Posts Tagged ‘snippet


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!


“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.


Fiction Snippet: Lune de Amant – Running

She ran. It was times like this where she was most at peace with what she was. With the restraints of her position removed, with no one constantly looming behind her with her hand held in a vice or a possessive palm against her waist, having no need to primp and preen and endure hours of near torture to put on the airs of a respectable lady, she felt free. More than that, she felt alive.

Alive. Something she wasn’t even sure she understood the meaning of anymore. Not since Martin had found her, at least. She might have been in pain, ill, possibly dying. But she had at least felt something. Now, as she drifted along at his side, everything felt as though it was being pushed through a bit of gauze drenched in filthy water. No smell was particularly noticeable, no color vibrant. Even her own thoughts felt dull and muted.

But out here, when she ran free wearing thick, warming fur instead of choking silk, acting with instinct rather than carefully measured thought and planning, going where her pulse and nose took her instead of where Martin led her, she was someone else. She was herself, much as she might resist the admission.

Tonight was different, though. She had run, not because the animal in her had begged her too, not because the moon had called her to it, and not because Martin had told her to. She had run because some part of life’s former brilliance had bled once more into her human guise and she had not known how to process it. It had been a year since she had felt that way, had interacted with the world as someone who walked in it rather than through it, and she had been afraid.

To run as a wolf was simpler. Easier. Less to think about, nothing to worry about. It gave her an opportunity to exhaust herself and let her hot blood cool. To settle herself back to that comfortable grayness when she walked on two legs again.

Nicholas. It was his fault. If she hadn’t met him…

She paused, shaking her shaggy head and chuffing in an attempt to banish it. Even in a world composed mostly of smells and vague shapes, she could see his face clearly in her mind. He’d done nothing, really. Merely extended a hand and asked for hers, leading her to a dance that was so much more lively than those that Martin had taught her. Laughing, spinning, tasting things that had almost led to her cry at their sweetness, all at Nicholas’ arm. Never with him commanding it, always him asking, always her accepting.

No. It was not fair to blame him for it. She had made her choices. She could have – should have – declined his invitation to dance. Could have excused herself and clung to Martin for the evening before returning to their suite, none the wiser.

Unable to banish his face from her mind, she ran on. Stopping only gave those thoughts a grip. She ran faster, her pumping legs serving as pistons to shove his image aside.

After several minutes, when she thought she had left such thoughts behind her, she realized she had done no such thing. Apparently thoughts of Nicholas still held her in sway, even as she fled under the gaze of mother moon. She dug her claws into the soggy earth, stopping as she realized where her feet had taken her.

Nicholas’ estate lay below. She could still see the brilliant glow of the windows, and dim forms milling about in the courtyard, their shadows grown grotesque by the flickering lanterns set high on either side of the walkway. Her twitching ears could make out the sound of the band playing on, even though the revelry had ostensibly ended hours ago. She suspected they’d carry on this way until dawn at this point.

There. Her nostrils flared, and it was almost a physical pull on her snout that drug her gaze towards one of the second story window. Her eyesight in this form was not as good as it was when she walked among the sheep, but some scents were so strong to her that they became visible; the person standing in that window was covered in two such smells.

One looked to her a muted green, lingering mostly about the figure’s neck and arm. It was one she knew well; the same color trailed behind her in paw print shapes. Her own scent.

The other glowed to her, an orange that shone brighter than the lanterns scattered about the estate and was nearly as intoxicating as the rum-laced drinks she had sampled earlier in the evening. The only scent that had drug her out of the gauzy filter and drawn her interest. Nicholas.

She couldn’t tell what he was doing, beyond standing at the window. The sounds of the remaining partygoers drowned out anything that might be coming from his direction. She saw him stiffen, as though started, and glance over his shoulder; the colors of his scent sparked in a brief flash of red, before returning to orange once more. He seemed to shudder, though she thought he might actually have been laughing. A moment after, he turned back to the window and pulled it shut before snuffing the light within and cutting himself off from her senses entirely.

She wanted him. Without the clutter of her human thoughts, she could admit that at least. But he represented a life she no longer lived, an unsettling sense of normalcy that would forever be beyond her. And regardless of what she told Martin, a part of her didn’t want to return to normality, treasured the time she spent running on all fours, free beneath the cold light of the moon.

Part of her wanted to run to him, and use the gifts given to her to shred and claw and destroy the thing that had disturbed her so. Another portion wanted to go to him and make him like her, so she would not feel so alone. A third felt she should divorce herself of the night world, subdue all such wild urges, and seek him as a human woman might. She knew she could make him hers with unnatural talents – Martin had showed her how – but she wanted him to be hers in a more natural way… as she would be his.

She whined, tail tucking down behind her. It was too much. Too many possibilities, too many consequences, and all of them were too hard to think about in this shape. It felt constricting and cloying instead of free now, trapping her with circular thoughts and vague fears.

She bounded away, pausing to give one glance back to Nicholas’ window and giving a low howl that – thankfully – was not answered. She would run. She would hunt. And she would steer clear of him until this internal storm calmed.


Believe Me snippet


The scratching of pen against heavy paper had always been an evocative and pleasurable sound to Lila. Something about the noise, the way it made her think of the sensation of holding the satisfying weight of the implement in her hand, the smell of well-made paper, the idea of creation and creativity being unleashed… they all pleased her.

It was a complete conceit of vanity to be doing it now; she knew that. It didn’t lessen her enjoyment, however. If anything, it was enhanced by the knowledge that doing it this way made it all seem so much more theatrical and magical. After all, part of the allure of what she did was tied up in public perception. No one believed – or wanted to listen to – a psychic who just told them something point blank. They wanted a show, they wanted waving hands and obscuring smoke and the idea of someone scribbling prophecies by candlelight.

For all intents and purposes, that was exactly what she was doing right now. Close enough, at least.

Lila had been at the table, scribbling idly, mostly to feed her own self-image and partly to pass the time, for five hours. She knew it would probably be another two at least before she had news and could write something of substance, but it soothed her nerves.

She wasn’t certain why she should be nervous; after all, the gig had been going for three months already and every step had been as carefully choreographed as any large-scale dance production. But there was always the nagging voice that could never be fully silenced, the one that asked things like “what if he screws it up,” “what if he turns you in,” “what if they find out” and possibly worst of all, “what if this is wrong?”

She hated that question the most. Perhaps because she knew it was.

Thinking about it wasn’t helping her any; she pushed the thoughts back, raising her head to stare at the door, then glancing pointedly down at the gaudy gold watch that hung limp against her thin wrist.

Still to early. You know that.

She did, but it didn’t change the fact that she just wanted this part to be over. Tom Petty’d had it right; the waiting was the hardest part. But the dividends that waiting paid out were worth it.

Sighing, knowing there’d be nothing more of value to write until Kelsey got home, she flipped her notebook shut, pulling the elasticized velvet strap into place to hold the page she’d begin writing on once the deed was done. Setting her pen, a stainless steel, gold and silver monstrosity that had cost more than most people’s cars, alongside it, she pushed out of the chair and drifted out of her writing nook and into the living room.

As she went, she trailed one hand along all the things her labors had gotten her; the wrought-iron chairs imported from some European country she couldn’t name, let alone pronounce. A table supposedly hewn from a thousand year old tree in a forest that no longer existed and polished to a mirror sheen by weeping orphans in a Chinese labor camp. A hand-stitched leather davenport, dark green with gold filigree in a fleur-de-lis pattern.

For someone who’d grown up in a doublewide trailer alongside more siblings than she could count, Lila Morrigan felt she was doing pretty good for herself.

She’d only had to commit a handful of murders to do it.

Not like you did them yourself, she thought. That was the voice she preferred to listen to, the one who didn’t harass her by begging moral questions about the ends justifying the means. That was the voice of the woman she wanted to be, the grown-up voice of the child she had been, the one that had been beaten down and kept locked away and found a thousand reasons to be silent until recently.

It was also true, Lila thought as she sank into the sensual smoothness of the davenport, letting her bare feet dangle over the edge. She balled one fist up against her cheek and stared at the door. Part of her hoped she could fall asleep, not just so that the time would pass faster while she was unconscious, but because she knew Kelsey thought it was cute when he came home and found her asleep and facing the door, like a child waiting for their father who is too tired to still be up when the door at last opens and a booming voice announces “Daddy’s home.”

Her brain didn’t seem to be on board with the idea, though, chasing itself in circles. When she’d been sitting at the desk and testing out phrasing for her next grand prediction, she’d been focused, able to easily ignore the otherwise near-constant debate inside her skull. With nothing to occupy her but the waiting game however, they now had free reign.

Just because you didn’t do the stabbing doesn’t mean you’re responsible, one of them pointed out. And profiting from it, doing nothing to stop it…

The voice trailed off, but Lila had heard it often enough – both from her shrink as a teenager and from inside her mind – she knew what came next. To derail it, she took a deep breath and assumed a pompous, stuff-cheeked bass voice.

“The only thing that evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” she boomed into the empty house.

Words. Empty words, just as empty as anything else she’d told her clients. Uncle Joe was not watching out for them, Aunt Shelly hadn’t given her dying breath to whispering how much she loved an estranged grandchild, and your husband Bob had been a cheating scuzz who wasn’t proclaiming his eternal innocence from the afterlife. Just words. Words that had kept her just above the poverty level for almost a decade.

But real words, words with some power and knowledge behind them, like those that had just “come to her” after Susanne Winters had been murdered last year, or perhaps the message from the other side that Darlene McClintock had offered her a couple months ago, or even the as-yet unwritten post scripted suicide note that Candace Meyers would surely be whispering to her by the end of the day… those words had a purpose, a guiding direction to them. Who was she to deny them?

You’re Lila Morrigan. You used to be a good girl. There’s still time to change things, you know.

She hmmphed, rolling over and facing the couch cushion. Good girl. Yeah, right. Nobody’d ever thought so before, no reason for them to start now.

He’ll kill you, too. One day.

Lila jerked up, moving without thinking about it. She slid on the leather and found herself hitting the ground with a harsh thump that left her spine aching and made her clip the tip of her tongue with her teeth, flooding her tastebuds with the too-salty taste of blood.

“Horseshit,” she hissed to the empty room. “He loves me.”

Does he? Or are you just convenient?

“Shut up!” She launched upward, digging her nails into her scalp and twisting her fingers into her thick blonde hair. Eyes wide, teeth bared and bloody, she swept her head from side to side, daring that voice to show itself, to give her a target, something she could hit, and claw and bite until it was silent. Part of her realized how idiotic the idea was; the voices all came from inside, and she knew it. That part was buried in the rubble of the Lila-who-was’ panic at the very idea and the smug satisfaction of the Lila-who-could-be’s insinuations.

Only one thing would shut them all up. She didn’t want to do it. Kelsey would be mad, and it would mean an extra day before they could really get the ball rolling on their latest masterpiece. But if she didn’t they’d drive her crazy long before he got home.

She turned away from the living area, eyes narrowing as she focused on the bathroom door tucked discretely against the stairwell.

Don’t. Please.

The voice wasn’t frightened, as Lila would have liked it. It wasn’t even angry. It just sounded disappointed.

“Please, my ass. I do as I please.”

Lila had long ago stopped worrying about talking out loud to her own internal monologues. No one was around to hear it, anyway. When Kelsey was home, those voices were quiet, overruled by his own confident tones. When he was away… well, what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, that was her motto.

She started towards the door, undoing the buttons on her silk blouse and letting it drop to the floor. Caught in the sudden chill, her bare shoulders and neckline instantly rippled into tingling ridges of gooseflesh. Lila caught herself wondering what Kelsey would say if he was here. Would he have been turned on? Would he have asked to see more, maybe interrupted her self-destructive tantrum with his touch and tongue?

No way to know. No matter. He wasn’t here, and she wouldn’t be stopped. But that didn’t mean she had to ruin a good blouse, especially a white one.

She pushed open the door to the bathroom, reaching out and flicking on the lights. The small room had been done entirely in black tile with chrome accents. Even the sink, toilet and tub matched. When she was in here, alone as she was now, she could believe she’d stepped into a hidden pocket in space where she could float freely and nothing would disturb her. The reflection of the single fluorescent bar bounced from the mirror and against dozens of tiles, enhancing the illusion by dotting space with a myriad of stars.

She let the door swing shut and reached forward, pulling the mirrored cabinet open. Finding her way by touch, her searching hand danced across the bottom shelf before finding something hard, flat and sharp. Tweezing it between her fingers, she brought the object close, tipping it from side to side to catch the light.

Put that thing away. Walk out. Call the police.

The voice was finally showing some signs of distress. Not that it would make a difference. Smiling, Lila angled the razor blade with the cutting edge turned towards her palm. She raised her arm above her head, cocking the elbow. With the blade hovering just above her shoulder, she used her free hand to swing the mirror shut.

There was enough light for her to see her face. Twisted into a manic grin, blood dribbling over her lower lip from her wounded tongue, eyes wide, pupils dilated, small traces of maroon in her hair at the temples, where she’d dug her nails in without realizing it. Others might have thought her insane; Lila considered herself fierce.

Locking her tongue into the corner of her pursed lips, keeping her eyes on the eyes of the Lila in the mirror, she brought the blade closer. Cold as her shoulders already were, she still felt as though there was a pocket of frost around the tiny blade as she brought it to barely an inch above her vulnerable flesh.

“Shut. Up.”

She began the cleansing.

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Believe Me – Fiction Snippet


Carole stood by the side of the bed, running her fingers over the chilly forehead of the child she thought of as her daughter. She looked very out of place, a paradox that shouldn’t exist; in sharp contrast to her solidly built frame, smart sport coat, sensibly long – but not too long – skirt, and authoritarian hair bun, the room was small, brilliant pink, festooned with rainbow streamers and had the added attraction of an audience: a set of mock bleachers crammed with stuffed animals of every description, their glass eyes fixated on the princess-style bed and its occupant.

Sarai was half tucked in, having insisted that the covers not be pulled up completely. Carole had fought with her on it, especially given the chill the girl was giving off, but had finally relented when it became apparent that Sarai was only going to fuss more and toss them off the second Carole left the room anyway. When they’d gotten home, Sarai still sniveling and fitful but at least willing to be led to her room, Amanda had knelt down in front of the girl and told her that she needed to have a little discussion with someone, then had left the rest to Carole.

“Somebody who needs his hide tanned,” was the explanation Amanda had given her wife, and while Carole didn’t disagree that Gabe was in need of a fresh reminder of his responsibilities, she still felt that tending to their daughter was the more immediate issue. Amanda hadn’t quite seen it the same way, and had blown out of the house to hunt down her ex-husband.

Carole didn’t really mind; it was probably better this way. Lord knows, Sarai had been jumpy and more than a little fragile of late, and might take her mother’s anger as a sign that she’d done something wrong.

Thus Carole stood the vigil, having been the one to shrug Sarai out of the little black dress, so grown-up and carefully chosen, and into her soft squirrel jammies. She had cleaned the makeup from Sarai’s face, had used the polish remover and cotton balls to strip the already-chewed gloss off her fingers, had given her hair a hundred strokes with the brush and then a dozen more for good measure, pulling back the costume of the woman Sarai would be and once again revealing the child she was.

Then it had been off to bed, with a cup of hot cocoa and a Benadryl to help her sleep. Sarai was fighting it, though, every few minutes forcing her eyes open and staring at Carole in a way that was far too intense for a child and made her skin feel like it was attempting to crawl off her bones.

Carole hadn’t been aware that she was halfway to dozing until she was jerked to full wakefulness by Sarai’s voice. It was thick with sleepmud and the effects of the pills, slightly slurred and deeper than usual, but perfectly understandable.

“Is momma gonna hurt daddy?”

In her distress, Sarai seemed to have regressed to her younger language; she’d been using “mom” and “dad” for over a year, occasionally dipping a toe into the waters where “mother” was an acceptable term – though she typically saved that for when she was upset or exasperated. Carole’s lips pursed in a scowl, as she reached down to brush an errant lock of her daughter’s thick black hair from her brow. Rather than the chill that had been present previously, she now felt hot to the touch, causing Carole’s frown to deepen.

“Why would you say that, honey?”

She asked in as flat and calm a tone as she was capable, but between the scare she’d been given by jerking awake to that voice and her own worries, Carole thought she could hear a faint tremor in it. She just hoped Sarai hadn’t caught it.

The girl rolled over, pulling back from Carole’s touch. She scrunched herself almost into a ball, hugging her knees to her chest.

“Dunno,” she mumbled. “Dreamed it.”

Carole took a deep breath before speaking, trying to steady herself. It helped, as when she responded her voice was solid, with none of the shakes or fear she felt breaking through. Now she was once again the no-nonsense librarian, completely in control of the situation.

“Just a dream, love. Mom wouldn’t hurt anyone, especially not you, or me, or your daddy.”

Silence. Carole saw Sarai’s back moving, slow and steady. She thought that Sarai must have fallen back asleep, and probably wouldn’t even remember this in the morning. Just when she’d managed to convince herself of the idea, and was reaching for the light switch, intending to head to her own room and begin the wait for Amanda to get back home, Sarai spoke again.

“She might. If someone hurt me. She told me so. And daddy hurt me.”

“Oh, honey…”

Carole came more fully to the bed, pulling Sarai up into a sitting position and wrapping her arms around her. The girl was shaking, and Carole was expecting another crying fit. Her body was giving off an unholy amount of heat.

“You’re burning up!”

Sarai pulled her head away from Carole’s chest and stared up at her with eyes that seemed to be nothing but pupil. In those black depths, Carole saw nothingness. An absolute void that seemed to be calling to her, pleading with her, begging her to jump on in as it promised the water was just fine.

An involuntary shriek tore its way out of her chest, leaving her gasping and struggling to take in a fresh breath. Not knowing what else to do, she swept Sarai off the bed and made a dash for the bathroom, holding the girl close with one arm while her free hand sped over the handles and switches of the tub to get it running with fresh, cold water.

Once the water was running, Carole set Sarai down. The girl stood, still just staring at her with those empty eyes, while Carole shucked off the pajamas and tried to coax her into the tub.

“C’mon, honey. You need to cool down a little, alright? You’re scaring me.”

Sarai didn’t seem to have heard. Didn’t even blink. Carole found herself wondering if she’d seen Sarai blink at all since picking her up off the bed, and wasn’t certain that she had. Still, the immediate situation needed to be dealt with. When it became apparent that words weren’t going to be enough, she hefted Sarai again, and dunked her into the water. It would probably ruin her sport coat, but Carole wasn’t concerned about that right now.

The effect of the water was immediate; Sarai began screaming as though she’d been dunked in burning gasoline. She started to thrash and claw at Carole, her teeth clenched and guttural snarls slipping out between her cries. Between the flailing arms obstructing her view, and her own attempts to grab hold of Sarai’s wrists so she wouldn’t put a hand through the shower door and cut herself, Carole swore she could see the girl’s eyes dilating rapidly, caught in flux between that black stare and a puzzled, but at least human-looking, blue.

Carole didn’t let it deter her; she did her best to maintain the upper hand, keeping Sarai in the tub while her mouth worked, chewing out the air and spitting out prayers she wasn’t aware she was offering. After a time – Carole wasn’t certain how long, only that it had felt like aeons had come and gone but probably only the space of a few seconds – Sarai quieted, and Carole was able to loosen her grip and sit back.

Without looking as though there was anything odd about the situation at all, Sarai scrunched herself up, scooting to the back of the tub and a natural sitting position, before staring up at her. Her eyes were a clear, blameless blue; tears were pooled at the corners, but appeared to be from the tantrum rather than any present source of pain.

“Momma? Why’m I in the tub? Did I have an accident?”

The question was asked in such a genuine, confused way, such a goddamn normal way, that for a moment Carole was unable to process it. When it sank all the way in, a harsh laugh that didn’t sound at all like her burst from her throat. It took her a moment to respond, time which Sarai gave her. The whole time she was staring at Carole, head slightly cocked and with one corner of her mouth tweaked in a confused smile that suggested Carole might be the crazy one, and that she had certainly done nothing out of the ordinary.

When she could finally answer, she found that most of the shaking fear had faded from her voice, leaving – mostly – the stern confidence of the librarian she knew her daughter frequently compared her to as the only tone.

“No, honey. You’re sick. You were burning up. I had to cool you off. Sit tight, okay? I need to make a phone call.”

Sarai nodded, her expression not changing. Unlike before, where the lack of change had troubled her, this seemed natural enough to Carole; it was the “parents are crazy” face that so many children seemed to wear when the actions of the adults around them were incomprehensible or stupid. Carole could live with that.

She stepped back from the tub, backing into the hallway and pulling out her phone. She left the door open, so she could watch the girl while she called, but wanted to be far enough away that she couldn’t hear what was being said; she’d had enough trouble for today, and would probably only get worse if she realized how much of a fright she had given Carole.

Button three on the speed dial was Dr. Najeeri’s after-hours emergency number; Carole’s finger danced over it for a moment. On the one hand, Sarai seemed better, now; bothering the doctor if it was nothing would be embarrassing both for herself and her daughter. On the other hand, better safe than sorry… and there was the matter of what her eyes had been doing. What if Sarai’d had a stroke or something?

Thinking about a stroke decided her. Her father had suffered one ten years ago, though he’d acted like he was fine at the time. Found dead in bed hours later. Silly and overprotective or not, Carole didn’t want to have to deal with that scenario all over again with Sarai.

She pressed the button and hit “Call.”

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