh. “Edwardo always do.”
And into the den went the hubbies while I did try hard not to dream in the day.
“Baby, I just adore that accent,” said Mrs. Green with smiles in her eyes. “I have just got to know - where in the world does an accent as lovely as that come from ?”
“Well we call the place the far-faraway .’”
“Ooh girrrl, sounds like you been plucked right out of a fairy tale!”
“Yes,” I said with a fan of the hand. “Edwardo the princess.”
“Damn straight. Now you best make sure that man keeps treatin’ you as such, feel me?” She leaned close like in secret. “And just ‘tween us girls, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with stickin’ a reminder in now and again. These husbands of ours, they can get preoccupied with their little conquests and what have you.”
“Conq - ?”
“Their world domination and whatnot.”
“Ah - ‘ domination’ , this is a word I know!”
“Yes, I’m sure you do, baby.” My leg she did pat. “It’s certainly one of Mr. Green’s favorites, to be sure. The man sells a used car and he thinks he’s Mufasa. Now that’s all fine and good, but then he wants to come home and play king of the castle? Well shiiit – guess that makes me the queen , now, don’t it? Then treat me as such.” Her hair she did fix. “Or it’ll be off with a muthafucka’s head, you hear what I’m sayin’?”
Hear Mrs. Green I did.
Read the full story here:
Turning perhaps his greatest form of procrastination into research, Brian used his countless hours of Dr. Phil time on YouTube as inspiration for After These Messages, a short story that looks at the darker side of television talk shows. Written in May of '18, the 1,000-word piece of flash fiction has been published with Every Day Fiction.
“The only information I can give you about the episode,” said the rep, “is that its title is ‘My Dirty Little Secret’.”
Helen stood paralyzed in her kitchen as the phone call’s initial excitement swerved into a dizzying sensation of terror. At first she thought she’d lucked out and that The Barry Ballard Show was finally calling with the two tickets she’d put her name in for about six months back. But as the details unfolded - a limo ride to the studio, a complimentary professional makeover, and her choice of a See’s party assortment or an Edible Arrangements Belgian Bucket - Helen began to suspect that this invitation was not a result of the lottery after all. Then the young rep confirmed it.
“You see, Mrs. Thompson, a member of your family has a secret they’ve been hiding and they want to share it with you here - in front of our live studio audience! Can I assume you’re familiar with Barry Ballard?”
Yes he could. Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, Barry Ballard. Who didn't know the contenders for the crown of tabloid talk sleaze?
“So whattaya say, Mrs. Thompson,” pushed the young rep, “can we count you in?”
Big Business is the author's first published piece of flash fiction (typically defined as a complete story of extreme brevity) and appears online courtesy of Gay Flash Fiction.
Written as the opening scene of an epic science fiction comedy, Big Business was originally titled "Edwardo: Unleashed in Dimension X", but the piece was shelved once its voice fully developed.
But then said the editor: "There are the known arguments against a heavily accented story (e.g., requires too much concentration on the part of the reader), but they are of less weight when it comes to flash...the language is part of the story here."
So a flash fiction was born.
Oh but the most important record for me to put-- I am forgetting of what this is all to be!
Abe and me, Edwardo McKlusky Nguyen, are now the boss men of Sit and Stay Dot Com. This is the new business we have made as husband and husband. Abe is the smart man with the computer, making the pictures and the words for our customers to click on, renting the days for their doggies and meow kitties to be sat.
It is in this way how Abe and me have the plan to spend our lives together from now until forever. Not ever will we have to leave our home if we do not want (just for the walking of the doggies, of the course!).
Featured in the latest ezine from Deadman’s Tome
Inspired by the author’s often eccentric clients from his side pet care business, “Trough” is the story of a dog walker who becomes an unwitting pawn in the resurrection of an ancient evil.
Looking towards the lean writing style of Ira Levin (“Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Stepford Wives”), the story is light on flowery, complicated language and favors instead a neatly unfolding plot through a quick succession of tense little scenes.
The story introduces a Cthulhu-like mythology with the appearance of a mysterious creature imprisoned deep beneath the earth:
In his mind’s eye Wade saw Him now, curled as a baby in its womb of roots, floating gently in an ocean of dark, cold soil. Plump and pink, the decades hadn’t withered Him. Instead, awesome, swooping horns stretched from His thickened muscles in every direction, growing wild and untamed through the years, tangling Him in the bedrock. And still He breathed, the earth throbbing for miles with every long gulp.
Check out the story in Deadman’s Tome by downloading the free issue!
A series of nonfiction articles have been published by The Fix, a website dedicated to addiction and recovery. Drawn from the author's personal experience, these writings aim to educate and inspire those struggling with substance abuse and/or mental illness. Brian's articles can be accessed here: https://www.thefix.com/bio/brian-michael-riley
Tammy’s Chicken-In-Waffles Restaurant
Opening in the spring, Tammy’s Chicken-In-Waffles will be located in Downtown Berkeley’s heavily visited Sather Lane. Brian has been commissioned to paint the restaurant’s entrance stairwell, creating a playful scene of original cartoon waffle characters. Check out Tammy’s compelling life story here:
Brian has been commissioned by the City of Oakley, CA for their Utility Box Mural Project. From the Call for Artists description: The City of Oakley is seeking artists to showcase their artwork on utility boxes located throughout Oakley. The goal of this project is to beautify Oakley, deter unsightly graffiti on utility boxes, and bring art into unexpected places.
Inspired by the area’s native flora and wildlife, the whimsical design depicts a suburban home overrun by Mother Nature. Completion slated for mid-April.
After having relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area this summer, Brian will be taking part in his first local arts festival. Taking place on the streets of the Gourmet Ghetto in North Berkeley, the 19th annual Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival will welcome an estimated 5,000 visitors to indulge in a fun-filled day of jazz, art and food. Brian's booth will be premiering new Marshmallow clothing, paintings, and collectibles. This event marks the first of many - Brian will be a regular vendor on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue as of October! Watch for new merchandise there and in our online shop.
The Dilly Duck Shop is a Connecticut eatery opening its doors on Labor Day. Brian was commissioned to design and hand paint the restaurant's two dozen menu board plaques. Wanting the handiwork of a CT-based artist, the playful pieces feature at least a few of our notorious little Marshmallows. Visit the Dilly Duck Shop at 666 Main Ave., Norwalk, Connecticut!
STAGED READING: Taming the Lion, by Jack Rushen
Jack Rushen is a southern Connecticut playwright who became fascinated with the life of William Haines, the first openly gay actor in the Hollywood studio system. Set in 1934, Rushen’s biographical play “Taming the Lion” concerns the contentious relationship between movie mogul Louis B. Mayer and the once A-list actor Haines. After workshopping the play through the winter, a staged reading is taking place on Saturday, June 10th, in Stratford, Connecticut.
Brian will be reading the role of Buster Keaton.
Brian was selected as one of the top 10 male performers of 2016 in the CT/NY community theatre circuit, as judged by the OnStage Critics Circle.
In addition to this recognition for his role as Henry Bingham in Fox on the Fairway, the play was also one of the top 10 shows of the year.
See all winners here
See more about the Fox on the Fairway production here
Brian has signed on to illustrate Beauty is You, the first book of a series that will be used to help promote self-confidence and acceptance for girls of all ages. The book is written by Samary Agosto-Polnett of Hamden, Connecticut. Previews and release dates will be posted here!
You can check out the company's website here: http://www.beautyisyouct.org/
Brian is developing and directing a music video for the recording artist Ariadna.
Filming currently underway for a Fall release.
Visit Ariadna at her website: www.ariadnamusik.com
Brian wrapped a successful 3-weekend run in Ken Ludwig's farce, Fox on the Fairway at Eastbound Theatre, Milford, Connecticut.
Click here for a feature article in the CT Post, a rave review, and more!
Brian's previous work at Eastbound includes performing as Sharky in Connor McPherson's dark Irish drama The Seafarer (2010) and directing Christopher Durang's Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You & The Actor's Nightmare (2011).
The short story DEBRIX has received Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. A science fiction thriller exploring opiate addiction and the dark side of innovative kitchen appliances, this short story marks Brian’s return to narrative fiction after nearly half a decade.
Brian will be bringing Art back to the classrooms of a private middle school in New Haven, Connecticut. The academy for under-served children has been without an art curriculum for nearly half a decade. This will be Brian's 2nd year with the school.
After an 18-month run in Hearst Connecticut Media newspapers (The Connecticut Post, Greenwich Times, Stamford Advocate, Danbury News-Times), Marshmallow Melodies goes solo. The comic panels continue to premiere on Sunday mornings here on brianmriley.com and social media.
click HERE for this week’s Melody
click HERE for archives
Brian is a featured artist in Misencik Photography’s Bridgeport Portrait Project.
”The Bridgeport Portrait Project is a photo/audio/video documentary style project that introduces you to the people who are Bridgeport. The project participants share their stories of values and beliefs . . . culture and heritage. They define Bridgeport, and tell why the City is so much more than just a PLACE.”
click HERE for a preview.