Midwestern Moon Review

Charlie fell into the chair. Thick headphones on, coffee next to soundboard, he leaned into the microphone as the song faded in his ears. He pulled the slider down. The tiny studio took on a dim red haze.  “And that was the Pumpkin Blood with Lou Lou. Great song. They’re Swedish group you’ve never heard of. For first time listeners; I’m here bringing you music you didn’t realize existed and cluing you into everything the scaly bastards don’t want you to know. This is the Midwestern Moon Review.”

The signal strength was running high. He checked the security feed and smiled a little. “For all those long time listeners, thanks for coming back, I know it’s been a while. We have a new location and are still devoted to bringing you music, news, and ideas you are not supposed to have.” Charlie took a quick sip of coffee. “New rumors from the south coast have cropped up. Our informants are reporting three blues razed the over a hundred miles of coastline and the suburbs there.  If you’re in the area, time to get the hell out, or keep your head down if you can’t. I’m sorry to report there has only been radio silence from Alabama. That doesn’t bode well for the farmer’s rebellion we’ve covered before. Our thoughts here at the review are with them.”

He took a deep breath and reminded himself to keep up the even cadence.  “The news isn’t all bad. A town in rural California managed to take down an adolescent green that’d been preying on their high school kids.  Good for them. We’ll be bringing you more on that as it comes in. Big news from the Northern Borders. A student resistance movement has cropped up around the great lakes. No details yet, but us here at the Midwestern Moon Review extend our support. The next song is for them. Mavra by 100 Derece.”

Charlie faded in a punk rock song from Turkey. He closed his eyes and leaned back listening to the language he didn’t speak as it pounded next to his ears. The door clicked. Charlie rocketed to his feet, headphone cord snapping the jack free. He ripped them off his head only to blink at the girl gently closing the studio door. She smiled at him from over a shoulder.

“It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you.” Her eyes flashed gold in the low lighting. Charlie sucked in breath as the pressure of centuries flashed over him. The microphones were muted, the song still going. Charlie considered flipping the on air switch. It would sure be a hell of a last show.

“What are you doing here?” His voice shook a little but he took a step closer to the switch.

“I wanted to give an interview.” She turned towards him, pushing a curtain of slinky black hair over a shoulder. Her deep marigold sundress was paired oddly with light blue high-tops. The dragon, if not her clothes, looked perfectly at ease, if a bit curious as she leaned towards the sound board.

“An interview?” He was still having trouble breathing, but the weirdness of the request cut through the panic. Her kind never asked, they took. A decade of reporting on them had taught him that much.

She nodded. “Yes. Will you interview me?” The dark golden eyes met his again and Charlie could feel the quiet weight of them again. He gestured to the seat across from his almost hastily. She sat and Charlie passed her a large pair of headphones. She grinned once they were over her ears, even tapping the plastic with a finger as if headphones were novel.

Charlie frowned, this was not how he’d pictured the scene when the monsters finally found him. The song queue had moved on. Charlie faded it out, interrupting the indie ballad. “Sorry for the interruption folks, interesting development right here in the studio. We’ve got a guest, and…an interview for you.”

Her attention seemed caught between him, the microphone and the various other equipment, as if unsure where to look. Charlie pointed to the hanging mic and breathed out. “So tune in, whatever happens next on the Midwestern Moon Review, you’re going to want to hear it.”

Talons

There is no accounting for fashion. Tyler watched the brunette pick up the glass with long sharp fingernails. Her friends, each with their own fastidiously painted talons, twittered around her and picked up their own. The group clinked the shot glasses together and downed the ruby liquid, making faces and laughing.

Next to him John elbowed him and grinned towards the group of women. Tyler was supposed to be getting back out there. But intruding into their pack looked at best exhausting, at worst potentially dangerous with his ego where it was. He didn’t want to talk to them. He wanted to go home and play xbox in his underwear. That seemed safer and probably just as fruitful. Girls like that would probably just take the drinks he bought them and leave.

Not that he didn’t appreciate the way their sausage casing dresses squeezed their waists, emphasizing the roundness of their other body parts. He blinked and stopped staring, realizing who’d captured their attention. His friend was already standing under their raptorial gaze and pointing back at Tyler.

Tyler grabbed his beer and walked over. He didn’t have the insouciant manner one needed to stand out from every other guy here desperate for something to take home. He didn’t … well he did want someone to go home with. But the effort he would have to put into getting her there turned his stomach. Three years he’d been spared from this undignified pursuit.

John introduced him with a smile. One of the women extended a hand, her nails grazed his hand almost painfully as they shook. He wondered if they would leave scars across his back, it’d been a while. The brunette introduced herself. “Raidne.” It was odd enough he might be able to remember it.

Raidne leaned back and ordered another drink before Tyler could offer. He’d expected the high nasal tone or the guttural vocal fry that annoyed him so much in the women at his office.  But her voice was soft, wrapping around the words. Tyler leaned in, more at ease.

This close they weren’t so intimidating. The blonde near Raidne’s shoulder kept biting her red lips, almost like she was nervous. The willowy woman close to John had leaned in and was laughing a little loud, cheeks flushed. They were like them, just people hoping for a good time.

Tyler took a breath and turned his smile to Raidne. So what if he was out of practice, she was looking at him from under her lashes. What’s the worst that could happen? He’d lose a few drinks to a pretty girl.

An hour later they left. John with the blonde under an arm. She looked up at him, white teeth still biting her lip. Tyler stepped out a moment later, holding the door open for Raidne. She smirked at him and took his wrist, pulling him out onto the sidewalk with the others. It been dulcet whispers and hushed confidences all night, she liked him, she’d said. That felt good. So did the small of her back under his palm.

One of the other women hailed a cab. John stumbled and ducked into it, helped by the blonde’s guidance. Tyler and Raidne were the last ones in. Raidne wrapped her fingers through his, the tips of her nails digging sharp and painful  into the back of his hand. Tyler didn’t care and let himself be pulled into the seat.

Pizzamancy

This was a little creepy and she knew it. But the restaurant left little time for anything resembling dating, this was as good as it got. Besides Lenore was already up before dawn each day, she figured she might as well enjoy it. She checked the dough before taking her post, fingers gathering warmth from her coffee mug.

The back kitchen window provided the best vantage point across the canal into the small park. As always his impressive lope and pace identified him first. By now his running shoes, sweat pants, and running shirt that did nothing to disguise the way his shoulder muscles moved under its fitted fabric were as part of her morning routine as making the dough. Lenore sipped the foam from the top of her coffee and twisted her mouth in frustration. The man was an inverted triangle with legs.

He was wearing the green shirt today. She liked that one. The color complemented his deep tan and darker hair. Once closer she could see his features, strong jaw and a generous mouth. He was handsome in that classic chiseled way that meant he probably had a girlfriend or two. One of the many reasons Lenore had never approached him.

The runner stopped, as usual, to hoist himself up on the pull up bars at the corner of the park. Lenore sighed. Five in the morning, every morning he did this. No wonder he was in such good shape. That was the other problem. It was five am, people didn’t come out this early to chat or socialize. Approaching him would be weird. Not as weird as stalking him from pizza kitchen window across the street, but he didn’t know she was doing that.

Lenore had considered coffee as a perfectly acceptable morning drink with respective dating precedent. A deep roast, slightly seasoned with cocoa and nutmeg, a little spicy and not too sweet. It would be a sample of her culinary gift and easy enough to pass off as simply friendly if the interaction ended horribly. But he was in the midst of a run, not sitting across from her in a café.

He finished his set at the bar and stretched. A minute more and he started up his stride. Lenore craned her neck, letting her gaze linger on his retreating form. “See you tomorrow.” She said to the empty kitchen. This was pathetic.

*****

Lenore ground the last of the herbs between her hands, sprinkling them over the cheese before she slid the pie into the oven. With the last pizza in she finally stepped back and wiped her brow. The ovens were going full blast and she was sure her face was a brilliant red in the broiling savory air.

Pizza was easy. Muscling every fan her father’s apartment possessed over to the window was more difficult, especially as she had a schedule to keep. The last one in place and precariously balanced on the countertop Lenore climbed up and moved to pull open the ancient window. The warped wood and glass strained and groaned, Lenore swore at it.

“Are you using your powers for evil again?” The voice was heavy with sleep.

Lenore froze. She looked back at her father standing barefoot, robed and in the middle of her kitchen. “Hey dad.” She pulled a smile and tried unsuccessfully to blink away a drop of sweat, balanced half on the countertop as she was. How many minutes did she have left? “What are you doing up?” She asked.

He gave her a look and moved around her to help her with the window. Far past his prime he was still a head taller than her and much stronger. The window surrendered with a small shriek. He offered her a hand off the counter. “I could feel the ovens from upstairs. It’s five in the morning you know.”

Lenore took her father’s hand despite being a grown woman in her twenties. “I am astutely aware of that.” She took a deep breath and turned on the fans one by one. Soon the aromas of cooking dough, roasting spices and melting cheese wafted from the window out over the canal and into the park where a lone jogger stretched.

She exhaled and leaned up against the table with massive yawn. Her father shook his head. “I’ll leave you to your siren song. I’m going back to bed.”

Lenore snorted and pushed back sweat soaked hair back from her forehead. “I am just making pizza.”

****

Lenore wrapped the wool scarf tighter against the blustery cold. Going from the ambiently warm kitchen into the outside winter was always bracing. Especially on busy days when the ovens required her constant presence and she didn’t leave the restaurant much.

She smoothed down the menu, running her fingers over the imprinted items before tacking it to the board outside the restaurant door. Lenore set her hands on her hips, proud of the new additions. The customers would  bemoan the loss of old favorites but they’d fall in love all over again with her new creations. They always did.

Lenore snapped the glass case shut over the board. “Do you work here?” Someone asked close behind her.

She jumped. “Oh. Yes I–” Lenore turned. It was him. Tall, wide mouth. His nose was more crooked than she’d imagined from the distance. Like it’d been broken a few times. A light scar ran from his left brow to his dark hair. But it was him, the handsome triangle shaped jogger standing there wondering why she wasn’t finishing her sentence. She cleared her throat. “I do. I uh… make the pizza.”

He leaned forward, looking over her shoulder. “Pizzamancy.” He read the name of her restaurant out loud. “That’s funny. Like magic pizza?”

She laughed.  “Something like that. You want to come in, get a slice?”

“That was the plan.” He smiled and Lenore’s stomach flipped a little. “I actually run near here everyday, there’s a park on the other side of the canal.”

“Huh. I guess there is.” Lenore pulled open the door for him and the two headed inside.

 

 

Just Business

She was gone. Zahi frowned and shouldered past the edge of the crowd. The security nodded to him as they drew the black velvet ropes aside. He set Naida’s cocktail down on the table. Jared and Omar looked up at him. “Thanks dude, more of a beer guy myself though. You know they’ll bring those to us right?” Omar said. The model paid to be under his arm twittered. Zahi gave her a look and she stopped.

“Where’s Naida?”

His friends shrugged. “She left. Some other guy came up, said something and she left.”

“Another guy? You’re serious?” Zahi’s vision flickered. Another guy. And after the hell she’d put him through about Fatima. Another shrug from Jared answered him. Zahi swore and turned his back to them. Naida was wearing absurd heels and crimson sequins, not hard to pick out as she disappeared off the dance floor and into the foyer of the club.

He caught her wrist on the sidewalk outside. “Naida, what the hell?”

She flinched. “Let me go.” Naida jerked back her wrist. Zahi dropped his hand like she’d burned him.  “Ass.” She spat and took a step back.

Zahi exhaled slowly, evening his temper. She was alone now, whoever this guy had been before.  He closed the distance between them, avoiding the jostling movement of the night crowds and club goers. “What the hell? Why’d you bail?”

“I told you, get the fuck off me.” Naida set her palms on his shoulders and pushed him back. He let her. She was fuming but there was something else. Her eyes were wide, white showing all around her dark irises. She shivered.

He didn’t move close again. “Naida, what happened?”

“I told you, I told you Zahi.” She drove a finger into his chest with shaking hands. That normally would have annoyed him. But the dark stuff around her eyes started to run. “When we started fooling around, I said …I said I was worried, cause of who you are, who your brothers are, and who my family is, and you said, you promised it wouldn’t matter.” She rambled. A small audience began to form.  Zahi glared them away.

“Please stop crying.” Zahi muttered. “Look, you are not making any sense. What happened? Why are you freaking out?”

“Because Zahi.” She scrubbed at her face, smearing her make up further. “Someone came up and told me leave, that if I didn’t they’d find me and –” She looked up at him. “Please just let me go. This was dumb.”

He balked. Someone had threatened her? Zahi resisted the urge to look around. Instead he placed his hands on her bare shoulders. “Hey, calm down. I won’t let anything happen to you. We’ll figure this out.” He gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile.

Naida frowned, a small crease forming between her perfectly shaped brows. “That’s sweet. I’m going home Zahi.”

“Don’t.” He moved around her, blocking her way to the curb and the multitudes of taxis vying for passengers. “Look, who would threaten you? Come back inside, I’ll buy you a drink, we’ll dance. This is nothing.”

“Who would threaten me? You are such an idiot sometimes.” Naida said almost kindly. She placed a hand on his cheek. “I recognized the guy. He works for your family. Ask your brother who he is, if you care enough to. Or don’t, go back inside and drink with your friends. Either way, I am leaving, sorry Zahi, its been fun but you’re not worth getting shot over.”

She stepped around him, darting into the sluggish traffic and into the back of an open taxi. Zahi could only stare as his now ex-girlfriend disappeared into the river of lights and cars.

************

It seemed like his eldest brother was always meeting with someone, leaving little time to catch up with his family. Zahi was usually understanding, running the conglomerate couldn’t be an easy job and Adel was better at those things than the rest of them. But Naida’s parting words weren’t going away. He just needed a few answers, something to put his mind at ease. Then he could go back to getting over her. He ignored his brother’s assistant and the new security outside.

Two men looked up when the door opened. “Zahi.” Adel stood and placed himself between and the rest of the study. That was fine, he wasn’t here to talk to the other man, a blond stranger in a slim cut suit. “Is something wrong? I’m in the middle of the meeting.” Adel gestured behind him towards the other man, who nodded at Zahi in way of greeting.

Zahi frowned. “I know, I needed to talk to you. Naida–”

“I’m occupied at the moment, can this– ” Adel’s took a deep breath and Zahi could see his brother’s jaw tighten. Apparently this had not been a good time.

Zahi opened his mouth to answer but the stranger interrupted. “Adel. We can reschedule. This seems a pressing manner.” Behind them the blond man stood and moved around the oak furniture. Zahi recognized him now, though not by name. American if he had the accent right. The man had been….around recently.

“Very well. I am interested in hearing more about this. Tomorrow?”  Adel ignored Zahi for the moment. The stranger nodded with a curt smile and left, shutting the door behind him.

Adel waited a beat before he turned his attention back to his youngest brother. “You had to speak to me right now?”

“I tried calling you, your assistant was going to make me schedule an appointment. Who was that?” Zahi glanced at the now closed door.

“And of course you didn’t just make an appointment.” Adel shook his head and moved back to his desk where a glass of amber liquid waited. “That was someone I am trying to recruit. A contractor or sorts. Don’t worry yourself over it, its business. You have me here now, what did you want?”

“I …” Zahi stopped. It was ridiculous. There was no reason Adel would have Naida threatened. He wouldn’t do something like that. “Naida broke up with me.”

“Ahh Naida Kavur. She did?” Adel sipped at his drink. “Well I’m sorry to hear that. Break ups can be difficult, there will be others. I promise.”

“No. That’s not– It wasn’t serious.” Zahi stopped. He felt like an idiot for even bringing it up now, but he was here and apparently already wasting his brother’s time. “Something scared her. She told me someone threatened her, someone who worked for us. She said if I wanted to know I should ask you.”

Adel sighed. “Zahi, it sounds as if there has been a misunderstanding. The Kavur family and I will soon be competing for the same interests. She is seeing threats where there are none.”

“That’t not what she said.” Zahi said slowly. Naida had her share of crazy, but she wouldn’t just make something up.  “She said someone from our family threatened her.”

“An exaggeration.” Adel said. “Advice colored with her paranoia and taken as a threat. Its for the best Zahi, really. A relationship with any of the Kavur would create complications.”

It took a moment for Zahi to comprehend exactly what his brother had just admitted. “You did it. You had someone warn her away. Why?”

“It was a business matter Zahi. That’s all, I promise.” Adel walked over an clapped him on the shoulder. “I’m sorry about Naida. Go out with your friends and have fun, no use in upsetting yourself over it. Or better yet, come on, you’ve cleared my schedule. I know its been a while since we’ve caught up.”

Adel walked out of the room, fully expecting Zahi to follow him. Not knowing what else to do, Zahi did.

Adventures and the Predicaments of such things.

Ariadne,

Sister, I am eager to write but I must endeavor to keep my correspondence coherent amidst my excitement.

I will say first, that I am alive and unharmed, penning this of my own will and desire. I will say second that I hope any news you’ve received prior to this letter did not cause you overmuch distress. And thirdly, please forgive me the dramatics in what I write next, I have been captured by pirates. As I write, myself and the first and second mates are being transferred to their island stronghold.

I say in truth I never expected to write or utter the above truths, but such is the spontaneity of life I suppose. Thus far I have been treated as best as one can hope for in such a situation, the Captain herself is an interesting woman and we have talked at length over our respective cultures. She is quite the scholar. It is by her grace I am allowed to pen this letter.

Do not let my optimism disguise my concern. I am quite aware of the seriousness of my predicament, of my own making as it is. I have no intention of consigning myself to anything but an eventual return home. That said, I will not abandon the Coopers. They trusted me aboard their ship and spoke for my passage, I will not return their friendship with abandonment.

The irony does not escape me that I have been granted the adventure I’ve so long been enamored with. I suppose one must accept the perils as well, though faced with them one can only wonder if past authors have doctored their accounts. Presented with an onslaught of armed marauders the glories of adventure were the last thing on my mind.

During that moment I thought of home, and of my twin sister. I miss you, please do not worry over me. I will find my way back, I always do.

Your brother,

Theo

Violence and Habits

She ground her sword deep into the opposing warrior’s sternum. The bone split with a satisfying crack as the man vomited blood. She kicked out, propelling the corpse to the ground. White teeth grinning through the dirt and viscera covering her face. She was tireless. A thing of rage and death rolled up in slender limbs and leather armor. She lost herself and countless others fell to the blood soaked dirt of the battlefield she claimed.

Dagger through the next throat, Paige whipped back to deliver the finishing headbutt. And then everything went black.

“Paige. Is everything okay?” David’s voice sounded and she blinked, torn from her own little slice of paradise. He removed his finger from the console’s power button.

She gaped. “What— I was in the middle of–” Her game, her quest, victory….

“A murder spree. We saw.” Crystal crossed her arms and squinted through the dim bedroom. “Bad day?”

“Yah. Why’d you quit my game?” Paige set the controller down. Her thumb hurt. So did her wrist for the matter. Acceptable casualties of war.

“You were grinning.” David said.

“Gleefully.” Crystal added. “As your roommates we were worried.”

“I’m fine.” Paige stood and stretched. She would turn the damn thing on herself.

“Worried for us.” Crystal corrected. “We think you might have a problem. No one should enjoy violence, even fictional violence, that much. You’re a grown women, not some hormone drunk teenage boy.” David sent Crystal an odd look which she ignored. “As the people who sleep helplessly in the adjoining rooms. It’s a little terrifying.”

Paige blinked at them. “Seriously?”

“A little.” David agreed.

Paige paused. “Okay. Just think of it this way. I get out all my homicidal rage on the poor pixels, leaving none for real people including my really annoying roommates. It’s therapy.” She gestured to the console. “It’s for the benefit of all. I promise. Now let me murder things.”

David stepped away from the console.

“Why can’t you be a functional alcoholic like the rest of us?” Crystal asked and Paige activated the power button. “My old roommates were stoners but at least I didn’t worry about being stabbed.”

Paige resumed her place on the couch, controller in hand. “Think of me as a functional psychopath. And I pay rent, unlike the druggies.”

“Point.” Crystal allowed. Paige didn’t hear her, she was busy stalking back to her battlefield.

Flash Fiction: Lace

The stuff choked her closets like spiderweb. Evening gowns, frock coats, sweeping a-line skirts. It turned the daring necklines coy. It spilled from sleeve cuffs to disguise whatever her fingers were getting up to. It signified wealth and social acumen needed to wear it correctly. She adored the intricate little webs and their clinging touch.

She closed the doors to the wardrobe with the smallest of sighs. Not tonight. Instead she chose a narrow sleek skirt in black. And for accompaniment, a loose silk blouse the light grey of night fog. She rolled its sleeves and secured them above her elbows. Combining the two hinted that she might possess the curve of hips and maybe even a modest chest.

Nylons next. Not lace, just black that dyed the pale skin of her legs an unoffensive dusk. Make up took no time. She’d been practicing since she was fifteen. Dark liner and neutral shadow to narrow too childish round eyes, nothing dramatic with the lips. Her skin needed little fixing, only powder to keep her pale from turning to a pallor.

Amethyst posts for her ears. The color was so dark one would only detect the purple as they sparkled next to the pitch of her unruly hair. Said hair would rebel out of anything more extravagant than a pony tail so she settled with one, knowing even the band would not keep the tendrils from curling around her face.

And last the heels, always carefully chosen. The things would pinch, ache and blister until she slipped them off at the end of the day. But for her it was worth the discomfort, the less anyone could look down on her the better.

A gentle knock at the door. Nathan entered and met her eyes. “Ready?” She just smiled slow and knowing in response. He fell into step behind her as she walked. The wardrobes and their spiderwebbed contents would have to wait. She had work to do.