Wednesday, September 3, 2014
He wakes up in a nondescript hotel room, the kind you'll find, cheap, near any major interstate. He doesn't know where he is. The last thing he remembers is leaving work Friday afternoon, ready to unwind with some laps at the pool.
Bruises bracelet his wrists; there are tears in his jeans. His wallet, with its twenty dollars, is still in his pocket, along with a jingling array of change. His face, in the mirror, shows weeks worth of beard growth.
Taking a breath, he opens the hotel door. The sun spills pale and bright over the trees, the hoods of cars. The air is full of the odor of fall, crisp air, moldering leaves, woodsmoke. His skin prickles with gooseflesh and something sour and hot stirs in his stomach.
There's a newspaper rack just down the way. He buys one. The date is September 23.
That sour-hot feeling crawls up the back of his throat.
He's lost three months.
Where did they go?
This is your prompt, should you choose to accept it. Come back and share a link to your work in the comments. I'll tweet about it.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
(Continuing from last week's The Work.)
“Earl Grey,” she said, handing the tea cup to the dead man in her living room.
He took it, sloshing tea over the side, but didn’t drink, just sat staring into the bottom of his cup as though it held all the answers to the universe.
Eva slipped into the chair across from her visitor, studying him. The dim light of her living room blunted his pallor, made him look a little more alive. Well, aside from the autopsy scar and the milky eyes….
A spirit inhabiting a body after physical death. Vivens mortua was the Latin name. The living dead.
There were stories of them in every culture. Legend often saw them as just another kind of parasite, often tangling them up with tales of vampires and zombies. In other stories, they were mischievous creatures back to wreak havoc on the living. In still others, they were considered ill omens, predicting death or great loss for whomever saw them.
But they weren’t flesh eaters. They didn’t wear red silk lined capes or dine on human flesh or blood. And if they predicted ill omens, Eva had never heard of any coming to fruition.
Of course, she’d never seen one of the living dead either. Though she had heard stories.
Admittedly, they were little more than myths, handed down through the generations. People getting back into their bodies and going about their business like nothing had ever happened. They were some of the most difficult to move on, convinced as they were that nothing had changed. Sometimes, it wasn’t until their bodies began rotting around them that they accepted their own deaths.
But no story had ever depicted the living dead as so….
The man fumbled his tea cup again, fingers flailing as they tried to right it.
Uncoordinated, out of sync.
This man…he fit together wrong. Like someone had taken slightly mismatched puzzles pieces and mashed them together with a hammer and glue. His stunted, unsure walk; the way he held his body; not to mention the silver-grey mist that roiled from his body every so often, curling and dissipating like smoke.
A thought came to her. “Is this….your body?”
He looked up. “No.” His voice was low, raspy, decaying vocal cords struggling to produce sound. “It’s the body of the man who stole mine.”
Written for several prompts. Inspiration Monday's inhuman race, the Light and Shade Challenge's Thursday quote, and Studio30Plus' parasite.
A little short this week. I just started a graduate program and lost some of my creativity in the mishegoss of reading and homework.
Friday, August 15, 2014
|Pic via Flickr user mgabelmann|
Mr. and Mrs. Avery squirmed slightly, looking for more comfortable positions on the narrow-seated, late 19th century chairs. Hand-me-downs from her mother's side, Eva hadn’t been able to bring herself to get rid of them. They'd spent most of their time wedged in a tiny closet in the back of her house.
Until she'd started doing The Work.
The chairs added to the mystique of what used to be her dining room, with its blue heirloom flocked wallpaper, Victorian crystal chandelier, and the white candles that decorated nearly every empty surface.
And they were uncomfortable. They didn’t encourage lingering.
On days like this, that was a godsend.
Mrs. Avery clasped her husband’s left hand. Mr. Avery reached into his pocket with his right, placed a folded wad of bills on the table. "We have to know.”
Grief deepened the lines of their faces, the curves of their mouths, stiffened their bodies in such a way that it seemed if they moved too fast or too suddenly, they might shake themselves apart.
“Your son,” Eva said. “Kyle.” She fought to keep her eyes from straying to the spirit of said son. Grey and filmy, like oil on water, he lingered by the front door, watching her.
“Yes! You know him. You’ve seen him? Is he okay?” The words spilled out of Mrs. Avery in a torrent, tremulous, hopeful, and desperate.
For a moment, Eva considered leveling with the couple…but, no. Mrs. Avery was mentally recapping Kodak-moments of her son’s life, from first steps to birthday parties. Happier times. Mr. Avery, twisting his hat in his factory-roughened hands, recalled the last words he’d ever said to Kyle, over two years ago, now.
“He’s moved on,” Eva said. And so began the song and dance she’d had to do more often than she liked. On the “good” days it was for estranged families whose relatives had nothing more to say to them in death than they had in life. On bad…well, there were more skeletons in this particular closet than she was prepared to sweep out.
The ghost of Kyle prowled the edges of the dining room, restless, pissed. She’d felt the lurch of his surprise when she’d lied to his parents.
I know you see me, he said.
She ignored him in favor of handing Mrs. Avery a tissue.
Twenty minutes later—a new record—she had them assuaged and heading out the door. As they went, she pressed half the money back into Mr. Avery’s hand, shrugging. “You didn’t get to speak to him. Seems unfair to charge you to the regular rate.” And they needed it more. Mortgage was due.
He patted her hand in thank you, guided his wife down the old stone steps and to their car.
Eva flipped the sign on her door to read CLOSED, set the locks, watched the glass panes fog with cold.
Why, whispered the dead man in a voice that was like the clatter of spilled nails, didn't you tell them? That I want to talk to them? That I’m here.
The chill of his rage burned through her. She breathed slowly, pulled the roller shade down over the frosted glass before facing him, taking in the deep set eyes and gaunt features that were familiar to her.
A spirit had shown her his image a year ago, as she hovered (literally) over Eva’s sofa, trying to piece together the scattered memories of the end of her life, the blind date who had seemed so perfect for her and had left her a broken mess on the floor of her own kitchen. The spirits of two more women had come in the following months, dead long before their time.
“They don’t need to hear from you,” Eva said, voice steady. “They don’t need anything more than what I gave them.”
You don’t get to decide that.
“Actually, I do. Part of my work is keeping parasites away from the living. You’re a parasite, Kyle. You feed off misery. You’re done. You don’t get to cause them any more. They’ll be moving on. And so will you.” Something skittered at her door. “Shortly, by the sound of it. And don’t think you’ll be following your victims to a new playground.”
Kyle’s photo-negative eyes narrowed. So I’m Hell bound, is that it?
The hinges creaked.
“Above my pay grade,” Eva said.
The frame shivered; the door thumped as something hit it from the outside. They couldn’t come in, whomever or whatever it was that came to deal with the broken souls who found her. They couldn’t pass through the protective wards that generation upon generation had placed on the house.
But those wards were to protect the living.
Eve stepped back as Kyle’s form shook, shivered, broke apart as if someone had struck a fault line in his center; he turned to so much grey smoke and was sucked out beneath the door, as though someone had a really efficient Hoover on the other side.
The world went quiet, save for the passing of traffic, the sound of thunder in the distance.
She had no more appointments booked for the day, so a cup of tea and a long bath were in order. Eva slipped through the door to the kitchen, only to be brought back a few minutes later by someone pounding on her door.
“Sign says closed.” She raised her voice just enough to be heard.
“Please. Please. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what to do!” A hand rattled the doorknob.
Eva twitched the shade back, blinked hard before reaching for the locks, peering through gap of the open door.
The man on her stoop was dark haired and wearing a pair of green hospital scrubs that set off the unnatural pallor of his skin. They were too big for him and slipped off one shoulder, revealing the edge of the unmistakable Y-shaped incision of an autopsy. His eyes were wild, the pupils blown wide behind the hazy cornea.
“Please,” the dead man said. “Can you help me?”
This was written in response to three prompts. Inspiration Monday's uncertainty is worse; Studio30Plus' entwined; and Monday's Light and Shade challenge picture prompt. (Any embarrassing errors are the product of my sleep deprived mind. Other rough edges are part of my effort to embrace first drafts as being imperfect. I edited as little as possible.)
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
She's been beach combing for hours, hunting for unique shells along the tide line, putting dead ones in her bag, throwing the live ones back into the sea. As she turns to start her trek back, she stumbles over the sharp spires of a lightning whelk.
Whatever lived in the shell has vacated it, leaving an unobstructed view of the smooth, pink walls. Holding a hand against her left ear, she lifts the shell to her right, waiting to hear the rush of wind and water.
Instead, a voice emanates from the shell.
What does it say?
This is your prompt, should you choose to accept it. Come back and share a link to your work in the comments.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
and she’s hiding in the laundry room, leaning against the tumbling dryer, sketchbook in hand, trying not to upset the leaning tower of dirty clothes to her left.
She can hear them outside. Laughing, stalking, trying to find her. They want her to make ice cream sandwiches for breakfast. And play tag, and tell them stories, and…
“Honey? Have you seen—”
…Find their old baseball uniforms so they can relive the highlights of their youth.
Something scratches at the door; the faulty latch clicks and it swings open. The baby looks in, smiles, then toddles by, wearing nothing but a diaper with a tulip (from the birthday bouquet her mother sent) stuffed down the back of it.
Three weeks, she thinks. Three weeks and it’ll be over. Summer will end. Hopefully, before I end them.
“How many times have I told you to not use your baby brother as a flower pot?” Three sets of giggles flee down the hall.
“There you are!” James pokes his head in. “Have you—“
Ripping open the dryer, she pulls out his uniform. He looks at her once, steals a kiss, the uniform and promises to be home by .
She can’t promise, she thinks, opening the washer to find the clothes wrung out and stained purple, that home will still be here.
A quick fish through the damp laundry reveals a small, now empty, pot of Permanent Mauve oil paint.
“Three weeks,” she says.
It’s fast become a mantra.