Intermission + Some Updates

Thursday, November 29 will be the debut of Act II of Masquerade with my new short story Swallow.

From here on out you can expect to see new short stories (~1,500-2,500 words) posted regularly on Thursdays unless stated otherwise, with perhaps some super-short flash fics/poems (>400 words) sprinkled around randomly. (I do looooooove flash fiction.)

I’m overjoyed to return to writing to say the least. I’ve written a good part of Swallow and it just feels like I’m back where I’m supposed to be, like I’ve been on vacation for a year and I’m finally back at home sleeping in my own bed.

That said, having this creative energy flow through me once again is just as terrifying as it is exciting; some poor fictional soul is going to die. Who’s is going to be? My bet’s on the butler.

See you Thursday. 😈

Stay Humble

A young girl clad in a frilly, pink dress skips down a dark alleyway. An immaculately sculpted ponytail hangs stiff from the back of her head, as if it was frozen in time – she wouldn’t have it fixed any differently. Ever since her daddy plastered her cute face on the bottle of every Avispray hair product, her personal stylist’s only order was to keep her looking fresh and beautiful, no matter the time. She even had to learn to sleep at a different angle to keep from crushing that trademarked pigtail.

Tonight, she was on her way to the annual Solstice Gala, a party she had to attend every year in accordance to her daddy’s terms; in exchange for anything she ever wants until the day she turns 18, she had to attend all of the company parties. She is the face of Avispray, after all.

The only problem was that she isn’t allowed to ride in any motorized vehicle. The static could ruin her hair, her daddy says. So, instead of being whisked to the Berga Event Center in a black limousine like her family was, she got an armed escort and they had to head to the party by foot.

“How many miles away is the gala?” she asks her escort, who is almost as young as she is.

“It won’t take us long, Lisa,” he says, digging his hands into the pockets of his black slacks. His fingers grazed the outline of a blade.

Lisa groans and stomps her pink wedge to the cobbled walkway. “This isn’t fair!” she yells. “I wish I never agreed to this; not even my diamond-encrusted stuffed unicorn is worth this torture! I’m freezing!”

“Here, have my jacket. I don’t need it anyway. And, my name’s Luc,” he mutters, throwing his black coat over Lisa’s bubblegum shawl. “Why are you going to this party, anyway? And why can’t you go in the car?”

“What, so you’re saying you don’t know?” Lisa smacks on a mouthful of grape gum, her teeth and tongue dyed purple.

Puzzled, Luc replies: “Don’t know what?” All he knew what that he was filling in for his brother, Max, who was busy making out with his girlfriend at home. Luc had only walked in to ask him to help him cut out a page of paper snowflakes when he tricked him into taking his shift. He told Luc that the rich people would be too focused on their own stupid problems to know they were leaving their daughter in the hands of an eight-year-old. And he was right.

“It’s my hair, duh.” She motions toward her shiny, blonde hair. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t have this hair, if it meant I could live a normal life. You wouldn’t know.”

Luc couldn’t see what the big deal was; to him, hair was hair – what people should pay attention to is a person’s personality. At least, that’s what he was always told. “Oh,” was all he could muster.

Lisa pulls her lips back with a wide, rehearsed smile and walks ahead. Her bright purple teeth nearly illuminate the alley. “Yeah. If it weren’t for my beautiful locks, daddy’s company would have never taken off. When it comes down to it, I’m the one making all the money. This stupid hair –”

Snip.

A long, thick clump of yellow hair falls to the ground, and Luc stands beaming. “Look! Now you can live a normal life! How about I take you on a detour and show you this really good candy shop my brother showed me?”

Luc didn’t know a little girl could make such a loud sound. Her scream brought him to his knees.

“WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE?” she wails, her hands desperately searching for the lock of missing hair, hoping it was all just a joke.

Luc stammers, “Woh…well, you were just telling me how t-t-t-terrible you felt because of your hair. I thought I could make it better for you.”

“Gimme those scissors!” Lisa snatches at Luc’s pockets. “You really wanna make everything better? I know of just the way,” she says, hissing through a menacing smirk.

Luc suddenly wishes he had stayed home; at least the paper snowflakes don’t throw a fit if he cuts off a little more than he planned.

Cookies

Janice loved to bake. Her favorite part was the breathlessness after the first wave of heat enveloped her senses. For a second, she could feel herself suffocating, and damn it felt good.

“You burned the goddamned cookies again, didn’t you?”

For a moment Janice considered leaving the macaroons in the oven for a few extra minutes, just to satisfy her insolent husband. “No, honey, they turned out just as they look on the box: fabulous.” Janice transferred the cookies to a green ceramic plate and sat it at the kitchen table. The steam flowing from the plate reminded her of that from a warm cup of cocoa on a wintry evening. “Come and see, Benjamin.”

“I don’t have to tell you that I worked twelve hours securing a single client at work today. I’m sore and I’m tired. Just bring the plate to me, Jan.”

Janice wanted so badly to sob and throw each of the cookies in the trash, but she flashed a smile and obeyed. She approached her master, trembling as she placed the platter in his lap.

Benjamin carefully inspected each of the macaroons, his beefy fingers tracing every last one. “Too much flour,” he muttered, tossing the dozen cookies on the floor. “Trash as usual. Try again – chocolate chip this time – and don’t you dare come back in here until you get it right.” He hacked a wad of tobacco and spat it in a clear Dixie cup. “Your grandmother told me before she died that she taught you everything she knew! I guess in addition to her being a stupid nigger she was also a liar!”

Janice remained calm, despite her insides rattling. “You’re right,” she confessed. “I didn’t put as much effort in that batch as I could have.” The woman quickly picked the cookies and crumbs from the floor and retreated to the kitchen.

“And don’t even give me that, ‘I’m tired,’ bullshit, because you’re not resting until you bake an immaculate batch of cookies – even if I have to eat them in the morning.”

Concealing her cries, Janice repeated the process her Grandmother Clarice taught her: first the sugar, add the butter, drop the eggs, then the extra fixings. With the oven already warm from the last batch, it didn’t take it long to heat up to a nifty 375.

As she was stirring the mix, she recalled the last advice her grandmother had given her. It was during the night of Janice and Benjamin’s wedding, before the ceremony. Janice was in the back getting prepared, having to redo her hair because Benjamin said it made her look too young. It didn’t take Grandmother Clarice long to realize her soon-to-be-grandson-in-law was a domineering prick.

“Janice, baby,” she said, her voice shaky and frail, “are you sure you want to go through with this?”

Janice hesitated. “Of course, Grandmother. Benjamin will provide for me more than any other man can. I believe I can be happy with him.”

“Darling, did I ever tell you the story of your late Grandfather Nicholas?” The old woman ushered Janice onto a chair.

“You said he was a great man.”

“Of course I did, babe. That’s what any good wife would recall of her husband, and in some aspects it’s true. He left me and your mother a large sum of money after his passing, and for that I am forever grateful.” The woman hacked into a handkerchief before continuing. “But he was a brute, a dog. I am a strong woman, so I sheltered through the first five years of snarky comments, but the second he laid a hand on me, it was over. And keep in mind this was many years ago, when women were expected to forgive and forget. So divorce was not an option.”

“Grandmother, what are you saying?”

The old lady placed a black vial in the bride’s hands, and whispered, “When the time is right and you feel there is no other option, slip this into his meal or a glass of wine. Consider this the best wedding gift you’ll ever get.

~~~~~

“I have a feeling you’ll really like this batch, honey!” Janice exclaimed, fetching her grandmother’s vile of poison from the back of the silverware drawer.

The arsenic dropped into the cookie mix like the devil’s tears – at first Janice added only three drops, but then she considered her husband’s weight and stubbornness, and she just emptied the damned thing. “I’m not taking any chances,” she whispered before shaping the dough and placing the pan in the oven.

After several minutes, the house filled with a sweet aroma – it reminded her of how Grandmother Clarice’s house used to smell.

“Smells good, Jan!” Benjamin flipped through a newspaper, chewing on a handful of Milk Duds. “It took a while, but I think you’re finally getting the hang of baking. Just don’t burn them now!”

Janice beamed, leaning on the refrigerator. “Oh, I learned from the best!”

The Cursed Traveler

The baby took its second first breath in a chamber of abhorrence. Chains and spikes adorned the walls around the newborn; cobwebs carpeted the cold, cobbled floor, while hissing obsidian serpents spiral ancient wooden rafters.

A ghastly woman wielding a curved dagger materialized before the child, her translucent, ashen skin shining inside a starry cloak. “You wretched beast, how dare you enter my realm!” She brought the blade to the baby’s soft throat. “And in the form of a defenseless newborn of all things!”

The baby spoke, “Who are you to call me a beast? You know not who I am!”

“Borias sent you, thinking that I’ll ignorantly let my guard down, just because you wear the face of my precious Gale.” The ghoul roared, revealing a mouth full of broken knives and razors submerged in caustic bile. “When you see him again, let him know he’ll have to do much better if he wishes to claim the Land of Belligerence.”

“I know nothing of Borias. My name is Adolf Hitler, and the King cursed me to live eternity in this form, speaking the language of one of my greatest enemies! Apparently he did not enjoy my hiding food rations in a secret attic.”

“Adolf Hitler, eh?”

“Indeed! The Adolf Hitler! Surely, you have heard of my triumph, no?”

“Let me tell you what I have heard: you’re nothing but a worthless shrew. Even in Hell surrounded by the fiercest souls, you continue to believe you were anything but a pathetic mortal. The truth is that humanity is nothing but a byproduct of failure.” She cleared her throat and plopped down next to baby Adolf. “You see, the pure souls – successes in the Creator’s everlasting experiment – are reborn under the guidance of the King. Failures are cast down to the lowest realm, Earth, as human beings, who ignorantly sacrifice most of their short lives worshiping a fictional, omniscient figure. Then, after they die, they return to us as slaves. And that light they claim exists – Heaven, they call it – was an idea the King provided the failures in the form of scripture. The only real light that exists comes from the torches that line these cobbled halls, my dear.”

Adolf crawled away from the ghost, black shit dripping down his leg. “You’re lying! The real success is the Aryan race, which I am confident rules Earth now. Only the ones made in God’s image are destined for greatness!” He stopped to pick the shit out of his ass. “And, God, my friend, is white.”

Scoffing, the ghost brought the dagger down on the infant Adolf’s neck, decapitating the menace. “Damn, you had more shit coming out of your mouth. Go be someone else’s problem.”

After his execution in the Land of Belligerence, the soul of Adolf Hitler appeared in the body of a dark-haired, brown-eyed toddler in the Realm of Reflection, where he was introduced to an entirely unique form of punishment.

Size Issues In the Pursuit of Love

Baker Deason approached the woman, his face was buttermelt under his huge nose and tall forehead. He rehearsed the conversation at least a dozen times, but his hands still were sweat faucets. His upper lip twitched a little. “I have something to tell you, Mera,” he stammered.

The love of Baker’s life stood at only three and a half feet, three and a quarter barefoot. Growing up, she was called the Silver Mop of Mayfield, and the average-sized boys would dip her long, ashen hair in a bucket of soap and those gray curls would clean the sticky auditorium linoleum. She only changed clothes on Sundays, and she smelled of sulfur and baked potatoes, but Baker found the little troll irresistible. “Baker!” She squeaked. “What’s on your mind?” Her golden teeth shined behind strawberry lips.

“Well, you remember how I told you I really like you?” Baker winced at the awkward inquiry, but embarrassedly he moved on. “Well, there’s something you have to know about me.”

“You’re an alcoholic,” Mera replied matter-of-factly.

“What? No-”

“You’re gay.”

Baker shook his head.

“You’re a wanted criminal, responsible for the deaths of your sister Sarah-Beth and father.” Then, after a bout of uncomfortable silence: “Hey, it happens.”

The words didn’t want to leave Baker’s mouth, but they accompanied chunks of last night’s Chicken Marsala dinner. “I’m a werewolf.”

“Seriously?”

Suddenly it all came out like blood from a stuck pig. “Only partially – if I wasn’t an incest baby I would have received the full-fledged wolf gene. One part of me is wolf, and since I’m a fucked up werewolf, it’s permanent – it doesn’t simply turn under a full moon like my parents. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

Mera gave the outed wolf a sympathetic pat. “You realize you’re talking to the Silver Mop of Mayfield, right? Trust me, Baker, yourembarrassing is my usual. So what is it? A cute doggy tail?” She squeezed his ass.

Baker’s face burned, his back was soaked with perspiration. “It’s my…,” he blinked, “private part.”

Ripping the bandage off, Mera muttered, “You’ve got a dog penis?”

“I hope it doesn’t change the way you feel about me. I love you, Mera.” Baker’s eyes sparkled. Sure, he was no stud like the class president, Rafa, was, but if he could accept Mera’s flaws, surely she would reciprocate.

To his dismay, the troll woman snapped a finger and turned away, her hair slapping Baker’s knee. “No fucking way, Baker. That shit is just too much for me. What do you think I am? A carnival of crazy?” Her voice carried as she walked away. “God, why am I such a magnet for weirdos?”

Rinse and Repeat

Pulsing surges of virulent passion clinch my soul. My body swells with sparkling foam, overwhelming my senses with jubilation and fervor. I can’t keep from groaning as my eyes roll back as the sensation causes every inch of my being to quiver. Places on my body to which I never have given a second thought tremble under the control of an erotic carnival ride.

Suddenly, images of my husband return to me. Memories of our blind date and my thoughts of love at first sight invade my head like a cynical film strip. Every second is another image, illustrating the security and compassion I felt every time he wrapped his strong arms around me. The warped picture show concludes with a flash of me collapsing at his funeral.

The carousel of recollection ends with a final DING. A pair of familiar misty gray eyes peer back at me, and suddenly the crying returns. Before he left my side, he blessed me with his spitting image in the form of a son. I can’t face the little guy without falling to the floor with regret and sorrow, but he needs his mommy. Only, mommy needs a few more days to lament before she loses her mind and does something she’ll regret.

With that in mind I rotate the knob and press start, restarting the washing cycle. I figure one more round before dinner won’t hurt.