#FridayFlash: Parole Board

Parole Board

by Tony Noland

Eleven dead flies lay on the floor in front of the judge. Charlie Lund figured they were real, though no one else noticed them. Well, someone else might have noticed them, but had pretended not to. People frequently pretended not to see things, even things that were really, truly there. The more uppity the person, the more likely it was they would pretend not to see.

The flies made a kind of a pattern on the floor, with glowing blue and green lines connecting them. The lines were Not-Real, so they were all for him; he was sure no one else could see them. The lines jiggled in time with the voice of the lawyer They'd given him.

Popping and slipping, the lines moved from fly to fly like an electric connect-the-dots. At first they made different shapes dancing among the tiny corpses. After a bit, they settled down, the green lines making a bent sort of "C" and the blue lines that wove among them making a lopsided "L". He thought that was pretty funny, that the dead flies were spelling out his initials with their glowing lines.

It was like they were cheering him on, his own private fan club, shouting his name out in their buzzing little dead fly voices. He smiled at that, but the judge looked at him when he did. After that, he didn't smile, but used his paying-close-attention face. He looked from his lawyer to the judge and back, and only watched the cheering dead flies sidelong like.

The judge was a woman. That was the capper as far as Charlie was concerned. That was just the absolute cherry on top. It was bad enough he had a lawyer who was probably a fag. There had to be a dozen judges who could have sat as the head of his parole board, maybe a hundred. He knew why They had made sure he got a whore for a judge and a fag for a lawyer. It was because They liked seeing him squirm; he was a danger to Them and They knew it. He could see Them among normal people and he knew how much of society They controlled. They wanted him to crack, stay locked away. Well, he would show Them this time.

He would be cool cool cool, and he would get out. And then things would be different. Oh, yes. Very different.

Silence stretched out; the judge was waiting for him to speak. Charlie pursed his lips and got to his feet. As he did, the dead flies lifted up from the floor, swooping and calling his name. He was thrilled that they were Not-Real, too. Charlie faced the judge and folded his hands, holding his smile inside as the dead flies crawled all over the judge's snotty bitch face. The glowing strands flowing from them braided themselves into a spiky noose around her neck. The flies were chanting his name, saying Charlie-Charlie-pull-the-noose-tight, Charlie-Charlie-pull-the-noose-tight...

But he couldn't do that. Not here. Not yet. Not until later, after he found out where the judge lived.

With his serious-but-really-sorry look firmly fixed, Charlie drew a deep breath and began to ask for his freedom.

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


  1. Frightening. You do psychotic well, Tony. :)

    Love the flies forming a noose around her neck.

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  3. I think I know what you are going after here. He's wacko and the flies are sending him a signal. Something is just not working for me in this one, I think you can make a stronger connection - Why are they chanting pull the noose tight - I thought they are behind him? Why does he need to know where the judge lives and how would he find that out in his hearing? The last line of ppg1 is missing a word or something odd about the capitalized They'd - I think there is a core of a good story here it needs a bit of polishing. Maybe I'm just dense..

  4. Psychosis is what's going to keep him there, I'd imagine.

    Spooky guy. The flies were fun.

  5. I know a lot of people who talk of Them and they get all squirmy when I ask who They are. Good entertainment, really. This is a very cool story, Tony, and thank yuh.

  6. Tony, I get your fly psychosis - and the fact that psychosis doesn't always make sense - he hates the judge just for her being a woman and wants to kill her even if he gets out.

    I hope he doesn't move into my neighborhood.

  7. Yes, who are "They", exactly? That's part of the issue with paranoid psychotics... the Other is pretty diffuse.

    Michael, I see your point. This piece could be sharpened up in many ways. The protag's thought processes are kind of muzzy; I was hoping to convey that in the structure of the story, with threads left hanging and jerkiness in the behavior of the flies. Maybe that didn't work so well...

  8. This piece made me feel icky. And hate this guy. He's repulsive.

    I think I disagree with what Michael said, if I may. It doesn't need to be spelt out. That's the beauty of flash.

  9. Excellent. I absolutely love this. It's brilliant, and chilling, and disturbing how comfortable it feels to be in this man's head. Excellent work.

  10. Well written, but I'd love to have learned a bit more about the story's background. There's pretty much to find in here, if you're paying attention, but still I feel as if I was missing a story-limb...

    However, you seem to be very comfortable inside a lunatic's head - I am slightly worried. (^v^)

  11. I'm siding with Benjamin over Michael here, I didn't feel it was lacking anything

    Loved that the flies turned out to be "just for him" as well!

    I'd love to know if he gets out, and what the first thing he does when he is out is!

  12. The Lord of the Flies' vicegerent on earth - great stuff. Particularly liked the flies' bodies spelling out letters.

    marc nash

  13. I liked this a lot. You put this guy through a whole range of emotions in a very short piece, capturing his paranoia, anger and humour. We also get the sense that he's been disturbed for a long time and has been 'trained' how to act 'normally' with his "paying-close-attention face" and "serious-but-really-sorry look". This was a really interesting character. This read a little like prologue for something longer, something I'd certainly like to read.

  14. Love the almost cartoon feel of the flies and their actions. The sing song they do with the noose at the end is chilling.

    I'd be interested to see if this piece became even darker if you tried it in first person and present tense. Really put us in Charlie's head.

  15. Oh yes, this is dark Tony. So for me: the flies were like the little specks of light that swim across the corneas. They are a projection of Charlie's psychosis and misogyny - they speak with him; an alter ego. And he speaks back. A disturbing dialogue.

    What a frightening character - brilliant, rendering. This is good flash.

  16. Creepy stuff! You get inside this guy's head really well -- maybe too well! ;-) Nice work!

  17. Very creepy. I have to side with "just enough" to this story--there are layers behind the story that give me a hint of what's gone on before and what will happen after. One comment: in the first line, I thought that Charlie Lund was the judge the way it was written, which very briefly confused me. Otherwise, a disturbing (successful) story.

  18. It gets very nicely intense as it goes along. Opening foreshadows it with the meditation on delusional denial. But I promise, I have never not seen a dead fly on purpose.

  19. Scary. I like how it gets more intense as the story goes on, and how Charlie has it all figured out. Really enjoyed this.

  20. He needs the flies or someone/something to tell him what to do. Isn't that what delusional, psychotic people do. Blame it on "Them"
    I like it, Tony

  21. Thanks for all the great comments guys.

    The tension mounts as this goes along, getting progressively more and more distasteful. I also wanted it to get more and more disjointed, make less and less sense. This guy is psychotic, after all; his worldview is pretty messed up. His actions aren't going to be rational; using standards of rationality to judge him is a terrible mistake.

    I'm glad I was able to put everyone in his head so well. No need to worry about what that says about me, though. For the record, I'm no more a paranoid psychotic in prison than I am a loving patriarch on a family farm.

    Any of these stories that put you viscerally inside someone else's head, stories that are compelling and convincing mean only one thing: that I'm a writer who did his job properly.

  22. It worked for me. And I really liked the fly images. Very vivid in my mind as I read--jiggling, popping, slipping, glowing, [playing] electric connect-the-dots...Interesting that he calls the lines the Not-Real, which made them his ("so they were all for him"). The reality of the flies themselves is in question at the beginning, but not at the end, or, rather, they are now Not-Real, too.
    ("He was thrilled that they were Not-Real, too"). The Not-Real, a more powerful reality...and one in which he has much more "control." Symbolically interesting that he gains control by making things not noticed (or things people pretend not to notice)...even more invisible by swallowing them into his mind (but then projecting them onto a world over which (in reality) he has little control). Great piece.

  23. Very cool story. Hopefully for the judges sake he'll be found guilty and put away for a long time. Otherwise I have no doubt he's crazy enough to go after her. His lawyer better watch out, too.

  24. Damn. If only my internet connection wasn't so shoddy at work I would have been the first comment. My life would have been complete.

    But, on to the comment. The psychologist in me (a bachelor's - very prestige) likes this. What a sociopathic schizo. At least I figured he was a schizo until he commented that they were 'not-real.' What did this guy have, exactly?

  25. Jared: What did this guy have, exactly?

    Jared, I must admit, I don't know. I made all of this up. I didn't even Google any of the symptoms of psychotic sociopathology, I was just winging it.

    Maybe I shouldn't admit that?

  26. Tony - You might consider paranoid schizophrenia - it would be interesting to make sure that his delusions are consistent with whatever "diagnosis" you envision. Maybe @annetylerlord could provide some insight here. But I like it and I'd say u could even dial up the ugliness - there's no redeeming value to this guy and it might as well be a visceral experience when the reader comes to realize that. Well done!

  27. I'm not sure it matters what diagnosis he has. It's scary because we don't know if the persons whose job it is to safeguard the rest of us can figure it out before it's too late.

    I love the almost childlike observations and terms he used "snotty bitch face" and "serious-but-really-really-sorry look" the touch of innocence in them almost makes him identifiable and really add to the icky feeling Ben mentioned.

  28. Holy fuck! (And, I don't use that word lightly.) This is brilliant. For those who are not "getting" it, well, maybe I'm just too psychotic for my own good - although I seem to be fooling all of the people most of the time.

    I think it should be part of a novel.

    As for what/how/why with the judge - no, we don't need to know anything. Her real self isn't at issue. His misogyny is.

    Again, brilliant.

  29. Caitlyn: Holy fuck! (And, I don't use that word lightly.) This is brilliant.

    Why, thank you!

    I didn't want to go too much farther with this, PJ. I was going for repulsive and scary, but that can slip over into so gross as to be merely shocking.

    As Chris Chartrand said, the big concern here is how successful he's going to be in his attempt to fool everyone. Guys like this are very, very good at fooling people and hiding the depths of their, ah, issues.

  30. Nicely done Sir, it works so well, and such an interesting focus for his psychosis. Chilling, in just the way that I like :o)

  31. Nice! For the official diagnosis, probably schizophrenic, although the vast majority of psychotic people are harmless, so add in extreme antisocial personality disorder/sociopathy, and you've got it.

    I liked the "paying close attention" face. Um, I'm one of those people who would probably notice the dead flies. That's disturbing. You do a great job of taking small details and working them into a cohesive whole.


  32. Thanks for the comments, everyone, and thanks for the info, Cecilia. Sounds like a good diagnosis to me.

    What with all of my tweeting about this story, I got followed by "Psychology News". I find that funny.

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