Legal Theft: Morning After

He laughed around the panic clogging his throat, but his gun never wavered from its target.  Daniel stepped forward, the muzzle of the gun leading as he struggled to choke out coherent words. “You– do you have any idea what you’ve done to me?”

His target, a young man who was currently missing a shirt and one shoe, inched his hands up. “An idea. Don’t see how murder charges will help though, just saying.”

Daniel’s face worked through his host of emotions, rage, irritation, bewilderment, and of course the manic reaction to his own spiralling fate. The laughter caught in his throat this time, “Aiden, there is a gun pointed at you. Stop. Take something seriously for once, just once.”

Across from him, the Aiden opened his mouth, then shut it before saying whatever glib thought had inevitably popped into his head. Instead, Aiden nodded. “Okay, seriously then, lower that thing.”

Daniel did not lower his gun. His family’s accounts were empty, he was in a five-star hotel suite surrounded by the refuse of a weekend he could not pay for, his head pounded in the aftermath of whatever Aiden had given him. And his phone had not stopped ringing all morning, tabloid reports and his parents PR team all wanting an explanation.  He was holding a gun he’d not owned before the blur of last night. “This isn’t me. I am a responsible person, and you tricked—what did you just say?”

“Hmm?” Aiden asked, eyes round. Aiden bent and picked up a shirt. It was Daniel’s. Aiden put in on anyway.

“You muttered something under your breath,”  Danial said. Another step and he’d be pressing the gun into Aiden’s narrow chest.  His hand finally began to shake. “I am responsible. You did this, you messed me up, you drove me to this.”

Aiden held up his hands again, looking down at the gun between them.”Somewhat flattering, but not exactly correct. Your memory will come back when you come down, but let me catch you up.  You took what I offered, you used your family’s money on bottle service, dancers, and high-stakes poker, you begged a guy in the back of that club for that delightful little tattoo that I’m sure is smarting right now. That was all you and it’s been fun, but it’s too early for this.” Aiden took a step back, and upon not getting shot, started searching for his other shoe.

“It’s 11 am.” It was the first thing Daniel could absolutely refute.  He let his hand holding the gun sink down to his side.

“Early,” Aiden argued, holding up the matching shoe.  He slipped it on. “So it’s been fun but I think you have some stuff to work out. I’m gonna go…” Aiden looked pointedly at the wrecked hotel room as he sidled to the door.

Daniel felt his knees go wobbly. He sunk down to the floor, the gun dropping from his fingers. “I was going to shoot you, oh god, what is wrong with me. Look at this place, look at everything–”

Daniel looked up when the door clicked. Aiden was gone. He looked around at the room at the discarded bottles, gambling chips, and discarded clothing.  Daniel’s phone screen lit up once again with an incoming call. He fumbled for it, noting the numbness in his fingers.

You have The Gate in the Wood to thank for this week’s first line, and myself to thank for stealing it. All part of the Legal Theft Project. 

Flash Fiction: It’s Just Bizness

There was nothing more damning than the click her heels made on these floors. The sound was the same as it had been for the last decade. Sometimes on these tiles, sometimes on others. But designer heels on high-end corporate tiling and hardboard clicked the same wherever you were.

Today, it was the top floor of their building, in a boardroom that overlooked the street. Below her and her coworkers, the sidewalk and asphalt churned with faces, arms, and signs. The protesters broke past the police line.

As she and her suited counterparts watched the boiling sea below, a subtle ache began in the arches of her feet.

Ninety floors below, the protesters overtook security and alarms blared.

The men around her shifted nervously in their own leather loafers and eyed her sideways. After years of meetings, corporate retreats, and company Christmas parties, they saw her face in the screaming women below. When they scattered, they seemed to run from her as well.

With the elevators out the mob caught them in the stairwells.  The noises echoed up through the concrete. She pressed her hands to her ears. For the last decades they’d made her life hell, commenting on the blouses, her hair, the cocktail dresses she’d squeezed herself into. But, they’d been her staff, her bosses, her friends.

The sound of broken doors cracked through the upper floors.

She couldn’t run in her arched shoes, the frantic clicking did nothing except to advertise her presence.  When the mob poured into the ninety-first floor they saw none of themselves in her.

The excellent musical tastes of Raw Rambles inform this week’s music challenge. Read her’s here.  She asked me to write something to or inspired by tUnE-yArDs  Bizness.

Legal Theft: Mess and Manners

The camp was busy with people getting ready for dinner. For all the soldiers dragged their feet through the rest of their duties, mess was never shirked. Hardened women and men bent tenderly over pots of bubbling stew and scarred warriors sniffed as they chopped meager rations of onions and carrots.

Not everyone participated in the nightly ritual. Raith, Calder, and Aldo bent over their own campfire. Raith and Aldo had already settled in, pulling out a deck of cards and sipping some pinched wine, but Calder’s attention was elsewhere. He watched the soldiers cook.

“Should we help?” He asked. It took a lot of work to feed everyone, especially if people wanted something more than moldy bread and salted meat. A hot meal was a treasure on the march towards a distant battlefield, even more so away from one.

“Why would we do that? They enlisted and signed for that shit.” Aldo shook his head and dealt his compatriots their hands, passing over cards to Raith and then to their youngest, and apparently stupidest, member.

Raith gave Aldo a look. She’d been the one to let the teenager join them a year back, so far the kid had been an asset, good with a sword and even better at not stabbing and robbing the mercenary band while they slept. She shrugged at Calder, “We’re paid to fight, not cook. No need to take on more work as they’ll feed us either way.”

“I know.” Calder sighed and played his first hand. “Just thought it’d be polite.”

Aldo snorted, Raith smiled, and three settled down into the game until dinner was served.

Unlike some, I am a thief, a scoundrel, and a rogue. The first line of this piece was stolen from Bekah as part of the Legal Theft Project.

Blight and Bloom

We cut the trees and bled the rivers for our mills. We burnt the green away and harrowed the soil. We built our houses, fields, and lives nestled in the forest’s wound. It is human nature to build.

And build we did. Our settlement became the seed of a great city, though its fulfillment was lifetimes away. First, they came.

From the groves and glens we spared, they slipped from shadow and sunbeam to walk among us. Many things. Dark things, with skin the color the frozen earth. Light things, whose hair fell down their backs like noon sun. Beautiful things, deadly things.

With them the blight and the bloom descended.  Crops died, withering in field, cellar, and kitchen. Others grew. They budded and swelled. Tomatoes grew fat overnight until they broke their stems and burst overripe on the dirt. Wheat rotted in the fields days after planting.

Our bodies, foreign to the wilds and its ravages, perished. Young and old, godly and sinful. Their touch was as capricious as spring rain. As some of us shrank down to bone and skin, other’s grew large with growths and weeping sores.

They played and punished like gods.  And for a time we prayed and repented as if they were. But they were cold and grinning things, and we and the beginnings of our great city had trespassed.

The forest reclaimed our fields and began its work on our homes, retaking its flesh as vines pulled apart window slates and floor boards we’d cut from the trees. Our home was almost unmade.

Still, some hoped. We’d planted seeds of steel, sweat, and stone in the old forest, and those are not easily dislodged. With this spirit, the eldest children of four families remained whole. They would not see their dreams of spires and great walls denied. Three sons, Ward, Wolfe, and Wilde,  and one daughter, Wren,  sought out the beautiful deadly things at the tree’s edge.

Nothing said on that day is known. But a bargain was struck, for Ward, Wolfe, Wilde, and Wren walked past the tree line and were not seen again for some time. With them, the deadly things departed.

Blight and Bloom faded from our lives. We nursed the living back to life and buried the dead beneath our fields. Our harvest was a good one that year, though not overly abundant, which many were softly thankful for.

The years passed and we remade our town. It was odd at first, building the tailor’s shop over the cobbler’s,  stacking house over house and winding stairs about it all. But so we grew, up and never out, lest we disturb the treeline and the things that waited there.

Ward, Wolfe, Wilde, and Wren returned to the town when it was an ugly tottering thing, too afraid to of its borders to grow properly. They were children no more, but decades into life and smiling like the blight and bloom had never come.

There were those in the town who thought to turn them away.  On their left hands, they wore shining rings,  and with their right, they led children to our gates. The toddlers and babes were beautiful people with hair like summer and skin like frozen earth.

The wise did not against the four and their children. We flung the gates open and sung songs for their return. They’d saved us so many years ago, they’d saved a city that would eventually be.

Not sure if I did this right, but I attempted the “Stories By 5” prompt which can be found here. 

Legal Theft: Welcome Back

She blinked. Then she filled her empty lungs. The air went down rough at first, her chest rising from the granite slab with a clumsy start.

A cacophonous thunder swelled around her and she jerked upwards, staring out over her audience. Her breathing came fast and unthinking now as she stared around the auditorium and the hundreds of people clapping for her.

Except they were not. Blinking again in the bright lights of the stage, her eyes finally focused on the person standing next to the granite altar. The applause was for him, the man standing between her and the dark crowd. He bowed to them, his crimson robes swirling over the tips of sleek leather shoes.

She stared at him, and the swath of people beyond him, and then the legs peeking out beneath the white shift she wore. Her legs. All of it was strange.

The crowd fell silent. She looked up at the sudden silence to find him turned to her and holding out a hand. His face was angular and lined, grey fanned from his temples into the rest of his dark hair.  He held out a scarred hand. “Welcome back My Love.”

Their audience held the breath they’d been keeping, waiting for her to move. She looked at his hand, feeling her hollow stomach begin to rebel. But the silence stretched and she caught a twitch of something dangerous in the strange man’s eyes.

Knowing nothing except the unpleasant depth to his gaze, she accepted his hand. The man pulled her off the altar and caught her deftly when she stumbled on her unfamiliar feet. “Smile.” He whispered, his breath tenderly at her ear.

It was as jarring as her first breath, but she pushed the corners of her lips into shape. The man smiled and held her close as the crowd erupted into a storm of noise.

A thief always, but especially today as I have stolen the first line She Blinked from the slightly more than moderately mad. 

Crack, whir, slap,

Under the smog and streetlamps, the city streets were only angles of black and yellow. She rolled past the fenced lots and dark buildings, her body swaying lazily over the skateboard as the rhythmic crack of wheel and sidewalk announced her path.

A few people still huddled outside the barely awake pubs. They looked up from red tipped cigarettes as she wove through them, sending muttered curses skyward like scattered birds. She ignored the shrill caws,  already past and moving before their surprise could evolve into anything more vicious.

Crack, whir, slap. The board was loud, louder than she ever was on her feet. Her lip twitched at the bold rhythm.

During the day, when the sun baked the pale concrete and sticky asphalt, she avoided the skate parks and parking lots where others held up phones to capture achievements and particularly amusing failures. Their boards were loud too, but their braying and snorted chortles were booming. The noise drove her away even as she rolled up along the sidewalk outside the chain-link fence.

Now though, with the heavy chain woven through the chain-link gate, the smooth basins and worn rails were empty and soaked in yellow from the street lamps. Her wheels’ tempo slowed. A moment later, it stopped. The rattle of hands and feet on metal fence shortly filled the dark spaces between concrete.

I challenged Raw Rambles this week to write something to or inspired by SIAMÉS’s The Wolf. I did the same. 

Legal Theft: Cooler Than You

A perfect punch was equal parts precision and force. Smooth at first, and then, impact. That last part was the important one. If you didn’t feel the mistake drop into your stomach like a brick, it wasn’t good. Sara frowned down at the cooler and the electric pink liquid sloshing inside it.

She twisted and caught the eye of one fraternity brothers huddling over the beer pong table. “Whats in this?” She mouthed over the blare of tropical house and pointed at the punch cooler on the kitchen floor.

The fraternity had abandoned their collared shirts in the summer heat and his dark hair was mussed with either sweat or product. He broke from his pack and came over, but not before sweeping his gaze from her crimson heels to the top of her bleached-blonde roots. “Huh?”

“The cooler punch. What’s in it?” She looked down at the dingy container and its rosy contents.

The young man looked at Sara like she’d demanded nuclear codes. “Don’t worry about it.”

Sara snorted, unperturbed. Alpha Tau didn’t have the balls to attempt anything actually villainous in their communal punch. Too easy for one of their own to forget and partake. She knelt at her knees, lest he get a show, and dipped her plastic cup into the punch. Still, kneeling, she sipped and made a face up at him. “That’s what I thought.”

She held up her hand over her head to him, inviting him to help her from the awkward position. When he did, she pressed her cup into his chest. “Very smooth.”

Sara wobbled her way over the sticky kitchen floor and returned with a two of the plastic bottles from the counter. She met the his eyes with a grin, and then poured the contents of both into the cooler. The pink punch lapped against the sides.

“There, now it has some punch.”  Sara laughed mostly at his unsure expression and her own terrible sense of humor. Taking back her cup, she grabbed his too. Then she filled them both from the cooler. “Cheers”