Category Archives: Fiction

Checkmate

l-Checkmate

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“Don’t blame the sinner.”

“Don’t fear for him sister, I promise his death will be as swift and painless as possible.”

“It wasn’t his fault, he was being manipulated. Please, hasn’t there been enough killing already?”

“Another of the Black Queen’s pawns, is that it?”

“No, he’s much more than that.”

“Yes he is, a knight disguised as a bishop, very clever.  But I saw through your little trick, didn’t I?  I’ve always been three moves ahead of you.”

The White Queen and the Black Queen, Luminous and Caliginous, locked in a battle that had been going on for decades.  They were the twin daughters of King Stalemateous, who ruled over a vast empire.  Upon his death his expansive kingdom was divided in half and split between his two daughters.

Everything to the west of Lake Isongard; the golden fields of Adelphia, the orchards of Kalipula, the rolling plains of Surmanthia where the horse lords bred steeds for the royal patrol, and where seldom a cloud was seen in the sky, along with all the people who lived among those lands, now fell under the rule of Luminous, the White Queen.  The lands to the east of Lake Isongard and the few people who still lived there became the kingdom of the Black Queen, Caliginous;  these were the lands filled by the nearly impenetrable Dimwood Forrest where nothing was said to live except for the twisted and gnarly trees that were as old as the world itself, the tar pits of Undoora that were told to have swallowed entire regiments of knights, and the rocky peaks of the Heltermonth Mountains which reached up to snow-covered heights.

After their father’s passing Caliginous implored her sister that they should reunite the kingdom, and rule together.  Luminous, however, had other plans.

Being born minutes before her sister the White Queen believed herself to be the rightful heir of all that her father had, and she struck out violently in an attempt to rest control away from her younger sibling.  The surprise attack was devastating, and sent Caliginous and the few people loyal to her into hiding in the depths of the Dimwood Forest.  The family feud raged on for years, the Black Queen and her armies battled back, and at one point seemed poised to win the war as they toppled one of the White Queen’s castles.  But then on that same night, as the fires among the remains of the ruined stronghold were still burning, the Black Queen and her followers fled back to the safety of Dimwood Forrest.

Luminous, blinded by her fury, sent wave after wave of her soldiers into those cursed wood, none of them were ever seen again.  Unsuccessful at flushing her sister out, the White Queen withdrew and lived secluded from her kingdom until her sister came out of hiding and asked for a meeting to discuss the fate of the knight that had been captured sneaking into the White Queen’s castle.

“Please sister, you don’t know what you’re doing.  He was not sent there to kill you, he came with an offering of peace.”

“This war will end when I reunite father’s kingdom, only I am his rightful heir, and after I rid myself of your assassin I will send my armies across the lake to end this once and for all, even if I have to burn that entire cursed forest to the ground to do it.  Until then, this is what I think of your peace.”  and with a flick of the White Queen’s wrist the young knight was flung over the castle’s wall, his body snapped to a stop as the rope tied around his neck went taut.

“Nooo!” the Black Queen screamed out to late.  “What have you done.  He was no killer.  He was your son, the secret child you hid away in the castle I destroyed all those years ago.  I found him among the rubble and took him back to Dimwood Forrest.  I taught him of our father, and of our feud, and I sent him to you to beg for peace.”

Luminous turned and looked into the eyes of the now dead man who hung from her castle’s wall, and as the heavy realization of what she had done sunk in she collapsed to her knees.

Caliginous signaled her army to attack by removing the black veil she was wearing, and as she turned her back on her grieving sister she uttered, “Checkmate.”
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written for: The Speakeasy #149
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Counting Stars

old-movie-theatre-sign-garry-gay
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“Lets see, there was Harrison Ford back in the seventies, before the whole Star Wars thing.”  The woman talking to the group of uninterested men was Meryl White, an actress that hadn’t been in front of a camera in over thirty years.  “I’ve been with Kevin Costner twice.” Meryl continued as she sipped champagne from the long-stemmed glass that she casually held in one hand as she flicked ashes from the cigarette that was in the other. “And of course Kevin Bacon, but everybody’s been with him.  Oh, and Mickey Rourke, back before he messed his pretty face up with all that plastic surgery.”

Meryl always insisted on being the center of attention, and tonight was no different; it made no difference to her that she had not actually been invited to tonight’s party, she showed up wearing the kind of shiny black dress that you would expect to see on some starlet at the red carpet of an awards show, her favorite costume jewelery hanging from around her neck, and her hair was held in place by enough Aquanet to stand up to a hurricane.

As soon as Gracie made the mistake of mentioning the celebration that her new employer, Alpine Marketing, was going to have to mark the occasion of signing their first million dollar account in front of her mother, Meryl had guilted her daughter into letting her tag along.  Gracie had made her mother promise to remain low-key and not do anything to embarrass her in front of her new bosses, but she couldn’t bring herself to be surprised by her mother’s appearance; Meryl didn’t know what low-key meant.

Gracie wasn’t a part of the marketing team, she had only been at the firm for a couple of weeks and did mostly secretarial work; her job at the party was to oversee the refreshments, which meant making sure the bartender had everything he needed and occasionally making a trip around the room with a tray of hors d’ourves.

Gracie set her tray of food down on the bar after making her latest round, “Give me double shot of the strongest thing you’ve got back there Charlie.”

Charlie was the bartender that had been hired for the night, and Gracie had been telling him about her mother.  She had told him about Meryl’s obsession with being known as a star of the silver screen, even though she had never starred in a single movie.  Meryl liked to act like she was a box office magnet, but in reality she had only ever played small bit roles, doing parts that no one would ever remember. “What’s she up to now?” Charlie asked.

“She’s counting stars.”  Gracie answered.

“Counting stars?”

“It’s what she does at parties.” Gracie explained, “She recounts for anyone that will stand still long enough to listen the names of every star she was in a movie with, no matter how small her part in the film was. That is, until she gets a little more champagne in her, then she’ll start counting all the stars she’s slept with, but we’re going to stop things before they get that far.”  Gracie gulped down her drink.

“Really, how are we going to do that?” interested in hearing what her plan was.

“You’re going to start mixing these drinks a lot stronger, and I’m going to pray everyone gets so drunk they don’t remember this night at all.”  Gracie told him with a smile on her face.

“Good ole alcohol,” Charlie said, “the magic potion to solve many a problem.”

Gracie had another plan that she didn’t share with Charlie though, and after he filled her tray with drinks once again and turned back to washing the dirty glasses in the sink behind the bar, Gracie deftly sprinkled the crushed Ambien into the cocktails before delivering them to the men surrounding her mother.  No one could ever know what happened here.
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written for: The Speakeasy #148
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Paris

paris_tour_eiffel_bw
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The warm early morning sunlight peeking through the curtains and falling across Avery’s face woke her from a blissful sleep.  She laid on her side for a moment, staring at the veiled glass of the french doors that lead to the balcony, able to tell there was a bright clear sky behind its shroud.  Colin laid with his body close behind her’s, one arm wrapped around her slim waist; he was still asleep.  Avery took his hand in her’s and pulled it up to her lips where she softly kissed his fingers; the two had only been in Paris for a few days, and there was still a dark line of grease under his nails from the years he had spent working as a mechanic in the shop across the street from the diner where she worked as a waitress.

Avery slid out from under Colin’s arm and slipped out of bed, she pulled the sheet away from her sleeping lover as she tip-toed across the cold marble floor of their penthouse hotel room, wrapping it around her naked body as she went.  Colin grunted behind her; uncovered and no longer with the warmth from her body next to him he slowly began to wake up as well, blinking the sleep from his eyes and entranced by her every step until she arrived at the double doors.  Avery pulled both doors open fully at the same time, a corner of the sheet in each outstretched hand, the bedroom behind her flooded with light as a warm gentle breeze blew past her causing the sheet to ripple.  Colin could not take his eyes off her body as she stood there,  silhouetted from him by the sheet, and completely revealed to the outside world on the other side of it.

Avery let her exposed body bask in the warmth of the sun as it rose up into a cloudless sky, she heard the faint sounds of traffic forty stories below, and looked at the Eiffel Tower in the distance, glad that the rain from the previous few days seemed to be over, the world now smelling fresh and clean.  As if she could feel Colin’s thoughts behind her, Avery allowed the sheet to fall down her back to just above her waist before wrapping it around herself once more and turning to face him.  Avery looked at Colin laying on the bed, he was still naked from the night before; she didn’t need to ask what he was thinking, his body told her exactly what he wanted.

She smiled at him playfully as he watched her cross the room; Avery’s movements graceful, as she passed the bed Colin continued watching, her hips gently swayed with each step.  Avery placed one hand on the doorway and let it trail behind her, the sheet falling to the floor just as she disappeared into the bathroom, “Get dressed.” Avery called out to him as the sound of the shower spit to life, “I want to go see the city.”

Colin ignored what she said; instead he joined her in the shower where Avery acquiesced to his desire once more before they both dressed and headed out to explore their new surroundings.

It was hard to believe that it had been just one week since that man with a northern accent broke into the house Avery’s grandmother had left her, he had tied her up as he searched under the floorboards for hidden riches.  Colin had stopped by unexpectedly that night to surprise Avery, and nearly had his head bashed in with a crowbar for his efforts.  Avery had barely been able to free her hands in time to pick up the man’s gun from where it had been dropped during his fight with Colin, and shoot the maniac through the back.  With his dyeing breath the man issued an ominous warning, that he was not alone, that there are others looking for the same thing he was.

The man died in Avery’s foyer, after which she took Colin upstairs to the bedroom and showed him the money he had pulled from the floor as she sat tied up in the corner.  Colin went over to inspect the opening, and when he did he found that there were still more bundles of the money left inside.  The two removed more of the floorboards and continued to pull out more and more money, when they finally finished in the early hours of the morning they had found nearly a million dollars, but as Colin pulled the last of the bundles out of the floor he found something else underneath it.

The luster of the silver necklace that Colin pulled from its resting place below the final bundle of one hundred dollars bills had been faded by tarnish for quite some time.  The necklace’s chain seemed impossibly thin, and at its end hung an intricately woven Celtic cross not much bigger than his thumb.  “There’s something written on the back.”, he told Avery as he passed her the necklace, it was so delicate it felt nearly weightless in her hand.

Avery furrowed her brow as she examined the tiny inscription on the back.  She could tell that there were two words, but there was too much tarnish covering the second word to tell what it was.  “The first word’s Dues, that’s Spanish for two right?”

“Yeah.”

“I can’t tell what the second word is though, it looks like it starts with a ‘C’…maybe cats.” She offered jokingly.

“Two cats.” Colin replied thoughtfully.  “And here I always pictured Jesus as more of a dog person.”  The two shared a laugh as they sat among the torn up floor boards and looked around at the small stacks of money piled up throughout the room.

“Now what?”  Avery asked, there was a hint of desperation in her voice not to be the one to have to answer her own question. In just one night her entire life had been turned upside down. She wasn’t sure why she trusted Colin so much, or why she felt so comfortable with him.  Maybe it was all the afternoons they had spent flirting as she served him grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries at the diner where she worked the counter.  Colin had asked her out several times during the years that she spent caring for her ailing grandmother, but Avery denied him every time.  She worked at the diner six days a week and barely made enough to keep the lights on at home and afford the many medications that were helping her sick grandmother cling to life.  Now she sat amongst more money than she knew what to do with, and she was glad that she wasn’t alone.

“Is this the only room your grandmother used to rent out?” Colin asked as he fanned through a stack of the hundred-dollar bills before tossing it into one of the piles with the others.

“No.” Avery answered him, “She told me she used to rent out the room across the hall too.”

Colin looked through the doorway and into the smaller bedroom across the hall.  “Do you think we should check it?”

Avery looked around herself and then shook her head, “I don’t think I could handle uncovering anymore secrets tonight.”

Colin wasn’t sure why he felt so strongly about Avery, but he knew there was something special about her the first time they met at the diner across from the auto shop where he worked. Her eyes spoke a language that his heart understood, even if the rest of him didn’t; and every time that Colin asked her out and Avery told him no, he would simply tell her that it was okay, that eventually she would change her mind, and that he was willing to wait until she did.

Colin wasn’t supposed to be at Avery’s that night.  It was only Thursday, and their first date was still another night away; but Colin was excited that Avery had finally agreed to go out with him, and he had stopped by to give her the bouquet of supermarket wildflowers he had impulsively picked out when he got off work earlier that day.  As he stood on her front porch waiting for her to answer the door he thought about how corny he must look, and contemplated leaving before she could open the door.  He would have had plenty of time. As Colin continued to wait he began to feel a bit uneasy; he looked through the window next to door to try to discern if there was any movement coming from inside, and wondered if Avery might be in the back of the house and unable to hear his knock.

As Colin looked into the foyer he noticed a briefcase setting in the floor, the rug by the front door was bunched up as if it had been kicked, and a small table that had been holding a potted fern of some sort was knocked over on its side.  Colin tried the door, and found it unlocked, he stepped inside and called out for Avery.  Avery’s reply came from upstairs, she had shouted something about a man that Colin couldn’t quite make out, but the fear mixed with anger in her voice was easily recognizable.  Then out of no where the stranger appeared, rushing down the stairs with a crowbar in one hand.  In that instant Colin was ready to sacrifice his life to keep Avery safe, and he did his best to fight off the intruder, but it was Avery that killed the man and saved his life instead.

“What about the guy downstairs?” Colin asked.

Avery had let herself forget about the dead man down stairs, but Colin was right, it was an issue that had to be addressed.  Avery answered, “I guess it’s time to call the police.”, as she sat there gazing into his steel-blue eyes and silently thanking God that Colin was there with her, and that she wasn’t having to face this ordeal on her own.

“You know they’re going to take everything when they come, right?”  He sat there looking back at her, and into the warmness of her chestnut eyes.

“Of course they are, but what other option is there.  It’s not like we can hide all of this and hope they don’t find it.”

Colin sat quietly for a minute before offering his suggestion, “We could do what you said before, we could just leave.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes.  You heard what that guy said.  He’s got friends that are looking for this money too, and it won’t be long before they end up here, and what then?”  Colin waited for Avery to answer, but she had no response for him.  “Instead of calling the police we should bury that guy deep, somewhere in the trees out back, clean all this up, leave town and never come back.  We could start in Paris, and when we get tired of that we could go somewhere else, anywhere else we wanted.”

“You are serious.” Avery said, she carefully crossed the room full of missing floor boards and sat beside him.  “You would do that?  Leave with me and never come back.”

“With you, yes.” Colin answered her, and then cupped Avery’s face in his hands and pulled it in close to his own, their lips met and they shared a long passion filled kiss.  When their embrace parted Colin said to her, almost breathlessly, “I brought you flowers.” referring to the flowers that now laid strewn about the floor downstairs.

“I saw them.” Avery replied, her voice shared the same anticipation that Colin’s did, and her lips trembled slightly as they longed to be locked with his once again, “They’re pretty, but I’m not going to have much time to enjoy them.  I’m leaving town soon.”

They left the room and went downstairs; Colin drug the dead man’s body out into the woods, and Avery began scrubbing the floor of the foyer where the blood had pooled.  It was hours later when she finally finished, and when Colin came back inside he was covered from head to toe in dirt.  “How deep did you bury him?”  Avery asked as she watched Colin, leaning exhausted against the wall.

“Lets just say you won’t have to worry about any stray dogs diggin’ him up.”

It took the two of them most of the rest of the day to replace all the floor boards, and to put the furniture back in place.  The sun was starting to go down Friday evening when they finally packed the last of the money into the back of Avery’s old Jeep Cherokee and headed out-of-town.  They didn’t stop driving until they reached Cincinnati where they holed up for the weekend in a motel on the outskirts of town. First thing Monday morning they went from bank to bank, renting deposit boxes and stuffing them full of money until they had it all stashed away.  On Tuesday they boarded a flight with a small bag full of money, and flew first class to Paris.

The first two days they were in the City of Love the rain never stopped.  Avery had spent hours staring out from the balcony at the Eiffel Tower in the distance.  She had also bought a tourism book at the airport as they waited for their flight, and now as they sat in their room at the top of the Napoleon Hotel and the rain continued to fall; Avery told Colin about all the things she wanted to see as soon as the weather cleared.  Colin promised to take her to see them all; The Mona Lisa at the Louvre, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and anywhere else she wanted to go.  They spent their days wrapped in each others’ arms and talking about the future, and they spent their nights passionately making love.

When the weather finally cleared on the third day, and they stepped out of the hotel, hand-in-hand heading for the Eiffel Tower, they never even noticed the man dressed in a black suit and trench coat that followed them.
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written for: Goodreads – Week 200 – Free-for-All, write any story you want.
photo by: Stephan Edelbroich


A Conversation in My Head

Bored____by_matmoon
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(A young girl in her early twenties walks into an open space from seemingly out of no where.)
Man Already in the Room: Who are you? (He checks the girl out as he asks the question.)
Girl: Hi, I’m Avery.  Who are you, you look familiar.
Man Already in the Room: Hugh Laurie.
Avery:  Aren’t you that guy that plays House on TV?
Hugh: Not exactly, I’m what the girl who writes about us pictured him to be for a story. Same crass attitude, but not a doctor.
Avery:  I thought you were British, what happened to your accent?
Hugh:  She doesn’t do accents very well.
Avery:  Which story did you come from?
Hugh:  The pirate story.  I was the captain, and I went down with the ship.  No one actually saw me die though, so there’s a good chance I’ll make a comeback. What about you, what story were you in?
Avery:  I was taking care of my sick grandmother, when she died she left everything to me.
Hugh:  So you scored big?
Avery:  (Looking somewhat put off by his comment.) No, all she had was this old house where she used to rent out rooms to travelers that were passing through.  A couple of weeks after she passed this guy broke in and tied me up, starting pull up the floor boards look for some treasure his grandfather had hidden there.
Hugh:  He rough you up a little bit? (Trying to find something to keep his interest in the conversation?)
Avery:   He hit me a few times, drug me up the stairs by my hair.  I shot him dead at the end, and my boyfriend and me ran off with the loot.
Hugh:  (After hearing this last bit he perks up a little.)  Sounds like you know how to party.  But if he was dead, why not just stay?
Avery:  He said he had friends and that they were coming too.
Hugh:  So she left your story open too.
Avery: Seems that way.  What do we do now?
Hugh: Wait, she’ll either write more about you, or not and you’ll start to fade away.
Avery:  How long have you been here?
Hugh:  Longer than you. (He says in a snarky way before looking around the room.)  But not as long as that fairy witch and her magic bowl of water.
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written for: The Daily Post – Dialouge
photo by: Matmoon


Utica

Comet_Ghost_Town_7_by_Falln_Stock
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“You don’t really think there are ghosts up there do you?” Sara asked Meghan, the girl who shared the backseat of the old Ford Bronco with her.  The boys that sat in the front seats were Luke and Brian.  Luke had been Meghan’s boyfriend throughout highschool, and Brian was Sara’s ‘surprise’ date for the night.  Sara’s family had moved to Smithfield, Colorado just before the start of her senior year, and she had yet to make many friends; when Sara showed up to meet her best friend Meghan and saw that she had invited Luke and his friend along she almost bailed on the trip altogether.

“Nah, they call it a ghost town, but it’s really just abandoned.  They barely got the mine started up there before winter set in, and they ran out of money.  By the time everything thawed out the next spring nobody wanted to mine up here anymore, they all wanted to go to California.”  Meghan told the story with the ease of a local that knew all about her little community.

Sara leaned in close to Meghan before whispering, “I still don’t see why you brought them, I thought you wanted to have a girls-night-out?”

“Relax, for God’s sake you have to learn to let go a little.” Meghan tried to persuade her nervous friend. “We’ll do girls-night-out another night, I promise.  But we couldn’t come up here without Luke’s Bronco.  Besides, it’ll be fun to have a couple of big strong guys to keep us safe up there in that dark spooky town.”

“I thought you said no one goes up there.” The anxiety in Sara’s voice was clear.

“They don’t.” Meghan reassured her, and then clasped her hands in front of her chest and batted her eyes before continuing, “But we can still act like a couple of damsels in distress, and use being scared as an excuse to cling all over these guys.”

“You’re terrible.”

“Oh no honey, I’m amazing.  Just ask around.”  The two girls fell into a fit of laughter as Luke steered the Bronco further up the mountain.

The road outside of Smithfield that led up to the abandoned mining town of Utica was little more than a one lane unpaved switch back that was nearly washed out in several places.  They were continually passing signs that said the road was unsafe, and that no trespassing was allowed, and a couple of times they had to stop to move two-by-four barricades out-of-the-way.

After the second barricade Meghan fished a bottle of Jack Daniels out of the backpack between her legs, she removed the cap and took a drink before passing the bottle to her boyfriend behind the wheel.  “A little liquid courage before the ghosts come out?”

“Hell yeah.” Luke replied, accepting the bottle and taking a couple of big gulps. Luke passed the bottle over to Brian who followed suit before passing the bottle back to Sara.

Sara looked at the bottle in her hands, and then over to Meghan as if she had no clue what to do next. The look in Meghan’s eyes gave a clear answer, and Sara didn’t need to be a mind reader to know what her friend was thinking.  Sara lifted the bottle to her lips and tilted it up letting the warm liquid fill her mouth before she swallowed hard.  The taste was harsh, and it burned her throat all the way down to her stomach, she stifled a cough as she gave the bottle back to Meghan; quite sure her drinking days were already over.  The four teenagers reached Utica just as the bottle was passed back to Sara on its second time around, and she was glad to use the distraction as cover to give the bottle back to Meghan without taking a drink.

Utica was little more than a dozen or so hastily thrown together buildings split by a narrow dirt road that led up to the mine entrance just past the last building.  After more than a hundred years of harsh high altitude winters most of the buildings were in shambles, and only a few still resembled buildings at all.  Luke pulled the Bronco to a stop in the middle of the road halfway through town; all four of its occupants piled out and met at the rear of the vehicle where Luke lifted the tailgate and retrieved a couple of flashlights, handing one to Brian.

“So, the show I watched the other night,” Meghan began explaining to the others, “these guys were paying top dollar for old mining stuff.  Old shovels, and picks, like…a couple of hundred bucks each.”

“You got a plan? Muahahaha.” Luke asked as he held the flashlight under his chin and flicked it on and off.

Meghan slapped his arm and continued, “Yeah, I think we should split up so we can cover more ground.  Sara, you and Brian start on this end of town, and me and Luke will start at the other end, and we’ll meet back here in the middle.”

“Seriously?” Sara mouthed to her friend.

Meghan grabbed Sara by the arm pulled her away from the two boys.  “What’s wrong?”

“If you wanted to set me up on a blind date we could have just gone bowling, or to dinner and a movie, or something. What am I supposed to do with him, alone in some ghost town?”

“Do what you would on any other first date, go get to know him.  I mean, you think he’s cute right?”

“Yeah, but….”

“And this place is exciting, right?”

“Yeah, but…”

“No, no buts. Do you need another shot of Jack?”

Sara shivered at the thought, “God no.”

“Well the only way you’re going to get to know him is to talk to him.  Who knows, you may find out that you like him, and then you may really want to get to know him.” With that Meghan turned her friend around by the shoulders and pushed her from behind in Brian’s direction.

Sara grabbed Brian by the hand as the two girls rejoined the boys and pulled him off towards one end of the dilapidated town. “Come on.”, she told him.

Brian obediently followed, grinning from ear to ear.

“Don’t forget to keep an eye out for anything we can sell.” Meghan called after them before grabbing Luke’s hand and pulling him towards the other end of town.

The first building Sara and Brian went into had just one large empty space, it was filled with empty frames of what used to be bunk beds.  At one time it was meant to serve as a barracks for the men that would work the mine, but now the one story building had most of its ceiling laying in a heap in middle of the room, the large hole in the roof allowed the two teens to see the cloudy night sky overhead.

“Meghan said you moved here from Georgia.” Brian said, as he looked around the edge of the room with the flashlight.

“Yep, from Winder, outside Atlanta.  My dad’s marketing firm sent him out to the Denver office, but he didn’t like the idea of living in town, so we moved out here.”  Sara followed close behind Brian and the lone light in the darkness.

“That’s gotta be tough.”

Sara nodded behind him, “I miss my friends. I don’t know what I’d do if I hadn’t met Meghan.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty cool.”  Brian pulled back some debris from the side of the wall, but found nothing behind it.

“Have you ever been up here before?” Sara asked him.

“No, they try to keep people from coming up here anymore.”

“Why?”

“They say it’s where criminals hangout, or weirdos, or crazy people, or something.  I don’t think any of that’s true though.” Brian turned around to face Sara, she was standing close enough for him to smell the strawberry scent of her hair. “They just told us that as kids so we wouldn’t come up here.  They were scared someone would fall down into the mine shaft.”

Sara stood there looking up into his steel-blue eyes, she was glad to have him there now as she thought about some stranger lurking in the shadows.  Sara was nearly overcome by the urge to feel his lips against her own, but he took too long to make a move and as the awkward silence drug out between them she blurted, “I think this room’s a bust.  Do you want to try the one across the street?”

Brian had gotten lost in Sara’s chestnut eyes, but her voice brought him back to the present; he felt his lower lip trembling in anticipation of the kiss they almost shared as he tried to process the question she had asked him, and his mind searched for the appropriate answer.

Sara didn’t wait though, as she turned and carefully picked her way back towards the door, she called back over her shoulder, “Are you coming?”

“Right behind you.” Brian answered, he shone the light on Sara from behind as he followed her, admiring the view and hoping that he had not blown his only chance to kiss her that night.

“I hope you’re not doing what I think you’re doing back there.” Sara called back playfully.

“What?”

“How about shining that light up here so I can see where I’m going.”

“Oh, right.” Brian took one last look before shining the light up ahead of her.

Sara and Brian stepped back outside of the old barracks house and were hit with a blast of cold air. When Brian looked up at the night sky the thick clouds were hanging much lower. “Looks like we’ll get snow later.”

Sara pulled her coat tight around herself, “Do you think we’ll be able to make it back down?” There was a hint of fear in her voice from the idea of being stuck on the mountaintop.

“Yeah, don’t worry about that.  That truck of Luke’s has been in worse spots than this and gotten out just fine.” Brian slid his arm around Sara, and she let him pull her close to keep her warm as they stood looking out at the building across from them.

“Do you really think we’ll find anything that’s worth anything up here?”

“I doubt it.  This isn’t the first of Meghan’s ideas to make a quick buck, and none of them have amounted to anything yet. But even if we don’t find anything, it was worth the trip just get to met you.”

“Oh wow, that was cheesy.” Sara said as she stepped out from under Brian’s arm and headed across the road for what looked like an old church, she reached back and grabbed his hand at the last second pulling him along.

The pair had trouble getting the door to the church open at first, but were able to manage with both of them pulling on the handle together.  Once inside the small building they were surrounded by an eerie quiet.  This building seemed to still be intact, but also looked like it had been emptied of everything long ago.  Again Brian led the way with the flashlight, and Sara followed close behind him. The wind outside howled and the whole building shook, as it did Sara yelped and grabbed onto Brian from behind.  “I don’t think it’s safe to be in here, it sounds like this whole place is ready to come down.”

Brian turned around to face Sara, “Don’t worry, you’re safe with me.” he told her as he put a hand on her hip and pulled her body in close to his.  He leaned down to kiss her, not waiting for the moment to slip away this time, and as they both closed their eyes and their lips began to touch a scream from somewhere outside pierced the night.

Sara jerked back from Brian, “Oh my God….Meghan and Luke.” The two ran outside where huge, heavy snowflakes had begun to fall; they headed for the far end of the street.  They ran into the only building with an open door.

Half fallen down now, the former saloon was in worse shape than the barracks that Sara and Brian had ventured into earlier.  “Meghan! Luke!” the two teens were shouting for their friends as they entered the building, but got no response.  They frantically searched the area, but found no signs of them other than the half empty bottle of Jack setting next to a blanket on the floor, and Meghan’s discarded jacket.

“Meghan!..If you’re playing this isn’t funny!” Sara yelled out, begging for her friend to show herself, tears started to roll down her checks.

“Hey, it’s okay.  You have to calm down.” Brian went to Sara and put his hands on her shoulders trying to comfort her.  “Something probably spooked them, and they ran off.  We should go wait at the truck, they’ll probably head back there.”

“What could have spooked them?  I thought you said no one comes up here.” Sara was starting to shake slightly.

“There isn’t anybody up here. They probably mistook a shadow for a wolf and took off into the woods.”

“What if it really was a wolf?”

“Then inside the truck is the safest place for us to be, and Luke knows that too.  They’ll circle back around, and we should be there waiting for them.”

Sara allowed Brian to lead her out of the saloon and back to the Bronco parked in the middle of town.  Luke still had the keys, but they had left the doors unlocked.  The two teens climbed into the back seat; Sara sat next to Brian with her head on his shoulder staring blankly off into the distance and silently sobbing.

As time slowly passed the snow started to fall heavier; it began to stick to the windows of the truck making it hard to see outside.  “Shouldn’t they have been back by now?” Sara asked, she had stopped crying and there was a hollow aspect to her voice.

The answer to Sara’s question was ‘yes’, but Brian didn’t want to tell her that; instead he just sat there silently with his arm around her.

“We should go look for them, they might need our help.” Sara told him as she sat up and looked Brian square in the eye.

“We don’t have any idea which way they went, we’d probably freeze to death out there before we ever found them.”

“Then we have to go get help.” Sara declared.

“Not in this weather, not at night.  One wrong step and you’d fall right off the mountain, and no one would ever find you.  We’ll wait for first light and head down then.”

Sara wanted so badly to do something to help her friend, but she knew that Brian was right.  She sat, straining to see anything outside of the windows until they were completely covered with snow.  Sara laid her head back on Brian’s shoulder, “Do you still think this trip was worth it?” she asked him.

“Yes…do you still think I’m cheesy?”

“Yes, but I like cheese.”  Sara reached up and pulled Brian’s face down to her own and they shared a long, deep passionate kiss.  Then she put her head back on his shoulder and fell asleep, despite her constant shivering.

It was nearly noon the next day when big black Chevy pick-up truck Sara’s parents were riding in pulled up behind the snow-covered Bronco.  Sara’s mother and father, Linda and Marty, got out and quietly approached the vehicle.  The sun was still hidden behind thick clouds and the whole world had a hint of gray to it.  The quietness of Utica was something Linda never got used to; when she reached the abandoned truck she brushed some of the snow from the hood and placed a bouquet of flowers on top of it.

“My sweet little girl.” Linda spoke to no one that was there. “Wherever you are, I hope you’re warm now.  We were going to come last night, but the weather was just too bad.  I can’t believe it’s been ten years since you went missing…”

Linda couldn’t go on any further;  Marty put an arm around his wife and led her back to the their truck.  They both knew they would be back again next year on the same day to visit the Bronco that serves as a silent memorial to the four friends that went missing that night.  Most people believe they got separated during the blizzard that night, and wandered off into snow, and that their bodies are still up there on the mountain somewhere.  Some people blame it on criminals, or weirdos, or crazies that live in the mountains.  Their story has been added to the legend of Utica, and people now tell about the four highschool seniors that died on the mountaintop that night, and how there souls are trapped to forever relive that fateful night.  No one calls Utica abandoned anymore, it is a ghost town.
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written for: Goodreads – Week 199: Ghost Town
photo by: Falln-Stock


Finding My Shadow

old woman gypsy
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It was late September and the nights were just starting to get a chill to them.  There wasn’t usually much to do in a small town like London, Kentucky, but this weekend was different; the Chicken Festival was in full swing.

Every year Main Street was shutdown for four days as our little town had a party to celebrate its heritage, and invited the world to join.  There were all the customary festival foods, with an emphasis on chicken, mostly fried;  booths full of arts and crafts lined the streets; and there were the usual games of tossing rings at bottles, and darts at balloons.  There were tents for face painting, and caricature drawing, and one dark purple tent at the very end of the festival covered with golden stars and crescent moons that did palm readings.

It was in front of this last tent that I found myself standing on the second to last night of the festival.  A highschool senior about to head off to college in Lexington, my parents finally trusting me to stay out after dark by myself.  Well, I was completely alone; I was with my boyfriend, Ricky.

“Now what?”, I asked Ricky who looked around as if the answer was out on the street somewhere.

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve walked the up and down the entire street…twice now.  Do you want to walk it again, or go on one of the rides, or what?”

“Um, I don’t know.  How about we drive out to the quarry?” This wasn’t the first time Ricky had made this suggestion.  In fact, it was the fourth time he asked me that since we started dating two weeks earlier.  The old rock quarry was London’s “Lover’s Lane”, and Ricky had hoped I would be as quick to go out there with him as some of the other girls in school made the trip with their boyfriends.  He was in for no such treat though, I knew deep down there wasn’t anything special between the two of us, and ours was more of a relationship to stave off boredom than anything.

“We’ve barely been dating two weeks, we don’t know each other well enough yet.” I made up an excuse, “Any other ideas?”

Ricky looked around the street again, “How about getting our palms read? Let the crystal ball decide what we should do.”

There was a reason the palm-reading tent sat alone in near shadow at the end of the street.  We lived right in the middle of the Bible belt, and palm reading, even for fun, was seen as the devil’s work by many of the overly religious, which was most of the town.

“They don’t use a crystal ball to read palms.” I quipped, hoping he would drop the idea.

“Whatever, crystal ball, tarot cards, old chicken bones; it doesn’t make any difference.  Unless your scared.”  He said the last part tauntingly.  “Or should I just take you home to mommy and daddy, so they can tuck you into bed nice and safe.”

I gave him an evil look and then walked into the small tent with a huff.  Ricky followed me inside, as the heavy flap of the tent closed behind him the noise from the street outside disappeared.  There was a single lightbulb hanging over a table, and on the other side sat an old woman with white hair.

“Spooky.” Ricky muttered. I elbowed him in the stomach before he could say anything else stupid.

“Welcome.” the old woman offered in a smokey cracking voice.

“Hello.” I was barely able to reply as I was feeling overcome by apprehension.

“Would you like me to read your palm?” the old woman was reaching out her hand.

The old woman took my hands in her own and pulled them under the light, leaning her face close to my palms she examined them.

“You are here alone.” the old woman announced.  Behind me I could hear Ricky snort in dissatisfaction.

“Shhh!” the woman hissed at him with a snarl on her face, and for an instant it looked as though her eyes had rolled back in her head. “You are about to begin a journey, during which you may find your true love.  But first you must give up looking for lost cats, and begin searching for your shadow.”

The woman released my hands and sat back in her chair looking exhausted, and with a flick of her wrist she motioned for us to leave.  Once again out in the cold night air I heard the call of “Rick” come from across the street.  It was a few of Ricky’s friends holding up a joint and waving him over.  He looked at me pleadingly and I told him to go ahead.  Getting high was another of Ricky’s delights that I wanted no part of.

I told Ricky I would wait for him, and as I did I thought about what the old woman had said.  It reminded me of my father’s assessment of all my high school boyfriends, “You could do so much better, but you insist on chasing after lost causes.”, was she saying the same thing about Ricky.  I began to walk back up Main Street, leaving the fortune teller’s tent, and Ricky and his friends behind me as I contemplated what the old woman meant by “searching for my shadow.”  I watched my feet as I walked, and I noticed as I went that each time I passed a street light my shadow moved from behind me to in front. At times my shadow followed me, and at times it lead, and at times it walked in step right beside me, but I was never without my shadow.

I called my parents to come pick me up as I continued down Main Street.  I was done with Ricky, and was ready to find my true love.
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written for: Quotespieration Challenge – Week 1: Write a piece of flash fiction based on the quote: “What I think is this: you should give up looking for lost cats and start searching for your shadow.” from ‘Kafka on the Shore’ by Haruki Murakami.


Going Down To Ghost Town

Ghost_Town_by_Ice_Dark
—————
Welcome to Ghost Town,
It’s much like your own.
Except, everyone here is all soul,
With no flesh and bone.

I made a deal to come here,
To find my true love.
And take her back with me,
To the land of living above.

There is only one,
That could have made that deal with you.
Did he give you any idea,
Of the thing you must do?

Death made it quite clear,
There is someone I must attack.
I have to kill the demon Azul,
If I want my dead wife back.

Please pardon my laughter,
I don’t mean to be rude.
But the demon Azul,
Is one nasty dude.

You know, for a ghost,
You talk kind of strange.
But I’m willing to pay for help,
What can we exchange?

That’s because in life,
I was a surfer from Malibu.
And if you want my help,
You’ll have to free me too.

I don’t know if that’s a good idea,
Death was very specific.
Don’t trust anyone,
Who has great love for the Pacific.

That’s because Death tried surfing once,
To impress some golden state girl.
But got so sea-sick on his board,
He covered a poor sea-gull in hurl.

When you put it like that,
Then I’ll accept your assistance.
But we must be going now,
I fear we must travel a great distance.

No, it’s not that far,
His house is just around the corner.
But the only thing that will kill Azul,
Is a Whiffle-McBurner.

I have to admit,
I don’t know what that is.
I was hoping we could just stab him,
Or poison his Cheeze Whiz.

A Whiffle-McBurner,
Is a magical staff.
And the only one in this town,
I just so happen to have.

Then let us get going,
There’s no reason to wait.
Plus, I do not want to end up stuck,
On this side of the gate.

You take the staff,
And stand to the side as I ring the doorbell.
When he steps outside,
Use it to kill the demon, and send him straight back to Hell.

Azul is now dead,
My true love is saved.
Having her back amongst the living,
Is what I have craved.

Now you must honor,
Our bit of the deal.
I can’t wait to ride again,
On waves that are real.

Why is it though,
I can only see you in reflection.
And my head now feels,
As though I have an infection.

That’s because my body is gone,
Buried and rotten.
So we’re sharing yours now,
Which we both barely got in.

But I don’t want to go surfing,
I want to spend time with my wife.
I promised to bring you back,
Not to share my life.

Don’t worry about her,
I like her too.
And when we get home tonight,
Spending time with her will be the first thing we do.
—————
written for: Goodreads – Weekly Poetry Stuffage: Week 199.  This week’s topic is Ghost Town.
photo by: Ice-Dark