January 12, 2012 § 4 Comments
Gloria watched the twitching, nervous spasm of Rodin’s eyes. He was desperate; she knew that. He was dangerous. She knew that, too. Everything about him warned of a precarious, heated explosion settled in the offing of an opportune — or inopportune — time.
“I am afraid you’re mistaken,” he muttered. His eyes shifted from hers to the floor. His feet seemed to want to shuffle away in a dance of escape, but remained trapped in the two-step shuffle headed nowhere.
“Maybe,” she whispered. “I’ve been known to make mistakes, but I’m not wrong today.”
“How could you not be wrong?” It was a question; it was a demand. Rodin straightened in his chair, motioning for her to come nearer. Of course, she hesitated. Any sane person would have, but then if she were sane it she wouldn’t have wound up sitting in front of him — so much for a testament to her sanity. “Tell me. What makes you so great?”
“My passion.” It was an automatic answer.
“Your passion? The world is filled with passion.”
“My passion isn’t the passion you meet every day.”
“Ha! You’re as foolish as any artist. This world births a new babe every minute and every minute the world fills with more passion. Passion and ambition are the crucifixes to which greatness is nailed.”
“Are you suggesting I’m no better than the average artist starving on the streets of any city and begging for recognition?”
“That’s exactly what I’m suggesting. Greatness is not a love-child of passion and ambition. It’s not even a byproduct of need and desire.”
“Then what is greatness?”
“Nothing. Greatness doesn’t exist.”
“Goddamn,” Gloria thrust her body forward, shoving Rodin backwards in his chair. She watched the chair flip first back then over him. He lay there dazed for a moment. The room filled with his laughter.
“You think this is funny?”
“You, Gloria, are about the most angry person I have ever met.”
“My anger amuses you? My isolation and loneliness makes you laugh? Do you know what I’ve sacrificed? Do you know how many nights I’ve lost and how many opportunities I’ve tossed away in order to be that perfect someone? And you laugh at me!”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he asked standing and brushing the dust of the floor from his jeans.
“I have emotional teeth sunk deep into metaphorical flesh — a gripping vice that swells and slobbers for some sort of substance; yet, refuses to tear in fear of irrevocable damage.”
“Then tear, you damned fool. Tear away that flesh, take substance for sustenance and thrive off that blood.”
“I am not an emotional vampire.”
“No. You’re the victim of such.”
“I am no one’s victim.”
“Then why are you crying?”
Day 12 – 365 Stories
January 11, 2012 § 4 Comments
The road wound down the landscape for miles. An endless blacktop that seemed to lead nowhere. The skies were clouded with an oncoming storm, drowning out the moon – suffocating the stars. All around the car, fog ate away any extended vision.
Deanne struggled against sleep as she fought to break through the thickening fog — physically and mentally. Somewhere in the distance, a light shone, drifting at the side of the road. With a little relief, she thought she’d finally made it to a town.
Her brow furrowed as the light wafted closer without a building silhouette. As the car rounded the bend and the light cleared, she saw a girl walking the road with a flashlight in hand. Deanne stopped the car. Hesitating only a moment, she rolled the window down.
“Do you need a ride? It’s dangerous out here with just a flashlight in all this fog.”
The girl stared at her. Unnerving as it was, Deanne leaned across the seat and opened the passenger door. The girl made no move to approach, but she didn’t leave either.
“Hey, it’s okay, sweetheart.” Deanne smiled at the girl who, after a moment of unsettling staring, managed a weak smile and climbed in. “What’s your name?”
“Josie. Okay. Where do you need to go?”
“The nearest town, Ma’am.”
Deanne nodded, engaging the car and pulling out slowly. She didn’t know what to say to the girl, but she was curious. Josie looked no older than twelve and no younger than nine. Why was she out on a night like this? Why was she out on a night like this alone? Where were her parents or guardians?
Not wanting to spook her, Deanne glanced at her and flashed another friendly smile. “How old are you, sweetheart?”
“Oh, you’re a might brave in comparison.”
“In comparison to what, Ma’am?”
“You can call me, Deanne.”
“No, thank you, Ma’am. Momma told me never to address a lady by her given name. I don’t want to disrespect.”
“Oh. Well, sure. Ma’am is just fine. Would you mind if I asked why you’re out alone?”
“No, Ma’am, but what am I brave in comparison to?”
“To other girls your age, sweetheart.”
“Oh. I’m…” Josie hesitated.
Deanne glanced at her again. The girl was small, but she wasn’t meek. She seemed like the kind of girl that would grow up to wrangle life. “Not like other girls your age?”
“Well, no, Ma’am. I was going to say I’m appreciative of the compliment.”
“You’re welcome. So why are you out alone?”
“It’s just my way. I spend an eternity of nights walking to the nearest town. If I don’t… what else would I do?”
“What about your mom?”
“She passed on when I was too little to know her name or remember her face.”
“He’s a demon, Ma’am. A demon from Hell and I ain’t going back to him.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Do you have family in the next town?”
“Friends of family?”
“How will you live?”
“Moving to the nearest town.”
Deanne went back to driving in silence. She stole a glance at the girl from time to time. Josie stared out the window, watching darkness pass. She looked neither happy or sad. Deanne glanced at the console clock. Josie didn’t look tired, either, even at two in the morning.
“How far is the nearest town?”
“Don’t know, Ma’am. I’ve never made it that far.”
“You’ve tried before?”
“Every night, Ma’am.”
A thought occurred to Deanne. What if she had a runaway in her car? She could find herself rounding a cell door come tomorrow. “Your father — why do you hate him?”
“I don’t hate him, I’m terrified of him. He’s my poppa, so I love him, but I don’t ever want him to hurt me.”
“He hits you?”
“Not yet. Just makes me do stuff I don’t want to do. Awful stuff. Stuff The Lord might remember with ill will.”
“What sort of things did he make you do?”
“Kill men, Ma’am.”
Knee-jerk reaction almost put the car into a spin when Deanne slammed her foot on the brake. Once the car had stopped, she turned in her seat to face Josie. “He had you kill people?”
“No, not people. Just men. Men are evil. Women are sinful. Children are foolish and grow to be men or women.”
“Did you run away, Josie?”
“I can’t run away. He just puts me back at the beginning again and makes me walk.” Josie sighed, suddenly looking as tired as she should have half an hour before.
“Your father makes you walk to the next town?”
“The nearest town.”
“But you don’t know how far off that is?”
“Never made it there.”
“What do you mean?”
“I didn’t want to kill men. He said he’d send me to this road and I’d walk to the nearest town, but if I ever ran away he’d send me back home. He’d send me back home with lashes and I’d have to kill men. He said I’d have to kill women, too.”
“What’s your father’s name?”
“He ain’t got a name, Ma’am. No one at home has a name. It ain’t like Momma’s home where everyone has a name and a heart.”
“Josie?” Deanne swallowed. “Why does he make you walk the road?”
“To catch sinners, Ma’am.”
“To catch sinners. What’s that mean?”
“It means I catch sinners when they come down the road. I got tired of walking tonight, so I rode with you awhile.”
“Josie, I can take you somewhere where they can take you away from your father and keep you safe.”
“There’s no such place, Ma’am. He’s a demon from Hell and he won’t stop at sinners when he gets mad. If he had to chase me, he’d kill you all and I’d be the one to have to do it.”
“Josie, listen to me—”
“Ma’am, I don’t want to disrespect you. My momma was a good soul. She wouldn’t sin and she wouldn’t fall and she taught me the Rights as long as she could. Like I said, I don’t want to disrespect you, but I can’t go with you.”
Josie turned her attention to the darkness outside. It was as still as darkness could be and the fog was finally lifting. Josie sighed again and reached a blind hand toward Deanne’s. When she found it she smiled.
“Josie, please, let me help you.”
“You want to help me?”
“Yes! Yes, I do.”
“Will you come down this road every night?”
“I don’t even know where I am.”
“No one ever does when they get here. It’s like being lost in the Kentucky hills — only black and filled with night.”
“Are you from Kentucky?”
“No, but I always wanted to go there and see that blue grass they boast about.”
“I’ll take you there if you just come with me.”
“I can’t. Will you just come down this road every night? I’d like to ride a ways with you. You remind me of Momma. Blessed and lost as she was.”
Trying to be clever, Deanne considered the request for a moment. If she could figure out what backroad she was on, she could come down it for a few weeks. She could convince Josie to seek safety. Nodding, she squeezed Josie’s hand. “I’ll come down every night.”
“Yeah,” Josie smiled, a weak mask of disbelief. She slid her hand from Deanne’s and climbed from the car.
Before the door closed, Deanne called out. “I promise, Josie.”
Josie nodded, a blissful grin and laughed. “Thank you!”
When she disappeared into the darkness, Deanne pulled away. As soon as she found a town, she’d call the police. Then every night she would come down the desolate road until Josie was ready to accept security.
A yawn escaped as Deanne drove. The road wound down the landscape for miles. An endless blacktop that seemed to lead nowhere.
Ahead in the darkness, a light drifted.
Day 11 – 365 Stories
January 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
I’m creatively exhausted. I’ve been writing all day on another project. I’ve spent the last hour trying to write something worth reading for the 365 Story prompt. I am at a loss for another short story or poem. So, I’ve written a six word story to detail the whole of the last hour.
I wrote. It blew. I give.
Day 10 – 365 Stories
January 9, 2012 § Leave a comment
The click of front teeth snapping together every time Liana bit through a nail was like poking an already pissed off boar. Rosie glared at Liana from across the room. When her glare went unnoticed, she chucked a paperback at the wall over Liana’s head.
“Not only is that click-click-clicking obnoxious, it’s disgusting. Stop.”
“I’m not kidding. I will… will… curse you.”
“Curse me?” Liana rolled her eyes. “Oh. No. Please. Not a curse. I couldn’t handle a curse.”
“You think I’m playing? I’ll hire a freaking assassin to chop off your hand.”
“Now who’s being obnoxious? Curses are bunk and you can’t afford an assassin.”
“So? I’ll do it anyway.”
Liana shook her head, but made a purposeful show of laying her hand on the desk. She glared back at Rosie, raising a brow. See? I’ve stopped. Relax.
The room was silent for no more than thirty seconds before the next snap of teeth. Rosie flinched, slammed her books, and hoisted them into her arms. “That’s it. Chew your hand off for all I care.”
“Christ, Rosie. Relax. I didn’t mean to. Don’t be such an ass.”
“Chew it off. I don’t care. I hope you do.”
Liana’s hand snapped to her mouth. Rosie watched in disgust as Liana ripped a nail past the quick and went on to the next.
“That’s enough.” She stepped back. Liana ripped the third nail. “Really, Liana. Stop.”
When Liana started crying and ripped the fourth nail, Rosie felt a panic start to well. There was a flurry of hands as Rosie rushed to pull Liana’s hand away from her mouth. Liana shoved Rosie away, revolted and alarmed — unable to control either hand. Through clenched, ripping teeth she screamed for Rosie to help.
Rosie rushed to the phone. “I need an officer. Or a psychiatrist. Or a priest. Something!”
The dispatch officer said something, but the static buried it in a hiss. Rosie pleaded with the officer to send someone to the apartment.
Liana had worked her way through all ten nails — she was working on her index finger. Rosie lost it when the finger tore off mid-knuckle.
“Liana, stop! Please? Stop?” She grabbed Liana’s free hand, pulling it and pleading. When the next finger came free, Rosie vomited. Worse, she didn’t turn fast enough to miss Liana.
All the first five digits were gone. Rosie stumbled backwards, falling across her desk and against the wall. She slid to the side, falling to the floor.
Watching Liana tear away her fingers and then move back to the hand and gnaw, she began pleading with God to make it stop. If He would just make it stop, she’d never curse another person as long as she lived. Then, if He’d make it stop, she’d donate her life to charity. Finally, if He’d make it stop, she’d give her own hands.
Liana continued to gnaw like a rabid coyote. She didn’t stop. Rosie managed to stay conscious through most of it. When she woke, there were officers leaning over her. She couldn’t hear them, there was too much static in her head. They stared at her, waiting for an answer. She started at them, waiting for the same.
Day 9 – 365 Stories
January 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
Singing along and telling a story all about the nights that never end. Writing down memories — letting the pen whisper sentiments she’ll never send. It’s the first time, the first time she finds is hardest, when she cries.
Tapping a pen and writing a song all about the days full of sin. Singing about the forgotten — letting the words promise closure she’ll never give. It’s always the last time, the last time she finds is saddest, when her tears cry, too.
The days and nights are too much. Shadows rise under the sun or moon. Swallow down the light; it’s a fire of blood and rage. Feel free to spit it up — can’t stop the burn. Scream into the night, sing along. Laughter and love are the wickedest mendacity she will live; it’s a fire of blood and rage.
Higher and higher, block after block, floor after floor. Flying to the depths of the deepest sky, she falls further into the yawning nadir of Hell. She catches the shining stars, they shine for her. She sends them speeding down. Down and burning, they still shine for her and she hates them more.
She thirsts for something new; an ache eating her through. It’s a fire of blood and rage. Finally, she lets go — falling with her stars (they shine for her) she sings alone with the end. She sings about nights that never end with days filled with sin. She sings about a thirst that just won’t depart and a soul that won’t die.
With each foot closer to the cursed earth binding her, caging her, to eternity, she thinks she will always shine with the stars. She will always ache and hate and live.
“I will always—”
Day 8 – 365 Stories
January 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve been alone without friends. I’ve been alone in a crowded room. I’ve been alone with friends — with family, too. I’ve been alone in the night, driving the highways, walking the forests, and waking day after day.
I have not, however, been alone amongst the dead. Their silence echoes my own; unheard and unnoticed. People walk by with one of two reactions. With eyes locked tightly in another direction used to be common. Now the more likely reaction is to stare at the headstones with awe and fascination but still afraid.
People look at me, or don’t look at me, the same way. Not everyone, mind you, but enough I think I may actually be dead and walking. Now wouldn’t that be something? Dead and walking.
I wonder, from time-to-time, if I have this scent… a pheromone I admit that causes people to move away and look away. It’s never moving to think about how often I’m avoided or ignored.
Even when I share without a face or name I go unnoticed. If I’m another person altogether I still disappear into a mist of obscurity. I’m afraid I’m invisible to all except those who know how to hurt so thoroughly. Man or woman, they all flock to me and I accept them with a vile naivety.
Tonight, I feel sorry for myself. I feel bad I will likely never know what it’s like to be safe. I feel worse that I can’t quite explain to the world—.
It just takes a little work and a little magic. They listen then. They don’t turn away. They’re too afraid to turn away when I work my magic. A little blood. A little death.
I’m sick, but I know this. I hate the world for hating me. I like to kill people for killing me. I just like death. I’ve been dead long enough that it eventually grew on me.
What I am I don’t really know. I don’t eat flesh and I can’t walk through walls. I don’t fly through the night or feed on blood. I can’t transform to a furry beast or suck the life out of someone at will.
All I know is I trusted some friends. I let them lead me to the wrong part of the city. I let them run away. I just stood there and never fought back when the others came at me.
I didn’t even cry out for them to stop. I just watched myself die. I just accepted the hate.
If there are others like me, they don’t come near. If there are beasts or dead walking about, I don’t know them. I’m alone in death as in life. Except now, I don’t just accept the hate.
Day 7 – 365 Stories
January 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
It was like waking under a cold rain. Every part of her body was shivering, dripping with sweat as icy as a breaking fever. It took a moment, but she finally found her bearings as she slid her back up the wall to sit. A sordid laugh slipped past the nauseating lump in her throat.
She could hear music through the walls. The same distasteful blast of antagonistic rubbish she heard day in and day out bleeding through her apartment walls. At that moment, she would have given anything to be home banging on Stephen’s door. She would have given anything if he would just open the door with that smug, duplicitous gaze plastered across his face.
Hate was a strong word, but still not enough to accurately convey the contempt that welled up inside her every single time she saw him — or even thought of him. The way he stared at her, as if waiting for his Godly sacrifice, made her want to punt his teeth down his throat. He walked as if showcasing the greatest art to ever been exhibited for the world. God, she hated him.
God, she missed him.
Mixed with the music, she could hear sounds of thumping. Someone was on the other side of the wall. Stiffening, she listened intently, trying to hear a voice over the music. Note after note drowned out any voice that may have been calling out. She relaxed, her head thumping the wall when she dropped it back. What did it matter. If there was a voice to accompany the thump, then it was certainly in no better a position than she.
How long she had been there wasn’t exactly clear. The books and movies, indeed, weren’t exaggerating the loss of time when boxed in tight and trapped. It could have been an hour — it could have been a day. She wasn’t as hungry as she had been earlier, so she guessed she’d been there much longer than she could possibly be comfortable knowing.
She did, however, take comfort in knowing that it wasn’t complete darkness. Her eyes had adjusted some time before. While she couldn’t see every detail, she could see a rise of shadowed objects near five feet in front of her. She couldn’t remember how she got there… wherever there happened to be.
Daring to unwrap her arm from her stomach and lift her hand from her side, she also couldn’t remember how the gash came to be or who had done it. Everything from the moment she had climbed from her car to waking up curled up on that damp, wooden floor was no more than a black memory. In fact, she would have been almost willing to insist she had stepped from her car and landed there on the floor unconscious.
The music ended, shut off somewhere outside the walls and a voice rose to take its place. There had been a voice with the thumping. It sounded agonized, pitiable, but nowhere near coherent. The thumping continued along side the babbling. Her heart sank despite her earlier convictions whatever voice was trapped with the thumping wouldn’t serve her any assistance.
She needed a distraction. She willed herself to think of Stephen. A little bit of rage might have done her well. Of course, he eluded her thoughts and they returned time-and-again to soak up the dejected grievances of her somewhere-neighbor. The voice shrieked unexpectedly, crying out unexpectedly for its father.
Her thoughts turned, instead, to her mother. Her mother had a way of sinking her teeth into the heart of the matter. A few days before, she had warned against confronting a male neighbor with an ego the size of Stephen’s. She had advised purchasing mace and a hand gun. Her mother had made many suggestions over the years to keep her safe, but she hadn’t listened. What would happen would happen. That’s how she felt about most of life.
There are no safety procedures less paranoid than the ones that go unheeded in a moment of terror.
She nodded at her mother’s words echoing bullets through her head.
“I’m sorry. I should have listened.”
It was then, only then, she felt a nibble at her memory. A powerful set of arms had wrapped themselves around her waist, hoisting her into a van after targeting a blow to her head. She had drifted, in and out, the whole ride. The driver had whistled. Then sobbed. Then whistled again.
“I know no dreams like the dreams my baby realized,” she whispered her father’s lullaby.
Her eyes closed and from the back of the van she watched the shocks of red bounce in the driver’s seat. Plastered behind the pain and blurred vision, she reached out to touch her best friend in childhood — Donald Doochuck. He was the polka-dot-and-stripes, stuffed elephant she had shoved into her father’s hands when he’d walked out.
She had been certain DD would bring her daddy back in only a few days. That few days melted into a few weeks. Those few weeks lasted years before she had finally given up. Her mother had been right about her father, too.
Rumor was he was lost somewhere in the Southwest with cops searching every tumbleweed and cactus. She wondered if the police had any idea he had fled and come home.
He had a taste for mortality and had left a few shaken and disturbed bodies buried in the basement of their old home. He had been a sick man. A man lost in his own wicked and powerful lusts. However, he had come back. To kill her, it did seem, but if he had come back once he would be back again to finish.
A sigh escaped and she relaxed. He would be back. All she needed do was wait. Even senseless fools rounding the bend would come looking for forgiveness… or closure.
Lying there she cried. She cried for the pain and for the fear. She cried for her mother and she hated for her, too. Most of all, she cried because she didn’t know if her mother was still alright. What if that idiotic babbling of the somewhere-neighbor belonged to her mother?
It had better not. Her tears dried rapidly and she stared the door down. Willing it to open. Willing him to step through. Gashed and bleeding or not, she would run him through with whatever he brought with him. She willed the door harder, daring him to enter.
An eternity later, it swung open. Shocks of red hair, cut wild and short, blew in the gust of the door. Her heart tripled speed then stopped — starting again as she gagged on the stench that blew through the door.
She stared, unable to move. Unable to breathe.
Day 6 – 365 Stories
January 5, 2012 § 2 Comments
He shivered in the corner, at the back of the alley, crying into his hands. Desperately trying to swallow his sobs, he huddled tighter against the wall. Outside the alley a shadow appeared. Following the shadow was the rotund, bottomless pit of hunger.
Grandma my ass, he thought shrinking further and smaller as she stepped into the alley. He thought about his brothers, burned and tossed away. Eaten. Devoured.
You’ll never catch me. His heart moaned more of a prayer than a statement.
“Run, run,” she whispered, closer and closer.
A jolt of fear shot down his ginger back. His palm touched broken glass, slicing just a small piece to crumbs.
“Fast as you can.” She chuckled.
He screamed — a feral, frightened explosion of sound as he charged from the corner.
The shadows playing across her face turned her look of surprise and fear into a malevolent hunger for death. His heart pounded faster. No mercy. No mercy. His heart pounded harder.
The icing in his veins rushed past his cinnamon ears drowning out her screams, his fear, and her pleas. One pasting hack after another, one bitter pierce to the next, and soon she lay marinating in her own blood.
“Can’t catch…” She coughed, staring at him through wide, frightened eyes. “Can’t catch you.”
“I’m the gingerbread man.”
Day 5 – 365 Stories
January 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
He favors a turn of events. His dog in his lap, snoring gently, as he types he thinks a favorable turn of events is certainly in hand. Why not. After all, he’s lived his life by Code and Morality.
He sacrificed his heart for his home, his home for his family, his family for his life. Well, alright, so Code and Morality changed with circumstances, but, hey, so does the world.
He nods to himself, yes, he’s due for a favorable change of events. Maybe a new home, new money, new family… maybe. Maybe they’ll come back. His fingers pause over the keyboard and he smiles.
His teeth are rotted. Maybe as rotted as his stomach. Maybe, even, as rotted as his flesh. Not his mind, though, no. His mind is as sharp as ever — as his broken teeth.
There are no more sirens, they have stopped days ago. The people have stopped screaming through the streets. The haunting sounds of crying have stopped, too. There used to be children who lived next-door, some lived down the street a ways in either direction, and he wonders where they might have gotten off to. Survivors? If God wills great things, they are survivors.
He nods again, this time his vision blurring against the raging ache searing through his muscles. His smile grows with the pain. Well, maybe his mind isn’t as sharp as he thinks.
His decaying heart aches with the losses outside his door, he faces the same offenses this side of his door, but his smile grows wider with every shock wave of miserable hunger-pulse. It must be some sort of sickness that rots the brain. First the flesh, then the organs, then the muscles and the brain is a muscle. One too weak to stave off the terrible impulses that grip him. One too weak to erase the last two weeks.
He should not have stopped for the dog — he knew better with the panic around him. He thought if he could save the dog he might save a piece of humanity. He could bring it home to his baby girl.
If he hadn’t stopped he wouldn’t have run into the fellow who looked a bit sallow. If he hadn’t put the car in park he wouldn’t be sitting here now with his wife rising behind him – he knew they’d come back. If he hadn’t opened his door he wouldn’t have tasted his daughter.
Oh, God. Dear, God. My baby. Shit, I’m so hungry.
He smiles still larger, laying a hand on the dog’s side which rises and falls with comfortable sleep. It takes a mighty loyal beast to love… to trust… a monster from Hell. His head drops to his chest and he shivers with the pain.
I love you, buddy, but… Gezuz… I’m so hungry.
Who knows, maybe the dog will come back, too.
Day 3 – 365 Stories
January 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve always been kind. I was raised to love and listen, to care even when I’m not sure why I should. My parents, they told my brother and sisters it was the Golden Rule.
They said, “If you give, even when it hurts, someone will give back the same. You just have to wait it out.”
I would sit and listen quietly. Watching their faces, understanding their confusion — after all, it was hard to believe, let alone comprehend, that just love could change something or someone. I know they must have been right, though. After all, they love me.
I expect they’ll be back any minute, so I have to make this quick. I want to tell you that I can’t leave, not today and not tomorrow — not ever. Mom and Dad love me and they’ll be back. I know this because they promised me they would never hurt me.
I guess you probably think I’m wrong and that’s okay. I shouldn’t have went off that morning, but you see this? This is Dad’s shirt. He left it there in the trash so I would find it.
I’m going to stay here and I’m going to sleep here. They promised to love me. Love me they did. When I was sick, they took me to the doctor. When I was lonely, they hugged me. If I was upset, they’d soothe me. You see?
I’m not worried. They’ll be back. I’m going to wait it out, because I’m not just a dog.