Doing Business

bearcrossing

The photo is from “The Darkroom” writing prompt… click it to check out other responses!

***

When the aliens first arrived on Earth, there were… misunderstandings.  Highly intelligent though they were, the beings were extraordinarily literal.

Martha did her best to accommodate them for her tours – she really did.  She arranged things to start an additional half-hour early so that they would have time to read – in excruciating detail – the entire waiver and ask questions.  So. Many. Questions.  She’d reviewed her spiel and removed euphemisms, word-play and jokes from the notes, because, frankly, a day-trip to Algonquin Park didn’t have time for a two hour debate on whether a bear did indeed do business in the woods, and what that business might be, and what customs might be involved.  She’d learned to switch between parent of impressionable child and tour-guide for Travellers speak, because they were slightly more likely to understand the expression “Does a bear do business in the woods?” if she used more adult language.  Slightly.

So her business of an ex informing her that actually he wouldn’t be taking their son fishing like he’d scheduled months ago was just SUPER.  She loved her son dearly, but he had the verbal filter of an 8 year old boy and the subtlety of a battering ram.  And she didn’t have time to find someone to look after him for the next two days of Traveller tours.

***

“As you can see, the Park is heavily forested with a wide variety of tree species, including Jack Pine, birch and Sugar Maple.  The booklet goes into further detail of all tree species found in the park, and methods of identifying them.”  Martha drove down the highway, chatting her way through her on-the-road information, knowing from past experience that the eight Travellers in her tour van were alternating between staring intently out the window, staring intently at their informational booklets and staring intently at the various parts of the interior of the van, all with equal intensity and interest.  Feedback on her tours didn’t give her a hint about what she could say that they would be more interested in, and she suspected that if she rattled off stats about the 1982 Superbowl or about the tour bus’s maintenance history they would be equally interested.  Since starting Traveller tours, she’d had to do research on the tour bus, in fact, to accommodate those who wanted to know about plastic used in the old bus instead of about birds that migrated through the park.  They were just plain interested.

Ben draped himself over the back of the passenger seat, grinning a gap-toothed grin, and crowed, “You don’t know JACK!”

OH business, Martha thought.

There was a discordant buzzing in the back, as the Travellers carefully dissected this statement.

One reedy voice after another arose, each politely waiting until the previous one had finished their sentence before adding their own rebuttal.

“I have met a Jack, but am understanding that this was not the only Jack, and am unsure if meeting is adequate to equate to knowing.”

“I have indeed, never met a Jack.  Is this a matter of concern?”

“I have met more than one Jack, and feel confident in the 81st percentile of knowing one of them, though his full name is Jack Perkins and lives at 43 Seventh Street in the town of Toronto.  Having worked closely with him for 257 working days between March 23, 2016 and today, I believe I know him well enough for that descriptor to apply.  If this is the Jack of which you speak, I feel confident in refuting your statement.”

And on, and on.  Most of them had, at some point, met a Jack.  Only two thought they could probably consider their relationship with the Jack in question as knowing.  

Martha then listened in astonishment to her son’s reply.  “The Jack I’m talking about is a Jack Pine tree, and the phrase, you don’t know Jack, is one way of recognizing them, because the phrase is usually paired with this gesture,” he paused for demonstration, and Martha winced and made a note to have another conversation with her son while the Travellers hummed.  “And if you look at a Jack Pine, that’s kind of what it looks like they’re doing.”

The buzzing hum rose again, and again, they spoke.

“It is an offensive expression meant to show disrespect towards another’s knowledge base.”

“But trees on this planet cannot be disrespectful due to their intelligence level, so they are not, in fact, being disrespectful.”

Another buzzing conference.

“It is funny because no disrespect is actually being shown.”

“It is funny and informative”

The vehicle filled with the sound of crickets chirping, the Traveller equivalent of applause.

Martha wished Travellers were more appreciative of 21st Century Earth humour, as she’d love to hear them at a comedy show.

***

Travellers noticed everything.  So, as happened at least once on every tour, they wanted to stop and see an animal crossing sign.  As Martha was about to go into her prepared explanation of the fact that the signs were representations, her son laughed.

“You’re funny – that’s just a picture of a moose.  It’s just to let you know that moose like to use this part of the road to cross.”

The normally highly sensitive Travellers took this in stride, apparently not concerned that a small human had come very close to calling them unintelligent (or an equivalent word, all of which were highly offensive in Traveller culture, a trait shared by most human cultures).

The rest of the day was peppered with her son’s saucy explanations of things, given in such a direct and simple manner that they cut through what could well have been hour-long debates about the various meanings of ‘bark’, or a seriously concerned Traveller anxiously explaining that it was not calling Fairy Lake a derogatory term for homosexuals, but that someone else may have intended that in naming the lake, or may not have.  Martha had never had such a smoothly run day with Travellers in the year she’d been touring them.

As they cruised out of the park and back to the Traveller’s hotel (Deerhurst, whose deer had not yet been noted, near the possibly-derogatory Fairy Lake) for the weekend in the waning light, one of them spoke up.  “Ben, son of Martha.  For one so young in years, you are rich in knowledge pertinent to the Algonquin Park, and accurate in your speech.  Do you spend a very large percentage of your time there?”

Ben grinned and glanced at his mother.  She saw the look and knew he was about to push his luck.

“Does a bear shit in the woods?”

Red Dress Club – A New Road

You can see the prompt from Write on Edge and submit your own by clicking the image below.

I’d also like to mention – I mean no disrespect by using the word Gypsy.  But not using it would kind of take away any level of authenticity from my MC.  After all… what farm boy ‘way back when’ would have known that ‘they prefer Romani’?
  Sam stumbled down the rutted road, shaking in the cold night wind off the plains.

Icy fingers clutched tight at the thin cloth of his coat.  Teeth chattering, he looked longingly back down the road, his entire world out of sight.

The girls would be snug in bed, he knew, their dolls tucked under their arms.  Who’d take care of them now?

He scrubbed at the tears coursing down his cheek and steeled himself.

No going back.  Pa’d always done right by the girls, at least.  They’d be fine.

Sam blew on his hands and broke into a clumsy jog, pain stabbing him with each jarring step.

The moon was nearly set when he saw the fire.  Exhausted and aching, he didn’t try to hide.  They could be murderers as long as they let him die by the fire.

He passed a tree strung up with charms, and even in the thin moonlight, the wagon was brightly coloured and intricately patterned.  Gypsies.

Thieves and murderers, the lot of them, his memory growled in his father’s voice, fetch my gun, boy, don’t dawdle.

Sam shook his head.  Pa’s opinion of good and bad wasn’t very trustworthy.

A branch snapped under his foot and the murmur of conversation around the fire died. One man called out cheerfully,”Ye’re late, lad – what took ye?”

The others around the fire laughed as though the man had made a joke.  Sam sidled forward and smiled cautiously.

“I-you-um…” he stared, wide-eyed, at the motley group and swallowed. “Wha’?”

“She told us to keep dinner.”  a hulking man leaned forward, a wicked scar cutting his face in two, gold teeth gleaming with fire.

A boy about his own age grinned less ominously and added, “Yeah, Shuv’ni shoulda said t’make ye breakfast!”  He nudged the girl beside him, who snorted sourly.

“What do you expect, me reading in a moving wagon?”

Sam blinked at that – Readin’s fer the rich, Pa said.  But what did reading have to do with predicting his arrival?  Magic, his imagination hissed.  He shuddered.

“Come closer, boy, warm ye’self,” an ancient woman with bright birdlike eyes commanded from her rocking chair.

Sam  stepped forward, blushing at the Gypsies’ gasps of dismay.  A woman made a low pained noise, like a kicked dog.  He had a good idea of what he looked like.  Pa never bothered avoiding the face.

The old woman pursed her lips disapprovingly, “Shuv’ni didn’t warn o’ that neither.”

The girl darted forward, grabbing him by the face.  She prodded him everywhere it hurt, making him yelp.

“I need to read the bones,” she muttered, turning away.  Before she disappeared into the wagon she added, “By the by, your ribs’r cracked.  Gran’ll do for ye”

Gran rolled her eyes and said, “Come sit by me, boy.”

“Why… why are you all being so nice?”

The gold-toothed man laughed, tugging a woman out of the shadows.  “We do right by family, don’t we, luv?”

Sam gaped as a ghost from his memories stepped into the firelight.  Wordlessly, the woman hugged him tight.

“Ma?”

This is a pastel and ink drawing by my sister, Doodle. You can see more of her work by clicking the image (it’ll take you to her DeviantArt page). She also blogs over at DrawninandQuartered. I do love having an in-house artist for my stories!

Write On Edge and Trifecta: It Could Happen

This week, I’m combining the Write on Edge and Trifecta Writing prompts.  Click on the above pictures to take you to one or the other of the sites for this week’s linkup.  Read some of the other submissions, or submit your own, or both.  It’s always interesting to see the many and varied stories that come from the same prompt.

From Trifecta, the following word, whose third definition is to be used in a response between 33 and 333 words:

QUAINT (adjective)

1:  obsolete:  EXPERT, SKILLED
2a:  marked by skillful design <quaint with many a device in India ink — Herman Melville>
b:  marked by beauty or elegance
3a : unusual or different in character or appearance :  ODD
  b : pleasingly or strikingly old-fashioned or unfamiliar <a quaint phrase>

From Write on Edge, we have a quote and a picture to use as inspiration, in any way we choose:

Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts.”

~ Salman Rushdie

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

image courtesy of Unsplash, click the picture to go to the site

Shoulders hunched, eyes flitting from object to object, flinching from sudden movement, Jeremy couldn’t help but to slink down the city sidewalks.

The pedestrian sign flashed 30…29… System malfunction, opposite light turns green before walk flashed to hand, the screech of tires as a truck speeding down the street tried to stop, failed, the gasps of horror from onlookers, last thing I hear before the agony of impact.  It could happen.  He licked his lips and waited while others crossed.

A couple came up alongside him.  Their dog sat wagging and grinning at her side.  She caught him staring out of the corner of his eye and smiled.  “He’s quite friendly, you can pet him if you’d like.”

Friendly dog, until I reach to pet him and he jumps up, teeth tearing at my face, hanging on, horrible horrible sensation of weight in his face, hot blood dripping down.  It could happen. Jeremy rolled horrified eyes up to the woman’s, shuddered and jerked his head no.  

A man walked towards him on the sidewalk, hands tucked deep into the pockets of his trenchcoat… pulls out the gun hidden there, I don’t give him my money fast enough, it’s not enough, and an explosion of pain blossoming from the center of my chest, it could happen.  Jeremy plastered himself against the brick and flinched away.

Pidgeons… the plague.  

Fire escape… stairs loose abruptly and collapse on top of me, bones crunching.

Jeremy escaped to the new terrors to be found in the grocery store, bought the food least likely to kill him.

“Hey buddy, wanna try our new granola bar?”

Sudden onset of peanut allergy, choking hazard, contamination, “No!”

The man hawking death-bars grinned.  “Come on, buddy, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Eyes darting between deaths around him, Jeremy barked out a bitter laugh.  “Your world seems so quaint.”  He clutched his purchases tight and escaped, keeping an eye on the shelves that might crush him.

“And yours, so small!” the man replied.

Write at the Merge: Steaming Mad

This week’s prompt for Write on Edge’s Write at the Merge was the Guns’n’Roses song November Rain, and the quote:

The third day comes a frost, a killing frost.
William Shakespeare

I’m mostly working on my Nanowrimo, so, while this piece is fully stand alone, it could also pair quite nicely with Craft and Castle, Stormed.

Follow the Write on Edge link to head over and submit your own, or read some of the other excellent pieces submitted.

The picture I’ve included is by a young American artist named Clarissa Marie Puentes.  She calls herself a Multi-medium Fantasy Artist, and that is a pretty apt description for her work.  This is a piece of digital art, partly photomanipulated, and partly painted in on Photoshop.  You can check out more of her work by clicking on the photo below (which will take you to DeviantART), or by going to her Portfolio Page.

Fire Dragon

Fire Dragon by Clarissa Marie Puentes

***

Avskeda awoke to rain.  Oh how she loathed it.  Each drop struck her scales with a crystalline chime, producing a cascade of beautiful sound, but the misery of being cold and wet left her deaf to the music.

A creature born of light and fire has no place in damp and darkness.  Avskeda longed for her native sands under the red-hot eye of the southern sun.

She shifted and became aware of further discomfort.  She lay on and under the rubble of a large section of her castle.

She shook loose the tower that had collapsed on top of her.  Looking about at the ruin of her castle, she narrowed her eyes and hissed in displeasure, arching her back and flapping her wings.  She lashed her tail as she pondered the events that had led her to this point.

There was a man.  That much she recalled.  He wasn’t like the ones who came before, though, lacking the loud metal carapaces that the others coated themselves in.  She could hear metal sing, even under cover of darkness, even over the humming of the suits of armour all around her castle.  She wouldn’t have heard him approach at all if it weren’t for the rumbling song of iron on the straps of his goats, and the lovely soaring tones of the gold in his ear.  She loved gold as much as she loathed the cold rain.

She had planned to decorate one of her scales with it, she remembered, but when she’d arrived at the gate, the goats had been such a temptation.  The others always brought warhorses, tough, stringy beasts, whose long flowing manes and tails caught in her teeth.  She never got goat anymore, since moving to this cold place.  The man wouldn’t get far in the time it took to eat one or two goats.

And then… she had fallen, and known no more until the chime of her scales had awoken her.  She flamed her displeasure.  Drugged!  It was the only explanation.  A coward’s weapon.

Avskeda rose to her haunches and peered into the princess’s room.  The girl would be asleep.  The mother was always awake, but that was her burden to bear in the curse this country had been cast under, eternally repenting for the ruin her indifferent parenting had wrought.

The tower room was abandoned.  Avskeda let loose a bellow of pure rage and cast about, seeking for the vibrant song of that errant bit of gold.  With a direction settled on, she set herself to the task of making herself inconspicuous.  She would not give the man creature another chance to fool her.  Rending scale from flesh was agony, a creeping frost as her fire was banked.  She would endure, however, she always did.  No one steals from a dragon and lives to tell the tale.

She climbed out of the rubble of the castle, and headed due East, clad in blood-red dragon scale armour.  Rain steamed as it struck her.

Master Class – Castle, Stormed

We’re into the first full week of Nanowrimo, so while I hope to keep up doing one or two blog posts a week, chances are they’ll be bits and pieces of the story I’m working on for Nano.  Case in point, this prompt response.  If you’re doing Nano as well, feel free to add me as a friend on the boards – Lexy0387 is my username.

This week’s master class is from Dragonflight, and the challenge was to use it as the beginning or end of a story.  Click the image below to go to the prompt and read some of the other responses, or answer it yourself!

The photo below is by a flickr user named Helena.  Follow the link to see more of her stuff.

Dragon

“What are you doing here?”

Mara had been training for this moment for so long, and now that it finally had, an actual man speaking the male part was throwing her off.

“I’m… I… I’m… I live here,” She stammered.  “Hang on.  Let me start again.” She cleared her throat. “Good Sir Knight, you have rescued me.  Prithee take this – ” she snatched up a kerchief, “This token of my gratitude.”

The scruffy man gingerly plucked the kerchief from her outstretched hand, but made no move to cherish it.

“Um.  Perhaps you could also do me the favour of directing me to the treasure?”

“What treasure?”

“You know, the priceless treasure, found beyond the dark wood in a dragon-guarded castle?”

“I think that’s me.  I’m a princess, so you get the priceless treasure of true love.  And living happily ever after.  Theoretically…”  She wished he’d stop gaping at her.

“I was hoping for a golden harp or maybe a magical golden sword.”  He glanced about, as though hoping the chamber would reveal its secret stash of magical golden objects.

“What kind of knight are you?”

“No kind of knight at all – Monroe the Treasure Hunter, at your service,” he sketched a bow.  “Could we speed this up a bit?  I’d like to get out before the dragon wakes up.”

“You didn’t slay the dragon?  What’s wrong with you?!”

“I just happen to not like killing intelligent creatures unnecessarily.  I thought a princess would be less bloodthirsty.”

“Well you try living trapped alone for nine years, see how bloodthirsty you get.”  Tears built in her eyes.

“N-nine?” he stammered.

“YES, Nine!  I’ve been stuck in this stupid castle for nine years, and someone finally shows up and defeats the dragon – sort of – and he just wants some stupid gold sword, and now I’m probably going to have to wait here another nine years for a real knight to come along!”  Mara could feel the tears rolling down her cheeks and hated him for being witness to it.

Monroe was distinctly uncomfortable faced with tears. “Why don’t you just go home instead?  I’m sure your parents will understand, and I bet you’ll have loads more luck finding a husband if you’re living somewhere less isolated!”

“Leave?” she said, staring down at the gate.  She could see the dragon, collapsed across the stable yard and a crumbled section of the outer wall, snoring peacefully.  The decision was easy.  “Yes.  You’ll return me to my kingdom.”

“What? No.  I meant, you can leave, because the dragon is asleep, and go home… by yourself…which would probably lead to you getting killed by brigands,  or something.  Maybe you should just stay here.  I’m sure someone’ll come along… eventually.  If you leave now, you’ll remain cursed.”

“I’m not under a curse, my parents just wanted to find me a prince or knight to marry.  And I’m tired of waiting for him.  Take me home, and you’ll get your treasure.  My father has tons of gold,” she added.

His eyes lit up, and Mara knew she had him.  She rubbed her palms against her thighs in anticipation of the challenge.

Ninjas and Sandwiches

I’m doing a continuation of my last post for Master Class – An Unlikely Team.  this week’s prompt, I got to choose.  Kind of a lot of fun trying to find something in a book that is both more interesting than ‘he walked into the room’, and less overly specific than “He was a land magus and so wore the colours of the magic he favoured.”.

It was the kind of alleyway down which respectable citizens didn’t wander, The oil slick water he splashed through would be reason enough, as would the moist smell of unidentifiable things rotting.  Anyone with a lick of common sense would also realise that going down this kind of an alleyway was a guaranteed way of losing one’s watch and wallet, at the very least.

Daniel suspected you were just as likely to lose your coat, shoes and life.

They seemed, in a circuitous way, to be making their way over to a pile of old rags in a sheltered angle between two buildings.  Some pigeons had wandered over to inspect it.

“Humphrey,” he hissed, snagging the boy’s sleeve.  “Where the devil are you taking me?”

“It ain’t Humphrey!  You brung the sammiches?”

“It certainly isn’t Scrapper.  And yes, though your certainty that we’ll require sustenance before we leave this accursed place is not reassuring.  Where are we going, Wilbert?”

“Nope,” he snapped.  “We’re gonna pay a visit on Old Mad Calver.  He sees pretty much everythin’ ‘round town.  Follow my lead.”  The boy didn’t even jump when a corner of the pile lifted and slapped aggressively down on one of the inquisitive pigeons.  The rest of them exploded into frightened flight.

He kicked at a garbage can near the ominously still nest.   “Sarge?  Reporting for duty, sir.”

The pile of rags shook itself like a terrier and a scrawny old man pulled himself out of his nest.  “Corporal Scrapper?  In’t it?  What Ho!  They’re bombing on the Southwest walls?  Blast!  Prepare to meet the enemy!”

The old man bared his teeth under a bush of white hair, spindly arms raised in a sort of bear claw formation.  He’d have looked a bit fiercer if he’d bared more tooth and less gum.

“Aye it’s Scrapper, Sarge.  Lucky we ain’t out by the southwest.  Calm in the north.  An’ this’s me new mate, er… I mean… Captain… um… Pee Eii.”

“At ease, corporal!”  The old man’s raspy voice still held some of the command it held in a past life.  He sketched a salute, slapping himself clumsily in the forehead as he did it.  Scrapper returned it, stomping his feet smartly together. He peered short-sightedly and suspiciously at Daniel.  “Pee-eii?  That foreign?  You foreign, boy?”

“Um.  No sir.”

“Oh, too damn bad.  Them foreigners, they know how to handle themselves.  You ought to be a ninjer, boy, then you’d really give the enemy what for, eh?  Blast!”

Daniel frowned at the boy, standing in his own imagined version of at-ease.  “I’m told you have some information regarding some events on Morningside about a week ago?”  He felt a sharp elbow dig into his side and added, “Sarge?”

“Ninjers, that’s what.  Creeping up the side of the bleeding building, but I knows what’s to be done.  I knows it, now don’t I?”  He squinted at Daniel, unsure if he really did know what was to be done.

“I knows what’s to be done,” he muttered softly.  “Ninjers, well I never.”  He patted at his pockets, increasingly agitated until the boy pulled a cigarette out and placed it in his trembling fingers.

“Sarge?” Daniel nudged him tentatively.

“What?  To yer battle stations, ye lousy curs!”  The old man jutted his chin out aggressively, glared nearsightedly at Daniel and added, “Peanut butter!”

“What?”

“That’s what ninjers never think on.  Peanut butter.  Makes ye look up, see?”

“And what’d’ye see when you looked up, Sarge?”

“Them crawlin’ down the damn wall, that’s what!  Good rope, I have ta give ‘em credit, bloody foreigners.”

“What would we need to do to get that equipment, Sarge?”

***

Daniel traded Old Mad Calver two pastrami sandwiches on rye, though the old man would only accept them after the pickles had been removed.

In return, he got a coil of rope and assorted carabiners for rope climbing.  The brick in the side of the building showed where camming devices had been, and, in one case, still were.  The how, he could now answer.

There was half a peanut butter sandwich mashed up amongst the ropes, but he was confident that it could be mashed in with ‘ninjers’ and ‘the enemy’.

Property Lines

This week, we’re picking up with Agata.  You can probably read this one alone, but I’d suggest reading Crush, the previous one in this series of stories, just to be clear on how things got to this point.  If you want to read the entire series, click on the Fiction Tab above, and you’ll find all the links to the story under Which Witch.  As always, let me know what you think – and how you think it ought to be improved!

I’m using the prompt from Trifecta, and from Write on Edge for this.

Trifecta’s word was

MOUTH

1a : the natural opening through which food passes into the body of an animal and which in vertebrates is typically bounded externally by the lips and internally by the pharynx and encloses the tongue, gums, and teeth   b : grimace <made a mouth>   c : an individual requiring food <had too many mouths to feed> 2a : voice, speech <finally gave mouth to her feelings>   b : mouthpiece 3: something that resembles a mouth especially in affording entrance or exit: as
This week on Write at the Merge, the picture of a crumbling castle was what I took as inspiration.
I highly recommend checking out both sites, to submit your own prompt response or to read some of the great responses other people have submitted.

Agata rolled painfully to her feet, scattering debris.  Dust swirled through the maelstrom of berserker barbarians.  Agata caught glimpses of the ogre, green-gray skin covering boulder-like muscles, eerie catseye gleaming yellow in the dimness.

The battle wasn’t going well.  She sighed, narrowed her eyes, and, with intense focus, shook out an imaginary blanket.

As the barbarians painfully clambered to their feet, dazed and confused at their sudden fall, Agata strode purposefully towards the now-frozen ogre.

“Gragh, is it?”  The creature stared down at her, dumbfounded.  “Yes, you.  Gragh?”

Its voice rumbled thunderously.  “Ya, me is Gragh.  Who you?”

“Agata.  What do you want here?”

“Gragh-”

“It wants to eat us!  Kill it!”

Agata whirled and glared them into silence.

“GRAGH CRUSH!”  The ogre snarled at the barbarians, fighting the invisible bonds.

“But why?

Gragh’s brow creased in thought.  “Gragh want…”

Agata found herself nodding encouragement to the hulking creature.

“Gragh want No Bother GRAGH!”

“You came here.

“Dey is come first to Gragh sleep place and try hurt Gragh!”

At Agata’s accusing glare, the barbarians broke into a cacophony of denials and explanations like children caught with their hands in the mouth of the cookie jar.

“It took the castle on the mount!”  A blonde-haired hulk in a skunk-fur loincloth stepped forward.

“Did he kill the owner?”

“It’s, um, been abandoned for centuries, actually.  Terrible location, no water, no trees…”

“So what does it matter where he lives?”

“It eats people.  And sheep.

Agata turned her scowl on Gragh, who shook his head in denial.  “Gragh no eat animal-things.” He curled his lip in disgust.  “Gragh vegetable-arian.  And rocks.  Rocks crunchy yum.  Fuzzy Baaas no yum.”

“Here’s the deal – you leave people alone, and” she turned to scowl at the barbarians, “people stay away from your castle.  Shake on it,” she barked, commandingly.

Agata watched and spelled every hand-shake before approaching the ogre with a proposition.

In short order they were headed off, a witch and her ogre-guide through the mountains.

Airborne

storch-badge

I’m linking up to the Master Class again this week.  The prompt gives you the first line of a book, with which you’re meant to write your own story.  This week it was Kelle Groom’s book I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl.

Check out the other responses at Sinistral Scribblings, or submit your own.  Click through the image to get more information on the photograph’s artist, and see some of his other work.

Fog

Morphine makes me weightless, airborne.

So did the impact, if there was an impact, if I recall correctly.  My dreams and memories are intertwined in a macabre circus of the unreal and unbelievable.

They tell me I’m showing signs of improvement.  They’re vague about what I’m improving on, long pauses in their cautious answers, like my ears are stuffed with cotton.  I’d be terrified, but I’m so high above it, above me, a thick fog cutting off any kind of strong emotion.

Que sera, sera, whatever will be… I hum for a time until the lyrics turn into gibberish, if they hadn’t always been.  She knows them better, has a better voice for it.  The steady beep of monitors threw off my timing anyways.

Morphine dulls, but I still can’t help but wonder what they’re monitoring.  After the first time I tried to take the bandages off my face, they strapped me in bed, wrist restraints and all.

The sunlight creeps slowly across my cotton-shrouded body and I wish, with a longing that pierces the fog, that I could feel that warmth on my face.  I feel so cold.

“What happened, really?”

The whisper-soft tread stops.  I can picture Lilac Perfume’s surprised expression, frozen in going about her business, convinced mere moments before that I was unaware of her presence.

“I-I’ll go fetch the doctor” she stammers, voice tight and anxious.

The haze around my memory lifts enough for a vague sense that I ought to apologize to her.  Perhaps it wasn’t just the attempt to take off my bandages that led to my being bound to my bed.  Was I screaming?  Am I screaming now?  Morphine.  I’m so glad none of these memories are real.

Moments and an eternity later, the steady clacking of Doctor Old Spice’s shoes, the sound of paper as he pores over my charts.  Though for all I knew, he could be paging through Angela’s Ashes.  Always meant to read that one.

The name strikes a chord.  “Angela?”  My voice is disused, a rusty chain pulled through gravel.  The scream of metal being crushed on impact.

“What was that?”

“Nothing.  Just something about… nothing.  It’s crazy.”

“You’re remembering?”

“Only crazy things.  Impossible things.  It’s the drugs, I guess.”

“You’ve been off all drugs for eight days.”

The words trickle through the fog around my brain, followed more slowly by their meaning.

“What does that mean?”  my voice is getting stronger as it warms up, smoother.  Familiar.

I am met with silence and struggle to sift through the terrifying circus of oddities that swims through the pea-soup in my mind.

“No morphine?” My voice cracks, but why?

“No morphine.”

“Why is my face bandaged?”

“You were in a car accident, John.  Do you remember?”

The impact left me weightless, airborne.

Angela.  I hate the light piercing the thick fog, it burns my eyes and cuts me to the quick.

“Is she…” I hate my own hesitation.  That mustn’t be real.  “Was anyone else hurt?”

The silence is unbearable.  The dread, like a tsunami, looming overhead.

I turn away from the light.

“I think I’d like some more painkillers… please.  The morphine helps me sleep.”

Foundations

This little story was inspired by Write on Edge’s Write at the Merge, and the Trifecta Writing Challenge.

Write at the Merge gave us a picture of a brickwork heart and a quote from Groucho Marx:

When you’re in jail a good friend will be trying to bail you out.  A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, “Damn, that was fun”

Trifecta gave us the third meaning of the following word:

BITCH (noun)

1: the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals
2 a : a lewd or immoral woman
b : a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman —sometimes used as a generalized term of abuse
3: something that is extremely difficult, objectionable, or unpleasant

I guess I should warn you now, if you haven’t guessed already… this post may contain mature language.

I hope you enjoy the piece – let me know your opinions on it, concrit always welcome.

The new patio looked fantastic.  Lori called it an ode to HGTV.  She said Mike Holmes couldn’t find something to complain about – it’d last for a hundred years at least.

Jenn hoped so – no good would come of digging it up too soon.  Her gaze was drawn to the centerpiece of the brick patio.  Heart-shaped and decorated in a mosaic of broken crockery, it was a work of art.

Lori always saw the possibility of beauty buried within old and broken things.  There’d been an abundance of broken things to work with when they’d started this project.  She’d been the only one to see something better buried in Jenn herself.  She rubbed the crook in her nose where it’d been broken.

Sensing the maudlin turn of Jenn’s thoughts, Lori stopped dragging patio furniture out and joined her friend in admiring the heartstone.  She punched Jenn affectionately in the shoulder.  “Life’s a bitch, but we’re bitchier, eh?”

Jenn tried to smile, feeling her lower lip start to tremble.  “Do you really think it’s over?”

Lori shifted a pair of rattan chairs a bit closer to the grass and pulled a cooler between them.  She cracked open a beer and passed it to Jenn.  “Honey, it’s been six months. That nice detective told you he’d personally keep you posted on the case.  Sounds to me like they’ve shelved it, anyways.”

“You don’t think anyone will come looking?”

“Earl wasn’t exactly a picnic, Jenn.  Nobody really wants to find him.  You ought to put your mind to nicer things.  Like Detective Jim.”

Jenn blushed, eliciting a whoop of delight from her friend.

“I knew you were sweet on him.  Spill!”

A grin crept across Jenn’s features, youthful and bubbly.  “He invited me to dinner – we’re going to that fancy French place on Highbury next Friday.”

“Well I’ll be damned – something good finally came out of your first marriage.”

Six feet under the patio, worms agreed that Earl was a delightful picnic.

Roc

Write On Edge: Red-Writing-Hood
This week’s prompt for Write on Edge’s Red Writing Hood was:

to write a fiction orcreative non-fiction piece set entirely in an airport. Take us on an adventurein 450 words or less

It really didn’t work with the firefly piece (she only just left the airport!), so I figured I’d go back and catch up with Agata (you can find the storyline in Which Witch under my Fiction tab above).  If you don’t want the whole story, the overview to make this story more understandable is quite simple:  Agata is a witch.

a picture I found on public domain, click the pic to go to its source

Agata coasted gently down into the woodland alongside the field.  Her hair was wildly tangled from the wind, and her boots sank ankle-deep in the swampy ground under the trees.  With a sigh of disgust, she hoisted her broom and pack over one shoulder and trudged out to the unusual building sitting in a long and narrow, hard-packed clearing.

It stood at least three storeys tall, a half-tube constructed of bits of scrap sheet metal and canvas.  One end was sealed, but the end she could see into was one enormous door that had been slid aside to allow her a clear view of something even more bizarre.

A mechanical monstrosity stood in the middle of the building, balanced on two wheels and an end-piece, looking awkward and extremely unstable.  Like… almost… a duck.  Agata wondered what purpose it could possibly serve.

From somewhere within the construct, a steady clanking rang out, interspersed with some very creative cussing.

“Hello?” her voice echoed in the large space.  “Is anyone there?”

The clanging fell silent, followed by a clatter and a crash.

A large man emerged from within the beast, scowling and brushing his grimy hands off on his equally grimy coveralls.  He dabbed at his forehead with an oil-smeared cloth, leaving a black streak above his eye.  Wild tufts of hair sticking out haphazardly on his head.

Agata realised the man had spoken while she was taking in the bizarre scene.

“Pardon?”

The scowl became fiercer, but also more ridiculous with the single surprised black eyebrow he’d given himself.  “What’d’ye want, girl?  If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, I’m not mad, I don’t need a nurse, or to be taken to the mental hospital, and no, you can’t buy my land, it’s mine, and I need it.  I’m a busy man.”

“I’ve never seen you before in my life, I’m not a nurse, and what on earth would I do with a narrow, hard-packed strip of land?  As for your sanity – ”  She hesitated, glaring at the machine.  It was too intriguing.  “I’m withholding judgement until I find out more about that.”

He was transformed, a broad and delighted grin on his face.  “Curious, are ye?  Excellent.  Can’t stand folk without curiosity!  Hang on, it’s almost ready to take out for a spin!  Just you stay put!”

And with that, he dove back under the machine, clanking enthusiastically.

Agata crouched to peer beneath.  “Um… I mostly just wanted to know what it was?”

“Eh?”  Rattle, thud, clang.

“What does it do?”

He scrambled up, grinning.  With a proud hand across its beak-region, he replied, “Why, It’s a flying machine!  I call it the Roc.”