Tag Archives: Flash Fiction

Grits and Canadian Bacon

Rushing in at the last minute, the cold wind makes my bangs flutter before the window shuts tight. Red-rimmed and burning eyes blink at the clock glaring 11:45 from a dark box. “11 hours…” my inner voice narrates, “11 hours since we left the house.” Past the torrential downpour in Detroit, past the irritable border guards, past the wrong turn leading to Leamington is this: darkness on the King’s Highway.

She shifts restlessly in the car and grabs a clove. I see a glimpse of her green eyes and red hair for a split second as the lighter fades into a dull orange, spicy-smelling dot. Maybe I should have the kept the window down? We’ve smoked the Hell out of that pack, but then again, nothing parties like a rental.

“We can find a place to stop, if you want to stretch your legs.” Yeah, those legs used to walk over a lot of people. Those legs I’d still kill for. I could use the stop though, maybe shakedown a vending machine for coffee. That is… if they take American.

“No…” a listless yawn precedes,”we’re almost there anyway.”

Peering out into the darkness, I only saw more darkness. 

“We need some music.” Instantly perky, she begins to flip through the CD folder. Anything’s better than silence, I suppose. “Oh, hey… yeah,” she pauses to to scrape the CD up by her fingernail. “You’ll like this,” sliding the disc into the thin, vertical slit of the dash console. Vinyl record effects pop through the car’s woofers, as if there were a needle to be found somewhere. We might as well be driving a haystack.

“I live on a chain and you share the same last name. As a joke, I sent a bottle of whiskey.

As you choked, I knew it made you feel dirty,”*

Pete Yorn’s disembodied, breathy voice entered the car. I felt the indie pretentiousness immediately, like I needed a hipster in here. Without much provocation, sound erupts through the level 22 settings.

“And I was waiting over here for life to begin. I was looking for the new thing, and you were the sunshine heading my front-line, I was alone, you were just around the corner from me.”

Light slides up the dashboard, and I wince to keep the Chevy Malibu on the road. It is the forte of the trip, a very ill-advised and sketchy dive into the Great White North. I see a city alive. She gets her vindication. Damn her.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

* – Yorn, Pete. “Life on a Chain.” Musicforthemorningafter. Columbia, 2001.

 

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Blushing

You would not believe how hard it is to squeeze writing in through all of this scheduling madness. ~ Nate

——

Tiny drops wet the pavement near Jessica’s white satin heels. The circles turn a light sandstone into muddied brown and she sees her reflection for the first time since this morning. While not crystal clear, black shone prominently on her cheeks. The dress wrinkling and smoothing under her hands made restless rustles against the sounds of rain.

Soon the booth housing her dress freckles with moisture and transitions into tiny streaks of precipitation down the side. Stabbing her freshly-painted nail, “Bouquet,” at the lacquered sign, she checks the next pick up time. It would be a while before she would use her phone again or catch a ride. Loved ones are the plague. People dripping with pity and sympathy. Running out the church felt like the only relief available.

The hulking, metallic slug of a transport finally saw fit to grace Jessica with its presence. Childlike splashes came from the filled potholes in the road, as it began to sway left and right. Sliding its cheap, silver doors open an old man in a blue uniform gave her the once-over and looked back out on the road. With exact change, she was permitted to take a seat, possibly without vomit stains on the cushions.

The cracked floor and dirty space of the bus made for a fine chariot. Maybe they’d tie some whiskey bottle to the bumper, too? A survey of the carriage revealed that the only two open seats were beside a bag lady who must have been eating an onion sandwich prior to her journey. She would keep the bird of a feather company. Bunching up her dress, she sat down and knew any attempts to return her gown would be a laughable failure.

“You smell lovely, deary.” A crackle of phlegm punctuates the decrepit one’s sentiments.

“Thanks,” Jessica’s grimace was somewhat hidden by the paint.

Gifts greet her as the apartment lights illuminate the kitchen table. Still sealed, never to be opened. By way of magic, or the work of her parents, the well-wishing invades her space centered around a large, smooth, white cake. Its perfection can be seen from all angles, and would match her perfectly if she wasn’t part of an experiment in public transit.

With a hearty thud, a bottle of vodka hits the cheap tabletop and a generous sweep of the hand launches a cake decoration off into the kitchen. The black-suited, plastic figurine comes to rest smiling stupidly at the ceiling. Jessica’s cat, Miss Havisham, slinks by to investigate the foreign object but walks away in quick disinterest. It will lay they for quite some time.

Staring at the cake for the better part of fifteen minutes, Jess admires the craftsmanship. Forgoing any sort of protocol she dips her hand into the dessert stationed in front of her and shoves a handful into her mouth. More cake matter winds up on the floor, as she lets out a stream of profanity. Fondant is the Devil’s practical joke for confectionery.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Birthday

Tapping steady at the side of my cup, the coffee ripples in time with twitching.  My spectral image housed within a picture frame would be invisible if it were between dawn and dusk. I see myself in my current state: transparent with a few new facial creases. An hour ago, I sped recklessly down the main drag. An hour ago, she and I parted ways. My time is now occupied by looking at the TV screen and wringing an August issue of Entertainment Weekly.

This place runs at an odd angle. Am I facing north? The curvature of the waiting room displays the faintest of skylines with a few aircraft warning lights. Otherwise, one would think this hospital doubles its capacity in the evenings. I rest my head on the pane, and make sure my stomach doesn’t fly out my mouth. We thought we’d cross this bridge when we’d get to it. Well, here it is in front me and my… my… what are we really?

At any rate, I suppose this room becomes a land of imagination. I can see it now, families all stuck helpless like flies on paper. The designers must have had a sense of humor, too. Cheap, mass-produced chairs set neatly side-by-side with laminate end tables and a corner full of rhododendrons. But, wait! There’s a 50″ widescreen TV with the Cubs/Cards game playing “just for the guys.” Absurd. What kind of man would gladly drift off as a spectator sucking down the crude chili dogs from the cafeteria?

Keening burst through the stainless-steel double doors again. A banshee would be jealous. I can see her as I last saw her, pushing me away as the team of physicians roll her beyond the austere threshold of the operating room. I would weave myself in and around medical staff to offer my services of nothing, provided I’d simply move. It would feel like an accomplishment in more than one way. Some accomplishments aren’t rewarded as they should be however.

My solitary confinement gives way to a new presence, the obstetrician. Yanking down her mask, its presence still remains on her cheeks. The doctor’s eyes blink and replenish the moisture on the cornea. Breathing in gives her a contrast both rooms leave on her. I keep quiet and wait for her to speak.

“Mr. Calipretti?” Her unpolished lips formed a black fish bone-like shape.

Clearing my throat, I’m able to stumble over “that’s me,” before I get caught up again.

“The baby is fine and in the nursery. The mother, on the other hand, has been through plenty. She’s resting right now and we’re going to keep an eye on her for a while in the maternity ward. Would you care to see your son?” Expressionless delivery. It’s a living, if nothing else.

She said “son.” I have a son. A thickness runs down mid-foot and curls my toes. Its tightness pulls away from the moment, pulls away from the hospital in flight. I never move. “Thank you, doctor.” Controlling my movements carefully, I follow the woman into forbidden zone. The official blessing felt like genuflecting in my presence.

The maternity ward’s humidity could be nothing less than artificial. Its florescent wash gives a utility where waiting rooms lack. Gurneys stud the hallway in case of pandemic emergency and I narrowly miss several.  I’m as graceless as its residents. Before rounding a corner to the nursery, I perchance catch her half-hidden by a curtain.

Sleeping hard on her shoulder, hair plasters her face as wet string. Femme voilée. Its once-tension-filled space now pays attention to the EKG machine in the corner, pinging away until sunrise where the day shift will do their rounds.

When I am shown the nursery, the doctor leaves without a sound. I’m left staring though a window of new arrivals. It’s loud, but he isn’t. The tiny chin tucks into his shoulder, and his fat cheeks make for a nonplussed frown. It’s a popular sentiment.

“Would you care to hold your child, Mr. Calipretti?” A ghost of a nurse appears to the right in my field of vision. I say “OK” when I very much attempt a “no,” and a mass of swaddling cloth is brought forth before I have a chance to revise my answer.

Such a dour child with the facial contortions of a court judge. This must be the wrong foot of his life. He’s out of step already. I can recall several memories to highlight that point of view.

No matter how many times I want to run, I’m immobile. No matter how many debates I have, I lose. No matter how many times I rehearse, I forget my part. I do not have the will to put him up for adoption, but one man’s cowardice is another man’s credibility.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Inflorescence

The goal of this writing exercise was to describe a flower without using the word “sweet.” ~Nate

———-

As I wander my way from Zar’it to Shomera, I feel a need to rest. An hour’s walk is reason enough to stop and collect oneself. The open sky has no trace of clouds, and there is never a schedule to keep. With an occupation such as my own, it’s of no pressing matter where I am or what time it is.

Searching for a seat, a boulder became an ideal perch for my moment of idleness. Its sturdy nature was plenty to support a simple frame. No more than a few seconds into my leisure I am greeted with a light, heady aroma from an undisclosed location. A little effort reveals a blooming hyacinth cluster near the base of my seat.

Truly a comforting sight, paper white and blue inflorescence jutting up through the dirt. Small gusts of wind glide their will over each raceme to carry the natural smell elsewhere. Such beauty is often ignored by the preoccupied. In my current condition, I should have the chance to capture a feminine splendor from the earth.

How lovely it is, strong and syrupy, like honey but not cloying. My nose tingles with its perfume-like essence. As if on cue, a bee hugs the stalk and dips its legs for nectar. The pleasure of this flower can now be share by us both.

My giddiness complementing my abilities on a sensory holiday, I wonder how many people could do such? It would seem easy enough to perform, yet years to master. To relish that which is hidden in plain sight requires keen eyes. I resumed my journey on a note of camphor. A light heart will carry me onward.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Dusk

A million troubles, that is all the world’s worth. Set in its revolving loop, it swirls an elliptical hurly-burly of debilitating woe. What is this human to do? The boy of a nobody and man of no means, I am careening through the bumpers and flippers of existence. There is no defense I could raise against such a foregone conclusion. My life, as it is now, is meaningless to such a hunk of space rock.  The only moving and shaking to be done is my calf as it balances itself on the lowest rung of the bar stool.

“Hey, Chris!” With my hand raised like an elementary school student, I wave the bartender down for a moment. A stern, set-faced man strides to my end of the bar and props his hands up on the bar. “What’s a drink for a man down on his luck?”

Scratching his stubble, he contemplates while watching a patrol officer yell down a soccer mom using the turn lane as a parking spot. “Probably whiskey,” he lifted his forehead in honest resolution. “That’s my drink of choice when the wife starts screaming about one thing or another.”

“All right, pour me a glass.” I’ve never been one for hard liquor, but after funeral, a fallout, and a fight with the repo man, I’m willing to try just about anything at this point.

A tumbler with oaken-brown fluid slid toward my hand. This was like the Wild West, right? An unfortunate cowboy drinking up liquid comfort. It felt comforting, warm and simple. The alcohol was still swaying from side to side, a maternal-like motion.  It burns my nose before I even drink. My next resolution is to stick with beer.

Chris laughs and wipes up the sputter all over the counter. My embarrassment adds a feather to the Mariner’s necklace. Life-in-death. That’s what this was: a walking nightmare.

With a shout, a fist fight erupts in the other corner of the bar. Two patrons are fed up with their misfortunes and take it out on each other. Profanity and alcohol are thrown in all directions before the stolid arms of order chuck them into the street like a wrapper or peel. No one would consider them otherwise.

This is too much. There is no enjoyment here from my last sound decision of the day. Crumpled presidents slide across the bar top and I head for a walk in the afternoon. Going home would be the end of me. My exercise is a testament to life and existence. I would let the Earth know I live and breathe as flesh and blood for their own eyes to discover.

Wooden feet on concrete clap out a melody for the tone deaf. People careening into disaster weave a chaos-laden path around me: road rage, pugilism, dereliction… the subjects of a raw life on public display. What good was there to be found roasting in the sweat of a cement convection?

On the stoop of a project house sits a weathered musician. Time has bleached his hair cotton white while his skin hold the marks of age as if it were keeping score. Hacking out 12-bar blues, his head blocks out the rest of the street. Barring other people’s problems, his steady strums create a reply. That was his answer to the madness around him, an old man pushing back the insanity by creating beauty. The tune lingers long enough for the sane to catch.

A new home is found for my last dollar in the guitar case of the old man, and I sit listening to the rest of his resistance. His enchantment with his craft made for little acknowledgement of my presence, but that is of no consequence. My admiration for the old man and his guitar would only describe a small portion of my attitude. He was troubled; we all are, but he avoided the destruction. Creation in misery is a pacifist protest against human nature.

As the sun makes a silhouette of his figure, I resolve to be that man and his guitar. I need to find my guitar, whatever that may be. There are too many troubles in this world for me to shoulder. I, like him, won’t admit those problems into my life. I, too, shall play ceaselessly into the impending night.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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From the Sheets of My Memories [NSFW]-ish

My phlegm and apathy dot the ceiling as I cough wickedly from a spartan cot. There is no doubt I am reaching a terminal point in my existence, but for now, I wait in the lobby of transition. No fear is there in that, and why should there be? Living forever is for the naïve. My threadbare life is not the brilliant ensign it once was. I’m tired of waving it.

Capturing my attention was a plucky squirrel skipping on a potentially lethal wire outside. As it’s oblivious to grounding, it lives to see the other pole. I look up at my medical masterpiece. I’ve heard of this before, when people become critical of life before they die.  Small animals become as interesting as a war declaration. Nostaglia is understandable, but it should be for the right memories.

My youngest daughter, Chastity, appears at the door. Standing half-way through the threshold, her hand slides up the jamb. It’s quality time with the old man.

“Hey,” I face her. “Come on in.”

Taking up a stool beside the bed, I look her over. Where do I start?

“Your mother was a good women. I… we did very well in not hurting each other.” The shifting of posture was time to phrase a statement more fulfilling. “We knew each other: our habits, our personalities, our histories. It worked for what it was. You and your sister are now married, and successful from what I can tell. As far as rules are concerned, I give myself a gold star for doing what others wanted.”

“You did a fair job, Dad.” She is a tough customer. I did well with that one.

“From a personal perspective, though, I’ll only regret one thing I didn’t do.” My sigh came out while rubbing the skin above my forehead. Thinking about it is painful enough, but this wasn’t going to be any picnic either. There was no use in delaying it any further though.

“When you were a small child, I had to work nights to pay some of the bills. Now, I’m not upset about that. We did what we had to do, and made it out fine but there was a time during the night which I would stop at a diner off of 44. I’d have a cup of coffee and unwind for a bit. That’s where I met Jessica.

Jess was the manager of a catering company out of Tulsa, and she’d often do the same thing after closing up shop. We’d sit for a good hour or so and talk. Sometimes we’d talk about our spouses, our jobs, our dreams, our politics, and so on. She didn’t have anywhere to go, even though she was married. Her husband was a driver for a beer distributor and was rarely home.

Now that I look back on it, I fell in love with her, a real love with feelings your mother and I never shared. She was a short stack, but every bit of her was filled with energy. There was this laugh. It was the oddest thing. When I delivered a good joke she’d put her hand on her forehead and laugh at the ceiling. For my cleverness, I was rewarded with the bumps underneath her shirt. It only embarrassed me the first few times. After that, I saw it as a bit of a turn on.

I started to think of ways to get her to laugh like that. Cheap thrills. I even bought a joke book to help me out. Most nights I’d count down the intervals between delivering the jokes so she wouldn’t notice. If she ever caught on, she didn’t give me any clues. Maybe she enjoyed it? We both were in a lover’s purgatory. She was married; I was married. Neither one of us was particularly enthusiastic about our better halves. I started to want her in the worst way, but kept my vows all right.

Since I’ve been put here in hospice, I’ve replayed those nights several times in my head. I will miss that: to be so close to a woman you can smell the exact spot where she put on her perfume. The nape of her neck. She had dark hair that would slope off to the right showing a slight bump. It drove me wild. I wanted to kiss that bump several times. I was a mad dog on a chain.

It gave me so much feeling. I was hooked on the the most intense lust I’ve ever felt in my life. Probing her eyes for any inkling of sin,  I found us pawing each other on a humid, Summer night. The salt of her hips rolled on my tongue. She’d gasp lightly as I nuzzled between her thighs. Those thighs. To me they were warmed silk. My mind tormented me with that for years. I would have remained in her lap as long as she wanted.

That’s what I regret the most, Chastity. I regret not taking her, or at least trying. Every part of my intuition said to do so. We’d enjoy ourselves for a night, or two, or more. We’d be happy for once.”

My daughter squirms in her chair. To be honest, I never spoke of being sexual or sexuality to my children before. Deep lines arc around her thin mouth. Duty calls for presence, not participation, however a cynical mind can mislead the most sharp of hosts. My mind deceives me. This isn’t disgust I’m watching. It’s restraint.

“This has happened to you. Hasn’t it, Chas?” My narrow-lidded eyes spy nonverbal cues.

Shaking lightly, her brows furrow and chin tucks up in a severe overbite. A floor couldn’t be that interesting to stare at it so much. Maybe she’d faint like a goat, too? The best she comes up with is a terse “no.”

“You’re lying to me. I can tell by the twitching of your left eye. You’re anxious about something. Me talking about my fantasies has triggered a guilty party in you. Who is he? Who is… she, maybe? I’m not going to be here when you come around. What are you hiding?”

Closing her eyes, she moves her throat up and down in agony. “Him!” A sharp bark with an immediate decrescendo bounces off the walls. My release of anger sets my eyes in a droopy fashion. It feels good to be right. Being smug feels better. In an effort to comfort her, I pick up her wrist as best I could. For a moment, I didn’t know what to say. I wonder if straying was in the family blood? If it was, how many of my kin felt the same way? Nobody ever talked about it. Maybe we are all ashamed? With a bit of effort, I deliver my last words to her.

“Devour him!” My grip is lost; I roll over to stare out the window.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Re-posession

It was in such great shape and a steal for $20,000! Skepticism did lay a blackened edge around my thoughts, but reasoning couldn’t shake out any problem which had a monetary solution. How could I not sign on the dotted line? The American Craftsman was all I could ever ask for in shelter. The flat screen here, office over there, my bed off in the corner… it fit like a jigsaw puzzle.

Facing east, I’d welcome the sun each morning. There was no need for setting an alarm; golden light produced enough power to wake the heaviest of sleepers. I took the new regimen as an opportunity to enjoy my new surroundings. My occupation was executed through remote access anyway. As long as I sent my material in by midnight, I could work on it at my own pace.

Many mornings, I’d sit out on the porch peering through the privacy hedges to observe the activity on the street. People walked quite a bit for being off the main drag. Maybe it was lip service to the health conscience? Possibly friends of the Earth? Dogs seemed a little more obvious reason. Huddling up in a ball, I’d peek out through the privacy hedges upon the unsuspecting world. It made me bold. Only a few pedestrians would stop or look around as if they sensed anything. My house was my castle, which only seemed to last a brief moment.

At first I thought it nothing more than the condition of the structure, a settling of stone and mortar to which a building that age was accustomed. Slight pings and knocks could be heard at the most unpredictable of times. Possessions soon found different ways to present themselves throughout the place. A bucket in the garage one day would be in the kitchen the next. My rope would skip town only to return exhausted on my banister. Then there were even times I felt like I was being watched.

My Monday morning exercise routine was interrupted by a sound as if a window slammed shut. A rudimentary glance about my home revealed no culprits. All portals were open. Angry, I took my Louisville Slugger with me to search the basement. If some animal was wrecking my home, it would take a miracle to save it. This needed to end, and I was willing to consider everything the fault of the unfortunate beast that showed its face below.

An unusual mugginess brought forth a foul, musty smell from the sump basin. This needed to be quick. My eyes spotted an egress window off to the south. Streaks of copper lined the clasp, rubbing away the paint that was put there before I arrived. My heart knotted at the sight and I rubbed my face. Gripping the bat tighter, I surveyed the unfinished mess. Covers were everywhere. A snap sounded off in the corner and I dove at the tarp. As high as a berserker I laid a blow that smashed the lumber underneath. Bits of timber landed on my right foot which resulted in me screaming my head off. With what sense I had left, I limped toward my first aid kit upstairs embarrassed.

Little happened after that day, until I came home from the grocery store Thursday evening.  Jets of water were pouring in my shower at full blast. Certainly there was no way I had left it on, as I bathe before I go to bed. Removing the panel to the back of the stall revealed no obvious signs of tampering. Annoyed, I resolved to call the plumber if it were to happen again. As the grocery bag hit the floor I repeated “what now” several times making my way to the kitchen.

Several canned goods fanned out on the linoleum. My disgusted sighs became the new response as I plucked each and every tin up and socked them all in the cupboard. For a moment, I stared at the stocked food. Didn’t I buy baked beans? Yes, there it is on the receipt. Did they forget to pack it? Don’t tell me they forgot to pack it! This day needed to be over. The traipse of my shoes followed me to my coat.

When I pulled the closet door into its pocket a ridiculously-unkempt man imitated a peanut brittle snake in the nude, knocking me to the ground. I climbed to my feet with my face as red as a beet and sized up my attacker. Dripping from head to toe, he stood up with a can of baked beans clutched in his left hand. He breathed like a jaded animal and his face contorted in ways that left his eyes wide and jaws taught.

Without much time, the tramp fumbled at my knife block and pointed a chef’s knife at me. “This is my house,” he pouted, “they took it from me and gave it to you. It wasn’t theirs to take. I own this. I OWN IT!” He struggled with the first few steps but lunged with all of his strength straight for my chest. I loved that place, but certainly didn’t want to die for it!

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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City in the Fields

There was a flash fiction challenge yesterday from Opinionated Man of which I had not participated. I had already posted yesterday’s flash, which was for another Reddit contest (did not win/no honorable mention). That’s not to say I’m upset about it. I didn’t want to leave people on here hanging.  The WordPress challenge seemed a little more like a Saturday write anyway. If people have read my blog for any length of time, they know I’ve spoke about my town slightly in my stories. In 1,000 words or less, I shall condense that.

——————-

Urbanites often clamor for the countryside, a respite from the “noise” and “pollution” of a metropolitan backdrop. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence especially if it’s compared to concrete. Plenty of green dots the landscape of my city, even if it’s mold. Perhaps the agricultural nature of the outer limits appeal, waving arms of wheat and corn in a Summer’s gust? The ears certainly make for better conversation anyway.

Crumbling corners and mended roads, all drizzled in chocolaty-tar sauce like a sundae stretch for miles under questionable skies. Built once with pride, brick buildings burn from apathy’s children leaving only work for the crewmen to raze. Holes, like pulled teeth, pit a once wealthy dirt. An asphalt crown is the new order of business.

Hulking and oppressive, the courthouse stands idle with all of its faded glory. Since when had you last felt alive? Bluebottle cars fly around your rotten carcass of petty justice. Your delusions of grandeur are transparent! Your mightiness is moot!

…and the floods. O, the floods! Have you come to visit us with fervor of Zelus? Have your waters ran through our hair enough? Can you not stand the sight of our houses as much as I? There would be no blame in that. Bring it to us so that we may bathe in a pool of our mistakes.

Time has come and time has passed, leaving nothing but old values as new ideas spread across a nation. Angry and afraid, a retirement community is proclaimed. Leave it as it once was, so we remember it fondly. A sepulcher for the nostalgic. There is no need to share; it is ours!

A generation took that to heart, and a generation made a new start off on coasts and in between. “They will be back!” Was the mantra of the day which fizzled to a murmur on the lips of the selfish. The world is not as it once was. Haughtiness becomes highlighted in hindsight.

Ghosts of people past still haunt the streets in which I ride. Past the schools. Past the homes. Past the shops I’ve seen too many times to remember. Pictures on the gelatin of my eyes. Translucent and faded they post bills of their likeness where I’ve been before. Up on the hill, down by the river, out by the freeway, or around the corner, I cannot live them down. The city will not let me live them down.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Static Conversation

Bands of rope tightly wound around my wrists and burned slightly as I shifted in the chair. Upright and restrained, my back muscles tensed under the anxiety. It felt like being in front of my high school speech class again, only this time the idea of dying might be more literal. That wasn’t including the confusion of winding up here.

This headache was the worst ever. Liquor has done strange things before, but maybe someone hit me from behind? It’s anyone’s guess. Too drunk to feel anything then, I certainly do now. My surroundings make for what’s known at the moment. There is no reason for me to be here. Misunderstandings happen all the time. This has to be one of them… I hope. Where is this place, anyway?

The room dealt with shipping, as crates stacked three to four pallets high lined the walls. This had to be some sort of warehouse. A slowly-swirling vent fan made for the sole light source in the building. Its blades became a distorted starfish pattern on the floor in front of a table with what seemed to be homemade devices. That doesn’t make one comfortable in the least.

To add stress, an unwelcome visitor decided my leg was an interesting landmark. Long whiskers grazed the front of my shin and a furry muzzle felt at my ankle. “Shoo!” blew in short puffs while I tried to wiggle free. That merely managed to frighten the rodent, and it made a response in the form of teeth. Feeling a stinging sensation gave me the spirit to yell and bobble the chair a few inches backward. My captor(s) now realized I was awake.

“I hope you don’t mind the basic accommodations, Mr. Ellison.” A shade-blackened figure stared at me from over the table. The glint of the sun seemed to focus on his bald head. Even after hard concentration, his voice and figure did not hold any clues to his identity. From what could be seen, the illuminated skin was eggshell, a hallmark of a desk job. “We were in a bit of a pinch.”

“Who are you? Why did you call me that? Why am I here? What do you want from me?” That seemed to cover all of the bases for the time being. Whether they’d be answered sufficiently was another matter entirely.

“You know who has interrogative authority in this situation, Mr. Ellison. This histrionic behavior will not go unpunished.” With a slight wave of his hand, he emphasized the devices on the table. Pausing for a moment, he looked down at them too. Grabbing what appeared to be a coffee grinder with wires, he approached my chair. There he threaded the copper wire around my fingers. Sparks erupted from the box when he spun the handle around. It scraped like an old magneto telephone.

The shock was beyond painful. There wasn’t much to do, save bending over as a reflex and making guttural noises. A sigh came from above me and he rested himself on the edge of the table. The sound of my breath kept the room from being silent.

“Since you seem to have selective memory, I’ll lay out the details of what we already know. Your name isn’t Harold Katzinger; you’re Finbarr Ellison. You’re wanted by INTERPOL on a long list of espionage charges. You’re currently in America to sell sensitive information, namely coordinates to our confidential weapons development facilities, to a private buyer. To be brief, Mr. Ellison, we want to know who that buyer is.”

“You’re full of shit, buddy. Gyaaaaaaaah!” That wasn’t the wisest answer in the world.

“One last time, Mr. Ellison,” the voice was now through gritted teeth, “to whom are you going to deliver those coordinates? You might as well tell us now, and you may get a fair trial. We’re nice like that. If you won’t cooperate with us, we could simply leave you in any remote area we please to let you starve to death. I’m partial to the Mojave, but Alaska has a certain charm. Nobody will ever find your body either way. “

“I am Harold Katzinger. I’m an American citizen. I’m not a spy. I don’t have any coordinates, and I don’t want to know any coordinates. You’re hurting an innocent man. Let me go. You’re violating my rights!” How could anyone confuse me, the man who once affixed a rafter square to his forearm with superglue, for some cunning secret agent?

Uttering a string of profanity, my companion grabbed the coffee grinder and violently twisted the handle more times than I could count. Any more than once was way too many.  My arm hair bristled with current as my limbs went numb.

“MOTHERFAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” I was convinced my fingers fell off. It took forever to stop, and once it did, there wasn’t much fight left in me. My muscles relaxed and my head fell forward again. Feeling the heat from my eye sockets, my breath became more stable. The stench of burnt hair reached my nose but I was too tired to care. Fading out from exhaustion, I could hear parts of a new conversation.

“What do you think? Is he telling the truth?” A voice with heavier footsteps came in from my right. We weren’t alone.

“He’s definitely hiding something. I’ve never met a more natural liar.” The interrogator turned his back to walk out.

“What do we do with him now?” The deeper, husky voice was obviously a subordinate.

“Keep him here for all I care,” came the reply. “He’ll doing the same thing soon enough.”

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Promulgated

The song “Black Sunshine” was apropos as Marissa floored it down the 10. She couldn’t let a freak storm impede the progress of her Shelby Cobra on its way to destiny. This was her date with death, if it came down to it. Traffic had to go. All this weaving was making for an even more miserable experience. Was she trying to stop a catastrophe for these people? Sometimes she wondered its worth, especially with all the persecution.

Being a manipulator of the forces around her was still a problem for those raised on too many fairy tales. Good and evil always begin in a neutral state. Those who use their mystical attributes take them down that road. Her father, Hogan, would often prance into her study with, “Oh-hoo-hoo, are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Such was his nature to be cheeky, and often used common society to irritate her to no end. Teenage angst, being what it was, would always seem to give him the satisfaction of a reaction to his facetiousness.

Those were easier times for the young sorceress, up in the Superstitions. It was a veritable paradise compared to the current state of affairs. Time was endless and there was always a centuries-old book to crack open. Scribbles could dance with the touch of her fingers even when they were much older than the country she called home. “The trade was eternal,” Hogan would say.

He left when she was 20. It may have been just a matter of independence, a going of one’s own way. That was understandable to a certain extent, but to never get back in contact? She couldn’t think of anything she did to turn him away. A second pair of hands would be well received right about now. There were countless, terribly dangerous users on the isolation planes that could peel the crust off this planet as if it were an orange and with little effort.

Signs were everywhere, but usually explained away with science and reason. Two new moons, sinkholes everywhere, the Flight of the Phoenix, and this unending thunderstorm meant something more sinister than mere traditional explanations. A male member of the tribe was resurrecting himself from suspension. This was a serious Council infraction and whoever it was needed to be put down like a rabid dog. She read no one was willing to return to their assigned dimension.

Turning off on a county road, she skidded left of center and back in time to miss a rig driver laying on his horn for all it was worth. Slick as the road was, it wasn’t nearly as perilous as the destination. A steadiness came over her as she pushed the needle past 80 mph. Everyone she knew, including herself, would be shot to Hell without doing all in her power to get there.

The reception square lay in a remote part of Arizona. Inconspicuousness favored sparsely populated areas. Convicted members would have to rest and regain their strength from such a brazen move. More than likely they would hole up in a cave or derelict house for a few days with their thoughts and motives.

Surrounded by sagebrush and sand, the platform disguised itself as slate rock partially buried in the Earth. Saguaro and yucca obscured it further from the road, but the inter-dimensional charge gave it a light white halo for the trained eye. Marissa was in the right spot; she’d soon find out who she risked life and limb to stop.

The Council of the Dogs was completely unaware of the happenings in Arizona. A New York committee spent that time arguing over the regulations of their charter, which have been known to take years on more than one occasion. She was the point of contact for the desert southwest, which meant little to nothing in the eyes of bigger fish. After three ignored missives, she decided to enforce the will of the Council herself.

 A tall cactus made for the best impromptu cover she could afford. Holding on to the relief of arriving early, rain beat down soaking her to the bone. Through stringy pink hair she surveyed the landing site intently, even though she wanted to fly far away from it. It was too late to have a change of heart.

The glow ceased and the rain gave way as a peal of thunder ripped a hole in the desert before her. A white eye with large black pupil shimmered and curls of darkness gracefully slid out into this world as the passenger came close to the exit. Marissa thought of the old 1950s horror films with their excessive use of dry ice and water. Someone’s science fair project won first place.

A sinister sight emerged from the portal and fell to the ground. Such was the way of  forbidden rituals. Even the most powerful of magicians would be weakened by it. Some fare better than others, but there was always a negative impact on the user. This was her best chance to gain the upper hand. Shouts as good as any law enforcement came forth as she charged the spent figure on the ground.

“In the name of Alexia Oroyo and the Council, I am here to enforce the rules set forth in the tribal charter. Your sentence was to be served as promised, and reintroduction is a clear violation of said promise. No exile is to return from their suspension unless granted explicit permission by the Council itself. Under these conditions, I must either escort you back to your imprisonment or destroy you. That choice will rest with your actions.” It sounded authoritative enough, even if she had no experience with either.

“Are you a good witch?” Inquired the fatigued warlock, “or a bad witch?” He couldn’t quite raise himself up off the floor, but was trying regardless.

Marissa knew that voice. So long had it been, the sound of her father moved her to tears. This was the last person she’d expect to meet at a charter breach rendezvous. Why was he in limbo to start? It certainly would explain his disappearance, but the new question was a little harder to answer.

“Dad! Why are you here? Why were you there?! What’s going on? Tell me! I don’t want to kill you, but that’s not saying I won’t.” Patience wasn’t the strongest of her virtues.

Swallowing hard and gaining moisture back in his mouth, Hogan tried to explain. He wanted to lay out the whole story, but could only manage “needed to see you.” With this he took in slow deep breaths and looked at her for a reaction.

No amount of training could prepare a member for this situation. Sifting through her thoughts she lifted her father and supported him on the way to the car. Many people make poor choices; she was willing to gamble this time. The Council certainly wouldn’t approve.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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