Water Witch

Spiget slammed the door on her way out of the holder’s house, nearly knocking over his wife as she went. The pretty redhead blinked and clung to the packages she’d been balancing.

“Stuff it Lively!” Spiget snapped before she could hear a friendly greeting and burst into the street outside. Icy winds threw her hair and plastic yellow coat back. The normally muddy roads were solidly frozen, packed down by the many feet that wound their way through the holding’s wide streets. Spiget’s boots crunched over the iced dirt as she stalked away from the house.

Further from the holding’s busy core and without its bustling crowds, she could really feel the hurt rolling in her belly. Spiget shivered finally, some of her heat lost in the cold afternoon. She allowed herself one shaking breath, hugged herself, and kept walking.

A teetering building at the edge of town marked the narrow way towards Concord’s hallowed glens and her home. She stared . A dozen clunky bikes, with exhaust pipes and thick tires caked with filth, waited parked outside the club’s low entrance.

Spiget took the steps down to the scratched door almost timidly. Those who sought succor within the holding generally came to Concord’s holy waters, or the potent but questionable offerings here, at Eden.  Spiget’s reservations melted a little despite herself when she opened the door and thick, warm air rolled over her with sweet addicting smoke and the scents of cooking meat.

The inside was characteristically dark, but Spiget could have found Blues and her gang in the pitch black of solstice night. Their shouts, hollering, and bawdy singing beckoned her to the corner room. Men and women lolled over the decaying furniture, drinking from amber bottles and smoking little twists of herb.. In the center of it, draped over a card game, a yellow-maned woman in a red bikini top and tattered pants wheezed with laughter between gulps from a dirty bottle. Blues, the Chopper

Spiget approached slowly, stepping over a few bikers in the way of the door and to the edge of the card table. The Chopper looked up and squinted through the dark.  “What do you want water witch?”

“Hi Blues.” Spiget shrugged off her slick yellow coat. It was stifling with so many bodies warming the already cooking air. “I need to talk to you. Calistoga got hauled off, taken. I need someone to go after him.”

“Oh. Yah, sounds like it.” Blues chewed the taste of her last swallow of rum.

“And I thought, since you two– you know, it sounded like your kinda gig.” Spiget tried a cheerful smile, but her lip trembled. “What do you say?”

“That the roads are ice, its winter, this placed is stocked with more shine than even I could drink, and while Calistoga had some pretty scars and a nice ass, this all sounds like holder problems. Go ask Allison, you two used to shack up, maybe put out and he’ll do something about Calistoga.” Blues took another long drink from her bottle.

“Allisons not– he’s not going to help. I need your help.” Spiget pressed and her rising voice got more of the gang to look up annoyed.

“Well that stormin sucks, cause I don’t need yours. Fuck off.” Blues grinned at her, filed canines sharp in the dark. A few around them chuckled.

“You have to help me– I control Concord, its pools, its waters and you and yours have a habit of  get awfully scratched up–” Spiget took a step closer, feeling herself begin to shake.

The room went silent.

Blues was off from the table and nose to nose with Spiget in a blink. “Are you fucking threatening me witch?” Blues purred with boozy breath.

Spiget realized she had only a moment before this went very badly. Spiget opened her mouth, took a deep breath, and then utterly burst into tears. Blues leaned back, blinking. Around them the rest of the gang stared, looked away, and then stared again as Spiget dissolved into wracking sobs and clutched at Blues, mumbling and dribbling over their leader.

“Holy– storms –” Blues tried to extricate herself, but Spiget held on, wailing. A few of Blues’ gang were beginning to laugh and though Blues glared at them, Spiget kept on with the tears and stumbling grabs.

Blues swore at her, “Stop –stop or I’ll–  FINE! Fine.” Blues hopped backwards and held up a hand, warding Spiget away. “Find me something or someone to get me over those iced roads and deal, I’ll check on Calistoga. But you better leave right the fuck now.”

Spiget sniffed, then smiled, “deal.” She ducked out of the room before Blues could say anything more and hurried back to the front door. Spiget left Eden with a blooming smile, and flicked the last tear from her cheek as she stepped into the cold wind.

 

 

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Dead Week

Something had happened here. Some disaster? An attack? Sabel wondered as she edged around a sniffling frat guy in the library hallway. He was not the first crying person she’d seen, though most were just slack-cheeked and glassy-eyed, shuffling from one place to another or crumpled over study tables. Survivors of something, Sabel reasoned, watching a frayed-looking girl begin to scream at her chemistry book.

She’d followed her friends trail from the sorority house when it’d become increasingly apparent something horrible had occurred at the University. Sabel wove through the stacks, avoiding the unstable students ducking from one shelf to another as if their lives depended on finding a single illusive book.

The computer terminals were all taken. Her hovering made people hunch up in their chairs and one even bared teeth when Sabel got to close. She left quickly resume wandering.

Sabel found Sara behind a small fort of reference books, Sara and her sticker-covered laptop at its center. Sabel breathed in relief and swung herself into the chair next to her friend. “Quick, we should go. Something has happened here.”

When Sara ignored her, mouth slightly open and her eyes reflecting her furious typing, Sabel reached out as if to pause her friend’s work–

“Sabel, if you fucking touch anything– I– I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m busy.”

“But something is wrong here, everyone is… affected.” Sabel darted her gaze around before she noticed the tremble in her friends fingers, the dark circles beneath Sara’s eyes that for once wasn’t make up. Sabel leaned closer, brows knitting.

“You are fucking affected. Sabel it’s dead week, leave me alone. I’ve got a bio final in two hours and –” Sara breathed through her nose. “–and I’m gonna fail it. So just please–” Sara trailed off and started typing again.

“What’s going on?” Sabel asked.

No answer.

“What is dead week?” Sabel asked instead.

No answer. Sara typed, stared at her screen, then typed again.

“What is–”

“Dead week is where if you don’t fucking leave me alone right now to study I am going to kill you. Dead.” Sara’s black eyes were manically round when she twisted to Sabel. “Okay? Don’t know how, don’t care how. I’m gonna find a way to kill you. Now leave me alone to . You are just the sort of calm that is the worst.”

Sabel had leaned back when Sara had snapped, now she slowly unfolded herself from the chair and backed away. Her friend was too far gone, that much was clear. Sabel shook her head, decided college was as horrible as it sounded, and left.

Little Bird

The men don’t know what is in the old mine. They don’t warn their sons away from the north road which runs down, descends with rain broken dirt, from town and through the winter trees to funnel all things into a deep mouth.

But the women, they have an idea. They pinch, and nag, and hound their daughters until the girls watch the north road with squinted eyes and unmoving feet. Girls turn to women with an idea of what waits and shifts in the old mine. They tell their daughters.

Be bold, the stories tell boys. The stories are wrong.

Be wary, the stories tell girls. The stories are right.

There is a girl, her name is Wren, who was told no stories. Her mother is gone, left, taken, somewhere else. Wren does not know where or why her mother is. Only that when she places her feet on the north road, no warning words shepherd her to safety.

Wren follows the fluttering sounds to the deep mouth, where they beat deep beneath the dirt. She walks inside, bold and unfearful, unfettered by stories, below the stone and sliding earth. Through dark warrens laced with silky veins of metal. And when she finds it, it unfolds its wings for her.

Wren does not emerge for a very long time. She greets the air with grey stone eyes and sunless skin. She unfolds her wings.

This week I challenged Raw Rambles with Thom Yorke’s Unmade. Check back in every other week for more Music Challenges, where we challenge each other to write something to or inspired by different bits of music. 

Crown of Teeth

Crown of teeth, cold, and bone;

this is death’s daughter and she has come for the guilty.

Remy sliced her keycard up and down through the reader. Weight pressed to the door, she clenched her jaw when the little light flashed red. “Come on.” She tried the old card again, weight pressed to the door ready for it to open. This time she felt the heavy bolt click and Remy darted inside, escaping the mechanical eyes of the hallway camera.

Bag held tightly beneath her arm, she hurried past the empty desks with quick little steps. Floors above her, people still worked. Beat cops to low in the hierarchy to avoid the graveyard, and detectives used to late nights. But in the lower levels, labs, and basements, Remy’s coworkers had all gone home.

This left the labs and its holding fridges to Remy.

The corpse was easy to find. Most remained with the county morgue a few blocks away, exceptions only made for pressing cases. Remy wheeled the gurney to her normal station, the one she worked at during the day, and rolled back the thick plastic sheeting.

Washed and chilled, the girl was serene as new snow. So different from the crime scene pictures. Still, Remy’s expert eye fell to the soft bruises covering her temples, the dry cuts beneath the girl’s chin. It was nothing compared to the damage to her torso, but the shallow wounds still made Remy’s veins beat cold with anger.

The technicians, Remy included, had failed to find the girl’s killer in all the wet bloody places he’d carved into her body. And so the private mortuary would come tomorrow to take her away to be pumped full of terrible chemicals, turning her once habitable body into an inorganic poisonous thing.

So Remy came to work after hours this night before the girl’s body was made inhospitable. If the body answered no questions, the spirit might. Remy laid marigold petals over the corpse’s eyes, sprinkled drops of lemon on her lips, rosemary brushed over dead fingers before they were drawn into Remy’s living ones. And then, as the lab’s light dimmed, and its sterile air ceded to the scent yerba buena, Remy called the dead girl’s name.

The corpse woke with fluttering eyes.

Remy smiled at the girl and squeezed her hand. “Hello, resting one. I have some questions for you.”

Marplot

Spring tides were a rare thing, the ocean retreating from the land enough to reveal its deepest tide pools. Sparrow had the still clear water for the next hour at least, but he still picked his way over the black, razored rocks with daring speed. His family would notice his absence soon enough.

Bright sunlight sparked off the waters surface, hiding the tide pools denizens under its glare. Sparrow fixed the sleeves of his silk shirt… again, rolling them tight above his elbow, and kneeled to slip his arm beneath the water’s surface.

“Sorry my friend,” he said to the limply squirming creature he picked up and brought over to a smaller pool. He settled it and its many limbs in the shallow water so he could sketch.

“Of the class Asteroidea, commonly know as Starfish,” Sparrow repeated to himself as the fact floated up from the depths of his mind. He wished he could reach into them like the pools, wait for whatever tide had overwritten his memories to ebb away and know what else waited there.

Sparrow finished with the starfish and returned it to its original place, moving carefully around the pool’s edge where delicate swaths of snails shells encrusted over the jagged rock. He picked one up, careful with the little home.

“Laeotropic.” He whispered, letting the snail shell roll around in his palm. Oriented or coiled in a leftward direction. Another odd word, sterile sounding, drawn from a far off book. Periodically, he could almost feel the rare pages beneath his fingers.

Except they were not rare. He had a library now, and when had he possibly had a chance to read so much before?

Sparrow exhaled in an angry huff and pushed off his knees to stand. Solitude didn’t help the meddlesome undercurrents in his mind. Without his family’s company, it was worse. Whatever they’d done to fix him, it wasn’t holding against the ebb and flow of strange memories washing against them whenever he crouched on tide rock or walked deep within the island’s forest.

From down the beach, indistinguishable voices jostled one another. The prince was missing again. Sparrow sighed and massaged the stress beginning in his temples. Something would have to break, he just hoped it wasn’t going to be him.

This is in response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Wordle Prompt.  

It started with bullets…

It started with bullets. Writhing sobbing men slapped down on Reid’s kitchen table. Reid removed the lead from their flesh with quick fingers. His expertise expanded, quick stitches over nasty knife wounds, overdoses, unattended kids fallen out of windows, twisted ankles running from pigs. Always bullets though. Those steady fingers, and an indifferent stomach, made Reid a name. A name he’d later put to use putting bullets in people, instead of taking them out.

But it started on the kitchen table. For those who made their tenuous livings in Brickyard and Shedtown, a trip to the hospital turned ended with one to jail. Once they got a your fingerprint on a form, or worse a scanner at your eyeball, you were done. There wasn’t a person in all Shedtown that hadn’t done something or owed someone. People like Reid were not loved so much as highly tolerated.

This suited Reid fine. It was consistent work he was good at. Aside from payment issues, either Reid or Reid’s brother sometimes had to track people down and threaten to forcibly replace the lead unless bills were paid on time, it was easy work. His brother, Vin, didn’t understand why Reid sighed heavier with each new patient.

“Well–” signed Reid after they’d ushered out the latest patient, mostly good as new. Vin pressed the same question to him. Reid shrugged, “I guess– I just don’t like helping people.”

Vin stared, then laughed his usual quiet wheezing chuckle. “Then do something else.” he signed, his fingers moving as quickly as his brothers.

“You think?” asked Reid.

Vin nodded his hand.

Light the Night

The city was only beautiful at night, when the sun’s baked-in heat ebbed away. The sky faded from layers of pink and yellow until the lights came on.

Sabel waited beneath one of these lights. Back to the fence, feet planted, phone bright. Visible in the pool of yellow streetlamp. She counted as she breathed. Long deep inhales and exhales that kept her pulse thumping quiet, her face slack, hands steady. If your breath was calm, so were you.

The car came late. Its black mass rolled to the curb with the whispery crunch of gravel and broken glass beneath its tires. Sabel watched her yellowed reflection slide over its windows. Shadowed by the hood, her face was blank sharp lines.

A lock clicked inside the door and it opened, pushed out by someone big. They held the door for Sabel,  tracking the steel weight moving beneath her jacket. Sabel slid inside and looked at person brave enough to meet her in person.

“Hello,” said Lane.

“Hello,” said Sabel.

And the Music Challenges have started again. This week Raw Rambles challenged me to use Ghost In The City by The Crystal Method to spark a story.