Flash Fiction Friday: Horror-off Challenge #3 – The Pilfered Penguin

The vile furless mammals filed into the sterile, white room as we sat huddled together under bright lights that burned our vision.  We nervously watched our tormentors as they entered the room, bearing their fangs with glee.  The 28 of us were brought here to be their entertainment.

We were born on a far away land.  Life was peaceful.  Our only worry were the random rouge seals that managed to slip through the crack in the glacier that protected our oasis.  We enjoyed our lives and loved our home.  On a crisp cold and lazy afternoon, after a ritual swim and meal, the members of my rookery were trapped in nets and transported to this hot, landlocked world where our pure glacial sea was just a distant memory.

Cooing noises brought my attention back to the present.  The ugly mammals circled while making annoying sounds.  One of the smaller mammals yelled, threatening to run at us, until larger one pull it back.  A bucket of cold, stale, dead fish clatters as it is set on the ground by a mammal who feeds us.  The youngest of our group, hiding at the center of our cluster, chirped in fear.  We have no way to console him for we all will fall victim to these creatures.   At the same time everyday, we are put on display to be poked and fondled.  Little mammals scream at us.  The larger ones kick us if we nip at the little monsters.  Day in and day out it is the same abuse.

Over the time of our imprisionment, hatred for these beasts has grown.  They stole us from our home and force us to be slaves to mammals who get joy from touching us.  If I could, I would kill every one of these creatures and wouldn’t care if that meant I would starve to death alone in my enclosure, never finding freedom.  Revenge would be achieved and my family could escape.

One of the mammals who took us  from our home was the “keeper” for the day.  I despised him the most for he was the one who stepped on my mate, instantly snapping her neck as he tried to capture me.  I over heard him telling one of the other captors that her murder was an “accident”…

“Oh my, aren’t you just the cutest?  I could just eat you up.”  An old female mammal said as she towered over me, interrupting my dreams of pecking holes in the “keepers” dead face with my beak.  She bent over and lifted me from the ground with one of her paws, effectively hitting me with an extraordinarily large cloth bag draped across her body in the process.  A caw of surprise escaped me.  My family looked at me with concern.  The old mammal was the first to cross the line.  Now all the other mammals saw it as an opportunity to grab one of us.  The “keeper” tried to keep things under control, but there was only one of him and we were out numbered by these disgusting creatures.  I watched in horror as my sister was picked up by two monsters who looked identical.  They each had one of her wings in their hands and were tugging in opposite directions.  If this old beast did not have me captured in her claw, I would kill the both of them.  Alas, there was nothing I could do.  Nothing any of us could do.  We were all swept up into the demonic paws of these mammals.

I hated her, this old mammal.  Almost as much as the “keeper”.  A foul odor escaped her mouth as she breathed heavily on me.  Her breath smelled like fish were rotting in her teeth.  Revolted, I watched as the upper set shifted and moved  behind her lip.   It was as of though her teeth were not connected and somehow floating in her mouth.  The mammal repulsed me, her skin was folded and falling from her body.  She was ugliest mammal that I had ever seen.

The old beast rubbed her face on my feathers.  My nicely preened feathers were left caked with a clay-like film.

“You are all mine.” She said with a serious smile, showing off her big obnoxious teeth.  Dropping the stick that she held in her other paw, she reached for the large bag that hung across her amorphous body.  The stick clattered to the ground.  No one but my family noticed the noise.  Terror filled their eyes as they realized that there was nothing they could do to save me.  This beast was going to take me away from those I loved.

“Now be a good little penguin and be quiet.  You are going somewhere very special.”  She puckered her lips and lifted me to her face.  I had interpreted her actions incorrectly.  She wasn’t going to abscond me.  This old beast was going to eat me!  The mammals were reckless, but not to this extent.  Never has one of our tormentors tried to eat us.

The sagging flesh of her neck wobbled as her head came closer.  She locked her big, blue eyes onto me.  Her claws, which looked frail, squeezed me so hard, I feared that I may explode.  Her eyes were all I could focus on, and oh how she stared at me with those ugly orbs with the whites that were filled with little red worms.

The eyes of fish were soft and mushy.  My sharp beak had no trouble pulling them from the sockets.  I knew what must be done to prevent from being eaten by this old beast.

I bit first.

– If you have enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out my Flash Fiction Library. –

This week’s Prompt:  I bit first.


This FF is dedicated to Chris… and he knows why.  I will post a link to Chris’ submission when it is posted, until then please enjoy his other FF pieces.  You can also follow us both at The Sarcastic Muse



Next week, I will be taking a break from the Horror-off Flash Fiction Challenge due to traveling and spending time with family for the Thanksgiving holiday in the US.  
I will return with a new piece on December the 5th! 


If you would like to join in on the Horror-Off Flash Fiction Challenge,  be warned – there are rules:

  1. You don’t talk about Horror-Off

  2. Stories must be flash fiction (1K words or less)

  3. Stories must have conflict, character, and resolution

  4. Stories should be in the horror/fantasy/sci-fi/spec fic genre

  5. Prompts are to be posted on the Flash Fiction blog post (post or link to your FF submission in the comment section below )

  6. This is just for fun and scares, so don’t expect any prizes.

  7. You don’t talk about Horror-Off… except when you talk about it

Follow these rules and write a wicked FF piece.  Fifi says do it… do it now… OR ELSE!

7 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Friday: Horror-off Challenge #3 – The Pilfered Penguin

    • Thanks Noelle. I struggled to write this one from the Penguin’s POV. Don’t think it turned out very good – but oh well 🙂

      Humans do not come off well in these situations at all. There are someplace (which I will not name here) that need to be shut down. Animals should not be put on display for entertainment. If the animal is in captivity for rescue or rehab or to assist in the prevention of species extinction, as long as the animals are being treated humanely, those places have my support.

      If the animals are captured and put on display for show, that sickens me. I will not give that places like that an ounce of support.


      • Like you, I feel very conflicted about zoos. How much are they there for awareness and conservation, and how much are they there so we can laugh at the cute animals? So often it feels like a mixture of both. And there’s something about putting something in a cage or behind glass that runs the risk of making it feel separate (we’re the humans, they’re the animals) rather than reminding us that we are animals and we are in nature too. Anyway, I like when writing brings into our lives and puts right in our laps the everyday horrors around us.


  1. “You ride to the last stop, yes?”

    He had boarded the bus just a few moments before, two stops from the end of the line. He had blond hair slicked back and shiny from the night’s heavy October rain, skin pale as an opossum’s naked tail, his dark gray suit a sheath within which his lean body seemed to strain. He spoke with a precision that suggested English was not his first language, but his cadence did not quite rise to the level of an identifiable accent. You found him vaguely European, but you could not say why.

    But most of all you noted that he knew your stop. And he wanted you to know. You could not recall seeing him before. Until the moment he spoke, he had sat wordlessly across the aisle and a few rows up, his back to you. Had you met somewhere before? Or had he been following you, gathering knowledge, waiting. Only he, you, and the driver still occupied the bus.

    “Such rain,” he spoke again. His voice was even, pleasantly modulated, calm. “Nature is fascinating, don’t you think? Inexorable. Plants, animals, the weather all do as they do. They operate unreflectively, remorselessly. Living things in nature do whatever is required to survive. They understand the simple imperative of life: One bites or is bitten. One eats until one is eaten. One consumes whatever is at available that serves one’s needs. It has a ferocious beauty, no?”

    What, you wondered, did he make of your silence? Did he take it for fear? Did he imagine you a mouse skittering away when released from this safe, illuminated tube out into the wild, wet darkness? He was the predator, the alpha dog, prowling, scavenging. Preying on the weak. As the bus approached the final stop, he turned in his seat to face you, and his eyes ran over the package that was you. He smiled, turned around, and rose to disembark.

    You called in sick the next morning, then showered and dressed in sweats. Later, on the grill in your backyard where no one could see, you burned the clothes you’d worn the night before. Then you slept a dreamless sleep, and when you awoke was dark. You watched What Not to Wear while you sipped your favorite riesling—the usual Friday night routine—wrapped in the plush, dark green robe your mother used to wear before her sudden death.

    The next day’s newspapers said it took police four hours to find all the pieces of him left scattered along the riverfront from near the end of the 57 bus line for something like a mile. The smallest piece the top section of his right thumb; the largest chunk, an armless torso. They left out their suspicion that all the separations had been performed by human teeth and hands, rendering all the edges of torn flesh jagged, all the bones and ligaments manually ripped apart. “What’s happening to us as a society?” the pundits chirped on social media. “What kind of sick monster does something like this to a fellow human being?

    He had been right. You realized then what so many—including you—had never allowed themselves to admit: “Monster” is what they call the one who unapologetically survives, whatever that involves, someone unafraid to be stronger at the critical moment. All around the world, in forests and jungles, in deserts and rivers and oceans, weeds and fish and mammals and insects and spiders and tree vines thrive by being as monstrous as they necessary. Monsters don’t sacrifice themselves; monsters endure. You told yourself, “I bit first.”


  2. This has to be my favorite piece of short fiction ever, and I am a bit giddy after reading that. It was a rush. Absolutely phenomenal and your writing was so eloquent.

    Your narrator is such a predator. “…skin pale as an opossum’s naked tail” is one of my favorite lines.

    Also, what foreshadowing with the “prey” talking about the feeding of life:
    “One bites or is bitten. One eats until one is eaten. One consumes whatever is at available that serves one’s needs. It has a ferocious beauty, no?”

    And you are right, Monsters do not sacrifice themselves – they endure.

    I can’t say enough about this piece.


    • Thanks so much, Amanda, for your wonderful comment! I’m really glad you enjoyed it, and I’m enjoying playing around in these genres and in flash fiction, neither of which would have thought to try if it hadn’t been for your blog. So thanks for that too. By the way, you also come up with great prompts 🙂 Have a good Thanksgiving.


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