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.

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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.

An Orange Unsteady Light

Laurie, Allison, and Kaitlin leaned forward in their folding chairs. The fire only illuminated the trees immediately around their little camp, casting the tall oaks in orange unsteady light. Everything else beyond their circle was black.

The three girls didn’t look at one another. Laurie, unprepared for the evening chill, huddled in her sweatshirt. Kaitlin sipped her coffee and grimaced at the bitter taste, she’d wanted a pumpkin spice latte but Allison had insisted they drink black coffee.  Allison ignored her friends’ discomfort and continued stripping the buds off a lavender sprig. Once bare, Allison tossed the sprig into the fire and the flames choked themselves, spitting olive smoke into the air.

Now they all looked to the center, mouths open and staring up at the plume. It reeked of lavender and the sweet chemical smell of cold medicine. Beneath the flames, and over the amethyst and tourmaline they’d laid, bits of an old dreamcatcher roasted away into ash. “So it’s anyone sleeping?” Laurie asked. “And we just get to tell them what to do?”

“Their bodies, yes. Get ready for it, it’s gonna be a ride.” Allison’s lips were tight, her nostrils wide. She closed her eyes, stretched her arms, and cracked her neck.

“What about people napping?” Kaitlin asked. Allison’s eyes snapped open and she glared across the fire.

“You’re so stupid,” Laurie said, looking at Allison for approval. “Who takes naps anymore except kids and old people?”

“I do,” Kaitlin said. Across the fire, Allison’s eyes rolled back into her head and their leader slumped. Laurie squeaked. Kaitlin didn’t notice and continue defending herself. “I took a nap in May.”

“Shut up Kaitli—.” Laurie started, her voice high with panic. The spell caught her mid-syllable, and she fell to the side over the flimsy armrest of her camp chair.

Kaitlin stared at her two collapsed friends, shrugged, and leaned back in her chair. She was ready when the smoke filled her nose and sent her consciousness spinning upwards into the night sky.

A theft, but perhaps, not a crime. This week I’ve stolen the line “I took a nap in May.” from Apprentice, Never Master for the Legal Theft Project. 

Rubies in the Sun

The knife slipped, cutting through the apple and hard into her palm. Akira hissed and rushed to the railing of the ship, holding out her hand so the welling blood wouldn’t stain the front of her skirts. The droplets, bits of ruby in the noon sun, dripped into the waves below.

Akira rolled her eyes at herself. The cut’s sting turned to a throb. She’d change into something with long sleeves before anyone commented. Palm pressed to palm, she nearly turned away from the ship’s rail, except crimson flashed in churning water below. She paused.

Frowning down at the waves, she forgot the pain of the cut. In the dark blue and grey, lines of sparkling red ran through the water like veins. Akira snapped a glance back to the deck behind her, the rest of Calder’s crew were busy and not paying her any notice. She stretched up on her toes and bent her waist over the rail, leaning down to peer at the water and the strange lines still coiling under its choppy surface.

Something formed itself just beneath the waves. The scales were the color of a flat ocean at night, sparkling black. Across its coils, bands of blood red shone like rubies.  Compared to its leviathan predecessor, the serpent was an unimpressive thing, not even the size of the ship.

Still, Akira’s breath caught. It should not be possible.

The sea serpent’s coils unfurled, undulating in the water. It reared its head into the air and raised its eyes to hers. The slitted orbs were the color of the blood slowly dripping down her wrist. The sea serpent stilled, waiting for her command.

Akira’s mouth was dry, her head suddenly light with an exhaustion she’d not felt in years. Summoning took a physical toll, she’d just never expected to pay it again. Her gift was supposed to be spent, bargained and willingly given away. Despite that, and impossibly, the spirit before her still waited, paid in blood and ready for her instructions.

She stumbled over the next part, out of practice and without a request. Akira said the first thing she thought of. “Find a pearl. Bring it to me.”

If the spirit had a problem with such a simple task, it did not make it known. The serpent half dived, half dissolved, into the waves. Akira watched the empty water, searching for the flash of crimson or dark scales. The spirit was gone from her sight, but she felt a throb in her chest that pulsed in time with the cut in her palm.

A theft most foul! Thieves have made off with my first line. See what they did with it at the Legal Theft Project. 

Country Sensibilities

The venue used to be a family-style steakhouse set just off the highway overpass. Hidden behind a smattering of the region’s characteristic oak trees, it had been the perfect place for weary nuclear families to temporarily escape the close quarters of the car.

Now remodeled, it’s pleather booths ripped out and kitsch decor removed, the place offered traveling indie bands a venue with which to reach new audiences and gain rural integrity outside the over-saturated city music scene. More importantly, it promised a stage unadorned by regional, yet controversial, flags. This commodity was not found elsewhere within a hundred miles.

For their part, the locals did their best to support the highway-side venue in the hopes it would bring money into their dwindling downtown district. Mostly though, the venue survived on the local college and high school students hungry for anything that vaguely tasted of the distant cities they all aspired to in some facet. The lax carding by bartenders helped considerably. Young, disposable, and underage money was still money.

Cole passed over a damp bill in exchange for two soapy beers. He was tall enough that the bartender never gave him a hard time, but he still couldn’t quite meet the staffs’ eyes. Cole avoided them and pushed himself into the press of bodies on the main floor.

Cole didn’t care for the band, but his girlfriend liked it and his life was easier when she was happy. And Stephanie was happy, pressed up as close to the stage as the venue would allow and gazing up at the bespectacled scruffy lead singer.  Cole found the caterwauling reedy and whiny, but knew better than to say so.  He passed Stephanie her beer and quickly ceded ground.

Having retreated away from the stage, his back pressed against the venue’s back wall, Cole found the experience much less audible and far more bearable. Though he did have an excellent view of Stephanie’s adoring gaze up at the stage.

“She is a bad influence.” The voice came from his side. Cole looked down to see his younger sister, Lane, standing next to him. Her black curly hair fell loose over her shoulders and compared to the rest of the audience’s bared skin, was overdressed in a jean skirt and knit shirt.  She held a drink in front of her with two hands.

“You’re one to talk.” He grabbed her drink before she could do anything but gasp with indignation. Cole took a sip. It was coke, but without the sickly aftertaste of liquor. He handed it back to her. “Good.” He said.

“And you’re a hypocrite.” She said. Her huff was annoyed but lacked any real outrage. After Lane got her drink back she turned her disdain to the enthralled audience. “But at least we’re not easily impressed. Do you think all bands from the city try this hard?”

Cole heard Lane’s dig but didn’t answer. At the front of the crowd, Stephanie leaned past the stage and threw something to the singer. Cole’s stomach turned and he decided it was better he didn’t know what exactly of Stephanie’s the singer had just pocketed.

“Cole? Don’t tell me you’re actually impressed by tight jeans and the excessive use of flannel?” Lane’s question distracted him from the odd feeling in his stomach.

He snorted. “Can you even see the stage?” With her clunky boots, Lane just managed to top five feet. He doubted she could see anything over the churning crowd.

Her lips twitched. “I’m not wrong though, right?”

Cole finally laughed, “No. You’re right. They’re terrible.”

“They really are.” Lane stifled another laugh by taking a sip of her coke. Cole took a larger gulp of his beer and felt better.

I have no idea what I just wrote to. This week’s music challenge was brought to you by Raw Rambles, she charged me with writing something to or inspired by The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth by CYHSY.  Check out here piece here.