Peace in an Unquiet World

Utah shook the batteries out of the silver discman and spun them on the studio floor. Cullen said the ritual wouldn’t squeeze any more use out of the little cylinders, but they were the only ones she had. It was the middle of the night,  the market and Cullen’s shop were closed. Utah needed to learn what happened to Yoshimi.

The switchboard was up and running the nighttime stream, its lights basking the radio studio in sleepy crimson. When she leaned towards the bulky technology and strained her ears, Utah could hear the song currently wafting out on the airwaves.  If she really needed to, Utah could interrupt the stream and play the album, but her listeners across the wastes, hinterlands, and blasted mountains depended on Outlast Radio to get them through the night.

Instead, Utah popped the batteries back into the discman. The little rectangle on the front of the device turned on woke with dim illumination and Utah’s smile unfurled. Cullen didn’t know what he was talking about.

Utah slipped the headphones over her ears and spread herself on the floor, staring past her studio’s red ceiling as the music began again.

Yoshimi fought robots, evil-natured pink machines, to keep them from defeating and eating the seemingly hapless singer. It was a strange dreamy song and it ended without resolution. After listening to the mechanic beats and feminine screeching in the fourth track, it never came.

Utah frowned upwards through the wistful fifth and sixth songs on the album, as if she could discern Yoshimi’s fate in the rotting ceiling of her makeshift studio.

The line between her brows eased as the album continued. The songs linked themselves with mellow melancholy that was not logical, but entirely at peace in they unquiet unsatisfactory world they sang in.

Utah exhaled, feeling her limbs ease against the normally uncomfortable floor, and she listened to the album until the batteries in her discman truly died.

As part of the Music Challenge Raw Rambles and I write every other week, this piece was written to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part.1 by The Flaming Lips, which I’d never listened to before. Check out what she wrote to, or inspired by, the song here. 

The Nature of Chaos

Chaos was not an unthinking thing. Prone to disruption over impulse, her path through the towering pines was purposeful. And her thoughts, like herself, were unquiet as she trudged deeper into nature’s cold heart.

The thick silence of the snowfall could not smother her, nor could the vast solitude of the endless trees quell her intentions. Where others might fall into lonely contemplation and lose themselves in the enshrined serenity, Chaos thrust herself into the ancient webs of land and sky until the very threads of it all shivered with entropy.

What are you doing?” The voice rumbled from the trees and earth around her, only to end the question with a single voice.

Chaos turned to the speaker, panting in the cold and from the effort of unmaking. A young man with deep hazel eyes glared at her from between two pines. The trees here stretched deep into the sky but the moonlight still managed to fall on them both. Despite the grace in his strong limbs, there was no mistaking him. The thing behind the brown- green eyes had never been human.

But then, neither had she. “Getting your attention. Nice flesh suit.” Chaos answered.

His expression hardened at her vulgar words. “Precise vocal cords have their uses.” He took a step towards her into the glen. “You’re not welcome here. Return to your walled temples.”

Chaos snorted. The mountains overhead recoiled from her presence and the silence of the forest grew denser, as if the trees could cage her influence. “No can do. Welcome or not, I’m here.”

Anger churned beneath his placid expression like molten rock. As ancient as he and his kind were, the stuff that formed her was older still. Before humankind huddled in their caves dreaming of gods, and masses of earth shuddered against each other to form mountains and ocean crevasses, before life had wriggled itself from those secret depths, primeval chaos reigned supreme.

Rarely welcome, she was here, as she’d always been, and would always be until she picked apart the earth, sky, and sea. He knew it, as did she. Chaos was just giving him a choice, now or then.

He sighed, and the wind rustled through the snow-blanketed branches. “What do you want?”

Chaos smiled for the first time since she’d set her path into the frozen pines. “Your help.”

This week is my fault. I challenged Raw Rambles to write something to or inspired by one of my absolute favorite bands, Lord Huron and their song Frozen Pines. The resulting weirdness is above, and you can see her piece here. 

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.

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. 

Wander Away

The yellow moon glowed in her bedroom window. Like her mother, she could not sleep without the prickle of night air against her cheek. Laying beside the open window pane, the pure-smelling wind crawled over her blankets.

Her chest rose and fell restless as she stared out at the moonlit trees. The orb was full, casting everything outside into a story she might wander through.  Like a maiden, barefoot in the dainty light, off to find some ethereal journey. It stirred her heart until her chest and bed felt a prison.

There were other stories she could wander into though, spun in evening news cycles and on milk cartons. Vagrants who slept beneath those trees, hard-eyed teens breaking bottles behind the train tracks, missing girls eventually found in stranger’s cars.

She rubbed the itch from her feet and tucked her blankets over her shoulders until the night air only chilled her nose. She settled deep into her bed, ignoring the beckoning night. Next month, next moon, she promised.

The yellow orb waxed again until it hung swollen over the mountains, framed in the night by her bedroom window. She betrayed its ache in her chest for the warnings of the waking world.

Like the moon, her hips widened. She did not wander out into the coaxing night lest someone find her and her newly supple limbs. One day a man came to gently grasp her hand and she fell into his bed. Though she breathed the wild night seeping from their propped window, she did not steal away under the expectant moon, lest he notice the empty space beneath the blankets.

Her belly swelled like the moon that called to her. When her children shivered beneath their window, she closed the pane and only remembered the tonic night smell amidst the warm and sweet cloy of the nursery.

The moon waned. Her children grew, the man grayed. The chill of night air stabbed vengeful slivers of ice into her bones. When spared the timeworn chatter of husband and child, she slipped out into the yard and gazed beyond their little fence and smiled, feeling the cold and its deep ache.

Her wide hips shrunk again, the man could no longer grasp her hand, her children did not shiver beneath her window or call anymore. She looked up at the yellow moon.

It waited for her, casting the trees in white gold and cradled in the distant mountains. She breathed in the cold and it stole the warmth from her chest. With only one story left, she left into the night to wander in its dainty light.

Raw Rambles challenged me to write something to or inspired by Fleet Foxes “Blue Ridge Mountains”, which I happily posted above. 

A Brazen Charm

The wind was, like everything else in the city’s sprawl, artificial. It rushed up from the baked freeways to blister the hillside homes of the rich. There it rippled indigo pools before cutting itself on the jutting angles of glass and concrete.

Stepping from the car onto the drive, she looked up at the pale planes and grudgingly admitted there was a brazen charm to the monstrosity hanging off the brown hills. The car rolled away, leaving her and her men on the drive.

Upon entering the white walls, those men lost themselves in the glittering crowd. They would enjoy themselves among the other guests until needed. She could not disappear so easily.

A sea of bronze legs, vicious clavicles, and ombre hair parted for her. She told herself it was the confident cut of her chin, the jut of her shoulders, the pale planes of her face. That the contoured faces noted a brazen charm that came from being where one shouldn’t.

The angle of their plump lips said otherwise.

The host found by the sparkling pool, having abandoned the conditioned interiors for a view of the illuminated grids below. Like her, he did not seem to belong here. His clothes were his own, rough, practical, and fashionable only two hundred miles to the south. The ugly gun at his hip would quickly offend any West coast sensibility.

But this was his home, carved out in the hills to overlook a kingdom.

She dipped her head in greeting and complimented the appeal of his house. He waived away the compliment, explaining it brought pretty women. It was probably the truth, but also a courtesy to her presence as he delivered the line with a rogue’s smile.

He knows she is a newcomer. An unknown mostly, except that she seeks to carve out her own place. A place on the hills perhaps. He asks how she is finding the city so far.

She admits that she doesn’t and that in kind, the city does not seem to like her either. They look out at the glow of the valley together. She smiles at the darkening hillside and the lights stretching beneath them. She intends to grow on it though, and tells him so.

This week I challenged Raw Rambles to write something to or inspired by Disclosure’s Magnets, which features a personal favorite of mine, Lorde.  The above piece, and last weeks post on Raw Rambles, is the result. 

Sick Strange Darkness

She’d always resided behind his eyes. In the darkness floating above his bed, the space between his waking thoughts and the blurred abyss of sleep. Since his twelfth birthday, when his father had passed the binding to him, she’d found him in his dreams.

Now watching his own son turn fitfully beneath the bed covers, plagued perhaps by her warm sepia eyes, he turns away. “Come home.” Her voice hums deep inside his skull.

He’d thought to be free of her. He’d even thought himself clever. If the cursed cuff, that evil twist of metal, was her call, her beacon, surely it’s departure would free them? He’d pushed it over across that velvet table himself when the cards had spoken. Won by another in a poker game, he was done with the thing, with her.

That night she came to him as she’d never before. With hair like webs and skin that burned at its touch, he drowned that night in his sheets. Three days later he was able to wrest himself from the warm depths of her arms. He woke up to a brilliant morning in a hospital bed. The doctors did not understand, but his father, now old and white-eyed, did and would not speak to him.

He leaves his own son’s room and walks the hallways to keep her at bay. One by one they’ve succumbed to her. Half his house sleep. He no longer bears her alone, she spreads like the inky silk of her hair into everything.

He comes to his bedroom door. It is locked, barred from within so the bed cannot tempt him. It does. He is tired, every blink is a small fight to stay away from her warm black depths. “Come home.” She whispers, her breath against his cheek.

His sheets would be cool, unused and soft. She would be so very warm. He leans against the door as if he could fall through the wood and into the hazy depths of her realm.  “Come home,” says the voice inside his head. He closes his eyes.

Raw Rambles picked this amazing cover by PHOX for us to write to for the Music Challenge this week. See what she wrote with their rendition of “I Miss You” in mind here.