Sunday, May 30, 2010

Penance - Published on Dark Valentine Ezine

It's one of their Through a Lens Darkly flash challenges. Your story should be based, or focused on, a photo prompt. This one of a stone castle-type corridor was just too good for me to pass up. Hope you enjoy.  Story follows.


Take it slowly, dear heart, just one more step.  Now then.  Can you guess where I have brought you?  Oh my.  No sense in your getting all upset.  I will remove the blindfold soon enough.  I would simply like to find out just how keen your senses are.  Try to guess.  Please?  No?  Well, alright.  Let me remove the cover from your eyes.  Pardon?  Oh, I'm afraid not, my sweet.  The restraints will need to remain on your hands and ankles, but not to worry.  You can be certain that I will explain.

See it, my angel?  Yes.  It is indeed your favorite place in the entire world.  When our village at the bottom of the hill was alive and thriving, this old, deserted castle's corridors are where you used to love to play the games of childhood.  As you grew into your teen years, these desolate towers were your sanctuary for solace and long-forgotten tears.  And now, as a mature woman, my wife, my devoted counsel and confidante, I suppose it had seemed only natural that you would choose this place above all others to betray me.

No, no, no.  Do not humiliate and degrade yourself further with denials.  That is akin to your plunging a dagger deep into my heart.  Countless lovers have lain here with you on comforters of silk and satin spread on these cold stone floors at the balcony's edge.  Always at this time of day too, wasn't it, my pet?  Look at how the sun pours through the corridor and caresses the walls.  Did it caress you and your lovers too?  Did it make you feel warm and comforted and safe as I never have?  As I never could?

What happened is that you never understood.  You never even made an attempt.  You belong to me.  There is nothing beyond that, my love.  To be able to believe you would always be there when I needed you was all I had ever asked of you.  The mundane practice of constant demonstrations of emotion have never suited me, and it was your obligation to be content.  Instead, you invited and allowed the touch of strangers.  For I have seen it.  Here.  The playful luring.  The hungry kisses.  The erratic passion.  The caustic laughter.  Mocking.  Me.

Oh my goodness, you silly pie.  Where do you think you are going?  You can't run.  Not from here.  Not from me.  Where would you go if you could?  And what would be the point?  More importantly, who is it that you think you would run to?  One of your young mongrels?  But, you see, several of them are already here.  Well, were here.  At my urging, they took a leap of faith from your beloved balcony.  Unfortunately, they were all heretics, and God did not allow them to soar on Archangel wings to his Heaven.  Their blood now envelops the distant rocks below.  As soon will ours.

Come, sweet treat, and walk with me.  Walk with me to the edge.  See how I have lovingly placed a bed of feathers on which to lay your head with its mantle of spun gold one last time.  We will smile and explore and let the sun's rays enfold and embrace us.  And, when it is finished, shall come penance for your sins.  You and I, together, will take that leap of faith, and if you are filled with remorse, God will take us up as one to Paradise.  But, if you still refuse to be accountable for the error of your ways, you will share the fate of those who lay below.

I want us to be together for all eternity, my darling one.  It would make me very sad if you forced me to ascend to our Lord's side alone.  But, the choice to repent is yours.  It has always been.  Yours.  But look.  The sun is beginning to set on the hillside.  We must not waste a moment of this glorious time.  Come take the walk to the edge with me now.  Let us begin.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Needle Flash Fiction Challenge

Here's my entry in the contest.


I’m home, my sweet. Are you awake? I’m sorry to be so late, but I had some extra forms to take care of at work. I can make it up to you though. I brought a surprise for you. I’m getting it ready and I’ll bring it down with me. Can you guess what it is? No? Alright, I’ll tell you. It’s a vanilla shake with a touch of cinnamon. You love those. I’m putting it in a fresh IV bag for you. Now, once I hook this one up, it should provide quite a pleasant sensation, you think?

Oh my. The bulb’s flickering on the basement stairs again. I really have to remember to change that. I know how being in the dark frightens you. I do need to start turning off all the lights at night though so you can get some good rest. Besides, keeping the basement lights on all the time might attract some unwanted attention. You do remember, I’m sure, how nosy some of our neighbors can be.

Darling one, you sewed the button on my work shirt just as I had asked you. You are such a dear. I know it can be difficult, what with the pole, the IV needle and the restraints. But you do know they’re all necessary, don’t you, my love? I can’t have you wandering off again. It was such a terrible ordeal finding you this last time. You remember. You had run off with that handyman I hired, telling him such awful things about me. You even told some of the neighbors terrible stories about how I treated you.

One good thing did come out of all that though. Once those busybodies in our cove found out you took off with that nasty man, they felt ever so sorry for me. Why, the ladies brought me delicious casseroles and their husbands helped me to tend our yard. You know, our garden’s doing really well now too since I buried your boyfriend in it. At least he turned out to be good for something, huh? No one saw us arrive when I brought you back, so you’re completely safe down here. You won’t ever be bothered.

Say, how does that shake taste? Can you actually taste it, or do you just kind of feel it?

Oh, my pet, don’t you cry. I know you can’t answer me, but it’s alright. The sutures sealing your lips together are almost totally healed now. Now, don’t you start fussing again. You have to admit that I was within my rights when I stitched them in, what with you speaking so poorly of me to everyone you knew and met. That was really quite disrespectful, and you know how strongly I feel about not being respected.

Wow. It’s getting so late. Time certainly does fly when I’m with the love of my life. I’ll let the shake keep dripping for awhile. It’s almost totally melted now and should be flowing really smoothly. I’ll tell you what. I’m going to leave the lights on down here for, say, another half hour so you can see well enough to mend the cuff on my blue shirt. I was planning to wear that to work in the morning, but see how the cuff is beginning to fray? It is in desperate need of your magic touch. I’ll change that bulb on the stairs as well to give you a bit more light while you sew. I wouldn’t want you to have an accident with the needle. That would be very painful.

When I go up, I’m going to watch the news before bed. I won’t be back down tonight, so have loads of sweet dreams, love. Just always remember, my angel, what I told you on the day we first met. I said, from this moment forward, you will be mine. Only. Mine. For always.
Remember also, heart of my heart, when I said it,
I meant it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

F-F-F #31 - Killer Scent

This is my contribution to F-F-F #31, and an interesting challenge it was. No starter sentences this time around. Instead there were five words to be used in the story. They are: batch, catch, latch, patch, and coriander. Well, here goes. Hope you enjoy!


Patch,” tell me the truth. You own stock in all the evil-smelling cologne companies on the planet, don’t ya?”

“I can’t help it if you can smell mosquito sweat from a mile away, Rich. Marie likes to buy me cologne, and even if it smells funky, I still have to wear it, you know?”

Yeah. I know. My old man had the same problem. My ma, God love her, was color-blind as all hell, but Pop wore every butt-ugly tie she ever bought. I’m so glad I’m a prick that ladies date only once.

I’m also a cop--a homicide detective if you want to get technical about it. Name’s Richard Demar--Rich, to those close. My partner’s Patch--well, Julius, really. Julius Swathby. Yeah. I know. I call him Patch cause he always wears jackets with patches sewn around the elbows. Believes it makes him look like a sophisticate.

It doesn’t.

One last bit about me. I was blessed/cursed with the sense of smell from Hell. Not bad enough to cripple me and like, force me to live in a bubble, but there are certain places I will not go. Some smells would just send me fucking screaming into the night. Why don’t I just leave what those are to your imagination.

Anywho, we’ve just caught a case; young woman butchered in her apartment. Butchered? That’s candy-coating it. Place settings for a cozy dinner for two (eaten), a batch of freshly baked cookies on a silver platter (untouched), and wall-to-wall blood spatter.

Leftovers and dessert were still warm when we arrived. Neighbor heard a man shouting, a woman screaming, and dialed 911. Guy did a runner out her patio. Broke the latch off her glass door and went where? Had to be drenched in her blood. So. To the highway in front or to the field in back? Either way, he was a ghost. But, I’m gonna catch this spook cause I know who he is.

Nobody but Patch would understand, so he’s the only one I tell. My proof is bizarre at best, so we take the roundabout. We fill every street snitch with our killer’s name, plans to collar him, and that we just need a little more to nail him. Big man’s in too deep financially with his business ventures to risk even the hint of arrest. Wouldn’t hesitate to take out a couple of dicks either, so we set ourselves up as targets and wait for the hit. Patch isn’t sure this is the way to go, but I tell him to trust me. He does.

Late last night, Patch and me are clanging around in the alley behind one of the man’s strip joints. Noisy, so he’d know just where to find us. Nothing going down, so we decided to lay low for awhile. We passed a stack of crates, and I immediately pulled my pistol, turned and fired into the stack. What should tumble out but our killer, gun in hand, ready to deliver a couple of headshots to me and the Patchmaster. I thought my partner was going to pee himself then and there.

“I know how you knew he killed our vic, but how did you know he was back there?”

“The smell, my friend,” I explained, “the coriander.”

It’s a well-known fact that this piece of garbage topped off everything he ate with coriander leaves. Just to make sure they were always handy, he carried a baggie full of them in his pocket. I had seen some of those leaves in one of the bowls at the murder scene and that’s when I knew. I registered the smell, and in the alley, I picked it up right after I passed the stack of boxes. It was way too close for comfort, so I turned and fired. Righteous kill, by the way. Total self-defense.

Notes were found later in one of his offices documenting that our vic wanted to be more than a good time and was going to make trouble if he refused. Not smart to try to blackmail the Devil himself. But still. She deserved better than what she got. Maybe now, the kid can rest in peace.

And me? Patch’s wife just bought him a new bottle of cologne. Maybe I should just start taking the bus to work. Well, maybe not the bus…

Friday, May 7, 2010

Flash Fiction Challenge!

Here's the scoop on a truly SHARP event: Needle's first flash contest. You've got until May 18th, so there's plenty of time.

Your story must include a needle. Any kind, any size, any shape--you get the POINT. This is way too cool to pass up. Make sure you keep an EYE out for the entries!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Necessary Reprimand

A strange little tale about quality of life and an odd sense of justice. Hope you enjoy.


Maria wiped the tear from her eye. Spending time locked up in a jail cell was the last activity she had ever envisioned for herself. She was not bad, and had never hurt anyone. She just didn't understand why it had to be this way. She knew she had broken the rules, but she had been careful this time. She had always been very careful. She hadn't been seen or caught the first two times she crossed the border, and hadn't been seen or caught this time either--at least, not by the residents of the Forbidden Zone. This time, she had been betrayed by her own.

"This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated," the Mayor had said. "If we overlook your blatant disregard for the law, others will follow suit and bring destruction unto us all. You have already been warned twice and yet, it is as if you care nothing for the lives of your family, friends, and the rest us who depend on our anonymity for survival in this harsh, new world."

"Please, Mr. Mayor, everyone, please try to understand why I did what I did. I know it is dangerous, but you have to believe I would never do anything to put the rest of you in any jeopardy. I asked the children who were on the swings in the playground not to say anything when they saw me approaching the border. I told them I was going to bring back wondrous things for us all to eat, but they reported me just the same. I wanted to help our town, not hurt it.

You've never seen what they have on the other side, but I have. There are fruits and vegetables, and juices and milk, and pastries and cheeses, all fresh and all sitting out just ripe for the taking. What do we have available here to feed our families, friends and children? That colorless, tasteless rubbish on the shelves in our grocery store? And, what of our bakery and our candy shop? I just wish you could see all that is theirs."

Their response had certainly not been what she anticipated. She knew the Council would be angry, but they had no right to imprison her as if she were a criminal. She knew they were deciding on her sentence and would be coming for her soon. This was all so confusing. Why was this happening to her?

The guards unlocked her cell and took her out to the center of town, where the Mayor and the rest of the townspeople were waiting.

"Maria?" the Mayor began, "you have been found guilty of the violation of crossing our border and entering the Forbidden Zone. Three times you have disregarded our warnings, and run the risk of being seen and captured, which would have resulted in the death of us all. The members of the Council and I have decided upon your sentence, and it is to be imposed immediately."

* * * * * * * *

Janie ran into her room and made a beeline immediately for the area on the side of her bed where she had set up the birthday present she had received just the day before. As soon as her mind registered what she was seeing, she put her hand over her mouth to stifle a scream. This is too horrible, she thought, my poor sweet dear, Maria. She reached down and untied the shoelace that had been tied tightly around her favorite lady doll's neck and wound around a hastily constructed gallows fashioned from some of the storefront's beams in the doll village. She also undid the twist-tie that had been used to secure the doll's hands together behind her back. The child had placed one of her shoelaces in the hands of two of her little girl dolls so they could play jump rope in the playground. The twist tie had been added to function as a leash so the little boy doll could walk his dog around the town square. All at once, Janie felt like she couldn't breathe and knew just who had to be responsible for this abomination. She called out to her brother in the hallway.

"Billy, I told you not to mess with my doll village. I'm telling Mommy and Daddy what you did!"

She began to cry. Billy knelt down beside his little sister and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Sis, really, I didn't. Don't cry. Please. I wouldn't do something awful like that. Really. Truly. I'm going to go and play with my soldiers now, and you can come in my room and play with any of my toys if you want to. Okay?"

Billy got up and started back to his own room. When he turned and displayed a small smile, Janie saw in his eyes that he was telling the truth.

"Well," Janie sniffled, "if you didn't do this, then who did? I suppose her friends in my doll town did this to her?"

Billy couldn't help but laugh at that, and Janie felt a giggle of her own beginning. Her friends. Right.

Janie bent down and got very close to all the small figures arranged in a semi-circle around the gallows that had been set up in the town square.

"Did you do this to Maria?" she whispered, cheerful now, despite being as upset as she had been a moment earlier. "So, which one of you was it? Now, speak up."

She placed her ear close to the mouths of all the dolls in the group, but none answered. They dared not. They knew the cost.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

F-F-F #30 - Be Careful

Here's my contribution to Friday Flash Fiction. I couldn't let these two super sentences go to waste. Hope you enjoy!


I know what I saw and years of anti-psychotics and group therapies couldn’t convince me otherwise. You have to believe me, Ethan. I know everybody around here thinks I’m the loony in 4B, but I do take my meds for my depression, and I’m not crazy.”

Marissa’s eyes filled with tears. The pained look on her neighbor’s face made her feel ashamed she had run across the hall and pounded on his door in the middle of the night. A second glance, however, revealed that she was squeezing his hand so hard it was turning a deep shade of purple. She quickly released her grip.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Ethan. I’m just so upset. It’s not every day you see someone getting killed.”

Ethan massaged his hand to try to get some of the feeling back.

“Marissa,” he said quietly, “nobody think you’re crazy, least of all, me. We all have problems, you know, but yours just happen to be rather public. I mean, your parents being killed in that accident because the train signal failed, then the train jumps the track, the lawsuit and the trial--why, the media was all over it. You know how those people are. The more gruesome a story is, the more coverage it gets. Your moving here could have provided you with some peace, but everyone had already seen you on those court television shows. I’ll tell you, your public breakdown was quite understandable and actually predictable.”

Marissa now knew she had made the right decision to tell Ethan what she had seen. She hadn’t known him for long, but he was so calm and self-assured, he made her feel so safe. Yes, he could be trusted. He would let her know what she should do.

“Tell me again now, slowly,” he began, “exactly what it is that you saw.” Ethan got up and put the kettle on. Something hot and soothing was definitely what she needed.

“Alright,” Marissa took a deep breath and continued, “I had finished my dinner, took my medicine and decided to lay down for a bit. When I woke up, I realized I had fallen sound asleep and it was after 11, so I decided I’d have a cup of coffee and go to bed. I didn’t need the kitchen lights on because of all the streetlights and traffic and all. I was pulling the curtains closed by the window above the sink when I noticed something odd across the way. You know those new apartments across the street with the big picture windows in the living rooms?

Well, a light was on in the one directly across from me on the 3rd floor and I saw this woman backing up in the room, holding her hands up. All of a sudden, a man came into view--I couldn’t see his face--but he grabbed her around the neck with his left hand, picked up a lamp with his right, and began to hit her on the head with it over and over, then it all went dark. It was so horrible. I just can’t seem to get that picture out of my head. I wanted to ask somebody what to do and I knew you’d be able to advise me. I know I should call the police, but like I said, I never saw his face, but there was one thing. When he held the lamp up right before he hit her, I saw a bright silver ring on his finger. The light caught it and it flashed so brightly, I could see it all the way over here. It had a really strange shape, like a long, narrow diamond shape. I will never forget that image. But what good would that do the police?”

“A silver ring? Really?” Ethan began. “I’ll bet that would help the police find the killer. An unusual piece of jewelry like that? They could probably check around and find the jeweler that sold or made it and be able to identify the purchaser. Oh, look, the coffee’s ready. Let’s have a cup and then you can call the police. I’ll stay here with you when you call if you’d like.”

Marissa was feeling so much better. This young man’s moving in across the hall was a real Godsend. The coffee smelled fantastic and the company was charming. She’d be able to get through this ordeal in one piece after all. She looked at the coffee Ethan set down in front of her and smiled. He’d added the perfect amount of her favorite creamer and it looked so warm and somehow comforting.

She had finished about half her cup when the began to feel as if something wasn’t quite right.

“Ethan,” she was already slurring her words,” is it me, or does this coffee taste weir…

The cup slipped from her hand and Ethan caught it before it hit the floor.

“’Weird’? Is that what you were going to ask? Does the coffee taste weird? Truth is, mine was just great. Yours may have seemed a bit off since I spiced it up quite a bit with some of that bottled Prozac you’ve got on the counter. Nice of your doctor to prescribe it like that for you since you can’t swallow pills. Handy, really.”

Ethan began washing the cups and straightening up the kitchen.

“No sense confusing the authorities with extraneous details. The simplest explanation is always the best. You’ve been very depressed of late, and tonight while you were alone, you accidentally took way too much of your medicine. Overdoses are so tragic.”

Marissa was having great difficulty breathing and it was getting harder to keep her eyes open. She looked up at the young man she thought she knew--thought she could trust--and wondered why.

Once all traces of his being there had been wiped clean, on his way out, he decided to explain.

“I had to off that bitch. Just because I got tired of fucking her, she decided she was going to tell her old man I had been helping myself to his investment money. She needed to be silenced, like, permanently. Oh, and the ring you saw? She had that made special for me. It’s supposed to be some kind of Egyptian symbol or something, and was very expensive and one of a kind. One call to the right jeweler and…, well, all I can say is, you should have just closed your curtains and gone to bed.”

He took one last look, and Marissa’s eyes were closed and her breathing was shallow and strained. It should be over by the time he got back to his apartment. The ring should be done soaking in that solution too, he thought, and no more blood should be visible. He looked forward to putting it back on now that he was free to wear it in public. The dumb bitch did have good taste in jewelry, at least. He made sure Marissa’s door was securely locked when he left. These days, one just couldn’t be too careful.