“Who…are you waiting for?”
“Why, we’re waiting for you.”
He claimed that he wasn’t the only one waiting for me to come, yet he was the only person at the small table for four. And why had he been waiting for me at all? I certainly didn’t know him; I’d only stumbled upon him by chance on my way home. But the place setting was so lovely, and the steam rising from the teapot’s spout was welcoming. Maybe just one cup of tea would be all right. After all, he seemed to be under the impression that I was the person he’d been waiting for.
So I sat. I shouldn’t have sat. The cakes and cookies were iced to perfection and smelled so sweet that I wouldn’t have had to eat them to know what they would have tasted like. His grin spread as I made myself comfortable, and I took that time while I was straightening my dress to survey him. His hair was long, raggedy, and black as night, but his eyes glimmered the warmest of gold that I had ever seen. They were so liquid, molten, my entire body felt warm just looking at them.
What’s more, he didn’t seem to mind that I was quite obviously staring at him. The hat on his head was what was most curious about him though: it didn’t even seem like it had made up its mind on what style it should have been. It had to have been handmade; there was no other explanation for this attention to detail and craftsmanship, for even though it hadn’t settled on a specific style, it fit itself perfectly.
In a word, he was art. Sitting, watching, breathing, grinning from ear to ear: art. Curse me for being unable to draw well enough; he would have been an interesting fellow to immortalize on paper.
His amusement hadn’t dwindled, but he seemed to want the silence to do just that, and I nodded my head, holding up the delicate teacup in front of me and watching as two sugar cubes fell from the spout of the teapot; sparkling in their perfect white form, and then swiftly followed by dark steaming liquid. How had he done that…? Was this a kind of trick? How curious…
“H-How did you-?”
“One cannot be expected to reveal everything, now can they?”
I suppose not. I shook my head, lips pulling in to keep from asking anymore unnecessary questions. Instead I took up the milk and poured some of it into my cup along with everything else and watched as the cubes of sugar melted away.
“You should not have taken so long to come.”
But I wasn’t even the person he was really expecting, so all I could say in return was:
“I am dreadfully sorry.”
“Yes, well you should be. Heaven knows we can’t continue on until you’ve arrived.”
What on earth was he talking about? And what would happen when the person I was sitting here surrogate for arrived? Oh that most certainly wouldn’t be a pleasant scene…My eyes moved up to his but then immediately downcast themselves to one of the platters of cookies. They each had different words traced on them in soft icing. Some said prayers, others were wishes, passages from stories, poems, demands…how curious indeed. And each one of them was in a different script. Had he done all of them by hand all by himself?
“Tempting, aren’t they?”
I looked back up to him, not surprised to see the grin, though I was a bit flustered when it shifted to a smirk.
“Y-Yes, they’re very lovely, and quite creative.”
He bowed his head to me,
“Did you do them all by yourself…?”
He nodded, head lifting back up to make eye contact with me once again,
In those two words his tone shifted, not so much to be harsh, but almost as if he would have been upset with me if I were not to taste one. And I did want to taste one, so I took a small blue coated cookie in the shape of a star that held a prayer one says at night atop it.
The moment my teeth sunk in, my eyes fluttered closed. Delicious, more superb than anything that I had ever tasted. Before I’d realized it, I’d finished it, but before I could reach to take another, my head grew dizzy with voices. That prayer, repeating over and over in my head until I was deafened to the world around me. My hands flew to my ears and pressed hard,
“S-Stop it…make it stop!”
I couldn’t hear him, but I felt his footfalls growing closer, and then his long slender fingers on my back as they brushed my hair over my shoulder.
“I-I said make it sto-!”
But I was cut off by my own coughing as my fingers gripped into the tablecloth; bringing it and the rest of the table set with me as I crashed to the ground…
So malleable she was, she had to be the easiest yet, but unfortunately she had ruined my table setting. Oh bother, that wouldn’t do. By the time I had finished resetting everything, she had finished in the oven. I could still feel her as I cut out her dough into shapes of perfect hearts. But what would she speak to me…? What would she want to have as her everlasting thought and final words? Her voice echoed through my mind as my lips formed her words,
“ ‘Curiouser and curiouser…’ Well that’s an odd last phrasing now isn’t it?”
But she was already gone and I was icing her with a pastel yellow that matched her once flowing hair. Curiouser and curiouser…I sure hoped so, maybe it would be enough to have the next young one sit with me, maybe even lift her up, consume her as she had consumed someone else…
Now, that would be curious.
(Source: Flickr / isabellapiggott)
As a child I always loved Europe. I still do, so much so that sometimes I like to take it with me. There’s a special place for all of the things and locations that I love and I keep them all close to my heart. Quite literally actually. Well, I guess technically I should say that I keep them close to the back of it. That’s where I keep them after all: on my back. The weight of the world is on my shoulders for more hours of the day then I’d like to admit. Father says it’s unsafe to travel with your most precious things, but then everything is precious to me so I might as well run around naked.
I suppose being a twenty-eight year old backpacker is by technicality something to be frowned upon, especially if you’re an unmarried man. People get their own ideas about everyone for one reason or another, but I just like to be constantly on the move. The spice in the air of India, for example, is what I love to wake up to so I’m always sure that when I rest my head down for sleep, it’s always close by there. Dreams can be dangerous and can have me wake somewhere I’d rather not be, so that’s another thing I have to be careful about.
How others might interpret that could be…let’s see, that I’m an intimate being. I guess that’s true in certain aspects, but it most definitely isn’t true one-hundred percent of the time. The spicy air of India is comforting to me because it makes me think of a kitchen, not a lover. Not everyone is ruled by sex after all, I know I’m certainly not.
Then there’s the sweet wind of the southern states in America. Spring has to be my favorite time of the year to be there, but it was already well into the fall and I knew that there was only one place I’d settle for now. Almost any place could seem beautiful to me in its own way when winter came around, but as I’d said earlier, Europe was one I’d loved in my early years and I still do. It was already nightfall by now, so it was as good of a time as ever. Russia was no place to be in the winter unless you had a thrill for the possibility, no…probability, of death. I am a backpacker after all.
That’s what they call us anyways, and for a while I thought that it was just because we so literally held satchels on our backs, but as languages evolved so did the meaning of that word, and I take it to heart as being called a wanderer. Which is exactly what we are. Father taught me how, and his mother taught him, and so on and so forth depending on how it got passed down in the bloodline. My own blood was running cold with the first brisk breeze of the morning and I quickly huddled down and pulled my pack into my lap.
Tibet? No…Iceland? Ironic in name, but no. Ireland, Hungary, Kazakhstan-ah! France, namely Paris, France. Perfect, if ever there was a more beautiful city than Paris, France after a snowfall, then I wasn’t sure. Even during the warm summers it twinkled with lights, but when the sun rose just right and spread over the freshly laid blanket of snow from the night before…it was breathtaking, showing dazzling starlight without the need for night or electricity. Too bad the inhabitants couldn’t be as lovely in nature, but ah, c’est la vie as they say.
I pulled a small glass orb from my bag, so seemingly fragile yet sturdier than the human will. It was cold against my fingers, but light fog was starting around where they were holding it. Apparently my blood wasn’t as cold as I thought it had gotten.
There were other things that I could have used: books, postcards, photographs, but this way was the best for specifics, and since I didn’t exactly want to be carrying albums upon albums of photographs with me of all of the exact places I liked to escape to…well, let’s just say that the orb was best. Besides, if I was ever roughed up, who’d want to take a lousy glass ball?
I could already see it, and the cold under my fingers was helping me visualize more until a snow dusted balcony long since forgotten by its previous owners came into view. Of course it was just a memory; that light amount of snow probably hadn’t even collected there yet, especially since the season hadn’t turned cold enough just yet. In a week it would be a norm, but right now, not so much. Still, I could already smell the sharp air, feel my cheeks warming and growing pink from the contrast, and as I softly closed my eyes I felt the quick but somehow gently pull at my heart.
It urged me forward and then just as quickly as it had started, it stopped, and when I opened my eyes I was met with a breath of fog in front of my eyes to perfectly contrast against the black blue sky of night. There it was: heaven on earth, lights shining like diamonds along the tapestry of Paris, and I could see it perfectly from my perched spot above it all in the country side.
One day I’d have children, I wasn’t sure when, but I’d raise them here in this house. It needed a new coat of paint, some fresh wood and brick, maybe a dog or two to complete it, but nothing was ever completely finished and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m a being of unfinished business after all; it only makes sense that a temporary home would be the same.
My gift though…I might not pass that on. We’ll see, life is about waiting and I have plenty of time.
(( I know that I’ve already uploaded this one, but for some reason my tag that sends it to my Flash Fiction page doesn’t work. The Tumblr team is working on it, but until then I’m reuploading it merely so that I can have this story in the proper place. I’ll delete it once they fix it. ))
A little bit of darkness can be a good thing. I’m not entirely sure how true that is, but I think my father must absolutely believe in it, whether because he’s been telling me that for longer than I can remember or because his father told it to him his entire life. Eventually though the chain has to be broken, and I like to think that at one point in his life he’d thought the same thing. It was hard to tell now with his ironed pants and crisp shirts; collars stiff enough to scratch my cheek whenever I give him a hug before he leaves each day to the darkness.
I for one don’t believe that darkness is good. As far as I’ve seen in my life it doesn’t really seem to provide any purpose other than to hide those that would do less than good, or remind us all that we were subject to it and missing out on its counterpart. About the only good I could ever recall was its aid in sleeping, but being surrounded by the darkness for so long almost gives you an exposed feeling when you succumb to it for a time of unconsciousness.
At this point in life, I doubt anyone knows the real reason the sun decided to leave. It didn’t burn out –none of us would be here had it done so – and it didn’t just die or everything would be a frozen wasteland. It was dangerous outside though, so dangerous, I could never go outside. As I thought of things I often think about throughout the day, I felt my way around our home as easily as if light had been pouring in and made myself coffee. Coffee, now that was something that a little bit of could do good.
Even electricity shunned us for light, but I hardly noticed it in our home anymore. When I was younger it was much more difficult; constantly banging my knees or falling onto my hands, but my father was always there to scoop me up and hold me to himself. The sound of his heartbeat was enough of a comfort that for those few seconds I wasn’t bothered that I’d never seen his face. I did wonder what my mother’s looked like though, if anything because I never got to know her. She went out into the darkness and never came back…instead she was found.
I hated those days and count myself lucky that I was too small to remember it perfectly. My hands found glass and the familiar slick feeling of wax. The matches were where they always were and I quickly struck one, feeling a sense of calm wash through me along with the smell of sulphur. It nearly bit my finger but I lit the wick just in time and blew it out. Nothing liked to give us light anymore, but I still lit the candles every day in hopes that one day their light would come through. The melt of wax between my fingers gave me more hope than anything I could remember. Maybe one day we’d wake up and see the candles burning and know that the light had forgiven us…
Probably not in my life time, maybe my children’s if ever I had my turn at going outside to meet someone. A world of just me and my father was an easy routine but lonely. He told me that he hadn’t been allowed to go outside and find other people until he’d been twenty five and I still had eight years to go…yay. What did boys look like? Would I even want to find one to live with? They weren’t my father, they wouldn’t be looking at me like I was a child that needed taken care of. Were they just as scared of the outside as I could be when I was sitting alone in my bed? Did the darkness madden them as badly as it had maddened me?
Perhaps, I suppose I’d have to wait until I was twenty five to find out. For now, I cupped my hands around the jar I’d placed the candle in and began to hang it along with twelve others I’d make like it, around our home. It would have to come back out one day, the light, and I’d be the first to greet it.
Sometimes I could swear there was nothing wrong, not when I watched her walk around so casually around our two story home as if it was nothing. Try as I might, even when I would come home silently from work she would always hear the click of the front door closing no matter where she was in the house. Quick as ever she would meet me, hugging me and telling me how happy she was that her father hadn’t been lost to the darkness. That was the only thing that I regretted telling my daughter, but her mother hadn’t listened that day and braved the storm instead…taken out by a blurred set of headlights.
Not for our daughter though, no, I’d refuse to let her suffer that same fate. And she was so much more fragile than her mother. When she was older she’d understand, she might not forgive me but she’d understand why I did everything that I had to do. The jars of candles were the hardest things to look at. No matter how smoothly she moved through the house, those jars would remind me of what I’d done; that she wasn’t like everyone else despite how I’d made her think that she was.
“I’m gonna get supper ready dad.”
I nodded as she pulled back from her hug from me, brushing my fingers through her hair with a sad smile she’d never see, though her milky white eyes still tried to find my face.
When the sun finally decided to creep its way into my room I opened my eyes; fluttering at first, but soon I was rubbing them with tight fists. From how bright it was I knew that there couldn’t possibly be a single cloud in the sky, and when I moved quietly over to the ceiling high window, I smiled at the clear blue sky. I was right, but I usually was. There was no time to waste and I quickly moved from the warming glass and into my washroom.
My hair, as usual, was nearly perfect; it scarcely ruined itself while I slept anymore, and all I had to do was pin up a few curls here and there so that they fell gracefully down across my cheeks. Oh I was so pretty, and I’d always be pretty. Not many girls were as lucky as me, and I spun around quickly in the privacy of my washroom.
People would be here soon, they came every day: everyone loves seeing a palace. How should I look today though? There were wardrobes upon wardrobes filled to the brim with gowns to choose from, but today felt special, perhaps because the sun had decided to be so instantly friendly. Yes, I should wear something to capture its light perfectly. I knew of the perfect one, and it was in my bedroom, what luck! It was a bother not being able to ask a servant to help me anymore, but over the years I’d developed a way to tie up even the most finicky corset until it was almost a bother to walk.
Ribs of royalty were made for such clothing, that’s what my mother always said anyways, and to this day I’d yet to crack a single one like so many commoners could. Maybe that was proof enough that nobility could flow through veins only and not mere paperwork.
Below me, despite their trying, I could hear staff running about, getting ready for the new day. There was only one thing left that I needed to be perfect. It was so beautiful; my fingers barely touched it as I lifted the delicate gold chain from the music box it was draped over. The pearl was flawless; emblazoned with draperies of melted silver, and hanging just right at the center of the chain which I was now clasping around my neck. It nestled itself comfortably at the smooth skin between my breasts as if it wasn’t ready to wake and show itself to the day. Ah well, my beauty would have to be enough for now.
People had still yet to arrive, from what I could hear anyways, and I allowed myself to marvel at the music box. So lovely, made just for me, the very likeness of a golden piano, so much so that the small keys would move with the tune played should I decide to wind it up. I would have done anything to keep it safe, if there was only one thing in this world that I could have, it would have been this splendor…
“Ah, welcome, your tour shall begin soon, please make yourselves comfortable.”
I gasped quickly at the sound of the young man speaking just at the base of the grand staircase that led up to the floor I was on. People! I giggled in excitement and returned to the washroom, inspecting my face one more time. Perfect, not a thing out of place, as usual.
By the time I made it back downstairs everyone had already moved! My fingers carefully but quickly gripped into my gown, lifting it so that I could run and catch up with them. They were young today; the oldest of them couldn’t be past eighteen, just right for me! I sighed as I stopped next to the group of them, being led by the young man from before. None of them even turned their heads to look at me, but seldom ever did anymore. No matter, I loved being around them just the same; watching their eyes as they took in everything that my home had to offer. The young ladies in this group were dressed so appallingly, why, in pants no less! The very idea, oh how people changed nowadays.
But all of their less than tasteful clothing was forgotten as they were led to another staircase, the lot of them having to walk carefully so that everyone could go up together. There at the top, I saw myself; a portrait so lovely that I cursed myself for being so reluctant to hold still for hours in order to have it painted.
“Damn, she was pretty hot.”
One of the boys, but I paid them no mind as they continued to whisper to each other. I knew I was beautiful: I didn’t need their tactless language to be reminded. Now one of the young women spoke, much smaller than the rest,
“Is that the music box…?”
The guide smiled graciously and gestured his hand up to my painted ones, holding my prized possession to be immortalized forever in oils and paints,
“The very same. It can be viewed when we reach her room, along with other things that were rescued from the fire of this wing.”
My music box…I so loved it.
“What happened to the necklace…? The one in the portrait?”
Now he sighed, a genuine at that despite how many times he had stated this fact,
“It unfortunately was never found, they believe that it could have been on her person when they discovered the corpse. The music box was all that had survived from her room since she had gone back for it.”
“Kind of lame isn’t it? Going back for a music box?”
Boys were so ignorant. I crossed my arms across my chest, head turned up against them. They obviously understood nothing when it came to sentiment.
I’d already said hadn’t I? If there was only one thing in this world that I could have…
The air was cold, crisp against my face as I tried my hardest to maneuver through the layers upon layers of soft dried out leaves that littered the clearing floor. Just beyond the trees, nestled safely in that very clearing where only a few leaves dared to creep into, sat an older woman. The smile was instant upon my features as I ran up to her like I did every Sunday afternoon. This was our secret place where we would talk and exchange stories, lessons, anything that we wanted to with each other.
Around her, hanging like surrogate fruit to the bare trees, were picture frames. Some had old photographs, others were paintings or simple sketches, but each one was unique and I let my eyes wander along them as I made my way to the other seat that was there for me. My hands folded comfortably but impatiently in my lap as I looked across the table at her; fighting not to pick at the ragged ends of the old table cloth that was strewn along it.
After a few moments of me waiting quietly, she lifted her eyes up to me, an easy smile forming on her lips that for a moment showed the years of youth she had once lived.
“You’re earlier today…eager aren’t you?”
Her voice was one that made me think of the soft scrape that the leaves made as the wind tossed them against the bark of the old arching trees, and I nodded quickly. This was my favorite time of the week, and I wasted no time as I pointed to one of the many hanging frames,
Her eyes lifted to it and her smile shone brightly again; it was a picture of a man sitting on a dock with one foot in the water and one out, but the funny thing about it was that the foot that was in the water was the one that had the shoe on and the one out of the water was left bare.
“Aaaah…that is an interesting one. It’s about McGinney the pirate. Do you know about him?”
But of course I didn’t, and no sooner had I started to shake my head did the air around us grow colder; the smells saltier with the brine of a marsh left in the afternoon sun. Water slowly rose up the legs of our chairs and I giggled as I pulled my feet up into the seat with me. Her voice grew much more hoarse, her eyes bright with imagination as she leaned over the now swaying table,
“He was found trying to take more of his share and was left on an island for three years with nothing for company save for the sound of the waves and the hot sun on his back.”
I pitied the poor fictional pirate, but I urged her to continue with a quick nod of my head,
“It drove him mad, terribly mad!”
Thunder crashed above us and lightning filled the sky, causing an excited yelp to escape me,
“So now he no longer knows what is right and what is wrong. That is his punishment for trying to swindle his crew out of their share.”
Our clothes were different now; hers were a dark maroon and the hat upon her head was filled with feathers: the exact likeness of a pirate’s captain, whereas mine was that of a lowly cabin boy.
“What about that one?!”
I quickly pointed to another, and before I had time to blink, we were standing in front of a stone cathedral whose spires lifted further than the clouds. Our attire was of the finest silks and the purest white. Her hand rested upon my shoulder as the bells tolled and a man ran from the church with a slender young woman in his arms. They were laughing and smiling and the train of her gown brushed across my cheek,
“That is the captured image of true love. Watch as the angry groom runs out, go on, look.”
I looked back to the cathedral and indeed a man was running out, shouting words that mother would never approve of me hearing. We hunched together and giggled as we watched him and I pointed to another, then another, wanting more and more, and each time she never let me down. I loved it here and wished I could always stay. In time we settled back down in the clearing and I sipped from a small cup,
“Why do you collect all of these pictures…?”
“I like to remember things that were…things that could have been or might have been.”
Her answers were hardly ever straight forward, but that’s what made her forest of make believe so wonderful.
Until I felt a strong hand on my shoulder. My eyes lifted up and I set the Styrofoam cup back down. The clearing had faded and now I was surrounded instead by white walls, old rickety tables, other men and women that weren’t even her same age.
“Visitation’s over Logan…”
The tall man in white gripped my shoulder once before letting go, and my now dim eyes halved as I nodded. I turned my eyes back to her, the one across the table that was being forced to put away her pictures and drawings and stood up. Make believe was fun, so long as it remained make believe…but the walls of the mental institute were anything but pretend.
I don’t think she even noticed me now, as I moved around the table and kissed her on the cheek. Next week she would recognize me, speak to me more…
Nothing, but I no longer felt offended by her silence and instead straightened and moved through the halls to find my mother. We’d be home soon, everything would follow its usual dull routine…But one day she’d be able to come home with us.
Sundays are my favorite days…
His eyes opened slowly, or perhaps he was a she. No one was truly sure, though many had their own bias for one reason or another. On certain days they preferred to go by she, but just as easily she would delight in being called ‘him’. In this particular moment they were going by she, and her eyes lifted up through the colorful swollen drops of dew all around her. Each one was spectacular in its own right, and for now she flittered to a deep blue one.
With the outstretch of her arm, it alighted upon her fingertips but did not break. Her eyes brightened and widened; the color of melted snow, but already they were beginning to swirl in search of a new hue to take on. Perhaps blue like the drop on her skin. She was never sure what her eyes decided to do with themselves and instead lifted her hand high over her head and, with a flick of her wrist, released it back into the air unharmed.
More were on their way now; spinning and twirling around her in a twister of blues and pinks, reds, greens and colors that didn’t even have names yet. As they spun, so did she; a laugh as pure as tinkling glass escaping her lips until her disheveled hair was caressing across her cheeks in imitation of a mother trying to still their child. Still she spun on until she was drunk with delight.
When her back landed against the cold white ground beneath her, so too did the perfect orbs. Which one should she look at now? A tiny green one was already rolling towards her in hopes of being picked, and when she lifted it between the pads of her index finger and thumb, she had already shifted back to being him. He loved the color green; it always reminded him of life. Life indeed was the greatest thing to give, so today he decided to let life give him something in return.
Eyes squinting, he could just make out the tiny forms that moved about within the sphere, and though to his expert eyes everything was clear and easy to make out, he preferred being able to see everything firsthand. In an instant he was gone, only to reappear at a much more manageable size within that once miniscule dew drop of a place. Once inside it didn’t seem nearly as green. The air was thick with fumes and the people that lived here were dashing about quickly as if nothing were quite as important as the destination they were heading to. Unless of course it was the destination after that. Or after that. After that…
His lips pulled in and stayed that way as he moved towards a someone that didn’t seem to be quite as busy, but the moment he lifted a hand in greeting they were flitting off somewhere else. Defeated. His shoulders slowly slumped and his hands replaced themselves inside his pockets. Maybe today wasn’t the best day, but he remembered a time when the ones that lived here were so much more still, more happy. Yes, another day.
Again he was back home; the orbs of light there in all of their colorful splendor, but the small green one had already buzzed off. Maybe something more fresh, something more lively would do the trick. His eyes closed and between his fingers slid a smooth handle which he lifted up and pushed out until a proper covering was over his head. Sometimes he could get a bit carried away and he didn’t need another blissful catastrophe.
At just the thought of it, torrents of color and light rained down upon her, but her lips upturned triumphantly at the sound of the pitter patter of life. Her covering was discarded only to dissolve the moment it was from her grasp, and she threw her head back and spun about. Today she was even so bold as to stick out her tongue and catch a few there; had she not known for certain that they’d be safe then she never would have done so. This was her favorite part: to create something new and watch it flourish and live on.
Some weren’t as lucky, and dried out…Not all of them could be helped, but he did what he could, when he could, if the time called for it. Everything had a reason of its own, even if those that lived in his rain couldn’t understand it. But it was growing so much colder; the colors were dimming down as did her soft eyes. Time for rest. Tomorrow would be a new day.
As she laid down, tucking herself up comfortably among soft things, she heard the soft whispers in voices and tongues that only she would be able to understand without having to even think on it. Some of them called to her, some of them rang in unison hoping that he would hear, and some cursed her name…That was always the hardest. But tomorrow would be fresh, tomorrow could slice a bit of hope into time. For a time.
There’s always time.
The days are long here, long and cold all at the same time. The sun is always shining and I know that the wind is constantly blowing yet my skin stays cool and my hair unruffled. One day though, one day I’ll feel the soft caress of it through my clothing and along my skin. For now though I do what I do every day: tend to the birds. They are our greatest asset, for without them how would we even know what freedom could be like? They fly about, held aloft by an unseen wind that I’m unlucky enough to never experience, yet somehow the snow can still build up and swirl around me. When will it be my turn to be blown back…? Will it ever be possible for me to lift up with them and dance among the clouds and curls of ice that are as soft as them?
The elders speak of a time before things were like this; a time when the sun would beat against their faces until their skin flushed pink. Pink skin, I cannot even imagine what it would be like. My own is so pale and dry that even the chance of a burn would be more than welcomed so long as it meant I was finally feeling something. Something…
Many have sought out our escape, but those that dare to do so never come back. I’m always told that there’s an answer to everything; that every riddle has a key so long as you know how to look for it. How. I’ve grown to hate that word, for every time that phrase is repeated to me I always long for it to change to “where”. “Where” is always easier to find for at least it is a place. “How” seems to always be locked up in the mind as if it needs its own key just to unlock it so that it also can be used to unlock. Is everything a cycle here? Nothing ever seems to change except the light, and even that is a taunting thing: always promising warmth yet never giving it.
The darkness is when things change. The birds settle down, their feathers tired from trying to bring up a mockery of wind down to us that aren’t as lucky to feel it, and with their heads turned into their wings they seem decapitated. I envy them.
In vain I try to reach them, but the cold bark is slick from unseen ice and I come crashing down with nothing to show that I made any progress other than the warm crimson that pools from the freshest slice in my palm. Like an animal I lick it, my body already quivering from the instant contrast of heat to cold. Feverish, I am feverish yet still well, but only in body. My mind is going and I feel childish for it since I have only had to suffer it for fifteen years, but at least those before me had had a time on the outside.
And then I hear it; the loud thunder that comes in precise and measured intervals. I know what it means and quickly forget about my foolish want of the sky and race back to our home. My feet have long since gone numb from being bare in the snow and when I make it into the house, door shut tight behind me, they are already turning purple with light spider webs of my veins. Meanwhile my mother scolds and my brothers put away things that are valuable.
The night could be long or short, we won’t know until it all begins. It has been a week since our last happening and we are thankful for it, but it leaves us all spiked with anticipation which seems to be a greater torture than the act that’s soon to come. Just as we make it into our parents’ bedroom, heads held under our linking arms, it begins.
Slow at first, as it often is, but soon our bodies are being tossed about the hard ceiling and walls of the room until the only thing that can drown out the harsh thump of the shaking is our screams. When I was young I tried not to scream; thinking that whatever caused this would soon seek us out and end our lives, but now I know that remaining silent does nothing aside from make my chest ache.
Mother is the first to pass out; she’s been through too many shakings to be able to handle it for much longer and father is long since gone from this life from last year’s first shaking. My youngest brother is next, and I’m ashamed to be after him.
When I wake everything is a new world as it often is the next morning. Our house is in disarray, but I know that I will spend this entire day and probably a good portion of the next with fixing everything back up. I am the only one left in the room, but I can hear my family in the front room, already at work no doubt, letting me rest for as long as I need to. Being the eldest son seems to give me that advantage, and I’ve already long since given up on demanding they wake me with the rest of them.
Instead I move through the house, out the door, and towards the tree; again forgetting my shoes. The birds are in flight for the day, no doubt safe from terror since being aloft keeps them safe from the shaking, unlike the rest of us. Continuing on I stop, eyes slowly closing when I get to the farthest point I will ever get, that anyone will ever get.
My hands move forward and press against cold glass, and when my eyes open they land on a key, our key, the one that can save us…the one that we will never be able to reach.
I hate the “how”…
Stinking, the whole lot of them. Fingers touching, lips caressing, promises to be broken and lies to be told that would pass from those lips that at one time had given birth to so much pleasure. Yet year after year all that could be done was to watch as the cycle continued on, untarnished, unstopped, and most certainly unbroken. Despite her many tries it had continued on; this thing so garishly referred to as “love”. Love. Half of those that uttered it still had yet to fully understand the word’s true meaning. So many times it had been mistaken, and each time a part of her was whisked away.
On this day it had been locks of her hair, tomorrow it might be something much more dire; skin, an eye, fingernails, perhaps an internal organ. And still, all she could do was wait, plan, bide her time. How the curse had started and for what reason were so long forgotten that even attempting to force forward a memory was almost more painful than the affects themselves. Almost.
Perhaps it had been from a scorned lover; maybe a jealous woman that had watched her in her years of life and exuberance. Who the source had been was not nearly as important anymore, and her palms pressed harshly against the windows that looked out over the sleeping city from her tower. How dare they continue on in their false ways while she looked on yearning to feel even a glimpse of what they so boldly proclaimed?
Once again it was time for her work to begin. With her veil over her face and instruments fastened to her hips, she stepped onto the slim balcony, caring not for the harsh wind that blew against her as if to force her back into her hovel of a home. It may have been the world trying to spare her children a few more moments of blissful ignorance, though she hoped more than anything that it was the silent prayer that each of them said before resting their eyes and settling in for sleep; prayers of safety from disease, murder, abduction, lost jobs: fear. Yes, so badly did she wish that it was their fear that silently tried to press her back inside.
A slow grin cracked upon her features where once delicate lips had graced others with soft words and smiles. Let them be fearful, let them beg and wish, and let them think that for one more night they would be safe. Her foot lifted and with no hesitation she stepped up onto the stone rail of her balcony, hands lifting her tarnished gown so as not to let it become tangled behind her. Breathing in the cold harsh air of the night, her eyes fluttered closed. How beautiful it was to bring a chill down into yourself. If ever the world offered a pleasure to her, it was this. And the people, oh the people…they’d offer up their own delights to her soon enough, for now she was taking her first step of the night.
The air was quick, sharp, whipping about her as she fell, fell, continued to fall, her dress fluttering about her in a mock of the angels above. Some passerby might have thought her something celestial, something that was there to help, to comfort…to have and to hold until death came for a part. And death would come. That she could promise, that she would see to, that she would do swiftly.
Quick as her step off into descent, did her bare feet touch down onto the wet grime of the street below her home. No matter; grunge and derelict were her brethren now more than ever, and she held her head high with pride as she moved down the street. All the while her train followed eagerly behind her; hungry for something new and fresh to glide along it. The blood of the past and dirt of her escape clawed along its edges as if to showcase her work over the years, and tonight it would bathe in fresh crimson once again for she was coming upon a fitting little abode.
The very wind around her died down as if nature itself was taking a respectful bow of mourning for the pair that was sleeping so soundly within the humble home’s walls. Locks could not hold her back and her very form faded away and slipped under the door as if this were her own lodging. It may not have been, but she was exactly where she belonged for the hour, and her feet, dirty with the grime of the true world outside, would leave behind the only evidence of her existence that was left when she was finished.
And then there they were, so unaware, so gentle, such liars…Coiled around each other in slumber, their very bodies bare, no doubt from the acts of lust that were performed no more than an hour prior to her visit. So disgusting, such a horrible display. She would make fast work of them. There were very few things that could cause her heart to trill up in pace, but with the feel of the rusted metal under her fingers as the blade was pulled from her hip, she couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. Their blood would pay acquaintance to the thousands of others whose blood was shed with this very blade, for death was the only union between others that could be made through honesty.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but she would be sure to deliver such example for as long as the lie of love was told…now and forever…in sickness and in health, for as long as the lie was lived.
(( This flash fiction is dedicated to oddender, without them I wouldn’t have the confidence to be able to do what I do in writing. ))