Friday, April 29, 2016

Stormchasing


March 13, 2016

The sky looked like a bruise. Not a gentle reddish kiss, but a roiling welt of deep purples, oily blacks, and sullen grays. And it was angry. Angry as I'd ever seen it. I knew why.

You shouldn't tell him no. He doesn't take no for an answer. But I wasn't worried about him. When all is said and done, he's just a man with a hard-on looking for a willing or not-so-willing woman to fuck - nothing for me to fear. I've dealt with men and gods alike - both are slaves to their baser needs - rutting like dogs at the scent of a bitch. Some women liked such things, crave it like fine food and drink.

But I know better. It isn't the thunder you need to fear.

Just ask poor Io, pale as milk, lowing in the field as a cow, under the watchful eyes of Argus. Ask Semele, whose ashes drift on the wind after seeing her lover in all his immortal glory. Look to the Bear that was once Callisto, chaste nymph of our fair huntress - chaste until the thunder rolled. Call out in a cave and hear the voice of little Echo. Poor girls.

For all his bluster, for all his rage is but a prelude to the real storm. So I'll bow out of this era, and find a time when he and his ilk have settled some. Where they play cards in the shade of new constellations.

And perhaps... Perhaps Hera will have learned a thing or two. Burn a bra, or have him sign a pre-nup with clauses that account for bird-transformations, or let him cool his thunderbolts on the couch for a century or three. It would do him some good.


Until then, I'll stay out of this myth. Or better yet, make some new ones to groove to.

Friday, April 22, 2016

In Like a Lion

/r/writing contest. The prompt actually came from my mom when I told her about a moth bumping into my window in February.

March 4, 2016

Winter stared out the window, still rimed with frost, and tried to see past the thick shadows. Not even stars were winking tonight.

There was a dull thwack and a scrabbling flutter and Winter jerked back startled by the moth harrying her window.

"How odd," she said, watching the insect. "Much too early for you. My brother isn't due for weeks yet."

But there it was at her icy glass at the end of February. She picked up her Android and swiped it, smiling as the picture of her twin sticking her tongue out, with her blushing cheek squished against Winter's, her eyes squished shut as she snapped the selfie, popped up on her home-screen. She flipped through the contacts and dialed Spring.

As the phone buzzed a ring, she glanced at her window, and now there was only blackness and she felt a twinge of worry. It wasn't often that living things came to the home of Winter.

"Hey, sis! How've you been?" Springs voice was always pleasant to hear, but he seemed to be in rare form - practically buzzing with energy. Also odd.

"Are you in the area, Spring?" she asked.

"No sweetie, I'm not due in for... Gosh, a month at least. Why?"

"One of your harbingers was at my window - I thought it was weird, being the ass-end February and all," said Winter.

"Oh, shit - honey, I meant to tell you. There was a small issue with security. I got some new guys and they're usually pretty cool, but the alarm went off and they just... They opened a couple of the boxes," he said.

"Oh, no... But the lion is out," said Winter, looking at the window again. Still no sign of the moth.

"I know, I should have called. But we got most of it packed away again - and you know how snowdrops are, they'll come back if the sun flirts with them even a little bit," he said. "Look, sis, I love chatting with you, but April showers don't arrange themselves."

"I know, bud. I'll see you at Autumn's party next era, anyway."

She pushed the 'end call' and chewed her lip. She grabbed her favorite coat and slipped into the night.

The lion was cruel and fickle - able to hide, making you think it was safe to come out. Then without a sound, a wind cold as Death's chest freezer would choke out new blossoms, ice over ponds where frogs had started to stir, and completely fuck with the migrating birds.

Technically, the lion was her, but things got a confusing when she anthropomorphized too much. March was a bitch like that.

The darkness was thick and syrupy, but she could hear the lion moving through the shadows, punctuated by a deep, reverberating growl that rattled her teeth. But then she heard something else - the buzzing flutter of velvet wings. Closing her eyes, Winter took a beep breath - and faintly caught the hint of wet mud, pollen, a delicate green.

Reaching forward, her hands sank into the sky blue mane of the lion. She opened her eyes, and saw a single glacial blue eye, the size of a grapefruit, staring into hers, and she laughed. And as she laughed, the lion laughed - and cold wind roared through the land.

On his nose, was the moth. Its wings were pale green, and even in the darkness seemed to shimmer and glow , and where its tiny legs caught on the lion's mane, green tendrils curled out of the frosted fur. She coaxed the bug gently on her fingers - delighted at how soft and oddly warm it was. But everything felt warm to her.

She whispered gently in the insect's ear, though she knew perfectly well, moths had no ears, and it fluttered away. Where the gentle wind of its wings kissed the frozen earth, it would soften.

It winged back to her brother's house. And she knew that despite his plans, he would be early. Which was fine, since it had been awhile since she had slept in.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Playback

Feb. 26, 2016

Beginnings

They shoot the white girl first. Then the old black woman. The five-year-old boy next. Then his mother. They systematically execute everyone on the bus.  I rewind the tape and watch how they move. Something is off, and it makes my brain itch as I watch but I can't put my fingers on it. Like they are super-imposed on the video. They shoot the white girl first. They are clearly part of the scene.

I can't see their faces, and there's no reason why. There were no masks on, no hoods, and it wasn't the lighting or even the quality of the video, but my eyes could not discern faces. Whenever we isolate images to look at them, the picture is distorted, as though someone had dipped fingers in grease and smeared it over where the faces would go.

What was worse was that no one at the precinct could identify when this happened. We had found the bus company, but there was no sign of a single murder, let alone a wholesale slaughter.

"Rosen, you have to give it a rest," said Blake. He filled the doorway, bending down to peer into the room. The guys called him the BFG. You'd think someone of his size would be terrifying, but Billy Blake had a way about him. He could get people to talk - he had kind eyes and wasn't afraid to find the good in the worst kinds of people. The rookies would watch some of his interviews with pedophiles, rapists and sadistic murders and clench their fists and spit about how they could never do that. But the BFG had more convictions under his belt than half the department put together. Because not only can you talk to Blake, you want to talk to him. He had warm brown eyes, with the types of crinkles that told jokes and held laughter. Eyes that didn't tell the perp that they were a piece of shit, but that they had just made a mistake. They would forget the cameras, forget the microphones and tell the BFG all their wrongs. Some would cry. Some would brag. Some whispered it quietly. But in the end it was recorded and went to trial.

And it wasn't an act. He tried to look beneath the layer of slime on some of the people who sat in the interview chairs and really see what made them tick. He could see the abused kid. The crushing loneliness. The need to be understood. And he connected with them.  A perp can smell insincerity from down the block. And though he would take their words and use them to lock these sick people away for years, these guys never seemed to attach the bad feeling to Blake. They would shake his hand, some would call him from jail just to talk.

The smile on my lips felt plastered on.

"I know, Blakey. But this is driving me up the wall. The guys at computer crimes say the video is legit. The bus is real. We've got the number, the drive - hell the names of his wife and kids and third cousins - everything, but it’s been in service every day and there have been no incidents. They let us review all of the surveillance video they have on file – a year’s worth. It does't make sense," I said, pushing some of my limp brown hair out of my face. I picked up my coffee mug and took a pull. The liquid was cold, but it was still caffeinated. "I'm gonna head over there and talk to the manager. L-T said I could ride the route, see if anything comes of that. You want to go for a trip?"

A smile creased Blake's face, but he was shaking his head.

"I'd love to, Rosie, but it's Sara's birthday and I can't miss this one," he said.

"Jeez, get out of here Blake. Give Sara a kiss for me," I said.

He ducked back out of the office and I could hear him swipe his card and the click of the magnetic locks as he left the building. I rewound the video.

#

The manager was a small, overworked man with thinning hair, and narrow eyes that gave him a scheming, rat-like quality.

“Look, lady – I don’t know why you have to do this. The owner okayed it so you can ride the fucking bus. If it had been up to me, I would say you can piss up a rope with no warrant – just sayin’- but that ain't my call. Don’t bother Harry too much while he’s driving. He has actual work to do,” he said. His voice was high and nasally and I inwardly said a prayer for all of his coworkers.

“Thanks. I’ll stay out of his way,” I said.

The bus was actually pretty nice. Velour seats with rainbow graphics against the gray plush. Each had its own little television screen for the movie. I sat in one of the seats that had an emergency exit and a good view of the driver and the door. The vehicle was dotted with passengers stowing bags, settling kids, flipping through magazines or browsing on their phones.

My phone rang and buzzed. I pulled it from my belt.

“Detective Rosen,” I said.

“Rosie, where are you?” it was Blake and he sounded out of sorts. I had never heard him sound out of sorts.

The bus lurched forward, and I reached  to touch the seat in front of me to steady myself and happened to catch the eye of an elderly black woman and felt an odd pull in my stomach.

“Vasquez called me from the computer unit. They were able to date the video, but it didn’t make sense. But it made me feel funny when he told me – especially with you going out there so I wanted you to know,” he said.

The lights flickered on the bus as we drove through town, and static squealed on my phone and I had to remove it from my ear. I saw them manifest.   It was like the shadows were pulled from every corner of the bus – it darkened around where they appeared and the sound it made was alien and excruciating. There were three - I knew there would be three.

I didn’t need the BFG to tell me what date they found on the video.

They shoot the white girl first.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Laughter and a Kiss

Feb. 18 2016

The laughter crackled like static electricity around the room when the bottle stopped spinning. It was pointing straight at Drears, whose ears turned bright red and she hung her head, letting a curtain of dark hair fall over her face.

Whispers followed. Jimmy got Drears! Wouldn't want to kiss that... Followed by more laughter, and this time I felt my ears getting red - but with anger.

Drears wasn't so bad, just awkward. She wouldn't have even come to this party if her sister Kelly hadn't been ordered to bring along her younger, awkward sister. Kelly was everything Drears wasn't - blonde, popular and put together. She wasn't mean, but she also didn't have to time to help her hapless sis, or risk losing her social standing by sticking up for her. When the game of spin the bottle had been announced, a grin as sharp as broken glass twisted on Kelly's lips and she shoved Drears into the room before heading over to the beer pong table.

The poor girl sat in the room, picking at the fraying hem of her jeans, pulling her knees as close to her chest as she could. Hardly part of the circle, but it was enough for the bottle to glance her way. Enough for the crowd to laugh at her. And me.

Drears wasn't her name, in case you couldn't figure that out - and some people honestly didn't know. Even her mom called her Drears. It took me a second, but I remembered - it was Dorothy. Like the girl from OZ. Kelly and Dorothy Rears, and all it took was Mrs. Lawson calling out attendance on the first day of sixth grade.

"Drears? Who's Drears?" she asked, looking over her bug-glasses at the class. Her ears had turned red then too. Laughs sizzled from the back of the room and chittered to the front like splinters of glass.

"Dee. REARS," said Derek Hawthorne. "Drears!"

And that was that. It wasn't even funny. But the laughter sounded the same tonight as it had three years ago.

I could see her eyes shining with tears that wouldn't hold back much longer, even through the curtain of her hair. I leaned forward, one hand on the shabby carpet, and reached out with the other and slipping it through the strands of hair to cup her cheek. We were so close I could feel her breath on my face, minty with a hint of warmth beneath. My forehead bumped hers with a jolting, but not unpleasant thump.

She blinked in surprise, and two twin tears fell, but didn't even hit her cheeks. They were simply swallowed silently by the carpet. Her hair felt like silk and I can still see her dark eyes. She was surprised. I raised my eyebrows and waited half a second. I saw the smallest smile, but it was enough.


I kissed her gently on the corner of her mouth and all the laughter stopped.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Discord


Feb. 11, 2016

The apple seemed to hang in the air for a beat maybe two, before dropping on the table. Each of the fair goddesses looked at its flesh, burnished and shining softly in the warm light of Olympus and felt desire. The stem had a single leaf that curled, also wrought of the metal - or grown. Such things are difficult to distinguish at a distance. But the words could be read by all, "To the fairest."

Each letter cast off the light from Hestia’s hearth and could be seen in the eyes of wisdom, love and fertility. Gray, blue and green all turned to gold that day. All at the feast fell silent and watched.

Hera, queen of all, wife and mother was cold and beautiful when calm. But she was not calm, she was like the sea, pulling back a tidal wave.

Athena, gray and armored, but fair face revealed. When she laughs a wicked beauty can be seen. But she was not laughing.

Aphrodite, flaxen hair and ruby lips, desired by all. Now she took on the fierce look of a tiger extending claws for a kill, which only increased her beauty but filled us all with fear.

Three hands, alabaster all, reached for the apple. Each knew how it would feel in her hand, at once cool and warm. Perfectly heavy in the palm. The words so true all would know them right, once the fruit was in hand. Tongues caressed lips at the mere thought. And eyes, already brimming with desire for the heavy fruit, filled with anger at the other two who dared reach for the prize.

Food dropped back to plates. The sharp sound of in-drawn breaths as the celebration turned into a contest with but a tossed apple.


Eris, the uninvited, still small, watched through her dark hair that was covering her darker eyes, and smiled.