Monday, May 31, 2010

Hiding in Plain Sight (Canvas Challenge)

All of his adult life he has spent his time hiding in plain sight. No matter the job, no matter the crime, no matter, no matter, no matter.

Daily he is seen, the same corner, the same position, the same shopping cart full of the same things, such useless things to most of us, but to him… these things are his life.

Hidden in plain sight, he watches, listens, memorizes and mentally files away his findings.

Looking at him you’d never guess. You’d never guess that he is one of the wealthiest men alive. You see, he’s paid to watch a building; paid to note the comings and goings of said officials, American or otherwise.

You will never see the reflection from the lens that feeds to the camera hidden deep within his cart, nor the tape recorders or notebooks held within his carpet bags. He’s unleashed hideous rumors about affairs, given tips about terrorists, provided proof of secret meetings, and all while posing as a homeless street bum.

Question is: who is hiding in your plain site – I think I know who is in mine…

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It Runs In The Family

Today would be different, I told myself. I knew that if I could do it – quit that is – I would be free.

I walked towards the bus stop on 5th and Broadway. I had to get a job, making myself busy would surely do the trick. It would take my mind off of what I couldn’t seem to do by myself.

I didn’t notice him at first; I was too busy counting the steps from the corner of 4th and Broadway to 5th and Broadway. It’s a little obsessive – compulsive I know, but I have to know if it’s the same amount of steps every day.

He stood making animals from balloons, telling jokes, and even sprayed someone with a fake flower attached to his shirt. Clowns have always scared me. I tried to look away from him while I waited for the bus to arrive. He just didn’t get the picture. After trying everything to get my attention, I looked him in the eyes. He must have seen how empty I was within because he finally turned and walked away.

You can’t quit, a voice commanded in my mind. You know you can’t quit. You’ve been looking for this one for a while – and he’s been waiting for you too, you saw it didn’t you, when he looked you in the eyes! He knows!

I slipped away from the crowd and began to trail the clown I had tried so hard to avoid. He led me to a large circus tent. I didn’t even know the circus was in town. Was I starting to miss things – hiding out in my house?

I waited until it was dark, hiding in the shadows of the tent.

“I’m going to the loo, Frank, I’ll be back in a few.”

“You better hurry, we’ll be up soon.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I could hear him say to Frank.

He walked past me without batting an eye and I grabbed him from behind. Stifling his shocked cry with my hand and breaking his neck with the other. He slumped to the ground. I drug him to an empty barrel just outside the holding tent for the elephants and using all my strength heaved him inside of it.

I found my way home to my apartment and standing in front of my door I fumbled for my key. I drove back to collect my trophy and tried not to bruise him as I moved him into my car, then into my apartment onto a rolling gurney. It was a good thing he wasn’t a fat man, sure made things a lot easier.

I pulled the ancient metal first aid box out from under the spare bed and blew of the dust that had covered it since its last use.

I smiled as I read to myself the name of my father and MEDIC engraved into the lid of the box, and then opened it to reveal the contents kept within.

Pulling out the scalpel I began to cut through the clown’s skin where I knew the seams would be unnoticeable. That’s the key you know, making the seams unrecognizable.

Pulling and cutting his skin away from the muscles made me excited. This was going to be perfect, something that, had he still been alive to see, would make my father very proud.

I finished the taxidermy job of the clown by pushing in the glass eyes. I stood back to admire my handiwork and suddenly I was no longer the doctor, but the kid with the red cap learning what my father was doing to some of his patients, trying to perfect the craft. He died before he ever had the chance, and now, as his daughter, I finally had the chance to do so.

I looked around the room to see where I would put my latest creation when I noticed one of my father’s awards from the war. It’s the perfect place, I thought, he couldn’t be more proud!

This award is presented to Hannibal Lecter for superior medical skills while traveling abroad and in the field…

Friday, May 28, 2010

Guest Write - Julia Davies

Discovery

It was like waking up after you'd been ill for a long time, she thought. She didn't really have a clear sense of where she was, she vaguely remembered being... well being somewhere else in a house, a familiar place, her house? She thought that must be right but it felt like trying to remember through thick curtains. Trying to think but she just got a blurred shape, and the feeling that she did recognise the memory.

Now, she was belted into the passenger seat of a car, parked by the roadside in a forest. It was quiet and dark outside, and as she looked to check on her surroundings her vision wobbled, slid. Shaking her head she blinked quickly, but the view stayed indistinct, and as her eyes refocused she realised it was rain sliding greasily down the windshield. But something was strange... when she tried to recall it she couldn't pin the thought down...

"So, I'm in a car," she reasoned, talking out loud to be reassured that she could reason and function. "I guess I didn't drive here or I wouldn't be belted into this seat?" She felt oddly divided, like her attention was not where she was now, but being pulled elsewhere, a kind of searching, seeking for something that was not entirely pleasant, but she yearned, hungered.

"So I'm in a car," she tried again. "I'm alone, but maybe there is someone who drove me here? It was almost impossible to see outside of the car, for the rain blurred the outside world. There were no lights that she could see, looking directly ahead there was only the glimmer of the hood reflecting what slivers of light fell through the trees. The gloom was not frightening or threatening though, and she knew that this wasn't how she normally felt about being somewhere dark and wet and alone. She wasn't scared. Was that a good thing?

"What can I remember? There must be something that will remind me where I am and why," she thought. Under her rib cage she felt something contract, or clench. And again the feeling that she was focussed somewhere else, somewhere outside her body. She let her mind drift off to follow that sensation. There was something at the edge of her perception, but she wasn't sure what. It was intense, a concentration of something, a burning core and she wanted to reach out to it, wanted to reach out and pull it towards herself. Wanted, yearned, and as she wanted inside her something stirred, something pale and torpid uncoiled within her.

"Oh for f*cks sake," she chided herself. "Can I not just keep my mind on my problem? I don't know where I am or what I'm doing here? I can't remember how I got here. I can't remember who drove me here and..." She didn't want to finish the thought. She didn't want to acknowledge the slowly dawning truth. She gazed at the rain on the windscreen again, sharp splashes pulsing against the glass. The distinct drops burst and spattered and disappeared into the watery film covering the windshield, fading into the foreground.

"I can't remember how I got here, and I can't remember my name!" Panic rose, she twisted in the seat, struggling to get out, feeling held down, constrained. Oh, God, I can't get out, I can't move, I can't, I can't...

When she came to herself, she remembered the familiar convalescent feeling she'd woken up with last time. Looking down, the seatbelt was still tight around her, pressing her down into the seat. Her mouth twisted as she tried a wry smile. How stupid to have panicked over being belted in! She reached down and pressed the seatbelt release, catching her long fingernails as she did so. The belt snickered back across her body as she thought "Long fingernails? I bite my fingernails, don't I?" But when she brought her hand up to her face the nails were perfect and long, and maybe even painted as they were a much darker colour than her skin, which did seem pale in this light. Disquiet rushed through her, but how absurd to look at yourself and think "These aren't my hands."

"I have to get out of the car!" she thought. And no sooner had she completed the thought than the door was open and she was standing outside of the car, twirling back to it to shut the door. Twirling, she saw movement, she saw a blur of motion reflected in the glass of the window. A fleering white oval. Pause. Stop to think. Stop to process the visual information and assimilate it, place it into context.

"My face!" she realised. "That was my face reflected in the window," and she drew closer to the car door to see herself more clearly. As she bent down to the window a curtain of white blonde hair fell across the pale reflection and made her draw back in shock. "I am not blonde!" but even as she thought it she was looking at the image in the window and losing the indistinct memories of herself as a different person, feeling them dropping away from her.

She gazed at the window, she couldn't say for how long, transfixed at the face that was hers but somehow new to her too, a glamorously pale version of what she remembered. She gazed, and barely noticed anything else. It wasn't until a she heard a faint rushing sound that she glanced at the tall trees around her.

The two Elders in the forest who had called her here watched, waiting for the moment she would recognise herself for what she had now become. The shorter of the two suggested sending a small mammal to her to see if the time of knowledge was yet upon her, and the taller concurred.

She had that feeling again, burning, empty hunger, and scented warm wet life through the dripping off the branches. Her lips drew back.

Julia Davies is a practised reader and practising writer; living in Siegburg, Germany. Her blog can be found HERE

Friday, May 21, 2010

Guest Write – Walter Shumate


Redneck Voodoo

"I don't care if you're the Wicked Witch of The West, I done paid you, you're gonna let me talk to Dewey," said a lanky, sandy-blonde woman as she paced through the living room of her friend's double-wide trailer. She put her hands on what could generously be called hips, and what would be better referred to as vertical lines. She ran her feet on the carpet, getting it to pull from the floor in places. She walked in a crooked path as she paced the floor, avoiding the dog-urine stains. "I swear, Sue Yeary, if you're tryin' to trick me..."

"It ain't that easy, Carla Beth, I told you that!" Carla Beth's friend was round everywhere. Her hips peeked between her grey jogging pants and University of Kentucky t-shirt. She brushed raven-dyed bangs out of her face. She was sitting on a ratty brown couch, behind a glass-topped coffee table. There were various small animal bones, a lock of sandy-blonde hair and a lone candle on the table.

"Well, why not?"

"You're ignorant. It ain't like Dewey's got a cell phone over on the other side! We gotta reach out to him!"

"I'm gonna reach out to you, if you don't..."

"Shut your mouth, Carla Beth! Sit your tail down and let me get to work."

Carla Beth pulled up a plastic deck chair, the only furniture in the living room other than the couch, coffee table and broken-down TV stand, and sat opposite Sue. She put her elbows on her knees and leaned in. "Whatever, this better work. What do you do now?"

Sue put a sausage-like finger up to her mouth. "I done told you to hush. I'll let you know when you can talk again."

"This is ignorant." Sue glared ad Carla Beth from across the table, and she bit her lip.

Sue took the lock of hair and smelled it. "You sure this is yours?"

"Wal-Mart don't sell hair, Sue."

Sue didn't respond to Carla Beth's attitude. She held the hair over the candle. She spit on the lock, twisted it around her left index finger and let it fall into the candle. The flame popped and hissed as hairspray ignited and hair burned. Carla Beth wanted so badly to tell Sue that it smelled plain nasty, but she held her tongue.

Sue whispered something that wasn't quite English, and wasn't quite like anything Carla Beth had ever heard. She lifted the hair from the flame and started to undo the ribbon around the lock. She took one of the bones and tied a few strands around it. She picked up another bone, and continued until all the bones where wrapped in a few hairs each. Sue took the remaining hair and held it back over the flame. She let it burn until the flames almost licked her fingers. She dropped the remaining stubs of hair into the candle wax.

"Give me your right arm, Carla Beth."

"I will not!"

"Carla Beth, you're gonna give me that right arm of yours, and you're gonna do it now."

Carla Beth rolled her eyes, but she did extend her arm. She held it, limp-wristed, over the coffee table. "This better not hurt."

Sue turned Carla Beth's hand so that her wrist was facing up. She then took the candle and turned it upside-down over the wrist. Wax dribbled onto the skin and immediately started to cool. Carla Beth sucked wind through clenched teeth as the wax ran halfway down Carla Beth's wrist and started to solidify.

"I'm gonna beat the hell out of you if this don't work, Sue."

"Hush, it's almost over." Sue closed her eyes and raised her head as if praying. A low, soft mumble built in her throat, working its way past her teeth and out into the room as a simple, powerful command.

"Dewey Raney, your wife wants to talk to you."

There was a painful silence. "Dewey, you be a good boy and come on out."

Still, nothing. "Dammit, Dewey, get your ass out here now!"

Carla Beth had started to stand up, but what she heard next made her fall back to the floor. Sue's voice had changed. It was deeper, like she was pretending to be a man. It wasn't what she said, so much as how she said it, that let her know Dewey was really here.

"Dammit, Carla Beth! I told your momma you wouldn't let me get any rest, no matter where I was at!"

"Oh, shut your mouth, Dewey! My momma wouldn't speak to you that long, and you know it."

"What do you want?"

"Where'd you hide the money?"

"What money?"

"Don't lie to me, Dewey! I know you was makin' meth in the trailer out back of our land!"

"It ain't like I tried to hide it."

"Well? Where's the money you made from sellin' it?"

"What makes you think I made that much money off it?"

"Because we got a new big screen TV and Ford pickup, and I know you wouldn't have spent that if you didn't have more squirreled away!"

"Fine, it ain't like I can use it anymore. I'll tell you, but you gotta promise to buy momma a nice car."

"Jesus, Dewey, there's that much?"

"There's enough to buy all y'all nice new cars. Now promise."

"Fine, your momma's gonna get a nice new car."

"Good. There's a UK poster up in that trailer. It's one of those schedule posters I got from the store. I put the money in the wall behind that poster."

"Good Lord, Dewey. I'm gonna be rich."

"You're just gonna spend it on liquor and cigarettes, Carla Beth. Look, there's one more thing I want you to do. You have to do this, you hear?"

"What? Who else I gotta buy a car for?"

"No, this is important. I had a partner, and he's gonna come looking for that money. I want you to take it to the bank and deposit it. Don't use our account, either. Get a new one."

"You think he'd steal that money?"

"Carla Beth, he's a drug dealer, not a preacher!"

"Okay, you don't have to keep yellin' at me. Who was your partner, anyway? I bet it was that ignorant old Tommy Siler. He always was meaner'n a striped snake."

 "No, it wasn't Tommy Siler. He's dumber'n a bag of hammers. It was Scott Yeary."

 "You mean Sue's…"
The next thing Carla Beth heard was the deafening roar of a close-range gunshot. She put her hands to her belly and felt something hot and wet. She pulled them away and saw dark blood. Her legs buckled and she fell to the floor. She smelled stale dog urine. She faded out of consciousness as she saw Sue Yeary setting a pistol on the coffee table. She pulled a cell phone out of her pocket and dialed a number. The last thing Carla Beth Raney heard was Sue saying, "Scott, your little sis done made us both rich."

Walter Shumate is an amateur author editing his first novel. You can read his creative writings Here, or head Here to see his take on being a father. You can also follow him on Twitter, @pshumate.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Assumptions

I’d flown thirteen timezones just to see him. It was like “slow day” at the airport and I kept wondering, God is it going to be like this everywhere I go in this country? The more impatient I became at customs, the slower the line seemed to go. I was afraid I was going to see the woman stand up and put up a closed sign telling me I’d be spending the night in the terminal. It seemed like hours before I was the one in front of the counter showing her my paperwork.

Approved and through to the next section of the crowded airport I began my desperate search for the man I had been waiting ages to see. My mind swam as I turned circle after circle eyeing those around me and not finding his face. I circled four, five, six times and still no site of him.

An older woman approached me with a sign in her hands, letters spelling out a favored nickname. I looked at her in confusion until I realized that I had seen her in pictures, his pictures.

“You look just like the photos he showed me.” She said smiling.

“And you look just like the ones he showed me.” I replied in kind.

She drove me to her house and told me how he had asked her to pick me up and that he would meet me at her place. It gave us time to talk, and to get to know each other and compare our very different cultures.

After arriving at his mother’s home and settling in to the bedroom I had been provided, I quietly sat on the bed wondering about his absence.

He arrived later that night, and I could hear him telling his mother and father that they had been held up in traffic. I stepped out of my room and headed towards the entry where their voices were echoing from.

I looked past his mother and father and stared at her. I stepped back into the shadow assessing this intruder. She was gorgeous in her skirt and button-up top but what caught my eye was the shining diamond on her left hand. His mother hugged her and I wondered who she was and why he had never mentioned her.

“Did things go okay at the airport?”

“Yes, she’s in her room,” His mother happily replied, “and she’s just as sweet as you said she would be.”

I stepped out from behind the wall and approached them, a faked smile on my face. Not knowing who the woman was I no longer knew how I felt about the man I had flown 22 hours to see. He hugged me to him and I stood a little stiffly and half-heartedly hugged him back.

“I’m so glad you made it in time!” His smile was the one I had fallen in love with over and over again each day.

“What am I just in time for?” I nervously asked.

“Why, the wedding of course!” He pulled her from behind him and introduced her as Megan. I held back my tears, softly congratulated them and asked to be excused. I returned to my room, packed what I had unpacked and for the first time wondered why I had never doubted his love and how I could assume so much.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Guest Write - Doug Mathewson

Bread Knife

Our bread knife had been missing for better than a month. Ikea had one with an asymmetrical wood and stainless handle that appealed to my inner Swede for only seven dollars. Where the original bread knife had gotten to was beyond my imagination, and below my cut-off for concern. Time passed, bagels were sliced and toasted, the new knife edged its way into our daily lives. The transition was as smooth as buttering toast and we moved on.

On-line sources were not expansive enough for what I required. For reasons peculiar and picayune I decided one afternoon to use our old really big library style dictionary to look something up. “The first clergyman was the first rascal who met the first fool.” was a quote from Voltaire but in what context? Who did he say it to? Was he just being clever, or was he making a point?

I needed the two thousand page dictionary to discover the truth. My discovery was very different. There was our old bread knife! It had been used (I don’t know when) as a book mark. The entry “costumbrismo” was underlined. There was an old photograph (very wrinkled) that had been folded and refolded years ago into quarters there as well. It was a sepia toned image of a chicken pulling a toddler in a little two wheeled wooden cart, and “Havana 1873” written on the back in florid script. Written down the book’s margin in red was “Zarzuela” followed by four exclamation marks.

With my head buzzing full of 18th century French philosophy and 19th century Hispanic art I thought “I can make a cardboard scabbard for the old bread knife and seamlessly join it with gaffers tape to the black wooden block containing the new bread knife. Brilliant!” I was suddenly stunned by my entire lack of imagination. Given this sprawling mash-up of information and concepts in art and the humanities I was still mentally dealing with the bread knife!

Inaction would have been unacceptable. I refiled the errant bread knife under “R” in the dictionary to indicate both “redundant” and “resolved”. I put the folded chicken cart picture in my wallet for another day.

Doug Mathewson is an editor and author of short fiction who likes books and art. He lives near the water and is easily distracted. He edits at Blink|Ink, hangs around at Full of Crow and posts his work at Little 2 Say. He says to stop by some time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Memory Of...

It was in the midst of the storm that a ray of sunlight lit up a rainbow brightening the outlook considerably. Then as the storms combined into one giant mass and continued to wreak havoc the happiness of the rainbow faded away leaving a dark and dreary place.

Hurricane after hurricane slammed against the levies until what was left of the once happy city was found in death, sunk below oceanic tides.

The sun rose to an unnatural height in the sky begging for attention to be shown. After the storms were chased away by the warm rays of sun, it was the first day in many that dark clouds and destructive storms hadn’t circled overhead causing mass destruction. The tides returned to their normal state.

Out of what remained of the sunken city came the birth of something more, not just a city, but a community where love, laughter, and music dominate all.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Patience

Alen knew it was a short amount of time before his emotions won out and he broke protocol. His plans were in place, and he knew it was just a matter of playing the waiting game in order to complete them to painstaking perfection.

He was just so tired of those Fuckers who kept trying his patience. The little voice in his head kept asking, why Alen, why wait; you shouldn’t have to deal with them anymore; you have everything you need, just be done with it. But he knew that if he wanted to get all of them, he just had to wait.

Just to be sure he had enough supplies he ordered one more set of everything he needed and once it came spent his a very crucial week constructing the final model. Looking over everything he knew his collection was complete. They littered the floor of his apartment and he couldn’t help but think of how perfect his apartment had been. He had chosen Apartment #4E over the Studio on the west side because of its obvious seclusion.

Finally time was upon him and he spent preparing everything to the smallest detail for what was to come at the end of the week. Saturday morning, everything was in place and Alen stood back and admired his handiwork. They would never know what hit them. As the senior activities chairman for the University, he had setup a party that was to be the hit of a lifetime.

Dressing up for the occasion in his suit he greeted each student as they came through the door and they each sauntered past with a confused look on their face, asking each other what he meant when he said, “I hope you’ve enjoyed this year and that your memories of the past will forever stick with you even to the end.”

With a martini in one hand Alen waited for the correct time. He had been waiting for this moment for over six months now. They would pay; they would pay for his humiliation.

Fingering the button on the remote hidden in his pocket he counted the seconds. Standing up to the microphone the music abruptly ended.

Alen held his martini in the air waiting for the crowd to notice him then when he had everyone’s attention said, “I’d like to thank each of you for coming tonight. Little do you know, but each of you has made an impression on my life. With very special thanks to you, I hope you have enjoyed tonight since it is to be your last!” His pocketed hand pressed the button just as he took a sip of his martini making his toast complete.

That one second between the button being pressed and the bombs exploding, a feeling of perfection and accomplishment washed over Alen.

The first wave of explosions rocked Alen, but it was the second delayed set that had everyone in the room screaming in fear. Alen smiled as the roof cracked and came tumbling down on top of each of them. Their cries were silenced by the third wave of explosions that took out each wall and the floor beneath them killing everyone inside.

Each homemade bomb was set in a strategic location. Alen was surprised the day he walked into his CAD class to find that they were studying the architectural designs of the Mason D. Stringham Cultural Hall. It was the perfect place for the revenge he sought. He studied the plans intently and even made copies of them staying after class to do so.

Each major strong point on all three floors contained a bomb and Alen made sure that he had included enough bombs to bring down the entire building and also enough to make sure that no one walked away.

Authorities searched his apartment finding it surprisingly clean, which was the same when they searched all of the other student’s residences trying to find out who had secretly bombed one of the city’s most historical sights full of college students.

Three months later, a padded envelope arrived at the local police department and when opened contained a letter that told of how Alen sought revenge and how easy it had been for him to gain the necessary designs for making the bombs from the internet as well as purchasing the equipment from locals. It was signed, “Have a GREAT day…Alen” Also found within were the copies of architectural renderings from his CAD class, bomb designs from the internet, locations where he had purchased supplies and even pictures of the completed bombs in his living room; what finally stunned the detectives was that Alen had even gone so far as to photograph each bomb location within the Cultural Hall with bombs in place and each pictured contained a number that matched the locations marked on the Architectural plans.

“Study this information intently folks, it’s our job to find the threats within our society and stop them before they cause destruction such as this!” Lt. Sherman told his class of bomb squad officers in training, “Tomorrow we will be studying the Oklahoma City Bombing; you might want to bring your hard hats…” Lt. Sherman laughed at his own joke as he dismissed his class.

Monday, May 10, 2010

All in the Name of Freedom

The siege having lasted through the night provided the enemy with the confidence that soon they would see a white flag being hoisted. The grime covered soldiers within the fort assessed their situation and thought it a miracle that they had only lost eight men. The tattered flag still waved in the breeze giving each of them a flicker of hope. As the morning wore on, both sides began suffering drastic losses. Just when it seemed the enemy was gaining the upper hand, reinforcements arrived attacking the enemy from behind, and the war was finally won. The battlefield was strewn with the carnage of death until Ian was asked to pick up his toy soldiers and get ready for lunch.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Friday Spectacular

This week I'm doing something a little different. Normally I have a Friday Guest Writer on the site. However, this week I thought I would grace you with a selection / teaser from a Novelette I have been working on. I hope you enjoy.

Visions of Jihp Ch'iich'
Written by Nicole E. Hirschi

Have you ever danced in the rain, been intrigued by the lightning, loved listening to the roar of thunder? Those who do are more likely to be chosen.

Fear for the lives of those around you if you are chosen. She has chosen few, and those few are left to wander the world alone in darkness serving only her.

Be warned, she does not forgive easily and she will have her chosen servants…
***

“Maria, don’t go out there. Please, Mama said don’t go out there!” Javier begged his older sister.

“I have to get Pako, I can’t just leave him out there in the lightning.”

“But Maria!” Javier cried, “There’s something bad out there, I know it!”

“Javier, let go of me now! Pako is in garden, I will get him and come right back I promise. The only thing out there that’s bad is the lightning.” Javier sniffled; his eyes begging his sister not to go out into the lightning storm. Maria held him tight by the shoulders and out away from her, “You stay right here. You can even leave the door open and watch me. Okay?”

“Okay.” Javier knew that he didn’t have a choice. No matter what he told his sister, she wasn’t going to listen. Bad things happened in the lightning storms. Javier had had many dreams about the bad things that happened. His six year old mind just couldn’t explain what he had witnessed in his dreams to his family. So instead he watched; waiting and knowing what was going to happen.

Maria, soaked from the rain was just opening the gate to the garden when a bolt of lightning hit the barn, the boom making Javier’s ears ring. Not taking his eyes off of his older sister, Javier saw her slip in the mud and get back up again.

“NO!” Javier cried when the large bird swooped down and sank its deadly talons into Maria’s back. In horror, Javier plugged his ears with his hands when he heard her screams, not daring to look away. The bird the size of a man was standing on her back, talons ripping clothing and flesh while its beak was tearing handful size chunks from her twitching body. Javier whispered prayers, paralyzed from his fear and unable to do anything else. The white bird whose feathers glowed red and gold finished its meal leaving the mutilated body of Maria behind.

Hours later, Javier jumped at the touch of his father when he and his mother came home from their evening out.

“What are you staring at?” His father asked sternly.

Javier couldn’t utter a single word, but pointed in the direction of the garden.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

This Week's Challenge

Don’t Look Back (Monday)

In her rush to get away from her pursuer, she ran. Tiana tried not to look back, but couldn’t be sure that she had escaped. Each look back cost her time. Her pounding heart and burning lungs reminded her that she was still alive. Tiana prayed that she would be able to reach the ruins deep in the woods beyond Campanella Point. Only there would she be safe—it was only there that the bells of the ancient city promise to keep her assailant at bay.


The Chase (Tuesday)

Nothing else mattered, he thought, other than catching his prey. It had been too long since he had his fix and nothing was going to stand in his way to get what he wanted. She had fought hard when he had first grabbed her. He had always enjoyed a good game of cat and mouse, and when she escaped his hold, he willingly let her run. He followed her scent on the air like a hound tracking game.


Unexpected Visitors (Wednesday)

The old witch had been watching the woman as she ran closer and closer to her sanctuary. She watched as her legs gave out just before reaching the dilapidated stone wall that separated the ruins from the surrounding landscape. Closing her eyes and feeling with her mind she reached out to the woman who was now struggling to crawl over the wall. The old witch could feel the woman’s pain and exhaustion and wondered why she still persevered.

An icy chill spread through the old witch as she caught a glimpse of the shape shifter breaking through the trees.


Sanctuary... or is it? (Thursday)

Tiana barely managed to scramble over the wall. She dropped to the ground with a hard thud and as she tried to catch her breath, thought to herself, something’s missing.

“Hickory Dickory Dock… the mouse ran up the clock… the clock struck one…” She could hear him chanting as he came closer. “Can you hear it, my prey? Silence! There are no bells here!”

Shhh my child, Tiana was startled to hear an old woman’s voice in her mind, don’t move and don’t make a sound.


The Escape (Friday)

Look to your left my child and you will see an archway, the voice of the old woman continued in Tiana’s mind, when I tell you to run, run as hard as you can!

Tiana could see the archway and wondered where the old woman was hiding.

“Stranger, you are not welcome here!” The old witch called out to the shape shifter.

“Stay out of this old woman, I’m here to collect what has escaped me!” His growl came from nearby Tiana’s hiding place and her heart beat jumped a few notches higher.

“I am warning you, Stranger, leave or suffer the fate that others believe as legend.” Her voice was stern but steady.

“Where is my prize?” He was becoming angry. Tiana could tell that he had turned away from her and was now going towards the old woman’s voice.

“You will find her not, for she has come to a sanctuary.”

RUN! Tiana heard it echo in her mind and she rolled over and ran, her legs ached from the exhausted run earlier. As she neared the Archway she stumbled and fell to her knees. Get up and run you idiot! The old woman’s voice screamed in her mind. Tiana pulled herself up and ran again until she felt the crumbling stone that made up the archway. Tiana was transfixed. Stepping through the archway she no longer saw the landscape of the ruined city, but colors of red, yellow and blue.

“Amazing.” Tiana said out loud and walked forward with her hands outstretched. As quickly as the colors had appeared, they disappeared leaving Tiana disoriented. She blinked a few times to allow her eyes to adjust.

The ruined city was no longer ruined, but quite intact. Bells, deep and resonating filled Tiana’s ears while she stared at the people around her busy with their daily chores. Ahead of her she could see the staircase that led to the bell tower and looking up at the top of the building she could see the circular bases of the largest bells.

Where am I, Tiana strangely wondered to herself.


Destruction & Instruction (Saturday)

Nothing else mattered, only his orders from his master to capture that which had escaped him. Desperately he wondered where his prey had disappeared to when she entered the archway. Turning his attention to the old woman his rage was met with her ice cold stare.

“I have said, you are not welcome here stranger.” Her stern voice gave her more confidence than she felt.

He smelled magic on the air and new she was responsible for his loss. “Where have you sent her witch?”

“Oh dear…” The old witch said, mockingly, “is something missing?”

Losing his patience he crossed the wall and charged her changing as he did into a lion of massive proportions.

She stood her ground surrounded by her circle of grey ash and sang incantations of old.

Her singing brought a pain to his head that he had never before experienced. He felt his head was going to rip in half, and suddenly he burst into blue flames. The ashes left behind were carried on the wind towards the sea.

The old witch, exhausted, hoped that the girl would be helped on the other side.

***

Tiana looked around her in wonder. She jumped at a touch on her arm and looked down to see a small old woman with white hair tugging at her arm.

“Come quickly, we must get you to safety.”

“Who are you? And where am I?” Tiana struggled to keep up with the woman as she weaved through the city toward the bell tower.

“My dear, you are in Gringerni, my name is Celestine, and from the looks of it you recognize my voice.”

“You are the one who saved me, who sent me through the archway!” Tiana new this was the voice of the old woman who had helped her to escape. She also knew that she was no longer deep in the woods beyond Campanella Point.

Arriving at the top of the bell tower the old woman gestured for Tiana to have a seat.

“Young lady, I did not save you, you most likely saw or heard a different person from a different world.”

“How can that be?”

“There are many worlds, parallel that exist. We can all move between them if given the correct gateways. I am a gate keeper, and you most likely saw another me who is also a gatekeeper.”

“Why are we here?” Tiana’s eyes were huge trying to take in everything.

“This is the only place to keep you safe. To keep you from seeing yourself… uh… your parallel you.”

“Why can’t I see the other me?” Tiana was curious about all she was learning.

“There are grave consequences to everything Tiana, and your other you is learning to be a gatekeeper to take over after me, and so you shall be come for the other me.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

FFF #30 A Psych Ward Story

"I know what I saw and years of anti-psychotics and group therapies couldn't convince me otherwise."


"Is it me, or does this coffee taste weird?"

“Would you just quit trying to change the subject?” I asked throwing my hands up in the air.

“Why do you insist on telling me this wild story?” Kayla shot back.

“It’s not wild, Kayla, it’s the truth.” Frustration was showing on my face.

“Well I think it’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Giants with wings… you’re losing it, you really are!”

“I’ll take you there and show you, prove it to you!” I exclaimed.

“I’m sure you will Jenna, I’m sure you will.” Her lack of belief bothered me and I knew that until she saw them in person she would never believe me.

She finally agreed to go with me on the horseback ride, claiming that she didn’t think I was “stable” enough to be okay on my own. I packed enough provisions to last us a few days and waited for Kayla to finish saddling her horse.

***

“How far did you say this place was?”

“God, you’re like a little kid Kayla, ‘are we there yet, are we there yet’ I mean seriously, I told you it’s a ways. Just enjoy the ride.”

“Look, there’s some flagging tape, I wonder who’s been putting flagging tape up this time of year…”

“It’s mine you dork, so I could find my way back to see the giants.”

“Giants… Did you fall Jenna while you were riding?”

“No.”

***

We trailed through the trees following the markers that I had put into place, stopping only twice to rest the horses and to eat. Dusk was quickly approaching and I knew we didn’t have far to go. We were now hugged up against a large rock wall that featured petroglyphs from our ancient Indian friends.

“Kayla, let’s stop and build camp here, tomorrow morning I’ll show you the creatures.” She was about twenty feet behind me and I felt like I had to yell just to be heard.

“Sure you don’t want to ride a little further Jenna? Not like we’ve been riding all day!”

I rolled my eyes at her response and began looking for a small alcove or sheltered area we could build a fire and be somewhat protected from the elements. It wasn’t long before we found an outcrop and began unsaddling our horses.

“Man I haven’t felt this sore in a long time.” Kayla complained.

“Well if you would come with me more often, then you wouldn’t be so sore… would you?” I asked matching her sarcasm from earlier.

“I’m going to tell you now Jenna, if you DON’T have anything interesting to show me tomorrow, I swear, I’ll never go on another horse ride with you again.”

Stirring the fire, I thought about what I had seen a few days before. I began telling Kayla my story, hoping that she would believe it if I told her the whole thing. “I had stumbled upon it by accident, the cavern. Indian artifacts and ancient dwellings lined the entrance next to the same rock wall we were huddled up to for the night. More petroglyphs and dwellings, broken pottery, and torn baskets lead the way deeper and deeper into the rock. Pulling out my flashlight I was shocked to find that I had wondered into a large open room where more ancient furnishings were laying. Flint knives lined the ground in one area, spears next to them. Old leather blankets and rotting furs were strewn everywhere. On the far side of the room I saw another tunnel leading downward. The petroglyphs on the wall depicted winged giants towering above normal people. Curiously I touched the wall, and at the top of the tunnel noticed large X’s and the winged people next to each other.”

“You’ve been practicing your ghost stories again, haven’t you?” Kayla tried to suppress a giggle.

Ignoring her, I continued. “I wasn’t sure what type of creatures could have gone below, definitely didn’t want to run into a bear or mountain lion so I grabbed a spear that was leaning against the wall and a handmade flint knife that still had an edge on it sharp enough to cut through an animal’s hide. I began my descent which became steeper and steeper until finally it turned into stairs, like someone had hand carved stairs in the stone. A chain was connected to one wall like a guard rail. I know I can’t be the only one to have ever seen the creatures, because there were so many man made things, like the chain for example. Someone had to put it there!” I rubbed my eyes and took a drink of water to try to calm my racing heart. “I reached the bottom of the tunnel and it leveled out, shining my flash light about, I saw bars, like cells cut into the rock, you know like the ones you only see in movies?”

Kayla nodded her head.

“Well it was like that, but I couldn’t see anything in them, just hear flapping, like bats. I shined my light on the ceiling, but didn’t see any bats. There were no petroglyphs here, nothing on the walls. My flash light reflected off of something, and when I put it back, noticed it was a pair of eyes coming from the cell to my left. I walked closer, hesitant at first but then thinking I was protected by the bars and peered in. I heard chains moving and watched the eyes blink. They began to move, then there it was in my light a magnificent yet unbelievable creature. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they were angels, but angels don’t exist, they can’t.”

“You must have been without oxygen too long and your brain started making you think you were seeing things.”

"I know what I saw! I just don’t know how else to explain them to you. They were huge, massive, and stood at least twice my size and they had wings, huge wings that they opened and shut, and then they cried, cried the saddest song.”

I turned to Kayla, who was already dozing in her sleeping bag and knew without a doubt that she would believe me in the morning. I laid in my bag thinking about the beauty of them, their pure white skin, luminescent wings that shimmered in the light, perfectly blue eyes that reflected if the light was held just right. I allowed their beautiful song—much like I think a siren’s song would be—draw me into sleep.

***

We woke just before the sun had lit up the sky entirely and quickly made breakfast and prepared to leave. Kayla seemed to take her time as I wolfed mine down and waited impatiently for her to finish.

I had both of our horses saddled and repacked by the time she had finished her coffee. We rode about another two hours before we finally reached the entrance. I could see Kayla fingering and taking in everything that I had tried to tell her about the previous evening. She began putting pottery pieces and basket pieces along with arrowheads in her pockets.

“What are you doing?! You can’t take those, its illegal!”

"If no one knows, it’s not going to hurt them or us.” Kayla hissed.

I found the spear and the knife just where I had left them next to the entrance leading downward and looked at Kayla with her flashlight taking in the pictures above the doorway. “I wonder why they would draw such interesting pictures. I haven’t ever seen petroglyphs like this before.”

Her eyes about popped out of her head when she saw the cells that lined both sides of the cavern at the bottom of the tunnel. Shining our lights, she screamed and dropped hers when her light touched on a pair of large eyes. Picking up her light and helping her to her feet I told her to look closer at them. Together we walked to the edge of the bars and I heard Kayla’s breath quicken at the sight of the beautiful beings. Standing close to twelve feet tall with massive white feather wings that trailed the ground we were both in awe.

Chains started to rattle and soon, the winged giants that appeared to be angels sat pacing the length of their cell in front of the bars. It was when the angel in the far back corner began to sing that all seemed to quiet down and stand still. Kayla went to him. She knelt down just outside of its cell. I noticed too late what I should have seen before. In front of the last cell was a pile of skeletons, each one with an arm reaching through the bars.

“Who are you?” She whispered.

“Orpheus is my earthly name.” It answered the voice of music echoing in our heads even though we heard nothing with our ears.

“And what are you… Orpheus?” she asked.

“I am one of the fallen angels of God, otherwise known in Heaven as Kokabiel.” With the shocked look on Kayla’s face, he quickly snapped out grabbing her hand and pulling himself to her. He stood to his full height and picking Kayla up by her shirt and holding her arm, before I could even blink, his wings shot out and sent a blinding light every which way. The smell of burnt flesh filled my nose as I looked and tried to see what was left of my friend. Finding nothing but a charred corpse, I fled from the cavern as quickly as possible afraid of what my happen otherwise.

I rode my horse and Kayla’s horse all the way back home. The authorities still cannot find the cavern that I’ve talked about. No one knows it exists, other than me. And the only way I can prove that I was there is with Kayla’s disappearance, and also for the rare artifacts that Kayla had carted back out to her horse pack.
..................

“Do you think you are crazy Jenna?” The newly assigned shrink asked me.

"I know what I saw and years of anti-psychotics and group therapies couldn't convince me otherwise."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Meant To Be

The call came at midnight. I had a romantic evening planned last night with my wife and we had just gotten the kids to sleep.

“That’s twice this week, hun.” My wife complained from her side of the bed as I quickly dressed.

I arrived on scene, and was quickly briefed. A body was found lying face down in the trash and when I helped roll the body over noticed that it was the homeless man whom I had befriended a few years back.

When I finally made it back home I couldn’t help but think to myself, he died before he ever got a second chance.

Tonight the bench on Stratton’s cobblestone street sat empty. I shook my head and suddenly felt the need to grieve. Sitting down upon it, I placed my head in my hands, and with closed eyes, took a deep breath.

I was greeted with memories of people I had frequently passed: loving couples, mothers with children waiting for the bus, senior citizens taking a breather while on their morning stroll, but more prominently were memories of the homeless man who, a mere twenty-four hours ago, was still living.

He looked to be in his sixties when I first met him some years ago. The memory of the morning I handed him my untouched coffee and the smile on his face followed by a gruff thank you was the first that came to mind. Another memory stuck out of sitting on that same bench talking like old friends do and of him telling me of his life before times were hard.

With my head in my hands, I silently sobbed, thinking about all the things I could have done to give this man a better life other than to offer him a free cup of coffee in the mornings and a friendly chat.

Regaining my composure I dried my eyes, wiped my nose and slowly stood. Turning to look at the empty side of the bench where my friend always sat I smiled, “May God’s grace forever smile upon you.”

Something caught my eye just as I was turning away, an envelope, stuck to the bottom side of the bench, barely visible through the slats. I sat back down and pulling the envelope from its hiding place I began inspecting it. Upon opening I found a letter that read:

I have a feeling that my time is soon coming. I do not regret my life, it has been full of hardships and I have lived as best as I could. If you are reading this, please deliver this to Detective Mills. I don’t know where he lives, but want him to know just how much I appreciate what he’s done for me. There was a morning a few years ago that I had decided that I had had enough of living this life. It was on that morning that a visitor came. The visitor handed me his unopened coffee and sat down beside me. I hadn’t had that much compassion shown to me in ages. Each day came and I was given another cup of coffee and as we sat and chatted we became just like old friends. That visitor was Detective Mills, and to my dearest friend, Może Bożego Łaskę wiecznie uśmiech na was!


Thank You


Antoni Burak
(Your homeless friend)
Stunned I took the letter home to my wife. How did he know what was coming? How was it that I found the letter that had been meant for me? I found a translator site and after a lot of research came to the decision that the translation must be polish. I knew as soon as I read the English translation that we were meant to be friends, the translation read: May God’s grace forever smile upon you.