Friday, January 29, 2016

Goodnight Kiss


Dec. 21, 2015

"Hello, handsome," I said.

He stopped, clearly surprised that I could even see him. I let the smile curve my lips - I had dressed up and everything. I was wearing an evening gown of midnight blue, studded with crystals that shimmered like ice in the dim light. I was done up to the nines, as they say - hair coiffed in coils and dyed black. My eyes were thickly lined and smoldered with coal black shadow. My lips were the color of wine, and my skin looked as though it had been carved from stone. The bar was empty, but for we two.

He hesitated, most people would have missed it. But then he slid on to the stool next to me. I poured him a whiskey, and made it a double without being asked. He picked it up, his fingers clinking on the cut crystal and he swirled the liquid and brought it to where his nose used to be and seemed to smell it. He put it back on the bar without sipping it.

Sipping it wasn't really his thing. But he did like remembering - I knew that much. I knew he wasn't here to bargain. But neither was I, it was a night for memories.

The silence stretched between us, but he seemed to like it. So I let it stretch like taffy, and sipped on my aged scotch, licking my painted lips.

"How long has it been?" he finally asked, stirring his scotch with a skeletal finger.

"Since we had drinks?" I asked with a smirk, and he cocked his head at me. Even with no lips, I knew when he was grinning.

"Since the last time you slipped away from me," he said, and took my hand. His fingers were rough, but gentle. He was stroking the back of my index finger and I shivered and felt tears spring to my eyes. I pulled my hand away and finished my drink quickly and tried to laugh, but it sounded frayed. 

Much too much like a sob for my liking. I took a breath and smoothed my curls, pulling my emotions close to my chest, like a shield.

When I looked at him again, his empty eyes were as gentle as I'd ever seen them. And I'd seen him stand coldly by while armies clashed in the field. And I'd seen them when he silently took a babe from a mother's breast. I'd seen him sigh as worlds went dark.

"Please, don't feel bad for me. I had a good run," I said, feeling that old spark deep in my heart. All would be well. It would be one last lark.

"You ready to go?" he asked.

"No one's ever ready to go, lover," I said, and kissed him gently.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Edge

[WP] you discover the edge of space

Dec. 21, 2015

She sat down at the edge, letting her feet dangle over the sides. The blackness of space felt cool through her jeans as she looked out past the edge of reality, a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips.

Leaning backwards, she dipped her fingers in smallish galaxy, and pulled out a handful of stars. Standing, she began skipping them across the strange nothingness sending ripples of reality that sparkled and shivered. It made her eyes feel delightfully weird to warp the fabric of nothing. More void than the void. More nothing than the vaccuumy, vastness.

She dusted her hands off and curled her toes over the edge. With a little bend in her knees, she dove off the edge, arching into a swan-dive. Apparently nothing feels wonderful. She spread her wings, and began to sing and the song stretched and flexed, creating minuscule universes in each note. Her silken hair became the currents of time.

She knew it felt rough, as all realities tend to. But she also knew it was beautiful and would stretch even farther than before. And she knew someone would walk to the edge once more and sing. And she vanished into the creation.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Witching Hour

Witch Hour
Dec. 12, 2015

Sid flipped the switch on the neon sign, after a few flickers and hummed to life, spilling pale green light on the slick damp pavement outside of the bar. Hardly a breadth of a second had passed when the bell over the door chimed: once, twice, thrice.

The women who entered seemed to be dressed in neatly pressed power suits. The first wore a wine-colored blouse with a high collar and pearl buttons that climbed all the way up her neck, ending primly in a fringe of lace; over it was a black, fitted blazer. She had close-cropped white hair, crows feet crinkling around her eyes and a nose that was slightly too long to be conventionally attractive. Her eyes were a blue so pale they almost looked white, like milk glass, framed with dark glasses that she peered over like a disapproving school teacher.

The second let her blazing red hair that spilled over her shoulders be her most striking fashion statement, burning brightly against her coal gray outfit. She grinned at Sid, and winked, and he felt his heart flutter in his chest and dropped his eyes, polishing his spotless bar.

The last had her black hair pulled into a braid that was coiled into a snaky crown atop her head. Her skin was paler than any human skin should be, and seemed to cast off its own light in the dim atmosphere of the bar. She was dressed in a blood red pencil skirt, and a white silk blouse that looked dingy against her opal skin. As she stepped across the threshold her brown eyes seemed to fill up with inky blackness.

They sat down at the bar with a sigh, and the glamours all fell away by the time their butts touched the stools - suits and skirts replaced with flowing robes, wide-brimmed hats, pouches of spell components. Sid began pouring, knowing their drinks without being asked. An Old Fashioned for White, Hot Toddy for Red, and a neat Macallan Rare for Black with just a drop of water to wake it up.

"Missed you, ladies," said Sid as he clinked the glasses, crushed bitters, and poured spirits.

"I haven't been able to get the equinox off in ages," groaned Red. She wrapped her fingers around the mug of her toddy and breathed in the vapors steaming off the drink.

"No one recognizes them as holy days anymore. I had to hex the CEO of my company just to maneuver some vacation time," said White. She stirred her drink with her her fingertip, reached into a pouch with her free hand and sprinkled an unidentifiable substance into the cocktail - there was a flash of light and a puff of sweet-smelling pink smoke that wafted from the mouth of the glass. "How goes your business, Black?"

She shrugged her shoulders and took a sip of her scotch, licking her lips with a tongue that was as pale as her skin.

"Always good, but no where near as challenging as it once was. I'm thinking of getting out of the funerary business entirely," she said. The other two looked at her, Red's mouth hung open a little.

"But you've been doing that for ages - the access to bodies, the blood!" said White.

"I know, it used to be a thrill. But my incantations are such that it's no chance of failure. It's utterly dull," she said. "I hear there is a big doings in midwifery."

"With babies?" asked Red, her lip curling. "I'll stick aphrodisiacs, thank you."

"Oh, come now," said White, giving her scarlet sister a friendly elbow. "We didn't pick on you when you went through the curse phase. Remember when it rained frogs in your bedroom?"

"Shut up!" said Red, her eyes going wide and a blush creeping up her neck to match her hair. But soon all three burst out laughing.

One round became two, then three and soon the bells were chiming that the hour - which is longer than most hours Sid was used to - was over.

"Oh, dear," said Black, finishing the last drop of scotch. "These never seem to last long enough."

"Agreed," said White, standing and leaning over to kiss her sister's pale cheek. "I hope you find a new challenge with your squirming babies."

Black smiled and hugged her younger sister. "Thank you, White. Keep up the good work in agriculture - who knew they'd let you into the cloning sector. That was wonderful news."

Red pulled out her purse and emptied the contents onto the bar. Amidst the crawling spiders, and half-eaten sparrow, was a small pile of gold coins and a few sparkling gems.

"Keep the change, Sid. We'll see you in the next Era," she said.

Sid scooped up the whole pile, dead sparrow and all, and tipped his hat.

"It's always a pleasure to see you ladies. Don't be strangers," he said.

As they filed out the door, the glamours wrapped them in their professional gear that made them seem at once powerful and unobtrusive. Once they had all gone, Sid flicked the switch on his neon sign and the hum died with the odd green light.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Up the Hill


Nov. 27, 2015

It was within sight. I shivered when I saw it amidst the snow and ice:  a pool of clear water, steaming in the cold. I glanced at Jack, his face was chapped red, except where the frost had kissed too deeply, becoming gray in the cold. I'm sure I had matching signs of frostbite. I feared to even look at my fingers. I had ceased feeling them long ago, despite the fur mittens.

"Come, Jill, just a little further. We can do this," he said his voice hardly carrying over the frigid wind.

Moving had become difficult, even with the snowshoes, my legs felt leaden and it was a struggle just to move them a few inches forward. Jack supported me and together we started to make last leg to the top of the peak. No one had made it this far.

I closed my eyes and didn't think about how long it would take us to bring the water back to our village. I didn't think how we would keep it from freezing once we removed it from the hot spring. I focused on how happy people would be when they sipped it. How mother would open her eyes and see clearly, eyes no longer clouded by fever and delirium.

Steam was suddenly wafting in my face and I opened my eyes in surprise. We were there!

Jack let me go so he could get the pail that was strapped to my backpack. I heard the crust of snow crack, followed immediately by his snowshoe strap snapping. He didn't even cry out as he fell - his head dashed against a rock as he tumbled down, which didn't even slow his decent so steep was the mountainside.

I looked at the steaming pool. I pulled my mitten off with my teeth and dipped my hand into the water. The tips of my fingers were black from the chill. There was a burning tingle as I submerged them in the water that turned into paid - but the blackness receded like darkness at dawn and my hand was healed.

A bitter laugh tore from my throat. I unstrapped my snowshoes. Removed my coat, my shirt and everything. Shivering in the cold, naked on the mountain. Then I threw myself after Jack.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Perchance to dream


Nov. 26, 2015

"This one tastes better," said Jill with a shrug, tapping the vial with the bright blue liquid. "But otherwise it will do the same thing. You will be out cold for ten hours - no dreams."

I picked up the vial, it looked like antifreeze or those blue freeze-pops that were labeled "Blue Raspberry." I had never seen a blue raspberry.

"You're sure?" I asked, not able to keep the tremble out of my voice.

"That's what they say, anyway. I don't dream," she said, and began to chew at a hangnail on her thumb. Behind her were shelves with hundreds - maybe thousands - of other containers of all shapes and sizes. Some filled with powders, others had live insects. There was one, half hidden behind a jar of meal worms, that held a tiny humanoid body with wings suspended in some kind of viscous liquid.

I handed her the envelope of money. It had taken me three weeks to scrape up the five thousand dollars she had been asking for. But I needed it. Just one night. One night without dying. It would be worth it.

I left, walking through the alley that was slick with muddy slush. A blanket of gray clouds smothered the moon, but made the night feel warmer than it had in weeks. But that only meant more snow. Not even halfway through winter and a long way to go before the sun made a lengthy stay.

Sleep was what you're supposed to do in winter. We're predisposed to it. Just curl up under heavy blankets and sleep until spring, like a squirrel or a bear. But every time I sank into sleep I would learn of a new way I could die.

At first it seemed normal. Stress nightmares where you fall and wake with a start. But they became more intricate as time went on. Just last week I had a party with friends, we were sitting around the dinner table laughing and joking. I had never felt so happy - which should have been my first clue. As one they all turned to stare at me, and their eyes were missing. As one they stood and began to pull pieces of my body away and eat it before my eyes. At one point, my best friend Jenna, paused in the middle of chewing on my bicep and then offered it to me. I woke screaming.

I've drowned. Hung myself. Been poisoned. Slaughtered like a hog. Burned to death. Electrocuted. Pulled apart by animals. Choked on a sandwich. Once I was even tickled to death - which as silly as it sounds was one of the worst in memory. Now if anyone tries to tickle me while I'm awake I start sobbing uncontrollably.

I got to my apartment and it was dark. Even when I turned the lights on and started the radio to fill the silence it felt hollow. In my old apartment I could have a cat, but when Neil left me I couldn't afford my old place. And Mr. Phillips was clear about his stance on animals.

"If you don't need it to tell you when to cross the street, you don't need it," he said. Which meant Neil got my cat. I missed Mrs. Rex more than I missed Neil - which was probably a small part of the reason he left.

I pulled out the vial and looked at it. There was no label. Nothing to say what was held in the delicate glass container. I pulled the stopper and the smell of lavender and peppermint spilled out. I sipped it and then downed the whole container.

I decided against eating anything. And I went to my bedroom, which was just a mattress on the floor. A hamper of unfolded clothes was in the corner - I couldn't remember if they were clean or dirty. I didn't bother with curtains or alarm clocks. I didn't sleep enough any more to need them.

This had to work. It had to. I'd find a way to get them the money if I could just sleep through the night.

The mattress sank under my weight and I closed my eyes.