The Loop

I almost lost the trail. Here it is, a bit of pink thread, the right shade for the child’s skirt on a tangle of rusted junk. The sun threatens to set, warm light giving a soft glow to the glitters of glass along the sides of the alley. Which way?

The old man returns, stepping out from the shadows. I suddenly smell old paper and hear something rustling. The stern lines on his face are softer, looking oddly gentle. Tired, maybe.

“I’m close, I can feel it.” I say.
He looks down the alley, glancing over his shoulder at the decrepit house with the creaking swing set, then back ahead of himself, his eyes resting on a bus stop’s advertisement, some hotline number for those in crisis. “You need to know where to go.”

“We’ll find her. She went one way or the other, she wouldn’t have had a lot of time before dawn to get to her mama.”

Pa smiled softly, “Well, when you find it, it will feel like you’ve been there before.” He’s gone again. He seems to be fading. Doesn’t seem to make as much sense as he used to. Unless he means that’s part of their magic he told me about. That charming thing they do.

I look at the old swing set. I bet the little leech used to play on that. I step carefully through the cut fence. I can feel them. This place hums with suck, a sickly aura that saps you right down.

I look through the little broken window on the door, down a hall stained dark and trashed by squatters. For a second, I hear a woman screaming, and have a flash, a weird impression of a beautiful woman standing in the middle of the hallway, a child hiding in the corner behind her, the woman holding a baseball bat, her face distorted with rage and hatred. Must be haunted.

I enter the hall, start looking around for places you might be able to hide from the sun. Basement seems too obvious a choice to really be safe, but I’m not so sure these things run on a fully working brain. They seem kind of like animals, might be working on instinct alone, brain trashed when they stop being human. Steps are probably in the kitchen.

Kitchen seems familiar. Did I dream of this tile? That’s right. The old man told me. The right place will feel like deja-vous. I pull out my Maglite and start down the stairs. There they are. Two piles of freshly turned earth. Just like I knew there would be. I grab my stake, and head toward the shallow grave of the bitch monster who killed my wife and daughter, the one I will kill or die trying.

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P.S. – This story is a repost, because this week I’ve got my hands full. Remember when my dog passed a couple of months ago? Well, we’ve been worried that Bear, the remaining dog, would be lonely without his wife, so we got him a child bride.

Lacy

Her name is Lacy, she’s five months old, and she likes me best. I found out later that’s partly because Joe the dog lover hung back for a couple of days to make sure she bonded with me over him, because Bear and Isabelle were his babies even before he met me. So his birthday is today, and for it he got me a puppy.

So, right now there is more learning about dog training going on then writing, but it was nice to re-post this. I have dreams that someday, someone will ask just the right question about this story.

Stolen Apples

He tells me sometimes, it seems a little like fishing. Selecting the right bait for the kind of fish you want, making sure the environment is non-threatening, pretending to be harmless and appetizing until the hook has already taken hold.

He says it usually feels like tending an orchard, though. Fertilizing the land with lies, the light of his charm and attentions encouraging his grove of admirers to blush and flower. He thought his fruits watered themselves with their own tears while he plucked their heartstrings, speaking to them of love and loneliness, making them feel understood, securing their sympathies with stories of a troubled life.

Not all apples are the same. Some are soft, crumbling across your tongue, their flavor more like mealy sugar water than apple. Some are hard and tart, stinging the tips of the teeth, puckering the mouth to thirst. The best are crisp enough to echo in your ears as you bite, but still give way with a gentle tug. Borne of the blooms of summer, touched by the exciting humming of bees. Young enough to be firm, old enough to be ripe. Juices that stick to your fingers, sweet, heady, earthly; a flavor no candy can ever replicate.

It’s a skill, but not an overly difficult one. Lately, he has found that hosting a podcast gets good results. He writes a character who will do the podcast, gives them a romantic air. A sense of mystery, a sense of humor, and a deep sense of empathy. Teenage girls love a lonely, moody sort of guy. He creates a role and plays it online, gathering an audience tailored to what he’s trying to find.

He drops a few hints of a tragic backstory, then backs a local charity event to show what a great guy he is, so deserving of their compassion. Shows up to the event doing volunteer work, gets approached by girls who just must come meet him in person to tell him how much they understand what he’s going through, to give him their sympathetic ear in the hopes he might hold their hand, mistaking dangerous over-sharing for bonding with someone who truly understands them, needs them as much as they need him.

For the public appearance, he’s found he gets better results with big, sappy eyes. He uses just a bit of dark shadow, a neutral tone only a shade darker than his skin for a sunken look. Only a little brown eyeliner, not black. Don’t overdo it. Make the depression look real, not like a kid playing in mommy’s makeup. “What follows is easy,” He tells me. “Like picking the brightest apple from the tree.”

When her family hears he is a freshman in college (or so he has said for the last decade), doors in her house start slamming. He can provoke a family fight, wait outside and listen for the evidence of her locking herself in her room. The passions of a teenage girl run wild. While her anger is hot, he can approach her window with the promise of escape.

They often resist taking his hand and running off into the night, that first time. He does not worry. He usually has a few girls he can rotate through, driving greater and greater rifts between them and their families. Eventually, one or the other is ready to cut her ties. His efforts cover his tracks, make her disappearance seem logical, something the police don’t question too deeply. By the time he moves on, sometimes he’s harvested three or four. Even then, often a cop never realizes a mother’s panic and fury might hold truth after all.

He doesn’t kill them. If he did that, he would never get the chance to watch them, savoring each stage as they wither. It starts with the first crash of horror, a slight bending of her knees, a reflex as panic comes in. The primal parts of her nature freeze her in posture for flight, her darting eyes hungering for escape even before she understands fully what the danger is. Then, panic fights her dawning truth. The widening of her mouth, the sudden sharp breath as she realizes her lover is offering her as a gift to his father, and she will not be allowed to return home; these moments arouse him.

Then their fear and revulsion, when he forces them to know the glittering world they were born into does not exist, is illusion, that is his favorite part of it all, this spectacular moment when their hearts break and the terror begins.

Their journey doesn’t take as long as he wishes it would. When his father invites over friends and she understands she will be shared with others, her struggles making them laugh or become aroused, he cheers inside. When she starts to ask for the drugs used to keep her subdued, he enjoys pushing the limits of what she is willing to put up with to get more. He smiles as he says he especially loves when they realize how fast they are falling.

Eventually, they learn why some women do the things they do so willingly, why they put up with so much. Because hope is nothing more than an illusion, and he mocks them for ever believing otherwise. When this happens, he is done with them, their education is complete. He sells them, and his “father” and he move on to a new town, to find new toys to play with.

P.S. – This story became my first artsy type attempt at film.

Fireflies

As this week progressed, I started off with another film project, intending to finish the week by returning to writing. Unfortunately, a bad fibromyalgia flareup hit, and I’m not even going to sit up long enough to make this a proper post. It’s been days. I’ve been resisting the urge to whine, only to cry about pain in my dreams.

So, here’s the substandard home movie I whipped together to for my daughter, designed to catch her interest and then lull her into a relaxed state. I really need to keep looking for editing software, and work on those night filming skills, at times it looks like it’s about 3 pixels but what can I say? I’m a spoiled housewife, this is a hobby.

Also, I shared a gif on twitter that was popular, so you can have that too.

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And I did a clip of just firefly butts wiggling for amusement.

There will be writing again. For now I’m going to go hide under a blanket while my teenager watches the toddler.

P.S. – There’s a nature preserve nearby. I thought it was an hour’s walk, but recently found an entrance only a 10 minute walk away. It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. It’s so close. And I can’t even walk up the stairs.

This Week Has Been Visual

This week, I played with video footage. I’d say it was a distraction from my writing, and it’s true that not much writing has gotten done, but multimedia writing is all the rage lately with this internet thing, so naturally I have plans for some of my video.

Last weekend, my daughter turned three, and she lucked out because we live near the beach now, and there was a carnival on the boardwalk nearby. So, she got a toddler-friendly video with extra saturation. It was a hit, she laughs at footage of the rides, and that’s satisfying because Joe was getting a little frustrated at the time I spent pointing the camera at “boring stuff”.

But I am I, and being thusly so, I enjoy looking at the world a little differently.

I so don’t mind giving music credit above that spaceship. Anyway, I call this “working” and justify it with the vague passing idea I had for a carnival-themed story collection, and this is “inspiration”. Now you will have to excuse me because I have untouched beach footage to “work” with. But I shall leave you with a parting gift.

 

 

 

Alone In The City

So hard to find a neighborhood this cute and sweet, a home so warm and loving. She would fill it with the scent of rising bread soon. She set the box of grandma’s jelly glasses on the counter, dropped off by Mom to replace the disposable plastic cups she kept washing and reusing, though they warped in the ancient dishwasher.

She went to the silverware drawer for a knife to slash the packing tape when she noticed the cabinet. Well now, why did Mom put the cast iron in the pantry, when she stores it in the cabinet under the silverware at home?

She opened the doors, wincing at a waft of must from soggy boxes that seemed to have soaked up many leaks over the years, corners caked with unidentifiable paper glued to the paint with age. Something that was maybe the remains of old rat’s nests, swept out but never scrubbed, the muck allowed to go wild, creeping slowly across the walls.

How had they missed this? Her parents and brothers had all pitched in when she moved, including following her mother’s demand they scrub the home from top to bottom before unloading the truck. She herself had gone over each room when unpacking and reorganizing several times. She’s been here two months. How had she not seen this?

Her discomfort at her lack of attention passed. She simply rolled up her sleeves, and started scrubbing. Sticky rubber clung to the hairs on her arm, sweat leaked into her eye, peroxide sizzled her worries away, and she forgot about it.

It was months before baking passed through her mind again. She almost remembered the desire to fill her home with the scent of baked goods had passed through her mind before. She cleared a spot out in her pantry and filled it with flour, sugar, packets of flash dried yeast. Pastry spices as well, the cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla that grace the cabinets of every truly loved home.

She never remembered that she had done this as well, had unpacked everything before opening her mother’s delivered heirloom glasses, right before she found the cabinet, just after the thing skittered from one side of the kitchen to the other. The scent of spices was so pleasing after the scent of mold so long, it could not resist.

The kitchen served many young lives in the heart of that city. Lives that soon distorted, fell apart, their hopes faltering and growing weaker, while the shadows in the home grew stronger. Lives soon shrouded in isolation and growing instability as they fail to cope with growing pressures. Eventually, foreclosure came to them as well, keeping the price down so that another young life could afford it. Young lives are drawn to the warm, comfortable home like moths, a haven so cute and sweet in the cold and unforgiving city.

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