Halloween Flash Fiction Event: Alex Hughes



Thank you for joining us for this Halloween Flash Fiction Event story from Alex Hughes. Alex picked one of my favorite pictures to write about, and I LOVE what she did with it. She’s also giving away a book in her Mindspace Investigations series, so check out the details after the story. The image is a stock photo from a DeviantART artist who specifically allows it to be used on outside websites, with credit and links posted. Big thanks, to both the author and the artist, for sharing. Now… on to the story…


The Oil in the Wood

By Alex Hughes


The old chest was a masterwork, the final work of a woodcarver after years of training, the work that earned him the title of master in his craft. It was three hundred years old, faded and beautiful, tucked away in the back of the museum’s oldest hall.

The custodian noticed it first. The wood of the chest was never dry, always perfectly oiled, despite the fact that no one touched it.

“Don’t touch it,” his supervisor said, and crossed herself.

But the custodian was a curious man, a man who loved beautiful things, and he passed by the chest at night during his rounds, he always stopped by the corner where the chest stood to admire its loopy carvings. He thought one day that he would make carvings himself.

chest_7_by_mrscats-d81u0dxOne night he ran late on his rounds, delayed in the sculpture hall until nearly midnight. Just as the clock struck the time, he was by the old chest. The air became very warm, almost stifling, all at once, and the strong smell of orange oil and copper filled the space. The custodian turned—and there it was. The chest. Oil bubbled up from the old wood, oil in dark droplets that drew together, running down the center of the chest and down its side like blood. Like the chest itself was bleeding.

The custodian had been to mass many times, and heard over and over of the miracles. He knew he saw a miracle now, and fell to his knees, reaching out to touch the side of the chest in awe. When his fingers touched the drop of oil on the surface of the chest, it happened. A shudder of the air, a trick of the shadow, and he was gone. A new carving looped in the side of the chest where his fingers had been.

The next morning, his supervisor found his abandoned mop bucket next to the chest. She crossed herself, and refused to be comforted. She lit a candle for him, a candle on the altar next to all the others.

The museum curator made a note in his file, a thick file going back generations. They would not have to pay the tribute again, not for a while at least.


About The Author

Alex Hughes, the author of the award-winning Mindspace Investigations series from Roc, has lived in the Atlanta area since the age of eight. She is a graduate of the prestigious Odyssey Writing Workshop, and a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers. Her short fiction has been published in several markets including EveryDay Fiction, Thunder on the Battlefield and White Cat Magazine. She is an avid cook and foodie, a trivia buff, and a science geek, and loves to talk about neuroscience, the Food Network, and writing craft—but not necessarily all at the same time!

You can visit her at Twitter at @ahugheswriter or on the web at www.ahugheswriter.com.


About The Artist

Image: Chest 7

Artist Page: mrscats http://mrscats.deviantart.com/art/Chest-7-486809205



To enter to win a copy of MARKED, from Alex’s Mindspace Investigations series, tell us what you think is in the chest… or is the chest an entity unto itself? Contest runs through November 2nd, one commenter will be chosen and notified on November 3rd. Prize is print OR ebook in US/CAN, ebook only INT. GOOD LUCK!!



  1. Comment by becca:

    The body!

  2. Ping from Flash Fiction & Giveaway at Books Make Me Happy | Alex Hughes - Author of CLEAN:

    […] participating in Jennifer’s Halloween Flash Fiction event over at Books Make Me Happy. Check it out for a flash fiction story by me and a chance to win a copy […]

  3. Comment by donnas1:

    The chest is an entity all of itself.

  4. Comment by BookAttict:

    Love it! “He thought one day that he would make carvings himself.” ….Well, he did….literally!! I think the chest is itself an entity….

    Happy Halloween and thanks for the amazing giveaway!

  5. Comment by bn100:

    A genie with furniture polish?

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  6. Comment by Daniel M:

    it’s a doorway to another dimension

  7. Comment by barbed1951:

    I think the chest is an entity and uses the tributes as a way to keep itself well preserved.

  8. Comment by Chris Clark:

    The woodcarver couldn’t bear the thought of his masterwork being given over to the ravages of time so he did the only thing he could. The same Faustian bargain that many a desperate person has considered when faced with what they believe to be a dire situation due to the cold equations of reality. The woodcarver summoned a demon and bound it to the box to keep his prized creation perfect for all time. He thought to pay his due with his very soul, and considered an eternity of torment a bargain for the knowledge that he would live on through the everlasting perfection of his final work. Unfortunately, the cost for perfection was greater than his imperfect soul and so his body was consumed as well; the first payment in a perpetual cycle of death to bind continued perfection to the work.

  9. Comment by Jennifer:

    Sounds like you’ve given this a LOT of thought, and I am now officially worried, lol!!! *hides all woodcarving equipment*

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

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