Flash Fiction: Blue as the Horizon

Tristan could not remember his mother’s face. He knew her hair was a warm and pale like the morning sun, and that her skirts were silk because he’d clung to them through thunderstorms.

Her voice changed in his memory, clear as feast day bells and laughing while Tristan’s father spun her around the ballroom, breathy with secrets when Tristan caught her padding towards the stable in the night’s cold middle. She’d asked him not to tell in that feeble wintery voice, and Tristan never had.

He never told, but someone did. Tristan could not remember his mother’s face, but he could always summon the way his father’s eyes had blazed and then darkened beneath graying brows.  He could remember his mother’s pleading, her voice high and breathless.

When he pictured her now, she wears black buttons down her front of her dress.  She is still and silent. Wings, dark and shiny like ink, cover her face. Her hands hold the feathers there and her skin is as pale as her hair, yellowish like rancid cream.

Tristan can not remember his mother’s face, hidden beneath black wings, but he knows her eyes are blue as the sea’s horizon on a clear day, blue as his are.

Another Friday, another prompt. This time I attempted MindLoveMisery’s Menagerie’s Photo Challenge.  The featured image, and the photo which inspired this flash fiction, is by Laura Makabesku. 

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Flash Fiction: The Hocus

Usually, Momo didn’t have to press her way through a crowd. Carrying a gleaming, sometimes bloody, machete typically cleared a quick path. No elbowing necessary. But the rolling sea of unwashed bodies around Momo did not shy from the metal covering her face, or the wrapped blade on her back.

Someone bumped hard into her shoulder, Momo snarled beneath her mask and lashed out. The offender left a grimy blood stain across her pauldron but continued their gape-mouthed stumble forward, wheezing and transfixed on the distant stage. Momo blinked. She was unused to this kind of invisibility.

No one recoiled or winced or refused to look at the twisted metal obscuring her features, she was just another person to shove as everyone pressed themselves forward against the makeshift stage. Any fear was gone, replaced with a blind and growing fervor for whatever was about to appear on the cobbled-together stage.

A group of hooded people finally broke from the crowd. The bottoms of their pale robes were heavy with mud as they climbed the stage. From their ranks, a short woman emerged. The crowd surged with a collective inhale, breathing out mutters of Always.

White cloth draped off the shelf of her breasts and clung to the wide arches of her hips. This woman, called Always if the chanting of the crowd could be trusted, raised her hands to the sky. She kept her eyes locked across the swelling crowd at her feet though, gazing down at the crowd like a mother at her precocious children. Some of the masses reached grimy hands towards the pristine hem ruffling her brown toes. They were kicked back by the woman’s hooded handmaidens.

“We have a guest tonight.” At Always’ words, silence bound the crowd. The white drapped woman breathed in the hush, a smile unrolling in her curved lips. “From Haven. From the wolves.”

Always lowered an arm to point through the crowd, drawing a line between herself and Momo. The crowd parted from that line, spreading space between them. Always smiled. Momo’s eyes darted behind her mask, searching for a break in the crowd that didn’t lead to the stage.

“Welcome Momo. ” Always’ leaned forward and swept a look over the crowd, weighing their shifting unease and its potential. Her eyes locked back to the sockets on Momo’s mask. “Grab her.”

Flash Fiction: Good and Bad Children

They warned against wandering in the willowwacks. The great rises of wood, fen, and moss-covered stone held dangers for the lone adult, more for an underfed child. But she was a sharp and foolish creature, not yet consigned to being a small thing in a great and terrible world.

Their warnings were routinely crafted and deployed, figments to entangle her with the dreaded lesson of or else. The good children escaped the shadows between the trees, clever yet always abstractly obedient, the bad ones did not, and were rarely mourned.

But she was more cunning than most children, and some adults, and could see the webs they wove with their stories. Be good, be kind, be obedient. All qualities that benefited them more often than her. Soon, she began to wonder if circles of ghosts, their eyes liquid with need, really convened beneath the trees. Or if worst creatures really jumped between the curls of mist, metal glinting beneath their hoods as they lured children astray with memories of chocolate and butter.

She was sure she could resist both, having tasted neither.

The willowwack’s fog and trees and glens were great towering things, that could bestow a quick death at the bottom of a swamp, or draw a long one of wandering starvation between the endless black trunks, or a lingering addled end from the yellow air that rested along the ground, but those fates came for both good and bad children.

It was with this in mind she watched the fog veiled trees of the willowwacks, with neither reverence or challenge. As other children strove to be good, lest the metal wolves and ghosts pluck their minds away in the night, or darted as close to the dark trunks as they would dare, shrieking all the while, she contented herself with being right. At least until her shoulders grew strong enough for a pack, and her legs long enough to climb the moss covered stone.

Wrote this one from Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie’s Wordle Prompt. 

 

Flash Fiction: A Celadon Escape

Thick sunlight permeated all corners the salvage yard, shimmering above the towers of shining metal and cracked rubber in waves. I sagged against one of the rickety piles. The twisted frame of an old car door dug into my spine as I hid from the noon sun. The bit of shade was worth the discomfort.

Not so far off, but barely audible over the grating hum of the machines through which the industrial offal was made useful again, Alan argued with the yard’s owner. It didn’t sound like the negotiation was going well for us, but it was hard to tell. Everything was hazy amidst the bloody tang of iron. The smell was baked into the dust at my feet and the air in my lungs.

The arguing stopped. Alan rounded the scrap tower, his steps clipped and full of a nervous energy I’d never seen before. I smiled at him vacantly, which only caused Alan’s nostrils to flare with worry. “I’m fine,” I muttered, abashment pulling more color into my face than the sun could.

Alan pulled me from my hiding spot to where the yard’s owner drove over a mud-splattered junker. Painted celadon-green beneath the dirt, the car didn’t look as if it could get us out of the lot, and certainly not the hundreds of miles we needed to put between us and this place.

He leaned me into the passenger’s seat, ignoring the narrowed-eyed suspicion of the man who’d sold us the car. Money exchanged hands and Alan swung himself into the driver’s seat. The engine started with a wheeze that shook the car, but it started. I breathed deeply when we passed under the barbed-wire gate, and more easily when the dappled shadows of the forest overtook the road.

A weird piece from a fun Wordle Prompt. Make sure to check out Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie‘s other prompts as well.

Gentlemen Demons

The thieves hit the Neptune Playhouse during the third act of a particularly affecting rendition of Doctor Faustus.  As the doctor bargained with his demonic muse on stage, three guests left their seats to find their way deep into the labyrinthian bowels of the building.

Once below, the downed lights and scuttle of unseen stagehands covered their steps. In the narrow corridors, the dark swaddled men were shadows amidst other, more innocent, shadows.  No stagehand, costumer, or actor felt an undeserved bite of blade that evening. Wanton violence was the mark of brutes and amateurs, the thieves who slipped smoothly from open dressing room to waiting wings did so with long-collected practice.

Tension grew on stage and lapped over the audience as the fate of Doctor Faustus drew ever nearer. The damned doctor, still arrogant, and now frightened, stared upwards at Lucifer’s puppeted mouthpiece. Faustus realized his stalemate with the infernal forces was broken.

The thieves, now clothed in flashing crimson and twisted masks, waited for the diabolical crow of the lead devil on stage. Crackling laughter rose from the carved mouthpieces, working in tandem with the puppeteer’s cackling voice. At the cue, the thieves sprang onto the stage, cavorting and snarling like the demons whose faces they wore.

They descended on the ruined Faustus, one on each arm, and the last to clear the way to hell, red and black strips of cloth fluttering like wings from their shoulders. The audience leaned back as the thieves dragged the pleading doctor towards the edge of the stage.

The actors behind the mouthpiece missed their counts as their hellish minions began to carry the doctor up the aisle and through their enraptured audience, the maniacal devil at a loss for words. The doctor in comparison writhed and screamed in the most convincing manner as he was hauled up the velvet path by seemingly his fellow cast members. The audience loved the turn and the engaging conflict inches away from their seats. A critic in attendance would write a glowing review of the lead’s performance in tomorrow’s paper.

The third thief, the one with his hands free of the struggling lead, flourished a deep bow to the rows of seats and the distant stage. Faced with the attention of the grinning demon the audience shrank back and more than a few giggled nervously, entirely caught up in the drama. The effect successful, the third thief kicked open the lobby doors for his fellows.

The kidnappers’ impish masks grinned at each other as they dragged their victim past the shocked concessions attendants and into the street outside. No one at the theater managed to form much response, torn between the desire to maintain the audiences apparent glee, the time worn tradition of show perseverance, and the now glaring absence of their lead and titular character. They performed the final bow without him, which confused the crowd as all would have liked to see Doctor Faustus and the cavorting yet gentlemanly demons from only moments before.

It took too many precious moments before anyone realized how truly wrong the situation was, but by that time, the people thieves were long gone.

The above it a result of this Wordle Prompt by Mindlovesmisery Menagerie.

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. 

Let Me At My Name

My name means pearl, smooth and pale

The treasure nestled in the cleft of slender throat

A soft bow, a weak glow

The collar about a housewife immortalized on screen

No edges, soft simplicity

The pride of sorority, an insidious slur of fraternity.

Let me at my name

The label of my make, my assemblage

Turn those pale orbs to teeth

The sharp things that gleam brightly from dark corners

A grinned promise to cheat behind fanned cards

The warning to those who would pry me from my home

To string me around their necks

The bared reminder that there is bite in me

It has been a long week, and I didn’t have time to finish the normal fiction, so you all get punished with something vaguely resembling poetry. Mindlovemisery Menagerie‘s Wordle prompt is to blame!