The Souvenir

“Supposedly, Janice Marie Rodgers, age 17, knew nothing of the legend surrounding the item she found when she entered the house. Neighbors saw her walk directly into the home through the unlocked front door, and she was only inside for a minute before she walked back out and continued on her way.

As was previously reported, there is no forensic evidence tying her to any activity within the house other than the trail of footprints she left as she walked directly to the display cabinet, and there is evidence that she removed a single figurine before turning around and walking out again. There is no evidence tying her to any of the murders in that home, or to the previous tragedies. All evidence corroborates with Baker’s confession, and he claims to have no knowledge of Rodgers.

It is unlikely that a teenager from a neighboring town with no social ties to any of those involved would have walked directly into a murder scene and have been so unaffected. Currently, investigators believe that Miss Rodgers may already have been on the brink of violence, and her happening upon the scene was coincidental, though likely to have motivated her final psychotic break.

Exactly how the figurine reached Colin David Brand is not known, but it was not found on or near the body of Miss Rodgers. When police raided his hotel room, it was seen as the focal point of an altar Brand decorated with belongings from his victims, but while police were still in the room, the figurine seems to have vanished. Brand’s whereabouts are still unknown.”

Excerpt from The Liffey Chronicle, May 18, 1992

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Twitter #GrimList2019 prompt: cursed object.

Monsters

He makes her forget when she looks into his eyes. No more dusty echos of terrors skittering around her head. Doesn’t feel crazy when she’s with him, he makes it feel right.

It’s nothing but a little dance when she’s with him, spinning and preening for his affections, sliding her hips a little more, breathing a little deeper, watching the world go soft as his smile lights up her heart. It all turned out easier than she thought it would, she wasn’t horrified after all. They don’t seem like little cherubs then, just little gifts to give him for his amusement, something to whet his appetites.

Oh, those appetites. He can give her what no other can; gentle lips and soft hands soothing the rage, making her hatred sing with adoration of his hands, his lulling poetry, his compassionate patience with her fears. No other lover is willing to test her limits, no one else knows how to set her free. No one else understands what it takes to become more than human, to rise above the chains they tie to you, to learn to enjoy sliding next to darkness, skin to skin, the scent of blood as heady as the scent of sweat and fear.

Without him, she is trapped inside her own dark chains. Without him she knows the nature of Hell. She does not worry what awaits her when they are caught. She knows he will not be near forever, she has but moments of pleasure to enjoy while she can. It is her time to live in the light, to proudly step from the shadows and stand by his side, letting the sun shine on her monster within.

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Twitter #GrimList2019 prompt: monsters.

Sacrifice

Once, as she looked upon him, her blue eyes would darken with love as they snuggled, and she would smile at nothing while she stroked his hair. She was happy that he would keep her company while she binge watched her shows, though they both knew they didn’t interest him much.

That’s how he proved his love to her, with little gifts of compassion, conceding to her desires and fulfilling his promise to take care of her. Yes, it helped keep her near him so he might take care of his needs, but it became more than that. He had become quite fond of her.

He stroked her hair, alive with trembles reflecting the light, her eyes bright and sparkling, she seemed to glow. It was a shame he had to betray her. He knew she would never accept that he always loved her laugh, he admired her perspectives on literature, he considered her to be strong and capable and beautiful. Of course he truly loved her. It is not sacrifice without love.

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GrimList2019 prompt: sacrifice.

Grim’s List Seems An Awesome Idea

I saw a beautiful tweet today. It seems my writing hiatus is ending.

 

Periwinkle Blue

The scream of a blue jay broke through the shadow of the trees, a war cry as it battled a squirrel in the yard she pushed her daughter by. She paused to dab at her forehead with a silk scarf while her toddler cooed at the squirrel. She enjoyed this street, with its trees so old they cracked the sidewalks, sheltering the stately homes that carved out a well-manicured niche from the old-growth forest.

Periwinkles tumbled down the lawn to kiss the base of the towering tree the squirrel skittered up for safety. Sweet little flowers the color of the dress she wore, that woman he introduced her to at the party. She couldn’t remember her name. She looked so much like the woman on the news, the one that went missing.

She dismissed the thought. Her child thought the billowing white flowers were popcorn. She smiled at the thought of telling him when he came home, it was cute enough that maybe he would listen. Where would she be without him? Could she be without him? Could she do that to their daughter?

A flash of light on fluttering leaves startled her. She was embarrassed at how high she jumped. The leaves were pretty though, flitting in and out of the light. They reached the park, she hadn’t noticed. The clang of the iron gate reminded her of prison bars, but it would keep her child safe while she relaxed.

She sat on the fading bench and browsed her phone, looking for a podcast to enjoy. She tried one of her favorites, always good for distraction. A few minutes into it, she closed it. She tried reading earlier, she already knew she couldn’t focus on a plot. She decided to watch the birds.

The birds are in usually in pairs this time of year. Male birds preening and dancing, showing all their flash and none of their substance, female birds in awe of their skills and flattered with their attention, to be later disappointed when they find themselves chained to the nest.

A tiny white pebble caught her eye, reminding her of the tooth she found wedged between the boards on the porch this morning. She decided to push her daughter on the swing. Maybe the laughter of children would give her the peace she needed.

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Tarot deck: Archeon. Tarot Prompt: Queen of Pentacles, reversed.
Interpretation: A sensual woman, gentle but strong. She loves beauty, pleasure, walk is in the light of prosperity with dignity and grace. A patient, compassionate listener.
Reversed: Falling into despair. Sharp, cutting, regret. Guilt, trapped in past misdeeds, bad choices, falling. Rather than a wealth of joys, narrowed in focus to a singular intrusive thought.

389 words. More tarot stories.

P.S. – Another repost, but things are smoothing out around here some and I should be able to write again soon.

Savor

Horseradish. That would be perfect, just enough to give the other flavors a bit more punch. Usually she prefers pork seasonings, but the occasional hint of something good with red meat helps bring out the earthier tones of the dish.

Grandma would disapprove of such additions to her recipes, designed to be simple and enhance the natural flavor. Unfortunately, the difficulty of the hunt lately made it so that meat was rare, every effort must me made to maximize enjoyment. The prey were learning to protect themselves much better than they did in Grandma’s day.

She hummed as she worked, slicing turnips while a thigh soaked in the marinade. So many people undervalued a good roasted turnip. The flavor was so strong when raw, you would never expect it to turn so savory and mellow.

The repetitive task allowed her mind to wander, and she considered the satisfying catch and kill behind her. This one had been taken in his sleep, always better for the meat. She didn’t know why horror movies and the like talked about fear enhancing the flavor of meat, in her experience it made it taste a little off. This one never saw a thing coming, he was nice and cozy in his sleeping bag.

The park rangers are cracking down like wildfire, but they don’t know how to track something like her. They look for their trails on the ground, not in the trees. They would be aware, and so would the campers, but there will always be one or two that consider themselves to be safe enough to stray.

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Zombie Tarot Prompt: Ten of Cups. More tarot stories.

P.S. – The repost feast continues.

Enchanted

I couldn’t sleep with the need to see you, so I have come. You’ve held me captive from the moment we met, my mind is a prison dancing with your image, your song, your laugh. My thoughts know nothing else.

You are an artist in your seduction, flirting and flickering around me. Preening, then darting off coyly. You trap me with your enchantment, like a nymph, a will-o-the-wisp.

You gaze at me gently, your skin pales as your love trickles from your fingers in delicate lacework of red, pools at your feet that shiver with every drip, every tiny giggling plink.

Your graceful fingers reach out to touch me, then shy away, beckoning and flirting, the smile glimmering in your eyes as you pout and pretend to be upset, candlelight shining from your manacles like the brightest gems.

But soon you give way to me, relaxing against me in our embrace, weak to your desire. Your hips sway to the rhythm of your chains across the concrete, your movements rich with your love of turning all the world into a song as we dance together in this prison I have come to love.

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Archeon Tarot Prompt: 9 of Swords. 196 words. More tarot stories.

P.S. – So we moved back to Tulsa (sigh), and discovered our “house sitters” left us with massive projects like dealing with where they moved a washer with water in it to slowly leak all over my daughter’s bedroom floor the entire time we were gone. Yes, there is mold. This is only one example. My point: looks like I’ll be busy with repairs over writing, the reposts will go on for a bit.

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.

The Barbecue

“Yoohoo!” A flash from the corner of the yard was the orange and yellow sun-dresses of the Bunting sisters, competing with the flowers for brightness and color. May had her hair in a crimped halo around her head, and bright geometric shapes on her accessories, looking like she walked off of MTV. Maggie looked a little more tasteful, but her bright colors still clashed for attention against the subdued, neutral tones of Betty’s guests.

Party crashers. Time to show what she’s made of. The pair of them might be gaudy, but who better to spread word-of-mouth than gossips? If she couldn’t make it on her own soon, maybe she could resort to catering neighborhood parties. She grabbed two flutes of champagne and headed over. “I’m so glad you decided to join us.”

“How kind of you, but we prefer not to be associated with scandal.” Scandal? This was a business launch, not a drunken frat party. The sisters smiled at her confusion.

A sudden metallic screech squirmed up her spine. She turned to see a woman sauntering alongside her shiny new catering van, a woman who idolized Madonna, in a black corset with a lace skirt, with her hair styled like Marilyn Monroe and holding a riding crop. Betty was so astonished, it took her a minute to realize that noise was the woman dragging a key in looping spirals across her van’s new logo. All chatter stopped as the guests held their breath.

The woman strode into her lawn, greeted by the roses as they sighed the last of their withering scent into the heat. She walked to a tray of barbecue themed appetizers. Weenies skewered with festive toothpicks were carefully arranged on an ebony tray garnished with swirls of condiments patterned like fireworks. She ran a lazy finger through the designs, smearing them. While while the well-mannered crowd watched in amazement, she sensually sucked her finger clean.

“What are you doing?” Betty’s voice was loud and frantic, her heels grabbed at the lawn and threatened to sprain her ankle as she rushed toward the invader.

The woman held her head high, and her walk was straight, but her breath smelled of brandy and there was a lazy swagger to her pace. “Oh, I see you’re having a party. How fun. I’m just here to talk to my boyfriend.”

For a moment Betty felt like a mannequin, frozen in a pose that was a parody of relaxation, stiff limbed with a strained smile. “I’m afraid you have the wrong house. The man who lives here is my husband, and all of my guests have families.”

“Yes, your husband, my boyfriend. That one.” She smiled, the shade of a nearby tree showering her with flashes of sunlight, the contrast between light and shadow across her face was nauseating, dizzying. “You do know, right? I know they knew.” The horrible woman pointed to the sisters, now doubling over with laughter.

They knew? Oh. They were gossips. But about her? But they knew? What this woman was claiming? They knew this was true, and they hid it from her? Their families had lived next door to each other through two generations, they grew up together. She flashed cold and weak, her focus and clarity fading in and out, as she struggled to understand the implications of what was going on.

“They didn’t tell you? I’m so sorry. I thought people liked you. I mean, how can you start a party business if people don’t like you?” Maggie and May finger-waved at her together while the horrible woman sneered. Betty knows this has to do with her son. This must be about her son, they were always out to get him, so spiteful to a child. Horrible people. Where is he? Was he seeing all this?

Her eyes scanned the small crowd, she felt herself blush at the expression on her guests’ faces. She saw a small figure dart from behind the bushes by the front of the house into the cargo door of the van. Was that David? What was he doing?

The music video reject in front of her tapped her whip against her thigh playfully. “Such a shame you don’t know how to show love to your family properly. If you can’t keep a hold of your man, I’m here to take care of him for you. He can come with me, and won’t be your problem anymore.”

It hurts, but still sounds like she could be talking about a different family. And she’s nuts anyway, calling herself a good better person while she’s crashing a party holding a whip. Maybe that’s why the sisters were laughing. There was no way Jim was into this woman and her drama. Where was Jim? He would clear this up.

He’s right where he’s supposed to be, tending the grill, one hand absently holding a pair of tongs with a hot dog grabbed between them, another holding an open bun, his mouth agape. She starts walking toward him. Behind her she heard the van start up, and she turned toward the sound to find it moving, her son at the wheel, his eyes wide in delight and his mouth open in laughter she could see but not hear, crashing through her roses, the appetizers, and the bizarre woman herself, her body bouncing from impact, only to fall under the still moving wheels, her hairdo frozen into place as a growing pool of crimson spilled beneath her.

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P.S. – So that a weekly post won’t distract me from my current focus, this is an excerpt from a larger project. Probably a flash novella. It was inspired by my first reading with my nifty new Housewives’ Tarot, using a spread that came in the booklet.

And with that, I’m a little bored of constraining my characters to tarot archetypes. After this project I’ll allow more sources of inspiration, though naturally I’ll still play with my decks occasionally.

Janice and Claire in the Garden: Knight of Swords

In the sunshine of the patio, they perched on white ironwork chairs, sturdy creatures forged in a pattern to imitate delicate lace. “I assure you, you’ve never had a treat like my cheese puff surprise. Lofty, and oh so sweetly sharp.” Janice beamed as she served her guest a tiny plate.

Claire accepted with a polite smile. She took a couple of delicate bites while making humble mumbles as she wondered how to phrase a comment that didn’t declare them too salty. “These seem like they have quite a bit of um, liquid smoke?”

“Yes,” Janice smiled and leaned on the table, slowly resting her chin on an elegantly poised hand, quietly crossing her ankles before continuing, “I used a heavy hand to cover the taste of the crab, but I rather like the smoldering edge it lends, like revenge served before it goes stale.”

Claire dropped her fork. “Janis, you know I’m allergic. Quick, where’s my purse? I need my EpiPen.”

“I put it in the closet. But your EpiPen isn’t in it. The police will find it, and some other small items that must have dropped out of your purse when you visited the bathroom.”

Claire’s voice was starting to sound scratchy, perhaps the crab, perhaps from confusion and panic. “The police? What police?”

“Well, I’m sure when your husband claims the life insurance, they’ll want to investigate. Don’t worry, I can tell them I didn’t know shrimp was related to crab. If I act pretty enough, they won’t think to much of it at all.” She tossed her head back and smiled like she hasn’t since riding that boyfriend’s Harley, the one her mother hated, purring with a low rumbling fire rising between her legs.

“Fuck your morbid humor. Where is it?” Claire fumbled with her mother’s heirloom pearls, pulling too roughly in a silly attempt to get more air.

Janice waved the cheese knife through the air as if she were tracing a lazy spiral, a distant smile on her face. “Oh look, your body is fighting against itself and forgetting your need for vital breath in the process.”

She leaned closer, her crimson lips reflecting an orange, fiery tint that made her teeth look aged and yellow, but seemed to match the gleam in her eyes, brightening them with a mad rage, “Your face will be too bloated and grotesque for an open casket.”

“Janis, why?” Her voice was thin, croaky.

“Well, Claire, maybe you shouldn’t have unfollowed me on Twitter.”

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Tarot deck: Archeon. Tarot Prompt: Knight of Swords.
Interpretation: Passion and wit. A sharp tongued teenager. Fire and air = smoke. Intelligence to temper burning emotions, but smoldering.
The darkness on the side of her face, reminds me of a certain demonic barmaid with fire in her hair. Looks passive, but smolders. Would totally get you back when you least expect it. Rage filled and overly rational minds bent on revenge might not forgive easily, even when something is forgivable and understandable. Especially if they already have a taste for murder.

416 words. More tarot stories.

P.S. – I already seem to be channeling the voice of the 50s housewife as cheekily portrayed in my new tarot deck, it won’t stop calling my name.

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P.P.S. – I chuckled when I thought deadly crab were a gift that should be salty.