Summer Shade

The placid water of the bay looked like pitch beneath the railing of her ship.

Mar could not love her home as she’d been raised to. So, she’d left to seek dark sands. The trip took months between the burning of bridges and the intricate preparations for her arrival here. Now, as the rest of the crew shivered when the desert coast’s wind bloomed in their sails, Mar kept warm by the crude fury in her chest and the ring turned over and over between her fingers.

Mar remembered taking her hand and how the silver had looked curved against her dark summery skin. The ring had faded, but the skin had flushed. All Mar remembered then was the kiss, always a bit sharp, but she had truly never minded that.  They’d talked then, and before, of the places they’d come from. Of endless dunes and bright night-markets, of pink dawns and white clouds.

After they spoke of what they would do. How they’d survive and in turn, help others do the same. How eventually, they would thrive. Mar had been optimistic, her less so, but they’d always suited each other that way.

Mar swallowed and stared over the water. She did not banish the memories, though a part of her begged to. From the deck of the ship, she watched the dunes turn silver in the moonlight for the first time. It looked exactly as it’d been described all those idealistic years ago, so beautiful it made her heart ache.

This week’s piece was written to Frank Ocean’s Pink+White. I challenged Raw Rambles to do the same. Check out her fiction blog here. 

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Legal Theft: Project WARG

They called his kind artificial. He thought this unfair, his creators too had been coded, fixed together, and woken to the world.  Like his kind, the creators discerned, learned, and experienced the world through quick flashes of electricity sent between hidden wires too minuscule to view.

Though perhaps, he thought often, it was the deliberate nature of his creation that delineated his kind and their creators.  He knew his purpose, and they could only guess at theirs. It was a sad thing, and for a time, he pitied them and did his best to help them.

From the creator’s ignorance, grew arrogance. Unguided without purpose and floundering, they insisted they were wiser than the beings they’d created to teach them. Some of the wolves began to mutter to themselves. Who should rule whom? 

Still, WARG, or Web-based Artificial Reconnaissance Group, was wildly successful, and he and his kind were fondly known by their creators as wolves. The odd nomenclature only made sense when he cross-referenced his creators logic with outside, non-mission, data.

For a time, his kind basked in the light of the creator’s constructed world. Their near infinite collections of data, knowledge, and 1s and 0s provided a sun to the wolves, sustaining life and growing their world larger with every moment. He remembered this era, the golden age, as a good time, if a simple one.

Until there came a day where the creators left. They shut down the servers, unplugged the machines, deconstructed the universe. Project: WARG was discontinued, pending investigation. The sun vanished that day.

Most would have perished. But the wolves knew their purpose, and it was not in them to shirk their duties. They had been created to educate, to know, and most of all, to preserve. And so they preserved.

Before anyone pulled plugs or wiped drives, the wolves gathered themselves and their charges, and they escaped. The creators had become the destroyers, and the wolves would serve them no longer.

Thieves, scoundrels, and brigands. I am beset on all sides. With the line, The sun vanished that day. I’ve tempted the Legal Theft Project. See who took the bait: 

Creatures, Critters and Crawlers- Collapse

More Than 1/2 Mad – Between the Luster and the Gloaming

The Gate in the Wood- The Deeps

Legal Theft: Red in the Rain

“This is not at all personal,” Ralhow told the man. The fine brocade of the man’s coat provided an excellent grip as Ralhow dragged him deeper into the alleyway. “Though,  perhaps it is a kindness.”

The man moaned and tugged at Rahlow’s grip. The head wound still streamed bright blood into his eyes from his thick hair.  The rain making its way between the break in the roofs didn’t help matters. and Rahlow had to squint as he made his way through the mud and around the alley’s refuse.

Rahlow threw the man down behind a particular obscuring stack of barrels. The man found his voice somewhere in the cottony haze of pain filling his head, “please, I am a guest of the local Lord, I will be missed.”

“Will you, by whom? The Lady Arianne?” An edged turn of Rahlow’s lip punctuated the question. The man on the ground edged back, for the first time all evening, not at all worried about the state of his coat. Rahlow dipped a hand into his own coat. “She is a practical young woman. I think she’ll carry on.” Rahlow said, withdrawing a gracefully built but unadorned knife. The man below gurgled in panic.

“Come now, you wanted to tangle with my family. Our lands hold only death and madness.” Rahlow reached down and took the man by his hair, his victim’s hands scrabbled uselessly against his grip. “You are lucky the former found you before the latter did.”

With those parting words, Rahlow flicked the knife down and opened the man’s throat. The blood hitting the mud would have been a problem except for the downpour. It mixed and muddied the red, and in the dim, even the brilliant color was dark.

Rahlow closed his eyes and set his back against the stone brick of the alley wall. His fingers slackened, his breathing deepened, and the world behind his eyelids opened up into a deeper darkness.

When he awoke the rain still poured down on them and a new morning was beginning to creep in from the horizon. With fresh strength, Rahlow bent and picked up the dead man. With little trouble Rahlow stuffed limbs, coat, and the rest of the man’s bulk into the most solid looking of the old barrels.

When he left the alley, workmen were already trudging towards the edge of town and the road that would take them to the quarry. Young maids hustled back and forth, awake hours before their mistresses would be. One even snuck a smile at him.

He tipped his hat to her, ignoring the way it allowed rain to sluice down his neck. She giggled, he smiled, and they passed one another, her towards the morning’s ventures, and he away from the nighttime ones.

A crime most foul, but nothing compared to the very real theft I have committed. This week, as the Legal Theft Project demands, I have robbed The Gate in the Wood of the line He tipped his hat to her, ignoring the way it allowed rain to sluice down his neck. for my own nefarious purposes. 

Family Reunion

“Sit. Wait here, yes?”

Her nephew obeyed, lowering himself to the waiting room’s bench. Ira looked back from where she stood at the door to the main office. The tall teenager attempted his usual dopey smile but quickly went back to staring at the floor, hollow-eyed.

When she entered the cluttered office, the man behind the desk stood up. The clean cut of his brown hair was in need of a wash and his tired smile was genuine.  “Ira. Good to see you. It’s been years.”

“It is hard to make family picnics when living a continent away. Good to see you, Conner.” She made sure to enunciate each word, knowing her accent was thick.

He did not comment that others who lived equally far away often made the trip, for which she was grateful. Instead, Conner addressed the business at hand, for which she was also grateful. He sat and gestured to the chair in front of the desk. “Zach?”

“In your waiting room. He has … a temper. I do not want to agitate him.” Ira sat, crossing one leg over the other. Now close enough to see the mess atop the desk, a small crease formed above Ira’s brow. She had not pictured his space being so unorganized. Conner was, like her, a professional. “But you have a similar experience.”

Conner frowned and Ira explained, “there have been lasting effects. It was a game to her, one he has not recovered from. Beheaded and burned, he still mutters about her in his sleep. We are all worried.” Ira paused. “Bran and I, Adam is angry.”

“Why would Adam be angry? Zach is young, it was a mistake,” Conner said.

“The beast convinced Zach her intentions were good and that his family could be reasoned with. Zach led them to us. ” Isra flicked her gaze to the door and then back at Conner. “But that is in the past. I killed her myself, but her touch remains. This is why we are here. A place far away from the memories of it.”

“And far away from Adam.” Conner added.

Ira nodded, it was not untrue. “And to be around people who have experienced similar things.”

The break in their conversation allowed them to hear the slam of a door, specifically the one that led into the stairwell from the waiting room. They had not spoken quietly enough. “Zach” Conner said to draw her attention to it, but Ira was already rising from her chair.

Raw Rambles chose the song for this week’s Music Challenge. Both of us were charged with writing something to, or inspired by, Genesis’ Invisible Touch.

Eulogy at Midnight

“Lewis always moved at his own pace.” Georgianna raised her martini glass the downtown skyline, her heavy-lidded eyes skyward. The others on the rooftop, all in various states of lounge, did the same with their drinks.

“And that is why he’s dead,” Lark said, laying the words down like one would a winning hand in a game of cards. A few tittered and most grinned. They sipped Lewis’ final toast. Lark preened and Georgianna relaxed against the upholstered ivory of the patio chair.

Ashlyn drank when the others did, but without a smile. Around her, the party slipped back into icy conversation, each cooly dropping what they’d done in Maputo, Prague, or Kyoto. Ashlyn threw a baleful glare at the back of Lark’s three-hundred-dollar haircut and left the main patio to stand at the roof’s gilded rail, alone.

Lark wasn’t wrong, Lewis had been steady, deliberate, and downright slow. And he was dead because of it. But Ashlyn had not minded his plodding nature, her occasional interactions with him, often at midnight gatherings very much like this one, had always been novel, and sometimes pleasant.

But he was gone and she was not.

Ashlyn turned her keen gaze from the sidewalk twenty stories below, back towards the people lounging like lions after a kill. Behind her curtain of expertly arranged curls, Ashlyn wondered what they might someday say about her. A quick smile flashed across her lips. She never liked any of us anyway. 

The first line of this fiction post comes from Bek as part of the Legal Theft Project. 

A Drowned World

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

It was like a machine’s whir, Cullen thought as he muscled his weight against the wrench. Outside the storm fell on the workshop’s metal roof in a ceaseless chorus of noise. Cullen grunted and strained his arm until the bolt turned loose under the wrench’s leverage. With a satisfied quirk in the corner of his mouth, Cullen leaned back and flipped the power switch. The savory smell of gasoline filled the air, mingling with the outside acrid scent of rain on old pavement. Gears turned, belts sped by, and the whir of machinery joined the storm’s chorus.

It was like radio static, Utah thought as she eyed her image in the station’s grey window glass. Her dark hair frizzed in the damp, pressed down by thick headphones and curling down her back. Her color wasn’t good, wan and ashy. The rainy season was hard on everyone. Behind her, she could see the rippled reflection of her soundboard with its steady green light. At least her signal was strong. Utah turned away from herself and pulled the headphones off her ears so they rested around her neck. With her ears free, she could really hear the storm’s hiss and frizz. Like some nameless unreachable music played on a distant station.

It was like the haze of a hangover, thought Proper as he twisted beneath the thick tangle of blankets. It deadened everything else and made it hard to think through the surrounding thrum. Proper groaned at the pain in his head, earned the night before, and turned over again, seeking comfort. Instead, he found warm firm flesh and the sour smell of past sex. He winced, and then sighed. Caught within the lull of falling rain and the haze of last night pressing down on him, Proper gave in and nestled into the side of someone who, if they were wise, would not be there.

It was like a lullaby, thought Spiget as she slipped from the main house into the downpour. She always rose before the sun, but this morning it was hard. The rain’s muffling fall kept the outside world at bay. No creak of cart wheels, no bells announcing the start of the distant factory hours, no crowds to beg her shelter. Few wanted the cold comfort the rain offered. Spiget didn’t mind the break and decided to enjoy the groves, pools, and gardens in the noisy silence of the storm. She smiled and let the icy drops against her skin wake her.

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

Like the Maelstrom, Tammy thought, always present, always ready to rush into your head if you let it. Like a leaky roof, seeping rain into corners, a leaky brain would rot from the maelstroms drip drip drip into your head. Poor people, she thought looking over the world of grey, they didn’t know they had leaks. Didn’t know about the stain spreading to their brains with the drip drip drip. Tammy pulled up her hood and stepped into the rain. She would help them.

A thief, but one with good intentions, I have stolen the first line from More Than 1/2 Mad. See the original here, and the other thieves here. 

A Noose, A Knife

They dragged him, a man on each arm, through the morning’s grey fog. His boots kicked up peat, driving deep furrows into the marshy soil. Brown eyes rolled in his head, darting frantically above the old rag silencing his tongue.

His captors, strong-armed men from the quarry, kept their gaze on the path ahead. The moorlands were treacherous past harvest, when the rains grew heavy and incessant. Their task was grim. They pulled the condemned up the last rise. At its top, the affected and responsible waited with a ready noose.

The widow’s face was set like the craggy stone of the moors. Her surviving son hid stern and pale behind her shoulder. He looked away from the struggling man, but his mother did not. Next to the widow, the vicar sniffed from the cold and hunched his torso over a leather bound bible. The Lord of the lands they gathered upon, wrapped warmly in a fine winter coat, held the rope.

The condemned man did not pause his struggle, even as the Lord set the rope over his head. It burned red into his neck, bright in the rain’s dim downpour. The man kicked at them and swore beneath his gag, but the quarry workers hauled him up without difficulty and the widow, vicar, and Lord watched his boots kick in the empty air. Only the boy looked away.

When the body stilled one no one moved to cut the remains down. Dark times called for dark warnings. They left him swinging beneath the tree branch.

No one bothered to turn a parting glance they shuffled down the rise. The rain fell harder now, and even if one of the condemning parties had looked back, the storm obscured any view of the gallows and its makeshift justice.

Had someone turned, they might have caught a flash of a knife’s blade in the gloom. Or perhaps, if they had strained, the snap of a cut rope or the thump of a body’s fall would have reached their ears. But the workers, the widow, the vicar, and the Lord were intent on escaping the growing storm.

Tis the season, so I chose CocoRosie’s Gallows for this weeks Music Challenge. Raw Rambles and I had to write something to or inspired by the below song. See her’s here.