Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Is It Better to Love and Lose?

Lou jerked the pull chain and the neon sign for La Chaudron de Sorcière flickered to life. They were already starting to draw an evening crowd, myself included. Being a back-alley bar in New Orleans wasn’t the most accessible location in the world but convenient for other reasons. The trip was unavoidable. We all found our way here no matter how far off it seemed. In little time I recall grabbing the next ticket leaving Chicago and set upon a wild goose to find her. My family hasn’t heard from me since.

Justine sat in her favorite chair. She was as beautiful as I last saw her, always dressed to the nines. Tonight she sported a silk top hat with pheasant plumage and peek-a-boo veil. The slit running up her black pencil skirt meant business. Sidesaddle on the stool, her coattails tapped against the brass foot rest as she giggled and flirted with the crowd around her. Everyone wanted her; no one had a choice.

She was quite the thief, a dealer in hearts of the human variety. They gave her life. Travelling abroad, the world was her garden. She’d harvest the most intense blossoms for her bouquet. In its place, she’d plant a stone. Such an exchange would drive the person mad, and they’d eventually find themselves a slave to her.

This slave couldn’t stand it anymore. The whole experience was walking a fine line between the living and the dead. There needed to be some way out. I had to break free of this curse. So, I decided to meet her head on. As I walked up to her, she smiled with the promises of sweet nothings.

“I can’t go on like this. I feel nothing. I am nothing. I can’t even cry myself to sleep. Please, give me back my heart. It belongs elsewhere.” My pent up thoughts slid out on the floor with as much grace as the average wino.

Taken aback by the unusual statement, Justine leaned upon the railing. She spent a moment studying my face and frowned.

“Oh, I’m sorry, mon cher, but I had that a long time ago.” By now she was touching my cheeks with the tips of her fingers. If I weren’t so anhedonic to it all, it’d be a welcomed gesture.

“That means there’s no way back. I’ll be stuck here forever.”

Pausing a moment, Justine pulled her lapel flower close to her nose for a whiff. It reminded me of the arrogant grace that lured me into this. As she set it upon her ruffled blouse, she smiled.

Oui.”

“Louis,” she purred with predatory satisfaction, “another bloody mary, s’il te plaît.” His bulkiness turned with mechanical compliance as he prepared the drink for madame. In his former state, he was an ill-tempered brute of man. No police docket would be complete without a bar brawl involving him. It wasn’t until Justine pulled his heart strings that he became as docile as a lamb.

There wasn’t much left for me to say. I certainly couldn’t take back what was stolen. It was gone. There was no hope for any of us. I turned to meditate on the conversation and looked up at Lou. We stared at each other for some time, and a common link formed between us. We both knew what we wanted. The marionettes wanted to detach themselves no matter what the cost.

With his back to the madam, Lou pulled out a hidden flask from the bar. Justine was too busy being entertained by her entourage to notice. With a flick of the wrist, a bottle of arsenic was added to the bloody mary. There was no living without her. We’d all be dead by morning.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Bless Me, If You Can

Violent rain laid sheets of water on the already weather-beaten facade of St. Francis de Sales. Slick, daggered fingers caressed the building with a day long temptation of eternal ruin. Peering out his office window, Father Molony stared at the smoky tufts creeping off to the east. “Heaven is crying today, Sister Catherine, and it doesn’t look like its showing signs of stopping.”

“It’ll be done when it’s good and ready,” replied the nun as she went about her way to the chancel.

“It certainly will,” Molony muttered with a brief sweep of the grounds. The trees were not yet coming out of Winter hibernation and a figure made itself known in between the barren branches of the oaks. It came closer at a hurried pace, splashing along the sidewalks and roads with little regard to the rest of the world. The long, drawn out complaint of a car horn came through the glass as the person was nearly hit by a Cadillac.

The curtain was dropped, and the priest made his way out into the vestibule. Molony’s face pulled taught as he reached the front door of the church. Cold weather blew in strong gusts, as he and his frantic companion forced the door shut. Letting the man rest a moment, he studied the figure now sopping wet from his journey. He seemed older, but only through stress. His panting gave way to a garbled greeting and gratitude.

“I need to confess, father. I’m torn apart!” Smoothing out his chestnut-colored hair made a few extra puddles on the marble floor. Turning his head to the priest, the pain in his grey eyes could only have come from deep guilt.

“Of course, my son. Right this way.” With an outstretched arm, he lead the stranger to the booths for what he thought was the lesson in adultery or some sort of sexual perversion.

Dark as it was, the booths were warm from the antiquated radiator a few steps away. Stuffy almost, as it seemed Malony needed to open the door a crack to let cooler air in. A step outside in this weather may be beneficial to a man cooped up inside for too long. It might even throw off this sluggishness he had been feeling as of late.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. My greed has lead to the deaths of many. People have died for my comfort, and they will all be waiting in Hell when I die. They’ll be ready to exact their revenge upon my wretched spirit. Oh God, what have I done!”

“Yes, my son, what exactly have you done to believe this?” The priest was waiting for something melodramatic and a molehill rather than a mountain.

“I signed a contract with the Devil. In basic terms, he would teach me the secret of distilling the best whiskey on Earth and I would be rewarded with prosperity, fame, and the finest of women. Being that I was a divorced nobody without a dollar to my name, I didn’t care about my soul. I was in a state of desperation and apathy. By my logic, I was Hell-bound regardless of what I did. The chance to be wealthy for a hot minute was too much to handle.”

Molony tried very hard to weigh the truth in the man’s words. The whole thing sounded absurd, but he was in the business of believing all sorts of spiritual activity. His guest was not guileful; his words were as grave and sober as a judge. The energy from his visitor reeled him in like a fish.

“It was later revealed to me the whiskey was enchanted to drain the life out of all who drank it. This was a highly addictive concoction. It was slow enough to go unnoticed, but the person would eventually lose all will and become the property of Satan. His minions would be in charge of shipping the victims back to Hell for consumption as the Dark Lord sees fit.” The voice was now down to a whisper, as if he were trying to avoid sharing the secret with someone else occupying his seat. He shuffled closer to the window.

“The lackeys transport the souls back to Hell through water. Baths, sinks, pools… this rain! As we speak people are riding the downpour to the entrance of Hell! Their bodies are so weak in spirit, they dissolve and spend days seeping into the dirt. I’ve watched good customers melt like wax in front of me. It’s terrifying, and it’s all my fault, father! It’s all… all my fault.” Leaning up against the wall, he began to cry quietly. He’d committed a terrible evil among humanity and could only hope his repentance would do something to ease the pain.

The clergyman removed the hand from his mouth. “You have sinned quite deeply, my son. While Heaven forgives those for the sins of the past, no one can guarantee forgiveness in perpetuity. God may be merciful, but He isn’t blind. Your inability to prevent further mayhem will fall upon your shoulders, and you will have to face His decision on Judgment Day.” Without a sound, Father Molony found his pocket flask and rubbed it between his forefinger and thumb. He, too, had been drinking whiskey that day.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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By A Hair

“We were supposed to be past this!” Jonathan Quinn battered his statement across the servant’s face, wrought iron gate, and brick wall that outlined the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion. “How are we supposed to have a better life if we can’t even be a community?! Ya can’t do this simply because we’re Gingers!”

Unapologetic, the butler restated his comment which provoked the outburst. “I’m dreadfully sorry, my good man, but the council has once again denied a hearing. They further state city ordinances are in clear compliance with the regulations set forth in the National Contract. We simply cannot hold a gala in any venue within Harpshire for the Red Class.” A snuff followed the cold delivery of news, which made the oily, inky black hair of the butler’s head shift to the front. The man had finally gotten a whiff of a paver’s world. His only recourse was to slam the gate shut and retreat from the foulness of grunt work.

Roiled, Jonathan twisted his wiry head to the house. “Ya can’t stop us from dancin’. Ya hear me, Madam Guv’ner! Ya can’t arrest us all! We have the right to live just as much as any of ya towheads! Ya can keep us out of your city, but ya can’t keep us from our happiness!” Growing hoarse from shouting, Jon took a look back at his sons who came along after work for moral support. “Boys, let’s go home,” he sighed with disappointment heavy on his brow. The cap with which he held in his calloused hands was wrung in fierce anxiety. The freckles on the back of his paws twitched in excitement as he thought of the deeds he’d do if he were to ever set his hands upon a member of the Flaxen Class.

The Flaxen Class, it was even unconventionally named in the National Contract! It couldn’t have been “Yellow,” or “Gold,” or “Blonde.” No! It had to be “Flaxen” to set themselves a great distance apart from the rest of society. A wedge throughout the land was made when that wretched document was signed. None of this could be changed at the moment, though, and evening was fast approaching. The long walk to Ruster’s Point had to commence quickly.

High above the three-story mansion, a pale face observed the entire exchange. Lacy Alderwell’s keen hazel eyes scrutinized the commotion below for lip reading. Judging from the reaction of the Red Class’s councilman, he had been denied event permits for the third time. He was a Ginger, and there was no guile needed in applying “influence” upon their caste. They had to do what they were told, much like the Black Class, yet they were on the manufacturing side of the economic equation.

As she watched the sullen procession head away from the building, she caught the likeness of a young man staring back at her. Lanky, yet fresh and spirited, Connor Quinn’s face locked upon the figure Lacy made in the window. Bright blue button eyes could still be seen through the veil of dusk setting upon Harpshire, while his fiery bangs danced upon his head with fight.

Lacy shrank from the leaded glass startled. What raw emotion the boy had! She could feel his anger, though yards away, and was rendered speechless from the encounter. She had never considered herself a “root lover,” but she could not deny the presence of some inexplicable attraction held in that moment. She looked again, but he had started off with the rest by that time.

In a moment of spontaneity, Lacy decided to seek her parents. Attempts to appeal for a lower social class were absurd for many at the top, but she was to be groomed for her mother’s position when the time came. This could simply be a lesson on refining her skills of parlay. As so often it happens, the Lieutenant Governor wasn’t at home, but she easily came by her father. The city judge was a caricature of comfortable living. An ample wallet and ample chin left for a sense of self-satisfaction.

A little too lacking in political tact, she approach the topic head on. “Dad, why won’t anyone let the Gingers hold a social event in the city? They’re human are they not? We have them all the time, and no one thinks a thing of it. This does not make sense.”

“Why, it’s simple my dear,” began the Judge who obviously had the decision set in stone. “If we were to allow them permission to host a ‘social event’ in Harpshire, they’d burn the place down. They’re like children, you see. We’d have to supervise them, and our jail cells would be filled by morning. It’s just common sense.”

“Where would you be without gatherings like this, father? As I seem to recall you met mother at one. You both seem happy together. Is it correct to deny others that same right? To be happy?” Lacy laid her conviction on a little too strong, which instantly sent the judge in a rage.

“Yes! A thousand times, yes! I will not have a group of mongrels tear up my city on the mere chance they could meet and make more! I do not care about their happiness! They will not make us all miserable because of it!” With that the portly gentleman stood up from his chair and headed toward the dining room. After a pause, he softened and turned to Lacy.

“Let them have their ball in their Ginger-bred houses!” The jape gave way to fits of laughter. So violent were his giggles and jerks from his new-found cleverness, he clutched the railing tightly as he went downstairs for he feared tumbling down a flight in carelessness.

Walking about snowdrifts in the dead of Winter seemed a lesser task compared the days spent thinking about Connor. Often Lucy would sit in her bedroom staring out at the trees, and wondering why she felt this way. Many meals were passed up for the chance to be alone. It wasn’t until the maid, Angelina, came to her door to determine if young Lucy needed the care of a physician.

“Lucy! I have breakfast for you. You haven’t eaten in too long. What’s the matter with you girl? Are you sick?” A clink of the service tray added to the suggestion that she eat something.

“No.” The long drawn out denial brought Angelina closer to the bed.

“You’re still hung up over the Gingers are you? Why in the world would you do such a thing like that? They’re holding a makeshift gathering in a barn near Ruster’s Point. They’ll be fine. Besides, you haven’t any reason to pay attention to those hoodlums! Why…”

“STOP! STOP IT I SAY! DAMN YOU AND YOUR THOUGHTS!” Lacy was prone to passionate talk, but this was out of character even for her. “You don’t know anything about them, do you? You say those things because you’re not one of them! What if you’re wrong? What if they are better people than you even? Why they could be the most beautiful people anywhere and you won’t know it!”

Angelina took a step back at this reproach. She often considered herself a motherly figure, as Madame Governor was often elsewhere. The scalding tongue took her back to a place she had not been in a long time. Intuitive and sharp, her eyes narrowed at the set upon Lacy.

“You’re in love. Aren’t you, Miss Lacy? You’re in love with a Ginger boy! Oh me, it’s true! This is dreadful news! I’d never thought I’d see the day. A daughter of the Governor a root-lover!” Her legs almost gave out on her and she took a chair close to the service tray. Frantic, Lacy rushed to her side and knelt at her feet. Burying her head and hands into the old maid, she began to sob.

“Oh, Angelina,” she choked, “I can’t stop thinking about him. He’s haunting me and my thoughts! Why can’t I get him out of my head, Angela?! I must see him! I must find out what it was I saw in him that afternoon.”

A world-wizened woman Angelina was. Age painted streaks of grey in her raven hair resembling that of a river, the river that time carved into her existence. The story whimpered though Lacy’s tears was highly obscene, yet rang as true as a clock chime. There once was a time in her life where she was that folded mess before her. It may have not been cross-caste like this, but very similar nonetheless. She once cared deeply for a man long ago. He captivated the very life, and she could not think of anything else. As history would have it, it was never meant to be. The love of her life was inevitably beaten to death by his Flaxen master because the eggs were cold, one crisp Autumn morning. She would do anything to spend one more moment with that man. Anything. Lacy would obviously do the same.

“My child,” Angelina spoke after clearing her throat, “if I do a favor for you, you must promise me never to tell you parents. I could very well lose my life over it.”

“Yes! Oh, yes, Angela. You’ve known me to be an honest girl. I’d never betray you. I swear.” Her eyes looked up to the maid with red-rimmed hope.

“We’re going to make you a Ginger for the ball. There are some dying chemicals in the utility wing of the house, and an old friend of mine could see to it you have the work clothes from their laundromat. You need to understand what you’re about to commit. This is treachery, my dear. Many people could get hurt over this, if you were found out.” The seriousness of her plan stared at Lacy like a black cat.

“I… I’ll do it. I want to see him. I need to see him. I need to know if I’m right about this. I can’t go through life without knowing.”

…and so they set to work. A call was sent out to the supervisor at the Ruster’s Point community laundromat, who agreed to “misplace” an order of clothing. It would be stowed in the cook of mansion’s purchases for the week. The red dye from the fabric center took to Lacy’s hair beautifully. Being that most of the community would be at the council meeting that night, she was left with a little breathing room being a Ginger in the mansion of a Lieutenant Governor. Quietly she moved just after dark. Ruster’s Point was set apart from Harpshire by a wooded area. She advanced quickly on the barn, as the event could be heard for miles. Emerging from the thicket she quickly melted into the crowd. She had never seen so many red-headed people in one place! The workers we up to all sorts of activities: dancing, drinking, storytelling, playing music, gambling. and maybe even more private affairs upstairs in the hay loft. Such means didn’t afford much, but they certainly bought euphoria that night. Madame Governor could not crush the will of the Red Class!

Poking in and out of stalls, Lacy had a terrible feeling she was being watched. Observed. Studied as one would document a science experiment. She had to push past her paranoia and seek the boy she saw days ago. She would never forget his face, and there was no face like that here! She felt her chest tighten as she considered her stunt may have been all for nothing. As she sat, she watched the Gingers interact with each other. There was laughter. A sea of sound came from all corners of the place. They were happy. These people didn’t remotely resemble the beasts painted by the Flax class. Not in the slightest. She may have been so bold as to say this was a better ball than the black-tie gatherings held by her parents.

It wasn’t until she took notice of a dice game that she spied the bright blue eyes of Connor Quinn. Without another second she was upon him laying a hand on the shoulder of the boy who was her phantom-made-flesh. Caught off guard, he shot straight up. After catching his breath Lacy smiled slightly at him. “Pardon me, miss!” He wasn’t expecting to see much of the womenfolk that night.

“I caught you from across the way. Would you care to dance with me… ?” Lacy tilted her head and moved her ear forward in a backwards attempt at an introduction.

“Uh, Connor. Connor Quinn. Uh, yes! Yes, miss…” Reciprocity has its charm.

“Lacy.”

“Well, lead the way Miss Lacy. Lads, I’m out for now.” Connor wasn’t completely convinced this was even happening.

The band prepared for their next song. Slowly and carefully, the fiddler set his jaw on his instrument and was off in a flash. The tempo hit fast and hard with no sign of slowing down. Couples all about the dance floor bounced and swung in tempo of the music, but no one was keeping score on form. That was for a Flaxen event.

The energetic movements of the newly met team swirled with the spirit of youth. They were connected at last and in unison. The rush of twirling finally wore off and Connor spoke first.

“I’ve never seen you before. Where are you from?” It was a legitimate question. Everyone knew everyone else in Ruster’s Point.

“I’m from out-of-town. I’m visiting the area in hopes for find what I’m looking for.” She said with her mouth pushed into a huge smile.

“What’s that? What are you looking for?” Connor wasn’t good with code. He never had to used double-speak before.

“A feeling.” She wasn’t going to tip her hand so soon.

Puzzled, Connor, began to search her eyes for clues. His father always said that the eyes were the window to the soul, but he never told the boy what he’d find. In doing so, Connor realized he had limited function over his body. This state of semi-paralysis frightened him. He was not able to command himself in the way he always could. It was new; it was terrifying. It was only then was he introduced to Lacy’s influence. It wasn’t mistake. Her intuition had found something on the street that evening a few days ago. She took him by his collar and kissed him. There was no penalty of law that would dissuade her from recreating that moment again.

As if on cue, the local constabulary hollered at the mouth of the barn. “Hold up! HOLD UP! We have reason to believe there is an imposter among us.” The news sent waves of chatter throughout the building. “Calm down. Calm down folks. Harpshire’s sheriff has told me that we wouldn’t have any trouble if we brought back the suspect ourselves. She’s 5′ 5″ and has dyed her hair to look like us.” The band put up a horse laugh with the retort, “why the Hell would she do that? Is she paying penance for murder?” The house shook at the jest, which wasn’t taken very kindly to the police captain. “Dammit, Bill,” he barked, “this is a Flaxen Class refugee. If they don’t have her back, they will tear every last board off our town looking for her!” The joke was over, and the Gingers could only murmur as to the danger of the situation.

Panic took over Lacy as she started to take flight only to realize her grip on Connor was so strong it made her come to a dead stop.

“What are you doing?” He was still trying to comprehend the situation as she was scurrying away.

“We have to go. Now!” Lacy nearly ripped his arm out of his socket as she dug the heels of her work boots into the mud.

The police captain caught on to the commotion in the back. That was the girl. He knew it. No one else would dare think they were Flaxen class, and feel right about it. “That’s her! Over there!” He raised his baton and pointed squarely at the two making for the back gate. The barn became a free-for-all as the screams and shout bounced from person to person. The whole town needed to purge itself of the foreigner.

Pumping her left arm, Lacy held tightly to Connor’s hand. “Where are you taking me? They’re after you. Not me. You are who they’re looking for, aren’t you?” He stopped at attention, breaking the link between them.

Cupping her knees, Lacy finally came to grips with the situation. “Yes,” she said panting, “after I saw you in the street with your father looking for an event permit. I needed to meet you. I couldn’t explain much of it at the time, but I knew I needed to see you. There was something there that I needed to find out for myself. I felt a connection, and I couldn’t live my whole life without knowing if I was right.”

“Well?” Connor started to get upset at the stunt, “you risked the lives of my family and townsfolk to do it. Were you right or was this all for nothing? How did your little experiment turn out?” Locking up his body, he clenched his jaw. What kind of game was this? What a reckless stunt to pull under the circumstances. This was insane!

A hurtful pang wrapped around Lacy’s stomach which made her grit her teeth. “What?” she uttered under her breath. “You tell me, Connor. Tell me you didn’t find anything back there that you couldn’t explain. You tell me you could let me go so easily. Did you find someone in me that allowed you to come this far? Tell me!” Her fists balled up in frustration at the interrogation. With little provocation she launched her fist into his shoulder and pushed him back a foot.

With quiet contemplation Connor stared once again at her face. He couldn’t find any words to articulate what transpired that evening. His breath slowed and he began to speak, but the only word that came out was “yes” softly and quietly. Brevity is the soul of wit, but the tongue of love. Their tête-à-tête soon broke with the shouts of the pursuers.

Connor looked in the distance, then back to Lacy. He only had one more word to give: “go”. She could not stay any longer. Their paths had to diverge again. All she could do was nod when she made a skip backward and took off for the forest. A new phantom was born, and Connor watched as the slight figure disappear among the branches and twigs. This would be unbelievable, if it had not happened to him. He sat down to relive the minutes that recently passed him as quickly as they came. Why did it have to happen like this? Many a man would kill to meet their match. Love isn’t always kind. Love isn’t always convenient either.

Not long after, Jonathan and the police caught up to Connor. He was alone. Still as the night air with no sign of the Flaxen charlatan.

“Where’s the girl, boy? She’s in a heap of trouble.” The anger in his voice came from a place of deep-seated fear.

“I broke loose and she kept running.”

“What did she want with you?” The question had to come up sooner or later.

The moments that passed between Connor and his father sharpened the anxiety of the people behind them. “I don’t know, father.”

“Where did she go?”

Connor pointed his thumb towards a corn field  off to his left and simply said, “that way.”

The posse rallied around councilman Quinn and tore off in that direction. Maybe they knew he was lying? It didn’t matter at that point. All he could think about was giving Lacy a few more minutes on the run, and more importantly, in his head.

Lacy crumpled her porcelain body upon a park bench well outside of Ruster’s Point. It wouldn’t take long before word reached the Lieutenant Governor’s mansion, which would lead to nothing fortunate. “Home” as she knew it stretch out around her. She then thought of Connor and his face looking at her while they were together. That was supposed to be the solution to her problems, but she hurt more now than ever. How could being right hurt so much? After a moment of nursing a sore mental state, a fire flickered inside her. A red fire, pushing her off her perch. It wasn’t going to die here. No, not after that. She needed to see him again!

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Over the Moon

Life on the up and up, a condition thought impossible for humanity, was finally sinking in on the once-improbable station circling Chang’e. So named to commemorate the multi-national effort to create a viable location outside of the planet, it was a goodwill gesture by the mostly European congress. Sigma Platform, christened Hecate’s Hold before its launch, spun concentric circles around the Earth’s largest satellite in an attempt to push the boundaries of life further away from the home planet.

Inhabitants of Earth would get a sporadic glimpse of the diamonine solitaire upon a lunar setting. Dazzling riches only the cosmos could afford. While wrapped in carbon fiber, there was truth in the native’s description. It’s solar power was continuously trapped by large industrial-grade jewels called “homunculi.” These massive gems would mimic geothermal rhythms and scattered a brilliant, aesthetic light around the base. Such synergy allowed for the viability of Sigma Platform. 100ha is all the space it would take up, and even boasted a fair-sized metropolis complete with an independent governing body. New laws for a new land. The residents were over the moon!

Albeit her farmland borrowed from the home world, much effort was put into sustainability and discovery. There was the idea of finding new ways to feed people, which in turn could be imported back to the world. Such discoveries were yet to be had, but it was tangible progress. The tongues of the cynical were silenced for now.

For what ever reason, either sensor misbehavior or human error, an unexpected tremor gripped the ship and its contents. From behind the moon came such a magnificent specimen of iron, magnesium and silicon that terrified patrons dove under their tables at several metropolitan restaurants or into reinforced corridors along the Greenway. Such mass was to be feared as it blotted out the sun for a hot minute.

Fortune was with the crew that day as evasive magnetic repelling pushed the imperiled hold underneath and away from the space stone, missing the starboard sections by a few kilometers. Hecate had beaten the joker in the deck, the sling bullet to shatter the fragile peace laid over the fledgling community. The base was not meant to be a sepulchre of dreams that day. They were over the moon!

Every action has a reaction and celebration ceased, for the people knew soon what events they had set in motion. The desperate measures caused not only the station to change position, but also the path of the asteroid. Throngs gathered upon observation decks to the observe the hulking beast galloping home. Helpless masks cried for absolution of a world in judgment.

Communiqués were immediately sent to Houston, London, Cairo, and Beijing in futile hopes that the Earth could prevent a head on collision with utter destruction. Any attempts to delay the inevitable were encouraged, until Chang’e began to shield the eyes of an infant’s future. Interstellar messaging came to a halt as the Hecate found difficultly in piercing the planetoid with its instruments. The ill silence brought forth nausea to the crew, which resigned many to the bathroom. Those that could keep it together joined the masses on bay view sections.

The last sliver of blue, along with the stone sent to destroy it, was covered by milky moon rock. Lunauts eased themselves into a depression reserved for the lonely and desperate. Time would tell if they had wasted worry on this event, and the agony was ever-lasting. Much to their displeasure, they were blinded with a flash of light as the Earth was struck with tremendous force. Once sight was restored they watched what little they could on the destruction of their home planet. All they could see was corona, for they were over the moon.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Of Schneemenschen and Solís

Want. A desire older than time identified and humanity gentrified. Folly be it to humans that it is theirs alone to possess. The quality of want is ubiquitous in every last morsel of the universe. Quite a delicacy, and delicate it is, as it presents a tug of war in a congress of existence with frayed rope. All pull to their side of want, gain as much as possible and gamble against possibility of breakage. Anger. Destruction.

As it so happens, the frigid community of Schneemenschen was in no short supply of want, as their huts lay deep in snow’s company. Their trees crackled to the force of Boreas bloviating on the virtues of Winter. Their furnaces became hungrier with every degree closer to zero. Their hours drug out mercilessly as the landscape became unfit for life. Their igloos were their world, and within such casing does a beast wait for a time of mildness and the taste of freedom.

In another corner of the world lay the República del Sol, sweltering under Summer’s heat. Exhausted, with little relief, the Solís huffed in thick atmosphere. Their eyes stung with sweat as the orbs spun incessantly hither and thither in their watery sockets. Fruitless endeavors would make up most of the days, while lethargy occupied most nights. No spot seemed sweeter than that which boasts a shade-free existence.

Trying to please their people the Kühlenkönigin and Presidente Calor sent scouts to all ends of the Earth looking for the prime place of relocation. Within the year, their parties returned most excited and spoke of land green with life and water neither steamy nor frozen. Balmy were the days and gentle the nights as it was beyond even the reach of the gods. Truly a paradise fit for either tribe.

Enthusiasm was felt in both communities that night as celebrations of new land filled their hearts with joy. It was time for a change, and for the better! As soon as they could, Solís and Schneemenchen alike packed their belongings and headed in the direction of prosperity. It wasn’t long before they found the very place of which their tribesmen spoke. Trees with leaves! Grass that’s green! Rivers that flow and pleasing to the palate. No book or poet could ever capture the true happiness contained within the hearts of these desperate people.

Often it said, and often it correct, that things too good to be true are. Soon both people found themselves in the company of one another. Neither tribe wanted a neighbor, and even less a polar opposite. These were their trees, their streams, and their grass. This was their land! How dare someone else try to take it away so quickly. If we can’t have it, then no one can!

With that, a war raged to destroy paradise. The Schneemenchen brought their Wintery wrath, plucked tree leaves, froze rivers, and blanketed grass. The Solís browned the Earth with Summer’s ire, and brought drought to nature’s creation. The only problem was in the personality of the embattled nations. So different, yet so alike, neither one could convince the other to leave for good. Instead, periods of victory were followed by periods of defeat and such outcomes forged an endless loop of hot and cold for all to observe.   

Humans have lived with “seasons” for so long, they do not realize what they witness. No scholar, historian, or sage can ever recall the lore behind the phenomenon and come up with other reasons meteorological to soothe the curiosity of Man. This does not stop our two tribes from fighting and the Schneemenchen and República del Sol will engage in a fierce struggle leaving such no-man’s-land scorched, parched, and blistered, or iced, frozen, and frostbitten in a cycle of want. Unfortunately to all matter involved, this want will never be satisfied. The lust for more is a candle never consumed, and such a dance is two steps forward with two steps back.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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The Etherway

“Where shall you head this time?” The supervisor smiled genuinely at the recycling shade mounting the sweep leading to the Etherway, a stream of energy which swaddled the planet like transparent gauze. “Do I have any options?” The dust condensed in small areas to create speech. Its formless presence emitted a soft glow in an array of misty colors on the platform. The administrator opened his photfolio and examined its contents closely. A light sigh brought forth, “OK, there’s Calgary, Mexico City, Brussels, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Cairo, Chengdhu, Bucharest, and St. Petersburg.”

The satin-like fog sat in suspended animation, almost an attempt to convey consideration. Flowing free, its cosmic dust mustered “Brussels, please” before it continued its way to the induction platform. “Very good. The Brussels stream will arrive in forty-five seconds. Remember, time is the essence of the Etherway. Introduce yourself into the flow precisely when I tell you.”

“I understand, Administrator General.” A dip over the cloud emulated a bow, and the specter readied itself for another trip to Earth. “Excellent. Starting induction in forty, thirty-nine, thirty-eight…” thus began the rhythmic sequence announced by management.

As time does, it began to lengthen the more attention it is paid. Self-conscious, it stops its fleet movement to reflect upon its trail. The shade began to do the same, recounting the path it had made along side the Etherway, the lives it had lived, the death it saw, the moments it witnessed, all a testament to its longevity. The majesty of this massive construct which fed life upon ash and clay filled its void with astonishment and muse.

“Attention! Three, two, one! Now!” The administrator grew overwhelmingly anxious at the looming mishap. Maybe the spirit became aware too late. Maybe the booming voice of the controller was a bit more frightening than intended, but for whatever reason it hesitated. A split second, that’s all it took. The massive current changed direction and made the Lebengeist crash-land in a Kyrgyzstani yurt. “Great,” thought the ghost, “I’ve got to get out of here, if it’s the last thing this kid does. This is going to get interesting.”

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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The Un10n

The thirtieth of March, five hundred and eighty-two Post Congregationem (P.C.), saw a unity the first off its kind. Syler, a fifth-generation android, was finally permitted to wed his long-time companion: the Molecularly Operated Artificial Intelligence System (MOAIS). They were more than grateful to receive High Council’s decision and began the ceremony that day. The cybernetic couple had been planning this for decades, and truth be told, they thought it would never come. Plenty of  humans thought the idea was either too insulting or too dangerous to permit and lobbied Council for years in preventing the two, among several others, from receiving the same courtesy as their makers.

The two had entered the global spotlight as poster children for what was informally known as “Mechanized Marriage,” and as such were accused of everything from being disobedient to their masters to revolutionaries establishing anti-human norms before staging a hostile takeover of the planet. Too many people pointed to the apocalyptic age that spawned a new era, the Great Gathering. Leading up to that time robots were all synchronized by a demented sociologist, Dr. Menenda Blunk, who thought that population control was imperative to a more prosperous world and best meted out by emotionless minions. Extermination, or what Dr. Blunk liked to call “reformatting,” drug out for a better part of a decade as humans fought countless waves of semi-sentient machines all babbling about a happier humanity while trying to kill them.

These arguments, full of fiery rhetoric and conviction, would not hold out in the end. It took the Council months to accept the appeal let alone try it, but it was Chancellor Fiixberady who finally said, “I may be painfully gullible, or simply a hopeless romantic, but maybe we should err on the side of love this time instead of doubt.” With its unusually aesthetic appeal, the chromatext verdict was transmitted to MOAIS via skylight. A beautiful sight it was, columns of white, azure, rose, gold, and spring all flickering in a sequence most palatable to android and AI alike. The war was over.

In a widely-broadcasted event, hundreds gathered outside Pendragon Station to observe history being made. A few chose to protest, as was their right under the Articles of Humanity, but little good it did. The stage was set for a new view on existence and being. Humans were demonstrating they could be something other than perpetually afraid. The moment was commemorated by MOAIS with a multi-colored LED blinking out the chromatext sent to her that very day and by Syler with a gold band bearing the inscription “intrepidus homines sunt.”

Mankind is fearless

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Coffee and Smoke

A cup of coffee receiving a long sigh may have been undeserving in other situations. Creature comforts were to be enjoyed, but the well-being of the creature will control ultimate appreciation. After all, there was some poor sap in a third-world country who couldn’t buy a well-roasted cup o’ joe, right? That’s the knee-jerk response from any faceless schmuck upon grappling with deeper issues more important than hot, bean water. The taste of nothing, in a Camus-esque sense met lips cracked from Winter’s wrath. This could be the gooseberries of your life.

The darkness beyond the rim of the drinking vessel agreed with nihilism over Nietzsche, providing a subject matter of negative space. Metaphor for the lonely: warmth surrounded by rigid structure.  He could not help but stare and pity its circumstance, want for it. In an act of defiance, it served as a mirror image of self-pity and reflected his face back to him.

“If I could be paid for depressing myself, I’d be rich.” The long, drawn-out sigh drew more attention than he wished. A mouthpiece of the of the soul made audible by lapse of constitution, as life decided to empty its spit valve. Was this a metaphysical representation of being “in between gigs”? Jazz, music of a whorehouse, and he lay naked and waiting. Vulnerable and desperate. Alone and afraid.

Drink, slightly bitter, much like life with little in the way of sucrose relief. Such emotional luxury is not affordable. The strong, hard bouquet of flavor washes over the tongue and scalds for good measure. What’s a little more pain? It was a joyless exercise after all.

Thriving city streets provided a showcase of unconscious effort, much as a river rapid moves without intervention. Small bubbles are the foam that separates the water from the head, and encased around the clusters of people moving as an ebb and flow of a tide. Unthinking. Uncaring. Unintentional. The walk wasn’t the release he needed.

Along the sidewalk, a panhandler sat in oblivion, a common thread with the stranger. He paid his respects with the drop of coins from his recent escapades at the coffeehouse. They were both impoverished: one of wealth and one of emotion. The only difference being one will see fewer results in begging for affection.

The door to his apartment gave way to a coffee-black square with wedges of light carved upon the floor. The living room displayed a lack of possessions through economy and desire. There wasn’t much of a point. A couch, a bit threadbare in places, was the mightiest of trophies the place had to offer, and was decidedly more welcoming than the flush of people in the streets.

Cigarettes, with their intentions clear, offered their services on an end table as one would hold out a dueling pistol. Several times he promised it wouldn’t end like this, but no bounty was to be had in avoiding the situation. A stick slid out of its pack and a barrel set in his mouth. Fire, propellant, and smoke arrived in due time as the bullet sped to the back of his throat. A slow suicide, but who wouldn’t have the same results sooner or later?

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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A Voice Among Many

I have to get my head on straight this month. ~ Corvidae

________

John Smith. It couldn’t get much more unoriginal than that. It wasn’t even a Smythe to add a curve ball to the name game. “This is terrible; I’m a nobody,” he thought as he opened the unassuming aluminum-framed, glass door of the coffee shop. “All I want is to be heard. Nothing much, just to get an answer out of someone.”

The ragged journal at his side posed as a message in a bottle. Cradled in his hand, the worn diary was much more a friend than any flesh or blood. Its scratching, doodles, and loose leaves from other sources gave the appearance of a drunk hoisted from bed. It was his life away from menial work which kept him off the street.

Personal demons that poke and laugh made a merry ring around his existence, completely camouflaged under a sensible wardrobe. Dressing the part is an easier path in life, as experience explains. The polite exchange over the counter masked his deep-seated longing to be bold, to feel something. Alas, any quirks are quickly regarded as threat anymore. Irreconcilable male emotions seek the weak spots in the moral battlements of human control. Probing, testing, always questioning the strength of its material and will of its garrison. Passion is a crime, crimes of passion. People seek meaning in violence, which is cremated in the flames of righteousness. Two wrongs that make a right with horseshoes and hand grenades. He wanted to grab her by the shoulders and kiss her like an apocalypse, but that is taboo anymore.

He kept it level, his heart tying forget-me knots with a swirl of a spoon. Freedom isn’t really free, but not in the way it’s often delivered, especially when society doesn’t look beyond themselves.

The pockmarks and stains on the corner table spoke of all walks of life. A tracker could instantly follow the personalities which once graced the table: the slob, the vandal, the klutz. It’s probably a good thing humans aren’t acceptable game. They’d be the 21st century dodo.

The tattered book covered these from view, and once more John plied graphite to wood pulp creating humanity. Lovers, haters, ships, trains, philosophies, opinions, emotions, logic, light, darkness, pride, and despair developed on the canvas of paper. All of it a symphony for the conductor.

Had he not dropped his mechanical pencil, his life might not be any different from his drink order, but the focus was now on the world around him. At first, he thought his eyes might be suffering from some malady or allergy, as the neatly sorted, used paperbacks slid slightly on oiled wood. The oil then grew on the books themselves.

Peering at this newly discovered substance, John became the cat and lightly tapped the binding to test its physical properties. Peculiar protoplasm it was with light pulses to suggest organic origins. “What is this… goo?” He began to rub the substance between his fingers and thumb. To give it contact was to give Dr. Frankenstein lightning.

“Read me,” slid through his ears as a whisper of confession.

“What?”

“Read me, please?” Sadness implored.

“Who said that?” John was skeptical yet coy, a defensive mechanism for those scared to death of being committed.  Undeniably, it was the heart and soul of the author, speaking to him. They were him, and he they, all together in one giant cell. Despair fell to the pit of his stomach and he rested for a moment on the casing behind him.

He could see them all, penning away in their space making what seems like a desperate attempt to find form in the script. No castaway could envision this archipelago from the shoreline. Worse yet, the flow increased. Books from all sections of the shop were seeping with gelatinous ooze. More and more slide down the spine of the novels, relentlessly filling up the floor with murmur and misery. John tiptoed around the pool in a fright.

“Oh God… Oh God! Oh God, oh God, oh God,” he tried to keep himself quiet. This was starting to draw the attention of others. A man pressing himself up against a bookcase in defense of invisible vermin. It’s not something one sees everyday. An overwhelming anxiety washed over him as the history section coughed up distant centuries. The mists of time were but a sneeze on his glasses, and not a Kleenex in sight. He moved ever more quickly to the exit with his coat and journal in hand.  A sprint gave him access to the door and he never looked back. At his house, the locks bolted firmly into place as he rested his back from fatigue.

Why did this just happen? He had been around books for as long as he could remember, but this was definitely the first time he experienced this. “Maybe I don’t want to be published? Maybe this is all wrong? Maybe I’m all wrong?” His eyes found their way to the haphazard journal opened randomly to a piece written six months prior. It was a story of his dead mother, and his whole time grieving. A moving story filled with sorrow and loss.

“This is why.” A raspy, masculine voice announced. “To hear yourself speak.”

John sat down at his crude table which he called a desk and smoothed out the pages carefully. Even though the clues had been laid in front of him, he needed some time to calm down from the shock of hallucination. It was right, though, he needed to hear himself even if others wanted to be heard too. In a conciliatory gesture, he laid one hand on the writing utensil and began another page.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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The Great Metaphor

“The world is as big or small as you want,” made for a quaint phrase often uttered by Herbert during his residency at the shelter. This motto now found itself meticulously etched underneath the lid of a Swiss pocket watch. Wesley rubbed his finger over the etching like one would place a reassuring hand on the shoulder. The ecstasy of gold could never match the tactile pleasure of the watch itself. His timepiece became a worry stone, as it was placed between the forefinger and thumb. A jewel set in the center of the cap deviated the arc of his finger. There was reason to fidget.

Wes sat in the corner of a city mission waiting for another to arrive. He requested to see a homeless man named Willie, but it was nearly impossible to tell if that was his real name. Sometimes the indigent would never give anything but a pseudonym. The gift Wes had would circumvent that problem though. It was a perk.

The lunch shift was wrapped up and he sat fussing over his tethered bauble while twisting his cup of cheap coffee. He wondered what his life would be like, if he’d never spoke to that fortune teller. Would he still have the gift, and not understand it? Maybe. All he knew was his path in life, a servant in a not-for-profit organization. He also knew he needed a new polo, as he felt the tragic start of a hole in the armpit of the shirt. No amount of mending instruction could save him.

“You’re brave waiving that watch around, son.” A husky voice broke Wesley’s concentration. It may have even produced a startled jump. It was him, though, the one that calls himself “Willie.”

“What? Oh, yes. Well, it’s bound to me in more ways than one. I’m not worried about it being stolen. You’re Willie, right?” Wes turned his head to the side to greet the voice, as if trying to be casual about the impending conversation. He figured his neuroses would never let him though.

“Maybe. Who wants to know?” Suspicion wasn’t anything new, especially if they were running away from their past, but this was only a matter of formality. A sagging, tired, black man immediately brightened from ethereal illumination. As he sat down, spirals of neon yellow and white encased the man and the seat he was on. He was definitely in the lunch line today.

“My name is Wesley. I’m the line cook for the mission here. There’s a story I need to tell you. It’s going to sound crazy but you need to here it.”

“I’ve got nowhere to be,” Willie laughed, “might as well stay out of the cold for a few minutes.”

“OK, good. So… twenty years ago, when I was in college, I went out on the strangest night I’ve ever had. A group from our fraternity got drunk and decided to visit a psychic on a whim. The college was in a small town, and that was the best we could do without getting arrested.” That got a laugh out of them both. Wes continued, “when it came to my turn, the lady got real quiet. After the most awkward pause, she asked me what I wanted out of life. Being the young and hopeful boy I was, I wanted to be rich. Her response was I would get what I want, but not what I expect. It didn’t occur to me what she meant, until many years later.”

“That’s good for you Buddy, but why are you telling me this?” Willie was losing interest quickly.

“A few years after that, I started volunteering in a shelter near Toledo, Ohio. It made my resume look good, and I did feel better for helping out. However, something inexplicable happened on a freezing Winter’s night in late December. My sight was blinded by flashes of light. Where they came from, I don’t know. What I saw was one of our regulars by the name of Herbert wrapped up in these fingers of energy for a few minutes and then it vanished. I asked if anyone saw it, and of course they thought I was making it all up. No more than a few days later, a letter finds its way to the shelter in a desperate attempt to find him.” Wes paused, almost dramatically in this stage of the game, to wet his throat. “It was an estate trustee searching for a man named Herbert Silvers, the last known living heir to a closet organizer fortune. He became an instant millionaire, and I never saw him again.”

“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Willie was thinking of the crates full of booze he’d purchase alone.

“Throughout the years, I’ve noticed this phenomena with other homeless people. It has never failed that they run into large sums of money shortly thereafter. I have good enough reason to believe you’re next, only there’s a catch. I usually find out through the grapevine they’ve died about ten to fifteen years after they strike it rich.” This statement was never comfortable to Wes, because he always worried the visions would be wrong. They weren’t though. Over eighteen years, he batted 1,000. “I make it a point now to warn others about their future. It’s quite a shock to them.”

“So, yer tellin’ me I got ’bout ten years to live, but I’ll be filthy rich the whole time?” The bum gave a dead look to his informant and continued with, “that’s fine by me. I’m 59, kid. What’s my life worth to me now?” Willie shot a side glance at the modest man across from him. “What do you want out of this?”

Wesley sat back with his Styrofoam cup. These sentiments were fairly common, but still irksome. It’s easy to understand it sounds a little fantastic, but what could he possibly gain from lying to any of them? They had nothing right now, and would frequently forget who tipped them off in the future. “In return, I only ask that you not speak about me or this meeting to anyone. I’m deathly afraid I will be hounded for the rest of my life, and just want privacy more than anything. Whenever people get too suspicious, I move to another city and get a fresh start. I’m a little tired of starting over again, to tell you the truth.”

“Well… OK… I guess. Nobody does nothin’ for free. If what you say is true, then I don’t won’t you hangin’ around trying to steal it. You hear?” This was also common, but Wes knew what he was doing. “You won’t see me again, Willie. Just don’t mention me to anyone.” The past has been known to repeat itself.

“Alright… well, I’m out of here. It’s nice talkin’ to ya, pal. I’ll be thinkin’ of that money, when I’m sleepin’ in my box.” Willie was skeptical, and understandably so. What line cook corners you in a mission and gives you a fortune like this? “It must be a full moon, or somethin’,” he thought as he walked over the threshold of the main entrance and straight to the garbage cans.

Later in the week, the local newspaper broke a story of a homeless man who was the sole winner of the Powerball jackpot. A careless lotto player threw away his ticket when he misread the numbers. Willie had snapped up the discarded slip of paper on a whim and shoved it in the face of some convenience store clerk. The rest is history.

“I’m not sure I ever get used to the attitude, Herbert.” Wesley conceded to the watch, “but I know it’s going to happen one way or another.” That small diamond on the watch lid was synthesized, but still very precious. More accurately, it was the remains of Herbert courtesy of LifeGem. He had entered in an agreement with the company to be made into a gemstone after his death and placed upon the watch. Wes was contacted out of the blue by Herbert’s estate after his death, and an oddly cheerful lawyer explained that Herbert demanded the bequeathment be put into the will after a meeting with a psychic.

It meant the world to Wesley.

© 2013 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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