My Only Friend

(this is a piece I wrote for my fiction class, I thought I’d share.) (photo credit Jessie Shelton)

Angie wandered to the kitchen and found most of a bottle of Jameson sitting on the bar. She grabbed it up and headed upstairs, uncapping the green bottle and taking swigs directly out of it.  Gallie had a nice house. It was like her place, a little. Her ex-house. Repossessed as of the eighteenth, she watched them put the big Keep The Fuck Out lock over the doorknobs, and tears threatened to spill hot onto her concealer. She dabbed at her eyes with a careful finger, trying to shoulder how much she’d lost in such a short span of time.

The house. The stretch. Brad, her yoga instructor. Charlene, her majordomo. It reminded her of watching dominos fall, these slices of bad news toppling her life over. She walked up the stairs to the master bath, with its hardwood floors and its glassed off shower and deep soaking tub. Gallie had told her to take anything she wanted. She’d mentioned there was Valium around. This lead Angie to snooping. She set the bottle of Jameson down on the counter and found the mirrored cabinet. She jerked the hatch open and noticed how many little yellow bottles were in Gallie’s cabinet. Enough to kill a horse.

She found the Valium. There were a few left, but Angie wasn’t sure it was enough to do the job. She started poking around her cabinet in search of anything else she could take. She found a bottle marked cyclobenzaprine, with an ambiguous message, “For pain.” The bottle was almost full.

Running a bath seemed like the thing to do while she waited. She took another swig of Jameson and stepped into the rising level of hot water that made her feet tingle and turn pink. Angie thought about everything that happened. The video that started it all, the video of her creating her sculpture. It had gone viral, she couldn’t believe the hit count. Until Abhimanyu Singh himself contacted her to purchase the piece. He was the highest profile client she’d ever landed.

Her stomach gave a violent lurch. Quickly, she reached for the Jameson and swallowed, drawing down the liquid into her stomach. She couldn’t fuck this up, or she’d be in rehab for months.

She thought about her fame. She was a has been now, washed up, worse off than when she’d started. No one thought her art was cutting edge anymore, everyone was off chasing her copy-cats instead, Helene and Ursula. Who had a name like Ursula? It was as fake as the rest of her, Angie despised her.

It was getting hard to breathe. Angie leaned back in the hot water and tried not to struggle. Then she heard something speak. “Really? A suicide attempt? Isn’t that a bit overdone?”

Angie tried to look around the bathroom to see who spoke, but the glass revealed that she was alone. “Who said that?”

“I did,” said the Jameson bottle.

Angie almost dropped the bottle. Instead, she set it carefully on the edge of the soaking tub. “Why are you talking to me?”

“I’m the spirit of drowned sorrows. And you took too many pills,” The Jameson bottle’s voice sounded tartly disapproving.

“Fuck off, I’ve lost everything,” Angie snapped. It was hard to feel angry with so many relaxants in her system but she felt distinctly pissed off at the moment. “You don’t know anything about it.”

“Oh, I’ve seen plenty of artists kill themselves when their popularity sinks low,” the Jameson bottle supplied. “I’ve been in the toxicology reports. You need to puke, and soon, if you’re going to live to prove them wrong.”

“There’s nothing left,” Angie said plaintively.

“There’s this,” the Jameson bottle said, and showed her.

Fighting the lethargy in her body, Angie pulled herself up the sides, and stuck a hurried finger down her throat, gagging almost in slow-motion as the drugs pulled her body towards a grave. With a final push, she brought up the mass of booze and pills, onto Gallie’s pristine white tiled floor.

“Now what do I do?” Angie said, still gagging on the bitter-sour aftertaste.

“Get your ass to a hospital,” the Jameson bottle said. “Then get back to your art. Don’t get tied to what you can get from it. Just be proud that you made it.”

Angie reached for the Jameson bottle, but her fingers didn’t respond to their commands and she knocked it over on the tile, too. The neck of the bottle shattered and littered shards amid the vomit and the ceramic.

She looked at where she could safely step and found there wasn’t anywhere. She hoisted herself out of the tub and gingerly stepped down into the morass.

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Fiction Midterm

I wrote this for my fiction midterm story, but I thought it would be fun to post here and see what people thought.

Emily’s Garden

The tower rose three stories with a top floor filled with glass. A hot house, with ripe tomatoes on the vine, beans growing up trellises, mounds with cucumber poking through the soil, a small herb garden that released pleasing aromas into the air. There was even a small patch of strawberries. He stood at the east windows of her garden, looking at the glow just clearing the horizon. He winced, unable to look at it directly, then, he wouldn’t have to.

A furious clatter atop the stairs caused him to turn around. A woman stood at the entrance of the room, blood-spattered and breathing hard. She wielded a large axe, but what he took notice of was the thick black utilitarian braid running down her back, her large dark eyes, the flush of pink at her lips. He could smell the blood of Clarence and Vanessa on her, but not of Emily. No, that would just be ash.

“What, no sly remarks?” The woman demanded. Girl, he thought, probably no more than forty, although perhaps only thirty with a rough life. Her teeth were nicotine stained. “No menacing threats?”

“Child,” he said, his voice a slow breath over dandelion seeds, “you killed me yesterday. Go away.”

“You look surprisingly animate for a dead vampire,” She said. “I think you’re lying.”

“Tell me, was it your brother or your sister?” He asked, and watched her eyes go wide in shock. “It couldn’t have been a parent, they are expected to pass first. Was it in the dark of night? Were you in the room, listening to soft sucking sounds as the monster lay atop them, holding them close so they could not escape? Or was it a lover? Someone you were very close to, surely.”

“You don’t know me,” She spat, braid stiff like an angry cat’s tail. “You don’t know anything about me.”

“I know everything about you,” he said, his gaze turning back to the horizon, ignoring her. “You were hurt, you were trained, you started to make a name for yourself. You decided to try for more difficult prey. You killed Emily.”

“I kill a lot of vampires. I’m going to kill one more,” She said, taking another step closer.

“I told you, you killed me yesterday. When you staked Emily, the wood pierced two hearts. I cannot face immortality without her.” He confessed, his fingers caressing the soft ripeness of a nearby tomato. “I have given it thought, and I realize without her, this life offers me no more.”

“Bullshit,” She advanced again, holding her axe up between them. “Vampires can’t love.”

“On the contrary, we love very deeply. It is difficult to find the one person who can traverse centuries with you, but it is possible. Vampires do not change the way that humans do, but we do change. Like those plants we twine around what supports us, holding us up as we reach for the next level. Many vampires are not capable of love at all, as you say, but there are some who not only do, but who love for well beyond a human lifetime, into the realm of ages.”

“If you want me to apologize for killing your wife, you’re asking the wrong woman,” She said, taking another wary step across the teak wood floors towards the vampire. He discerned that she’d crossed half the length of the space. He wondered which would reach him faster, the sunlight or the hunter.

“I do not apologize for my kills,” he shrugged delicately. “I am a hunter, just as you are.”

“I’m nothing like you!” She shouted.

“Oh, but you are,” he said, taking a step towards her. Her axe flew up in a defensive style. “You have blood on your clothes. This is not the average wear of humans. Very few pick up the cause to end things lives. You are just. Like. Me.”

“No!” She shouted again, and she rushed him, axe swinging.

He reached out and gripped the axe beneath the head, ripping it out of her grip. “Emily was asleep and unarmed,” he pointed out. “You are a clever hunter, but you are not a strong hunter.” He turned the axe and swung, hitting her in the thigh, all the way to the bone.

She shrieked, and her agony was a song in his heart.

“Immortality is impossible, you know,” he confided in her, jerking the axe free of her femur, smiling at the cracking noise that preceded the rich smell of blood that flowed like wine. “It is like perfection; something to strive for, but inevitably as ephemeral as the soul.”

The hunter stopped screaming, and both of her hands pressed hard against the wound, trying to stem the flow of blood. Such riches going to waste, but he would not give her what she wanted. Vampire hunters sought vampires to risk eternal life, and she had killed Emily. Her deed was immortal, but he would not give her the satisfaction of living forever. She coughed. “I could be her,” she begged. “I could take her place.”

He could feel the bright brush of the first rays of sunlight stroke his cheek, so similar to how Emily would rouse him at night that his chest hitched, and his breath caught. His attention was torn away from the hunter as he turned to face the sun. “She was singular,” he said as he felt his cheek turn to ash. “You should try her strawberries before you die.”

He looked back to her, watched her blood soaking into the teak wood floor. He saw her pick up her stake and slide in his direction on her injured leg before his eyes turned to ash and he joined Emily in her garden.

Photo credit:
unsplash-logoChristian Widell

Seafoam

A little flash fiction for you… careful, this one has teeth.

*

Ashore, a tangle of long hair the color of seafoam streamed around the form of a beautiful creature. Tiny plastic beads clung like scales to the fair skin of her legs, amid the damp sand that glittered in the moonlight. Ocean water hung from black eyelashes like beads of dew on grass, until her eyes fluttered open and she took in the view.

The beach extended a mile in either direction, white sand visible until the night swallowed the land. Tire tracks left dents in the ocean-smoothed grains. She smiled. It is what she hoped to find.

She stepped with delicate feet onto the marks the tires have made. Walking is a new sensation. Wobbly, short steps take her to her destination. She looked north, then south. The tire tracks continued in both directions. She makes a choice.

Facing north, she walked perpendicular to the beach, until she found the manufactured ground of the humans. There is a man sitting in a divot on the ground, in the sparse grass growing along the bank of the human rock river. He stared with wide open eyes, then looked at the glass bottle he is holding, then stared at her again. He stumbled to his feet, from where he had been sitting cross-legged on the other bank of the manufactured rock. Satisfaction takes hold when she saw that even creatures used to such ungainly tools have trouble using them.

“Who are you?” He asked, crossing the space between them, his eyes making a feast of her. “Are you lost?”

She shook her head, a gesture she has seen the humans make. She has no voice.

“Do you need help? Someone has got to be looking for you.” He grinned lopsidedly. “Unless they’re not.”

She leans in, and he matched her motion. Perhaps he believed she wishes to kiss him, as she is clad only in moonlight and seafoam. She snarled, and wrapped him in her arms, drawing him in close. She opens her mouth wide to bite his throat. Blood welled up like ocean water from a fierce tide, his screams ringing in her ears. With a savage jerk that tears the flesh and frees his blood from his veins, she drops him like a stone.

He is long in the dying, lying by the side of the road, begging her to fetch help, cursing her in turn, trying to crawl away. Finally, he lay down in the grass and goes quiet.

She considered kicking him but her strange feet aren’t protected. Perhaps she could find something such as the dead man wore. Humans are delicate creatures, after all.

Casting a glance back at the ocean, she reflects on her next move. To leave her message and go, or stay and make certain they know why she is here. If she left now, the humans would not know why she had come, and she needed them to understand. This was just the beginning.

The Sea Witch was wrong. She could communicate perfectly well without a voice.

The Wasp

At the edge of hearing, a droning sound emanated from the kitchen. Looking up revealed the largest, darkest wasp she had ever seen. Her lips pressed together in a firm line. Her husband was allergic to bee stings, and while wasps and bees were different animals, his reactions suggested they were close enough to be worrisome.

The wasp flew at a stately pace, bumbling into the two-foot wall that extended down from the ceiling. It flew into the obstruction multiple times, which she had seen flies do, but when the occasional wasp did fly in through their back door, they were jet planes, zooming here and there and never seeming to hit anything.

This wasp was odd.

Her son watched the wasp from the couch, obviously worried that it might fly near him. It stayed up towards the ceiling, so she wasn’t as concerned, but this was its second strike, it had to leave or she would have to take matters into her own hands.

The wasp droned and buzzed its way around the living room, as though giving the place a thorough inspection. It bounced into several more obstructions along the way. A door, the movie rack, the modem.

It found the window almost by accident. She had been looking for the errant flyswatter (no one put it back where it belonged) and had her implement in hand. She paused. Feeling unexpected pity for the wasp, she opened the window and decided to herd the wasp with the flyswatter rather than smash it. This was a task more difficult than first thought; the wasp could not seem to be cajoled to move toward the open window, and she feared smashing it in her enthusiasm to escort it outside.

She sat down in the chair next to the window and watched the wasp. It was shaking. Coated in a fine, fuzzy film from the dust lingering in her windowsill, the black carapace of its back was no longer quite so shiny and cold. It almost looked friendlier. The wide, triangular eyes were as unreadable as any insect’s, but there was something about the movement of its body and the weakening attempts to fly that made her realize the wasp was dying.

In that moment, she wanted nothing more than to help the wasp. She wanted it outside, she wanted it to fly away. It did not matter that she considered its death five minutes ago. The wasp was dying, and needed help.

As she watched, the wasp’s movements stilled, and its legs drew up underneath it. It’s abdomen, black and fuzzy with dust, curled up and moved no more.

Dead on her windowsill.

She still had the flyswatter in her hand. She put it down, (not back where it belonged,) and tried to understand what she felt. Guilty, sad, disappointed emotions, and in the back of her mind, she was glad she didn’t have to kill it.

She left the wasp where it lay, curled in the dust.

Original Bento Box – Flash Fiction!

Okay, fans, this was the piece that launched a novel. Almost none of this made it into the book, but that’s what inspiration does. It takes you where you don’t expect.

***

The emergency induction port funneled strawberry ice cream shake into her mouth and chilled her tongue. It was too sweet. She longed for a Tequila Sunrise, but the body she wore had an abysmal fake id. Younger bodies were by far more flexible, which she preferred. Carnelia hated being treated like a child; it was the tradeoff she made.  To keep up appearances, she couldn’t turn down the generosity of the older woman with the voice that sounded like cigarettes and whisky. So, here she sat, infusing herself with sugar and waiting.

A trilling noise incited no interest. Everyone in the small diner had a cell phone. She slipped a peek at her locator tracker. The LT showed a red dot, slowly approaching a blue dot. A smile touched her lips as she clicked the LT shut. She did the math and estimated that he would arrive in six minutes.

She stuffed her hand into her purse. It brushed past sharp objects, dangerous items, ammunition, a lipstick, and finally the grip of her LazrGn™. It was sized perfectly for smaller hands and had the benefit of looking like a toy.

The door to the tiny diner swung in, setting a bell set above the door in motion. The tiny chimes drew people’s attention. The figure stepping through the door held it. He filled the door frame at seven foot two. His hair was shaved on the sides, and a noxious green Mohawk flared upwards. His heavy black coat swirled around his ankles. He held a bento box, and had a wonton halfway to his mouth when he barged through the door. He flashed a toothy grin to the horrified folk inside.

She pulled out her LazrGn™ and aimed it beneath the bar. She whispered in her throat mike. “Orochi confirmed.”

Orochi seemed to be enjoying the horrified looks on everyone’s face. He popped the wonton in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully, his gaze strolling over their mingled fear and growing concern.

“Got any soy sauce?” He asked the nearest waitress.

The older woman appeared unimpressed. “You get outta here, son. You got trouble in you and I don’t want it in here.”

“I just want some soy sauce. Is that really so much to ask?” He gave her a wounded look. Then he drew a BFG 300 from his side holster, concealed by the big leather coat. He aimed his gun at the ceiling and shot it, deafening the closest patrons and causing panic to erupt.

Carnelia dived under the table, taking cover behind a booth. She aimed, but a panicked civilian ran for the door and right in front of her path.  The civilian was rewarded with a BFG 300 clipping him in the temple. The civilian crumpled at Orochi’s boots.

The big gun went off again. “Shut up!” Orochi yelled.

At the sight of one of their number going down, the civilians had found cover. They huddled in small groups in the booths.

Carnelia had an idea. She slipped her gun into the waistband of her panties and hid the bulge as best she could under a hoodie. She grabbed her Hello Kitty backpack and peeked at Orochi over the booth top. Her blonde and pink hair stuck up like two antenna.

Orochi saw her and smiled. “What’s your name?”

“Carnelia.” She pushed herself up, leaned over the booth. “What’s yours?”

“Call me Orochi.” He looked down. “My bento box broke.”

Flash Fiction – Glitter

“Are you sure you want that?” I asked my son.

The subject of my son’s newfound affection hosted purple spots on plushy pink fur, with eyes round as a full moon and full of pink glitter.

This is not my son.

My son is a Lego guy, ceaselessly building and destroying tiny ships, cities, or worlds. He is a dinosaur boy, with plastic dinos like vicious caltrops for me to step on. He has other plush toys but none of them are new anymore. And none of them are pink.

“Yes, Mom, I’m sure,” he reassures me, confident in his masculinity.

“You’ll have to buy it with your allowance,” I said, a last ditch effort to make him consider his purchase.

“Okay!” He agreed readily and ran back to the front of the store (for at this time, we’d left it well behind. My distraction tactics failed.)

Further conversation reveals that his little friend Angela had one. Now I understand.

We bring it home. I capitulated, telling him he didn’t have to buy the toy himself. Now I get hugs both for the toy AND for the saved allowance. It’s a good tradeoff.

He wants to sleep with the toy, whom he has named Glitter. (A stretch – it was on the label.) “Glitter will protect me from bad things that happen at night.”

I stop. My stomach bottoms out. “What bad things?”

My son shrugs. He often does this, refuses to explain how he feels or what he means. I don’t press. It makes him withdraw farther.

In the morning my son wakes up, bright as sunshine, with disheveled hair and a brilliant smile. “I was right! Glitter protected me from the bad things!”

I brighten. It’s impossible not to be impacted by his smile. And if all he needed was a pink stuffed animal to make him feel safe, it was well worth the price.

Later that afternoon, I took a walk to stretch my legs. I worked from home, and my son was away at school, playing with Angela and their other friends. Or maybe learning.

Walking back towards the house, I see it. I stop walking. Staring in disbelief.

Scorch marks slash across my son’s window frame. Long, black marks that start at the roof and end at the first floor. These are not the burn marks made by children playing with matches. These are the black, ashy remnants of… what? Fire from above? That couldn’t be possible.

I can’t see the plush clearly, but the bright pink blob sitting in the windowsill looks vigilant, somehow. Ready.

Back at the store, I had a hard time reconciling my boy wanting a girl’s toy. I thought myself a feminist, but it took my son’s views on gender to make me realize I learned to see girls as equals. Not him. He’s always thought of them as such. Illuminating as it was, it was a hard conversation to have.

Not nearly as hard as this one would be, though.

Flash Fiction

The early sunset plunged the world into a winter chill. Caroline hurried to her car, gripping her keys and hoping to avoid trouble. In the employee parking lot, weak sodium lights filtered down on her trusty Corolla. The paint was chipped, but it was solid under the hood.

The businesses in this part of town strove to be legitimate. Both the real estate agent and the insurance office had professional lettering on their floor-to-ceiling windows to attract customers. The cremation office, the pot emporium, and the dicey tax place did not. Combined with the generous helping of homeless people who haunted the place after hours, it was clear to see who had won.

“Nice car.” Caroline heard an unfamiliar female voice behind her. She’d been the last person out of her office, who could this be? She turned and gasped. She could have been looking at a full-length mirror!

The woman standing before her had long brown hair, a garishly patterned dress, and tall brown boots. She completed the look with a blue plaid coat, the same one Caroline wore right now. Their blue eyes met. “What’s going on here?”

Her doppelganger sighed. “Remember when you sent in your blood and hair samples to lookupyourancestry.com?”

Horror blossomed in Caroline’s mind. Curiosity and a 50% off coupon sealed the deal. It seemed like a steal at the time. She just hadn’t realized what a steal it was.

“That was two years ago! That isn’t enough time for you to…” Caroline gestured at her clone. “You should still be in diapers, shouldn’t you?”

Her clone arched a brow. Caroline remembered how many hours she put into looking at a mirror, holding down one eyebrow, raising the other, just so she could learn how to do that. Her sister could do it naturally, which had driven her mad at the time. “I don’t have the time, and you don’t have the scientific background necessary to explain this. You didn’t read the Terms of Service, or you wouldn’t be so surprised.”

“Nobody reads the Terms and Conditions!” Caroline snapped. She was the last person out of any of the offices in this park. She was on her own.

Still clutching her keys, she backed towards the Corolla. She wanted to grab her phone, but the service in this business lot was terrible.

“I know.” The clone stepped forward, pulling a gun from her pocket. “You’re Caroline Sanders, born September 24th, 1969, in Walla Walla. Your favorite color is purple, you shop at Goodwill for your clothes, and Steve dumped you last night because he caught you cheating on him.”

The memory of their last fight replayed in Caroline’s mind. She had never been so confused, until now. Caroline heard the gun go off, saw the muzzle flash. In her final moment, she wondered what the clone would do with the life she’d just stolen.