Monthly Archives: June 2016

20. Poison

The Midsummer Ball was always the best one of the year if you asked any of the bards with a lick of sense. It paid the best, and there was no snow to trudge through. As the leader of the Court Musicians, it was Ophelia’s job to see all the visiting bards in. And check them for contraband, but that was much lower on her list of priorities.

“Davish, how are the kids?”

“Marchelle, you’re married now?!”

“A wild boar you say? Shame, he was always so handsome.”

She missed everything thanks to this contract. Sure, the pay was fantastic, and her rooms in the castle were beyond exquisite….But her blades had grown dull, and her adventuring boots hadn’t seen oil in ages. The itch to learn a new story with her own eyes and ears was no longer satisfied with just a gentle scratch.

“Now now, my sweet Ophelia. Why the frown?”

“Grey…”

The next name on the list, and the tall, slender man who came attached to it were always a sight for sore eyes. He signed his name on the line before hugging the woman who threw herself against his chest.

“I’ve made a terrible mistake, Grey. I”m not ready to settle yet. But I have a year left on the stupid paper I signed.”

“Oh my little Ravenwing.” he cooed, running a hand through her dark hair, fingers brushing across a feather that was hidden in the strands. “I told you that before you came up here to the frosty north, didn’t I?”

“I never listen.” she sniffled, releasing the man. “Can you help? I don’t know how to get out of it.”

“I may have something that I can work out…But I won’t do it for you. You’ll have to do it yourself.”

“I can do the hard part. I’m not a child.”

“Sure you aren’t.” he chuckled as she fussed and fixed her hair to again lie flat. “Come and find me when you’re done playing scribe.”

“You’re the best, Grey.”

“Don’t I know it.”

 

“It was the damndest thing. Lord Alaris was healthy as a horse just a few days ago. His poor wife. And the children!”

“Oh don’t think too hard about his wife. She was sleeping with the jailer, didn’t you know? She’s not half as innocent  as that pretty smile makes her out to be.”

“The jailer? No! You don’t think that he…”

“The man locks murderers up for a living, you don’t think that he could have learned a few things?”

As Ophelia walked at Grey’s side, she absently twirled a glass vial in her fingers. Green liquid sloshed with each twitch. She frowned as she listened to the little whispers, looking up at Grey.

“You know my way would have been a lot more fun.”

“And obvious considering the man paid you to do the same to his rivals.” Grey patted her shoulder gently. “We’ll make a lady out of you yet, Ophelia.”

“Says the man whose plan ruined a perfect good set of silken sheets and woke half the guard.”

“But we’re leaving, aren’t we? And you didn’t have to do anything but whisper. Much less messy. Words are a much more effective venom than your Nightshade.”

Ophelia rolled her eyes, leaning on him as they walked through the gates. It didn’t matter how she got out of the city. All that mattered was her boots were oiled, her blades tended to, and she could work again. And the Gods help the Northern kingdoms because of it.

 

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Filed under Flash Fiction, The Blackbirds

11. Shadow

Kelsey was always warned that it was dangerous for pretty girls to walk alone late at night. Men were monsters, or at least that was what her mother and the news always tried to tell her. And after Jessica got attacked on her way home from school a few weeks before, maybe Alicia Martin and Fox News had been right. Kelsey never much cared, or worried, about these sorts of things, though. After all, summer in Nevada was way too warm to wear anything but shorts and tank tops.
Maybe an inch above her fingertips was a little shorter than her father, and her Good Christian upbringing, would have liked. But, that was why she didn’t live at home any more. Well, that and her mother couldn’t cook for shit.
With her headphones on, she couldn’t hear much else but Brittany pre-meltdown as she danced her way down the sidewalk. It had been a long shift at the bar, but she was still burning with energy. As she spun around at a red light, her backpack hitting against her back as she did so, hips swaying as she stopped. The woman in the car beside her smiled and waved back before the light turned green.
Kelsey didn’t know that she wasn’t alone until she passed under the street lamp and saw the second shadow up against the wall of the drug store two blocks away from her apartment. The figure’s breathing was erratic, as if it had been running to keep up with her. Or, more likely, from adrenaline. She did not turn to face it, but instead reached up to remove the buds from her ears, tucking them under the strap of her bag so they wouldn’t hit the ground. She slowly raised her empty hands when she saw the shadow’s arm go up.
“You really don’t want to do this, dude.” She said, wincing when she turned around to see the barrel of a gun not far from her pointy little nose.
“Give me your wallet, now.”
“Okay, but it’s in my bag so I have to-”
“And your phone too.”
“Calm down, Buddy.” she slowly began to lower her arms, in order to shift to remove her backpack.
When she heard the gun cock back, she froze. Her shadow, however, did not. A scream pierced the air as she turned back around and un-tucked her earbuds from the backpack strap and readjusted it to balance the weight again. She only heard the scream for a moment before putting the headphones back in. She looked to the wall though, watching as the tendrils that extended from her image against the wall. She turned up the music when she watched two of them go clear through the other human shape, so she wouldn’t hear the screaming. She frowned a little when she felt the first splash of blood hit the back of her neck.
“I told you that you didn’t want to do it.” she wiped it off of the back of her neck, glad the tank-top was black instead of the pretty pink one she was going to wear. The tendrils slowly began to take her shape once more as she walked out of the small circle of light. ” They never listen.”

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Stories

97. Always

“Oh my little girl, you look so beautiful.”

“Mom stop it. They just finished my makeup, and if I cry then they’re going to have to do it all over again.”

“I can’t help it, Honey. You look like a princess. I mean…Look at yourself.”

The two women stepped to stand in front of the full length mirror in the bridal suite. The young woman was already in tears, mascara already ruined despite the claim that it was waterproof. The white silk she wore was a stunning contrast to her beautiful, dark skin. Her sweet mother insisted that the dress was modeled after Cinderella’s because her daughter was “a goddamn princess.”The cascades of fabric nearly swallowed her up. And yet, she seemed to practically be glowing as her tiny mother grabbed a chair to stand on in order to affix the veil to her hair.

Covered in intricate tattoos that were black as the night sky from earth, she seemed the opposite of her daughter in her flowing ball gown. When the woman smiled, you could see her sharpened teeth. It was amazing that they didn’t catch on her dark painted lips  when they pulled back. She sighed contently as she finally got the comb situated, watching as her daughter dabbed tears away from her big, green, eyes. Her darling, only, daughter was finally getting married. At nearly two hundred, the Voodoo Queen never thought she would live to see her daughter all done up in white. Granted, this was mostly because she had longed hoped that Anita would hit it off with Makumba.  He was such a nice, African boy…Whose mother happened to be a shaman and a very good family friend.

But, she supposed that Greg would have to do. Even though the man’s family was from the middle of nowhere Oregon, and he had nearly passed out the night before. The private ceremony in which he was welcomed in to the ancient line of her sweet Anita’s matriarchal family had been a touching one. Greg had nearly passed out, as if he’d never seen someone bite the head off of a still living snake before. Anita’s great grandmother had only ribbed him a little bit, though. The son of a Portland software developer had quite a lot to learn to get the rest of the family’s approval. But, the wide smile on the lips of her daughter was more than enough for the Queen.

“Oh Momma.” Anita let the makeup woman in, so she could fix the mess that she had made with her crying. “Thank you. For everything.” She wrapped her arms around the woman once more before sitting down in the chair by the vanity.

“Sweet child, what are you doing thanking me? His parents paid for this monster of a centurion.” The woman laughed, pulling on the violet shawl that matched the beautiful flowers in the nearby bouquet. “Your old Momma didn’t do anything.”

“You said yes.” she smiled. “You send him packing, and you LET his parents go through with all of this. You even got Poppa to agree to come to America for this.” Anita looked about to cry again. “This means…So much to me.”

“It’s the twenty-first century, Darling. This old dog can still learn a few  new tricks yet.” The Queen laughed as the makeup woman finished fussing about here daughter and left the room again.

“I knew I shouldn’t have doubted you.” Anita’s face fell for just a moment. “I just wish that Daddy was here to see it. He would have loved Greg, with all of his bad action movies.”

“Oh don’t remind me of those. I’m still finding cases tucked in boxes at the house. How many copies of Rambo does one man need?” Both mother and daughter laughed as the Queen settled herself back in to a chair. “Now,what was it that you father would tell you when you asked him how much he loved you?”

“He’d say from the stars to the Nile.” Anita’s smile grew a little more sad. “And I’d ask how long that was. I mean, who expects a seven year old to know what the Nile is.” she shook her head slightly. “He really was odd sometimes.”

“My favorite was he would say from the Moon to Jupiter.” her mother chuckled still. “Or as much as the circumference of Mars.”

“Scientists huh?” Anita looked at the ground. “But when you’d finally tell him that those were silly answers, he’d say-”

“Always, Annie Love. So long as I’m on Earth and after.”

Anita turned sharply towards the door at the familiar voice, ring-clad hand over her red painted lips. His skin wasn’t anywhere near as dark as her mother’s, and his green eyes seemed to glow. Under that glow, however, they matched her own shade. The suit looked a little dusty, but the flower in the lapel matched the ones in her bouquet.

“Sometimes this dog can still use her old tricks, ehy?”

“Daddy?” Anita’s hand fell back to her side. “Is…Is it really you?”

“Your mother cashed in a few favors with the Seers in Australia.” the man smiled a crooked little grin. “I couldn’t miss your wedding day, after all.”

“But…You said it couldn’t be done.” she looked back to her mother. “That not even your magic-”

“I said not forever.” The woman walked over and placed a gentle hand on the man’s arm. “But for a few hours, long enough for an over the top, West-Coast wedding…That I can manage with a little bit of help.”

“Besides, who else is going to walk you down the aisle? That’s the one job that the father of the bride has in this whole mess, right?”

“Daddy…” Anita’s makeup was ruined yet again as she hid her face in the musty-smelling jacket of her father’s suit.

“Anita, we’re starting now!” A girl peaked her head in to the room. “Greg is already…” She stopped, looking to the man.

“No time for that.” he pulled the girl in to the room, closing the door. “How much do you know about makeup? it’s almost as if my silly daughter doesn’t care that they paid someone to do it.”

“Daddy!” Anita laughed, wiping her tears away. “I love you.”

“From the Moon to Jupiter, Sweetie.”

 

 

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65. Candle

“You’re fibbing! I’m gonna go and tell your mom you’re fibbing again.”

“Harmony no! I”m not fibbing.” The little girl grabbed at her friend’s arm to pull her back on to the floor where they were sitting. “Not fibbing.”

“Magic isn’t real, Kelsey. Only babies think that it is. Sister Terry told us in Sunday school that it’s all just stories to tempt little boys and girls. Jesus is the only person with magic, and that’s because  God gave him the powers to make miracles.”

“But what about Moses? He did magic too.”

“Either way, you can’t be Jesus or Moses. You aren’t even a boy.” Harmony crossed her arms.

Kelsey groaned, diving under her pink and fluffy bed for something. The other girl pretended she didn’t care, arms still crossed with her head tilted away. She peaked from the corner of her eye though, watching Kelsey’s little legs wriggle madly as she searched.

“What are you doing?” Harmony finally gave in and asked. “You’re going to get all dirty.”

“I’m lookin’ for something to prove that I’m not fibbing.”

“Well you can stop.” Harmony ‘humph’ed, turning her head away again. “I already know that you aren’t telling the truth so-”

“Found it!” Kelsey wriggled back out from underneath the bed, clutching a box to her chest. “Okay, this will prove everything.” she set it on the floor between them.

“A box?” Harmony frowned as she looked down at it, clearly expecting something more exciting than cardboard. “How’s a box supposed to prove you can do magic? I’m not dumb, Kelsey.”

“It’s the stuff inside the box, Harmony. Duh.” Kelsey nudged the lid up just enough to slip out a small, plastic bottle. “Sand, from when I went to Florida with my mom and dad.” She pulled out the stopper, pouring the sand on to the lid of the box. “Now watch.”

Harmony held her breath as Kelsey pointed at the little pile. Kelsey moved her finger in the air above it, making sure she wasn’t touching the grains. As she did they moved, forming the shape of the heart that she had been tracing.

“You’re touching it!”

“I am not. See.” Kelsey held up her clean little finger. “Not touching anything.”

“Fibber. I don’t believe you.” Harmony’s arms remained crossed.

Nor did Harmony believe  that the pretty blue feather moved even when they both held their breath. The same went for when the box itself moved across the floor without either of them touched it.

“You just put strings on it. Like the pretend magician at Sarah’s birthday party last month.” she shook her head. “Just wait until your mom hears what a fibber you are.”

“I’m not-Fine, I know what you’ll absolutely one hundred percent believe.” Kelsey went back in to the box, pulling out a package of unopened birthday candles. “I can light one of these. without a match.”

“We’re not supposed to play with candles” Harmony gasped as if Kelsey ha just suggested that they go get the scissors out of the “no touching” drawer in the kitchen. “My mom says-”

Harmony fell silent when Kelsey pulled one of the blue and white wax sticks out of the paper packaging. Kelsey pinched the bottom between two fingers with her left hand, and the wick with her right.

“Kelsey, don’t.”

“Why? Because you believe me?” The little girl smirked wickedly when her friend gawked.

“No. Magic isn’t real.” Harmony still shook her head. “But your mom is gonna get really mad if she knows you have candles in your room.”

Kelsey rolled her eyes, removing her fingers from the wick. In their place, a small fire burned. Harmony’s jaw nearly hit the floor.

“Told you so.” Kelsey blew the flame out and dropped the candle into the box once more. “Wait until you see what I can do with my dolls.”

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52. Taboo

New kids in school really weren’t a big deal. Rural life was rough, so families moved in and out all the time. And besides, it was the new millennium: the age of the city. Technology, culture, and masses of people meant that corn fields and dirt roads lost their allure. Even the people who were there seemed stuck in shades of grey, like the much beloved westerns on their mostly static TV sets.

Church was every Sunday, in the sweaty, ancient building. Ladies all wore dresses, and the men all wore the one suit they owned and would one day be buried in. And every face in the congregation seemed to be as white as the communion wafers that melted on their tongues even with all the time in the sun.

“We have a new family entering our community today.” the lumpy little priest wiped sweat off of his forehead. “And I ask you to open your hearts to them as your brothers and sisters. Would the White family please rise up?”

A husband and wife, a handsome young boy that you almost couldn’t see over the pew, and a beautiful teenage girl shyly stood . Their dark skin caused whispers to flare up, and people stared. One such gawker was the mayor’s boy, his bright blue eyes trained on the girl. She caught him and smiled as well, waving her fingers just a little. When he raised his hand to do the same, his mother snatched his arm and pulled him to face forward again.

“Thank you, brothers and sisters. Now, let us pray.”

 

When Joshua saw the nasty slurs painted across the garage of the White family’s house, he was sure he knew where they had come from. The boys in his class loved to cause trouble, and when he offered to help clean it up, Mrs. White just smiled.

“You’re a fine boy, aren’t you Joshua.” she shook her head. “No no, now you just run along. You’ll upset your Mother, standing around here and ending up  late for school.”

“But Ma’am, I really would like to help.”

“My husband will take care of it. Now you run along.”

“But I…Yes Ma’am…”

 

The teacher said her name was Ruth, like the one in the Bible, and Joshua was sure it was the prettiest name he’d ever heard. There wasn’t an empty desk by him, but the way that Delilah pursed her lips made him wish there was. When he walked by her otherwise empty table at lunch, he wished that he hadn’t already promised Thomas that he’d help him figure out his geometry homework too.

“Look at that. Ain’t even walkin’ home. Must be from the city.”

“Well y’see that car? It sure ain’t for cartin’ stuff around a farm.”

Ruth and her little brother both piled in to the sleek, black car as it pulled up. The others he walked with had stopped to stare, some of them to snarl. Joshua simply stood with his hands in his pockets, waiting for one of them to start off down the road. He was relieved when he heard the car move away after what felt like an eternity.

“My daddy says we ain’t supposed to talk to them.” One of the second graders adjusted her backpack as she took four steps to keep up with the two steps of the older kids. “Because he says they ain’t supposed to be here.”

“Well then, where are they supposed to be? They live here, don’t they? That’s what the Father said.” Joshua shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense at all.”

“Well, he says we’re supposed to listen to our parents first. And mine say that they’re a tattoo, and bad.”

“People can’t be a tattoo, Martha.” one of the older girls rolled her eyes. “Your momma didn’t call them a tattoo. Taboo, that’s what she said.”

“That doesn’t make any sense either.” Joshua sighed. “A family can’t be a taboo.”

“Well you go ahead and tell that to your god fearing momma then. See where that gets you.”

 

The next day, Joshua paused in front of Ruth’s otherwise empty table at lunch. She was doodling something on a sketchpad, apparently unfazed by her lack of company. She even blinked those big brown eyes as he sat down across from her.

“You’re Ruth, right? I’m Joshua. We’re in the same class.”

“Yeah, I’m Ruth.” she looked down at the hand he had extended to her. “Shouldn’t you go and sit with your friends?”

“Well, I thought that I might like to be your friend.”

Joshua has one of those smiles that was infectious, and it never failed. Ruth smiled as well, closing her little drawing book.

“Well all right, I suppose you can go ahead and try.” she shook his hand before folding hers on the table in front of her.

“Well all right.”

 

“I don’t know what I did wrong with you Joshua! You used to be such a good boy, and now you son’t even listen to me.”

Joshua’s mother had dragged him up the street after she saw the girl turn the corner towards her own home .Joshua rubbed his arm as it was released, looking down at the peeling linoleum tile of the kitchen floor.

“I was just bing neighborly, Momma.” he muttered. “Like you always tell me to be.”

“I told you to leave that girl alone. She’s a temptress.” she made the sign of the cross over her thin chest. “Oh your good grandfather would rise up and teach you a lesson boy.”

“Momma-”

“No. You go right up to your room. You wait until your Daddy gets home. We’re going to have a talk about this.”

And like a good son, he said the prayers his father gave him and read all the passages about obeying your parents and not falling to temptations. He tried to be a good boy: to not be tempted to disobey his parents, for that was the greatest taboo. He shuddered when his parents used the same language that the second grader had, but counted off the last bead of his rosary loud enough for his mother to hear in the other room.

Finally done, he set the chain back in the dish on his bedside table and grabbed his backpack. Before flopping on to his mattress, he dug a small piece of paper out from one of his notebooks. As he unfolded it, a beautifully drawn rose appeared, with a signature in neat script, and a ten digit number. It seemed that Joshua would have to get used to nights shouting the rosary through thin walls.

 

 

 

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Filed under Flash Fiction

It lives! Return of the Author

Oh my goodness, if blogs collected layers of dust like notebooks do, I’d be having an asthma attack I’m pretty sure!

I promise, I’ve been working on a few little things off of the prompt list, which you’ll see one of today! For the next little while, there’ll be one new post guaranteed on Wednesdays (at the very least for the next month or so). They’re rough, and mostly only edited for the massive amounts of spelling errors that tend to plague everything I do.

Poetry is still pretty sporadic and dependent on if it survives getting torn to pieces and tossed at the cat when she misbehaves. Which lately? The cat is getting a little buried in paper scraps.

Current writing status: Trying to conquer writer’s block one gel pen at a time. Today, it’s a copper one. Tomorrow, I’m thinking neon. Writer’s block hates florescence.

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