Posts Tagged ‘fiction

21
Oct
19

Chrysanthemum Graves

Being unable to hold it in anymore, I scribbled the first few paragraphs of my NaNoWriMo project. I thought I’d share. Let me know what you think!

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“What the fuck are you doing? Where the hell are your shoes?”

The voice came from somewhere further inside the house, the heavy walls and their tapestries deadening it, killing any echoes and making it hard to tell where it had come from. Still, Danny knew it well enough. Calm, despite the words it chose. Deep, rumbling like a subterranean landslide. Faint traces of an accent, but one that was almost impossible to define.

“Taking care of the floor, man! Isn’t that some shit you’re into? Don’t wanna track all over the place.”

Danny’s voice was shrill, nasal, almost the human equivalent of nails on chalkboard. He hated the sound of it himself, and would complain about it to anyone who even vaguely touched the subject, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Puberty and its mysterious ways had been unkind to him in that regard.

The owner of the other voice had appeared at the end of the hall leading from the entryway. Contrary to his irritation at Danny’s lack of footwear, he was barefoot. A pair of gray sweats were the only clothing he wore. His chest was bare, shiny with sweat. Danny assumed the other man had been in the middle of one of his routines when he’d heard the bell.

“I like to keep my floor clean, yeah. That’s why I don’t want your nasty feet dragging on it. I mean, couldn’t you at least wear some socks? Go put your shoes back on. Then meet me in the kitchen.”

The man turned to his left, slipping through a beaded curtain that blended so well into the wall that it would have been invisible if you didn’t know to look for it. He was silent as he did so, and despite the rattling Danny knew he’d provoke by walking through it, the beads barely moved, as though they refused to defy the master of the house.

“Uh… right. Whatever you say, Ichi.”

His voice shook more than usual, and Danny cursed himself for it. Ichiro had never done anything to make him feel the pulse of fear that always quaked through him in the other man’s presence. Nothing to him, anyway. But Danny still always had to wonder if one day that would change.

He slunk back up the two short steps that separated the main room from the entrance, slipping his feet into the battered sneakers that had last been replaced sometime during Obama’s first term, before moving to follow Ichiro through the curtain.

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08
Sep
19

S. Crowe – Session 1 (Cont.)

(If you’ve missed where it started, you can find it over yonder!)


“If you’re certain. Though that does look quite painful. Potentially infected.”

Crowe rolled her shoulders again, seeming to retreat back into herself. Dorothea wondered if pursuing the subject of the girl’s injuries further would be worth it, then cast it aside. It was a symptom, surely, not the root.

“Alright, then. Do you remember the hospital where you woke up? What the doctor’s name was?”

Crowe’s lips parted, a thin hiss of air slipping free. One hand crept up to her face and she began gnawing an already ragged nail.

“Hanscomb. Dr. Hanscomb.”

Dorothea nodded, allowing her lips to quirk upward in a faint smile.

“That’s good,” she said. “But do you know why you remember that?”

Crowe gave a bark that Dorothea assumed was supposed to be some form of laughter, though it sounded more like an animal crying in pain.

“Yeah. I remember it because he was stupid. ‘Hanscomb like handsome, that’s me,’ he said.”

Her hand came away from her mouth, and she turned back to Dorothea, looking at her normally for perhaps the first time, the way one person looks to another when they’re having a cozy chat. Dorothea’s smile widened.

“That does sound a little… hokey, I suppose. But it stuck, did it not?”

“I guess. Doesn’t seem like such a great thing to me. I can remember some dumb doctor’s name when all he did was tap my knees, shine a light in my eyes, and tell me to talk to someone else. Hooray. Can’t remember my name or anything that happened before that, and wouldn’t be able to remember anything else if it weren’t for these stupid things, but yeah, great, progress.”

She rolled her eyes as she shook her mangled and braceleted arm in Dorothea’s direction.

Ah. Getting closer.

“Those help you to remember? How so?”

Dorothea suppressed a wave of worry as Crowe pulled back into herself, putting her knees to her chest and hugging them tightly. Perhaps she’d gone too far, too quickly.

“I dunno. Something…” Her voice trailed off, became almost dreamy. Her eyes went the corner of the room, losing focus as though she was looking at something much farther away than the potted plant that held watch there.

Dorothea let her stare for several seconds, not wanting to break whatever spell she’d inadvertently conjured. When nothing else seemed forthcoming, she leaned forward, hands clasped between her own knees.

“Something…?” she whispered.

Crowe nodded, and when she spoke again, it was in a singsong whisper that reminded Dorothea of when she would sing lullabies to herself as a child.

“Something my mother told me to do. If you can’t remember, snap a band and all is better.”

Dorothea eyed the other woman’s arm again, thinking that the behavior must go quite a bit farther back than this most recent memory loss. Whatever lay beneath the mass of hair ties and rubber bands was much more damage than could have been done over the course of only a few days.

Perhaps things like this occur often, she considered. Then she shook the thought out of her head. Regardless of how often this occurred, step one was resolving the current episode. Then healing could really begin.

“Do you remember your mother, Miss Crowe?”

There was near silence for several long seconds, broken only by Crowe’s hissing breath and the tick of the clock atop the mantle. When she answered, she was still speaking in that child’s voice.

“Sometimes. When I’m bad.”


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05
Sep
19

Doors

There’s a doorway. Over there. Wait. No. Over there. Maybe. Is it here? Could be.

It moves around, you know. Never in the same place for more than a minute or two. Oops. Missed it again, didn’t you? That’s okay. It’ll come back around. It likes to stay around here. Who knows why.

Where does it go? Who knows? Maybe to wherever it went. Maybe to wherever it came from. Maybe somewhere else. Wouldn’t it be fun if it happened to you right when you opened a normal door, and instead of your nice, normal life, you stepped through into something else?

But how would you leave? Is the door on the other side of itself? Does it move around over there, too? What does “over there” even mean? Does it matter? Try it and see.

Go on.

Open the door. Take a peek. Can’t hurt, can it? What, are you chicken? “Curiosity killed the cat,” you say? You obviously hadn’t heard about the second part of that. “Satisfaction brought him back.” Aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to be…

Wait! There it is again! Right there! Don’t you see it? You sure you’re not curio… okay. Be brave, m’lad. What can go wrong?

There you go. Enjoy the doorknob? I hear it’s made of genie’s brass. Or maybe it was Jenny’s ass. I disremember which.

Open it. Go on. It won’t leave until you open it or let go. How do I know? I just know these things. Yes. That’s it. Pull it open.

Doesn’t look like much, does it? I know. Step inside, though. You’ll see things. You’ll learn things. I promise. Go on, now.

Careful. First step’s a doozy.

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04
Sep
19

Sleeping in

The harsh sound of ducks quacking interrupts the soothing voice of the British woman who has been talking to me for the last two hours. She’s currently telling me that she’d like me to touch the tip of my nose, then reach out and touch the tip of her finger repeatedly.

Both sounds come from the same place. My phone, lying on the bed. The ducks are just the alarm. I’d set it when I decided to take a nap, thinking it might improve my mood or give me the energy to do something besides watch television. An hour, I’d said. The hour was up, and then some.

I didn’t care. Without opening my eyes my thumb finds the right spot on the screen. The ducks stop; the British woman and her eye exam resume.

“Get up.”

The voice isn’t unexpected. It also doesn’t matter. I know if I look to the doorway, where it had come from, the owner of the voice wouldn’t be there, but I can picture him anyway: tall, pallid, thick mop of black hair, round glasses. A cigarette dangling from the corner of a scowling mouth, a tablet or laptop under one arm, and a camera in his other hand. Looking pissed because he had places to go, things to do, problems to solve.

“Don’t listen to him. Stay here. It’s better this way.”

That voice is more familiar. It’s comforting. Like the first, I know the owner isn’t actually there, but can picture him, too. Lying there with the covers pulled over his head, eyes closed, phone on his chest, listening to the British woman and ignoring the ticking of an internal clock as it wasted away. Seconds, minutes, hours, they didn’t matter to him, and he told me it shouldn’t matter to me, either.

I know them both very well. After all, they were me. The sleepy one was the one I listened to the most, though. No matter how much the angry, anxious one yelled – and he could yell plenty, something I envied about him – I could turn his volume down to nothing, listen to the tired one, and just stay here. I might feel bad about it later, and it might make the other one angrier later, but it doesn’t matter. I know if I stay here long enough, soon I can stay forever, and then it’ll all be darkness and soothing voices. No more shouting. No more fighting. No more pain.

“I said. Get. The. Fuck. Up.”

My eyes shoot open, and something is different. I can tell it’s been a while since they last had anything to say; my sense of time is broken, but not completely gone. But that’s not the problem. Time skips like that at the norm these days.

The problem is that he’s straddling me, his face inches from mine, teeth – the few he has left, anyway – bared at me, ash from his cigarette dropping onto my forehead. Somehow that detail, feeling the little flakes drift down from the glowing red eye of his cigarette and tickle their way across my forehead, my check, into the crease of my neck and give me the shivers like the thought of a bug crawling across me, is what convinces me this is real. Somehow, some way, he’s real, and he’s tired of putting up with my shit.

The camera and tablet aren’t with him; I imagine they’re still sitting by the doorway, carefully laid aside so they wouldn’t be damaged. He – we – always cared more for our things than ourselves. But everything else is the same; the Coyotes hoodie, the split left knee of his jeans, the jingling of his keys against the lighter and aspirator in his pocket, the dangling tail of the My Little Pony lanyard hanging loose and flopping as his lays hands on my shoulders and shakes me.

My head slams into the headboard, creating a white flash across my vision. When it clears, he’s still there, lips curled and eyes slitted in the same expression I’d seen in the mirror a hundred times before I took nails to flesh and clawed out a chunk of my own arm or my back.

“Go ‘way. Lemme ‘alone.” That was Sleepy. I don’t look. I’m afraid to look. It’s bad enough seeing one version of myself looking ready to kill me; I don’t want to confirm the physical reality of a third. Angry doesn’t have those problems. His head snaps to the left, he lets go of one of my shoulders, and a moment later I hear what sounds like a thundercrack and a mewl of pain. Blood begins to trickle from the side of my mouth, and Angry’s, and why not? What happens to one of us happens to all of us.

“You shut the fuck up. Christ. I’m trying to save us, here.”

Despite the rage and his actions, there’s a note of sincerity in his voice, curious but harsh care that somehow makes it worse. His attention comes back to me, locking eyes. His left hand rummages in his pocket for a moment and comes up full of pills. I know them well. Antipsychotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, steroids, cough suppressants. The things that keep me – us – alive and well. At least as well as we get, anyway.

His face doesn’t change from the bizarre mixture of care and hate as he hooks the index finger of his left hand into my mouth and forces it open. I try to talk, to yell at him to stop, but nothing comes out. He shoves the pills into my mouth, then clamps his hand over my lips and pinches my nose shut with the other hand. I don’t have a choice; I swallow.

“Good. Now get up. And don’t make me do it again.”

I blink, and he’s gone. For now. I glance down at the bed, and see three dents in it; one to either side of me, circular. Knees. To my side, a larger oblong one. The shape of a body.

That’s it. That’s enough. For today. The taste of the pills – the steroids, especially – is still on my tongue, stinging and rancid, and there wasn’t anything that would get rid of it except for chugging a soda and taking a hard drag on my vape box. The taste was shit, but it worked great as a motivator… once I had it in my mouth, anyway.

Time to get up. No more sleeping in.

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01
Sep
19

S. Crowe – Session 1 (Cont.)

If you missed the beginning, you can find it right here!


“You don’t know it?”

Dorothea kept her voice pitched low, enunciating the words slowly and with only the slightest upturn on the last syllable; no reason to make Ms. Crowe any more agitated. Her eyes were locked on the bit of blood oozing out of the other woman’s wrist, but her peripheral vision could see more raw flesh hiding beneath the hair bands that braceleted the young woman’s forearm.

Crowe sighed, turning her head to look at the wall. Her eyes were glassy, unfocused. Dorothea suspected the woman might have recently engaged in an illicit substance. Possibly heroin, or oxycontin. The vacant look, apparent lack of pain reaction, and the notes that her initial medical contact had left in the file regarding possible track marks near the armpit certainly suggested it.

“No. Don’t know anything, really. Some doctor said I was lucky to be alive before he put me in a room, some other doctor asked a bunch of questions, then they sent me to you.”

She turned to face Dorothea, and in an instant the disinterested glaze was gone. Her brown eyes gave the doctor a shudder, looking almost predatory as they zeroed in.

“You’re just another doctor, who’s going to ask me a bunch of questions and then kick me down the line. I know that’s what you folks do, yes indeed. I know that much.”

Dorothea felt her spine tingle, the muscles begging for the chance to pull back from that animalistic gaze, but she steeled herself. She hadn’t spent almost a decade in school and another five years working the psych ward just to cower from a woman who, despite obviously being in need of some sort of help, was nothing more than a skinny junkie with memory loss.

“Well, I can’t say I’m not going to ask any questions as that would be a lie, Ms. Crowe. I have no intention of lying to you. But I don’t have any intention of ‘kicking you down the line,’ as you put it. I’m here to help, and will be with you for as long as that takes.”

“Kill or cure,” Crowe muttered, her eyes glazing over again as they sought the comfort of her wrist. She snapped another band, this one a vibrant red and adorned with a stalk of straw. Pink fluid, not quite blood and not quite pus, seeped from underneath.

“Preferably not the former,” Dorothea said. “Would you like a tissue? Perhaps a bandage?” She knew the other woman would refuse it – the plucking and injuries it caused were obviously some sort of comfort mechanism – but felt it important to offer. The patient needed to know it was always on the table, if only so Dorothea could hope it would one day be taken.

The only response was a slow roll of the shoulders, punctuated with a disinterested grunt.

Better than a flat “no,” at least, she thought.


It’s short, I know. But it’s something. More to come, I promise!

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29
Aug
19

A Terrible Thunder

It was asleep. For how long, I don’t know. Maybe a year, maybe a decade, maybe a millennium. It didn’t matter; what mattered was that it was awake, now.

Bitter irony had trapped it underneath the playground of a Catholic school. The children of its enemies would dance and laugh and scream and bleed above it, a slow trickle of their blood and tears and laughter and, most delicious of all, the little blasphemies they would utter when the nuns weren’t looking, seeping through the earth to its dozing ears, nose and tongue.

The storm came, as they are prone to do, unannounced. A bass rumble, a few seconds of nothing, as though the night was holding its breath to see what came next. Then a flicker of light. Then another rumble, louder, and a brighter flash. As the rain went from a quick drizzle to a torrential downpour that turned what the children used as a baseball field into a quagmire, those rumbles escalated to deafening cannon fire. The flashes of lightning on the horizon drew closer and brighter, until each one was turning the world white and imposing a negative exposure on the world.

It ended almost as suddenly as it began, with a final bolt that struck the metal pole the children used for tetherball. Electricity arced from the pole as it raced into the ground and burrowed beneath, and the sound ruptured the eardrums of small wildlife foolish enough to remain in attendance for the awakening.

The rain stopped. No more lights or sounds came from the heavens. Beneath the earth, it opened one baleful eye, and began to laugh.

23
Aug
19

S. Crowe – Session 1

(If you missed the beginning of Dr. Gale’s tale, you can find it right here!)


The two women sat in silence on opposite sides of the faux ancient apothecary table (only $199.99 from Ikea, the last Dorothea had checked), each eyeing the other. The scrawny blonde on the side closest to the door was tucked into herself, limbs pulled up in a protective manner as she gnawed an already ragged thumbnail, bloodshot brown eyes flicking between various aspects of the room’s decor, her own feet, and Dorothea’s face.

Dorothea’s posture was straight but relaxed, legs crossed at a demure angle, leather-bound notepad perched on her lap and silver pen poised to scribble as need be. Her light blue pantsuit stood in sharp contrast to the other woman’s ragged tank top and Lycra shorts. Her blue eyes were steady, focused, moving slowly along the other woman’s frame as she took in the small details – a series of hair ties and rubber bands, several with shafts of wheat or straw hanging from them, along the woman’s left arm; a latticework of scar tissue on her right shoulder; an odd dent in the right side of her skull that the stringy reddish-blonde hair couldn’t quite conceal despite a mighty effort.

After a long moment, Dorothea cleared her throat. The sudden sound in the quiet office provoked a startled squeak from the other woman, who narrowed her eyes and brought them to sharp focus on Dorothea.

“Miss… Crowe, correct?”

A noncommittal grunt came from the other seat.

“S. Crowe. Is there a reason you haven’t given a full first name?”

“Don’t know it,” the other woman mumbled, her eyes drifting downward while her teeth went to work on another fingernail. Dorothea saw the woman’s right hand creep up to one of the hair bands and tweak it, producing a small bead of blood as the end of the straw tangled in it prodded the thin flesh beneath.


 

I know it’s short, and perhaps not all that interesting. For that, I apologize. We’re trying, though! Dr. Gale isn’t going anywhere, so rest assured we’ll hear more from her and her quartet of patients in the near future. Until next time, folks!

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