Shades and Gunman

He almost smiled when he heard the click of the pistol. Almost, being right offset the impending bullet wound only so much. Reid raised his hands to his ears in surrender and turned around slowly. “It was that damn blue blood wasn’t it?” He asked the man with the pistol.

The gunman’s arm was steady but he was wearing too much black, cutting a hard silhouette against the cluttered darkness of the living room. Still Reid was impressed, he’d gotten into their flat without Reid noticing. At least until that click. “They just pay me.” The man twitched a shrug. “But yeah.”

“I won’t insult you with a counter offer then.” Reid hoped the man would look disappointed but the gunman just rolled his lips back in an ugly smile. Of course that bastard’s family was paying well. “You’re enjoying this.”

“Not everyday you get to kill a shade,” The gunman said. He took a step forward and Reid knew he should shrink back, cower a little, humor the man capable of putting a bullet in him.

But Reid didn’t bend that way. Instead, he frowned at the gun encroaching into his personal space and flicked a thin smile up at the amateur.  “Not everyday, no.”

A stocky shape moved in the dark behind the gunman. Like a blade of spring grass sliding up from winter soil, an arc of silver sword erupted from the gunman’s chest. The gunman blinked in surprise at the metal protruding from his front, so did Reid, but with less surprise. The sword was yanked back with a whispery wet grunt and the failed assassin folded on the fake hardwood.

Two brothers looked down at the body. Vin drew his chin up first with a narrow look. Reid gave an apologetic grimace and drew his hand flat from his mouth and down, signing thanks. Vin nodded, both knew that something like this would happen eventually. The two brothers went about rolling the body into the rug in silence.

A victimless crime? We shall see, I took this first line from The Gate in the Wood as part of the Legal Theft Project. 


Join the Dead

Cris watched with gloom as her planet swirled around her in an ever agitated mass of lightning and volcanoes. The storm drowned out the audible screams, sobbing, and thrum of the gibbering mad, but Cris could feel them. A sickly flash of electricity lit up above her and Cris tore off the headset before she joined the fallen.

Lined eyes looked down at her. A set of hands gently adjusted the needle and tubes entering the groove of her arm. Another gingerly took the headset before she could break the intricate Psy equipment. “What did you see?” A voice asked.

Cris’ head lolled. Crimson echoes churned when she let her eyes unfocus. The white room, the acidic smell of disinfectant, and murmur of the research team kept the pulse at bay, but barely. The storm waited for her. “It’s grown. More people are there, trapped. I could hear them, so many of them.”

“Those who succumbed to the mental disruption.” A researcher clarified. Cris nodded, but they both knew those people were gone. The storm’s fire and chaos call beat in all their heads, begging to be listened to.

They got her up and out of the white room. Cris kicked the vision into the corners of her mind, to the spaces behind her eyelids, as she showered and put on civilian clothes. Her training allowed her to hold on to her sanity, to the mundane world she was supposed to live in.

Cris left the compound. She went grocery shopping, stood in lines, and huffed at red lights. She turned on music when she entered her empty apartment, not willing to tempt the storm with silence.

She watched the street from her bedroom window.  When the storm fell on those outside the white rooms and halls, on the people driving to work and picking up their children from daycare, regular people at dog parks and laundromats, those praying, laughing, eating dinner, something very different happened.  Cris could pretend the end wasn’t coming, once they saw it, they could not. It would sand them all down.

Cris closed the blinds.

CC threw a curve ball at me and the rest of the thieves this week with the first line. Check out her original here and tune in each week for the Legal Theft Project. 

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.

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. 

Dots, Strips, and Flickers

He didn’t stay to see the streetlights flicker on. His shoes hit sidewalk and he only stopped walking upon reaching the bus station. Two months this time. A new record since he’d walked out his parents’ door years ago.

The doors changed. Intercity lofts with broken buzzers, stucco mansions and their cheap tiled entryways, rusted commune gates. But the reasons he put his back to them and his feet to the road, those never changed.

A lumbering bus pulled to the curb and vomited humanity. He watched them shove against each other’s shoulders and disperse. Discarded food wrappers and bits of shiny plastic wrap tumbled in their teeming wake. A familiar knot turned deep in his gut.

People are parasites grown beyond their ecosystem, he thought. Cruel and careless, inconsiderate of each other and the world they lived in. He leaned against the stop’s bench and closed his eyes.

He wished it was just strangers, the people pouring in and out of buses packed beyond capacity, the masses. It wasn’t. His family abandoned long ago, old girlfriends and boyfriends, the people he’d wanted to call friends.

And himself, desperately needing something from them all and never getting it. He couldn’t stomach the crowded isolation for long, so he left in search of its purer forms, storming out, running away, until the lonelinesses drew him back.

Hours later, his bus trundled far away from the city. He watched it shrink away as the mountain road wove higher. In the dark and through the trees, the city was just dots, strips, and flickers of artificial glare.

It wasn’t enough to leave one city for another, one big depressing human settlement for a small depressing human settlement. He needed to get away from the grids of electricity and consumption, something that would finally break the gnawing dependence on his fellow humans. Somewhere where their synthetic light didn’t poison the sky.

Legal Theft: Running with Revolutionaries

The Captain’s favorite detective had just staggered out of his office. This surprised me, favorites usually got the good hours, and the station clocks read four a.m. His shaky hands and creased shirt were a testament to length of the shift. Apparently it’d been a long night for both of us, not that I was feeling sympathetic. He wasn’t handcuffed to a desk.

The detective motioned my booking officer over. They proceeded to discuss me from inside the break room, giving me an excellent opportunity to eye my file on the officer’s computer screen. I couldn’t entirely suppress my smile. Trespassing.

I could see them from the window, wondering how to keep me after bail was posted. The detective leaned forward, I could see his finger tips pressed to the break room window. It must be frustrating, to think I was either lying or in danger, and know there was nothing he could do about either.

But as I said, I was far from sympathetic. He did his job well, I did mine better.

They emerged after a minute and the officer hung back, apparently ready to see the pro-detective work his magic on the girl they’d caught running around with revolutionaries.

I am a thief, and this week I’ve stolen a first line from The Gate in the Wood. Check out her original The First Switch  and the rest of the thieves at the Legal Theft Project. 

Legal Theft: Sheep’s Clothing

Bell hated planes. Steel coffins they laid you shoulder to shoulder in. A single instance of neglect or malice by engineer or pilot would send the thing spiraling from the sky. Survival in those instances were borne of luck, not skill.

She did not trust the latter or whatever esoteric science kept the winged metal aloft. For now though, half-perched, half-folded into a black padded chair near the gate window, she could relax.

Armed surveillance and security rituals kept the stupidly violent at bay, and deterred the more discerning. The lines and checkpoints provided travelers a placebo peace rarely provided outside the glass walls of the airport.They didn’t catch everyone. For the skilled and determined, there were always holes. Like knew like, and Bell passed the time picking out the fluid stroll of marshals from their benign flock.

Her game went unnoticed. There was nothing to distinguish the perched girl with headphones from the other lone young women keeping to themselves.The preoccupied herd shuffled like a trickling tide, their shepherds with them. She drew up the hood of her dark jacket, content to watch and enjoy her freedom before hours confined too closely amidst the sheep.

Airports held hundreds of escapes and thousands of changing faces. At the moment Bell was pleased just being one of them.

Challenged to write a sense of freedom, this is what came about. See the original here .