Too Poor, Too Proud

Ollie wandered past the windows of Arcagen square. As usual, the people behind the glass watched her pass before returning to their rotating mandalas and bundled herbs. Ollie kept walking, both too poor and too proud to do anything about the open unfriendly stares.

The evening air was dense with dust kicked up by horses and wagons. Merchants hollered at each other, all trying to get inside the trade hub before the gate closed for the night. Those condemned by the setting sun were shut out, denied the stiff drinks, hearty meals, and smiling company promised in the square’s taverns.

Unlike everyone trying to get in, Ollie watched the gate and the distant black hills hungrily. If her plans went belly, she didn’t want a contingent of holier-than-thous knowing who to chase. So, she waited, watching the flow of outsiders into her dusty haunt and occasionally flirting with a shiny something in a window.

Opportunity came quickly when a wagon wheel hit a bad spot and cracked, pitching its contents to the side. Knowing she couldn’t contrive anything better, Ollie stepped into the surge of the street as chaos ensued around the fallen wagon. Not ten minutes after, she was out on the wastes with the desert night burning her nose. The hills beckoned. Her fortune lay out there, just beyond the abandoned railroad in the pitch. Ollie promised herself that once she got back, they’d prudently keep their unfriendly stares to her back.

I am terribly late, but I wrote to Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie’s Wordle Prompt. 


Straight Shot Lines

Straight shot lines in the sand, this was her highway.  Heat pressed against the closed car windows, it radiated against her arm propped up on the steering wheel. She twisted her elbow towards the air vent for respite.

This was a nice car. Air that worked, leather seats she’d have to peel herself painfully from when she stopped for gas. She’d tossed her sandals on the floor instead of the seat to preserve the upholstery. This ride was nicer than a lot of cars she’d driven down the cooked black pavement. She flicked a nail against the paneling above the console. The strike made a deep true sound and she smiled with teeth.

Only campers and semis in the rearview so she settled back against the seat. Another hour until state line.  Maybe three more and she’d say goodbye to this bit of luxury, trading it in for a sun-peeled sedan and a large stack of bills.

She checked her phone in the passenger’s seat and set the radio on scan. With the stations frantically searching for something between the static, she set eyes on her highway and pressed a barefoot to the gas pedal.

This week’s Music Challenge was brought to you by L.A. Witches’ Drive Your Car. I challenged Raw Rambles to write something to or inspired by this song, see what she did here. 

A Personal Touch

She lit the flare, and fire danced off the carved dome of the temple. Statues in alcoves hoarded shadows behind them. The empty annex was hollow and quiet.

Sari followed the line of shuffled sand to one of the alcoves. There the pitted statue looked down on her as she inspected the wall behind it. No body, not even a little blood shone in the neon firelight. Sari sighed.

The traps dealt with tourists too arrogant to heed signs. Sari and the other temple guards hauled their bodies into the desert when they found the foreigners crushed, poisoned, and impaled having tried to get into the temple’s lower levels. Sari frowned and checked the mechanism hidden in the wall. Oil coated the stone joint, shining in the flare’s light.

Graverobbers were a different breed. They brought picks, solvents, and hammers. They learned the temple script and traced old histories to map these ancient sacred spots. They looted and stole, selling what they didn’t want to distant museums. Sari had seen them, sterile places which charged her people to view their own possessions.

Sari placed a hand against the right carvings, careful to avoid the plate that would send spikes through her body. The etchings dug into her palm as she applied pressure.

The mechanism snapped. Sari checked her looped hood before standing and turning back to the statue. The stone groaned, only a little sand shifted as the statue slid to reveal a descending staircase. Sari rested her fingers against the hilt of her sword as she descended into the dark. The traps took care of the tourists, graverobbers required a personal touch.

Some thieves are more welcome than others. This week I stole Kit’s first line as part of the Legal Theft Project, where you can see the other thefts. 


Summer Shade

The placid water of the bay looked like pitch beneath the railing of her ship.

Mar could not love her home as she’d been raised to. So, she’d left to seek dark sands. The trip took months between the burning of bridges and the intricate preparations for her arrival here. Now, as the rest of the crew shivered when the desert coast’s wind bloomed in their sails, Mar kept warm by the crude fury in her chest and the ring turned over and over between her fingers.

Mar remembered taking her hand and how the silver had looked curved against her dark summery skin. The ring had faded, but the skin had flushed. All Mar remembered then was the kiss, always a bit sharp, but she had truly never minded that.  They’d talked then, and before, of the places they’d come from. Of endless dunes and bright night-markets, of pink dawns and white clouds.

After they spoke of what they would do. How they’d survive and in turn, help others do the same. How eventually, they would thrive. Mar had been optimistic, her less so, but they’d always suited each other that way.

Mar swallowed and stared over the water. She did not banish the memories, though a part of her begged to. From the deck of the ship, she watched the dunes turn silver in the moonlight for the first time. It looked exactly as it’d been described all those idealistic years ago, so beautiful it made her heart ache.

This week’s piece was written to Frank Ocean’s Pink+White. I challenged Raw Rambles to do the same. Check out her fiction blog here. 

Outside the City

Afternoon thunderstorms brought clear evenings. The summer air cooled and became hospitable if you were willing to risk the mosquitoes. Unlike the rest of the household, Lane wasn’t, and waited for night to fall completely before opening her window and creeping out onto the roof.

The ranch house was two stories with the bedrooms all set in the upstairs. Her’s overlooked the dirt road leading up to the front of the house. Lane considered the overhanging roof her personal porch, accessible only by twisting out the window and onto the angled shingles.

She glanced at her phone and leaned forward down the roof to check the drive. The truck was still missing and Cole had vanished into a friend’s mini-van an hour past curfew.  He was lucky his parents were already out,  Lane had heard the teenage hooting from outside all the way up in her room.

Confident she was alone to spend her Friday night as she pleased, Lane settled on her back and cradled her head against a skinny arm to watch the stars. It was the only good thing about her new foster placement. This far out of the city, she could see every speck of light in the midnight sky.

Lane didn’t know the constellations, so she just traced them with her eyes, and debated learning them. It probably wasn’t worth it. Her next placement might be back in the city.

Uncounted minutes or hours later, Lane jumped a little at the crunch of gravel and dirt under robust tires. She didn’t straighten or scamper back inside. Without streetlamps, she would only be spotted against the yellow backdrop of her window. Instead, Lane stayed down. If she turned her head she could see her foster parent’s truck down the slope of the roof.

Below Lane, Hannah stopped the engine and stepped out the driver’s side. The older woman was sure-footed on wedge heels and held her sweater balled in a hand.  Wyatt came around the front, trailing his fingers over the truck’s hood. He wrapped an arm around his wife’s waist and leaned in. Hannah’s giggle was cut off by the kiss.

The two stayed that way, swaying back and forth until one broke and leaned back an inch.  Lane could hear the sleepy smile in Wyatt’s voice, “You look wonderful tonight.”

Hannah answered him with another long kiss before the two strolled, leaning on each other, up the porch steps.

Lane waited until she heard the front door click to breathe out a tight sigh. She’d known there was something weird about this family. Couples only acted like when they had an audience.

Whatever she’d just encountered,  it was outside her experience. Shaken, and slightly ashamed she’d witnessed what was meant to be private, Lane took one more look at the stars and went to fold herself back through the window.

For this week’s music challenge  Raw Rambles set me to writing something to, or inspired by, Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. Above is the result.  See what she did here.

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. 

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.