#FridayFlash: Comes the Witching Hour

FridyFlash: Comes the Witching Hour

by Tony Noland

Today he would fight. Today he would win. He clung to the thoughts, and repeated them like a prayer. Today he would fight. Today he would win.

He checked the time - 11:45. They always came for him at the stroke of 12:00. The smell of smoke, the flash of flame and there they would be - the three archetypes of female beauty that he was never strong enough to resist.

Today he would fight. Today he would win.

All three of them served the same master he had served for almost twenty years, ever since he first made the bargain. The difference was, they delighted in their slavery. They laughed about their master, giggled in that maddening way. He swore that he would be a slave no more. As he had every day for a year, he swore that this would be the hour he resisted, that he broke free, that he showed himself to be a man.

Ah, but what man could resist them? Each of them was perfect in her own way. Hair of red, gold and brown. Eyes of green, blue and hazel. Bodies boyish, trim and lush. Every kind of perfection mixed and matched and offered to him, if only he would walk the path of fire. Walk and watch their hips sway in front of him. Walk and feel their hands on him in their teasing, delicious way. Walk and let himself be surrounded by these visions, these succubi, these beautiful angels of death.

11: 50. Today he would fight. Today he would win.

He had already traded away ten years of his life for these delights. All his loneliness had come to an instant, glorious end with one simple bargain. Allowing his body and soul to be possessed and eaten away one small piece at a time meant a host of delights. To be surrounded by such flesh as would otherwise be utterly unapproachable. To have the eyes of his rivals turned toward him in bitter envy and admiration as he moved and cavorted with these lovelies. To hear his name on their lips, to see his own face shining in their eyes, to smell the lilacs and cinnamon and musk of them... when the stench of the fire and smoke did not overwhelm all else.

11:55. Today he would fight. Today he would win.

His grip on the arms of his chair made his arms ache. The muscles of his back and legs were knotted and he hurt. But still, the pain of resistance was just pain, nothing more. He could feel the horror that yet lived within him clawing at him, screaming at him to be freed, stabbing at the soft tissues behind his eyes. Viselike, he embraced the pain and defeated it. He was strong, stronger than anyone would have believed. He knew this about himself. When people saw him at all, what they saw was not much of a man. Soft, pale, smallish. They only saw what was left of him. They did not know his history, what he had survived, how far he had come. He knew what pain was, and he had conquered more forms of it than most men ever saw. He was strong and focused and powerful.

How bitterly he wept that he had enslaved himself so foolishly! Only the pain of loneliness had ever defeated him, and now, could he truly turn his back on this, the central guiding feature of his pathetic life? Could he live without them? Would life be worth living? Surely it would be better to stop resisting and go back to being a slave, or better yet, embrace his servitude as they had?

With a grinding of teeth, he throttled the demon and choked off its lies. A fresh sheen of panicked sweat broke onto his forehead.

11:58 Today he would fight. Today he would win.

11:59 Today he would fight. Today he would win.


His eyes opened at the smell of smoke and the flash of flame.

"Hey, Jerry, lunch time is smoke time!" Billie from accounting was waving the little flame of her lighter back and forth, like she always did. She was leaning against the wall of his cubicle, her breasts pressed and divided against the brown metal as though it were a pole. Her green eyes were lit by her bright smile. Behind her, twitching with anticipation were Helen and Carol from purchasing.

Fight. Win.

"Sorry, ladies," he said. "I quit this morning." The speech was short, but how he had practiced it!

Fight! Win!

Her flame flicked out. A moment's false hope, and then all three of them leaned forward, sexy and smoky and hungry for him.

"Oh come on, Jerry. Come with us. You know you want to."

Comments and constructive criticisms welcome. Other #FridayFlash pieces can be found here


  1. fantastic! Another favorite from this week. I've been there and failed the battle. You captured the struggle beautifully and turned it freakin' EPIC. I love your work.

  2. I've never smoked but I know many people who have fought and lost, and continue the fight.

    You are a gifted storyteller.

  3. I have been through that fight so many times, Tony. I hope this is the last time. LOL.

    You encompassed all of the true emotional and physical feelings and frustrations of quitting this demon that just won't let go.

    I loved it!

  4. Loved this. Very clever idea and execution.

    Don't do it, Jerry!

  5. Thanks, guys, I'm glad you liked it.

    For the record, I quit smoking more than 20 years ago, and every now and then, I still get a craving for a cig.

    Not cured. Never cured. Only in remission.

  6. Oh I know that demon very well!

    Great stuff Tony

  7. Super story Tony. I thought you wre leading me down a fantasy/sci-fi deal-with-the-devil kind of story, but no... Tight writing, and I thought your structure very cool.

    Peace, Linda

  8. Oh, poor guy! It's not just the smoke, it's the company of those devilish women he's losing, his social life, the thing he's wrapped his identity around. The hardest battles are the ones we have to fight alone, against ourselves. Nice one!

  9. I'm with Linda-I thought I was being led into a fantasy with mythic and epic qualities. (Given his demon, though, that may be appropriate.;) Love the chant-like repetition of "Today he would fight. Today he would win." Thank you!

  10. Very well told story Tony! I was pulled in from the get go and just knew he was on his way to doomsday with these three witches. Ya for Jerry - he did it! Hope he doesn't go through the same torture every day after.

  11. Well written . . . my demons looked a tad different, but I've fought this war also! Bravo!

  12. I know this demon, fought and lost many times. Great work, super twist!

  13. Hmmm, a little autobio going on here? A very unexpected ending there. I never suspected he was trying to kick the habit. Fight, Jerry, fight! Win!

  14. Linda's comments echoed what I was thinking exactly, Tony. I never thought I'd end up in an office as I read this but expected some gladiator arena...but then I've never smoked...

    Nice description and strong tension here. Good work.

  15. AAAARRGH! I know these succubi, these evil ones! I've met them in battle and have been defeated every time!

    Hang in there, Jerry! You can fight! You can win!

    ... I need a smoke.

  16. The creative misdirection was intentional, naturally. Think of it as Walter Mitty meets Tom Robbins. Although I like Kim Batchelor's vision of a gladiator death match.

    For all of you guys who are trying to quit, hang in there! You can fight! You can win!

  17. I know that demon well...

    I liked the gladiatorial feel to this and the flow was excellent.

    Good stuff

  18. It's the danged women leading us astray! This isn't about willpower or addiction. It's about those succubi (now that's an MFA word) who lead us down the path of our utter destruction. Why, just yesterday, my wife hid a recipe from me in the recipe box. What kind of manipulation is that? She should know that no man looks in a recipe box for a recipe. But I rant. Nicely told story, Tony.

  19. You now how you cure yourself, Tony? Give in one more time. I quit in '03, and didn't really miss it, but had those occasional cravings. But two years later, I was having a stressful week, and I said "dammit, I owe myself a smoke!" so I went to the smoke shop, got a packet of tobacco and rolling papers. I sat out on the front porch, rolled a beautiful little cigarette, and I lit it. One puff and it was the most hideous thing I'd ever tasted in my life. Not another craving since!

  20. Anasazistories: The funny thing is, I don't have an MFA.

  21. Oh such temptation! I know the feeling! Like you, I quit years ago, but every once in a while that desire creeps in and tries to lure me in (especially when tequila is involved!) You've captured the desperation and the tick-tocking slowness of fighting a craving. Loved it! ~ Olivia

  22. At the end, I grinned.

    I was just thinking that I get to celebrate my 10th anniversary of quitting in January.

    The part that was spot on? Afraid of losing your social life; the loneliness. The first 3 months, I didn't know how to take a break or visit with friends without a cigarette.

  23. Great job :)

    I'm so used to so much supernatural going in in #fridayflash that I was totally caught off guard.

  24. pegjet: Yep, addictions are never just about the chemicals. They are a way of life - behaviors, friends, locales. That's a really hard list of things to change.

    Dana said: I'm so used to so much supernatural going in in #fridayflash that I was totally caught off guard.

    I'm happy to do my part to keep everyone surprised. It's not quite magical realism, but close. ;-)

  25. Great misdirection and killer last line. You are an artist.


Thank you for leaving a comment. The staff at Landless will treat it with the same care that we would bestow on a newly hatched chick. By the way, no pressure or anything, but have you ever considered subscribing to Landless via RSS?